Chracters from Xena: Warrior Princess are property of MCA/Universal/Renaissance. No copyright infringement is intended.
Ths is a work of alternative fan fiction. No profit will be gained from its production. This piece of fiction is copyright of the author.
There are depictions of love/sex between consenting adult persons of the same gender. If this is illegal where you live, you are underage, or the idea of two people loving each other (gender be damned) bothers you, then stop reading here and find something more appropriate to your tastes and/or laws. (Big sigh with a head shake).
Uh...bad words...yeah. There are a few.
There are depictions of violence in the following story. It occurs during the battle scene, and I suppose some may think of it as graphic. Consider this a warning to the squeamish.
Thank you for taking the time to read the stuff above, and hopefully, the stuff below.
Author's Note: I really enjoyed writing "The Way of the Wolf," so I thought that I would see what happened after Wolf recovered at the Amazon village. It would probably be a good idea to read that story first so that you have something of a background idea in regards to this story.
Also, I'm not exactly sure about the term "demi-god" used for a woman. Every definition I found listed its meaning as a 'man who is half-god,' and I was unable to find a correlating term for a woman who was half-god(dess), so I use the term freely here the way that I want to because...well...it's my story, damnit!
This is a sequel in The Way of Life Series which follows The Way of Love and The Way of the Wolf.
Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Way of the Amazon
Copyright April 1, 1998
Gabrielle stretched contently and patted her stomach. Nothing better than a comfortable bed and good food, she thought, except maybe the beautiful warrior that had fed her in that same bed this morning. Xena had just left to return their breakfast tray to her mother's kitchen, and the bard was already missing her. The past moon or so had been really hectic, leaving little time for the two of them to be alone, to continue mending the rift in their relationship.
After they had left Wolf at Amazonia, well on her way to recovery, they had taken their time travelling to Amphipolis. Those days and nights (oh...the nights, she thought with a sly grin) had been fairly uneventful. Unless, of course, one counted the occasional band of brigands that always seemed to fall into the dark path of the Warrior Princess. With nary a bruise, however, the two of them were greeted by Cyrene with open arms and an invitation to stay for as long as they liked.
The blond woman sighed when she knew in her heart that it was time to move on. Her warrior was sending out subtle, and some not-so-subtle, signs that she was getting restless. The bard's eyes found the marks on their room's door where Xena had been throwing her daggers last night.
"Practicing," she had said.
If she had practiced any more, Gabrielle thought, they would have given the good citizens of Amphipolis quite a show, for the barrier would have been whittled to nothing. It was a good thing that one insatiable bard had taken it upon herself to help the warrior release some of her nervous energy.
As if on cue, Xena pushed open the door with a heavy foot and strode into the room, her arms full of packages. "You still in bed?"
The bard stretched once more for the sensual effect and purred, "Just waiting for you, love."
The warrior studied her lover with unnerving intensity for a moment, and then shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Don't even think of going there, Gabrielle. You know Mom asked that we...ah...restrain ourselves while there are patrons in the common room."
Pulling a pillow over her face to hide a mortified blush, Gabrielle remembered all too clearly the faces they had met after one energetic impromptu lovemaking session. The men and women who had been deep in conversation over their lunches, had gone silent and had stared at them as they walked down the stairs of the inn. With a steely glance from the warrior, however, they had resumed their table talk in hushed tones. Only afterwards had Cyrene pulled them aside and had warned them in blunt terms that they either learn to play quietly or not at all during the meal times. Even Xena had blushed at the reprimand.
Gabrielle pulled the pillow away from her face when she felt the warrior settle her lanky frame on the edge of the bed. The restless woman seemed lost in thought, plucking at a loose thread on her leathers. "What's all that," the bard asked, pointing to the bundles that Xena had brought into the room.
The warrior braced herself for the protests she knew would be forthcoming. "Mom packed us some food for the road."
Laying a gentle touch to still the movements of the warrior's hand, Gabrielle caught her attention. "I figured we'd be leaving soon. You've been going crazy, haven't you?"
Xena nodded as she entwined their fingers together. "You don't mind do you," she asked, once more surprised at her lover's understanding. "I know how much you love it here."
"No I don't mind, and yes, I do love it here, but...." Gabrielle searched the endless blue depths of her warrior's eyes. There was something more there than just nervous energy lending fire to their brilliant color, and worry was starting to etch fine lines on her brow. "You're thinking about Wolf?"
"Yeah," the dark woman answered. "I know she was doing fine physically...."
"But you worry about how she is...her mind...after Dahok."
Xena grinned at the small woman. "When were you able to see through me, Gabrielle?"
"When you let me into your heart, woman."
Claiming her lover's lips in a gentle affirmation, the warrior sighed at the warmth that had found its way back into their relationship. "I love you, my sweet, beautiful wife," she claimed between nibbles on the bard's lower lip.
Gabrielle put a stilling hand on the warrior's chest. "Xena, if you want to leave anytime soon, I suggest that we stop this...mmm...and uh...Xena...."
After one last passionate kiss, the warrior conceded to her protests. Clearing her throat, she stood to put distance between the two of them. "I'll...uh...go saddle Argo and tie the packs while you get dressed."
The bard chuckled at the awkward, hasty retreat that took the warrior out of the room. With a final mumble about nothing in particular, to no one who could hear, the small woman crawled out of bed and stripped off her sleeping shift. Hard, uncomfortable ground, here I come, she thought. Mentally, she calculated how long it would take them to get back to the Amazon village and the soft bed that belonged to the Queen of the Nation.
By the time that the she had washed up and donned her traveling clothes, Xena and Cyrene had said their farewells and were standing in the shade outside of the inn, waiting for her to join them. She smiled, warmed to her heart, when Xena's mom kissed her forehead affectionately and bade them to return the next time they were traveling in the area. The bard thanked the innkeeper for the food that would surely last them until they made their way back to Wolf.
Waving a final good-bye over her shoulder, the bard fell into the comfortable rhythm of life with her princess. Automatically, her feet followed one another, her staff punctuating each step, as she allowed her eyes to take in the details that sprang to life around them. It was Wolf who had explained to Gabrielle what it was like to be aware of every living thing that breathed (and sometimes didn't), and the bard concentrated on nothing, letting the air carry to her what it would.
She couldn't begin to understand how the demi-god was not insane with the intensity of it all. She herself was overwhelmed by the myriad of sights, sounds, and smells that assaulted her when she opened her senses, allowing herself to experience it all at once. Shrugging mentally, Gabrielle relaxed and began to think aloud, mumbling as she followed in the shadow of the horse and rider that were her constant companions.
The bard began to shape a story about their last adventure, one full of gods, demi-gods, heroes, and the eternal battle of good versus evil. As a last thought before she lost herself in the images her mind wanted to put to parchment, she prayed that Wolf had forgotten about her threat to take the bard for a ride.
Xena relaxed a bit when the bard began talking to herself. It was a sound that comforted her and reminded her that there was a light in her life, a blinding beacon that had guided her through some of her hardest battles. Then her thoughts began running along the same lines as her lover's, as she recalled the battle with the great evil, the demon who threatened everything they knew, their love, their friends, the good for which they fought so hard.
She hoped that Wolf was all right. Her old friend had been drained by the battle with her father. Using her gifts had exhausted her into a sleep that had lasted several days. Only Ephiny's assurances that she would be looked after, allowed them to leave. Wolf knew of her propensity to wander, and had insisted that she would be fine, and to leave before she was well enough to challenge the Warrior Princess to a friendly battle of arms.
And what fun that would be, thought Xena, as she remembered the skill in which Wolf had fought while in her human form. It would be good to see her again. A dark cloud briefly crossed the warrior's brow. She prayed for Wolf's spirit. It wasn't every day that one found out that they were the offspring of a demon that even the arrogant God of War feared.
The warrior was brought out of her musings by a gentle touch on her thigh. Looking down into the face of her lover, her mood lightened. "Want to ride?" At the bard's vigorous nod, she laughed. "Who would have thought that you might have actually grown to like this," she pondered aloud as she gave Gabrielle a lift behind her.
"Oh...if they only knew," she answered, snuggling into the warrior's back as she snaked her arms around a leather-clad waist in a trusting embrace.
Xena patted her arm and nudged Argo, following the road that would lead them up into the hills, towards Amazon territory.
Several days later and not meeting even one raider, brigand, warlord, or such, on the way (and the bard did wonder where they were keeping themselves), they came upon the first set of warning markers. Keening her senses as Xena and Wolf had shown her, she felt the posted sentries a second's hesitation after the warrior did. With casual movements, she adjusted her staff head and kept her stride even, confident of her safety among her own people. She listened as the Amazons passed word of their arrival, their bird calls singing through the tree tops.
By the time that they had passed through the second perimeter of signs, they were met by an escorting party, all capable warriors masked and armed. Not that she needed the protection, the bard thought, with one of the known world's best warriors at her side, but she didn't mind humoring them, as long as they didn't use her royal title.
The reception that greeted them was somewhat subdued, even though the Regent put on a good face, embracing the Queen with a wide smile. "Gabrielle, Xena...it's a surprise to see you back so soon."
Clasping arms with the blond woman, Xena shrugged. "Thought we'd see how things were going with Wolf," she explained.
Two pairs of eyes caught the almost imperceptible wince that creased the Regent's face. "Ephiny," the bard ask, gripping her friend's arm, "is Wolf all right? Where is she?"
The Amazon sighed and led them to the dining hall, signaling for a young warrior to settle Argo in the stables. "Where do I begin?"
After she had procured drinks for the three of them, she settled herself to Gabrielle's left at the Queen's table. "Things were fine after you left, at least until Ep returned from Garalis."
Remembering the skirmishes that the small village had been facing with a local warlord, Xena asked, "How'd it go there?"
Ephiny waved away their concerns. "Fine. Once Ep organized the warriors and a few night raids, the army left the valley. We shouldn't have any problems there for a while."
"So what happened when she got back," the Queen asked, taking a sip of the light wine.
"Well...let's just say that she and Wolf have trouble agreeing on anything. I guess it all started when Wolf had gone down to the practice field one morning and was giving some of the younger girls pointers. Eponin disagreed with her on some staff technique or something, and before anyone knew it...."
"They were trying to take each other's heads off," Gabrielle finished, scrubbing at the worry that was twitching on her face.
"Well at least they were using staffs," the dark warrior wryly offered.
The Amazon leaders shuddered at the thought of the two warriors facing off with blades. It would have definitely been a lot messier than the bumps and bruises the healers had dealt with that day.
"Since then...they are constantly at each other's throats. I have tried everything I could think of to get them to settle their differences," the Regent continued, "but they are so damned determined to kill each other, I swear by the Fates."
"So where are they now," Xena asked, hoping that Wolf hadn't been too rough on the Weaponsmaster.
Gabrielle choked on the liquid that had been making its way down her throat. "You sent them out...into the forest...alone...with sharp objects?" The bard gratefully squeezed her lover's thigh at the helping thump that cleared her coughing spasm.
Ephiny threw her hands into the air. "I couldn't stop them, Gabrielle. It's like they're two kids trying to outdo one another."
Gabrielle's retort was cut short by angry shouting outside in the square. Three bodies rushed to see what had disturbed the still quiet. Three bodies stopped dead in their tracks when they found the source of commotion.
Amazon warriors, always so fierce in battle, had nervously cleared out of the way for the two women who were circling each other, shouting obscenities for all the gods to hear. Xena put a restraining hand on her companions' shoulders and shook her head. "I want to see what happens," she explained. When Gabrielle and Ephiny stood down, she watched the arguing couple, ready to jump in if things got out of hand.
Wolf was a mess. Her long brown braid, normally so neat, was bedraggled, tendrils of matted hair fell around her shoulders. Her face was streaked with mud and dried blood from a small cut above her eye. Eponin wasn't much of a better sight. Her leather top was ripped and hanging loosely off one shoulder, her legs covered in forest debris to her knees. The two women's voices lowered to growls as they stopped and faced each other, flinging insults at one another.
"You could have told me it was there!"
"How could you miss it?"
"Well, not everyone has super senses!"
"You couldn't see centaur shit if you were eating it!"
When Eponin moved to unsheathe her sword, Xena stepped forward. "All right, enough, both of you," she warned in a voice that was intense for all its low volume.
The combatants chanced one last glare at each other before turning to face the Queen's Consort. "It's all her fault," they cried in unison, hands going to weapons once again as they turned to face each other.
Xena stepped between them and put a restraining hand to each of their chests. "All right, now. One at a time...what happened?"
Wolf caught her breath first and offered her side of the story. "We were fine...just on a little hunt...and this one here...hit a live snare and got us both netted!"
"Well if you weren't walking around cocking your head like a damn dummy bird, maybe I would have seen the trigger!"
The warrior held up a hand to still any further interruptions from the Amazon. "And?"
"She thought it would be best to cut the net," Wolf explained. "We fell," she finished through gritted teeth.
Xena looked to Eponin for confirmation. When the Weaponsmaster shrugged without argument, the warrior let them go. "Why don't both of go get cleaned up and cool down. Your Queen and Regent are half out of their wits by now."
The Warrior Princess was not a woman that either wanted to defy. Like two children, they hung their heads and apologized for the scene that they had created. Walking in opposite directions, they retired to their huts.
When Xena returned to her lover's side, she couldn't help the smirk that shaped her mouth. "Great to be Queen, huh?"
Ephiny fairly wailed in frustration. "What am I going to do, Xena?"
"You mean, what are we going to do," the Queen corrected, gently grasping her Regent's arm in a show of support. Tilting her head to the tall warrior at her side, she raised a questioning brow.
"I'll talk to Wolf," Xena conceded.
The blond warrior nodded, more confident now that she had some council in the matter. "I'll talk to Eponin."
Gabrielle looked between the two of them and shrugged. "I guess I'll go to our hut and get things settled in, then." From the looks of the anger that had flowed between the two warriors, they might be here a while, she thought, almost feeling guilty at the small consolation the Queen's bed would provide.
Kissing the bard's brow, Xena left to question her old friend. For Gabrielle's and Ephiny's sakes, she would find a way for the two rivals to at least be civil towards each other. Without knocking, she entered the guest hut that had been afforded Wolf.
Wolf, who was bent over at the waist, trying to unbraid her hair, didn't even look up at the warrior. She knew Xena's scent immediately, the combination of leather, metal, sweat, and...bard. "Did you come here to talk to me like a child some more, or will I have the luxury of an adult conversation?"
Xena crossed her arms and leaned against the support post in the middle of the single room. "Sarcasm doesn't suit you, Wolf."
"Damn," she swore when she managed to tangle the leather strip that was wound through her hair, holding it in place.
"Here," the warrior offered, "let me do that."
Wolf grabbed a chair and straddled it, her forehead resting on the back support as the tall warrior patiently, with nimble fingers, released her hair from its constraints. Running her fingers through her hair, she sighed. "I know that I've been acting like a fool, Xena, but that woman just loves to piss me off, I swear." The small woman stood and crossed to the washbasin.
"She can be relentless," Xena conceded. "But that's what makes her a great warrior."
"I never said she wasn't," the small warrior replied as she filled the bowl with water and dipped a cloth to scrub the dirt from her body. "There are times, though, when I just want to carry her up to the clouds and drop her on her head. She is so obstinate and stubborn, and...." Wolf threw the wash linen into the bowl with a disgusted snort.
"This isn't doing me any good. I'm filthy."
Xena chuckled and put an arm around her friend's shoulders. "Why don't you gather what you need, and we'll go up to the baths."
"Yeah, she'll love one about now, too, I bet."
Without having to be told twice, Wolf gathered a set of clothes, her soap, and a drying linen, and followed the warrior out the door. Along the way, they collected one grateful bard, and were deep into a comfortable banter before they reached the short path that led to the public bathing area.
When they crested the hill, though, Wolf stopped dead in her tracks, a feral snarl escaping from between her clenched teeth. "What are you doing here," she asked, conveniently ignoring the Regent who had been in deep conversation with the object of her derision.
Eponin's mouth set in a grim, determined line as she moved to rise from her seat.
Ephiny's hand shot up to catch her shoulder. Flashing a pleading look to Xena, she eased the angry Amazon back into the pool.
Xena turned to Wolf, blocking her line of sight. "Please, Wolf, for Gabrielle, just behave, all right?"
The small warrior glanced over at the Queen and blushed. Nodding her head, she began to disrobe quietly, ignoring the dark-haired Amazon whose eyes were burning holes through her back.
Assured that Xena could handle the small woman, Gabrielle stole a look at Eponin, who had shrugged off Ephiny's restraint and was watching Wolf through hooded eyes. The Queen blinked once, then twice. No way, she thought, fighting the laughter that threatened to burst. She slapped herself mentally. *I'll be damned.*
Once they were ready to enter the bathing pool, Xena made sure to keep herself between Wolf and Eponin, only relaxing her vigilance when she was able to take a seat on a stone bench between her friend and her lover.
She turned her focus to Gabrielle when the bard nudged her discreetly under the cover of the water and tilted her head toward the glowering Amazon. The tall warrior tried to discern what the bard was silently telling her. What is...wait...there...oh, gods, no, she thought with a silent groan. She turned her head slowly and looked into the bard's green eyes for confirmation. Her eyes widened when the bard's brow rose. The Nation would never survive, she thought, chuckling quietly as if she had heard a private joke.
The bath was interrupted when an Amazon scout called for Ephiny. Clasping her arm to her chest, the woman kneeled. "Queen Ephiny," she began, and with a nod of her head, "Queen Gabrielle, there is a large group of Amazons on their way. Solari asked me to inform you. She said that it looks like the villagers of Garalis."
"What the...? I thought it was settled," the Regent asked, mumbling to herself. When the warrior at her side moved to leave the bath to meet the group, she laid a restraining hand on her shoulder. "No, you stay here and relax, and that's an order," she added when the warrior tried to mouth a protest.
"I'm going with you," Xena said as she helped Gabrielle from the pool.
"But what about...," the Queen asked, nudging her head towards the two women in the pool who refused to make eye contact.
"Let them kill themselves," the warrior deadpanned. At her lover's stricken look, she studied Wolf for the danger signs of an explosion. The small warrior was studying her hands, picking at some non-existent dirt under her nails. "They'll be fine," she promised. When she saw the look on the small woman's face as she studied covertly, the Amazon keeping her company, Xena's jaw fell. "Artemis help us," she muttered under her breath. Quickly she donned her leathers and caught up with the Queens who were practically trotting back to the village.
Left alone, the two women made a pretense of bathing, trying hard to ignore each other's presence. At Wolf's curse, Eponin hazarded a glance and grinned at the small woman's difficulty. When they had fallen out of the net, she had landed on a newly fallen tree. There must have been some sap on the wood, for her bathing companion was trying to pull apart the clumps that snarled her hair. Moving slowly to the opposite seat, behind the demi-god, Eponin took up some soap and reached out a tentative hand.
Wolf, preoccupied with her thoughts and her losing battle with the tree sap, didn't know that the Amazon was behind her until she felt the first touch against her scalp. She turned her head sharply and fixed the woman with a scowl.
"Come on, Wolf, just once, don't be so stubborn," Eponin pleaded. "Just let me help you with this, and then I'll leave you alone." She sighed when the small woman merely turned away. The Amazon chuckled in amusement at the tangled mess she began to scrub. "It is...kind of...my fault that you got sap in your hair."
Her shoulders slumping, Wolf's annoyance deflated at Eponin's wry humor. "Kind of," she agreed, leaning back into the strong fingers that massaged her scalp, sending slivers of pleasure along her nerve endings. As promised, once her hair was clean, Wolf felt the Amazon move to her side of the pool once more. She wasn't surprised by the feeling of loss, the chill that stole down her back at the warrior's absence.
She had known that it would be like this the first moment that she had sparred off with the dark-haired Weaponsmaster. The energy between them had been palpable, at least to Wolf it had been. What she couldn't figure out was, how to accept these feelings within herself, even after Lin Chi's advice, and whether or not the Amazon felt the same thing that happened whenever they got within a distance of each other. And for her, she acknowledged with a silent groan, the Amazon could be anywhere on the territory, and she would be able to sense her. Concentrating on her bath once more, Wolf finished not long after and silently dressed, leaving Eponin behind.
After the small warrior was out of sight, Eponin sighed and buried her head in her hands. Her fingers still tingled where they had massaged the woman's scalp. The feel of Wolf leaning into her touch, as if she enjoyed the sensual attention, had fueled a fire that had been smoldering ever since she had seen the small woman on the practice field, wielding a staff as if she had been born with one in her hands. If Wolf didn't kill her with those hands, she would eventually with the lust that she inspired within the Amazon's body.
When the four women, including the Queen and her Regent, reached the village square, a small escorting party was leading in a band of disheveled Amazons. Alarm ran through those watching as the party was brought up in the rear by two wagons carrying wounded.
The leader of the band, an older warrior with dark red hair, approached the Queen and knelt to a knee, saluting her. "I am Arna of Garalis. I offer my life to you and the Nation."
Gabrielle, uncomfortable with the subservient nature of the powerful woman before her, pleaded with her to rise. "You look hungry and tired. Why don't we get everyone some food," she said, indicating the way with a wave of her arm. "Ephiny would you please get some women to help with their wounded and take them to the infirmary?"
The Queen nodded her head in thanks and led the weary Amazons to the dining hall. Cooks had already begun heating the afternoon leftovers that would hold them until dinner. The refugees sat quietly in small groups, devouring the food and wine that was set before them.
Arna, who was sitting with the Queen and Regent, made apologies for her people. "I'm sorry about our rudeness," she began. "We've been traveling non-stop for the past few days...there wasn't much time to eat," she explained.
Ephiny stared wide-eyed at the village leader. "From Garalis?" When the older woman nodded, the Regent whistled through her teeth. "That's a week's travel," she said aloud, clarifying the point for her Queen.
Gabrielle was following the conversation and concern etched deep lines around her grim mouth when she realized how hard the Amazons had pushed themselves to reach the capital. "Why were you traveling so hard, Arna?"
A vein in the warrior's temple began to throb as she remembered the events that had led to the evacuation of their village. After Gael's army had left the valley, they had celebrated, assuming that his absence meant safety. How wrong they had been. The warlord had merely pulled back, retreating into the hills to consolidate his power, and when the Amazon's were the most vulnerable (the morning after the party), his army attacked once again. Instead of engaging them in the valley that separated their territories, though, his army rode straight for the village, determined to eliminate every female in sight.
Normally, her Amazons were capable fighters, but with so many still feeling the effects of the strong wine, it had been a struggle not to lose every one of them. They had been able to hold Gael's army off long enough for his soldiers to take some serious injuries, which prompted the warlord to pull back once again.
When the smoke in the village had cleared, she had been left leading a handful of warriors able to fight, and three times that number unable. Conceding a temporary victory to the warlord, they had gathered what they would need, and with the wounded being cared for by their young healer, they had made their way south to Amazonia.
After the Amazon finished recounting the tragedy, the Queen leveled her gaze at her consort whose hard blue eyes were masked as the dark warrior processed the information. Gabrielle patiently waited until Xena was finished. "Xena?"
The warrior looked up from the mug into which she had been staring. Forcing her attention back to her present company, she replied, "I need to speak to Eponin first, Gabrielle."
The Queen nodded and announced that a meeting was to be held in two candlemarks in council chambers. "Until then, why don't we see about finding some lodging for our guests," she asked, easing the tension with a bright smile.
Arna nodded her gratitude and bowed her head in respect. "I thank you for your help in this matter, my Queen."
Gabrielle waved off the warrior's words. "There is no need to thank us. You are our sisters. And please, call me Gabrielle. Titles make my teeth itch," she explained, grinning to ease the warrior's formal manner.
Ephiny and Solari joined Gabrielle as they made arrangements for the Amazons of Garalis, double-bunking a few of their own warriors to make room. When Ephiny examined the final results, her brow rose several notches. "Are you sure you want to do this, Gabrielle?"
The Queen smiled enigmatically as she watched young girls move personal possessions from one hut to another. "Trust me with this one, Eph. I've got a feeling."
Yielding to the Queen's decision, the Regent shook her head. "You will explain that feeling when the both of them are unconscious in the healer's hut, won't you?"
Gabrielle's eyes widened at the Amazon's sarcasm. "Honestly, Ephiny, you've got to think positive." When the other woman grunted in response, the bard put an arm around her waist and guided her towards the meeting hut. "It's going to work out," she assured.
After speaking briefly with Eponin, Xena and the warrior went to the council chamber to study a map of the northern territory which included Garalis. After the Amazon had demonstrated the warlord's battle tactics, they discussed possible countermeasures to regain the Nation's land. By the time that they had come up with several plans, the Queen and her Regent had arrived. The two warriors outlined their options. When Arna and two of her lieutenants arrived, everyone was ready.
Wolf slipped into the hut behind the scribes who would record the meeting. She stood against the back wall, listening silently as Xena easily slipped into command mode.
One by one, the ex-warlord described for the displaced Amazons the options that were available to them. When the tall warrior finished, the Queen asked for the refugees' opinions on the merits and downfalls of each alternative.
During the next two hours, debate and discussion rebounded across the Council table. Wolf found her eyes straying often to Eponin who, in the process of drawing battle lines on a table map, exposed a generous view of delectable cleavage. Unwillingly, her mind began to play pictures of the Amazon writhing under her attentions.
Gabrielle, more than a little bored with the talk of battle strategies, let her attention focus on the woman standing across the room. She recognized the flame of desire that blazed in the small woman's eyes when Eponin leaned over the table to mark a position on the map. It hadn't been that long ago when she herself suffered from the same affliction.
Eponin had also been watching Wolf, although discreetly from under lowered lashes. Leaning over the map to explain part of a strategy to Arna, she glanced up again and inhaled sharply. Wolf, whose features had been distant whenever the Amazon's eyes had before focused in her direction, was devouring her breasts with hooded intensity. When her hands began to tremble, betraying her inner turmoil, the Amazon stepped back to her position behind Ephiny's left shoulder.
Quelling the urge to growl when the sweet visual treat moved from her line of sight, the demi-god shook her head to clear her illicit thoughts. When she was sure that she was able to control her reactions to the dark-haired Amazon, she raised her gaze once more. Her breath caught in her chest when she was trapped by sharp brown eyes. Wolf's own widened in surprise.
Remembering the warrior she craved with her mind and body, Gabrielle let half her mind stray on a lustful tangent, thinking of the powerful woman at her right. The other half was drawn to the soft gasp at her left where the Weaponsmaster had resumed her position behind the Regent.
The Amazon knew that passion was burning from every pore of her body. She could feel the heat of it suffusing her face. She unconsciously licked her lips which had become dry with her quickening breath. Everyone in the room fell away but the woman leaning against the back wall of the room.
Wolf couldn't breath, she was sure that the room had collapsed around her. The Amazon held her eyes, burned her with the energy that was emanating from her body. The demi-god could almost see the tendrils of need that snaked across the space between them. She felt them latching into her skin and drawing her closer to the Amazon warrior.
Surreptitiously, the bard watched the Amazon out of the corner of her eye and then shifted her gaze to Wolf. The moment that the two women connected had been a tangible thing, the sexual tension between the two warriors permeated the room.
She was suffocating. She was frantic. Wolf was sure that she being burned from within by the need that engulfed her entire being, the need to share her every desire with the woman who held her captive. Suddenly afraid that she was losing herself, she savagely pushed her baser, her heartfelt needs into the little dark hole that had formed recently in her soul. With a start that she hoped was not noticed by the entire room, Wolf tore her eyes from their captor and fled the hut.
Gabrielle was watching Eponin when a sudden movement drew her attention. When she looked around to find Wolf, the other woman was gone. The Queen turned her gaze fully to Eponin. The Amazon tried to school her features, but the hurt at the apparent rejection was evident in the tight set of her features. With a trembling hand, the Weaponsmaster pushed a stray hair behind her ear and turned her attention back to the words that passed between Xena and Arna. Gabrielle felt her heart break at the sadness that was clouding the Amazon's intense eyes.
The bard listened distractedly as the warriors decided on an acceptable plan and agreed to reconvene the next day after the midday meal. Her mental gears were busy churning, contriving a plan to get Eponin and Wolf together, and thereby bringing peace to the village, which was the Queen's priority, after all. She chided herself silently. She could claim a higher motive, but in reality, she just wanted the two women to realize a love that was obviously meant to be.
That evening, as everyone gathered for the evening meal, Gabrielle was unusually quiet. And whenever the bard was quiet, the Warrior Princess was worried. Xena knew that her lover took her responsibilities as Queen seriously, and it was in her basic nature to be concerned about the welfare of her Amazons. The warrior sneaked a hand under the table and gave the woman an assuring squeeze on her leg. "What's wrong, love," she whispered, ducking her head in an intimate gesture.
Gabrielle allowed herself to be lost in the intense gaze that captured hers. Within half a heartbeat she knew that she loved Xena with her total being. Theirs was an unbreakable bond, one that even the horrors conjured by the evil Dahok could not destroy. Even without Solon's help she knew that they would have worked things out. That's if they had survived the their fall over the cliff, she thought with a mental shrug. All that was in the past, though, and her future would have raven-black hair and ocean-blue eyes.
"Thinking about Wolf...and Eponin," she revealed. With soft touches she traced the long tapered fingers that were resting on the table before her. "You should have seen the look that passed between them today in the council hut. They really do feel something for each other besides the anger they think is there."
The warrior chuckled deep in her throat. "Oh, I saw it all right. Ep was really hurt when Wolf ran out."
"Yeah. Why do you think she did that, Xena? Why would she run from something that could be so good?"
Xena tore her eyes from the bard's and glanced down to watch the patterns that the blond woman was drawing along the top of her hand. "Wolf and I are a lot alike, Gabrielle. Maybe she just feels that...."
"She doesn't deserve it?"
The warrior nodded.
"That she thinks that she is truly evil deep in her heart, and that someday that evil might be unleashed, hurting the ones that she cares for?"
Xena fought back the tears that threatened. The Amazon dining hall was not the place to suffer a crying spell. Soft fingers lifted her moist eyes back to the bard.
"Xena, she has to know that no matter what, true love will always overcome any circumstances. I'm sure that Ep knows all about Wolf and her...situation. Gossip passes through this village faster than shi...."
The warrior had to grin as she held up a hand to halt the bard's descriptive language. "I get the idea, woman." She knew that Gabrielle was speaking not only of Wolf, but of her also. Her heart ached at the unconditional trust and love that her lover could convey in one look. *She still trusts and loves me even after everything that I've put her through*. Her smile lit half the hall with its brilliancy. "Maybe we should get a staff and beat it into her," she said, stealing a chaste kiss.
The Amazon Queen startled and then blushed at the unusual public display of affection. "They've already tried that," she reminded. "Could YOU talk to her, Xena?"
The warrior glanced over at Eponin who was picking at her food, scanning the crowd with an occasional glance, looking for Wolf, who was absent from the meal. She could almost hear the Amazon sigh when she realized that the small warrior was not in the hut. "Yeah, I'll go talk to her."
"Thank you, Xena. I really appreciate it."
Quirking a brow, the warrior turned to face the bard once again. "How about if you show me this evening just how much you appreciate it?"
Gabrielle's face glowed, betraying the fevered rush of adrenaline that fired through her blood when she realized what the promise would mean. She nodded her head mutely.
"I'll see you tonight, then," the warrior husked into her ear. "And you can leave your top on, to start with."
Without meaning to, the bard looked down at the russet garment that was part of her royal attire. She knew that Xena liked how it framed the swell of her breasts. She closed her eyes and imagined the texture of the warrior's tongue as it traced a wet path through her cleavage. When she opened her eyes, she caught her lover in a smoldering trap, burning her with the intensity of her desire. "I'll be there," she croaked, her throat dried suddenly from the heat that coursed through her veins.
Xena's nostrils flared and her eyes opened wide. The scent of the bard's arousal started a trickle of her own juices. She was prepared to give the known world's shortest pep talk just so she could fulfill the contract of love that had been sealed with the bard. "I'll be waiting," she responded, able to barely control the quiver in her voice. In her eagerness to complete her end of the bargain, Xena excused herself from the table and left to find her old friend.
"What was that all about," the Regent asked as the tall warrior made a hasty exit from the dining hall.
The bard smiled dreamily and idly stroked the tabletop. "Eph, let's just say that if things go the way I'd like them to, it is going to get really...interesting...around here."
The blond Amazon tried to decipher the mysterious tone of the Queen's statement but then dismissed the effort. "What do you think about the upcoming confrontation with Gael," she asked, pulling the bard effectively out of her daze.
Xena searched the village twice before she realized that Wolf was no longer there. A quick search in Eponin's hut had revealed that the demi-god had left her things, so chances were that she was prowling the forest, the warrior figured. After scouting the perimeter of the tree line, Xena found a set of fresh footprints, faintly discernable in the soft humus.
Sighing at the woman's reluctance to travel one of the cleared paths, Xena began pushing her way through the thick underbrush. Wolf's tracks were easy enough to follow, though, for she had not been hiding them deliberately, but hers was not exactly a straight path. Xena shook her head in frustration and wry humor. The demi-god was just wandering in a haphazard way, as if her mind were on other things besides where she was going.
When Xena crossed a well-worn trail, she stopped to get her bearings. The setting sun cast little light into the forest, and after a candle mark and a half, she wasn't sure exactly how far she had gone. She was still in Amazon territory, she mused, kneeling to trace a marking sign. She never heard the figure as it stepped onto the trail behind her.
Wolf watched as the tall warrior studied the grooves on the small boulder that marked the trail to the Amazon village. She had been following the warrior, wondering why Xena was out in the woods at this time of night. She cleared her throat discretely, jumping beyond the range of the sword that was drawn faster than a snake's strike. Wolf held her hands out and cocked her head. "What's up, Xena?"
The warrior narrowed her eyes as she replaced her weapon. "Out looking for you. What in Hades have you been doing out here? I've been tracking you for over a candlemark."
"Funny, that. I've been tracking you."
"Thought I smelled something...uh...funny, and I thought I would...uh...check it out."
Xena sucked in her cheeks. "Funny, huh?"
Wolf nodded as she reclined against a large tree. "Guess you were thinking about Gabrielle, hmm?"
Reminded of her purpose and the reward due upon her success, the warrior took a seat upon the rock she had been studying and steadied a gaze at her friend. "Wolf, we need to talk."
The small warrior, never one to doubt her former commander's serious tone of voice, crossed the path and sat in the dirt at the other woman's feet. "About?"
"What about me?"
Xena scratched her chin, trying to remember the arguments her heart had used against her brain when she had allowed the former to follow its course in loving her bard, and to accept the love that was returned. "I know how you feel about Eponin," she began without prelude. "What I don't understand is, why you fight with her. Why do you struggle against the feelings in your own heart?"
Wolf plucked at a pebble buried in the packed earth between her outstretched legs and shrugged. "She doesn't feel the same way."
The tall warrior rubbed at her temple, willing her impatience back into its lair. "Wolf, I saw what happened in the council hut. You know how she feels about you." When the other woman remained silent, she continued to press. "I know there's something else," she revealed. "Wolf, look at me."
Unable to disobey the warrior's stern tone of command, the small woman lifted her head.
The pain that Xena saw in her sad brown eyes, even in the fading light, made the tall warrior's heart clench. Had she looked like this before the bard had broken through her walls and defeated all her doubts?
"Look, I know what you're feeling. I've been there. Do you think that it was easy letting Gabrielle love me? As much as I felt for her, and the gods know how I fought against caring for her, I couldn't let her love me because I thought that I didn't deserve another person's heart. Not in the way that she offered hers."
Wolf chewed the inside of her mouth, not wanting to feel the pain, the desperate need to accept Eponin's love. "You know who I am, Xena," she whispered, her voice hoarse with emotion. "I am the child of a demon, an evil god. I may be fine now, but what if...."
Xena ran a finger along the scar on her friend's jaw. "All the 'what ifs' won't make the hurt go away. And I know it hurts, wanting to be so close to someone that you feel like you are being turned inside out." She took a breath to still her pounding heart. "And then to find someone who wants the same thing, to love you, to be inside of your heart and soul, no matter how tainted it may be. You can't believe that the pain will go away...that it just won't disappear if you allow yourself to take that risk of letting someone in."
"Oh, gods," the small woman cried in anguish. Allowing her tears to fall freely into her hands, Wolf sobbed. She felt strong arms lift and cradle her, rocking her until she was quiet enough to hear the incoherent murmurs of comfort. Sighing, she knew why Gabrielle liked this spot. It felt safe and warm.
Reluctantly, Wolf pulled herself out of Xena's arms and got to her feet, rubbing away the headache that her bawling had caused. She knew that the warrior's words were true.
Her own fears of what she perceived to be her inherent evil were nothing when compared to her friend's dark past. Xena had lived for over ten years letting blood wash over her, reveling in its violent course, in the fact that she had been the blade that had opened the fount. She knew that Xena still had nightmares, not to mention constant reminders, of her past as the 'Destroyer of Nations,' and that only the love of a gentle bard had more or less, kept her on a sane path the past three years.
Wolf snorted derisively at her own pitiful excuses for keeping Eponin at an arm's length, and a violent, angry distance it had been. All she had to compare with Xena's regrettable actions was the fact that a demon (that she had destroyed) had sired her. Surely, if Xena had found the courage to let someone that she loved beyond her own life, love her in return, even knowing that at one point her soul was blacker than the dankest depths of Tartarus, then, the demi-god thought, so can I.
Xena watched the young woman who had once been a skinny runt of a healer's apprentice in her army. With all her strength, skills, and god's-blooded gifts, she struggled against the one thing which she had no defenses - herself. She paced in the darkness, back and forth on the well-traveled path, the battle she fought evident in the expressions that contorted her features.
The tall warrior stretched her neck to release the tension that had taken hold. She could sense the sentries moving about in the trees above her, knowing that they were avoiding them discretely, perhaps fearful of the wrath of the little one, the anger that was foreign to the woman who was quick with a grin and a grain of dry humor. The disclosure of the demi-god's past had taken its toll on her spirit, her kind and gentle nature. Xena felt her heart go out to her friend.
She prayed to Artemis, Wolf's newfound patron goddess, that the young woman would find her way out of the darkness that had enslaved her soul. Without comment, she followed when the demi-god stopped her pacing and, as if making a decision, strode with purpose back to the village.
When they reached the edge of the forest, Wolf stopped and turned to her tall, and very wise, friend. "I want to thank you, Xena. You've...uh...helped me see things a little clearer." She scuffed her boot into the soft earth and apologized. "You must think that I'm a fool. What I've had to deal with is nothing compared to what you still live with. At least my demons are gone."
Xena shrugged off the woman's words. "Gabrielle gives me the courage to face mine. Love can do amazing things, Wolf. Let yourself be loved." Patting the small woman's cheek with a firm hand, the warrior continued. "And Ep is a great woman. She'll be good for you."
Wolf finally allowed all of her restrained emotions for the dark-haired Amazon free reign, to shine through in a blinding smile that reflected the dull torchlight in the square. "Ah...Xena...you have no idea. She's strong, smart, and when she's well into her wineskins, she has the most vulgar sense of humor."
The night was pierced with deep laughter. "I figured you were too busy trying to take her head to realize, little one."
Wrapping an arm around the tall warrior. "Hmm," she mused, "and her eyes, and oh...just thinking about...hehe, guess I better stop before I find myself in a whole lot of hurt," she mumbled as she tried to rub away the giddy feeling that had settled in the pit of her stomach.
Xena laughed at the woman's discomfort. "You're going to love the sleeping arrangements," she purred evilly, leading the small woman away from her guest hut to the opposite side of the village.
"What...is this," Wolf asked as Xena steered her towards Eponin's hut.
"Your new quarters...at least until we take care of Gael and his army." The warrior bit the inside of her cheek. She almost felt sorry for the both of them. "Don't look at me. It was the Queen's decision."
Rubbing a hand across her eyes, Wolf moaned. "It's too soon."
"Then sleep, and deal with it in the morning. Good night, little one." Xena turned to leave and claim her prize, who, if all was going according to the details of their agreement, was awaiting her eagerly in their bed.
"Get in a good one for me, huh? She could have warned me."
Xena grinned wickedly. "Oh, I'll be sure to make her holler a bit."
Wolf rolled her eyes and entered the hut cautiously, her step hesitant. Opening her senses, she knew that Eponin was asleep. The Amazon's rhythmic breathing whispered inside the demi-god's head, a lull that she allowed herself to fall into as she spread her pallet on the floor. In the darkness she found a blessed peace, easy with the possibilities tomorrow might bring.
Gabrielle fidgeted under the light blanket, gasping at the desire that burned under her skin. Even after Xena had left and she had been pulled into a serious conversation by Ephiny, her thoughts had remained with the warrior that had left her wet with need. She reached tentatively down and began to stroke the slick folds that thrummed for the attentions of one certain Warrior Princess.
Xena paused at the door of the Queen's hut when she heard Gabrielle moan. Even without the divine gifts that Wolf carried, she could smell the bard's arousal as it filtered through the portal's light covering. Slipping silently inside, she watched from a dark corner as her lover kicked the blanket off her flushed body. As promised, she was wearing only her top, under which her breasts were heaving with the exertion of her self-pleasuring. The warrior's mouth began to water when she took the final steps that led to the nectar she longed to taste.
With her eyes closed tight to better picture the object of her fantasy, Gabrielle never saw her lover approach their bed. And in her fevered state, she never felt the warrior's weight settle on the bed. But the moment that Xena seared her swollen nub with an erotic kiss, she screamed in ecstasy, driving her hips higher towards the source of her release.
As the bard moaned her name between incoherent cries of pleasure, Xena removed her weapons and armor in record time. Crawling up her lover's body, she placed her sword at the head of the bed and greeted her bard with a welcoming kiss. Tomorrow would come too soon for her tastes, she thought with a sigh, as the bard's hands began a journey of delightful familiarity.
When Eponin awoke in the morning, she rolled over and found a single white wildflower on her pillow. Fingering its rough stem, she wondered, her mind still fuzzy with sleep, who had left the gift. Sitting up, she saw Wolf's bedroll placed neatly on her clothing chest at the bottom of the pallet. Her hand went unconsciously to her throat. *Still in one piece*.
She had worried herself sick last night, questioning her Queen's wisdom in lodging the demi-god in her hut. She had fallen into an exhausted sleep, worried that Wolf would take offense at having to share the same quarters with her. Either the woman had gotten better at controlling her anger, or....
Sparing a glance at the sun rising into morning, she rubbed her eyes to clear Morpheus' spell and stood to her bare feet. The Amazon trudged to the washbasin in which she found a small piece of parchment. Her eyes opened wide and then misted when she read the words that flowed across the page in precise strokes.
I'm sorry about the way I've been. I've been such a bitch. I would like it if we could start over. Please forgive me.
Eponin clutched the note to her chest and twirled in a circle. She felt like a little girl with her first love. Starting over could mean so many things...so many possibilities, she thought. Folding the parchment carefully, she placed it and the flower at the bottom of her clothes chest. Her hands caressed the bedroll on the lid lovingly. With a new purpose, she washed quickly and dressed With an uncontrollable giddiness, she ran out of her hut, looking for the little warrior that fired her blood.
Xena and Gabrielle had just stepped from their own hut when they saw Eponin racing across the compound to the dining hall. They looked at each other questioningly when the Amazon stuck her head through the door to glance around and then took off running again.
"Wonder what she's doing," Gabrielle asked.
"Who," the Regent asked as she stretched, smiling a good morning to the Queen and her consort.
"Maybe Wolf knocked her silly last night," Xena offered.
"What?" Ephiny's harsh question carried through the crisp morning air. "Gabrielle...what have we done?"
The Queen's reassurances were cut short by TWO figures sprinting through the village. Their voices raised in excited shouts.
"Pony, get away from me with that thing!"
"Come on, Wolf...it's only a snake," the Amazon carrying the offensive reptile, called after the demi-god who was running as fast as her shorter legs could take her.
"I swear, Pony...I hate snakes," she blurted in admission.
The three observers watched with mixed expressions of concern and amusement. The tallest and darkest had to pinch her lips together to keep her humor silent. They watched as the smaller woman leapt into a somersault, bunched her legs upon landing, and launched herself into a nearby tree. The pursuing Amazon tossed the traumatized serpent into the brush and took the traditional route up into the above branches. Only Wolf's squeal revealed that Eponin had caught up to her. A few tense moments of silence was followed by another shout.
"Pony! Don't...we're going to fall again!"
Gabrielle winced as the prediction came true, a fading cry preceded their two bodies landing...softly. *What the...?.*
"Oh, gods, no...," the Regent wailed softly, her chin falling to her chest.
"What," Gabrielle asked in alarm as she gripped the blond Amazon's arm.
Xena lost her battle and began laughing. Between breaths she managed, "The horse manure."
As if on cue, the two women stepped from the trees, both coated in horse dung. When Wolf took stock of her body, she growled fierce enough to scatter all the forest creatures within hearing distance. "Eponin!"
The Amazon took one look into the small woman's eyes and took off running back the way they had come, throwing occasional glances over her shoulder to see her pursuer gaining ground. When they reached the public bathing area, Wolf caught her in a flying tackle that sent them both into a pool, startling a few early morning bathers.
When the Queen and her entourage of two found the women, they were in the middle of a water fight, splashing each other with abandonment, giggling and shouting.
"Giggling," Ephiny asked. "They don't giggle," she said matter-of-factly, trying to convince herself.
"Told you things would work out," the bard smirked, rocking on the balls of her feet after sighing a private moment of relief.
Xena shrugged. "Maybe they hit each other silly last night," she deadpanned.
"Maybe it was the fall," the Regent reasoned.
"Oh, they fell all right, and it wasn't just into the horse shi...."
"Gabrielle...," a low growl sounded.
The warrior bent her head to the bard's ear. "I thought I told you that I only like to hear you talk dirty in bed," she intoned, nipping a tender lobe.
Blushing profusely, Gabrielle cleared her throat. "So, Eph, what's for breakfast this morning," she asked, drawing her friend away from the baths and towards the dining hut.
Xena threw a last glance over her shoulder to the two women who seemed to be sharing an intimate secret, whispering a conversation back and forth. She smiled for her two friends' fortune at finally finding one another. With long strides, she caught up to the Queen and squeezed her shoulders affectionately.
Half a candlemark later, Eponin and Wolf entered the dining hall. The Amazon was looking down at the smaller woman and laughing at a joke that she had told. Both were still damp from their unexpected dip, but were in very good spirits, which lent to the confused buzz of chatter that made its rounds among the tables.
Gabrielle called and waved the two warriors over to join her at the head table. The bard smiled indulgently when they sat next to each other without breaking off their discourse. She watched their body language as they spoke, their touches more (much more) like caresses than the blows that had become commonplace between the two.
The Queen's Consort was still dealing with her inconvenient humor when she swept a glance over the crowd that was observing the new lovers. To the warrior, the Amazons seemed to be holding their breaths, expecting the two women to explode in a confrontation at any moment. When Eponin ran a casual, lingering finger over the muscles of Wolf's bare arm, fifty sets of eyes went wide. Only the newcomers seemed unconcerned about the drama that was unfolding at the Queen's table. Their thoughts were focused on the battle that would reclaim their village.
After the morning meal, the villagers of Garalis were treated to a spectacle of weapon mastery. Even though there was no more anger between the two, both Wolf and Eponin had a competitive streak that provided for a show of supreme ability. Their weapons changed from the chobos, to the staff, and then to swords. When Wolf unsheathed her twin swords, the visitors gasped at the uncommon sight.
"Could you imagine it if she was wearing her armor," the bard asked Xena who had elected to refrain from the friendly competition so that she could study her friend's technique.
"She is something," the tall warrior easily admitted. Even before Wolf discovered her other skills, she had been a master of the eastern ways of fighting. She was definitely someone that the Warrior Princess was glad to have as an ally.
"She wants to fight the way she is for the battle with Gael."
The warrior nodded. "I know."
"Don't you think that it would be a lot easier if she just, you know...shifted...and took them out with the...uh...force?"
Xena spared the bard a distracted glance. "First, and most important," the warrior began, wanting to clarify Wolf's reasoning, "she understands that the women of Garalis need to fight, to regain some control over their circumstances. They need to show a strong front to other warlords who might share Gael's greed. Second, and not by much, she needs to fight in her human form so that she can feel as normal as possible. She knows what she can do, but she wants the Amazons to see her as a warrior, a woman, not as the daughter of a god."
Gabrielle was stunned by the great number of words her lover had sacrificed for her half of a conversation. Then she felt ashamed for not understanding Wolf's decision. She smacked her palm against her forehead and berated herself in soft mumbles. The woman had been trying to reconcile the fact that she wasn't the Celtic foundling that she had lived most of her life as. But rather, she was Dahok's daughter, and as such, he had gifted her with the ability to change her shape into a fierce-looking dragon. Under Xena's tutelage she had also learned the ability to harness energy as the tall warrior had been taught by Lao Ma.
However, she would not flaunt these skills because she just wasn't that kind of person and because she understood the Amazons' need to reclaim what was theirs, including their peace of mind. Besides, watching her play with Eponin in their mock battle was enough to assure the Queen that Wolf was a warrior who was valuable to the Nation, no matter what shape she took.
Tired of teasing the Amazon warrior, opening herself up for strikes and then moving swiftly to block or deflect the expected blows, Wolf disarmed the Weaponsmaster with a flick of her wrist. When her opponent clasped her hands above her head, the small warrior resheathed her swords and bowed.
"Remind me never to go against you with blades, Wolf," Eponin asked, panting from the exertion.
"I could ask the same of you, Pony. You landed some good ones with that staff of yours," the small warrior admitted as she stretched with a wince, splayed her hands over bruised ribs.
"What about the bow?"
"Never really learned," Wolf replied. "I was trained for face-to-face combat."
"Want me to teach you?"
The demi-god blushed and then giggled at the suggestive wiggle of the Amazon's brows. "Why not? I'm always ready...for a challenge."
While a majority of the spectators stayed behind to watch as Eponin's students displayed their knowledge of her lessons, quite a few, including Xena and Gabrielle, followed the two women to the archery field.
Wolf carefully watched and listened as the Amazon Weaponsmaster gave her a quick lesson in the art of the bow. In the Amazon attire that she had begun to sport since she had arrived at the village, Wolf provided a magnificent picture as she notched an arrow and pulled the bowstring to her cheek as Eponin had showed her.
If the teacher hadn't been so enchanted by her student's posterior, she would have seen that the woman had turned her body too far towards the bow in an effort to aim the projectile.
Wolf's howl of pain when she released the arrow caught everyone's attention. Xena winced in empathy and borrowed a waterskin from someone in the crowd. She trotted over to where Wolf was crouched on the ground, her hand gingerly covering her wounded breast.
Leaning down to unlace her friend's top, Xena heard the urgent whispered apologies that Eponin was offering, pleading with Wolf. When she peeled the top off of the young woman's shoulders, she sucked in her breath.
While Wolf wasn't bleeding, the delicate skin on the outside of her right breast was as red as the pigmented dyes that had been used to paint the dragon on her chest. She had been chafed raw at the edge of her areola.
With a painful grin, the demi-god looked down to survey the damage. It didn't hurt as bad as it looked. She tried to ease Eponin's grief by joking. "Well, at least it's still attached. I won't have to have my armor altered."
The Amazon released a shaky laugh at the woman's efforts. "Some teacher I am," she said, berating herself.
"Relax, Pony. Just do me a favor, will you?"
"Watch my whole body when I try that again, and not just my ass, huh?"
Eponin blushed when she realized that she had been caught. Her color faded, though, when she moved around Wolf's body to view the damage for herself. When she reached out a hand towards the long, wide welt, her wrist was seized in a gentle, but firm, grasp. She looked up into eyes that were filled with discomfort and a hint of something else that signaled a responding urge within her own body.
"Don't...do that, please," Wolf asked, desire roughening her voice. When she had realized that the warrior was about to touch her breast, her sex had screamed with the need of release. And on a crowded practice field was not where she imagined her first time with Eponin.
"Sorry," the Amazon mumbled, trying to pull away.
Wolf, however, refused to relinquish her hold on Eponin's wrist, and instead, she entwined their fingers together and kissed her lover's hand lightly. The twinkle that flashed in the Amazon's eyes was enough for her to return the good humor with a grin.
After Xena had wet a soft cloth with the water and applied it to the injured area, she retied Wolf's top. "All finished," she announced, patting her friend on the shoulder and uncoiled her powerful body to tower over the other two.
Wolf stood to her diminutive height and easily pulled the Amazon to her feet. Tilting her head, she announced, "Must be lunchtime."
When two sets of brows rose, she explained in an aside to Xena, "I heard Gabrielle's stomach growling."
The ensuing laughter that possessed them, claimed for all to see that the demi-god had suffered no serious damage from her close encounter with the gut-string of the bow.
With a nod of her head in the direction of the village, Xena invited them to join her, and like a pack that follows its leaders, the Amazons fell in behind the trio as they gathered their Queen and made their way to the dining hall.
Continued...Part 2 (Conclusion)