The man watched as the carpenters put the finishing touches on the set, it looked great and barely resembled the barn it was a couple of days ago.
"Oooh, this is fabulous! Thanks again for helping me with this, Gabrielle," he announced in an accented voice.
The small blond smiled at the flashily dressed man, he was a lot of fun and knew how to have a good time. "Youre welcome Jace. Just glad we have a bunch of friends in town to put this show on."
"Yes, you are all so fantastic. I just know the men coming to watch tonight will be begging to have this show at their theatre."
"Umm, Jace," a man interrupted, "I have some bad news. Seems Jason has lost his voice, he cant participate tonight."
"What? No that cant be," his hands moved around dramatically. "How can I find someone to take his place? The show opens in a candle mark?" Jaces eyes opened wide when he saw the tall brunette walk into the barn, "Ohhh Xeeenaaa."
Xena saw the extravagant man swish towards her, and she turned to get out of there. Unfortunately she didnt move quickly enough and he caught her. "Hello, Jace."
"Xena, I need to ask you a favor." A lone eyebrow raised in question was the only response he got. "You see, I need you to be in the show tonight."
"Sorry, Im not interested."
"But Xena." he whined, "you must, there is no one else, I will be ruined, simply ruined."
Gabrielle now stood next to the pair, she wanted to make sure Xena wouldnt kill Jace before hed had his shot at glory, but she also wanted to see if she could get the warrior to agree to be her opponent. "Come on Xena, you afraid of a little competition? Bawk bawk bawk." She smiled impishly as she imitated a chicken.
Xena sighed in resignation; it was a rare day when she could refuse a request from Gabrielle, especially when she looked so cute. "Okay, now what is this horse and pony show Im performing in?"
Jace clapped excitedly, "Dont worry, everything will be explained."
"Great, I cant wait."
Xena and Gabrielle stood waiting for their cues. The warrior decided if she couldnt get out of this, then shed make it more interesting. "Gabrielle, what do you think about laying a little wager on this game."
The bard seemed intrigued, "And what would be the stakes in this bet?"
"Hmmm, how about the loser has to wash dishes for a week at the Inn."
"Is that the best you can do, Xena?"
"And what would you suggest?"
Gabrielle leaned in and whispered something in the taller womans ear that made her blush. "Oh yeah," Xena agreed," that is much better, especially since Im going to win."
The impatient clapping of hands interrupted them. "Lets go ladies, its time." Jace announced as he began to usher them to the stage. He almost placed his hands on Xena to give her a starting push, but thought better of it when the dark haired woman gave him a look that warned he wouldnt get them back in working order.
"Keep your cod piece on, were going."
When they reached the stage there was a curtain in place that prevented them from seeing the audience, but they could still hear the crowd and it sounded like a full house. Jace sat the women down in their assigned spots and fluttered off to make sure everything was ready.
As Xena looked up at the nine boxes that were set up across from them, she read the name plaque that was set at each empty cube. Her eyes widened when she read two particular ones. "How in Hades name did he get Aphrodite and Ares to agree to be a part of this?
"Oh Jace can be quite charming and persuasive if he wants too be." Gabrielle replied.
The brunette snorted.
Music began playing and the curtain slowly opened, Xena still had no clue what she was supposed to be doing, but trusted that Jace would explain it. The area was packed with people who began clapping and cheering when they saw the show was beginning. From the left, Jace emerged being carried by two strapping young men who wore only pairs of small, shiny gold shorts.
The boy toys set Jace down and the man thanked them before he stepped up onto his position between Xena and Gabrielle. "Hello ladies and gentlemen, I am Jace and I will be your host for this evening. Now lets introduce our squares for this evening.
An announcers voice took over. "Meg and Leah." And as he said the names, the women popped into the same square, with pink sparks falling around them. Apparently, Aphrodite was helping out with the showmanship aspect of the show. "Salmoneus; Ares, God of War "
Xena smiled when she saw how unhappy the dark natured man looked at being in what he must have thought of as a freak show.
" Autolycus; Ephiny, Cyrene; Eli; Joxer the Mighty; and last, but certainly not least, our center square, the Goddess of Love herself, the fabulous Aphrodite."
Aphrodites square was showered with pink rose petals as she popped into it. She smiled and waved coyly to everyone and blew a few kisses as she took a seat in her cube.
Jace cleared his voice, "Okay, I will now explain the rules of the game to our players and the audience and well begin play. Gabrielle, you will be X and Xena you will be Os. You will each take a turn asking our squares a question and then decide if they are telling the truth or making something up. If you guess correctly, youll get the box, if not, your opponent will. The goal is to get three boxes in a row, either up, down, or diagonal. Do you understand?" Both women nodded their heads, "Fantastic, lets begin. Gabrielle, you get to choose first."
Gabrielle considered a moment before choosing, "Ill take Aphrodite."
Aphrodite grinned, "Thanks sweet cheeks."
"Heres your question. True or False, according to Marta Stewardus the best way to get the smell of skunk off of clothing and skin is to use tomato juice."
"Well ewww, thats totally grody. Like who would want to get near a stinky skunk anyway, and then you go and put icky tomato juice all over you? Ill say false.
Jace turned to the blond next to him, "Do you agree or disagree."
"Ill have to disagree."
"And you could be correct, X gets the square. Okay Xena, your turn."
"Meg and Leah."
"Alright ladies, what is the biggest difference between a donkey and an ass?"
Meg shook her head, "I think youre asking the wrong people buddy. Ephiny should get this question, shes the horsey chick."
Leah looked confused, "What do you mean? Does Ephiny like riding horses?"
Her square-mate appeared as though she was going to bust a gut at the phrasing Leah used. "Yeah, something like that." She burst out laughing.
Fortunately there were a few squares between the curly haired Amazon and the Xena look-a-likes or the audience may have witnessed some bloodshed.
Jace knew he needed to get things back under control, "Umm, your answer please ladies."
Leah glanced over at Meg who was laughing so hard now she had tears streaming down her face. The Hestian virgin rolled her eyes. "Ill say the ass is a male."
Watching Ephiny trying to think of a way to get up to Megs square had distracted the warrior. "Uh, I disagree."
"Right, a donkey is domesticated and an ass is wild. O gets the square."
"I can tell you about wild asses," Meg began. "There was this one time "
"And with one square a piece, well be right back."
The announcers voice once again filled the area. "Tired of always running out of room in your saddle bags during long trips? Need more packing space for odds and ends you pick up on your journeys? Well look no further than the Bottomless Saddlebag; this item can carry what appears to be an endless supply of everything. This bag is even endorsed by seasoned travelers Xena and Gabrielle who say it can hold so much stuff its seems like magic. And if you purchase this bag now, for the low price of 8 dinars, well throw in at no extra cost this travel sized frying pan, good for cooking up dinner, or knocking out bad guys. The Bottomless Saddlebag, its the only bag youll ever need."
Jace managed to get all the squares back under control during the short break, though he had a feeling Ephiny would be looking for Meg later.
"Okay, now well get to know a little about our contestants. Gabrielle?"
"Im Gabrielle. Im originally from Poteideia, but now my home is wherever Xena is." She smiled as the crowd awwd.
"That is so sweet, now lets hear from your other half. Xena?"
"My name is Xena."
Jace waited a moment for her to continue, but soon realized that was all he was going to get from her. "Alright then, you each have one square a piece. Gabrielle, its your turn."
The God of War was attempting to blend into his square, so Gabrielle decided to get him involved. "Ares."
Jace thought he heard Ares growl at the sound of his name. "According to Athens Daily, who was the God most women said they wanted to sleep with?"
"That would be me of course."
Gabrielle didnt even wait for Jace to ask her, "I disagree."
"Actually, the number one God women wanted to sleep with was "He looked up and saw Ares had a fireball in his hand. "Umm, the God of War is right. Sorry Gabrielle, O gets the square."
Xena frowned, she wanted to win, but not if there was cheating going on. "Give me the card."
"What? You dont believe women wouldnt want a tall, dark man in black leather?" Jace questioned.
Before Xena could answer, the card in question burst into flame. Jace let out a girly scream before he dropped the burning card and stomped on it with his heeled boots. But being a professional, he got back on track quickly, singed fingers and all. "Xena, its your choice now."
The brunette glanced up at Ares square and saw the smug look on the mans face, "Mom, uh Cyrene."
"Xena, wait," Gabrielle interrupted, "you picked the wrong square, you should chose Salmoneus."
The warrior smiled and shook her head. "No, Im going to win this game on my own. Now I picked Cyrene."
Jace left the card setting on the ledge in front of him not trusting that it wouldnt burst into flames, like the last one, if the God of War was not pleased with the answer. "
"Cyrene, what should a woman NEVER do when her husband is away at war?"
Xenas mom looked up in the direction of Ares square, "A woman should never assume that the man who appears at her door is actually her husband."
"Mother!" Xena couldnt believe her mom had said that, but she should know. The blue- eyed beauty sighed, "I agree."
"Youre right, circle gets the square." Jace quickly moved the card out of sight. "And now its time for another break."
The announcer cleared his throat, "Do you worry about not being able to slice through a rope with ease during a last minute rescue? Is the ability to slice and dice bandits and thugs to protect the innocent important to you? Have you been told you spend too much time sharpening and caring for your weapons? Then the Edge of the Known World is the store for you. We carry all types of blades, from simple knives all the way up to swords fit for the God of War himself. Each of our blades is carefully forged by hand and sharpened to give you the best edge possible. And if you act now, with every purchase you will automatically receive a free gift, a carefully crafted breast dagger small enough to conceal easily, but big enough to be used as a handy weapon. Visit the Edge of the Known World for all your weapons needs.
"I hope everyone is having a great time so far," Jace announced as he readied to start the game again. The crowd applauded. "Gabrielle, its your turn to pick, be sure you choose wisely."
"Ill take Autolycus to block."
"Okay. Autolycus, heres your question. In a recent poll, 68% of women said a man stole this from them."
Autolycus smoothed his mustache, "Well being the King of Thieves, Ive stolen a few of these myself. Of course many women have also given them to me as well, I mean how could they not?"
Jace rolled his eyes, "So you answer is "
"Gabrielle, do you agree with his answer?"
The bard thought a moment, it sounded like a reasonable answer, and she couldnt think of a better one. "I agree."
"X gets the square and blocks O, the game continues. Xena, where would you like to try next?"
The warrior looked at the board, she really wanted to win, but she still didnt want to take advantage of the opportunity Ares had created for her. "Ephiny."
The Amazon smiled at her friend; she knew the woman wouldnt take the easy way. Course now she had to actually answer one of the lame questions being asked.
"Here is your question Ephiny, its multiple choice. Which poet has had a tome on The Corinthian Times bestsellers list the longest? A. Homer Simpsonus, B. Sappho, C. Madethis Uppicus."
The curly haired blonde breathed a sigh of relief that she got a somewhat intelligent question, and one she was pretty confident about. "Sappho, no one can pass up her works."
Xena nodded, "I agree with her, Jace. Sappho is the second most talented writer out there." She glanced at Gabrielle and winked.
Jace had a "aint that sweet?" look on his face. "Xena wins the square and blocks the advance. We have some fierce competition going on here tonight. Who will win, the raven-haired warrior princess, or the fair and beautiful bard?" Jace was about to continue his babbling when he noticed Xena was twirling her chakram around her index finger. A bored former warlord was never a good thing. "Well Gabrielle, looks as though your future lies in the hands of Joxer the <cough>Mighty, good luck."
"Hey!" Joxer protested, "What do you mean by that you nelly twink?"
Jace wagged one finger at his brother, "Sticks and stone may break my bones " He was interrupted by Xena clearing her throat. "I will discuss this with you later, now lets see how you do with this question."
Jace proceeded to dispense a mathematical question that would leave the highest scholars heads spinning. Gabrielle scribbled on a piece of parchment trying to figure it out on her own. She snuck a peek over at her partner, who was deep in thought with the tip of her tongue peeking out the side of her mouth. She looked so adorable; Gabrielle would do anything to make her happy.
Joxer appeared to wait for the others to finish what they were doing before he answered the question. "327,506."
Gabrielle looked down at her paper before looking at Jace and then Xena. "Sorry, but I disagree."
Jace appeared to be in shock when he checked the answer against what Joxer had given. "Oh my gosh, he was right. Maybe hes some kind of idiot savant." He suddenly realized that Gabrielle was wrong. "Oh sorry, Gabrielle, but youre wrong. Which means, Xena wins the game!"
The bard smiled as she walked over and congratulated Xena on her victory, winning wasnt everything. The pair took their bows in front of the audience before slipping away out the back. It was time to collect on a bet.
The audience had filtered out and most of the squares had gone their separate ways. Jace headed out to the after show party but realized he forgot his fabulous scarf at his podium. He went back to retrieve it and saw the piece of parchment which Gabrielle had written her answer. He picked it up and read what she had written. A grin filled his face; he just loved the way the bards mind worked.
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