By Azurenon & Savanna Mac
Please see part one for all disclaimers.
"Got everything?" Xena asked, as the bard approached with her pack and bedroll in her hand.
"Yeah, I think so. Wow, nice day, huh? Iíll be glad when we can get a proper bath. I feel all... yukey."
"Yukey, huh? I make you feel..."
"No, not you, the salt water and... everything. This littlle manx is just eager to be back on dry land."
"So am I... eager to be off this ship," Xena grumbled, as she glanced around at the sailors busy making preparations for landing. "Hmph," she grunted, noticing a cloaked figure near the stern. "Wonder what heís doing there?"
"Who?" the bard queried.
"The stowaway," Xena answered. "I didnít think heíd be showing himself so soon. And... uh-oh, the captain appears to be headed in his direction. Iíll... be right back."
Xena walked up behind the cloaked figure and tapped him on the shoulder. "Think you oughta be out here on deck? I mean, I know they canít make you walk the plank now, but they can still have you thrown in jail."
"I beg your pardon," a feminine voice said, as the cloaked figure spun around rather quickly, the hood falling back to reveal a decidedly feminine and possibly Grecian face and long curly blonde hair.
"Um, youíre.... Iím s-sorry," Xena stammered. "I... I obviously mistook you for someone else. The cloak and all, I... couldnít tell...."
"I see you two have met," the captain said, approaching them.
"Not properly," the woman responded.
The captainís eyes darted between each woman. "Uh well, I thought you would have by now. I mean... sharing the same cabin wall and all."
Xena could feel her eyes grow large, as this thought penetrated her consciousness. By the gods, she thought, there was another passenger on board and..... I donít even wanna look at her again. I know itís gonna be written all over my face.
"Ah, yes," the woman said, causing Xena to glance over at her. "The one with the nightmares," she added, with a slight smile. "Iím Androgeny, by the way and you are?" she asked, extending her gloved hand, her arm covered by a leather gauntlet like those worn by the Amazons.
"Xena," the warrior responded, taking the proffered wrist and grasping it in a warriorís handshake.
"Ah-h-h, then this is the one you were referring to?" Androgeny said to the captain.
"Yes," the captain replied. "As I said, I thought you would have met by now."
"No, Iím afraid... I spent all my time in my cabin. Seasickness. I seem to do better below deck."
"Ah yes, hereís the cargo you were concerned about," the captain said, as two men brought a very large wooden box up out of the cargo hold.
"Please see that itís the first thing unloaded, would you?"
"Most assuredly mam," the captain said, as the woman handed him a gold coin and he turned quickly and walked away, obviously to oversee the handling of her cargo.
"Excuse me, but... did you say the captain mentioned me to you? Why?" Xena queried.
"Oh, because I owe you a debt of gratitude. As does the whole entire land of Chin. You freed them from an awful tyrannt. And... now I get to go back home, to Greece."
"You were in Chin?" Xena inquired.
"Yes, for several years," Androgeny answered. "Trying to get young girls and their families out."
"I donít understand," Xena said. "Youíre obviously Greek and... an Amazon, if Iím not mistaken.... why would you care about girls in Chin?"
"Amazon, no, but close. Iím a prietess from the temple of Artemis. And she cares about the plight of all young girls. We were actually contacted a few years ago by a ruler from the land of Lao. He asked us to help out."
"You knew Lao Ma?" Xena asked.
"No, Iím afraid not. I never had the pleasure. Lao Su was the one who contacted us. I was on the border of Chin, Lao and another neighboring country, smuggling girls out of both lands for a while, after Mein Teíin took over Lao land. Terrible tragedy. Did you know Lao Ma, by chance?"
"You could say that," Xena answered, as she tried to sort things out in her mind. "Why would Lao Su contact you?" she queried.
"Thatís a rather long story, Iím afraid. You see our particular
temple has long been affiliated with the land of Lao. One of our founding members
was once a courtesan in the court of Lao Suís ancestor. He even sent his daughter
to us for safe keeping, when she was only nine or ten."
"Lao Ma had a daughter?"
"Lao Ma, no. Lao Suís daughter, by a previous marriage."
"Where is she?" Xena asked, feeling sure this girl knew Lao Ma and had been sent to the temple by her, not Lao Su.
"In the land of Lao. She chose to stay and try and help her people rebuild. Iím sure sheíll be a great credit to her people one day."
"Xena, anything wrong?" Gabrielle asked, approaching her lover and seeing the deep frown on her face.
"No, I... I mistook this... lady for someone else is all."
"Hmm," Gabrielle responded, glancing over at Androgeny.
"Oh, Androgeny this is my friend, Gabrielle. Gabrielle meet Androgeny, a priestess from the temple of Artemis."
"Nice to make your acquaintance," Androgeny said, reaching out to shake the bardís hand.
The bard complied, while staring into the womanís eyes. "You
look... familiar," she announced. "Have we met before?"
"No, I donít think so. Or... surely I would have remembered," Androgeny said in almost as lascivious a manner as a man would, while she held onto Gabrielleís arm, staring intently into the bardís eyes.
Xena cleared her throat, clearly uncomfortable with this exchange.
Androgeny quickly let go of Gabrielleís arm. "Oh Captain," she called, her eyes having wandered over the bardís shoulder. "Please excuse me," she said to Xena and Gabrielle. "I must see after my crate. If they drop it, I shall be quite furious."
"Androgeny... from the temple of Artemis," Gabrielle murmured, when the woman was out of ear shot, a slight smile on her face.
"Whatís that about?" Xena inquired, referring to the smile.
"Something about her..." Gabrielle mused, watching the woman
walk way. "Something odd. Though I canít quite put my finger on it. But... I
donít think sheís who she says she is."
"Those donít sound like reasons to smile to me," Xena noted.
"Well, I donít get a bad feeling about her."
"You hardly ever do, Gabrielle. Youíre too trusting."
"Perhaps," the bard mused. "But... oh never mind." she said, turning towards Xena.
"You said she looked familiar?" the warrior questioned.
"Yeah, something about her, when she first took my arm... reminded me of... stories Iíd heard about Aphrodite."
"Aphrodite?" Xena screeched.
"Oh look, Xena," Gabrielle said, her eyes riveted on a sight behind Xenaís left elbow. "Theyíre about to lower the anchor. Wonít be long now. Dry land here I come," the bard added, starting to walk away. "Hey, you coming or what?" she called back over her shoulder.
"Yeah sure," the warrior responded, after giving Androgeny one last appraising look.
"Sheís probably harmless, Xena. Let it go," the bard suggested.
Sheís right, Xena thought, probably harmless. But, sheís dressed so much like that little man.... I wonder where he is anyway. Iíd sure like to thank him for his advice. Her eyes scanned the ship, as she proceeded over to join her lover at the starboard railing.
"Canít wait to get a nice hot bath," Gabrielle said, excitedly.
"Hmm... now thereís an intriguing thought," Xena mused.
"Whaddaya mean? I thought you liked cool dips?"
"Not anymore," the warrior replied. "Donít needíem, now that Iíve got you."
"Oh-h, so thatís what all those cool dips were about?"
"Hmm-umm," Xena responded, the shrug of her shoulders and the teasing light in her eyes suggesting she was really saying: Iíll never tell.
"Where did you say we were going?" Gabrielle asked, her arms wrapped tightly around her friendís waist, as the warrior urged Argo into a gallop.
"Donít believe I did."
"Well, then do you mind telling me?"
"This looks sort.... of familiar," the bard observed, scanning the landscape.
"It should, weíve been here before. Quite a while ago, though."
"Hmph," Gabrielle grunted, glancing around them as they topped a small rise, her eyes encountering a familiar landmark. "That fallen tree..." she remarked. "Oh,... Iíve got it now. That boy that was going to be sacrificed by his father.What were their names again?"
"Antius and Icus," Xena supplied.
"Yeah,... and that nutbread that I ate with... that stuff... that drug in it."
"Henbane," the warrior again supplied.
"Yeah, henbane," Gabrielle agreed, remembering how bad her head had hurt after the effects of the drug wore off. "But, what are we doing here? Donít tell me his father is... being drugged again."
"Oh no, Gabrielle, nothing like that," Xena answered, as Argo slowed to a trot, starting up another small hill. "Remember that cave where I left you and Icus?"
"Yeah... my.. singing rocks. How could I forget? Youíve reminded me enough times," the bard commented, blushing slightly.
"Well, that stream with the waterfall isnít too far away and as I remember, the hunting was pretty good here, as well."
"Oh, I see, so youíre taking me fishing and hunting," Gabrielle said, sounding umimpressed suddenly.
"Oh no, Iím taking you.. where I believe I can be alone with you, with no disturbances. And where you can scream out my name as loud as you want... and no one will hear you," Xena explained, in a teasing tone of voice. "Except of course, your rock friends. But, I donít think theyíll mind, do you?"
"Ha Ha, very funny, Xena," Gabrielle retorted. "Never gonna let me live that one down are you?"
"Nope," the warrior replied. "You were just... too cute. I seem to recall... that while you were in your drugged state, you told me I was beautiful."
"I donít think that was the drug talking, it was me. The drug just... loosened my tongue."
"Loosened your tongue," Xena teased.
"Umm-hmm. So,... how long can we stay?" the bard queried, a lilt to her voice now at the prospect of being completely alone with her lover.
"As long as you want," Xena answered. "Yah," she commanded, urging Argo into a gallop and inhaling deeply. "Hereís your fresh air, Gabrielle. All you want, for as long as you want."
"I love you, Xena!" the bard shouted.
"I love you, too, Gabrielle!" the warrior exclaimed. "Shee-ya... it feels good to be home!"
"Indeed it does," Gabrielle agreed, holding on tightly to her loverís muscular body and feeling that she did indeed feel right at home, at long last, with this beautiful warrior princess.
Six Days Later:
"What are you looking at?" Gabrielle asked, coming up behind her lover, who was standing on a hill, overlooking the valley beyond.
"Down there," Xena answered, nodding towards a lone figure on horseback coming out of the trees in the valley below. "Looks like Tamasus,"
"And whose he?" the bard further queried, leaning on her staff with one hand and taking Xenaís hand in the other. "Donít tell me heís an old boyfriend."
"Of course not. I saw his face on a wanted poster in two of the last towns we passed through," Xena answered, with a decided frown.
"Oh, I see," the bard said softly, realizing what this meant. "So,... honeymoonís over, I guess," she added.
"I donít... want it to be, Gabrielle," Xena said, turning towards her. "Iíd like nothing better than to stay right here with you for the rest of my life."
"I know," Gabrielle commented, squeezing Xenaís hand one last time before letting go. "Better get going before he gets too big of a head start."
"Itís okay, Xena, really. Itís time we got back to the real world. Now... go on," the bard urged, nodding towards Argo. "Iíll wait for you in the next town."
"Gabrielle," Xena began again, reaching up and cupping the bardís face in her hands. "I love you and Iíll miss you." She leaned over and kissed Gabrielle passionately. "Remember these are mine now," she added, teasingly, running her thumb over the bardís lower lip. "Be careful, love. Iíll be back as soon as I can." She then pulled her lover to her in a bear hug.
With that accomplished, the warrior trotted over to Argo and somersaulted up onto the horseís back. Gabrielle marveled at her loverís physical prowess and eye pleasing shape: taunt thighs muscles flexing as she lept into the air and then settled herself in the saddle; arm muscles rippling, as she gripped Argoís reins and turned the horse in the direction she wanted to go. The bard shivered, as she remembered watching these same arms, each muscle individually rippling with the movement of her loverís attached fingers, as she claimed Gabrielleís body and took her to the heights of ecstasy.
"You be careful, too," the bard called after her lover. "And you remember," she added, although only loud enough for herself to hear. "You are my Warrior Princess, now."