Disclaimers: These characters belong to Rob Tapert, not me. It take place during the 'Rheingold Arc'
SLEEP TO DREAM
The warrior smiled as she walked back to Gabrielle to see what caught the bard’s attention.
"Can we stay here tonight?" Gabrielle asked as she pointed down into the valley. It was filled with beautiful, fragrant flowers and a crystal clear stream – perfect for a nice relaxing evening.
Xena’s fingers instantly locked with the bards.
"I have to admit – it does look quite inviting down there," Xena replied. "You go first. I’ll follow right behind."
Gabrielle smiled and led her horse down the bit of rocky terrain until they came to a landing. She turned around to call Xena but when she looked back up the warrior was gone. "Xena?" No answer. "Xena? Where are you?" Still no answer. The bard became frantic. "Xena this isn’t funny. Where are you?"
"She’s not coming."
The bard’s head snapped around to come face to face with Joxer.
"Jox-. How can that be? You’re dead. And where’s Xena?" the bard replied looking back toward the top of the hill. "Xena!!!"
"There’s no sense in shouting. She can’t hear you. She’ll never hear you. She’s going to move on, start a new life. A life without you. She’ll find a husband. She’ll make a family."
"She’s got a family Joxer and she doesn’t need a husband. She has me. She’ll always have me."
"But what if Brimhilda was right. What if she’s forgotten her life with you? What then?"
"Then I wait."
"If it takes a lifetime?"
"Yes, and beyond."
With a pull of the horse’s reigns she began to walk down toward the valley and away from Joxer but he continued to follow.
"You can’t depend on her Gabby," he insisted. "You need someone stable, supportive. Some with dare I say the heart of a lion."
Gabrielle stopped and turned around. "Joxer the answer is no. The answer will always be no. Realize that and move on. You’re not my type."
"That’s right. She likes warriors," a foreign voice added from behind Gabrielle. "Female warriors. Isn’t that right Gabrielle?"
Slowly Gabrielle turned around. "You were a mistake Najara. A very bad error in judgement."
Najara smiled a stepped a bit closer closing the distance between them. "It’s funny you know. Xena said you were always so scared of horses and it was like pulling teeth to get you to ride Argo with her. Odd. You practically jumped into my saddle to go do some bird watching. Why is that?"
Gabrielle didn’t say anything. She couldn’t. She didn’t want to give voice to the explanation.
"I know why," Najara began. "Because I was the ‘stop and smell the flowers’ type of warrior. I was fierce in battle but gentle to the touch. And you thought about touching me quite often didn’t you Gabrielle? I would have given you my world. It was all there for the taking."
"I didn’t want YOUR WORLD," Gabrielle answered.
"But think if you had taken it Gabrielle. You wouldn’t have lost 25 years of your life. Your family would still be alive. Your niece would have grown up with her mother instead of in a harem. We could have raised a child together like you planned to do with Xena but we would have insured that she didn’t become the ‘bitch of Rome’. You would be helping people in our hospice – not taking the innocent life of some desert boys."
"Why? Does the truth hurt Gabrielle? Joxer is right about one thing. Xena’s not coming back. You’ve served her purpose. She’s used you and now she doesn’t need you. How many more years are you willing to waste on that poor excuse for a hero huh? How many more lives are you willing to take and watch her take in the name of the warrior princess?"
"You don’t know what you’re talking about," Gabrielle replied, moving past her to walk away.
"But I do. Xena won’t return for you . . . ever."
"Yes she will," Gabrielle answered.
"What makes you so sure?" Najara taunted.
"Because . . . Her love for me is endless."
"Which is why she left you in that little filthy inn right?" Najara laughed.
"No she did that to protect me," Gabrielle argued. "Because she does love me. Same reason she was going to leave me with you until she found out the kind of monster you really were. And she’ll come back again, just like she did then."
"You keep telling yourself that," Najara taunted. "Eventually you’ll believe it."
Gabrielle was relieved when Najara stopped following. She took the horse down to the steam for a drink of water. She walked around to her saddlebag when she was met by another familiar face dressed in a white gown.
"Don’t listen to them. She will find you," the figure smiled.
Gabrielle gave a light chuckle of disbelief. "I still find it hard to see you as our advocate sometimes Callisto."
"But I am. And trust me when I say I know Xena. Her greatest weakness is you Gabrielle."
"Gee, thanks," the bard replied sarcastically.
"But you are also her greatest strength. The woman would move mountains for you and one day she will find you. She will pass through the Ring of Fire and she will remember all that you are to her. She will find herself again and in doing so, will find you as well."
Gabrielle gave a grin and ran her hand up the angel’s arm. "Thank you. I really need support now."
"I’m glad I could help," the angel smiled. Suddenly the smile fell and Gabrielle watched Callisto clutching her stomach in pain.
"What’s wrong?!" Gabrielle said softening Callisto’s descent toward the ground.
"Run," she whispered, nodding to something over Gabrielle’s shoulder.
"Well look at what we have here. The bard without her ‘muse’."
Gabrielle didn’t have to turn around. She knew the voice. It was Alti. And she started to run just like Callisto implored.
"Where you going little girl? You can’t out run me. I’m everywhere you turn," the raspy voice echoed through the valley.
Gabrielle tried to keep up her pace but suddenly her mind flashed to being struck in the face by the prison guard on Shark Island and she fell to the ground bleeding. She tried her damnedest to rise again but this time the image of being stabbed by a cannibal crumpled her to her feet. She heard footsteps and rolled over.
Gabrielle clutched her side and tried to scoot away on her backside as Alti took casually, light steps toward her.
"Still waiting for the mighty Xena? Still think she’s gonna save you from this pathetic rock you’re on huh? Well I got news for you ‘little girl’ Xena isn’t in her ‘right frame of mind’ and all the wishing and praying won’t help you now."
Gabrielle watched someone creeping behind Alti. It was Callisto, dressed in black leather and chainmail. Casually she tapped Alti on the shoulder. The shamaness turned around quite unpleased for being interrupted in her taunting.
"You?" she laughed at the blonde.
"Rule one: You don’t kill me and walk away."
With that, Callisto delivered a right hook with such force it knocked Alti off her feet and straight on her back.
"Rule two: You don’t wanna make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry."
She kicked Alti soundly in the gut.
"And rule three," she added as she magically transformed into the angelic figure Gabrielle had last known. "is for Gabrielle. This is your dreamscape. You can make it whatever you wish. You have the power."
Gabrielle started to break down at that point and began to cry. I’m still asleep? Eli above! Please let me wake up. I just wanna wake up. I’m tried of dreaming. I want to be living.
Gabrielle watched as Callisto melted into the figure of Eli. "Until your warrior princess arrives Gabrielle, make your dreams they best they can be. Avoid the demons. She will return."
Alti rose to her feet behind the smiling Eli, ready to take her vengeance against him. Gabrielle closed her eyes tight against the image. When she opened them she was sitting in Cyrene’s tavern in the living quarters next to a roaring fireplace. She heard the door behind her open. She watched Xena walk in carrying a bottle of wine and two glasses with a seductive smile as wide as the Nile. Ahhh, this is better. Much better.
Xena sat the glasses down and looked in the mirror, hoping that something more than a fleeting, scattered memory would come to her. She looked down at her wrist to see the bracelet that Hrothgar had given her. She flashed to a young blonde woman putting on a large grouping of silver rings. "Oh these are beautiful!! Thank you so much! You shouldn’t have." And just as quickly as the image came it left. Nothing more, nothing less. Xena looked around the room hoping something else might spur on a memory. Something might help her piece together her life before coming to Denmark. But the more she tried the more difficult it was to capture any recollections.
"Wealthea," she heard her future bride-groom bellow. "Do you need help my sweet?"
"No thank you my lord," Xena called picking up the goblets. "I’m coming."
Xena looked into the mirror once more. Being the Queen of Denmark would give her the opportunity to help people. She’d like to say she loved her husband-to-be but she was just so unsure of herself. She liked that idea of helping others however, and being queen would give her that chance. She wondered silently if she had always had the desire to help people. It might not have been her calling then but it was her calling now and she would live out her life this way. And maybe, just maybe, someday the puzzle would all fit together.
CONTINUED IN PART IX: CATCHING UP