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 14

Gabrielle patted her chest a few times, catching her breath. She turned her head to the left and listened to her partner in the washroom. Morning sex was unexpected, but it was nice after an uncertain night. Gabrielle enjoyed a few quiet moments under the blankets.

Xena shortly strolled out of the washroom in only her leathers. Her hair was damp from cleaning up. She took a seat on the side of the bed, next to her lover. She studied Gabrielle's still flushed cheeks. A tingle rushed through her stomach and down between her legs. Her eyes lingered on Gabrielle's nipples that were still hard in the cool air.

"We should eat then start the trek to the coast," the warrior suggested.

Gabrielle cleared her throat, not sure her voice would work otherwise. "Do we need more supplies?"

"I think on the way back through," Xena replied. She stood up before she crawled over the bard, again.

Gabrielle let out a low breath and gathered herself. She went to the washroom next.

Xena was seated at the table, but from the corner of her eye, she watched her nude lover. A sly grin caressed her lips as she continued lacing her boots up. In half a candlemark, she and Gabrielle were dressed and almost ready to leave the room.

Gabrielle went for the rucksack until Xena clasped her hand. She curiously peered up into soft blue eyes.

"I'm sorry about last night, Gabrielle."

The bard tangled her fingers around Xena's longer ones. She turned to her partner and stepped in closer. "It's alright."

Xena shook her head. "I... don't know what happened."

Gabrielle shook her head and replied, "I think I do." She knew it was about Xena's reaction to Gabrielle's defiance. "But..." She crinkled her nose in a cute manner. "If I get make up sex in the morning then I don't mind."

Xena laughed at the bard's joke. She appreciated Gabrielle's attempt to lighten the mood. "I have a lot to learn about this," she admitted.

Gabrielle nodded and squeezed her partner's hand. "So do I." She smiled tenderly. "We'll learn together."

Xena softened at Gabrielle's devotion. She leaned down for a kiss that stirred temptation again. She pulled back with a smile finally.

Gabrielle gathered the rucksack and then her staff. She followed her partner out of the room. "So, what's for breakfast?"

Xena chuckled and teased, "Stomach takes priority as usual."

"Apparently not," Gabrielle argued, "Since sex was first."

The warrior flashed a wicked grin and tormented, "Come on, Slick Gabby."

The bard reacted quickly and smacked the warrior's ass then jumped backwards before Xena grabbed her.

The warrior had stopped in the hallway and pointed a finger at the bard. "You better watch out after sunset." She revealed a wolfish smile.

Gabrielle tensed at a slight glow behind the warrior's eyes that reminded her of the gargoyle that lurked only skin deep. She was unsure what to say, for once.

Xena's laugh rumbled deep in her chest. She continued out of the inn and felt Gabrielle take her side.

Gabrielle glanced sideways at the warrior and wondered if the gargoyle was closer to the surface. She canted her head and asked, "How's your head been?"

Xena exited the inn first and held the door open. "I haven't had one lately."

"I'm glad," Gabrielle murmured. She had been overly concerned by the strength of the most recent stint. She hoped it stayed away for good. "How long do you think it'll take to get to the coast?"

"Maybe half a day." Xena was looking for a decent tavern. "Possibly less if we keep a fast pace."

Gabrielle nodded. She considered her last memories of Londinium, which was just slightly north to them. "It's nearly been a year."

Xena swallowed hard after the bard mentioned their past with Dahak or at least the start of it. She despised Britannia for it. Once she learned what she could about being a gargoyle then she wanted to return to the mainland.

"It was for nothing," Gabrielle muttered. She and Xena had heard what happened to Boadicea. "He defeated her anyway."

Xena flexed her jaw a few times. She indicated the tavern ahead. "How about this one?"

Gabrielle nodded and went inside with Xena. She immediately felt all eyes turn on them, and it was normal. Lately it unnerved Gabrielle, and she figured it was because they were back in Britannia.

The warrior took a spot against the wall and sat in a good viewing seat. She looked at Gabrielle while they waited for a barmaid. "He crucified her." She kept her voice down. "But he spread lies that she committed suicide."

Gabrielle looked from the full tavern to her friend. "So he wouldn't make her a martyr. People don't look up to heroes that commit suicide," she muttered. She eyed the barmaid coming towards them. "His turn will come one day."

Xena agreed with the bard. She looked at the barmaid and spoke the local tongue so they could get a quick meal.

Gabrielle rested in the chair. She looked over at her partner after scanning the faces in the crowd. "You notice that group in the left corner that is checking us out?"

"Yup," the warrior muttered. She leaned heavily against the table, her eyes steely.

Gabrielle looked at Xena and asked, "What's that strange weapon the big ugly guy has in his lap?"

Xena bit her bottom lip then softly replied, "Gastraphetes."

The bard bit the inside of her mouth. "Some kind of long range bow huh?"

"Basically." Xena leaned back in the chair. "It's a composite bow." She studied the wood weapon across the brute's lap. "You load a bolt down the slider mechanism."

"It looks like you hold it against your stomach," Gabrielle guessed.

"Mmmhmmm." Xena looked at butt end that was curved to press against a belly.

"What's the advantage to it than a bow?" The bard returned her attention to Xena. "It puts more power behind the arrow?"

Xena nodded. "A lot more." She looked at the bard. "The shooting mechanism has a lot more energy contained in it than a person's arm."

Gabrielle considered it for a moment then stated, "It looks like it can do serious damage."

"Yes," Xena softly agreed. She noted the barmaid returned to them.

Gabrielle hummed at the food's smell. She first drank then started on her food, but she continued talking about the six men. "They look like mercenary."

"Possibly." Xena knew they were trouble either way. Most likely they were just as curious about her and Gabrielle. She hoped they left them alone.

After breakfast, they left the busy tavern and headed east from the village. There was no Roman road that led east, but Xena only needed the sun to know her way. She felt better once they left the area and were in the open landscape. Gabrielle sympathized and enjoyed the beautiful lands.

"So do we have a plan?"

Xena shrugged.

"There's always a plan," Gabrielle stated.

The warrior smirked at her partner. "You think of it then."

"Fine." Gabrielle was silent for too long.

"Those kind of plans are not good, Gabrielle."

"What?" The bard glared at her friend. "I'm thinking."

"Exactly," the warrior muttered. This time she was prepared and caught the oncoming hand near her stomach. She came to a fast stop and jerked Gabrielle into her body.

The bard yelped and nearly lost her staff. She weakly smiled at Xena. "Hi."

The warrior smirked and lowered her head closer. "Did you figure out the plan yet?"

Gabrielle showed all her teeth in a fake smile. "I'm still working on it." She chuckled and added, "But it'll be a good one."

Xena raised a perfect eyebrow. "I bet." She released the bard and slid past.

Gabrielle blew out a low breath. She felt weak in the knees but gathered herself after a deep breath. "Do you think the clan might attack us?"

The warrior had weighed the possibility, and she sighed that it was brought up. "It's not impossible," she admitted. "It'll depend on their leader."

"We're not staying long, are we?" Gabrielle could tell already.

Xena looked at her friend. "Is there a reason why we should?"

Gabrielle frowned.

"We're not part of them, Gabrielle."

"I know, but I think it would be good for you."

Xena shook her head. "You're not being realistic about this."

The bard's frown deepened, and she fought, "I'm being optimistic."

"I'm human in their eyes, Gabrielle."

"That's if they figure it out," Gabrielle argued.

Xena rolled her eyes and stated, "They'll know."

"How?"

Xena sighed and tried explaining, "They'll be able to sense it." She shook her head. "Even if I was a regular gargoyle, they would be very leery about me." She saw Gabrielle's confusion. "Loner gargoyles is not normal... especially if I have you with me."

"You're just hoping they'll be civil enough to give you information before they shoo us away."

Xena nodded.

"What if they don't chase us off?" Gabrielle was hopeful.

"We're not moving here, Gabrielle."

The bard sighed, loudly. "I didn't say that." She hooked her partner's wrist. "I'm just trying to figure out different plans of attack."

"We're just winging it," Xena confessed.

"No pun intended," Gabrielle joked. She grinned when Xena rolled her eyes. She went serious and tapped her staff hard against the ground. "Fine... we'll just see how it plays out."

Xena was glad too. She reached up and took Gabrielle's hand into hers. "Do you want me to carry the pack?"

"I'm okay." Gabrielle liked the extra weight, which earned her more exercise. She stayed quiet until they took a break for an early but small lunch. "You think we'll see the rookery?" she asked after she took a seat beside Xena on a large rock.

The warrior was enjoying her wrap that Gabrielle had put together. She had a cloth in her other hand, under the wrap, to catch any food. "Maybe."

"That would be something." Gabrielle took her first bite.

Xena shrugged and waited until after she swallowed her first mouthful. "I don't think they're anything special." She saw her words did nothing to change the bard's mind. She sighed and reminded, "You need to keep your guard up."

The bard set the wrap down in her linen cloth. "I know." She tapped her boot against Xena's foot. "You trained me how to protect myself from one."

"You think you can really do it?" Xena tempted.

Gabrielle bit her lower lip then nodded. "If I have to." She peered up at the partner. "I hope I don't."

"Me too." Xena finished off her wrap then took a drink from the water skin. "That was good."

"It was." Gabrielle had a small mouthful. She had water too then mentioned, "We are low on supplies though."

"How many days worth?"

"Maybe a day and half... two if we hunt," Gabrielle estimated.

Xena nodded. "It should be enough." She studied the eastern horizon and smelled salt very faintly. She knew the coast was maybe a candlemark or two from them. "We're not far."

"How can you be sure?"

"I can smell the salty air."

Gabrielle furrowed her brow and looked at the warrior. "You can smell the seas?" She shook her head. "All I smell is... moss."

Xena grinned at the bard's doubt. "I have a better nose."

The bard rolled her eyes. She started repacking and announced she was ready to go.

Xena slowly stood up and stretched as she did so.

"Come on, Warrior Gurgle," Gabrielle teased. She was walking backwards, staff in hand, and rucksack on her back.

The warrior gave a low growl and glared at the bard.

Gabrielle laughed and silently thanked Aphrodite for the good nickname. "Xena the Warrior Gargoyle." She spun on the balls of her feet. "It has a good ring to it."

Xena rolled her eyes and took wide steps until she was at Gabrielle's side. "I prefer Warrior Princess."

"What if you're stuck with Warrior Gargoyle?"

Xena considered it and looked at the bard. "I'll learn to live with it."

Gabrielle smiled at the positive news. It was a good start to the real problem, in her opinion.

"You want a gargoyle for a lover?" Xena teased.

Gabrielle pointed at her partner. "I don't, remember?" She lowered her hand and added, "But I wouldn't mind."

Xena was startled by the bard's honesty. She recalled last night's upset in the bed. She was uneasy and kept quiet.

"Not that it has to be figured out right now." Gabrielle took Xena's hand into hers. "I'm perfectly happy." She squeezed her lover's hand.

Xena softly smiled and whispered, "So am I." She and Gabrielle went quiet for a while before they chatted about less important things.

After two candlemarks, Xena saw the coast on the horizon. The bard had grown excited, but Xena was nervous. She hid it well though. She and Gabrielle approached the cliffs and were greeted by the seas far down. Gabrielle watched the waves hit the small shores along the coastline.

Xena had no idea where to begin other than flying around after the sunset. She would either find the rookery or find other gargoyles in the air. She just hoped it would turn out okay.

Gabrielle suggested an early dinner so that they were ready by sunset. Xena readily agreed and offered to hunt for food. Gabrielle made a small camp and started a warm fire. She prepared a skewer for whatever meat Xena brought her. She was excited when it was two rabbits. Gabrielle had the right herbs for the occasion.

Xena took the time to sharpen her weapons while the food cooked over the fire. She was pleased when Gabrielle worked on her one scroll that she had tucked into the rucksack. Xena imagined it was about their journey so far.

Dinner had been perfect, and they both were filled afterwards. Gabrielle decided she wanted to nap before the long night started for them. It was hard to say when they would sleep again since gargoyles were nocturnal creatures.

Xena moved away from the camp and performed drills. Her nervous energy was barely burned off before she returned to camp and roused Gabrielle. She took a seat by the dying fire.

Gabrielle worked the sleep from her face and looked at the western sky. She suspected the sun would be gone in quarter of a candlemark.

"You have your dagger?"

Gabrielle shifted her eyes to the warrior. "I do." She extracted the weapon from the sheath on her right boot.

"Toss it here." Xena neatly caught it after the gentle toss. She retrieved the whetstone and sharpened the blade.

Gabrielle rolled up the bed and retied it to the rucksack. She went over and sat beside the warrior. "Are you ready for this?" she worriedly asked.

Xena focused on her task. "Not really," she quietly admitted.

"Well... like you said..." Gabrielle bumped her shoulder against Xena's plated one. "We're not joining the clan."

Xena nodded. She wiped the blade down once then put the stone back in the cloth. She looked at the bard. "Promise me you'll stay close to me." After the bard's nod, she gently added, "And quiet too."

Gabrielle sighed but nodded. She understood her talkative nature could put them in an awkward situation. "And don't mention Emerald, right?"

"You got it." Xena grinned at the bard's thinking that matched hers. She stood up and put the stone in the pack. She then unclipped her chakram and set it down.

"What about your sword?" Gabrielle inquired.

Xena was staring at the sun on the horizon. "I can't use it." She shrugged and stepped around the rucksack.

Gabrielle glanced at the sun, which sunk below the horizon. Xena's brief whimper of pain drew her attention back to the sudden transformation.

Xena lowered to one knee, like last night. She clenched her hands at her side and tilted her head back as the heavy roar burst from her chest. Her eyes blazed like lightening. Every growing muscle coiled against her black skin. Her wings spread out their full, impressive span. Xena drew her wings in as she stood up. Her tail whipped in the air.

Gabrielle took her staff and got up from the ground. "What is it?" She sensed something wrong by the tension in the gargoyle's body.

Xena caped the wings around her body and looked at Gabrielle. "They are not far."

"How can you be sure?" Gabrielle tapped the staff.

"I can feel them." Xena was unaware earlier, but she was sure of it now.

"Do you know where?" Gabrielle approached her partner.

Xena narrowed her blue eyes and continued staring out at the lands. "North," she whispered.

"Alright... let's start heading that way." The bard picked up the pack first then rejoined the gargoyle.

Xena stayed close to the bard's side on their journey north. As they grew closer, she became edgier and breathed harder, as if searching the airs for a scent. Her tail continued snaking back and forth.

Gabrielle flexed her grip on the staff several times. Xena's tension washed over her and made Gabrielle just as tense. She licked her lips and peered up at the gargoyle's ridged features. "Do you want to fly?"

"I do not think it is a good idea." Xena inhaled extra deep, but nothing alarmed her, yet. "I do not wish to repeat the other night."

Gabrielle frowned at the memory of falling from Xena's arms. She clutched the rucksack's strap with her freehand. "How about by yourself?"

The gargoyle had considered it earlier. She looked at Gabrielle. "I will stay with you." Her own words about staying close rang in her ears.

Gabrielle nodded and continued watching her footing through the terrain. She scanned the skies, but she could hardly see anything since the moon was gone. Soon the minutes stretched out longer. Gabrielle was uneasy and unsure what to expect now. After half a candlemark, she noted that their pace had slowed greatly.

Xena came to a slow stop and looked towards the cliff on her right. She balled her hands up and tilted her head.

"What is it?" Gabrielle softly asked.

The gargoyle slotted her eyes and continued listening to the low cries that a human would miss. "They are hunting."

Gabrielle stiffened and wondered what a gargoyle would hunt. "For bards?" she joked. She earned a quick grin.

"Blond bards at that," Xena whispered. She indicated for her partner to follow her. They approached the cliffs, and Xena knelt down by the edge. She smelled the rookery not far below, most likely burrowed into the cliff side. It was a safe place that humans would have a hard time finding and accessing other than by air.

"They can't all be hunting," Gabrielle hypothesized.

"No," Xena agreed. She considered her options as she stood up. She gave a grin.

"What?" the bard asked. She knew that look, whether it was on Xena's human or gargoyle face.

"Let's see if I can get their attention."

"Since there's no doorbell," Gabrielle muttered. She traded the staff between her hands a few times, a nervous habit.

Xena inhaled until her chest was full then she released a roar that carried out into the seas.

Gabrielle flinched and shook her head after it went quiet again. It was the first time that Xena had truly exhibited such a roar. She blinked after the roar stopped ringing in her ears.

The gargoyle back stepped slowly until she was beside Gabrielle again. Her eyes were on the black sky.

Gabrielle put the staff into her right hand. She nearly grasped the gargoyle's arm and thought better of it.

"They are coming," Xena warned. "I see them."

"How many?"

"Three," the gargoyle revealed. "Two females and a male."

Gabrielle swallowed hard and struggled with her knotted stomach.

"Can you see them?"

Gabrielle shook her head. "Not yet."

"They are directly in front of us and descending," Xena explained.

The bard kept the staff close but refused to raise it in case it would upset the gargoyles. After several heartbeats, she finally saw the outline of the creatures coming towards them. She held her breath and stayed rooted.

Xena though stepped forward, taking her position. She opened her wings, in greeting. Her only weapon was the chakram.

The first to land was a male gargoyle, his skin a blood red and horns swept back over his black hair. He carried a sheathed sword at his side. He wore a black cloth with a gold belt and leather bracers. His hand rested on the hilt. Behind him, two females landed on either side.

Gabrielle was fascinated with them, especially by the two females. She suspected the two females were twins. Their features were identical; however, one was silver skinned with deep golden hair and the other had fiery orange skin with indigo hair. Gabrielle cut her attention to the red male gargoyle when he spoke first. As he talked, she realized the female gargoyles were assessing her and the staff.

"Who are you and from what clan?" he bellowed. Then he looked at the female human. "You travel with a human...?" His dark eyes shifted back to the stranger.

"My name is Xena." There was a long pause, but Xena gathered herself and added, "I do not have a clan." She wanted to correct that Gabrielle was her clan, but she knew better.

"I am Garson," the male introduced. He indicated the silver female. "Luna." He then pointed at the orange female. "And Sol."

Xena motioned for Gabrielle to join her. "This is Gabrielle." She ignored crude look from the male gargoyle.

"What do you want?" Garson asked.

"Information," Xena simply replied. She then canted her head. "Who is the leader of this clan?" She sensed it was not Garson.

"How is that your business, outsider?"

"Garson," Luna cut in. She moved around his wing and flashed him a displeased look. She looked at Xena. "Our leader is Garrison."

Gabrielle huffed and realized that Garson meant the "Son of Garrison". She looked from Xena to Garson then back to Luna. She nearly spoke but bit her tongue.

Garson frowned at Luna, but he stopped from intervening Luna.

"What kind of information do you seek?" Luna posed.

Xena was hesitant, but she decided hiding the truth was pointless. "I need help finding out my history."

Like the other gargoyles, Luna was confused and was about to ask why, but Xena read her.

"I only recently started turning into a gargoyle."

Luna's brow had deep ridges, and she looked at Garson for help.

Sol moved around Garson and joined the conversation. "How could you not know?"

Xena clenched her hand, but she silenced her fears. It was of no consequence if the clan rejected her true nature. Yet, it still drove fear into her chest. "I have been human most of my life."

"Then you are not a gargoyle," Garson stated. "Not a true one." He had a disgusted look.

Xena turned her eyes on him, a slightly white glow started on the rims of her eyes. "Is that a challenge?"

Gabrielle's internal alarms were set off, and she jumped in front of Xena. Her left hand was and stretched out towards Garson. "I'm sorry for butting into this." She saw Garson halted so she lowered her hand. She glanced at Xena, who was reining in on her anger.

Sol and Luna were both tense and unsure how to handle the strange situation.

"But we just need some help then we'll be gone," Gabrielle explained, gently. "We're not here to butt heads or anything." She was quiet and noticed the two females were calmer than Garson. "We've traveled a long way from Greece to find a clan."

"Greece?" Luna echoed. She placed her hands on her hips, next to the matching war axes. "That is a long distance. My sister and I were from Rome."

Garson glowered at Luna, opposing her talkative nature.

Sol turned to Garson and gently offered, "I think this requires your father."

Garson looked between the twins then sighed heavily. He stared hard at the outsider and human, not liking their presence so near the rookery. "Very well." He turned to Sol and ordered, "Return to the rookery to let Magnus and Redguard know we are safe." He took a step back and looked at Luna. "Watch them until I return."

Luna dipped her head. She watched the pair head off. She waited until they were gone from earshot. "What is Rome like?"

Gabrielle took the opening, still sensing Xena's frustration. "Rome has changed a great deal."

"They have taken over these lands like a plague." Luna was discouraged by the changes. "We fled Rome after much of our clan was killed by hunters." She folded her arms.

"Do you have problems with hunters here?" Gabrielle was curious.

"We did not use to," Luna explained. "But now we are because Rome condones them." She looked from the human to the black gargoyle. "Garson is Garrison's son. He is suspicious of any gargoyle outside of our clan."

"A little more than suspicious," Xena retorted.

Luna bowed her head in understanding, but she said nothing else. She turned her head sidelong and spotted Garson returning with his father.

Gabrielle spotted them too, and she noticed two new gargoyles. She could only guess how many were in the clan. She shifted on her feet as the four gargoyles came in and landed on their feet. She suspected the one beside Garson was the father, who was magnificent and large. She was reminded of Emerald, and her beautiful green skin.

Garrison led the way and the clan members spread out behind him.

Gabrielle swallowed hard, the intimidation thick in the air. She hid it well though otherwise the gargoyles would sense it.

"I am Garrison, the leader of the clan." Garrison approached Xena, his arm extended.

Xena took the opening and accepted his arm in a strong grip. Garrison stepped directly into her space and held her eyes. His grip increased, and Xena easily matched it.

Gabrielle held her breath at the exchange. She slowly let it out after Garrison released Xena.

"You come from Greece?" Garrison took a step back. He folded his green wings around his muscular body.

"We do."

Gabrielle shifted her hand on the staff and noticed how the clan leader ignored her. She nearly rolled her eyes at the gargoyle's attitude. At least the females tended to be more open-minded.

Garrison reached back for a white male, who was older and moved with a limp. "This is my second... Njord."

Njord slightly inclined his head to Xena. He remained at the leader's side.

"And this beauty is my daughter Rowan."

Rowan was indeed a beautiful crimson red gargoyle with her father's white hair. She had a pronounced ridge that swept over her head like a shield. On her left temple, a dated scar was left behind from an old battle. A great sword's hilt protruded past her head.

"Hello, Xena." Rowan then looked at the small human and bowed her head in silent welcome.

Garrison seemed to notice Gabrielle for the first time after his daughter's acknowledgement. He looked from Gabrielle to Xena. "My son says you seek answers to your past."

"I do." Xena faltered due to Garrison's heavy assessment of her. He was friendlier than Garson, but Xena disliked how he studied every inch of her. "As I explained to your son, I have only recently been turning into a gargoyle at night."

"By day you are human?" Garrison checked.

"I am." Xena folded her arms under her wings, which caused her chakram to become exposed to the clan. She noted Garrison looked at it. "I thought perhaps it was a spell casted upon me by the gods."

"I suspect not." Garrison sighed and explained, "The gods would not wish that upon themselves."

Xena dipped her head in agreement. She hesitated but decided it was worth sharing her experience with Yakut. "I visited a shaman, who took me to the land of the dead. She wished to see if my spirit would remain a gargoyle."

"And did it?"

Xena nodded at the clan leader. "The shaman suspects that my true nature may be a gargoyle."

"Gargoyles turn to stone by day," Garson objected. "It is unnatural for us to be human." Again, he tensed when Xena's white eyes lit up at him. He held back a grin.

Gabrielle furrowed her brow at Garrison's brief concern that he hid as soon as Xena looked at him.

"Does your son speak for you?"

Garrison sighed and gave his son a warning look. He noted Xena calmed down so he explained, "I am afraid we cannot offer you much, Xena."

Again, Gabrielle watched the other gargoyles' faces. She considered Rowan's displeased look. She then peered up at Xena, who was rather annoyed about the encounter.

"Perhaps your answers lie with another clan," Garrison offered.

Xena tilted her head and argued, "Just how many clans even exist now?" She pointed her chin at the gargoyles behind him. "This is a mixed clan." She fixed her stare at the clan leader. "White gargoyles only come from the Norse lands."

Garrison slotted his eyes but refused the bait. His voice picked up thunder in his response. "You seem to be more knowledgeable than you claim." He held Xena's stare for a moment then added, "I wish we could help you, but we cannot offer any new information."

Gabrielle opened her mouth.

"It is alright." Xena touched the bard's shoulder. She enjoyed how the male gargoyles bristled at the contact. Xena squeezed Gabrielle then let go. "We will not waste our time further." She dipped her head to Garrison. "Thank you for your time."

Garrison also bowed forward. He straightened up and amazingly watched Xena pick up the human.

Gabrielle was briefly startled before she settled into Xena's arms. She knew her partner was doing it on purpose for the clan.

Xena turned her back on the clan and walked towards the cliff. Behind her, she heard Rowan argue with her father. However, Xena ignored them and softly instructed, "Hold on tight."

Gabrielle closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against Xena's neck. She felt a brief fall after Xena jumped off the cliff. Then suddenly the winds were against her cheeks. Gabrielle sighed and opened her eyes.

"That went... incredibly well," Gabrielle loudly stated.

A low rumble vibrated in Xena's chest. She gently banked and turned around so they were westbound. "We will return to the village for tonight."

"Then what?"

Xena shook her head, not sure. "We can decide in the morning."

Gabrielle was disheartened that it went poorly, but it could have gone worse too. They had gone so far not to finish empty handed. "What about Emerald?"

Xena's full lips pulled into a frown. "Perhaps."

"It's our best lead... especially since gargoyles don't turn to humans," Gabrielle mocked.

Xena smirked at the bard's joke.

"Those males acted like I was invisible."

"You were, to them."

"Well the females seemed to notice me," Gabrielle debated. "No wonder the species is going extinct."

Xena softly laughed. "Gabrielle," she warned.

The bard grinned anyway. "How long will it take to fly back?"

"Maybe two candlemarks or three if the winds slow us."

Gabrielle leaned her head against her lover's shoulder. "I wish I could sleep." She was weary but not enough to fall asleep in midair. She closed her eyes and listened to the world around her. She heard Xena's breathing occasionally.

Nearly half a candlemark since they took off, Gabrielle felt her partner tense up. She lifted her head and focused on her partner's worried features. "Is somebody following us?" She hit the nail on the head.

"Yes." Xena arched up and banked to her right. It gave her a better view, and she spotted the crimson gargoyle that was tailing them.

"That's Rowan," Gabrielle guessed. She was surprised.

"We are going to land," Xena informed. She had learned her previous lesson with Emerald. She did a full circle in hidden signal to Rowan. She continued in a slow, downward spiral until she touched down on the open lands.

Rowan turned and started on a controlled descent. She landed nearby the other gargoyle and human. "I do not have much time to speak." She hurried towards the pair.

Xena slid Gabrielle out of her arms. She kept her wings behind her back. "Why did you follow us then?"

Rowan slowed in front of them. She took a deep breath then explained, "There are things you must understand that my father would not wish for you to hear."

"Like what?" Gabrielle posed.

Rowan looked at the human. "About Xena's past... about the clan's past." She shifted her attention to Xena again. "But I do not have time now." She placed her hands on her hips. "Tomorrow night I am on patrol with Luna, and we can meet you south of here."

"What time?" Xena posed.

"Two candlemarks after sunset," Rowan promised. She took a step back. "I must return to the hunt." She faltered and smiled at the bard. "What is your name?"

"I'm Gabrielle," the bard introduced.

Rowan nodded. "I will see you both then." She made her way towards a few trees nearby and used them to gain height.

Gabrielle watched the gargoyle leave then she turned to Xena. "Well..."

Xena kept her eyes on the red gargoyle until she was too far. "That was good."

"And a lot of traveling." Gabrielle groaned once she realized they would have to come back to the coast.

"At least you can sleep more tonight than you thought." Xena had a grin, her spirits lifted by Rowan's offer.

Gabrielle chuckled and moved closer to her partner. She softened when Xena drew her in close. "At least I don't have to walk back."

"Yes," Xena's voice rumbled, "You have flight services now." She picked up the bard.

Gabrielle grinned and adjusted the staff down her body.

Xena used the same trees as Rowan and took flight again. On the journey back, she considered Rowan's offer and hoped it would give her a chance to find out more. Whatever Garrison was hiding from her, she needed to know before she could return to Greece.

 

To be continued.