Disclaimer: Sighhh...not mine No dinars being made here.
Ties That Bind
by TE Brehm
"Ai yi yi y yi yi yi ...."
The familiar battle cry rent the air like a sword slicing through jelly, and before the brigand knew what was upon him he had received a full round-house kick to the back of the head. The warrior paused for a moment to watch him drop then with a satisfied grin she turned her attention to the fiasco before her. The monastery was in a shambles, most of it's residents lay in various stages of injury while the group of bandits tore the place apart. Tapestries had been torn from the walls and slashed, furniture overturned. Something with a noxious odor was oozing from a bunch of broken urns.
The Warrior and her companion had been returning from Athens with a wagon load of traded goods for the people of Amphipolous. When the sounds of fighting came to the ever-vigilant ears of the warrior. And without hesitation Xena had charged off in the direction of the small order.
At the sound of her cry the brigands had momentarily paused to see what was invading their little party. "Hi boys" she called almost conversationally "Got time for a little kick-ass?" The dark-haired warrior waded into their midst delivering blow after blow until she faced the last quartet of fighters. They were grouped together amongst their fallen comrades and the warrior stood watching them, her chest heaving just slightly from her exertions and a feral gleam had darkened her sky-blue eyes to an iridescent indigo.
"All right. Who sent you and what are you looking for?" she demanded with a menacing growl. The brigands only response were uttered curses and grunts. At that moment, from the doorway behind her where she had originally entered a familiar sound caught her ears. Gabrielle had come bursting through the doorway, finally having caught up after the warrior had "sensed" something was wrong and run off leaving her in the dust with a wagon, an unruly Argo, and a muttered "Wait here.."
"Xena..." she called breathlessly. Looking down she saw the original brigand her warrior friend had dispatched "Whoa..he's gonna have one killer headache" she muttered.
"XENA?!" the last of the brigands cried..."It's Xena..." "Let's get out of here." They tried to scatter past her, one hapless man tripping on a shattered bench. "Oh I don't think so." the warrior insisted as they tried to vacate. She grabbed the fallen man by the neck as the others scrambled for the windows, and lifted him to his feet. "Now, who sent you.. and what are you after?" she asked with a not so subtle tightening of fingers around the flabbergasted man's throat.
"I.. we..." he wheezed, his hands going to the warriors fingers to try and release the pressure on his windpipe. "Xena, he can't answer if he can't breathe" the bard reminded her. Gabrielle had gone to the fallen residents of the monastery and started trying to revive the injured. The warrior looked at him reflectively for a moment, and then dropped him unceremoniously on his ass "Huh, you're right Gabrielle." She stared down at the cringing little man and with a fierce growl insisted "DON'T make me ask you again!"
The brigand looked up at her, trembling. "We...we were sent by Aphrodite."
"Aphrodite!" The Bard cried in disbelief, coming to stand next to Xena. She stared down at the brigand. "Why would the goddess of love send armed thieves to tear apart a quiet monastery? Xena this is a temple of Hestia. These followers are all devoted to a peaceful existence."
"Well duhhh..." the dis-embodied voice echoed through the room. Both the warrior and the Bard turned in all directions searching for the owner of that voice. The brigand chose his moment to run.
"Alright Aphrodite..show yourself!" Xena growled. They heard a girlish giggle and then a luminous form slowly materialized before them.
The warrior and the Bard stared wide-eyed at the visage of Aphrodite standing before them. Gabrielle, her mouth dropping stepped closer. "'Dite..." she used the familiar nickname. "What in the name of Zeus are you wearing??"
"Oh this? Do you like it?" the simpering Goddess asked running her hands down her...outfit. "It's from the future...you know about two or three hundred years from now. I'm not really sure what year it was because there was sooo much beer and wine. I was at something called a "frat party" She giggled, using her fingers to emphasize the italics. She was wearing a dress, but it was so small as to be almost non-existent, with fringes hanging like loose vine. She had a brown leather band wrapped around her hair and she was carrying what looked like a chakram with sparkly little discs along the center of the border that made an irritating tinkling noise every time she moved it. "Do you like my tambourine?" she asked shaking it a few times.
"Tambo-what?" Gabrielle asked.
"Smells like... like.. sour brandy" Gabrielle answered stepping up beside the Goddess. Xena rolled her eyes as the bard began doing a slow walk around the goddess fingering the fringes of her outfit.
"Heyyy...." the beautiful blonde goddess objected. "Hands off sweet stuff" she pushed the bards fingers away.
"Oh yeah? You think this is small? Wait 'til you see what your ancestors are wearing." Gabrielle raised a sardonic eyebrow. The Goddess glared at her "Ever heard of a thong?"
"Hello! Am I even here?" The warrior once again made her formidable presence known.
"Oh ok... ok." The Goddess crossed her hands over her ample assets and sullenly faced the warrior. "Like I said, I was at a frat party and all the guys...decided to play a game. They called it "scavenger hunt". I'm not exactly sure what it is but they told me it involved a car jack, a bible, and a half a dozen canteloupes. There was a whole bunch of stuff I had to collect in order to win the game. And you know I love to win" she giggled again to the roll of the warrior's eyes. "I know what a bible is and the canteloupes were a piece of cake. But I'm not too sure about the jack..oh and the garden gnome. Haven't a clue." 'Dite waved her hands at the warrior and sauntered over to a chair. She turned it upright with a flick of her wrist and sat down.
"So you're here to find...some of these things?" Xena hazarded a guess. "To win this game."
"Oh no. I'm here to get my necklace." 'Dite smiled
"Your necklace?" Gabrielle asked in confusion.
"Yeah. Auntie borrowed my pink star sapphire and I want it back. It'll go great with this outfit."
"So you sent these brigands in here to tear apart a monastery so your aunt would return your necklace?" the warrior shouted. "Why didn't you just ask for it?"
Aphrodite looked at her like she was out of her gourd.
"Hello. My hands are tied here. She's off on some crusade half-way into the 20th century. Do you know how long it would take me to find my aunt and ask her to retrieve it for me? I know she stores her most valuable possessions throughout her different temples and this is one of her temples."
'Dite rolled her eyes at her favorite mortal. "Uhh..nooo. I didn't just think it might be hidden here! It's a star sapphire. This order is the "Star of Hestia"
"Oooh!!." The Goddess of Love growled as she de-materialized. Reappearing once again in her own sacred temple.
Morning. Or at least, early. Xena woke before dawn as usual, and when she tried to roll over she let out an expletive curse. "What in the name of..?"
In one swift motion the warrior's hand lashed out; Gabrielle watched as the chakram left her fingers, flew through a series of spiraling arcs, then bounced off a nearby boulder before turning back in their direction.
Oh, it was worth it. Gabrielle grinned victoriously at the expression on her companion's face. Xena: Embarrassed Princess.
It had been awkward, and uncomfortable, but it had been sooo worth it.
They had managed, while tripping over one another to get their camp packed up. The fire was a smoldering memory and Argo was getting restless in her harness. Now they were trying to get Xena's armor onto her body.
The arm bands had gone fine.
The knee-bracers were a snap.
The breast plate. . .was awkward.
"Ok, just put this under me..like this." The warrior directed. Gab reached one-handed under her arms to try and bring the plate up over her chest. "No..no..that's not gonna work. . ." the warrior told her, "It has to go over my head."
Gabrielle leaned in as close as she could in order to get her arms all the way around her muscular friend. They were standing literally chest to, well. . . With the height difference, Gabrielle could feel the swell of the warrior's breasts practically against her chin.
"Zeus give me strength." she muttered half under her breath as the stirrings of arousal and desire coursed through her.
"I'm sorry!" the Bard muttered, as she wrestled with the straps and buckles which she could only feel and not see.
Xena bounced liberally on her feet to settle everything into place.
"You got pretty nimble fingers." she said with a chuckle.
The bard blushed further.
"Umm. . .umm.." she cleared her throat.
"Ok.. so what are we going to do about these?" She asked holding up their co-joined hands.
"There's a temple of Aphrodite in a small outlying town just north of Amphipolous" she reminded the bard.
"You mean Diablo?" the bard asked.
Xena nodded. "Isn't that where they hold the annual Donnybrook Fair? That free-for-all fighting tournament in 'Dite's honor?"
"Yep." the warrior told her.
"Ok. So what are we going to do there?"
The warrior looked at her sheepishly. "Beg for mercy?"
"What?" the bard's eyebrow raised in disbelief.
Xena sighed exasperatedly. "Gabrielle, I'm tired. I just wanna go home. Argo's tired of pulling a wagon and I want to spend some time with mom and Toris. . .and.." she paused for breath. "Let's just go to the temple in Diablo and ask Aphrodite to take these damn things off" she finished.
Gabrielle stared at her incredulously. "Xena. Are you.. whining?"
The warrior's eyes dropped and her lower lip pooched out a bit.
"Yes. . ."
"Hades has frozen over." the bard exclaimed.
They were several hours down the road. The wagon was stocked and full and there was barely room for them to ride up front comfortably. Xena had opted to walk beside the Bard. Being the mare Argo was she didn't need to be led, Which was a blessing, every few feet Xena would have to catch her stride and slow it down. After the fourth time that the bard reminded her: "I may be the Amazon Queen but I don't have the legs for the job!"
"Well it's not my fault you take after your mother's side of the family, Gabrielle" the warrior snickered.
"Hey!!" The warrior exclaimed. "I think someone is getting a little cranky."
"I can't help it" the bard grumbled. "I'm tired of trying to keep up with you, and I'm hungry. . . What I wouldn't give for a nice juicy piece of your mom's apple - rhubarb pie and a tall glass of iced cream." she sighed.
"Oh yeah.. Or a tall cool glass of that fruit slush drink she makes. Mmm.." the warrior added.
"We're almost there."
"Xena?" the bard began. "Ummm. . .doesn't Diablo have a town guard?"
"Yes. The guard is posted at the road on both sides of town. Why?" the warrior inquired.
"Well, don't you think we're going to look a little ..umm. . .conspicuous?" she held up her manacled wrist. "Entering town wearing these..things?" The bard couldn't suppress a grin at the look of consternation on the face of her tall companion. It had never even occurred to the warrior, and it should have.
"They might think we're escaped convicts or... something." she eyed the pink fur.
"Son of a Bacchae! Xena cursed, stopping in the middle of the road. "We have to hide these somehow."
"Yeah. Ok, here let me just unhook my arm and you can carry it in your sword sheath." the bard told her sardonically.
"Let me think. The warrior studied her.
They entered the sleepy town of Diablo just before the sun reached it's zenith. As they approached the town common gate, two guards stepped forward from a small shelter provided.
"Hold." The first guard, was dressed in basic leathers with armor plating and carrying a well used short-sword. Tall and younger than he looked, he approached the two women entering the town common with curious eyes.
They were walking side by side, very close and it looked like they were. . . holding hands. Which wasn't all that odd, a warrior and judging by her staff, an Amazon traveling together. Though it wasn't that often they saw member's of the fierce tribe come down out of what they called "no man's land." Not odd at all. . . except for the horse blanket draped over their joined wrists.
"What's your business in town today Warrior?" he addressed the most obvious of the two women.
"We're here to visit the temple of Aphrodite, and for the Donnybrook Fair of course" she replied as genially as she could. Which meant she didn't immediately rip his head off and scream down his throat.
"And what of the goods you're carrying? Do you have a vendor's permit?" he inquired politely enough.
"No, we're not vendor's. These are trade goods being taken back to Amphipolous." Gabrielle piped in.
He wandered over to the wagon and gave it a quick inspection. Lifting a tarp off a section.
"Hey!" the warrior growled menacingly.
"She just told you we're not vendors." the warrior was beginning to lose her patience with the little pest.
The second guard chose this moment to step forward. "What is it you carry?" he asked curiously. He had watched the two women and was intrigued by the fact that they didn't move apart or release each other's grasp while the first guard was questioning them.
"The fair is an excellent opportunity for assassin's and brigands and the like to make their way into the town." he informed her. "We draw a large crowd and some come carrying grudges. We do what we can to make sure everyone is safe." he finished.
"A warrior who openly carries her blade is a known entity. It's the hidden surprise that we worry about" He glanced meaningfully down at their hands.
Xena rolled her eyes at the absurdity of these two pompous little boys.
"We're not carrying black powder or the dagger of Helios you little. . ." she stepped forward menacingly.
"Xena. . . " the bard interjected.
She raised an eyebrow at the bard. "Alright." she capitulated.
Using her free hand Gabrielle removed the blanket from their joined wrists. The guards stared down in disbelief.
Gabrielle moved as close to the warrior as she could and reached up with her free hand, placing it on the warrior's chest just between her breasts. For a moment Xena didn't know where to look, then her eyes caught the bard's, and she stood in mute shock.
"I like it a little rough." the bard told them, with a small lick to her lips.
"How lucky for you warrior. " they laughed, eyeing the small bard with a new appreciation.
"Boys, you have no idea." she deadpanned.
The guards gave her a conspiratorial grin and a wave.
"Enjoy the fair..ladies" they offered, motioning for the women to proceed.
"You might want to try the Dog and the Dragon if you're in need of a bed. They serve a more..distinguished. . .clientelle" the first guard offered.
The warrior released the young bard reluctantly and with a shake of her head she started moving down the road.
"Gabrielle, you come up with the most fantastical ideas some times." she told her.
"Oh I don't know if it's all that fantastical." the bard informed her. "For all you know I do like it rough."
Xena tripped over some road dust.
The temple of Aphrodite was on the opposite side of the village common. They had to travel through the crowded fairgrounds. The actual fighting events didn't take place until the following day. Basically it was nothing more than a huge street brawl. All the participants, men and women alike, in the middle of a huge open square, fighting a free-for-all battle to win the favor of the Goddess of Love. The only rule being that it was all hand to hand, no weapons were allowed and the last one standing was the winner.
Gabrielle watched the throngs of people as they moved carefully through the common. Some were obvious fighters; big, beefy looking men and the occasional woman warrior dressed similarly to her own tall companion. Others were obviously there just for the vendors, and a chance to spend a few dinars frivolously.
They reached the temple without incident and left the wagon with a word to Argo to "guard" Xena knew that if anyone tried to get near it Argo would go ballistic. They entered the temple still holding hands and looked around the bright interior. Torches burned every few feet along the walls, and skylights built into the ceiling at angles allowed natural lighting to enter. The scent of cinnamon incense, heavy and spicy filled the air in the outer chamber.
The altar room was adorned with offerings. Everything from fresh flowers, food and wine, to jewelry and gems. Trinkets of metal. Gifts of embroidered pillows and fabrics draped various surfaces including the altar which was on a raised dais similar to the one in the Goddess' own chosen temple.
The warrior and the bard looked around the room. Xena sniffed the air. "Eww. . . they've been leaving her fish again." she commented.
"Xena, don't you find it odd that the Goddess of Love would have a bunch of people fighting for her favor? I mean.. she's supposed to be about love, and passion."
Xena gave her a slightly condescending grin, "Oh come on Gabrielle, what could be more passionate than having two people. . . or two hundred people fighting over your favor?"
"'Dite absolutely eats it up."
"Xena I think that's a little harsh" the bard commented hesitantly.
"Oh please. I know you're her favorite mortal and you go nuts for all this love stuff. You can whitewash her any way you want to Gabrielle, but underneath it all Aphrodite is just as feather-headed and shallow as the next blonde bimb..ohh..hoh. . .Uhhh. . ." the warrior stuttered in mid-sentence as a shimmering figure suddenly started to materialize on the altar.
"Hello Aphrodite." the bard began genially, wanting to keep the temperamental Goddess in a good mood.
"I thought you were at a 'frat party'." the warrior commented using her fingers to emphasize the italics.
"Hey.." Gabrielle exclaimed as her arm came up and accidently hit her in the chest.
"Well by the time I got back from the scavenger hunt the party had pretty much worn itself out." The Goddess wandered around looking at all of her tithing. She was dressed in a rather demure.. for her anyway, outfit. Her long flowing gown was almost regal and gave her the look of a sophisticated debutante.
"Of course..jumping through time can be tricky and I missed by about 3o yrs but 'it's all good' as they say, lol" the Goddess giggled.
"Uh huh." the bard nodded skeptically.
"Aphrodite..?" the warrior began.
"Oh I was at this other place though. There was dancing, and singing. They called it a cabaret bar. I didn't think there would be so much royalty left in the future but the place was full of queens." she told them.
Aphrodite..?" Xena tried again.
"Some of them sure were ugly though."
"APHRODITE!" the warrior finally shouted.
"What!? Geez warrior babe don't get your leather thong all in a twist."
"We want to ask a favor." the warrior told her.
The Goddess looked at her incredulously. Behind her, she conjured a chaise lounge and dropped theatrically onto it. "A favor? After hurting my feelings at my auntie Hestia's temple, you want to ask ME for a favor?"
She reclined, dropping her head back and brought her hand to her temple. "Oh, I think I feel a doozy of a headache coming on."
"No." Gabrielle interjected, putting her free hand on the Goddess' arm. "What she meant to say was that we wanted to..umm.. Apologize."
Aphrodite raised her head and a huge, satisfied grin came over her features. "Oh well that's different. Apologize away my luscious little bondage babes." she sat forward eagerly.
Xena sighed. "Ok. We're sorry. We're sorry for hurting your feelings. Now will you take these manacles off, please?" the warrior capitulated.
The bard and the warrior extended their hands towards the seated Goddess.
Aphrodite gazed at them both suspiciously. "You know that was way too easy Xena. You don't "just" give in."
She rose and stepped towards the manacled women. Stepping right up into Xena's face she said "I. Don't. Think. You're. Sincere!" then giggled.
"Yes. Yes she is. . . yes we are, aren't we Xena?" the bard scrambled to appease the Goddess.
"Aphrodite will you just make these things disappear?" the warrior growled.
"'Dite, please." the bard rolled her eyes in frustration.
"Hmph." the Goddess huffed, turning away. "I've half a mind to shackle your legs together too." she threatened.
"NO!" the warrior and the Bard cried in unison.
Aphrodite settled herself back down on her chaise, with a sly little grin as an idea settled into her brain.
"I'll make you a deal." she offered.
The companions looked at her suspiciously.
"What kind of a deal?" the warrior questioned.
"You enter the fighting match tomorrow and if you win, I'll make the manacles. . . begone" she waved her hands with a flourish.
Gabrielle glared "And if we don't. . . win?" she asked.
The saucy Goddess smirked at her. "Well, let's just say if you don't win you're going to become MUCH closer friends." she started to de-materialize.
"Ttfn." she waved the tips of her fingers
They stood staring at the place where the goddess had lounged.
"Ttfn? What the Hades is ttfn?" Xena grumbled.
Aphrodite's head popped back into view. "Taa taa for now." then with a last satisfied giggle she was gone.
"Argghhh." the warrior growled.
They had left the temple, returning through the town common and finding a stable for Argo. The bard had tried to convince Xena to rent a room for the night at the Dog and the Dragon but the warrior had insisted on them bedding down in the stable with the mare and the wagon load of goods. She had, however agreed to rent them the use of a bath and a good meal at the Inn.
The bathing chamber was dimly lit but private, and the water was hot and plentiful. After some struggling and no little dancing around each other they had managed to get their clothing off. Mostly. Xena's armor was in the stable with Argo but her shift, which wouldn't come off over the manacles was hanging out of the tub to be kept dry. Mostly.
Gabrielle's skirt had not been a problem and her green top also dangled from their wrists which were slung over the edge of the tub.
By necessity they were kneeling face to face.. and very close. And naked. Very naked. In fact, the bard couldn't remember the last time she had ever felt so naked. Being this close to the warrior, in hot water lightly scented with oils and bubbles, was very disconcerting. It wasn't as if she had never seen Xena naked before. They bathed in streams and swam all the time on the road. But being so close was causing flutterings and feelings she had been able to ignore until very recently.
The warrior was having much of the same problem. Fumbling and dropping their bar of home made soap and the piece of linen they used. There were no questions in her mind about what she was feeling. Arousal.
The bard had no idea of the warrior's feelings as Xena had never had the courage to tell her beautiful companion that she was in love with her. Had she found the words, she might have been surprised to find the bard felt the same way. But for the warrior, the idea of confessing love was like standing on the edge of an abyss, looking down and seeing no bottom. The longer the fall, the harder it hurt when you finally stopped. Especially if the feelings were unrequited.
"Xena, are you ok?" the bard wondered, concern etching her features after the warrior froze when she asked her to scrub her back.
"Ummm.. Yeah. Yeah, I'm just tired I guess" the warrior barely met her eyes.
She reached around the bard's body with the small square of linen and began to lightly scrub the road dust and sweat from her companion. She tried to maintain her distance, but Gabrielle was pulled off balance as she pressed on her back and she slid forward in the oily water.
Her body met the warrior's and their breasts rubbed together slickly, nipples instantly hardening. The warrior's muscular thigh slipped between the bard's slightly parted legs.
The bard gasped.
Sea green eyes met blue, darkening with desire. They locked gazes and the bard felt her heart rate double and her breathing deepen as she realized what she was seeing in the blue orbs before her. The warrior's mouth had fallen open just a little and she couldn't stop the pink tip of her tongue from moistening her lips at the look on the bard's face.
Gabrielle knew her companion would never be so bold as to make the first move. Without hesitation she pressed her body further into the warrior's rotating her upper torso just a little so their breasts created friction and at the same moment she leaned forward, wrapping her free arm around the warrior's neck and kissed her.
She felt the warrior moan into her mouth and a hesitant tongue asking for entrance across her lips. She complied.
Then she felt herself pressed back against the side of the tub as the warrior caught her in a feverish embrace, their clothing being dragged over the edge and into the water.
"Oh Gods. Oh Xena." she mumbled breathily.
The warrior's hand stayed in place for bare moments and then slid down the bard's side and boosted her body up and slightly out of the water. Ducking her head at the same time she took the bard's nipple in her mouth and felt the gasp and Gabrielle's free hand find it's way into her hair and pull.
"Ohhh." the bard shuddered and moaned when she felt the warrior's fingers spreading her lips. She was wet with more than just bath water and her slick juices coated the warriors fingers as they found their way inside where it was warm, and oh so soft.
She gasped as Xena began thrusting into her, at the same time she could feel the warrior's mound pressing up against her thighs and rotating there as Xena found her own pleasure. All the while the warrior's mouth never left her nipples.
It happened so fast, and was so unexpectedly hot that the bard was climaxing within moments. She began a low, almost wailing as she reached the peak and she felt the warrior's frantic thrusts against her thighs and then before she realized it, her world exploded and her body felt as if it had shattered into a thousand pieces and she was clinging to the warrior who was shuddering with her own climax. Their breathing ragged and heavily in sync, they both slid back down into the water, the bard resting against the warrior's front as she tried to calm her racing heart.
"Xena that was. . ." she paused then tried again. "That was. . ."
"Yeah.. that was." the warrior agreed. Her own labored breaths just starting to settle.
They sat like that, wrapped in their intimate embrace for long moments, bodies reveling in a state of almost limbo until the water began to turn tepid.
The sound of the heavy metal knocker banging against the wooden door brought them out of their stupor.
"That would be the tavern boy announcing our dinner." the warrior told her. "I asked him to knock when the meal was about to be served."
"Xena, our clothes are soaked. We can't go to the dinner hall like this." the bard chuckled trailing a loving finger down the warrior's wet cheek.
"You're right." she agreed. "Besides, I think I've developed a different appetite." the warrior grinned rakishly.
She helped the bard out of the bathing tub and they wrapped themselves in the dry towels provided by the innkeeper and made their way carefully back out to the stable. Bedded down on their own blankets in the quiet of the stall with Argo to stand guard, they spent the night in a haze of sensual euphoria.
Dawn arrived, and with it the warrior woke. The still slumbering bard was draped over her body like an extra blanket all in a tangle of legs and arms and Xena couldn't help but smile. She leaned down and with a tickling of breath she started kissing the bard into wakefulness.
"Mmmm." Gabrielle responded. The events of the night came back to her in lazy images as she came awake, and as she began moving and stretching on top of her human pillow she slowly opened her eyes to see a grinning warrior gazing at her with open love shining in her face.
"Mmm. . . " she repeated. "Good morning." she smiled at her lover.
"Good morning pretty eyes." Xena greeted her.
The bard's smile grew a little larger at the sweet endearment and she snuggled her face back down into the warrior's chest.
"Hey. . . none of that. We have to get up. Xena insisted.
"No.. can't we just stay here?" the bard whined playfully.
The warrior chuckled. "Nope. We have a fight to win or we'll never get these manacles off."
"Hmm." Gabrielle gazed back up at her calculatingly "I don't think I want them off." She told the warrior. "Last night was amazing, I think I like having you this close." she chuckled evilly.
"Yeah. If last night was so amazing, with only one hand. Imagine what I'll be able to do with two." She told the bard.
Gabrielle bounced off the bedroll, hauling the warrior to her feet. "What the Hades are you waiting for? We have a fight to win!"
They were dressed, fed and made their way to the town common square in record time.
The common area was roped off into one huge square. Roughly 60 men and women milled around waiting for the competition to begin. The rest of the townsfolk and the other spectators were all gathered around the edges. There was a dais set up with a padded bench for Aphrodite to recline on while she watched the battle. The arrival of the Goddess would be the signal for the free for all to begin and everyone was getting restless. The odds were very uneven as almost 75% were male but when the warrior and the bard stepped into the square all heads turned and conversation stopped.
Xena was a known entity and the whispering and muttering started up again almost as quickly as it had died. She could hear her name passing amongst the competitors and as she strode into the centre of the crowd she watched as almost a dozen people walked out of the square.
"Hey Xena." a gruff voice called. She looked over to see a tall, broad-shouldered bull of a man staring curiously at her and the bard. Pointedly, at the manacles. A couple of the other fighters stepped up beside him, also staring at the pink furry things and trying not to laugh. They had gathered some attention and most had noticed the rather. . . unique handicap the warrior was attached to.
"You know the rules Xena." the giant of a man reminded her. "No weapons." he started chortling, which set off the other participants laughter and before he could stop her the warrior was in his face and had a hand wrapped around his throat, pulling the bard almost completely off her feet. He gasped a little in shock as she held him in place.
Just then the crowd began murmurring and a shimmering visage began to materialise. The all too familiar Goddess of love appeared on the bench. She was wearing a pair of men's black trousers, and a black and white striped shirt. There was an odd looking hat on her head that was round and had the shape of a duck's bill. Around her neck dangled a length of black chord with a strange silver pendant hanging from it.
"A little anxious aren't you warrior babe?"
Xena glanced over to where the Goddess had appeared and with a low throaty growl she replied "Oh I'm always anxious " She stepped away from her opponent and released him
"Alright.. alright." the Goddess rose "Ladies and sirs, my humble followers. It's time for the annual challenge to begin and this year we have an unexpected surprise." she tittered.
"Xena. . .the mighty warrior princess and her ..sidekick.. Gabrielle will be joining us."
"As you can see..they've become very. . .attached to one another."
She lifted the strange pendant up to her mouth and blew a deep breath, producing a shrill blast of noise that had the crowd covering their ears in shock. The entire group of fighters stood looking at her aghast.
"Well?" she watched them for a moment. "Don't just stand there. . . Fight..go on." She waved her hands and dropped back onto her padded bench.
A heartbeat of a pause, and then the first punch was thrown. Xena was tackled at the waist as all around her men and women began scrambling and pummeling each other. Being chained to Gabrielle was seriously slowing her down and the other fighters had figured this out quickly. She tried as best as she could to keep the bard behind her and away from the raining blows but every now and then her young lover was hit and that just increased her fury. She had locked hands with the bard so as not to have either of their limbs dislocated or broken and though this helped, it was still awkward.
All around her men and women were dropping or staggering from the square as they took their beating and either moved on to the next opponent or capitulated. The warrior never stopped. She dealt blow after blow, threw kicks and punches, all the while protecting the bard as she could. Gabrielle had suffered very little injury and was doing her own level best to stay out of the warrior's way. They had managed to work out a bit of unity, wherein the bard would brace herself and use her body to try and aid the warrior's movements when she kicked, or punched. Back flips were out of the question.
From out of the crowd they could hear the occasional cheer and the ripple of 'oohs' and 'ahhhs', and the occasional shrill bleat of Aphrodite's funny little pendant in her excitement.
After almost 30 minutes of fighting there were a bare handful of combatants left. The warrior was staggering on her feet, but she was still upright. The small band of fighters had pretty much decided that in order to win.. or at least put the odds in their favor they were going to have to take the warrior down. Thirty minutes, but it seemed everlasting. They had all paused and stood catching their breaths. Watching the two women warily.
They came at her in a group, as she pushed the bard behind her. The first man to reach her was knocked senseless and she used his body to drop the second man to the ground. She lashed out with a kick to the man's jaw leaving them both on the ground unconscious. A huge, monolith of a woman tackled her around the waist knocking both her and her lover to the ground, but Xena used the momentum to toss the woman off of her; she rolled to her knees and lifted herself and the bard from the ground in one motion.
The woman was at her in a heartbeat, her hands coming up claw-like intending to slash at the warrior's face. It was a grievous mistake. Just as she charged forward the bard stepped in between her and the warrior and caught the woman in a head butt that dropped her like a sack of potatoes. The warrior stared at her lover in shock as Gabrielle grinned.
"Nice one, " she told her with an answering smile.
"Behind you." was all the bard said and Xena grabbed her in a bear hug and flipped them both up and over the heads of the two charging men. She dropped behind them and released the bard. Jumping straight up into the air she lashed out with both legs and kicked them solidly in the small of their backs sending them crashing into the ground. She heard the other two approach and spun just in time to catch them both around the ears. There was a loud cracking sound as their heads were smashed together and then they too dropped.
Finally, it was just she and the bard. . . and the beast who's throat she had had in her fist before the fight started. He stood on the opposite side of the square watching. He approached her with caution, an underlying hint of menace in his movements. She watched his eyes carefully and knew the moment he was ready to charge.
It was almost surreal, and it was comical. He let loose with an animalistic roar and thundered across the open square. Xena braced herself to meet him, protecting the bard as she could. So intent was he on the warrior that he wasn't paying attention to where he was stepping. The ground was slick with spilled blood, churned dirt and bits of torn clothing, and as he pounded across the ground his foot came down on a scrap of leather that had been torn from someone's body; his feet went flying out from under him. He wipedout, landing on his face in the dirt, and sliding the last remaining distance, coming to a stop at the warrior's feet.
The stunned crowd gasped.
Aphrodite rose, blowing on her pendant.
The bard and the warrior exchanged a look.
The man raised his head, stunned, and glanced up at the warrior. Just in time to see a booted foot, and hear: "Nighty-night sunshine."
The crowd roared. They didn't particularly care who won. Only that someone did. The warrior, staggering slightly, but with the support of the bard walked out of the square. They approached the dais where the Goddess of Love had exchanged her trousers and shirt for a mini-dress, and her pendant had been replaced by a pair of poofy, stringy things that she was shaking side to side and over her head.
"Xena, Xena she's our man, if she can't do it no one can!" the Goddess was cheering and dancing around beside her bench.
The bard stood, supporting the warrior while someone from the crowd passed her a waterskin. She grabbed it thirstily with her free hand and undid the stopper, holding it for Xena to drink first. Xena stood panting from her exertions while the bard took a pull on the skin and then she glared at the Goddess. "Alright." she demanded, her voice raspy and hoarse. "We won. Now take these damn manacles off."
"Geez ok warrior babe, don't get your leathers in a twist." with a flick of her wrist a key appeared and she handed it down to the bard. Now, there was plainly a keyhole and the bard eagerly inserted the key in the cuff that held the warrior's wrist captive. The lock turned easily and with an audible click the hasp fell open and Xena's hand was free.
She pulled it to her body right away and started massaging the chafed skin while Gabrielle released her own wrist. Aphrodite watched quietly and then without a moments preamble she said: "Well. It's been a blast. Time for me to make like a tree and leaf." she said in her bizarre humor.
"Wait, Aphrodite." the bard called. "Since we're both winners here. We should each get a favor." she insisted.
The tempermental Goddess thought it over for a moment. "Well, it was a good fight. And I'm in a pretty good mood since I won the scavenger hunt at that "frat party" she giggled, using her hands again to emphasize the italics. "Although that snarky auntie Hestia of mine won't return my pink star sapphire necklace." She studied her painted nails and played with her pom poms
"Oh what the hades. Why not? Ok my favorite blonde bard-o-luscious. What'll it be? An urn fulll of gems, a month in a tropical paradise, a trip to the future?"
"Heal us." the bard told her simply.
The Goddess stared at her as if she'd spoken a different language.
"That's it? Heal you?" she was stunned.
"The Goddess of love is offering you a favor and all you want is to be healed?"
The bard nodded.
"Well, duhh." she rolled her eyes and with a small wave of her hand the warrior and bard stood as good as new.
They watched as she de-materialized at the same moment. "Ttfn." Gabrielle called after her with a wiggle of her fingertips and an exasperated shake of her head.
The crowd dispersed and the warrior pulled the bard into an embrace. They stood in the town common for long moments just collecting themselves until finally Xena pulled away and said "I don't know about you but I'm ready to go home."
The bard gazed up at her with new eyes and smiled, thinking about the night they had shared and the newest dimension to their relationship.
"Mmhmm...home." she agreed. "And I think I'd like to keep you there for awhile." she added with a sly grin.
"Oh really?" the warrior teased. She draped an arm over the bard's shoulder and she began leading her back to the Dog and Dragon . "Are you going to make me your prisoner of love?" she purred.
"Oh wait." the bard put a hand to her chest and stopped her. She trotted back to the dais and reached down to the dirt. Picking up the pink furry manacles with the key still in the lock she sauntered back over to join the warrior. With a saucy raise of her eyebrow she said: "You never know when these might come in handy."
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