Best Short, Short Story (alternative)
Whatís In AName?
Xena Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright violation was intended in writing this piece of fanfiction. The plot... well, who knows where it came from. Definitely from some weird place, because sometimes even I have trouble believing what I just wrote. As for subtext... What subtext?
Many winters ago, in the days of my youth, I used to be wild and uncontrollable. Ever since I remember myself, I struggled for freedom. That image was a fresh cool touch of wind, a sweet smell of grass after the rain, a taste of morning dew as it touches your lips, the distant line of horizon that did not get any closer no matter how long I ran forward. I usedto do that all the time, just for the fun of it. I still do it now -- a lot of it, actually -- but not for fun, of course. My line of work does not let me to stay in one place and enjoy quiet peaceful moments. Xena is the type of person that rarely settles down. She travels all the time. And where she goes, I go.
I was born and raised in a small village. I remember the endless routine of same hours, days, weeks, seasons. Ugh, how I hated that! Finally, one day I decided to run away. And I did. It was not that hard. The trick was getting outside the village without anyone seeing me. It was early in the morning. I looked around and suddenly realized that freedom surrounded me. It was embracing me and calling me to the distant lands, where adventures and heroes were waiting. But my journey did not last long. I was too young to make it on my own. The neighbor from the village found me at the end of the day and so I had to come back.
Though my first attempt for adventures failed, I did not give up. Ever since that morning I have been dreaming of travelling far away. I just knew I was going to accomplish more in my life than just pathetic existence in a boring provincial place. What could be more boring than helping to grow crops spring after spring? I just could not force myself to do it. But I managed somehow. Next year of living in a village changed me in a ways I would have never imagined. I learned to control my temper as many wanted me to and with that I also learned to hide my feelings from everyone. But I have never given up on my dreams. It was a strange thing, maybe all that time of not revealing my thoughts affected me so; as I dreamed of journeys and adventures, I wanted someone to be there at my side. I did not want to be lonely. But I was; the loneliness was a big part of my life. I waited for a hero to come and save me, because, although I hate to admit it, as the days went by I started to lose hope.
That was when Xena showed up. I was astonished the first time I saw her, a warrior, strong and independent. That was a person I was waiting for all my life. I did not care if she was known as the evil warlord, I didnít care what awful things she has done in her past -- I simply had to go with her. I thought of all the amazing adventures that were awaiting us. Somehow I knew things are never going to be boring with Xena. The question was is she going to take me along. And she did. Sometimes I still cannot quiet believe that had happened, even now. Why did she need me anyway? As I think of it now, young me was a total disaster, I never listened to her, I was not used to life in the wilderness, I was really stubborn, I could not swim. But maybe I did turn out to be useful to her. I wonder which one of us had figured that out first. Later we have been through everything together. I am proud to tell I have saved the life of the Warrior Princess a few times. Well... and she did save mine too... more than once.
I remember one of our first evenings by the fire. The flames were dancing on the wind scattering sparkling glow on golden hair covering my left eye. Xena was sitting on the opposite side. Strange how the flickering light was bringing out red highlights in her usually raven black locks. Suddenly I saw her looking at me as the faint smile touched her lips. She got up and walked over to my side. "Guess youíre feeling lonely too," she said absently. Well, that was a progress, five words! It did not happen often with Xena those days. She seemed unusually chatty to me that evening. I was too surprised at first to give any response at all. But she did not stop on that. She made another step, coming closer. Her movements were gentle and slow. Was she afraid to scare me away? I considered that for a second, and stayed in my usual spot. Then she smiled again and reached out her hand. I closed my eyes as I felt her touch, soft and warm. "Thanks for being around, girl." She removed her hand, like she was afraid of something... herself or me? But I did not react; I just stayed there, looking at her. Then she reached out again, her fingertips barely touching the side of my head, going up behind my ear and lower on my neck. I felt her palm sliding down. I didn't know what to do at first. No one treated me like that before. It was something different from usual responcibilities of traveller's companion. It felt so confusing and nice; I froze for a second.
Then I pushed her softly in the shoulder. Maybe I used too much strength; maybe it was just something she did not expect from her new companion; but one way or another, Warrior Princess ended up on the ground with the expression slightly resembling the one of the lost puppy and dumbfounded panther all at once. As she stood up, it was obvious that she was deeply embarrassed. "You know, you're pretty strong," she muttered finally. "Well it serves me right. You probably aren't used to that kind of treatment... Umm... sorry."
Wow! Did I just hear two complete sentences and apology? It must have been my lucky day. And as an echo of what I felt, I heard Xena laughing for the first time. Life turned out to be awesome. I would have started singing if I knew how. A few minutes later she told with the twinkle in her blue eyes, "There was a story I have heard not so long ago from a friend of mine. It was about the bravest men who sailed the most powerful ship ever built. And it wasn't because of its size, but because it was quick and stable. It had traveled through many seas to the distant land. The quest lasted for many months, but I know its name will be forgotten in a few years. Bards are telling the story all over Greece, but they rarely mention the ship. You remind me of it... I'm afraid, my friend, you are gonna get the same life and treatment as that ship with me around."
I snorted -- that statement was strange. I didn't mind it a bit, I haven't followed her because of popularity.
"Yeah, I know, lousy attempt at humor, huh" she continued, "but anyway, I liked how they called it -- Argo. And I think you just got yourself a name, my friend. Like it?"
I loved it. Xena looked up at me with the smile; I looked back and nudged her in the shoulder. Life was definitely getting better every second.
We have traveled all over Greece since that day. And once I even got to see the ship I was named after. It was left on a sandy shore near Athens, forgotten, as the quest was over. "Don't worry, Argo," Xena said to me then. "I'm not getting any ideas from this." Do I need to say I was more than happy to hear that? I even agreed to put up with that annoying little blond that started following us around lately. I heard she is a bard; I wonder if she will be able to do something about the ship, it doesn't deserve to be forgotten like that. After all we have been through, I decided that our little sidekick is not that bad, too chatty though. She feeds me apples once in a while and we even have the same hair color. Oh, and sometimes, when Xena talks to me, the Warrior Princess mentions her name and smiles. And it is not just an ordinary smile; I can feel it. I wonder what she is up to?