About that Kiss
by Trish Kerr (Phopas)
The story below contains adult scenes between two women so if you are under 18 years of age stop reading now. There are also some scenes of violence. If you find this offensive don't read it.
For the rest of you, well - enjoy! It's nice and long for those of you that like that, and I had a great time writing it!
This story takes place after the episode 'A Necessary Evil', and the episode 'The Quest', and it's absolutely wonderful "Kiss" Scene.
Xena and Gabrielle have successfully trapped both Valasqua and Callisto in the lava pit - locked for eternity in a battle embrace . (but probably not - maybe next season?)
Chapter 1 - The Lava Pit
Two women stood atop a steep cliff that spanned far above the lava river that ran through the canyon below. Both were staring down into the molten lava, red, hot and steaming, contemplating the evil that now lay trapped in it's fiery tomb. The sky was a beautiful blue and gave the lush foliage surrounding the cliffs a brilliant deep green. The taller of the two, a strong well muscled woman with raven hair stared down with the most beautiful ice blue eyes. She wore a leather armor tunic that stopped halfway down her well sculpted thighs. Bright rays of sunshine caught on the edges of her brass breast plates, the intricate spiral designs swirling down her front. She now turned to look at her companion, smaller with reddish blonde hair and emerald green eyes lit up from the sun. She wore a short cropped laced green top that stopped short to reveal her taught muscular abs. The short skirt she wore accented her well defined legs, hardened from many miles of walking.
"Gabrielle?" Xena, the tall dark haired woman, spoke softly. "We should get going - my sword is still on the other side of this canyon and we'll have to go the long way round now to get it, not to mention all of our camping gear. It should take us most of the day to make it back."
"I thought you said we had time?" Gabrielle replied, slightly annoyed. Xena was always in a hurry, never quite settled in the moment. Gabrielle was still looking down almost as if she feared the two evil goddesses would come flying out of the lava straight for her heart. But Callisto and Valasqua did not show themselves. Ever since Valsaqua had miraculously reappeared at the ceremony crowning Ephiny the new Queen of the Amazons they had been running for their lives - and Gabrielle had been the hunted. She had not relaxed one muscle for a day and a half now- but it was over. She sighed, thinking of Callisto again.
She held on to a small part of her heart that believed Callisto was sorry for all the evil things that she had done and she needed to believe this or she couldn't let go of the incredible hatred that she held for this woman. She had killed her husband Perdicus, not one day into their marriage, in cold blood, as an evil gift to both Gabrielle and Xena. But then, things had changed, hadn't they?
"We do have time - if we get going now..." Growled Xena, growing impatient, and a little nervous that her cherished sword would not be there when they returned to the other side. "Your staff is over there too you know." Hoping this would prod Gabrielle into moving. Then maybe she'd stop, thinking so much - Xena didn't want Gabrielle thinking too much about this one - Callisto was a friction between them she now hoped would be gone for good - she could only hope - these things had a way of coming back full circle.
Does anybody really stay dead around here anyway? Well, thank the gods, I haven't! She smiled to herself. And this is the first day I can really start living again......
"Xena," Gabrielle sighed, "You just started breathing again two days ago - you'd think you might have learned something from your death - like maybe enjoying each precious moment...." Gabrielle waved her hands in the air, searching for the perfect way to describe this.
"You mean as if it was my last?" Xena cut into Gabrielle's eloquent prose.
"No!" Gabrielle replied, "Well, yes - maybe. But I just got you back from the dead so I was looking for something more life affirming than that actually." She said and looked up at Xena, finally breaking her gaze from the brilliant lava pit she narrowly missed falling into only moments ago.
Her breath caught in her throat as she locked eyes with the incredible blue of Xena's. "I, uhh, actually, you're right - what if someone uses my staff for firewood! " God she was blabbering again." Let's do it, ..I mean let's get going." She finished too quickly. Oh boy, Gabrielle, you are losing it!
Xena looked down at her inquisitively, searching for any traces of anger Gabrielle may have held against her for bringing Callisto back from her immortal prison. She hated to have hurt her but she saw no other choice under the circumstance. She couldn't lose, no, would not lose Gabrielle. If that meant sacrificing everything then so be it. But she saw no anger....just a trace of...she wasn't sure. She was once again gazing into her green eyes and with the wind slightly blowing Gabrielle's hair over her face she felt a warm feeling spread across her heart. She had to look away before she said something really stupid.
Gabrielle's heart sank slightly as Xena broke the electric gaze held between them.
And for the first time she was feeling awkward, somehow, and a little too hot....the sun must be stronger up here on the cliffs. Or maybe I'm getting sick, - yeah right!... or maybe it's time we talked about...
"So then", interrupted Xena, "we should..." she held her hand out to help Gabrielle up from her knees.
"Get going." Gabrielle finished., gladly taking Xena's hand hoping to break this awkward moment.
Xena lifted her up and held on a brief second longer than was necessary and then quickly turned to head down the path.
Chapter 2 The Long Walk
They had been traveling for well over three hours with barely a word spoken between them. The beautiful blue sky had slowly been replaced by a wave of menacing clouds that threatened to spill from the heavens at any moment.
Xena was beginning to feel incredibly uncomfortable. The bard was never this quiet. Perhaps she was still angry over the Callisto issue. Well she would just have to break this deafening silence. A woman of few words, she would have to work for this one. "Sky's looking bad." Xena stated. That's beautiful she thought to herself - very original.....
"Yes, it is..." Gabrielle trailed off...beautiful, very poetic reply for a bard - by the gods, when did this get so difficult? Well, she had had enough. It was time they talked about it - and she would put it off no longer. It looked like she would have to start this ball rolling because if she waited for Xena it could be, well, a very long time indeed.
But how to start - she hadn't really had time to think since Xena had returned to her and her emotions were all over the map these last two days. And to top it off, she was beginning to have a hard time breathing around Xena and this was not a good thing, or maybe it was. Gods, she was confused, and yet she wasn't really, was she?
"Hope the clouds hold till we get to the ruins..." Xena tried again, hoping for more than a three word answer this time. This word thing was harder than she had imagined...and when did it get so hard anyway?
Xena had always felt so very much a home with Gabrielle but this was new....every fiber in her had the urge to grab hold of Gabrielle and bury her head into her beautiful golden hair and stay there forever. Ever since she had heard her pleas from the other world to come back to her, because she needed her, a door had opened up inside her heart, and it was not closing easily.....and when she had appeared to Gabrielle through Autocylus's body, she had melted, and the kiss....
"Xena?" Gabrielle asked in the form of a question without a question.
"Yeah?" Xena replied to nothing....waiting, her mind now planted firmly in the present again.
"Can I ask you something?" Gabrielle said tentatively.
"Yes Gabrielle?" Xena said with a slight nervous twinge to her voice.
"Well I was thinking..." As usual Gabrielle thought to herself. Come on, girl, you're a bard for gods sake. "When you were dead...." she continued.
"Yeessss..." Xena replied, frustration beginning to show in her voice at the slowness of this conversation that had yet to find it's point.
"When you appeared to me through Autolycus's body..." Gabrielle ventured further.
"Yes." Xena replied, her heart beginning to tighten ever so slightly. We're getting there she thought to herself.
"And you kissed me..." Gabrielle continued on painfully, hoping her voice wouldn't crack on her. Focus Gabrielle, remain calm, focus, focus.
"Yes?" Xena asked. The wind was beginning to whip up around them as if the gods themselves were shaking from anticipation.
"Did you feel....?" Gabrielle trailed off, searching for the right words to describe the feeling, but for all her large vocabulary nothing suitable was coming to mind.
Xena stopped and turned to look into Gabrielle's eyes, both women frozen on the path. Xena opened her mouth to say something but was cut short. A brilliant flash of lightening tore through the sky followed by a powerful burst of thunder. Xena and Gabrielle both recoiled and quickly looked at the sky, then back at each other - but it was too late. The skies poured down on them a in raging stream and any words contemplated were quickly washed away.
Xena looked around wildly searching for any form of shelter that would hold them but there were no rocks or caves, only lush ferns and tall grass along the path. There was nothing between here and the ruins but greenery and she silently scolded herself for not thinking ahead. The nearest possibility was a large oak tree a few hundred yards down the path but this was not a safe option. Lightening could strike the tree as it was quite tall. There were a few trees further along that were taller so Xena in an instant sized up the odds and made a decision. This was more like it she thought!
"Gabrielle!" She screamed over the loud rumble of the pelting rain. "Over here!" She pointed to the closest tree and Gabrielle nodded in agreement as Xena grabbed her and dragged her anyway.
The wind was whipping widely now as they made their way forward, bits of leaves and small twigs caught in the fury of the storm smacked against their struggling forms. It was becoming difficult to see as the rain continued to pour down and progress was slow. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity they reached the relative safety of the tree. All this had occurred in less than a minute but they were both completely drenched.
Xena leaned her back up against the trunk for support and pulled Gabrielle from behind holding her tight in fear her bard might blow away in this incredible display of fury from the heavens.
Well there was no fear of not talking now as it was impossible to say anything. The wind was whipping faster than any words could carry. Xena was beginning to worry this may erupt into a twister and with this new fearful thought she pulled them both down to the ground and clasped her arms even tighter around Gabrielle, burying her head into Gabrielle's shoulder so she could breath. Or was that really the reason? She asked herself.
She could not see Gabrielle's face as she had her back to her but she thought she felt, or perhaps imagined, a slight shutter come from Gabrielle. Perhaps Gabrielle was beginning to feel the cold - but Xena felt no cold, though she should have, in fact it was exactly the opposite. Everywhere her body made contact with the bard she was feeling an intense heat building which was contrary to the cold wind and torrential rains that battered their small forms in the sky's fury. She was beginning to wish she had not pulled Gabrielle so uncomfortably close to her and was in fear Gabrielle would feel the heat and wonder if Xena wasn't in the middle of an incredible fever. She closed her eyes and tried to shut out all thought and wait this thing out -she had little choice at the moment.
Gabrielle was cursing inside. She had worked so hard to get to the moment they had shared on the path and this storm had washed away any progress she had made. By the Gods she was mad! So close, and yet, right back to where they had started. Curse this rain, curse this damn rain.....she was about to shout it aloud, despite the wind whipping into her mouth. but then Xena had buried her head in her hair, and the curse had died on her lips.
Gabrielle soaked in this new closeness, her eyes closed and the everything melted away, the rain, the wind, the cold, - except for Xena's body wrapped tightly around her own. The warmth radiated from every part of Xena that touched her. The heat rising within herself was alarming. and despite all the elements she was beginning to think she was actually sweating!!! And now she was sure she was no longer breathing. She slowly leaned her head back into Xena's shoulder and sighed deeply, taking her first breath in a long time. Suddenly this terrible rainstorm was not such an enemy after all. In fact this was heaven. She pressed herself even closer to Xena's huddled form, taking full advantage of this wonderful situation. Her arms, captured in Xena's, raised slightly as she worked her hands free. She covered Xena's hands gently with her own and felt a small shutter come from Xena's body. Her heart lifted with this and a small smile spread across her face as she now had confirmation that her touch was as electric to Xena as Xena's was to her. Oh yes Xena, Gabrielle thought to herself, I love your tree plan, yes this was a good plan, love this tree, great tree.
Just as Gabrielle moved her hand to sink it into the softness of Xena's beautiful hair the sky shot out a blinding light and the hand of Zeus descended on their beloved tree. A loud crack shot through the air as the lightening struck the top of the old oak and sliced down through the trunk of the tree with a powerful electric sword. Xena and Gabrielle snapped their heads up and turned to lock eyes once again. "Uh oh," they both mouthed silently. And in that split second Xena was propelling them forward away from the tree as the loud bang of thunder shot down followed by the tree itself.
Wrapped together they landed and rolled away from the falling branches. Xena still wrapped around Gabrielle stole a glance upwards at the falling limbs. She had no time to move so she instinctively covered all of Gabrielle's body with her own and buried her head into the bard's back in the hopes it wouldn't be crushed by the heavy limbs now crashing down around them. Both lay frozen in time, their bodies tense in anticipation of large limbs landing down and crushing the life out of them. Tangles of branches and leaves fell all around them. scratching Xena wherever there was exposed skin. The ground shook from the weight of the giant limbs making contact. Neither women dare breathe.
And then it was over.
Xena warily looked up to survey the damage. Right next to her head, not inches away was half of the huge oak trunk.....just a bit closer and both of them would have been killed. She shuttered and instinctively looked down to see if Gabrielle was all right. Gabrielle's head was turned to stare at the oak as well. Her eyes were wide with the realization of their very near miss. "Nice tree" Gabrielle mouthed softly....Xena couldn't make out what she had just said but it was enough to know she was still breathing and very much alive.
"Whew!" Xena exhaled, thinking what an adrenaline rush that had been. Her heart was still pounding through her veins. Her warrior instincts were as sharp as her sword's edge at the moment She took a few deep breaths to regain a sense of calm and lifted herself up. The rain was still coming down steady but the wind was dying as the center of the storm began it's slow journey east.
She extended her hand down to Gabrielle. Gabrielle was still shaking and gladly took it allowing Xena to pull her up towards her. She felt a bit light headed from the shock and instinctively leaned into Xena. Then concern crossed her face as she began to feel around Xena to check for any signs of damage.
"Are you all right Xena?" She asked shakily, her breath still quick from fright and concern.
"I'm fine Gabrielle." Xena replied assuring her. "Really! See!" She pulled away and turned around for her.
Oww, she thought to herself as she did this, as she could feel where there were a few stinging areas on her skin. Most likely scratches from the smaller branches.
"Oh Xena!" cried Gabrielle. "You've got a nasty cut on your shoulder, and some scratches here," she touched the back of her arm gently.
"I'm fine Gabrielle." She dismissed the motherly affection, turned around and got right down to business. "We better get going - the rain seems to be letting up and we can still get to our gear if we hurry. We have to get a fire going and get warm before we both catch cold." Not very likely, she thought to herself, she hadn't felt this kind of heat since, when? Marcus? Maybe not even then....
There was an awkward pause, as Gabrielle searched into Xena's blue eyes for a hint of emotion. Xena had erected her warrior wall and nothing was forthcoming. "Well, I still want to tend to those cuts...." Her voice trailed off, boy do I, she thought inwardly."After all, you just saved my life - once again. It's the least I can do!"
"Later." Xena said - "Let's get moving." She added rather hurriedly. Just a little panic there Xena old girl? she thought to herself. Moving is a good thing, she needed time to think, to cool off, to breathe. Breathe Xena, she talked to herself, breathe, calm, breathe, calm. Very good, - move.
"Let's go." Xena said and she was off.
Moving pretty fast Gabrielle noted. She had to race to catch up to her. And I'm right behind you Xena, Gabrielle thought. And I've got you in my sights.
Chapter 3 - Drying off
The rain had stopped completely by the time they made it back to the ruins. It had been over an hour of fast paced trekking and once again there had been very little words exchanged. Lots of thinking going on - but no words had crossed their lips. Both women were chilled to the bone and first priority upon arrival was getting a fire going.
"It will be dark within the hour Gabrielle." Xena stated. I'll gather firewood - hopefully I can find some that isn't soaked through - you gather the supplies so we can try and dry them out."
"We left most of our gear on Argo back at the village stable." Gabrielle said. " We'll need to hunt for food won't we?" She added expectantly. "I'm starving," she exclaimed through chattering teeth. "What about food?"
Xena sighed. Gabrielle was forever hungry it seemed. "I'll take care of it - after we get a fire going - I don't want you catching your death of cold - your lips are blue already!" Xena added with some concern.
And with that she was gone.
They set up camp just beyond the ruins in a small grove of trees. Xena busily tried to get the fire going while Gabrielle cursed excessively as she continued to pull out drenched item after drenched item from their carrying bag. Both blankets were soaked. She hung them on a low branch at the edge of the fire and prayed they would dry before they needed them. She no longer had the heat of Xena's body and a bone chilling cold was beginning to spread across her.
After what seemed like an eternity Xena had a flame. The fire illuminated the clearing with a soft orange glow. The sun had disappeared over the horizon and darkness had blanketed their little cove.
"Gabrielle, leave that stuff and come by the fire to get warmth." Xena said worriedly. "I'll be back with something we can eat soon."
Gabrielle obeyed gladly and sat down as close to the fire as humanly possible without singeing her hair. The warmth was a welcome companion. But her stomach was a loud complainer at the moment. She watched Xena disappear into blackness of the clearing's edge hoping she wouldn't be gone long. She missed her already. The campfire was suddenly a very lonely place without her warrior by her side.
Xena had not had time to look for her sword yet, she silently cursed. She felt safer with it in her reach - she would be lucky to find it now in the dark. But at least she still had her chakram and that was good enough for this hunt. She slipped into the trees and became as invisible as the air around her. She moved through the forest with a silent predatory grace . She was an expert hunter afterall, one of her many skills.
Xena returned within a half an hour triumphantly carrying a rabbit in one raised arm, and Gabrielle's staff in the other, Her smile lighting up the clearing.
"My staff!" Gabrielle's eyes lit up brightly. "Thank you Xena!" Xena tossed it to her over the fire and she caught it and swung it around playfully. It felt good in her hands, she had felt slightly incomplete without it today.
"Did you find your sword?" Gabrielle asked.
"Not yet," Xena sighed. "It will have to wait until daylight."
Gabrielle nodded, knowing Xena cherished that sword and felt naked without it. Secretly she feared they would never find it - there was a good chance it had gone over the edge and into the lava pit, lost forever.
Gabrielle turned back to the fire. She had already erected a spit, confident of her warrior's skills. The flame was burning nicely now and the blankets were beginning to dry.
Gabrielle busily prepared the rabbit as Xena grabbed a somewhat damp blanket and sat in front of the fire trying to warm her freezing limbs. The adrenaline from the hunt was fading and she beginning to feel very uncomfortable in her rain soaked leathers.
Finally Gabrielle placed the carcass on the spit.
With this last task complete, they could only be patient and wait for it to cook.
Gabrielle glanced worriedly over at Xena - knowing she must be frozen by now.
She came over to her and kneeled behind her. She had the medicinal ointment in her hand that they always carried - an essential in their line of work. Any excuse to get close was a good one. She had a few she could use, and some backup ones as well.
"Xena, let's get that armor off of you, and I want to tend to those cuts." She reached down and began to unbuckle the clasps of Xena's breast plate.
Xena sighed and closed her eyes, enjoying this moment, something she always looked forward to when her bard would delicately remove her gear. But tonight Gabrielle's hands shook slightly and this did not go unnoticed by the warrior.
Xena started to take off her wrist plates but Gabrielle reached from behind and gently removed them. Despite the chill in the air Gabrielle was beginning to warm up quite nicely. Very warm indeed, she thought to herself. Warm is good, breathe Gabrielle - you've done this before. But never like this, she thought to herself. She'd only dreamed it....her thoughts trailed off....
And then she gazed back down on her warrior's back. A small pang of hurt crossed her heart as she inspected the small cuts and bruises left from the tree's branches. And then she melted at the thought of Xena protecting her from the falling tree. She was always sacrificing herself for Gabrielle. Tears welled up in Gabrielle's eyes and she let out a small gasp.
"Are you all right Gabrielle?" Xena asked, a small ripple of worry danced through a sea of emotion that was building in her.
"I'm fine Xena," Gabrielle replied softly. "You've got a nasty cut on your shoulder here, I'll have to put some ointment on it. In might hurt a bit." She bit down on her lip to gain back some self control and reached for Xena's leather shoulder strap. She gently removed it making sure she did not graze the cut. She then brushed back Xena's damp tangled hair making a mental note that this was extremely sexy and reminded herself to get caught in the rain again sometime soon. The flames from the fire danced softly across Xena's bare shoulder.
Gabrielle bent down intending to apply the cream but instead her lips reached down and softly kissed her bare shoulder.
Xena's body tensed and she inhaled quickly. For a split second Gabrielle feared she had been wrong. As she was about to pull away Xena's hand reached up and buried itself in Gabrielle's hair and pulled her closer.
"Gabrielle.." Xena gasped.
A small smile spread across Gabrielle's face and she began to trace a line of kisses along Xena's neck. Xena's fingers dug deeper into Gabrielle's hair as she drank in the touch of Gabrielle's lips on her skin, which was now on fire. Xena then turned her head towards Gabrielle and gazed into her eyes. The firelight danced across the deep green, her pupils dark with desire. Gabrielle stepped into the blue of Xena's eyes and bent down, kissing her lips.
Everything fell away, all sound and sight , except for the sweet soft kiss they now shared.
It was long and exquisite and neither wanted to break the spell of this frozen moment in time. Finally they pulled back and looked into each other's eyes once again.
Needing no words, Xena gently guided Gabrielle around to face her. Gabrielle's back now to the fire, Xena pulled her down into her lap, Gabrielle's legs wrapped gently around Xena's waist. Cupping Gabrielle's face in her hands, Xena kissed her deeply , tasting the sweetness of her mouth. "You are beautiful." Xena whispered as she began to trace a line of her own kisses down Gabrielle's neck.
Gabrielle closed her eyes and let the sensation of Xena's lips on her body take over. Xena paused at the hollow of her throat, and gently ran her tongue across it, making circular patterns on her skin.
Gabrielle gasped and grabbed onto Xena's hair trying to pull her closer, needing to hold her.
Wherever Xena's lips touched her a wave of desire spread. "Xena..." Gabrielle moaned.
"Shhh." Xena whispered, painting a new line of kisses down her chest. She paused and breathed deeply the scent of Gabrielle's soft skin. "Patience..."
Though she said this she was not sure herself if she could remain true to these words. She had dreamed of this moment for a long time now and she was torn between the intense desire to ravage Gabrielle and the other equal desire to savor every precious moment of this first time together. Her love for this woman was so great it threatened to consume her very soul.
Without pulling away she began to unlace Gabrielle's top. Her hands were shaking ever so slightly as she removed the barrier between Gabrielle's breasts and her exploring tongue. Cupping both breasts in her hands she lightly danced her tongue across Gabrielle's now swollen nipples. Gabrielle inhaled sharply and leaned forward burying her head in Xena's hair.
Xena then teased her further biting gently on her nipple extracting more gasps from the shivering bard. Xena knew she couldn't push the bard much further. This in turn was beginning to drive Xena mad with her own desire.
So much for patience she thought and grabbed Gabrielle by the shoulders and pushed her down on the blanket. Xena kneeled on top of her looking down at her beautiful form. She slid Gabrielle's skirt off trying to maintain some semblance of control. She could barely keep herself together. No one had ever made her feel this vulnerable, this aching. Not even Marcus, whom she had loved deeply, had even come close to gripping her heart as fiercely as this young bard was now. She had come back across the planes of Tartarus to be with Gabrielle and the emotions now swirling inside her head were leaving her dizzy, taking away what little breath she had left. Her heart squeezed tightly in her chest as the blood pumped wildly through her veins.
She slowly began to remove her leather tunic.
Gabrielle breathlessly gazed up at the woman of her dreams. Her eyes were locked on to the beautiful goddess. Xena removed her clothes and kneeled before her. The fire was dancing shadows across her shapely, well muscled figure. Her soft lightly tanned skin luminous against the night sky. By the gods, she looked beautiful naked. Her hair fell softly across her breasts and Gabrielle longed to dive into that space and never return. Her body ached to hold Xena close to her and her arms reached up to pull her down.
Xena lay down on top of her, careful not to put her entire weight on her and kissed her fiercely, her tongue exploring her mouth, greeted then by Gabrielle's equally passionate tongue.
Xena then slowly began the trail of kisses that would lead her down to Gabrielle's fiery center. She stopped at Gabrielle's breasts and spent a few precious moments sucking on her hardened nipples. Gabrielle grabbed Xena's hair with both her hands, moaning louder with each flicker of her tongue. The firelight shimmered across Gabrielle's skin now glistening with sweat .
Sensing Gabrielle would not last much longer she continued her line of kisses until she rested gently between her thighs. Xena melted into Gabrielle as she tasted the sweet hot liquid inferno building inside her.
Gabrielle cried out and raised herself to meet Xena's lips, her fingers digging deeply into Xena's dark mane. A low guttural moan began in Gabrielle's throat as Xena's tongue continued a slow seductive dance, her hips now moving in rhythm with Xena, the beat steadily increasing. Xena reached up with her hands and gently squeezed Gabrielle's nipples knowing this would drive the bard over the edge. And she was not disappointed.
Gabrielle felt like she was about to explode as a slow heat began to build inside her. Her body shook uncontrollably as a wave of warmth and pleasure shot through her entire being. Lifting her hips high one last time she cried out Xena's name and collapsed back down onto the ground and felt her body sink into the blanket, still pulsing weakly. Xena instinctively knew what she needed and was already cradling her in her arms. Tears of emotion were running down her face and Xena stopped to kiss each one gently.
Gabrielle could not speak. Probably for the first time in her existence she thought to herself. She wrapped her arms around Xena and squeezed her so tight she was afraid she might be suffocating her. But she had to have her close, she needed to feel her body entwined as one with her own. She had never felt such love as she did now. She finally had broken through the emotional walls Xena had carefully built and gotten inside to where the most beautiful heart lay hidden. Only a few short days ago Xena had lay in a coffin, Gabrielle's world had been shattered. Had it taken such a tragedy to force her to look at her true heart's intentions? She shuddered to think that she may never have been able to share this incredible love that now tangled itself around Xena's heart and her own.
Xena was gazing down at her, visibly grinning now. "Speechless, my little bard?" Xena asked deviously,
Gabrielle mouthed a response, but her voice failed her.
"Well then." Xena laughed, "I'll take that as a compliment!" She felt so euphoric at the moment she feared she might float away if she weren't holding on to Gabrielle. Gods she had longed for this closeness. She brushed aside some of Gabrielle's sweat soaked hair from her face. "We will dry off eventually, I hope."
She laughed down at her playing with her hair once again, twirling the strands in spiral patterns.
Gabrielle finally managed a weak smile, granting Xena this minor victory of words.
"So the warrior has found a voice." Gabrielle spoke weakly. "Perhaps you stole mine in that sweet exchange?" She added lightly, a grin was now spreading across her face.
" I do not steal!" Exclaimed Xena, "I'm an honorable warrior."
"Yes you are." Gabrielle replied. "I however, am not as honorable." She made an exaggerated gesture towards the night sky with her hand.
"Oh?" Xena replied furrowing her brow in mock questioning.
"I'm afraid I've stolen your heart." Gabrielle said.
"Yes, "Xena replied suddenly serious, "I do believe you have."
"And I'm not giving it back." Gabrielle stated.
"No I wouldn't imagine you would." Xena replied softly looking into her lover's eyes. She began to kiss her face gently again.
"O.K., Xena," Gabrielle started. "I can breath again."
Xena stopped and looked up, her eyebrows raised.
"It's my turn to turn you into jelly." Gabrielle said with confidence.
"Really." Xena replied mockingly. She began to laugh but it was caught in her throat as Gabrielle swiftly rolled her and flipped her on her back.
"Really." Gabrielle stated, and bend down to cover Xena's mouth with hers to ensure the warrior made no further protest.
This was going to be a long night Xena sighed to herself - and I am loving every moment of it.
Chapter 4 - Good Morning
Gabrielle lay beside Xena, propped up on one elbow gazing down at her beautiful form in the brilliant sun of the morning. She couldn't believe how peaceful Xena was sleeping. She also couldn't believe she was actually awake before her - now this *was* a first. Her hand drew lines along Xena's face and down her arms, lazily exploring, pausing occasionally at a particularly sexy place. She sighed deeply. What an incredible night they had shared.
She knew she should have been tired, figuring she'd slept probably no more than a few hours but she was electrified with energy. It was all she could do contain herself as every fiber wanted to ravage Xena once again. She smiled to herself as she remembered how she had made the strong warrior beg for mercy , she thinks the birds had begun to chirp by about then. A grin spread across her face as now reveled in this new found sexual power. She may be a rookie, but she was learning fast. And she had Xena's undivided attention.
She wanted to surprise Xena with something special, she had to get her awake. There was no way she was going to lay here waiting for an eternity. Her stomach growled loudly. "Food." she gasped quietly. Now it was two days since they'd eaten anything. She looked up at the fire, and at the blackened lump she could only guess had been the rabbit. Oh well, she chuckled to herself, that was no longer an option.
Suddenly she was very empty. She quietly got up and dressed herself. Xena moaned slightly in her sleep feeling her presence now gone. She smiled and promised silently that she would be back shortly.
Xena was dreaming of gentle caresses covering her. A blanket of warm enveloped her and she sank deeper into the folds of this soft sensation. She turned towards the bright light that shone on her and more soft lips greeted her.
"Xena." Gabrielle whispered softly.
Xena's eyes opened slowly. She was looking up at a smiling Gabrielle. So she had not been dreaming after all.
"Hello sleepy head." Gabrielle grinned down at her.
"Morning." Xena's voice slightly cracked, the sun burning brightly into her squinting eyes. "How long have you been up?" Xena asked trying to mask her surprise.
"Long enough!" Gabrielle looked down at her with a devilish grin. "I've been waiting forever for you to wake up!"
"Uh huh." Xena said slowly. "You're not tired?" Xena asked weakly, hoping to find a crack in Gabrielle's armor.
"No!" Gabrielle exclaimed. "I'm electric this morning! Isn't it a beautiful day!" Her hand sweeping around the grove in an animated gesture of exuberance.
Oh boy, Xena groaned inwardly. "It's nice Gabrielle...a fine day."
"Have I told you how great you look naked?!!" Gabrielle exclaimed.
"Yes, about fifteen times now." Xena sighed trying to look bored.
"Oh but it was dark Xena, now with the sunshine..." She pointed to the sky.
"Oh it's sunny, yes indeed." Replied Xena painfully. A slight smile starting at the corners of her mouth.
Then the bard looked down at her again, more seriously. "Did I tell you how much I loved you?"
"Yes, Gabrielle, I lost count on that one I'm afraid." Xena answered.
Gabrielle began to trace her hands down to Xena's breasts. "I can't keep my hands off you!" She exclaimed.
"Gabrielle." Xena growled, trying to sound stern. It was not working. She clasped the smaller woman's arms with her hands stopping her before she could cover her breasts and start this madness all over again. "Patience, my little bard."
"Oh really Xena?" Gabrielle replied, a huge smile lighting up her face. "Weren't you teaching me that last night?"
"Yes, I suppose I was..." Xena trailed off, knowing she would not win this battle. She was no match for the bard in this arena.
"I have a small surprise for you!" Gabrielle exclaimed.
"Oh?" Xena's eyebrows arched.
"Close your eyes." Gabrielle instructed.
"Gladly." Xena replied, waiting with a slight anticipation, not sure what Gabrielle could possible surprise her with now .
Gabrielle's lips covered hers in a delicate kiss. A warmth spread through her as her body responded to Gabrielle's touch despite the fact that she was completely spent.
Her lips tasted sweet, like delicious succulent.... and then her tongue was caressing a delicate round wild berry. Her eyes opened in surprise as she looked up at Gabrielle.
"You like?" Gabrielle asked.
"Where did you find wild berries?" Xena asked incredulously, savoring the sweetness, before finally swallowing it.
"I've been around. I had to do something waiting for you to wake up!" Gabrielle said. "You're lucky I let you sleep this long!"
Xena suddenly realized just how hungry she was. Gabrielle fed them one by one into her waiting mouth. Now this was how breakfast should be eaten all the time, Xena thought to herself enjoying this playful exchange. I can't believe I waited two years for this breakfast - perhaps she was patient after all.
When the berries were finished Gabrielle's eyes sparkled with desire again.
"Oh no you don't!" Xena growled. "We need to eat something more substantial first! And we need a bath!"
Gabrielle sighed in agreement. Xena was right. She usually was.
"There's a small lake down the path, we can bathe and I'll catch us some fish. " Xena baited her.
Gabrielle's stomach fought an internal battle with her desire. "You mean we're going to get wet again?" Gabrielle asked in anticipation.
"Very." Xena replied grinning. She finally had her. "Let's go!"
Xena grabbed a fresh shift, thank the gods, finally dry, and some soap and they headed down the path.
They entered the clearing that circled the large pond. Good fishing, Xena thought to herself. Nice catch, she looked down at Gabrielle who was gazing out at the water. Gabrielle always drank in the beauty of the moment. That's what made her such a great bard. Xena gently played with Gabrielle's hair while she waited for her to take it all in. She had the incredible urge to take her right then and there on the grassy slope but caught herself before things got out of hand, yet again. There was plenty of time for that later. She pulled herself away and got down to business. One of them had to.
They busied themselves, each taking turns washing the other's hair. They had done this many times before but now every gesture had a new sensual quality. Gabrielle straddled Xena, kissing her as they gently floated in the water.
"Oh Xena!" Gabrielle cried. "I never tended to your cuts!" She was now looking at Xena's shoulder. There was a small mark there. "Hmmm," She said. "It doesn't look nearly as ominous in the daylight."
"It's just a scratch." Xena replied.
"Yes I think it is just a scratch actually....Maybe I should kiss it better?" She leaned into her shoulder once again, kissing her neck.
"Gabrielle, "Xena gasped, "Why don't you go sun yourself on those rocks while I try and get us some fish so we can eat. I'm weak enough from your touch, I'll be lucky if I catch anything at this rate."
Gabrielle reluctantly agreed and swam to the shore leaving Xena to battle for their breakfast.
She lay down on the embankment, closed her eyes and soaked in the heat of the morning sun on her naked form.
She was drifting off to sleep when she heard Xena let out a triumphant whoop. She squinted up to see Xena holding up a large trout in one hand and grinning wildly.
Xena came over and sat beside her. "Caught you napping didn't I?"
"Did not." Gabrielle replied grinning, looking up at a Xena's incredible naked body dripping wet.
"Really." Xena stated. "Well rest up, because I have plans."
"Uh oh." Gabrielle mocked fear.
Xena traced her finger down Gabrielle's taught abdomen. And stopped. "But first we eat!" You rest here a moment and I'll get this cooking.
Gabrielle gratefully agreed. A tiredness was now creeping into her muscles, as the adrenaline of the morning was slowly draining from her.
"I love you." Xena said and bent down to kiss her.
"I love you too." Gabrielle sighed, her eyes closing as she drifted off to sleep.
Xena dressed and headed back to their camp, fish in hand. She had a huge smile on her face she couldn't seem to lose. Then it died on her face in an instance as she suddenly sensed movement up ahead in the clearing.
Chapter 5 - A Bad Sign
Xena silently dropped the fish to the ground sizing up the situation. There were six men that she could see on horseback, two having already dismounted. They were picking through their belongings. She reached for her chakrum and made a silent curse to herself at the realization that she had left it at the campfire. Her sword was still somewhere out by the lava pit. Gods she had been careless! Well at least she had her shift on, she thought to herself, she wasn't completely naked.
She had nearly walked right out into the opening without even having noticed the men. Her usual warrior instincts had been left far behind, probably under that oak tree, she thought wryly. Every muscle was as taught as a well coiled spring now though, and her heart pounded so loudly she was in fear they could hear it.
Damn, she cursed again. They were holding up her chakrum, it's shiny metal surface glimmering in the sun.
"This is definitely Xena's chakrum." The one dark haired gruff looking man shouted excitedly.
Another man walked over to the taller man on horseback, probably the leader of the group. "Look Tylus!" This looks like her armor as well!"
So they knew her then, Xena thought. But she recognized none of them. This was not a good sign. A very bad feeling began to form in the pit of her stomach.
"He said he was sure she was dead." Tylus exclaimed. "Perhaps that little annoying bard she traveled with has kept them as momento's of her dead warrior."
"No, I'm not so sure." the other man continued." I see two sets of footprints here." And two sets of boots, he looked up again. "She wouldn't have kept her boots, would she have?"
"Not likely." Tylus agreed.
Xena stood motionless against a tree. Coiled like a snake, she contemplated her options. So they were looking for her dead body, probably to take back to some warlord that would have unthinkable plans of defilement for her. Xena, dead or alive, would be a handsome treasure for any such scum. She could take them on, though she had only her bare hands, or she could try and steal back to the lake and get Gabrielle and hide. Either option did not seem promising, - she had no weapons and she was not one to hide.
Her decision was made for her as the third man, still on horseback, spoke. "Let's check the lake, who ever's here is probably taking a morning bath - nothing like a naked woman to peak one's excitement eh, Fergus? " He nudged his friend on the other mount.
"Barrance." The man called Tylus warned. " We're here on business - remember?" He sighed, it was always hard to keep the men in check.
'But of course." Barrance replied grinning, "I'll check the lake."
"That won't be necessary boys." Xena stepped into the clearing, her eyes dark with barely controlled anger.
"It's Xena!" One of the men exclaimed in shock and growing fear.
"So it is." Tylus replied evenly, trying to mask his surprise and a quickening of his heart. The group turned to look at her. "I see the reports of your death have been greatly exaggerated."
"So it would seem." Xena growled.
Tylus could barely contain his excitement. He had been sent on a mission by Helcus to capture Xena's body and bring it back to be displayed on a spike at the edge of their castle walls - as a warning to all who entered. It was a prize all the warlords would give anything to have in their possession. It was far more precious than any gold. But this finding far surpassed his wildest dreams. If he could deliver her alive and kicking to Helcus the rewards bestowed upon him would surely mean a permanent seat beside the evil warlord himself.
They were slowly circling her, like one would a cobra, but she was far deadlier than that - and they all knew this. There was a deadly pause as each of the opponents sized up one another. They had all heard stories about her, not knowing how greatly they had been exaggerated....if at all, and they knew enough not to take anything for granted." I want her alive." Tylus spoke evenly to his troops, " and Helcus will greatly reward us for our trouble."
Helcus! Xena thought to herself. That sniveling coward that had once rode with her army. She had unceremoniously banished him without honor a long time ago. It would seem the wounds on his pride were still fresh despite the passage of time. He had been sadistic and cruel and had raped one to many women on their raids of the villages - and she had had enough, no man that rode with her was afforded such behavior. Even when she rode with the evil of Aries on her side she still had held some values true- though she had been little better than the scum she had led into battle.
Xena let out a battle cry and lunged at the closest of the men.
Chapter 6 - The Brawl
Gabrielle awoke with a start. "Xena!" She gasped. She looked worriedly around the embankment. She had been dreaming Xena was in danger. She relaxed suddenly remembering their morning together. Xena was cooking fish back at the campfire as she was starving. She was not in danger and Gabrielle was basking gloriously in this sunshine.
Just a dream, she talked silently to herself. You're just a little sensitive right now, she kept talking to her inner voice that was still screaming at her that everything was not all right indeed.
A feeling of dread spread across her heart and she quickly got dressed. She walked along the path tying the laces of her top as she went. Then she heard the first sound of what sounded like a ferocious battle ahead and a chill ran down her spine.
She broke into a run.
The battle raged on. Xena had downed two men with her bare hands and had extracted a short sword from the unconscious man that lay at her feet. It was a cat and mouse dance now. The four men who were still on horseback circled her, and she had to keep moving to make sure none approached from her blind side. She was tiring now, wishing she had had just a little more sleep, and maybe just a bit of food. But then she thought of Gabrielle lying defenseless by the lake and what these bastards would do to her if they got their hands on her. With this she gained renewed strength and made her move. She jumped, somersaulting in the air and landed a kick squarely on the chest of the closest man on horseback. They fell together in a tumbling heap as she landed a hard punch square into his face. Two of the other men jumped off their horses and launched themselves at her, the battle closing in. The two descended on her creating a tangle of arms and legs punching and kicking. No one was sure where they were landing them - on each other or the woman who they were quickly discovering had incredible strength.
Tylus watched from his mount with a new found respect for this woman. But this was no time to be getting soft and he could see she was winning, even against three of his strongest men.
He was about to dismount when his eyes widened as he saw a beautiful strawberry blond woman fly out into the clearing and head towards the melee. In her exuberance she did not see him - she was only focusing on her warrior's plight. This was getting good, he thought to himself. He quickly jumped down and scooped up the woman just as she about to dive into the pile.
Gabrielle was grabbed from behind and cursed herself silently for not having thought before she acted. Xena would not approve and she hoped she would live long enough to be reprimanded. She kicked hard at the assailant behind her as he dragged her back from the battle raging in front of her, but his grip was strong and true. She felt the cold steel of a dagger at her throat as he growled at her to stop kicking.
"Enough!" Tylus screamed at the four figures intertwined before him. They all looked up in unison as if awakening from a dream to behold Tylus clutching a young woman, his dagger at her throat.
Xena's eyes immediately widened and she broke instantly into a gut wrenching sweat. "Gabrielle." She mouthed silently as her eyes locked with hers. Gabrielle mouthed "I'm sorry." back at her and her heart broke as she saw the despair on Xena's face.
"Don't move or I'll slit her throat before your very eyes!" Tylus spat. Hoping this stern warning would be good enough to trap his lethal quarry. But he already knew it was as he saw the pain cross Xena's face as she quickly obeyed and stepped away from the men.
One of them was rolling around clutching various parts of himself, wishing he could crawl away somewhere and die. Another lay dying, ironically, one of his own companion's sword jutting out of his chest. Barrance, however, was furious, and paid no attention to the aches and pains that now covered his body. He grabbed Xena by the hair and forced her down to her knees. He enjoyed inflicting pain and loved the feeling of dominance he now held, even if it was through a little bribery. The bitch had been lucky - that's all. Barrance was a large man and did not take a wounding of his pride lightly.
"Fergus!!" Tylus shouted at the man moaning and rolling around on the ground. "Get some rope and bind her hands and feet!" The man reluctantly rose, visible lines of pain drawn on his face, and went to get the rope.
Tylus now turned to look at the woman who knelt before him. "Helcus will be very pleased. But we wouldn't want to have to kill you prematurely - now would we?" He said evenly. "Don't do anything stupid or your pretty companion dies slowly."
Xena's narrowed eyes held a barely contained rage so great his palms began to sweat even as he held this iron clad advantage. If looks could kill Tylus imagined he would have already been riding merrily along a ferry on the river Styx - all expenses paid. He wanted to get this over as quickly as possible.
"Just let her go and I'll give you no trouble." Xena replied evenly trying to mask the anguish hidden there. She did not want them to know how much this woman meant to her, or it would be the death of them both.
"She's just a kid that tags along and tells me stories." She continued. "She's nothing to you and she's nothing to me."
Xena's words cut like a knife through Gabrielle's heart even though she knew them not to be true.
"Really?" Tylus answered her, not believing a word. "Awfully chummy sleeping arrangements for someone you could care less about." His eyes pointing to the intimate setting beside the fire. Oh, he was beginning to enjoy this.
Fergus had arrived back and began to tie Xena's hands behind her back. Barrance continued to grasp her hair tightly. He had drawn his own dagger and now held it to Xena's throat.
"She services my needs." Xena stated. She could not look into Gabrielle's eyes, or she would die as surely as if they had driven a dagger into her heart.
"I'll bet she does." Added Barrance, sizing the bard up and down with his hungry eyes. "I'm sure she does just fine." He repeated, licking his lips.
"Barrance!" Tylus growled. "Let's stick with the program shall we?"
Fergus had now successfully bound both Xena's hands and feet. He held his sword behind her head - wishing he could drive it through her back to make her pay for the pain his body was now writhing in.
Tylus still didn't feel safe. Logic got the better of him and he stopped goading the woman in fear it would backfire on them all. The game had gone long enough and the stakes were far too high.
"All right." He stated. "We'll let her go." He smiled at Xena.
Xena looked into his eyes and knew instantly that he had no intention of keeping up his end of the bargain. She realized her mistake. She should have never let them bind her.
Tylus saw this in her eyes and gave a quick nod to Fergus. Xena lunged forward, not paying any attention to the dagger at her throat but it was already too late as the butt of Fergus's sword smacked hard against the back of her head. She slumped forward as the world went black, "Gabrielle...." were the last words out of her mouth as she slowly slipped into the darkness.
"Xena!" Gabrielle screamed reaching forward, struggling in Tylus's grip. It was all he could do to contain her, and just a small pang of pity crossed over him. But it quickly faded as Gabrielle dug her heel into the top of his foot.
"Owww, damn you!" Tylus screamed." Don't move!" Cursing himself for this momentary lapse into insanity. She was a lively one he thought to himself. Rather exciting actually. A pity he had to kill her.
"Fergus!" He growled, "Tie her hands would you?"
"I'll do it." Barrance jumped up quickly showing far too much enthusiasm.
He sighed. Barrance was trouble, but he was also his best fighter, and his most lethal cold hearted killer. He was a big man and towered over all of them - his strength unmatched. Well maybe not, he thought as he looked down at the unconscious woman at his feet. This was, however, a rare combination and good help was hard to find these days.
He let the big man tie her hands.
Gabrielle was scared but she buried this far down into a secret part of her, for she had no time for this now. She had felt a hopelessness descend upon her like a dark blanket but she had found a ray of hope in the big disgusting man that fumbled as he tied her wrists tightly. Xena was lying there, unconscious, and that left only Gabrielle to save them. She had to be strong, she had to think. A plan began to form in her mind. She had a way with words, she'd talked herself out of jams before, she was a bard after all. Use it Gabrielle, she talked to herself. It's all you've got left.
Once her wrists were secured Tylus let go of his stranglehold on her and let her be taken by the larger man. "Don't let her get away!" He warned Barrance. And he left to go over to the other two men who had unceremoniously been taken down by the powerful strokes of the female warrior's hands. They were beginning to stir and a few moans escaped their lips. Tylus kicked the feet of both of them and commanded them to get up and get moving. They reluctantly rose and began to gather themselves, looking around wide eyed at the scene that lay before them.
"Get her on the horse!" Tylus barked at Fergus. Fergus nodded and went to pick of Xena's unconscious body. He gave her a sharp kick in the side for good measure before he lifted her up. "That was one for my dead friend here!" He spat down at her.
"Hey!" Tylus screamed. "Don't you dare touch her again. "Helcus will not be pleased if his prize is delivered with broken parts!"
Fergus grumbled something under his breath and began lifted her draping her slumping form over the saddle.
They were ready to leave. Everyone had mounted except for Barrance. Fergus had hold of the reins of their extra horse, once the dead man's, now Xena's unfortunate ride.
Tylus looked over at the young blonde and Barrance. She was talking animatedly and the man was enwrapped in her words.
Oh boy, Tylus thought to himself. Here we go again.
"Barrance." Tylus spoke, interrupting the bard and the big man's conversation. Barrance looked up, his eyes were glazed over with what could only be desire. He gestured the big man over to him.
"You've got a half an hour." Tylus spoke evenly. Barrance nodded, licking his lips that were dry from anticipation.
"But Barrance.." Tylus said, quietly, his voice low so only the two could share this moment. "You can do what you want with her - but make sure you kill her when you're finished. I want no loose ends. You understand?"
"Perfectly." Barrance smiled. "I'll meet you back at the castle.", he added, "This won't take very long."
With this Tylus turned and motioned the others to get moving. He had given in to Barrance's needs many times before - it was a modest exchange for the benefits he reaped with this man at his side, but a small part of him, one he would not consciously acknowledge, worried that this was a mistake that he would pay dearly for.
Chapter 7 - The Big Man
Gabrielle eyes followed the group of riders' departure. Gabrielle's heart cried out as she watched Xena be lead away from her - she had to look away for fear of bursting into tears.
Instead she looked over at the approaching burly figure - gods he was huge. There was a hunger in his eyes that made Gabrielle's stomach do a slow turn, threatening to spill forth what little content it held. She bit down on her lower lip to regain control and began to focus on the task at hand. She tried to muster a look of desire to match his. Feigned cooperation was essential if she ever hoped to get out of this alive.
He knelt down over her, visibly panting now. She had spent the last ten minutes, before the men departed, talking seductively to him. Gods, this was killing her but she had little choice in the matter.
"Your arms are so, - huge, and powerful." Gabrielle began. Ugh, she thought. "I long to feel them embrace me." His eyes were half closed now as she continued her verbal assault on his senses.
Sick, sick , sick, she spat inwardly, "I need to feel you close to me." Gabrielle growled softly in his ear as he bent down and began to fumble with her skirt.
He was straddling her now and loosing all self control. Her erotic sensual words were driving him as crazy as the beautiful curves of her young fresh body. He was fumbling with his pants, no longer able to contain himself.
"Wait!" she gasped. He obeyed, looking into her eyes. She held out her hands towards him, bound tightly. "If you could untie me I could service you much more lavishly." A slow seductive grin spread across her face.
His imagination got the best of him, and he quickly grabbed the dagger from his belt and cut the rope that bound her hands. After all, he thought, she can't be more than 110 pounds soaking wet and hardly a match for someone as mighty as himself. Perhaps if he had paid more attention in his youth to the story of David and Goliath he might have reconsidered. But Barrance was a man of few thoughts and had little patience for stupid tales.
Gabrielle screamed inside with delight at this small victory and with this new found strength got more bolder. She coaxed him onto his back, and slowly began to remove his clothes. All the while she did this, driving the trembling man below her wild with desire, she kept her staff in her sights, laying nonchalantly not five feet away from where he lay. She successfully removed all of his clothing and armor, seductively tracing her fingers down his disgustingly sweaty chest. She was no longer feeling as ill, however, and rather enjoyed yielding this power over him like a sharpened sword.
She knelt down over him, his eyes closed in anticipation of her gentle caress. He began a slow moan but it caught sharply in his throat and was immediately covered over by a howl of pain as her knee slammed hard into his most sensitive part with a fierceness even she hadn't thought she possessed.
She leapt to her feet and dove for her staff. The huge man rolled over in pain writhing like a wounded animal - which is exactly what he was she thought to herself. And she was enraged. The emotion was so strong in her it coursed through her like Zeus's lightening and she charged back at him swinging her staff with an incredibly force across his face.
He howled again, as the loud crack of his skull resonated through the clearing.
That blow would have rendered any normal man unconscious but he was large and strong. He got to his knees, wild now with his own rage and pain, lunging for her. She was in her battle ready stance and swung low and hard, cracking the staff against his leg that bore the weight of his mighty form. He was felled from the blow and had little time to think of the pain that shot through his shin before another deadly blow countered the first and landed squarely across his gaping jaw.
The world went white, and the last thought as he slipped into unconsciousness was how large the tiny blond had suddenly appeared as she gazed down at his sinking form.
Her breath was coming in gasps as she looked down at him. She held her staff ready for a few more seconds but knew she would not need it. She was shaking visibly now. She knew she had little time to savor this minor victory and quickly began to gather the rope that had once held her hands and began to tie the man's hands behind his back.
She looked towards the path where Xena had been led away and whispered to her love. "I'm coming for you Xena, please wait for me." Tears were welling in her eyes but she quickly shook them away. There was no time for tears now - she had to get help.
She found extra rope in Barrance's gear and bound his unconscious form expertly. She needed to make sure he didn't move while she was gone.
With that task done she glanced up at the tall black horse that loomed over her. Gods she hated riding horses and had always preferred to walk, only occasionally riding with Xena, and usually for an excuse to get close rather than a chance to ride. She silently cursed herself for not being more schooled in this.
She pictured Xena's face and quickly forgot her fear of heights and she mounted the tall animal.
She gave it a swift kick with her boot heels and they were off. She was riding in an all out gallop towards the Amazon camp.
Chapter 8 - The Ride
She rode for two hours straight at an incredible pace. The horse's coat was soaked through but it continued it's breathtaking speed sensing the urgency in the woman. It also was basking in the warmth of this new rider. She smelled so much nicer than his man rider and she was a feather on his back in comparison. The horse had adopted an instant liking to her and pushed on at her insistence with no complaints.
She had reached the amazon border and slowed knowing it not wise to come barreling in there as warriors patrolled the border of the camp.
She heard the unmistakable bird call that was the signal of an approaching stranger and replied with a call herself. This was greeted by a welcoming call and within seconds Solare and another amazon appeared from the bushes to her left.
"Gabrielle!" Solare cried. Racing towards her. "We were just about to dispatch a search party for you two...." Her voice trailed off as she saw Gabrielle's face.
"Where's Xena?" Solare asked, a sick dread building inside her, "Did Valasqua..?"
"No." Interrupted Gabrielle. "She and Callisto are buried in the lava river just north of the ruins."
"Where then?" Solare asked tentatively.
Gabrielle interrupted her. "Where's Ephiny? Xena's been captured and we have no time to lose!" The words rolling of her tongue quickly now - She was wild with panic. Solare knew enough to ask no more questions and quickly led her towards the queen.
They arrived at the center of the camp. Women were busily reconstructing the damaged buildings Valasqua had ruined only days ago - it had seemed like an eternity for Gabrielle as so much had happened since then.
Ephiny, the new queen, came out to great them and Gabrielle dismounted quickly rushing over to her, tears welling up in her eyes, no longer able to contain them.
She fell into Ephiny's outstretched arms and broke into deep sobs. Ephiny's eyes looked over at Solare's questioningly. "Xena's been captured." Solare started, "That's all I know so far."
The women led Gabrielle into Ephiny's hut and sat her down. Solare brought over some water and they tried to calm the woman.
"Breathe Gabrielle. " Ephiny spoke soothingly. "And tell me everything."
Gabrielle nodded weakly and began to tell her what had happened, leaving out the intimate part, not sure of how to describe that subject yet.
The other amazon women had gathered outside the hut expectantly. The amazon princess had rode into the camp visibly distraught and they waited patiently to find out how they could help.
Ephiny stepped of the hut. "I need every available warrior. Get your weapons and horses ready.
We leave in ten minutes." With that said she disappeared back inside. There was a general nervous and excited buzz amongst the women as they quickly prepared to leave, the adrenaline of a potential battle now spurring them on.
She entered the hut and looked down at Gabrielle seated, staring at the floor, still shaking. Her heart broke for her but they had no time for sympathy. "Gabrielle." She asked lifting her chin up with her outstretched hand. "Do you think you can ride back?"
"Yes." Gabrielle stood. "I'm ready."
Ephiny gave her chin a slight squeeze and nodded. "You will ride with me. The horse you brought to camp needs to rest."
Gabrielle nodded gladly, she was not sure she had the strength to ride back herself anyway. "Please Ephiny." She gazed up at her. "We have to..."Tears threatened to spill forth again.
Ephiny hugged her fiercely. "We will not let Xena die, Gabrielle, we will save her." She spoke the words strongly but silently fearing she may not be able to keep this promise.
The war party rode away from the camp. Ephiny was leading the pack setting a torrid pace, fear wrapping around her heart. Gabrielle sat behind her, her arms wrapped tightly around Ephiny's waist. Her eyes were shut tightly fighting back tears as she buried her head deeply into Ephiny's golden locks hanging on for dear life. Her thoughts were only for Xena, and she silently whispered to her that she was coming to save her, and hoped that she would hear her heart breaking for her and stay alive long enough to hold her again.
Chapter 9 - The Hurt
Gabrielle's arms were reaching out towards her, tears were flowing down her face, the pain and grief was so great in her bard's eyes that she had to shut her own eyes and turn away. She could no longer stand to watch the breaking of her lover's heart. But once again she heard her calling her name softly and was forced to look back again into the deep green of her eyes and the fear and desperation she saw there hit her as sharply as any sword. Gabrielle's outstretched arms reached once again towards her and she struggled to lift her arms to embrace her. Her arms were as heavy as lead and she could not lift them though she desperately tried to. She was so close to her now but she could not sink into her embrace. New waves of pain spread across her as the brightness of the vision sent daggers through her eyes and down her back. She was in agony and she once again was forced to shut her eyes tightly, the vision burning painfully into her soul. A wave of cold wet fury covered her form and she gasped, her mouth opening to draw in air. Suffocating and choking she opened her eyes painfully once again. But Gabrielle was no longer there.
Her vision blurred then refocused as she stared into the face of a brick wall, only inches away. She closed her eyes tightly again as a new wave of pain shot through her skull. She tentatively opened them again hoping that she would once again see Gabrielle but there was no vision forthcoming. Only the cold dark brick that lay before her.
Another wave of cold water splashed across her face and she gasped, once again choking. She desperately tried to pull away from the cold painful embrace but her arms would not allow it. Another sharp pain drove through her skull as she moved her head to the side. She did not need to look to confirm her suspicions but did anyway, and her heart sunk as she saw the chains wrapped painfully around her wrists , the full realization of her predicament now hitting her like a flood.
"I think she's coming around Tylus!" Fergus spoke excitedly. Tylus was disgusted with this man. His anger barely contained. "I told you I wanted her in one piece for Helcus didn't I!!!" He screamed at the man, a full half a foot smaller than himself, and shrinking with each passing moment.
"Yess..s, you did." Fergus stammered, now beginning to fear for his life.
"I see you've been using the whip?!!" Tylus spat at him, holding it menacingly over his quivering form.
"I was...just.." Fergus's voice trailed off.
"And what exactly *is* the point of whipping someone when they're unconscious? - YOU IDIOT!" He screamed now louder. A few guards in the outer hallway now cringed visibly as well. Tylus was Helcus's right hand man and he was not someone you wanted to have mad at you.
Fergus's mouth remained open, no words of wisdom spewed forth. A dull thud broke the silence as the water bucket fell out of his hands and rolled away.
"She killed my best friend." Fergus replied finally, his voice barely a whisper, and he stepped back expecting Tylus's full wrath to crush him right where he stood.
Tylus was shaking now. He wanted to kill this little man but this was only because a deeper anger, and perhaps fear, had crept into him in the last hour. He quickly pushed it deep back down into his unconscious mind and got down to the business at hand. "Has Barrance returned?" He asked, though he already new he hadn't. And this was what was really bothering him at the moment wasn't it?
"No sir." Fergus replied quickly, hoping to change the subject and perhaps grant himself a stay of execution.
"Damn him!" Tylus muttered under his breath. Then he turned to look at the woman warrior, hanging from the chains, and felt a slight cringe as he mentally counted the slash marks covering her bleeding back. There must have been at least fifteen, maybe more. He turned, anger again building in his chest. "Helcus is throwing a feast in her honor tonight. He's inviting all his friends." His eyes were slits now and they shot like tiny invisible knifes into Fergus's gaping face. "And you'd better get her into some kind of presentable shape because she will be the center piece for this gala event. And we have to keep her alive long enough for Helcus to slice her head off himself. " He spat, and then added. "And I'll hold you personally responsible if anything screws up. - You got that little man?!!!"
Fergus could only nod, he was expending most of his energy controlling his bladder.
The warrior woman was concentrating hard at shutting out the pain that sliced across her back and through her head, keeping her lips tightly locked together so that she would not scream. She needed to hear this conversation. Her memory, though foggy, was coming back to her now. And with each flash of remembrance her heart was sinking further into despair. Gods only knew what they had done to Gabrielle after she had been knocked unconscious. She couldn't even bring herself to invision such horrors. She refused to believe any of it. Had Gabrielle not come to her only moments ago? But it had only been a dream. She couldn't even think that Gabrielle might be dead. She would feel it as sure as a dagger through her own heart. She felt her presence as her own heart was still beating - because she would have surely died by now if Gabrielle's heart no longer lived.