XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
WITHOUT YOU – PART 7
By Masque

Weaving The Threads

Gabrielle stood in the centre of the silent chamber, exactly where she had stood only one day before; except now she stood on a podium with rails around her. She was flanked on either side by the two Amazon guards, Melosa to her left and Terreis on the right. She also noticed that there were two more podiums behind her; one was at the foot of the left staircase and the either at the foot of the right. The twelve archways currently stood vacant; the Gods would not appear until they were summoned.

Artemis stepped before Gabrielle’s podium and the younger woman knew exactly what was going to be said. She remembered it word for word from the previous day and could have said it herself to save Artemis the trouble, but protocol was protocol.

“Gods of Olympus, I Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt call upon your presence to commence the trial of Gabrielle, Bard of Poteidaia, Queen of the Amazons; known to the followers of Dahak as the Betrayer and the Olympians as a Saviour.”

Once again Gabrielle thought about those titles and winced at the last two.

The archways became occupied by the twelve Gods - with Hades at the entrance to the Halls of War.

Zeus stepped forward, “Gabrielle. You have been brought here to stand trial for you crimes against the Olympian Gods and their people....”

What was it Ares said? Yadda, yadda, yadda, go. She had heard all of this before, why did they have to use such formality? Could they not just get on with the trial? Something that the King of the Gods was saying caught her attention.

“This Judgement will determine whether you will be condemned to death or allowed to return to your life.”

Gabrielle tried to breathe normally. This trial was about life and death, she thought - especially after what Hades had said - that the trial was to decide whether she spent eternity in Tartarus or the Elysian Fields. She leaned slightly towards her right and whispered to Terreis, “Remember when I told you I wasn’t nervous,” the Amazon nodded, “I lied.” Gabrielle was grateful when Terreis took her hand and squeezed it encouragingly.

“You will be asked questions by each of the twelve Gods present, and we will hear from two character witnesses. We will then decide the outcome of your Fate.” As he said the word Fate he indicated to his left where three figures appeared - Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos - the three faces of Fate. Between them they held but one thread; Clotho held the spool, Lachesis fed it through her fingers to Atropos, who held the blade dangerously close to the thread. Gabrielle supposed that was symbolic, she was walking a fine line between life and death.

“Bring forth the witnesses.” Zeus commanded.

Gabrielle turned to the left staircase behind her where she heard steps moving closer. A figure stepped to the podium flanked by the three Furies. Gabrielle almost swallowed her tongue when she saw the witness - Callisto?

The former Goddess did not look happy to be there at all, and she was not. She was attending under protest, at least that was what she kept telling herself.

The two blondes locked gazes for a moment and then Callisto smiled; she did not grin maniacally, she actually smiled. It scared Gabrielle.

Movement on the right staircase stole her attention as the person she wanted to see finally arrived. Xena moved onto the podium, she was flanked by Hercules - not surprising - and Ares - very surprising, even Zeus raised an eyebrow.

Their eyes found each other immediately and Xena wanted nothing more than to get to Gabrielle, to touch her.... She had only taken one step when a strong had gripped her arm.

Ares held her gaze and spoke before she could protest, “You can’t. They won’t allow it.” He warned.

Xena was about to push passed him when a second hand took hold of her other arm.

“He’s right Xena, you’re on their turf now, you have to play by their rules.” Hercules for once agreed with his brothers decision.

Xena looked at the two men and then back at Gabrielle. For now it was enough just to see her best friend again. Volumes of understanding, affection and happiness passed between them, words and touch were not needed. Xena relaxed and Ares and Hercules released her.

With all Gods, witnesses and guards assembled and in place, the trial could begin. Zeus descended from his platform and worked his way towards Xena, “We will begin with your testimony. Do you know why you have been brought here?”

“Yes.” Xena said.

“Do you know what is expected of you?” Zeus continued.

“No.” She replied bluntly.

“We will ask you about Gabrielle, you would do best to speak objectively.” This was directed to both Xena and across the chamber to where Callisto was doing her best to be uninterested in the unfolding trial.

“She’s innocent.” Xena stated, she wanted the Gods to know where she stood from the start.

“Your loyalty to your friend is not in question here, her motives in recent times are.” Zeus explained.

Xena did not take too kindly to the King of the Gods accusing her friend of being alterior, “Gabrielle didn’t have any motives, she lives by her own code, all life is sacred to her, even the Gods.”

“Maybe once, but surely you have seen the changes that have taken place in Gabrielle since her initial meeting with Dahak.”

“Yes there’s been changes. She got involved with something too strong for her, but she’s grown from it.”

“Some of those changes have been for the worst, she became dishonest, she betrayed. Weren’t you on the receiving end of her deceit?” Zeus questioned.

That sparked fury in the warrior, but not the anger of what Gabrielle had done to her, but the fact that the Gods were trying to drive a wall between her and her friend. “Don’t you dare try to turn me against Gabrielle, I won’t do it, I won’t play your games. Gabrielle had so much to deal with, and she had to face it alone, I’ll regret that the rest of my life. But she still the most beautiful person I know, and she never gave up on anyone or anything and she never gave up on me.” Xena steadied her breathing, it took effort but she composed herself. When next she looked up Zeus had moved away towards Callisto, she stole a quick glance at Gabrielle. The bard was looking at her, her blue green eyes glazed over but a small smile of appreciation tugged her lips.

Callisto had found Xena’s testimony most interesting. Xena had pretty much said that she forgave Gabrielle all her misdeeds, even the one that had led to her son’s death, yet Callisto could never forgive Xena who had caused the death of her whole family. Before Gabrielle had just been a way to get at Xena, but she had never really given thought as to why Gabrielle meant so much to Xena, only that she did. It was becoming obvious to Callisto that Gabrielle was a teacher to Xena, she had taught the murderous warlord humanity, love, compassion, forgiveness, all the things Callisto had lost in her greed for revenge. Her very world had become unhinged since she had died, finding out everything that could have saved her in life. Her thoughts were brought to an abrupt halt when Zeus began questioning her, she glared at him.

“You willingly gave your allegiance to Dahak and his daughter?” Zeus was disgusted by the thought.

“You could say that.” Callisto feigned disinterest in the whole matter.

“Explain yourself.” The God demanded.

Callisto appeared to contemplate this a moment and with a grin replied, “No.”

“You are one of us, you have responsibilities to the Olympians.”

“Lets not confuse ourselves. I may have eaten your sacred Ambrosia but I am not one of you. As I told our dear departed Strife ‘Who’d want me for a member?’” She took great joy in reminding all the Gods that she had killed one of them, a quick sideways glance showed anger bearly restrained in Ares features.

“You dare to mock?” Zeus blasted.

“Yes actually I do.” Callisto’s attitude was very relaxed and she seemed amused at the frustration she was causing all of the Gods.

“And what gives you this right?”

“I’ve got nothing left to lose.” Callisto explained, using a very patronising tone because the God did not seem to understand her current situation.

Zeus ignored her blatant insult and concentrated on the trial at hand, “As you’ve already been sentenced we shall forget your part in the whole incident and move onto why you have been brought here. To discuss Gabrielle’s part in the affair.”

“What the irritating blonde?” Callisto flashed a grin at Gabrielle and met an unamused glare, but Callisto was passed caring.

“Is that how you see her?”

“Yeah, that and annoying, stupid, naive, would you like me to continue?”

Zeus overrode her sarcasm, “Do you believe that she is guilty of bringing Dahak’s evil into this world?”

“What Gabrielle? Don’t be ridulous, well at least not on her own.” Callisto laughed at the idea. Gabrielle had been responsible for bringing the evil into this world, but she had not meant to.

“What do you mean? Explain yourself.”

Callisto gave an exasperated sigh, “You want me to spell it out for you? Okay. If Ares hadn’t always lied to Xena she would have destroyed the temple. If Xena hadn’t been so hungry for Caeser’s blood she would have been there for Gabrielle. If Gabrielle hadn’t been so blinkered and naive she would have seen the danger. And if you had got off your arse, instead of interferring with mortals lives you might have seen this coming.”

“Have you finished?” Zeus bellowed at the blonde warrior.

“No I haven’t. She may be irritating and annoying but Gabrielle would never deliberately bring that kind of hatred into the world. Her soul is too pure for that, she only ever sees the good in people, even me, Gods know why, but she sees it.” As her voice echoed through the chamber Callisto surveyed the stunned faces before her.

Gabrielle gaped open mouthed at what Callisto had said on her behalf, Xena was not sure she had heard right, but then given the conversation she believed she had had with the woman, who knew. Even Alecto seemed surprised, but a smile of satisfaction at her success split her features.

When silence had finally been restored to the Olympian courtroom Gabrielle began to feel increasingly uncomfortable; with both Xena and Callisto’s testimonies concluded the attention was now turned towards her directly. She was now expected to answer questions from each of the Gods.

The first barrage came from behind her, Poseidon’s archway rippled as it shaped into the top half of a man, “Why did you follow the disciples of Dahak?” His booming voice carried through the chamber.

Gabrielle turned on her podium to face the God of the Seas, “I didn’t know they were followers of Dahak, I thought it was the one God of the Israelites.”

“How could you not know it was Dahak?” His tone was mocking.

“They said they were not permitted to speak his name out loud. I knew nothing of Dahak.” She tried to convince him.

“And with no knowledge you willfully entered one of their temples and became a servant to the one great evil.”

“I never chose to serve Dahak, I was forced to.... to....”

“Forced to bring Dahak’s evil into this world like the weak minded mortal that you are.“

“No!” Gabrielle spat.

“No you weren’t forced, or no....”

“No I am not weak minded. Not even one of your own Gods could stand as an equal to Dahak.” She shot a glance towards Ares allowing the other Gods know exactly who she was referring to.

Finished with his questions Poseidon once again withdrew to his archway. Artemis now approached Gabrielle and touched her lightly on the arm. Gabrielle turned to face the Goddess. “Did you plan to kill the Priestess in the temple of Dahak?”

“No.” Gabrielle replied, it was only slightly bending the truth, she had not intended to kill the priestess, not until the moment that it happened.

“Then why did you kill her?” Artemis continued.

“I thought I was saving a friends life, but it was a setup, to trick me into losing my blood innocence, to become a sacrifice for Dahak.” Gabrielle’s mind drifted back to that time, the bloody dagger in her hands and Meridian’s dead body at her feet.

“Your blood innocence was important to you?”

“Yes. It represented everything that I believed in, everything that I stood for. When they took that from me they ripped my life apart. The cycle of hatred was supposed to end with me.”

Artemis smiled reassuringly at Gabrielle before withdrawing to her archway to be replaced by Hestia. “Why did you stay in to the temple after you had killed the Priestess?”

Gabrielle remembered the pain of her first kill, how her mind had screamed in rage, just as she wanted to now, “I was afraid, lost. I didn’t know what to do.”

“Are you sure that it wasn’t to complete the ritual to manifest Dahak’s evil into this world?”

“No.” Gabrielle had the feeling that Hestia was trying to accuse her of being in league with Dahak.

“So you stayed and allowed Dahak to rape, to violate your body and impregnate you with the child of darkness?” The Virgin Goddess was living up to her name and sounded completely appalled by what had happened, and the possibility that a woman would allow those things to happen to her disgusted the Goddess.

“I never allowed anything, he was too strong and I was helpless.” Anger was building rapidly, how dare she suggest that Gabrielle would allow those things to happen to her.

“Why did you keep the child?” Demeter asked, she had not even waited for Hestia to retreat to her archway before beginning her questions.

“She was my child, mine.” Gabrielle screamed.

“Why didn’t you allow the child to be killed once you realised who the father was?”

“I needed her. After everything that had happened she was my salvation. My Hope.” Gabrielle remembered the joy of motherhood had brought her, how it had healed her.

“But you did kill her?” There was not even a pause between the end of Demeter’s questions and the beginning of Athena’s.

“Yes.” Gabrielle was finding it harder and harder to answer questions about her daughter.

“Why? Why change your mind?”

Tears were filling Gabrielle’s eyes as she remembered the small, limp body cradled in her arms, the life seeping from it. “I saw what she was capable of and I knew she had to die.”

Athena nodded, satisfied with the answers she returned to her place and now Hephaestus came forward.

“Your daughter was responsible for the death of Xena’s son, correct?”

Not that, anything but that. She was glad that she had her back to Xena, she could not bare to see the pain that she knew was in Xena’s eyes. “Yes.” She answered quietly.

“Was that the reason that you killed your daughter?”

“Not the only reason.”

“Please elaborate.” Hephaestus urged.

“If she could kill an innocent child like Solan then she was truly evil.” Tears now flowed freely down her cheeks but she did not brush them away, they served as a reminder of the pain she had caused.

She had noticed that the Messenger of the Gods now stood before her. “Did you at anytime during these events concerning Dahak ever consider what would happen to the Olympian Gods?”

“No.” Gabrielle replied simply. Behind her Xena winced, that answer as truthful as it was would cost her.

“Why not?” Hermes was taken back by her answer.

“I was too busy considering my own situation to think about the Gods, I thought they could look after themselves.” She answered but she could not help wondering where the question had come from, it seemed so unrelated to the others. It was probably important to them, a way of testing her loyalty, “But if you mean did I intentionally betray you, then no.”

“Speaking of betrayal,” Apollo glided in front of her, as though he were still on a hover-board, “I’d like you to think back to China. We all know Ares helped you to get there before Xena so that you could betray her, is that right?”

“Yes.” She whispered, she had been through all of this before, in her mind, in Ming Tien’s prison, in the temple of Mnemosyne and later with Xena. Why did she have to go through it again?

“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that.” Apollo made a show of leaning closer to Gabrielle to hear her reply.

“I said yes.” Gabrielle repeated, this time louder but through gritted teeth.

“And why was it that you wanted to betray her?” Apollo’s face changed to dark amusement; not only had Gabrielle’s face taken on an ashamed expression but Xena had visibly stiffened.

“I was angry, I was jealous.” Gabrielle admitted.

“Stop it!” Xena screamed, it was hard enough for her to stand there and listen to the accusations being thrown at her best friend and have to have their dark past dredged up by the Gods of all people; but when she heard the pain in Gabrielle’s voice she had to say something.

“Silence.” Zeus ordered, casting his eyes from Gabrielle to the warrior.

“What did you want Xena to feel?” Apollo continued.

“Don’t do this. Don’t make her go through this again.” Xena pleaded.

“Answer the question.” Apollo demanded of Gabrielle.

“I wanted to punish her, I wanted to make her hurt.” Gabrielle screamed through the heavy sobs which echoed around the chamber.

“Is that the actions of a true best friend? Someone who wants to end the cycle of hatred?”

“No.” Gabrielle cried.

Apollo spun around and brushed passed Aphrodite as the Goddess of Love walked over to Gabrielle. She raised the young girls head and wiped the tears away. “Been hard this last year, huh?” Aphrodite peered into Gabrielle’s bleary eyes, all the girl could do was nod. “But you got through it?” Another nod. “What kept you going?”

“She did,” Gabrielle turned to face Xena and saw that Xena had been crying as well, “I’d do anything for her.”

A smile twitched at Xena’s lips.

“It must be good to have a friend like you.” Aphrodite concluded and then walked away.

Hades swept to the centre of the chamber reclaiming Gabrielle’s attention, “Is it true that after you killed your daughter you tried to kill yourself?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I had a reason for living, I still do.” She told him boldly.

Hades simply nodded and stepping back he gestured for Hera to take to the floor.

The Queen of the Gods seemed to float towards her, the pale eyes piercing her soul, “Why did you sacrifice yourself? Were you saving mankind, the Gods, the world?”

“No.” Gabrielle knew that the answer would as good as condemn her, but with those eyes boring into her she believed that Hera would be able to tell if she was lying.

“Then why do it?” Hera took Gabrielle’s chin in her fingertips, regarding the girls face for any signs of deceit.

“For Xena.”

“Are you sure you weren’t just looking for an easy way out?” Hera teased.

“No.” Gabrielle replied bluntly.

“One easy way to get rid of the pain, the responsibility of your actions.” Hera continued to goad.

“No.” She replied, louder this time.

“Admit it, you sacrificed yourself to escape, you did it for your own selfish reasons.” The Queen of the Gods was enjoying tormenting the young girl.

“No. I may not have done it to save the world but I didn’t do it for myself. I did it for Xena.” Gabrielle repeated the final sentiment over and over.

Finally silence descended upon the chamber. Gabrielle’s sobbing had ceased and only one question remained to be asked. Zeus stood tall on his platform and addressed the defendant, “Gabrielle,” the bard did not look up when she heard Zeus speak, “Do you regret what you have done?” Silence once again as Gods and mortals alike waited to hear what Gabrielle would answer.

A thousand images passed through Gabrielle’s mind. Murder at the end of a knife, rape by a fire demon, the painful and rapid birth of her daughter, losing her child three times. Then there was her betrayal of Xena, the guilt she faced as she almost cost her best friend her life. The deceit over Hope which had led to Solan’s death. The pain of her separation from Xena, their anger towards one another during that time. And when they thought the rift was finally over Gabrielle had had to face the guilt of her actions and confess her true reasons for her betrayal, deceit and dishonesty. Did she regret what she had done? She had to think long and hard.

Finally she raised her head and faced Zeus and all the other Gods. She looked to the Fates, the Furies, Callisto and finally Xena. Determined she turned back to Zeus and gave him her answer, “No. If I had regrets I wouldn’t be who I am now.”

Another silence. Zeus smiled down at the girl, “Good answer.” Re-directing his attention to the whole chamber, “The trial is completed. You have all heard the testimonies, you must now decide what you believe Gabrielle’s fate should be.” Zeus gestured towards Hera, on his right, to begin.

“Guilty.” Hera’s judgement sent a blow crashing through Gabrielle’s chest.

“I choose to abstain.” Hades decision did nothing to calm her fear.

“Guilty.” Hestia condemned, this time Gabrielle’s head fell.

“Innocent.” Hephaestus’s word sparked an element of hope.

“Guilty.” That hope was quickly dashed by Demeter’s verdict.

“Guilty.” Poseidon thundered, instilling the fear of defeat into Gabrielle’s heart.

“Innocent.” Gabrielle had known she could depend on Artemis.

“Guilty.” Apollo smirked as he spoke, watching Gabrielle resign herself to death.

“Innocent.” Aphrodite’s reply renewed her hope.

“I choose to abstain.” Hermes voice held neither defeat or victory for her.

“Innocent.” Athena announced, it was Gabrielle’s wisdom that had swayed her.

Gabrielle finally looked up at the King of the Gods who held the last vote. Six against her, five for her and two abstentions. Gabrielle’s lips suddenly felt dry as she examined what could happen. A guilty would surely mean her death, an innocent could possibly mean a re-trial and an abstention also meant her death.

“Innocent.” Zeus proclaimed.

It took a few moments for the word to penetrate, she did not quite believe what she had heard. Innocent. Gabrielle dropped to her knees in shock. What did that mean? All was even.

“We have reached a stalemate. We will now have to consider the situation further to arrive at a decision.” All the Gods nodded their agreement. “Remove the witnesses, they will no longer be needed.”

“I’m not leaving.” Xena began to object but found herself having to fight against both Hercules and Ares as they tried to remove her.

“Their rules Xena, remember.” Hercules reminded her.

“But I won’t know.... I want to stay.... Gabrielle....” She screamed.

The small blonde turned to see her best friend fighting with the God and the demi-god. A hopeless situation, where they could only watch one another as fate once again intervened. They had been there before, “Xena.... go.... please go. I don’t want you to see this.”

“Gabrielle....” The words died in Xena’s throat when growling could be heard across the chamber.

“I said no.” Callisto screamed. She was being held roughly by all three of the Furies. “Xena,” Both the dark warrior and the bard turned, “I never liked you, but for what it’s worth I’m sorry.” The Furies yanked at Callisto’s body, “Wait,” she hissed back at them, “Gabrielle.”

The bard stared at Callisto as she desperately tried to form the words she wanted to say to the bard. “Thank you,” Gabrielle told her, surprised that she would ever have to thank this woman for anything, especially defending her honour.

“You owe me brat.” Callisto grinned and then allowed herself to be led away by the Furies.

The last thing she heard was Alecto’s voice, “Congratulations Callisto, you found it.”

Callisto laughed through her tears as she embraced oblivion.

“Come on Xena, we have to go.” Hercules tried to turn the woman away but she would not follow.

“Gabrielle,” Xena began softly.

From her podium in the centre of the chamber Gabrielle looked at her best friend for what she feared might be the last time; she instinctively knew what the warrior would say, “Don’t you dare try and say good-bye. I won’t let you.” They both laughed softly, remembering Gabrielle’s wedding when Xena had not allowed Gabrielle to say those final words. “Now leave.”

Nodding Xena turned away, tears filling her eyes, and began to move away followed by Hercules and Ares.

Ares. The God of War stopped when he heard his own name inside his head. He looked up at Zeus. Stay here, his father commanded.

“Hercules,” Ares began, “Wait with her.” He said nothing more, not letting either one protest before he touched them on their shoulders and sent them back to the mortal plane.

He descended the staircase and went to stand in front of Gabrielle, his back to her so that he faced his father. “Yes Father?”

“Your part in this incident will not go without punishment. You allied yourself with the forces of Dahak and almost caused the downfall of the Gods of Olympus and you will be reprimanded accordingly.” Ares bowed his head in shame at his fathers words. “However, we have reached a dilemma in this hearing and against my better judgement you are to be granted your say. Understand this, whatever you decide will reflect on your own position so choose wisely.”

Ares turned the options over in his head; if he voted for her innocence then he was proclaiming his own guilt, the consequences of that could mean banishment from Olympus, being stripped of his godhood or sentenced to eternity in oblivion. He had experienced some of this punishments before and had witnessed what happened to former Gods at the hands of the Furies. On the other hand the Olympians needed him, they knew what would happen without the God of War, he could condemn her and the incident would be closed.

He cast a glance over his shoulder at Gabrielle, her face was expressionless, masking all of her fear. She held so much potential, so much innocence and right now she held his heart. Do I vote for you because of who you are? or do I vote against you because of what I am?

“Your answer Ares?” Zeus demanded.

There was no hesitation, Ares gave his answer - the only one he could give.

*           *            *

Xena’s Thread

They were returned to the clearing with a shuddering jolt; both staggered to gain their balance and shook their heads from the after effects of the shift. It was only the two of them, the others had probably returned to the house to await news.

“What do we do now?” Xena asked in the tone of voice that suggested that she would not be able to do it even if she knew what it was.

“We wait.” Hercules slumped down onto a nearby log.

“For what?”

“For the Gods to answer.”

Xena dropped to the ground and sat cross-legged, she reached up and rubbed the sides of her head with her hands. She did not know how long she had waited before she heard the voice.

“Xena,” The silky voice was calling directly to her, pulling her from the depths of her thoughts, “Xena,”

At the second time the Warrior Princess leapt to her feet and came face to face with Artemis. “Why are you here?”

“I think you know why.” Artemis ventured.

Xena briefly glanced around the surrounding area, she could not find what she was looking for, “Where is she?” The first note of worry was creeping into her voice.

“She’s safe.” Artemis told her in a calm voice.

“No. No.” Xena had a feeling of apprehension coursing through her. Surely they had not found Gabrielle guilty. “Where is she?” This time the question meant something different; if the Gods had voted for her to face death then Xena wanted to know if she had been placed in the Elysian Fields or Tartarus. Artemis remained silent, “Where is she? Tell me or I will tear Olympus, the Underworld and this world apart until I find her.” Right at that moment she could have done it, to be that close to getting Gabrielle back and have it taken away again, “Where is she?” Xena was screaming. All the anger and pain evident in her words.

Artemis’s brow furrowed, Xena had completely missed the point. “Gabrielle is where she’s always been, by your side.” Artemis glanced over Xena’s shoulder.

Xena jerked her head around to see Gabrielle cradled in Ares arms. She appeared to be asleep or unconscious, but most definitely alive. Xena did not bother to stop the tears.

Ares stepped closer to Xena; his punishment by the Gods had been to carry Gabrielle’s body back to the land of the living, back to Xena - it had been Aphrodite’s idea, the worst kind of punishment for the God of War was an act of love. He delivered the sleeping girl into Xena’s arms, she took the girl and held her close. “Take care of her.” Ares told her and then he and Artemis were gone.

“We’d better get back to the house,” Hercules suggested.

Xena did not move.

“Would you like me to carry her?” He offered.

Xena tightened her grip on Gabrielle, pulling her even closer. Her tears fell from her face and onto the fabric of the blue dress, “No, no, I’ll carry her.” Xena could not take her eyes away from Gabrielle.

*           *            *

Concluded in the Epilogue