Déjà vu tied Xena's gut in a cold knot as she galloped down the road into town. Just like Serrai, an eerie quiet had descended over the village like a shroud. And just like Serrai, the streets were unnaturally empty, deserted of the morning bustle always present in every city no matter the size. Xena feared the very same plague had descended upon Nigrita. The djinn had sucked the simple, needful wishes of these villagers just as he had done to the townsfolk of Serrai and, in one night, he had turned this small village into a macabre city of the dead. But, her concern for the good people of Nigrita was nothing compared to the terror building in the pit of her stomach for the one person she held most dear in this world and the next.
"Please, Gabrielle," Xena prayed, hoping the bard, for once, had not talked herself into a mess of big trouble.
She flew past huts, Argo kicking up dirt, and had to duck under a clothesline as they raced around a blind corner. As the town square came into view, the warrior was forced pull hard on the reins to bring the horse to an abrupt halt.
The streets were empty because all the townsfolk had gathered at its center. She stared, puzzled at this unexpected development before slipping down from the mare. Xena tied Argo to the post of the nearest porch, then pushed her way through to see what had everyone straining their necks in fascination.
The warrior shoved one last villager aside and froze.
She found herself looking up, up, up at the bottom of an enormous foot. Xena's own neck strained toward the clouds as her eyes traveled upward from heel to big toe.
The big foot was attached to a gigantic leg and the gigantic leg was sticking out of the door of the tavern, the exit bursting at the seams to accommodate a tremendous thigh. The other leg had forced its way through a window and taken much of the wall with it. It lay parallel to its partner, blocking the road.
"I know that scar," the warrior announced, pointing to the mark were once was an extra toe. She ran around the heel to see if the gigantic foot belonged to the certain someone she feared.
Xena stood, hands on hips, between the two gigantic feet and stared down the middle of legs as large as tree trunks. Behind her, the villagers whispered in fear.
"It's a titan."
Xena held up her hand to silence them, ran past the giant feet and down between the mountainous white thighs to where they disappeared into the gapping holes torn in the tavern wall. Pushing a few broken boards out of the way, she peeked inside.
Just as she thought; she could recognize her partner anywhere.
"That's no cylops, it's just my bud," she called back to the villagers to calm them down.
"A very big bud," she mumbled and then cupped her hands to shout in through the hole. "Gabrielle!"
One leg moved slightly and the building threatened to fall.
"Xena?"a weak voice boomed in answer, "Is that you?"
The legs lifted and this time a part of the tavern did fall. Xena had to jump out of the way to avoid being crushed by some timbers.
"Gabrielle! Take it easy! Don't move, you'll "
The bard didn't heed the warning.
Xena ran backward, shielding her head from falling debris as Gabrielle sat up, taking the ceiling, the roof, and the chimney and all with her.
"Xena?" the bard blinked and wiped broken pieces of wood beams from her eyes. "Xena, where are you?"
Gabrielle turned her head left. A piece of the roof crashed to the ground. Villagers screamed and ran out of the way, the tiles just missing them by inches.
The bard turned her head right. The chimney tipped then fell, scattering bricks and mortar to the street below.
Xena grabbed a child and ran out of the way, just in time to avoid the downpour.
"Gabrielle, for Eli's sake, STOP MOVING AROUND!"
"Huh?"The large bard heard the voice, but couldn't make out the direction. She looked down to the ground, searching for her partner, and the rest of the roof tumbled from her head.
Huge eyebrows knit together as she watched the top of the building crumble and fall.
"What is this?"She reached down a hand and picked up the tiny pieces of roof and building. "Xena? Where are you?"
"I'm down here, Gabrielle. We're all down here."
The bard looked down and gasped. "Xena, did you shrink again?"
"No, not me, this time, Gabrielle. It's you. You've gotten bigger. A hell of a lot bigger."
"What are you talking about?"Gabrielle looked down at herself, noticing first, that she was completely naked, and second, she was sitting inside the remains of the tavern and the tavern barely fit around her totally naked butt.
"Xena!"she cried in alarm and scrambled to get up, "what's happened to me?" Her panicked movement threatened to tear the rest of the building to shreds.
"Gabrielle, stay still. Stay still!" Xena yelled, running up to her partner, her arms up, trying to calm her down.
The bard quieted at the sound of her voice. She looked down at the warrior. "Xena, what's happened to me?"
Big eyes began to fill with even bigger tears.
"I'm as big as a house."
She looked down at the size of her breasts.
A tear escaped, slid down a cheek, hit the broken wall, and splashed to the ground, completely soaking the warrior who was standing below.
Several more followed, drenching Xena in bucket-sized tears.
"Gabrielle! Gabrielle! Stop crying!" A huge drop knocked her off her feet and she plopped ass-first into the mud. "GABRIELLE!"
The bard sniffled and stopped.
"You're drowning me," Xena stated and lifted herself up, slipping once, then finally getting to her feet. "Just get a hold of yourself."
She looked up, up, up at her partner, flicking mud from her hands and smirked. "We've been in bigger messes than this."
Gabrielle looked down at herself and threatened to cry again.
Xena quickly held up her mud-caked hands. "Okay, okay, bad choice of words. Just don't start crying again, okay. You're crying me a river."
"Okay."Gabrielle nodded once and sniffled.
"Now, get yourself up and out of that building."
Gabrielle shifted and a wall shook, threatening to fall.
"Easy, Gabrielle. Nice and easy. That's it," Xena said, encouraging her friend with soothing tones.
The bard carefully pulled one leg in through the door and the other through the hole in the wall, until her knees reached her chin. Balancing carefully, she stood in the middle of what was left of the tavern, standing easily considering the inn no longer had a roof.
She stood slowly, in all her naked glory, smiling proudly once she reached full height.
The warrior's jaw dropped at the sight, and so did a few of the villagers.
In perfectly timed succession, each of the four walls of the building trembled, and then tumbled to the ground. When the dust settled, there was nothing but one gigantic bard left standing.
Gabrielle brushed some dust from her belly button, sending a shower of pebbles and rocks onto the crowd below. They all had to duck and cover under the shelter of their arms in order to protect themselves from the dirty downpour.
"Oops, sorry."She looked down at her friend and smiled apologetically.
Xena waited for the last of the dust to settle before dropping her arms and looking up at her partner.
"We're in big trouble," she mumbled.
It took a bit of fast-talking to keep the villagers from burning Gabrielle alive. Eventually, Xena was able to convince the townsfolk that they would all live a lot longer if they would just let her take the giant bard someplace far, far away.
The warrior kept it nice and simple: let them leave and they live, burn the bard and they die. It wasn't one of Xena's most politically correct speeches, but she had gotten her point across.
Since Gabrielle was too distracted by her new point of view to notice the slight slip back into warlord mode, Xena was able to get them both out of the village completely intact, and in possession of the most unusual tribute she had ever demanded. She looked behind her as she galloped on Argo. The bard was following at a leisurely gait with big giant steps, her body wrapped in a small, but adequate toga made from every sheet the villagers could muster as a donation.
She pulled Argo to a stop as they came along a clearing in the woods. Both she and the mare were breathing heavily and sweating profusely. Xena looked up at Gabrielle as she approached, the trees shaking with each giant step.
"We need to rest," the warrior stated.
"I'm not tired."
Xena huffed and jumped from Argo. "I know YOU'RE not tired, but Argo and I are beat." She looked at the pasture and motioned to it, "Why don't you go take a load off your legs."
Gabrielle looked down at her legs and shrugged. "I feel fine."
The bard sighed. "Oh, all right."
Xena watched as the bard stepped over and beyond her, the huge shadow blocking the sun momentarily in her wake. Gabrielle settled herself down onto the carpet of grass and crossed her legs.
The warrior fed her mount some water and then took a sip herself. She lifted the pouch to offer her partner a drink, but realized that it wouldn't be much more than a drop to her. Xena's brow furrowed with worry, wondering how she was going to get them out of this one.
"Xena, are you all right?"Gabrielle stopped adjusting the make-shift top and looked down from lofty heights.
"You're asking me if I'm all right?" Xena mumbled to herself. She put the water away. "Gabrielle, would you mind telling me what happened last night?"
"I don't know nothing."
"That's a big nothing, Gabrielle," Xena remarked and she walked into the clearing to sit beside her friend.
"Come on, think. Something had to have happened."
"All right,"the bard leaned back on her hands and thought. "I questioned everyone I could find, just like you wanted. And I heard a lot of tall tales. The first one was a real doozy, let me tell you "
Xena waved impatiently. "Forget the stories."
"Forget the stories? I thought that's what you wanted me to find out about?"
"I did but now I know all about them. G'wan, get to the part where you talked to the dark, handsome stranger."
Gabrielle squinted big, suspicious eyes. "I did not talk to any dark, handsome stranger."
"Come on, Gabrielle. I know who you talked to. I saw him myself last night."
Big eyebrows lifted. "Oh really? Did you now?" Suddenly, the bard felt a jealously that matched her size, "So, that's where you were all night, I suppose."
Gabrielle stood angrily and stamped her foot. The ground jolted, a few nearby branches fell. Argo whinnied.
"Just because slept with him, what makes you think I wanted to sleep with him, too?"
Xena looked at her incredulously. "Slept with him? What are you talking about?!"
"I'm talking about you having the hots for Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome. And now you're mad at me because you think I went after him!"
Big tears threatened to fall. Xena scrambled to her feet to get out of the way, just in case.
"Easy, Gabrielle, easy. We're not talking about the same thing here." Xena briefly wondered why Gabrielle was so jealous, and she seemed to be growing bigger the more jealous she got, but the warrior pushed the observation to the side. She had a bigger problem to deal with at the moment.
"The guy I'm talking about, the dark handsome one, he's a djinn. Do you remember the djinn, Gabrielle?"
Only one tear fell, and Xena avoided it easily.
"Djinn,"Gabrielle repeated, thinking carefully. "I've heard that name before."
"You're getting warm."
"Do you mean djinn as in Najara?"
"You're very hot now."
"You mean as in the voices that talked to Najara? That kind of djinn?"
The warrior nodded. "You're a burning bush, Gabrielle ... make that a tree."
"And you're not even a little funny, Xena,"Gabrielle crinkled her nose at partner and sat back down. They both ignored the tremendous thud as the bard's butt hit the earth. Strangely, Gabrielles size had seemed to diminish along with her jealous tirade.
"What does Najara's djinn have to do with this?"
"It's a long story, Gabrielle, but that djinn is more than just a voice now in Najaras head now, he's a man and he's going from town to town, feeding off of people's wishes along the way."
"Feeding off of wishes?"Gabrielle asked, leaning forward with interest.
"He gets energy from the fear and confusion, is my guess. He tricks you into making a wish, then grants it with some bizarre twist and gets his kicks from the pain and terror that results. A real sick bastard."
"Like, I wish my fields were fertile,"Gabrielle said, thinking back to the farm and the vines that reached out to crush them.
"Exactly," Xena nodded, then looked up thoughtfully at her friend. "Gabrielle, what was it precisely that you wished for?"
Gabrielle looked at the warrior like a deer caught in a crossbow. "I didn't talk to that dark man last night, Xena."
"Yeah, but you talked to someone, didn't ya?"
Gabrielle averted her eyes. "Grandma Henna."
"Well, she looked just like my Grandma Henna. And I was worried about you. It was getting dark and you hadn't come back. I talked to everyone in town, and couldn't figure out a thing. There was nothing left to do but sit in the tavern and wait for you, so I had a couple of drinks, and then Grandma Henna "
"A couple of drinks?"
"Well, maybe three."
"Well, maybe more than three."
Speaking of drinking made her think of the liquor, and thinking of the liquor made her taste it again in the back of her mouth, and just the thought of that reminded the bard of her super-duper, giant-sized hangover that she was sporting. Not to mention the fact that heights made her dizzy.
The world suddenly tilted.
"Xena, I think I'm gonna be sick."
The warrior shot up from her spot in the grass like a demon out of hell and ran to the side.
"Gabrielle, don't you dare get sick on me."
The giant bard heaved and Xena didn't stop running until she was safely on high ground. The warrior leaned against a tree and watched the bile run by; Argo suddenly appeared right next to her.
Gabrielle breathed deeply and calmed her stomach down. "It's okay. I'm good now."
"I'm glad you're good," Xena said, waving her hand at the smell. Argo snickered reproachfully.
"Ya got that right," Xena stated, echoing the mare's sentiments.
Gabrielle laid back in the grass, and threw an arm over her eyes to shield them from the sun.
"I didn't talk to any dark, handsome men, Xena, I swear."
"All right, all right, I believe you," Xena said, pacing. "So, he turned himself into your Grandma Henna and got you to talk, right?"
"Yes,"the bard admitted with a sigh.
"So, what? Did you wish you could be bigger than life, or something like that?"
Gabrielle's arm fell away from her eyes. "Xena, do you really think so little of me?"
Xena glanced around the field nervously, suddenly afraid that any cliche would turn against them. When nothing happened, the warrior relaxed.
"Of course not. But you had to make some wish in order for this to happen." When Gabrielle didn't answer, Xena stood. "Look, whatever it was, we've got to find a way to reverse it. And that means we have to track that bastard and find him fast."
"Do you think we'll be able to reverse this, Xena?"Gabrielle asked, sitting up, eyes filling with tears again.
"Don't cry again, Gabrielle, you'll flood the landscape." Her eyes grew tender and she stepped forward to caress the broadside of her precious friend's thigh. The little downy hairs that she loved to play with might have been a lot bigger now, but the skin was soft and warm, the muscles even more defined and so much larger.
"Gabrielle," she rubbed her cheek against the warm skin and bestowed a tiny, tiny kiss. "I'll get you back to pint sized, I promise. If not, well, you'll always be my biggest friend."
The bard had to resist the urge for a playful slap realizing that it would squash the warrior like a bug. She chose another type of payback.
"Xena?"Gabrielle grinned as she watched the warrior nuzzle against her leg. "Ya know, I'm feeling a little hungry."
"Hungry?" Xena asked dreamily, getting into the feel of Gabrielle's skin against her cheek.
"Yeah, hungry. Like I could eat a horse. Make that several."
The warrior's head snapped up. Where was the Gabrielles horse anyway? "Hungry?"
Twenty-five rabbits. It had to be some kind of record. Xena threw the last five at the bard's feet and collapsed to the ground, exhausted.
Gabrielle ate them as fast as Xena could hunt them, and promptly dubbed the meal "fast food."
With one easy pull, the bard skinned the first of the latest batch and prepared it for the fire, humming a happy tune all the while.
"Two rabbits, skinned and spitted, special sauce, lettuce, feta, pickles, olives, on a sesame seed pita."
She prepared to bite and then, suddenly feeling guilty at getting all the pleasure while Xena did all the work, offered it to her partner with a large hand instead.
Xena shook her head, all appetite for food gone. In fact, she'd probably never eat hare again. "I haven't hunted that many rabbits in years."
"You mean you did this once before?"Gabrielle asked and popped the rabbit into her mouth, whole. She chewed it bones and all.
"Once. Stores were low and my army needed to be fed."
"How many rabbits?"
"Twenty I got twenty. I sent out 50 men, including myself . I got the most, at twenty."
"Wow, today's a personal best, then."Gabrielle smiled and ate another. "Doesn't sound like enough to feed an army."
"It wasn't," Xena replied and sighed. She suspected it wouldn't be nearly enough to feed the bard either.
"Xena,"Gabrielle said as she sucked the last of the bunny juice from her fingers, "I'm still a little hungry."
The warrior groaned; why did she always have to be right?
Xena opened her eyes and tried to lift her head from the soft pillow of grass where she had been resting, but was unable to move. Her muscles tensed, believing she had been subdued while asleep. The warrior tried to lift an arm, but couldn't; tried to see, but a sheet had been thrown over her head. Slowly, she forced her head to turn from one side to the other behind a heavy weight and then recognized her dilemma.
She had been pinned to the ground by Gabrielle's right breast. The warrior squirmed past the enlarged nipple and squeezed herself free.
With hands on her hips, she stared at her sleeping partner. That was close, she thought. If Gabrielle had rolled over just a bit more, she would have been crushed.
But what a way to go.
Xena studied the sky and estimated the time. Not like her to fall asleep in the afternoon, but she must have been more tired from the record-breaking bunny hunt than she realized. A wind had kicked up while they were resting. She searched the sky for thunderclouds. Judging from the rumble of thunder and the strength of the blast that had just blown her hair but, she expected a storm to be rolling in, but there was not a cloud in the sky. Another blast followed by a rumble made the warrior smile.
Gabrielle was stretched out in the pasture, filling the clearing from one end to another. She was sleeping on her side, her head pillowed by an arm, her soft lips opened slightly, the gentle snores that Xena secretly adored making the leaves tremble.
"Gabrielle," Xena said softly.
A gigantic, but nonetheless cute nose twitched.
"Hmmm, Xena,"still asleep, the name sounded like a prayer.
"Come on, wakey, wakey." Xena couldn't resist. She stretched up on booted toes and planted a kiss on the corner of slightly upturned lips.
The bard snorted, splattering the warrior with a healthy dollop of sleepy drool.
Big green eyes shot open. "What? What's wrong?" Gabrielle lifted her and head looked around. "What time is it?"
Xena wiped bard drool from her face and flicked it to the ground. "Time to get you back to bard- size."
The warrior turned and stomped away, crossing the field to Argo. The horse had prudently remained on high ground and was grazing by a tree.
Gabrielle watched her partner trudge across the pasture, realizing she could have picked her up in her hand and gotten her there a lot faster.
"Xena, I'm coming with you."
"You're staying here."
"I could be a big help, you know."
"You could get us in big trouble, too."
Gabrielle sat up, annoyed. "You know, I'm getting a little tired of you thinking I'm the one who always gets us into trouble."
Xena mounted her horse, and stared up at the giant bard, her point already made.
Gabrielle sighed, an action that sent the closest tree bending over.
"Look, I could pick Argo and you up and get us back to Nigrita a lot faster than you could get there riding.
"Pppppfffffffggggttthhh!" Argo shook her head violently, absolutely refusing to be picked up by any giant bard.
Xena patted the mare's next to calm her down. "Gabrielle, you are going to wait here for me. The people in Nigrita were freaked out enough already, the sight of you lumbering into Amphipolis could make the entire city panic.
"I do not lumber."
"Well, you're as big as a tree so I think lumber is a very appropriate word."
The bard huffed at the analogy. "And why are you going to Amphipolis? Don't you think the djinn is still in Nigrita?"
"I'm betting he's had his fill in Nigrita," Clicking the mare into motion, Xena pulled the reins and turned toward the road. "Amphipolis is next. It's close and it's bigger and there's a lot more people. He's on his way there, you can count on it -- if he's not there already. It's much better and safer if I go into Amphipolis alone, for both you and the city. I'll deal with the djinn when I find him, believe me. By the time I get back, you'll be the perfect size again."
"And what size is the perfect size, if I may ask?"
"Short and sassy, just the way I like you." Xena smiled warmly, a sight that never failed to brighten the bard's day.
"All right,"Gabrielle conceded, "but you better come right back or you'll see more than sassy, I promise you that."
"Don't worry," Xena replied, "You just wait here and don't you dare take one giant step down that road. You got that? This won't take long. I have a plan."
Gabrielle watched as the warrior rode off.
"She has a plan," the bard repeated. "Of course, she has a plan. She always has a plan. It would be nice if, for once, I knew the plan."
Her thoughts then turned to the handsome man, picturing him as she had seen him at the tavern, staring at her warrior like she was a succulent piece of meat ready to be devoured. She imagined she could still smell the scent of Xena's lust for the djinn and a gigantic frown appeared. After all, Xena had quite an appetite for tall, dark, and dangerous, didn't she? Green eyes darkened, as Gabrielle's mind grew irrationally and uncontrollably jealous.
Xena thundered down the road to Nigrita, veering off at the junction into town to ride south to bypass the little village completely.
The warrior knew without a doubt that the djinn was done with Nigrita. Her main concern now was for Amphipolis, the city just south of Serrai and the next most likely place for the djinn to strike. If she rode hard, she should be in Amphipolis before nightfall. What exactly she was going to do with the djinn when she caught up with him, she hadn't a clue.
According to the warrior's calculations, factoring in the distance to Amphipolis, but more importantly, the probability of her partner remaining patient and doing what she had been told, Xena figured she didn't have that long before Gabrielle got tired of waiting and came looking for her.
She had until sundown to find the djinn, save Amphipolis, and get back to her bard -- and maybe, not even that long.
Xena flew past the farm, barely acknowledging the complete absence of any of the plant overgrowth that had filled the fields from one end to the other just a day ago. The farm was now as barren as it had always been, like nothing had ever happened. The house appeared welcoming as if a family still lived there. Xena snarled as she galloped past the modest home, briefly imagining that a young Najara might walk out of the door and give her a sarcastic wave.
As she rode beyond the farm, she let a bit of her anger for Najara go. After all, the fanatic nut case wasn't completely to blame. Najara's childhood dream had been corrupted by an evil influence, so Xena could pardon her twisted sense of justice. Forgiving how the bitch had tried to steal Gabrielle was another thing entirely. Then, there was the matter of that good chewing tooth she had lost in the fight
Xena leaned into Argo's gait and urged the mare faster. Thinking about Najara always made the warrior feel like swinging her blade into somebody's neck. Better she channel that energy into something more constructive -- like beating the stuffing out of Mr. djinn.
The key to the djinn was his power over wishes, Xena was sure of it. Like most of her enemies, Jan bin Jan's greatest strength was also his greatest weakness. All she needed to do was to find a way to use it against him.
Xena careened around a bend and ducked to avoid a tree branch, remembering their return to her hometown more than 25 years after their apparent deaths. It had taken a lot of fast-talking, mostly on the bard's part, to convince Toris that they were human. Her brother accused them of being nymphs, masquerading as humans. Not an unreasonable assumption considering that they had both arrived on his doorstep, not only alive, but without having aged a single day in all those years.
Now there was a good possibility that she would be returning to her home for a visit, and bringing a 50-foot bard with her to dinner.
The warrior thundered toward Amphipolis, using the time to try to think of the best way to: first, explain everything to Toris and his family; second, find the djinn before he did something to them, too; and last -- but not least -- figure out a way to get her bard back to bedroll size.
"You have excellent taste," the handsome stranger said to the tavern owner. His hand motioned to the tapestry adorning the wall, but his eyes were traveling in appreciation over the ample derriere of the owner's wife. She had been serving the table closest to them, and was leaning over to pick up an empty dish. "Yes, very nice decor."
"Thank you," the owner replied politely and placed the stranger's drink before him. "I appreciate you mentioning it. Not many people notice."
"Hard work keeping a tavern in good repair," the stranger commented and lifted the mug to take a drink.
"Yes, a lot harder than I ever imagined," the owner nodded, "Thanks, again. Enjoy your drink." He moved to walk away.
"Please stay," the dark visitor said, pulling out the chair beside him.
The owner paused. "I'm sorry, I can't. I have work to do."
"Surely you have time to spend a few moments with a customer ... a paying customer." The djinn threw a solid gold coin on the table, then took a sip of ale to hide a wicked smile behind his mug. Too many customers on credit, he thought as he watched the tavern owner practically drool at the sight of the shiny coin. He threw another gold piece down for good measure. "The name is Jan bin Jan."
"Toris," the owner replied, snatching up the gold in his hand and sliding into the nearest empty chair, all in one motion. "Don't mind if I do."
"She loves me ..."
"She loves me not."
"She loves me ..."
"She loves me not."
Blond eyebrows knotted as the bard struggled to tear the next limb off of the nearby tree. It broke away with a crackle.
Gabrielle smiled. "She loves me ..."
Large searching eyes found one more branch.
"She loves me not!"
Blond eyebrows knotted again, and then a giant hand cracked the entire tree in two. She threw the trunk over her head in anger, scattering a few deer and the one remaining, living rabbit into the underbrush as it crashed to the forest floor with a pop.
"She loves me not."
Hooves splashed through the meandering stream marking the border to the golden pastures that surrounded the Greek city of Amphipolis. Xena rode the mare, flowing over grassy knolls as smoothly as the wind, bending tall reeds over in her wake.
Though she could ride through the fields into her home with her eyes closed, she rode wide eyed and unblinking, her sight trained on her target just over the next rise and around the bend -- a chimney barely in view -- the one that belonged to Amphipolis's best, and only, tavern.
"This is too much!"Gabrielle said to herself as she paced the width of the field.
One step and turn; one step and turn.
She paused and looked at the sun. Almost setting. Did Xena think she was going to spend the entire night in this field ... alone?
"What does she take me for? A fool?"
One step and turn; one step and turn.
"I saw the way she was looking at him!"
One step and turn; one step and turn.
"I saw the way he was looking at her!"
One step and turn.
"djinn, my ass!"
She paused and peeked over the trees at the stretch of road, hope turning an angry scowl into a smile at the sound of a horse approaching.
It was a horse and cart driven by a fat, happy villager - no warrior, not even close. The smile fell away and the frown returned. The bard stared over the treetops at the driver, unreasonably angry at him as though it was his fault for not being tall and gorgeous and dressed in leather. She swatted at the tops of the trees in disgust, sending a rain of leaves and branches to the ground, and turned away.
The driver ducked to avoid the sudden leafy downpour, took one look up at the golden-headed goliath glaring angrily at him, turned the cart around, and galloped as fast as he could back the way he came.
"You better run, Xena!"
The angry bard's voice boomed across the hills,
"Cause when I find you, you're gonna be in BIG trouble!"
The giant bard pushed the trees aside and stepped into the road.
"BIG, BIG, BIG TROUBLE!"
With long, determined strides, Gabrielle left pond-sized footprints in her wake as the she made quick work of the road that led to the unsuspecting city of Amphipolis.
"And I mean it!"
"So, this tavern has been here for a long time, has it not?" Jan bin Jan asked and took another sip of ale.
Toris leaned back comfortably in his chair, happy to be off of his aching feet for a moment. "Yes, my mother opened this place over forty years ago. I inherited it from her, after she passed away."
"My condolences," the djinn acknowledged Toris's nod, "It takes a lot of work to run a busy tavern such as this."
"It sure does. I don't know how my mother did it all those years."
"Surely she had a husband to help her?"
"No," Toris replied, shuffling the apron in his lap, "my father died years ago. She ran this place all by herself, for all those years. I only took it over in the end."
"She must have been an amazing woman," Jan bin Jan commented, studying his companion carefully as he drank.
"She was, thank you."
"And a handsome woman, too, judging by the looks of her son." He raised his glass to toast the beautiful woman who was serving the table beside them," and her beautiful daughter."
"That's not my sister," Toris answered, smiling, "that's my wife."
"My apologies, I meant no disrespect."
"None taken," Toris leaned forward in his chair, "My wife is still beautiful, it's true. But if you think she's beautiful, you should see my sister."
The djinn leaned forward, dark eyes sparkling, "Truly?" He threw three gold coins onto the table. "If she is more beautiful than your wife, and if she can cook, then I might be interested in purchasing her."
Toris snorted so hard, he almost choked. "You want to what? Purchase my sister?"
His laughter was so loud, it caused his wife to turn around and stare at him in annoyance.
"Why do you laugh?" Jan bin Jan asked perturbed. "You jest with me then when you say she is beautiful."
"No, she's a beauty all right," Toris stated, looking down at the coins, "but that's not enough."
"Very well," the dark stranger threw down three more gold pieces, "Six then, but that's my final offer."
Toris threw back his head and howled again.
This time his laughter brought his wife over to the table. Her arms balancing a full tray, she nudged him with her hip. "Why are you laughing so hard, and not working?"
"I am working, Nicholaa, " Toris answered, wiping the tears from his eyes. "I'm negotiating with a customer here."
"He wants to buy ... my sister." Toris snorted and then couldn't stopped from laughing out loud again.
Nicholaa huffed and walked away. "He can have her."
Jan bin Jan stared at the wife's back as she departed. He turned back to Toris. "Your sister has some defect then, that you have not told me?"
"Defect?" This brought on a whole new set of chuckles. "No, my sister is beautiful ... beautiful, intelligent, remarkable, incredible -- all that is true. But she is also dangerous. Very, very dangerous."
"Dangerous? How can a woman be dangerous?"
Toris wiped his nose and got his mirth under control. "You have no idea who my sister is, do you?"
The mysterious stranger shook his head.
"You do know you are in Amphipolis, right?"
Jan bin Jan nodded.
Toris leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through the gray hairs at his temple. "Let me put it this way, no man could ever own my sister. All the gold in Greece couldn't buy her. And even if you could buy her, you'd probably end up asking for a refund ... if she didn't kill you first, that is."
Jan bin Jan raised a black eyebrow in surprise. "Kill me? Is your sister a murderer, then?"
Toris looked seriously into his customer's deep, dark eyes. "Yes, I have to admit, my sister is indeed a murderer, among other things."
"If that is the case, I do not wish to purchase her." The stranger sat back in his chair. "Then it is a good thing your mother had a stalwart and trustworthy son to inherit her tavern."
"I'm hardly trustworthy," Toris placed his hands on the arms of the chair. Feeling a sudden desire to return to work, he moved to rise.
The djinn reached across the table to stop him, wrapping long, dark fingers around an aging arm. "Why would a man say such a thing about himself?"
Toris found himself unable to move, the long fingers around his forearm kept him in his chair, the touch of the mysterious stranger somehow coaxing his desire to speak the truth. "Because I left my mother, my family, this entire town when they all needed me the most. I only came back at the end and only then, because I had to ... because there was nobody else that could. But I never wanted this. I never wanted any of this!"
The djinn looked at Toris, his black eyes bored into Toris's clear blue. "You have all a man could hope for -- a successful tavern in a busy city, a beautiful wife. If not this, then for what would you wish?"
The aging tavern owner found himself staring into the pit of darkness, his heart squeezed to the point where he had to reveal the one truth that he had kept hidden since he was a little boy and for his entire life.
"My sister," he said hoarsely, "All I ever wanted ... All I ever wished for ... was to be just like ..."
Without breaking the horse's gait, Xena galloped up to the tavern, pulled back hard on the reins and brought Argo to a screeching halt. The sudden stop launched the warrior into the air. Flipping once, Xena landed on her feet right at entrance and ran through the doorway without breaking her stride.
All noise stopped and all eyes lifted at her sudden arrival. Toris was sitting at a table, deep in conversation with a dark, handsome stranger. His eyes grew wide at the sudden arrival of his sibling.
"Sis!" A smile broke across his face and he rose, "Speak of the devil, what are you doing here?"
The djinn scowled, annoyed at the untimely interruption. The aging tavern owner was just about to voice a most interesting wish -- and now the sister who was at the heart of it had just interrupted what promised to be a most delightful desire. Certainly she was going to have to pay. He rose angrily, turning slowly, intending to slap the woman for her insolence. Dark eyes widened in surprise; he had not anticipated the arrival of the warrior here.
"Toris!" Xena yelled and drew her sword, "Don't you dare wish for a single thing ... not one thing!"
Toris's face scrunched. Once again, his sister seemed to know everything. "Dammit, Xena, how did you know?"
The djinn slapped a handful of gold coins down on to the table instead.
"I wish to buy your sister after all," he said. Glaring dangerously at his adversary, he grabbed Toris's shoulder and pushed him out of the way.
"Xena," Jan bin Jan sauntered menacingly toward the warrior, "I would have thought you'd have your hands full with your little friend."
"She wasn't that big of a problem," the droll reply was punctuated by the tip of her sword pointed at his face.
Jan bin Jan circled the warrior slowly, ignoring the blade. He smiled over to Toris, who was watching them both with disbelief on his face. "Is this the beautiful, smart, deadly, murderess you were referring to by any chance, Toris?"
Toris gulped at the eyebrow Xena lifted his way, and scurried to his sister's side. "What's going on, Xena? Who is this guy?"
Xena pushed him off with a strong hand to the shoulder. "Stay back, Toris."
He hated it when she did that. "Come on, Xena! This is my tavern! What the heck is going on?"
"Toris, for once in your life, would you listen to me, please?" Xena afforded a quick glance at her brother, "You have no idea what you're dealing with here."
"Do you?" Toris countered.
But Xena couldn't afford the time to reply. The djinn was circling her steadily, a constantly moving target impossible to strike and as dangerous as a viper loose in a hen house. She purposely moved away from her brother, drawing the confrontation to a more open part of the inn.
Jan bin Jan followed slowly, calmly, confidently.
"Do you, Xena? Do you know what you are dealing with, really?" He chuckled at the determination set in her fine features. "What are you planning to do, Xena? Are you going to strike at me with that blade, or just stand there pointing it at me forever?" He laughed, a grating sound that rattled the nerves. "There are far better things that we can be doing, you and I, than fighting."
His eyes glittered and drew the warrior into his gaze. She found herself staring into a dark pool that beckoned her to him. Her anger was dissolving into passion, two emotions that had always burned closely next to one another in her heart. Unable to resist the pull, Xena found herself falling into a dreamlike trance.
"Your darkness is such a thing of beauty, Xena," the djinn whispered, moving the blade aside as he stepped toward her. "I've seen nothing like it in centuries. I love to watch it rear its ugly head."
He was past her guard, standing close enough to reach out a hand and touch the smooth skin at the base of her neck. Long fingers extended to her, his touch the final thread in a web that would trap her dark desires and draw them out.
"I'm going to have her, you know," his low voice was hypnotizing. Her sword dropped. His eyes were all she could see. "No matter what you do, you will not be able to stop me."
"After I'm done with you, I will find your woman." His hand slipped between black strands of long, raven hair. He stood against her now, his breath hot in her ear, palm ready to grab at the back of her neck, "And I will make her mine!"
"You wish," Xena stated, and smacked him dead-center right between the eyes with a brain-rattling head-butt.
He grunted, grabbed his head in pain, and stumbled backward, tripping over a chair and falling against a table.
Xena smiled wickedly, flipped her sword, and moved in to finish the job. She swung, hitting him so hard in the head with the handle of her sword, she would have knocked out an elephant. The djinn spun away from the table and crashed into a wall.
"Told ya all I needed was to get my timing." She swung her sword arm again, this time catching his chin in a teeth-shattering uppercut. The djinn's head snapped back and he stumbled away, groping at the wall for support.
She was on him in an instant and grabbed his shoulder, spinning him back against the wall. Before the djinn could recover, Xena had a strong hand wrapped around his throat and had him pinned in a grip so tight, her knuckles were turning white. She leaned her face close to his and smiled, blues eyes flashing with pleasure as she stretched his neck, almost lifting his feet from the floor.
Jan bin Jan looked down at the sword pressing into his skin just under his chin, then up at the clear, cold eyes electric with rage.
"Now would be a good time to make a wish, djinn," Xena's voice was hoarse with anger and Jan bin Jan's eyes grew wide as Xena increased the pressure on his throat.
"Don't tell me a djinn needs air to breathe?" Xena pushed the sharp tip of the sword deeper into his neck, "Will a djinn bleed, I wonder?"
Toris cringed and pulled Nicholaa to him. His wife hid her eyes in his chest.
But the djinn only smiled and rasped out a deadly reply. "Kill me and Gabrielle will keeping growing and growing and growing ... Just how big can a bard get, I wonder, before there is not enough air to breathe?" The tight grip loosened around his neck -- just a little.
It was enough to give the powerful djinn the opportunity to send Xena flying across the room and crashing into the opposite wall. She slipped to the floor, dazed, and fell to her knees.
In a flash, a sword appeared in Jan bin Jan's hand and he was rushing at her, tossing tables and chairs out of his way in an all out effort to get to the warrior before she recovered.
"Xena, watch out!" Toris yelled and pulled his wife to the back of the room. Other patrons scrambled out of death's way. The shout brought Xena's head up and she lifted her sword just in time to meet the mighty blow aimed at her with the edge of her blade. The sound of steel rang out in the tavern as the weapons clashed.
Xena pushed herself from the ground with powerful legs and muscled the djinn away, taking the moment that he stumbled to compose herself. Jan bin Jan quickly rebalanced and swung. Xena parried the attack with a downward block. His attempt to flip her sword up and out of her hand was foiled as Xena let her arm flow with the movement, deflecting the parry away.
The djinn sliced at Xena's head, but she ducked, then flipped. He followed her relentlessly, but Xena met him blow for blow, every attack, every downward strike, every powerful swing. He had power though, and she was human. The warrior knew she could not sustain the effort indefinitely. And she also knew that she could not kill the djinn, that she needed him -- if she was going to save Gabrielle, she needed him.
"Agggggh!" Xena grunted in frustration and launched an attack of her own. Blow after blow, she sent the djinn stumbling backward in his attempt to block the assault.
When he reached the wall and could retreat no further, he stopped and smiled. "You're a formidable foe, Xena. I haven't enjoyed myself this much in years."
Xena adjusted the grip on her weapon, breathing heavily. "Well this is the last thing you are ever going to enjoy."
Jan bin chuckled, noting the heavy breath and the sweat, and thinking how attractive they both were on this woman. "You can't kill me Xena and you have only tasted the tiniest bit of my power."
The djinn tilted his head as though hearing a distant sound, and then suddenly relaxed, throwing his sword to the ground. Their audience in the tavern shuffled nervously, feeling a strange sensation building in the air. Xena felt it too, and settled into a strong stance, preparing for the worst.
"I've decide to make you my vassal, Xena. I claim you now, in revenge for Najara and because you have a darkness which matches my own."
A powerful wind swept across the room, blowing Xena's hair back and ripping the sword from her hand. And then the warrior found she could not move, but was frozen in place by a force she could not see. Nicholaa screamed. Toris held her, torn between helping his sister and keeping his wife safe. The patrons of the tavern backed away, cowering against the wall, cringing at the sight of the djinn's transformation from handsome, dark stranger into a creature who could have only come from the deepest bowels of Hell.
The djinn smiled at his prize with fangs dripping a frothy drool. Bright green eyes sparkled against translucent, blood red skin. The viens in the creature's forehead pulsated excitedly and he smiled with black, cracked lips.
Jan bin Jan howled in triumph and stepped forward on sharply taloned feet to reach for a helpless Xena. Long bone-like claws slivered their way along the bare skin of her arms and gripped at her shoulders. The creature was inches from her now, breathing rank, putrid breath into her face. Xena grimaced, trying to turn away but could not move her head, could not move a single muscle to resist.
"And now I shall make you mine!" He licked his blistered lips with a slime-covered black tongue and forcefully pulled the warrior to him, pressing her body hard into his. Not since the chakram had struck her back and she had fallen face first into the dirt, had Xena felt the heavy chains of defeat wrap themselves around her so. All she could do was close her eyes and mentally apologize to Gabrielle for failing once again.
The corner of the djinn's mouth twitched in victory, and he laughed once, spitting, before covering Xena's lips with his own. And when his black, slimy tongue forced his way into her mouth, Xena's entire world turned dark.
The ground lurched once, then twice and the entire building began to shudder. Everyone in the room screamed, glancing around frantically as the walls surrounding them began to rattle. Pieces of timber and beam cracked and broke, and then the entire building groaned as the roof to the inn lifted up and away.
A large shadow cast itself across the floor as Gabrielle looked in.
"I knew it!"she cried, catching Xena and Jan bin Jan in their deadly embrace. "I just knew it!"
She ripped the roof up and tossed it away. Pedestrians scattered to avoid the structure as it fell to the street, shattering to pieces. Inside, the building rumbled and quaked, the violent shudder shaking the djinn and warrior apart and breaking the spell. Jan bin Jan tumbled across the room, crashing into tables and chairs.
"Get away from her!"The giant bard shouted.
The djinn rose up from the floor, tossing a stool out of the way, tilted his head back and howled with glee.
Gabrielle glared down at them all, irrational jealousy had turned her normally gentle eyes hard and angry.
"You can't have her!"
Xena, released from the grip of death, had stumbled out of reach, and was spitting the kiss off in disgust. The warrior looked up in alarm, recognizing all too well the voice that was booming over her head. Under the hypnotic control of the djinn, she had not realized that the roof had been ripped away and her partner had arrived.
"Gabrielle," Xena said, smiling. She actually felt relief at the sight of the bard's face, oversized though it may be.
The welcomed visage scowled and a massive hand forced its way through the entrance of the inn, ripping the swinging doors off of their hinges in its wake. A gigantic palm, trembling in its enormity, floated by Toris and his wife.
Her eyes wide with fright, Nicolaa lifted the back of her hand up to her mouth and let out one long, loud scream.
Enormous fingers sought for and found the warrior. Wrapping her hand around her partner, Gabrielle picked Xena up, pulled her out through the door, and then carried her away.
A large foot descended into the street. And then another. Goats scattered. Chickens squawked and fluttered. Horses neighed and bucked, ripping their reins from posts and fleeing in panic. Villagers ran in every direction, picking up children and scurrying away down side streets in an effort to find shelter.
Gabrielle stomped down the main thoroughfare of Amphipolis, her shadow eclipsing the sun as she passed. Her left hand was clenched in an angry fist and in her right hand, she carried one very perturbed Warrior Princess.
"Gabrielle, you put me down right now!" Xena squirmed within the fingers that held her. "Do you hear me? I'm getting mad!" She squirmed again, but the grip held tight. "Really mad!"
"Forget it, Xena,"the bard stated, and stepped to avoid a scroll merchant. She chose instead to crush the stand of a fabric vendor. He had cheated her last visit, she recalled, and she watched him dive for cover with great satisfaction, remembering the two for one silk scarf bargain that turned out to be three times as expensive.
Swindler, she thought as she stepped heel to toe and crushed the stand with the ball of her giant left foot.
Xena looked down at the wreckage as they passed and watched the silky contents of the vendor's stand blow across the city in the wind. "You're out of control, Gabrielle! Let me down!"
"HA! Look who's talking? I'm not the one sleeping with the enemy!"
"What are you talking about? I haven't slept with anyone!"
"And I'm mad about THAT, too!"
The bard took a long stride through an alley, ripping a myriad of clotheslines in her wake. Clothes pins snapped, the lines popped and laundry fluttered to the ground.
"Gabrielle, you're not yourself." Xena said, and then winced at the sound of shattering stone. Her gigantic friend had just stepped on and pulverized the statue of one of Amphipolis's founding fathers. The warrior uncovered her eyes and looked down at the pile of marble dust left behind.
"Never did like that ugly thing." She strained her small body in the large hand, twisting in an effort to look at her partner. "Ga ... bri ... elle, where are you taking me?"
"Away from him!"The bard paused, eyes easily searching over the rooftops across the entire city.
Xena pounded on a big thumb in frustration. "What IS it with you, lately?"
"You were kissing him!"
"I wasn't kissing him, for Michael's sake, I was under a spell!"
"Then it was a good thing I came along."Gabrielle stopped and lifted the warrior up to face level. "Just in case, you better let me take care of Mr. Tall, Dark, and Dangerous. You stay here, away from his spell. I'll take care of him, then I'll be back to take care of you."
Carefully, she put Xena down on the very tippy-top of tallest structure in Amphipolis.
One foot slipped on the tile, and Xena found herself grabbing at a weather vane, the only handhold on the small, sharply slanted roof of the city's bell tower.
The warrior look down ... it was a long way to the ground.
"You are NOT going to leave me here!"
"I most certainly am. And you are going to stay here, too. When I come back, we're going to work this out, once and for all."
"What? Work what out?" Xena slipped again and swung around for better footing.
"You'll be fine. Just hold on." Gabrielle checked carefully, making sure her warrior would be safe and sound and nodded, satisfied. The giant bard smiled tenderly at her partner, "I love you, Xena." And she turned and walked away.
"Gabrielle, you get back here right now!"
Xena watched, furious, as the giant bard took long, lumbering steps away.
"I mean it! Right now!"
At no response, Xena tried a different tack.
"I love you, too, Gabrielle. You know I do! It's always been you -- you know that!"
But the bard pointedly ignored her.
To Hades with the sensitive chat. "You're under a spell too, ya know!" Now, she was mad. "And it's not just that you're too big for your britches! You're JEALOUS to match! JEALOUS! JEALOUS! JEALOUS!"
Gabrielle stepped over a row of houses, and the warrior suddenly realized that not only had Gabrielle gotten more jealous, she had gotten bigger ... a lot bigger.
Xena thought of the djinn's threat regarding her partner's growth and the lack of air up there, and found her own worry growing beyond measure.
"Goddamn it, Gabrielle! Whadda ya think you're gonna do with the djinn once you find him, step on him?" Xena yelled in one last, frustrated effort, cursing as her foot slipped again. She tightened her grip and looked down at the ground from atop the small, pointed roof. It was a long, long, long drop down and her only hand-hold was beginning to bend.
Xena got her balance and looked across the city for her partner. The golden head was easily seen, lumbering for her brother's tavern.
"Why now?" She watched as her partner walked into certain danger. "Why all of a sudden so jealous now?"
Then a thought suddenly occurred. Gabrielle wasn't the only one walking around with 50 feet worth of jealousy. The djinn had told her he wanted Gabrielle for himself, and it had set her off in a rage. No, the djinn wasn't interested in Gabrielle at all. He wasn't interested in Xena, Warrior Princess, either. And Aphrodite knows, she certainly wasn't interested in Jan bin Jan. No, the djinn was after something else and using the two of them to get it.
"We're playing right into his hands," the warrior stated through tight lips, thinking of her own actions and her partner's. They were both behaving exactly as the djinn probably anticipated they would.
Chaos, she thought. He thrives on chaos.
"Okay, Jan bin Jan, you want chaos -- you got it." Xena looked down at the ground and plotted her descent. "This is gonna hurt you a lot more than it's gonna hurt me." She adjusted her grip and took a deep breath. "I hope."
And with one long ululating, warrior-princess patented cry, she jumped.
Xena descended like a big, heavy rock, falling down along the wall of the tower even faster than she had anticipated. Shifting mid-air, she pushed off against the clay wall. The speed of her momentum shot her out at sharp angle and she hit the side of the adjacent building with her feet. She pushed off against the wall, spinning in a more controlled descent and aimed for an awning. It caught her and bounced her up once, and then twice. She flipped onto her back and fell back to the awning, expecting it to catch her the third time, but she ripped right through the fabric and crashed against the thin wooden ceiling of a chicken coup.
The weak pine cracked easily on impact and the warrior fell through, landing with a puff in a pile of chicken nests, feathers, and poop.
"Ugh!" Xena groaned as she lifted her head, then grimaced at the sound of cracking eggs under her butt. "I hate it when that happens," she said and blew a feather off the tip of her nose.
Jan bin Jan rose up from the floor. The giant bard having departed, he had transformed himself back into the handsome, dark gentlemen who had been sitting quietly with the tavern owner sharing an ale.
"Would anyone like to place an order?" he asked the crowd, smiling wickedly.
Toris held on to his wife protectively, their eyes staring wide in terror at the man standing before them. The rest of the tavern crowd shifted nervously, not knowing whether to stand perfectly still or bolt.
"Get out of my tavern!" Toris finally ordered. His customers jumped at the yell and started to run.
"Not you, you idiots! Him!" His patrons froze, once again unsure of what to do.
"Not too good for business," the djinn commented with a snicker, "Do you wish me to go?"
"What I wish is that I had never set eyes on you in the first place!"
The djinn rolled his head, "Oh, this is just too easy," he stated and then groaned in absolute delight.
Toris's hands flew to his eyes. "I can't see! I can't see!"
He let go of his wife, reaching out as though trying to grasp onto his eyesight which had just drifted away.
Nicholaa stared at her husband in terror, and then the ground suddenly shook, throwing her off balance. And then shook again. And when the ground lurched one more time, Nicholaa grabbed her hair and screamed out in horror.
The djinn threw back his head and laughed with resounding glee.
"Here djinny, djinny, djinny!"
The ground shook with another step as Gabrielle called out, searching for her prey.
The djinn's eyes lifted as a huge, dark shadow filled the roofless tavern. This time, every customer in the tavern dove for cover wherever they could find it.
"Where is everyone going? The fun is just beginning!" he said with a malevolent smile and disappeared.
Gabrielle's face peered into the hole in the roof.
"Where is he?"
A large hand reached in and started moving around the table and chairs, searching for the dark, handsome man who had dared to seduce her partner.
Villagers screamed, their shelter suddenly ripped away as the enormous hand groped for its prey.
"I know you're in there! You can't hide from me!"
The hand withdrew and was replaced by the enormous face.
"I'll find you if I have to rip this whole city apart to do it!"
The face disappeared and then suddenly the remaining portion of the roof was torn away. Splintered wood fell into the tavern, and Toris's wife screamed again, then ran, leaving her husband to fend for himself.
"Nicholaa! Nicholaa!" Toris felt his way, bumping into a chair. A beam crashed to the ground, just missing him to one side. "Gabrielle! For Gods sake! What are you doing?"
The bard looked in and watched as the tiny innkeeper tripped over the beam.
"I've had it with your sister, Toris!"Gabrielle stated, and picked up a table, tossing it to the side to see if the djinn was hiding behind it. She found only a man and a woman cowering in fear. The bard left them alone, her eyes searching for another possible hiding spot. "She's gonna have to decide. It's me or the foot pathway."
Again, the djinn's delighted laughter rang out.
"I can hear you!"the bard yelled, and her search continued in earnest. She ripped up a piece of the bar, crushing it in her hand. "You're in here, I know it!"
Toris found a pole and held on for dear life. "Gabrielle! I'm blind, you're 50 feet tall, there's some kind of demon loose in Amphipolis and you're tearing apart my tavern trying to find him! Why is it every time you two come into town, you bring chaos with you?!"
Chaos? Chaos? Hadn't Xena told her the djinn feeds off of chaos? Gabrielle paused at Toris's words, her eyes clearing of rage for a moment. The djinn flickered into visibility, as though his power was fading.
"No!" Xena's yell got everyone's attention. She flipped over some rubble and landed in the middle of the room. "Don't stop! Keep it comin', Gabrielle!"
Toris turned his head, recognizing his sister's voice. "Xena, is that you?"
The green rage of jealousy returned to the bard's eyes. "I thought I told you to stay put!"
"Come on, Gabrielle. Don't lose that anger now!" She looked up at her partner and pointed at the now visible djinn. "There he is! Go get him!"
"What? Are you crazy, Xena?!" Toris took a step to run for his sister, but slipped on a piece of tile.
Gabrielle turned her attention to the djinn, but was unsure of what to do. Her hand lifted, poised to attack, but wavered with uncertainty.
Xena ran to a man who was cowering in the corner and lifted him by his shoulders. "Come on! Get up! Make a wish, any wish. Whatever wish you make right now will be granted. Hurry up and make one!" She pushed him toward the djinn.
The man shifted nervously, not knowing what to do.
"For cripes sake, make a wish!" The warrior yelled.
The villager jumped at the order. "I wish I was wealthy," he shouted tentatively.
Bags of gold fell, and kept on falling.
The sight of money brought a number of villagers scrambling to their feet.
"I wish I was the most beautiful woman on earth," a woman said, eyes wide with fear. She transformed into Cleopatra, then Aphrodite, then Helen of Troy, then Xena herself and kept on transforming.
"I wish I owned land!" A man yelled out. Suddenly, he held in his hands the deeds to thousands of acreage. Another moment later the tax collector tapped him on the shoulder.
"I wish I was Hercules!" A teenager called out, and was instantly transformed into the legendary hero.
One look at the demi-god and the giant bard flew into a rampage.
"Not this time, big boy!"Gabrielle bellowed and continued her destruction of the tavern anew.
"That's my girl," Xena beamed proudly and dove for cover.
Throughout Amphipolis, pandemonium reigned, as a city full of frivolous desires begged to be granted.
All the while, the djinn moaned in the throes of ecstasy, bombarded by an avalanche of wishes and unable to do anything but grant them.
Jan bin Jan ripped open his shirt in delight as a steady diet of chaos fed him. Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined that bedlam could feel so good. It was better than anything he could have ever wished for. His body trembled as wish after wish flowed to and through him, his power pulsating as each one manifested. Like an endless field of flowers blooming all at once, the beauty of it all was overwhelming.
Xena rolled to avoid a sudden downpour of golden ducats as yet another villager wished for wealth, and landed neatly on her feet. She glanced quickly at her partner. Gabrielle was tearing a wall of the tavern down in an effort to get to the wanna-be Hercules. The tavern shook as her hand ripped at the timbers and long fingers reached in, trying to grab at the mini-demi god. The poor man was running at full tilt, ducking to avoid the large hand that was grabbing for him, not expecting that his secret desire to be just like the handsome hero would earn him a giant bard's wrath.
"Hey, Hercules!" Xena yelled, and both hero and bard paused, "Lookin' good!" Xena said, smiling.
Gabrielle's eyes grew wide. "Oh no you don't!" She swatted for the villager, who barely managed to jump beyond reach.
"You go, Gabrielle," the warrior said, smiling as she watched. "You're beautiful when you're angry."
A child flew by with griffin wings, and another ran past with the legs of a chicken. The situation was quickly spiraling out of control. Xena turned to the dark man at the center of it all and grinned. He was triumphant in his ecstasy and completely unaware of his surroundings, granting wish after wish almost in pure reflex.
Xena sauntered up behind the djinn and put her arms around him. Oblivious to her presence, he leaned back into the warrior, adding the intensity of the embrace to his mounting pleasure. She placed her lips just at his ear and smiled seductively.
"I wish Mikos had never touched a drop of ale in his life," she whispered soft and low.
Jan bin Jan moaned as the wish passed through him, and then his eyes shot open in anger.
He growled and lifted powerful arms up, pushing the warrior from him. Xena was tossed away by the force and crashed into a pile of broken tables and chairs against the wall. She slid to the floor with a grunt.
A wind spiraled through the room, lifting debris as though sucking it into a vacuum. Xena's dark hair whipped around and she crouched, shielding her eyes from the swirling dirt. She watched as the magical storm grew, whipping through the room, pulling coin and gold, deeds and dresses with it. The vortex flowed, picking up speed, faster and faster. It swirled in the center of the room building like a tornado, sucking up all signs of any wishes granted, and spiraling down into the djinn's very heart, the center of the maelstrom. The vortex churned, increasing in intensity and began to glow so brightly, the warrior could bare it no more and had to look away.
"NOOOOOOO!"Jan bin Jan bellowed one final time, his deep voice rising above the tempest of disintegrating wishes.
And then the tornado imploded, collapsing into itself and down into the djinn, finally disappearing with a loud ...
The tornado was gone and the djinn had vanished right along with it.
Xena lifted her arm away from her eyes, afraid to look. A blanket of quiet had descended, deafening compared to the chaos that only a second ago had reigned.
Toris's tavern appeared to be perfectly normal. Dim in the shade of the fading afternoon light, the inn looked as though nothing had happened ... not a thing had happened at all.
Xena stood quickly, her eyes scanning the room. "Gabrielle?" she asked hurriedly, searching the room in a panic. "Gabrielle!"
Toris stared at his hands in relief and then glanced around the inn. Everything was back to normal -- absolutely everything. Tables and chairs were back in their upright position. Drinks were served without so much as a drop having been spilled. Even the roof was back, no evidence of it having been torn away remained at all.
"Nicholaa!" Toris yelled and then sighed in relief when he found his wife standing right beside him with the same incredulous expression on her face.
In the rear of the tavern, a young teenager whimpered. He was no longer Hercules.
Back in Nigrita, an aging woman was staring at the empty mantle of a fireplace, wondering how she got there and why her arthritis suddenly hurt so much.
Gaulus shook his head to clear away the cobwebs. He found himself standing in the middle of Heliodoro the sculptor's house, and his wife hadn't been tugging on the artist's toga at all.
Brutus was, once again, only a dog and more than happy to be curled in Oretha's lap.
And Thyra? Thyra was sitting on the same stool, in her new bodice, no longer feeling like the ugliest woman in town. A short, heavy, pimple-faced man had just walked up to her. He was uglier than she, but he had smiled at her and she had smiled at him, and that was all she really needed to feel beautiful.
"Xena," Toris put his arms around Nicholaa and stared at his sister disapprovingly, "Would you mind telling me just what the heck is going on?"
Xena completely ignored her brother. She rushed through the room, avoiding confused customers, bewildered villagers, and even pushing aside the ex-mini-demi-god in a hurried effort to get outside.
She pushed through swinging doors and ran out into the street.
Her heart leapt at the sight of her bard standing there, a bit dazed and confused ... but tan and blond, short and sassy, just the way Xena liked her.
"Gabrielle," Xena said with a breath of relief as she rushed over to enwrap the woman up in her arms. "I'll never make fun of your height again, I promise." She kissed the top of a golden head and hugged her hard.
"Xena, what's going on? What happened? What did you do? What happened to the djinn?"
Xena rocked her companion as she continued to hug her. "You're back to normal. I made a wish. And if what I wished for came true, then the djinn is back in his statue," she replied, happily answering the typical barrage of questions in the same order asked.
Gabrielle pulled away slightly, very content to have to, once again, look up to see her partner's bright, blue eyes. "But what did you wish for to make it all right?"
"My only wish is that you sell lots of plays 'cause its gonna be expensive for us to live in Athens, you know."
The grin on Gabrielle's face grew into a smile so big, it crinkled her nose. She leaned her head against Xena's shoulder and hugged her long and hard.
Toris pushed back in his chair with a grunt of disbelief. "Xena, I would say that was the tallest tale I ever heard, but ...."
"But what?" Gabrielle interrupted defensively, anticipating the first of what would probably be many height jokes.
"But I should know where you two are concerned, all tales are tall tales."
Xena chuckled and took a nice long drink of her Mom's best ale thinking, not for the first time, how much she missed her.
Gabrielle narrowed her eyes at her partner. "Xena, how did you know what to wish for? Why did wishing that Mikos wasn't a drunk set everything back to normal?"
Xena swallowed and wiped her lips with the back of her hand, clearing her sad thoughts away. "Well, for one thing, everyone's wishes had been centered around themselves. I knew if I was going to make a wish, I needed to make sure it had nothing to do with me."
The bard nodded, thinking. "Okay, I could see how that could work. But why Mikos?"
Xena shrugged, "I just figured Mikos had broken up that statue in a drunken rage. If he never drank, then ..."
"Then the statue would have never gotten smashed ..."
"And the djinn would never have been released. We would still be here, but there would never have been any wishes made .... "
"So, no wishes granted," Gabrielle finished, smiling proudly. "But this means that the djinn wasn't destroyed, he's still stuck in the statue."
Xena lifted her mug and finished off the rest of her ale. "Yea," she replied when she was done. "We're gonna have to go out and have a talk with Mikos about that, right after ..."
"Right after what?" the bard queried.
"Right after I have some more of my brother's great ale." Xena rose and smiled at Toris. "Okay if we stay for dinner, brother?"
"Sure, fine with me," Toris answered, grinning up at his sister. "You two could stay the night if you want."
"Sounds good to me." Xena looked down at Gabrielle, who nodded her head in agreement. "It's settled then, a night in a real bed for Xena and her girlfriend." And with that announcement, Xena turned and strode to the back kitchen in search of another keg of ale.
"Well, you two seem to be doing well," Toris commented with a smile, pleasantly surprised by the uncharacteristically happy gait in his sister's walk as she strolled away.
Gabrielle grunted. "Easy for you to say."
Toris looked at the bard with concern. "You mean you guys aren't?"
"No, it's not that," Gabrielle replied, playing with her mug, "It's just that things get confusing at times, you know? One moment we're this couple, and the next we're not. I just wish I knew what direction we were headed."
Toris nodded in understanding. "My sister is not an easy woman to love."
"You said a mouthful," Gabrielle commented, taking a mouthful of ale. "Or understand." She put her mug down and leaned forward. "Take this for example: the whole reason I grew big was because of what I had wished for in front of the djinn. You know, the 'be careful what you wish for' thing?"
Toris nodded, trying to comprehend. "What exactly did you wish for, Gabrielle?"
"That's what I don't understand," Gabrielle stated, moving closer to Toris to be sure her partner couldn't hear. "I wished that I could be as open about our relationship as Xena is, you know? Then, I wouldn't have half the problems with things that I'm having right now. The djinn granted my wish all right, but instead of being open, I was jealous as all outdoors, if you get my meaning. I don't get it."
Toris leaned back in his chair, amazed. "Are you kidding me, Gabrielle? Is that what you wished for? That you could be as jealous about Xena as she is about you?"
"Well, yes, not in so many words, but that's the gist of it," Gabrielle replied, watching Toris's reaction closely.
"Well, if that don't beat all," Toris slapped the table and laughed.
"What's so funny?"
When Toris only laughed harder, the bard became annoyed. "Come on, Toris, what are you laughing at?"
"Gabrielle," Toris swallowed and caught his breath, "my sister gets more jealous when someone comes on to you than the green eyed monster himself."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about my sister, Xena, that's who. Why, she'd chop a person's hand off if they touched you. Poke their eyes if they even looked at you."
"She does not."
"Okay, so maybe she doesn't do all that, but believe me, Xena was never good at sharing ... never. And she certainly isn't good at sharing you. I should know."
"What do you mean, you should know?"
"You know," Toris began and leaned forward. He certainly didn't want his sister to hear this. "When we first met, I thought you were kinda cute."
Gabrielle snorted in disbelief. "You did?"
"Oh yeah. I mentioned it to Xena." Toris looked down at his arm and started to roll up his sleeve. "I think I still have the bruise on my arm from where she grabbed me and held me up against the tree. She warned me in, no uncertain terms, that I was definitely not your type. No, I was not your type at all. And if I knew what was good for me, I would never be your type."
He continued to pull up his sleeve, smiling, but Gabrielle stopped him. "No, no, I believe you. But, it just doesn't make sense."
"Come on, Gabrielle," Toris sighed, taking the bard's hand in his own. "Xena may be many things, but one thing she is not is a dreamer. My sister is pragmatic -- almost to a fault. You of all people should know that. She would never allow the fact that she loves you beyond all reason to interfere with what she believes to be the right thing to do. The greater good, Gabrielle -- it extends even to her relationship with you." Toris leaned back in his chair, releasing Gabrielle's hand. "Don't be fooled by the brave face. She gets jealous as all Hades. Believe me, I've seen it ... and more than once. She's just better at hiding it than you are."
"Hmph." Gabrielle turned her head to the kitchen and stared at the door her partner had just disappeared through, thinking.
"Toris," she said, standing. "I'll be right back."
"Xena?" Gabrielle peeked into the kitchen, looking for her partner. She found her struggling to muscle a large barrel of ale around so she could get to the spout.
"Yeah?" Xena replied, without turning.
Gabrielle entered the kitchen and closed the door. "You do get jealous, don't you?"
Xena paused in her pursuit of another drink. "Huh?"
The bard scratched her chin and stepped into the room. "I guess I never realized it, but you do get jealous. You don't like seeing me with someone else just as much as I don't like seeing you ... with someone else, I mean."
Xena abandoned her quest, leaving the barrel of ale right where it was, and slowly turned around. "Gabrielle, what are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about us." The bard walked up to a table and nervously played with a pan of nutbread that was cooling on a rack. "Neither of us really wants to see the other with somebody else, do we?"
Xena sighed and walked over. "Of course I don't enjoy seeing you with someone else. But that's not the issue, is it?"
"Then what is?"
"The real issue is what's best, isn't it?" Xena took a deep breath. "Think about all you've been through, Gabrielle ..."
"All we've been through," the bard interjected.
"All right. All we've been through. Death, war, monsters, gods, crucifixion, more death, more monsters, djinns-- it goes on and on and on, and it never seems to stop." The warrior placed a large hand on her smaller friend's shoulder. "And I don't think it ever will."
"And your point is?"
The warrior gave an exasperated sigh. "My point is, Gabrielle, one day you will get tired of all this. One day, you'll want something better for your life than Greek tragedy and chaos. And when that day comes, you will leave me, and you know what?"
"It will be the right thing to do ... for you."
Gabrielle frowned. "But not for you."
"It doesn't matter what's right for me," Xena replied firmly.
"Yes, it does."
"No, it doesn't."
"Well, it does to me!" Gabrielle shrugged the hand away. "Xena, we have been through a lot, it's true. But, we've been through it together. You and I."
Xena raised an eyebrow. "And your point is?"
"My point is, I'm well aware of what life with you is like. And I'm also well aware of what is right for me. And you know what, Xena?"
"I choose you." Gabrielle poked her finger in the middle of Xena's chest.
The warrior looked down at the stubborn finger and smirked. "You do, huh?"
"Yeah, I do," Gabrielle repeated, smiling. The poking finger relaxed and Gabrielle rested her hand on the warm skin just above the armor guarding Xena's heart. "It's always been you."
The corners of Xena's mouth lifted into a grin. "Well, for what it's worth, it's always been you, too."
Gabrielle could feel the tension between them building. Xena had a way of staring in her eyes that simply made her heart stop beating. Before she did something embarrassing, the bard let her hand drop from the warm place it was resting and promptly knocked the pan of freshly baked nutbread over, sending it spilling all over the floor.
"Oh, for the love of Eli!" Gabrielle stooped and started to clean up the mess.
"Here, let me help you." A moment later, the knee of a long leg bent and Xena came to the bard's aid.
They worked in partnership for a few minutes, foreheads almost touching, quietly scooping up all the bits and pieces of the broken bread from the floor.
Gabrielle reached out to grab up a chunk, and when Xena's hand stretched out for the same small bit, their fingers touched. The bard lifted her head and smiled, and found herself staring into a pair of sparkling blue eyes. For a few moments, both women forgot what it felt like to breathe.
Instead of picking up the crumb, Xena found her fingers wrapping around a small hand and pulling Gabrielle toward her. They stood and Xena's arms moved of their own accord, enfolding a trim waist and bringing the delicious body against her own. She closed her eyes and sighed when she felt Gabrielle slide her hands up along the bare skin of her arms and slip to the back of her neck. Without protest, the warrior surrendered to the gentle pressure that pulled her head down and brought their lips together.
Xena drank in the taste of Gabrielle with a thirst that left her breathless. Groaning, she tightened her arms and pulled Gabrielle into her, deepening their kiss. Her lips and tongue feasted on the sweetest honey she had ever savored and Gabrielle's accompanying moan was music to her ears. But when voluptuous hips pressed in and began a sensuous dance against her groin, the strong warrior's legs gave out.
Still embraced in a kiss honeyed by oblivion, they stumbled backward. Xena's back slammed against the stove and a large pot teetered over and fell. Its contents of mystery stew spilled across the floor of the kitchen and sent the resident alley-cat scurrying for cover. Xena, unwilling to release her prize, rolled them away from the heat of the oven along the edge of the countertop, scattering a variety of dishes and silverwear in their wake. The roll ended at the storage bin with Xena on top of Gabrielle.
Gabrielle entwined her fingers in Xena's long, black locks and tugged hard, sucking in Xena's bottom lip for a sweet, delicious bite. The warrior cried out, but Gabrielle swallowed that, too.
Xena's strong legs became jelly once again. They rolled along the counter again, following the same path and knocking over the rest of the pots, pans, and plates that hadn't been cleared away by the first pass. Oblivious to the kitchenware crashing around them, they rolled one over the other, coming to a top just before the stove. With a thud, Gabrielle landed conveniently on top of Xena. Xena's tongue ran along the inside of Gabrielle's upper lip and then dipped for another deep taste of sweet honey. Groaning, she felt Gabrielle using the opportunity to grind into her, intending to convey a very important message.
Bed ... now. Xena got the hint. She stood, enfolding her precious package in an embrace meant to carry them both away.
Gabrielle helped by lifting her legs and wrapping them around her warrior's waist, all the while thoroughly enjoying the caress of a supple tongue against her own. She smiled and continued to kiss Xena, content to let her partner carry her wherever she had in mind.
With lips still locked, Xena lumbered across the room kicking sundry pots and pans out of her way in an effort to clear a path. They staggered into a table, sending it crashing to the floor along with its compliment of knives and chopping utensils. Xena stepped back, adjusted her direction slightly, and pressed onward. A booted foot knocked into a bowl of milk, sending it skidding across the floor -- its owner howled in protest and scurried away, drenched and insulted.
The warrior slipped slightly on the spilled milk and thumped into a pile of flour sacks, knocking a few over. The sacks ripped open upon contact, and the white meal mixed nicely with the milk, coagulating instantly. Undaunted, Xena adjusted their course, still kissing her bard, and stomped through the muck.
As tongues swirled, arms weakened and Gabrielle began to slip down the length of her body. Xena hefted her up for a better grip. Strong hands slipped under luscious buttocks and Xena was treated to the feel of skin as Gabrielle's short skirt moved out of the way. But when long fingers brushed across warm wetness, the warrior moaned in ecstasy and her knees gave way once more.
They fell forward into a stack of ale barrels, sending a few rolling across the floor. Gabrielle absorbed the impact with a soft groan as her back hit a keg and Xena landed between her legs. They kissed and kissed, lips pressing, teeth nipping, hands caressing as Xena used the leverage of the barrel to sensuously move against the delicious body beneath her.
The barrel of ale rocked back and forth, eventually knocking a steady rhythm against the kitchen wall. The speed increased until finally the keg stopper popped and shot a stream of ale out across the room. It mixed with the milk and suddenly the cat was a little happier as it lapped it up.
As the barrel emptied, the stream of ale became a dribble and the rocking slowed. Caresses gentled and kisses turned tender. Smiling, Xena nibbled on Gabrielle's lips lovingly and ran her fingers through sun-blessed hair. Reluctantly, she withdrew, running her tongue along the inside of a lip fat with passion, and gave it once last nip for good measure. She leaned into Gabrielle's neck and nuzzled the soft, warm skin with a contented sigh.
The sweet enrapture was disrupted by loud crash. Both heads turned at the sound of the last remaining plate tipping off the counter and shattering on the floor.
Gabrielle smiled and brought Xena's attention back to her by running her hands along the length of her warrior's sable hair.
"Xena," she whispered softly in her partner's ear.
"Hmmm," the warrior replied contentedly.
"Does this mean you'll come to Athens with me?"
Xena nibbled on a little helping of skin. "Hmm Hmmm."
Gabrielle pouted. "Now, don't just say you'll come because I've put you in a compromising position."
"Compromising position? What compromising position? You think the position you have me in is a compromise?" Xena asked with a glint in her eye and promptly proceeded to plant her mark on Gabrielle's neck, right where everyone could see it.
The bard moaned with delight as Xena feasted upon the tender skin at the base her neck.
Gabrielle wiggled her neck free and forced Xena to look at her. "You know what I mean. I want you to go to Athens with me because you want to, not because you feel you have to."
Xena lifted her head and looked into the serious and concerned green eyes of the only person who had ever truly loved her. Smiling softly, she placed her lips so close to Gabrielle's that they shared the same air.
"I want to, Gabrielle, believe me, it's what I want, too." That said, Xena leaned in wanting only to just kiss the girl.
A gentle push of hands against her shoulder stopped her.
"Now is not the time to say things you don't mean, Xena," Gabrielle stated, all playfulness gone from her expression.
Xena's clear eyes traveled across the treasured features. Gods, how she adored this woman. "You are the only one I've ever wanted, and the only one I ever will. I promise, Gabrielle."
"You promise?" A blond eyebrow lifted. "What happened to no promises, Xena?"
"What can I do, Gabrielle?" Xena's blue eyes sparkled. "This thing we have, it's bigger than the both of us."
Ignoring the playful slap, this time Xena did lean in and just kiss the girl.
She wrapped her arms around Gabrielle and stood, lifting them both up off the floor, ready to have one more go at getting them out of there.
Toris walked into the kitchen with an armful of dirty dishes and almost dropped them all to the floor.
Not that it would have mattered.
"What the ...? Xena, what happened in here?" He walked in, stepping carefully over a big glob of flour soaking in a pool of ale-laced milk. Scooting a wobbly-legged cat away, he glanced around the disaster that was once his kitchen.
"Xena ... Gabrielle ... are you all right in here?" He called out, fearing another djinn-attack.
He searched for his sister, and just caught a glimpse of legs wrapped around a strong back as they disappeared up the stairs.
"Well, I guess that answers that question," Toris commented as he noticed an interesting glob of spilt flour, milk and ale sizzling happily in a pan atop the stop. He broke off a piece of the pan cake and took a bite. "Not bad," he said, dipped another piece into a bit of dripping maple syrup. "Not bad at all."
Xena negotiated the tight corner at the stop of the stairwell and Gabrielle stopped kissing her long enough to appreciate the fact that they had made it all the way up.
"Where are you going to attempt to take me now?" Gabrielle asked, smiling.
"Not attempt ... succeed. I'm going to succeed at taking you to bed." Xena took long steps in the direction of the back bedroom.
"Bed? Now? Xena, its the middle of the afternoon. I thought we were going to go warn Mikos the farmer about that statue."
"Tomorrow," she mumbled as she began to kiss those delicious bard lips again, "well warn him tomorrow."
A booted foot kicked open the bedroom door, and strong legs carried them both inside.
Mikos put the last of their belongings into the cart and cinched the load down. "That's it, Uliss. That's the last of it."
"Wait, one more thing!" Uliss ran up and stuffed an old quilt into a corner. "Can't leave that behind." She stood on tiptoes and gave her husband a quick kiss. "I'm so glad you finally decided to leave this farm."
"No use tryin' to squeeze water from a stone," Mikos replied. "I don't want any more of my family wasting their life on dead soil."
Uliss squeezed her husband's arm and smiled. She had been waiting for this moment for years. "Ready to go?" she asked, excitedly.
Mikos chewed his lip and looked at the sun. "Took us all day to pack. I don't want to be on the road when its dark. Whadda ya say we leave tomorrow, first light? One more night won't kill us, eh?"
Uliss wanted to object; she couldn't get off this farm fast enough. "Sure, darling, whatever you want."
"Najara!" Mikos, called out.
From inside the house, an aging Najara stepped out to answer her brother. "Yes, Mikos?"
"We'll be leaving tomorrow at first light. All right with you?"
"Fine with me," Najara replied, smiling. It was about time they were leaving this place, and they should have done it long ago. Najara vaguely remembered a time when she had briefly dreamed about leaving and going off on her own, but her brother was a good man and had needed her help here on their family's land. Though she had wanted to leave years ago, it was a wish that had never come true - her sense of loyalty to her good brother had made her stay.
She turned her head and looked out across the field, over the barren acre to the end of the farmland, where the pasture met the road and an odd, ancient statue stood in the fading sunlight of late afternoon. It would give her a chance to talk to the Djinn one last time. He had spoken to her again, trying to get her to leave her brother and fight for the light.
Now that the farm was not an issue, maybe tomorrow would be a good day to do just that.
(graphic by Ciegra)
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