The C.H.A.K.R.A.M. Society
The Society occupied a huge two hundred and fifty acre parcel on what was once the edge of the massive Martian Capital city of New Thebes. Now it merely sat on the East side, which conveniently was the same side that the Planetary Marines had their HQ.
Xena and Gabrielle allowed their hosts to guide them to the front doors while they ogled the immaculately kept grounds. The grass was an odd color of green but it was lush and full. The trees were of a variety that neither had ever seen and they created large patches of shade where a myriad of succulent and colorful plants found their homes. Animals that bore a striking resemblance to squirrels and chipmunks played in sturdy branches while colorful songbirds sang merrily from every corner. And that was just the parking lot. The grounds around the buildings that made up the Society reminded them of Greece. They felt like they had come home.
They went down a short set of stairs and entered the main building. They descended another short flight of stairs and entered the main lobby. A large circular desk sat in the center of the lobby and all around the edges and remaining floor space were artifacts from the ancient lands of Greece, Norway, Egypt, England and a dozen or more lands. The women recognized them all as being places in
which they had traveled. There were people moving from one exhibit to another; patrons of the museum.
“Margo!” A male voice called to them from their right. They turned to greet the man. His name was Charles Eaton. He is a middle aged man that looked younger than his years. He is darkly handsome with a full head of jet black hair and a charming smile. Presently his hand is extended as he walked towards them and Margo enthusiastically took his proffered hand and allowed him to place a light kiss on the back of her hand. “Welcome, Margo, it’s always a pleasure.” He smiled warmly. Clearly his words were sincere. He turned to Cara and his smile faded a bit but it was not fully replaced by a look of surprise, wonder and joy. “And to what do we owe the great honor of the presence of Colonel Rayne?” He extended his hand and Cara must be nudged by Gabrielle to take it.
“We’re here on business; family business.” Cara stated with a flat expression. Charles got a look that clearly stated that he did not fully understand her meaning.
Margo filled the gap. “It’s happened Charles.”
Charles stood there cocking his head from side to side still in confusion. Until finally it seems a light went on and he looked at Margo and Cara in a different way. They both smiled at him in the same forbearing way and he began to stutter. His sudden loss of demeanor drew the attention of the nearby customers. Margo once again rose to the occasion.
“Charles, you have prepared for this your entire life. Take us to where we need to go.” She took him by the arm and turned him and pointed him towards a hallway that led roughly off to their left.
He took a deep breath and composed himself. He cocked both of his elbows up in an invitation for the women to take his arms for the purpose of escort. They both oblige and the three walked towards the hallway.
Xena and Gabrielle are still just watching things transpire and admiring the work that the Society had put into preserving their legacy. The hallway that they enter was lined with what appeared to be authentic Greek frieze and statuary. It’s almost like it was a reproduction of a rich home.
Suddenly Xena came to a dead stop and let Charles’ arm slip away from her hand. It took only a moment for Gabrielle to notice her loss. She and Charles nearly turned as one to see Xena, not Margo standing stock still staring at an indentation in the wall. An opening is evident in the center of the indentation but a slab of stone just inside of the opening blocked any view of what lie beyond.
Gabrielle recognized the stone. It had been a very long time since she had seen it.
“We brought it here, every single stone and every grain of sand, and we reconstructed it and even expanded upon it. It took us years to reassemble it exactly as it had been before the cave in.” Charles was talking and Xena and Gabrielle were listening.
Xena walked up to the opening and ran her hand over the cool stone. Charles stepped up to a panel in a side wall and pressed his thumb against a gel pad. A low hum could be heard from the doorway and a blue shimmer winked out of existence.
“It’s safe for you to enter if you wish.” Up until the moment that Xena had stopped to look at this particular doorway, Charles had thought that perhaps Margo had simply slipped over the edge. He still hadn’t figured out how she had dragged Colonel Rayne with her but he really hadn’t thought that Xena and Gabrielle had really come back now. But now watching the looks on the faces of the two women he was convinced that he really was in the presence of the souls of Xena and Gabrielle. “I’ve deactivated the alarms.”
Xena nodded almost imperceptibly and stepped through the doorway and disappeared behind the stone slab. Her mother’s coffin now sat in the center with one of Xena’s brother’s on either side. It was how she had rearranged it after she had sent Lucifer to Hell. She silently ran her hand over Lyceus’s coffin and stopped in front of her mother’s coffin.
“All of this; the coffins, the urns, the crypt; they’re all for the living not the dead. It gives us someplace to grieve and to honor them.” She knew that Gabrielle had followed her and was standing in the doorway. “This was the first place that you told me that I was not alone. You brought me such comfort on that day. I was so lost. You gave me direction. I followed you then. I’m still following you.” She turned around to face her soul mate and smile crookedly.
Gabrielle took a step towards her and held out her hands. “Funny I thought that I was following you.” They clasp hands.
“You were following your heart… and so was I. I just didn’t know it yet.” Xena smiled shyly.
“Oh, you knew it; you just didn’t want to admit it.” Gabrielle’s eyes wandered around the room. “You have always had my heart, no matter which life I was in.” Her eyes came back to focus solely upon Xena.
“And you have had mine. It was just that as Xena and Gabrielle we actually got to express that love to each other.” She was still smiling down at her partner.
“That’s probably why from one life to the next we carry the identities of Xena and Gabrielle, because as them we got to be together.” She planted a tender fleeting kiss on Xena’s knuckles before releasing her hands. “Charles says that the tomb extends back on both sides. Our families are buried together even today. Just over there is Lila, Sarah and Aella and their families and on that side is Eve and her family and they branch out from there on both sides.”
“Aella, is your daughter?” Xena had nearly forgotten the name of Gabrielle’s daughter. She had never known her. She had been born after the disaster at Japan. Gabrielle never told her who the father of the child had been and she didn’t expect that she ever would. Some secrets were best left as secrets. She did know that Gabrielle spoke of him with a certain amount of love and a great deal of respect, but she did not pine for him. While she had been remembering these things Gabrielle had responded to her and now she asked Gabrielle another question. “So where are our remains?”
Gabrielle didn’t know and since they were both a bit curious they exited the crypt to ask Charles this question.
Instead of answering Charles bid them to follow him. He led them down the hallway to another open doorway. It was a wide doorway and from the hall one could see that the interior was circular in shape and the lighting was high. Around the room arranged from left to right were a series of paintings, drawings, artifacts and actual photographs that told a story along the walls. Starting on the left was a series of paintings, drawings and crude reproductions of their weapons that Xena and Gabrielle recognized from having seen them on the walls of Joxer’s Inn. Some bore scorch marks and smoke damage that could not be removed. They both smiled in fond memory of their loyal friend.
As they circled around the room they saw paintings that they had never seen of them that had been done in Chin when they were there defeating the Green Dragon. They must have been done by some of the prisoners that had spent time in the dungeon with Xena because some of them were very accurate representations of her incarceration. Xena stretched her neck in remembrance of the neck restraint and Gabrielle turned red with old embarrassment.
The next painting in line gave them both an uneasy feeling. They could almost feel the crude nails piercing their flesh and Gabrielle winced at the memory of the soldiers breaking her legs. She shivered with the memories. It had been cold… so very cold. After a while she couldn’t feel anything and she had slept. Xena was remembering the same things. She remembered looking over at Gabrielle’s face and noticing that it was blue and that her beautiful lips were white and lifeless. Bile was rising in her throat at the memory.
Next in line were some paintings that represented their time in India and both women were glad to move away from the crucifixion. These paintings showed the battle between them and Alti. Gabrielle touched the skin on her palm remembering the Mendhi drawings that were shown in the painting and Xena ruffled her hair and smiled. Gabrielle looked over at what came next in the sequence of paintings and said to Charles, “These are not in chronological order. India came just before that and our second trip to Chin came after it.” She was pointing to a picture of their crucifixion.
They both looked back at that painting with a mixture of loathing and fear. Gabrielle moved closer to Xena who placed a protective arm over her shoulders as Gabrielle wrapped an arm around Xena’s waist. For them this was a natural pose but for Charles a stranger sight could not be had. In his eyes he saw Colonel Rayne, one of the most powerful, feared and respected people in all of the human colonies taking comfort and accepting protection from Margo a timid browbeaten housewife.
While Charles was trying to reconcile what he was seeing with the true identities of the individuals involved, Xena and Gabrielle had moved on in their tour. They had stopped to look at a photograph of two women that looked like them but they couldn’t remember ever being in the place where the photo was taken. The two women in the photo appeared to be asleep standing up in some sort of half tube half bed like things. They were naked but their private areas were covered by bindings and there were wires coming from their heads.
Charles stepped up beside them. “These are your clones. They were made by Alti from some hairs that you left behind in the tomb of the scrolls.”
“When did this happen?” Xena asked gruffly.
“I think it was 2000 or 2001 someplace in there. The clones fought Alti and successfully beat her. You two were alive at the time. You had been reincarnated in a different place.”
“But I don’t remember them.” Gabrielle said while looking at the other pictures trying in vain to remember them.
“No you wouldn’t remember them. They took great pains to stay away from you. They figured that you deserved to have a nearly uneventful life together. They had already killed Alti for you so all you had to do was live.” He watched them look at the pictures for a bit more. “It is because of them that we have a lot of this. When they found out about you two living in the United States they returned to Greece. While in Greece Xena, who Alti had purposely made into evil Xena remembered where she had left some loot from her Pirate days. They dug it up and became rich. They left everything to the Society when they died.”
“Doesn’t sound like evil Xena to me.” Xena said with a scowl.
“Yes well even a clone of Gabrielle can work magic.” He smiled down at the face of what he hoped was Gabrielle. When she smiled back instead of breaking his teeth he let out a breath of tension he had not been aware that he was holding.
“I’ll buy that.” Xena said warmly.
The last pictures in the gallery were of them when they had been reincarnated. There were some pictures of them when Xena had been in a man’s body and some after Ares had switched her back into the correct descendant’s body. They smiled again at the image of Joxer and at the life that they had shared together. The last picture in line was of them as gray haired grandparents. They snuggled close to each other for a few minutes while they remembered that life. Then as one they turned to the only other thing in the room.
In the center of the room was a pedestal that had three sets of funeral urns under a dome of glass. One set was placed above the other two on a clear stand. They walked hand in hand towards the display.
The urn on the top was one that Gabrielle was intimately familiar with. She reached a hand towards it but Charles stopped her with a gesture. He opened another panel and pressed his thumb onto another gel pad and the entire dome split like an orange and slid into the base of the pedestal in pieces. He nodded at Gabrielle.
She raised her hand and reverently picked up the battered black urn. It fit in her hand as if it had been made for it. It was scratched and showed signs of being dropped on every curve. It even had a small chip out of the lip. She slowly pulled the top off of it and looked at the gray ash that filled the bowl.
“I kick myself every time that I think of how easy it would have been to just ignore you and pour the ashes into the water. I think of all the pain and the anger and the loneliness and all the regrets… and I kick myself.” She put the lid back on the jar and put it back next to the identical white one on the little pedestal above the other urns. “Then I remember who it was that put me in that situation without so much as a warning.” Her beautiful hazel eyes flash red as she turned her gaze upon Xena.
“Babe, I’m sorry. I thought that I was sparing you the pain of the decision. It wasn’t right I know. I should have talked with you about it…” Xena never got to finish the thought.
“Your damn right you should have talked to me about it! We’re partners! Soul mates! You can’t just go off and make decisions like that without me!” Her eyes were still flashing but she could see that Xena didn’t want to argue the point with her. She had already won. “I know that we’ve had this discussion before. I just want to make sure that in this life you remember the lesson.”
“I remember Gabrielle, I remember. I’ll never do it again. We’re partners in this and every life that we have together and as partners we make decisions together.” Her finger was gently stroking Gabrielle’s cheek.
Gabrielle turned her head and kissed Xena’s palm. “Good, I’m without you enough. I don’t like actually living without you.”
Xena smiled down at her and then pulled her into a warm embrace and kissed her on the top of the head. “I’m sorry that I put you through that. I tried to stick around but I got pulled away.”
“I didn’t want to live with your ghost either Xena. It was better that you went away. It let me grieve and allowed me the time to do what I needed to do to go on with life.” She was referring to having children. She knew it and she knew that Xena knew it. She also knew that the identity of her daughter’s father was a secret that bothered Xena a lot. But she could never tell her who he had been. She had made a promise to him and to the One God. Xena’s decision to sacrifice herself for those souls had been both the right and the wrong thing to do. It had had repercussions that could have caused permanent and irreversible damage. But Xena carried enough burden on her shoulders she didn’t need this one as well. She didn’t need to know that Gabrielle was left to correct some of those repercussions alone and part of that meant that she had to raise her daughter without her soul mate.
Xena had nothing more to say on the matter. She had made a mistake but she had no idea how it could have turned out otherwise. Maybe she should take the time to look into it. Gabrielle was pulling away from her. In the recesses of Xena’s mind Margo was looking on with a great deal of sympathy for them both. The sentiment made Xena smile in thanks.
Gabrielle was once again looking at the urns. “Why did they put me in a white one? I know that I didn’t ask for white. In fact I’m pretty sure that I told him to make me one that was identical to yours.” She was fingering the urn that contained the ashes of her own body. ‘If this isn’t the epitome of surreal I don’t know what is.’ She said to Cara in her mind.
Xena chuckled. “You’re the good guy Gabrielle. Everyone knows that.”
The comment brought a smile to Gabrielle’s face and laughter to her tongue. “If they only knew me.” They both laughed at the comment. “Remember picking these out?” She asked Xena of the matching urns below the originals. They contained a second set of ashes that contained the body that they had inhabited from the twentieth century. ‘Now this is truly surreal.’ Cara commented.
Xena’s nodded her head seemingly in response to Cara but Gabrielle knew that she hadn’t hear Cara. She had to remember her own question to understand Xena’s response. “I remember that I didn’t give a darn. All I cared about was falling asleep with you at my side.”
“I remember, in fact I remember that your knowledge of herbs is what actually made it possible.” Gabrielle said wistfully.
Charles was stunned by the statement. “Are you saying that you committed suicide?” He was nonplussed.
They both turned to look at him. They had nearly forgotten that he was even there. Finally Gabrielle spoke. “No, we didn’t commit suicide. But our bodies respond to the souls that inhabit them. Our souls are intertwined so completely that we can feel each other in ways that others cannot. That includes the feelings you get when your body is tired and dying. We’ve felt each other die… too many times. But that time when we started to feel death coming on we made a decision that we wouldn’t make the other half of our soul suffer. I couldn’t make Xena feel me die again and she wouldn’t allow me to feel her die either. So when we came upon the day when our bodies told us that they were finished we decided to allow our bodies to die peacefully when they wanted to, we just wouldn’t be awake to feel it. Xena gave us both a very strong sleeping drought and we literally fell asleep together and slept through our own deaths… together.”
“Well isn’t that fortuitous that your bodies decided to die on the same day.” He said with thick amounts of disbelief clouding his words.
Gabrielle was not insulted, it did sound preposterous. “Because of our bond and I guess because we leap frog through time together our bodies had become attuned to one another. Then again it could have just been an answer to my prayers. I prayed that Xena and I would never have to be apart again… except between lives until the end. Either way, we did die on the same day.” She shrugged her shoulders at him. His opinion didn’t matter to her one iota. She turned back to the urns on display. “I assume that the final set belong to the clones.”
Charles took a moment to respond and when he did he simply nodded and muttered yes under his breath.
They had seen all that they wanted to see so they walked out of the room dropping their hands back to their sides as they left the doorway and saw some patrons coming in their direction from down the hall. Charles quickly closed the protective dome over the urns and reset the alarm before following in their wake.
He hurried to catch up to them so he could talk to them. “All of the weapons that you see on display that look like your weapons are really only reproductions. We keep your actual weapons in a vault… especially the Chakram and your Katana.” He looked pointedly at Gabrielle.
“My Katana?” She asked.
“Yes, your Katana, at least we think that it’s your Katana. We knew that the Chakram has powers but we didn’t know that your Katana did.” He was speaking as if what he said was fact.
“I don’t remember my Katana having any magical powers.” She looked up at Xena questioningly. Xena just shook her head and shrugged. “In fact I didn’t know that I had a Katana.”
“I think he’s talking about the Katana that you carried in Japan.” Xena offered. Gabrielle shrugged. She didn’t really care.
Charles continued. “Maybe it didn’t when you had it, or maybe it didn’t manifest them with you. Anyway you will see it soon enough.” He turned his look on Xena. “We found your sword and breast plate and other stuff. They are damaged by rust and are beyond repair. But never fear we have forged new stuff for you.”
Charles led them to the room at the end of the hallway. It was a large oval shaped room with displays and paintings running down both sides of the room. The displays were of the weapons that Xena and Gabrielle had used in various places that they had been. There were swords, spears, quarterstaffs, lances, clubs and bows and arrows as well as a dozen other weapons that neither Xena nor Gabrielle could remember using. They just shrugged it off and continued towards the display in the center of the room.
In the oval shaped center display sat a Chakram, Xena’s sword and Gabrielle’s Sais and the staff that Ephiny had given her. It was obviously a reproduction as the headpiece was still attached. She remembered accidently breaking it off, while sparing with a particularly vicious tree. She had thrown the staff into a river when she had tried to follow the way of peace. It was a decision that she had lived and died to regret.
They paused to look at the display for only a minute or so and then they continued on towards the door at the far end of the room. Upon reaching the door Charles’ thumb once again did the trick and soon they were walking down a short hallway that descended several steps to end in an elevator. Charles offered up his thumb print again and they all stepped onto the lift. It only went one way, down.
When the doors opened they stepped into another hallway that led back the way they had come. They were now under the large oval room. The hallway widened after about ten feet and a large metal door was the only thing facing them. Charles once again pressed his thumb to a pad and then keyed in a nine digit sequence of numbers on the pad that had appeared after he had pressed his thumb. A loud hiss could be heard from the door and it slowly but silently opened. They stepped inside.
Inside the door they were immediately met with a gate that Charles had to repeat the previous procedure with to cause it to unlock and once again they stepped past the doorway. Their eyes were met with a room that was twice the size if not more than the entire area that their walking had taken them since entering the front doors. Charles led them to the left where row after row of glass panels graced the floor.
Xena and Gabrielle stepped up to one of the glass panels. What they saw pressed between two pieces of glass was a large single piece of well-aged parchment. On that parchment were characters in Ancient Greek.
“This is one of my scrolls!” Gabrielle said in wonder and excitement. Xena rested a hand on her shoulder and leaned in to read the words on the scroll. The two women smiled at each other and then scanned the area around them. There were at least a hundred parchments encased in these glass frames.
For several minutes they walked from frame to frame; until they came upon an isle that separated several rows of parchments from the others. There were not quite as many parchments in this section. They walked up to the first one that they came to, it just happened to be the first one in the set. They both read a few lines from the parchment and slowly Xena’s face took on a distinct look of confusion and wonder while Gabrielle looked like she was turning green.
“This is a story about the Amazons that I don’t recall.” Xena said trying to lead Gabrielle into an explanation.
“There are quite a few things that you don’t recall, because you weren’t there to be a part of them.” Gabrielle said with sadness. “But it is probably time to tell you about some of them.”