A SHADOW OF STRENGTH - CHAPTER 10: AMPHIPOLIS
by Muffinly

The journey back to Greece was long, but Gabrielle was glad for she dreaded what would happen when they arrived in Amphipolis. When they reached land, she and Eve started walking through a forest towards Xena's home.

"Gabrielle," said Eve, "you are acting so strange. Why won't you look at me?"

"You look too much like her," Gabrielle lied.

"Will you tell me how she died?"

"In battle. I was going to bring her back, but she… she chose…-"

She felt a seething rage build inside her.

"Calm down, Gabrielle…" said either Xena or Eve, she could not tell.

"Shut up!" cried Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle-" Eve started, but Gabrielle looked right past her.

"How could you choose to leave me?" Suddenly she understood Circe's anger, "How could you choose her over me?"

"Gabrielle," Eve said cautiously, "who are you talking to?" But she knew, from the way Gabrielle looked at the nothingness, that it was Xena.

"How could you leave me, Xena? How could you? I hate her! I hate that Akemi!" to Eve's horror, Gabrielle drew her sais, "If you can appear to me, then so can that bitch! Send her over, let me show her what I think of her!"

Eve gently took Gabrielle's wrists and restrained her, "Gabrielle! No one is here. Please, you are going to hurt someone."

Gabrielle dropped her sais and seemed to come out of her brief bout of madness as her delusions faded.

"Oh Eve," said Gabrielle, "I'm sorry, I haven't been myself since Xena died. I can't live without her."

A sudden realization shook Eve to her core, "Gabrielle… what do you plan to do in Amphipolis?"

"Don't test me, Eve," said Gabrielle, "I need her. I know you won't fight me."

Eve sighed. Gabrielle was right, she would not fight her. Gabrielle retrieved some rope from her bag and tied Eve's hands, and then held a sai to the girl's throat until they reached Amphipolis.

Eve could not help but recall when the furies had convinced Gabrielle to kill her. And that had ended with the bard's brains coating Xena's chakram.

Eve tried to reason with Gabrielle, but she could tell by her sleep-deprived eyes and incomprehensible mumblings that the bard was too far gone.

When they arrived at Amphipolis, Gabrielle took Eve behind Xena's old home and tied her to an old tree. How unfair that this stupid tree, that cannot speak nor move nor love her should outlive the love of her life!

"Gabrielle," pleaded Eve, "please don't do this." Though she was not afraid to die, she knew that Gabrielle would never be able to live with herself if she killed her, and if this worked neither would Xena and Gabrielle will have truly lost her.

"I owe it to her," said Gabrielle simply.

"Do you?" asked Eve, "Or does my mother owe it to you? She does not belong to you, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle shook her head. She didn't want to hear it. She removed the urn containing the concoction from her bag as well as her translated scroll. She spoke the words and rubbed her potion on the weapon.

"'I, with a piece of mortal, and a piece of divinity," she read, "connected by the thread of ancient magicks, do command that my fallen be brought forth from the realm of the Dead, to be among the living again until that time comes when she is truly meant to die.'

She stood above Eve, chakram in hand, feeling the power flowing around her and hearing the wind whisper.

She looked at Eve in her frightened eyes, and somehow she knew. Maybe it was that bit of witch inside her, or instinct learned from her time on Aeaea, but suddenly she knew. It wasn't Eve.

Her mind flashed to the scroll, to her potion-induced translation, and suddenly she could see it in her mind, as though it were in front of her, and she could understand every word.

...slay a sacrifice, it said in that ancient tongue, one that is a part of the fallen, connected by soul. One whose destiny for generations to come is so intertwined with the fallen that his blood might bring him back. Dear reader, if you have read these steps and thought that these terrible tasks are necessary, and there is simply no other option, for remaining on this Earth without your fallen is impossible, then I am afraid this sacrifice is surely yourself. It was, in fact, my own soulmate who returned me from that place beyond this one, and and who rests there now.

Gabrielle stopped. It was her. It was always her. She looked at the chakram.

"Gabrielle?" asked Eve, warily.

"It's me," stated Gabrielle, and she thrust the weapon into her stomach. Deeper, deeper, until she was certain it touched her spine. She choked on her blood, and through her hazy eyes watched Eve's face morph from horror to disbelieving shock.

"Gabrielle!" she heard, and she knew the voice sounded more distant than it was. It was Xena's voice, and Gabrielle's lips curved into a blissful grin, content that her love was near, even if she was inside her own mind. But as she looked into Eve's eyes that were fading with the world into blackness and that were no longer watching Gabrielle but rather the air behind her, she began to understand. Her own eyes closed, their lids too weak to remain open, but what she heard through what felt like cotton in her ears made each painful breath worth it as the life drained from her wound.

"...Mother?"

Eve could see her too, and Gabrielle understood that she had succeeded. And as she felt Xena's hand, more real than she could ever have remembered it, gripping her own as though to keep her from falling away, Gabrielle knew that she was finally free.