Disclaimer: This story contains explicit descriptions of consensual sex between two adult women who happen to be very much in love. It also contains scenes containing mild violence and adult language. If these things offends you, read no further.
What Price Redemption
by Dr. Bob
Chapter 1: This Staff for Hire
The streets of Oneira bustled with people hurrying to finish the last of the day's business in the remaining few hours of the afternoon. Although Athens may have been the cultural center of Greece, Oneira was as close to its geographical center as one could hope to pinpoint. The city founders had used this fact to change Oneira from a large village to a thriving city in a remarkably short span of ten years. With Thermum to the southwest, Thermopylae to the east, Thessaly to the north, the Ionian Sea to the west, Delphi and the Gulf of Corinth to the south, and Thebes to the southeast, major trade routes radiated out from the city like spokes of a wagon wheel. Merchant trains, passing armies, and common travelers alike used the city as a stopping point on their journey to...wherever. A person never said they were going somewhere `by way of Oneira.' It was just assumed. The common conception was that, at any given time, the people just passing through Oneira out-numbered its permanent residents by three to one. Because of this, there were more taverns and inns per square city block than in Athens and Thebes put together. That, and a small tax on goods brought through the city, were Oneira's main source of income. This also meant that the city had a large supply of blacksmiths, wainwrights, and horse peddlers. Oneira provided anything and everything a person could use on a journey, even if it was just a brief respite from a day's long travels.
Xena looked down at the faces of the nearby soldiers as she and Gabrielle rode through the main gate.
Seeing where Xena's attention lay, Gabrielle hugged her a little tighter and asked, "Is there a problem?"
Xena smiled back over her shoulder as she rubbed Gabrielle's arms at her waist. "No, I was just looking to see if I knew any of them."
Gabrielle looked back at the rank of soldiers as they stood at attention for their commander. "Are they...Athenian?"
"Yeah, probably getting ready to ship off to Zeus knows where," Xena replied as she steered Argo down a side street. She looked around a moment, trying to remember where that tavern was located.
Gabrielle's head spun around as she heard the loud cry of a peacock. She watched as a dozen or so of the large deep blue birds were loaded onto a wagon in several large wicker cages. As her stomach grumbled, she suddenly found herself wondering what peacock tasted like. She sighed, wondering if she'd actually be able to eat one of the beautiful creatures.
She turned back towards Xena as she realized they had stopped in front of a medium sized tavern. She noticed the large green sign with a white, winged horse painted on it hanging over the doorway. It read `The Pegasus' in large letters underneath. "Are we getting down?"
"Yeah," Xena said hesitantly. After she'd felt Gabrielle climb down, she followed suit. She smirked as she looked up at the sign. She'd had a friend who owned a tavern here called `The Lion's Den.' Having owed her a debt, the man had told her she was welcome to a room whenever she liked. She'd hoped to take him up on his offer.
Gabrielle assembled her staff after she'd removed it from a saddlebag. "You've been here before?" she asked, looking up to Xena.
"Sort of," Xena answered as she draped Argo's reins loosely around the post in front. "C'mon," she said to Gabrielle as she walked up the steps. "Well, maybe he just changed the name," she thought to herself. One quick glance at the decor inside, however, made her realize that this wasn't the case. The large room consisted of a long bar to the right and several round tables scattered around the remainder of the area. Potted plants lined the walls at odd intervals and hung from the ceilings in large brass dishes. A set of stairs towards the back led to the rooms on the second floor. She led Gabrielle over to a table in back near the wall. Through force of habit, she pulled out a chair so that she could sit facing the entrance. She unbuckled her scabbard and leaned it against the wall near Gabrielle's staff. She looked down at the woman seated to her left. "What do you want to drink?"
"You sure? You can have some wine."
Gabrielle shook her head slightly as she looked up at the woman. "Water's fine."
"Okay," Xena replied as she smiled down at her. She turned and headed for the bar.
Gabrielle sighed as she heard her stomach rumble again. Part of her wished Xena hadn't wanted to come into town so that they could've set up camp and started fixing dinner. Around noon, Xena had suggested they only eat a small meal to conserve their rations.
She looked up as Xena returned, placing a mug in front of her. "Thanks." She drained half the cup and frowned as the cool water hit her stomach, causing it to rumble again.
Xena grinned as she heard the loud growl from under the table.
"After we finish these, do you want to go set up camp?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena cocked her head slightly. "What's the rush? You're not hungry, are you?"
"No," Gabrielle replied softly as she stared back down at the table.
Xena's expression softened as she looked across at the woman. As hungry as she herself was, she knew that Gabrielle must be starving. A few minutes later, she smiled as she saw what was coming.
"Here ya go."
Gabrielle looked up as a girl, about four or five years younger than her with long black hair, placed a large tray of food onto their table. Her eyes went wide as she stared down at the large roasted fowl and vegetables, the sliced cheese, figs, and bread.
"Will there be anything else?" the girl asked with a sweet smile.
Xena noticed how attractive her large almond-shaped eyes were; a light brown color. "No, Thank you."
"Well, my name's Mirraeus. If you need anything at all, just let me know." She turned and headed back towards the kitchen.
"YOU did this?" Gabrielle asked.
"Mmm-hmm," Xena replied with a nod and a smile.
"Xena, you shouldn't have. I know that..."
Gabrielle," she said, placing a hand on her arm. She leaned closer and smiled tenderly. "Eat before it gets cold."
"Thanks," the bard said as she reached over and spread some of the olive oil paste onto a slice of bread.
Xena smiled as she watched Gabrielle happily take a bite of the bread as she reached for a slice of cheese with her other hand.
Gabrielle tossed the bone from the drumstick back onto the plate as she took a long drink of water. Sitting back in her chair, she smiled across at Xena.
Xena, seeing her stare, asked, "Something wrong?"
"Nope. Not at all. Thank you for dinner," she replied as she looked back down at the table. As she reached for a fig, her eyes lit up. "Hey?!"
Xena stared curiously as Gabrielle grabbed a fork and began digging through the remains of the bird on the table. She couldn't help grinning as Gabrielle eventually pulled out the wishbone and held it up to her. Wiping her fingers on a napkin, she took the offered end and counted to three.
As they both pulled on it, the bone snapped loudly. Gabrielle giggled as she held up the large piece.
Xena threw hers onto the plate and wiped her fingers once more. "Well, what did you wish for?"
Gabrielle smirked across at Xena as she placed her piece next to the older woman's. "If I tell you then it won't come true. Ask me tomorrow." She turned and looked towards the doorway. Seeing the orange glare from outside, she realized dusk wouldn't be that far away. She looked back at Xena. "Well, I guess we should go look for a place for the night. I saw a nice spot about a mile before town."
Xena grinned across at her as she reached inside one of her bracers and pulled out a key, tossing it on the table in front of Gabrielle.
Gabrielle looked down at the key and then back to Xena. "You got us a room, too?" She frowned as she ran her fingers over the black metal key. "Xena, if all of this is because of what I said last night...I wasn't trying to make you feel guilty."
Xena slid her chair closer and took Gabrielle's hand. She smiled down tenderly at her. "I know you weren't. I did this as much for me as for you."
Gabrielle smirked at her.
"Okay, I did this mostly for you. But seeing you happy makes me happy."
"But what about the money? I know we can't..."
"We can afford it, Gabrielle. Trust me."
Gabrielle smiled sweetly at her. "Thank you. For everything." She leaned closer and placed a hand behind Xena's neck, gently pulling her closer for a kiss. As she traced her tongue over Xena's lips, they heard someone clear their throat nearby.
They looked up to see Mirraeus blushing and giggling as she stared at the floor. "My father wanted me to show you where the stables were."
As she rose, Xena reached over and retrieved her scabbard, fastening it to her belt. She looked back at Gabrielle. "I'm gonna go tend to Argo. I won't be long." Smiling, she leaned down again and gave Gabrielle a quick passionate kiss. She looked back up to see Mirraeus giggling again. "Okay, let's go."
She followed the girl outside and grabbed Argo's reins. She turned to see Mirraeus looking at her with an odd expression.
The girl moved closer and asked in a low whisper, "Are you and she..uhm..together?"
Xena ached her brows, "What do you mean by `together'?" Xena asked, knowing full well what the girl meant. She smiled as Mirraeus blushed again.
"I mean...TOGETHER," she emphasized as she led Xena to the large barn on the side of the tavern.
"We're lovers. Do you have a problem with that?" Xena asked with a smirk.
"No. Not at all," the girl assured her hastily. "I think it's...great. C'mon. It's this way. In here."
Xena cocked her head slightly at the girl's enigmatic smile as she followed her into the barn.
Gabrielle rolled the key in her hand, wondering again if they really could afford it. She knew how much Xena liked to keep her happy. She remembered how she'd liked to use it to her advantage. Lately however, it had gotten to the point where she was afraid to complain about anything for fear of making the woman feel bad. She refilled her mug from the pitcher and took another drink of water.
She looked up at the man standing near her. He had blonde hair, hazel eyes, and was probably a few years younger than her; semi-attractive. "Yes?"
"I don't suppose..you'd like some..er..company?"
Gabrielle groaned inwardly. Why was it, that in every tavern they stopped in, some guy had to decide she or Xena would make a convenient mattress? "No, thank you. My friend will be back soon."
"Okay. I didn't think it would hurt to ask. You have a nice evening," he added sincerely before returning to the bar.
Gabrielle chuckled once. "Well, that was a first," she thought to herself. She took another drink and then turned to face the door as she heard a loud commotion. She watched as a half-dozen soldiers entered and made their way to the bar. Tuning out the boisterous group, she turned back to the table, picking up a few figs and tossing one into her mouth. She grinned as she began thinking about how she'd be able to thank Xena for getting them a room. Her grin faded as she suddenly looked up at one of the soldiers who'd come to stand next to her. She wrinkled her nose as she got a strong whiff of garlic, ale, and body odor. She slid her chair back a bit, fearful that his armor, which barely contained his bulk, would split open.
The man leered down at her. "You know what?"
"What?" Gabrielle asked suspiciously.
"You're the prettiest one in here. You know what that means?"
"That you're going to go back with your friends and let me finish my meal in peace?" she asked with a smirk.
"Close," the man replied with a chuckle as he leaned closer. "It means, that you and I get to go upstairs and get to know each other a little better."
"Just when I was starting to have faith in the male of the species again," Gabrielle thought to herself. She smiled up at the man as she leaned backwards a bit. "Look, technically, as women go, I'm not very attractive. I mean, who is the definitive judge on beauty. One person's idea of pretty could just be another person's idea of mediocrity. I believe it was Plutarch who once said...," she stopped as he slammed a hand on the table and leaned even closer.
"Anyone ever tell you you talk to much?" he asked with a sneer.
Gabrielle swallowed and tried to casually slide her chair backwards. "You know, now that you mention it. A lot of people have told...,"
He leaned forward quickly with his face a few inches from hers. "I think we can find better uses for that mouth of yours." He put a hand roughly behind her head and pulled her to him.
"Let go of me!!" she screamed, pushing back against him as she felt his greasy beard brush against her chin.
The man pulled back and bellowed, raising a hand to the cuts on his neck. He looked down at the blood on his fingers. "Well fellas," he said, turning to the soldiers now seated at a back table. "Looks like this kitten's got claws." He turned and looked back down at Gabrielle who was spitting and wiping her mouth with a napkin. "I think maybe you need a lesson in manners."
Gabrielle looked up at him defiantly. "Yeah? You need a bath!"
He sneered as he heard the others soldiers laughing. "I think this will hurt you more than it will hurt me," he said as he raised his left hand into the air. As he brought his hand down to slap Gabrielle, his eyes went wide as he suddenly felt it caught in an iron-like grip.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that."
He turned and looked at the dark haired woman in leather armor holding his arm. "Well now, what have we here?" the man asked as he tried to pull his arm free.
"Trouble," Xena replied, finally releasing her grip.
The man rubbed his wrist as he looked over Xena's figure. "Do you know what this is?" he asked, pointing to the insignia on the sleeve of his mail shirt. "This means I'm a sergeant in the city watch."
"Your mother must be proud," Xena said sarcastically.
His eyes went wide momentarily before narrowing again. "I think maybe you need a lesson as well."
"Please...teach." Xena replied, holding her arms out to the side.
The man turned and looked back at the other soldiers. "Well men, I've never been one to disappoint the ladies." He spun back quickly, bringing his right fist in a roundhouse aimed at Xena's chin.
Xena caught his fist easily, smiling as the man's eyes went wide. As she rotated her wrist, she kicked him behind the right leg, dropping him to his knees, As he fell forward, she shifted her grip to his wrist and pushed her other hand hard against his shoulder.
"Okay, okay...look," the man said as he grunted at the pressure Xena was placing on his arm. "I tell you what. If the two of you come upstairs with me right now, I'd be willing to forget about your...rudeness."
Xena looked down at him in disbelief. "Were you born this stupid, or did it come from years of practice?"
The sergeant looked up at the snickering soldiers. "Don't just sit there! Get her!"
Xena glared at the rising men and hollered, "SIT DOWN!!"
The sergeant's eyes went wide as three of his men actually sat back in their chairs. All of them looked at each other nervously. "Damnit!! I'm giving you an order. Kill this bitch!!"
Xena scowled as the soldiers advanced. Releasing the man's shoulder, she stepped back and kicked him hard in the face, watching him fly backwards. She took a few steps back to give herself room as the rest of the tavern's patrons cleared the area.
As the soldiers charged, Gabrielle kicked a chair into their path, tripping a few of them. She rose and grabbed her staff from the nearby wall.
Eyes wide with excitement, Xena turned in place and landed a spinning back kick to the first man to reach her, watching as he fell into the path of one of the other soldiers.
Gabrielle walked over to the soldiers she'd tripped and tapped him on the shoulder. As he turned to look up at her, she jabbed the end of the staff against his skull, knocking him unconscious.
Seeing this, one of the other guards advanced on her warily. "Now that wasn't very nice, blondie."
Gabrielle, swung the staff at his right side half-heartedly, allowing him to catch it as she brought her right leg backwards. As he grinned and pulled back on the staff, she kicked him as hard as she could between the legs, thankful his armor didn't come with a codpiece. She watched as the man released the staff and dropped to his knees, clutching his privates with a comical grimace on his face. Her elation was cut short as a third soldier stared down at her from behind the man she'd just kicked. She gulped as he lowered a hand to the hilt of his sword. She held her staff in a guard position as Xena had taught her. She stared curiously as the soldier's head suddenly jerked upright. Taking a quick step backwards, she watched as he fell forward and landed on the groaning man between them. She looked back up to see the blond haired man from earlier holding a chair leg in his hand. She giggled as he winked at her. Turning towards the center of the tavern, she watched as Xena dropped the last of the soldiers with an upper-cut.
As she walked over towards the woman, stepping carefully around a few unconscious guardsmen, they both looked around as a loud chorus of applause filled the tavern. She looked up at Xena. "You okay?"
"Yeah. To be honest, I kinda enjoyed myself," Xena replied. "How about you?"
"I'm fine. I just feel like I need a bath after that pig touched me."
Xena scowled as she looked behind Gabrielle to the sergeant as he started to stand groggily. Stepping around Gabrielle, she marched towards him.
"Xena, don't," Gabrielle protested as she hurried after her.
Xena reached down and pulled the man up by his hair, spinning him around and taking great satisfaction at his broken nose. She slapped him across the face with her other hand. "Hey, wake up!" She smirked as he blinked several times and finally opened his eyes wide. She moved her face close to his. "I think maybe YOU need a lesson in manners," she said with an icy tone.
"Xena, it's okay. I'm fine," Gabrielle said softly as she placed a hand on the woman's arm.
Xena immediately felt her anger fade as she looked down at Gabrielle's expression.
"All right. What in the name of Hera is going on here?!"
They both turned and stared as about a dozen more soldiers came in through the entrance. Still holding the sergeant by the hair, Xena took a step forward, grinning as she heard the man let out a yelp. She looked forward at the man who was obviously in charge. He appeared to be about in his early fifties, slightly muscular with a short, well trimmed grey beard.
He walked up before Xena. "My name's Leraedes. I'm the commander of the city watch." He nodded towards the sergeant, "Has this man been causing trouble?"
"Yeah, he tried..,"
She was interrupted as Leraedes turned to his men and shouted out orders. "Take these men in. I want the sergeant in a cell and these others on report."
As the newly arrived soldiers complied, carrying some of the unconscious men out, the sergeant screamed at the older man. "You can't do this, Leraedes! My father won't stand for it!"
"Get him outta here!" the older man yelled. He turned back to Xena and Gabrielle. "I'm sorry. You were saying."
Before either of the could reply, Mirraeus came closer and spoke up. "Brocas tried starting a fight with Xena, but she beat the crap out of him. She was fantastic," the girl added as she took Xena's hand in both of hers.
Gabrielle watched curiously as Xena non-chalantly tried to extricate her hand from Mirraeus' grasp. "Uhm...yeah. That's about it," the older woman replied, her voice slightly tense.
Leraedes leaned closer. "Listen, I've been trying to get that idiot thrown out of the watch for months now. He's constantly abusing the little power he has, he starts more fights than he stops, he steals, he's a bad influence on the other men, and he's a general pain in the ass."
"Well, what's the problem?" Xena asked as she walked on the other side of Gabrielle, placing the bard between her and Mirraeus.
"The problem is that his father is a chief prefect of the city. No one has been willing to press charges against Brocas. You, however, look like someone the man can't intimidate. That's why I need you to come in and fill out the proper forms."
"I don't know. I'd just as soon not.."
"Of course she'll do it," Mirraeus replied with a wide smile as she walked up to Xena again. "She's not afraid of anyone," she added, staring up at the woman.
As Xena turned, trying to back peddle form the girl once again, Gabrielle noticed something in her hair. "Xena, what's this?" she asked, pulling out what appeared to be a piece of straw.
Xena looked down at it, her eyes going wider. "Uh,...I'm..not sure. Must've gotten there in the fight."
Gabrielle looked down curiously as she circled around Xena. "Look at your back, you've got..hay..all over the place," she stated as she dusted off Xena's backside.
Xena forcibly sat Mirraeus onto a nearby chair and took Leraedes by the arm. "Let's go fill out those forms." She turned back and hollered to Gabrielle, "I won't be long, Gabrielle. Wait for me here." She hurried out of the tavern.
Gabrielle, still confused, stared at the vacant entryway.
"Boy, isn't she wonderful?" Mirraeus sighed.
She looked down at the girl who was also staring at the doorway. Furrowing her brow, she looked back to the entrance and then again at Mirraeus. "Nahhh," she said softly as she shook her head and returned to her table.
She poured herself another mug of water and drained half immediately. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and tilted her head back.
"Now what!?!" she screamed silently. She opened her eyes and looked up at the man standing nearby. He looked to be about fifty and stood close to six feet tall. He was dressed in a brown long sleeved shirt, trousers, and a leather vest. He had short black hair and a trim black goatee with a grey streak to the left of his chin. Although not built, he seemed to be in good shape. "Yes?"
"Gabrielle, is it?"
"How do you know my name?"
"I heard Xena mention it. May I sit down?"
"Uh, I suppose. Do you know Xena?"
"Only by reputation. My name's Parmax, by the way."
Gabrielle was becoming suspicious. "Look, she'll be right back. I don't think..," she stopped as he started to laugh. "What's so funny?"
He waved towards the bar and then turned back to Gabrielle. "Have you ever heard the saying `Athens is the cradle of philosophy'?"
"Well, Oneira is the cradle of bureaucracy. Xena won't be back for at least an hour." He looked up at the serving girl. "I'll have an ale." He turned to Gabrielle. "Would you like anything?"
She handed the girl the pitcher. "More water, please."
As the girl walked away, he looked back to Gabrielle. "You know, that was quite a display you and Xena put on. I wonder if the two of you would be interested in a proposition."
Gabrielle eyed the man dubiously.
A little over an hour later, Xena grumbled as she reached the front of the Pegasus. She flexed the sore fingers in her right hand as she tried to remember how many times she'd had to sign her name.
Barely three steps through the doorway, she looked down as Mirraeus suddenly stood before her. "Not again," she thought.
"Hi Xena," the girl said sweetly as she smiled up at her.
Xena looked down at her sternly, wishing she were a he so she could just punch her and be done with it. "Mirraeus, you have to stop doing this." She tried going around the girl, but Mirraeus side-stepped in front of her. "What did I tell you in the barn?"
"To mix a little salt in Argo's feed," she replied as she again stepped in front of Xena.
"That's not what I mean and you know it."
The girl smirked up at her playfully. "Xena, after seeing you fight, it made me realize you could've put up a lot more resistance in the barn than you did."
"I didn't want to hurt you," Xena commented as she looked passed Mirraeus and spotted Gabrielle sitting with an unfamiliar man.
"That's okay. I don't mind a little pain," she said as she placed her hands on Xena's waist.
Xena's eyes went wide as she looked down at the girl and pulled her hands away. "How old ARE you, anyway?"
"Almost seventeen. You know what? I have some shackles in my room if you're...into that sort of thing," she said with a wink as she rubbed her fingers lightly over Xena's arms.
Xena swallowed with some difficulty and then looked behind her towards the bar. "Uhm..your father's waving at you."
Mirraeus turned back and looked around, finally spotting her father talking to her brother at the far end of the bar. "No, he's..." She stopped as she looked back to find Xena gone. She turned again and spotted the woman heading over towards her friend's table. She took a deep breath and let out a sigh as she watched the woman's figure move.
Gabrielle looked up and smiled happily as she spotted Xena. "Hey, you're back. Xena, this is Parmax. He's a merchant on his way to Illyris."
The man rose and extended a hand.
Xena shook it and gave a slight smile. "You don't look very much like a merchant," she commented, noticing his relatively simple garb and lack of jewelry, with the exception of a wedding band. She recalled Salmoneus' usual gaudy taste in clothing.
"Well, I've never been one for an ostentatious lifestyle," Parmax said as he sat back down.
"He has a proposition for us. I think you should hear him out," Gabrielle said as she poured the woman a cup of water.
"Yes, I was complimenting Gabrielle upon the way the two of you handled those men earlier. I think I may have use of someone with your talents." He made a nervous swallow as Xena just stared at him with an unreadable expression. Taking it as a sign to continue, he cleared his throat slightly. "I assume you've heard of Illyris? Well, as you may or may not know, King Hestricles has two sons, Tetramon and Keleian. A year ago, Hestricles gave each of them a third of his kingdom and told them to run it as they saw fit. He's still officially the king and remains in Antipatria. He'd decided that, after a few years, he'd step down and pass the crown on to whichever son had proven himself the most capable heir. Although Hestricles has been a good king, he's a terrible father. Ever since they were young, he's constantly urged them to compete against each other instead of work together, He's always been a firm believer in `survival of the fittest.' Unfortunately, his sons have both taken to his lessons quite well. Each is eager to claim the throne, by getting rid of the other if need be. Both are very ambitious, the only difference between the two, is that Keleian actually cares about his people." He paused a moment to take a drink before continuing. "Two weeks ago, most of the people in Keleian's keep began getting sick."
"What kind of sickness?" Xena asked, speaking for the first time since Parmax had begun his tale.
"Serious dehydration, fever, weakness. All methods at a cure were unsuccessful and the healers were baffled. Until, Keleian learned from an agent in his brother's castle that Tetramon had the stronghold's underground water supply poisoned with something called Percrasic. You've heard of it?"
"Well, the more water they drank, the sicker they got. The sicker they got, the more water they drank. After they'd found out about the poison, Keleian began having water brought in from the surrounding countryside. This sickness is especially dangerous to the old and the very young. I have a large supply of the antidote that I'm bringing back to Illyris."
"Which I'll bet you'll sell to them at a really nice profit," Xena said with a trace of contempt.
"Xena!?" Gabrielle chided her.
Parmax's eyes narrowed as he leaned forward. "Among other reasons, the prince asked for my help because he knows I'm well connected and fair. I'm not charging him a dinar more than what it cost me to get it. Besides, I have enough other goods to sell them."
"Fine, you're a wonderful humanitarian. What does any of this have to do with us?" Xena asked.
"Well, you see. The bandits along the trade routes have been worse than usual. And to be honest, I can really use your help. Both of you," he added, nodding towards Gabrielle.
"Why didn't Prince Keleian just send some of his own guards along?" Xena asked as she picked up a fig off the table and placed it in her mouth.
"The few soldiers who weren't poisoned were needed to defend the keep against a possible attack by Tetramon."
"Well, why didn't he ask his father for help? Tell him what Tetramon had done," Gabrielle asked.
"Partly, because there's no proof. That agent mysteriously disappeared two nights before I'd left Illyris. But mostly, because he's afraid to appear weak in front of his father."
Xena looked at the man curiously. "You certainly seem to know a lot about the family."
"I should. I've been a friend of Hestricles for nearly forty years. I'm also Keleian's godfather. Look, I can pay each of you five dinars a day and a bonus of twenty-five dinars when we reach Illyris."
"Not interested," Xena said gruffly.
"Why not?" Gabrielle asked as she looked across at her.
"I'm not a mercenary, Gabrielle. You should know better than that," she said with obvious irritation.
"Could you excuse us for a second?" Gabrielle asked Parmax.
"Sure. I'll be back." He got up and walked over to the bar.
"Don't start, Gabrielle," Xena said as she refilled her mug.
Gabrielle took a deep breath. "Look, I thought this would be the perfect solution to our current money problem. What's so wrong about wanting to help these people?"
"There's a difference between doing it for pay and doing it just because it's right and if I have to explain..."
Gabrielle placed a hand on Xena's arm. "Listen, don't you think that medicine has a better chance of reaching Illyris with us, mostly you, along for protection."
"I suppose," Xena replied as she pulled her arm free and took another sip from her cup.
"Okay, well as long as we're doing it, why not get paid at the same time? I've worked hard to get good with that thing," she said as she pointed to the staff leaning against the wall.
"I know you have..."
"AND," Gabrielle interrupted her, "I don't see anything wrong with using what I've learned to earn a few dinars."
"Gabrielle, is money THAT important to you?" Xena asked as she looked across at her.
Gabrielle looked down into her drink. "What's important to me is that I start doing my share," she said softly.
"What do you mean by that?" Xena asked.
"I mean...When was the last time I got something for you? When was the last time I bought us a meal? You pay for everything."
"I've given you money befo...,"
"Yeah, you've GIVEN me money. When was the last time I earned some?" Gabrielle interrupted her again.
Xena's expression softened as she looked down at the younger woman. She reached out and took her hand. "Gabrielle, I don't want you to worry about things like that. I like providing for the both of us."
Gabrielle pulled her hand back. "Well, that's fine for you, but it makes me feel useless," she commented quietly as she continued to stare into the cup.
Xena frowned as she saw the hurt look on the woman's face. She'd had no idea that Gabrielle had felt that way.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't get mad at you just for doing nice things for me," Gabrielle said as she took Xena's hand again.
"I'M sorry, Gabrielle. I never even thought to ask if any of this bothered you." She squeezed the bard's hand lightly. "Listen, we'll go with Parmax to make sure the antidote gets to Illyris safely. And, in the process, you can earn some money of your own."
Gabrielle smiled up at her. "You mean it? And you won't think any less of me?"
Xena leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, "Gabrielle, it would be impossible for me to think any less of you."
Gabrielle looked down and blushed slightly at Xena's words. Her smile quickly faded as she replayed them over in her head. She raised an eyebrow as she turned and spotted the impish grin on the woman's face. "What the..,"
"Well, have you two considered my offer?" She was interrupted as Parmax returned to the table.
"Yes, we have," Xena answered, noticing Gabrielle still staring at her. "We'll go. And the terms of pay seem fair."
"Excellent. We'll be leaving from the main gate at about one hour after sunrise." He reached into his vest, pulling out a small pouch and tossing it onto the table. "Here's an advance. You two seem honest enough."
Xena stared up at him with a blank expression.
"Aww c'mon. It was a joke. Why don't you take some of that and buy yourself a sense of humor."
Xena moved her stare to Gabrielle as the bard began laughing.
"The man in charge of my security is hiring a few more people. I have to go find him and tell him about the two of you. We're all staying at the Merchant's Pride. It's a caravansary near the northeastern corner of town, in case you need anything. I figure it'll take us about six or seven days to reach Illyris barring unforseen circumstances. Well, unless either of you have any other questions, I'll be off. Enjoy your night in a warm bed. We'll be sleeping under the stars until we reach Illyris. Good night, ladies."
They watched as he walked over and shook the owner's hand before leaving. "He seems like a nice guy," Gabrielle commented.
"I guess," Xena said, eyeing the money pouch dubiously.
Gabrielle picked it up and opened it, looking inside. "Uh-oh. I think we have problem."
"There aren't enough dinars in here to buy the sense of humor YOU'D need," she said with a grin.
Xena smirked. "I put up with you well enough, don't I?"
Gabrielle suddenly gave her an accusatory look. "Oh yeah, what was that crack about you not being able to think any..." She stopped as Xena quickly leaned forward and kissed her. She giggled slightly as Xena slowly pushed her tongue into her mouth.
After a few moments, Xena pulled back slowly, staring into Gabrielle's eyes. "I'm sorry. What were you going to ask me?"
Gabrielle smiled and sighed. "I don't know. Mustn't have been that important." She sat back, still holding Xena's hand.
They looked up as Mirraeus placed a tray holding a carafe and two mugs, onto their table. Gabrielle looked back at Xena as she felt the woman's hand twitch and pull away.
"My father asked me to bring this with his compliments. He's very grateful for what you did to Brocas. The man's been coming in here for months and causing trouble." She poured two cups of the deep red liquid. "This is Corcyran wine. I think you'll like it." She handed each of them a cup.
As Xena took the mug, she felt Mirraeus' fingers lightly run over hers. She looked up at the smiling girl. "Thank you, Mirraeus. You can go now."
"Uhm, my father also said that if you're willing to wait a few hours, you're both welcome to use our private bathhouse."
"Tell your father we accept, and thank you," Gabrielle said sincerely, relishing the idea of a warm soak.
"May I sit down?" the girl asked meekly. She looked from one to the other as Gabrielle said `yes' and Xena said `no' simultaneously.
Gabrielle smirked at Xena. "Of course you can sit down." She slid her chair over and pulled out another opposite from Xena for the girl to sit in.
"Thank you, Gabrielle. May I ask you something?" the girl asked sheepishly.
"Sure, I guess," Gabrielle replied.
Xena silently wondered if it would be considered bad manners for her to kill the girl right then and there.
"What's it like traveling with the great Xena, Warrior Princess?"
Xena felt her throat tighten as the girl looked back at her with those magnificent eyes.
"Well, it's exciting for one thing. We're always defeating these evil warlords and battling strange creatures.."
"Yeah, yeah...But, I bet it must get pretty lonely, out there on the road, all by yourselves," the girl commented.
"We...have each other for company. And we usually find..ways..to keep ourselves happy. Some nights it gets pretty cold..."
As Gabrielle continued, Xena smiled down into her cup as she felt her lover's bare foot slide over her leg. As Gabrielle slid her toes towards the inside of her thigh, she took a long drink from the mug. Putting it down, she stared across at the bard with a wide grin on her face.
"....and the rain? Whew, don't get me started on the rain. Sometimes it's like..," she stopped as she noticed the strange look on Xena's face. "What?" she asked with a shrug.
Xena looked confused as she saw the puzzled look on Gabrielle's face. She turned to Mirraeus and saw the girl's eyes narrow as she felt the toes push against the leather under her skirt.
Gabrielle cocked her head as Xena suddenly pushed her chair back about a foot. "Xena, what's wrong?"
Xena looked back to Gabrielle, "Uhm...muscle spasm. I think I'd better go walk it off." She rose quickly and headed for the bar.
Mirraeus turned back to Gabrielle, "I'll let you know when we're finished with the bath."
"Okay. Thanks Again," Gabrielle said as she refilled her mug.
Xena watched as Mirraeus rose and walked through a side doorway. Taking a deep breath, she walked back over to their table.
Gabrielle looked up as Xena returned, "How's the leg?"
"Much better," she replied as she pulled her chair closer to Gabrielle and sat down. She reached over and picked up her mug.
"Mirraeus says she'll let us know when they're finished with the bath."
"Well, we have a few hours to kill. Any ideas?" Xena asked as she took another sip from her cup.
"Uhm..I saw a sign that said they were having a poetry reading in the square if you'd.."
"NO," Xena said abruptly.
"Hey, don't bite my head off. It was just a suggestion."
"It wasn't a very good one. Suggest something else," Xena commented.
"Well, how..about...," Gabrielle smiled mischievously as she leaned closer to the woman.
Xena jerked as she suddenly felt Gabrielle's hand on her knee.
"What's the matter with you? You've been acting funny since this afternoon," Gabrielle said as she looked with concern at her friend.
"Nerves,...I guess," Xena replied before she quickly drained her cup.
"Aww, poor thing." Gabrielle rose behind her and placed her hands on her shoulders, rubbing them firmly. "How's that feel?"
"Nice," Xena said as she closed her eyes and rolled her head forward.
"You're so tense." Grinning, she leaned forward and whispered in the woman's ear, "Why don't we go to our room and I'll see what else I can do to make you feel...nice." she passed her tongue lightly over Xena's ear, smiling as the woman jerked again.
Xena rose quickly and spun around. Grabbing Gabrielle by the hand, she led the bard upstairs. Turning down the corridor leading to the rooms, they spotted Mirraeus lighting several small oil lamps in sconces along the walls. She was now wearing a knee-length, light purple robe tied at the waist with a wide sash.
"Hi. Your room's back here on the left," she said, pointing to one of the doors behind her.
"Thanks," Xena said as she walked passed her, looking down at the floor. She turned to Gabrielle, "Give me the key."
"I thought you had it," Gabrielle replied. She smiled as Xena's eyes went wide. She reached in her top and pulled out the key. "Fooled you. Move, I'll open it."
Xena let Gabrielle stand in front of the door as she noticed Mirraeus was leaning against the wall, watching them from the end of the hallway. She watched as the girl looked at her seductively. "The door...Gabrielle."
"I'm having...a little trouble with..this key," she answered with a grunt.
Xena gulped as Mirraeus slowly raised the taper to her lips and gently blew out the small flame. "Anytime now."
"I think I've..No..Darn it, I think I locked it again."
Xena let out a frustrated sigh as she turned back to Gabrielle, "Give me that key."
"NO, I can get it," Gabrielle insisted as she slapped Xena's hands away.
Sweating a bit, Xena slowly looked back over her shoulder.
Biting her lip as she stared at the nervous woman, Mirraeus slowly began undoing the large sash holding her robe shut.
Xena swallowed difficultly as she watched the girl slowly spread the robe open. "TURN AROUND!!!" she screamed silently in her head. Her neck didn't seem to be paying attention, however. Despite herself, she looked down at the dark curly hair between the girl's legs. "Gabrielle?" she said softly.
"I almost got it."
She felt her pulse quicken as the girl's breasts came into view. She lowered a hand to Gabrielle's waist as she traced her eyes over Mirraeus' figure.
Gabrielle grunted again. "It's unlocked, but I think...it's..stuck."
Xena held her breath as she watched Mirraeus slowly slide a hand over her stomach.
Gabrielle pushed against the door. "I think...I..HEY!?!" she hollered as Xena slammed a palm against the door, shoving it open and pushing her inside.
Xena grabbed an oil lamp off of a sconce and walked into the room, quickly shutting the door behind her. She hurriedly placed the hot lamp on a nearby table and raised her fingers to her mouth.
"What did you do that for?!" Gabrielle asked as she turned to face Xena.
Xena closed the distance between her and the younger woman in two quick steps. She grabbed her by the waist and pinned her against the wall, lowering her mouth to Gabrielle's.
Gabrielle's eyes opened wide as she felt Xena's tongue enter her mouth, seeking out her own. She held her arms out to the side as the warrior quickly began unlacing her top. She looked up into Xena's eyes as the woman pulled the top over her head. "Was it something I said?"
Xena's eyes narrowed as she quickly lowered her mouth to one of Gabrielle's breasts, closing her lips around a rapidly hardening nipple.
Gabrielle gasped as Xena slid a hand under her skirt and in her underwear, deftly sliding two fingers into her. "What's gotten into you?" she exclaimed, looking down at the woman.
Xena let out a low laugh as she straightened and kissed the bard passionately.
As Xena slowly pushed the fingers in farther, Gabrielle moaned softly and rose onto her toes, sliding upwards against the wall. She placed her hands onto Xena's shoulders for support as the woman's tongue continued to work sensually against hers. As Xena slowly pulled away, Gabrielle stared up excitedly at the lustful expression on her lover's face. She sucked in a slow deep breath as Xena removed her fingers. She then smiled as Xena raised the slick fingers up near her mouth.
Xena arched a brow as she looked questioningly at Gabrielle. She smiled as the woman nodded eagerly. She lowered her fingers slowly to Gabrielle's lips. As the bard leaned forward, she pulled them away, letting out a low chuckle.
Gabrielle's eyes narrowed as Xena slowly lowered the fingers once again. She leaned forward hesitantly and let out a soft growl as Xena pulled her hand away teasingly. Instead of grabbing the woman's hand as Xena clearly expected, she lowered her hands to her side and rested her head back against the wall as she looked up at Xena patiently.
Grinning slightly, Xena brought her fingers forward slowly. "Go ahead," she whispered. She felt a tingle as Gabrielle leaned forward and very delicately passed her tongue over the tips of her fingers.
Keeping her eyes locked with Xena's, she traced her tongue over the bottom of the woman's fingers. She slowly closed her mouth around the ends, sucking on them lightly. Her eyes narrowed as she watched Xena lick her lips slightly. She pulled back from Xena's fingers and then leaned forward, closer to the woman's face. She gently touched her lips against those of her lover, only the hint of contact.
Xena lowered her hands to Gabrielle's waist as the younger woman gently kissed her way over her cheek. As the woman reached her ear, nibbling on it lightly, she felt a shiver run through her legs. She closed her eyes and moaned again as Gabrielle's tongue teased her playfully. She inhaled the scent of the bard's hair as it brushed against her face. "Gabrielle, I love you," she whispered.
"Show me," Gabrielle whispered back.
Xena pulled back at the bard's soft plea. She looked down and watched as Gabrielle hooked her thumbs inside of her skirt and began sliding it over her hips, letting it fall to the floor.
Gabrielle looked back up to Xena and softly spoke one word, "Please."
Xena felt her heart melt as she looked into the beautiful eyes of the woman she loved. Gently placing a hand under Gabrielle's chin, she lowered her mouth and kissed the woman tenderly. She then lowered herself further and kissed her way to Gabrielle's chest. Xena gently cupped a breast in each hand as she lightly traced her tongue over one hardening nipple and then the other. Xena knelt down before Gabrielle and slid her hands up the bard's legs to her waist where she looped her fingers inside Gabrielle's underwear. Slowly pulling the dark green material down, she felt her pulse quicken as the younger woman's triangle of fine blonde hairs came into view.
Gabrielle stepped out of her underwear, placing a hand on Xena's shoulder to steady herself. Now nude except for her boots, she spread her legs and leaned back against the wall as Xena lightly kissed her stomach. She sucked in a quick breath as she felt Xena's fingers run through the hairs over her vulva. She looked down and bit her lips as Xena kissed her way downward.
Xena closed her eyes as she ran her nose through the soft hairs between Gabrielle's legs. She sniffed the now familiar, heady scent of her lover's arousal. She looked up at Gabrielle, letting out a low chuckle as she noticed the bard was staring down at her. She placed her mouth against the thin folds of Gabrielle's labia. She traced her tongue over the slick surface, savoring the salty-sweet taste as she watched Gabrielle close her eyes and lay her head back against the wall. She used her thumbs to gently spread the bard's labia apart, smiling as Gabrielle let out a cross between a moan and a giggle. She slid her tongue inside of the woman, pushing it between the moist pink flesh.
Gabrielle clenched her teeth as she felt the not unwelcome intrusion of Xena's tongue inside of her. She brought her hands to her breasts, squeezing them firmly. As her breathing became heavier due to Xena's expert attentions, she wet her fingertips with her own tongue, lowering them back to her chest where she lightly pinched her now erect nipples. She arched her back forward suddenly as she felt Xena brush a finger over her clitoris.
For several long minutes, Xena continued to work her tongue inside of her lover as she used her fingertips to lightly stroke the small bud of Gabrielle's clitoris. She lowered her free hand down near her mouth and pushed a finger into Gabrielle. As she began pumping the finger back and forth, she raised her mouth to the younger woman's most sensitive feature. She closed her lips around the clitoris, sucking on it and lapping at it with her tongue simultaneously. She inserted a second finger along with the first and narrowed her eyes as she glanced up at the look of ecstasy on Gabrielle's face.
"By the Gods, Xena," Gabrielle panted as she lowered her hands to the back of the woman's head. She moaned loudly as she felt Xena slowly slide a third finger inside of her. Her bottom lip trembling, Gabrielle lightly thrust her hips into Xena's face. The warrior's skillful lovemaking was rapidly pushing her towards a release. She groaned as Xena's fingers pulled out of her completely, only to be replaced once again by her nimble tongue. "Oh, Xena," she exclaimed softly in between quick breaths.
Xena let out a low chuckle as she heard Gabrielle's tell-tale whimpers which marked the bard's impending climax. As she pinched Gabrielle's clitoris lightly, she heard the whimpers turn to sobs and felt the younger woman's grip on the back of her head tighten and her body stiffen. Xena watched and felt Gabrielle's legs start to weaken. She helped gently slide the woman down to the floor.
As Gabrielle sat with her back against the wall, she leaned her head on Xena's shoulder, sighing as the woman lovingly placed an arm around her. After she'd allowed her breathing to slow somewhat, she reached over and held Xena's hand, squeezing it firmly. "I love you."
Xena looked down at her and smiled warmly. "Show me," she whispered.
Gabrielle returned the smile as she raised a hand to the side of Xena's face and leaned in for a tender kiss, sighing again as she tasted herself on the lips of her lover.
Continued - Part 2
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