Copyright notice: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Solari, Eponin, Amarice, Chilapa, and Argo belong to Renaissance Pictures, StudiosUSA; no infringement is intended. The story belongs to the authors. The Amazons belong to legend. The Romans belong to history. The archangels Michael and Uriel belong to God.
Disclaimer: Even though here there be Amazons, no violence occurs. Sex - lots of innuendo, hinting, leaving it to the imagination, etc.; nothing explicit. Once again the question - is there subtext in paradise? - is answered.
Another disclaimer: We are making up the rules of paradise as we go along. They are flexible and can be changed any time
Other information: In these Whacked stories (this is the fourth) we are acting as if the fifth season never happened. The Xena/Gabrielle relationship is basically what it would have been if allowed to develop naturally from the end of the second season. We are ignoring all the rift and angst and other idiocy inflicted on loyal fans of the series. However, all of the events through the fourth season happened and are taken into account, one way or another, in these stories.
Comments, feedback, deeds to still functioning oil wells may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Authors' Introduction: In our alternative season five stories, Xena and Gabrielle died at the end of season four, and stayed dead. Season five never happened here. No laying on of hands by Eli, leader of the anti-barber cult, or simpy Callisto. So Xena was never pregnant; none of that fashionable warrior maternity wear. There was no Eve/Livia (who seemed to have gotten all of her genes from evil Callisto and the "angel" Callisto, and her bad hair sense from Eli, but nothing from Xena). Xena and Gabrielle were not freeze-dried by Ares for 25 years. Joxer has not yet had any children, and we can all hope that he won't pass on his deficient Joxer-genes to future generations. (Aside - Is his son Virgil of the 5th season supposed to be the Virgil of Aeneid fame? Why would an anti-Roman Greek, as he is portrayed in the series, write an epic poem in praise of Casear Augustus and of the glory that was Rome????) So, being dead, our heroines are creating their own paradise, and having lots of fun doing it.
These stories are written as therapy and as a way to vent our frustration at the last couple of seasons. We don't take the show or our stories seriously, and we hope any readers come with the same attitude.
Xena and Gabrielle are still dead - and having the time of their spiritual lives. They wander around the countryside, looking for people to help and convincing evil-doers to change their ways. Just like when they were alive, except now they don't have to worry about food, clothing, or shelter. All they have to do is think what they want, within reason, and there it is.
Today they have floated into a town and have just started looking around to see if there is anybody who needs their special skills. Xena is hoping to find some bad guys. This saving people from hitting their thumbs with hammers and tripping over rocks may keep her companion happy, but there's nothing like kicking some butt to make a warrior princess feel alive.
Gabrielle was checking out the various offerings of the market. She sniffed when she saw a woman pay without doing any haggling. What's the fun of shopping if you don't bargain? she thought.
Xena looked over at the blonde sprite and smiled approvingly. "I see you're wearing the same clothes again today. That's three days in a row, isn't it? Is this what you have decided on or are you just resting up for your next round of hourly wardrobe changes?"
The frustrated shopper tore her eyes away from the stall and twirled around in front of the warrior spirit. "Do you like it? Once I thought about it, these Amazon clothes seemed the most natural thing for me. They just feel right."
Xena grabbed her as she spun by. (Since they have no physical substance, it took some practice for them to learn how to hold each other. But then, they have lots of time to practice.) "Yeah, I like it. They're better than the BGSB, that's for sure. Does this mean you won't be changing clothes in the middle of fights any more? It always threw my concentration off when you did." She chuckled at the memory.
"I guess not." The fashion-conscious spirit was only a little sad that her long hunt for the right clothes was over. She brightened. "Now I can concentrate on other things." And she looked into her dark-haired partner's eyes.
They were just settling down to one of the long communing looks they enjoyed when they heard their names being called. With identical frowns - they both really disliked being interrupted during their long communing looks - they turned around. Since it was a female voice, they were afraid that Callisto had caught up with them finally. They were relieved to see an Amazon coming toward them. It was Ephiny.
"Ephiny!" Gabrielle squealed. She rushed over and the two blonde spirits hugged each other. The former Amazon regent had a harder time not putting her arms through the former Amazon queen; she hadn't had as much practice touching ethereal beings as the bard had.
"What are you doing here?" they both exclaimed at the same time.
In case our reader is wondering where this joyous reunion is taking place, they are still in the middle of the market. They are invisible and inaudible to all the people busily going about their daily activities. Since Xena and Gabrielle didn't much care for people walking through them, they had moved to the side of a stall when they began to commune with each other. But now Ephiny and Gabrielle were hovering in the middle of the street. Only the full concentration of the former warlord was keeping the shoppers from walking through the oblivious pair.
Since she was beginning to get a headache and all this touchy-feely stuff never did anything for her, Xena came up and suggested in her take-charge voice that they go someplace quieter.
Both Amazons recognized authority when they heard it through clenched teeth. And even though they were dead, they still didn't want the reformed Destroyer of Nations mad at them. They followed Xena out of the market. With her unerring hunter's instinct, the warrior led them to a fountain that had dried up and been abandoned. The three spirits settled down for a nice chat.
Gabrielle, having a lot more practice than the other two combined, got in the first word. "We are really sorry you and Solari were killed by the Romans. Amarice came and told us. But I'm glad you got to come back. Did they pull their trick of saying you were on probation when you were really in the Elysian Fields - or paradise as Michael said it was called? Is Solari here too?" She finally paused - not for breath since that wasn't necessary any more, but to give her friend a chance to reply.
Ephiny decided to tell her story and not worry about the endless string of questions the queen could ask. "I don't know who this Michael is. After Solari and I were killed in battle - the way every Amazon hopes to die, by the way - we were met at the gate of eternity by someone in traditional Amazon clothing who said her name was Uriel. She said we could stay there in the Amazon paradise; that was the word she kept using too. Or we could come back here as spirits and watch over our tribe."
Xena interrupted to ask, "Did this Uriel have a sword that looked like it was made of fire?"
Ephiny nodded, "Yes, she did. Why?"
"So did Michael. Maybe they're related." Xena lapsed into silence again and started twirling the spiritual chakram she had made. In her spare moments from whacking bad guys and helping people and long communing looks with Gabrielle, she tried to think of some way to get a fiery sword herself. The Way of the Warrior.
Gabrielle patted her companion in eternity on the knee. She smiled at Ephiny. "I take it you decided to come back? Where is Solari?"
Ephiny replied, "She's back at our village. Several women came here to get supplies, and I came to keep an eye on them and make sure they get back safely. There are still Romans in the area." She was wondering how much practice it took to be able to touch as easily as the other two did. She was even having a little trouble sitting on the fountain and not floating right through it. It was a good thing they had met; maybe she could pick up some pointers on this spirit stuff from them.
"We just got here," Gabrielle said. "It looks like a quiet town ..." A grunt from the dark-haired spirit beside here. Quiet is not Xena's idea of paradise. "... probably not much for us to do. Why don't we go back with you? I'd like to see the Amazon village again and everyone."
"Good; I was going to ask you to come with me," Ephiny said. "Like I told you, there are Romans hanging around. I'm worried and would like you to check out the situation too." She looked at Xena.
The warrior princess put her chakram back on her belt and sat up straight. "I'm always glad to take on a few Romans. It's too bad Caesar's dead or I could drop in on him and spoil his day."
Gabrielle looked around apprehensively. "You don't suppose he'll show up? I mean, they reformed Callisto, after all, and she was as bad, maybe worse, than Caesar."
Xena smiled. "Not in my paradise."
That evening after they had made sure that the members of the Amazon shopping expeditionary force were not going to get into any trouble, the three good souls found a quiet place to pass the night. Sleep as they knew it when they were alive was no longer necessary; but they did need to renew their spiritual energy periodically. Ephiny was surreptitiously observing how easily Gabrielle and Xena touched each other and seemed to have no trouble sitting or leaning on things without floating right through them. She had a lot of questions but had decided to wait until they were back at the Amazon village; then Solari could hear what they had to say too.
The still always wary Xena noticed Ephiny watching them. Raising one eyebrow, just so the Amazon would know she could still do it, she asked, "Did this Uriel tell you the rules?"
Ephiny was startled out of her reverie. "Rules? No, she told us we could do what we wanted and go places by thinking it. Why; are there more rules?" She hoped Solari and she hadn't done anything wrong without knowing it.
Xena mentally picked up a pebble and tossed it several dozen feet without moving her hands. "Figures. We have to try to talk people out of doing bad stuff before we can get firm with them and teach them a lesson." She looked at her partner and pouted.
Puzzled, the blonde Amazon said, "I don't understand."
Gabrielle sighed. "After we died, we were told by Michael that we both weren't ready for the Elysian Fields so we were on probation to do good back on earth. But we couldn't go around hitting people no matter what they were doing. We had to talk to them first. If that didn't work, then we could use more physical means." She paused. This was a sore point with her too. "Then it turned out that was just a story, and we were in what they call paradise ... we were making our own every day. But we still have to follow those rules."
Ephiny was thoughtful for a moment. "Maybe because we are to watch over our tribe, we don't have that rule. Anyway, it will be fun having you there again. I can't wait to see Soalri's face when she sees you," she said, cheering the others up.
The next morning the Amazons got an early start back home; they wanted to get there in one day. Things had been unsettled on the Roman front when they left to get needed supplies, and they didn't want to miss any fighting that might take place.
Their three guardian spirits followed them.
With this invisible help, the Amazons made better time than usual and arrived back at the village by mid-afternoon. The scouts had alerted the village of their approach so there was a large welcoming committee waiting for them, led by the new queen, Chilapa.
The leader jumped off her horse and saluted the queen. "My queen, it was a successful mission. We acquired everything we need."
"Good, Altamaha. I'm glad all of you returned safely," the queen replied, and gave a small smile. "Eponin, check over the new weapons and make sure everything gets stored properly. Then come to the council hut. We need to make plans how to deal with the Romans." She took the arm of the returned shopper and led her away. They were lovers, but because of some obscure Amazon tradition they always used formal language in public and treated each other like distant acquaintances.
Eponin stepped forward and directed the others to take the wagons to the supply huts. "Amarice," she called. "Come and help us unload these wagons."
An immature-acting Amazon sauntered over and fell into step behind the weapon's master.
"Amarice is here?" Gabrielle asked, surprised.
Ephiny nodded. "Yes; she came back after you were crucified. She, Joxer, and Eli buried you. Then she made her way back here alone. I guess she didn't have any place else to go."
Xena asked, "Is she still a know-it-all? I see she's still wearing that dorky hat." She had an innocent look on her face.
"No, Xena." Gabrielle said emphatically. "Don't even think about it. It's not nice; you're reformed, remember?"
The former regent was confused. "What are you two talking about?"
Since innocent wasn't working, Xena tried her stoic look. Gabrielle answered Ephiny, "The big, strong warrior here wants to throw a rock or something and knock Amarice's hat off."
"It would be good for a laugh," the somewhat reformed warrior princess said.
"Maybe. But that's not why we're here." Gabrielle tried not to smile as she pictured Amarice chasing after her hat. She turned to Ephiny, "Is she any better?"
Ephiny shrugged. "A little. Eponin has taken charge of her and keeps trying to knock some sense into her. If she manages to survive a couple of battles, she should grow up and make a good Amazon."
At that moment Solari floated around a corner. When she caught sight of Ephiny and her companions, she let out a happy exclamation and ran over. "Gabrielle! Xena! Where did you pop up from?" She and Gabrielle were doing that hugging thing again. Solari had as much trouble not passing right through her queen as Ephiny had earlier. She glanced at Ephiny, "Oh, hi, Eph; glad you're back."
The dead regent said casually, "Good to see you, too, Sol. Has everything been quiet while we were gone?"
Solari shook hands with Xena. "Yes; the tribe has been training and keeping the Romans under surveillance. They don't seem in any hurry to attack. I don't like it. But now that you two are here, we won't have any trouble handling things."
Xena and Gabrielle exchanged a look. Xena said, "You're their queen; you tell them."
"What?" Soalri was confused. If anybody would enjoy taking care of some Romans, she figured it would be this pair.
"We may not be able to help you as much as you think," the bard said. "We have to follow certain rules, and one of them is we have to try to talk people out of doing bad things first. So ..." her voice trailed off. "Don't worry; we'll think of something to help," she brightened. "Besides that rule hasn't slowed us down too much."
Xena suddenly stiffened. "Is that Argo I hear?"
Ephiny replied, "Amarice brought her when she came back. Eponin takes her out for a ride once in a while, but she doesn't seem to have any life in her. She probably misses you."
Xena didn't hear this last part. She was already making good time toward the corral.
She slowed down as she got closer. She didn't want to startle her faithful friend. Argo was standing near the fence, looking abandoned and as if she hadn't eaten much in a long time. Xena was approaching her carefully when the golden war horse lifted her head and seemed to sniff the air. She turned her head and looked directly at her mistress and whinnied joyously. Xena walked up to her and started whispering in her ear. Not that anyone nearby could hear her anyway.
One of the Amazons who was training another horse commented to her friend, "Look at Argo. It's like she's talking to someone. What's gotten into her?"
The friend looked at the mare. "I don't know. But she looks happy for the first time. Maybe she's finally getting over losing Xena."
"Let's hope so," the first Amazon said. They went back to their task.
While Xena and Argo were renewing their relationship, Ephiny decided it would be a good time to get some answers to her questions about this spirtual life they were all leading. She tried to lead up to it casually by asking, "Uh, Gabrielle, how long did it take you and Xena to learn to sit on things without going right through them? Solari and I still have some trouble with that. And you can touch each other so easily. How do you do that?"Gabrielle had been looking after her partner with a fond-sad expression. She knew how much the other had missed Argo. When she realized she had been asked a question, she blinked and said, "What? Oh, yes, floating through things. Well, you have to keep thinking that you are sitting or leaning against it. After a while, it becomes natural. You need to practice a little is all." She smiled at her two friends. "This spirit stuff is great once you figure it out! Did I tell you that you can change clothes just by thinking what you want to wear? I was doing it all the time just to drive Xena crazy. She never did catch on." She smiled mischievously.
Solari had a bemused look as she imagined the warrior princess gnashing her teeth every time Gabrielle changed outfits. Then she asked, "Do you appear to people very often? We haven't done it yet here; we didn't think anyone would believe it. They would probably think they had too much to drink."
Ephiny nodded. "Mostly we keep an eye on things and make sure nobody gets hurt - on purpose anyway."
Their queen answered, "We don't appear very often. Or let people hear us. So far we've only done it to strangers when we needed to know something. And then we have to be careful nobody sees us appear or disappear." She started laughing. "Oh, that would be so good if you really wanted to scare somebody!"
Ephiny and Solari joined in the laughter. After a few minutes, Ephiny asked the question she really wanted the answer to. "Gabrielle," she said hesitantly, "when I first saw you and Xena in that town, you were looking into each other's eyes. What was that all about?"
The blonde bard got a faraway look as she thought to herself, 'How do I explain that when I don't fully understand it myself?' She said out loud, "It's like this. When we look into the other's eyes, it's sort of like our souls as it were are joined and we become the other one or we become both of us at once or something." She paused and looked at the two Amazons. "It's kind of hard to explain. But we really like doing it."
Ephiny and Soalri gave each other speculative looks. They each saw reflected on the other's face the thought - later.
Just then several members of the tribal council passed by heading for the council hut. Eponin was trailing the group. When she got close to the three spirits, she hesitated for a second, as if sensing something in the air. Then she shook her head to clear it and went on after the others.
Gabrielle turned to the others. "Do you think Eponin sensed us? She almost acted like she did."
Solari and Ephiny exchanged a look. Since they had grown up with the weapon's master, they knew her better than anybody. Ephiny answered, "I don't know; maybe she can sense us. When we were children, she would sometimes talk about things none of the rest of us could see." She paused, thinking about their childhood. "Some of the kids laughed at her so she put on that tough front she still has. But she sometimes knows what is going to happen before it does."
"That's what makes her such a good warrior," Solari added. "If we do decide to appear to someone, Eponin would be the best one. At least she might believe us and not think she was going crazy."
"Come on," the former regent said. "Let's go hear what they have to say."
"Shouldn't we wait for Xena," Solari asked.
Gabrielle shook her head. "If she is bonding with Argo, it will be hours before she comes back. We can tell her about it later."
They thought themselves inside the council hut. They appeared (to each other only, of course) in the same places they had always occupied when they were alive.
A couple of hours later, as measured in earth time, the Amazons were still arguing about what they should do to meet the Roman threat. For some reason, probably another obscure Amazon tradition, even though they were warriors and women of action, they could debate a question forever. At least it seemed like forever to Gabrielle; she was beginning to understand the concept of eternity. Since she was only a part-time Amazon and had never fully immersed herself in all things Amazon, this endless talk was getting to her. She decided to send out a mental SOS to her partner; at least they could look at each other.
Ephiny and Solari, on the other hand, were enjoying the show. This was the way things had always been with the Amazons. They figured it would be at least another hour before any decisions were made. Since they were no longer active participants, they could relax and watch the different tribeswomen's debating techniques.
Suddenly a very anxious warrior princess appeared - to the three spirits.
"Gabrielle! Are you alright? What's wrong? Why did you send for me?" She examined the former queen to see why she had sent for her so urgently.
Gabrielle couldn't help giggling. "I'm sorry." She took hold of Xena's hand that was trying to feel her forehead. "It's just I was so bored listening to all this talk , and I missed you." She smiled at her relieved companion. "How's Argo?"
The dark-haired spirit let out her breath in a big sigh. 'I should know by now that Gabrielle can take care of herself; I guess I shouldn't worry about her so much. But it's a hard habit to break.' she thought to herself. "Did you really miss me?" she grinned. "Argo didn't look too good. We had a long talk and everything will be better now that she knows I'm still around - sort of. I told her Eponin needed a good warhorse to take care of her in battle. She brightened right up then. I left her eating some oats when I got your cry for help."
The bard looked a little sheepish. "I thought if I have to stay here and listen to all this talk, I might as well have my favorite distraction here too."
"Distraction, am I," Xena tried to look offended and failed miserably. "Let's see if I can speed things up some." She started surveying the room, thinking very hard how nice it would be if they could make a decision and get on with their lives. After several minutes of this treatment, all the Amazons agreed to Chilapa's motion that they keep the Roman camp under surveillance and continue their own preparations. The meeting broke up and everybody left in a hurry, happy to get out into the fresh air again.
The two Amazon spirits were surprised at how abruptly the meeting ended. Then they saw the warrior princess spirit. Solari poked Ephiny in the ribs (they felt they needed to practice these spiritual exercises as much as possible), and said, "So that's why they left so quickly. Can't you just see her strategy meetings when she was a warlord? 'Take that town. Now!'" They both laughed for several minutes.
Xena and Gabrielle raised their eyebrows at each other. "They seem to have enjoyed the meeting," Xena remarked.
"Hey, what's the joke?" Gabrielle called to them.
The Amazon spirits looked at the others, then started laughing again, harder.
Later, when everybody was able to talk more or less coherently, they held their own strategy session. Since Gabrielle and Xena, especially, were constrained in the kind of help they could give, they weren't having much better luck coming up with a solution than the live Amazons had.
In the middle of a deep discussion of tactics and field position and spears versus swords as weapons, Xena paused and said, "Gabrielle, do you remember what was in Joxer's radish stew?"
"You mean besides radishes?" Gabrielle asked. "No. Why this sudden interest in cooking?" Then a look of horror slowly spread over her face. "No. Oh, no. No, no, no! That would be inhuman; it's too cruel. Even Romans don't deserve that. NO!"
Once again Ephiny had the feeling that she had been dropped in the deep end of the lake and had hit her head on a rock at the bottom. She looked at Solari who was even more puzzled. "Do you know what they're talking about," the dark Amazon asked.
"Haven't a clue," the regent responded. She tapped Xena on her shoulder, "We're strangers in these parts. Do you mind telling us what you're talking about?"
Xena turned to her. "It's a good plan. I don't know what the objection is." She gave her tender-hearted partner an exasperated look.
Solari, losing some of her patience, said, "So what is this wonderful plan and how do radishes come into it?"
"Somebody makes Joxer's radish stew and gives it to the Romans." Xena smiled as she continued, "The Romans get the runs, and your Amazons can take care of them at their leisure. Simple and easy, like all good plans."
Gabrielle broke in, "We can't. We would end up in Tartarus for sure if we did anything that mean."
The not-entirely-reformed warlord huffed, "Fine. You don't like my plan. Come up with a better one yourselves then. I'm going back to Argo where I can have an intelligent conversation." She disappeared from spiritual view.
Solari remarked, "It sounds like a good plan to me, too. Weaken your enemy before meeting him in battle."
Gabrielle shook her head. "You've never had Joxer's radish stew. Those Romans are just obeying orders and doing what they think is their duty. Killing them in battle is one thing; but giving them that stew is enough to get us all sent to Tartarus." She shuddered at the memory of Joxer's cooking. 'I hope Meg can keep him out of the kitchen,' she thought.
Changing the subject, the bard said, "Why don't you guys show me around? It's been a while since I was here. What's been going on - besides lurking Romans?"
They started on their tour of the village.
The next day, about mid-morning, the routine of the Amazon village was disrupted by a running scout. She barely knocked before hurrying into the Queen's hut. Our four spirits, who had been lounging under a tree, perked up; they appeared in the hut in time to hear what the scout had to say.
The scout was trying to get her breath and talk at the same time - a double task that proved as impossible in this case as it usually was.
Chilapa said, "Slow down, Monongahela, get your breath. What has you so excited?"
The Amazon scout took a couple of deep breaths. "My Queen, a messenger has arrived at the Roman camp. But our spy reports that since the commander is gone for a few days with a patrol, no one dares open and read it." She took a few more panting breaths. "The patrol is due back tomorrow."
"Good work, Monongahela," the Queen praised. "Tell Altamaha to get the council together. We need to discuss what this may mean."
The scout saluted and left to do her errand.
The listening spirits nodded to each other and appeared back under the tree. Since no one could hear them unless they wanted them to, they didn't need privacy for their talk, but old habits die hard and they were still new at this afterlife thing.
"What do you think this means, Xena?" Gabrielle asked.
The former very successful warlord had a thoughtful expression. "It could mean a lot of different things," she replied. "There's no point in guessing. We need to find out what is in that message," she said briskly. Action always pleased her.
"How?" Ephiny asked. "If the Romans won't read it until their commander gets back, we won't know anything until we see what they do."
Gabrielle stated flatly, "I'm not sitting through another council meeting."
"You won't have to," Xena replied. "We'll go to the Roman camp and read the message ourselves."
Ephiny and Solari looked at each other in surprise. "We won't be able to read it; we can't read Latin."
"I can," Xena said quietly, trying to keep the pride out of her voice. "When you've travelled as much as I have, you pick up these things."
Gabrielle mouthed at the two Amazons, 'She has many skills.'
Ephiny muttered, "It figures."
A short time later, the population of the Roman camp was increased by three - unknown to the Romans. The guerilla spirits (Ephiny felt someone should stay and hear what the Amazon council decided) materialized in the spiritual sense inside the commander's tent. The first thing they saw was a sealed scroll in the middle of his field desk.
Showing no qualms about reading other people's mail, Xena thought the scroll open without damaging the seal. It made interesting reading.
"What does it say?" Gabrielle was looking over her partner in eternity's shoulder at the strange symbols on the scroll.
"They're ordered to stay here and harrass and try to wear down the Amazons until more troops can be spared from the little civil war going on back in Rome and the provinces." Xena tapped her cheek idly.
"At least they weren't ordered to attack," Solari said. "But we can't let this situation drag on forever. Chilapa may order an attack out of frustration, and I don't know if we can win that battle now. If we wait for the Romans to get reinforced, it will be worse."
Xena smiled at the worried Amazon. "I think I can change this message so it orders them back to Rome. And with the Romans busy fighting among themselves, they won't have time to spare for Amazons."
Solari looked hopeful. "Can you really do that?"
"Of course she can." Gabrielle still had some hero worship left for Xena.
Xena concentrated on the scroll and on what message she wanted there. Several minutes later she relaxed, looking pleased. "All done," she said as if it was all in a day's work. "Let's go back to the village and tell Ephiny the good news that the Romans will be leaving."
Meanwhile, back at the Amazon village, the council meeting was in full swing. Since they had very little actual information to go on, speculation was rife, and the wildest plans were listened to seriously. Ephiny was following all the various arguments and scenarios closely, so she was startled when her fellow spirits popped up next to her.
"Don't do that!" she exclaimed. "Were you able to read the message? What did it say?"
Gabrielle, the former queen, spoke up before the others could. "It seems they were ordered to stay here and wear the Amazons down until reinforcements could be sent ..."
Before she could go on Ephiny interrupted, "That's not good. We need to do something about this stalemate situation before it gets worse."
Gabrielle patted her arm to reassure her. "As I was about to tell you, Xena changed the message so it ordered them back to Rome immediately. If their commander gets back tomorrow, they should pack up and leave in the next few days. So there should be nothing more to worry about"
"And since that's the case, why are we wasting our time at this council meeting?" Xena demanded. "The Amazons will know soon enough that this crisis is over. Let's go have some fun." She surreptitiously poked Gabrielle in the back.
They all left the council hut together.
There was considerable anxiety in the Amazon village the next day. Everyone wondered what was in the message and what the Romans would do. Everyone but their guardian spirits who were more relaxed than they had been in weeks. Knowing what was going to happen helped. Also the lessons they had gotten from Gabrielle and Xena on the spiritual life didn't hurt their mood any, either.
Late that afternoon another scout hurried into the village and went straight to the Queen's hut. Several minutes later, the queen came out and saw that most of the village had gathered. She looked at all the stoic faces hiding their emotions. She smiled.
"I have good news," she announced. "Those Romans have been ordered back home! They are packing up now and should be gone in another day or two."
There was a stunned silence for a few seconds. No one had expected such a tame ending. Then the cheers started. When Chilapa could be heard again, she said, "This calls for a celebration!" More cheers. They all knew what that meant. The crowd dispersed quickly, everyone happy to get things ready for the celebration.
Gabrielle had a pleased smile on her face. "All's well that ends well," the bard proclaimed. "We're going to stay around for the celebration, aren't we, Xena? We wouldn't want any of the Amazons to get hurt accidentally, would we?" she asked innocently.
The warrior princess grinned at her. "I guess we can stay a while longer." They looked into each other's eyes and promised - later. They had missed their communing looks these last couple of days.
Ephiny and Solari had their arms around each other's shoulders. They had been practicing a lot and perfecting their powers. "A celebration is what everyone needs after the tension of the past weeks." Ephiny squeezed her companion's shoulder. "It will be fun."
That evening the celebration was going strong. The pending Roman departure released all the pent-up energy of the Amazon warriors. Food and drink were in abundance. Those who were still able to stand and move without falling over their own feet were dancing.
Mingling with the celebrating women were their spiritual watchdogs. Ephiny and Solari kind of missed not needing to eat or drink and being able to fully participate in the party. There's a down side to everything. Xena and Gabrielle were enjoying the show and looking forward to later.
Xena was closely watching the remaining dancers. She had observed the dancing off-and-on all evening. Finally she asked Ephiny, "I know I am not an Amazon and don't know all your traditions, but is it my imagination or are all your dances the same? I can't see any difference between victory dances and mourning and just partying."
Ephiny tried to look diplomatic; Solari bit her lip to keep from laughing. "It's a secret, but yes, we only know one dance," the former regent said. "We just call it different names to fool people. That works most of the time because nobody really pays that much attention to the dancing."
Xena nodded. "Good; I'm glad I'm not losing my eye for detail."
Gabrielle suddenly snapped her fingers, startling her spiritual friends. "Now I remember what I wanted to ask you guys. After you died and were met by Uriel, were you wearing long white robes?"
The two Amazon warriors looked puzzled. Ephiny answered her, "No, we had on our usual clothes. Why?"
The warrior princess was concentrating very hard on the partying Amazons and pretending she wasn't hearing this conversation. Their former queen looked a little embarrassed. "Well," she began hesitantly, "when we met Michael, we were wearing these white robes. But we got out of them as soon as we could." she finished quickly.
Ephiny and Solari tried not to laugh but couldn't help themselves. Finally Solari said, "No Amazon would be caught dead in a white robe."
Everybody, even Xena, had to laugh at this comment.
The celebration was winding down. Many of the warriors had already left for their huts, some in pairs, some alone. One of the last to leave was Eponin. She had not drunk as much as she had pretended to so she was only slightly buzzed. The Amazon guardian spirits watched their friend walk to her hut and close the door.
"She looks like she could use some cheering up," Ephiny said thoughtfully.
"Yes, she does." A short pause. "Let's go," Solari said. They disappeared.
Gabrielle nodded approvingly. "It looks like everything has worked out just fine. What do you want to do now?"
Xena looked over to the edge of the village. "I have a few ideas." She took her partner's hand.
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