The characters Xena/Gabrielle/Ephiny/Argo all belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. All Star Wars references belong to Lucas Film Limited. I made no profit from this story.
This is the first time I have posted one of my stories on the web. I have many, many more and depending on the replies will determine if I should start to post the others on the web too.
This story contains strong sexual situations between consenting men/women, and women/women. If this type of story bothers you than do not travel down this path.
You can email me at email@example.com I like to hear what you think, but flaming insults are not appreciated.
Warriors, Princesses, and a Jedi
by Darth Payne
Amid the stars, beyond the confines of the atmosphere of the planet earth, two snub fighters were locked in a desperate battle to survive. Both ships piloted by veteran pilots. One a Jedi knight. The other, a Sith lord. Lieutenant Commander Kith Qel-Droma had been out on combat space patrol for a few days, when the Sith Interceptor came out of nowhere. The Sith's Interceptor's green lasers spurted out clipping the X-wing along the starboard side engines. The damage wasn't too severe and R4 was busily working to correct the damage before the main drive cut out.
"R4, try to bypass the injector and reset the flow regulator! Do it manually if you have to, but get this ship functioning again."
The droid bleeped out a response to Kith's command just as the Interceptor fired its laser cannons again. The X-wing was starting to handle sluggishly now. Its speed had dropped well below the possibility of an evasive action do to the sudden loss of power from the attack. Kith turned in the cockpit trying to get a bearing on his attacker. He saw the blasts coming in and reacted on instinct. Taking a hold of the control stick, he tried to pull the ship out of harms way, but was not fast enough. The impact of the blast put the ship into an out of control spin, with Kith desperately trying to regain control of the tumbling X-wing.
The Sith lord, Darth Payne, eased the Interceptor around some of the debris from his quarry. The controls of his ship responded perfectly as he brought the X-wing fighter into his gunsights and fired a barrage of cannon fire across the back of the ship. A tremendous explosion flared out into space and large chunks of the astromech droid that sat in the control socket flew past him.
Without a droid to calculate the hyperspace jumps the ship was effectively stranded, plus there would be no repairs to the damaged fighter.
"Now you are mine."
Lord Payne's thumbs slid up to the fire studs at the top of the flight controls again. The X-wing passed through the cross hairs once more, and Payne let out a third barrage of the green lasers, catching the X-wing amid ship and blowing off one of the port side wings and engines. By this time they both were flying very close to a large green and blue world which did not appear on any galactic map. The sensors relayed it was an oxygen-nitrogen rich atmosphere with almost no contaminates.
"R4, the main drive is dipping below 6 standard time parts, any slower and a Z95 could give us a run for our money, get the main drive back online." There was no response from his diminutive friend. "R4 respond!"
Kith chanced a glance through the rear port of the ship and saw what was left of R4 - T5. He had known the droid for seven years and in that time he had become a close friend. He helped to save the Jedi on more occasions than he could count, and R4's logic kept him from overestimating his own abilities. He bit back his sorrow and concentrated all his will to gaining control of the careening fighter.
The Sith's Interceptor sliced through the emptiness of space like a predatory avian. The Sith Lord shot a cruel smile at the helpless fighter, he knew that the enemy pilot was strong in the force, probably a Jedi. He closed the distance in preparation for the kill. Just as he fired the cannons, the X-wing executed an impossible maneuver forcing Darth Payne to pull hard on the control rods to slow the ship before the X-wing flew past him, but it was too late.
The X-wing banked hard left than right, performing the wotan weave. The ship's port side engines were gone, but Kith brought the ship under control after performing the old and out dated, but quite effective, maneuver. The ship's speed was falling below four standard time parts now. He needed a place to land before the X-wing stalled out in space and left him a sitting Bantha.
"OK, where am I?" First Kith looked to his sensors than out of the view port to the planet below. Kith began to make the mental calculations of his skill, his ship, and his own desire for self-preservation. The X-wing should be able to handle atmospheric reentry, but if the repulsor drives were damaged he would have to perform an emergency crash landing. Not the kind of landing he wanted but anything was better than being turned into chunks floating in a gas cloud by this Interceptor. Kith took one last look at the Sith Interceptor, he could barely feel the darkside energy emanating from the ship, and he knew what he had to do. He looked ahead and began to bring the ship around for a planetary landing.
After coming into contact with the atmosphere the friction from reentry began to heat the ship well beyond the hull tolerance. He was coming in way too fast. Apparently the repulsorlift drives were off-line, and with only two engines and three wings operating, he could not bring the ship down slowly. In ten seconds the ship began to smoke and flare up leaving a distant trail of smoke and flame, with the shields completely gone he could only hope he wouldn't explode.
Lord Payne brought his ship around and began to scan for the X-wing. He located it just as it hit the upper atmosphere of the large planet, then lost it due to massive interference; perhaps the X-wing had exploded on reentry. None the less he continued on his course bringing his ship in for a landing on the planet as well. He would make sure the Jedi was dead.
Timotheos wiped his brow off of the dirt and sweat, reveling in the night air. He had just finished plowing and weeding his garden when he looked up and saw the most frightening thing he had ever seen in his life. He had heard stories from travelers and merchants from distant lands. They called it a phoenix. Some kind of Firebird as big as a house with fires as hot as Tartarus surrounding its body.
"By the gods, Elena come quick, you must see." A voice, harsh with age, but still with a beautiful tone floated out of the house.
"What is it? Is someone coming?"
"No, but you must see this, quick before it's gone."
A woman stepped out of a small thatched roof cottage and quickened her pace to stand by her husband. She stared up at what fascinated him so and felt a shiver of fear at what she saw. It scared her so much that she buried her face into Timotheos's chest. The Firebird soon came down somewhere behind the hills in the next valley near Lake Corinth. The sound of distant thunder pierced the night and beyond the hills was a bright light, like the early morning glow before the sun rose to greet the new day.
"What was that, Timotheos?"
He could only shake his head in disbelief. "I don't know, but quickly let us be inside before it rises again." They returned to their domicile, closing the doors and windows. They kept watch for the return of the phoenix all night, but it did not show itself again.
With the land around him smoldering, and the cockpit canopy jammed, Kith was forced to use the emergency stud to blow it off. He then climbed out of the wrecked fighter on to an unknown and alien planet. It was night on this world, and the night air helped to remove the cobwebs from his mind. He then went about surveying the damage to the fighter.
The entire starboard side of the hull was either torn from the crash landing or blown open by the laser cannons of the Sith Interceptor, revealing all of the conduits and cabling from the proton torpedo launchers to the rear engine housing. Both port side engines were gone as well as one of the S-foils, but the emergency storage hatch was still in place. Thankfully the X-wing was built to be durable just in case of such a crash landing was needed.
"Well, nothing like a ten point landing to get the adrenaline going." He paused to take a look at R4, his lower metal body was still firmly attached to the maintenance socket, but his dome shaped head and one of his legs were gone. The droids power cell was slag, and the logic-personality circuits were completely destroyed as well. The Jedi finally allowed a few tears to fall for his faithful companion. R4 was more than just a droid, a lot more than a pile of circuits, powercells, and servomechanisms. He was family when it came right down to it. He even laughed at Kith's pathetic jokes about the Hutts. Kith would never forget his diminutive friend.
Kith got a hold of himself and began to scavenge for whatever he could use from the ship. His survival pack was all in one piece, complete with three weeks of food and energy capsules. His tools for repairs to his lightsabre, his Merr-Sonn Model 434 Deathhammer blaster pistol and several power packs rested at the bottom of the pack as well. He removed his tools and blaster from the bottom of the pack. He took his macrobinoculars, two medpacs, and an A200 Aquatic breather. Besides the few battery cells in the ship he also found and quickly confiscated a comlink and a Jedi field kit, plus a utility belt, and travel bag. The only thing left was to activate the emergency beacon to signal help. The energy on the ship was critically low but the transmission was successful before the signal died from the loss of power. He was very far away from his post in New Republic space, but smugglers and explorers sometimes traveled out this far. Hopefully someone would receive the signal, but even if it is intercepted it could be weeks, months, or years before help actually arrived.
He removed his flight suit and dressed in the formal robes of a Jedi, sensing this was more appropriate to the culture of this world. He than gathered up his supplies, placed them in the travel bag, and checked his lightsabre. Sadly the weapon did not function. A quick check revealed that the crystals inside were fractured and useless. He would have to find a way to repair it and soon. He than turned away from the ship and began to travel in a southeastern direction. He stopped a few meters away and looked back. The land around the ship was torn up and blackened from the plasma fires that flared up on impact for nearly six hundred meters. The noise of his entry and crash probably alerted hundreds of people in the area, and by the looks of things they were probably not aware of life beyond their world. He needed to get rid of the ship and since it was beyond repair it really did not matter how he disposed of it. A short distance away was a very large and deep land locked lake, the perfect hiding place for the wrecked snubfighter. Once more Kith closed his eyes, raised one hand towards the ship, and immediately the ship rose two meters off the ground and gently, at his command, floated out over the lake. When he had the ship about four hundred meters over the lake he allowed the ship to sink down into the watery depths. The X-wing did not carry any kind of pollutants to harm the lake, considering it ran on ion particles, so there was no fear of harming the environment any more than his crash landing had.
After the ship was completely submerged Kith took a moment to rest from the strain of moving the ship. It was rare for him to use telekinesis on large objects like fighters, he usually used it on something much smaller like blasters and his lightsabre. With a sigh he turned and once again continued his journey into the night.
The city of Corinth was especially busy today. Travelers from all over Greece were gathering for the coming festivals. Merchants were peddling their wares to passersby with their usual speech of not being able to live without the most, handiest and up to date luxury items in all of Greece. Kith looked up and down the streets, they all looked alike and he began to feel like he was on an outer rim territory planet like Tatooine or Stend VI. The people around him looked just like humans but spoke the strangest language. Thankfully he had a universal translator with him. He activated it and placed it inside his ear, like a hearing aid, out of sight of the local people. He than moved down what appeared to be a side street and came out in what must have been the center of the marketplace in this city.
"Well, hello and good tidings, lone traveler."
Kith looked to see who was speaking; looking behind him three meters away was a rotund man wearing light robes and a large hat standing behind a table with an assortment of trinkets and jewelry. "Come traveler, see what I have to offer you on this glorious day, jewels for your lady love, a gift for a friend, my name is Salmoneus and whatever you need I can get." Kith glanced at what lay on the table before him.
His keen eyesight noticed mostly junk, probably collected from junkyards or from wherever these people tossed their undesirables. "Do you happen to have any crystals?"
Salmoneus shot him a friendly smile. "Do I have any crystals?" He looked down and began to sort through his merchandise looking for something to sell to the strange young man. "Ah, here is the necklace of a Egyptian king buried a century ago, made with some of the finest crystals the Egyptians have to offer. Just twenty dinars and its yours."
Kith shot him a confused look. "If it was buried with a king a hundred years ago, how come you are holding it now?" Salmoneus began to look around, trying to think of something to say to make the sale. The necklace did come from a king's tomb, and it was Egyptian, but it was nowhere near a hundred years old and it had come into his hands through dubious contacts. Plus, it was a shoddy piece of crystal anyway.
"Well, you see I have this friend, Hercules, and some time ago I helped him fight off a mummy of an Egyptian king and my reward was this necklace. Now I have decided to sell it for its cash potential, I mean you can't live off of fame forever; you'd starve to death."
Kith sensed that he wasn't telling the truth at all, images of thieves trading several stolen items from a tomb for supplies were fresh in Salmoneus's mind. For Kith it wasn't so much that they were ill-gotten goods, he himself suspected that several items he bought from some Ugnaughts on Bespin were stolen, it was just weird to be accepting something that belonged to another. He slowly began to feel like he was dealing with a Jawa trader instead of a man.
"I don't have any local currency on me, but I could trade you this." Kith removed his gold medal he received for his heroic actions in rescuing hostages on Gall. "It's not much but it is all I have on me." Salmoneus at first was going to inform him that it was cash or nothing, than he saw the gold medallion gleaming in the afternoon light. "You have yourself a deal, my friend." Salmoneus took the medal and handed over the necklace. Kith pocketed the necklace and stepped back into the crowd.
Salmoneus watched him go and began to feel a little guilty, after biting into the medallion he realized that it was pure gold. The golden medallion was easily worth more than all the trinkets he had on his table, and the stranger looked like he had nothing else to offer. Sure he was wearing clean robes, he also had that large bundle he carried under his arm, but thanks to Hercules, Salmoneus now had a conscience and a willingness to help others. The stranger did say that the medallion was all he had after all. Salmoneus took one last look at his wares than called out to the stranger. "Wait, young man, please come back." Kith stopped and looked over his shoulder at Salmoneus.
"Is there a problem?"
Salmoneus just waved him to approach. "No, nothing's wrong. You just forgot your change."
Kith stepped back over to his booth and Salmoneus deposited a large handful of coins into Kith's cupped hands. "Your change comes to..." Salmoneus thought of a reasonable amount for the gold medallion. "Fifty dinars young man, have a nice day."
Kith thanked the merchant and placed the coins inside his robe. "Do you know of a place I could stay for the night? I'm new to the area and I could really use some rest."
Salmoneus scratched his chin trying to think of a fairly safe inn for him. He began to remember someone who moved into the area. Meg was her name, and he couldn't get over how much she looked like Xena. "Well, there is an inn, sort of. Just go down this street until you hit the intersection. It is the first big building on your left, just walk in and ask for Meg. Tell them Salmoneus sent you."
Kith looked in the direction Salmoneus stated and could see a large building a little ways down the road. He once again thanked him for the assistance and continued down the road, but not before Salmoneus stopped him once again. "Wait! What's your name? I mean I completely forgot to ask." Kith didn't see anything wrong with telling him his name.
"It's Kith Qel-Droma. I'm from a far away land and it was nice to meet you, Salmoneus."
Salmoneus nodded his agreement and Kith headed toward the inn. Behind him he could hear Salmoneus continuing to pitch his wares.
"Come one, come all, if you haven't bought from me than you don't have the best."
Kith stepped through the doors of the inn and found himself in what appeared to be the common room. It was a large room with multiple chairs and tables, decorated with a few knick-knack's on a large hearth and fresh wood in the fire place. A doorway in the back of the room lead further into the building where sounds and smells of food being prepared greeted him. It reminded him that he hadn't eaten since the crash landing and he was getting hungry. A woman with dark hair and a slender body emerged from an upstairs room and descended the staircase, which rose up from his left to the second floor.
"Welcome to Meg's. What's your desire, blondes, redheads?" Kith just stared for a moment.
"No! Ah, just a room. Salmoneus directed me to your establishment." Meg approached Kith looking him over from head to toe; he was dressed in a clean brown robe, which covered him from his neck to his feet. It had a hood, which was pulled down to see his young looking face. Under his arm was a large leather bag with a strap that ran over his right shoulder. She assumed he was possibly twenty winters old.
"Just a room. Well, I believe I can accommodate you." She turned to a young girl he did not notice before, sitting in a corner looking through a large book. "Katrina, escort this gentlemen to the last room upstairs." Meg turned back to Kith after speaking to the young girl. "It will cost just five dinars if all you want is to sleep for the night. If you want company that will cost you extra."
Kith approached the girl Meg identified as Katrina who waited patiently for him. She had long auburn hair, which outlined her delicate face, a young vibrant body with ample bosom. He sensed she was about twenty years old. He turned back to Meg after her last statement.
"Company? No that's all right I just need to rest. Ah, thanks anyway."
Kith really didn't know what she meant, but he was getting some erotic imagery from the minds of every one in the "inn". Katrina brought him to a large room with a soft bed with fresh sheets and a night stand to the left side of the bed. She bid him well than left him alone in the room.
The shutters to the window were wide open. Kith approached and stared out of the window for a moment at the general populace below. The noise of the marketplace was not too bad. He closed the shutters, placed his satchel on the floor and pushed it underneath the bed. He than removed most of his clothes, and placed his utility belt and lightsabre beneath them, and climbed into the bed. He was so tired and the bed was so soft that he fell asleep in seconds.
King Iphicles paced back and forth across his throne room. He heard the report from his scouts about a fiery bird falling from the heavens. He didn't believe the rumors of it being a phoenix or a sign from the gods. He was worried that it could be a new weapon of his enemies. The messenger stormed into the throne room and dropped to one knee before Iphicles.
"My king, the scouts have returned with their report of the Firebird. They did not see any signs of a monster but they could see where it came to the earth. It uprooted small trees and bushes, scorched the ground and gouged large holes for part of a league." Iphicles motioned for him to rise and questioned him.
"Was there anything else, something to give evidence that it was a monster or a weapon?"
The messenger reached into his pocket and produced a small piece of metal about as long as his finger. "They found this in the dirt near where the gouging and scorch marks end. It is metal, of that I am sure but it has no weight, like if it was air."
Iphicles took the metal rod and was surprised at its loss of weight. He turned it over and over in his hand trying to determine his next move. His advisor Vasil approached him.
"My king, should we send word to your brother Hercules? I have heard that he plans on traveling up north. If we send word now we could catch him before he leaves."
Iphicles thought about telling Hercules, but he did not want to go running to him every time something out of the ordinary occurred in Corinth. "No, my brother will not be needed. We can handle whatever this leads to without bothering him. It may be nothing at all, this piece of metal could be one of Hephaestus' designs, he is well known to give something he creates to one of his faithful." He looked back to the messenger who patiently waited for his orders. "Return to the field and inform the scouts to be on the lookout for anything unusual no matter how insignificant it may seem. Now go!" The messenger bowed once than left as quickly as he came.
Vasil approached Iphicles and spoke in a hushed voice. "I do not wish to offend you, my king, but I believe we should at least alert Hercules to the news of the fire bird's appearance. If only to let him know what we know."
Iphicles thought on this for a few minutes. He began to pace again while turning the piece of metal over in his hand. "Fine, send a messenger on our fastest horse, but I only want to inform Hercules of the current events, not to ask him to hike it all the way to Corinth for some hallucinations of a few drunk soldiers."
Vasil began to copy the information on to a papyrus scroll, repeating his lord's command. "I understand my king, only the current events." He than handed the message to a waiting messenger who, with a bow, left for the stables.
Iphicles looked out over Corinth to the setting sun. "Why can't I go through one day without the kingdom falling apart, I ask you? I would give half my treasury for one day to be completely bored out of my mind."
Vasil snorted, shook his head and headed for the feast hall. "My king, if you ever found yourself bored out of your mind, I would probably have to look for a new job."
Iphicles watched Vasil leave than continued to watch the setting sun. His only thoughts occupying him were of how Corinth looked so beautiful during the setting sun.
Kith awoke sometime later in the night. He dressed in his tunic and pants, and checked outside. The streets were empty except for a few men in armor, probably guard soldiers. Kith left the room and came down the stairs to the common room. It was alive with activity as patrons drank, ate, and partook of the women who flaunted themselves in a seductive manner. He hadn't seen anything like this before except when he traveled to the distant world of Kessel. They referred to the places like this as a house of sin. Meg noticed him entering the room and sauntered over to him.
"I see you've come to join us. There are some meats and bread on that table there and those two barrels contain mead and ale, help yourself."
Kith took a small amount of the food, it smelled wonderful but its appearance looked like something only a Gamorrean would eat without question. Since his species was not good with alcohol, he took a mug of water to drink instead and went to find a table. He sat far from the others picking at his food, rolling the events of the past day in his mind. Crashing an X-wing fighter, loosing R4 - T5, and now being stuck on an extremely low-tech world. This was the most rotten day in his life. To top it all off he had been referred to as a "young man" forty-seven times since he first asked directions from a warrior named Joxer. He was in fact just a little over fifty years old now, but then again he was an alien and his life span was much longer than anyone here. Of course being nearly identical to these humans was also helping him tremendously in moving amongst the populace. A few moments later he noticed that Meg was sitting across from him and he wondered how long she was sitting there.
"So, why don't you tell me something about yourself. We don't have too many guests who dress in robes."
Kith swallowed some food, followed by a drink of water while he thought of what to say. "Well, Meg, not much to tell. I've been traveling for sometime now. I guess I just wanted to see the world."
Meg only nodded her head while making an agreeing sound. "I still think there's more to you than that, like your braid. Does it have a meaning?" His braid, oh boy did that have a meaning. Sixteen years of growing his Padawan braid, and he was then told when he became a full-fledged Jedi Knight to remove it, but he sort of liked it. He kept it even after receiving the title of Knight. He even used it to fool his enemies who knew a few things about Jedi and apprentices. There were a few occasions when someone mistook him for just an apprentice, not a true Jedi Knight.
Meg continued. "I mean, you are without a doubt the cleanest and most well-groomed patron here tonight, and your etiquette and speech shows signs of a high education." She glanced back at the dozen or so gruff men who whooped and hollered about their manliness. "We see this kind of crowd about every night, but no one comes close to you. Where are you from anyway?"
Kith quickly formed a statement that was not a lie, but would answer her question satisfactorily. "From a distant land. To be quite honest I have never seen anything like this place. What do you call it?"
Meg's eyes nearly fell out of her head. He was most definitely from a far-away land, if he didn't know where he was. "It's a Bordello. You know, a place for female companionship." Kith figured as much, but hearing it from her seemed to reinforce the reality. He began to realize that he lived a very closed-in life while training on Yavin IV. He nodded his head once and continued his meal.
Meg rose from the table and turned to leave. "I'll leave you to your meal. Oh, ah, what is your name?"
Kith looked up from his plate. He decided he would tell her his name and wouldn't bother trying to erase the memory; after all she couldn't turn him over to a Hutt gangster or something. "It's Kith, ma'am. Kith Qel-Droma."
Meg just smiled back. "Well, it is nice to meet such a well-mannered young man. Once again if you need anything just ask."
Meg left Kith to finish his meal and drink while he mentally counted the new number of forty-eight times of being called young man.
When he was finished he looked around, but not seeing anything to catch his attention he headed up to the second floor. He decided to spend the rest of the night in meditation, when a female scream alerted his Jedi senses, which were screaming trouble. A drunk had Katrina by the hair and proceeded to pull her across the table while at the same time tearing open her blouse. Katrina's breasts came spilling out of her bodice while the rest of the men just laughed and shouted at the scene that was unfolding. The drunk was a mountain of a man, over two meters tall and half as broad. He forced himself on top of Katrina, smothering her with a kiss as he proceeded to fondle her breasts. Meg and her girls began to scream at the top of the lungs for someone to stop him, a few of the girls went charging out the door screaming for the guards. Katrina kicked for all she was worth and sent her assailant to the floor. She then attempted to slide to the opposite side of the table, but he was on his feet before she could get away. Reaching across he grabbed her by the wrist and twisted it to the breaking point. Katrina howled in pain as he pulled her towards him.
"You little bitch, now it's going to have to hurt! When I'm throo..." He never had a chance to finish his sentence.
Kith had leapt over his head and delivered a flying heel kick to his forehead sending him crashing into the opposite table. The bully got back up off the table and attempted to strike the young man down. Kith blocked his punch and delivered two rapid strikes faster than the letch could comprehend. Two other patrons, probably his friends, rose up to meet the challenger as the large man went down. Kith sensed their approach and touched their minds to see what they were planning. Their attack strategy was greatly flawed. The first came with his fists flying. Kith blocked his random punches than sent one of his own. An elbow smash to the chest, and in the same motion he turned his arm, upright to strike him in the face with the back of his fist. Finally he struck him with the flat of his palm right to the chin and the thug went head over heels to the floor and into unconsciousness. He turned to the second thug who had picked up a chair as a makeshift weapon. His first swing went wide and Kith easily dodged underneath his attack. The Jedi than came up with a flying roundhouse, smashing the chair to pieces. The thug, devoid of a weapon, charged him like a linebacker in a Powerball Championship game. Kith just sent a high front face kick, which snapped the guy's head backwards and he crumbled to the floor in a heap. It all happened in just ten seconds.
By now Meg and four other girls brought clubs and iron rods from hidden slots along the walls and proceeded to beat the drunks while they were unceremoniously being dragged from the Bordello by the city guards. Kith approached Katrina and checked for permanent injuries. Her wrist was beginning to swell but she wasn't too bad off except being terribly frightened. There were no other injuries that he could see, besides her dignity. While everyone was occupied, and she was partly out of it, he used the force to accelerate Katrina's natural healing process. Katrina's wrist was good as new now.
Meg came back to help Katrina off the floor and had one of her girls take her to her room.
"Thank you, Kith. If you hadn't stopped him I don't think any of these men would have." Kith took a long look over at the men who were still here. They began to get the feeling they were no longer welcome, and that there would be no companionship tonight.
"Is it always this bad or was this a first time?"
Meg's eyes were a little misty as she relived past events in her memory. "It's always been bad for us, but never has anyone attacked one of my girls like that. Oh, there might be a customer who likes his sex a little rough, but never an out right attack like that."
Kith's head turned to look where Katrina was taken. "Is she going to be all right?"
Meg followed his gaze to her room. "She'll be fine, she just needs some rest. Thank you again, Kith."
He looked back at her. "I was only doing what I am trained to do."
Meg's eyes seemed to clear up. "I knew there was more to you than travel, plus you're a pretty good fighter. Thanks once again."
Kith only bowed and smile. He headed up the steps but noticed they were cleaning up from the brawl and, as is his etiquette warrant's him, he went to helping them clean up the mess, amid all their protests to customers not needing to do such things. When they had finished, he went to his room to reflect on the night's activity.
Kith was in his room, repairing his lightsabre, when he heard a soft knock on the door. It was still early morning and the single sun of this world had not yet risen. He placed the sheets over the dismantled lightsabre and tools, then opened the door to see Katrina standing in the hallway.
"May I come in?" Kith stepped aside and allowed her to enter.
"Is there a problem or something?"
Katrina turned to look at him.
"No, I just wanted to thank you for what you did last night."
Kith gave her a slight bow. "It was nothing, it's sort of what I do wherever I go."
Katrina's face took on a more concerned look. "I came here to warn you. I heard from some of the men downstairs that Lukas and his men are planning to ambush you today, for what you did to them last night. I want you to be careful, they have been known to beat people to death for fun, and I wouldn't like it if you got hurt because of me."
Kith just smiled back at her. "Don't worry, I'm more than capable of taking care of myself. But thanks for the warning."
Katrina shot him a smile, and headed for the door. As she passed him she looked directly into his eyes and gave him a hug, thanking him for coming to her rescue. He returned her hug, then helped her to the door. She stopped just in the hallway and looked back. "If you ever pass through Corinth again, stop in and say hi. I would like to see you again."
Kith promised he would, than closed the door when she left. He thought about how much she looked like his own little sister, back on New Alderaan. He was amazed at how much had happened to him in such a short amount of time. He also began to realize that it was only the beginning.
Women of Danger and Intrigue
Xena came back to the camp carrying the freshly filled water skins, when she stopped in her tracks. Gabrielle had her back to her while she was putting on her shirt. Xena just smiled before continuing on to the camp. She thought it was kind of funny. After all this time, Gabrielle was still very insecure about being nude in front of people, even Xena. Of course Xena has seen Gabrielle's breasts before. They had made love a few times in the past, but Gabrielle still had a slight phobia of being seen without her clothes on by anyone, including Xena.
"So how's your back this morning?"
Gabrielle looked over her shoulder while she tied the final string on the front of her blouse. "It feels better. Thanks for the back rub. I couldn't believe how bad it had gotten."
Xena placed the water skins in the saddlebags on Argo's saddle, before turning to face Gabrielle. "It's from all of your walking while I ride. You can't expect to walk up and down hills, valleys, and mountains and not get a bad back. Plus you're not following through when you strike with your staff."
Gabrielle looked at Xena with slumped shoulders. "Oh, now you're going to insult my fighting ability. I'll have you know that during that fight we had last week with those Ares followers that I seemed to have fought three of them, compared to your two."
Xena smirked at her young friend's boldness. She was becoming quite a fighter with her staff, even to the point where she didn't have to keep looking over her shoulder to protect her. "Well, I was getting tired of having to carry you through our fights. Thought I'd take a break from the three to one odds I'm used to."
A scream from further up the road and the sound of horses and armored men, alerted the two young women that someone was in trouble. Xena leapt up onto Argo and spurred him into a dead gallop towards the trouble. Gabrielle grabbed her sack and her quarterstaff before running after Xena and into gods knew what new danger.
The messenger Christos had been heading to find Hercules, when bandits jumped out from the bushes. Two others had barred the road with large netting, while the others began to surround him. They probably figured he was carrying valuables since the horse's barding had Corinth's standard printed on it. There were eight of them and no way out. He drew his sword and turned to face the bandits when an ear splitting war cry startled him and the bandits.
"AAAIIIEEEE!" A dark hared woman wearing leather armor, high leather riding boots, and arm guards on a warhorse came into view. The charging warhorse mowed down two of the bandits, who were right in her path. She than drew her sword and a round metal 'ring' the size of a pie pan, before leaping off the horse and into the fray. Two more bandits charged her with their weapons drawn. Both of them took a swing trying to take her head off, but she parried their attacks using her sword and the metal ring. She kicked one to the ground to allow her more room to maneuver as the second one came back with a low thrust to her legs. The warrior woman jumped over his thrust and came down into a low crouch just as the bandit brought his sword back around, swinging high over her head. She stood up and brought the metal ring around connecting with the bandit's throat, giving him something more important to do with his hands, like trying to keep his lifeblood from flowing out. The first bandit she hit got back up off the ground and trying to regain his pride, came after the warrior women with a chopping swing. She brought her sword up to meet the offensive blade and in one motion spun around like a top, and brought her sword down to meet the bandit's mid-section, ending his career as a bandit. By this time Christos noticed a second woman charging into the battle.
She was just as attractive as the first and wearing very little: a skirt, short blouse, and high boots. Christos figured she dressed like that to distract her opponents. She immediately went after the two men, who were recovering from the warhorse's charge. They stood up and immediately had to defend themselves from her strikes. She was well trained in handling armed men. Her quarterstaff blocked one bandits attack and than was brought back around to block the second bandits attack, while she struck out to hit the first bandit with the opposite end of her staff.
The bandits were losing ground fast, then one of them got careless and caught a blow of the quarterstaff right on the kisser. The other bandit tried to cover for his partner, but she was prepared for this tactic and swung the staff in a semi-circle batting his sword down. She than swung her staff as if she was going to hit a ball and clocked the bandit on the side of the head knocking his helmet off, and him into unconsciousness. The other one was just beginning to shake off the first blow he took when she brought her staff crashing down on the back of his head. Four bandits down and more were yet to come.
The first woman came running past Christos to confront three more bandits who were attempting to sneak up behind him, while another dropped down from the trees to attack the scantily clothed woman with the staff. The first women took a swing with her sword and caught the swords of all three bandits. They were now all off balance and she followed her sword attack with a crane kick knocking one of the bandits into another, sending them both to the ground. The third bandit tried to hit her with a punch, which she side stepped easily. He than took a swing at her neck which she again parried with her sword.
The second woman parried her attackers thrust and sent one of her own. He parried the staff and brought his sword all the way around her to strike her now unprotected right flank. She spun completely around putting the bandit on her left side and brought the staff to a ready position and blocked the sword with no room to spare. From this position she jabbed him in the gut, than followed with a cross over swing catching his sword arm. The bandit dropped his sword and began clutching his arm with his other hand. She brought their struggle to an end by swinging her staff up over her head, connecting squarely with the bandit's face.
The first woman faced off with the last three bandits who were beginning to circle around her trying to overwhelm her in superior numbers. She gave them a wicked smile while she waited for them to make the first move. She didn't have to wait long. One of them came in with a powerful, downward strike. She parried it and sent a kick to another bandit who was trying to attack her while her guard was down. The last bandit mustered all his strength for one massive swing. She saw it coming and parried it while growling like a wild animal. Using his own momentum against him she guided his sword right into one of his partners, running him through. She then cocked back her fist, and delivered a haymaker punch with the butt of her sword, putting her attacker out of commission. The last bandit got back to his feet, took one look at his party, and seeing them either unconscious or dead, decided that a retreat was in order. Dropping his sword he turned from the carnage and high tailed it out of there.
Xena watched the final bandit run away from the fight. She fought the blood lust within her, the urge to run him down and kill him. Gabrielle did not like it when Xena slew every warrior she fought. Even the one's who would retreat were not always safe from her. Sometimes it was necessary and Gabrielle understood this, but she was trying to reform Xena's killer instinct into a more merciful one.
They both approached the messenger who kept his sword low, but at the ready. They couldn't blame him for being suspicious of them. After seeing what they did to those bandits they would have done the same. "There's no need to worry, were not going to attack. Why did they come after you?"
Christos sheathed his sword but kept his eyes on them, especially the dark-haired one. "I believe they thought I was carrying valuables. I was passing through here on my way to see Hercules with a message from his brother."
The shorter one piped in. "You're looking for Hercules? Do you or someone need help?"
He looked at her when she asked her questions. "I'm not in trouble and as far as I know no one around here is either. I was to deliver a message to Hercules from his brother the king of Corinth, Iphicles." Xena caught his attention with her own question.
"What is the message about?"
Christos looked to Xena and Gabrielle with a suspicious look not knowing how to handle the situation.
"It's all right. We're friends of Hercules. My name is Xena and this is Gabrielle."
The tension from Christos' face drained away when he heard their names. "Xena, Gabrielle. I have heard of you both. The message for Hercules is just a report of something the people and guards saw two nights ago. A Firebird was spotted descending to the earth, it left the ground burnt and torn up where it landed but there wasn't any sign of the beast. Iphicles just wants to inform Hercules of the current situation in the kingdom in case his help is needed."
Gabrielle came around to stand next to Xena, so she could see the messenger better. "Hercules went to visit his mother before he heads up to Thessaly to visit the Centaurs and Cheiron. Alcmene's home is a little over a day on horse back down the river trail."
The messenger nodded his thanks to them both, for the rescue and for the directions which would allow him to reach Hercules with the message much sooner than he first thought. When he was gone Gabrielle turned to Xena.
"What's a Firebird Xena?" Xena was watching the messenger as he faded from sight when the question came. "Well, some people in Egypt have a story about a bird of fire that when it dies, it is reborn from its flames. I've never seen one and I don't believe they exist. But I'm not going to dismiss it out right."
Gabrielle immediately perked up and shot Xena a smile that she knew all too well. "Maybe we should go to Corinth and check out the story. It would also give us some time to rest in an actual bed instead of the ground. I mean, we're not bears for crying out loud, and we have plenty of dinars to spend. We could also go to a tavern to eat some hot food and be waited on. I mean, I would love for someone to wait on me for a change."
Xena swung herself up unto Argo who had awaited her patiently during the fight. She extended her hand down to Gabrielle who protested at first until Xena gave in to her idea of visiting Corinth. Gabrielle seemed to have a hard time riding horses. Xena, for the life of her, couldn't figure out why, considering they had been traveling for the better part of two and a half years with a horse to share between them.
The journey to Corinth was a short one. They arrived in the late morning before the sun was at its zenith. The streets were filled with people from all over Greece. Entertainers were parading the streets, performing juggling acts and slight of hand tricks. A fire-eater was blasting gouts of flame at candle's set up on a rack, lighting each one in turn. A women sword swallower was consuming swords right before the eyes of the spectators and earning quite a good amount of money, from the looks of the pile of coins before her.
"Xena, Gabrielle!" They both looked to see who was calling their names and saw an old friend. Xena extended her hand to him as she greeted him. "Hello, Salmoneus. What are you doing in Corinth?"
He grasped her forearm like he had seen Hercules do; it was sort of how warriors shook hands with their hands up around the forearms, with wrists touching. "I came to sell some trinkets and jewels I had collected to make some money for a new idea I have. I've decided to get into bathhouses and steam rooms, like to ones they have in Rome. That's where the money is."
Gabrielle gave a petite little snort at the idea of bathing with complete strangers. "I can't see how people can bath in a room with people you don't even know. I mean, you have to have some privacy when it comes to washing certain parts of your body."
Xena raised her hand to stop Gabrielle from going on about bathing protocol, and turned back to Salmoneus. "Salmoneus, we came here about the story of a Firebird in the kingdom. Did you see or hear anything about it?"
"No, I didn't see it, but I heard it lit up the sky by the lake. Several scouts went down for a better look, they came back to report that the ground was burnt, and torn with large gouges for part of a league."
Gabrielle whooped at hearing the amount of damage done. "Part of a league, how big is a Firebird, Xena?"
Xena was busy looking at the people around them. For people who had a possible monster in the kingdom they seemed to be enjoying the festivities around them without a care in the world. "The stories say they are as big as a house. No one here seems to care though. Salmoneus, have you heard anything more about it, or seen anything strange in the last two days?"
Salmoneus took a moment to think. "Well, no actually. First we hear about a fire monster, then no one seems to have heard or seen anything since. The current rumor, which is gaining favor, is that it was the drunk hallucinations of a peasant or soldier."
Gabrielle, who was also checking out the ever-growing crowd on the streets, turned back to Salmoneus. "So, you haven't heard or seen anything about a monster at all? Did anyone come through here who did, or say or even do something unusual?"
"No, but now that I think about it, there was that young man the other day. It didn't hit me as odd until now. He didn't have any money, but he was dressed like someone who should have had plenty. He actually traded me a gold medallion for a crystal necklace I got from Egypt."
Xena turned back to Salmoneus after checking to make sure they were not being pick-pocketed right in the middle of the street. "When have you been to Egypt, Salmoneus?"
Salmoneus took one look at Xena and quickly confessed. "All right, I wasn't in Egypt but I did buy some trinkets from some wanderers who were. I sold all of them though. Anyway, he gave me this medallion as payment." Salmoneus produced the gold medallion and showed it to Gabrielle, who nearly jerked his arm off trying to get a closer look.
"This is solid gold!" She turned it over to see the reversed side of the medallion. "What are these strange symbols here? Is that..." She scratched her nail across the raised relief depicting the symbol of the New Republic, which looked, ironically like a large bird. "Xena, is this a phoenix?"
Xena took the medallion and stared hard at the symbol, taking in all the detail. "I don't know, but it's a good bet it is." Xena turned her attention back on Salmoneus "Salmoneus you said a young man traded this for a necklace. Where did he go and was he alone?"
"He was looking for a place to stay so I sent him to Meg's."
Gabrielle's head snapped up at the mention of their sultry friend. "Meg is here? In Corinth?"
"Ya, she runs the Bordello. Anyway, it was the safest place I could think of at the time. Of course I heard there was a scuffle that he was involved in with Lukas, a wanna be warlord, but he appeared to be alone."
Xena picked up Argo's reins and motioned to Gabrielle to continue down the road. "Salmoneus, where is Meg's place?"
Salmoneus quickly pointed out the direction for his two friends. "Just keep heading the way you're going and turn right at the city fountain. Head down to the next street and it is the large building across from the stables. Can't miss it."
They said their good-byes to their friend and headed off for Meg's place.
"Xena, do you think this stranger has anything to do with what happened here in Corinth?"
"I don't know, Gabrielle, but that symbol on that medallion looks a lot like the stories I've heard regarding the Phoenix. If anyone can give us more information, it's Meg. She seems to hear a lot about what goes on inside of major cities from their clientele."
The two headed to the city fountain, then turned and headed up the street. They could easily identify Meg's Bordello, mostly from the half-dozen women hanging out of the windows ogling all the men walking by. They entered into the common room and waited a few minutes for their eyes to adjust to the darkened room. They noticed Meg talking to a man who was repairing some tables and chairs, and waved to get her attention. She noticed her friends and came around to greet them.
"Xena, Gabrielle. What brings you to Corinth?" Xena and Gabrielle both gave Meg a hug. Once the pleasantries were over Xena took on a more serious look. "We heard of a Firebird in the kingdom, or that one was believed to have been spotted in the area. Did you see it or hear about it?"
Meg shrugged her shoulders and shook her head to Xena's question. "No one here saw anything, but we've heard about it from some of the guards we had here last night. It doesn't take much to get them to give out their secrets."
Gabrielle butted in to keep Meg from describing what they did to get their lips moving. She wasn't in the mood to hear all the details. "Well, then did you noticed a young man here? Salmoneus said he sent him here for a place to stay."
"Yes, he was here. His name is Kith Qel-Droma. Funny name really. I've never heard it before and I don't know from what part of Greece he comes from."
"What did he look like?"
Meg took a moment to try and remember. She was a bit tipsy from all the drinking and partying. "He was almost as tall as Xena, quite handsome with a braid that began just behind his right ear and drooped down over his chest. It was almost as long as his arm." She began tapping her lips trying to sift through her memories. "Let's see, he wore a brown robe and underneath a white tunic and pants. He also wore some kind of strange boots, the like of which I have never seen. Katrina said she saw a travel bag, and a brown leather belt with some black leather pockets on it in his room."
Xena stepped towards the stairs to the second floor studying the rooms. "Is he still here?"
"No, he left just a little after sun up. If you'd like, you could talk to Katrina. She seemed to be a little smitten with him after he saved her life." Gabrielle and Xena both looked at her, and spoke in unison. "What happened?"
"Oh some drunks decided to get a little rough with Katrina. Kith put a stop to it. He was a pretty good fighter too, did some of that acrobatic stuff you do, Xena." Meg called out to Katrina who was upstairs changing bed sheets. She came down the stairs and was introduced to Xena and Gabrielle by Meg.
"Katrina, these are my friends Xena and Gabrielle. They have some questions about Kith." Katrina started fidgeting when Xena asked about the young man.
"All I want to know is did he say anything about the Firebird sighting?"
"Did you see anything he was carrying that had this symbol on it?" Xena quickly drew the symbol of the medallion on a piece of parchment from Gabrielle's sack and showed it to her.
Katrina looked at the symbol, but didn't see it on any of his belongings. She then remembered the incident with Lukas and his plans to ambush Kith today and pleaded with Xena to find and help him.
"We were going to look for him anyway. I want to know if he knows anything about the Firebird sighting." Gabrielle then informed both women of the gold medallion he used to pay Salmoneus, and that the bird shaped symbol was on it. Katrina didn't believe he had anything to do with the Firebird, and Meg felt the same considering he helped out in protecting one of her girls from an attack. Both Xena and Gabrielle still wanted to question him about it just to be sure.
"Which way did he go?"
Meg looked at Xena and tried to remember if she had noticed in which way he left the city. "I think he mentioned something about heading east."
Gabrielle shifted from one foot to the other and shook her head slightly. "It figures he would be heading in the direction we just came from."
Xena reached into her coin purse and removed several dinars. "Meg, we could use some fresh rations. Here is three dinars, whatever you have ready to go will do."
"Sure, Xena. Katrina, go fetch Diana and get a basket made up of some meats, bread, cheeses, and fruits."
Gabrielle frowned at not being able to sit down to eat. She was getting tired of always being on the go, but that was life with Xena, and she wouldn't trade it for anything. Some of Meg's girls prepared a basket of goodies and brought it out personally so they could all see the two women they hear so much about from Meg. They all said some good-byes and returned to the streets in pursuit of this Kith Qel-Droma.
"Xena, what kind of name is Kith Qel-Droma? I've never heard of such a name anywhere."
"It could be from farther north like Britannia, or from an island nation off of their coast. Some of their cultures have surnames or a given name plus their family names."
"It's still a strange name."
Once they were past the city gates, they broke open the basket and began to devour its contents like starving wolves. Once their hunger was sated, they picked up the pace in search of the mysterious young man.
Kith had left Corinth in the early morning, and had passed just a couple hundred meters from where Xena and Gabrielle had camped the previous night. After Katrina had left his room, he completed the repairs to his lightsabre. The crystal inside, while not as good as an Adegan crystal, still had the necessary properties to function as such. Just before he decided to get some sleep, a coldness reached out and touched his very being. A strong disturbance in the force intermingled with the taint of the darkside. It could mean only one thing. The pilot of the Interceptor was on the planet and he was definitely a force user. The pulling sensation was emanating from the east. Quite a good distance from where he was too. He packed up his belongings and got in a few hours sleep before bidding Meg and the girl's farewell. He was completely unaware of the two women who were following him, or of the danger he was leading them into.
A Deal in the Darkness
Darth Payne had brought his ship down in a ravine near a citadel surrounded by a moat. He scanned for several kilometers for the X-wing fighter but to no avail. He did detect several villages and people in the vicinity. According to the computers read outs, the planet's level of technology was between the Bronze and Iron Age. No where near a threat to the Sith. He left his ship to get a closer look at the citadel and passed by men wearing light armor, carrying swords and spears. None of them seemed to notice the dark shape passing by them like a slight breeze in the night. Payne continually clouded their minds and moved with a silence more befitting of a corpse than a living being. Inside of the citadel, most of the rooms were empty. A few held weapons or what must have been valuables on this world. He reached the third floor when he began to hear voices of men speaking in a language he could not understand. Tapping into the force he began to translate their words into the Sith language, and they seemed to be discussing war strategies against women called Amazons.
"I tell you we must strike them now while they prepare for Artemis's day of hunting. When else will they be unprepared for our attack?" The other warrior speaking, who must have been the leader, returned his reply with a cool steady tone in contrast to the loud brash statement by the first voice. "We do not attack them until I say. I want to have the extra reinforcements when they begin the hunt. We can lay in ambush here, here and here when they head to the forests to hunt down their sacrifice for their goddess. We will than have Ares favor when we commit to the act!" The first voice was not easily convinced of getting help from this Ares. "Against the followers of his own sister Artemis, I don't believe it."
"Than I guess you will die when the time comes than won't you, Ioannis." Silence.
A moment later an armored man came storming from the room followed by a bodyguard. They headed down an adjacent corridor from Payne's position. When they were gone he headed straight for the double doors and entered unannounced to the displeasure of the man inside.
"Who dares enter here?" Payne reached out through the force to read the man's name and earlier life. He saw memories of a terrible childhood. Of beating school kids into bloody pulps. Of making his first, kill at the age of thirteen. Murdering his parents. Payne was beginning to like this world. He remained in the dark recesses of the room, only allowing his voice to be heard. "Kosta, I see you are a man who knows what he wants." The disembodied voice sent a slight chill down Kosta's spine. He slowly scanned the room trying to discover whom the voice belonged to. "Who speaks to me, show yourself." Payne stepped from the shadows, and to Kosta's point of view it looked as if the shadows unfolded before him, revealing their ally in darkness. He absentmindedly took a step back when he saw his face. Payne was a Falleen, a reptilian race with a humanoid body. His green skin coupled with his grinning teeth that he had filed into points added to his fearsome appearance. His eyes were a blood red color, a rarity amongst other Falleen. Payne had braided his limited hair into two ponytails. They were both draped from left to right on his head, one going under his chin and the other resting on the back of his neck. He wore a black uniform made from an unknown material with a dark cloak surrounding him. Upon his belt hung a long metal cylinder for whatever purposes Kosta had no idea.
Kosta shook his head slightly to regain his concentration. "May I know your name before I run you through stranger?" Payne approached the table and looked down to see a map with small figures upon it. Probably markers to mark ambushes and troop movements. It was laughably primitive compared to a holoprojector, but effective in describing strategies to troops. "I have a need for you and your men. I am looking for someone who is on your world." Kosta was taken aback by this weird stranger. He was not about to take orders from any one, including this freak. He made this fact well known to the Sith lord. "I do not take orders from you or anyone. My men are mine to command." Kosta drew his broad sword and took an offensive stance before the Sith lord. "And now I'm going to show you what it means to disrespect Kosta the Conqueror!"
He brought his sword up over his head and was hit by waves of severe pain. The pain was so overwhelming that he tried to scream but it took several moments for him just to catch his breath. He finally let out a scream to wake the dead for hundreds of miles, alerting his men and second in command Ioannis to danger. They came in weapons at the ready. They saw their leader, Kosta, floating high in the air and a dark robed figure with his up raised, opened hand pointed at Kosta. Darth Payne turned to look into the eyes of the soldiers as he slowly closed his fist. Ioannis looked at the horrified expression on Kosta's face. Kosta looked to be in such agony. Than there was a sound of bones being broken, little bit by little bit. "I am Darth Payne, Dark Lord of the Sith. If you disobey my orders you will suffer the same fate as your, ex-leader Kosta." Darth Payne closed his fist and in doing so closed the book on Kosta's life. His crushed body hung in the air limply until Payne dropped his hand and Kosta's body came down to the ground with a sickening plop. Ioannis and the men could only gape in horror at what had transpired. In the next moment, Ioannis dropped to one knee before the Sith lord, as did several other men.
"What is your bidding my lord?"
Kith stopped in his tracks when he felt the wave of death sweep through him. Someone had met his or her end at the hands of the darkside of the force. He still couldn't get a fix on where it was coming from, but he would have to hurry if he were going to put a stop to the senseless death. He quickened his pace up the road passing several wagons loaded with barrels and bags of wheat. Around the bend he came to a small village filled with playing children and busy adults. Smells of smoked meat greeted his hungry appetite. He approached a stand where a tall man dressed in a long tunic, vest, and breeches, was tending to smoke meats upon a small spit. "Greetings young man, would you like some smoked rabbit or pheasant? Just two dinars for either one, which one would you like?" Kith was hungry from being on the road. He had plenty of food capsules, but needed them just in case he was forced far from civilized lands. He still didn't know when he would be rescued. "I don't really know. Which do you recommend?" The peddler selected a stick, which had what he said was pheasant upon it and took the dinars Kith handed to him. The Jedi accepted the smoked bird from the peddler, taking in its wonderful aroma. "Thank you."
"No, thank you young man."
Kith continued on his way shoving mouth fulls of the pheasant into his face. He was at the end of town when a commotion down by a small building with benches in front of it caught his attention. He saw a small man, possibly in his old age, being bullied by several men in armor. The old man was pleading to be forgiven for accidentally spilling someone's drink but his tormentor was more interested in gaining satisfaction by pummeling him to the ground. Kith charged in to rescue of the old man, first by stopping the warrior by grabbing his wrist, than pulling the old man up from the ground. The warrior took a threatening step towards Kith who was busy checking the old man for injuries. "Stay out of my business boy, or I'll make an example of you." Kith turned to look at the men, all six of them. He had already engaged others in combat at Meg's place; he did not want to travel around fighting everyone he came across. Kith decided to reach out with the force to persuade the men to find greener pastures. Kith waved his hands, ever so slightly before the warrior's face.
"You don't want to hurt us."
"I don't want to hurt you."
"It was all just a misunderstanding on your part."
"It was all just a misunderstanding on my part."
"We can go now."
"You can go now, come on boys the next round is on me." With that the warrior and his man headed back into a tavern to continue they're drinking.
The old man came around to stand next to Kith, completely baffled by his attacker's behavior. "I, for all the life of me, can't even begin to explain what just happened. I have never seen Sotiros do that before, thank you young man for coming to my aid, no one else would have." Kith turned to look at the old man. He was wearing what could only be described as pauper's clothing, made of light materials with a length of rope as a belt. "Is this how all your men behave with innocent people?"
"All our men, where are you from?"
Boy he had to remember he was on a real alien world. "I'm from a far away land, we usually don't do such things. Well, the majority of us anyway." The old man looked at Kith and took in his robe and the braid that trailed down the right side of his face. "The names Timotheos, what's yours?" Kith looked him over. He looked almost like a moisture farmer or a Gornt herder. "Kith Qel-Droma. I was just passing through when I saw your little transgression taking place."
"Oh, where are you heading, maybe I could help and repay my debt."
"I'm heading further east from here."
"You better change your mind, you'd have to pass through the Amazon Nation and they do not take to strangers passing through their domain, especially men."
"Well than I guess I'll have to be real quiet about it." Timotheos gave out a short chuckle at the young mans boldness and daring. Only Hercules had entered the Amazon Nations before and came back out, but to repay his debt for coming to his rescue, he offered a meal and a place to stay to the young man as well as a possible route for him to take through the Amazon Nation.
"Ah good, my wife awaits my return. Come, it is only an hour's walk from the village."
"I heard that man say something about spilling a drink on him?"
"I occasionally have a little of the spirits to drain away the pain of a hard day's work don't ya know, I just had maybe a bit much this time Ha, Ha." Kith had a bemused look on his face as he followed the old man. They left the village and walked by several small homes and gardens. In time they arrived at the farmer's home where his wife greeted him at the door and than welcomed Kith in to their home.
"I see my husband has brought another stray home again."
"He has a habit of finding someone in need and offers them something in compensation for their help, he told me about what you did for him. I thank you for keeping him out of trouble, one of these days he's going to get himself in something deep and their won't be anyone to come to his rescue."
"Glad I could be of help."
"My husband said he would offer you some food and lodging."
"Just what you can spare, no more." Elena brought him a bowl of soup with bread and a slab of cheese. They talked for awhile while he ate. Kith gave out just enough information about himself to satisfy her questions, but she was more than generous with information about Timotheos and herself. They have been married for twenty-five years, had no children, and were quite content to live where they were. He began to feel like he was being treated like the son they didn't have. Timotheos even went as far as giving him some pointers on growing vegetables. She also talked about their sighting of the Firebird they saw the other night. Kith realized she was describing his crash landing with his snubfighter. He had no idea it was seen so far away, and by so many. When he was finished, Elena showed him where he could sleep for the night, before helping her husband with some last minute chores. Once he was alone, Kith sat down and began to meditate on what he was to do. He decided he would pass through this Amazon Nation. The disturbance in the force was still there, but it was lessened now than before. Either way, he was stuck on this rock and it was his responsibility to investigate whatever he had felt in the force. He began to have the strong impression that it involved the Jedi's most dangerous enemy, the Sith.
Xena kicked Argo into a slight gallop when they noticed the small village of farmers and herders. It was in the late afternoon when they arrived in front of the only inn the town had to offer. Gabrielle went in to the inn, to rent them a room for the night, while Xena brought Argo to the adjacent stables. A stable boy was busying, himself brushing a horse down when she entered. "Hello there, I'm looking to stable my horse here, how much is it?"
"It's three dinars a day, and this includes feeding and upkeep of the animal." Xena handed over Argo's reins to the boy and placed the dinars in his hand. "Take good care of her, she likes apples if you have any."
"OK, I think we have some for her." The boy placed her in stall and began to remove the saddle and saddlebags. Once Xena was certain Argo was being well taking care of, she headed back into the inn. Gabrielle had already paid for the room and had ordered some food. Xena took a sit next to her and began to fill up her plate. "I asked if any one had seen our mysterious traveler, Xena."
"Did you find out anything?"
"No, but I have this feeling he came this way."
"So do I, lets just hope we can catch him soon, I don't feel like traveling all over Greece looking for him." They ate their meals while talking of the Firebird sighting, and their suspicions of the lone traveler. Xena felt he may have something to do with the Firebird sighting and Gabrielle felt that it was just a coincidence, nothing more. When they were finished it was well past dark outside and they decided to get to sleep early so to have a head start in the morning. Their room was lit with candles while they removed their more uncomfortable clothing, boots, arm guards, and armor. They climbed into separate beds and lay there for a time before; Gabrielle shattered the silence. "Xena what are we going to do when we catch up to him?" Xena thought for a moment before explaining her plans. "First we'll find out what he knows of the Firebird sighting. I also want to know what that medallion he gave to Salmoneus is and what the symbols on it mean." Gabrielle butted in with her own observation. "Well I don't think we have to much to worry about from him, everyone who spoke of him said he helped them in some way. I believe he is probably a victim of circumstance, just what every one describes, a young man out in the world for the first time." Gabrielle snuggled up in her blanket, secure in her revelation about him, when Xena destroyed her simple version. "You do know that most warlords in the past have used the old, 'I'm only here to help', ploy to get close to you before they unleash their attack." Gabrielle propped herself up in bed, and turned to see Xena. "Do you actually believe he's a warlord, you heard Salmoneus and Meg. He's probably about twenty years old, and out in the world for the first time in his life, I don't think for one moment he is a warlord." Xena just shrugged her shoulders while staring up at the ceiling.
Gabrielle lowered herself back into bed and pondered Xena's idea of him being a warlord. Meg did say he fought of three men, and that he had done so the way Xena does. Maybe he was a warlord. Oh by the gods the world was going crazy before her, warlords barely out of diapers, Firebirds terrorizing the countryside, what next. After a few moments she realized she wasn't tired enough to fall asleep, she turned in her bed to look at Xena who was also wide a wake. "Xena, would you mind giving me another back rub? I mean, if your tired it's OK." Xena began to get out of her bed at her friend's request. "No it's all right, I'd rather have you being able to keep up with me tomorrow than you lagging behind from a sore back." Gabrielle untied her blouse and laid it on the floor next to her bed, while Xena took a position, sitting on the bed next to her where she could be in a better position to work on Gabrielle's back. Gabrielle liked to sensations she felt when ever Xena touched her back. After a few moments she felt Xena's warm wet lips, gently kissing her back. She stifled a moan, and than relaxed more, to enjoy the soothing back rub. She loved Xena; there was nothing she wouldn't do for her. She realized that, after the first time they made love, she would more than likely die with Xena in some conflict in the future, defending people or trying to stop a war. Soon Xena had stopped rubbing her back all together and began gently kissing her shoulder blades and the nape of her neck. Almost on instinct, Gabrielle rolled over to look directly into Xena's eyes, alloying her access to her breasts. Xena locked her fingers with Gabrielle's and knelt down to taste her lips. It had been awhile since they had been together, but Gabrielle could still remember the feeling of Xena kissing her body all over. Soon both women were undressed and in each other arms, touching, kissing, and playfully fondling each other. Gabrielle began to suckle from Xena's breasts like a newborn baby, causing Xena to moan sensually. It always made Gabrielle smile whenever she pleased Xena. Gabrielle than moved down Xena's body, kissing her all the way down, and began to give the warrior princess a tongue lashing that she would not soon forget. After what seemed like an eternity, Xena reached for Gabrielle and taking her by her armpits hurled her into the air and guided her fall down onto the bed. Gabrielle gave a short scream of surprise and pleasure from Xena's show of strength. Now it was Xena's turn to pleasure her lover. Xena grasped Gabrielle's breast and with her index finger and thumb began to squeeze and twist her already swollen nipples, as they both explored each other's mouth with their tongues. Soon Xena began the same southern journey Gabrielle had performed on her. She took a moment to inhale Gabrielle's smell before burying her face in Gabrielle's pussy. They both continued in this way and were both thoroughly exhausted and sweaty when they stopped some time later. They fell asleep together with their arms and legs all tangled up. It was the best night's sleep they both had in months.
The early morning found Xena gently rousing Gabrielle from the deep sleep she was enjoying. "Gabrielle wake up, we have to go." Being half-asleep she tried to answer Xena's request. "Just five more minutes. That's all I ask." Xena allowed her a few moments more while she dressed and headed out to retrieve Argo. The stable boy was there rubbing the sleep from his eyes while handing Xena her saddle and gear. "I fed her real good and gave her some apples, plus I brushed her down real nice."
"I'm sure you did." She looked back to see him with his hand out waiting for his tip. Xena reached into her purse and produced two dinars. His eyes grew twice as large when he saw the size of the tip. "Here is for a job well done young man, don't spend it all in one place." He confiscated the coins than turned back to the generous women. "Why such a big tip lady." Xena looked back at him as she mounted Argo, and he noticed she had a big smile on her face. "Oh, I'm in a generous mood this morning." She brought Argo out in front of the inn, than she went back inside to wake up sleepy head. Gabrielle was already in the process of getting dressed when she came in. "Oh you're a wake." Gabrielle, who once again had her back to her, was putting on her shirt. "Xena, I'll be out once I put my boots on, give me five minutes." Xena just smiled behind her. She was still a little shy about dressing in front of people. "I'll be waiting outside with Argo, hurry up, we've already missed an hour from sleeping in." After about ten minutes Gabrielle came bounding out of the inn with a satchel filled with some lunch. "I'm ready lets go." Xena reached down and helped her into the saddle behind her, and sent Argo into a slow trot out of town.
Kith was up as soon as the sun was. Timotheos and his wife Elena were still asleep while he moved about gathering his gear. Before leaving he left the coins he had been given to by Salmoneus for Timotheos and Elena, they needed them a lot more than he did. One last check, too make certain he was not leaving anything behind, and out the door he went. Timotheos had said that if he traveled through the northern most part of the woods, he could avoid Amazon patrol's that frequently checked the most direct route through their territory. He decided to speed up his travels by jogging a kilometer, than walking for a kilometer. He was making good time when he hit the forest perimeter. It was dark and densely wooded, with different breeds of trees and bushes. He reached out with the force to sense any form of life; mostly he was trying to sense the Amazons Timotheos spoke of. He said they were not a threat to Elena or him and the town, so as long as they did not incur their wrath. According to him they had a new queen appointed leader of them some time ago who changed their policy on people like them. All Kith could sense were rodents with bushy tails, and some exotic birds. He began to jog through the forest, keeping his eyes peeled for any movement, and using the force to sense any danger in front of him. We was already a part of the way through when he could barely hear the sound of blaster fire deep in the woods. He came to a screeching halt trying to triangulate the position of the sounds. He sensed, many people fighting southeast of his position. With out hesitating he broke into a run using the force to increase his speed far beyond what he was capable of. He began to rake his brain on what this could mean. For all he knew he was the only person on this planet, but could someone have gotten his distress call so soon. He checked his comlink using all known frequencies, calling out to any ships that might be in the area, but there was nothing. Than he realized it was probably the pilot of the Sith Interceptor. Maybe he supplied the locals with advanced technology, but why. The, Sith would not gain much from such an alliance and they wouldn't just give out their weapons to just anyone. This could only mean that this was all about him, and trying to draw him out into the open. The, Sith would know that a Jedi would come to the aid of those in need, and by handing over blasters to the warriors of this world was like giving a baby a primed Thermal Detonator. His life was just about to get a whole lot more interesting.
Old Enemies, New Allies
Kith finally reached his destination. The smell of burnt flesh and ozone was as strong as a Rancor here. Kith scanned the village he was standing in, and all around him were the bodies of women, fifty in all. They had all died from multiple blaster shots. Some of them were shot as much as four times. They appeared to have been defending their homes when the end came. Kith opened his mind to the past and saw how it all happened. Twenty men in black armor with blaster rifles came storming into their village, just like the stormtroopers of the now extinct Imperial Empire. The women, here, were no match for these men. They were using iron swords and bows against them, while the men fought with blaster rifles. The Jedi, was about to give them a proper burial, and began to gather the bodies when he noticed that one of them was breathing! He checked her pulse and it was still strong and steady. Breaking out one of his medpacs, he was determined to prevent the Sith from claiming another life. Medpacs, the wonder technology of the Republic, were designed to be compatible with over ninety seven point four percent of galactic life forms, and this, women, seemed to be responding to the treatment perfectly, much to his relief.
After he gave her a shot of adrenaline and administrating synthetic blood, he used the painkillers, and healing drugs to help her in recovering. He than used his own force powers to accelerate her natural healing process. When he was done he took a closer look at her; she was dressed in what looked like a two piece swimsuit made from the hides of animals. She had on a pair of boots and wrist gauntlets, plus what was left of her large silver necklace, which appeared to be what had saved her life by taking the majority of the blaster bolt. She started to come around after a few moments. "Are you all right, can you tell me your name? Are there any others here?" She barely seemed to perceive him. Her eyes rolled around taking in the scene around her. She began to become more aware when she saw the dead Amazons. "Who are you?" Kith tried to get her communicating, so he tried to reassure her. "I'm a friend." Kith checked the medpac's readouts to see how she was doing, and they were in normal parameters. "You have lost some blood, but your respiration is steady, heart rate is OK." He looked back to see her noticing him for the first time. "Is there someone I can take you too?"
The Amazon looked up at the Jedi with the look of disgust on her face. Kith could understand her reasons. According to Timotheos the Amazons were a proud nation comprised of women. Apparently they felt they did not need men to survive and here she was, being attended to by one after other men had wiped out her friends and companions. Elena had said that in the past they would steal young females from travelers and villages to train them to uphold their way of life. But in the recent times they have begun to accept men into their culture in a minor role. Even a race called Centaurs were slowly being integrated into their culture, and some of the Amazons have begun to take lovers, mostly for the sole purpose of producing children instead of kidnapping them, but in some cases, for true love. "What is your name?" The Jedi asked again. The Amazon thought for a moment before answering him. "Tsavena. My name is Tsavena."
"My names Kith Qel-Droma, it is nice to meet you." She didn't seem amused by his introduction, nothing he could do about that though. "Is there a somewhere or someone I can take you too?" She still did not seem trusting of him yet. "Can you at least tell me what happened?"
"This was our scout post for our main village. Men attacked us with weapons that shot lightning bolts. I was trying to get to our main village when I was hit by one of their bolts of lightning. You can take me to our current leader the regent Ephiny. She leads us while Gabrielle is away, traveling with the Warrior Princess. Ephiny must be notified of the attack by the warlord Kosta's men." She tried to get up, but the pain forced her to lie back down.
"Tell me where this village is and I'll take you there, you'll still need rest and nourishment if you expect to recover, so it will be best to be with others who can take care of you." She just gave out a short laugh. "If you take me to my village, they will avenge our sisters by killing you!" The Jedi was taken aback by her statement. He was all for justice being served, but couldn't believe they would kill him for what others had done. "Well I guess I'll have to put my life in your hands than." The Amazon just gave him a long curious stare too his reply. She thought, 'this man was dumber than he looked', which Kith heard loud and clear. Kith usually wouldn't read people's thoughts, but this was different. He looked back at her with a slight smirk on his face trying to make peace with the young women. She finally gave in and told him where her village was located, while he gathered the bodies of the Amazons. Kith didn't have the tools necessary to bury the bodies, the best he could do for them was to wrap them up in bed sheets and place them in the largest hut in the village. Tsavena watched him intently as he went about his task. When he was done he used the force to place a barrier around the hut that would not permit entry to any one or anything that had thoughts of desecrating the bodies. When he was finished he placed Tsavena on a litter, receiving a cold stare from her while he did. Obviously she would not be trusting of men again for a long time. He than began to head in the direction of the village dragging her on the litter behind him in utter silence.
Xena and Gabrielle were passing by a home where a couple were outside performing chores when they over heard them mention the name Kith Qel-Droma. Xena brought Argo over by the fence closest to them trying to get their attention. "Excuse me I couldn't help but over hear you speaking about a young man named Kith, wears a brown robe and has a braid that begins behind his right ear and hangs down over his chest. Timotheos approached the two women on horseback when they mentioned Kith's name. "Ya that's Kith, a nice young man he is. Are you friends of his?" Gabrielle took the Q, from Timotheos's statement and played along with the idea. "Yes, have you seen him?"
"He stayed here last night and shared a meal with us."
Gabrielle was stunned to hear he was just down the road from where they had stayed the previous night. Xena noticed the wife of the farmer was coming over to join them when she turned Timotheos attention back to her. "Where did Kith go?"
"He said he needed to head east. I warned him about the Amazons in the forests but he seemed determined on going east anyway. I told him if he went through the north trail he could avoid Amazon patrols, but I not sure if he's going to stay on the path. He seems to be the more adventurous type." Xena was a little worried about the turn of events. If the Amazons caught him, they might just escort him beyond their territory. If he fought back, they might kill him. She still wanted to ask him about the Firebird sighting in Corinth and of the medallion he gave Salmoneus. Gabrielle having heard about the northern trail whispered to Xena some more disturbing news. "Xena, the last time we came through the Amazon Nations I had Ephiny place fifty Amazons in a out post near the northern trail, to watch out for warlords from the north, if Kith went that way it's more than likely they would have captured him." The farmer's wife Elena came over to stand next to her husband and to get a better look at the two women. She continued where her husband's observations of Kith had stopped. "He was a very nice young man. The kind of young man any parents would love to call son. He evened saved Timotheos the other day." Xena looked back to Timotheos to elaborate. "I was in town when Sotiros and his men were pushing me around, when Kith came to my rescue." Gabrielle heard the same story of this Kith coming to someone's rescue, from Meg. She envisioned how he took care of the mercenaries, probably kicked and punched the daylights out of them, when Timotheos gave both women a surprise. "It was the strangest thing really. Kith some how "persuaded" Sotiros and his men to leave us alone. It was like Sotiros was completely out of it when Kith spoke to him." Xena was now becoming more suspicious about Kith than before. Perhaps he was a god. She really didn't believe that, but maybe he was in league with one of them. Xena began to desperately hope it was not Ares again. They thanked the couple for the information, than headed towards the forest.
It took them a little while traveling through the forest before they reached the Amazon out post, only to find all of the Amazons' dead. They didn't understand who'd killed them or wrapped them in sheets, but both women began to feel the blood lust to avenge their deaths. They spent most of the day burying the bodies of the Amazons, not saying a word to each other, until they had placed the last body into its shallow grave. "Xena do you think this Kith could have done this?" Xena was busy covering the last body and didn't answer her question right away. "I don't know Gabrielle, these wounds were not made by any swords or arrows. It looks like they were caused by some kind of fire." She turned to look at the village. "As well as the marks on some of the buildings." Gabrielle looked at the scorch marks on the huts surrounding them both, than the blood from Gabrielle's face drained away. "Xena, you said a Phoenix was reborn from its flames when it died, can they shape shift as well?" Xena tried to remember everything she heard about the Phoenix, but she never heard about them shape shifting, than again she also didn't believe they existed either. "I don't know; maybe." Gabrielle than had a startling revelation. "Xena, what if the Phoenix is this Kith masquerading around as a human, and he did all of this." Xena looked her friend hard in the eyes. She didn't even think of this possibility. She began to formulate a possible strategy. "Were going to have to head directly for the main village and warn the Amazons there." Xena looked up through the canopy above trying to see how much daylight they had left. "If we leave now we'll reach it by nightfall, maybe Ephiny has seen or heard something, or maybe they have him now." Both women looked to one another when Xena mentioned the possibility of this stranger being captured by the Amazons. After they had finished burying the last body, they looked around at the damage done to the huts one more time, than they picked up their gear and continued on with all due haste.
Tsavena was not a conversationalist. Kith had tried a few times to start up a conversation, he even mentioned the Corinth Firebird sighting everyone was talking about. This got her lips moving. "We also saw the Firebird descending to the Earth. That is why we have begun the Hunt earlier than usual." Kith smiled for the minor victory he had won. He would not have to continue the trip in total silence. Plus he was interested in the culture of these women. Timotheos and Elena described a culture devoid of remorse in their actions and Kith couldn't believe that these women were heartless.
"What's the Hunt?"
Tsavena continued in her explanation not understanding why. He was a man after all, even if he was a young one. "The Hunt is when we give praise to our goddess Artemis by hunting an animal of her choosing. It demonstrates cunning and patience to bring down such a beast. We believed the Firebird was the chosen animal." Kith had heard of similar cultures using hunting in religious ceremonies. The Rodians do something similar as well as the Wookies on Kashyyyk.
"Have you ever performed in the Hunt yourself Tsavena?"
"No, but I will, soon." She wondered why she was still talking to him. Kith cocked his head slightly to see her out of the corner of his eye, "How are you feeling?"
"A little better than before." Tsavena lifted her arms and clenched her fists tightly. She could feel her strength returning, but also felt a little sleepy. Kith wanted to find out more about her attackers but did not want to upset her too much. He tried to figure out a way to ask her that was not going to bring up bad memories. "You said you were attacked by Kosta's men, who is he?" Once again only silence greeted him. He chanced a look back and saw she was unconscious. With a sigh, Kith continued moving through the forest in silence until he sensed he was not alone. The sensation was all around him and in a few minutes he began to sense the presence of women, a lot of women. From above him several of them dressed similar to Tsavena dropped down from the trees. Kith remained calm as they surrounded him with drawn swords. One of them, an attractive blonde approached him, accompanied by three bodyguards. Behind him he sensed that Tsavena was being "liberated" from his care.
"Hold your ground, I am Ephiny, regent to the Amazons, why have you entered our domain, and what has happened to Tsavena?"
Kith didn't see any reason to hold back information. Tsavena would tell them everything when she was conscious anyway. "I was traveling on the north trail when I heard fighting. I found her injured in a village where a massacre had taken place. She was the only one I found alive, I did what I could to help her, she should be OK." He added that last part in case Tsavena "forgot" to mention it. Ephiny walked a little closer to the Jedi looking him over. He was dressed in a brown robe, smeared with earth and damp from water. He had a thin braid of hair trailing down from behind his right ear, and over his chest.
"Until Tsavena is conscious and can confirm your story you are our prisoner, do you understand?" The Jedi slowly nodded his head. "Are you armed traveler?" Finally someone had referred to him as something other than young man. He opened his robe to reveal his utility belt and lightsabre as well as his travel bag. Ephiny looked at the thick belt and metal tube hanging from it, than at his bag. She looked to two Amazons that were flanking him. "Take his gear." The two Amazons approached him warily, while he slowly, not to provoke them, removed his bag, belt and lightsabre. Just to make sure they did not accidentally kill themselves if they were to activate his weapon unknowingly, Kith palmed the power cell as he handed it over to them. Once they had stripped him of his belongings they escorted him to their village with an unconscious Tsavena in tow. He was placed in a hut with four guards watching over him in the center of the large village. Since he had nothing else to do, and his guards were not in the talking mood, he sat down and began to meditate on the new change in events.
It was nighttime when Xena and Gabrielle approached the Amazon village. By the time they were noticed they had entered the central area and were greeted by Ephiny and about twenty Amazons. "Gabrielle, Xena." Ephiny bowed to Gabrielle slightly before hugging her and Xena both. Xena than got to the point of their visit. "Ephiny have you seen a young man, dressed in brown robes traveling through the forest?"
"Actually we have such a man in custody." Gabrielle stepped in front of Xena in order to gain Ephiny's full attention. "You have him, where is he, I want to see him now!" Xena placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder from behind her and gave her a gentle squeeze to try and calm her down. "Gabrielle calm down, don't get yourself all worked up." Ephiny looked a little confused over Gabrielle's show of rage. Xena noticed Ephiny's expression and began to relate their findings as of late. "We found your outpost completely destroyed and all of the Amazons dead. We have been tracking this Kith, for more than a day now, because of a sighting of a Firebird in Corinth. It's possible that he is connected with what happened." Ephiny had yet to hear Tsavena's story, but Xena's tale was probably true. She had sent scouts to the village but they were not due back yet. "We have one of the Amazons from that out post here. She is unconscious, but well, we were going to wait for her to regain consciousness, but since you are here and know a little bit more about the stranger than we do, you should be the ones to question him." She turned to an Amazon nearest her. "Go fetch the traveler and bring him here." Ephiny looked back to Gabrielle after giving the order. "Gabrielle do you wish to take command of us now, and question the traveler since you are here." Gabrielle had a hard look of someone who had seen the death of someone she cared about. Seeing so many dead Amazons, the very ones she was made ruler of, was bothering her tremendously. She stared out with a blank look in her eyes. "Yes!" It was her only response. Ephiny lead Gabrielle to where Kith was to be brought to so she could question him of what had happened.
Five Amazons, who had heard the tale of the Firebird, escorted Kith before Gabrielle. They held spears at the ready in case he tried anything. He looked up to the women who was flanked by Ephiny and a tall dark hared woman in armor. She was quite attractive, much like all the women he has seen since coming to this world. "Two nights ago a bird of fire was seen descending to the Earth. Where it came to rest the land was damaged by fire and claws, do you know anything about this?" Kith stared back up at her and gave the only answer he could. "No." She stared back at him with the same intensity he was staring at her with. "I don't believe you." She unrolled a parchment and displayed it before him. Upon it was the republic symbol in perfect detail. "This was on a gold medallion you gave to a merchant for some crystals, it looks very much like the Phoenix of legend, so I'm going to ask you again. Do you know anything about the Firebird, and what happened at the Amazon out post?" She seemed to be asking him about the symbol as well as informing the women around him about it and where it came from. She rolled the piece of parchment up and looked at the Jedi. "Did you have anything to do with what happened at the outpost, and for your sake you'd best be telling me the truth."
Kith began to think of what he could tell her that would satisfy her question and keep as much detail about what he was and who he was from her. He was just about to give a response when Tsavena intervened. "My queen, he was not among the men who attacked us." Every one turned to see Tsavena walking passed the ring of Amazons to stand a few meters from his prosecutor. She was completely healed. "In fact he was the one who wrapped and placed the bodies in the commander's hut." Tsavena let her eyes dropped to the ground as she spoke further. "He also tended to my wounds." She chanced a glance side ways at him when she mentioned him taking care of her. "He is not responsible for what happened at the outpost, of that I'm sure." Gabrielle took all of this in, than looked back to Kith. "OK, so you may not be responsible for the attack, but did you see anything in the forest and what do you know of the Firebird?"
"I do not know anything about this Firebird, I was only trying to get to the other side of the forest." 'Wasn't that part of a punch line from an ancient joke he had heard'. Xena took a few steps down to stand next to Gabrielle, she was getting a little impatient of the questioning, and she had some of her own questions to ask. "Why are you wanting to go east? There isn't anything out there except desolate countryside and warlords as far as the eye can see. Are you planning on joining one of them?" Kith regarded his new inquisitor with care. She looked like someone who could handle herself and had the hard look of a seasoned fighter in her eyes. He was running out of answers when three Amazons came running into the camp. Ephiny's scouts had returned from the out post, but they looked to be in a big hurry. "My Queen, some of Kosta's men are headed for the village, about twenty of them, or more. They are right behind us."
All of the Amazons around Kith began to arm themselves instantly with swords, bows, and spears. Kith realized if they were going up against the same men with blasters as the other Amazons did, they were doomed. Gabrielle turned to some of the Amazons who were closest to Kith. "Take the prisoner back to his hut and prepare for an attack." Xena unsheathed her sword and removed her Chakram from her belt, while shouting orders to the Amazon archers. Ephiny picked up a sword and dagger and stood next to Gabrielle with five other Amazons. They could barley make out twenty or so, men heading for the village, maybe more. They were all flustered at their boldness, there were at least seventy Amazons in the village and they could summon even more, these men must be either crazy or stupid. The Amazons took defensive positions to await the attack of Kosta's men, while Kith was being brought back to his hut when the first barrage of blaster fire lit up the night. They were not accurate at all, but than again these warriors did not have field training in blaster rifles. It did have its desired affect however, by scattering about thirty Amazons who were trying to get out of the way of the incoming energy blasts. Whatever the bolts hit, exploded amid of sparks and smoke and caught fire. The second barrage began to catch parts of the huts on fire, while the Amazon arrows arched out into the darkness to find their marks. The Amazons escorting Kith dropped to the ground to avoid being hit by the blaster bolts. This allowed him to get to his travel bag and utility belt, which was sitting next to where the two women interrogators were standing. He breathed a sigh of relief; his lightsabre was still there. He picked it up, and in one motion inserted its power cell, before taking in the scene before him. So far not one Amazon was injured but that was about to change. He could see about twenty, maybe twenty-five men with blasters come storming into the village.
Gabrielle and Ephiny had taken cover when the first barrage of lightning came. They watched many more Amazons abandoning their posts and taking cover when the second barrage of lightning bolts began to strike the huts setting them on fire. Gabrielle looked behind them both when she saw a shadow from the corner of her eye. The prisoner was going through his gear and picking up a metal cylinder when the warriors came storming into the village. She wanted to shout an order for him to be stopped, but the sound of battle was drowning out her commands.
Xena had taken a position nearer the approaching warriors. She came around a hut when one of them came running into her line of vision. "AAAAYIIEEEE!" The warrior turned to see a woman with a sword bearing down on him. He turned and leveled the blaster rifle at her; she had no idea she was about to die.
Ergas was about to fire the "magic" weapon when it was wrenched from his grasp by an unseen force, leaving him defenseless. Xena ran him through with her sword and kicked him off of her weapon into the path of another charging soldier.
Ephiny watched the object that flew from the warrior's hands than noticed that Kith had his hand pointed at the weapon as it flew by. He seemed to be guiding it.
Kith had stepped out into the village to get a better vantage point, when he noticed the dark hared women about to attack a warrior who had a blaster pointed at her. With a wave of his hand he relinquished the warrior of his blaster through telekinesis. The dark hared swordswomen took it from there and struck the soldier down. Kith saw many more warriors entering the village and made his decision. Igniting his lightsabre he strode out to put an end to this attack. Everyone within earshot jumped when the energy blade came into existence, and everyone saw Kith charging out to face the warriors with a beam of light as a weapon. The warriors, not understanding whom they were facing, trained their blasters on him and opened fire. Kith caught the energy blasts with his lightsabre and bounced three of the bolts back at their source dropping three of the warriors and deflecting the other bolts harmlessly into the air. The other warriors did not seem to notice their companions falling to the ground around them, and so, fired again. Kith blocked the new set of blaster bolts that were the closest to hitting him and once again used his lightsabre blade to bounce a few of the bolts back at the men who had fired them. At this point Tagger realized whom they were facing. Darth Payne had said that they would easily recognize the Jedi by his weapon. A beam of light that could cut through anything it came into contact with.
"It's the Jedi, retreat!"
The warriors began to abandon their attack when Xena threw her Chakram out to knock down three of the retreating warriors. She caught the whirling, bouncing weapon upon its return flight, and charged after them. One warrior turned to take a shot at her but he was slow on the draw. Xena ran up to him howling like a beast, sword in hand and took a swipe at him, slicing him through his armor. She brought her sword back again and stuck him like a pig. With no recourse to their escape they attempted to blast their way out. A dozen Amazons came charging from behind two huts throwing their spears into the grouped warriors, putting three of them down for good. The warriors raised their blasters and fired into the Amazon brigade putting down several of the feisty women. From behind Xena and the Amazons, Kith took a small step and leapt into the air sailing over there and the warriors' heads, landing several meters ahead of them. Kith swung the lightsabre; out behind him in a wide arc, cutting three of the warrior's blaster rifles in half. He than spun around while twirling his lightsabre about his body. The rhythmic hum of the energy blade was calming to Kith's ears. Kith came up with the lightsabre at a ready stance and prepared to battle the warriors. Two of them must have drained their weapons of energy, because they held them up like makeshift clubs. The warriors that no longer had weapons, thanks to Kith; were now being surrounded by those Amazons that still had their swords, so he turned to face the two charging warriors. He brought the lightsabre up in front of him and sliced the first warrior's makeshift weapon in half. He followed the arc of the lightsabre with a high flying kick to the warrior's jaw sending him flying through the air to land in a heap near the Amazons. When the Jedi was back on the ground, he came up to face a wild swing from the second charging warrior. Kith's Jedi reflexes snapped his head back and brought the lightsabre back around, passing through the warrior's body ending his charge permanently. There were nine warriors left by this time. Either the Amazons', or the dark hared women had captured or killed the rest.
Xena turned around after she sent another warrior into oblivion, and saw their "captive" wielding what looked like a sword made out of a blue light. From behind him she saw five warriors charging towards him from behind and shouted to him. Xena than decked a previous warrior that was trying to run past her and an Amazon named Anya.
Kith stood up as four warriors ran towards him with a battle cry. A shout of alarm from the dark hared women alerted him that another five were right behind him. Kith turned to face them and sent out a wave of force with his out-stretched hand that knocked them back several meters. Amazons quickly surrounded these fallen men, while at the same time staring in either fear or wonder at Kith and his out stretched hand.
Xena couldn't believe it, she was about to charge to his aid, when he turned around, raised his hand, and the five warriors that were charging him, were knocked to the ground by an unseen hand. Maybe he was a god.
Kith turned back to the other four who were almost on top of him. He swung his lightsabre at them one at a time, and with every swing of his weapon, a warrior fell beneath his flashing energy blade, never to rise again. When the final warrior was down, the battle was over. Kith checked one last time to make sure that everything was safe before deactivating his weapon, much to the stares of every Amazon present. He than began to slowly walk back towards their village with his hands and arms open to reveal he planned nothing, trying to decide how far he was going to go in his explaining. He began to get the feeling that it was going to be a long night.
Darth Payne was watching the battle take place, thanks to the remote camera he hid on one of the warriors. Ioannis just stared in marvel at the holoprojector displaying the fighting that was occurring far away. He pointed out Xena and Gabrielle, and explained that they were considered to be the most dangerous people on his world. As far as Payne was concerned they were a secondary problem. Kith was far more dangerous and he would have to deal with him personally. "As you can see Ioannis, never underestimate a Jedi." Kith was just finishing off the last of the warriors when the image faded away. Ioannis turned to Payne when he turned to leave.
"What about the weapons they were carrying? If the Amazons figure how they work, they could use them against us." Payne put all of his fears to rest. "We have nothing to fear from such a thing happening. The blasters I gave them were low on power and cannot be recharged. Plus, I can replicate more for you and your men if you need them."
"You mean you sent those men with faulty weapons to fight this Jedi."
"It is a calculated loss Ioannis, the few who die will allow the many to triumph."
Payne had decided to conquer the planet once he had dealt with the Jedi. Payne was beginning to feel a slight apprehension at the coming duel with the Jedi and he needed some time to rest and meditate. "I'll be inside my ship, wait for me here." He left Ioannis to hand out the blasters to the soldiers, while he went to his ship, which he had moved to inside the courtyard of the citadel. He let himself go and felt the raw fiery power of the dark side of the force flowing through him fueling his already growing hatred at the Jedi. Soon the Jedi would be dead, and a new, Sith world would be born. All that was needed now, was patience.
Once the captured warriors had been tied up and placed in their cells, the Amazons gathered in the central area while Kith told them as much about him self as he could, or at least the stuff they could relate to, or understand. He set their minds at ease when he told them he was not a god and was not a Firebird in disguise. Gabrielle wondered how he knew about her suspicions of him being a Firebird in disguise. He continued on with everything that had happened since his landing on their world, well crashing on their world and brought them all up to date on the other stuff. This took a good part of the night and when he was done they all just stared with a blank look on their faces for a few minutes, blinking was their only sign that they were all still alive. Soon Xena broke the silence by putting everything Kith had told them into perspective. "So you're an alien, from an another world, you just happen to look human. You're a Jedi Knight. The Firebird was actually your starfighter that was damaged and caught fire when you came in for a crash landing on our planet. You hid it in Corinth Lake, and you are not the only one on our world." Kith slowly nodded his head as he went over what she had said to make sure it was accurate.
"That is correct Xena."
Gabrielle than looked over at him and began to go over what he had said about the force and Jedi powers. "Now what is the 'Force' again?" Kith couldn't help but flash a smile at her question. Just about every apprentice asked such a question of his or her teacher, during the first year of training. "What is the Force. There are no words that can accurately describe it, or give it its due credit. But suffice to say, the Force is an energy field created by all living things, it surrounds us, and penetrates us, think of it to be the soul of the universe and we are all apart of it. Through it, Jedi can accomplish great feats, like moving objects with our thoughts, increasing our strength, speed, endurance, even reading our opponents minds." Gabrielle blushed slightly when she realized he must have been reading her mind when she was questioning him, she wondered if he was reading her now. She looked at him, than turned her eyes up into the heavens remembering that he had said he came from the stars, and that there was life among those pinpoints of light. It seemed to spark her imagination of traveling to the distant worlds he described. "So those stars are just like our sun?"
"Do they all have worlds around them?"
"Most of them do."
Gabrielle looked back at the Jedi in wonder. "Have you been to them all?" Kith looked at her, than up into the sky.
"No, not by a long shot. I've only been to about a hundred worlds, my favorite is Issagra."
Ephiny came over to Kith, carrying his bag and utility belt. He went about checking the gear to make sure everything was in order, while Ephiny went over to stand before Gabrielle and performed a graceful bow to her queen. "We suffered only injuries during the attack. Ten Amazons were shot, but thanks to Kith's knowledge of such injuries, they will recover in a week." Gabrielle turned to look at the Jedi while he went through the pouches on his belt. He was taking things out she could not recognize from his travel bag. She took a moment to look him over from head to toe. She began to realize how handsome he looked in the glow of the village campfire. She shook her head to get those images out of her mind before Kith could see them. "Kith. Thank you for your help with the wounded and during the attack of Kosta's men. I'm sorry we suspected you of evil deeds." Kith turned to regard her and Xena. He turned his attention back to her after he removed his own blaster from his bag. "It was nothing, it was just a good thing that those men were horrible shots. A well placed blaster bolt will kill anything it hits, no matter how powerful they are, remember that." Xena began to take an interest in what he was looking at.
"What is that thing in your hands." Kith looked over to Xena who approached him to get a better look at his blaster. "It's my blaster pistol, something like what those warriors were using against us." He made sure the safety was on before he handed it over to the Xena. She held it up the way he had and stared at the barrel of the weapon, and marveled at its weightlessness. Kith reached over and turned Xena away from the Amazons surrounding them and primed the blaster. He than instructed her too gently, 'squeeze the trigger'.
The blaster roared to life sending a bolt of destructive energy crashing into a nearby tree. Xena nearly jumped from her boots from the pistol's kick. Most of the other Amazons shrank away from the noisy device and it's killing powers. They all turned towards the tree in awe of the size of the smoking hole it had left. Xena turned to look him in the face than back at the firearm. "With this, no one would be safe. It would give even the humblest peasant the powers of a god over life and death." Kith took the blaster from her and placed it in his travel bag. "That is why I must stop Payne. He has no honor and will destroy your world if given half a chance. He has already begun to arm soldiers of this, Kosta with advanced weaponry that your people are not ready for. And that is probably only the beginning of, whatever he is planning."
Xena looked back at the smoking hole in the tree. "I don't see any reason to have such a destructive weapon."
"You can live without them to be sure, and indeed many people in the galaxy do. It's just that when you are exploring an unknown world and some beast bigger than a house comes towards you with teeth as big as swords, ready to make a meal out of you, you'll be happy you have one, if you do at all."
Ephiny butted it in to recap over what Kith had said he had read from the captives' minds. "Now you said that this Darth Payne had killed Kosta, and Kosta's citadel is about a two days or more traveling by horse from here. Do you plan on going there soon?"
"Well yes, actually I was planning on going as soon as I am sure that the wounded here are going to be all right. I wouldn't put it past Payne to charge his blasters with a biological agent to cause an infection. Once I'm sure they are fine I'll head out to face him." Gabrielle stood up and headed for her hut, in company of her bodyguards.
"Than I guess we'll be going along with you to face this threat."
Kith suddenly took on a demeanor more fitting of an over protective father than a young man. "I can't allow that your highness, a Sith is not an opponent you can just take lightly. They have destroyed entire worlds, eradicated whole species, and I'm sorry but you and your Amazons will be no match for him. Even you Xena, for all your capabilities and prowess in armed warfare, wouldn't be able to stop a fully trained Sith Lord. I alone have a chance of stopping him, but if you were to accompany me into this conflict it could compromise my thoughts and he could defeat me." Kith stopped and took a deep breath before continuing. "I just don't want any more of your people to suffer, and if any of you do go, I won't be able to protect you from him." Xena picked up her sword and sheathed it before following Gabrielle and Ephiny towards the sleeping quarters, when she passed by Kith. "Don't worry about us, we have been dealing with danger for a long time and can take care of our selves. Besides, while you take care of Payne, whose going to take care of Kosta's men? We have been fighting these kinds of men for many years now. It would be wiser to let us handle them, we know their ways and how they think." Kith thought of this for a moment, than saw to the logic to her statement. These women have faced warriors like Kosta's men before. They were the most logical choice in dealing with them, while he fought the Sith lord. "All right, I'll deal with Payne, the rest of you can put a stop to the warlord's men. We'll leave in two days. Now if you excuse me I would like to meditate and to get some rest." Kith moved several meters outside of the village to kneel in a small clearing. He opened his thoughts and his body to the force and became one with the universe.
They were all heading down a dangerous path together. If Payne had begun arming the warriors of this world with blasters, the people of this world were in serious trouble. If these Amazons were going to help him in fighting Payne, and his newly acquired soldiers, he was going to have to find a way to combat blaster, toting warriors when the Amazons only had swords.
Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, and the Amazons quickly decided on a rotation of guards on the prisoners than went to get some rest. Kith had asked that they do not kill them outright, but instead turn them over to the local authorities. He was all for justice but did not want them executing them without a fair trial. Ephiny told him she would have Tsavena and a dozen Amazons take them to the village in the morning. There they could be taken to a capital city for trial. Gabrielle, Ephiny, and Xena had entered the main hut and began talking about their new benefactor as they prepared for bed. "'Life, Among the Stars', that would be a great title for a poem don't you think?" Xena rolled her eyes at Gabrielle. "Your still a dreamer aren't you?" Gabrielle turned to look at Xena, feeling a little hurt from her statement as well as tired from the road and battles. "Xena it's the only way I can express my self once I'm gone. Years from now people will read my writing and know what we went through to make sure they had a future, and of the things we've seen."
"If they can understand those chicken scratches you call writing, that is." Gabrielle turned on Xena with her fists up ready to fight, but her sneer turned into a smile when Xena held up her arms in a mock surrender under the power of the 'Battling Bard'.
Ephiny brought out extra blankets and pillows and prepared a place for her self to sleep, while Xena and Gabrielle began to remove some of their gear to bed down for the night. They were all in bed when they began talking about what they saw Kith do during the battle. "Xena did you see his weapon?"
"Yes Gabrielle, I saw it. I also saw him knock down five of those warriors with a wave of his hand. The Jedi must be very powerful to do such things." Ephiny listened to them intently before joining in the conversation. "I noticed he was deflecting those 'blaster bolts' back at some of the warriors. He must have the eyes of a predatory bird to see so well."
"Actually Ephiny, he said a Jedi relies on the Force to do such things, he told us this while you were tending to Anya." Gabrielle began to think about the force, 'what did he say, it was the soul of the universe'. She turned on to her side thinking of what it must be like to be a Jedi. She suddenly realized how tired she was, and was fast asleep.
The late morning found Kith practicing Jedi lightsabre cadences when Ephiny came to him to announce breakfast. Kith walked towards to where they were serving breakfast. Inside a large cauldron was a smell that did not help much in making it look better. The Amazons present said it was gruel, but it didn't look appetizing. He tried it, but kept to his etiquette by not spitting it out when it started a revolution with his taste buds. Kith reached into his travel bag and withdrew a food and energy capsule. He still had plenty left, but if he would have to remain on this world for any length of time, he would have to demonstrate galactic cooking to these people. The wounded were fine and did not seem to be infected from a Sith virus, and Kith demonstrated to the Amazons how to fire blasters. He did noticed that all of them were low on power and that they had been tampered with to prevent them from being recharged, but Kith also new a little something about jury-rigging. The Sith's plans to render the power packs on the blasters inert was dashed to bits, and soon Kith had the blasters, somewhat functional. They only had about a hundred shots each, but the Amazons were quick to learn how to fire the blasters and were soon the equivalent of a first year cadet. So far fate was on Kith's side.
The following day saw Kith, Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, and fifty Amazons heading out to face Payne and his newly acquired troops. They traveled the entire first day east from the village, but turned north to stop at a small hamlet in the North. They entered the hamlet late in the afternoon, only a few people were out to see them arrive. Mostly old timers, who were excited to see so many young, women passing by. They stayed long enough to pick up some supplies that they did not already have. Xena was leaving the blacksmith when she overheard the name Lukas being said by some men, down an alley next to the tavern. Down the alley were ten men drinking heavily and discussing what they planned on doing once they had found a certain young man, and by their description, she knew they were talking about Kith.
"Are you boys lost?" They turned towards Xena with grinning, toothless smiles at her, looking her up and down. Lukas stepped out in front of his men to take in the sight before. "Well, don't you look like what I've been missing all my life."
"Sorry, but I think your referring to what real men have between their legs." Lukas's grin turned into a vile sneer, as his men busted up laughing at Xena's quip. Lukas drained his mug, and wiped the excess mead from his beard and mustache, that his crooked mouth couldn't hold. He threw his mug at Xena, which she dodged easily. It was a sure sign of a challenge to fight. Xena came up too her battle stance, dropping her comical satire for her serious, wide-eyed expression, hand on the hilt of her sword.
Lukas looked her over once again. The drink had left him and he was fully aware of who stood in front of him now. "Xena! So the fates have brought you before me."
"Yes, sad day for you isn't it." From behind her, Kith and Gabrielle were seeing what had her attention, when Lukas saw the boy who had embarrassed him back in Corinth. "Well, this is my day. I have Xena the warrior princess, and the young hero from Corinth right before me. I hope Ares is keeping count, because this will surly make me his chosen to lead his armies." Lukas drew his sword and summoned his men to do the same. "Prepare to die!" Lukas and his men charged the three travelers howling like insane monkeys. Xena was the quickest, and began striking down any mercenary that tried to attack her. Gabrielle brought her staff up and moved to combat one of the mercenaries that had gotten passed Xena. Kith recognized the men as the ones from Meg's place, back in Corinth. He saw two of the mercenaries pass Xena and Gabrielle, coming straight for him. As the first one approached him, he spun around catching him with a roundhouse while reaching under his robe for his lightsabre. The first mercenary went down as his buddy leaped over him, sword in hand, to confront the Jedi. Kith severed his sword at the hilt with his now active lightsabre, than brought his empty hand up to his face, not to strike him but to console him to sleep through the force. The warrior went down with out any protests.
Gabrielle brought her staff up to catch her attackers sword strike, than reversed her block into a powerful downward strike. The mercenary caught her attack in the face, but was so drunk he really didn't notice his nose was broken and splattered across his face.
Xena had grabbed a hold of one of the mercenaries that had been attacking her by the wrist, and used him as a catapult to swing her self over his head to land behind him to face two more of the mercenaries. She threw out a back kick sending her acrobatic helper into a wall, knocking him out cold.
Kith swung his lightsabre at the two new mercenaries attacking him who dodged his attack. They didn't realize that the pole holding up a lean-to next to them was his intended target, and they were pinned under its weight when it toppled down on them.
Xena faced off with her two mercenaries who decided to come at her at the same time. Thankfully she was ambidextrous. She threw up her arms and blocked their punches, and cross-punched them both. Before they could recover she reached out and grabbed one by the wrist, spun on her heel and threw him over her shoulder to land on the now collapsed lean-to.
Gabrielle had performed a combination one-two strike with her staff on her opponent, just as another mercenary took a swing with his club, barely catching her with a glancing blow to her backside. She recovered, twirling her staff until she could get back into a ready position, and blocked his multiple swings and chops, until she had him where she wanted him. Using her staff, she hammered his foot putting him off balance. She than followed up with a strike to his midsection, and turned around to blast him in the backside, just as he had done to her.
Xena turned to her last opponent, and delivered two kicks to his face and head. His combat skills were a complete joke. She was about to strike again when she realized he was still standing, but unconscious, and with a light pushed he fell to the ground. Kith, with lightsabre in hand, was staring down Lukas, but this time he was not drunk. Lukas bellowed at the top of his lungs as he headlong charged into the Jedi. Kith weave and twisted as all of Lukas's attacks met empty air. Soon they were back out into the open street. Gabrielle was about to join him when one of her previous combatants was getting back up. He was almost prepared to continue the fight when she spun completely around to gain momentum in her final attack, hitting him across the jaw putting him down for good. Xena, as well was heading out towards the street to assist Kith when her first challenger was back on his feet, shaking off the daze from her shoulder throw, when she walked up to him, and sent an upper cut, knocking him two feet of the ground. He came down with a grunt, knocking the wind out of him self and staying down for the ten-count. They made their way out into the street to see Kith, severe Lukas sword in half. With a spin kick, Lukas was sent crashing into a wagon filled with manure. He stood up, amid the hundreds of flies, looked at him self once, and made an all or nothing attack by attempting to tackle Kith. The Jedi leap frogged over his attack and turned it into a forward flip, catching Lukas in the rump with a solid kick with both of his feet. Lukas found himself tumbling through the air onto the ground. When he rolled over onto his back, he was looking into the faces of Xena, Gabrielle, and Kith who was just now deactivating his lightsabre.
Out of breath, both from the drinking and fighting, Lukas vowed revenge. "It.. .will be.. only .a. matter of time.. Xena. Soon, you will come to realize that your time is over, and a new one begins."
"What are you babbling about Lukas?"
"Why don't you ask your, out of this world friend here." Lukas was staring at Kith with a bemused look on his face. He apparently knew something about Kith. Gabrielle turned to look at the Jedi after Lukas seemed to not be any more forthcoming with more information.
"What does he mean Kith?"
"I don't know, but I can find out." Lukas face went cold and bloodless. He wondered what this alien creature could do to him. He had heard from the warriors from the north about what this Sith Lord could do. Fear swept through him now, his mind creating images that further heightened his anxiety of what the Jedi were capable of.
Kith looked him in the eyes, and pulled the images of Lukas meeting some warriors who wore a Sith symbol on their armor, telling him to gather warriors and meet them at Minotaur pass, from the recesses of his mind. Lukas unaware of what was happening began to sweat steadily, wondering when the Jedi was going to make his move. Kith had all the information he needed. Payne was gathering soldiers and was planning on handing out blasters to everyone who showed up at the meeting place. He shot a look of alarm to both Xena and Gabrielle. Apparently Payne was going to build an army with the warriors of this world and conquer the planet.
"Were going to have to leave for a place called 'Minotaur Pass'. Do you know of it?"
Lukas looked dumbfounded, 'How did the Jedi know'. Xena turned her attention on Kith.
"Yes, I once marched an army through their long ago." Xena pointed out east from where they were standing and said it was several days of hard travel. "Why do we have to go there?"
"Payne is planning on arming soldiers with blasters. If we can get there before they arrive, we can stop Payne and put an end to this conflict." Kith looked back down at Lukas who had yet to rise, but looked white as a ghost. Kith slowly waved in his open hand in front of the warlord before him.
"You're feeling very tired."
"I'm feeling very tired."
"You're going to go to sleep."
"I'm going to go to sleep."
"When you awaken, you will remember nothing."
"I will remember nothing."
Lukas suddenly fell asleep right there next to the street. Xena and Gabrielle looked down at Lukas, than at Kith. Gabrielle was trying to form the words, but succeeded in sounding like a broken record, pointing her finger at Lukas and cocking her head back and forth trying to figure out why Lukas decided to catch forty winks right there on the ground. "How did…uh…You just…Asleep."
Xena new Kith had done something but wasn't sure what. She saw him wave his hand; say some words and Lukas repeated them. "Neat little trick of yours." Xena displayed a big smile at the Jedi with a hint of sarcasm "Don't you ever use it on me." Kith looked over at Xena with a devilish look in his eyes, but it was gone in an instant, replaced with a big cheerful, innocent smile in its place. "Now Xena. Why would I want to do that?" He ended his last statement more as a question with a hint of sarcasm as Xena had, before heading out.
Xena and Kith began to head back to where the Amazons were waiting for their return with a still flustered Gabrielle being force to come along.
Darth Payne had brought his Repulsor sled on this trip and was patting himself on the back for doing so. Every warrior looked at him in awe of what this master of darkness could do. He was heading for a rocky pass between to small plateaus ranges, surrounded by one hundred fifty men who swore their allegiance to him, when they had made camp for the night. They would arrive at the pass in two more days. On the way they had gathered several more men whom seemed to flock towards him in the dozens, trying to prove they were worthy of his command. Payne could sense those that were strong and capable of serving him in the coming years, the others were sent on fool's errands to either die or become lost in the wilderness. They had setup Payne's tent, which was the biggest tent they had, and placed his Repulsor sled just inside the entrance flap. He was adjusting the throttle controls to maximize performance when he felt a presence inside the tent with him.
Looking over his shoulder he saw a familiar apparition. Payne dropped his tools and knelt before his dead master Darth Morbius. "My lord, I bring you the satisfaction of knowing that soon a Jedi will soon be dead, and a new Sith world will be born."
The apparition spoke with a voice more befitting the grave to the Sith Lord. "You have done well. But do not underestimate this Jedi's abilities, or you will go the way of Darth Worr."
"Do not fear my master, I will not make the same mistakes. I will not allow this Jedi the opportunity to call other Jedi to his aid. This alien world is far from the confines of the New Republic. There will be no rescue ship for the him." Payne stood more triumphant with his arms across his chest now. He was confident that he could kill the Jedi when the time came.
The apparition seemed to waver for a moment before becoming more pronounced in the air. "Events are moving fast for the Jedi, soon someone will enter his life, someone he can not turn his back on. When the time comes, move in and kill her Payne. The Jedi will easily be turned towards the dark side of the force after her death."
Payne took great interest in what his master was saying. "A woman? Here on this pathetic world?"
"The force has decreed it to be so." The apparition began to dematerialize back into the nothingness from where it came.
"How will I know her when I see her? Surly the Jedi will be clouding his thoughts."
"You will know Payne, you will only have to let events play out the way they are proceeding." The apparition was just a whisper of smoke when it spoke again, its voice even more disturbing and disembodied now. "May the darkness embrace you my apprentice."
Payne was left with himself to think over what his master had said. The thought of the Jedi, having feelings for someone from this barbaric world was amusing. A woman who's intelligence, which was far below the galactic standard, was not the kind of woman a Jedi would open up to. Still, the Jedi were weak in the area of the heart. To have true power from the force, you'd have to separate ones self from such feelings. Payne would rather wish to kill this Jedi, but to convert him to the dark side would have the same effect, plus he would have a new apprentice against the coming war with the Jedi.
Payne summoned Ioannis to his tent to further instruct his pupil on the Sith teachings. Ioannis was learning well the power that was offered to him from the force. The power to take the controls, of ones life and shape it as he sees fit. Ioannis listened to Payne's teachings for three hours. He took in all of what this dark lord could teach him.
"Ioannis, power comes from control. The control of others through the darkside of the force."
"Yes, Payne, but I can gain control of people with this, just as easily." Ioannis brandished his sword in front of him like a scepter.
"A sword, Ioannis, can also be taken control of just as easily as a man or woman." Payne, quicker than Ioannis could perceive, raised his hand over his head and Ioannis sword was pulled from his grasp as if he was a child. Payne brought his hand down with such force and the sword responded with the same intensity by striking the ground, just beneath Ioannis's codpiece. Ioannis was startled by this show of power and speed. He stumbled back several feet from his quivering sword, still impaled into the ground. "As you can see Ioiannis, the power I can give you is by far, more powerful than an entire army."
Ioannis walked up to his sword and wrenched it from the ground looking at it as if it was damaged. His eyes went from his sword to Payne who had now stepped up closer to him. He suddenly seemed bigger. Payne reached out and placed his hand on to Ioannis shoulder. Ioannis could feel a cold sweat forming on his body. Where Payne's hand was placed, Ioannis could feel what could only be described as freezing water being poured down his left side of his body. It lasted for only a moment.
Payne opened Ioannis mind to the pleasant whispers of the dark side of the force. Soon Ioannis would begin to harness his own power from the force. He was by no means a Sith or for that matter, even a true force user. His powers would never come close to even a Padawan's level of skill. However, Ioannis was now a one of a kind dark side adept on his world. He would be slightly enhanced by the darkside of the force, making him the most lethal warrior in Earth's history. Even this Xena that Ioannis spoke of, would be no match for him now.
"Ioannis, now you will have power beyond your comprehension. Rally the troops, we must leave with all do haste."
"Do not question my orders!" Payne turned on Ioannis, and as if to press the point, sent out a bolt of pain to the insolent soldier. Ioannis saw the very brief crimson light before he was hit by it. The pain was overwhelming. Ioannis once had broken his arm and during the visit to the healer, it was set with out numbing the pain. This was ten times as painful but twice as fleeting. A cold, painful reminder of who he was dealing with, not his ex-commander Kosta, but a Sith Lord.
Ioannis just stood there for a moment trying to get his bearings. He left Payne's tent a few seconds later when his mind and body were once again under his control. He moved out into the encampment, rousing sleeping soldiers from their rest. Once he was done he brought his horse over to Payne's tent.
Payne activated his Repulsor sled and sped out of his tent. The soldiers, which were nearest to his tent, ducked thinking a monster bird had descended on to their camp. When they saw who it was and what he was on, they just stared with their mouths open at Payne. Every day he was surprising them with something new, and this was the biggest so far. They mounted their horses and traveled at a gallop trying to catch up to Payne and his metallic horse.
It was pre-dawn when the entire camp was on the move. Ioannis lead them further out into open territory, passing by several hamlets and homesteads. Payne occasionally came back to check their progress than would head back out into the land at breakneck speeds. No one knew what he was up to or where he was going when he left them.
Soon he returned to the marching troops and took the lead next to Ioannis. "Ioannis, tell me more of your world."
"What is it you wish to know my lord?"
"You spoke of people who fight for the common good, name them for me."
"There are many my lord, but your powers make you impervious to them. Besides Xena, and Gabrielle, there is also Hercules and Iolaus; they have stopped many a warlords plans for dominance. There are a few others who have helped them on occasion, but they are not the hero types, there is a thief named Autolycus, and a whelp named Joxer who seems to land on his feet every time he stumbles." Payne listened intently to every piece of information.
"Ioannis, send fifty troops with blaster rifles up around the northern part of the pass. There they will wait until called for."
Ioannis stuttered in his sentence when Payne gave his order. He was just about to question it when the memory of what happens when some one question's his orders flashed through his mind like a shooting star.
"Yes my lord, as you command."
Ioannis sent out the troops that had blasters and brought up those that had just ordinary weapons towards the front lines. Once this was done he returned to Payne's side. Once he returned, Payne began to explain the controls on the Repulsor sled to him. He was a quick learner and had the basics down, when they could see the pass in the distance, jutting through the two cliff faces of Minotaur Pass.
The troops were forced to increase their speed; soon there would be two or three armies from the surrounding countryside at the pass. Many warlords have heard of Payne and his advanced weapons. They all wanted a piece of the action. Payne knew they would want much more, but that could be taken care of in time. First he had to take care of the Jedi, than the planet.
As a new day was born, Kith and a dozen Amazons, with blasters, had positioned themselves along the south end of the pass where Payne and the troops were going. Kith new the Amazons with him would not easily take orders from him, so he had the regent Ephiny accompanied him to give the orders. Xena took the Amazon archers to the opposite side, above the cliffs where they could aim without the possibility of hitting their allies. Gabrielle had the rest of the Amazons with her further down the trail. Xena had convinced her to stay behind as backup in case the soldiers tried to make a break for it. The truth of it was she did not want her in the middle of the conflict with the soldiers. She couldn't stand to lose her to these horrible weapons. Gabrielle had dug in behind a small bluff with about fifty-three Amazons. During their trip, several Amazons, from the south that had heard of what had happened approached them, asking to join their cause. They were apart of Gabrielle's tribe and fell in line with their queen. Now they numbered over a hundred. Now all they needed were blasters to stop Payne and his growing army. Now all they needed was a little patience.
Kith had informed Xena, Ephiny, and Gabrielle to only think, their thoughts to him. Shouting ideas or strategies was not a good idea, they could than be used against them by Payne or his second in command, who would hear them.
'Kith, were on the opposite side of you now, when you open fire we'll try to catch them in a crossfire with arrows.'
'Good Xena, remember to watch for the possibility of reinforcements. Payne is a strategist who plans ahead of him self; he'd plan ahead to his own funeral if he wanted to. Ephiny, when I give the order, have the Amazons lay down suppressive fire along that ridge along the pass. Try to pin down the troops, this will give Xena a few moments in case she needs to re-align her offensive line.'
'Gabrielle, stay where you are, but be on the ready if it looks like we are about to be routed by reinforcements.'
'Yes Kith, but don't worry I plan on being right up there with Xena once the battle starts.'
Kith smiled at the young woman's bravery. She would be 'right up they're' when the fighting started, that he knew.
He was thinking over what had happened in the past few days when he felt a presence. Looking over the horizon, he saw about a hundred men in black armor with the insidious symbol of the Sith upon their chests, marching towards the pass.
Payne felt the Jedi's presence up ahead and took his Repulsor sled of the trail and into the rough countryside, while Ioannis was to bring the troops up to the pass. He had informed him of the ambush, but told him to allow the Jedi and the Amazons to have their victory. It would be a small loss of troops, but it would make them overconfident. They would than lead them back to the citadel in the north where they would be destroyed once and for all. For Payne it was a matter of playing games with the Jedi. The real transfer of weapons was taking place far from here. He planned on taking about seventy percent of casualties, but would not lose any weapons to them. They would than follow him all the way back to the citadel and their own deaths.
Ambush and Sorrow
Kith could not see Payne among the men. He did recognize three containers that bore the Sith symbol on them, they must contain the blaster rifles Payne had planned on giving to the soldiers he was to meet here. As soon as they were in position Kith 'thought' the order to Ephiny.
"FIRE!" Ephiny's screamed the order as soon as she felt Kith's mind touching hers.
Amazons raised up over the incline and opened fire on the advancing troops. More than a dozen of the soldiers fell to the ground. Those that were on horses tried in vain to keep the animals under control, but the introduction of energy weapons to their lives forced a flight instinct in them. Those soldiers that had blasters moved to hide behind rocks and fallen tree trunks that littered the pass. Before they could return fire, Xena and the Amazon archers, who were directly behind and above them, set them upon with a hale of arrows. Kith activated his lightsabre and ran around towards the base of the pass. Some of the warriors saw him coming and turned to let loose a barrage of blaster fire. They weren't concerned with being to accurate because they felt that one of them would hit the advancing Jedi. Kith deflected bolt after bolt in to the cliff side or out into empty air. A few were bounced right back at his tormentors and three of the warriors' felled to the return of there own blaster shots. Kith was more interested in finding Payne.
Gabrielle came charging into the battle with the Amazon reinforcements. They had listened to Kith's instruction on approaching blaster carrying soldiers to avoid being an easy target. Thankfully the warriors were more concerned with the Amazon archers and the Amazons with blasters. This allowed her to get into a far better position to assist Xena or Ephiny. Gabrielle and the Amazons under her command began to let loose with spears, arrows, and slings from behind the heavy cover provided by a recent landslide. Gabrielle continued on up the pass, trying to get up along side Ephiny.
Xena and the Amazon archers came running down the trail next to the plateau cliffs to reinforce Gabrielle and her offensive line. Ephiny and the Amazons with blasters; covered their approach by laying down suppressive fire on the warriors.
Kith was now cutting his way through the soldiers, destroying blasters with every swing of his lightsabre.
At this time, the warriors knowing they were in a bad situation, about to get worst, began a fighting retreat up the pass to meet the reinforcements as they came down Minotaur Pass. Most of the Amazons followed them, blasting away at them as they retreated. Most of them who had bows and arrows brought up the rear, firing arrows high into the air to come down into the mob of warriors moving from cover to cover up the pass.
The Amazons had taken down more than forty warriors and only lost eight of there own to them.
Kith had just finished disarming two warriors when he heard the sound of a Repulsor lift vehicle approaching him from behind. Turning around he saw Payne on a Repulsor sled heading straight for Ephiny and Gabrielle from behind.
"Ephiny, Gabrielle drop!"
Ephiny and Gabrielle dropped to the ground, not knowing why, but feeling it was necessary, and from over head a dark object roared past them. On board was a figure they could not comprehend. He had green skin like a lizard. His hair was set into two braids, one went under his chin from ear to ear, the other rested behind his head, also going from ear to ear. They immediately recognized him as Payne.
Payne accelerated his Repulsor sled, attempting to run down the two women before him. At the last moment they dropped low to the ground and out of harm's way. Payne looked back to see them raise their heads looking at him. When he looked ahead of himself he saw who had warned them.
Kith readied his lightsabre and waited for Payne's approach. Payne liked to make an impressive entrance in order to intimidate his opponents. As he sped past Kith, Payne leapt into a backward flip, igniting his lightsabre in one motion and attacking Kith with a devastating downward strike as he came back down to the Earth. Than the Jedi and Sith began a duel of lightsabres that harked back to the ancient days, when the Jedi numbered in the hundred thousands and the Sith empire was reaching its golden age. Their blades hummed in the air as they parried and dodged each other's attacks.
Ephiny and Gabrielle rose up off the ground, their eyes transfixed on the sight before them. The lightsabres were twirling and striking, bouncing and parrying. It had a hypnotic affect on them both, watching the red and blue colors swirling around, with the constant hum of the energy blades, just in the background of their minds. Kith concentrated for all he was worth looking for an opening in Payne's defensive posture. Their moves were lighting fast and were hard to follow. Gabrielle and Ephiny were surrounded by five of the Amazons who had remained near their queen. They all stared, weapons at the ready, at Kith and the Sith Lord.
Xena, by this time, had arrived at the base of the pass with the Amazon archers under her command. Most of the Amazons had Payne's soldiers on the run and were chasing them down. When they saw the reinforcements, they took up positions for a standoff. Ioannis and about fifty warriors armed with blaster rifles came storming down the pass. Their first wave had killed five Amazons with blaster fire. Than the warriors and Ioannis took up their positions, continuously firing on the Amazons to maintain a superior position.
The Amazons, lead by Anya, slowly retreated back the way they came. They were outnumbered by the soldiers and didn't have a position to continue the standoff without taking more losses. Xena noticed them returning, but was interested in the battle between Kith and Payne. She had her Chakram at the ready, waiting to see if the Jedi needed any help.
Kith brought his lightsabre down to meet Payne's thrust. Their lightsabre blades whining as they mashed them together in a stare down. Payne pushed off and swung his blade in a tight circle catching Kith with a sneak attack from his own blade, and sent out a jab that forced Kith to step back or be skewered on Payne's lightsabre. Payne used an aggressive attack strategy on Kith now, forcing the Jedi to perform a fighting retreat. Payne followed right behind him striking out at the Jedi at every opportunity. Kith was jogging backwards in order to just keep Payne in his line of vision, continuously keeping his lightsabre blade in motion to parry Payne's vicious attacks.
Gabrielle watched as Kith and Payne sped pass them. Payne was forcing Kith up the trail that ran along the pass, up to the cliffs above, the same one Xena had come down from moments before. She also noticed the Amazons come pouring out of the pass with Payne's soldiers right behind them.
"Take cover!" Gabrielle shouted to the Amazons around her before grabbing Ephiny and charging over the ridge behind them.
The Amazons were leaping behind cover as Ioannis and about fifty warriors came through the pass. Xena, who remained out of sight of the pass, was taking cover when she noticed that most of them were lumped under a large section of the cliff walls. Above them was a large amount of rocks that would make a nice avalanche if she could hit them just right.
Ioannis and his men opened fire on the retreating Amazons and killed two of them before they made it to the cover of the ridge. By now there were bodies of soldiers and Amazons, all over the pass, mostly of the soldiers. Ephiny and the Amazons returned fire with their own blasters from the safety of the ridge, at the soldiers surrounding the pass. They were having difficulty in hitting them, but some of the bolts found their marks and four of the warriors went down. Ioannis used his newest weapon Payne had given him, a heavy blaster pistol. He began to line up a shot fully intending to kill the Amazon Regent, Ephiny with a single blast.
Xena studied the angle of the pass and where the soldiers were standing far below. She rose up over the large tree she was behind and let fly her Chakram. The Chakram whistled through the air and bounced in between the pass seven times before returning to her out stretched hand.
A low rumble caught the attention of some of the warriors who looked up as the rumble became a roar and some two thousand pounds of rocks came tumbling down upon them. About thirty of the warriors were out of the picture, being buried under a pile of rocks.
Xena drew her sword and took the initiative. The warriors; were some what, stunned from her avalanche attack and did not notice her. The Amazons also took the moment to close the distance, shooting down soldiers as they approached them. Luck was on the side of the Amazons as the soldiers found to their utter horror that their blasters were drained of power. They had no recourse but to draw steel and fight the Amazons hand to hand and the Amazons were more than happy to accommodate them.
Kith was now at the top of the cliff. Payne had pushed the Jedi up the trail to bring him here, where no one could help him. They stood for a second staring at one another, before they continued the fight. Lightsabre blades hissed through the air to come into contact with the opponent's energy blade. Payne jabbed and swung his lightsabre in a combination attack. Kith parried the jab and began to dodge Payne's attack. Kith followed his last dodge with an upward swing to offset Payne's stance. As Payne jerked his head to the side, Kith jumped into a flip, over Payne's position. When he landed, Kith turned around and had to use all of his will to bring the blade back around to his left side to catch Payne's own blade. The blades screeched as they came into contact with one another. Kith now was on the attack and swung his own blade into an impossible combination attack. Payne countered his attack, and turned around bringing his blade into a powerful downward strike. Kith spun away under Payne's attack and swung his blade out as he turned around to come face to face with Payne. Their lightsabres barely touched as they both performed a 360-degree spin, but it was enough to send out sparks. Jedi and Sith stared at one another now. Payne noticed Kith was standing just five meters from the cliff's edge. He came up with a plan. Using the force, Payne telekinetically moved a large rock from Xena's recent landslide into Kith's back. Kith felt the danger and spun around cutting the rock in half with a tremendous lightsabre swing. Payne redirected his powers into one-half of the rock before it was gone and hurled it into Kith's stomach knocking the air out of him and the Jedi closer to the cliff's edge.
Down below a brawl had erupted between the Amazons and Payne's soldiers.
Xena parried an attack and kicked her aggressor in the face, knocking him back onto the ground. His buddy tried to attack her from behind while she was busy with him. Xena sensed his approach and swung a crane punch behind her catching him on the chin. She than turned to face her newest assailant. The soldier jabbed his sword at Xena, who also swung down to bat his sword away. She followed her attack with a short front kick to his mid-section. He recovered quickly and charged her with his sword high over his head. Xena roared like a beast, and swung her sword with two hands for the added strength. Xena knocked the soldier's sword from his hands and in the same attack sliced him across his abdomen and chest. The warrior turned on his heels like a man who had one to many drinks at the pub, than collapsed into the hands of Hades. She turned back to her first attacker and turned him into her second victim with a jab to his throat, which he was unable to parry in time.
Ephiny, with a blaster in one hand and a dagger in the other, stood next to Anya. Three soldiers had fought their way through six Amazons in an attempt to make a run for the open field, and they were headed right for them. Anya raised the blaster she recovered from a fallen sister and shot one of the approaching soldiers dead. Ephiny charged forth to confront the other two warriors. The first one to reach her dropped to his knee and thrust his sword out at her in a poor attempt at a surprise attack. Ephiny just leapt up and rolled over his back and stuck the second warrior in the gut with her dagger in one swift move. She turned to find the previous warrior looking around for her like she had vanished into thin air. He finally found her behind him and brought his sword up to deliver the fatal swing. Ephiny's mind was continuously playing through her mind of what the Amazons at the out post must have felt when they were attacked by these men with blasters. Xena and Gabrielle said that some of the bodies were shot as much as four times. That was butchery, not honorable combat. Ephiny brought the blaster level with her eyes and squeezed the trigger. The blaster spat out a bolt of lethal energy directed at this warrior's head. All that was left was a charred stump, but she was not done. Ephiny fired three more times putting three smoking holes into his body. She could see Gabrielle, fighting other soldiers through the holes she had just made through the soldier's body, when she came back to her senses.
Gabrielle swung her staff connecting with a jaw of a warrior before her. She looked behind her and saw two more charging her from behind. Her first attacker was on the ground, so she turned to the two charging soldiers. She caught their sword swings with her staff and shoved them both backwards. Immediately four Amazons overwhelmed them and ended their lives with quick sword thrusts to the guts. Gabrielle normally did not like seeing that kind of viciousness, but this was different. These men had brutally killed Amazons from her tribe at the out post, and they were conspiring with this Sith Lord. Not that she had ever knew of the Sith before, but Kith's description was very vivid. She could almost hear the screams of the billions of people the Sith had killed in the past two millennia, men, women, and children. Gabrielle turned back to her first attacker who was back to his feet. He approached her, a little bit more cautious than before, but it didn't matter to her. She was going to win this fight one way or another. He came up with a feint at her feet and swung high with his sword trying to take off her head. Gabrielle was not fooled by his ploy and brought the staff up to parry his attack. She swung her staff, baseball style at him, but found her attack was parried as well. She did not waste a second and used the momentum from her failed attack to spin around like a top, just like Xena does, and knocked his feet from out under him. Gabrielle was stuck in the moment, her blood rage she felt at the out post had returned. She didn't even let the fallen soldier get back to his feet. Gabrielle brought her staff up high over her head and brought it crashing down on the back of his head. She than did it again and again and again. When she was done; some of his blood and brain matter was splashed across her chest and blouse. She turned around looking for more victims for her wrath to consume.
Kith was battered back towards the cliff edge. Payne had surprised him with the rock attack and now was displaying his battle prowess with the lightsabre. Obviously he was well trained. Payne slashed out with a vicious swing at Kith, which the Jedi parried. With a slight twist of Payne's wrist, and Kith found his lightsabre being sent over the cliff edge to come to rest half way down on a ledge. He was now disarmed with a Sith Lord before him.
"Now Jedi, prepare to meet your end!"
Payne raised his lightsabre over his head and stepped into a lumberjack chop with his energy blade. Kith used the force to enhance his body for what he had to do next.
Kith jumped backwards into a backward flip, landing on the opposite cliff face, some twenty meters across the pass. He summoned his lightsabre to him, igniting the blade during its solo flight. Catching the weapon, Kith took his battle stance and a waited for Payne's move. He didn't have to wait for long.
Xena was just pushing a soldier off of her sword when shout of alarm from Anya, alerted Xena to a warrior behind her with a spear. He was approaching her with a calm demeanor. Obviously he was a better capable warrior than the rest. He swung his spear first low, than high, than he jabbed it at her stomach; every one of his attacks, were parried by Xena. He spun about with his spear almost knocking Xena's sword from her grasp. She than countered his attacks with a glancing blow from her right fist, followed by an acrobatic spin kick. He shook of the blow and tried a running slide with the spearhead held out to skewer her. Xena swung her sword down and knocked the spearhead into the ground. With the spearhead stuck into the ground, and the warrior running full speed, grunted as the shaft of the spear poked him in the stomach. He chanced a look up and saw his end coming. Xena swung down on his now, exposed neck, and in one clean cut removed his head from his body.
Ephiny had shot down two more warriors. The rest were making a run for it in any direction possible. She came up next to Gabrielle and stood with three other Amazons around her. The battle had spread out over a large area. There was possibly one hundred fifty soldiers total that had attacked them. They had about a hundred Amazons when they started the ambush and had lost a total of thirty of their sisters. Xena was coming towards them when they saw Kith leaping into a back ward flip, covering the entire distance between the two cliffs of Minotaur Pass. He was followed by Payne, a moment later, who seemed to just step from one cliff face to the other. She stopped and watched them dueling on the cliffs above.
Payne propelled him self across the pass and commenced with his duel with the Jedi. Kith was going all out to stop Payne. His blade was swung low, only to encounter Payne's lightsabre. He than swung his lightsabre high, than low again, both times he encountered Payne's lightsabre, blocking his attacks. Payne sent out a kick suddenly, that caught the Jedi in the same place that Payne's rock had struck him earlier. Payne swung his lightsabre into a deadly combination attack. Kith grunted from his own minor injury, trying to block or dodge Payne's attacks. He was now keeping his lightsabre in a constant circular motion in anticipation of Payne's attacks. Kith was drenched with sweat from his concentration in the battle. To an outsider he might have looked tired, with his heavy breathing and weak movements, but he was far from tired. He could fight like this for hours if he had to. Payne spun around to try and catch Kith in a blind spot, but the Jedi took a step back to bring his lightsabre up to block the Sith Lord's attack. Their blades struck one another and they held them there, for a moment, as they both looked deep into each other's eyes, trying to find the solution to the other's defeat.
Suddenly a scream of terror from behind him caught his attention. Payne also looked down at the field to see what the Jedi could see. The sight below them was burned into Kith's mind; he had only known the young women for a few days. She continuously questioned him about life among the stars, his family, friends, and the person he kept referring to as Master Bodd Binar. Payne could feel Kith's feelings bleeding into the force all around them. The girl on the ground must be the one that his master was referring too.
Ioannis had been knocked to the ground by Xena's landslide. To keep from being run through or blasted by one of the Amazons, Ioannis laid perfectly still while everyone fought and died around him. After awhile, the battle was spread out far enough so he could chance a look around him. He noticed Payne's Repulsor sled just a few yards away and most of the other warriors were trying to get away on the horses that had not fled when the fighting had started. Standing just a little away from him was Gabrielle and Ephiny and three Amazons. When no one was looking he stood up and readied his blaster. They were watching his lord fight the Jedi Knight up on the cliffs above.
Gabrielle turned at the sound of her name, as did Ephiny and Anya and the other two Amazons standing next to them.
Ioannis had his blaster at eye level when Gabrielle turned to see him. The blaster flared up and sent an energy bolt streaking towards her. Everything seemed to be going in slow motion. Ephiny raised her own blaster to take a shot at Ioannis. Anya also brought her blaster up to eye level trying to stop Ioannis with her own weapon. The other two Amazons, devoid of blasters, started to charge towards Ioannis. Ephiny and Anya fired their weapons, but found, to their dismay, they had drained their weapons of power during the attack, and the blasters only sputtered out sparks. Ioannis shot the two charging Amazons dead before they got half way to him, than, before Anya, Ephiny, or any other Amazon could possibly respond to his presence, Ioannis climbed aboard Payne's metallic horse and sped away with all due haste.
The bolt of energy had impacted just above Gabrielle's left breast, catching her across her left shoulder and upper chest.
Gabrielle smelled something burning and looked down to see where the smoke was coming from. It was coming from her. She reached up with her right hand to cover the gaping hole and was intrigued at the fact she was completely numb on her left side. Gabrielle lifted her hand to take a look and saw her burnt flesh and scorched blouse. Her mind didn't seem to believe what her eyes were telling her. She had been shot by one of those terrible weapons.
Xena had seen what was taking place and tried to move or shout a warning, but she felt as if her legs were lead and her voice, was but whisper. She saw the blaster bolt hit Gabrielle, but couldn't see how badly.
Ephiny turned to look at Gabrielle; it seemed to take an eternity to turn her head. Finally her eyes met Gabrielle's. Gabrielle seemed to be looking at Ephiny as if to ask if what she was seeing was real. Her eyes than slowly closed and she began to crumble to the ground.
Anya was moving to catch Gabrielle as she began to fall to the ground. Her movements felt slow and sluggish.
As Gabrielle began to feel the world slip out from under her, a sound like rushing wind was slowly building up around her. It intensified as she fell; she was caught by someone and lowered to the ground as the sound reached a crescendo, and than the sound exploded with the return of her normal hearing.
Xena found she could move her legs again and dashed across the field to be by her friend's side.
"As you can see Jedi, these people are weak. Join us and together we can stop this madness and rule this world and build a new empire."
Kith turned back towards the Sith. "I'll die before I'll turn to your ways."
"That can be arranged."
The Jedi lashed out with his lightsabre and Payne parried it easily. That is what Kith wanted. Kith brought his hand out from under his weapon arm and sent a wave of force blasting Payne away from him. Kith turned towards the cliff and jumped down to the ground seventy meters below. He was off in a full sprint towards Xena and Gabrielle when he hit the ground. Xena reached Gabrielle and placed her head in her lap. She glanced at the wound and almost vomited. She could see her ribs through the burnt flesh and scorched blouse. "Gabrielle…I'm here."
Gabrielle heard Xena's voice as if it was from a far away place. She looked around herself and could see shapes holding her and talking to her, but she couldn't understand them.
She looked back up to the sky and could see the face of Xena coming into focus. A smile crept across her face when she could see her friend. She began to talk in only whispers. "Xena." Gabrielle's next words were followed by gasps for air. "I've…been… shot." Gabrielle seemed to be giddy from her injury. Xena couldn't help but grin and laugh at her friend's foolish quip. She than began to let her tears fall from her eyes as she stroked Gabrielle's delicate face.
Kith dropped down beside them and began a standard medical check on Gabrielle.
Her pulse was low and fading. Her pupils were dilated, and she was going into shock from the injury.
"Kith can you help with your medpac?" Xena stared at Kith with her tear, streaked face.
"I don't have the time to retrieve it. Gabrielle's going fast."
Kith looked back up at the cliff to see Payne. He was no longer in sight and Kith could not feel his presence. Ephiny came over to Kith and informed him of what had just happened. One of the soldiers was just playing dead. He had shot Gabrielle and when two other Amazons charged him. He shot them both before climbing aboard some metal object like a horse and sped away on it before they could avenge Gabrielle. "The other Amazons are already gone."
Xena had more control of her self now and looked at Kith with the seriousness she usually reserved for the heat of battle. "Kith can you help her?"
Kith looked down at Gabrielle. She was so young. He had seen many deaths like hers before, but this one was different some how. He could feel something about her, a mystic aura. If they were on any other world in the galaxy, he would believe she was force sensitive, a potential Jedi, but on this world.
Kith thought back to his days in training on Yavin IV. He had learned many force powers, including some of the most potent abilities. One in particular he had mastered, but never used before on another living thing, transfer life force. Only the most powerful Jedi learn the ability to transfer a part of his or her own life force into another. It would prevent them from dying until they could receive medical attention. Most Jedi, however, were reluctant to use this most precious of all powers because of the deep spiritual bonding that was its side effect. He would know her thoughts and she would know his. Kith tried to think if there was another way, but he kept coming back to his Jedi powers. He took one more look at Xena who was completely engulfed in Gabrielle's conditioned and made his decision.
"Xena, step back. Don't worry, I won't let her die, not now, not ever." Kith moved closer to Gabrielle and closed his eyes to help in focusing his mind and body. He reached deep into his soul and opened his mind to the force.
Ephiny and Xena watched as Kith placed his hand over Gabrielle's injured chest and shoulder. They watched as the Amazons began to return and noticed the commotion-taking place by Gabrielle's limp body.
Kith was oblivious to all of his surroundings. Once he had made his connection to the force he than reached out to Gabrielle's fading life force. Her aura was beautiful. A soft, white light in a world of soiled dreams, even though she did not have training as a Jedi, that is what it felt like when he touched her soul, a Jedi. In an instant he knew there was more to her than even she realized.
Gabrielle felt like she was falling in a graceful descent. Suddenly she felt herself rising back the way she came. She began to become aware that she was not alone. She began to see images of a world far from her own. There were pyramids on this world like the ones in Egypt. She seemed to be flying towards the structures and could make out dozens of people dressed like Kith, practicing with lightsabres just like his. Her journey took her to other worlds and places of serenity that she could only imagine of through her writings and daydreams. Gabrielle felt a presence behind her. She turned to see Kith dressed in some form of uniform more fitting for some one of royalty.
"Where am I? Am I dead?"
"No, you were wounded, I used the Force to keep you from dying. As for your first question, that is harder to explain. You're inside my mind, sort of. I am giving you apart of my life force to strengthen yours. When it is over you will remember these images for awhile, but they will fade in time."
"Were not alone are we, I mean I feel something around us."
"It's the force, that soul of the universe I told you about." Kith cocked his head to one side and regarded the young woman. "How does it make you feel?"
Gabrielle seemed to take in what was around her. There were stars and worlds, and what Kith had described as starships floating through space above her. It was silent like death, but she was not scared by this silence. The silence was actually kind of peaceful, serene.
"I feel…like I'm not alone. Like someone's watching over me."
"That's good." Kith's face took on a more serious look when he spoke again.
"Gabrielle, I'm almost done healing your injury. Soon you will be conscious, and I'll send Anya for my medpac." He added as an after thought. "You are going to be fine."
Gabrielle smiled at him. She could sense he was telling the truth. No not sense it, some how, she knew it.
Gabrielle's eyes fluttered for a moment than opened to see the faces of her friends. Kith had his hand upon her left shoulder and chest and she could feel, a gentle warmth flowing from his hand into her wound. Kith opened his eyes and looked like he was about to collapse. Ephiny and Anya caught the Jedi before he toppled over into the dirt. Gabrielle looked down at her shoulder and gasped in surprise. Her wound was not as bad as it was before. She couldn't see her ribs poking out of the scorched breast muscles anymore. There was fresh tissue and muscle around and in the wound. Xena also saw her injury healed by Kith's abilities. Xena didn't know what the force was or how it worked, she was just glad Gabrielle was safe.
When Kith got his bearings back he settled his eyes on Gabrielle. She sensed him and stared back and for that brief moment she could hear and feel the force all around her, but than it was gone and she was just Gabrielle again.
"Come on, let's get her back to the camp so I can use the medpac."
"Isn't she OK?"
"Xena, her wound still could be infected if not properly clean and treated. Don't worry though, she is going to be fine."
Ephiny was watching Xena and Gabrielle. It made her happy to see her two friends together again. She once wondered what Xena or Gabrielle would be like, if one of them were gone. She snapped out of her reverie when the image of the Sith flashed in her mind. "Kith what about that Sith lord?"
Kith turned to regard Ephiny's question and than looked out over the landscape. The other Amazons had opened the containers to find them empty. Kith new this was all a ploy for something he did not yet understand. Apparently Payne was egging him on with this setup, and all of the Amazons died for nothing. Payne was probably heading back to his citadel by now, and they were still out gunned and out numbered by about two to one.
"I'll deal with him when we meet again. Now lets move Gabrielle. Are you ready, ok, up."
Xena and Kith moved Gabrielle to where the horses were tied up; they than headed back to where they had camped the previous night. Kith used the last medpac he had on Gabrielle, than had some Amazons place her in her tent. It would be a day or two before she would have the strength to stand up, let alone fight. When he was done he headed to his own tent the Amazons had set up for him. He was so exhausted from the day's events and had only intended to lie down for a few moments, but sleep came for him and he slept till dawn of the next day.
Reflections and Insight
Amazon scouts were sent out to pick up the trail of Darth Payne and his men, after the battle. When they returned, they had very little to report. They had found tracks of some of the warriors and followed them for a time, but than came across their bodies. From their description, Kith knew that they had died at the hands of Payne. The only piece of important information they had was of a citadel to the north that was once abandoned, but now had the signs of life from within. Every so often they would spot soldiers, like the ones they fought at Minotaur Pass, patrolling the parapets with blaster rifles. It was about two days away, but they found a way to approach it out of sight of the lookouts. After informing Gabrielle, she decided to attack the citadel in two days time, partly to avenge the deaths for the Amazons, both at the out post and at Minotaur Pass, but also to remove the threat provided by these warriors with blasters. Waiting two days would also allow them to rally some more Amazons from the region who were loyal to her and Ephiny. After the decision to attack was made, the Amazons began to prepare for the coming battle through prayer and rituals.
Kith also prepared them by repairing some of the captured blasters and using some of his power cells from his fighter to recharge them. They now had enough blasters to equip a hundred Amazons with the advanced energy weapons and each weapon had enough power for just over one hundred shots each, before it was no better than a club was. Xena talked with him for a time, thanking him for his help in saving Gabrielle. Ephiny and a few of the Amazons also expressed their appreciation for his help. Being the Jedi he was, he took their words with the up most respect and kindness. He spent the first night of Gabrielle's recovery, telling them stories of the old days. They had asked much about him and other Jedi, as well as what lie among the stars. Kith didn't see anything wrong with this, and began the story of how he met his master Bodd Binar.
The second day saw Gabrielle walking about and getting used to the feeling of the Earth beneath her feet. She went about directing the Amazons and practicing with her staff for the coming battle. Her thoughts kept going back to her injury and what she felt when she was in contact with Kith and this 'Force' he spoke about. She continuously stole quick glances at the Jedi. She began to entertain certain thoughts of going with this Jedi and seeing the places he spoke of. Gabrielle began to realize she was having certain types of feelings for him, the kind she experienced during her short time with Perdicus. It was probably the after effect of the Jedi power he used to save her life. He had said that she would know his thoughts and he would know hers. She wondered, out loud, just how much of her thoughts he knows of? Later in the day she found him instructing Tsavena in firing her blaster rifle at a moving target.
"When you line up your shot, let your instincts guide you, not your eyes. Hold your breath for an instant and gently squeeze the trigger, don't pull."
Tsavena squeezed the trigger and incinerated a melon that Anya had rolled down a ramp like a running warrior. Tsavena shot Kith a smile at her marksmanship.
"I believe, Tsavena, in a few months, you'd best even the greatest sharpshooter in the galaxy."
"A Gotal named Margus Quill."
"An alien life form, not a bad guy really."
"I think I would like to meet this Margus."
"Well we'll have to see about that." Kith sensed Gabrielle standing just out of sight observing both Tsavena and himself. "Your highness, is something wrong?"
She was a little startled that he knew she was there. Gabrielle stepped out from the shadows of a tent and approached Kith. "Tsavena go check with Xena, she wants you to join with Ephiny and her battle group.
"Yes my queen." Tsavena left Gabrielle and Kith and headed to the command tent where Xena was waiting patiently.
"I ask her highness again. Is there something wrong?"
"Everyone has been calling you queen. Where I come from that is how a Jedi would refer to someone of royalty."
"Well; you can just call me Gabrielle. I haven't been fully inducted into the tribe as their ruling queen yet; it is more of a temporary position as far as I'm concerned. I mean I couldn't leave Xena to rule the Amazons, she's to important to me."
"I know, I felt that when I was transferring apart of my life force to you. I also saw how you gained the right of caste from the Amazon's first queen, before you, that is, and I saw your moments of sorrows, and bliss. Your world is very strange to me. I see much pain and suffering, but your people see it through for the happiness around them. Many people give without to much thought for themselves and even the simplest pleasures are praised and cherished." Kith turned to look Gabrielle in the face, gaining her complete attention. "I make this promise to you, I will stop Payne from causing any more harm to your world and I will make sure that no one ever learns of the location of your planet, I promise."
Gabrielle turned from Kith, looking out over the camp. The Amazons were going over the battle in their minds; some were sparring with other Amazons trying to hone their fighting abilities. "I believe you would, and that it would be wise. If others were to come here, I don't think this world would survive. Even the gods would forsake us than. Kith? I know of a feeling you have for someone. A woman."
"Aaliyah. We traveled together for a short time." Kith stared out over the camp of Amazons, but his mind was on his past. It had been a long time since he thought of Aaliyah.
"There was a civil war on a planet deep in space. Aaliyah, two other Jedi and I were sent to stop the fighting. We were successful, but with casualties." Kith closed his eyes for a moment and remembered what her voice sounded like. What color her eyes were. How much he cared for her. "Aaliyah didn't make it."
"I also saw your loss. A husband you had."
"His name was Perdicus. An enemy of Xena and mine killed him shortly after our marriage." As an after thought she added. "I will never forget him." Gabrielle wiped a tear that had formed in her eyes, but made it look like she was brushing dirt from her face. "Well, I should go and see if anything needs attending. I'll see you tomorrow. Good night, Kith Qel-Droma."
"Good night Gabrielle."
Gabrielle walked in silence back to her tent to find Xena and Ephiny dividing out weapons to the last of the Amazons. Every one had a blaster rifle now. "Xena what do you think of Kith?"
"What do you mean?"
Ephiny looked up from a scroll she was reading, one of Gabrielle's stories, when she asked Xena about Kith. "Is there a problem with him?"
"No, I was just wondering what every one thought of him?"
Xena sat further back in her chair. She began to think of the past few days. First they were tracking him down on suspicions of being a monster or a warlord, than they find out he's an alien from another planet. He's a Jedi, a powerful warrior, from his display in battle, and there is a Sith, the mortal enemy of the Jedi, on their world. She remembered he had saved her young lover from death. "He's different, I'll give you that."
Ephiny put down the scroll on the bed next to her. She thought on her queen's question about the Jedi. "I remember when we found him with an unconscious Tsavena. He looked like he was going to mess himself when we dropped down from the trees. Tsavena likes him though. She hasn't really had any interest in men for as long as I've known her. She might leave with him when he goes."
"Gabrielle, why do you ask?" Xena was greatly interested in her friend's reasons for asking the question.
"I've been wondering what will happen to him after we stop Darth Payne. He said he sent out a message for help to his people, but that could take a long time. Ephiny, when we are successful, I want Kith to stay here in the village. I sense we can trust him."
Xena and Ephiny both gave Gabrielle a confused look, and both of them spoke in unison. "Sense?"
"Why Gabrielle, you're beginning to sound like a Jedi." Xena spoke mockingly while she batted her baby blue eyes at Gabrielle, who turned a few shades of crimson.
"Oh, Xena. It's just that when he saved me, I gained some of his insight into things. Yes, I can sense it."
"It will be as you command of us my queen. I don't think the other's will have any problems with the Jedi if he stays with us." Ephiny slightly bowed to Gabrielle after speaking.
Xena looked out at the fading sunlight in the west. "Well we better get some sleep, we leave for Payne's citadel tomorrow."
All three of them climbed into their cots and snuggled up for a good night's rest.
They left soon as the sun was up. Two hundred Amazons in total, plus one Jedi Knight. It was quite a spectacle seeing Kith getting on the horse they had procured for him. A lot of them had to shield their smirks when he nearly fell off when trying to mount the animal. He had never actually ridden on a beast's back before. He always traveled by ship or speeder, whenever he went some place. Eventually they got going and were making good progress towards the citadel.
Darth Payne was informing his men that the Jedi and two hundred Amazons were on their way to the citadel. He had three warlords sitting at his table who agreed to follow his commands. They had brought their soldiers to the citadel and increased Payne's army to three hundred fifty men. All of them with blasters but still it, was not enough for Payne. He had spent most of the day speaking to the warlords about what he wanted from them, but they kept on demanding to know more, like how he could take care of Hercules, Xena, and the others.
"Now, how are you going to take care of Xena? So far I have not seen enough to show that you have any real power except looking like a scary monster. So I want to know just how are you going to take out Xena when she gets here?"
"As I have dealt with all my victims." Payne's patience was gone and now all that was needed was a spark.
"She isn't someone you can just dismiss as easy." The warlord pulled at his shirt to reveal a vicious scar across his right shoulder and chest. "She gave me this three years ago, and for one I do not believe you have what it takes to bring her down."
"Than perhaps a demonstration is in order." Payne reached out to the warlord and shut down his windpipe. The warlords brow rose up and his eyes went wide when he could no longer draw breath. He clutched at his throat in an attempt to dislodge the unseen force that was preventing him from breathing life into his lungs. The warlord made a few pathetic attempts at forcing his body to take a gasp of life giving oxygen but he only whizzed a little before his body collapsed onto the table and stirred no more.
Payne looked to the other two warlords, who dared not to look him in the eyes; they were both hungry for power and wealth, but not enough to die like that. "Now if there are no others who wish to test my powers we can continue to discuss the battle." Both warlords turned their chairs away from the deceased warrior behind them and concentrated on Payne. He went about showing the plan of attack to them on a holoprojector. His strategy was cowardly in their opinion. He wanted them to lure the Amazons into crossfire and take them all out at once while he took care of the Jedi. Ioannis walked into the planning room with the current total of troops and weapons just as Payne was directing the attack against Rome. He heard his master say something about bringing in vehicles called starfighters and star destroyers. "Master I have the totals for your approval." Payne didn't even have to glance at the datapad he had given Ioaniss. "I approve of the figures, good we can get started on building a landing strip for the coming ships." Ioannis figured Payne had read his mind to know the numbers his pad was showing. Three hundred fifty soldiers, was a good number to start with. Once Xena and the Amazons' deaths were made public with the proof to back it up, they could easily have ten times that number in less than a week. There were many warriors and warlords that kept a low profile, while waiting for their time to shine. If they played their cards right, they could even get Draco and his cavalry to join. Ioaniss stood by patiently as the other warlords left than stepped closer to his master. "My lord what will I tell the soldiers of him?" Ioannis jerked his head in the direction of the dead warlord.
"Tell them they have stepped up in the world and are now under my direct control, if they fuss, kill them." He rose up from the table and headed out with Ioaniss tagging along to see the soldiers himself. He wanted to make sure everything was going according to his plan. Out on the battlements Payne could see far across the countryside. Down below, warriors were setting up barricades for defense against the Amazons. They were not afraid of them because Payne had put their fears to rest saying they were far better than the Amazons were with their own energy weapons. Payne felt that slight disturbance in the air that told him something was up. "Ioannis pass along that I want all of the men to keep their eyes open for this Gabrielle. I want her to die as soon as possible, make sure they know this, understand?"
"Yes my lord."
"Her death is paramount to all others. Once she is dead I will have the edge in drawing Kith to use his anger and rage against me and in doing so, against himself."
"Yes my lord."
Payne continued his gaze at the setting sun, while Ioannis walked amongst the troops passing along Payne's order. He sensed the Jedi would be their tomorrow. Soon there would no longer be a Kith Qel-Droma. He would either be dead or he would be turned to the dark side of the Force. Either way it was all the same.
The Amazons were moving quickly to set up the camp. They wanted to go through their pre-war ceremonies to please their goddess Artemis and to increase their chances for victory. Kith felt a little out of place with them and headed further away from them. He brought a bedroll and a blanket and set about getting ready for sleep. Reaching in to his travel bag, he slipped another food capsule into his mouth, followed by a sip of water from a water skin Anya had given him. He stripped off his robe, tunic, and pants and hung them on a branch in a nearby tree. He slipped under the blanket and stared into his campfire while going over the past several days. Things were moving very quickly. Besides having a little apprehension at facing a Sith, he was continuously thinking about Gabrielle. After giving apart of his life force to her to keep her from dying, she seemed to occupy most of his thoughts and he could feel that she thought a lot about him as well.
Back at the camp, Amazons were sharpening swords, preparing arrows, and checking their blasters the way Kith had shown them. Many of the Amazons were dancing around bonfires in a fervor of excitement at the battle that lay ahead. Some of them used hallucinogens in some bizarre ceremony while they shook about and swayed in an erotic manner. Gabrielle sat before them, but her eyes were not focused on the warrior's dance, but she was thinking of Kith outside of the camp. Her thoughts were more on what he looked like under his robes and tunic than on her tribes dancing ability. Since she had met him, she had learned of a world beyond her own. A world that she was fast falling in love with. If she could just see the things he had seen. If for just the briefest of moments she could touch some of the things he had touched, what stories she could write. No one had seen anything he described, or the places where dreams were real. She could become the greatest poet and storyteller to ever grace the Athens Theater.
"Gabrielle, are you listening to me?"
"W-what did you say?"
"Are you even paying attention, or is your mind on a certain Jedi?" Xena sat with her legs crossed next to Gabrielle in front of the Amazon dancers. She was finishing sharpening her sword and was holding Kith's blaster pistol in her right hand. "I said, Kith is going to let me use his blaster since we are short a couple of the blaster rifles. I wanted to show you how to prime it and aim, just in case something happens and you need to use it."
Xena held it up in the light for Gabrielle to get a better look at the pistol. It took her a half-hour to get the controls down right and another fifteen minutes for her to aim it properly. When she was done, most of the Amazons had adjourned to their tents and from some of the sounds emanating from within the tents put her mind back on Kith and his fantasy body. She wondered if he was finely chiseled with large muscles, or if was scrawny like Joxer. Once again she was slightly shoved from her imagination, this time from Ephiny.
Gabrielle shook her head and looked up to see Ephiny standing next to Xena.
"Your mind is on another plane altogether. Were going back to the tent for supper, we are having some rabbit and venison, would you like to join us?"
"No, I'm going to take a walk around the camp and speak to some of the Amazons." Gabrielle stood up and patted down her skirt and blouse of any dirt. "I'll be back a little later."
"As you wish my queen." Ephiny and Xena headed to Gabrielle's tent, while Gabrielle headed towards the Amazons that were still up, dancing before the bonfire. She stopped a little short and stared out into the night. She could barely make out Kith's campfire by a gnarled tree. She took one more look in the direction of Xena and Ephiny, than at the Amazons before she turned and headed towards Kith's campsite.
Xena and Ephiny were gulping down meats and drink as fast as they could get it on their plates. They felt so hungry from the non-stop travel that they didn't know if there was enough food to satisfy their hunger. Eventually they were sated and laid back against some pillows. Xena was picking at her teeth with a toothpick and Ephiny was swirling her finger around the rim of her cup.
"Xena, what have you and Gabrielle been up to since you last visited us?"
"Stopping a few warlords, saving villages, the usual."
"I've often wondered what would have happened if you and Gabrielle had stayed here when Gabrielle received the right of caste and became our queen instead of making me the regent and leaving."
"Were not really ready to settle down yet, I need to keep moving down the path I created and Gabrielle wants to find her own path and she believes she will find it if she travels with me." Xena, finished with her teeth, sat the over sized toothpick down on the cushions and rolled over closer to Ephiny. "Why do you ask, not getting enough excitement as regent?"
"Actually no." Ephiny turned her head towards Xena and studied the warrior princess while she placed the food on a table next to them to save for Gabrielle. Ephiny began to have visions of Gabrielle and Xena and the fun they must have together. Bathing together, eating together, and sleeping together. How she envied her Queen.
"I've thought about that time when you both came here last fall during the feast we had, and of the night we shared together."
Xena froze for a moment than looked at Ephiny while holding the last of the platters of food.
"That was a night for remembering."
"Did you ever tell Gabrielle?"
"She figured it out on her own, and she didn't seem bothered by it at all." Xena placed the platter of meats next to a bowl of nuts before relocating herself a little closer to Ephiny. "I believe she feels that as long as it is in the family, we can share our feelings and ourselves."
Xena took Ephiny's hand and gave it a slight squeeze. They both looked at each other and smiled. It was a magical night that night. There was a charge in the air, energy they could all feel. In other tents in the camp, Amazons were embracing their lovers and sharing their bodies with each other for fear that they may never have that chance again after tomorrow. Some of them knew that some Amazons would not make it to see the next night. They were all going into a battle with an evil that none of them could comprehend or understand.
Kith was bedding down to go to sleep when he sensed Gabrielle approaching him. "Gabrielle is there something wrong?"
"No, I was just coming out here to see you before I turned in for the night." She squatted down next to the campfire and extended her hands towards the flames to get warm. Her eyes absently slid over to see Kith was not wearing anything on. His clothes and robe were dangling from the tree behind him. She could see that his body was well developed with his muscles toned and shaped nicely like a statue that had been chiseled out of marble. He was not bulky like Hercules, but he was well made. In the firelight he seemed to be even more handsome and attractive. She couldn't help but smile at her fantasy she was having about him. "I wanted to tell you that after this is all over you can stay with the Amazons until you can find a way home."
"That is very generous of you and of the Amazons."
"Or if you prefer, you can travel with me and Xena. We would be more than happy to have your help in our travels, and your company."
"That is quite all right, but it would be best if I was to lay low and stay out of your people's way. This world is unaware of anything beyond its self and it could be very damaging if they were to ever found out about space travel and aliens before they are ready."
"What if I was to tell you that I wanted you to travel with Xena and me instead of staying behind?"
"I would say…I don't know what I would say."
"Ever since you saved my life, I've been thinking about you."
"That is a partial side effect of sharing one's life force with another, it will pass in time."
"No, I don't think so, even before you saved my life I've often wondered what it would be like to be with you. It's been some time since I spent any time with a man. Most of the men Xena and I meet are not all that nice and some of the ones who are nice have issues to deal with. You, however, are kind, gentle, wise and very intelligent. There's no man on this world like you, and that's a sad thing." Gabrielle moved much closer to Kith and sat down on the blanket right next to him. "I've had a few more flashes of memories today, your memories. I have seen all that has made you the man you are today, and I have to admit it has turned me on."
Kith was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable and fidgeted under the blanket, but he never took his eyes off of Gabrielle's.
"When you saved my life, I was touched by your soul. Now I want to feel the body that that soul occupies." Gabrielle leaned in a little closer and gently planted a small kiss upon Kith's lips.
The Jedi's heart was pounding and his blood was like molten rock causing his body to feel like it was on fire. Below the blanket his groin was growing with the rush of blood. The arousal of the situation was beginning to cloud his mind and the animal passion he had leashed up so long ago was in danger of consuming his thoughts. He restrained himself enough to return her kiss with the same gentlest she had done.
Gabrielle could feel her self becoming wet with arousal and her hand was slipping under the blanket. Kith continued to gently kiss her lips and cheeks, further causing her to become even more excited. She had only been with one man in the past, her deceased husband Perdicus, but she did remember what to do with a man. Her hand brushed across his chest and abdomen when she caught her fingers on something. She glanced at where her fingers were and became startled at seeing her fingers vanishing under Kith's skin. She jerked her hand out and leaned away from him. "Kith what's wrong with your stomach?"
"Oh I'm sorry I should have told you. I did say that I was an alien. My species has a pouch on our abdomens." Kith pulled the blanket down far enough for her to see he had a pouch like some animals she had heard of from travelers. "Oh." Her fears set aside she leaned into him again and began to kiss him like before trying to get back into the mood. Kith was very responsive to her touch and returned her kisses with interest. Gabrielle reached under the blanket again and her hand closed around Kith's erect cock and to her total surprise she found that she had a hold of only one of them.
Kith sensing her confusion immediately explained, yet again.
"I should have warned you about that too, I'm sorry."
"What is that?"
"I did tell you I was an alien, in my species the men have. We have. Well we have two."
Gabrielle's eyes grew a little wider, not from fear, but from the new fantasies she was creating.
"Two huh; well this will require a little bit more work." Gabrielle removed her hand and untied her blouse and removed her boots and skirt. Kith was a little surprised at her total lack of fear from his alien anatomy. Most females tended to stick to their own kind, very few if any would consider having a mate from a different species. Kith moved over on the bedroll and pulled the blanket back to give her room to crawl in. He had never seen a nude woman this close before. Actually this was his first time being with a women. Once Gabrielle had removed her clothes, she crawled in under the blanket headfirst and went right for his cocks. They were both much bigger than Perdicus's and larger around. She took one of them in her mouth and used her free hand to stroke the other one.
Kith, for a very brief moment, shook with surprise at the feeling of her mouth consuming him, than the pleasure of the act took over and he moaned out loud. Gabrielle continued to bob her head up and down and soon Kith's hips were swaying in rhythm with her head movements. To keep the other cock from feeling left out; Gabrielle switched from one to the other and continued sucking. This was overwhelming for Kith and he had to use his full concentration to keep from having an orgasm right than and there. He began to take deep breaths and licked his lips to moisten them since they decide to go dry right there and than. Kith looking down at Gabrielle's firm ass, pulled the blankets further back and grabbed Gabrielle by her hips and pulled her lower part of her body over his head until her pussy was right above her face. He had seen this position from some of girls' minds back at Meg's establishment, he could only hope that he could do this well. Kith began to use his tongue to touch Gabrielle here and there and to slide it up and down her slit. Gabrielle moaned at the sudden feeling of Kith's tongue sliding in and out of her, than continued to increase her sucking before switching back to the previous cock. Kith opened his mind to her and she began to feel as if she was floating up into the heavens. They both began to hear each other moaning in their minds and were able to actual "talk" to one another mentally. Her body was becoming one with his, as was her mind and soul.
'Ahh…Kith touch me just like that, yes just like that, ohh'
'How much of me can you take into your mouth Gabrielle'
'Not much, you have two of them you know'
They continued to think their thoughts to one another, directing each other to do this or try that. It was an extremely big turn on for both of them.
Kith reached out with his mind and began to feel the passion that the Amazons were sharing. He extended his thoughts further and saw Xena and Ephiny holding each other, and in the same position he and Gabrielle were in at that moment. He let the image of love the Amazons were having flow through him and into Gabrielle. Gabrielle could feel the passion of her tribal sisters making love to their lovers. She could even feel the love Xena and Ephiny were sharing and it rose her to newer heights that she wasn't even aware of that existed. This must be what it meant to be a Jedi. Suddenly Kith rolled Gabrielle off of him and got up on his hands and knees and climbed on top of her. He reached down between his legs and guided himself into her. The pleasure he felt now was a thousand times better than her sucking on him. Gabrielle gasped a little when he entered her, he was definitely much bigger than Perdicas was or any phallus she had ever used. She was still connected to his mind as well as his body, for her there were only two people in her world Kith and her. For Gabrielle she was in a world with no war, and no famine. For her there was only a world of peace and tranquillity. After a few moments she forced Kith to lay on his back while she straddled him. She reached back behind her and guided his other penis towards her ass and with a little effort on his part was having him in both of her openings.
Her moaning was coming in between her gasps for air while she bounced up and down on him. She had never been doubled penetrated before, but she was loving it. Kith placed his hands on her breasts and began to mercilessly fondle them while she continued to ride him. He than began to suckle on her breasts like a baby and, would stop, every so often, to steal a long passionate kiss from her. Gabrielle no longer knew how long it had been since she gotten here and she didn't care. She felt strength well up in her from their lovemaking like she had never felt before. They both began to cry out as they both climaxed at the same time. Gabrielle collapsed on top of Kith completely spent after her orgasm. She had never put that much into her love making before and she didn't believe she had had it in her to begin with. Kith was also pretty well spent after releasing his seed into her. He began to wonder whether their two species were compatible enough to conceive children, probably not. They both just lay there with their arms around each other.
Gabrielle purred into his chest. "Mmm that was great."
"That was my first time."
Gabrielle snapped her head and looked at Kith with a girlish grin. "So I'm your first, huh. So what did you think."
"I've heard a few of my spacer friends talk about sex, but they've never came close to what it really feels like in their description." Kith couldn't contain the smile that was forming when he looked at Gabrielle.
"Well I'm glad you enjoyed it." Gabrielle snuggled up to Kith and closed her eyes. She was going to head back to her tent when they were done, but was far to tired to get up, plus it was so warm and comfortable here. After a few moments she allowed herself to fall in a deep sleep.
Kith was awake for a little while later. He stroked her blonde hair and caressed her bare back and groped her rear a few times. He stared at her while she slept wondering what she was dreaming about. He decided not to invade her dreams, for they were sacred among his people. Thankfully she hadn't seen his tail, he had no idea how she would of taken that. He laughed to himself a little at the image, than stared out at the stars. Soon he fell asleep with dreams of his home, his master, and of the young queen upon his chest.
Ephiny felt something brush up against her nose and she swept her arm out to shoo away her tormentor. A moment later she felt it again and batted her arm at what ever was bothering her. When she felt it a third time she opened her eyes and saw Xena holding a feather just above her nose.
"Wake up, wake up."
"Didn't you get enough last night?"
"No as a matter of fact."
Xena dropped her feather and reached out to caress Ephiny's body under the blanket. Both women looked into each other's eyes and saw the hunger for each other's passionate touch. Ephiny rolled back the blanket and slid over towards Xena and tasted the passion from her lips.
Xena made the attempt to roll Ephiny onto her back, but she was the quicker and forced Xena onto hers. "I'm not going to be on the bottom this time Xena."
"If you think you can handle me go for it."
Ephiny leaned in to Xena and both women shared in a long passionate kiss then broke away a few moments later gasping for air. Ephiny than began to tease Xena by leaning down for a kiss, only to jerk her head up from Xena's searching lips. She finally awarded her with a deep kiss before breaking away to kiss Xena's chin and neck. She than kissed Xena between her heaving breasts, than rolled her head to the side and began to nip and suck on her plump nipples. Ephiny began fondling Xena by gently chewing on both her nipples until they had swollen to twice their size. Ephiny than began to slide down Xena's body to her awaiting treasure between her legs when she wondered if Xena was satisfied with Gabrielle's inexperienced touch and wondered what Xena would think of her new skills she had learned. Xena propped herself up on her elbows to watch Ephiny as she licked and sucked her drenched pussy. Xena threw her head back and moaned deeply in ecstasy from Ephiny's experienced touch and lovemaking. Ephiny tried out her new talent and began to gently blow air across Xena's clitoris causing the warrior princess to tremble from the erotic pleasure her body was experiencing.
Xena suddenly reached down and cupped Ephiny's face in her massive hands and dragged her up across her body to taste her lips, and to taste herself. She than rolled the regent onto her back and began the same treatment to Ephiny's breasts. First Xena took her nipples between her thumb and index finger and twisted and squeezed them together while they explored each other's mouth with their tongues. Xena broke away from Ephiny's mouth and slid her breasts across hers and her abdomen heading for the same southern destination as Ephiny. Xena than had to hold down a bucking twisting Ephiny as she began to eat her pussy in turn just as Ephiny had done to her. After a few moments Xena swung her leg across Ephiny's stomach and began to bump and grind their cunts together. Ephiny could feel her orgasm climbing up through her body, as did Xena. In the next moment both women screamed out their release as they both climaxed on each other.
Just as they had finished, Gabrielle walked through the tent flap in to the tent and was a little startled to see Xena and Ephiny in such a position. "Oh I'm sorry I should have announced my entrance before barging in like that."
"It's all right we were just finishing what we had started last night."
Gabrielle kept her eyes averted while Ephiny and Xena collected their things and began to dress. She than sauntered over to the platter of food and began to eat what was left from last nights meal.
"So where were you last night?"
"I was with Kith."
"Oh, how good was he?"
"Mmm he was great, and it was his first time."
"Oh, so how's it feel to bag your first virgin?"
"Boy Xena, you sure do sound like the slut this morning. Didn't you get all that sexual frustrations out of you with Ephiny?"
Both women looked at each other for a moment with those knowing smiles before continuing to gather their things. Ephiny finished putting on her clothes and picked up her sword and blaster rifle. After bowing slightly to her queen and friend and displaying at smile at Xena, she headed out to rally the Amazons. Gabrielle continued to stuff her face full of the left over meats and nuts from the feast her friends had last night, while Xena finished tying up her armor and chakram. When she was done, Xena sheathed her sword and stuck Kith's blaster down inside her right leather leg greave.
Both women headed out to see the Amazons standing at attention. Most of them had painted themselves and their horses with colorful designs to better the chances of victory and to appease Artemis the Goddess of the Hunt. Standing just a few yards away with his arms across his chest and a big smile on his face was Kith.
Xena couldn't help but egg her friend on even further after seeing Kith's chipper appearance than the usually grimace he seemed to where most of the time. "Gee Gabrielle, did you do that? I keep forgetting that is one strong pussy you have there."
Gabrielle looked at Xena and shot her a 'shut up' smile before addressing the tribe. She took on a more serious expression while she looked for the words to say to them.
"Today we are going into battle against a evil like we have never seen before. We must stop Kosta's men and put down this Sith lord, not just for us, but for the future of the tribe, and for the future of the world. I shouldn't have to remind you of the sisters we have lost since the out post attack. But I will remind you to not forget them as you go into battle today, for they will be with you in spirit."
The Amazons raised their weapons and shouted some battle cry that Kith didn't understand. They than began to mount up on the horses, and headed for the dried riverbed and for Payne's citadel to the north. Gabrielle rode with Ephiny and Xena rode next to Kith who seemed to have improved on his horsemanship skills, almost over night.
"Xena, here use this when we get close to the citadel."
"What is that?"
"It's my macrobinoculars."
"Macro-Binoculars." Xena tried to sound out the name of the weird device he was handing her.
"A device that will help you to see over great distances with better accuracy." Kith handed over the macrobinoculars to Xena who stared at it in wonder.
"Hold them up to your eyes like this."
Xena propped the device up to her eyes and was astounded at how far she could see.
"What are you going to use?"
"I won't be needing them, I've developed better ways of seeing through the Force."
Xena placed the macrobinoculars in Argo's saddlebags before turning back to Kith.
"Kith, what are your feelings for Gabrielle?" Xena squinted at him looking to see if she could detect a lie in his next statement.
"If you are referring to the time we spent together last night, my feelings are, I would do almost anything for her."
"She mentioned she asked you to join us after we stopped Payne. What are your plans after Payne and the citadel?"
"You think ahead of yourself do ya. Well we still have to pass that dangerous bridge yet so I can't say. I do know she cares very much for you and that you both would do anything short of death itself."
"Yes, that's right. I want to know if you plan on pursuing the matter further?"
Kith thought long and hard on that very same conundrum. He had started his combat space patrol duty with the intent of being out for no more than six hours. Not being attacked by a Sith fighter. Forced to crash on an alien world far from Republic space. Too face a Sith battlemaster, and to top it all of, to have sex with an Amazon queen.
"I honestly don't know Xena. I did not start my week looking to fall in love. I will discuss it with Gabrielle, my decision will be based solely on her response."
Xena looked up ahead to Gabrielle riding on the back of Ephiny's horse before turning back to Kith. "Gabrielle and I have an understanding between us. We have been lovers off and on, but we both know that if one of us was to find a man that we were in love with. The other would not interfere and would step aside. I want you to know that."
Kith rode next to Xena while thinking on what she had said while she looked through the macrobinoculars at the riverbed ahead of them. He could catch a glimpse of Gabrielle, every so often, up ahead of them on Ephiny's horse looking back.
Gabrielle looked back behind her and saw Kith looking in her direction. She turned back towards Ephiny and scanned the riverbanks for trouble while they continued on. Ephiny decided to start a conversation with her queen before the battle. She might never get the chance to speak to Gabrielle again in this life. "Xena said you offered Kith a place to stay with us in the village. She also mentioned something else about him that you told her." Ephiny leaned her head a little and half turned to see Gabrielle's face. "Is it true he has two?"
Gabrielle's face become slightly flustered and turned a stout red while she tried to contain a smirk but couldn't. "Yes he does."
"Than I guess the Amazons and I should be thanking you for leaving such a man in our capable hands." Ephiny let out a sarcastic sigh, which made Gabrielle even redder as she tried almost in vane to stop her self from laughing.
Both women chuckled at the implications. An alien man with plenty of meat to go around, living in an Amazon village. It almost sounded like a warlord's dirty joke.
"I don't think Kith will be making any passes while he is in the village. Even if he did, there are very few Amazons that would entertain the idea. Hercules is the only man I know of who has had any success with an Amazon women. Than again how often do you meet a man who can satisfy two women at once."
Both women once again began to chuckle and laugh at the dirty jokes. They than quickly regained their composure and continued on.
An hour had gone by when, at last, they could see the citadel. Xena studied the structure for some time through the macrobinoculars before stating they could scale the walls easily. Kith suggested that they split up and have half of them scale the walls and cause a distraction while the other group blast their way through the gates. They agreed to the plan and set about dividing their forces. It was high noon and the Amazons were getting a little antsy for the fight. They dismounted the horses and under cover of the riverbank slipped unnoticed up to the back of the citadel. Xena lead others up along the wall near the front of the gate while Kith, Ephiny, and Gabrielle with about fifty Amazons scaled up the outer walls.
They began to crawl up the warped and pitted citadel walls, the erosion and weathered rock face made excellent foot and hand holds, all the way up to the top. Once they were over the wall and inside the citadel, they could see many troops in waiting here and there with their eyes out over the horizon, looking for the Amazon army that was directly behind them.
Once they were all in position, the Amazons opened fire on the back of Payne's troops.
In the next few moments chaos and order were in dispute to as who had authority here. Payne's troops turned in confusion and began to return fire on the Amazons that had materialized right out of the rock walls. The Amazons dropped many of the troops with blaster shots while those with out energy weapons began to take cover behind anything available. Payne's troops were just now getting over their initial surprise when a battle cry pierced the air.
The main gate to the citadel, while normally strong, was turned into wood chips from a combined blaster fire from over fifty Amazons. The explosion caught a few of Payne's troops unprepared and they were the first victims of Xena's charge. One hundred fifty Amazons with Xena in the lead came storming through the now destroyed gates and began to take positions behind anything they could find. Instead of the soldiers having the Amazons in a crossfire, they were the ones stuck between two groups of Amazons with blasters. It was every one for themselves and the soldiers were getting the worst of it.
Kith slipped away from Ephiny and her Amazons and entered into the main structure through an open door. Before him was a long corridor ending at a pair of double doors marked with a symbol he could not recognize? The Jedi unhooked his lightsabre and slowly began to skulk down the corridor taking a few moments to scan each and every crevice for a potential ambush. Kith pushed open the doors ahead and saw Payne standing with his back to him, looking out a window to the battle below. Outside the battle was fierce. The sound of blaster fire, death screams, and melee weapons clashing was music to Payne's ears. He slowly turned to regard the Jedi that now stood in his throne room.
Jedi and Sith slowly approached one another. Kith removed his Jedi robe, as did Payne with his black Sith cloak. They stared at each other for a few moments, than slowly Kith activated his lightsabre. Payne unhooked his lightsabre and activated both blades of the double-ended lightsabre. The rhythmic hum of the weapons was the only sound, besides the battle outside, that could be heard. With the speed and grace of a predator, Payne spun about in an attempt to slash at Kith with both ends of his lightsabre. Kith went right into a defensive posture and defended Payne's attacks looking for an opening in the Sith lords attacks. Fighting a battlemaster was not an easy proposition. It was easy to see that Payne had an edge in this fight but Kith was determined to up hold his promise to Gabrielle. He was not going to let the Sith win this fight no matter what. Payne employed a ballet like attack pattern, which kept Kith on his toes. The Jedi was set in a dangerous position if he was to slip for even a moment. Payne twirled his lightsabre almost like a baton striking at every possible angle he could think of, but Kith's training was superb and he was able to parry Payne's strikes all most before he thought of them. He began to force Kith to retreat while he struck out at him. The lightsabres clashed repeatedly emitting slight flashes of light at every parried attack. Both duelists began to spin and turn as they put everything in to there attacks and defenses. To an outsider, who did not know of the enmity between the Sith and Jedi, would have described it as a beautiful display of finesse and agility as the brightly lit blades hummed and spun about striking the opponents energy blade. To someone from the Republic who knew of the long standing hatred between the Sith and Jedi, would have described it as an exotic dance of beauty and death.
Ephiny had taken up a position behind a low wall with Gabrielle and twelve Amazons. The others had dropped down a level to be on the ground and took cover in the citadel's stables.
"Tsavena take point!"
Tsavena, remaining low to the ground, began to duck walk towards stairs that lead down to the courtyard. Several Amazons began to follow her and made ready to run. Once in position, Tsavena rose up and made a dash down the stairs while firing her blaster at any one whom took notice of her and the dozen Amazons pouring down the stairs. Three Amazons were shot down just as they made it to the courtyard and began to take up positions in the stables. Ephiny, Gabrielle, all that were left up on the southern battlements. They continued to rain blaster fire at any troops that were foolish enough to stand out in the open. They than began to come down as Tsavena had trying to reach the blacksmith's area inside the courtyard.
Ioannis walked out on to the northern battlements and looked across the battle, strewn courtyard trying to spot Gabrielle. He was not happy that she had survived his first attack at Minotaur Pass, and he was fully intent on correcting this infraction. There were so many Amazons it would take time to spot Gabrielle in the confusion.
Xena and her Amazon warriors had taken positions by the gatehouse and stairs that lead up the battlements. They had killed many of the troops in their initial attack, but now they had taken cover through out the courtyard. A lot of them were grouped behind a large metallic vehicle in the center of the courtyard. The rest were slipping into the armory or doors leading into the citadel. Xena had taken down two soldiers with her sword, than picked up their blasters and crouched down behind a war cart. Anya was next to Xena trying to get a clear view of the courtyard and where every one was.
"Xena, some of the soldiers are trying to get inside of the keep."
"We have to stop them, if they can get inside they can hold out for some time and who knows how many weapons they have in the keep." Both Xena and Anya raised up over the cart and began to rapidly fire bolt after bolt from their blasters at several groups of soldiers who were trying to run across the courtyard. The other Amazons with Xena saw what they were doing and added to their barrage of blaster fire. None of the soldiers made it more than ten yards to the keep. Some of the other soldiers got to good defensive positions and began to return fire at the Amazons in earnest. Soon it was an even exchange between the Amazons and soldiers. Every one began to realize that this was going to be a long and costly battle.
Xena kneeled back down behind the war cart when, a soldier dropped down next to her. She spun around and raised her blaster up, but the soldier kicked the weapon from her hands. Ioannis held his blaster pistol pointed at Xena's chest than lowered his weapon and drew his sword.
"It won't be that easy Xena. I want to test my new powers on you. My name is Ioannis and I'm your death given flesh." Ioannis stepped back a little from Xena and brandished his sword at her inviting her to draw steel and fight warrior to warrior. Xena looked back to see most of her Amazons were moving closer to some of the soldiers that were still out of range, so she was by herself. She stood to her full height and drew her sword and chakram and took up a ready stance before Ioannis.
Ioannis twirled his sword before commencing with his attack. Xena began to parry and dodge Ioannis's attacks, but soon realized that he was good. Far better than any warrior she had faced as of yet. Ioannis had such a cool demeanor that Xena wondered if he was even human or something that the Sith lord had conjured up. Ioannis couldn't believe what was happening. He actually knew what Xena was thinking and what she was going to do a few split seconds before she did. He was invincible. Xena began to grunt and shout with each of her attacks trying to draw out her ferocity she was known for. Ioannis began to lure Xena, well away from the firefight happening just a few yards away, down to the training area for the troops. It was filled with plenty of obstacles that could be used to his advantage, or to increase the difficulty of the fight.
Their swords clanged together as they swung and parried each others attacks and thrusts, Xena began to mix some kicks and punches in between her sword strikes trying to surprise Ioannis with a new maneuver. Ioannis was parrying Xena's sword swings and dodging her brawling attacks with ease, he could feel her movements like an artist or poet feeling the inspiration that elevated them to greatness. She was not going to win this fight. He could feel it. Ioannis parried Xena's thrust and jumped forward while turning his sword around catching Xena in the face with the butt of his sword. Xena flew through the air to land with a grunt. Losing her Chakram in the fall. Pain lanced from her lips to every portion of her body. She felt something warm and wet on her lower lip and reached up to feel a busted blood covered lower lip. She clambered back to her feet and took up her fighting stance again.
Kith and Payne had moved out of the throne room back the way Kith had entered the keep. In the corridors, Kith moved in trying to overpower Payne with multiple swings to both sides of Payne's body, but the Sith lord was able to parry all of his attacks by simply switching the double ended lightsabre from side to side with out to much effort on his part. Kith stepped back to take in the scene around. Suddenly he bent over allowing a chair Payne had hurled at him telekinetically to harmlessly sail over his back to crash into the wall. As soon as Kith rose back up he was once again put on the defensive while Payne held all the sabacc cards. The Jedi realized he was going to have to get to open ground if he intended to keep his promise and stop Lord Payne. The confines of the corridor and the amount of loose objects the Sith could use was spelling disaster. With a final leap, Kith was back out of the door he had entered with Payne emerging from it a second later.
There was no time to think, no time to plan. The Jedi and Sith seemed to be evenly matched. Neither could touch the other, but they tried, boy did they try. That is how Ephiny and Gabrielle would have described the scene before them. Just as before at Minotaur Pass, both Ephiny and Gabrielle, plus the four other Amazons were transfixed on the duel before them. The speed of their moves was hard to follow and whenever one of them blinked they missed most of the action.
The, Sith was the aggressor in this match. Kith was doing everything he could think of. Finally the Jedi saw no recourse to his actions and began to use aggressive tendencies he was trained not to. Payne seemed to feel the change in the Jedi's attack strategy and began to back off a little. He decided that he needed more room to maneuver, plus a little time alone to try and persuade Kith to join him in ruling this world. Payne pushed off from Kith's last sabre strike and back flipped up thirty feet to land on the top of the keep. From there he waved for Kith to join him before stepping back to give the Jedi room. Kith summoned up the force and jumped straight up to land on the keep roof. Payne stood a few meters away, waiting for Kith to make his move. The Jedi relaxed his thoughts trying to find his calmness again before battling the Sith lord again.
The Pendulum Swings
After Kith vanished from the roof edge, Ephiny began to fire her blaster here and there at the soldiers still left. They must have taken down at least hundred or more of the men, but from her line of sight she could easily count a total of twenty Amazons dead and maybe another twenty who were wounded and would need medical attention or die. She couldn't see Xena anymore but she did see Tsavena.
Xena countered Ioannis's attack but caught his boot right in the small of her back. She went to the ground but had half the mind to continue her fall into a roll to avoid Ioannis's thrust. His sword met just dirt where Xena had been a moment before, while she had jumped to her feet ready for more. Ioannis hadn't spoken since he started his duel with the warrior princess. Payne had said that you should never confuse your mind by trying to form words to say to your opponent. You could speak to them when they were dead. It could cause a fatal distraction trying to taunt someone into making a mistake. So he kept his mouth shut and concentrated on killing Xena, than the Amazons, and then their queen. Xena was giving it her all. This warrior was good. No, he was great. No man to date has ever connected with Xena so many times as he has done. Only Callisto and Ares had ever blooded Xena before, and it was still quite rare. She made a feint and spun about pulling her sword into a vicious downward strike. Ioannis caught her sword and continued her swing until her sword was planted like a sapling into the ground. He than proceeded to knee Xena several times in the gut before sending a kick to her forehead. The warrior princess found her self, flailing her arms out like a marionette that had its strings cut, to finally come tumbling down to the ground. She once again got to her feet and tested her legs. She was feeling a little wobbly from the strain of the fight but was still full of wind to continue. With a final snarl she charged into Ioannis with a second wind she had gained trying to take off his head with one mighty, swing. Ioannis grinned at her animalistic aura she had when she was pissed. It made her look so hot and sexy. Xena doubled up her grip on her sword and swept the blade at head level to find empty air. Ioannis dunked under her attack and came up with a tremendous punch. That is what she wanted. Xena dipped down and swiped at Ioannis's legs with her free foot and knocked the warrior down to the ground. He recovered much faster than she expected and she was unable to capitalize on her small victory. None the less she came to realize that he was sensing her movements. He was probably reading her mind like Kith said he could do. If she were going to beat him she would have to cloud her thoughts. Not an easy challenge for an emotional rage filled woman to do.
Kith kept his lightsabre in motion batting away Payne's energy blade whenever it came close to him. Kith ducked one of his attacks and came up first blocking high attacks, than low attacks trying to find a few moments to catch his breath. He used the momentum from his previous parry and spun away from Payne putting some distance from the battlemaster.
"Kith this doesn't have to end with your death. I sense you have a love for the queen of these primitives. Surrender to me and except me as your new master and she will be yours."
Kith didn't respond to the bargain. He kept his eyes on the Sith lord, looking for an opening. Payne waited no longer. He came in with a pirouette twirling his lightsabre in a deadly blur of red death. Kith blocked the attack and took the brunt of the Sith's strength forcing the Jedi to give up his defensive room to the Sith battlemaster. He was very close to the edge of the keep. Looking down he saw several Amazons blasting soldiers that had made an all or nothing charge towards them. He looked back to see Payne unleashing a bolt of force lighting at him. Kith had no choice he dropped from the keep roof down several meters to land on the east battlements. Payne jumped down to follow the Jedi, and to continue their duel. Kith stood up facing Payne and began to go on the offensive swinging his energy blade to Payne's right and left trying to cut down the Sith lord. Payne started to walk backwards as he blocked, parried, or ducked under the Jedi's bold strikes and thrusts.
Xena caught Ioannis with a punch but took a kick to the left knee for her troubles. She was beginning to get in some hits of her own when she realized she would have to remain calm and concentrate on one image in her mind to confuse Ioannis and his mind reading ability. She began to concentrate on the ocean with its ebb and flow, as it came onto the beach and covered the rocks and seashells, before it retreated back out into the open sea.
It was difficult but it worked.
Ioannis was having trouble in reading Xena's mind. She would think of the ocean, than suddenly she would attack and he would have a split second to sense her attack and block or parry the warrior princess. She was a fast learner in his weaknesses. If he could not read her mind, he could not have gotten as far as he had with her. He began to try and anger her by describing what he planned on doing to Gabrielle and the Amazons once she was dead, a very vivid depiction of their long and painful deaths. Xena tried not to listen, but some of it got through her resolve and she began to feel the anger swell within her. It exploded with such force that Ioannis wondered if it was a good idea to piss her off further. She came at him snarling like a mad man or in her case a mad woman. Ioannis parried and blocked Xena, than caught her with a wheel kick to the head. Xena stumbled back a little and saw red. Not only did she have a busted lip but now her forehead was bleeding from Ioannis's kick.
Ephiny raised up over her barricade within the blacksmiths. Two soldiers were moving up to her and Gabrielle. Several soldiers had shouted out to shoot the Amazon queen and many tried to do just that. Gabrielle, still not wanting to touch one of the blasters, kneeled down behind the barricade, with her staff in hand, ordering the Amazons out to find Xena. Ephiny quickly stood up and lined up a shot, at approaching soldiers, when a blast from one of them struck her in her right leg. It felt like her leg was on fire. She dropped her weapon and began clutching her leg trying to stop the pain before she blacked out. Gabrielle quickly turned to the fallen regent trying to see her wounded leg.
"Ephiny let me see." The blast wasn't as bad as her wound she received just a few days ago, but it would cripple her leg for awhile until Kith could attend to her wound. "Stay down!" She glanced back and saw Tsavena drop two more soldiers with her blaster. She than moved over to cover for Gabrielle, while the Amazon queen attended to Ephiny's injury. There were still a lot of soldiers moving form cover to cover trying to over run Gabrielle's position. There were about twenty Amazons covering Gabrielle, the soldiers couldn't possibly get close, but yet they tried. Gabrielle didn't see any choice in the matter. She picked up Ephiny's blaster and began to return fire at the approaching soldiers, protecting herself and Ephiny.
Amazons on the other side of the keep were fairing about as well as their queen. Most of the soldiers had taken cover and were waiting for the Amazons to make their move. The sound of blaster fire from the other side was deafening. The Amazons didn't know if their queen or the regent was still alive, or how many of their sisters were still with them in the fight. Anya rallied the few that had either picked up fallen blasters or still had plenty of energy to carry the fight on. They gave out a battle cry while they ran up to the soldiers shooting their blasters at them trying to score a hit. Anya led the charge, blasting soldier after soldier, until a blaster bolt struck her. She went, quiet as a mouse, and sort of wavered a little on her feet before toppling over into the dirt. When she looked up she saw her patron goddess, Artemis, extending her hand down to the Amazon warrior. Anya took her goddess's hand and felt herself leaving the battle behind. She took one look down as other Amazons' drug her body out of the line of fire.
"Artemis my duty to my queen is not done!"
"Your duty to your queen has run its course, but your duty to me is just beginning. Do not fear for them my child, they will continue to live, even in death."
Leyna checked Anya for any signs of life, but she was gone. She looked up at the soldiers with tears forming in her eyes. Anya was her friend, her lover. Losing her was more than the young Amazon could handle. Picking up Anya's blaster, Leyna held both weapons at the ready and began to fire repeatedly at the soldiers, stepping out in the open. She killed several of them before she was cut to pieces in a hale of blaster fire. Soon, her friend and lover, who took her up to the heavens to be with the others who had fallen, greeted her.
More soldiers kept coming. There seemed to be an endless supply of them. Gabrielle watched as more Amazons met their end in battle with Payne's soldiers. She was feeling tears run down her cheeks as she blasted soldier after soldier for each of her Amazons that went down. She could no longer see where Xena or Kith were and she desperately needed one of her friends by her side. Ephiny tried to bring herself up to a sitting position, but her leg kept her from getting up. Suddenly, a soldier appeared right before the queen and regent. He raised up his blaster and squeezed off a shot.
Tsavena saw the soldier from the corner of her eye. On instinct, she half turned, have lunged between Gabrielle and the soldier while firing her own weapon. The body of an Amazon, that suddenly passed through her line of sight blocked Gabrielle's vision of the soldier and her intended doom. She could hear the sound of blasters being fired close by, and the Amazon's body flinched in its solo flight. After she had landed Gabrielle could see that the soldier was shot between what was left of his eyes from the Amazon's blaster. The Amazon queen reached over and turned her savior over to thank her for her quick action. Gabrielle's words got caught in her throat when she saw that the Amazon heroine was dead. She closed her eyes and asked for Artemis to guard her Amazons. Gabrielle never really prayed to any of the Greek gods. She felt that they were more trouble than they were worth, but the Amazons believed, and that is all that mattered to her.
Xena was exhausted. Ioannis was also tired but he started this fight with a calmness that allowed him to better pace himself. The warrior princess came back with a triple strike looking to over come, Ioannis's defense. Ioannis blocked her attacks and grabbed her wrist, and with a little twist, he had her leaning way back and used the moment to jump up into the air and came back down delivering a downward stroke of his sword across Xena's left shoulder. Her leather armor absorbed some of the damage, but she could feel the blade of his sword cut deeply into her unprotected shoulder and arm. She sent out a kick into the back of Ioannis's knees, forcing the warrior to crumble to the ground. She rose up, back to her feet looking herself over. She hadn't gotten this dirty since she camped out with Hercules a few months ago. Ioannis was looking a little better but not by much. Xena had gotten some good hits in. Now Ioannis was sporting a bloody nose and a gash on his right forearm. Both warriors charged in swinging their swords, trying to taste more blood. Xena suddenly dropped down to her knees and sliced Ioannis across his thighs. Ioannis jumped over Xena and avoided her sword as best he could while dipping his own sword behind him. When he turned around, Xena was running up the ramp to the beginning of the warriors training arena which was filled with moving pendulums and monkey bars. Ioannis followed her with a slow walking pace.
Kith was pushing Payne back towards the northeastern gate tower. Payne kept himself on his toes in case the Jedi had any surprises. Kith delivered several swings before catching Payne with a sidekick which sent the Sith lord tumbling through the open door into the gate tower before him. Kith stepped through a few moments later when Payne did not come out. With lightsabre in hand the Jedi entered the tower looking for the Sith lord. Kith looked up the spiral staircase but saw no sign of Darth Payne. Looking down he could see the main floor was bare of any sabre wielding Sith lord. His senses were saying he was above, so Kith began to ascend the tower looking for Payne's whereabouts.
Gabrielle and the Amazons were pinned down. The soldiers that were left were lumped behind the metallic vehicle and behind the armory building. Most of the Amazons from the other side of the keep couldn't get close enough to the soldiers to pick them off. Gabrielle was running out of options. Xena was no where to be seen, and Kith went into a tower from what the Amazons could see. Elaine came up to sit beside her queen and the regent. "What are we going to do? Were no longer out numbered but we are low on power according to this blinking rune."
"I don't know. Where's Xena?"
Ephiny finally got herself up into a sitting position and peeked around the corner. "My queen, they look like they are going to rush us."
"All right Amazons. This is our moment for victory. Wait for them to charge than take them."
Xena moved past a pendulum that had a large blade attached to it and flipped upwards to stand on the top of the monkey bars at the center of the obstacle course. Ioannis displayed the same acrobatic talent as Xena and jumped up on top of the monkey bars. Their battle skills were put to the test trying to maintain their balance and fight each other at the same time. Xena was used to this type of fighting. Xena once battled, Callisto while perched on titter tottering ladders, and she battled Draco while standing on parallel bars. This was a piece of cake compared to the other situations. Ioannis went into an attack pattern of swinging high than low and thrusting his sword at the parrying and dodging Xena. Xena caught Ioannis's sword with the hilt of her sword and pushed him off balance. She followed up with her attack by jumping onto his chest and stomping down several times, forcing him to stumble back onto the monkey bars. He kept his balance enough to keep from falling off, but Xena jumped up into a flying roundhouse, catching the dark warrior on the side of his head. Ioannis found himself flying through the air to land with a grunt onto the sandy ground below. Xena back flipped off the obstacle course and landed on her feet a few yards away. Ioannis rose slowly to his feet, keeping his eyes on Xena as he got up. She was good, very good. He was still confident that he would prevail. They both circled one another before their swords began to clash again.
Kith had reached the top of the tower. He looked around but did not see Payne anywhere. As the Jedi stepped up onto the roof of this tower, he caught a glimpse of black cloth fluttering behind him. Igniting his lightsabre he spun around and found himself confronting a black flag dangling from a flagpole. Payne unleashed his attack from behind the distracted Jedi. He planted both his feet into Kith's back, sending the Jedi crashing into the tower roof walls. Kith put his back to the wall and quickly bolted to the other side as Payne brought his lightsabre crashing into the rock wall. A massive chunk of rock was cut away from the roof to tumble down to the outside ground below. Payne was infuriated. The Jedi, as he ran by, had connected with his knee and knocked the wind out of him. He wasn't going to turn him to the dark side. He was going the butcher him. Payne twirled his lightsabre in his hands. Both energy blades spun about like a helicopter blade, slicing through the air. Kith took up his stance as Payne came at him spinning his weapon around. Kith blocked Payne's strikes to his back and chest from a sideways stance. The energy blades buzzed and charged the air. It was a ferocious battle. Both warriors were moving according to the will of the force. If there was an end in sight it was clouded from the minds of even the most powerful Jedi master. One thing both of them could feel was that the duel was going to end, here and now.
Gabrielle picked off another soldier that tried to close the gap to the stables. The majority of the Amazons were there. She had Ephiny, Elaine, and Jessa with her. The other Amazons were holding down the other soldiers from getting to Gabrielle, but it was a small victory for her. She wanted to end this battle as quickly as possible with as few casualties as possible. Ephiny sat up next to Gabrielle and glanced around the corner to see at least several scores of Amazons on the opposite side of the courtyard with about thirty soldiers between them. Looking to her left she could see about twenty soldiers behind the metallic vehicle. They had about fifty Amazons with them, but most of them had drained their blasters of power and were only waiting for the command to charge out to face the soldiers with steel and blood.
Xena spun away from Ioannis's latest attack. Both of them were now visibly tired. Ioannis wasn't about to admit defeat and he still had a powerful trick up his sleeve. He decided to lure Xena into her own death. He tossed his sword off to the side hoping she would take the bait. She did. Now they both squared off with their fists. Xena was a superb brawler. She could put the pinch on the toughest opponent with ease. She approached Ioannis with care however because she knew he had some new trick he had been holding back with. They began to exchange blow after blow. No one hit each other. They were both pretty good with their hands and feet. Suddenly Xena caught him with a crane punch and followed it with a reverse kick to the back of Ioannis's head. He recovered and stopped Xena from capitalizing on her spot of good luck. He caught her punch in midair and hosted her onto his back into a firemen's carry and tossed her over his back onto a smoldering fire. She rolled off of the hot embers, and stood up on rubbery legs. Ioannis needed just a moment more for him to prepare his new power Payne had taught him. He could cause a severe injury or out right kill someone with a simple touch; he just needed a little time to get ready. A little time, and a little patience.
May the Force Be With You
Kith deflected Payne's sabre away from him and saw his chance. A quick motion and Payne found his lightsabre cut down the middle. Kith continued with the attack and delivered a reverse jumping kick to Payne's chest. The Sith lord found himself devoid of one half of his sabre and now was on the ground. He got up to see Kith somersault over him and parried the Jedi's air born attack. Once back on the ground both of them were now on equal footing. Payne came in to end the duel with a quick thrust, but Kith kept his sabre before him and deflected Payne's weapon away from him. They both spun around and blocked and parried multiple strikes from each other before Kith did a feint to his right. Payne took the bait and stumbled into his demise. Kith brought his weapon around and deflected the Sith lords sabre and at the same time twisted his arm locking Payne's arms together. Kith's arms were free, most importantly his arm holding his lightsabre was free and he had his weapon pulled back and pointed at Darth Payne's heart, if he had a heart. A quick thrust ended the duel. Kith removed his weapon from Payne's chest and looked into his eyes as the darkness claimed Payne's soul, the dark side of the force was not kind to those that failed it, Payne now realized this. Kith turned back towards the tower door and headed down the steps as fast as he could go.
Xena struck Ioannis with several jabs before trying going for a knock out punch. Ioannis ducked under her punch and reached out and barely touched Xena on her right hip and thigh. The sounds of her hip dislocating and the ligaments tearing could be heard between the both of them. Xena screamed out in pure agony. She crumbled to the ground, her injured leg unable to hold her weight.
"Xena, Xena. I would rather not kill you, but I have this feeling that you would never follow my orders. You are the best warrior, second to me, that should deserve to help me in ruling this planet."
"What about your master?" Xena fought back the pain from her leg. She had never felt pain like this before.
"Payne will let me rule for him and for the Sith Empire. You could join us, just say the word and this can stop before Gabrielle is dead."
"Go to Tartarus, I've heard it's great this time of year."
Ioannis shook his head slightly. Xena had stopped being the conqueror of nations a long time ago. He had no recourse but to kill her. He turned around and picked up his sword from where he had tossed it. When he looked back, Xena was still in the position she was when he looked away, but something was different. She was studying him intently. 'Had she changed her mind'? Ioannis read Xena's mind and sensed the danger by her leg. He looked down and saw the barrel of a blaster pistol pointed at his head. He saw the flash, than he saw nothing. Ioannis's headless body dropped to its knees than toppled dead in the dirt. Xena lay there for a few moments looking up at the sky. Her only thought. 'I need a bath after this'.
Gabrielle and the Amazons were just about to try a suicidal charge to try and end the standoff with the soldiers when the door to the gate house blew off of its hinges and they saw Kith come storming out of the tower. The soldiers seeing him knew that their master must be dead. They decided to take their losses and try to make a run for the main gate and to freedom. Kith moved like lighting to cut them off. The soldiers, faced with the rock faced Jedi and more than a hundred Amazons, decided not to chance the fates and dropped their weapons to surrender to Gabrielle and the Amazons.
With a simple command from the Jedi and they dropped their weapons.
With that the battle was finally over.
The soldiers were taken to Corinth to answer for crimes of warfare they committed within the kingdom's boundaries. No one believed their story about people from the stars and weapons made of light. The criminals were given thirty years in Corinth prison for their troubles. With their wounds healed and the dead buried, Kith took a few days to rest with the Amazons at their village. He didn't talk much to any one. When he was noticed he seemed to be in deep meditation over something that was perplexing him. Towards the last few days of his stay he made mention of using Payne's Sith Interceptor to leave earth so there was no need for the Amazons to house him. On the final day, they decided to throw a celebration of life to honor the dead and they wanted him to be the guest of honor. He had no choice in the argument. He finally omitted to there prodding but told them to keep it small. It was filled with feasting and dancing. Gabrielle gave a beautiful speech putting the pain of lost loves to rest and comforting the Amazons over their losses. The Amazons were reduced by more than thirty-five percent of their sisters but they would survive, they would always survived. When it was time, they made a last ride to escort Kith back to the citadel where he had left the spaceship. It was night when they arrived and the Amazons set up camp for the night and would ride back in the morning.
When Kith arrived, he set about going over the ships controls getting used to where everything was. The ship contained a tractor beam system. That was a great relief to Kith. He could use the tractor beam to pull his ship out of Corinth Lake and take it into space where he could dispose of the ship better. He was just finishing setting up the hyperdrives on the ship for the journey home, when Gabrielle entered the vehicle.
"What are you doing?"
"Setting the ship to take me home."
"I got to talking to Xena and she told me she had told you about our agreement we have with each other. I wanted to know what you have decided on?"
Kith stopped moving the controls and sat back in the pilot sit. Xena had said that if Gabrielle or her ever met a man that they were in love with that the other would step aside and not interfere. That was noble and the Jedi would be lying if he said that he did not think about staying here on this world with the Amazon queen, what man could refuse Gabrielle. Still, he was a Jedi and he had obligations to the galactic citizens. He did have feelings for her, not just because he had sex with her, but because she was very much like him. She was a dreamer and an explorer. He could teach her rudimentary force skills, improve on her leadership with his knowledge of bureaucracy and negotiating. He knew that it was all just fantasies though. He couldn't stay here. Xena and Gabrielle belonged together; he could feel that through the force. In time they would find men that they loved with all their hearts, for now they had to be together.
"Gabrielle, I have responsibilities to my own people and to the Jedi. I can't stay. I have to report back since they have probably added me to the missing in action list. The Jedi must know that I have come into contact with a Sith. But don't worry, I won't mention earth. None of the Jedi would take advantage of earth anyway but it would be best to leave that out for now. In time earth will mature and than we'll make contact the right way with your people."
"I didn't believe you would stay. I have put myself in your shoes and I would probably leave as well." Gabrielle stood up and smoothed out her skirt from its stubborn wrinkles. "If you ever find yourself out near our world again Kith Qel-Droma, stop in and say hi. We would be honored to have you visit us."
"It could be a long time before I find my way out this far from Republic space. My species has a very long life span compared to other beings, so it could be decades before anyone sees me again. But I will stop by if it is possible, I promise."
"We'll be waiting outside, every one wants to say good bye." Not knowing what more to say to the Jedi, Gabrielle headed out of the ship and out to the Amazons.
Kith was left with a feeling he had never felt before, a pain where his heart was located. He turned back to the controls and finished the calculations for a hyperspace route back to Republic space, wondering what else he could have said to Gabrielle. He wanted to stay, he knew she could sense it, but he also could not. When he was done, he put the route in memory and left the ship to say good bye to the Amazons, and to his friends.
They stood at attention when he left the ship. He had moved the ship to outside the citadel since the Amazons were going to burn the insides of the citadel to keep others from using it to attack them. Xena was the first to approach the Jedi.
"Well I guess this is good bye. It was nice knowing you Kith, I hope you find your home and that you find peace."
"The same to you Xena. Take good care of Gabrielle, there are very few people like her in the galaxy, and she is very special."
"Trust me, I know that."
Kith stepped a little ways away from Xena and approached the regent.
"Well Ephiny it's nice to see your legs are looking as good as the first day I saw them."
"Thanks to you Jedi."
"Do you always use proper names and titles when addressing people, It's either my queen this or sir Jedi that?" Kith's boyish smile let her know that he was just jabbing her for a good laugh.
"It is the respect that people have earned from me. Trust me, if I used your full name, I'm pissed."
"I'll remember that."
Kith took one step further down the line to stand before Gabrielle. They just stared at one another and for a brief moment, everyone thought that Kith was going to change his mind. The Jedi looked down and reached for Gabrielle's hand.
"I guess there isn't anything we can say to one another that we haven't thought to each other by now."
"No, I guess not."
They both looked like they were having trouble in finding the words to say to each other. How can one break away from someone when they had shared something special with them, it can be done, but it is never easy. Kith looked at Gabrielle and took in every detail of her face, her eyes, and her smell. "I guess that's it than."
"Guess it is, Good B-."
"No don't say that. The Jedi never liked to say those two words. It has that forever attitude and if there is one thing the Jedi know, it is that nothing is forever."
"Than what do we say?"
Kith leaned into Gabrielle and gentle kissed her lips. "We say, may the force be with you."
Gabrielle smiled at the simple spiritual meaning. It was beautiful. "May the force be with you."
Kith turned to head back into the ship but held on to Gabrielle's hand for as long as he could until their arms were at their maximum length when they broke apart, as if he would fall forever if he let go. He didn't look back as he boarded the ship. As he lifted off from the planet he watched as the Amazons set the keep ablaze. They were going to make sure no one would use it again to harbor evil. Kith sped away towards Corinth Lake and to his damaged X-wing fighter. Using the ship's tractor beam Kith took hold of the X-wing and pulled it to the surface. He than slowly headed out of the planet's atmosphere and into the vacuum of space. The easiest way to get rid of the ship was to send it into the star of this system. First he downloaded every bit of data from his ship, than he propelled it into the star where it was destroyed leaving only particles. Kith took one long last look at the blue green ball suspended in the infinite of space, finally he turned the ship to the stars and activated the hyperdrives and shot of into the galaxy.
After Kith had left the Amazons they began to head back to their village. Xena and Gabrielle said their good-byes to them before they headed south. They both had the urge to visit their families after coming so close to being killed. They rode together in silence for awhile before either of them spoke.
"I hope Kith makes it home."
"He'll be all right."
"Xena what would you have done if he stayed with us?"
"Challenged him for my maidens hand."
"As we have both said in the past. If Kith wanted to stay with you I would have stepped aside."
Xena turned in the saddle and stared at the young bard's face.
"Why do you need to know."
"Some time ago, I figured we would be together forever. But what Kith said has changed that."
"What did he say?"
"That nothing's forever, that our future's are always in motion, always changing. I wonder what that means for us?"
Xena brought Argo to a stop before she swiveled in her saddle to look Gabrielle square in the face. "Gabrielle you will always be a part of my family, even if one of us falls madly in love with some stud from across the street or from another world. He's probably right, our futures will always be changing; but we will always be friends."
Gabrielle leaned over to give Xena a powerful hug with all her strength. Xena gave the young bard a slight kiss on the side of her head before turning back to take command of Argo's reins. Gabrielle leaned against Xena's back, closed her eyes, and wrapped her arms around her massive feminine build. Xena smiled and placed her free hand on Gabrielle's hands as both women rode on into the night and into their next adventure.