A Crown of Laurel part 2 continued

by Silk

Gabrielle smiled at Joxer, hoping he wasn't too hurt by Xena's curt manner. She reached over and gave him a short hug. "Hope to see you again soon Joxer. Stay out of trouble, ok?" she said over her shoulder, catching up with Xena.

Joxer stood in the square alone. Once again he had tried to save the day and had bumbled the attempt. But at least he had gotten to see Gabrielle. Smiling lightly, he headed towards the nearest inn. An ale or two sounded good.

* * * * *

Aphrodite walked through the marketplace invisible to the mortals surrounding her. But even though they couldn't see her, something they couldn't describe made them step aside out of her path.

The Goddess of Love had watched the minor engagement between the thief and Xena and was amused for a moment or two, but considered her brother's style better. But then I'm biased, I suppose. She knew of Xena, of course, and Gabrielle the bard, having come across them a few times in her work. But her thoughts weren't with them as they left. Instead it was with the young man in mismatched armor that strode through the crowd.

With a squeal of delight the goddess smiled at the sudden idea that presented itself. "JOXER!!" she cried aloud. With a blink of her eyes she suddenly appeared in the plaza shocking yet again the crowd around her, though for different reasons this time. Smiling gaily she hurried after Joxer crying his name.

* * * * *

"I miss Argo." Gabrielle muttered for the hundredth time since they had left her behind. "But I seem to make a good packhorse."

"Perhaps a donkey instead. You tend to complain and need the bribe of food to keep going." Xena grinned, then poked a hand inside one of the bags she was carrying. Pulling out a carrot she walked backwards in front of the bard, dangling it just above her teasingly. Her blue eyes twinkled in merriment.

"Xena." The young woman s eyes narrowed, then fixed on the carrot. She waited a moment till Xena backed into a small child then took action. As the warriors eyes turned to the obstacle the bard's hand shot out and grasped...air?

Xena sidestepped the child smoothly and raised an eyebrow at Gabrielle. "Good try." She grinned, taking more pleasure than necessary from the bite she took. Seeing the exasperation on her friends face she tossed her the rest of the carrot and looked on as it disappeared rapidly in small quick bites.

"Mmm..tasty." Gabrielle tossed the end away and settled her two big bags more comfortably on her shoulders.

"Bottomless pit." Xena teased.

"I am not. I just..." Gabrielle stalled.

"Yes?" The warrior raised an eyebrow. "I can't wait to hear this."

"I just use more energy then you, that's all...well not more." Gabrielle sighed and threw up her hands in defeat. "OK. OK. I'm a bottomless pit. I can't help it."

"Well, at least you work it off with walking and staff practice. Your getting very good at it." She grinned, poking at the bards trim stomach.

Gabrielle giggled as Xena led them down the docks towards their ship. The Jade Dolphin was a medium one masted ship built for fast cargo. It looked well kept and Gabrielle could see the small crew getting it ready to said with the tide.

"Looks like the captain took my advice about that merchant." Xena observed as she saw a large wagon being unloaded under the close scrutiny of a bald, overweight man. The merchant spotted them walking towards the gangplank and rushed over.

"Oh, yes. The warrior woman." The man's smile was genuine as he half bowed to them both. "Thank you ever so much for giving my name to Fenal. If I should miss the Festival of Apollo, my profits will plummet for this year. You have my undying thanks. Is there anything you're in need of? I have some of the most exquisite jewelry and rare perfumes from the far reaches of the world." He babbled, waving his arms estatically at the small crates being loaded by the sailors. "I have a necklace that has three sapphires in fact, that are an amazing shade of blue that could truly go with those stunning eyes of yours."

Xena rolled her eyes. Hearing a slight squeak from her left she glanced over to see Gabrielle trying her hardest not to laugh aloud. Sometimes it s almost not worth it to be one of the good guys. She mused.

"Cut that out, Gabrielle." The warrior whispered out of the corner of her mouth.

The man really is harmless, Xena. But really? Stunning eyes? Xena sighed and smoothly interrupted him. "Don't worry about it. Glad to have been of service. Come on, Gabrielle." Her eyes bored into the bard's as she said the last. With her free hand she grabbed one the of young woman's bags and motioned her up the gangplank, following closely should she choose to take a swim.

Safely onboard, Xena spotted Fenal, who hurried over to meet his passengers.

"Good timing. We have almost loaded everything and just in time to, the tide is starting to go out." Fenal smiled, then looked pointedly at Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle, this is Captain Fenal." Xena introduced.

"Hi. Nice boat..err..ship you have here." The bard blushed at her mistake.

"Nice to meet you also. Shall I show you too your cabin?" He chuckled, knowing this slim woman wasn't much for sea travel already, just by her sea legs. The warrior, though, got his immediate admiration; he could tell that she hadn't been bluffing when she'd mentioned she was an old hand at ship life.

Xena nodded her acceptance of the cabin, and the trio walked past sailors to the ladder that led belowdecks.

As she gingerly made her way, Gabrielle's stomach did a small roll as a wave gently rocked the ship against the dock. You'd think I'd be somewhat used to this by now, what with Cecrops,Ulysses and the long journey to Britannia. She sighed.

Seeing her friend react to the ship, Xena leaned close as they walked along. "Want me to show you that pressure point again?" She asked with a concerned look. The young woman just had no tolerance for the sea, and Xena didn't want to see her uncomfortable.

Gabrielle considered the offer. The time they had traveled the sea with Cecrops Xena had relieved her suffering by showing her a pressure point on her left wrist that if she tapped, would alleviate the symptoms of sea sickness. Unfortunately it also deadened the taste buds, and with her appetite, she had taken to eating raw squid. Well it was one of the only things available. It's not as if he could go ashore and shop, the bard thought.

"Umm..would you do me a favor if I say yes?" She said weakly.

"Sure." Xena agreed.

"Try and keep me from eating things you know aren't good for me, or that I don't like. OK?" The bard pleaded and Xena chuckled softly in sympathy.


Captain Fenal opened the passageway door and escorted them in.

"At the end is my cabin. This one here is the merchants, with the one next to it housing his daughter."

"His daughter?" The bard interrupted, peering around.

"Yes, her father says she likes her privacy. She went straight into her cabin when she got here. Nice figure, though she wears veils so I didn't get a good look at her." He grinned sheepishly when Gabrielle chuckled at his comment. "And this would be your cabin. I hope you don't mind sharing since..."

"No, it's no problem." Xena stopped him as she opened the cabin door.

"OK then. Yell if you need anything. Dinner should be in three candlemarks, if all goes well that is. Welcome aboard." He nodded and closed the door after himself.

Gabrielle put down her bundle and collapsed into one of the two hammocks.

"Ahh...a bed." She smiled then her eyes bulged a moment. "Oh no..the ceiling is moving."

The warrior princess laughed and stood next to the hammock, dropping her bags. Taking the bards two hands she showed Gabrielle the precise spot on her wrist again.

"Hmm..I almost forgot how well this works," said Gabrielle, steadily tapping her wrist.

Xena watched her friend for a moment, then started to unpack some of their belongings. The cabin was small but comfortable, with a cunningly crafted table that swiveled so that it was always level. Two sturdy chairs sat next to it and two large chests were ready for the room's occupants' belongings. The hammocks themselves were also well made, having been woven of some hefty but silky smooth material neither recognized. All in all it wasn't a bad cabin, and would suit the duo fine.

They finished their unpacking, then, silently agreeing, made their way up onto the deck to watch the crew cast off, and enjoy the fresh air.

Xena was pleased at the efficiency and skill of the crew. Everyone seemed to know what their job was and none of the sailors procrastinated about doing it.

As the heavy hemp lines were drawn in, the captain smoothly brought the ship out of the small bay, keeping clear of other vessels and small local craft. Soon the Jade Dolphin was merrily sailing the seas, her crew singing a prayer to Poseidon as they worked.

Xena and Gabrielle stood together at the railing, both enjoying the cool sea air blowing through their hair and the late afternoon sun sparkling on the blue waters.

It feels so good to be back aboard a ship. Xena mused. She breathed deeply through her nose enjoying the crisp salt air. Except for once or twice she really hadn't spent that much time on a sea vessel since..before she had become a nightmare in children's dreams. The thought stuck in her mind, mired by the dark memories of the past.


The last time she had seen him she was hanging from a cross, her arms bearing her weight, her legs broken. It had been a little later in the day, sunset then it was right now. The sky had been an angry red and had matched the mood and pain of her soul. She had watched as he boarded the longboat that took him back to his ship, his bright armor gleaming like fresh blood in the sun. She had watched as his ship had sailed away till it was out of her sight, and still she had looked out upon the sea hoping for a glimpse of the man she was sure had killed her that day. Then she had listened. Listened to the many breaths of her men coming and going with the tide, as they too hung from their crosses alongside her on the beach. Listened as slowly one by one they all ceased, Xena herself refusing to die until the last of her men was gone, not wanting them to die all alone.

Xena often pondered what her life would have been like without that day. If he hadn't come would her path had been any different?

"Xena?" Gabrielle s hand touched her friend lightly on her arm. She could sense the turmoil within her friend.

The warrior visibly shook herself and smiled at the bard. "Hmm?"

"Dinar for your thoughts?" She asked. I doubt she will tell me anyway. Xena doesn't always like to share herself. But at least I can try.

"Thinking about Joxer actually." The lie came easily. Gabrielle knew that wasn't what her fiend had been thinking, but kept silent. Xena noted Gabrielle's face and appreciated that she didn't push. Maybe someday I'll be brave enough to talk to her about it again.

At the thought of their odd friend Xena's mind suddenly froze as an annoyingly familiar song from earlier raised itself out of the deepest part of her mind where she had tried to bury it.

A mischievous thought came to her and she followed it, using all her creative abilities. Not like I'm good at this though. Not like Gabrielle is.

Gabrielle stood there pondering her friend. Xena had been tense as a bowstring, as if a great dark tide was threatening to drown her, then only a moment later the bard had watched as she seemed amused, almost gleeful about something.

At that moment the bard heard an odd noise coming from her warrior friend. Then abruptly her eyes shot wide open, as she recognized the noise and she cried out in utter horror.

"Xena!!" the bard exclaimed loudly, slapping her friend on the shoulder.

"Hmm? What Gabrielle?" she asked, still humming.

"Stop it! Ugh...if your so desperate for a song or story come to me. Don't...ewww...hum that ghastly thing." Gabrielle made a horrid face, thoroughly disgusted with her friend's sudden taste in music.

Xena turned her head towards Gabrielle and grinned sheepishly. "Well...it s really not the same song."

The bard frowned. "I heard it, Xena." Then she took a quick peek around to see if anyone else was there, and sung the first line, leaning close to the warrior. "Joxer the mighty, he's very tidy." Gabrielle stopped and glared at her friend. "I heard it, Xena." She repeated. "That ...song...is just the worst."

Xena laughed. "Well, I changed it a bit," she said, grinning widely.

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow curiously. "OK. Umm...maybe I'll regret this, but let me hear it." She leaned up against the railing with her arms crossed against her chest, determined not to enjoy the song.

Xena s eyes gleamed as she leaned closely towards the bard and softly began to sing.

"Joxer the Wimpy, he's very gimpy.

He always tries to save the day, and always gets in Xena's way."

She stopped and shrugged. "I only got that far. I'm not a bard." Xena raised an eyebrow watching her friend visibly tremble.


The bard suddenly exploded in laughter, collapsing helplessly onto the deck. Xena glanced around and smiled weakly at the looks the sailors sent their way.

"Gabrielle. You're embarrassing me." She said out of the corner of her mouth. She offered a hand to the now almost composed woman. "It was that bad, hmm?" she asked.

"No." The woman answered, wiping a errant tear away. "It was funny. Not bad, really, Xena." She chuckled. "I could help if you want and think up more lines to the rest of it. I'd rather not though. I mean really, where would I ever be able to sing it and be able to look Joxer in the face without laughing again?"

Xena happily smiled. "Just sing it to me, Gabrielle. That song would make me a very appreciative audience."

The two started laughing, this time both having to sit down or risk falling overboard. Through tears Gabrielle looked up at Xena and said, "You know, I don't mind him so much, but...but...that song." She collapsed again in a fit of giggles.

"We are so mean." Xena replied, chuckling all the while and trying to fit the next line of the song.

* * * * *

Aphrodite caressed the limp brown hair of the would-be warrior's head that lay on her lap. Just a little charm and the Goddess of Love had, of course, gotten Joxer's attention. And now that the man was comfortable, it was time to see if he was willing enough to do her a little favor.

"Comfortable?" She purred into his ear then chuckled to herself as she saw a faint shiver run through his body. Mortals...it's almost too easy. She gently twirled a lock of his hair around her little finger.

"Uh huh." Joxer was almost purring.

"Well, for old times sake would you consider doing me a little favor, my little hero." She cooed.

"Umm..do that thing with the ear again?" He asked looking up into the Goddess bright green eyes.

"My pleasure." NOT! What I have to go through for a vacation. Aphrodite sighed then blew gently into Joxer's ear, then rolled her eyes as he lay there quivering. Patiently she waited then asked him again.


"Hmm?" Joxer lay boneless, totally entranced by the Goddess presence. And it wasn't helping his concentration.

"Joxer. Pay attention. I need you to do me a little favor." Aphrodite said, her tone just sounding a little fed up. There is only soo much you can take when you're with mortals.

"Anything you want." Joxer immediately responded. "My heart. My love. My undying devo..."

"OK Joxer, I get the picture. You mentioned to Xena and Gabrielle that you're thinking of getting a job at Hera's temple. Is that right?" She asked.

"Oh sure. But that was before you came into my life. Who needs Hera, I'd rather guard your temple." He batted his eyelashes up at the love of his life.

"Umm..cause I need you to want to work for Hera." You simpleminded slop bucket. The goddess thought silently, getting rather irate, it was very hard to mute her powers so that mortals could think for themselves.

"Oh then sure. I'd love to work for Hera if you want me to." Joxer agreed blindly.

"Good then. Here's what I want you to do. Close your eyes. Yes that's right. Listen closely to my voice." Whispered the goddess. Taking a shining finger on Joxers forehead, as it touched, a bell like tone echoed in their area. Don't worry Joxer. Just one more time for my sake. Removing her finger she leaned close and whispered into his ear.

"This is what I want you to do. First..." Her quiet voice gave instructions to her ludicrous hero. Moments later Joxer was standing tall and striding with purpose to Heras temple.

Aphrodite smiled to herself. That should do it. Now I just need to watch to make sure he does it right, then I can go pack. And where are these 'Bahamas' anyways?

* * * * *

Joxer strode valliantly through the crowded street. It was his time in life, he had decided. It was time to take charge and become the Hero of the People. Like the silent deadly warrior he was, he swiftly made his way to the temple of Hera. Walking right up to the main door he boldly knocked and announced his presence.

"Open! I am Joxer. Joxer the Mighty. And I am here to protect and serve the temple of Hera! Open up I say!" Joxer knocked again, then stepped back as the huge doors opened. A man wearing the peacock colors and armor of one of Hera's guards looked out and his eyes widened in amazement. Before him stood a man of good height and good complextion wearing the fine clothes of a swordsman. He stood tall and looked sure of himself. This was a good point in the guards mind, knowing the temple would not take would be heros with little experience.

"Who wishes to enter the service of Hera, Queen of the Gods?" The guard asked, though he had heard the bellow, it was a formality that he was required to go through.

"It is I, Joxer the Mighty. Slayer of Monsters. Doer of deeds. And very tidy!" He cried.

"Well come in. I'll inform the High Priestess." He opened the door, then closed and locked it, when Joxer had safely entered. "Wait here."

Joxer noded and stood quietly, and surveyed the temple.

The immense structure was mainly built around the altar of Hera, a vast slab of multi-hued marble piled high with fruit and sacrifices from her worshippers. Before the altar and surrounding it genuflected the Priestesses of Hera, all veiled against prying eyes.

Joxer coughed softly, the sound echoing through the vast room, like a bell being rung. The women almost as one, looked at him, and their eyes all widened at the hero standing tall.

"Oh my. Isn't he just handsome."

"Yes. Yes he is."

"Most definitely."

The women all whispered and talked amongst themselves, having totally forgotten their duties to Hera. Joxer stood his ground as they came closer, surrounding him. Hands reached out, touching and caressing him, teasing his hair. I rather enjoy this, he commented to himself.

"By the gods, he makes me want to leave this temple. Forever." One sighed blissfully.

"Yes. I'd leave here in a moment...for him." Another cooed.

Joxer smiled at them, and thrust out his chest dramatically. "I am Joxer the Mighty. I have come to protect and serve Hera's Temple...and all of you of course." He chuckled. All of the priestesses
squealed in delight.

"What is the meaning..." A woman's voice started to yell. The High Priestess had come at the call of the temple's Captain of the Guard and had shocked to find Hera's sacred altar unattended by her chosen maidens. Enraged she had turned to the group of women surrounding a visitor, and had angrily started
to berate them, but then...seeing the stranger, she had stopped. She now understood the commotion and went to join the women in fawning on the hero before her. Weaving her way through the small crowd she stood before him in all her beauty.

Suddenly Joxer was inspired by her presence, and with a swift hand whipped away her veil, then his long arm wrapped around the High Priestess waist sweeping her into his embrace and kissing her deeply. Moments passed, the other priestess seeming to get agitated with rising jealousy, as the two are still kissing deeply. One of the maidens shoves another, then like greek fire itself, the motion spread throughout the group and veils, silks, and hair were flying in a cyclone of screaming and yelling.

Joxer of course, paid no attention.

* * * * *

Hera, Queen of the Gods stood before the water and gazed deeply within it, looking out onto the world below Mt. Olympus. Damn Hercules and his little friend. I am tired of my minions being so incompetent that they can't subdue a mongrel like him. I destroyed his wife and children, persecute him, and still he smiles as he helps the mortals.

Hera screamed loudly and sent a ball of white energy crashing into the pool of water, causing steam to rise and cloud her view.

"Damn you to Hades!!" She yelled, furious. Then getting ahold of her fury she smoothed out the water with a sweep of her hand, this time gazing to other parts of the world and other plots she was hatching. Suddenly, a feeling unlike any she had known in eons came over her. A feeling of desolation and of abandonment. With purpose she focused the water's sight to follow the source of these feelings that she knew had to do with her.

As the water cleared and the scene before her came into view, Hera momentarily stepped back in shock. My temple in Kynos! It's unattended! Changing the view she gazed out into the temple, hoping to get a glimpse of what may have happened. Suddenly her eyes focused sharply apon a small crowd near the doors to her temple, and what she saw made the fury once again rise within her.

Who was this mortal that dared to defile her temple and take her priestess away from their holy task!

In a blinding flsh of light and accompanied by the cry of peacocks, Hera left her sanctuary for the world below.

The airy room, now silent and serene without its mistress present was the only one to witness a visitor.

Callisto crept into the room, peering cautiously around and, seeing no one in sight, she straightened and boldy strode into the room.

"Who is your decorator? Ugg...blue, green, peacock feathers all over the place. I think I'm going to be sick." Callisto said aloud, which in itself wasn't unusual. She tended not to like to hear her own thoughts in her head, but gave them they freedom to express themselves verbally. All of them...even the ones who answered back.

"Now where is...Oh no." Callisto stopped her jaw gaping. "I m going to kill him for this. You have got to be kidding!!! The thing must weigh a ton and that's without the water. ARGGGHHH!!! I just know I'm going to get a crick in my back for this. Oh well...anything for you, Xena."

* * * * *

Cries and godly thunder could still be heard from the Temple of Hera across the city. Joxer the Mighty, no longer heroic, had just decided that perhaps a job as a temple guard was not all it was cracked up to be. Seeing his armor and usual items sitting below an apple tree, he hurriedly changed his attire and wasted no time as he left town as fast as his own two feet could carry him.

As soon as he was safely past the city gates Aphrodite smiled, amused by the whole situation but relieved Joxer had snuck out in the commotion before nasty Hera could get her hands on him. Then the Goddess of Love, in a shower of silvery light, disappeared to go pack for her vacation. Hmm...what should I wear?
She thought as the city of Kynos was left alone in the night towithstand the angry attention of the Queen of the Gods.

* * * * *

Gabrielle filled her trencher and followed Xena out onto the deck to a more quiet spot. It was sunset now and the Jade Dolphin flew across the waves owing to a brisk wind. As they walked forward, Xena looked over the side and stopped.

"There's a good omen for you, Gabrielle." She said pointing just off to the side and forward of the ship. "Not that I believe in omens, really. I believe we make our own luck and fate."

The bard gazed to where her friend had pointed and almost dropped her trencher in her haste to get a better view. Dolphins!

Five of the sleek animals leaped and frolicked alongside the ship named after them. Gabrielle was thrilled, she had never seen them before, not even on her other voyages.

"The legends say that dolphins bring good luck to the ships they visit." Gabrielle replied in an almost instructional voice. "There are also stories of shipwrecked mariners that have been rescued by dolphins and taken to dry land. Some even say that others are taken to Atlantis which sank long ago."

Xena smiled, she liked to hear her companion tell stories or recite lore. The warrior, of course, knew these, having sailed the Aegean for years. Sometimes at night her bosun, Penelis, would entertain
the crew with stories of lost sailors and ghost ships.

"Hmm..how about after we finish eating you tell one?" Xena asked, feeling in a good mood.

"Ok." The bard replied, pleased that the warrior had asked. Usually it was Gabrielle who had to offer first, but it made her feel very good to have an audience that appreciated her. The bard thought that Xena made a good audience. Usually.

"I think I know the...Wow!! Look at them leave." The woman cried out as the dolphins suddenly left the Jade Dolphin in almost frenzied flight.

Xena looked after them, her eyes narrowed, then she spotted several long shadows that took the dolphins place alongside the ship. She instantly recognized the long sleek shadowed forms and frowned to herself. Sharks! Gods I hate sharks. I've never seen so many grouped together though. How odd.

"Hmm...well it was nice while it lasted. I think now that I've seen a dolphin I'd like to write a story about them. What do you think, Xena?" The bard pondered.

"That would be nice Gabrielle." The warrior replied, not really paying attention to the bard, but gazing down intently into the darkening waters. Soon the sun would be gone, but she knew that those shapes would stay down there. Watching and waiting for their chance, if we give it to them. Gods I hate
sharks. Perhaps I can talk the captain into a little fishing tomorrow,she mused.

Xena tore herself away from the railing and sat beside Gabrielle who had already starting eating her meal. The warrior chuckled as she watching her friend eat. It has only been four hours but she acts like she's starving. A small chuckle. Bottomless pit definintely. Well at least that pressure point is working
well for her, and if I keep an eye out on what she's eating she won't be angry with me later.

Having her friend angry with her was almost as bad as seeing the bard cry. In a way it was good for her she knew. Those feelings of protectiveness, friendship, and love had been almost annihilated in her past, but now with Gabrielle at her side, Xena once again was learning how to care for others. Not that it went smoothly. Sometimes she would get so frustrated with herself or the bard that only time by herself could help. Being alone and practicing sword drills was the best way she had learned to ease her tension.

The warrior princess leaned back against a rope well and slowly ate her dinner. Soon Gabrielle finished and raised an eyebrow at her friend questioningly.

"Go ahead. I'm listening." Xena smiled, ready for a good story.

Gabrielle sat up straight and preceeded to tell the story of Cecrops. Xena listened silently, and was not suprised when she heard several footsteps around her coming closer and listening to the bard. The warrior was no longer suprised at her friend's bardic ability, but still enjoyed to see others entranced by her her talent. This particular story she knew of course, having been a part of the ending. She knew that more than likely the sailors aboard ship had only heard small tales of the Lost Mariner, but not the whole
story that Gabrielle had heard from Cecrop's lips. And even less people had had a chance to hear the ending of Cecrop's long isolation from land.

Xena smiled as she glimpsed the reactions of the crew around them, all rapt with attention, all of them perched forward waiting for the bard's next word. The warrior caught a brief glance of a slim veiled figure that stayed close to the merchant who was also listening close by. It was the first sight she had seen of the merchant's daughter so far and Xena was only mildly curious.

Her attention came back fully to Gabrielle as the tale finally ended. The bard positively glowed as the sailors and the merchant praised her tale. When asked to tell more she readily accepted and started
on an old tale of Atlantis.

Taking their dirty dishes to the galley, Xena was waylayed momentarily by the captain who was a little annoyed with the warrior for not telling them her friend was a bard. He now felt rather guilty that the duo had to share a cabin. Xena assured him that they really didn't mind and started back to Gabrielle's side.

Almost there, she felt a shiver of apprehension as she glimpsed the darkening sky. Years of sea travel had honed her weathersense, and it prickled an alarm in her now. Something was coming, something big.
There really were no signs to see. No dark clouds on the horizon, no smell of rain in the air. But something warned her and she knew from long experience to listen.

Xena turned and strode back to the captain, knowing that they had to get ready. For whatever it was.

* * * * *

"All right Posiedon...get your watery behind up here!!" Callisto screamed, her voice carrying over the sea.

She didn't have to wait long, as Poseidon's towering form rose above her.

"Ahh..Callisto. I see you brought me a little gift?"

"Little my butt!! That giant half seashell weighs more than Xena's horse while she's riding it! You told me it was a scrying bowl not a damned bathtub!!"

The sea god laughed vastily amused at the goddess' anger. "Well, you got it here, didn't you?"

"Yes...the trade. You'll do as I ask?" The warrior asked, a cunning smile on her face now.

"Of course...in fact I've already started. Xenas course will be altered per your wish." Poseidon reached down with his free hand and picked up the giant clamshell. "Ahh..finally." He smiled.

"By the way? Why did you want that nasty thing? Your a bit too big to fit in it." Callisto asked then giggled as she pictured the god using Hera's scrying bowl as a wash basin.

"This is mine actually. The other half is used by my Sirens and this one was stolen by Hera long ago in a contest that she cheated in. Now it is mine again and I won't let her have it back!!" Poseidon roared.

Waves crashed high apon the rocks drenching Callisto to the bone.

"Arrgghh!! Watch it you overgrown water spout!!" She yelled shaking her hair out.

The sea god just chuckled and plunged back into the sea causing another wave to rise and crash down upon the now livid goddess.

"Ugg!!!! This better be worth it Xena!!!" Callisto screamed and ran back along the rocks.

* * * * *

The Aegean ocean at night was, to sailors, both a lover and an enemy. Waves pushed by the forces of the gods and nature slowly made their way to lands both near and far. Its dark depths were a mystery to all but its denizens, and feared by many a sailor that rode over it.

This night the sea was serene, reflecting the stars and the moon of Selene almost with perfect clarity. Then small lights appeared in a far off part of the sea, untouched by vessels this day. First there were few, then slowly they grew till the size of the pool of sparkling lights was as large as the father of all Leviathans. Then, growing no more, the lights started to swirl, the water's calm broken by turbulence and chaos. Suddenly the pool of force moved, rising higher and higher into the air gathering itself to become a force of nature and god that all sailors dreaded.

Many many leagues away, the passengers and crew of the Jade Dolphin slept in peace, except for a small few. Xena stood on the deck watching the sea in the night, feeling dread as each moment passed. The wheel was piloted by a capable seaman, but that was all that was needed now at this time of night. Xena growled, frustrated by the captain's disbelief in her worry.

Not that I blame him. It' s only a feeling of...wrongness...of danger. Gods I wish Gabrielle weren't here sometimes. She thought silently, then immediately took back that thought. Gabrielle went where Xena went, the bard had made that clear long ago. And even though there had been some events that had greatly tested their friendship, they were still together.

Then with an abrupt quiver that shot through her body, Xena turned and narrowed her eyes across the deck and into the sea beyond. At that moment she glimpsed something at the dark horizon, just under the moon and put her whole attention unto it. Moments later, her eyes widened and she strode back through the ship to wake the captain.


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