Disclaimer: Xena and Gabrielle belong to their creators at Ren Pic. I'm only borrowing them to use in my imagination. I promise to return them only a bit worse for wear (tired but happy).
Type: Alt Classic Humor
Sex: None, but lesbian relationship obvious
Violence: No worse than typical episode. Some bad language.
Ick Factor: None
Last Chance Saloon
by Caley Woulfe
Gabrielle blinked at the odd, wooden arch spanning the road ahead. It was roughly made and on it were carved the words Spaghettia Bendarum. "Xena, isn't that Latin? Is this a Roman colony?"
Xena shook her head, smiling slightly. "No. Well, yes, spaghettia is Latin. But it's not a Roman colony."
"Then why does it have a Latin name?"
"Uh..." Xena shrugged. "No idea."
"What's a bendarum?"
"It means a bend in a river."
"River? There's no river around here."
"So? Come on, Argo needs shoes."
"Again?" Gabrielle objected. "She always needs shoes. She goes through shoes like shit through a..." The rest of the rude phrase was muffled by Xena's hand.
"Such language," Xena admonished her.
The bard removed the censorious appendage. "Oh yeah? Well, I never talked like that til I met you. If you can talk like that, why can't I?"
"It's unladylike," Xena told her archly.
Gabrielle stopped dead in the road and planted her hands on her curvaceous hips. "Since when was I a Lady? Never! Never have been, never will. So stuff the Lady crap, ok?"
Xena kept going and waved a negligent hand. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. Come on, it's almost dinner time and I'm thirsty, too."
The mere mention food made the bard forget her indignation and she trotted to catch up with her lover. They passed under the curious arch and entered a bustling hamlet. Gabrielle was quick to notice that the people were dressed in clothes she had never seen before. The blacksmith, it turned out, was at the other end of town. The bard observed the surroundings in fascination.
"Why is everyone dressed so funny?" she asked, taking in the peculiar garb adorning the citizens.
"Uh.." Xena hedged.
"Have you been here before?"
Gabrielle pinned her with a no nonsense stare. "In a good way or a bad way?"
The bard sighed. "Think anyone'll recognize you?"
Gabrielle rubbed her face in frustration. "Is there any village, anywhere, just one, that you *didn't* pillage and burn?"
Xena smiled agin, this time more broadly. "Sure. This one, for example."
"I thought you said you'd been here in a bad way. What did you do?"
"I shot the sheriff. But I didn't shoot the deputy."
"What's a sheriff?"
"A town magistrate."
"If he's the town magistrate, why is he called the sheriff?"
"Cuz he's called a sheriff, not a town magistrate."
"Gah!" Gabrielle thumped her staff against the ground a few times, sending up puffs of annoying dust. "Why can't they just call him a fu..." Xena threw her a warning glare. "A damn magistrate?"
"Cuz they call him a sheriff here."
"Why?!" Gabrielle barked, attracting stares from passersby.
"How the Hell would I know?"
"Wait, what's hell?'
"The Nordic version of Tartarus. Easier to say, don't you think?"
"Don't change the subject!"
"Why are you shouting?" Xena yelled.
"I'm not!" the bard yelled back.
"Hey, take the Bitch Fest somewhere else, will ya? Folks are trying to do some business here!"
Gabrielle turned on the rotund merchant. "Who asked you to butt in, ya fat fu..."
"Gabrielle!" Xena took her lover's ear and doubled her pace, dragging the bard along with her. "Calm down, will ya? You're gonna get us in trouble!"
"Ow, ow, ow!" The bard pried the painful fingers off and slapped at them. "HE....." Gabrielle saw Xena's point. She decided he wasn't worth getting angry over. "Never mind." Then, "What's a deputy?"
"The sheriff's second in command."
"Oh. Then why isn't he called an Under sheriff. You know, like underwear."
"Underwear? What's that?" Xena asked.
The bard shook her head. "I don't know. The word just popped into my head. Never mind, forget it."
Xena rolled her eyes.
They reached the smithy without incident. The bard haggled a suitable price for the mare's shoes and Xena suggested they go to a tavern for lunch while they waited. The thought of real food and drink instead of trail rations brought a grin to Gabrielle's face.
"I know a good place," Xena told her as they strolled back along the main street. In fact, it seemed to be the only street. She stopped before a building with a colorful sign out front.
"The Last Chance Saloon," Gabrielle read out loud inquisitively, frowning in puzzlement.
"Come on, they have great food," Xena told her The bard forgot about the funny name and followed her through a pair of swinging doors that looked more like window shutters. Inside it looked like most other taverns they had been to, but in one corner music issued from a strange apparatus. Gabrielle had never heard or seen anything like it.
"What's that?" she asked, pointing.
More Latin? "Which is?...."
Xena had to think about it for a moment. "It's sorta like a harp in a box. The musician presses a key, which makes a little wooden hammer strike a harp string, and that makes the sound."
Gabrielle had to think about it, too, trying to envision such a complicated system. "I've never seen one before..or even heard of one."
"This is the only place I've seen one, too," Xena clarified as they made their way to the bar.
"Oh." The bard glanced up at a graphic painting of a naked woman lying seductively on a rumpled bed. "What's with that, Xena? Don't most prostitutes work in taverns? Why advertise?"
"It reminds them.. The men, and.. supposedly puts them in the mood."
Gabrielle looked around a spied several women wearing scanty, skin tight, frilly clothes. They laughed and flirted as they served drinks and tried to avoid being grabbed by over eager customers. She turned around to face the bar again, confronted by her own image in the largest mirror she had ever seen. She tugged Xena's arm. "What's with that? It must've cost a fortune."
"That's for the customers. A lot of them are killers or mercenaries. The mirror let's them to see who's behind them so they won't get snuck up on."
"Is that why we came here?"
"Not really." Xena scanned the room for danger, but no one was paying them any attention."
A short, balding man in a grubby apron appeared in front of them. "What'll ya have?"
"Whiskey for me, a sarsparilla for my friend."
Gabrielle tugged Xena's arm again. "What's whiskey and sarsparilla?"
"Whiskey's kinda like Gaulish mead; sarsparilla...it's made from some sort of root. It's kinda sweet and good for ya."
"Oh." Then, "Xena, what *is* this place?"
"You saw the sign. Spaghettia Bendarum."
"Ha ha," the bard replied mirthlessly. She looked up again. High on the wall near the ceiling was a flamboyant sign which read Your Last Chance For A Good Stiff Drink. "Why is this place called the Last Chance Saloon?" she asked Xena.
The bar tender appeared with their drinks and answered, "Cuz this here is the civilized last place afore ya go inta the desert. This is the West, ya know." He waved a hand towards the door.
Gabrielle peered behind her, catching a glimpse of water between two rickety buildings.
Mystified, she frowned at the man. "Of course it is, we're on the western coast of Greece. That's a sea out there, not a desert. What are you bab...talking about?"
"Same difference," the man said negligently. "There aint no fresh water ta be had, nor food nor decent drink."
"Fish?" Gabrielle pointed out, aware of Xena's amused smile out of the corner of her eye.
"Gotta catch 'em first."
"Uh huh." She looked up at the sign again. "How can a drink be stiff? It's liquid!"
"It's an expression, Gabrielle. Here.." Xena put a tiny glass in front of her. "Try that."
"Ok." Gabrielle took the drink and sniffed it experimentally. "Smells good." She took the contents all at once. Luckily, having had Gaulish mead, the results were not terribly dramatic. She only shivered from head to food and coughed her lungs up. "SHIT!"
"See? That'll put some iron in your spine," the bar tender remarked, then asked Xena, "Another?"
"Yeah." She took the empty glass from a shaking hand and gave it to him. She picked up the mug in front of her lover and pressed it into her fingers. "Here, chase it down with that."
Mouth and throat burning, the bard drained the vessel with enormous gulps til none was left. "Shit!"
"Now ya know why they call it stiff," Xena said, taking the small but dangerous vessel from her. "Another round," she said to the man. Gabrielle was still trying to get her breath back when he returned with two more drinks for them. She seized hers and drank it almost as quickly while Xena neatly tossed down her shot with nary a sign of how strong it was. Somewhat recovered, Gabrielle asked him, "Whattaya got to eat around here?"
"Buffler steak, biskits, gravy, corn mush."
"Uh..." Gabrielle uttered.
"We'll take two," Xena told him. She tapped Gabrielle's arm and pointed across the room to an empty table in the corner. "We'll be over there." The bard followed her lover through the crowded, smokey room to the flimsy table. As usual, Xena sat with her back to the wall while Gabrielle seated herself opposite her.
"Why is this place called a saloon and not a tavern?" she asked, wishing she had some sarsparilla left. It was pretty good, she had to admit.
"It's another word for salon."
Uh... "Which is...what?" the bard asked.
"Kinda like a living room, only fancier."
"A room in a house used to entertain guests."
"Oh, one of those." Gabrielle sat back and looked around the room at the people in their funny clothes. "Xena, what is this place.. This town? Everyone dresses... weird, the buildings are weird, they talk weird. Weird...." She gestured towards the piano. "Things. I've never seen anything like it. What's going on?"
Xena shrugged. "No idea. It's always been like this."
She didn't say anything more, so Gabrielle tried a different tack. "Why did you shoot the magi... sheriff?"
"He tried to arrest me."
"For?" the bard prodded.
"I thought you said you hadn't attacked this village."
"I hadn't. But he saw my face on a wanted poster."
"A piece of parchment with a drawing of a wanted criminal, a physical description, and the person's crimes."
"I've never seen one of those."
"They only have them here. Oh, and it listed a one hundred dinar reward for whoever caught me and turned me in."
"So he tried to arrest you and you shot him? With what?"
"A little crossbow I used to have. It was too complicated to use, so I sold it years ago."
The bard digested this. "Are you still wanted?"
Gabrielle glanced around warily.
"What about the deputy? You said you didn't shoot him.
"No. I escaped; haven't been back since."
The bard peered at her closely. "So we're here..because?...." She let the question dangle.
"Cuz Argo needed shoes and this was the closest village."
A young man arrived with a large platter of dishes. Gabrielle watched hungrily as they were deposited on the table. She quickly took a plate and sniffed the aroma. "Smells good." To the waiter, "What's buffler?"
He did a double take. "Buffalo."
The bard only blinked. "What's a buffa...."
Xena interrupted her. "Bring her another sarsparilla and me an ale, will ya?"
"Yes, Ma'am, right away. The waiter left before explaining further.
"Xena, what's a buffalo?"
"I dunno. Tastes good, though."
Gabrielle sighed. Without any further ado, she tucked in. The meat was slightly gamy and tough, but otherwise excellent. The gravy was good, as were the biskits; small round loaves of fine wheat bread with fresh butter. The corn mush, obviously some sort of vegetable, was a little gritty but very tasty.
The portions were generous, especially the steak, which took up more than half the plate. Still, it didn't take them long to eat it all. Xena paid the bill and they left.
No sooner had they stepped through the swinging doors than a tall, ugly man with a metal star on his odd tunic planted himself in front of them, and demanded belligerently, "Are you Xena, Warrior Princess?"
"Who wants to know?" she replied, moving the bard behind her. Just in case.
"I'm sheriff Ebolus."
"Oh yeah, you used to be deputy."
"Yep. You're Xena, aren't you?"
"I just here getting my horse shod. She should be done by now. I don't want any trouble, we're leaving..."
"Oh no ya don't." He pulled his sword. "I'm arrestin' you for the murder of sheriff Ebolus eight years ago."
"No you're not," Xena countered unequivocally.
"Fine by me, Destroyer of Nations. I'll just kill ya here and now."
"Try it," Xena sneered.
Gabrielle managed to get in a word edgewise. "I'm gonna go get Argo, ok?'
Xena only nodded as she and Ebolus began circling each other and moving to the dusty street.
Gabrielle sprinted down the road, talking to herself and garnering stares. "Once, just once you'd think we could go into a village do what we need to do and leave without trouble. But NO, something always happens. If it's not one thing, it's another. Fuck!"
She reached the smithy quickly, paid the man, and mounted Argo for the return trip.
Xena decided Ebolus was no swordsman and proceeded to play with him and make a fool of him in front of the assembled townspeople. Gabrielle soon arrived on Argo and she took the opportunity to get inside his defense, grabbing his belt buckle with her left hand and yanking it open. It parted, and his pants promptly slid down his legs, tripping him where he stood and revealing what Mother Nature had bestowed on him. Apparently Mother Nature had given him the short end of the stick, as it were, and the people laughed twice as loud. As he hopped and swore, she jammed his outlandish hat down over his eyes, blinding him as well. Laughing along with them, she sheathed her sword, no longer needing it.
Gabrielle got her two dinars in, too; dismounting and smacking him soundly on his bare butt with her staff, then sweeping his legs out from beneath him. His landed hard on his ugly, hairy rear end and swore as he sneezed in the resulting cloud of irritating dust. Grinning, Xena mounted and helped her lover up behind her. Warrior Do Gooder and Bard rode happily into the sunset. Well, as far as the beach, anyway, and headed North.
"We aren't coming back here anytime soon, are we?" It was more a statement than a question on Gabrielle's part.
"Not unless you want to," Xena teased.
"Stop talking like that or I'm gonna wash your mouth out with soap!"
"Oh yeah? You and what army?" the bard taunted.
"I am an army of one."
Return to The Bard's Corner
Return to AUSXIP
AUSXIP Lucy Lawless Files
AUSXIP Renee O'Connor Files