Of Monsters and Men
"Everyone in this village wants her dead."
"She'll be fine."
"Where is she?"
"She'll be fine."
"What is she doing in that castle? We need her here?"
"She'll be fine."
"She's coming back, isn't she?"
Her world unraveled quickly, she mused early one frigid morning. Frost coated the land, and the Earth had transformed into a wintery paradise. When Xena had died, her entire world crumbled apart, scattering into the wind like ash.
She slowly began to cease her travels. Knees stiffening and with a slight bend in her back, the road became too tempered for her to toil through alone. Argo raced off into the wind, and Xena turned to dust beside her brother's bones like she wanted.
She gave the path of a warrior up, and began to tell stories. Her dreams of Xena lurked in her shadow, and the light of the fire glistened in the full cups of ale and wine. Moments would grow, when she found it difficult to end her tale. To finish the life of Xena.
But Xena lived, for the longest time. She lived within her words.
People grew weary, though. Days became longer, and war and bloodshed were far to common. People needed a hero, a hero like Xena. But Xena was dead and gone, and never awakening again.
She traveled the seas, for a brief time.
It was bitter, though. She lived in a world so bleak and colorless, that she sought an echo of Xena. Ships rocked against grey waves, and skies hung low over the horizon. Land chased and beckoned the ship, and the water pulled them down into a watery grave.
The sea was haunted, she supposed. A whisper of Xena's laugh chased her.
She went for the highlands.
She grew older.
Xena was still dead and gone.
Life was a misery.
Her staff was thrown away, when word of the last Amazons killed reached her ears. She screamed and cried, and pleaded with the Gods to undo the deaths. Her words were ignored, and thunder and lighting struck the skies.
She burned fire, waiting for the days that grew longer and harsher.
She had no place in the world. Not when her world was crushed.
They say that when she was born, the sky was on fire.
Whispers of her birth had echoed through the lands, and she sought the girl out. What she found was a common slave girl, hair hacked away. Her hands were scabbed over, and her legs were bruised. Wrists bore the memory of chains, and back had the shame of a whip. Rome left a mark upon her.
It was her eyes, however. They burned brightly. Glistening blue with redemption and power.
She made an offer for the girl.
She'd train her, and she'd move on.
She was quiet. Always watching, always listening.
She taught her the little she knew of the sword. The girl began to refuse it, after a few days of it. So she moved onto the staff.
She took to it instantly.
"I don't want to kill." She once spoke, as she gripped the staff. "Too many people already died."
Gabrielle fell silent, watching her. Tuffs of dark hair grew softly, and her face wasn't as hollow. She no longer looked like a starved corpse walking, and she began to heal.
She once called softly over the firelight. "Xena taught you once, didn't she?"
"Long time ago." Her voice had grown rougher as the years left her.
She blinked. "She must have been nice."
"She was. Of all the monsters and men on this world, she was a hero."
Many sought for the girl.
"We could make you powerful," They swore.
"I don't want power." She declined quietly.
"The Gods blessed your birth, they say." They continue on, pressing against her will.
"The Gods may have damned me, others say." She turns away.
The path of the warrior never intrigued her.
She wasn't Xena. More of an echo.
She grew resentful at the girl. Gabrielle sought for the friend she once had within her, but found little. All she found was a calm being of rational thought. She began to shut her out, and carry about her days.
And one day, she was gone.
The days became harder.
She returned, of course.
She leaned on a staff, and her hair was streaked with the sun. Her eyes were exhilarating, a reflection of Xena's perhaps. Her face had a nasty gash upon it, breaking the calmness of it. Her hands were rougher, and her strides were longer.
She wore little amour, and had no horse to guide alongside. She had no companions, only a slight echo of coins in a sack, and a whistle upon her lips.
"Could have said goodbye."
"Could have." She agreed.
Gabrielle sighed. "Hungry?"
"How does the road treat you?" Gabriella asked her, one night. The stars burned brightly, and she missed Xena guiding her across the night, pointing out the constellations.
"Fine, I suppose. I stay to the travelers paths."
"Xena and I always traveled on the quicker routes."
"The quicker routes seem to kill many."
"She should have to."
The truth remained. Xena died with a knife to the back and dry eyes. She died on a dirt road, with bandits cheering, and Gabrielle screaming.
"Leaving, again?" She leaned on the frame of the door, the sun thawing the land out.
She explained simply. "To still here. Need to find a life outside."
"You're not Xena, are you?" She sighed. Defeat bent her back, and her eyes were shut.
"I don't think I could ever be Xena." She left quickly.
Word of the slave girl's death reached her rather quickly. She mourned quickly.
She spent an entire lifetime it seemed, mourning Xena.
She died slowly.
Death was long and troublesome, lurking before her out of sight. She could here Xena's laugh. The girl's whistle.
She could hear life.
"Took you long enough," a voice whispered to her.
"Hello, Xena." She smiled.