Disclaimers

Violence: Of course there is violence in this, its Xena Warrior Princess.

Copyright: Xena, Gabrielle, Melinda Pappas, Janice Covington, Argo, Velasca, and the Amazons all are owned by Universal/MCA and Renaissance Pictures.

Subtext: There is love between two women which if offends you, then don’t read this story.

 

Author's Notes: Just to let everybody know, this version of The Return is a revised copy. My original had grammar and spelling mistakes up the wazoo. I couldn't let that original be floating around because it was so horrific. Not only was my grammar and spelling nasty but some of my characterization was bad as well. So I've redone that and taken out one little scene which some of you can live without, hehe. I hope this reads better for everybody!

-Red Hope

 

Feedback: redhope@redhope.net

Webpage: http://www.redhope.net

 

Started: May 23, 1999 Sunday

Revised: July 4, 2003 Saturday

 

Series 1: The Binding of the Soulmates of Time           Series Number: 1                                Story Number: 1

 

 

The Return

by Red Hope

 

Section One

~*Part 1*~

Melinda Pappas looked around again at her surroundings adjusting to the darkness; she saw that the two men held sharp and large knives very tightly pointed in her direction. She was wide eyed at the sight of these two men each holding a knife. Before Melinda could react or say anything one quickly came up to her and placed one hand over her mouth and the knife across her throat. Mel froze in place not wanting the knife to move any closer to her neck.

"Miss Pappas we recommend that you don't make any moves or peeps. Got that?" hissed the man with a hint of alcohol on his breath.

The southerner lightly nodded her understanding; fear was coursing through her body.

"Good! Now my friend and I will teach you what it's like to be really fucked. Not by some stupid dyke! Such a waste too."

The second man put away his knife in his pocket and grabbed a rope that was hidden behind a table. The only thing Melinda could think of was that she wished Janice was here to save her. God Janice where are you? I need you! Help! Melinda continued to scream for Janice in her head hoping that some how Janice would hear her.

~*~*~*~

Janice tried her best to keep her speed down on her bike, remembering her promise to Mel. All of a sudden something seemed to hit Janice, but not physically. She quickly turned off the road and on to the shoulder into the grass, stopping the bike quickly. She then started to feel fear spreading through her body and goosebumps spreading up her body. She knew immediately that something was wrong and it had to do with her soulmate. She checked on her left side to make sure her revolver was in its holster; thankfully it was where she left it as was her whip. She headed back on the road, going at a fast speed.

By god, Mel better be alright or I'm gonna kill whoever or whatever is hurting her! Janice tried to keep her anger down to a minimum but was having a hard time. She loved Melinda more than any thing else; she would give up her life and soul for her partner. As Janice was nearing the camp, she could feel that fear becoming stronger with every passing second. The archeologist was very worried about her lover, hoping that this was just a freak thing, but she knew that it really wasn't and that Melinda was in danger.

~*~*~*~

Melinda continued to scream for help in her mind. Now the two men had her tied up and gagged to a post in the center of the medical tent. One man stood relatively close to the tent flap of the entrance, keeping an ear open for any approaching "visitors." The second man who had talked to her earlier was double-checking the knots that he had just tied, with his knife still in his right hand. Being happy with his tying job the big built man came around to the front of the southerner, he grinned wickedly at Melinda. The tall raven-haired women could feel a shiver rush down her spine ending with goosebumps. Now she became even more scared and worried, she knew what exactly was going to happen but was still hoping that her lover would show up.

The man slowly walked up to her still evilly grinning at Mel. "Now bitch, its time to show you what sex is really about." The large man then reached up and began to quickly un-button Mel's white blouse. After making quick work of the blue eyed women's blouse, the man push Melinda's blouse back and reached behind her, unhooking her bra. Then with his knife he cut off the small bra straps on the arms, revealing immediately Mel's perfectly round breasts. The big built man grinned wickedly and noticed the intense fear in Mel's eyes making him even more aroused at her weakening. As he was about ready to reach for Mel's breasts, he heard a motorcycle coming into the camp at a high speed. He glared at raven-haired women and began walking away from her.

"Be right back bitch, don't go any where" the man lightly laughed at his own dumb joke. He joined his friend at the entrance to the tent. The smaller man kept his knife at the ready waiting to see if anybody would come to the tent. The taller man then reached on the table and grabbed his gun and checked to make sure it was loaded, which it was. Mel's heart was racing; she began to wonder if that was Janice outside, who else owned a bike? She began to pray that it was Janice and that she would find her.

~*~*~*~

Janice jumped off her bike quickly not worried about it. Her heart was racing, she knew for sure that Mel was in danger. She reached for her gun and pulled it out of its holster. The archeologist then looked around at the camp, everything was quiet and she figured that everybody was asleep. She wasn't sure where to go, then she spotted the medical tent, for some reason she knew that’s where Mel was. She broke into a fast sprint, heading to the other side of the camp; she kept her gun at the ready, her senses alive and at their peak. As she neared the tent, she couldn't hear anything out of the ordinary. But she could just feel Mel's presence within the tent and telling her that Mel was scared out of her wits about something. As she neared the tent she slowed up, something warning her that there was danger within and to be careful.

~*~*~*~

The two men within the tent had heard the fast movement of somebody outside. But it seemed that it stopped all of a sudden once it neared this side of the camp. They began to worry a little, wondering if somebody knew of their presence within.

Mel also had heard the sound of somebody running in their direction, and for some reason Mel knew it was Janice. Her heart was still racing, she wasn't sure though if it was because of the men or Janice's nearing. Her hopes began to heighten, but she was worried that the two men would surprise Janice and end up hurting or killing her. Damn, she wished she could think of a way to warn her lover.

Just then Mel noticed that something was moving in the back of the tent. She kept a close eye on the movement not sure of what it was. Slowly and quietly a form began to appear from behind a crate where the movement was earlier. All of a sudden Mel recognized a hat, a bit of a form of a whip on the left side, and a gun lightly sticking out, she knew then that it was Janice. She began to feel safe, but was still worried that the men might catch Janice off guard.

Janice noticed that Mel's blouse was pushed back and that her bra had been removed, she could also see the fear held with in Mel's sky blue eyes. Anger was surging through Janice by now, all she could think of doing was killing these two men for what they have and were going to do to her lover. She took a few seconds to gain control over her anger, slowly and quietly she creeped behind the crates nearing closer to the two men.

"Hmmm what you think?" Asked the smaller man. The other man didn't say anything at first and listened a little longer.

"I don't know. I'm tempted to check outside, but then if their out there they might spot us" The man stopped and thought for a second. He figured if he kept to the shadows he wouldn't be spotted. "Look I'm going to go out there and find out who that is and where they're headed. Stay in here and stay close to the bitch. If I don't come back get your butt out here! But of course if they come in here, ya might wanna consider using her as a hostage" He began to walk out and then turned back to the smaller man. "And oh if you do leave if I'm not back in ten minutes, kill her" The man ended that with a snarl and eyed the young women tied up and head out the tent cautiously. The smaller man watched as his friend head outside and then walked up to Mel, he stared at her and noticed the fear written all over her face, he grinned. As he began to reach up to caress Mel's face, he felt a gun to his back.

"Don't even think of putting your filthy slimy hands on her" Snarled Janice. "Boy you and your friend are some sick puppies" As Janice finish those words with a small push of her gun into the small man's back. The man gritted his teeth, looked up at Mel with hatred eyes and replied back to Janice.

"Not as sick as you are and your bitch. You dykes need to be taught a lesson and put in your place, you make us normal straight people sick!" Spat the man with anger spilling within his words. With his last word Janice lost her control over her anger and slammed the man over the head with her gun. He fell hard to the ground, blood seeping over his head. Janice glared down at the man, and kicked him hard in the gut.

"Bastard" Was all Janice could say. She then looked up at Mel and saw all of Mel's fear, Janice's heart shattered into pieces at the sight of her lover. She was about to reach up to Mel, when she jerked her head to the right to hear the sound of feet coming towards the tent. The archeologist held her gun up near her face and ran over to the entrance of the tent and hid near it, but out of site. The taller man stepped in and spotted his friend on the ground. He cursed under his breath, then as he spun around to look at his surroundings he found a gun aimed right at his face. Janice narrowed her eyes and glared hard at the man.

"Drop the gun you prick!" At those words the man drop his gun and growled at Janice, annoyed at himself for not being careful. The blonde then smashed the taller guy in the groin, making him double over in pain. Once he did this Janice nailed him too over the head hard with her gun, making him fall to the ground in a heap. Janice looked down at that sickening man and cocked her gun. Janice then hear a small mumbled, looking up, sky blue eyes met with sea-green eyes for what seemed like eternity. Mel begged Janice not to kill the man with her eyes.

The smaller women put her safety back on and placed her gun back in her holster. Looking over at the table the archeologist was seeking out something. Finding what she needed she grabbed the two seringe needles off the medical table and extra rope on the ground. She got down on one knee and jabbed one needle into the big man's arm, secreting the chemical within the needle into the big man. After that she tied his legs and arms tight making sure the knots wouldn't budge. She then got up and went over to the other but smaller man and did the same process. Janice knew that the chemicals within the needles should keep the two men out till the authorities find them in the morning.

After dealing with the two men, she looked up at Mel, who was scared and the fighting had taken a toll on her making her look exhausted. Janice reached in her pocket and pulled out her knife in her right hand, she then leaned down and cut the ropes around Mel's legs. Standing back up Janice removed the gag and buttoned every other button on Mel's blouse. Neither of them said anything, the smaller women comforting Mel with her eyes. Reaching up Janice carefully cut the rope binding Mel's hand's to the post, taking extra care not to cut the tall women's hands. Once the ropes were cut and fell to the ground, Mel fell into Janice. The archeologist quickly wrapped her left arm around Mel and put her knife back in her pocket with her right hand. Then with all her strength that she didn't even knew existed within her, she lift Melinda up into her arms and held her close. Janice could feel Mel shaking uncontrollably in her arms, making the blond tightening her arms more around the women. The short women could still feel the anger tearing through her body, fighting hard to control it as she walked back to their tent with Mel tightly still in her arms.

Once they reached their tent, Janice carefully laid Mel on their bed, who was still shaking some from what happened earlier. The archeologist quickly discarded her gun and whip close by the bed, not feeling safe at all, then taking her boots off quickly and hat with jacket. She crawled into the bed and wrapped her arms around the raven-haired women, one across her breasts and the other around her waist. Pulling Mel in close holding her tight, they both began to cry themselves to sleep both feeling the same pain.

~*Part 2*~

Slowly but surely the sun began to sneak into the lover's tent through the crack of the flap. Melinda began to slowly wake up; all her memories from last night came flooding back into her mind. Janice woke up from Mel lightly stirring in her arms, instantly the archeologist tightened her arms around Mel. At the feel of her lovers arms tightening, she turned in Janice's arms staring straight into sea-green eyes. Janice lightly smiled glad to see the twinkle back in Mel's eyes but not completely. Janice moved her hand that was on top of Mel's side and caressed Mel's face, making the taller women smile at the feel of her lover's protective hand.

"How are you feeling?" Wondered the concern Janice who was still caressing Mel's face. The southerner smiled and realized she felt a lot better now that she was with her soulmate.

"I feel a lot better then what I did last night, especially since I'm safely wrapped up in your arms" Mel leaned in and kissed Janice on the forehead causing a large smile to appear on the archeologist's face. "Thank you for saving me, Janice. I was really scared, but I knew you would come….could feel it" Janice held her smile for only a second longer then it turned into a frown.

"I'm really sorry Mel that I didn't get there sooner. For some reason I knew I shouldn't of left last night, I'm really sorry I did that to you" After Janice finished those words, she could see Mel's eyes turn serious along with her expression. Then in her best southern belle accent she replied to the smaller woman.

"Doctor Janice Covington, you had no idea that was going to happen to me last night. And besides you can't hang around me all the time to protect me. So you better damn well not feel guilt about last night, that wasn't your fault at all" Mel slightly began to grin. "To see you last night in the shadows was like seeing my knight in shining armor" Mel lightly chuckled at that thought, making Janice grin. Janice then looked down at herself curiously.

"Knight in shining armor huh? I don't see where you get that one….I'm not shining one bit" Janice laughed at that remark and grinned back at Mel who was also laughing lightly. The archeologist was happy to see her lover laughing some, making them both feel more relaxed.

"Well I would say you surprised those two guys, don't think they were expecting some small women to sneak up on them like that" Mel kept smiling which in turned kept Janice smiling. But Janice couldn't help but want to still kill those guys for what they did to Mel. She knew well enough that last night will leave a mark on Mel mentally, she just wish she could make all the pain and memories just disappear. But the smaller women knew that could never happen and just had to comfort the women as best as she could.

Janice and Mel both didn't say anything for a few more minutes and just absorbed their closeness, neither wanted to separate from their position.

"Mel, you think you can maybe sit up and I'll go get us something to eat? Or would you rather have me stay?" After Janice finished her words, the archeologist's stomach made it's presence well known, Mel laughed quietly at the rumbling coming from Janice's stomach, Janice though just grinned.

"I think you better go get something to eat for us and your stomach" With a playful and light slap to Mel's arm, Janice got up. She was about to reach for her gun then decided against it and just grabbed her whip, hat, and quickly laced her boots back on. She wanted to let Mel feel somewhat safe and she knew Mel could use a gun if necessary. As she started to head out the tent, she looked back at her soulmate smiling sweetly to her. She then walked out into the early morning and stretched a little, Janice then stole a quick glance over at the medical tent. Guess I should let somebody know about those jerks while I'm up and about. Damn I wanna kill those bastards. Janice gritted her teeth and held herself together and walked over to the tent where the kitchen was located.

~*~*~*~

Back inside the tent, Mel was stretching her leg and arms out. She then walked over to the left side of the tent where her and Janice's cloths were set aside. She was about to take her blouse off, but some of her memories came full speed back to her, the look of the taller man's face with the smirk. She thought at that sight she was going to be sick, taking a second to control her emotions before going back to changing. Melinda Pappas, you need to control these feelings and memories, other wise your lover will be worried sick to death about you. Mel sighed at this thought and continued to rummage through her cloths, looking for something comfortable to wear.

~*~*~*~

Janice was slowly headed back to the tent with an armload of food in her arms. Well it seemed that her two favorite guys would soon be towed off to jail by the local authorities, she still wanted to kill them though! As she neared her tent, she thought she heard sobs coming from within. She automatically picked up her pace and jogged into her tent and spotted Mel in a heap on the edge of the bed crying. Janice quickly placed the tray of food on top of the trunk next to her, and raced over to Mel and cradled Mel in her arms. Sitting behind Mel, and lightly rocking her back and forth in her arms, Janice began to worry about her soulmate.

"Hey I'm here Mel. It's all right. Try not to think about it" Janice nuzzled her face lightly into Mel's left shoulder, trying to hold back her own tears. Mel all of a sudden turned around in Janice's arms and hugged her tightly. The archeologist couldn't hold her tears back any more, and began to cry along with Mel.

The tall women fought hard to gain control over her emotions. With Janice still whispering words of comfort into her ears and the pure touch of her soulmate, began to pull her back. She began to stop crying and pulled back enough to look into Janice's eyes. She smiled at Janice, who right away started to kiss Mel's tears away. Mel went back into the embrace and hugged the smaller women again, wishing she didn't have to ever let go.

Once Mel felt secure once again, she got up out of Janice's embrace reluctantly. Janice knew where Mel was head and so got more situate-a-weighted in the middle of the bed, as Mel brought the tray of food over to her. They both sat in the middle of the bed, eating whatever looked and tasted good, which Mel had to admit was just about anything there. The raven-haired women then looked up at her soulmate and decided she owed her an explanation to what happened to her.

"Sorry about that back there Janice. While you were gone I was trying to get change……and well when I was about ready to remove my blouse, all the memories came rushing back" Mel finish her explanation with a sigh and a frown. Janice reached up and caressed Mel's face, making Mel lean more into Janice's touch.

"Its all right, I didn't need an explanation….had an idea as to what happened. Just take your time with this okay? I know it'll be hard, but I'm here for you every step of the way Mel" Janice finished her words with a smile and caring eyes. Janice then pushed aside the tray and rearranged herself so that she sat behind Mel. The archeologist then placed her hands on Mel's shoulders and began to massage them; she then slowly worked her way down Mel's back. Janice could feel all the tension in Mel's muscles, making her a little worried. As she worked her way down, Mel sighed and reveled in the feeling of her lover and the massage and leaned more into Janice causing Janice to grin a little. As Janice worked on the massage she debated as whether or not to tell Mel about the guys.

"Well it seems like our boys from last night are going to be picked up by the local authorities and then go from there"

"Mmmm I hope they get a lot of shit for what they did" Mel then realized that she just cursed and began to blush as well as giggle. Janice chuckled a little.

"Now Miss Melinda Pappas there will be no swearing in this tent" Mel then lightly elbowed the archeologist in the stomach. "Uh huh what happen to my proper southern belle?" Mel then laughed at Janice's question.

"Well I think a certain Doctor has corrupted me….but we will leave her name-less to spare her" Mel finished with a smirk forming. But as Janice made her way down Mel's back and made it to her destination, she began to tickle Mel. Mel busted out laughing and giggle uncontrollably, she then fell on her stomach on the bed and turn over on her back thrashing under the small blond.

"A certain Doctor eh? Name less? To spare her? Hmmm well see about that one" Janice continued her assault on the tall women tickling her till she was teary eyed.

"Oh please Janice, I can't take much……more. Sorry I….couldn't help…that one. I'm sorry please stop" Janice automatically stopped her assault as she heard Mel finish begging. Mel then took a few minutes to catch her breath and stop laughing. Janice looked deeply into Mel's eyes and saw Mel's entire twinkle came back making her smile. Lying down on top of the southerner, Janice placed a kiss on Mel's left cheek and smiled down at her. The taller women looked up into very soft and loving eyes. She then reached up behind Janice's head and pulled her into a deep and passionate kiss, expressing all the love she held for this woman. After about a minute they broke for air, Janice began to feel her desires burn in her stomach. She then looked down into Mel's eyes and saw there was desire and passion were held within them. She lowered her head down into Mel's neck and began to softly kiss the southerner's neck; Mel in return let out a soft moan. Janice then all of a sudden stopped and looked at Mel worried about last night.

"Are you sure you want to do this Mel? After last night and everything" Wondered the archeologist with concerned eyes and voice. Mel smiled up at Janice with passion and desire still burning in her eyes. Huskily she replied back to Janice.

"Yes, I want to feel like you own me, like you always do" Janice wickedly grinned back down at her soulmate.

"Well if it's to much for you or you just want to stop, just say the word okay?" Mel nodded to this and held her smile. She then went back to Mel's neck and kissed her softly starting at the top and slowly coming down her neck.

~*~*~*~

"Get some sleep" Mel smiled and thought about it for a minute and then decided not to fight her lover and she had to admit she was a bit exhausted. She then snuggled in even closer to the blond and laid one leg over top of Janice's legs intertwining them.

Mel then reached for the necklace that was around Janice's neck. A necklace much like Mel had on, the same design, and at one time their ancestor's wore. Both Xena and Gabrielle had exchanged necklaces after finding one anther's love for each other. Now Xena and Gabrielle's descendants wore their necklaces symbolizing now their love for each other. Mel wore Xena's sea green necklace, while the archeologist wore Gabrielle's intense sky blue necklace.

Janice and Mel last month were in northeastern Greece by the Strymon River searching for Amphipolis, they had found Xena's home village as well as the tombs of Xena and Gabrielle. But the only thing was the actual sarcophagus was gone only leaving scratch marks leading out of the tomb but yet all the artifacts were left behind. Janice and Mel both wanted to despartly know what happened to the reminisce of their ancestors, Janice believe they might of possible been move to Poteidaia. So now with the help of the University of South Carolina and a little of Mel's own money they are now following Gabrielle's description of how to get to Poteidaia from Amphipolis.

The artifacts that were found within the tomb were all in good condition, considering the time period they were from. The archeologist had decided since the tomb was air tight that it kept the artifacts from decaying in time. But the most intriguing thing that they found was Xena and Gabrielle's necklaces representing their love for each other. Mel had suggested to the blond that they claim Xena and Gabrielle's necklaces, instead of letting them end up in the museum to collect dust. That night after claiming them, Janice and Mel had exchanged necklaces just as their ancestors did once long ago.

Suddenly bringing Mel out of her thinking was Janice's hand over hers. Mel was still grasping the necklace around the archeologist's neck. The shorter women lightly squeezed Mel's hand, making Mel smile. The archeologist then opened her eyes and leaned in to softly kiss Mel, then she began to caress the left side of Mel's face.

"Get some sleep Mel, you look very worn out" the southerner carefully released Janice's necklace and came in closer, wrapping her free arm tightly around Janice. Both Mel and Janice fell into a long, deep sleep absorbing each other's closeness and protection.

~*Part 3*~

Janice was the first to wake up, mostly due to the sound of shovels and talking going on outside in the dig sites. The archeologist didn't open her eyes immediately, she just concentrated on her surroundings and feelings, relishing in the feel of her lover on her.

Janice was worried about Mel, she wasn't sure exactly how her soulmate felt about staying here in Greece and continue looking for Poteidaia. Janice desperately wanted to see the relics of her ancestor and hopefully their bodies. But didn't want to put Mel through any thing that would be hard on her part. Well I guess the best thing to do is see how she feels about this whole thing. After that last thought Janice felt the blue eyed women stir in her arms. Mel grinned knowing her soulmate was up, but was keeping her eyes closed. Mel leaned her head in and kissed Janice passionately, exploring Janice's mouth. After finally breaking for air, Janice's eyes shot open with the look of surprise on her face.

"Caught y'all didn't I? Can't pretend to sleep on me Doctor Covington, I know you to well" Janice lightly snickered at Mel's statement.

"Yeah caught me red handed…the Yankee. How did you sleep? We both slept pretty long, its late afternoon right now" the taller women grinned back at Janice.

"Slept really well, feel refreshed thankfully" Janice smiled at that, happy to hear Mel was feeling better.

"How about we get up and see what's happening out there? We haven't really made much of an appearance all day, they might think we ran off with each other" They both chuckled at that, then thinking how much they would actually love to do that with each other, nobody to harass them. Janice reluctantly climbed out of Mel's arms and legs and gathered her cloths that had been thrown all over the tent. Mel then slowly climbed up out of the bed and stretched her muscles, which drew attention from Janice. The archeologist came up behind Mel in her bra and pants on, lightly wrapping her arms around Mel's stomach, pulling the tall nude women into her embrace.

"Do you feel comfortable going out right now?" Mel just nodded and took a deep breath. Janice brought her head up and began to kiss Mel's shoulders lightly, which caused a shiver to run down Mel's back. "Don't worry, I'll be right by your side" Just that small statement made Mel smile, making her feel more at ease. Janice then let go of Mel and began to search around the tent for her shirt. Mel on the other hand went over to where her cloths were, she pulled out a light sky blue shirt and another clean pair of khaki pants along with her underwear.

After looking around the tent for her shirt, Janice was buttoning it up while sitting on the edge of the bed, admiring Mel's body as it flexed to put on the clothes.

"Mel, you never did tell me why you went to the medical tent in the first place last night" the southerner didn't reply right away and finished up buttoning her shirt then turning to her lover.

"Well remember that cut I had gotten on my leg from digging yesterday?" Janice nodded while still finishing up buttoning her shirt. "Well, I was headed to the medical tent to get something to clean up the cut and of course we know the rest" Janice lightly frowned and got up off the bed starting another search, but for her boots this time. That’s weird how those two guys happened to know exactly when and where Mel was? After that thought Janice spotted her boots and quickly she laced them up quickly eyeing Mel as she did the same thing. After lacing her shorter boots on, Mel decided to roll up her sleeves too since things seemed a bit hot.

"You ready sweetheart?" Asked Janice while grabbing her hat and placing her gun in her holster and attaching her whip to her left side. Mel looked up to the archeologist and smiled with a nod. The blond then leaned up and lightly kissed Mel on the lip sending small waves of desires through their bodies. As the walked out of the tent, Mel noticed how the archeologist's facial expression went from soft and caring to hard as nails with cold eyes. The southerner knew every time Janice went out into the open around people she didn't know, she would automatically make her expression hard to protect herself and Mel.

The smaller women scanned around the camp watching as the people moved about doing their jobs. She then looked up at Mel and smiled warmly, making Mel's knee's weaken. Janice then nodded towards the actual dig site.

"We better head over there and see if they found any thing new" Silently Mel and Janice walked over to where the dig site. Janice was keeping a closer watch over the people around her, as well as walking quiet close to Mel as if she were Mel's guard dog. The southerner had to grin lightly at this site; she loved it when the smaller women kept a close eye out for her.

As they neared the site, Mel and Janice could see all the workers taking special care in their digging habits as Janice ordered. Quickly the archaeologist scanned the dig site for her second in charge, Vanessa Tagger. Mel had recommended Vanessa to her lover for this dig, Mel believed Vanessa had a lot to offer in the way of archaeology. At first Janice was skeptical about letting a somebody new to archaeology on her dig. But after much persuasion, convincing, and a few magically looks and words, Mel was about to get Janice agree to letting her be second in charge. The blond had to admit that Vanessa knew her stuff, she seemed to be able to take charge of the workers easily and was easy to get along with. But the archaeologist had shivers running down her spine every time she came close to Vanessa or looked at Vanessa and she had no idea as to why and didn't care to admit to them. Janice has been for the better part of the time keeping a close eye on Vanessa, she like her skills, but a gut feeling told the archaeologist that something about her wasn't good at all.

"Vanessa!" Janice was still scanning the site, as was Mel. Mel then pointed to the right.

"There she is Janice, buried in dirt" Mel lightly giggled at seeing Vanessa dirty look, Mel knew that Vanessa enjoyed digging.

Once Vanessa heard her name she had brought her head up to where she thought she heard her name being yelled. Spotting Janice and Mel, she quickly got up off her hands and knee's and jogged up to them. Wiping the dirt of her hands and then rubbing her face on her sleeve to get rid of the dirt on her face.

"Hi, Doctor Covington and Miss Pappas. How are you two?" Finished Vanessa with a smile. Then right on the button, a shiver went down Janice spine and ending with goosebumps. Smiling back up at Vanessa.

"We are great Vanessa. Have you found anything new in the dig?" Losing her smile quickly Vanessa turned to where she was last digging then turned back to Janice and Mel.

"Yes, it’s not what we expect at all to find Doctor Covington" Janice curiously looked up at Vanessa, the question clear in her facial expression. "Doctor Covington, I don't think I can really explain it to well without you actually seeing it yourself. Here follow me, and I'll show you what we found" Turning back to the dig Vanessa began to head back to where she previously was. Mel and Janice gave each other curious and worried looks then followed behind Vanessa.

After making their way through the dig site not tripping over the workers and tools, they made it to the other side. Vanessa walked up slowly to where she was earlier and bent down pointing to a black patch of ground. "Doctor Covington, from what I've noticed, I think these are indications of a fire" Janice looked up at Vanessa then back down at the dark patch on the very edge of the dig site. Reaching down the archaeologist removed some the burnt looking dirt and rubbed it in her fingers. Janice could feel it was wood, what was left of it, and definitely burnt. Slowly bringing it up to her nose, the blond could certainly smell a hint of fire to it.

"Shit!" After saying that Janice throw down reminisce of the burnt wood to the ground. Looking back at Vanessa. "Just find this?" Vanessa lightly nodded. "I don't like this one bit. If this is Poteidaia's entrance" Frowning, Mel too reached down and grabbed a bit of the burnt wood and smelling it and caught the smell of fire as well. Then looking back up to Janice while still frowning.

"Janice, you think Poteidaia might have been burned?" Janice didn't say anything at first and looked back down at the dark line running along the dig site's ledge indicating a fire. Finally looking back up at Mel, with a sad face.

"Its possible Mel" Janice then turned back to the dig site ledge and pointed to the dark line running along the ledge. "We need to dig more into Poteidaia to be sure that it was burnt and how much of it really was. Vanessa how long do you think it might be till, we can be sure that Poteidaia was burned down, or that is just had a small fire in its history?" Vanessa didn't respond right away and thought about her answer for a second then looked straight at Janice.

"I think if we have all the workers on this, then it would take about two days tops. I mean the ground is pretty loose, so it wont be to hard to dig the dirt up" Janice nodded.

"Great, go ahead and have the workers take the rest of the day off and tell them they have two hard days coming up starting tomorrow" Vanessa lightly smiled and headed off to report to the other workers of their duties. Janice looked back at the burnt wood, for some reason Janice had a huge wave of depression hit her. The archeologist thought she was about ready to cry but wasn't sure exactly as to why. As if sensing her lover's distress, Mel pulled Janice into her arms not caring what others thought about the scene.

"Maybe it was just a small fire Janice" Janice shook her head lightly while still in Mel's arms.

"No it wasn't Mel" Mel looked down at Janice with confused eyes.

"How can you be sure, ya'll haven't even gotten enough evidence to be able to tell yet?"

"I don't know why Mel, but I just know that it wasn't just a small fire, I think Poteidaia was completely burnt to the ground"

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Velasca glared hard at the other god, she hates this but she was free from the lava pit to take her revenge.

"Velasca you owe me a favor for my helping you get out of that lava pit. Any problems with that?" Velasca didn't say anything and just nodded in reply. "Good, I know how much you want to get back at Gabrielle, so that makes things for me easy. I want you to go head and find that little brat and kill her for me, but leave Xena alone and un-harmed. And make sure Xena sees that irritating blond die right in front of her. Got it?" Velasca grinned liking her deal that she just made with the God of War.

"I think I can handle that Ares" Ares lightly smiled and watched Velasca head off on her mission. Content for now at what he has accomplished Ares left the ruins and head back to Olympus to watch things unfold.

~*~*~*~

The warrior looked up the steps and yelled to her soulmate "Gabrielle you ready?" With no response Xena was about ready to climb the stairs when she heard familiar feet coming from a top. Smiling down at the taller women, Gabrielle came down the stairs at a fast pace with her staff in her right hand and her scrolls in their satchel on her left shoulder. Reaching the last step Gabrielle leaned in and kissed Xena lovingly and then hopped off the last step into Xena's arms and smiling up at the warrior.

"Sorry I took so long, we ready to go?" Looking down at her bard Xena smiled back warmly and nodded. Wrapping one arm behind Gabrielle, they turned and headed out of the inn. "I can't wait to see Cyrene, its been a while since we seen your mom" The raven-haired didn't say anything at first but reached for Gabrielle's satchel placing up with the saddle.

"Yeah it's been a while for sure, be good to see Mother. I know she'll be really happy to see you" After finish that, Xena got up on Argo and set her reigns in her hands. "Do you want to ride up here with me today?" At first the bard was about ready to object, but then thought about being wrapped up in the warrior's arms and couldn't resist.

"Only if I get to ride in the front. Deal?" Gabrielle looked evilly up at her soulmate, who grinned down at her and offered her hand to the bard. Reaching for the ex-warlords hand, Gabrielle was hoisted up in front of Xena. "Thanks Xena" In response the warrior wrapped her right arm around Gabrielle's waist and squeezed a little, pulling Gabrielle in closer. Xena then kicked Argo into a fast trot heading towards Amphipolis. "Xena, you think it’s a good idea that we go to Amphipolis, before going to Poteidaia? I mean we told the Amazons we were headed to Poteidaia before Amphipolis, what if an emergency comes up?" Thinking for a minute not sure what to say exactly, Xena tried to come up with a simple response.

"I don't think anything will happen really Gabrielle, and when we left the Amazon Nation everything seemed fine, no problems. And we both know how resourceful the Amazons are, they'll find us if something comes up" Gabrielle lightly nodded still a bit worried, but had to agree with her warrior.

"Yeah your right, I guess I'm just worried that’s all, after Velasca and everything" At the sound of hearing Velasca's name Xena tighten her grip around Gabrielle, knowing that Velasca brought back bad memories for the bard.

"You have every right to be concern. You are their Queen, who is looking out for the nation's well being" Smiling lightly Gabrielle had to agree, she was happy though that her people all sided with her once Velasca was shown to be evil. Even more so, Gabrielle had found her warrior, once Xena had returned that night the warrior and bard laid in bed both crying in each other's arms. Both had thought they lost the other, Gabrielle especially thought she had lost the warrior. Xena and Gabrielle both that night had finally realized how much the other meant to them. Since Xena confessed her loved for the bard, she has had no regrets about telling the young women, her fear of losing Gabrielle vanished the second the bard pulled her into a loving and passionate kiss. The next night, the bard and Xena had exchanged necklaces that they received from the Amazons solely for this purpose.

The necklaces that were exchanged to the other were magnificent necklaces with detailed work, both the same designs with only one difference. At the center of each necklace was a gem, on the necklace Xena received, was a intense sea green necklace that gleamed and sparkled when light landed on it, the gem center was a circular shaped emerald. The necklace the bard received from Xena's contained a sky blue sapphire at the center, which matched Xena's extreme blue eyes perfectly. Both were surrounded by Xena's chakram design, then Gabrielle's staff top and bottom was placed a skew through the necklace. The top half was attached at the up right and the bottom part of the staff was at the bottom left. From then on Xena and the bard wore the necklaces they exchanged neither ever removed their necklace.

After remembering those two nights, Gabrielle rests back into Xena who enjoyed the bard's body. For most of the ride to Amphipolis, Xena and Gabrielle rode in silence relishing the other's closeness.

~*~*~*~

Quickly Velasca headed to the Amazon village to find out where her prey was or headed too. Finally reaching the outskirts of the Amazon Nation, Velasca took a few seconds to decide what to do.

"Mmm, think I might just go in there as noticed as possible demanding the Queen, sounds like a good plan" Lightly laughing, Velasca turned into a whirling tornado and headed into the Amazon Nation.

~*~*~*~

For once the regent could find some rest and peace, happy at that thought Ephiny began to relax more in the hottub. Ephiny couldn't believe that her Queen and Xena had finally realized their love. Geez if they took any longer in figuring it out, I would of yelled at them. Thinking about that thought and site, Ephiny had to grin and wryly chuckle. She had to admit they make a great pair when it comes to anything, one always there for the other. Xena and Gabrielle both had expressed to Ephiny that they didn't want the Amazon Nation knowing about them just qite yet. The bard wanted more time to get to know their relationship, as did the ex-warlord want to get adjusted to their newfound relationship. Ephiny didn't know how she was going to keep it a secret; it was too obvious to the rest of the nation that Xena and Gabrielle were soulmates.

Sinking more into the hottub the regent began to let her muscles loosen in the warm water. For some reason Ephiny could swear she heard people yelling outside, but just thought it was her mind playing tricks. Then out of no where, a large log came flying into the hut in front of Ephiny landing inches to the right, away from the tub. Jumping quickly out of the tub, Ephiny threw on her Amazon cloths and grab her sword, charging out of the hut. As soon as the regent made her way out of the tent, Velasca step up to her with gleaming eyes. Gritting her teeth Ephiny took notice to Velasca with a growl.

"Velasca! What in Hades are you doing here? How did you get out that lava pit?" Not making any moves Velasca slowly formed a grin, then kicked with her left leg behind her, sending an Amazon warrior flying into a hut. Turning her attention back to the regent, Velasca quickly made use of Ephiny's shock, and grabbed her by the throat and lifting Ephiny up off the ground.

"Let’s just say I had a little help, Ephiny honey. But I want to know one important thing, Ephiny. Where is Gabrielle, where is your Queen?" After waiting a second and no response, Velasca tighten her grip on Ephiny's throat. "Come now Ephiny, surely your Queen isn't worth your death?" Ephiny growled lowly at Velasca not caring what Velasca did with her.

"Get a life Velasca, there is no way I'm telling you where Gabrielle is!" Velasca glared hard at Ephiny showing her glossed eyes. Velasca turned her head to the village and with her free hand, began to shoot lighting bolts off at random huts and Amazons.

"Ephiny stop protecting her, or I'll kill every last Amazon in this village along with the village. So either tell me where she is and I'll leave, or don't and I'll have an Amazon baroque!" Not sure what to do exactly, Ephiny realized that she had a job to do and that was to protect the Amazons, hating her decision she finally responded to Velasca, praying to Artemis that Xena could stop Velasca again.

"Xena and Gabrielle left two suns ago to head to Poteidaia then Amphipolis" Finally spat Ephiny. Velasca happy with her work squeezed enough to let Ephiny slightly breath, then released her, as well as ceased her lightning bolts. Ephiny fell to the ground in a heap, almost choking to death and tried to bring air back into her lungs.

"Sounds like I get to meet Gabrielle's family too, this is going to be fun. Well Ephiny, I think I'll be on my way, see ya soon, your next on my list!" Velasca then disappeared without a trace in front of a worried regent.

~*~*~*~

Feeling Gabrielle shake all of sudden caused the warrior to tighten her grip in the bard, worried she might fall off.

"Gabrielle you all right?" The Amazon Queen took a few seconds to control herself and responded to her partner.

"Yeah I think so, I don't know what it was just it felt like something bad happened. I think I'm just worrying to much about the Amazons and Velasca" Leaning forward a little, Xena kissed Gabrielle on top of her head, then rested her chin on Gabrielle's head, while keeping Argo at a slow pace. Xena wasn't sure what to say, she felt the same way as Gabrielle all of a sudden, and she could feel there was something wrong within the Amazon Nation.

"Don't be Gabrielle, I'm sure things are all right back at the Nation. Just try and relax, Velasca isn't leaving that lava pit any time soon" Lightly smiling Gabrielle nodded, relaxed more, and began to tell Xena a tale of two gods and their struggles together.

~*~*~*~

Standing at the outskirts of her destination, she had to smile to herself. This is easier then what I thought, take care Gabrielle and my deal with Ares all at once. Then next are the Amazons and their Regent Ephiny, their such fools! Ending with that thought had to make Velasca spit at the ground in disgust of the once mighty Amazons. Peering back done at Poteidaia, Velasca scanned lightly over the village to see if she could spot the bard. With no luck, Velasca slowly began to stroll down to the village; eyes glossed over with evil and hatred.

~*~*~*~

"Epinion!" Still trying to yell as best as she could, Ephiny slowly made her way off the ground with her sword still in hand. Scanning the destruction Velasca had created was slim. Ephiny gritted her teeth, the Amazons had just finished their repairs from last time and now they would have to start over again.

Spinning around quickly, Epinion spotted her regent with anger stricken eyes and face. She could tell that Velasca and her had words, Ephiny's neck was fairly red and she was still trying to get her breathing adjusted with coughing here and there. After spotting Ephiny, Epinion stopped trying to put out the fire and ran up to Ephiny.

"Yes Ephiny?" After finishing that statement Epinion lightly bowed to Ephiny.

"We need to get word out to Gabrielle and Xena about Velasca, she is headed straight for them" With a faint growl and big frown, Epinion tried to think of what to do, she knew she had no runners that could reach Xena and Gabrielle in time.

"Ephiny there is no way we can get word to Xena and Gabrielle about Velasca" Beginning to take notice to the regent's even more anger tone made Epinion shiver. "Ephiny, we have no runners they're all busy stopping the fires and helping with whatever other damage. Even if we did have a runner, they couldn't make it in time definitely with Velasca being a god" Realizing that her weapons master was right Ephiny dropped her shoulders, frowning to herself the regent responded to Epinion.

"I suppose your right Epinion" Seeing her regent's anguish, Epinion placed a hand on Ephiny's shoulder and gave it a light squeeze with a small smile.

"Ephiny, if we know Xena as well as we do, she will be able to handle Velasca for awhile, she did once" Lightly nodding but still not satisfied, Ephiny sheathed her sword behind her and power walked with Epinion to help with the fires and other devastation.

~*~*~*~

The sun was in the high afternoon by now, showering over the small town of Poteidaia. By now Velasca had reached the center of town looking for the Amazon Queen, only to be receiving evil and hatred glares from the villagers. Getting quite sick of searching out Gabrielle, Velasca decided to bring her out. Turning to her right, Velasca stared at the inn deciding to start her demolition there. Velasca slowly brought up her right hand point her finger to the inn, while everybody's eyes were on her. A flash of light flew threw the air, sending the inn into toothpicks and starting a small fire.

"I want Gabrielle of Poteidaia now! Where is she?" Hearing her sister's name being yelled by the god, Lila looked directly at the women with cold eyes. Feeling those cold eyes right on her, Velasca spotted Lila and suspected she knew of Gabrielle. Velasca slowly began to walk towards Lila, holding Lila in her spot by just staring her down. Lila wanted to run from the women headed towards her, but her legs wouldn't respond; now Velasca was upon her with white eyes making Lila shiver with fear. Velasca stared deep into Lila, aware that Lila some how certainly knew Gabrielle very well, probably sisters with those green eyes. Pulling her dagger out of her wrist band and placing it tip first against Lila's throat Velasca asked her the famous question.

"I can tell you know Gabrielle, where is she?" Lila could hardly speak to the goddess in front of her, but she managed to peep back to Velasca.

"I don't know" Velasca gritted her teeth, getting sick of playing cat and mouse for Gabrielle. Velasca pushed the tip of the dagger more into Lila's throat making her wide eye.

"And if you did would you tell me?" Instantly Lila's eyes harden, she wasn't about ready to let her sister die and should would rather die instead for Gabrielle.

"I would never tell you" With anger and fury coursing through her veins, Velasca removed the dagger from Lila's neck and hurled it into Lila's chest, killing her instantly. Slowly removing the dagger from Lila's chest, Velasca stepped away and watched Lila's limp body falls to the ground and a small pool of blood began to seep out.

"Now see what she made me do. I want Gabrielle! If she isn't here then this town won't be here either" Noticing no response from the shivering crowd before her, Velasca decided it was time to bring Gabrielle to her and end this game quickly. "Well I guess nobody knows where she is, guess that means the town is gone" Sending thunder bolts and fire balls through out the town, while enjoying the destruction of Gabrielle's home town. Now Gabrielle's life is being ruined much like Velasca's was once she lost the right of caste.

People within the town ran for their lives, some into their homes or other into random buildings, others tried to get out of the village, but all died trying. It took only a quarter of a candle mark for Velasca to destroy Poteidaia, she had scorched everything right down to the last blade of grass. No living thing was in the village, all that remained was small reminisces of buildings that continued to burn and the town was covered with scorched corpses sending a strong stench through the village and on the wind. Finally stopping her annihilation, Velasca stared at what she had done and began to laugh vigorously which could be heard for miles around.

~*~*~*~

Xena stopped Argo abruptly not sure as to why, but something wasn't feeling right at all. The bard whirled her torso around in her seat and looked sidelong behind Xena and then she focused up at the warrior with scared eyes and quietly whispered.

" Poteidaia" Gabrielle immediately knew something was going on and wanted to know what was happening. Xena knew too that something had happened to Poteidaia, which made her turn Argo around. The bard knew that Xena was about ready to send Argo into a gallop, so she turned back to face forward in the direction of Poteidaia. Her owner then kicked Argo into a fast gallop; she made no hesitation and broke out into her quickest gallop. Gabrielle on the other hand, sunk into Xena with her shoulders slumping, making her lover worry.

For the rest of the day, Xena and her bard rode hard heading to Poteidaia for no reason other then being worried that something drastic happened. For the whole ride Gabrielle stayed slumped into Xena, while being in another world thinking. The warrior and Gabrielle didn't reach the outskirts of Poteidaia till very late afternoon, both Gabrielle and Xena could smell a certain odor in the air which either did not want to express aloud. Xena for her part didn't want her bard to see Poteidaia; she already had an idea as to what it would look like.

"Gabrielle, I don't think you should go into or see Poteidaia just yet" The Queen didn't say anything at first and debated whether or not she wanted to. Gabrielle knew adventually she would want to see Poteidaia and thought now was better then later.

"No Xena I want to see what happen too Poteidaia, we both know there is death there just by the smell being cared along the winds. Poteidaia is my home town where I was born, I want to see what happen for myself" Nodding lightly and not wanting to argue with the stubborn blond, Xena pulled Gabrielle more into her, to help comfort the bard for what she was about to see. Slowly at a trot, Argo made her way to the top of the hill over looking Poteidaia, to see the view of the bard's hometown.

Gabrielle looked down at Poteidaia, not saying anything or moving. The smaller women scanned the town, as did Xena, both couldn't believe the death and destruction. Xena had never seen anything like it in her life, in all her warlord days had she ever seen something this massacring. The smell of death and fire lingered heavily in the air, making Gabrielle lean far off to the right and heave-up her food from earlier in the day. Xena on the other hand was able to hold her food down for the better part, but even she was having problems with the mix of the smell and site.

Xena lightly kicked Argo on the sides, ordering her to make her way down to Poteidaia. As Argo made her way down, Xena kept her tight hold on Gabrielle and whispered reassuring words to her soulmate. Gabrielle was having a hard time grasping what was before her, nothing stood everything was burned all that was left was a black charcoal patch where Poteidaia once stood. Then littering over the rubble were burned bodies and blood trickling out of the bodies, the site was repulsive.

With every step Argo took closer to Poteidaia, Gabrielle became more grief stricken with tears following. Xena on the other hand with every nearing became more angry and outraged, she never seen so much death and destruction. The jet black haired women knew that her lover was being torn into shreds with every passing second, Xena was going to make the person who did this pay with their life. The ex-warlord had never been so outraged in her entire life, she comprehended that whoever did this wasn't a warlord, but some god toying yet again with mortal's lives. No mortal could have done something like this. There is absolutely not one thing standing or alive, human or animal. The taller women gritted her teeth holding back her anger and tried to focus on her bard and comfort her.

Finally reaching the entrance to Poteidaia, Xena and Gabrielle stared inwards at the once flourishing village. There was no way Xena or Gabrielle could enter the village, there was too much rubble and the amount of bodies were scattered every where, which would make anybody puck in seconds. Xena had noticed that some of the bodies had different items sticking through them, some had large pieces of wood or farming tools, a variety of things.

The bard couldn't take any more of the site, of her hometown. Gabrielle then dropped her head into her hands and began to cry grievously, Xena instantly grabbed Gabrielle by the waist and lifted her carefully turning her in the saddle so she know faced Xena and not Poteidaia. The bard then wrapped her arms tightly around Xena and settled her head into Xena's breasts while continuing to cry. The warrior wrapped her right arm her soulmate and lightly rubbed her back as well. Xena took one last look at Gabrielle's village before turning Argo around, while still gritting her teeth at the site before her. With ice blue eyes, Xena turned Argo around and quickly trotted her back up the valley.

The sun was only going to last another candle mark, for about three-quarters of a candle mark Xena rode Argo hard away from Poteidaia with Gabrielle still enveloped tightly around her. Finally slightly satisfied with their distance from Poteidaia, Xena found a decent campground for the night. The warrior unwillingly let go of her bard and slipped off Argo, then helped Gabrielle get off of Argo without a problem. Xena quickly noticed Gabrielle was still in shock about what she had seen, in a flash the taller women lifted Gabrielle up off the ground and set her down on a log and kissed the bard on her forehead and left her there for a second.  The warrior hastily took off Argo's tack and laid it aside leaving Argo to rest. Xena rummaged through her saddle bag looking for their bed rolls, finally finding them Xena laid them out on the ground close to the spot where she decided would be best for a fire.

Gabrielle on the other hand, still laid in a heap her face in her hands still sobbing and not believing what she saw today. Xena quietly came up to Gabrielle and crouched down to look at Gabrielle. The warrior brought her hands up to Gabrielle's and carefully pulled Gabrielle's hands away from her face. Xena then saw her lover's face what seemed like forever, the bard's face was stained with tears, her eyes blood shot red. The ex-warlord mentally crumbled at that sight, she was anger stricken as well as depressed at the same time to see the Amazon Queen so grief ill-fated. Xena intertwined her hands with Gabrielle's and lightly smiled with warmth in her eyes.

"You think you can get ready for bed? I'm going to round up some firewood for the night. Okay?" Gabrielle lightly nodded with her head still hanging down not meeting Xena's eyes. Xena un-intertwined her right hand and lifted her chin so she could look straight at Gabrielle in her eyes.

"Everything will be okay, Gabrielle. It'll take time, but I'm here for you every step of the way" Gabrielle nodded again and both lingered in that position, the bard enjoying Xena's comfort and the loving sky blue eyes staring straight at her. Xena leaned in and fondly kissed Gabrielle on the forehead and headed into the woods, night beginning to settle on the couple.

Gabrielle slowly began to make her way across the camp to where Argo's saddlebag laid. With shaky hands, the bard found what she was looking for and pulled the two shifts out. Gabrielle placed the two shifts on the log she had been sitting on earlier, hers on the top of the two. Slowly and with unstable hands, the blond began to unlace her green top, then she removed her skirt. Placing them aside, the Amazon Queen retrieved her shift and put it on enjoying it's loose feeling. A second after Gabrielle put on her shift, Xena stepped in with an armload of wood dropping off to the side. She then began to set up the fire while Gabrielle went back to sitting on the log. Quickly Xena made the fire and had it started, she then went sit by Gabrielle.

"Are you hungry at all?" Gabrielle looked at Xena with sadness and still red eyes.

"No I'll be okay, just a bit cold" Answering an un-asked questioned Xena sat on the ground relatively close to the fire with a tree against her back and lightly patted her lap. Gabrielle forced a small smile and sat on top of Xena's lap with her back sunk into Xena. The warrior then grabbed a blanket lying in arms reach of her and placed it over Gabrielle and herself. She then lightly grabbed the bard's shoulders and pulled her back into her, placing Gabrielle's head in-between the warrior's breasts. Xena then tightly wrapper her arms around Gabrielle's stomach and rested her chin lightly on top of Gabrielle's head. Neither carried on a conversation, Xena knew Gabrielle need time to absorb what has happen, she had lost her home town, mother, father, sister, and a place of memories. The bard for about a candle mark, absorbed in thought and trying to taken in today's event, was hard on her. She was thankful for the comfort her warrior was giving her time. From time to time the bard would cry and Xena would tighten her grip automatically and massage her soulmate lightly. After being in deep thought combined with the softness of Xena's body, Gabrielle fell into a deep sleep.

For about half a candle mark Xena let Gabrielle sleep on her lap, and then decided that her bard and especially herself would be more comfortable if they lay on the bedrolls. Carefully Xena removed the blanket covering her and placed it back on the ground close to the bedrolls. The warrior then unwrapped her right arm and placed her right arm under Gabrielle's legs. Xena then cautiously lifted Gabrielle up off her and then stood up with her bard still in her arms. Gabrielle lightly stirred in her arms, the smaller women then looked up at Xena with sleepy eyes.

"Wha…" Xena leaned in and quieted Gabrielle with a feather light kiss to her lips.

"Ssshhhh go back to sleep love" Gabrielle let the feeling of Xena's lips linger for a second on her then she leaned her head against Xena's arm and closed her eyes. Slowly the raven-haired warrior carried her to the their bedrolls, Xena then leaned down on one knee and placed the sleeping bard on the bedroll. Searching for the cover from earlier, Xena placed it over top of Gabrielle and lightly kissed the bard's forehead. Deciding to take a quick look around the perimeters of the camp Xena un-sheathed her sword quietly and took a quick glance at the sleeping bard. Creeping through the woods using the moon as a light, Xena didn't find anything out of the ordinary. With stealth and speed, Xena returned to the camp to find her lover still in the same spot, Xena then placed wood in the fire. She sheathed her sword and walked over to the log by the fire and changed out of her armor and into the shift that her lover left her. Leaving her leathers and armor on the log, Xena then grabber her chakram and sword that she removed so she could change out of her leathers. Walking noiselessly to the bedrolls, the warrior placed her sword and chakram close by the bedrolls and lay behind Gabrielle. Sensing her warrior's presence, Gabrielle nuzzled into Xena while Xena placed a protective arm around Gabrielle's waist. The taller women pulled Gabrielle in even more with her strong arms before letting herself fall asleep.

"Good night my bard" After whispering good night, Xena drifted into a light sleep while Gabrielle was in a heavy sleep being worn out with eyes watching over them.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

~*Part 4*~

Janice shot up in the bed, shaking and with tear stained face. Mel sat up in bed quickly and wrapped her arms around Janice comforting her.

"What happen Janice? Bad dream?" Trying to catch her Janice leaned into Mel and tried to recall what happened.

"I don't know Mel, I had this dream that I was Gabrielle and you were Xena. We were headed to Amphipolis and we had headed to Poteidaia all of a sudden because I thought something had happened. Once we reached Poteidaia, it was completely destroyed….leveled. Everybody was dead and nothing stood all there was a patch of burnt wood where Poteidaia once was. Then we rode for about two hours and I cried for hours on end trying to comprehend what happened and what I lost" Melinda kept her arms tightly wrapped around Janice while she tried to figure out why Janice might have had this dream. To Mel it seemed like as if she done this before but knew she had never done this.

"Janice, I think you're to worried about Poteidaia and finding out about the history of it. We'll find out tomorrow love, they dug up a better part today and Vanessa was right they'll be done tomorrow" Lightly nodding, but not satisfied that the dream was over her work and that it might have been real.

"But it felt so real Mel, and for some reason I feel like we've done this before, but of course we haven't" Mel released Janice and placed her hands on the archeologist's waist and pulled her back done on the bed. The blonde effortless lay back on the bed with her head resting in the crook of Mel's right arm.

"I know I felt like we have done that before too, really freaky" Janice looked at Mel and smiled lightly, Janice's eyes were still red but she wasn't shaking any more. The taller women leaned in and kisses Janice lightly, worried about how that dream could affect her lover so much. Janice was about ready to say something but Mel stopped her with another light kiss to her lips.

"Ssshhhh go back to sleep love" Both Mel and Janice stared at each other in shock, both their hearts skipped a beat. Why did it feel like Mel has said and done that before? She notices it too, she even lost her southerner accent when she said that. Janice lightly shook her head and grinned a little at Mel. "Just go to sleep" The archeologist lightly laughed and fell into a deep sleep as did Mel. Both slept fitfully with no returning dreams, morning finally arrived to the lovers several hours later after being woken up by Janice's dream. This day would bring either Janice's greatest discovery, or make her dream from tonight come true.

~*~*~*~

The archeologist rested on her side, facing Melinda. Janice slowly opened her eyes, to find a beautiful sight of her soulmate's face in front of her. Janice smiled and brought up her right hand to caress the southerner's face when Mel grabbed Janice's hand and smiled wickedly with her eyes still closed. A grin edged up the archeologist's face, and Melinda opened her eyes with the look of success in them. Mel then began to lightly kiss Janice's hand with feather kisses.

"Looks like I caught y'all again, Doctor Covington, your getting easier and softer" The blond lightly laughed at Mel's comment and then intertwined her hands with Mel's.

"Hmmm I think I can blame it on you, Miss Pappas, if you never stepped into my life I wouldn't be so soft, not that I'm complaining" Janice then leaned in and kissed Mel on the forehead and return to her same position to continue to talk to her lover. "Mel I think we better getting moving and see what unfolds for the day" Mel motioned in agreement and began to rise up out of bed. Janice follow right behind Mel and got up out bed, worried about what today's discovery would be. The taller women took her time in getting dress, but she noticed the archeologist was dressing rather quickly. Grinning to herself, Mel walked up behind Janice and wrapped her arms around Janice's chest. The blond was surprised for a second then realized who it was and immediately feel back into the warm body behind her.

"Hey slow down some, there is no rush hun. Poteidaia isn't going any where any time soon" Janice nodded lightly and fell even more back into Mel, and beginning to feel depressive and sighed. Mel released unwrapped her arms surprisingly and grab the archeologist by the shoulders and spun her around to face the southerner. Both soulmates didn't say anything, Melinda stared straight into Janice's eyes and saw the sorrow and depression held with in them. Almost like trading places, Mel became the stronger one and Janice the less strong one. The taller women quickly pulled her lover into her arms, hugging her tightly while Janice began to cry. For the both of them it seemed like a relapse, things felt like they were normal but then weren't. Mel felt like as if she was always the stronger one, but knew this wasn't true. To the archeologist and the southerner, they felt like there were two people within their bodies.

Once Janice's cries stiffened, Mel released her and lightly kissed her to reassure her things would be fine.

"Ya going to be okay Janice?" The blond lightly nodded then smiled up at Mel.

"Thanks, yeah I'll be fine now. I don't know where that came from, it was like I was reliving some strong emotional experience, but I don't know what it was exactly" Janice's partner nodded in understanding and Janice smiled gently and went back to her dressing. Mel herself turned back to her cloths and head over to her khaki shirt and boots. Gabrielle's decedent headed over to the small wooden chair and put on her boots and began to slowly lace them up. Afterwards, Janice grabbed her hat and then snagged her revolver and bullwhip off the table. Quickly she hooked her bullwhip to her left side, then opened the revolver chamber and checked the bullets. The belle looked over to her lover all dressed and ready to head out. She watched carefully as Janice checked her gun, trying to make out what her soulmate might be thinking. Satisfied Janice shut the chamber and gave it a whirl, making it click, she then placed it in its holster. Smiling up at Mel, Janice indicated the exit of the tent and Mel was walking out when Janice clutched her by the left arm. Janice then pulled her in and passionately kissed her, expressing all the love she had for her.

"I love you so much Mel" Whispered Janice with a grin forming with her lips. Mel smiled and slightly blushed, leaning her head closer to Janice's, she whispered back.

"I love ya too Doctor Janice Covington with all my heart and being" Turning back to the flaps in front of her, Mel smiled to herself and walked out into the early morning of the day.

Slowly emerging from their tent, Janice and Mel both scanned the dig site spying everybody moving about at a quick pace. Janice stepped ahead of Mel and headed in the direction the main dig was going on, Poteidaia. The archeologist was walking at a speedy pace to the site, Mel knowing exactly why too. As soon as the blond stepped into view, a set of hatred eyes set on her. Janice looked over in the direction where she felt those eyes, only to see Vanessa, with a smile forming on her face. A rapid shiver swept down Janice's back and again ending in goosebumps, Janice couldn't tell whether Vanessa held those hatred eyes, was to hard to see. Vanessa briskly walked over to Mel and Janice's side to update them on the dig.

"Good morning Doctor Covington and Miss Pappas!" Mel smiled sweetly at Vanessa and Janice lightly smiled in return and retorted back.

"Mornen Vanessa, find anything new?" Vanessa frowned and shook her head lightly.

"No Ma'am, its been the same thing all the way in to Poteidaia, just burnt rubble" Janice kept her face expressionless, Mel on the other had cover her face with a frown.

"Well lets get this proven whether Poteidaia was burnt or not. Lead the way Vanessa" Vanessa nodded to the archeologist and then escort Janice and Mel to where she previously was. The three some for three hours straight, dug hard and along, as did all the workers on that site. Nothing seemed to change the only thing anybody came across was burnt reminisces. Then out of no where Mel seemed to hit something hard but still brittle, not a rock or wood but seemed like bone to Janice. In a haste, Janice and Mel dug out the bones, taking care not to hurt the reminisce. After finally uncovering the bones, Janice, Mel, and Vanessa all study it.

"Shit" Janice couldn't believe this, the bones had scorched marks covering it, and it seemed as if the person had been impaled by something at the heart. Where the heart had last lain, were now broken ribs moved outwards in a circle form. "Well seems not only this person burnt to death, but they were also impaled by something round, I'm guessing a spear possible. But I can't be sure, the space that was made from the weapon going through looks to big for a spear though. But this definitely proves there was some kind of fight here, and more possible ended in the scorching of Poteidaia" Janice was still looking done at the human body with a bit of disgust to her features.

"Janice, how far do we have to dig to find out whether Poteidaia was completely burned?" The archeologist didn't respond at once, but kept looking at the bones, then looking up at her lover she finally responded.

"We need to uncover the center of town, then we can be sure that all of Poteidaia was burned. Vanessa, do you think we can uncover the center of town by dusk with all our man power?" Vanessa nodded lightly as Janice met her gaze. "Good, lets get back to this. Vanessa why don't ya go around and check on everything and report back to us" Vanessa nodded again and turned around and head in the direction of where most the men were working at a rapid pace. After watching Vanessa disappear around the corner out of site Janice turned back to the southerner and smiled to her. "Awesome job Mel in finding those human reminisce" Mel lightly blushed and looked back done at the body then back at Janice.

"Well, I had a great teacher that’s for sure" Janice grinned back at Mel, then her grin turn into a small frown.

"Mel, I really think Poteidaia was burned, I just don't understand how. But I guess I'll worry about it later when we find more evidence about what happened"

"Love, I know you're worried, but what is done is done. If Poteidaia was destroyed I doubt Xena and Gabrielle's reminisce are here, might of happened before they passed away" Janice lightly nodded and smiled up at Mel, she then hear the sounds of somebody coming up behind her. For the second time of the day, a shiver with goosebumps went off, telling the archeologist Vanessa had returned. Janice was getting quiet sick of this repetitive incident and wanted to know how a one young women could do that to her.

"Doctor Covington, I check out how the other men were doing. I think maybe by late in the afternoon we might hit the center of town hopefully, if all goes well. None of the men are complaining, and seem in full strength" Janice smiled, and the turned around to face Vanessa still with the smile in place.

"Sounds great Vanessa, thank you. Now we better get back to our digging"

The dig site was under heavy excavation; all the workers were at hard strength as were Mel and Janice. Through the day, they came across several more bodies, many having the same results. A scorched body and a possibility of have been stab with some item. They also continued to uncover nothing but dark dirt, bits of burnt wood here and there or small pieces of blackened metals. As every hour passed, Janice became a more and more depressed which in turned worried her lover more and more. Vanessa on the other hand was prefect calm with an expressionless face, the smaller woman though could of sworn that a few times she caught a grin on Vanessa's face but couldn't be sure.

Reaching around two hours before dusk, the archeology team hit the center of town. Their were able to finally see of Poteidaia was completely burned or not. Within the center of the town still stood the human size statue of Zeus. It had been well burnt, and was missing its right hand and was know lying on its side. Janice was completely overwhelmed to know that all of Poteidaia was gone. She stood for seem like eternity staring at the statue of Zeus, knowing that her proof had come. The only things they uncovered along the way were scorched bodies and ruins of seared buildings. But what Janice couldn't understand, was how a whole town could be total destroyed, surely they would have being able to put out the fire. And if a warlord had passed through the town, some of the town would have still been standing if not rebuilt. Vanessa knew now that there was no real work left to be done, except finish uncovering the rest of Poteidaia. She went ahead and gave the rest of the workers the day off, let them rest from all their hard work. After reporting to Janice and Mel of her actions, Mel thanked Vanessa and told her she could go. As soon as Vanessa had her back to the archeologist and the translator, she grinned to herself with a face of satisfaction crossing over her features and headed to her tent, content for the day.

Once Vanessa made her way out of site, Melinda tenderly wrap her strong arms around the still shocked Janice while standing behind her. Janice was still starring at the destroyed statue of Zeus. She just couldn't believe this, her ancestor's hometown had been burnt down to a crisp, and not even a single blade of grass still stood. All was charred and blackened ground with wood here and there and bodies littering the site here and there too. Janice start to deny that it was Poteidaia, and that it lied some where else, but the blond knew the truth and felt utterly sick.

Mel lowered her head down and rested her head on Janice's right shoulder while still holding her tightly. Finally coming out of her trance, the smaller women lightly shook her head and looked at Mel.

"I can't believe it Mel, well then again I kinda can. Goddamn you realize how much death and destruction happened here? We found over fifty bodies and just on this side of town, one fourth of the town" Mel on cue tighten her grip on Janice wishing she could bring back Poteidaia to Janice.

"I know love, its pretty depressing thing to think about. How about we leave it alone for the rest of the day? I'm reckoned that your tired like me" Janice motioned in agreement with her soulmate, and turned within Mel's embrace. Janice reaches up for the back of Mel's neck and pulled her into a passionate kiss, each trying to consume the other. The kiss must have last forever; they didn't break until they both were desperate for air. The smaller women grin seductively up at the raven-haired women, she loved teasing.

"Janice, you better not be starting anything" Quickly, Janice grinned up at Mel and wrapped her right arm Mel's waist, who in return wrapped her own right arm around Janice's waist. They both peacefully walked into the camp together, enjoying their closeness. Once they neared the camp did they release each other over cautions.

Janice and Mel for the rest of the evening mostly spent time together after the hard day's work of not having much quality time together. Janice was still suspicious about Vanessa, Janice didn't like her one bit, even though she seemed nice, but she didn't believe that it was Vanessa's true colors. But for now she would have to deal with her and not voice her opinion.

During the night, Mel and Janice went over the other possibilities as to where Xena and Gabrielle's bodies were buried. Both lovers knew that their remains weren't within or on the outskirts of Poteidaia. They couldn't explain as to why, but had the utmost true feeling that they weren't. Mel thought that possible Xena and Gabrielle's body could still be within Amphipolis, but Janice didn't think so. Then it hit them both at the same time, was it possible their bodies now lay in the ruins of the once great Amazon Nation?

"Its feasible Mel, I mean it makes sense. Gabrielle loved the Amazons as did Xena once she was committed to them" Both stared at each other with excitement in their eyes, maybe there was hope after all.

"But Janice, do we know where the Amazon Nation was once?" The blond lowered her head to the desk that they both were sitting behind then finally looked back up.

"I think there was a scroll I read, if I remember, that gave a detailed description on how to get to the Amazon Nation from Amphipolis" Mel smiled with happiness showing and a twinkle to her eyes. Janice sprang out of the seat and walked over to the other side of their tent. Carefully she rummaged their her leather satchel and found what she was looking for, the scroll. Unrolling the scroll while walking over to Mel, Janice began to read the scroll her ancestor had once wrote on.

The taller women continued to look up at Janice from her seat, curious as to what her lover was reading. Then leaning down on one knee, Janice pointed to an area on the scroll to Melinda. She read through where Janice pointed, it clearly described the directions from going to Amphipolis to Amazon Nation. Mel removed her black glasses and laid them on the desk and rubbed her temples lightly.

"That sounds like them Janice, I just hope there is enough detail there so we can still find our way to the Amazon's Nation" Janice smiled up at her southerner.

"I'm sure there is, you know Gabrielle, pretty detailed bard" Mel lightly grinned down at the archeologist then tried to stiffen a yawn. Janice caught her trying to stiffen the yawn and slightly grinned at Mel.

"Am I boring you Miss Pappas?" Mel looked down at the blond and smiled softly at her and leaned down to kiss Janice on the forehead.

"No love, just I'm very tired from today" Janice nodded and lift herself up and placed the scroll on the desk next to Mel's glasses. The smaller women then reached down for Mel's left hand and guided her off the chair. Slowly and with style, she led the blue eyed women to the edge of their large cot. Setting her on the edge, Janice leaned down and unlaced the belle's boots and placed them out of the way. Returning to Mel, she began to un-button Mel's kiki shirt and then un-buttoned Mel's pants. Mel the whole time was entranced by her soulmate's touch enjoying every second of it and only moving her arms and legs to remove the shirt and pants. After discarding her pants and shirt to the side, Janice retrieved her lover's over sized T-shirt that she knew Mel would be dying for after a long hard day. Returning to her lover, the blond leaned in and loving kissed Mel and she removed Mel's bra. Janice quickly placed Mel's T-shirt over her, before her passion got the better part of her. After the kiss, Mel's eyes slowly opened up revealing tired but yet passionate eyes to Janice. Janice lightly grinned at this site and laid Mel back in the bed. After covering Mel with the thin sheet, she went over to begin changing into her night cloths as well. Melinda watched intently, observing in awe as Janice's muscles flexed and she saw the blonde's smooth and muscular stomach making her die for Janice.

After safely placing her whip and revolver on the nightstand near her side of the bed, Janice crawled into the bed next to Mel. The aristocrat quickly pulled Janice into her embrace reveling in the feel of her lover. She then leaned in and kissed the blond on the shoulders sending shivers down Janice's back. Janice and Mel both wish the other sweet dreams and express their love for the other. Within in several minutes, Janice and Mel were in a deep and content sleep.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The warrior was the first to wake up, as always, the night for the warrior and her bard was a restless one. Many times Gabrielle would wake up in the middle of night from a nightmare about being trapped in Poteidaia when it was being burned, with Xena on the outskirts unable to enter the town to save her. Other nightmares she continued to have been of her being right outside of Poteidaia, and standing there watching it burn to the ground with voices crying out in fear and one single voice laughing in enjoyment.

A few times the Amazon Queen would shoot up out Xena's arms screaming either for Xena, Lila, her mom and dad, or Poteidaia. Xena then would then cradle Gabrielle in her arms till her bard settled down and fell back into a light sleep. As every passing incident went by that night, Xena became angrier towards the person or persons that destroyed Poteidaia, she planned to make sure they got Tartarus for what they did to her bard's hometown. Xena had not seen Gabrielle so grief stricken, since the time Xena died. Xena realized that Gabrielle just had gotten over the fact that Xena had come back to her, and now this.

As the morning sun began to rise, the ex-warlord continued to hold Gabrielle in her protective arms. Finally deciding that they should get moving, Xena leaned into Gabrielle and lightly kissed her on the cheek. Slowly Gabrielle's eyes open, but to Xena's sadness her eyes were red and blood shot from all the crying she had done during the night.

"You think you can get up? We need to get on our way" Gabrielle lightly nodded and began to lift herself out of Xena's arms. As soon as Gabrielle was up, the warrior got up and both changed back into their regular garments. Xena made quick work of her leathers and armor, while Gabrielle went about her's rather slow. While her bard took her time to get ready, she decide to make breakfast for them both, knowing that her lover was going to be extremely hungry. As if reading Xena's mind, the bard's stomach announced its state of opinion; Gabrielle quickly looked up at her warrior and sheepishly grinned.

"Guess I shouldn't have skipped dinner last night. Boy I'm definitely hungry though" Xena grinned glad to see some of the normal bard back.

"Why don't you go wash up by that stream I told you about earlier and I'll make us some breakfast" The blond nodded and grabbed her things and headed down to the small stream that Xena had described. As the bard made her way down, she felt as if she was being watched on the way there. Xena back in the camp herself felt like she was being watched but couldn't be sure. The warrior quickly grabbed some fruit and set them aside, debating on whether she should get fish from the stream or to have left over dry meat. Deciding that the fish would be a lot more to her liking and the hungry bards, she quickly tossed a few logs in the fire to start it up again. Xena then made her way down to where she last saw her bard head, as she made her way there she caught site of Gabrielle washing her face off with water. Her bangs were now wet and pasted to her forehead and her face was dripping of water. Xena was enjoying this site, and leaned up against a tree to watch her bard. After drying off her face, Gabrielle then brushed her bangs off to the sides.

"I'll have to come watch you get ready more often in the mornings" Not at all surprised by Xena presence, Gabrielle lightly grinned and turned to the warrior.

"Geez if you had stare any longer and I would have jumped you and awoken you out of that daze you were in" Xena slyly grinned and stood up straight and walked down beside her bard.

"So you knew I was there huh? Guess I'm getting weak on my hiding skills" Gabrielle lightly laughed and playfully slapped Xena in her stomach.

"No, who couldn't tell a pair of passionate eyes staring straight at them looking at every curve and line" Xena grinned even more and Gabrielle shook her head then look up at Xena with a serious face. "Xena, speaking of eyes and staring do you feel like…" Xena didn't say anything, but just nodded in agreement knowing fully what Gabrielle was asking. "Yeah that’s what I thought to, sure is creep feeling" The warrior's grin had finally disappeared from her face.

"Don't worry, who ever or whatever will show themselves in due time, which they will regret immensely" The Amazon Queen lightly laughed at Xena's words, but knew that she would hold true to her word. "I'm going to hop in the stream, see if I can't find us some fish. How does that sound?" Gabrielle lightly smiled up at her warrior and nodded.

"Fish sounds good, definitely early in the morning" Xena shook her head and then reach behind her head and put up her hair. Then turning to the nearest rock by the shoreline, Xena quickly placed one foot then the other and unlaced her boots and placed them aside. Once the warrior started to weigh in the water, Gabrielle sat on the rock the older women had just used. "So what happened to our early start love?" Xena looked up from the water with a sly grin on her face.

"Well considering everything, I don't think it will matter much, besides I think we both need to catch out breath" The bard nodded in her approval then posed another question to her warrior.

"Where are we headed any way?" This time the warrior didn't look back at Gabrielle, nor respond to her. Instead her arms shot down into the water grabbing a hold of something. The Amazon Queen quickly prepared herself for what would be tossed her way. As if on cue, a trout came flying through the air and landed into Gabrielle's waiting hands. She then placed the fish beside the rock on the ground, keeping one eye on it.

"I think we should head to the Amazons, they might have some idea as to what happened. How does that sound?" The bard was pleased that Xena had asked her if it was okay by her, she smiled at Xena and replied with a bit of pride.

"Yeah sounds great…Thanks too" Xena stopped her hunting and looked up at Gabrielle with a curious face and the bard knew what she was asking. "Thanks for asking me what I thought" The warrior didn't respond but instead held sea green eyes with her sky blue eyes and let that speak her mind. Xena then returned to trying capturing at least two more fish, Gabrielle on the other hand began to fall into a silent trance.

The bard began to replay the images of Poteidaia once her and Xena had found it, Gabrielle winced. She thought she was going to throw up again, she could still remember clearly the sites of the dead bodies as well as the stench. Then slowly Gabrielle's mind started to create images of her sister, mother, and father being burnt to death by fire; she could hear them screaming for her. The bard had never had the chance to tell them about Xena and her, nor did she ever have the chance to reconcile with them about her leaving home, which she regret terrible. By now the bard had her head in her hands, trying to shut out the thoughts and images and was having no luck. Gabrielle was about ready to scream out in anguish, when she felt a gently and loving hand rest on her left shoulder. She then looked up with eyes that were about ready to burst into tears, what she saw was her soulmate's loving and tender sky blue eyes. Falling into her eyes, Gabrielle lost her images of Poteidaia and her family and began to focus on what stood before her and was thankful for that. The bard then stood up and wrapped her arms tightly around the warrior, Xena then immediately throw down the two fish beside the first one. She then tightly hugged Gabrielle and slightly swayed back and forth and waited for her bard to come back to her. The shorter woman for her part, kept a tight hold on the warrior and had her eyes tightly shut trying to block out the images for now. Finally releasing the raven-haired warrior, the bard turned back to the rock and picked up the three fish and handed one to Xena. As they walked back to the camp, they both had their arms wrapped around the other's waist in loving protection.

Once making their way to the camp, Xena cooked the fish while Gabrielle watched her to make sure she didn't burn the fish. After breakfast and with a late start, Xena and Gabrielle made their way to the Amazon territory. The bard decided she wanted to ride Argo, but this time she sat behind the warrior, wanting to be able to wrap her arms around something secure, Xena. The ex-warlord for her part was grateful that her lover decided to ride, she still had the eerie feeling that they were being watched which made Xena's protective instincts kick in. At the beginning of the ride Gabrielle decided to thank her warrior for her support.

"Xena, thanks for being patient with me" Xena lightly frowned at that remark, it wasn't about being patient.

"Gabrielle, you know I would do anything for you. Its about my love for you, I can wait forever for you" The bard squeezed Xena tightly and the warrior placed one hand over Gabrielle's hand, affectionately squeezing back.

"Well I know your trying hard to give me the space I need and trying to keep my mind off things every once in a while. I love you" Xena grinned at those statements and felt the bard lay her head on her back.

"You can talk to me when your ready to, you'll have one worried warrior" She lightly laughed while still resting her head on Xena's back.

"Yeah I know, it's still just hard to imagine it all. There is just so much there for me to comprehend and it scares me" The taller rider lightly acknowledge that by nodding and then answered to her soulmate.

"Yes there is, but I'm there for you every step of the way. My bard I know you, you are more then strong enough to handle this, just give yourself time" Gabrielle thanked which ever god had sent Xena to her, she all ready felt more secure about the issue now with her warrior then ever.

"I know, I'll only make it if you are there by my side Xena" Xena smiled a brilliant smile to herself. During the duration of their trip they rode in silence. Gabrielle was deep in thought about Poteidaia and her family's deaths while Xena continued to figure out who would have done such a thing. Both lovers still had the eerie feeling of eyes watching over them; occasionally it sent a small chill down the bard's back then she would have goosebumps to mount. As the day wore on the travelers were getting tired and worn out as well as Argo. All of sudden that eerie watching feeling left both travelers and was replaced by a presence now.

Xena slowed Argo down, and scanned the forest around them looking for any signs of trouble, and Gabrielle herself was mimicking the same movements as well as listening for anything. After a few minutes the sound of somebody whispering began to flow through the forest. Neither Xena nor Gabrielle could make out the whispers other then it possible sounding feminine. The whispers travel through the woods and encircled the travelers. Slowly the whispers became more understand able and more feminine, Gabrielle and the warrior both listen hard while the bard kept a tight grip on Xena.

"gggaaabbbrrriiieeellleee……..gggaaabbbrrriiieeellleee………………gggaaabbbrrriiieeellleee… ……...ggggggaaabbbrrrrrriiieeeeellllleee………………." The whispers continued and kept traveling through out the woods, sending Argo into a small scare knowing something was after them. The bard by now had a death grip on Xena feeling as if she was in a bad dream and would wake up soon. Xena though was getting impatient wanting to know whom the voiced belonged to, which seemed slightly familiar to her. The whispers continued and seem to start to confine to one area in the woods, by now Xena had pulled Argo to a halt.

As the whispers began to surround by the tree next to them, Xena unsheathed her sword expecting a fight. The blond had finally came out of her scared trance and had retrieved her staff from behind her in Argo's saddle.

Slowly the whispers became a low voice that lingered in front of the tree before the lovers, then a figure began to slowly appear and now those whispers were a clear low feminine voice. Finally the figure appeared before them with the look of satisfaction on their face with a huge grin.

"Gabrielle, I believe I still have you at the top of my list and something to settle with you" The bard didn't respond but stared at the figure in shock, she could believe this. Could this person actually be standing before her, she then had the greatest sinking feeling hit her. Her lover had noticed her quietness and responded to the new comer.

"What do you want?" The figures burning eyes turned away from the bard and onto the warrior mounted high on the golden mare.

"Simple I want your bard!" Xena grit her teeth and debated whether to fight them or to keep them talking then making her decision Xena carried it out.

"I wouldn't mind knowing how you managed to get out of that lava pit Velasca. Care to share?" Velasca 's glossed eyes stared hard at Xena, while the goddess debated whether to tell the warrior or not.

"Let's just say I had a little outside help" Xena kept her glare on Velasca and then decided to press more.

"And I'm assuming that you were the one who burnt Poteidaia to nothingness" Velasca grinned evilly at Xena and slightly nodded then laughed. As soon as Gabrielle heard that laugh she recognized it as the one from her dreams last night. Without warning or expectancy, the bard leaped off the war-horse and charged Velasca, once reaching her, in a matter of seconds, Gabrielle swung her staff hard across Velasca 's face. The ex-Amazon's head flew left from the blow and she quickly turned her head back to the small bard. Looking down into fury burning eyes, Velasca had to admit this bard had some bite but not enough to stop a god. Velasca abruptly grabbed Gabrielle by the throat and lift her up off the ground, much like she did to Ephiny.

Xena by now was in mid-air with her battle cry wavering through the air, landing slightly off to the side, Xena gave a high kick to Velasca. Slamming Velasca in the abdomen, she doubled over in the strength of the blow. In achieving Xena's goal, Velasca dropped the blond to the ground. Once Velasca came around she took notice to her surroundings now, Gabrielle had backed off and Argo was no where to be found and then of course Xena was in her warrior stance, sword pointed in her direction. The goddess lightly grinned and lifted her right hand to send a thunder bolt in Xena's direction, the warrior responded immediately and leaped up and landed onto a low branch. Velasca looked up to see Xena grinning down at her, Velasca on the other hand could careless, she just lightly rolled her eyes and head towards the Amazon Queen.

Recognizing her destination, Xena leaped off the branch landing between her lover and the goddess. Velasca was getting rather sick of the warrior and wanted the bard with no hassles. With anger setting in, Velasca rushed Xena with surprise and lift the almost six foot women by the waist and flung her up against a tree, knocking her unconscious. Satisfied that Xena wouldn't move, Velasca turned back the Gabrielle with white eyes gleaming with evil and terror. The bard by now was in a fighting stance; she wasn't about ready to go down without fighting, like any other Amazon.

"Gabrielle, why do you bother to fight me? You'll die no matter what you try, you can't defeat a god" The goddess lightly laughed her tormenting laugh to the bard, she then neared Gabrielle once again.

"Velasca, I keep fighting, because I plan to go down fighting with honor" Then grinning slightly to the goddess Gabrielle finished her statement. "Besides history has away of repeating itself, well you may just end up getting trapped again. We did it once, we'll do it again" With those last words Gabrielle lunged forward with speed and grace. Bring her staff across Velasca 's right arm then brought the butt of the staff up to hit the goddess square under the chin.

After making her attempt, the bard was kicked hard into a tree. The bard slid down the tree and she began to rub the back of her head unaware of the approaching goddess, then out of no where came the famous war cry ring through the air. While stunned, the warrior leaped on the back of the ex-Amazon and wrapped her right arm around Velasca 's throat squeezing hard. While trying to slow her down, Xena decided to make use of her breast dagger, and pulled it out and began to slash at Velasca 's back only to see the wounds heal over instantly.

"Gabrielle get out of here!" The ex-warlord was begging her partner to leave the scene from where she still laid against the tree, with her sky blue eyes; she didn't want to see anything happen to her soulmate. Gabrielle shook her head in a "No" response, with a look of "I won't leave you" set in her sea green eyes. Velasca finally getting her barrings, reached behind and hurled Xena over her should and slammed her into the ground. Reaching for her wrists, Velasca forced Xena's arms with the dagger clenched tightly between both hands down to the warrior's body. With a strong force, Velasca thrust Xena's own dagger in the warrior's upper right shoulder. The raven-haired slightly winced in pain, the goddess then brought her dagger out of her shoulder and brought it down onto her lower left shoulder. Again Xena only winced in pain in a small amount, not letting the other woman know her pain. Velasca then decided to have more fun with it and she began to twist the dagger while it was still embedded in Xena's shoulder.

Now the warrior screamed out in agony, this finally brought the blond out of her trance and sprinted towards Velasca and Xena. Aware of the approaching woman, Velasca nailed Xena hard in her stomach, and released her hold of the dagger but still grounded in Xena. Velasca then punched Xena hard in the face knocking her out once more. Meeting the sprinting bard with her fighting stance, Velasca removed her own dagger from her wrist guard. The goddess then threw that dagger at the bard, the dagger in mid-air then split up into five separate daggers all headed for the Amazon Queen.

Gabrielle quickly tried to dodge the daggers and getting them on her staff. The bard ducked from two, and two others slammed into her staff, the fifth, screamed Gabrielle's mind. Then a split second later the fifth made itself known and plunged itself deep into the blonde's leg. Gabrielle fell to the ground in pain from the dagger drowning itself into her leg, Velasca grinned wickedly and slowly walked towards the fallen Amazon. She was now crying out in pain, in her sights she could see Velasca head her way, she then looked in the direction where Xena was last laying.

Not spotting the warrior where she once was, Gabrielle then knew exactly where her lover was head. On cue, Velasca stopped dead in her tracks, something had hit her in the right side. Looking at her side, Velasca found a circular weapon, Xena's famed chakram, which was well grounded into Velasca 's side with no blood seeping out.

Velasca turned her back to the bard and stared straight at a blood cover face woman, with blood dripping down her shoulders and down her armor. Velasca then tore the weapon from her side and tossed it near where Xena's sword laid from when she was first thrown against the tree. But Xena's face on the other hand had been masked with the same look she used in her warlord days, the look of a killer who wanted nothing but death and destruction.

"You just don’t know when to quit do you?" The tall woman's eyes narrowed and her eyes ice blue with rage flying through them.

"Not when it involves the woman I love" Taking a small glance at her lover, Xena could see Gabrielle was in immense pain. Taking the distraction to her advantage Velasca charged the short distance between her and Xena and grabbed her by the throat. This time Velasca didn't both lifting, instead she wrapped both of her hands around Xena's throat and began to squeeze tightly. As she started to ring the life out of Xena, she brought her knee up and bashed Xena in the stomach and this made the warrior lose air all to fast.

As Velasca was about read to bring her knee up again to finally finish the warrior, she felt somebody tap her on the shoulder. Thinking it was the bard, and with no concern in mine, Velasca stopped herself and lightly turned her head to the person. As she did so, she was hit square in the face with a strong blow that she dropped released Xena to regain herself. The warrior after being released fell to the ground trying to catch her breath, not taking time to get a look over her new ally.

Spinning quickly around, Velasca saw who stood upon her and again another blow came her way, this one with more power and strength behind it. Now Velasca was flying through the air and slammed hard into a tree, lightly cracking the tree. Velasca acting as Xena did, slid down the side of the tree and fell unconscious. As Xena fought for air, she was greeted with a hand from the newcomer, she accept and was pulled up to her feet. Finally able to see who had helped her and her bard, Xena was quiet surprised.

"Artemis" The warrior was in shock about whom stood before her, then thought about her bard.

"Go to her Xena, I'll still be here" Xena nodded lightly, and rushed over to her bard. Artemis on the other hand headed over to the unconscious goddess and lightly touched the tree that she leaned against. As soon as Artemis touched the tree, did it begin to have tons of small branches entangle around Velasca, only to leave her head showing.

Xena leaned down on one knee and studied her hurt bard. Gabrielle was wincing in pain, but didn't care, she was just happy to see Xena alive and Velasca  out.

"Xena your face and shoulders…." The warrior had stopped her words by placing a finger over the bard's mouth.

"Its all right Gabrielle, you’re more important right now" Xena then noticed Artemis' presence  beside them and looked up at the glorious goddess who was smiling lightly at them. Getting down on one knee herself, Artemis looked at Xena.

"I can help her, the both of you if you would like" The bard quickly nodded not wanting to enrage her own goddess of the Amazon's. Xena herself nodded in agreement, at that the Goddess of the Amazon's reached down for Gabrielle's left injured leg and ever so slightly caressed her leg where the dagger was embedded. The dagger disappeared and the dagger wound healed over leaving no mark behind. Then reaching up for Xena, Artemis lightly caressed Xena's stomach, shoulders, and then over her face. By the end, Xena looked the same as she did that morning, and no pain was running through her, as was the same with the bard. With the help of her lover, Gabrielle was back up on her feet with a protective arm around her waist.

"Thank you my goddess" The woman then bowed to her patron goddess, and she smiled in return.

"Gabrielle, you are my chosen as is Xena, I'm always here to protect you both" The Goddess of Hunt then turned back to Velasca who was sound asleep all nestled in the branches of the tree. Then turning back to Xena and Gabrielle she lightly frowned then looked straight at Gabrielle directing her statement more to the bard then the stoic warrior.

"It seems my brother, Ares, made a deal with Velasca. Velasca had agreed to kill you, my Queen, as long as Xena witnessed it and still lived. Unfortunately, I didn't find out till just a few candle marks ago and couldn't have stopped her earlier. It seems Velasca all ready took a rampage through the Amazon Nation, but it wasn't too bad" The look of concern grew on the blonde's face as she heard that there was damage in the Amazon Nation. Xena then brought Artemis' attention to her with her intense eyes and hard voice.

"What was Ares getting in return from Velasca for Gabrielle's death?" Artemis lightly rolled her eyes at the answer she was about to voice.

"The same old same old, hopefully you coming back over to him because of the grief of losing your soulmate" Xena sighed lightly, wondering when the God of War would give up his quest to bring her back over. "But don't worry Xena, I plan to confront him about it, of course I doubt it will do any good. He will certainly get plenty of Hades for releasing Velasca, speaking of which"

Artemis then turned back to Velasca to see glossed eyes staring hard at her. The goddess was beginning to struggle in the tree's grip, but was getting no where quick. "No Amazon of mine is allowed to turn her back on her own people, and then try to kill them and their Queen" Artemis's had her back straight and anger was coursing through her body, she hated this other goddess for who she is and was.

"What do you plan to do with her Artemis?" Not turning back to the two travelers Artemis explained her idea to her Queen.

"First I think I will strip her of her god hood, and then put her away for eternity" Finally spat the Goddess of Hunt with her voice stressing her words.

"I take it she will still be immortal?" Artemis turned back to the lovers and nodded to Xena.

"Afraid so Xena, I don't have the power to take away her immortality, only Zeus can do that. But she will remain with in a cave, blacken and just big enough to lie in, which would drive anybody mad after a few days, let alone eternity" After hearing her fate, Velasca struggled even more to remove herself from the tree, but the grip of the tree only tighten on her more. Looking up Velasca spotted Artemis walking in her direction with fury burning in her eyes.

Once the Goddess of the Amazon's was in hands reach of the struggling goddess; she reached down with her right hand. Placing her palm on Velasca 's head, a large glow began to form where Velasca 's head and Artemis' hand met. It continued to grow in intensity, then Velasca cried out in pain and her head fell forward breaking the connection between the two. With her head still down, Artemis reopened her eyes, for a split second, Artemis' eyes were a shade of red then went back to normal.

Once again Artemis turned back to the couple, and she smiled to them. "There it's done, now I recommend you two head to the Amazon's, they'll want to know if you're safe. And I will take care of Velasca and especially Ares. For eternity, Velasca should be trapped within the cave so rest at easy"

"Thank you again Artemis, Xena and I would have more then likely died without your help" Artemis smiled brightly at the bard for her words.

"Gabrielle, you and Xena always have my protection as long as you serve under me. You will come to find out that you are also the chosen of a few other gods and will be revealed to you in due time" Xena's back stiffened over this new information but is a little happy to hear that her bard was being well looked after in case of something ever happening to her. She just wasn't sure if the gods looking after her soulmate was the best.

"Thank you too Artemis "

"You both are more then welcome, but I must be on my way. Good luck to you both in the future, I will be watching" With those last words Artemis replaced her right hand on Velasca, and both disappeared only leaving a slightly split tree behind. Xena then wrapped her other arm around her bard's waist, turning her towards her. The stoic warrior looked deep into sea green eyes while the bard looked into intense sky blue eyes melting in them. Leaning in, the taller woman passionately kissed her, both explored the other's mouth craving the other. Finally breaking for air, Xena whispered to her soulmate.

"I love you Gabrielle" The Amazon Queen closed her eyes and listen to the warrior say her name, which made the blonde's stomach curl. She loved it when the warrior said her name and then finally opened her eyes once more.

"And I love you Xena" Acting like Gabrielle, Xena's stomach curled at hearing her name being breathed by her soulmate. Still gazing into each other's eyes, they both were lost in the other's eyes not wanting to move. Xena was the one to finally break the trance.

"I think we better head to the Amazon's. Or they'll be sending ever Amazon out to find and protect you" Both laughed knowing Ephiny might just do that, to find their Queen. Xena then looked into the woods where she suspected Argo rushed off to. Whistling for her mare, the war-horse revealed herself not to be to far away with in easy running distance. Trotting quickly over to her owner Argo stopped dead in front of her keeper, in reward for not straying far, the warrior lightly stroked the mare's mane.

Gabrielle then made herself present once more, but with Xena's sword and chakram in hand and then in her right hand was her staff. The warrior graciously accepted back her weapons, placing it in its hook to her side. Before mounting the war-horse Xena sheathed her sword and took a quick glance at her surroundings, happy to not feel that eerie feeling any longer. The warrior and bard made their way at a brisk pace towards the Amazons. For the first quarter Xena let Gabrielle walk to let her catch her breath, and then for the rest of the way they both rode at a gallop towards the Amazon territory.

 

To be continued.

 

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