Beauty Wakes
by Nene Adams ©1998 - All rights reserved. 

  The storyteller speaks:

It came to pass that, after defeating the seven evil warlords,* Gabrielle and Xena did continue their journeys throughout the land. And while the friendship between the Queen of Amazons and the Deliverer of Justice did not alter, there came into their lives a certain awkwardness, one with the other.

They neither one wished to speak of a certain kiss... though delivered it was in time of great distress, and to save a life. No longer did they jest about the campfire in the night, and when the necessary chores were done, departed each to her separate bedroll, filled with uncertainty and doubts.

And silently they longed, and silently they waited... for the beauty of love was sleeping within them, waiting to be awakened.

Aphrodite placed her dainty hands on her hips and said, ''Cupie! Get your tanned buns down here right now, little dude!''

Cupid materialized before his mother. ''Yeah, mom... What's up?''

Aphrodite pointed. ''What's with Xena and the Gabster, huh? I mean, like, they aren't even talking to each other, much less locking lips! Like, I am majorly put out!''

Cupid rubbed a hand across his rumpled dirty blonde locks and shrugged. ''I dunno.''

Aphrodite glared. ''Whaddya mean, you dunno? Aw, Cupie - like, you are such a dweeb! This is grody to the max! I want those girls to, like, party hearty! You know... stop their grinnin' and drop their linen, tout suite!''

''I'm doing the best I can, mom! Can't help it if they're, like, majorly dissin' my action!'' Cupid hefted his bow. ''I came, I saw, I shot 'em, all right?''

''Like, that is so fer sure!'' Aphrodite pouted. ''Cupie, I want Xena and Gabrielle in love, all right? So get your bitchin' self down there and like, get to work!'' She waved an imperious hand, and Cupid vanished with a muttered, ''Aw, mom...''

She sighed. ''Like, a totally rad goddess' work is never done.''

The storyteller speaks:

And so it came to pass that Cupid, oftimes called Eros, concealed himself with invisibility in order to walk among the mortals of earth unseen. He bethought himself of a plan to force Xena and Gabrielle to act upon their feelings for one another... and with this god, to think was to act.

He flew on mighty wings to the tent of a warlord named Aegis, and entering with all stealth, crafted for the sleeping warlord a vision of a beautiful bard. Pricking him with a special arrow, Cupid wrought a fascination upon the man, an obsession with a single object.

Aegis, upon awakening, summoned his lieutenants, for his brain burned with the beauty he had seen within his dreams. And a name was whispered into his ear, as if by the wind... ''Gabrielle...''

Aegis spake unto the lieutenants, saying, ''Lo, I have seen with waking vision my future bride, and I leave you here now to seek her out, for I have seen where she lies sleeping. Though she be now in the company of a woman warrior, yet I shall go to her and bring her back here, whereupon we shall be together forever, my love and I.''

So the warlord, leaving behind his army, took to horse to seek the woman he believed to be his destiny.

And his lieutenants, believing Aegis mad, summoned up his army and, selecting themselves a new commander, marched away, leaving the deserted and quiet camp behind.

Xena woke up next to the cold ashes of the dead campfire. Her heart was like a stone within her breast, and for a moment, she contemplated closing her eyes and pretending to be asleep again. She really didn't want to face Gabrielle - not with this unresolved issue between them.

The truth was that for a long time now she'd considered Gabrielle as more than a friend... and when she'd opened her eyes after that seven warlords debacle and felt the bard's lips upon her own - never mind that she was just trying to save her life! - Xena had felt, for the first time in her life, complete.

But Gabrielle was so innocent, so pure...

Xena knew they'd never be more than friends... and despaired.

She rolled over, opening her eyes... and to her shock, Gabrielle was GONE!

Xena searched the campsite, the stream, then the surrounding woods, growing more and more frantic by the moment. At last, she came upon a set of hoofprints that led away from their camp, and knew her friend had been taken away.

Grimly, Xena settled her sword within its sheath and set out after her bard and the kidnapper.

Gabrielle woke up, somewhat disoriented.

She'd been peacefully sleeping, when she hadbeen wakened by a hard hand clapped to her mouth. A sharp blow on the back of her head had rendered her unconscious. She had no memory of where she was, or how she'd gotten there. A burst of panic made her blood roar in her veins. 

A man's face swam into the bard's vision. ''How do you feel?'' he asked anxiously.

Gabrielle, fully awake now, scrambled away from him, only to come up short when she was abruptly made aware that her wrists and ankles were chained. She looked around, and saw she was indeed chained to a bed. A soft, comfortable bed, perhaps - but her heart still fluttered in her chest with fear.

''Who... who are you?'' she asked.

''I'm Aegis. A warlord,'' he said simply. Aegis was handsome in a rakish way, with oily black hair and chipped tooth that added to his charm. ''And you're the love of my life. You're Gabrielle,'' he sighed.

''What? But... I don't even know you!'' Gabrielle tugged at her chains. ''Let me go!''

''No, I can't do that yet,'' Aegis replied. ''Not until you drink this.'' He pulled a small clay bottle from his tunic.

Gabrielle's eyes widened. ''What's that?''

''A special elixer. I found it on my bed after I brought you here. It's a love potion, my sweet Gabrielle. One sip, and when I kiss you, you'll be mine forever.'' Aegis smiled. ''I'm sorry it has to be this way, but I don't have time for long courtships.''

Gabrielle drew a breath. ''You're insane!''

Aegis chuckled. ''Yes, insane with love.'' He unstoppered the cork from the bottle and drew closer, sitting down on the edge of the bed. ''Now, open wide, my beautiful bard. This won't hurt, I promise...''

And in his corner, invisible Cupid grinned.

The storyteller speaks:

So Xena, guiding her warhorse Argo, followed the trail to the campsite of the warlord Aegis. Intent as she was upon her grim business, and sick at heart over the possible fate of her bard, that she did not realize how easy a trail she followed.

For clever Cupid had made it so.

Arriving at the camp, she slipped into the commander's tent, sword at the ready; her heart beat swiftly within her breast as she feared for the fate of the woman she loved. That there were no guards about she did not notice; nor did she see how smoothly she had been led here, nor how easy her trial had been. Her sole thoughts were upon Gabrielle.

Entering Aegis' tent, Xena's eyes opened wide indeed, for the warlord stared down at Gabrielle tied to the cot - and the bard moved not, nor did her eyes open, and neither did she seem to breath. 

The woman warrior's soul shriveled with the thought that her beloved Gabrielle was dead!

Xena rushed into the tent, silent and deadly...

In moments, it was over. Aegis was sprawled awkwardly on the ground, unconscious.

A small clay bottle lay next to Gabrielle. Xena picked it up and sniffed, then wrinkled her nose. It wasn't any poison she was familiar with. She swiftly undid Gabrielle's bonds, then slapped her face lightly, whispering, ''C'mon, Gabrielle... wake up... wake up...''

But the bard was silent and oh, so pale!

From his corner, invisible Cupid said beneath his breath, ''Sleeping beauty awakens only with a kiss, Xena.''

Xena cocked her head to one side. She could have sworn she heard something.

Cupid grimaced and said a bit more loudly, ''Awaken beauty with a kiss and soon will follow love's sweet bliss.''

Xena's brows wrinkled in a frown. There was that feeling of some unspoken command, tugging at her soul, but she couldn't quite put a finger on it.

Cupid rolled his eyes. ''Like, c'mon, Xena! Get with the program and suck some face, warrior babe!''

Xena looked closely at Gabrielle's pale face. Some instinct prompted her to lower her own face closer and closer... until her lips touched the bard's.

In moments, color flooded into Gabrielle's face, and she wound her arms around Xena's neck as the kiss deepened, the warrior's strong arms wrapping themselves around the bard of their own accord as two hearts tested the bonds between them - and found them firm and strong.

Cupid appeared before Aphrodite. ''Yo, mom! The deed's done!''

Aphrodite frowned slightly. ''But Cupie! You cheated! Like, you gave a love elixer to Gabrielle, little dude. She had to fall in love with the first person who kissed her! What if it had been that grody warlord dude? Gag me with a spoon!''

Cupid grinned. ''Naw... it was really just a little poppy juice and honey. Like, enough to send her off to la-la land, but not to majorly screw her up. Am I good or what?'' He buffed his nails on his muscled torso.

''Oh, Cupie!'' Aphrodite clapped her hands together and did a little dance of gloating joy. ''That is so totally cool! This is, like, one for the storybooks, babe!''

Heavenly Olympus rang with their satisfied laughter. 

The storyteller speaks:

And so it was that Xena, Deliverer of Justice, and Gabrielle, Queen of Amazons and bard, knitted their destinies together, each bonded one with the other in a profound meeting of minds, hearts and souls.

In times to come they would be tested... they would be tried... but as the beauty of love had been awakened within them, no matter what twists of fate would come, they would have one another.

And they would live happily ever after, indeed.


*See The Maiden and the Seven Warlords

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