The Broken Blade: A Tale of Camelot
This is a story based on characters from RedHawk's ONLY ONE and OKTOBERFEST, I highly recommend you read those first - if for no other reason that they are a rollicking good read. Others stories can be found at Katrina's, in the Infinity Altaverse.
Violence is a given. Hey, Xena's Immortal and she takes heads to stay that way, and well Camelot wasn't exactly a pacifist's dream either. On the other hand Rickie doesn't so much as cut herself shaving in this one.
Thanks to Redhawk for letting me play with Rickie and Xena - your support is awesome, and as always to Catran, Ara and my very own Goddess of Punctuation Danan. Silver Chakrums for you all.
And last but certainly not least - especially in the eyes of Renaissance and the folks at Universal (oh and who makes Highlander?) I don't own any of these characters.
Email and Constructive Criticism too:Llachlan
"What ya reading?"
Rickie looked up from her book as Xena draped herself across the arm of the sofa, her torso resting on the high leather back. She held it up. "The Once and Future King." Now what was that look about? Rickie had, quite on her own, become adept at reading the nuances of her lover's facial expressions, but having Gabrielle's memories to fall back on was a definite bonus.
The look of studied indifference, and the tensing of the jaw muscle just below Xena's left ear screamed "story". Given that the warrior had had three thousand years to wander the earth, Rickie wasn't surprised to think that if Arthur had lived... had really wielded Excaliber, then her partner might have known him.
The question was how to get Xena to talk about it? Playing a hunch, Rickie smiled absently and spoke as off handedly as she could. "It's interesting but I bet it doesn't touch what really happened. It must have been something to see. Like in Troy, a kingdom destroyed for the love of a woman." Rickie mentally crossed her fingers.
Reminded of Troy and Helen, the warrior replied without thinking. "It wasn't the love of a woman that destroyed Artos, it was the death of one."
It didn't hurt. Looking down at the blood soaked surcoat, it seemed impossible that a wound leaking that much blood wouldn't hurt. But it didn't. The wound did however make it impossible to lift the great sword... lying useless in the nearby dirt.
The sounds of the still raging battle echoed weirdly through the fog, as the ringing of clashing swords and the screams of the dying bounced off trees and was projected in strange paths, making it impossible to discern the direction the noises were coming from.
Leaves rustled to the left. One last opponent.
So much left undone... so much gone wrong. The figure stepping from the shadows symbolized and made manifest the evidence of failure.
Almost as if in recognition of the import of this last meeting, the fog in the clearing parted, then deepened at the edges, ring-like around them.
It was inevitable really, that it had all come down to this. Choice after choice cut off the pathways once open, until there were no longer any choices left, just reaction and survival. No longer any room for apology or compromise... no quarter asked and none given.
Xena shook her head... clearing the images. Rickie's eyes were blazing with curiosity and the younger woman reached out a gentle hand and laid it across hers. "Hey, you okay." She asked softly.
"Fine. C'mon." Kissing the top of her lover's head, Xena unfolded her lanky frame from its perch and strode across the room, heading for the bedroom stairs. An intrigued Rickie trailed behind.
Opening a section of wall panel next to the fire place, revealing another smaller room, the Immortal laid an intricately carved wooden case on the desk, negligently sweeping papers and books aside as she did so. Fairly bursting with questions, Rickie bit the inside of her cheek... afraid that if she disturbed Xena, the Immortal would retreat.
Trailing a callused finger along the smooth slightly oiled surface, Xena traced the swirls and curves of the pattern until reaching the hinge, she unhooked the clasp and raised the lid, exposing the contents.
Rickie's knees nearly buckled.
"We will know who is he because he will be able to pull the blade from the stone." Goewin said gesturing at a shiny hilt embedded in stone.
"Nice Blade." Xena cursorily inspected the length of steel she had effortlessly drawn from the stone and just as casually replaced it, seemingly oblivious to the reaction she provoked in the knights.
She had smiled in spite of the gravity of the situation, then turned her attention back to... the baby.
"Whoa, you okay?" Concern had replaced the wary introspection in Xena's eyes.
"Yeah, fine, just something of Gabrielle's, I guess." Xena's face immediately became impassive, alerting Rickie to another minefield of memory. One memory at a time, Ok? Rickie decided to file the fragment of memory away for later, and smiled reassuringly into the pale blue eyes of her lover. Gesturing at the sword swaddled in velvet, "Is that...?"
"Caliburn, called Excaliber, yes."
Fierce excitement blazed from Rickie's widened eyes, "You were there."
To anyone else, the words would have sounded flat, as though the speaker had no personal connection or interest in the subject matter... to Rickie they were a cry of sorrow and guilt. So much guilt my love, when will you let your burden fall? Reaching for Xena's hand, she stood on her tiptoes and placed a gentle kiss on the warrior's soft, full lips, showing her love in a language that Xena could feel. Breaking the kiss, she leaned against the strong, comforting bulk for a moment before looking up into eyes that never failed to amaze her with their depth. "Tell me?"
The gentle request from the woman in her arms cut through her reluctance to revisit the past. Rickie had yet to shy away fromany of the cold, dark patches of her life, and she had finally, after all they had been through lately, come to believe that nothing she could tell her lover would drive her away. Nothing from my past anyway. What did seeing that sword make you remember? Do I want to bring that pain and anguish back? It's enough that one of us remembers.
Continuing to cradle the younger woman, Xena ordered her thoughts... discovering she needed to tell Rickie... needed to share the bits and pieces of her long life with the one person who would and could understand. Kissing Rickie deeply, she immersed herself in their love, drawing strength from the gentle bard who was her heart. "Yes."
The passion, which always simmered near the surface of their relationship, flared when Xena again captured Rickie's mouth with her own. Tendrils of fire snaked along the length of her torso, burning brightest along the stretches where their bodies touched. Insistent hands began crawling up her sides, tangling in her hair and pulling her closer. "In a little while, okay?" whispered the soft tenor voice, sending shivers along her neck as warm breath tickled the sensitive skin of her neck.
Effortless picking up the compact body, she moved them to the long bench against the far wall. "Later it is then." Her mind focused solely on the here and now, on Rickie.
The fire burned brightly through the grill, reflected onto their faces and bathed the room in a warm glow. Adding another log Xena banked the fire. Balancing on her haunches, she watched the flames dance around, licking at the logs like a lover. She smiled, thinking of her own lover, Do you know how much I love you? How much I enjoy just being with you? She made a mental note to tell the younger woman more often.
Soft feet padded across the floor and a large blanket was thrown at her feet. Rickie was balancing two steaming mugs of cocoa in one hand and had a pillow pinned under the other arm. "Let me." Rising and rescuing the pillow and her mug, taking a sip. "Umm, that's good. Thanks."
"No problem." The red head flomped down on top of the blanket and wrapped one end over her feet. "Okay, already for my bedtime story."
Xena laughed, joined her on the floor, and nestled the smaller body against one shoulder. "You've already been to bed today."
"Umm, I know." She kissed Xena, playing her tongue around the warrior's lips and mouth, sending fresh tingles along her spine. "Its one of my favorite places, and stories are my favorite things, so it works for me. Best of both worlds."
"At your service, my Queen." Xena had called Rickie the Queen of her heart one day and it had sparked more dreams which had in turn caused the teenager to remember her long ago title, and the warrior had fallen back into using the age old endearment.
"I like the sound of that." Rickie wagged her brows suggestively.
"If you keep that up, we're never going to get to the story part of bed-time."
"I fail to see how that would be a problem." She kissed the Immortal again before lowering the intensity of the kiss until it spoke more of love and shared lives that of hot passion, and then leaned back and wrapped them tighter into the covers. "Your audience awaits."
A brief moment of fear touched Xena, and she hesitated. "This isn't a fairytale or a romance, Rickie, and it doesn't end happily ever after. Are you sure you want to hear this?"
"Are you kidding? Besides, I bet its not half as gory as Blade was; and since it obviously ends with you sitting here next to me, it has all the happy ending I need."
"I love you, you know."
"I know. I love you too."
Xena stared into the flames once again, allowing the millennia to roll back, and the memories of a dream larger than the borders of an island in the Atlantic to wash over her. In rich deep tones she began to tell the story of Camelot; they way she remembered it - the way she had lived it - and the way others had paid the price and died for it.
It didn't start with a sword, it started with a small child, a baby who was left defenseless on the shores of a lake. She had found him bobbing there, his basket caught in the reeds, tiny fists pumping futilely in the air. "Now what am I supposed to do with you hmm? I can't take you with me." Never a bard when you need one, you enjoying this love?
Xena gathered the child into her arms, dislodging a small brooch that had been tucked between the swaddling and the reeds. A silver dragon chased its own tail, small ruby eyes narrowed in mock fierceness. Uther. So you've gotten yourself another bastard son. Looks like this ones mother wants to see him live. To the child she softly whispered, "alright then, lets see what we can do about keeping you alive."
The sun was dipping below the horizon before she arrived at the Island. Not stopping to acknowledge the greetings thrown her way, Xena hurried to the LadyHall, concealing her charge from view.
Flinging wide the doors, she entered the Hall. "Where's Lady Nimue?"
"They're all at evening meal, Lady."
"Let her know I've arrived and that I'll await her my chambers." Turning away from the guard and crossing to the wide stairs leading to the east wing. She stopped, "Have a tray sent up to my room, and some goat's milk."
Long hours later, they sat around the table in the meeting hall. Stifling a growing frustration she forced herself to remain still.
"What matter is it to us if this is Uther's bastard or some other's?" Meredydd bore no love for the King, having herself borne him a bastard daughter, nearly losing her life in the process.
Nimue answered. "It matters not, but the child is here now and we have a duty to protect all who seek our help."
"Do we have a duty to nurse a viper at our breast?"
"Enough Merdydd, this babe is an innocent and no more a viper than your own Morgaine."
The same bickering arguments had been running round the table for the last candlemark. I swear these women are as bad as Amazons ever were. Rising from her place she spoke. "It matters because if we can keep him alive, he will be the next King."
Sudden silence deafened the hall.
Merlynn Llwed looked across at her and nodded. "Him?"
She allowed a grin to quirk at her lips. "Why not him? None know for sure he lives, yet rumours will abound that Uther has a son, so his appearance will have some weight behind it."
"None will accept him if he grows up here." Nimue looked thoughtful, her chin steepled against her fingers.
"Funny you should mention that." Xena smiled ferally. "Where better to hide something than in plain sight?"
"That could work, but how can we be sure that his claim will be accepted?" Merlynn looked between his wife and the tall warrior, who were grinning broadly at each other.
It was Nimue who answered his question. "The Sword in the Stone."
"And if the boy can't remove it?" His might have been the greater power, but his wife's mind was the more agile, and he couldn't help but to feel he had missed something.
His wife regarded him, excitement in her eyes. "He won't be able to."
Xena met his eyes, pale blue burning incandescently. "But I can."
Rickie finished reading and looked up expectantly.
They were laying on the couch... Rickie at one end... Xena at the other... feet and legs meeting and tangling together in the middle.
She'd felt a rush of emotions she hadn't expected listening to Rickie's words. She had told the story to her lover in her usual spare style and somehow the younger woman had taken the meager details and begun to weave them into a detailed story. Xena was certain if she closed her eyes she could see Nimue laughing back at her, or hear voice as she recited a lesson.
Aware that her silence was causing Rickie distress she slid across the length of the couch, until she was inches from the other woman. "I think that if you already write this well, your gonna knock their socks off at PSU."
"Really." And sealed her approval with a kiss that deepened and kept them occupied for quite some time.
Rickie nestled deeper against her chest. "I was worried you'd be mad." An eyebrow lifted in question. "I know how private stuff is for you."
"Not from you, Rickie."
"So I can keep going?"
"Under one condition." Xena picked the sheaf of paper up off the floor where it had fallen during their lovemaking.
"What's that?" Nibbling at a delicate ear she waited for the Immortal to speak.
Xena put the printed pages on Rickie's chest, covering her breasts with the sheets of paper. "I get private readings."
Rickie laughed. "Deal." That had gone much better than she had thought. She had found she'd enjoyed taking what Xena had told her and turning it into a story. Delving into the characters and fleshing them out, she wondered if Gabrielle had enjoyed it as much probably more, she'd been there to see it. Rickie still had trouble with separating who she was from who she used to be and had taken to referring to that part of herself as Gabrielle, like an imaginary friend, only much cooler. She'd caught Xena's look of surprise when she'd read the parts where she had included what the warrior was probably thinking. "I nailed you, didn't I"
"Big time." It was eerie how much of Gabrielle shone through in Rickie's writing, as if something about the creative process allowed her to access the subconscious parts of her that were fully the bard's - tempered by Rickie's own life experiences. "That was a mistake though."
"What was?" Worry edging her voice, had she made a mistake?
"Hiding his identity so completely. It came back to haunt us."
"I never thought of that." Rickie was relieved and allowed her body to relax again.
"I hadn't either until I listened to you. You're good, you know that? I meant what I said, you are going to knock their socks off next semester. You could probably skip the introductory stuff and no one would notice."
Rickie laughed. "Until they checked my punctuation. It's a good thing Word puts a squiggly green line under a lot of stuff or I'd never remember to close my quotes or add a semi-colon." She rolled herself over until she was lying on top of Xena. "The words are easy... the grammar stuff sucks."
She didn't want to skip anything; the idea that she, Rickie Gardner, was going to be a student at Portland State University was so incredible that she didn't want to miss a thing. "Have I told you how excited I am about starting classes."
Xena made a show of looking at her non-existent watch. "Not in the last hour or so no." She teased, leaning her head slightly forward and kissing Rickie lightly. "You're welcome. You earned it."
In a memory that spanned centuries, one of the most special would be their first Christmas. Rickie had eagerly decorated the warehouse, making up Xena suspected for a lifetime of disappointments. When the GED results had come in the mail during the first week of December, Xena had made a few calls and put her plan into motion.
Green eyes had danced with excitement as Rickie descended the stairs catching sight of the array of brightly wrapped parcels under the tree. She'd wandered about the room, touching the packages gingerly, as if afraid they'd disappear.
She'd stepped from her vantage point and taken Rickie into her arms, intending to kiss her thoroughly under the mistletoe, and been at a complete loss when the younger woman had broken into tears.
"Nothing." Rickie had answered. "Everything is right."
They had stood holding each other as the sun broke the horizon shining through the unshuttered windows, bathing them in its light.
"C'mere." She'd led Rickie over to the tree and passed over her stocking and watched in quiet enjoyment as bits of paper were flung this way and that, revealing treasure after treasure. Holding her breath as Rickie turned the plain manila envelope over in her small hands. It bore the logo of Portland State University in the upper left corner and had Rickie's name printed in bold typeface across the front.
"Open it and see." She had smiled at Rickie, indicating the letter.
Rickie had read the paper over several times, lips moving over the words, her brow furrowing before the full meaning registered, and then she had looked up and said with wonder. "I've been accepted to start classes in the winter semester. How?"
Arching her brow in mock mysteriousness she had answered. "I have many skills." and then proceeded to explain that she was owed a few favours and called them in. Since Rickie's GED mark was so high and that Emil had written a glowing character reference, she had been accepted.
Then Rickie had started crying again, looking up at her apologetically. "I got you a few presents but nothing this wonderful."
She had wrapped her arms around her lover, tilting her chin up and looking into the other half of her soul, and as she had on a Solstice so long ago, answered from her heart. "Rickie, you are a gift to me."
She came back to the present to find Rickie looking at her. "Oh sorry, just thinking about something."
Rickie's hands were wandering along her sides, trailing hot shivers as her fingertips caressed sensitive flesh. "Anything good?"
"Mmm, well I've had my bedtime story, how about tucking me in?" The hunger in her eyes matched by the desire in Rickie's
Planting soft kisses along the nape of her neck, the teenager mumbled her reply into the skin above her breasts, the muffled vibrations sending a wave of pleasure along her center.
Shifting suddenly Xena stood, picking Rickie up with her and ascended the stairs to their room. "Bedtime for bards."
Rickie slid her hand lower and circled sensitive flesh, "and warriors too." As she twisted suddenly and caused them to fall on to the large bed, she pulled back, an impish smile on her face. "The things I do in the name of research."
A low throaty chuckle answered her. "Can't have you being historically inaccurate now can we."
Rickie was surprised with how much Xena managed to teach her before they finally fell asleep. Hanging in the gray area between sleep and waking, she whispered. "I love you warrior mine."
And the answering whisper folded her in its security as she finally surrendered into the arms of Morpheus. "I love you too, my bard."
To be continued.
01 November 1998
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These pages were last updated: November 6, 1998
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