Author's Note: This concludes the journal entries for Season 1. I know it's been a while since I posted the last excerpt but I'm not one of those writers capable of finishing a story in 15 mins or half an hour. It usually takes me a few days just running through the various possibilities before I even start writing. And even then, I generally go through a few drafts, oftentimes starting again from scratch when it doesn't turn out the way I envision it to. Couple that with my work schedule, it might take a while before my next update so please do bear with me.
Also, do feel free to give feedback or even let me know if you want me to specifically cover certain episodes for Gabrielle's Journal. Thanks for reading and I hope you've enjoyed the series so far. - CM
Xena's many detractors would have you believe that she is nothing more than a washed up ex-warlord; one who was ousted from her own army and forced to walk the gauntlet of death by her own men. As you can imagine, walking the gauntlet was akin to a death sentence. No one survived the gauntlet. But Xena did. And like any self-respecting warrior, she returned to exact revenge on the man responsible for turning her men against her; the man who used the mutiny to wrest control of the army she had painstakingly gathered through the years. With a little help from Hercules and despite Ares' meddling, Xena killed him; not once, but twice. And with the usurper dead, she could have easily reclaimed her army and continued her warlord ways. But she didn't. Instead, she chose to walk away.
To hear her naysayers tell it, Xena did not leave of her own accord but was forced to do so when her men refused to accept her as their leader. In the months that followed, she travelled all over Greece trying to raise a new army but the news of her ignominious rejection by her last army had spread far and wide by then and she was unable to convince anyone to follow her. Disgraced and seemingly left with no other recourse, Xena then took to the roads as a wandering warrior. As a last ditch attempt to salvage the tattered remains of her reputation, she took on the services of a travelling bard. And unlike her earlier failure to drum up support for a new army, her new plan worked to perfection and it wasn't long before Xena was being hailed as a hero.
But it was all just a scheme; a brilliant scheme to be sure but a scheme all the same. Xena was no hero. She was a butcher, one who took delight in sacking towns and taking lives indiscriminately. No one could deny Xena's prowess in combat but it took more than skill with a sword to be a hero. Heroes were supposed to strive for the greater good above and beyond their own personal gain. They helped the common man because they can, not because of any reward they may receive as a result. And Xena is the ultimate anti-hero. She never did anything that didn't benefit her in one way or another. And so, to even mention Xena's name in the same breath as any of the legitimate heroes, especially one as hallowed and selfless as Hercules, is a grave insult to heroes the world over.
I would be tempted to agree with them—if even half of what they say is true. But it isn't. I should know. After all, I am the bard Xena supposedly employed to reform her image as a failed warlord.
I understand why people tend to think the worst of Xena. She has a reputation for being a merciless and bloodthirsty warlord, and the mere mention of her name is enough to strike fear in the hearts of battle-hardened warriors, much less defenceless peasants. Given Xena's less than sterling past, it is easier to blame the tales of her heroic deeds on a bard's overenthusiastic embellishments than to believe that someone as incorrigible as her could ever turn her life around. But they can't hide from the truth forever. Xena is a true hero. She does what she does because she truly believes in the greater good, not because she cares for the accolades or the possible financial rewards. Granted, Xena is trying to make up for her past misdeeds. But there is nothing to stop her from basking in the glory or making a living off her fame as a hero. Most heroes do. Not Xena though. Praise makes her uncomfortable and she would rather live off the land utilising her skills of survival than accept even a single dinar for helping people in need.
Even as I write this, Xena is fast asleep beside me, her head pillowed upon on her arms. She will likely have a kink in her neck come morning but nothing I do or say has been able to convince her to leave my side. Not after nearly losing me. I don't blame her. How could I? I did exactly the same thing not a month past when I thought she was dead only to have her miraculously returned to life.
It has been a rough day for her and she's way past exhausted. I would like to touch her, to convince myself she is real, to somehow anchor myself in this reality. But I'm afraid to wake her and I know without a doubt she would cast aside her weariness in the space of a heartbeat if she thought I needed her. And I do. Because it still feels so surreal.
I was dead. I know I was. One moment I was lying here, feeling like death warmed over, in the next, I found myself in the most beautiful and peaceful place that ever existed—the Elysian Fields. It couldn't be anywhere else. Green pastures stretching as far as my eyes could see. And the fruit trees. Oh, the fruit trees; practically bursting with their load of the most mouth-watering selection of fruit possible, succulent and sweet and absolutely to die for. Then there was my grandmother whom I missed so much. And my Uncle Morose who never failed to make me laugh whenever he came to visit. And Talus. I'd barely even begun to talk to him before he cocked his head to one side as if listening to something only he could hear. Then he broke into a smile that surely surpassed Apollo's crowning glory and told me to send his regards to Xena.
Before I could even think to ask what he meant by that, I found myself back in the temple of Aesclepius, involuntarily drawing in a ragged breath that seared through my throat, down into my lungs and brought the flaring pain of my injuries into an all-too-sharp focus. I would have screamed if I could. But Xena had her arms wrapped around me so tight I could barely breathe. I will never forget the way she held me then, enfolding me in her arms as if she was afraid I would disappear back into the ether if she merely loosened her hold on me. I can still feel the wetness of her tears as they mingled with my perspiration and the desperateness of the kisses she rained down upon me. In that moment, I felt what it was like to be truly loved. In that moment, I finally understood the scorching fierceness of her love and the yawning depths of her need—for me.
Never before have I seen Xena lose it so completely; not even when she thought the villagers of Locia had killed her father. I wasn't around to witness the whole episode but I had a good idea from the looks everyone was giving Xena. And Ephiny made extra sure to tell me all about it when she got the chance. My sister Amazon is convinced that I hold a particularly special place in Xena's heart given how our usually stoic warrior friend reacted to my death. I am less certain. After all, Ephiny is still grieving over the loss of Phantes and she might very well be reading too much into Xena's reaction.
Xena is a master at keeping her emotions under wraps and while she has thawed somewhat in the year we have been travelling together, she has never once hinted that we were or could be anything more than best friends or sisters. Then again, Xena rarely calls anyone friend. Marcus was a friend. So was Hercules. And they both shared a bedroll with Xena at one time or another. I'm not saying Ephiny is right or that she's wrong but it brings to mind a conversation Xena and I had over a campfire not too long ago. We were hot on the tail of Callisto and Xena was explaining to me what had happened in Cirra and how she was responsible for creating the monster that was Callisto. And in a moment of candidness, Xena shared with me her greatest fear; that she would return to her old ways if anything should happen to Hercules, her mother, or me. I made her promise not to. Thinking back on it now, I finally realise what Xena wasn't saying.
Ephiny is probably right. But I'm not sure it even matters. Because when the sun rises tomorrow, Xena and I will most likely return to the way we have always been. Knowing Xena, we will never speak about Thessaly and her moment of weakness. And in time, it will almost be as if it never happened. But we both know it did and neither of us will ever forget. Where we go from here is a mystery. If I wanted to, I could rock the boat by pointedly asking her about it. But after experiencing the sheer intensity and magnitude of Xena's love, I'm not sure I'm ready to deal with what it means to be loved by the Warrior Princess. Xena never does anything in half measures. And, in this matter at least, neither do I.