DISCLAIMER: The characters Xena and Gabrielle are copyright, other characters may have familiar sounding names. Written purely for fun, no infringements intended.
Xena and Gabrielle were standing in a sparsely furnished amazon hut, for once it seemed to be the warrior who was more given to speech.
Zeus! I am not even an amazon! she made little attempt to conceal her exasperation And you are a Queen! Supreme head of all the amazon nations, the woman who must be obeyed surely you could get us out of this?
I happen to think it is a good idea the bard had decided that retaining serenity would annoy her friend all the more, and it was.
I never suggested the *idea* was bad the warrior spluttered
I simply see no reason why *we* should become involved. Baby-sitting a pair of lovestruck amazons was not the relaxation I was looking for the agitation appeared to be draining from her tones as Xenas voice trailed off.
Gabrielle opted for a more conciliatory approach.
These young women are nearing the end of schooling, so spending a day shadowing the adults will give them an insight into their future responsibilities, it is a *good* idea. Gabrielle looked her friend full in the face before adding
as for lovestruck, well I guess every young amazon is in love with the legendary Xena
The warrior could never resist that certain twinkle in emerald eyes.
I meant in love with each other though now you mention it I have noticed a certain doe-eyed, blushing while the mighty Queen Gabrielle speaks
The resigned acceptance of the situation afforded them both a smile.
I am sure that Queen Astina has a good heart, but she is a grouch the bard ventured.
A little uptight Xena agreed, she just takes her responsibilities very seriously
This wine isnt the worst Gabrielle was much happier so where did you send our charges anyway?
Xenas smile was mischievous.
To find rock crystal. That should keep them busy for *ages*
The warriors prediction and smile proved unfounded as two teenage amazons bustled into the tent
We hope this is enough. Queen Astina made a fuss about resources being limited the older girl announced.
But we explained it was for the legendary Xena and she relented her companion chipped in.
Xena was a study in disbelief.
You keep a store of rock crystal? she was looking at Gabrielle as she spoke.
The bard was grinning broadly.
Well done girls. What next, mighty Xena?
The warrior threw her companion a glare of disdain before looking up.
Yes, good work ladies. Now I need a pottery mould, a very special mould of a particular shape, it must be cast perfectly with no cracks or
The interruption was a squeal of delight.
Samaria is an expert potter, she has origins in Chin - the home of pottery!
Xena closed her eyes.
Of course, I suspected that she sighed heavily. Gabrielle grinned on.
My friends call me Sam, but Quince here knows that. It will be done in no time
The excited young amazons departed leaving Xena to reach for the wine.
You followed all my instructions? Let me see The warrior held out her hand, she was quietly impressed by the skill and efficiency of the amazon teens - something not unnoticed by the bard.
What are they Xena, what do they do? Gabrielle seemed as excited as the two teens who each handed over a piece of moulded crystal.
The warrior examined their work while explaining
some call them "magnifiers" they make things appear bigger. Just a bit of fun really
The warrior removed her breast dagger and scratched something on a flat rock. She held it up to the three others who were all concentrating, expectant.
Looks like nothing, would you agree?
A mark, a scratch said Sam
A mess Gabrielle decided.
Now, hold the magnifier, the crystal over the rock. You may have to move it a little if it is blurred the warrior explained.
Sam was intrigued, but disappointed.
It *is* much clearer but I still dont see
Still a mess, just a bigger mess Gabrielle was less enthralled.
Let me see, let me see Quince had run out of patience.
The bard happily handed over the rock and the magnifier.
After a few moments of study a smile crossed her face.
I know what this is she looked like she had discovered Greek-fire.
Xena, Queen Gabrielle you must come quickly! an urgent voice commanded.
The tent of Queen Astina was larger but as barely furnished as the tent assigned to the visitors. It was remarkable however, by the centrepiece
of a makeshift table dressed by what appeared to be a dead body.
The queen herself was comforting a sobbing amazon while two guards held post at the entranceway.
It is probably too late, but you have some medical skills the queen spoke quite sombrely as she motioned Xena towards the table.
Please! Do something! the sobbing amazon was distraught.
Gabrielle watched as her friend moved slowly around the prone figure, an occasional touch, sometimes a closer inspection but the bard knew that
no more could be done. The warrior showed purpose but no urgency.
I am sorry the warrior said simply.
The amazon who had been clinging to the queen tried to compose herself.
It was routine training, she just fell out of the tree .slipped on some moss maybe I knew the moment she fell . Her words were punctuated by sobs.
Leave us. Prepare yourself for the cleansing ritual, her soul will soar as a true amazon Astina addressed the weeping woman.
It was only when Xena returned to the body that she noticed the two charges had followed them into the queens tent.
Should these girls be here? she asked.
Astina and Gabrielle exchanged a look.
Death *is* a part of life, you know that Xena. This may be the best lesson that Quince and Sam receive today, albeit the harshest
It was Gabrielle that had spoken. She had noticed that Astina was somewhat overawed by her friend, the mighty Xena. If Gabrielle could be a buffer between them, she decided it would be worthwhile.
The warrior shrugged. As Quince and Sam held hands and approached the dead amazon with a little trepidation, Xena approached Astina.
Would you care to fill me in?
Astina spoke in matter of fact tones.
The dead girl is Kaya, a very promising warrior. The other girl, Medina, was with her on training. She said they were practising routine defence work, Kaya appeared to slip, fell forward out of the branches and well you must know that even simple training has its risks
Was Medina her lover? Xena asked boldly.
Astina was more puzzled than shocked.
I am queen, not a master spy.
Gabrielle had noticed the slight blush of discomfort on the face of Sam at the mention of the word "lover" She and Quince had squeezed hands a little tighter, then released their mutual grip.
Is their a problem, Xena? Gabrielle asked.
I dont want the body released the warrior replied.
Queen Astina was now puzzled and angry.
You are not an amazon Xena, but you know our customs. Kaya must be prepared for the ritual
Xena looked to her friend, Gabrielle obliged.
In a while Queen Astina, I shall ensure all customs are properly adhered to.
Quince and Sam here can remain as observers
The warrior smiled, if only inwardly. Gabrielle rarely exerted her role as amazon queen, but when she did, she was imperious.
Astina had left them to attend other duties
In the absence of their tribal queen, the two young amazons appeared noticeably more relaxed, now more used to the corpse, they were even using their magnifiers to examine the wounds and bruises.
Actually I keep forgetting just how quickly amazons must grow up said Gabrielle who also had found an admiration for the trainees. Yet she was more concerned for the deceased Kaya.
You dont believe she fell from a tree? What is it, Xe?
Im just not entirely convinced the warrior replied something is not quite right she hesitated before airing her misgivings.
Falling *forward* from a tree is unusual, but a slip on moss or whatever could account for that, but her hands, her arms
You automatically put out your arms to break a fall! Sam sounded excited but then became embarrassed at eavesdropping.
Her arms look pretty broken to me Gabrielle noted.
I know, but just not *enough* replied Xena.
You mean they should be smashed to a pulp? Quince joined in.
Xena and Gabrielle exchanged a resigned look, clearly these charges were both smart and eager.
Well, sort of. Her whole body should have been braced for a fall, she would have instinctively protected her head and chest at the cost of her arms or legs the warrior explained.
Are you saying she was killed *before* she fell? asked the bard.
Xena became the centre of three pairs of eager eyes.
No, I just cant say that for sure
Quince and Sam were quite amused as Xena and Gabrielle continued to use the crystal magnifiers to study the extant Kaya.
All that endless staring, they must have sore necks Quince whispered to her friend.
It will be your turn soon Xena said sternly without looking up.
Sam blushed crimson.
How did she hear that?
I heard *that* too!
After what seemed a very long time, the warrior finally stood up.
There it is girls, you want to see?
The youngsters jumped up eagerly, Gabrielle handed her magnifier to Sam.
Sole of the left foot. Look *very* closely
That is unusual, very unusual Quince confirmed.
I still dont understand Sam complained.
As the pair continued to study the strange puncture wounds on the left foot, the warrior took her companion aside and gave her instructions.
Gabrielle quickly left the tent.
Quince and Sam were seated, holding hands again with no signs of self-consciousness, they *were* displaying signs of uncontrolled anticipation.
Xena had not really relished the idea of being a teacher, but she was almost enjoying this.
You have both displayed a quick brain, a willingness to listen and learn.
Now, I have asked Gabrielle to fetch two people can you tell me who that should be?
The amazons looked at each other, annoyed by the puzzle.
What is happening today? the warrior gave a further hint.
It took a moment longer, but Quince suddenly smiled.
No school! Our class were assigned to the grown-ups
Realisation swiftly dawned on Sam.
Kaya would have been assigned a trainee, she should be a witness
Medina too, dont forget Xena though was happy that they had followed her logic
though we cannot be too excited about things just yet she added a caution.
Gabrielle returned to eager faces, but her own visage was stern.
Medina and Kaya apparently allowed their charges the day off, and the youngsters were delighted to accept.
Thats terrible! said the more diligent Quince.
So is that it? wondered Sam
Gabrielle smiled and gave Xena a wink.
Not quite. One of the girls did notice something unusual before they took off. Kaya was violently sick on the path to the training grounds.
Xena mouthed the word yes
The younger amazons just looked disappointed.
Queen Astina raged into her own tent.
Xena! Do you know how scarce ginka root is? This tribe has limited resources you know, and are increasingly angry that Kaya has still to be cleansed. Imagine their feelings when they hear that Gabrielle has been sprinkling our precious ginka on a pile of vomit!!
Queen Astina put down the magnifier.
It is a monogram, two letters combined as one. In this instance an M and a K Hardly anything uncommon within amazon society The tribal queen had irritation still in her voice.
A love-bond said Xena traditionally a prelude to the first joining, the acceptance of pain marks an acceptance of trust, of love.
I need no lecture in amazon ritual, Xena Astina was indignant.
In this case, the wounds were created, I would suggest, with a pine needle.
Painful indeed the warrior intoned.
Astina sighed heavily.
You are suggesting the M is Medina, the K Kaya. So they were lovers?
Even less of a reason to suspect foul play
Xena ignored this for the moment.
You agreed that such monograms are not uncommon, though not necessarily practised by every tribe, I agree that seen many on amazon women. Xena paused, she was pleased to note that both Sam and Quince were fully attentive.
The puzzling thing is the placement. The sole of the foot is a strange place to declare a love-bond
Astina displayed a frown.
That had occurred to me. Unusual, but hardly a crime
You have a couple of bright girls here, you should nurture them carefully
Those words from the warrior brought smiles not only from Quince and Sam, but Gabrielle too.
It was Quince who first spotted the vague purple colour around the monogram, Sam who identified it as henbane. Rather who submitted it could be henbane. Xena even bowed in their direction.
It was the vomit on the path that confirmed it. The ginka that Gabrielle scattered dried the stomach fluids and left tiny fragments of henbane seed.
Seed no doubt introduced orally in a safe dose, but then componded by henbane oil introduced on the point of a pine needle
Astina looked slightly overwhelmed.
Gabrielle decided to step in.
We really believe that having climbed the tree to "train" Medina suggested the love-bond and with a prepared pine-needle, poisoned Kaya. We cannot answer the "why" but if you want further investigation you could surely do worse than Quince and Sam
Im sorry for leaving so soon but we were supposed to be relaxing
Xena threw an arm around her friends shoulder as the amazon village faded into the distance.
Im not sorry. I didnt want to hear of Medinas motives, but I trust Queen Astina to see justice done. As for those two, goodness they will go far!
They could start a whole new science of how people die
For once the warrior did not think her friend was exaggerating.
If you think about it said Xena, it was the vomit on the path that proved crucial
They could call it "Vomit on the Pathology" laughed the bard.
One thing I still dont see said Samaria. Gabrielle nor I could decipher what Xena had scratched on that stone, but you claimed you could
Simple. It was two letters, a monogram, a love-bond smiled Quince.
It was. Only it was written in Siberian. Grinned Quince.
Oh wow! I dont need to ask which letters, do I? Sam was gleeful.
Im not saying they are lovers Quince grinned, but I practise writing QS, the mighty warrior has perfected her XG
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