She shouldn’t have eaten those berries. She gave a deep sigh.
“ My first day back in Greece and I’ve poisoned myself.” she squinted up at the blinding sun and gritted her teeth. Her blond locks were darkened with sweat, and she grimaced in pain as another wave of cramps hit. She leaned forward and moaned, then straightened again with determination.
The swaying of the saddle beneath her only aggravated the nausea, growing worse with each step until she abruptly pulled up the ambling grey mare.
“Ok girl, ok, I’ve got to get off this four-legged boat for a while.” she muttered and weakly slid off to the side, holding onto the saddle for strength. It was getting worse. She wiped the sweat off her face.
“Hot, how did it get so hot…” her knees gave out from under her and she rolled to the side of the road. It was going to happen, as much as she hated it, it was going to happen.
She was going to throw up. She crawled into the grass and gave in, hoping for relief. The mare, seeing her chance, wandered a few feet away and began to nibble at a patch of clover.
“Oh, how can you think of food at a time like this?” she groaned at the mare, between heaving spells.
She stopped and listened. Someone- no several horses were approaching. She tried to stand but fell back weakly.
“Well, I guess this is it. Poisoned and robbed, maybe killed, all in one day. Welcome back to Greece, Gabrielle.” she rolled to her knees again as another heaving spell overcame her, dry heaves that made her sweat all the more. The horses were close now, and she could hear men talking. One of them gave a shout and she knew she’d been spotted.

“Halt! By the heavens, what is this?” the man that spoke was of some rank, wearing a gold and blue cape. He looked at Gabrielle with curiosity, then a faint smile graced his face.
“It appears that both you and your horse are grazing?”
Gabrielle smiled back weakly, and then coughed and heaved again.
“Gareth, it appears the grass does not agree with her.” one of the men piped up.
“Indeed not.” Gareth dismounted and walked over to Gabrielle. He surveyed the area and sighed.
“I am sorry for joking. You appear quite ill.” he knelt down, and Gabrielle looked up at him. They exchanged glances and he knitted his brows in thought.
“You look familiar.”
“I look awful, actually,” she managed weakly, “and yes, I feel we’ve met before.” she turned away and coughed, trying to contain the heaving.
“I’m Gareth, the commander of King Quentain’s royal troops. Perhaps you’ve been a guest at the court?”
“Oh- yes, I was there several summers ago. When Xena and I….” her voice faded as the coughing began.
“Xena! That’s it- you’re Gabrielle, why I remember you told us a wonderful story. Well, the least we can do to repay you is offer a stay until you’re well.” He looked around casually. “ Where’s Xena?”
A sudden sharp pain and another wave of nausea rocked her and Gabrielle threw up again, then passed out.

“ Well Gareth, you’ve got quite a talent. That’s the second woman you’ve found by the road this week!” The soldier laughed loudly, waking Gabrielle who stirred and realized she was wrapped in Gareth’s cape like a baby as he balanced her in the saddle in front of him.
“I’m sorry.” she whispered.
“Everyone gets sick now and then. The servants will clean the cape. Excuse me. Guards!”
Several men ran over to help set Gabrielle down from the horse. She stood shakily, taking in her surroundings. The old grey castle looked the same, but something was different.
“A stockade. You built a stockade?” she mumbled.
“We had to. I’ll tell you why later. Take her in and see that she’s treated as a guest of the court.” Gareth nodded to the guards, then rode off, Gabrielle’s horse trailing behind him on a lead.

The smell of old stone hit her nostrils as she entered. Every little scent made her ill. She shook her head and pinched her nose shut as she was escorted up the guest stairway to her room.
“I don’t think you smell all that bad, miss.” the servant girl whispered conspiratorially and smiled. She held out her hand to steady Gabrielle. “We’ll get your bath water and you’ll be clean in no time!”
“Oh.” Gabrielle let go of her nose, not wanting to explain. “Of course, thank you.”
They had reached the top of the staircase, and the girl pointed to her left.
“That’s you, third one in. I’ll be back with your water.” she cleared her throat. “Um, I was wondering, where’s the other miss? You know the big tall one? Will she be along later? Cause if so then-”
“She’s dead.” Gabrielle interrupted the girl, her voice dull.
“Oh miss, I’m sorry, why she was your sister, wasn’t she?”
Gabrielle stared blankly ahead, and shivered. The girl reached out and patted her shoulder.
“I’ll be back with your water.” she said quietly, and turned back down the steps.
Gabrielle remained on the landing, and shivered again.
“She was so much more…” she whispered, and pulled the cape tightly around her shoulders.