Part 10 Conclusion
"Uh, Gabrielle, I´m not sure that would be such a good idea."
"Please, Callias. I have to see him. Maybe if I can speak to him face to face, I´ll finally be able to make some sense out of this mess." The Queen looked earnestly at her Captain. "I won´t be able to stop you if you alert the guards or Xena, all I can do is to ask you to respect my wish and that´s what this is. This is not an order, Callias. This is a wish, a request between friends."
They were standing alone at the edge of the slope, looking toward the enemy army which had retreated back to their tents at the other side of the plain.
The Amazon sighed and looked back at her Queen. "Gabrielle, I understand why you want to do this, I really do, but you can´t just walk into their camp and ask to speak to Lykeas. It might be dangerous, they might choose to use you as a hostage."
Gabrielle shook her head slowly, "He won´t do that."
"How do you know that?"
The blond woman stared towards the horizon again, "I just do."
The Captain glanced hesitantly back at their own camp. Their immediate surroundings were deserted and Gabrielle would be able to cross a big part of the plain, before the other guards would notice her and alert the troops. She sighed again and turned to the Queen who was looking at her expectantly.
"I´m gonna get into so much trouble with Xena if I let you do this."
They were both silent for a moment then Gabrielle reached out and put her hand on the Amazon´s shoulder. "Please, Callias. I know I don´t have any right to ask you this, but-."
"Yes, yes you do," the Captain interrupted. "It´s just, I mean…you don´t even know if he wants to see you. Maybe it´ll all be in vain."
The Queen smiled, "I know, but I have to try anyway." The smile faded, "It´ll help me sleep at nights."
Callias nodded slowly, "Do you want me to accompany you?"
"Thanks, but I need you to stall anybody who might try to stop me." She gave the warrior´s shoulder a squeeze. "But don´t go over the top, I don´t want you to get hurt."
The Captain gave her a pale smile, "I won´t."
Gabrielle looked at her for a second then she turned and started to walk down the slope.
"Be careful, okay?"
The Queen smiled at her soldier, "I promise."
It was late afternoon when Gabrielle reached the enemy camp. The two guards posted there quickly exchanged a few words and then one left towards the centre of the camp, while the other walked out to meet the young woman.
"Your Majesty," the soldier looked at her in puzzlement before giving her a small bow, and Gabrielle recognized him as one of the young men Lykeas had been working with. "What are you doing here?"
"I need to speak with your leader," the bard spoke in her most regal tone. "I have a few things, I need to discuss with him."
"Have you changed your mind about the terms?" The soldier´s eyes narrowed slightly, "I mean, the duel. Is Xena backing out?"
Gabrielle shook her head, "No, the terms are the same."
"But what is it then?"
The bard gave him a look. "I´ll discuss that with Lykeas and nobody else."
The young man stared at her then nodded slowly, "As you wish, Your Majesty."
They heard running footsteps and turned to see the other guard come running back towards them. The soldier stopped in front of Gabrielle and bowed.
"I am to escort you to Lykeas´ tent. Please come this way."
He gestured towards a small group of tents and waited for the bard to walk past him before following. On their way to the tent, the bard studied the area around her closely and was both worried and impressed. The soldiers were all behaving in a disciplined and controlled manner. Nobody were sitting idle around and nobody were drinking or fighting. A few curious looks followed her, but no one spoke or tried to intimidate her in any way. Finally they arrived in front of a tent no different from the rest she had seen, and the soldier bowed again.
"You can go straight in, Your Majesty. He´s expecting you."
The bard nodded briefly and stepped inside.
The tent was dark and it took awhile before Gabrielle´s eyes adapted to the darkness and began to distinguish the various shapes and forms around her. She could see an unused pallet just to the right of her and the only other objects in the tent were a table with two chairs on either side. The dark man was sitting in the chair furthest away, watching her silently. The bard looked into calm black eyes.
"Hello, Gabrielle." Lykeas´ voice was quiet and relaxed. "I should have known you would come by." He gestured towards the other chair, "Please sit down."
The bard walked over to the chair and sat down. Her gaze fell on the various scrolls and papers lying on the table between them, and she noticed several maps and drawings.
"Planning to take on the world, are you?" She smiled, trying to sound more cheerful than she felt.
He gave her a tired smile in return, "Something like that."
They sat in silence for a few minutes than the warrior cleared his throat.
"What can I do for you, Gabrielle?"
She looked at him and suddenly she didn´t know what to say.
"I… I want you to call off the duel and dissolve your army without terms."
She studied him carefully, half fearing his reaction, but he only smiled a little.
"It´s too late for that."
"No, no it isn´t. The duel isn´t until sunset. You can end it all now and nobody will get hurt. All it takes is for you to say the word, it´s not too late."
"That´s not what I meant, Gabrielle," Lykeas spoke slowly. "It´s too late for me."
The bard looked at the resigned face before her.
"What do you mean?"
The warrior sighed deeply and for a second he seemed almost irritated then his expression became neutral again.
"Gabrielle, if I do as you say. What then? What will become of me afterwards?"
"You…you can become like Xena," the bard began eagerly. "You can help her fight evil and protect the innocent. The Gods know she can use all the help she can get. You could do a lot of good, Lykeas, I know you could. If only you´d understand that-."
"Have you considered the fact that I might not be interested in doing good, that I don´t care about anybody but myself?" The warrior´s quiet, but serious words abruptly halted Gabrielle´s speech, and she stared at him in disbelief.
"I don´t believe you."
He looked at her, almost sadly, "That´s because you don´t want to believe me, Gabrielle. I´ve told you before, I´m not Xena and I never will be." He paused briefly, "I don´t want to be."
He suddenly straightened up. "Speaking of Xena. Does she know you´re here?"
The bard smiled wryly in spite of herself, "Would you expect her to know?"
Lykeas shook his head a little, then grinned, "No, I guess not."
Silence hung in the air for a long time then Gabrielle sighed quietly.
"There´s nothing I can say that will change your mind?"
"No," he looked into the green eyes, but found nothing but concern and a little resignation. "But I appreciate you trying anyway."
"Well, we´re friends, aren´t we?" Her tone was light, but her face was serious.
"Are we?" The warrior´s eyes showed no emotion.
"Yes," the bard spoke softly. "We´ll be friends till the moment you unsheathe your sword and begin to fight Xena. After that…" She faltered and looked away, "After that I don´t know…"
The dark man only nodded and Gabrielle slowly returned her gaze to him.
"I don´t understand it," she said simply. "I don´t understand why you´re doing this."
"I have to," he almost whispered.
"Why?" There was no anger or accusation in the bard´s tone, just sadness.
"It´s who I am, Gabrielle." Lykeas looked into her eyes, searching. "It´s who I´ve always been."
The bard stared at him for a moment then she rose from the chair, "I have to get back."
The warrior nodded, "I know."
"Will it be safe for me to walk through the camp alone?"
"Yes," Lykeas rose as well. "But I´ll escort you." He paused, "That is, if you want me to?"
She smiled briefly, "I´d like that."
They walked through the camp in silence, Gabrielle acutely aware of all the respectful, practically adoring gazes that followed the dark warrior. They reached the outskirts and stopped. They looked at each other for a few seconds then the bard stepped over and put her arms around Lykeas. For once he didn´t flinch and as she released him, she gave him a small kiss on the cheek.
She started to walk away, but then heard a voice behind her.
"I´m…I´m sorry that…"
She turned around and looked at him.
"You know what, Lykeas? When you said earlier that you didn´t care about anybody but yourself, you weren´t telling the truth, were you?"
"What do you mean?" His face was unreadable.
"I think it´s directly opposite," the bard continued softly. "I think you do care about other people, it´s yourself you don´t care about."
Lykeas looked at her for a moment, the black eyes seeming even darker.
"If it makes you happy to think that, Gabrielle…"
Then he left and Gabrielle started to walk back across
Sunset arrived and together with it, a strange solemn and supernatural glow which slowly started to affect everybody in the camp, and they became quiet and calm. People spoke in hushed voices without really knowing why, but they all felt it would be wrong to do anything else, and no laughter or banter were heard as the soldiers little by little gathered on the plain. A small area was left clear, flanked by men from both sides. The duel was to take place there. Xena walked among the soldiers towards the circle followed by Gabrielle, and the men moved away without hesitation, granting them access. Just as she reached the free area, she turned to look at the bard who gave her a pale smile.
"I don´t know what to say," she whispered quietly and Xena wrapped her arms tightly around the young woman.
"You don´t have to say anything."
She let go and gently caressed Gabrielle´s cheek for a second then she turned around and went into the circle. Lykeas was already there, waiting. Erinya stepped forward and even the faint sound of whispering voices faded.
"The duel which is about to take place has been agreed upon by both of the participants without pressure or influence from a third part. They do so freely and the loser has agreed to either grant passage through the area without interference or dissolve their army without conditions. Their Majesties, King Polyidos and Queen Phillina have agreed to this arrangement, as have Lykeas, commander of the hostile force and Xena, currently in charge of our own soldiers. The duel will continue until one of the combatants have either surrendered, is incapable of fighting or dead."
The weapons master stepped away, "You may begin."
All eyes went to the two warriors in the circle. Lykeas´ gaze rested on Xena´s face for a moment before his eyes darted to meet Gabrielle´s, then he slowly unsheathed his sword and the bard closed her eyes. Xena studied the dark man before her, then without a word she drew her sword and walked out to meet him. By the first sound of metal meeting metal, Gabrielle opened her eyes again. Any doubts she might have had whether they were really serious, evaporated as she saw the grim expression on their faces and the cold look in their eyes. Whatever might have been between Xena and Lykeas, and whatever kind of friendship they had shared, it was gone from their minds now and both showed nothing but deadly determination as they circled and charged, countered and blocked. Their breathing became laboured and sweat started to glisten on their bodies. They were both sporting small bleeding cuts, but either had yet to gain the full advantage over the other. A collective gasp went through the crowd as Lykeas´ sword slid down Xena´s blade and cut deeply into her hand. Only small a grunt escaped the warrior´s lips as she quickly changed hands and started to fight with her left in stead. Lykeas took the chance and moved forward, but suddenly Xena somersaulted over him and as she was in the air, she directed a powerful kick at his right shoulder. The sword flew from Lykeas´ hand and landed on the ground a few yards away, but in stead of pressing her advantage, Xena lingered, closely studying the dark man´s face. Without a word, Lykeas picked up his sword and they immediately started to fight again. Soon it became clear that he was having a problem with his shoulder, pain showed on his face every time he blocked a blow from Xena, but he didn´t retreat and continued his relentless assaults. Suddenly their swords locked and their faces came within inches of each other as the two warriors tried to retrieve their weapons. Before Xena had time to react, Lykeas swept her legs away from underneath her and she landed flat on her back. For a moment it seemed like the dark man hesitated then he moved forward, raising his sword. Faster then Gabrielle thought possible, Xena´s sword swung through the air, leaving a shallow, but long cut across Lykeas´ abdomen. The warrior stepped back in surprise and watched for a second as blood started to soak his tunic, then he looked back at Xena who had used that single moment of distraction to get back on her feet. Both their movements were slower now and exhaustion was beginning to show on their faces, and for awhile it seemed like nobody was able to get the upper hand, then Xena dodged a blow from Lykeas and her sword headed straight for his chest, but in the last second, the dark man raised his sword and deflected Xena´s blade only to have it penetrate his exposed thigh. Lykeas groaned and fell down on one knee and again Xena stepped back. Blood was pulsing from the gash in the warrior´s thigh with an alarming rate, and his face suddenly turned very pale, but still he managed to rise. For a moment, Gabrielle thought she saw anger replace the cold look in Xena´s eyes then it was gone and she easily blocked a blow from the dark man. Soon after she marked him again and blood started to flow from a deep cut across his chest, but still he charged.
Damn it, Lykeas! Why don´t you just give up?
Suddenly, Lykeas swayed a little as the blood loss started to affect him and Xena immediately saw her opening. Her blade was aiming directly for his throat when she realized that he wouldn´t have the strength to deflect it, that he wouldn´t be able to raise his sword in time and in that instant their eyes met. As she looked into his eyes she saw that he knew it too. To her surprise she didn´t see fear or anger and without really realizing it, she managed to change the direction of the sword and it barely grazed his shoulder instead. Disbelief and something else showed in the black eyes and then Lykeas ran headlong into her, using his body to bring the warrior down. The impact knocked all air from Xena´s lungs, but she quickly recovered and rolled them over, pinning the dark man beneath her.
"Give up, Lykeas." She hissed out between breaths.
Please give up.
"I can´t," he struggled against her, but was too weak to breake her hold. "Don´t you understand."
She backhanded him hard and his head was knocked into the ground from the force.
"Give up, Lykeas!"
"No…" He squeezed out between clenched teeth. "I won´t give up, Xena. I´ll keep trying until you stop me."
"Damn you!" She shouted into his face. "Why can´t you just let it go!"
The eerily white face made his eyes appear like two dark holes, and blood was slowly running down his cheek from a cut in his lip.
"Because it´s too late already," he exhaled slowly.
The warrior stared at him then her entire body tensed, but before she could move a hand grabbed her wrist.
"I´ll keep coming, Xena. No matter how may times you knock me down, I´ll keep getting up." He grimaced in pain, "I won´t stop until you make me." He stared into her eyes, "Do you understand, Xena? Do you understand?"
"I don´t want to," she whispered. "Please don´t make me do it."
He only reached up and touched her cheek, both ignoring the blood he smeared on her face.
"You owe me, Xena, remember?"
His voice was so quiet that nobody but the two of them heard the words. Suddenly he started to cough up blood and his arm fell back to the ground.
The grass beneath them took on a shade of deep red as blood continued to seep from Lykeas´ wounds. His eyes were glassy and his face was covered by a thin sheen of sweat.
"You can still be saved," the warrior pleaded, totally oblivious to the circle of people that had started to tighten around them as the crowd stepped closer.
She had to lean down to hear his words.
"It´s too late… It´s always been too late."
Lykeas´s eyes became unfocused as life together with blood drained from his body.
"Even from the beginning..."
He smiled at her, "Yes."
Without knowing why, she leaned down to place a kiss on his damp forehead and tasted salt and blood on her lips. Lykeas reached up again as if trying to make contact with her one last time, but just before his fingers touched her face, his body convulsed and the arm fell motionless to the ground.
Xena stared into the lifeless eyes.
She put her hands under his shoulders and lifted the limp body up into her arms.
She cradled the cold face, disbelief and shock written all over her face.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up into Gabrielle´s tearstained face.
The crowd around them slowly dissolved, leaving the two
Nobody spoke as Xena walked through the camp, carrying the dead man in her arms. Nobody questioned her as she continued beyond the perimeters of the area, and nobody tried to stop her as she walked towards the forest. As in a trance, the warrior walked through the darkness and when she reached the forest, she ducked under a few branches and was embraced by an even darker shade of black. She tripped over roots, and branches scratched her arms and drew blood, but not once did she loosen her hold on the man in her arms. For how long and how far she walked she didn´t know, but suddenly she entered a clearing and the moon chose the exact same moment to break through the clouds, bathing the trees in a silver light. Silently, the warrior sank to her knees, still holding Lykeas close to her body. For the last time she looked into unusual black eyes, then cold, shaking fingers gently closed the lids, and Xena felt how the ache in her chest seemed to become stronger, making it hard for her to breathe. Almost reluctantly she placed the warrior on the ground and started to built a fire. It took almost an hour before she was satisfied with the result, and carefully she lifted Lykeas from the ground and slowly placed him on the makeshift pyre.
"I´ve brought his weapons."
For the first time, the warrior hadn´t heard the bard approach, but as she turned to see the pale young woman behind her, she only smiled.
Gabrielle hesitated for a moment, then stepped closer and handed the sword and the bow to Xena who took the objects and held them in her hands briefly, before carefully arranging them on Lykeas´ chest. Then she stepped back, dark blue eyes taking in the sight of the man on the pyre before her. She sensed a presence by her side and felt how the bard briefly touched her arm before continuing and coming to a halt beside the pyre. Gabrielle gently brushed a few dark strands away then leaned down and kissed Lykeas´ forehead, trying to ignore the feeling of the cold skin against her lips. As she straightened up silent tears were running down her cheeks, and she smiled in spite of herself.
"See, Lykeas," she whispered quietly. "I told you, I would cry for you."
She walked back to stand beside the warrior´s whose emotionless face didn´t give anything away.
"You should say goodbye," the bard spoke softly.
Xena didn´t answer, but just kept staring at the pyre.
The bard put her hand on the warrior´s arm, "Xena?"
"He made me do it," Xena croaked. "I never wanted this… He made me do it."
"I know," Gabrielle leaned up and kissed away a tear running down a bronze cheek.
Blue eyes blinked a few times and the warrior´s gaze slowly focused on the woman beside her, then she walked the few steps over to the pyre. For a long moment she studied the white, but beautiful face below her, then she reached down to pull something out of her boot. She stared at Lykeas´ knife, seeing how it reflected the bright light of the moon and then she carefully placed it on his chest above his heart.
"You look so peaceful now," she whispered. "I hope this is what you wanted."
She stepped back a little then she began the slow process of lighting the wood and branches around the pyre. It took almost five minutes before she knew the fire had become too strong to die and she stepped back. As she watched the flames rise higher and higher, she felt an arm go round her waist and she sighed quietly. She pulled the young woman closer and Gabrielle rested her head against the warrior´s chest, green eyes reflecting the flames before her.
"How old was he?" The bard asked hours later when the fire had started to turn into embers.
Xena´s eyes were watering, but whether it was the smoke or something else, she didn´t know.
"He would have been twenty-seven next month."
Then she turned around and started to lead Gabrielle away. As they reached the trees, she stopped and hesitated for a moment, before looking back at the dying fire.
"Slep now, Lykeas," she whispered so softly that not even the bard heard the words. "May you find the peace in death you never found in life."
And then they walked in between the trees, leaving the
fire to die in solitude.
As the morning sun rose to shine on the camp, people had already been up for hours preparing to leave and head home. The fortune hunters and the craftsmen had left the day before, gone out to search for new conflicts and new opportunities, and now it was the soldiers turn to take down the tents, extinguish the fires and pack their gear. The last tent to be packed away was the one used for council meetings as it had been occupied the entire morning with warriors and royalty. All trying to come to an agreement about what to do with the men who had followed Lykeas and what to do with Kassander´s kingdom.
"I don´t want them punished," Phillina spoke determinedly. "Look at them, they look like they haven´t yet understood what happened yesterday. They walk around like headless chickens."
"But they betrayed us," Polyidos interjected without any real conviction or enthusiasm.
"They never raised a sword against us, did they?" The Queen continued and looked at her friend. "The moment they understood Lykeas was dead, they put down their arms. I respect that." She looked at the people in the tent, daring them to contradict her. "Besides most of them are my men and I will not allow anybody else to punish them. During the last couple of weeks they have been seduced, charmed and had a taste of greatness only to see it all fall to pieces in front of them. That, in my opinion, is punishment enough."
Polyidos shrugged uncertainly and looked helplessly at the warrior sitting next to him.
The dark woman looked at the King briefly before standing up, "Do what you think is best. I don´t have an opinion about this matter."
She walked to the tent flap and disappeared outside.
Phillina turned to look at Gabrielle whose eyes had been following the warrior.
"Is she all right?"
The young woman didn´t answer, but only rose from the table and started to follow Xena.
The bard stopped and looked back at the Queen, "Yes?"
"We need to decide what to do about the army and Kassander´s lands."
Gabrielle studied the woman before for a second, "That´s your decision, Your Majesty, not mine. You don´t need me to find a solution." She gave the King and the Queen a tired smile. "If you´ll excuse me, I´m needed elsewhere."
Phillinna watched the bard disappear out of the tent then she turned to look at Polyidos.
"I guess it´s up to us then, my friend."
The King stared at the table for a second, then he seemed to straighten up and his voice lost some of it´s uncertainty," It seems like it, Phil."
The Queen studied the tired face for a long time, then she smiled, "Let´s make it fast so we can get out of here. I want to go home."
Pain showed on Polyidos´ face, but still he smiled, "Yes, it´s time to go home."
Gabrielle found Xena in the stable, quietly talking to Rarjan while stroking the grey mane.
"He won´t eat," the warrior spoke without looking up. "I´ve tried anything, but I can´t get him to eat."
The bard stepped closer and looked at the lost expression in the horse´s eyes, "He misses Lykeas."
"I know," Xena tried to tempt Rarjan with a turnip, but the horse only moved it´s head away. "I don´t know what to do. He´ll die if he doesn´t eat."
"The same goes for humans," Gabrielle said gently without reproach. "You haven´t eaten anything either."
"I haven´t been hungry," the warrior mumbled and tried to feet the horse again without success. "If only I knew what to do."
"Perhaps you should let him go," the bard offered slowly. "You know nobody else will be able to control him, and you can´t take him with you. Perhaps it would be better to let him run free."
Xena turned around and looked at the blond woman for the first time, "He might still die. Just because he´s free doesn´t mean he´ll start eating again."
"I know." Gabrielle entered the stall and gingerly reached for Rarjan´s harness. "But at least it´ll be his choice."
She started to lead the horse out of the stable and to her surprise, Rarjan followed without trouble. The warrior stared after the young woman and the horse as they disappeared out of the stable, then she sighed quietly and slowly followed them outside.
A late evening, less than two weeks later, the Amazons decided to call it a day and make camp for the night. They were only a short distance away from their village and everybody had hoped against hope they would be able to reach it before darkness, but with late autumn the night arrived quickly and after a short debate, they had decided to delay their arrival to the next day. They quickly built a fire and sat down huddled close together for warmth. Shortly afterwards as their Queen and the warrior joined them, the Amazons quickly moved even closer together to allow them a spot near the fire. For a long time nobody spoke as twenty-two pairs of eyes stared into the flames, relishing the warmth and the closeness.
Xena had to nudge Gabrielle gently before the young woman noticed she´d been addressed.
"I…" The Amazon who had spoken looked at little uncertain. "I was wondering if perhaps you would tell us a story?"
A smile slowly illuminated the bard´s face, "It´s been a very long time since I last told a story, Areia."
"Well, don´t you think it´s about time then?"
The warrior´s voice reached Gabrielle´s ear only and she turned to look into the bluest eyes she had ever seen. For a moment she was lost, then she smiled again and without taking her eyes of the beautiful face so close to hers, she started to tell a story. Words of love and words of sacrifice carried through the quiet night, creating images of far away places and exotic people in the minds of all the listeners. They listened to the deeds of ancient heroes and common folks, laughed at their follies and shared their sorrows, and not until Gabrielle´s voice had started to become hoarse did they relent and returned to their tents, continuing the tales in their dreams. As the bard snuggled in close to the warrior, she whispered quietly, "I´ve missed that."
Xena smiled in the darkness, "Me too."
And for the first time in many weeks she didn´t have any trouble falling asleep.
When Gabrielle awoke the next morning she was alone in the tent, but she had barely managed to sit up before the tent flap moved and the warrior stepped inside carrying a bowl of porridge. She smiled at the groggy bard.
"You better hurry to get dressed. Your Amazons are more than eager to continue and I had to practically threaten them not to run in here and wake you up so they could get going."
Gabrielle smiled, but made no attempt to get dressed, instead she reached for the bowl and Xena grinned as she watched the young woman finish the porridge in a matter of minutes.
"Always," the bard answered between mouthfuls. "Besides, I know they are eager to get home and I don´t want to be the one to delay them."
The warrior looked away to hide a smirk, knowing that the Amazons had been up for hours, patiently waiting for their Queen to wake up. Then a thought struck her and she became serious.
The blond woman noticed Xena´s change of moods and looked up, "Yes?"
"I…I was wondering…" The warrior kneeled down before the bard so they came eye to eye. "When we get there…"
Xena took a deep breath, "What then?"
Gabrielle´s brow furrowed, "What do you mean?"
"I mean," the warrior continued, trying to sound casual. "What are you gonna do? I mean, are you…are you gonna stay there?" She looked into the beautiful green eyes and was glad she was already on her knees. "Do you want to stay there?"
"I want to be with you," the bard answered quietly.
"No matter what?" Xena cursed herself for asking, but was unable not to.
"No matter what."
She could see that the warrior was about to speak, but she put a finger on Xena´s lips to halt the words.
"We will find a way when we get there. The important thing is that we´re together."
She felt the warrior smile against her finger and barely heard the whispered words.
"No matter what?"
She returned the smile, "No matter what."
Their lips met, sealing an unspoken promise, then Xena rose from the ground again.
"I´ll go tell your Amazons that their Queen is just about ready."
"Don´t make any promises you can you can´t keep," Gabrielle grinned mischievously and draped the covers over her body. "I´m very comfortable as I am, thank you very much."
The warrior arched an eyebrow, "Unless, you want a dozen Amazons to come in here and drag you out of bed, I would suggest you started to get dressed now."
"Oh well…" The bard sighed melodramatically, "If it has to be…"
"Yes, it has," Xena grinned and started to leave the tent, but Gabrielle´s voice stopped her and she turned around.
"I have something for you."
With a surprising speed the bard got out of bed and started to rummage through the bags until she found a small scroll. She hesitated for a second then she stepped over to the warrior and handed it to her, her eyes never leaving Xena´s face.
"I believe this is yours."
The warrior didn´t have to read the scroll to know what it said. She had written it herself.
"I want you to go out and burn it," Gabrielle spoke softly. "You´re my Champion and nothing will ever change that."
Xena stared at the scroll in her hands then she raised
her head and looked into the blond woman´s eyes. Slowly she leaned
down and brushed her lips against the bard´s before walking outside
to throw the scroll onto the fire.
The moment they entered the forest, the Amazons subconsciously picked a faster pace eager to get home. Soon they head several birdcalls from the trees around them, some welcoming them home, others informing the village of their return. As they stepped out of the forest and took in the sight of the village and the crowd waiting for them, the Amazon warriors forgot all about their tough and cool images and ran forward only to be met halfway by loved ones. Xena and Gabrielle remained where they were, smiling as they watched Kelife trying to get a look at Callias´ arm and Erinya´s leg, before she gave up and simply joined in with the rest of the cheering Amazons. The bard smiled broadly and began to walk towards the village and the warrior startted to follow, but suddenly she felt something behind her and she turned around to look back at the forest. Xena´s eyes studied the dark shadows between the trees, unable to shake the feeling that she was being watched. And then she saw him. Between two trees, partly hidden in the shadows stood a young boy. He was dressed in Amazon clothing and black hair carelessly framed the bronze face. Dark eyes studied her intensely for a long moment, then slowly a smile spread on his face and the warrior felt herself smile in return.
Gabrielle´s voice caused the warrior to turn around briefly before looking back to the forest, but now there was nothing but darkness between the two trees and the boy was gone.
"Are you coming?"
Xena looked at the golden leaves and heard them whisper
quietly in the wind then she smiled and turned around to face the bard.
She reached out to take the young woman´s hand and together they
walked toward the village and the awaiting Amazons.