Chapter 6 - The Request
Gabrielle's intention to stay one night in the inn and then move on to Potedia had somehow changed over night. She had started tidying the inside of the building that evening and it had inspired her to stay on longer and try to fix the building up. It wasn't like she intended on staying there long term but the idea of the place wasting away and falling down wasn't acceptable to her. So in Xena and her families memory the blonde had spend the next day shoring up the structure of the building and fixing the front door.
She spent the next morning thatching a few damaged parts of roof. By late afternoon the job was complete and she had set about hunting some rabbits to make a stew for her evening meal. The meadow behind the inn was full of them so it had been an easy task and after watering the horse she had made the stew and settled down or the evening.
By the time it was dark the bard was settled down in the old wooden chair next to the fire. She had found some old scrolls of Cyrene's containing old stories about the town and was half way through the second one when she heard a noise outside. It sounded like the clip clop of horse hooves on the road out front. If the sound had continued on past she would have been unconcerned but the horse stopped just outside. That probably signaled trouble so the blonde grabbed her sias and her chakram and headed to the front door.
She quietly made her way on to the porch and scanned the dark for any signs of movement. There was a torch burning on the porch but it only lit up the area around the doorway. It was a clear night so there was still some light from the stars but the trees outside provided plenty of pitch black areas to hide in. The shape of a saddled horse was discernible, grazing at the side of the road, but the rider was no where in site. Gabrielle could sense they were close by though in the tree line. She was about to ask them to show themselves when she saw a shadow begin to move into the starlit path leading to the house.
They hadn't announced themselves so Gabrielle presumed she was about to be under attack and released the chakram in their direction. A woman stepped into the light just as the weapon began to fly. This woman was obviously a very agile and capable warrior because she managed to dodge the chakram although only by a hair's whisker. As it rebounded of a tree and back the woman threw herself to the ground to avoid it.
The chakram returned to Gabrielle's hand but the blonde did not feel the need to throw it again as the woman had drawn no weapon of her own. Instead she merely clambered to her feet and taken a couple of careful steps closer to the entrance of inn. It meant that Gabrielle could see her clearer. It was not someone she had met before but the woman's figure and appearance was similar to that of an Amazon warrior.
"Hi" the intruder greeted her. "You must be Gabrielle?"
"Who is asking?" the bard asked wearily.
The woman took another couple of steps so she was now stood on the first step, just out of arms reach of Gabrielle. Now the intruder was in the direct light of the torch the bard could see her clearly. She was taller than Gabrielle but didn't tower over her and was a similar age. Her hair was long, with a slight curl and red in colour. Her skin was tanned so she was obviously from a warm climate but her accent was unfamiliar to the bard. Gabrielle suspected she wasn't Greek but perhaps Thracian or Dacian. She definitely had the physique of a warrior; that was clear even through the thin brown cloak she wore.
"My name is Antonia" the woman introduced herself; "I've been sent to find you."
"By who?" Gabrielle asked.
The blonde had no idea who would know she was in Amphipolis or even back on Greek soil. She had done nothing to announce her presence since stepping of the ship and had avoided any trouble on her ride to the Inn. Aphrodite or Ares could have clocked her arrival but she would have expected them to bug her themselves rather than sending a mortal. The woman seemed hesitant to tell her but after a steadying breath divulged her source.
"By Xena" Antonia informed her.
Gabrielle had not expected that answer and she instantly felt her heckles instantly rise in response. She had returned to Greece to try and finally come to terms with her soulmates death. How dare this woman turn up and claim she had been sent by the very woman Gabrielle couldn't get out of her head.
"Xena is dead" the bard said flatly.
Antonia didn't seem surprised by the slight hostility in her voice. In the fact the red haired woman merely nodded in understanding.
"I know" Antonia gently replied.
Gabrielle stared at the woman in an attempt to figure out her motives. Antonia seemed in earnest though and held the eye contact. She looked a little sorry for the blonde too and it was that compassion that persuaded Gabrielle to hear her out and not send her packing.
"Explain" the bard demanded.
Gabrielle had led Antonia and her horse to the field in which her own horse securely grazed. As the red head un-tacked horse Gabrielle refilled the water bucket. She then showed Antonia into the Inn and sat herself by the fire again. The other woman had moved a chair from across the room and sat opposite her by the fire.
Antonia had set about explaining what she had seen in her dream in great detail. She briefly explained the raids from the warlord when it became relevant to the story but she avoided too many details about the town and its origins. Yes she had heard many stories about Xena and Gabrielle and people they had helped. She had heard of how the young bard had helped Xena on the lengthy path to redemption. They were just stories though and she was reluctant to trust completely immediately.
Once she got to the end of the story she observed the blonde's reaction. The bard had been captivated whilst Antonia was telling her story but now the warrior had finished the blonde looked confused and unsure. An uncomfortable silence fell between them so Antonia decided to take the initiative.
"You look doubtful" the red head pressed.
Gabrielle merely nodded and looked down at the circular weapon she still held in her lap. Antonia had noticed how the blonde had almost been stroking it whilst listening to her words. She had heard of the weapon in the stories of Xena. It was the warrior's chakram but Antonia had thought that no other could wield it. Yet Gabrielle had very nearly taken her head of with it less than an hour before.
"You are asking me to believe that after two years you can bring Xena back from the dead" the bard finally answered after another short and awkward silence.
Antonia could understand her hesitancy as it did all sound fantastical. Returning a soul back into a body not long after death was one thing but to be able to completely reform a body without any kind of remains...that was a much more magical and otherworldly suggestion. It would be impossible without the help of the gods so Antonia decided to divulge a little of her tribes link to the old Olympians.
"Its a long story but in short the god Zeus gave one of our elder's immortality as a gift alongside a prophesy that one day she would have to trade this power to bring a hero back from the dead. This hero would in turn save save our people in a time of great need."
The blonde's head shot up immediately at the mention of Zeus's name. Considering Xena's role in destroying the Olympians it would be ironic if one of them had created a power that would bring her back from the dead. It was the first time Antonia had seen real hope in the bards eyes though even though there was still a little doubt.
"I want to believe you" Gabrielle admitted. "I just don't understand why Xena couldn't give me a message to go find you."
Antonia had no logical answer for her. In truth she didn't understand why Xena had chosen her either. There were more logical and far more receptive members of her town to appear to. Selene, the tribe elder, who held the power to return her from the dead being the most obvious candidate.
"I'm not a spiritual person Gabrielle...I'm ALL warrior. I don't know why Xena chose to give this message to me."
It occurred to Gabrielle that she may not have been able to define between a real spiritual message from her soulmate and just another one of her dreams about the brunette. If this really was all true perhaps that's why Xena had decided to send someone to her and not the other way around.
"Will you come with me?" the red head asked.
Gabrielle was starting to feel more and more hopeful by the minute that Xena could be returned to her. She didn't want desperate hope to be the basis of her decision though and knew it would be best if she gave herself a little time to think it through. She didn't have long. It was clear from the way Antonia had told the story that she was desperate to get back to her home as soon as possible.
"Let me sleep on it" Gabrielle requested. "I promise you an answer at first light."
The red head nodded in agreement. It would be unwise to press the other woman any further tonight especially as the bard was probably mentally and emotionally exhausted already after returning to Xena's family home. Without warning Antonia's stomach audibly growled. Probably due to the fading smell of food wafting around the building.
"When did you last eat?" the blonde asked.
"First thing this morning" Antonia admitted.
She had rode all day so she could arrive at Amphipolis that night. All she had ate was some bread and dried berries at first light.
"There is stew still left in the pot in the kitchen" Gabrielle informed her; "you may sleep in here."
The bard stood up and started to walk out of the room. Gabrielle didn't have to allow her to sleep within the Inn. It was a kind and trusting act to allow someone you didn't know to stay in a building with you whilst you were sleeping.
"Good night" Antonia called after her host.
The red head stripped down to her underclothes and retrieved her blankets from her bag. There was a comfy rug by the flower so she bedded down there. Sleep was quick to claim her after two nights of very little rest.
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