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Teresa M Shafer - For books that kindle thought and ignite the imagination!
The Wedding 

Now that Gabrielle had the Amazons squared away and her place secured as their Matriarch she was clear to focus all of her attention on the wedding. At first she had been more than willing to allow her mother to make all of the choices but as the wedding drew closer she became more interested in the menu and the actual ceremony. Gabrielle asked Xena what kind of ceremony she wanted to have. 

Much to Gabrielle’s surprise, given previous conversations, Xena had actually given this a great deal of thought. There were many marriage ceremonies that had been used by the Amazons through the years, but there was one that they had borrowed from the natives of their home in the new World that really struck Xena as being the one that she wanted to perform with Gabrielle. “I want the ceremony of the seven steps and I want us to have our left hands bound together at the end for a final vow.” She said shyly. 

Gabrielle had to admit that she was a bit surprised. Harmony, Cadence and Faith were even more stunned. Being Amazons of stature they were all at least familiar with the ancient ceremony. “Will we write our vows together Xena or are we just going to write our own and see where it takes us?”                                                                
“I’ve thought about that. I think that we should have a theme for each step and each of us will make our own vow on that theme. Does that make sense?” She really hoped that it would.

“I think so but maybe you should tell me better so that I don’t mess things up.” In other words Gabrielle had almost no idea what Xena was talking about.

Xena nodded. She knew that this was going to be difficult. “Alright… I take a step and I promise to share a home with you in peace. Then you take a step, to come abreast with me and you promise to share our home in peace… but you say it in your own words. Here’s an example, I say:  ‘Oh my beloved, our love has become firm by your walking one with me. Together we will share the responsibilities of the lodge in peace.’ Then you say something like that but in your own words. For example: ‘This is my commitment to you, my love. Together we will share the responsibility of the home. I promise that I shall discharge all my share of the responsibilities for the welfare of the home and for you.’ Of course what you say will be different but on the first step it will be concerning our home together. Now does it make sense?”

“You’ve really thought this through haven’t you child?” Harmony asked her blushing daughter.

Xena bit her lower lip and nodded. “Yeah, our wedding should be a milestone for everyone… especially for us.”

“I like it, I like it a lot. Have you decided on what vow will be for each step?” Again Xena nodded. She pulled out a slip of paper and handed it to Gabrielle.

“I jotted them down.” She said.

Gabrielle read the words on the paper and smiled. Cadence tried to read them from over her daughter’s shoulder but of course it was written in ancient Greek.

“I hate it when you do that. Every time you don’t want someone to know what you are up to you either speak or write in ancient Greek.” She huffed in mock insult.

“It is our native language mom.” Gabrielle poked her in the ribs. “This is going to be wonderful! Faith we’re going to have to plan this a bit differently.”

“I’ll say, we haven’t performed a seven step ceremony in centuries. I’ll have to look it up.” She was excited. They had wanted something different and this definitely fit the bill.

The wedding was two weeks away, give or take a day when they made these plans. Xena was still wracking her brains for vows a day out. She even asked Faith if it was too late to change the ceremony. It was.

So it was that Xena and Gabrielle were once again in Cadence’s home with Harmony and Faith and Cadence of course, fine tuning the ceremony a day before they were meant to perform it. Xena and Gabrielle were taking steps around a chair and reciting what they had for lunch or the kind of fish that they liked. They weren’t giving up their vows until the big day… if Xena could think of them all. Gabrielle was in mid stride when the doorbell rang.  It was Hope.

Gabrielle ran to the doorway and pulled her daughter into her arms. Faith had to wait her turn. But she never got it because when Gabrielle released Hope she looked behind her daughter and turned white.

Hope had been expecting that reaction so she stayed in front of her guest until Gabrielle could gain control. “Mom and mom and well everyone I’m sure that you know Ares.” She stepped aside and the tall muscular Olympian God of War smiled and stepped into the room.

“What… are you doing here… with her?” Gabrielle asked carefully.

“Well I was invited.” He said as innocently as he could.

“And you declined. What changed your mind?” Xena stepped forward.

He looked her up and down and smiled a lascivious smile. “Gotta say I like the way that you two are dressing these days. It’s very feminine.” Hope turned to glare at him and everyone else looked like they were debating if they should stab him or just hit him.

“Did you just hitch a ride or what Ares?” Xena tried again with a great deal less patience than before.

“Nah it’s like this, after you called I guess the God of Eli decided that I had hung around on Earth long enough. He cut me a deal. I get to hang out with Hope and keep her safe and I don’t go the way of Zeus and the rest of the Olympians.” He didn’t look all that happy about the deal.

“Hope honey, the last time that you two got together you kind of… got together you know and the outcome wasn’t all that pleasant.” Gabrielle was trying to be tactful.

“Mom the last time that we got together I was under the influence of my father. Besides Ares is mortal now, so even if we did get together we wouldn’t have any supernatural children.” She said matter of factly.

The thought of them together made Gabrielle shiver. “Hope…” The sound of her voice told Hope that a lecture was coming about the birds and the bees.

“Mom… both of you… this is really my affair. It is my life and he is kind of an assignment. He has to come with me and if we decide to… then that is our business. Okay?” Faith groaned and Gabrielle put a hand to her head.

“Fine… but if you hurt her remember that we can and will hurt you back.” Faith growled.

“Oh God please don’t let Ares be my son-in-law.” Gabrielle prayed.

“Come on mom it wouldn’t be that bad.” Ares said in his most charming of voices.

Gabrielle glared over her hand. “Say mom again Ares and see how fast I can cut out your tongue and then see how well Hope likes you!” Ares was quick to retract his words and hide behind Hope.

Hope sent him outside to play with the boys while she joined the women in preparing for the wedding.  

The wedding was to be held in a large flat prairie that sat at the foot of Olympus Mons. It was to be held at sunset and half the planet and every dignitary within flying distance was attending. It was also to be broadcast live in streaming video to the entire solar system. Every business in the Martian Empire closed at noon or had never opened at all. All State agencies were closed. Even the public and paid transit systems would be closing once they made their final trip to Olympus Mons.

Xena and Gabrielle had gone to the site in the morning and everything had been brought to them. They were preparing themselves for the ceremony and trying not to be nervous. Gabrielle was certain that she would stumble and be a klutz and Xena was certain that she would forget her vows and stammer like an idiot.

The sun had set behind the great mountain quite a while before the sun actually set on the rest of the landscape. But when it did finally set the sky was lit with the light of many fires. In the center of a large oval that was reserved for only the wedding party a small unlit campfire sat midway between two large raging fires. One was on the north side of the clearing and the other was on the south. The light from these fires danced off the faces of the Amazons that stood shoulder to shoulder in a huge oval keeping the central area open. Cameras and microphones hovered everywhere. Huge televisions were set up throughout the guests so that everyone could see and hear what was going on.

Xena entered the oval from the south and Gabrielle from the north. They were both dressed in knee length white leather skirts and short cropped white tops that showed their midriffs. Their boots were soft and white with only ceremonial daggers in the top of their right boot. Gabrielle wore the white headdress of a Queen and a gold medallion to match. Both items were in an old style much like the ones that she had once worn on the Steppes. Xena wore the white headdress of an honored Warrior. Both women made clacking sounds when they walked as the beads that decorated their clothing swayed in the gentle breeze and the motion of their stride.

Their steps took them to the edge of the large fires, one by the fire on the North end and the other by the fire on the South end. They were each handed an unlit torch and as one they dipped their torches into the fires. The torches took immediately and both women stepped to their right to walk around the fires and for the first time since entering the oval they saw one another from across the open space and the unlit fire pit.

They walked slowly and deliberately towards the fire pit and hence each other. Broad smiles engulfed their faces as they drew closer. When they reached the unlit pit they stopped, one on each side and dipped the torches towards the wood but they did not light it. Faith stepped from between the Amazons on the west and spoke clearly so that all could understand.

“We are all here to witness the joining of these two individuals. Xena who brings the fire that burns in her soul to join with Gabrielle who likewise brings the fire that burns in her soul to share with each other that which makes them separate. With the lighting of this single fire from the two separate fires they symbolize the joining of their immortal souls.”

Xena and Gabrielle lowered their torches and the pit caught from both sides at once. When it was caught they tossed the torches onto the top and went around the fire to stand before Faith. Faith addressed them and the multitude. “Xena, Gabrielle are you here willingly and are you ready to exchange your vows to one another thereby becoming one in all things?”

Xena and Gabrielle both answered to the affirmative and Faith turned them so that Gabrielle stood next to the fire and Xena stood beside her. They would walk clockwise around the small fire, taking only seven steps to complete the journey.

Step one

Xena took a single step. It was not a long stride because she was making allowances for her shorter legged companion. When she stopped she spoke.

Xena: My dearest friend, keeper of all that makes me feel safe and secure I vow to share with you a lodging that we together make into a home. May it stand forever.

Gabrielle took a step to stand beside Xena. They did not look at one another but their smiles did not fade.

Gabrielle: My beautiful lady, with your courage and strength you have kept me safe through centuries of turmoil and danger I vow to share with you a place that we shall, with our undying love for each other make into a home.
 
Step two

Xena: My beloved lady my love is strong when you walk beside me and I vow to you that I will share with you all of my love. I swear that my love for you will live forever.

Gabrielle: Oh Xena, keeper of my heart I vow that I will share my love with you and that the stars will die before my love for you burns away. You are my joy and my devotion to you is pure.

Step three

Xena: My soul, I vow that I shall share with you my children. Together we will share the care, upkeep, love and joy of those children and may God bless us with noble children to share.

Gabrielle: My gentle love, I promise that I will share with you my children and that together we will raise them to be good and honest and loving. And may God grant them long lives.

Step four

Xena: My sweet companion, I promise that you shall never want for anything that I can provide.

Gabrielle: My dear love, I promise that I will always give to you whatever you want or need and that I shall never withhold from you that which I have or can acquire.

Step five

Xena: My quiet conscience, I promise that I shall walk beside you in the ways of righteousness and peace. I promise that I shall follow you wherever you lead and be a woman that you can proudly call your wife. This I swear with all my heart.

Gabrielle: My enduring rock, I vow to bring you as much joy, peace, love and happiness that you have given to me all of these years. You are my strength and my light and my life would be empty without you. May I be worthy of your faith in me.

Step six

Xena: My beloved soul mate. I have given you reason to doubt me. I have given you reason to hate me and I have given you reason to leave me. I promise you that I shall never give you reason for these things again. I swear to you that I shall stand at your side through anything and everything and that I will support your decisions and share life’s burdens with you.

Gabrielle: My dear wife. I have given you burdens that were not yours to bear and yet you bore them without question. I have blamed you for things that were of my own making and you did not cast them back into my teeth. I promise that I will honor you as you deserve and that I will share life with you as a help mate.

Step seven

Xena: My only love and dear wife, you have taken seven steps with me. You have promised me your life and more; our lives are now inseparable. As you are now mine I offer myself to you and pray that you will take me as I am and as I have promised to be with you.

Gabrielle: My beloved heart and soul, by God Almighty all that I have promised to you I have promised with a willing and joyful heart. I accept you as my wife and I promise that I will never leave you and I will always love you and with these words I become your wife for eternity.  

Their final step found them standing where they had begun. They turned to face Faith once again. “You have taken seven steps around a single flame to symbolize the beginning of your lives as one. You have given to each other your souls and lives and made your vows. Now face one another and clasp your left hands together.”

They did as she bid. She took out a small rope. It was made of two thin blue silk ropes and one larger white silk rope that bound the two blue. The rope had a large slip knot on each end. She slipped one end over Xena’s hand and then wrapped the rope around their wrists and slipped the other end around Gabrielle’s hand. It was a little tricky but they had practiced. “The rope binds your hands as the vows bind your hearts to one another. Now speak your final vows and become one.”

They were both nervous and quite a bit excited. Neither had heard the vows of the other before. It had all been new and now they were at the end and they were having trouble remembering the final pieces.

Finally Gabrielle opened her mouth. Xena was supposed to go first but if she didn’t speak now she might never. Xena seemed more than happy to let her go first.

“Xena, I tried to compose some eloquent lines of prose but it just wasn’t there… it sounded stupid. I know what I wanted to say but… so I’m going to say it plain. I remember wanting to be like you. I remember begging you to take me with you and you did. Since then we have travelled so far… it’s insane. I have loved you every step of the way and I’m going to go on loving you for as long as God allows me to live in whatever form. You believed in me. Your faith in me allowed me to have faith in others. It allowed me to grow and make mistakes and to love and live and yes even to die. Your faith in me has helped me to become the person that I am today. I’ve said it before and it’s still true, you saved me Xena. I can’t even imagine what would have become of me had you left me in Poteidia. You saved me. You saved everything.” Her eyes wandered to the Amazons that surrounded them. “Xena, I promise you that I will never leave your side and that I will love you until time ends and beyond.”
 
It was Xena’s turn and she looked more frightened than Gabrielle could ever remember seeing. But Xena did speak.

“Gabrielle what can I say to you at this moment in time that I’ve not already said? I’ve thought about it for weeks and I’ve come up blank. All I know is that through all of the fights, and all of trials, and all of the roads that we’ve travelled, through all of the worlds and the lifetimes… for me there’s always only been one constant… there’s only been one thing that made me want to continue to go forward or to improve on myself and that was you. For me it’s never been about the Gods or the promise of eternal life, because without you eternal life would be an eternal torture. It’s always been about living up to your expectations… ever since I saw that brave little girl stand up to that warlord outside of Poteidia I’ve been trying to mold myself after you… I know that I never could… but I can try and as long as I try maybe just maybe I can be worthy of your love. So I guess today my final promise is to never stop trying to be worthy of you.”

Faith was crying as was most of the audience. Faith sniffed loudly and cleared her throat. “May God bless this union with happiness and joy, prosperity and fruitfulness. May none come between them and may they love forever.” And with that final blessing the wedding was over.

Everyone was so focused on Xena and Gabrielle that no-one saw the host of Angels watching from the side of Olympus Mons or that many of the guests, Amazon and otherwise had been dead for hundreds or thousands of years. Tonight it didn’t matter to anyone who came to the party; Mars’s favorite daughters had tied the knot.

For the first two hours into the party Xena and Gabrielle wandered through the throng of people, ghosts, Gods, Goddesses and Angels and greeted everyone that they could. It took them that long to wade through the crowd and reach the dais at the far end of the wedding grounds…well it had been at the far end when they had designed it but now it was somewhere near the middle.

The evening air was full of freshly grilled food and live music and dancing and singing and drinking and it lasted all night long. Before dawn broke Xena and Gabrielle excused themselves and went home. No-body seemed to miss them but then again very few people were still coherent.