DISCLAIMERS: Xena and Gabrielle are visiting you here for the holidays. Hohoho says MCA/Universal/Renaissance. Hohoho says I, as I wave my little stocking with the card on it that says I'm writing this for fun and not for profit. But you can fill my stocking anyway~Senticles I'd like a Xena dollie..I ain't got one yet! Please?;}
This story directly follows "The Great Turkey Mystery" or otherwise known as "T.L.F. Turkey Liberation Front", and I highly suggest you read it first, because I asked you too and because it'll help you with this story;}
No violence, though apparantly a snowman was mistaken for an intruder and got his head sliced off with a chakram. No subtext, unless you count the turkeys in the barn making lil turkeys. No cussin, unless you count what Gab is muttering under her breath, cause they ran outta nutbread. Hope you enjoy the read and have a happy Solstice or whatever you call it where you live. HoHoHoHoHo....says Argo. You'll understand later..hehe.
The Great Turkey Crusade
T.L.F. (Turkey Liberation Front) on the Offensive
Gabrielle yawned and opened her eyes blearily. The sun was still high and the sky was clear. Gazing over Xena's shoulder, she looked down the road, but saw no farms yet, only trees burdened with fresh snow from the night before.
"How long?" she asked.
"You've been napping for two hours now," answered Xena with a quick smile over her shoulder.
The bard slapped her friend on the shoulder. "I don't take naps! I take..umm..I rest my eyes..yeah..I rest my eyes." She grinned back. "Besides, that wasn't what I was asking. How long until we are home?"
Gabrielle chuckled at the stunned expression that passed quickly on Xena's face.
"You consider Amphipolis home?" the warrior asked quietly.
The blond woman didn't hesitate in her answer. "Poteidaia is where my mother, father, and sister live. I haven't felt at home there for a long time. Amphipolis and Amazonia are....well...I don't know how to explain it."
Xena chuckled, "I know...home. Well, don't worry, one more hour and we will be getting fattened up by Mom's cooking," The warrior grinned as she watched her companion's eyes close dreamily at the thought. "We'll have to make sure we keep ourselves busy, so we don't waddle out of town after Solstice is over."
Soon they spotted the first farm, and the trio's energy grew at the sight, knowing that the town was close. Argo's hooves danced through the snow, until finally Xena laughed and gave the mare her head.
With a groan, Gabrielle held on for dear life. Though secretly she liked the horse and often snuck her a quick apple when Xena wasn't looking, the two of them were comfortable in their apparent intolerance of each other in front of the warrior.
Snow flying around them from Argo's hooves, they raced down the road, and through the village, taking care not to run anyone down, of course.
With a cry of pure delight, Xena finally reigned in Argo at the door to the inn. Hopping off, she reached up and helped her friend down. "I'll go take care of Argo, you go say hi, all right?"
"No problem. This way I'll get fed before you do." Gabrielle's eyes twinkled.
"Just leave some for me," quipped the warrior, as she led her mare to the inn's stable.
She was brushing Argo briskly and making sure the mare had a nice warm mash, when she heard the barn door open, and several small feet coming tumbling in.
"I told you...Terrin saw her come into town, and her friend is talking to Cyrene right now. She's got to be in here," whispered a stern little voice.
Xena peered around the wall and smiled at the group of youngsters that had come to greet her. "Hi."
The children were standing there staring at her, uncertainty and fear on all their faces, except for one.
One little boy nudged his way forward and started toward the warrior. As he came up to her, he peered over his shoulder. "Well? Come on...it's only Xena. She'll help us..just like before."
"Help you with what?" Xena knelt down and asked the child, smiling at the others as they came to join them.
The dark-haired woman raised an eyebrow. "What happened? I thought Mom was going to return them when your parents finally talked sense?"
"She couldn't. Our parents are still real mad, so we had to keep them all hidden," said a little girl with tears starting to run down her face. "Mama wants to eat Midget for the Feast," she cried.
"Really?" Xena reached out a hand and wiped the tears away.
"Yeah....my da and the others say that if the turkeys don't show up there's not going to be any Solstice Feast or any presents for us." The little girl looked up into Xena's blue eyes soulfully.
Xena thought for a moment, then leaned in and whispered to the children. "Well...we'll just have to change their minds for them. Won't we?" She grinned as the children smiled at her.
Xena: The Great Turkey Liberator was back and it was payback time. Nobody threatened the turkeys of this village...nobody.
* * * * *
The village square was the center of Amphipolis for more than one reason. Besides being set in the exact center, it was built for a meeting place for the town citizens to come together. News, grave and good, was always brought here first, and even in the midst of winter, people could be found here.
"Did you know that Pristia went to the healer's again?" whispered the mayor's wife, Mifinia to the baker.
"No?! For that terrible problem she's been having?"
"Yes." Mifinia nodded sagely. "That rash has crept up on her again. I don't know how she can stand to sit..."
"Ok..one..two..three...Now!" hissed the voice from behind a barn.
Suddenly the village square was under siege, as a flurry of snowballs flew from a variety of places.
*BAF* The sound of a snowball exploding in Mifinia's face, caused a low chuckle to come out from behind the barn. Then another hit. *BAF*And another, this time to a man trying to scurry away out of the line of fire. *BAF* The snowball hit him in the back of the head, and pushing him over into a snowdrift.
On and on the snowballs came, until finally the attack ceased at a whistled signal.
The square was quiet, bodies laying everywhere, moans of the victims clearly heard. Mifinia and several others cautiously looked up, and when no snowy spheres appeared, the people started to stand up shakily.
"Well...I never!" cried Mifinia.
Out of the nowhere came a voice, echoing so badly in the square, that no one could tell where it came from, or who it was.
"Let the turkeys live or Amphipolis will suffer my wrath yet again!"
A lone snowball flew out from behind a house, its aim true. *BAF* Mifinia, the mayors wife, kissed the snow covered ground once again.
* * * * *
Xena casually took a sip of her ale, then set down the tankard again.
"Now what are you accusing me of again?" She said with an eyebrow raised at the crowd of irate villagers standing before her.
Gatrin, the Mayor, rested his big hands on the table and leaned forward towards her, frowning. "You hit my wife with a snowball!"
"Yeah and you hit me too!" cried the baker in annoyance.
"Me too!" came a dozen cries, the majority of the people standing well behind Gatrin, so that if the warrior did anything, more than likely their esteemed mayor would get it first, leaving them time enough to flee...hopefully.
The warrior shrugged. "Sorry. But it wasn't me."
"I don't believe you!" growled Gatrin, waggling a finger at her.
"I don't give a d..." Xena started to say, but was interrupted by her mother.
"Xena, watch your mouth." Cyrene admonished, then turned to Gatrin. "She said she didn't do it..that should be enough for you."
"Well it isn't."
"Fine," the innkeeper sighed. "She was sitting here anyway, eating dinner. Marshul, Irenities, and Quentis were all here, they can vouch for her too. Now either buy a drink or get out, you're bothering my customers." Cyrene placed her hands on her hips and glared at the mayor.
"Marshul, Irenities, and Quentis hmmm? Ok...I guess it wasn't you." Gatrin stood up straight and looked down at Xena with an embarrassed look. "I'm sor..."
"No problem." Xena interrupted and picked up her tankard again, taking a long swallow. "But you know... I think I know who..or what it was."
"What do you mean by what?" Gatrin asked curiously.
"You've heard of Senticles of course?" the warrior asked, then went on as she saw the nods.
"I travel alot..and well I heard of one town last year that refused to celebrate Solstice anymore and said that if Senticles came to their village, that they'd lock him up as a fraud."
"No?!" muttered the people, whispers and worried murmurs traveling among them.
"What happened to them?" asked one woman anxiously.
"Things started to happen. Sightings."
"Sightings? Of what?" Gatrin asked in a whisper.
"Little people. Supposedly the size of children, with big pointed ears, and able to do magic. They said they were Senticles servants, there to punish the people of the village for not believing in Solstice anymore. They didn't stop terrorizing the town with tricks and mayhem for an entire year...until the villagers celebrated Solstice again, that is." Xena explained.
"The size of children? Oh my...Gatrin.." A woman tugged on the mayor's shirt to get his attention.
"I thought I saw a child throwing a snowball from behind the barrel. I didn't get a good look..but..but what if it wasn't a child?" she asked frantically.
The murmurs and tense whispers flared up in tense speculation.
Gatrin thought a moment, his face pale. Then turning to the citizens he waved them to silence. "Quiet. Quiet. Ok...we need to have a town council meeting. Everyone meet in Articlies barn. It will be cramped..but better than making ourselves targets out in the square. Tell your neighbors, we meet in one hour."
Xena watched over the lip of her tankard, as the crowd thinned and disappeared from the inn. Looking to her right, she smiled at her mother innocently.
Cyrene rolled her eyes. "I told the truth. You were here....but I know you Xena. You're involved up to your blue eyes in this."
"Me?" Blue eyes twinkled merrily. "Never."
* * * * *
Solstice Eve came, and with it came the feast.
Having considered the possibility of being terrorized by who knew how many magical servants, of a man who was obviously bless by the gods and becoming a symbol of Solstice itself, the villagers quickly gave in to the children and plans for the Solstice feast were rapidly made.
Turkeys started mysteriously appearing in pens in people's backyards, to the perplexity of the parents, but also to the joy of the children to see their pets.
The inn usually hosted a grand feast, for those who didn't have family or those small families who'd rather spend the happy occasion with a large crowd of their friends and neighbors. And this year, it hosted a wondrous feast, with stuffed partridge. Minced and fruit pies. Vegetable dishes of numerous kinds. Vintage and port cheeses. Breads twisted into complicated knots and glazed to shining perfection. Ales, wines, and fruit drinks to please any palate. It was a vast table that Cyrene had set, and as Xena looked around the table, looking fondly at her brother, her mother, and Gabrielle, who was happily making a great dent in the feast before her much to everyone's amusement, she realized that yes this was home. It hadn't been one to her for many years, but lately she'd been thinking more and more of this place.
Xena smiled. Yeah..It's nice to be home.
Her thoughts vanished as the door swung open, letting in a cold wind, and a child.
The little boy looked at Xena and grinned impishly, then turned to the rest of the room. "Everyone come outside. We have a surprise for you!" Then he quickly disappeared out into the snowy evening.
The group of feasters stood, asking among themselves what the child was talking about. Xena joined Gabrielle as the crowd stepped outside. People came out of every house to the cries of the child herald, whispers and mutters of curiosity running down the street.
"What's going on?" Xena looked around, but couldn't see anything that could be construed as a surprise.
"I have no idea," replied the bard as she huddled in closer to Xena, neither of them, or anyone else for that matter, having brought out a cloak.
Anxiously everyone waited, until finally a bright glow could be seen around the corner, near the village square, moving slowly in their direction.
As it rounded the corner, Xena wasn't sure what to make of it at first, but then shrugged and went along with it and watched in amusement.
Children marched, danced and leaped down the street wearing outlandish and fanciful custumes. One was wearing the wings of a fairy, another small lad wore large leather ears and winked at Xena as he went by. Suddenly at a signal from one girl, named Macy, who seemed to be in charge, the crowd of children stopped in front of the inn. Motioning to the other villagers to gather round, Macy then turned to marchers.
Then...singing. Such sweet voices melded in song, rising up and caressing the heavens themselves. Songs of Solstice they sang. Songs of happiness.
Xena smiled as she listened. It was this sort of thing that she had missed during her dark years, but now she was finally enjoying it with those she loved.
Nudging Gabrielle, she leaned over and whispered. "Enjoying yourself?"
The bard looked up into bright blue eyes and smiled. "This is great..far better than Poteidaia. They do this every year here?"
The dark-haired woman shook her head. "No..this is new." She chuckled. "I kinda like it."
Gabrielle's green eyes twinkled. "So do I. Happy Solstice. Xena..O Great Liberator of turkeys." She grinned.
Xena chuckled softly. "Happy Solstice to you too.. O Senticles Helper. By the way, how did it feel to lead an army?"
"About as good as it felt for you to be the bard for a change. Thanks for letting me in on this one...it was really fun," the bard winked.
Their talk was interrupted as suddenly the ringing of tiny bells could be heard. The duo turned their heads, and what they saw made their eyes open wide in surprise. Xena covered her eyes and groaned in dismay. "I will never look at her the same way ever again."
Argo danced her way through the snow with her rider precariously perched on her back. Wearing a red and white suit, which everyone knew Senticles wore, the mayor of Amphipolis hastily pulled his fake beard back up onto his face. Coming to a halt in front of the children, who were staring in awe at the scene before them. "Senticles" let out a huge "Hohoho, Happy Solstice", then proceeded to dig presents out from a huge sack on his back.
Gabrielle couldn't stop the chuckles, so she just let them come. Xena sighed and leaned over to her. "It's not funny."
"Yyyeeesss...itt..iittt...issss..." Laughed the bard quietly.
"But Gabrielle...he put antlers on her! And a red ball on her nose...she looks...ridiculous," Xena hissed.
The warrior threw up her hands as the bard collapsed in the snow, no longer laughing so quietly.
"Yeah...Merry Solstice to you too.. Bahhhhhh." *BAF*
Snow dripping down her face, Xena's icy gaze pierced deep into sparkling green laughing eyes. "Oh...you die, Bard. You die." *BAF*
And so started The Great Snowball War of Amphipolis....but that's another story.