A Simple Love Story
OWNERSHIP DISCLAIMER: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and others belong in their entirety to Universal/MCA, Renaissance Pictures, and all the other powers that be...Yadayadayada. No copyright infringement is intended. I wrote this story at the urging of my muse; it should never be used for profit.
VIOLENCE Well, bear in mind, this is Xena we're talking about here-of-course there's violence.
LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story involves both love and sex between two consenting adult women. If your parents thought you were too young to watch "Dynasty" (in other words, if you're under 18) or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depiction of this nature disturbs you, you may wish to read something else or GO WATCH ALLY McBEAL.
My story meant to display a simple love story between an older woman who’s hurt and battered (Xena) and a 15 year old Gabrielle (who in ancient Greece was considered “of age”) who cruel fate made her soul much older than her years. It is by no means support in any way sex with minors. If this might offend you, please do not read it.
FOUL LANGUAGE - Not as intensive as in Pulp Fiction, but still...
THANKS: To my BETA readers, mentors and guides who came to my aid, and did an excellent work. I truly appreciate it...you are the best: LESIAF, Noa, Patti, Stacia and B. Smith.
Comments & Feedback: As it pleases you...You know where to find me.
There I was, standing in front of an insignificant whorehouse in Corinth. It was raining heavily outside that day, and I was cold and soaking wet. Just one last time I thought to myself for old time's sake. Unlike the previous and numerous visitations I had paid in my past to such notorious establishments, I came there that night defeated. My body was tired and slumped. I wasn't standing in an upright bearing as a victor, but otherwise. I grew sick from my old ways, which I had deserted a mere two moons before.
I had been a warlord for as long as I could remember myself, so it seemed. Once I had picked up a sword, I never laid it down again. I was seeking blood, vengeance, battles and power. It's surprising how easy it is to find those things when one puts their mind to it. I had killed more than I cared to remember during those times of conquering.
When I turned thirty autumns, something changed. I realized my life was empty. I guess I finally grew up. I couldn't remember what it was that had incited my rage all those years ago.
I felt that I needed a new purpose in life, one that would make me happy. I wasn't sure what it was yet, but I knew I wasn't enjoying a good kill like I used to. The unquenchable desire to conquer and intimidate had subsided, and the taste of blood had grown sour in my mouth. I felt emptiness. I felt loneliness. My heart had been ice cold, as hard as a rock and as dark as the night. Back in my warlord days I hadn't cared for anything or anyone, and nobody had cared for me. I had realized that if I were to die, there would be no one to bury me; or mourn me, for that matter. I was beginning to grow tired of my life, and was questing for some peace and quiet.
So I thought I would go and pay a visit to my mother, but before I would, and before I'd leave my old life behind for good, I decided I would indulge myself and have a working woman, one last time.
So there I was standing at the threshold of a whorehouse. With small strides, I entered. Minya, the Madam, spotted me the moment I set foot inside. She approached me.
"Good evening, My Lord," She greeted me, flattering me with the honorific. She was in her forties, and her body appeared as if it had been through a lot in life. She kindly smiled at me. She always made her customers feel at home. She had a good heart, and had provided refuge from my enemies whenever the need arose.
"Evening, Madam Minya," I replied..
"Long time no see, My Lord." She smirked.
"Yeah...It's been a while," I replied. We walked together to one of the tables. I drew out the chair for her to sit on.
"Chivalrous as always, My Lord." She chuckled. She motioned to the barmaid to fetch us some port. Meanwhile, I looked around the dimly lit and awfully smoky chamber. Nothing has changed, I thought to myself. The same old prostitutes were scattered around praising each other: Ka me and I'll ka thee. The ladies were lazily examining the establishment's guests and luring them with cheap smiles, swaying of their frontal assets and the suggestive spreading of their legs. The unguent that was generously smeared on their faces looked like the Hordes' facial war colors.
In one dark corner, I saw a big fat sweaty man bargaining with one of Madam Minya's girls. She was with her back to me; hence, I couldn't see her face. She had a small figure, quite slim, and stood approximately two heads shorter than me. What caught my eyes the most, though, was her beautiful long and smooth red-golden hair. It sounded as if she could handle the bargaining very well, but what stroked me was her sweet youthful voice.
"That's Gabrielle." I heard Madam Minya's voice pulling me out of my thoughts. "She is one of my most popular girls. She's young, beautiful and knows her craft perfectly, therefore she's slightly expensive. Too bad you came here too late, for as you can see, she is otherwise engaged."
"Well, no point in crying over spilt milk, now, is there?" I muttered.
"No, I guess not, My Lord." She answered. "Perhaps some other time...I'm sure she'll be to your liking. She's young and beautiful...just like you fancy them..." She purred. Madam Minya knew me very well. Well, at least, she knew I had a taste for young women.
The barmaid reached our table and placed a basin with some cheap port in it. I didn't mind. I wasn't there for the port, but rather for the comfort that the nude, warm body of a woman could yield.
"How come I've never seen her before?" I asked and poured the port into the goblets that were resting on the filthy wooden table.
"She's what one might call a traveler. She travels from one house of, shall we say, 'ill-fame' to another. She came into my possession four moons ago," she informed me. There was silence between us as I was touring her small frame with my eyes, above the rim of my goblet.
"What would you desire tonight, My Lord?" Madam Minya inquired.
"An experienced lady," I immediately replied, and poured the port straight to my throat, emptying my goblet. "Not one whom I would have to instruct how to pleasure me, half the time."
"Shira!" Madam Minya called to one of the ladies who were perched on one of the high stools next to the bar. A blonde woman in her late twenties approached us. She was fairly good looking. She was a bit slim, and had brown eyes. She sat herself at our table. The smell of the cheap perfume she was wearing assailed my nostrils as she sat.
"Shira, this is the legendary Destroyer of Nations, Xena. Take good care of her. She's financially rewarding, and contrary to most of our customers, she knows how to treat a lady," Madam Minya said matter-of-factly. I didn't correct Madam Minya when she introduced me as the Destroyer of Nations. As for her remark regarding me knowing how to treat a lady, I must humbly agree that she was right. I have never brutalized the women I rented, regardless of my reputation, and insisted that pleasure would come to them as well during their service. I have never taken women against their will, though I easily could have. Back in the times when I had raided villages and conquered lands, I had ordered my soldiers never to rape women on the battlefield, and punished them severely if they hadn't obeyed me. The punishment was death. I simply couldn't tolerate that kind of beastly behavior.
"Shall we go upstairs, My Lord?" My purchase asked and smiled one of her artificial smiles.
"Yes," I muttered and slowly stood up on my feet.
"Enjoy yourself, My Lord" I heard Madam Minya calling from behind me.
We walked upstairs and entered a room, which I wouldn't have let my horse stable in. My rented lady took her exposing dress off and lazily lay her nude form on the bed. I stood at the side of the bed and stared at her body, observing her breasts and her sex, feeling the ever so familiar heat between my legs. I took off my sword from where it hung above the side of my right thigh, and my chakram that was above the left hip. Afterwards, I began unbuttoning my white silk shirt.
By the second button, I heard loud screams that were clearly a woman's, some muffled sounds of beatings, and hard blows being delivered to a body. They came from the next room. As if by instinct, I send a quick hand to my sword that was discarded on the floor and grabbed it. I ran out of my room, much to the amazement of my lady for the evening. I burst into the next room, from which small voices of sobs were coming. In the room, I saw the fat sweaty farm-boy from downstairs had his hand in the air in the purpose of backhanding the blonde lady, whom I had seen bargaining with him earlier. Glancing quickly to her I saw blood coming out of her mouth.
"WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?!?" I yelled at the man.
"None of your business, you stupid whore!" he roared back, without even turning to face me. "Close the door behind you when you leave!" He ordered and laughed. I closed the gap between us with one hasty, big stride. I caught his raised hand in mid air, half way to its destination. He turned his head to my direction from over his shoulder. He was shocked from the strength I displayed in halting his arm.
"If you can't play nicely with the ladies, then I'll fix you, so that you won't be able to play at all," I purred near his ear and aimed my sword between his legs to his crotch, from behind him. He slowly lowered his hand and turned to face me.
"Mind your own affairs, the whore and I were just having some fun," He said.
"Doesn't look to me like the lady here is enjoying or approving it. Does she look like she's having fun to you?!" I snarled.
"Well, I haven't fucked the bitch yet...When I do - then you'd see her enjoying!" He laughed.
"On your knees, farm-boy!" I ordered with a cold voice.
"Who's gonna make me, bitch...You!?" He kept on laughing.
"Some brain you got there, farm-boy...That's right, me" I hissed and knocked him down to his knees with one strike. I saw the lady, sitting paralyzed on the bed, looking at me, with her green eyes. I turned the man on his knees so that he would face her.
"Now apologize to the lady for what you did to her," I ordered him and placed my sword to his throat. The lady on the bed was in shock, and evidently in distress.
"I'm not apologizing to no fuckin' whore!" He mocked. My blood boiled inside me. I wanted to kill him so much that I could feel the itch in my fingertips, but I didn't want to expose the lady to such a dreadful sight. Instead I chose to beat the stuffing out of him. Once he was lying semi-conscious on the floor, I pulled him back to his knees and repeated my order to his ears again:
"Apologize to the lady!"
"No way!" came his incoherent reply. He spat a few teeth to the floor and I saw that his face was covered with blood as well. I raised my hand to beat him again.
"Please, stop. He's not worth it!" The lady exclaimed.
"I want him to apologize to you," I explained.
"Don't bother. He's a pig. Just send him away. I cannot stand the sight of him."
"But he dishonored you," I insisted.
"I'm a whore. I don't deserve honor," She replied quietly. "Please, My Lord. Let him go, I don't want his apologies!" I couldn't refuse her.
"This must be your lucky day...If it wasn't for her, you'd be dead by now," I hissed. I pulled the fat man to his feet, opened the door and kicked his ass hard and out of the room.
"I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere. It's just that there is a lady in the next room, waiting for me." I said and rushed out of her room and into my rented one. I apologized to Shira and left 15 dinars, her harlot's pay, on her dresser, for I took her valuable time, even though I didn't take her. She asked me if I didn't want her to service me after all. I politely declined her offer and left.
I returned to the other room. The lady was still sitting on the bed, obediently waiting for me. She was wearing a red robe that was made out of some material that was known as "fake silk". I walked to the small table, on which there was a basin with some fresh, clean water, and a piece of cloth. I wet the cloth with some water and went back to the lady. I stood in front of her and gently tilted up her head so that she would look at me.
"I'll try to be as gentle as I can. Inform me if I hurt you." I said. She only nodded. I tenderly cleaned her face of all the blood.
"So, I heard your name is Gabrielle," I tried to converse a little with her so that she would get over the shock. "I'm sorry this happened to you."
"You shouldn't be sorry, really. That kind of thing comes with the territory in my line of work," she said. As I cleaned her face, the more of it revealed to my eyes. I observed her.
"By the Gods!" I exclaimed. "You're just a child! How old are you?"
"I'm of age," she retorted, but evaded my eyes.
"Like Tartarus you are! How old are you really, eleven? Twelve?" I demanded, and forced her to look into my eyes.
"Thirteen," She replied eventually.
"What's a little girl like you doing here?! Where are your parents?" I questioned. She moved her chin from my grip.
"Dead!" She replied and bowed her head "Now leave me alone!" Since it was obvious to me that she didn't want to discuss the matter any farther, I left it be, for the time being.
"Well, it appears that you only have a small cut on your forehead. Fortunately, you won't be needing stitches." I muttered.
"Look, I have to keep on working otherwise Madam Minya will throw me out of here, and I have no place else to go." She said and stood up.
"I'll pay the worth of an night with you to Madam Minya," I said. "Then I'll get you something to eat, it looks as if you haven't been eating properly for quite some time now." I said.
Without wasting a moment I went down and paid Madam Minya 45 dinars for her under-aged employee. Madam Minya, of-course, smiled and told me that I shouldn't have beat the man so hard just to be with Gabrielle, that he only paid for an hour and would have soon been done. She also teased me and whispered to me that she knew Gabrielle would be to my liking. I just smiled at her without saying a word. I bought some rabbit stew with some fresh bread and a goblet of milk. I loaded the food on a tray and hurried back to Gabrielle's room. I entered her room and found her already sitting to the table, waiting for her dinner. I placed the tray in front of her and sat opposite her, to the table. She began eating...no. Devouring the plate, wiping the plate with the bread I brought. Watching her lapping at the food like a starved child caused me pain in my chest, which I didn't recognize.
Within moments, the plate was sparkling clean, so much so, that I could see my own reflection in it.
"Drink your milk, Gabrielle" I said firmly, maintaining my stoic expression.
"I don't like milk" She replied.
"You weren't instructed to like it, you were instructed to drink it" I insisted.
"I would like to have wine" She kept on arguing with me.
"Wine is by no mean for little girls, Gabrielle."
"I'm not a little girl any more"
"I've paid good Dinars for you, so you do as I say!" She left me no choice, but to remind her of her place. I didn't mean to sound so harsh.
"Yes, My Lord" She gave up and drank the entire goblet.
After she finished her milk, Gabrielle stood up and went to sit on the bed. I watched her as she walked. She swayed her hips like a professional concubine. She might have been thirteen, but her body language, the way she carried herself, and her gestures were those, which fitted a woman much older than thirteen. I rose to my feet and approached the bed. I stood in front of Gabrielle. Without a moment of thought, out of custom, I guessed, she sent two small yet skillful hands to the buttons of my leather pants.
"Allow Gabrielle to show you her gratitude, beautiful stranger" She said with a husky low voice. She raised her mesmerizing green eyes and pierced mine with an intense look, which I've never seen on a thirteen year-old-girl in my entire life. She had the look of sexual desire in her eyes. I was too amazed to move. It was the first time I'd noticed how beautiful she was. I hated myself for the throbbing and wetness I felt between my legs.
"You've been a life savior, Blue-eyes," she whispered seductively. She undid my pants in a heartbeat, and I soon found myself with my pants dangling at my knees, and my white silk shirt, barely covering my rear. "Gabrielle will give you whatever you desire, Blue-eyes. Only no kissing on the mouth." The throbbing and desire that violently attacked my engorged erect sex caused me pain. My britches were soaking wet. I was feeling excruciating need for immediate release.
"Please, let Gabrielle suck it for you...Oh...it is so big and hard," she hummed. I looked down at her and saw her sticking out a flexible, sensuous pink tongue, and moving her head towards my sex. I wanted to plunge my fingers into her blonde smooth tresses and push her face hard against my aching sex. There were no words to describe how much I wanted and needed her there. But I couldn't. Although a professional whore, she was thirteen, nonetheless. With strength I didn't know I possessed, I managed to curb my desires. I backed away from her and pulled up my pants. The pain within my loins was incredible.
"What's the matter, Blue-eyes. Don't you find me attractive enough? Am I not beautiful enough? I'm clean. I've bathed today. Have I done something wrong? Please allow me to try again..." The words simply streamed out of her mouth. She looked so disappointed.
"You are a beautiful girl, but you're too young. I cannot use you like this." I explained as I buttoned my leather pants.
"I'm a prostitute. I've been a prostitute ever since I was ten years old. Pleasuring people sexually is what I do. And believe me when I tell you, I'm good at what I do. You paid for me, so just let me do my job. I don't want Madam Minya angry with me." She said this as she eased her robe into falling from her shoulders and onto the floor. Her body was revealed to me. Her body was muscular and gorgeous. She had a pale complexion, from lack of exposure to sunlight and improper nutrition. She had a taunt firm abdomen that was admirable. Her breasts were seemingly under-developed and small. Her sex was almost totally exposed, since she barely had any pubic hair, but merely a small, fair down. As I was tucking my shirt in my pants, too shocked to move, she closed the gap between our bodies. She threw her arms around my neck and pressed herself to me. I immediately grabbed her wrists with my hands, freed myself from her warm, arousing grasp, and created a distance between us.
"Put your robe on," I ordered, then regretted. "Please".
"Never in my life was I rejected. You cannot imagine what your rejection will do to my reputation, once word gets out." She grumbled and turned on her heels, showing me her back. She seemed most upset with me.
"I won't tell a soul. If you'd like, I'd tell them that you're the best one I ever had," I said.
"Thank you, My Lord," she whispered. I saw her, wearing back her robe and turning to face me. "Thank you for your kindness. No one has ever done something like that for me before...I'll be forever indebted to you, My Lord".
"Don't nominate me for sainthood just yet, Gabrielle. You don't know me." I pulled out a chair for her to sit, and sat next to her, at the table.
"All I know is that you have found compassion in your heart for a worthless whore." I could hear in her voice that she was fighting back tears.
"You just caught me during a period of some changes, is all. I'm not a compassionate person, and I don't even own a heart. If only you knew..." I shook my head and covered my eyes with my palm.
"I don't believe you're heartless. I know..."
"My name is Xena." I cut through her speech.
"The Destroyer of Nations..." She murmured. Her voice sounded as if from afar, almost detached. Her eyes widened in astonishment. "By the Gods..." the words dropped out of her mouth.
"Would you care to reconsider the compliments you've paid me earlier?" I sadly jested.
"No I wouldn't. If you cared enough to deny yourself carnal pleasure for aiding a whore in distress, If you denied yourself once more, because the whore was too young, there is goodness inside you. I know you possess a heart"
She smiled a brilliant smile, and her sparkling green eyes lit up the room. That girl made me feel bashful and embarrassed. No one had made me feel like that before, not even the Queen of Egypt, whom I had had a passionate affair with, in the past. Somehow, this girl made me care for her. She stirred something inside of me. The reason for her effect on me eluded me, nevertheless, I was well aware of the strange power she had over me. It made me feel somewhat uneasy.
"What do we do now?" She asked.
"Aren't you tired...It seems to me way past your bedtime. Wouldn't you like to sleep?" I used my most authoritative voice.
"I'm not a little child, My Lord. Please stop treating me as one." She was firmly obstinate. "Besides, I sleep during the day and work during the night, so I'm not particularly tired, since I've been sleeping the entire morning."
"So, you've been working ever since you were ten years old..." I stated. I was trying to solicit her into a conversation.
"Correct, My Lord," came her reply.
"Please, I insist you call me 'Xena'. That's what all the damsels in distress that I've saved call me," I chuckled. She began to laugh as well, and her laughter echoed like bells in my ears. It was charming.
"Xena, it is." She concluded after her laughter subsided.
After a short pause I asked her, "What ever happened to your parents?"
"A warlord raided our village three years ago, and both my parents died trying to defend my sister Lila and me. Lila died too. I was the only one in my family who survived the attack. Since I had to eat, I became a prostitute. There wasn't a choice." She told me, without looking at me.
"Which village are you from?" I asked.
"Potedaia," She answered.
"You're lying to me. I raided Potedaia ten years ago...You probably don't remember my raid, for you were to young to recall...The Potedaians surrender to me without a fight and so none of them died at my hand. Potedaia has been under my protection for the past ten years. One of my officers has been ruling in my name there, up until two moons ago, when I freed Potedaia from my realm...None of the villagers died during my regime. Your parents aren't really dead, are they?" I hissed. I was so angry I could feel steam coming out of my ears. "Tell me the truth!" I ordered and stood up. I guess I was trying to frighten her into answering me honestly.
"You are right. I lied. My parents are alive. In spite of it, I left their house." She finally broke down in tears.
"Tomorrow morning I'm taking you back to your parents," I informed her with a tone that left no room for arguments. "A whore-house is by no mean a proper environment for little girls!"
"I'm staying here! I'm not going anywhere with you!" She exclaimed. "You only rented me till first light, then I'm the possession of Madam Minya."
"Well at least tell me what made you run away. What was so terrible in your parents' house that you find working in a brothel is preferable?" I implored. The terror I sensed from her when talking about her parents' house softened me. I didn't wish to cause her strife.
"It's none of your concern, Xena." She insolently retorted. She was so agitated that I've decided not to punish her for her audacity.
"Suit yourself. I'm going to sleep. A long journey awaits me tomorrow," I said. I went to sit on the bed. I took off my boots, placed my weapons on the floor and lay down.
"Please talk to me some more, Xena. I don't wish to be left alone." She pleaded and approached the bed.
"You're here for my benefit, not the other way around," I reminded her, leaning the weight of my torso on my elbows.
"I'm sorry, Xena. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise...It's just that you treat me in a way that makes me oblivious to the fact that I'm a whore, and that tomorrow night I'll service someone else." She didn't disclose the look of her eyes, but I saw her lower lip tremble. I knew she was on the verge of tears. I felt a pinch in my heart. I began contemplating in my head whether I should take her with me away form there the next morning or not. On one hand, I was an ex-warlord, hopefully, on her way to being reformed. I had so much on my mind and my life was complicated, to say the least. I had countless enemies seeking to make attempts on my life...and I had to face my mother in Amphipolis. At that moment, my mother was my prime concern. I hadn't seen her in fourteen years. My mother was an honorable, hard working and decent woman. The blood, which I washed my hands with, was a scarlet letter that tainted her life with shame and disgrace.
"I'm taking you back to your parents tomorrow. I'll buy you from Madam Minya," I announced, lay my head on the pillow and closed my eyes, as if not expecting her reply, as if it was the end of the discussion, as if her opinion had no bearing on the matter.
"I'm not going back there, and you can't make me! I'll run away again, I swear on every God you name!" She lost the battle with her tears and began crying aloud. Strange sensations of pain and sorrow attacked my heart, and left me confused and hurting. She tilted her head back as she cried and pierced my eyes with hers. Those brilliant emeralds were irresistible and she defeated me with a mere look.
"Don't cry, please, Gabrielle..." I pleaded and raised to a sitting position.
"Say you'll take me to whereever it is you're going. Please take me with you...out of this pit...Don't leave me here...I'm begging you...I'll do anything you want, I'll clean and cook for you, I'll bathe you and wipe your boots, I'll take care of your horse and I'll share your bed... "
Back in my old days, I wouldn't have tarried with thinking twice about her offer, but simply grab her with both hands. "You don't have to be...in bed...with me." I said. I still couldn't believe I was talking about sex with a thirteen year-old-girl. "We'll be partners, each of us will have her own chores. We will talk about it on the way" I said. What am I doing?!? Have I lost my mind? I don't need a tagalong brat...I'm not her mother, I'm not equipped to raise her properly...I'm a killer and she's...a child. Such were some of the thoughts that nestled in my head at that time.
"Thank you, so much, Xena. You are my Guardian Angel...I just know it. You're good." She wiped her tears with both hands and I could see her rich smile plastered on her tear stained features.
"Now, do I have your permission to sleep!?" I asked sarcastically.
"Yeah" She laughed. I could tell she was ecstatic from joy.
"Good," I muttered. I closed my eyes and waited for slumber to befall me.
"Xena?" She drew my attention.
"Hmmm?" I hummed in reply, my eyes still shut.
"I want to sleep too, so that tomorrow I'll have enough strength to travel." She said with enthusiasm that was enchanting.
"Then I'll take the floor and you'll take the bed," I mumbled. I was so tired I could barely keep my head straight. Without standing up, I simply rolled my weary body from the bed onto the floor. Gabrielle burst into laughter at my sloth. Her laughter was contagious and I soon found myself laughing so hard the residents of the next room began knocking on the wall that parted between the rooms.
When Gabrielle and I calmed down, Gabrielle turned to me and said: "You'll be cold and uncomfortable on the floor, Xena. You can join me in bed."
"Sleeping on the floor won't kill me...Gods know I've had worse sleeping accommodations," I muttered and adjusted my body to the flat platform. I closed my eyes for the second time and awaited slumber. Just when I came so close to sleeping, it was Gabrielle's voice that pulled me out of the land of nightmares once again.
"Xena, I'm cold. Can you please come into bed and hold me?" She asked with a hesitating voice. If I didn't know any better I could have sworn that that beautiful girl was trying her best to seduce me. I gave up and climbed back into bed. She immediately snuggled up against me. I was lying on my side, cupping Gabrielle's smaller body, shielding her from the cold. I watched her close her eyes and fall asleep. I felt her breathing stabilize. She was asleep. Her warmth engulfed my wretched, lustful body that craved to take her in her sleep so badly it hurt. Fighting the desire that nestled in the pit of my stomach was exhausting. I took deep breaths to calm myself down and keep what was left of my sanity intact. Just before I succumbed to slumber, I was listening to the teardrops that pounded on the earth outside, remembering how Gabrielle had referred to herself in third person when she had unbuttoned my pants. Probably detaching herself from the horrors of her work, just like I used to do during my first kills, I thought.
The sun illuminated the sky in all her glory, the next morning. I was up before Gabrielle. The beautiful girl was still sleeping in my protective arms. I reluctantly disentangled myself from her soft, trusting body. I gathered my weapons from the floor and armed myself. I washed myself with the water that was left in the basin. I placed my hand on my money pouch that was attached to my pants and walked downstairs.
I met Madam Minya downstairs, leaning against the brothel's bar.
"Good Morning, My Lord," she bid me.
"Morning, Madam Minya," I retorted.
"I trust you got your money's worth and that Gabrielle satisfied you." She smiled suggestively, sending a brief glance towards my crotch. "I see that Gabrielle is still sleeping upstairs...you always enfeeble my girls, My Lord...you spoil them too much."
"Gabrielle was to my satisfaction, thank you, Madam Minya. As a matter of fact, so much so, that I would like to buy her from you, so that I could have her all to myself," I stated.
"I would have to think about it, My Lord. After all, Gabrielle is my most profitable asset." She began her game of bargaining. Since I was anxious to leave the brothel so much, I've decided to succumb to the game and spare her the threat of going to Corinth' authorities to report enslaving of an under-aged girl to prostitution.
"Name her price," I declared.
"500 Dinars," she stated without a moment's hesitation.
"Sold." I concluded the transaction and gave her my money pouch. "It's all there," I added.
"I wasn't intending on counting it, My Lord, for everyone knows the worth of Xena of Amphipolis' word." She assured me.
"But I must insist that you would throw in some breakfast as an act of faith and good will," I said.
"But of-course...She probably had you work up quite an appetite." She smirked. If she was anyone other Madam, I would have smacked her already for her teasing remarks regarding my sexual habits and stamina.
"You are a hard woman to bargain with, Madam Minya," I flattered her.
She ordered her cook to poach some eggs. After a few moments, the cook handed me a tray loaded with eggs, vegetables, cheese, bread and two goblets of milk, as requested. With quick, big strides, minding not to spill the milk, I went back to my young protege'. I opened the door with my leg and went in. I saw her sitting on the bed and rubbing her eyes. She looked adorable, and a whim possessed me to go and kiss her. Of course, I remained in control of myself.
"Good morning, Xena," She replied. She stretched her arms and yawned.
"I figured you'd be hungry," I said and placed the tray on the table. Gabrielle went to wash her face in the water basin and afterwards approached the table. I pulled her chair for her to sit.
"You don't have to do that for me, Xena. You don't have to be all gallant with me. I want to be your friend. Friends don't need ceremonial protocol or chivalry." She said and sat at the table. She looked into my eyes as if to examine my reaction to the word "Friend". I didn't give away anything. Besides, she was too young to be my friend and even younger to be a bed partner.
"As you wish," I muttered and drew out a long breath.
Watching Gabrielle eat was such a delightful sight that I've decided I would never deny the treat of viewing her when she laps so eagerly at the food. I told her that before we set out for Amphipolis, I would like to go to the local market and purchase some decent traveling clothes, clothes that won't disclose her former occupation. She merely nodded, and when reminding her of her recent past she bowed her head in shame. I took an oath never to remind her of that again, for it hurt her - and when she hurt, I hurt.
After we finished eating, we went downstairs together, where we met her former owner.
"Enjoy your new possession." She chuckled.
"Gabrielle is by no means my possession, but my friend, and if I were you, I wouldn't let that farm-boy I beat up yesterday set foot in here again - he is brutalizing your girls." I informed her and went outside to the street, Gabrielle right behind me. I went to the stables to retrieve Argo; I mounted my mare and hoisted Gabrielle up to sit behind me. As we rode to the market I felt Gabrielle petite arms snake around my waist, followed by her palms spreading and resting on my abdomen. I did my best to ignore it, but I was constantly aware of their presence on my body.
By the time we'd reached the market, the sun was at its highest place in the sky. As promised, I bought Gabrielle strong leather boots, a short comfortable leather skirt and a cotton vest. In a secluded spot behind one of the merchant's booths, she discarded her cheap red robe and wore the clothes I bought her.
While she was trying on the clothes, I went to one of the vendors and purchased a beautiful doll for Gabrielle, so that she would have something to play with, like most girls her age. I went back to Gabrielle and hid the doll behind my back. I thought she would appreciate the thoughtful gesture.
After she was done, she walked back to the street where I waited for her, and exhibited herself to me, spreading her arms to show her body. She then turned around to display her backside and then, another turn, accompanied by a light sway of her hips to face me once again. She still haven't gotten rid of the obscene customs of a whore, I acknowledged
"How do I look?" She questioned and smiled at me. My eyes explored her body, and the new clothes accentuated every curve in it. Her red-blonde hair shone brightly at the graces of the sun. She looked stunning.
"Fine," I muttered. "Just fine"
"What are you holding behind you back, Xena?" She wondered with a sweet voice.
"A surprise for you," I answered and tightened my grasp around the doll so that she wouldn't succeed in grabbing it from me.
"Come on...Xena...let me see." She implored me, and plastered one of her coquetish expressions that looked so fictitious to me, just like whores so often did. I wondered whether a doll was the compatible gift for her. She had this sensuous, pseudo-sophisticated behavior, but she was undeniably a young girl. Gabrielle sent her hands towards my waist and just before she made contact, I moved my hands from behind my back and revealed the doll to her. I didn't want her to touch me for a reason I didn't reckon at the time. Her expression turned from cheerfulness to one of disappointment.
"Don't you like the doll...It was the most beautiful doll the vendor had," I said, not understanding the mood-swings.
"I'm not a little girl anymore, Xena...I haven't played with dolls in years." She sounded so sad, so bitter. I couldn't understand why was she so upset.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle. It's just that you are thirteen. I assumed girls your age played with dolls. I meant well, it was an honest mistake...I thought you would like it..." I was on the verge of stammering and reached the conclusion that I had apologized enough. Gabrielle, who seemed offended and I returned to Argo, and I shoved the doll deep into the bottom of the saddlebag.
We rode towards Amphipolis. At dusk, I found a beautiful spot in the woods for night's camp. I left Gabrielle with the task of gathering some kindling for the fire, and I went for some fishing at the lake nearby. It never took me too long to catch a couple of fish and that night was no exception. I returned to camp within a short period of time, while carrying with me, two big succulent fish for dinner. I knew Gabrielle would be pleased at my fine catch. When I returned, I noticed that Gabrielle had dug up a pit for the fire, warmed up the Frying pan, leveled the earth and spread the bedrolls.
"I've caught fish for dinner, Gabrielle. They are already gutted and ready for the cooking" I said and handed her the fish. She cooked them for us, and after they were ready she took them off the fire. We ate in silence. I was all caught up in my thoughts. I didn't know what was I to do with my new protege. I was a loner. I'd been alone for so many years that I didn't remember how to behave in the company of others, much less a young lass. Gabrielle probably felt my preoccupation and didn't initiate a conversation. Once we finished eating, I turned to her.
"You'd better wash yourself in the lake. I don't think there will be another one until Amphipolis."
"Very well, then," she said. She took the dishes and paced towards the lake. I escorted her with my gaze. She knelt on the bank and washed the dishes of the scraps of food that were stuck to it. Once she finished with the dishes, she disrobed herself from her clothes, neatly folded them and placed them at the rim of the bank. I turned my face away from her so as not to stare at her nudity. When she saw me all embarrassed in light of her out-bursting sexuality, she laughed.
"What are you laughing at?" I grumbled in a low voice.
"One could think you've never seen a naked woman in your entire life by the way you're acting...Stop that nonsense, take your clothes off and join me." She mused and dared me. I was too embarrassed to answer her, at first. Bashfulness and shame in my nudity or sexuality were foreign concepts to me. Back in my warlord days, I had frequently taken women in the presence of an audience. Modesty was never an issue with me. But Gabrielle was too young for any of it, and I was an ex-warlord trying to reform.
"You are too young!" I told her.
"Come on, Warrior Princess, take your clothes off and get in...You haven't got anything I haven't seen before...naked women are hardly a novelty to me...unless you're scared of me, warrior...is that it!?...You're afraid of me, or from corrupting me...You shouldn't be, really, I won't bite..." It sounded as if she was courting me, toying with me. I couldn't figure out whether she was wooing me or simply that this was the kind of behavior she had gotten use to, adapted to herself, due to her recent occupation.
I couldn't let a thirteen year-old-girl provoke me without any retaliation on my part...I guess it was my blasted pride. And so, against my better judgment, I stripped myself in a hurry, to show her that I was confident in my doings. She glared at my eyes and nailed them to hers. I couldn't take my gaze from hers. Her green eyes twinkled almost majestically. A few brief moments had passed and I was standing naked at the bank of the lake. I was watching her in the water. I observed the water cascading from her body, small droplets of water hanging on the tip of her small youthful breasts, and two small unripe nipples standing erect against the night's chill breeze. She moved her eyes on my body as well, and that examining look sent a wave of heat washing through my body. I felt my legs shaking a little and a hot stream of lubricant pouring uncontrollably out of my sexual core.
"Wow...You're beautiful." She mumbled, barely audibly.
I was afraid to move, for I wasn't sure I could carry my own weight. The pulses that I felt in my clitoris were so strong, I thought I would come right there and then.
Without further adieu, I run as fast as my shaky legs allowed and dived, head first, into the lake. I needed some cooling off. I was hoping my desires eluded Gabrielle's eyes; alas it didn't.
"Nothing like a cold bath to kill sexual lust." She smirked as I emerged to the surface, and winked her eye to show me that she could see right through me.
"I was hoping you wouldn't notice," I almost whispered, but she heard in spite of it.
"You know I used to be a professional. A good prostitute is one who can read her customers needs and wants." She said with a small voice.
"I didn't mean disrespect, Gabrielle." I apologized.
"Ravishing me with your eyes is hardly disrespectful," she replied. I nervously chuckled. "If anything, it's a compliment. I never dreamed that Xena, the destroyer of nations, whose sexual conquests are as legendary as her military ones, would find me desirable." She moved in the water and stood in front of me. Never in my life have I bowed my head before another. I bowed my head before Gabrielle that night.
The moonlight silvered her body. She was magnificent, and I soon felt my heartbeat racing. In my mind's eyes I could see my hand moving towards that unripe soft and glistening breasts and mold itself to it. I didn't know what was coming over me.
She splashed water at me and I reacted by splashing back at her immediately, listening to her sweet laughter dancing in my ears and deep into me.
After we finished bathing, we got out of the water and sat on the bank, enveloped in our towels.
"I've paid 500 Dinars in order to by you from Madam Minya, 45 Dinars for a night with you and 20 Dinars for your clothes, which brings us to total of 565 Dinars, if I'm not mistaking. That's a lot of Dinars, Gabrielle, and I want something in return for my money," I told her and looked at her. She lay back and removed her towel from her body, offering herself.
"Get up and cover yourself, that's not what I want from you." I said and it came out a little harsh. She straightened up to a sitting position again and covered her sweet body.
"I'll tell you what I'm buying from you with my money - I'm buying a promise. I want you to promise me you will share your body with another for the right reasons not for the wrong ones, and that the next time you give yourself to someone this way, you'll be making love, and not performing a service."
"Why are you doing this for me, Xena?" She asked. I could hear a rush of emotions overwhelm her.
"Because," I muttered and cast my gaze to the lake.
"Please, Xena. I want to know...why are you being so kind to me?" She pleaded.
"I have been a monstrous killer for many years. I've killed hundreds of men in battle, because I lusted for blood, for power, and for dominance. Two moons ago I realized I wasn't happy. I felt empty. Killing and conquering lost their grace and they were not enough to fill the void within me. I've forsaken my deadly old ways. I wish to claim my soul back, and you, Gabrielle, will be my first good deed, the cornerstone of my redemption." It surprised me that I conveyed my innermost thoughts to her, but somehow it felt safe and right to do so.
"What about love?" She spoke softly. I retrieved my eyes to hers.
"Love is not for me, Gabrielle," I muttered almost bitterly.
"But ..." She tried.
I cut through her speech. "Let's just leave it at that," I concluded. "So!" I cried after a few moments of silence, then paused. "Do I have your word, Gabrielle?"
"On one condition."
"You are hardly in a position to pose conditions, Gabrielle."
"I just wanted to ask of you to promise me you won't leave me at your mother's and then go on your way without me." She pleaded. She gave me an intense look as if she was trying to melt something inside me with her warmth.
"I don't know what will happens in my mother's house. Let's just wait and see...But you must give me your word that you won't give your body for money again, and I also want you to wait till you're mature enough to know what you want, as well"
"You have my word, Xena" She sealed her promise with a handshake. I was at ease now that she gave me her word. I had extracted Gabrielle for the brothel, now I had to extract the brothel from Gabrielle. I knew prostitution had become her second nature, just like killing had become mine. I realized it wasn't because of any flaw in Gabrielle's character but merely because of difficulties and hardships in the circumstances of her life.
"I guess facing your mother will be a very hard thing for you to do," she stated.
"Yeah." I blew out one big, long breath to relief the pressure on my chest.
"It won't be easy for her to accept you back. She bears a grudge and not without a reason. She probably believes that you've shamed her with your way of killing. She might not recognize you anymore. She might see a stranger before her and not her own daughter. It has probably been years since you've last visited her. She doesn't know who you are. She knew her little girl, not the conquering warrior."
"I'm afraid you're right." I was in awe of her fine perception and analysis of the situation. The life she lived made her more mature than even most women my age. She impressed me. "What do you think I should do?" I asked.
"You'll have to show her, not with words, but with actions, that you're a changed woman."
"It's not going to be easy"
"No, it won't. She probably won't trust you. She might even fear you."
"How will I do that?"
"I'll help, if you would allow me to." She offered with a smile. "You will have to be patient with her, give her a time to get use to you, to get to know you, to trust you and to accept you, Xena. She'll probably test you, and she'll be examining you closely and doubt you every step of the way, but you mustn't get angry with her. Remember who you were and understand her. She'll make mistakes and so will you, but you'll have to forgive her...You owe her that much," Gabrielle explained. She left me speechless. Her wisdom and maturity puzzled me. I admired her for it.
"I will try to do my best, Gabrielle. Thank you"
"That's what friends are for." She retorted grinning, and then yawned.
"You're tired, aren't you?" I smirked. She simply nodded. "Let's go to sleep then." I stood up and offered her my hand in order to assist her to stand, and hoisted her up to her feet. We walked together to the bedrolls. She lay herself down on them, covering her nudity with the towel. I went towards Argo in order to fetch two of my own night shifts, which were in the saddlebag.
"Aren't you sleeping with me?" I heard Gabrielle's small, disappointed voice calling from behind me.
"If you'd like, I'll sleep with you. I was just bringing us night shifts is all," I said. "I forgot to buy you one in the market so I guess you'll have to wear one of mine," I informed her, and she nodded her consent. I handed her my night shift. She wore it and lay back prone on the bedrolls. I did the same and lay myself next to her. She curled up against my body, pressed her back to my chest, took my arm, wrapped it around her own waist and placed my palm against her stomach. I was very tired. I must be getting old, I admonished myself. I felt Gabrielle's body all pressed tightly against me, reminding me of its presence, as if I could forget. Holding her youthful small body in my arms started me thinking. I didn't know what was I going to do with her. She was so young. What did I know about girls her age? I didn't know what topics I could I possibly discourse with her. She was just learning things, I had already forgotten. She didn't understand the world of adults, and it's been seventeen years since I have been her age. We were bound to dreary one another soon enough and we would have to go our separate ways. I finally closed my eyes. They needed the repose.
"Xena?" I heard her whispering, inspecting whether I was still awake.
"What?" Came my inpatient response.
"Did you love your father?" She posed.
"I never knew my father. Why do you ask?"
"Because I think I hate mine and it makes me feel like a bad person," she replied. I sensed that that was a beginning of a long conversation and so I turned around and faced her.
"If you hate your father then I guess it is not without a ground. What did he do to you? Did he spank you? Is that why you ran away?"
"No, I didn't run away because he beat me," she answered. I could tell by her expression that there was something else she wanted to say, that was standing on the tip of of her tongue, but simply wouldn't come out. Then it hit me.
"Did he...Touch you..." I looked for some indication in her eyes, for some verification, but she gave me no sign, so I went on. "Like your customers touched you?" I saw her eyes become nebulous with tears.
"The son of a bitch!" I raged and sat up on the bedrolls, freeing her from my hold. My heart was filled with burning hatred toward a man I'd never seen in my life. I had those unfamiliar feelings that raged through me that I couldn't even name. Gabrielle's situation became horrifyingly clear to me.
"And where was your dear mother in all this?" I snarled.
The wrath that I felt consumed me and there arose the craving for the taste of warm blood, like I hadn't felt in a long time. There was only so much I could do to restrain myself.
"I don't think she knew," Gabrielle's voice cracked.
"I'm so sorry that the fates were cruel enough to bestow such a dreadful fate upon you. But, hear this Gabrielle, I, Xena of Amphipolis, swear to you that for as long as I breathe, I will never let another human being use you this way ever again."
"Thank you," Gabrielle whimpered. "Would you hold me?"
I wrapped my arms around her minor figure and held her in a tight embrace.
"I feel safe with you," she admitted, and wiped the tears from her eyes. "You are nothing like what people say about you". She said as I unwrapped my arms from around her.
"What have you heard?" I asked and moved a stray lock from her face. She tilted her head and looked at me.
"The other women who worked with me at the various brothels I worked with said, that you've butchered entire nations, and that you were a ruthless, bloodlusting monster. They also said that you had a wasps' hive instead of a heart..."
"They were telling the truth," I muttered.
"That might have been true once, but now you are on a quest to find your heart and I'm sure you'll find it soon. You're on the right path it seems." Gabrielle stunned me with her words. After a few moments of silence, I lay down again and Gabrielle cuddled with me. I closed my eyes again, thinking Gabrielle finished her somewhat tedious chatting for the day, but I was wrong.
"They also said you were by far the best fornicator they have ever had...Were they right about that too?" She giggled. My eyes snapped back open in shock and amazement. Gabrielle's giggling sounds neutralized my anger for her audacity.
"You'll never know," I grinned. The young lass looked at me with eyes of a victor when she realized she managed to extort half a smile from me.
"Did I do something so terrible that made my father punish me the way he did?" She asked after a few moments.
"No!" I exclaimed, "You did nothing of a kind. Your father is a sick man, Gabrielle. It's not your fault, do you hear me!?"
"Yes. Thanks, Xena"
"Now let's get some sleep. Tomorrow, at dusk, we will arrive in Amphipolis," I said with a somewhat sleepy voice. Gabrielle snuggled up against me and sighed a sigh of contentment. Several more silent moments passed and then I heard Gabrielle's voice again.
"Hmmm" I poured angrily.
"Thanks for the doll, It's lovely"
I held Gabrielle tight to me and smiled as I drifted off to sleep.
Throughout the next day, Gabrielle and I rode to Amphipolis on Argo's back, save the few breaks we did for some resting and eating. Gabrielle seemed to handle the journey quite well; as a matter of fact, by far better than I expected. Though we rode and walked for hours, she kept her pace with me, and didn't complain, not even a single time.
While we were on the road, Gabrielle told me she had a dream.
"What is your dream, Gabrielle," I questioned.
"I want to be a Bard. I want to tell stories. I want to dazzle people with my imagination. I want to touch people's souls with my words," she said enthusiastically. Her eyes literally twinkled.
"That's sounds very nice," I said. I was never a woman of too many words.
"What's your dream, Xena?" She asked.
I didn't answer Gabrielle immediately. "I dream of complete serenity."
"You wish for the past to stop screaming in your head. You want the sounds to be silent, the smells to evaporate, and the sights to be invisible. You want not to remember the past so vividly. I know what you feel," she said. I don't know why, perhaps the fact that a young girl understood me, the "great" Xena, too well, her words rose resentment against her.
"What do you know about any of this, little girl?" I didn't mean for the mockery to be so evident in my voice, but Gabrielle was a clever girl. It didn't go through her unnoticed, and she didn't fear me either. She jumped off Argo's back, almost losing her balance. It took me by surprise. She stood at my right side and looked up at me.
"Take a look at me, Xena." She glared at me. "Take a long good look at me!" I didn't know her kind had such an expression in store. "There is no child in me anymore. The little child in me was slowly murdered over the years. It began when I was six years old and my father came up to my room for a goodnight kiss and slipped his hand under my night shift, touching me where he wasn't allowed to. Ever since I was ten years old, men have penetrated me like they were with a grown woman, taking me, taking the little girl away from me. So, go ahead warrior, and take a close look at me...you won't find a little girl in me...She's long gone!" Gabrielle was trembling, fists clenched. For a few heartbeats I kept still on Argo's back, my eyes wide open. I looked into her eyes, and there was no young girl in there, at that time. She turned on her heels and began striding away from me.
"Gabrielle!" I called after her. She didn't turn around but kept pacing, creating distance between us. I dismounted Argo and ran after her. "I'm so sorry, Gabrielle." I said and grabbed her arm.
"I'm leaving, Xena. It hurts to have you treat me like a child." She sounded embittered.
"I won't do it any more...Well not on purpose anyway...Please stay with me." I never heard myself begging to another soul in my life, and there I was, practically begging her to stay. She finally gave up and turned around to face me.
"I'm not leaving, Xena...I just walked away to give you a little scare, undermine your confidence." She smiled.
"Well, you failed!" I announced. I wasn't going to let her patronize me.
"Yeah..." She muttered skeptically and chuckled. I couldn't contain a chuckle myself; she simply looked too adorable for me to fight it. We both mounted Argo again and went on our way to Amphipolis.
At dusk Gabrielle and I reached Amphipolis. The small village's streets were empty. The natives were indoors, having their dinner, tucking their children in. Gabrielle and I dismounted Argo's back. I had Argo stabled. Slowly and heavily we paced towards my mother's tavern. The closer we got to my mother's tavern the shakier my legs became. When we stood at the threshold of the tavern, cold sweat beaded my body.
"Here goes nothing," I whispered to Gabrielle. She just looked at me. I guess she knew there was nothing she could have said that would have made me feel better.
Gabrielle and I walked into the tavern. My mother was just coming out of the kitchen. I stood frozen on the spot when I first saw her. She looked so much older than I remembered. The moment she spotted me standing in her tavern, she dropped the tray she was holding. The loud shuttering sound of the tray's impact with the floor silenced the tavern's guests. My mother didn't say a word. I saw her approaching me, slowly closing the gap between us. I couldn't read the look she had in her eyes, but that look made my skin crawl. She reached me and stood toe to toe with me. She was a head and a half shorter than me, but she made me, the ex-Destroyer-of-Nations, feel small. Up till that point she didn't even glance at Gabrielle. My mother glared at me only. I saw shock, anger, contempt, sorrow and so many other things I couldn't call by their name. The silence that fell in the tavern was deafening. All the establishment's guests were looking at us mesmerized. Even the tavern's rats didn't squeak. I felt wild palpitations in my chest. I didn't know what to do.
"Gabrielle, go and sit down" I whispered to her, not taking my eyes off my mother. She did as I asked her. As she walked towards one of the wooden stools, my mother broke eye contact with me and moved her gaze to Gabrielle. She ran an inspecting gaze on my young protege, from head to toe. By the expression my mother had on her face, I just knew she realized Gabrielle was a prostitute.
"Hello, Mother," I eventually said with a small tremor in my voice.
"You are not welcome here, Warrior. Please take what you want from us and leave. None of us will resist you." My mother said this with a cold, foreign voice that made my blood freeze in my veins.
"I'm not here to raid Amphipolis, nor am I here to conquer it. I just came to talk to you, mother," I said quietly.
"I have no daughter," she said bitterly and I saw tears well up in her eyes.
"Sure you do. It's me, mom, your Xena," I said, fighting back tears myself. I sent my hands in order to touch her, hold her, but my mother turned her head to the side. She disowned me. My arms fell defeated back to my sides, my head falling forwards, my chin touching my chest and my tired shoulders pathetically slumped.
I turned around and faced the door again. I began pacing heavily, praying I wouldn't break down and cry in front of all the people.
"Milady," I heard Gabrielle's voice from behind me and my legs planted themselves into the floor. "Xena is the only daughter you have. She is a changed woman. She came here today to make amends, to repent, to earn your forgiveness and regain your love. Your daughter saved my worthless life. I swear to you, she is not a warlord anymore. Please...at least talk to her. Don't do something you'll regret for the rest of your life. She is the only family you have." Gabrielle pleaded for my sake. "Xena!" She called after me. "Go to the kitchen. Your mother will meet you there shortly." When she saw that I haven't moved, she went on encouraging me. "Go on, Xena...go on". I did as she said. I didn't look at my mother. I was afraid I wouldn't see approval in her eyes.
I went to the kitchen and waited for my mother there. I looked around. The kitchen remained the same, as if seventeen years haven't passed at all, with one difference, the kitchen looked a little smaller than I had remembered. After a few moments, my mother came in.
"Where is Gabrielle?" I asked her, for I thought she kicked her out.
"So, that's the name of the whore with the golden heart."
"She is not a whore." I defended my protégé's dignity.
"Come on, Xena, spare me your lies. I have seen enough whores in my tavern to recognize one when I see one. Besides, I know that only these kind of women would be willing to accompany a low-life warrior such as yourself...for the right price, of-course." Her words were poison, and they were ruthlessly gnawing at my heart.
"I guess I deserve that," I muttered.
"You deserve a whole lot worse than a couple of harsh words"
"You're right," I whispered. "She's under-aged. I didn't think that even a soulless monster like you, would be capable of taking advantage of a young girl. I guess I should know by now never to put anything evil past you." Her voice was cold and her words were like a knife cutting through my flesh.
"It's not what you think. I've never taken her. I met Gabrielle in a brothel where she worked as a prostitute. I bought her from her Madam, to free her from prostitution, because of her young age," I explained my mother. I didn't think she would believe me.
"I hope for her sake that is the truth," She concluded. "So, why did you come to Amphipolis? I cannot believe it is merely a friendly visitation to your old mama," she spat.
"I have forsaken my life as a warlord, as a Destroyer of Nations. I came here to be with you, for some peace and quiet, for forgiveness, and for reformation," I didn't look into her eyes.
"You want my forgiveness!? You don't deserve it...For years...You've shamed me for years. I was the mother of the monster. People hated me for the atrocities you did".
"I'm so sorry, mom...I don't deserve a thing from you, but still I'm asking you to let me stay here," I pleaded with a trembling voice, still not meeting her eyes.
"I want you out of here," my mom said. I felt something die within me. I got up from the stool and turned to the door. I saw Gabrielle standing at the kitchen door.
"Milady, I'm begging you to give Xena another chance. Give her a chance to make you a proud mother. She saved me, and I know she can do so much more. I know she is destined to greatness. Allow us to stay here and prove it to you. She needs you to believe in her...I'm willing to work in the tavern as payment for the staying. Hard work never frightened me. Let her stay here...You are her only mother..." My mother looked at Gabrielle, and so did I. I then looked at my mother and saw her contemplating whether to let me stay or not.
"You both may stay," she finally said to both of us. Then she looked at me. "Just so you know, I don't trust you. I think you're evil incarnate. I'm letting you stay only because of the things the girl said. You should thank her. I can only afford sparing one room for the two of you, so you'll have to manage in one room."
"Thanks mother," I whispered and raised my head in order to meet her disappointed eyes.
"Thank you, Milady." Gabrielle bowed her head.
"Call me Cyrene," she muttered. Then she walked to the cabinet on the kitchen's wall and took out a key. "You both seem exhausted," she said and handed me the key. "That's the key to your room. It's upstairs, the last one to right," she informed. "Go to sleep."
"Thanks mother," I said.
Gabrielle and I bid my mother good night. Then, we claimed up the stairs, crossed the corridor and entered our room. I closed the door behind me. Gabrielle and I readied ourselves for slumber. Once we were all cleaned up and in our night shifts, we both lay ourselves in one bed even though the room was occupied by two beds. It seemed natural for both of us to sleep together in the same bed, so much so, that we didn't even debate the issue of sleeping arraignments. I spread my arms to welcome her to me and she naturally took the invitation and eased her body into mine. She placed her head on my shoulder.
"Thank you, Gabrielle." I whispered into her ear. I wanted to lick it so badly.
"Anything for you, Xena," came her muffled sleepy reply.
We drifted off to sleep.
I woke up the next morning just a little after sunup. The first sight that pervaded my eyes was that of the snoozing Gabrielle. She looked angelic, her blonde locks covering my shoulder and my chest. Her cheeks had a shade of crimson on them and her body was warm from slumber. A great urge arose in me to kiss her. Just a small brush on her lips, she won't even notice I thought. I felt a tender smile plastered on my face.
As I was staring at Gabrielle sleeping, the door to our room opened and to my misfortune it was my mother that stood at the threshold, holding a tray loaded with food. The moment that her gaze rested on Gabrielle and me, she froze, and the tray slipped from her hands and onto the floor.
"What is this I see? You liar! You told me you weren't sleeping with her!" My mother yelled. Gabrielle awoke startled and I jumped out of bed and ran toward my mother.
"It's not what it seems, honest. Its innocent..."
"What kind of an idiot do you think I am!? You're doing her! You're doing a little girl! You disgust me!" She went on ranting and screaming.
"Mom!" I tried to calm her down but for no use. I saw Gabrielle getting out of bed still a little addled from slumber, and striding towards my mother.
"I WANT YOU OUT OF HERE NOW!" My mother shouted at me.
"May I speak with you in private, Cyrene?" Gabrielle place her small hand on my mother's forearm and looked at her with her sweet green eyes. My mother stifled herself upon hearing Gabrielle's soft voice. She looked at her for a moment and then Gabrielle turned to me.
"Would you excuse us, Xena!?" Gabrielle asked. I didn't answer verbally but merely walked out of the room, with my mother's degrading words still echoing in my ears. I began to have second thoughts about coming to my mother's tavern. That is one of my main shortcomings or blessings, not putting my faith in anyone. I didn't have faith in my mother. Just before I'd reached a final decision to leave my mother's tavern for good, the door was opened and my mother stepped out.
She didn't raise her head so to look me in the eyes, but merely said with a small voice,"I apologize," and went downstairs to the tavern's kitchen.
I rushed into the room, all shocked.
"What have you said to her?" I questioned.
"I told her about what my father did to me, and that because of it I never sleep soundly ever since. I told her that because you saved me from prostitution, among other things, I feel the safest with you, and so sleep soundly at nights when sleeping in your arms. I told her that you had a chance to have your way with me, but you never did," Gabrielle replied.
That young girl left me speechless again. It was times like these that made me wonder who was the real adult among us. Nevertheless, I did not let that notion cloud my judgment and alter my decision not to seduce Gabrielle. When she would be of age, she would fall in love with a nice young man and give herself to him. Besides, Gabrielle had given me her word that the next time she would have sex with someone, it would be someone she loved. Gabrielle would never fall in love with me and I would never fall in love. Gabrielle's happiness is not dependent on me.
"Thanks again, Gabrielle. It seems I have been thanking you a lot lately," I mused.
"It's the least I can do for you after all that you've given me, Xena." She answered and a serious expression covered her face. "Go downstairs for breakfast. I will clean up the mess from the floor," she urged me.
"Thanks," I chuckled. I changed my clothes back to the silk white shirt and black leather pants. I armed myself and went downstairs for breakfast. Gabrielle cleaned upstairs and after she was done, she came down as well and joined me for breakfast. Throughout breakfast I could sense my mothers eyes on me. At some point, my mother joined us at the table and gave us our chores, our duties in the tavern. I was to take care of the guest's horses, and make the rooms, and Gabrielle was to serve food and wine in the tavern and help around the kitchen. Our day's work would start a candlemark after sunrise and last till a candlemark after sundown. My mother explained that since Gabrielle is young, she should turn-in early, and because she slept better with me, then I should finish working when Gabrielle did.
After breakfast Gabrielle and I went to work. My mother kept on picking on me from behind my shoulder, always placing an eye on me. Her lack of trust in me was almost distastefully evident, but I didn't utter a word about it.
The day went by in no time at all. I thanked Apollo for dusk that announced the end of a hard day's work. Gabrielle and I walked up the stairs to our room, exhausted. After a short bath we fell into bed and surrendered to Morpheus with not much of a fight.
The next day, Gabrielle and I were sitting to the table. After we finished eating, Gabrielle cleared the table from the dishes.
"Gabrielle!" I called her while she was placing the dishes in the kitchen. "Would you be kind enough to make me some mint tea?"
"Sure, Xena" She yelled back her answer. After a few moments, she called me "Xena, were is the mint herbs?"
"It's in one of the jars that are on the shelf next to the window!" I retorted aloud.
"In which jar?" She asked.
"Gods, Gabrielle...The one with the label that says *mint* on it!" I replied, slightly impatiently. I saw Gabrielle slowly stepping out of the kitchen with her chin pressed to her chest. She mumbled something incoherent.
"What did you say!?" I asked.
"I can't read", she said with a louder voice, yet still it was barely audible.
"What do you mean, 'You can't read'?" I exclaimed. "How come a girl your age cannot read?"
"My father restricted me from attending school. He said I would be more useful working on his farm," she murmured. I couldn't contain my rage any longer. I couldn't believe the bastard that sired that wonderful girl was not only raping her, but also made sure she would remain isolated, ignorant and accessible to him. I slammed my fist down with immense force, and upon impact the plate that was before me was smashed into tiny little pieces. Gabrielle jumped in a start.
"I'M GONNA KILL HIM" I yelled, and rose to my feet, checking that my sword and Chakram are in place. Gabrielle rushed to me, and grabbed me by my arm.
"Xena, please...Calm down...You're scaring me. Leave it be. It's easier for me to try and forget." She pleaded, and pulled me by my silken sleeve.
"I want him to pay!" My emotions were overflowing in my blood. I could feel a heat wave wash over my face.
"Let bygones be bygones," she implored. Suddenly she noticed my hand was bleeding. "You've cut yourself with the broken plate." She seemed nervous at the sight of blood.
"It's just a small cut, Gabrielle." I dismissed it.
"I'll clean it up for you, and then bandage your hand." She insisted. At that moment my mother walked in.
"What was all that noise?" She interrogated with a harsh tone. She glanced quickly around the tavern's bar, examining it. "What happened to you hand, Xena?"
"It's nothing really."
"You are living under my roof, Xena, don't believe for a moment that you can ease my mind or conceal things from me in that manner!" She placed a pair of tight fists on her waist, as she admonished me.
"I'm sorry, mother," I muttered. Back in my warlord days I would have killed someone who dared talk to me in such fashion. My mother asked Gabrielle to fetch a bowl with fresh water and a piece of clean cloth from the kitchen. Gabrielle obediently complied.
"Gabrielle cannot read. Her father wouldn't let her go to school," I informed my mother.
"I see." She simply said, as she took my injured hand and examined it closely. Gabrielle returned back to the tavern's bar and approached us, carrying the bowl and cloth as requested. I set down back in my chair, and Gabrielle knelt before me, placing the bowl on the table. She carefully folded my sleeve and with small tender fingers cleaned my wound with soft, light strokes that almost made me tremble. In truth, had it not been for my mother's oppressive presence I probably would have shuddered.
"Can I make a suggestion, Mother?" I asked with a pleading tone, reluctantly moving my gaze from Gabrielle's gentle ministration to my mother.
"Go ahead," she said with an even tone.
"I want to send Gabrielle to school here in Amphipolis, the same school I went to when I was her age. I would do her chores around here so that she could study peacefully, and after she would finish her home assignment from school, she'll attend her duties in here." I laid out my proposal. I looked at Gabrielle and she looked at me and the immaculate happiness I saw in her eyes was undeniable.
"Very well." My mother delivered her approval. The moment my mother left the kitchen, Gabrielle, still on her knees, leaned forward and pulled me into a tight embrace, wrapping, squeezing warm arms around my shoulders.
"How can I ever repay you for this, Xena?" She whispered the question into my ear.
"By being the best student you can," came my reply.
After Gabrielle finished bandaging my hand, she and I went to the stables together. Argo was waiting for me there. I mounted Argo's back and hoisted Gabrielle up to sit behind me, and we galloped to school. After we'd arrived, I went to register Gabrielle in school and pay her tuition.
We were sitting in the headmaster's study, waiting for him. When he came in, both Gabrielle and I stood up. He bypassed his wooden table and us and sat opposite us. The moment he laid his eyes on mine he recognized me.
"Xena!" He announced.
"Headmaster, Sir." I bowed my head.
"Are you the girl's mother?" He inquired.
"Hades, no!" I denied vigorously and then chuckled nervously. Was I that much older than her? I wondered "She is my protégé," I explained.
"I see." The old man nodded thoughtfully.
He was telling me that Gabrielle would have to join a class of a whole lot younger children than her, for she had to start from scratch; and if she would study hard enough she would be promoted to a higher class. I told him that Gabrielle was a bright girl and that I was sure she would do very well.
"Gabrielle." He drew her attention. "Xena was one of my finest students. She was smart, eager to learn and studied hard...She was also a very naughty, unbridled girl that made her teachers' lives a living Tartarus. I wish, Gabrielle, that Xena's quest for knowledge and self-discipline would rub off on you. I hope you won't become what she became." The great educator told her and I bowed my head. I swallowed the insulence. It was bitter, for I respected the man because I learned from him. Gabrielle didn't look at me. I hoped it was because she didn't want to cause me any further embarrassment.
Just before I left, as I was standing with Gabrielle and the old headmaster near the door, I turned to him and hissed: "For your sake I hope that no tragedy will befall her while she is in your care". I gave him the 'Destroyer of Nation's' look that made the blood freeze in his old veins.
I escorted Gabrielle to her classroom, wished her good-luck and left. As Gabrielle was studying in school, I was washing dishes, making the beds, chopping firewood, and so on. A little after noon, Gabrielle returned to the tavern. She looked exhilarated. She was radiant. She was so excited and chatted so much about her adventures at school she almost caused me a headache. I wasn't angry or impatient with her. I understood. So all throughout lunch she chattered on and on.
After lunch, we sat together at the kitchen table and I helped her with her home assignment.
At dinnertime, while Gabrielle, my mother and myself sat to the table and ate; a man barged into the tavern. The men panted heavily and generously perspired. Obviously, he ran in great haste too my mother's tavern.
"Run for your lives!" He said and dropped to one of the stools in exhaustion.
"What's the matter?" My mother exclaimed and motioned to Gabrielle to bring the man water.
"Draco's army is headed towards my village, Ponerus, and is about to raid it. It is my guess that after he's done with us, he'll go after Amphipolis," he rasped still heavily but slower than before.
"Well then, I guess we will have to offer him dinars in exchange of him sparing us," my mother concluded and the customers of her tavern nodded their agreement. Gabrielle called me and asked me to come to the kitchen with her. I followed her as she requested.
"Can you take them by yourself, Xena?" She inquired.
'What do you mean?" I asked back.
"Draco and his army, can you take them by yourself?" She asked.
"I was once the Destroyer of Nations, Gabrielle, of course I can," I replied, sounding a little cocky.
"You said you wanted to reform, to make amends for past deeds. This is your chance. Have Draco be the second stone in your redemption." She said. I didn't reply. I came out of the kitchen and Gabrielle behind me.
"I won't let Draco raid your village," I announced.
"You and what army?" mocked the rasping man.
"My name is Xena," I disclosed and added no more. No words were necessary.
"May the gods be with you, Warrior Princess." He sighed in relief after he recovered from the shock.
I looked at my mother. I guess I was looking for some moral support. I couldn't make out the look she gave me. She didn't wish me good luck.
I went out, mounted Argo and galloped for two solid candlemarks to the east, until I reached Ponerus. I saw Draco's army's camp. I've located the largest tent. I entered it and killed Draco in his sleep. Then I killed the men I found in the five tents that surrounded it, knowing they would be the tents of his highest-ranking officers. I waited till sunrise. When the troops found out their leaders were butchered during the course of the night, they scattered. Once I've made sure Ponerus was safe, I left, and returned to Amphipolis just in time for lunch.
When I set foot in my mother's tavern, Gabrielle ran to me with her arms spread open in order to receive me. When she reached me, she wrapped her arms around me, while standing on the tip of her toes in order to be able to rest her chin on my shoulder. She took me completely off guard.
"Thank the gods you're safe!" She ranted over and over again. For a moment I felt I'd lost control over something that I couldn't place my finger on, and it made me feel uneasy to a great extent. I didn't hold her in return. When she felt I wasn't hugging her, she took her arms from around me and allowed me to approach my mother.
"You did good," was all she said. It was enough for me. After all that was the nicest thing she said to me ever since I returned to Amphipolis. I gave her half a smile in return.
During lunch, Gabrielle conveyed to me that she couldn't sleep the previous night without me holding her in our bed.
"What will you do when you get married, have me sleep between you and you husband?" I jested. For some reason, she didn't find it amusing.
Our lives were set into routine. People every so often, came seeking my help in fighting warlords. I never turned down anyone. I fought for the weak and defenseless in their war of survival. I did my best not to neglect my duties in the tavern, nevertheless, using my sword instead of a mop was by far better. For a minute there I was afraid I was going soft. Whenever the time permitted it, I sat and helped Gabrielle with her homework. My instincts about Gabrielle were correct. She was a bright student. She mastered Greek and Latin fluently in no time at all both in reading and in writing. She began writing stories in both languages. She was even good in math and geometry.
I was proud of her, and told her so.
Nevertheless, I didn't think school was providing her with all the education she needed, and so taught her to fight with a staff and took her fishing now and then. She hadn't given up the habit of sleeping with me, no matter how much I tried to persuade her, even when I told her she was safe and way too old for that.
She was charming. She brought laughter and joy to whoever came in contact with her, and I was no exception.
For her fourteenth birthday Gabrielle got an unexpected birthday present.
The morning of her fourteenth birthday, I woke up early, naturally before Gabrielle, just like any other day, and went down for some tea and light breakfast. My mother joined me for the morning meal, and we discussed Gabrielle's birthday cake. As we were eating and conversing, Gabrielle came rushing down the stairs crying hysterically with her hands and nightshift stained with blood.
"I'm bleeding, I'm bleeding!" She screamed and squealed uncontrollably. I rushed over to her all frightened, but the closer I got to her, I came to understand what was going on. The stains of blood were at the area of her crotch.
"Calm down, Gabrielle." I caught her by her shoulder and shook her a little so that she would get a grip. I turned to look at my mother, who began laughing harder than I'd ever seen her laugh before.
"It's your moon cycle," I informed Gabrielle, and blushed heavily. The blush didn't go unnoticed with my mother and it only increased her laughter.
"My moon, what?" She asked while hiccuping from her crying.
"I'll explain upstairs," I said. "Mother, give me some linen cloth, fresh water and some soap. I'll handle this."
My mother refused to calm down from her laughter.
"TODAY, MOTHER!" I commanded her and she finally got off the chair giggling all the way to the kitchen.
She handed me a bowl of water, a soap and the cloth. Gabrielle and I went upstairs. She sat on our bed.
"Take off your blouse, it's dirty,," I said to her and reminded myself to be soft and gentle with her, for the ordeal was by no means easy for her. The whole situation reminded me of my first blood. Gabrielle took off her blouse as I asked.
"Now your britches, little one" I said softly. She complied
"I'll clean you up, so I need you to spread you legs, please." I almost whispered and thanked the Gods my mother wasn't looking over my shoulder at that time. I soaked the cloth into the water and the soap. As I reached towards her center my hand visibly trembled. I furiously blushed, even more than she did. I noticed I wasn't breathing. I felt warmth and humidity spread like fire in my own center. With light stokes, minding my fingers so that they wouldn't touch her soft flesh, I cleaned the blood from her. I could hear her breathing quicken and I didn't dare raise my eyes in fear I might meet hers. I cleaned the blood on her maddening pink, slightly swollen nub of pleasure. At that sight I felt painful throbbing in my own, and it was pure torture. As her treasure was revealed to me, I couldn't but notice it altered into a grown woman's sex. The down she once had there, became a patch of golden curls, and she developed these magnificent rosy-like folds. The throbbing in my center showed no mercy and pulses of heat kept tormenting me, while with barely touching caresses I cleaned her clitoris. I have never been more embarrassed than this in my entire life.
"Haven't your...colleagues ever explained it to you when you were...working?" I stammered. I didn't wish to stir bad memories, but I had to ask.
"They asked me if I was bleeding, and I answered that only when I get injured, so they laughed and told me I was lucky that I didn't have to mind 'work accidents.'" She explained and I couldn't contain a chuckle. I just couldn't help myself. I explained to her all there was to know about the moon cycle, how to watch her hygiene, and what herbs she should take when she wasn't feeling good. I handed her clean britches and she placed a clean cloth the way I showed her, against her sex and the clean britches. I also gave her clean clothes to wear. As she busied herself with getting dressed, I observed her. I'd noticed how her breasts had grown and swelled the past year into a pair of supple and beautiful creamy breasts. My heartbeat increased and I found myself licking my suddenly dry lips. I then averted my coveting intrusive eyes downward to her waist and shapely hips. The change in her seemed so clear to me then; the curves, the swells, the roundness. She had a beautiful feminine body. How did it escape my eyes until now? I asked myself, but deep inside I knew the answer. It was the outcome of my battle against my desiring her. I have been suppressing the fact that she was becoming a gorgeous young woman.
Gabrielle asked my permission not to go to school that day for it was her birthday. I granted her wish. After breakfast, Gabrielle and I went fishing by the lake. I was glad she wasn't in any pain and instructed her to let me know if she felt any.
Down by the lake, I couldn't control an urge and without an ounce of control I asked her whether she ever sexually served a woman.
"No," she answered. A few more silent moments passed and again insanity possessed me.
"Why did you leave your father's house only to become a prostitute?"
"Because it made me feel more in control of my body. I needed to feel I had control over it. My customers had to pay in order to be with me, and it was either they played by my rules or no play at all. When my father touched me, I didn't have a say in the matter but to obey." She answered and downcast her eyes. She told me, about the first time she had received a customer. She talked about it as if she was conversing about mindless things like the weather. She was detaching herself from all of it, and a certain pain in my chest, to which I had already grown accustomed to, appeared again. When I felt I couldn't bear to listen to her sad life story, I asked her to tell me one of the stories she had written in her scrolls. So, she did as I asked. All her stories were about me and my heroics. I told her she should find another hero to praise. In the evening, my mother and I celebrated Gabrielle's birthday.
Throughout the following week, as Gabrielle and I were sleeping in our bed, I could smell her scent. I could tell she was still having her period, and I was tossing and turning in bed throughout the night, restless and filled with desire like I've never known in my entire life. At the last day of her period, I couldn't take it any more. The cold showers and physical exercises hadn't been effective. And so, I waited till Gabrielle was sound asleep, then I got up all drenched from sweat and sex secretions and sneaked out to the stables. I needed a naked woman beneath me. I rode to Ponerus, for I knew the village had a shabby whorehouse there. I chose Ponerus, because I knew I could do my business and make it back to Gabrielle's bed by dawn.
As I got there I dismounted Argo and stood at the entrance of the establishment. I stood there for candlemarks, but couldn't bring myself into actually getting inside. Gabrielle came to mind. That was absurd, for I wasn't in love with Gabrielle, I merely lusted for her, so I believed. Just because she was so beautiful, smart and good didn't mean I could possibly love her. She was very young and I didn't' own a heart. True, her presence agreed with me, but I didn't love her. Finally I gave up and returned back, without ever making that oh so very small step into carnal bliss.
I reached Amphipolis a little after sunrise. I didn't expect Gabrielle to be up yet, but as I walked into our room, she was sitting on our bed, most alert.
"Oh, morning. I didn't expect you to be up so early," I said. Even though I didn't do anything, a strange feeling of, guilt maybe, attacked me.
"Evidently." She muttered bitterly. "Where have you been all night?" She asked. I could hear anger and accusation in her strained voice.
"About," I answered shortly. I didn't want to let her catch me lying.
"I wasn't sleeping when you left. I've been waiting for you all night!" She was shouting.
"I didn't mean to worry you," I said with an apologizing tone as if she were my wife.
"You went to stray in blonder pastures, is what I think," she said with an even tone. Nonetheless the pain in her voice didn't escape my ears.
"What is that suppose to mean?"
"You went to Ponerus' whorehouse. I worked there at one time."
"And what if I did. It's none of your business."
"I thought it was."
"Just because I took you under my wings doesn't give you the right to judge me. I don't owe you explanations nor do I owe you any reports. I'm the adult and you are not." I didn't understand what was she upset about. Why should she care, then it hit me. She probably thought going to a harlot, being that I was reformed was undignified for me and beneath me now.
"Don't you dare preach to me about adulthood. You're never walked a mile in my shoes!" she yelled.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle," I said and walked to her. I placed a hand on her shoulder. She flinched.
"Don't touch me!" She roared, and it made me take a stride back. Her rejection of my touch caused me a sharp pain in my chest and I could feel something cracking inside me.
"Not that it's a matter of your concern, but I did go to Ponerus' whorehouse last night, but I couldn't bring myself to go inside...I must have stood there for hours," I softly told her.
"What prevented you from going in?" She asked.
"I don't know" I finally replied.
A few moons after the incident with Ponerus' whorehouse, a man from Corinth entered my mother's tavern. Upon seeing Gabrielle waiting on tables, he began swaying his hips forwards and backwards in an obscene way, as one does during intercourse. He was one of Gabrielle's former customers. When Gabrielle saw him she ran to the kitchen to hide from the shame. I approached the man with big hasty strides, caught him by his shirt collar and dragged him outside. Once we were out, I beat the leaving daylights out of him. As I pounded him I could fell his bones breaking under my furious fists. Gabrielle came rushing outside as well, and stopped me.
"You'll kill him!" She screamed as if to draw me out of the frenzy. I stopped.
"Let's go away from here," I said. We climbed to the tavern's roof and watched the stars.
"I know you hurt, Gabrielle, and I know it's hard to run away from the past. It always seems to lurk you just around the corner, just beneath the surface. But it'll get better as time passes by. There is hope for you little one. You should never give up hope," I said to her and gazed at the tears that slid on her cheeks. I sent my hand to her face, cupped her wet cheek and made her look at me. "You have a lot of healing to do, little one. Don't give up hope"
"You and me both." She muttered and smiled a sorrowful smile, barely controlling her trembling lower lip.
I gathered her smaller frame into a tight embrace as the moon shone brightly down upon us.
When Gabrielle became fifteen, there was no denying it anymore. I was hopelessly and insanely in love with the girl, and there was absolutely nothing I could have done about it. I wouldn't have dared taking advantage of the young girl. I felt genuine fear I would behave like all the others that had been with her. Besides, she was still a child; even though she had been through a lot in life, she was still a child. I could still remember how she had acted the previous year when she had gotten her moon cycle. She was mature about certain aspects of life, but childish about others. I couldn't betray the trust she placed in me. Besides, she deserved much better than me.
I realized she cared for me, but she didn't love me. She was still too young for it. She couldn't love like a mature woman, for she wasn't one. I didn't dare look too deep into myself for fear I would find out I was scared of the notion that Gabrielle might not feel the same way I did. I couldn't believe I'd managed to curb my sexual desires for two whole years. I didn't know what I was waiting for. Gabrielle was no option, but neither was any other woman.
I was in torment, because Gabrielle made me find my heart; and I found it bleeding for her.
Two moons after Gabrielle's birthday, Gabrielle woke in my arms and festively informed me that today was our second anniversary, that today two years ago, I had rescued her from Madam Minya's establishment. I told her that I had some errands to do in town, but I promised her I would be home for dinner and than we could celebrate this day of freedom.
After I had finished doing what I came there to do, I set out to buy Gabrielle a present. With the doll incident still fresh in my mind I had decided to bring her a necklace.
At dusk, as promised, I have arrived at the tavern. I went upstairs to our room. She waited for me there. The room was dimly lit with several candles and the table was loaded with fried fish and fresh vegetables. The basin with red wine didn't escape my eyes. It was evident that Gabrielle had worked hard on the meal.
"Is it all for me?" I asked amused, but she kept a serious posture.
"It's for us." She corrected me and looked at me with her glorious emerald eyes in a way I didn't recognize.
We sat together and enjoyed the meal Gabrielle had prepared for us. We reminisced about the past two years' events. I could feel there was something different about Gabrielle that evening. She displayed a different demeanor. I felt something was going to happen that night, but I wasn't quite sure about it.
When we had finished dinner, while we were still sitting at the table, I gave her the necklace I purchased for her. She was extremely moved by the gesture.
"I also have a present for you," she said.
She rose up to her feet and approached me. She sat herself on my lap; ignoring the surprised and bemused look I had on my face and began unlacing her blouse. I was too stunned to move. I didn't understand what was she doing. She threw her blouse to the floor and exposed her round ample breasts to me. She placed her arms around my neck and began kissing my cheekbone and down to the corner of my mouth. I sat still, too paralyzed to move. My blood rushed in my veins and the ever familiar throbbing in my sex attacked with a vengeance. Her lips were silky, warm and soft, and an immense desire coursed through me that she would kiss my longing lips. Her sweet breath scorched my skin and I was lost in the overwhelming sensation, not even knowing who I was anymore. Her lips moved and covered mine thoroughly, and their touch felt like the batting of a butterfly wings. I have never been a victim of such sweet tenderness. Soon her hands wandered down my body and cupped my breasts, feeling their weight. The moment she made contact with them, I was thrown as if from a dream, back to reality. I flinched at her touch, and shoved her away from me. She was too close to losing her balance and fall flat onto the floor.
"Gabrielle! Stop it! What are you doing?" I behaved as if I was practically repulsed by her where in truth I wanted nothing more than to take her to our bed and make love to her.
"What's the matter?" She asked. She was too puzzled and surprised to be hurt or insulted.
"What are you doing, treating me like I was one of your paying fornicators?" My words came more harshly than I initially intended. It's just that I was so frustrated. I wanted Gabrielle to give herself to me because she loved me and not as a mere gift. I was angry with myself for loving her. I guess a part of me wanted to hurt her for making me fall in love with her. "You're behaving like a whore. Two years have passed and you still grasp sex as something tradeable, detached from feelings"
"Don't you love me?" She asked.
"NO!" I exclaimed.
Gabrielle jumped off my thigh, grabbed her blouse and ran out of our room.
With heavy steps I came down to the tavern's bar. She'll be back in the morning. I tried to ease my mind. The moment my mother saw me, she pointed her index finger towards me.
"YOU, in the kitchen, NOW!" I felt like a child who'd been caught doing something bad and was being reprimanded by his mother. I entered the kitchen.
"Sit!" My mother ordered me and I obeyed.
"What have you done to her?" She demanded to know.
"Nothing" I played the innocent. I believed I did right by declining Gabrielle's too generous present.
"'Nothing' wouldn't have made her storm out of her home, her face all soaked in tears,"she accused me. "Tell me everything that happened up there tonight".
Reluctantly, I did. As I was telling my mother what had happened tears began to stain my face. No matter how much I tried controlling them, my rebel tears kept streaming down. When I finished telling her that night's events, my mother barked at me:
"And you are suppose to be the adult amongst you two!" I didn't comprehend what did she meant by that.
"She's in love with you, stupid." She sighed.
"How can she possibly be in love be in love with me she's..."
My mother cut through my speech: "Too young to be in love?" She finished my sentence sarcastically, poorly imitating my own voice.
"No, she's not. I don't know why you keep denying it? What are you afraid of? Gabrielle is of age. She is old enough to get married and have children. She's old enough to know what's good for her. She's by far more mature than most of her peers. She has become a young woman, with wants, needs, desires and feelings." My mother posed, then continued placing a warm reassuring hand on mine.
"She told me she was in love with you, today, and I know you are in love with her...I have seen the way you look at her and the way she looks at you. You make each other happy. You belong together. Now, go after her, you fool and tell her what's in your heart"
I stood up and wiped the tears from my eyes. When I reached the kitchen door I turned and faced my mother.
"Anytime, daughter...That's what moms are for." She smiled.
As I mounted Argo, I had a gut feeling Gabrielle went to Ponerus' whorehouse. As I galloped like a demon to Ponerus, I could still hear the words my mother had said to me, echoing in my head. I prayed to all the gods I knew that my mother hadn't been wrong.
Once I got to Ponerus' whorehouse, I burst into the bar, located the stairs and ran throughout the corridors, busting down doors in search of Gabrielle. I was unstoppable, like a wild tempest from the north, breaking down what ever was in my way. I was afraid I was too late. At the room at the end of the corridor, I found Gabrielle. I saw a man, naked from his waist down, with his pathetic sex member dangling between his fat, hairy thighs, just about to penetrate and ravish her. The poor man didn't know what hit him when I knocked him to the floor as I beat him with my swords hilt. I heard Gabrielle scream. I was beside myself, driven by pain and frustration.
"YOU GAVE ME YOUR WORD!" I shouted to Gabrielle, not even looking at her.
I kept on beating the man stomping on his sex member. He was lucky though, for when I kept kicking him, he had already fainted. Gabrielle jumped out of bed and tried to push me away from him, but I frantically kept on with my work, and she was by no means a match to my strength.
"Leave him alone! You're killing him!"
At that point, I stopped.
"Get out of here! Out of my life! I don't ever want to see you again!"
"You don't really mean that," I tried. At that point, the man who was grunting on the floor came to and ran away, out of the room.
"Well, I have to make a living. If you want an hour with me, solider, it'll cost you ten Dinars."
"I don't want you," I sneered.
"I didn't view you as a liar," she hissed back.
"What do you mean?" I snarled and watched her lay back on the bed, propped on her elbow.
"I see how you look at me. I understand desire." She stretched back into a sitting position and pierced me with her gaze, teasing me.
"I don't think you really do," I insisted.
"It's my job to understand."
"It was your job!" I retorted.
"No, you're wrong, Xena. Tonight, back in your mother's tavern, you made me feel like a whore in a way none of my customers has ever made me feel!" Her voice bore a quality I had never heard before. It originated from a deep, cold and dark place inside of her. I didn't reckon I had the power to hurt her.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I didn't mean to insinuate that you were still..."
"Yes you did, and I don't know why were you so determined on insulting me. I did you no harm. I wanted to celebrate today with you."
"Look, Xena. I think we need to talk, to clear the air between us. Something is obviously going on and these kind of things don't just solve themselves." She said.
"I agree," I nodded. I wasn't sure to what it was I just gave my consent.
"But first, we've got to get out of here," she suggested.
"Where do you want to go?" I questioned.
"To the lake," she replied.
We exited the whorehouse together. I went to fetch Argo from the stable while Gabrielle waited for me on the street. I soon came back to her, sitting up on Argo's back. Gabrielle stretched out her arm to me. I grabbed it and hoisted her up to sit behind me. Once she was firmly settled behind me, I stubbed Argo's sides with my heels and galloped to the lake were Gabrielle and I camped that night, two years ago, after I bought her from Madam Minya.
We didn't exchange a word throughout the ride. I guess I was trying to build up my defense, contemplating in my head what was I going to tell her, preparing my strategy. Trains of scenarios of the conversation at hand rushed into my mind and I could barely catch some of them. I wasn't paying attention to the ride, Argo simply galloped on. I could almost hear my words and hers in my mind. I felt I mouthed them without a sound. I was outside myself. I was out of focus. I knew what it was that was about to take place between us that night was crucial. I was terrified like I've never been in my life. I had a bad feeling I was about to lose the war that hadn't even began yet, or had it?. I'm not one for changes. Maybe it's not too late, maybe I can pretend I don't know what is there to talk about and she'll leave it at that? Against my better judgment I voted against it. I was drawn to the situation like a moth to a fire. I knew I would be burned but I couldn't help myself.
Gabrielle was surprisingly quiet as well. My mind was too overloaded for guessing her thoughts. I was only grateful she didn't bother me with her chattering. The closer we got to the lake the more I regretted it.
We'd reached the lake. It was inevitable.
I dismounted Argo and helped Gabrielle dismount, too.
"I'll build up a fire," I said.
"I'll fix us dinner," she replied shortly.
We both labored to make camp. She spread our bedrolls and leveled the ground beneath them. I built us a fire. She cooked the fish I caught. Throughout the preparations we didn't say a word to each other. I was hoping she had given up the idea of talking. Alas, once we finished eating I closed my eyes and readied myself to face the music.
"Xena, I'm in love with you," she whispered. Although she was within an arm's reach she didn't touch me. I guess she was afraid I would be repulsed by her.
"Listen to yourself...just because you were a harlot doesn't mean you are a grown up. It takes more than sex to make a person an adult," I preached.
"Than I guess you're not much of an adult yourself...I don't believe you had loving relationships with all the whores you've been with. You never shared love and tenderness with anyone. Because you don't have a heart you had to pay for women. You never loved in your life, so what makes you such an expert?" Her voice was shaking with anger, and tears were welling up in her eyes. I couldn't see my love suffer any more. I would have to let go of all my fears, cast away my armor and trust both her and me.
"Because I'm in love with you too," I said with a small voice, just like the squealing of a frightened mouse. I didn't look at her. There I was, ex-Destroyer-of-Nations, shaking in my boots before this young magnificent woman. I could feel her nearing to me with every cell in my body. . As I was sitting on the ground cross-legged, she knelt opposite to me, blocking the light cast by the fire behind her. I felt her place a small palm to cup my cheek and tilt up my head. Her ardent green eyes caught mine and I was undone.
"Do you have any idea how much I love you, Xena?"
I nodded my response. I was afraid that if I talked I would burst into tears and look weak. Gabrielle took the lead. Her warm, crimson lips touched mine gently, brushing and pampering. She was killing me with her gentleness, my heart was about to explode. She pulled back. I opened my eyes to see why had she stopped stroking my lips with hers. She was piercing my eyes with hers, and I could see into her soul.
"I was never kissed on my mouth before, Xena. Please kiss me. I want you so much to kiss me on the mouth." She pleaded. I cupped her cheeks with both my palms and lowered her head towards mine. I kissed her lips gently, like I'd never kissed anyone in my life. We closed our eyes, and I was nothing but the way Gabrielle's lips moved against mine. My Gabrielle soon regained control. She gently eased my lips to part with her eager tongue, sliding it against my own tongue. She began exploring my mouth cavern, slowly. A moan of untold passion escaped her mouth. I felt Gabrielle's small fingers tenderly caressing my cheeks, my jaw, and the corners of my mouth. She went on kissing and nibbling my lips, making my heart pound wildly in my chest. I felt the kiss deepen and my need for her almost overpowered me. A moan escaped my mouth. Once she finished thoroughly bathing my tongue, she shifted her lips to my right. I felt my earlobe enveloped in Gabrielle's hot mouth. I arched my back involuntarily and then felt her hand moving slowly up my torso, finally coming to rest on the bottom swell of my left breast.
"Slow down, Gabrielle," I pleaded, whimpering.
"Why?" She asked in frustration.
"I'm not sure," I answered.
"I won't hurt you". She promised and the sweetest of voices I have ever heard shot through my soul like an arrow.
She didn't wait for my permission and continued on her own accord. Gabrielle was bliss. She moved her hand up to cover my breast fully. She began to massage my breast, making its hardening nipple painfully erect. The sensation she was bestowing upon my lips and breasts enhanced my desire for her tenfold. That sweet torture that was Gabrielle made my sex throb and wet.
"I have loved you for so long, Gabrielle," I purred.
"So have I, Xena." She punctuated each word with a heated passionate kiss. Gabrielle began slowly and skillfully unbuttoning my silk white shirt. She pulled my shirt out of my leather pants and went on with the task in hand. I had never allowed anyone to disrobe me like this before, but I trusted Gabrielle and so allowed her to expose and control me. Once the last button was undone, she moved the shirt off my shoulders and allowed the shirt to fall to the ground. She lowered her head to the apex of my breast. She slowly slipped her hot tongue along the outside of the aureole and shuddered as a muffled cry was torn from my throat. I was in ecstasy when I felt my nipple being enveloped by her moist lips and mouth. She began to tenderly suckle and lick my breast. I bit my lower lip and tilted back my head when Gabrielle repeated the process, lavishing my other breast with such heartbreaking devotion. Then she broke all contact, leaving me flushed and hot.
"Let's go and lay down, Xena," she simply said. I was too excited to answer, so I nodded. She stood up and offered her hand to help me up to my feet. We walked hand in hand to the bedrolls. She unbuttoned my pants and pulled them all the way down. She bent down and took them off, along with my boots. She left me completely naked.
"Rid me of my clothes, Xena," she asked. Slowly, returning the favor I pulled her blouse above her head. I didn't even bother myself with its buttons, for I was hungry for my love. I minded the slight sway of her supple breasts. I released the belt from around her waist that held her skirt and allowed the garments to fall down to the floor. As I went down to my knees and took off her boots, I saw Gabrielle's blond triangle of desire, glistening with scented dew. Once out of her boots, Gabrielle went down to her knees as well, facing me. She planted her small precious hand behind my head and pulled me down closer to her. The kiss she gave me was a soul-searing one. She invited my tongue into her mouth and swirled hers around mine. She entered into my body with hers. We both moaned, allowed at the contact. Her warmth was incredible and the softness of her breasts against mine, unbelievable. Our kiss grew deeper and hotter again, and Gabrielle was the one that won the battle for dominance.
She gently pushed me back, so that I would lay prone with my back on the bedrolls behind me. Gabrielle's divine and desirable body accompanied me all the way down. She lay fully on top of me. Our mouths met again dancing the dance of love and desire, dwelling in each other's warmth. I felt her thigh come into contact with my heated center. She began rocking herself against me.
"I love you, Xena," she whispered.
"I love you too, Gabrielle," I whispered back, heavily rasping. I felt her labored breathing near my ear. She was in great need, but she curbed her desire and stopped the slow thrusting. She wanted our first time to be special, not just putting out the fire. I was grateful for that. She slowly began licking the rim of my ear, blowing her hot breath into it, making waves of heat through my defenseless body. She then captured my earlobe between her teeth and gently chewed it. The sounds of rapture from my mouth sounded like sheer pleasure. I held on to her body with both hands as if for dear life. Her gluttonous mouth descended to my neck. She found the sensitive spot just below my right ear and began to nibble it, sending me higher and higher still. She went on kissing my throat, leaving trails of wet fire on my yearning skin.
As she kissed me, my hand roamed her flushed body, examining the warm soft skin. She was marvelous. I moved my hands over the sides of her body, grazing the sides of her soft breasts.
I spread my legs enough to accommodate Gabrielle's waist. Gabrielle recaptured my engorged nipple, stroking it with her warm tongue. Then she began to trail her tongue along the taut muscles of my belly. I felt my knees bend and soon Gabrielle was settled between my legs. My body shook as if from a fever when I saw the smile Gabrielle had on her face and the fire that was burning in her eyes.
I reached out a trembling hand and moved a stray lock of Gabrielle's golden hair from her glittering eyes. A light blush covered my Gabrielle's cheeks, and then she exhaled a hot stream of air upon my center. My heart skipped a beat as a shiver went up my spine. I was aroused to no end. I loved her so much I didn't know what to do. Gabrielle placed hot, gentle kisses along my clit, reveling in its softness, its scent. My hips rose to meet her. When Gabrielle felt it, she deserted my succulent clit and placed a soft kiss on my inner thigh. I breathed in a sharp intake of breath. And then she ran her tongue back, closer and closer to the core of joy. I felt elated as I felt her attentive tongue on my clit again. She bathed my sex in an embrace of fire that overwhelmed me. I grunted and moaned, bending my knees. Feeling my toes begin to curl, I tucked my feet beneath her sides. Gabrielle hands moved up my body till they found my hands resting on my belly. She took my hands in hers and we entwined our fingers. The intimate feathery kisses Gabrielle planted on my wet core sent bolts coursing through me.
"Don't stop...Please," I managed to husk
"I won't." She smiled and glared at me.
She then began fiercely licking my sex, massaging my clit. My body was covered with sweat. I felt my engorged nub swelling and become hard at her touch. Then my body began to shudder. I clutched her shoulder, arched my back and felt my soul plunge into a pool of pleasure as I tumbled over the most powerful climax I had ever experienced.
She let me catch my breath. While waiting, I could feel her looking at me for a few moments. Then she placed her cheek on my moist black curls and rested. After a few moments, she climbed back up my body.
"You okay?" She asked; smiling her amusement at the sight of seeing me spent.
"I am more than Okay, my love. I'm happy," I assured her.
I rolled over, while she was still in my arms, and now she was beneath me. I kissed her lips long and deep, my tongue tasting myself from hers. We both moaned our delight. We must have kissed for half a candlemark. Then, my lips departed from hers to outline her chin. I gently and slowly nibbled her flesh, scorching her with my consuming fire and passion.
"You are so beautiful, Gabrielle," I moaned next to her ear, licking it hungrily.
"So are you, Xena." She replied, a moan.
With feathery like touches I caressed her cheeks and forehead and eyelids with my lips and tongue. I observed her face glowing with pleasure and need.
"Did you...Di...Did you ever experience...ple...pleasure when you were working?" I stammered.
"No. When you pay by the candlemark, customers don't bother themselves with my pleasure. I was the servant, not the other way around."
"So you never..."
"Not even once," she replied.
"Tonight, I'll be making love to you. I'll bring you pleasure. I promise. I won't stop till your satisfied." My voice trembled in devotion.
"I know, Xena." She simply replied.
I placed a single kiss on her lips and then went on in pleasuring her body. I took her left breast into my mouth and suckled it gentle, feeling her nipple toughening against my tongue. She cried out her pleasure and raked her short fingernails on my back. I released her nipple and switched breasts. I licked around the nipple for a few moments, watching the nipple getting erect and hard without any contact. Once she was erect to my satisfaction I covered the nipple with my mouth and sucked it a little harder, reveling in Gabrielle's moans of pleasure. In order to secure me in place Gabrielle plunged her fingers into my tresses and pushed my head harder against her craving body. She writhed under me, riding my thigh, smearing her sweet essence on me. I could barely control myself from delving my tongue inside her and sucking her clean.
I pulled at her nipples some more, then I let them go, placing hot kisses on the valley between her two round breasts. As I was going up and down the valley I altered my course and went back up to kiss her shoulders and bite her at the junction of her shoulder and her throat. She arched her back and pressed her body into me.
"Love me now, Xena," she begged. "I need you now!" She grunted with a voice hoarse form desire. I sent a quick hand down in order to slide one finger across her inviting sex.
"You're so wet," I exclaimed.
"It's all for you". She whispered.
I pillowed her head with my arm, in a cradle-like posture, and gently stroked her youthful clit with my fingers. I massaged her swollen nub with slow circular motions. She opened her body to me. She opened her legs for me. I looked down at her and saw her twinkling, desirous eyes looking at me. Small whimpering sounds escaped her lips. She was moaning with pleasure. I could feel hot streams of her essence pouring on my fingers. I revered the feeling. I could feel how her opening was beginning to contract and she was having slight spasms. I knew she was close.
"Xena?" She husked.
"Yes, little one?"
"Wo...would you...kiss me...down there?" A soft scarlet complexion rose in her cheeks.
"There is nothing I want more than to drink from you", I whispered in her ear.
I gently eased her head from my arm to the ground and settled myself between her legs. Her aromatic clit was driving me mad with desire to devour her little pussy. Without any fondling, I covered her sex with my mouth, moving my eager tongue along her drenched folds, making a path to her pink and swollen clitoris. I licked and sucked it firmly, getting addicted to her sweet erotic scent, to her sexual aroma and to the writhing and quivering movements of her hungry body beneath me. As much as I wanted to hear her beg me for release, I didn't torment her, and licked her faster and faster.
"Xena, please...I want you inside me" She implored and I, compelled to do her every bidding, impaled her hard. She arched her beck upon feeling two of my fingers penetrating her. I moved in and out of her soft wet flesh, gently licking her clit. Gabrielle grunted alloud, and her small hand delved into my hair and pushed me harder against her.
"More!" She demanded.
I gave her what she wanted. I took her harder and faster. Gabrielle surrendered herself to me with a strained cry, as an intense orgasm rolled through her young, flushed body, robbing her of her breath and briefly her vision as she shut her eyes tightly. Every muscle in her body tensed in an effort to prolong the glorious sensations. Gabrielle went limp again and she exhaled slowly.
"How do you feel?" I asked in concern.
"Loved," she replied. I lay back prone, attempting to regain my strength back when suddenly, my Gabrielle straddled my hips. She placed her right foot on the ground next to my right breast and the left foot next to the left. She glared down at me. I captured her young sweaty glistening, breasts in my palms, kneading and massaging them, molding her nipples, feeling them harden under my touch. Gabrielle's sex was on top of mine. She sent her fingers to her sex in order to part her wet folds and mine enabling her hard clit to rub against mine. The sensation of her hard slick erection on mine was something out of this world. I was so aroused that I was dribbling like a raging river. Gabrielle began to rock her sex back and forth against me. It was bliss. I felt the warm soft flesh rubbing hard against my arousal, inflaming it, and making my erection harder. I kept on pinching her nipples as she ground herself on me - our eyes never leaving each other. We reached our release together and after shouting each other's names, Gabrielle collapsed on top of me.
From over the lake I could see the sunrise.
Gabrielle and I came back to the tavern that day, after we had slept in each other's arms at the lake. When we entered the tavern, walking hand in hand, my mother understood and smiled at both of us.
Gabrielle and I remained at Amphipolis, till Gabrielle finished school. Once she did, we began to roam the world. I took her to Chin, India, Britannia, and many, many other places. I was determined to grant her happiness - she deserved it. I also wanted her to broaden her horizons, which also would make her a better bard.
We both fought evil wherever we found it. I wanted Gabrielle to be proud of me.
Our love made her forget she used to be a whore, and made me forget I was the Destroyer of Nations.
We both healed.
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