Disclaimers: Xena, Gabrielle, et al, do not belong to me. They belong to Universal Studios Television, Renaissance Pictures and anybody else who legally says so. Not me. I borrowed them for this story.
(c) January 1999
Out of the corner of her eye, Xena noticed the flap of a large kerchief. She turned away from Gabrielle, who was bargaining for some new quills. Curious, she pressed through the crowd into a circle of people. They were surrounding a gaudily dressed man grandiosly waving a large kerchief over a table.
"And now, I will produce peace in the land!" he said grandiosely waving a small painted stick over a linen-covered tabletop. When at last he pulled away the kerchief with a flourish, two doves took flight from beneath the tan linen.
"Oh, here you are." Gabrielle walked up behind Xena to find the warrior studying the magician intently. "Something interesting?"
"He made two doves appear under an empty kerchief," Xena explained succinctly.
Gabrielle giggled. "How'd he do that?"
Xena shook her head in wonder. "I don't know."
The bard looked up, hearing the innocence echoing in Xena's voice. "Well, are you ready to go?"
The magician was preparing another box for his next trick. Xena leaned back against a wharf guard and shook her head. "You finish your shopping. I'll keep an eye on things."
Gabrielle put a hand on Xena's shoulder as the warrior sank to a sitting position on the wharf wall. "I won't be long."
Xena nodded, still watching the magician. Gabrielle noted the flurry of his hands as he produced a bouquet of flowers and presented them to a matronly woman with two young children hugging her skirts.
Looking back at her partner, Gabrielle realized Xena was transfixed, in a way Gabrielle had never seen before. A soft light had entered the crystal blue eyes. Her breathing had slowed and her posture was more relaxed than the bard ever remembered seeing. She even uncrossed her arms from in front of her chest, bracing them instead on the wall, a very unguarded stance for the usually wary warrior.
Intrigued, Gabrielle resolved to finish her shopping some other time and instead settled on the wall next to her partner. "It's time for a break anyway," she said off-handedly as Xena tilted her head and arched her eyebrow inquiringly.
The magician stepped back from his last trick, a floating ball, and asked for a volunteer. Xena stood.
"You're going to volunteer?" Gabrielle was surprised.
"I want to find out how that ball is suspended."
"It's floating. It's not suspended from anything."
"We'll see." Xena stepped forward. Gabrielle watched as the magician took a step back as this woman, nearly a handspan taller than he was, stepped forward.
"Are you volunteering...?" He seemed to cast about for a moment for something to call her.
Xena obliged, giving her name. There were collective gasps in the crowd.
The next trick actually didn't involve the floating ball, Xena realized, as she stepped closer, trying to examine the shiny hovering object. When she stopped next to the magician, he raised a hand. To the amazed applause of the audience the ball lowered itself into his upturned palm. Even this close, she could not see any manner of suspension wires. She looked expectantly to the magician, very aware of Gabrielle's green eyes, as well as everyone else, watching her.
"Hold out your hand?"
"Either one will do," he said. "Curl your fingers up and then open them slowly."
The magician looked around at his audience and laughed. "You're going to call the ball."
The audience laughed; Xena felt her cheeks heat slightly, but gamely determined, she did as asked and extended her right hand, palm up, until it was about a foot away from her chest.
The magician, still holding the ball in his left palm, nodded as he watched. Xena couldn't figure out if she was supposed to watch her hand or his, and settled on trying to watch both.
"Now open your palm slowly, wiggling your fingers," he instructed. Xena did as she was told. With a flourish that drew her eyes away from her own hand, the magician snapped his hand up, and she heard his fingers snap. The ball disappeared from his grasp. A breath later, she felt a weight and looked down on her own palm.
There in her hand rested the shiny silver ball.
The gathering of villagers went absolutely wild, applauding, hooting, and cheering.
Xena lifted the ball to eye level for inspection and tried to decipher its shiny unbroken surface. Just beyond the ball, she caught Gabrielle's equally amazed gaze. Quietly she placed the ball into the magician's hand.
"Thank you for the help."
Xena was quiet for a long moment. "You're welcome," she said finally, feeling the edges of a smile tug at her mouth. She paused even as she started to take a step away from his side. "How did you do that?"
"You wanted the ball," he said simply. "So it came to you."
Xena wondered if that was like Lao Ma's power, but wasn't certain how she could phrase the question, so she nodded, and slipped back into the crowd.
Gabrielle met her once again over by the wharf wall. "That was awesome!" She leaned against the warrior's body, while Xena continued to watch the magician perform another feat. This time is was one she'd seen and knew simply to be a sleight of hand: a ball under a series of up-ended cups on a table. "So," Gabrielle's voice interrupted the warrior's thoughts.
Xena drew her gaze away from the magician, a smile playing on her lips, the look of youthfulness amazingly enhancing her smooth features. "Mmm hmmm?"
"Did you figure out how he had suspended the ball?"
"Nope." Instead of distress, Xena sounded almost pleased.
"It doesn't matter," Gabrielle soothed. "It's just a child's game."
Xena looked from the bard to the magician again. She remembered the first time she'd seen his type of tricks. She was six when the fair traveled through Amphipolis, and she'd been riding on her father's shoulders looking down on a skinny magician plying his tricks in the town square. An almost giddy feeling swept over her and she chuckled. "Yeah," she sighed. "It's just a child's game."
Return to Main Page