|DISCLAIMER: The characters Xena
and Gabrielle, along with others who have appeared in the TV
series XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, are the sole property of
MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. Their use in this story
does not constitute the author's intent to make a profit or
otherwise infringe on the existing copyright. The interpretation
of the characters in this story is purely the author's own.
Copyright for this fanfiction held by Eva Allen, March 1998.
Constructive criticism and/or unadulterated praise are always
welcome! Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
BE ADVISED: This story includes the depiction of sex between two
consenting adult women. If this offends you, please find something
else to read!
"Well, there's the town," said Xena as she reined Argo to a
halt at the top of the ridge.
Gabrielle, who had been riding with her head against the warrior's
back--asleep, as Xena suspected--sat up to take a look. "It's
pretty big," she commented.
"Yeah," Xena said. "We can get supplies here and since
it's still early in the afternoon, we'll have time to travel another
league or two before we make camp."
"Uh-huh," said the bard thoughtfully. Then she ran her
fingers lightly down Xena's arm. "Or if we got a room at the inn,
we'd have time to take a bath and make love before supper."
Xena twisted around in the saddle to look at her. "Take a
bath!" she exclaimed. "We just took a bath two days ago!"
"Yes, but that was in a cold lake. I'm talking about a real
bath, in a tub with warm water. And maybe," she added, sliding her
hands up under Xena's hair to gently massage her lover's back and neck,
"I can arrange for someone to wash your back for you."
"Hmm. You're beginning to tempt me. But I don't know if we can
afford a room and supplies, too." Xena reached into her bodice for
her coin purse and quickly surveyed its contents. "I've got seven
dinars. How much have you got?"
Gabrielle was already counting the coins in her own purse.
"Fifteen," she announced. "That ought to be enough."
Xena grinned and replaced her purse as she urged Argo forward.
"So you think I need a bath, do you?"
"Yeah," said Gabrielle, wrapping her arms tightly around
the warrior and laying her head against her shoulder. "You're so
stinky I can hardly stand to be around you."
"Right. I can see that. But how'd you end up with so many dinars?"
"Yeah, but you haven't told any for a couple of weeks."
"No, but I've been saving my money."
"Sure. You let me buy all the food. That's how you manage to
save so much." Xena reached back and squeezed Gabrielle's thigh,
"Ouch!" the bard cried, prying Xena's hand loose.
"Better be careful or you won't get your back washed!"
Xena laughed and patted the younger woman's leg. "Ooh, that was
a wicked threat! I think I'll reform immediately!" she said.
"You will if you know what's good for you. But anyway,"
Gabrielle continued, "I was saving my money for something nice for
both of us, like a night at an inn, for instance. It's not like I was
going to spend that money all on myself."
"I know. I just like to give you a hard time."
She heard Gabrielle laugh and felt the bard's warm weight against her
back as Argo carried them down the hillside and into the town. The
thought of their planned activities brought such a big smile to her face
that she soon realized she was attracting stares from people in the
street. Oh well, she didn't care. Let them think whatever they wanted.
* * * * *
At the inn, the two women dismounted. "You go in and see about
getting us a room," Xena said. "I'll start unloading our
In a short time, Gabrielle returned. "It's upstairs, second door
on the right," she said. "And there's a bathtub we can
"Okay, you carry this stuff in and I'll take Argo to the
When she joined Gabrielle in the room a few minutes later, she was
greeted with a big hug and kiss.
"What do you think?" the bard asked, gesturing to the room.
"How much was it?" Xena asked, surveying their
surroundings. It was bigger than some places they'd stayed. The bed was
actually wide enough for two people to sleep comfortably, and there was
also a washstand and a small table with two benches. A soft breeze came
in through the window overlooking the street.
"Not bad. Where's the tub?"
"It's downstairs, but the innkeeper said we could bring it up
here. We can get hot water from a big pot over the kitchen fire, and
cold water from the well in back."
Xena raised an eyebrow and sat down on the bed to wait for the
proposal she knew was coming.
"I'll make you a deal," said Gabrielle. "If you carry
the tub up, and half the water, I'll carry the other half, let you have
the first bath, and I'll wash your back. How about it?"
"I don't know," the warrior mused. "That tub is bound
to be heavy. I'm not sure there's
enough reward here for my efforts. Is that your best offer?"
"Okay, I'll wash your front as well as your back."
"It's sounding better."
"And your hair."
"All right, it's a deal."
* * * * *
A short time later, Xena stood in the room stripping off her armor,
boots, and leathers, and tying up her hair. Gabrielle was still
downstairs refilling the kitchen pot with water from the well. After
testing the bathwater cautiously with one foot, Xena stepped into the
tub and sat down. The water was somewhat hotter than she liked it, but
this way there was a better chance it would still be warm for Gabrielle
later on. The wooden tub, which had seemed so big when Xena was lugging
it up the stairs, now seemed small for her lanky body. But by sitting
with her knees bent, she was able to slide down far enough to lean her
head back against the edge of the tub. The heat of the water made her
skin tingle and turn rosy. She closed her eyes. Getting this room had
been a good idea, she decided. If she had been travelling alone, she
never would have thought of it. Gabrielle was good for her in that
way--in a lot of ways, in fact. Who would have ever dreamed that young
girl who followed her to Amphipolis would become such a vital part of
The door opened and then closed again, and Gabrielle crossed the room
to the tub.
"Ah! My personal bath attendant has arrived," Xena
"Yes, here I am. Where's the soap?" asked Gabrielle.
Xena opened her eyes long enough to glance around. "Oh. Well, I
might have forgotten to get it out of the saddlebag," she said.
"And the towels?"
With a small sigh, Gabrielle turned and went to the their pile of
gear, where Xena heard her rummaging around for a few moments.
Returning, the bard knelt at Xena's head and dipped her hands into the
water and lathered them. "Sit up, Sweetheart, so I can get to your
back," she said, and the warrior complied.
Gabrielle's hands felt warm and soothing as they slid across her
skin, and the warrior breathed out a long, slow breath. Then, gently,
the bard's fingers began to massage her neck and shoulders.
"Xena," Gabrielle said, after a moment. "Are you
worried about something? Your muscles feel really tight."
Xena opened her eyes. "No, I'm not worried," she responded
automatically. "What's there to worry about?"
"I don't know. That's what I'm asking you. You're obviously
tense about something. I can feel it in your neck and shoulders. Come
on, Xena, you can tell me. You know I don't like it when you keep
secrets from me."
"I'm sorry. I'm not trying to keep secrets. The truth is, I
don't know what I'm worried about. I just keep having this feeling that
something bad is going to happen, but I don't know what or when."
Gabrielle was silent for a moment, then asked, "How long have
you felt this way?"
"A couple of days now."
There was silence again, as the bard's hands continued working to
release the tight muscles.
"Well, let's look at it this way," Gabrielle said then.
"If something was going to happen today, it probably would have
already happened, while we were travelling. Now we're safe here at the
inn, so why don't you try to relax for awhile? You can start worrying
"Sounds like a good plan to me," Xena said with a grin.
Then she closed her eyes again and gave herself up to the pleasure of
It didn't take long for the bard's fingers to smooth away the
"Feeling better now?" Gabrielle asked after a couple of
"Yeah. Kind of like a bowl of mush," Xena said. "You
know, you could probably make a lot of money selling your secret to my
"Mmm, what a good idea," Gabrielle murmured as she kissed
Xena's ear. Then, soaping her hands again, she slid them down over the
warrior's chest and breasts, stopping to let her fingers circle the dark
areolas and gently tease the nipples.
Xena drew in a sharp breath and felt her nipples harden. She leaned
back against her lover and looked up through the golden hair that softly
brushed her face. "What did you say we were going to do after
this?" she asked.
"Make love," whispered Gabrielle, as one hand slipped below
the water and found the place of pleasure between the warrior's legs.
Xena let her knees fall open as sweet sensations flowed through her
body. "Oh yeah," she said. "Now I remember."
Gabrielle's hands lingered only a few moments, though, before moving
on to lather Xena's legs.
"Hey!" said the warrior, sitting up so suddenly that she
sloshed water out of the tub. "I think there are some places there
that could use a little more attention!"
"Oh, they'll get plenty of attention later on," Gabrielle
said with a grin. "Right now I'm trying to get you washed and out
of this tub before the water gets cold."
"Well, it's good to have priorities, I guess."
"I'm glad you can see it that way. Now bend over so I can do
your hair." She unfastened the dark tresses and Xena shook them
out, letting them fall forward over the water. Gabrielle used one of
their mugs to pour water over the warrior's head, then quickly lathered
and rinsed the hair.
"Okay, you're done," she said. "The towel is on the
floor right here by the tub. I'm going to start getting undressed."
Xena squeezed the water out of her hair, then fumbled for the linen
towel and twisted it around her head. Her turn in the tub was over, but
she was loath to leave the soothing warmth of the water.
Gabrielle, naked now, came back across the room and stood by the tub
expectantly, her hands on her hips.
"You forgot to do my feet," said Xena, thrusting one long
leg out of the water and practically kicking Gabrielle in the face.
"Well, so I did!" The bard caught Xena's ankle in one hand
and ran the fingernails of her other hand lightly along the underside of
Xena arched an eyebrow at her and watched calmly until Gabrielle gave
up in frustration.
"You're just not ticklish at all, are you?"
"Nope, and that fact used to disappoint the heck out of my
brothers, too. In fact, Lyceus was the only one of us who was ticklish.
I'm afraid Toris and I tortured that poor boy unmercifully at
times." She smiled a bittersweet smile.
"Well, Lila and I were both ticklish, so we were pretty evenly
matched," said Gabrielle. Then she kissed Xena's big toe and
released her foot. "Now get out of there--it's my turn."
Reluctantly, Xena stood up and stepped, dripping, out of the tub.
Unwinding the towel from her head, she began drying herself as she moved
slowly toward the bed. She glanced back to see Gabrielle step into the
bathwater and sit down. "Is it warm enough?" Xena asked.
"Uh-huh. That's what I thought, too, just before I was forced to
Gabrielle laughed, and Xena bent to run the now-wet towel over her
legs. "We need to get another towel or two," she said.
"These things are just not big enough to dry your hair and your
whole body, too."
"Yeah, I know. Maybe we can buy some tomorrow when we're getting
Xena moved to the window and hung her towel over the sill, then sat
down on the edge of the bed and watched her lover splash water on her
arms and chest. "It's too bad you didn't arrange for a bath
attendant, like I did," she commented.
"Oh, I think I can manage just fine without one." Gabrielle
said. She lathered her hands and began running them over her breasts,
lifting and circling them, then languidly teasing the nipples into hard
Xena felt her breath coming faster and found that she could not take
her eyes off the bard. She tried to sit still, but the desire to have
her own hands do what Gabrielle's were doing soon proved too strong.
Rising, she crossed to the tub and knelt beside it. Then, bending down,
she covered her lover's soft mouth with her own, feeling the lips part
to allow her tongue in. She dipped one hand into the bathwater and began
to caress Gabrielle's breasts. "Maybe I can help you out a
little," she murmured, breaking the kiss only long enough to speak.
The bard moaned softly and let her hands drop into the water.
"It's nice of you to make yourself useful," she said when the
"The pleasure is all mine," Xena whispered before nibbling
on an earlobe.
"Not all of it," Gabrielle returned and then grinned.
"Just don't forget that I'm taking a bath here. The love-making
part comes later."
"Oh, yeah. I almost forgot."
Xena scooped water over Gabrielle's breasts to rinse them and then
slid her hand down between the bard's legs. She was rewarded with a
shiver of pleasure from her lover. "I'm not sure why I bothered to
dry off," she said. "You're just getting me all wet
"Oh, did I splash you?"
"Not that kind of wet, silly."
Gabrielle smiled and reached up with dripping arms to pull Xena close
for another kiss.
"Who's forgetting about the bath now?" Xena laughed.
"Okay, just wash my back and my hair and I'm done. Then we can
get on to the good stuff!"
A few minutes later, Gabrielle stood up in the tub, her hair wrapped
in a towel. Xena pulled a blanket from their pile of gear and enfolded
her lover in it. Then picking her up, she carried her to the bed and
laid her down.
"Now we'll have to sleep under wet covers," said Gabrielle.
"Who cares?" responded Xena as she eased her own body onto
the bed. She opened the blanket and kissed her way down to the soft
breasts. The bard's skin was warm and moist, almost steamy from the
bath. Xena pushed the blanket all the way off, wanting to feel her own
flesh next to her lover's. Then, taking a nipple in her mouth, she began
to suck it gently, feeling Gabrielle's fingers now in her tangled hair.
"That feels so good, Xena," whispered the bard. "I
don't think I can wait very long. I want
you to touch me so bad I can hardly stand it!"
"Mmm, is that so?" Xena said. She shifted her body to one
side and slid her hand down over Gabrielle's stomach to caress the mound
of curly hair. Then, as her fingers entered the hot, wet place beyond
that, she felt her lover squirm and heard her breathing speed up.
"I think you may be in even worse shape than I am," Xena said.
Gabrielle raised her head to look at the warrior. "If you'll get
yourself into a position where I can reach you, we can do this
together," she said.
"Okay," murmured Xena, "I think that can be
arranged." A moment later she cried out as she felt Gabrielle's
fingers enter her. She responded by sliding her own into her lover's
pleasure place, gently massaging the spots she knew would elicit a moan.
It wasn't long in coming.
"Xena, I love you so much!"
"I love you, too," Xena gasped, as she felt her orgasm
beginning. She didn't think she could hold it back--it was too strong.
"I'm almost there," she exclaimed. "How about you?"
"Yes! Yes! I'm--"
Xena pressed her own writhing body against Gabrielle's, burying her
face in the blonde hair to stifle her moans. When it was over, they
clung to each other, sweaty and happy, waiting for their breathing to
"That was incredible," said Gabrielle. "And incredibly
"Yeah, it must have been something in the bathwater," Xena
said with a grin. Then she propped herself up on one elbow and gazed
down at her lover's face. She wanted to speak, wanted somehow to convey
to Gabrielle all the emotion that filled her heart in this moment, but
her throat felt tight and no words would come. Gently, she pushed a damp
lock of golden hair away from Gabrielle's eyes and then softly kissed
her forehead, eyelids, cheek, and mouth.
"Gabrielle," she whispered, "I've never loved anyone
this much. I swear it."
"I know. I've never loved anyone like this before, either."
Xena kissed Gabrielle on the mouth again and then moved down her
throat and across her collarbones. "You know," she said, after
a few moments, "I'm getting kind of hungry."
"Want to get dressed for supper?"
"No. Not yet. That's not the kind of hungry I mean."
"Oh, well, maybe there's something around here that will satisfy
"Yes, I think I can find something," she murmured as she
moved further down her lover's body. It didn't take long to bring
Gabrielle to another climax, and afterwards they lay holding each other
"Roll over," Gabrielle said a few minutes later. "I
promised you some extra attention after
your bath, remember?"
"How could I forget?"
But she had just gotten started on the warrior's breasts when there
was a knock on the door. The women froze and stared at each other. Xena
reached for the edge of the blanket, hoping she could pull it over them
if someone opened the door.
"Hey! You finished with that tub yet?" a man shouted from
the passageway. "I got a guy down here who wants to use it!"
"It's the innkeeper," Gabrielle muttered, then called,
"Yeah, we're finished. We'll bring it down in a few minutes."
"All right, but don't take too long!"
They listened in silence to the retreating footsteps, then Xena
sighed. "Well, maybe we'd better continue this another time. Just
remember who was doing what to whom."
"We can go ahead and finish now, if you want to."
"No, I don't think I could concentrate--I'd be worrying about
getting that damned tub back downstairs!"
"Okay, then. I owe you one." Gabrielle climbed out of bed
and started looking for her clothes.
"Don't worry. I won't forget."
* * * * *
"Xena, look! There's a bard in there, telling stories!"
They stood at the entrance to the downstairs tavern room. Xena peered
through the smoky torchlight to where Gabrielle was pointing. On the far
side of the room a young man sat perched on a tall stool, speaking to
those seated at nearby tables. Even at this distance, it was easy to see
from his hand gestures that he was in the midst of spinning a tale.
"Can we sit over there close, so we can listen?" Gabrielle
"I wouldn't dream of sitting anywhere else," Xena said with
a smile. She followed her companion across the room and they found a
table near the bard. He was a young man, with curly, reddish hair and a
close-cropped beard. His eyes, a deep blue-green in color, glowed with
intensity as he spoke. The two women listened, fascinated, to a tale of
the struggle between the gods and the titans. The innkeeper brought them
food and wine, but Xena paid little attention to what they were eating,
so engaged was she by the story.
"He's really good, isn't he?" Gabrielle whispered excitedly
when the story came to an end.
Xena nodded. "He talks about the gods as if he knew them all
personally," she said. "It's amazing."
Another story followed, this one about Hades and the abduction of
Persephone. Xena glanced around and saw that the crowd of listeners was
growing, people nodding and smiling as they heard the familiar tales
told in a slightly new way.
"Let's ask him to join us when he takes a break," Gabrielle
said as they applauded the second story. "I'd really like to meet
him and talk to him about storytelling."
"I think he'll be over," Xena said. "Have you noticed
how he keeps looking at you?"
"He looks at everybody, Xena. That's how he relates to his
"I know, but he looks at you more often than at anybody else. He
must think you're a big fan."
"Well, I am. He's really good. I wish I could tell stories that
"You can, Gabrielle," returned Xena fiercely. "You're
every bit as good as he is. Your style is just different, is all."
Gabrielle looked doubtful and started to speak, but stopped when she
realized that the next story was starting. This one told of Athena and
her half-brother Perseus, and how they killed Medusa. When he finished
his telling, the young man announced that he would continue after a
short rest. A few people went forward to compliment him and offer coins,
which he graciously accepted. Then, true to Xena's prediction, he moved
toward their table.
"I want to give him a dinar," said Gabrielle, as she fished
out her coin purse. When he stopped beside her chair, she held out the
coin, smiling happily. "You're a wonderful storyteller!" she
"Thank you," he said, smiling back, "but keep your
dinar. It's reward enough for me to have such an ardent listener in my
"At least let us buy you some wine," Xena said, and
signalled to the innkeeper.
"All right," he said with a grin. "That sounds like an
offer I can't pass up. My name is Euphemios," he added and held out
his hand to Gabrielle.
"I'm Gabrielle, and this is my friend, Xena."
"Pleased to meet you," he said, pulling out a chair.
"We're really enjoying your stories," Xena said as she
shook hands. "You talk almost as if you have a personal
acquaintance with the gods."
He laughed. "Well, I've run into one or two of them, anyway. The
rest is mostly my imagination."
"We've run into a few of them ourselves," said Gabrielle
eagerly. "Poseidon and Bacchus and Aphrodite and Hades-- Oh, and
Ares, of course. He's been a real pain in the butt sometimes!"
"Well, that's Ares for you," said Euphemios lightly.
"But I have to say I kind of admire him, in a way."
Xena arched an eyebrow at him. "Oh? In what way?" she
"I don't know. He just has--"
He broke off as the innkeeper arrived. When the wine had been poured
and paid for with Gabrielle's dinar, Euphemios took a big gulp and
smiled. "Thanks!" he said. "I was getting thirsty up
"Storytelling is hard work," commented Xena.
"Gabrielle is a bard, too."
"Are you really?" he said, turning to the younger woman.
"I'd love to hear you tell some tales. I so rarely get to hear
another bard. What kind of stories do you tell?"
"Oh, mostly stories about Xena, and about our adventures
"About Xena?" Euphemios said curiously, turning to look at
the taller woman.
"You haven't heard of her?" Gabrielle asked in surprise.
"She's known as the Warrior Princess. She's done some amazing
"Well, I'm new to this region, so I guess I've missed out,"
said Euphemios with a smile. "Even more reason for you to tell some
of your stories."
"Where do you come from?" asked Xena, hoping to change the
topic of conversation.
"Ah, the land beyond the Aegean Sea. I've never been there, but
I hear it's lovely."
"There's actually someplace you haven't been?" Gabrielle
Xena grinned and chugged the last of her wine. "Yes, believe it
or not, there is," she said.
"Well, now I'm really intrigued," said Euphemios.
"Let's hear some of these stories about the great Warrior
"You're sure you don't mind?" said Gabrielle. "I mean,
people came here to listen to you, not to me."
"I don't mind at all. I'll even introduce you.Folks just want to
be entertained, and if you're any good at all, they'll listen."
"Oh, she's good all right," said Xena with a wink at her
lover. "But if you two will excuse me, I think I'll head upstairs
to bed. I didn't get a nap today while we were riding, like someone I
know did, and I'm a little tired."
Gabrielle turned to Euphemios. "Xena's just saying that, about
being tired," she confided. "The truth is that she hates to
listen to stories about herself."
"Well, if you wouldn't make me sound like some kind of demi-god
or something, it would help," Xena said, laughing. "But I also
know you two bards want to talk shop, and I'd just be in the way."
Then she reached under the table and put her hand on Gabrielle's knee.
"Stay as long as you like," she said. "Just remember to
"I will," said Gabrielle, smiling and squeezing the
warrior's hand. "And I'll try not to stay too late. Good night,
"Good night," Xena said, rising. "It's been a pleasure
meeting you," she added, with a nod to Euphemios. Then she turned
and strode across the room.
* * * * *
Upstairs, in the light of the flickering candle, Xena took off her
weapons, boots, and armor, but left her leathers on. She climbed into
bed and lay there watching the shadows moving among the rafters. The
candle could be left burning, she decided, although she knew Gabrielle
might not come to bed before it burned down. She hadn't lied about being
tired, but Gabrielle was also right--she didn't like listening to
stories of her own exploits. This had worked out pretty well, though:
now her lover would have a good time telling tales and chatting with a
fellow bard while Xena got a little extra rest. Smiling, she closed her
eyes, and in a short time fell asleep.
When she woke, the room was dark and the other half of the bed was
still empty. From the tavern below came the faint sound of voices, but
most of the crowd had apparently left. How long had she slept? Xena sat
up and swung her legs off the bed. Reaching in the dark, her hand found
the burned-out candle in a cold puddle of tallow. She got up and moved
to the window, leaning out to study the position of the stars. It was
past midnight, anyway. In fact, by her estimate, a good three hours had
passed since she came up to the room.
Returning to the bed, Xena located her boots by touch and sat down to
put them on. A cold knot of worry was tightening in her stomach, but she
took a deep breath and tried to relax. Gabrielle had most likely gotten
so involved in telling stories and talking to Euphemios that she had
lost all track of time. That sort of thing had happened before. It was
very likely that Xena would find her sitting downstairs, deep in
discussion of some storytelling technique, surprised that her lover had
come looking for her.
Standing up, she strapped on her armor and sword, then crossed the
room and stepped out into the hallway. Downstairs, at the tavern door,
she had to wait a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the torchlight.
There were very few people left in the room, and one or two of those lay
passed out on the floor. She didn't see Gabrielle at first, but then
noticed the bard sitting alone at their table, her head on her arms.
Quickly crossing the room, Xena sat down beside her.
"Gabrielle," she said, shaking her friend gently by the
The bard raised her head and turned toward the warrior, although she
seemed to have trouble focussing her eyes. "Xena?" she
"Yeah, it's me. Did you forget to come to bed?"
"Uh-huh. I guess so."
She spoke slowly, slurring her words, and Xena frowned, looking at
the wine goblets on the table. "How much wine did you drink after I
left?" she asked.
"I dunno. One or two cups. Euphemios bought me some. He's really
a nice guy, ya know?" Her head drooped down, but Xena reached out
and put a hand under her chin.
"Look at me, Gabrielle," she said, picking up a candle and
holding it so that the light fell on her lover's face.
"Hey, don't do that!" cried the bard. She pulled away from
Xena's hand, squeezing her eyes shut, but not before the warrior got a
good look at the pupils of the green eyes, now blackly dilated.
"I'm sorry, Love," Xena said as she quickly set the candle
down. Then, reaching for Gabrielle's cup, she sniffed at its contents,
and thrust a finger down inside it to taste the few drops of liquid that
remained in the bottom.
"I think you've been drugged, Gabrielle," she said in
amazement, but there was no answer. The blonde head was down on the
Xena took hold of her companion's shoulders and made her sit up, then
leaned close to her. "Where is Euphemios?" she asked.
Gabrielle cast her gaze around vaguely. "He's gone," she
said after a moment.
"Yes, I know he's gone, but did he say where he was going?"
"He said . . . he was . . ." Her voice trailed off.
"He said he was what?" Xena prompted.
"Going . . . to bed," Gabrielle finished.
"Was there anyone else here, Gabrielle? Did anyone else sit down
and have a drink with you?"
"No . . . I don't think so," she said slowly, "but
it's hard . . . to remember."
"Please try to remember," Xena said. "It's
The bard was silent for a time, wrinkling her brow as if deep in
thought. Finally, she looked at the warrior and said, "Xena?"
"What is it, Sweetheart?"
"Do you know that I love you?"
"Yes, I know," Xena said softly. "And I love you,
"Good," Gabrielle murmured and nodded. "I wanna go to
sleep now," she said, letting her eyes fall shut as her body went
slowly limp. Xena caught her as she slumped forward and held her with
one arm while she picked up the wine goblet and sniffed its contents
again. There were many herbs and drugs she was familiar with, but much
to her frustration, she could not identify this one. And not knowing
what drug her friend had taken, she had no idea what effects to expect.
With a heavy sigh, she hoisted Gabrielle into her arms and started
across the room, stopping when she reached the bar. The innkeeper
glanced up from the bucket of dirty water in which he was rinsing wine
goblets. "Looks like your friend had a little too much to
drink," he said.
"It looks that way, doesn't it?" Xena said evenly, then
went on. "That bard who was here, Euphemios. What do you know about
"Not much. Never saw him before tonight. Just came in and asked
if he could tell stories and I said sure. People love a good
storyteller. They'll stay longer and buy more drinks if they're being
entertained. Your friend there told some good stories, too. They were
about some warrior woman--I forget the name, but--"
"Is Euphemios staying here at the inn?" Xena broke in.
"No, not here."
"Did you see him leave? Have any idea where he went?"
"Nah, I was pretty busy. Can't be watching everybody, you know.
Seems like he was here and then he was gone--almost like he vanished or
"How long ago was that, when you noticed he was gone?"
"I don't know. Maybe an hour. Why are you asking all these
"It's important. Just one more thing. Did you see anybody else
talking to my friend here and Euphemios?"
"Well, sure. Several people went over and talked to them, gave
them some money for the stories, I guess. Like I say, I can't be
watching what everybody's doing. I'd never get any work done if I
did." He sloshed the last goblet around in the water, then picked
up the bucket and turned to carry it out the back door.
"Thanks for your help," Xena said quickly. "If that
bard shows up here again, will you come get me? Second room on the
right. I really need to talk to him."
The innkeeper grunted something that might have been an affirmative
and hurried away. Xena glanced down at her unconscious lover and took a
deep breath, trying to calm the fear that gnawed with sharp teeth at her
insides. Then she turned and headed for the door.
Upstairs in the room, she laid Gabrielle on the bed and sat down
beside her. Her mind was racing, trying to find some kind of motive for
what had happened in the tavern. Why would anyone want to drug
Gabrielle? Especially a fellow bard. Had he done it so he could rob her?
Xena quickly turned to feel inside her friend's bodice. The small
leather purse was there and she pulled it out, emptied the contents into
her hand, and counted the coins by touch in the dark. There were eleven
dinars. She calculated for a moment. Gabrielle had started with fifteen
dinars that afternoon, then paid five for the room, plus another three
for their dinner and wine. That meant she must have earned four dinars
telling stories--not a bad amount at all, considering she wasn't the
only bard present. It also meant that she hadn't been robbed. Anyone who
went to all the trouble to drug his victim would have just taken the
whole purse, anyway.
Xena sighed, pulled out her own coin purse and laid the two of them
together on the floor, along with her weapons and armor. Then she
undressed Gabrielle and tucked a blanket over her. Checking the bard's
pulse, she found it fast, but regular. She walked to the window and
stood for a time, considering whether there would be any point in going
out to roam the streets in search of Euphemios. In the end, she decided
against it. She didn't even know for certain that he was the one who had
drugged Gabrielle, and she still couldn't think of a motive. Was he
jealous of her skill in storytelling? That might make some sense if he
had heard her tell tales before and had come prepared with a drug to put
into her drink. But he claimed he had never heard her before tonight.
Did he just carry drugs around with him all the time? This seemed like a
strange thing for someone to do. Could it be that the potion was really
meant for someone else and Gabrielle drank it by mistake?
Xena shook her head, unable to solve the riddle. Turning toward the
bed, she listened to Gabrielle's breathing, a little labored, but
steady. Finally, she moved back across the room and took off her
leathers. Slipping into bed under the blanket, she pulled the sleeping
bard into her arms, then lay staring into the darkness. After a time,
she fell into a fitful doze from which she woke at intervals to check
Gabrielle's pulse and breathing. Then, lying awake, she let her mind
wrestle with questions to which there seemed to be no answers until
sleep once again brought a short respite.
* * * * *
The sun was just peeking into the room when Xena heard her lover moan
softly and felt her stir in her arms.
"Gabrielle?" she said, gently brushing the bard's hair back
from her face.
Gabrielle opened her eyes and looked around for a moment, then
suddenly stiffened and pulled loose from Xena's embrace. She raised
herself on the bed, staring down at the warrior in fear and confusion,
then scrambled out from under the covers and began backing away.
"Who are you?" she asked. "What is this place?"
Puzzled, Xena turned on her side and propped herself on one elbow to
watch the bard. "It's me, Xena," she said quietly. "We
got a room at an inn last night. Don't you remember?"
Gabrielle surveyed the room nervously, without appearing to recognize
anything. Then, glancing down, she gasped softly and hugged her arms
across her chest. "Where are my clothes?" she asked.
Xena tossed off the covers and moved to the end of the bed. Leaning
down, she picked up Gabrielle's bodice and skirt from the floor and held
them out. "Right here," she said.
The bard advanced just far enough to snatch the clothing from Xena's
hand and then retreated again. Standing in the center of the room, she
turned the garments over and over in her hands as if she had never seen
them before and had no idea how to apply them to her body.
Xena stared at her. Was this some kind of elaborate joke Gabrielle
was playing on her? Or had the drug really affected her in this bizarre
way? She watched closely, waiting for the bard to crack a smile or to
give herself away somehow, but the more Xena saw, the more convinced she
became that Gabrielle's confusion was real. "The green part goes on
top," she said finally, "over your breasts. It laces in front.
The brown part is a skirt. It fastens around your waist. Do you want me
to help you?"
"No! Stay away from me!" Gabrielle warned. She shook out
the skirt and wrapped it awkwardly around herself. Then she thrust her
hands through the armholes of the bodice and began fumbling with the
Xena frowned and shook her head. She reached for her own clothes and
stood up to put them on. Looking up again, she saw Gabrielle's eyes
fixed on her.
"Why were we in bed together like that? Naked?" she asked.
"Well, because we're--Because we're lovers, Gabrielle,"
stammered Xena. "We often sleep together naked--especially in warm
weather." This was crazy. Could she really be explaining these
things as if her lover know nothing? "Gabrielle--" she began.
"Why do you keep calling me that?"
"Calling you what? Gabrielle?"
The bard nodded.
"Because it's your name," she said, bewildered. "Don't
you even remember your own name?"
Gabrielle was silent, staring first at Xena and then looking
frantically around the room. "I don't remember anything," she
said finally. "I don't have any idea who I am or what I'm doing
here with you."
Xena drew a long, shaky breath. "Do you remember last night,
downstairs in the tavern?" she asked. "You were talking to a
bard named Euphemios. Do you remember that?"
The warrior rose and moved toward Gabrielle, but stopped when she saw
the fear in the younger woman's eyes. "Someone put some kind of
drug in your wine, Gabrielle," she said softly. "I think
that's why you can't remember anything."
"Yes. Hopefully, it will wear off in a few hours and everything
will come back to you." She took another step toward her companion.
"Don't be afraid of me, Gabrielle. I love you. I would never do
anything to harm you."
"Why are you dressed like that?" Gabrielle asked abruptly.
Xena glanced down at her leathers. "I always wear this,"
she said. "I'm a warrior."
"A warrior!" Gabrielle exclaimed.
"Yes," said Xena, surprised to hear the note of excitement
in her friend's voice.
"Am I a warrior, too?" Gabrielle asked eagerly.
"No, you're a bard. You tell stories."
"Tell stories? I don't know any stories."
"Sure you do. You know hundreds of wonderful stories. You've
just forgotten them, is all. As soon as the drug wears off, you'll
"I don't want to tell stories. I'd rather be a warrior, like
Xena opened her mouth to respond, but just then there was a knock on
the door. She hesitated, then went to open it.
The innkeeper stood outside in the passageway. "That bard fellow
showed up downstairs," he said gruffly. "This is the first
chance I've had to come tell you. He's just leaving, so you'd better
hurry if you want to see him."
"Yes, I do want to see him. Thank you," Xena said, but the
man had already turned and was hurrying away.
She closed the door and looked at Gabrielle for a minute,
considering. Then grabbing up her armor, she quickly began putting it
on. "Gabrielle," she said, "I need to go talk to this
man. I think he's the one who put the drug in your drink. It won't take
very long." She picked up her sword and chakram, then looked at the
bard again. "I want you to stay right here in this room until I get
back. Don't go anywhere. For any reason."
Gabrielle shrugged and sat down on the bed. "Where would I
go?" she asked. "I don't know anyone or anyplace besides
"Right. Well, I'll be back as soon as I can." Crossing to
the window and looking out, Xena caught sight of Euphemios striding
quickly away from the inn. She climbed onto the window sill, crouched
there for a brief instant, and then leaped. Landing lightly in the
street, she set off at a run in pursuit of the red-haired bard.
When he turned into a narrow alleyway, she followed. "Euphemios!"
she called, when she had almost caught up with him, and he turned to
"Xena!" he said pleasantly. "How nice to see you
She didn't slow her pace until she was upon him, then grabbing his
tunic front in both hands, she backed him roughly into the wall.
"What did you do to Gabrielle?" she growled. "You
drugged her. Why?"
To her surprise, he began to laugh. "Oh, you noticed, did
you?" he said.
"How could I not notice? She passed out last night and this
morning she didn't even remember her own name!" Xena slammed him
against the wall again, harder this time. "What possible reason
could you have for doing such a thing?" she demanded. "And to
Gabrielle, of all people! What has she ever done to hurt you?"
Euphemios laughed again, seemingly unperturbed by the warrior's
onslaught. "You misunderstand, Xena," he said.
"Gabrielle's not the target here. You are."
"Of course. I've finally found the perfect way to get to you. I
want you back, Xena, and this time there's no way you can refuse."
She stared at him for a moment, then abruptly loosed her hold on his
tunic and took a step back. "Ares," she said in disgust.
"I should have known."
He laughed once more and as she watched, morphed into his familiar,
"I make a pretty good bard, don't you think? Admit it, Xena, I
had you and that irritating little friend of yours totally fooled."
"What kind of game are you playing?" Xena asked coldly.
"What is it you want?"
"Very simple. Come be my warrior queen, and Gabrielle gets her
"Forget it, Ares. I'm not coming back. I can teach Gabrielle
what she needs to know, fill in the gaps in her life, and we can make
new memories together."
"Yes, I was afraid you might look at it that way, so I also
threw in a little personality change, just for fun," he said with a
"What do you mean?"
"Well, let's just say I've re-created Gabrielle a bit more in my
Xena stared at him without answering.
"I can pretty much predict you're not going to like the new
Gabrielle," Ares went on. "No, she won't fit in very well with
the do-good Xena. It won't be long before you'll be begging me to change
her back, and I will. I'll do it in an instant--just as soon as you
agree to lead my army in the glorious battle for world peace." His
expression hardened then and he reached out to clamp a hand on her arm.
"I don't want any tricks this time, Xena," he said. "The
minute you try to trick me, Gabrielle dies, and I'll make sure she ends
up in Tartarus. Hades owes me a favor and I won't hesitate to
Xena felt a chill run through her, but she tried to keep her
expression impassive. Jerking her arm out of Ares' grip, she gave him an
icy smile. "I won't come back," she repeated. "I refuse
to sell my soul to you again."
"I think you'll change your mind," he said mildly.
"You just need a little time to see the wisdom of my proposal. When
you're ready, all you have to do is call my name. I'll be there."
And with a last sardonic smile, he vanished.
Xena turned and headed back toward the inn with heavy footsteps and a
heavier heart. She felt as if she were beating her brain against a rock
wall as she tried to think what to do. Surely there was some other
answer, some other way to free Gabrielle from Ares' spell. She just had
to find it, that was all.
* * * * *
"What are you doing?" she asked, as she opened the door to
the room. Gabrielle was on her hands and knees, plowing through their
pile of gear.
"I'm looking for my sword," she replied without turning.
"You don't have a sword, Gabrielle."
"I don't?" the younger woman said, casting a surprised
glance over her shoulder at the warrior. "Why not? You have a
sword. I should have one, too."
"You learned a long time ago that picking up a sword makes you a
target. People feel threatened and they attack." Xena went over and
crouched down beside Gabrielle. Picking up the bard's staff, she said,
"This is your weapon--the staff. You're very good with it."
Gabrielle looked at it with disgust. "How could I ever kill
anybody with a thing like that?" she asked.
"That's just the point. You don't kill. It's against your code
"But you kill people, don't you?"
"Sometimes. But these days I usually try not to."
"How many people have you killed?"
Xena sighed. "Far too many," she said and stood up. She
still held the staff, and now, almost reverently, she ran her fingers
over the smooth wood.
"Did you find that guy?" Gabrielle asked.
"Oh. Yeah, I did."
"Is he the one that drugged me?"
"Uh-huh." Xena walked over to the bed and sat down.
"Turns out he wasn't a bard at all," she said, looking at
Gabrielle. "He was Ares."
"Ares? Who's that?"
"The god of war."
"Really?" Gabrielle said excitedly. "You were talking
to the god of war himself? Do you know him?"
"You could say that."
"Well, what did he want? Why did he put that drug in my
"He wants me to come back to him."
"Come back to him? What are you talking about?" Gabrielle
left her seat on the floor and went over to sit on the bed a short
distance from the warrior.
"I used to be a warlord," Xena said slowly, not looking at
her companion. "My army plundered villages and fought a great many
battles. We killed hundreds of innocent people. Thousands. Most of them
we killed wantonly and without mercy. And it was all done in the service
"That sounds exciting! What a wonderful life that must have
Xena turned then and fixed Gabrielle in a smoldering gaze.
"There was nothing wonderful about it," she said darkly.
"I'm deeply ashamed of what I did and I've spent the last few years
trying to atone for it by doing good deeds and helping people."
"But why? Why did you change?"
"Because I eventually came to see the evil of my ways, and a
friend helped me realize that I could lead a different kind of
Gabrielle was silent for a moment. "What happens if you go back
to Ares?" she asked.
"If I go back, he will restore your memories and change your
personality back to the way it was before."
"Isn't that what we want?"
"Yes, but don't you see?" she said urgently, laying a hand
on Gabrielle's shoulder. "If I become an evil warlord again in
order to get you back, I'll still lose you in the end, because the
peaceful, caring Gabrielle you really are could never love an evil
Gabrielle frowned, trying to understand this complexity.
"There's got to be some other answer," Xena said, rising
and pacing the room with deliberate steps. "We need help and I
think I know who might be able to give it to us."
"His name is Elkton. He's an old man, very wise, a Mystic
Priest. He helped me once before when you were captured by the priests
of Morpheus. Do you remember?"
"No. Who's Morpheus?And what did he want with me?"
"He's the god of dreams. He wanted you for his bride," Xena
said. "It's a long story. I can tell it to you while we're on the
road. If we leave as soon as we get some breakfast and travel all day
today and tomorrow, I think we can get to Elkton's house in the Mystic
Mountains by tomorrow evening."
"How do we travel?"
"I have a horse--a mare named Argo. Sometimes we ride her and
sometimes we walk."
"Don't I have a horse?"
"No. You don't even like horses that much."
Gabrielle sighed. "No sword, no horse. I don't understand what
good it does me to travel around with a warrior."
"Well, it gives you a lot of material for stories, for one
thing," Xena said, grinning, as she began to gather up their
belongings. "And there have been numerous occasions when I was very
thankful you were with me."
Gabrielle didn't answer. She picked up the staff and turned it over
curiously. "I don't know how to use this," she said.
"I'll teach you," Xena said. "I think it will all come
back to you very quickly."
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