Authoress Note: The events in this story takes place right after my fiction, 'A Warlord's Legacy', but before the series show 'Destiny'.
*This story is not to be archived on a web page or linked without my permission.*
The Princess Bard
Gabrielle hugged the warrior in the saddle in front of her; she found it hard to believe that only seven moons ago, she had questioned the love she felt for the woman. The bard paused...no she thought, not her love, her worshipping of the woman in front of her.
She realized that Xena was not the goddess she had visualized; she had seen the ruin the 'Destroyer of Nations' had done to a village, and it made her truly see the woman behind the image for the first time.
After saying those simple words, 'I love you', words they both had kept hidden in their hearts for so long, their first night after leaving the village had been so...so. Gabrielle paused, she could not think of the word that she would later write in her journal that night.
Sighing, she leaned her head against Xena's shoulder, enjoying the feeling, and catching the envious gaze of the Amazon riding next to them.
The bard wondered why Queen Melosa needed her so much that she had sent scouts looking for her and Xena...well not Xena. Tirouis made it plain when she found them, that she was only looking for Gabrielle, and if Xena wanted to accompany them, that would be Xena's decision.
At least they would find out soon, they had just crossed into Amazon lands and would be in the village by nightfall. Shifting in the saddle, she put her hands around the warrior's waist and started telling one of her seemingly endless string of stories.
Xena kept her eyes staring straight ahead, when she felt Gabrielle's arms tighten around her and started to recite a new tale. Not for the first time, she was amazed at the limitless imagination her companion had; rarely did she ever tell her the same tale twice.
After they had left Tsaia, and Gabrielle saw what she had done in her past to destroy the people's lives there, she had been afraid that the bard would leave her. She had to chuckle at the thought, the mighty Warrior Princess, afraid of a woman that barely came up to her shoulders.
Yet if this small woman commanded her to jump off a cliff, she would do it; she wondered at times if Gabrielle would ever know the power she held over her. Then, when the bard said that she loved her she nearly fell off Argo, only Gabrielle's arms had kept her on the saddle.
Well, she still fell, the warrior thought, she fell deeper in love with the bard, there and then. Hearing those words pass those lips she had dreamed of kissing, her last reserves fell, and she could not deny anything or any touch from the bard.
And touching; seemed every time they now made camp, rode, even talk, they were holding hands, touching a foot, any contact. And looking in the bard's eyes, she shuttered at what she thought she could perceive there.
Her eyes shifted to Tirouis, when the Amazon laughed at the bard's recital; yes, Gabrielle had that effect, able to make the fiercest warrior laugh like a child listening to a bedtime story.
Tirouis' interruption of their camp site a few days ago had rankled her, Gabrielle was recounting a love story about Athena and Pallas. She could feel the bard leaning close to her as she described a kiss between the goddess' and Pallas.
Then she was alerted to the sound of an approaching horse, quickly standing and pulling her sword to meet the threat, only to find an Amazon messenger looking for their princess; she was left wondering what Gabrielle had planned on doing.
And wondering what Melosa wanted of Gabrielle, this was the first time the queen had send messengers for the princess, and she was slightly worried. She knew that Melosa cared for the bard, but she would put the good of the Amazon's first, then Gabrielle.
Listening to the bard's stories, they rode on, each to their own thoughts, until the Amazon village came into view. They could hear drums starting to echo, with a pulsating vibration; Xena knew it was a welcoming signal for royalty. And that didn't make her feel any more comfortable since that meant Gabrielle, and the bard had never received this type of welcome before.
Riding into the village, Xena's suspicions only increased, a welcoming party awaited them, five warriors in feathered masks, and three painted dancers, their bodies decorated with brown and red swirling stripes, wearing only loincloths and bird masks with bright feathers trailing down their backs.
Gabrielle's eyes widened at the spectacle in front of her, carefully detailing each and every mask, weapon, and swirl of paint on the dancers. Memorizing for later use if needed for a story.
Easing her way down from Argo, the lead warrior advanced toward her and dropped onto one knee, head bowed. Flushing in embarrassment for the first time, Gabrielle looked up at Xena, only to see her beaming at her, almost as if she was proud of the way she was being treated.
The princess suppressed a nervous giggle, then reached down and drew the kneeling warrior back up on her feet to face her, "Please, you do not have to kneel before me, I mean, it's not like I'm anyone important."
The Amazon in front of her shook her masked head, as the dancers started into a slow easy rhythm, swaying to the drums. Reaching upwards to push the mask up on her head, Ephiny smiled at the bard, "No, your our princess, and you honor us with your presence."
Xena, despite her misgivings about why Gabrielle was summoned could not help but feel proud of her bard, and the reception she was receiving. Many times she felt that Gabrielle was not given enough credit for the things she had done, and this welcome, more than made up for the past indifference.
Gabrielle herself was now hugging Ephiny, surprised that this Amazon that she had known for so long was bowing to her. "I missed you Ephiny, how is your son?".
Grinning, the Amazon returned the tight squeeze of the bard, "Thank you princess, he is strong and healthy, and I'm pleased that you are concerned about him."
Nodding, Gabrielle did a slow turn of her head towards Xena, with a slight smile on her face. Xena looked back at the bard as she barely shook her head from side to side, confused also about why she was being treated this way.
Ephiny broke into a wide smile, though Gabrielle could see her struggling to return to a neutral expression and failing miserably, "If you will please follow me, I will take you to the queen, she's waiting and will explain all to you. We will be able to talk later, at the feast in your honor."
Xena dismounted and followed her bard, as another one of the welcoming party took Argo. Ephiny lead them to Melosa's tent, then stopped, turning around facing the pair with a bow. "Please wait here, I'll announce the two of you to the queen, but since she only sent for the princess, she may not allow Xena entrance."
Xena smirked, and rolled her eyes, slightly annoyed; but then was surprised when Gabrielle spoke up fiercely in her defense while the bards ears turned a fiery red, "Ephiny, if Queen Melosa will not allow Xena to enter with me, then tell her I'll be leaving, if Xena is not welcomed, then I'm not welcomed."
The smile Ephiny had been trying to erase from her face, slowly faded away to shock, but she only nodded and entered the queen's hut, wondering how she could fix the insult to the queen on Gabrielle's behalf if Melosa were to refuse Xena's admittance.
The bard grinned, and turned to her friend, "Well, that should take care of that, you know Xena, I'm beginning to lik...what?" Gabrielle halted, looking at the astonished expression on the warrior's face, "What?..."
Recovering, Xena shook her head with a low chuckle, then looked back at the bard with a amused glance, "Ohhhh nothing Gabrielle, but if Ephiny tells Melosa those exact words, you would have just insulted and tested the queen's authority. In a way, you have just challenged Melosa."
The Princess Bard
Ephiny returned a short time later, with much to Gabrielle's relief, a smile on her face, bowing she bate them to enter the hut.
Entering, the pair regarded Queen Melosa sitting on a wooden throne, with antlers of a large stag set high on the back, her face covered by the traditional feathered mask.
Gabrielle advanced quickly dropping to one knee and bowing her head to the queen, while Xena stood along side her, and bowed slightly. A chuckle came from behind the mask, then Melosa reached up taking it off.
"Xena," Her face relaxed and smiling, "can't you just once bow to an old queen in her own hut?" Then turning her attention to the bard, her expression soften, "Arise princess, I thank you for honoring me, and return that honor."
Standing, Gabrielle's face beamed looking at the queen, "Thank you your majesty....huh...you...I," biting her lip the bard looked down at the floor, then back up to Melosa, "I'm sorry, I can't think of the return."
Chuckling again, the queen stood and set her mask on the throne looking at Xena with a smirk, "That is all right Gabrielle, these things happen when your teacher has little respect for protocols, but let us talk as friends, not as queen and princess."
Shooting a 'look' at Melosa, Xena strolled over to a table setup with drinks; taking a wine goblet and one of water, she walked back handing the wine to the queen and water to Gabrielle, "I've been teaching her other things, protocols did not seem that important."
Sipping her wine, she looked at Xena, then to Gabrielle, "I hope you can teach fast then Xena, because the princess will need to know them."
Arching an eyebrow the bard stared at Melosa, "What do you mean? and why all this princess stuff, this never happened before."
Now grinning, Melosa nodded as she started to wander around the room, "Gabrielle, I know Xena's been teaching you our ways, and no matter what you may have thought of my words earlier, I know Xena is a good teacher."
Catching the proud look the bard gave the warrior, the queen continued, "But you still need to experience what it means to us having a princess, so that is why you were welcomed as royalty, because to us you are, even if it is by right of caste, you're a princess, that could one day rule as queen."
Blinking, Gabrielle turned her head slightly looking at Melosa, "Wait a minute, you don't mean you would actually have me as queen?" Staggered at the returning nod, the bard shook her head with a nervous laugh, "But you can't really be serious, I'm only the daughter of a fisherman, I'm a nobody."
She jumped when a goblet crashed down on the table, turning she saw Xena looking at her; fury in her deep blue eyes, speaking low, the bard could hear the anger in her voice, "Gabrielle, don't you ever say that again, you matter, you don't know how important you are, and if I ever hear you call yourself a nobody again..."
Looking down at the floor, the bard nodded, and could only get out a soft apology, she was not afraid of Xena's anger, but knew she has disappointed her, and that felt worse.
Melosa stood back watching the exchange, and was pleased with what she saw; maybe she had been right after all calling on Gabrielle for this little task, it was just the thing to open her eyes, and understand the meaning of her position.
"Gabrielle," since again she had the bard's attention, the queen smiled, "I have a small task for you, but important, you can turn it down, but then I would have to remove my sisters right of caste, and I don't think that Tereus would have been that wrong about you."
Xena looked at Melosa, then Gabrielle, she did not want to say anything, this was Gabrielle's decision and would not influence it.
Sighing the bard looked up at the queen nodding, "I'm sorry if I made it look like I had failed Tereus trust in me, just that I really never thought about it I guess, what is your command?"
Nodding her approval, Melosa walked over to the table and unfurled a map, pointing to several locations once the bard joined her. "Again we're having boundary disputes, this time with King Mingo Montoya to the south, but unlike the centaurs, we talked first and have the basic's settled."
Glancing up to be sure she had the bard's full attention, "There are some minor details to be ironed out and the new boundary treaty signed, you will travel to King Montoya's keep, iron out the details and sign the treaty in my name."
Eyes wide Gabrielle looked over the map, and nodded, "What minor details?" Grinning Melosa pointed to a location on the map, "That forest is prime hunting ground, right now we both share it; but with both of our people hunting there, we'll clear it out of all game. You're to try and talk them into giving up their share of the forest."
Licking her lips to ease the tension, Gabrielle stared at the queen, her voice betraying her nervousness, "I'm to talk a king out of his land?"
Laughing the queen nodded, "There is no one better, and we ourselves would rather lose that ground, than over hunt it; and you will not be talking to the king, but his son, prince Humpermink. The king wants his son to gain experience, and thus we have set up the treaty signing for the future rulers, so you both must live with what you two agree to."
Closing her eyes, Gabrielle nodded, "I'll do my best for the Amazon tribe."
Standing straight, Melosa placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and squeezed, "I could ask for no more than that." Rolling the map close, she placed it and a copy of the treaty in a case and handed it to Gabrielle.
"Study it tomorrow, I'll have an official escort ready to take you to the castle, but tonight we have a feast in your honor, and I hope that you will tell us a tale, since your reputation as a bard been increasing."
"I would be delighted to tell a story," The bard stated, "But why do I need an official escort? I'm sure Xena will escort me."
Startled for the first time, Melosa shook her head, "You don't understand Gabrielle, the moment you leave this hut, and until you return, you carry part of my authority and require the appropriate escort."
Nodding Gabrielle arched her eyebrows wondering what the problem was, "Ok, and since Xena and I travel together, she can be my escort, I don't understand what the big deal is?"
Just as Melosa started to speak, Xena interrupted her, "I'll be her official escort." Staring at the warrior, Melosa had thought Xena could no longer surprise her, but now found out that to be wrong. "Are you sure Xena, you know what that means, you give your word that you will carry out the duties of an escort to the princess?"
Seeing Xena nod, and Gabrielle confusion, Melosa could only shake her head, and wished she could go along to watch. "Gabrielle, Xena will be your official escort, which means...she's responsible not only for getting you to Montoya's castle; but your safety, honor, comfort, and seeing that your commands are obeyed, in other words, your personal servant."
Gabrielle much to Xena's disgust, looked at her, then the queen, then back to Xena, as a smile slowly stretched across her face, "Huh...hah..hah, you mean whatever I say, Xena has to do? if I say aaah...Xena get me some water?"
Smirking, Xena poured another goblet of water and handed it to Gabrielle with a slight bow, "As you wish."
The Princess Bard
Xena and Queen Melosa, watched as Gabrielle was escorted from the hut by Ephiny to prepare for the feast; then Melosa glanced at the warrior in puzzlement, "Xena, why did you agree to escort Gabrielle, I never would have thought you would be anyone's servant."
Her eyes still on the doorway her bard left through, Xena almost did not hear the question; this was the first time since the last full moon that Gabrielle had been out of her sight. Blowing out a breath she turned facing Melosa, "Because for Gabrielle I will, it is that simple."
Wanting to ask further, but already seeing by the warriors face the subject was closed, Melosa turned to her other concern, "Xena, I agreed for you to escort Gabrielle, and to teach her our ways, but you're not to be her advisor once your reach Montoya's keep."
Holding up her hand for Xena to let her continue, Melosa sipped her wine and walked over looking at the mask on her throne, "At least not advise her in public, many people still see you as a warlord, and if some were to think that you advise the Amazon's...they could also believe we are readying for war."
Walking back toward Xena, the queen smiled, "We both know that is not true, but I have to take precautions against rumors, and I want you to be aware of my concerns."
Xena mulled over the queen's words before nodding, "All right, I will be careful with appearances when I'm with the princess, is that satisfactory?"
Putting down her goblet, the queen motion to the doorway, "Very, now we have a feast to eat, and a princess to show off to her people."
Xena laughed aloud as Melosa finished her story and looked around, searching for signs of her bard. The feast was well under way, with blankets laid out on the ground like a three sided square. The food was plentiful, boar, deer, duck and pheasants, as well as mushrooms, quail eggs, wild fruits, vegetables and a unending stream of wine.
She wondered what Gabrielle's expression would be to all this food, also the twelve dancers, the same number beating the drums, and chatting.
She had never seen an Amazon feast like this, over fifty warriors sat in front of the blankets; with at least a hundred forming a line to the side taking their food, eating as much as they wanted.
Then abruptly the drums stopped, and silence governed the camp as Melosa stood next to Xena, crying out to all present, "Warrior's of the Amazon's, Princess Gabrielle!"
Xena looked amidst the cheering Amazon's, gasping as her bard stepped forward; her breath became short as her eyes took in the magnificent vision, outline against a hundred torches lining the village.
Gone were the everyday clothes Gabrielle wore, her dirndl replaced by a red leather skirt that fell across her thighs; under which was a fine cloth dye from grapes that hung to her knees. As in Amazon fashion the sides were slit up to her red leather belt, a pair of soft leather briefs protecting her modesty.
The green top that Xena hated, was also gone, in place was a red leather top that wrapped around her breasts, with golden swirls over the cups. The shoulder straps were gold interlinking chains; her forearms, covered with gauntlets in the same style red leather, with gold bands around her upper arms.
And proudly around her throat a necklace made out of twenty or more bear claws, each polished to a bright sheen.
Gabrielle head swam, she felt that she would pass out any moment, her gaze shifted among the cheering women, feeling that her heart would burst; but she denied the feeling until her eyes fell on the one for which she held true-love.
Then she had to fight back the tears that wanted to come forth, Xena was staring at her dumbfounded, her mouth open. Then her warrior stood up clapping along side Melosa, and gave her battle- cry at the top of her voice.
As if taking Xena's battle-cry as a signal, the village drums started beating again, reverberating against the village huts, causing plates and goblets to rattle.
Walking forward toward Melosa, Gabrielle did not think it could it any louder, until she dropped to one knee, and bowed her head to the queen. Then the noised reached such a pitch, that surely she thought, the gods on Mount Olympus could hear.
Such was the din, she could not hear Melosa yelling at her to raise, until she felt the queens hands on her, pulling her up to her feet. Then facing the Amazon's, the queen raised her hand and Gabrielle's together high in the air to the pleasure of the cheering crowd.
Xena, Melosa and Ephiny watched the princess with open mouths, a couple others nearby, were taking bets on whether Gabrielle would eat another plate. Until the bard leaned back with a smile, "I'm stuffed, I really could not eat another bite."
The bard's attention was lured by a cheering woman, who was holding her hand out for money; while a couple other Amazon's looked disappointed, she briefly wondered what the wager was about.
Melosa looked at Xena shaking her head, "How do you ever catch enough game to feed her?." Reaching out to brush a hand over the pouting bard's head, the warrior gave a gentle laugh, "It's a challenge, there is no doubt about that."
Melosa grinned, and gave Gabrielle had inquiry look, who returned with a nod. Standing up, the queen gestured to the dancers to halt, then looked around, "Warrior's, our princess, who it seems has some slight reputation has a bard, will grace us with a story."
Pausing for the cheering, then laughed adding, "And if she can tell a tale like she can eat, then we're to be privileged to a story good enough for the gods."
Shaking her head at the laugher, the bard stood, advancing to the middle of the square, pausing as she was ringed in by the half- naked dancers.
Then raising her voice so that all could hear, "I sing thee a tale, a tale of when titans fought the gods, I sing to thee of Artemis and her battle against Gration."
Xena smiled as Gabrielle launched into her story, she studied the listening women, hearing their approval that their princess chosen the patron goddess of the Amazon's. She watched as her bard drew them in, even queen Melosa was leaning forward in rapture at Gabrielle's words.
Xena had been the guest of kings, traveled the lands and heard from who many called master bards; but none that she ever heard could draw in a crowd, hold them spellbound, then use her words like a soft caress, until she released them subdued and elated like Gabrielle.
Nibbling on a mushroom, she watched the women, some smiling, others concerned, as Gabrielle even had her wondering about the safety of the goddess. The bard continued with her tale, weaving a spell over the camp, until she finished with a flourish and bowed.
At first there was silence, then the Amazon's erupted in applause, standing and crowding around the princess, Xena was pleased at the attention Gabrielle was receiving. Until she notice one of the dancers paying just a little too much attention to her bard.
Walking over she stood next to the dancer and smiled at her shaking her head, "Sorry, but she's taken."
The dancer looked up at Xena, disappointment written on her face as plain as her paint, nodding she still smiled, "Should have known, all the best one's are taken."
Grinning at the dancer, Xena nodded before strolling over to Gabrielle and talking her arm, "I'm sorry princess, but I am your escort, and we have quite a bit of traveling to do in the morning, it's time for bed."
Sighing, Gabrielle looked around for the last time, taking in the sights that she'll remember to the end of her days, "You're right Xena, I'll go and ask Melosa's leave."
After requesting the queen's permission to leave and a hug to Ephiny, and what seem like a hundred farewells, they finally made it back to the hut, Melosa set up for them.
Gabrielle, was still talking about the evening, while Xena grinned watching her go on and on, then the warrior took Gabrielle in her arms and hugged her tight.
Smiling, Gabrielle looked up at her warrior, her eyes shining, "Xena, did I happen to say I love you?"
Laughing the warrior nodded, bringing up her hand to caress the side of Gabrielle's face, "Yes, last time I think was this morning," then slowly Xena leaned down, her lips toward the bards.
Then she felt Gabrielle jerk back suddenly, looking at her she saw fear in the bards eyes, then she felt sick to her stomach, as her voice became distressed filled, "Gods Gabrielle, I'm sorry...I'm sorry,"
Grabbing the panicked stricken warrior by the shoulders, Gabrielle started shaking her, calling her name, "XENA!...XENA, it's all right, listen to me...XENA are you listening to me?"
Calming down, Xena looked at the bard, the fear was gone, now replaced by concerned, "Gabrielle, I'm sorry...I thought...forgive me, please."
Then the bard surprised the warrior by shaking her head smiling, "There is nothing to forgive, Xena, I love you so much." Reaching to caress the often stern face, Gabrielle smiled, "Xena, my heart and my head dreams of kissing you."
Looking at the woman, Xena brought up both hands to caress her cheeks, "But I saw fear Gabrielle?"
Smiling as Xena's hands roamed over her face, the bard closed her eyes, "There is something in me, that is still afraid Xena, I'm struggling with it to understand why my heart and mind would want something so much, only to have something hidden in me that takes over; I mean it's not like I never kissed a woman before."
Arching her eyebrows, the warrior smirked at her bard, "And just who are these women you have been kissing?"
Shaking her head, Gabrielle blew out a breath, looking a bit disgusted, "Ok, my mother, sister, and there was a cousin."
Seeing the amused look on Xena's face she rolled her eyes, "Ok, granted it's not the same, but all I want, is time to understand this small thing hidden in me, will you give me that time Xena?"
Closing her eyes, she laid her cheek on top of the bard's head smiling, "For you Gabrielle, you have all the time in the world."
Tightening her hug on the warrior, the bard coughed and shifted her feet, "Xena, huh...I'm not sure how this outfit really works yet, can you help me take it off for bed?"
Chuckling, Xena caressed the soft red-hair next to her cheek, "As you wish."
The Princess Bard
Gabrielle Looked behind her at the Amazon village as it disappeared, then turned and looked up at Xena astride Argo, "Think I can join you now?"
With a sharp glance at the tree's the warrior shook her head, "No, there is still lookout's, so Melosa would hear of it." Smiling at the sulking bard, she continued, "You're the one that said they would rather walk than ride a horse."
Gabrielle looked up shaking her head, a look of disbelief on her face, "But I thought that Melosa would let me ride with you, if I refused the horse."
Xena grinned looking back to the tree's, she could feel the Amazon lookouts, even if she could not see them. She also smiled remembering Gabrielle's outrage when Melosa told her it was not respectful for a princess to ride seated behind her escort, and that she either chose a horse or walk.
"Xena, can I ask a question?" The warrior looked down with a slight smile, "If I say no you would ask anyway, so go ahead."
Using her staff like a walking stick, Gabrielle knew how close they had become, and felt like she could ask, but was still nervous, "Xena, you have been with women before, right?"
Argo let out a snort, which much to Xena's disgust brought a smile to Gabrielle's face, "I guess there is your answer, but only a few times, with men there was a time I used sex to get what I wanted, does that bother you?"
Shaking her head, the bard glanced up the road, then checked the sun, "No, you told me about your life, and I just wondering how you reacted the first time a woman kissed you?"
Pausing the warrior thought back, a pleasant memory, and a better knowledge of what her bard was going though, "Not long before I became a warlord, there was a rich merchant woman that wanted me, and she would outfit my army, for a night with me...and a percentage of my booty."
Xena looked down at Gabrielle seeing she had her attention, "I won't go over all of it, but I was nervous, although I was not a virgin...with men that is...she sensed that I was afraid, but I needed her support and went through with it."
"And?" Gabrielle asked watching Xena with an impatient look.
Chuckling, the warrior reached down patting Argo, "And...for a time we were lovers, that is until she got tired of me," seeing the flabbergasted look on the bard's face; her chuckle turned into a laugh, "Gabrielle, she was using me like I was using her, only it had been pleasant, but had run its course."
Licking her lips to ease her nervousness, she guessed this was the best time for her next question, "When did you start loving me, I mean in a...a...more personal way I guess?"
The warrior paused not sure how to answer that, she had to think back, how long had she felt this way? Her contemplation was interrupted by the coughing bard. "Sorry Gabrielle, but if I had to guess the first time when I noticed, was when we were in that trouble with the Titan's; I came to wake you, and found you in the same pallet as that monk."
Nodding, Gabrielle remembered that time, the strange look on the warriors face when she found them, though she told her nothing had happened, Xena seemed troubled by it at the time.
Glancing upwards at the warrior, she could see her struggling with herself, and she could guess why. Xena would fight a titan to save her, but still could not ask her anything personal, like she was afraid that it would open up her soul.
"Ok, you beat it out of me, I'll talk," looking back down the road, she ignored the puzzled gaze from the rider, "First time was when I ate that henbane laced nutbread, remember how I said you were beautiful?" Smiling at the warrior's nod, she continued.
"I did not know at first what I was feeling, thought it was the henbane, then over time I grew to love you deeper, but it was when we met Tassin and Cabira that I really saw you in a different light."
Scanning the area, Xena realized they were nearing the fire swamp, and could no longer feel the Amazon lookouts, "So you only thought I was beautiful because you were intoxicated on henbane?"
Looking at the smirk on the warriors face, Gabrielle started speaking in a low mocking bardic tone, waving her staff in a dramatic fashion "Xena, you're as beautiful as the first rays of the sun caressing the morning flowers."
Seeing the warrior laugh, Gabrielle reached out grabbing Xena's leg and pulling her and Argo to a halt, looking up at the confusion on the warriors face, the bard smiled, her tone soft and gentle.
"You're as beautiful as a doe nuzzling her new-born fawn, you're as beautiful as the countryside blanketed by virgin snow; Xena, you're as beautiful as the waves on a beach, caressing the shore in the moonlight."
Memorized, the warrior gazed at the bard, before noticing that she had a expectant look, "What Gabrielle? go on...please."
With a widening smile, the bard reached up a hand to her warrior, "Why don't I ride with you, and tell you more."
Rolling her eyes, Xena pulled the bard up behind her, nudging Argo back into a trot as Gabrielle softly whispered in her ear.
Prince Humpermink looked at his sister Butternut, the girl irritated him, always asking questions, was wanting to know why he and father did things a certain way. It was as if she wanted to think for herself.
She was supposed to observe his negotiations with the Amazon princess, as if she could learn something. Sighing he looked over the map; try to talk the Amazon's into giving up shared prime hunting land, or give it up before it's over-hunted father said.
He wished father had given him something more difficult, a few words about her being beautiful, then a couple glasses of wine, followed by a night in bed, and she would give up the hunting grounds, and more if he really makes it look like he loves her.
But the woman was an Amazon, he heard stories about them, so he took the precaution of hiring a brute squad just in case, their reputations were good, great fighters, one supposedly fought the insane Callisto to an even draw.
A couple good fighters at his side would cower any escorts, and just to be sure everyone was nice and cozy, all the sleeping rooms would have linking doors, he did not want to embarrass the little princess by openly coming to her door.
Yes he thought, he'll have everything, and maybe he would even talk them into taking his sister back with them; let them listen to her babble about how the sun is the center of all things, and not the world. Even that insane idea about the world is round, just because she watches ships heading out to sea when everyone knows it's flat.
Within a few days, the Amazon's princess, and maybe more of their lands would be his, that would show father, in fact maybe he would be so impressed he'll start listening to him.
Butternut watched her bother closely, he seemed too pleased with himself, father asked her to keep a close eye on him, said this was his final chance to prove himself.
She was worried, he had something planned but she didn't know what, but her instructions were firm, let him do as he wishes, short of causing a war with the Amazon's. Just step in with his letter authorizing her to take over in his place if things went badly.
She just wished she knew what was going on in that pea size brain of his, he was first born and was first in line, but father doubted that he could rule. She just hoped her brother would not start a war, sighing she would just have to wait and see.
The Princess Bard
Gabrielle was walking next to Argo keeping her eyes on Montoya's keep now in sight; it was just starting to get dark and they would continue until they reached the castle on the cliffs of insanity; she had no doubts about that now.
Turning her head, she saw that Xena's right eye was a deep purple, with traces of yellow.
Sighing she decided to try again, she was mournful, but Xena was being...difficult, "Look I'm really sorry, I promise, from now on I'll leave your Chakram alone." Hearing only a returning mutter, "What?...what did you say?"
The warrior glanced down, her face hurt, her dignity hurt, how many times she thought did she tell Gabrielle not to touch her weapons. But she did it again, she didn't know what hurt worse, her face or the fact that Gabrielle actually managed to hit her with it.
"Sure, sulk...be that way." Gabrielle turned back watching the castle get closer; Ok she was thinking, if that how she wants to play it, I won't keep apologizing.
Both remained silent as they continued onwards, with storm clouds approaching the keep.
Humpermink paced the floor, only one of the men he hired had arrived, glancing at him he was pleased, the man looked like a giant, at least seven feet tall, and weighing more than a bull. Humpermink shifted his gaze to the man's face and decided that a bull also looked better.
Just the escort he needed to cower the princess, and once she hears his name....rumor has it that he killed his parents for it, not that he really blamed him, imagine having a name like...
"Sire," the guards voice interrupting the prince's train of thought, "Sire, the Amazon princess and her escort have arrived."
"Good," the prince replied with a smile; dismissing the guard to usher the princess, thinking that maybe he won't need the other man; but it would not be wise to just discharge a man that had fought Callisto and lived.
Butternut walked quietly into the chamber, her brother was so deep in thought he did not even notice her; if he had, he would have enjoyed seeing the startled look upon her face at seeing his new guard, but then her attention was distracted by an argument coming from the passageway.
Humpermink finally looked up exasperated, not only was his sister here, but some underlings decided to start a fight just as his guests were arriving.
Then the doorwatch entered the room and bowed announcing, "Princess Gabrielle of the Amazon's, and her escort."
Butternut observed as the two Amazon's entered, both slightly bowing to her brother, she realized then, they had been the source of the argument.
Gabrielle raised from her bow, taking in the prince, about Xena's height, same black hair, same stupid smirk, same self-centered air about him, "Prince Humpermink, I greet you on behalf of Queen Melosa and the Amazon people."
Flicking her fingers in the warrior's direction her tone sounded as if she were bored, "This is my servant, Miss. Grumpy."
Xena's left eye twitched, as she nodded to the prince, "I'm pleased to meet you, though I'm not really her servant, more like babysitter."
Gabrielle grinned, keeping her head looking forward speaking in a low voice, "You know what you can sit on, Miss. Grumpy."
"Nothing, since you do not know the meaning, don't touch."
Humpermink's face was frozen into a weak smile, trying to understand what was going on as the two Amazon's continued bickering; they didn't even have a reaction to his new brute behind him, maybe if he pointed him out.
Coughing with a smile, the two women persisted to quarrel, it was not until he almost shouted that they turned on him; The look in their eyes made him feel fortunate that his guard was behind him.
Pointing to the huge brute, "Allow me to introduce you to my personal guard..." A clash of thunder rumbled through the castle as the storm outside builded up in strength, while the guard grunted hearing his name.
The prince was delighted at the stare of the Amazon's upon his man, yes, he thought that is the expression I wanted, that fear.
Gabrielle was the first to shake her head trying to clear her disbelief, "Excuse me, did you say his name was.." As more thunder echoed through the keep, only the sound of the guard's grunt heard above the din.
Xena finally closed her mouth after comprehending the name, looking closely at the man, her voice questioning, "You DID kill your father for that?" only nodding with understanding at the returning grunt.
Blinking Gabrielle shook her head then noticed princess Butternut; she stood about six inches taller than herself, with honey blond hair, and a slight almost skinny figure. "Hello..."
"Butternut," her mind still paralyzed by the name, as she repled to the bard, she was glad that the guard had revenged himself on his father.
Using the stunned silence, Humpermink stepped toward Gabrielle, pausing when he saw the vigilant look of her escort, "Huh..Princess, I'm sure my sister Butternut will take you to your rooms, where your servant can prepare you; and if you would so honor, dine with me, and we can discuss the procedures for tomorrow's talks."
Grinning at the mention of food, Gabrielle touched the pouch at her side, "I have my instructions for the deliberations; as for my servant, I'm sure you can find a woodpile, or stable for her, she does like the company of horses."
Xena took a deep breath, forcing a smile, must not kill the princess she thought, "Excuse me prince Humpermink, but I need a room near the princess, I have to make sure everything is nailed down."
Adding in a voice that only Gabrielle could hear, "At least Argo understands the words, don't touch."
Butternut took the opportunity to bow, motioning Gabrielle to the passageway; the squabbling pair following her, as Humpermink watched them depart, his eyes locked on the bard's pouch.
His mind was contemplating the possibilities, it may be harder to bed the princess, he had the feeling that she almost seems to hate him, though he didn't know why.
But if the queen gave her instructions about the consultations, and if he could get the parchments read them, and then put it back without the princess knowledge.
But how...another round of thunder pounded the air, as the huge escort grunted...would be too big for the stealth required he thought.
It would need to be someone that they have not seen, someone that would be quick as a shrieking eel, silent as a rodent of unusual size, and the cunning of the dread pirate Roberts.
He looked up as the doorwatch came back into the room much to his annoyance, "Sire, there is a man in black in the hall, he says that you have hired him?"
Laughing the prince clapped his hands nodding, "YES...yes, show him in quickly," turning to look out the window he knew that someone was here.
He would set him up in the room next to the princess, and then he would steal into her bedroom take the parchment read it and report how far the Amazon's are prepared to go in negotiations for the hunting grounds.
Turning upon hearing the door watchman entering the room, he looked at the man, not much to look at he thought, but that must where people presumed to misjudge him he would guess, bowing with a smile his voice was joyful, "Welcome, Joxer the Mighty."
The Princess Bard
Gabrielle laid out the bird mask and floor length feathered cloak on her bed, Melosa said it was to be worn during the signing of the treaty; she wished that Melosa were here now, maybe she would execute a certain warrior princess.
Taking a deep breath so she could calm down, the bard inspected her room, it was about the largest bedroom she ever been in, or even seen. She was not used to having doors connecting to the rooms on both sides either, besides the door leading to the hall. As well as the bed, a writing desk, some chairs around a table, and several chest of drawers, it in truth was the most furniture she ever seen in one room.
She checked the pouch containing her parchments, and the smaller case within holding the boundary map, and she hoped the treaty she and that..that male Xena look-a-like would sign.
A knock on the door brought her out of her contemplations, quickly opening it she stood face to face with Xena, "Princess, are you ready to dine with the prince?" then adding under her breath, "Like you ever turn down food."
Her eyes flaring to life, the bard forced a smile tilting her head slightly, "Yes, it's a nice change from the raw meat, beetles and grubs, that you find."
As she closed the door behind her, Xena smiled, "There is not enough beetles and grubs in the world to fill that stomach of yours."
Joxer listened at the adjoining door, he would show them, he would grab Gabrielle's pouch, and then let them know what the prince had planned. That would show that he deserved the honor those two had been lacking in displaying, that would make Xena notice him like Meg does.
Hearing the door close, he started to pick the lock, he would show them all right.
Butternut and her brother were both staggered watching the small Amazon eat, the prince briefly wondered how much food was in the larder.
Xena stood behind Gabrielle chair as was her duty, regretting her promise to Melosa to carry out the work of an escort and guard. She was hungry, that was not new, but she would have to stop an assassin trying to kill the bard.
The warrior clenched her teeth as she dodged another chicken bone tossed over the chair by a nodding Gabrielle, "Yes Humpermink," the bard was saying as she snapped at the prince, "That would be suitable, the talks should be short, and I think the only road block would be the hunting grounds."
Humpermink glanced up at Xena as he agreed with the bard smiling, and suggested that they only talk about the treaty in the morning after they were rested. And he thought, by that time he would know how far the Amazon's would go in the talks.
Xena caught the prince's gaze, and smiled while an idea formed in her mind, then winked at the surprised Humpermink. Gabrielle noticed the look on the prince's face but resisted turning around to see what Xena was up to.
Joxer ran a third time leaping and driving his shoulder into the solid door, only to bounce back in pain; his lock picking hadn't worked, and the door was harder than his shoulder as he rubbed the painful bruise.
Sighing, he wished that prince Humpermink had given him a key, as he leaned on the handle feeling it turn with a slight click, slowly the door swung open.
Staring at the door in disbelief, he finally told himself that it was all his hard work that did it, not that the door was unlocked the entire time.
Silently he crept into the room, until he tripped over a woven mat and fell on his face, like a cat he was up on his feet spinning around looking for who tripped him. Must be magic he thought, Joxer the Mighty would never trip over a mere rug.
Spying the Amazon cloak and mask he knew that someone must have put a spell on the room, that is why they called on him, only he could brave the dangers. BUT Joxer knew how to confuse the wards laid on the room, as he quickly started to put on the Amazon cloak and mask.
Gabrielle rushed down the hallway as Butternut called out for her to wait. Her face and ears were as red as the fire racing through her. Xena had flirted with the prince for the rest of the dinner, well...flirted was not the word, thrown herself was the word.
Butternut caught up with the bard not sure what was going on, only that her brother was wearing tonight's soup. She could still hear him cursing as he slowly and carefully walked bow-legged behind her; only the quick thinking of Gabrielle's escort dumping a pitcher of water in his lap saved Humpermink from further more potential discomfort.
Grabbing the bard's arm Butternut faced her, she could see pain in her eye's, "Gabrielle, come into my room, I'm right here across from your door." Pulling the reluctant bard toward the her room, both turned as a high screech echoed down the hall.
Xena was helping a hunch over Humpermink, his voice sightly higher and wavering, "You....you, I almost lost the ability to produce an heir, you tired to boil my...."
Cooing to the prince, Xena smiled, placed a finger over his lips, but her eye's remained on Gabrielle, "Now Humpermink, remember she's only a child, a juvenile throwing a tantrum."
Gabrielle clenched her jaw staring back at Xena, she had gone too far, "Well Miss. Grumpy, why don't you take the prince and his buddy..." A thunderclap drowned her out, but they could all hear the grunt reverberating down the hallway, "And leave me alone, I got my own plans for the night."
Xena was astonished when Gabrielle grabbed Butternut, spinning her around so that the princess back was to the warrior, and kissed her, the bards eyes open watching Xena's reaction. Then opened the door next to them and pulled Butternut in, shutting the door firmly behind them.
Enraged, Xena grabbed Humpermink's hand quickly pulling him forward, ignoring his sobbing as he moved faster. Throwing open the prince's door Xena shoved him in, disregarding the shriek as she slammed the door shut behind him.
The warrior paused looking at Butternut's door, mentally kicking herself, she had gone too far, she would wait a little, then apologize to Gabrielle.
Rolling her eye's at what the great warrior princess had come to, she crossed the hall entering her room.
Joxer relaxed listening as the noise outside Gabrielle's door calmed down, before continuing his search. He had been right, wearing the cloak and mask had beaten the magic wards set on the room.
Gabrielle on the other hand, opened the door to Butternut's room peeking out. Seeing the way was clear; she left a confused Butternut looking through her scrolls for the meaning of Amazon chin kissing.
Sighing deeply, the bard wondered how things got this way, Xena had been wrong flirting with Humpermink; and she been wrong to dump the hot soup in the prince's lap. Moving silently so Xena would not hear, she started to open her door.
The Princess Bard
Gabrielle walked into the room and came to a sudden halt, next to her bed a figure wearing the Amazon cloak was on their hands and knees; it looked like they were trying to crawl under the bed.
Alarmed at first, she relaxed and thought it had to be Xena, the warrior was going to hide under her bed and ambush her during the night.
Holding back her anger, the bard looked around since Xena had not noticed her yet. Observing a metal hand mirror on the dresser, she carefully moved over taking the mirror.
Silently she tipped toed behind the prone figure, the mask Xena was wearing muffled her voice, it almost like that of a man the bard thought. Grinning, Gabrielle raised the hand mirror high, then forcefully smacked the warrior on the rump.
Laughing maniacally, the bard tossed the mirror on the bed and bolted out the door, leaving behind screams of pain and confusion.
Joxer crawled out from under the bed, turning to sit, then jumped as his butt touched to floor, it felt like it was on fire. Looking around he did not see what had hit him, maybe he thought...maybe he should leave?
Painfully standing, he decided to stay, he needed the money, and no Amazon magic was going to scare him off. Maybe he would leave things alone under the bed though, and search through the dressers.
Mean while prince Humpermink was feeling as if he were in the pit of despair, things were not going as planned. He had expected to have the princess with him right now. Not laying down on his bed with legs spread and a cold compress on his lap, moaning he poured more water over the wrappings.
Gabrielle, walked slowly back down the hallway, she was remorseful, even after all their squabbling, she had no right to hit Xena in anger.
She had to apologize, there was nothing else to do, she had been wrong to do what she did walking with purpose to the warrior's door.
Xena sat at the dresser looking at her eye, it was not that bad, most of the swelling had gone down, though it was still pretty well black and blue. She has just opened small jar of salve, to coat the bruise, when someone knocked on the door.
Turning around muttering a curse, she dropped the jar, irked she called out, "Come in," and was surprised to see a miserable looking Gabrielle walk in.
The bard looked at her warrior and tried to smile, she was thankful that she was sitting, maybe she did not hit her that hard?
Walking over to her with head bowed, Gabrielle's voice trembled, "Xena, I'm sorry for what I did, I really should not have done it, and really feel bad, will you please forgive me?"
Smiling the warrior stood looking down at the woman she loved, it had gone on too far if it had this effect on her, maybe it was time to be playful. "Ok, I'll forgive you on one condition."
Sighing in relief, Gabrielle smiled back, "What that?"
Smirking in jest Xena looked at her, "Kiss it and make it better."
With the smile slowly fading from her face, Gabrielle shook her head, tilting it forward, "You want me to kiss what?"
Xena rolled her eye's to the heavens, wondering what was wrong with the girl, "You heard me, if you're sorry, kiss it!" Seeing the confused look on the bard's face, she gave up and turned around, bending over to pick up the jar of salve.
Gabrielle looked down at Xena's rear staring at her, she apologized, she tried to be nice, and this is what she gets....well, Xena going to get it.
Xena raised her head wondering what on earth Gabrielle was doing when she felt the bard lift her jerkin, then screamed in astonishment as the bard smacked her rear. Spinning in shock and anger she saw Gabrielle storm out the door slamming it behind her.
Flinging open the door Xena looked down the passageway, Gabrielle was not in sight, I'll kill her the warrior was thinking...well...not kill, maybe only until she's mostly dead. No...no, to the pain that's it, to the pain.
Scrutinizing the door to Gabrielle's room, Xena tested the handle, letting the door swing open slowly and silently moving in. She spotted the bard in her Amazon cloak bending over searching through the dresser drawers.
Just as she was about ready to go after her, Xena spotted the metal hand mirror on the bed, sneaking over and grasping it. No she thought, not left, right-handed for this.
Moving silently behind the cloaked bard, she raised the mirror with a diabolical grin and brought it down on the cloaked rump.
Joxer straighten up trying to breathe, his butt felt like the flames of Tartarus, gasping for breath. He thought he heard the door slam, spinning around to see nothing in the room. That is it, this room is too well protected.
With a groan he removed the mask and cloak setting it back down on the bed, when he heard the handle of the door. Whirling around he had no choice but to open the shutter of the window and climb out on the ledge, thank the gods it was not raining he thought.
Gabrielle closed the door and locked it, she felt even worse, she now stuck Xena twice in anger. Is this how you treat the one you love she was thinking?
A cool breeze with the smell of rain caught her attention, walking over to the shutter closing it, then placed the bar over the hooks to make sure it did not blow open again before turning in.
Butternut laid in her bed, she could not find the custom of Amazon chin kissing in her scrolls, maybe she should ask uncle Max?
Humpermink, tried to sleep, but after an hour of sleep he woke up pouring more water on the compress covering his lap.
Joxer was afraid to sleep, the rain started just after he climbed out on the ledge, and the shutter resisted all attempts at being forced open, in the morning he could probably see how far it would be to climb down to the ground.
Both Xena and Gabrielle tossed and turned through the night, both feeling the guilt of hitting the one they loved. Both knew that this anger must end in the morning.
The Princess Bard
Butternut was walking the grounds around the keep, maybe after the talks are over, she would go for a ride in the thieves' forest. Rounding the corner she regarded the man sleeping on the window ledge outside Gabrielle's room.
Joxer awoke surprise when something touched him, forgetting where he was; he jumped and fell four feet to the ground. Howling in shock from the fall, he vaulted to his feet, twirling around until he faced princess Butternut.
The princess inspected the soaking man in front of her, wearing no cloak or warm protection from the morning chill, "Who are you, and why are you sitting on princess Gabrielle's window ledge?"
Joxer shivered uncontrollably, his eye's wide and startled, "I'm Joxer the..Mi..Mii...freezing."
Nodding, Butternut did not consider the man a threat, but had an idea her bother was involved somehow, "Ok, Joxer the Freezing, I'm princess Butternut, now tell me what your doing out here, or I'll have the albino throw you into the dungeons."
Shaking, Joxer started to tell Butternut about Humpermink's plan, and of the Amazon magic that finally defeated him.
Humpermink, sat on a pillow, not since that six fingered woman stole his sword did he have this much trouble. Joxer seemed to have failed, so plan B would have to work.
He will stall the talks, and get Gabrielle's servant to tell him what he wanted, she did seem to like him. He would lower himself to flirt with the lower class, and there is nothing hot on the table this time.
Butternut entered the room looking at her brother, she never thought he would be this stupid. To actually hire brute's to steal from Gabrielle, then try to frighten her.
She just sat when Gabrielle came into the room, she was wearing a black feathered cloak, with a frown on her face. The sound of running footsteps came from the hallway, as her servant rushed into the room with a bow.
"I ask that you excuse me," Xena said, a bit out of breath, "I did not know the princess had proceeded to the talks."
Humpermink nodded with a wink at Xena, "Please, do not excuse yourself, I would always wait for a beautiful wench such as you."
Everyone in the room gasped as Humpermink was grabbed by the lapels of his robes, and dragged halfway over the table. Until he was only inches away from a very incensed Gabrielle.
"Listen prince," The bard growled, "You do not ever call the woman I love a wench, I don't want you to even look at her...understand?"
Arching an eyebrow at the frighten Humpermink, Gabrielle shook the prince, "If I so much as think you're flirting with her, I won't need hot soup for what I'll do to you."
Pushing the prince back into his chair, Gabrielle threw a scroll down in front of him, "Sign the treaty, the Amazon's get the hunting grounds, your kingdom has four other's to live on, this will be my people's only one. Sign it now and then I'm leaving."
Spinning around, Gabrielle advanced upon the astonish looking Xena, until she stood before the warrior, gently pulling Xena down, while raising on her tip-toes.
Gabrielle's lips met Xena's, at first hesitant, then tightening her grip on the warrior, more passionate.
Xena arms hung limply at her sides, absolutely dumbfounded that this woman who was frighten of a kiss just the other day, would take her so completely.
Just as the warrior started to raise her arms, Gabrielle broke the kiss, looking at Xena, unable to stop giggling. Her whole body was tingling, as if struck by one of Zeus lightening bolts.
Biting her lip in an attempt to stop, the bard saw the look in Xena's eye's and almost melted, "Now, my beloved Miss. Grumpy, go to our rooms and pack, we will be leaving shortly."
The warrior took Gabrielle's hands in her's then slowly kneeled bowing her head, "As you wish, my princess," with a quick kiss to the back of the bard's hands, she raised and left to pack.
With a satisfied grin, Gabrielle turned back to Humpermink, and glanced at the scroll, noting his signature, she signed next to his name, returning it to her pouch. "Now if you'll forgive me, I have a servant that I have to make up to."
Butternut, stood with a laugh and nodded, "Be well Gabrielle, I'll have my man Westly ready your horse," sitting back after the bard left, she turned her attentions to her brother.
Humpermink, saw the stare of his sister, before shaking his head in outrage, "She will not get away with this, you saw it!, she threaten me, the treaty is invalid, it will be war!"
The princess stood, pulling a letter from her pocket, and dropped it in front of her brother, "I think not, you hired men to steal, or cower her, then flirted with the woman she loved."
Strolling casually from the room, Butternut laughed, "Read that dear brother, the treaty is just and correct." Walking out, she heard Humpermink's scream.
Gabrielle held the warrior tight, nuzzling her neck as they rode back to the Amazon village, "Come on, what is wrong with an early camp?"
Xena shivered as the bard caressed her stomach, while raining kisses on the back of her neck, "Gabrielle, I know what you want, but we have to get back and give the treaty to Melosa, it's my duty as an escort."
Sighing she felt Gabrielle pull back, not again she thought, "Gabrielle, please, I'm sure your love can wait until evening."
"Come my love, I will tell you a tale, of a great love story," Nuzzling the warriors neck again, the bard continued, "My love for you is like a storybook story, just as real, as real can be...."
Pulling Argo to a halt, the warrior twisted around looking at the woman she loved, "Yes? go on....please."
Smiling, Gabrielle kissed Xena's nose, "Why don't we find a camp site, and I'll continue."
"As you wish."
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