For my friend, the engaging, reclusive Anon--who never babbles.
"Where is she?" I wonder aloud.
But, I am not alarmed...yet. It has been five full days since she bade me a smiling farewell at the crossroad and rode forth down the valley of Angor. The urgent note beseeching her to come at once had been signed by someone named Cyrillis. I did not know him but studying Xena's face as she intently read the note, I noticed that while her expression changed little her eyes indicated that she indeed recognized the name.
She had not even waited to finish her supper. "I have to go," she had said and so naturally enough I had immediately began to break camp. To my surprise and yes, disappointment too, she had softly laid her hand on my shoulder and said, "Not this time, Gabrielle. I have to do this alone." Her demeanor told me the subject was now closed so I did not bother to press her further for an explanation as to who this mysterious suppliant was.
This was nothing new. Several times in the past she had left me to my own devices while she sped off on the beautiful Argo to heed some urgent call for help. However this time was to be different. This time she said she expected to be gone for several days and when I had voiced my displeasure at being left behind she had gently, but firmly, squelched my protest in mid-sentence. Then, with a warm smile and a softer voice she had said, "Meet me on the heights of Andrean in five days."
"I'll be there," I had promised her.
And with that she had mounted her horse and she and the young
messenger had departed, leaving me standing there in silence as I wistfully
watched them fade from view in the distance. For the next five days I busied
myself as best I could, the third day being particularly nice because I was
able to spend most of it with the wily Autolycus. As one might expect he had
a scheme cooked up which centered around relieving an arrogant local official
of his prize possession--a bejeweled golden urn. As he often does when we meet
he generously invited me to participate and while I must admit I was intrigued
by the audacity of his plan, in the end I decided against it. The Hills of Andrean
were still more than a day away and I did not want to take a chance on being
held up. So, with much regret I had wished my wonderfully incorrigible friend
luck and went on my way.
"Xena, where are you?" I ask again. After a heavy sigh I gather wood and build a small fire. Phoebus' fiery chariot has passed over the hills to the west now and the last light of day is fading fast. I have not eaten all day and as a result my stomach is howling in angry protest at its neglect.
"Let's see....." Checking my bag I find a hunk of dry cheese and some stale bread--that's all. "Oh well," I sigh, "it will have to do." My indignant belly cares not a whit that my taste buds are displeased by this mean repast and soon I am feeling its warm glow of satisfaction.
It is dark now and in the late winter sky I see the mighty hunter Orion, his bow drawn, his great dog at his heels, once again doing battle with the fierce Taurus off to the southwest. "Damn her!" I mutter, my breath visible in the cool air. Even now, after almost four years, she treats me as if I am a nothing--a lowly vassal whose company is to be tolerated because it suits her purposes! I am The Cook, The Drudge, The Amusing Spinner of Yarns. But mostly it is because she deems my breasts and my eagerly awaiting Womanhood which longingly ache for her caress to be useful on those occasions when her powerful lustful desires need to be quenched. I am The Toy--to be smothered under her power and to be played with as she sees fit.
Suddenly a voice inside me cries, "NO!" I shake my head as if to clear away some mist in my reeling brain. The voice is right. You are an inconstant fool, Gabrielle. I am not her camp whore, I am not her drudge. It is only my anger, my frustration, my....loneliness talking. To be sure we have had our trials and tribulations, Xena and I, and for a time our passion did indeed grow cool but through it all I have always felt her inexorably drawn to me. As I to her. Yes we have at times wounded each other's heart deeply but does that make us any different from other lovers? I think not. It is true what they say, you know; love and hate are not so very different.
But where is she?
The hours pass. Orion and Taurus carry their great eternal struggle over the horizon and disappear. This night has proven to be much colder than the last. I build up the fire and edge closer to it, my blanket pulled up snug around me. Now at last my optimism begins to wane and I feel the dark shroud of concern descend over me. In spite of this I stubbornly tell myself, "She is on her way here this very minute so stop your worrying. After all, it's not like Xena to be sloppy in her work. If she had been delayed she would have sent word...wouldn't she?" Maybe. Then again, maybe not.
Suddenly a terrifying thought comes to me. What if something terrible has happened to her? Sweet gods! What if right this very moment she is lying injured somewhere? Maybe I should go look for her. No, Xena said to wait for her here. But should I? Again I chide myself for my irresolution. "Gabrielle, you silly goose, what are you talking about? Our Xena is invincible.....almost. Nothing has happened to her."
So where is she?
I pick up a stick and absently begin to poke at the fire. Losing myself in the flickering light, I fall prey to another possibility; one just as disturbing as the idea of harm befalling my warrior. It is one I admit has wormed its way into my consciousness before despite my best efforts to repress it. What if......she isn't......coming back? What if she has decided the time has at long last come to rid herself of the tag-a-long that fetters her wild spirit? Yes, that's it. She has grown tired of me.
No wait. It is not true! She would not leave me thus! Yes, she would doubtless tell me to my face if it were so. After all, the warrioress who fears neither man nor god would certainly not just unobstrusivly slip away from an insignificant little bard. But who am I kidding anyway? After all I have experienced in the last four years I could no longer settle for being a simple bard any more than Ares or Callisto could. If there's one thing I have learned in my time with Xena it is that the only true callings in life are those that help people. With or without Xena being in the service of others is how I want to spend my life and that calls for much more than being able to turn a clever phrase.
I am loathe to admit it but I am frightened. I hate being apart from her! It is as if a part of my very soul is missing. Ohhh, Xena, where are you?
I pitch the last of the wood onto the fire and then yawn in spite of myself. It has been a long day and I am tired. With a sigh of resignation I lay down upon the cold ground and try to rest. Thankfully the cool winds have died down. I do not know how long I lay there tossing and turning but the realization finally comes to me. It is no use. I miss her strong arm around me, pulling me closer still to envelop me in her long, lean body. I long to once more feel her warn breath on my neck as she holds me close.
The night creeps on. My eyelids are heavy but sleep stubbornly refuses to come. It is my fault. I have grown comfortable in the shadow of her greatness. I fear I have even begun to take her for granted. "Well no more," I solemnly vow. "From now on I will tell her what she means to me. I will tell her every day how she is my entire universe." My gods! She is such a magnificent creature! Ohhh, Xena, I love you so!
Off in the darkness I hear rustling sounds in the tall, dry grass. In a wink I bolt up from my pallet. "Xena?" I hopefully call out. "Is that you?" But no, it is not Xena. Now I see it is only an enterprising stoat out looking for a fast meal. Again I lie down and there on my back look up at the myriad of stars twinkling overhead and as I have so often done before begin to wonder what they really are. To me they seem much like Phoebus' great chariot only much farther away. Xena says there is no such thing as Phoebus' chariot and she is rarely wrong about such things. I only wish I knew more about the wondrous world around me. I think "how" and "why" are the greatest of all words.
By now the great lion in the sky has also slipped behind the hills to the west. She is not coming. Very well. In a few short hours Eos will once again return and her gift which drives away the gloom of night will find me well on my way to Angor. Be she displeased to see me or no I care not for even if all that greets me is her menacing scowl I must see her! But first...I must try to rest. Yes...must...rest. A long day...so tired. Xena, where are you? Where...Tomorrow...follow after her. So tired. So...I miss you....soooo..........
I am awakened by a warm touch on my shoulder. "Gabrielle?" a low voice calls out. My leaden eyelids reluctantly crack open and I see an oh so familiar silhouette hovering over me. "Gabrielle," the sweet voice repeats, "wake up, you sleepyhead."
"Xena?" I sleepily murmur. "Is that you?"
"No," the voice answers in a very wry tone. "It's your friendly neighborhood wood nymph."
"Cute," I reply, still groggy.
Suddenly a strong arm digs in under my shoulders and I am hoisted up to a sitting position as easily as if I am nothing more than a cheap rag doll.
"Where have you been?" I mumble as I gain my senses.
"I got held up," Xena tersely answers. I sense she is uninterested in doing any explaining at the moment. Her leathers creak as she bends forward and I thrill to the sensation of her warm breath on my cheek. "Gabrielle," she huskily whispers in my ear, "I've missed you."
A moment later her warm, full lips are upon mine and as her strong hand falls on my breast I melt in her arms. "Xena," I whimper, momentarily tearing away from her artful tongue, "where were you? I was beginning to--"
"Shhh," she gently chides as she begins to gently nip at my neck. "Tomorrow. I'll tell you tomorrow. You weren't worried, were you?"
Amid my soft moans I manage to gasp out a soft, "No." It is a lie but at the moment I don't care. Suddenly my earlier concerns seem so trivial. And why not? My Xena has returned once more and all is right with the world.
"Gabrielle," she rasps, "I've got to have you....NOW!"
As always it is the sweetest of music to my ears. My only reply is to draw my knees up and spread them wide apart. And deep in the night, on that lonely ridge, I give myself to her.
Tomorrow I will jump her good for scaring me. Tomorrow I will
tell her no more stupid "meet me later" nonsense. I cannot stand it. Tomorrow
I will...........tell her how she is my universe. Tomorrowwwwwwwwwww.
We spend the rest of the night entwined in each other's arms until finally we bear witness to the wonder of Eos' return. As for myself I lie contentedly pressed against my lover's warm body and the glow I feel inside is much like that now on display in the eastern sky. Beside me she sleeps now, her chest rising and falling rhythmically as she dreams of the gods only know what. Whatever it is I hope it pleases her. Ever so gently I reach out and take a long black tress between my fingers. My beautiful warrior!
At last I close my eyes and just before sleep comes I think of last night's vigil and for perhaps the millionth time I give thanks to the gods for sending her to me. I say unto you that if one had the combined wealth of all the gods, kings, and princes of all the world still they would not be as rich as I for I have the greatest treasure of all. I have Xena's heart. And for as long as it beats within my adoring breast, she shall have mine.
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