Summary: A fairy tale, starring Xena and Gabrielle who set out to rescue a princess with surprising results.
Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, etc. do not belong to me, but to those who created them. No copyright infringement is intended through their appearance in this story. This a kid-friendly story, written for all ages to share and enjoy.
Spoilers for "Hercules and the Amazon Women"
Once upon a time, a long time ago in a land far, far away, there lived a young girl named Diana. Diana was an orphan and she lived with her step-mother and two mean, lazy step-sisters.
Now, Diana always tried to believe that her real mother was still alive somewhere, maybe wandering around with amnesia or something, because Diana just knew that her real mother was kind and nice and would never, ever leave her little girl with these horrid people if only she remembered that she had a little girl.
Diana's step-mother and step-sisters were always teasing and ridiculing her because she would sit for hours in her favourite willow-tree, reading her beloved books or just day-dreaming about when she grew up and became a princess – did I mention that Diana also believed that her long-lost mother was a queen? No? Okay – well, Diana just knew that when her real mother, the queen, came for her and made her a princess, she would take Diana far, far away from the mean step-mother and step-sisters who made her life miserable.
One day, all the little girls in Diana's class were invited to a birthday party. Diana wanted to go, too, but her mean old step-mother said no. Diana stomped out to her tree and cried.
"It's not fair!" she wailed. "Oh, why won't my real mother come and take me away from here?"
"Because she's dead," said a voice.
Diana looked up and gasped. There before her stood a mighty warrior woman and another young woman, leaning on a staff, smiling sweetly at Diana.
"Aw, Xena," said the young blonde woman. "Do you have to be so … harsh?"
"It's a harsh world, Gabrielle," said the warrior, stroking the muzzle of her golden horse. "Isn't that right, Argo?"
"Gosh," said Diana. "Are you really the Warrior Princess?"
"Yep," said Xena. "We're passing through your village on our way to rescue a princess."
"Wow, can I go, too? I could help you," said Diana.
Xena raised one eyebrow.
"Nope," she said.
"Aw, why not?" asked Diana. "Please – I won't be any trouble, I promise. I hate it here – no one loves me."
Xena started to speak again, but Gabrielle stopped her with a smile and knelt down in front of Diana.
"What's your name?"
"Diana," said the girl.
"Well, Diana, you can help us right now," said Gabrielle, gently. "Argo needs water and Xena and I need to rest for a little bit before we go. May we sit under your tree?"
Diana eyed the young blonde woman, then glanced briefly at the tall dark-haired warrior. She beckoned Gabrielle closer.
"It's a magic tree, you know," she whispered in Gabrielle's ear.
"Oh, I know," said Gabrielle, grinning. "Anyone can see that. That's why we asked if it would be alright first – is it?"
"Oh, sure!" Diana nodded eagerly. "I'll bring Argo some water, too."
The child skipped off and Xena and Gabrielle sat wearily.
"So, is she the one, Xena?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yep," said Xena, leaning back against the tree. "I saw it– a crescent moon shaped birthmark – just like Hercules said. She's Hippolyta's daughter, alright."
"Do you think that her family will let her go back to the Amazons with us?" asked Gabrielle.
"You heard the kid – nobody loves her," said Xena with a shrug. "And she was crying for her real mother."
"Yeah, but Xena, kids do that stuff all the time when they're mad at their family – I remember I used to pretend I was adopted – a lot," said Gabrielle.
"Well, if nothing else, this," Xena hefted a heavy pouch, "ought to help with convincing them. If not, the threat of Amazons riding on the village certainly will."
Gabrielle bit her lip.
"I don't want to see that happen, Xena," she said, then leaned back against the tree beside Xena and patted the trunk. "Do you think she knows her mother's ashes are buried under
"What? Gabrielle, why would she? The poor kid still thinks her mother is alive," said Xena, shaking her head.
"Just … she said the tree was magic," Gabrielle looked up and saw books tucked into the crease of branches higher up and an old blanket draped over the limb. "She obviously spends a lot of time in this tree."
Gabrielle glanced over at her friend and saw that her eyes were closed in a light doze from which the warrior could awaken instantly should the need arise. She smiled, and sat back, watching as Diana came up the hill from the village, carrying a full bucket of water
with some difficulty. The bucket kept bumping Diana in the knees and sloshing the water all over her. Gabrielle started to get up to help her, but a heavy hand gently pushed her back down.
"Let her do it," said Xena. "Life with the Amazons is no stroll through the Acropolis. She needs to learn early that she'll be expected to stand on her own two feet."
Reluctantly, Gabrielle watched the child struggle up the hill to them. Diana grinned and set the bucket down. "May I give Argo the water?"
Xena smiled and nodded, approving.
"Very good," she said. "Always ask first – you never know if a horse is trained to attack strangers approaching her."
Argo would no more have harmed the child than she would turn her nose up to the apple Diana then produced from her pocket for the mare. Whickering in pleasure, the mare gently lipped the apple from the little girl's hand, then bent her head to drink from the bucket. Diana unstrapped a pack from her back and opened it, removing a wheel of cheese, half a loaf of nut-bread, more apples and a water-skin.
"I thought you might be hungry, too," she said, shyly. Gabrielle's stomach confirmed this fact loudly and Diana giggled.
"Well, Diana, thank you," said Gabrielle when they had finished off the food. "Would you like to hear a story? It's the least we can do to thank you for your thoughtfulness."
"Sure!" said the little girl, eagerly.
"What kind of story would you like?" asked Gabrielle, although she already knew which story she was going to tell. "I'm a bard, so I know lots of stories."
Diana scrunched up her face in thought. "How about one with a princess in it?"
"Okay," said Gabrielle, clearing her throat, ready to begin.
"Once there was an Amazon Queen named Hippolyta," the bard began.
Diana grinned widely.
"Oooh – Amazons, too! I like this story already! When I grow up, I'm going to be an Amazon – or a princess," she said.
"Well," said Gabrielle. "It is possible to be both, you know."
The little girl sat back, considering this for a moment, then nodded for Gabrielle to continue.
"Hippolyta ruled the Amazons well for many years, then one day, trouble came," Gabrielle continued. "Well, at least the Amazons thought so. It came in the form of the mighty hero, Hercules. Now one day, Hercules was approached by a man who asked Hercules' help in destroying a forest full of `beasts' who were terrorising their village. Hercules and his best friend, Iolaus, of course, went to help the man."
"Of course," said Diana, frowning. "Gabrielle, why didn't the Amazons help the men? Isn't that what they do – fight for those who can't fight for themselves?"
Xena smirked and looked at Gabrielle.
"Yeah," she said. "Why didn't they, Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle frowned and shushed Xena. "Well, Diana, you see, it seems that the men had mistaken the Amazons for these beasts – you know we – uh, they wear masks when they fight."
"Oh," said Diana, nodding in understanding. "Hey, wait a minute – you mean Amazons were terrorising the village? I don't think so."
"Wait, Diana, let me finish the story," said Gabrielle. "You see, it was all a misunderstanding. Hercules came and got the Amazons and the Village of Men to sit down and talk things out with each other – "
"Yeah, talk," chuckled Xena.
Gabrielle glared at her and Xena playfully covered her mouth with one hand, wordlessly promising to be good.
"Anyway, they all came to an understanding and agreed that they wouldn't fight anymore. In the meantime, though, Hercules and Queen Hippolyta fell in love."
Diana wrinkled her nose.
"Eewww, mush!" she said. "Where does the princess come into this story?"
"Right about here, I think," said Xena. "Just listen, Diana."
"Hercules had to go back to Thebes to help other people, but what he didn't know until later was that he and Hippolyta had a daughter – the Princess," Gabrielle said.
"Oh," said Diana, smiling. "What happened to her?"
"Well, something very sad happened," said Gabrielle. "Hippolyta was killed in a battle and the princess, who was only a little baby at the time, was captured. The Amazons tried very hard to find her, but she was just too well-hidden. The Amazons are very stubborn and for a long time they looked for their princess all by themselves. Finally, they had to ask Hercules for help – they knew, you see, that if Hercules knew that he had a daughter, he would not stop until he found her. Hercules talked to his father, Zeus. And Zeus told him where the little princess was."
"Where was she?" asked Diana, breathlessly caught up in the tale.
"Right here," said Xena, standing.
"It's you?" asked Diana, her eyes shining with the beginnings of hero-worship.
"No, Diana, it's you," said Gabrielle, also standing. "I am also an Amazon Queen and Xena and I are very good friends of Hercules. They asked us to come for you and see if you wanted to go to the Amazons."
In truth, it had been a struggle to convince Hercules to allow Diana to be raised by the Amazons. He wanted the little girl himself, but, as Xena reminded him, the Amazons would be the safest place to protect her from Hera.
"Do I want to go?" asked Diana. "Are you nuts? Of course I want to go – I told you, no one here cares about me – they're mean to me, too."
"Alright, but we still have to go and talk with them about this," said Xena. "We can't just up and snatch you from your home and your family."
"Family – huh, that's a joke," said the little girl, quietly looking down at her bare feet.
"Come on, Diana," said Gabrielle, gently guiding the girl down the hill to the village as Xena followed, leading Argo.
They came to Diana's house and Diana led them inside. There sat her step-mother, Haggis and her two mean step-sisters.
"Well," said Haggis, rising. "About time you came back from your tantrum – who's this?"
"This is the mighty Warrior Princess, Xena and the great Bard, Gabrielle and they've come to take me away to the Amazons," said Diana, defiantly.
"Is that so?" said Haggis, grinning unpleasantly. "We'll have to see about that."
"Now, we don't want any trouble," said Gabrielle.
"Too bad," said Haggis. "Because that is exactly what you're going to get!"
What no one had known was that Hera had known about Diana all along. Haggis was a priestess of Hera and she had been responsible for placing Diana in her keeping. Suddenly, Haggis waved her arms and there she stood, wearing the robes of Hera's priestess.
"Great!" said Xena, drawing her sword as the two mean step-sisters also shifted to their true forms – harpies!
The harpies hissed and rose up, flapping their leathery wings. Diana stood, wide-eyed and open-mouthed as Gabrielle pulled her away to safety. Xena fought the harpies, but it didn't look good. Suddenly, Diana remembered that it took fire to kill a harpy. She ran over to the fireplace and grabbed a flaming piece of wood, burning her fingers a bit in the process. Still, she clung tightly to the weapon and ran in front of Xena, waving the branch at the creatures, who reared back in fear. Xena pulled a flask from her belt and took drink, then took the branch from Diana's hand. She spit whatever was in her mouth through the fire and suddenly, the harpies were burning, screaming as they flew away out the open window.
"Thanks, Kid," said Xena, grinning at Diana.
"You think defeating me is so easy?" hissed Haggis. "We'll just see about that."
She waved her hand and suddenly, Xena and Gabrielle fell to the floor in a deep sleep. Haggis laughed cruelly.
"So much for your `rescuers'," she said. "I must go to Hera and report – she said this day would come."
"What … what did you do to them?" asked Diana, tearfully.
Haggis laughed again.
"It's a very special spell – the Sleep of a Hundred Years. Don't think you can wake them, either - only the Golden Apples of Hesperides will break the spell. There's no way you, a silly little girl, will able to get them in time – when I get back, I will deal with you for my harpies!" she said, disappearing in a puff of smoke.
Diana wanted to cry.
"I was almost free," she said the herself. Then she realised there was a lot more at stake as she looked down at Xena and Gabrielle. "I have to go for help."
Diana left the house and started towards the only place she could think of to get help for her friends – the Temple of Artemis. Diana rushed into the temple and found a priestess.
Quickly the child explained the problem, but the priestess backed away from her.
"Hera's involved? Oh, no, I don't think so," said the priestess.
Diana asked each of the priestesses of Artemis, but they were all afraid of the Queen of the Gods. Dejected, the little girl walked slowly out of the temple. She didn't see the figure cloaked in the shadows until it emerged and stood before her.
"Why so sad, Little Sister?" asked the tall woman. She was dressed in deerskin clothes and she carried a bow and a quiver of arrows.
"Are you an Amazon?" Diana asked her.
"I am the Amazon, Sweetie – why so sad?" asked the woman.
Diana explained her problem and the woman nodded sympathetically.
"I understand," she said. "And I don't blame them for being scared of Hera. Aren't you afraid of her?"
"No," said Diana. "Well, a little I guess – but I can't just leave my friends like that. I have to help them even if I am scared."
The woman smiled at Diana and then all of a sudden, she started to glow.
"I am Artemis," she said. "You show the honour and the courage of one of my Amazons, Diana. Take this." She handed Diana a small pouch of sweet oats.
"What's this for?" asked the little girl.
"You will know when the time comes. Just don't tell anyone I helped you," said the goddess, fading from Diana's sight.
Diana, frowned, tucking the pouch into her pocket and heading back to her house. When
she arrived, she was shocked to see a man standing over Xena and Gabrielle. They were now lying in glass coffins, floating in the air near Diana's tree.
"Hey!" Diana cried, running up to the man and trying to pummel him with her little fists.
The man raised one eyebrow and held the child at arm's length so none of her blows landed. Seeing the problem, Diana kicked him in the shin, hard.
"Ow!" yelled the man, letting go of her and backing away. "What do you think you're doing?"
"What are you doing to my friends?" cried Diana.
The man wore black leather armour trimmed in silver. His hair and beard were black, too and a huge sword hung at his side. He looked at Diana and shook his head.
"I'm hiding them from Hera," he said. "Talk on Mt Olympus is that she's after them for some reason."
Diana looked down at her feet. "I guess I'm the reason," she said quietly.
"You?" laughed the man. "What does Hera want with a little kid? And what does Xena have to do with it?"
"I'm Diana and I just found out that Hercules is my father – you know how Hera hates him," said Diana. "Xena and Gabrielle were coming to take me to the Amazons because my mother was an Amazon Queen."
The man frowned. "Hercules, huh?" he growled. "Aw, what the Hades – you've got a warrior's spirit and I like that. I'm Ares – I guess I'm your uncle."
"I guess so," said Diana, doubtfully. "I have to find a way to get the apples of Hesperides – that's the only way to break the spell Haggis put on them."
"Okay, tell you what – you keep this between us, and I'll tell you a secret that will help you," said Ares.
"Okay," said Diana.
"The Apples of Hesperides are guarded by a dragon," said Ares. "If you can distract the dragon, the apples are there for the picking."
Diana frowned. "How do I distract the dragon?" she asked.
"That's your problem, Kid," said Ares, disappearing. Diana sighed.
"So all I have to do is get to the apples, then distract the dragon and get back – before Haggis comes back," she said to herself. She looked up at the sun. "Guess I'd better get going."
Diana hiked back down the hill. She stood for a moment, thinking, then went into the house and grabbed one of her books. Diana never went anywhere without a book. She packed the book and some apples into her pack, then went outside.
"Hesperides … that's an island," she thought. "Well, first I need to get to the sea." She looked around, thinking.
Hearing a neigh, Diana walked over to where Xena had left Argo. Diana reached up and rubbed
Argo's velvety face.
"Bet you're hungry, huh?"
She looked around for something to feed the horse, but found only the small pouch of oats
that Artemis had given her. With a shrug, she gave the oats to Argo.
"I'm sorry there's not much there."
As Argo ate from the pouch, Diana saw an incredible sight – wings sprouted from the mare's back.
"Whoa, cool!" cried the little girl.
The mare neighed, then knelt down and looked at the little girl.
"You want to take me?" she said. Argo nodded and Diana climbed up into the saddle. "You know how to get there?"
Argo looked back at her once, then took off, Diana hanging onto the reins tightly. Argo flew swiftly and in no time, they had reached the sea. Diana climbed off of Argo's back. She reached into her pack and brought out another apple, giving it to Argo. The mare whinnied her thanks. Diana looked and thought she could see the island of Hesperides.
"Now all I have to do is distract the dragon," she said. "What distracts dragons?"
"Pretty things," said a voice. Diana turned to see a beautiful woman in flowing pink clothes, smile and wave to her.
"Wow – what could be prettier than you?" said the little girl, awed.
"Ooooh, I like you!" said the woman. "Okay, I wasn't going to do this, but you just made my day – so here. Just don't tell anyone you got it from me."
Diana nodded. Aphrodite handed her a golden acorn. Diana held it up.
"It's pretty, but what is it for?" she asked.
"It's magic," said the woman.
"Magic?" said Diana, doubtfully. "What kind of magic?"
"Why love magic, of course," the woman giggled. "I'm Aphrodite – you must Herc's little girl."
"Um, yeah, I guess," said Diana with a small shrug.
"Well, `Big Bro's' always been there when I needed him so I guess the least I can do is help out his little girl," said the goddess. "Just – don't tell anyone, okay?"
"Thank you," said Diana, gravely, tucking the acorn into her pocket. "And you really are the most beautiful person I have ever seen."
"Go on, Kid, you already got the acorn," she said.
Diana grinned and went back to Argo. The mare knelt for her and Diana climbed back up on her back.
"Oh, Diana – when you see the dragon, toss the acorn away – the dragon will run after it," Aphrodite called to her.
Argo flew Diana to the island. Diana left a few more apples with Argo, then went in search of the golden apples – and the dragon. At last in the centre of the island, she found the tree – and the dragon. It was a beautiful creature, emerald green scales shimmering in the sunlight, its golden wings folded against its back. It was sleeping under the tree.
"Hey, maybe I can just sort of sneak in and grab the apples before it wakes up," thought the little girl.
She crept up to the sleeping dragon silently. Just when she got nose to nose with the creature,
its mouth opened wide and Diana caught sight of rows and rows of very sharp teeth. The dragon yawned, then opened its eyes.
"Hey – you trying to steal my apples?" he asked as Diana backed away.
"N – no," said the little girl. "I, um, I wanted to buy some." She held up the golden acorn and the dragon narrowed his eyes.
"They're not for sale," he growled, advancing swiftly towards the wide-eyed child. Diana tossed the acorn and suddenly, another dragon appeared where it had landed.
"Hey, Handsome," she said. "Why not forget about the kid and come with me?"
The dragon stopped and turned around fast. He saw the female dragon and went after her, she rising up in the air and flying away, he following. Diana released a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding, then went to the tree and picked three apples. Running back to the beach, she found Argo and climbed up. Argo took off, flying as fast as she could, back to Diana's tree.
Just as Argo landed safely with Diana, her wings disappeared. Diana briefly petted the mare and gave her the rest of the apples in her pack as thanks, then ran to the glass coffins. In her haste, she didn't notice that she had dropped one of the apples at the base of the tree. She pulled back the lid covering Xena, and placed the apple up to her mouth.
"Oh, come on," said the little girl. "How am I gonna get her to bite it?"
"You don't have to." Diana turned to see a beautiful Amazon standing there. "Just drop the apple into her hand."
"Who are you?" asked Diana.
"Just do it – hurry, Honey – Haggis is coming!" the woman said, taking the other apple and opening Gabrielle's coffin.
Diana did as she was told just as the sky grew dark and a cold wind blew in, announcing the arrival of the evil Haggis. Xena sat up, sword ready.
"Thanks, Kid," she said, ruffling Diana's hair and leaping up out of her coffin, sword in hand in time to start fighting Hera's Blue Priests who had accompanied Haggis.
Diana saw that Gabrielle was right beside her, fighting with her staff. The Amazon stayed with Diana, guarding the little girl.
"Gosh, I wish I could do that," said Diana.
The Amazon smiled at her.
"You will," she said.
"Who are you?" asked Diana again.
"I'm your mother, Queen Hippolyta," said the Amazon. "My ashes were buried beneath this tree and my spirit has lived inside of it all these years. When you dropped that apple, it brought me back."
"You've been here all along?" asked Diana, incredulous.
"Yes, Little One," said Hippolyta, sadly. "I heard you crying for me so many times and wished I could come to you like this. But all I could do was offer you the comfort of strong branches and a trunk to lean on when Haggis and her harpies made you sad."
"But now … ?" asked the little girl.
"Now, I'm back," said the Amazon, smiling. "And I will make sure that no one ever hurts you like that again."
"Oh, how touching," said Haggis, walking up to the mother and daughter.
"Stay back, Sweetheart," said Hippolyta, drawing her sword. "I have a few scores to settle with this one."
Diana watched as Xena and Gabrielle dispatched all of Hera's Blue Priests, then Hippolyta fighting Haggis. Finally Hippolyta got the priestess down and tied her hands together.
"Hera won't let me be held for long," Haggis hissed as Hippolyta pulled her roughly to her feet.
"Don't be too sure about that," said Xena. "Hera doesn't back losers."
"Diana, you did it," said Gabrielle, hugging the little girl. "We came to rescue you and you turned around and did the rescuing."
"Yes, I am very proud of you," said Hippolyta.
Diana blushed and looked at her bare feet.
"Aw, I had help," she said.
"Who?" asked Xena.
"Gosh, Xena, they all said not to tell," said Diana.
Xena laughed. "Never mind - I can guess," she said.
They all left, then. Haggis was taken to Hercules to decide her punishment since he was the most impartial person they knew. Hippolyta and Diana went to the Amazons where Hippolyta was re-instated as queen – making Diana a princess, just like she always wanted. Xena and Gabrielle went on and had many more adventures together.
Did they all live happily ever after? You decide. <G>
"You know what, Prince? You seem like a real nice fella, so I'm gonna
make this nice and simple for ya. I don't need you, or a fairy
godsmother, or anyone else to give me a happy ending. That's
something that I'll get-- or I won't get-- all my own self. So I
suggest you peddle this shoe someplace else."
Xena, "If the Shoe Fits"
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