DISCLAIMER: Ok, some rather dry stuff here, these characters, at least the ones you recognize, are property of MCA/Universal and the author intends no copyright infringement in the writing of this story.
The title of this story is "The Holy War" for a reason, and since wars don't tend to be very nice, there is quite a little bit of violence, blood, and death in this story. If that sort of thing offends you, please stop reading now.
This story also depicts two women, who just so happen to love each other. If that sort of thing twists your knickers, or is illegal where you live, please find something else to read.
As always feedback is most appreciated. You may email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for reading and enjoy.
BODY AND SOUL
She was dimly aware that her eyes were open, but the sights before her made no sense. It was as though her brain couldn't connect what she was seeing with what she knew. Figures moved silently before her, nothing more than shadows floating before her, half in darkness, half in light. She struggled to remember, deep down feeling that she knew these people. But the memories of who they were, what they meant to her, were gone. And that feeling of aloneness left her filled with despair.
Words had no meaning for her any longer, but the soothing tones of one seated next to her brought a measure of relief from the grief threatening to overwhelm her. The Dark One holding her hand felt more familiar than the others did; so much so that she could nearly grasp the tendril of a memory revolving around her. Almost.
It was merely a wisp, a fragment that seemed more like a dream than reality. She was standing on a barren plain, she was chiefly aware of grief and anger foremost, then opening her eyes and feelings of relief and joy flooding through her. It was more sensation and emotion than memory, but it was all she had. Then suddenly her dream memory shifted and became much more solid. She gasped as now she could feel sensations in addition to the emotions. The most wonderful sensation as she brought her lips in contact with another's and felt her soul struggle to break free.
The struggle left her feeling spent, but still she struggled onward. In her state, aware of emotion and the ethereal more than the physical, it was as though she could literally hear the other half of her soul crying out to her. She could feel that other half's pain as if it were her own, and so she struggled on. Nothing could stop her. She would relieve that pain, no matter the cost.
And so she broke through the to the surface, and she gasped for air as though she had been drowning. Drowning in the sea of despair that had captured her soul, but now she was free.
The Centaur healer staggered back from the bedside, so strong were the emotions flooding his psyche. Never before had he felt a connection so strong, he could nearly see it filling the room. He had only just begun the ceremony, had only started to remove the bonds that seemed to harness the psychic power within the young Amazon Queen before him when she herself finished what he had started and broke free. The power she exhibited was immense, but so was the power of her connection.
A connection that he would have denied existed until the day of his death, had he not seen it for himself. And now he simply backed away from the cot, pulling Tyldus and the Amazon Regent with him as he did so. This was a time for privacy, and not for their prying eyes.
But the Regent balked. "What do you think you're doing? What's happening to them?" Ephiny nearly shouted.
"Calm yourself Amazon." Tyldus replied, leveling a gaze at the healer. "They're fine, unless I'm very much mistaken."
"Very true, sir. I had only just begun the ceremony when the Amazon Queen took control and broke the control that was over her. I did very little, it was all her. Sir, they have a connection stronger and more powerful than any I have ever felt before. We need do nothing else, it's up to them now to finish it. The Amazon has what she needs to finish her healing." The healer replied confidently.
But Ephiny was still unsure. "What do you mean, she has what she needs?" She asked in a harsh whisper, turning to face the bard and warrior once again. The warrior was still kneeling at Gabrielle's bedside, unmoving since the beginning of the Centaur ceremony. The only change were her eyes, which were now tightly closed in concentration; Gabrielle's hand still grasped firmly in her own. Neither of them seemed to notice the presence of others in the chamber.
Tyldus turned slightly to look the Amazon in the eye. "Ephiny, look at them. Are your people truly so blind that you cannot see it? Your Queen is in the best of hands, she is now complete. You have nothing to fear. Come, let us check on our troops. If that sound we heard this evening was any indication, we may be in for a battle come day light."
Ephiny turned to look at the two figures before her once again, now struck by the Centaur's words. Could it be true? The Warrior Princess and the Amazon Queen? She then decided that it didn't really matter. She had asked the Centaurs for their help, and it seemed that they had given it.
The warrior had never felt anything like it before. The sensation was like falling into nothingness, a slow descent that seemed without end. Then suddenly the sensation ended, leaving her disoriented. The warrior carefully edged open her eyes to peer at her surroundings. The gray landscape reminded her strongly of a place she had only visited once before. Then it had been she who was lost to the physical world, but then, as now she and Gabrielle had met on this desolate plain, two souls reaching out for each other.
Gabrielle? The warrior turned about, searching for her companion, who she knew with bone deep clarity was on this plain with her. The only question was where?
Xena... The Warrior Princess felt rather than heard her name, whispered on the winds that only her soul could hear. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the source of that call, then began walking. It took only moments, or was it days, the warrior could scarcely tell, but she found Gabrielle huddled on the cold gray earth, shaking slightly.
Xena ran the few short steps to the bard's side and reached out to touch a chilled arm. Instinctively, she gathered the bard into her arms and cradled her, gently rubbing her arms to warm her. Gabrielle stirred as she was lifted and turned weary eyes to gaze into the startlingly clear pools of blue above her. Exhaustion leaving dark circles beneath the bard's eyes, those eyes nonetheless took on a spark of life as she realized who it was with her, holding her.
"Gods..." The bard managed to choke out before the tears began. All the emotion, all the pain, all the feelings of loss over what had been done to her and what she had been forced to do now came pouring out in tears Gabrielle had feared she would never again be able to shed. She was once again whole.
Xena clung to her soulmate, unsure of what else to do, but knowing that for now, just this simple act was enough. She then began rhythmically stroking the bard's hair, whispering soothing words of comfort into a nearby ear. Time in this place had no meaning, and the warrioress was unsure how long they remained this way, she only knew that soon the wracking sobs eased and her companion began to calm.
"Gabrielle. I'm here now." Xena comforted. "I'm here, and I'm never leaving you."
"Xena..." Gabrielle began, her voice hoarse and barely recognizable as her own.
"Shh...Gabrielle, just relax. Don't try to talk. I'm here."
But the bard shook her head slightly. "You were always..." she whispered, swallowing hard to ease her aching throat. "You were always there, Xena. When they...they had taken everything...you were always there with me. You were.... all I had left." Gabrielle said quietly, renewed tears streaming down her face in silent tribute to all she had endured.
The warrioress swallowed against the lump that had formed in her throat, threatening her composure, her eyes shining with unshed tears. She rocked Gabrielle silently, not trusting her voice to speak.
After a time, the bard pulled back slightly and shifted to look into the warrioress' face. The young Amazon freed one arm and reached out a shaking hand. Pausing in mid-motion, just before touching the proud face before her, Gabrielle drew a breath then continued her journey, lightly stroking Xena's cheek with trembling fingertips. She had seen her, heard that smooth voice that had become a vital part of her world, but it wasn't entirely real until that moment when her touch made the confirmation.
"I'm not dreaming, you really are here." The bard whispered, becoming more herself with each passing moment.
Xena drew in a shaking breath before responding. "I'm really here, Gabrielle. And you're going to be just fine. I promise you that." Her voice cracking slightly on the last phrase. "Never again. Never..."
Gabrielle's hand never left the warrior's cheek, and now she drew Xena's face down to stare into the depths of the blue eyes that had captured and rescued her soul. Those eyes slowly focused on her own, softening with a love so deep, not even death itself could stand against it.
The bard had said the words before, but never with the weight of her heart behind them. She was whole again, her body and the other half of her soul.
"I love you, Xena."
The warrioress gave her a genuine smile that seemed to light the grayscape with it's brilliance.
"And I love you."
Gabrielle returned the smile as her fingers tangled themselves in the ebony tresses above her.
No other words were needed for what their hearts and souls already knew. They hovered, their lips nearly touching, before surrendering a part of themselves, each to the other. When their lips met, it was a kiss so tender and so exquisitely beautiful it was painful. The kiss lasted but a few scant moments, but when they finally broke apart they found themselves back in Corinth, Gabrielle lying upon the small cot, Xena still on her knees on the ground beside it, still cradling the bard protectively in her arms.
The warrioress glanced about the room in confusion, surprised to find that they were the only two occupants. She quickly returned her attention to the cot as Gabrielle's eyes slowly edged open. Xena smiled as the bard's eyes tracked to hers.
"Xena..." she whispered, her voice still hoarse from disuse. "Where are we?"
"We're in a healer's chamber in Corinth. Do you remember getting here at all?" Xena explained as she reached for a nearby waterskin. Uncorking it, she held it to the bard's lips encouraging her to drink some before replying.
The bard drank deeply from the skin, easing her burning throat before she spoke again. "I remember it, but some of it seems more like a dream than memory. I'm not sure what was real and what I imagined."
Xena replaced the stopper in the skin and placed it on the stand at the bedside. "It's all right, Gabrielle. You're here now, and that's what truly matters."
The bard nodded weakly, sinking further into the warm, secure arms about her, thankful that her nightmare was finally over.
"Come, rest now. I'm sure you could use it." Xena said, before carefully placing Gabrielle back under the covers on the cot, tucking her in securely. "I need to find out where Ephiny and the Centaurs went. They were here with us, and I need to find out what's happened. Will you be all right alone for a few minutes?"
Xena could see the poorly disguised fear in the bard's face at her mention of leaving and nearly changed her mind. The sound of alarm bells clanging just outside the doorway convinced her otherwise.
"Gabrielle, I'll only be just outside that door, okay? You need anything, just call for me, I'll be right here. I promise." Xena said calmly, smoothing a few errant strands of strawberry blond hair from the bard's eyes.
"Okay." Gabrielle said in a bare whisper, her fear still evident at being left alone for even a short period of time.
"I won't be long, but we need to know what's going on out there." Xena said softly as she leaned down to kiss the bard gently on the brow. Just as she stood to leave, the door to the chamber burst open as a disheveled Ephiny nearly fell into the room.
Xena noted the look of alarm on the Amazon Regent's face and reacted.
"Ephiny! What's happened?" The warrioress asked, reaching out to steady the Amazon.
Ephiny gulped a couple of short breaths before answering.
"The Horde...." She gasped, "attacking....they were nearly past the treeline before we saw the first of their troops. Xena....they'll be at the wall in less than a candlemark."
"Damn...damn...damn." The warrioress cursed under her breath.
It wasn't until Ephiny took a few moments to calm her heart hammering in her chest that she noticed the clear green eyes, open and alert, and taking in the conversation.
The Regent's mouth dropped open at the sight of her Queen, whole and alive before her.
"Gabrielle?" The Regent asked hesitantly, reaching out to take the bard's slender hand into her own. "Are you all right?"
"Ephiny, it's good to see you. I think I'm okay, tired mostly. What's happening?"
The Amazon turned back to see Xena silently pacing the small room. "It looks like an all out attack with everything they've got. And it'll be here very, very soon."
The warrioress was clearly torn. Torn between wanting to simply spirit Gabrielle away from all of this and knowing that she couldn't do that. Gabrielle wouldn't want her to leave now, not when so many lives hung in the balance. But her conscience would scarcely allow her to leave Gabrielle's side again after all that had happened.
She turned to face Gabrielle, words poise on her lips, but was stilled by a wave of the bard's hand. Ephiny stood and backed out of the way, releasing the Queen's hand as she did so.
"Xena, please, don't stay here just because of me. They need you out there. They need you to lead them." She said with quiet finality. "I'll be fine. I'm feeling much stronger, it'll be okay."
The warrioress blinked. It was as though the bard had read her very thoughts and then contradicted each one of them. She shook her head slightly, kneeling down to look the bard in the eyes.
"Gabrielle, are you sure? I really think that I should stay..."
"No. You should be out there on that wall, Xena. It's what you were born to do. Just get me a bit of something to eat and I'll be feeling just fine. After that, I could help out in the infirmary..."
Xena cut her off in mid sentence. "You'll do no such thing, bard. And I'm not leaving. The war will have to just go on without me. You're my responsibility now, Gabrielle."
"Xena, haven't we had this discussion before? I know I've heard it somewhere. It didn't work then, and it's not working now. You belong out there, helping to defeat them. You know it as well as I do."
"But, that was before..." Xena began.
"Before what? Xena what we feel for each other only makes us stronger, more able to face this."
Ephiny finally stepped forward once again. "Xena, Eponin is just outside with two of our best warriors. They will serve as the Royal Guard until this is over. They have sworn to give their lives to protect the Queen. You know Eponin, she's the best we have."
"Your warriors couldn't protect her before, Amazon, what makes you think it'll be any different this time?" Xena snapped angrily, but was stilled by a warm hand on her arm.
"Xena, that's not fair to them. They did what they could to protect me. It wasn't their fault. It wasn't your fault. Xena please, just go. Do what you have to do. I'll be here waiting when you get back. And you will come back to me, warrior. Promise me that."
Xena took several deep breaths to calm herself before opening her eyes to look into the sea green depths staring up at her. The faith and love that fairly radiated from the young woman was nearly enough to send the warrior out to face the demons, nearly.
"Gabrielle..." The warrior paused. "I just don't think that I can anymore."
"Don't deny your destiny, Xena. This is who you are. Don't let fear stop you now." Gabrielle said with conviction. "I'll still be here waiting for you."
Xena stared back at the other half of her soul, a decision made. "I promise you, Gabrielle, I'll return." She then leaned in to kiss the bard lightly, heedless of their audience, her callused hands cupping Gabrielle's face gently. Pressing their foreheads together briefly, the warrior then turned abruptly and strode from the chamber, fearing that if she looked back, she'd never again leave the bard's side.