Rise of the Amazons
Gabrielle turned to look at Xena and she took Xena’s hands in her own. “When you… died in Japan, I returned to Greece and from there I went to Egypt. We had made a promise to help someone out. So I did just that. But when I was done… I really had no place that I wanted to be. Argo and I found a nice oasis and there we stayed for many moons. During that time I wrote many of those.” Her eyes looked over Xena’s shoulder indicating that she referred to the scrolls that they had seen when they first came upon them. “But eventually I ran out of parchment or ink, I don’t remember which but I left Egypt. Argo was carrying a person’s weight in parchment on her back. I returned to Greece.” She stopped and took a long breath and looked for a moment back at the parchment that they stood next to.
“In Greece I ran into Ares. He would not believe that you were dead, not even after I showed him your urn. He tried to take it from me, and Argo and I had to run. I ran to what I thought would be the last place that he would look for me, one of his own temples. But he did find me… eventually. Before he came however I had taken the burden of the scrolls from Argo and I had made a place for them in the tomb beneath Ares’ temple. I even set traps to keep them safe. I didn’t want the stories to be spread like the others that I had written before you left. These scrolls were… special to me. I did keep one of them out, the story of Japan. So people would know what you had done… the sacrifice that you had made.” A tear rolled down her face and Xena gently but silently wiped it away.
“When Ares caught up to me I was ready for him. I had set a trap for him that would bind him to the tomb and trap him inside until someone broke the seal.” Xena looked at her with the question how on her face. “It was a little item that I got in Egypt from Hathor, she is surprisingly a lot like Aphrodite and she really didn’t like Ares. Anyway, little did I know at the time that it would be our descendants that would break the seal and set him free?
After trapping Ares I spent some time with Aphrodite to make sure that she was alright. She was of course because Ares was still in the world he just was unable to do anything. While I was with her I… met… someone and together we… had a daughter. We settled with Lila in Poteidia. After a couple of years he left. It was what we both wanted. Shortly afterwards I got a message from my tribe and I went to see them. I took Aella with me.” She glanced again at the scroll and seemed reluctant but strangely resigned to continue on with the story.
“When I arrived my sisters were under siege. They had been hunted for sport and sold into slavery for years but now they were much fewer in number than they had ever been. They were on the verge of extinction. They had no Queen, they had no battle leader they were little more than a bunch of half grown children running and hiding for their lives. So I took the mantle of Queen once again and I led my sisters away from their ancestral home. I led them to the Northern Steppes in hopes that our Northern sisters would welcome them into their tribe and together they would find a measure of safety. But what I found when I arrived… was not what I had expected.” The look in her eyes was breaking Xena’s heart.
“The Northern tribes had fared even worse than their Greek cousins. It seemed as if the entire world wanted the Amazon Nations eradicated. They had fewer than a three score left in all the North. Their Queen gave me her title and together the entire Amazon nation headed north with me in the lead. We rode until the horses were exhausted and then we walked. We walked until we were dead on our feet and then we walked some more. Finally after what seemed like many more moons than it actually was, we entered the territory of Odin.” She took a deep breath and plowed on.
“I beseeched him for an audience, one in which he was not happy about granting. But with the influence of Brynhildr he finally deigned to see me. I begged him for three long days to help my sisters. Finally after bargaining and bartering we reached an agreement. He promised to take them away from those lands to some new lands where they could start anew and be free of persecution. He built a ship, not a ship that would ride the waves but a ship that would ride the air. When it was done my Amazons boarded the ship and the Valkyries and their Pegasus’ took the ship aloft and carried it for many days on the wind. When finally we landed we found ourselves in a land that had thick clean forests that were full of game and we were beside a fresh lake that was as big as a sea. The people of the land greeted us with joy and welcomed us into their land.” She smiled wistfully, remembering the women who had been her sisters.
There was silence for a long couple of minutes while Gabrielle remembered those that she had left on that shore so long ago. Xena was digesting the tale. She felt sorrow for her beloved but also pride. She also had a question. “So what did you give to Odin for his help?”
Gabrielle looked up into the steel blue eyes of her mate. She knew that she had to tell her the answer but she also knew that Xena wouldn’t like it. “I gave him ten years of my life in service as a Valkyrie.” She hadn’t seen Xena’s eyes get that big in a long time and she knew by the way her face was screwing up that she was on the verge of a big blow. “He gave Argo wings.” She said with a smile and then she sobered quickly when she saw that that approach was not working to calm Xena’s temper. “We served with honor, Xena. We took many deserving warriors to Valhalla.” She touched Xena’s cheek with her fingertips and Xena’s face relaxed a bit.
“You shouldn’t have had to do that.” Xena said with a large amount of self-incrimination.
“Don’t blame yourself for what I did when you were gone. I did what I had to do to save my people, and I would gladly do it again a thousand times over to save my people. It’s as simple as that.” Her eyes were serious and her words were final. “Besides if I couldn’t raise Aella with you or with the Amazons I couldn’t think of a better place than with the Valkyries. They were good aunties and believe it or not Odin was a good approximation of a Grandfather. He really loved children. He really loved Aella; she was like a daughter to him.”
Xena hitched her thumb at the scroll that they stood beside. “That doesn’t tell the whole story though does it? There are a lot of scrolls here.”
“Yes there are.” Gabrielle turned a questioning look at Charles. “I left these with the Amazon nation when I left for Greece. How did they come to be here?”
Instead of answering with words Charles extended his arm to the shadows behind Gabrielle. A middle aged woman stepped out from them. Neither Gabrielle nor Xena were surprised at her entrance. They had just assumed that she was one of the help and posed no threat, so they had dismissed her presence.
“That’s easily answered my Queen.” The woman took a knee in front of Gabrielle; she lowered her head and crossed her right arm across her chest.
Gabrielle was a bit surprised at first but the presence of the scrolls and the remains of Aella and her family meant that the presence of Amazons was to be expected. “Rise sister and tell me who you are and how these came to be here.”
“I am Jennifer Lamb, Majesty and the story is fairly short. When you returned to my ancestors after your time with the Valkyries you lived with us for a time and finished raising your daughter. During that time you wrote many scrolls and then when it was time for you to return to Greece you left those scrolls with us. All of this you know, now for what you don’t know. After you left, the mantle of Queen fell upon the shoulders of Aella. She led us fairly and justly for as long as she lived and she taught us many things. Our people flourished and grew in number for many generations. But the time came when others came from across the sea who wanted to conquer our land. We could have fought as we had in Greece and on the Northern Steppes but we knew that this action would only lead us once again to extinction. So under the rule of your descendant we integrated with the newcomers. We, unlike the native nations were white like our ancestors. Many of our sisters did not like the need to be subjugated to men but it was necessary for our survival.” She stopped to let what she had said so far sink in.
“We met in secret and yet in the open. Our men were so involved with their own petty concerns that they were more than willing to allow the women to do whatever they desired so long as we jumped when they called. We met in knitting circles, quilting circles and any other fictitious name we could come up with to tell to them. But we kept our traditions and our stories and our ability to fight. We never let them take anything from us. There were some over the years that left the tribe to be with their men but most did not. Our daughters were raised as Amazons and our sons were raised to follow their fathers. We lived like this in secret for many centuries until we heard the call from the Society for the Amazons to reunite within their walls. So we came. We came from all over the world and we brought what we had saved of our culture. Your descendants brought the scrolls and we all cherished them because they tell the story of our Nations. Now we all live here on Mars and we all await the coming of our Queen to lead us once again into battle.” She paused again.
“We wait no longer for she is now here.” Once again Jennifer knelt before Gabrielle. “Command me my Queen.”
Xena and Gabrielle’s eyebrows rose into their hair. They look at one another and then down at the immobile kneeling form of Jennifer. “Who is your Queen now, besides Gabrielle I mean?” Xena asked.
Jennifer raised her eyes and looked at Gabrielle as if asking for permission to answer Xena. Gabrielle nodded and sighed heavily. “Cara’s mother, Bridget is our Queen.”
The revelation sent a shock wave through Gabrielle’s body that was not entirely of her own making.
‘How did you manage to keep this from me Cara? Why would you keep this from me?’ Gabrielle asked her host quietly but firmly.
‘You never asked nor did you pry. I’m not really into this whole Amazon thing… or at least I wasn’t until now. Mom on the other hand is really into it and so is my older sister.’ She sounded chastised. ‘I’m sorry… my Queen.’
‘Don’t even go there Cara. I may be your long lost Queen but while I’m in your head you need never call me that.’ Gabrielle didn’t quite know what to say. “Jennifer get up off of your knees.” Jennifer rose and Gabrielle turned to Xena.
“So, looks like we’re going to do the whole Amazon Queen thing again. Can I get off the boat now?” Xena asked sarcastically.
“They could be helpful Xena. We really don’t know the whole story yet.” She turned once again to Jennifer. “But I intend to find out.” She said in a no nonsense tone. “But first I think that we should get our weapons.”
“Follow me, my Queen.” Jennifer turned sharply on the ball of one foot and headed towards the shadow that she stepped from.
Xena scrubbed her face with one hand and laid the other one on Gabrielle before she could follow Jennifer. “As long as they don’t get in the way; we don’t need the deaths of any more innocents added to our tally.” Gabrielle answered with a nearly imperceptible nod and quickly rubbed her cheek against the back of Xena’s hand before she turned to follow in Jennifer’s wake.
When they caught up to Jennifer she was standing quietly next to a long rectangular display case. The top had already been lifted so that the weapons on display were easily accessible. Xena grimaced when she saw the rust and general disrepair of her breastplate. When she touched it she frowned. The sword that was displayed beneath it was also a rusted mess. But sitting beside that sword was another. It was the same length and design as the original but its blade was clean and undamaged. Xena picked it up and stepped away from the case.
She spun the sword in an elaborate design around her body, switching hands often. After several minutes a sheen of sweat began to form on her brow before she stopped in an offensive position with the sword above her head and held in a backhand grip as if she would be stabbing down with it like one would with a knife. “Hmm, not bad, it’s well balanced, I’ll give it that.” She said out loud but internally to Margo she added, ‘Margo my dear you are out of shape. If we have time I’m going to remedy that little situation if that’s alright with you of course.’ She got no verbal answer but she could feel Margo nod inside of her head.
Meanwhile Gabrielle had picked up her Sais and was doing a Kata with them. They are as familiar to her as is her own hand or the breath in her chest. The weapons flip and twist in her hands as she performs the various positions of the Kata to perfection. When she was done she flipped them around and shoved them in her belt. She hadn’t broken a sweat or disturbed her even rhythmic breathing at all. “Yup, these are mine. Thor made them for me while I was a Valkyrie. I would know them anywhere.”
She reached back into the case and pulled out the Katana that Charles claimed had powers. Xena was watching her closely. Neither knew what to expect, if anything. Gabrielle drew the sword and held it out in front of her in an en guard position. She laid the scabbard back in the case. That’s when she saw the red ceremonial Katana that Xena had carried in her last battle. “Xena…” She attracts Xena’s attention and drew it to the Katana in the case. She nodded her head in challenge and backed up a few steps. Xena’s lips broke into a wide grin and her eyes flashed with excitement. She drew the Katana and gave it a haughty flip and advanced on Gabrielle.
Both women were grinning when the two swords struck high above their heads and a shower of sparks rained down upon them. They passed each other and allow the swords to slide off of each other before turning to assume another stance to face their opponent. They charged each other at the same time and their swords clashed in front of their bodies. They were so close that their bodies were touching on either side of the swords. Xena quickly leaned over and gave Gabrielle a kiss on the nose. Gabrielle yelled in a mock cry of indignation and pushed her soul mate off. Then in a blink of an eye their swords are clashing and spinning and turning in quick succession. The movements were so quick that the swords themselves were a blur even when they met. Sparks were the only evidence that they had once been in any given spot. Suddenly they break from each other and began to circle.
Xena was laughing and taunting Gabrielle, but sweat had once again broken out on her brow. Gabrielle saw the perspiration and began taunting Xena in return. Xena got an I’ll show you look on her face and let out her famous war cry and launched herself up and over Gabrielle. But Gabrielle had seen this move a thousand times before and when Xena landed Gabrielle had turned and hence got to see the show. Xena was unfamiliar with the pumps that she was walking on and the floor was made of highly polished marble, add that to the fact that her host was not in the best of shape and a tight skirt that they are wearing and a precarious landing is inevitable.
Xena landed and her knees buckled slightly then one foot slid a few inches on the marble and her skirt hindered her recovery. Gabrielle laughed out loud and Xena turned to face her with a murderous look on her face. Gabrielle playfully lashed out with the tip of her Katana and neatly sliced Xena’s skirt down both sides from hip to hem. “Will that help?” She giggled at Xena. Xena growled at her like a puppy, kicked off her shoes and launched herself at Gabrielle.
They sparred around the room for close to twenty minutes until Xena was panting. Gabrielle was not going to let her win just because her host was out of shape but she didn’t want to exhaust Margo either. Even Xena could be injured if she extended the borrowed body beyond its limits. Xena must have been thinking the same thing because almost simultaneously they raised their swords and saluted one another. The sparing match was over.
They had collected several onlookers while they had sparred and now their audience broke into spontaneous applause. The two warriors looked around at their audience and noticed that the vast majority of them are women. Gabrielle stopped and had a quick conversation with Cara while she and Xena were walking back towards the display case.
Xena quickly replaced the ceremonial Katana. “It’s a nice blade but things didn’t go so well the last time that I carried it into battle. Maybe I’ll feel different in another life.” She placed it gently on the satin pillow that lined the case. The satin reminded her of a little Japanese girl she once knew.
Gabrielle waited patiently for Xena to grieve the loss of her friend. She didn’t need to hear Xena’s thoughts or words to feel the pain that her soul was feeling. Eventually Xena stepped to one side and picked up her Chakram and smiled at the familiarity of the weapon. She looked at Charles. “Did it bite you?” She had seen him take a small step away from her when she pulled it from the case.
His eyes were transfixed on the Chakram and he stuttered when he realized that Xena was speaking to him. “Yes… I mean no… I mean…”
“Well which is it, yes or no?” She held it out to him as if it was a wart ridden toad and he was a silly school girl. Perhaps he was a bit of a school girl because he jumped backwards like one. Xena chuckled at him and pulled the Chakram back to her chest to stroke it like a kitten.
Charles had gone both mute and white.
Gabrielle watched this exchange with great amusement. She stepped up to the case and took the Katana’ sheath from where she had put it. She slid the blade home and stood for a minute just looking at its hilt and running her thumb over the silver dragon. “I see nothing wrong with this sword.” She said without looking at Charles. “Did it bite you too?” She could hear Xena snort and then chuckle. She turned to look at Charles. He was still white and he was staring at the sword. “Why don’t you tell me why you think that it is magical?”
“I’m not sure that it is magical, but I do think that it is enchanted.” He said after a few moments of consideration.
“It won’t let anyone… but obviously you touch it.” He said with trepidation. “It was quite the ordeal getting it into that case.”
Never to be told that she can’t do something Xena reached out and wordlessly asked Gabrielle for the sword. Gabrielle did not hesitate to hand the sword over to Xena. Xena took it by the hilt and drew it from its scabbard. She turned the blade in her hand and changed grip with it. Then she shrugged her shoulders and slid it home and handed it back to Gabrielle.
“The first person that died by this blade, was killed for the sake of vengeance more than anything else. I had spared his life once. But I would not spare it a second time.” She stared at the sword and rubbed the dragon some more. “My hand was the first hand to hold this sword in battle. It is probably imbedded with my anger, my pain and my frustration. It’s better that no-one else handles it.” She drew the thin cords that dangled from the scabbard through her belt and tied them off, allowing the sword to hang from her left hip. She looked up at Xena and smiled. She got a warm, loving smile in return.
They turned as one towards the crowd that has gathered to see them. The people before them with only a couple of exceptions are most probably Amazons. Xena nudged Gabrielle and smiled wickedly. Xena loves the situation with these new age Amazons.
As much as she hated to admit it Gabrielle knew that she must address the Amazons en masse so she set a plan in motion. “Sisters, listen to me.” She barely got the words out of her mouth before the women started going to their knees. Gabrielle had to hastily tell them all to stand. “Before we go too much further I need to make a few things clear to you. First of all, stop kneeling constantly it wastes time. There is a time and a place for kneeling and here and now is not it. Secondly, when Xena speaks I want you all to listen to her as if she were me. I know that this is against custom but she is still technically my champion. She’s also practically an Amazon.” This declaration brings forth many gasps including one from Xena. “I know; I know Xena did some horrible things that should preclude her from any tribe. But she has also done some very good things that should have earned her a second chance if not a pardon.
Look it’s not like she and I are around all the time. We pop in and have a task to complete and we pop out. Sometimes we’re gone for centuries at a time and you all so graciously remember me with such fondness and love and yet how can you not remember Xena the same way? She has done so much to help our people. It is time for us to forgive her.” Gabrielle stopped and was clearly thinking.
“Alright, here’s the deal, tomorrow at dusk I want to meet with the entire tribe. We need to conclude this thing with Xena and set plans for other things. You all know where, tell the other Amazons and I will contact Bridget.”
She turned to look at Xena. Her look was soft and loving. “We’ve got to go.”
“But wait… we have so much more that we want to give to you.” Jennifer pled.
Xena looked at her watch and raised an eyebrow. “Bring them to us tomorrow at the meeting.”
Jennifer nodded and then extended an arm in the general direction of the door. “Allow me to escort you to your transport.”