The Bard and the Beanstalk
by Nene Adams ©1998 - All rights reserved 


The storyteller speaks:

Once, long ago, the years passing by as sun and moon revolve in their eternal dance, there traveled through the land a warrior and a bard.

The bard was Gabrielle, also Queen of Amazons, and it was her task that, when the two in their journeying came upon a village or town, she it was who, with skillful tongue and artful manner, made bargain with the merchants for needed supplies.

Alas! but the bard's heart was soft - Oh! so very soft! - for in the course of bartering, she came upon a hungry, ragged man whose manner was courtly despite his lowly station. The man claimed to be in possession of three magic beans, all he had left in the world; though she believed him not, still Gabrielle gave to the man all of the supplies which she had gathered, believing him to be in far more need than she herself or her companion.

The man, fawning upon her, insisted that she take the beans as payment for her generosity. And the kind hearted bard could not refuse.

''Beans?'' Xena looked down at the three small objects in the palm of Gabrielle's hand. ''Not even a SACK of beans, but THREE beans?''

The bard squirmed slightly; although not one to regret an act of kindness, she really hadn't thought much about how Xena would react to her news. ''Uh, yes, just three beans. But he said they were magic beans, ha ha ha,'' she giggled nervously.

The warrior glared. ''Huh! I bet!'' She peered at the beans again, then up at the sky. At this time of the year, darkness descended rapidly, and Helios' chariot had already dipped beyond the horizon. ''Well, it's too late to go hunting or fishing, and we used the last of our trail rations this morning.''

Gabrielle gasped. ''You don't mean...?''

Xena gave her a fierce grin. ''Yep. Looks like we're both going to bed hungry. Uh-uh-uh, don't eat those!'' she continued, snatching three tiny beans from the bard's hand. ''Your stomach'll just complain more. Drink some water and then we'll go to bed.''

As Gabrielle watched, stricken, Xena tossed the beans over her shoulder, where they disappeared into the darkness beyond the campfire. ''Xena!'' she protested, but to no avail. The deed - for good or ill - was done. 

The warrior gently but forcefully put Gabrielle into the bedroll, then curled up behind her. After spending some time spluttering in disbelief, the bard finally quieted down and Xena relented. She whispered in Gabrielle's ear, ''I'll make it up to you in the morning, I promise. Eels, even, if you want.''

So with visions of grilled eel and the phantom scents of delicious foodstuffs crowding her brain, Gabrielle fell into an uneasy sleep.

Morning came, and Gabrielle uncharistically woke early. She lay there a few moments, listening to the comforting sound of Xena's breathing, before nature's urgent demand caused her to rise and seek relief in the bushes.

Stumbling and rubbing her eyes, she noticed it was still dark... but after visiting the bushes, she decided to go down to the nearby stream and splash some water on her face. Even in her half-awake state, it was a shock to step into full blazing sunlight a few paces away from camp.

The bard squinted up at the sun, then shook her head and looked again. According to its height, it was nearing noon. But a few seconds ago it had still been night...

She walked back to camp, noting the sudden plunge into darkness. Gabrielle peered around - then her jaw dropped and she yelled, ''Xena!!''

The storyteller speaks:

And so the warrior and the bard both stared at the cause of the darkness around their small camp.

For lo! In the night, the three beans - which had been magical after a sort - had sprouted. A mighty beanstalk, the twined stems joined together in a span ten men's arms could not have encircled, spiraled straight up into the sky, so far neither woman could see the top.

Vast leaves shaded the campsite. Xena looked at her companion. ''I know not what lieth at the top of yon beanstalk,'' she said, ''but determined am I to see this thing to its end. For what man knoweth what lies within the vault of the sky? Perhaps to Olympus itself we shall climb.''

Gabrielle nodded. ''Verily, thou speakest the truth. Come; let us climb this beanstalk and see what adventure we may find.''

And so, filling their waterskins, the two women began to climb.

It took them surprisingly little time to reach the top of the beanstalk, although hours of steady climbing made the warrior and bard collapse, nearly exhausted, after finally stepping off their leafy ladder into a strange country.

''This ground's awfully hard, Xena,'' Gabrielle said in weary complaint. Her calves were still cramping from the climb. ''It's like stone, only it's not.''

Xena sighed. ''At least it isn't raining,'' she replied. Suddenly, she sat up. ''What the Tartarus...?''

A pair of bright lights was approaching them from a distance, and they could hear a steady rumbling roar that grew louder and louder as the lights came closer...

''What's that?'' Gabrielle yelled in fright.

''I don't know...'' Xena stood and drew her sword. ''Could be a dragon, but this isn't any part of Chin that I recognize.''

The lights drew closer and closer...

Xena screamed, ''Look out!'' and grabbing Gabrielle, hurled them both from the path of the oncoming behemouth.

A loud screaming wail blasted out at them, and their hair and clothing were blown back by the wind of its passage...

And the distinctly 20th century semi-truck driver shook his head as he lit another cigarette. ''Crazy dames!'' he muttered, shaking his head.

The storyteller speaks:

And herein is the final tale of Xena, Deliverer of Justice, and her beloved bard, Gabrielle, Queen of Amazons.

For it came to pass that Hercules and Iolaus, intrepid adventurers both, but unfortunately taken by drink, upon seeing the giant beanstalk proposed a contest betwixt themselves. Whosoever it was that succeeded in chopping the vast stalk down should be declared the winner.

Axes flashed... and Hercules won.

Nothing more was ever seen of Gabrielle or Xena again.

From time to time it has been said that the warrior and her bard dwell in a far away country, enchanted until such time as they are needed once again. When the martial music plays, they shall come striding forth to once again champion the cause of right, and evildoers shall be overcome and trampled beneath their high justice.

They live among the mortals of this country, disguised but never far from one another, and the tales of their love and adventures will continue until the last story is told and they can sleep once again.

But this is a tale for another day.


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