Memories, Dreams, and Schemes
by Azurenon & Savanna Mac
Please see part one for all disclaimers.
They were only a few marks on the sundial beyond the village, when the question the bard had repeatedly asked Xena before and got no answer, sprang into her mind and out her mouth. "When did you meet Phoenicia?" she asked.
Xena glanced down at her companion who, as always, preferred to walk alongside rather than ride, much to the warrior's dismay. "While I was at the training grounds briefly with Shalala and you were searching for Joxer."
"Why'd you say you bet that was short lived?"
"Nice try, Xena, but I know you better than that." The bard glanced up now, making eye contact briefly. "She talked to you?"
"She introduced herself," the warrior answered.
"She came onto you, you mean," Gabrielle grumbled.
Xena smiled to herself, once she made sure the bard wasn't looking, that is.
"What did she say?"
"Nothing important, Gabrielle."
"Are you... jealous, by chance?" Xena teased.
"You damn right I am," the bard answered angrily. "I wish I'd been there to hear what she said, because I know you're not gonna give me a straight answer."
"Why would you have wanted to be there?"
"So I could've given her a taste of my staff." She gripped the staff tightly in both hands.
Xena smirked. She'd never heard Gabrielle talk like this before. And it was kind of flattering.
"Did you... think she was pretty?"
"Umph-um." Xena shrugged.
"I hope you didn't encourage her." Gabrielle glanced behind them as if she expected someone to be following.
"Guess that's what I get for falling in love with a beautiful warrior princess. Have to spend most of my time beating off all the... suitors you attract. Male and female."
"Guess I better hone up on my skills, maybe learn a few more tricks..."
"Gab-bri-elle!" Xena said more forcefully, reining Argo to a stop. "Come here." She extended her hand to her lover.
"Nope. You know I'd rather walk," the bard responded, continuing on.
Xena urged Argo forward. "Gabrielle, I want you to get up here, please. It's hard to talk like this."
"Xena, you know my staff is always a problem."
The warrior grunted. She'd been meaning to do something about that, but hadn't had the time. Riding with Gabrielle's staff trapped between her leg and Argo's saddle could be a bit uncomfortable, because it chaffed the inside of her leg. Yet, she was willing to forgo the discomfort to have the luscious little blonde riding in front of her.
"Gimme the staff," she said, reining Argo in again.
"Xena, it always chaffs..."
The warrior snatched the staff out of her hands, spun it around behind her back, then placed it beneath her right leg; the end protruding past Argo's flanks. The sensitive mare turned and glared at her owner over the inconvenience. Xena patted her neck. "Come on, Gabrielle. I'm not taking no for an answer." She moved back behind the saddle and offered the bard her hand and her foot, in order to climb up.
The bard took the proffered hand, then paused to study the situation. "Wait a minute," she huffed. "this isn't right. You have to get down and let me get on first, if you want me to sit in front."
"But that's not what I had in mind," the warrior corrected. "Here just put your right foot on mine..." The bard did as she was told. "Now swing your left leg over..."
"But, Xena, then I'll be facing..."
"Ex-xact-ly!" the warrior grunted, pulling the bard up onto the saddle before she could object again.
"Umph!" Gabrielle grunted, the back of her skirt catching on the saddlehorn and being pulled up. She glanced down to see the skirt hiked up nearly to her underwear "Xe-na!"
The warrior arched one eyebrow. "Hmm, better than I anticipated. Let's go, girl." She urged Argo forward, while placing her hands on the bard' s waist.
"But... you don't have... the reins."
"Don't need 'em. Argo's well trained," the warrior responded, one hand roaming down to the bard's exposed thigh. "Besides, I want my hands free."
The warrior covered the bard's lips with her own. The horse's gait, although very slow, still made it hard to maintain constant contact, so that their lips came together over and over in sensuously light strokes and massages. Gabrielle's arms went around Xena's neck; her legs around her thighs, of their own accord; her body trusting the warrior princess implicitly.
"There's... no other... woman... for me... Gabrielle," Xena said through her kisses, both hands now on the bard's thighs; her thumbs inching toward the inside.
"Ah Xena!" Ares grumbled, his hands on either side of the scrying bowl. "Not on the horse, Xena! It was bad enough seeing you with Borias like that, but... the brat, too...!!!" Ares closed his eyes and bit his upper lip. "I oughta give that horse just a little...!"
"Ah-ah-ah. No horse tricks, brother dear," Artemis said, without making an appearance.
"DAMNATION!" he roared and pushed away from the table. He couldn' t bear to watch anymore, knowing what Xena would soon be doing on that horse with that babbling little bitch. And if that wasn't bad enough, his half-sister was watching his every move now.
Artemis laughed at his discomfort.
Ah, but we'll see who has the last laugh, he thought, pulling down his silver studded vest and straightening his scabbard. Xena had once carried her scabbard on her hip just like he did. He wondered if she'd go back to doing so after her memories were taken away. Gotta remember to get those scrolls of the brat's, he thought. Do a little reading while they're... making war, not love. He wanted to laugh out loud, but kept a straight face, knowing his sister was more than likely still watching.
Hmph, and I'll have to distract her. Wouldn't do for her to find out about the wager. Hmm, let's see... who do I have in the area that I could talk into attacking the Amazons? He turned back toward the scrying bowl. Xena and the blonde were probably less than half a day's ride from leaving Amazon territory. Of course, they are moving slow, he added, taking a step closer toward the bowl. Make that not moving at all, he concluded, as he watched for a moment.
"Whoa!" he said aloud, shaking his head, as the bard tossed Xena' s leathers aside, and began devouring her breasts. "Didn't know the little brat had it in her."
Artemis' laughter rang out in his realm. "Amazons are quite surprising, aren't they? Keep watching brother dear, you might learn something."
Ares sneered and turned away. He needed to go see Eurodysses (Pronounced: You-ro-da-seas). He was in the area and his army was made up of so many dimwitted apes, they'd attack anyone, even the Amazons. Of course, Ares knew he'd be sacrificing this army, but... it was in a good cause. First though, he had to outwit his sister and keep her from seeing what he was planning.
"Never knew that was possible... on a horse," Gabrielle remarked, running her hands over her arms, cleaning them.
"Exciting, hmm?" Xena queried, squeezing water out of her hair, as she watched her lover's reaction.
"Yeah, I must admit, it was. But, I have to say I wasn't sure about it... at first."
"And now?" Xena moved closer to her lover; the water line just below her breasts; the large orbs appearing to float upon the surface.
"Definitely a... change of pace," Gabrielle quipped, watching her lover's approach.
"And water... have any qualms about that?" One dark eyebrow arched skyward; large breasts lightly brushing against smaller ones; blue eyes meeting green, as she moved even closer.
"You are incorrigible." Gabrielle waved her index finger in front of Xena's face. The warrior suddenly grabbed her hand and lips wrapped around the bard's raised appendage. A warm tongue sucked lightly, drawing the finger slowly into a very moist mouth. "By the gods," Gabrielle gasped. Xena then enveloped this whole appendage, her tongue flicking out and licking the webbing between the bard's fingers. "Umm... you do have many skills, don't you?" she murmured. "And I wanna know each and every one of them, intimately."
"You will.... one day," Xena quipped, as she let go of the bard' s hand and started moving towards the shore.
"Wha... Hey... you don't mean you're gonna leave me here all... hot and bothered, do you?" Gabrielle called after her.
Xena kept moving as if she hadn't heard.
Gabrielle watched in silence as the beautiful bronze skin warrior slowly emerged from the water; her ample, bare, backside jiggling ever so slightly with each step she took. Although unaware of it, the bard was moving towards the shore, as well. She saw Xena bend over, then quickly straighten up, her long hair flying over her head and back again, with the movement.
She knows what that does to me, Gabrielle thought. The warrior then ran both hands over her hair to smooth it, while turning towards the bard. The sight of those well rounded orbs, pulled upward with the movement of her arms; their tips tight and erect; little rivulets of water flowing across them, sent a firestorm straight to the bard's loins.
"You're teasing me," Gabrielle announced, coming onto the shore. "And just in case you don't want this little minx all over you, rolling you around in the sand, I suggest that you run as if Hades himself were after you!" The bard then took off in Xena's direction; her toes digging in the wet sand; their owner intent upon catching her prey.
Not accustomed to such displays or declarations from her little bard, when the warrior saw the determined woman barreling toward her, she let fly a very feminine, "Woop!" and turned to run.
Argo snorted loudly and whinnied as the two women emerged from the woods, fully clothed, their hair still damp. "Yeah well, when you find yourself a young filly... or stallion, we'll see how you act, hmm?" Xena whispered near her ear. Argo snorted again.
"Hey, Xena, how 'bout giving me a hand," Gabrielle requested.
"Oh, so now you like riding, hmm?" the warrior queried, offering her cupped hands for the bard's foot.
"Ye-yeah, but... this time I'm driving. I wanna see where I'm going."
Xena smiled up at her lover, who was now astride the horse, reaching for the reins. The warrior walked around behind the horse and pummeled up over its rear. "Okay, you drive," she said, wrapping her arms around Gabrielle' s waist. "I like having my hands free. I've been trying to get you to do this for some time now," she added, near her lover's ear.
"Yeah well, usually we make pretty good time, but at the rate you were going, Joxer would be on our heels before we ever got out of Amazon territory."
"Hey, I wasn't the one chasing you around the lake," Xena reminded.
"You should'na run." Gabrielle clicked her tongue and urged Argo forward.
"You told me to."
"And since when did you start listening to me?"
"Since... we got married."
"Oh. Hmph, sounds good."
"Hearing you say we're married."
Xena grunted. "First time I ever said that," she admitted.
"Kinda strange, huh? You're older than I am and yet I'm the one whose been married... twice now. Of course, I know I'm not your first lover... not by a long shot."
"You are the first one I've ever... made a commitment to, Gabrielle," Xena said softly. "So in a way, you are. At least to me."
"Hmm." The bard sat up a little straighter in the saddle. "Well, at least I was a first for you... at something."
"Oh believe me, you've been first in other things."
"Oh yeah, what?"
"Well, remember the first time we ever..."
"Stop chatting and move!" Ares stormed. "Damnation, I've never seen you move so slow!" He turned away, feeling a bit helpless.
His plans were going smoothly except for Xena being so slow. Eurodysses' army was advancing on Amazon territory from the opposite direction. His half-sister would never see it coming. She was too intent on these two.
It had taken some maneuvering on his part to shake her off his tail. Pretending to take satisfaction in the arms of Eurodysses' concubine was no small feat. The woman was a real "too bagger" compared to Xena. But, he knew that Artemis wouldn't stay and watch. And so he'd summed things up there, in godly quick fashion, and moved on to more important matters, without her knowledge. Now, all he had to do was wait on Xena. And he hated waiting. That concubine had reminded him a tiny bit of one of the Furies; not the blonde, but the brunette with the big hooters.
Perhaps I'll just pay her a visit, he thought. Should be plenty of time for another quickie.
Xena had found a cave just before nightfall. The two were now safely tucked inside, beneath their blankets. Argo was near the cave entrance; for, the rain had already started, just as Xena had predicted.
"You can come in further, Argo," the warrior said. "There's plenty of room."
The horse swung her head around and snorted at her master.
"I don't think she likes watching," the bard whispered, then added in a much louder tone. "Oh great Zeus, what am I saying? I'm talking about her as if she's a person with feelings and...."
Argo whinnied and stamped her front foot, interrupting her.
Gabrielle looked up at Xena. The warrior shrugged. "She understands more than you think she does. Come on in when you get ready then, girl," Xena added to the horse. "And as for you... my lovely little bard..." Xena stroked Gabrielle's cheek. "Didn't want me to run, hmm? Well, I'm not running now."
"Umm and you better not," the bard added, easing over on top of her lover. "Horses and water are okay, but... I still enjoy the old fashioned way better. So many more... positions."
"Umm-hmm," Xena agreed. "Ah-h yes-s..." She pressed against the back of her lover's head, urging her to suck harder.
"AR-RES!!!" Zeus' voice rang out across the heavens. On the earth below it rolled across the sky as thunder. "Have you forgotten our wager?"
Ares bolted out of the lovely brunette's bed. "No, sir. Coming, Dad." He snapped his fingers, his immortal body suddenly clothed in his favorite studded leather outfit.
"But Air, where are you...?"
"It's been real," Ares said. "We'll finish this later." He then vanished in a flash of silver light.
"Yes, Dad." He appeared at his father's side.
"I thought you were keeping and eye on those two?"
"Umm, yeah well... ya see... I kinda got distracted...but, what? Are they out of sis' territory?"
"Just barely," Zeus replied. "So unless you'd rather wait another..."
"No, no... let's do it." Ares stared down at the scrying bowl, licking his lips.
"What about the horse?" Zeus asked. "She didn't have that particular one at the time."
Ares looked up and sucked on his lower lip. "Yeah well, a horse is a horse, give it to her. But, no scrolls, though."
Zeus nodded. "I'll take care of those, myself."
Ares frowned, because he'd wanted to read them. Seeing his father staring at him, however, he shrugged, as if it didn't matter.
"And the horse's memory?" his father asked.
Ares laughed. "A horse? Oh Dad, please, aren't you going overboard here? Who cares about the horse. Let's just... get on with it, shall we?" Geez Louise, you make everything so complicated, Ares thought.
"Nothing else you want to add to the spell, before I cast it?"
"No, nothing." Ares licked his lips in eager anticipation. He couldn't wait for Xena to wake up with no memory of her atonement kick. She' d be back to the ruthless warlord he knew and loved. And oh how he loved watching her in action! And oh, how very much he longed to see the look on her face when Xena, the Destroyer of Nations, woke up with that sniveling, chattering, obnoxious little brat in her bed...
"Dad! Wait!" he cried.
Zeus was already walking away. "What is it?"
"You... you can't let them wake up like... that!"
"Like... no clothes and... together!"
"Sorry son, but the spell has been cast."
"Damnation!" Ares roared.
"I did ask you if there was anything you wanted to add, son and you said..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Ares interrupted, pulling down his vest, trying to regain some semblance of his composure. "What's done is... done, I guess. We'll just... have to wait and see how things turn out."
Maybe there's a way this can work in my favor, he thought, Xena's gonna be pretty suspicious when she wakes up. And she's gonna assume she's already had the brat and used her once, so... hmm... this could be a good thing after all.
Xena's left arm was hurting. She tried to move it, but couldn' t. Her eyes fluttered open. She saw only dim light coming from somewhere in front of her. Why couldn't she move her left arm? she wondered. She glanced over in this direction and found the answer: someone was lying on her arm. Someone with long blonde hair. In the dim light, she couldn't tell if they were male or female, however. The short stature and aromas attacking her olfactory senses, suggested female. Her right hand beneath the blanket confirmed this assumption, by brushing a small round orb pressed beneath her own.
Hmm, been awhile since I had a woman, she thought. Especially one as soft and sweet smelling as this one. Strange, though, I don't remember bedding her. Umph, musta had too much port. Too bad, cause I bet I enjoyed this one. Wonder where I found her? And the port? The last thing I remember is being in a cave... She could tell she still was, even in the dim light ...but I don't remember a woman being... Oh yeah, there was one, taking care of the child, but... She raised her head, looking more intently at the bundle curled up beside her, the woman's arm around her waist. This isn't the same woman. She was a brunette with dark skin. That little clown of a man, Salmoneus, he brought her here to take care of the child... the woman and baby were here when I got back from... the gauntlet!
She flinched slightly at the memory. Darphus had taken over her army, because she'd saved the child. He'd turned her men against her and they' d made her walk the gauntlet. She could still feel the blows from their fists and the large sticks, as they rained down upon her while she walked through the two parallel lines of men.
The bundle next to her moaned softly, bringing her out of her reverie. Who are you? she wondered. There weren't any women around here last night, except for the brunette. And Salmoneus, the brunette, the child, where are they?
She slowly and a bit reluctantly extricated her arm from beneath the blonde's head. The smaller woman moaned and smacked her lips, as the warrior gently removed the woman's arm from around her waist. She then raised up on one elbow and looked around. There were no other human forms in the cave, only a fawne colored horse, standing near the entrance. Whose was this, the woman's or someone else's? The horse turned its head towards her, as Xena eased her right hand out from under the blanket and reached for her chakram, which she always kept near her right side. The horse snorted, startling the uncertain warrior, who snatched up the deadly round weapon and sat up, ready to loose it at whatever danger presented itself. But, there was no other movement nor any other sound. The horse merely stared at her.
Well, at least I wasn't so drunk I didn't remember where to put my weapons, she thought, glancing down at the chakram. Still can't remember her, though, she added, her eyes catching sight of the partially uncovered, nude form beside her. Really is too bad, she concluded, her gaze taking in the small firm orbs of flesh pushed together; their light pink centers, as well as, the hump beneath the blanket, due to the latter being molded to the blonde's shapely hips.
The warrior wiped the sleep from her eyes, her nose picking up the somewhat familiar musky odor on her hand, confirming her previous assumption about the naked woman beside her. The arrow of desire hit its mark, dead center in the middle of her groin. And for a fleeting moment, she wished she could just lie back down and pick up where she'd obviously left off the night before. But then, she didn't even know this woman, did she?
Shaking her head again, she reached for her leathers, which should be beside her. What she found, however, was not her black leather outfit -intricately decorated with silver across the bodice and silver shoulder guards, with attached cape- but a rather plain dark brown one, with a separate bronze breastplate lying nearby; no cape in sight. A scabbard and sword were lying next to this, as well as, a whip. And although the scabbard clearly wasn't hers -being dark brown, nor was the whip of the same color- she did recognize the sword sheathed within it, its blue stone inlays unmistakable.
What in Tartarus is going on here? she wondered, easing out from under the blanket, her chakram still in her hand. She glanced around, still searching for her clothes, yet they were no where in sight. There was only a pair of dark brown leather boots, arm bands, gauntlets and knee guards that all appeared to belong with the same outfit. Wait a minute, she thought, searching her memory more thoroughly now. Darphus had them remove my armor. Yeah... and when I came back here... I was wearing nothing but my brown studded chemise. And where is that, now? And the bag with my other clothes...?
She found the dark brown bag, decorated with light brown fur, lying near her head. She reached back and snatched it up. Perusing the contents, she found a different brown chemise, as well as, an off white one, both crammed in on top of a plain brown shift. Underneath all of this was a well-worn whetstone. But, I had a gold outfit in here, she thought.
The woman behind her mumbled something. Xena tossed the bag aside and was on her feet in a heartbeat, spinning around towards the blonde, chakram at the ready. Yet, the woman merely rolled over, pulling the blanket up around her. The warrior breathed a sigh of relief. Never had she felt so confused and disoriented in her life. What in Tartarus had happened last night? Nothing made any sense.
Feeling the chilled morning air on her bare skin, she glanced down at the leather outfit. It looked about her size. Surely it wasn't the blonde's, she was too small for it. Slowly she squatted down and picked the outfit up by one shoulder strap. Not bad, she thought. Looks like something I might wear. Glancing at the breastplate, she now recognized the design... M'Lila, the Gaelic girl who had saved her life and taught her the 'pinch', had worn this design on her tunic. But, that was long ago. Matter of fact, that was the last time she'd seen this particular pattern anywhere. Yet, the similarity was uncanny. Who else would know about this design? Caesar? But Caesar wasn't in Greece now, was he? Her eyes cautiously scanned the interior of the cave once again. This doesn't even look like the same cave I was in with the woman and the baby, she thought.
A chill ran up the warrior's spine that had nothing to do with the air in the cave. Has something happened to my memory? she wondered. No cuts or bruises from the gauntlet , she thought, scanning her body. And I'm not at all sore anymore. Was walking the gauntlet a dream? Or is this a dream? When her eyes fell on another pack, saddlebags and saddle on the other side of the blonde, she dropped the leather outfit and stood up. Perhaps these will yield some clues, she thought.
The large brown and tan leather bag held three scrolls, a quill, a bottle of ink, a pink slinky slip or nightie, a brush, with long blonde hair intertwined around its bristles, a brown cape, a large needle, spool of brown tread and a whetstone. The former items suggesting it belonged to the blonde; the latter whetstone indicating a sword should be somewhere near at hand. The warrior spun around; cool calculating blue eyes searching for a weapon. Noting a long slender outline near the edge of the blanket, close to the blonde, she cautiously eased her left hand beneath it; chakram at the ready in her right. Her fingers wrapped around a cylindrical wooden object. She slowly pulled it out, finding a very solid, well used, staff in her hands. The designs carved into its surface were distinctly and irrefutably Amazon.
So, I bedded an Amazon, she thought. Hmph, well, that explains a few things. But then, I've been nowhere near Amazon territory in quite a while... have I? She couldn't remember! She remembered Iolaus and Hercules... and everything that happened between then and when Darphus attacked that village without her authority, while she was away. She remembered saving the child... the gauntlet... She cringed and gritted her teeth at the memory. Was it possible that she'd been hit so hard she'd lost her memory of more recent events? No, that made no sense, because she remembered coming back to the cave... the woman had the child in her arms... she'd put it down, intent upon seeing about Xena, but the latter had warned her off... she was so angry; afraid she'd take that anger out on the kind woman... and... that was her last memory!
So, how in Tartarus had she ended up in this particular cave, with this Amazon? Or whatever she was; for, that pink nightie didn't exactly seem like something any Amazon, she'd ever known, would wear. Had Darphus perhaps attacked some Amazons and... what? Had she saved this one or something? Or been taken captive by her? No, she wasn't a captive. Neither one of them were. Then again, could this Amazon have drugged her? Is that why she'd lost her memory? Xena knew there were substances known to be able to do this, but she'd never seen nor even knew where to find them. Yet, was it possible the Amazons did? And that this Amazon had used this on her?
She placed the staff well out reach of the blonde, then began perusing the clothes lying nearby. She fingered the rather ugly green halter. Not exactly Amazon in design, she surmised, feeling for any small hidden weapons. The brown skirt, though not made of leather, as most Amazons preferred, the belted waistband was and had Amazon designs engraved on its surface. She cautiously ran her fingers over the belt. No small weapons here, either, nor any hidden pouches for herbs and such. The reddish-brown boots -too small for her own feet, both soles well-worn- bore a slightly musty, sweaty foot odor, but contained no hidden weapons or even pouches to hold one. Some Amazon, she thought with a bit of disdain.
She then turned her attention to the saddle and saddlebags. The latter were familiar. They belonged to her, she was sure of that and she knew what they should contain. But, the saddle wasn't hers. The large reddish-brown horn with bronze studs was quite sturdy: a good hand hold. The strap of a waterskin was draped over it. The brown leather saddle held a large coil of rope on a hook, seemingly made for this particular purpose. The stirrups were slightly worn, but the seat still smooth. Xena had a habit of putting her blanket between herself and the seat to prevent chaffing and sore buns, and whoever this belonged to, had obviously done the same.
Moving on to the large saddle bags now, she felt confident of their contents. Yet, upon opening the first one, she found a frying pan, two plates, two bowls, two cups and two sets of eating utensils. None of these were hers. She glanced over at the blonde for a moment; the eating paraphernalia being in pairs, causing her concern.
The other saddle bag contained two apples, as well as cheese, bread and lard -each wrapped in separate bits of sack cloth- along with a small knife. The latter of which wasn't large enough to be very useful as a weapon, although in the right hands, most anything could be at least distracting, if not deadly. She removed the knife, leaving the rest.
Cautiously, she then moved around the end of the bedroll and back to her previous position. She had put up with the chilly air long enough; she needed clothes and since there was nothing else but the chemises and shift, the brown leathers would have to do.
Slipping into the outfit, she felt a large lump in the bodice portion near the cleavage. She pulled out a small breast dagger. For only a brief moment, she felt a familiarity with this small weapon. The feeling slipped away like grains of sand through her fingers, however, when she realized she'd never owned one of these. Yet, it could very well come in handy, especially as well concealed as it was in the pouch sewn into the bodice. She returned it to its sanctuary and proceeded to get dressed.
To her amazement, every piece of the leather outfit, fit her body like a well-worn glove. There was a hook on the right side for her chakram and one on the left for her whip. Yet, there was no belt for her scabbard, even though the latter had two straps on the back of it, obviously for this purpose. This made no sense, because everything else seemed to fit so well. She then picked up the breastplate, assuming she'd have to remedy this oversight in short order, once she was thoroughly dressed. Holding the breastplate up, she then noticed two hooks on the back, but what did they hold? The answer lay at her feet. The hooks just so happened to be spaced exactly like the straps on the scabbard.
AContinued in Part 5