Xena, Gabby and gang belong to MCA, yadda, yadda, yadda
and no infringements of copyrights intended whatsoever. This story
is of the alt kind so you know what that means! If it icks you out
for any absurd reason or you think you're too young, get outside
and play with Mickey Mouse or be real sorry you stayed! <g>

Many thanks to all who have supported me and given me great
encouragement during those times I needed reassurence. This one's
for all you fabulous people. :)

Everyone's read about Herc's infamous 12 labours. So I got
to thinking: what if a certain bard had to perform those tasks (or
something to that effect) as well? Will she succeed? Or will her
quest lead to her doom? Well then, read on to find out!

All comments to go to me at Thanx.
Amazon Moon 1999C.

"Right up ahead Xena, it's just over there." I whispered
to my best friend, barely hearing myself. Xena's arm was swung
limply around my neck as I stumbled on clumsily with her weight
by my side, with my sturdy staff for support. Xena gave a soft
grunt but otherwise, showned no sign of conciousness.

We were both bruised and bloodied but Xena had more serious
wounds of the two of us. We had encountered a nasty band of bandits
on our way to Domeles, the medicine man's hut. Xena was too weak then
to fight or even use her chakram but I scared them all with my staff.

It was just a few days ago when we left the crowded village
of Stahile when the warrior princess came down with a fever. She said
it was nothing and that it'll go away sooner than I knew but I should
have known better. But the problem with Xena is that she's always so
stoic and so stubborn. She just wouldn't let me touch her.

We travelled on, and her fever got worse, I knew. Even up
on her horse, her face looked flushed and she looked uncomfortable.
I ordered Argo to stop and helped Xena down, leading her to rest
under the shade of a large tree.

"Xena, what's wrong?" I wiped the damp locks off her hot
forehead and immediately recoiled in surprise. "You're burning!"

"I've got this headache, Gabrielle," Xena grimminaced as
she tried turning away. "And my neck feels stiff."

"That's it. You're down with something," I got up towards
Argo to get a tin and sponge. "There's a stream up ahead, I'm getting
some water to bring down that fever."


"Listen to me, just sit here and wait till I get back," I
instructed. She nodded wearily, her eyes down. I hurried towards
Argo then to the stream, hoping it was nothing serious.

I was coming back with the cool stream water when I saw a
group of men surrounding Xena. They were laughing at her, taking
advantage of the situation. They were kicking her and mocking the
reformed warrior.

"Hey!" I shouted as I grabbed my staff. "Get away from her!"

The bandits turned around and leaving my friend, came leering
towards me. I saw that Xena was beaten up rather badly, something she
would not have allowed if she was well. She must be really sick for
the men to beat her up like that. My eyes glazed with anger and I
gripped my staff as the six men came towards me, self-satisfied smirks
on thier greasy faces.

"Well, well," the leader swung his sword fancifully but it
did not intimidate me. "Little blondie with a stick wants to play."

"It's little Blondie with a MEAN stick!" I yelled as I hit
him real hard in between the legs. He dropped his sword and fell to
his knees in pain and surprise. Before he collapsed, he yelled a
rather hight-pitched "Get her!"

The ruffians were armed and five men surrounded me. I felt
like a small lamb then, surrounded by a circle of hungry wolves.
But I had to fight. Not just for myself but for Xena too. She looked
she was barely breathing.

They attacked and I skillfully thwacked them with my staff.
Xena and my Amazon sisters had taught me well. Sure, I recieved a
few cuts and brusies but I managed to scare them away. The leader had
gotten back to his feet and could have plunged his sword into my back
if not for good ole Argo who stomped on his before he had the chance.

I rushed back to Xena, who was having difficulty breathing.
She was lying on her stomach in a crumpled heap, her body brusied
and bleeding. I picked her up and she felt like burning coal in my
arms. She shut her blue eyes when she saw the light. It was too much
for her.

"Xena, it's me," I propped her against the trunk of the tree.
"How are you feeling?" I bit my lip. She looked pale and the wounds
made her look much worse. Her body was drentched but burning and she
was shaking abit.

She looked confused and shrank away, curling up on her side.
Her neck looked stiff and seemed a discomfort to her. She could not
turn it. I reached a hand towards her but she shrank further back,
shaking like a leaf.

"It's me Xena, it's Gabrielle," I told her as I gently pried
away the fingers that covered her eyes. Her blue jems opened a slit.
Those eyes reconigzed my green ones. She gradually relaxed a bit.
"G- Gabrielle?"

I picked up the water I had collected and used the sponge to
wipe away the blood. "Yes, Xena. I'm here."

She suddenly grasped my hand tightly, her blue eyes sad. It
was the touch. It had lost that warrior strength. This time it was a
grasp of desperation, of lost hope. I didn't like that and the look
in her eyes either.

"I'm dying," she whispered coarsely, her tears mixing with
the cold sweat on her face. "I can feel it. My time's up."

"No Xena," I squeezed her warm hand, my determined eyes locked
unto hers. "It is not true. You're going to get better, I swear. I'm
taking you to Domeles. He'll make you better."

"No Gabrielle," I wiped away the single tear that rolled down
her face as she spoke. "The fates have decided... it's not like the
last time. I can feel my head burning... I-"

"Xena, you promised never to leave me." I touched the side of
her face, willing my tears not to spill. "You said before even in death
you will never leave me. Now if I have to drag you there to Domeles
myself to make you better, by the gods Xena- I would do it."

There was silence for awhile as we held each other. Then she
allowed me to put her on Argo and lead her to Domeles.


"I'm bored!" Aprodite whined, tossing a rose stalk behind her
ear. "There's totally nothing interesting to do!"

Beside her, Apollo sighed. He shared the feeling too. "What
do you say we do, Sis?"

Ares grinned suddenly, then ran his fingers through his thick
dark hair. "I've got it."

"What? Does it have anything to do with the mortals?" Apollo
questioned impatiently. He had an ancanny prediction.

"Yes," Ares breathed then raised his eyebrows. "In fact, we'll
put some puny mortals' friendship to a test... make one of them sick,
possibly onto her deathbed... and throw in some kicks for the other to
do to make her better."

"Right on!" Aprodite cheered, jumping off the couch. "Let's
get started! Who're we gonna do?"

Ares smiled, his arms crossed. "Well, Xena and Gabrielle of
course. We'll kill off that annoying 'lil brat and make the warrior
princess crazy!"

"No, no, no bro!" Apollo protested, shaking his blonde locks
in protest. "Xena's got enough of kicks from *you*. We'll make Blondie
scurry 'round instead."

"But!" Ares grunted.

"C'mon Ares," Aprodite cooed, her hands on her hips and a
smile on her face. "Two against one. You'll have your fun."

"Oh all right!" the god of war huffed. Then all three Greek
gods disappeared in smoke and golden showers.


"Domeles!" I shouted as I thumped my staff against the old
wooden door of the medicine men's hut. "Open up!"

A wrinkled old man came scurrying to the door. "What is it?"

"It's Xena," I spoke hurridly as I lead my friend in. "She's
not well. Something's happened to her."

"She's got a temperature," Domeles felt her burning forehead.
"Warm all over too. Bring her in."

I followed the doctor, supporting my bestfriend's limp body
before placing her onto the bed inside Domele's little room. She
seemed to be barely breathing now. Her lips had a tinge of blue.

"Xena?" I whispered in her ear as Domeles did a checkup on her.
"We've reached Domeles." No response. I tried again. "He's gonna treat
you and you'll get better. Then we can continue our journey, like we
always have." Nothing. "Xena?"

I watched the medicine man's skillful fingers check for any
signs of response from Xena's cold blue eyes. But nothing...

I looked up at Domeles and saw his face. I bit my lip as I
felt hot tears fall. No, not again. She can't leave me. Not like
this. Not here. She promised me. "Even in death, Gabrielle, I will
never leave you." She said that. She can't drop it now.

"I'm sorry but your friend," Domeles shook his snow white
hair mournfully. "It was against her will. She tried fighting but...
it is clearly the work of the gods."

"What?" I stood up. I didn't understand. "The work of the
gods? You mean her death isn't natural?"

"Correct. Go to the Oracle of Delphi and ask why have they
cursed Xena. There has to be some way to restore her back to health.
That would be in your hands, not mine."

The gods. It was their doing. It had to be Ares. But why?
"I will go Domeles, but you must promise me to take care of Xena
while I'm gone. By the gods, I swear I will restore her even if it
means my death."

"Good luck, child," Domeles smiled.

I took one more longing glance at my warrior, lying cold
and flushed and comotrose. Slowly, I pressed my quivering lips to
the side of her flushed cheek. "I love you Xena."

Then I left. I saddled Argo and knew she must have known something had happened to her mistress. Animals always knew such
things. I stroked her lovingly, letting my tears fall. Suddenly,
there was a flash infront of me. Looking up, I realised it was
the young god Apollo, on his flying board.

"No need to travel all the way to Delphi, Blondie," the
handsome god smiled, looking at me from his board. "I'm here for
you direct."

"I don't understand... why-" I abruptly wiped away my
tears and stared at Apollo. "What's happened to Xena?"

"Your friend," the god looked in the direction of Domeles'
hut. "Is sick. Real sick. She's on brink of death now. Unless..."

"Unless what?" I demanded, tightening my grip on Argo's
reins. "Tell me!"

Apollo hummed and hawed. "Well to redeem Xena, you've got
to accomplish six tasks *yourself*. No help from others."

"Like Hercules?" I realised. It was a cruel joke played on
us by the gods. But it was the only way to save Xena...

"Tell me. And I'll do it." I said as bravely as I could,
my teeth gritted and my eyes flashing. If Hercules could accomplish
his twelve, I could handle my six. My love for Xena would guide me.

"Well Hon," Apollo swerved around, the wind from his fast
moving board swishing past my ears. "You first quest is to make
a certain king sleep."


"You see, King Paine in the next kingdom is offering a huge
reward to any storyteller who can spin a tale that will make him
sleep," Apollo informed me, moving gracefully in the air. "Poor
dude hasn't slept a wink in years. If you can manage that, meet me
in Delphi for your next assignment... that is of course, if you still
have your pretty head attached onto your shoulders."

"W-wait!" I called out but the god zoomed off to some other
destination with his amazing flying board. I inhaled deeply. If I
lost, I lost my head too. I had to win. Even possibly stretch my
bardy skills to the test. Xena always liked my stories. She supported
me. I knew I could do it. Pulling at Argo's reins, I led Xena's
trusty battle horse to King Paine's castle.


The ride took nearly two hours and by the time I had reached
my destination, I was almost nearly exhausted and drenched damp with
sweat. Still, I was adamdant to enter the challenge. It was the *only*
way. Xena's life lay in my hands and I had to do something about it.
I can't watch her die. The world needed her. I needed her.

"Which way to King Paine?" I asked the guard guarding the
gate. I passed him Argo's reins to his partner who he gave me a sad
shake of his head. He looked almost sorry to let me in.

"I'll take you to the King, bard," the soldier told me as
he walked into the castle grounds. "Follow me."

I followed in step behind him. I looked back at Argo and
smiled. She gave me a neigh, as if wishing me the best of luck. I
swallowed the lump in my throat and forced myself to be brave. I
had to succeed.

We finally came to a stop, in the hall. The irritated king
was at his throne, his eyebags heavy and eyes red from the lack of
sleep. Quietly, before I realised, the guard had left my side to
return to his post. I sucked in air and willed myself to stay calm.

"So you have come to tell a tale?" King Paines questioned,
his red eyes wide and scary as he looked me up and down. "You know
the consequences, don't you?"

"Yes, your highnest," I clasped my hands as one of his
guards settled a chair behind me. How many, I wondered, had died
after their attempts? I nodded my head. "I do."

"Well then," The king waved a bony hand to the cushioned
chair. "Sit and begin your story. But I warn you- if it fails to
make me sleep, your head will roll."

I sat down catiously, my hands on my lap. Xena, help me. I
cleared my throat and started. "One day a farmer went out to the
fields. The harvest had been poor and the grain few. Suddenly, a
small sparrow flew by with a stalk of good wheat in his beak. The
poor farmer remembered the bird. He had saved it from a cat two
days ago.

"The sparrow hopped towards him and before the farmer could
touch its little wing, it dropped the stalk of wheat on the ground
before him and flew off. The man was bewildered. The stalk was good
and firm, rare around these areas. He wondered where the bird had
gotten it from.

"Just as he was thinking, another sparrow flew down, with
another stalk of good wheat in its beak. It laid it down before
his feet like the first had done before then flew off before the
man do say anything.

"Then another sparrow flew down after the last and laid
another stalk of wheat by the farmer's feet. Then another sparrow flew
down after the last and laid another stalk of wheat by the farmer's
feet.Then another sparrow flew down after the last and laid another
stalk of wheat by the farmer's feet.Then another sparrow flew down
after the last and laid another stalk of wheat by the farmer's
feet.Then another sparrow flew down after the last and laid another
stalk of wheat by the farmer's feet.Then another sparrow flew down
after the last and laid another stalk of wheat by the farmer's
feet.Then another sparrow flew down after the last and laid another
stalk of wheat by the farmer's feet."

I kept reciting as I noticed King Paine's heavy eyelids close
then he slowly nodded off to sleep, his open slighly agape and his
head hung to one side. I continued without a hitch.

"Then another sparrow flew down after the last and laid
another stalk of wheat by the farmer's feet.Then another sparrow
flew down after the last and laid another stalk of wheat by the
farmer's feet.Then another sparrow flew down after the last and
laid another stalk of wheat by the farmer's feet.Then another
sparrow flew down after the last and laid another stalk of wheat
by the farmer's feet.Then another sparrow flew down after the last
and laid another stalk of wheat by thefarmer's feet. Then another
sparrow flew down after the last and laidanother stalk of wheat by
the farmer's feet. Then another...."

I ended when the droning of King Paine's soft snoring reached
my ears. It had done the trick- the old king had fallen asleep. I
watched as the rest of the people in the hall marvelled at the unusual
sight of their peacefully slumbering king.

"Congratulations," the guard who brought me the chair pumped
my hand in awe as he whispered in my ear, careful not to wake the
king. "You did it!"

"Thanks," I grinned as whispered back. My first task was
finished, Now I had to ride to Delphi to ask Apollo for the next


I rode Argo on after a day at King Paine's. I barely refilled
my supplies for the trip and graciously accepted my reward when I
left the gates in a hurry. I had no time to lose. Xena's life hung
by a thread. I had to reach Delphi as soon as possible.

After two days of travelling, I arrived, exhausted at the
foot of the mountain. Apollo's temple was on the summit, basking in
its shining glory. I stumbled off Argo and taking my staff with me,
I proceeded to climb to reach the summit.

"Hey Blondie, nice to see your head's still attached," the
mocking voice of the god Apollo laughed behind me. I turned and saw
him on his trade-mark unidentified flying object. I went towards him.

"I've completed the first test. Now tell me my second one."

"Whoa! You're really into this, aren't ya?" Apollo smirked
as he danced in air circles around my head. "The first test was way
to easy. We knew you were abard and all but big bro Ares was just
*so* sure that you'd miss but nope, <sigh> you passed."

"Just give me my next task!" I gripped my staff, annoyed.

"All right, Sista!" Apollo crossed his arms and leveled
himself so we were eyeball-to-eyeball. "This is a question and
answer segment. I ask two questions and you get them both right,
you go on to the third task. But if you get any one wrong..."
Apollo drew a finger across his throat, his eyes locked unto mine.
"Geddit, Sista?"

"Yeah," I licked my lips and steadied myself. "Shoot."

"First question," Apollo flew around in circles. He enjoyed
that alot. But it made it hard to concentrate. "What walks on four
legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?"

I smirked. Easy. "The answer is Man. When he is a baby,
Man crawls on all fours. When he grows up, he walks on two. And in
his twilight years, he used a walking stick so that gives him "three"
legs. Is that correct?"

Apollo frowned. He realised I was smarter than he thought.
"Well, you were lucky. But I bet you can't answer this one." He
zoomed around, thinking hard then he got it. He flew back and held
close eye contact with me, his eyes dancing. "You'll never think of
this one: A man standing, a woman sitting and a dog on three legs.
What are they doing?"

I thought hard, racking my brains for the answer. Apollo
smiled at me smugly, sure that he'd won. He looked away suddenly
and gazed at Argo who was urinating in some bushes. He looked back
at me, the smile threatening to split his handsome face. "Well?"

"The answer," I took in a deep breath as I gripped my staff
for support. "Is a handshake." Please Xena, please... I shut my eyes,
fearful of the thought of Apollo's face if he banished me to tartarus.
I slowly opened them a peak. The god didn't look very happy.

"Oh I give up, you win!" Apollo huffed.

"I did?" I smiled as I congragulated myself. Thank you Xena,
thank you, thank you...

"Leave me alone and go find Ares, he'll give you your next
task." Apollo stomped off bitterly, like a spoilt brat before zooming
off into the distance.

I walked back to Argo with a grin on my face. "I did it girl!
Now let's go to the temple of Ares... we're onto our third task then
Xena will be freed."

Argo neighed as she flicked her tail. Then hopping up a
little awkardly, we rode off to find the god of war for the next


"You're a failure you know that?" Ares rebuked his younger
sibling who sat sulking by the corner. The god of war shook his
dark locks. "I should've known- you're as stupid as that dumb blonde!"

"Hey!" Aprodite and Apollo complained in unison, insulted.

"Oh whatever!" Ares fumed as he disappeared in a sudden puff
of thick smoke. It was his turn now.


"This is it Argo, the temple of Ares," I spoke softly to the
horse as I climbed down. It was almost night and the sky was getting
darker by the minute. I walked in hastily, my trusty staff by my side.

Once I opened the doors, I found the brooding god on his
chair, a leg propped up by the side. He took a glance at me. "I've
been expecting you."

"Why are you doing this to Xena?" I walked slowly towards
him, glaring through my green eyes.

"Well, we were just bored," Ares shrugged. "Had to pull
some kicks. I wanted you in Xena's place actually... but they opposed
against it and wanted you, the irritating blonde."

I rolled my eyes. Gods. Hmph. "So what's my next step?"

"I heard from Uncle Hades just the other day, the old hound
dog Cerebus is giving birth to some pups tomorrow." Area raised his
eyebrows, studying my face. "And as usual no one dares to go near
cos of his violent temper and all that. We could choose Hercules

"You want me," I finished. Cerebus, the hound dog of hell.
Pregnant. "I didn't know Cerebus was a bitch."

"He's an 'it',"Ares said drily. "Meet me here tomorrow
morning and I'll take you there. You'll make the perfect midwife...
that is of course, Cerebus doesn't bite."

With that, Ares left. I walked out dejectedly, pondering
my fate as I rolled out my sleeping mat and camped outside the
steps. The stars were all out there that night, a whole mass of them
in the dark web of the sky. But there was a brightest one with the
strongest rays in the center. I knew it had to be Xena's.

"Yes, I love you too Xena."


I woke up the next morning with the sight of the early
morning sun rising above. The brillant star was still there when
I fluttered open my sleepy eyes. I smiled. It gave one last glimmer
then disappeared. I got out of bed.

"All right Ares," I called out as I barged into his temple,
dragging my staff behind me. "Take me to Tartarus."

The Greek god suddenly appeared before me, his dark brooding
face inches away from mine. "All right, let's go."

With a smart click of his fingers, he brought us both to
the deep undergrowth of Tartarus, the place where the evil dead went.


"Here we are," Ares said as we entered Hades' dark realm.
It looked frightening, with screams of pain and horror. I gripped
my staff protectively. Ares chuckled. "Why, that's 'ol Sisyphus
ahead, rolling that stone. Wanna say hello?"

"I'll pass," I smiled as pleasantly as I could as we walked
past the poor soul attempting to push the heavy boulder to the top of
a steep hill. No matter how hard he tried, it would always slip back
within inches of reaching its goal. It was his punishment for tricking

We walked past Tantalus, submerged up to his neck with water
in an Underworld pool. Nice juicy grapes hung temptingly down in vines
above his head. But when he tried swooping dwon to drink, the water
level shrank away from his parched and thristy pursed lips. And to
add to his misery, whenever he tried stretching his neck to reach for
the juicy fruit above, the strong grape vines shrinked away from his

A lone howl of pain sounded and echoed off the walls. I shivered within. We walked into a chamber and there sat the gloomy Hades with his beautiful wife Persephone, the lovely daughter of the
goddess Demeter, by his side. Ares waved a casual "hi" before shoving
me forward. "Here's your midwife for 'lil 'ol doggie Cerebus. Hope she
doesn't get eaten."






"Thank you Ares," Hades raised his pale head and studied me
with his cold eyes. "But I hardly think she's warrior- midwife
material. Has there been some mistake?"

Ares swung around and gave me a glare. I knew what he meant.
I stepped forward, smiling as brightly as I could and willed easy
confidence to start oozing from my pores. "I certainly am qualified.
I've been with Xena and she's taught me... many skills."

The god of war gave me a satisfied nod of his curly locks
then swirled back to face his uncle. "See, I told you."

Persephone looked at me with a knowing glance and smiled a
shadow of a smile. She understood why I was here. I had to carry out
this task to end Xena's curse. The warrior princess had to live. The
daughter of Demeter knew.

"Very well then," Hades abruptly rose from his throne, his
much treasured helmet of invisibility tucked under his arm. "Let's go."

"Wait," the beautiful Persephone touched his arm. Hades spun
around in surprise. She hardly made contact. His wife smiled. "Let me
hold that for you."

Without a word, the dark lord passed the awful helmet for
safekeeping to his beloved wife. It was rare that she spoke and
to hear her speak, Hades was happy to comply to her wishes. A little
colour was coming unto his cheeks. "All right, to Cerebus."

He lead the way while Ares and I followed. Before I left
the chilly chamber, the lovely Persephone caught my eye. I watched
her lift her husband's helmet above her head before putting it on.
The moment it was doned, she completely vanished from sight.

I was about to whisper her name when I felt a light tap on
my shoulder. Then I heard her whisper in my ear. "Go ahead and tend
to Cerebus, Gabrielle. I'll helping you."

I nodded as if to myself then scurried ahead to catch up
with the two gods, the invisible daughter of the kind goddess Demeter
following behind, her light footsteps syncronised with mine.


As we travelled further in, strong howls of pain rang in
our ears and rocketted off in terrible echoes around us. Hades
finally stopped infront of a heavy metal door. "Cerebus is in there,
almost in labour. You'll have to get in now."

I nodded quietly as Hades and Ares swung the heavy doors
open. I felt Persephone's reassuring hand on my shoulder as I walked
inside. She followed me inside, still invisible to all. Then the
door was shut with a heavy "CLANG" behind us.

In the yellow flames the illuminated the dark, foul smelling
room, I could make out the shaggy form of the hell hound. All four
of its limbs were chained up but the links looked collaspable any time.
Cerebus must have struggled alot.

"It's in pain," I realised. I went over and tried placing my
hand over its big, fury tummy. If Persephone hadn't pulled it away
just in time, I would have lost my right arm to one of the three headed
beasts' snapping jaws.

"Careful," Persephone warned before Cerebus howled again,
louder and longer this time, with so much pain. I saw tears form in
all his eyes as it struggled wildly with its bonds.

I had to take my chances. It had to trust me; trust that I
wouldn't hurt him or its young. I reached out again, to brush away
its fallen tears. It snapped for my fingers but I was quicker.

"What are you doing?" Persephone demanded as I reached out to
stroke one of its heads, trying to sooth away its pain and discomfort.

"The baby's kicking hard," I told the queen. "I think it's
coming out anytime now."

All three heads howled in unison as it tugged at the chains
again, its limbs thrashing wildly in the air. I felt its tummy this
time and it didn't attempt to bite off any of my delicious fingers.
Yes, it was ready. I placed my solid staff between its three jaws so
that it wouldn't bite off its tongue or anything unpleasant.

"All right Persephone, get me some hot water and a cloth in
that bowl over there," I instructed as I went over to the end of the
creature's body, ready for the Cereb-ling's arrival. I couldn't see
her but I knew she was still standing around, hesistant. "Now!"

In the corner of my eye I saw the bowl fly through the air
and hot water being poured into it. Steam filled the room. Cerebus
continued his struggle, all three heads tossing about madly in its

"Okay, okay I can do this," I calmed myself as I positioned
myself stragitically between it's hindlegs. "Push Cerebus, push!"

I had no idea if it understood me but it gave a long howl
and it's body jerked violently. Behind me, I heard Persephone gasp.
At it's pink opening, blood started gushing out, forming a growing
puddle of red blood. I could see something small and pink poking out
a little.

"Harder!" I yelled and the beast tried again, its terrible
howls echoing off the four walls of the steamy room. More of its
young popped out and I could see a small pink head covered in its
parent's blood sniffing around. It's eyes were shut and it looked
so vunerable.

"C'mon Doggie, push!" I instructed and Cerebus gave a harder
push, straining himself as the chains rattled loudly. Another head
poked out, sniffling the hot steamy air. Cerebus pushed again,
grunting as it howled and shook the chains. A third head poked out.
All three were jointed, like its parent.

"Almost there now, girl... er, boy!" I encouraged it. The
hellhound in labour tossed wildly as it pushed itself again and
more of its young's anatomy came through. Its fur was downy and
covered in a layer of protective goo and blood.

"That's it," I smiled as the baby came out into my waiting
arms. "It's out."

Cerebus rasped in the steamy air, glad it was all over. All
three of its tongues hung out, gasping for air. Persephone helped me
wash the small version of the helldog and I wrapped it in a clean
white towel before showing it to its proud Mother-Father.

"It's an... it," I smiled as I showed the offspring to its
exhausted parent who panted heavily. "Looks just like you, isn't it

I was bent over with the baby in my arms and I knew Persephone
was worried for me. But Cerebus never harmed me. He was so grateful,
one of his heads actually licked my face and its eyes looked kindly,
not like its usual "I'm gonna have you for supper" look. It nuzzled
its young affectionately. The baby was whimpering a little. All three
pairs of eyes were still shut and it looked so small and helpless.
One of the heads suddenly sneezed and we laughed. My third task was


"I can't believe you did it," Ares roared when I stepped out
into the cooler air, my hair damp from being in the steamy room. I
held Cerebus' baby securely in my arms, still wrapped in its towel.
He shook his head in disgust, unhappy he had lost.

"Have you seen my wife?" Hades questioned as he took the
newborn from my arms. I wiped the sweat off my brow.

"No, I haven't." I replied truthfully.

Hades frowned. He hadn't seen her around and she had his
helmet with her.

"I'm here," Persephone said suddenly as she walked towards us,
Hades' precious helmet in her arms.

"Where have you been to?" her husband questioned as he took
back his helmet. It was warm, a little wet and had mist on it.

"Why are you dripping?" Ares asked suspiciously.

"Ah," Persephone jerked a thumb behind her, taking special
care to avoid looking at me. "I went for a dip in that... that pond
over there."

"With my helmet?" Hades raised an eyebrow, his steel grey
eyes increduous.

"It's a hotspring, kinda, and I wanted to skinnydip in it
so I placed it on to avoid..."

Hades nodded as he tucked it safely under his arm. He only
wished she'd have invited him along. But at least she used the helmet
so no harm done...

Ares grunted. He jerked his head to the surface as he looked
at me. "C'mon, we've got to move on."

Taking me beside him, he snapped his fingers and we left Hades'
dark domain. I smiled at the lovely Persephone, grateful for her help.


"So what's my next labour?" I asked the ruggedly handsome god
as I watched him pace about his temple. Yes, I knew Apollo did say that
I was to do them all alone, with no help but if both Persephone and I
kept quiet about it, no one, god or mortal would know.

"Shut up, can't you see that I'm thinking?" Ares bellowed as
he turned to face me. Clearly he hadn't thought I would have survived.
Well, I proved him wrong, ha. I sniffled a self-satisfied smirk.

Ares pondered for a moment then snapped his fingers, his eyes
dark and challenging, a smile on his bearded face. "I want you to kill
Hercules. Think you can do that?"

"What?" My eyebrows shot up. I watched as he raised an eye
brow mockingly, like I was chickenshit. I cleared my throat and echoed
him. "Kill hercules."

"Yeah!" Ares smiled, his eyes boring straight into mine. He
was so sure I would fail. "I want Hercules dead at the door of my
temple in two days."

"Two days?" I started to protest but the god had vanished and
I was all alone in his temple. I cursed his name as I stormed out. Two
days to kill one of the world's greatest hero. It was impossible. Even
Hera and the rest of the Olympian gods couldn't dispose of him.

I rubbed Argo's nose as she nuzzled me, glad that I was back.
I sighed. I couldn't get stuck halfway. I was almost there. Xena's
life was in my hands. These puny bardy hands.

"Argo..." I jerked my head up suddenly, looking into the mare's
deep brown eyes. I started laughing and I was sure she must have
thought me mad, insane from the stress. But no...

"Argo!" I cried out joyfully as I tried embracing her. The
mare neighed uncertainly and trotted a few steps back, unused to the
sudden signs of affection. I kissed her on her nose and smiled. She
had helped me solve my problem. "Thank you."


I went to the market the next day and bought a chicken from
a vendor. We haggled on the price for awhile, like I always did and
I only had to pay a dinar instead of three. I chuckled as I took away
the live, flustered chicken that thrashed about in the air, dropping
brown feathers all over. If Ares wants a dead Hercules at his temple
door in two days, by the gods, he'll get it. Just too bad good 'ol
Herc won't be liking this.


"All right Ares, I've got Hercules dead and bleeding at you
temple door," I called out for the greek god, willing him to appear.
The war god burst into form infront of me where the dead carcass lay.
His face was flushed red with anger as he pointed hotly at the chicken
at his feet.

"What in tartarus is that? I asked for Hercules, not a dead
chicken at my doorstep!" Ares demanded, his eyes flashing anger.

I feigned innocence and stayed calm. "Jason and the Argonaunts
named their ship after Xena's battle horse Argo."

Ares folded his thick arms across his chest and raised an eye
brow. "What's your point?"

"This dead chicken you see now before your feet was named
after the hero Hercules before I killed it," I told him a matter-of-
factly. "So I've accomplished your last labour: I've killed Hercules
and placed the dead body in your temple in two days."

"But I-" Ares clentched his fist, shaking them furiously,
realising that he had been tricked. "I wanted the HERO Hercules, not
the chicken!"

"Well you never specified." I shrugged helplessly, looking
down at the poor sacrified bird laying in a mess on the floor. I
stiffled a chuckle as the fuming god's face turned beetroot red and
hot steam came rushing out from his ears.

With a frustrated grunt, the god of war left in a darker-than
usual cloud and I soon heard Aprodite's trademarked cheeky laughter
ringing about the place. She suddenly appeared in a mass of brillant
golden sparkles beside me, her hands on her hips.

"You are good," The goddess of love mused and I stopped
admiring the chicken. Aprodite took a glance at the dead bird and
made a face before turning back at me. "Eww."

I turned to face her. "Have you come to give me my next task?"

The beautiful blonde goddess raised her eyebrows and gave her
dazzling white smile. "I'll give it to you at my temple, the one in
Travepod. I'll meet you there!"

She disappeared in a golden shower but her strong perfume still
lingered in her brother's temple. Gods. They could be so troublesome.
Travepod was some distance away. It would probably take sometime to
reach the place on horseback. I had to set off immediately.

"C'mon, girl," I quickly hopped on Argo as I led her towards
Aprodite's temple. The powerful mare flew fast, eager to reach the
goddess of love's temple. We were near our goal and had no reason to
give up now. I promised Xena.


I was riding Argo fullspeed towards Travepod when a lone
figure standing by the edge of the road up ahead stood up and waved.
I realised he was a hitchhiker. He might slow us down a little but
he did seem to be in a hurry to reach somewhere. And I could tell he
had travelled a great distance. I decided to stop for him.

"Hey," the young man waved as I stopped Argo to a trot. His
clothes were dusty from road travel and his skin tanned. He was good
looking, with clear hazel eyes that shone kindness and a strong mouth
so used to smiling. I could picture tensed rippling muscles beneath
those sleeves he wore. His dark hair flopped to a side of his head.

"Need a ride?" I looked down at the weary traveller. "Where

"Travepod," he pointed down the road. "It's my sister's wedding
tonight and I would hate to miss it."

I softened. I reached down a hand to help him up. "That's where
I'm heading. Hop on."

"Thanks," he grasped my hand and pulled himself up gracefully.
He settled behind me, placing his strong arms around my waist. It felt
slightly odd but I sort of liked it. It was strong, secure...

"Hang on, we're off," I announced as I kicked Argo lightly by
her sides, urging her onto the town Travepod. I tried pushing away the
stranger's handsome face from my mind but it kept coming back.

"My name's Anchise," the hitchhiker told me. He lifted one of
his hands to shake mine but it bumped against my breast. I hastily
shook it and it went back to my waist. Thank the gods he couldn't see
me. I felt my face go red. "What's yours?"

"Gabrielle," I told him as I tried to keep my eyes (and mind)
on the road. I moisted my dry lips. "From Poteidaia."

"What are you doing, going to Travepod, Gabrielle?" Anchise
asked, his fingers circling my waist. It felt ticklish and rather
arousing. I had to shut my eyes for a brief moment.

"To the- the temple of Aprodite," I gasped as I tried clearing
my mind of erotic scenes of make believe in my imaginative mind of
the two of us together alone...

"To make an offering to the beautiful goddess of love?" his
hands started riding up my waist, towards my breasts. By the gods...

"Y-yes," I tried shrugging them off. No, I told myself. I had
to be true to Xena. I couldn't-

"You don't have to Gabrielle," the sinfully handsome Anchise
whispered huskily in my ear, nibbling it a little with his teeth. I
could imagine a smile playing on his lips. "You know you want me."

I gritted my teeth and gripped Argo's reins tighter as I felt
his tongue playing around my sensitive ear. I felt his warmth when he
started nibbling my earlobe gently, his hands getting friendlier. One
was running down my leg and the other to my top.

"C'mon Gabrielle," he kissed the nape of my neck, the place
only Xena touched. I shuddered as I felt him plant his kisses tenderly.
He squeezed my breast and I nearly swallowed my tongue. One of his
hands was slowly sliding inside my skirt. That was it, I told myself.
I *had* to do it.

"Go to Tartarus, you bastard!" I yelled as I shoved him off
the back of the horse and watched him topple and roll down the hill,
a bewildered look on his surprised face. Ha. That served him right.
No one's going to topple my love for Xena. I urged Argo on faster.
"C'mon girl, on to Aprodite's temple!"


We reached the place by late afternoon and I burst hurriedly
through the doors, expecting to find the goddess there. She was. She
was seated on her love couch, an upset bratty pout on her full lips.

"Aprodite," I gasped for air as I walked towards her. "What's
my fifth test?"

"You passed it already," the goddess folded her arms, the cute
pout still on her lips. "This afternoon when you were riding towards

"You mean Anchise..." I put my hand to the side of my head,
letting my staff support me. Aprodite had been that good looking
hitchhiker in disguise, I realised. It was a test to see if I would
stay true to Xena. And I passed. Great. Five down, one more to go...

"I thought I could catch you off balance," the love goddess
frowned. "But you passed."

"My love for Xena is strong," I informed her.

"We'll see about that," Aprodite stood up. "But right now you
should see your warrior princess. She isn't her usual self."

"You mean she's-" I hardly finished my sentence when the
busty goddess disappeared in a flash of golden sparkles. Damn, she
hadn't told me my last quest yet and she's left. But something's
happened to Xena. What? I had to get back to Domeles' hut.

I raced back to the exhausted Argo. Poor thing hadn't had a
proper rest since Xena came down with meningitis. Once she saw me,
she stood up, ready for travel.

"We've got to get back to Xena, Argo," I spoke to Xena's trusty
mare as I climbed up her back. I was weary too, but there was only one
test left and then Xena would be well. I patted the horse. "C'mon."

We left a dusty trial as we raced back to Domele's hut.


It was night when we came back and we were both famished. It
felt like we hadn't had anything to eat or drink for ages. Argo didn't
even stop once for a drink by a pool. I didn't stop to rest. Aprodite
said something has happened to Xena and I had to get back.

I rapped on the door with the head of my staff. "Domeles! It's
me, Gabrielle! Open up!"

The old medicine man swung the door open in two seconds, his
eyes wide and he seemed flustered. "Gabrielle! Oh thank the gods child,
you've returned!"

"Is there a problem?" I demanded as I walked briskly into the
hut. "Where's Xena?"

"I went out for a minute," Domeles trembled slightly, his old
hands shaking. "And when I came back I found..."

"...Four Xenas?" I ended for him. Four warrior princesses were
infront of us. Looking, sounding and smelling like Xena. Domeles nodded
then turned back at the remarkable sight. This was the work of some god
I knew.

"Feed Xena's horse, Domeles," I instructed. The old man nodded
and left me alone with the four leather-clad, metal-breatplate bearing
warrior princesses.

Suddenly, I heard Aprodite's laughter echo in the house before
a sudden shower of golden sparkles appeared and the beautiful blonde
goddess stood before me, her deep dimples showing on her pretty face
and her hands on the hips of her sexy dress.

"Aprodite," I rolled my eyes as I sighed, letting my staff
support me partially. I was really getting tired. A mere mortal, me,
being tested by the gods. Not just one but three and with six stupid
tests... "I should've known."

The goddess chuckled naughtily, her playful smile seductive and
charming. Thank the gods I sent Domeles out. Then again, he might have
needed a whole bottle of viagara to keep it up the whole night. She
gestured behind her with a slim hand, a brillant smile on her face.
"Guess which one's Xena."

I stepped forward, past her and studied each of them carfully.
They all looked the same, like quadriplets from the same stock. They
all had the same special blue eyes I adored, the same raven dark hair,
were of the same size and stature and wore the same clothes. I raised
my eyebrows. "Which one of you is Xena?"

"I am!"
"It's me, Gabrielle!"
"No it's not, Gabrielle, it's me!"
"Quit shoving!"

"All right!" I shouted, shutting my eyes and pressing my
fingers into my throbbing temple. I could hear Aprodite enjoying
herself in the corner. Fabulous. I reopened my green eyes and studied
each and every one... four of them again. "I'll start asking each of
you questions. Sit down and answer only when it's your turn."

The four Xenas grumbled but sat down anyway.

"Okay, Xena number One," I cleared my throat as I paced about
the room, thinking of quetions worth asking. "What's the name of my

"Lila" Xena number One answered, looking bored.

"Correct," I licked my lips and continued pacing. I continued
with the next lookalike. "Xena number Two, your question: What's my
favourite fruit?"

"C'mon Gabrielle, you know it's me-"

"Answer the question!" I snapped.

"Cherries," Xena number Two sullenly replied.

I sighed. This was harder than I thought. I continued pacing,
my mind whirling. "Xena number Three- what was that thing I ate on
board the cursed ship when you did that arm pinch on me?"

Xena number Three smiled, an eyebrow raised. "Raw squid. That
had you puking for many days after too."

"Right," I nodded as I continued my pace. I shut my eyes,
willing the right Xena to appear infront of me but no such luck. I
took in a deep breath, trying to calm myself. "Xena number Four,
tell me: When's our anniversary?"

Xena number Four was struck speechless. She rolled her blue
eyes about, racking her brains for the answer. "Uh... the fifth day of

"No, that's my birthday," I stopped my pacing.

"The ah... sixteenth day of Spring!"

"Yes," I blinked. This one wasn't too perfect. Could she be a
fraud? I had to ask more to find out, I realised. And little Miss Love
Goddess was enjoying the little show.

I faced the four of them. "Xena has many skills. Let's all go
outside and see what you can do." We all lumbered out. It was so wierd.
They all strided out the same way- back confidentally straight, strong
arms swaying by their sides slightly, and their footsteps alike. It's
going to be tough.

"Glad you realised," Aprodite purred into my ear as she passed
me by. She had read my thoughts, I realised.

We stood in a field, under the darkening sky. Aprodite and I
stood by the side while the four warrior princesses stood abreast one
another, looking equally competitve. You know, that trademark Xena
look- jaw stuck out, lips compressed and blue eyes narrowed.

"Xena number One?" I called out.

Xena number One gave out her perfect warcry. It was good and
clear. Very Xena. She stepped back, pleased.

"Xena number Two?"

Xena number Two drew her sword and swung fanciful rounds with
it. Very impressive. Also very Xena.

"Number Three?"

The warrior, without a hitch, did her infamous flip and landed
perfectly on her flip. I had tried doing that before, only succeeding
in wrecking my stupid ankle and later getting shot by a poisoned arrow.
Ah yes, she started with her right foot. Very good, also very Xena.


She stood stoically for a second. Then she suddenly pulled out
her chakram from her side and hurled it effortlessly. It flew past our
heads, hit a tree trunk, rocketted off to another tree, flew through
some bushes, rebounded from a branch, whizzing past our noses before
coming back to her hand. A bunch of cherries fell down before her and
she catched it in her hand as she replaced her chakram. She tossed it
over at me, a smile on her face.

Xena number Four. Definately possesses many skills, I noted.
Also extremely Xenaish. Aprodite wriggled beside me, confident I had
lost this time. I was starting to feel down too. This was the hardest
test of the six.

"Give it up Gabster," Aprodite cooed, a nasty smirk on her
face. "You know you can't win. One more round of question and answers
then you make your chioce."

I pounded the ground with the bottom of my staff, frustrated.
There was no telling who the real Xena was unless... I played with the
bunch of cherries. I had an idea.

"This is the last round," I declared. "And the most important."

The four Xenas and one goddess quieted down, figidting with
excitment. They waited for me to start the questions again. I twirled
my staff around, getting myself prepared. "I want you to make love to

"All four?" Aprodite asked, her eyebrows raised in amusement.

I nodded. It was going to be the only way to find my warrior
princess, amidst her other three lookalikes. "Yes."

Xena number One walked over, her shoulders slightly raised as
she grinned. She wriggled her fingers before poucing on me like a
ruffian would. She tore of my clothes like a child unwrapping a
Solstice present. Her movements were animal-like and sometimes

"Get off me," I ordered, pushing her away. I picked up my
green blouse. "You're not the real Xena."

The lookalike rolled off sulkily then burst into nothing.
Aprodite narrowed her eyes, her hands on her hips. I looked over at
Xena number Two. "You."

She strided over then knelt down gently, cupping my chin and
giving me a ladylike kiss. It felt strange. It definately wasn't Xena's
style. I shook my head. "No, it's not you."

Xena number Two poofed up in smoke and disappeared. Aprodite
narrowed her eyes further, a pout forming on her lips. I signalled to
the next Xena. "Over here."

"Uh Gabrielle," the warrior princess raised her hand in an
almost apologectic manner. "Sorry, not tonight... I've got a headache."

I smirked as I shook my head. "You're not Xena, she never does
that." The fraud faded away into the night. I turned to the last one.
There she was, my very own warrior princess standing under the soft
moon beams. Aprodite wasn't looking very pleased. She looked like she
was about to throw a temper tantrum.

"Give it up Aprodite," Xena told her as she came over to my
side. "You've lost. Go back to Olympus and cry. You've had your fun."

All she could manage was a proud shake of her golden locks
before she went away in a shower of golden sparkles. I've done it, I
realised, congragulating myself.

"You did it Gabrielle," Xena took me into her secure warrior
arms and nuzzled my hair, her face smiling. "Thank you."

I turned around, an impish smile on my face. I hung my hands
behind her neck, looking at her playfully. "How do I really make sure
you're the real Xena?"

The warrior raised her left eyebrow in amusement, her pair of marvellous blue eyes twinkling under the moon.

"You never did test 3 of the question and answer segment," I
teased, staring into those familiar blue pools. "So how would I know
you're not some fraud lookalike pretending to be the warrior princess?"

Xena grinned slowly, her hand running slowly down the side of
my face, the other caresing the base of my back. "Gabrielle, I'm going
to take you tonight."

"Good," I narrowed my mischevious green eyes to slits and
grinned. "'Cos I'm *real* hungry!"

--------------[ THE END ]-------------

Disclaimer: Xena's three other lookalikes were not harmed during the
production. (Only an unfortuneate chicken called Hercules).

Xena --------------- Lucy Lawless
Gabrielle ------------- Renee O'Connor
Aprodite -------------- Alexandra Tydings
Ares --------------- Kevin Smith
Narrator -------------- Amazon Moon

** Okay, my very first fanfic for the new year. Hope everyone likes it.
It's an attempt at writing more... "serious" stuff. Did it work? Well,
all comments to go to me at Feel free to drop
a note with your comments or just to say HI to a fellow Xenite. :) So
here's wishing everybody a great new year and peace for mankind!**
Battle On, Xenites! ~ Amazon Moon, 1999C.

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