Disclaimers: Don't belong to me. Never belonged to me, but they are one of the few toys I bring out to play with from time to time. Many thanks to TPTB for allowing us to do that, even 20 years later.
Click here for more of T. Novan's Fan Fiction
The Eternity Series #1
By T. Novan
The aged healer sat by the woman's bedside. He glanced at the flickering candle, also noticing the sand running through the hourglass next to it.
The room was quiet, except for the raspy breathing of the woman in the bed. He checked her pulse, it was slowing with every passing moment and he knew it would not be long before the woman would be paying the toll.
The door to the little room opened, an older, matronly woman entered the room with a tray which she placed on a small table near the door. "How is she?"
"It won't be much longer now." The healer stood and moved to the tray of food which was clearly for him, his patient hadn't eaten in several days from what he understood.
"I wonder who she is." The older woman looked to the bed and shook her head. "She's not that old. Younger than me."
"Driane, everyone is younger than we are." The old healer chuckled. "She's not a young woman. She's got many years on that body. The scars are testament that. And I'm not sure where in the world one would get the tattoos."
The healer shook his head as he began eating his meal. He had no idea. No one in the village did. The woman had shown up about six months before, paid for her room for the duration in gold coin. After that, she stayed to herself, never saying more than had to be said to any one person. She took her meals in her room and never strayed a foot from the inn after she had taken up residence.
The only person in the entire village, who knew anything about her at all, was a boy of about twelve. The villagers called him, Silence because he was mute. No one knew his real name. No one cared. The unusual woman had taken a liking to the boy. She paid him to take care of her horse and as far as anyone knew, Silence was the only person the woman had said more than two words to.
Silence would bring the woman her meals and they would sit together for hours, with the mysterious traveler speaking quietly between them as they ate by the fire. People assumed she had taken a shine to the boy because he was the least likely person in the village to reveal whatever tales she chose to impart. He couldn't speak and as far as anyone knew, he couldn't read or write either, so she must have gleaned her secrets would be safe with him.
It had been Silence who had shown up on the healer's doorstep two weeks before, frantically trying to get the old man to follow him. He had tugged and pulled on the healer's sleeves and tunic to no avail. The old man, thinking that the simple boy had finally lost his mind refused to go with him. It was only when Silence grabbed the healer's bag from the hook by the door and ran away with it, that he was forced to follow the boy.
Looking back over his shoulder, Silence made sure to move swiftly enough not to get caught by anyone in the crush as he dashed through, but slowly enough the old man would be able to keep an eye on him as he hobbled through the crowd behind him on his walking staff.
The old man shook his head when the boy ran into the inn. Once inside, Driane did explain to him that one of her customers was sick and asked if he would look in on her. Silence stood at the bottom of the steps and held the bag out, shaking it furiously in his fist as he gestured up the stairs.
"It's not in my nature to work for free." The old man grumbled as he made his way to the steps. "Who is going to pay her bill?"
"Well, I…" Driane mumbled softly, shaking her head.
Silence watched the adults. Driane was refusing to pay the fee and the healer was looking like he might leave. He frantically pulled a small pouch from his shirt. He pulled the looped cord from his neck and offered the jingling bag to the healer.
The old man took the pouch and poured nearly ten gold pieces into his hand. "Where did you get this much money, Silence? Did you steal it, boy?"
The boy shook his head and pointed up the stairs, tugging on the bag he had refused to relinquish.
Driane offered from her spot by the bar. "He's been working for the customer. She must have paid him for running errands."
Silence nodded, tugging the bag again.
The healer looked between the boy and the woman. A few customers scattered around various tables paid attention to what the healer would do next. One man at a table in the corner yelled, "The boy paid you! More than enough! Go tend to the woman, Old Man!"
Watching the look on the boy's face, the old healer's heart softened just a bit. There was anguish clearly written on his young features. He was certainly concerned for the strange woman who had become his friend over the last few months.
"Alright, Silence. Take me to your friend."
That had been two weeks ago. When he had first looked in on her, the woman had been suffering from what appeared to be a bad cold, but it had quickly become something far worse and no matter what he tried do to heal her, she didn't respond to his treatments. After about ten days it was clear all he could do was make her comfortable and wait for the end.
Silence had disappeared three days before when he had been told his friend was not going to survive. No one in the village had seen him since, assuming he was distraught and had run off to deal with his sorrow in his own way.
As the healer and the matron sat at the table talking quietly, the woman in the bed groaned and exhaled her last breath.
Hades watched as Xena paced. In the same damn spot she had paced for more than 20 years. She had actually managed to wear a rut about six feet long and three inches deep in the stone floor under her feet.
"It will still take a few days for her to arrive," the God of the Underworld mumbled as he sipped from a cup of sweet wine. "She still has to see Charon."
"I've waited this long, what's a few more days!" The warrior tossed her arms in the air in a frustrated gesture the God had learned very quickly after her arrival.
"Are you ready to tell her?"
"No." The warrior shook her head guiltily and began pacing again.
"You know you must."
"I know." This time she nodded. "And I will, it's the deal we made and I will stick to it." She stopped, turning to the God who sat in his throne, looking a bit bored. "You do intend to honor our deal, correct?"
"I do." He nodded. "When you reveal the truth to Gabrielle, if she doesn't turn her back on you, I will see to it that you are together, forever."
Xena nodded. She had known this would be the place that finally decided her eternal fate. She had to wait twenty years for the Bard to arrive and now in a few short days she would know if she would live happily with Gabrielle or suffer in Tartarus.
The Warrior had spent nearly two decades pacing the same path in Hades' chamber, day after day, night after night. Not once in her time before him had Hades seen her leave the spot or even sit down. Her penance was self inflicted, but he found it somewhat satisfying.
"How do you think she will react?" Hades was curious. Mortals still fascinated him and these two more than about any others.
"The Gabrielle I knew then, when we were young, will forgive me when I tell her why." Xena shook her head, resuming her well worn path. "I'm not sure about the Gabrielle who has spent the last twenty years alone, raging at me nearly every day for leaving her. Allowing me to hear her was cruel."
"Leaving her was cruel." He tapped his booted foot.
"I know," she snarled as she turned murderous eyes on the handsome God. "But you know I had to do it to get here!"
Silence rode on the back of the lead horse, securely tucked away behind the fearsome Amazon warrior who guided the animal with gentle tugs to the reins. Looking behind him, he swallowed hard, not sure how his little village would react to the seven women riding towards it.
He had done as his friend had asked.
She knew she was dying, of a broken heart she had told him. The woman had told him amazing stories about a warrior of some renown and stature many years ago. She had spent weeks and weeks telling him of all their adventures.
She had laughed; telling him of days spent just wandering the world, without what seemed to be any care in the world. She and her warrior would hunt, fish and she even smiled once and admitted quietly they would make love under stars, guarded by the trees above them.
She only commented on that aspect of their life together once, telling Silence that he was still a bit too young for that much information, but he could tell when she talked about the warrior, there was no doubt she loved her.
After a few months, Silence realized that his friend's stories must be coming to an end. He watched as she seemed to lose interest in everything but telling the stories. Eventually, she even stopped eating. He could coax her into taking a bit of water or wine when she had been talking for many hours, but other than that, he simply could not convince her to eat. Not even when he brought her sweets, for some reason they made her cry.
Finally, confined to bed, she continued in a raspy voice to tell her stories. He sat diligently by her side, holding her hand and listening to every quietly uttered word. Late one night, the lovely lady finally stopped talking and closed her eyes, barely breathing.
That was when Silence had fetched the healer who sat with the woman until she died.
Early on, she had asked him to take a scroll to the Amazon village a couple days away as her time drew near. When the healer had told him he had done all he could do, Silence knew it was time to set out to honor his friend's last request.
He hadn't been scared by the trip. He had made lots of trips away from the village. It was where he had been asked to go. He had always heard the Amazons ate men and he had no desire to be made into a stew.
The lovely woman had smiled when he had managed to communicate his fears to her through a series of frantic gestures. She had stilled his hands and placed in them, a small leather and bronze seal on a necklace.
"If you show them this, they will know you bring a message from a former Queen." The blonde woman had reassured him with a gentle, mother-like caress to his cheek. "They won't hurt you, I promise."
And they hadn't!
As soon as Silence had shown them the necklace, the Amazon warriors all dropped to one knee before him and bowed their heads! This was the only time in his life, Silence wished he could talk. Though he knew as he watched the Amazons pick up the paces of their horses that no one would ever believe him.
They arrived in the village just as the sun was rising and the people began moving around bringing the little community to life. As the Amazons rode into the center of town every last person stopped and every head turned.
Women gathered children behind them and scooted towards the shelters of homes and shops. A few of the men gathered in a bunch and met the women in the center of town. This village had never had trouble with the Amazons and they didn't want to start having any now.
The leader of the party helped Silence down and then dropped down from her horse. She surveyed the men critically, eyeing one who appeared to be a mayor or magistrate of some kind.
"My name is Queen Ansa of the Amazons. We have come to collect our Queen."
"Queen?" The man looked confused and shook his head. "There is no Amazon queen here. I'm sorry, you've been misinformed. Please leave us in peace."
The tall, imposing woman looked to Silence, who nodded. The Queen shook her head as she withdrew a scroll from the belt at her waist. "Our former Queen, Gabrielle. She has been staying at your inn."
The man took a deep breath and nodded. The healer had told him about the woman who had died, but no one had a clue she had been Amazon. "I'm sorry, your friend died."
"We know," the Queen nodded. "We have come to collect her and take her to be placed among her sisters and our elders."
Within an hour or so, Gabrielle's body and belongings, such as they were, had been collected. Silence watched with tears streaking down his cheeks as his friend's body, wrapped in a brightly colored cloth, signifying her importance to the Amazon Nation, was lifted over the back of the Queen's horse.
Queen Ansa, by tradition, was expected to give her mount to the departed Queen and walk beside her on the return trip. It was a sign of respect and would announce the Nation's mourning upon their return to the village.
As they prepared to leave, Ansa turned and walked over to the boy as the villagers stood by. She led Gabrielle's horse, the young mare that Silence had been caring for the entire time. She stopped and reached out, removing the amulet from under his shirt and placed it prominently on his chest. Once it was on display, the collected villagers gasped as the Amazon's knelt and bowed their heads before the boy.
Finally, the queen stood and held out the horses reins. "You served our Queen well during her time of need. We know she would be honored for you to have her mount." She twitched the hand holding the leather straps when the boy hesitated.
With a nod and smile, he finally took them. Ansa smiled and cupped his cheek. "You are a friend of the Amazons. You will always be under our protection. Thank you. If you ever need us, we will be here."
Xena stopped pacing and cocked her head to one side. She listened for a moment and then for the first time ever observed by Hades, she crumpled to her knees, her body wracked with sobs.
"What it is?" Hades stood from his throne, his head also cocking to one side, trying to hear anything over the keening wails erupting from Xena's collapsed form.
"Her heart has stopped beating. She's not breathing! I can't hear her anymore!"
Hades chewed hip lip for a moment and decided to go for broke. "Isn't that good? It means she will be here sooner than later."
Xena sat up, her hands resting on her thighs as she remained kneeling. She drew a deep calming breath and nodded. "It does. But she should have…"
"Should have what, Xena?"
"Had a happy life. Because of me, she suffered."
"Yes, she did." The dark God nodded as he stepped forward. "But if you're so sure of her, she will have an eternity of happiness. Right?"
"A life time of misery for an eternity of happiness?"
"Seems a fair trade." Hades shrugged. "As long as she doesn't forsake you."
"She won't." Xena nodded defiantly and stood, resuming her pacing. "I have faith in Gabrielle. She always makes it right."
"We shall see," Hades commented as he retook his seat and watched the warrior pace.
It felt like an eternity since she had stepped off the boat on the other side of the river. Gabrielle took a deep breath and followed a path seemingly for her and her alone.
The caverns were dark and dank; torches flickered ahead every few feet to light the way. She had no choice in her direction; it was a single tunnel with no options for left or right. She continued moving, wondering when a God, any God was going to show up. They always did.
After walking for what seemed like days, she stopped, hearing voices coming from the distance. She didn't recognize the male voice, but she knew the female voice.
With strength and determination she didn't realize she had, Gabrielle began running forward.
One word ripped from her lungs as she did, "Xena!"
A dark head swung back toward the entrance of the cavern. The sound of pounding feet was unmistakable. She knew those steps. She had listened to that gate for so many years it was as much a part of her as her own heartbeat.
"Gabrielle," she whispered quietly watching the shadows jumping in the torchlight as the bard made her way through the tunnel.
Hades had never experienced so much tension in a room before. As soon as Gabrielle appeared in the doorway of the cavern and laid eyes on Xena, the hair on his arms began to stand straight up. He watched, without a word as the blonde woman stopped for a heartbeat, then slowly crossed the chamber.
Their eyes never left each other. Breathing increased to a nearly painful degree for both of them. Xena felt rooted to the spot she had been treading on for the last two decades as she watched the woman she loved walk towards her.
By the time they were within arm's reach of each other, they were both in tears, but still had not said a word to each other.
Then it happened and it made Hades flinch.
The Bard delivered a viscous slap to Xena's face, "YOU LEFT ME ALONE!"
Xena took the slap without even flinching. She nodded and offered quietly, "I know."
"Why?" Gabrielle dropped to the floor, sobbing. Her body shook with the effort it took to control her tears; she lifted her face and whispered, "Why?"
Xena wanted nothing more than to gather Gabrielle up in her arms and comfort her, but she knew what she had to do first. Slowly she knelt down and said, "I had to."
"No, you didn't!" Gabrielle wiped her cheeks roughly, removing the fresh tears she simply could not control."
"Yes, I did. I had to get us here. To this place and in this time."
"Why?" A blonde head swung in Hades direction and even the God of the Underworld swallowed hard. "What part do you have in all this?"
"I," Xena reached out and took Gabrielle's hand. "Have to explain it all to you. Will you let me? Please?"
Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, the bard nodded. "Go ahead."
"Look at me, please?"
Green eyes opened and met blue. Despite herself, Gabrielle smiled. "Tell me your story, Warrior."
Xena wanted to burst into tears at that smile, but she managed to smile herself as she chuckled, "Yeah, remember I'm the warrior here, not the bard."
Gabrielle nodded encouragingly. "Go on."
With a deep breath, Xena sat back on her heels and looked Gabrielle directly in the eye and said, "I knew everything."
A blonde head shook. "I'm not sure I understand."
Xena nodded, "The day I met you. I knew everything that would happen to us from that day forward. All of it, or at least the major things, the details were never really filled in."
"You knew? You knew about Hope and Ares and…"
Xena nodded, unable to meet the bard's eyes. "I did."
"You knew about Jappa? That you would leave me?"
A dark head nodded again.
"You still took me with you. Led me into that life, all that pain. Why?"
"Because," Xena's mouth was impossibly dry for the first time in a very long time. She licked her lips and tried again. "Because, I love you."
"Well," Gabrielle jumped up. "That's a very interesting way of showing it! You could have changed anything, at anytime. Saved us both so much…"
Xena remained kneeling.
Hades considered that it looked almost submissive to Gabrielle the way Xena kept her head down as she offered, "No, I couldn't."
"I had to get us here and any little change, any minor deviation from what I had been shown would have resulted in us being torn apart forever. It had to go the way I had been shown so we would end up here, together."
"I've got news for you, Xena," Gabrielle bent over and poked the dark haired woman in the chest. "It has felt like forever! Twenty years I wandered around alone, hating every minute of my wretched life."
"I know," Xena nodded feeling miserable and guilty.
"And do you know why?"
"I left you."
Gabrielle cupped Xena's face and made her look up. "Yes, you did. But," she smiled slowly, allowing her thumbs to caress eyes she had only dreamt of for so long. "I did it because, I knew, too."
Xena's eyes went wide. "You knew?"
Drawing a deep breath and releasing it slowly, she nodded and retook a seat in front of her soul mate. "I did. Same as you. I knew we had to get here, but now I have no idea what happens from this point. Do you?"
"How did you know?" Xena shook her head and glared at Hades who gestured his innocence in the situation.
"You're never going to believe this," Gabrielle chuckled. "Ares told me."
"Why would Ares…"
Gabrielle shook her head. "I have no idea. I didn't even realize for years who it was that had been visiting me in my dreams before you arrived in my life."
"Because," Ares voice suddenly boomed into the cavern as he flashed into being. "I knew that in the absolute end, none of us but, you deserved to be with Xena. I also knew that my very cunning Uncle here was never going to let any land or Gods have Xena. She would have to come here no matter where or how she died."
"What can I say," Hades snapped his fingers and a wine goblet appeared in his hands. "I thought it would be amusing."
"Given that she died outside Greece and I knew from those Fate bitches that she would," Ares decided wine for himself was a good idea as well, and conjured a goblet twice the size of the one Hades had.
"Goblet envy," Xena whispered, causing Gabrielle to snort her amusement.
Ares shot Xena an annoyed look, but opted to ignore her. "So," he smiled at Gabrielle in a way that one might describe as sweet. If it were a word one could apply to Ares. "I decided to put a bit of a knot in the Fate's Loom and Unc's plans."
"And that knot would be?" Gabrielle's head swung sideway to look at Ares.
"Well, now see," The God of War grinned. "That's all on you now. I got you this far, the rest is up to you."
"This is where the slate becomes blank, Gabrielle." Xena finally stood and offered both her hands to the woman before her. "We can start again. Free and clear. No past. No debts."
"Another resurrection? I'm not sure I can take it." The bard shook her head. "It gets old after awhile. I think I'd rather take my chances here."
Once again the cavern was filled with an unexpected presence, this time a silver shimmering light. The warrior and the bard both smiled when she appeared.
"Oh wonderful," Hades and Ares groaned and rolled their eyes at the same time.
"Now we can't have that!" Aphrodite chirped as she threw her arms around both the warrior and the bard as she got between them. When she placed kisses on the cheeks of her two favorite mortals, Gabrielle chuckled and Xena growled.
"Some things never change with you, tall dark and deadly." The Goddess of love quipped as she pinched Xena's butt.
"Hey!" Both Xena and Gabrielle chimed at the same time.
"Hands off," Gabrielle snarled. She had always liked the ditzy Goddess but some things were simply off limits no matter how much time had passed.
"Oooo," Aphrodite pulled her hands up and took a step back. "Look whose all blonde and badass now! I LOVE it!"
"You would." Ares rumbled from his spot near Hades.
"So," the blonde Goddess turned to her male family members. "Game is over. Let them go."
"Not just yet," Hades shook his head. "Gabrielle has not made her decision."
"Yes, she has." Ares rolled his eyes and drank deeply from his goblet.
"What decision?" Gabrielle looked between every face and finally stopped on the one that always held the answer to any question. Xena's head tilted slightly to the right and she smiled gently. She didn't have to say a word
The bard turned to Hades, squared her shoulders and said loud and clearly, "I choose Xena."
"Yes!" Aphrodite pumped her fist.
Hades head dropped. He should have known. Games with these two mortals always had the Gods on the losing side. "Very well. Xena, the immortality I promised you, is granted."
The God of the Underworld waived his hand, opening a portal. The view through the portal was a small village, quiet and from the looks of it very peaceful.
Xena took Gabrielle's hand and mumbled, "Let's go."
"Xena, did he say…" The blonde's head was swinging wildly back and forth between her partner and the God of the Underworld.
Aphrodite scooted up behind them and ushered them to the portal, "Go, before he changes his mind."
"Aphrodite," Gabrielle started to protest.
The Goddess caught the smaller woman by the shoulders and looked her in the eye, for the first time Gabrielle had ever known her; Aphrodite's demeanor was totally serious. "You two keep love alive. I need you to go through that portal. I need the two of you to go and do what you have always been meant to do, love each other, forever."
The Goddess smiled and brushed a lock back from Gabrielle's forehead. "Gods perish Gabrielle, you know that."
The Bard nodded, knowing that fact all too well. "But you always seem to find a way back."
"Thanks to people like you," the Goddess nodded. "And we need love in the world. Now more than ever" She winked and whispered conspiratorially, "I've got your back."
"I think you always have." Gabrielle nodded.
Xena took a step closer to the portal and extended her hand.
"A clean slate?" Gabrielle asked Aphrodite. "Forever? No more interfering?"
"Cross my heart." The Goddess nodded as she performed the gesture. "Never again."
"Come on," Xena cajoled. "We've got an eternity to make up for a lifetime." She wiggled her fingers, requesting once again for Gabrielle to join her.
With a nod, she took a step forward and took Xena's hand, pausing to look in her eyes, "Forever?"
Xena nodded, reassuring with a smile as they took their first step into eternity together, "Forever."
Click here for more of T. Novan's Fan Fiction
Return to AUSXIP's The Bard's Corner