The Birthday Gift



DISCLAIMER: Nope, didnít create Xena or Gabrielle, or any of universalís characters used in this story, and no, I didnít ask their permission to use them in this story, but I am, so there you have it.

CONTENT WARNING: There will be the usual Xena violence in this one, what good Xena story doesnít have Xena violence in it? But nothing horrendously gross.

SEXUAL CONTENT: None. This is a Romantic Friendship story.

Xena had sent Gabrielle on ahead to the next town using the excuse that she wanted to get a few supplies and that she should go on ahead and see what she could do for Leander until Xena caught up with her. Gabrielle wasnít dumb by a long shot, she knew something was up, but she didnít push it; her birthday was near, and she figured Xena was going to get her something and she didnít want her to see it, so she simply agreed, and headed off down the road.

After getting Gabrielle's present, Xena mounted Argo, and urged the horse into a quick trot, she had to step it up a bit, she was a little behind, she was supposed to meet Ephiny a quarter of a candlemark after sunup, and it about a full candlemark or two by now. Ephiny was not known for her great patients, and she hoped that the Amazon Regent was still waiting in the clearing by the road for her where they had agreed to meet. Ephiny had every right to have gone on without her; Xena had a bad habit sometimes of taking too long and not being where she was supposed to be at an appointed time. When she go to the clearing however;í Xena found the faithful Amazon waiting there under the shade of the tree practicing with her staff. Watching the Amazon as she approached her, Xena thought of how much Ephiny and Gabrielle were alike in some ways, and yet, in other ways, so vastly different.

"Ephiny" Xena called as she approached, "Iím sorry Iím so late, but I wanted to pick out just the right gift for Gabrielleí "Xena, itís good to see you again" Ephiny responded as they clasped arms in the Warriorís hand shake. "Itís alright, it gave me time to rest and eat and practice with my staff a bit" "You didnít ride here? Pherae is at least three, four days travel from the village". "No, I never was one for riding. Iím not afraid of horses or anything, I just prefer foot travel, besides, it keeps me in shape". Shaking her head with a slight grin on her face, Xena replied, "You and Gabrielle, you two love walking. You two will walk yourselves to death one of these days". "Doesnít she ride her horse?" "Sometimes she rides him, but most of the time she still walks and just leads Handsome" "Heís a handsome horse alright, she named him well" "Yeah, she did". "Well, we better get moving, Gabrielle's waiting on us and there isnít a lot to do in Pherae, she might get bored to death". They got back on the road, Ephiny throwing her traveling pack over her shoulder and taking her staff in hand, Xena chuckling at Ephinyís comment.

"Gabrielle, bored? Not likely, sheís telling stories in tavern no doubt earning a pocketful of dinars as we speak no doubt" "Yeah, knowing her, she does tell great stories" "That she does, she always has. Gabrielle is a great bard". Moments later, they walked into Pherae and up to the Tavern where Xena and Ephiny were to meet Gabrielle. When they walked into the dark, cave like Tavern, Xena got a surprise that she hadnít expected.

"Have you seen my friend any where around here? She stands about yea high, short blond hair, wearing a long tan coat". "Yeah, I saw her, but a guy came running in here and told her that heíd seen her friend Xena laying in a field badly wounded and that heíd moved her to a nearby cave. Xena had asked him to come and get her. He said he hadnít brought her here because he didnít want to risk the chance of making her injuries worse, she appeared to have a broken arm, and several internal injuries". "But sheís Xena" Ephiny said, pointing to the puzzled Xena standing beside her. "Ares" Xena said under her breath through clenched teeth, it has to be; heís the only one with the guts to pull this kind of thing. D o you know where he took her?" Xena asked of the Tavern keeper. "He mentioned a waterfall about three miles outside of town". "We passed Pheraeís Waterfall on the way in Xena" "We passed her and didnít even realize it" Xena said, just before turning on her heels and trotting out of the tavern, Ephiny on her heels. Xena was up and on Argo ready to ride before Ephiny was even out the door.

"Come on Xena commanded, and held her arm down to lift Ephiny onto Argoís back, taking the proffered arm, Ephiny was up and mounted, and they were riding away before Ephiny was sure she was on. They retraced their steps and arrived at the waterfall to find Gabrielle dangling from a protruding tree limb over the falls, and Ares standing beside her gloating.

"Gabrielle! Hold on! Weíre coming!" "Xena! Itís a trap! ITíS A TRAP!" Gabrielle shouted to her in warning, with the noise of the waterfall, her voice was barely audible. "Come and get your little friend Xena! Sheís waiting for you!" Xena taunted. "Iím going up there Ephiny" Xena announced, sliding off of Argo and drawing her sword" "Iíll stay near the falls incase he cuts the ropes and letís her fall, Iíll get her out fast Xena, donít worry". "I wonít". Xena took off running, headed for the top of the falls while Ephiny rode Argo closer.

To be Continued...

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