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Love's Test by Wolfsword
Xena stood, uncertain of the stranger. She thought
she recognised the woman before, but she had thought it was her mind playing
tricks. It can’t be, she thought.
“Yeah, it's me,” the stranger almost seemed to
read her mind. “I’m real.”
Xena was still having trouble thinking. I thought
you were dead, her mind screamed.
know I’ve changed somewhat, but it can’t be that bad, can it?” the
How…?” was all Xena could manage. She stared at the newcomer as if she were
someone tell me what in Tartarus going on!” Gabrielle cut in. She felt like
she was being left out of the loop, in something that seemed to be very
Both warriors turned to stare at the small bard. They
looked at each other then back at Gabrielle again.
“Sorry.” They said together.
“Look, let's deal with this later. That one who got
away, it’s probably gone to get reinforcements. We’re not safe here.” The
stranger stated to Xena.
“You’re right. Lets go. It’s only a couple of
miles to Cularis. We can stay there for the night,” she told the stranger.
“You can explain everything to me when we get there” Xena added angrily.
The stranger looked away, almost guiltily and nodded.
They set off at a brisk walk, leaving Gabrielle feeling she’d been left out of
something again. As they left the clearing, she looked back one last time at the
creatures, still not believing what just happened. What she saw, made her halt
mid-step. Xena noticed her pause and stopped as well, alerting the stranger too.
Both backtracked to see what was wrong.
“They’re gone…” Gabrielle breathed.
It was true. Xena stood open-mouthed at the empty
clearing. Even the blood had vanished it seemed, as if nothing had happened.
“Come on. We have to get going. There’s nothing
to see,” said the woman urgently.
The stranger turned and strode away, Xena following,
pulling Gabrielle along with her.
They walked in silence, the sound of the birds
returning as they left the scene of the fight, the stranger leading the way.
After a while, Gabrielle realised that she did not even know the stranger’s
name. In fact, she knew nothing, while the woman seemed to know a lot about
them. It made her very uncomfortable. She took a breath to ask, but before she
said anything, the stranger spoke quietly, her lilting voice drifting back to
“Its best not to talk until we’re clear of the
forest. They might hear us.”
Gabrielle was shocked, and looked at Xena who was
walking beside her. She looked unconcerned at the fact that the woman had seemed
to read her mind. Actually, Xena seemed to be in a world of her own, her gaze
introverted and thoughtful.
Is she another part of your past that you haven’t
told me about? Gabrielle thought, surprised to feel a twinge of sadness at it. She
sighed quietly, and looked ahead, studying the woman walking in front of her.
Who are you? Who are you, whom Xena follows without
complaint? Why was she so shaken when she recognised you? Were you lovers? Gabrielle
almost tripped as she felt the spark of jealousy rip through her. The Amazon
Queen was surprised at herself. She didn’t think that she was the possessive
type, but when it came to Xena, it was different.
She studied the warrior again. She was obviously an
Amazon, or she would not have known the traditional custom of bowing, or how to
do it so gracefully. Gracefully? Why that word to describe it? she mused.
The woman’s mannerisms screamed royalty at the bard. Could she be of royal
blood? The woman had respect for authority, as she had shown in the clearing
and also a respect for life, when she could have killed the silver-stripe, but
chose not to.
Another thing that Gabrielle found strange was that the
woman had two swords. It wasn’t that ambidextrousness was uncommon to her, but
it was the way that they were placed on her body. One was strapped diagonally
across her back, the hilt protruding over her right shoulder, while the other
one hung at her waist, at her right hip.
She reminded her in many ways of Xena, a younger
version anyway. She must have been around Gabrielle’s age, maybe a little
older. She was slightly taller than Xena, although she was of slimmer build, but
no less formidable. Although most of her body was covered, Gabrielle had been
around warriors long enough to determine the good from the great. From the way
that the stranger carried herself, Gabrielle was certain that she belonged in
the latter category. A match for Xena in combat? She pondered.
She thought back to the scene in the clearing, and how close she came to dying. If it were not for the stranger, she would have died. Gabrielle knew it, so did Xena, but the other warrior seemed unconcerned, as if it were natural. But she seemed to value the creatures’ lives that she had taken. And what was she doing after all the creatures had been disposed? Gabrielle thought. It was like she was praying for them. Maybe it was an Amazon tradition that she hadn't come across before.
Soon the trees became less dense, and the forest
track that they were following, became much wider. Presently, the town walls
loomed in front of them and still they walked on in silence. As they passed the
gatehouse, Gabrielle heard wolf whistles coming from the guards. She looked up
in time to see one of them nudge the other, indicating the strange warrior in
front of her. She saw him lean over and say something, causing the other guard
to turn his gaze on Xena and her and laugh, but she could not pick up what he
“Be nice boys, or believe me, you wont have fun
tonight at Bo’s.” came the Amazon’s voice, the threat evident in her tone.
Gabrielle was startled and she looked at Xena, who
shrugged with a knowing smile at her.
“What did they say?” she asked Xena, quietly.
“They said something like ‘She must have had a
good time last night with those two beauties,’” replied Xena, watching the
slow blush creep up the bard’s neck.
“Oh,” said Gabrielle, fully embarrassed.
Xena smirked, a little of her good mood returning.
She would get an explanation soon, and there was no point wondering about it
now. She surveyed the road they were walking along.
“So, are you gonna tell me who she is?” asked
Gabrielle, trying to keep the impatience out of her voice. “I’ve been silent
for the past candlemark. I think I deserve some answers.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry. I just got lost in my thoughts,
“It's ok. So what’s her name? I can’t believe
I’ve been following someone whose name I don’t even know.”
“She’s…” before Xena could finish, a woman
shouted out to them.
From behind, came a woman with fiery red hair. She
wore a flowing sleeveless red dress, tattered in some places, but obviously not
cheap that showed off a small tattoo on her shoulder, of a bright red rose. She
was a shade smaller than Xena, and she pushed past between Xena and Gabrielle,
nearly knocking the smaller woman over. The
red-haired woman didn’t even acknowledge the other two, but came up to the
strange warrior and hugged her fiercely.
“As I was saying, this is Kaelin.” continued
Xena, unable to keep the smirk from her face, as Kaelin stood awkwardly, the
life being squeezed out of her by the woman. The newcomer reached up and hooked
her arm around the taller woman’s neck, pulling her head down, their lips
meeting, in a searing kiss.
Gabrielle looked away, unable to keep the thoughts of
what Xena’s mouth would feel like from running around her mind. Xena watched
the two, an amused grin playing on her angular face. She scratched her cheek
with a long finger, and cleared her throat. That snapped Kaelin back to reality, and she pulled
away from the woman, breathlessly.
“Well, if that’s the kind of welcome I’m gonna
get, I think I should be away longer!” she laughed, winking at Xena.
"And to think, I only just met the girl."
"And to think, I only just met the girl."
Xena narrowed her eyes, wondering if Kaelin knew what
she was thinking.
“Jorana,” said Kaelin, looking down at the woman
she held loosely in her arms, “This is Gabrielle and Xena.”
Jorana’s head snapped around, her face in shock.
Kaelin grinned at Xena and Gabrielle.
Xena’s eyes darted to Kaelin, who shook her head
slightly, before answering the red-head. Gabrielle got the feeling again that
the two warriors were communicating silently, through a bond formed previously.
She could almost hear the click of familiarity between old friends.
“Oh, what have you heard?”
“You know, all that stuff about you becoming a hero
for the people, instead of being a cold-hearted warlord.”
Xena laughed, almost relieved. The two warriors’
eyes met again.
“Oh, there’s way more to this Warrior Princess
than meets the eye,” Gabrielle said to Jorana, “Maybe I’ll tell you about
them some time.”
Kaelin studied the bard and warrior standing opposite
her, her mind analysing them.
“Sure! I’d love that,” said Jorana, a little
too enthusiastically. “Why don’t you tell me about them now, over dinner?”
Jorana left Kaelin’s embrace and linked arms with a surprised Gabrielle. Xena
stared as Jorana and Gabrielle strolled towards a well-worn building, the sound
of drunken laughter coming from it. Xena cocked a dark eyebrow at Kaelin, who
returned the expression, a small smile playing on her lips.
“Come on, I’m hungry.” Kaelin turned and
followed the two women, Xena pausing for a second before catching up with the
“So you’re an Amazon now?” asked Xena,
“How’d that happen?”
“I told you, we’ll talk about that later. It’s
a long story and I have a few things I need to do,” replied Kaelin, “Anyway,
how come you ended up with an Amazon Queen? Now that’s really an achievement,
my friend.” She winked at Xena.
“Now Kae, don’t you start getting ideas
alright.” Xena said, feeling a flush creeping up her neck.
Kaelin snorted. “Yeah, so what. You’re trying to tell me that you
didn’t take that beautiful thing to bed the first time you laid eyes on
her?!” “Gods woman! What’s wrong with you!” Kaelin
waved her hands in front of Xena’s eyes, causing Xena to stop walking. “Are
you blind or something!?”
“Gods woman! What’s wrong with you!” Kaelin
waved her hands in front of Xena’s eyes, causing Xena to stop walking. “Are
you blind or something!?”
“No, of course not,” said Xena defensively,
swatting Kaelin’s hand away.
“Then what? You going for men nowadays? Is that
it?” Kaelin’s brow wrinkled in thought. “Sheesh, that’ll be a shock to
the system if it is!”
“No, No. Nothing like that,” Xena sighed.
“It’s just…” Xena took a deep breath. “I dunno. Something’s stopping
me.” She shrugged.
“Stopping you? You mean like physically preventing
“No. It's like, whenever she comes near me, I want
her. Gods know I want her.” She looked up at the few stars that were out.
“But… then I get this queasy feeling, in the pit of my stomach. And I
can’t breathe properly, and my heart starts pumping harder.”
Kaelin studied her friend for a minute before
“You love her.” Kaelin stated, no question in her
Xena looked at her friend. “Yeah.”
Xena glanced away and resumed the trek to the tavern,
ignoring the question.
“I’ve heard Cularis has great nightlife,” said
Xena, changing the subject. Kaelin shook her head and smiled.
“Ok, Xe, I’ll leave it for now.” Kaelin paused
and then whispered. “For now.”
“So… how long have you been with Jorana?” Xena wondered about the Kaelin she had known before.
Kaelin stopped, her hand on the door of the tavern.
She turned to look at Xena, her expression disbelieving, a half-grin on her
“Been with her?” Kaelin chuckled. “What ever
made you think that!”
“Well, I assumed that… I dunno, that you were
Kaelin lost her smile and looked intensely into
Xena’s eyes. “I belong to no one, Xena. I thought you of all people would
“I do,” replied Xena, slowly, aware that they
were on dangerous ground, “But it’s been a long time Kaelin. People
“Not me.” She pushed open the door and strolled
into the building.
Xena sighed and followed suit. Guess some people
don’t want to change she thought. She looked around, taking in her
surroundings. The walls were brown, stained with dirt and grim, but the place
was built from strong timber, the floor covered with rushes. It was quite
crowded and Xena had to crane her neck to see where the others had gone. It
didn’t take her long to find them. There was a large group of people around
one particular table and she could her Gabrielle’s voice rising over the din.
She made her way towards it, and reached it just as the bard reached the finale.
Everyone present burst into raucous laughter, leaving Xena to wonder what she
had just missed.
“Another!” cried a burly man, tears of laughter
glistening in his eyes.
Gabrielle held up her hands. “If you’re lucky, I might tell you a story after
I eat my dinner, but right now I’m famished. A bard can never perform quite as
well on an empty stomach. ”
“Well, I think I can arrange for a meal for you.
Free of charge of course. As long as you tell us more tonight!”
“Alright, sir. You have a deal,” replied
The man left and went over to the Tavern keeper.
Gabrielle saw Xena, and gestured to her to sit down opposite, as the crowd began
to disperse, seeing that no more stories were going to be told, yet. The table
was situated next to the flight of stairs that gave access to the inn rooms and
Xena’s irritation grew as people kept walking past their table to get to the
stairs. Xena watched as, Jorana who was sitting next to Gabrielle leaned over to
whisper something into the bard’s ear. The bard laughed and nodded as Jorana
got up from the table and made her way over to a group of men, before turning
her attention to Xena. The warrior’s mask was in place, and showed no hint of
the jealousy that was raging around inside her.
Gabrielle smiled, causing Xena’s feelings of
distrust towards the red-head to soften a little.
“Aren’t you drinking anything?” the bard asked.
Xena shook her head, her eyes wandering around the
room, searching for Kaelin. She spotted the warrior talking to the tavern
keeper. She saw her nod at him, and then made her way up the stairs to the
rooms, not even glancing at them.
“Hm?” said Xena, as she realised that Gabrielle
had been asking her something. “Sorry, what did you say?”
“I asked if you were hungry. The innkeeper is
giving us a free dinner, in exchange for a story.” The bard grinned, hoping
her success would please the warrior. It wasn’t like they were poor, but
anything that they could get and not pay for was a bonus.
There was silence between them for a few seconds
before Gabrielle spoke.
“Are you gonna tell me who she is?”
Xena mentally kicked herself. It was like her brain
was turning to mush. There were just too many things happening too fast. “Oh Hades, I’m so sorry. I just got caught up
with things, and I’ve been trying to think things through and its just so
“Hey, its ok. I understand,” cut in Gabrielle
gently, placing her hand over Xena’s, which rested on the table.
Xena knew then, as she stared into Gabrielle’s
eyes, that she could never ever leave this woman. She knew if anything ever
happened to Gabrielle, she would not be able to carry on with life. It was a
stark fact that hit Xena right in the heart.
“But you know, it’s not a bad idea if you told me
about her now.” Gabrielle stated quietly.
Xena sighed loudly. “Ok. Where should I start?”
Xena looked at their hands, Gabrielle’s still resting on her own. At the
beginning you dumb arse she thought.
“The beginning would be a good idea.” Gabrielle
voiced Xena’s own thoughts.
“Right,” whispered Xena. The room had suddenly
gone silent for the two of them, each one only seeing and hearing the other.
Xena looked down at the whorls on the wooden table and slowly, she began
explaining the history between the mysterious warrior, Kaelin, and herself.
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