Disclaimer: Xena & Gabrielle belong to each other and to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures.
The story was inspired by a battleship: there is violence.
Gabrielle suspected something might be wrong the minute she woke up. Xena was snoring - nothing unusual there - but this morning it really annoyed Gabrielle; she was overwhelmed with an urge to...
...slap Xena sharply across the face, screaming "Shut up!"
"Ouch! Whatchya do that for?"
"Oh God's Xena, I'm sorry, I didn't mean - I don't know, I just did it."
"Yeah, well don't!"
That Xena had not awoken in time to block Gabrielle's hand was a sign that something surely was wrong.
Walking along the road to Myrtos, they passed the time as they usually did, playing a guessing game. Gabrielle liked guessing games.
"Am I... Salmonius?" Gabrielle asked.
"Aw Xena, that was too easy!"
Gabrielle was good at guessing games. She always won. Xena usually didn't mind, but today that whining, gloating voice made her want to...
...make a fist with her hand and punch Gabrielle in the stomach. Very hard.
Gabrielle screamed in shock and pain.
"Oh Hades, Gabrielle, I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me. Are you alright?"
"I think so. Nothing's broken at least."
Wary, she nonetheless allowed Xena to help her off the ground.
Resuming their journey they discussed what had happened - two unexpected, unprovoked and inexplicable outbursts of violence - concluded that something was wrong and that some mischievous Immortal was most likely responsible. Clearly they had to find out who and how to stop them. But first they had a job to do, involving the King of Thieves and some Very Nasty Men.
"Okay. First we'll do this job, then we'll take some time out and try to fix this..." Gabrielle was doing her 'summing up trying to be organised and helpful' thing. Xena sometimes found this mildly irritating; today, however...
..."God's Gabrielle, don't you ever shut up?" Xena punched Gabrielle in the face.
"What in Tartarus, Xena..."
Ignoring her bleeding broken nose, Gabrielle whacked Xena in the kneecaps with her staff.
The moment of madness passed. They continued their journey in silence, at least five staff-lengths and a gulf of fear and mistrust apart.
Walking through a tavern door, normally a straightforward act, was proving difficult.
"No, after you."
"Uh uh, no way I'm turning my back on you."
"This is stupid" Xena snapped "We both know, it isn't us doing this. It's some Immortal."
"Yeah, but we don't know when they might strike again. And I don't want to be anywhere near your fists when they do."
"Fine! I'll go in and you do wherever you want."
Xena pushed past Gabrielle none too gently and entered the tavern. Gabrielle watched from the safety of the doorway.
"I'm looking for Autolycus"
Five faces - the innkeeper and four drunks propping up the bar - flashed fear and uncertainty at the Warrior Princess.
"Well? I haven't got all day."
Xena's hand flashed out to the innkeeper's throat.
"I'm having a very bad day, so I'm going to ask you once more and don't make me put the pinch on you: where is Autolycus?"
"He's... he's dead."
"Dead?" Xena wasn't expecting that.
"Yeah, he was in town a few days, said he was meetin' up with someone. Then yesterday he came in with a right shiner, looking terrible scared, askin' for help, sayin' someone was trying to kill him. Well we didn't believe him, I mean it was only a black eye, seen much worse in here on a Saturday night." The innkeeper gulped. "They found his body this morning, behind the forge, two pokers sticking out his back and the blacksmith standin' over him lookin' terrified and confused sayin' I didn't do it, I can't have... "
"Xena, could it be... the same as us?"
During the exchange Gabrielle had ventured into the tavern.
"Could be. We- I need to see that blacksmith. You stay here."
Xena found the blacksmith in chains, in the town jail. Unable to grasp what he had done, he was babbling.
"I need you to focus" Xena tried to keep her voice gentle. "and tell me exactly what happened."
"I don't know. The guy comes in wanting to get some keys made, delicate work he says. And we're haggling about price, but that's normal. And suddenly I get this feeling that he thinks my work's no good, he's trying to rip me off and there's no way I'm going to let him get away with it and there's this red hot poker in my hand...I swear I didn't mean to. I've never..."
The blacksmith put his head in his hands and wept at the horror of it.
"You were right, Gabrielle, it's not just us. This is the work of an Immortal."
"But which one?"
"I don't know."
"So what do we do?"
"I don't know."
"Well we'll have to figure something out soon otherwise-"
Xena was suddenly enraged. There was one simple solution. She could...
...knock Gabrielle to the floor with her fist
...draw her sword and plunge it into her companion's stomach
The rage passed.
Gabrielle was crying and bleeding and dying.
Xena dropped her sword, hurled her anguish to the sky.
"Gods, NO! What have I done? Who are you? What have you made me do?"
In the playroom on Mount Olympus Ares was concentrating and Aphrodite was bored.
"Come on bro' choose already! If you don't get it this time you'll get it the next. In fact, you've sunk all my other ships so... I surrender! You win. Okay?"
Tiny wooden ships, intricate and accurate in detail even down to the name plates - Goliath, Hercules, Autolycus, Hecuba - lay discarded in a pile.
"Where's the fun in that" Ares muttered, studying the gridded board. "D five... D ten.... D...
"D ten!" he eventually announced.
"Finally!" Aphrodite raised her eyes Elysian Fields-wards. "Hit! You sank my battleship. Game over. Now, can I go have some fun ?!"