War of Silence
by Tammy Keeperofwords@juno.com
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle and Argo as well as any references to television episodes belong to Universal/ Renaissance. No copyright infringement is intended. This story's copyright is by the author. The poetry that accompanies the fiction belongs to the authors.
Warning-Violence , particularly graphic violence inflicted on Gabrielle, is found in this story.
There is a cry for battle that none may hear;
With a silent voice of one, it calls to the strong.
"To Arms," it echoes; climb o'r the wall,
Engage the enemy, secure the soul.
There is a cry for vengeance that none may know,
Its call ever silent till the mortal blow.
Death skews the winner from the seeking eye
And leaves rotting carnage in its wake.
There is a cry for peace few will answer,
Its risk unacceptable to the soul's defense;
But out of the stillness to the strong and brave,
It rewards deeper blows with its force and power.
I come out of the battlement and o'r the wall;
I cry out in the stillness and whisper "to arms,"
But then I stop to listen and look to my side;
My silent cry was answered, I battle not alone.
Prologue : "Legacy's Desperation"
"Did the men arrive back from Amphipolis?"
"Yes sir, they found Xena at the local inn...just where you said she would be."
"The girl, are you continuing the beatings on the regular schedule I ordered?"
"Yes sir, and the other instructions as well; give me another week and I will have her afraid of her own shadow."
"You don't have a week, step up the plan.... I want only silence when that girl opens her mouth. Do you understand me, Nikkos?"
"YYYes, sir, right away sir."The young lieutenant bustled out of the tent hurriedly and brought a burst of cold air into the warlord's tent as he departed. Maps and opened parchment whirled through the air before landing scattered at the older gentleman's booted feet. He kicked the objects from his path and walked to the tent flap and pulled it open with a sharp tug.
"It all falls together..... everything is going as I thought .... You will command my army and continue my legacy all of your own choice....the beautiful thing is that girl will bring your heart to me and to Ares ...soon my daughter, very soon."
Chapter 1 "Prodigal No More"
Returning Home by Wishes
Such fair relief
'Though brief the respite
How sweet the peace
Before the world without
And Calm obtains no more.
"I got it, Mother, " Xena called . Carefully balancing in each hand a brimming bowl of stew, she scrambled between the tables at her mother's inn in Amphipolis. After dodging an old man who was warming his bones by the fire, she reached a young couple's table in the corner of the inn. As she placed the warm stew in front of them, she wondered to herself, could that young woman have been me if things had turned out differently ? "Mother makes the best lamb stew in this part of Thrace, " the black-haired woman said. She smiled as she wiped her long fingers on the worn apron around her waist. "Let me know if I can get you anything else," Xena added before turning to an empty table of dirty dishes. She placed them on the tray in her arms and meandered back to stand at the bar.
Restless, Xena smoothed down her dress with her hands and chuckled to herself, Wonder if that young couple would recognize me if I walked in wearing what I usually wear every day. This is the longest I have worn a dress in ages. Though she did not carry her weapons, old habits were hard to break for this warrior. In her dress, she still wore her breast dagger..Xena had been on this visit home for about four days now. It was so nice to come home and be with her mother. Their relationship had grown in trust and respect in the few months. Visits with her mother always reminded her that she was not beyond her mother's love and trust. In fact, the only negative thing about this trip was that she missed Gabrielle. Her companion had made the short distance on to visit with her own family. Gabrielle had been chattering for weeks about Lila and her soon to be betrothed and all the festivities her mother had planned. Xena actually missed the endless chattering. Only a few more days then we will meet at her village, she reminded herself.
The evening dinner crowd had begun to disperse, and Xena took control of the bar while her mother saw to the rooms of the overnight guests. Could I do this full-time . .. settle down . . leave Gabrielle? Her thoughts both troubled and excited her. Things were definitely changing in her life. Xena's blue eyes quickly caught sight of four dirty smelly men. The men were dressed in soldier garb with blood still on their clothes. The Warrior Princess reached under the bar and felt for her sword. Reassured, she fingered the handle, hoping for no trouble. Xena kept her eyes directed at the four men, even as she tended to other tasks. She filled an old man's wine glass and noted their hot gaze upon her.
"Sizing me up ?" The youngest spoke as he gave Xena a vulgar wink. "Come over with some ale and I will give you what you want."
"No trouble; remember Mother." Xena spoke under her breath as she tried to control her growing irritation. An impatient customer banged his empty glass to get the warrior's attention. "I will have you your ale in a minute." She tried to answer the young soldier politely as she turned her attention to the farmer who continued to bang his glass all the louder. A staff fell in Xena's path as she attempted to step away from the bar to give the farmer his drink.
The young man smiled at her lewdly with his three friends laughing quietly behind him. "Not so fast." He winked as he poked Xena's chest with the staff.
"That is it" she answered to herself as she let her instincts take over. She let her head bang into the young man in her path and watched with satisfaction as he crumpled to the ground, his staff rolling to her feet as he fell. Xena's smirk turned to a look of horror and surprise when her eyes caught a glimpse of the weapon. It was an Amazon War Staff. Xena's foot kicked the weapon into the air and into her outstretched hand. She began to work the staff in intricate patterns through the air as a threat to any other who dared approach. The three soldiers gulped and stepped backward a few steps. Who was this woman who stood before them and who handled such a weapon with the skill of a warrior? Xena's blood lust heated to a boil as she turned the Amazon weapon with her wrist.
"Where did you get this?" she thundered . "Answer me now." She slammed the closest of three soldiers against the bar.
"Poteidaia" he rasped out , "Please don't kill us. The whole village was burning up and .." .
"Shut up," she snarled as she felt total disgust stab into her like a knife in her heart. Xena kicked the two she had incapacitated as she spoke again "Throw over everything that you took!" She grasped the war staff ominously and yelled "Now!" Coins, jewelry, and weapons fell into on the floor in a pile. "Now leave.... before I change my mind....Go!" she snarled again, her body tensed in anger.
The two left standing took off in a run while the other two slowly crawled out. Lost in her own thoughts Xena carefully picked up each item off the floor that lay haphazardly scattered. Suddenly she noted the stares from around the room and spouted, "Show's over." She knew she had lashed out more than she needed to but really didn't care. She twisted the staff in her hands giving it a careful inspection. A sick feeling hit her as she recognized a gash in the wood. Thinking that Xena had died from a poison dart, Gabrielle had put it there when she hit a tree in grief. "Definitely Gabrielle's, " Xena whispered to herself, ignoring the stares from around the room. She swallowed as her eyes were drawn to fresh dried blood splattered up and down the weapon.
"I'm coming, Gabrielle," Xena whispered quietly. "I am coming."
Chapter 2 "Poteidaia"
Xena could smell the burning flesh from the funeral pyres as she and Argo reached the outskirts of Poteidaia. Dusk only made the flames seem to jump higher in the dimming light. The injured lay haphazardly on blankets along the hillside. A quick look told the Warrior Princess that two-thirds of this village had been lost to the marauder's torches. "No wonder they lie in the streets," she said to herself as she stared at each face and looked for her companion's face among the living. The wails of the grief-stricken drowned out the cries of the sick and injured. That realization alone made this former war-lord sick on her stomach. She had never crossed through this village with her army but there had to many of her own "Poteidaia's".
"Focus on the present," she reminded herself as she attempted to push her warlord memories to the background. The hard stares she received were making that increasingly difficult. While not openly challenged, Xena saw the villagers' hate and fear in their eyes. "Have they forgotten so soon that I saved their women from Draco's men?" she thought sadly as the weight of her past crimes plagued her heart.
Xena's blue eyes spotted the giant bon-fire with what appeared to be a majority of the town's men there. "Not over five women in this whole place" she muttered as she swung her leg over her horse and jumped to the ground. "Bet they took them to meet the next slave caravan going east,"she speculated as she tied her mare's reins to a large bush in between several large trees.
"Xena?" a tiny voice chirped as a small hand pulled on the warrior's leather skirt
"Dora?" Xena questioned as she got down on one knee to see the child who got her attention.
"Are you going to save my momma and cousin Gabrielle?" she meekly replied as her upper lip quivered with the threat of anxious tears.
"Dora .... You get over here right now .." an angry male voice called out from a pallet some 30 feet away. Xena let out a ragged sigh as the child scampered away. Though she never let it show outwardly, having children fear her always caused her heart to cry out in pain. " Well, at least now I know they have Gabrielle," she reminded herself . "She is not dead....yet."
Though all she wanted to do was get on her horse and track the raiders , she drew up her hood on her black cloak and crept quietly in the darkness to the group of villagers. "My lecture on the greater good does not help my stomach's butterflies...I don't care about these people; they obviously don't want me around.... Just go get Gabrielle," her heart told her mind as she walked closer and closer to the villagers.
"Focus," Xena said aloud as she stepped into the shadows and listened to the men talk , complain and drink wine. Their utter hopelessness and despair moved the warrior. But even now the looks of anger and rage she was receiving kept her back in the deep shadows of the fire's circle.
"Who are you kidding, Xena...you can't stop a whole army of raiders and get these families reunited all by yourself." The Warrior Princess took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She pictured in her mind the one person who had been her strength so many times. It was that person who needed her right now. "I am Xena, and I am here to help."
"Listen, if we don't start trusting one another and stop the useless grumbling, we will never reach them in time." Xena's deep voice resonated loudly as she took the time to stare at each person's face. She poked another nearby twig in the flames. She uncrossed her legs and stood as she continued, " I know how these men operate. They will most likely attempt to sell your families and friends to the slave caravans that travel these roads on their way over the ridge ." She looked at the group once more staring down each accusing glare with a hard stoic glare. The former warlord let the hood of her cape fall to her shoulders and moved to stand beside the fire. She could still hear the moans of the living and the cries for the dead." Some mistrust me because of my past. Some blame me for having a bad influence on your fellow Poteidean, Gabrielle. Since I rode into this village at dusk, I have even heard some blame her for this tragedy." Xena paused and threw off her cape. She unsheathed her sword and lifted it high. "No more grumbling; it is now time for action...for any one who dares, we leave at dawn to rescue the others."
The warrior picked up her cloak she had dropped and stepped out of the circle. Instinctively, she was drawn to the sea, its sounds and waves offering the kind of peace and comfort man could not. The ocean brought no comfort this night for even the ocean wind could not drown out the cries of this village and its loss. The warrior paced up and down the sand and fought her emotions, guilt, worry and anger. She wondered it anyone would ride with her at first light. If the raiders took time to celebrate their fortune, and we ride hard, we may still catch them before they reach the slavers....I need to rest but how can I ? She thought as she sat down in the sand and stared at the stars. Hate and distrust had swept through this town and left devastation equal to the burnt buildings and funeral pyres behind her.
Hate towards me I could tolerate, she mused as she stared at the waves as they rolled in with a thunderous crash, But you Gabrielle?
"Hang on a little longer," she whispered as she stared at each wave as it neared the shore to take its turn splashing the shoreline. "I am coming Gabrielle."
Chapter 3: "Warrior's Darkness"
Fear of Love by Wishes
When all I had to fear was love,
I stalked the world alone.
"My path's my path," I shouted
My heavy boots trod over
Any who would stand
Between me and my wants.
When all I had to fear was love,
Death held no terror.
I sometimes sought it,
Sometimes just let it come my way.
Nothing to loose, nothing to gain.
When all I had to fear was love,
I didn't live, so could not die.
I killed by word and glance.
No one real, not even me.
Now love is my companion,
And I fear much.
I've given to the world
Of men and gods a hostage.
How can I handle fear-of harm to you,
Of endless separation-of your death,
I who've feared but one thing before?
The fear of only love did not prepare me
For fearing only this:
The loss of love.
Night had fallen like a curtain over this remote valley. The fine mist of an oppressive fog still matted Xena's hair to her face. The warrior groaned in frustration at the waning daylight and pulled gently on the reins of her mare. The slick ground and limited visibility was beginning to force the warrior to a careful slow crawl up and down the rolling hills. Xena willed her mind to be alert and forced herself to take several deep breaths. She patted her horse affectionately on her side thanking her for her efforts on this terrible day. True, Argo and she had traveled in worse weather but neither the horse nor the rider enjoyed it. Tonight, neither complained.
Keeping sharp had been a continual challenge to this lone warrior and her golden mare. The past few days she had dealt with grumbling men, terrible traveling weather and her own unwelcome emotions. After leaving Amphipolis, she had taken command reluctantly of a rag-tag group of Poteidaians on a fast paced trek against time. Xena's former occupation had helped heranticipate the raider's next move, selling their captives to the slave caravans that traveled the area. She thanked the god's for the mucky roads that had slowed the caravan's trek to the coast. She and the villagers had ambushed the slave traders and, thanks to Xena's strategy and fighting skills, had quickly persuaded them to relinquish all of their human cargo. All villagers were accounted for except one, Gabrielle. Xena remembered seething with frustration upon learning that the raiders had held back Gabrielle from the transaction with the slavers.
Leaving the villagers to their happy reunions and to take care of those injured in the fight, Xena had set out on Argo alone. The question "why" still echoed in her head as she and Argo followed the raiders much to obvious tracks. True, the mud held every hoof print from days past; still, instinct told her to be extra careful. The trail had been much to easy to follow. Regrets about entering an unknown situation alone against an unknown foe would not help now. As she had done so many times before, Xena traveled alone into darkness and uncertainty.
Xena wiped the collecting water from her face as she allowed herself the luxury of reflection over the last few days. She inwardly cringed at the possibility that her dear friend had been kept back because of her association with The Warrior Princess. Her mood paralleled the gloomy evening. I have to believe in my heart and trust that she is still alive, Xena reminded herself. Still, Xena thought back to the promise to her friend never to become a monster if Gabrielle died. The warrior's eyebrows arched with the realization that the men in her mother's inn the other night could have been sent there to gain her attention. "Well, if someone wants a fight , they are going to get it," Xena promised clenching fist on her horse's reins. Xena knew all too well how most of these warlords handled prisoners. That thought alone made her wish for the ability to race like the wind itself.
" We will get her back .....won't we?" Xena's confidence waned as she spoke to Argo.
Xena knew the weather would soon force her quest to halt till dawn. Even now Gabrielle's cheery voice seemed to come to her head " Well, at least if you can't travel, they can't either." Xena smiled and answered aloud , "Right Gabrielle..... by the Gods, I am hearing her in my head now. Has she rubbed off on me or what, Argo?" Like an arrow that had hit a target, despair pierced her heart. Got to hurry , got to hurry, got to hurry her mind started to chant over and over till she felt Argo start to stumble. She righted her horse and her attitude. "No, I won't think like this; it is not helping one bit." Xena rebuked herself clutching Argo's reins with a renewed vigorous determination. Her hand was instinctively drawn to where her best friend's fighting staff was stowed on the horse. The feel of the wood somehow comforted the warrior as she connected with Gabrielle.
"Hurry up, Stephen, Talus will be here any time leading Xena"
"Almost finished," Stephen answered as he let the whip crack one final time on the silent form tied between two young trees. Blood poured out of the girl's back and slid down welted legs.
"That's enough . Get the horses. I've got to leave the note." Blood was quickly dabbed on parchment and tucked in the tattered skirt. "Go. Go! I hear horses coming"
Chapter 4: "Precious Find"
"Whoa, Argo," Xena commanded as she drew her mare to a halt at the edge of a cluster of trees. A gentle tug of the reins motioned Argo to a particularly old tree with large branches. As she sheltered out of the rain, Xena's eyes scanned back and forth trying to see through white haze. The mare danced under the tree nervously as the warrior rubbed her tired eyes with her hand. "Easy, Argo, what do you hear?" Her horse's instincts usually were more acute than her own. "I feel it too now, as if we are being watched," Xena whispered as she scratched her horse behind the ear. Yes, over there.. damn, I better get that guy before he warns his whole camp of my presence out here, Xena thought as the mare began to draw close enough for her blue eyes to see the outline of a war-horse and soldier. "The soldier knows the area better than I do," Xena mumbled. She leaned forward into the horse's neck. "He does not seem to be affected by the fog one bit while I have to pray Argo is seeing thing better than I am."
A sudden stop by Argo almost sent Xena flying out of the saddle. "Argo, what in Tartarus has gotten into you?" Xena spoke through gritted teeth as she dug her boots into the horse's sides. Xena watched, discouraged, as the rider disappeared further into misty fog. The woman reached for her whip as a rage began to brew and as Argo's head began to bob up and down strangely. The horse stood unmoving, her hooves planted. Spouting a curse, Xena eased her tired muscles out of the saddle and dropped to the ground with a thud. Her body came into contact with an object as she landed, and she fell forward.
"By the gods," Xena whispered aloud as she realized it was a human body she had landed upon. As she reached down to touch it, warm blood wet her hands and the form thrashed. This shook the warrior out of her shock. One hand held down the unknown person as the other reached for the sword on her back. "Identify yourself now!" Xena let her voice thunder ominously. Xena felt the body begin to shake as the sword pressed dangerously close to the person's back. Though she could not see beyond the outlining features of the person on the ground, there was something familiar here, she thought. The person uttered no identification , only a guttural " uh, uhhh." Zeus sent a streak of lightning through the rainy sky illuminating the person she held at sword point. As the thunder sounded , Xena looked down. "Gabrielle!" she exclaimed. She felt her knees give way, and she stumbled onto the wet ground. From this close, the features of her friend were more visible. Gabrielle was bleeding badly from welts that covered her back and legs. Bruises and cuts were scattered over her entire body . Xena knew stitches might be required on at least a few of them. Her face was so swollen it was barely recognizable with scratches, bruises and a black left eye that was swollen shut.
Xena had not felt this angry since Lyceus was killed. Her whole body shook with frustrated rage, and only her friend's need of her kept her from riding after the unknown horseman. Gabrielle's whole body was tucked into a ball with her hands covering her ears . Seeing her friend curled up in fetal position shaking jarred the warrior from her angry vengeance. Even now, Xena worried about the strangeness of this situation. Were she and her friend being set up in a trap? Xena cautiously lowered her sword to her side and wiped the rain from her face. "I have to get us out of here and get her out of this weather," She voiced to herself . As the anxious warrior reached her hand down to the bard's shoulder, the girl shot up. Oblivious to the pain she was in, the young woman let out a silent scream. Xena watched, surprised and horrified, as the girl's mouth opened wide and her facial muscles tightened in an obvious scream of fear. "What did they do to you ? " was all she could say as she watched Gabrielle attempt to scoot backward in the mud.
"Eaasy, Gabrielle, eaasy." The dark-haired warrior spoke calmly as she would to a spooked horse. She forced her voice to communicate in soft gentle tones. "Shhhh, it's Xena". The look of terror in her companion's eyes brought a wave of torment and anger to her soul. Xena took slow steps toward her retreating friend. "Eaasy, eaasy," she continued and resheathed her sword as the red head backed herself against a large tree and turned her body into it gripping onto the sides for dear life. It was if clutching the tree would save her somehow. Xena looked over her shoulder quickly and scanned through the fog. Her anxiety rose with every minute they delayed leaving the area. She turned around to see Gabrielle's face firmly pressed to the bark of the old tree. She sighed deeply realizing her anxiety might be affecting her friend somehow. She moved forward till she came to stand directly behind Gabrielle and the old tree. She pushed the wet hair from her face as she knelt on one knee right behind the girl. She let her voice become softer and began to talk in nonsensical comforting tones.
Xena watched as the girl's raised shoulders lowered. As her body began to relax, the patient warrior began to stroke the red-gold hair on the girl's head . Xena's large hands made each stoke soft and slow. "Shhhhhhhhhhhhh," Xena's deep voice crooned as it sought entrance to a terrified heart. "Relax , relax" she repeated over and over now as she placed one of her hands over the girl's death grip on the tree. The warrior's thumb had begun to stroke the smaller hand it held captive, and the bards breathing was less erratic. Xena's other hand touched other small hand on the other side of the tree and closed down upon it. "I've got you now, Gabrielle ...I've got you," she whispered as she gently turned her friend's body into her own. The warrior's arms held firm at the slight resistance the red-head gave. Xena was rewarded by a ragged sigh as the girl's face came to rest against her breasts.
Ignoring the stickiness of the blood and the terrible smell, Xena lifted the girl in her arms. This girl means so much to me she thought as she walked to a waiting Argo. Gabrielle started to shiver and thrash when she was transferred from Xena's arms to the tall horse. Quickly Xena mounted behind her and gathered her to her as she would a small child. Gently, she leaned her companion into her own body and firmly placed one arm around the tiny waist. "I've got you now, Gabrielle," Xena repeated as she encouraged Argo back the way she had come. Her voice was full of emotion as love and anger both fought for dominance in her heart.
As the sunlight hit Gabrielle's face, Xena's suspicions of the brutal treatment the bard endured were brought to light. Gabrielle's shirt barely clung to her whipped back, dirt, blood and bruises everywhere. Calm down Xena the warrior chided herself. "Safety and Gabrielle come first right now." Xena almost wished for tears to fall as she looked down to where her companion's cheek was stuck to the warrior's upper arm with mud and blood. "It's not over by a long shot," she seethed as she coaxed Argo to a canter.
From the top of the next hill, Xena let her eyes scan the countryside that she could not see a few hours before. There was no sign that they were being followed, and this area seemed easily defended. Even now her ears could hear the sound of a running stream, and a deep thicket of trees and tall grasses lay over her right shoulder. I'm know I pushed her hard she thought letting her arms grasp the limp body tighter. I hate everything about this situation, except I got her back, her thoughts continued. She pulled Argo's reins and turned toward the sound of the water.
Chapter 5 "A Healer's Rage"
Xena kept her friend's body cradled into her own as she gently eased herself off her mare. Even in her sleep, Gabrielle's body became tense and rigid as she was deposited on the soft green grasses by the stream. Noticing this, the warrior reached a finger down to stroke the younger woman's cheek. "I'm still here. Eaaasy now," she crooned softly before she turned to start a fire and placed down the blankets.She opened the mare's saddle bags with an angry jerk and pulled out her medical bag. "Calm down, Xena,"she chided herself as she forced deep gulps of air into her lungs. The healer reached for her dagger in her boot as she lowered herself to sit beside her sleeping friend. "The clothes will have to be cut off gently," she reminded herself , as she pressed the knife down to cut away what was left of the Amazon top. She forced herself to work emotionlessly and refused to react right now to the battered body in any way . The top fell away effortlessly and she began a straight cut down the brown short skirt. Xena sucked in her breath and raised her eyebrow as she made a curious discovery.
A rolled piece of parchment lay hidden in the skirt. The paper was wrinkled and splattered with blood. Curiosity got the best of her as she reached for the paper with trembling hands. One word was signed in blood, "Soon". "Oh, by the gods," Xena cursed as she blinked away the angry tears. "Nooo!" she screamed. Calling for release, she let her dagger fly through the air hitting a tall pine tree. Xena's mind and heart could only see darkness, all else forgotten until a movement below her called her back from her dark-side. "Noooo, Gabrielle," the warrior's voice called tenderly. Realizing how her outburst had frightened Gabrielle, she caught hold of her before the girl could roll herself in the stream . "Shhhh....I won't hurt you....Shhh," the woman whispered with gentle strokes of her patient's blonde hair.
The healer dipped a coarse cloth in the water beside her and began cleansing the dirt and blood off of Gabrielle. Her mind made sharp mental notes of every wound , welt and bruise. As her cloth made a pass onto Gabrielle's swollen face, Xena found her eyes drawn to Gabrielle's green eyes. "You are so dirty, kiddo; I know that you are under there somewhere," she uttered as she smiled down at her friend's dirty face. The quivering of the girl's lip caused Xena to start to hum as she finished with the bath . She used a nearby blanket to gently pat the bruised skin. The tune soothed both of them, she noted, as she now took time to look back to her patient's face. Gone was the wide green eyed look of absolute terror. Gabrielle's eyes had softened but still were deep with emotion.
"Let's take a look at that back." Xena interrupted her tune long enough to speak before returning to a gentle hum. She sat back down on her heels. "Look at me please, Gabrielle...Over here ..That's good...now we are going to roll you over." She spoke in her rich deep voice. She gently pushed her younger companion onto her stomach. Fierce, puffy welts covered the back of the bard's legs, and open wounds almost seemed to criss-cross her tender back. "I wouldn't beat a stubborn ox this way," Xena commented to herself irritatedly. Grasping her strongest alcohol, she poured the ale on the open wounds. "Eaasy sweetheart," she whispered leaning her face right above the girl's ear as she spoke. She brought down a callused finger to Gabrielle's cheek and stroked it as she poured more alcohol on the welts. "All done," she whispered as she wiped away a tear that had fallen to her own finger. She put salve on every blow on Gabrielle's body including her roped burned wrists. Still humming as she worked, she bandaged the small wrists with a soft cloth.
"All right now, you need to lie very still for me while I sew that place up on your neck." Xena talked again quietly as she reached for her needle and thread. A soft touch to the girl's neck numbed her patient to the pain . Short quick strokes sewed up the wound, which she figured was caused by a knife held to the neck. It was deep but did not cut an artery. "Was this lucky or purposeful?" she asked herself as she wrapped a bandage around the neck. She looked up from her charge to check her surroundings yet another time. She tried to mask her unease from her younger friend as she placed a blanket over her.
Xena had begun to make mental notes about how her friend was doing emotionally. It was very clear to her that if Gabrielle would only talk to her, she could fight this opponent more prepared. Something or someone had gone to great lengths at the cost of one of this bard's greatest tools, her voice. Damn them, Xena thought as she moved around setting up their camp. Her friend had always lived each day full of life and full of innocent exuberance. All taken because of.... "Why?" As she unsaddled Argo, Xena made another connection. Gabrielle's movements and actions were like those of a frightened horse. She was skittish with sudden movements and noises. Her trusting nature had been replaced into silent terror. Angry vengeance threatened her soul again, causing Xena to force her eyes to take a hard look at her shivering friend. "Fever developing," she murmured to herself as she quickly warmed some wine and put herbs for pain and fever in it. Sitting down beside the red-head, Xena coaxed her to drink the concoction. "Rest now ... I am here....Shhh," she whispered as she sat there till Gabrielle's breathing deepened and the unswollen eye fluttered closed. As sleep claimed Gabrielle, Xena unmasked her emotional fury. Angry tears rolled down her face as she stood and walked to the stream to wash Gabrielle's blood from her leathers and skin.
"They will pay for each welt, bruise and cut," Xena vowed silently as she scrubbed her skin furiously in the stream. Thoughts of the bloody parchment sent an ever increasing unease and burning desire for bloody retribution. I need Gabrielle to talk to me, tell me where they are camped ...who they are ...what they did to her and why? she thought, almost ready to wake her up and shake it out of her. Her blue eyes were cold with rage almost like that when her brother was killed. They instantly softened drawn to the sleeping form only a few feet away. "I will kill them before they get you again, Gabrielle. I am not letting you out of my sight" she vowed introspectively . She dipped her whole body into the cold water, with that thought her blood-lust disappearing in the cool depths.