Cecropes Gift – Part 1

Cecropes Gift

by AJ Marks

Part 1

A tall, large, muscular man walked slowly towards the cemetery. He headed towards one grave in particular. It was only a year old and the name that was on the grave was very familiar to him. He stopped in front of it and stood there for a while.

A few people walked by noticing the man and who he was. He was a good friend of many of them. They all knew not to disturb the man while he was in the cemetery. He was saying good bye to a good friend of his. He had been out of the country when his friend had died. The rumors said that he was in Britannia at the time that was why he was not able to help.

“Sorry I wasn’t there when it really mattered Iolaus,” the man said silently even though no one was around who would have heard him. “I promise that I’ll keep an eye on Thedious, if he’s anything like you and I were, I’ll have my hands full again,” he said with a sad smile on his face.

The man turned and began walking towards the small inn that was in the small village. It was owned by Thedious, Iolaus’ son, and Iolaus’ wife, Erin they kept the inn operating. He walked up to the door and walked in.

There were a few patrons inside the inn scattered around the room. There was the local group that always gathered to drink and gamble, usually not trouble makers. There were a couple of strangers at another table who looked to be a good source of trouble. They wore armor and had their weapons with them. He decided that it would be a good idea to keep an eye on them.

Then his eyes fell on a figure in the back of the room. It was a female form and she looked to be like a warrior. He walked over to the bar to not taking his eyes of the figure in the back.

“Hey, Herc,” a blonde man said walking over to where the man stood.

“Thedious,” Hercules said looking over to the man. He was taller than Iolaus was and had green eyes. He reached out and shook the man’s hand before looking back at the woman in the back of the room.

“Ah, I see you’ve found my only source of trouble tonight,” Thedious said noticing where Hercules’ attention was.

“What do you mean,” Hercules replied not really believing that such a small woman could cause any trouble even if she did look like a warrior. But as he looked he could almost notice something familiar in her.

“She’s been drinking since she got here and beat up a couple of my costumers, granted they were out of line,” Thedious said indicating the group of men that Hercules thought would have been the problem.

“She looks familiar somewhere,” Hercules replied.

“Yeah well if half the stories that my dad said about you two were true then she could be anyone,” Thedious replied with a bit of a laugh that caused Hercules to laugh with him.

“Speaking of you dad,” Hercules said with a serious look on his face.

“It was his time Herc,” Thedious said turning serious as well. His father had told him that as well on his deathbed. “He left something for you, hang on for a moment and I’ll get it for you,” he said and walked back to his living area.

Hercules turned back to the figure and decided that while Thedious was gone he would approach the woman. As he approached there were some features that began to stand out. She had reddish hair that came down to her shoulders. She wore a leather top that was a bit revealing and a short battle skirt. That was not what caught his attention as it was the chakrum on her hip and the design was very familiar.

The woman looked up when Hercules approached and he almost fell over at the eyes that looked up at him. They were a haunted green and full of sorrow. He knew who she was.

“Gabrielle,” Hercules asked as the woman stared at him.

“Herc,” she slurred as she glance up at him and he knew that she was drunk. It was something that he had never seen before. He glanced around to see if Xena was around.

“Where Xena,” he asked not expecting the reaction that he was about to get.

Gabrielle had glanced up annoyed when her peace and quiet was disturbed by the man walking up to her. She glanced up and thought in her drunken, sorrow haze spied a figure she knew. It was Hercules standing right in front of her. It was obvious that he had not heard and the weight of everything that had happened that she had kept inside broke forth.

Hercules was not expecting Gabrielle to launch herself into his arms and begin crying, actually sobbing hard. Though muffled sobs he heard her say that Xena was dead. He was a bit stunned by the news. The last he had heard was they were headed to Japa. He wondered what had happened there.

He turned his attention back to Gabrielle and wrapped his arms around the sobbing woman and provided a place for her to cry. If Xena was dead then he would provide what he could to Gabrielle. Picking her up he walked back to where Thedious was.

“I take it you know her,” Thedious said noting that the woman did not seem so intimidating in Hercules’ arms.

“Yeah, and she was a friend of your father,” Hercules said. “What room is she in,” he asked and Thedious replied and he walked up to the room.

By the time he had gotten to Gabrielle’s room she had stopped crying and had fallen asleep. He placed her down on the bed and noticed her for the first time. She was thinner than he realized, and her hair usually was vibrant but it was a dull reddish color now. He carefully took off her weapons and tucked her into bed.

“Hello Hercules, Thedious said that you know her,” a soft voice said from behind him. He turned around to see Erin standing there. She looked just he remembered, except for a few more grey hairs she looked like she had when he and Iolaus had rescued her. He knew that Iolaus had found someone that he would settle down with right then and there.

“Erin,” Hercules said walking over to give the woman a hug. She was a bit taller than Iolaus’ had been and her hair had been blonde like his. She had beautiful green eyes like Gabrielle. He turned back to the small figure on the bed. “She’s an old friend.”

“She looks kinda young to be an old friend,” Erin said with a knowing look. Hercules had been somehow blessed, or cursed, with immortality after his battle with Zeus. It was something he really did not talk about and Erin did not push it. This woman she could tell was a friend by the way Hercules had carried her up to her room. There was tenderness in his movements she had not seen since Hercules had carried Thedious to bed when he was young.

“Her name is Gabrielle,” Hercules replied not seeing any recognition in Erin’s eyes. “Xena’s bard.”

“That’s Xena’s friend,” Erin said in a bit of a shock. She glanced at the woman and wondered about it. “She must be here with the rest to prevent the warlord Hagest from sacking our village.”

“That would explain the number of armored men around, they are hired help,” Hercules asked looking at Erin who nodded her head. He had just arrived back in Greece and headed here when he had heard about Iolous. He did not know about the warlord, but he would definitely help out.

“So where’s her friend,” Erin asked.

“Apparently she died in Japa,” Hercules replied and Erin went quiet. She had heard from Iolous that the two women were close and there were even rumors that they were even lovers, but nothing that was ever proven. Looking at the woman she noticed that the rumors were true, they were close and the death of one would cause pain in the other for the rest of her life.

“They really were soul mates,” Erin said to Hercules who nodded his head. He had known the truth from the last time he had seen them.

“She’ll probably sleep off her drink, and I’ll talk with her in the morning,” Hercules said.

“I’ll put some water with some ginger in it for her in the morning,” Erin said walking out of the room.

Hercules walked back to his room with a lot of questions on his mind. He had a lot, both Xena and who was Hagest. If the warlord was attacking everyone in sight then surely the Roman Legions would be there to prevent him from sacking the villages, unless, he was attacking small villages. The Romans would not care about the smaller villages as long the warlord remained away from the main cities or if he was getting help from the Roman’s.

He would think about it in the morning.


Gabrielle bolted awake from the nightmare she had of Xena’s death and wished she had not. Her head pounded from the quick action she had taken. She had opened her eyes only to close them again quickly as the sunlight pierced right into her eyes.

She groaned as she covered her eyes. It felt like an entire herd of horses were having a non-stop chariot race in her head. She wished she had some water and knew that it would require her to open her eyes. She glanced carefully around and noticed that there was a pouch of water with a note on it. For a split second she thought that Xena had done it, and then realized the truth.

She grabbed the pouch of water and slowly drank it along with herbs she had for hangovers. It would take a few moments for it to begin working and she used it to think about what had happened last night. She remembered beating some men up, probably other mercenaries that she would have to work with today. Then things got fuzzy. She thought she remembered seeing Hercules and crying in his arms then now.

Feeling a bit better and at least able to move around without feeling like throwing up she glanced at the note. It was from Hercules telling her where he would be in the morning. She glanced down and realized that she was still dressed. She spotted her weapons and put them on then went in search of Hercules.

She paused a moment at the door as a feeling came over her; it was one that she wished she could both feel forever and never again. It always reminded her of Xena.

Xena watched from her plane of existence as Gabrielle walked out the door. She knew that the bard could feel her as she could feel her bard. Xena had watched as Gabrielle had begun a downward spiral of self destruction and felt tears come to her eyes as she realized that she was to blame.

Her bard was barely eating and was taking great chances during any fights she came across. Part of her wanted to shake the bard for what she was doing; another part of her realized that she would do the same thing.


Hercules watched as Gabrielle made her way over to where he was sitting. He noticed her posture, and realized that it was one of an already defeated warrior. Without Xena Gabrielle was a shell of her former self and her realized that she was looking to die. He wondered if anything he did or said would make a difference at all.

“How are you feeling this morning,” Hercules asked as she sat down across from him.

“As good as expected,” she replied and they both knew that she was not talking about her hangover.

“You look horrible Gabrielle,” Hercules said honestly wondering what type of reaction he would get from the bard.

Gabrielle just shrugged and did not say anything. She knew that what he said was true, but she just did not care about it.

“If Xena,” he began and was cut off right away.

“She’s dead, gone,” Gabrielle yelled back at him. “She left me, alone,” she said whispering the last word so softly that he almost did not hear it.

Hercules knew that bringing up Xena would not work; there were some issues there that he would not tackle today. “I take it you’re here because of Hagest,” Hercules asked changing the topics.

“Yes, is that why you’re here,” she asked as a thought struck her. “And why are you still looking young?”

“I’ve been in Briton and I’m here because I was told that Iolous was killed last year. And I’m young looking because I’m immortal now,” Hercules said. “In my battle with Zeus I somehow became immortal.”

“Iolous is dead,” Gabrielle said a bit stunned at that news as well. The blonde man had been a good friend to them. She would have thought about it some more but the memories brought back Xena and she was trying hard not to thing about her. It would remind her of the emptiness that she felt in her soul.

“Yes, he tried to fight in a battle, but age had caught up with him,” Hercules said having been told what happened by Erin last night. Iolous’ reflexes were not what they had been and when you lived by your reflexes it was dangerous when they were not there anymore.

“Are you going to help with Hagest,” Gabrielle asked.

“I didn’t know about it at first, but yes I am,” Hercules replied seeing a flash in the green eyes, almost like it was disappointment.

“You’re not going to leave are you Gabrielle,” Hercules asked her. “I could use your help.”

She thought about refusing but knew that she could not. “No, I’ll help Herc,” she replied and was rewarded with a grin.

“Good, you can watch my back,” he said with a grin.

Gabrielle only nodded her head and then made her way to where the warriors were gathering. They would have to begin their preparations for their defense if the village was to survive.

“Sounds like she still has some issues Herc,” Erin said having watched the scene from across the room she was sure that she was going to have to rescue Hercules from a small blonde.

“It seems like they were closer than even I thought,” Hercules said thinking about it. He was sure that Gabrielle was going to attack him and if she had he was not sure what he would have done.

Hercules decided that he should get over to where the rest of the group was before someone said something to Gabrielle that would set off her temper. He was not sure that he wanted to try to contain the young woman.

Hercules was glad that Gabrielle had just sat down and no one was giving her a hard time. He noticed a coupe of the men who had been in the inn last night. They were sitting as far away as possible from Gabrielle and not looking at her at all.

Hercules figured that it was the brightest thing that they had probably done in a long time. He was about get everyone’s attention when a large man stepped up into the center before he did. His skin was dark and he had black hair. He glanced at Gabrielle for a second almost in recognition before he began to talk.

“I would like your attention please,” the man said and Hercules watched as a spark of recognition flared in Gabrielle’s eyes. The man waited for the talking to die down before continuing. “My name is Cecropes.”

Hercules was shocked for a second at the name. He had heard of the man, but it was only because of his legend and Hercules suddenly realized that the man was immortal just like he was.

“I wish to thank you all for coming to help out. There is more at stake than just this village and not many of you realize that,” Cecropes said. “Hagest is running around destroying villages, killing everyone around and so far the Romans are slow to respond from Athens. I don’t know what their plan is yet, but I’m working on it.”

Hercules listened as realized that the man was right. Rome was slow, but usually not this slow in responding to threats to their realm.

Gabrielle stared in shock at the realization that Cecropes was here. He had not aged one bit and realized that his immortality had not been affected with the lift of the curse. Of course thinking about that time also made her think about the fact that Xena had leapt onto his ship knowing who it was just because she was on it. A sad smile came to her lips at the thought. She realized that she could still feel Xena’s presence.

Xena had watched from as far away as possible and still listen to what was going on. She was a bit surprised to learn that Cecropes was there. The man looked good. He had kept himself in shape and he knew that he recognized Gabrielle. The description of what they were up against did not set well with Xena. There was obviously some sort of political situation in Rome that was going on. She decided that she would find out what it was. She could travel great distances quickly on this plane of existence.

Xena took off for Hagest first to see if the man knew anything at all then she would go from there. With one last look at Gabrielle she took off for Hagest’s camp.

“Does anyone have any strategies in village defense, because to be honest I’m more of a sailor when it comes to strategy,” Cecropes said looking around hoping that someone had some ideas.

“I think Gabrielle and I can,” Hercules said walking up to Cecropes. “I’m Hercules,” he said offering his hand to Cecropes.

“Good, I have most of the information as I was scouting their camp last night,” Cecropes said. “We can use the inn to make our plans.”

“Sounds good, Gabrielle, why don’t you go with Cecropes and get his information while I get the men here organized and work begun on the defenses,” Hercules said looking at Gabrielle.

Gabrielle walked away towards the inn waiting for Cecropes to catch up with her.

“Don’t ask her about Xena,” Hercules said to the man who looked at him a bit funny. “Xena died and she isn’t taking it very well.”

Cecropes nodded his head. He had heard all the rumors and stories about what they had done. Having known the woman and been in one of the stories he knew that they cared for each other deeply. He knew that only someone who cared for someone else more than a friend would knowingly jump on his cursed ship. At the time he did not know what he would do with a seasick girl, and a warrior woman. It turned out to be one of the best things of his life.

Cecropes headed inside the inn and found Gabrielle there holding Xena’s chakrum in her hands. He could see the sadness in her eyes. It was something that he realized his echoed whenever he thought about his love. He knew the pain that she was in. She had been such a gentle soul full of life, but it seemed that without Xena she was empty.

“It’s good to see you Gabrielle, I see that the rumor of your having been asleep for about twenty years was true,” Cecropes said sitting down across from her.

“We didn’t break your entire curse did we,” Gabrielle said looking right at Cecropes.

“No, it seems like I’m still immortal, and parted from my love forever. I guess I’ve gotten used to it now,” Cecropes replied.

“So what are we up against,” Gabrielle said changing the subject before he could ask about Xena.

“There are about two hundred men in his army, the odds are not good, but with you, Hercules and myself we stand a good chance of defeating them. They are very confident in their victory that they are not going to attack until they feel rested. It might give us the chance we need,” Cecropes said watching Gabrielle’s face.

Gabrielle thought about what Cecropes had just said. She was not afraid of her own death, but if she could prevent others from dying then it would be worth it. She could place herself in the greatest point of danger.

“Well I’ve got them erecting some defenses around the perimeter of the village, now how many are we up against,” Hercules asked.

“About two hundred,” Gabrielle replied thinking of a plan.

“We only have about forty fighters, and about another twenty men who could fight, we will still be out numbered in this battle. He had no doubt that he could take on quite a few, along with Cecropes, but too many would die in the battle for it to be considered a victory.

“Cecropes said that they are not in a hurry to attack the village, we could use that time to attack him with a small group and maybe decrease his forces before they attacked,” Gabrielle said already knowing that she would volunteer for it.

Hercules thought about that and he was not sure he liked that plan. He glanced at Cecropes before speaking. “That might just make them made and make them attack.”

“Then we plant traps for them to run in to and lure him into attacking on our terms,” Gabrielle said.

“That might work,” Cecropes said.

“It’s still risky, we will wait and see what type of defenses we can build,” Hercules said making a decision. “Gabrielle, I will think about your idea seriously, but first I was to make sure that the village can withstand an attack.”

Gabrielle nodded her head and allowed Hercules to take charge. She was glad for that, in the past couple of months she had been the one people had looked to for wisdom and leadership, something she had never liked, even with the Amazons she had relied on Xena in her decision making or other ideas.

Gabrielle excused herself and went out to help the people put up the defenses for the village leaving the two men in the inn.

“She looks lost and alone yet determined at the same time,” Cecropes stated to Hercules.

“Yes, I don’t think she means to survive this battle,” Hercules said with a heavy heart.

“I think your right, and I feel like we can’t do anything about it,” Cecropes replied. It would be a sad day when Gabrielle died; a light would be extinguished in the world.


Xena stood waiting for Hagest to enter his command tent. She had been listening to the man ramble on and on with his troops about mindless rabble. She wondered how the man had even made it as commander of the army. It was poorly trained and undisciplined.

The man finally walked in with his second in command and another man. Xena’s eyes narrowed at the sight of the man. He was a Roman that was for sure.

“Good work Hagest, my Lord will be pleased,” the man said.

“Anything for a future emperor,” Hagest said to the man.

“Xicius will be pleased to hear the report that I’m sending him. The current Emperor has had problems and some of the other senator’s don’t like him. This will make some of the military commanders come to our side then we can strike and take over,” the man told Hagest.

“Then I will be governor of Greece,” Hagest said with a smile.

“Yes, you will,” the man said with a smile and Xena knew that he meant no such thing.

Xena went to see what the Athens’s garrison was doing about the warlord. It was not hard to find the commander of the legions. He was walking around ranting to his second in command.

“The fools in Rome are allowing a madman to run amuck in the country while we sit here and do nothing. What are the fools thinking,” the man said. His latest message sounded the same as the others. They were not to leave Athens as it was too valuable to lose because he was out chasing down a band of misfits.

“Sir, he could be trying to lure us away from Athens,” the second in command said.

“No, it’s a political war being waged in Rome, and it will cost us lives here,” the commander said. “I have a feeling that our orders are being intercepted and changed Tildis.”

“By who,” Tildis said not liking this news. He was simple soldier and only wanted to do his job, without politics.

“I’ve heard from others in Rome that a power play is in effect between the Emperor and a senator,” the commander said.

“So we wait until they finish their power play and in the meantime we are considered weak among the population,” Tildis said shaking his head at the thought.

“Whoever said that you don’t know anything about politics lied Tildis,” the commander said. “Have the man of the second division ready for deployment, I’m sending you on a training march.”

“Understand sir,” Tildis said with a smile and left the room.

Xena had listened to everything and now it made sense to her. The senator was gathering support and if he could make it seem like the current emperor was weak by having roaming warlords across the countryside then he could gather support from the military. Once he had that he could overthrow the current emperor with little problems, the population of Rome often did not care about who was emperor as long as their lifestyles stayed the same.


Gabrielle and Hercules were waiting in the inn for Cecropes to return from his scouting mission. They had most of the defenses up and ready, but they would need the morning to finish. Most of the men were tired and with Hagest not in any hurry to attack they made sure that the men got a good night sleep.

Cecropes came walking into the room. He wondered how the news would be taken as he sat down across form Hercules.

“They plan to attack in the morning. It seems that they have pressure form an outside source to step up their plans,” Cecropes said.

“The defenses are not ready, and if we wake the men then they’ll be tired by the time the battle starts,” Hercules said not liking any of the choices he had. “Wake the men early in the morning to work on the defenses and post guards for warning. Let’s get a bit of shuteye, even we need our sleep.”

Gabrielle walked up to her room. She had heard the situation and knew what would happen. They needed time to complete the defenses. Time it seemed like they were running out of quickly. She sat there for a few more minutes before putting the chakrum back on her hip; grabbing her sais and staff she knew what she would do. She had her own plan.


Hercules woke up the next morning before the sun came up. He woke up several others and began telling them what was going on. He saw that Cecropes was already working on the fortifications of the village.

Several of the men groaned at the early wake up time but after Hercules quick explanation they went right to work. Hercules looked around and realized that he did not see Gabrielle.

“Cecropes, have you seen Gabrielle,” he asked the man as he strained to lift a log as Hercules came over to help.

“I thought she was with you,” Cecropes replied as together they placed the log on the top of the embankment.

Hercules then realized that Gabrielle had been missing the entire time. He quickly asked around to see if anyone had seen her.

“Yeah, I saw her last night. She was walking towards the forest that way,” one of the men said.

Hercules shook his head; she had headed towards Hagest camp. She was going to slow down the warlord’s army herself to allow them to build up the defenses.

“I think she was leaving, but going the wrong way,” the man said voicing his own conclusions.

“She didn’t leave, at least not the way you think. She went to slow Hagest’s forces down,” Hercules said.

Xena had appeared in the center of the village and was looking around for Gabrielle when she had overheard Hercules’ conversation with the man. With a bit of a curse on her lips Xena closed her eyes and concentrated on her bard. Feeling the bard she took off in the direction she had to go.


Hagest had arranged his men and were beginning to march on the village when a young woman rushed into the camp. There was a high pitched noise as several torches from the night were cut and landed on tents and other supplies causing several fires.

The men panicked and raced to put the fires out before their own supplies were burned to the ground. Others took off towards where the woman had run to.

“Kill her,” Hagest yelled as he raced to put out the small grass fire that threatened his command tent. The woman would pay for this he pledged.

Gabrielle ran through the forest away from the village towards where her traps had been set. She had worked all night to set them up, now all she had to do was avoid them. She ran past one and using her sai cut a rope.

Several men behind her screamed as a log swung down on a rope from two trees knocking several out. She could hear the curses from the men as they continued chasing her.

A few more traps were spring and triggered another one with her other sai. She approached her last trap and used the chakrum to trigger it. Finally she reached a clearing that she had her staff at. Running to a stop she picked up her staff and made ready for her last stand.

Several armed men came into the clearing and noticed that their quarry had stopped. They were weary because of the traps she had sprung earlier on them and they wondered if this was also a trap.

Two men came up on either side of her hoping to out flank her. They were not counting on the woman’s quickness of her staff as it flew around her and quickly knocked the two men out. The men then began to cautiously approach her and the battle was on. The men quickly realized that aside from her quickness the woman also had a lot of skill, but they had numbers on their side.

Hagest arrived at the scene and noticed several of his men scattered around the clearing knocked out. He had also seen the evidence of several others knocked out of commission by traps that this woman had obviously planned. His anger began to rise in. He grabbed a bow from one of his men and pulled an arrow. He carefully aimed and released it.

Gabrielle had been fighting for a while now. There were several men on the ground, and the sun was now rising higher in the sky. She had been cut a few times, one on her leg, another on her arm but she just did not care. She was facing off against a large man and his had some strength. She was already weary from fighting and he was using a staff against her as well. Her defenses were beginning to crumble against him and she still had to contend with others.

She twirled her staff against a flurry of attacks by the big man when it hit her. The arrow hit her on the right side of the chest above her breast. Time seemed to slow down and surprisingly she felt little pain unlike the last time she had been hit with an arrow.

The man attacking her stopped as they watched to see what she would do. Gabrielle gritted her teeth and brought her staff up again and tried to attack the man in front of her.

The man was a bit in shock. The woman in front of him had taken an arrow and was still fighting. Her attacks were nothing compared to what they had been. He was strong but she had withstood them all. She was someone she would not have wanted to run across when she was fresh. He sent a quick strike knocking the staff out of her hands and another one across her temple.

Gabrielle felt the staff go out of her hand then a hit to her head sent her down. She fought through the fog to remain awake as long as possible, she had to give Hercules and Cecropes and the rest of them as much time as she could.

Hagest watched as the woman fell then ordered her killed. The large man pulled out his sword and with a salute to the woman brought it down to cut off her head.

Xena arrived in time to see Gabrielle knocked down by the large man. She heard the order for her to be killed and saw the man start to bring down his sword.

Everyone in the clearing suddenly went quiet. No one had seen the woman run into the clearing, but she had stopped the stroke.

Gabrielle had watched the sword come down and knew that she would finally be reunited with Xena. Of course Xena would probably be upset with her, but she would listen to it all as long as she could hear her. The blade stopped short of its target and she almost sighed in frustration. Glancing at who stopped the stroke she expected to see Hercules, or Cecropes or even Hagest, but not the figure she saw. Before she passed out she saw blue eyes surrounded by long black hair.

Xena stood there holding another sword blocking the slice that would have beheaded her beloved bard. Anger poured through her at the thought of what they were going to do. The dark energy that she had always been able to produce rolled off her in waves.

Without waiting for an introduction she attacked. She slicked through the man’s defenses like she was not there. Ice blue eyes scanned the battlefield. She did not think about what had just happened, she had to get Gabrielle to safety, and that meant the village.

Hagest seeing that another woman had appeared fired another arrow at her. To his and everyone’s amazement while fighting another man she causally reached behind her and caught the arrow. Hagest’s jaw dropped at the sight.

Using the shock Xena reached down and picked up Gabrielle trying to be careful of her wounds and ran out of the clearing. The shocked soldiers quickly regained their senses.

“Wait, she headed to the village, head back to camp we attack the village in force,” Hagest said.

End part 1

Continued in part 2

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