Disclaimer: I have intended no copyright infringement in the writing of this fan fiction story that contains characters, names, title, and backstory found in the syndicated television series Xena: Warrior Princess owned by MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures.

This story cannot be sold or used for profit, and I have not financially profited from it in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use, and all copies must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

References/ Spoilers: This story refers to events that occurred in "The Quest."

Sexual Content: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal where you live, please do not read it. If depictions of sex, attraction, and/or love between adult women offends you, you might not want to read this story.

The Path Taken

by Annazon Fox


"So you're saying Artemis herself will really instruct us?" I asked.  Perched behind her, on Argo, my grip around Xena’s waist tightened in excitement. Xena, Solari, Eponin, and I were headed to the annual Amazonian Festival of Samhain. Leaders and representatives of the scattered tribes of the Amazon Nation attended this festival each year at the end of Summer to convene and receive special training from Artemis. This year, it was being held at the Castle of Artemis in Celta.

"That's right. Taught me everything I know about the bow," said Eponin, the Amazon Weapon Master. She and Solari were sharing a horse. Solari was in back, her hands lightly holding onto Eponin's waist.

"Would she show me some moves with the staff?" I asked, hopeful.

"Yes," Solari quickly answered. Eponin and Xena exchanged a look. I noticed it, but let it go. Let Xena think I don't know about Artemis and her legendary romps with of Amazons of her choosing.

I'm sure Xena thinks I am oblivious to the ways of the Amazons, but when she was dead and I had been briefly living among the women warriors, I quickly learned that the rumors about their love were true. Even during my time of mourning, I had heard murmurings and had seen things that confirmed that it took a woman of certain predilections to live within an all-female society.

One time, for instance, I had been taking a contemplative stroll through the woods when I came across muffled noises and splashing sounds coming from the lake. When I had gone to inspect, I saw two figures in the water, moving together. I had ventured closer and saw two of my friends. Solari had been leaning back, pressed into Eponin, who was standing behind her. One of Eponin's hands was grabbing Solari's breast and the other was below the water, stroking between Solari's legs, who was moaning. Hiding behind a tree, I had watched them. When I had seen them together like that, I regretted once more that I had failed to tell Xena about my feelings for her when she was still alive. My body, heart, and soul had ached for her again.

But now, Xena was back. Riding together on Argo again, I rested my cheek against her back and closed my eyes. The last of the sunlight was fading and a chill was creeping into the air. The warrior's body was warm against my skin and she let me relax into her. This trip would provide the perfect backdrop to confess to Xena the nature of my love for her.

"There's a village up ahead. We should stop there, eat, and see if they have rooms for us," Xena said. We had been sleeping under the stars and on the hard ground since leaving Amazon land a few nights ago.

"Delightful," said Solari, "Hey Ep, how about a soft bed tonight?"

"Sounds good," Eponin said. I looked on with envy as Solari gave her muscular Amazon lover a playful bite on the neck. Eponin made a sound of approval.  Riffing off of Solari's cue, I perked up and began squeezing Xena's shoulders, near her neck.

"Wha?!" Xena said. Reacting to her master's surprise, Argo whinnied and bucked back on two legs. Startled, and no longer gripping Xena's waist, I tumbled backwards and quickly found myself sitting on the ground, dazed, and rubbing my head.

"Gabrielle, are you okay?" Xena said.  She had steered Argo around and, from the ground, I found myself staring up the snout of Xena's beloved horse.

"Whoa, what happened? Are you okay?" Solari echoed.

"I... oh. I'm fine," I tried to laugh it off.  I stood up and gave an emphatic stretch, "I just feel like walking for a bit. Go on ahead, I'll meet you at the village."

"Suit yourself," Xena said. Argo snorted and turned back around. My three companions continued on and I hoped the darkness had hid some of the redness in my cheeks. As I dusted myself off, I felt grateful for a few moments to myself to collect my thoughts.

The thing is, even before Xena died and I was drawn into obvious despair, many people had already assumed that Xena and I were lovers. My family, Xena's mother, the Amazons. I had not understood why people thought that. Xena was my best friend and, until I left Potidaea, I didn't know that two women or two men could be together romantically. Over the course of our time together, though, I began to fall for the warrior. I had seen the way that some of the women we encountered looked at her and I began recognizing that attraction in myself. Perhaps I had always been sexually drawn to Xena on some level. Oftentimes, I could feel heat between us.  Then, when she kissed me before crossing back over to the land of the living, I sensed that she wanted me.

The only problem was how to talk about all of this to a warrior who rarely removed her armor.

Now, in the forest, I noticed that the darkness had almost entirely crept into the woods. I picked up my pace and made my way to the outskirts of the village. Since I knew who I was traveling with, I entered the first tavern I came across and found my three traveling companions. Inside the dimly-lit space, my eyes traveled across small groups of mostly-male patrons cackling and enjoying themselves with drunken delight. Many of their eyes turned to follow me as I made my way across the room to where my friends were sitting, 4 large mugs of ale, and several empty ones, in front of them. As I joined them, they were laughing and, by all appearances, already feeling tipsy.

"We got you a drink, Gabrielle," said Eponin, with a smile, pushing one of the mugs toward me. The Weapon Master, for all of her stoic intimidation, was really quite thoughtful. Of the pair, she was much more reserved than Solari, but there was little she missed. Most of the other Amazons had just assumed that Xena and I had been lovers. A few bold ones, believing me to be newly-unattached, even tried courting me. Solari, though, had understood that my pain was multiplied, not because Xena and I had been lovers, but because we had not yet been.

As Solari now scooted the mug of ale toward my seat in the tavern, I knew that, in her own quiet way, she was encouraging me to be brave with the warrior princess.

"Thank you Eponin," I said. I took the mug, brought it to my lips and took a swig. I closed my eyes as the cool pumpkin ale slipped down my throat and became warm in my stomach. When I opened my eyes, I saw that Xena was looking at me, smiling.

A waitress waddled her way over to us, carrying a large plate of roasted turkey legs. My eyes lit up. I was famished.

"Can I get you ladies anything else?" the waitress asked, as she placed the plate on our table.

"Actually, we were wondering," Solari began, giggling, "if you had any oil for a phall-"

"Shhh, no, we're fine. Thanks," Eponin said, muffling whatever thought Solari didn't feel like stifling. I was a little disappointed that I missed whatever conversation had been occurring during my walk to the tavern.

"O-kay" said the waitress, raising an eyebrow. "Well, I'm supposed to tell ya that that fella over there," the waitress pointed to a dark-haired youngish man a few tables over, "would like to buy one of you ladies," she looked at me, "a round." This was not unusual. As four women traveling without men, we attracted a fair amount of attention. Especially in taverns. The only surprise was which one of us would be chosen on any given night.

I sighed and looked across the table over Eponin and Solari's shoulders to see which drunkard I would have to reject. As I did so, I noticed that Xena had already spotted the man, and was slightly glowering at him. By her cocky smile, I knew that she had already downed a few drinks.  Her hand was hovering above her chakram, fingers twitching. The man, oblivious to the warrior's attentions, grinned and made a lewd gesture at me with his tongue. Next to me, I felt Xena stiffen. Without looking, I knew she was clenching her teeth and squinting her eyes in that way she does when she's about to knock heads together. I knew she wouldn't seriously harm him, but I also knew that she wasn't opposed to giving someone a good scare by sending her chakram whoosing through a pint glass.

"Me?" I said, "I..."

"Tell him we're spoken for," Eponin butted in. "Amazon Vows of Chastity and all," she added with a smile.

"Ah," the waitress winked. Even in small villages, the Amazons found allies amongst some of the womenfolk. I silently thanked Eponin with my eyes. Xena relaxed and took another drink of her ale.

When the waitress left, we dug into our hot meal. Not having to hunt and cook for ourselves was a treat we occasionally afforded ourselves on our travels. Sleeping in an actual bed was a real luxury. Xena and I rarely accepted money from villagers that we saved, but we always seemed to have enough dinars to make do. And of course, one of the benefits of being an Amazon queen was having access to the Amazon treasury.

"So, do we have a room tonight?" I asked my companions.

"Better, we have two," Solari said, licking the juices from her food off of her fingers. Eponin, watching her, swallowed. In my conversations with Eponin, I learned that the two women had been romantically involved ever since last year's Festival of Samhain. Solari had been in love with Eponin for quite some time, but it was only the fear of Artemis getting her godly hands on Eponin during bow training that had finally inspired Solari to declare her love for Eponin. The two had been hotly going at it ever since. After several nights on the road with Xena and me, I was sure that they were now wanting some quality alone time together.

After licking her fingers, Solari placed her hand on Eponin's upper thigh and moved in for a kiss. Tuning out the world around them in that way that newish couples are wont to do, they began kissing deeply.

"Great," I said. I looked at Xena, we made brief eye contact and then quickly looked away from each other.

Xena shifted uncomfortably. I scratched at my neck and pretended I was very interested in the card game going on at the next table. Our two friends kept kissing.

"Okay, well," Xena said, rising from the table. I rose too.

"We're just going to, you know," I said, "go to our room, then." Our lip-locked friends pulled away from each other.

"Oh," Solari slurred, "you wanna," at this she clasped her hands, intertwined her fingers, and pumped her palm heels together Mortified, my eyes bulged.

"I...I, good night," I said, rushing away.

"Good night," Xena added, in an awkward whisper, as she turned and followed me. We left the two Amazons in the tavern and made our way to our room at the inn. Xena and I were silent most of the way there. When we got inside the room, I helped Xena remove her armor just like I did every night. As my nimble fingers began untying straps and buckles, I let my skin remain in contact with hers a little longer than usual.  She didn’t pull away.  I always enjoyed this evening ritual.  It was sometimes hard for the warrior to relax, but I like to think that as my fingers grazed her warm skin, I helped ease her way into slumber.

Our room at the inn was small, but quaint. At the foot of the bed was an open curtained window, letting in the cool breeze. Next to the large soft-looking bed sat a wooden nightstand with a candle lit atop it. I crawled into the bed first. We had an unspoken arrangement. At inns, Xena always slept on the side of the bed closer to the door. As she crawled in after me, I felt that familiar feeling of safety, knowing that her reflexes were between any intruder and myself.

As she went to blow out the candle, I stopped her. "Wait.  Xena, can we talk about something?"

"Look, about what happened back there..." she said, as she laid down on the bed on her back, with her arms behind her head. Did she still assume I didn't know about Amazon love?

"I know, Xena," I said, as I lay on my side, looking at her.

"What, exactly, do you know?" she asked, looking up at the ceiling.

At that, through the open window and thin walls, we heard a door open in the next room and then, the familiar giggling of our Amazon traveling companions began.

"Eponin and Solari, I know they're lovers," I said, lowering my voice.

"Oh," Xena said, waiting for me to continue. The door in the next room slammed shut and the giggling turned into laughter. We heard a thud, and then muffled moaning noises.

"Obviously," I said.

"Right," Xena said.

"Xena, when you were gone, I..." I whispered, trying to ignore whatever was going on next door. My heart was beating out of my chest. If she didn't feel the same way, this talk could ruin everything.

"I heard you, Gabrielle," Xena whispered.

"What?" I said, "No, I... I wanted to tell you. I-"

"I said I heard you. I heard everything," Xena said. From next door, we heard a thumping noise begin, as though a headboard were hitting against the wall. And then, seconds later, moaning. Xena and I both stopped speaking and just stared at each other, eyebrows raised, listening.

"Ep-onin!" Solari moaned, as the headboard banging began coming in louder and faster intervals. I felt my face turn red and I looked away.

When Xena and I look at each other again, we burst into laughter, breaking the tension. I put my hand over Xena's mouth to shush her. Even though Eponin and Solari's shenanigans were intruding upon my conversation with Xena, I didn't want to embarrass them.

"Xena," I began, but I started laughing again. "Xena," I tried once more, "Shhhh, I'm trying to tell you. I love you."

"Imf mdff I mmm you," Xena said. I removed my hand from her mouth.

"Oh, ha ha. Oops. What was that?" I asked her.

"OH...OH...OH YES!!" we heard from the next room. At that, Xena and I began laughing again.

After a couple of minutes passed, we recomposed ourselves once more. The room next door had gone silent.

"Gabrielle, I heard you. When I was... on the other side, I heard you talk to me," Xena said. I swallowed. I had just told her I loved her. I took my hand and placed it on her cheek. My thumb moved to her bottom lip. She closed her eyes and took my thumb into her mouth. Her tongue swirled around its tip. I felt myself become immediately aroused. I pulled my thumb away, and moved toward her, my hand falling to the back of her neck, turning her head toward mine.

"Gabrielle," she whispered, opening her eyes and looking into my soul. I inched my face close to hers. Our lips met. For brief glorious seconds, our lips began tentatively exploring. Her lips were soft and even though I knew that already, it surprised me again. I used my tongue to open her mouth for more.

She pulled away. "Gabrielle, wait" she whispered. I waited. She took a breath and remained silent.

I wanted to climb on top of her, bite her neck, and beg her to take me. But more than that, I didn't want to have to beg her. I had felt her lust before, as warmth coming off of her body and as the rapid beating of her heart. I had seen the way she licked her lips when she looked at me, and I felt her passion when we had kissed. Yet, she refused to meet me halfway even though I had made my intentions obvious.

Hurt, with my confidence fading, I pulled away from her and rolled over onto my other side.

"Gabrielle, hey..." she said, putting her arm on my shoulder, "I...just...I can't."

As our friends slumbered next door to us, content in each others' arms, Xena and I laid awake for most of the night. Together, but alone.

Shortly after dawn, I opened my eyes. I was tired, but remembering what had happened the previous night, I was too upset to fall back asleep. I expected Xena to be up already, but when I rolled over I saw that she was lying on her side, facing me with her eyes open as though she had been watching me sleep.

"Hey," I whispered.

"Hey," she said. I looked into her eyes and tried to read her. She looked genuinely troubled.

"About last night," I said, "let's forget it."

"Gabrielle, I..." Xena said. I knew that words were failing her right now, and I felt for her. But my heart and my mind were battling between wanting to gently coax her feelings out of her and fearing that I had misread her passion for me. In the light of the day, I feared that my confession had created an unnecessary awkwardness between us. I sat up.

"We should go," I said, "the first ceremony in Celta is at dusk." I looked away from her, closing myself off. I felt her eyes continue to search me, imploring me to look at her. I didn't. Instead, I rose from the bed and began gathering my belongings.

"Right," she said. I was embarrassed and my heart was breaking. I needed to distance myself from her for a bit while I considered my options.

We were less than a day's journey from Celta and the tone of our trip had changed. Xena and I were barely speaking and our two Amazon friends were nursing headaches. As we got closer to Celta, we began encountering members of other Amazon tribes who were trickling in for the Festival. We came across one such woman while we were taking a short break, near a pond. I was washing the dust off of my face and chatting with Eponin and Solari when Xena, who was feeding Argo, hushed us. She heard something moving in the trees above.

"Don't...move," she hissed at the three of us. Xena stood still, listening, and slowly moving her eyes back and forth. I heard something whistle through the air, noticed the flash of a small red object, and saw Xena's hand reach out and envelop whatever it was that was hurtling toward her. She turned her palm upward and opened her hand. It was a small apple from the tree. At that point, we heard chuckling from above and rustling in the branches.

"Is that Xena, Warrior Princess?" the female voice asked. Xena looked up, and began laughing. A woman swooped down from her perch in the trees, completing two front flips on the way. She landed on her feet and made the Amazon signal for friendship.

"Daphne," Xena said, smiling and holding out her hand. The two women clasped forearms, laughing. Xena took a bite from the apple and began chewing.

"Daphne?" I whispered to Solaris and Eponin, as we remained standing by the pond.

"Oh. Yeah. She's a Lesbian Amazon," whispered Solari.

"Isn't that... redundant?" I asked.

"No, you know, she's from the island tribe on Lesbos," Solari said.

"Oh. Wonderful," I said, as I began sizing her up. She displayed a familiarity with Xena and that unnerved me. I noticed that like most of the Amazons I had met so far, Daphne was striking and had a great physique. Her dark hair fell just past her shoulders and, in addition to her two-piece ceremonial garb, she wore the white cape that signified a high status among the Amazons.

"Xena, I heard you were coming to the Festival this year," Daphne said, "I'm so glad you've finally wised up and joined the Amazon Nation." At this, she moved in closer. She took the apple from Xena's hand and took a bite of it. Was her bosom rubbing against Xena's arm? Xena shifted uncomfortably.

"Well, I haven't exactly joined the Amaz-" Xena started.

"So, who's the lucky lady?" Daphne asked Xena, acknowledging the presence of Solari, Eponin, and me.

"Oh, I-" Xena began again.

"I'm Gabrielle," I said, walking toward Xena and Daphne, "Queen Gabrielle." Why was I suddenly feeling competitive with this woman? "And this is Eponin and Solari," I said, pointing to my companions.

"A pleasure," said Daphne, tightly grabbing my forearm in the traditional Amazon greeting.

"Please, do join us for the rest of our journey to Celta," I said, through gritted teeth. We resumed our trip then, Eponin and Solari on their horse, Xena on Argo, and Daphne and I on foot slightly behind the others.

"So, Gabriel, what do you do when you're not ruling the Greek Amazons?" Daphne asked.

"Oh, it's Gab-rielle," I said, "And, well, I travel with Xena and I write."

"Oh? What do you write?" Daphne asked.

"I write about Xena, our travels, and the people we meet," I said.

"She's very good," Xena said, turning to look at us. I smiled.

"So, you write about Xena's conquests?" she said to me.

"Oh, I don't know if I'd call them conquests. She... we, help people," I said.

"And they say you can't teach an old dog new tricks," Daphne said, with a laugh. Something about the way Daphne had said "conquests" had angered me. I knew that Xena was sexually experienced, but Daphne was trying to show me that she knew Xena in a way that I didn't.

"Anyway," Daphne continued, "that's good. That you write. It's good to know what you're good at." I took a deep breath, and tightened my grip on my staff.

"I fight too. I help Xena," I said.

"Well, that's precious. You know, Sapph says that very few writers can actually make a living solely by writing," Daphne said.

"Sapph? As in, Sapph-o?" I asked.

"Sappho. Yes. She is an honorary advisor, among other key roles, to my tribe," Daphne said, with a wink.

"The Sappho?" I repeated, unable to contain my awe, despite my annoyance with Daphne.

"So, Amazons," said Eponin, changing the subject, "Who do you think Artemis is going to choose for the Revealing Ceremony?"

"I know where I’d put my dinars," Daphne said, under her breath.  She was looking at Xena's backside, which was conveniently in front of us. I shot Daphne a look and briefly questioned whether unprovoked violence was really all that wrong.

The Revealing Ceremony, as Eponin had explained it to me earlier, occurred on the opening night of each Festival of Samhain. After the ritual drumming and dancing to call forth the elusive Artemis, the Amazon leaders of each tribe would, when the full moon was high in the sky, retreat to their rooms and wait. Most Amazons would spend the night merely waiting. To one woman, though, Artemis would appear and reveal herself in human form. In exchange for a night of bliss in mortal flesh, Artemis would then stick around for duration of the Festival, passing on her skills to her beloved Amazon Nation. An outsider might consider it a business transaction, but nearly every Amazon hoped to be chosen for the Revealing Ceremony. It was considered a great honor.

"Yeah, well, Artemis will only choose an Amazon. So Xena's out of consideration," I responded to Daphne's obvious suggestion.

"You mean she's not?" Daphne asked.

"No. She's not," I said. At that, I sensed Daphne's demeanor change.

"Well, how about that," she said, shaking her head. I cleared my head and quickened my pace to catch up with Xena. I asked her to pull me up onto Argo with her. As her hand made contact with my forearm, I thought of last night again, and the memory stung.  If Artemis chose me for the Revealing Ceremony, up until last night I had planned on turning her away.  Even though she was a god, Artemis would never take a woman against her will.  To do so would have been an unthinkable breach of Amazon etiquette.  Yet, now I wasn’t sure what I would do.

I was grateful that we were nearing the Festival grounds. I was looking forward to distracting myself in the company of my Amazon sisters and talking to Eponin about last night. She would help me think this over. Maybe it was time to more seriously consider fulfilling my role as Amazon Queen.

A short while later, we saw the Castle of Artemis in the distance. We had reached Celta. Xena, Eponin, Solari, and I dismounted the horses and approached the front gate. Two muscular Celtan Amazons wearing white ceremonial blouses and knee-length skirts with a tartan pattern were guarding the entrance. I gave them the Amazon signal for friendship and they responded likewise.

"State your tribe and position, Amazons," the red-headed one said.

"I am Queen Gabrielle of the Greek Amazons," I said. Introducing my Amazon companions, I continued,"this is Eponin, Weapon Master, and Solari, Chief of Strategy."

The guard nodded and looked at Daphne.

"I am Daphne of Lesbos, Master of Combat," Daphne said.

"Welcome sisters," said the guard.  We began walking forward.  As we stepped through the gates, the guard put her hand up, stopping Xena.  “And you?" she asked.

"Xena, of Amphipolis," said Xena.

The guard frowned, "Xena. I know the name, but I'm not familiar with an Amazon tribe near Amphipolis."

"She's my bodyguard," I said. I wanted to add, "and my companion," but I didn't.

The two guards looked at each other.

"Sorry, but if you're not an Amazon, we can't let you through tonight," said the first guard.  Xena rolled her eyes.

"The Revealing Ceremony cannot happen if non-Amazons are present on Festival Grounds," added the other guard.

Of course.  Artemis would not take mortal form in the presence of those who were not bound by Amazon law to remain loyal to her. To do so would be careless. It would put her life in jeopardy. But still, Xena was not a threat to Artemis.

"You don't understand. She's with me. I will take full responsibility for her," I said.

"With all due respect, Queen, it's the rules," said the red-headed guard.  “We can't take that chance. She can enter the Festival tomorrow for the workshops."

"I understand," I said quietly. I was outside of my jurisdiction. I looked at Xena. Her eyes were small and she did not look happy. With my eyes, I motioned to Eponin and the others to go on ahead. I would catch up with them. Xena and I walked a short distance away, out of earshot of the guards.

"I'm sorry. I didn't think this would be an issue," I said.

"It's fine, Gabrielle," said Xena. She said that, but she looked sullen. When I was near her, I could often sense an undercurrent of anger. She could have easily taken on those two guards and I wondered if a part of her wanted to. Her transformation had meant learning to control that violence, but the essence of that energy was still there, lingering.

"I'll see you tomorrow then," I said. Giving her a half-smile, I wanted to touch her arm. Instead, I turned away.

"Gabrielle," she said. I turned around, expectantly. "I'll... see you," she said.

I gave her a nod and said, "yeah." I turned around, walked past the guards, and entered the castle.

Inside the fortress, I walked through a long, dark hallway that eventually opened up into a large room. Inside, was a vast sea of women. Short women, tall women, dark women, and light ones. I had never seen so many women in all of my life. The sounds of their voices, as they chatted in small groups, was that of a small rumble. Some were playfully sparring with each other and some were greeting each other with smiles, hugs, and strong handshakes. As I walked through the room, I smiled at five short Amazons wearing furs and feathers and noticed that they fell silent and looked at me. I quickly looked away. As I passed them, I saw their heads nod and I heard a sound of approval as they looked my body up and down.

Blushing, I began desperately searching for my friends. In this crowded room, I felt very alone. Everyone seemed to know everyone else. I didn't know what to do or where to go. I made my way to a nearby booth where a Celtan Amazon was handing out ceremonial costumes for the opening festivities. Although the Amazon tribes were many, the opening ceremony had a dress code. Rather than distinguishing each other by tribe, the ceremonial costumes distinguished the women by rank. Queens, for instance, would wear a two-piece Amazon costume, covered by a long, black fur cloak. While all would wear masks, those of the higher-ranked Amazons would be more ornate. Queens, for instance, wore black masks made of feather and bone. Those in the battling ranks wore black helmets and ceremonial armor. Healers and spiritual advisors, meanwhile, wore either a black pointed hat and cape or the mask of a deer, complete with a fur cape.

I walked over to another booth and saw women burning incense and preparing their drums in preparation to invoke the goddess. A musky aroma surrounded me. Again, I felt Xena's absence. She belonged here, with these warriors, but I wondered if she was too stubborn and independent to submit to the rituals and ranks of the Amazons.  I wondered if I belonged here.  I took a deep breath, held my head high, and turned off into a dark corridor to collect myself. I leaned against the cool wall, and brought my hands up to my face. As I did so, I caught the ever-so-faintest whiff of bubble-gum in the air, heard a giggle, and saw a pink figure sparkle into view.

"Say, why the long face bardalicious?" she asked.

"Aphrodite," I said, "What are you doing here?" I was surprised to see the goddess, but grateful to see a familiar face. I went to hug her and noticed that she was spilling out of a two-piece Amazon outfit complete with bikini top. In pink.

"All these battling babes in one place? I never miss this," she said, accepting me into her arms.

"Speaking of... where is tall, dark, and handsome?" Aphrodite said, looking around.

"She's not an Amazon so they won't let her in until tomorrow," I answered. After a beat, I realized that I had assumed she had been talking about Xena.

"I know, bogus right? The Amazons are totally hardcore with the rules. Trust me, little one, your warrior babe is an Amazon in every way that counts," said Aphrodite, with a giggle. I was relieved that she had, actually, been referring to Xena. I also noted that the Goddess of Love had referred to Xena as my warrior. I brought my hand to my forehead.

"I don't know, Aphrodite. I... I think I messed up," I said, "I think I've come to the end of my path with Xena. Maybe I belong with my tribe."

"Well, I can't say you'd be in unsavory company," Aphrodite said, as we both noticed a fine young specimen walk nearby. "However, hold that thought..."

At this, she gently took hold of my arms again and began pulling me toward her. I looked into the goddess' eyes and realized that she was going to kiss me.

"Aphrodite, what are you d-" I started. Before I could finish, her lips were upon mine. The pleasure I felt was instantaneous and I knew that my fleshly body was no match for the powers of the Goddess of Love. I hungered for more. As I used my tongue to open her mouth wider, I lost all sensation in my body and gradually realized that I seemed to be floating outside of it. I panicked.

And then, in my head, I heard Aphrodite's voice, "Relax blondie."

"What's going on?" I said. I felt the sensation of gliding upwards. I looked down and saw my body below, still kissing the Goddess of Love. I felt myself continue to rise and, as I saw the Goddess' hand move toward my backside, I saw the outside of the castle, from above.

"Look. Think of it as your mind going outtie while your body stays anchored down there," Aphrodite said, pointing downward toward the castle.

"I... I think I might be sick," I said. I wasn't good with different modes of transportation.

"Grody to the max, Gab!" Aphrodite said, "But don't worry, you can't barf without a body."

I groaned, "Where are we going?  Aphrodite!"

"Alright already, let's just say that I have an in with the Goddess of the Amazons. And, well, I have a hunch that you're going to have to make a way tough decision tonight and, when you do, I think you should be fully informed," Aphrodite said. We began floating toward the forest, just outside the boundaries of the Festival.

"Are we in a God dimension?" I asked.

"Sorta. Lip-locked, I kind of have you in my thrall right now and, well, now you can travel like how I can travel. Time works differently here," Aphrodite said. We began to glide lower, approaching the tops of the trees. The light from the sun was fading and, through the canopy of trees, I saw a small campfire below. I knew who we were going to see.

"Xena," I said.

She was sitting on a log, alone, sharpening her sword. We landed, out of the light of the fire. As though hearing something, Xena looked our way. I took a step back.

"Oh, she can't see us," Aphrodite said, walking close to the fire. She stepped in front of Xena and shook her bosom in front of Xena's face. Xena continued sharpening her sword.

"Stop that!" I said.

Aphrodite giggled, but she did stop.  I tentatively stepped forward. "Come, Gabrielle," Aphrodite said, "see what I see." I took her hand. When our hands met, I saw pictures from Xena's mind. I saw me, at the inn the previous night, sleeping. Xena had been stroking my hair as I slept. I saw me, walking into the tavern, and felt Xena smile, as though she was suddenly bathed in light.

"She thinks of you, bardly babe," Aphrodite said.

"I...I see that," I said. And then, like a dark cloud, I felt Xena's energy darken. I saw a group of Amazons leering at me. Clad in a two-piece Amazon outfit, I was seductively dancing in front of them. I saw me, through Xena's eyes, lying on the ground. An arrow had been shot through my chest and a warrior was raising his sword above me. I saw a handsome short-haired woman kissing my hand, as I sat in an Amazon throne. I saw myself, battering a tree with my staff, wailing over the death of Xena. Then, I saw myself in a room at the castle. Artemis, clad in white, was approaching me and commanding me to remove my clothes. And then, rage like the color of red. The flash of a chakram speeding toward its target. Frightened, I shook my head.

"What...?" I asked. Some of those things didn't happen.

"Those are her fears, Gabrielle. From the past and for the future," Aphrodite said. I shook my head.

"Take me back to the castle. Please," I said. I closed my eyes and Aphrodite twinkled her hand. The forest began spinning and when I opened my eyes again, I found myself back in the dark corridor of the castle, my lips still upon Aphrodite's. She slowly pulled back.

"I see what she sees in you, you know," Aphrodite said. I felt confused, dizzy, and then sick. I leaned over to one side and threw up.

"Ew, except for that," Aphrodite said. I wiped my mouth. "Well, I'm outta here. You better get ready for that ceremony” she continued, and began peering into the large room full of Amazons, “I, meanwhile, have some more trouble to get myself into." With that, she blew me a kiss and disappeared in a cloud of pink sparkles.

"Queen Gabrielle," I heard a familiar voice call my name and turned to see Eponin and Solari carrying clothing.

"Oh, thank gods!" I said, walking toward them. I didn't want to process what Aphrodite had just shown me.

"Come on, we have to get ready for the opening ceremony!" Solari said.

We went to the dressing chambers and began putting on our ceremonial garb and masks. As we did so, we began hearing the steady beat of the Amazon drummers. The opening ceremony was about to begin and fully dressed in costume, we let the crowd urge us along through the corridors of the castle until we entered a large torchlit courtyard under the stars.

A fire was burning in the center, and Amazons of all tribes were lining up to begin the ritual dancing around it. I joined in, each of us- everyone from the Valkryian Amazons to the Amazons of Chin- indistinguishable from the next tribe. In the movements and chanting, I lost myself. I was sweating. Someone had begun passing around wine and then a ceremonial pipe. I no longer felt alone.  I realized that I was a part of something much bigger than myself. My movements came more freely and my inhibitions were lost.  I glanced up saw the full moon high above, peering down at us.

After the opening ceremony, the queen of each Amazon tribe made her way to her sleeping chambers for the duration of the next phase of the ceremony, Artemis' Reveal. Still clad in traditional Amazon regalia complete with the ceremonial mask of queenship, I sat on a chair and waited. Aphrodite had hinted that I might be chosen.  I was anxious. I stood up and made my way to the window where I looked down at the forest, below. I thought of Xena sleeping out there alone and I missed her. This was our first night apart since she had come back from the other side.

"Xena," I said, "have I done?" I had expected too much of her too soon. She would return to me tomorrow but if I accepted Artemis in my bed tonight, Xena might never be able to forget it. I had, after all, made a choice to participate in the ceremony. Despite my fears, thinking of the goddess excited me.

I looked up at the moon. Inhaling, I was certain that my nervousness would keep me from sleeping tonight.

I walked over to the full-length mirror and looked at myself. In my reflection, I saw that my dark regalia had transformed me from a girlish woman into a true Amazon queen. I had never considered myself to be seductive, but I began posing in my costume. First, I stuck out my hip and placed a hand on it. Not satisfied, I brought my hip in and placed a hand behind my head, as if to stroke my hair. As I'm thinking of my next stance, I hear footsteps, and stop what I am doing. In the reflection of the mirror, I see a figure. I'm not sure how long she has been there, but I see that her form is striking.

Her color is silver and it starts with the gladiator sandals she is wearing, travels up her tan, muscular legs in a long, flowing gown and ends with the ceremonial Amazon mask upon her face. A long, white cape cloaks her form and in her left hand is her bow. Her famous quiver full of arrows is on her back.

I have to admit, her allure is palpable and I feel an immediate attraction to her. I am intrigued by this goddess and my body responds to the excitement I am feeling. My nipples harden as I turn around to face her. She takes two steps toward me. Unsure, I take two steps, not toward her, but to the side. I am standing near the bed, which is of the canopy variety, as if to hide behind the tall metal frame. The thin white curtains blow around me. My heart is racing but somehow I feel safer with something, no matter how insubstantial, between us.

The goddess eyes me, but does not rush at me. Gracefully, she removes her cloak and places it gently on the coat rack in the room. I gasp at her physique. I am unsure as to why she has chosen me, of all the women in this castle. I know there are others who have much more experience than me which, considering my history, isn't difficult to surpass. I am flattered. But also, unsure. It hits me that I really am on the verge of an event that could change the course of my life. For me to accept Artemis tonight would probably hurt Xena beyond repair. Tomorrow, I would have to do the unthinkable and face Xena, after having spent the night in the arms of another lover. At any moment, I expect to hear the whoosh of a flying chakram and the sickening thud of it connecting with its target, the neck of the Amazon goddess. A vision of her head rolling at my feet passes through my mind.

I swallow and, through the canopy curtain, I look at Artemis. A part of me wants to warn her. Although a powerful goddess, a showdown with Xena would not be high on Artemis’ to-do list tonight. A part of me wants to run from the room, flee the castle, and crawl into my bedroll next to Xena. I consider doing that, but then again, another part of me wants to walk over and let the strong arms of Artemis envelop me.

The goddess herself appears confident and shows no trace of fear. She is, after all, a master hunter and consummate warrior. She walks over to the dresser and places her bow on it. As she removes her quiver, I wonder if I, too, should be removing articles of my clothing.

From her quiver, I see her remove a phallic-looking object and some sort of harness. I inhale sharply and wonder what I have gotten myself into. As I exhale, Artemis looks at me and begins walking in my direction. I swallow hard. I cannot deny that I am aroused by her presence. I close my eyes, and when I open them she is standing behind me.  Touching me for the first time, she places her hands on the black cloak at my shoulders. With a surprisingly soft touch, she slowly and patiently removes it. My shoulders now bare, I am wearing only my two-piece regalia and ceremonial mask. She is still behind me and I can feel her getting closer. I look up and see our reflection in the mirror, light next to dark.

Needing more time, I draw myself away from her and walk to the other side of the room. I sense the Goddess of the Hunt tracking me the entire way. She doesn't follow me but instead sits on the edge of the large, soft bed. Knowing that a sudden move would frighten me, she waits for me to come to her. It is clear that I have a choice and that it is mine, and not hers, to make. I take a deep breath and walk toward her.

Artemis is sitting upright and, when I reach her, I step between her legs, which are hanging over the edge of the bed. We don't touch. Intimidated and unsure of what to do, my hands go to my head. I lift the mask from my face and remove the pins from my hair. My hair falls around my shoulders.

We stay in that moment, before she makes me hers, and before I let her. My fingers go to my top, and I begin to untie the strings that hold the front of it together. When it is untied, I pause, and then let it fall from my torso. I feel my breasts bounce forward. I see the goddess's chest rise and fall more quickly. Encouraged, I untie the back of my short skirt and let it drop to my feet. Taking a small step forward, I leave it behind me.

I know now why Artemis is the goddess of the hunt. Her sexual appetite is legendary, yet she shows incredible restraint. She doesn't pounce until she knows I am hers. While I stripped between her legs, she remained leaning back, resting her hands behind her on the bed. From my brief experience with Perdicas, I know that the night would already be over were I in the company of someone less disciplined.

The goddess lifts her body forward and brings her hands toward me. I notice that her hands tremble slightly. Each hand hovers at the sides of my waist and, when she finally touches my skin, I feel the incredible warmth that she is radiating.

It was a warmth that I know.

"Xena?" I whisper.

Artemis lifts her hands and removes her mask yet even before it is off I know that I have just been seduced by my warrior companion.

"Xena," I repeat, looking into those familiar blue eyes.

"Gabrielle," she says, looking into my eyes, and then, at my body. She swallows. Tentative, she reaches out her hands and brings them back to my waist. I let her. She draws me, still between her legs, closer to her.

"What are you doing here?" I ask. In spite of myself, I let her draw me to her and I wrap my arms around her neck.

"I heard everything Gabrielle, when I died. Your love for me. The nature of your love for me. But also, I heard the depths of your pain," Xena said.

I was silent, tears in my eyes, as I remembered. "I fear putting you through that again," she continued.

I swallowed. "So the night at the inn..." I started.

"I made a choice, to keep distance between us," she said. "What I do is risky, Gabrielle."

"What you do?" I said, "Xena, it's what we do!"

"I know that. Now. There are no guarantees that I won't die, again," she said, a tear rolling down her cheek, "Or that you won't. But when I saw you enter this castle without me, maybe starting a new chapter in your life, I realized that I didn't even give you the chance to make that choice."

"You know my choice," I said. We locked eyes. I smiled.

"Really?" she said.

Her hands at my waist tighten. She slides off the bed and, standing up, bends forward to kiss me. I close my eyes and feel her lips. Soft at first, she begins nipping at my bottom lip. I open my mouth slightly and she accepts the invitation. As we explore each others' mouths, lips, and tongues, my knees go weak. I feel that passion that's in her, always waiting to bubble over, but she doesn't throw me down on the bed and take me. Yet. I know then that had I met her in her past, she would have quickly conquered me.

But this Xena, instead, lifts me. I wrap my legs around her waist, still kissing her. Already, I feel the wetness between my legs and it takes considerable willpower for me not to begin rubbing myself against her. Our mouths separate and she begins alternately kissing and sucking on my neck. I run my fingers through her hair and she gives me a bite. Moaning, I find her mouth again. She turns toward to the bed and lays me on top of it. Stepping back, she removes the silver gown she is wearing and steps out of her sandals. Her hands rise and she removes the pins holding up her hair. Her long, dark locks fall around her neck. Her full breasts rise and fall with her breath and her skin is flushed from arousal. I gasp. She may not be Artemis, but she is a goddess in her own right.

She steps forward, crawls onto the bed, and finds both of my hands. Powerfully, she locks my hands above my head and, straddling me, looks into my eyes. She lowers herself onto me, I feel her wetness on my own. I have never done this before, but my instincts kick in. I restrain myself from bucking uncontrollably as Xena slides back and forth. As she does so, I teeter disastrously close to the point of no return. It is too soon. Xena sees it in my eyes and lifts herself up. With a low growl, her mouth finds one of my nipples. She sucks and bites and pulls, both of us moaning.

I feel her dripping onto me and her obvious arousal excites me. I sense that I have a power over the warrior, and that surprises me. While she works on my other nipple, I let my hands travel down the length of her body. I rest my hands on her backside and pull her to me. She lets me. Quickly, I reach between her legs to get a better feel for her wetness. I easily find her shaft and begin stroking it. She groans loudly. My fingers work with more urgency as I alternate between stroking her and entering her.

"Wait," she whispers, "not... yet." She grabs my hand and pins it above my head again. I feel her weight on top of me and she slides a thigh between my legs. We begin rocking together. Our bodies, slippery, begin moving faster and faster. Just as we reach the edge of that peak, Xena slows down, prolonging the sexual tension. I find her mouth again to keep from crying out. With remarkable restraint, our bodies continue moving together, this time more slowly. I know that any increase in the pace will send me over the edge.

She stops moving and we lock eyes. "I'm ready, sweet Elysian Fields, I'm ready," I say, as my body screams for a release that, until that night, has never been experienced with another person. I see a glimmer in her eyes and before I know how she got there, she has traveled down the length of my body. I feel her breath near my center, hovering. Surprising myself, I lift my hips to meet her tongue. She begins lapping at me, her tongue moving at first in long strokes and then in smaller circles. I feel waves of ecstasy begin as Xena gently enters me with two of her fingers, impossibly increasing my pleasure. I can no longer control the bucking in my hips, and Xena goes with it, never losing the rhythm. I ride the wave and feel myself contract around Xena's fingers. Her tongue continues working until after I have finished crying out.

I am left gasping for breath, realizing that I had lost all awareness of the rest of the world. Xena moves back up the length of my body, leaving a trail of kisses the entire way. When our mouths meet, I am surprised to taste myself on her lips. I kiss her deeply for a very long time, even though I know her body is begging for release. I begin massaging her breasts and pulling on her nipples. When she moans, I know that I have complete power over her. I flip her onto her back and sit on top of her, my wetness dripping into her. With control, she begins rocking her hips as we slide together. I let her use me in this way and I feel myself somehow becoming aroused again, knowing that she is getting close. I move my hips to meet her thrusting and the sensation is incredible. Our movement gets faster and, when she calls out my name as she finishes, I know that I am hers.

Exhilerated, I fall on top of her. We are both sweaty, and breathing heavily. The rest of the room slowly comes back into focus and I briefly notice that the bed is disheveled and our costumes are strewn about the floor. I have never been so content in my life. I lay slightly on top of Xena and she runs her fingers through my hair. I give her neck small kisses.

"Gabrielle" Xena says, softly.

"Yes?" I say.

"I love you too," she said. I sigh, lazily running my fingers across her stomach.

A couple of minutes pass, and then I asked, "Xena?"

"Yes?" she said, in a sleepy voice.

"Aphrodite.... kissed me," I said.

She rolls her eyes.

"But, it's not like I felt anything... I mean... well, maybe I felt some-thing...but...well-"

Xena brought her finger to my lips, "Ssssh. If it weren't for Aphrodite, I wouldn't be here tonight. Relax." Xena continued stroking my hair. I was happy and, in my state of bliss, was having trouble keeping my motormouth under control.

"Okay, but... oh never mind," I said, biting my tongue. Channeling my curiosity into my fingers, I began playing with Xena's belly-button. One of Xena's eyes slighly opened.

"What is it?" she asked, in that voice she uses when she's pretending she's annoyed with me.

"Who did Artemis end up choosing for the Revealing Ceremony?" I said.

"Eh, I think she chose Daphne," Xena said, closing her eyes again.

"That figures," I said. In light of how the evening turned out, I was okay with that.

"One more thing," I added, "about that phallus on the dresser..."

"Unh... tomorrow..." Xena said, closing her eyes. I took a deep breath, sighed, and let myself begin drifting off to sleep. A cool breeze was blowing through the window and I was in ecstasy, skin to skin with the woman I loved.

I felt Xena stir and, in a small voice, say, "Whaddya mean you felt something...?"

Smiling, I let myself slip softly into sleep.

Floating outside the bedroom window, in a whiff of bubblegum and musk, hovered two figures peering inside.

"Are we good or what, Arty?" said the blonde, busty woman, with a giggle.

"The bard actually fell for the ol' switch-a-roo," said the muscular woman, wearing nothing but white undergarments.

"Those two are so meant to be together," Aphrodite said. 

"Yeah yeah, that's great. Now, if you'll excuse me, Love, I have something to attend to," Artemis said.

"Ahem, don't you mean, someone to attend to?" Aphrodite said, with a pinch on the rear of the Amazon Goddess, "So, who's the lucky lady going to be this year?"

"Ahh, life is full of difficult choices, isn't it?" Artemis said with a sigh. The two goddesses floated into Xena and Gabrielle's room. With a wave of her hand, Artemis began drawing the articles of her own clothing, that Xena had strewn about the room, to herself. The gown, sandals, cloak, and mask straightened themselves out and jumped onto the goddess' body. Artemis gave a little shimmy as her full majesty was restored.

"Most definitely," Aphrodite said, "and speaking of, I owe you big time for this. When you feel like collecting, you just let me know."

"Oh, I will," said Artemis, wrapping her strong arm around the Goddess of Love's waist. "Although, I certainly wouldn't have been opposed to a night with one of these two exquisite mortals," Artemis said. The two goddesses tilted their heads, looked down at the sleeping pair, and took note of the bard's bare chest rising and falling as she slept.

"Yeah," sighed Aphrodite, "I know what you mean."

"Oh, and that 'I have you in my thrall' bit was rich," Artemis laughed.

"Whatev. She liked kissing me. No harm if she thinks I had to kiss her to take her on that joy ride," Aphrodite said.

"Speaking of joy rides..." Artemis said.

“Ah, yes,” Aphrodite said.

With that, the two goddesses floated out into the night.

**The End**

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