Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and all the other Xena characters are property of MCA and company, I'm just playing in their sandbox for awhile.

I, Gabrielle

*This story is sort of a what if type story. It's just a little tale I wrote for my own amusement and hopefully yours. -------------

Chapter 1 ------------ My name is Gabrielle. I was born the eldest daughter of a poor farmer in the Macedonia village of Poteidaia. As a child I often dreamt of visiting far off lands and living out heroic tales. Early on I learned to keep my desires to myself, for family and friends worked constantly to break me of such foolish notions. While I toiled away at daily chores my mind was seldom on what my body was doing. Always on the watch for passing strangers I eagerly devoured any scrape of information or tidbit of a story they might throw my way. With the passing of time such offerings only served to strengthen my deep longing to escape the boredom of quiet village life.

Then one faithful summer day my savior arrived in the form a woman warrior. A woman who would not only show me the world for which I yearned, but would allow me to live a life far beyond anything I could have dreamt of. From that day forth our fates were forever entwined and the warrior would help shape a simple farm girl into an Amazon Queen.

Though reluctant at first she became my protector, teacher, family and above all else my friend. And because of that friendship I grew to love her and at some point I'm not really sure where she become the most important thing in my life. As our journey began I first learned to hone my natural bard skills, later my skills as a warrior would come to light. 'My warrior skills.' Silently I halfheartedly chuckle at the thought. There was a time I deplored the violence and vowel never to kill. Looking back on those times, it's almost as if I were watching a stranger. My life has changed so much since then. Years of conflicts have taught me there are things worth dying for and though it has been a painful lesson to learn I now know there are things worth killing for.

"Take me with you, teach me everything you know." With those words I sealed my fate. Maybe it had been destiny or perhaps the warped humor of a bored God, I doubt I'll ever know what force took the native words of a young girl and fulfilled them to the letter. Perhaps if I had known then what I know now I would have chosen my words more carefully, then again perhaps not.

For teach me she did, thought Xena fought to protect me from the painful lessons life had taught her, at times her very reluctance lead me down the same rough paths. While my body bears the scars of many a hard learned lesson, they are nothing compared to the marks that have been etched onto my soul. Though even with the weight those lessons have left upon me, had I a chance to do it over again I would not change my decision to follow her. For if I did I would have missed knowing the one person I treasure most in this world. And I could not bear losing the time we spent together, no matter how short it was.

It's been more than a fortnight since her death and still I cannot believe she is gone. Now in the quiet of the moment my thoughts turn to the warrior princess as they often do. Since my capture thoughts and memories of Xena are all that have kept me going. Yet, in the dark of night images of her death haunt my dreams. Her death. After all we've been through, all the battlefields, the enemies we've faced I never thought the end would come as it did.

Even now I have only to close my eyes and the images of that cursed day come rushing forth. It had started much like any other, the sun rose, birds sang and we teased each other in the friendly matter we both had grown fond of. The morning passed peacefully, that should have been our first warning. We allowed the quiet to lull us into a false sense of security it made us careless.

Reaching a narrow river, we were delighted to find that the midday summer sun had warmed it perfectly for a relaxing swim. After having spent more then a candle mark in the cool inviting water Eve and I agreed it was time to head for shore. We tried to coax Xena from her watery pleasure but she would have none of it. Allowing her to offer an unbelieved excuse of fishing for lunch, Eve and I left the warrior lazily floating along with the slow moving current.

Climbing onto the grassy riverbank we laughed and talked while dressing. Then as I knelt to lace my boots it happened. At the sound of breaking foliage I looked up to find us surrounded by Roman soldiers. Looking back on it a temporary surrender might have been a more logical course of action. But, memories of my last surrender to the Romans still haunt my nightmares.

Charging the closest man I wrestled his sword away, then used it to open his chest. The others were not so easily surprised. Calling my name Eve rushed forward only to find her path blocked by several Roman spears leveled at her chest. I heard the command to fire followed by the twang of nearly a half dozen bowstrings. My heart froze as I realized their target. Eve was her mother's daughter snatching two arrows from their deadly flight she used them to bat away two more. With a quick twist the fifth one passed harmlessly, but the last arrow would not be denied. It struck her in the left thigh passing through to almost midshaft. As she staggered, four soldiers rushed in from behind draping a large net over her.

Unable to break free from my attackers I could only watch in horror as nearly a dozen men fell upon her beating the girl to the ground. Enraged by the brutal attack, I stabbed the soldier closest to me then rammed into the dying man, using my shoulder to drive him into the approaching soldiers. I had hoped clear a path to Eve. While the men before me fell back several steps they refused to yield completely. As I searched for an opening Xena's battle cry pierced the air and I could not help smiling as her large frame vaulted into the fray. Still dripping water I realized she had not been able to reach armor or weapons, though that did not make her any less dangerous. Almost in answer to my thought a soldier lunged at the warrior and she snapped his arm like a twig, sending his sword skyward. Kicking the screaming man away she caught his sword before it could strike the ground.

Back to back we fought as had become our habit. Though we seemed to be holding our own, the enemies' numbers were great. Growing tried I lowered my defenses for a moment, it was a mistake that nearly proved fatal. As I turned to block a soldier who charged from my left a massive fist blindsided me from the right. My vision blurred as I struck the ground. Dazed I shook my head trying to clear away a fog of confusion. From somewhere beyond the fog I heard Xena call my name as her strong hands pulled me to my feet. The hands spun me around and I found myself eye to eye with the large warrior. A strong, yet gentle hand cupped my cheek and relief softened her features.

Then she jerked in pain, blood spattered my face as the arrowhead, which pierced her back, broke through soft chest tissue. "Xena!" I screamed as I tried to hold her, she staggered back a step. Hands grabbed at me from all sides pulling me away from my friend. I struggled against them but there were too many, between the bodies surrounding me I caught glimpses of Xena. Though her left arm hung limp at her side, she still wielded the sword with her right. I called to her only to be answered by a savage blow to my back, blinding pain sent me to my knees. Then rough hands forced me face first to the ground. As I tried to twist away I could see Eve's motionless form still wrapped in the net, I prayed she was only unconscious. From somewhere beyond the circle of soldiers Xena cried out in pain. Struggling against the men trying to tie my hands, I called out to my friend. I'll never know if she heard me for my world exploded in a brilliant burst of light as the hilt of a Roman sword cracked against my skull, the light faded to total darkness.

I awoke in the dimly lit hole of a Roman slave ship. The rocking of the ship coupled with the hot, mushy smell of the hole did little to ease the growing queasiness in my stomach. Quickly my mind searched for the cures Xena taught me. "Xena." My eyes flew open. All else was forgotten as my thoughts turned to finding my wounded friend, but as I tried to rise to one elbow heavy shackles dug into my wrists and ankles. A sharp, steady throbbing near the base of my skull forced me back down.

"Lay still." ordered a soft, yet firm voice as strong hands gently pulled me back. Laying back into the strong arms I looked up into Eve's concerned face. Even in the dim light I could make out the blood and bruises covering her beautiful features.

She tried to smile, but tears slipped down her cheeks. "Mother's ...gone." she whispered in answer to my unspoken question.

My heart froze as my mind struggled to accept her words. Emotions rushed at me in an unbearable flood and the queasiness returned tenfold. Running a hand across my sweat soaked face it came away covered with dried blood. My stomach lunged at the realization it was Xena's blood. Forcing the bile back down I leaned into Eve's embrace. Looking up into her face I found myself gazing into those beautiful blue eyes, which mirrored Xena's so well.

Xena was dead. I tried to force my mind to believe it. It must be true, for Rome would not have allowed it's greatest prize to escape. No doubt she would be in the hold with us if she were still alive. If the soldiers on the riverbank succeeded in overpowering her she would not have surrendered. Of course, there would be no need to bring back her entire body. Once more my stomach churned at the Roman custom of taking the heads of its enemies. I began to cry and Eve's soft sobs soon join mine. I mourned the closest family I've ever known as Eve morns for a mother she'd only begun know.

After leaving the ship we were drug before the Emperor Caligula. There are few people in the world I claim to hate but this arrogant pig was quickly working his way to the top. I stay as close to Eve as possible, while I may not be able to stop our fates, I refuse to go down without a fight. No matter what I will protect Xena's daughter with my dying breathe. My blood boiled as the arrogant swine paraded around his chambers, taunting us with Xena's death.

"It's a pity the Warrior Princess didn't survive, I would have enjoyed seeing her die in the arena." Sneered Caligula.

I know I should have held my tongue but I could not resist. "Twice Rome tried to kill Xena in the Arena and twice she brought Rome to it's knees. She would have enjoyed bringing you to your knees."

Eve shifted uncomfortably next to me and I have to wonder if it was concern because of my challenging Caligula or guilt over her challenge of Xena in the Arena.

Thankfully Caligula laughed at my arrogance. "Well, we'll never know now will we?"

I ask to see Xena's body and the bastard laughs. Then in mock distress he tells how several of his soldiers neglected to retrieve the warrior's body, denying Rome of its well-earned treasure. With glee he announced the soldiers were to be punished for their incompetence. So Xena's body had not been mutilated. My heart lightened at the thought.

Caligula and a small, armed troop led us to a balcony overlooking a large training area. Below three men wearing the robes of slaves stood with their backs together. Each was armed with a Gladius, the short bladed sword preferred by Roman soldiers. From their stances I knew the men had been trained to fight, yet even from a distance I could still see the fear in their faces. "The Games begin tomorrow but I thought I'd give some of the Gladiators a little warm up." Announced Caligula, with a wave of his hand several gates opened and a dozen men rushed toward the waiting men. I'd seen this type of fighting before during my visits to Rome. After all the battlefields I've fought upon I'm still sickened by this display of violence. It is one thing to kill in self-defense on a battlefield but the thought of shedding blood for mere amusement sickens me.

The gladiator's fell upon the men without mercy. Outnumbered and out armed the men were quickly hacked to pieces. Closing my eyes against the savagery I found myself once more wishing for Xena's reassuring presence.

Caligula's mad laughter awakened me from the thought. Gleefully he announced his plans for us. I would fight in the gladiator games or he would slit Eve's throat. As long as I fight and win Eve will live.

All the blood drained from Eve's face as she turned to me. "Gabrielle you can't do this. You mustn't spill blood to protect me."

Caligula laughed. 'Gods how I hate that laugh.' "Yes, she must. Oh and don't get any grand ideas of sacrificing yourself to save her from fighting. If you try to escape or better yet kill yourself I'll put the little bard through the most tortured death Rome has ever seen."

Tears glistened in Eve's eyes as she met my gaze.

"It will be alright." I lie.

Taking my hand she forces a smile. "I know." now it is she who lies to protect me.

"Oh, how touching." sneered Caligula. "Guards! Show the 'Battling Bard' to her new home. Let's see if you can live up to your legend. Better yet let's just see if you can live." His maddening laughter echoed off the walls as the guards lead me away.

From Caligula's palace the soldiers lead me to the Gladiator's quarters. There they stripped me of all my belongings. Aside from my boots the only thing I can truly call my own is a course blue slave tunic, which hangs loosely over my thinning frame. Since that time my life has revolved around the arena and the games. I live like an animal in a cage and what's worse I've had to learn to act like an animal to survive, if this could be called surviving. I've fought in three 'games' as Caligula calls them and each was more brutal than the last. My body bears the scars and marks of these ongoing battles. As for my home as Caligula called it is little more than a dungeon. As much as I hate the arena it is one of the few times I'm allowed to breath fresh air. Which is a welcome moment after spending most of the morning in the gladiator holding room. The dreary room reeks of mushy dirt, blood, urine and death.

Seated on the dirt floor against a far wall, I take little notice of the sights and sounds they have changed little in the days since I arrived. Soon it will be time to enter the realm of hell on earth. Almost in answer to my thought a pair of booted feet appear within my line of vision. Slowly my eyes work their way up muscular legs, pass a board chest till they find soft blue eyes staring back. Meeting the man's gaze I smile to myself, with his rippling muscles, shoulder length blond hair and shinning blue eyes I'm reminded of Hercules. How I miss the large demigod.

"It's time." announces the man.

I nod in understanding, raising to my feet while taking a gold colored helmet from the floor. Placing the helmet upon my head, I secure it in place with the chinstrap. Lifting a short Roman sword from its place against the wall I grip its wooden handle firmly. Over the last few days it has become such a part of me I barely notice its weight. The ironic is not lost on me that my enemies' favorite weapon has become my weapon of choice. Satisfied with a final check of the shoulder strap securing the gold scale armor running the length of my right arm, I reach for a small battered, gold shield. Now I'm ready for the arena. I smile sadly at the irony of the situation. Xena fought so hard to keep me from shedding blood yet it is because of her that I fight now.

Facing the man I offer him a small smile before flipping the grated face shield down. He returns the smile before turning to lead the way. His name is Ragnor and we have formed a strong bond. He knows of my adventures in his homelands to the North. Roman troops attacked his village more than a season ago and he was taken as a slave, ending up here. I've seen the sparkle in his eyes as we talk during quieter times. Xena would say another one had fallen for me. Sadly she'd be right.