Disclaimer & Notices: See Chapter 1.
Fight for Hope
by Red Hope
“Time to get up… up, up.” Xena grabbed the furs and tried to take them from her partner.
Gabrielle had grown fast in her years so she snatched the furs back before she could get a shot of morning cold air. She knew Xena’s trick too well. She curled back up in them and sighed happily. “Another hour, Xena.”
“No, we have disciples to stop,” the warrior reminded who was fully clothed and armored. “Come on.”
Gabrielle buried her head deeper into the furs. “Make breakfast,” she sleepily muttered.
Hope was prepared to leave too, she stood off the side, and her hands on her hips. She shook her head then asked Xena, “Does she always act this way when the fate of the world rests in your hands?”
The Warrior Princess peered down at her sleepy partner then back at the younger reflection of her partner. “Pretty much.”
“The fate of the world can wait one more hour,” the groggy bard complained, and she proceeded to roll over so her back was to the pair.
Hope then had a wicked grin when an idea came to mind. She narrowed her eyes then focused her powers on the furs. She happily watched as the furs lifted up into the air.
Gabrielle may have been sleepy, but she recovered swiftly and snatched her covers back down. “The more you bother me the longer I’ll get to sleep.”
Xena smirked over at the demi-god, who was shocked. She almost wanted to laugh because there was nobody, no power, or thing that could get her soul mate out of bed until she was quite ready.
Hope let out a frustrated breath then muttered, “We’ll see.” She then concentrated more of her power but this time directly on the bard.
Gabrielle’s right side felt cool surprisingly, and she squealed when she opened her eyes and saw she was floating in midair.
Xena had wide eyes, but she started to quietly laugh.
Gabrielle struggled some but stopped when her bare feet met the foot of the bedroll, and she was now standing up. She blinked then her shocked features centered on Hope. She stood with the furs clung to her front side and her short hair very messy.
Hope couldn’t stop it if she tried, and she bent forward and laughed hard. The image of Gabrielle’s expression and the messy hair just wouldn’t leave her.
Xena joined in the laughter, but she covered her mouth to muffle the laughs when she saw Gabrielle’s now angry features. She knew just how grumpy the bard could be when she was woken up. She held up her hands at the bard, backed one step, and still chuckled.
Hope sensed the mood change so she calmed down then took in Gabrielle’s angry expression. She bit her lip.
Gabrielle pointed a finger at the demi-god but still held the furs up too. “You think Dahak is the problem?” She quickly balled up the furs then threw them at Hope.
The demi-god instantly reacted but without so much as moving a muscle.
The furs abruptly stopped in midair then hovered there for a brief instant.
Gabrielle’s eyes widened at her mistake then she caught Hope’s wicked smirk. “Oh no, don’t you dare!” She tried to jump out of the way when the furs came back at her, but it was useless. She was hit by the furs and became entangled in them then fell onto her butt. She tossed her arms about and desperately yanked the furs off her head and body. She gasped for cool air then glowered at the amused pair.
Xena raised an eyebrow slowly when Gabrielle’s head came out of the furs. She bit her lower lip.
Hope covered her mouth with her hand so that she wouldn’t laugh, and she stared at how Gabrielle’s hair stuck straight up in the air thanks to the rubbing motions of the furs.
Gabrielle growled and snapped, “What?”
Hope snickered then quickly walked away before she caused anymore trouble.
The bard focused her temper on her smug partner.
Xena cleared her throat then tried to seriously ask, “What would you like for breakfast from this general area?”
Gabrielle blew air up at her bangs, which were standing up right. She didn’t reply and only glared at her amused soul mate.
“Come on, breakfast is almost ready,” Xena offered in peace. She flashed a smile at her grumpy partner then went to the fire.
Gabrielle sighed and finally dragged out of the bedroll. She went to the saddlebags and gathered a soap and hand towel. She rammed her feet into the boots, didn’t bother to tie them, and went down to the creek.
The Warrior Princess was busy cooking the quail eggs that she’d scrounged up in the woods. She flipped the egg over in the worn pan and cooking eggs was one of her many skills. It was pretty easy for her to tell when they were ready to be eaten.
Hope turned her head away after Gabrielle disappeared in the woods.
“Don’t talk to her unless she talks to you first. Once she eats her breakfast then she’s suitable to talk to,” Xena advised.
Hope chuckled and took a seat on the rock.
The warrior finished off the two eggs, and slid them onto the plate. She’d already eaten some dried jerky as she was never much for breakfast anyway. Gabrielle though would have her set mood for the day depending on how her breakfast went. Xena had figured out that secret years back and always endeavored to make the bard’s breakfasts substantial so there wouldn’t be any moodiness. It was also the reason why Xena had figured out to cook eggs and in different ways.
The bard returned with a more pleasant demeanor plus her hair was organized. She’d obviously wet it and took control of it. She quietly put her things away then she straightened up to find her partner beside her.
Xena held out the plate of eggs, a Roman fork, and she did her best not to smirk.
Gabrielle silently accepted it then took a seat beside the demi-god.
The warrior had already put the kettle back over the fire. She’d had tea already and knew Gabrielle would like some too. While the water boiled, Xena gathered up the bedroll and messy furs.
Gabrielle idly watched her soul mate efficiently gather up everything and have Argo tacked up. She was almost finished her eggs but peered up at Hope. “Did you eat?”
Hope shook her head. “I’m not hungry since I ate last night.”
The bard couldn’t imagine not being hungry. She focused back on her last egg and happily enjoyed it. Just when she set her plate down, Xena came to her and gave her a mug of tea.
Xena then used the time to put out the campfire.
Hope was amused by watching the pair work so well. She recorded how the couple silently understood each other and had come to an understanding. She imagined it’d taken a lot of time for them to figure each other out.
The bard finished her tea then set the mug down on the plate. First, she rapidly laced up her boots then climbed to her feet. She went back down to the creek with the dirty dishes.
Hope stood up and brushed her skirt back in a habit Gabrielle would have done.
Xena had caught the motion and the eeriness passed her. She towed Argo closer then opened up the saddlebags just in time. Gabrielle gave her the cleaned dishes, and she put them away.
“Xena, where are my…” Gabrielle sheepishly smiled when the sais’ handles were in front of her face.
The warrior smirked and released the weapons after her partner had them. She then guided Argo back to the woods.
The bard finished sheathing her sais then took off at a jog. “Come on, Hope… no time to dawdle when the world’s fate rests in our hands.”
Hope gaped briefly, but she sprinted after the warriors. She noticed she actually felt more relaxed around them and probably because Gabrielle was calmer around her.
The small group traveled only a few hours when they came upon the familiar area. Xena ducked into the woods after she dismounted Argo. She guided everybody through the woods and came to the edge before the hill down to the temple. She inhaled deeply and stared at the rebuilt temple.
Gabrielle came to her lover’s side and studied the temple. “Gods… it hasn’t changed.”
Hope stood beside a tree but stared at the temple. She clenched her hands at her side when she felt Dahak’s will flowing off the temple and spread across the lands. The temple was a beacon.
“What’s the plan?” the bard asked.
Xena waited a beat as she considered it, but she looked to Hope. “How many disciples are there?”
The demi-god did a quick mental count. “At least twenty… maybe more by now.”
“There were almost that many at the village,” Gabrielle recalled.
“There were only six left by the time we finished.” Xena sighed then glanced at her partner.
Gabrielle lifted her head and seemed to read her soul mate’s thoughts. “That’s good odds… for us.” She chuckled at Xena’s suddenly smug expression.
“Here’s what we’ll do,” Xena mapped out aloud, “I’ll go into the temple and draw them out. We’ll have a better chance to beat them in the open.” She then glanced at her partner. “You two stay up here until I get them out.”
“What about the temple?”
“We’ll worry about that last,” Xena replied.
Gabrielle gazed beyond the temple and observed the ledge to a cliff side. Then beyond that was the great sea. She peered up at her lover. “Maybe we can toss them off the cliff…? They won’t exactly scramble back up to get us.”
“If there’s a sandy beach below,” the warrior agreed.
“There is,” Hope confirmed. “There is a rocky bottom in one area but the rest is just beach.”
“Alright,” the Warrior Princess whispered, “you two lure them down there. It’ll be like herding sheep.” She then smirked at Gabrielle. “You should be good at that.”
Gabrielle slotted her eyes at the joke. “Baa.” Then she shoved her partner away from her. “Go on, Warrior Pain in the Butt.”
Xena smirked but quickly hitched Argo to a low tree branch. She started in a jog but called, “Don’t cry wolf until I get down there.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?” Gabrielle muttered.
Hope’s eyes followed Xena until the warrior just seemed to disappear somehow. She focused back on Gabrielle and questioned, “How good are you with those sais?”
Gabrielle mimicked her soul mate’s arched eyebrow.
Xena sprinted through the woods that wrapped around the front and sides of the temple. She came down the hillside then stopped on the wood’s edge. She knelt down and watched the few disciple guards walking past. She rolled her eyes at how incompetent the men were, but it was her luck. Once they were out of visual range, she popped out of the woods then neared the right side of the temple. She dropped her head back and gauged how high the round, open window was at the peak of the temple.
Xena back peddled until she was by the wood’s edge. She then made out the voices of the guards coming back so she hastily acted. She sprinted and launched straight up for the open window.
Gabrielle nudged the demi-god and commanded, “Let’s go.” She raced through the woods and felt Hope on her heels.
Hope ducked under a few low branches, but she kept up easily.
The bard stopped at the hill’s edge and noted only a few trees went down the hillside. She turned to her right and saw how close they were to the temple on this side. She then prepared to jump into the tree until a small hand grabbed her arm.
“Are you sure about this?” Hope asked.
Gabrielle turned back and answered, “Just don’t spin me too much or I might get sick.”
The demi-god couldn’t help a laugh. “Be careful.” She squeezed then let go.
Gabrielle swallowed, yet she came closer and whispered, “You too… and stay away from the temple.” She searched the demi-god’s soft green eyes. “I don’t want to lose… to lose this.” She turned away then gave a few wide steps and jumped into the tree.
Hope was quite impressed with Gabrielle’s new abilities. Then her attention was swiftly drawn down to the temple’s main entrance.
There was a loud war cry known only to the Warrior Princess.
Gabrielle knelt on the thick branch. She extracted her sais but flipped out the blades, which briefly caught the sunlight. “Come on, Xena,” she muttered.
The a wave of disciples flowed out of the entrance and some stumbled backwards. Three of them were trying to stop the warrior that’d flushed them out. Then the earlier stunned guards joined in the fight.
Gabrielle stood up and mentally prepared for her great feat. She glanced down at Hope. “Ready?”
The bard inhaled deeply and prayed that her trust was properly instilled in the demi-god. She started an amazing run down the tree branch towards the temple. She gave a piercing cry then launched off the branch.
Xena’s head snapped up when she heard the cry. She jumped back from a sword catching her, but she had time to watch her partner explode out of the tree leaves and sailed.
Gabrielle stretched out her arms so that her sais were the first thing ahead of her. Just as she felt her body about to drop, a strange sensation lifted her up and kept her flying momentum forward.
Several disciples spun around when they heard the smaller warrior. They had swords out and prepared for the unknown attack. They then became confused when the warrior wasn’t falling to the ground but instead seemed to fly.
Hope kept her powers focused on the bard’s body, which was heavier than she’d expected. She felt the beads of sweat roll down her brow, yet she didn’t waver. Hope then narrowed her eyes when she added the last element to their surprise attack.
Gabrielle was close to the stunned disciples and suddenly her body began to spin. She clung to her sais with all her strength when she plowed through the disciples. She took out their swords and knocked over plenty of them. She then landed perfectly on top of one disciple, who had ducked down to dodge her. The bard rammed her boots into him then effectively jumped off him and flipped in the air. She came to a light landing beside her partner, and she straightened up with her sais at the ready. She smirked at the half beaten disciples.
Xena had furrowed eyebrows then asked, “How’d you do that?” Then she realized it and almost felt like smacking her forehead.
Gabrielle smirked and wickedly replied, “I have many skills.”
Xena rolled her eyes then taunted, “Come on, sheep girl.” She charged the disciples.
The bard quickly joined the fight.
Hope remained slumped against the tree. She heaved a few deep breathes then muttered, “It shouldn’t have been that hard.” She brushed back her damp bangs. She gazed down at the warriors fighting the glob of disciples, and she knew she was the bait.
The demi-god shoved off the tree then hurried down the hillside. As she approached the fight, she saw that several disciples recognized her, and she grinned at them.
“Help her,” Xena instructed to her partner.
Gabrielle had already planned on it since Hope was defenseless except for her powers. Gabrielle knocked out her opponent then dodged around several others. She met up with Hope, but remained a few steps ahead of her.
“Get them!” a disciple yelled who recognized the fact that Gabrielle and Hope looked alike. “Dahak wills it!”
Gabrielle kicked at the disciple that lunged at her then she turned to Hope. “Let’s go.” She grabbed the demi-god’s wrist and hauled her off towards the cliffs.
Hope ran beside Gabrielle, and she occasionally shook her head.
Gabrielle noticed it and rasped, “What… is it?”
“Dahak’s… will,” the demi-god simply explained.
The realization hit the bard, and she ran closer to Hope. “Just fight it.” She glanced back and saw most of the disciples were coming for them. She guessed that Xena had a few left with her.
Hope stopped when she saw the cliff’s edge was only several hundred feet away. She faced the oncoming disciples. “Stay behind me.”
Gabrielle tucked her blades under her wrists but stood just behind the demi-god.
Hope took a deep breath then counted the heartbeats until it was the right moment. She suddenly surged her powers at the disciples.
Terrified screams rang out when the disciples exploded into the air then came tumbling down to the hard ground. The disciples that’d been on the edge of the invisible explosion quickly came after the demi-god and bard.
Gabrielle moved past the paled demi-god and prepared to stop the few incomers. She stopped two blades then kicked at the third opponent’s spear he had which flew up into the air.
The bard gave a butterfly kick and took out anther disciple. She landed on her feet, put the sais into both hands, and caught the spear when it was beside her. She spun and tossed the spear at the demi-god. “Defend yourself!”
Hope caught the spear just as two disciples came at her. She jumped away then lifted the spear as if it were a staff. She briefly shook off Dahak’s calling will then raised the spear horizontally to stop a blade.
Gabrielle heard her partner’s sharp warcry, and she thanked the gods. She backed away when five disciples targeted her. She back stepped again when one disciple was far better than the other four. She blocked his blows effectively.
Hope hissed when one disciple’s blade caught her arm. She glanced at the bleeding wound then her features darkened considerably upon witnessing the disciple’s glee.
Gabrielle had seen it, which caused her to lose focus. The expert disciple came for her, and she backed away but stopped when she felt the ledge near her.
Hope easily followed her body’s natural motions with the spear. She didn’t understand how she knew to use it like a staff, but she kept her opponent’s back.
Xena came into the thick of the fight, and she spotted Gabrielle far to close to the ledge. She frantically tried to press forward so she could get to the bard.
Hope heard Gabrielle’s brief yelp when Gabrielle teetered on the ledge. She was surprised the disciple was trying to shove Gabrielle off. Suddenly her attention was taken away by the three disciples that were upon her.
The bard saw the disciple’s blade coming at her chest, and she lost her last bit of space. She tried to hold her balance when her right heel went of the ledge. “Xena!”
The Warrior Princess saw her soul mate fall back, and she yelled, “Gabrielle!” She desperately surged against her opponents but she was too far.
Hope caught sight of Gabrielle slipping off. She threw her spear at her enemies then she turned. She took a running jump and flew off the ledge just after Gabrielle fell over.
“Gabrielle!” Xena cried out just when she came to the ledge. She briefly watched Hope fly fast towards her soul mate, who was aimed for the jagged rocks. She turned back to the disciples that came at her.
Hope used her powers to pull at the beach below so that it made her fall faster. Her body seemed to blur, yet she stretched out her hands and grabbed the bard.
Gabrielle quickly clung to the demi-god even though she didn’t know what would happen.
“Hold on,” Hope instructed. She then focused her eyes on the jagged rocks that were closing in on them. She willed all her strength into her powers. She clenched her teeth as she fought against the powerful momentum that they’d picked up from the fall.
Gabrielle closed her eyes and buried her face into Hope’s neck. She prayed that the rocks would only cut through her and not rob Hope of her life.
Hope gave out a scream when they closed in on the rocks. Then childhood memories of her and her mother together flashed past her mind. She had a sudden rush of strength.
Gabrielle held her breath, but abruptly the wind stopped around her. She still held her breath while her heart frantically pounded. She slowly opened her eyes and took in her surroundings.
Hope remained on top of Gabrielle, her arms encircled the bard’s upper body, and her boot tips just passed Gabrielle’s. Her blond hair cascaded around the bard’s shoulders.
Just underneath Gabrielle’s back, a rock’s toothy tip was a hand’s length from going through her stomach. The women just hovered there above the rocks then slowly they glided forward towards the beach.
Hope lowered them into the sand then she rolled off of Gabrielle’s body. She urgently gasped for air and tried to calm the anxiety.
Gabrielle placed a hand over her right chest, and she felt her erratic heartbeat. She’d forgotten her weapons in the sand and recovered from the dramatic fall off the cliff. Her eyes followed the long length of the cliff to the very top.
“Look out below!” Xena called out who flipped a disciple over her back. She then had a beat and checked on the two women down at the bottom. She smirked and called, “Enough lying around down there, get up here and help!”
Hope turned her head to the warrior and asked, “Is she always this demanding?”
Gabrielle couldn’t help a grin then a soft laugh escaped her. “That’s just her way of showing how worried she was.” Then she took a deep breath and flipped up onto her feet.
Hope was less dramatic, and she simply climbed to her feet. After Gabrielle got her sais, she mentioned, “There’s a path up the cliff just down here.” She noted Gabrielle’s curious gaze. “I’ve been down here a few times,” she softly admitted.
The bard walked along side Hope towards the path. “When?” she cautiously tried.
Hope was quiet for a bit as if recalling her faraway memories. “The first time I was reborn then just recently before I came to find you.” She scanned the sea horizon and murmured, “I was just drawn to here. Its beautiful… I felt at peace for a little bit.”
Gabrielle smiled appreciatively because she understood Hope’s draw towards nature. She touched the demi-god’s arm and sincerely stated, “Thank you for saving me.”
Hope reached up and took the bard’s hand into her matching one, although she felt the difference between her soft ones and Gabrielle’s worn ones. “You’re welcome.”
Gabrielle smiled, really smiled at Hope but finally let go. “We better hurry up.” She started into a run. “Come on.”
Hope took a deep breath then followed.
The Warrior Princess’s cry rang out then she grabbed a disciple by the arm and swung him around.
The disciple was rocketed into the air towards the sea. He made a nose dive for the water.
Xena spun her sword then faced off against the remaining twelve disciples or so. She hadn’t expected there to be so many disciples, but she didn’t have any problem with an extended work out.
Gabrielle reached the top and gave her sais a spin before she charged into battle again.
Hope took a moment to catch her breath as she wasn’t in shape like the warriors. She stood away from the battle, but her gaze wandered over to the temple in the background. Her eyes glossed over when she felt that dark pull from Dahak.
A disciple broke away from the fight when he spotted Hope. He came for her.
Hope straightened up and prepared to face him. She centered her powers on the disciple and stopped him dead in his tracks when he was a few steps from her.
The disciple growled and tried to fight the invisible force that stilled him. He couldn’t move though.
Another disciple broke away from the group and quickly came at Hope with his sword raised.
Hope was taken by surprise and lost her focus on the first disciple. Suddenly she had both of them coming at her.
Gabrielle reacted when she’d seen the second one break away from the fighting. She chased after him and launched into an air kick. She hit him hard in the back and landed on him. She then perfectly threw her sai at the remaining disciple.
The disciple tried to come at Hope, his sword up, but he lost his sword from the sai. He glanced at his sword far behind the demi-god.
Gabrielle though attacked with rapid kicks, and she swiped her last sai at him. She easily confused her opponent, and he didn’t realize it until it was too late when he went off the ledge. She then saw the earlier disciple was getting up so she quickly grabbed him by the arm.
Gabrielle mimicked Xena’s earlier tactic. She gave the disciple a nice spin by the arm then swung him off the cliff, but not as far as Xena had done. Finally, she picked up her sai and asked, “You okay?”
Hope nodded then replied, “Tell Xena to back away.”
“You’re going to repeat that same thing?” the bard asked. After Hope’s nod, she agreed then raced back into the fight. She made it to her soul mate’s side and gave her the hidden signal to retreat. She was glad they’d worked out silent communications incase of such an event.
Xena gave her sharp cry then slashed at her three opponents, which caused them to back off. She grabbed the bard and took off towards Hope.
The twelve disciples yelled in unison then chased after the warriors.
Hope rushed her powers at the nearing disciples. She satisfyingly watched the disciples become airborne and fly backwards. She noted two went off the cliff side.
Gabrielle breathed heavily and grinned at how none of the enemies were getting up. She then smirked up at her lover. “I think Hope has you beat on the skills section, Xena.”
The warrior slotted her eyes at the bard, yet she grinned. “Well she can be your partner for now on.”
“Touchy, touchy,” the bard teased, but she sobered and asked, “What about the temple?”
Hope made her presence known and said, “I will take care of it.” She moved away but a nimble hand caught her by the wrist.
“Oh no.” The bard pulled the demi-god back to her. “You’re not going in that temple.” She held Hope but looked to Xena. “There has to be a way to destroy it?”
The Warrior Princess raised an eyebrow. “Do you have a catapult handy?”
Gabrielle’s face darkened, and she snapped, “Yeah, back in the saddlebags.” She sighed and calmed down. “We have to do something.”
Xena glanced over at the now moaning disciples.
Hope tried to pull her arm free but Gabrielle stopped her again.
“You’re not going in there,” Gabrielle hotly reminded.
Hope set her jaw when her temper flared up in her. She took a deep breath then came closer to the bard. “I need to go in there. I know how to destroy the temple… plus I left something behind.”
“If you go in there then Dahak will have you.” Gabrielle shook her head. “I’m not about to let you go back to him.”
“He can’t control me,” the demi-god argued, “my will is my own.”
“You’re easily subjected to it,” Gabrielle reminded who had fiery green eyes.
Hope knew if she retaliated against Gabrielle it would get ugly. She stepped closer then tried to be calmer. Her voice was soothing. “I have to do this.”
“No you don’t,” the Gabrielle rebuked.
“I can’t be scared of him,” Hope explained, “if I don’t face him now then I’ll live the rest of my life in fear.”
“And what if your life ends in there?” Gabrielle hotly demanded.
Xena listened and knew it wasn’t her place to speak, but the slowly standing disciples caught her attention. She lifted her sword.
“Then it was meant to be,” Hope sadly whispered.
“No,” Gabrielle snarled, “I’m not going to lose you to him.”
Hope smiled at the words despite how they were said. She had warm features because Gabrielle’s true feelings were surfacing. She took the last step and lifted her hands. She placed her palms against Gabrielle’s cheeks.
Gabrielle lifted her hands and covered Hope’s hands. She searched Hope’s eyes for what seemed like some time.
Xena silently walked away and confronted the disciples so that her soul mate and Hope were protected. Her cry was loud yet it barely pierced Hope and Gabrielle’s shared consciousness.
Gabrielle lowered her head some just as her tears showed. She shook her head and turned it away.
Hope pulled the warrior into her arms and hugged her tightly.
Gabrielle wouldn’t resist so she hugged Hope back. She hoarsely whispered, “Whatever happens, I want you to know that I have and always will love you.” She withdrew and touched Hope’s cheek. “No matter who you are I can’t stop loving you.”
Hope collapsed Gabrielle’s hand into hers and whispered, “I know.” She laced her fingers through Gabrielle’s. “This is who I really am… don’t forget me.”
Gabrielle felt her tears slip more, and she covered her mouth so that her cries were muffled. “I won’t,” she rasped.
“I’m sorry… for everything,” Hope whispered then separated from her mother. She swallowed down her emotions that threatened her too, and she turned away.
Gabrielle remained still. She ached as her daughter grew more distant to her.
Hope started in a jog but then she went into a run. She headed directly for the temple that called for her. She would answer the call but not the will even if it destroyed her being.
The bard finally faced the disciples that were giving her partner a hard time. She placed her sais into both her hands then joined the fight.
Hope entered the temple then weaved through the halls until she entered the main room. Ahead was the altar, which was before the firepits, and kneeling before the altar were the two head priests. She shook her head at them then called, “Dahak’s time has come to an end.”
The Priest of the Flesh and the Priest of the Blood rose up and faced the demi-god.
Hope stepped back when the priests were not mere mortals anymore. She stared at them and her face reflected horror.
The priests, in unison, declared, “We are the Guardians of the will.” They withdrew their swords from their cloaks. “Dahak wills that you return to him, goddess.” Their faces were matching, both ugly and similar to the Deliverer’s.
Hope shook her head then stoned her free will. “We seem to have a difference of opinions, but I’m willing to bet you two won’t win.”
The Guardians growled together then came for Hope.
The demi-god pulsed her power at the demons and sent them flying back into the altar.
The stone altar cracked and crumbled under their weight.
Hope quickly lifted the swords from their hands and hover them high in the air. She then easily glided them over the fire pit and released them.
The Guardians climbed to their feet and shook off their daze. They came after the demi-god again but with their clawed hands at the ready.
Hope knew she needed some time for recovery so she briefly glanced up at the balcony to her left. She came towards them then at the last moment, she jumped, landed on one’s shoulders, and jumped again. This time her powers gave her an extra boost and sent her higher up. She just made it onto the balcony. She turned and smirked at the stumped demons.
The Guardians exchanged looks then they each went to either side of the wall. Simultaneously the demons rammed their clawed hands into the stone wall then their claw feet.
Hope cursed when the Guardians slowly worked their way up the wall. She felt that her strength was close to full so she mapped out a plan. She pretended to become fearful of the approaching demons.
The demons hopped onto the balcony on either side then raised their claws. They took a step closer.
Hope glanced between them then warned, “Trust me, you don’t want to do what you’re thinking.”
The Guardians opened their jagged teeth filled mouths then slobber showed.
Hope crinkled up her nose then tensed her leg muscles. When the demons leaped for her, she screamed and went over the balcony. She landed on the floor neatly, but she spun around and viewed how the Guardians were tangled up in their own claws and spikes. “I must have received mother’s intelligence,” she muttered.
The Guardians wailed when they separated then they turned their angry, ugly faces to the demi-god below.
Hope back stepped, past a pillar, and held up her hands. She narrowed her eyes, but kept a careful watch on the angry demons.
The pillar just to Hope’s left started to rumble and vibrate. Then cracks ran up the pillar when the invisible force started to break it apart.
Hope’s forehead covered with sweat, yet she wouldn’t let up her fight against the pillar.
The Guardians jumped from the balcony and neared the demi-god, one step at a time.
Hope gritted her teeth then rushed her powers in a great strength.
The pillar gave way and tumbled down on the demons.
The Guardians painful cried but went silent and the pillars stilled on top of them.
Hope grinned, yet her victory was short lived. She suddenly fell to her knees when a sharp pain pierced her head. She hunched forward and covered her ears as if she heard something. “No,” she rasped.
The firepit roared and a stream of fire snaked over the top then slithered down the steps, over the broken altar, and closer to Hope.
Back by the cliff, Gabrielle took out her last opponent then glanced at her partner.
The Warrior Princess poked the disciple with her sword’s tip and tilted her head. She smirked and watched the disciple wave his arms about in the air then he fell off the edge. She turned around and leaned her blade against her shoulder. “That wasn’t too bad.”
The bard grinned yet lost it when she thought about Hope. “We need to help Hope.” She turned towards the temple.
Abruptly the ground started to shake faintly then grew more intense.
Gabrielle lost her balance and fell to her knees.
The warrior tried to stay up since being use to the rockiness of a ship. She gained her balance again when the ground stilled under her feet. She hurried to her partner’s side and helped her up.
“By the gods, what was that?” Gabrielle rasped.
Suddenly the highest point of the temple erupted then a fountain of fire spewed from the the opening and spilled out over the temple’s roof. The temple was set ablaze.
Gabrielle clutched her soul mate and just as the ground violently shook again.
Xena couldn’t hold her position; she and Gabrielle fell to the ground, but she held onto her partner.
“Gods… we have to help, Xena.” The bard tried to get to her feet but her partner stopped her.
“We can’t go in there, Gabrielle,” Xena yelled over the quake.
“I don’t care!” Gabrielle tried to stand up despite her partner’s strong hold. Then a louder sound from behind them caught her ear.
The warrior gazed back over her shoulder. She watched in horror as the cliff’s ledge was collapsing and quickly coming for them. “Time to go!” She forced her legs to lifted her and her feet steadied her under the quaking land.
Gabrielle used Xena’s body for support then she tried to run.
Xena held onto the bard’s hand as they ran together.
The ground gave a sharper shake and sent the bard down onto her ankle the wrong way.
Gabrielle lost her grip on Xena. She hissed in pain and her sais in her right hand almost pierced her. She rolled onto her back and grabbed her injured ankle with her left hand.
The warrior knelt down and balanced her body with her left hand. “Can you get up?”
The bard’s eyes welded up with tears between the pain and frustration. “I don’t think so.”
Xena glimpsed back at the falling cliff side, which was coming closer by the second. She sheathed her sword quickly then took the bard’s sais. She sheathed them into Gabrielle’s boots then swiftly scooped up the bard.
Gabrielle looked over the warrior’s shoulder and saw how near the cliff was growing. “Xena-”
“I know!” Xena climbed to her feet and tried to balance. “Hold tight!” She swiftly ran across the vibrating ground then as she neared the temple she heard the sound of wood cracking.
The hillside that surrounded the temple began to give way. The trees snapped apart and slid down the steep hill then the earth loosened.
Xena stopped when she saw they were surrounded by the danger. She then was forced to kneel when the ground quaked harder than normal.
Gabrielle clung to her soul mate, but she saw what was happening. “Xena, we can’t get out of here.”
The trees continued to break off and roll down the the hill. One large tree picked up more speed than the rest and rolled directly for the soul mates.
The Warrior Princess urged her legs to lifted her up then she growled as the tree came for them. She gave two running steps then pushed off just when the ground violently shook more.
Gabrielle closed her eyes tightly, and the world spun around her. The air was knocked out of her when Xena landed hard on the ground. She opened her eyes and saw they’d landed in between three down trees.
The burning temple rumbled louder and louder then the fire fountain gushed higher up then suddenly back drafted into the temple. Then the roof completely exploded into pieces, and the stones rained in the air all around.
“Keep your head down!” Xena knelt to the ground and tried to cover Gabrielle as best as she could.
The bard balled up against the warrior’s body, and she heard Xena growl in pain. She desperately hoped Xena was okay. She listened to the stones fall around them then it stopped.
Xena lifted her head then looked back at the cliff side.
Gabrielle almost rolled out of Xena’s grasp when the powerful quake struck. She stared in horror at the temple that was completely in a blaze then a stream of fire rose up from the ground and seemed to focus on something. “By the gods, no.”
The Warrior Princess caught sight of what she thought was Hope standing off against the fire stream. She wasn’t sure, but she became concerned about the approaching cliff. Xena rose up to her feet but then a boom caught her attention.
“Xena!” Gabrielle screamed and pointed at the tree that came flying down the hill towards them.
The warrior had no time. She jumped forward and ducked under the fallen tree that was just ahead of them. She tucked Gabrielle far under it then squeezed her body against it as best as she could.
The rolling tree bounced off another fallen tree, flew up into the air a ways, and crashed down on top of the three trees that surrounded the warriors.
Gabrielle couldn’t tell if her body shook or if it was the ground. She lifted her head then hastily called, “Xena?” She received a soft moan. “Xena, Xena?” She quickly reached forward and felt her partner’s head, and something wet but warm. “No… n-n-no, please.” She realized the light was blocked by the tree over top of them. She used her feet to push her body forward. “Xena?” She received no response this time.
The trunk over Gabrielle’s head shifted from the next quake and moved down on her but stopped.
Gabrielle’s breath caught then she hastily worked to get her and Xena out of the dangerous position they were in. She used her feet to push off the one tree and pulled Xena’s heavy body with her. Her ankle screamed painfully, but Gabrielle didn’t care.
Another quake shook the ground harder and the tree slumped a bit more.
Gabrielle screamed, yet she threw all her strength into the next push. She suddenly came out into the light, and she hauled Xena out with her. Just when she and Xena were in the open, the tree fell and just narrowly missed the Warrior Princess’s feet.
Gabrielle pulled Xena closer to her and checked the bad head injury. “Xena?” she whispered and tried to brush the blood away. She placed her hand on the warrior’s chest and felt the steady heartbeat, which made her calmer. “Come on, Xena.” She sadly smiled when hazy blue eyes opened up and slowly focused on her.
“I hate… moving trees,” the warrior muttered in a painful voice. “They always come… at my head.”
Gabrielle laughed despite the situation. She stopped when the earth was shaken the hardest yet.
“Get… up,” the warrior mumbled as if a self command. She lifted her body up first with her hands then tried to get her feet under her.
Gabrielle forced herself to get up, although she fell back down when the ground shook her.
Xena caught her partner and tried to help. She then shook her head of the last fuzziness. She realized the cliff was now just fifty paces away from them and just snaked back behind the temple.
“Oh no,” the bard whispered.
A shrill scream pierced the air then Dahak’s firepits erupted and started to cave in on itself. The ground reacted by another massive quake.
The cliff ate away at the ground and narrowed inland.
The rear of the temple toppled and fell down the eating cliff side. The pillars rolled for some ways then stopped in the avalanche of dirt.
Gabrielle yelled when the tree near them suddenly disappeared down the approaching ledge. Her boot tips were close to it.
Xena grabbed the bard’s waist then her foot slipped.
Gabrielle lost her balance then the ground crumbled under her feet. She started to fall but Xena pulled her back from it.
Xena fell backwards from the earthquake, yet she hauled Gabrielle into her body. She scrambled backwards and took her partner with her.
The cracks snaked forward and chased after the pair. The faster crack came right at Gabrielle’s feet.
Xena kept backing up until her back met the fallen trees behind them. She picked up the bard into her lap and held her tightly.
Gabrielle clung to her soul mate and closed her eyes.
Xena held her breath when the two cracks met just in front of her feet then they stopped. She remained tensed and waited for ground to open up under her but everything went still and very silent. All she could hear was her and Gabrielle’s matched gasps for air.
The bard raised her head up then opened her eyes. Before her was the beautiful sea and the sun was sinking close to it. Her eyes lowered to the ground far below them that’d been made from the earthquake. She couldn’t even count the endless trees that’d been swallowed up by the quakes.
Xena felt her heart calm then she whispered, “You okay?”
“I… I think so.” Gabrielle took her lover’s hand into hers. “Are you?”
“Besides the nasty bump, never better.”
The bard then snapped out of her daze and breathed, “Hope.” She struggled to get to her feet despite her injury.
Xena climbed to her feet too and helped her partner.
The warriors carefully waded through the mess and made it to the edge of the burning, crumbled temple.
Gabrielle surveyed the rubble and tried to frantically pinpoint the demi-god. “Hope?” she yelled.
Xena touched her soul mate’s shoulder in reassurance.
The bard shook her head then whispered, “I can still sense her.” She hastily entered the destroyed temple and hunted. “Hope?”
Xena followed and carefully searched for the demi-god as well, but she was worried what kind of condition Hope would be in by now.
Gabrielle climbed over a fallen pillar, and she suspected Hope would be near the main room. She followed the dim connection she shared with the demi-god and it slowly grew stronger. “Hope!”
Xena caught a glimpse of the location where the fire pits typically rested. They were gone now and completely filled by dirt and rocks. She was relieved.
Gabrielle came to a pillar stump, and the rest of the pillar pieces rested in a heap. “Xena, over here!” She knew, she could feel it… she could feel her daughter here.
The warrior quickly joined her partner in shoving the heavy pillars aside. She braced her shoulder against the top one then put all her muscle strength into it. She clenched her teeth and with a powerful push, she and Gabrielle knocked the pillar fragment off.
The bard knelt down beside the unconscious demi-god, who was slumped against the pillar stump. She checked Hope’s pulse at her neck and sighed at the steady beat. She then investigated Hope’s injuries, which were a mix of bruises, cuts, and smudged dirt.
Xena assisted by running her expert hands over the demi-gods body. She didn’t detect anything broken or swollen. “She seems okay.”
Gabrielle nodded, and she was going to say something but stopped. There was something in Hope’s cupped hands that caught her eye. Gabrielle reached forward and gingerly removed the wooden object from the demi-god’s hands.
Xena stared at the wooden lamb in her soul mate’s possession. She’d never known what’d happened to that Solstice gift, but it all made sense now. She lifted her gaze and studied her partner’s emotional profile.
The bard turned the lamb around in her hands. She knew it was her lamb she’d given Hope as a child. When she turned it over, she ran her fingertips over the small carving of her and Xena’s initials together. Gabrielle originally knew nothing about the added, carved initials that Xena had done back on that Solstice until moons later.
Gabrielle met her soul mate’s concerned features; her eyes glistened.
Xena sadly smiled then quickly placed a kiss to the bard’s forehead. “Let’s get her out of here.” She nudged forward and slipped her arms under the demi-god.
Gabrielle stood and backed away. She briefly looked at the lamb again and understood Hope’s earlier comment that she’d left something in the temple. Gabrielle would have never guessed it was this lamb, which obviously had a lot of meaning to Hope.
The Warrior Princess rose up and adjusted the demi-god in her arms.
Gabrielle stood up then carefully and slowly worked through the temple’s rubble. She bit her lower lip against the sharp pain in her leg. In her right hand she tightly held the lamb. “I hope Argo is okay.”
“I’m sure she’s fine,” the warrior mentioned.
The bard peered up at her soul mate and worriedly asked, “How’s your head?” She noted the blood had dried over Xena’s right temple.
“Just peachy,” Xena joked and showed a crooked smile.
“Hard head,” Gabrielle muttered.
“I heard that.”
The bard chuckled but reached back and brushed the warrior’s arm. She then watched her footing before she made her condition any worse. She briefly held up the lamb to her face then lowered it. “It’s going to be okay, I think.”
Xena stepped over a large stone first and briefly glimpsed at the unconscious woman in her arms who looked as her soul mate years back. The memories from when she’d carried Gabrielle out of Dahak’s temple in Britannia briefly passed through her. She remembered Gabrielle’s words that everything had changed and now they have again, but this time it was for the better.
“Yes,” Xena softly agreed.
Gabrielle was happy when she was out of the temple, although when she saw the mess ahead of them, she sighed.
Xena paused and looked at the hillside that’d avalanched and had trees thrown over it.
“I really hope Argo is okay,” the bard muttered then proceeded the trek to the destroyed hillside.
The warrior grinned at her partner’s concern for the horse since the original Argo and Gabrielle never faired at the start. She shifted Hope in her arms and received a faint moan, but Hope did nothing else.
The warriors made it up the hillside after awhile, and Xena gave a whistle for Argo. She was rewarded by a whine then a trotting horse with swinging reins approached. Xena instructed Gabrielle to ride since her ankle still bothered her. Gabrielle argued that Xena and Hope should, but the warrior won out the debate simply because they both were too tired to fuss. Gabrielle settled the skittish horse down then mounted her.
They only traveled for twenty minutes or so. Xena couldn’t carry Hope much more and her body ached, much like Gabrielle. The bard was just happy to put some space between them and the temple. They went into a small clearing in the woodland and slowly setup a camp. The night’s usual run of jokes didn’t pass between the couple, and they only ate jerky, cheese, and some dried fruit. Xena promised a better meal in the morning.
Gabrielle first had Hope down in a bedroll then covered her with some furs. Then she and Xena spent time checking over their wounds. Afterwards, Gabrielle helped get the campfire built and started then she slumped into her shared bedroll. Gabrielle hadn’t felt this sore in a long time, but she found her favorite place right in Xena’s arms.