DISCLAIMER: Xena, Argo,Gabrielle, etc. are ©copyright MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures.

DISCLAIMER#2: NC 17 for sex, sexual situations, some language and a short, not graphic attempted rape scene. This is erotica, including all the details of the more sensual elements of women together.  If for some reason there are laws preventing you from reading erotic stories about women, stop now, this is not for you.

TIMELINE. This is set the time between Hercules, "Unchained Heart" and X:WP "Sins of the Past"

EMAIL: please feel free to send any feedback comments to ms_armstrong77@yahoo.com  This is my first piece of fan fiction and would love to know what you think. Please be gentle. Thank you. 

Title shamelessly borrowed from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Last but not least. For my beautiful wife. Happy Valentines. *Always.* 



BY Brigid Armstrong.

Tia was working in her smithy when something caught her attention coming over the ridge that surrounded the west side of the village. She stopped forging and set her hammer down on the anvil, and turned her full attention to the figure walking next to a large palomino. Tia noticed immediately that the horse had a slight limp.  The sun was setting, so she could not make out any features, but it looked like a lone warrior was leading the horse down the rocky road.

'Well well,' she thought to herself, knowing she was going to have business at her door very soon.  Tia 's attention went back to the work at hand, the piece she had heating in the forge was bright yellow. 'Time to give it life.' And  she set about giving the neck a more natural curve. She was working on a set of andirons with beautifully forged horse heads as the finials. She was putting the last touches on the head, and secretly she was very pleased.

Tia had learned the trade form her uncle after he had taken her in. She was eight when her whole family had been killed by a rampaging warlord.  Her uncle had no family or children of his own, She grew up around the smithy, and in time naturally became his apprentice in the art of blacksmithing. She had skill and loved the way you could shape hot metal like it was wet clay. She could make just about anything out of iron. She was a true craftsman, she loved working with her hands and also a some skill working with wood and leather. 

It had been five years since her uncle had died and left the shop to her.  She had a small simple house out back, and a few stalls for rent. She worked hard for what had and took great pride in her work. She was fiercely independent. 

 The village was on a major trade route, but many travelers chose to keep going to a larger town a few leagues north.  This was a very quiet village full of small minds, but this is were her uncle had his shop, and she promised him she would keep it running after his death.

Tia knew the villagers never really accepted her, a woman blacksmith. They would never say anything to her face about her chosen trade, or the fact she had no interest in men because she was very good at what she did. She could fix anything, make anything, and shoe a horse in record time. Still she heard the unkind whispers of "unnatural" and the like. Tia knew that she was only tolerated because of her skill at the forge. She was very different then your typical village girl. To say the least.

She had messy dark blond hair cropped short, now sweaty from a long day in the sweltering heat of the smithy, she wore thin leather pants, sturdy brown boots, and an over size shirt belted around her slim waist with a thick hand tooled belt. The shirt was so sweaty it stuck against her back, highlighting strong muscular shoulders. As for the color of the garment it was a hard to tell, it once might of been green. She also wore a sturdy leather apron liberally smudged with soot and dust from the coal.  She had beautiful blue eyes that seamed that much brighter highlighted against her dirty face. Her hands were small, but strong, leather gauntlets encircled her wrists. Her arms were not huge as you might expect but long and sinewy. 

The smith wiped the sweat from her face leaving another long smudge across her eyebrow with the back of her hand as she heard the tell tell hoofbeats of a lame horse stop in front of her smithy. Tia was working the bellows, her back to the street.

"Hey boy, can you take a look at my horse, she's lost a shoe, she's lam--." The warrior stopped in mid sentence when Tia turned around. The newcomer was speechless for a moment, how could she have thought this woman was a boy, for now as she looked closer she could see the womanly swell of the smiths hips, striking features, and a definite sparkle in her blue eyes.

Tia quietly stood, waiting for the warrior to her finnish her question.

"Umm... sorry, I just assumed without really looking." The warrior was trying to cover her mistake.

Tia smiled. "What can I do for you." She knew what the warrior needed but she wasn't going to make it too easy. After all it wasn't every day she had a gorgeous six foot tall warrior, with jet black hair, and eyes bluer than her own standing in her shop, tongue tied.

Still no word form the warrior. 

"Hi Katia, but every body calls me Tia, I'm the blacksmith in town. Do you need shoes for you horse or..." prompting helpfully, pointing at the horse.

"Yes, " the warrior finally said, "would you look at her feet first, she's a little off."

"Sure thing, you can untack her and tie her to the post right there." 

Tia banked the fire in the forge, and collected her shoeing tools and a hoof pick.

"So how long since she threw that front shoe?" the smith asked, trying to make conversation with the most alluring woman that had come through this sleepy village in she could not remember how long, " 'Oh yeah there was that amazon...'

"This morning, been walking her all day."  

"What's her name?" The smith running her hand over the horse, calming her before she just picked up her foot.


"And yours?" she saw the warrior hesitate, "I told you mine it's only fair,"  Tia said with a smile.


The warrior eyes searching Tia for any reaction. What she saw was a brief moment of recognition, then Tia asked her an another question as she bent over to examine the mare's hoof.

"Are you alone?" she pushed a little further, "no army waiting in the hills?" She saw a slight flinch in Xena's eyes.

The warrior was stunned by the direct question but answered none the less. "No, I gave all that up a few moons ago," she said, lowering her eyes in shame thinking of all the killing and pain she had inflicted upon her homeland and beyond. 

"I can keep going to the next town." Xena was really hoping she wouldn't have to keep moving, not tonight. She was bone tired, utterly spent. Not that she would admit it.

"I can't shoe your horse," Tia said seriously. Standing up after releasing the hoof.

Her heart sank at the smith's words. 'Of course she would want me to clear out. Who would want a former warlord with her ruthless reputation in their town.'  She slowly reached for her saddle to tack up Argo before heading down the road again.  Where she was going she wasn't sure, or so she told herself. But deep down she knew where she wanted to go, where she had been heading ever since she left Hercules a couple moons back, to Thrace and Amphipolis, home... if that was even possible. 

Xena was startled when she felt a hand on her arm, she wanted to push off the contact, but she steeled herself and remained still, lifting her eyes in question.

"Stop, put that down. That's not what I meant. I can't shoe her because she has a stone bruise and is going to need some rest before she can comfortably wear shoes again... so if you want, you can put her in that stall and I'm sure I'll be able to shoe her tomorrow or the next day," Tia said, trying to convince the warrior. Her hand still resting on Xena's forearm hoping she could get her to stay. 

Xena looked down at the dirty hand resting on her, seemingly without fear. She made her decision. 

"Okay," Xena agreed, leading Argo into the large stall, then stowing her gear on the saddle rack and on the bench in front of the stall. She took out a brush and started to groom her horse talking softly to the mare, "I'm so sorry Argo, I know you hurt, but you did great walking all the way here, you can rest now..." Xena went on talking in a low soothing voice.

Tia was watching the warrior, she was an enigma. Xena: Destroyer of Nations had a savage reputation to say the least, but this woman was soft and gentle with her horse and it made Tia smile, she could not take her eyes off the tall beauty scratching softly under her horse's chin. The smith believed you could tell a lot about someone's character by how they treated their horse.

It was the warrior's deep velvety voice that brought her out of her musing.

"How much for the stall and feed," Xena asked, not turning around.

"Three dinars, including the shoes for Argo."

"Deal." Xena smiled, it was a good price, and she hated bargaining,"do you know a good place to stay in this town?"

"Well...the Inn is terrible and the owners aren't much for warriors, especially female ones. You could stay here.... if you want... I mean not in the stable, I have a house out back, no problem." The young woman cringed at the way it sounded, "besides I really would enjoy the company, I live here alone. No one would bother you," Tia babbled a little nervously, she really wanted Xena to say yes.

"Ok I'm sold" Xena said as Tia looked her in eye for the first time, she let her mind drift for a moment gazing at the bold young woman. 'This could be fun, she's beautiful and crazy enough to ask me to stay with her. Yeah this defiantly could be be fun' Xena had a small crooked smile playing across her face.  She was in the mood to cut loose and forget about life for a while, it was not an invitation she wanted to pass up. 

Xena was sick of camping out, her own company and eating her own dismal cooking. She was tired and dirty, and in desperate need of a break.  Besides she could feel there was a kind of mutual attraction. The warrior hadn't felt anything for anyone. since?  forever... maybe, Hercules?  Tonight she was content not to ask too many question and follow her gut, and her gut felt a warm tingling sensation when she thought about staying with the young blacksmith. 

"There's a water tank out back, you can use that bucket for Argo. I need to close up and clean myself up before we go to the house.Okay?" 

Xena stood, lost in her thoughts for a moment, when a bucket came sailing through the air at her. 'I have got to stop that!' Xena snatched the bucket out of mid air and quickly headed out the back door.

Tia stared at the door through which the warrior had gone for a couple seconds.  Pulling herself out of her reverie Tia shook her head and returned to the task of closing down her shop. She made sure the fire was out, her tools put away and ready for the next day. She paused to take off her apron and look at the andirons, 'Not bad.'  She allowed herself to think.  

She moved to the big doors of her shop and swung them closed, placing a thick oak plank into well made iron brackets that showed off the blacksmiths' skill. With the doors secure she made her way out back so she could wash up from her long, hot dirty day.  She was pulling her shirt over her head as she did every evening after work, she liked to rinse off with the cool water from the gravity fed water tank. 

As she strode around the corner she ran right into Xena. The bucket went flying.

"What, the... " Xena spat out a big mouthful of water and curses. She was drenched.

 "Sorry...so sorry.  Um ...I was just going to wash up, sorry  I...." Tia didn't know what to say, so she brushed by Xena, put her shirt on the fence and pulled the chain that released water over her head. Running her hands though her hair and over her face, hoping to wash away the blush.  She started scrubbing with a clean rag, removing the dirt from her face and neck, scrubbed her chest and arms rinsing off the worst of the grime. She was looking around for the soap when she noticed Xena hadn't moved and was starring at her, holding the bucket to her chest, covering her wet leathers. The warrior unable to tear her eyes from Tia's naked torso admiring the well defined body.

'I knew it!'  Tia thought, seeing the desire burning in Xena eyes, as she felt a warm flush race across her skin.  

"That looks very...uncomfortable," the blacksmith said with a seductive smile, "take it off." Motioning to Xena and all her soaking leather. 

Xena started to unbuckle her armor, dropping it into a pile, then slowly peeled off her leathers . Her eyes never leaving the young smith, blue meeting blue as time seemed to slow, everything in the background began to blur.  

Tia felt her heart start hammering at the sight of the warrior striping, moving ever closer as she divested herself of her clothing.

"What are we doing?" the warrior's asked while removing her shift, her eyes smoldering. 

"Just washing two very sweaty, dirty bodies," Tia choked out.

"Oh really?... is that all?" The warrior inquired with an arched eyebrow. 

"If that's all you want, I'm okay with that...I  thought maybe....?" The smith forged ahead,wanting to seduce the enigmatic warrior. Tia hadn't experienced this kind of sexual attraction in a long time and was not going to let the powerful woman intimidate her

"Oh, I think...maybe I could be interested in more." Xena stepping closer to the blacksmith, dropping the last of her garments next to Tia's shirt on the fence. She stopped right in front of the young woman, only a sliver of light visible between their bodies as they searched each others eyes. Xena stood in nothing but her boots, looking very sexy, very dangerous and utterly predatory. 

Tia was suddenly feeling way out of her league, she had the distinct feeling she was playing with fire, but she liked fire.  She took a deep breath to steady herself, swallowing the lump in her throat. 'Come on Tia, you only live once, don't chicken out now.' She touched Xena lightly on the shoulder, her finger tracing the warrior's collar bone. "Look Xena, when I first laid my eyes on you...I felt some kind of connection, I'm I crazy?"

"You might be crazy, but I know what you mean... You know you're really quite sexy, all wet in your leather pants," Xena said giving Tia the once over, raking her eyes over the younger woman's body, admiring the strong lean figure. She hooked her index finger in the waist band of Tia's britches. 

The smith's closed her eyes at the contact and drew in a ragged breath and reached her hand down to cover Xena's.

 "Come on, I've got to finish washing up and so do you." The smith tossed a sponge and soap at Xena.

Tia went on washing, she stripped off her pants and boots quickly washing her lower half. As she stood up to grab her clothes and head to the house, she felt Xena's hand's soaping her back in lazy circles, she gave in to the sensation, but quickly snapped out of it. They were outside, on the outskirts of town, it was just a matter of time before someone would catch them in this compromising situation, and she did not have a death-wish. The smith turned around quickly intent on asking the warrior to come inside, but now Xena's hands were on chest. Tia looked down at the hands resting on the swell of her breasts, her heart visibly beating beneath Xena's hand. 'Gods... that's nice.' 

"Xena...wait," Tia said gently, "we can't get into this right here, I have to live in this town... Please, come on inside once you're done out here."  

The smith ran for the door, buck ass naked clutching her clothes in an unorganized wad. Once inside she leaned back heavily against the door closing her eyes. 'Oh my gods... she is something else.' 

Tia ran around the house doing the two minute clean, throwing many loose items and dirty clothes in the small closet. By the time Xena came through the door she was starting a fire, dressed in a  sleeveless tunic, surrounded by a relatively clean house. 

"Well, this is it... make yourself at home," Tia said with a shy smile. 

Xena was a little disappointed that Tia's strong body was clothed again. Feeling a little self-conscious holding her leathers and armor against herself.

"Uh, do you have anything I could wear while I clean and dry my leathers...please." She had to reminded herself to say. It was hard to remember what it was like in the world without her men doing her biding without question. She hadn't said please in a very very long time. Memories of the girl she was before and all the hate and violence that came after came flooding up, unbidden.  'OK stop that and just be nice to the girl.' 

Tia got up and walked over to a large trunk.  She rummaged through thinking of what would look good on her dark haired companion, she smiled as she put her hand on a short dark blue tunic, handing it to the warrior.

Xena mumbled, "Thanks," as she pulled the garment over her head.  She looked almost indecent as it barely covered her rear, but it did make her legs seem even longer.

"What's for dinner?  I'm starved!" Xena asked. 'Gods she not your slave, get a grip, idiot!'

"Well since you asked so nicely," Tia replied sarcastically,  "I have a nice stew and I was about to warm up some bread, does that work for you?" Tia was not really hungry for food, tall half naked warriors on the other hand.

"Anything would be better then what I've been eating." Xena winced at the way it sounded, "I mean I can't cook...sorry I guess I make a lousy guest."  

Tia laughed and shook her head. "How long have you been on the road Xena?" She liked the way the name rolled off her tongue.

"More then ten years.... but it's been about two weeks since I've seen civilization, cleaned up or had a meal I didn't burn." Xena made a weak attempt at humor. 

Tia locked gazes with the tall warrior, there was a kind of vulnerability, deep down under the super tough exterior. They stood looking at each other. Nobody had dared to look Xena in to eye so openly in a long, long, time.

Tia  stepped forward, irresistibly drawn to the dark warrior. She tentatively put her hands on Xena's shoulders. 

"You can relax while you're in my home, I don't judge people. I can only go with what I see," the smith said, "and what I see is a stunningly beautiful woman, who is kind to horses, in need of a good meal, some rest, and maybe more." She left the rest unsaid as she turned to stir the pot of fine smelling stew, putting the loaf of bread to warm next to the fire. 

Xena moved up behind the strong smith and ran her hand over the well defined back, feeling a slight tremor under her finger tips.

"Are you cold?" Xena asked.


"Do you mind?" Xena continued to enjoy the play of muscles below her hands. 

"No..." Tia suddenly monosyllabic, turning to face the warrior, she reached out to touch the angular face. "So beautiful," She whispered as she leaned forward to brush her lips against Xena's. 

Their mouthes were barley touching, when Xena parted her lips ever so slightly, letting her the tip of her tongue skim across the smith's bottom lip, savoring the smooth textures and the warmth of Tia's mouth.

The erotic sounds coming from Xena's throat, encouraged Tia to deepen the kiss, soon she had both her hands moving in Xena's hair, running her short nails along the warrior's scalp at the same time inviting her into her mouth. She felt her stomach flip as Xena's tongue probed her mouth and curled her hands in the fabric of her tunic, drawing her closer.

When they finally broke the kiss, it was the younger woman who first brought her hand up, resting it on the ample breast, watching the warrior carefully for any sign she did not want her to continue. Instead the warrior groaned deeply and let her head fall back, exposing her long muscular neck.  Tia took full advantage, as she laid kisses from jaw to to shoulder, pushing fabric out of the way, tasting the warm, slightly salty skin as she went.

"Stop...," Xena gasped, but not pulling away.

"Come on Xena, I know you want to." 

The suddenly bold woman bit down on Xena's well muscled shoulder and she squeezed a hardening nipple, rolling it between her fingers and tugging lightly. 

Xena felt her knees go weak.

"Tell me... tell me you don't want this and I'll stop." Tia was waiting for Xena to decide. 

Xena struggled with herself for and instant, but the verbal assault, the nipple being pinched, sending hot jolts down to her core and the smith  biting and kissing her way across the base of her throat, stripped away all her resolve.  The warrior gave her answer by grabbing Tia's short hair with one hand, the palm of the other cupping the back of the smith's head and kissing her with an urgent need. 

Tia hunger was unleashed, It wasn't long before the blacksmith had Xena up against the door and pulling at the front of the warrior's tunic while kissing the hollow of her throat, licking and sucking the corded muscles of her neck. Her hands still torturing soft mounds.

Slowly the smith nudged the warrior legs apart, moving her thigh between long legs to press against her mound, feeling the heat and moisture already gathering in soft folds.  Tia was now totally lost to the sexual desire she felt for the blue eyed woman she had pinned to the door. She was pulling at the hem of the tall warrior's tunic, and had it over Xena hips before it was taken from her grasp and yanked upwards.

Tia was awestruck by the sight of the completely nude warrior, she ripped off her own tunic and leaned the length of her body against Xena.  It was an over powering feeling when their skin touched. They could feel each other tremble as they moved against one another. It clear this was something they both wanted badly.

Xena reached down to cup Tia's firm butt as she continued to kiss her she wrapped her arms a little further around Tia's backside and lifted her up, urging her to wrap her legs around her waist.  Xena felt the woman's wet core come to rest just above her dark curls and she couldn't wait any longer, she strode to the bed with the smith in her arms. Laying her down, the warrior came to rest between Tia's legs, enjoying the feel of the woman beneath her.

Tia's tightened her legs around Xena's back as the warrior pushed up on her palms and ground firmly into Tia's hot mound, starting a slow thrusting that was inflaming them both.

"Yes...." Tia breathed out, as she dug her fingers into the muscular shoulders above her, arching her back to meet the tall woman's thrusts, her hips grinding back against Xena. She could feel the warrior hot cleft against hers. Tia moved her hands down along the warrior and snaked a hand between their bodies, spreading her lips, then shifting to part Xena's.  As she returned her hand to the swell of Xena hip and pulled down hard, the warrior shuddered from the increased contact.

"Tia ...yes! " was all the warrior was capable of saying as she felt their buds sliding and bucking together. She changed her motion to a slow circling of her hips. The warrior was panting, grinding, getting closer to release, but at the same time she was trying to slow down and enjoy this rare encounter. 

Xena stilled her hips and pulled away, leaning down to kiss and explore more of her hostess' skin, she worked her way down to Tia's chest and teased her breasts until the nipples were erect. She lavished the soft, pliant flesh with all her pent up energy, switching between the two hard points, teasing, licking, nipping, sucking her deep in her mouth until she had Tia moaning continuously. Xena could feel the woman's excitement mingling with hers as their mounds came together once more. She moved her hand to cup the blacksmith' sex, stroking her wet folds with long fingers.

"Look at me," Xena requested, as she fingered her, feeling her open up as she hovered around the smiths' entrance teasing her, barely entering than pulling back. 

Tia eyes never left Xena's as the warrior slowly pushed two fingers deep inside. 

Soon Tia could no longer keep her eyes open, and wrapped her legs even tighter around the warrior's back trying to pull her closer, her hips pumping on Xena's hand as she feverishly increased the pace.

"Yes.... deeper ...please  aah. harder... gods Xenaaa." The blacksmith started begging and driving her hips harder. Two fingers soon becoming three.

The warrior was so aroused by the way the woman impaled herself on her hand pulling her in deeper with each new thrust. 

She felt Tia start to tighten around her strong fingers and Xena had to taste her. She slid down the smith's body, never stopping the momentum of her hand. She kissed the moist curls and moved lower to gather the woman's sweet arousal on her tongue, delving into soft flesh and spreading it over Tia's clit. 

Tia's hips levitated of the bed at the feel of Xena 's mouth devouring her.  She was begging for more as she started quivering, squeezing Xena's long fingers inside her. Loving what Xena was doing with her tongue.

The dark haired woman redoubled her efforts as she felt a sudden wetness cover her hand and face. She reached up with her unoccupied hand to pinch the smith's rock hard nipples. That was enough to send the smith spiraling off the edge, Xena felt the young woman's muscles contract and spasm around her hand as she came.

"Xeeeena !" Was all Tia could scream over and over until it was just a whispered, "Xena...," as her climax ended and she collapsed back down on the bed, her heart hammering in her chest as she was trying to bring her breathing back down into a more normal cadence.

"That was..." Her eyes took in the look on Xena's face, full of unquenched desire. It only took that one lustful glance to give the smith the energy to roll them both over until the taller woman was looking up into a very wanton face smiling wickedly down at her. 

"Now it's my turn," Tia husked, as she bent down to kiss the warrior. The taste of herself on Xena's lips, quickly re-igniting her libido.

Xena was having misgivings about letting herself be taken by this woman. She never relinquished control. But when she felt Tia lean down and suckle her nipple, the warrior went against all her instincts and let go. She stopped fighting the extraordinary sensation coursing through her body. She wanted the strong smith to give her release...make her forget everything. 

 Tia's was astride the warrior's hips, her hand was caressing Xena's side, slowly running her hand from hip to shoulder and back again. Tia wanted to take her time, she wanted a more leisurely look at the  woman in her bed. So she slid off and lay on her side next to the warrior, her head propped on one hand.

"You're very beautiful you know," Tia whispered, as her hand and eyes roamed over the body next to her. She looked up when there was no answer, and was shocked when she saw tears threaten to spill from the tall woman's eyes. With her thumb she caught a single tear as it spilled down the tan cheek.

"You wouldn't say that if you knew me, knew all the things I've--" Xena said with a quiver in her voice, feeling naked in more ways than one.

Soft lips kissing her face silenced her. 

"Don't...Xena, stay here with me," The smith demanded, kissing Xena deeply, attempting to pull the tall woman out of her dark thoughts.

Xena gave into her body's desires and pulled Tia's strong body to cover hers.

Tia was happy to find that the warrior spread herself so that she could settle herself between long legs. She could smell the warrior's arousal and it made her mouth water, she wanted to sample, but not yet. 

The smith crawled down the length of Xena's body, a nd starting with her feet she was kissing and licking slowly, ever so slowly, making her way up the woman legs. 

Xena had the sheets clenched in her fists willing herself to be patient and see what this woman had in mind. Her body humming with the sensations the young woman was provoking.

A low growl escaped from deep within Xena's chest as Tia's mouth made it's way up the warrior's inner thighs, using her calloused fingers to spread Xena's lips apart swirling her tongue around Xena clit, feeling it engorge between her lips as she sucked the hard nub.

"OH Yessss right there!" The warrior exclaimed as Tia found a particular spot that drove her wild. Her hips tried moving against the skilled mouth, but a strong arm across her belly was holding her down as the smith continued her feast. Tia was making low humming noises as she eagerly licked, sucked and lapped at the warrior's womanhood.

Xena felt herself nearing the edge, she was breathing hard, her whole body rigid, yearning for release. She heard herself ask, no beg was a better word. "Pleeease!" 'Wait, I don't beg. No I wont beg, no...I can't....Ah, to Tartarus with it!'  

"Please.... I want to feel you inside me, please." 

 Tia was so turned on by the dark haired woman she could not have denied her anything, however she wasn't going to give in all at once. She drew her face back so she could watch her digit disappear inside Xena. She decided she loved to watch as her finger plunged deeper and deeper into the warrior. Xena was so ready, Tia soon added a second, then a third finger into Xena's throbbing sex.

It was the sound of sheets starting to rip that made Xena let go of the death grip she had on the fabric and move her hands to touch the woman giving her such pleasure.

"More ...Please, more... Oh,gods Yes....," Xena rasped, her hand running over the young woman's hair, cradling her head, urging the smith closer to her center, wanting to feel her tongue on her clit again.  Xena groaned throwing her head back as she was filled, stretched wide as Tia slipped a fourth finger inside and curled her hand. 

Tia was thrusting with renewed purpose, pulling out almost all the way before pushing in deeper.  

Xena planted her feet flat on the bed, spreading her knees as wide as she could.  She was now begging in earnest. "Argh.... god's Yes... Fuck me..... oh yes...harder.....please.... don't stop! " Xena was feeling herself loose the battle to prolong her pleasure and she had almost forgotten about her clit when she felt the smith run her tongue over the hard nub. Xena's hands tightened almost painfully in Tia's hair, pulling her head down, bucking her hips against the smith's talented mouth. 

It only took a few strokes of her hand and tongue working together to drive Xena into a mind blowing climax. The warrior rode it out, her body arched, her head thrown back, the breath caught in her chest as the sudden surge swept through her. And for that short time she was totally free, riding out the waves of pleasure feeling like she was no longer attached to her body and all the pain within. 

It wasn't long until she couldn't take anymore and came crashing down completely drained. "Please...enough I can't," Xena pleaded for the smith to stop. 

It took the warrior some time before she could speak. "My Gods that was amazing....I needed that, thank you" Xena's manners suddenly coming back to her.

"You're thanking me, I should be thanking you. You... you made me feel... I don't know it's been a long time for me--" Tia stammered, a little taken aback by the intensity of their coupling. 

"Me too," confessed Xena pulling the woman up into her arms.

Tia was half lying on top of the warrior, enjoying the sound of the tall woman's pounding heart, and the feel of her warm body.

The women drifted off, tangled together enjoying the afterglow.

It was the smell of burning food that abruptly brought them back to reality.

"Damn!" Tia cursed, as she jumped out of bed and grabbed the bread off the hearth before it became a lump of coal good enough to fire her forge.

Xena did not move, in fact she folded her hands behind her head and crossed her ankles, studying the smith as she gathered bowls of strew and scraped off the burnt parts of the crust. 

Tia tore off two hunks of bread and set the food on the table.  Only when she was finished did she finally turn back to look at the dark sultry woman laying on her bed, in all her glory.  

The young woman had been trying to figure out why she was so drawn to the warrior.  She was a undeniable beauty,and great in bed,yes. But it was deeper than satisfying her lustful needs, she felt a connection to this woman. She wanted to take away that haunted look she had seen in Xena's eyes in those rare unguarded moments when the warrior had let her stoic mask slip. The smith was at little overwhelmed by her feelings, she had had her share of encounters with women that travelled through her village. But she felt more for this warrior than she should, and she already wanted more from this woman.

 She had to break the tension she felt. "You know when I woke up this morning, this is not how I thought my day would end,"  the smith said with a self-deprecating laugh. 

"It's not over yet." Was the response from the bed.

"Come on, get up and have dinner with me, I'm hungry... for some reason." Flashing the warrior a sexy smile. 

They ate dinner and talked like they were old friends. It confused Xena, being this open with a virtual stranger, after all she just met this woman a few hours ago. She hadn't opened up to anyone in so long. Her brother, Lyceus was the last person she truly loved and trusted completely. And after his death the walls went up, with each new experience they just became higher and thicker it was like she was in a deep well surrounded by darkness after a while she ceased feeling all together, trusting no one. 

Now the barriers that kept her safe were cracking and she felt so out of control. It all started when she saved that baby from her men and after they mutinied, she was forced through the Gauntlet.  And after that Hercules really started chipping away at her unfeeling facade. Damn him! She did not want to feel. The pain she endured when she lost Lyceus, and the shame she felt over her life of death and violence was just too much.  She wanted to stop the crumbling of her defenses, but yet she could not go back to life as it was.

"What's wrong?" Tia asked, after Xena had gone quiet staring at her bowl. 

"Just thinking about my brother--"

"Where is he now ?" 

"Gone, dead, murdered by Cortese the warlord. I was fourteen." The tall woman murmured, still not looking up from her bowl.

Tia just stared at the warrior, shocked by the fact both their lives had been shaped by Cortese. 'how could this be, I had no idea.'  "He and his men killed my parents... I was eight," Tia said softly.

They looked up at the same time not knowing what to say.  Tia spoke first, "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have asked about your brother, we were having such a wonderful evening. Now I've ruined it."

"No you haven't, it's alright...come on lets go check on Argo. You know, it has been a great evening so let's not dwell in the past. What do you say?"

"You're right, It's been a very satisfying evening," The smith said, a small smile returning to her face.

After they cleaned the dishes from dinner, they returned to the shop and stalls were Argo was happily munching on green hay. She looked up and nickered when Xena called her name, long stems of hay falling from her lips as she walked over to Xena and shoved her muzzle into the warrior's chest.  

Xena produced an apple from her saddle bag, which. Argo snapped up and munched loudly. Xena laughed aloud at her mare's little apple addiction.

"She's awesome Xena, so powerful, and beautiful." 'Just like her owner'

"Thank you, she been a true friend these past few moons... It's just been me and her since I left my Army."

"What are you going to do now Xena?"

"I don't know.... I have no skills other than being a warrior... What in Tartarus am I good for, if not that," Xena spat out. She could not believe she was sharing her deepest thoughts with a woman she had known less that a day but she continued never the less, "I just can't be a sheep herder, a merchant, or something...normal, I don't think I could do the same thing every day for the rest of my life, I'm just so...I don't know, empty, lost. I just don't know what I'm going to do. I'm so tired," the warrior said, letting out a frustrated sigh, laying her forehead on her mare. Argo always helped calm and center her.

The smith was stunned by the admission. As she though about what the warrior had said an idea came to her.

"Maybe you need a change, Xena."

"No kidding--"

"No, I mean a change literally." The young smith tried to explain, as reached to uncover a trunk under her work bench and drag it out. 

"Now, close you're eyes."

 Xena complied, thinking it showed an amazing level of trust on her part, maybe she could change she mused as she heard a lot of rustling and was tempted to peek.

"OK , open." 

Tia was standing next to her with a huge smile on her face, holding up the most beautiful set of leathers, they were a rich deep brown color, thick and soft at the same time. Xena was in awe of the battle wear, it was obvious the leathers were hand made by someone who cared about quality and detail, strips of leather made up the skirt, the strips were joined with brass rivets, the body was a form fitting bodice that laced up the back with wide shoulder straps. Perfect. 

"Were did you get these"? Xena asked, running her hand over the supple garment, it smelled so good. There was nothing like the smell of new leathers; tanned hide, brass and oil, all combining into a heady sent.

"I made them, years ago, there was a time when I thought I might be a warrior, or at least try to seek justice for what happened to my parents and all the people from my village. Making these gave me time grieve and think about what I really wanted. ...  and I'm done with that, it's not for me. I'm no warrior," Tia explained, trying to pick her words carefully, she did not want to insult the tall woman, because it was obvious that the choice Xena made was to embrace revenge and all the rage and hatred that went with it, making her one of the most powerful warlords Greece had ever seen.

"Xena, I want you to have these, I 'm sure they'll fit you, maybe not cover your knees, but still I think they'll work for you." Tia held her breath as she waited for Xena's response, her eyes never leaving the warrior's. Tia pressed further, "I have armor to go that goes with it. I can do any alterations for you."

Truth be told Xena never liked the armor that covered her shoulders with what looked like a big spider web. She had abandoned the cape moons ago, it got in the way of her sword arm and with nobody to cover her back she couldn't have that. 

As the warrior considered the offer she couldn't help wondering what this woman wanted in return, she wasn't sure she could give her anything more then she already had.

"You know I'm not staying... right?"

"Yeah, I know. I just want you to have them, there just taking up space now, and I'd be honored if you would wear them... come on Xena, what better way to start over then with a new look." The smith trying a little humor to will the warrior into accepting her gift.

"I don't know what to say..."

"Say yes then "

"Yes..." Xena said, then with much more enthusiasm, "thank you,  are you sure... I mean, these are beautiful, priceless." 

"Yes I'm sure.  Let's look at the armor, see if you like it. It might need some minor adjustments, I can change anything you want," Tia said excitedly. 

The women took their time to going through the trunk. The armor was much more subtle then anything from Xena's warlord days. The tall woman appreciated it's elegant design, enough to protect her without weighing her down or restricting her movement. She was impressed.

"Xena, will you try them on?"

"Of course." 

It only took Xena a few moments to get naked again, reaching into her saddle bags for a clean shift that was cut to fit snugly under leathers. 

"Will you help me? you know the lacing system."

It was quiet in the shop, save for Argo munching away as Tia loosened the back of the leathers and invited Xena to step in with her eyes before she slid the leathers up and fit the broad straps over the warrior shoulders. She slowly laced up the back up making sure it was snug, it fit Xena like a second skin. 

Tia ran her hands over Xena's hips smoothing down the strips of leather around her waist. The skirt was little shorter than she had imagined but it was serviceable none the less. Tia was still standing behind Xena and she looked absolutely splendid, the blacksmith turned the warrior around and took a step back.

"Damn, you look good!" 'sexy, gorgeous, beautiful, breathtaking...' 

With that thought Tia got on her knees and started buckling the grieves around the warrior's legs, unable to stop her hand from roaming up Xena thigh before she stood and strapped on the bracers and biceps bands. The last piece the smith lifted was the armor that would protect the back, shoulders and chest.

Xena inclined her head slightly to allow Tia to settle the armor around her torso. The chest did not quite fit, the two bronze plates that were supposed to cover her breasts did not meet to latch in the middle.

"I can fix that," Tia said quickly, "let me take a measurement or two... umm, I think I'll make it solid, add some extra material there," She pointed at Xena sternum. The warrior merely nodded her approval as Tia lifted the armor back over her head.

"Do you like it?"

"Yes, I really do, but..." Xena hesitated, "could you make the breast plate extension like this," She drew a quick sketch in the dust with her finger.

 The smith smiled, already working out in her head how to forge the curvy, tri lobed design. "I can do that in the morning no problem. You have an artist eye you know? but let's get back to...." Tia couldn't take her eyes of the primal looking woman. The aroma of Xena and clean leather was intoxicating, it was what she imagined pure power would smell like. The sight and smell of the warrior was enough to make her mouth go dry. 

Xena did not miss the open look of lust in the young smith eyes.

"Come here," Xena commanded reaching down and pulling Tia closer, and placing a languid kiss on waiting lips.

"Did you always get what you wanted as a warlord?" The strong smith husked, taking a step back before turning away from the warrior, her body ablaze from the kiss they shared.

"Pretty much, Yes."

"I bet you did."

"Let me show you what I want...and thank you." Her seductive voice gave away the raging desire she felt boiling under the surface.

Xena came up behind the smith and guided Tia forward until she had her in front of the anvil, with a hand on her lower back she leaned in and whispered, "Hold on."

Tia had been aroused by the sight of the warrior in her new leathers. and now with their renewed sexual play, Tia did to only thing that came to mind at that moment. She reached down to slid her palms over the horn and heel of the anvil, bracing herself with her arms shoulder width apart. She gasped when she felt Xena press into her backside, the leather strips of the battle dress brushing against her thighs. 

Xena's hand reached under her tunic to lightly stroke her.

"So wet, for me?"

"Oh, my gods...Are you kidding........Xena, do you have any idea what you're doing to me, by the gods woman...Yes!" She exclaimed, as she felt Xena's finger circling her clit, then sliding her hand back up the full length of the smith's sex,bringing with it copious amounts of moisture, teasing, yet never entering. 

When Xena removed her hand Tia cried out for the warrior, she wanted to be commanded by the dangerous woman. 

Xena said nothing as she lifted the tunic slowly reveling the young woman pale skin, placing kisses all along her spine, raising goose bump across her back as she undressed her new lover.

"Lift you're hands" 

The Smith obeyed and the tunic was pulled off and tossed aside. Tia was feeling very exposed, laid bare by this feral warrior, so intoxicating in her leathers. Tia gripped the anvil tighter and bent over slightly in submission, she wanted the warrior to take her like this, right here in her shop. 

She heard the warrior rummage in  her saddle bags and was about to turn her head.

"Don't turn around... I'm not going anywhere."

Tia just closed her eyes and waited. Trembling in anticipation.

Xena reached into the very bottom of her saddle bag, pulling out a silk pouch with strange glyphs embroidered on it, a world traveler would recognize them as coming from the land of Chin. Inside her leather phallus and a harness. She had kept it after leaving her army, even though she rarely used it anymore, it still reminded her of the woman who had given it to her so long ago. It was too intimate an object to leave behind. 

The warrior quickly buckled harness under her leather skirt, adjusting the phallus so that it would bring her maximum pleasure as she used it to bring the smith to her own peak. 

She returned to the smith, making sure not to give away her surprise. "I think you're going to enjoy this... and so I'm I."

With that promise Xena was once again stroking the younger woman, who was quickly drenched. Xena felt her essence start to flow between her legs, greatly exited by the way this woman was giving herself up. And she could see how aroused Tia was. She wanted to consume her.

 There was an audible thud as the warrior dropped to her knees on the dirt floor.  Xena's hands spreading taught cheeks, her tongue darting out to clean the sweet nectar from the young woman's thigh, working her mouth closer to the source. Xena speared her tongue out and entered her lover's sex, as she closed her hands around the smith's hips to help her get in deeper. Drinking in all that what was offered.

Tia couldn't believe what the warrior was doing to her, she never had wanted anything more than she wanted Xena right at that moment. Just then she felt the warrior move her tongue up to the tight puckered entrance and tease it before standing up. Moving closer to reach around and caress her swaying breasts.

Xena rubbed her palms over tight nipples, then filled her hands with the soft flesh, squeezing gently, while kissing the young woman's neck. Taking her time.

Tia could feel the soft leather of the bodice, smooth against her back. The warrior setting her body on fire with her touch. And when Xena pushed her pelvis forward to make the contact and Tia felt a phallus slide between her leg's legs, letting out a deep groan at the though of been taken from behind by this infamous woman.  She spread her legs a little further and bent her arms offering herself to Xena. 

"Xena please..." 

That was all to coxing the warrior needed. She guided the phallus to press and swirl on Tia's clit, running the shaft though the drenched folds, coating it, teasing her lover's wet entrance with the tip, pushing in gently and feeling the tight depths open as she pushed in still further. She placed one hand on the smith hip, the other flat against her lower back. Using her hands to draw the smith back onto her leather cock until her mound was pressing against Tia's ass. 

Her young lover had taken the whole length of the shaft, now glistening as she withdrew all the way, before pushing in again and increasing  the tempo. It had both smith and warrior loudly voicing their passions.  

"Ahh...Tia,  gods yes... can you feel...me," Xena ground out , she could swear she was actually inside her lover. 

Tia was grunting and moaning out her pleasure, pushing back as hard as Xena was thrusting, driving them both quickly towards release. She could feel sweat run down her spine pooling in the small of her back, before overflowing down the cleft of her shapely cheeks. 

Xena's grip on the smaller woman tightened as she forced herself to rein in her pace until the strokes were long and excruciatingly slow. Tia was trying force Xena to increase the rhythm, but to no avail, the tall woman was in total command.

Tia started to whimper at the exquisite torture. She was going to beg Xena to just please fuck her, when she felt Xena working her finger around her tight opening. Tia stopped breathing, nobody had ever taken her that way before, she had never wanted to give that part of herself to anyone, but now the raven haired stranger her was making it impossible for her to refuse, rather driving her mad with desire.

"Relax, just trust me, lean over a little more... trust me." The soothing voice burred into Tia's ear.

The smith believed what Xena was saying, and placed her forearms on the anvil, giving the warrior better access in an instant she felt a demanding mouth suck and nip the back of her neck, up to her hairline. 

Xena's gathered more juices on her fingers, testing the tight entrance, slowly easing in, working one slender finger up to the second knuckle, then pulling out to collect more moisture.

"Relax Tia, it's okay just relax, and let...me...in," Xena coxed, as she pushed in all the way to the hilt.

"Oh Xeeena!" The cry was ripped from her chest. After that there were no more intelligible words, all of Tia's attention on the warrior filling her. Touching her and thrilling her like no one ever had.

Xena remembered why she preferred finding her pleasure with women, This one of her favorite, fucking a strong woman in this submissive position, having her beg for release. She felt a small amount of control return as she took her pleasure with the seductive smith.

Tia was panting, straining for release she had never felt so deep inside herself before. Her entire body tight, as she rocked back against Xena who was pumping inside her.

"Oh...oh...never oh, my gods..Xena. Yesss!."  

The warrior was fast loosing the battle with self control, and when she gave in she started thrusting hard and fast, her finger moving in a corkscrew motion. 

You could hear their bodies coming together, the leather of her skirt lightly slapping the back of Tia's thighs, the sound driving Xena to go faster.

The smith's breathing was ragged coming in short high pitched gasps. She was meeting Xena's thrusts, pushing back desperate to come, her need matching the warrior's.

Xena widened her stance and reached around her lover and found the engorged bundle of nerves pulsating for attention. She pressed down hard with three fingers, as she kept fucking the smith, filling her completely. The warrior's body was damp with exertion, and she could not believe how much this woman was taking, loosing herself once again in a sexual haze, feeling like this was the last time she would ever feel blessed release. 

"Ah....yes Tia... almost there,  Ooh you're so...... good... So beautiful I'm....." The warrior could not stop the words from tumbling out. 

But it was Tia came first, without warning, her whole body convulsing and jerking her hips, as the sensations raced through her. Never had she felt like her whole body was being turned inside out. All her pleasure merged into one burning point before engulfing her whole being with the force of her release.  

As she witnessed the pure bliss of Tia's climax, Xena was swept over and she exploded in an earth shattering orgasm, thrusting her phallus in short hard stokes, drawing the moment out, not wanting it to end, her frantic thrusting made her come again. "Ah...ahhh...YES!" She gave one final heave as the last of her tremors subsided. A look of peace on her face as she nearly collapsed on top of the exhausted smith.

"Wait, Xena don't." Was all the smith could muster as she felt Xena straighten up and start to pull out. Tears running down her face from the shear intensity of what she had just experienced. 

"Anything you want. " Xena leant down and lightly kissed Tia neck and shoulders, stroking her back in a soothing motion. "Are you Ok? I didn't hurt you?"

Tia had to laugh. "No, It just feels so good to have you inside me. Give me a minute."

They rested against each other, regaining some strength.

"Okay Xena, I think I'm ready."

Xena pulled out slowly enjoying the view as her lover released the phallus, the blacksmith whimpering at the loss. 

Xena quickly wrapped her in her arms so that she would not fall to the floor as she attempted to stand. 

"You are so amazing, you know?" Xena lips grazing along the edge of the lover's ear.

Tia just blushed, enjoying to feel of the tall woman's arms around her. Her only thought, 'It's going to be hard to see this one ride away.' 

Much later that night, Tia lay awake as the warrior slept soundly next to her. She wanted to have as much time as possible with this exotic woman before she rode away, maybe never to see her again. It was depressing. But she had the warrior in her bed now and she was determined to enjoy the time she had left with her. She stretched out against the warrior's back and slipped an arm across her belly, her hand cupping her breast. 

Soon she was dreaming of a tall, wild, raven haired beauty.

Tia got up early to go to the market, she wanted to make breakfast for Xena before the day got busy with work. Tia walked into the market place with the intention of buying eggs, meat and bread, and hustling back to the warrior, whom she left sleeping. Or so she thought.

Tia became aware that the normal stares she got seemed more hostile this morning, it made the hairs on her neck stand up. The smith noticed a group of the less open minded villagers whispering by the vegetable stand but didn't think much of it and kept on with her shopping, in truth she had other things on her mind. 

The young blacksmith was only a few houses down from her shop when she was grabbed and pulled into an alley. She was blind sided by a blow to the side of the head, she went reeling. Tia raised her hand up to her face as she stood up and she felt blood oozing out of a small gash on her brow. Now she was mad. 

There were five of them, the thugs from the vegetable stand. A guy named Darius was obviously the leader of this scum and he hated her.

"What the HADES is your problem Darius?!" Tia yelled.

"You. you're such a whore! So you jump in bed with murdering psychopaths now? DO YOU KNOW WHO SHE IS!!?" Darius was practically frothing as he questioned her.

Tia did not answer. She needed to get out of there. She launched herself at them, knocking a couple men to the ground, then kicked another in the groin. The man keeling over, clutching himself in agony as she ran.  She almost made it out of the alley and was able to cry out for help before she was dragged back out of sight. 

Two of the lowlifes held her so that Darius could pummel her. He had always been a coward.

Tia fought back and landed a couple blows using her feet to defend herself, she put up a good fight but she was in trouble and she knew it.  She saw it coming, the upper cut that snapped her head back. 'This is it...' was her last thought as her world went black and she slumped down on the ground in a heap.

The village thugs saw this as their golden opportunity to teach this bitch a lesson. They rolled her body onto some crates. Darius was pushing her tunic up and unlacing his trousers, the intent clear. He was going to rape Tia and all his friends were going to take turns after. 

"Hold her down," Darius ordered, even though Tia was unconscious. 

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."  The ice cold voice made him turn away from Tia, quickly stuffing his manhood back in his pants. What he saw looming in the entrance of the alley, was a very angry disheveled warrior, eyes blazing, wild hair falling about her face, sword drawn.

"You still in town bitch!  We saw you at Tia's shop last night,... have a good time?.. Xena." He spat out her name as if it tasted foul in his mouth.

Xena was on him in an instant, punching him in the jaw with a satisfying crunch. Soon a full scale brawl ensued. She fought the men mainly with her fists and the hilt of her sword, making sure not to kill the any, as they appeared unarmed. She had been trying to battle with a new ethic of late. But it took everything she had not to run them all through and enjoy the feel of their hot blood on her hands.

If Xena hadn't been so worried about Tia she would not have let them scramble away so fast. As soon as the last of them ran away she turned her attention to the young smith. She was at her side in a flash.  As Xena Slowly rolled her over she could see her face was bruising already and she had a couple cuts on her face, a split lip and a nasty bump on the side of her head.

"Tia...Tia, wake up... it's alright their gone, come on now." Xena was gently stocking her cheek willing the smith to open her eyes.

It was a great relief when dazed blue eyes fluttered open.

"Xena ?"

"Yeah, It's me, are you alright, how bad are you hurt?"

"I think I'm Ok.... " The smith was still a little dazed.   

"Let me help you get home and clean you up. You look terrible." 

"Hey!  Thanks a lot.  You should really work on your bedside manner... here I get up early to go and get you breakfast and that's all the thanks I get, Ah!" Tia was trying to make light what had just happened.

Xena busied herself with picking up the said breakfast items that were scattered around the alley.

"I'm sorry Tia, I'm so sorry I didn't stop them from hurting you."

"It could have been a lot worse and you did stop them I'm glad you're here... Come on let's just go. We need to report this, I know those jerks.  I want them thrown in jail, they really crossed the line today."

"Who are they?"

"Local assholes, The head asshole is Darius, he's Marina's brother, and Marina is a waitress at the inn that I had this thing with. So Darius has had it in for me ever since I slept with her." Tia confessed with a crooked grin.

"That's not an excuse for what he did"

"Well, the last time was the week before her wedding, But. I case you're wondering she didn't love or even like the guy, and Darius couldn't have cared less, he just wanted to marry her off for the dowry." Tia was making a long story short.

"I see. But they still can't get away with this" Xena said, but she was wondering what the whole story was.

"I agree, let's go find the judge and tell him what happened. Will you come with me and be a witness?"

The warrior strangely didn't mind helping and was glad that Tia seamed fairly unscathed.

It was easy to arrest Darius and his goons. They were all sitting in the Inn bragging about taking on Xena, and teaching Tia a lesson when the law came looking for them. 

As the less than intelligent thugs were being lead away.  The warrior was patching Tia up, the wounds weren't too bad and nothing needed stitches. As soon as Xena was done the smith had insisted on working.  

She forged out the piece for Xena's new breast plate and by mid afternoon she had finished the modifications, and was ready for Xena try it on again, this time it fit perfectly. She admired her work and the woman wearing it. 

"You know Xena since you ride all the time you should think about wearing your sword on your back, it's easier to draw from horseback. I can make catches for your sheath, what do you think?"

"Maybe... I'll think about it" Xena wasn't sure she could change her draw from hip to an over the shoulder motion, but nevertheless she could see her point.

"Look maybe, I should be going" Xena had waited until later in the afternoon to have this conversation, she had wanted to ensure that everything was alright with Tia after the attack.

"Sure Xena, If you want to leave I can shoe Argo now, and you can be out of here in an candle mark or less," Tia said trying to hide the disappointment she felt. 

"Or...maybe I should stay one more night, Argo could use a little more time without shoes... alright?" Xena asked, uncharacteristically unsure of herself, it was all so new to her, caring about someone else's feelings. It was too hard.

"I should just go." Changing her mind yet again.

"No! Please stay with me tonight, I want you too...don't want to be alone," The smith admitted, ashamed of her weakness, looking intently at the floor not wanting to see the warrior's reaction.  She was startled when she felt a hand lifting her chin, only then did she lookup into an intense blue gaze that took her breath away.

"I don't want to cause you anymore problems, Tia.  You could have been killed this morning." 'or worse.'

"I know it could have been really bad, and I know those guys are in jail, and that things are going to be alright, but please stay one more night," Tia asked softly.

"Okay ... It's getting late anyhow, but are you sure it's not going to make things harder for you if I stay. I feel responsible for this morning, those bastards hurt you and--" 

"Those guys have always hated me... So stop right there." The smith was firm, "I accepted that it might happen someday. This morning happened because of me. I'm the one who works in a job that people feel should be man's work, I also happen to love woman; I have no intention to ever marry; and I sleep with who I want." The young woman listed, counting the reason off with her fingers.

"But still, you got attacked today because *I* was in your bed... It's always the people around me that get hurt, every time, and I'm not sure It's worth it"

"What's not worth it, Xena."

"Caring about what happens to someone,  I don't know...letting emotions be involved with your actions. your decisions." The warrior never one for words was having trouble admitting how scared she was when she came upon the scene in the alley that morning and saw the unconscious smith, hoping the men had not violated her yet. She hated the feeling of helplessness she had that morning, it went against everything she had carefully trained herself to be; cool, detached, unstoppable. 

"You know what I think?"

The warrior just shook her head, not sure she wanted to hear the answer.

"You're a strong, intelligent woman trying to change her life... Xena you saved me this morning, those guys have been harassing me forever. It's not your fault, you saved me...You!" By this time she had the warrior by the shoulders, trying to make eye contact.

"I don't know... still if I had-- " 

" No, Xena, no ifs, I want you to try and believe in yourself, and follow your heart, look at what you did this morning you fought for me..., not yourself or for any personal gain. Right," Tia said, trying to persuade the dark woman of what was so clear to her, "You could be great, a hero... you already are to me," Tia mumbled that last part, blushing deeply.

Xena lost all ability to speak and just enfolded the young woman in her arms trying to regain her composure. Staring out over the young woman's shoulder not ready to accept such praise.

"What do you have planned for tonight?" Xena said a little horsely, trying to change the subject. She had a lot to think about. Tia was right it had felt good to step in and use her martial skills to help someone she liked, perhaps even cared for because it was the right thing to do.

"How 'bout a walk, dinner, then bed, it already been quite the day," the smith replied trying to lighten the mood.

"Sounds good, can Argo come, on the walk I mean, I want to get her out for a little exercise."

A short time later they went on a leisurely stroll with Argo in tow, they walked down to the river and let the mare graze while they watched the sunset. Both women were lost in their own thoughts. Xena couldn't believe what a difference a day made, yesterday she had walked into this village feeling confused, angry and alone, but this evening she didn't feel quite so lonely.  She had met someone who did not fear her and accepted her for what she was trying to become. Xena had no illusions about permanence, but for tonight, she could almost say she was happy. 

Tia watched the warrior, Xena had a peaceful smile that softened her face, as she watched the last rays of the sun slide behind the ridge, an orange glow reflecting off of her chiseled features. She was wearing her new leathers and armor, she looked imposing But the smith could see how much more relaxed her companion was then she had been when they met the night before. She hoped the best for Xena knowing she would probably never see this woman again she had certain things she wanted to say.

"Xena, I know you're leaving soon...I just wanted...look we both know when you get on the road you'll forget all about this little village. I'm not naive or innocent. I've had my share of women, but I want to let you know I won't forget you and what we shared... I now it's dumb of me but you're special and I'll always treasure the time we had."

"It's not dumb I feel the same.... I do, how could I forget you, every time I fight, these leathers will protect me. You have given me so much. You've given me the desire to go on."

Xena leaned in as Tia reached around her neck. They kissed unashamed of their emotions. The crimson light left by the sun as it sank over the horizon was making Argo coat glow as she grazed, her lead rope dropping from Xena's fingers as the kiss grew more heated. The need for air finally making them stop.

"Tia, I have to leave in the morning. I'm sorry," Xena murmured.

"I know, but we still have tonight, come on." The smith took Xena's hand and lead her back towards the house. 

The warrior had not been asleep long when she opened her eyes, grinning as she reregistered the scent from their night of passion that permeated the room. Both women had drifted off just before dawn, completely sated and exhausted. They had expressed with their bodies what they couldn't voice That they would miss each other and would always wonder what might have been.  But in their own ways, they both were realists and they recognized that fate had them on separate paths.  

Xena smiled at the memory of their erotic dance, as she studied the strong body next to her. Tia was laying on her back,forearm over her eyes, naked save for the sheet draped across her belly and chest, the hint of a breast peeking out.  Xena couldn't resist, she carefully pulled the sheet down, exposing the smith lithe form, palming soft mounds and brushing her thumb over responsive nipples. Xena licked her digit and and continued to fondle her lover's responsive breasts. Before Xena was even aware of what she was doing, she wrapped her lips around a tight nipple and suckled greedily.

She was distracted by Tia's soft moans, and looked up in time to see the fiery look in her lover eyes.

"Good morning beautiful," Xena said, releasing the stretched nip from her teeth.

"Good morning to you." Tia pulling the warrior into a hungry kiss, rolling Xena unto her back and straddling her chest. Trying to memorize every detail of the warrior's the strong face, while her fingers traced full lips.

Xena grasped her lover by her hips and slid herself down between strong legs, her mouth searching for the sensitive bud that would bring her young lover to ecstasy. They rode out their passions, giving and taking, ravenous in their love making. They ignored the morning completely opting to prolong their last rapturous moments together.

It was well past noon by the time Xena was heading down the road. It had been so hard to turn Argo away from the Blacksmith's shop. After Tia had shod Argo, the warrior had saddled her mare and stowed her gear in her saddle bags saying little.  Xena was dressed in her new garb, the leather impeccably conditioned, the armor polished and gleaming, her weapons in place, she looked magnificent. 

There was nothing more to say as Xena kissed the smith, taking her time, cupping the young woman's face in her rough hands, the kiss grew more passionate. And when she finally pulled back, her thumb grazed over full lips. Her cobalt eyes never leaving Tia's as she stepped back and lifted her boot into her stirrup, swinging her leg over the saddle as she picked up the reins.

"Take care of yourself." 

"You too." Tia said quietly.

Xena urged Argo into a trot, and rode out of the village, her back ram rod straight, never once turning back.

Tia watched the warrior until she was out of sight. "Bye..." she whispered to the empty street, her eyes brimming with unshed tears as she turned and walked back into her shop.

Xena was feeling disillusioned, it had been almost a full season since her time with the blacksmith, and life wasn't getting any easier for the former warlord, everywhere she went she was reminded of her past.  Her guilt was getting to be overwhelming. No one had shown her any of the kindness Tia had. It was just the opposite.  She was shunned from every place she stopped, looks of fear and hatred followed her everywhere she went. The final straw had been finding that orphan in the burned out village, he was orphaned and starving because of her. She had given him all she had, but still she felt the weight of her crimes crushing her sprit, her resolve. How could she possibly make amends for the sins she had committed in her past, how could there be any redemption for a monster like her!

It was in this cloud of morbid thoughts that she dismounted Argo and walked off the road into a clearing. She striped herself down to her shift, tossing all her armor, leather and weapons in a shallow trench, intent on burying her past once and for all.

'Sorry Tia...I just can't...'

At that moment the warrior heard yelling and screams of help. Xena watched from the bushes as dozen women and girls were herded into the clearing by a group of rough looking men. Xena immediately noticed the feisty red head with blazing green eyes who was standing up to the slavers. She had to step in. She didn't know her whole life was about to change. 


The last stanza from The Village Blacksmith:

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

to read the complete poem go to:


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