Mountain Quest by Eva Allen--Part 1
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

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?"

"Telling stories."

"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, hard.

"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 gear."

In a short time, Gabrielle returned. "It's upstairs, second door on the right," she said. "And there's a bathtub we can use."

"Okay, you carry this stuff in and I'll take Argo to the stable."

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.

"Five dinars."

"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 her life?

The door opened and then closed again, and Gabrielle crossed the room to the tub.

"Ah! My personal bath attendant has arrived," Xena murmured.

"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 again tomorrow."

"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 Gabrielle's touch.

It didn't take long for the bard's fingers to smooth away the tension.

"Feeling better now?" Gabrielle asked after a couple of minutes.

"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 enemies."

"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 her foot.

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.

"It's perfect."

"Uh-huh. That's what I thought, too, just before I was forced to get out."

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 supplies."

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 knots.

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 kiss ended.

"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 again."

"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 slow down.

"That was incredible," said Gabrielle. "And incredibly fast."

"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 you."

"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 again.

"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 asked.

"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 audience."

"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 well."

"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 exclaimed.

"Thank you," he said, smiling back, "but keep your dinar. It's reward enough for me to have such an ardent listener in my audience."

"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 asked.

"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 there."

"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 together."

"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 things."

"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.

"From Lydia."

"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 asked.

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 Princess!"

"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 behave yourself."

"I will," said Gabrielle, smiling and squeezing the warrior's hand. "And I'll try not to stay too late. Good night, Xena."

"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 shoulder.

The bard raised her head and turned toward the warrior, although she seemed to have trouble focussing her eyes. "Xena?" she mumbled.

"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 table again.

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 important."

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, too."

"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 him?"

"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 something."

"How long ago was that, when you noticed he was gone?"

"I don't know. Maybe an hour. Why are you asking all these questions?"

"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 laces.

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."

"A drug?"

"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 remember them."

"I don't want to tell stories. I'd rather be a warrior, like you."

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 here."

"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 face her.

"Xena!" he said pleasantly. "How nice to see you again!"

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."

"I am?"

"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, muscular shape.

"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 memories back."

"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 grin.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, let's just say I've re-created Gabrielle a bit more in my image."

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 collect."

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 of honor."

"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 wine?"

"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 of Ares."

"That sounds exciting! What a wonderful life that must have been!"

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 life."

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 warlord."

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."

Continue to Part 2

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