Disclaimer & Notices: See Chapter 1.
AN: This is the last tidbit for the story. Something to end it with humor after the last chapter had more emotional stuff going on in it. Down below are replies to anonymous reviews. I truly appreciate everybody's patience from start to midway to finish of this thing. Whether I'll get into the sequel, I don't know, but it's left open for one. I just noticed it took me exactly six years and a day (wow that sounded very Maleficent movie like... at least not sixteen years and a day) to write this thing. I use to put out these types of stories in about three months back in the day. Thank you again to y'all for your support and hope you enjoy the closing!
Debbie: Thank you for following it from the start. It's been a long trip to Britannia and back. :) I'm glad too that I was able to finish it up, especially with it being so close. I do hope to get to another XWP story that's been on the far back burner lately. Thank you again for the support!
Lmei: Thank you for reading it! I appreciate the compliment about the story. It's nice to hear when somebody is enjoying it. :) I hope you like the epilogue and thank you for reading and reviewing it.
Started: January 27, 2009
Ended: January 28, 2015
Series 3: Putting the Puzzle Together, Story #27
The Warrior Gargoyle
by Red Hope
Suddenly Gabrielle's eyes grew impossibly wide. "You are joking?" She looked from Devlin to Xena, for help.
"Why would I joke about such a thing?" Devlin argued.
Gabrielle cut her eyes from the black gargoyle to the emerald colored one. She mentally tripped over herself to figure out a good reply.
"It is perfectly normal in a clan," Devlin stated. She was standing in front of a campfire and glowed warmly against the light.
Gabrielle held out her spread arms, hands wide open. "For gargoyles."
"I recall somebody saying they are a gargoyle in spirit," called the only male voice of the clan.
Gabrielle peered around Devlin and nailed Dro'marash with a glare. "And what about khajiits?"
Dro'marash was seated on a large cold stone beside the fire. He leaned back so he could see around Devlin. "A pack of khajiits would do the same." He shrugged.
Gabrielle sputtered at the reply.
Rowan had thrown more wood into the fire. She stood up and came around her sister. "Do you prefer to freeze tonight, Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle dropped her arms to her side, her duster muffled the sound. She was already cold and the fire barely kept them warm. The temperature was dropping drastically tonight. They were not as far south as they hope to be by now.
Xena had her thick arms folded under her caped wings. She bit the inside of her mouth when Gabrielle glowered at her. "We all are clothed, Gabrielle."
"Alright! Fine!" Gabrielle tossed her hands in the air. "I'm going to make dinner." She stomped over to the four horses and started taking Argo's saddle off first.
Devlin exchanged a smirk with Xena.
Rowan gave a low chuckle.
"I can hunt," Dro'marash offered. He stood up.
"My bow and quiver are on the horse." Devlin watched the khajiit collect the weapon and leave the camp.
Xena decided to take care of the horses. She kept quiet when Gabrielle passed her. She suspected the bard would warm up to the idea later.
The dinner was rather filling as Dro'marash captured several meaty rabbits. With Devlin's help, Gabrielle made plenty of food for everybody. Tomorrow they would make it to a village where they could stay a night at an inn. Tonight was unexpectedly cold and would only get colder. Devlin had made a suggestion on how to stay warm, which jarred Gabrielle.
After dinner, Rowan and Dro'marash took care of cleaning up everything. Over the moons, the clan had learned how to function smoothly without any orders from Xena. Each member had a duty that made everything move forward. Rowan often stood guard overnight since the others traveled all day. Xena had taught Rowan how to create a perimeter around the camp and to periodically check it.
Gabrielle organized her and Xena's bedroll for the night. She said nothing about the sleeping arrangements that had changed for tonight. She decided to leave that up to the others. She instead crawled under the furs while the gargoyles and Dro'marash softly talked around the fire.
Xena bid goodnight to the clan and removed her armor. She set her weapons in hand's reach and then crawled under the furs. She pulled Gabrielle into her body and realized Gabrielle was already cold even though the furs were heavy. She was thankful for Devlin's idea.
In the next candlemarks, Dro'marash and Devlin setup their furs and rolls around Xena and Gabrielle. The movements stirred Gabrielle, who soon found herself in between her dravoh and Devlin. Her breath formed in the cold air so she buried her head under the furs.
Devlin sensed the human's chill. She was barely warm, but her skin was getting warmer as she enveloped Gabrielle. Behind her, she felt the khajiit's warm fur. She suspected Dro'marash could handle the cold even better than a gargoyle.
Devlin felt the human stop shivering, and she was grateful. She grinned and murmured, "Not so bad?"
Gabrielle grumbled and said nothing about the fact she was spooned by two gargoyles. She still remained closest to Xena, but Devlin's warmth chased off the last of the cold. She was able to sleep soundly, finally. A few candlemarks before dawn, she poked her head up after hearing a distant wolf howl. She looked for Rowan, who was curled up above her head. Gabrielle's head was butted against Rowan's hip.
After a beat, Gabrielle wiggled closer into Xena and tried forgetting the fact that the entire clan was sleeping together in a mess of furs. It was true that everybody was warmer than being alone, but it was a new experience to Gabrielle.
Shortly before dawn, Rowan left her furs and put the last wood into the nearly dead fire. She then prepared for her stone sleep, which came within moments. After her body froze in stone, she shrunk down and was collected by Xena.
For a bit, Xena sat beside the fire and enjoyed the peaceful time to herself. She briefly looked over her shoulder at her dravoh, who was snuggled into Devlin's body for warmth. Moons ago Xena's jealousy would have flared up, but things were different in the clan now. Devlin was her sister and had numerous times protected Gabrielle during their travels to the east. Xena was also learning how incredibly affectionate gargoyles were once they formed a clan. It by no means meant Xena would share her dravoh, but she was happy that other types of bonds were forming between each member. Last night's sleeping arrangements was just another step to bringing the clan closer together.
Dro'marash awoke next, and he stretched long with his claws sunk into the ground. He joined Xena by the fire and occasionally chatted, but they remained in comfortable silence most of the time.
One by one, the clan members woke up until only Gabrielle was left under the fur. Xena was forced to rouse her grumpy dravoh, who hated mornings. Eventually the clan broke from camp and continued their trip southeast. They had a long ways to go before they made it to Chin. Gabrielle had been the one to insist they go southeast rather than directly east. She wished to see more of the southern cultures. Xena decided to go along with it.
Today they moved at a slower pace, even the horses were worn. Xena concluded an extra day in the next village would be best for both the clan and the horses. Nearly halfway to the village, Gabrielle's horse went lame. Gabrielle dismounted her horse and asked for a break. She and the others went off the gravel road and searched for a clearing.
The warrior stayed close to Gabrielle and once in the clearing, she checked on Gabrielle's horse. She frowned because it was obvious the horses needed the break more than them. Xena sighed and decided they were better off resting here for the afternoon and make camp for tonight.
Gabrielle was surprised by the decision, but she was grateful for it. They had been traveling hard since they left Amphipolis. Their pace needed to slow down if they were to make it to Chin as a rested clan rather than so spent by the trip.
After checking on the horse, Xena went down to the river in hopes she could catch a few fish. She hated cold water, but it was better than more rabbit. Usually the fish were slower moving at this time too.
Gabrielle prepped for a fish meal while Devlin and Dro'marash organized the camp. She finished cutting mozzarella cheese when she noticed the sun was low in the west. She looked up from the organized food when her dravoh returned with a linen full of fish fillets. Gabrielle's mouth watered at the sight.
But Dro'marash's sudden, low hiss caught everybody's attention.
"What is it?" Gabrielle asked first.
"A human," Dro'marash softly explained after another sniff of the air. He reached for his sword.
Xena approached the khajiit and held his hand in place on the hilt.
Devlin had retrieved an arrow from her quiver and knocked the arrow. She now heard what had caught Dro'marah's attention. "A very loud human."
Gabrielle had her staff in hand and lowered it after she recognized the sound like Xena. "You have to be kidding me." She took several steps towards the clearing's edge and shook her head at the familiar figure stumbling through the woods. "Jerkster," she called to her friend.
"Gabby!" Joxer tripped over a root, stumbled a few steps, and caught himself. He shot a big smile at his friend. He raced across the short distance and quickly grabbed her in a huge hug.
Gabrielle groaned and nearly lost her staff. She returned the hug with one arm.
"I've been chasing after you guys since Thrace," Joxer hastily explained. He fixed his goofy helmet. "You've been traveling so fast. I never thought I'd catch up."
Devlin looked to her sister, who sighed loudly.
Dro'marash released his sword and shook his head at the strange human.
"Oooh lucky us." Gabrielle had a fake smile and shook her head with a small laugh. She leaned against her staff. "How did you manage to catch up to us anyway?" They had been riding more than walking lately.
"One of my many skills," Joxer joked. He then grabbed Gabrielle's shoulders. "What in Hades happened to your hair?"
Gabrielle went wide eye. "Joxer," she growled. She slapped his hands away when he started to mess with it.
Joxer shook his head and commented, "You look sooo… butch." Somebody cleared their throat and quickly caught Joxer's attention. He shyly smiled at the tall, dark Warrior Princess. "Hello, Xena." He then realized there were two others, including an unfamiliar male. Joxer swallowed hard and hoped the other guy was not Gabrielle's type. He sure was handsome, not quite as good looking as Joxer though.
"Joxer," Gabrielle started, but she was cut off by Xena. She half turned and saw Xena point at the sunset. Gabrielle crinkled her nose and realized what was about to happen before Joxer's eyes. She hastily reached behind her neck and unhooked her necklace.
"Just give me a beat," Gabrielle insisted. She quickly placed Rowan down on the ground, near Devlin. She backed up a few paces until Joxer was at her side.
Dro'marash grinned and decided to join in with the transformation this time. He reached for his necklace's clasp. After Rowan's stone form enlarged, he unhooked the clasp.
Xena and Devlin started to shift into gargoyles. Their bodies rapidly changed and enlarged as wings sprouted from their backs. Beside them, Rowan's stone skin cracked all over then was shattered by her awakening. Three roars rolled across the lands and their eyes thundered red and white.
Dro'marash pulled his necklace off and instantly his human image fell away to reveal his feline features. He chuckled at the new comer's dramatic reaction.
"By the gods!" Joxer squealed and raced behind Gabrielle. "Something is wrong with them!" He tried to jerk Gabrielle away to protect her.
Gabrielle laughed at his reaction and dug her heels into the ground before she fell over from his tug. She felt Joxer hide behind her, and a few more chuckles bubbled up. She smiled at the three gargoyles and khajiit. Her smile turned into a grin as she looked at Joxer's stunned profile. "Welcome to the clan, Joxer."