DISCLAIMER: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. 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 notices.
SUBTEXT: Yes, this is "alternative fanfiction." Although, why we call it that, I really dont know. There is no other alternative, as far as Im concerned.
COMMENTS: This story is meant to be a light and fun romp - just a little bit of romance, a little skin, an impossible situation and hopefully a few laughs. I hope you enjoy!
Feel free to e-mail me at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
LITTLE GIRLS MADE OF?
"There is a mystery at the heart of all things......"
The room was dark, dank, and dusty. Cobwebs decorated every corner, hanging down in strands undisturbed save for the hint of a breeze that caressed the wispy white fingers, causing them to sway hypnotically to and fro. The room was cluttered as well; cluttered with books and manuscripts, scrolls and torn pieces of papyrus. Shelves were stuffed beyond capacity and the floor was littered with pieces of torn paper, scrunched into tiny balls in anger and thrown away.
Amid the disarray was an island. A wooden table took up the entire center of the room and on the table was an arrangement of fanciful equipment kept so carefully clean and organized that it sparkled in the darkness like an oasis in the desert.
Vessels and flasks of varying size were arranged in order of size and depth, and filled with liquids of luminous colors. A mortar and pestle sat at the corner of the table, still crusted with the remains of herbs and fungus. Funnels and stir rods were laid out to dry on a soft piece of cloth.
This was his oasis in the darkness of ignorance. The mysteries of the universe were his for the taking if he could only find the secret that had, despite his best efforts, so far eluded him.
An old man, wizened by years and covered with the cloak of age, huddled near a glass beaker and watched the contents bubble over a fire. The beaker had cost him a small fortune; glass blown in a far province and imported into Athens, then stolen for him by the craftiest of thieves. He had another beaker just like it, but much larger. That one was his special prize and would one day hold a reward even greater. That beaker he kept clean and ready, ready for when the universe opened her womb to him.
This fine beaker made of a glass that could withstand the hottest temperature would one day hold the secret to the resurrection of the spiritual soul and, therefore, to life itself.
He only needed one more ingredient....
Xena, the Warrior Princess.
Gabrielle looked around at the various vendors surrounding her in the marketplace and scratched her head.
"We need everything!" she signed in exasperation and then looked again inside her small pouch just to make sure she hadnt been mistaken the first time, "I cant believe this is all the dinars we have left!"
She turned her head to see if she could spot Xena, but the warrior was nowhere to be found. Perhaps she had some extra dinars hidden away? Gabrielle looked in her pouch again.
"Well, first things first....and food is always first."
The bard walked towards a fruit stand and then became distracted by another vendor entirely.
"Ink...I need ink."
She headed towards the ink stand.
"No. Xena needs a new sharpening stone," she mumbled aloud and looked around for a vendor offering weapons supplies, then thought better of it.
"No. Food is more important!"
She headed back towards the fruit stand.
"Do you always walk from vendor to vendor mumbling to yourself?"
A friendly, masculine voice asked aloud, taking Gabrielle completely by surprise. She jumped a bit and whirled around, bringing her staff into a defensive position.
The young man put up his hands in surrender and took a step back.
"Hey, dont attack me! I just wanted to see if you needed help finding something."
"Sorry. But its not a good idea to sneak up on people in a marketplace. You never know how theyll react." Gabrielle advised, relaxing the staff back into its walking position and leaning on it a little.
"Well, I certainly didnt expect such a pretty girl to take a swing at me." The young man replied with a smile.
"Well, never judge a scroll by its papyrus. You could get hurt."
"Ill try and remember that," the young man said trying to be serious, but finding it difficult to believe that such a beautiful young woman could possibly do him anything but good. He watched the sunlight sparkle in her eyes for a moment before finding some way to continue the conversation.
"My name is Chemeclees. Youre not from around here, are you?"
Gabrielle knew that Xena would not be pleased if she returned from wherever she had disappeared to find her talking with a strange man in the middle of the marketplace. She could just hear the lecture now. The young man, however, appeared to be harmless enough and he probably could help her find the best bargains.
"Im Gabrielle," she answered, "and no, Im definitely not from around here."
"Well, I could tell right away. There is no way I would ever miss meeting someone as pretty as you before this." He beamed a brilliant smile.
Gabrielle had to turn around and pretend to look at apples to hide the roll of her eyes.
"So, what brings you to Chalcis?"
"Just passing through, really." Gabrielle answered politely, ignoring the flirtatious comment, "This is a good marketplace and we need everything!"
The we did not go unnoticed but he let it slide for now. There did not appear to be any overly possessive men hovering nearby. Maybe she was with her mother?
"Well, perhaps I could help you find what youre looking for. I work here and I know all of the vendors who have the best prices. I could save you a lot of dinars!"
"You work here? Where do you work?" Gabrielle smiled and examined an orange, tactfully avoiding his offer.
"Theres an apothecary shop in the markplace. Im an apprentice alchemist." Chemeclees announced proudly.
"Alchemist?" Now he had the bards attention. "Whats an alchemist? Ive never heard of that before."
"Oh, its very new, " Chemeclees took her by the arm and gently tugged her in the direction of another booth. This was his favorite topic and he would like nothing better than to spend the rest of the afternoon discussing it with a beautiful woman.
"Why dont you come with me to my shop. I could show you my funnels."
Gabrielle suddenly realized she was being led away and stopped dead in her tracks.
"Hmm, I dont think that would be a good idea." She said, pulling her arm from his grasp.
"Why not?" Damn and things were going so smoothly, Chemeclees thought.
"Well, for one thing, I dont have the time."
"It wont take long. Youll love it. Its fascinating."
"Im sure it is. Very fascinating." Gabrielle answered politely, "But really, its not a good idea. Trust me."
"Not a good idea? Why not?"
"Im not alone."
"Youre not? Doesnt look like youre with anyone to me!" Chemeclees looked around the marketplace briefly for emphasis. "Come on! Well have a great time."
"Look. Youve been very nice and I appreciate the kind offer, but I dont think my friend will take it very kindly if I left with you to go and see your....um...funnels." Gabrielle removed his hand from her arm, wanting to add that she also thought it wouldnt be very good for his health, as well.
"Your friend huh? I know one thing. If I had a beautiful girlfriend like you, I wouldnt go leaving her by herself in a strange marketplace. If youre here with your boyfriend, then where is he?"
"Right behind you." A dangerous voice answered grimly from behind.
Chemeclees twirled around to find himself staring into the most intense pair of blue eyes that he had ever seen. He had to step back a few paces before he finally noted with a gasp that the eyes belonged to a warrior who also happened to be a woman and she was most definitely not Gabrielles mother.
"Do you always harrass women in the marketplace?" The woman warrior asked, eyes boring into his.
"No, actually, I ..er..just thought she needed help...well, I can see that shes in good hands and I really ought to get back to work.." Chemeclees practically fell over his own feet as he began to back away.
Xena stepped up beside Gabrielle, forcing Chemeclees to stumble even further in his efforts to put distance between them. She placed a relaxed arm around Gabrielles shoulder and smirked at the retreating boy.
Gabrielle, surprised at the public display of possessiveness, looked up at Xena with a bemused grin. She said nothing until the overly friendly boy managed to make his escape and disappear. Xena chuckled, squeezed the bards shoulder and then removed her arm.
"You enjoy doing that, dont you?" The bard asked.
"Doing what? Putting my arm around you? Of course, I do."
"No, I mean scaring the wits out of people."
"Oh that. Well, if you got it, flaunt it." Xena shrugged, slowly starting to walk through the market.
"Well, you flaunt it well!" Gabrielle laughed and quickly stepped up to get in stride. "Besides, you just broke one of our rules."
"What rules?" Xena asked, turning her head to glance at a weapon as she passed a vendor.
"What rules? What do you mean, what rules? Weve done nothing but talk about them the last few days." Gabrielle cried in exasperation.
Xena smiled to herself, well aware of the lengthy discussion they had on the proper "rules" of conduct while on the open road. Xena had cited again and again the reasons they should avoid being overtly intimate, certain that the bards propensity for affection would get the better of her. The problem was, it appeared as though Xena was the one who was going to have a hard time sticking to their rules; the warrior was finding the bard more irresistible with every step.
"Well, rules are made to be broken." Xena commented nonchalantly.
"Oh really. Well, if thats the case, then I cant wait to break one of them myself."
Xena stopped and turned to face Gabrielle.
"I mean by me. Rules are meant to be broken by me."
"Oh no, no, no, no, nooo." Gabrielle wagged her finger at Xenas back as she began to walk away. "If you get to break a rule, then I get to break a rule."
Gabrielle rushed her steps until she was once again walking beside the warrior. Xena pretended she did not hear the comment.
"Did you hear what I said?" Gabrielle insisted.
Xena stopped again and looked down at Gabrielle.
"I heard you." She said softly, taking a step closer to Gabrielle and turning the smirk into a seductive smile, "So exactly which rule would you like to break right now?"
The smile took Gabrielle completely off guard.
"I... dont... know," the bard stammered, suddenly engulfed totally in blue as the warrior leaned in dizzingly close to the bard, "Ill have to think about it."
"Well, while youre thinking about it, lets eat. Im hungry." Xena took off in the direction of the closest tavern, leaving Gabrielle standing in the dirt to think about the opportunity she had just missed.
"Damn it! I hate when she does that." The bard mumbled and took off after the warrior.
"Wait, Xena!" Gabrielle called after her, looking back into her almost empty pouch, "I dont think we have enough dinars!
Xena paused, appearing as though she had heard Gabrielle, then suddenly turned and headed in a different direction.
"Now where is she going?" The bard mumbled under her breath and immediately followed.
The warrior paused in front of a shop and stared at the sign. She smiled down at Gabrielle as the bard scooted up beside her.
"Look at this Gabrielle, an alchemist. Ive heard of them but never actually been in a shop. Lets go in."
Gabrielle, remembering that this was where Chemeclees said he worked, grabbed her arm.
"Wait, Xena. Do we have time for this? I thought you said you were hungry. Whats an alchemist anyway? I thought you said you needed a whetstone. Isnt that Argo I hear?"
Xena looked down at Gabrielle and quirked an eyebrow.
"Whats wrong, Gabrielle. Is there some reason you dont want me to go into this shop?"
"Reason? What reason would I have to not want you to go in? I dont even know what it is? I just thought...."
"Come on. In." Xena pulled the door open and went inside.
"Right. Were going in." Gabrielle followed, hoping Chemeclees was on a break.
Chemeclees stumbled through the door of the shop and ran to the back room, practically knocking down the old alchemist as he was walking into the storefront.
"Paracelsus! Sorry. You scared me half to death!"
"Easy, boy. Whats the hurry. Somebody chasing you?" Paracelsus chuckled and began to unwrap a package.
"Youll never guess who I saw in the marketplace." Chemeclees began, trying to catch his breath.
"The way youre huffing and puffing it sounds like you ran into Ares himself!"
"Well, it wasnt Ares, but it might have been his daughter!" Chemeclees wiped his brow and sat down on a bench, wondering just how close he had come to getting his head chopped off.
Paracelsus stopped unwrapping and knotted his brows.
"What are you talking about, boy?" There was only one woman he knew of that could be described as "Aress daughter" and it would be too much to hope for that she would be here in this city, at this time.
"I was walking through the market, minding my own business, when I was practically beheaded by the most incredible warrior I have ever seen. It was a woman, too, if you can believe that! Tall as a mountain and eyes of ice." Chemeclees involuntarily shivered, "Zeus, Ill never forget those eyes."
Paracelsus came out from around the counter and stood before the boy.
"Tell me what she looked like. Exactly."
"What?" Chemeclees asked, looking up at his master.
"I said tell me EXACTLY what she looked like. Every detail."
At that moment the door swung open and the object of their discussion filled the room with her presence.
Chemeclees jumped up with a shriek and ran behind Paracelsus.
The old man smiled and thought to himself that it was meant to be.
Xena stood tall, filling up the atmosphere of the shop with her own unique energy and glared at the cowering Chemeclees.
Gabrielle walked in behind her and decided to diffuse the situation.
"Hi!" She said brightly, "Thought we would come and take a look around after all. Right, Xena?"
Xena answered, keeping her eyes on the young man.
Chemeclees lowered his gaze towards the floor. Paracelsus smiled at Gabrielle and left the boy to approach the warrior.
"Of course. Look around all you like. Ill be happy to answer any questions."
He motioned for Xena to follow him towards a display, effectively distracting her attentions away from the frightened lad.
Gabrielle breathed a sigh of relief as the old man led Xena to the other end of the shop, and she turned to smile at Chemeclees.
"Its ok. Really. We just came to look around. She wont hurt you..... much."
"Only kidding." Gabrielled laughed and patted Chemeclees arm. "Relax. Intimidation is her favorite pasttime. Shes really very amiable once you get to know her. Its the getting to know her part thats hard."
"Well, I didnt exactly start off on the right foot." Chemeclees whispered.
"Yeah, but you could always start over again."
"You think so?"
"I know so." Gabrielle patted the arm of a much more relaxed apprentice and turned to see what Xena was up to. She noticed for the first time that the shop was filled with bottles of liquid and herbs of all kinds and she suddenly realized what had piqued the warriors interest. The shop was filled with healing remedies, the likes of which she had never seen.
"Are you a healer, warrior?" the old man asked, pulling out a few jars from behind the counter.
"Ive done some healing." Xena answered, picking up one of the containers and smelling its contents. She looked at the label and raised her eyebrow.
"As youre probably an expert on battle wounds, I thought this particular item would interest you."
"What is it, Xena." Gabrielle came over to look at the gooey contents of the small jar.
"The main ingredient is echinacea." Paracelsus answered.
"A plant used to stop infections." Xena began to explain to the bard.
"Oh, its much more than that. Its a distillation of echinacea. Thats the difference between alchemy and the current mode of healing arts. With alchemy, we use a process called distillation to break down a plant, herb or a root into its most concentrated form, removing all impurities. We can then combine it with other distilled elements to produce a much more potent product."
Gabrielle took the container from Xenas hand and examined it closely.
"This salve is twenty times more powerful than echinacea alone. In the type of wounds that usually happen in battle, it can make the difference between life and death." The old alchemist explained proudly.
Gabrielle looked up from the container and stared at the old man, letting his words sink in.
"How much is it?" The bard asked quickly.
"Gabrielle." Xena admonished softly.
The bard did not want to hear any arguments, "Xena, this could save your life. How much is it?"
"A jar that size costs fifty dinars." Paracelsus stated.
Xena snorted and took the container from Gabrielles hand placing it carefully back on the counter.
"Why is it so expensive?" The bard asked, extremely disappointed that they couldnt afford the salve.
"It takes a lot of echinacea to make it, and the distillation process is very time consuming. A lot of effort goes into this one little jar."
"Oh." Gabrielle said softly, still trying to think of some way they could afford the ointment. She looked up to find Xena poking a shelf on the opposite wall.
The warrior lifted up another flask. Its contents appeared mustard in color and was grinded to a fine powder. She opened the lid and sniffed, eyebrows rising in surprise.
"A distillation of delerium root. Dried and reprocessed with other elements into a sprinkable powder. And I wouldnt breathe that in too deeply if I were you."
"What is it?" Gabrielle asked.
"Sleeping powder." Xena answered.
"Highly concentrated sleeping powder," Paracelsus explained, "One sprinkle and youre out cold almost instantly. Undectectable in a liquid. Very effective."
"How much is it?" Xena asked with a smirk.
"Two dinars!" Gabrielle explained, "For the whole jar?"
Gabrielle was appalled, "Well, why is sleeping powder so affordable and the life saving stuff so expensive."
"I sell a lot of that powder, young lady." Paracelsus answered, a little annoyed at Gabrielles implication, "Besides, it is much easier to make."
Gabrielle looked at Xena. Xena put the container back where she found it.
"Its always been my opinion," Xena commented darkly, "that whatever is needed to save a life should be available to everyone. Healing was a gift from Prometheus to us after all. What gives you the right to charge for it?"
Paracelsus shrugged, "A mans got to put food on the table."
"Perhaps," Xena drawled, "but it appears as though, in your store, it is more affordable to take a life than it is to save one."
The warrior lifted another two dinar jar of poison and rolled it in her fingers for emphasis.
She put the jar down on the counter and gave it a spin.
"Come on, Gabrielle. Ive seen all I need to see."
Xena opened the door to the shop and held it for Gabrielle to exit safely before closing it not too softly behind her.
Chemeclees wiped his sweating forehead with a rag and sat back down on the bench.
"Who in Hades was that!" The young boy said, surprised to find Paracelsus chuckling to himself behind the counter.
"That, my boy, was Xena. Xena, the Warrior Princess. And she is perfect! Absolutely PERFECT!"
Paracelsus clapped his hands once and headed back into the private rear rooms of the shop.
Continued in Step 2
Return to The Bard's Corner