The ship rocked gently while Gabrielle puked violently. She had hoped at this point in her well-traveled life that her constant battles with seasickness would be a thing of the past, like her blood innocence or her village-girl clothing and attitude; but unfortunately for her, her stomach’s intolerance for the motion of boat seemed to be the only thing resistant to change in Gabrielle’s life.
Eve came up and gently rubbed Gabrielle’s back while she slowly straightened herself from the edge of the ship.
“You know, you’re mother knew some of those pinch things to get rid of seasickness,” Gabrielle told her. “She wouldn’t have happened to pass that information along to you, would she?”
Eve chuckled, “Do you really think she would have told me something like that and not you?”
“She taught the pinch to another girl before she taught me,”
“She loved you more than anyone,” Eve smiled reassuringly “You know that.”
Gabrielle nodded bitterly, knowing Eve was right, but still being pissed about the whole thing all the same.
“Do you think the Amazons will have a problem with me accompanying you?”
“Eve, if you’re not comfortable going with me into camp, you don’t have-”
“No, no,” Eve interrupted. “I want to be with you through this. I’m just worried my presence might be distracting to some people.”
“I’m sure they’ll get over it,” Gabrielle said, as she sat down and hoped she wouldn’t have the urge to throw up for at least another 10 minutes.
“I suppose it’s better to confront your past head-on anyway,” Eve sat next to Gabrielle coolly. “I may not be able to make up for what I did, but I’ll do what I can to help those I harmed.”
“That’s what your mother always thought,” Gabrielle said, then got up to lean over the ship again, sarcastically yelling as she did, “And look where that got her!”
Eve smiled, while rolling her eyes and averting her attention from the sounds of Gabrielle’s breakfast hitting the water.
The next day, Eve and Gabrielle had arrived. The walk from the shore to the Amazon’s camp provided enough time for Eve to hear all about how Gabrielle sometimes missed her staff because it made such a good walking stick, and for Gabrielle to learn horrific details about how Eve once hollowed out a man’s skull and planted marigolds in it.
“You should probably not tell that story when we reach camp,” Gabrielle advised. Eve nodded and laughed.
“It was really cool-looking though,” she said in all sincerity. “I’d like to one day make some more and have a collection in my home.” Then seeing the look of horror and alarm on Gabrielle’s face, hurriedly explained, “Only with things that died of natural causes, of course.”
“That’s still a little morbid, Eve”
“Well death isn’t always an ugly thing. When it happens at the right time, it can bring beauty, and new beginnings,” she said, like she was about to go into another spiel about Eli’s teachings and how his death helped bring peace to the world, but instead just added, “Plus if it’s already dead, you might as well get some use out of it.” This was a belief Eve held when she was better known as Livia, Bitch of Rome, too. Killing something was only half the fun of her job. She also liked the after-play.
Gabrielle shook her head and laughed quietly at that last comment. Eve’s nonchalant attitude with her past used to make Gabrielle uncomfortable, and her sometimes-dark sense of humor was a reminder of how nasty and cruel she used to be. But after spending more time with Eve and getting to know how her brain worked, she understood now how Eve saw denying who she used to be cowardice and insincere to who she is now, and she began to find her jokes charming. Also, Eve’s company was hugely comforting in the absence of Xena. No doubt Xena would have been amused by the skull-pot story.
When they finally reached camp, both women were overwhelmed with unsureness. The last time either had left the Amazons, it wasn’t in the most ideal circumstances. Gabrielle had led a team of united tribes in the war at Helicon, and though she was technically victorious, the tribe had been left almost demolished. She had left Varia back in control in her absence, something she worried about often. Varia was fickle, naïve, and sometimes too zealous for her own good; Gabrielle and Eve had both almost been killed by her at some point. Xena too.
And Eve, though she’d been pardoned for her crimes, committed so many atrocities against the Amazon nation that she wasn’t sure she would be welcomed back with open arms, or at all. Like Gabrielle, she worried about seeing Varia in particular, but for different reasons.
Much to Gabrielle’s satisfaction, the camp looked undoubtedly in better shape than the last time she’d been within borders. She recognized old, familiar faces, many of which she had fought with side by side on numerous occasions; and she saw a significant amount of faces she had never encountered before. More than half of the women around camp now were completely unfamiliar to her, and many of which were staring right at her, pointing, and talking to their fellow sisters in awe. As Gabrielle was met with warmth and respect from her fellow Amazon sisters, Eve sank into herself, not wanting to draw the attention of those that might show offense to her presence. Many seemed not to notice her at all and flocked to Gabrielle, the famous Amazon Queen.
When queens, Cyane and Kanae, approached to greet the two, Gabrielle became eager to reclaim her roll as a respected Amazon queen.
“Cyane, Kanae, it’s great to see you,” she began. “I see you all have been busy. Where did all of these women come from?”
“It’s all thanks to you, really,” Cyane smiled. “We’re recruiting more women everyday, and they all say they want to be an Amazon because of your stories. They want to be warriors, like you and Xena.”
This filled Gabrielle with a joy she wasn’t expecting. After Xena’s death, Gabrielle began selling her scrolls of their adventures to various academies, hoping her writing could help other women find their strength the way Xena helped her find hers. It was her final act of love to the Warrior Princess.
“Many of these women say that Xena is their hero,” Kanae added.
Eve loved hearing people talk about her mother this way. Xena was her hero, too, and she remembered how it felt when she first read Gabrielle’s scrolls: she was inspired by Xena’s ability to move on from her dark past, and proud that she could call herself the daughter of such an amazing woman.
“Well I have some bad news for them,” Gabrielle said, so nonchalantly it even made Eve flinch. “Their hero is dead.”
Cyane’s smile faded as everyone that had been in earshot stopped what they were doing to process the information they had just heard. The scroll in which Gabrielle wrote the pair’s last adventure was never sold, nor read by anyone but Gabrielle. She didn’t want news getting around that Xena was dead until she or Eve could inform all those close to Xena in person, and the thought of their enemies celebrating her passing was too much for Gabrielle. Also, she wanted one scroll for herself.
Gabrielle and Eve stood there as various sisters recited their sympathetic “I’m so sorry”s, and told anecdotes about their time with Xena, even if some of it was just a simple “She lent me her sharpening stone once.”
Eve broke off from the Amazons after a few minutes to go for a walk on her own. Gabrielle stayed in the camp, talking to other high-rank sisters about new defense strategies, plans to unite more tribes, training for new recruits, and Varia’s functionality as Queen, which much to Gabrielle’s relief was adequate according to consensus, though Varia’s presence seemed to be increasingly scarce as she spent more time than ever secluding herself. After a while of talking about the more serious issues with older amazons, Gabrielle somehow got into a conversation with the younger sisters, confirming and denying various stories they’d heard about Xena and their adventures. Most stories the women had heard were true, with the exception of one tale about Xena marrying Ares, which was ridiculous and made no sense. Gabrielle didn’t even know how this rumor had started, since she herself did not write that in any scroll.
While Gabrielle conversed with her fellow sisters, Eve wandered around a little ways outside the camp, mostly climbing trees and looking for spiders to play with. She eventually settled by a pond onto a rock and did the one thing that always calmed her down, meditation and prayer. Eventually though, her prayer was interrupted by a gang of Amazons, as they ran, stripped, and jumped into the water, cheering in joy, then complaining in horror as they realized how cold the water was. Eve laughed and was joined on her flat rock by Varia, who’s beautiful eyes Eve couldn’t look into without being reminded of how much pain she’s caused in her life.
Varia’s long, dark hair and strong, tall body reminded Eve slightly of her mother. Both women stood with the stature of a warrior and looked as though they could kill you with their hands tied. Eve considered for a second that Varia looked more like Xena’s daughter than she did, at least in her physical strength and fierceness that Eve gave up on a long time ago. Even Varia’s outfit, though much smaller and Amazonian, was more reminiscent of Xena’s leather and armor than Eve’s loose, light green trousers that would never do anything but tear in a fight.
“I heard you were around here somewhere,” Varia said, smiling to Eve’s relief. It reminded her of when the two had first met, before her past identity as Livia was revealed and they had bonded over their scars and ferocity in battle. “Longtime-no-see.” Despite Varia’s current warmth toward her, Eve was still distressed over the guilt she felt about who she used to be, and how it hurt a strong woman like Varia.
“I didn’t think I was really a person you wanted to see,” Eve explained.
Varia shrugged, “I mean, if we both made a list of things we feel ashamed for-”
Eve raised her eyebrows and looked directly at Varia.
“-Ok I guess your list would be longer than mine,” Varia laughed. “But still, I tried to kill you, your mother, and your mother’s partner. We both have stuff to feel sorry over.”
“I guess so.”
“So, I take it you’re not here to see you old pal, Varia,” She said jokingly, and Eve smiled, thankful to be greeted by the Varia she had first met that liked to tease, and not the Varia she had gotten to know that was full of vengeful (Yet justifiable) spite. “Why did you come? Last I heard you were in Chin, doing the pious thing. Spreading love and truth and all that.”
“I was there for a while,” Eve said. “Me and other believers spread Eli’s message and found new followers. It was a good experience, but I don’t really like staying in one place for long. I spent most of my time in Rome growing up, and traveling with those two made me realize the world’s too big for that. So when Gabrielle found me and told me of my mother’s death, I decided to join her in her journey back to the Amazon camp.”
“So, I take it you don’t plan on settling here then?”
“Don’t worry,” Eve laughed. “I’m no Amazon, I know I have no right to stay here. I’ll just be here to help Gabrielle settle in, then I’m off.”
“Where will you go?”
“I’ll be heading to Greece,” She explained. “Gabrielle doesn’t want anyone learning of Mother’s death through gossip, so I’m going to find the people that cared about her to tell them in person.” Though Eve really only knew of one group of people to tell and that was Virgil’s family, whom, like Varia and her Amazon sisters, she had also wronged deeply. But also like Varia, Virgil had forgiven her, and his compassion often inspired Eve on days she felt like she wasn’t worth any.
“And after that?”
“I don’t know,” Eve shrugged. “But there’s always somewhere new to discover. I’ll probably gather some Elijians and spread Eli’s message as far out as I can.”
“So I couldn’t convince you to stick around for a while?” Varia asked to Eve’s tremendous surprise.
“You want me to stay?”
“Well sure,” Varia said, Eve still in complete disbelief. She explained, “I’ve seen you fight. You’d be an amazing asset to us. We’re recruiting, you know.”
“I don’t fight,” Eve declared, sure she’d had this conversation with Varia before. “You know that.”
“But you could train our sisters,” Varia remembered how Eve had taught her moves when they first met. This was the incident that outed her as Livia and made them enemies, but she could still remember being in awe of Eve at first, hoping she could spend more time with her and learn the things she knew. “You were a pretty good teacher, if I remember correctly.”
Eve remembered that event too, and shuddered at what a huge mistake it had been to teach Varia moves she had used when she was a savage monster.
“Look, we’re rebuilding the Amazon nation,” Varia went on. “You want forgiveness for what you did to us, so start here. These sisters are looking for their inner warrior, help them find it.” Eve glanced at the Amazons bathing in the pond in front of them. Many of them were so young, practically just out of puberty. She knew they most likely lacked the proper training to keep them alive in any battle the Amazons entered. But still, she left violence behind her; she didn’t feel like she could condone these young women participating in it.
“What about inner peace?” Eve asked. “Are your sisters looking for that?”
“Well you can help us there, too” Varia said excitedly, suddenly with a new angle for convincing Eve to stay. “You’ll teach them basic self-defense just, you know, so they don’t die if we get attacked. And then you can teach them all your peace and love and ‘One God’ stuff.”
“That won’t get in the way of the Amazon’s spiritual beliefs?” Eve inquired, knowing the Amazons’ worship of the goddess, Artemis.
“Your mom killed our one god, remember,” Varia taunted. “And it almost got our entire tribe annihilated. And I think I remember she did that for you, so there. Another reason why you owe us.”
Eve laughed, then told Varia she would think about it, though she had really already made up her mind.