by Nene Adams ©1998 - All rights reserved.
The storyteller speaks:
And it came to pass that on a day so long ago it is beyond reckoning, Xena the Warrior Princess, Deliverer of Justice, was engaged in battle with seven evil warlords who had banded their armies together to grind the countryside beneath their iron heels.
These seven warlords were the epitome of evil ambition and were named thus: Lethargus, Michina, Gauisus, Bardus, Medicus, Iratus, and Vercundus.
Xena, though she fought mightily, was soon disarmed and captured by the seven wicked men.
And her bardic companion, Gabrielle, Queen of Amazons, did spy where her friend was taken, a prisoner in the warlords' camp. Being somewhat unskilled in the arts of battle, she knew to confront the armies directly would be suicide. So, within the depths of her despair, and knowing the skills she did possess, a desperate plan arose.
Hullo, luv,'' the veiled woman said, undulating gently.
Lethargus blinked sleepily. He'd spent quite some time with the prisoner Xena, and after a hard day of commanding his army and arguing with his six allies, he was almost worn out. He gave the camp follower a slight smile, however. ''I'm bushed, sweetheart. Catch me tomorrow.''
The woman, whose costume consisted of a couple of strips of silk and a strategically placed spangle or two, undulated her hips more fiercely. ''I'm from Thrace, lover boy,'' she said huskily. ''Know what they say about Thracian women?''
This got Lethargus' attention. ''No, what?''
She leaned over and whispered extensively in his ear. As she continued whispering, his brows rose higher and higher until they nearly met his hairline. Turning his head, he said directly into her face, ''Really?''
With a self-satisfied smirk, Lethargus thrust a dinar down the front of the woman's low-cut bodice. ''Okay, sweetheart. You're on! And afterwards, we'll take a power nap and go for seconds!''
He led the camp follower to his own tent, dismissing the guards outside.
Lethargus got his wish for rest, however, when Gabrielle struck him on the back of the neck with her closed fists and sent him straight into Morpheus' arms.
Michina was walking to his tent when he was accosted by a young peasant woman. He frowned. ''What are you hiding behind your back, little girl?''
She thrust a huge bouquet of goldenrod directly into his face.
Michina felt his eyes starting to swell shut. He tried to back away, but she followed him into his tent, still waving the flowers aggressively.
Unable to withstand this pollen onslaught, Michina gave in to his severe allergies and sneezed... and sneezed... and sneezed...
Gauisus was whistling merrily as he strode between the tents.
Suddenly, a counterpoint to his happy tune was struck up. Grinning, he whistled again... and was rewarded by more liquid melody.
Curious, he walked through the cluster of tents, happily contemplating sharing a few mugs of port with the mysterious musician who had added so much to his already wonderful day.
Gauisus was still whistling when he tripped over an extended leg and fell face down in the grass. In moments, he was trussed up like a Solstice goose - and when Gabrielle dragged him into the shadows, he was still trying to whistle through his gag.
Bardus scratched his head with a thick finger. Thinking came hard to him, as difficult as abstract thought comes to the ox which he resembled. ''So you're Xena's friend, right?''
Gabrielle nodded. The top of her head barely came to Bardus' hairy chin.
''And you're here to rescue her, right?''
Again, Gabrielle nodded.
''And what am I supposed to do?''
Gabrielle sighed. This was the third time they'd gone over it. ''Look, Bardus... in situations like these...''
The glazed look in Bardus' brown eyes told the Amazon bard she'd better start over.
''Okay. It's real simple. The Warlord's Handbook says that if a friend comes into your camp to rescue a prisoner, you're supposed to let them.''
Bardus' forehead crinkled as he laboriously considered this situation. ''Okay. So how do I do that?''
''Well...'' Gabrielle pretended to think. ''You could hit yourself in the head with your war hammer.''
Again, Bardus contemplated. Finally, he hefted his hammer in one beefy hand and said slowly, ''Okay. If you say so.''
Gabrielle nodded fervently - the hammer descended - and she danced hastily out of the way when Bardus toppled like a mighty oak to the ground.
Medicus was putting the final touches on his newest anatomical treatise when he was interrupted by a young woman entering his tent. Her hand was wrapped around her stomach, her tunic was bloodstained, and she was obviously weak and badly injured.
''Help me,'' she whispered, supporting herself on the tentpole with a red-smeared hand.
Medicus licked his lips. A skilled vivisectionist, he'd rarely had the opportunity to examine a female from the inside, so to speak. And a gut wound of the type he guessed she had would provide a perfect chance to see what those mysterious organs did. Corpses didn't have much interior activity.
''Right this way,'' Medicus said, quickly going over to the groaning young woman and helping her to a table set up at the back of his tent. Leather straps and channeled grooves in the surface of the table testified to its gruesome function.
''Just relax, my dear,'' Medicus said, puttering around with a tray full of sharp-edged implements. ''This won't hurt... for long.''
When he turned back to his erstwhile patient, rubbing his hands together in satisfaction, to his astonishment she blew a handful of powder into his face.
As he slipped into unconsciousness, Medicus realized he shouldn't have left the dried henbane out on the counter...
And Gabrielle looked at her smeared tunic and sighed regretfully. Such a waste of ripe berries!
Then she slipped away in search of another victim.
Iratus was angry. Then again, that was his normal emotional state.
He kicked an innocent rock from his path, screaming a vile curse when it jarred his foot. Part of the reason for his ill humor was the throbbing ingrown toenail on his left foot that had left him hobbling for days. But he wasn't about to let Medicus touch it. That fool would probably amputate it for his anatomy collection!
When the serving girl in his tent failed to have his wine waiting for him, Iratus yelled, ''What's the problem? Can't a thirsty man get some wine around here?''
Immediately, a brimming goblet was thrust at him, and he drank greedily. Iratus also found fault with the mutton (not rare enough), the salad (too many olives) and had a positive fit over the baklava (soggy!)
He finally turned to the trembling serving girl, his face mottled and crimson with ire. ''You call these grapes?,'' he hollered, pointing his finger at the offered fruit. ''This is nothing but... ''
He fell forward into the goat cheese, his tirade ended, when Gabrielle - fed up with his whining - hit him dead in the face with the metal platter.
Vercundus smiled shyly at Xena. The captured warrior had been tied by her thumbs to the ridgepole of the combined armies' command tent; her toes barely brushed the ground.
''Want some applesauce?,'' Vercundus asked. He was squatting over a small cauldron of crushed apples that he had been cooking down. Now the pot had been taken off the coals and the sweet-spicy scent filled the tent.
Xena's eyes were like chips of blue ice as she glared at him. ''No,'' she said in a voice that could have ground iron into splinters. ''I don't want any applesauce.''
''Suit yourself,'' Vercundus replied, blushing. He quickly looked down at his cauldron, stirring the mess with a wooden spoon. Vercundus had some problems when it came to women; he was inordinately bashful but at least he'd finally overcome his stammering problem.
Xena's eyes flickered over his shoulder... and widened. Gabrielle was creeping into the tent. As she watched, her companion held a fingertip to her lips for silence and hefted her staff, drawing it back for a swing aimed at Vercundus' head.
The storyteller speaks:
Alas! For Gabrielle reckoned not with the strength nor the solidity of Vercundus' brainpan. He rose up at the first blow, and drawing his sword, chided Gabrielle for her foolishness, flushing in embarrassment all the while.
Thus was Gabrielle forced to defend herself, staff against sword, while the helpless Xena watched and swore mightily, unable to aid her friend.
A wild swing from Vercundus' sword severed one of the ropes binding the woman warrior, and with a crash she fell face down into the cauldron of applesauce. The main pole of the tent came down with her, swathing the combatants in yards of cotton and blotting out the light of day.
At last, Gabrielle managed to beat Vercundus down, then frantically did she search for her friend. Cutting them out of the tent with Xena's breast dagger, Gabrielle dragged Xena away to safety, beyond the dark and sleeping camp of the allies, where all was beginning to become confusion as soldiers' ran out into the night, not knowing their commanders were indisposed.
Finding concealment within a small cave, the bard turned her attention to her friend. Woe! and woe again! For Xena, unable to free herself from her bonds, and suffocated by the weight of the tent and the sticky applesauce... breathed not!
''Xena?'' Gabrielle hastily wiped her hand across the unconscious warrior's face, removing some applesauce. ''Xena? Are you okay?''
There was no answer.
''Oh, gods...'' Gabrielle was near panic. She'd managed to take out the seven warlords, and leave the camp with Xena in tow, but hadn't realized until now just why her friend had been so silent. She wasn't breathing!
Gabrielle closed her eyes, searching her memory.
With shaking hands, she opened Xena's mouth and scooped out the applesauce, making sure she got her airway clear. Then she lowered her mouth on Xena's and blew, breathing for her, again and again...
I can do this, she thought. I've got to stay focused - for Xena!
Xena's muffled whoop as she took a breath on her own was the sweetest sound Gabrielle had ever heard.
The storyteller speaks:
And so it was that the clever Gabrielle defeated seven warlords in order to save her beloved companion.
The warlords departed from Greece, ashamed to the core that they had suffered defeat at the hands of so young and unskilled a girl... and greatly fearing Xena's revenge, they scattered to the four corners of the earth to ply their trade in safety, far away from the Deliverer of Justice and her cunning friend.
In days to come, however... Xena's mind would turn again to that moment when, waking, she had found soft lips upon her own...
But that is a different tale
(Author's Note: the Latin names of the warlords, in case anyone is wondering, can be translated to Sleepy, Nostril, Happy, Dopey (or Stupid!), Doc, Grumpy and Bashful)
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