Xena notices several things as she moves. I am never out of breath. And the warrior realizes she has no urge for food or water. That is when the questions begin as she runs effortlessly through the woods, along the paths and all night, all day.
What am I?
She passes through a village, one that is all too quiet. She is cautious, nervous back among the living. Blue eyes dart around. And if she listens intently enough, she can hear... beyond the edges of reality... A voice... But it is broken by the sudden rumble of hooves upon the ground. Xena jumps back, startled. The voice is lost in a haze of dust.
What is going on with me?
The warrior stays to herself. She ignores the inn. She bypasses the ragtag market. She clutches the now frayed parchment in her tireless hands. Gabrielle...what is this all about? In her former life, Xena found it hard to feel things, to allow emotions. Yet, her body moved with a grace, an ease. Now... I feel too much, sense too much. I am aware, then not.
Even her own thoughts seem different. They focus with unnerving precision.
I am not like before.
Xena looks at the paper in her grasp once more. She studies the threat, mulling it over and over. Who wants the Amazons dead? There are no gods, no vengeful sons or name-making warlords behind this pursuit... Who has this kind of wealth?
The ground shakes again, revealing the same group of men on horseback as moments ago. It seems celebratory - and Xena then sees why. Dragged by her arms, a young woman with the markings of a fighter upon her face... an Amazon.
Before anyone can react, Xena is up, rushing toward the girl.
Her fingers tighten, turning into a fist and connects with someones face... then another and another, until every man there is running, bloody and beaten.
She releases the Amazon, cradling her broken face.
"You...you are..." Weak. Fading. The girl can barely form words.
Xena curses the fact that she didn't notice the girl before, so caught up in her own confusion, her own mind.
"I am Xena. Who did this to you?"
And the woman smiles, a brilliant and dying expression.
"Artemis..." The Amazon whispers.
The goddess Artemis? She would not hurt the Amazons.
Xena sets up the pyre and lights it.
But they are all gone. Artemis is gone.
The warrior stands back, arms crossed and looks to the sky. Smoke rises up, red and yellow sparks shoot forth.
And Xena feels the tingle up her spine, the sense of being watched. This voice, this sensation of being followed for days...
"I know you are out there." Xena says quietly, before turning away from the make-shift funeral and back to the road, back to racing to the Amazons, to Gabrielle.
To an answer.
TBCReturn to the Academy