Disclaimers: See the Prologue for those.
Started: February 21, 2015
Series: One Shot
My Immortal Love
by Red Hope
The sun had awoken candlemarks ago and was nearly at its highest point. Soon, Apollo would ride down the western sky and allow for the moon to begin its life. It was a fairly warm day, but the equinox had already passed and welcomed the spring time. Within a fortnight the days would become even warmer.
Gabrielle certainly appreciated the day's heat. She already promised herself a bath after today's labor. This morning she had started with her wool and leather duster, but she quickly tossed it onto a fallen pillar among the old ruins. Next to the broken pillar, Gabrielle had a satchel filled with food and water skins.
However, all her attention was placed on the large rock between her hands. With a powerful grip, Gabrielle kept the rock level with her bare stomach and carried the dead weight to the small pile. It was a small pile of about eighty rocks that Gabrielle had transported from the blocked passageway to their new home. She was on her sixth day of labor.
Off to the Amazon's left, the Goddess of Love quietly shaped and formed from thin air. She was seated upon a broken statue of Artemis. Her butt was comfortably cushioned between the statue's breasts. Aphrodite was wearing a white chiton today, hair pulled up into a perfect bun, and a few curly locks framed her soft features. She wore a golden arm bracelet and matching necklace.
Aphrodite casually crossed her legs and continued admiring the Amazon's hard work. From her point of view, she appreciated every stressed muscle up Gabrielle's back and then there were Gabrielle's arms. Aphrodite propped up her right elbow on her knee and dramatically fanned herself. With hungry eyes, she devoured each arm muscles' coiled tension then the gradual release of power when Gabrielle slowly deposited the rock onto the pile.
After Gabrielle let go of the rock and straightened up, Aphrodite released a low gasp and cleared her throat. She silently cursed Artemis for giving her favor to Gabrielle. Aphrodite may have blessed Gabrielle with beauty, but Artemis gifted Gabrielle with strength.
Gabrielle dusted off her hands and turned on her boots. She eyed the goddess seated upon the fallen statue. She barely contained her amusement at the scene before her. She started towards the roadblock but paused and studied the beautiful goddess.
Aphrodite slightly tilted her head back. She breathed in deeply and could barely control her chosen's affect on her. She placed her palm against her chest, over top of her jewelry. For a moment, Aphrodite memorized the muscular built Amazon that glistened under the sunlight. She was grateful she was seated already.
Gabrielle shook her head once and placed her hands on her hips. She parted her lips, about to speak, yet faltered and glanced back towards the two guards. They were fairly far away but within eyesight and yelling range.
The goddess followed the concern towards the guards. In a heartbeat, she waved in her hand in the air and promised, "They can't hear us or see me."
Gabrielle cut her focus back to the goddess. "Have you come to tease me?" She continued to the roadblock.
Aphrodite feigned shock and countered, "Me?" She lowered her hand to her lap. "Why no. I totally came to see the show."
Gabrielle had her back to the goddess and rolled her eyes. She latched onto a rock, but it was smaller than the last one. She had learned to alternate between heavier and lighter ones. "You seem to like…" She paused and focused on lifting the rock off the ground. Once it was adjusted in her grip, she slowly walked to her destination. "You seem to like what you see."
Aphrodite should have hid her evil smile, but she had no control. "You could definitely give Hercules a run for his dinars."
"I am not a demi-god," Gabrielle reminded. She heard the goddess's low hum. After depositing the rock, she approached the goddess this time. "I am just a chosen."
Aphrodite was forced to drop her head back because Gabrielle was closer. "A chosen afforded a few perks." She raked her eyes down one of Gabrielle's physical perks.
Gabrielle sighed and walked away from the goddess.
Aphrodite was contently admiring her chosen's strength. She sighed happily when Gabrielle carried another large rock across the distance. "So I noticed there are still a lot of rocks left." She tapped a finger against her chin while she studied the roadblock. "I would say there are probably as many rocks as there are Amazons in your nation."
Yet again, Gabrielle dramatically rolled her eyes. She was standing in front of the roadblock yet turned towards the goddess. "Yes. I figured out the philosophical meaning of removing this roadblock… of picking up, carrying, and rejoining each one of these rocks." She stood there with her hands on her hips. "Thank you, Dity." She returned to her labor.
Aphrodite chuckled and teased, "That Queen Melosa is a clever one." She tilted her head to one side. "I can see why Artemis likes her so."
Gabrielle knelt beside the next rock. "More so than Terreis." She grabbed the rock. "Since she was willing to sacrifice Terreis for the glory of her nation."
Aphrodite flinched at the venomous remark. "As terrible as this sounds, you do not understand the gods and their ways."
Gabrielle dropped the rock next to the earlier one. It rolled slightly then settled against the ground. "I have known you, a goddess, since I was a child." She neared the seated goddess and knelt by her satchel.
"Yes, me," Aphrodite agreed. She watched her chosen dig out a water skin. "And I am different than most of the gods, Gabs."
Gabrielle took a few steps over and sunk onto the steps near Aphrodite's spot.
"I split my soul," Aphrodite reminded. "Artemis has not."
"A god is a god," Gabrielle debated.
Aphrodite shook her head and briefly held out her hand towards her chosen. "A god with a split soul is nothing like a god that has a whole one." She found intense green eyes on her. "A god with a whole one does not feel what I feel… and they never will unless they split their soul."
Gabrielle had propped her legs up on the step below. She leaned her arms against her knees and balanced the water skin between her legs.
"Artemis will never experience pain… remorse… sadness." Slowly Aphrodite's gaze drifted off. "Anger or hatred."
"You name all the pleasant emotions," Gabrielle jabbed.
"Compassion, forgiveness, devotion or happiness," Aphrodite whispered. She had heard Gabrielle's quip. "Love," she tenderly finished. She gazed at her chosen with affection. "A god, like Artemis, only sees the world in black and white."
Gabrielle sighed and gave a low nod. She better understand the goddess's point.
"Artemis's sole purpose… the purpose to her existence is keeping her Amazons." Aphrodite shook her head and explained, "And if sacrificing Terreis to better her Amazons serves her purpose then it will be done." She leaned towards Gabrielle. "Artemis cannot feel the value in Terreis's life."
Gabrielle hoarsely whispered, "She was only a tool… a means to an end."
"Yes." Aphrodite straightened up. For a moment, they were both quiet until Aphrodite gently reminded, "But in the end, Artemis and I have the same goal… we want you here."
"No." Gabrielle saw it differently, ever since the truth about Terreis's death. "Your reasons are different. You want me here so I am happy. She wants me here so I will lead the nation to greatness."
"And it's your choice," Aphrodite reminded. "You can totally leave, Gabs."
"I know." Gabrielle was playing with the water skin's cork. A darkness settled over her features. "I cannot go back to how things were before." She struggled with the emotions that pushed against her chest. "I refuse to love someone again." She met the goddess's worried gaze. "I would rather love this nation than fall into that same trap again."
Aphrodite reached across and clutched her chosen's arm. "You deserve to be loved, Gabrielle." Yet, she was overwhelmed by Gabrielle's despair.
"I have you," Gabrielle reminded. "I am loved." She tossed the water skin by the satchel and climbed to her feet. She strolled over to the roadblock.
Aphrodite was upset and touched at the same time. Gabrielle's reply made her heart pound with bittersweetness. She sighed and looked over at the Amazon. Much to her surprise, her chosen was climbing the rock wall. She considered Gabrielle's goal until Aphrodite became distracted by the display of muscles.
Gabrielle flexed and strained every muscle in her arms, back, and legs. When she twisted and climbed onto the rock pile, she was somewhat turned in Aphrodite's direction.
Again, Aphrodite had to fan herself due to the beautiful show before her. She admired the thickened muscles across Gabrielle's bare stomach. Nearly a moon ago, Aphrodite had wiped clean those very abs. The memory sent an excited shiver down her spine and sparked a burn in her lower stomach. "Damn you, Art," she muttered under her breath.
On top of the rock pile, Gabrielle crouched down and carefully pushed several rocks off the top and down to the ground. Most of the time, it was safer to take from the top than the bottom. Over the days, she was chipping away at the roadblock. She was still unsure how much longer it would take until all the rocks were moved and the passageway cleared for travel.
Gabrielle hastily climbed down from the rock pile and picked up one of the smaller ones. She was being cautious about over extending her body, especially since she had lost some muscle during her journey. She expected to be back to normal by the time she was done her punishment.
Aphrodite stood from the statue and casually strolled over to the smaller pile where Gabrielle came over with the rock. "The gods bless Melosa for this… punishment." She sighed happily as Gabrielle squatted with the rock.
Gabrielle shook her head but focused on placing the rock down. She straightened up and went over to the goddess. "This has to be against the laws." She placed her hands on her hips.
Aphrodite smiled, pleasantly. "There is nothing in the laws that say I can't look." She let her smile slip into a grin. "And admire."
Gabrielle canted her head and posed, "But touching?"
Aphrodite's head bobbed a few times. "It's a heavy price." She shrugged and casually whispered, "One always worth paying." She enjoyed Gabrielle's eyebrows hiking up her forehead. She chuckled and strolled off towards the rock wall.
Gabrielle hastily caught up to the goddess's side. "How many times have we been lovers?"
Aphrodite slowed in front of the roadblock. She weighed the real answer to Gabrielle's question. She and Gabrielle were treading dangerous ground, like always. She could sneak by with the occasional cuddling but sex always went noticed by the other gods. Aphrodite easily recalled her father's most recent threat, which was dire.
Gabrielle felt the mood sink into worry and sadness. She became serious and gently clasped the goddess's arm. "Dity?"
Aphrodite attempted smiling at her chosen. "It has been enough times that one more would be the last time." She saw a fire build in Gabrielle so she hastily added, "But it's nothing serious."
Gabrielle stepped in front of the goddess. "Then it is serious," she debated.
Aphrodite had told too much. Her chosen was incredibly perceptive, always. Their link also made it much harder to hide anything. "Gabs-"
"You are not telling me something," Gabrielle cut off. She shook her head and further pressed her point. "Ever since that night at your temple in Pella… you have been holding something back."
The goddess shook her head and continued smiling. "It's old history." Her confidence pitched and sank when Gabrielle slotted her eyes.
"You are lying," Gabrielle stated. She grabbed Aphrodite's upper arms and held firmly to the goddess. "What are you hiding from me?" She could tell the goddess was going to deflect again so she demanded, "What did Zeus threaten?"
"Gabrielle," Aphrodite gently tried. She hoped to defuse her chosen's fiery concern.
Gabrielle softened her grip then reached up and cupped the goddess's cheek. "Please tell me."
Aphrodite lost her thin control after the soft plea. She was a goddess and yet so mortal once in Gabrielle's hands. She would move Mount Olympus if it meant protecting her chosen. Every punishment and every price over the eons could never divide Aphrodite and her chosen. Each lifetime was nearly the same story for them. One day, Aphrodite accepted their entangled destiny until Zeus, her father, threatened to rejoin her soul. Indeed it was a price even Aphrodite refused to pay because there was no return from it.
In those seconds, Aphrodite saw her earthbound soul pleading with her through forest green eyes. She realized that the truth may just keep them both from making the final mistake. The truth was a means to an end that was most important to Aphrodite.
After a heavy breath, Aphrodite softly confessed, "Father has sworn to rejoin our souls if I continue to break the laws for you." She watched the storm enter her chosen's eyes. She reached up and took Gabrielle's hand into her own. "It would mean you would die." She placed her other hand over their entangled ones.
Gabrielle shook her head and whispered, "Can he really do that?"
"Yes," Aphrodite murmured. She squeezed her chosen's smaller hand. "A god's soul can only be split by his lightning bolt… or rejoined by one." She bowed her head closer. "And I cannot let you die."
Gabrielle closed her eyes as the weight settled onto her shoulders. A soft tremble of fear shook her body. She lowered her head and latched onto Aphrodite's hip with her freehand.
Aphrodite leaned her forehead against the top of Gabrielle's head. She absorbed her chosen's shaken emotions. She was about to sooth it away except Gabrielle spoke first.
Aphrodite considered the angle of her chosen's question and checked, "Why what, sweet pea?"
Gabrielle took a deep breath. "Why would you care if I live? If we were rejoined, it would change nothing for you." She huffed and lifted her head after the goddess moved her own. "I am nothing without-"
"Now that is total Centaur shit," Aphrodite sharply cut off.
Gabrielle swallowed hard at seeing the goddess's angry look.
Aphrodite inhaled and exhaled twice just to calm herself. She looked calmer and kept an even tone this time. "I have had other gods say the same Centaur shit to me." She rolled her eyes. "At one time, we were one person but that completely changed when I split my soul." She smiled at her chosen. "You have spent so many lifetimes on this Earth. Your experiences on Earth totally outweigh my own. You are your own individual from me." She hooked Gabrielle's chin with her fingers. "And nobody will ever take that from you, Gabrielle." Aphrodite's bright blue eyes burned with Gabrielle's earthy emerald ones.
Gabrielle released a strained breath that relaxed her taut muscles. She then sighed and leaned her forehead against the goddess's chest.
Aphrodite bowed her head and briefly nuzzled her chosen's temple. She tenderly whispered, "I am more whole when my soul is half god and half human." She kissed her chosen's temple. "Thank you for this gift, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle peered up at the goddess. "But it is you who gave me the gift of life."
Aphrodite smiled and softly countered, "It is totally the opposite, sweet pea." She cupped Gabrielle's face with both hands. "Without you, I would never have a heart." Her smile filled with sadness. "I would hardly be the Goddess of Love then."
Gabrielle had a smile after days of despair. "I guess we gave each other life."
"Yes," Aphrodite softly agreed. She brushed her thumb across her chosen's warm cheek. "And that's why your life is no less valuable than mine." She bowed her head and kissed her chosen's forehead. "Okay?" she asked after straightening up.
Gabrielle gave a faint nod.
Aphrodite was pleased. She then pulled Gabrielle in for a hug.
Gabrielle returned the hug's strength until the goddess released her.
"I have to go," Aphrodite mentioned. She took one step back and looked over at the roadblock. "But… I will totally pop in later to see who is winning." She smirked at the human.
Gabrielle folded her arms, which emphasized her biceps further.
Aphrodite pointed at the beautiful Amazon. "I think I know who will win." She winked and vanished before the human.
Gabrielle released a low sigh but was glad she had seen the goddess. They had been on indifferent terms several days ago. She looked at the marriage bracelet that bound her to Terreis. She toyed with it for a moment then peered across at the roadblock. Without doubt, she knew Terreis would be happy about the healing relationship between the Amazons and the Centaurs. Gabrielle took a deep breath and approached the stone wall.
Every rock removed was in Terreis's name, Gabrielle silently swore. She strained each muscle in her body. She labored with promise and love, for Terreis. She worked long candlemarks over many weeks until she lost track of time. Gabrielle could only measure time by how the roadblock became smaller.
One exceptionally difficult day had been warmer than normal. Gabrielle had been exhausted and barely managed a bath. She missed dinner and collapsed into her bed. The day had been taxing and immediately took her to Morpheus's realm, which carefully blended and molded with the Underworld.
"Gabrielle," a loving voice called. Silky warmth spun around Gabrielle's dreamscape and drew her into a safe place.
Gabrielle focused on the familiar voice until she found Terreis before her.
Terreis smiled happily and opened her arms.
Gabrielle scooped up her consort in strong arms. "Terreis," she breathed. She held onto Terreis in hopes she would stay with her.
Terreis happily sighed and breathed in Gabrielle's scent. "It's good to see you again."
"I have missed you," Gabrielle whispered. She painstakingly withdrew from the hug yet still held her consort's hips. She briefly scanned their surroundings, which were green and warm. She had been here before with Terreis. She was nearly positive it was Elysium.
"And I have missed you," Terreis returned. She pressed their bodies together and softly kissed in hopes they could forget the past.
Gabrielle whimpered after the kiss. She gently traced Terreis's features.
Terreis captured Gabrielle's hand and twined their fingers together. "I hear you labor everyday to remove the roadblock between the Amazons and the Centaurs."
Gabrielle stiffened and curiously stared at her consort. "How…"
"Aphrodite," Terreis softly revealed.
Gabrielle had confused furrow across her features. She shook her head and tempted, "Aphrodite?"
"Yes." Terreis lost her smile but squeezed her consort's callused hand. "Come sit with me." She guided Gabrielle across the hilly lands that were so similar to the Amazon landscape. She drew Gabrielle to a comfortable spot under a pistachio tree. Together, they sat in the shade and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.
"Aphrodite came to you?" Gabrielle hastily asked. She was distraught by the news.
"Yes." Terreis had a bright smile. It was the very smile that Gabrielle had fallen for years ago. "She is amazing." She squeezed her consort's hand.
Gabrielle was completely unaware that the goddess had come to her consort. She considered why Aphrodite had yet to tell her. However, Gabrielle had been so busy since their last visit several days ago. Aphrodite had promised to visit again soon, but she knew Aphrodite could be just as busy.
"Why did she come to you?"
Terreis ran her thumb across Gabrielle's knuckles. "She came to me with an offer."
Gabrielle was again confused and shook her head. "What offer?" She was hardly worried by Aphrodite's plans. She wholly trusted the goddess.
"To live again," Terreis whispered. She shifted her gaze out towards the lands of Elysium. "Not as I was though." She took a deep breath. "But to be born again." She sadly smiled at Gabrielle. "She said she could free me from Elysium."
Gabrielle grabbed at all the details as her consort told it. She blew out a low breath. She recalled that Aphrodite had freed her own soul many times over so that she could be reborn again. She swallowed and softly asked, "What did you say?"
"I said yes." However, Terreis looked down in her lap.
Gabrielle knew something was wrong so she tilted her consort's head up with her freehand. "Then why are you still here?"
Terreis briefly closed her eyes then opened them again. "Aphrodite tried to take me from here, but she could not." She bit her bottom lip for a beat.
Gabrielle shook her head and argued, "Aphrodite will find a way."
"Gabrielle…" Terreis hesitated and yet already knew her next words. In Gabrielle's eyes, she saw what she had missed over all those years. Terreis now understood Gabrielle knew about the gods for a long time. She gathered her wits and explained, "She said my soul is not ready to part with my old life. That something is left unresolved with loved ones."
Gabrielle was filled with guilt after such words. She parted her lips slightly but failed to say anything to her consort.
"It is an unresolved matter with you," Terreis sadly stated. "I cannot begin a new life until…" She looked down at herself. "Until this old life is resolved first."
"But we are okay," Gabrielle insisted. She held both Terreis's hands now and held firmly, to reinforce her words.
"You are not okay though," Terreis declared. She held green eyes with her blue ones. "You are not okay."
"I am…" Gabrielle faltered and buckled under her unfinished lie's weight. She lost her own power to lie about her mental health. She had yet to be okay since Terreis's death. And the added salt on her wound was that Aphrodite had the other half of her soul. Terreis was never meant to be hers, ever.
"Not okay," Terreis sadly finished for her consort.
Gabrielle looked away from Terreis and stared hauntingly at the beautiful landscape.
Terreis remained quiet for awhile and waited for Gabrielle. But, it would be a long wait if she said nothing first. She licked her lips. "On that ride back to the Nation from your home, I kept thinking about our conversation about the gods."
Gabrielle bowed her head slightly and stared at her lap.
"You asked me if I thought they were real," Terreis whispered. She looked at her consort's profile. "You already knew they existed." She touched Gabrielle's bare knee. "For how long?"
Gabrielle peered up and stared at the lands again. She whispered, "Since I was a little girl." She quietly huffed and countered, "Well, not right away, but I figured it out."
Gabrielle shook her head then met her consort's curious features. "I met Aphrodite when I was a child."
Terreis suspected it and felt slightly settled that she better understood why her consort was different. She was still at a loss as to why the goddess appeared to her consort. "Why are you special to her?" Terreis was confident Gabrielle meant something to Aphrodite.
Gabrielle shook her head a few times, but she refused to speak about it or lie to her consort.
"Gabrielle?" Terreis gently tried. She squeezed her consort's hand and hoped Gabrielle would open up to her. She was taken back to years ago when Gabrielle first arrived at the nation and remained closed off from everybody. It had taken time for Terreis to earn Gabrielle's trust. Now it seemed as if they had taken steps back to those old days. "Gabrielle, please talk to me."
Gabrielle again shook her head. She stared, bitterly at the landscape. This was a place of peace, but she felt her anger tainted it. She clenched her jaw for a moment. "It will only break your heart."
"How do you know?" Terreis argued. She leaned in closer to her consort and softly added, "Let me be the judge of that."
Gabrielle lowered her eyes and bowed her head. She took a deep breath. There were things she owed to Terreis. Silence certainly was not on the list. She licked her lips and met Terreis's open features. "I am her chosen." She was prepared for different responses but hardly for Terreis's beautiful smile.
"That explains a lot," Terreis whispered. "You have always had quite the heart, Gabrielle."
"Hardly," Gabrielle countered. She thought to how she went on a suicide mission to kill the Warrior Princess. She secretly admitted that she was glad she failed because if she managed to murder Xena then she would have disgraced Terreis's memory. They would never be sitting here, together now. "I am a warrior, Terreis."
The former Amazon princess continued smiling at her consort. She stretched out her hand until her palm pressed against Gabrielle's chest. "You have a lot of armor but under it all… there is so much love." She reached up and turned Gabrielle's face towards her. "You are just very good at hiding it."
Gabrielle sighed and looked away again. She thought about what it meant to be Aphrodite's chosen. She doubted Terreis's understood the implications. It caused Gabrielle's stomach to pitch down suddenly. She gritted her teeth and held down an aching whimper. How she felt so guilty about being Aphrodite's chosen. She was riddled by betrayal. Her own vows on their ceremony day seemed nulled by the truth.
"I am her chosen because I have half of her soul," Gabrielle confessed. She refused to look at her consort.
Terreis remained quiet as she thought about the truth. What it meant for Gabrielle, for herself, and their relationship after so many years. A special Amazon ceremony had bound them together long ago. Even now, Gabrielle still wore the marriage bracelet.
"Gabrielle?" Terreis sighed when Gabrielle refused to meet her gaze. She reached up and turned Gabrielle's head with the opposite cheek. "She may have the other half of your soul... but I have your heart."
Gabrielle broke after the deceleration of love. "Terreis," she rasped.
Terreis quickly pulled Gabrielle into her arms. "I love you, Gabrielle." She held her consort tightly and whispered, "I have never questioned your love for me... your devotion to me."
Gabrielle gripped the forearm across her chest. She softly wept for Terreis. "I feel so a shamed and that I betrayed you."
Terreis lowered her head and nuzzled the sunny hair that still smelled liked home, in their hut. "You are special, Gabrielle and not because you are a chosen." She kissed her consort's bare shoulder. "But because of your capacity to love despite all that has happened to you." She leaned her head against Gabrielle's own and whispered, "You never betrayed me." She continued holding her consort until she calmed down.
Slowly, Gabrielle straightened up and found her strength again. "I can never stop loving you."
Terreis smiled at her consort. "I know." She cupped Gabrielle's hands in her own. "Perhaps your guilt will be put to rest once you complete the roadblock."
Gabrielle admitted that Terreis's honor was a driving force in removing the roadblock, more so than reclaiming her caste as an Amazon. She nodded and then leaned in for a long hug. As she drew open her eyes, she found her arms empty and the darkness of the hut greeted her.
"Terreis," Gabrielle whispered into the night, "I love you." In her heart, she felt Terreis's return her love. With a turn, Gabrielle settled under the fur and drifted off to sleep again for a few more candlemarks. She had another long day ahead of her.
As days passed, Gabrielle came closer to removing the last of the rocks at the pass. Word had spread throughout the nation and excited so many. Melosa had often inspected Gabrielle's work and ensured Gabrielle remained in health. But when it was clearly obvious that Gabrielle's labor only had one day left, Melosa called for an grand witness.
Amazons crowded around the ruins and filled every piece of space possible. On the other side of the roadblock, Centaurs gathered to watch the block be removed of its last rocks. Tildus and Kaleipus stood at the front and excitedly waited for Gabrielle to remove the last ones. Tildus saw that Queen Melosa stood on the other side, a smile on her face.
Gabrielle carried another heavy rock to its new resting place. She then walked the open path among the Amazons back to the tiny roadbloack. The block was at the point that it could be easily crossed, but Melosa expected every last rock to be removed from the pass. It was a great symbol of the new relations between Amazon and Centaur.
"I can't believe she's done it," Solari whispered to Ephiny.
Ephiny jabbed an elbow into her friend's side. "Have more faith than that." Like Solari, she had a higher advantage point from the temple ruins to watch the last moments.
"She looks a lot better," Solari mentioned. Even though the labor had been taxing on Gabrielle, she seemed healthier than when she first returned from the suicide mission. Solari was proud of her friend. A scan of the many Amazons' faces told her that she was not the only one. She then smirked at Velasca's irritated look. She poked Ephiny in the side and nodded her chin at Velasca on the other side.
Ephiny followed Solari's gaze and chuckled at Velasca's constant, foul glare on Gabrielle. Many knew this was Gabrielle's first step to reclaiming the caste for princess. Ephiny damn hoped it worked because Velasca being the princess was a possible nightmare.
Solari decided she wanted to incite Velasca further. With a slight lean to the left, she counted three rocks left for Gabrielle to remove in the pass. She took a deep breath and called, "Gabrielle, Gabrielle, Gabrielle."
Rhode was on the opposite side of Solari, near the canyon wall. She decided to join in and chanted, "Gabrielle! Gabrielle!"
Callisto was beside Rhode and echoed the chant too.
Quickly Gabrielle's name started singing from many Amazon's lips and all of the Centaur's own. For a brief moment, Gabrielle hesitated by the last rocks at her feet. She saw Melosa kept a stern look but there was a proud glow in her eyes.
Solari looked over at Velasca and giggled at the furious expression on Velasca's face. She loved it.
Ephiny sighed at Solari's antics but chanted anyway. She too was proud of Gabrielle.
Carefully, Gabrielle removed each of the rocks. She came to the last one, which was rather large but ready to be gone. Gabrielle bent down and wrapped her hands around it. She clenched her stomach muscles, prepared to lift it. Her name continued echoing, and it actually gave her more strength. Just as she began lifting, two bodies formed in front of her, and they were distinctly female. Gabrielle slowly rose up and met the two beautiful faces that she loved the most.
Terreis stood in front of Aphrodite. She smiled broadly when Gabrielle straightened with the last rock in her hands. "You've done it." Tears slipped down her cheeks.
Gabrielle tried holding down her own, but a few tears escaped her eyes. "I did this in your honor, Terreis."
Melosa heard Gabrielle's words over the crowd's roar. She withheld her emotions at the mention of her dead sister's name. She fisted her hands behind her back and waited for Gabrielle to remove the last rock.
Gabrielle had a sad smile then lifted her eyes to the goddess behind her consort.
Aphrodite smiled tenderly at her chosen. She placed her hand on Terreis's shoulder then nodded at her chosen.
Gabrielle swallowed and whispered one last thing to her consort. "I love you."
Terreis held her smile even though her heart ached for Gabrielle. "And I you." She inhaled a shaky breath as Gabrielle turned away with the last rock. Aphrodite's hand tightened on her shoulder, and she knew it was time. She softly promised, "We will meet again, Gabrielle." She faded away with Aphrodite once Gabrielle set the rock down on the other side.
And Gabrielle felt her go. She felt the thin tie be cut between her and Terreis. For a moment, her heart sank low, but she reminded herself that Aphrodite was giving her a new life. Terreis's soul was robbed of life too soon. She silently wished Terreis all the best the next life could give her.
The feverish cheers from the Amazons and Centaurs sliced through Gabrielle's dismay. She turned after putting the last rock down on the new pile. She smiled at seeing Queen Melosa clasp Tildus's arm.
The newly reopened pass filled with clamor and excitement thanks to Gabrielle's labor for the past moon. Amazons mixed with Centaurs and discussed simple things about local news to more complex topics like the infamous Warrior Princess threat. Several Amazons and Centaurs clapped Gabrielle on the back or shoulder and thanked her. Tildus was the most appreciative to Gabrielle and insisted she visit the Centaur nation soon.
Eventually, Gabrielle snuck away from the crowd and found a quiet overhead spot on the cliff, near the pass. She sat on a boulder along the edge and admired her people socializing with the Centaurs. She sadly smiled at her accomplishment. But her thoughts slowed from the warm tingle across her chest.
Aphrodite glimmered for a few heartbeats until her form became solid next to Gabrielle on the boulder. She too had a smile at the happiness down in the pass. She then dragged her eyes over to her chosen.
Gabrielle propped up her legs on the boulder then rested her arms across her knees. She sighed contently. "Will the next life be better for her?"
Aphrodite bowed her head. "It will," she softly promised. She stretched out her arm and curled her fingers over Gabrielle's hand. "I'm proud of you, Gabs."
Gabrielle weighed the goddess's praise. She was warmed by it and also felt lighter now. She was moving forward finally and not being drawn into the darkness further. "I thought going after Xena was a mistake." She met the goddess's bright blue eyes. "Maybe it was the best thing."
Aphrodite squeezed the smaller hand. "You will be stronger from this."
"I already am." Gabrielle gazed upon the people below until distant footsteps caught her ear.
"Good luck with Big Feathers," Aphrodite teased before she faded away.
Gabrielle released a low huff. From the corner of her eye, she saw Big Feathers, Queen Melosa, weave along the path up to her.
"Hello, Gabrielle." Queen Melosa easily occupied Aphrodite's spot. She canted her head and studied the tired Amazon's softened features. Like Gabrielle, she was happy that the pass was reopened and their relations with the Centaurs could continue to grow. It was exactly what Terreis had wanted before her untimely death.
"You have done well," Melosa commented, "And you finished sooner than I expected."
Gabrielle smiled at the queen's rare compliment. She nodded and said, "It was less a punishment and more of an honor, my queen."
Melosa mirrored the smile at Gabrielle's returned positive light. She had feared it had died with Terreis. The pass's reopening not only strengthened the Centaur relations but also Gabrielle. "You have saved face among our people." From gossip, Melosa learned many Amazons held renewed faith in Gabrielle. There were still doubters and perhaps more time would aid those few.
Gabrielle swallowed against the formed lump in her throat. A heaviness rolled off her shoulders, and she released a breath.
"Tonight we will celebrate many things," Melosa whispered. She slid off the stone and squeezed Gabrielle's shoulder before she quietly left. She had much to plan for tonight's celebration including reinstating Gabrielle's caste as Amazon. She greatly looked forward to it. Her hopes were renewed, especially for her people if Gabrielle continued on the right path.
To be continued.