So you want to be a reporter…

I can’t believe I’m doing this. I never imagined that when I left my home village that I would wind up here. Me, I’m just your average village girl, well, almost average I guess. Not many of the girls back home would just pack up and head to Athens just so they could be a writer. Nah, not a bard like my cousin, but a reporter – the real deal. You know, the keep you on the breaking edge of what is going on in the known world stuff that real writers do. No one at home understood that. They told me that the only stuff I needed to write about was the silly bits of fluff that would help me woo a nice strong farmer – blech. I didn’t need a farmer, I needed a job writing. Which leads me to where I am today.

I made it to Athens without to much trouble. The trouble all came once I got there. I did the logical thing and went straight to the largest news-scroll in town, the Athenian Times. Marched right in, I did, and searched out the editor where he was sitting all smug behind his desk.

"And how can I help you, little lassie?" The first words out of his mouth did not bode well for my chances, did they? I explained how my one true dream was to be a reporter, a real writer for a news-scroll that made a difference. As I made my passionate plea, the look on his over-fed face changed from mild surprise to shock to outright hilarity.

"Hoo, hoo, hee, you want…. heehee… YOU want to be a … a..reporter?! hee..hoo wheew! Little lady, that is the funniest thing I have heard since Zeus was a lad. No way, no, you just trot yourself back to your little village and write you a gossip column or something…" He was cut off from further humor by my own outraged squawk. I quickly told him into which body orifice he could stuff his gossip column and asked just what was so funny about a woman reporter. The next sentence out of my mouth was what resulted in me being here today. I challenged him to give me an assignment. If I came through I got a job, if not, I would leave him alone. If he didn’t give me a chance, however, I was gonna camp myself in front of his office and make as big a fuss as I could. I should have known better than to challenge him like that.

"Sure thing, lassie, I have just the thing for you" I should have been warned by the gleam in his eye. I should have just walked out, but no, I had to ask what he wanted me to do. "There is a certain warrior that we have been dying to get an interview with. Unfortunately, said warrior has made it clear that an interview is not going to be given easily. A remarkable story from what the bards have written, but we need the nitty-gritty. The real story behind the silly bardic embellishments. Yes, I think that will do nicely for you. You get me an interview with Xena, lassie, and I’ll give you a job."

So here I am sitting under a nice old oak after riding to the wilder outreaches of Greece to catch up with Xena before she leaves the country again. I did have an ace up my sleeve that the editor didn’t know about. If he had I probably wouldn’t have gotten this assignment. My bardic cousin just happens to be the Battling Bard Gabrielle herself. As soon as that officious oaf had given me the details of what he wanted, I sent a messenger scroll to my cousin explaining the whole situation. She, of course, told Xena, who apparently would do anything her bard asked. I have my interview, now all I have to do is get up the nerve to ask the questions my editor wants answered.

The small butterflies that had been dancing in my stomach suddenly tripled in size as I see the approach of a palomino mare and her two riders. Even from this distance I could see that Gabrielle had a big smile on her face as she rode in front of the dark warrior. When she saw me stand up she immediately began waving and, with a word to the woman behind her, jumped off the horse and ran ahead to greet me.

"Arana! My goddess, but it has been ages since I’ve seen you. How is your family? Was the journey hard on you? I remember how it was when I first started traveling…" I was quite use to the way that Gabrielle rambled on. Growing up we use to say that the only time she stopped talking was when she was eating. "…. And Xena will be here in a little while because she wanted to take care of catching supper first."

"Ummm…that’s fine Gabrielle, I kinda wanted to talk to you first anyway." I finally managed to get a word in. "So, what is it like living with Xena? Not at all like home I imagine. I think it is great that you have found someone to care for you, heavens know that few folks there ever did."

Gabrielle gave me a look that was at once open and mysterious. "Yeah, it is different. I never imagined that my soulmate would be tall, dark and deadly over there, but I am happier now than I have ever been. Sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder if when I wake up it will all be a dream brought on by eating to much nutbread." She grinned at me then. A familiar smile that brought back memories of when we were much younger and the world was full of wonder for us both. "C’mon, Arana, it’s time you got to meet Xena and get that interview so you can follow YOUR dream."

While Gabrielle and I had been chatting, Xena had gone about the business of setting up camp. A fire was merrily popping and several small once furry animals were roasting over it. A battered pot was on the edge of the fire, with rising steam giving mute testimony that water was warming inside. The warrior had made a comfortable nest of blankets and bedrolls up against a log that she had pulled near the fire. It was these little details that made me realize that the warrior had a human side that the stories never mentioned. Most of the tales I had heard were of her in battle, or her defeating some warlord with an eerie cunning. I had never really thought of her as a person, not even when Gabrielle had sent home a scroll telling us of her joining ceremony.

It was such an odd sight the lean, silent soldier gently reaching out to my cousin, helping her get settled and then serving us both our meal before getting her own. She still hadn’t spoken to me, and those giant sized butterflies were now doing a line dance in my stomach. I idly noted that the food was delicious while I vainly tried to get my mind working again. While we ate Gabrielle chattered on, getting an occasional low response from her partner. AT one point I looked up from my trencher to see a warm smile grace Xena’s face, changing the angular planes from a fierce to a loving view. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally gathered my thoughts enough to speak.

"So…ummm…Xena, are you ready for the interview? I mean, we can go on and get this out of the way and…." I fell silent as those incredible blue eyes turned my way. Gods! I had never seen such amazing, such beautiful…oh bother! Back to my task. Xena was plainly amused by my discomfiture. At the sound of her low, rich voice all the butterflies sank into a tired lump in my belly.

"Ok, Arana, fire away with your questions. Oh, and don’t worry – I don’t bit unless you ask!" The humor in her voice was a surprise, as was the saucy wink that followed. I gathered my scattered wits and scrabbled out the list of questions that the editor had sent with me. Apparently, a mere girl couldn’t come up with decent questions on her own, either.

"Let’s see, umm… What would you say was the fiercest battle you have faced?" I was pleased that my voice only shook a little bit as I spoke.

"Oh, that’s an easy one. The worst fight I have ever had was when I used one of Gabrielle’s scrolls in an inappropriate manner. Whew! I didn’t think she was ever going to let me live that down. But it was an emergency. When you gotta go, you gotta go!" At my look of dismay Xena laughed. "Oh, you meant with a warlord or the like?" Another saucy wink followed by a chuckle. "That would have to be any time I have faced the Horde. Next question!"

The next rest of the questions were fairly basic: Who had the most influence on her fighting style (Ares); What was her favorite weapon (chakram, followed closely by Gabrielle’s singing – which earned her a whack on the arm from my cousin); What advice would she give anyone who wanted to become a warrior (don’t).

As the evening progressed I realized that there was a lot more to Xena than the questions would ever cover. Nowhere in the list was there anything to suggest her dry sense of humor, her warmth or her obvious repentance for the actions of her past. All he wanted was tales of woe and bloodshed. Typical, I guess, for that is what sells a news-scroll, but disappointing all the same.

We spent two days camped there, with me growing more at ease with my cousin-in-law. I wrote the story while there, and had Gabrielle read over it for me. She insisted that I let Xena read it as well, which I did with some reluctance. I was very surprised when she gave me her approval of what I had written. I had embellished what was covered by the questions to try to show the gentler side of the warrior that I had been allowed to see.

The next morning dawned clear and bright, and I soon found myself on my way. When I left my cousin and my new friend (yes, friend) they were trying to decide where to head for their next adventure. My journey, while long, was uneventful. After a quick wash to remove the travel dust off, I immediately went to the Times office.

The editor apparently hadn’t moved in the time I was gone, nor apparently had he changed the stained tunic he was wearing. He seemed surprised to see me – I guess he thought I would run away home when he gave me such an impossible task.

"Here you go, sir, one interview with Xena, all written and proofed for you to use. Now, where is my desk and what is my nest assignment?" He was taken aback by my forthright manner. Apparently girls shouldn’t be so sure of themselves in his world, either.

"Wait just a minute there, little lady" His condescending tone hadn’t changed that was for sure. "Let me see what you have here. Hmmm…. Interesting, not to badly written I suppose, but…well, lassie you see I have my doubts that you actually interviewed Xena for this. No way could a rookie like you get her to open up like this. Nope, sorry, dearie. No way you could have done this. Tell you what, though, we do need a writer for our ladies section. How about a nice gossip column, or maybe some cooking tips? Yes, that’s just the thing for a pretty lassie like you, a nice…"

I can’t believe what I am hearing. That jerk sent me of to the wilds and now he wants a gossip column? I was just about to give him a piece of my mind when I realized that he had grown strangely silent.

"Is there a problem with my interview?" A low, warm voice behind me stops me from beginning my tirade. I turn around and standing there nonchalantly is Xena, with a slight smile and a twinkle in her eye that boded trouble for the editor. "I thought Arana did quite a good job with the questions she was given." The editor at this point was turning a very becoming shade of red as he tried to overcome his shock. "Now I believe you were talking about a column for my friend Arana here, were you not? Surely you aren’t going to waste her talent on a trivial little kitchen guide are you?" At his silent nod Xena’s smile grew, as did my own. "That’s what I thought. Arana, why don’t you join Gabrielle and I for dinner tonight? We’ll be at the Broken Sword." With a wink for me she was gone, just a silent as she had arrived.

I turned to my new boss with a gleam in my own eye and my mind made up. I will take this job just long enough to gain some experience, and then I will start my own news-scroll: one that will tell not just the horror stories, but the joyful ones as well. And absolutely no gossip columns! Watch out news world, because here I come!

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