Xena made her way to the food tent, aware that she needed to eat, needed to keep up her strength above all else at the moment. She gathered a meager breakfast and returned to her quarters to relax for a few hours before joining Marmax and assisting in the planning for the next assault.
The warrioress sank onto her cot, eating almost mechanically, not tasting the food, simply consuming it. The battle had been intense, and she was conscious of just how much of her former self had surfaced during the course of the fighting. It had been difficult to keep that part of her soul at bay, especially without Gabrielle's presence there beside her. Until now, Xena had not realized just how much the bard worked as a calming influence on her, and she worried just how much of her hard won inner calm she might lose without Gabrielle there with her. The barriers she had placed on the rage and darkness now seemed tenuous at best. The feelings of exhilaration during the battle had felt so good, too good.
Xena examined that thought for a moment. It had felt good, the flow of blood through her hands, the blood of her enemies running in rivers around her feet. She had forgotten how much her dark side reveled in those feelings, and it terrified her. Xena was never one to admit to fear, but this time was different. The Horde always seemed to bring out the worst in her, and now she was on her own facing it. She nearly lost herself to the hate and pain the Horde brought out in her the last time they faced each other in battle. If not for Gabrielle's example to show her the way, Xena may have lost herself completely. She had been beside herself seeing the young bard at the hands of the Horde, certain that this time Gabrielle may lose her life. Then had come the miracle, she had lived. And not only lived, but also triumphed over the barriers of language and custom that had prevented Xena from seeing the Horde as they truly were, a race bound by honor and ceremony similar to the Greeks themselves.
Xena was tired, wearier than she had been in many weeks, and knew that she could rest but a few short hours before she would be needed to help plan the defense for the next attack. She slowly and painfully removed her armor, her aching muscles making the task difficult and she found herself wishing once again for Gabrielle. The bard's steady sure hands helping to remove the armor that was more like a second skin, but now had become laden with the memories of the battle, and the dead. It seemed almost too heavy for her to lift from her shoulders.
Xena set the armor aside, vowing to clean it later, once she had rested for a while. She slowly lowered herself down onto the pallet, closing her eyes almost the instant her head touched the pillow, she was asleep in moments. But sleep did not bring peace to the warrioress, and dreams of the day's battle plagued her.
She saw herself once more atop the battlements of the walls surrounding Corinth, only now Gabrielle also fought at her side. The bard held back the advancing Horde warriors with skill and confidence, her staff weaving in and out slashing through her attackers. Xena suddenly became aware that she could no longer move, her dream holding her tightly in its grasp. She was mildly surprised that no one attacked her, but seemed to be focusing completely on the bard, ignoring the now helpless warrior.
Xena could feel the fear beginning to rise within her as the Horde warriors began to overwhelm Gabrielle, closing in on the bard from all sides. Xena could feel the fear bubbling up within her heart as the attackers moved in on the bard, and yet she could do nothing. Even her voice failed her as she attempted to call out to Gabrielle, but no sound was issued forth from her mouth. It was at once infuriating and terrifying as she watched helplessly as Gabrielle was swallowed up by the Horde warriors surrounding her.
Xena could hear the bard's plaintive cries as she was carried away. Xena felt as though she were drowning, her throat constricting in rage as Gabrielle's voice pierced the air around them both, calling out her friend's name, calling out for Xena to save her.
But she could not.
Just when it seemed that Xena could bear it no longer, she jerked awake, disoriented. Drenched in sweat, her heart pounding in her ears, her breath coming in short gasps, Xena came fully awake, and only then did she realize it had all been a terrible dream. But it had seemed so real. She could still feel Gabrielle's terror as though it were her own, and a sense of dread settled into the pit of her stomach. She had had nightmares before, but none quite so vivid, or quite so terrifying. The warrioress took several deep breaths and attempted to calm the rapid beating of her heart.
Easy, that's it. It was only a dream, right? Xena told herself, but she still couldn't shake that feeling of dread, the feelings of fear coursing through her.
Xena rose carefully to her feet and splashing some cool water on her face, she retrieved her weapons and armor and headed for the command hut. She knew that sleep would be nearly impossible now, and hoped to dispel the memories of her dream by working on the defense for the city. Afterall, it was just a dream. Wasn't it?