DISCLAIMER: Xena and the rest of the Xena universe are copyrighted characters owned by Ren Pics and Universal.
CHALLENGE: Part of the Vampires, Ghosts and Zombies challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Something in the Air
The path was typical trees, rocks, an occasional bad guy to beat up but something in the air was off. Xena and Gabrielle walked along with no particular destination in mind. While that in and of itself was odd, something more was tickling at both of their guts.
"Maybe it's the weather. It is kind of dreary," the blonde glanced at her tall partner hoping to stumble across a possibility that would wipe the look of concern off Xena's beautiful face.
"Well, that makes me feel tons better, Xena," the petite woman stopped in the middle of the road, crossing her arms.
"Good," the brunette continued on with Argo in tow. Gabrielle tapped her foot and waited. 7, 8, 9, 10. Xena finally stopped and realizing she was alone turned around. Gabrielle tried to raise one eyebrow menacingly, instead she just looked like she had eaten some bad fish.
"What!?" Xena threw her hands up in the air.
"Well, tell me, what's going on? You've seen everything, had every experience. Usually, you can tell what's happening before you even wake up in the morning," Gabrielle closed the distance.
The tall brunette read the playful banter and let herself get drawn into it, "Oh yeah? Well, I thought you were supposed to have the gift of prophecy." Xena was only inches from Gabrielle, who was trying valiantly to control her heartbeat. No matter how many times she looked into those dancing blue eyes, it always made her heart flip.
A shaky quirk started at the corner of Gabrielle's mouth. They had only been lovers for a few moons so she was still trying to reach a place where she wasn't completely intimidated by the stunning warrior.
"I do um, have a gift of prophecy, that is."
"Then, tell me what's going to happen next," Xena leaned down, intimating the connection to come but pulling up short, a sexy smirk playing on her lips.
"Just a wild guess, but I'd say you're going to kiss me senseless."
"Not bad, my bard," the tall warrior moved to fulfill the prophecy, when a sound distracted her.
"Did you hear that?"
Gabrielle's eyes were closed as she tettered back and forth, "Um, sound? Uh, nope, no sound." When nothing happened, she cracked one green eye open to see Xena moving back down the road.
"Come on, Gabrielle. This way."
"Of course," sighing, the blonde started back down the road.
A couple of candlemarks later, Xena put a hand out to stop Gabrielle and made a motion for her to be silent.
"Do you hear that?"
"Exactly," Gabrielle looked at the tall woman quizzically.
"What do you mean?"
"Gabrielle, there's a village over that hill," she pointed generically straight ahead.
After thinking a moment, it dawned on the bard, "And there are no sounds of life."
"Yep," then it hit both of them, an acrid and foul smell that almost doubled both of them over.
"Oh gods, Xena, what IS that?" She held one hand over her nose and the other on her stomach trying to keep the contents in.
In a deep, low growl, Xena gritted her teeth, "Death come on." Xena began to motion them all forward when Argo reared up, kicking her front legs wildly.
"Whoa, whoa, girl, it's okay," Xena desperately tried to hold the mare, but Argo was having none of it. She kicked and whirled, bucked and spun until she broke free and ran in the opposite direction. "Something really has her spooked. We'll find her later, come on."
Gabrielle had an urge to follow in Argo's hoof steps. She had a bad feeling about this.
The duo entered through the gates of the unusually quiet village. The only sound was the wind whistling past the huts, lending to the ominous feeling in the air.
"Ya think a warlord ran them off?" Gabrielle hoped for an affirmative response, but knowing the answer, gripped her staff tighter in front of her.
"This was no warlord," Xena squinted her eyes, trying to detect any movement and focused her hearing trying to pick up the slightest sound, "The huts are still standing. Nothing has been taken or burned down. No, this is something else."
They crept at a snail's pace toward the center of the village, nearly back-to-back in an effort to see from all sides. As they neared an opening among the merchant stands, a low, constant growl came from behind close to the inn. A few seconds later, another joined in, then another.
The two women looked at each other questioningly. Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders, "Wolves?"
"I don't think so," Xena spun quickly and flung her chakrum behind her, beheading a man, or what looked like a man. The corpse fell only a few feet from them and worms and maggots poured from the rotten neck.
Gabrielle jumped back, "Ewwww, that's gross! What in Hades is that, Xena?"
Xena stepped closer to the dead thing, "Um, I don't know."
Suddenly more growls were heard from multiple directions, "Gabrielle?"
"Yeah?" Xena edged back toward her partner.
"You know that whole 'don't kill' philosophy of yours?"
"I think it's irrelevant right now."
As if on cue, more creatures came stumbling from between the huts. Gabrielle tried to focus on her survival and not on the skin hanging from bone and eyes dangling from their sockets. Xena quickly and effectively dismembered one after the other, while the blonde began to weaken from using her staff with little effect. The warrior was well to the other end of the village square, fighting back the beasts until they were almost beyond the merchant huts.
Gabrielle lost sight of Xena as she forced a group behind the huts. The stench of rotting flesh became overwhelming as the bard was slowly surrounded.
"AIYAYAYAYAYA!" Gabrielle let out a breath she didn't realize she had been holding.
"Thank the gods!" Xena landed on the heads of two creatures behind Gabrielle essentially crushing their lifeless skulls.
"Here, you might need this," she handed a sword to her.
"Thanks," the pair began to make short work of the invading bodies. Spins and kicks flew, as did arms and heads. Eventually, they stood alone among a sea of decaying body parts. Gabrielle leaped from the pile, stomping her feet and sweeping at her arms.
"Anything on my back?" She turned for Xena's inspection.
"Nope," the petite woman turned with a smirk on her face.
"Anything here?" She gestured to her rather endowed front.
"Hmmm, maybe, but I think a more thorough investigation is necessary," Gabrielle shook her head at her lover before turning to leave the carnage behind.
"You're incorrigible, Xena!" The dark warrior smiled leeringly at the retreating form.
Later that night, after a much needed bath, Gabrielle lay in her now familiar position, in the crook of Xena's arm with her head resting comfortably on the pillow of her warrior's chest.
"That sure was a close call today," Xena grunted agreement, "Thanks for jumping in and saving me again."
Gabrielle traced the muscles of Xena's stomach with her hand, loving the feel of her soft skin. A rolling rumble made her hand move of its own accord.
"Poor baby, dinner must not have agreed with you. Maybe that jerky hadn't finished drying that I swiped from the village. It's not like they needed it!" She laughed at her own observation. A strong arm tightened around her in response.
Then a foul odor assaulted Gabrielle's senses, "Whew! Guess we didn't get far enough away from that village." As she settled back down and attempted to fall asleep, she realized something was missing Xena's steady, reassuring heartbeat. The realization made Gabrielle swallow hard, afraid to look up.
"Xena?" A low, deep, eerily familiar growl was the only response.
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