The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess are owned by MCA Pictures and used here without permission. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this story.
This tale contains the expression of love between two women. If this offends you, dont read any further.
Feedback regarding this story is welcome at Danae121@aol.com.
Pisces - A constellation in the equatorial region of the Northern hemisphere.
Also called "the Fishes."
"XENAAA!!!!!" Gabrielle tried not to scream, but she couldnt help it. The pain was almost unbearable. "Oh, gods!!" she gasped as contractions tore through her abdomen in rapid succession. It was the middle of the night, and she writhed on her pallet in her royal hut. Gabrielle had long since lost track of time. She had been in labor for almost eighteen candlemarks. She was exhausted and very, very ready for this pregnancy to end.
"I know, Gabrielle... Hold on!" The Warrior Princess wiped perspiration from the bards brow with one hand and held more tightly to Gabrielles left hand with the other. Sitting next to her on the edge of the pallet, she stared intently at her lover, desperately wishing Gabrielle would let her pinch a nerve to alleviate some of the discomfort. Her heart ached to see the bard in so much pain, especially given the circumstances that made this birth a reality.
"I can see the head," Memna, the midwife, said. She stood between Gabrielles bare legs which were spread wide at the foot of the pallet. She kept one hand on the bards swollen belly. Two fingers of her other hand were halfway inside the queens dilated vagina. Memna, almost twenty winters older than Gabrielle, had delivered countless Amazon babies. While she had never before had the singular honor of bringing forth an Amazon Princess, she nonetheless maintained her usual, calm demeanor and proceeded to tell Gabrielle when to push and breathe.
"Does she have any hair?!" Gabrielle managed to ask between gulps of air.
"Yes," Memna replied. "It has brown hair... the color of a that leather... thing Xena wears."
A blank look crossed the Warrior Princesss face momentarily. She rolled her eyes but declined to offer a retort to Memnas obvious jab. Xena snuck a quick peek over her own shoulder. Tears welled in her eyes as she saw two little eyes and a tiny nose appear below Gabrielles light-colored pubic hair. She beamed at the bard. Gabrielle barely noticed. She was entirely too busy trying to get this brunette agony out of her body as soon as humanly possible. The warriors smile became a grin of sweet sympathy and utter affection. She caressed the queens cheek with the backs of her fingers, swallowed hard, and struggled to speak around the knot which had developed in her throat. "Gabrielle, do you know how much I love you?"
"Uh-huh," the bard replied absently, her eyes squeezed tightly shut.
"Do you know Id do anything for you?"
"Yeah... uh-huh." Inhaling deeply, the queen renewed her clasp on Xenas hand.
"Youre the most important thing in the world to me."
"Uh-huh," Gabrielle grunted again.
Memna cradled the babys head in her hand and watched for any changes in the infants expression or color which might indicate trouble. "Thats it, Queen Gabrielle," she encouraged. "The shoulders are coming... Keep pushing. So far, this child is perfectly beautiful!"
Xena took another peek at the emerging bundle of joy and smiled excitedly. She leaned forward, placed a gentle kiss on Gabrielles damp forehead, and whispered, "You are my life, Gabrielle... I couldnt live without you. I love you more than I can say."
The bard let out a breath she had been holding while she pushed. "Damn you, Xena!" she exhaled.
Shocked, the warrior leaned back slightly. She blinked at her lover, who was now bracing to bear down again. "What are you saying?"
"Im saying..." the queen hissed between clenched teeth and strained breaths, "damn you, Warrior Princess. Damn you for waiting until Im in the middle of... a damned, never-ending labor to finally... gush about how much you love me!" Gabrielle regrouped for another push and let out a wail. Her nails dug into Xenas hand. Completing that push, she relaxed slightly onto the pillow, tried to center on Xenas face, and managed a feeble grin. "You couldnt do this earlier?... when I could have at least enjoyed it?!"
Xena chuckled and dabbed a cloth on the bards forehead once more. She checked the babys progress and said softly, "Were almost there, Gabrielle... just a few more pushes." The warrior lovingly brushed hair from the bards face, then moved on the bed to a position behind and under Gabrielles back so she could support her shoulders.
Memna wiped the beads of concentration from her own face with her sleeve. "Xenas right, Your Highness... dont stop now. Keep pushing."
Curling her lip as if she were mustering the determination to defeat some stubborn foe, the queen stared at her shrinking belly as if she could will the child to slide into Memnas hands. She pushed, let out a loud groan, and once again yelled, "Damn you, Xena!"
"Now what?" the warrior demanded, her eyes full of concern.
"Arrrggg!!" the bard bellowed in pain. "This is all your fault!!"
"My fault?" The warrior gripped her beloveds hand tighter and watched the babys adorable little bottom begin to appear.
"If you hadnt let me do this... I wouldnt be... in this wretched torment right now!... Damn, this hurrrrrts!!!" With a final cry, Gabrielle pushed with the little strength she had left, and the baby emerged completely. The bard sighed with relief and collapsed fully into Xenas arms.
With wide eyes, the warrior tore her attention from the newborn and turned it on Gabrielle. She held her tightly, pressed her lips to the queens temple, and breathed, "Hey... Gabrielle... its okay... its all over. You were wonderful."
"Its a girl," Memna informed them. "A gorgeous baby girl."
Xenas eyebrows rose, and she broke into another brilliant smile. Gabrielle nodded weakly. The warrior kissed the back of the bards head and watched as Memna unwrapped the umbilical cord from around the babys ankle.
Making certain the baby was breathing, the midwife laid her on Gabrielles belly so she could cut the umbilical cord. Xena looked on in awe. The queen raised her head, and, upon seeing the baby, almost burst into happy tears. Tightening her hold around Gabrielle, the warrior kissed her hair again. Memna wiped the infants face, cleared her little air passages, wrapped her in a small blanket, and gently laid her in the bards arms. Then, she politely excused herself and left the family alone.
From behind, Xena leaned her face over Gabrielles shoulder so their cheeks were touching. Tears filled their eyes as they looked into the babys face for the first time. Her little brown eyes twinkled radiantly, and her still damp skin virtually glowed. The child was indeed very beautiful. For several moments, neither Xena nor Gabrielle could speak.
"Oh, Xena..." the bard finally breathed.
"I know, Gabrielle," the warrior acknowledged in a husky voice.
Gabrielle lifted her face to look at Xena and smiled warmly when the warrior met her gaze. A tear slid down Xenas cheek when she returned the voiceless communication. She brought her lips to Gabrielles, and they shared a lingering kiss that was perhaps the most meaningful of their lives.
A few candlemarks later, after Xena thought Gabrielle had fallen asleep, she stepped to the window, tilted her head back, and looked up into the night sky. She let out a sigh full of emotion and whispered, "Thank you."
From under the covers, the bard watched her lover through brimming, empathetic tears and then smiled down at the sleeping infant lying in her arms beside her.
Memna stepped up behind the warrior. Xena had heard her return to the hut and wasnt surprised by her presence. She continued to stare into the heavens.
"Stars are lovely tonight." Memna observed.
"M-hmm," the warrior vocalized without looking down.
After a pause, the midwife spoke again. "What will be the babys name, Xena?"
The Warrior Princess smiled and said softly, "Her name will be Piscea."
Almost every eye at the birthday gala was on Xena and Gabrielle. They danced closely, alone in the middle of a circle of celebrating Amazons. The music was more mellow than it had been earlier that evening when the younger village women had zestfully pranced to a vigorous beat. As the flutes echoed into the night and the drums reverberated lowly, the warrior and bard held each others gaze while they moved, their faces reflecting a powerfully tender love as well as the light from the bonfire. Their steps were graceful and so harmonious that even a stranger to the tribe would have realized that they had been dance partners for many winters.
Some distance away, Queen Piscea sat straight and proud in her royal chair, watching the events of her own twenty fourth birthday party. Her best friend, Alyssa, sat next to her on the arm of the chair. A slight breeze played with their hair. The birthday festivities had been in full swing for several candlemarks now, but the guests didnt show any signs of tiring. The queen, however, was weary, though she did her best to not let it show.
Queen Piscea was well-loved and highly respected throughout the Amazon Nation. From many distant tribes, women had come to offer birthday wishes. In the short time she had been their leader, Piscea had thrown herself into the role with unbridled drive, and she had accomplished much. She demonstrated wisdom and foresight beyond that which would be expected at her age. And, her sense of intuition was exceptional. It was obvious Artemis guided and had special plans for this young, talented ruler.
"Isnt it great that your mother and Xena could come for your birthday, Piscea?!" Fair-haired Alyssa put her arm around her friends tanned shoulders and squeezed gently.
"Yes, it is," the gorgeous queen responded. "It has been almost an entire season since they were last here."
Alyssa smoothed the queens shoulder-length brown hair affectionately. "Youve got to admit, though, theyve visited an awful lot since your mother relinquished the mask to you four winters ago. What was it Xena said to you that day they left the village?... Well visit so often youll be sick of us... Remember?"
Piscea glanced up at Alyssa. "Yeah... I remember." She returned her gaze to her mother and Xena and sighed. Presently, the Warrior Princess noticed that the queen was watching them. Xena did a double take and held Pisceas gaze. Piscea gave her a vague smile and looked away. She returned her attention to her friend, picking up their conversation again. "It was difficult to watch my mother go... but I understood why she and Xena couldnt live the rest of their lives here. Im surprised they stayed as long as they did."
Alyssa looked down at the queen curiously. "Piscea, I know your mother loved her adventures with Xena, but living in the village was a choice Im sure she gladly made when she decided to have you."
"Oh, I know, Aly... I dont doubt that." Pisceas large eyes sparkled vividly with love for her mother. She watched the bard caress Xenas cheek as they danced.
"And, hey!... What about Xena?" Alyssa asked playfully. "Dont tell me it wasnt tough for you to say goodbye to her too!"
The corners of Pisceas full lips turned up slightly, and she blinked heavily. "Of course, it was hard. But..." She uncrossed her sleek, muscled legs and sighed again. "Id gotten used to saying goodbye to Xena... She came and went so frequently while I was growing up."
"Yeah..." Alyssa confirmed. "And, she spoiled you rotten every time she returned to the village." She smiled and waved to a guest who had caught her notice.
Piscea waved too. "Maybe I would have turned out better if she hadnt."
The smaller woman wrinkled her brow. "Whats that supposed to mean? How could you have possibly turned out any better?" Alyssa ran her eyes over Pisceas exquisite form and winked.
The queen gave her friend a bored look out the corner of her eye. After a pause, she quietly remarked, "Mother hated that Xena was away so much... but she never complained. She knew Xena had to answer the call of... those who needed her help."
"You mean, the call to atone for her past." Alyssa clarified.
Piscea raised an eyebrow, extended a lovely hand, and patted Alyssas thigh. "I was going for subtlety... but, thank you," she said sarcastically. "Where would I be without your keen insight?"
"Youd still be stuck on that mountain ledge where you got yourself stranded when we were eighteen."
Another of Pisceas friends, Sahli, having approached at just that moment, smiled at them both and cocked her head quizzically. "You got yourself stranded on a mountain ledge, Piscea? Why have I never heard that story? Tell me about it!" She grinned and placed a caring kiss on the queens cheek. "And, happy birthday, my friend."
Piscea gave her a beautiful, genuine smile. "Thank you, Sahli." Then she frowned at Alyssa. "You always did exaggerate, Al. Id hardly say I got myself stranded on that ledge. An avalanche almost buried us both alive that evening. Youre lucky you didnt fall as far down the cliff side as I did."
Alyssa raised her chin. "Yeah? Well, if I hadnt figured a way to splint my own broken leg, dragged myself back to the top of the cliff, and sent your mutt back to the village with a note in that skin tied around his neck, Xena would never have found us, and you would have bled to death from that cut on your noggin."
Piscea rolled her dazzling eyes under long lashes. "Alyssa, I would NOT have bled to death. But, I thank you once again for saving my life." She went on in a monotone voice. "And, I concede... You were, and still are, the bravest and most clever Amazon who ever walked the face of the earth."
With a nod of mock conceit, Alyssa accepted this overstated compliment. She stood and took two mugs of port from a tray which a young girl held out before them.
Sahli took one also and said, "You didnt finish the story. What happened when Xena got there?"
After handing one of the mugs to her queen and tipping her own mug in salute, Alyssa went on. "Well, Xena was beside herself when she came racing up to me. I had been laying there with my head hanging over the edge of the cliff, watching Piscea, yelling my lungs out, trying to wake her up. She had been knocked unconscious, you see." Alyssa paused to take a gulp of wine. "Xena took one look over the side, pulled me to my feet, shook me silly, and demanded to know what we thought we were playing at. She practically scared me across the Styx, she was so upset. Thereupon, she proceeded to drop me like moldy falafel and disappeared over the edge. I was afraid shed kill herself the way she took off down through those loose rocks like a bacchae out of the sunlight." Alyssa took another swig and wiped her upper lip with her left hand. "I was convinced Xena could fly the way she made it all that way down to Piscea so quickly. I watched her try to wake up Piscea. When she couldnt, she pulled some things from somewhere on... or maybe in... her leathers and stitched the cut on Pisceas forehead. Then, she shouted up and told me that others from the village would probably arrive soon... that I should explain to them what happened, that she didnt want to move Piscea until the next morning, and that they must rig some way to lift Piscea out of there."
Sahli snickered. "Since were here celebrating your twenty fourth winter, Piscea, I see you survived." She lifted her mug and made the sound of a battle horn. "Xena to the rescue again!"
Alyssa laughed, and Piscea grinned. The women fell silent when they noticed Gabrielle and Xena nearing. Piscea stood, and all three young women stepped down from the platform where the queens chair was positioned. Piscea took a few steps toward the approaching couple and held out her arms.
Gabrielle stepped into them, wrapped her own around her tall
daughters waist, and gave her a warm kiss. "Sweetheart," she said,
"why dont you come and dance with Xena and me?"
Gabrielles pride and love for Piscea was evident in her face.
Piscea released her charming mother and gave Xena a quick, one-armed hug too. As she moved back to the bard, she answered, "Ive danced so much tonight already, Mother." She slid her well-defined arm around Gabrielles shoulders and smiled down adoringly. "Besides, Im enjoying watching you and Xena."
"As is everyone else," Sahli added, trying to not stare at Xena.
Though the Warrior Princess was now in her early fifties, she still commanded attention. Her powerful presence had diminished little. Not as fast or agile as it once was, her yet toned body still looked as if it could perform many skills. A few creases were visible around Xenas mouth and eyes, but her stunning beauty had not faded.
For her part, Gabrielle had retained her youthful appearance as well. Though she, too, now wore deep laugh lines and crows feet, her energy level was as high as it was twenty winters ago. Her cheerful disposition was contagious. It still drew people to her.
Xena noticed Sahli ogling her. Long ago, the warrior had gotten used to the affect she had on most of the women in the village. More than once, she had caught some of the young Amazons looking at Piscea in the exact same way, although Piscea seemed oblivious to their lusty stares.
Over the years, Xena had gradually relaxed to the point that she was comfortable playing up to the flattery. Sahlis remark not lost on her, the Warrior Princess grinned at the young girl and said, "Since Piscea is playing hard to get, would YOU like to dance with me when the music begins again?"
Sahli looked as if she might faint. "Oh!... um... yes!" she sputtered. "See you in a bit then," she finished and hurried off to try to bribe the players to resume their music at once.
Realizing what her lover was doing, Gabrielle shot Xena a teasing look of warning, then turned back to Piscea. She reluctantly let go of her daughters waist. "Well, I know this comes to you as a big surprise, but..." She held up her hands. "These two hands should locate some food."
Chuckling at her mothers delightful predictability, the queen stooped to give Gabrielle a kiss.
"Why, thank you," the bard said quietly and brought her palm to her daughters smooth cheek. "What was that for?" Though the queen was not slow to display her affection, Gabrielle was always very touched by Pisceas tender gestures.
"Just for being you, Mother." Piscea kissed her again. "Thank you for being here."
"All the gods on Olympus couldnt have kept us away, Darling." Gabrielle hugged Piscea once more. "Now," she said, stepping back, "I believe a bowl of fruit over there is calling my name." She started toward the food tables. "Come on, Xena... How bout a nice juicy peach?"
Amused, Xena shook her head as she watched Gabrielle hurry toward her stomachs desire. "Ill be right there," she called after her. The warrior grinned knowingly at Piscea and Alyssa. After a moment, she nodded toward the queen and asked, "Hows our girl doing, Alyssa? Has she conquered any wild piglets lately?"
Laughing heartily, Alyssa answered, "Im pretty sure shes given up on that, Xena."
Piscea rolled her eyes and looked into the crowd with a smirk on her face. Xena and Alyssa were referring to a day when Piscea was seven winters old. The warrior had that day told Piscea and Alyssa the story of the Calydonian boar hunt... the famous tale about the huge, savage boar which once threatened to destroy Calydon. Xena liked to relate that story because it was a FEMALE warrior, Atalanta, who outwitted many men to finally get aim on the beast and draw first blood. Little Piscea, thinking she could kill a boar too, told Alyssa she was going to do so and ventured into the woods near the village. When she didnt return home, Xena, Gabrielle, and Alyssa went in worried search. It didnt take them long to find her. A wild piglets squeals led them to where she sat, under a big oak tree, trying to cuddle with the cute creature. The pig was having none of it, but Piscea held on tightly, convinced she could tame the smelly critter. Little Alyssa had laughed and said to her friend, Why didnt Atalanta think of that?! She could have just cuddled the Calydonian boar to death! In spite of themselves, Xena and Gabrielle had laughed too, but the warrior had then scooped up both Piscea and the piglet, put them in front of her on Argo, and taken them back to the village. When they got home, Xena built a shelter for the piglet and a fence surrounding it. At Xenas suggestion, Piscea named the animal Ladon, and she kept him for several days, to the disgust of the other girls in the village. Then, one morning, Piscea ran out to feed her pet, only to find that it had torn through the fencing in the night. Piscea had been heartbroken. Gabrielle tried to explain to her that the piglet could never adjust to living outside the woods. But, Mother, Piscea had whimpered, why CANT he live here now?! Gabrielle had looked to Xena for help. The warrior took the little girl on her lap. Its too late, Sweetie, she whispered to the sniffling princess. He already loves the woods. It would be different if he had been born here... But, the wild in his blood ... Its more natural to him than this little pen weve tried to force him to accept. Piscea had refused to believe she couldnt tame the creature. She must have captured and recaptured the piglet ten times before she finally gave up.
"Hey, you." Alyssa nudged her friend.
"Huh?" Piscea came out of her reverie to see Xena and Alyssa staring at her.
Alyssa grinned. "You were a hundred leagues away, werent you?"
Piscea chuckled at herself. "I was just remembering how many times I tried to constrain that thing." She let her brown eyes rest on Xenas face.
The warriors expression had become very solemn. Xena slowly stepped closer to the queen and gently placed both hands on her broad shoulders. "Some things can never be tamed..." Her low voice vibrated with sincerity. "...And, thats okay."
Piscea blinked and took a deep breath. Without responding, she blinked again and dropped her eyes.
Xena pulled her close, held her for a few moments, then stepped back a pace. She leaned in and placed a kiss on the queens lips. "Happy Birthday, Piscea," she whispered, taking a thin twist of the queens silky hair in her right hand. "I love you." After a pause, she touched Pisceas cheek, gave a crooked grin, and strode away toward Gabrielle.
"What was all THAT seriousness about?!" Alyssa inquired after Xena was out of ear shot.
The queen swallowed hard and inconspicuously wiped a tear from her eye. "It was nothing, Aly... nothing at all."
Piscea and Alyssa stood quietly for a few moments as they watched several Amazons try to persuade Gabrielle to tell one of her tales. The bard refused, insisting that she didnt want to take attention away from Piscea on her birthday. The queen said in a raised voice, "Go on, Mother! Please... Id love nothing more than to hear you tell a story on my birthday!" Gabrielle beamed at her daughter and relented immediately. She was quickly provided a comfortable seat from which to orate.
As the bard began a tale, Xena strolled to the far edge of the crowd and leaned against one of the Amazon totems. With a happy expression on her weathered face, she gazed appreciatively at her lover, who, by now, was thrilling the guests with a story about Xenas battle against the Horde.
Piscea and Alyssa listened to the tale for a short time. Theyd both heard it before, of course, but they politely remained attentive. Piscea would be content to listen to her mother recite stories indefinitely. Almost every day of her childhood had been enhanced by one of the bards magical tales. She smiled, remembering how, as a tiny princess, she felt so cozy snuggled up in her mothers lap on the big pallet the queen shared with Xena. Once in a while, the warrior, too, would snuggle beside them while the bard spun a yarn. Piscea had loved those times. Shed loved the smell of leather which lingered on Xenas skin even after the warrior had bathed. Shed loved how much more approachable and somehow vulnerable Xena seemed when she crawled onto the pallet with them. Sometimes, when the warrior was away for moons at a time, Gabrielle would let Piscea sleep on the same pallet with her. On several such occasions, the little princess had scooted her small body behind her mother and wrapped her arm over the queens waist, as she had seen Xena do, thinking that she would protect her mother through the night... just like Xena did.
"Youre doing it again."
Piscea jerked her head toward Alyssa and realized that she had been daydreaming. The queen took a deep breath and moved to sit on the steps of the platform.
Her loyal friend joined her, leaning her forearms on her knees. "Piscea... forgive me if Im imagining things, but..."
When Alyssa hesitated, the young queen looked over to her. "What?"
"Something is bothering you."
Piscea looked away, knowing that her friend was able to read her like a scroll.
Not wanting to pressure Piscea, Alyssa pretended to watch Gabrielle and asked as casually as she could, "Why is it you always seem so preoccupied when your mother and Xena come to visit?"
Gabrielle had told another third of her story before Piscea finally answered. "I dont have an easy answer for you, Aly." She looked her friend in the eye. "I do need to talk to someone about it though."
"About what, Piscea?"
The queen was silent again for long moments. At last, she said, "You know... Its funny that you brought up that time I was stranded on the cliff."
The thin blondes eyebrows met in the middle. "I dont understand, Piscea."
"The royal sighed and glanced at her friend apologetically. She inhaled and began. "That night, Aly... on the ledge with Xena. After I regained consciousness..." She gave a half shrug and took a full breath, as if she were preparing to dive into deep water. "...I admitted to Xena that I was in love with her."
Alyssas eyes became wide and her lips parted. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She tried again. "Wow..." was all she could come up with.
Piscea frowned and leaned her head back to the sky. "I know, I know..." she whispered with exasperation. "How could I have fallen in love with my mothers lover?... A woman almost thirty winters my senior, to boot." She sighed heavily and then hung her head. "I dont know how it happened, Aly... I dont know. I dont know if some evil seeped into my brain... or my heart. I dont know. I only know that I had felt that way... forever... since I was old enough to feel." Piscea raised her eyes to look at Gabrielle in the distance and shook her head. "When I was little, Mother used to tell me that Xena was as much my mother as she was." Piscea wet her lips. "Strange though... I never felt that way about her. I mean, I knew Xena loved me deeply... I knew I came second only to Mother in her heart. But, I never thought of the Warrior Princess as a mother." The queen shuffled her feet in the dirt. "I dont know... she was gone so much of the time... or maybe it was because she seemed so heroic... somehow like a goddess... or something... You know?"
Alyssa squinted her eyes in concentration, trying to give sympathetic understanding to her long-time comrade. It was rare that Piscea opened up like this. In that regard, she was very much like the Warrior Princess.
Piscea looked down at her boots. "Anyway, that night on the ledge... Xena held my head in her lap and talked and talked to me. Id never heard her say so much at one time. She told me every story she could remember, I think... including some about her childhood which she had never even told Mother. Looking back on it, I guess she was trying to keep me awake because she was worried about the severity of my concussion. I was lying there, afraid I might die... even though Xena assured me I wouldnt. She said how much she loved Mother and me. And, she said something about wishing she and I could have been closer. I couldnt hold in my feelings any longer, so I just blurted it out. I looked up at her and said, Xena, I have ached to be closer to you. This extraordinary, bittersweet smile came to her face, and then she leaned down and kissed me. I whispered onto her lips, Im so in love with you, Xena." Piscea took a deep breath and kicked a stone.
Alyssa hung on Pisceas words. "Dont stop there!... What happened next?!"
The queen hesitated as she waited for one of her Amazon sisters to pass by. She lowered her voice and replied. "Xena seemed to freeze for a moment; then she blinked a few times. I knew I had said the most terribly wrong thing, and I wanted to throw myself off that ledge right then and there." Pisceas eyes came to rest on the Warrior Princess who was now talking to a guest. The queen pursed her lips and went on. "Xena frowned and caressed my brow. Then she hushed me and told me to rest. I closed my eyes and didnt say another word until I was back in my mothers hut."
Alyssa raised her eyebrows, thought for a few moments, and then chuckled. "Wow, Piscea... Now I see why youd be a little embarrassed around Xena. Did she tell your mother?"
"Im quite certain she did, although none of us have ever mentioned it."
"Oh, but... surely, they both knew it was just a teenage crush. You shouldnt worry so much about it."
Piscea remained silent and expressionless.
Alyssa knit her brow again. "Piscea?... theres something else, isnt there?"
Taking another deep breath, Piscea turned and fully faced her friend. "Yes, theres something else." Piscea took Alyssas hand and rose. "Come with me." She led Alyssa away from the village center.
"Piscea, where are we going?" Alyssa struggled to keep up with her friends long strides.
"To my hut," the queen replied over her shoulder. "I want to show you something." When they stepped inside the hut, Piscea lit a candle on a table, took a small box from a shelf, opened it, and removed a scroll. She handed it to Alyssa.
"Whats this?" Alyssa started to untie the binding.
Piscea clasped Alyssas hands against the still-rolled scroll and looked steadily into her eyes. "About a moon after that night on the ledge, Mother and Xena came to my hut one evening. They told me... well... they told me about my birth... er, rather, my conception." The queen winced with frustration. "They told me what is in this scroll. Read it. It will explain why Im... always so preoccupied when my mother and Xena visit."
Alyssa gazed at her friend, confused by the gravity in her voice. "Okay, Piscea."
Piscea let go of her hands and sighed. She motioned toward the scroll. "Go ahead... Ill wait for you outside."
The young blonde Amazon sat down in a chair next to the table and pulled the candle closer. She opened the scroll and began to read. She instantly recognized the handwriting as Gabrielles. It seemed to be a third person account of one of the bards experiences...
The warrior lay on a blanket under the night sky. The bard sat next to her, listening closely. Xena was telling the story of the time, long before she met Gabrielle, when her one-time lover had been killed by Centaurs.
"...After the burial, it wasnt a full moon later that I returned to that Centaur village with my army and began vicious attacks. It was only because I was badly injured that I finally withdrew my troops." Xena grimaced and glanced at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle stared at her intently. "How long did the fighting go on before you were hurt?" .
"About five moons, I guess. Why?"
"I was just curious. Please go on."
After the Warrior Princess had completed her account, the bard smiled long and lovingly at her, as if she were waiting for Xena to speak. When the warrior remained silent, Gabrielle touched her face gently, and lightly kissed her lips. Then, she lifted her face to the sky, which was clear and full of glittering stars. She hesitated for some time and then said softly, "You know, Xena..."
"What, Gabrielle?" The warrior curiously watched the bards profile.
Without looking down, the Amazon Princess said very deliberately. "Ive heard that some stars are actually the souls of unborn children... those babies who are lost before theyre carried to full term."
Xenas eyebrow arched very high, and she sat up straight. She searched the bards eyes. The warrior was amazed. Even for the bard, it was a stretch to have guessed that Xena was with child that day she was so badly wounded in her battle with the Centaurs. She had lost the baby that very night. At last, she said, "How did you know, Gabrielle?"
Smiling tentatively, the bard replied, "Ill explain in a moment. But, first..." She raised her eyes to the heavens. "Tell me... Do you know which star it is?"
After a slight hesitation, Xena said, "I think I do. I noticed a new star in the sky that same night."
The bards eyes widened, and she turned her head expectantly toward the warrior.
Xena moved her eyes to the sky. "See that group of stars just above the horizon..."
"The group that looks like two fish?"
"Yeah... See that very small star in the group?" Xena stretched her hand out and pointed. "...right next to that bright one."
"Next to that bright one which joins the two fish at the tails?... Yes... I see it."
Almost unintentionally, Xena smiled. "I believe thats it."
Gabrielle grinned at the little star and then at the Warrior Princess. She looked into Xenas eyes. After a long pause, she lowered her voice and said, "Artemis appeared to me yesterday, Xena. ...She told me to ask you about that story."
"She did?!" The warrior was genuinely surprised... not so much by the fact that the goddess had appeared to the bard, but because Gabrielle had not yet told her about it. Her mind worked furiously to try to understand Artemiss motives.
"Yes..." Gabrielle stared steadily at the Warrior Princess. She took several shaky breaths and spoke again, almost in a whisper. "Xena..." The bard bit her bottom lip to keep it from quivering. "Xena... Artemis told me... well... she asked me if I would give birth to a baby... the heir to her Amazon nation."
Xenas lips separated with astonishment, and her heart pounded mightily in her chest. She narrowed her eyes and stared at Gabrielle.
Taking Xenas hand between her own, both to give and take in support, the bard looked deeply into her lovers eyes and went on. "Xena... She said she will place YOUR child in my womb."
The warrior swallowed hard and studied Gabrielles face. Her mind raced, and she felt a sweat break out on her skin.
"I was so confused..." The bard shook her head, as she recalled her conversation with the goddess. "Then, Artemis told me about the unborn babies in the stars, and she assured me everything would make sense after Id heard the story about the child you lost." Gabrielle raised her face to the heavens. "I didnt comprehend before, but I do now."
The warriors mouth fell slightly open, and she looked up again at the little star in the night, which had appeared there the same evening she miscarried. She wasnt sure whether she wanted to curse Artemis for interfering in their lives or praise her for an unbelievable blessing.
"Xena, will you agree?... Will you let me carry your child into the world?"
The warrior was flabbergasted. "Gabrielle... I dont know... I..."
The bard moved closer to Xena and interrupted by placing her fingertips on the warriors lips. "Xena... I want this more than anything." She took a quaking breath. "I will never be able to return Solon to you, but I can give this child back to you."
Xena pursed her lips with conflicting emotion. "Gabrielle, you dont have to..."
Gabrielle stopped her again. "I know I dont, Xena... but, please... think about it... the deaths of our children divided us once... and maybe weve never completely healed from that rift... you know? ...But, the birth of this child... our child... could unite us... forever... in a miraculous way." Tears spilled from her eyes as she waited for Xena to respond.
The Warrior Princess felt tears form in her eyes too. She could hardly fathom how wondrous it would be to truly bear a child with Gabrielle. It would be the one thing they had been unable to share. Xena thought about the lover with whom she had conceived that child... Who, the warrior was sure, would be in favor of Artemiss plan. Still, the consequences and thoughts of the danger stormed through Xenas mind.
"Xena, please say yes, the bard pleaded. "Well be fine. We always are."
After studying Gabrielles face for what seemed like an eternity to the bard, the warrior finally nodded slowly. "All right, Gabrielle... if youre sure."
"Oh, I am, Xena! Ive never been more sure of anything!" The bard hugged the warrior quickly, then resumed talking. "Oh, and Xena, I almost forgot... Theres just one thing. Artemis asked that we name the baby Piscea.
A huge grin came to the warriors lips, and she lifted her blue eyes to the stars.
"And..." Gabrielle continued, "she said the child will be the strongest queen to ever rule the Amazons... because the blood of three women will flow through her veins."
Xena started to speak, but before she could utter a syllable, they both noticed the tiny star begin to fade. It twinkled intensely a few times, as if it was reluctant to leave the sky. When it finally disappeared, the bard gasped. Xenas eyes widened with alarm.
Gabrielle quickly eased her anxiety. "Its okay." She took a shallow breath, then lifted the warriors hand and kissed the palm. "Its just..." The bard moved Xenas hand and placed it over her abdomen. "...I can feel her now." They exchanged wide-eyed looks of wonder. Gabrielles eyes became misty again. "Oh, Xena..." She clasped the warriors hand more firmly against her stomach. Both women were too overcome with awe to say anything. They held one anothers gaze, each trying to find words in her partners eyes.
Piscea started when she felt a soft hand on her shoulder. She looked around to see Alyssa blinking down at her. The blonde sat next to her friend on the bench where she had been waiting.
"By the gods, Piscea!" Alyssa breathed, staring into space. "Xena is your real mother?!"
The queen stared at her, waiting to hear more of Alyssas reaction to what she had read.
Alyssa collected herself, edged off the bench, and kneeled next to Piscea. She took hold of her hands. "Piscea... I cant imagine how you mustve felt when that truth was revealed to you. You must have been bewildered and delirious and devastated and ecstatic all at once."
Piscea looked into the distance and said quietly, "Yes, I felt all of those things."
"And, Gabrielle and Xena must have been overjoyed to finally share that secret with you." Alyssas brow furrowed. "I wonder why they waited so long to tell you."
"They waited until they thought I was old enough to understand and absorb all the mysterious events that led up to my conception...s ...both of them." Piscea shook her head. "And, too, Xena was worried, like she was with Solon, that the truth could be dangerous for me."
"Hmmm... I guess that makes sense." Not realizing how affected the queen was, Alyssa whispered excitedly, "Piscea... who was Xenas lover?... I mean, who was your father?!"
Incredulous, Piscea peered at her friend. "For Zeuss sake, Aly! This isnt about my... father!" She rolled her eyes. "Thats a story for another day!"
Alyssa observed her friend more closely, realizing how disturbed she was. She gripped the queens shoulders tightly. "Piscea, I know you must have felt like Oedipuss evil twin when you realized you had been in love with your own mother, but... you didnt know." She brushed the queens hair from her face and smiled compassionately.
Pisceas bright eyes flashed. "But, Aly... Dont you see?!... Im just like that damned wild piglet."
"Excuse me?" Alyssa was baffled.
Lost in her thoughts, the queen shook her head again and mumbled, "But, by the time I found out, I had already told her."
Alyssa frowned, still perplexed. "I know you must have been so ashamed, Piscea. Gods, I would have felt terribly guilty too. But, Im sure Xena and Gabrielle have forgotten all about your confession on that ledge. ...You spent your youth in love with Xena. So what?! Half the girls we grew up with were in love with her. Hades!... Half of the women were too! You found out shes your mother a long time ago. ...Xena, of all people, wouldnt want you to carry this guilt around forever. Let yourself off the hook!"
The queen stood and turned her face from her friend. "Its not that simple, Al," she said numbly. She started walking away.
Alyssa sighed heavily and stood too. "Why not?"
Piscea stopped in her tracks, causing a tear to spill from her eye. "Because Im still in love with her."
NOTE: This story was written as a companion piece to my previous tale "Building A Mystery."
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