Fire and Ice
Elissa knew it was time to continue her journey. Her sisters deserved to go home and she wanted to see her tribe again. It saddened her to think about taking her mother's place, but knew it was time. Shaking her head to clear the maudlin thoughts as large mountains came into view. They were breathtaking. This tiny island seemed more majestic than the large continent she had just left. Elissa hoped her sisters were well, and that she could find them quickly.
Walking along the narrow streets, Elissa slipped inside a teahouse. The ship's captain had told her this was the best place to gather information. She bowed to the shop's owner, and hesitantly asked about the missing Amazons. The woman told her about a village further down the coast where a rich family had bought several girls. She wasn't happy to hear they were little more than slaves, but not surprised. Elissa thanked the woman then set off once again on her journey.
Xena and Gabrielle journeyed toward Jappa. Xena wondered if the gods were laughing at her from Tartarus. Each place they raced after Gabrielle's daughter wakened ghosts from her past. At least she took the opportunity to right the wrongs the old Xena left in her wake. Thankfully, Gabrielle understood and forgave every sin, but Xena wondered if this time she was asking too much.
"I need to tell you about last time I was in Jappa."
Gabrielle stopped her, before she could continue. "Xena, I love you but I can't do this right now."
She pulled a cloak tighter around her body. The illusion of her daughter kept slipping through her fingers. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't catch her. Gabrielle wondered if she would ever catch her, if she would ever get the chance to know Elissa. Strong arms wrapped around her from behind, a dark head leaned down next to her blonde one.
As if she read her thoughts, Xena reassured her. "You'll get to know her. She'll fight it and make your life a living hell along the way, but it will happen. We made good time. Elissa shouldn't be too far ahead this time. Maybe, if we help her find the missing Amazons, it will give you an opportunity to get to know each other."
"Do you mean it?" Bright green eyes, shining with hope, looked into sparkling blue ones.
"Of course I do, Elissa doesn't know Jappa like I do. The people don't accept strangers, especially women, at face value. She won't have an easy time getting anyone to talk to her."
Gabrielle turned back to look at the beautiful island. She hid a smile at the idea of her self-sufficient daughter having trouble getting around Jappa. She knew Elissa was on a serious quest to retrieve the Amazons taken from the campsite, but hoped the journey might lead to an opportunity for them to grow closer.
When they stepped ashore a monk walked up to Xena and bowed. He held a beautiful sword in his hand, which he offered to her.
"Greetings, Warrior Princess, Akemi welcomes you once more to the land of her forefathers."
Xena was stunned at his words. "You've seen Akemi?"
"She saved me when an evil spirit took the soul of a brother monk I traveled with. I ran in fear. Akemi told me you were the only person who could kill the Lord of the Dark Land. She said a warrior from far away would save us, that fire and ice would meet to quench vengeance's rage."
"Xena, let's go find your friend; let's help Akemi?"
"That's impossible, Gabrielle."
"I don't understand. He said she sent this sword for you and that some demon is killing people."
"We can't find Akemi because she's a ghost. I killed her."
Gabrielle grabbed the Warrior Princess' arm. "Tell me the real story, and we'll know where to go from there. Elissa is important but innocent people are dying, and we need to stop it."
Xena recounted how she bought a kidnapped Akemi. She returned her for the ransom, but along the way started caring for the little girl. Xena even went so far as to teach her the pinch. Akemi's father was a horrible man who had killed his wife and children. Akemi had only escaped because she was kidnapped. She used the pinch to kill her father, then herself, asked Xena to remove her head, and take her ashes to the sacred shrine in Higuchi.
Elissa trudged furiously along the coastline toward the town where she hoped to find her sister Amazons. Jappa men didn't recognize females as warriors. She couldn't get the information she needed from the landowners or businessmen. Only women or monks would speak to her. No one recognized her as a warrior. A female mind could not comprehend the Samurai Way. The Orient was a beautiful, graceful and garish creature all at once. Elissa realized she would have to use brains not brawn.
An old monk took pity on her and gave her a place to stay. It was the perfect place to look for her sisters, centrally located to the mountain paths, small fishing towns and larger plantations. Lao Pan was an eighty-year-old Buddhist monk. He spent each evening in his gardens doing intricate martial arts movements.
Elissa watched him intrigued. The movements were slow and precise. He told her, it was called Tai Chi. It taught awareness of one's balance and what affects it, awareness of the same in others, an appreciation of the practical value in one's ability to moderate extremes of behavior and attitude at both mental and physical levels, and how this applied to effective self-defense principles.
Elissa went out each day, looking for her missing tribe members. She returned each evening to learn Tai Chi from Lao Pan. They became close friends learning about each other's worlds.
Xena and Gabrielle approached Akemi's hometown of Higuchi. Her beautiful home brought back memories Xena would rather leave buried along with the dead. They settled into the house with the young monks help. He showed them where he had seen Akemi's ghost then left them to continue his journey.
Gabrielle wasn't sure how she felt about talking to a ghost. This was someone Xena cared enough about to teach her the pinch. She felt stupid but she was jealous of a ghost.
Xena stepped beside Gabrielle taking her hands, she laid them on the pulse points of her neck.
"Can you feel my life flowing underneath?"
"Yes?" Gabrielle's breath escaped in a soft sigh.
Strong hands forced slender fingers to apply pressure. The Warrior Princess crumpled at her lover's feet.
"I want you to know I love you with everything I have, with everything I am." She gasped as blood trickled from her nose.
Gabrielle released the pinch gathering Xena in her arms. "Don't you ever do that to me again. We share every day together. I love you and need you more than I need to know anything else, even your stupid pinch."
Elissa knocked on a door. She waited patiently for someone to answer, hoping to learn something about her sisters. Lao Pan knew the right people to talk to for the latest gossip. Unfortunately, Amazons didn't adjust well to the cultural differences. Each time Elissa found a lead, she arrived in time to find the girls gone. They were sold repeatedly from town to town. Elissa hoped their spirits would remain intact, until she could free them.
A tiny bird-like woman answered the door. She bowed opening the door, allowing Elissa to enter the house.
"Come, this way, you take her with you. My master say he kill her when he returns. Hurry, hurry."
The woman scuttled, as fast as her bound feet would allow, through the house to the back gardens. There tied to a tree was a medium-sized woman bare from the waist up, and lash marks marred her back. An angry growl escaped Elissa's lips, causing the old woman to run back into the house.
The Amazon Queen approached the woman. She knew it wasn't one of her tribeswomen, but it didn't matter. This woman was her responsibility now. Placing a hand under a bowed chin, Elissa lifted her head. She thought she'd never seen more expressive blue eyes in her life. They were so large they drowned out the woman's other features. Taking a step back, provided the perspective needed to admire the finely sculpted cheekbones, high patrician nose and full plump lips. It was an interesting face with an aristocratic air about it.
"What's your name?" Elissa cut the ropes, catching the woman before she hit the ground.
"I'm Elissa, although I wasn't searching for you, it seems I found you. Let's get you away from here before the owner returns. I'll help you get back to your home when I leave this land."
"I don't have a home anymore. Everything I had is gone, my home, my family, all of it - gone. They destroyed it all and sold me."
"When I find my sister Amazons, we return to Syria. If you want, you can return with us; if not I'll help you find a someplace to live."
Cassandra looked at her rescuer, a strange blonde woman with large green eyes. Her own narrowed with suspicion. She had allowed others to fool her with kindness, and wouldn't allow it to happen again.
"Why would you help me? You don't even know me?"
Elissa walked over to pull a cloth from a table. She brought it back to wrap around Cassandra.
"You were put in my path for a reason. Someday, I will tell you the Amazon's history, but right now we need to get you out of here."
She put an arm around her new friend, helping her from the garden. They slowly walked back to Lao Pan's home. Elissa wondered what her two friends would think of each other. Somehow, she thought they would like each other. A tiny voice told her Cassandra was important, not only to the tribe, but to her as well.
Elissa was right about Lao Pan and Cassandra, they became instant friends. They talked for hours about healing herbs and understanding the significance of dreams. Elissa didn't share with them her prophetic dreams. She wasn't certain why, but it was something private she had only shared with her mother. Lysippe filled her thoughts maybe because her mission was concluding. She missed her mother's love, and guidance more each day.
Cassandra found Elissa sitting under a tree, lost in thought. The Amazon fascinated her with her beauty and strength. She wondered what she would have done if Methos had taken her captive. Something told Cassandra the Four Horsemen would have been short several heads by the time Elissa was through with them.
Never opening her eyes, Elissa asked. "Did you need something?"
Cassandra jumped when the quiet voice took her by surprise. "I wanted to ask if you needed anything. You haven't eaten all day."
"I'm fasting. Tonight, I will try to reach my sisters in their dreams. I'm afraid if I don't find them soon, they will be lost to me."
"May I ask you a question, or do you want me to leave you alone?"
"No, you may join me if you want."
Elissa looked up at the voluptuous ash blonde. She found her attractive, and admired her lush curves.
"Why do you work so hard to get them back? You're far from your homeland, and don't know how long it will take you to find the ones you seek. What happens if you don't find them?"
"I search for them because they are my responsibility. I vowed not to return to my homeland as long as my sisters languished in slavery. We are a tribe, but Amazons are more than that; we share a blood bond. It holds us together through all adversity. Our tribe never leaves a warrior behind, dead or alive."
Cassandra took in the soft words. She had never heard of a tribe that fought others, even for their dead. "You would fight for my dead body if I were an Amazon?"
"Yes. We will allow no one to dishonor our sisters, most especially our dead." The former captive stood up to leave Elissa to her preparations. "Cassandra." The other woman stopped in her tracks. "I would fight for you."
Some part of Cassandra that had died during her captivity began to flower back to life. She saw Elissa close her large, emerald eyes in meditation and walked back to the house. Her steps were lighter than they had been in years.
Elissa slowed her breathing, allowing her mind to clear. She had several hours before she was ready to contact her sisters. She invoked her mother's spirit to guide her to ensure her journey's success. A warm breeze surrounded her, and she knew her mother was near.
"Rest easy, my child. You will find what you seek, but there is a price."
"Mother, is that you?" Elissa tried to open her eyes, but found she couldn't.
"Yes, my daughter. I don't have much time; the veil is thick surrounding this isle."
"What must I do to find my sisters?"
"A Shadow Lord hovers over a city to the north. You must go and help fight him in order to save your sisters' souls."
The soft breeze caressed Elissa's cheek and ruffled her hair.
"Mother, don't go. I miss you. Please, don't leave me."
Tears raced down her cheeks, as the wounds on her heart burst open once more. Elissa felt as if she had lost Lysippe all over again. The hatred she felt for Gabrielle and Xena burned brighter than ever in that moment.
Gabrielle wondered how they could stop Yodoshi and rescue the souls he held prisoner. She knew Xena felt responsible for his creation, and Gabrielle wasn't going to allow her to do something stupid. As far as she was concerned, Xena had more than paid for her past. They would fight this enemy just like they had all the others - together. Xena joined her on a high wall surrounding the city. They looked at the lands before them.
"I thought I heard something," Gabrielle whispered.
"Listen to what's behind the sounds."
Gabrielle closed her eyes and slowed her breathing. She heard marching, flames and horses snorting. Her eyes flew open to gaze into serious blue eyes.
"How many are there?"
"At least three armies are gathering, maybe more."
"I'll go and tell the others to prepare."
Xena watched Gabrielle leave before heading to Akemi's home. She went to a small, hidden room and lit incense before a statue. Bowing low to draw in the acrid smoke, she began a low chant.
"Akemi…help me know what to do to make this right. What can I do to release the souls your father holds prisoner? Did I help create this monster? Am I responsible for this, like I am for so many other things?"
Tears streamed down Xena's face as she thought of the small girl who still retained a piece of her heart.
"One should not demand absolute purity or perfectness. Remember one justice can overpower a hundred evils. Fire, ice and a warrior's heart will set the souls free."
Gabrielle entered the outer chamber, wearing Japanese armor over her clothes. "Xena, are you in here?"
"I'm coming, Gabrielle."
Xena emerged from the room, with a lighter heart thanks to Akemi's words, believing she knew what they symbolized.
"The men are ready and the gate's bolted shut. I'm not sure how long it will hold, but it should slow them down at least for a little while."
Thanks to her mother's words, Elissa didn't need to disturb her sisters' dreams. Lao Pan told her everything he knew about the Eater of Souls. She quickly gathered provisions to head toward Higuchi. She feared not only her sister's lives, but their very souls, were at risk and it weighed heavily on her shoulders.
Cassandra rushed outside just as Elissa prepared to depart. "Wait! I wish to go with you."
"I don't know what I'm heading into, Cassandra. Mother's spirit said their souls are in danger."
"Please, Elissa. I can help with the wounded. My instincts tell me I'm supposed to be wherever you are." Large blue eyes looked into expressive green ones.
"Can you at least defend yourself?"
Cassandra's normally gentle blue eyes darkened, she bowed her head and spoke quietly under her breath. Her head snapped back as she flung her hands into the air. Lightning sprung from her hands, the ground shook, and a bolt hit the ground several feet from where Elissa stood.
The Amazon Queen turned to look at the former captive with a speculative question in her eyes.
"If you can do that, why were you chained to a tree when I found you?"
"I have to ground myself to the Earth, pulling on its energy. All things share a balance. If I use this power for healing, the balance shares it freely. But, if I use it for other means, it takes more from the Earth and me. My mother taught me to honor the way and not abuse the power. I will use it in this fight to help release the captive souls and keep your sisters from capture. It's my way of thanking you."
Cassandra regally bowed her head. In that moment, Elissa perceived Cassandra as she once was, before her captivity, and as she could become again.
"Gather your things quickly. I don't think we have much time."
Elissa and Cassandra approached Higuchi, only to find it surrounded by a formidable army. They watched as the army loaded catapults with coal, preparing to send them over the high walls into the city.
"They're going to burn the city to the ground. My sisters could be inside those walls."
Elissa searched for a weakness in the line, or some way to stop the force. An idea sprang to mind and she looked at the woman who rode beside her.
"Cassandra, I have an idea."
Harukata, Idoshi's general, signaled the soldiers to light the fires. The horses stomped as they waited for the command to ride into battle. Soldiers grasped their weapons and their bodies tensed in anticipation.
A harsh wind blew through the camp knocking over horses and soldiers alike. Several catapults fell over, knocking into the ones next to them; Harukata gave the command to release the remaining catapults.
Xena watched as the army prepared to light the catapults. She turned to Gabrielle in confusion when the catapults fell over from some unseen force, and the soldiers and horses stumbled out of alignment.
"What is happening down there?" Gabrielle tried to get a better look.
"I can't tell. Duck," Xena pushed the smaller woman out of the way of flying embers.
"We have to do something to put these fires out."
Xena noticed the water tower on the other side of the village. "We've gotta release the water from the tower. Gabrielle, what would you do?"
"I saw these acrobats. They used a…"
"Show me, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle walked over and grabbed a rope. "Climb on."
They swung though the city and landed on an overhang, bounced up, flipped backward, and landed on a rooftop.
"A-la-la-la-la-she-e-e-yah," Xena chanted.
A warrior climbed up a ladder to the window. Gabrielle kicked the ladder, causing the warrior to fall. She jumped onto the ladder as Xena grabbed onto the other side. Using their combined body weight, they spun the ladder through the village, stopping when they reached water tower. Gabrielle grabbed the waterspout, grunting as she turned it. It wouldn't budge. Xena took out her sword and knocked it off with a loud shout. Water sprayed out over the city, putting out the fire.
Elissa rode her horse straight through the army, hacking and slicing anything that got in her way. She saw the flames had already licked several roofs in the city and kicked her horse, urging it to go faster. Cassandra's magic wrapped around the Amazon Queen like another layer of armor. Arrows, knives, and swords couldn't penetrate it to harm the small she-devil ravaging their ranks. Elissa smiled, giving thanks to Artemis' spirit for leading her to the blonde witch who was a blessing in disguise.
The fire died just as she reached the city gates, and she swung her horse around to face the approaching army. In her peripheral vision, Elissa saw Xena and Gabrielle rush from the city into battle with the soldiers.
Xena stood surrounded by soldiers firing arrows at her. She dodged most of them, but seemed unphased by the ones that struck true. She fought with her usual skill, a katana in her hand, and slaughtered anyone that came near her. Gabrielle fought further afield, holding her own until she saw what was happening to Xena. She started running to get to her lover's side, realizing what Xena intended and raced to stop her.
Elissa watched the scene unfold, her mother's words ringing in her ears as she raced after her birth mother. She got to Xena before Gabrielle. Pushing the Warrior Princess out of the way, she met the general's sword with her own. Xena screamed with frustration, Gabrielle pulled her away while she watched her daughter fight the general with deadly grace. The bard felt her heart rise into her throat, wondering if one love would be sacrificed to save another.
Xena fought against Gabrielle's surprisingly strong grip. "Let me go, Gabrielle," she bit out through clenched teeth. "Elissa is butting into something that isn't her place. This is what I have to do to set this right. I'm the only one who can set the souls inside Yodoshi free."
"No, Xena, your death won't solve anything. Haven't you learned by now I won't let you go? I love you and will follow you into Hell if I have to, but I don't think that's what this is all about. You aren't the reason Yodoshi took those souls; he is. Don't you understand you've already paid for your past?"
Tears raced down Gabrielle's face as she pleaded with Xena to listen to her. The sounds of battle stopped them from continuing their conversation. Turning back around, they witnessed a change in the general's body. He stood taller while his face slowly morphed into Yodoshi's. The Eater of Souls started laughing, a horrible hollow sound that echoed the tormented souls held prisoner inside him.
Elissa listened carefully, slowly moving closer to the monster before her. She heard Scyleia's soul cry out to her. Scyleia was the youngest to journey with them on the cursed campaign. The happy, excited girl talked the entire way about how she wanted to prove herself to Elissa. A slow heat started to burn inside the blonde Amazon's heart. The flicker became a flame, which turned into a burning intense fire. Elissa melted into a blazing passionate inferno, intent on blasting Yodoshi into a million pieces.
Gabrielle screamed and it was Xena's turn to hold the smaller woman. The remaining soldiers moved back in fear. Yodoshi laughed again, this time in true joy at taking this soul. Its power would make him unstoppable. He would take over the Underworld, and rule those who had refused him admittance. He released the General's body to meet the flaming beauty with his own spirit in the form of an ice dragon. Yodoshi hit Elissa's fire with great gulfs of icy breaths, surprising her by freezing her in place.
Elissa fought to free herself from the icy prison. The wind carried a soft voice to her. "Fire, ice, and the heart of a warrior will set the souls free."
Relaxing her body and mind, the ice melted away. She stood straight and proud, looking the dragon in the eye then laid her sword on the ground.
"I freely give you my life in exchange for the release of the souls you now carry," her voice rang out over the field.
The ice dragon melted back into Yodoshi's form. He looked at her closely, trying to see if she was trying to trick him. He delved into her, searching out the power held within her soul, returning with a euphoric grin on his face. He must have this soul. To have it willingly cede to him, would give him even more power. He could take this soul, and with it easily retrieve all those he had released.
Yodoshi motioned for Elissa to come forward. In his hand was the katana Akemi gave to Xena. She had dropped it, preparing to allow the general to take her head. Now, the Eater of Souls would use it to kill Gabrielle's daughter. Xena watched unsure how this had came about. She should be facing the Eater of Souls, not Elissa. Her actions had caused this, and now Gabrielle was about to lose her daughter again because of her. She had to stop this. Taking a step forward, Xena saw Akemi's sad face staring back at her.
"You must not interfere. It is as I have told you. A warrior's heart is needed to free the souls. Watching and waiting is a true test of who you have become, Xena. Can you do this? Have you truly changed? Will you allow others to do what must be done, or will you race in to change the fate of everyone?"
"Akemi, why did you send for me if you didn't need me to change what happened?"
"But, you can't change what happened, my friend. You can only help what is and what will become. Don't you see what you have become, Xena? That is the lesson; that is the journey."
Cassandra raced her horse around the city, dodging the soldiers like a wraith. She came upon a scene from a nightmare, not sure she would forget it for the rest of her long life. There stood Elissa, one moment bathed in flames like some goddess, and the next frozen in place. Now, she was laying down her sword. What had happened in the short amount of time it took her to catch up to her new friend? Cassandra couldn't believe she would find someone who cared enough about her to die for her, only to lose her so quickly. She wondered about the Amazons Elissa was searching for. Did she find them and did that have something to do with what was happening?
The blonde witch slipped from her horse and quietly walked up to stand beside two women who watched her friend as closely as she did. Not knowing who they were or their intentions toward Elissa, Cassandra pulled on her connection to the Earth, prepared to come to her friend's aide if needed. She watched and waited, trusting in Elissa's judgment, and listened to her words.
"If I willing give you my life, will you release all you hold captive?" Elissa asked again, making sure the Eater of Souls agreed to her offer.
"I will release all the souls in exchange for your life," Yodoshi quickly answered.
He moved closer to her, backing Elissa up to the river's edge, and drew Akemi's katana. He thrust it straight into her heart.
Elissa uttered a soft gasp as the cold steel pierced her heart. She felt her life's blood flow from her as she slowly fell backward into the rushing water.
Yodoshi froze the water to prevent her soul from escaping. Opening his inner self, the trapped souls raced toward freedom. The Eater of Souls stalked his prey; intent on capturing the prized soul that would give him all the power he craved. It would allow him to rule the Underworld. Raising the katana once more, Yodoshi went to break the ice when the released souls attacked. They tore at him with all the fury their souls had held inside for the forty years they lamented within their prison. Yodoshi tried to fight off the spirits, but the steel passed through them with no effect. He screamed as they ripped him into little pieces that blew away on the wind before disappearing.
Cassandra was the first to react. She ran to the river's edge, searching for Elissa's body, but it wasn't there. Frantically she jumped into the racing water, flailing about, trying to find her friend. Two strong arms pulled her back to shore, kicking and screaming.
"Let me go. She has to be there. The water was frozen. She was right there. She was right there," Cassandra whispered her lips already turning blue from the cold water. Someone wrapped a blanket around her, and began rubbing her arms.
"She's gone. Whatever Yodoshi did at the end it took Elissa with him," a sad voice explained.
Cassandra looked up into beautiful blue eyes, a strong face, surrounded by long, luxurious, black hair. "Who are you and why were you just standing there watching? Why didn't you help her?"
"I'm Xena and this is Gabrielle. We couldn't interfere. Elissa chose to offer herself to free the souls. She understood there wasn't any other way, and we have to accept it. That is our burden."
Xena walked away, unsure if she was walking away from her past mistakes or her life with Gabrielle.
"How do you know Elissa?" Gabrielle yearned to follow her lover, but needed to understand the woman who obviously cared for her daughter.
"She saved my life when no one else cared. Do you know if she found her missing sisters?"
"There are Amazons here in Higuchi?" Cassandra nodded at Gabrielle's question. "She didn't get a chance to search. Elissa rode straight into the battle. I'll help you find them and we can send them home for her, if you would like."
Cassandra smiled a soft, wistful smile. "I'd like that - for her."
Her large blue eyes gazed out, once more tracing the river's flow as if she could see the path her friend's body might have taken. Tears fell down her cheeks at the thought she would never get to see that beautiful face again. Elissa was the first person in such a long time to show her kindness. Cassandra knew her feelings for the Amazon Queen had grown into something more within hours of knowing her, but she hid those feeling like she hid most of her feelings. Now, she would never know if the small golden woman she dreamed about each time she closed her eyes would ever feel the same about her. At least she could honor her by finishing her quest, and seeing her sister Amazon returned to their homes.
Gabrielle found Xena in Akemi's house, sitting in the hidden room staring at the small statue. The Warrior Princess' eyes remained closed even though she felt Gabrielle enter the room. The famous Xena who faced gods, fought angels and the Devil himself, was afraid of what this small blonde woman was about to say. If she didn't have to see Gabrielle's face when she told her that she blamed her for Elissa's death, she might survive this.
"Xena, look at me," Gabrielle said softly, placing a hand on Xena's cheek, turning her head to face her.
Large blue eyes gazed into green ones, searching for the rejection and hate they expected. It wasn't there. Tears formed turning the blue into brilliant crystals. Gabrielle's thumbs traced the high cheekbones, smoothing away the tears. After placing gentle kisses on the strong lips, she leaned back to explain what she wanted to do and how she felt about what had happened.
"I told Cassandra we would help find the missing Amazons, and get them back to their tribe. Cassandra wants to go with them. She was in love with Elissa. I don't know if Elissa felt the same way, but I think Cassandra will be good for the tribe." Gabrielle took a deep breath, before she continued. "I know you feel responsible for what happened. Xena, we wouldn't have come here if I hadn't asked you to help me find Elissa. I think it was meant to be this way. We can bring her back, like you did for me. Maybe it was her fate to help release those souls. I heard her call out to one of the souls. It was why she became so angry. I can go to the Amazon burial ground and retrieve my daughter's soul. With your help, I know we can get her back."
Xena remembered Akemi's words about having to accept what was happening.
"We can't do that, Gabrielle. Even though the souls have been released, if the sacrifice is disturbed they won't find peace. We can't bring her back or she died for nothing. It will dishonor everything she did, and what she lived and died for."
Gabrielle broke into great wracking sobs. Xena gathered her close in her arms, rocking her like a baby, while she brushed light kisses on the crown of her head.
"We will mourn her and learn to live with what happened here. I promise to never leave you, in life or in death, I'll always be here. You're my soulmate, Gabrielle. I don't know what I'd do if you ever turned away from me. I love you with everything I am."
Gabrielle tipped her head back; her arm snaked up around Xena's neck to pull her down for a loving kiss.
"I'll never turn away from you. When will you understand that? I'm yours now and forever."
Cassandra stood on the bow of a boat with five other Amazons. They looked out at the island that held such terrible memories for them. It was also Elissa's burial ground. A memorial service was put together the day after locating the last remaining Amazon. Each member felt Elissa's loss, and it was a somber affair.
Xena and Gabrielle attended; each placing flower wreathes in the water. They said a silent prayer for the Amazon Queen's soul, before walking away. The Amazons did not welcome the two warriors into their fold, and refused to continue the ceremony until they left.
Cassandra felt unsure about boarding the ship. A prick at the back of her mind kept telling her she was forgetting something, something important, but she couldn't figure out what it was. Reluctantly, the blonde witch joined the others; she watched the island until it faded from sight. She never told the others she had dreams where she saw Elissa alive, fighting, and laughing. Cassandra thought this time it was her heart ruling her head, rather than the prophetic dreams that had followed her throughout her life.
Xena and Gabrielle sailed around Jappa's outer edge into the open sea. They breathed in the salty air then turned to smile at each other.
Sighing in relief to be away from the small isle, Gabrielle broached the subject first. "Where do you want to go?"
Xena brushed the hair away from Gabrielle's face. "You pick this time."
"What about the land of the Pharaohs. I hear they need a girl with a chakram."
"Wherever you go, I'm always at your side."
"I knew you'd say that," Gabrielle happily replied.
They turned to watch the dolphins jump near the boar. Their arms wrapped around each other, knowing they could face anything as long as they did it together.
A monk went to the river to gather water and found a woman's battered body. It was obvious she had died in battle. He didn't know her name or her beliefs, but felt it only honorable to give her a proper burial.
The monk gently placed her under the largest tree in the monastery gardens. He placed smooth stones from the riverbed over her body to protect her from spirits and predators. After properly covering the body, the monk sat beside the grave placing incense and prayer beads around it for further protection and to guide the soul on its journey.
He sat for hours saying prayers for the poor warrior, who he believed in his heart must have fought valiantly. The monk silently left the garden, feeling he had done everything he could to hasten the warrior's soul on its journey.
He didn't see the rocks start to move, or the small hand that broke through the carefully constructed grave. The End
ANOTE: This is the first story in a series, which will explain where Slayers and Immortals come from. It will start from the past and work its way toward modern day Buffy's time in Sunnydale.