I'm Bored, Gabrielle
Gabrielle was miserable. For the third day now, she had only been allowed bread and water, and her stomach was rumbling something awful. And it wasn't exactly a pleasure to be cooped up in this little hole all day, the only connection with the outside world being a small window at the end of the oblong room she was being kept in, with the ground outside at eye level.
The only times she was allowed outside of her prison was for brief trips to answer calls of nature, and to pick up her more than meager rations of ill-prepared, tasteless food. These people were really trying to make her suffer!
Lying upon the straw pallet (at least the covers with the little running horse patterns were warm and soft), she found herself cursing the Warrior Princess for the fix she had made her get into. But the fact that she missed her friend so much tended to interfere with her efforts to be truly mad at the blue-eyed warrior.
She was wondering when her friend would show up to get her out of this. She had not heard from Xena since the moment she had been taken prisoner, and suspected the warrior had a few troubles of her own to deal with. She sniffed. It wasn't as if Gabrielle hadn't warned her! But of course, listening to sensible advice was not one of the Warrior Princess' many skills.
Suddenly, a blood-curdling scream broke the silence of the dungeons...
"Gabby, come on up! Dinner's ready."
Gabby sighed, and wrinkled her nose. It smelled like spinach. Ugh! And of course, there would be no desert tonight, or the days after, while she was grounded. Sina was going to have hell to pay.
To say that Sina felt bad for getting her friend in trouble once again might have been exaggerating. But still, hearing Gabby's mom yell and rant had given her a twinge of guilt. Besides, Sina missed her playmate, who had been grounded for the whole first week of summer vacation! Being the Warrior Princess just wasn't the same when little Gabby wasn't there. Nobody could make Xena come alive the way Gabrielle the bard could!
Sina's own mother had just looked at her with that long, sad look that seemed to be reserved only for her, and told her there was to be no riding her bike for the time being. So poor Argo had been locked away in the garage, her wheels still dusty from the ride through Deathbringer's Ditch. The unfairness of it all!
She was comfortably installed in the tree house the two of them had built together with Sina's older brother Tom during the past few weeks. Well-hidden from view by big leaves and bigger blossoms, it nestled snugly between the broad branches of the tall Magnolia tree in the front yard, and allowed a unique view of the street below. If she stretched a little, she could even see the gable of the house where Gabby lived, a few blocks away. But of course, the hapless pedestrians walking blissfully by below her were infinitely more interesting.
She had been forced to stop dropping the water balloons after her mom's insistent rapping on the kitchen window, and now she was using a little blowgun to pepper them with spitballs and cherry pits she had been hoarding during the spring. Much less conspicuous, and a lot more fun if you really thought about it, because of the way people were looking around stupidly to figure out what had hit them.
Thwap! There went another one. She complimented herself silently on a master shot. Right between the shoulder blades! Mr. Wright, the police officer in charge of this neighborhood, whipped his hand to his back and spun around, a fierce glower on his face. Sina slid silently lower behind the wooden wall of her little fortress.
"I know you're here somewhere, Sina," the policeman growled, looking around him, but thankfully forgetting to check above him.
"If you want a free trip in a police car, you just keep it up, young lady," he threatened as he continued on his round, muttering under his breath and shaking his graying head.
A tousled head appeared again as soon as he had walked on along the street. Sina pushed her unruly hair out of her face and stuck out her tongue at Mr. Wright's retreating back.
With dinner time approaching, fewer people were on the streets, and soon the little ambusher found herself entirely without victims. Sina soon tired of watching the empty pavement below. Murmuring about the cruelty of life and how all the bad luck always came her way, she carefully stowed away her ammunition and decided to go play in the yard.
It was a sunny day, but there was no sun in the Warrior Princess' heart as she glumly descended the tree where she had been on the lookout all day. "She's not here," she thought sadly. "I never knew how much she has become part of my life until now."
With her feet firmly back on the ground, the warrior sat down in the soft grass, remembering adventures they had gone through together.
There had been the day when the warrior and the bard had ridden out of town early in the morning. Extremely early, even. Well actually, it had still been night... this had been after a rather long stay at the local Tavern, during which Xena had gotten into the middle of a huge tavern brawl once again. Well, served the guy right, for calling her 'cute'!
They had felt lucid enough when they left town, but now it seemed they had both had more drinks than they realized. Gabrielle kept falling on her face when Xena forgot to support her with a hand to her back, and Xena herself had trouble staying upright on Argo. Whenever the horse shifted direction, she found herself sliding out of the saddle....
Utterly frustrated, Sina contemplated the Barbie dolls and horse on the ground before her. Gabby had dyed one doll's hair black, and it wore a black dress and boots, complete with a little scabbard and sword. The other was garbed in a plain brown skirt and green blouse.
The horse was one of the posable ones, a Palomino, that Gabby had gotten for her birthday. Sina's large blonde doll, the one she had been given for Christmas but hardly ever looked at, had quickly received a fashionably short haircut so they could glue a real golden mane and tail on the horse.
But, Barbie-Xena had a propensity to tilt and side slowly off posable Argo, and the fact that Barbie-Gabrielle wouldn't stay on her feet by herself didn't help the grouchy little Warrior Princess' mood any.
"Oh, fiddlesticks," Sina muttered (A girl her age is not supposed to know any dirty words, so let's all assume this is what she really said). "Crummy dolls! Kids' stuff!" She made as if to kick the plastic horse across the lawn, but remembered at the last minute that the toys were Gabby's and she had better not ruin them any more than she usually did.
Sina plopped down onto the lawn, where she sat cross-legged, her chin resting in her hands. "I'm bored, Gabrielle," she told the blonde Barbie-Bard at her feet, before giving it a little flick with her toe that sent it rolling into Plastic-Argo, toppling her and dumping Barbie-Warrior on her butt.
The window on the neighboring house opened. Sina watched as Mrs. Castor, their neighbor, sat a bowl of something covered with a cloth on the sill. Before she closed the window again, the middle-aged woman with the hawk-like nose gave Sina a warning glare. She did not like kids as a rule, and she especially did not like this particular kid. The feeling was mutual. Sina gave her a baleful stare out of chilly blue eyes.
Mr. Castor was another matter. Round and cheery where his wife was thin and dour, he always had a friendly word whenever he saw Sina or Gabby. He even went so far as to tell them a story from time to time, when he could be sure Mrs. Castor was far out of earshot.
The window closed with slightly more force than strictly necessary, and the girl found herself staring at the bowl on the sill. Whatever could be in there? Mrs. Castor might be an old hag, but she had quite a reputation for baking the best cakes and cookies in town. And no kid ever could resist the temptation of sticking a finger into a bowl of dough. That must be what was in there. Surely. Little Sina licked her lips as she slowly crept close to the window.
She edged carefully along the wall of the Castor house until she was right beside the window sill. Slowly, slowly, she extended a hand towards the bowl...
"Ha!" the window was flung open, and out poked Mrs. Castor's nose, followed quickly by the rest of her face. Sina almost jumped out of her skin.
"I knew it," the woman screeched, "I knew you'd come and try to steal my cookie dough, you pesky, good-for-nothing little brat." The rest of the tirade was lost on the girl, as she tried to recover her equilibrium. Mrs. Castor ranted on, and Sina pretended to be listening as her wicked little mind cast around for a way to get revenge on the old dragon. She and Gabby had long since some to the conclusion that the woman only baked all this wonderful stuff so she had something she could forbid kids to have.
The child's eyes flicked to her right, where the water hose lay. With an effort, she kept an evil little smile from her face and tried to look properly chastised as Mrs. Castor wrapped up her litany. No-one treated the Warrior Princess this way! She would have her revenge.
Gabby was sprawled on the floor, colorful crayons spread all around, and a partly finished drawing of Xena the Warrior Princess before her. Sticking out the tip of her tongue in concentration, she filled a spidery-legged Argo's golden side with color. The war-horse's mane looked like so many spikes, and if one of Xena's hands was missing a finger that had somehow found its way to the other, it did nothing to diminish the overall splendor of her artwork.
Once again she silently berated herself for leaving her Barbie dolls at Sina's place again. With a defeated sigh, she asked herself what piece of equipment would be missing this time when she retrieved them. Or maybe her dad would have to glue Argo's leg again.
Frantic rapping on the window interrupted her musings.
"Gabby! Gabby," came Sina's urgent whisper. "Gabby open up! They're after me!"
"I can't," Gabby said. "I'll get in trouble. You'd better go before anyone sees you."
Down the street she could hear the commotion - a screeching voice that could only be Mrs. Castor, and the unmistakable low rumble of Mr. Castor trying to calm her down. The third voice would be that of Mrs. McRunnel, Sina's mom.
the blonde girl threw up her hands in defeat as she got up to slide open the window and push aside the wire grill that protected the lower level windows from burglars.
"Hurry, I can hear them coming!"
"Okay, okay," Gabby said, "but you owe me for this. If dad finds you here, he'll have fits. I'm not supposed to talk to anybody."
"I know," Sina said as she crept inside, careful this time not to step into the cactus that sat below the window. "I'll make it up somehow."
When she was safely in the little room, Gabby closed the window and rounded on her friend. "So, whatcha do this time, huh? Flood the Castor's cellar or something?"
Sina looked at her out of wild, haunted eyes. "I don't wanna talk about it," she grumbled. Pressing herself against the wall beside the window, she pushed the drapes aside and peered out, chest heaving with ragged breaths.
"It's the Persians, Gabrielle. A whole darn army of them, and they're coming this way! We have to retreat and find a place where we can ambush them and turn them back."
The bard moved closer to Xena to get a look at the approaching horde for herself. She watched as they passed by their shelter, talking among themselves in raucous voices and making enough noise to wake the Gods. And there really were a whole lot of them!
Their voices faded into the distance, then grew louder briefly before they abruptly stopped. Xena tensed. "I think they've found us," she whispered. "We can't be found yet. We need more time."
Thinking quickly, Gabrielle whispered back. "They won't be looking for an innocent village girl like me," she mused, rubbing her nose in thought. "Okay, listen, here's what we'll do..."
The bard sat on the straw pallet mending a skirt when one of the men opened the door to the rickety little shed where they had taken cover. He looked at her, then let his eyes wander around the room. Gabrielle was careful not to raise her eyes to him, and to look properly demure. "Are you alone?" the soldier asked her.
"Yes, Sir, all alone. Just mending this skirt," Gabrielle replied in her best, innocent damsel voice.
The huge man gave her a suspicious look, and seemed about to approach her, but then he apparently changed his mind. "You stay here, woman, and don't leave this place. Do you hear?"
"Oh yes, Sir, I promise I won't go anywhere. Honest."
Nodding curtly, the soldier turned and left.
When Gabby's father closed the door behind him, Sina heaved a sigh of relief from her hiding place under her friend's bed. Four days until Gabby was un-grounded. It was going to be long.
The End Of This Adventure