Close Encounters of the Warrior Kind
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Solari, Epinon and Argo belong to MCA/Universal Television and Renaissance Pictures. All the others are mine. This piece is not meant to garner any profit. Again, as in my first pieces, I beg the forgiveness of the real-life portrayers of these characters. I was dropped on my head as a baby.
WARNING: If you're underage and smut is illegal where you dwell, reading this may prove injurious. There is very definitely material of a very mature nature involving consenting female adults. Consider yourself well warned. Also, I took huge liberties with the mystery of Xena's parentage as well as liberal use of a personally-owned character used in a previous story. I like her. 'Nough said.
THANK YOU: Tim. You're Godssent.
Except for my sword, everything I had was strapped to the saddle of my horse. My extra change of clothes, my warm cloak, my bedroll and my food and water. I was so sore and tired I was dizzy. I'd been walking for candlemarks, and it was late afternoon. I had to find a secure place to rest for the night. Someplace where I could find fresh water and maybe some berries or nuts. I chuckled to myself despite my fatigue and growling stomach. The nuts might not be too hard to find, but the berries would be long gone. It was autumn and the berry-bearing bushes had since turned from a feast for the stomach to a more colorful feast for the eyes.
I did have my sword, and, if thrown just right, it could skewer a rabbit or squirrel for me. However, I had nothing with which to start a fire. Eating raw meat did not really appeal to me. If I could find water, I could fill up with that. While it wouldn't really appease my hunger, it would stop the rumbling.
I hadn't passed a soul all day. No people, no animals, no villages. I'd never been on this road before, and I cursed the curiosity that had made me choose this path back at the crossroads where I ran into the trouble. All it did was get me beaten, robbed, hungry, tired and lost. It certainly had not been one of my better days.
I continued my trek up the next rise. Off to my left was a stand of oaks and pine. I stopped and listened. Yes, and running water. I left the dirt cartpath and made my way through the towering old trees until I came upon a clearing. It was now deep in shadow but had a nice view of the darkening sky. It would be a good enough spot to spend the oncoming night.
I could still hear that water, so I continued on to find the source. A further walk of only a couple of minutes brought me out of the woods to a small tree-surrounded pool of sweet-smelling, clear water. The sound I had heard was the water cascading down from a height of rocks. At the pool's far end, it narrowed down to a stream that tumbled and burbled its way down a hillside darkened by the towering trees.
I ran to the water's edge, dropped down onto my stomach and stuck my face in the ice cold water. I slurped and sucked greedily until I thought I'd burst. Also, the temperature of the water had caused me to lose the feeling in my hands and mouth. I sat back on my heels and looked around me at the pristine beauty of the place. Well, I thought, if I have to be cold and hungry, at least it's a pretty place to do it in.
I made my way back to the clearing and lay myself down under a very old oak, judging from its size. I shivered on my bed of pine needles and oak leaves. It was getting too dark among the trees to go searching for food now. I really hurt, and I was really tired. I placed my sword at my side and rolled over, drawing my knees up to my chest. Here at the base of the mountains, it was going to be a cold night. I was going to keep as much body heat in as I could. Fatigue quickly took over, and I fell asleep without shivering for too long.
"Gabrielle, we'd better stop for the night," the warrior said to her friend as she continued to follow the lone set of footprints in the dirt.
"Well, I am hungry, and the sun's going down," the younger woman conceded. "Still, I can't lose the feeling that whoever the person is that we've been tracking all day really needs our help."
"I'm sure you're right if that mess of prints back at the crossroads was any indication." The warrior continued scrutinizing the ground as she walked slowly on, leading Argo by the reins. "Whoever is on foot now, was on horseback then. And, whoever it is, they're small, defenseless most likely and definitely limping."
Gabrielle came alongside the warrior. "Let's go on just a short while longer, Xena. Please?"
The dark-haired warrior looked into concerned green eyes and smiled. "Ok. Just till the sun hits the horizon. Then we have to find a place to stop."
"Good. It'll just make me feel better."
Gabrielle has a really good hear, Xena thought as she followed the prints up a rise. The blond walked by her side, and Argo plodded placidly along behind. "Wait."
"They end here." She stood up straight and looked around her. She searched and she listened. "There's water near here. I bet that's where our traveler has gone. The prints lead off the road toward the woods. They're seeking refuge for the night. Come on, Gabrielle."
The bard did a hop, skip and jump as she tried to catch up with the long-legged warrior who had lumbered off into the trees. It wasn't long before they came to the clearing. The sound of water appeared to be very close by. Xena handed the reins to Gabrielle and motioned for her to stay back under cover of the trees. Noiselessly she crept into the clearing, sword in hand, ready for any surprise attack. It was pretty dark in the clearing, and she depended upon her senses and keen hearing as she peered into the shadows. Then she saw a body curled up under an oak tree. Silently she approached it. She stood for a moment waiting for movement. When it wasn't forthcoming, she stooped down and placed a hand on the shoulder. She pulled her hand back and jumped up quickly as the body jerked and rolled onto its back, pointing a sword at her stomach.
"Whoa, warrior!" she yelled. "Hold a moment. I'm here to help." Zeus! This is just a kid.
I could see the point of my sword shaking as I held it above me. A woman, a very tall woman, looked down at me, and she knocked my blade aside with her own as she spoke.
"Who are you?" I hoped she couldn't hear the fear in my voice. "What do you want?"
"Put your sword down. I'm not going to hurt you." The warrior sheathed her own weapon. "My name is Xena."
"Xena! The Warrior Princess?" I asked in awe.
"Yes. I've been tracking you since I came on the crossroads this morning. It looked like you'd met with some trouble, and I wanted to make sure you were all right."
I laid my sword on the ground and sat up, wincing with pain. "I'm ok. Sort of." I managed to laugh a little. She took one of my hands and helped me to my feet, and I groaned. "My name is Sinea."
"Well, Sinea, let us get camp set up and a fire started. Over supper you can tell us what happened." Xena turned back to the trees behind her. "Gabrielle!"
The blond came into the clearing leading a palomino warhorse. "Gabrielle, this is Sinea. Would you set up camp while I see to Argo and get a fire started?"
"Sure, Xena. Hi, Sinea." The smaller woman tried to check me out with a glance. She looked worried.
"Hi, Gabrielle," I said. "Is there something I can do, Xena?" I offered, my teeth beginning to chatter with the cold and fatigue.
"Yeah. You can wrap up in this and sit down before you fall down." She removed her own cloak and wrapped it around my shoulders.
I gratefully did as she ordered. Gabrielle had removed their packs from the horse Xena was unsaddling. The blond rolled out two bedrolls and brought over a pan and some cooking utensils. As the taller woman fed her horse, Gabrielle began gathering wood for the fire.
The warrior dug a firepit and arranged the smaller pieces of wood in it. Sparks flew from her flint, and a bright flame jumped to life in the dry leaves and needles she used for kindling. The two women worked with quiet precision as though they had this making camp thing down to a science. I directed them toward the water, and before I knew it we were all warming ourselves by a cheery, crackling fire. Gabrielle placed a bowl of thick, hot stew in my hands and Xena passed me a piece of bread.
"Ok, Sinea, tell us your story," she said to me as she blew on a spoonful of hot stew.
"Well, I'm from Athens. I left there about two moons ago to see if I could make a living as a warrior-for-hire," I related, relishing the nourishing meal. "When I reached the crossroads this morning, I was attacked by five men. I wounded two of them, but I got pretty well beaten and they stole my horse along with everything else I owned. I don't know why they didn't kill me." I sopped up the stew juice with the last of my bread and popped it into my mouth.
"Maybe they only rob and beat kids, not kill them. You're not from Greece," Xena stated matter-of-factly. "I've heard your accent before, but I can't place it."
The warrior's incredibly blue eyes studied me. Very carefully, I was sure. "My father was an ambassador at Court. He died, and I had no place to go. I'm a Celt, but I've spent the last ten years of my life in Athens."
"That's where I've heard your accent." Xena' said soflty, eyes slowly going to the fire.
I saw the blond put a hand on the warrior's shoulder and there was deep affection in her eyes. "M'Lila?" she asked quietly.
"Yes," Xena answered, barely above a whisper. There was deep sadness in her voice. "I taught her a few Greek phrases while she was on my ship. She had the same accent." Gabrielle gave Xena a brief hug. I didn't know what it was all about, but it seemed pretty obvious she'd cared about someone once who spoke Greek with a Gaelic accent. Not something one would run into every day.
I watched all this in curious silence. There was obviously a deep-seeded love between Gabrielle and Xena. The looks they gave each other and the little ministrations to each other's needs by the other were not lost on me. I wished I had someone to feel about me the way they so obviously felt about each other. I was sixteen. I was an orphan, and I was alone.
The hot food and the heat of the fire had taken their toll. I was losing it fast. Gabrielle noticed my glazed look and nudged Xena. She turned and spoke to me with genuine warmth in her voice.
"Sinea, go and crawl into that bedroll over there and get some sleep. When it's light, I'll look over your body to see about the bumps, bruises and possible sprains. I think what you really need is a good night's rest."
I looked at the two bedrolls lying side-by-side near the fire. "If I take your bedroll, Xena, where will you sleep?"
She smiled at me, and those blue eyes reached into my soul. "I'll just bunk in with Gabrielle. It won't be the first time, and I doubt it will be the last. Take the one nearest the fire. We'll have the benefit of the extra body heat."
"Thanks. You guys have been so kind. I don't think there's any way I'll ever be able to repay you for it." I felt tears burn my eyes.
"No need. That's what friends do," Gabrielle chimed in.
I smiled at her as I painfully regained my feet and handed Xena's cloak back to her. At my sharp intake of breath, I saw her wince in sympathy. It was obvious that Xena the Warrior Princess was very familiar with pain.
I heard the two women talking softly by the fire as I lay wrapped up in a warm wool blanket. What god was smiling on me tonight, allowing me to lay my head on the blanket roll of the famed Warrior Princess? I smiled and drifted on the gentle murmurings coming from across the firelight.
"She looks so young, Xena, to be out on her own like this," Gabrielle said, a motherly note in her voice.
Xena smiled on her companion. "I imagine you and she are much the same age, Gabrielle. She can't be younger by more than a summer or so."
"I'd be willing to bet on it."
"She just seems too young to be a warrior out on her own. I feel for her. She's got nobody, Xena."
"Yeah. She could use some friends all right." The warrior pulled her whetstone from her saddlebag and laid her sword across her lap.
"Want me to tell you a story while you work?" Gabrielle yawned.
"Not tonight, thanks. I've got a lot on my mind."
"I thought you might." The bard brushed strands of chestnut hair back behind Xena's ear.
"Ya gonna write for a while?" The soothing rhythm of stone on metal began to relax the two.
"I don't feel very creative somehow."
"Why don't you go on to bed? I'll stay up and feed the fire for a while." She patted Gabrielle's knee with a warm, callused hand.
"You wouldn't mind?"
"Absolutely not. I won't stay up too long. I'll be there to keep you warm soon." The bard kissed the warrior's cheek, and she watched Xena blush. "What was that for?"
"Just because you're a beautiful person, Xena, and I love you."
"Well, thanks, Gabrielle. I love you, too. Go on to bed."
I slept the entire night without waking up. When I did awaken it was because my nose had become aware of wood smoke, leather and sandalwood. The combination of the three scents was very pleasant, and I inhaled deeply until my ribs and stomach muscles complained of the strain. I opened my eyes with a groan. Xena was down on her haunches on the other side of the fire, stirring the new blaze with a stick. She raised her eyebrows at me.
"A little sore this morning, warrior?"
"Please don't tease. I feel bad enough," I complained as I slowly raised myself to a sitting position.
"I'm not teasing, Sinea. I'm over here being very grateful that I'm not you right now. I know what it's like to be you."
I got to my feet very gingerly. "I need to make a little trip to the bushes. I'll be right back."
"Take it easy. You get stuck, let me know." She had a little smirk on her face as she said this, and I couldn't help but laugh.
"I'm sure I'll manage, but thanks for the offer." I limped off into the nearby bushes, but I didn't go very far. I definitely hurt more today than I had the day before.
When I returned from my call of nature, Xena was just throwing a nice sized log onto the fire. It looked warm and cheery, and the sky was brightening nicely. It was obviously going to be a beautiful fall day. The temperature was still pretty cool in among the trees, but the sun would probably be warm once we got out on the road and on our way.
"Come here by the fire and take your clothes off," Xena ordered without preamble.
"Excuse me?" I replied, somewhat taken by surprise.
"I told you I was going to look you over this morning to see how badly hurt you are. I'm sure you're just banged up, but I'll feel better knowing for sure. Now strip." She stood tall and straight, and the look on her face said not to argue with her.
"Ok." I shyly divested myself of my tunic and pants. I'd taken my boots off to sleep. When I turned back to her, I folded my arms in front of me. She shook her head and walked over to me.
"I thought we'd do this while Gabrielle is still asleep. That way you won't be naked in front of people you don't need to be naked in front of. Just relax. I know what I'm doing." She turned me around to look at my back.
She ran a hand down my spine from the base of my skull to the small of my back, and I could feel goosebumps sprouting on my skin. It was a good thing it was a chilly morning. I could blame it on that and she would be none the wiser. She passed both hands across my shoulders and down the tops of my arms.
"Would you please let your arms hang by your sides, Sinea? I can't tell anything with you all tied up like that."
I did as she bid and felt a lump in my throat as she ran her hands down my forearms and then came around to stand in front of me. She held my hands out in front of me and checked my wrists and fingers. She scrutinized my face, especially my left eye, and then continued making a trail with her hands across my collarbone to my ribs and down my legs to my ankles. There were a few places she touched me that made me draw in my breath sharply. Her eyes would go to mine with a question. There were some of those places that had nothing to do with pain. No woman had ever touched me the way she was now, and I had never been so completely on display before. My body wasn't used to having blue eyes like hers studying every inch of it. Finally, she finished, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I think it was relief.
"Ok. You can put your clothes back on now." She turned away from me and soaked a rag in some ice cold water from the pool. I assumed she had been up a while and been down to the waterfront before making the fire. She turned back to me with the rag folded over several times. "You've got some really nasty bruises, especially on your back and the backs of your thighs. Looks like someone took the flat of a sword to you. I don't think you have any broken bones, including your ribs, but you can see the bruises. You also have some really tight muscles in your stomach and shoulders. I suggest massage and heat Gabrielle's good at massages." Then she chuckled. "And you have one of the most colorful eyes I've ever seen." She sat me down on the log near the fire and placed the folded wet rag over my black eye. "Hold that there for me for a while. When it starts getting warm, give it back to me." She then put a pot of water over the fire to boil. "There's some strain in your right ankle, so walking is out for you for a few days. The less weight you put on it, the quicker it will heal. We'll treat that with compresses and elevation."
"Xena," I objected, "you don't have to be doing all this. You've given me a place to stay for the night and a good meal. I don't want to be holding you up or anything. I'll manage."
She looked at me with one raised eyebrow. "Sure ya will, warrior. You can barely move. You have no food, no blanket, no cloak and no horse. You're real set to stay here in the foothills for the time it will take you to start feeling better."
I looked into the fire, mainly to get away from those intense blue eyes that were teasing me. "Still, I'm not your responsibility. You've done as much as you can do, and I'll be eternally grateful."
"Zeus' great-grandmother's goat!" she cursed. "Sinea, I don't want to argue. I'm older, I'm bigger and I'm a whole lot meaner, and you'll do as I say. Got that?"
I'm sure my eyes were as big around as the chakram I saw hanging at her side. I hadn't expected her to fly off the handle like that. "Yes," I could barely whisper. She could be really intimidating, and I'd made her mad. "What do you want me to do, Xena?"
"That's better." As quickly as she had flared up, she softened. "You're going to ride up on Argo today until we get to a friend's cottage. We should be there by nightfall. Think you can handle the travel? We could wait another day, but it's only going to get colder, and we need to get you some warmer clothes."
"I can handle it, Xena," I assured her. There was no way I was going to give her any more lip. She didn't accept it well.
"Good. We'll stay there a couple of days, until you're feeling more like your old self, and then we'll go on to Arborea." She poured some tea into a mug and handed it to me. "Willowbark. It'll take the edge off the pain."
I accepted it with gratitude. "Thanks." I took a sip and made a face. It was bitter. "Arborea? Isn't that Amazon territory?"
"Yup." She fixed herself a different kind of tea. "I'm going to talk to Gabrielle about getting you in with the Amazons. They can always use another warrior. When you're in better shape, I'll do some sparring with you to see how good you are. No doubt, if you were trained at the Court in Athens, you're no slouch with a weapon."
"I can hold my own," I assured her.
"I imagine you can." She grinned. "When it's not five to one." I saw her eyes go warm as they looked beyond my right shoulder. "Good morning, sunshine," she said with a smile in her voice.
"Good morning," Gabrielle responded. She walked over to the log I was sitting on and sat down. Xena handed her a mug of tea. "Hi, Sinea. How ya doin' this morning?"
Xena laughed. "She's been better, haven't ya?"
I laughed gingerly. "Yeah. A lot better."
"Anybody want some warmed up stew for breakfast?" Gabrielle offered.
There were smiles all around, and the bard took that as a unanimous yes. She stood, shook the stiffness out of her joints and prepared a hot meal for us.
"You're a good cook, Gabrielle. Thanks a lot," I said with genuine appreciation. I was rewarded with a bright smile.
"You're very welcome, Sinea. It's nice to be appreciated."
"I appreciate ya, Gabrielle," Xena was quick to add.
"Sure ya do, Xena." The blond gave the warrior a playful slap on the shoulder.
Dancing blue eyes looked up at me, and I couldn't help but laugh. This, of course, brought instant objection from my aching stomach and back muscles. I grimaced and groaned.
"By the gods, I forgot!" Xena suddenly exploded. "Gabrielle, where did you put that wintergreen salve?"
"In the herb bag. I'll get it." She jumped up and went over to the saddlebags. Walking back to Xena, she handed her a jar.
"Thanks." Xena came over to me. "Lose the modesty, warrior. Take off your tunic and stand up."
I slowly did as she bade but stayed close to the fire. It was cold after all. Gabrielle had reclaimed her seat and was resting her chin on her hand as she watched Xena minister to my sore, bruised body. I felt a blush come to my cheeks when I saw her look me up and down in appraisal.
"This will feel kinda hot and tingly, but you'll notice a decided difference in how much easier you'll be able to move," Xena alerted me.
"Ok." I took my eyes off the blond, but not before I saw her smile at my uneasiness. Then I felt Xena's strong, warm hands on my shoulders and back. At first the salve felt cold, then all of a sudden it turned into liquid fire. I thought I heard my muscles groan in gratitude.
"Turn around, Sinea."
I again did as I had been bidden. Xena's face was all business. She was knowledgeable in the art of healing, and she had great bedside manner. Her eyes were all concern and caring, and her hands were gentle. She applied the salve to my chest and stomach.
"Gabrielle, get my wool tunic from my saddlebag, please."
"This is going to look ridiculous on you, but it'll keep the heat of the salve in where it belongs." She helped slip the tunic over my head and belted it at the waist.
She stood back to admire her handiwork and chuckled. I looked down at myself. The tunic hung to my knees and the sleeves fell way below my hands. Gabrielle giggled and took a hand, beginning to roll up a sleeve for me.
"For a warrior, you aren't very big," she teased.
"Maybe not, but I'm mighty," I replied. In the background I heard Xena snort. I was to learn that was the noise she made when she was truly amused.
Xena was true to her word about her friend's cottage. We arrived there just before nightfall. An older, graying man with sparkling blue eyes came out to greet us.
"Xena! By the gods, it is good to see you! I knew you were coming."
Xena took his hand and kissed it. "I would have been disappointed if you hadn't," she replied. He touched her cheek, and I saw love there.
"Gabrielle, is that you?"
The bard walked over to him, and he caught her up in a big hug. She kissed his weathered cheek. "It's me, Uncle," she said.
"Then who is this?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye and warmth in his smile as he looked at me.
"This is Sinea. We found her on the road yesterday. She ran into some thugs who beat her and stole her horse and all she owned," Xena explained. "She's not in too good shape right now, and I wondered if we could impose upon you for a couple of days? I'll hunt and chop wood for you," she offered.
"Sounds fair, child. By all means bring Sinea inside. Place her on the cot by the fire." He made a sweeping gesture toward his door.
Xena came to help me down from Argo's back. "You steady?" she asked.
"Yeah. I think. Ankle's kinda sore." I took my weight off of it.
"Come on, warrior." Before I knew it, she had one arm around my waist and the other behind my knees and I was being carried toward the door as though I weighed nothing.
"Who is he? It looks like you have a lot of respect for him."
"I do, Sinea. He's like a father to me. His name is Althurius."
"Althurius! Like in demigod Althurius?" I was amazed.
"Yup, the very same."
She brought me into a cheery main room and laid me down on a cot near the fire. I was speechless. I was having quite the adventure. First I'm rescued and cared for by the famed Warrior Princess and her equally famed bard, and now I lay recuperating by the fire of a demigod. I was becoming entirely overwhelmed by the company I was keeping.
That evening was one of the best that I could ever remember having. Gabrielle cooked a wild turkey that Xena had brought down just before dark. There were vegetables from the cellar that she steamed and lots of fresh bread and butter. The wine was pure nectar of the gods. We laughed, told stories and drank. Althurius took pan pipes from his mantle and played some light-hearted music that Gabrielle couldn't help but dance to. I wished I hadn't had a bad ankle. I would have danced with her.
I saw Althurius look at me, squinting his eyes in thought as he played. He looked to Xena for some moments, and I saw her nod a couple of times, never taking her eyes from his face. I got the impression that they were reading each other's mind. When he finished his song, he came over to me.
"Don't be afraid, little one. I'm not going to hurt you," he assured me. He put both hands lightly on my swollen ankle, bowed his head and closed his eyes. The pop and crackle of the fire were the only sounds in the room.
Suddenly I felt intense heat radiating clear to the bone. It felt good, but it kind of frightened me. I didn't know what he was doing. After several minutes, he opened his eyes and smiled at me. "Get up, child. See how it feels now."
I swung my legs off the cot and stood up gingerly, tensing for pain. I leaned all my weight on my bad leg. Then I hopped up and down on it. "Ares' ass! What did you do?" Suddenly I realized what I had just said. "I'm so sorry!" I stammered in embarrassed apology. "I shouldn't have said that."
"Nonsense," he said, laughing a deep, rumbling, pleasant laugh. "Why not? Ares is only my obnoxious uncle. I often think about his ass myself. As in a good swift kick in the " We all laughed. "As for what I did. Not much. It's just a little gift I have. I like to share it."
"Thank you, Althurius," I continued hopping around the room.
"You are welcome, child. Now. If I play some more, will you dance?"
"Oh, yeah!" I assured him. "I love to dance."
"Good. So does Gabrielle, but the tall, brooding warrior doesn't do dancing." He frowned at Xena in mock anger.
"You're right, Father. The tall, brooding warrior does not do dancing," Xena said in her low voice. "But she loves to watch."
He chuckled as he picked up his pan pipes again. "Too much voyeurism isn't good, Xena. You must participate to appreciate."
"In some things, you are absolutely right," she said with a smirk on her face.
He looked at Gabrielle and then over at Xena with a questioning expression on his face. In two heartbeats I saw her face turn red and she looked down at her hands. I wondered what that was all about, but not for long. He began to play a lively tune that I knew, so I bowed to Gabrielle and she curtsied to me. I took her left hand in mine, placed my hand at her waist from behind, and side-by-side we stepped off in the folkdance I'd learned at Court. We stepped right lively around the table, and Xena had to pull in her long legs to keep from tripping us. Soon she was clapping her hands in time to the music. When the dance was over, we were all laughing and I noticed that my muscles were loosening up some. It didn't hurt as much to laugh any more.
"Here's one you should remember, Sinea, although it's been a long time since you've heard it." He sat down on the bench and began to play slowly and soulfully.
I raised my eyes to his in surprise, and I saw a smile lurking in the corners. I felt my own eyes begin to burn with tears. He was playing an old Gaelic lullaby that I hadn't heard since I was very small. One that my mother had sung to me every night until she died giving birth to my brother Connear. He died two days later. Music could bring great joy and painful, sweet memories. When he finished the song, he reached over and patted my head.
"To bed with all of you now. I need my beauty sleep."
He placed his instrument back on the mantle. "Gabrielle,
show Sinea where the necessary is, would you?"
"Certainly, Uncle." She grabbed Xena's and her own cloak and handed one to me. "Come on. It's out back here." We went out into the still, cold night.
The stars were like diamonds flickering in the sky. Our breath hung in the air. "It's a beautiful night," I said.
"Uh-huh, but it's cold." She laughed and grasped my arm.
I don't know why I did it, but I leaned forward and kissed her. To my amazement, she responded. I felt a tightening between my legs. She belongs to Xena, and I'm not messing with that. I pulled away reluctantly. Did I see disappointment on her face? Couldn't be.
"Thank you for everything, Gabrielle. You and Xena are the best." We began to walk toward the back of the cottage.
"It's ok, Sinea. We like you, too."
When we had finished our business outside, we opened the cottage door quietly in case Althurius was already in bed. He and Xena were standing, facing the fire.
"You know I do, Father," Xena said.
"Then why are you making her wait, Xena?"
"I have my reasons."
"Not good enough, child. She's flesh and blood, and she will not wait for you forever." Xena didn't respond. Then he took her in his arms and kissed her on the forehead.
"I don't think we're supposed to be observing this," I whispered to Gabrielle.
She cleared her throat as she loudly closed the door. I took her cloak and hung it on the peg. "It's getting really cold out, but the stars are beautiful," she said.
Xena and Althurius backed away from each other, and the warrior looked down at the floor.
"There'll be a snowstorm here in three or four days. You may want to be away by then," he warned.
"I'm going to give Sinea until the day after tomorrow to lose some of those bruises and stiffness, then we'll have to move on." Xena took her cloak from my hands with a smile. "I'm going to check on Argo. You two had better be in bed when I get back."
"Goodnight, children," Althurius said, going into the other room.
"Goodnight," we all echoed.
I was warm and toasty and decided not to sleep in my tunic. After all, Xena had seen me naked and Gabrielle had seen me half-naked. It wasn't anything new. I lay down on my cot with my hands behind my head. Gabrielle was getting the box bed ready for Xena and herself.
"Hm-m?" She began to undress and I averted my eyes.
"Is Althurius Xena's father?" I asked.
After slipping on her shift, she came and sat on the foot of my bed. "She hasn't said so, but, like you, I've wondered. They certainly do have a special bond I haven't seen her have with anyone else."
"She has his eyes and smile."
Gabrielle grinned. "You noticed that, too, did you?"
"Yeah. And she's incredibly strong, don't you think? Even for her size."
"Yeah. Also, the gods respect and fear her, which I've never been able to understand. She's even had them ask her for favors." She shrugged. "You'd think it'd be the other way round."
"I wonder why," I said, musing.
"Me, too, Sinea. Me, too. She seems real important to them, and I'd love to know the reason." She shrugged again. "But if she knows, she's not talking."
"Maybe she's not free to, Gabrielle." She looked at me and frowned. "Just stay by her side and love her. She needs it, and don't ask her for what she can't do."
"Is it that obvious?" she asked, almost in a whisper.
"What? That you love her?"
"Yeah." She picked at a thread on my blanket.
"Hera's eyes, yes! It's only Xena that doesn't see it."
"What it doesn't Xena see?"
We both jumped nearly out of our skin. "Xena! You have got to quit doing that," Gabrielle reprimanded.
The warrior chuckled and started taking off her leathers. Right in front of us. "You didn't answer my question. What is it that I don't see?"
"We were talking about what a good time we had tonight, but how you miss out on half of it 'cause you won't dance. You don't see how much fun it is."
Nice save, Gabrielle. I breathed a sigh of relief. So did she I noticed as Xena walked over and slipped into bed.
Her sword and chakram were on a chair which she pulled into easy reach. "Come on, Gabrielle. Dance your little ass over here and get next to the wall."
"Ooh, Gabrielle," I crooned. "Sounds wicked."
"Goodnight, Sinea," she said with a grimace as she crossed the floor in her bare feet.
"G'night, Gabrielle. Xena."
"Night, warrior," Xena growled, already half asleep.
The day before we left Althurius' cottage was as much fun as the first evening we'd spent there. I almost hated to leave. I liked him a lot, and I was beginning to love my new companions.
We stood outside the morning of our departure. Near the door was a large stack of firewood that Xena had cut for Althurius. It would be enough to last him the winter. It was incredible that it had taken her only one day to accomplish the task. Her strength and stamina amazed me. She had worked on the project from dawn until dark. When she came in for dinner, she had looked only slightly fatigued.
Now she sat atop Argo, and we were saying our goodbyes. Althurius was giving Gabrielle another of his bear hugs.
"You have a safe trip to Arborea. May Artemis watch over you," he said to all three of us.
"I'm sure she'll take your request into consideration, since you have fairly tight connections," Xena said drolly.
"Thank you for everything," I said, surprised when he hugged me, too.
"You're welcome, child."
"Haven't you forgotten something, Uncle?" Gabrielle asked, raising an eyebrow a la Xena.
He laughed a deep-throated laugh. "No, I haven't forgotten. A small glimpse of your future before you leave." He looked at me and grinned. "It's tradition," he explained. He looked up at Xena. "Everything you have ever needed is within your grasp. Embrace it, child." I saw the love in her eyes as she looked down on him. She said nothing, only nodded. Next he put his hands on Gabrielle's shoulders. "Your life will be full of joy and pain and an undying love." I thought that sounded pretty general until I saw the look on the blond's face. He had said something pretty specific to her, it seemed. He turned his deep blue eyes on me. "Sinea, very very soon you will find your soulmate. You'll have a very happy, fulfilling life with a lot of family and a lot of love."
"A soulmate?" I queried.
"How will I know?"
He laughed again. "Oh, you'll know, child. You'll know."
"We'd better get going if we want to reach the Amazon border by tomorrow night," Xena said softly. "Goodbye, Father."
"Goodbye, child. My love goes with you."
"And mine stays with you," she replied.
We waved and followed Xena and Argo out of the yard. When we came up alongside the palomino, Xena smiled down at Gabrielle. "How about a story?"
"Sure. What kind do you want to hear?" the blond asked her friend.
"How 'bout a naughty one?" I saw the glint in the warrior's eyes, and I snickered.
"You sure?" she asked.
"Yeah, Gabrielle. Tell us a dirty story."
"Well, ok. If that's what you want." As she thought for a moment, I saw Xena's eyes turn back toward the cottage. There was a hint of sadness in them for the briefest of moments. Then, she looked down at me and her mood changed in a heartbeat.
"Where's my story, Gabrielle?"
"Right." The bard used her staff as a walking stick and struck up a rhythm born of practice on the road with her friend. "Well, these three warlords came to a village hoping to find an inn that would cater to a specific need, if you catch my drift. They came across the first inn, and it caught the attention of the tallest warlord. The sign outside showed a painting of a woman's breasts. He knew that was where he belonged, so he said goodbye to his companions. The remaining two continued on their way. Further on another inn came into view, and it caught the eye of the shortest warlord. The sign outside showed a woman's long, shapely legs. He said goodbye, and his companion went on. The last warlord decided to check out all the inns in the village before making a decision. Finally, he came to a weather-beaten building with a badly-painted sign out front which showed a plump, rosy ass. His mouth began to water at the sight, and he felt a stirring between his legs. He knew this was the inn for him. Now, he'd been hitting his wineskin pretty heavily on his wanderings around town, so he was ready for a good..you know."
"Yeah, Gabrielle, we know," Xena said in a liquid velvet voice.
I just chuckled and kept pace alongside the younger woman. I wanted her to get on with the story.
"Well, a woman came out into the yard, and the warlord walked up to her. He told her he wanted a room for the night, plenty of wine and the woman who's ass was displayed on the sign. The woman frowned at the disgustingly dirty warlord and noticed the large bulge in the front of his pants. He asked where he could find the woman. His hostess became really amused at his obviously painful condition. She said all he had to do was go in the front door and he'd find the woman he was looking for in the second room on the left. He made the attempt to bow to his hostess, and he walked unsteadily and spraddle-legged to the door. As he disappeared inside, the woman broke out into gales of laughter as she said to herself, 'Calliope will sure be glad to see ya. The warlord, being drunk and unable to read, didn't know that the sign over the door read, 'The Horse's Ass - Stabling by day, week or moon!"
My mouth dropped open, and I burst out laughing. Xena was wracked with snorts up on Argo. The bard was smiling, obviously glad she'd been able to amuse us.
Regaining her dignity, Xena asked, "Gabrielle, where did you hear that?"
I saw a flush come to her cheeks. "I just made it up."
"Oh, you're good, Gabrielle. You're very good," Xena said before breaking up into more snorts.
We walked in silence for a few minutes, but all I could think about was this warlord trying to get his cock in between the ass cheeks of a horse, and I doubled over in laughter. Gabrielle stopped and looked at me with no expression. When I looked up at Xena, she had an eyebrow raised at me.
"Would you like to share?" she asked, again in that liquid velvet voice.
Choking on my giggles, I tried to compose myself to reply. "I (snicker) I just couldn't (snicker, snicker) get my mind "
"Out of the garbage?" Xena finished. "I understand. Sounds like someone is need of some attention." She started to ride on.
Gabrielle grabbed my arm and pulled me on. "So, how long has it been, Sinea?"
"How long has what been?" I asked, adjusting the cloak that Althurius had given me around my shoulders.
"Since you had some action in bed," she replied.
I felt my face get red. "Uh well Oh, I don't know maybe "
"Never?" Xena finished again.
I swallowed and didn't answer. Then I heard her laugh outright. No snorts. "Oh, Gabrielle. We are taking a horny, virgin warrior, and a good-looking Celtic one at that, to Arborea. Am I gonna love this or what?"
"Hey!" I groused, offended because my friend was laughing at me.
Gabrielle slipped her arm through mine and whispered in my ear. "Don't feel bad. I haven't gotten any either." She let go and resumed her pace.
Now it was my turn to be surprised. I thought sure that she and Xena were doing well the stuff fantasies are made of. The thought that I could have had Gabrielle the night we kissed each other made me hit myself several times in the head. I didn't notice Xena watching me with interest. She urged Argo into a dancing trot and chortled. That was the only way I could describe the sound she made. Well, she sure had a good laugh at my expense. I tried to mentally smooth my ruffled feathers.
There was no village for us that night, so we camped in some trees against a rock outcropping. It afforded us some shelter from the wind that had sprung up during the afternoon. I helped Xena and Gabrielle set up camp, and we built a little lean-to with the fire in front. It was cold and getting colder.
"We're going to get to know each other real well tonight," Xena said as we drank some hot soup from bowls and tea from our mugs. "We're all going to share the same bedroll. We'll lay our cloaks over the blankets for extra cover, and I'll sleep in the middle. I throw off a lot of body heat. Any objections, Gabrielle?"
"Nope." The blond didn't hesitate with her answer.
The blue eyes swung to me. "Any objections, warrior?"
"Uh. No. Pride and modesty won't keep me warm," I conceded as I buried my nose in my mug.
"Smart, horny and good-looking," Xena teased. "Nice combination." She smiled a cock-eyed smile at me, and I felt the red creep up my neck.
Although the older woman teased me unmercifully, I couldn't get mad at her. She teased Gabrielle a lot, too, and I learned quickly that it was her way of saying how much she cared about you. I wanted to get something on her, but I hadn't figured out what yet.
After we ate, we decided to cuddle up together under the blankets. Xena piled wood on the fire until it was a good, healthy blaze. We all lay side-by-side under the blankets and cloaks. I was quite comfortable.
"Wanna tell us another story, Gabrielle?" Xena asked.
"Ha! I don't think so, Xena. You don't handle them well."
"Me? It wasn't me that lost it, blondie. Our little Gaelic friend here is the one who can't handle your dirty ditties." She poked me in the ribs with her elbow. I was glad I wasn't so sore anymore.
"Well, I have an excuse," I said.
Gabrielle chuckled and Xena snorted. "Anything I can do to help?" the warrior purred.
"No!" I choked. "No, thanks. I'll get over it."
"That's something ya don't get over, Sinea. Not 'til ya get to you know," she purred again with her face turned toward me. I could feel her warm breath on my ear. Like that first morning, I could smell wood smoke, leather and sandalwood. It was extremely heady. If she'd offered again, I might have said yes. Gabrielle or no Gabrielle.
I rolled over onto my side with my back to her. "Goodnight, Xena." I could think of nothing else to say.
The older woman snorted before speaking to the bard. "Curl up behind me, Gabrielle."
My eyes flew open as I felt knees come up behind mine and a strong arm reach around my waist. I felt my hair being ruffled by warm breath. My heart was in my throat, and I had to concentrate in order to keep my body from shaking. Between the warrior and the bard, my poor body was suffering from sensory overload. It was definitely time for me to get myself a woman. My hormones were raging. I made the attempt to concentrate on the warmth only. It took a while for me to succeed in falling asleep. I did it by chanting over and over, "Help me, gods! Help me, gods!"
It began to snow about two candlemarks before we reached Amazon territory. My feet were numb, and I couldn't feel my nose or my ears. The three of us and Argo were pretty miserable by the time we got there.
We walked amid the trees for a little time after leaving the road. Suddenly, Xena stopped, dropped her weapons, pulled my sword from its scabbard and laid it with hers. Both women raised clasped hands above their heads, and Xena motioned for me to do the same. When I complied, she smiled.
Before I knew it, we were surrounded by women who had descended from the trees. They all wore ornate feathered masks. I wasn't sure if I should be afraid. A woman with dark hair approached us and bowed.
"My Queen, Xena, welcome." She removed her mask to reveal eyes as dark as her hair.
"Hello, Solari," Gabrielle said. Xena and this Solari exchanged warrior greetings.
"It's good to see the two of you. To what do we owe the honor of your visit?" The woman smiled warmly at my friends.
"We've brought a young warrior that we hope you'll take into the tribe," Gabrielle answered. "Her name is Sinea, and she has no family. She was trained at the Court in Athens."
"She's a friend, Solari," Xena added.
The Amazon reached her arm out to me, and I took it. "A friend of our Queen is always welcome here, Sinea."
"Thank you." My teeth were chattering.
"Elias!" Gabrielle shouted.
Another Amazon from the back of the group pushed forward, removed her mask and bowed. "Elias, tell Ephiny we need a council session in the morning, and if there's a spare cot in the hospital please have it moved to my hut for Sinea."
"Yes, my Queen," she answered.
I was confused. Who was she calling 'my queen?' Xena was a princess, wasn't she? Besides, Xena hadn't been doing the talking. Maybe Gabrielle took care of all the details. Like a front man, sort of.
Elias turned her eyes on me before carrying out her orders. Unlike the other Amazons, her hair was short and very blond. Her eyes were crystal blue. Lighter than Xena's. She smiled, and my heart turned over. She turned and ran off into the trees. Boy, did I have questions, but Solari was leading Gabrielle off. Xena and I followed with Argo, and the other Amazons took to the trees again.
"Xena? Who was that girl?"
"Yeah." I blew on my fingers.
"That's Elias, Queen's Messenger."
"Why did she call you queen?"
Xena looked down at me in confusion. "She didn't. She called Gabrielle queen."
"Yes, Gabrielle is Queen of the Amazons, and a damned good one, too," she added. "I suggest you treat her with respect while we're here because I have no authority over the Amazons, and they are sticklers for protocol."
"In other words "
"Even I have to watch my ass." The look she gave me spoke volumes.
I decided the best and safest thing to do was follow her lead. I didn't think I could go wrong there. Little Gabrielle. Queen of the Amazons?
It wasn't a long walk to the village, and many women had come out of their warm huts to greet their queen. From all indications, the blond was well liked. She greeted them with smiles and hugs. Xena hung back, and I hung with her.
"Where is this young warrior?" a darker blond with curly hair asked Gabrielle.
Gabrielle looked my way and motioned for me to come forward. "Ephiny, this is Sinea. Sinea, this is my Regent, Ephiny."
The regent took my proffered arm and welcomed me. She looked closely at me and frowned. "Her lips are turning blue, my Queen. May I suggest hot baths and hot food in your quarters?"
"Yes. Very good idea," Gabrielle agreed.
"Nikea, take Argo and care for her. Xena, she'll be in good hands," the Regent assured my friend.
"I have no doubt, Ephiny. In fact, she gets so spoiled when she's here that it takes me two days after leaving to readjust her attitude." The Regent laughed and led us to a sizeable hut. Two Amazons stood guard by the door. They saluted as Gabrielle entered.
I heard footsteps run up behind us as we reached the door. I turned and saw the Queen's Messenger. "My Queen?" Gabrielle stopped and turned.
"Have you further orders for me?"
"Yes. Go get a hot meal and come see me in the morning."
"Yes, my Queen." She saluted but smiled at me again for a good three or four heartbeats before she turned to go.
Oh, gods! She has got such a smile, I thought as I watched her run across the compound.
"Warrior, are you coming in where it's warm or would you like to stay out here all night?" Xena smirked at me.
"Yeah. Right, Xena." I stepped into the warm hut. It was Elysium after the candlemarks of mind-numbing cold.
Gabrielle kept staring at me as she dismissed her guards. She closed the door and slipped off her cloak, which Xena took and hung on a hook for her.
"What?" I asked, walking over to the fire to escape those green eyes.
"My messenger seems to find you interesting," she said.
I removed my snow-caked boots. My ears were beginning to thaw, and I could have screamed from the pain. "I'm a stranger," I countered. Focus on the pain, Sinea,. I thought. "She's just curious."
"Oh, yeah. She's curious all right, warrior." Xena grinned over at me as she removed her own boots.
A knock came at the door. "Come!" Gabrielle ordered.
"Excuse us, my Queen. Here is the cot and bedding you requested." Two chestnut-haired women carried in the cot and set it near the fire. "Will there be anything else?"
"No, Alexea. Thank you. You and Melenus go have your supper now."
"Yes, my Queen." They both saluted and left quietly.
"They really treat you well here, don't they, Gabrielle?" I asked, truly amazed at the respect and adoration she commanded.
"She treats them the same way," Xena piped in. "You reap what you sow."
"Ooh! I like that, Xena. Can I use it in one of my scrolls?" Gabrielle asked, reverting back to the warm and friendly bard I'd come to know.
"Whatever, Gabrielle." The warrior laughed. "Shall we all adjourn to the tub?"
"All together?" I asked.
"Sure. Why not?" the blond replied. "There's lots of room."
We all looked at each other and started to laugh. Clothing began to fly in all directions as we followed Gabrielle into another room. Sure enough, there was a huge sunken tub of steaming hot water, and I could smell incense and beeswax from the candles.
"Last one in is centaur's dung!" Xena yelled as she disappeared into the tub and under the water.
"Gabrielle, you really need to get a bigger bed," the warrior whispered, not wanting to wake Sinea.
"Feet hangin' over the end, Princess?" the bard responded with a chuckle.
"No, it's long enough. It's not wide enough for two."
"Well, it's not meant for me and someone twice my size." There was a hint of teasing in Gabrielle's voice.
"That's what I mean. You need a bigger bed."
"Xena, I'm usually in it alone. I don't really need more room."
"Well, you're not alone now," the warrior groused.
"What's with you? Except for tonight, you always have the cot." The bard rolled over on her side, resting her head on her hand so she could look at her friend's face.
"That's another thing."
"What? Now you don't want the cot?" Silence. "Fine, Xena, you take the bed, and I'll sleep on the cot," Gabrielle said in an agitated whisper.
"Oh, sure, Gabrielle. I'm really gonna let the Queen of the Amazons sleep on a cot in her own hut"
"Well, then, quit bitchin' at me. I'm tired." She lay back down. "Go to sleep. You'll feel better in the morning."
After a few moments of quiet, Xena said, "What if you don't want to sleep alone, Gabrielle? What then?"
The bard giggled softly. "Of course, Xena. I'm really going to have someone in here making mad, passionate love to me while you're occupying the cot across the room."
"Well, get use to it, 'cause I ain't leavin'." Xena was smiling, but Gabrielle couldn't see it in the dark.
"Then you deserve to be kept up all night 'cause when I'm in the mood, I'm goin' for it." Choke on that, Warrior Princess!
"Hm-m," was the only response.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Actually, I was thinking of another alternative."
It was Xena's turn to roll over and face the Amazon Queen. "You get a bigger bed, and we can sleep in it together."
"Oh, great! So, when I want sex, I have to go out to the barn or somethin'?"
"No-o-o-o," Xena dragged out in her little annoying way. "I'm a woman of many skills. Remember?"
"I remember, Xena. Are you suggesting that I let you serve me like some kind of warrior stud service?"
Xena was grinning in the dark. "Why not? I'm verrrrry good, Gabrielle. You'd like what I do."
The blond cleared her throat. "Yeah well "
"Use your imagination, Gabrielle." The warrior ran her fingertips through the bard's hair.
This is unnerving, the young woman thought. "Yeah well "
"Gee, Gabby, I think your mouth is stuck. Let me see what I can do about that." Xena leaned over and lightly brushed Gabrielle's lips with her own.
Oh, gods! She wanted to respond, but Xena hadn't given her enough time to. It was over too quickly. How do I get her back?
"Speechless, little bard?" Xena said, voice full of surprise.
Gabrielle stammered. "Yeah well "
"Hm-m. Didn't work the first time. Guess I need to try again, huh?" She placed her hand behind the bard's head and pulled her toward her mouth. This time she gave her a heart-stopping, bone-jolting, tonsil-sucking, body-burning, nerve-fraying, soul-searching kiss.
Every nerve in Gabrielle's body went on lust alert. When she regained her breath and composure, she asked the warrior straight out. "What now, Xena?"
The older woman lay down on her back and pulled the blond's head down onto her shoulder. "Well, the way I got it figured is, if I love you and you love me, it should be pretty obvious."
"Xena?" There was more agitated whispering from the bard. "Do you know how long I've been waiting for you? Why in the name of Zeus did you have to pick tonight to make this revelation known? Do you have any idea how worked up you have me?"
The warrior snorted. "Gabrielle, are you tellin' me you want to you know?"
"Yes! Godsdammit, Xena!"
"Shh." Xena put her fingers on the younger woman's lips. "You'll wake Sinea." She gave her another shorter kiss. Not so passionate. "Patience, Gabrielle. Tomorrow we'll make sure Sinea has another place to sleep."
"Like the warriors' barracks?"
"Actually, I had a certain warrior in mind who has her quarters right behind your hut."
Gabrielle giggled as she caught Xena's drift. "Elias."
"Precisely. We should all get some you know, ya know? We deserve it."
"Oh, Xena." The bard chuckled and wrapped her arm around the warrior's waist. "Hm-m. I guess Althurius finally got through to you."
"How'd ya know?"
"Ha! Call it an educated guess."
Just when Xena thought Gabrielle had finally drifted off to sleep, a whisper came up to her. "I've got a really bad itch, Xena."
The warrior kissed the top of the blond head and snorted. "I promise, Gabrielle. Tomorrow I'll scratch it for ya."
Gabrielle sat at the head of the council table with Ephiny to her right and Xena, as her champion, to her left. Queen's Messenger Elias stood behind her chair against the wall, waiting to do her Queen's bidding.
The young queen had just finished presenting her petition to have Sinea brought into the tribe. Ephiny was annoyingly tapping the tip of her dagger blade against the tabletop.
"What do you think, Xena?" the Regent asked.
"I don't really have a voice here, but in my opinion she's good warrior material. She was understandably nervous this morning, so I took her out for a little sparring. She kept me on my toes."
"You have a particular liking for this girl, Xena, don't you?" asked Solari. As Guard Captain she had a say in who was placed in her charge.
"Let me put your mind at ease, Solari. Yes, I do like her a lot, as does Gabrielle, but she's a genuinely good fighter. She was trained at the Court in Athens. I'm not embellishing her capabilities because I'm fond of her. I am impressed." The warrior slumped a little in her chair. She hated these council sessions. "And you know how hard it is to impress me. She'd be an asset to the tribe, and she's a good kid on top of that."
"And she desperately needs a home. She's only sixteen. Help me out here. If you can do it for no other reason, do it because you love me and that I would like to see it done." Gabrielle knew just how to hit her people. They did love her, and she never asked for much. And never anything for herself.
Ephiny smiled and nodded her head absent-mindedly as she listened to her Queen make her entreaty.
"Can you have the girl come before the council for our decision?" Solari asked.
"Yes, of course." Gabrielle turned to her messenger. "Elias, would you please escort Sinea to this session?"
"Yes, my Queen."
"She'll be in my quarters."
"Or out on the practice field," Xena added.
I was out in the sunshine using the Amazon's practice arena for some sword practice. Xena and Gabrielle were attending a special council session that Gabrielle had called to see if the Amazons will take me into their village. I have to say that it made me really nervous. I thought I might like it here, but I admit that I'm afraid they won't take me. I've never seen so many women in one place before. I think it would be a kick to live in an all-female community. They are totally self-sufficient and that impresses me a lot.
Of course, that little blond is certainly incentive enough for me to want to stay. I would really like to get to know her better. Actually, I'd like to get to know her period. We've only been introduced so far. We haven't had an opportunity to talk to one another, but the way she smiles at me makes my brain go to mush.
I've been trying really hard to concentrate on this sword practice, but I keep forgetting my routine. It's just nerves, I know. Once I know whether I have a home or not, I'm sure I'll be able to settle down and concentrate. Xena gave me a good workout this morning. She knew what a basket case I was, and being the person she is, took me under her wing to get my mind off things for a little while. Boy, is she hard to fight with. There were a couple of blows she didn't pull fast enough, and I got the full force and effect. I'm going to have some new bruises tonight. She didn't mean to do it, and I could tell she felt bad at the time. My arms are considerably shorter than hers, and in order for me to get my licks in, I have to come in pretty close. That's when she gets me. Hades, she gave me a kick that sent me halfway across the arena! She's such a softie though. When she did that, and I was lying there with my face in the dirt, she ran over to me and picked me up. She stood me on my feet, brushed off the dirt, straightened my tunic and gave me a hug. Godsdamn! I knew she hadn't done it on purpose. She's used to fighting men, I guess. They're more a size match for her than I am.
Now I sat on the arena fence, thinking back on this morning's spar. It was invigorating, and I couldn't believe I was actually fighting with the Warrior Princess. I wonder if that little blond is a warrior. I wouldn't mind sparring with her, I can tell you. She's more my size. But, I don't know if she's strictly a messenger or if she fights as well. Hera's eyes! Here she comes. I wonder what she wants.
"Sinea, the Queen would like to have you come before the council. They are ready to hand down a decision. Would you come with me, please?"
I nearly fell off the fence, but I regained my dignity with a smile and I noticed she was giving me a smirk. Naturally, I blushed. I'm trying to be so warrior-cool around her, and I just do something that makes me look a fool. Gods, you've got to help me!
"Do you have any idea what they're thinking, Elias?" I asked her as I kept step with her to the council house.
"No, but Xena raved about you, and the Queen really cares a lot for you. She has a lot of influence over Ephiny and some of the others. They'd all roll over and die for her if she asked them to, so I wouldn't worry too much." She looked over at me with those sparkling blue eyes.
"What about you, Elias? Would you die for her?" I don't know why I asked that. Just to keep the conversation going, I guess.
"There's no doubt. If I'm anywhere near her, there's no one going to harm her, I can assure you of that."
"So, you're a trained warrior, too?" I asked.
"Yes. I reached warrior status at Spring Festival. We all had a great time that night. Too bad you weren't here yet." She had that smile on her face again, but we had reached the steps of the council house and I felt my stomach knot up as she ushered me inside.
Gabrielle stood as I came in. "Sinea, please approach the table."
I did as she ordered and when I came up in front of her, I bowed as I had seen Elias do. Gabrielle was my friend, but she was acting in her official capacity as Queen of the Amazons. Being raised at Court, I knew how to treat royalty. When I looked up, she was smiling at me and I couldn't help but return it. Ephiny rose and stood beside her and I gave her a brief nod out of respect for her position, as well.
"Sinea, former warrior of the Court of Athens," she intoned, "our Queen has brought before this council a petition for your acceptance into our Amazon tribe. Is this something that you also wish?"
The regent was an attractive woman, and she knew how to express herself. I liked her. I cleared my throat, hoping I wouldn't make any embarrassing noises when I tried to speak. "Queen Gabrielle, Regent Ephiny." I could see Elias standing behind Gabrielle, smiling at me. "After spending last night in your village and having the opportunity to spar this morning in your practice arena, I have found Arborea to be a very pleasant place. It would please me greatly if you and the council would see fit to allow me to become a part of your community. I would fight for its existence and welfare, and protect the Queen with my life if need be. I truly hope you will consider the Queen's petition and decide favorably to allow me to train and become one of you so that I may live and fight by your side beside you."
"Well said, Sinea," Ephiny replied. "You appear to have had a good education. That would be an asset to this community. Also, we never turn away a good warrior, and Xena has assured all of us that you are an impressive fighter. I look forward to sparring with you myself in the near future." She turned to Gabrielle and gave her the floor. "My Queen."
"Thank you, Ephiny." The blond turned emerald eyes on me, and I could see them dancing with joy. "Sinea, on behalf of my Regent and the members of this council, I would like to welcome you as a member of the Amazon tribe of Arborea. You will find good sisters, friends and family in this village. They will train with you, and they will teach you the ways of the Amazon as they have taught me. Welcome!"
There were a number of welcoming voices around me after Gabrielle had declared the council session ended. Considering the blank looks on the councilmembers' faces when I had come in, their degree of friendliness to me now seemed nothing but genuine. I couldn't have been happier if Zeus had suddenly declared me a god. Gabrielle came up to me and gave me a huge hug, which I enjoyed, I might add. With her arm around my shoulder, she called for her messenger.
"Elias, would you be kind enough to show Sinea around the village? She hasn't seen much of it, and I'd like you to introduce her to as many of the women as you can. Tell them that tonight there will be a feast in the dining hall to welcome our new sister."
"Certainly, my Queen. I would be very happy to." I noticed the emphasis was on the word very. Elias took me by the arm. "Ready?"
"Sure," I replied.
"Good. There's lots to see."
"When you're through with your tour, I'd like the two of you to come back to my quarters," the blond added. She looked at Xena with a smile and actually saw the warrior look flustered. "I'd like to talk to you."
"We'll be there, my Queen," Elias assured her. "I will escort Sinea to lunch so that she can eat with the other young warriors, and then we'll meet you at your hut."
"That's fine. Enjoy yourselves, you two."
"I'm sure we will, Gabrielle," I couldn't help but respond. To spend half the morning and lunch as well with Elias was going to be the high point of my day. Gods! I'm going to be living here. I'll see her everyday,I couldn't help but think. My next thought made me a little sad. I knew that Xena and Gabrielle wouldn't be staying. I would really miss them when they left.
Xena was sprawled out on Gabrielle's bed just relaxing. The blond was sitting at her table with a quill and parchment. "I guess you're pretty proud of yourself for getting our little waif a new home."
Gabrielle lifted her eyes from her work and smiled at Xena. "Yeah, I guess I kinda am. You were a big help, though. It would have been a lot more difficult without all those nice things you said about her."
"I didn't say anything that wasn't true, Gabrielle. She's a good fighter, and she is a nice kid. She'll fit in well here."
A gust of wind outside the window blew some leaves around, and it caught the bard's attention. "Hm-m. She'll do fine here. She'll make a lot of friends because of her personality, and she'll learn a lot. Gods know I did."
"Yeah, ya did, Gabrielle." Xena rubbed her temples with the tips of her fingers.
"What's the matter? Got a headache, Xena?" The young queen never missed anything when it came to the warrior.
"Yeah, a little one."
Gabrielle got up from the table and walked over to Xena. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she placed her fingertips on the woman's temples and began to slowly massage. "Oh, Gabrielle, that feels wonderful. I'll give you about twenty-four candlemarks to stop."
The bard chuckled. "Well, then, you'll have to let me get a little more comfortable. This is pretty awkward. Let me scoot back here against the wall, and then put your head in my lap."
"Ok." She got settled in, and Gabrielle continued her massage.
As she rubbed Xena's temples, the younger woman smiled down at her friend's closed eyes. "You know, Xena. When you're relaxed, you get the most peaceful look on your face. I wish I saw it more often. It pleases me."
The blue eyes opened and gazed up into emerald ones. "Does it? Right now, I don't have a care in the world. We're having a quiet mid-morning, and I'm almost tempted to take a nap before lunch."
"Whoa! The Warrior Princess doing that nap thing before lunch?" Gabrielle giggled. "That's not something I ever expected to witness."
The warrior's laugh was a low rumble in her chest. "You're a bad influence on me. You encourage me to malinger." Xena closed her eyes again.
Gabrielle leaned down and placed a soft kiss on the older woman's lips. "I'd like to be accused of encouraging you to do a lot more things."
The blue eyes opened once again. Xena reached up and took hold of a hand, bringing it to her lips. "You have but to suggest, and whatever you wish I will do."
"Ooh!" The young queen felt shivers run up and down her spine at the velvety tones of her friend's voice. "Really, Xena? You'd be surprised what I could probably come up with."
"Oh, really, Gabrielle," the warrior assured her. "I might be surprised, but I would never refuse."
"You're tempting me."
"Good." Xena ran her fingers lightly up the bard's arm, reached around her neck and pulled her head down for another, not so gentle, kiss. "That was my intention."
"I love you, Xena."
The warrior smiled. "Good. I'd hate to think I love someone who doesn't appreciate it." She ran her fingers down the front of Gabrielle's chest and rested her knuckles against a firm breast. "Want to show me how much you appreciate it, Gabrielle?"
The bard swallowed, closed her eyes for a second and took in some more air. "Oh, Xena. I would love to show you, but I know as sure as we start getting involved in something, those two kids will show up."
"They won't be back until after lunch, Gabrielle. At least that's what Elias said. We have plenty of time."
"What if I can't stop once I get started? I don't want to spend my afternoon and evening frustrated." She could feel Xena increasing the pressure against her breast, and she could feel tingling clear down between her legs.
"If you can get by with a little taste this afternoon and make it through the feast this evening, we'll retire early and I promise to keep you up all night until you're totally satisfied. Will that do?" Xena gave Gabrielle a lopsided smile.
"Yeah." Her heart was beating wildly against Xena's hand. "I guess that'll do."
"For now, a little appetizer." Before the warrior sat up again, she began to slowly unlace Gabrielle's top, never taking her eyes off the eyes of her love. She knew how to seduce, and she planned to do a really good job at this. Gabrielle deserved to be romanced, and Xena was not adverse to the idea of romance. She had made the bard wait a long time for this, and because she felt a little guilty about that fact, she wanted to really make it nice.
"We could always get ourselves a relaxing, hot bath if you like. Although I have to admit that, speaking for myself, I don't much relish making love in the bath. I actually find it a little abrasive. The water kind of dries up the natural lubricants, if you know what I mean." She grinned and Gabrielle shuddered at the look in her eyes. "You wanted to know some time ago if we could cook with my juices?"
Gabrielle couldn't hold the giggles in on that. "Yeah, Xena. So?"
"The answer is yes." She sat up and placed a wet, passionate kiss on the bard's mouth. "We most definitely can cook with my juices. Not only that. We can most definitely cook with yours, as well."
Gabrielle's answer came out in a husky, strained way. "Well, maybe we can blend them together and make something really tasty. Do ya think?"
"Oh, yeah, Gabrielle, I think." She slipped the top off of the young woman and laid her back on the pillow. Straddling her hips, Xena slowly, deliberately slowly, began to remove her leathers.
Gabrielle lay back, eyes wide with wonder at the change in her warrior. The look on her face showed a passion she had never seen there before, except when she was fighting. This was going to be so much better. When Xena had completely rid herself of her clothes, she recovered her place astride the bard's hips. She leaned down and placed light, gooseflesh-raising kisses up the side of her neck to her ear. She sucked on the lobe very gently and then wiggled her wet tongue inside. Gabrielle jumped and shivered.
"Ooh, Xena," she whispered. "That tickles so good."
"Mm-m," came a muffled reply, but the tongue never stopped doing its little dance inside her ear.
Reaching down between them, Xena grasped the belt that kept Gabrielle's skirt fastened to her hips and she unclasped it. Raising the bard's hips with her hand, she slid the garment out from underneath her and dropped it on the floor. Not surprising, there was nothing under it to impede her any further. She gently trailed her fingertips from Gabrielle's navel, up her stomach to the valley between her breasts. She let the back of her hand brush the left breast, never touching the sensitive, erect nipple. She received a moan for her efforts. As Xena kissed the young woman deeply, she traced the small circle around the base of the nipple with a fingernail. Gabrielle arched the upper half of her body off the bed.
"Oh, Xena. Gods, but that's unbelievable," she gasped.
Xena smiled at her young lover, but Gabrielle's green eyes were closed in ecstasy. "I'm just getting started, Gabrielle." She lowered her head to catch the erect little bud between her wet lips. Circling her tongue around it, she grasped the other breast with her hand. She kneaded it slowly but firmly. When she saw the nipple perk up to a most painful erection, she took it in her mouth and sucked gently. This drove her Amazon Queen crazy.
"Yes! Oh, please don't stop that," Gabrielle said in a voice so soft, Xena wasn't sure she'd really heard her. But, she had, and she had no intentions of stopping.
Gabrielle's eyes were still closed, and Xena knew that was something she was guilty of as well. When the good feelings took over, it was so easy to go inside your head and feel with your mind every sensation that your body was going through. She looked up at the bard's face as she suckled on her. Her chin was slightly raised, the mouth partly opened and the eyes tightly closed. The warrior took her hand from the other breast and traced the open lips with a fingertip. Gabrielle reached her tongue out and circled the finger and with a slight sucking motion brought it into her mouth. The sensuousness of this act made Xena moan for the first time. She slid her body up Gabrielle's, resting her weight on her elbows. She replaced her finger with her tongue and had the satisfaction of hearing Gabrielle's answering moan.
Xena wanted to hear her moan again and be able to catch her mouth with her own when she did, so she brought her hips forward which allowed her to have intimate contact with the blond curls just below Gabrielle's stomach. Since Xena could feel the moisture running down her thighs, she knew that Gabrielle couldn't help but feel it when it came in contact with her body. When it did, Xena got the reaction she had been hoping for. The blond's moan was deep and gutteral. She thrust her tongue into the warrior's mouth and reached down with her hand to run her fingers through the warm, moist heat between Xena's legs.
"Oh, gods, Xena!" She continued letting her fingers dance on the warrior, and Xena was benefiting from her curiosity. She was extremely aroused and wanted some relief. She grasped the bard's wrist and slid her hand down to cover the back of Gabrielle's. The blond's eyes opened and looked to see Xena smiling down at her. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"I need your help. Do you mind?" Xena continued to smile and kept her hand clamped to the back of Gabrielle's, not moving it.
"Good." Xena raised herself up on her knees, spreading her legs wider to allow them both access to her body. She closed her own eyes now and began to move Gabrielle's hand back and forth along her wet center. She made tight circles around her swollen bud with Gabrielle's fingers, and she rocked her hips against their hands. She began to moan as the sensations reached her brain. "Yes, Gabrielle," she said softly. "Oh, yes." After a few seconds of the gentle touch, she had to have more. She pressed harder against the bard's hand and increased the speed until she was making noises a little too loud to be called a moan. Gabrielle's eyes were wide with wonder. She definitely had never seen this side of Xena before. Suddenly, Xena's body went rigid and she was making Gabrielle's hand rub her so hard that the blond was sure it must hurt. She bucked her hips as she gasped. "Gabrielle! Gods, Gabrielle!" Her hips bucked two or three more times before she finally let go of the bard's hand and lowered her head to rest on her lover's breast. It took some time for her breathing to regain normalcy.
Gabrielle brought her hand up to her own mouth and licked the sticky residue of her love off her fingers. She smacked her lips as her warrior lay there getting her breath back. "Oh, yeah, Xena," she teased. "We can definitely cook with your juices." A light-hearted snort came up from between her breasts.
"You give a really good tour, Elias," I said as we finished with the Amazon's scroll library. "I can't imagine, however, having enough time to read all the scrolls in there."
"Well, you'll have to read some of them. You've got some schooling to do." She grabbed my arm and practically dragged me across the square.
"Where are we going now?" I felt like a puppy on a rope.
"There's someone I want you to meet." She continued to drag me down the street until we reached a hut just beyond the school. She led me up the stairs with a smile that melted my entire being. I would have let her lead me to Tartarus if she wanted. "Now be nice," she warned as she opened the door. Why wouldn't I be? I thought. I wondered why she felt a need to say that to me. "Mother?"
Oh, gods! This was her mother's house. No wonder she wanted me to be nice. First impressions and all. I looked down and checked my clothes to see if anything needed straightening.
Elias smiled and shook her head. "No matter what you do, those clothes are still going to be too big," she teased. "Mother? Are you here?"
"Elias?" A tall, red-haired woman with large hazel eyes emerged from a back room.
"Hello, Mother. I've brought a special friend to meet you?"
"Really? How wonderful. You've never brought home a special friend before." The woman walked over to me and offered her arm. I took it in a warrior greeting. She smiled warmly.
"How do you do? I'm Sinea." My voice shook a little, and I had no idea why. Special friend?
"Sinea is a new tribe member, Mother." She gave her mother a hug and kiss on the cheek. "Queen Gabrielle and Xena brought her in, and Her Majesty gave her into my keeping."
"Welcome, Sinea. My name is Espia, and I'm Elias' mother, as you already know.
"It's very nice to meet you, Espia." I looked around the common room of the house and saw beautiful pieces of Amazon sculpture and artwork. "Those are awesome," I remarked.
"Thank you. I like to dabble when I can. Would you like to sit and have a snack?"
"Thanks, Mother, but we just had lunch, and there are a couple more places I want to show Sinea. Then we have to meet Queen Gabrielle and Xena," Elias interjected. "We'll come again when we can stay longer."
"Good." Espia turned her attention back to me. "I'm sure Elias has been more than thorough in showing you around." I noticed right away that Elias had her mother's smile. But that was where the resemblance ended.
"I've been everywhere, I thought. I enjoyed the lunch in the dining hall. The food here is really good."
"You seem nervous, Sinea. I don't bite, you know." Espia gave me another smile.
"Everything is just so new," I explained. "There's so much to absorb." I looked at Elias and for some reason she was frowning at me. Gods! What have I done wrong?
"You'll get to know Mother a whole lot better very soon," she advised, the frown gone from her face. "She'll be your history teacher."
"Teacher?" I know my face registered shock. Elias let out a chuckle.
"Elias! Don't make her uncomfortable. You've always been such a tease," Espia reprimanded her daughter. "She gets that from her father."
"Oh," I said. Where was her father?
"She looks like him and has his personality." Espia leaned toward me and whispered conspiratorially. "Thorsen was one good-looking Norse demon. And, he was a lot of fun." Straightening up, she put her arm around Elias. "I took a big chance when I decided to have a child by him, but Artemis blessed me with this girl. If she had been a boy, I would either have had to give up my child or leave the tribe."
"Difficult decision," I empathized.
"Yes, it would have been, but I guess Artemis wanted another warrior. Now, I have a daughter who is the Queen's Own, and I can't tell you how proud I am of her." She gave Elias a squeeze, and I could tell Espia liked to brag about her.
It was plain to see that Espia loved Elias a great deal, and I thought how lucky Elias was. Thoughts of my father ran through my mind. I missed him terribly. I gave Espia a wispy smile, trying to keep the tears from my eyes. Glancing at Elias, I noticed a look of profound sadness on her face and wondered why.
"You two had better run along if you still have some sightseeing to do before you meet with our good Queen."
"Right, Mother." Elias gave her a peck on the cheek. "I'll see you later. Come on, Sinea. There's someplace special I want to show you."
I gave Espia a little wave as I followed her daughter out the door. "See you in school," I said.
"Oh, I'll see you before then, love. Have a good time." She stood on the porch and watched us run back up the street toward the barn.
"Where are we going?" I asked, running out of breath. We turned right at the barn and headed for the woods beyond.
"You'll see. It's a special place. I'm the only one I know who goes there." She slowed down to a walk as we reached the corral. "I've never taken anyone there before, but I thought you might like it." I saw Argo grazing in a nearby field, and I called out to her. She raised her head, looked over at me and whinnied a greeting. I thought it was cool that she acknowledged me, and I laughed. Elias laughed, too. "You have a way with horses, too?" She took my hand and led me across the field and into the woods. It was cold in the shade. "I love the autumn," Elias said. She must have been reading my mind.
"Me, too. When I'm dressed for it." I still wore Xena's woolen tunic.
She looked me over again and laughed. "We have got to get you some clothes, warrior." That's what Xena always called me.
We walked on for about a quarter of a candlemark before she led me through some bushes and into a tiny clearing where a pool of clear water lay surrounded by rocks. Autumn sun danced on the ripples caused by the breeze.
"Cool, huh?" She led me over to the water's edge, and we sat down on a rock together.
"It's beautiful, Elias. Why did you bring me here if this is your secret place?" I asked, watching her features brighten like the sparkling water.
She smiled and shrugged. "I don't know. I just wanted to share it with you." She wrapped her arms around her knees. "I swim here in the summer."
"Your own private pool. Neat."
"Well, it's yours, too, now," she said with a smile.
"I wouldn't intrude on your private space." I watched some geese fly overhead.
She didn't respond so we sat in silence for a few minutes, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature and each other's company. When I finally turned to look over at her again, she had a peculiar expression on her face, and there was a sheen of sweat on her skin.
"Are you ok, Elias?" I asked, concerned about the change.
"Huh?" Her eyes came up to meet mine. "Yeah. I'm fine."
Is she blushing? "Are you sure? You look a little funny."
"Really." She wiped the sweat from her face with the back of her hand. "I'm ok." She blinked and shook her head. "Phew! That was new," she mumbled.
"What was new?" I asked.
"I guess I need to tell you something about myself, Sinea." She still looked a little flushed.
"You don't have to say anything you don't want to," I assured her.
"No. I really do have to tell you this." She got serious, and I hoped there wasn't a problem.
"Ok. What is it?" I reached for her hand and she let me take it.
"Sinea, I'm an empath."
"An empath?" I queried.
"Yeah. I feel what people are feeling. I pick up on their emotions. It was a real problem until I learned how to shield myself."
"You mean you can tell what I'm thinking?" I asked, sure that that could be a problem considering how she affected me and what I'd been thinking lately.
"No. That's mind reading. I feel what you feel. If you're sad, I feel it as though it were my own sadness."
"Like at your mother's?" I was amazed.
"Yes. I felt a deep grief coming from you although I didn't know why you were feeling so sad."
"Wow! I was thinking about my father. It's only been two moons since I lost him." I'm sure my eyes were wide with wonder.
"I figured it was something like that." She squeezed my hand and smiled.
"I thought you said you learned to shield against these unwanted emotions from others."
"I did, but there are some people I can't shield against. My mother is one of them."
"Mother and child bond?" I asked, very interested in this.
"Probably. Gabrielle is another and sometimes, unfortunately, that includes Xena."
"Unfortunately? I happen to like Xena," I said a little testily.
She squeezed my hand again. "Don't get me wrong. So do I. It's just sometimes when she's here, she's dealing with some emotions I don't want to be exposed to."
I knew of Xena's dark past, and I could surely understand where Elias was coming from on that. "Why do you think you can't shield against Gabrielle and Xena?"
"Well, Gabrielle is Queen of the tribe. She's our heart, as is Ephiny when Gabrielle's not here. I can't shield against her either, by the way. That's why I'm Queen's Messenger. I can always find her because I can tune in to her emotions." She smiled. "Leads me to her every time. My gift, or curse as it may be, also explains to you why I don't act as a warrior unless it's absolutely necessary."
"I guess it would be hard to deal with all the pain and suffering."
"Yes, and there's no guarantee I'd be able to shield against it if it were all around me."
"Well, I think it's cool that you can pick up things from Gabrielle."
"Not always," she added, laughing a little. "When you asked me if I was ok?"
"Well, I was getting very strong feeds from Gabrielle and Xena." She looked away.
"Are they all right?"
She chuckled. "Oh, they're very all right."
"Yeah. That's why you and I are still sitting out here." I saw the blush return to her cheeks.
My mouth dropped open. "You mean they're ."
"Uh-huh." She nodded vigorously. "They have no idea how hard that was on me."
I doubled over with laughter. "I'll bet! Were you just picking up Gabrielle's emotions?"
"Oh, no! There was a whole lot of Xena in there." She looked back at me with those crystal blue eyes. "They're soul-bonded, you know. I think that's why I feel Xena as well. When they share emotions, I get a double whammy."
"No doubt where you got that one, huh?" I teased.
She chuckled. "No doubt. Rough on us seventeen-summers-old virgins, to say the least."
Now that surprised me more than anything she'd said so far. She lived in a community that contained some beautiful women, and she was still a virgin? "I'm really glad I don't share your gift, I think."
"I think it's only fair to tell you that I pick up very strongly on your emotions, too." She shrugged. "I don't know why, but I can't shield against you. I've tried."
"Sweet Mother of Zeus!" I exclaimed. "You mean you've picked up on all my emotions?"
She smiled shyly. "Well yeah. I couldn't help it."
"Well, that's sure embarrassing." I hopped down off the rock and turned away so she wouldn't see that it was my turn to blush.
I felt her hand on my shoulder. "It's ok, ya know," she said softly. She stepped around to face me. "Sinea, it's ok. Really."
I looked up at her, and there was nothing in her eyes or her expression that was mocking. Gods, but she was a beauty! "I'm sorry if I embarrassed you."
She smiled and took my face between her hands. "You didn't. We can only embarrass ourselves. Besides, I said it's ok. What you were feeling. It's ok."
To my further surprise, she kissed me. It was impossible for me not to respond. I'd been dreaming of this moment since she took off that mask when we first arrived. She had my heart and soul and everything that went along with it. Thing is, she knew it before I had the chance to tell her.
"Elias," I said, wrapping my arms around her waist. "Why do you think you can't get away from my feelings?"
She ran one hand through my unruly dark curls. "Well. You're not the Queen or the Regent, and you're definitely not my mother."
"Thank the gods!" I exclaimed irreverently.
"Soul-bonded?" She raised an eyebrow at me, and I wondered if she'd learned that from Xena.
"You and me?" Althurius had said 'very, very soon.'
"Would explain it." She chewed on the inside of her cheek and her eyes sparkled with mischief. "Those emotions I've been sharing from you?"
"Too bad you can't share the ones from me. I've been in a state of agitation since I first saw you yesterday. This little read from Xena and Gabrielle just brought it all to a place where I couldn't handle it anymore."
I leaned in and kissed her this time, and she was very open to my attentions. She ran her hands down my back and pulled my hips in close to hers. I thought I would explode at the full body contact.
"Elias, you need to know that I'm a virgin, too. I don't have any experience at this sort of thing."
She hugged me. "I'm glad, really. We can experiment together." She gave me another soft kiss. "Now, we have to get back. Queen Gabrielle is sending impatience."
"Nobody sends me flowers," I muttered.
Elias playfully smacked me on the back of the head. "Nobody likes a smartass."
Gabrielle wasn't angry when we arrived later than we had planned. In fact, she and Xena were lounging around in soft, white robes. They looked fresh from the bath.
"Elias, I'd like you to do me a favor, if you would," Gabrielle began as she nibbled on an apple.
"Anything, my Queen." We remained standing.
"Would you allow Sinea to sleep in your quarters tonight?"
I coughed and Elias turned a delicate shade of pink. I noticed Gabrielle look over at Xena, who was lying on the bed. Xena just shrugged and raised an eyebrow.
"My Queen, that presents a bit of a problem."
"My cot is too small for two, and my room is too small for two cots. There's only room for my table, wardrobe and cot. If we go to my old room at my mother's, there will be no one here for you."
"How big are your quarters, Elias?" Xena asked, getting up from the bed.
"I could show you, if you like," Elias offered.
"I would like."
I stayed with Gabrielle while Xena and Elias went around to the rear of Gabrielle's hut where Elias had her room.
"How do you summon her?" I asked the young Queen.
"Come here, I'll show you." She rose from her chair and walked to a space on the back wall. See this rope?"
"It's attached to a bell in Elias' room. I pull it, the bell rings, Elias shows up." She smiled wickedly. "Wanna pull it?"
"Nah. She'd get pissed."
"Probably right." We went back to the table and we both sat down.
Xena came back into the room frowning with Elias on her heels. "Gabrielle, have you been back there?"
"No. I wouldn't enter her private quarters without an invitation. Why?"
"Elias, sit!" Elias dropped into a chair like sack of rocks. It was obvious she wasn't used to being ordered by the Warrior Princess. I chuckled and Xena shot me a look. I straightened up really fast. "Gabrielle, Argo has better and bigger accommodations than Elias has. As the Queen's Messenger, she deserves better. I know you're the Queen, but godsdammit, I had to have my say. It's disgraceful and unworthy of you."
Gabrielle seemed shocked at Xena's outbrust. "Elias, I'm sorry. I had no idea," Gabrielle offered. I could tell by looking at Elias' face that she was getting the Queen's emotional feed.
"It's ok "
"It's not ok!" Gabrielle shot back. "Why didn't you say something?"
"Because for just me, it's fine. I don't need much room. I'm only in there when you are in here."
"How long were you planning on living 'just you?'" Xena softly asked with a smile.
"Uh. Don't know, Xena. It wasn't something I'd given much thought to before."
Xena smirked. "Before? Given much thought to it lately, have ya?" Elias knew the warrior was teasing, and when I looked at her there was mirth in her eyes. "On second thought, I don't think you have to answer that." Xena snorted.
"Well, Elias," Gabrielle chipped in. "You stay at your mother's while we're here. Xena's here and can send someone for you if I need you. When we leave, you and Sinea will stay here while I have work done on your quarters to give you more room with private access to the bathing room."
Both Xena's eyebrows raised and so did mine. Elias was dumbfounded, to say the least. "My Queen, surely you wouldn't want me using your bathing room?"
"On the contrary. Why should it go unused when Xena and I aren't here? It would be a lot more convenient than your bathing in the barracks and then having to go out in all kinds of weather to get back to your quarters. There's no discussion. When I get back here again, I want to see a vast improvement in your living conditions. You're my right hand, Elias."
"Thank you, my Queen. You are too generous." She still looked like she was in shock.
"Xena, would you handle that for me before we leave?"
"Of course. I'd be glad to." Xena was smiling.
"Good. Elias, you tell Xena what you'd like to have, and she'll take it up with our builders. For now, I think you should get a bath and change. We have a celebration to attend."
I could see the bard face overriding the Queen one. Feasting and dancing. These were things Gabrielle, my friend, enjoyed. She pointed toward the bathing room door. "Go, Elias."
My new friend giggled. "Yes, my Queen." Xena threw her a towel and let her have her robe. Thankfully, she had a shift on underneath.
"Would you have a few minutes?" I asked.
The eyebrow went up, and I swallowed. "I suppose I do. Is this a warrior-to-warrior talk?"
"Uh, yeah." I looked at Gabrielle, but she didn't seem to be offended.
"Ok. How about the porch?"
"Good. The porch is good."
Xena grabbed her cloak but didn't put her boots on. Br-r-r! I thought. We sat down on the top step. "What's on your mind, warrior?"
"Well, I think things maybe are going to happen tonight, Xena, and I'm a little scared." My voice sounded somewhat tight and squeaky.
"What scares ya?"
"Not knowing what to do. I've never been with anyone before."
"Are ya sure about tonight?"
"Pretty sure. I know I want it, and after what Elias experienced with you this afternoon, I'd say there's no doubt she wants it."
Xena looked over at me and squinted her eyes. "What do you mean what she experienced with me this afternoon?" she growled.
"Don't you know? She's an empath. She picks up on Gabrielle's emotions. Since you and she are soul-bonded, Elias feels both of you."
"Are you saying "
"This afternoon was really hard on her."
Xena shook her head to try to clear her fuzzy thinking. "You mean she felt our emotions this afternoon? Early this afternoon?"
"Yeah. Both of you." There. I'd gotten her back for all the teasing.
Suddenly she snorted. "Sex by proxy. Interesting." She put her hand on my shoulder. "What did you mean by soul-bonded?"
"Elias has a bond with Gabrielle 'cause she's tribal queen. She assumes she feels you, too, because you and Gabrielle are lifemates. She can't shield against your emotions. She can't shield against mine either."
"Xena, she thinks we're soul-bonded, too." The warrior's blue eyes were warm and smiling.
"That's terrific, Sinea. Just like Althurius told you."
"Yeah." I smiled. "But I still don't know what to do. She and I are both virgins."
Xena's arm went around my shoulders. "That's also terrific, Sinea. Look, don't worry about the hows. Elias has been well educated. She'll know what to do, and you'll learn from each other and with each other."
I felt hairs stand up on my neck. A prickling sensation that wasn't pleasant. "What do you mean she's well-educated? She said she wasn't experienced. Has she lied to me already?"
"Settle, warrior. I said she's well educated. I didn't say she was experienced. Amazons are taught about sex at home and at school. You will have some of those same classes now that you're in the tribe. Everything you've missed, you'll be taught." She patted my back. "The rest, she'll teach you."
I looked at her and smiled. "Thanks, Xena."
"'S'ok. Now, can you do me a favor?"
"Anything, Xena. Just ask."
She rolled her eyes. "Ugh! Hero-worship."
I laughed. "Does it show?"
"Hades, yes! But, it's all right."
"What do you want me to do?"
She pulled my head close to her mouth and whispered in my ear. "Could you keep Elias real busy tonight so she'll stay out of my sex life?"
I giggled. "Well, I can certainly try. Maybe if she's involved in her own orgasm, she won't be interested in yours."
"I would really appreciate that. I've never been much of an exhibitionist, and I don't much like having a young audience when Gabrielle and I are
"Rolling around like rabid weasels?" I finished with a smirk.
She playfully smacked me. "Nobody likes a smartass."
"That must be true, because it's the second time today I've been told that," I said.
"Hm-m." She helped me to my feet. "I believe you have a bath waiting. And some new clothes."
"New clothes? Oh-h-h-h, yeah! Something that fits!"
We both laughed and walked back into the hut with our arms around each other's shoulders. "Rabid weasels?" she asked, eyebrow raised.
What a feast! The Amazons really know how to throw a party! I thought. The embarrassing part was over where Gabrielle made me stand up while she introduced me to the entire tribe and told them my story. It was easy to understand why she was a bard.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Elias. While I had been taking my bath, Gabrielle had sent her on a couple of errands, so I didn't see her again until we arrived at the large dining hall that also served as a community center. I thought I'd been impressed with Xena's and Gabrielle's outfits, but Elias' was of a color I hadn't really seen before. The tunic was suede but in a blue that matched her eyes. It was so light it was more like silver with just a touch of blue. Her leggings were a deeper shade of blue, and her pale hair sparkled in the torchlight.
I guess I must have appealed to her, too, from the greeting and the look she gave me. She had simply said, 'Wow! Look at you!' Then she proceeded to do just that. I heard Xena snort behind me. I had on a suede rust-colored tunic and leggings, and they fit me. Really fit me. I knew when I saw the clothes that Xena and Gabrielle had been very busy at some point, though I couldn't figure out when. Actually, we all looked pretty terrific. Gabrielle was dressed in forest green that really complimented her red-gold hair and green eyes. Xena was imposing in head-to-toe black. Blue eyes gleamed like sapphires.
I had to chuckle to myself when I saw Xena's face turn pink as she greeted Elias. I knew she was thinking about the talk we'd had and knowledge that Elias had shared her and Gabrielle's most intimate moments was proving unnerving to her. Actually, the color in her cheeks was very attractive, I thought. Elias was giving the warrior the once-over, but I wasn't worried. Xena was a beautiful woman. She was worthy of admiration. I wouldn't begrudge her any of it. To tell the truth, I believed we all were worthy.
Elias and I sat together between Gabrielle and Ephiny at the Queen's table. Platters heaped with venison, fruits, vegetables and bread sat in front of us. I hadn't realized just how hungry I was till I saw all that food. Xena leaned around Gabrielle and raised an eyebrow at my plate.
"You're not gonna eat all that, are ya, warrior?" she teased.
I looked down at my plate and back at her. I shrugged. "Sure." She smirked. "I'm sixteen, Xena. I'm a growing girl." I heard a sound of appreciation from Elias, and I laughed. With Xena's sharp ears, I knew she'd heard it, too. There was a snort as she bit into a piece of fresh bread. She waggled her eyebrows at me. She sure loves teasing me, I thought.
When the meal was over, the dancing began. Gabrielle turned to me and smiled. "The Queen claims the right to have the first dance with her newest subject."
I remembered the dance we'd shared at Althurius'. I watched some of the Amazons take the floor. "Gabrielle, I don't know how to do that?" I gestured toward the gyrating women.
She stood up and took me by the hand. "Come on. Ya just get out there and let the beat move ya."
I shrugged. "Ok, I'm game."
Gabrielle looked down at Elias who had a big grin on her face. "Do you mind if I dance with your woman, Elias?"
"I would be honored, my Queen. I only ask that you watch where you put your royal hands."
A fine mist of wine sprayed across the table as Xena burst out laughing. She was more than a little amused. Gabrielle grabbed my hand again and led me onto the floor. When we began to move to the music, the other Amazons made a circle around us. They swayed and spun and clapped their hands. The beat was sensuous, and I could feel it pounding throughout my body. Of course, I realized that part of that could have been because of the wine I'd consumed. Anyway, I was having fun.
The music didn't seem to stop. One dance simply moved into another. After Gabrielle and I had danced for a while, I saw Xena come up behind her. I thought Xena didn't do dancing. She wrapped her arms around Gabrielle's waist and brought her head down alongside the golden one. She swayed her hips against the blond's, and I could see the young Queen's eyes close as she moved with the warrior. I just stood and watched since I'd been deprived of my dance partner by someone I couldn't begin to compete with. I turned to leave the floor and walked right into the arms of Elias.
"They look good, don't they?" she asked softly.
"Yeah. They sure do."
She tightened her arms around me and rested her forehead against mine. "We could look that good, you and me," she said seductively. Then she smirked. "Well, maybe not that tall." We both giggled as I let my arms creep around her neck.
We all danced for some time, and I'd look over at Xena and Gabrielle every now and then. I had never seen the warrior so demonstrative and well touchy. Actually, she was driving me nuts. She ran her hands up and down Gabrielle's arms, and if she was behind her, she'd press her hands against the Queen's lower stomach and draw her back against her, nuzzling her neck and ears all the while.
At one point when Elias and I were sensuously close, she whispered in my ear. "I wish those two would get a room." She was breathing hard, and I knew it wasn't because of the dancing.
I couldn't help but laugh. "What's the matter, Queen's Own, they gotcha all turned on?"
She looked at me with passion-filled eyes. "You have no idea! Feeling their emotions is bad enough but when they're giving me visuals to go along with them Gods, Sinea!"
Suddenly I felt sorry for her, a little. "Well, I wish you could tune them out." Then, because I was an ornery cuss, I added, "Or find a way to tune me in, too."
"Pervert!" she reprimanded and then punished me with a throat-searing kiss.
Artemis had twice blessed me as far as I was concerned. She didn't make me wait until I was halfway through my life before bringing my soulmate and me together, and she gave me one that loved to dance. Elias and I stopped only long enough to take long draughts of our wine or mulled cider. The rest of the time we gyrated and gave ourselves up to the pounding frenzy of the beat. We both became bolder with each other as we abandoned all inhibitions to the drink and the drums. We took the opportunity to touch each other's bodies in ways that we had not before. When hands weren't sliding over hills and into valleys, we clung closely, grinding hips into each other in the feral dance of the ages, speaking words of passion and desire into a waiting ear.
As we stopped for a quick drink, our hands hooked over an accommodating hip as we walked away from the dancers, Elias smiled over at me wickedly.
"They're gone," she said.
Wiping the sweat from my face, I asked, "Who's gone?"
"Xena and Gabrielle." She handed me my mug.
I looked around the room and over at the dancers. There was no tall warrior sticking up through the throng of writhing bodies. Elias was right. They were gone. I looked back at my Amazon and grinned.
"Geez, Elias, what do you suppose they're doing?" I was still grinning.
"Oh, I know what they're doing," she said huskily.
"Wanna tell me?"
She put her mug down on the table and grasped me by both hips, pulling me closer to her. She began placing soft, wet kisses along my neck. "I'd much rather show you," she whispered in my ear and followed the words with her tongue. I felt my knees start to give way, but she tightened her hold on me. A strong pulsing sensation drew my attention to the area between my legs, and I clamped them tightly together. Elias laughed low in her throat. I felt her thigh move my legs apart. She pressed it against me, and I jumped. "You can't hide from me, Sinea. I will always know what you want and what you need." She kissed me full on the lips, drew back and looked at me with those crystal blue eyes. "And I'll always be willing and able to give it to you."
Gods! Is she saying all the right things, or what? Her lips claimed mine again, and I leaned into her and took everything she offered. "Phew!" I exclaimed as we broke apart, but I still had my eyes closed.
"Want more?" she growled.
"Not here," I managed to reply.
She gave me that low, throaty chuckle again. "We can find a much more suitable place," she assured me, hands running slowly up and down my back. Mine were full of her hair as I kissed her this time. She moaned, and that pleased me.
"Let's get out of here."
We grabbed our cloaks from the bench, and she took me by the hand. "Your wish is my command, warrior." She led me out of the heat of the dining hall into the cold, crisp darkness of the night. It felt good after all that heat and intoxicating Amazon wine.
"I suppose we're headed to your mother's?" That thought made me just a trifle uneasy.
She continued to lead me down the moon-dappled, snow-covered street. "Not just yet, we're not. I know a nice, warm place we can go where no one will bother us until morning." I could see her white teeth gleaming in the moonlight as she smiled at me.
I had to grin back. Her smile was infectious. "Ok. Where are we goin'?"
Surprisingly, she led me straight into the dark barn. She began to climb the ladder to the loft above the horses' stalls. "Come on up here."
Several of the horses were in for the night, and Argo was one of them. She must have recognized my scent, because she whickered softly at me. "Hi, Argo," I said as I followed my blond Amazon up the wooden ladder. "Where are you?" I asked, looking around.
"Over here." She stood at the back of the loft, light shining on her from the small, open door where they hoisted the bales of hay up to the loft.
I walked over to her and was amazed at how warm the horses kept the loft. Elias removed her cloak and took mine, too. She laid them down on the hay. Next she went behind some bales and brought out a blanket. She spread it out in the light of the moon and made a small pile of hay underneath it for us to use as a pillow. It was obvious she was used to coming here. With whom? I wondered. She must have been sensing my suspicion.
"I spend a lot of time up here. It's quiet. There's the wonderful smell of the hay and the horses. I used to study up here, and I still come up here to think." She sank down onto the blanket and pulled me along with her. "Now, I've found another use for it."
When she got comfortable, she brought my body half atop hers and her lips reached up for mine. I felt my body catch fire as she ran her hands up and down my back and grasped my thigh between her own. Here it was, the moment I'd been dying for all day. And I was scared to death. She felt my timidity, because with a shift of her hip, she rolled me over onto my back and took the initiative. I was more than willing for her to do so. She was the one with the education. I was just the one with the hunger and no notion how to deal with it.
As she continued to kiss me, she let her hand play in my hair, chuckling behind our locked lips when she got her fingers tangled in the curls. Loosening her hand, she slid it slowly and softly down the side of my face to my neck and then casually let it glide lightly over my body. Her tongue dancing in my mouth was causing me to make nonsensical sounds which she seemed to be enjoying.
Her hand stopped at my breast and just lay there as she moved her lips to my ear and neck. Her thigh drove my legs apart, and she brought it up tightly against that heated area that I knew was drenched with my arousal. She moaned in my ear as my hips involuntarily rose up to meet her body. It seemed that my body knew what to do. It may not know how to initiate, but I was finding it sure knew how to respond.
My tunic laced at the throat to just below my breasts. She slowly began to untie the laces, and I didn't know if I was supposed to help or not. She didn't act like she needed my help. Every time a lace came undone, she would place a soft kiss on my exposed skin. I inhaled so much air so fast that I choked, and she laughed wickedly.
"What's the matter, warrior? Never had a mouth that close to your precious jewels before?"
"No," I replied huskily.
She slid my tunic open as she looked at me with that gleam in her eyes. Her fingers burned their way over to one of my very excited breasts and traced around it slowly and sensuously. Never taking her eyes from mine, she lowered her lips to the painfully erect nipple. She kissed it and then sucked gently, sending shudders throughout my body. Nothing intelligent would come out of my mouth, so I just closed my eyes and moaned.
"Sinea, why don't we slip this off, huh? It would make it so much easier for me to get to all that beautiful, soft skin."
"Uh. Sure," I stammered and allowed her to sit me up so she could raise the tunic up over my head.
When the cold air from the open door reached my skin, I shivered but she pushed me back down onto my back. Rising to her knees she removed her own tunic and placed it with mine. She sat back on her heels and began to remove my boots. Finished with that little chore, she knelt between my legs and very slowly ran her hands up my legs, over my thighs and latched onto the clasp of my breeches. She leaned forward as she began to slide my pants down over my hips. Her firm breasts hung between my legs like ripe fruit on a tree just waiting to be plucked. I wanted to touch her desperately and reached for what had been hidden from my view for nearly two days. She grinned and sat back on her heels again, away from my reach. I lay back down and waited for what she would do next.
She chuckled and finished removing my breeches and underdrawers. When she had me completely nude in the moonlight, she sat back and smiled appreciatively. "You have a beautiful body, warrior."
All I could think of in response to that was, "Thank you."
Suddenly, she closed her eyes and threw her head back. "Ugh!" She inhaled deeply. "Mm-m," she moaned, lower lip caught between her teeth. "Gods! The passion!" she whispered. She opened her eyes again, and I reached my arms out to her. She lay her body full on top of mine and kissed me passionately as I held her close. The feel of her warm, full breasts on mine was exquisite. She lay her head alongside mine, and I felt her warm breath in my ear. "They have got to leave this village soon!" she exclaimed.
"They at it again?" I asked, kissing her on the cheek.
"Oh, Gods! You should feel it!" Her breathing was ragged, and I stroked the platinum hair. "I'm picking up battle lust and lots of it," she said. "Gabrielle emotions are just as strong as Xena's. They're driving me insane!" she said through clenched teeth.
"You can take it out on me. Isn't that why we're here?" I kept stroking her lovely head.
"Sinea, I don't want our first time together to be like that. There's no gentleness there, I can assure you." Her skin was soaked with sweat.
I lightly scratched her back with my nails, and she groaned. She claimed my mouth again in a searing kiss, and I knew I could take Elias any way she wanted it to be. Hot and heavy soft and gentle. It didn't matter. I wanted her any way I could get her.
"I need you, Elias," I said against the side of her face. She moaned softly, and I could tell by the way she moved down my body that she was keeping the fires of lust tightly contained.
She got to her knees again and quickly divested herself of boots and breeches. When she was naked, she plastered her body to mine, taking one breast in her mouth and kneading the other with her hand. She placed her thigh against my center again, and I had never felt such a sensation in all my short life. We both moaned at the initial contact. She ground her hips into mine, and I drove up to meet her. The silky, hot wetness nearly drove me mad.
"Elias!" I exclaimed. "Gods, Elias!" I knew where I wanted her, and I gently pushed her with my hands.
"Whatever you wish, love," she said and slid further down my body. I was drawn as tight as a bowstring, and if she didn't give me the touch I craved soon, I'd snap.
She stopped briefly to place soft kisses on the dark curls at the base of my stomach. Placing her hands between my thighs, she pushed them farther apart. I looked down as she lay between them and lowered her head. The sight of her beautiful face pushing itself into my dripping center nearly brought me to orgasm there and then, but when her lips and tongue actually took possession of my swollen nub, I cried out. In response, she grasped my hips with her hands and buried her face even deeper. I clasped her head with my hands, drawing my knees up. I knew one thing, my hand had never felt like what she was doing to me. Her tongue slowly took in the length of me and she let it encircle the entrance to the place that had never been breached. Then her lips captured that protrusion once again and she licked and sucked in rhythm with my moans.
I wanted to continue to watch her, but my eyes just wouldn't stay open. I lay back on our hay pillow and let my fingers run through her silky fine hair. I reveled in its feathery lightness. With my eyes closed my senses were much more alert. The feel of her hair on my hands, the sound of her soft mewling as she brought my body closer to a place even I had never taken it, and running my tongue over my lips, the taste of her light salty sweat. This was the Elysian Fields, I was convinced. My body felt as though she were sending lightening bolts through it. I felt her place her fingers at my opening and trace light circles just inside. That, and what she was doing with her tongue, were driving me close to the brink.
Her fingers never stopping, she asked me softly, "Are you sure you want me forever?"
I opened my eyes and looked down at her. The moon shone in her crystal blue ones. "I'm absolutely sure, Elias," I answered breathlessly. "You're the other half of my soul." I saw her smile.
"Yeah, I think so, too," she responded with that grin. Then she suddenly closed her eyes again. "Mm-m," she moaned. "Ah!" Her body began rocking against the blanket. Quickly she lowered her mouth to me again and began sucking in earnest. Shock waves were going through me, and I felt my body tense. I grasped her head tightly again. Her fingers made pumping motions just inside my entrance. She groaned loudly, and I became inflamed at her sounds. Then I began the climb.
"Don't stop! Don't stop!" I whispered frantically. Her mouth took me in deeper, and I pushed my hips into her face. Her moans became louder and her ministrations faster. "I'm coming, Elias! Gods, I'm coming!" I yelled, and I was. Like I never had before. She sucked harder, and I heard her swallow her own scream as she plunged her fingers deep within me. There was a quick, searing pain and then I found my hips bucking against her hand and mouth as I came crashing down the mountain. As she continued to thrust into me, I felt her move her body. She straddled an upraised thigh, and I felt her warm wetness clasped tightly to it. She pushed herself hard against me as she drove me to another orgasm with her hand.
Then she yelled and jerked violently against my leg. "Sinea!"
As my breathing returned to normal, I opened my eyes. She lay with her head on my stomach, still astride my thigh. I reached down and ran my hand through her hair. "Are you ok?" I asked softly.
A light chuckle came up to me. "Yeah. Never better." She raised her eyes to mine. "What about you, though? You just bore the brunt of the orgasms of three people."
"Four. The orgasms of four people," I corrected her. "It was quite a trip," I admitted, laughing lightly.
She slid up my body and kissed me deeply. "Well, they're very good. I'll say that."
I smiled into her pale eyes. "At least you called out my name in your throes of passion and not Xena's or Gabrielle's."
She chuckled, placing a kiss on my nose. "Oh, my love, there was no doubt in my mind who I was making love to. All I had was the benefit of their emotions."
I hugged her soft, warm body to me. "Well, their emotions took me places I've never been before," I admitted.
"In a way, I guess it was good for your first time. I know I had to hurt you, and it helped to have you up so high."
I laughed. "Oh, I was high all right! I felt like I'd fallen a league before I hit bottom."
She took my face in her hands. "Good. I hope that's how it'll always be."
Reaching up to kiss her, I said, "Elias, I have no doubt that's how it will always be."
"We are going to have such a good life together." She playfully nipped me on the neck.
"You're right, but for now I think I have a favor to repay." I quickly rolled her over onto her back. "And now I do believe I know how to do it."
She chortled. "You might want to take advantage of it." I looked down to see the light in her eyes and the smile on her lips. "They're ba-a-a-ck," she sang.
I rolled my eyes. "Gods! They're insatiable!"
"Oh, and like we're not," she teased as I took a tempting nipple into my mouth.
"Well," I mumbled around it as she squirmed, "we have an excuse. Good thing we're on the same schedule, I guess."
"Good for me this time." She laid her head back and moaned softly. "Oh, Sinea, that feels so-o-o good."
"Yeah. Tastes good, too."
I let my hands roam freely over the body that had tempted me since my arrival. It was mine. She was mine. Artemis, be praised! I touched, I tasted, I inhaled everything that was Elias. When I had come to the place between her thighs, I drank her dry and begged for more. My mouth and fingers had learned her dance well. As I brought her closer to where I wanted her to be, I heard her husky, breathless voice drift down to me. "You have a warrior's arms Sinea. Use that strength."
I knew what she meant, and the thrill of taking what she was offering me made the heat rise in my body. I could tell by her moans and her motions what she wanted and how near she was. I grasped her tightly with one arm, sucked her deeply into my mouth, and when I felt her let go with my name on her lips, I thrust into her with all the strength I had. I was rewarded by hearing my name chanted like a litany by the young woman I knew I loved more than I had ever loved anything or anyone. We had just given each other the most precious gift lovers could give one another. I was so happy that we were young and that we had both been untried until this night.
I traveled up and kissed her lips with all the passion that was in me. Close was no longer close enough. I wanted to be buried in her forever. "Mo gra thu, Elias," I whispered in her ear.
"Hm-m?" she purred, breathing more evenly.
"I said," kissing her ear, "I love you."
She held me closer in her embrace. "That wasn't what you said."
I looked into her eyes. "Yes, I did. I said mo gra thu. That means I love you in Gaelic."
"Ooh. I like that," she purred again. "Always say it like that."
I chuckled. "Ok. Whatever you want."
"I want to make love to you, my sweet Amazon," she growled and dumped me off of her.
"Not them again," I said, thrilled at having been called an Amazon by the Queen's Own.
"Oh, no, warrior. This is all me. I love you so."
"By the Gods, Xena," the blond exhaled into the warrior's ear. "How I adore you."
"And I you, my lovely Queen," Xena replied in her hot maple syrup tone. She lifted her head to gaze into Gabrielle's sleepy, satiated green eyes. Her own blue ones were dark with passion.
"You have never broken a promise to me, and tonight was no exception."
Xena raised an eyebrow. "Tonight? A promise?" she queried.
Gabrielle brushed the dark hair behind the warrior's ears. "Yes, my love. This afternoon you promised me you'd make love to me tonight until I was totally satisfied."
"And are you, my Queen?" She gave her young lover a lopsided grin.
"I feel like I'm glued to you. One night, one soul, one body. I'm in Elysium."
"I'm glad." She kissed Gabrielle slowly and tenderly. "Was I too rough?"
"Oh, Xena!" The bard gasped at the memory of their wild, torrid sex of the last two times. Her body trembled at the remembered sensations. "Please say that will happen again."
Xena could feel the juice of her arousal dripping down onto her lover's curls. "If you don't quit looking just like that and saying things in just that way, it'll happen again right now."
Her lover and young Queen laughed lightly. She hugged Xena to her. "My beautiful warrior, I think you might have to get a substitute this time. I'm exhausted."
Xena laughed, too, and it was a sound the bard never tired of hearing. "I couldn't make love to anyone else ever again. No one will ever share that level of my emotions, Gabrielle. It's all for you." She paused for a heartbeat. "And, I guess, Elias."
Gabrielle's green eyes went wide. "Elias?" Fury darkened them. "What about Elias, Xena?"
"Settle down, my little friend. I have a story to tell you about the Queen's Messenger." Xena lay down by Gabrielle's side and gathered her into her. With warm, strong arms wrapped around her love, she proceeded, "I sing a song of Elias, the Queen's Own "
Gabrielle chuckled and laid her head on the warrior's shoulder.
I stood holding Argo's reins, and she kept whuffling my hair with her lips. Xena could see it out of the corner of her eye, and I could hear her snort in amusement.
Elias stood with her arm around my waist. The rest of the village had gathered around to wish Xena and Gabrielle godsspeed on their journey. The young Queen was bestowing hugs and kisses on Ephiny, Solari and Eponin. Then she turned and took me into her arms.
"You be good and study hard. I'll expect good reports about you." She turned to Elias for a hug. "And this is the one who'll bring them to me."
I smiled with tears burning my eyes. "I will, my Queen," I assured her.
"Elias, please take care of my new little sister. She has a tendency for trouble." Elias grinned that grin and wrapped her arm around my waist again.
"No fear, my Queen. I'll never be too far away unless you need me."
Xena stepped forward and held her arm out to Elias first. My love took it firmly. "Enjoy the royal hut, Queen's Own. Your new quarters should be ready long before we return."
"Thanks for everything, Xena. We appreciate it."
She held her arm out to me, and I grasped it like a lifeline, but she was a big, old softie. She pulled me to her and wrapped her other arm around my shoulders. Her chin rested on the top of my head.
"Can I walk you and Gabrielle to the border, Xena?" I asked, tears rolling down my face.
She pulled away from me and ran her thumb across my cheeks. "Now, no tears," she said, but I noticed her blue eyes were misty. "No to your question. Saying goodbye one time is hard enough, besides you have classes to attend this morning. Study hard."
"I will, Xena." I choked back a sob, and I felt Elias' hand on my back. Xena smiled at her.
"Love each other."
"That won't be difficult, Warrior Princess," Elias replied.
Xena turned to mount Argo and Gabrielle took her place at the warrior's side. All the Amazons went down on one knee and saluted. I was no exception.
"Goodbye, everybody," she said. We all arose.
"We'll be back for Winter Solstice, and we might stay for a moon or so," Xena added, looking down at Elias and me.
"I sure hope so, Xena," I said, not feeling so bad anymore.
"Let's go, Gabrielle." She nudged Argo with the calves of her legs, and they were on their way with a small escort. As I watched them move away, Xena turned in the saddle and grinned at me. "By the way, warrior, you should study all about those rabid weasels. They could teach you a thing or two."
I laughed, and Elias looked at me with a quizzical expression. "Rabid weasels?"
"Yeah," I giggled. "Xena and I like to study wildlife."
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