“They are no where to be found,” Epinon said. She looked at Ephiny and Tyldus with great concern. “I did find this...” She handed Ephiny a rag with blood on it.
“There’s not much more we can do tonight. It’s too dark,” Ephiny said. “Whoever’s blood this is...couldn’t have gotten very far.” Several things started running through her mind. Could it be Xena’s? Could it be Gabrielle’s?
“We’ll help you search,” Tyldus said.
“Thank you,” Ephiny said. She was grateful to her centaur friend. “We’ll start at first sign of sunlight.”
“What do you mean you can’t find them,” Sirius said.
“We heard fighting...when we went to check it out...who ever it was gone,” Artelous said.
“You heard fighting...,” Sirius said. “Find them or it’s your head!” He kicked Artelous in the butt and sent him on his way.
Sirius was most displeased with his troops. He knew he wasn’t that far away from Xena. She couldn’t have gotten far.
“I can deliver Xena to you,” the voice said.
“How did you get in here,” Sirius asked the woman standing before him. He couldn’t see her. He was about to call for his guards, but didn’t feel threatened.
“I know where she is at,” the woman said. She was careful not to let herself be known or seen. “She isn’t that hard to find you know...”
“What am I supposed to do in return...,” Sirius asked. It had to be something. No, one would just turn over the Warrior Princess and not ask for anything in return.
“Get rid of the Amazons,” the woman said. “I’ll bring you Xena. As an added bonus, I’ll even throw in the annoying bitch sidekick.”
“Why would you do this for me,” Sirius asked. He could smell a rat, he was starting to smell one now.
“Oh because I want to see Xena suffer. She already is you know...she’s wounded,” the woman said. “Is it a deal?”
“Xena for the Amazons...I think we can broker a deal,” Sirius said. His plan was going to be easier than he thought it was. Xena and her friend, in a nice little package...
Gabrielle suddenly awoke. She sensed someone was in the cave. She looked around and saw that it was only Argo walking around. She started to drift back sleep when she noticed a figure standing directly across from her.
“Too bad she’ll live,” the voice said. She started to walk around the cave. “She’s the one who attacked me you know.” It was Aria or was it...?
Gabrielle was speechless. She looked into the eyes of her new enemy. Gabrielle didn’t care who attacked first. “What do you want?” Gabrielle glanced over at Xena, who was sleeping.
“You do realize that if you stay with her, it will mean own death,” Aria said. She looked down at Xena.
Gabrielle felt hatred. She felt the same hatred Xena did. She would die for Xena. “Your point is?”
“You could have killed me today. Too bad you are too green to kill,” Aria said. She did a familiar laugh. She looked at Gabrielle in a certain way.
Gabrielle recognized the voice, the mannerisms. But it couldn’t be...she is dead. Xena killed her... Gabrielle walked over to Aria. They were face to face. “What do you want?” She was determined to get answer out of her.
“Testy aren’t we,” Aria said. “Oh, nothing really.” She started to walk around the cave again.
Gabrielle wasn’t pleased with this answer, “nothing?”
“Actually, I just wanted to make sure she was still alive,” Aria said. She started to walk towards Xena.
Gabrielle was quick to get in the way. She grabbed her staff and was poised for a fight. “I thought you meant us no harm?”
“I meant you know no harm at first, which is quite the irony of the situation,” Aria said. Realizing that Gabrielle was about vanquish her with her staff, she vanished. She couldn’t deliver Sirius her present if she were trapped...
“It can’t be...you are dead...Xena killed you with the Hind’s Blood Dagger,” Gabrielle muttered. She knew who the spirit warrior really was....it was CALLISTO!
Gabrielle knew things were going to be more complicated. Callisto was back... But how?
“Do you ever die,” Ares asked.
“Can’t keep a good girl down you know,” Callisto said. “Admit it, it would be fun watching the two of them die.” She knew Ares hated Gabrielle.
“You can’t really think you’ll succeed do you,” Ares asked. He hated Callisto. Callisto hated him. It was a perfect match.
“You’ve been a witness...Gabrielle’s precious Xena has gone nuts. Too bad I didn’t finish the job. It would have been fun watching her die,” the blonde one said.
“Too bad for you,” Ares said. For some strange form of reasoning, he was going to protect Xena and Gabrielle.
“Ares..You aren’t going soft on me are you,” Callisto said. “I thought you hated Gabrielle. She did take Xena from you after all...”
“Get out of my site Callisto,” Ares said. “You aren’t going to stop my plans this time.” He was about to attack to Callisto.
“Very well then,” Callisto said then disappeared.
Ares was most displeased. Having Callisto involved only complicated matters.
The Next Morning...
“Gab-rie-lle,” Xena muttered. Her eyes drifted open.
“What...what is it,” Gabrielle said. She moved closer to Xena.
“Callisto...she’s alive,” Xena said weakly. Her eyes opened to look at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle just looked at her. “She’s dead...” She knew Xena wasn’t awake.
Xena started to get up. As much of a struggle as it was for her, she did managed to get almost upright.
“Hey...,” Gabrielle said. She forced Xena to lie back down.
Xena grimaced in pain. She wanted to get up.
“You’ll tear your stitches,” Gabrielle said. She looked at the wound to make sure Xena didn’t tear any. Gabrielle was relieved she hadn’t. “Here, drink some water.” Gabrielle lifted Xena up and held a protective hand to the back of Xena’s head. Xena drank. “Rest...”
Gabrielle retrieved the empty waterskins and went down the stream. Gabrielle started to walk back towards the cave when she ran into Ares.
“This is no my doing. I would personally wish she just die...Callisto that is...,” Ares said.
Gabrielle walked past him. Ares followed her.
“Xena didn’t tell you? Of course not, you would have probably found someway to stop her from killing Sirius...just like in Chin,” Ares said.
Gabrielle turned back around in disbelief. “What?”
“Xena was going to stop Sirius,” Ares said.
“The God of War trying to stop a war,” Gabrielle asked. She found this hard to believe. She found it even harder to believe that Xena would actually do something for Ares. “You trying to stop a war?”
“Believe it or not, if you hadn’t followed her...Xena would be dead,” Ares said. “And you would be at the mercy of Sirius.” He may have hated Gabrielle, but he did have this respect for her. Gabrielle never gave up. Xena had taught her well.
“I seem to remember someone telling Xena that she had to kill Hope...only to be told later that if she did she would die,” Gabrielle said. Gabrielle shouldn’t have brought that up, but it was inevitable.
Ares ignored her comment. “You’ll need my help to get out. Sirius is just over that ridge.” Ares pointed to the a spot just above the cave. He disappeared.
Gabrielle returned to the cave to find Xena awake and a little more alert.
“Callisto is alive,” Xena asked. It was pure instinct, the look in Aria’s eyes.
Gabrielle knew there was no denying it. “Yes.” She placed the waterskins beside the fire. She sat down next to Xena. They’ve been in this situation before.
“We have to leave here,” Xena said. She tried to get up.
Gabrielle was quick to stop her. “Are sure you can move?” Gabrielle wasn’t sure that Xena should be moved.
“If we stay here...we are sitting ducks,” Xena said. She tried to get into a more upright position. The pain was a little much, but she managed. She tried not to alert Gabrielle that she was in pain.
“Are sure you can move,” Gabrielle asked.
“It’s either that or you leave me here,” Xena said sarcastically.
Gabrielle didn’t find much humor in that statement. “You must be better, you are trying to be funny,” Gabrielle kidded. “If we are going to leave soon, I have to get Argo ready.” She got up.
“Gabrielle...thank you,” Xena said.
Gabrielle looked back she couldn’t think of anything to say. She just smiled and got Argo ready for their departure. Gabrielle did know one thing, Ephiny would be out looking for her.
After getting Argo ready and getting Xena somewhat dressed, Gabrielle carefully helped Xena up onto Argo. Gabrielle got on behind. Xena was still weak. Gabrielle didn’t want to chance Xena falling off Argo at a most unexpected moment. They were off and on the trail in no time.
Gabrielle knew this was a mistake, but she had no choice in the matter. Xena was right, if they stayed there, Sirius would most surely find them.
It didn’t take Ephiny and the others too long to find Gabrielle and Xena. Xena had told Gabrielle to head back to the camp. Ephiny was a little mad at Gabrielle for running off. But was relieved to find out that everyone was pretty much in one piece. Even Xena was starting to feel a little better.
The Amazons and the Centaurs were ready to go after Sirius. Xena warned them that another party has taken interest in this war. This person wants both Nations destroyed. Xena was in no condition to fight. But she knew Sirius. He uses her tactics. She could predict him. That is the only reason she was able to go along with them, much to Gabrielle’s disapproval.
“Fighting Sirius will be like fighting a ghost Gabrielle,” Xena said. Gabrielle was walking beside Xena who was riding Argo.
“Are you sure you are up to this,” Gabrielle said. She was concerned. Xena wasn’t at full strength. She wasn’t even at half-strength. In someway, some how, Xena always managed to come through.
“I’m fine,” Xena said. She knew Gabrielle was concerned about her. Even she was concerned about herself. Was she really up to this?
“Promise me you’ll run if you get out numbered,” Gabrielle said. She meant it as a joke. Xena didn’t catch on.
“I promise,” Xena said. They continued on ahead.