Just a Simple Bard
by Mary E. Terrell
Disclaimer: The characters Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. This story however, is mine. Copyright October 1997.
Xena sat on the floor of the room she and Gabrielle were staying in. The two women had
sought out refuge from the foul weather that indicated the end of the warm summer and the
beginning of fall.The warrior looked up from the scroll she had been reading. Brushing a
long dark lock of hair back over her shoulder, she turned and looked at her companion.
The bard sat at the small table writing on another scroll, her redish blonde hair
pulled up into a pony tail to keep it out of her face. Gabrielle had been surprised that
Xena had wanted to read her scrolls, especially since all of them had to do with the
warriors exploits of the past two years. But her friend had said that she could only
sharpen and polish her weapons so much. And the only other things she could do was brush
Argo, which didn't take all that long, or hang around the tavern. The problem with that,
was some of the other customers who were also
bored might decide to take her on. And right now she wanted a break from troublemakers.
The warrior thought about what she had read in the scrolls. While the stories were about what Xena had done to help others, there was little to no mention of Gabrielle's contributions. She was virtually left out. "Gabrielle?"
""Hmm?" she didn't look up but continued writing.
"How come you barely mention yourself in your scrolls? You don't even give yourself credit for finding a way to reach the Horde, or about how you helped me to return to life. You used to include yourself more."
Gabrielle stopped her writing and turned to her friend. "I realized that nobody wants to hear or read about a simple bard."
Xena stood up. "A simple bard? Yeah and I'm a simple warrior. Gabrielle you are so much more then that. How many bards can say they travel with and help the person or people that they are telling stories about? You do that. You're queen of the Amazons. My best friend and you help me so much and in so many ways. If anything you are the one that people should know about- a farm girl, turned bard and Amazon Princess, later Amazon queen, who travels around with an ex-warlord. Me, I'm just someone who's trying to atone for a past that I wish never happened."
"But," said Gabrielle. "You're the one who helped free Prometheus, stopped Callisto, and figured out how to break the curse on Cecrops, among other things. YOU do most of the hard work and have the fighting skills for it. People want to hear about people who put themselves in danger to save others. You do that."
"You've done that too." said Xena.
"Yeah, but you're the one who can do it without any help." The bard turned back to her work.
"Not always. I'm glad to have you there to help me." Xena sighed. "I know that the Amazons would be interested in your part in the stories. They have been since you became their princess."
"Yeah. The stories of their leaders are just as important to them as the stories about their warriors and about Artemis."
"Hmm. I hadn't thought about it that way." said Gabrielle.
"And since you were an outsider who became their queen, they would be interested in knowing more about you before you came to their village. Even before you met me."
The bard thought about that for a moment. "I guess I could write some in a scroll about my life in Poteidaia. Just for the Amazons."
"Good." said Xena. "Now I think I'll go get something for our lunch. I know you would probably continue to write in your scrolls and forget to eat."
Gabrielle agreed. "That's a great idea." She scanned the scroll she had been working on. Satisfied that she could set it aside for a while, she rolled it up and picked up a new one.
The warrior chuckled and headed out the door.
Xena returned with the tray of food and set it down on the table. Without looking up from her scroll, Gabrielle picked up one of the mugs and took a big drink. Caughing, she barely managed to set the mug back down without spilling the rest of the liquid."Wa....wa..." she gasped. Xena had already picked up one of their waterskins and she handed it to the bard. The young woman gulped down the water. Her eyes were still watering as she looked up to the warrior. "Where's my cider?"
"Here." Xena picked up the other mug traded it for her mug of port. "Sorry I should have warned you."
"That's okay. I should have been paying attention to what I was doing." Gabrielle took one of the plates of food.
"So. How's it going so far?" asked the warrior as she sat down at the table.
"Alright I guess." replied the bard. "I've been trying to decide just how much I should tell them about my life in Poteidaia."
"Well they would want to know some about your family. What your mother taught you. How you decided to become a bard. And about your decision to leave Poteidaia." said Xena.
"That's kind of what I thought," said Gabrielle.
The warrior grinned, "You might even want to include the adventures you and Lila had with your pony, Typmany."
The bard grinned as well, "Oh I will. Because I'm sure you'd be more than happy to tell Ephiny and the others all about them."
The two ate in silence for a while, before Gabrielle returned to her writing without finishing her meal.
As Xena finished hers, she noticed that it had finally stopped raining outside. She stood up and went over to the window. The sky was still mostly gray, but she could see the suns rays in some areas. She turned back to her companion. "If it doesn't rain again the rest of the day, and throughout the night, we'll be leaving in the morning."
"Uh-huh" was the response she got from the bard, who continued working on her story.
The warrior headed for the door, "I'm going to go take Argo for a run."
"Hmmm." said the bard.
Xena grinned and decided to see just how well her friend had been listening. She knocked on the door, then opened it. "Gabrielle," she called out, "Joxer's here and I think he wants to ask you to marry him."
To her surprise, the bard said, "Tell him thanks for the offer, but I can't marry him." Gabrielle looked up from her scroll grinning. "I heard what you said. Now go and enjoy your ride with Argo. Just be careful."
Xena raised an eyebrow at that, but answered anyway. "I will." She closed the door behind her, leaving the bard to her work.
Xena made her way through the streets to the market place. An idea had occured to her as she ate her lunch, and she intended to suprise Gabrielle with it. The merchants were slowly returning to business after days of rain, and she knew that they would most likely raise their prices. The warrior knew that she wasn't really that good at bargining, but she knew all about being intimidating. And if the prices didn't suit her, then she knew that she could get the vendor to change their mind.
"Excuse me." she said, interupting a vendor in the middle of a transaction.
He glanced in her direction, then turned back to the customer. Having reached an agreement, he took the dinars in exchange for what the woman wanted, then turned back to face the warrior.
"Yes," he said. "What can I do for the warrior princess?"
"I was wondering if you had any writing materials." she asked.
The merchant was a little surprised at first, then he remembered hearing that a bard had been traveling with the warrior. "Oh yes. I have plenty of scrolls. How many does your friend need? 5? 10?...."
Xena interupted him again. "I only want one scroll and one writing tool."
"Are you sure?" he asked.
Xena thought for a moment. "Better make that two."
"Uh...Whatever you say." he replied. "That will be 6 dinars."
The warrior glared at him.
"Ahh....okay 2 dinars."
"That's better." said Xena and she handed him 5 dinars.
The vendor looked startled at this.
The warrior smiled at him. "I know you were just trying to make up for the lost days of business because of the weather. Keep the extra dinars."
"Thank you." said the merchant returning the smile.
Xena turned and headed for the stables.
Gabrielle stood up from the table and stretched a bit. She had been working for what seemed like hours. She picked up her unfinished glass of cider and walked over to the window. The bard sipped her drink as she looked out on the street below. She thought about going down to the market for a while to give herself a break. Turning back to the table she decided that was a good idea, but first she wanted to read what she had written.
Though I find it hard to imagine, my best friend Xena insists that there are people who would be interested in knowing more about who Gabrielle of Poteidaia is.
I was born in late winter, when the weather is warm enough to till the soil for spring planting, but still far too cold to seed it, to Hecuba and Herodetus, a farmer. Two and a half years later my younger sister, Lila was born.
My late uncle Marose used to say that I was born talking. I don't know if that is true or not, but I do know that it was pretty natural for me early on in my life. So much so that I talked my parents into buying me a pony when I was five.
The pony, Tympany, was one of my best friends, which almost seems strange now considering I am not to fond of horses. But I loved Tympany. The two of us went on many adventures, and when Lila was old enough she joined us.
Another thing I enjoyed early on was studying maps and the names of places. It made my adventures seem more real, just knowing about these other places. And I hoped that maybe one day I would be able to visit at least a few of them.
In my ninth year, my father arranged for me to marry Perdicas, a boy in the village. Perdicas was one of my closest friends, and I loved him as a brother. As I grew older, I had come to realize that we shouldn't marry. Little did I know that over a year after I left Poteidaia I would change my mind. But the Fates had obviously agreed with my earlier decision, for he was murdered the day after we wed by Callisto.
Storytelling was another of my favorite activities. I would love sitting at my uncle's knee, listening to him tell stories and imagining myself as part of those tales. Later I would re-tell those stories to my friends, changing the names of the characters to their names so that they would feel a part of the stories. At 15, I talked a traveling bard into giving me lessons. Elsa taught me much of what I know about being a bard.
For a while I had heard stories of a warrior woman, named Xena. Of course at the time, those stories were of her army and their attacks on villages. I wondered what it might be like to meet this Warrior Princess, but I never actually expected for that to happen.
I was 20 when raiders appeared in the village. They wanted to round up the women of Poteidaia and sell them as slaves. My mother, sister, and I were among those that they chased into the nearby forest. Hoping to spare my mother and sister, as well as the others, I offered myself if the raiders would let them go. But they had no intention of that. It was lucky for us that Xena was standing behind those men and intervened. In no time she had most of the men on the ground or running away. She fought them off wearing only her shift and boots, and for much of the fight without her sword.
My family took her back to our home to take care of her injuries, though they were minor, and to dress into her armor. Seeing this as an opportunity to seek out the adventure I had always craved, I pleaded with her to take me a long. But Xena refused. She even threatened me before leaving. I didn't let that stop me. So when night came, I snuck out of my parent's home to follow Xena.
I had managed to get Xena to tell me where she was headed, so finding her was not the problem. Getting to Amphipolis was. It would have taken me too long to reach Amphipolis if I had walked the whole way. But the Fates and Hermes brought to me a kindly old man who I convinced to give me a ride.
Xena wasn't very happy to see me, despite the fact that I intervened when some villagers were stoning her. But I was determined to convince her to let me join her, so I stayed close by as long as she was in the village. And I followed her when she left after defeating Draco. But even the Warrior Princess isn't immune to my talking skills and I finally got her to agree to let me come along.
And so that is the story of my life in Poteidaia and how I met a reformed warlord.
Gabrielle sighed as she finished reading. She knew that there should probably be more, but she wasn't sure what else she could include. She laid the scroll back on the table and picked up her staff before leaving the room.
Xena reigned Argo into a trot. This venture served to purposes-one to give the mare some much needed exercise and two the warrior could check on the nearby river levels. That way she would have an idea of the route they would need to take the next day.
As she neared the river, Xena dismounted and led Argo to the waters edge. From the looks of it, the rains hadn't raised the levels too much and the flow seemed normal. So they wouldn't have to make a detour when they left in the morning.
The warrior patted the mare, then turned to the saddle bag. She removed the two scrolls and writing untinsil she had bought that morning. Relizing that she would need something under the parchment to write, she removed the saddle bag as well.
Finding a spot under a tree, Xena sat down. She unrolled a scroll and began to write. To her surprise, the words seemed to flow out. But when she thought about it, she knew the reason it seemed so easy was because of who she was writing about.It also helped that she had learned a lot from her friend about storytelling. She would have to remember to thank Gabrielle, but only after the bard had read what the warrior had written for her.
Soon she had finished her work. Xena looked over what she had written. She had finally managed to put into words just how much Gabrielle's friendship meant to her. The warrior had been considering doing something like this since she almost lost Gabrielle at the healing temple in Thessaly. It was hard for her to put her feelings into words, but after more time with Gabrielle it was becomming easier. Although if it had been about anyone else, she would probably still have a difficult time.
After gathering her writting materials, Xena rose from her spot under the tree and
walked over to Argo. She returned the saddlebag to it's original postion, and mounted her
horse. The warrior and her mount turned away from the river and galloped back towards the
village. Just outside the town, she slowed Argo back into a trot. And as the mare slowed,
appeared.The men formed a circle around the warrior and her horse.
Xena smiled as she dismounted from Argo. "How nice of you guys to drop by for me to have some fun."
The men laughed, and the leader spoke. "Oh we're all going to have some fun. Get her!"
Xena easily sidestepped the first attacker and disarmed him with a sharp kick to his wrist. She grabbed the arm of the next one and slammed him into another. The warrior lept high into the air and landed behind another of the highwaymen. She kicked him in the back as she landed, which caused him to run through one of his companions. The remaining men were soon running back the way they had come.
Xena turned back to Argo and reached for the reins. "I was right that was fun." The two continued on toward the village.
Gabrielle sat alone in the tavern finishing her supper. She had hoped that Xena would return in time for them to eat together before she had to tell her stories. But as it grew later she realized that she would have to go ahead with her meal.
The bard finished eating and took a drink of her cider before standing and heading for the stage. As Gabrielle started to tell her first story for the evening, Xena entered. She smiled to her friend when the warrior looked in her direction. Xena returned the smile as she made her way to a table that gave her a clear view of the room.
Gabrielle began her tale. She hoped Xena would approve of the way she had decided to
include herself in the telling. But she would have to wait to find out until she was
through. Xena's expression could be hard to read from close up, never mind trying to
decipher it from across the room.
Gabrielle finished her third story and decided it was time for a break. She left the stage and went over to Xena's table. When she reached her friend's side, Gabrielle noticed that the warrior had a slightly amused expression.
The bard started to speak, but Xena interuppted her. "I understand. Whenever I listen to your stories about me, I usually think it's about someone else."
Gabrielle grinned. "Well you never said how I should include myself." She sat down at the table and Xena handed her a glass. The warrior always made sure there was a drink for her friend whenever she was ready to take a break or stop for the evening. "So how was your ride?"
"Good." replied Xena. "The river level isn't too high so we won't have to reroute when we leave here in the morning."
The bard nodded. "I'd like to go and visit the Amazons."
"I take then that you got your scroll finished."
"Yeah and I would like to take to them now since we aren't far." replied Gabrielle.
The warrior smiled. "Okay then that's our next stop. Are you done for the evening?"
"Well I want to tell a few more stories before we head back to the room." answered the bard.
"Alright. I'll wait for you."
Gabrielle took another sip of her drink before returning to the stage.
"This is good." said Xena as she finished reading Gabrielle's life story. "I'm sure the Amazons will be glad to have this."
"Thanks." said Gabrielle. "I have another scroll that I wrote this afternoon. But this one is just for you."
The warrior looked askence as she accepted the scroll.
"Just read it." replied the bard.
I know that for a long time you believed that the only reason I followed you was I wanted adventure and excitment. While that may have been true just soon after I met you and watched you fight off Draco's men and saved me, my family, and the people of my village. I had never met anyone like you before. I knew that following you was my chance to see the world and expierence new things while gathering material for my own collection of stories. But I had another reason.
When I followed you, I didn't think about any of the danger I might encounter along the way, like a cyclops blinded by a certain warrior princess. I also didn't think about the fact that I might reach Amphipolis only to find that you had already moved on. But you were still there, in your mother's tavern. I'll never forget seeing you just standing there as a mob of people stoned you. You had the advantage with your weapons and fighting skills, yet you did nothing. It was then I began to realize that there was more to you than most people knew.
I went with you to your brother's tomb. I knew I shouldn't, but again I followed you and listened as you talked to him. I could hear the pain and sadness in your voice as you spoke about no one understanding or being able to see inside your heart. I decided then I was going to do my best to try and reach you. That's why I told you that you weren't alone.
Now it's been three years and I have managed to reach you. But I know that inside you still have a lot that you are holding back. I know you must be afraid of what I might think. And I think it's time you realized that it doesn't matter that much to me what you did in the past. What matters is what you are doing now to help others around us. And I hope that one day you will see what a truly special person you are. I also want you to know that I will always be here for you.
CHAPTER 8, the conclusion
There was a long moment of silence. Finally Xena cleared her throat. "That was very nice. Thank you Gabrielle."
"Well I thought it was time to put my thoughts into words. And I wasn't quiet sure that I could say them out loud." said Gabrielle "So I decided to write them."
"I'm glad you did." said Xena. "I...uh...I also wrote something for you this afternoon."
The bard was more than a little surprised. "Really?"
"Yeah." replied the warrior. She picked up her scroll and handed it to her friend.
Gabrielle hadn't even noticed the scroll before. But then Xena sometimes had a way of making things, as well as herself, appear from out of nowhere. The bard settled herself in her chair and began to read.
You know that I'm not a bard and I often have a hard time expressing what I am thinking and feeling. But I decided to at least try to put some of my thoughts into words. And writing them down seemed the best way to do this.
When I first met you three years ago, I was ready to give up on everything. Hercules
had managed to turn me away from being a warlord, but after ten years or killing,
terrorizing, and destroying, the weight of my guilt was crushing me. And as you know it
still does at times.
I buried my weapons and armor, some of the greatest reminders of what I had been. I planned to return home to face whatever form of retribution the people of my villiage might decide wield against me. But the Fates, even though I don't have any faith in the gods, seemed to have other plans.
Draco's men had chased you and the people from your village into the woods where I was. I watched as you came forward to face Hector and offered yourself to spare your family and friends. I admired your courage and selflessness. In some ways you reminded me of myself at your age. I decided that I couldn't let what happened to me happen to you.
Afterwards in your home while dressing again in my armor, I was almost overwhelmed by your enthusiasm and energy. You were so eager to know more about me. I was used to people cowaring in fear of me. It was sort of strange to be around someone who wasn't terrified. And even though you had only just met me and in spite of what you might know of my horrible past, you were ready to defend me to your father and the people of your village.
In Amphipolis, I should have expected you to show up. But I guess that since I hadn't
been around someone with an adventurous spirit since Lyceus was alive, I didn't even
consider it. I couldn't believe it when you put yourself between me and an angry mob who
were set on seeing me dead. I listened in amazement as you spoke to them about the logic
of them killing me if I was a friend of Draco. But they agreed with what you said and let
I should have been angry when you followed me in to Lyceus' tomb. But when you appeared, it was almost like it was a sign from my brother. And after I had dealt with Draco and left Amphipolis you followed me again. Even though I should have taken you back to Poteidaia, I let you come along. Three years later, I'm so glad that I didn't.
You always seem to know what I need to hear. Your faith in me has helped me to stay strong. I know that I would have given up and would be in Tartarus now, or back under Ares control if not for you. I don't have a whole lot in my life to be thankful for, but I am very thankful that you came into my life. You truly are the best friend I've ever had.
Gabrielle wiped away her tears and looked up to Xena. "And you say you're not a bard? This is beautiful. Thank you." She stood up and grabbed the warrior in a big hug.
"You're welcome." said Xena as she returned the hug.
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