Summary: Set in Norse backdrop. Alternate Universe in which two soulmates still manage to meet each other. A young girl is rescued from a sacked village by a mysterious warrior. Years go by before the same girl meets the warrior again. Yes, it's X/G.
Disclaimer and author's note:
I do not own Xena and Gabrielle, but this is an alternate universe, so all other characters are somewhat of my creation. Any resemblances to any familiar characters could as much be coincidental as it is intentional. As far as I know, I'm not making any money off this either.
I do not claim to be historically, geographically or culturally accurate or correct on any account. I write for the pure joy and romanticism of writing. If you are a knowledgeable person and would like to impart some cool historical accuracy stuff on me, I'd be more than glad to receive it.
As for contents, there is a likelihood of graphic violence and other types of mature content (such as love between two consenting females), so read at your own risk of finding or not finding what you expect.
Also, I've included songs I was listening to, or thought of during my writing of the different scenes. I do not own nor have created any of these songs, but feel free to ask me for more info if you like them.
Xena: Warrior Princess
Soulmate Series: Book One (Without You)
The village was on fire.
Though the massive pyre should've brought warmth to those who sought refuge against the blistering winter air, the fire raged forth with such fierce intensity that all it did was add to the agony of blood-curdling screams and moans of devastation. The meager freckles of snow did nothing to satiate the fire's hunger as it tore through villas after villas, devouring all in its path.
It was unfortunate to say that the villagers were fairing no better than their settlements. Their bodies were seared – burnt if not eviscerated or decapitated already, or having suffered any combination of the three. The less fortunate ones were included in other forms of mutilation and their remnants lay scattered across the muddied snow, staining the ground and the air with the pungent scent of blood and excrements.
Still, the one thing that would remain the liveliest in her mind would be the screams.
The Raiders were merciless and indiscriminate about whom they slay, especially since the village they were invading was minuscule compared to the previous ones. It was unfortunate for this small village that these barbarians had still made it up to their own standards in terms of the magnitude of carnage. Because for every piece of metal a husband failed to give, his wife would be raped. For every livestock the families failed to present, their children were taken and handled as meat instead.
A girl, almost old enough to be called a woman, watched in silent dismay from the window of her home. Her heart was beating very fast with paralyzing fear and it was filled with worry. Yet, she knew that they had no place to run; it would be safer to stay inside as long as she remained unseen. If she attempted to flee, she'd be caught almost instantly and would have countless unbearable things inflicted upon her.
Her fingernails dug into the wood of the windowsill and for a moment, she felt an intense anger towards the injustice of it all. The unfairness of being so weak and so helpless.
The only other person in the house at that moment was her mother, who had slowly and yet as courageously as a mother could, crept towards the window. With a protective hand, she gently grabbed the young woman's shoulder and guided her away. She was starting to feel altogether numb from all the violence she saw, and she leaned against her mother wide-eyed while she felt her long flaxen-red hair being stroked by a shaky hand.
"Don't worry, Gunnhild, we're going to be fine. You'll see." The mother said, though she didn't even sound confident enough to convince herself. It was only a matter of time before the raiders reached their area and they both knew it. She only prayed that her daughter's death would be quick and painless once it came.
"Do you think Papa's alright?" Gunnhild whispered, afraid that the raiders would hear her despite the chaos outside.
"Your papa's a strong and intelligent man – he will come back for us." She thought of her husband, who was at the market at the time their town walls had been breached. The people at the market were among the first to die, but the woman felt that giving her daughter false hope was better than to give none at all.
A strident scream prevailed over the general cacophony, only a few feet from the front of their house, and was followed by the flat sound that a body made when hitting ground. Gallops thundered nearby and shook the ground beneath mother and daughter, making their heads jerk in all direction like a panicked nest of young rodents. Then both women stood petrified, holding their breaths their front door burst open and three dark men stomped in – one of them had immediately spotted them. It could've been her imagination, but Gunnhild could've sworn she saw blood dripping from his slacking jaw, no doubt coming from his mouth, but there was too much to be all his.
"Go!" Her mother's scream had caught both her and the Raiders off-guard, and before she knew it, she was shoved out of the window. The last glimpse of her mother she had was the Raider lunging and grabbing the older woman by the throat, crushing her body against the wall.
"Get the girl!" The man who held the mother yelled at one of his companions as he turned back towards her with a savagely greedy smile.
Gunnhild had barely had time to recover from tumbling out the window before her mother's gurgling screams resounded from the inside. She scrambled to a stance and tried to decide what to do even though she was barely able to reflect coherently. Her heart told her to go back, but as soon as she saw one of the raiders appear at the front door, instinct told her to run.
And run she did, grabbing the bulk of her dress, she fled. She wore no shoes, but the cold kept her from feeling feet. Despite her best efforts, she could hear the man – or rather, what she felt was a beast closing in fast behind her. Before she realized it, she was on the ground and she gave out a yelp of both pain and surprise. She tried kicking and thrashing while the larger man attempted to grab hold of her feet. When his hand had found its grip tightly around one of her ankles, she felt almost instantly that she was doomed. Still she struggled, clawing at the dirt as she was being dragged across the ground backwards, pebbles and branches biting through her clothing and into her skin.
As she was being dragged back where she ran from, more yelling and screaming ensued from a distance, but Gunnhild recognized it to be of a different sort. She hadn't consciously noticed at first, but when her aggressor had let go his hold of her, she lifted her head to look about as well. All of a sudden, the raiders were the ones doing the screaming and the fleeing, and the source of their panic came from the group of men on horseback chasing them. Their cries were unlike the hoarse, savage shrieking of the raiders; they were roars of valiance and glory – animalistic in their own way, yet humble and powerful. They swept through the village rapidly as they took down the infesting raiders by the dozens. Though their efforts were great, Gunnhild knew that there wasn't much left of the village to salvage. Feeling her current aggressor climbing on top of her and pressing her further into the soiled ground with his heavy form, she realized that she wasn't going to live for very long either way.
Lifting her head as a last plea to the gods, she saw someone riding towards her, atop a steed possessing the colors of a field of wheat that shone proudly like the winter sun. She couldn't tell clearly the expression on the warrior's face, since it was occluded by the nose and cheek guards of his helmet, but she thought she noticed, even in that frantic moment, a sneer of disgust he directed at the raider.
As they closed in on them, Gunnhild tentatively looked through the eyeholes of the helmet. The sight of his fiery blue gaze sent a shiver down her spine, and for a moment she paused, her fear of death suddenly gone. In a matter of a second however, the warrior broke off the stare, as he held out his sword and focused instead on the enemy. Gunnhild ducked as soon as the saw the large blade the warrior held, and she was almost at once freed of the raider's imposing weight, while the raider was felled by the blow. The large man was thrown back with such speed and force that he only made a gasping 'hurk' sound as he crashed into the mud and remained completely still.
Gunnhild pushed herself up and looked in awe as the warrior rode past her towards more raiders, his long, dark, wavy mane billowed in the wind, with a tress flapping down the middle at the back of his head as he moved in such a way that made it seemed as though his horse was merely an extension of his legs. He fought with such skill and swiftness that the three raiders barely had time to register what had happened to them before they hit the ground, dead.
Transfixed, Gunnhild watched until another warrior rode by her, this one had long light-brown hair and a large beard. His hazel eyes fixed down upon her with concern.
"Are you alright, miss?"
"Y-yes." Gunnhild barely managed, realizing she was strangely breathless but not certain from which event.
The man nodded, and rode on to fight the rest of the raiders, who were now retreating in great numbers.
Gunnhild tried to get up, but yelled out in pain. She must have injured one of her legs while struggling against the raider who was after her. Lifting her skirt, she inspected her legs and was relieved to find nothing deformed. Perhaps it was just a sprain, but it was nevertheless still painful.
Things around the village began to quiet down as the chaos subsided, the houses that were burning were just about burned out and the ones who were suffering before were now mostly dead. Gunnhild was still in the middle of finding something to prop herself up with when she heard a horse trotting near her. Looking up, she saw the dark-haired warrior who had saved her earlier, and he held out a hand with long slender fingers. He had hunched over to reach for her. Slowly and unsurely, Gunnhild reached up, and as she grabbed a firm hold of his forearm, the warrior pulled her from the ground, to the top of his horseback behind him.
Then he kicked the horse and they galloped towards the gathering of the other warriors. Gunnhild reflexively held on to his waist but only gingerly; she was afraid to offend yet more afraid to fall. The warrior didn't seem to take notice either way.
"Torvald," Said one of the older blonde men in greeting to the warrior bringing Gunnhild. The blonde warrior's slightly aged face showed in what little was revealed of his features underneath his less conservative helm. His flaxen beard was divided into three distinct braids.
Torvald merely nodded, not saying a word of greeting in return. Gunnhild looked around at what seemed to be about twenty men, all on horseback and armored with either thick fur and leather or metal that gleamed. They all sat proudly on their steed, each carrying either a woman or a child with them. Whoever they couldn't carry on their horse stood near them, and the young woman soon realized as despair settled in that they were all that was left of her village.
"So where are we going to bring them? Back to our village?" Asked the man Gunnhild recognized as the one who inquired of her wellbeing earlier.
"Nay, Halfreor. It is too far, and they are too many." Objected one of the younger men, also dark-haired, sporting a short beard.
As the warriors entered a discussion, Gunnhild noticed that the warrior she sat with was the only one who hadn't grown a beard. As a matter of fact, his frame seemed to be so much smaller than the others even while wearing armor. Was her rescuer simply a boy, perhaps even younger than she was? He had such amazing strength and prowess however, that it was hard to believe. But perhaps this would explain his name, Torvald, which signified "Thor the Ruler". No one would dare name their child after a god unless they were nearly like one. This might also explain the fact that he didn't speak; perhaps he was not experienced enough to be allowed to share his opinions yet but he was strong enough to fight.
Still, something wasn't right. The eyes that Gunnhild had stared into earlier showed such maturity. Perhaps what they say was right, that war aged one a lot faster than one should be.
The warriors began riding slowly as the villagers who were on foot followed. Some had enough gotten off their horses and led them by their reigns, yielding their seats to some of the more shook up villagers.
Before she knew it, they were already in another village. In which direction they had headed, she didn't know.
Somewhat embarrassed that she had fallen asleep against the young warriors back, pressing against his soft dark hair, Gunnhild quickly sat back straight. No doubt the events earlier had made her more tired than she thought, and the rhythmic pacing of the horse was in a way calming. The warrior turned his head slightly in acknowledgement that she was awake, and she thought she had caught a hint of a smirk at the edge of his lips.
The village they entered was peaceful, unscathed. It seemed a lot bigger than the one Gunnhild had lived in, and the people there did not seem to mind the small populace moving into town. As the group moved, children milled about them, giggling and greeting them while their parents admonished them to leave the visitors in peace while they went about their daily chores. The group soon arrived at a clearing at the centre of town where a council of men and women stood in discussion, but upon seeing them, received them with warm and welcoming smiles.
"Olvir!" One of the men with graying hair stepped forwards from the group as Olvir dismounted. "It is always a pleasure to see you, cousin! What can I do for you?"
"Their village had succumbed to the wrath of the raiders, cousin." Olvir said gravely as he gestured towards the group behind him with one hand, "they need new homes, and another chance at a new life."
"We will be more than happy to receive them," the other man said, his voice tinged with a dash of sorrow out of respect for the survivors from Gunnhild's village. "We have room to spare and plenty of resources, we can even start building new houses for those who are old enough to live alone."
"Thank you, cousin." Olvir said with great gratitude as the two men joined hands to shake warmly and respectfully. Then, the leader signaled for the group to help the villagers get off their horses. "I will leave their fates in your hands."
"They will be taken care of."
Gunnhild watched the discussion from a distance when the leader of the group signaled to them. At this, Torvald dismounted the horse and extended a hand once again to her, this time to help her down. She hit the ground unsteadily and was reminded of the pain in her leg, but Torvald quickly came forward to help her stand once again. His mannerism was gentle, entirely unreflective of the fury he had unleashed earlier during battle. Once he made sure she was able to stand by herself, he climbed back on to the horse, pulling the reigns to turn around.
"Wait!" Gunnhild called out to him before he had gotten too far, and he stopped, bringing the reigns around to face her. "Will I ever see you again?" She asked and her voice came out somewhat sad and a bit shaky. Since the raid, Gunnhild felt that Torvald came closest to being the only person she knew now.
He didn't say anything in response. Instead, she saw the thinning of his lips as if he was trying to offer an apologetic smile. Searching his eyes, even from such distance, Gunnhild thought she saw a hint of sadness and reluctance in the pale blues underneath his dark brows.
Then without warning, he reared his horse around again, and trudged away along with the rest of his companion warriors. Gunnhild watched as their forms slowly shrunk into the distance and for the first time since the raid had started, she felt tears rolling down her face.
"Come on child," Said a woman who appeared from one of the closer households, and who put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Let's get you cleaned up."
Nodding without really knowing it, Gunnhild let herself be guided towards one of the houses.