“We lost both of them,” Margolis said. “It’s like they didn’t leave any tracks. No boot prints, no horse prints. All gone.”
“I’m disappointed in you Margolis,” Sirius said. Sirius struck Margolis in the gut with a staff. Margolis fell to the ground in pain. “Get up!” He stood over him, looking down upon him.
Margolis staggered to his feet. He straightened himself. He took a deep breath and stared into Sirius’ eyes. He knew he was going to die.
“Find the Amazons,” Sirius said. “They’ll make good slaves.”
Margolis started to leave, but Sirius launched a knife into his back. He screamed out in pain. He slowly fell to his knees, then fell to the ground.
“Get him out of here,” Sirius said. He yanked the knife out and wiped it off. He place the weapon back in his belt and headed out of the hut.
The Spirited Woods, 3
“It pained you to leave her behind, so why did you,” Aria asked. She appeared across from Xena.
“She could get hurt,” Xena said. She looked into the spirit and saw Gabrielle. It made feel even more guilty.
“So could you,” Aria said. “You seemed troubled by a vision of your friend’s death. You seemed troubled by the fact that you maybe the one responsible. Does that explain why she isn’t here.” Aria was pumping her for more information.
“Who are you,” Xena asked again. She’s seen the face before. She can’t place it. Xena is overly cautious of this person, as she asks too many questions. It was just her natural instinct kicking in.
“I’m Aria of Arepolis. A village your army burnt to the ground, but spared the lives of the women and young children. You killed my father with your own sword.”
Those words haunted Xena. Xena envisions the ravaging of Arepolis. She remembers seeing a young girl holding a doll, hovering over a man’s body, sobbing and shaking the lifeless form at her feet. She remembers turning away to attack another poor farmer, slicing him open. Xena just stares into the fire, contemplating her past crimes. Why was this person here? What did this person really want? This questions were racing through Xena’s mind.
Xena looked up again, only to find the spirit gone.
Xena’s head started to throb again. She tried to soothe the pain by rubbing her temples, but it didn’t work. The increasing pain went throughout her body. She winced at it, then it went away. She went back to staring into the fire, deep in her thoughts.
Ever since India, Xena has been real cautious of spirits and weird religions. She kept a watchful eye out. She did realize that her spirited friend was right, it did pain her to leave Gabrielle behind like it usually did.. Xena was intent on making that vision not come true, even if it meant leaving Gabrielle behind on a few adventures. She felt what she was doing was for the “Greater Good.” Or least that what she thought. She closed her eyes to see if it helped the pain.
Sneaking Out of the Hut
Gabrielle’s hut was guarded. She was after all the Amazon Queen. Gabrielle couldn’t let Xena go in alone into Sirius’ camp. She would be killed for sure. She knew Xena could hold her own in battle, but this was different. Sirius could predict Xena’s every move.
“You are worried about your friend,” Aria said. “She is worried about you, that’s why she told you to stay here.”
“I can’t stay here,” Gabrielle said. “I have to help her.”
“She is troubled by her past,” Aria said.
“You know of her past . . . ,” Gabrielle said. “...then you know why I have to go.”
“She killed my father with her own sword. I seek no revenge,” Aria said. “She is troubled by what she has taught others.” Aria was trying to be calm. She to gain the confidence of Gabrielle. Showing any type of anger would not be good.
“I need to help Xena,” Gabrielle argued. She was more intent on helping her friend.
“I can help,” Aria said.
“How,” Gabrielle asked.
“By you staying here,” Aria said. “If you truly want to help her, then you must stay here.”
“How can you help her,” Gabrielle asked. Her curiosity was getting the better of her. She waited for answer, but the spirit disappeared.
Gabrielle, despite what Xena told her about her past always looked at it as a disease, but that wasn’t the case. For if it wasn’t for that past, she and Xena could most likely be dead. Gabrielle knew going after Sirius was suicide. This gave her even more cause to go after her friend. Gabrielle gathered a few items together before she left the hut to join up with Xena.
“You never listen do you,” Xena said. She knew Gabrielle was behind her.
“How did you know it was me,” Gabrielle asked. She sat down next to her friend.
This generated no response from Xena. “Why did you follow me?” She threw a couple sticks into the fire. She stirred it around a bit. She didn’t look at her friend. But she was glad to see her friend.
“I can’t let you go in alone, he’ll kill you,” Gabrielle said. She tried on comfort herself with the fact that what she was doing was right. She sat down on the log next to Xena. She tried to read Xena’s expression, but there was nothing there. Just emptiness. Gabrielle hated this look because she could never think of what Xena was going to do next.
“I can’t let you come with me,” Xena said. She continued to look away.
“The vision,” Gabrielle said. “It’s the vision isn’t it?” Gabrielle look at Xena, trying to look inside to see what was causing the turmoil.
Xena just looked at Gabrielle. Body language is sometimes more than words. Xena didn’t have to say anything, Gabrielle knew.
“I’m not letting you go in alone,” Gabrielle said. “That’s final.” She let out a sigh. She wasn’t going to let Xena give her the shaft. She has every intent of fighting side by side her friend.
Xena was about to voice her displeasure, but decided to let it go. It was probably better in the long run. “If you are going to come with me, get some sleep.”
“You should too,” Gabrielle said. Almost as an after thought, “ . . . are you okay?”
Xena finally looked at friend, “I’m fine.” Xena’s smile was weak and looked as if it was in pain.
Getting Xena to talk about her feelings was a battle in itself. Gabrielle decided to let it go. Gabrielle nestled onto the ground for some sleep. Xena kept a watchful eye over her friend. Gabrielle knew she wasn’t going to get much sleep. Her mind was just active.
Ares Tells Xena
Xena wondered off into the woods, “show yourself Ares.”
“Aria of Arepolis, I remember that. That’s when you self-invoked your ‘don’t kill women and children code.’ She’s just like you know,” Ares said. “Only she doesn’t act out on revenge. Or does she?”
“I killed her father,” Xena said. Xena was remembering Arepolis.
“You killed many fathers,” Ares said. “She’ll try to keep you from killing Sirius.”
“Aria is not an illusion to Gabrielle,” Xena said. She knew that Gabrielle had a strong feeling towards, spiritualness. It was something she learned from being with the Amazons.
“That should concern you. Ever think that Gabrielle is here to stop you from killing Sirius?”
“Gabrielle knows what kind of man Sirius is,” Xena said. “She knows what needs to be done. She won’t try to stop me.”
“Like Hope right? Xena when will you ever learn why Gabrielle prevents you from killing from sometimes,” Ares said.
“She is concerned,” Xena said. She beginning to think Ares was trying to get her to give into her ‘dark side’ again.
“You want to believe that is the case, but I think otherwise,” Ares said. He laughs then disappears.
Xena is plagued by a memory of the burning Arepolis. For the life of her, she couldn’t figure out what side Ares was on. Or what he was really trying to do. Did Ares really want her to kill Sirius or was it some diabolical plot to get her back. Gabrielle’s sudden appearance made her think twice. Maybe Gabrielle was here to stop her from killing Sirius.
“Wake up Gabrielle,” Xena said. She nudged her friend with her boot to wake her up.
“Did you sleep at all last night,” Gabrielle asked her friend. Her eyes slowly drifted open.
“No,” Xena said. “We have a lot of ground to cover.” She gets on Argo and starts to head off.
Gabrielle is slow to get up, but moved quicker once she realized she’ll be left behind, again. Xena was obviously intent on getting Sirius and was in a hurry to get it down. Aria appears only to Gabrielle, “You must prevent her from killing Sirius Gabrielle.”
Gabrielle realizes that only she sees her, “Why?” She stops and turns to Aria.
Aria notices that Xena doesn’t see her, “She has lost faith. I’m in danger. I must go.” Aria fears those who don’t believe or suddenly lost their faith. Xena was one of those that had faith, but lost it. This was not good for anyone. If those who believe lose faith, they turn into somebody that is to be feared.
Gabrielle sensed in someway, Aria was afraid of Xena. “How far away are we?” Gabrielle caught up with Xena. Gabrielle was worried. Gabrielle has seen the look in Xena’s eyes before. This look scared her. Xena’s dark side was emerging.
“The camp is just over the ridge,” Xena said. She climbed off of Argo. “Take Argo.” She looked towards the ridge. She climbed off Argo. Her head started to hurt again, but she quickly concealed herself from Gabrielle.
“We aren’t separating again,” Gabrielle said. “We both almost got killed the last time, remember?” She sensed a sudden change in Xena. She took the reins willingly.
“Figment of your imagination,” Xena said. She opened up one of her saddle bags and took out a knife.
“Figment?...Wait!....No. You aren’t ditching me,” Gabrielle ordered. “You aren’t doing this.” She was concerned. This was unlike Xena. Yeah sure she changed her mind every once in awhile, but this was a mood change not a mind change. Gabrielle could do nothing but look on.
“I’m doing it now,” Xena said. “Get on Argo and head back.” She wanted Gabrielle to be safe.
“I’m not moving,” Gabrielle said. “I’m either coming with you, or I’m staying here.”
“Okay, then stay here.” She started to walk off.
“I’m still going to follow you,” Gabrielle said. She started to follow Xena.
Xena stopped and walked back towards Gabrielle. “Good point.” Xena walked over to Argo got some rope then proceeded to walk towards Gabrielle.
“What are doing,” Gabrielle asked. She started to walk backwards. She walked into a tree. She was scared.
“Making sure you don’t follow me,” Xena said. She took the rope and started to tie Gabrielle up. “I’m doing this for own safety, trust me on this.” She didn’t look at her friend.
“You’re tying me up to a tree, AGAIN?” Gabrielle was in disbelief. She was no longer concerned for Xena, she was scared of her.
Xena had a sudden appearance change. Her look was that of evil. There was no preventing her this time from completing the task. The old Xena was back. Something prevented her from killing those who got in her way this time; it was what goodness she had left in her. It was the goodness Gabrielle showed her. Perhaps that is why she tied her young friend up.
“Xena!!” Gabrielle shouted. She was about to be sick. She struggled with the ropes, trying to the loosen them up, but she got no where.
Xena simply ignored her. She continued on ahead, never looking back.
Aria appears before Gabrielle, “she is doing this for your own safety.” Aria walks around Gabrielle.
“How am I supposed to stop her if I’m tied up,” Gabrielle said. Gabrielle continued to struggle with the ropes.
With a motion of the wrist, the ropes disappeared. “Go quickly. Be careful for you do not know what your friend is capable of.” Aria then disappeared.
Gabrielle retrieved her staff and head off to follow Xena. She was concerned for her friend. “I do know what she is capable of,” Gabrielle shouted. “That’s why I have to stop her!”
Xena was walking, cautiously along the trail to the camp. Darkness was setting in. She had taken the long route to throw off any warning of her attack or just in case anyone was following her.
“You can’t kill him,” Aria said. She walked besides Xena. “I won’t let you!”
“You are an illusion,” Xena said. Xena shrugged it off again. Her head was throbbing more than what it was before. Her vision went slightly awry but she was able to refocus.
“You can’t kill me this time,” Aria said. “I have other plans for you...” She was directly in front of Xena. Aria was ready for a fight. Her motions, her stature was familiar to Xena. There was something about her that triggered something in Xena...
Xena suddenly felt dizzy again. She took out her sword and charged Aria. Xena yelled out her battle cry. She saw Aria not as an ally, but as a feared enemy. One that must be killed. Xena couldn’t put her finger on it, but she knew person. She knew this person very well.
Xena promptly flattened Aria who was quick to recover and kicked Xena in chest, sending her backwards to the ground. Xena jumped back to feet, charging Aria again. Aria again, kicked Xena sending her backwards. Xena decided to forget the close combat technic and used her chakram. She threw the chakram, only to have it caught by Aria. Aria hurled the chakram back at Xena. Xena caught it and was about to throw it again . . .
Aria this time charged Xena, with swords aloft, the two clashed. They fought like seasoned warriors. They had the same strengths, the same strengths. It was like fighting a mirror image of one’s self.
“No revenge you said,” Xena said. She twirled her sword around a few times. She made a lunge for Aria who quickly deflected it. Xena fought hard to keep a grip on her sword.
“You are the one that charged me my friend,” Aria said. Aria managed to get Xena down.
Xena kicked Aria, sending her backwards. “But you are the one who continues to fight.” Xena jumped back to her knees, intent on killing Aria.
“So are you,” Aria said. She charged back at Xena, she just barely misses stabbing her. Aria manages to disarm Xena by kicking her sword from her hand. Aria kicks Xena few times in the stomach sending her back to the ground, in pain.
Xena quickly recovers her sword and comes back after Aria who was waiting for her. Xena again charges Aria, yelling her battle cry. There was something familiar about all of this...
Gabrielle hears swords clashing, she runs as fast as she can towards the fighting. She stops dead in her tracks when she sees who it is that is fighting. “Xena?” Gabrielle is confused. She watches the two warriors battle with each other.
“Stay out of this Gabrielle,” Xena shouted.
“It’s time Gabrielle,” Aria said. She turned to look at Gabrielle.
Feeling like it is the ultimate betrayal, an already delirious Xena charged towards Aria screaming her battle cry.
Gabrielle cries out “Xena!” Gabrielle runs closer. She can only watch what is unfolding in front of her. Something that she has never seen in quite full detail, the person that made people run and hide when they heard the name, “Xena.”
Aria quickly turns and stabs Xena in her left side she made no sound. Gabrielle is shocked, she couldn’t tell who stabbed who. Xena falls into Aria, she looks into her eyes. Xena mumbled something to her attacker. Xena knew who it was... Aria pulls the knife from Xena. Aria lets her rest there before stepping back. Xena falls to the ground, she is motionless. Aria only smiles. She turned to look at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle hurls her staff towards Aria, but she disappears before it hits her.
Gabrielle runs to Xena’s side. She turns the semiconscious warrior over. Blood was pouring out of the wound. “Xena?” Gabrielle put her hand over the wound. She looked at her hand, it was covered in blood.
No response. The only thing that stared up at Gabrielle were a pair of blue eyes that didn’t look normal. Her color was off, she was going into shock.
Gabrielle whistles for Argo. Argo loyally comes to the aide. She struggles to find some rags to put into the wound, she forced them into the gapping hole. Xena cried out in pain. Gabrielle struggled to get Xena up onto Argo, but somehow managed. She steadies Xena as she climbs up behind her. Gabrielle heads off to find someplace safe. Xena needed immediate attention, traveling back to the camp was out of the question.
Gabrielle spotted a cave and decided to head there. At least they could be hidden. Gabrielle was covered in blood.
She was confused of the situation before her. She couldn’t make sense of why Xena and Aria would be fighting. This was a question for Xena later. Right now, her major concern was to tend to Xena.
Gabrielle rode Argo into the cave. She fudged a little bit, but she soon calmed down. The cave was dimly lit. She slid off Argo while continuing to hold Xena on the horse. Then slowly, she helped Xena off the horse. The weight was almost too much for Gabrielle. She propped Xena up against a rock. Xena yelped out. The pain was almost getting to be to much for her. Xena relinquished her urge to be in control and let Gabrielle help her.
“Stay with me,” Gabrielle said. “Hold these here.” Gabrielle placed Xena’s hands over the rags. “Hold it tight.”
Xena again yelped with pain. Xena looked confused.
“I need to get a fire started,” Gabrielle said. “You’re going to be okay.”
The reassurance didn’t help much. Xena started to feel light headed. The loss of blood was catching up her. She let herself succumb to the pain, it would be better in the long run. It would be easier on Gabrielle. Xena slowly drifted to an unconscious state. She was at peace for the moment.
When Gabrielle returned, she quickly started the fire. She retrieved Xena’s medicine pouch, a blanket and the water skins from Argo and placed them beside Xena. “You’re going to be okay.” At this point, it was more for her reassurance than her patient’s. She was nervous about whether or not she could get the blooding to stop.
Gabrielle let the unconscious head rest on her shoulders while she removed the torn leather. There was so much blood. Gabrielle gently placed the woman on the ground and removed the rest of the tunic. Gabrielle worked over her patient for what seemed to be an eternity. The wound took several stitches to close. Gabrielle’s only hope was that this wasn’t a wasted effort. The wound itself wasn’t that deep.
A few hours later, the bleeding had finally stopped. Gabrielle was finally able to properly dress the wound. Xena was regaining some level of consciousness. It was just enough for Gabrielle to help Xena drink some water.
“I need to get some more water...and clean....up,” Gabrielle said. She didn’t want to leave her alone, at least not for very long. Gabrielle scooped up the waterskins and headed towards a stream she spied earlier. She made sure her trip was quick.
Gabrielle returned to find Xena a little more alert. “Hey...,” Gabrielle said. She kneeled down beside Xena.
Xena’s eyes drifted open, unfocused and confused. She couldn’t for the life of her figure out what was going on. She found it hard to breath, much less easier to talk. She decided not to waste what energy she had on something trivial as talking at the moment. She knew it would be better if for her in the long run if she conserved her energy to get well. She would get about faster if she let her body recover from the what appeared to be a traumatic injury. She just looked into Gabrielle’s eyes.
“You need to drink some more water,” Gabrielle ordered. She lifted Xena’s head.
Xena complied. She drank the water. She started to feel weak. While she didn’t pass out completely, she relaxed just enough to let Gabrielle know that she wasn’t completely up to drinking water at the present time.
This concerned Gabrielle even more. Xena felt as if she was on fire. Gabrielle expected a fever, but not this high of one. Given Xena’s state of mind over the last day and the attack, Gabrielle was worried as to what the next few hours would bring. High fevers can bring out some strange things in people. Sometimes it’s nothing, sometimes it can dangerous. Xena was already dangers. Gabrielle could only hope that Xena would sleep through most of it.
In her haste of taking care of Xena, Gabrielle had completely forgotten about Argo. The patient mare waited her turn. The war horse didn’t seem to be to upset about being ignored. In away, the horse understood. “I’ll get some water for you.” Gabrielle poured some water into a rock depression. “I’m sorry I forgot about you.” The horse snorted and drank the water. Gabrielle patted the horse and then looked back to her friend, who was resting. After feeding Argo, she promised to clean her later on.
Gabrielle kneeled down beside her friend. She pushed back the hair, “Your fever is really high...” Gabrielle took some rags and poured water on them. She started to wash the warrior down. “I need to try to cool you down.” Gabrielle continued to wash down the skin. It didn’t seem like it was doing any good, but it was.
“Better...,” the warrior mumbled.
Gabrielle’s heart broke. Xena was obviously in pain. She broke into a little grin, knowing that at least Xena was appreciative of her tireless efforts.
Gabrielle knew she had to get some sleep, but couldn’t bring herself to get any. She was concerned for her friend. She let out a sigh and started to drift off to sleep. She caught herself falling asleep, she quickly regrouped.
After changing Xena’s bandage and making sure she was asleep, Gabrielle tended to Argo. Argo was more than happy to have the saddle off. Gabrielle started to take to Argo down the stream, but she stopped. Almost as an after thought, Gabrielle took Xena’s chakram and placed the warrior’s limp right hand on top of it. This kind act generated a weak smile from the warrior. This gave Gabrielle a little bit of reassurance that everything was going to be okay.
Gabrielle returned to find Xena had moved a little. This was a good sign. Gabrielle took one of the rags and watered it down. Gabrielle knelt beside Xena and wiped off her face. “Your fever is still high...” Gabrielle took the rags she just recently soaked and started to wash down Xena again. The attempt to cool Xena down may have been futile, but if it made Xena feel better...it made her feel better.
Gabrielle could no longer fight the sleep. She found herself slowly drifting off to