Tylus walked over to the woman and pulled back her head and looked into her eyes. He turned quickly around towards Fergus again, a new rage building. "You've nearly killed her you fool!!!" Oh boy, they had a lot of work to do he fretted to himself. " Get her down from those chains and get the healer, maybe he can patch her up good enough to pass for a living corpse at the banquet." This was his chance to gain the full confidence of Helcus and truly make his mark as his top captain and he was not going to let this sniveling idiot ruin everything.
"Yes, right away!" Fergus jumped into action, nearly tripping over the fallen water bucket that lay at his feet.
Tylus strode out of the room. He turned one last time, "And when Barrance gets back you tell him to get his hide up to my quarters!" He spat. "He has a lot of explaining to do. And remind me never to let him stay behind to satisfy his pleasures."
Fergus nodded again, hoping he'd hurry and leave the room - he really needed to pee, NOW.
Xena listened intently to these parting words. A small glimmer of hope burned deep inside her. If Barrance had not returned maybe there was a small chance......she had to believe it so, or she would not live.
She felt the chains being removed and she fell to the ground and into the waiting arms of darkness once again.
Chapter 10 - The Ruins
Solare slapped him harder. "He's not coming around." She turned to Ephiny.
"Never mind!" Ephiny replied, "He will, and we'll need him later. Get him on the horse, - we don't have time to waste." She already knew where they were going. Helcus was only a few hours ride north of here in the foothills of Pasidon. His reputation was widely known and his coldness was unrivaled. They had not crossed paths in the time that he had stayed there, almost two years now. His army never dared enter the amazon territory - like most warlords they wanted no quarrel with them.
Ephiny had sent a small scouting party ahead, not wanting even this small stop to waste any time.
She turned to watch Gabrielle picking through the campsite. Her heart broke at the site of this. Gabrielle collected Xena's chakrum, leathers and armor in her arms and held them close to her breast. Ephiny had a new found respect for this young woman as she turned back to see three of the amazons struggling to lift the large man's form onto the back of one of the horses. She could not even invision Gabrielle taking down such a large man, let alone hitting him so hard she was worried he would be of little use to them for days. Ephiny turned to watch Gabrielle pack Xena's belongings in her saddle bags. She watched her collect her staff, hating to break the spell of this private moment. She had seen the love that Xena held for this small woman in her eyes, even way back when Queen Melosa had been alive and Gabrielle was still so young and naive. She now saw that same love in the bard's eyes. She was now sure that Gabrielle had not told her exactly everything that had happened here.
She went over and placed her arm around Gabrielle's shoulder. "I won't let anything happen to her, Gabrielle, I promise." She stated, now vowing silently that she would be true to her word.
Gabrielle looked up into Ephiny's eyes and saw the seal of a promise there. "I know she's alive, Ephiny, I can feel her right here." She pointed to her heart and quickly turned away, for fear she would once again succumb to the tears that threatened to spill forth.
Ephiny mounted the horse and looked down at her, extending her hand. "Let's go get her then." She whispered softly.
The band of thirty amazon women raced across the clearing and disappeared down the path, leaving a trail of dust behind them.
Chapter 11 - The Plan
The sun was low on the horizon by the time the amazons reached the perimeter of Helcus's castle. They could not go any closer without taking a chance on being detected by the scouting parties that would most likely be guarding the area. The small party of amazons that had gone on ahead were waiting impatiently for Ephiny and the rest of the amazons to arrive.
The amazons dismounted and waited for Ephiny's orders. A small woman, with long brown hair stepped forward to greet Ephiny. They deliberately stepped away from Gabrielle to discuss what she had discovered. Once they were sure they were far enough away, Talia began to report what they had learned. Ephiny's face was dark, and a shimmer of fury was buried just below the surface - this and a growing fear. Talia told her of the feast in Xena's honor. Friends of Helcus had been arriving for the last hour or so in anticipation of great food, fine wine, and a chance to take a parting shot at the fallen warrior.
Talia had estimated there would be at least a hundred men, which would outnumber them roughly three to one. This was not a problem in hand to hand combat, as the women warriors were far more skilled than these men, but they had to get inside first. This was the real problem.
Ephiny motioned Solare over towards them. They needed do discuss a plan of action.
"Whatever we do, we'll have to wait until dark." Talia spoke. "We'll have little chance of surprise and may not penetrate the castle walls."
"I know, "Ephiny replied. "We need to gain access - and we need to get into the banquet. " An idea was forming in her mind, she slowly turning it over, searching for cracks and possible holes. "Our best chance is to gain access through the kitchen. Helcus will need to cater such a feast and we'll just have to accommodate him, won't we?"
"If we can intercept one of those wagons we can do a slow and silent exchange."
"Do I have to wear a dress?" Talia asked mockingly, trying to lighten the somber mood.
"You'll be the first Talia." Ephiny said sternly, but was glad for the light comment that broke this dark spell. Then her face grew hard again. "Talia, take a small party to intercept the first wagon you see. Careful not to hurt the women - they are little more than slaves from the village. " Talia nodded quickly, all business once again.
She turned to Solare. "I need detailed information on the layout of the castle." She turned to look at the slumping log of a man that was being pulled off one of the horses. "Do you think you can get that out of him.?"
"Oh, I think I can manage." Solare replied, a small grin spreading across her face.
Solare walked away from them and headed over to another amazon. "Asara? I need your help on a most delicate matter." She said smiling as she came over and put her arm over the other woman's shoulder. "Here's the plan.."
Ephiny and Talia separated. She glanced over to Gabrielle seated on a nearby log nervously wringing her hands waiting for her to return. She took a deep breath and went over to her.
Chapter 12 - The Healer
She was lying down on hard ground, looking up at Gabrielle, fear covering her beautiful face. She was desperately trying to sit up and hold her but she couldn't lift herself. Her entire body was as heavy as lead but she still strained to get closer to her bard. Her hands seemed to be tied up and she thrashed wildly against the restraints desperately trying to break free. Gabrielle reached down and placed her hands on Xena's wrists and held them there. She leaned down and looked at her. Xena's heart broke as she saw the sadness in Gabrielle's eyes. Gabrielle was talking to her. She could not make out the words. Gabrielle then raised one of her hands and struck her hard across the face.
She closed her eyes tight and fought back tears. She looked up again at Gabrielle but was greeted by a face she did not recognize. Her vision blurred and she fought hard to refocus it.
"Stop struggling!" The man spoke, looking down at her, "You're only hurting yourself more!"
She obeyed as a wave of pain shot through her skull. Her back was on fire as well, battling for her attention. She tried to speak but her lips were too dry and cracked and she fought off the urge to retch. She swallowed hard and lay still.
The healer turned and looked up at Fergus. "She's awake....but I don't know for how long. I'm afraid this is the best I can do. "
"Do you think we can keep her going until the banquet?" Fergus asked nervously wringing his hands together. His hide depended on it being so.
The healer shook his head slowly. "I don't know. I have herbs here that you could make her inhale and that might keep her alert. But there are no promises here. The blow to her head was a nasty one and she's weakened from the whipping." He looked up in disgust.
Fergus visibly flinched at this cursing himself silently for his new found misfortune.
"Get her some water, but not too much, or it might come right back at you. Understand?" The healer looked at Fergus. Gods he hated this part of his job. He was a healer not a corpse reviver. He had been summoned more than once to Helcus's castle for such a nasty patch up job, always to prolong some poor sod's unfortunate last few torturous days. Helcus paid handsomely for his services but that was not what kept him coming back. It was the threat against the well being of his family that really motivated him.
But this one was worse. He had never had to tend to such a magnificent woman. It was a crime to lay such vileness on someone so beautiful.
He looked back down at her. She was eyeing him warily, now completely awake. He could see in her eyes the pain she was feeling and he had to turn away. He fished into his bag and pulled out a small pouch.
Fergus brought over the water. He dropped a small amount of powder into the cup and leaned down and held it to her lips. "This will ease the pain." He said quietly.
Xena watched the man who tended to her. She thought she saw compassion somewhere in those eyes but could not be sure. She listened through her pain at the conversation between the two men. She now understood why she even had the good fortune to be lying down instead of hanging from chains. She felt very sick, probably due to the gigantic throbbing in her head and as they discussed the banquet plans her stomach was tightening further. When he bent down to offer her the cup she gladly accepted it, knowing it was a small reprieve from the greater pain that had yet to be inflicted on her. She only hoped that they would not make her scream before Hades took her. She was a warrior and wanted to die proudly.
She closed her eyes and awaited her fate.
Chapter 13 Final Preparations
"It's my turn to cut off the balls." Asara argued with Solare. "You got to do it the last time."
"I don't think so Asara." Solare replied. She was holding a large dagger, playfully running her hand across it's sharp edge. "If I recall correctly, there was that little man outside Thesia. And he squealed like a stuck pig. Didn't he?"
"Oh you can't count that one, they were hardly bigger than walnuts!" Asara argued back. She pointed down at the wide eyed man seated at their feet tightly bound to the base of a tree. Beads of sweat were forming on his furrowed brow. "These are much bigger. It's not fair!"
"Well maybe you're right. " Solare agreed. "How about we each do one."
"Who goes first then?" Asara asked.
"Oh what does it matter." Solare replied impatiently. "Let's flip a dinar for it."
Barrance swallowed hard as his eyes darted back feverishly between the two women who argued above him. He tried to lick his lips as they were incredibly dry but it helped little as his mouth was a desert. He contemplated the hellish fate of his precious jewels and immediately began to tell them everything they wanted to know - and then some.
Gabrielle sat with Ephiny far away from the proceedings. She did not want to know what was going on over by the tree. Ephiny had her arm wrapped around her trying to explain things.
"We have to be patient Gabrielle. Xena is still very much alive and we have to be make sure we execute this to perfection. Anything less and we all could be dead."
Gabrielle nodded in understanding. "I want you to stay here. " Ephiny stated. "You are too weak to fight." And she added to herself, far too emotionally attached to remain objective.
"I am going with you!" Gabrielle stood shaking in anger.
"Gabrielle," Ephiny spoke quietly trying to calm her. "I can't afford.." Gabrielle cut her off in mid sentence.
"I will not stand by and watch her die! Do you understand me. I CAN'T, I WON'T!!!" She was beginning to break down, tears welling in her eyes.
"All right." Ephiny agreed, knowing she would not win this argument. Knowing that she would want to be afforded this much had their positions been reversed. "But on one condition."
"You must stay in the serving quarters. You can not go out into the banquet. Is that understood?" Ephiny commanded.
Gabrielle nodded weakly. She knew why Ephiny would not allow it, and she was sure even her imagination would not be as horrific as what her eyes would see if she was afforded such a glance.
Talia came into the clearing and hurried over to Ephiny. "We 've got a wagon!" She reported excitedly.
Solare came over to them, dagger still in hand. "And I think we've got enough information to build the castle from scratch - sight unseen." She said grinning.
"Excellent!" Ephiny said. Looking out at the setting sun. "It's time we got started. Now remember, once everyone is in position, nobody makes a move until I give the signal. Understood?
The women nodded in agreement.
The information was passed along and the amazon women readied themselves to leave. There was an excited hum amongst the amazons as they prepared to go, each having different roles and responsibilities for the night. The waiting had built up much nervous energy and they gladly embraced the cloak of darkness that afforded them it's much needed release.
Chapter 14 - Guest of Honor
"And how is my most prized possession fairing Tylus? " Helcus asked his captain.
The two men were standing in the banquet hall watching the preparations unfold. Helcus was not any taller than Tylus but his frame was much wider. It had widened in an unflattering way even further since he had taken possession, or rather stolen possession, of the castle. Dining had become one of his greatest passions since settling in to the establishment, that and a few more unsavory practices not dared mentioned.
"Fine, great. Fergus will be bringing her along shortly." Tylus said lightly. Inside his stomach was doing lazy little back flips, and he was developing a nice little headache to keep it company.
"The guests will be arriving soon Helcus." Tylus said quickly, hoping to change the subject. "Shall we usher them in here?"
"Not until I have my centerpiece proudly displayed. I want this to be a feast to be remembered!" Helcus waved his hands in the air in excitement.
The room had been beautifully decorated. Delicately woven tapestries stolen from the east hung from the stone walls. Each were brightly coloured and intricately designed. Flecks of real gold were woven into the wall hangings and the light from the torches shimmered across them.
The dining table was almost the length of the great hall itself. It was at the center of the room and commanded your visual attention in it's magnificence.
Women were puttering around busily preparing the table for the feast to come.
Two men came in carrying a large throne, struggling with it as they lifted it onto the middle of the great table.
Helcus smiled in delight envisioning the night that lay ahead, and the special guest that would occupy this chair. He had waited along time for this moment, and he wanted everything to be perfect. He barked orders at the women coming out of the serving quarters. "Make sure you use only the best cutlery! And the finest goblets! Understood?!!" He screamed, his large belly shaking with the rhythm of his voice.
The women nodded, quickly bowing to him and continued their preparations. If he was a smarter man he would have seen the look of cold steel fury on the blond woman with the golden locks - but he was not a smart man, only a man that had power, and yielded it like a spoiled child.
"Go get her then Tylus!" He slapped the back of his right hand man. "What are you waiting for!"
"Right away sir!" Tylus spoke enthusiastically. Inside he was wishing he could be.
He left the room and headed down to the dungeons to retrieve the warrior prize, - silently praying to Zeus that she was still alive.
Tylus headed down to the prison area to see how Fergus was managing. He made a mental note to have him shipped off to stable duty when all this was over. A few months of shoveling manure would do wonders for him. And Barrance would be joining him as soon as he arrived.
He entered the room where Fergus and the healer were dressing the woman. They had found some makeshift attire fitting of a warrior. He wished he had been more attentive at gathering her own gear but it was a little late for that now. This would have to do.
Fergus and the healer were struggling to keep the woman on her feet. But she was still alive. Thank the gods, Tylus cried to himself. He may just live to see tomorrow after all.
"Let's get her up there." Tylus said to the men. "Helcus is waiting - and he's not a patient man." He added.
Xena looked up at the man that had entered the room. Her eyes were dark with rage. If she could only talk her body into cooperating she would strangle him where he stood. But she was seeing two of him and she wasn't sure what was real and what was illusion. She could only weakly struggle against the rope that bound her hands behind her back.
"Stop moving so much damn it!" Fergus growled at her.
Each time she attempted in vain to break free another stab of pain would shoot through her. She was in agony despite what the healer had given her and she relented finally as another wave of dizziness felled her and she could no longer see.
"Stubborn woman." Fergus spat under his breath, as they dragged her out of the cell and headed for the feast.
Chapter 15 - Kitchen Duty
The women busily prepared the food on trays. All of the hired help had been replaced with little incident. The guards leading to the servant's entrance had been unceremoniously disposed of. If you looked real close at that particular entrance the guards would appear a little more shapely than on most days but it was dark and no one around here was interested in such matters.
The amazons all wore long skirts now, their weapons neatly tucked away under the cover of the garments.
"You know, these dresses do come in handy for something after all." Asara whispered to another, slightly taller amazon by the name of Kauri.
"I guess so, but I'm having a hard time not tripping every time I walk. I can't believe women actually wear this ridiculous attire!" Kauri replied. "And I'm having a hard time hiding my bow under here."
"Is that what that is?" Asara laughed, looking down at her skirt and arching her brow.
"Very funny." Kauri said flatly.
"You two having a good time or are we here to save someone's life?" Solare spoke sternly peering over their shoulders watching them place delicacies on the trays.
"Sorry." Kauri spoke quickly. "It's just these damn dresses..." She spoke, pulling on the fabric.
"It's a skirt Kauri. "Solare replied.
"Whatever you want to call this instrument of torture - I can't wait to get out of it." Kauri growled back. She then picked up the tray and headed for the entrance to the banquet hall, and nearly tripped on the bottom of the hem. She cursed under her breath as she left the room.
Kauri returned quickly, her face had gone a white shade of pale. Asara and Solare turned to see her come in. "It's Xena!" Kauri cried. Everyone looked up from what they were doing now and listened intently. "They've got her in the chair!"
Gabrielle quickly looked away and tried to concentrate on the tray she was working on. Her hands were visibly trembling as she tried to place slabs of wild boar meat into some form of ridiculous design she doubted any of these men would appreciate.
Her eyes blurred and she grabbed the edge of the table to right herself in fear she might faint.
Ephiny raced over and grabbed her arm. "You okay?" She asked.
She looked up and nodded weakly. "I'm fine Ephiny, really." She knew Ephiny believed it as little as she. "As fine as I can be under the circumstances...." She added.
She looked into Ephiny's concerned face pleadingly. "I have to see her." She whispered. "Please."
Ephiny struggled with her emotions. "You made a promise Gabrielle." She said. "I won't let you." She said. "And she would not want you to see her like this." Ephiny continued, "She loves you too much for that." Ephiny finished knowing this might be enough to sway the bard.
"I know." Gabrielle replied weakly and turned to finish the tray.
Ephiny left her and went over to Solare. "Get everyone ready and in position. We can't wait much longer - the risk is too great. - and I don't know how much longer Xena will last."
Chapter 16 - The Feast
The feast was under way and the men were already feeling no pain due to the copious amounts of mead and wine they were consuming. They were stuffing globs of meat and other savory dishes into their mouths with their hands, the fine cutlery long since forgotten on the dining table. The crowd was loud and boisterous and Helcus had once again sent the men into fits of laughter as he told yet another joke pertaining to his new prize.
"Of course she was younger then..." He laughed, tears forming at the corners of his eyes, as a new wave of giggles threatened to send him over the edge once again.
He raised his goblet high in the air. "I propose a toast!"
Everyone raised their own mugs and waited.
"To the great Warrior Princess......."
"To the great WARRIOR PRINCESS!!!" The crowd shouted out gleefully.
"May she rest in pieces....I mean peace..."He howled with laughter at his own joke, and the crowd burst into another fit along with him.
Tylus sunk lower into his chair, suddenly wishing he was somewhere else. The proceedings were beginning to sicken him, or maybe it was Helcus he had begun to truly despise.
By the gods, Xena thought to herself, I can't believe I ever let this man ride with my army. She looked down at him with disgust. She strained in vain against the rope that bound her to the throne, each effort sent a new wave of excruciating pain through her body. They had tied her forehead to the back of the throne to ensure she remained propped up. Her hands were bound tightly to the large wooden arms, her feet fastened to the base of the legs. She strained to keep her eyes open. Every time they threatened to close that stupid little man that sat to one side of her would strike her foot hard with his goblet to ensure she remained alert.
But this was not what really bothered her. It was the food that various men had been throwing at her for the last half an hour that was really getting to her now. The smell was making her feel extremely sick, not to mention disgusted, as some of it had come from their mouths. She tried hard not to think about that too much.
But there was something else. Her vision was blurred and her thinking not completely clear but there was something pushing at the back of her mind. She couldn't grasp it, it was just out of her reach. Something about the women, standing at the back of the room. She closed her eyes and tried to focus again. A shot of pain traveled up her shin as Fergus slammed his goblet into her foot once more.
Her eyes flew open in response and she fought the urge to throw up - but she refused to be humiliated in this way in front of these pigs. She swallowed hard and used her mental skills to shut out the scene she was forced to view before her. She pictured Gabrielle again, how she had floated lazily in the pond with her arms around her, an eternity ago now, it would seem. She had kissed her gently and the warmness in her heart she had felt.......her thoughts drifted towards this as she once again let her mind slip away to another place.
But she pulled herself back again as her warrior instincts forced her to look again at what was disturbing about the scene. Her eyes narrowed as she once again strained to see the women at the back of the room.
"We need more wine wench!" One of the men screamed, his goblet empty. The noise was too loud and no one heard him. He staggered up off his chair and headed angrily towards the kitchens.
He burst through the door and ran into the path of a young pretty blonde woman, nearly knocking over the tray of wine she was carrying. "You! Bring that out here now!" He grabbed her by the arm and whisked her through the doors before any of the amazons had a chance to react.
Chapter 17 - The Fight
Gabrielle was thrown into the banquet hall, she fought to steady the tray before it crashed to the ground.
She quickly righted herself and turned towards the great table. She looked up at the ghastly throne that served as the center piece of this macabre gathering and all of the blood drained out of her face.
"Xena!" She gasped and immediately dropped the tray at her feet.
The tray made a loud crashing noise and everyone turned to look at her.
"Hades!" Ephiny cried, racing towards the banquet hall door. She made the bird call that was the signal to attack and flew through the opening. So much for the element of surprise she thought.
Xena's eyes caught the commotion at the kitchen doors. A small blonde hared woman had dropped a tray. Her heart skipped a beat as she immediately recognized the figure despite the fact that she could barely see.
Ephiny came charging out of the door after her making a wild whooping battle cry, her sword raised high above her head and the amazons descended on the crowd.
Xena's eyes widened as she watched the fight unfold before her. The men were caught off guard but quickly gather their weapons and began slashing wildly at the amazons. They were coming from everywhere and the men were quickly losing ground. There was a great clash of steel and arrows as the women would had been standing at the back of the great hall uncloaked their bows and began downing the men one by one.
The banquet hall became a blood bath in seconds and the rowdy laughter of a moment ago had turned to angry shouting and lots more cursing.
Guards from outside the hall were racing in to see what the Hades had gone wrong.
Gabrielle was making her way through the fighting bodies towards the throne.
Helcus was still standing, goblet in hand, mouth gaping open.
Ephiny was shouting instructions over the melee. "Solare, over there! The guards!" She dove her sword into a warlord that was rushing her. She then turned around to face another onrusher, felling him with a single blow to the head.
Solare nodded and signaled a few amazons to race to the south doors and ready themselves.
Kauri was an excellent archer, she had immediately tore off her skirt revealing her amazon garb, raced to the middle of the room and had begun to inflict some serious damage.
Asara led a small team to the north of the banquet hall in anticipation of a fresh wave of troops that would be coming through the doors at any moment.
Tylus was barking orders to his troops, whom he feared were far too wide eyed at the moment for their own good. This was not turning out to be a good day after all.
Gabrielle grabbed a dagger from a fallen body and jumped up on the table rushing towards Xena.
Xena's eyes lit up at the sight of her lover but quickly widened in fear as she saw Helcus stumble up onto the table after Gabrielle, sword raised and leveled for her back.
"Gabrielle!" She screamed. Or tried to, as it only came out in a whisper. Gabrielle did not hear her cry and did not feel the presence of Helcus - her fighting sense was nowhere to be found as her emotions had taken over.
Finally Gabrielle saw the look of fear in Xena's eyes but it was too late, she turned to see Helcus coming at her, his sword headed straight for her heart.
His mad grin froze on his face, and then a look of surprise replaced it and he fell forward, dead before he hit the ground. His large frame shook the table as it landed, a sword imbedded deep into his back remained stuck there, Ephiny's hand still holding the deadly weapon.
She removed it quickly, looked at Gabrielle, and then Xena, an unspoken promise fulfilled and headed back to the fray. She had a date with Tylus she was not going to miss.
Tylus saw the blonde woman down Helcus and head straight for him. He now knew he would not live to see another day.
Gabrielle's hands were shaking wildly as she attempted to cut the ropes that bound her warrior.
She kissed Xena gently on the lips as she removed the rope that held her head.
With all restraints gone, Xena collapsed into her arms let herself be held. She finally closed her eyes and slipped into unconsciousness as Gabrielle spoke soothing words to her.
Chapter 18 - The Wait
The amazon healer had been in there for at least an hour. Gabrielle was wild with worry. She paced back and forth outside the amazon hut, Ephiny watching her intently, the pacing was making her mildly dizzy.
A few of the other amazons waited quietly outside as well. Solare and Kauri were waiting their turn to be looked at, having been slightly wounded in the battle. The amazons had survived with little injury. No one had died which was incredible considering they must have downed one hundred men. It would eventually be five times that once the stories were passed down a few generations.
The healer called Gabrielle in to the hut. Ephiny followed.
"I've fixed her up as best I can. The slashes on her back will heal fine, she's lucky someone attended to them before they became too infected. She is now weak with fever. It's the blow to her head that is the most worrisome. But she hasn't died from it yet." Gabrielle visibly flinched at this.
The woman got up and put her arms on Gabrielle's shoulders. She continued, "She's a very strong woman. - with a great reason to live. - I will leave you to tend to her now, you are her best medicine."
She gathered her things and went to leave. "Stay close to her, she had been calling your name and needs to be reassured. Here is some tea mixture, make sure she keeps it down. "I'll leave you now, I've got others to tend to." And with that she left.
Ephiny came over and gave Gabrielle a big hug. "I'll leave you two alone, let me know if you need anything, I'll be nearby."
Xena was dreaming she was in a hot fiery place. Beads of sweat were pouring down her face and she squinted to see through the water that was pooling in her eyes. Soft hands were gently caressing her, they were cool and comforting against the fire of her skin. There was a dull mumbling of noise ringing in her ears and she strained to make sense of the nameless chatter.
"Did I ever tell you about Zeus and the flock of doves Xena?" Gabrielle spoke to her. She gently wiped away the sweat on Xena's forehead and continued to apply the wet sponge to her feverish body. She was very tired now but there was no place she would rather be. "Didn't I?" She replied to herself. "Well then, here's how it goes..."
She blabbered on for many hours but Xena was still fire in her hands. She was running out of material. She was also beginning to get very sleepy, her eyes beginning to roll back in her head.
Xena was wrapped in a warm embrace. She couldn't move and her eyes strained to open to see what the object of such comfort was. They finally opened and took in her surroundings. Her vision blurred then righted itself. She was staring up at a grass roofing that she knew she should recognize. Someone lay draped over her body and the strawberry blonde hair was unmistakably her Gabrielle.
She smiled and lifted her hand to stroke her hair. Xena was weak and in some pain but her fever was gone and she was thinking clearly once again. The events of the last day were coming back to her in small fragmented pieces. Her head was throbbing as a reminder of her battle with Helcus's men.
She didn't know how Gabrielle had escaped and how the amazons had managed to rescue her but none of that mattered much now - she was in the arms of the woman she loved and she drifted off into a peaceful sleep, her hands wrapped tightly around the bard.
Chapter 19 - An Errand
"I won't be gone for long Ephiny." Gabrielle said. They were standing at the entrance to the stables. She was retrieving the black horse that had once been Barrance's. Argo had been retrieved from the village yesterday but she preferred the black horse, as it had trusted her and it had helped her when there had been no one else.
"Gabrielle, it's not that I don't trust you, but Xena will have my hide if something happens to you. You can understand that can't you?" Pleaded Ephiny. "And besides, tonight is a special celebration in honor of the both of you. What if you don't make it back in time."
"I will Ephiny." Gabrielle said. "I want to do this for Xena. It's very important."
Ephiny sighed and gave in to the determination of the young woman. "All right, but you'll need an escort. Talia will go with you." She signaled over to Talia who had the misfortune of passing by at the wrong time.
"Great!" Gabrielle answered excitement in her voice. A large smile covered her face.
Ephiny looked at her and smiled too, her good nature was infectious and she couldn't help but give in to it.
"What will I tell Xena if she asks where you've gone?" Ephiny asked, she hated lying, especially to Xena as she was one that would see right through her.
Ephiny helped Gabrielle mount the horse. "Oh I'm sure you'll think of something. You are the amazon queen after all." Gabrielle laughed looking down at her.
"Whoa, I forgot how tall it was from up here." She took a big swallow. She could do this, she said to herself. "I'll be back soon, and don't you dare tell her anything!" Gabrielle warned.
Talia and Gabrielle trotted out of the amazon camp leaving Ephiny to worry all by herself. Maybe she could avoid Xena for the rest of the day - in fact she planned on it.
Xena was up and about finally, moving with only mild discomfort, her wounds healed for the most part. She had only just managed to get out of bed yesterday but was restless to get going again and was excited at the prospect of heading out on the road again tomorrow. Staying in one spot for too long always left her edgy.
She came out from the hut looking for Gabrielle. She hadn't seen her for over two hours and was growing concerned. Maybe if she could find Ephiny, she would know. She headed in the direction of her hut.
Kauri came up to Xena as she crossed the campground.
"Xena, do you think you could help me over here? I need strong hands to hold up this beam while I tie it."
The amazons had much rebuilding to do as Valasqua had destroyed much of the camp in her rage after she had tasted the ambrosia and been turned into a god. All work had stopped when they raced off to save Xena but now they were back working steadily. Xena was always willing to help and went over to Kauri and held the beam.
Kauri looked over in the general direction of the main hut where the preparations for tonight's celebration were being carried out. She saw Ephiny peering out the opening giving her a silent signal. She responded with a slight grin on her face. She turned to look at Xena but it was quickly hidden. Ephiny had instructed them to keep her occupied until Gabrielle and Talia returned.
Xena looked up from the beam she was steadying. "Have you seen Gabrielle?"
"I think her and Talia went swimming, I'm not sure." Kauri replied.
Xena looked at her and tried to figure out why she didn't believe her but let it go. She continued to hold the beam as beads of sweat were beginning to form on her brow. Maybe she wasn't as rested as she had hoped.
Solare came over and helped. When the task was complete Xena got up to leave. Solare put her arm around her shoulder. "Xena I need some help with the wall over there. Would you mind?" She asked politely, smiling at the panting warrior.
Oh Hades, Xena thought to herself. "Sure Solare, I'm at your service. "
They worked poor Xena a good two hours at this game. She was so tired by the time they had finished with her she had to go lie down and recover.
Xena collapsed onto the bed and immediately fell into a deep sleep.
Chapter 20 - Nap Time
"You didn't kill her did you?" Ephiny asked peering into the hut at the fallen warrior.
"Almost!" Solare laughed.
They heard the call of arrival and turned to see Gabrielle and Talia coming in on horseback..
"It's about time!" Ephiny growled at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle had an excited grin on her face. "Where's Xena? - You didn't tell her did you?" She added with slight worry.
"No, Gabrielle, but we had to kill her - she's on the bed."Ephiny's eyes pointed towards the hut, and she burst out laughing and Solare joined in.
"No it's your turn." Ephiny added looking at Gabrielle. "You have to get her up in time for the festivities. We start in an hour."
Both women walked away chuckling to themselves.
Talia and Gabrielle looked at each other. Talia just shrugged and turned to lead the horses to the stables.
Gabrielle entered the hut and her heart melted once again as she saw her love lying peacefully on their bed. She looked so beautiful when her face wasn't dark with worry or concentrating on saving some village. Well, maybe just more beautiful, she thought as she lay down on the edge of the bed to gaze at her more closely.
Her finger traced Xena's jaw line and continued to make it's way down her neck. Gabrielle loved the feel of this little ritual. She now had full privileges in the touching arena and she couldn't seem to keep her hands off of her. They had not made love since the ruins as she didn't want to risk weakening Xena but she was not sure how much longer she could wait. Just sitting beside her was making her insides ache. Xena had opened up a whole new world of sensations to her and she was young and hungry to explore them again and again.
She sighed knowing Xena needed to rest but her hands would not obey her. She traced a line down Xena's arm and lifted one of her hands to her mouth. She kissed the palm gently and began slowly painting kissed on each of her fingers.
Xena stirred in her sleep responding to the bard's touch instinctually.
Her kisses continued down her arm, and stopped at the soft spot on the inside of her elbow. She continued on again until she reached her neck line stopped there. She gently sucked on a particularly sensitive part until she could hear Xena moan in her sleep.
She smiled to herself wondering what Xena was dreaming now.
"Gabrielle.." Xena whispered in her sleep and she had her answer.
Damn she thought to herself. The ache was getting stronger in her but she knew she couldn't dare wake her - they had a celebration in their honor and she did not want to show up alone. Xena needed to sleep. She sighed and pulled away. "But when you get better I am going to work you so hard...." her thoughts trailed off.
Then her eyes widened slightly as she looked down at Xena's neck, a dark purple welt forming there before her eyes.
"Uh oh.." She said aloud. And then vowed silently not the mention it.
She gave her a half hour more to sleep then finally came over to rouse her. She stood over the warrior shaking her. "Xena." First softly, then louder. "Wake up! Xena!"
Xena's eyes rolled in the back of her head and she shook her harder.
Xena finally relented and opened her eyes looking up at the gorgeous woman that was now hers. She couldn't believe her luck. "Hi! - hey where have you been?" She groaned, trying to look angry but not doing a great job of it.
"Celebration's starting Xena. You have to get up." Gabrielle avoided the issue.
Xena sighed and closed her eyes again. "I'm tired."
"You're getting up. - Now. " Gabrielle added with some force.
"Now?" Xena whined.
"Come on!" Gabrielle heaved her up by the arms. "We're wasting time!"
"Oh so now you're the one in a hurry eh?" Xena asked knowing how Gabrielle hated to be teased.
"Very funny." Gabrielle replied. And then tried a new tactic. "I'll have to dance with Talia then."
"I'm up, I'm up." Xena sighed heavily and let the bard lead her to the festivities.
Chapter 21 - The Party
The food they had laid out on the tables was a delight for the eyes as well as the palette. It was well picked over now as much of the eating had already been done. Now most of the women were either dancing or sitting around drinking fine wine and engaging in conversation or other intimacies.
The tribal music played seductively in the background as Gabrielle sat drinking and chatting with Talia while keeping one eye on her warrior who was over talking to Solare and a few others. Probably some sort of weapon talk, she thought to herself. Gabrielle turned back to Talia and continued on one of her stories, this one about their adventure with the bacchae.
"Anyway, I was dancing in this bar with these women and it was not unlike the music that's playing right now, come to think of it." She said.
Talia was young like Gabrielle and was heavily into the festive part of the celebration. She nodded enwrapped in Gabrielle's story. It was more her green eyes actually.
Gabrielle took another long sip from her goblet. "This stuff is great Talia!"
"Want another?" Talia asked deviously.
"Sure!" Gabrielle replied enthusiastically draining the last drops from her goblet. She was beginning to have a fine time indeed.
"Anyway if you throw it just right it will make contact where you aimed and eventually return to you. But you have to be careful you don't cut yourself when you grab it again." Xena held up her chakram as she explained it's finer points to Solare and Kauri.
They were smiling at her as if they knew something she didn't . It was really beginning to irritate Xena. And these were not the first amazons that had looked at her this way tonight.
Kauri kept trying to look at her without grinning but she was losing the battle with the corners of her mouth. Solare was nodding in response to her but she was also struggling not to laugh.
Finally Xena could stand it no longer. "Am I missing something here or is a chakrum really that funny??" She growled, her eyes tiny slits glaring threateningly at the two women.
"Sorry Xena," Solare replied. "It must be the wine." She gave Kauri a jab with her elbow. "Right?
"Right!" Piped Kauri, desperately trying to control herself and definitely not allowing her eyes to wander to the large purple bruise on Xena's neck. Don't look down, keep focusing on her forehead, Kauri chanted silently to herself. Focus, Kauri, Focus girl.
'That's quite a nice round killing thing you've got there Xena." Solare finally said, trying to change the subject.
"Right." Xena replied evenly. "I think I need a drink." And she left the women standing there. She refused to look back as she heard them finally lose control and burst into gales of laughter.
"So I bit her neck and turned her into a bacchae too." Gabrielle continued telling her story to Talia.
Talia listened intently. "Wow! Sounds great!" She exclaimed. "What did it feel like?" Talia asked very curious about this one.
"I don't remember much of it but I think it was great!" Gabrielle replied. She scanned the crowd to see where Xena was. She was over talking to another group of amazons. She was waving her chakrum around again. Probably another weapons conversation she thought. Gods she looked beautiful. And then she added. "No, I'm sure it was great! And I think she liked it too, she sure was moaning a lot anyway!"
She looked at Talia and they both broke into a laughing fit.
"Another?" Talia asked, tears in her eyes.
"Another!" Gabrielle raised her goblet in a mock salute.
Ephiny looked over at the proceedings in the corner of the room. Gabrielle and Talia were in a lively conversation. They were clasping their goblets together and downing far more alcohol than they were capable of handling. She sighed, thinking of when she had been so young and could afford to do such damage to herself and live to see the morning. Or rather want to live to see the morning.
She thought she'd better get over there before it was too late.
"And then Xena stuck him with a dryad bone and he blew up, basically." Gabrielle finished.
"Just blew up?" Talia asked incredulously.
"Yep." Gabrielle replied. "Yep, just blew up,...he blew up good actually."
They both looked at each other and burst into a new fit of giggles.
They were rolled over now unable to contain themselves.
"Talia!" Ephiny barked. She was standing down looking at them.
"Epppphinyy!" Talia exclaimed with a noticeable slur. Both girls stopped laughing and looked up at the queen.
"Why don't you go over and help with the serving of the midnight desserts?" Ephiny stated.
Talia knew this was not a request but a command. "Sure Ephineee!" Talia got up quickly, nearly fell but Ephiny grabbed her arm and caught her.
Talia suppressed more laughter looking down at Gabrielle. "Bye Gabbeee, ...great ssstory!" Talia said and proceeded to walk tentatively towards the tables.
Ephiny sighed and sat down beside Gabrielle and put her arm around her. They both gazed out into the party thinking.
"You all right?" Ephony asked Gabrielle.
"Never better!" Gabrielle replied watching her gorgeously tall and proud warrior across the room.
Ephiny looked over as well, knowing where Gabrielle's eyes were gazing.
Gabrielle took another swig of her wine and sighed. "Isn't she beautiful."
"Yes she is." Ephiny stated.
Gabrielle was smiling dreamily at Xena.
She turned to look at Ephiny, with a serious expression. "Ephonnee", she was slurring now. "Have you seen her naked!"
Ephiny laughed at this but refused to answer.
Gabrielle leaned on her for support. "Ya gotta see her naked Epphonee." She was having a hard time with pronouncing her name suddenly. "She looks soooooo good naked."
"Well maybe some time..."Ephiny spoke slowly humoring the bard. She was completely impaired now but her enthusiasm was infectious and Ephiny couldn't help but smile with her.
"You wouldn't believe it!" Her hands waving animatedly around Ephiny's head. "I can't keep my hands off her!" Gabrielle exclaimed. "It's been a long few days, you know??" She whined.
"Yes it has." Ephiny replied.
Gabrielle was smiling again gazing at Xena. Then she turned to Ephiny again, a seriousness in her tone.
"Yes Gabrielle." Ephiny replied. Waiting.
"Can I ask you a quesssttion?" She slurred, but remained serious.
"Sure." Ephiny replied. Can't wait for this one she thought to herself.
Gabrielle furrowed her brow and asked." Have you ever felt the softness of a woman's breast?
Ephiny was fighting hard not to burst into laughter. Her face looked sternly over at her.
"Gabrielle, I'm an amazon." She stated.
"Rrright, rrright...courssse, sssorrryy.." Gabrielle apologized. She took another long drink from her goblet.
"But you had a centurion baby." Gabrielle commented. There was a pregnant pause.
"And your point ....*is*..."Ephiny asked back slowly.
"My point? " Gabrielle looked up to the ceiling in hopes of inspiration. "Whhhat was the qquestionn?" .
Oh boy, Ephiny thought. "Don't you think you've had enough of.."
Gabrielle cut her off in mid sentence. "You gotta see her naked Ephiny....she looks ssssoooo good ssnaked!" Gabrielle was looking intently at Ephiny again. Ephiny was not looking at her. She was looking intently at something right in front of them.
Gabrielle turned to see beautiful legs before her eyes, she followed them up until she realized she was staring up at her warrior, who seemed to be just a little bit perturbed.
"Xxxennna!" Gabrielle cried. "What are you doing all the way up there?
Xena looked at Ephiny. She could only smile and shrug.
"Let's go Gabrielle." Xena growled as she tried to pull the bard to her feet - but Gabrielle's legs were protesting.
"Hey whoa!" Gabrielle cried, trying to balance herself. Then she looked up at Xena again. "You're beautiful you know..."
"Uh huh." Xena replied as she bend down and picked her up and hoisted her over her shoulder.
"Time for bed." She stated and winked at Ephiny as they turned to leave.
"Hey, "Gabrielle exclaimed, "the roommm, it'sss upssside down?!"
"Yep." said Xena as she carried her past the crowd of amazons that were trying not to grin too much for fear of Xena's wrath.
Chapter 22 - Bedtime
"Whooah Xena!" Gabrielle groaned as she was unceremoniously dropped on the bed.
"Lie still and I'll take off your boots." Xena said trying to sound stern but not quite getting there.
She was negotiating Gabrielle's boot when she was grabbed and pulled down.
"Hey" Xena growled as she lost her balance and fell onto the bed. "Watch it!"
Gabrielle had her arms wrapped around Xena's neck and she pulled her in to kiss her.
Xena gave into the kiss and then pulled away.
"You're drunk Gabrielle." Xena stated.
"Am I?" Gabrielle replied shocked. She was pulling at Xena's armor now.
"Yah gotta see yourslef snakeed Xena!"
"Gabrielle." She pushed the bard down onto the bed again, pinning her shoulders.
"Get some sleep." Xena said looking down out her.
"SLEEP!" Gabrielle cried. "That's all we've done for 5 days now! I don't want to SLEEP!"
"Gabrielle." Xena said slowly while giving her the look.
"Please Xena." Gabrielle looked pleadingly into her eyes.
Xena sighed. She never could refuse the bard and she knew it.
She relented and let go of Gabrielle's shoulders and kneeled on the bed facing her.
"You're not going to throw up on me are you?" Xena asked warily.
"Nope." Gabrielle replied. She was looking intently up at Xena who was beginning to remove her armor.
"So you want to see me naked. That right?" Xena spoke with a stern voice with a hint of teasing.
Gabrielle nodded quietly.
"All right then. One naked warrior coming up."
"Uh Xena, do you think you could wet your hair?"
"Gabrielle!" Xena warned.
"Sorry..sorry, never mind." Gabrielle kept her mouth shut. This was not an easy thing for her to do.
But as she watched Xena slowly remove her breast plate she quickly got very quiet.
Xena worked the clasps of her armor slowly. She wanted to make Gabrielle wait. She enjoyed the effect she was having on the bard as she teasingly took her time. Gabrielle reached up with her hands to help speed up this torturous display but Xena would have none of it.
"Oh no you don't!" Xena said pulling just out of her reach.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity to Gabrielle, Xena had removed her breast plate. She slowly took of her wrist guards and then her arm bands. Gabrielle was having a real hard time just remaining still. With each item removed by her warrior she was getting more aroused.
She watched as Xena untied her leathers and slowly pulled the straps off her shoulders, one at a time. The leather tunic slid off to reveal her shift.
Gabrielle's eyes were very dark now and they reflected fire from the candle burning on the night stand at the side of the bed. She took another big swallow and continued to watch the display before her eyes.
Xena finally grasped the shift and lifted it slowly over her head to reveal her naked form beneath it.
It was magnificent.
She kneeled over the bard looking into her hungry eyes.
"Well?" Xena asked.
"....great....naked....." was all the words that would form in Gabrielle's mouth. Speechless yet again.
Gabrielle reached up to pull Xena down to her.
"Uh uh." Xena pulled back.
Gabrielle was beside herself now. Xena had yet to touch her but she was throbbing painfully inside.
Xena reached down slowly and began to untie Gabrielle's top.
The touch of Xena's hands on her made her inhale sharply.
Xena slowly undid the laces and gently removed Gabrielle's top. She resisted the urge to bury her head in her breasts and sat back again. She was feeling particularly teasing tonight and she was going to make the bard wait.
"Xena..." Gabrielle moaned as she pulled away from her.
She then slowly pulled down gabrielle's skirt to reveal her nakedness there.
Xena looked down at Gabrielle and was suddenly having a hard time playing her own game. She fought this urge and leaned over Gabrielle's body grabbing her hands in hers and lifting them back over her Gabrielle's head. She kneeled forward, Gabrielle's arms held down, and allowed her long dark hair to gently caress Gabrielle's body. She bent down and let her lips slightly brush Gabrielle's skin. A wave of desire past through her as she felt the heat of Gabrielle's skin on her lips.
Gabrielle was trembling beneath her grip. With each graze of Xena's lips her body rose to meet her but each time Xena would steal away before she could feel her touch.
"Xena, please." Gabrielle pleaded.
Xena shifted and tucked her leg between Gabrielle's thighs. Gabrielle's body immediately tightened and she moaned softly.
Xena bend down again and grazed Gabrielle's nipple, now swollen from desire. Xena was weakening in her resolve to hold back and finally began to circle her nipple with the tip of her tongue.
Gabrielle cried out in response. This sent fresh waves of desire through Xena. She ran her tongue along Gabrielle's arched chest and sucked on her other nipple playfully biting it.
Gabrielle was basking in a sea of sensations. Her whole body was alive and with each touch of her warrior's lips the heat building in her intensified. Xena was driving her mad with her slow seduction but she could do little to alleviate this as her hands were being held gently, and though this drove her crazy a part of her was loving it.
Xena pulled back again and looked into her lover's eyes. Then she bend down again and ran her tongue along Gabrielle's neckline. She buried her head in her hair and breathed in the scent of her. She then bit gently on her ear. Gabrielle was making small gasping noises.
"Am I driving you crazy yet?" Xena whispered in the bard's ear.
"Yes!" Gabrielle growled.
"Me too." Xena replied softly.
Finally Xena could no longer wait to taste her tender lips. She kissed her softly at first, biting at her bottom lip. It tasted of fine wine and a sweetness that could only be her.
Gabrielle raised her head to catch Xena's lips before she pulled them away again and finally trapped the warrior in her own game.
Xena devoured her lips as she let her tongue entwine with Gabrielle's. Suddenly she was very hungry for the feel of Gabrielle's body and lay down on top of her, giving in to the warm that greeted her there.
She released her hold on Gabrielle's arms and let the bard explore.
Gabrielle immediately buried her freed hands into Xena's hair and held her head down to her lips placing hungry kisses all over her face.
Xena rolled on her side pulling the bard with her. She let Gabrielle cover her with soft kisses. She loved the energy of Gabrielle's desire letting herself be consumed in it.
The heat building between the two women was becoming unbearable.
Xena traced the curves of Gabrielle's body with her hand and then slid it down between the bard's welcoming thighs.
Gabrielle's cry died in her throat as Xena covered her mouth with a deep kiss.
A shock surged through Xena's body as she felt the incredible wetness of Gabrielle's desire.
She stroked her slowly feeling the hardness of Gabrielle's center under her fingers.
Gabrielle was making small whimpering sounds under Xena's lips. Xena was really enjoying the enforced silence of her bard and continued to cover her mouth with her own.
She was smiling to herself but her own breath caught in her throat suddenly as Gabrielle slipped her own hand between Xena's thighs. This would be a fight to the death.
Gabrielle hungrily matched Xena stroke for stroke. Xena was having a hard time breathing and was trying to pull her lips away from Gabrielle's mouth but the bard was having none of this.
Both Gabrielle's hips and Xena's moved to the rhythm of their stroking fingers.
As the level of their desire rose to the edge of release the speed of their hands quickened. Both women were gasping hard now but continued to hold each other's lips in a death lock.
Xena slid two of her fingers inside Gabrielle and expertly continued to stroke her harder.
Gabrielle cried out but quickly recovered and matched Xena's assault on her senses with her own.
Xena moaned loudly between Gabrielle's lips sending ripples of warmth through Gabrielle's center.
Finally it was Xena that relented as the pressure to release was too great for her to hold back. A wave of orgasm spread through her body starting at her core and rippling it's fingers all the way down to her toes and all the way up to her head. Xena pulled her mouth away from Gabrielle's and cried out loud as waves of pleasure pulsed through her body and she could no longer be silent.
"Gabrielle!!!" Xena cried out her name.
This word unlocked Gabrielle's own release. An incredible heat built deep inside her.
"Xena!!!" Gabrielle cried as her body convulsed and gave in to the wave of a deep orgasm. Her body rocked under Xena's hands wildly as wave after wave of pleasure swept through her.
They trembled in each other's arms as small aftershocks pulsed through their bodies. Finally they lay spent, entwined in a battle embrace.
Neither could speak for a few moments so they lay there looking into each other's eyes.
Xena began to gently cover the bard's face with soft kisses.
"I won didn't I?" Gabrielle whispered to her lover.
"Yes you did." Xena smiled a grin spreading on her lips. She kissed Gabrielle again.
There was a pause and then Gabrielle pulled Xena back and looked into her eyes. "You didn't let me win did you?"
"No," Xena sighed, "You beat me fair and square."
"Really?" Gabrielle replied suddenly feeling very proud of herself.
Xena was nuzzled into the bard's shoulder as the expenditure of energy was too great for her and she began to drift off to sleep. She was sinking into a peaceful place when Gabrielle nudged her.
"Xena?" Gabrielle whispered.
"Hmmm?" Xena replied half conscious.
"You're not sleeping again are you?" Gabrielle cried.
"I was.." Xena replied flatly..
"Wait, I have something for you." Gabrielle whispered to her.
"can't it wait until..." Xena drifted trying hard to talk.
"No, it can't!" Gabrielle jumped up in the bed and straddled Xena. She was feeling invigorated. "I'm feeling great, the world is great! Everything's great!!" Gabrielle was talking freely once again. "Isn't it Xena?" She asked her, leaning down on her trying to rouse her lover.
"Just close your eyes while I bring you your surprise!" Gabrielle exclaimed. "No peeking until I say!"
"No problem there." Xena grumbled.
Gabrielle jumped off the bed and immediately fell to the ground. "Ouch!" Gabrielle cried.
Xena was jolted into a sitting position when she heard the loud bang. Her eyes flew open." Gabrielle!! Are you all right??"
"Yep, got it Xena, no problem." Gabrielle replied from somewhere below the bed. She reappeared grinning as she pulled herself up on the side of the bed. She teetered there a few seconds struggling to find her balance. "O.K. Now close your eyes!"
Xena waited patiently. She was up now so she might as well go along for the ride. She flinched visibly when she heard Gabrielle bang into something else but kept her eyes closed, biting back a laugh. Gabrielle was going to be hurting tomorrow, no doubt about that, Xena thought to herself grinning.
Finally Gabrielle returned relatively unharmed and she sat cross-legged on the bed facing Xena.
She leaned forward and kissed Xena on the lips. "You can open your eyes now!"
Xena opened her eyes to reveal a grinning bard sitting in front of her holding her sword in her hands.
"Gabrielle!" Xena cried. "You found my sword!" Her face lit up with a large smile. "I thought it was gone forever!" She placed it gently beside the bed and gave Gabrielle a powerful hug.
"How? Where?" She asked Gabrielle.
"It doesn't matter." Gabrielle replied softly.
"I love you." Xena whispered.
"Do you love me enough to make love to me again?" Gabrielle asked grinning.
There was a pregnant pause, "No actually." Xena replied.
"Xena!" Gabrielle cried.
"Well maybe.." Xena grinned and pulled Gabrielle down on top of her again. Who needs sleep anyway she thought to herself?
Chapter 23 - A Special Place
"Wake up Gabrielle!!!" Xena was shaking her hard now.
"Nooooo Xena!!" Gabrielle whined.
"Gabrielle!" Xena growled. She was leaning over the bard in her full gear, anxious to get moving. She had waited long enough.
"Oowww." Gabrielle groaned. "Not so loud." She rolled away and clasped her hands over her ears.
"It's time to leave." Xena stated. "Now get up and get dressed."
"I think I'm going to be sick." Gabrielle groaned.
"Well that should get you up!" Xena replied holding back laughter.
"Ohhh Xena.... my head..." Gabrielle moaned rolling around in visible pain. But finally relented and got up.
They were saying their last good byes to everyone. Gabrielle and Talia were leaning on each other for support.
"Take good care of the horse for me, won't you Talia?" Gabrielle whispered. She was talking especially quietly today. She liked the black horse but did not relish the riding of one and gave it to the amazons as a token of her appreciation.
"Sure." Talia replied squinting at the extreme brightness of the sun in her eyes. "Maybe you could tell me some stories again sometime?"
"As long as I don't have to drink." Gabrielle groaned and they both smiled despite the pain.
Ephiny came over and gave Gabrielle a great bear hug. "You take care of that big dumb warrior for me won't you?"
"You bet Ephiny." Gabrielle replied hugging her fiercely. "Thanks for everything."
"I heard that Ephiny." Xena growled. She was on her horse Argo, waiting. She leaned down extending her hand to Gabrielle.
Gabrielle joined her sitting in front to ensure she kept her eyes on the horizon line this morning.
She sank back into Xena's embrace as the warrior slipped her arm around her waist and and held her tightly.
They rode out of the camp and away from the amazons.
They had been riding for only ten minutes but the bard had grown restless. "Xena?" Gabrielle said.
"Yes?" Xena replied.
"I want to make a small stop. It's just over here." Gabrielle pointed towards a clearing.
Xena sighed and gave in once again.
They reached the clearing and Xena helped Gabrielle dismount. Gabrielle then looked up and extended a hand to her warrior.
She jumped down and stood before Gabrielle.
"Recognize this place?" Gabrielle asked.
"I think I do." Xena smiled, looking around.
They were standing in the clearing where they had shared their first intimate moment only a few days ago.
But Xena had been in Autolycus's body at the time.
"You never answered my question." Gabrielle whispered to her looking up into her Xena's eyes.
"You're right. "Xena said. The warrior waited a few seconds struggling to find the right words that would describe her feelings - and then answered. "It was the most beautiful moment of my life."
She looked longingly into Gabrielle's eyes and gently leaned down towards her. "Now about that kiss...."
And the rest of the story has yet to be told......
No person or persons was actually harmed in the making of this story. Except, of course, for most of the men. - but only the ones that didn't use their knives and forks.
Barrance was,in fact, not turned into a eunich by the amazons - however, he developed deep rooted psychological problems from the incident and ended up joining a monastery. He now copies manuscripts in a small tower outside Thesia. Apparently he has developed quite a flare for it.
The rabbit used was actually a tofu animal native to certain remote amazon regions. - I swear! I'm still feeling guilty about it.
No amazon left the party alone - must find me one of these camps!
Talia recovered successfully from her hangover. - And did it all over again the next weekend. I want to be twenty again!!!
Gabrielle did in fact throw up on Xena eventually but due to the sensitive (not to mention graphic) nature of this scene it was censored to protect the viewers. - Do you feel lucky?
No subtext was needed in the making of this story - Thank the Gods!!!
Yes, it's true - for you nit pickers out there....Gabrielle did pause long enough to put on her boots before she got on the horse - "swift kick with her boot heels" just sounded more impressive.
The other nit! - In case you were wondering how the amazon women knew what ten minutes was - had you bothered to look closely, you would have seen the tiny sundial wrist watches on their arms - all synchronized of course.
And finally, I have to thank some of my special friends for inspirational material for the amazon party. Some of the dialog was actual excerpts from one of our unforgettable nights on the town. At an undisclosed Toronto location, of course! You go girls!
Copyright 1997 Trish Kerr (Phopas)
Comments and criticisms are gladly accepted - my email is firstname.lastname@example.org