THE FOURTH DAY
by JayBird (Jay Markle)
She knew the dimensions of the small room by heart, having paced it endlessly for three days now. Feeling out every nook and cranny, knowing where every stick of furniture and knick-knack was placed. She could even go to the window and feel the wind and the sun on her face. She took comfort in this. There was a hesitant knock on the door.
"Come in, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle entered, not at all surprised to see Xena by the window again. Even when it had stormed yesterday, she had refused to close the wooden shutters. Xena still wore her boots and leathers -more out of habit than necessity- and had even maintained her stoic take-no-prisoners attitude, despite the heavy bandage wrapped around her head that covered her eyes.
"Thanks, but I'm not hungry."
Gabrielle smiled. It was soooooo Xena to try to anticipate all she would say and do. in this case she had smelled the bowl of stew that Gabrielle held in her hand.
"You haven't eaten since yesterday," Gabrielle replied. "You need to keep up your strength."
"Fine, I'll leave it here." She placed it on the table. She had worked for hours on the stew, letting it simmer as she added meat and vegetables. She waited, then smiled again as the sound of Xena's stomach growling filled the room.
"Fine!" Xena hmphed, walking to the table and flouncing down in the chair, bringing her hands up to find the bowl while Gabrielle gently placed a spoon in her hand.
"Thanks," Xena whispered.
"Careful, it's hot."
Xena nodded and brought up a steaming spoonful of stew. She blew on it and stuffed it in her mouth. A second later she spat it out, gasping.
"Tolcha it was hot!" Gabrielle cried, pouring water from an earthenware pitcher into a cup as Xena angrily threw the bowl of stew at the wall, then knocked the cup away that Gabrielle was trying to press into her hand. She grabbed the pitcher herself and chugged down the cool water.
"Gods... are you trying to scald me to death?" Xena snapped. "That stuff was hotter than Tartarus!"
"Sorry," Gabrielle said. She started picking up the pieces of bowl and cleaning up the mess, while Xena went back to her window.
"Don't sweat it. Would you like another bowl?"
Gabrielle sighed, finished cleaning up the mess and left her alone.
Outside the cabin it was another blustery spring day. The cabin was in the middle of a dense forest in the northern steppes of an uncharted land many leagues from their home country of Greece. They were the only two people in a thousand leagues of each other. Gabrielle had never felt more lost or alone in her life.
Gabrielle stumbled to the ground, trying not to weep as her mind returned to the events of three days past...
Their Journey north had been interrupted by a frantic messenger from the City-State of Kraykow. They had heard that the Great Warrior Princess was traveling their lands and now desperately needed her help.
It seemed that a demon -or something- was murdering children. So far six sleeping infants had been stolen from their cribs at night. The next morning as search parties scoured the surrounding forest, the small bones would be found dangling from a tree limb, tied together with twine to form a small skeleton that mocked the would be rescuers.
Xena and Gabrielle had gone into the woods that day, searching out the cave lair of the demon.
They entered the cave bearing torches, and found what they had been looking for almost at once.
It was an ugly little creature, one of the imps from Tartarus who had lost its way. Vaguely human looking, with glowing reptilian eyes, mottled gray skin and batlike wings. Gabrielle managed to whack it to the ground with her Amazon War staff, while Xena ran it through with her sword. As it lay there dying, it spat a long stream of green goo into Xena's face.
It was still cackling as it died.
Gabrielle remembered how in-control Xena had been, ordering Gabrielle to take her to the nearest stream where she washed her eyes out in the cold running water. When Gabrielle examined them the vivid blue of Xena's eyes had faded.
"I'm blind, Gabrielle."
Xena had ordered her to search along the bank of the stream and find some moss. A special green moss with a reddish tinge to it. She had searched for hours, finally finding a spare handful.
When she had returned, Xena was waiting for her. She told Gabrielle to make a poultice with the moss and spread it over her open eyes. Then to bind her head with a tight bandage.
"Now we wait."
"And then? Then you'll be able to see, right?"
"Maybe," Xena replied. "I'll either have my sight restored, or be blind as a bat for the rest of my life."
They had found the deserted cabin that night.
"Shouldn't we go back to town..."
"No," Xena replied. "We'll wait here. I want it that way."
And so it had been.
Gabrielle sat on the ground and let her tears come as the wind howled, and a watcher in the woods eased past her to enter the cabin...
"Hi, Xena. Long time no see."
Xena turned from the window, not at all surprised to see Ares grinning at her. She was still blind, but the vision of Ares was real against the black nothingness.
"This is disappointing," Xena said. "I thought one of the advantages of being blind would be never having to look at your smirking face again."
"Ahhhh!" Ares gripped his chest. "Woman! Thy sting is great!" He laughed. That evil laugh that always put Xena's teeth on edge.
"What do you want?"
"What I always want."
"Let me guess. You'll grant me my vision, and in return I go back to my Old Ways. Same song, second verse.'
"Well, not quite. This time I have an offer you can't refuse."
"I will grant you your sight. No strings attached. All you have to do is swear that you will no longer associate in any way with that... chatty little witch."
"Gabrielle?" Xena couldn't keep the surprise out of her voice.
"Yesssssss... 'Gabrielle'." Ares growled, pacing about now. "I've grown weary of her. That constant yakity-yak... How do you stand her! Besides, it's not really healthy the way you two girls pal around together. People are beginning to talk. A woman really needs a man to make her life complete."
"A man like you?" Xena smirked.
"Heyyyyyyyy..." Ares grinned. "Any port in a storm."
"I'd sooner scuttle the ship."
"That's up to you. This offer is good only til the moment you remove that bandage. Then -whether your sight has returned or not- what will be, will be. You know the odds, you're a healer."
"Say goodbye, Ares."
"Seeya, and I wouldn't wanna be ya!"
On the night of the third day, Xena and Gabrielle lay huddled together on the lumpy bed, blankets over their bodies. Even so, the cold of the night seemed to settle in their bones as they hugged one another for warmth.
"Xena? You awake?"
"I am now."
"Sorry. Is something wrong? You seem -I dunno- distant."
"I had a chat with Ares today."
She felt Gabrielle stiffen beside her.
"Don't worry, he was just visiting."
"What did he want?"
"He offered me my sight back if I would walk away from you and never see you again."
"What? Why me?"
"Because he finally figured out that you're my conscience. You're what makes me complete. Without you in my life I'd probably go back to the Old Ways. Then he'd win. And I'd rather spend eternity in Tartarus then have that happen."
For once Gabrielle could find no words, so she just hugged Xena as tight as she could. Soon they were asleep in the comfort of each other's arms. On the morning of the fourth day Gabrielle awoke to an empty bed. Panicked, she looked about frantically as she pulled on her clothes, grabbed up her war staff and ran out the door.
She found Xena feeding Argo; the bandages were still secure.
"You've taken good care of her the last few days," Xena said.
"Argo takes care of herself," Gabrielle replied.
"She trusts you now. That's good."
"Xena..." Gabrielle approached, a feeling of unease creeping over her. "I hope you're not planning on going anywhere without me."
"Of course not."
"Good. Cuz we've never talked about what we'd do if you... if you don't get your sight back."
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
"Sure. But I want you to know something right now." Gabrielle faced her, voice tight with emotion. "No matter what happens, I will always be by your side. If need be, I will be your eyes for the rest of my life."
"I don't wanna hear this." Xena turned away.
"Too bad," Gabrielle said. "Look, I know what you've been thinking about, okay? I know you. You're thinking that if you are blind you'll end your life here and now. I know you have weapons, and I know you probably know ten different ways to kill yourself with a spoon... But that isn't going to happen. I'm not going to let it happen."
"Gabrielle," Xena's voice was a whisper as Argo nuzzled her. "You have your whole life in front of you. Don't spend it leading a blind woman around..."
"I wouldn't want it any other way," Gabrielle replied. "You told Ares that you'd rather be blind than be without me. You told me that I made you complete. Don't you get it? We're two of a kind. Two halves that make a whole. You are my life, Xena. Please... don't leave me. Not again."
Xena found herself enveloped in a tight hug as Gabrielle wept, letting the pain and frustrations of the last four days out. Xena managed to hold out for a few seconds before returning the hug, holding onto her for dear life.
"Alright," Xena replied, whispering in her ear. "I'll never leave you. Not now, not ever."
They stood there smiling at each other as another gust of wind howled about them.
"Now let's get this damn thing off. It itches like Hades."
Xena leaned back, lying against a stump of wood as Gabrielle unwound the wrapping about her head. Then with trembling hands, peeled away the now hard poultice and washed her eyes out with a whole pitcher of fresh water. Sputtering, Xena got to her feet, shaking her now wet head and scrubbing at her face.
Unable to stand it anymore, Gabrielle turned her around and pulled her hands away to stare her in the face.
Xena's blue eyes focused on her.
"By the Gods, Gabrielle!" Xena seemed horrified. "What's happened to you? You've really let yourself go the last few days..."
Yelling and laughing and crying, the two friends danced and jumped about the grassy glade like two girls at play...
"And is this not the way of Life? The Good Times that come and go, Bad Times as well... But for now...At this Moment in Time, All was right with our World!"(excerpt from the Xena Scrolls)
Please send any comments to JayMarkle@webtv.net
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