Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
By J. A. Bard
“So, what do you think Hercules wants, Xena?” Gabrielle asked for the third time since they started their journey. The first time she got a thoughtful headshake from her traveling companion. The second time she got a blank stare from pale blue eyes whose owner's thoughts were far away. This was the second day of their journey and by now Xena probably had some idea; it was just a matter of wheedling a guess from her. A guess from Xena was usually pretty much on the mark. Her passion and skill at puzzles gave her the uncanny ability to put little bits of information heard here and there together and see a complete picture that others could not.
“Help with slaying a Cyclops?” Gabrielle swung her staff low, sweeping her imaginary adversary’s legs out from under him.
“Ya!” She then whirled around with a smart rap to the head of a very short Cyclops, followed by a jab to the left of her. She aimed toward the chest area of an average sort of unlucky fellow and she finished with a few more rapid successions of twirls and jabs to whatever else might be foolish enough to be too close by.
“Ya! Cha! Yep!” Eyeing her imaginary attacker splayed on the road she took a deep satisfied breath at her successful defense of her person. Her nose wrinkled at the smell of human waste along the side of the road and some not so courteously dumped. Enough of the unpleasantries of traveling a popular route.
“Or, rescue a god or demigod that had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Yep! Yaaaaa.” She made another spin facing the impassive face of the Warrior Princess sitting safely on her war-horse. Gabrielle pulled her staff over her head horizontally to block an imagined blow and whirled around again in the offensive position hiding her smile. She had Xena’s attention, as undivided as it could be out on the trail.
“Or!” She whipped back around to look with a glint in her green eyes, this time capturing the glittering blues of her dark haired companion. The tall warrior was content to keep a safe distance from adversaries she could not see.
Argo snorted in warning as Gabrielle’s staff came a little too close to her nose. Xena’s left wrist was resting on the saddlebow with the reins dangling loosely from her hand, while her right hand was on her thigh near her sword sheath attached to the saddle. Her eyes were scanning the area around them at regular intervals with frequent glances at her entertaining and energetic friend. Her characteristically unreadable face watched the animated Bard whose eyes lit up with images only she could see. A faint smile touched Xena's lips as she returned her eyes to study the landscape around them.
Life with Gabrielle around certainly has taken on a whole new different color…no, correct that. Life with her has taken on a multitude of colors, shades, contrasts and brightness that I had never imagined. This thought left Xena with a bemused look on her face.
Gabrielle let Argo’s stirrup come alongside of her and continued, “Maybe it’s about an adventure unlike any other we’ve been on!” Dramatically she gestured as if pulling in an audience for the beginning of one of her stories.
“And – it’s going to be fun!” Gabrielle’s eyes opened wide as she continued to see an adventure play out, one without any blood and gore or one that didn’t call for being mugged by thugs whose smell alone could knock them out.
Gabrielle rested a hand lightly on Xena’s boot, looking up at the warrior's dark tanned profile that stood out against the bright blue sky. The warm blue eyes that grazed her briefly stirred her soul and reminded her of another poem she wanted to add to her scrolls.
“Gabrielle, why don’t you just wait and see what Hercules has to say before putting in requests,” Xena remarked dryly, letting her lips curl into the smile her eyes twinkled.
“Hey, positive thinking has a lot of merit to it. I think we're due for something fun. Like the time he asked for our help to get that cute little pig out of the oven,” she returned confidently as she let her hand rest on the boot in the stirrup a moment longer, feeling the warmth of the wearer though the leather.
Both women chuckled at the shared memory of their unexpected bumping into Hercules and Iolaus in a small village that had a collective outdoor oven where a frightened little pig had wedged itself into the opening of the oven. It was a young child's pet and too young for normal butchering so Iolaus and Hercules were trying to get the pig unstuck. The kids were not the only ones laughing at the larger than life hero and his friend’s predicament. Hercules was afraid by using brute strength he would hurt the pig and the little boy's anguish was evident over the misfortune of his little pet. The more they tried to pull, prod or anything else the pig pushed itself harder into the small opening. Xena figured out how to get the pig to want to go the other way.
It was an interesting reunion for the four, to say the least.
Gabrielle picked up her pace and put some space between the horse and her twirling staff. Occasionally she would attack imaginary bad guys disguised as hapless vegetation that lined the dry wagon rutted road. In one of her spinning attacks she miss stepped into one of the wagon ruts sending her toward the dusty ground. However, confident in her athleticism, she attempted to do a roll forgetting what to do with her staff.
Gabrielle found herself looking up at a clear blue cloudless sky and lighter shade of blue eyes that regarded her with amusement. Argo had come to a stop next to the sprawled figure extending her neck so her nose was close to Gabrielle’s bare midriff. She let out a whiff of air that tickled Gabrielle's bare skin and caused her to jump. The big soft brown eyes regarded her with mild interest.
"Yeeeoooww! Argo that tickles!" she cried indignantly.
“Did that flower hurt you? Do you want me to do my warrior thing and pull its petals out one by one or just cut it to bits?" Xena asked in mock concern. She was leaning forward on Argo waiting for her entertainer to recover. The reins were still casually resting in one hand while the other was absentmindedly stroking Argo's neck.
“Hmph! It happened to be an evil warlord trying to escape the Great Warrior Princess, and her partner. Oh, and her golden warhorse.” She gave an apologetic glance at the mare.
“Well, it looks like her partner is falling down on the job,” Xena returned in a droll tone though her eyes sparkled with merriment.
Gabrielle got back to her feet brushing off the back of her skirt, readjusting it and then her top eyeing Argo with suspicion as she swung her golden head in her direction again.
“Hmmph. How do you know that I was the partner? I could have been the great W.P.!”
Xena’s eyebrow raised a notch or two but she said nothing as her eyes ran up and down the Bard’s athletically trim body as if seeing her for the first time. “Hmm,” she finally responded. "That does call for a lot of imagination to see you on a warhorse…old warriors don't have imaginations."
"Ha! I can mention a few times when…well…" her face turned beet red. "You have your moments."
Xena smirked and pointed at the clump of grass and dirt that had lodged between her round breasts. “I think you have taken something hostage there.”
Her staff had dug it up and dropped it on her when she fell. Xena straightened up and looked back up at the surrounding countryside aware of Gabrielle cleaning off the dirt, trying not to break out in a loud laugh.
“It was a clever move to make him think he had me," Gabrielle continued, pointedly ignoring Xena's remark. "You had to be there to appreciate the brilliant plan put forth to capture this devious man!” she returned tartly. Her fingertips had the wayward dirt clump, which she flicked up toward the side of Xena’s head. A hand moved so quickly to deflect it Gabrielle thought it was only her imagination. However, there was no dirt clod anywhere. She raised her eyebrows at Xena’s calm look that had returned to her upturned face.
“Hmm, and where does the Great Warrior Princess come in the picture?” she asked curiously, looking into the serious green eyes that were looking up at her.
“She,” Gabrielle leaned forward brushing against the booted stirrup and made a sweeping movement with her free hand, “comes thundering across the camp on her,” she looked Argo in her soft brown eye that was still watching her, “golden warhorse -- and knocks the warlord off his feet, and the…”
Xena suddenly rose in her stirrups, becoming tense as her attention moved to the trees on the slope above them. From habit Gabrielle stopped speaking, holding her staff at ready as she followed the direction of Xena’s eyes, not expecting to see anything just yet.
“Sounds like trouble on the other side of the bend,” Xena said softly still listening to what she could only hear. Abruptly she leaned down to offer Gabrielle a hand, presuming she did not want to be left behind. Without hesitation Gabrielle grabbed her arm and only had to swing her leg over Argo's back as the strong proffered arm easily lifted her up. Once astride Argo, Gabrielle held her staff out of the way as they set off at a quick gallop up the slope into the trees to get to the other side of the road that curved around the slope. As Argo threaded quickly around the trees with her two riders ducking low hanging branches the sounds of a small battle could be heard.
A small group of village merchants were surrounded by a group of raiders. The defense of the merchant’s group was whittled down to three standing guards who looked badly in need of help. The trio’s fast approach down the slope went unnoticed until Xena let out her war cry that pierced the air. For a moment everyone stopped to see what the cry was all about and froze to see the large golden warhorse with a figure glinting in armor and dark hair streaming behind leaning over her horse’s neck heading toward them at breakneck speed.
Xena pulled Argo to a sliding stop and Gabrielle, with practiced ease, slid off of Argo taking out the raider that had paused with his knife ready to slice a merchant's throat. A quick sweep knocked down the raider that had come to his fellow attacker’s assistance and she gave him a solid hit to the side of his head. The third one wasn’t as easy and Gabrielle was put to task as he used two swords to keep her busy. He had blocked one of her sweeps and kicked her into the side of one of the carts. She used the support to with stand his barrage of sword strokes, which were intended to overwhelm his victim more than harm. If the man wasn’t tired Gabrielle knew she would have had to be rescued by Xena. However, he wore himself out before Gabrielle succumbed to the strategy and she quickly took advantage of the situation. Her staff was driven into his chest after one of the strokes missed her, then swept his legs out from under him. She knocked him out when he attempted to get back up.
Xena worked on the men that were on horseback first. Argo’s training gave her the options to take out the enemy’s mount with kicks, bites, and or knocking down the unfortunate horse. In this case she ran into the first horse that didn’t appear to have such training, sending the rider and horse to the ground. The horse scrambled to its feet riderless and quickly ran off to where there was no fearsome warhorse to contend with. Argo whirled around, responding to her mistresses' leg signals, and her mistress knocked the next rider off his mount with a well placed sword hilt to his temple when his failed swing left him open. The other rider attempted to move into a better position to get at the new arrivals but one of the guards to the merchant’s group was able to rally and knocked the rider to the ground. A kick from Xena knocked another attacker on the ground into one of the wheels of the carts with such force the man slid to the ground stunned.
Xena was about to go to Gabrielle’s assistance when the fighting Bard finished off her attacker, then wheeled around to go after another. Xena turned her attention to the rider who was knocked to the ground who had a mace that was swinging toward her leg. She pulled Argo into a position that gave her the angle to use her foot to kick the mace aside then booted the attacker. It was enough to knock him sideways where another of the merchant’s guards finished him with a sword through his heart.
The raiders on foot were quickly reduced from five to two who were now fighting to get out of the ring that three of the defenders had set up with Gabrielle’s support. Xena did a flip from Argo’s back into the center of the ring with the intention of putting a quick end to the interruption of their hurried trip to Petoli.
“You can put down your weapons, or,” Xena twirled her sword in a slow hypnotic circle, her lips curled up into a feral grin with her eyes glinting ice, “get hurt.” She dropped her voice in a low growl.
One of them readily threw down his sword while the other hesitated, then followed suit.
“Good choice,” she said softly.
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