by Daniel Stevens
DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle, and certain uber-characters in this story
are property of Renaissance Pictures, Studios USA, and Universal/MCA. No
copyright infringement is intended here.
SYNOPSIS: Yet *another* Alternate Third Season Rift Resolution story. (For a while there I just couldn't stay off that subject!) This time Gabrielle flees Xena's wrath over Solan's death, to the one place she thinks even Xena can't find her - the distant future, with no way back. (At least it's the distant future to her.)
SPECIAL NOTE: Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus reigned from 912 to 959 A.D. The Russian/Viking attack on Constantinople portrayed here occurred in 945 A. D.
"Where is she?! Where's Gabrielle?!"
Nearly two weeks have passed since Solan's death at the hands of Hope, the daughter of Dahak, and of... Gabrielle! Ares has now convinced the Warrior that the Bard must die, in order to even that score. She has pursued her former best friend from Themiscyra, all the way to a small harbor town called Byzantium. To all appearances, the pursuit is nearly over.
"She's... in the... Temple of... Artemis,.. Milady!"
Releasing the frightened man, Xena draws her sword, and enters the Temple of Artemis, intending to finish the job here and now. She sees Gabrielle turn to face her, holding a green jewel the size of an apple.
Just as she charges, however, Gabrielle vanishes into thin air! Xena runs into the altar instead, knocking the wind out of herself. A moment later, she turns, to see the jewel reappear, and fall to the floor. The Warrior scoops it up. It's... the Chronos Stone! Standing there, holding it, Xena begins to think of her next plan.
Then, Athena appears.
"Xena, stop! Consider what you are planning!"
"What do you mean?!", as she re-sheathes her sword. The Goddess of Wisdom and Strategy steps forward.
"Artemis has helped Gabrielle go into a far future time, from which there is no returning. You *have* your revenge." Then, "If you do follow her, you will be just as trapped as she is, and *none* of the Olympians will be able to help you get back, either. Not even Zeus."
After a moment's thought, "I'll risk it."
Barely containing her wrath, "Well, in that case, at least have the decency to say good-bye to your family!"
Ares now appears, drawing Athena's wrathful attention upon himself.
"What are you doing here, Nut Boy?!"
"Dear Sister, I'll overlook your rather lame insult because, for once, I agree with you." Then, addressing Xena, "She's telling you the truth. If you follow Gabrielle that far into the future, you'll be trapped there, just as she is."
"You, too?! You're the one who put me up to coming after the little liar!"
Ignoring Athena's 'I thought as much!' look, "I know, but with Artemis' help, she has sent herself to a time when the Olympians are just a memory. The Chronos Stone's power is tied somehow to ours, in a way that not even Athena pretends to understand. That's why it came back all by itself."
After a moment, "If the Olympians no longer rule where she's gone, then who does? Dahak?"
This time, Athena answers Xena's question.
"No. The One God of the Israelites, and His Son, Jesus, rule over that time. Once you enter His time, you'll have no choice *but* to stay there. That's why I said you should say good-bye to your family - starting with *him*.", pointing to Ares.
"I thought as much!" A moment later, "Well, see you around - Daddy! You, too, Aunt Athena. Please give the others my regards."
"We will.", as they vanish.
Xena walks out, mounts Argo, and rides home to Amphipolis. The trip proves to be uneventful. Once there, she tells Cyrene and her brother Toris of Gabrielle's treachery, Solan's death, and Gabrielle's flight into the far future. And her decision to follow. Knowing how pigheaded Xena can be, Cyrene makes only a token effort to talk her out of going.
"Little One, how much more revenge do you want? For all intents and purposes, Gabrielle may as well be dead, from what Athena and your father said. Even the Furies would have to admit that you gave it your best shot."
"Mom, I know, but-"
"I've already lost my youngest son, and a grandson I never even knew about. I don't want to lose you, too. Not like this."
After a moment, "I understand, but I *have* to go. I *will* leave you the scrolls to remember me by, though."
Tearfully, "Very... well,.. then. Good-bye... forever,.. Little... One."
"Good-bye, Sis. We'll miss you."
"Good-bye, Mom, Toris. I'll miss you, too."
Xena gives each of then one last hug, then walks out, mounts Argo, rides down to the beach, and dismounts for one last look at her world. Then, she activates the Chronos Stone.
Xena reappears on the same beach, with Argo and all her gear, but no Chronos
Stone. Almost immediately, she senses an impending attack.
"Allahu akbar!", comes from ten warriors as they charge her. Reacting on instinct, she launches an attack of her own, chakram first. Then, leaping into their midst, Xena weaves a net of death about her with her sword. Soon, the two remaining survivors flee, only to be cut down from behind.
Retrieving her chakram, she looks at her slain foes. Light ring-mail armor. Spired helmets with strange writing on them. Curve-bladed swords. She reaches down, takes a piece of cloth off of one of them, and cleans her weapons.
Then, from behind her, "Bravo!"
She whirls about, to see, "Borias?!", on horseback, with over a hundred armed and armored riders.
"For a lone woman to send ten of the infidels to Hell with such dispatch." Then, "Oops! My apologies. I am Prince Boris Stoyanovich, younger son of the Boyar Chakarov, of Prilep, and these are my retainers."
"Xena, once of Amphipolis."
After a moment, "I've heard that name, in half-forgotten legends. If you are she, then it is truly a miracle of Our LORD." Boris crosses himself, as do his men.
Xena now mounts Argo, and rides slowly over to them. Prince Boris speaks again.
"If you wish, we could join you and the Strymon Militia in teaching the rest of these heathens a lesson."
"I'll keep that in mind, Prince Boris. But tell me, does Amphipolis still exist?"
"Why don't you ask them?"
Xena turns, to see more mounted warriors, in scale armor, approaching. Prince Boris orders a flag of truce.
The two cavalry forces are roughly a hundred yards apart when the leader of the other force rides forward with an escort of but two.
"Well, Boris, let's go see what he has to say."
Xena and Boris ride over to meet with the newcomer.
When Xena gets a good look at the other apparent warlord, she pulls up in surprise.
"Toris, how did you get here?!"
"I've always been here, Milady. I own considerable property in the Strymon Province. I am the Baron Thomas, of Serrai. Prince Boris I know, but who are you?" A moment later, "You do look a little familiar, somehow."
With a double take, "I'm... Xena!"
After a moment, "There is a cycle of legends in my family of a warrior woman named Xena, who vanished without a trace nearly a thousand years ago. But..."
"A thousand *years*!.."
Then, Prince Boris speaks.
"Milord Thomas, this must be her. My men and I saw her kill *those* single-handedly.", pointing at the ten corpses. Then, "I have offered to place my men under her command, if you'll join us in slaughtering the remaining infidels."
"The legends say that Xena was quite capable of doing that, and of leading an army to victory. But before we agree, Milady, what was the name of Xena's younger brother?"
"His name was Lyceus. He was killed in battle against the warlord Cortese, defending Amphipolis. Also, Xena's son was named Solan. The Hunnish Khan Borias was the boy's father."
After a moment, "By all the Saints, it's a miracle! Xena the Great *has* returned! Of course we'll follow you into battle!"
That last is confirmed by shouts of, "Xena! Xena! Xena!", from both forces.
It takes but a short time for Xena to plan the attack, and then to carry out her plan. Quite a few of the raiders, whom she is told are called Saracens, are captured. She pulls one of them aside for interrogation.
"I have just cut off the flow of blood to your brain! You'll be dead in seconds unless you tell me how your people would punish thieves!"
Once provided with that information, she has that sentence carried out on *all* the prisoners, who are then sent home one-handed. Then, the combined force returns to the town they had just saved, which is called Serrai. Enroute, Xena learns that Amphipolis has been deserted for over three hundred years.
Once in Serrai, Xena watches Baron Thomas and Prince Boris go into a sort of temple they call a church, to give thanks for victory. At length, they come out, accompanied by a bearded man dressed in black. He is introduced to her as Father Theophilus. Xena dismounts to greet him.
"Pleased to meet you." Then, "I take it you're a priest of this new God?"
"Yes, I am, and your distant cousin has told me of the legend about you, including your return this day to confound His enemies, who know not His Mercy. I take it, based on what the Baron has told me, that you still worship-"
"*Them*?! Hardly! All the Olympians ever did for me was to cause me a lot of trouble for no good cause. So, since by all accounts I'm now trapped in your world, then if the price of staying here is that I worship your God, that is a price I'll happily pay."
After a moment, "May His Name be praised!" Then, "In that case, you'll need to learn the life story of Our LORD Jesus the Christ, which is shown inside. This way, please."
Once inside, Father Theophilus shows Xena each of the sacred mosaics that cover almost every interior surface of the church. She seems to especially connect with the representations of Mary.
"I met her, and her husband, once. On the road to Egypt."
"Could you tell me about it?"
She does so. When she mentions Gabrielle, the priest can see how conflicted she is on *that* subject. So, he asks Xena about Gabrielle, and she tells him the whole story, including Solan's death.
"Maybe I told you more than I should have, but I had to let it all out, with someone who is in now way involved."
"If I may say something about this Gabrielle?"
"I can see that this Gabrielle hurt you deeply, Xena. But listening to you, I am convinced of two things. First, Gabrielle never meant to hurt you. She was as much a victim of Satan's evil as you and your son. She was put in a no-win situation, and handled it the only way she knew how."
"And my son died as a result!"
"I know. Nonetheless, I think that, deep down inside, you know that what I am telling you is the truth. You think that you hate her now, but in reality, you still think the world of Gabrielle, though you deny it, even to yourself."
"But my son!"
"Xena, your coming here, to our time, apparently using pagan magic to do so, and your willingness to accept Christ, means that you are on the brink of taking the most effective revenge you possibly can, against the raging beast who is truly guilty of your son's blood. Also, concerning Solan, I recall your attention to this mosaic." Father Theophilus points to the representation of 'The Harrowing of Hell', in which Jesus frees all the souls of those who had been righteous in life, but had died before His Coming, from the yawning pit.
"Your son died *before* Our LORD gave His Life to atone for the sins of all humanity, and rose again three days later, having done so, and bringing salvation to all. From what you described of the lad, there's every reason to believe that he's in Heaven now."
"I sincerely hope so."
"Also, from what you've told me of your friend, if she *is* here, then I have to believe that she's *already* trod the foul serpent underfoot by accepting Christ - thus freeing herself from the burden of her guilt by giving it into the hands of He who died to atone for *all* sin."
"She has to be here, in this land."
Then, when you are able to truly forgive her, Our LORD will reunite you."
Weeks pass. Xena remains in Serrai, learning more of Orthodox Christian
teachings from Father Theophilus, and getting to know Baron Thomas and his
family - her family - better. She also learns that Amphipolis was abandoned
when Slavic tribes from the far north had swept over all Greece down to the
Aegean and the Mediterranean, and resettled the areas thus conquered. In
Macedonia, only Thessalonica had held out against the Slavic tide. Serrai was
built over a century ago, when the Empire reclaimed the area. Even now, in
fact, half of all the people in the Strymon Province speak Slavonic rather than
Greek, or are bilingual in both languages. Baron Thomas, her cousin, has also
told her that the Empire is indeed all that's left of Caesar's Roman Empire.
Xena also develops closer ties with Prince Boris, who she finds out is not eligible to inherit his father's title and property under the laws of his native Bulgaria, as he is a younger son. His older brother, Vladimir, will get everything. Not that it matters to Xena. More and more, Boris reminds her of the man that her Borias was trying to become when Dagnine murdered him. More and more, they feel drawn to one another. More and more, Xena is determined *not* to mess it up this time, or to allow anyone else to.
One evening, after dinner, they are out in the formal garden on Baron Thomas' estate, talking.
"Xena, I know that I remind you of your Hunnish Khan, but much as I am coming to love you, I can never *be* him."
"Boris, I know that. I'm not *asking* you to be him. In fact, as far as I can see, both the similarities *and* the differences are in all the right places in you. So, if anything, you're an improvement. Boris, I love you as you are."
With that, the two embrace for the first time.
Then, the summons comes. Xena is called to an audience with the Emperor
Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. Prince Boris agrees to accompany her to
Constantinople, while Baron Thomas familiarizes her with Imperial Court
When Xena sees Constantinople for the first time, she dismounts from Argo, and
kneels in awe.
"My Love, if you think the City is glorious from out here, wait until you see it from within the walls. I have."
Entering through the Golden Gate, they proceed along the Triumphal Way, and the Mese, passing through the various Imperial Fora. The City has more people living and working within it's walls than Xena would have thought possible! Xena, remembering what Thomas had told her, sees scant evidence of any fading of Imperial glory - even if, in so many ways, the Roman Empire has changed beyond all recognition.
Finally, they reach the Imperial Districts, which is highlighted by the Hippodrome, where there used to be chariot races, but these are no longer fashionable. Other highlights are the Imperial Palace, and the great Cathedral Church of Holy Wisdom. Soon, they are led into the Imperial Palace, where they are assigned apartments for their visit.
Once they are apparently alone, Xena discusses her impressions of the City with Prince Boris.
"Boris, did you see those walls?!
"Xena, no enemy has *ever* been able to breach those walls, save by treachery within."
"I can see why!" Then, "I can also see why many have tried."
"My people among them, more times than I care to think about." Then, "I'll not be taking part in any more such ventures. Not if you and I are to be married, and to live with your cousin, the Baron, as subjects of the Empire."
The next day, Xena is called before the Emperor. After the initial ceremonial,
the Emperor speaks.
"We have heard of how you came to us from the pagan past, to wage war upon our enemies today. The LORD has truly acted in bringing you to us, Xena - even if He allowed your use of pagan sorcery to accomplish His Will."
"And in many other ways, to help all who call upon His Name, Your Imperial Majesty. As I have learned since my arrival. I am to be baptized upon my return to Serrai."
"If you are that far along in learning the Holy Mysteries of Christ, then there is no reason you cannot be baptized here, in the Church of Holy Wisdom. Your parish priest shall be notified of the Imperial Will."
The next day, Xena, the one-time Warrior Princess, is duly baptized in Holy Wisdom, by the Patriarch of Constantinople himself. After she receives Communion for the first time, Xena is then married to Prince Boris, and the Emperor bestows an estate upon the couple, adjacent to Baron Thomas'.
A week later, the Baron and Lady Chakarova return to their new estate, outside Serrai, to put it in order, and commence their life together as a married couple.
Gabrielle appears in an open area, in the middle of what has to be the largest city she has ever seen! It is also a city under threat of imminent attack, from all appearances. Attack from land and sea.
She goes up onto the nearest section of the wall to have a look. It proves to look out over a narrow strait on one side, open water on another, and a river on the third. The strait is crowded with primitive looking galleys with carvings of dragons on the prows, and white square sails blazoned with ravens.
"Who are they?", she asks a nearby soldier.
"Those are Russian Vikings, Ma'am. They suddenly appeared in the Bosporus, while the Imperial Fleet was away dealing with the infidel pirates of Crete. Now, every available soldier is being called in to defend the City. May God in His Mercy once more grant His children victory over the heathen. Constantinople *must* hold."
"What can I do to help?"
"Besides that. Surely field hospitals are being organized."
"Right this way,.."
The soldier leads her to the nearest field hospital, where she is immediately put to work. The staff doesn't take long to be impressed by her energy and competence, as the one-time Bard applies everything Xena had taught her about battlefield healing. Soon, all sense of guilt over Solan's death is drowned by her sense of urgent purpose. It doesn't matter that the news worsens with each hour, as the siege begins.
The first good news comes the next day, when the barbarians assault the walls by
land and sea. Thinking, as usual, to win through numbers and courage alone,
they launch a series of frontal assaults, hoping thus to take Constantinople by
storm and put the City to the sack. Since the attacks are not coordinated, and
they have virtually no siege engines, the resulting bloody routs are all too
predictable. By late afternoon, when Gabrielle goes up on the wall with water
for the troops, the water outside is littered with enemy dead. The Romans (as
they still call themselves) have, by contrast, suffered fairly few casualties.
"Maybe they'll think twice about trying that again."
It is the soldier from the day before.
"Maybe." Gabrielle is surprised at how dispassionate she is at the sight of such carnage. Then, "I never did catch your name, though."
"Michael. And you're Gabrielle, I believe."
"You remembered. I'm flattered."
"Not to worry, Gabrielle. LORD willing, once the Imperial Fleet returns from Crete, we'll chase the tow-headed savages back to Scythia where they belong."
"I hope so."
More good news arrives the next day. A contingent of reinforcements arrives
from Thessalonica and surrounding areas, slashing their way into the City.
Hidden in that good news, however, are tidings that make Gabrielle's fear and
guilt return in full force.
"Did you see the Lady Chakarova in action?"
"She was magnificent!"
"Took on ten of the savages herself, and killed them all!"
"Caught arrows in flight with her bare hands!"
"And that round thing she throws! I've never seen anything like it!"
Gabrielle, overhearing all of this, thinks to herself, 'I have.' Then, 'She's *here*, in the City. My life's not worth a plug dinar now.'
The following days confirm Gabrielle's worst fears, as more tales of the Lady Xena Chakarova's heroics filter through Constantinople. encouraging the defenders as the siege wears on. Nonetheless, Gabrielle throws herself into her work, not only because she's sorely needed, but even more to forget that she's trapped in a besieged City with a woman who can *only* be her worst nightmare - Xena! Still, late at night, the fear and guilt return, robbing her of sleep.
Meanwhile, on the wall in another part of the City, Lady Xena Chakarova starts
hearing other stories. Stories of a fair-haired angel of mercy working in a
field hospital near the Imperial District. Stories of her energy, competence,
and seemingly boundless compassion for her patients. And of the excellent
stories she would tell both her patients and staff.
'Gabrielle's here, in the City. At last.'
Xena decides to give Gabrielle a little space, at least for now. To quietly observe her from a distance. To see if she can learn what's truly in the former Bard's heart now. Time enough to confront her later.
Gabrielle's guilty nightmares continue, even as she learns more about the City,
and it's ways. As she learns more about Orthodox Christian teachings, and
priests, she begins to think that she should perhaps talk to one of them about
the whole mess.
Finally, during a lull in the siege, when the Vikings disperse to ravage some easier targets, Gabrielle acts. Going to a church called Saint Irene's, she asks to speak to a priest. The Rector of the church comes out, and introduces himself as Father Nicephorus, as Xena follows the smaller woman inside, seeking shelter in a dark shaded area along the side of the church.
"You asked to see me, Ma'am?"
"Yes, Father. There's something I need to talk to you about."
After a moment, "Very well. That's what I'm here for."
Gabrielle tells him the whole story concerning Hope, Solan's death, and Xena's wrath, which had chased her here. She does not spare herself in the least. She also speaks of her certainty that Xena, too, is in the City. Once she is done, the priest thinks for a moment, before speaking.
"Gabrielle, I can tell that you have sincerely repented of the sins you have just confessed to me. There is still one thing you must do as soon as possible. You must profess Christ Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. Are you ready to do this?"
After a moment's hesitation, "Yes, I am."
The two kneel before the church's icon screen. Then, Father Nicephorus leads her in prayer, to that effect. She is then scheduled for a new convert's class, to lead to baptism. He also teaches her the Jesus Prayer, then departs, leaving her to pray and reflect.
Unknown to Gabrielle, Xena now kneels where she is, to pray for a spirit of true forgiveness. Soon, a sense of peace, and of overflowing compassion for her prodigal friend, fills her. She rises, to go out to Gabrielle.
Xena walks over to where Gabrielle is kneeling, kneels beside her, and crosses herself. She can hear Gabrielle praying, "Lord Jesus Christ,.. Son of God,.. have mercy on me,.. a sinner.", repeatedly. After a moment, she also begins the same prayer, in unison with Gabrielle.
After a few moments, both fall silent. A silence one could cut with a knife. Each one waiting for the other to speak.
Finally, "Hello, Xena. Even here, you find me."
"It's good to see you again, at long last."
"Do you mean the nearly thousand years we both crossed, with no way back?"
"And the six years since I got here."
After a moment, "Six years?! I just got here a few weeks ago, just as the siege was beginning."
"I figured as much when I heard you talking to the priest."
"How much did you hear?"
"Everything. I know I shouldn't have eavesdropped, but I had to know what's in your heart."
"I understand." Then, a moment later, "So, what now?"
"Gabrielle, through Christ, God forgave me all my many sins, which are far more numerous, and far worse, than yours. Who am I to refuse to forgive you your one sin against me, now that I know that your repentance is sincere? Besides, I have come to realize that Solan would *want* me to forgive you."
With that, Xena reaches over to take Gabrielle's hand in hers, and squeezes gently. Gabrielle finally looks at her, through tears. Xena's warm smile is then returned.
"Ironic, isn't it, Gabrielle?"
"This whole mess began in one temple, hit rock bottom in another, and is finally resolved in a church."
After a moment, "I do see the irony of it, now."
"Gabrielle, in the Temple of Artemis, I was a fool. I'm sorry. Not to mention the way I was taking you for granted when the whole mess started.
"Xena, I was a fool not to see Hope for what she really was until it was too late. I, too, am truly sorry."
They stand, and share a big hug, like the long-parted friends they once more are.
That evening, Xena introduces Gabrielle to her husband, Baron Boris Chakarov.
"So you're the young lady I've heard so much about from Xena."
"I... guess so. And, if my memories of what Xena's told me about her past are correct, you're practically a-"
"Dead ringer for the Hunnish Khan Borias? I know. Xena's told me all about him. In fact, before we got married, I warned her that, despite the apparent similarities, I could never be him."
"Not that I've ever asked him to he. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, the similarities *and* the differences are in all the right places, so, if anything, Boris here is an improvement over the original. Best of all, we've built our life together on a much more stable foundation than the vicious greed and savagery of that other relationship. We own one of two estates held by my family about the town of Serrai. My cousin Thomas owns the other."
"Well, ladies, it's time to eat."
"I trust you're not having Xena fix the meals?"
Boris gives Gabrielle an, 'Are you kidding?', look.
The next day, the ringing of church bells resound throughout Constantinople.
Xena, Boris, and Gabrielle run up to the section of wall held by the Strymon
contingent, to have a look.
A fleet of modern-looking galleys is headed past the City, coming from the south. On their lateen-rigged sails is blazoned the two-headed Imperial Eagle. The Imperial Fleet had returned from it's attack on Crete, and is moving to engage the barbarian longboats.
Xena cheers, waving her chakram over her head. Gabrielle, on the other hand, is horrified by the effect of Greek Fire on the Vikings.
Suddenly, Xena grabs Gabrielle, and scoops her up into a big bear hug, lifting the one-time Bard off her feet in the process.
"Gabrielle, we've *WON*! Praise God, we've *WON*!"
Gabrielle just hangs on for dear life.
Weeks later, the mess created by the siege is still being cleaned up, but the
Russian Vikings are gone. Gabrielle has been baptized, and the Strymon
contingent is beginning the journey home. Gabrielle is going with them.
During the intervening time, they had caught up on a lot of things. Xena had, for instance, confessed to lying to Gabrielle about killing Ming Tien, and why, and Gabrielle had forgiven her. She had also told the former Bard about Amphipolis being abandoned three hundred years earlier, and more or less replaced by a fortress town called Serrai.
Another time, Xena had entered her room, to ask a favor.
"How would you like to be the governess and instructor of our three children?"
"Yes. Two boys, Isaac and John, and a girl. You have three guesses as to her name, and the first two are wrong."
"Xena, you didn't..."
"Yes, I named her Gabrielle. She's three now."
"You mean to tell me that you forgave me-"
"Five years ago."
"In that case, I'd be crazy to turn down such an offer."
"Thanks, Gabrielle. By the way, it might interest you to know that I believe I've found some of Lila's descendants."
"In Thessalonica. Potidaea no longer exists, either. They're artisans and merchants now. I've talked some of them into moving to our estate. They can help you learn to speak Slavonic."
"The language of about half the people in the Strymon Province nowadays. Isaac speaks it as well as he does Greek, and your little namesake is learning it, as well.")
As the Strymon contingent leaves, both women turn in the saddle, for one last look at the Imperial Banner flying over Constantinople's Golden Gate.
Taiko's Scrolls of the Xenaverse