3rd Part of The Darkness and The Light series
By Mikael Helbo Kjaer
Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and all other original characters portrayed in the TV show Xena, Warrior Princess are the exclusive property of Renaissance Pictures, Studios USA and Universal Television. No infringement is intended by this piece of fiction. The story is however the exclusive property of the above mentioned author. This story can be freely copied and distributed online under the condition that any website or list informs the author about the posting or the author approaches the website or list with the story for posting. The story and this note must be presented unedited except for any HTML added for presentation purposes. All other situations must be negotiated with the author as named above. No commercial gain must come from the usage of this story.
Setting: Post FIN
Sexual references: GEN (with subtext)
Violence: This story contains scenes and descriptions of intense violence
Summary: 3rd installment of the series 'The Darkness and The Light', which follows the adventures of first Gabrielle alone and then the girls together after the end of the 6th series, which I found unsatisfying to my need for XWP action. The 3rd story sees Xena beginning to follow the over two years old trail of her beloved Gabrielle and discovers the true reason the amazons disappeared from Greece. Her travels allows her to discover, what brought Gabrielle back to the once again beleaguered amazon nation, a nation suffering from both threats from the outside world and stagnation inside.
Author's notes: I want to thank my fellow writer TC O'Neill and my friend Karen Tang for their encouraging commentary on my writings. I hope this next installment won't disappoint any of my readers. I am now moving into the part of the overall plot, where I'll attempt to move my characters slowly along emotionally to the point, where I want them to be for the final. I have chosen to reduce the series to 6 installments, because I am developing the emotional content faster than expected and the intervening mini-stories really did nothing to advance the main plot. I am also currently in the process of preparing an uber series, which I'll begin writing as soon as I am done with this series.Chapter 1:
The morning was clear and sunny. She could see from the entrance of the hospice all the way to the not so distant mountains that lay around Amphipolis. The sound of hooves thundering against the packed sand road came closer. Eve shielded her eyes from the shining sun and glared towards the approaching rider. Her mother's hair was flying wild and loose in the wind that whipped around her, as she galloped towards her hospice.
With regret she thought about her mother's coming departure. She had known it would come ever since she had heard found her mother's frail body clawing its way out of the family crypt. The connection between Gabrielle and Xena transcended anything she had experienced in her life and in some way she envied the pair's complete devotion to each other, which according to her mother and Gabrielle's writings had and would continue to transcend the passage of time. Those two souls were destined to die and meet again as they probably always had done and always would do until the end of time. It was a romantic thought even if she agreed that it did make their lives seem less valuable than they actually were.
Her mother's new horse, which she had just spent the last week training skidded to a halt in front of her. Her black haired mother vaulted easily from the saddle and landed in front of her daughter after several flips in the air. "Show off", Eve commented and embraced her mother in greeting.
"Eve, darling", her mother's voice betrayed a lingering unhappiness. Eve wondered if it was because Gabrielle wasn't around or because of the goodbye that she was about to say.
"I think I am ready to go", her mother said with a glint of pain in her lightning blue eyes. "I only need to pick up a few supplies then I'll ride to the amazon lands", she explained.
Eve knew that her mother had been preparing to leave and her mind had long accepted that thought, but still the words brought pain to her heart. Ignoring the feelings that she knew were akin to jealousy and not worthy of her, she asked: "So the skin and the book from Chin have told you where she is?"
Her mother looked pained for a few seconds then explained: "No. The skin was obviously a gift from the amazons. It contains an epic poem about all the things Gabrielle has done for the amazons. It looks like it contains her elegy as well. I think they put it into the pouch as a gift of honor from the amazons so something amazon would be in the place where Gabrielle should have found her final rest". Her mother's tone of voice had dropped a few tones and contained two thing rarely found in it: fear and pain.
"She isn't dead", Eve heard herself say with the same absolute conviction that she had in her soul. She believed that she would have known if Gabrielle, a girl unrelated by blood, but in many ways her adopted mother, friend and sister, had died. "I just know she isn't", she said and saw in her mother's eyes that she lightened her pain a little. Her mother didn't contradict her.
"Please come inside", Eve asked and gently gestured towards the door. "I have some things for you", she explained at her mother's inquisitive look.
The two dark haired women walked inside. Silently they passed through the large common room, where Eve's helpers were caring for the few patients that they currently had. They made their way to the kitchen area without exchanging a word, both women not people of many words to begin with and in addition the coming departure of the older woman hung between them like a barrier.
Eve slowly walked over to a cupboard and heaved a heavy basket out of it. "I had this made for you, while you were recovering", she explained and took the covering blanket of the basket. Xena looked down and to her astonishment saw a beautiful replica of her old armor sitting besides a small collection of weapons. There was a sword again made like her old one broad and thick with razor sharp twin edges, two daggers, a whip, a bow and a quiver of black feathered arrows. Of course no chakram lay in there, but she didn't mind. Finding its current owner was the entire reason she left this peaceful place and her beautiful daughter.
Neither smiled as the woman came back dressed like the warrior she would always be with her sword over her shoulder, the whip where her chakram used to hang and the quiver and bow held in her hand, they would be deposited on the horse later. Eve mused in her thoughts that the daggers were now hidden out of view somewhere on the formidable woman that was her mother. She held out the large bag of food and two wineskins that she had gathered, while her mother had dressed for her life on the road. Without speaking they walked out of the hospice and stopped besides the brown mare that now served as her mother's steed. Eve watched wordlessly, while her mother with practiced ease got ready to travel.
Suddenly she remembered something and asked: "What about the book from Chin? Did it contain any clues about Gabrielle?" Eve looked at her mother, who stood besides her horse lost in thought for a moment.
"It could, but it is written in one of the dialects of Chin that I am not familiar with. I can only read a little of it. Most of the book is a treatise on how to properly lead a large army into war made by some Chin general. However there is a large section in the back of the book, which is written in a different language by a different person than the one, who wrote the treatise. I think I recognized a few of the signs naming a foreigner called Green Dragon, who was laying waste to a large part of Chin. I couldn't wring anymore from it. I will have to ask the amazons how it got in the bag. Maybe it was something Gabrielle carried around with her. Maybe it was leftover from her adventurous trip home from Japan, when she wasn't writing", Xena explained.
Remembering the glorious tattoo of a green dragon, which now covered the back of the bard, she couldn't help asking: "I hope Gabrielle isn't the one they…"
However her mother interrupted her with genuine anger in her voice. "Don't be stupid Eve. Gabrielle doesn't have the darkness you and I share inside of her. She would never lead an army in murderous conquest against anyone", Eve however could also hear the slight waver in her mother's voice that indicated she had only voiced a fear they both shared. They knew that they also like many before them had underestimated the lengths Gabrielle would go to, if she believed the greater good would be served by her actions. In fact even Xena had underestimated her many times. They both knew that Gabrielle had an idealistic core in her soul which nothing had ever truly tarnished. It was what let Gabrielle lead the Amazons to war at Helicon, it was what had brought Gabrielle to Livia's camp to reason with her, it was what had allowed Gabrielle to let Xena stay dead in Japan and it was what lent Gabrielle the strength to continue the fight for the greater good. But it could also lead Gabrielle far astray as she had proven by betraying Xena during their first trip to Chin or when she had lied about killing Hope.
Her mother slowly approached and gave her daughter a kiss and a hug. "We will try to make it back here as soon as possible", she heard her mother promise. Eve knew that if her mother found her friend dead or worse, the will that had allowed her to somehow return to the living would abandon her and this would be the last time they met if such a thing happened.
"I will pray to Eli for your safe return", Eve promised.
"You do that. And stay out of trouble", her mother added casually as she swung herself up into the saddle. Eve smiled and nodded.
"Hiya", her mother yelled, reminding Eve of the blond haired warrior bard doing the same thing using the same words over two and a half years ago and never returning. She saw the black haired and armored shape of her mother disappearing down the road in the midday sun.
Eve thought about the last weeks. Her mother had pressed herself, training her muscles and body back to its old strength and endurance at day and reading or even re-reading the precious scrolls of Gabrielle's adventures in Greece at night. Scrolls that now rested on the side of Xena's saddle. Her mother had read about Egypt and Poteidaia. She had read about Gabrielle's trek to Athens in a countryside beset by raiders and marauders because of the lack of roman peacekeeping. About how Gabrielle had arrived in Athens and been greeted by the Academy of Bards as if she was famous. Her visit had been marred by a series of murders, which she had learned had been motivated not by professional jealousy but by the need to keep ancient intrigues at the Academy secret. Her mother had regaled her with Gabrielle's adventure in the form of a man, when Aphrodite had accidentally put a spell on her. Only the last scroll which had told of how Gabrielle had been captured by the Romans still angry over her actions in Egypt and how she had used her wit and charm as well as her friend Plini to con a corrupt roman governor out of his fortune, while getting away in the ensuing mess with a full pardon for her crimes had contained a clue where she went after Athens.
The last lines of the last scroll contained a mysterious sentence indicating that Gabrielle had gone to the amazons, a trip she had never returned from and which neither, Lila, Eve nor Xena knew the result of. There had been no news from her or the Amazons since then aside from a few closed mouthed visitors showing up in Poteidaia with Gabrielle's scrolls a while back. There were rumors that there no longer were any amazons left in Greece. Eve mused it was not her destiny to do anything more about this. She knew that her mother would either find Gabrielle or die trying. With a sigh she saw her mother's very distant figure disappear into the woods down the road. Eve turned and walked back inside. There were sick people that needed her help.
Xena had hoped that the beginning of her trip would lighten her mood, but instead she found her thoughts darkened by her final conversation with Eve. She had like Eve also thought about the fact that Gabrielle now had an easily recognizable tattoo of a green dragon covering her entire back. Gabrielle had now spent over 2 and a half years adventuring all over the known world, what if she had succumbed to that darkness that their last year together had revealed even Gabrielle had a share of. Suddenly Xena felt a prickling in her skin.
"I was wondering, why you hadn't shown up yet", she said and looked towards a clearing in the woods. Ares appeared in a shower of blue light and sparks.
"You look ravishing. I must admit I just couldn't believe it at first. I thought you mortals stayed dead, when you were shot full of arrows, beheaded and then cremated", he glibly added and stroked his thin black beard. As the god he was Ares looked just like the last time she had seen him.
"Yeah well as you of all gods should know I am not like all other mortals. I came back. And that is all I am going to tell you", Xena reined in her horse and stopped so that the god was on her left side. She turned her head towards him and asked: "So what do you want? I don't really have time for you right now. I am looking for Gabrielle".
"Yeah yeah, it is always about her isn't it? What about what I have to offer? I could give you the world. I could arrange for you to become a goddess. Please don't waste your precious chance for a new life on looking for that… poet", he spat the last word like he reviled its taste in his mouth.
Xena looked down on him her left brow arched. "I thought you and her had buried your mutual dislike", she stated remembering the mentions of his visits with Gabrielle in her scrolls.
He was silent for a few moments then ruefully admitted. "All right so she finally grew on me so what? I love you. I liked her. She really was a great surprise to the overblown egos of so many of my more misguided followers. Still I don't think you completely realize what you sent home from Japan. In the end you had created a masterpiece of a war machine out of that little irritating idealistic blonde farm girl. You should have seen her going up against the Romans or those pesky survivors of Gascar's army. Ahh", Ares seemed to relish a particular memory for a moment then looked back at Xena, who stared at him furiously.
"What!" He asked and looked around him as if he didn't know what he had done wrong.
"Gabrielle is a beautiful and good person, who fights what she believes in and the greater good. Furthermore she is my friend and you should not... Oh, never mind. Now unless you were going tell me, where she is, I'll be leaving", Xena delivered her ultimatum with a lingering angry fire still in her eyes and gave him only moments to answer.
"Now wait a little my dear. Okay, I happen to like her and she did do me a few favors before she left Greece. In fact I think she would have become my chosen by herself given enough time. Never mind that… I am sorry, I can't help you Xena. All I know is that the Romans and some Greek settlers were threatening her amazons and that she rode up there to help them. There was a massive battle, but I was distracted with an ambitious warlord, so I didn't really pay that much attention to it beyond the carnage the actual battle was. I think the amazons were so few after the battle that they simply disappeared. No amazons live on Greek or Roman soil anymore. That is a fact". Xena looked at him smiling at what was properly a memory of a terrible slaughter and keenly remembered all his actions over years.
"Did she die in that war?" She asked.
He saw the pain in her eyes. For a moment he considered his memories of the event then decided to speak: "No. I felt her presence for a while after that and Aphrodite swears that she did the same, but after a while she faded from both our senses. If she still lives, and I am not so sure about that, she must be far away, because I was able to admire her work, when she was down in Egypt without any trouble what so ever", he boasted. "But enough about Gabrielle what do you think about my offer?" He asked even if his eyes betrayed that he already knew her answer.
"No. And why do you keep on asking? I won't ever join you in battle or in love Ares. You are no good for me. I even bet that you arranged that war between the Romans and Amazons. I seem to remember that you've tried that once before", she stated and ordered her horse into a slow trot.
"No… I mean, wait a minute. Yes, I arranged that small battle, she knew that too. I had no intention of seeing Gabrielle hurt, but it is what I do remember? And I know that she survived that battle Xena", he said as she began distancing herself from him. Anger spread through his system.
"Xena, when you find her, then take a good look and think back to the girl, who you met in Poteidaia. Think of the bard that walked so long besides your horse. I am willing to bet you'll find a mirror of yourself or Callisto in her place if she still lives. I saw her during the final battle up there. Darkness was growing inside her, a darkness given to her by you and fed by your adventures with her as well the mistreatments she suffered over the years. The life you lead has poisoned your friend, turning her into something you never wished her to be… Oh, come on. Give it up Xena. She is no longer worth it. I could make you so much happier. Remember what we had together", he yelled out as she passed out of hearing range ignoring the lovesick godling.
Feeling slightly angry and shaken at the thought that Ares might be right, she let her inner eye show her, the many faces of Gabrielle going from farmer girl to bard to experienced and world weary traveler to pacifist to warrior to finally become her sword and chakram bearing successor on a mountain in a far away land baptized by her Chakram. She thought about which of those changes had been her doing and found that what she had done to Gabrielle, had in a way been done in reverse on her by Gabrielle. She had learned a lot about patience, innocence, good nature, friendship, love and strength to overcome even intolerable hardships as she traveled with Gabrielle. While she had watched the naïve girl grow up into a capable woman and seen their friendship grow from tentative to something that went beyond any normal definitions and into the realm of legend. Especially when she looked at the sacrifices Gabrielle had made to remain in her life.
Xena felt like she had only given Gabrielle darkness, pain and sadness in return. Yet in the past when they had talked about it, Gabrielle had reminded her time and again that their life together was what she had chosen. Still she felt guilty and swore that if she could she would either force or manipulate Gabrielle off the path of the warrior that she never should have been walking in the first place. Gabrielle would be a little angry with her, but in the end she decided it would be for the better for both her friend's mind and soul.
Now all she needed was to find her. Xena remembered the last words written on Gabrielle's scrolls:
Ephiny has appeared to me again. The amazons' future hangs in the balance according to her. It's funny that I keep seeing the ghosts of the people dear to me. Well now Ghost and I are heading north towards the nations.
Xena turned her horse towards the not so distant lands of the Amazons; while her eyes roamed the land around her like her soul mate would jump out of the bushes at the first turn of the road. Yet her heart and soul was still in turmoil over her conversation with the God of War.