Specific Story Disclaimers:
Violence - There is a bit of violence here
Subtext - This story is based on the premise of two women very much in love with each other. While there are no graphic scenes involved, the theme runs through the story and if this bothers you you'll have to find another story to read. There are plenty of good ones left.
This story is the sequel to Away from Home and it picks off a couple of days after that story has finished. It would make sense if you read that first. Although it is not absolutely necessary there may be parts of this story you will not understand otherwise.
Any comments can be emailed to:-
The sun was shining brightly as the two women rode into through the forest towards the Amazon Village. Gabrielle as usual was sitting behind Xena with her arms wrapped securely around her lovers waist. 'Riding Argo certainly has it's perks' She thought to herself as she snuggled deeper into the warmth that was her lover, her partner and her protector.
Xena and Gabrielle arrived in the Village just after the Sentry announcing there arrival did. They were greeted by Ephiny as well as a few other Amazons.
"Queen Gabrielle you have returned" Ephiny said as she hugged her. Then turned to Xena "Xena it's good to see you" She hugged the warrior as well "I'm glad you could make it for the festival"
"We wouldn't miss it" Xena said with a touch of sarcasm in her voice.
"Xena I know you don't have much respect for the Gods but Artemis is still our Goddess and Protector" Ephiny reminded her
"Sorry Ephiny. Look any God that has Gabrielle as their Chosen has my respect" Xena admitted. She had always had a great deal of respect for Artemis and Athena, the only Gods she did have any respect for. Although she had never admitted out loud to anyone before. Only Gabrielle knew that the warrior was Athena's Chosen and even she was looking at her completely shocked at the public admission. She lifted her hand to the warriors forehead
"No you're not hot" She said "You did just admit to having respect for a Goddess in public didn't you?"
"I'm no sick Gabrielle and yes I did admit having respect for a Goddess" Xena said "Now don't make me do it again"
"Hey once is enough for me" Gabrielle said
"Well let's get you to your hut" Ephiny said. So Gabrielle and Xena followed although none of the Amazons actually expected Xena to stay at the Queens hut.
As Gabrielle and Xena arrived at the Queens hut Ephiny started to explain the situation to them.
"So what happens at this festival Ephiny?" Gabrielle asked
"Well a variety of different things. Me and you have to go to the temple where whoever is interested comes to 'entertain' us and hopefully win our favour" Ephiny said shyly.
Gabrielle looked at Xena then back at the Regent knowing exactly what Ephiny meant but decided to act the naive village girl they all thought she was.
"What do you mean by 'entertain' us?" Gabrielle asked
"Oh um...um" Ephiny stammered not sure she wanted to explain this.
"She means to throw themselves at you and hope you fall in love with them" Xena said "It is seen as disrespectful to Artemis to have a single Queen or Regent at the time of the Artemis Festival. So about a week before the festival this thing takes place in the temple. The Queen and - or Regent must pick a partner" Ephiny and Gabrielle just stared at Xena not knowing what to say "The Queen and or Regent and her partner will be joined at the opening or closing ceremony of the festival with Artemis blessing. Isn't that right Ephiny?"
"Yes it is. How did you know that?" Ephiny asked. Xena had completely caught her off guard.
"I had a friend who was chosen by a queen in the temple. She wasn't happy after they got joined so she spoke to Artemis and told her this, Artemis told her is she broke the broke the bond she would be disowned by the Amazons. She left and that's when I met up with her. She told me everything" Xena explained
"Who was the Queen?" Ephiny asked
"Melosa" Xena said knowing Ephiny knew who she was talking about "Yes Ephiny you know who I'm talking about"
Gabrielle watched the exchange between Ephiny and Xena and then she saw the Regent eyes were brimming with tears 'What's her problem' Gabrielle thought to herself.
"What's wrong Ephiny?" Gabrielle asked
"Um" Again Ephiny stammered. This time from trying to control her emotions
"That Amazon was Ephiny's mother Gabrielle" Xena told her
"You knew" Ephiny said
"Yes I knew. When I was with your mother she told me that the only thing she regretted was having to leave you with the Amazons and not be able to see you again" Xena told her as she walked over and put her hand on Ephiny's shoulder she was surprised when Ephiny fell against her and wrapped her arms around her. Xena returned the gesture. Gabrielle watched the exchange as Ephiny cried.
"I didn't know" Ephiny said as she pulled away and looked at Xena. She walked over and sat in one of the chairs. "All I remember is one night she came into my room. I could tell she'd been crying but I didn't say anything. She told me she had to go away for a while and she'd return as soon as she could. I never saw her again"
"How old were you Eph?" Gabrielle asked
"I was going into my thirteenth summer" Ephiny said
"That was 12 years ago" Gabrielle said
"Yes it was" Xena said "It was just before I became the Destroyer of Nations"
"Did she anything about me?" Ephiny asked
"She told me your name and that was about it. She did however ask me if I by some chance met up with you to make sure you were well and to try to look out for you" Xena told her.
Ephiny smiled for the first time in a while "Why didn't you tell me this before?"
"To be honest I forgot until a couple of weeks ago. I mean it was twelve years ago" Xena admitted
"Why. What happened a few weeks ago?" Gabrielle asked
Xena looked at her and smiled "I went home"
"You mean...." Gabrielle started but was interrupted by Xena
"Yes she still's there" Xena said looking at Ephiny.
"You mean my mother is in Amphipolis" Ephiny said
"Yes she turned up just before Cortese attacked. She helped us against him. She told me she wanted to settle in Amphipolis because it wasn't far from here and she could hear the stories about the Amazons" Xena told her "She had heard everything about you except you were the Regent. She knew about Phantes and Xenon she even knew about the non-amazon Amazon Queen"
"Did you tell her about me being the Regent" Ephiny asked
"No I didn't" Xena admitted "I think it would be better for you to tell her yourself. I think she wants to see you Eph"
"Does she?" Ephiny asked
"Well she asked me to tell you where she was. I think she wanted to tell you so it was up to you whether you wanted to see her or not" Xena told her
"You bet I want to see her. I'll leave straight after the festival" Ephiny asked "Anyway let's get back to the festival"
"Oh yeah... about this festival" Gabrielle said "what if the Queen or Regent is involved with someone?"
"Then the Queen or Regent have to be joined with her partner at the opening ceremony. Why are you involved with someone?" Ephiny asked she hadn't really thought about that.
"Um well" Gabrielle stammered not knowing whether to tell Ephiny about her and Xena or not. She wasn't ashamed of it or anything but she wasn't sure is Xena wanted to tell anyone except their families.
Xena seeing her partners uncomfortable state decided to step in "Actually she is"
Ephiny looked at her then at Gabrielle "Really anyone I know?"
"Well you could say that" Xena said as she heard Gabrielle muffle a giggle.
"You" Ephiny guessed hoping Xena was going to start laughing and tell her she was being stupid. When Xena looked and her and nodded she thought her heart was going to break. She had been in love with Xena for a long time now. She had thought that Phantes could take the place of Xena in her heart. Although she had loved him it was no competition to the feelings for Xena. Now she was hearing that Xena was involved with one of her best friends.
"Oh well that's great. I'm pleased for you. If you will excuse me I have some stuff to sort through before the festival starts"
With that Ephiny turned on her heels and left. Gabrielle had noticed the look on Ephiny's face and she knew she'd seen it before. She thought back and she realised it was the same look Xena had on her face when Gabrielle had married Perdicus. 'Is Ephiny in love with one of us?' She thought. She knew she had to find out.
After a while Xena decided to go for a walk around the village. Gabrielle stayed in the hut to work on her scrolls. It wasn't long before there was a knock on the door.
"Come" She shouted and watched Eponin quietly came in
"Um the hut is ready for Xena" She said
"Thank you" Gabrielle said "But that won't be necessary"
Eponin frowned "Why.. are you and Xena um well you know?"
"Yes we are" Gabrielle said
"Does Ephiny know?" Eponin asked
"Yes she does. We just told her" Gabrielle said. With that Eponin ran out of the hut straight towards Ephiny.
As Eponin approached Ephiny she saw the slightly dejected look about her friend.
"Hey Eph" Eponin said as she sat next to the Regent.
"Hi" Ephiny said
"Wanna talk about it?" Eponin asked
Oh Pony" Ephiny sobbed
"I know Eph. I spoke to Gabrielle" Eponin told her.
"I always knew they were close always figured they were in love with each other but when I spoke to Xena about it last time they were here Xena said she would never allow it to go any further even if Gabrielle felt the same about her. That always kept me kind of hoping that even though I could never truly have her heart because it wasn't hers to give I hoped that we could get together and she might actually learn to love me they way I love her" Ephiny cried.
"Eph I know how you fell. I live with it everyday all because I'm to dumb to tell her how I feel" Eponin admitted "Unlike you I have to see the woman I love everyday"
"Your in love with someone from the village?" Ephiny asked
"Yeah I have been for a long time but someone always came between us" Eponin said 'First Phantes then Xena' She thought.
"She doesn't know?" Ephiny asked completely stunned by the admission for her best friend.
"No" Eponin said
"Well Ep it looks like we're in the same boat" Ephiny smiled
"Yeah I guess so" Eponin said
"So Pony who is it?" The Regent asked
"It doesn't matter" Eponin said "She isn't interested"
The busy hall was full of Amazons totally enjoying the party. Xena and Gabrielle were there as well even though Xena really hated these parties. Even as a Warlord Xena hated crowded halls and parties. She was only making the effort for Gabrielle and the little Amazon really appreciated it.
Xena stayed pretty much to herself the whole night. Gabrielle just enjoyed herself wandering around talking to the other amazons. By now most of the Amazons knew Xena and Gabrielle were together and they were congratulating her for finally realising what all the Amazons already knew. They were made for each other.
Gabrielle loved the attention her relationship was getting she also liked the jealous looks she was getting off some of them. She always knew Xena was extremely popular with the Amazons, she could have anyone she wanted, male or female. It made having Xena all to herself all the more special. Knowing that any number of these Amazons would gladly give anything for one night of passion with the Warrior Princess yet Gabrielle had her heart, soul and her body to do with what she pleased.
After a couple of hours the Amazons managed to get their Queen to tell a couple of stories. While she was telling stories Xena decided to get some fresh air. She didn't see Ephiny's eyes following her as she left.
She found a nice quiet rock to sit on for a while. It wasn't long before she heard footsteps behind her. She knew it wasn't Gabrielle but she also knew that whoever it was wasn't threatening.
"Hey" Ephiny said as she came up behind her knowing full well how dangerous it was to come up behind Xena unannounced
"Hey yourself" Xena smiled as Ephiny sat beside her on the rock "The party get her to much for you too?"
"Kind of" Ephiny lied "Is that why you are out here?"
"Yeah I hate big crowds and parties" Xena admitted
"Really I always kind of figured you to be a party animal" Ephiny smiled
"Oh no not me. I hate them. Always have. It got kind of hard when I had my army though" Xena admitted remembering back to a time where the parties were unbearable but she had had to stick it out "It used to be like it is here, everyone would leave after I did. I knew my men loved their parties and I always felt awkward leaving until they were ready to leave. It was torture"
"That must have been difficult" Ephiny said "So you ever miss it?"
"What the parties?" Xena frowned
"No being in charge of an army or being a warlord" Ephiny said "Power is a hard thing to give up"
"Yes it is" Xena admitted "But some things I would rather give up than have. Like having people tremble at the sound of my name. Seeing so many dead people around me at the hand of my men. Those things were easy to give up. It was always easier for me with Gabrielle there. She kept me on the road I needed to be on. So many times it would have been easier for me to go back. Times when it got difficult to see anything but things Ares was showing me, Gabrielle was always there for me. She always showed me the way whether it was with words or a pitchfork"
"A pitchfork?" Ephiny questioned
"Yeah things had gotten pretty bad one day and I had just defeated a warlord and taken over his army. I went to raid a village I thought had killed my father. Gabrielle stood up to me. When I wouldn't listen she hit me in the back with a pitchfork. It knocked some sense it to me I tell you. It turned out that it wasn't my father anyway. It was Ares disguised as my father" Xena told her
"Really" Ephiny said "I can't imagine you letting anyone get away with that"
"I won't she's the only person I will let get away with it" Xena said
"You and Gabrielle seem happy" Ephiny said hoping to find out just how serious it was between her Queen and the Warrior.
"We are" Xena said "I've never been this happy in my life. She makes me feel complete. I've been in love with her for I don't know how long. I think I fell in love with her when she first followed me from Poteidaia"
'I've got no chance' Ephiny thought solemnly "I'm glad you've found your happiness"
Xena smiled "Thanks Ephiny"
"I never pictured you going for someone like Gabrielle though. I always thought you'd go for a..." Ephiny started but was interrupted
"A warrior" Xena finished for her
"Yeah" Ephiny admitted "Well it's getting late and by the look of things Gabrielle has sent everyone to bed so I'm off as well. See you in the morning" Ephiny said with that she got up and left
Gabrielle watched as Xena left although she knew Xena was getting uncomfortable in the hall she was upset that Xena had left in the middle of a story. She carried on with her story which was near the end anyway. 'Once I've finished this I'll go and find her' She thought. Just as she finished her story she watched Ephiny get up and leave, going in the same direction as Xena.
When she finished her story she told everyone that she was calling it a night and she left knowing the rest would follow. Gabrielle walked in the same direction as Xena and Ephiny. She watched as Xena and Ephiny talked for a while. When Ephiny left Gabrielle walked out of the bush she was hiding in and over to Xena.
"Hey what happened to you?" Gabrielle asked as she sat down next to her
"I needed some fresh air" Xena said
"You stuck it quite well in there tonight" Gabrielle said. It always amazed her how well Xena controlled herself at parties.
"Yeah I did ok" Xena smiled as Gabrielle wrapped an arm around her waist and held her close.
"So you know something?" Gabrielle asked as she looked up at Xena and smiled
"No what?" Xena asked
"I love you" Gabrielle said and she smiled as she heard the heartbeat under her ear stop, double thump and return to it's normal beat.
"I love you too" Xena smiled as she leaned down and kissed Gabrielle on the head and held her even closer. They stayed like that for a while before heading back to the hut.
As they entered the hut Xena and Gabrielle didn't notice the pair of eyes follow every move they made. As she watched them Ephiny knew there was absolutely no chance of her being with Xena now and for the first time since she could remember she cursed this festival knowing that by the end of the week Xena and Gabrielle would be joined and there was nothing she could do about it.
"So what do you think of this festival?" Gabrielle asked as her and Xena settled into the nice comfortable bed.
"Well personally I think it is all a bit to rushes. I mean how can you get to know someone well enough in a week to know that you want to spend the rest of your life with them. It's like an arranged marriage. I could never do that" Xena said
"Xena" Gabrielle said tentatively
"Yeah" Xena said as she wrapped her arm around the bard's back and Gabrielle snuggles into her shoulder.
"Does this bother you?" Gabrielle asked
Xena propped herself up onto her elbow and looked into the eyes of the woman who held her heart "What?" She asked
"This whole getting joined thing" Gabrielle said
Xena thought about that before answering, knowing how it would sound if it came out wrong. She didn't want to upset her partner that way.
"It doesn't bother me but I don't want us to do this because we are being forced into it Gabrielle" Xena said "I would rather wait for a while before we made this move. It's a big step"
"Xena if you don't want to do this we can wait" Gabrielle said. She watched her lovers face knowing exactly what was coming next
"I don't think there's a way out of this Gabrielle" Xena said then she thought for a minute "Well actually there might be but that's only if that's what you want. I love you and nothing will ever change that. We don't need to be joined to prove that but I'm willing to join with you if that's what you want to do" Xena said watching Gabrielle's face for a reaction. What she saw was relief.
"I'm glad you feel that way Xena" She said "I feel the same way. So how might we be able to get out of this?"
"Well I heard that there was a case similar to this one I guess where the Queen and her lover had been together for a while before the festival, but they weren't ready to commit to each other" Xena held up her hand to stop any protest coming from the bard "I'm not saying we aren't committed to each other. Anyway the Queen and the partner went to the temple and asked Artemis to bless their relationship. I wasn't a joining but it does mean that when and only when you are on Amazon land I will be you consort-to-be. It's kind of like being betrothed"
"I think I can handle that" Gabrielle said smiling as she looked up and placed a small kiss on her partners cheek. Then moved to her lips where she kissed her passionately. Before a slow exploration of each other started.
Xena woke up just before dawn as usual. But lately she just couldn't be bothered to move. She just wanted to lay there with her body entwined with Gabrielle's. As she watched her love sleep with the corner of her mouth twitching into a smiled Xena was thankful for her partners bright nature. And she was reminded of another time when everything was so different.
"Do you know what they do to run away slaves" Gabrielle asked as she lowered the shoulder of her tunic to reveal three savage scars.
"Oh Gabrielle I'm sorry" Xena apologised realising her slip when she saw suspicion in the young girls eyes at her knowing her name.
"Who are you?" She said
Gabrielle woke when she felt the body next to her tense.
"Xena?" She asked quietly
"Hey" Xena said as she smiled at Gabrielle and wrapped her arm more tightly around her bringing her closer
"What's wrong?" Gabrielle asked
"Nothing. I was just thinking" Xena told her
"About?" Gabrielle prompted, knowing that was the only way she would find out what was bothering her partner.
"Gabrielle promise me that no matter what happens you'll never change" Xena said
Gabrielle's brow furrowed as she saw the pain in the warrior's eyes "I promise" She watched as Xena looked at her and then closed her eyes. "Xena what's this about?"
Xena thought about it before answering not knowing whether to tell her or not. Deciding it was best to be honest "Remember when we went to the temple of the fates on the day Lyceus died"
"Yeah we had that fight outside and you saved that boy" Gabrielle said
"Well it didn't happen that way first. I killed the boy and then I went into the temple and the fates told me that for saving their temple I could have anything I desired" Xena explained "I told them that I just wanted the boys life back, they said it would be done. So I cam out of the temple and then it was gone along with you and any reminder of the fight. They had changed my lifeline and instead of attacking Cortese in the past we had run. Lyceus was still alive but mother was dead"
"So how did you change your life back again?" Gabrielle asked
"The fates told me that if I spilled a drop of blood in anger everything would return to how it was. At first I figured it was better for everyone this way. You wouldn't have left your home, my mother wouldn't have been ashamed of me and Lyceus was still alive. However as time went on I realised that because I hadn't become who I was things had changed. I met you there" Xena told her
"Really. Was I in love with you there?" Gabrielle asked liking the idea that her and Xena were destined to meet in any lifetime
"No" Xena said "Because I hadn't been there to save, you had been taken by Draco's men eventually you were sold to Mezentius. I got you out of that though but you were bitter and full of hatred. When we got caught by Mezentius's men you told me you hated me for showing you what it was like to be free again. That hurt me more than a sword through my heart" Xena looked at Gabrielle when she heard her sharp intake of breath. Gabrielle's arm tightening around the warrior's body trying to imagine how she could have said such horrible things to the woman she loved "Anyway we escaped but got caught in a fight after Lyceus went after Mezentius. You killed him, without remorse. You just stood there holding the sword in your hand and you were smiling" Again Gabrielle gasped. This time Xena tightened her grip on the bard "I couldn't stay there like that too many things were different. You, Solon hadn't been born and because I wasn't there the Centaurs and Amazons went to war over the Terreis thing and they were destroyed, but above all of that it was seeing you with that cold dark look in your eyes. So I said goodbye to Lyceus and I killed the next man that attacked me"
As Xena looked at Gabrielle she could see tears in her partners eyes as the reality of what she had just said hit home "You gave up your brother for me" She sobbed as her arms tightened around Xena in a vice like grip.
"Yes" Xena said "And I've never regretted it"
"I don't know what to say" Gabrielle said
"You don't have to say a word" Xena told her "It was my decision to make. I made it. It might have cost me my brother but in return I got the woman I loved more than life. I had my mother back, the Centaurs still existed and the Amazons were still free people. And I realised that even though I have to live with my past I had to become the person I did to become the person I am now. It's my destiny"
"I never thought about it like that" Gabrielle admitted as she started to move so she was lying on her back "I knew everyone had a purpose in life but I never realised one person could have such an effect on the lives of others"
"If I hadn't become a warlord, Callisto wouldn't have been created. She would have still had her family. If I hadn't met Hercules we would never have met, Thessaly wouldn't have happened, but at the end of it all the good things seem to level out the bad" Xena said "Anyway enough of this stuff, why don't you go back to sleep. I'm going to go for a walk around the village"
"Do you have to?" Gabrielle asked, tugging on the front of her shift pulling her back towards the bed
"It's going to take convincing" Xena said, as Gabrielle covered her lips with her own. Xena let herself surrender to the passion and power that was her partner.
* * * * *
As Ephiny watched Xena spar with Eponin for a while she silently cursed herself for being weak when it came to the woman warrior, who looked like a Goddess. After a while she decided she'd better go and see her Queen no-matter how much she envied her at the moment.
Ephiny found Gabrielle in her hut looking through some of her scrolls "May I come in?" Ephiny asked
"Of course, Ephiny" Gabrielle said. So Ephiny walked in and sat herself in the chair in front of Gabrielle's desk.
"So you and Xena huh" Ephiny said, trying to sound as neutral as possible, and failing.
Gabrielle knew the tone in her voice and she smiled inwardly knowing Ephiny was jealous and finding it amusing "Yeah me and Xena" Gabrielle said
"How do you feel about her?" Ephiny asked, watching Gabrielle's face for a reaction she was mildly surprised when the glow about the sparked as quickly as it had in Xena.
"I love her Ephiny" Gabrielle told her "Does this bother you, Eph?"
Gabrielle already knew it did, she just wanted to know why "Why should it bother me?" Ephiny asked, trying to sound convincing, but when she saw Gabrielle's eyebrow raised at her she knew she couldn't lie "Not really" She said "I mean your happiness is important to the Amazon Nation"
"So what's wrong?" Gabrielle asked
"Well I just thought that Xena would go more for a warrior type" Ephiny admitted, telling Gabrielle exactly who she was jealous of.
"Someone like you" Gabrielle said knowingly
"I didn't say that" Ephiny said, blushing slightly as she realised that Gabrielle had seen right through her
"You don't need to Ephiny. Your face just said it all" Gabrielle told her "How long have you felt like this?"
"I've had feeling for her since I first met her but I never realised the depth of my feelings until you were both here last time" Ephiny admitted
"Why didn't you ever say anything to her?" Gabrielle asked
"I never had the courage. Every time I tried to say something I would freeze up. It was like a kick in the gut when I found out about you two" Ephiny said "I'm glad you've both found your happiness, Gabrielle"
"Ephiny this is quite a surprise" Gabrielle said "This isn't going to ruin our friendship is it?"
"Would you split up with her if I said it would?" Ephiny asked, knowing how that sounded by the completely stunned look on the face of her friend.
"No" The bard said, immediately "How could you ask me such as thing, Ephiny? She is the most important thing in my life. More important than your friendship. I'm sorry if you can't accept this but I will not leave her because you want her for yourself" By now Gabrielle was shouting "If you had her and you knew how I felt and I asked you to give her up for my friendship, would you?" Gabrielle never waited for an answer she just turned her back on the Regent "Get out of my hut"
Ephiny didn't say anything she just walked out
Gabrielle sat at the end trying to get over what had just happened 'How could she ask me that? We're supposed to be friends' Gabrielle felt like someone had punched her. She was feeling hurt and rage all at the same time. She had hoped Ephiny would be happy for her as a friend and she was upset that she didn't. She was angry that Ephiny had asked her to give up the one thing that mattered to her above all else.
She started pacing trying to clear her head. When she heard a knock on the door she didn't control her temper when she answered
"What?" She snapped
"I was just being polite" Xena said as she entered the hut surprised by Gabrielle's anger
"Oh, Xena sorry I didn't mean to snap at you" Gabrielle apologised as she walked over to her partner and wrapped her arms around her waist "Enjoy sparring?"
"Yeah it was ok" Xena said "What's wrong, Gabrielle?"
"Nothing" Gabrielle lied "Just having a bad day"
"Well I'm going to have a soak in the hot spring" Xena said "Care to join me?"
"Not today, Xena" Gabrielle said "I'm really not in the mood"
"Oh" Xena said, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice, failing miserably "OK"
Xena watched as Gabrielle turned away from her and walked over to her desk. Where she sat down and starting looking through scrolls "Well I'll see you later" Xena said confused by Gabrielle's mood. She had been ok when she left for sparring this morning. Not wanting to push the bard on it, she just left.
Xena walked into the hot spring and spotted Ephiny soaking in the water "Hi, mind if I join you?" Xena asked not wanting to disturb the Regent
"No of course not" Ephiny smiled. She tried not to watch as Xena slipped out of her leathers and into the water. She tried not to focus on the magnificent body that was the warrior. She tried not to stare as Xena emerged for under the water, little drops of water streaming off her shoulder and over her breasts back into the water. Ephiny's breath caught in her throat at the sight of the water playing across Xena's body. "So you come in here to get away from everything too huh?"
Xena smiled and thought back to Gabrielle's attitude back in the hut a few minutes ago "Definitely" She admitted "Gabrielle is not the best person to be around when she's in a bad mood"
"Really?" Ephiny said
"Yeah. I don't know what her problem is, she was fine earlier" Xena said "Well, Eph what are you running from?"
"Life" Ephiny said "Do you ever get the feeling that the fates like screwing you up?"
Xena laughed "All the time"
"Well it's nice to know I'm not the only one" Ephiny said "Xena can I ask your advice on something?"
"Sure ask away. I'm not very good at giving advice but I'll give it my best shot" Xena told her
"I'm in love with someone" Ephiny said
"Really" Xena smiled "Who?"
"That doesn't matter now. She's with someone else" Ephiny told her
"Does she know how you feel?" Xena asked
"No" Ephiny admitted
"Why?" Xena asked
"Because I never told her, but like I said, it doesn't matter anyway" Ephiny said
Xena heard the sadness in her friends voice and felt sympathy for her. She knew what it was like when the woman you loved was involved with someone else and didn't know how you felt about her "How serious is it between her and her partner?" Xena asked, needing to get all the information available before giving advice on a potentially sticking situation.
"It's serious. Still young but deadly serious" Ephiny said "It's killing me, Xena. I don't know what to do"
Ephiny started to cry openly then and she was surprised when she felt herself pulled into the strong embrace of the warrior
"Hey" Xena said "It's not the end of the world"
"It feels like it" Ephiny cried "What would you do if you found out, before you and Gabrielle got together, you found out she was in love with someone else?"
'I'd die all over again' Xena thought to herself, knowing she couldn't say that to Ephiny. The Amazon needed reassurance that it would be ok. "I've lived through that once, when she married Perdicus" Xena reminded her
"How did you cope?" Ephiny asked
"I just convinced myself she didn't feel the same about me as I did about her. I tried to convince myself that marrying Perdicus was best for her. That was all I ever wanted" Xena told her
"Did you wish you had told her how you felt?" Ephiny asked
"Sometimes" Xena said "When we first got together and she told me she'd been in love with me from the beginning, I wished I had told her, because then she wouldn't have married Perdicus, Callisto wouldn't have killed him and I wouldn't have the guilt I carry, for feeling the small bit of relief when she did kill him. Other than that no I didn't regret not telling her. I wanted her happy and if marrying Perdicus made her happy, I wasn't going to stand in the way of that"
"You know for someone who doesn't do sensitive chats, you are quite good" Ephiny smiled
"Thanks" Xena said, not believing a single word. She knew she wasn't good a sensitive chats 'It's a Xena thing' She thought to herself.
"Well I think it's time I got out of here. Dinner will be ready soon" Ephiny said, as she raised herself out of the spring.
"Yeah I think I'd better get back to your queen" Xena said, as she got out of the spring and collected her leathers. She slipped into them.
"You going to be ok now, Eph?" Xena asked as she placed her hand on Ephiny's shoulder
Ephiny wrapped her arms around her tightly. Never wanting to let go "I'm going to be fine thank you"
While all this was happening, Gabrielle feeling bad about snapping at her partner, walked over to the spring where she planned to make it up to the warrior. Her mouth almost hit the floor when she saw Xena's back towards her and two arms coming around gripping her tightly.
Gabrielle cleared her throat without realising it and on hearing this, Ephiny removed her arms and Xena did the same thing and turned around and faced her partner. The smile on her face faded when she saw the anger still clear in the gentle queens eyes.
"Hi" She said "I didn't expect you to join me"
"So it seems" Gabrielle said, the anger in her voice more clear than that in her eyes.
Xena frowned, not knowing what she had done wrong "What's that supposed to mean?" She asked
Gabrielle shot her a totally disgusted look "You know Xena, I'm not stupid. I should have known I couldn't keep you happy" She said, tears in her eyes then she looked at Ephiny "If you want her that bad, you can have her"
With that she ran out of the spring. Xena looked at Ephiny with confusion written all over her face. Then bolted out of the door after the bard.
Gabrielle paced her hut for the second time in a matter of a candle mark. She was trying to sort out all the confusion in her head when Xena walked in.
Xena had made her way from the spring determined to find out what was wrong with Gabrielle. She didn't understand why the bard had gone off the way she did. This time she didn't knock before she entered, she just violently pushed the door open.
"What in the name of Hades was that all about?" She shouted
"What I didn't explain myself clear enough in the spring" Gabrielle shouted back
"No you didn't" Xena said
"Well let me see. My partner is in the hot spring with her arms around another woman. A woman I might add who is completely in love with her" Gabrielle said, watching the completely shocked look cover Xena's face
"Ephiny's in love with me?" Xena gasped
"Yes" Gabrielle said
"And so your saying you think there is something going on between me and Ephiny" Xena said completely hurt by the accusation in Gabrielle's eyes.
"Well after all she is a warrior and more sexually experienced than me. I'm surprised you even waited this long" Gabrielle said
Xena just stared at her unable to answer. Finally she couldn't take it anymore. She grabbed her stuff and started to leave.
"Where are you going" Gabrielle asked, knowing how badly she had overreacted but unable to take it back
"Anywhere I don't have to put up with you" Xena snarled "Maybe I'll go and jump into Ephiny's bed. That's what you're expecting me to do isn't it?" Sarcasm ripe in her voice "You know if you can't trust me, I don't know why we're even together"
With that the warrior left. Gabrielle felt her heart break as she realised what she had done. She turned on her heels and collapsed on the bed crying. She ended up crying herself to sleep.
As Xena left the hut she walked over to Eponin's hut. She knocked on the door and waited until Eponin answered
"Xena" Pony said "Come in"
"I can't stay, Pony. I was just wondering if I could leave my stuff here for a while?" Xena asked seeing the frown on the weapon masters face she continued "I am leaving. I'll be back for the Queen's challenge and I'll collect my things then. If you need to get hold of me, I'll be at the Centaur village across the river. Don't tell anyone, especially Gabrielle, where I am"
"Did you two have a fight?" Pony asked
"You could sat that. Look, Pony I need to clear my head and I can't do that with Gabrielle around. Promise Me you won't tell her" Xena pleaded
"I promise" Eponin said
"Thank you" Xena said, and then she turned and headed towards the stable. Where she readied Argo and left the village.
* * * * *
Ephiny watched as Xena rode out of the village. As Xena rode out of sight, the Regent walked over to the weapon master's hut, where she had seen Xena walked from.
She knocked on the door and waited until she heard Pony shout 'Come' before entering
"Ephiny" Pony said "What can I do for you?" Having a fairly good idea what the Regent was there for.
"Where was Xena headed?" She asked
"She didn't say" Eponin lied "All she said was that she was leaving and she would be back for the Royal Challenge and she'd collect her things then"
"Oh" Ephiny said "I'm going to have a word with Gabrielle"
With that Ephiny turned and left.
Gabrielle was stirred from her sleep by the insistent knocking on the door.
"Come in" She shouted, as she rubbed her eyes and stood up. Hoping against hope that it was Xena and that she could apologise for the way she had acted earlier. Her heart dropped when Ephiny entered.
"Well I hope you are satisfied" Ephiny said, as she stood before Gabrielle
"What are you talking about?" Gabrielle asked
"I'm talking about Xena" Ephiny said "She just left, you know that right"
"Left where?" The bard asked
"The village, Gabrielle. She stormed out of here, packed up Argo and left" Ephiny said, enjoying the colour drain from Gabrielle's face as she understood what Ephiny was saying.
"Where did she go?" Gabrielle asked
"Don't know" Ephiny said "She just told Pony she was going, she would be back for the Royal Challenge and she would collect her things then, before she leaves for good. I don't get her" Ephiny admitted as she started to leave "You just stuck your hand into her chest and ripped out her heart and she is still going to Champion you at the Royal Challenge. I wish I had someone who would love me like that. Right now I bet Xena does too"
With that Ephiny left, leaving the bard alone with her thoughts.
As Ephiny left Gabrielle started after her. She had to know if Xena had really gone, so she walked over to the stable hoping to see Argo in her normal stall, waiting to be groomed. Her heart broke again when Argo was gone.
"Oh Xena" Gabrielle said as she sat in Argo's stall and cried.
It wasn't long before someone walked past the stable and heard her crying. So she walked in to see what was wrong.
"Gabrielle" The blonde warrior said as she walked to Argo's stall.
"Hi, Solari" Gabrielle said, not even trying to cover up her tears.
"What's wrong?" Solari asked, as she sat in the hay next to her Queen.
"She left me" Gabrielle said
"Xena?" Solari asked, as she wrapped an arm around Gabrielle
"Yes" Gabrielle said, resting her head on Solari's shoulder "She just left"
"Why?" Solari asked
"I accused her of cheating on me with Ephiny" Gabrielle admitted, the shame and self hatred evident in her voice.
"Why would you do that?" Solari asked. She had only briefly seen the pair in Amphipolis, when she delivered Ephiny's message to them and in that short time, she could tell how devoted to each other they were.
"Well I saw Ephiny with her arms around Xena in the hot spring, Xena was hugging Ephiny too. I knew how Ephiny felt about Xena and I guess my insecurities just set in. Everyone's been telling me that they expected Xena to go for a warrior not some bard, and well Ephiny is a warrior" Gabrielle said
"Gabrielle let me tell you something ok" Solari said
"Yeah" Gabrielle said
"I'm a warrior, I know how warriors think. I can tell you now, I would never let myself fall for another warrior. You know that I'm with Saras the healer" Solari said
"Really" Gabrielle said, she was happy for her friend and it showed in her eyes and in her voice
"Yeah well see most warriors know how unstable their lives are. They need something stable in their life. You are the only thing Xena can depend on. It's the same with me and Saras. You are everything to Xena, even I know that" Solari told her "She'll come back, don't you worry about that"
"I hope you're right Solari. I can't live without her" Gabrielle said
"Come on, let's go and get you washed up, then let's go get something to eat" Solari said, and she stood and offered her hand to Gabrielle.
* * * * *
Meanwhile Xena and Argo headed towards Centaur land. Xena wasn't really taking much notice of where she was going. She just wanted to get away from her partner and she wanted to see Solon. She had been hoping that her and Gabrielle would come this way after the Festival. Now she was going alone.
After a few candle marks, she arrived at the Centaur borders. She was greeted by Belart the Centaur border guard.
"Greetings Xena. What brings you to this neck of the woods?" Belart asked
"Just spending a few days at the Amazon village and I thought I would drop in and see Kaleipus and Solon" Xena told him
"They'll be glad to see you. The boy hasn't stop talking about you since you were here last" Belart said, he was one of the few Centaurs that knew Solon was Xena's son and he was privileged to have that knowledge. He had a great deal of respect for Xena and he would do nothing to cause trouble for the Warrior, who had come to their defence a less than a year ago "Go on Xena"
"Thanks Belart" Xena said and she walked through the border into the village. She made her way over to the stable when she was greeted by Kaleipus.
"Xena" Kaleipus said, offering his arm to the warrior "It's good to see you"
Xena took the offered forearm "It's good to see you too"
"What brings you here?" Kaleipus asked
"I was in the area and I thought I'd drop in and say hi to Solon" Xena admitted
"Well he'll be glad to see you. He was hoping you'd come and visit soon. He told me you wouldn't forget his birthday" Kaleipus told her, reminding her of his birthday without making it look like he was reminding her
"Of course I haven't forgotten his birthday. How could I?" Xena said "It's two days away. I was going to drop in, in two days time because I was staying with the Amazons for The Festival Of Artemis, I have to champion Gabrielle and we weren't sure when the Royal Challenge was, but Gabrielle and I had an argument so I came here instead. I was hoping I could stay and celebrate Solon's birthday with him. When it comes time for the Royal Challenge they will send for me"
"Solon would be over the moon if you stayed for his birthday" Kaleipus said "And who I am to stand in the way of the boy's happiness" He held out his hand in a gesture for Xena to walk with him to the village "However I do have a request that I don't think you'll like"
"What's that?" Xena asked
"Solon is in his thirteenth year. I think he has a right to know who is mother is" Kaleipus said
"Kaleipus you know I can't do that" Xena said as she handed Argo to a stable boy "Take good care of her"
"Yes Ma'am" The boy said and then he was gone.
"Why not?" The Centaur asked, continuing the conversation
"For the same reason I gave him to you in the first place" Xena said "My life isn't stable enough for me to have him in my life" Xena paused recollecting herself before continuing "There is nothing I would like more than to have Solon as part of my life, but I don't think I can do it"
"Of course you can" Kaleipus said "Xena it won't be long before Solon looks in the mirror and will be able to tell straight away who his mother is. He is his mother's son. He deserves to find out who his mother is from his mother, not by looking in the mirror"
"He's my son" Xena repeated
"Oh boy is he ever. In looks and in attitude" Kaleipus admitted "He has your strength of mind and will"
"I guess I am going to have to consider telling him aren't I?" Xena asked
"Yes, when you see him, you make that decision yourself" Kaleipus said as he held the door open for Xena to enter his hut before him. She had just entered when a body flew at her and wrapped his arms around her
"Hello, Xena" Solon said as he held on tight "I knew you'd come for my birthday. I knew it"
"Well how could I forget a friend's birthday" Xena said, as she looked at her son and realised that what Kaleipus had said was true 'By the god's he is becoming my son'. His hair was starting to darken though it would never be as dark as hers and he was almost as tall as her. At the moment he was about Gabrielle's height 'And he's only twelve' "Unfortunately I don't have anything for you. I left it in the Amazon village"
"You are with the Amazons" Solon said
"Yeah, see they are having a festival there and Gabrielle is the Queen and she is required there" Xena told him
"Why couldn't Gabrielle come over here for a visit?" Solon asked
"Well like I said Gabrielle was required there and she couldn't leave. How about if at the end of festival me and Gabrielle are talking again I bring her over here" Xena said
"You and Gabrielle are not talking" Solon repeated "Why?"
"Oh adult stuff" Xena said
"Oh" Solon said "So how long are you staying?"
"Well I thought about staying a couple of days so I could celebrate your birthday with you. Is that ok?" Xena asked
"Is it ever" Solon said, his face breaking into an absolutely lovely smile.
"Great" Xena said
"Xena you can stay in the spare room" Kaleipus said "It'll give you two a chance to catch up"
"That would be great" Xena said.
* * * * *
Back in the Amazon Village
After Ephiny had finished her conversation with Gabrielle she went back to her own hut and felt her own tears start. This wasn't want she wanted to happen. She was happy for Gabrielle and Xena, she was glad they had finally found their way together. Everyone knew how they felt practically from the beginning and they were surprised it had taken them this long.
After a while Ephiny heard a knock on the door, so she got off the bed which she had fallen onto without actually realising it, and went to answer it. Eponin stood waiting there for her.
"Hey Pony" Ephiny said "Come in"
"How are you doing?" Pony asked, as she entered the hut and waited for Ephiny to sit herself before doing the same.
"I feel absolutely rotten" Ephiny admitted "I never meant to cause trouble between them. I asked Xena for advice on my situation, leaving the names out of course, and well then I hugged her because I actually agreed with what she said. I know it's time for me to move on and let her go, she is with someone who makes her happy and for that I am grateful. Then Gabrielle walked in and just told Xena that she should have known she couldn't keep her happy and then she told me that if I wanted Xena, I could have her" She closed her eyes remembering the look on Xena's face when they words came out of Gabrielle's mouth "I have never seen Xena look so devastated or confused in all the time I've known her"
"Well you can imagine how Xena felt she had no idea that you were in love with her" Eponin said
"Well I think she does now" Ephiny said "Pony right now I wish I could really hurt Gabrielle. I really do. I've never felt that way about anyone before. I want her to hurt the way she has hurt Xena"
"I know how you feel" Eponin said 'The only trouble is I don't know who I want to hurt' The weapons master thought 'Xena for you feeling this way about her or Gabrielle for hurting Xena which is hurting you. I hate being in love'
"Hey that's right" Ephiny said "Have you told your woman how you feel?"
"No" Pony said
"Why not?" Ephiny asked
"Because she is crazy about someone else and until she lets go of that someone I will not let myself tell her" Eponin said, hoping that she wasn't giving to much away.
"Well personally I think you should tell her. Did it ever occur to you that maybe she won't let go of however she is crazy about because she doesn't think anyone feels that way for her" Ephiny said
"I don't know Ephiny" Eponin said "Is that why you won't let go of Xena, because you think no-one could feel that way about you"
"I don't know" Ephiny said "Maybe"
"Well I'll think about it" Eponin said
"You do that" Ephiny said "Come on let's go and get some food"
"Good idea" Eponin said, as she stood and followed Ephiny out of the hut.
* * * * *
When Ephiny and Eponin entered the food hut Gabrielle was sitting at a table with Solari and Saras. Ephiny made sure she was sitting on the other side of the hut. She didn't really feel like getting into an argument with Gabrielle in public and she knew if she was too close that is just what would happen.
"So what are you going to do about the Festival?" Solari asked
"What do you mean?" Gabrielle asked
"Well you still have to join with someone Gabrielle. If Xena isn't here you are going to have to join with someone else" Solari said
"Really" Gabrielle said
"Yeah it is the law that the Queen is joined at the Festival" Solari said
"Me and Xena spoke about that, and she said that there was a case a while ago where the two where already together before the Festival and they didn't feel they were ready to commit to each other. That wasn't the case with me and Xena though.... well maybe it is now. But she said that the two went to Artemis and asked for her blessing instead of getting joined" Gabrielle explained
"You know for someone who insists she is not an Amazon she knows more than a lot of us do" Solari said "I've never heard of that before. Have you Saras?"
"Yes I have actually" Saras said "It is not a well known case but it did happen. One of the reasons if I remember correctly was because the other woman was not an Amazon and she had to prove to Artemis she was worthy of the Queen's hand. I don't know if that will work for you. Xena has proved more times than we can count she is worthy of your hand"
"Well it's worth a try. Besides I refuse to join with anyone else. It wouldn't be fair to either me or her. I love Xena and I'm not going to be joined with someone else just because Xena isn't here. If I have a renounce my throne to do that, then I will. I belong with Xena and nothing is going to make me change that?" Gabrielle insisted
"We're not trying to make you change what you believe, Gabrielle" Solari assured her "And I don't think Artemis will let her Chosen renounce her throne either. Everything will work out fine, you'll see"
"I hope so because I love being part of the Amazon Nation almost as much as I love Xena" Gabrielle said with a smile on her face "When do you think I will need to see Artemis?"
"Well the sooner the better" Saras said
"Well I'll go and see her now" Gabrielle said as she finished her meal. She said goodbye to Solari and Saras and then left for the Temple of Artemis.
* * * * *
In the Centaur Village
After spending some time with Solon, Xena realised that she was going to have to tell him he was her son. She just didn't know how too. This was something she had hoped she would never have to do. She was afraid of the hatred she would see in his eyes when she told him the truth.
"Solon I'm going to find Kaleipus for a bit ok. I'll be back soon" Xena said
"OK" Solon said, and he watched as left.
It didn't take long for Xena to track down Kaleipus who was teaching an archery lesson with some of the younger males.
"Kaleipus can I talk to you a minute?" Xena asked
"Sure" Kaleipus said, then he turned to his student "Try that again all of you keep practising" He moved away from his lesson so he could talk to Xena without interruption "What is it?"
"Well as much as I hate to admit it, I agree with you. I am going to have to tell Solon. I just wanted to know if I could do it now" Xena said "With your permission"
"Of course you have my permission. I'll wait a bit before I come back to the hut then ok" Kaleipus said
"OK" Xena said, and she turned back towards the hut.
* * * * *
The Temple Of Artemis
Gabrielle walked into the Temple and was again left breathless at how beautiful the temple was. They had really done a good job of rebuilding it after Velaska had destroyed it. It was even better now. The Priestess watched as her Queen entered the Temple and immediately ushered everyone else out, knowing that when the Queen visited the temple it usually meant there would be a visit from Artemis herself.
After everyone had left, Gabrielle placed her offering on the alter.
"I am Gabrielle, Queen of the Amazons and I ask for the presence of Artemis, patron Goddess of the Amazons" Gabrielle said, then she waited. It wasn't long before there was a blue glow and then it was gone. In it's place was the Goddess of the Hunt, the Protector was women and children, Artemis.
"My Chosen" Artemis said "You have requested my presence"
"Yes Artemis" Gabrielle said "As you know it is close to your Festival and I am sure you know the custom that the Queen and Regent must be joined to a partner at the ceremony"
"Yes I know of this" Artemis said
"Well see the problem is, I am with Xena" Gabrielle said "And we are both agreed that neither of us are ready to take that step. We have only been together for a moon and we were hoping that you would bless our relationship rather than have us joined at the Festival this year"
"If you both want this, where is Xena?" Artemis asked
"Um, well it's funny you should ask. I have no idea where Xena is. We had an argument and she left" Gabrielle said
"She left you. What could you have argued about to make that possible?" Artemis asked
"I accused her of cheating on me with the Regent Ephiny" Gabrielle admitted, again the shame she felt hitting her hard.
Artemis winced as she felt it "If this is true I can understand why both of you are reluctant to take the next step. I will agree to your request. But I want both of you here in my Temple on the final day of the festival"
"Thank you, Artemis" Gabrielle said, with that Artemis was gone in a blue glow and then there was nothing.
The Gabrielle turned and left.
* * * * *
The Centaur Village
Xena entered the hut and watched as Solon out the scroll they had been reading that Gabrielle had given to him the rest time they had seen him.
"Hey" Solon said, when he seen her
"Solon can I talk to you please?" Xena asked
"Sure" Solon said "Is there something wrong?"
"No" Xena said 'Not yet' She thought to herself 'I hope to Athena there won't be after all this'
So Solon came and sat next to Xena "What is it?"
"Well do you remember last time I was here?" Xena asked
"Yeah" Solon said "You told me that my mother and father wouldn't want me to become a warrior like my father"
"Yes that's right" Xena said "Do you know how I know that?"
"No" Solon admitted
"Solon what I am going to say, you must let me finish ok" Xena said, her eyes pleading with him
"OK" Solon said
"OK" Xena said, and she began her story "Nearly thirteen years, when I was a really bad person I met and I thought I fell in love with a wonderful warrior. I got pregnant and I knew that I couldn't keep the baby because I didn't want that baby to grow up like me. I didn't think I would ever change the way I have. So I gave the baby away to some people I knew would treat him like their own because of who his father was. Not because of me"
"You had a son" Solon said 'Is she trying to tell me what I have been hoping to hear' He thought to himself 'I can't be sure' So he let her continue
"Yes I had a son. A son I have never forgotten about and a son that I wish I had got to spend time with when he was growing up" Xena said
"What was his name?" Solon asked "Please let it be me' Solon thought 'I think it is'
"Solon" Was all Xena said, before Solon threw himself at Xena and wrapped his arms around her
"Why didn't you ever tell me?" Solon asked
'Thank the Gods for that' Xena thought 'He doesn't hate me'
"I didn't want you to know that your mother was a warlord, Solon. I loved you too much and then last time I saw you, Gabrielle found out that you were my son. She told me that you deserved to know who your mother was. I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid you would hate me" Xena admitted
"I could never hate you. You're my mother" Solon said "I love you, mother"
Xena felt the tears fall as she held her son in her arms, and she made no attempt to stop them "I love you, too"
They stayed like that for a while before either attempted to move "Why did you decide to tell me now?"
"Well it was either me tell you now or not only would I have been clobbered by Kaleipus but you would have looked in the mirror and you would have been able to tell who your mother was" Xena smiled
"You think I'm going to look like you?" Solon asked
"Oh definitely" Xena said
* * * * *
The Amazon Village
Gabrielle walked over to her hut and shut the door, thanking Artemis for her blessing. Her only hope now was that Xena would come back. She decided the best thing she could do was try to was continue what she would be doing if Xena was there with her. She had nothing important that she had to do she so decided to write her diary.
Well today has been absolutely awful to put it mildly. Xena left me again. This time it was not friendly terms. Sometimes I wonder how I got to be so stupid. Just this morning Xena told me that she sacrificed a world of peace with her brother Lyceus for me, when she saved the temple of the fates, and they grated her, her wish of never picking up a sword. Then what do I do, I accuse her of cheating on me. I deserve if she never came back to me. But I know I can't live without her. I don't know why I lost it the way I did earlier, but boy am I regretting it now.
I spoke with Artemis about blessing our relationship rather than having us joined at the Festival she agreed after I told her what I had done this morning. I am glad in a way because neither Xena or I are ready to get joined. I know that someday we will if she can forgive me for this morning but we both need to be comfortable with our relationship before we can take that step. I love Xena more than anything and I know she loves me the same but we have only been lovers for a moon and I don't think that is long enough for us.
I wonder where Xena has gone now. I miss her terribly and I don't know what I am going to do if she doesn't come back. She told Eponin that she would come back for the Royal Challenge and then she would collect her things before she leaves again.
She took a sip of the water that was still by the side of the bed. When there was a knock on the door.
"Come" She said, she smiled when Solari came in "Hi, Solari"
"Hi did you go to the temple?" Solari asked
"Yeah" Gabrielle said "Because of what happened this morning she agreed to bless us instead"
"That's great" Solari said "So you don't have to go through the entertaining. I know there are going to be a few disappointed Amazons around, they were really hoping they would get the chance to try and win you over"
"Yeah well my heart was already given before I came here and I am glad because it must be embarrassing to have to go through that" Gabrielle said
"I've never done it before so I wouldn't know" Solari said
"It's funny" Gabrielle said "I was hoping me and Xena could actually enjoy yourselves this time, whenever we come here something happens whether it is a war or an argument between me and her"
"Don't worry about it Gabrielle" Solari said "You'll get through this"
"I hope so" Gabrielle said
"Well Gabrielle try and get some sleep. Ok" Solari said "You and the priestess will have to meet the council tomorrow and tell them about Artemis's blessing"
"Yeah" Gabrielle said "Thank you Solari. I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have you to talk to"
"Hey that's what friends are for" Solari said
"I wish Ephiny was still my friend" Gabrielle said
"She is" Solari said "You know love can do this to friendships but the friends always win in the end"
"Yeah" Gabrielle said "Goodnight, Solari"
"Goodnight, Gabrielle" Solari said, and with that she left.
When Xena woke up she was surprised when she felt a warm body wrapped around hers. It took a few seconds for her to remember where she was. She smiled when she felt Solon tighten his grip on her waist. Then she remembered why she was here and why it was Solon wrapped around her, not Gabrielle. She remembered the pain caused by Gabrielle's accusation yesterday and she remembered how quickly Gabrielle had accused her.
"Good morning Mother" Solon said, as he looked up and Xena noticed again the blue eyes that were looking up at her. 'Just like mine' she thought
"Morning" Xena said
"Mother I was thinking last night. You and Gabrielle, you're lovers aren't you" It was a statement more than a question
Xena was surprised by the forwardness of her son 'Just like me' She thought "Yes, Solon"
"So what was your argument about?" Solon asked he had figured that Gabrielle and his mother were lovers last night when he had seen the sadness in her eyes when he spoke of Gabrielle.
"She accused me of cheating on her" Xena admitted
"Did you?" Solon asked
"No, Solon" Xena said sharply
"I didn't think so" Solon said "I just wanted to know"
"Well now you do" Xena said, unable to keep the sadness out of her voice
"I'm sorry Mother I didn't mean to upset you" Solon said
"No it's ok Solon" Xena said "At least you believe me"
"I'm sure Gabrielle does too" Solon said "She was just afraid, I know it's different but I made friends with a girl who lives here with her family. Her name is Kyra, she is really nice and one of the best friends I've got, but I get frightened sometimes that she is going to met another girl and she will become her best friend and I will be left out"
Xena smiled at the interpretation her son had made of the whole situation and she realised just how close he was to the truth he was. She knew that Gabrielle had just been insecure about their relationship but that didn't stop it from hurting like it did.
"You know what, Solon" Xena said "I think you may be right"
"I am" Solon said and he placed his head back on his mother's shoulder and closed his eyes "Mother can we go for a ride on Argo today?"
"Sure Solon" Xena said and she closed her eyes and went back to sleep.
It was about half a candle mark later when she opened her eyes again. 'Xena you weren't supposed to do that' She thought to herself. She hadn't gone back to sleep after she had woken up for a while now, but she did feel better for it. Solon was still sleeping when Xena looked down at him. So she gently removed herself and grimaced at the sound of her spine realigning itself when she stood. She quietly grabbed her sword and scabbard and placed it on her back. She remembered that Solon wanted to go for a ride on Argo later but until her woke up she should do some drills. 'Maybe then I can get rid of some of this tension' She thought.
She went for a run first which helped relax her body enough to do the drills. Since yesterday her body had been really tense and she knew why. This was the only thing she could think of that would relax her at all.
* * * * *
The Amazon Village
Gabrielle rolled fitfully onto her other side, her hand reaching out to air. Even in sleep, she could feel something missing. Her other half. Since the first night in Amphipolis, she hadn't been without the warmth and protective comfort of those two powerful arms. Or the body they were attached to. Gabrielle woke with a start "Xena?" As she sat up, she noticed where she was.
It took her a few minutes to remember that she was here for the Festival of Artemis and that Xena was alive, then she remembered yesterday and she sank back into the bed and cried herself back to sleep.
Shortly after she was woken by the knocking on the door.
'Doesn't anybody sleep around here?' She thought "Come" She shouted
"Good morning" Solari said as she entered the hut "Are you ready to meet the council?"
"Now?" Gabrielle asked
"Yes now" Solari said, smiling at Gabrielle, who she started to panic, as she got dressed. A few minutes later, when she looked presentable she left the hut and was met by the council hut by the priestess Karis.
"What is this about, Karis?" Gabrielle said
"You have nothing to worry about your Majesty" Karis said "All you have to do is tell them about the argument you have with Xena yesterday and then I will tell them that Artemis has blessed your relationship"
"Ok" Gabrielle said, then they both entered the hut.
In front of them was a long table with the six members of the council behind it. The village Elder motioned for Gabrielle and the Priestess to some forward. Which they did.
"We have heard that you, Queen Gabrielle have requested to be excused from the Joining Ceremony of the Festival. Is this true?" The Elder said
"Yes" Gabrielle said
"Would you please specify for reasons for doing this?" The Elder asked
So Gabrielle explained everything about her relationship and the argument with Xena the day before.
"Have you spoken to Artemis about this?" The Elder asked
"Yes" Gabrielle said
"Karis has Artemis spoken to you about this?" The Elder asked the Priestess
"Yes, Kasis she has" The Priestess said
"What did she say?" Kasis asked
"She said that she had granted Gabrielle her request for her blessing" Karis said "She said she wouldn't allow the joining of the two" She paused which made Gabrielle panic. She thought that Artemis had told Karis to not allow the joining of Xena and her at any time she breathed a sigh of relief when Karis continued "until they were both ready to commit to each other"
"So be it" Kasis said "We have no authority over the Patron Goddess. Your request is granted" With that she signalled for both to leave.
"Well that was easy enough" Gabrielle said, when they were both outside.
"Yes now you have the hardest part to do" Karis told her
"What's that?" Gabrielle asked
"Well apparently Athena wasn't too pleased with the way you treated her Chosen yesterday. You have to try and convince Athena that you are worthy of Xena's hand" Karis told her
"How do I do that?" Gabrielle asked
"You have to find the nearest temple of Athena and ask for her forgiveness and you have to tell her that you were wrong. She needs to see into you heart" Karis said "As you know Athena only has one Chosen at a time unlike Artemis and the other Gods who have four. Athena is very protective of her Chosen, whether it's of her body, mind or soul. She doesn't forget easily and now you have to prove that you are worth her forgiveness. Until you get that, you and Xena can never be joined"
"Where is the nearest temple?" Gabrielle asked
"It is just outside Amphipolis" Karis said "So I would wait until you and Xena are ready to leave and then visit the temple together"
"Thank you, Karis" Gabrielle said
"You're welcome your Majesty" Karis said and then she left, leaving Gabrielle to think about what she had said. Gabrielle had heard the stories about Athena's Chosen before and at the moment she wasn't very confidant of gaining her forgiveness. It would help if Xena forgave her freely though.
* * * * *
The Centaur Village
Solon was waiting patiently while Xena saddled Argo. He was looking forward to spending the day with his mother.
"Mother can we go and see Kyra?" Solon asked "I told her you were a very good friend of mine and I would really like you to meet her. Then I can tell her you're my Mother"
"Sure Solon" Xena said, and she lifted Solon up into the saddle and then mounted behind him "Show me the way"
"Ok" Solon smiled, as he snuggled closer "She leaves just over that hill there" He pointed to the hill in front of them. It is like a second village. It is still Centaur land but it is only humans there"
"Ok" Xena said, and she nudged Argo into a trot.
It didn't take long for them to reach Kyra's house. Kyra was outside playing with her sister when Solon and Xena rode up.
"Solon" Kyra said "Hi"
"Hi, Kyra" Solon said, as he watched Xena dismount and then she helped him down "I want you to meet Xena: Warrior Princess"
"This is Xena" Kyra said, as she looked at Xena and smiled "I've heard a lot about you"
"Yeah well don't believe everything you hear" Xena smiled
"Yeah well, Kyra what you haven't heard is that this is my Mother" Solon said proudly
"Your Mother" Kyra repeated
"Yeah she told me last night" Solon said
"Oh" Kyra said "I thought your Mother was dead"
"I thought so too, but her and Father had a deal that he wouldn't tell me until she was ready to and she told me last night" Solon said "Anyway I just wanted her to meet you. We are going for a ride on Argo. So I'll see you later ok"
"Ok" Kyra said "It was nice to meet you, Xena"
"It was nice to meet you too, Kyra" Xena said, and she lifted Solon up onto Argo and then mounted behind him.
"Bye, Kyra" Solon said
"Bye" Kyra said, and she watched as Solon and Xena rode off for their ride on Argo.Continued in Part 2.