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.
Other: Part Sixtyseven in the series "Raising Melosa". Takes place right after "What Do You Fear." From Gabrielle, Mel, Autolycus and Xenas POV
It had been a long time since I slept in a bedroll and every muscle in body reminded me just how long it had been. "Ohh Gods ." I groaned as I rolled over.
"Your Majesty?" Mira was at my side in a flash. "Are you all right?"
"Oh Im fine." I chuckled as I sat up. "Its just been a while since Ive slept on the ground and even then I always had a soft warrior mattress." I laughed again. "It does occur to me," I watched as Mira moved to the fire and poured a cup of tea, which she brought back and placed in my hand. "Thank you." I sipped the tea before continuing. "It does occur to me that sleeping outside is for younger, sturdy warriors."
"Please Your Majesty," She smiled. "Youre not that old."
"True, but Im not twenty any more." I smiled at the young woman who was no more than twenty her self.
"Maybe not Your Majesty, but you are still a very beautiful woman." She blushed as she realized what she has just said, she turned away from me, suddenly finding the tree behind her more interesting. "Im sorry Your Majesty. I spoke out of turn."
Well for just a moment I felt a little embarrassed by her remark then I realized I had to push it back. "Mira please dont be concerned with it. It was an innocent comment."
"I should be more careful. I meant no disrespect."
I got up and moved to the young warrior. I turned her around to face me. "None taken Mira. Now lets have our morning meal then get on the road."
"Yes Your Majesty. What would you like for your morning meal?"
"Oh I get a choice huh?"
"Of course Your Majesty. I would never presume to decide what you might like to eat."
"Any trout around?"
"Im sure I can catch a couple in the stream." She seemed more at ease now. I was glad for this. The last thing I needed was a jumpy guard.
"Well then lets go. Id like to wash up before we eat."
We walked down to the river edge. I noticed that she didnt seem to have any fishing gear. "So do you catch them in your bare hands too?"
"Xena catches fish in her bare hands. I was just wondering if it was a warrior thing?"
She plucked a long sharp knife from her boot. "No Your Majesty I spear them."
"Ah, I just knew that particular skill was a quirk unique to my consort." I chuckled as I fingered the medallion under my tunic.
I watched as she slid down the wall. "Mother!"
The solider turned on me snarling as he twirled his sword. "Your turn little amazon! Queen Hera has forbid me to allow you to leave this cave."
I gripped my sword in my hand, prying my eyes from the trail of blood that Mother had left along the smooth cave wall. "Somehow," I growled as I twirled my sword. "I dont think so! Come get it!"
He charged and I engaged.
I removed the keys from my waist. I hadnt wanted to leave Mel and Xena, but Xena had insisted that I need to try and free Artemis while she and Mel kept the guards at bay. I could hear the sword play ringing in the tunnels. I moved further toward the door that we believed held the Goddess. I looked across the cavern. There was a large pit between the door and me. I groaned as I looked down. Mice. It was filled with mice, thousands of them. I was going to have to wade through them to get to the other side. The pit was easily four times my height and went wall to wall of the cavern. There was no way around it.
Taking a deep breath I took my first step in and was buried up to my chest.
I picked myself up off the floor. Damn that hurt. I looked down at the dead soldier at my feet, he had put up a good fight and I felt every damn blow. Im too old for this.
I shook my head and watched as Mel battled her imaginary foe. She was certainly working up a sweat. I knew wouldn't do any good try to help her. This was a battle she'd have to fight on her own. I got to my feet and started down the tunnel towards Autolycus.
As I entered the cavern I watched as my friend struggled across an empty pit. The fear was clearly cut across his face, but he continued for the door. I gripped my sword and moved into the pit. I knew he probably couldnt hear me but I tried to talk him through it. "Come one Autolycus you can do it. Youre almost there. Just a little further."
I watched as he battled his fears continuing forward to the ledge. He quickly pulled himself out and lay on the ledge for a moment, breathing heavy. I noticed a heavy sweat on his brow. His face was dark red and you could see every muscle twitch as the fear and anxiety slowly left his mind. He gathered his breath and rolled onto his hands and knees. He pulled the ring of keys from his waist and moved to the door as he got to his feet. He examined the locks and the keys carefully. There were six keys and six locks. He was taking his time with this and I was grateful.
After nearly half a candle mark he put the sixth key in the sixth lock. When he turned it the door shimmered a bit as a handle with an inscription appeared on the door. Autolycus cocked his head as he read the inscription. "Only the one who is without, shall be allowed in."
As he completed repeating the inscription he blinked several time then looked to me. "Youre dead."
I chuckled. "The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated."
"I saw ."
"No my friend you saw Mels illusion. You both were in a state of hallucination. You were facing your biggest fears ."
Mel came charging into the cavern. She saw me and continued running, she jumped the pit landing very smoothly right in front of me. She didnt say a word she just threw her arms around my neck. "Its okay runt. I got you." I brought my left arm behind her back and stroked it slowly, in soothing strokes. "Im okay runt. See? Whole and very much alive."
She nodded against my neck and pulled back. "We made it?"
"Were almost there Mel. We got one more thing we have to do and then I think were done."
"Right," Autolycus grinned as he gripped the door handle.
He didnt grip it for long. He was sent flying backward as he seemed to get thrown across the room by a large invisible hand. Mel turned, moving to him as he slid down the wall.
"Uncle Auto!" She knelt by his side as he slowly opened his eyes and smiled at her.
"I hate that when that happens." He laughed as he allowed Mel to help him up. "Aww Tartarus that hurts," He grimaced as he wrapped his arm around his mid section. "Broken ribs ." He gasped as Mel assisted him back over to the door.
"Sorry." She helped him to the floor being very careful of his ribs. She looked up to me as she began digging in her pack. "Now what?"
"Well now Im gonna try it." I started to reach for the door."
"You cant!" Mel was one her feet and between the door and me. "You saw what happened to Uncle Auto."
"Mel Ive got nothing to lose by trying. Weve got to get Artemis out of here so she can cure the fever and heal the amazons. Besides, I think Ive got the door figured out." I gave her a little nudge moving her aside. I took a deep breath and place my hand on the door. I smiled, I was right. I pulled the door open. I stepped in side to find Artemis suspended in a white glowing light. She looked as if she were sleeping, hanging in mid air.
"Just furkin wonderful ." Mel mumbled as she came in behind me.
I turned around to look at her. "Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"
She grinned at me as she scratched her neck and shrugged. "Now what?" She gestured to the Goddess.
I looked around the room until my eyes fell upon a tablet. I walked over to see if it would give us the final step for freeing Artemis. I nearly laughed out loud when read the tablet. "Umm Mel?"
"Kiss her." She shot me a look. "Just do it."
"If you say so." She turned to Artemis and placed a soft kiss on the Goddesses lips.
I watched and waited for something to happen. When it didnt I looked to Mel. "Umm Mel, something you want to tell me?"
"The tablet says that only the kiss of a virgin can awaken Artemis. Some thing I should know?"
"No!" She turned to me with her hands on her hips. "Im still well you know umm ."
She stopped as Autolycus began laughing from the doorway as he held his ribs. "Apparently not!"
"Hey!" She turned to him. "Yes I am!" Just as he was about to respond, Artemis began to stir. "Oh thank the Gods." Mel growled as she helped the Goddess to her feet.
We rode into the largest village of the Northern tribes. The devastation was awful. The village square was positively packed with funeral pyres. My heart lurched as I took in bodies wrapped for funeral fires. They were stacked like a cord of wood. "Oh Gods. Xena we need Artemis. Please hurry." Whispered to my consort as we rode to the stables.
As I made my way back into the village the healthy of the women began to crowd around me begging me to help them. I could only guide them through this. The real saving was up to my daughter and my consort.
Artemis smiled at Mel and caressed her cheek. "Thank you Warrior."
"My pleasure." Mel smiled as she continued to hold Artemis arm.
I stepped forward as my body began to slowly lose the battle rush and I suddenly felt tired and wounded. "Artemis the amazons need you. There is a fever." I slowly slid down the wall, coming to rest next to Autolycus. "Help them."
Artemis knelt down next to me, cupping my face in her hands. "Dont worry Xena. The Amazons and your daughter will be healed."
My eyes began to slide shut. If Hades were coming to claim me I could go with him now. My work here was done. "Thank you ." I said as my vision began to grow dark.
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