Disclaimers: Gabrielle, Xena, etc. are all properties of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this short story. The characters are just being temporarily borrowed. :) All other characters, the story idea and the story itself is the sole property of the authors. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notice.
NOTE: All works remain the copyright of the original authors. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
This story was "inspired" by an article by Joanna Sandsmark in the Whoosh
website in October 1998. Joanna had written a guide for new time fanfic authors, that gave
multiple choice story ideas to cover every possible Xena cliche that has ever been written
With the help of a friend in America we developed this "classic" story and hope you enjoy reading it.
Any questions, comments or constructive criticism can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
YOUR BODY OR MINE?
By Mark Allen and D. M. Robertson
Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes and watched the early morning sunlight dance around
the broken walls of the old building they had used as shelter from a terrible storm of the
Last night now felt like a bad dream, an endless walk through pouring rain and lightening, until she and Xena had stumbled into this building, to escape the worst of the storms fury.
She was certainly glad to be warm and dry now, but she was still tired, and rolled over away from what remained of the campfire. It was her hope to get a few more minutes sleep, before Xena woke her up to start another day.
Sometimes she wondered just what it would be like, to have the luxury of waking up in the same comfortable bed day after day. Then she reminded herself, she had had that comfort in Potidea and it grew old. To go back would mean she would have to give up all the excitement of her adventures with Xena.
This mental tug of war waged on, until her thoughts were disturbed by the feeling of cold metal digging into her side. That was odd. Xena always slept closer to the fire, and her sword was always kept by her right side, ready for action.
Turning her head and opening one eye a sliver, she found she couldn't see Xena at all. Then she turned her head to the right and looked straight into her own face. She sat bolt upright in her blanket and cried out: "Sweet mother of Zeus!"
She was looking down at her body, dark hair falling into her eyes. On her body were Xena's leathers and they fitted perfectly! Her mind was racing with questions. "What am I doing in Xena's clothes? Wh...what's going on here?"
She called out.... "Xena?... Xena wake up!.. Xena, something's happened to us!" Even her voice was different!!
"What Gabrielle?" replied a sleepy Xena. "What is it?"
"Open... your... eyes.... Xena." was all Gabrielle could say.
Xena opened her eyes and starred sleepily for a moment at her companion, then her eyes focused. "What in Tartarus!!" In one swift motion she was on her feet and looking down at herself. Her eyes opened wide as she saw the smaller body of Gabrielle's! Her stomach rippling as the muscles drew tense as she looked back up at...at herself!
Gabrielle got to her feet as well. The disbelief as evident on her face as it was on Xena's. Gabrielle had to look down for the first time at Xena to see her. "So this is what it's like...being this tall", she said.
"Yeah yeah", Xena came back irritably, "the last time I was this short was when I was 10."
"Sorry." said Gabrielle, "This is just sooo... interesting. After you get over the shock that is. I mean you've experienced swapping bodies with Callisto, but this...this is new for me."
"Well don't get too comfortable...I want my body back. We've gotta find out what's going on here."
"Hey...did you know you feel this stiff when you get up?"
"Yeah well, I've been in more battles than you. That amount of wear and tear starts to build up after a while."
"This feels weird. The longer I'm in here Xena, the more I can feel every little creak and twinge. How on earth can you stand feeling like this?"
"Well you get used to it after a while. There's not much I can do about them, so I just focus my annoyance into my fighting."
"Fighting...that's right!" cried out Gabrielle, "Xena, what are we going to do if we have to fight somebody? I would be easy pickings for anyone with skill."
"We'll just have to work that out when it happens, Gabrielle. Right now lets try to find out how this happened." During the course of this conversation Xena had been walking around the room taking a better look at the walls that had provided the shelter for them. Maybe they should have paid a little more attention to where they were setting up camp last night, but any port in a storm.
"Gabrielle come over here and take a look at these walls. What do you make of those markings?"
Gabrielle pieced together what she could understand from what was left of the pictures and faded words written on the walls. "Xena...have you ever heard of the 'Temple of Peace'?"
"Can't say I have," she responded slightly distracted. She was trying to swing her sword around in a few fighting moves, in an effort to adapt to the smaller body she found herself now in. The normally fluent movements now seemed clumsy and forced.
"From the little that I can read, this building was used to settle disputes between warring enemies, warlords, neighbours.... even husbands and wives! They would bring the two parties together and then make them live as their opposite, until they agreed to stop fighting and make peace with each other. I wonder why we've never heard about this place? Imagine how much nicer the world would be if everyone could get along with each other?"
"Yeah. Uh huh. Sounds like a great idea there Gabrielle," She replied slightly distracted as she continued her swordplay.
"How does this revelation explain what happened to us?" Patience was never Xena's strong suit and the novelty of being Gabrielle's body was beginning to wear thin.
"Well take a look around Xena, this place is a ruin, but notice how clean this room is?. There must be someone keeping this place tidy. Perhaps an old priest. Someone who couldn't let this place be forgotten."
"Well if you're right, all we have to do is find this person and get him to tell us how to reverse this spell... before it's too late."
"Um Xena?....what do you mean too late?"
"I mean... before you get killed by someone and leave me stuck in this body for the rest of my life."
"Oh. That's a comforting thought."
"Sorry, just being realistic." replied Xena as her stomach rumbled. "We can find out where this priest might be after we have breakfast though. Right now I could eat a horse."
"I'd better warn Argo." Gabrielle chuckled.
After a quick meal and a clean up of the campsite, Xena got Argo and they headed out.
They didn't have to go far when they found an overgrown path leading away from the rear of
"This has got to lead somewhere Gabrielle." said Xena "I know the road we were on and there is nothing until Poligiros, let's go."
Trying to make the best of the situation Gabrielle gave her best smile and said to Xena, "Ya know Xena, walking is a whole lot faster at this height. Do I get to ride Argo as well?" she teased.
"For the sake of keeping up appearances... yes." Xena replied.
"Why are you walking so slow Xena?" asked Gabrielle playfully.
The banter between them was beginning to sound like two children trying to get the other riled first.
"Because these legs of yours are too short Gabrielle." Xena purred, the look on her face telling Gabrielle that she was pushing it.
Gabrielle couldn't resist continuing the tease. "Do you want to arm wrestle?" she asked, flexing her arm, and surprising herself at just how hard the tensed muscles felt.
"Something tells me that you might just beat me," Xena smiled, amused by the thought, "but just having strength is no help if you don't have the skill to use it Gabrielle." Big sister had returned.
"Point taken Xena. Still, this feels so empowering... to be so strong and tall, and everything."
"Well just wait till it gets cold tonight Gabrielle. If you think those creaks and twinges your feeling now are annoying, wait until the cold evening air causes the aches and pains start up."
Xena was beginning to enjoy the feelings her new compact body gave her. This feeling of
youth was intoxicating. She was looking down and admiring her new form when her musings
were interrupted by a loud cry of pain. She looked up to see a tree branch swinging in the
air and Gabrielle rubbing her head.
"You might have to learn to duck Gabrielle. You are taller now you know."
"Thanks. Xena, I've just learned that lesson." Was the snide return. "By the way, how's the weather for you down there?" Gabrielle smiled wickedly.
"Watch it Gabrielle. Just watch it." Xena warned. "I might be smaller, but I could still beat you in a fight."
"Yeah" said Gabrielle, "I'd like to see that," and gave Xena a playful push. To her surprise, she knocked Xena head over heels.
"Oh!" Gabrielle put her hand to her mouth at the site of Xena on the ground. "I'm sorry Xena!" Gabrielle laughingly apologised. "I don't know my own strength. I'm still getting used to this height and power thing you know."
"Don't try it again. I might get even," Xena took Gabrielle's offered hand and was pulled up, brushing herself off and giving Gabrielle a look that could have frozen hot lava. Even in a different face, her eyes could still be a forceful weapon
They turned their attention to following the overgrown path through the forest. After a while Gabrielle could smell the smoke from a nearby building.
"Look! Xena." said Gabrielle".. there's a small hut just a little further down the path. Maybe that's where the temple caretaker lives?" Her blue eyes sparkled at the thought that their current ordeal might soon be over.
"Could be. Lets see if he's in. Shall we?"
Reaching the door of an old hut, Gabrielle knocked and waited. An old man opened the
door and greeted them.
"Hello." Gabrielle smiled. "My friend and I were wondering...if..."
"You know anything about the Temple of Peace?" Xena jumped in and finished for her, aware that Gabrielle might start rambling if she let her.
Gabrielle shot Xena a raised eyebrow. They hadn't even introduced themselves was the thought she was conveying. Xena in turn just shifted her weight from foot to foot, trying to release the nervous tension building inside her.
"Let me guess..." the old man slowly drawled out testing Xena's patience even further, "you drank some of the water in the fountain at the Temple of Peace.....and now you want your old bodies back."
"Well yes," stammered Gabrielle, "how did you know we were going to ask that?"
"Come on in!" the old man offered and shuffled a few steps back.
"Um. No! Thanks." came Xena's quick reply. Everything about this old man's slowness was becoming more than she could bare.
"You see, we really need to find out what can be done about....as you say....getting our old bodies back." Gabrielle smiled sweetly back at both Xena and the old man.
"I was the head of that Temple." the old man continued in his slow way. It seemed to Xena as if he was enjoying this slow torture he was meting out. "That was", and a look of sadness crossed his face "..until Ares decided that he didn't want peace to spread any further. Now.. all it gets used for, .... is kids having fun."
The old man shook his head. "All the locals around here know how to swap their bodies back, but there is always some strangers that get caught out."
"Well what's the answer?" Xena looked directly at the old man, her green eyes drilling into him.
The old man wasn't flinching. He gotten the idea that these two were in a little bit of a hurry all right right, but he so rarely got visitors and he was going to have some fun with them.
"All you have to do is follow the path you were on east for a while, when you see the tree blasted by a thunderbolt, take the turn to the right, it leads to some hot springs. You'll notice how worn the path is, you can't miss it, bathing there will break this spell."
"Thank you for your help." said Gabrielle, "We won't trouble you again." She turned to see Xena already walking back along the path, "Hey Xena wait for me, you do need my body to swap back into you know".
The old man watched the two women briskly walking away, a smile crossing his face before he closed the door, "That small one really has no patience at all" he thought
"Well the cure seems easy enough." said Gabrielle, easily matching Xena's
"Yeah sure it does. I'll be happy when I'm back in my own body. And..the..sooner.. the better." Xena's temper was improving.
"And look, we got to find out where some hot springs are too. I know I could do with a bath."
"I'd enjoy that...too." Xena turned to give Gabrielle a knowing smile.
A short while later Xena and Gabrielle were walking along the path, keeping silent, lost in their own thoughts, when they heard cries of distress coming from far in the distance. Gabrielle immediately jumped onto Argo's back and yelled at Xena, "I'm going to see what's happening. I'll be back shortly".
"But Gabrielle!" Xena managed to yell out as she watched Gabrielle and Argo disappear into the distance, "Be careful...that's still my body you're in, remember?"
Gabrielle urged Argo into a gallop and soon they were out of sight.
"Oh great, this day just gets better and better." Xena thought as she tried running after Gabrielle and Argo. "How can I be expected to run fast when I'm this short?"
Ahead, Gabrielle could see several tall figures hitting some poor person cowering on
the ground. Riding straight for the action she told herself: "Looks like it's time to
test out this new body."
"Yiyiyiyiyiyi" she cried out, trying her best to sound like Xena, before bringing Argo to a sudden halt in front of the small group, who turned to face this new traveler. She dismounted slowly, not daring to do anything fancy, for fear of showing off her lack of co-ordination in her new frame.
"Four against one, not very fair odds", she said softly, " Now, one against four", and she smiled coldly, " that sounds better".
"Get her!!" cried out their leader.
Gabrielle began to draw Xena's sword from the scabbard on her back, then paused and thought to herself, "Nyah, that would make this finish way too quick. Lets have some fun." She replaced the sword and stooped to pick up a walking stick dropped by the traveler.
It was all over in a minute or two, Xena's body was just so much stronger than hers. Her reflexes were just so much sharper. She seemed to have all the time in the world to prepare for their next attack, and be ready to repel it.
"Leave now." She yelled menacingly at the departing gang members, "Or I'll do more than give you some nasty bruises."
After watching the raiders run into the distance, Gabrielle turned to check out the figure now slowly rising from the ground. As she helped the body up she instantly recognised the anxious looking face.
"Salmoneus." Gabrielle smiled as she said his name, "What are you doing here?"
"Oh Xena thank you. Thank you." Salmoneus began to babble on before Gabrielle cut him off with a wave of her hand.
"Sorry Salmoneus. I'm not Xena. It's me, Gabrielle."
He gave her a closer look. "Yeah?", he said slowly. "Well then I'm Hercules."
"No really, it's me, Gabrielle.!! It's a long... well actually it's a short story really. But lets just keep it simple for now. I'm in Xena's body... and she's in mine".
"O..kay." Was his semi accepting response.
"Are you all right for the moment? I have to go back to find Xena. I left her behind me. I'll just go back to get her, she might appreciate a ride on Argo , it will be faster than her running on my short legs" she smiled to him.
"Sure. Sure. I'll be all right now. I think." Salmoneus said, turning his attention to the remains of his goods now spread all over the ground. "Oh great! This was supposed to be a collection of the new seasons clothing for the ladies of the court of King Napier of Willora. Those thieves have taken all the best dresses." He whined.
"Well I think you should be thankful you are still alive." Gabrielle replied, "Xena and I will be back shortly."
A long time had passed before Salmoneus saw Argo returning with Xena's familiar body
riding back towards him.
"Has Xena come past here yet?" Gabrielle asked
"No. I've been here all alone, just me and this stubborn mule. Why what's the problem?"
Gabrielle dismounted, worry showing on her face, "I can't find Xena anywhere. I don't know how I could have missed her I'm really getting concerned. I wonder what could have happened to her?"
He looked her in the eyes, and caught her arm to steady her down. "Don't worry Gabrielle. Xena is a wily old warrior. Just because she is in your body won't stop her from putting up a good fight."
"I know, I know." she said, "Xena's out there... somewhere. I just don't want to be in this body anymore. This isn't fun. I don't want to live the rest of my life fighting off every bigshot that wants the credit of killing Xena."
"You might have a point there Gabrielle." Salmoneus replied, mischief unmistakable in his eyes. "That outfit of Xena's makes you a target, that's true. Luckily for you though, I still have some clothes in your size. If no-one knows you're Xena, you can blend in with the rest of population!"
"That's a great idea! I don't think it's a good idea to draw too much attention to myself at the moment."
Salmoneus began taking out dresses from the saddlebags of his mule. "Lets see now...no, no, oh that would never go with your eyes, no, no, aha!! Why yes, this will look good on you Xena." He blushed at his mistake. "Sorry Gabrielle."
"Thanks for the complement. I'm sure" came her reply. "I'll just stand behind Argo and put this on, keep watch in case Xena comes along."
Salmoneus began talking louder to Gabrielle, while keeping his head turned away, trying to be the perfect gentleman. "You know I've always wondered why Xena never tried wearing something different? All that leather must be so hot in summer?".
As Gabrielle removed Xena's leathers and began putting on the outfit he had given her, she started to reply to his question. "I can tell you it's feels rather comfortable actually.." That finished, she began walking back towards him.
Salmoneus hadn't finished his reverie though.... "Another thing I've wondered Gabrielle, why doesn't Xena show off her stomach like you do?"
She tapped him on his shoulder and he started a little at the unexpected touch.
"Do you promise not to tell Xena what I'm about to show you?" queried Gabrielle.
"I promise to walk to Hades door myself if I tell anyone." He held his hand up in a display of his earnestness.
Gabrielle lifted the shirt she was wearing exposing Xena's stomach to the harsh sunlight. Unlike the tanned skin on her arms, legs, and shoulders, on this part of her body, the skin was a pale white. The only colouring was the bright pink of a long jagged scar that rose from low on her left hip, to just under her ribs.
Gabrielle looked into Salmoneus's eyes, "Not a word of this to anyone. OK? It looks nasty doesn't it?". As she dropped her shirt. "The first time I bathed with Xena, I.. I stared at it too. When she saw me, I tried to look away, but I couldn't. There was such a sad look on her face, I never dared to ask her how it happened. Just forget that you ever saw it OK?"
"Works for me." stammered Salmoneus, speechless for once.
"We'll retrace our steps. She can't be too far away."
As they approached the Temple of Peace, Gabrielle could see one of Salmoneus's
attackers stagger out of the ruins and walk towards them.
"Gabrielle!" the figure cried out.
"Wait here." Gabrielle told Salmoneus, "This might be a trap."
Gabrielle drew Xena's sword out and pointed it at the approaching figure. "Where is my friend Gabrielle you low life?" She didn't want to use Xena's sword, but if she had too, she was prepared to use it if this person didn't help her.
The robber stopped and look at her, "Its me Gabrielle....Xena."
"Yeah sure, and I'm Aphrodite." she replied.
"Well you sure don't smell like her." the thief replied. "I was running hard to catch up with you, and met those bandits running away from me, er you. I didn't have time to hide, though it did take all of them to subdue me" she said with a note of pride in her voice. "They brought me here so they could swap bodies and make a getaway with your body!"
"You mean they have my body now?" It was incredulous to Gabrielle, "I can't believe this day is really happening."
"Well at least the body you're in is the right sex. After they swapped bodies on me I thought I had a chance of defeating them," she paused for a second, "but they managed to overpower me".
"They overpowered you? How?" Gabrielle was surprised that Xena could be beaten in a much bigger body.
"Just as I was getting the upperhand, the person in your body kneed me in the groin. I had no idea just how much that hurts!"
Gabrielle turned her head to stop Xena from seeing the smile on her face. "I know Xena..." Salmoneus winced, "just hearing you saying that makes my eyes water."
"Well this is a pretty kettle of fish. You're stuck in the body of a man. My body is heaven knows where and I don't want to even think of what is being done to it. So now what do we do?"
"I think it's time we paid that old priest another visit. There must be something that he's not telling us about this whole thing."
"Anything has to be better than this."
"Why aren't you wearing my armour?" Xena asked.
"That was an idea of Salmoneus" said Gabrielle," I mentioned that I didn't want to be you any more, and this seemed to be the best way to avoid any undue attention".
"That's a great idea Salmoneus" said Xena, "thanks for looking out for Gabrielle while I was otherwise engaged"
"My pleasure Xena, I think I owe you my life more than a dozen times, its the least I could do for you and Gabrielle".
"Thankyou Salmoneus" she said with a smile on her face.
By mid day they were back at the old priests house and Gabrielle knocked on the door
"I'm coming, I'm coming!!" the old man shouted to them. "Imagine two visitors in the same week. Amazing!" he said to himself on his way to the door. "Oh its only you again. Who are your friends?"
Xena walked forward, "I was in my friend's body when I was overpowered, dragged back to the temple and had my body swapped with one of the members of a gang of highway thugs. He was the one they attacked before they started on me".
The priests face froze at hearing this. "I'm very sorry to hear this," he replied. "You and your friends have become involved in a nightmare that I am responsible for".
This shock announcement silenced his audience, and so he continued. "My name is Firanco, I was the High Priest of the Temple of Peace. When Ares destroyed my lovely temple, one of our brightest young priests in training, Kione, decided to go into business for himself".
For a few seconds he stopped speaking, lost in thought., but began speaking again when he heard Xena clearing her throat.
"He recruited some of the more dishonest members of the Temple guard, and they began their campaign of terror, and soon the reputation of my Temple was destroyed. Luckily for all of you, I was the head of that Temple long before those ruffians were a spring in their fathers step."
"Kione thinks he knows everything because he stole our holy books before he left. What he doesn't know it that I wrote most of them myself, and there are a few things I didn't write down, just for this reason. The longest Kione can stay out of his own body is from one new moon to the next. After that the spirit becomes loose from the body, and he and his current body dies.
"What!!" cried out Gabrielle," you mean I might not have a body to go back into if we don't find them before the next new moon, which is .... what....3 days time".
"Don't worry, I do have a few ideas and potions up my sleeve, but it might help to seek assistance from the nearby village. We have to find where his original body is and catch him when he tries to return to normal, how hard could that be?" he smiled.
"Please let me invite you inside my humble home, and share my lunch, it seems the least I can do for the inconvenience that I'm to blame for" he said.
It was Salmoneus that answered for both Gabrielle and Xena by entering the priests hut and engaging him in conversation. With a sigh Xena motioned to Gabrielle to enter while she tethered Argo to a nearby tree.
Gabrielle followed after Salmoneus, and sat down at the table at the middle of the room. Her eyes flicked around the walls, noticing the ornate ceremonial decorations that were hung there, more to keep put the winter cold than anything else.
"It must have been a rude shock to Firanco", Gabrielle thought to herself, " to have lost an easy life as a head priest and be reduced to this, just on a whim from Ares"
She looked down and noticed the plates on the table were rather ornate for normal use. She was absorbed by the intricate patterns on the highly polished plates, designs that were being slowly erased by wear and tear their makers would have never even imagined.
"These were originally from the Temple" she thought. "It seems strange seeing them here, to be eating off plates that were originally sacred objects".
She suddenly froze as her eyes looked past the fading patterns, and focused upon her reflection. There was Xena's face looking back at her, those blue eyes that she had tried many times to avoid, staring blankly back at her.
When Xena entered shortly after, Salmoneus was still talking. Thanking herself for small mercies, Xena sat down across the small table in the middle of Farinco's hut, and smiled at Gabrielle. She noticed that Gabrielle's attention was focused upon a dinner plate, her eyes not moving.
"Can't you think of anything but your, sorry my stomach"? she joked, the smile on her lips dying at Gabrielle looked back at Xena, her face completely blank.
"Xena how are we going to fix this", she said quietly.
Xena reached across the table and took hold of Gabrielle's hands, clutching them firmly. "Trust me Gabrielle, we will work this out, I need you to stay with me, do you think you can do it?".
"I trust you Xena", said Gabrielle.
"Good" she replied. "Now first things first, lets have something to eat, and then find out some more about Kione. It's a good thing that Farinco seems eager to talk, the more we know about Kione, the better chance we have to find a weakness".
"Okay Xena, we have 3 days to fix this, we have faced worse dangers".
"That's the spirit" Xena smiled. Her heart was cheered at the smile on Gabrielle's face, "lets see if Farinco is a good a cook as he was a priest".
After the meal was eaten, Xena could wait no further. "Tell me more about Kione,
how long has he been stealing other peoples bodies?"
Farinco replied " Nearly 4 summers ago now".
"And no-one's tried to stop him, in all that time?".
"Well the reason that no-one was able to catch him, is that he kept changing his appearance all the time. That was until recently, when the local village guards got lucky when they raided his camp and caught him a week ago".
"But wait a minute", said Gabrielle, "If he's in jail, then how do you explain what happened to Xena here?".
"Simple, whoever they caught, it's not Kione. It's only his body. He must still be out there somewhere, trying to swap with someone else, so he can attempt to enter the village and reunite himself with his body".
"But he already had a body", said Gabrielle, "why would he need to steal mine?".
"Simple, Your friend here matches the description of a villager who has been missing for a week at least. When he was attacked his horse bolted away, and was found by the village guard. As a disguise, the body he had stolen was useless. He needed someone who the villagers wouldn't know, that's most likely why they attacked you".
"Unluckily for you my friend", Farinco turned to Salmoneus, "You were to be his latest victim. Your occupation as a traveling salesman would have been the perfect disguise, but when he couldn't take it, he took your partner over there instead".
"What an honor" said Xena dryly. "We know then that Kione needs to get his body back, lets get to that village and be ready to catch him in the act".
"Sounds good to me Xena", said Salmoneus, "I'm prepared to cut my losses and sell all my merchandise and high tail it out of here".
"Well if we want to get there by sundown, we will have to get a move on, lets get going everyone !!".
It was late afternoon when the strange group arrived at the village, Xena and Gabrielle walking alongside Salmoneus, with the old priest riding on the mule.
"What's going on here?" Gabrielle asked of Salmoneus.
"It looks like a party."
Even in a strange body, Xena's warrior instinct took over, she turned away from the scenes of gaiety and began organising her "troops".
"Salmoneus you stay here with Farinco, Gabrielle and I will look around and find out what this is all about.
"Ok." He nodded and helped the old priest off the mule.
As Xena and Gabrielle made their way through the dancing people, one of the villagers began staring at Xena as she walked past. "Draconius is back"! he shouted, with a smile on his face. Suddenly every person within earshot turned to stare at Xena.
"Wow this disguise is really working", said Gabrielle quietly to Xena, "no-ones looking at me at all!".
As they walked across the town square more and more people turned to look at the newcomers, some even grabbing Xena to welcome her back.
Out of the crowd came a woman, walking slowly at first. When she saw Xena, she broke into a sprint, and was upon her in a matter of moments.
"Oh Draconius my love, you're back, Oh, please never leave me again, these past three months have been absolute torture without you".
Salmoneus had been tempted by the party atmosphere and had left the priest and gone wondering through the happy crowd as well. He found a bemused Gabrielle looking on in amazement as "Xena" was being kissed passionately by one of the village women. He looked at Gabrielle, and together they tried hard to stifle a smile. Xena turned to catch their faces for a second, she seemed stunned more than anything.
"Lady! Stop that! I'm not who you think I am. Stop it!", she yelled.
"Oh Draconius I've missed you so much. You've been gone so long, my darling Draconius." She sighed. "Come let's go home. I'm sooo happy to see you."
"Lady, please. Stop this. I'm NOT Draconius. I just look like him." Xena looked around to see if she could find any help.
Gabrielle having found her wits returning tried to wedge herself between Xena and the woman. "Time to end this " Gabrielle thought. "I'm afraid you're wrong madam", she said, " that might be the body of your husband, but it's not his spirit." she said.
"Look, honey, I should know my own husband when I see him!" The woman was indignant that this hussy should be trying to separate her from her man.
"But ma'am. This really isn't your husband!"
"It's not? It sure looks like him!"
"Lady, this is only his body." Xena managed to get a word in edgewise.
At this the woman stared at her as if she had two heads. During the commotion a village elder had come over to see what happening.
"Ladies, gentleman, what is going on here?"
Gabrielle turned to the speaker, "My friend was attacked by the gang lead by Kione" she said.
Xena had finally disentangled herself from the clutches of the woman and had take a few steps closer to Gabrielle. "I'm afraid it's true, see we have brought the high priest from the Peace Temple to help us."
As soon as the crown heard this, all conversation stopped. They turned to stare at the old man standing next to Salmoneus's mule.
"I thought we told you never to enter this village again Farinco." the elder said in a raised voice, " Look at what that rogue priest of yours has brought to this village, 4 years of despair, of not being safe to walk the roads. Stealing goods is bad enough, but taking a persons identity is even worse".
The priest stared hard at his accuser. "Mathius, this village grew fat on the fame of my Temple, now you are suffering like the rest of us. These travelers are here to fix this problem once and for all, now be quiet and let this woman talk".
"Woman ? You old fool, that's not a woman that's Draconius".
"I beg to differ", Xena said, " I was forced into the Temple and had my body stolen. I need your help to get my body back and make things safe for travelers on the open road"
"You mean your not Draconius?" came the reply from Mathius.
"No just his body"
"Then who have we got locked up in the stockade"?
A short time later, Mathius, Xena, Gabrielle, and Farinco were looking into a cell of
the stockade at the prisoner, bound hand and foot, with a gag over his mouth.
"So you're telling me that this person is not Kione, but Draconius", Mathius said
"Well didn't he say so himself?" ,Gabrielle asked.
"Well he tried to tell us, but we just thought it was a trick, those Peace Temple priests could read minds you know"
"What?", queried Xena.
"Did I forget to mention that?, I'm sorry", said Farinco, "before we would swap peoples bodies, we would read their thoughts, to ensure that there were would be no problems that might make life difficult for the new bodies occupant. Nothing worse than having you own body killed because of a jealous husband trying to get his revenge", his voice trailed off, as if suddenly remembering a painful memory.
"Well Farinco", Xena asked," can we reunite Draconius and his body"?
"Yes, immediately in fact". Having said that he drew a small gourd of water and splashed Xena and the prisoner while chanting in some obscure tongue.
Both Xena and Draconius's body seemed to glow brightly for a few heartbeats and then he spoke, "Finally, someone believed who I really was!!. Why didn't you listen to me?, my wife must be worried sick!!".
"She is Draconius", Gabrielle said, "Go home and tell her yourself, she might need some reassuring that it is really you though, she has already had one false alarm". She looked down into the face of the prisoner who was staring up at her, her eyes imploring her to remove her binds and gag.
"Could we get my friend unbound?" Gabrielle asked.
"Certainly", said Mathius.
A short while later, Xena was out of the cell, rubbing her wrists.
"Farinco", Xena said while glaring at him, "If you could change our bodies back as quickly as that, then why in Tartarus didn't you swap the two of us when we first met you?".
"What? and have every Tobius, Damiuni and Haralta beating a path to my door demanding I swap them back!!. Anyway, without the right incantations, the effect only lasts a few hours. That's why I direct everyone to the hot springs, by the time it takes to walk there, the spell is nearly over".
Xena turned away and punched a wall in anger.
Gabrielle looked at Farinco, almost as angry as Xena. "You mean just to save yourself some inconvenience, my body is out there somewhere, and I have less that 3 days to find it".
"Well it could be worse Gabrielle,' said Xena, "wanna be inside the body of a fat man who hasn't had a bath in a week at least?. ?".
"No I guess not, but it will make life easier if we can swap bodies, at least one of us will be back to normal", Gabrielle replied, "Can you swap Xena and I over?". she asked Farinco.
"Sure, I thought you would never ask", he said and repeated the incantations while splashing Xena and Gabrielle with his water.
"Ah that's better", a relieved Xena said, "it might have a few aches and pains, but at least its home".
"Well at least things are better for you, look at how fat this body is," Gabrielle moaned, " and the smell, I have to get this body cleaned if I'm going to be in here for a while".
"I would agree with that", said Xena turning up her nose, as Salmoneus walked into the stockade, puzzled at what he had just seen.
"That guy who just ran out of here, that wasn't Xena, was it?".
"No" Xena said, "Farinco reunited his body and spirit, so he has gone home to his wife"
"And so who are you?".
Xena smiled, "I'm Xena".
"Well it's good to see you back to normal".
"So where's Gabrielle?".
"Here" said Gabrielle, raising her hand.
Salmoneus tried to suppress a smirk "Well you're badly in need of a wash, "he said, " and it wouldn't hurt to loose some of that belly", and reached forward to give Gabrielle's new body a playful poke in the ribs.
"OK Salmoneus", said a weary Xena, "did you find out what every one here was celebrating for?".
"Oh yeah, it seems that tomorrow some guy called Kione is being given a fair trial and then to be executed at the next village east of here, at a place called Vaalia".
"Executed!", cried out Gabrielle," no way".
"Hang on Gabrielle, we might be able to use this to our advantage. Farinco, does Kione know of your little trick with your water bottle?".
"No, no, I never wrote this technique in our books, I didn't want this to be widely known".
"So we can expect Kione's gang to attempt to capture his body, and then take it to the temple to swap it back."
"So what we have to do Mathius, is to let Kione's gang succeed, and catch him out at the temple".
"Seems simple enough, but how will you make it look authentic."
"Let me think, Salmoneus have you still got those clothes to sell?"
"No Xena, seeing as I lost all the best dresses, I decided to offload all I had left. I didn't know that I would get so much for my clothes, they didn't mind a few tears here and there, I should have raised my prices!!".
"OK then", Xena paused, deep in thought, "What I want you to do tonight is to splash a lot of that money around in the tavern, I want everyone here to know that you have a lot of dinars on you.
"Tomorrow I want you to travel slightly behind the guards, I want you to look like an easy target for Kione's gang. Mathius, if Kione's men take the bait, I want your men to go to Salmoneus's rescue and leave Kione lightly guarded. Make sure your men give a realistic fight, and then let them take Kione's body to the temple."
"OK I'll get that arranged Xena, what do you intend doing now?" asked Mathius.
"Well I think Gabrielle here, as the "condemned man", should be granted a last meal, and a bath".
"A trifle unusual, but if we have to travel half a day to Vaalia, I'm sure that everyone will appreciate a sweeter smelling prisoner".
"Thanks very much " Gabrielle said with a sarcastic smile.
"Right does everyone know what you are doing tomorrow?", said Xena
"Well what about me ?" Farinco asked.
"You my friend are going to enjoy the hospitality of Salmoneus here, and in the morning Malthius will have you taken back to the temple, OK Mathius?".
"It will be arranged, what do you intend to do?".
"Me I'm going to have a bath as well, though it might an idea to let Gabrielle into the water first"
"Very funny", Gabrielle said "still a good meal wouldn't go astray".
"See I knew I could cheer you up".
"Well what are we waiting for, lets get out of here and leave Gabrielle to her bath", said Mathius.
"Ok Xena" said Salmoneus, "I'll check up with you tomorrow for any last minute changes, I'm off to the tavern for a good meal, see you all tomorrow".
As he turned to leave the stockade, he grabbed Farinco by the arm and started talking business with him, "Tell me more about these hot springs, have you ever thought of promoting them?, I could get my cousin Spa to manage them for you".
Gabrielle gave a weary smile at Xena, "he's always a businessman".
Mathius spoke up, "Don't you think it will raise some questions if the two of you are in a tub together?".
"At the moment Mathius, I'd bathe with Ares himself, see you tomorrow".
As Mathius left the two preparing for a bath, he smiled at the thought, of Gabrielle and Ares bathing together, "Imagine the fight they would have at to see who got first go at the soap".
As Gabrielle eased her unwieldy body into the hot water, she said to Xena, "Well
things have been pretty interesting today haven't they Xena?".
"Yeah, I could do with a lot less action".
"I always wondered what it would be like to be you, and I've had mixed feelings about it"
"Well at first it was fun, being taller, stronger, and just so much more aware of my surroundings".
"So what changed your mind?".
"Well I might have looked like you, but it was still me inside, I should have realised that it's what is inside is what counts".
Xena smiled at her companion," well at least you've got a chance to see how things are in my shoes".
"Yeah, and we've also got the chance to see how it feels to be a man".
Xena raised her eyebrows, "Now that's something that doesn't happen every day", she smiled.
"I was wondering what it would be like to be stronger and try out a few things, but in this body, the only way I could overpower you would be if I fell on you".
Xena laughed, "Even Callisto couldn't dig her way out from under all this fat in a day".
Gabrielle laughed too, "You'd find a way Xena".
"I'm sure you're still as ticklish as ever".
"Oh no Xena, please no, you win", as she splashed water at her.
"No contest, then , besides, your more of an easy target with all that fat on you".
"Yeah, this guy really let himself go didn't he?".
"It must have been a great life, abduct a person traveling along the open road, take his identity, and then commit crimes as that person. And then when everyone knows who you are, you just swap back, and leave that person to try and explain himself".
"Almost too good, I wonder how he let his real body to get caught?".
"He must have grown over confident, thinking he had everything covered, certainly there's no way he could get too far with that stomach."
"Well Xena, this water is getting cold, you'd better seek lodging at the tavern, if I'm going to play the part of 'the condemned man' ", she paused with a wry smile on her face, " I'll have to spend the night here, and not arouse suspicion".
Xena rose from the tub, "Don't worry Gabrielle, tomorrow night this will all be over, and we can continue our travels".
"It's going to be a great story, if only I could find someone to believe it".
"Well sometimes truth is stranger than fiction".
"Yeah, I can believe that, see you in the morning".
The morning sun was streaming through the bars of the stockade when Xena came in to greet Gabrielle.
"Good Morning sleepy head".
"Uuh... hello Xena".
"Good news, your execution has been postponed"
"Someone decided to block the road to Vaalia, so Farinco has his troops out trying to find you and the rest of Kione's gang, but I'm counting on them to having no luck finding you".
"Well the description I gave them of you, tall with red hair, and a limp should fool them".
"That sounds nothing like me".
"I know Gabrielle. There's something that's been nagging at me since yesterday when Farinco was explaining all this. The only way that Kione's gang could evade capture for so long, was if they had a contact in the village guard".
"So you're counting on Kione walking right into the stockade in person".
"Exactly Gabrielle. Being in my body must have rubbed off on you" she said with a smile.
"You're taking a big risk".
"I know, there's no way that I could find Kione in a day, I need him to come here himself.
"So all we do now is wait?"
"That's the hardest part of all".
Time seemed to drag on. They both watched the shadows move across the walls, their attempts to make small talk becoming harder and harder to do.
Finally the door of the stockade opened and instantly Xena recognised who was entering. She moved back into the shadows to avoid being seen. Kione began searching the cells to find his body.
As he peered into Gabrielle's cell, he paused, and said, "Ah I see I have had a bath, Thankyou. That's the one thing that I miss about my life on the run , its deprives you of the little comforts in life".
Gabrielle rose to confront him from behind the bars, noticing out of the corner of her eye, Xena slowly creeping towards Kione. He noticed Gabrielle's eyes look away from him, and turned around to stare at Xena.
"So you're the warrior woman that stopped my men yesterday, you caused a great deal of damage to them".
Gabrielle smiled inwardly to herself.
"And your the thief that stole my friends body, what makes you think that you are going to get out of here?".
"I think you will find yourself powerless to stop me", he said with a smirk on his face.
Kione's eyes seemed to blaze at her, and Xena suddenly found herself rooted to the spot. She tried moving her arms and could only twitch her fingers.
"Not much of a threat now are you", said Kione. He turned to Gabrielle with an evil smile on his face. "And now for you. If you come quietly my men will take us back to the temple and restore us both".
"That's what you think" cried out Gabrielle. She pushed open the unlocked cell door and rushed at Kione, who wasn't expecting this. Gabrielle fell onto Kione who began trying to push her off.
Gabrielle tried to get to her feet to make her next move, but her larger body slowed her down. While on all fours she looked up at Kione who was staggering to his feet, shaking his head.
"Very resourceful my dear" said Kione, "now it's my turn". He rushed across to Xena and drew the sword from the scabbard on her back and ran towards Gabrielle who had now regained her feet. Against the wall was a broom, and she quickly grabbed it.
The two fighters circled each other, with Xena looking on helplessly. "Don't make me hurt you little girl" sneered Kione".
"I'd like to see you try" replied Gabrielle, who lunged at Kione with the broom, knocking Kione off his feet. Gabrielle's first instinct was to give him the beating that he truly deserved, but she instantly knew that she would only be hurting her own body.
"The only way I can with this fight" she thought" is to be the first one to stop fighting, now how do I do that?".
Kione advanced on Gabrielle, and she was only just able to deflect the blow. Kione had the advantage of her strength, where all she has was her experience of fighting, and her greater body weight. Gabrielle soon had Kione ducking and weaving, and slowly retreating from her.
Gabrielle could see the open cell door behind Kione, and decided to end this fight as quickly as possible. She began a flurry of blows that sent Kione reeling, he fell backwards, straight through the door and into the cell she had spent the night in!!
Silently thanking the gods, Gabrielle rushed forward and shut the door, pulling down the latch to stop Kione from escaping. She peered through the grill in the door, smiling at the sight of Kione holding his head where he had hit it against the stone floor.
"Who's so smart now?" she cried out defiantly. She turned to see Xena still unmoving. "I'd love to try tickling you now Xena!", she said teasingly.
With all her strength, Xena could only whisper "OK Gabrielle, have your fun. Congratulations are yours however I think".
"Yeah" smiled Gabrielle, "now all we need it to get Farinco back here and this will all be sorted".
"That should be no problem , he's still at the tavern with Salmoneus, I thought it would be better if he stayed nearby. Ah how about asking Kione how to unfreeze me, my nose is starting to itch".
Gabrielle gave her a smile and scratched Xena's nose for her. At her touch Xena suddenly fell forward, clutching at Gabrielle to stop herself falling over.
"Well that's that fixed" joked Gabrielle, "go and get Farinco, and get me out of this body".
"At once" said Xena.
"Before you go Xena, could you bring back some figs from that tree outside".
"But it's too early in the season, they're not ripe yet".
"I know, I want to give Kione something to remember me by, and a stomach ache is longer lasting than the bruises I gave him", Gabrielle said with a twinkle in her eyes.
Xena began smiling as well, and turned to exit the stockade. Outside two guards stood, as motionless as Xena had been. "Some guards" she thought. But she scratched their noses anyway, and watched them fall over.
"Watch the prisoner in the cell, he's the real villain around here" she said before re-entering the stockade with her hands full of the largest figs she could find.
When Xena returned with Salmoneus and Farinco, Gabrielle was forcing down the last of
"I wouldn't want to be in this body a moment longer Xena" Gabrielle smirked, "Farinco do your thing, and fast OK".
Farinco obliged, and instantly Kione was standing before them, reunited with his body, with a sneer on his face.
Xena was ready for this and pulled an empty sack over his head, pinning his arms to his sides, and stopping him from using his gaze upon anyone.
"I've had enough of looking at you to last me a lifetime", she said, before throwing him into the cell next to Gabrielle, and slamming the door shut.
"Hello" came a familiar voice, "Xena are you going to let me out now?'.
"Well l don't know, do you promise to behave yourself?", she joked.
"Xena" yelled Gabrielle
"It might be a good idea" said Salmoneus, "She might start singing"
"Ooh" said Xena "I hadn't thought of that, I guess I'd better, I wouldn't want anyone else to suffer that pain".
"XENA" cried Gabrielle.
"OK OK, I heard you the first time", was her cheerful reply.
Gabrielle walked out of the cell, rubbing the back of her head. "Just as well it was a brief fight, I was trying to go easy on him, because I knew I'd be feeling the bruises".
"Wise move, so Salmoneus will you be traveling with us tonight when we leave here?", Xena asked.
"No Xena, I've been talking to Farinco here, and I'm thinking of starting a marriage counseling service"
"But you've never been married?", she queried.
"So?, I don't think that's going to be a problem Xena," Salmoneus said with straight face.
Xena and Gabrielle both starred at each other and broke into laughter, "Sounds like a great idea", said Gabrielle, "just be sure to have a fast horse ready when your advice backfires on you. Come on Xena, I'm starving, lets find something to eat".
"Its great to have you back Gabrielle" said Xena smiling
"Its great to be back Xena, now lets get out of here".
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