2nd Part of The Darkness and The Light series
By Mikael Helbo Kjaer
Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and all other original characters portrayed in the TV show Xena, Warrior Princess are the exclusive property of Renaissance Pictures, Studios USA and Universal Television. No infringement is intended by this piece of fiction. The story is however the exclusive property of the above mentioned author. This story can be freely copied and distributed online under the condition that any website or list informs the author about the posting or the author approaches the website or list with the story for posting. The story and this note must be presented unedited except for any HTML added for presentation purposes. All other situations must be negotiated with the author.
Setting: Post FIN
Sexual references: GEN (with subtext)
Violence: This story contains scenes and descriptions of intense violence
Summary: 2nd installment of the series 'The Darkness and The Light', which follows the adventures of first Gabrielle alone and then the girls together after the end of the 6th series, which I found unsatisfying to my need for XWP action. This 2nd story follows Gabrielle as she comes home to stay for more than a few days for the first time since her leaving Poteidaia in "Sins of the Past"; she must make peace with her past, her family and handle a major discovery about herself, while stopping a local warrior from kindling a deadly war.
Author's notes: English isn't my first language (I am a Dane) so please forgive my hopefully not too bad grammar and writing style. Also send me reviews and constructive criticism (no flames please, I am so not interested).Chapter 1:
Xena looked out the window, while she slowly flexed the muscles in her legs one by one. She had been lying there for almost a week now, while her body seemed to reconstruct itself bit by bit. She was beginning to feel alive inside. She felt alive, something she hadn't allowed herself to feel the entire time she had traveled with her bard. Now she could live, but she had returned to desolation. "What did you expect?" She chastised herself. "You couldn't just be gone for years and expect her to be there the moment you awoke. You gave her the skills needed to be the hero she already was in her heart and now you find that she used those skills without you. And you're surprised that your brave bard did it. Don't let your own notions blind you to her again as they have done so many times before. You have to focus on finding her. She is alive, she must be. Or it will be your fault for not being there to save her", she admonished herself in her thoughts. She forced herself to stop mulling over that. There was no point in sitting in her bed and thinking about something, when she couldn't change the past. She relaxed for awhile letting the sounds of the world around her intrude again. Still her mind kept coming up with the hundreds of ways Gabrielle could've passed away in the lands beyond the reach of the Amazon Nation.
It had been three days now. Three days ago she had finished Gabrielle's tale about her adventure with the Romans in Egypt. After that scroll she had caught some infection according to Eve. She had spent these last few days fighting an intense fever as well as her barely resurrected body's weakness. But she had managed to pull through without problems. Now she was again waiting on her recalcitrant body to finish healing.
Eve came in. Xena thought she looked tired and worn. "Is something wrong my dear?" She asked. Eve raised her eyebrows and struck a pose that seemed and eerie reminder of her. She knew from studying and perfecting that look in mirrors standing in her various tents during her campaigns around the world that it was supposed to intimidate and often did. Unless you were the inventor of that look, her daughter or a small green eyed warrior bard.
"You shouldn't be sitting up", her pacifistic daughter admonished her and walked over to her bedside.
"I am fine. I am feeling better now", she explained and suddenly again had that empty feeling like she was missing something essential. She felt off her game. She felt unbalanced by the lack of her little blond amazon at her side. "Eve, could you hand me her scroll bag. I want to read a little", she asked and held out her hand.
"How far did you get?" Eve asked as she carefully handed Xena the saddle bag.
"The last part I read Gabrielle had just left Egypt with that amazon friend of hers Mytilene", she said and looked through the scrolls.
"Oh… Mom, the next part was slightly painful for her, but you'll soon understand yourself", Eve sat down on the bed that she had begun to regard as a prison these last few days.
"Why?" Xena asked and looked at her beautiful daughter.
Eve seemed to look out the window for a while, and then explained: "Gabrielle's trip back from Egypt to here was longer and harder than she had expected. She fell into a deep depression, when every step and stone brought on thousands of memories of your lives together. She couldn't even bring herself to write about it in her scrolls so much did it hurt her. When she came here, I was shocked to see her so pale and unhappy, unlike even when she planned to go murder her parent's murderer".
"Wait a minute, why were you here? How did you come to be here, last we met you were off to Indus", Xena asked and looked intently at Eve.
Eve looked away from her mother again as if that subject was a touchy one. "I came back because I… no longer believed in my mission as a messenger of Eli. I spoke to Eli about it and we agreed that I should only choose to do what I felt was the right path for me. So I went back here to start a hospice and become a healer. I was happy with that decision and still am. I was just getting settled here, and then you died. I felt it. I knew it. I don't know how, but I felt it and I mourned a long time. Then Gabrielle limped into Amphipolis and nearly fell of her horse from some disease or maybe it was heartache I don't know. I found her and nursed her back to health. Well her body healed in a few days anyway. And she told me the stories of your lives after our parting ways. I saw immediately that she had deep scars on her soul from your death and an immense amount of repressed sorrow in her over you and her own actions. First I thought that it meant that she should end the life that caused her so much pain and pick up the one of peace and love as a new messenger of Eli instead of me, but then I realized that to make Gabrielle into a healer, a wife of some farmer or even the first disciple of Eli was to deny the fact that Gabrielle really wasn't just some average woman with some combat skills. She was meant to be a hero from the very beginning. Gabrielle has a soul of pure light honed through many lives, but that very same soul is capable of violence and fighting with fierce ability none the less, and that is exactly how she should be. She was never meant to be just a bard or just a healer or some man's doting wife, she was like you capable of greatness and bordering on attaining it when you parted ways. I had to bring the faith in a continued life out in her, I had to soothe her soul that was so hurt by each act of violence but still needed to fight for the greater good no matter that it afforded her soul great pain to do so".
Xena sat staring at her daughter in silence. Her own thoughts were locked on that very same situation. She had always thought that Gabrielle would turn to one of those paths when she was gone. But her own daughter had seen and accepted a truth she had never been able to. She had always, even after Gabrielle turned into a skilled warrior, wanted a life of peace and tranquility for her. Had she been wrong there as well? Would she always consistently underestimate her little bard like that? And was the fact that she still thought of her as her "little" bard not a clear indication of her continuing failure of seeing Gabrielle for her true self. Had she even held her from achieving her true path? Held her from finding her own way?
"It took me a week of carefully planned talking to get to the core of her problems and get her to talk to me about it was even harder. She wanted to bury you and be on her way, but I wouldn't allow it before she was capable of happiness again. So I got her to help me in the hospice under the pretense that I needed to prepare a proper funeral for you. I don't know if she was tricked by that.
She showed a great gift for healing not only the body but the mind. I learned many little tricks from her. And she began attracting people from far and wide. They came not just to see her performances and meet the legendary bard; some people would come just to be near her. She used her performances to raise money for me, but I suspect they in part were responsible for more than a little of her healing. When she began smiling again a moon had passed, and I held a grand funeral for you with some of your friends attending, I hoped that would help her a little. She needed to let you go and at least allow that wound you opened to close even if it would never truly heal.
The time for the burial came and so did all my guests. Xenan and his family, whom Gabrielle had told me about, Hercules and his old friend Iolaus, Virgil and Aphrodite were the guests of honor. I tried to call Ares too, but he didn't come. At least not to me, but the rest is in there in the scroll. You see, she began writing again after the funeral service. She left a few days later, just saying goodbye, smiling and riding off in the morning sun. That was the last time I saw her. And I didn't understand her leaving, and I admit I was a little angry until I read that", Eve explained and pointed at the scroll.
"So she had a little peace and then she left. Where did she go next?" Xena asked as she opened the scroll.
"Poteidaia", Eve answered and rose as one of her helpers downstairs called for her.
"Ah, she went home", Xena whispered and rested her eyes on the scroll in front of her.
"No, she went to Poteidaia. That was never really her home", Eve said and stopped on the doorsill, "Read the scroll then you'll understand". Eve disappeared into the dark opening.
Xena looked after her daughter for a while, then turned her eyes back to the scroll and began to read.
The day after her funeral and I was still there. I had secretly hoped that the world would have collapsed on that day, but it didn't. Even after we put the lid on her sarcophagus and Hercules finished his speech I still felt the pain in my soul. It will remain there until we meet again in another life…
A few weeks ago I would have asked that happen soon, but I know that it would just be as wrong as Xena's death. Late that day after Hercules and all the others said goodbye. Well I had to tell Virgil to leave and that I really wasn't interested in 'traveling' with him even after Xena's death, but I will count that as simply leaving in his case. He seems to have inherited his father's infatuation of me. At least his writings are getting much better. I think he will be remembered as a great bard someday if he keeps it up. The night of her funeral I found myself attracted to her resting place. And I found someone in there. Ares was standing at her grave.
He greeted me like he always did with blame and pain in his eyes. I know that I in some ways was responsible from Xena never succumbing to his temptations, so I guess I am in some ways a source of pain to him even if his way of living would have killed her more completely than my travels with Xena could ever do. At least with me she found her way to redemption. "So she died", he said. How could I respond to that other than with the truth? "Yes, it was a glorious battle. You would have been very proud. She fought even though outnumbered a thousand to one and if she hadn't needed her own death to fulfill a task I think she could have won. She defeated a threat to all souls in that faraway country", I explained. But pain or something else must have been visible in my eyes because he just looked at me funny and said: "Go on, there is more. Isn't there? She wouldn't just have sacrificed herself like that. That was never her way". "She had the plan for her resurrection all planned out in advance. I had to recover her body and put its ashes into a holy fountain, then she would come back to life", I explained.
And he got very angry. I hadn't expected otherwise. "Why didn't you! You failed again didn't you? It was always you. You were her weakness. You were always the reason for her failures. I bet you even caused her to get into the battle that killed her in the first place", he screamed at me. Suddenly he threw one of his bolts at me. I nearly got singed by that blue gob of energy. I managed to talk as I dodged his attacks.
"No! I didn't fail". I dodged a bolt that smashed into Lyceus' sarcophagus leaving a smoking black mark on it. "I had to fight soldiers and samurai for her corpse". I jumped over Cyrene's grave as another one whizzed past me. "I had to take her mistreated and beheaded corpse as well as the head. I burnt them and got all the way to the holy well with her ashes fighting a samurai warlord for each step." I rolled forward and got into hiding behind Xena's sarcophagus. The floor where I had been became charred from another bolt. " A man I finally had to kill to get there. And I did all those things, even crawling around on a sheer cliff wall to recover her urn... Xena stopped me at the very last moment". And then abruptly he stopped throwing bolt of energy after me.
"She decided to stay dead even with you there. Even when you had met all the requirements of the ritual", he asked me sounding deeply surprised and looking at me with pity and even a little understanding. "Yes. She believed that she needed to stay dead, because if she wasn't dead the souls of those she had killed in life wouldn't be avenged and would be lost forever. She thought she had reached the point of her redemption. I didn't believe that was true or right, but I couldn't come up with an argument other than my feelings and they were overshadowing my logic then as well as now. I couldn't go against that decision Ares. I couldn't. If she was right then that would be going against both her wishes and the greater good. Something I would never do. We are talking about 40000 souls. That is an intimidating number to go up against with just your selfish love for a person. So yes, I let her go. And I regret it every second of every day. And I must live with that and the memories of all my life with her, but live on without my soul mate having known her. It hurts inside my soul".
Ares just stared at me for a while, then he said: "I am sorry I attacked you. I wasn't thinking clearly… I knew the exact moment she died. Yet she was outside my reach. There was nothing I could do. Nor is there anything I can do now, she has been dead for too long and her body is just ashes... I really am sorry… Why did she have to be mortal? Why didn't she eat one of Odin's apples, when she had the chance? I would have been more than happy if she had shared that with you so would Aphrodite for that matter. We won't like a world without you two". I just looked at him and saw both his own sorrow and surprisingly compassion for me. We fell silent for a while. Then he suddenly spoke.
"I could offer you her former position as my Chosen right now, but we both know that you would never take it. But I have something to admit to you instead", he turned to look at me and somehow I felt that he was being honest. Of course, he was right there was no chance of me ever going over to his side. "I remember you asking me once why I saved you and I said that you were just an afterthought. That was a lie. I... I have a thing for you as well. It developed all the time you and her traveled together but especially the year after your deaths on the crosses of Caesar. I realized that in many ways Xena had something right and meaningful in her life and you were at the core of that. So I began watching you and somewhere in there I even began to care a little. Something about you makes even the gods care about you. That is a unique gift by the way. I chose to save you, because I knew that neither Xena nor I would have liked a world without you", he told me. And I felt even stranger maybe even a little disturbed, but then deep down I knew and had noticed that he felt something for me as well over the last year of my life with Xena. "Don't tell me you're in love with me", I blurted. "You know me Gabrielle, I love any good fighting woman and I admire amazons, but no I don't love you. I loved Xena. I love Xena. But I would be happy if you allowed me to visit you from time to time… And talk…" He seemed earnest up to that moment, then he did something I have seen him and many other insecure men and women do before. "Unless you want something more physical", he tried to cover it up with a blatant comment involving sex. I just smiled and answered him honestly: "No, nothing physical… Listen. As long as you're not going to be traveling around making trouble for me just like you did for Xena just to see me fight then yes I would like to see you again from time to time. We are old comrades in many ways. And we both loved her". "I will settle for that. Then I will start our little talks by giving you a tip. Go home… Soon", he suggested and disappeared in a shower of bluish sparks.
I don't know why he wanted me to go home. However now that I write this I am only a few days of travel away from Poteidaia. I am going there to my ancestral home. I am going there, be it on instinct or habit. Or it could be plain old fear generated by Ares' comment. I have few other places I could go and be welcomed, but I haven't been a good sister again. I haven't been in contact, since we got Sarah back to Lila, but I hope that more than a year's separation hasn't angered Lila too much. If she even cares. What can I say? That I slept in a ring of fire in a far away land for a year and nearly never made it out of there or that I have been to the other end of the world to watch my soul mate die. And what of all the changes that has happened after we last saw each other and all those before that which I never managed to explain to her. I have killed an innocent now. I have had command over the amazon armies and made sacrifices in the name of war I know she could never understand. Are we even related by anything but blood these days? And does that mean anything to her anymore? The connection I felt with my sister, when we were younger has proven to be increasingly weaker each time I have seen her. I worry over that, but I tell my mind to be at peace, as I will know soon enough if we are still related at all.
Xena set the scroll down for a few seconds in puzzlement. Ares' revelation about him actually caring for Gabrielle had her puzzled for a few seconds. In some ways it made sense. Gabrielle was a complex person, but had sides that would appeal to and attract him to her. Ares was not the first or only god to express interest in Gabrielle. She seemed to invoke feeling in almost everyone they met sooner or later be they god or mortal.
Xena thought about Gabrielle's going home. It reminded her of the times, she had returned to Amphipolis. It had not gone well even the times she had been welcome after her turn to good. She had outgrown her little peasant village only a short time after her leaving and so had Gabrielle. And Gabrielle had to know it. She was a warrior, a bard, a legend and even beloved royalty to an entire nation of amazon. But maybe she didn't. She did often ignore her own value. They had never really been able to spend much time at their homes neither in Amphipolis or Poteidaia, since they had met. There had been messages and short visits of course. But she knew for sure that neither of them had been home for more than a few days since that time over 32 years ago, when Draco's slavers tried to capture the women of Poteidaia and Gabrielle decided to follow her. That was it really. It would be interesting to learn how Gabrielle had fared in her return to her home and to her family. Maybe this time at least it would be a happy return for her beloved bard. Xena looked at the next entry.
It all began a few days ago, when I was only a few hours ride from Poteidaia…