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Gabrielle . . . Slayer in Training

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This story is No. 8 in the series "Buffy and Xena Crossovers". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: #8. When Xena is killed by the Bacchae, Gabrielle asks Buffy to train her as a Slayer so she can avenge Xena's death.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Xena-HerculesdaviderlFR13216,344011,7508 Feb 035 Apr 03Yes

Gabrielle . . . Slayer in Training

{I do not own the rights to any of the characters in this story. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is for entertainment purposes only.}


Gabrielle ... Slayer in Training


{-{ Previously, in the Buffy / Xenaverse:

("Gabrielle's Surprise Birthday Party")

Willow to Gabrielle, just before Gabrielle and Xena are returned to their own time --

"It's a magic charm that lets YOU contact US. Or me, really. On the back of it are the words you have to say to make it work. And when you do, I have an identical one that will glow, and then I can do the spell that lets us see each other." }-}


Chapter One

-Bad News-

Willow woke up from a sound sleep. She sat up and looked at the clock -- 5:25 a.m. She listened intently as she tried to understand what had wakened her from a sound sleep. The sun was just starting to lighten the eastern sky, but it had yet to filter into her bedroom.

Then she knew. And going to her dresser, she opened the top drawer to find a small charm glowing, pulsating with a pale blue light.

"Gabrielle." She whispered under her breath. "I wonder what she wants." She said a little louder.

And after saying the magic spell that would let the two of them see and talk to each other over the two thousand years of time that separated them, Willow found herself in front of Gabrielle.

Behind Gabrielle was the charred and smoking remains of a funeral pyre. And beyond that, the rising sun was shining through trees and was being reflected off the calm waters of a small lake.

Gabrielle was holding a small urn in both hands, clutched to her chest. Her eyes were puffy and her cheeks were stained with dried tears.

Without a word from Gabrielle, Willow knew -- Xena had died and Gabrielle was holding her ashes.

And then, reciting a different spell, Willow used her powerful magic to bring Gabrielle to Sunnydale.

The two of them embraced. Willow's tears were wetting Gabrielle's shoulder, but Gabrielle had already cried all of her tears throughout the long night.

When they ended the embrace, Gabrielle said simply, "I need to talk to Buffy."

Willow nodded, and led her to Buffy's bedroom. She knocked loud enough to awaken Buffy, but not Dawn, sleeping just next door.

"Come in." Buffy said, half asleep.

Willow stuck her head into the room.

"Someone here to see you." She said, then stepped back so Gabrielle could enter the room.

Buffy turned on the bedside lamp. From the look on Gabrielle's face, Buffy knew something terrible had happened. She got out of bed, slipped on a robe, and then noticed the urn Gabrielle was holding.

"Don't tell me . . . ." Buffy started to say, but stopped when Gabrielle nodded, then said. "She's gone."

"But, how?"

"That's what I want to talk to you about."

"Sure. Let's go downstairs."

As the three of them descended the stairs, Buffy had a hard time seeing through her tears.

Entering the kitchen, Buffy turned and put her arms around Gabrielle.

"I'm so sorry." She whispered. "So very sorry."

Gabrielle nodded.

"How did it happen?" Buffy asked.

"The Bacchae."

"Aren't they kind of like vampires?" Willow interrupted.

"Yeah. And they killed Xena." Gabrielle answered her, venom in her voice.

"But, how? How could anyone, or anything . . . ?" Buffy started to ask.

"I don't know. I always thought they just wanted to turn women into Bacchae like they are. But for some reason, they -- they. . . ." Gabrielle's voice faltered as she choked up, unable to finish.

"I know this is hard for you." Buffy said. "We don't have to talk about it right now. Maybe you should get some sleep. We can talk later."

"No," Gabrielle said, her strength returning. "I'm all right. Like I said, I don't know why, or how, they -- killed her."

"So, what happened, exactly?" Willow tentatively asked.

"I'm not sure, exactly. Xena and I were on our way from some little village, a minor warlord problem. You know, the kind of stuff we do. Anyway, we camped for the night just inside, as I was to later realize, the Bacchae Forest. Sometime during the night, I heard Xena getting up. I asked her if there was anything wrong, but she said no, she just wanted to check on something. Well, I just thought she had to pass her water, so I went back to sleep. The next morning when I woke up, Xena was gone, so I figured she was hunting up something for breakfast. But by the time midday came and she still wasn't back, I started to get a little concerned. I mean, she still goes off without me sometimes, but she always tells me if she plans on being gone too long."

"She didn't leave a note?" Dawn asked.

At her voice everyone turned around.

"Dawn! What are you doing up?" Buffy asked.

"Hey, I live here too, you know. I know when something's going on. I'm not a kid. So, what happened? Did you ever find her?"

Then Dawn realized Xena wasn't there. "You mean you never found her!"

"I found her." Gabrielle said quietly.

"Dawn," Buffy said, "Xena -- Xena's dead."

"NO!"

Dawn hands went to her face, still denying what she was told.

Gabrielle, the closest to her, went to her and put her arms around her.

For a short while they stood together while Dawn cried, then Gabrielle let her go.

"It's true. I wish it wasn't, but it is."

Buffy handed Dawn a couple of napkins to wipe her tears away and to blow her nose, then put her arm around her as Gabrielle continued her story.

"So what happened next?"

"Well, I wasn't sure what to do. I tried looking for signs, footprints and such, but even when she's not trying, there's no way Xena's going to leave a trail. So I broke camp and let Xena's horse take the lead. She's not Argo, but I hoped that she was smart enough to know Xena was missing and might follow her scent. And it worked. I found her."

Again, Gabrielle's voice broke at the memory as she unsuccessfully fought back fresh tears. And she barely got out the description of finding Xena.

"She -- she was hanging from a tree, upside down, naked, by one foot. She was covered with cuts and scratches and dirt. And -- and her face was covered with blood that had come from her neck. After I cut her down, I could see that her throat had been almost completely chewed through. I've never seen anything so horrible, so barbaric. How could they have been so vicious, so bloodthirsty?"

No one said anything, so after a few seconds Buffy asked, "So, then what?"

"I carried her to a small lake we'd seen the day before and cleaned her up. Then I built a funeral pyre. I didn't know if she would awaken as one of them. I didn't think so, but I couldn't take the chance. I'd rather she stayed dead than become a Bacchae. And I know that's what she'd want. So I lit it, and cried all night long as it burned. And after I gathered her ashes and put them in here," She indicated the urn. "Then I used the amulet to call Willow."

"She's in there?" Dawn asked, pointing at the urn.

Gabrielle nodded. "Her remains are. There's not a lot left over after burning. But her spirit is in the Elysian Fields, I'm sure of it."

No one spoke for a short time.

Then Dawn asked, "The Bacchae are vampires?"

"Yeah, at least enough like vampires that they convert you to being like them by biting your neck. I'm not sure if they'll die like the vampires you have here, but I do know a Dryad bone through the heart will kill them."

"What's a Dryad?"

"The Dryads are sworn enemies of Bacchus, or so I was told. That’s about all I know about them."

Turning back to Buffy, Gabrielle said, "But I didn't want to see you only to give you the bad news, I need your help."

"Sure. Whatever I can do. Just name it."

"I want you to train me. I can't let them get away with this. I want them dead, ALL of them! Every single Bacchae I can find! And I need you to teach me to be a Slayer."

"Gabrielle, being a Slayer isn't something you become just by training . . . ."

"I know that. Look, Buffy, I realize I don't have your strength, or speed, or stamina. But I also know there's more to being a Slayer than just the physical part. You have cunning and discipline and focus. And that's what I need. Right now, this anger, this hatred, and thirst for vengeance are hindering me. If I intend to hunt them down and kill them, I need to be able to think and act with a clear head. And I need you to help me do that."

"Gabrielle, you don't need me. You're one of the finest warriors I've ever seen. How can I hope to teach you any more than what you learned from Xena?"

"Buffy, when you became the Slayer, you had strength and speed, but you still needed Giles to train you. And I need someone to train me. I can't do it by myself. I just can't."

"You know, vengeance isn't such a great thing." Willow said. "I know from experience. It's not as sweet as you might think."

Gabrielle looked at her curiously, but didn't respond.

"So will you help me, or not?" Gabrielle asked Buffy.

"Of course, I'll help you. I'll do whatever I can. But not right now."

"Why not right now?"

"Because I think you need to grieve. You need to work through the pain before you can . . . ."

"Buffy, I'll have the rest of my life to mourn Xena, but I can't do that now knowing those murderous bitches are running free."

"Well, I can understand that, but you also need some sleep. You can't be on top of your game if you're exhausted. You get some sleep, I'll work up a training regime, and we'll go from there."

"But I'm fine. I'm ready to go, now."

"No you aren't. And the first thing you need to understand is that if I'm going to train you, I'm the Boss. That means when I say train, you train. And when I say sleep, you sleep. And right now, I say you need to sleep. So it's off to bed with you. No argument. When you wake up, we'll go over a few things and we'll see."

Realizing she had no choice, Gabrielle turned to go, then hesitated.

"You can take my bed." Buffy told her. "Later on we'll work out more permanent sleeping arrangements."

Gabrielle nodded, gave her a weak smile and started up the stairs.

When she had reached the top, Buffy turned to Willow. "Will . . . ?"

"I'm way ahead of you. I'll talk to her."


As soon as Willow was upstairs, Dawn turned to Buffy.

"I just can't believe it. First Mom, then Tara, and now Xena. It's like some horrible nightmare that never ends!"

"I know." Buffy answered quietly. "And we can't even blame it on the Hellmouth."

"I would have thought that if anyone could never be killed, it would be Xena. How could it have happened?"

"I don't know how. But as hard as it is to believe, her life was even more violent than mine. I guess it just caught up to her."

"God, Buffy! You act like you don't even care! Doesn't it bother even a little bit?"

"Yes, Dawn, it does. It bothers me, a LOT! And as much as I hate to say it, there's nothing we can do for Xena. But we can help Gabrielle. We can be strong for her. You remember how much you were hurting when Mom died? Well, Gabrielle is hurting just as much now. And we have to be as supportive as we can. All of us -- you, me, Willow. All of us."

"Willow! I bet she can do something! She can . . . ."

"No! Don't say it! Don't even think it! You will not get Gabrielle's hopes up like that!"

"But Willow brought you back. Why can't she . . . ?"

"You know why. My case was special, it was a mystical death. Willow couldn't bring Tara back, and she can't bring Xena back. That's it, over, end of discussion."

"I still don't see why she can't try."

"And then what? We have to watch Gabrielle melt down if Willow fails? Or worse, something that isn't Xena comes back? No, Dawn. I forbid you to say anything about it; not to Willow, and especially not to Gabrielle. If you care anything at all about her, you won't do this to her. Do you understand me? NOT a word!"

"Okay!"


Just as Gabrielle laid down, there was a tap at the door.

"Come in. Willow, hi."

"Hi. Look, before you go to sleep, I think there's something we should talk about."

Gabrielle sat up. "What’s on your mind?"

"Remember when I told you that vengeance wasn't so great? Well, I wasn't just making polite conversation. In case you haven't noticed, Tara isn't here."

"I thought she was asleep."

"She is, permanently."

"WHAT! Tara's -- ? Oh, Willow! I'm so sorry. I liked her so much. And she seemed to be so good for you."

Willow blinked back tears and tried to swallow. "She was. She was the best thing that ever happened to me. But now she's gone."

"But how?"

"There was this creep named Warren, and he thought he was some kind of super villain. Of course when he came up against Buffy, he was no match for her. So he shot her, tried to kill her. But he was shooting wildly and one of the bullets went through Tara's heart. She died instantly, and I went CRAZY! I absorbed all the black magicks I could get, and went after him. When I found him, I stripped his skin off, and then incinerated him. But that wasn't good enough, oh no. I went after his buddies. And when Buffy tried to stop me, I tried to kill HER. And then I tried to kill Dawn, and Giles. I even tried to destroy the world. And if it hadn't been for Xander I would have. So you see, vengeance isn't the way to go."

"But I don't have your powers. There's no way I could destroy the world."

"No, I suppose you couldn't. But it wasn't just the world that was being destroyed, I was. My quest for vengeance was eating me alive. And I was dying inside because of it. Don't let that happen to you, Gabrielle, it's not worth it. Believe me, it is not worth losing yourself just to avenge Xena's death."

"So you're saying I shouldn't go after the monsters that killed her?"

"No, I'm not saying that at all. Monsters should die. That's what the whole Slayer thing is all about. But don't let it be the only thing in your life. Find them, kill them, then move on, that's all I'm saying. Just think about it, okay? Just -- think about it. Now get some sleep."


Chapter Two

-Making Plans-

Gabrielle didn't think she would be able to fall asleep, but it took less than five minutes. It wasn't yet seven a.m., but she slept until almost six that evening.

When she woke up, a pair of Buffy's pajamas, slippers, and a robe were folded up on the foot of the bed. She picked them up and went down the hall to the bathroom. There she found clean towels, a wash cloth, shampoo, soap, and deodorant laid out for her. She had been to Sunnydale several times before so she was familiar with everything.

After her shower, she put on the pajamas, slippers, and robe, wrapped a towel around her still damp hair, and went downstairs. As usual, everyone was gathered in the kitchen. And Xander was there.

They hugged, and as they did, Xander whispered, "I'm so sorry about -- you know."

"Thanks." She whispered back as the broke apart. Then she said in a cheery voice, "Something smells delicious!"

"It's steak." Buffy told her. "I didn't know how you liked it, so I cooked it medium. But I can put it back under the broiler if you want."

"No, that's fine."

"And we have baked potato with sour cream and chives, broccoli with cheese, and Texas toast. I didn't know what you wanted to drink. But we have iced tea, soda, milk, or water."

"Water's fine. This all looks and smells so good. Thank you."

"I brought dessert!" Xander exclaimed. "Chocolate ice cream. I know it's your favorite."

Gabrielle hugged his neck again. "It is, and thanks again."

"Well, dig in." He said. "Can't let it get cold."

Gabrielle sat at the counter with the food in front of her, then realized no one else was eating.

"We ate earlier." Buffy said. "But you go on. Unless we make you nervous, watching you."

"Are you kidding?" Gabrielle laughed. "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse right in front of a centaur!"

And she proceeded to polish off the meal, including two helpings of ice cream.


"That was so good!" Gabrielle said. "I just can't say thanks enough. You've all been so great. I'm really grateful."

"Hey! That's what friends are for." Willow said. "We help each other through the bad times, and celebrate the good times."

Gabrielle was silent for a moment, then she said, "After Xena -- died, I realized there was no one for me to turn to. Lila and Sarah were two months away in one direction, and the Amazons a month in the other. I'm so glad I have all of you." She gave a small humorless laugh. "How strange. You all are two thousand years away, but you're the easiest to come to."

Buffy put one hand on her shoulder, then hugged her. "We're just happy we're here for you. You're like family, you know, this is where you should be."

"Okay! Tissues all around." Xander said as everyone, including himself, started sniffing and blinking back tears.


After everyone had regained their composure, Buffy cleared away the dirty dishes and got down to business. "We'll start your training tomorrow morning. How are you when it comes to running?"

"I can run quite well. I've done it often. And I rarely fall down."

Buffy smiled at the joke. "Well, that's good, because I think we should start out each morning with a nice, brisk jog. You don't know how far you can run before you're winded, do you?"

"No. I've never run just to be running. Most of the time it's toward some trouble, and occasionally, away from it."

"Well, we'll work that out as we go. But I'm still not sure where we're going to train. After the Magic Box was destroyed, I didn't have any place to train any more, and I haven't done any since. But this will give me a chance to get back into it. I've really been a Slackard Slayer. But we'll think of something."

"How about at the Y?" Dawn asked.

"The Y?" Gabrielle asked.

"The YWCA." Buffy explained. "It's a place women can go to work out, swim, and get away from men. That's not a bad idea, except I'm not sure how happy they'll be when we start using weapons. They're not big on the fighting."

"And there's the showing everyone the Slayer-strength-and-agility thing." Willow added.

"And there's that. I kind of like to keep a low profile on the Slayage. But we'll find some place."

"Maybe I could set something up in your back yard." Xander volunteered. "It's fairly private back there."

"Good idea. I think that would work. And, Gabrielle, speaking of weapons, what about Xena's? What happened to them?"

"I don't know. After I found her, I didn't even think to look for them. I just felt numb. All I could do was cut her down, clean her up some, and then build the funeral pyre. It wasn't until the next morning that I even thought about the amulet and trying to call Willow."

Gabriele paused for a few seconds, then added, "Oh, I guess you should know, the Bacchae can fly."

"Oh. Well, that might make things a little hairier. So I guess we should concentrate on moving targets. How are you with the crossbow?" Buffy wanted to know.

"We don't have crossbows. The only one I've ever seen is yours."

"Well then, we'll just have to put that at the top of our list of weapons. And maybe we should think about getting some of those Dryer bones to use as arrows."

"Dryads." Gabrielle corrected her.

"Uh, Buffy," Willow interrupted. "You know, the crossbow, at least the kind we use, wasn't developed until about a thousand years ago, which is like a thousand years after Gabrielle's time."

"So what's your point?"

"Well, do you really think it's a good idea to let Gabrielle take a weapon back that won't be invented for another ten centuries?"

"Hmm. I don't know. What do the rest of you think?"

"I don't have a problem with it." Xander said. "If it'll do the job, I say go for it."

"Sure." Dawn spoke up. "Why not?"

"Gabrielle, what do you say?" Buffy asked.

"I agree with Xander. It's not like I'm going to be taking hundreds or thousands of them back with me. And after I've done what I have to, I can always destroy it. I don't see any problem."

"Okay then, crossbow training it is. So, is there anything else about them we should know?"

"They can turn themselves into wolves."

"Wolves, huh? Well, let's see, what will kill a wolf?"

"Wolfbane?" Xander asked.

"Actually," Willow said, "The word is 'wolfsbane.' It's also known as monkshood. It's a poisonous herb found in Europe. But I don't think it has anything to do with wolves."

"And you know all about this monk stuff -- how?"

"Hello! Witch here. Spells and potions with many and varied ingredients."

"Okay, so what else might do the trick?" Buffy reminded them.

"Pepper spray?" Dawn suggested.

"That could work, if it was strong enough. It wouldn't kill them, but it might drive them off."

"Or just enrage them." Gabrielle added.

"Well, yes. There is that possibility."

"What about something else that repels werewolves?" Dawn asked. "If it'll work on werewolves it should work on regular wolves."

"Another good suggestion. Willow, can you think of anything that Oz couldn't stand?" Buffy asked.

"Tara." She answered quietly.

"Other than Tara." Buffy said, equally quiet.

"Silver bullets will kill them."

"Okay, then. We tip some of the regular arrows with silver. Anything else anyone can think of?"

"What if we put some of that silver on the tips of my sais in case I miss with the crossbow and have to do some close-in fighting?" Gabrielle asked.

"Good idea. So, what else?"

No one spoke for a few seconds. Then Gabrielle said, "There's something I still don't understand."

"What's that?"

"Many years ago Xena and I had a run in with the Bacchae. I was bitten and almost converted. You have to drink Bacchus' blood to become one permanently. Well, Xena tried to kill Bacchus, but failed. He was a god, you see. But for some reason, I guess he was either bragging or just plain stupid, he told her that only a Bacchae, using a Dryad bone, could kill him. So she let me bite her, then she was converted, and then she killed him. And that turned all of the Bacchae, including Xena and me, back into women. So I don't understand how is it they're back."

"You're really sure it was the Bacchae that killed her?" Willow asked.

"I'm sure of it. All the signs point to them. Besides, I don't know of anything else that could have done it."

"What if it wasn't the Bacchae?" Buffy asked. "What if she was killed by your ordinary, everyday vampires? They've been around for tens of thousands of years, you know."

"No, I didn't know."

For a minute or two, no one said anything, then Dawn spoke up.

"Gabrielle, I was wondering about something."

"No!" Buffy said sharply. "Dawn, we don't have time for your wonderings right now. We're trying to work this all out. Maybe later, much later."

"But I . . . ."

"Dawn! I said not now!"

"It's okay." Gabrielle said. "What is it, Dawn?"

"You and Aphrodite are good friends, right?"

"Yeah, I guess we are. Why?"

"Well, I was wondering why you didn't ask her to bring Xena back to life."

Gabrielle was silent for more than a few seconds, then answered. "Because I don't think she can do that."

"But she's a god! I thought they could do anything!"

"That's what I used to think, until I discovered that even though they are immortal, they could be killed. Then I began to question just how much power they really had when I found out that even they have rules they have to abide by."

"Rules? What kind of rules?"

"Umm, let me think. Okay, I'll give you an example -- There was this warlord named Atyminius, who was killed by Xena and ended up in Tartarus. Well, somehow he stole Hades' Helmet of Invisibility. And for some reason Hades was unable to get it back. So Xena, who actually traveled to Tartarus, volunteered to get it back for him if he'd return Marcus, he was one of her past lovers, back to life. At first he said he couldn't do it, until Xena told him she needed Marcus to help her. So he said he would, but it could only be for two days. So you see, he was a god, God of the Underworld, but there were rules he just couldn't break. He could bend them, but only temporarily."

"Oh. Well, I'm sorry I brought it up. I just thought, hoped . . . you know."

Gabrielle smiled gently. "That's all right. It was a good thought. And I appreciate it that you cared enough to ask. But I guess it's not meant to be."

There was more silence.

"Anyone know where we can get some silver for the arrows?" Buffy asked.

"We could melt down some of your mom's silverware." Xander replied, half joking. "Does it have to be pure, one hundred percent silver? Or can it be just partly silver?"

"I would think that any silver at all should work." Willow answered.

"Well, I think we're making good progress here." Buffy said. "Can anybody think of anything else? Anything at all?"

"Other than running and target practice with a crossbow, what kind of training will I be doing?" Gabrielle asked.

"Some gymnastics, to hone your reflexes and sense of balance. Practice with stakes to make sure you can hit the heart without having to consciously aim for it. Maybe work with the staff some. Certainly, stretching exercises and some weight training. Different types of meditation to help you develop your inner strength and focus. Things like that."

"So how long do you think it'll take?"

"That's hard to say. A couple of months, maybe? Of course, the longer you train, the better prepared you'll be."

"I guess that's not too long."

"Nah. Not long at all. Anyway, I think for now we've got a pretty good handle on things. What do you say to a little shopping?"

"Okay, I guess. Are we going after weapons?"

"Actually, I was thinking that you need some workout clothes, and a good pair of running shoes."

"You have shoes just for running?"

"Sure. And shoes for walking and for all kinds of sports. You know, like baseball, and football, and golf . . . ."

"And bowling!" Willow added.

"I don't know what those things are."

"That's all right, we don't do those things anyway. But you will need the running shoes. Willow, do you think you can find her something to wear of yours so she won't have to wear that robe while we're shopping? I don't think I have anything that will fit her."

"I think so. Come on, let's see what we can find."


Chapter Three

-Training Begins-

The next morning Buffy looked in on Gabrielle, who had moved into Dawn's room, and Dawn had moved in with Buffy. Gabrielle was already awake and looking out of the window at the sunrise.

"About ready?" Buffy asked unnecessarily, since Gabrielle had already put on her new sweat shirt, new sweat pants, new sports bra, new socks, and new running shoes.

As they started jogging down the street, Buffy said, "It's about five miles to UCS, that's the college I was going to. I think that's a good distance to start with. If you get too winded, tell me and we'll walk some.

Gabrielle nodded.

"After we get there, we'll rest for a while. If the Grotto is open we can get a little something to eat, then start back."

About half way there, Gabrielle was beginning to slow down and her breathing came faster and harder.

Buffy slowed to a fast walk to let her catch up.

"If you put your hands on the top of your head," She told Gabrielle, "It'll expand your rib cage and you'll catch your breath easier."

After they had walked about a half mile, Buffy started jogging again, but slow enough that Gabrielle had no trouble staying up until the reached the campus. The Grotto didn't open until seven, so they had a short wait.

"So how is it so far?" Buffy asked.

"Not too bad. You never get tired, do you?"

"I do, but it takes more than a five-mile run to wear me down. Don't worry, in a couple of weeks you'll think this is a walk in the park."

"Speaking of parks, I want to go out with you when you patrol. It's never too soon for field experience."

"Sure. Might as well get your feet wet right away."

After a cream cheese bagel and coffee for Buffy, and a chocolate doughnut and hot chocolate for Gabrielle, they jogged back home.

Xander had managed to put together a make-shift gym in the back yard with mats and a used archery target he found at a garage sale, and he brought over his weight set. Buffy supplied the throwing knives and axes, several staves of different lengths, and stakes of various sizes and weights.

They spent part of the day working out a training schedule, and going over the exercises Buffy wanted Gabrielle to concentrate on.

They practiced throwing stakes at the target which was set up as far away as was possible in Buffy's back yard. Buffy never missed the bulls eye, but Gabrielle wasn't as proficient. But she understood the importance being able to hit, and hopefully, to kill with any weapon at her disposal.

She did better with the crossbow, once she got the feel for it. But her forte was the battle staff.

During one of their breaks, Gabrielle picked up the longest one and slowly began to reacquaint herself with it. She started swinging it around her head and body, and before long was handling the five foot staff as easily as a drum majorette would toss around a baton.

"I'm impressed." Buffy told her.

"It was my first weapon when I became an Amazon." Gabrielle told her. "I threw it away in India when I decided to follow The Way of Love. And even though there were times it was unwieldy, I miss it."

Picking up one of own, Buffy and Gabrielle began sparring, feeling each other out at first, then gradually, and unintentionally, battling in earnest. It was the only time Gabrielle could match Buffy blow for blow, block for block. Neither one could land a damaging strike to the other.

After ten minutes of intense combat, they stopped to catch their breaths. From the back door Willow and Dawn had been watching, unsure if they should intervene.

"Now I am impressed!" Buffy said. "I can't remember the last time I got workout like that. I liked it! This definitely goes on the list of Things to Do."

"Thanks." Gabrielle said between breaths. "It felt good to me, too. I feel like a lot of tension is gone."

'Exactly what you need.' Buffy thought to herself. 'Something to work out the anger on.'

By the time Dawn and Willow had supper ready, at 6:30, both Buffy and Gabrielle were happy to stop to eat. Afterward, they took showers and rested until 10 p.m. when Buffy decided it was a good time to start patrolling. Buffy took a couple of stakes, but she had Gabrielle also take a couple of bottles of Holy Water, just in case she lost her stakes or was overwhelmed.

As they walked from the house, Gabrielle asked, "So, do you have some kind of regular route you patrol?"

"No. I found out it's better if I don't have a set routine. I never go the same way twice, and I never leave at the same time. That way the vamps don't know when or where I'll be two days in a row. Besides, there are so many cemeteries in Sunnydale I could never hit them all in one night. Not to mention all the alleys and streets and parks."

They walked in silence for a while, Gabrielle taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of Sunnydale at night.

They were nearing a cemetery, one that was edged by a small stand of woods, when they both heard something walking a path leading toward the cemetery.

Gabrielle was on alert, stakes in both hands. Buffy smiled to herself at Gabrielle's nervousness. They stepped back into the shadows to wait.

When the figure got within fifteen feet of them, Buffy relaxed, and put one hand on Gabrielle's arm, lowering her hand.

"It's okay. It's only Clem."

'What's a Clem?' Gabrielle wondered.

The two women stepped into the street light in front of Clem, startling him, making him drop the grocery bag he was carrying.

"Sorry." Buffy said as she helped him pick up the scattered bags of chips and rented videos.

"You really gave me scare, there." He said.

While this was going on, Gabrielle couldn't help but stare at him. She'd never seen anything like him, ever.

"Clem," Buffy said, "This is Gabrielle. She's visiting for a while. Gabrielle, this is Clem."

"Hi." Clem said cheerily, unaware that Gabrielle was unsure about him. "Nice to meet you."

"Yeah." Gabrielle answered. "Nice to meet you, too."

No one spoke. Then Clem said, "Just out shopping. Something to do for the night. You girls interested in watching a movie or two?"

"No thanks." Buffy told him.

"We could play Parcheesi if you'd rather."

"Not this time, we're kind of on the clock." Buffy said, showing him her stake.

"Oh yeah. Well, maybe some other time. Tell Dawn I said hello. It was nice to meet you, Gabrielle." And Clem continued on his way.

"What WAS that?" Gabrielle asked after he was out of sight.

"Clem? He's a demon."

"But I thought all demons were bad."

"That's what I used to think, but they're not all bad. In fact, Clem is pretty decent."

"What kind of demon is he?"

"I'm not really sure. All I've ever heard him called is a Loose Skin demon."

"But you say he's okay?"

"Yeah, he's as harmless as a kitten -- unless you're a kitten, I suppose."

Gabrielle didn't understand that last statement, but didn't pursue it.

They continued on through the cemetery without further incident.

"Nothing here." Buffy commented. "There's another one not too far from here. I guess we can check it out before we head over to the playground."

Fifteen minutes later they were inside the next one. Gabrielle was about to ask why there were so many cemeteries in Sunnydale when she saw Buffy stiffen and go on alert. Gabrielle raised her stakes, wanting to be ready when the attack came.

Suddenly Buffy spun around, her stake poised to strike! Gabrielle turned also, then felt, rather than saw Buffy relax.

"It's only Spike." Buffy said to Gabrielle.

"Hello, there." He said to Gabrielle. "Don't recall seeing you around here before. Out for a little jaunt with the Sla-- with Buffy?"

Gabrielle looked at Buffy for direction.

"Gabrielle, this is Spike. Spike, Gabrielle. She's visiting, from out of town, for a few days."

"You girls don't mind if tag along? I fancy a nice walk in the middle of the night. Never know what kind of evil's lurkin' about."

"Who IS he?" Gabrielle whispered. "How can we -- you know -- while he's here?"

"He's just Spike." Buffy said in her normal voice. " And he knows I'm the Slayer so you don't have to whisper."

Spike stood there with a smug look on his face.

As they walked side by side, with Spike bringing up the rear, occasionally Gabrielle would look back around at him, and his same smug smile.

Finally she couldn't stand it any more. "So what's the story with him?"

"Vampire."

"Shouldn't we be killing him, or something?"

"He's harmless. Well, not as harmless as Clem, but he can't hurt humans."

"Most humans." Spike spoke up.

Buffy gave him a quick glare.

Gabrielle looked around at him once more, then decided if Buffy said he was okay, then who was she to question her?

They were almost at the other side of the cemetery when they were attacked by a large vampire, probably was, or would have been, a football player.

Buffy dodged out of the way to let Gabrielle try her hand. Spike stood next to Buffy and watched.

Gabrielle hit the vamp twice, once with each stake, which stuck in him, but missed she the heart both times. Which made the vampire mad as well as hungry. After being knocked down several times, but able to roll out of the way, Gabrielle managed to open one bottle of Holy water and throw it. It missed as the vampire ducked out of the way.

"A bit on the clumsy side." Spike said to Buffy.

"It's her first vamp."

Spike nodded.

Gabrielle tried to get the second bottle out of her pocket, but was too busy trying not to get hit, or bitten. After a while, Buffy decided she'd fought long enough, and at the first opportunity, tossed her stake to Gabrielle, who finally was able to find the vamp's heart and turn him to dust.

"Are you all right?" Buffy asked.

"Yeah. I'm good. Just working out my strategy. It took a bit longer than I thought, but I'm good."

"I'm glad to hear it. We've still got a couple more hours yet to patrol. Still up to it?"

"Sure!" Gabrielle said, with more enthusiasm than she felt. "Bring 'em on! The more the better!"

"Well, I'll leave you two Slayers on your own. Think I'll go on over to Willy's, see what kind of excitement’s brewing."

And without waiting for the two women to answer, Spike disappeared into the darkness.

Neither spoke during the uneventful walk to the park. As they got there, Gabrielle asked, "So what was I doing wrong?"

"It wasn't that you were doing anything so wrong, as it was that you weren't doing the right things."

"Such as."

"Well, you shouldn't have gone for the heart so soon. Instead, you should have been looking for the opening, but you tried to stake him right off, which he was expecting you to do. If you had danced around with him some, he would have dropped his guard."

"But I don't have your strength, I don't think I could have fought him off for much longer."

"But you have speed on your side. Besides, we've only just started your training. You'll do better as the weeks go by."

The next couple of hours were quiet, so they were back home by 1 a.m.


As the days, weeks, and months passed, Gabrielle noticed a definite change in herself. She was stronger than she could ever remember being. Her reflexes were sharper. Her speed and stamina were greatly improved. And thanks to Buffy and Willow's meditation exercises, her focus and self discipline gave her the peace of mind she needed, but didn't consciously realize it was happening.

Buffy toyed with the idea to let her patrol by herself, but decided against it. Not that she wasn't capable, but why tempt Fate? Buffy was the Slayer, not Gabrielle.


Chapter Four

-Final Preparations-

"Do you really think she's ready?" Willow asked.

"She's as ready as she'll ever be." Buffy answered. "It's been four months now. And as much as I've enjoyed her being here, I think it's time."

"But she's doing so well here. Maybe she won't want to be there. After all, it's so different."

"Maybe. But she's still adamant about killing those Bacchae, or whatever it was that killed Xena. And she won't find the closure she needs until she does. And afterward, if she wants to come back here to live, then I don't see any problem with that."

"When are you going to tell her?"

"I think she has an idea she's about ready, but I'll bring it up tonight at supper."


But supper was unusually quiet. It was as if everyone knew Gabrielle's training had come to an end and it was time for her to leave, but didn't want to bring it up.

"That was an excellent supper." Gabrielle told Willow and Dawn. "That's something I'm really going to miss."

"You don't have to." Dawn said. "You don't have to go back, you know."

Gabrielle gave her a small, sad smile. "Yes I do. Until things are taken care of, I won't be satisfied. And it's not really about the revenge for what they did to Xena, not anymore. They're dangerous; they have to be eliminated."

"Then will you come back, to stay?"

Gabrielle looked down at her plate, pondering.

"I don't know." She finally said. "All of you have been so wonderful to me, it would be hard not to. But I have family there, Lila and Sarah, and my sister Amazons. I could never leave them for good. I'll just have to see what happens with the Bacchae. Who knows? Maybe they'll kill me, too."

"No!" Buffy said sharply. "That will never happen! You're too well trained. And you have a mission; a Calling, if you want to -- call it that. But if things do get bad, all you have to do is get in touch with Willow and I'll be more than glad to go back there -- then, to help you. You know that, don't you?"

"I know." Gabrielle said. "But I was thinking about getting together my own little group. Maybe Amazons. They're already battle-hardened warriors. And with the training techniques I've gotten from you, and the crossbows, I think we should be a very effective team."

"Your own Scoobies, huh?" Dawn said.

"Well, I never thought about them like that, but yeah, I guess so."

"Maybe I should go back with you for a while, anyway. Just until you get set up." Buffy suggested.

"You wouldn't mind? It shouldn't take more than a couple of months, if that long."

"But what about your own patrolling?" Dawn asked. "Things could really get out of hand it you're gone that long."

"That won't be a problem." Willow answered Dawn. "I can bring her back one second after she leaves."

"I thought you once said our timelines ran the same -- one day there is one day here." Buffy said.

"That was with the old me. I'm better now, more powerful Mojo. I can send Gabrielle right back to the exact time and place she was when she first called me."

"If you can do that, then why can't you send me back before Xena was killed?" Gabrielle asked, excitement growing in her voice.

"I guess I can. I don't know why I didn't think of that before."

"Wait a minute," Buffy interjected. "If you do that, won't that mean that Gabrielle won't find Xena's body, and then won't have any reason to call you? And further, doesn't it mean that she won't have any reason to come to Sunnydale to train? Which means she won't go back in time to save Xena from being killed?"

No one spoke, trying to understand the confusing, circular reasoning of the time-travel paradox.

"So, basically," Gabrielle finally and quietly said, "it means that Xena has to stay dead."

"I guess it does." Willow answered, with obvious pain in her voice.

"Isn't there some -- some way to get around that?" Dawn asked. "There HAS to be."

"If there is, I don't know what it would be."

"What if . . . ." Buffy started to say, then stopped, trying to think of a logical way to get around it. "What if you exchanged the pre-Xena's-death Gabrielle with this one, just before Xena goes off by herself? That way, this Gabrielle can warn her, and keep her from being killed.

"Then what would we do with the one we had here?" Willow asked. "There would be an extra Gabrielle."

"She can always stay here with us." Dawn suggested.

"That wouldn't work." Gabrielle said. "I wouldn't want to stay here knowing Xena was alive there."

Again, there was silence.

"Send me back." Gabrielle said with sad resignation in her voice. "Right back to the time I was when I called you. There's no way this can be resolved. But at least the trail should be fresh enough that I'll be able to track them down. And if I can't kill them right away, at least I'll know where they are until I can get enough help."

"Then I guess we need to get your weapons together."

"Are you still going back with me?"

"If you want me to."

"I do."


"Okay," Buffy said, "Let's go over everything one more time, just to make sure. We have -- two crossbows."

"Check." Willow said.

"A dozen silver tipped arrows. A dozen plain."

"Check. Check."

"A half dozen Mr. Pointies."

"Check."

"Gabrielle's sais are tipped with silver."

"Check."

"A dozen bottles of Holy Water."

"Check."

"Well, it doesn't seem like much, but I guess that's all we'll need."

"What about a battle axe or two?" Dawn asked.

"I don't think we'll have any problems finding one if we need it." Gabrielle said. "Battle axes are pretty common. And I have a couple of knives in the saddlebags.”

"A change of clothes?"

"I hadn't thought about that. Gabrielle, what do you think? I won't have to wear any of those peasant skirts and blouses, will I?"

"Since we won't be around any villages, you probably can wear whatever you want. But it’s late fall there, so you might want to bring a coat of some kind. And some good leather boots, but nothing with high heels."

"I have some hiking boots. They'll probably be okay."

"Then I guess you guys are ready to go." Willow said.

Buffy and Gabrielle divided the weapons between them and put them in separate leather satchels.

"It seems kind of strange to be able to take all this stuff back with us instead of arriving naked like we did when we first started all this time travel business." Buffy said.

"Like I said before," Willow answered, smiling. "Brand new Mojo. So, I guess it's time to go."

"Wait!" Dawn said, then ran into the kitchen and returned with a handful of Hershey bars for Gabrielle and granola bars for Buffy.

"Just in case you guys get hungry." She explained.

There were hugs all around, assurances that everything was going to be fine while they were gone, and then Willow chanted the dozen lines of the Spell that sent Gabrielle and Buffy back to 5 A.D. Greece.


Chapter Five

-The Hunt-

When Buffy and Gabrielle materialized, they were greeted with the golden sun rising over a peaceful lake, shining through the breaks in the trees on the opposite shore. But in front of them, on the small beach, were the smoking remains of Xena's funeral pyre.

Buffy heard Gabrielle's sharp intake of breath and her small cry of pain as the images of Xena's tragic and brutal death overwhelmed her.

In slow motion, Buffy watched as Gabrielle went to her knees, her head bowed and her shoulders shaking with uncontrollable sobs. Buffy knelt down beside her and put her arms around her, trying to comfort her as best she could.

The sun had cleared the treetops before Gabrielle was able to rise to her feet, with Buffy's help.

"I'm sorry," she told the Slayer. "I didn't -- it's just that the memories are so strong.”

"It's all right. It was kind of a shock to me, too."

"No! It's not all right! What if we'd been attacked? We were completely off guard."

"Well, if these Bacchae are anything like the vamps in Sunnydale, then they wouldn’t have been out after sunrise."

"Unless they had changed into wolves."

"Oh, yeah. I didn't think about that. I guess it's your turn to start training ME."

"Well, before we do anything, we need the few supplies I stashed away. They're not too far away."

"Uh, Gabrielle, did you know there's a horse standing over there, watching us?"

Gabrielle turned around quickly, just in case, then relaxed.

"It's only Star. She's mine. I cut her loose just before I called Willow. I guess she didn't have a chance to wander off. Which is good, though, she can carry the supplies while we track down the Bacchae."

"What happened to Xena's horse?"

"I let her go right after I found Xena. No telling where she is now."

It wasn't long before Gabrielle had resaddled Star, and had the saddle bags in place, which contained their supplies -- hard cheese, dried venison, two water skins, several pieces of flint rock, the knives, and a frying pan. The blankets and sleeping furs were rolled up and tied behind the saddle, as were the satchels.

Buffy and Gabrielle each took a crossbow and a half dozen arrows. The crossbows had straps so they could keep them looped over one shoulder and across their backs. Each woman had stakes tucked into their belts.

Letting Buffy take the reins, Gabrielle told her to lead the horse ten paces behind while she searched for signs -- shoe or foot prints, either human or wolf, broken blades of grass, snapped twigs, wolf droppings, or anything else out of the ordinary.

As Buffy followed behind as instructed, she was checking up in the trees while Gabrielle was going over the ground. After a while, Buffy noticed that neither one of them seemed to be finding anything useful.

Gabrielle would see a bent blade of grass or some kind of impression in the ground, and give out a little yell of triumph, but the signs were far apart, and didn't seem to go in any particular direction.

At midday, they stopped to rest and to snack on some of the goodies Dawn had given them.

"We don't seem to be having much luck." Buffy observed. "I doubt if we're more than a mile or two from the lake."

"I know. I'd hoped that they were on foot, but it looks like they might have flown away."

"Any idea where they could have gone? A cabin or town or some place?"

"No. I suppose we could try the village where Xena and I first ran into them. It's on the other side of these woods, about a day's ride, if you don't mind riding double."

"I don't think I've ever been on a horse, but it doesn't look too hard."

"It isn't. I'll get on, and then you can hop up behind me."

After they were settled in, Gabrielle clicked her heels into Star's sides and they started out in an easy canter. At first Buffy was surprised at how bumpy the ride was, but after a while found the rhythm and began to enjoy it.

They rode most of the morning on a slightly used path, but never saw anyone else. Not long after midafternoon, Gabrielle stopped in a small clearing, and just sat there, thinking.

"Well? Are we going on or stopping?" Buffy asked her.

"I think we should stop for the night. I know it's still early, but we need to gather up a lot of firewood. We should keep a good fire going all night."

"Fine with me." Buffy said as she jumped down off the horse, then discovered her back and legs and hips were unusually sore.

Gabrielle smiled at her slight discomfort. "Horse riding does get a little getting used to. You shouldn't be as sore tomorrow morning."

As Buffy began gathering up wood, Gabrielle started setting up their camp. She laid out the furs on the flattest pieces of ground, then arranged stones in a circle between them where the fire would be.

And lastly, she brought out the weapons and put them next to the furs in case they were needed sometime during the night.

After the fire was going, Gabrielle helped Buffy until there was enough wood she thought should last through the night.

For supper, Gabrielle cooked the dried meat in hot water with wild onions and tubers she found growing nearby. They also ate half the cheese, and for dessert, each ate half a granola bar and half of a Hershey bar.

While they were eating, Buffy asked, "What about these Dryad bones? Do you know where to find any?"

"I think so. Xena was the one who got them before, but it couldn't have been too far from the village. I'm sure if we ask around someone should know. If not, the we'll just have to look for them."

As darkness fell and the sounds of the night grew louder, Gabrielle assure Buffy that as long as the crickets chirped, and the field mice scurried in the brush, and the owls hooted, things were okay. It was when they fell silent that it was time to be concerned.

Then Buffy explained to Gabrielle why she was so tired.

"Don't forget, we got up at six o'clock. So not only were we up all day, but when Willow sent us back here it was morning. Which means we've been awake for more than twenty-four hours. Since I’m not as tired, why don't you let me take the first watch? And I'll get you up about midnight, if I can figure out whenever that is."

"Well, the moon is just now rising, so when it's directly overhead, wake me up."

Buffy's watch was uneventful. And after she got used to the sounds, they became a comfort to her.

"Gabrielle," Buffy said as she touched her shoulder. "Wake up."

Gabrielle was awake instantly. And without a word, she got up, poured water from a water skin into one hand, splashed her face, wrapped her blanket around her shoulders, and began her vigil.

" 'Night." Buffy said as she lay down next to the fire.

The next thing she knew, Gabrielle was shaking her awake. It was already light enough that Buffy had no trouble seeing the trees through the morning fog.

"That time already?"

"That it is. I want to get an early start, so I thought we'd break camp and eat the candy bars for breakfast as we travel. Unless you'd rather I cooked something."

"No. Eating on the run works for me. I kinda wish I'd thought to bring a toothbrush, though."

"We can cut some green twigs to use. They don't taste as good as toothpaste, but they still do the job."

The furs and blankets were rolled up and tied behind the saddle. The leftover food was put in the saddle bags. And the weapons were put back in the satchels, except for the crossbows and arrows.

The last thing they did was put out the fire.

Just as they did, Star became agitated, pawing the ground and pulling on her halter, trying to break free where she was tethered to a tree.

Both crossbows were cocked and silver tipped arrows were loaded. The two women stood back to back, watching and waiting.

Then suddenly, four enormous gray wolves rushed out from the woods, each from a different direction.

Buffy loosed her arrow first, and it pierced the neck of one wolf, which brought it to its knees, slowing it down long enough for her to load a second one.

Gabrielle's arrow went into the second wolf's chest. She was slower to let her arrow go and it had leapt at her.

Buffy's second arrow went through the wolf's side when it spun around trying to dislodge the first arrow.

The third wolf jumped on Buffy, knocking her to the ground. But she was able to grab its jowls, keeping it from tearing into her face.

The fourth wolf also leapt at Gabrielle, who threw away her crossbow and pulled her sais from their holders on the outsides of her calves then dropped to one knee. And as the wolf reached her, she plunged both sias into the wolf -- one on each side of its chest, killing it instantly. But the force of the leap and the weight of the wolf put Gabrielle on her back with the wolf on top of her, blood pouring down her hands and arms as she held tight to the sais.

Buffy managed to roll over on top of the wolf, then got to her feet, dragging the wolf up with her. She then spun it around, still holding onto it. After two complete spins she released the animal and it went flying into a tree. Its back hit first, and it gave a dying yelp as its spine was broken from the impact.

Buffy ran to the first wolf Gabrielle shot, dying but not yet dead, and broke its neck, finishing the job.

Gabrielle managed to push the heavy animal off her, pulling out the sias as she did.

Neither one relaxed until they were sure there were no more wolves lurking in the bushes.

"I guess they were waiting until the fire was out." Buffy surmised. "Could be a weapon we hadn't considered."

"Maybe." Gabrielle said, a little distracted. "Something's not right. They should have turned back into human form by now. 'Kill a Bacchae and they revert back.' That's what I've always heard."

"Maybe it doesn't work when they're wolves."

"Or maybe they're not Bacchae at all." Gabrielle said as she used the toe of one foot to raise the back leg of one of them to expose its genitals. "A male. I wouldn't be surprised if they all are."

"So where'd they come from?"

"Probably just a rogue pack, looking for an easy meal."

"Well, to tell you the truth, I'm a little relieved. I don't mind dusting vamps, and killing demons and Hellbeasts, but I just don't feel right killing things that turn back into humans, especially young women, once they're dead."

"And if it comes down to killing them or being killed?"

"Then I'll do what I have to."

They looked around again, just to make sure, then Buffy asked. "So now what? Do we bury them, or what?"

"No. We need to get going. I'm sure something will come along that likes to eat dead things. It always does."

Buffy retrieved and washed off the arrows while Gabrielle washed the blood off her hands, arms and sais. Then Gabrielle climbed into the saddle and Buffy got up behind her, and once again Star settled into the familiar canter.

It was past noon when they arrived at the outskirts of the village. Contrasted with the solitude of the forest, the town was bustling with activity. As they walked through the open air market, after leaving Star at a livery stable, they were impressed with the number of stalls lining both sides of the street -- men and women selling pots and pans, and cloths and fabrics, and tools, and leather goods. Almost half the stalls were selling fruits and vegetables, and fresh and dried meats.

"If I didn't know better," Gabrielle said, "I'd think it was some kind of festival."

"It isn't?"

"No. It looks like there was a good harvest this year and everyone is buying, selling, and trading. Most of them are probably farmers from the surrounding area.”

"I realize I don't know much about small towns like this, but everyone seems to be pretty happy."

"That's what I was thinking. You would have thought that with the Bacchae back, they'd be worried, or something."

Suddenly, Buffy's attention was elsewhere.

"Oh! I don't know what that is, but something smells pretty good!"

"Well, I have a few dinars, why don't we get something to eat?"

After purchasing two bowls of some kind of stew and brown bread, they found seats on the trunk of a large tree that had been cut down to be used just for that purpose.

While they were eating, Buffy noticed they were being watched by three men, farmers or hunters, she couldn't tell. When they had finished and stood up to move on, the men converged on them.

"Don't recall ever seeing anything like that before." One of them said, pointing at the crossbow slung over Gabrielle's back.

"The other one's got one, too." The second man said.

"Mind if I have a look?" The first man said.

"I'd rather you didn't." Gabrielle told him.

Thinking they were distracted, the third man reached for Buffy's, but she caught him by the wrist, and twisting it, she forced him to one knee.

"Please don't do that." She said sweetly. "My friend said no. You really don't want her to get angry, do you?"

"N-no." The man said, grimacing at the pain.

"I didn't think so." Buffy said, releasing her grip.

"I believe you were leaving." Gabrielle said to the men.

The first man gestured to his friends and they walked off, muttering, and wondering -- if the smaller girl was able to put the man to his knees, what was the other one capable of doing?

"I didn't expect that." Buffy commented. "I would have thought that if anything drew attention to me, it would have been these blue jeans."

"I think your leather coat covering most of them may have had something to do with it. Besides, men are more interested in weapons than fashion."

"Boys and their toys. So now what?"

"I think we should find the local magistrate, or village elder, to see if we can find out anything about the Bacchae. If we ask around, I'm sure someone could direct us to whichever one we need to talk to."

But before they could, there was a commotion at the other end of the market place. They followed the many villagers who were hurrying to see what was going on. When they managed to push their way to the front of the crowd, Gabrielle and Buffy saw that a hunting party had dragged the carcasses of four large, gray wolves into town.

The townspeople seemed unusually happy about it, complimenting and cheering the hunters on their skill and prowess as hunters.

"What's all the fuss about?" Gabrielle asked one woman, trying to be heard over the din.

"These animals have been killing our livestock, and threatening the safety of our children!" She yelled back.

Gradually, the hunters were able to quiet down their friend and neighbors, telling them that they hadn't killed the wolves, but found them at the other side of the forest, already dead.

"Well, whoever did it," One man said, "We owe them a debt of gratitude. And we thank the gods for them."

The other villagers concurred wholeheartedly.

"I think now is the perfect time to announce ourselves." Gabrielle whispered loudly to Buffy. "We should get plenty of co-operation from them."

Buffy nodded in agreement.

"Excuse me!" Gabrielle said loudly. "But it was my friend and I who killed these wolves when they attacked us only this morning."

"Sure you did!"

"A likely story!"

"Do we look like fools?"

"It's true!" Gabrielle said, trying to convince them. "We really did!"

"We used these." Buffy said, raising up her crossbow. "It's a new weapon we devised to kill the Bacchae, but as you all can see, it also works on wolves."

For a moment the crowd quieted down, then an old man spoke up.

"No Bacchae around here. They all disappeared when Bacchus was killed years ago."

"What makes you think there are any Bacchae here, anyway?" Another one said.

"Because just two days ago, my friend was killed by them. Her blood was drained from her and she was left hanging from a tree by one foot." Gabrielle said. "What else but a Bacchae could do such a thing?"

"And there were no footprints," Buffy added. "So they had to have flown away."

There was a distinct change in the mood of the crowd. Suddenly, no one was speaking, and no one would meet either Gabrielle or Buffy's eye.
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