5

As the pair rode further into the Amazon territory, they became concerned that they had yet to be stopped by a guard or sentry. Taking a moment to dismount and stretch, Xena stopped her movement suddenly.

"Whatsa matter, Warrior? Getting old?" Gabrielle laughed.

"No one likes a smartass." Xena grinned. "Now shhh...I heard something."

Gabrielle nodded, indicating that she had heard it as well. Both listening intently, followed the source of the noise and looked up as two Amazons dropped from the trees above.

"Boy are we glad to see you!" said one of the still masked guards.

"I'm not sure I like the sound of that, Xe." Gabrielle murmured. Then to the guard, "What has been going on?"

"We've had trouble with neighboring villages, unable to rebuild our own as our numbers are low." The girl replied, removing her mask. "We had a fever run through here...we lost many we couldn't afford to lose."

"Varia?"

"Is well and has been alerted to your presence."

Gabrielle nodded, "Then we shouldn't keep the Queen waiting."

It was a short walk to the remaining part of the village. Xena shook her head, "It looks so different."

"It does," Gabrielle agreed sadly. "But we will rebuild."

Leaving their horse and belongings with the young girl at the makeshift stable, the pair followed Jane across the camp. Upon entering a small hut, they found Varia in deep conversation with a few of the warriors.

"We need guards posted here and here," She pointed to the map on the table between them. "And maybe even here, depending on their numbers."

"Who is it?"

Varia looked up in surprise. "Xena! Gabrielle!"

The bard smiled at her friend and fellow Queen, "Varia...it is good to see you again."

"Likewise!" She motioned to the map once again. "Come discuss strategy for a while, then we shall have a feast!"

Xena shook her head at the two's antics as she stepped closer to the table. "Is it an army or just villagers?"

"Both." replied one of the warriors, Artila.

Xena glared at her with one eyebrow raised, she was a woman of few words but even she knew when more than one were required.

"This village to our west has been the worst of the three." Artila gestured. "They have an army camped outside their own, hounding them for supplies and rations."

"And since we have been rather self sufficient in our food stores and such, they want us to 'give' to these Raiders."

"Like hell!" Varia growled.

As they made their way through the camp toward the tent they would be staying in, Xena heard her name called out. Looking at Gabrielle with a 'now what?' expression, she turned to see where the voice had come from.

"Xena!" Sara exclaimed, "Your timing is impeccable as always! I need your help."

Frowning, the warrior turned toward the woman who spoken to her. "What's going on?"

"I have a young girl within my hut who seems to not want to wake up." Sara shrugged. "I've checked her over more than once, I can't find a reason for it."

"No fever? Injuries?"

Sara shook her head back and forth, "None! It's the damnedest thing!"

Puzzled, Xena agreed. "I'll be over to take a look at her shortly."

Meanwhile:

I was sitting under the same tree from before, thinking about all that had happened. I was having a hard time believing everything that I had been told by Solan and Ephiny. I may be young but I'm not stupid. I know what dying means and yet here I was, some form of 'alive'. And apparently being sent back to a time far, far from my own. I didn't even know how I was going to cope with all of these changes, they were happening so darn fast!

I shifted when Solan sat down beside me, it was a bit odd knowing he was an 'uncle' of sorts. "What do ya think is gonna happen?"

"I'm honestly not sure." He murmured. I could tell that it bothered him that he wasn't being given the same chance that I was. And in a way, it bugged me too. "I do know that you will be taken care of and will learn a lot. It probably will be hard at first, but you'll get the hang of it."

We were quiet for a while, just sitting there. Geez, we've done a lot of that! My thoughts were random and wild.

"What will it be like? You lived there, can you tell me a little bit?"

Solan took his time in answering that one. "Well, it's definitely different from whatever you're used to. But I'm sure the basics are the same. Lessons, home, people telling you what to do and so on."

"Any modern convenience that you are used to, well they either won't exist or there will be some sort primitive version."

"Like what?" I looked up as Ephiny joined us, I wondered how long she'd been there.

She glanced up at the sky for a moment, "Oh perhaps the way you tell time of day or what things are called. We can't tell you about everything though, little one. Some you'll just have to find out on your own."

"But what about Xena and Gabrielle?" I voiced my concerns quietly. "What if they don't want me?"

"That won't happen!" He smiled, "No doubt it will mean a lot of adjusting for all of you but never fear that."

I was still somewhat skeptical, "Okay, I'll take your word for it."

"Good!" He smiled again. "I'm glad I got to meet you and spend a bit of this time with you. If you ever need to talk, just close your eyes and say what's on your mind. I probably won't be able to talk back to you but I'll always hear you."

"Children," Ephiny spoke quietly. "It's almost time."

I panicked, "What?! I'm not ready!"

Ephiny smiled, "Don't worry, little one. Everything will be okay."

I stood up and started pacing back and forth. "But I just got used to being here and talking to you and Solan! I don't know everything yet!"

The taller woman grabbed me by the shoulders, effectively stopping me from continuing. "Sofia!"

I stared at her, "Nobody calls me that!"

"Get used to it princess!" She knelt in front of me. "Listen, I know this is scary but you have to face it. You will be just fine!"

"Sofi?" Solan's voice was quiet as I turned to look at him. "You'll give Mother a message for me, won't you?"

Not knowing if I'd remember it or not, I nodded in hopes that I would. "Um, sure!"

"Please tell Mother that I am with Borias and Aunt Eph and that I'm okay."

I smiled and wrapped my arms around him, "You got it!"

"Thanks." He whispered.