First steps

1. Part of The Darkness and The Light series

By Mikael Helbo Kjaer

Email: mikaelhk .dk

Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and all other original characters portrayed in the TV show Xena, Warrior Princess are the exclusive property of Renaissance Pictures, Studios USA and Universal Television. No infringement is intended by this piece of fiction. The story is however the exclusive property of the above mentioned author. This story can be freely copied and distributed online under the condition that any website or list informs the author about the posting. The story and this note must be presented unedited except for any HTML added for presentation purposes. All other situations must be negotiated with the author.

Setting: Post FIN

Sexual references: GEN (with subtext)

Violence: This story contains scenes and descriptions of intense violence

Rating: PG-18

Summary: 1st installment of the currently planned series 'The Darkness and The Light', which follows the adventures of first Gabrielle alone and then the girls together after the end of the 6th series, which I found unsatisfying to my need for XWP action. This 1st story follows Gabrielle as she handles an adventure in Egypt, discovering more about her soul and other secrets hidden in the shifting sands of the great desert.

Author's notes: This is my first attempt at Xena fan fiction. And as English isn't my first language (I am a Dane) bear with my hopefully not too bad grammar and writing style. Also send me reviews (no flames, please I am not interested). By the way I know it starts out slow. I am building up my repertoire and the series. For reference Tepemkau means: "Best of Souls" and Netikerty means: "She who is excellent" in ancient Egyptian.

Chapter 1:

"Lie still!" A young female voice commanded with the complete confidence of someone used to giving command and being obeyed.

"Alright", an older and deeper voice also of a woman answered. The voice was clearly of someone weak with age or disease yet still managed to carry a tone of reprimand as if its owner despised being commanded to do anything. "It is just hard. I am not… used to being inactive for so long". The woman shifted in her bed again.

"I know, but you are still terribly weak. Any exertion could easily kill you Mother", the voice whispered and fell silent.

The darkness around us dissolved slowly and we glimpsed a darkened bedroom from the ancient age. A worried yet hauntingly beautiful woman with almost elfin features, dark hair and light blue eyes dressed in the style of the lands of the East is seated next to a large bed. On the bed lay a very different yet clearly related woman with long totally black hair even more haunting light blue eyes and a deep tan. She was very tall and incredibly thin. She seemed near death and her thin body barely capable of movement.

"Eve I know, but I can't help it. I have never been able to keep still unless I was planning to ambush someone", the woman explained wistfully. "I have to have something occupying me either my hands or my mind", she said and turned her head slightly to stare at the shuttered window. Silence fell on the room once more.

"Eve. Have you sent for her? I know she will be very angry with you and me if we don't. She would want to nurse me back to health herself… I owe her that. And so much more", Xena said and turned back to look at her daughter.

Eve looked away. Xena gulped. She had only been back amongst the living for almost a day; she hadn't even asked how long she had been dead, much less how or even where her soul mate was.

"She isn't?" Xena left the question unasked afraid to learn the answer.

Eve, her beautiful daughter, just turned her head to look at her.

"I don't know", she finally answered, "no one knows. Gabrielle left Greece a few months after she returned from Egypt. She traveled with the Amazons, a few months after there still came word then suddenly she stopped sending messages. Maybe the distances became too great. Lila wanted her to come home and see Sarah's child, but the note she sent to the Amazons, came back with a message that the Amazons no longer knew if Gabrielle even existed much less was alive. No one has heard anything from or about her for over two years now".

"How long was I dead?" Xena asked in shock and look at her daughter again to check for any signs of aging. There seemed to be none.

"Two and a half years", Eve answered and looked at her mother with great pain in her eyes.

"And no one knows what has happened to my Gabrielle", Xena said more to herself than anyone else.

Eve winced at the desolate tone of her mother, who had once more accomplished the impossible and returned from the dead. She had declined to explain how she had managed that or even why no matter the pleas her only living daughter had made.

"You know mother I think that you can find out what really happened to her", Eve explained suddenly remembering the strange collection of paper in her possession.

"What do you mean?" Xena asked and looked at her daughter again.

"Some months after Lila received the note from the Amazons. I was back here in Greece wanting to relive my few memories of you and her. I was trying to rebuild our family's Inn as a Hospital, when Lila and Sarah showed up with something", she smiled warmly and dashed from the room.

Xena watched in bewilderment as her daughter carried a familiar looking pouch into her room. It was Gabrielle's scroll bag. One of her most prized possessions. Xena noted how her daughter carefully and almost reverently opened it and gently took a pair of scrolls from it.

"You treat that as if it was holy or something", Xena stated with an irreverent smile.

"Mother, Gabrielle and I had our differences in the past. I did kill Joxer and made a serious try on her. But after our separation I had the chance to read many of her works and I have even been graced with a few oral performances, when she was around at your burial. Gabrielle is probably one of the greatest bards ever and one of the best philosophical minds of these and many coming years. I must admit there is even more. When you died I learned that even with the different events in your lives and times spent in adventure she was not my elder, but in fact my equal in age. Yet there is so much in her nature, philosophy and history, which I wished I had known or been able to emulate more closely", Eve was drawing breath for another explanation, but her mother cut her off.

"You are not serious. Gabrielle has to be older than you. At least I think so", Xena explained and tried to calculate how old Gabrielle was in birthdays that mattered.

"Mother, it was also a point of contention between me and her until she sat down and spelled it out for me. She was barely 18, when she left her home to follow you. She knows for sure that she has spent 6 almost 7 years of wandering with you even though you had a slight detour of 25 years of cold sleep courtesy of Ares. She did spend the year, where you was amongst the Vikings, sleeping in an ageless sleep. At least that was what she said Brunhilda had claimed before putting her into the ring of fire. So that makes Gabrielle 25 when you and she parted ways. I am in fact slightly older than her. Funny isn't it, since she, as she told me later, had planned to act as a mother for me if you and she had been able to raise me. After you were gone I kind of began to think of her as a kind of sister", she explained and looked at her mother again.

Xena was silent for while as she considered what her life had done to her much younger companion. Gabrielle had truly seen everything at her side and still she was easily 12 years younger than her. Xena shuddered slightly at that thought, when she once again noticed the scroll her daughter was holding. "Are those really what I think they are? And if they are, how did you get them?" She inclined her towards the scrolls and the scroll bag.

"These are the scrolls she wrote after your death, she left the rest in your tomb. This is Gabrielle's last story about you. She called it: A Friend In Need. Would you like to hear it?" Xena winced at the thought and wearily shook her head.

Eve nodded her understanding and slipped the scrolls back into the bag. "As I said Lila and Sarah came over from Poteidia with this. Gabrielle had left some of the stories there, when she was last there. Mostly travel journals about her trip from Japan to Egypt and back here. Almost a year ago a couple of disheveled Amazons came to Lila carrying the scroll bag and the rest of the stories now in this bag. They claimed that Gabrielle had left orders that this bag should be brought to her home, if she didn't return from her travels within a year. They thought it was Poteidia, but Lila came here, saying that if Gabrielle had passed away then this last remnants of her existence should be placed in the family crypt next to you", Eve explained.

"Why didn't you? I promised her that", Xena said with a hint of a rising anger in her voice. Despair spread in her entire being as the thought of Gabrielle's death spread through her mind. She fidgeted and winced as pain shot through her weak body.

"Stop moving around Mother… I didn't do it, because I did not want her writings to be lost. And because I… I didn't want to bury another one of you…" Eve paused and looked at her mother with great sorrow and pain etched across her face and in her eyes. Then she looked up and smiled wanly.

"And I have the really sure feeling that she is not dead. I don't know why Mother but I think if Gabrielle was really dead, I would know as I did, when you… did" Eve explained with tears showing in her eyes.

Xena considered the thought for a moment. Would she feel if Gabrielle had died? If she would, had she. Would their bond as soul mates draw them together again? Where they even soul mates anymore, after what she had done to return to life? After what she had done to Gabrielle when she chose the greater good or was it selfish desire for redemption over her? She didn't feel the assuring presence of Gabrielle around her, but that could just be proximity. She had the same empty feeling now, as when she had thought Gabrielle had died with Hope.

"I thought that maybe reading some of these could keep you occupied, allowing you to regain your strength", Eve suggested.

Xena stayed silent and locked in deep thought for a while. Finally she reached for the bag made of leather. Slowly and as reverently as her daughter she opened the pouch that she had only opened very few times in their life together and which she had never really bothered to read the contents of.

"How do I tell them apart?" Xena asked as she saw a strange collection of not only many different types of scrolls, but also a roll of animal skin and a strange but neat looking square of papers tied together at one side with strings.

"I have arranged them chronologically with the oldest scrolls on top. The scrolls are about Japan and the trip home through Egypt as well as around Greece. The animal skin is an account from the Amazons. I have never read it… I don't understand their written language. And the square thing is a book from Chin; I have no idea about the contents of that one. It is written in one of their languages and I have never learned that one either. I don't know how it got there or what it contains", she explained.

Xena nodded and took a scroll after the pair her daughter had indicated contained their last adventure together.

She unrolled the dry parchment and look on the neat and trained letters of her bard. She instantly recognized Gabrielle's neat and practiced handwriting, but the scroll began differently than most of her other stories. This wasn't a heroic tale, but looked and read more like a personal journal. Carefully and barely moving she read:

4 days.

These days not even breakfast holds any happiness for me. At least my nightmares of her headless body hanging in the rain riddled with arrows have receded. I still feel anger unlike any I have known before in my life. My emotions betray me. These last days have been wrought with difficult times. I spent as little time as possible in Japan after my soul mate's departure. I still feel her near and at times I think I even saw her at my side as a ghost only I could see. But I know that is only my broken heart casting illusions in my eyes, not my eyes telling me the truth of her continued existence. I have spent the four days getting of this gods forsaken cluster of islands called Japan or Nippon in the native tongue. Four days bargaining with my feelings. I have felt despair and hatred. I have hacked a tree to pieces with a katana in anger. I was like a little girl again. I hated Akemi and even Xena for their actions. I wanted to avenge Xena's death by slaughtering the armies or railing against the relatives of those souls that keep Xena locked in the afterlife. But if I have learned anything in this life it is that hate, vengeance and anger leads to nothing. I have decided many things in my life and if I am to look at myself tomorrow or any day after this. If all our travels together have taught me true lessons, then I should not act to unmake Xena's decision. Xena has sought peace and found it in the afterlife. No action of mine should change that. Oh, I want it to not be so. I want Xena alive and at my side with the entire fiber of my flesh, mind and soul. Yet my love guides me in this. It is clear. It was her decision. She didn't want my life to end with hers. I can understand that.

She always claimed I mattered more to her than the greater good… except this time. No, that is not a fair claim. I mattered. I had to go and get her body and turn in it into ashes. I am still a little bitter about that. I had to fight for her. And she changed her mind without consulting me... Something I should have gotten used to by now, but it always makes me feel so unappreciated. Even if this time her decision irked and angered me and she should have spared me the task she set before me. But she was always changing the plan without me. I have long forgiven her that flaw. However many a time these last few days I have asked myself: Was she wrong? Why would Harukata help her at all if he knew and he did that she planned to return to life after the death of Yodoshi? He was totally dedicated to his duty. I just don't know enough of the rules of life and death in Japan to answer that. Maybe one day I will know. Now after I have finally left Higuchi and Japan behind on a Chin merchant man traveling west. I hope to cross Chin, Indus and Persia by land. I am going to Egypt. Xena was needed there. Maybe I can manage her duties this time, although I have often failed at that in the past, but hopefully not this time. I am all that is left of her warrior legacy. I could be their hope. I must go on for as I said long ago as I was willing to die for the greater good as she stood alone against an army: "I have accepted the costs of my life with her".

Xena looked up in wonder. She had rarely caught such a deep look inside the thoughts of her bard. If this was how Gabrielle thought about all things, how deep she felt about all things then it was no wonder she hurt so deep from all the events in her life. Najara had been right all along, it was her job to hurt Gabrielle. And she had probably managed to do that quite often without knowing and as well as intentionally a few times.

9 days.

I have begun my travels through Chin. At least the people of Higuchi were grateful for Xena's selfless sacrifice and help. I left Japan with a fortune in gems more than enough to get to Egypt and even Greece if I hide my wealth well and keep the prices low. We went to Japan with very little in money and the help of some very brave Persian traders looking for new trade routes to exploit. I arrived trained in the warrior arts of Japan thanks to Xena and Kenji. I even learned to master a sword on our month long journey. Finally one could say after all these years.

In many ways I changed most on this journey. I finally learned to cope with seafaring without hurling all the time. And I leave even more changed. I have learned the final secret of Xena's fighting arts. My body has been adorned by a beautiful and magical tattoo of a green dragon. Of course, I was also taught to apply the pinch. Even stranger is the fact that somehow the combination of all her knowledge allowed me to finally use the chakram. Maybe it was some of the stray drops of the holy water I swallowed, when Yodoshi hit me with his fire. I have been steadily training with it ever since I have begun traveling over land and the ability seems to be lasting and my control is growing quickly. Now that I have mastered listening I can sense the chakram and even other missiles on their approach better than ever before. But the many changes leave me with little happiness as I am unable to share these wonders with my life, my second soul. That cuts as deep as having an arm removed.

I will feel this near endless sorrow for many years to come. This will cut deeper than Perdicus and Hope. This is Xena, the other half of my soul. The woman I have dedicated my life to. I have grown up with her. She guided me and allowed me to turn into who I am today as much as the events of our life together shaped me. She was best friend, sister, family and mother to the Gabrielle I look upon in the reflection of a still pool of water today. I am who I am. Who I wanted to be, who I begged her to make me, when we met, I realize now. I have had ample chance to revise my life and I even now have the choice to go home to Lila and Sarah to stay for the rest of my life.

Yet as I looked upon the alternatives and I have spent hours doing that. I realized many things about me that I didn't before. I was always ready to be a warrior. I was ready to fight for what I believed in even before I met Xena. Tarterus, she met me, when I stood up against one of Draco's slavers. I can fight and even kill. I have often wanted my blood innocence back. I wanted that Hope was never born of me or that she had been born from Perdicus instead of Dahak. I wanted to change many things. Maybe it is my age talking as I am around 50 even if I have only lived 25 of these years. However if I hadn't done or experienced these things, the world as we know it today might not even exist. And I like myself. I am not perfect. Perfection and innocence was an illusion that I held up before me for many years before I realized that all humans make mistakes and are capable of evil at a moments notice. I know this now. I realized that killing is not always evil and that sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. One should not seek a battle, but if you enter into one be prepared for the consequences for anything less is utter stupidity.

Oh, Xena I miss your body next to me at night. I miss talking to you. I miss the sense of security that I had when we were traveling together. I have never done this alone and I fear failure. I have failed at so much so often. You were always there to rescue me. Now I have to continue on without you and become strong enough to exist in this world as a complete person as a full adult. Please don't let my continued life be one of failures. I feel that I have to make you proud. I will. I have thought on this. Once I would have taken your death as a sign that I should seek a proper place to live and settle down either with my family or the amazons. But that notion holds no happiness for me anymore.

Ares once said that I was to be your successor. I have decided he was right in a way. I am the warrior for the greater good now. Not a warrior princess, but warrior, bard and amazon queen. And that hopefully adds up to be enough to at least fill in for you until I die and we meet again in heaven or maybe in another life if that destiny is still valid… Is our future really set in stone? Are we really destined to meet again and again, never to be together forever. I no longer find consolation in the thought that all our adventures, all our sacrifices, all our growth, all our deeds in this life will be forgotten. They will become faint memories of our souls. That seems too pointless. There must be a reason for this. Gods I feel so alone. Yet I don't crave the company of the living anymore.

61 days.

Egypt is on the horizon. These last two months have been hard on my soul and my body. Chin was mostly peaceful and my short trip through India was equally blessed with only two short adventures. However I have been forced to battle many slave raiders for my continued freedom while crossing Persia. Apparently something in my looks or nature attracts them to me like flies to a rotting carcass. I have boarded a trader going to Alexandria hoping to find out which if any adventures await me in Egypt.