Disclaimer & Notices

Copyright: I do not own the Xena concept and certain characters but the plot is all mine.

Violence: There is violence.

Subtext: Yes, this where subtext is maintext.

 

Summary: Set just after Xena and Gabrielle stop the Destroyer and Hope, they're headed to southern Greece to get away from everything that happened in Potidaea. But an overnight stay in a small village brings on news about a monster, which Xena promptly investigates while Gabrielle worries it may be the Destroyer again. Despite no evidence of it being the Destroyer, Gabrielle quickly discovers who the creature is and tries to help solve the creature's mystery.

 

Feedback: redhope@redhope.net

Homepage: http://www.redhope.net

 

Started: January 27, 2009

Series 3: Putting the Puzzle Together – Story #27

 


 

The Warrior Gargoyle

by Red Hope

 

Chapter 13

"But that doesn't explain why Emerald is human too," Gabrielle debated with her partner.

Xena gave a low sigh and looked down the road.

"I mean if she changes to human during the day, like you," Gabrielle emphasized, "Then we should be talking to her." She noted Xena's long silence so she reminded, "Cyane said gargoyles turn to stone during the day."

The warrior ran her long fingers through her bangs, which fell back onto her forehead. "I know." She raised an eyebrow at the bard. "But she's not going to cooperate with us, Gabrielle."

"Maybe if you put the pinch on her…" Gabrielle let her unfinished sentence hang in the air.

Xena clicked her tongue at the bard's idea. "You're picking my solutions lately."

"They seem to work," Gabrielle pointed out. She caught her friend's dark grin. She then went back to the original topic. "Why you think she was green?" But Xena's simple headshake was the only response. Gabrielle had no ideas. "It's not like your skin is black when you're human."

The warrior glanced at the bard then murmured, "Just my heart for a long time."

Gabrielle shot a glare at her partner. "I heard that." She then recalled Emerald's facial features and commented, "You two looked similar." She puckered her lips some. "Maybe all female gargoyles are similar."

The warrior didn't have a sure answer so left the suggestion hanging between them. She instead shifted the discussion to what their plans would be when they neared Londinium. She wanted to take two days to get there despite they could do it in one. Xena just felt they were already at a fast pace and would make it to a village south of the major city.

Gabrielle sensed her lover's hesitation about going to the coast near Londinium. It wasn't just the possible clan, but they were also getting extremely close to where Boadicea fought her battles against Caesar about a year ago. Those lands were not fond memories for Gabrielle or Xena.

"Maybe we should search the coastline during the day?" But Gabrielle felt doubtful about her own idea.

"Too difficult," Xena replied. "It'll have to be done at night."

"But we could run the risk of getting into a fight with the clan," Gabrielle argued.

The warrior had already thought about that part. "I'll have to do it alone."

"Oh no." Gabrielle grabbed her friend's arm and made them abruptly stop on the road. "We're getting this close to finding them, and I don't think we're going to separate now."

Xena gave a heavy sigh and stepped closer to her lover. "It'll be difficult to fly around the shoreline and cliffs with you in my arms, Gabrielle." She thought back to last night's accident.

"Then we'll search from above along the cliff side," the bard argued.

The warrior shook her head and explained, "The rookery won't be accessible by foot."

Gabrielle understood that the gargoyles wouldn't want humans to gain access to the rookery. But she didn't like waiting alone while Xena sought the gargoyles, who would either be friendly or volatile.

 Xena watched all the thoughts going through Gabrielle. She hastily halted them by softly gripping the bard's shoulder. "Let's just decide once we get there and see what it's like."

Gabrielle bowed her head and finally relented with a gentle nod. She felt the tension dissipate between them.

"Come on." The warrior continued the trek northeast towards Londinium.

Gabrielle tapped her staff once on the cobblestones that were a part of the main road to Londinium. She'd been remotely surprised her partner wanted to travel on the road since most likely Roman soldiers would be using it. They weren't exactly on Rome's favorite list lately, especially Caesar's list.

Xena needed to lighten the mood further and opted for the bard's favorite game. She was grateful that some of their old traditions still carried on today after everything they'd struggled through in recent moons.

It wasn't until a candlemark before sunset that they decided to make camp. They had enough supplies for one night on the road and the warmer weather was a help. Gabrielle made dinner while her partner busied with sharpening her sword before the transformation. Once dinner was ready, Xena had changed to her other form and was certainly famished. Gabrielle secretly grinned at her partner's increased appetite that started to match hers.

Xena stretched out her muscular legs after Gabrielle took her dirty plate. She lifted her gaze to the stars and admired them.

Gabrielle reclaimed her seat on the fur next to her lover. "Are you going to fly for awhile?" She saw the longing on Xena's sculpted features.

The gargoyle seriously considered it then finally shook her head. She didn't want to leave Gabrielle alone, not here and so close to their former Tartarus.

Gabrielle canted her head and hit the nail on the head. "I'll be fine, Xena." She didn't want the gargoyle to be overly concerned about their location. However, Xena's headshake made her frown slightly. "Xena..." She let it go after her partner glanced at her with worry. She instead reached over and touched the gargoyle's muscular thigh.

Xena collected the small hand into hers and held it. She went back to studying the stars.

Gabrielle couldn't recall that last time they'd really enjoyed the blanket of stars above them. She eventually reclined and was grateful when Xena did the same. The grass was softer here than in Greece, or so it seemed to Gabrielle. But she kept warm by curling up against Xena. She idly ran circles across Xena's exposed stomach, which she rather liked since the normally impeding leathers were gone.

Xena only occasionally spoke after Gabrielle had said something first. However, she was mostly lost in her thoughts about Britannia. The past still burned at her nearly healed wound. She eventually heard Gabrielle's heavy breathes under her ear. Her worn thoughts made her turn on her side and collect the bard into her arms.

Gabrielle groaned at being shifted around, but she settled back into her lover's body. She became warmer when the gargoyle's wings enveloped her. She slipped back into her dreams and was not stirred until sunrise, and the warmth was gone. Gabrielle groggily shifted about and managed to get the furs for them while Xena stripped out of her armor. They went under the furs for a couple of candlemarks before Xena stirred Gabrielle awake. They needed to keep traveling, and Xena disliked staying in the same location for too long in Britannia.

"Another candlemark," Gabrielle complained.

Xena softly sighed and ran her hand over her lover's stomach. "We'll stop early today... sleep in a bed."

Gabrielle grumbled but lifted her head. "You're just teasing me." She twisted around and covered Xena's hand with her own.

Xena sadly smiled and whispered, "I promise."

The bard nodded and slowly sat up. "I'll make breakfast." She grabbed her boots after wiping some of the sleep from her face.

Xena leaned over and kissed her partner on the temple. "Thank you." She stood up with her weapons in hand. "I'm going to wash up."

"Take your time." Gabrielle was on slow speed anyway. She hoped when they returned to Greece that they could take a vacation, whether Xena was still a gargoyle or not. The constant trips were more taxing in the winter, which was approaching them. At least Britannia was warmer than the mainland.

Xena returned shortly and hastily packed up the small camp. She sat down and ate breakfast with Gabrielle beside the fire. Gabrielle took the dirty flatware and went to the creek. She had her personal supplies and cleaned up quickly. She rejoined Xena, and they continued on the main road towards Londinium. Their trek was rather quiet, even for Xena. She replayed Emerald's brief conversation with them. What concerned Xena the most was that Emerald was alone.

"Why is she human too?" Xena asked aloud after going over it several times in her head.

Gabrielle blinked and looked up at her partner. "What?"

"Emerald." The warrior met the bard's gaze. "Why is she human too?"

Gabrielle grumbled, "I'm telling you. We should have put the pinch on her."

"Gaaabrielle," Xena drew out.

The bard rolled her eyes and argued, "It works, doesn't it?" She switched the staff to her left hand. "What are the chances two gargoyles transform to human by day?"

"Pretty slim," Xena muttered.

Gabrielle shook a finger in the air. "If I meet her again, I'm going to chain her until she gives me what I want."

Xena smirked. "Save that for the bedroom." She enjoyed the heat that spread brightly across Gabrielle's cheeks. "Slick Gabby." She jumped and grabbed her sword hilt after an unexpected smack to the side. "Gabrielle," she hissed.

"I shouldn't have told you that old nickname." Gabrielle ignored her partner's annoyance about the smack. She reconsidered Emerald's situation and offered, "That's probably why she's alone." She looked at her partner. "Because she turns human by day."

"An outcast," Xena agreed.

Gabrielle shook her head. "And they don't trust her." Her eyes locked with Xena's blue ones. "She is human, and the Gods offer that reward for dead gargoyles."

"The Gods would want her dead just as much," Xena argued.

Gabrielle recalled how Xena was able to hurt Ares. Most likely Emerald was capable of it too. "There's no place she can go," she whispered.

Xena silently conceded. She was fortunate that Gabrielle was at her side. Otherwise, she would face the challenge completely alone.

Gabrielle sensed the warrior's dismal mood. "You always have Slick Gabby at your side."

Xena smirked and brought her arm across her lover's shoulders. "I couldn't ask for better." She chuckled and evilly added, "Or slicker."

Gabrielle rolled her eyes yet still had a smile. She was thankful that she and Xena were okay after everything. She continued the quiet walk north towards the major city. When they approached a village on the outskirts of the city, the sun was low in west sky.

"I think we have enough time for dinner."

The bard studied the sun. "About two candlemarks."

"Do you mind an early dinner?" Xena looked at her partner and chuckled.

"Oh don't make me," Gabrielle joked.

Xena steered the bard into the village. "Time for some fine dining."

"You do spoil me," the bard teased. She followed the warrior into the busy streets. They beelined to the market area and found plenty of taverns. Xena picked a quieter one and found a spot in a corner. She took her usual seat while Gabrielle sat to the left.

"So what's the plan?" Gabrielle noted the barmaid coming towards them.

Xena held off on a response and instead placed their order with the barmaid. Once the barmaid was gone, she focused on her partner.

"Are we going to explore tonight?"

Xena scratched her nose and shook her head. "I think we're better off resting tonight." She leaned closer to Gabrielle. "Emerald said they're located on the coast, south of here."

Gabrielle nodded. "So head that way tomorrow?" After Xena's nod, she checked, "We'll have to wait for nightfall to find the rookery though."

"Most likely." Xena suspected the main access to the rookery could only be approached by air. If there was a land route then it was secret.

"Do you think they'll be out at night... flying and... doing whatever else they do?"

The warrior considered this and gave a low nod. "Hunting most likely."

Gabrielle bit her lower lip. She debated how to approach what was on her mind. She shifted her attention to the barmaid, who brought their food and drinks. She took the wood spoon and inspected the food. The smells made her stomach rumble, and she tried the mashed potatoes first. "Wow," she whispered.

Xena grinned to herself.

"Xena..." Gabrielle looked up from the plate. She noted the warrior's curious glance. "The likely hood they'll be so... receptive is going to be slim, isn't it?"

Xena toyed with the food for a beat then set the spoon down. "I'm not planning to join their clan."

Gabrielle opened her mouth, but the words escaped her. She sighed when Xena touched her forearm.

"I already have my clan."

Gabrielle's worried features broke with a smile. Yet, she was still concerned and pressed, "They are... your kind."

"Not really," Xena argued. She squeezed the bard's arm before she returned to her food. "I just want to get answers and move on."

Gabrielle mulled it over for several minutes while she ate dinner. She held her spoon up in the air and started, "What if-"

"Gabrielle," Xena cut off. "Let it go." She held green eyes with her hard stare. "I don't even have to meet them to know they'll banish me." She saw the confusion on the bard's face. "I'm more human than anything, in their eyes."

Gabrielle sighed and nodded once. She relented because Xena had a valid point. Some part of her felt that Xena should be able to be with other gargoyles. However, it was obvious that Xena had no desire to associate with them.

"How's your dinner?"

Gabrielle smiled. "Really good." She loved the potatoes the best and the lamb reminded her of home. "Do you want my last chop?" She caught Xena's suspicious look. "I'm not going to eat it."

"Are you sure?" Xena received the lamb chop anyway. She was thankful because she was hungry tonight. After the meal, she made sure to order dessert, which was a treat for them.

Gabrielle was very full after dinner. She patted her firm belly and slid out of the chair after they paid for everything. The barmaid gave them a recommendation for an inn, and she followed Xena out of the tavern.

The orange sun was close to the horizon and would soon set. Xena hefted the rucksack and picked up the pace. She refused to be seen transforming into a gargoyle in such a public location. She and Gabrielle hurried into the inn and paid for a room.

Gabrielle sensed her partner's stress. She worked the door's lock hastily and shoved her way into the room. She shut it after Xena entered in time.

The warrior was removing the rucksack, which slipped from her hands. She hastened to remove the sword and chakram in mid transformation. Xena dropped the weapons as the pain put her on her knees.

Gabrielle came to her lover's aid and softly urged, "Don't fight it." She shifted out of the way when wings sprouted near her. She gave Xena the necessary room.

Xena had her head down and eyes shut. She let go of her internal struggle against the gargoyle. She welcomed its power and beauty. Her reshaped hands clawed against the floor, and she raised her head up. She barred her razor teeth and swallowed the roar that came forth.

Gabrielle watched in awe. Her heart raced when she saw Xena's reopen eyes blazed bright. She loved watching the transformation and knew her creative mind could never truly capture it.

Xena inhaled deeply after her body finished changing to a gargoyle. She slowly stood up and brought her outstretched wings into her body. Slowly her eyes faded to normal.

Gabrielle tilted her head back to compensate for Xena's added height. She cleared her throat and wondered if there was a flush on her face.

The gargoyle approached her partner. "I think you enjoy this more than me."

Gabrielle looked away and knew she was indeed blushing now. But, Xena hooked her chin and drew her attention back up.

The gargoyle lowered her head until her brow ridge met Gabrielle's forehead. "Thank you for being here for me."

A shiver travelled down Gabrielle's back thanks to the gargoyle's low rumble. She inwardly sighed at herself. "You'd be there for me too if I turned into a gurgle." She hoped the tease would lighten the mood. However, an unexpected growl made Gabrielle jump a step back.

Xena smirked at the bard's reaction. "Gargoyle," she corrected.

The bard waved off her lover. "Gargoyle... gurgle... all the same." She escaped her partner and started lighting candles before it grew any darker. She turned from the nightstand only to find Xena right behind her. "Hades!"

Xena gave a dark smile and grabbed the bard's hips. She lifted Gabrielle onto the bed. "I think I am hungry for some bard."

Gabrielle crawled backwards on the bed. "I'm tough and chewy."

"I do not recall it that way this morning." Xena loved the bard's renewed blush. She climbed onto the bed, testing its support. Once she was over Gabrielle, she was hit hard by Gabrielle's excited scent. Sharply a heavy rumble rolled up her chest.

Gabrielle sensed the difference, and it reminded her of their last night of training. She tensed and gripped the bed sheets. She tried not giving off her alarm yet knew Xena would feel it.

"I scare you." The gargoyle's voice was heavy and sensual. She lowered her face closer and still read the defiance that was Gabrielle. It stirred a low growl in her throat.

Gabrielle held her spot and stated, "It's the unknown that scares me." Her breath hitched at the dark smile and all the fangs.

"Humans are not meant for gargoyles," the black gargoyle explained. "Your kind is fragile." She watched a fire rise in Gabrielle that challenged her.

"Is that why I excite you?" Gabrielle fought. Her heart jumped into her throat when blue eyes set ablaze. She clenched the sheets tight and realized her mistake. A growl started again and grew dangerously deep.

Gabrielle battled the fear in her heart and hastily thought it out better. She was dealing with a creature that was honor bound yet still so primal. It reminded her of pack animals like wolves. If she was part of the clan then she was challenging the gargoyle's authority. Right now was the time to be submissive so she turned her head away from the gargoyle. She held her breath and waited to see if it paid off.

The gargoyle's continued growl slowly quieted until only Gabrielle's low breath filled the silence. After a tense minute, the gargoyle achingly withdrew and left the human on the bed. She exhaled heavily once she was standing beside the bed. She then went to the open window, careful not to be in the candlelight. The night sky was very appealing after what happened between her and Gabrielle.

On the bed, the bard let out a shaky breath and mentally gathered herself. She felt her entire body tremble from head to toe. She tried wrapping her mind around it. How did it go from teasing to a dangerous challenge? Gabrielle had to better understand it later so she was more careful. She had played with the same fire twice and was fortunate not to be burned both times. She suspected if it were any other gargoyle then she would be hurt.

The gargoyle listened to the human's quiet movements after several minutes. She crossed her arms under the wings. She narrowed her eyes and stated, "I said this is my clan." Her words were thunder. "It was not a metaphor."

Gabrielle ran her fingers through her hair and looked over at the tense gargoyle. "I guess... I didn't completely understand it." Her voice was low with a hint of uncertainty. She refused to press it further right now. She wanted to let it go and think it over later. She cautiously neared the gargoyle.

Xena continued studying the beautiful three-quarter moon. She longed to feel the winds under her wings.

"It's a gorgeous night," Gabrielle commented. She crossed her arms over her chest. Blue eyes finally met her.

The gargoyle sensed that the human was still shaken by earlier. She inwardly sighed and wanted to go back to earlier, before the incident.

Gabrielle briefly stiffened when the gargoyle's tail snaked around her waist. She followed the hidden signal and moved closer to Xena. She swallowed hard and peered up at the gargoyle's stoic features.

Xena opened her right wing and drew Gabrielle into her body. She closed her wing over both of them. Her tail remained around the bard's petite waist.

After a moment, Gabrielle rested her head against the gargoyle's muscular arm. She shut her eyes and completely relaxed now that Xena was okay again. She sadly smiled at the gentle squeeze. "It's a good night for a flight."

The gargoyle gazed down at her partner. "It is."

Gabrielle met Xena's stare and offered, "We should go." She crinkled her nose. "Just for a little bit." A new rumble came from Xena, but it was rather different from the earlier one. "I don't have to go if you..."

Xena showed a toothy smile. "I do not think so." She quickly moved and blew out the candles closest to the window. She hid in the darkness better. "We can take off from the inn's roof."

"How we get there?" Gabrielle made out Xena's outline in the faint light from the town.

The gargoyle turned her back to Gabrielle, knelt down low, and instructed, "Climb onto my back."

Gabrielle blew out a low breath but gathered her courage. She wrapped her arms and legs around Xena then was lifted up. At first, she hid her face in Xena's warm neck as the world swung under her. After a beat, Gabrielle looked out and tilted her head backwards. She and Xena were climbing the side of the inn to the roof.

The gargoyle came over the ledge and popped onto the roof. She stayed low so that they were less than obvious. "Can you climb off?"

Gabrielle gingerly did so and nearly lost her footing until Xena had her.

Xena held onto Gabrielle's left arm. Her right hand and feet dug into the roof. Her tail twisted in the air, testing the wind's direction. "Come here." She carefully guided the bard closer.

Gabrielle knelt beside her partner and latched onto a firm shoulder. "So now what?"

"Checking the winds," the gargoyle softly explained. She inhaled deeply and smelled the various scents of the town.

"Think we can do it?" Gabrielle whispered. She received a wolfish smile that made her blood heat up. "I mean take off." Now her cheeks flushed when Xena's laugh rumbled in her ears.

"We should find out." Xena scooped up the bard, who bit back a yelp. She felt a secure arm go around her neck so she took that as the go-signal. Xena stayed as low as possible and ran down the roof. She launched off at the end and popped open her wings.

Gabrielle contained her scream because they would be spotted right away. She exhaled loudly once they climbed into the night sky.

The gargoyle hastily ascended so they were out of sight. She banked to the left and flew away from the village.

"Gods... it's so beautiful." Gabrielle loved how the moon light glowed across the rolling lands. "We're not far from the coast, you know."

Xena knew her partner wanted to find the clan east of Londinium. Just slightly north, the city's glow spotted the lands, but it was dangerous to go to the city or to the coast. "We will try tomorrow."

The bard silently conceded to her partner. She instead focused on the beautiful flight. "We haven't seen any hunters, thankfully."

"My human form saves us from them."

Gabrielle considered the gargoyle hunters like the ones in Cyane's family. "Do you think they only track at night and kill during the day?"

"Most likely," Xena agreed.

"You would think a clan would still need a human to watch over them during the day," Gabrielle debated. "Gods only know they're not a hundred percent safe."

Xena had also considered the same, but she was unconcerned about it. She was not a clan member or a part of the politics of it. Xena simply wanted answers so she could have her peace.

Gabrielle looked at the gargoyle, who was lost in thought. She noticed the typical lines across her lover's brow that meant deep thoughts. Whether human or gargoyle, Xena was consistent about her tells. Gabrielle smiled and nearly touched Xena's ridge.

The gargoyle sensed it, and her blue eyes focused on the bard. "What is it?"

"Your ridge... you notice how it looks a bit like a crown?" Gabrielle felt Xena's disapproving rumble, but she ignored it. "A circlet crown." She nearly wanted to trace the spiked ridges that protruded past Xena's brow.

"You are a bard," Xena teased.

Gabrielle shrugged and instead rested her head against the gargoyle's shoulder. She turned her admiration to the world. "I could get use to this."

"I think you already have," Xena concluded.

Gabrielle chuckled and smiled.

The gargoyle decided to have more fun with the flight. She started climbing and descending at different times. She did so carefully and learned Gabrielle's limits. Xena could tell that Gabrielle had grown more comfortable with it over time. However, Gabrielle's shiver made Xena concerned, and she realized how long they had been flying in the cool air.

"We will head back." Xena banked to the left and turned north towards the village.

Gabrielle resisted a yawn, but it overpowered her. "I don't know how you're not tired."

"Actually," the gargoyle argued, "I feel it tonight."

"Amazing." Gabrielle spotted the village. "Can you land on the roof safely?"

Xena previously landed on several roofs, but Gabrielle's extra weight made it tricky. She slowed as much as possible and gently glided lower until she lined up with the center of the roof. She brought her legs down as the lift faded out from under her arched wings. Xena ran a few steps until she could stop safely.

Gabrielle was impressed and grinned at Xena. "You're getting really good at this." She slid out of Xena's arms and instead climbed onto her back again. This time, she kept her eyes closed the whole time as Xena returned them to their room.

The gargoyle noted the room was rather dark. She first put the matt over the window then took care of the unlit candles.

Gabrielle was grateful to be indoors. She then started preparing for bed, her yawns louder each time. Once she crawled into bed, she was happy that Xena climbed in behind her. She could tell Xena was testing the bed's strength before fully settling into it.

"Thank you," Gabrielle whispered. She felt Xena's tail snake around her left ankle. She shifted the bed fur over her body and looked over her shoulder. "For the flight." She softened when her partner nuzzled her.

"Get some rest." Xena was only half under the fur because she would be too hot otherwise. However, she was able to put one arm around Gabrielle's waist. She inhaled Gabrielle's scent, which caused a pleased rumble.

The bard swallowed hard and withheld a moan. She waited until the tension calmed. "Goodnight, Xena."

"Sleep well." Xena closed her eyes and listened to the bard's breathing, which eventually evened and deepened from sleep. It took nearly a candlemark for Xena to join Gabrielle in a dreamscape. She would sleep soundly until dawn.

 

To be continued.