The Challenge

By T.Novan

Twenty-Eighth in the Melosa Series

Disclaimers: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess and all other associated with the television series of the same name are owned by MCA/ Universal Pictures. This is a work of fan fiction and no copyright infringement is intended.

Subtext: I guess with my writing so far we'll just quit calling it subtext and call it maintext. Yes they are in love with each other.

Sex: Nothing graphic

Violence: EXTREME! Yeah we’ve got some serious fighting here folks. Including a fight between Melosa and someone who has just been begging to get her butt kicked.

Language: Mild/ Harsh


Other: Part twenty-eight in the series "Raising Melosa". Most of the Melosa stories have a gap of about six months between them, but this one takes up about two weeks "Longing and Belonging".







"Xena! I really want to talk to you about this." Gabrielle said to me as I saddled the pony.

"Okay Ri let’s talk about it."

"I really don’t want you to do this. Please?"

I looked at her. There were tears in her eyes threatening to fall. "Ri, honey Kai will be fine. We have to find out if he’s going to be able to ride." I cinched the strap and tucked it away.

"Please don’t put him on this pony. I can’t explain it Xena I’m just asking you not to do it. It just worries me that’s all."

I drew a deep breath as I snapped the lead into place on the halter. "Gabrielle I taught Melosa to ride and I’m going to teach Kai to ride. You’re letting your own fears get in the way here Ri. You were nervous when Mel first learned to ride too, but you got through it and she’s one of the best now. Kai has been waiting a long time for his chance. He’s been good and he’s been very patient. Waiting for you to get well so I would have time to teach him."

"I just don’t want him to get hurt."

"Neither do I." I took her in my arms and gave her a hug. She wrapped her arms around me and laid her head on my shoulder. "If I didn’t think he was ready I wouldn’t be doing this. If I thought he was going to get hurt there is no way in the known world that I would put him on this animal’s back. I’ll make you a deal. You watch me work with him this morning and if you’re still uncomfortable with it when we’re done I’ll wait until another time okay?"

"Okay. Even if I can’t explain why?"

"Even if you can’t explain why."

She studied me for a moment and then nodded her agreement. I gave her a kiss in the top of her head and we left he barn.

Mel was already outside and perched on top her pony. Looking down at her baby brother who waited patiently.

"So today’s the big day huh shrimp?" She said from her perch above him.

"Mel don’t tease your brother." Ri said as she leaned against the barn door watching every move I made with Kai.

"Gee and I thought that was his purpose in the world. So I would have someone to torture." Kai retaliated by sticking his tongue out at his big sister. True siblings, a lot like Lyceus and me. Mother has noticed it too and had commented on it since her arrival.

"No that seems to be my lot in life." I mumbled as I checked the tack on the pony once again.

"Aww you love it and you know it." Mel said as she drew up next to me and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

"Yeah I guess in my own weird way I do." I grinned at her and kissed her on the forehead. I turned back to Kai. "Okay buddy we’re all set here. You ready?"

Kai stood next to Ri and just kind of stared at me. "Umm…Mom would you be mad if I said I didn’t want to."

I looked over at him and could tell he was really nervous. Then I looked to Ri who put her hands up and made her innocence in this matter quite clear. I handed Mel the lead for her brother’s pony. "No matter what he decides here Mel, not one word. Understand?" I whispered to her looking her directly in the eye.

"Yes ma’am." She said quite seriously with a nod and a concerned glance for her brother.

I walked over and knelt down in front of him. "What’s up buddy? I thought you wanted to learn. You said you did."

"I just changed my mind. Are you mad?" He bit his lip and dropped his head. "Are you disappointed? I will if you want me to."

"Hey buddy c’mere." I drew him into a hug and kissed him. "No it’s okay that you changed your mind. I’m not mad and I would never be disappointed in you. I’m not going to make you do something you don’t want to do."

"Thank you." He said quietly, almost defeated.

"Hey is there something else?"

"No ma’am." He hugged me and I could tell he was really doing his best not to cry. "May I go?"

"Sure buddy, sure." I let him go and he began walking back toward the house. Auto wasn’t even running and jumping next to the boy, the dog also walked as if he too had lost his best friend. I straightened up and watched him. "I wonder what that was all about. Yesterday he was so excited about this. Mel did you say something to him?"

"I swear to you on Grandfather’s helmet that I said nothing." She said as she put one hand over his her heart and raised the other one in the air.

"Well I’ll be…" I was just at a total loss. I felt Ri put her hand on my arm.

"I think I know what’s wrong. Come on." She took my hand and we followed Kai to the house.

We found him in his room lying on his bed with Auto. The dog had his head on Kai’s stomach as he got his ears scratched. When we entered Kai quickly wiped away tears that were falling from his eyes. Ri gave me a signal to stay there by the door and she went over and sat down on the bed. I leaned back against the wall and watched without a word.

"Kai can we talk?"


"Well sit up here and talk with me." She coaxed him into sitting up next to her. "Want to tell me what changed your mind about learning to ride?"

He shrugged. "I just did that’s all."

"Did you maybe hear me and Mom talking in the barn? Maybe just maybe?"

"Maybe." He whispered.

I nodded. Now it made sense. I continued to watch them.

"So you decided not to learn because I didn’t want you to." She began stroking his hair he nodded his head.

"You’ve been so sick…and…well…I didn’t want to make you worry. You might get sick again…" He was trying so hard not to cry but a few tears formed in his little eyes.

"Oh sweetheart…" She pulled him into her arms and hugged him close to her. "What made you think that I’d get sick again?"

"Well when you were sick. I heard Karra tell Cook that Mom was sick from worry about you…"

I sighed. Now it all made sense.

"And you thought if she could get sick from worrying about me, I would get sick from worrying about you. Is that it?" She kissed the top of his head and continued to hold him.

"Yes ma’am. I don’t want to make you sick. I really don’t. It was just awful around here when you were sick. Mom was so sad and lonely and we missed you so much. I don’t want it to be like that again."

"Well what if I said it’s okay for you to learn to ride and that I promise not to worry. If I don’t worry I can’t get sick now can I?"

"No ma’am." He seemed to brighten a little. He looked up at her and slumped a little. "Are you sure? I really don’t want…"

"I want you to go with Mom now and have a good ride. I promise not to worry."

"Really?" He brightened again.

"Really, now go on." She put him down on the floor and gave him a little swat sending him in my direction.

He ran to me and looked up. "I’m sorry I fibbed to you Mom."

"It’s okay buddy. Your heart was definitely in the right place with that one. Go ahead and go out and wait for me. I’ll be right out."

He and Auto bounded out the door. I watched them go and then turned back to Ri who was still sitting on the bed. I went over and knelt down in front of her. Now she was crying. "Hey what’s wrong?" I wiped the tears from her cheeks.

"Do you have any idea how frustrating this is for me? To know that he loves me so much that he would give up something he really wanted so I wouldn’t get sick again. Damn it Xena I want my memories back."

I pulled her into my arms. "In time sweetheart in time."

"We don’t know that. What if I never get them back?"

"Then we’ll make new memories. You just did. A very special one."

She nodded and wiped her eyes. "I did didn’t I?"

"You sure did. You handle that very well. I was lost with that one."

She smiled at me. "You? Lost? I find that hard to believe."

"Hey occasionally I need the help of my partner and you always know when to come to my rescue. You just did…partner." I gave her a wink and a little nudge. She smiled and sighed.

"You’d better get to the boy before he thinks you don’t want to teach him to ride. By the way…" She said as I got to my feet.


"I still plan to worry." She whispered.

"I know." I whispered back. "You’re his mother that’s your job." I grinned and left the room.


Outside Mel held firm to Kai’s pony and I could hear the argument brewing.

"Not until Mom gets here. She’ll have my backside and I don’t plan on getting punished because you’re an impatient little sh…" Mel looked up and saw me on the porch. "Oh hi." She grinned.

"What’s going on?" I asked as I moved to them.

"He wanted to try and climb up on his own." Mel said as she glared at her brother.

"Okay Kai lesson number one." I said as I stood over him with my hands on my hips. "Until I say differently you don’t do anything with this pony unless I’m with you. Understand?"

"Yes ma’am." He said quietly.

"Your sister has been riding a lot longer and she has more experience than you. Being allowed to take her pony out by herself is a privilege she has earned by obeying my rules."

"Yes ma’am. I’m sorry."

"As long as we understand each other here."

"We do."

"Okay then." I picked him up and put him in the saddle. "Mel?"

"Yes oh Warrior Mom…" She snickered

I turned and arched my eyebrow ‘Warrior Mom’? That was a new one. "What’s lesson number one when riding?"

"Foot placement in the stirrup." She said, still looking and giggling at me.

"Right." I said as I place his feet where they belonged. "You’ve just been waiting to use that one haven’t you?" I asked Mel.

"You bet. Almost a week now."

"The stress of the wait must have been killing you."

"It hasn’t been easy." She snickered again as she nudged her pony and took off toward the lake.

I just shook my head. "Boy Greece is in big trouble when she hits maturity." I mumbled, as I looked Kai over to make sure he was seated properly.

"I’d be worried about the rest of the world too." Kai said as he played with the reins he held loosely in his hands.


After his lesson I gave Kai his brushes and turned him loose on the rest of his responsibility to his pony. He had done a fine job and he was going to learn well too.

I was out at the well washing the sweat of the day off my arms and neck when Ephiny rode in.

"XENA!" She yelled as she dismounted the horse before it even stopped. She ran over and stopped before me panting. I gave her a drink from the bucket as she tried to catch her breath.

"Eph what’s wrong?" I supported her by one arm as she drank from the ladle.

"There’s been a challenge for the throne!" She managed to say as she drew her arm across her mouth.


The three of us sat at the table. I sipped my tea as I listened to Eph explain that Amati, Reena’s bond mother had issued a challenge for Gabrielle’s throne. "That bitch! I should have killed her when I had the chance." I slammed my cup down, got up and began pacing around the room.

"Xena what does this mean?" Gabrielle’s eyes followed me as I paced back and forth.

"It means Gabrielle, that Amati wants to fight you for the right to rule the Amazons. She’s trying to take your throne."

"What can we do?" Gabrielle asked as she stood and crossed to me.

"I’m your champion Ri, I’ll defend the throne. I’ll fight Amati."

"Fight her?" She looked at me with a concerned brow. "Do you have to fight her?"

"Yes I do."

"Xena tell her the rest." Eph said.

"The rest?"

"A fight for the throne is combat to the death Gabrielle. To win I’ll have to kill her."

""Xena you can’t be serious?" She grabbed my arm and held fast. "Then if she wins…" Her voice failed her.

"She’ll kill me."

"Then let her have the throne…" She started.

I put two fingers over her lips to quiet her. "Gabrielle it’s not that simple. I have to defend the throne. You don’t want people like that to rule the Amazons."

"I don’t want you killed Warrior. Gods Xena what would I do without you? If you get killed not only have I lost my throne, but then the children and I are at their mercy."

"Gabrielle I have to do this. If something happens to me Eph, Ep and Sol will make sure you’re safe."

"Xena please there must be another way." She gripped my forearms.

"Gabrielle there really isn’t another choice. The throne must be defended. Xena is your champion…" Eph said quietly." The council has decreed a combat must take place."

Her eyes locked with mine as she searched for answers. "When?" The question was for Eph not me, our eyes never wavered from each other.

"Three days."

"Then tell the council the Queen and her champion will be there."

"Gabrielle they don’t expect you to come…" Eph said taking a step forward.

I watched as Gabrielle wheeled around and met her Regent face to face. "And what kind of a leader would I be Eph? What kind of a Queen sends her champion and doesn’t come herself? What kind of a Queen and a wife would I be? If I don’t come, I may as well hand the throne to Amati." She turned around and caught my eyes again. "Inform the council that the Queen is returning to the throne."

"Yes Your Majesty." Ephiny smiled and left us to consider what the next three days would hold for us.

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around me. "Tell me you can beat her Xena, please tell me. I don’t remember." She began crying as her head rested on my shoulder.

I held her, caressed her and reassured her.


The village was crowded but quiet. All of the women knew this was a deadly serious confrontation and that a life would be lost tonight. Gabrielle attired in her leathers and her ceremonial jewelry never looked lovelier than she did tonight. I sat in my robe. Still having time before the challenge I wanted to be rested and packing the weight of my leather and armor around longer than necessary wasn’t the way to do it.

I sat in a chair in front of a fire in our house in the village. Sipping from a cup of diluted sweet wine, I stared at the flames. Gabrielle knelt in front of me I reached out and caressed her beautiful face. "I love you." I said softly.

"I love you too." She kissed the palm of my hand and held it to her cheek. "Xena do you have to kill her?"


"I wish it didn’t have to be that way. Even after all that’s been said and done it would be awful for the children and I to lose you. I can only imagine what Reena and her mother must be going through right now."

"Some people just never learn Gabrielle. Amati thought that she would take advantage of the situation and take your throne from you."

"Surely she knew you would defend it?"

"There’s always someone who thinks they can beat me. Maybe someday someone will, but it won’t be today and it won’t be Amati." I sipped my wine.

Gabrielle rose to her knees and leaned in to kiss me. Her lips felt like rose petals, soft and sweet. The kiss was filled with love and passion, I felt my body fill with her love and energy. "I expect you to bring me back here and make love to me tonight." She whispered in my ear after her sweet lips left mine.

"Count on it." I said softly as I inhaled the lavender of her hair.

"It’s about time for you to get dressed." She brushed her knuckles down my cheek. I captured her hand and laid soft kisses on each of her fingers. My eyes closed savoring the softness of her skin.

"I know. I need to stretch first." I got to my feet and helped her up and stole one last quick kiss before beginning a stretching routine that would make it easier to move. As I flexed and moved to loosen my muscles I watched her lay all of my gear out exactly the way I liked to have it. I hadn’t asked her to do it she was just doing it. She didn’t realize it, but she was having a memory. I smiled and reminded myself to point that out to her later.

I dressed in my leathers and put on my boots and grieves I adjusted them for comfort. The left one was giving me a fit and I just couldn’t get it. She knelt down again and made the adjustment for me, which made it much more tolerable. She looked up at me with a little grin, "Better?"

"Much. Thank you."

Next my upper arm bands and bracers. Gabrielle placed these for me as I turned my head from side to side, shoulder to shoulder and rolled it in small circles to loosen the muscles in my neck, stretching them. Concentrating on being relaxed as possible. I believed this woman wanted me dead more than she actually wanted the throne and I knew that she wouldn’t be beyond cheating to see it through. It was the factor of the unknown that made it important to be focused.

My eyes were closed as I began breathing exercises. I felt the plates of my armor being slipped over my head. Ri was only one person in the world I had ever trusted enough to approach me while I had my eyes closed. I felt all the buckles being slipped into place, she even got the difficult one. One final deep breath and I exhaled and opened my eyes.

She stood before me. "I love you Warrior."

I stepped closer to her. "I love you Bard."

I offered her my hand. "My Queen?"

She took it. "My Champion."

We left the house and headed to the village square, her hand rested gently on top of mine as I held my arm out. This was a traditional approach for Queen and Champion. I escorted Gabrielle to the dais and held the back of her throne while she took her seat. I stood behind her and waited. I closed my eyes again and let pictures of my children fill my mind. I smiled and then I wiped them away and saw nothing.

I opened my eyes and watched as the crowed gathered. They were quiet and respectful. Only slight murmurs could be heard. Then the murmurs became louder as I saw her approach. Melosa came through the crowd, staff in hand and came up on the dais. She looked at me and smiled and then went to Gabrielle. I noticed she too was dressed in her full leathers showing her as a Princess of the Amazon Nation.

"It is my right." I heard her say to Gabrielle. "I want to be here Mother. Please don’t send me away. I have to be here."

Gabrielle nodded her consent and Melosa took a position on the right side of her mother, standing behind her as I was. She glanced to me and reached her hand behind the throne. I took it and we stood there holding hands while we watched, eyes forward and waited.

Amati was already playing with me. Taking her time about arriving in the arena. I scanned the crowd and found Reena and her mother, Jiara standing to the side. Jiara looked perfectly miserable. Our eyes met and she mouthed, "I’m sorry". I gave her a nod. It was all I could do to acknowledge her. I looked to Reena who glared at me. I felt sorry for a child with so much hate in her heart at such a young age. I noticed as her gaze shifted to Mel and her glare became a smirk.

Amati finally made her entrance. She was nervous and I could let that work for me. She stepped forward and addressed the gathered crowd.

"Sisters hear me! I, Amati, a true Amazon, of the Amazon Nation hereby challenge Queen Gabrielle for the right to the throne of the Amazon Nation. The council has decreed this to be a fair challenge. Gabrielle do you accept the challenge?" She turned to the dais as Gabrielle rose from her throne. I gave Mel’s hand one final squeeze and let go.

"Amati you have made a fair challenge and I accept. Of course my Champion, Xena of Amphipolis will defend the throne in my stead."

"Of course."

I walked down and took my position in front of My Queen. Looking to her and waiting for her signal. "As the challenged it is my right to choose weapons. Swords." Gabrielle continued. Ep brought forth my sword and handed it to me. Gabrielle gave me the signal and I turned to face Amati.

She had chosen her blade and hefted its weight. She was and archer and not accustomed to fighting with a blade, another thing I had on my side.

"Let the challenge," There was a brief pause from Gabrielle. "Begin."

Amati wasted no time in making the first movement, this was good too. I could use that against her as well. I blocked her first swing, which was sloppy and uncontrolled. I kicked her in the midsection and doubled her. She recovered quickly and took another swing, this time she managed to catch me just above the bracer on my right arm. Lucky shot, but a damn painful and one that made me mad.

I advanced on her driving her back. She finally managed to turn and get behind me. I turned and she backhanded me. Well, that’ll wake you up too. Moving forward she brought her blade down. I blocked the swing and threw her backward. Diving forward I continued driving until the blade broke on her sword. She fell backward and hit the ground hard. It was time for the deathblow. I wanted to at least make it quick for her mate and her daughter.

I brought my sword up and twirled in once to get the proper grip for a blow that would be quick and relatively painless. The stinging of the sand in my eyes…I should have known. I lost the grip on my blade and heard it hit the ground. I tried to blink the sand away as I groped for my sword. The last thing I wanted to do was wipe my eyes that would only irritate them more.

I felt the dagger blade plunge into my right shoulder. Damn she really doesn’t know when to quit. I simply lunged my left arm forward and caught her by the throat. I couldn’t give her another chance. As my hand tightened around her throat she continued to fight. Delivering punches and kicks designed to make me release her, they only served to hasten her death as I crushed her windpipe. Not the way I wanted to do it, but she gave me little choice.

As her body began to slump and the life drained from it, blind and wounded I dropped to my knees taking her with me I felt the life draining from her, but I couldn’t bring myself to release her. It was a death grip and my own pain made me hold it.

I heard the trigger I could hear the arrow, but I couldn’t see it and I most certainly couldn’t catch it. She had a compatriot somewhere in the crowd. Then I heard the sound of the bolt hitting wood. I blinked away a little more sand and made out the slight figure of Mel standing just to my right, her staff at the level of my heart and the arrow that protruded from it. I shook my head again, but continued to collapse to the ground. Tears finally began to form in my eyes washing away the sand. I fell to my side, my hand still around Amati’s throat.

I watched as Mel dropped her staff and charged across the square. She pulled Reena from her hidden position under a table and tugged the crossbow from her hands and held it up for the crowd to see. She tossed it aside and drew Reena close to her.

"I!" She yelled as she backhanded the other girl. "Have had…" She pushed her away and delivered a round house kick. "Enough of…" Reena fell to her hands and knees, but wouldn’t go down. "Of YOU!" Mel finished as she brought her hands up into one fist and brought them down on Reena’s back and dropped her.

As my eyes began to drop shut from the pain and the loss of blood I saw Ep grab Mel around the waist and pull her off the other girl. The darkness then came for me.


I opened my eyes. Morning light streamed into the room. My eyes hurt. I could feel the scratches left from the sand. They would heal, but I’d be uncomfortable for a few days. My shoulder ached and my arm was in a sling. I knew there were other wounds, but they were minor.

The next thing I felt was the warmth of my wife who slept next to me, her arm firmly around my waist and her head on my shoulder. I felt a third person in the room I glanced down. Mel was asleep in a chair, her head resting on her arms on the bed, her hand on my leg. She opened her eyes and we looked at each other for several long moments.

She finally sat up and moved closer to my head. "Hey pal." She said as she gave me a kiss on the forehead.

"Hey pal." My parched throat made speaking difficult. She knew and she brought a cup of water to my lips and helped me drink. I few sips and I felt much better. "Thanks."

"Aww it’s just a little water." She grinned. "I would have done it for anyone."

"You know what I’m talking about."

"I know." She said softly.



The Raising Melosa Series Continues with Aftermath

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