Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

NOTE: All works remain the copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.

Violence disclaimer: There is some violence but not enough to mention, after all it is Xena.

Author disclaimer: This is my first attempt at writing anything more ambitious than a grocery list. Please write to me and tell me if you liked it. (be gentle)

Cause and Effect

by S Singer
tutor33@hotmail.com

 
The colors were beautiful, the sunlight shining at an angle, which put every fold, every puff of the clouds into strong outline. The sunset was one of those that make you wish you could paint. The colors were so painfully bright that it made Gabrielle’s heart ache. There was so much beauty here, and yet looking over at Xena she saw that the Warrior Princess was focused on cleaning her armor, her strong shoulders and long arms working, moving back and forth, long even strokes. Her concentration appeared to be focused on her task, and she did not seem to be aware of anything but what she was doing. But Gabrielle knew better.

"Look Xena. Look at the sunset! Can’t you feel the beauty and peace just this once?"

Without looking up Xena answers, "I see it Gabrielle, I feel what you feel. But in order to make sure that you see the beauty and feel the peace tomorrow, I must work now."

Gabrielle moved over to Xena and sat close to her and watched as Xena worked with the leather and bronze of her armor. She saw the beauty in her hands working quickly, methodically, thoroughly. The long black hair hung down on either side of Xena's face, and Gabrielle wanted to reach out and push it back, but she knew better than to intrude on her dear friend’s space.

"It’s been a hard week, I know. And I know that the people of those villages were overly grateful and how that makes you feel, but couldn’t you please just stop for one minute and share this with me. If you do, then right after, I'll help you finish what you are doing. OK?"

Looking up from her labors into Gabrielle’s eyes, Xena’s blue eyes softened and with a sigh she stretched out her long legs and got up to follow the bard to the rock overlooking the cliffs. From there they could see the water stretching beyond the horizon. It appeared to be endless and over it were suspended huge thunderclouds, too far away to be threatening, but magnificent in their glorious reflection of the setting sun.

Gabrielle leaned into the warrior and sighed. She remembered only to well when not long ago she wouldn’t have dared get this close to the warrior. Now, after two years, there was a closeness. Hard fought on her side with patience and persistence, she had worn down the warrior’s defenses, and now when she reached out to touch or hold or comfort her she did not have to duck or brace herself for the reflexive response. Xena had finally accepted her and more than that, had fought for her and saved her life many times. (Often because of some dumb mistake of Gabrielle’s that made it necessary.) But they had both proven their friendship many times over and now they were comfortable in each other’s company.

The warrior looked down at her bard and smiled remembering how badly she had treated her friend when Gabrielle had first attached herself to her life. She had insulted her, ignored her, and been downright mean. Now she couldn’t live without her, or didn’t want to have to try. Twice the bard had left her, and thank the Gods, twice she had returned. Looking at her profile as she stared raptly out into the beauty of the sunset, seeing the long strawberry blond hair move in the breeze, and the happy smile on her face, Xena knew that this young woman was what kept her own devils at bay. When Gabrielle had been gone it was so hard to fight them and they had threatened to defeat her in her constant war of the will. But today Gabrielle was here, and looking back to catch the last blink of light as the sun went down, Xena didn’t want to dwell on what might have been. This reality was so much better.

"Tomorrow we will go down to the port, there on the shore, and get supplies. I want to see some people and get some information. Then we are off to Amphipolis to have that rest you have been thinking about so loudly these past few weeks," Xena said as she turned slowly back to look at the bard.

With a hurt look in her green eyes Gabrielle said softly, " I didn’t say anything aloud Xena. How do you always know what I am thinking?"

"Well, this time, my friend, I was thinking the same thing, and now I'm afraid we'd better get back to work or dinner will never get eaten and the armor will rust."

"But Xena, you haven’t said anything about the sunset, or the quiet."

"What do want me to say Gabrielle? You are the one who uses words to express the many wonders of what you see and hear. Me? I can only see it and hear it and appreciate it. I can only try to feel gratitude for the beauty and using it as an example try to become it for a short time. It hasn’t been that long since I have even allowed myself to be aware of these things, and I feel that I've missed so much. I appreciate your gift to me of showing me these beautiful things you take for granted." With that she turned for one more look and moved back over to the fire to finish her task.

 Gabrielle stared after her. Xena hadn’t said so much at one time that Gabrielle could remember. The images that jumped to her mind were those of the other Xena, the one before Gabrielle knew her, the Xena who was a warlord, evil, dark, strong, and cruel.

Xena had lost everything at a young age trying to lead the people of her village, Amphipolis, against a raiding party and protect her home. She had lost many friends and, most cruelly, her younger brother Lyceus. After trying so hard to protect her home and failing, she had left, running from the hostile stares and harsh words.

She had traveled far, Gabrielle knew, but had returned a changed woman, skilled and fearless, and full of hatred! For ten years she had led her army to victory after victory, raping and pillaging villages and destroying other armies led by men less driven. What set Xena above all of the others were her skills. Her uncanny ability to see with her body and sense everything around her at all times. It was hard to sneak up on the kind of trained reflex that could catch an arrow in mid flight, or grab fish out of the water as they swam by. And she could seemingly fly as she leapt up turning a somersault, twisting and striking with her sword, and landing behind a stunned adversary to deal the final blow. Gabrielle knew the stories, some from Xena’s own lips. But Xena seldom talked of those days, and Gabrielle knew better than to bring them up.

"I thought you said you would help me if I looked at your sunset." Startled, Gabrielle jumped up and ran over to help complete the evening rituals.

The next morning, after breaking camp and packing their few belongings onto Argo, Xena’s golden war-horse, they began once more to look for adventure. The two walked side by side enjoying the morning and the company. As soon as they found a rhythm Gabrielle began to talk, seemingly about nothing, just communicating her thoughts freely and not caring whether Xena answered.

Xena smiled, remembering how this incessant chatter had driven her crazy at first. Used to silence, this talking had interfered with her ability to sense her surroundings. But now she knew that to have it silenced would be like suddenly going deaf. It has become a wonderful static, a music that added to the experience of her life. She still grumbled about it, but when Gabrielle didn’t talk she missed it.

As they approached the port town later that afternoon, Gabrielle began to list the things they needed to shop for.

"Even if we had everything we needed and then some, you would have a list of more as you neared a town large enough to have a market, Gabrielle. Y ou know it. I’ve never seen anyone who loved to shop as you do."

"But we need these things Xena," Gabrielle said. "And besides you keep using our utensils as weapons and they have to be replaced." "Well," returned the tall warrior, "Whatever works in a pinch, Gabrielle. You know that. If that big spoon hadn’t been so close at hand, we would have lost even more than sleep that night!"

"Sure, but I have purchased and traded for more frying pans and utensils in the past year than my mother and sister have in their whole lives. Why don’t you use your sword!"

Laughing Xena said, "Just be glad we have the money. Those villagers were more than generous after listening to your tales and songs."

"Yeah," Gabrielle knew that it wasn’t so much her skill as a bard, although she did admit without pride that most people responded to her stories, but in this case it was the only way the villagers could repay her and the warrior for saving them from sure destruction. Xena would never accept payment.

"I will leave you at the market Gabrielle, I have a person to see, I won’t be long. Have fun but remember poor Argo here has to carry all your purchases, so have pity on her." Gabrielle just rolled her eyes in disgust.

When they reached the Market Street Gabrielle was stunned. She just stopped and stared. She had never seen so many colorful stands and shops in her life. This being a port city there were goods from all over the known world, fine silks from the Far East; spices from the North and West; colors Gabrielle’s eyes had never seen, bright oranges, saffrons, and blues as deep as the sea. And people, so many people! Gabrielle just stood there and tried to soak up the atmosphere and excitement of the sight.

"I guess you can find something to do here, Gabrielle. I will find you later. Just have fun and remember Argo here." Xena said as she rode off down the street towards the water.

Later as Gabrielle moved slowly from shop to booth and back to shop again, touching, smelling, and tasting her way through the market, she saw a piece of soft, blue-colored cloth. As she neared the booth where the cloth was displayed, she heard a cry. It seamed to come from somewhere behind the booth. Thinking that it sounded like a child, she moved to where she could see down the alley. She saw a young boy being beaten by a large man, "Try to steal my bread again huh!" yelled the man. "Please, please I need it to feed my sister!" screamed the boy in fear and pain.

Gabrielle tightened her grip on her staff and moved closer. As the man once more raised his arm to strike the boy he felt the staff hitting him in the wrist. "I think that is quite enough Sir. He seems to need the bread and I'll be glad to pay you for …" But that is all Gabrielle said as she saw farther into the alley beyond the boy that there were three men, with cruel looks on their faces. Angry at being interrupted, they came at her. "How dare you interfere!" "Who do you think you are!" Gabrielle had a sinking feeling as the men ran at her, but was glad to see the boy escape quickly, taking advantage of the shift in attention. She raised the staff to full defensive position.

The man in front raised his arm to strike her. With a strange look of surprise, he fell backward into his friends, who, looking over Gabrielle’s shoulder with fear in their eyes, were scrambling to turn and run as fast as their big feet would let them, each falling over the other as Gabrielle heard hoofs on the cobbles behind her.

Turning, knowing what she would see even before she did, sure enough a warrior on a golden war-horse with sword drawn and swinging. Gabrielle quickly moved to one side so she wouldn't be trampled and began to laugh. "How do you do that? Just when I get myself into a pickle you always appear and save me."

"Well, I always leave you knowing that you will get into trouble so when I come to look for you I just plan it as a rescue. Now what’s in those packages I see dropped behind you?"

Smiling, Gabrielle said, "Just a minute, I saw a piece of cloth I have to check out, and then we can find a place to stay for the night. At the inn I will show you all of the wonderful, necessary things I bought." And she walked back to the booth where she had seen the blue cloth.

Happily visualizing this as a shirt for Xena, Gabrielle noticed that the blue color almost matched the azure color of Xena’s eyes. Eyes that had always startled Gabrielle with their ability to change from dark to almost sky blue depending on her mood. Gabrielle bought the cloth and tucked it in with her other treasures to share with Xena later.

They moved slowly down the market street and then away from the area looking for an inn in which to stay the night. Gabrielle noticed that Xena is quiet, even more so than usual. This was not the usual brooding quiet but something new. Touching Xena’s arm to get her attention she said, "A dinar for your thoughts?"

"Hmm? Oh nothing, just thinking about something I learned while you were busy buying out the market and saving children." "Look, Gabrielle we will need to stay here for a few days; some people are coming that I need to see."

Puzzled, Gabrielle looked up into the tall warrior’s blue eyes and saw confusion and sadness, and just a little fear. 'Who could these people be? What could have affected her friend this way?' Dying to ask but knowing better, she decided to try to distract Xena and get her to smile. "If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?"

Realizing what she was trying to do, Xena tried to break her mood and answered Gabrielle.

"Well, there so many beautiful places I have seen. There is one place, on a mountain near a small village…." She paused, then quickly continued, "Oh! Well, I guess anywhere you are Gabrielle, you know that."

"What were you going to say, Xena? Where is this mountain, and why did you stop?"

"We can talk about it later, Gabrielle. Here is just the place for us to stay." Grateful that she could avoid the question Xena wondered why she had almost spoken about that place, the village where she had been taken after Caesar had had both of her legs smashed as she hung on the cross. The place where a beautiful young woman had saved her life and died in her place. The place where she had learned her craft so well that she could kill almost without noticing.
 

Chapter 2
 

For the next two days the two women explored the town. Xena had been there before so she took Gabrielle to some places she knew the young bard would like. As much as she tried though, she couldn’t clear her mind of the memory of that mountain village and the people in it. She was worried and tried not to let Gabrielle know.

Gabrielle was enjoying the stay in the port town but noticed that the warrior was even quieter than usual. Many times when she caught a glimpse of Xena’s face she saw that her friend’s eyes were troubled. She ached to just demand an explanation so that she could help her friend. How often she had wondered what went on in that beautiful head. After a while it became a strain to be cheerful so she pretended not to notice her friend’s mood. She acted tired and asked Xena if they couldn’t go back to the inn and rest.

It was a relief to both of them on the second night when a man came with a message for Xena. After a quick whispered talk the man left. Xena became very still and then turning to Gabrielle she said, "I have to go out for just a minute. I will meet you back in our room later. Goodnight Gabrielle."

Gabrielle just stared after her, wondering for the thousandth time what was coming that troubled her friend so much. Who could possibly have this effect on her and what new insight into the Warrior Princess’ past would she learn tomorrow, if she was to be included at all?

Xena left quickly and went to the stable to check on Argo. The horse was glad to see her, and the tall woman began to check things that she had already checked several times before. "Oh, Argo," Xena sighed, "How can I face them? After all that they tried to do for me I betrayed them and all that they taught me. I became the antithesis of all that they were. The opposite of all that they tried to share with me. How can I even dare to let Him see me?"

She left the barn and began to walk. Anywhere, down the dark streets, through the now quiet and deserted square, on and on. Dark thoughts once again beating at the doors of her mind memories of violence and hate…. and love and kindness. She hoped someone would try something so that she could righteously relieve some of this strain. "Oh please, just help me to face this test, help me face myself and accept whatever the judgement is."

The next morning both women were up and dressed early, the sun just coming over the buildings behind the inn. Gabrielle had been sure to awaken as soon as she heard Xena move. 'I’m not going to be left behind this time!', she thought to herself. Xena seemed sad and very resigned to something. The bard became more and more apprehensive as they moved downstairs to go to the waterfront. "Hey, don’t we get breakfast?" She felt guilty as soon as she said it, but no matter what awaited her friend, they had to eat, didn’t they?

After a quick bite of cheese, and with dates and fresh baked cinnamon buns in their hands Gabrielle and Xena walked determinedly out toward whatever it was that Xena dreaded. They took a very direct route, and soon Gabrielle saw the ships and other small craft that made the beauty of the waterfront scene complete. She had never been drawn to the sea and after some rather unfortunate adventures on various ships in the past she wasn’t anxious to get to close. As long as they were only meeting someone or something here her curiosity could get the better of her. Just then her attention was drawn back to her friend and she almost tripped over her own feet as she saw actual fear quickly pass over the warrior’s face.

Oh, Gods, what is this? What are we doing here? "Xena, what is the matter? Is there something I can do?" Her friend didn’t even appear to hear her, as she stared fiercely at a ship just entering the peaceful little bay.

"Here they come," Xena said, "We’d better hurry."

Chapter 3

The ship looked Roman but Gabrielle couldn’t really tell, she hadn’t been paying that much attention on her earlier voyages. But something about it said Roman. The crew seemed joyful enough, and with the normal rowdy exchanges, the ship was brought to its berth and secured.

Just as the two approached the chaos, Gabrielle saw some milling around at the top of the gangplank, and suddenly she saw three people standing at the top. Xena seemed to flinch as she also saw them, but where before she had seemed reluctant now she seemed determined. The two groups met as the new arrivals reached the pier.

Gabrielle slowed so that Xena could greet her friends first This gave her a moment to observe them as Xena reached the first one, a man, a very strong-looking man with dark hair and strong features, very handsome. Xena took his arm in a warrior’s shake, forearm gripping forearm, and was drawn into an embrace by the man. He kissed both cheeks and she impulsively kissed him full on the mouth. ‘Huh?’ thought Gabrielle. With a big smile the man passed Xena to the beaming woman beside him. She was tall, not as tall as Xena, but almost. Though dressed in browns she seemed to be full of color. With a grin she drew Xena into a close embrace. Again the two kisses on the cheeks, and then the other woman kissed Xena full on the lips. ‘What?’ Gabrielle was surprised!

Then the two new friends stepped back and revealed another man. This man was tall, taller than Xena, and dressed in a way that Gabrielle was unfamiliar with. He had flowing robes of a light color, almost white, and in the morning light he seemd to glow. His face was striking, with a full straight nose and dark brows above the most commanding eyes Gabrielle had ever seen. He seemed to see right through her and his presence was so compelling that Gabrielle suddenly felt like a clumsy child. Xena stopped, and her face, which had been grinning foolishly, suddenly sobered as she stood there looking directly into the eyes of this man. His gaze, as their eyes held, was soft and reassuring. He smiled and stepped toward Xena with his hand out, palm up.

Xena just stood there and the man moved over to her. Reaching up, he placed his hand on her head. Tears began to fall from the strong warrior's eyes and Gabrielle was stunned. Who is this man? How does he know Xena, and why does he have such an effect on her!

After a moment he looked over and said, "Gabrielle come over and let me introduce you to some new friends." At first Gabrielle just stood there, unsure of how he could know her name and confused by the state of the tall warrior she thought she knew so well.

"Come here Gabrielle," The man said gently, and as Gabrielle moved forward, he focused the attention toward Gabrielle and away from Xena so she could recover her composure. "This man is Sergis; he is from a land way to the North and East of here. He met your friend Xena many years ago when they were young, and so they have many stories to tell you of foolish adventures and hard work." He turned to the woman and said, "This is Helena, Sergis’ wife. She met Xena when Xena was badly injured and helped nurse her to new strengths and awareness. She helped Xena to become who she is today." He turned to Xena and gently he said, "Xena, help us now to gather our belongings; we must begin our journey immediately, we haven’t much time."

Gabrielle began to help the others gather their things, and as she reached for a leather bag it moved. Startled she gently poked it and a low growl was heard. "Bhakti! Hush!" Helena said as she reached for the bag. The strings were loose and the bag opened. Out came a… dog? Small, and red, with a pointed face and floppy ears, the little dog came out growling fiercely.

Xena turned to look and cried out, "Bhakti!" The little dog looked up and though at first unsure quickly ran as fast as its short legs would carry it into Xena’s arms. "Bhakti, oh, Bhakti," Xena crooned. Gabrielle was once again amazed at more and more surprises.

As they straightened up and began to walk away from the docks, Gabrielle put her hand on the warrior’s arm and looked closely at the red bundle of fur and tongue, wiggling, and licking Xena all over. Who are these people, and what is that? she wondered.
 

Chapter 4
 

After stopping to collect their own belongings and Argo, the troupe left the city behind. The road headed north and they had a long way to go. Xena led Argo in the front, Sergis and Helena close behind and the other man walked with Gabrielle in the rear.

As they walked Gabrielle tried to think what these people could have done to cause so much anxiety to her friend. The couple ahead were relaxed. They all seemed happy to see each other. Except the man beside her. He seemed to have some power over her friend. He had not approached Xena since the meeting. Sergis had discussed with Xena their route and traveling plans. The other man had seemed distant, observing.

Now glancing over at him Gabrielle saw his strength. He moved with a grace of motion, almost fluid, like a dancer. Or a warrior, she thought, no wasted motion, no wasted energy, and an awareness she had only seen before in her warrior. This man reminded her of her warrior.

In the late afternoon Xena finally left the road and led them to a glade with a nice stream and huge rocks overlooking the cliffs, which lead back down to the sea. As Gabrielle built a fire Xena and Sergis went off to find food. Looking up, Gabrielle saw Helena take the little dog out of the pouch it rode in on Argo’s saddle. "Here Bhakti, take a walk." She said as she put her little friend down. Gabrielle walked over. "What is that, really?"

"It’s a dog. Xena gave her to me just before she left." Gabrielle looked at the little animal and Helena saw her pet had a new conquest. "Nobody can resist her really." Gabrielle looked up not sure whether she was referring to the dog or Xena.

Gabrielle began to prepare a large soup, and Helena, carrying some supplies, asked if she could help. Always willing to share recipes, Gabrielle easily accepted the offer and soon the two were talking happily about preparing meals on the road and comparing dishes from the two different cultures.

Always aware of his presence, Gabrielle glanced shyly over to the other man. "What is his name? she asked Helena, "He didn’t tell me before, and we have been to busy since then to ask him.". Glancing over at the tall man standing on the rocks and looking out at the sea, she replied, "He is our Teacher. We call him simply, Master"

"Master?" Gabrielle said. "Are you slaves then?"

"Oh, no. The term refers to his status, not to our lack of it," laughed Helena. "The path of evolution is long, Gabrielle, and some have progressed farther along that path than others. Some have progressed to the point of mastering their actions, emotions, and thoughts. When one reaches this level they are referred to as Master."

"Oh," Gabrielle whispered.

They returned to the work of settling the camp and Gabrielle went over to take care of Argo.

"How does the Warrior Princess stay fit for battle with you to pamper her like this?" came a deep voice from behind her.

Startled, Gabrielle turned and found the Teacher smiling down at her with a playful look on his face. His eyes however were looking right into her own, looking into her very soul. With a gentle touch he moved her arm so that he could stroke the horse. "Does the Warrior Princess talk of her past? Does she tell stories of how she became the invincible warrior that she is?"

"No! Xena almost never speaks about the past, and when she does it is usually to berate herself for the wrongs she has committed. She never brags or shows off her skills. It is almost as if she wishes she didn’t have them." Gabrielle said rushing to defend her best friend, but not sure what from.

"And does she truly use her skills only to protect the people and heal the wounded?"

"Two years ago She saved my village from slavers. That is how I met her. She single-handedly saved the women from sure torture and death. And in all the time I have traveled with her she has been more than honorable and brave. She reimprisoned the Titans, (not mentioning that it was she, Gabrielle, who had released them) and she fought by the side of the great Hercules to overcome fearsome enemies of the people."

"You have a pure heart, Gabrielle. If she walks with you she must have chosen a different path from the one that drove her away from us those many long years ago. You are a good friend to her; she needs you very much."

"Why is she afraid of you?" Gabrielle blurted, not able to hold back.

The man looked at Gabrielle for a long time before answering, "She is not afraid of me, Gabrielle. She fears herself, her darker self and her shame. Our presence means she must examine some things she has tried to avoid for a long time. We bring back the memory of paths not taken, opportunities missed. She may feel that we will judge her, but she is mistaken. It is not for any man or woman to judge another; we judge ourselves much more harshly."

And saying that he left.

Just then the two hunters returned and Gabrielle was surprised that although there was only one small rabbit most of what they gathered was vegetables, wild tubers and fruits. Well, the soup will be great, but how do we all share one rabbit? Gabrielle wondered.

As Xena put the rabbit on a spit and helped to prepare the vegetables, Sergis came over to her. "The Teacher wishes to talk to you, Xena," he said gently. With a sigh Xena stood and hurried to catch the man who was walking down the path toward the sea.
 

Chapter 5
 

When she caught up to him they walked together in silence until they reached the beach. The Teacher moved to a rock and sat there, waiting as Xena followed and sat on the sand at His feet. She looked down at the sand or out at the water, but not directly at him. "Xena, I know you have something to say to me. Please begin." Xena was not surprised, but didn’t know where to begin.

"I spoke with your friend Gabrielle. She is very special."

"Yes, yes she is." Xena said, grateful that here was an opening to begin. "She has been my soul for these two years, my conscience, my heart. When I met her I was finished with the hate, the revenge, the poisons which had driven me. Which I had allowed to drive me. I was lost in a maze of thoughts and emotions. Mostly despair. She brought me hope, and later joy. I wasn’t very nice to her at first, trying to turn her away. She was persistent and broke through the darkness. She brought me light. She is my light."

"Do you have any questions for me, Xena?"

"No."

"Do you know then, how your life has effected Life?"

"Life?"

"Yes, Xena, you know that no thought, or emotion, let alone action, affects only the originator. Your life has effected many people, here and far away. The resulting karma will be yours to deal with, for not just your future, but the futures of people you don’t even know."

"In this incarnation you have been given many tests, many choices. The result of those choices, both good and bad, will have to be dealt with. But by turning from the path of involution to again proceed on the path of evolution, you have filled your soul with much joy. It sings to me of your accomplishments and your hopes. I am grateful for this opportunity to tell you that."

Looking up into His face finally, meeting His strong, clear eyes again, her intense blue eyes seemed to draw strength from Him. "I have done terrible things. Caused many people to suffer and die at the hands of men who followed my orders. I have killed and maimed many men myself. I have no hope of progress on the path. Not for many lifetimes."

"Do you know the Lords of Karma so well, Xena? Do you then tell them what your fate is to be? You still try to force your will on the essence of Life and bend the Laws to what you think is Truth. Xena we have had this discussion before, I had hoped your viewpoint had changed." He sighed as he got up to leave.

With a puzzled look Xena watched as the Teacher walked back toward the camp.

Chapter 6

Later after eating the meal, Xena and Gabrielle eating the rabbit, and sharing the soup with the other three, they sat around the fire talking quietly. Bhakti sat in Xena’s lap curled into a ball of contentment. "Does ‘Bhakti’ mean something Xena? How did she get her name?"

"It means devotion in the language of the Hindu people, far to the East."

"Why is that her name?"

"It was a gift to Helena," Xena tried to explain. "I was trying to tell her that I would always remember her with devotion."

"And did you?" Helena asked as she approached them.

"Yes." Xena said quietly.

The Teacher looked up and said, "We have much catching up to do." Looking directly at Xena he said, "Xena, would you please share with us what you have done since you left us?"

Sitting next to her, Gabrielle felt the tall warrior stiffen. Xena knew he would do this, she had just hoped to have more time. How could she possibly share the events following her departure from their peaceful village, especially with Gabrielle listening. She would be putting her friendship on the line. What if Gabrielle turned away from her after hearing this? But she could not disregard the Teacher. She had learned to trust Him in the past; he had always been on her side.

Then with a sigh, Xena began, "I would like at least to tell Gabrielle how I came to meet you all before I talk about after I left you." Turning to Gabrielle, she looked into those green eyes, hoping that what she was about to reveal would not remove that look she knew so well and could not live without. Xena stood and walked a short distance away so she can watch the bards face. "Do you remember the story I told you about my experience with Caesar?" Gabrielle nodded.

"Well, after the girl, M'Lila died saving my life, I felt a terrible darkness come over me. It was almost a physical thing. It was full of revenge and hatred. She had been so young. Tried only to help me. I guess the pain of the year before and the experience with Caesar was too much."

"The Xena who was to be feared was conceived that night, and it was to be a short gestation period before the full Warrior Princess was born!"

As she gestured toward her friends, she said, "These people and others in the village on the mountain took care of me as my legs, which had to be reset, healed. It took a long time, and to keep me from going crazy Helena taught me many things. M'Lila had been her younger sister, and when she learned that M'Lila had trusted me enough to teach me the defensive pressure point moves, she taught me other points and what to use them for."

"She would blindfold me and test my other perceptions. She would move things in the room and try to fool me. I worked very hard to learn to listen with every pore in my body, until I was able to hear someone walking softly two streets away."

"She taught me healing skills, which have saved many people, including yourself Gabrielle. She showed me herbs and minerals, taught me their uses and abuses. She gave me the gift of the healing arts as if she knew I would use them more than most people, and she was right."

"When I could begin to walk again, another friend, Chan Lei, taught me exercises to strengthen and loosen my muscles. He taught me many of the moves that I later used in sword fights, including the jumps and turns. He was small but mighty. He was skilled in many martial arts from his homelands far to the East"

Gabrielle was watching Xena as she talked. Her movements began rather stiffly, but as the story progressed she moved smoothly, gracefully, her face changing very little, her voice low and intense.

"And when I was strong enough, Sergis worked with me on my swordsmanship. He worked me beyond my strength and stamina until I grew into a student truly worthy of his skill."

"And all of the time the Teacher worked with me, trying to ease the burden of my darkness. I guess hoping that I would learn to love and forgive.…. I didn't learn that until Hercules broke through whatever was holding my heart closed, and you, Gabrielle, filled it with your purity and joy."

She looked into the green eyes and saw compassion and anticipation, and she smiled for the first time.

"But I get ahead of myself. One day after a hard workout with Sergis, I had a visitor from a town down the coast. He had news of Caesar moving in our direction searching for a woman. A tall, dark woman. He was looking for me, and he was killing innocent people to find me."

"They told me not to worry, that they had ways of protecting me. I didn't believe them, didn't believe their ways were strong enough to hide me from Caesar. I didn't want to bring anything evil onto them because of me."

"A feeling came over me, so dark and penetrating that even words like hatred and revenge were mild. It was as if I was possessed, but I knew what I was doing; I was doing it to myself, I know that now."

"I knew I had to leave and soon. I had found Bhakti, a little puppy, in the village a few weeks before. I don't know where she came from; she was just there. I gave her to Helena as a good-bye present."

"I left early the next morning and ran toward Caesar's army."

All this time Xena had been pacing back and forth as she relived those days and months in the village on the mountain. Watching her face Gabrielle had followed every emotion, fear, anger, hatred, excitement and eagerness to learn, and then fear again. Feeling every pain, every doubt, Gabrielle listened to the story closely, trying to memorize every word, gaining finally some insight into the darkness that became the woman feared by most, the Warrior Princess.

"When I left the village I took only what I had had with me when I first arrived. I had no sword, no armor, only the clothes on my back. I moved swiftly, perhaps too swiftly, toward the army of Caesar. They had a trap and I fell into it before I had time to plan a strategy. I was taken, feeling very foolish, to Caesar. I had just spent all that time learning all of those skills of war and I got caught before I could even find a sword. I was feeling very sorry for myself and angry that he would dare to threaten my friends. When Caesar saw me he was furious!"

 Suddenly Xena looked down, all of her energy seemed to drain away and softly she said, "In front of his men, for two days, he did things to me that even I, later, in my darkest times would never do to another human being. Those scars I never talk about, but they are the only ones that still hurt after all of this time. Then he left me there to die, alone."

She paused so long Gabrielle wondered if she would continue. Xena looked up then and searching her friends' faces she said, "It was the love of Helena and Sergis, and the eyes of the Teacher that kept me alive; but it was the darkness, the desire to kill that made me want to live."

"After I was again strong I returned to Amphipolis to raise an army of my own, but it was too late. Caesar had left Greece for Italy, for Rome to become Emperor of the World!"

"I was left with only my darkness, which I let take over. I chose to follow not the path of my friends and my Teacher but the path of my enemy, Caesar. I hated him so much for so long that I had become just like him."

With this last statement Xena sat down.

 All through the tale Gabrielle had watched the reactions of Xena's friends. The compassion and love was so strong. They sat there listening and remembering with her. And when she got to the part of Caesar's torturing Xena, Sergis almost rose up, his hand moved to his sword and his face became hard. Helena had tears running down her beautiful face and in her hands the little dog was looking from one to the other and then to Xena.

The Teacher just listened. He watched Xena carefully, looking at her and through her, seeing so much more than the rest of them saw. His face didn't move but he seemed to understand far better than they did what it took for Xena to share her past.

After a few moments Gabrielle got up and moved to her friend. Helping her up she said, "Come on, Xena, let’s take a walk."

They left the others and moved into the darkness outside the firelight. Gabrielle raised her hand to wipe the tears from her friend’s face. Even in the dark she saw the pain of remembering. Xena looked back, intense blue looking into green, and was grateful that all she saw on her friend’s face was love and trust. Her greatest fear had been to lose her friend by sharing too much. But the story had told itself. It had taken her over and it had felt as if all of these memories had been trying to get out of her for some time. Finally they were finding release. They seemed to flow as a rush of water over the rocks in the stream. Now she felt more at peace, less haunted. Had the Teacher known this would happen? I need to talk to him again, she decided.

 
Later when they returned, they found that the Teacher had gone directly to his blankets and the others had followed his example. As Gabrielle moved toward her place she reached for Xena's arm and touched her lightly. "Thank you, Xena. Sleep well," she said, knowing that her friend needed time to recover from the emotional revisiting of places long ago buried.

Chapter 7
 

Clang!…Clang! Gabrielle sat up reaching for her staff and found Helena watching her with a smile. "Sergis challenged Xena to a sparring match for old times sake. Everything is safe."

Gabrielle dressed quickly and ran to watch. They had just begun and they were still circling each other, stretching, flexing, trying to develop a rhythm. First one and then the other, back and forth, tried to find a weakness in the other. The blades moved smoothly, striking quickly, moving faster and faster until the swords were only a blur. They were so evenly matched.

Gabrielle’s stomach was in her throat. If one of them slipped or lost this rhythm they could get very hurt ,or worse.

Each time Xena jumped over Sergis he was ready. And when he tried the same thing she countered. The match went on and on, each waiting for the other to tire, until they were both covered in sweat. Still they lunged, countered, and parried, back and forth.

They moved around a large area missing trees and rocks as if they had eyes in the back of their heads. Occasionally drawing blood but not more than a scratch, each one had a determined look on their face that began to slowly turn into a smile as they knew it couldn't go on for ever. One of them must give ground, and each knew it wouldn’t be him (or her).

Gabrielle watched as the muscles of each warrior rippled and stretched. Sergis had his shirt off and Xena was in her leathers, not even using her armor. Their legs moved with such balance and strength. Like dancers they continued, each one pushing the other to new heights of skill.

Just when Gabrielle felt as if she would burst with the excitement, Xena moved into Sergis' defenses and touched him on the chest with her blade. "Well done!" Sergis yelled, "The student surpasses the teacher!"

They all moved to the fire to eat the breakfast Helena had prepared. "Sorry I wasn't here to help you." Gabrielle said.

"Don't worry about it, I wasn't about to watch Sergis lose to Xena. He did didn't he?"

"Yes, I did!" yelled Sergis, "And I demand a rematch!"

"Anytime, my friend. Just let me recover a little first please."

After a brief breakfast and all of the excitement, Gabrielle was still hungry and she was dreaming of the warm cinnamon buns of the day before. Suddenly a hand with a cinnamon bun appeared before her and the Teacher said, "Beware of what you wish for little one. You will surely get it."

"Where did that come from? I know we didn't have any left and this is exactly like the one I had yesterday. Even the raisins are in the same place on the top!"

"Things are not always as they seem my little friend. Things such as this bun are no further away than your thoughts, and surely you have heard that 'thoughts are things'." He had an amused look on his face.

Suddenly he seemed to make a decision and he turned to Gabrielle and said, "Perhaps there was something that you lost as a child, something that you remember well enough to picture in your mind. Please think of it. Don't tell me what it is! Just picture it in your mind as clearly as possible."

Gabrielle thought, 'well, there was a locket.' Her father had given her a locket when she was nine. It had hung around her neck always. When the raiders came to their village it was taken from her, and in the excitement and chaos of Xena saving them, Gabrielle had forgotten all about it. Since then she had missed it from time to time, but it was gone and that was that. Now she easily pictured it in her mind. It had a design on one side of flowers; the other side was smooth. And on the smooth side there was a scratch.

"Now Gabrielle, go over and look in the small pouch with the silver buckle. The one on Helena's blanket." Gabrielle felt strange going through Helena's things, but the man had told her to, so she opened it and felt inside. When her hand touched a fine chain she pulled it out and gasped. At the sound Xena looked up from what she was doing and saw the Teacher with Gabrielle. Xena smiled knowing what was happening, because he had shown her the Law of the Elementals long ago.

"When did you put that there? How did you get it? How did you know it was mine?"

"Ask you friend to explain it to you some time. She was beginning to learn the fundamentals before she left us, and it was you who put it there Gabrielle, not me. The mind is a very strong instrument. Thoughts must be carefully guarded. You can do a lot of harm or a lot of good with your thoughts."

Gabrielle looked over at Xena, smiling at her, and remembering how on a very few occasions something would be lost and mysteriously found again. But it was always something very important, necessary to their lives. 'I have to think about this,' mussed Gabrielle.

Back on the road Helena walked with Xena, and the two men walked together behind Gabrielle and Argo. Xena was watching carefully for anything unusual, Sergis had told her last night when they were hunting that their mission was dangerous. "There are men who don't want us to reach our destination." Gabrielle noticed that Helena and the Teacher both carried staffs much like her own, and wondered if they were expecting trouble.
 
She heard the two men talking quietly behind her and tried to focus on the sounds of nature around her. She heard the birds, and the breeze ruffling the leaves on the bushes as they pass. She heard the sound of their footsteps and Argo's hooves. And she heard….

Xena heard it too and the rest of them stopped at the same moment. Gesturing silently for them to leave the road, the warrior left them, jumping up into the trees like an Amazon. They all melted quickly into the trees and brush. Raising their weapons to ready, they waited.
 
Just moments passed and men appeared coming down the road from the North. They were obviously surprised not to find the party of travelers they were expecting. At the same time more men came up from the South and closed the trap, but there was no one there to capture.

With a startled look upward they heard Xena's battle cry as she swung down on their leader. At the same moment, while there was much confusion from the ruffians, Sergis and Helena leapt out and began to fight the men. Gabrielle took a tighter grip on her staff and poked the nearest man in the stomach. As he went down she swung her staff like a club and hit another man across the nose. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the Teacher fighting, moving smoothly, attacking and defending, but the look on his face surprised her. On his face was a look of amusement. Many men fell and the rest turned and ran. Xena looked down at the man who was their leader and tried to awaken him.

"It doesn't matter who sent him after us, Xena. There will be more. Leave him. We must get as far along our way as we can, and we have lost a lot of time here as it is." The tall warrior nodded and dropped the man back into the dust. Whistling for Argo they moved on down the road.

That night Xena found them a cave. Easily defended, it had a stream running through it at the back and many cracks and passages to escape through if they were attacked. She released Argo to roam and graze and then left with Sergis to hunt.

It seemed like hours had gone by and still they had not returned. Gabrielle and Helena had prepared everything for the meal, waiting for what the hunters brought to complete the preparations. Gabrielle was getting impatient, pacing back and forth worried about her friend and Sergis. Looking at Helena she wondered why she was so calm, patiently taking the opportunity to mend some clothing and petting the little dog from time to time.

Gabrielle wanted to ask whatever gods were listening to protect them. And because she was not very good at speaking to the gods she went to find the Teacher; perhaps he could help her.

She found him outside, sitting on a great log, looking out toward the way they had come, watching. Moving quietly, trying not to disturb him as she approached.

"Don't worry, my friend, I am waiting too. Come sit with me," he said without turning.

As she climbed up on the log with him she asked, "How do I ask the gods to help us?"

"Which Gods do you mean?" he answered.

"The ones on Mt. Olympus, of course."

"Ah! But those are not truly the Gods that can help us."

Puzzled by this statement she asked. "Are there other Gods?"

"It may surprise you to hear me say that there is no God, Gabrielle. There is but one True Universal Power. It cannot be labeled or named. The others are made by man to excuse his shortcomings."

"But the gods are real, I have seen them and talked with them and some of them have caused much trouble in our lives, Xena's and mine."

"I did not say they were not real. They are real enough for now. But they are man made and will not last the test of time. There are many only powers higher than our understanding. We must ask for their help, from time to time, and they are always willing to help. Often, however, their concept of help and ours differ."

"Where do the other gods get their power? How do they do the things they do?"

"Man gives them the power. Your thoughts again, Gabrielle. If you believe something, it is true. I can't explain, in this short time, all of the workings of the Laws of the Universe, but know that you give them power each time you think of them. That is why they need the temples and they need the people to worship and fear them."

'That explains a lot about Xena's attitude towards the Gods,' Gabrielle thought. "Then how do I ask this One Power for help for our friends?"

After a brief pause to consider he said,  "A simple prayer, and when it becomes impossible to convey the more complicated feelings in words, a silent mental message will do…. When I cannot express my feelings in words, I just offer thanks, for I am sure that help has been given." He smiled gently, looking at her expectantly.

As if their thoughts had indeed brought them back, the two hunters appeared out of the trees. Gabrielle ran to her warrior and offered to help her carry her bundles. Xena saw Gabrielle's expression of concern and smiled down at her to reassure her. "We had to circle around. There were many men on the road. Tomorrow we will cut across these fields and later return to the road near a village where I have a few friends."

After dinner, Gabrielle, who was helping Helena clean up, looked up, and saw Xena sitting on the big log with the Teacher where Gabrielle herself had been sitting not that long before.

"Have you had time to think again on what I asked you, Xena?"

"Yes, I have."

"And have you any questions for me now?"

"Yes. I would like to discuss karma and reincarnation. How does my past effect those around me, such as Gabrielle? How can I protect her from the negative effects I have to deal with in my future?"

"We all make choices in our lives. You have made some good ones and some bad ones. You will have to face the consequences of both."

"Xena, did it ever occur to you that the presence of Gabrielle is the result of your choices?"

"Do you think that this current life is the only source of the karma you are dealing with today? We build our lives brick by brick, day by day, decision by decision."

"The Buddha said, If you want to know what your past lives were like, look at the present. And if you want to know what your future holds, look at the present. "

"We live each day doing the best we can, achieving greatness and stretching our abilities to better ourselves again and again, striving to be aware of ourselves and others, striving also to be able to help them achieve greatness. Life is a school and to graduate to higher levels we must strive hard to gain control of our actions, emotions and thoughts."

"You lost control for a while and you did many things which you will have to atone for, but the choices you have made recently indicate a step back onto the path of enlightenment. Perhaps you owe some of the steps along the way to the aid of your friend, but you took the steps, and as you have proven, seeing the path and choosing to take it are a matter of choice. Yours."

"Your friend Gabrielle is another matter. Do you think that it is coincidence that she is with you? No! You two have been together many times before. Your paths have crossed and re-crossed over the millennia. You have known her as friend, sister, brother, enemy, and lover. Now she helps you to regain your balance. But never think that anything you do, any choice you make will permanently have an effect on her soul. Remember it is her choice to travel with you."

Startled Xena looked into the eyes of her Teacher and saw a smile. "Think about what we have discussed Xena and dwell not on what is past; we cannot change that. Think only on the future, for that is not yet written in ink and can be changed with hard work and the right choices. Now go to your friend. She has seen little of you these past few days. Tomorrow we shall see what choices we have."

The tall woman bowed her head and the Teacher placed his hand on it. "Bless you Xena. Make your future glorious and worthy of the trust and hope your friends have in you."
 
Gabrielle left the cave and walked toward the dark woman. Seeing her with the full moon behind her shining on her head, it almost looked as if she had a halo. They met and turned away from the cave. "Come, Gabrielle, let's go for a walk."

Two days later when the group returned to the road, they approached a village. Xena alone to get information, and a few hours later she returned. Xena invited them all to go down to the inn. She explained, "You are welcome to stay there for the night. My friends are out gathering news, and until we know the situation we can not plan our course. It won't take long."
 
That night in the inn, as people gathered and the room filled, the Teacher turned to Gabrielle and said, "I hear you are a bard. Please share some stories about our friend Xena and tell us what kind of adventures she has had since we saw her last."

Gabrielle smiled, and after a brief talk with the inn keeper, she went to the raised area set aside for just this thing and began the story of how Xena recaptured the titans, excluding her part in the release and the return. Then, for the rest of the night, she went on to tell stories of Xena and Hercules. Much later on Gabrielle followed Xena up to their room and reaching up to touch the warriors arm she asked, "Did I over do it, do you think?"

"No, Gabrielle they enjoyed it. Sergis even looked surprised a few times and Helena looked proud. I think I should have left the room before you began, but I was told to stay, and even I fell under your spell. Thank you for making me look so good."

"I only told the truth, Xena."

"But not all of it in that Titan story, eh?"
 
Late the next morning Xena's friends returned and the news was very good. However, there was trouble to the East and Hercules had sent a message asking Xena to come help him. After a long discussion about routes and guides it was decided that the three travelers could continue on without the Warrior and the Bard.

As they watched their friends walk away down the path, Gabrielle said, "I wished them God’s speed and a safe journey. Do you think they will be alright, Xena?"

"They will be fine Gabrielle, and we will see them again," she replied, then whispered, "soon."

The End (for now)

________________________

Author's notes

The locket and cinnamon bun incident were fashioned after similar displays by Helena Blavatsky in the late 1800s. (See Master's and Men, Theosophical Press)

For more information about the Ageless Wisdom Teachings see the White Mountain Education Association's web page - http://www.primenet.com/~wtmtn


Return to The Bard's Corner