DISCLAIMER: Some of the characters in this story belong to Universal/MCA. Others, belong to
history and still others have been conjured up from the hollows of the author's mind. (Now that's a
scary thought!)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article of fan fiction is the sole property of Paymaster. Please do not
reproduce without the author's permission. This story contains implications of violence and love
between two women, although nothing graphic. I love receiving comments and/or criticisms about my work, so drop me a line and let me know what you think.

As they walked along the path with Argo in tow, Gabrielle let her mind wonder. It seemed to her that she and Xena had been involved in one battle after another of late. The stress had started to take it's toll on both of the women and they had been snippier than usual with one another. Gabrielle knew that she had to find a way to get her mind, and Xena's, off of the events of the past few weeks. They both needed some time to sit back and relax or they were going to end up taking their frustrations out on each other. Suddenly a marvelous thought came to the bard, but she was uncertain as to what the warrior's reaction would be. She decided to proceed cautiously.

"'ve been looking really tired lately. I'm starting to worry about you. I think we could both use some time to relax and have some fun for a change."

"And what do you have in mind, Gabrielle?"

" know we're very close to Eratini."

"What's so interesting in Eratini?"

The bard couldn't hold her excitement any longer and gushed out the rest of her plan.

"Well Xena...Eratini isn't far from the Isle of Lesbos. We could catch a boat and be there in a day or so. Have you ever been there?"

", I haven't."

"That's great! We could explore together. There was a girl, when I was at the Academy, who was
from Eressos. She would tell stories about how beautiful it is there. She said they have beaches with
the whitest sand you've ever seen and the water is as blue as the sky. She also said the isle is filled
with mineral springs. And, they have inns where you can just sit and relax and people wait on your
every whim."

"Hmm. That does sound intriguing."

The warrior's resolve was breaking and Gabrielle decided to move in for the kill.

"Xena, we have no where that we need to be right now. There's no crisis that needs our immediate
attention. Besides, I've been saving up the dinars that people give me for my storytelling. I've got
plenty to pay for the boat trip and the inn. Please...can't we take some time for us?" Gabrielle put on her puppy dog face and pleaded with tearful eyes.

"Been holding out on me, huh Gabrielle?" Xena looked at the crevice between the bard's breasts
where Gabrielle always tucked the pouch of dinars. "Okay...okay! I give! Actually, it doesn't sound
like a half bad idea. I could use the break." Xena had liked the bard's suggestion from the start, but
didn't want to appear too eager.

"Thank you Xena! You won't regret it. I know we'll have a great time.", the bard said as she stood
on her tip-toes to plant a kiss on the warrior's tanned cheek.

The pair continued their journey to Eratini with a rejuvenate air. Both were looking forward to a
break from all the turmoil of the recent weeks. They were about half a candlemark from the town
when a hooded figure came running up from behind. Xena's muscles tensed as she guarded the bard with one hand and readied her sword with the other.

As the figure approached, a hand went up and scooped back the hood to reveal a breathless young

"Xena? Are you Xena the warrior princess?", the lad questioned between gasps.

"Who want's to know?" The warrior was still in her pre-battle mode.

"My name is David. I am from the village of Meteora. The gods have sent me to find you. They say
that you can help us."

The warrior surveyed the situation and decided that the young man posed no threat. Xena relaxed
her stance and instructed Gabrielle to get the skin of water.

"Here. Drink this and catch your breath...then tell me what it is that you want me to help you with."

The young man gulped down the water and took a moment to calm himself before continuing.

"The warlord, Dimitri, and his men are marching toward our village. They have already destroyed
two villages about three days north of ours. They are on a southward journey and my village lies
directly in their path. These men burn the temples and the homes, then they kill all the men. They do
unspeakable things to the women of the villages and they sell the children into slavery. We are a
spiritual people. We believe in peace and we are unarmed and unskilled in the ways of battle. We
have prayed to the gods and they have led us to you. Will you please help us?"

During her years as a warlord, Xena had come across several towns that had suffered the wrath of
Dimitri and his men. Although she had never met him in battle, she knew of the devastation this man
could cause. She had seen the battered and abused women in the streets...mourning over the bodies of their dead husbands and grieving the loss of their children.

"Give me just a minute, friend...then we'll be on our way." Xena gave the lad a comforting pat on the shoulder and nudged Gabrielle to the side.

"Before you even start...I don't want you to argue with me on this one."

Gabrielle could sense what was coming next.

"Gabrielle, I've seen the terror that this man is capable of. I don't want you anywhere near him or his men. I have to do this alone."

"But Xena....", the bard began. The warrior covered her companion's lips with two strong fingers.

"Shhh. I know that this throws a kink into our plans, but stop and listen to me for a minute. I can
gather some men from the villages between here and Meteora. I'm sure they will be willing to take up the cause knowing that their village will be next if Dimitri isn't stopped. This shouldn't take long. I
want you to go ahead to Eratini and catch the boat to the Isle of Lesbos. I'll meet you in Eressos in a few days." Seeing the look of concern on the bard's face, the warrior continued. "Don't worry. I'll
find you...don't I always?"

Gabrielle could tell from the look in Xena's eyes that any protest would be futile.

"Xena, promise me you will be careful...and get this over with fast or I'm not going to have any fun on Lesbos." The bard tried to muster up her most convincing voice to cover her disappointment.

Xena bent down and kissed the bard lightly on the cheek. "I'll see you soon Gabrielle...and that's a
promise I intend to keep!"

Xena turned and mounted Argo. "You ready, David?" She extended her arm to pull the young man
onto Argo's back. When he was settled, she gave the horse a gentle nudge and they galloped into the distance.

Gabrielle stood in the middle of the path for what seemed like an eternity. She felt the pool of tears
welling up in her eyes and flowing down her cheeks. The bard watched until the warrior disappeared and nothing was left but a cloud of dust. Slowly she turned and continued her trek toward Eratini.


Once she arrived in town, Gabrielle made her way to the dock area. There were three boats
anchored at the wharf. She approached the nearest one and called out to a burly, bearded man with
a patch over one eye.

"Excuse me. Are you going to the Isle of Lesbos?"

"Not hardly!", the man spat. "Try the boat at the end of the wharf."

Gabrielle thanked the man and headed down the dock. As she neared the third boat, she noticed that all the deckhands were women. *Interesting* she thought and called out to one of them.

"Excuse me but does this boat sail to the Isle of Lesbos?"

"Sure does. We're just about to shove off.", the woman answered.

"Do you have room for one more passenger?"

The deckhand turned from Gabrielle and waited for approval from someone standing behind the
mast. She turned backed to the bard and waved her aboard. Gabrielle crossed the plank just as the
order was given to hoist the anchor. The tanned deckhand approached the bard and introduced

"Hi. I'm Cleis. Welcome aboard. Come with me and i'll show you to your quarters." The young
woman took her below deck and pointed to a hammock that was strung between two support
beams in the corner . "Sorry for the inconvenience. We don't get many passengers, but the
captain...well, she's a sucker for a beautiful face."

Gabrielle's face flushed with embarrasment. "What do you mean 'you don't get many passengers'?"

"We're mainly a supply boat. Hence the dreadful accomodations. We make this run to Eratini for
things that we can't get or make on the island. Occasionally we transport a passenger or two
between here and there. Actually, the captain runs an inn on Lesbos. So, most of the supplies are
used there."

"Sounds like quite a woman...captain of a ship and an innkeeper."

"Yes...she has many talents. Not the least of which is her storytelling. She's quite a bard."

"Really? How interesting. I do a little writing myself. I'd love to meet her...if you don't think she'd

"Mind?", Cleis chuckled. "She's waiting for you up on deck."

The young woman led Gabrielle up the steps to the deck and over to where the captain stood behind the wheel. Gabrielle didn't think that the woman standing before her fit her impression of the captain of a boat. She looked rather frail in comparison to the deckhands that the bard had seen on board. Nevertheless, she was a striking woman with an olive complexion and raven hair which she had swept back, braided and held in place with a beautifully carved pin. She wore a brightly colored silk dress that was tied at the waist with a sash and flowed all the way to her ankles. The bard noticed an appealing slant around the woman's dark eyes. There was an aura about this woman that made her look radiant. Gabrielle concluded that this was one of the most beautiful, enticing women she had ever seen.

The bard extended her hand in appreciation. "Hello. My name is Gabrielle. Thank you for giving me a ride. How much do I owe you?"

"You're very welcome, my dear. I hope you find our humble accomodations acceptable. As far as
owing me...we will settle that later. By the way, my name is Sappho."

"Sappho? The Sappho?", the bard was astonished.

"The one and only. You've heard of me?" The woman appeared surprised.

"Yes. When I was in Athens at the Bard's Academy. I met a girl there who told me of your works.
She said that you were her inspiration and it was because of you that she had wanted to attend the
Academy. Perhaps you know her. Her name is Erato."

"Why yes...I know her well. Erato has a wonderful creativity about her. She is destined for great
things through her writings. And you? You too are a bard?"

"I write mostly about things that have happened to me and my partner, Xena." When she spoke her
name, Gabrielle realized that she had not thought of the warrior since she had boarded the boat. A
troubled look came across her face.

"And where is your partner, this Xena?", Sappho asked.

"She's been delayed. She will be joining me in Eressos in a few days." Gabrielle wondered where
Xena was right now and if she was alright.

"How wonderful. That is our hometown. Until you are reunited with your friend, I hope that you will
allow me to show you the sights of our beautiful island."

"Oh...I would love that!" The bard began to relax again. She was thrilled at the thought of having
Sappho accompany her in Xena's absence.

"Would you join me for dinner?", the captain asked.

"I would be honored.", the bard answered.

Sappho ordered one of the deckhands to take over the wheel of the ship. She motioned for Gabrielle to follow her down below. Halfway down the steps, the bard lost her footing and began to stumble forward. When she regained her bearings, she realized that she was in Sappho's embrace. The captain had turned and broken her fall before the bard knew what was happening. *Gods, she has strong arms for such a delicate looking woman*, Gabrielle mused. The bard shook herself back to reality as the older woman eased her grip and helped her steady herself.

Gabrielle's cheeks began to burn. "I'm such a klutz. I can't believe that I have that much trouble
navigating steps."

"The seas are a bit rough this evening, my dear. Sometimes these things just take a seasoned
deckhand. Here...let me help you." Sappho reached up and took the bard's hand into hers. Her
touch was reassuring as she guided the bard to the bottom of the steps and down a tiny corridor. The door at the end of the corridor opened into what was obviously Sappho's sleeping quarters. On one side of the room, there was a bed with fur-skin blankets and fluffy pillows. On the other side was a table with two chairs. Gabrielle noticed that the table was already set and the plates were full of fish, cheese and fruit. There were two glasses of wine accompanying the setting. Sappho, still holding onto the bard's hand, led her to the table and helped her get settled before seating herself opposite of Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle...tell me more about yourself and your partner, Xena. Are you two close?"

"Oh yes...we're very close. Even closer than I am with my sister", the bard began as she took a bite
of the fish. The expression in Sappho's eyes went unnoticed as Gabrielle continue. "Xena is the best
friend i've ever had." She told of how Xena had rescued her village and how she had decided to
follow her. Sappho listened intently to the bard's stories of her travels with the warrior princess. She
would occasionally interject with a comment or a question. The two women had long finished with
their meal before Gabrielle began to wind down.

"Sappho...I'm so sorry. I've been talking for hours. Xena says I talk too much."

"Oh no...please don't apologize. I've enjoyed every moment. Besides, it gives me some insight into
who you and your friend really are."

"'s your turn. Tell me about who Sappho really is."

Sappho began by telling Gabrielle of her life on the island. She told stories of the inn and of her
writings. The bard was enthralled by this woman's every word. She spoke so eloquently that
Gabrielle lost all concept of time and place. She spoke into the wee hours of the morning. Sappho
reluctantly ended her stories and apologized to the bard, explaining that she must return to the deck
and relieve the woman at the wheel of the boat.

"I almost forgot. You are the captain of this vessel. I was having such a wonderful time that I didn't
realize it's almost morning. I had better get some sleep", Gabrielle said as she arose to make her way to the hammock.

"Please, use my bed. I will be on deck for the rest of our trip. I'll have one of the hands bring your
things here for you. By the time you awake, we should be home."

"I appreciate the offer, but that's really not necessary. I've slept in much worse places than a

"I'm the captain...and I insist. It's been a pleasure, my dear, but duty calls." With that, the woman
turned and headed out the door.

Gabrielle began to feel the heaviness of her eyelids. She made her way to sit on the bed and remove
her boots. There was a gentle tap on the door. "It's Cleis. I have your things." The bard stood and
opened the door and beckoned the young woman in.

"How was your evening?", Cleis asked as she peered around the room and handed the bard her

"It was wonderful! You're captain is a very interesting woman. But, I didn't realize how late it is." The bard tried in vain to stifle the yawn that had been building.

"I'll just clear the table and let you get some rest." Cleis quickly gathered the plates and the glasses.
"Goodnight, Gabrielle."

"Goodnight, Cleis."

When she was alone, Gabrielle finished removing her clothing and got her shift from her bag. She
pulled it over her head, blew out the lamp and climbed under the blanket. She could smell Sappho's
jasmine scent on the pillow beneath her head. She tucked it tightly under her chin and drifted to sleep.

The bard's slumber was filled with dreams. In each dream she was traveling or talking with Xena.
But, when she looked into the warrior's face, it was Sappho's dark, slanted eyes that stared back at


Gabrielle was awakened by the massive sound of movement above her. She opened her eyes to
notice the beam of light that streamed in from the porthole. She surmised that it must be late
afternoon. As she lifted herself up on the bed, there was a tap at the door.

"'s Cleis. The captain has sent me to wake you. We're in Eressos."

Gabrielle sprang to her feet and pulled the door open. "I can't believe I slept so long." She ran to
look out the porthole. "Gods! It's beautiful."

"Sappho has gone ahead to the inn, but she wanted me to stay and show you the way. She would
love to have you....and your guests."

"Thank you Cleis. I'll be ready in a minute", she said as she gathered her clothing from the foot of the bed.

Cleis left, saying that she would be on the deck. The bard scurried to dress and gather her bag. She
made her way down the corridor and up the steps to where the deckhand was waiting.

"Ready?", Cleis asked. "Yep!", the bard responded with excitement. The women crossed the plank
and turned to walk along the beach. Gabrielle was fascinated by all the sights and sounds around her. Along the edge of the beach was a row of palm and citrus trees. A large bird dove into the water and captured a fish in it's enormous bill. The bard's eyes twinkled with each new sight. Cleis smiled to herself. Gabrielle reminded her of a child during winter solstice.

The pair had not walked very far before they came to a break in the line of trees. "We're here." Cleis turned and led the bard up the short path to the inn. There were eight bungalows encircling a massive stone house. "Wow!", was all that Gabrielle could manage as she stood in awe. "Come on." Cleis gave the bard's arm a gentle nudge to get her moving again.

Gabrielle sucked in her breath as they entered the house. There were vases of flowers and baskets of fresh fruit on small tables throughout the room. The walls were covered with beautiful paintings. The bard decided that most of the paintings were probably of scenes from the island. Cleis instructed Gabrielle to have a seat while she went to find Sappho.

In a moment, the dark-eyed woman appeared. " nice to see you. I trust that you slept well?"

"Oh yes. Thank you for your hospitality. This is a beautiful place you have here." The bard was still
drinking in all of her surroundings.

"Thank you. This is the main house. This is where we serve meals, have parties and gather for
storytelling and other entertainment. Many of our guests prefer private sleeping quarters. Please don't consider me forward, but i've taken the liberty of setting up our best bungalow for you. I was hoping that you would consider being our guest during your stay on Lesbos." Sappho didn't have to wait long for a response from the bard.

"I wouldn't even think of going anywhere else...especially after all the kindness you've shown me."

"Marvelous. Let me show you to your room then." Sappho led the way to the bungalow nearest the
path to the beach. She opened the door and stepped back to allow Gabrielle to enter. The room
smelled of fresh jasmine and was dimly lit by candles. The furnishings were modest...a bed, two
cushioned chairs and a table with an oil lamp. Then the bard noticed the dark corner of the
room... a hot tub. She seldom had the chance to bathe in a tub or in hot water for that matter. She
saw the steam rising from the tub and a towel laying on the chair next to it.

"I thought you might like to freshen up a bit before dinner, so I had the girls fix your bath. When
you're done, join us at the main house. Dinner is served at sunset and tonight we have a dance
planned afterwards."

"That sounds lovely. I'll just bathe and be with you shortly."

Sappho turned and left the bard to her bath. Gabrielle undressed and slipped into the tub of hot
water. She leaned her head back and let her mind roam. She thought about how kind Sappho had
been to her and how much she was enjoying the trip. Then, a frown crossed her brow as she thought about Xena and what she might be going through at that moment. The bard felt guilty for having such a good time when her friend could be in perilous danger. But... Xena was the one who had insisted that she go ahead to the island. Why should she feel guilty for doing as her friend had asked? She wrestled with her conscience for a long moment then she closed her eyes and began to let the warmth of the water relax her. She was about to drift off when she had the distinct feeling that someone was watching her. Slowly, the bard opened her eyes and gazed around the room. *Hmph...just my imagination...or my guilty conscience* she thought.


Sappho escorted Gabrielle back to the bungalow after the dance. She paused outside the door,
kissed the bard on the forehead and bade her goodnight. Gabrielle readied herself for bed and
climbed beneath the blanket. Her body was exhausted but her mind raced. They had had a feast with every kind of food the bard could imagine and many she had never seen before. She was seated between Sappho and Cleis. She had noticed that the only men present were those that served the dinner. She considered this a bit odd, but hadn't been curious enough to question anyone about it. After the meal, they had retreated to a grand ballroom where four women played various musical instruments. Gabrielle had danced almost every dance with Sappho. The older woman seemed to float on air as she guided the bard across the dance floor. All eyes in the room had been trained on the pair as they danced. After everyone else had retired for the night, the bard and Sappho had sat and talked for hours. Gabrielle told more stories of her travels with Xena and Sappho had quoted some of her love poems. She had even played the lyre and sang for the bard. Gabrielle drifted to sleep thinking that this woman really did have many talents...some of which she may have yet to discover.

Gabrielle awoke early the next morning. She was anxious to start the day of sightseeing. Sappho had told the bard to meet her at the main house for breakfast and afterwards they would begin the tour. She dressed quickly and headed out.

Just before they finished their breakfast, Sappho instructed one of the servers to have the carriage
brought to the front of the main house. When they were done, the young lad appeared again and
gave a confirming nod to the innkeeper. Sappho arose and Gabrielle followed her to the awaiting
coach. They climbed in and began their day.

As they rode down the streets of Eressos, Sappho pointed out sites of interest to the bard. They
stopped to admire the temples. Gabrielle had wanted to see the market and do some shopping. The
older woman happily complied with the bard's wishes. After the shopping, Sappho had instructed the driver to take them to the edge of town. There, they stopped at the mineral springs. The bard
couldn't resist removing her boots and dipping her feet into the warm water. It was mid-afternoon
when they headed back to the inn. Sappho had suggested a swim at the beach to cool off. The two
women spent hours playing in the water, then sitting on the beach conversing. Gabrielle thought about how fond she had become of this comfortable she felt around her. Then her
self-imposed guilt returned and she began to think of Xena. Sappho noticed the discouraged look on the bard's face.

"Gabrielle...are you alright?"

"Yes...I'm fine. Just a little tired I guess. We've had a busy day." The bard was trying to cover up
what she had really been thinking about.

"It is getting late. The sun will set soon. Perhaps we should go back to the inn and prepare for

"'ve been so kind to me. You and your people have waited on me as if I were a queen. Please...let me return the favor. Let me prepare dinner for you in my bungalow." *Why did I say that...her cooks can prepare a much tastier meal than I can* the bard thought to herself.

"Gabrielle...I appreciate the offer and I'm sure that you are a wonderful cook, but you are a guest
here. You're here to relax and enjoy yourself. You shouldn't have to slave over a hot fire. I have
another idea. I'll have Cleis bring two dinners to your bungalow and I'll join you there. We can enjoy our meal in peace...instead of the noise of the dining room." Sappho looked deep into Gabrielle's eyes for any sign that she had offended the bard. What she saw, she interpreted as relief.

"That's a wonderful idea." The bard was thankful for Sappho's alternate plan.

"Give me a few minutes to freshen up and talk to Cleis." The pair headed back for the main house
and bungalow.

By the time Sappho arrived at the bungalow, Cleis had already brought the dinners and some wine.
The two women sat and chatted while they ate their meal. Gabrielle, who was not accustomed to
drinking spirits, had had three glasses of wine when the meal was finished. She slowly got up from the table and moved unsteadily toward the bed. Once sitting, she started to unlace her boots.

"I hope you don't mind. My feet are killing me."

"Not at all. Please make yourself comfortable. After all, this is your home away from home." Sappho moved to join Gabrielle on the bed and slip off her own sandals.

"Ahhh. Much better.", both women said in unison, then giggled at the other's expression.

"Gabrielle, I hope that you will not consider me forward for saying this, but I've become very fond of you in the short time since we've met. I have enjoyed every moment of our time together."

"Oh Sappho...I feel the same way. It's as if I've known you all my life. I feel so at ease with you."

"You can't imagine how wonderful it makes me feel to hear you say that. Then... perhaps you won't
mind if I do this." Sappho cradled the bard's chin with her long, slender fingers and turned Gabrielle
to look into her eyes. Cautiously, she moved her head toward the young bard until both women
could feel the hot breath of the other on their faces. She touched her lips lightly to the bard's. So soft was her initial touch, that Gabrielle was uncertain as to whether or not this was really happening. Then the kiss became more passionate. The bard's head was spinning and her entire body began to tingle. She wasn't sure if this was in response to Sappho's touch or the three glasses of wine, but she did not pull away from the lips that held her's captive.

The dark eyed woman reached to place one hand in the hollow of Gabrielle's back and gently laid
her flat on the bed. The bard closed her eyes. She felt her heart begin to pound and a pulsing
sensation ran from the top of her head to the tip of her toes.

"Gabrielle...I want to make love to you." The voice was low and raspy.

"Gods! I've been waiting for this." The bard opened her eyes to look at her soon to be lover. She
wanted to see the expression in those familiar blue eyes. Reality slapped her in the face when she met Sappho's dark eyes instead. Gabrielle's body instantly tensed.

"Sappho! I'm sorry, but I can't do this." The bard began to squirm beneath the weight of the older

Sappho brought her lips back to meet the bard's. "Shhh...I'll teach you everything you need to

Neither Sappho nor the bard had noticed the tall, muscular form emerging from the shadows by the
door of the bungalow. It crept stealthily to the foot of the bed where Sappho remained on top of the young bard.

"What in the name of Hades is going on here?" The familiar voice shot through Gabrielle like a sword.

The warrior snatched the woman from atop the bard and held her in mid-air. With fiery eyes, she
glared down at the bard.

"Xena! This is not what it looks like. Please let me explain!" The bard shot out of the bed to stand in
front of the warrior. She looked helplessly from the dangling Sappho, back to Xena.

"Explain what Gabrielle? That the inn is full so the guests are having to share beds?" Xena did not try to hide her anger or her sarcasm.

"And let me tell you what I'm going to do with this little piece of trash...", she continued as she turned to look, for the first time, at the woman that she held captive.

The stunned look on Xena's face was one that Gabrielle had never before seen. The bard could see
that Xena was trembling and looked as if she were about to collapse. The warrior released her grip
on Sappho and let her fall to the floor.

"Lao Ma?", Xena stammered before bolting out the door and into the night.

Continued in Part II


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