Picture - #11
DISCLAIMER: Story mine, Characters not.


Sunlight was streaming in through the windows when Solari gingerly made her way down the tavern’s staircase. Already, the traveling band Cyrene had hired to sing Solstice carols was warming up in preparation for that evening’s performance. One glare from the Amazon sent them scurrying off to find somewhere else to practice.

Solari pulled out a chair and dropped into it, grunting loudly as she did so. Gabrielle groaned, lifted her head from her forearm.

“Soli,” Gabrielle managed to mumble a greeting.

“You didn’t go to bed last night?”

“Xena barred the door. Gods, when did things go so horribly wrong?”

“Probably when you insisted the Amazons spend Solstice in Amphipolis, my Queen.”


“Aww, come on, Eph! It’s Solstice…”

“Look, Xena wants to spend the holiday with family.”

“It’d be much easier for them to bring Xena’s momma here, don’t you think?”

“Gabrielle wants Xena to have a traditional family Solstice. And, we all know that Amazon traditions are hardly the same as most folks.”

“Cause they’re better. Take the Solstice Eve party…”

“Eponin!” Ephiny pointed at the scroll she held clenched tightly in her fist. “That’s a directive from your Queen. She wants her family there and we’re going.”

“Don’t worry, Pony.” Solari waited until Ephiny was out of earshot before whispering conspiratorially, “Amazon wine travels really well.”


“Bad enough Xena gets smashed on that stuff when she’s in the Nation. Did you have to bring it to Amphipolis, as well?”

Solari shrugged. “Stress reliever. Course, inviting the Hestian virgins probably wasn’t your best idea, either.”

That was a horrible coincidence. When I suggested to Leah that she take a vacation from the temple, I never imagined she’d bring the entire order here.”

“Still, it was worth it when Pony spotted Xena and swatted her square on the backside of her Hestian robes.”

Gabrielle winced at the memory. “Guess I never mentioned to you guys that Priestess Leah looks exactly like Xena, huh?”

Solari shook her head. “Speaking of things you should have mentioned…”


“A  word?”

Gabrielle moved away from where she’d been holding a cold compress to Eponin’s swollen eye, joining Cyrene in a corner of the kitchen.

“Gabrielle, I enjoy you and Xena coming home for Solstice.”

“Thanks, Cyrene.”

“But, about the nuns from the Temple of Gaia…”

“I’m really sorry, Cyrene. See, there was this enchanted scroll and I sort of wished them up a sword to help the orphans…”

Cyrene held up a hand to stop the bard’s ramblings. “They brought the orphans to visit you. That’s fine, too. But, you promised them a visit from Senticles on Solstice Eve…”

“Tonight. It’ll be great fun.”

“Gabrielle,” Cyrene grabbed Gabrielle, steered her towards the kitchen door. “Look at my inn. It’s overrun with Amazons, virgins and orphans. Small wonder there’s not a man in sight.”


“Still doesn’t explain how you convinced Xena to dress up as Senticles.”

“Oh, Xena has a heart of gold when it comes to kids and animals.” There was an enigmatic smile as Gabrielle confided, “That and a little mistletoe really goes a long way.”

“Ah, so you plied her with kisses.” Solari nodded knowingly. “Too bad you didn’t stop with just Xena.”

“How long have you been saying Ephiny and Eponin would make a good couple if they would just admit their feelings? I could’ve killed two birds with one stone if you” Gabrielle pointed an accusing finger at Solari “hadn’t brought the Amazon wine.”


“Cross-dressing Amazons,” protested Eponin as Solari forced on the white wig. “This wouldn’t happen under Melosa’s reign.”

“Melosa’s not here. Velasca murdered her,” reminded Solari. “And, you wouldn’t be in this mess now if you hadn’t drank Xena under the table.”

“Oh, yeah.” Eponin proudly smirked as bleary eyes focused on the warrior literally passed out beneath the kitchen table. “Beat her.”

“Yep, Pony, you did. Now, you gotta be her.” Hearing Gabrielle out in the other room promising the children that Senticles would soon be there, she shoved Eponin through the door.


“You know, Pony did make a really convincing Senticles.”

“Fooled you, huh?”

“Well,” Gabrielle wheedled, “I honestly thought she was Xena when I climbed up in her lap with that sprig of mistletoe.”

“Sorry I couldn’t tell you. But, I was trying to sober Xena up.”

“Which you did. Just in time for her to walk in and see me kissing Senticles.”



Seeing Xena staring at her from the kitchen doorway, Gabrielle snatched the beard off Senticles’ face.

“Pony?” Echoed three voices. Xena’s, Gabrielle’s and Ephiny’s as she wandered in.



Then it was mass chaos as Gabrielle rushed upstairs after Xena and Eponin chased after a fleeing Ephiny.


“Ephiny’s furious with Eponin. Xena’s not talking to me. Gods, Solari!” Gabrielle wailed, hiding her face in her hands, “What am I going to do?”

“Just continue being yourself,” was whispered in her ear as she was hugged from behind.

“Xena?” Gabrielle turned around, biting her bottom lip as she looked up at Xena.

“We came down for breakfast and kind of overheard,” Xena explained, gesturing to herself and a tavern full of Amazons, Hestians and orphans. To Gabrielle’s relief, Ephiny was smiling, her arms wrapped about Eponin’s waist. “You had good intentions. And, it was all just a big misunderstanding. I forgive you.”

“Oh, Xena.” Gabrielle flung herself into Xena’s arms.

“Forgiveness is a virtue, warrior,” praised Priestess Leah as she looked on, “As is honesty. Perhaps you should confess to Gabrielle that your newfound forgiveness is the result of a similar mistake you yourself made in a darkened hallway this morning when you discovered the blonde you were kissing beneath the mistletoe was an Amazon regent and not a Queen?”

Xena tried to stammer out an excuse before she just gave up and ran. As did Ephiny. With Eponin and Gabrielle close behind.


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