‘Trials & Tribulations’

By  Phineas Redux



Summary:— A classic ‘Xena, Warrior Princess’ story. Our happy duo are involved in all sorts of adventures in the streets and shops of Athens.

Disclaimer:— MCA/Universal/RenPics, and/or others, own all copyrights to everything related to ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’ and I have no rights to them.


The day dawned well; or, at least, better than a good many previously, considering our heroines and their propensity to find themselves in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong results, surrounded by the wrong people or Gods.

The Anchor Inn lay in the north-west of Athens, the Lycabettus District; renowned for having no inkling of the meaning of ground or road plan; it being easier to find your way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth than Lycabettus, especially when drunk, as Gabrielle and Xena had found out to their cost when both sober and the other on many occasions—thank the Gods for the Pan-Athenaic Way, if for nothing else, which cut through this pig’s breakfast of lanes, back passages, and filthy slums!

This morning Gabrielle stuck an arm out to drag the blanket closer round her naked form, only to discover some hindrance to this maneouvre. Swiveling round in bed she discovered the source of this obstruction to be the large immobile body lying beside her in the form of the sleeping Warrior Princess in person.

“Xena! Why’d ya always hog the blankets like this?”

Gabrielle exerting all her Amazonian wiles to pull at least some of the blanket free.


“What? Ya say something, lover?”


Hey, gim’me the blanket back! Ya got the whole thing now! I’m freezin’. Have ya no compassion.”


Oh, stay asleep, if ya must, I want my breakfast; see ya in the dining-room later, if there’s anything left by the time ya get there, baby.”

With which parting shot the Amazon Queen rose from the bed like Venus from the waves—that is to say with not much of anything covering her naked form—a sight worthy of the Gods indeed.

Dressed—short boots with sai strapped to the outsides, short skirt of heavy linen, wide waistbelt holding a dagger’s sheath, and a short cropped top barely covering her upper regions—which themselves were fully worthy of the attention of the greatest contemporary poets; in verse, I mean, of course.

Dressed, as I said, she ran down the stairs to the dining-room to find herself the first there, which cheered her up no end, allowing her appetite free scope over the already presented dishes.

“Let’s see—Red bean an’ vegetable soup!, that’ll do t’start. Kedgeree!, nice second course. Small bread loaves, newly baked; I’ll have two of those. And sweet white wine, a full flask of that, for sure. Yeah, a fair beginning; what’s the main course? Ah, smoked herring, my favorite; see how I feel about seconds, later.”

In a few moments the large Public room echoed to the sound of a focused Amazon Queen digging into her vittals like a starving sailor, which was the normal manner in which Gabrielle always attacked her first meal of the day.

Half a clepsydra later the archway leading from the corridor to the dining-room was blocked by a large shadow, that of the Warrior Princess struggling with the first conscious grappling’s with another dam’ day.

Great Athena, the sunlight’s blindin’ me! D’ya have t’sit at the window every dam’ time, gal?”

“Si’down, clip it, eat, I’m engaged.”

Hah! Thanks! What in Tartarus’s this pabulum? Someone been sick on my plate?”

“Red bean soup. Eat it, you’ll like it.”

“Is that an order, a wish, or just a blind hope?” Xena starting the day as she meant to go on, in a mood.



Standing in the Agora watching the crowds mill around them it became stunningly obvious that Xena stood out in a crowd. Dressed in long knee-length black boots, a short leather skirt of many thongs, a dark leather corset that completely covered her chest from waist to, er, bosom, itself ornamented with bronze and silver fol-de-rols, upper arm bracelets designed to show off her mighty muscles to advantage, and a medium sized sword in a back sheath, the hilt and pommel protruding over her right shoulder, the Princess made a figure in any company; probably the reason why the crowd gave both women a wide berth as they stood in the large Public square; the two-storied open fronted Stoa of Attalos with its many shops and offices bordering one long side of the wide space.

“So, what d’ya wan’na do t’day, lover? No, don’t tell me! Shop till ya drop! Though it’ll likely be me who drops first, goin’ by previous expeditions.”

“Fool,” Gabrielle taking this in her stride. “Can’t you think of any new jokes, that one’s stale as month old dry bread?”

“Gim’me time, lem’me get in’ta my stride.”


Ho, Gabrielle!” This from somewhere unidentified amongst the jostling crowd all round.

The same crowd parting asunder a tall figure in a stylish white toga rimmed with a thin gold line was revealed; he sporting a light beard which showed off his long flaxen locks to perfection. His square jaw and bright blue eyes immediately giving him a powerful presence. At first glance he might have been taken for an up and coming young Senator, but in reality merely scribbled scrolls for Public consumption, even if they provided a fair income, all in all.

“Well met, Gabrielle.” He being a close associate of the Amazon Queen, at least in her role as equal provider of popular scrolls. “Anything on the scribes’ copying desks at present, may I ask?”

“Only a couple of scrolls detailing our last adventure, Dion.” Gabrielle smiling in welcome. “And you?”

“I’m in the middle of producing a series of descriptions of the aqueducts and waterways supplying Athens.” He smiling with an apologetic look. “Not in the same league as Vitruvius’s or Frontinus’s works on the subject in Rome, but I do my best.”

Xena curled a critical lip.

“Always thought Vitruvius a jack of all trades, sounds off about dam’ everything but good at nothing. An’ as for Frontinus, tried to read him some years since but couldn’t make out his descriptions of the valve or pipe sizes of Aqueducts; his mathematics always seemed to make they too large or far too small for the amount of water he said they carried. Sloppy scribing, I fancy.”

“There’s a method to it, but it does take some experience, I agree.” Dion nodding sagely, as if he knew what he was talking about; the basic necessity for any author.

“Doing anything particular today?” Gabrielle always willing to poke her nose into other people’s affairs.

“I’m here to examine Hadrian’s aqueduct, or at least it’s terminal point, over there in the corner of the Agora, along with its off-shoots to other districts. Very complicated set-up. Oh-Oh, there’s the main work leader, I better go, he’s always telling me how important his time is; nice meeting you both.”

A few paces later it was Xena’s turn, a tall, dark-haired woman, with a sword swinging at her side, dressed in high boots, long leather trousers in the Germanic style, tight linen shirt, and a decorated band round her high forehead stood before them, grinning widely.

Hi, Xena, killed anyone of import t’day yet?”

“Eliana! Thought you’d set out for Ephesus yesterday?”

“As ya see, the answer t’that is no.” She continuing to grin widely. “I was, but yesterday afternoon my Great-Aunt Julia Agravina decided to kick-off from this merry existence to a better life in the Elysian Fields.”

Oh.” From the naturally reserved part of the fighting duo.

Oh, that’s so sad; I’m so sorry for you!” From the part of the fighting duo with a lighter softer attitude towards others.

“I wouldn’t worry, nobody in the family liked the old b-tch!” Eliana telling it like it was. “Anyway, she left me, the Gods only know why, a huge settlement. I’m a rich young gadabout now, with no idea of what to do with my life, not just a poor one!”

Oh,—er,” Xena struggling for the correct answer to this revelation.

Ah!” Gabrielle, the realities of Life heavy on her shoulders, keeping her opinion to herself.


If you strolled through the Agora you had, by custom, to visit the Stoa of Attalos with its many shops and stalls on the open ground floor, reached by walking through the series of low columns which formed its street front; the upper storey also full with shops and a number of Government offices; its street front open too, with a low wall to waist height and small columns on top holding up the roof. Xena merely glanced its way, hoping to stroll on by, but the Amazon Queen had other ideas.

“Not so fast, baby, here we are.”

Oh, Gods!”

“Don’t be like that!”

“What could you possibly want t’buy here, that you haven’t already bought?”

“Not buy—need. Well, buy, too.”

“What, then?”

“Permits, from the Office of Religious Sanctity, for us to visit the Temple of Athena at Mount Athos in Macedonia. You know how usually women are not allowed to enter that region; so we’ll need a special permit.” Gabrielle coming clean with a slight blush. “What with the ongoing fever from the surrounding marshes there the Government are only giving a few visitors access for the time being; and I so want to visit there on our next expedition.”

Xena stepped back involuntarily.

“The Temples of Hera are there, too, y’know; just like the similar set-up at Paestum in Italy.”

Gabrielle shrugged innocent shoulders.

“Can’t have everything.”

“Hera an’ I don’t get on.” Xena laying out the facts in the case. “I go there—we both go there for the matter of that—anything might happen, Athena or no.”

Pinned in a corner Gabrielle sighed and came even cleaner.

“Well, if you must know—”

“Yeah, like, I do!”

“I visited Aphrodite a coupl’a nights ago, when you were fast asleep, sleeping off that raucous night of drinkin’ you indulged in—”

“You were there, too. Anyway, the wine was off, for sure.”

“I can hold my drink better than you, any day.” Gabrielle not taking this feeble excuse in any form. “Anyway, while you were snoring an’ huffling, drunk as a skunk, I was having a great time in Aphrodite’s realm.”

“So?” Xena giving in, as she always did in these situations.

“She said she had some influence on Hera, their Temples bein’ so close t’gether at Paestum an’ Athos. She was certain she could persuade Hera t’turn the other cheek, or at least look the other way for a while during our visit.”

Hmmph! Don’t trust that.”

“Well, I do, so we’re goin’.” Gabrielle putting her foot down. “All I need is the permits; the Office’s on the first floor of the Stoa, so, let’s go, lady.”

“Are these permits gon’na cost anything?”

“I thought I’d let you buy ‘em. Just as a nice personal present t’me, an’ you, of course.”

Oh, Gods!”


The scribe behind the table in the Office on the first floor of the Stoa looked as if he was a veteran in his field, he having seen every individual citizen of the City and heard every possible excuse for every problem known to the Government. When Gabrielle made her request his answer was quick and decisive.

“Women! Women not allowed on Mount Athos or the Temples there. Next!”

To say Gabrielle was incensed would be to underplay her reaction. To her naturally quick inborn temper, honed by years of being pushed around in her youth before meeting Xena, she now enjoyed when opposed in her wishes, as a result of fine honing by her Amazon compatriots and trainers, an wholly atrabilious nature that could face-off angry bears on a regular basis and always win hands down.

Oh, yeah? D’ya know who we are?”

“No! Next!”

“Listen, buster,” Gabrielle losing it altogether, leaning over the table to grasp the scribe by the neck fold of his toga. “I know Giorgos of Larisa, Senator Giorgos! We’re mates! Want I should tell him about your stonewalling one of his intimate friends? Intimate!”

Gabrielle here heavily overplaying her actual association with the Senator, but when in a tight place anything goes! Xena glancing up at the ceiling, closing her eyes as if not seeing meant not participating.

Oh!” The scribe impressed against his better nature.

“So, permits! And don’t overprice ‘em, my friend here’s got a sharp temper, in line with the cutting edge of her sword, savvy?”

Three breaths later the Amazon Queen, again undefeated, strode from the Office with the relevant permits in hand, Xena bringing up the rear with a mixture of shock and pride.

“Gabs, you sure are one, I’ll give ya that, baby!”

“All in the day’s work, lady.” The Amazon brushing it off as a thing of no moment.



Halfway along the Pan-Athenaic Way, heading south towards the Acropolis, the upper-class shops started appearing; those who sold the high-end leather goods, and metalwork, wonderful stylish clothes from a variety of countries, and fabrics from far distant lands reflecting wonderful exotic styles. Gabrielle was entranced by the silks from Japa, while Xena was equally so by the curious swords and daggers from the same source. It therefore being only logical that they should split up to enjoy the most benefit from covering their particular interests separately. Xena heading straight for a weapons shop on one side of the crowded Way while Gabrielle strode purposefully towards a fabric retailer on the opposite side.

Once inside the weapons shop, although obviously a high-class establishment, Xena found it followed the usual pattern—all the rubbish on show on racks near the door to capture the idly passing trade or those who had no idea of quality.

Gods, what a pile o’crap!”

She moved on further into the store, keeping an eagle eye out for the good things in life. Finally she rolled up to a table on which a series of daggers, from various sources, were displayed; a young female retainer standing guard in case of quick-footed thieves.

“What’s that one?”

The girl picked up the item indicated, holding it to the light from the door.

“A Flemish dagger, madam; from northern Gaul. Note the twisting curve of the sharp blade?”

Xena took it in hand, twisting it from side to side, testing its weight and balance.

“Yeah, not bad.”

Her interest was then taken by another piece, which she picked up herself.

“And this? I like the width of the blade, but seems a trifle long. And what are these figures scratched on the flat side of the blade?”

“It’s a dirk or skean dubh, from north Briton; a region called Alba, where the uncivilized Picts live. Brought back by a Centurion returning from duty on the Wall there. The marks are the native language, unreadable by civilized races, I understand!”

Hmm, interestin’ piece; think I like it.”

As she gazed at the curious weapon another caught her attention.

“What in Hades’ is this thing? Looks sort’a vicious, but elegant at the same time.”

The girl smiled, as if well used to this query.

“It’s a tantō, from far Japa. Note the curious wavy line along the sharp edge; the edge is hardened after the rest of the blade is fired, so making it especially sharp, giving a clean cut every time.”

Ah, expensive, is it?”

“I’m afraid we must ask twenty drachma, madam; a very exotic weapon!”

“Ya don’t say. I’’ll look further, see what else there is, OK?”

“Surely madam, at your leisure.”

Meanwhile, over at the fabric shop, Gabrielle was in the Elysian Fields.

“This is beautiful, what is it?”

“Rough silk from north Germania, a source hardly anyone knows of as yet, madam.” The elderly man in charge of the shop almost bursting with pride. “We here, specialize in such material, having a reliable source. Source, you will understand, is everything in this modern age of worldwide travel, madam.”

“it’s a gorgeous sky-blue—how’d they manage that?”

Ah, that would be giving away trade secrets, madam; not, of course, that I know myself.”

“Thanks, well, I’ll just look around, OK?”

“Surely, madam, as you will.”

Gabrielle stepped further along the aisle, colourful fabrics on trestles and hanging from high racks all round her. Some merely coloured, some with a variety of designs. Angular designs, curved designs, basic floral designs, and much more intricate design by excellent artists giving almost realistic qualities to the subjects.

And the choice of fabrics was noteworthy in itself; linens from Egypt, some so fine you wondered how on earth they had been made; woolen blankets from central Europe, their dark but intense colours making the recipient feel warm just by looking at them; cottons from the East of beautiful transparency; and finally silks from Japa of a quality never seen before. Bright colours, flowers of the finest detail, whole scenes spread across an entire roll of fabric, and the smooth almost water-like luster crying out to the incipient buyer to do so and wear the material with joy and happiness. Gabrielle sucked her breath in as she went past one perfect roll of silk to another even better, followed by others greater still. It was like being in a child’s dream of a house containing everything they had ever wanted.

“How much is this roll of silk?”

“That one, because of the scene depicted—blue sky with a green field and storks, you see, madam—will be fifteen drachma the arm span.” The man back at her elbow as if by magic. “Enough to make a peplos or chiton for you would amount to, oh, seventy-five drachma, madam!”


“Quality, madam, quality!”

“I’ll, er, I’ll look further, thanks.”

“As you wish, madam.”


A full clepsydra later the women met once more in the sunlit Way, each burdened down in their own particular manner. The Warrior Princess held a small parcel containing a long bladed dagger from Hispania with a carved bone haft while the Amazon Queen had contented herself with a light roll of pale green linen she thought might make a nice undershirt for herself; something to wear to bed, when she felt like wearing anything to bed, that is.

“How’d you do, lover?”

Xena unwrapped her parcel, showing the evil looking weapon with all the pride of a Royal Armourer their best piece.

Eeww! Nasty! But then, it is you, of course.”

Xena frowned, trying to work out as they walked on whether this was a compliment or the other thing.

Hmpph! An’ you?”

Gabrielle unfolded the outer wrapping of her purchase, allowing a corner of the green almost wholly transparent linen to catch the light.

“For nightwear. Like it?”

Judging by the wide grin the Princess couldn’t stop from spreading over her features it was pretty plain she did indeed like—vey much indeed, in fact.

“It’ll do, I’m sure. Hope it didn’t cost too much; we ain’t Princess’s, y’know, more like roaming paupers most times. Well, I am, sure,—a Princess; but ya get what I mean!”

“We’ll survive.” Gabrielle not falling for this old chestnut at all. “At least I will; don’t know about you! How much ya lose on that thing, dear?”

Xena sniffed authoritatively.

“Didn’t lose, gained an efficient deadly weapon, lover! Next barbarian, thug, thief, or brigand we meet’ll find out soon enough how good it is, believe me!”

Just then a cavalryman rode up, sitting his mount in full uniform and clearly on the lookout for the two women in particular.

Ho, Xena-Gabrielle!”

Ho, t’you, too. What ya want, we’re busy”?” Gabrielle valiantly trying to rebuff any attempt to get them to actually do any official work, within the meaning of the term.

“The City Security Force’s gon’na have a meeting tonight, everyone of authority t’be there. The Meeting-house near the Acropolis, the seventh hour after midday.”

Oh, sh-t!”

“We’ll be there.” Xena nodding acceptance.

Another moment and they were alone amongst the seething crowd again.

“Always something to mess things up.” Gabrielle mumbling incoherently to herself. “An’ just when I was havin’ a good day, too.”

“You’ve only just started, haven’t ya?” Xena getting it in while it was still hot. “Only bought one item so far t’day!”

“Madame, sometimes—!”

The next interruption arrived just in time to halt this idle chat—a one horse chariot turning out from a side street close by too confidently brushed against a passing woman knocking her to the ground. The young male driver, rapidly glancing sideways to see the outcome of the accident, lashed his steed, clearly deciding that distance and anonymity were the best responses to the situation while Xena and Gabrielle, of course, thought otherwise.

Xena, with one leap, darted in front of the vehicle, clutching the horse’s halter in an iron grip, bringing it to a halt in a couple of strides; Gabrielle lithely leapt onto the chariot, grabbing the driver round the waist and, using an Amazon wrestling throw, bringing him to the ground in a cloud of dust and a hearty thump.


“Serve ya right fer tryin’ t’run!” The Amazon Queen not ready to accept excuses. “Teach ya manners, ya dolt!”

Coming back to view the result of their involvement Xena helped Gabrielle to her feet, but put a steady strong boot on the youth’s back, keeping him lying in the dust; they now surrounded by an admiring crowd: Gabrielle dusting herself down before striding over to see how the female victim was doing.

“You OK, ma’am? Bruises, or anythin’?”

“No, thanks, just winded. What did he think he was doing? Didn’t he see me?”

“He didn’t care, is all; but glad you’re fine.” Gabrielle helping the woman to get herself together. “You can go on your way now; we’ll see t’this idiot.”

“OK, folks,” Xena exerting every ounce of her innate authority, scaring those close to her. “show’s over, go about your business, we’ve got it under control.”

A few breaths later the corner held only the stranded chariot, the temporarily indisposed driver, still lying in the dust, and the two warriors; Xena first to begin the inevitable, and certainly necessary, questioning by hauling the youth to his feet by way of a tight hand round his neck.

“OK, buster! What ya think ya’re doin?”

“Take your filthy hands off me!” The youth attempting, somewhat breathlessly, to exert what appeared to be an inbred and habitual sense of superiority. “Do you know who I am? I’ll have you both whipped round the city for this, dam’ you! Who cares a dam’ about the dam’ diseased peasant! Better if I’d really run her down an’ settled her hash permanently, dam’ her! Get the f-ck out’ta my life, ya wh-re!”

The cloud of dust rising as his already unconscious body, curtesy of the Princess’s perfect left-hander, hit the ground for the second time almost rivalled that of his first contact with the local Grecian earth; Gabrielle giving a short nod of approval.

“There’s a group of Civil Guards along at the next corner. Think they’ve noticed us. Lem’me wave ‘em up. We’ll give ‘em the details, then be on our way. Gods, can’t we go anywhere without scratty scumbags jumpin’ out from every pothole in the dam’ road!”


The Téssera crossroads, where another street crossed the Pan-Athenaic Way at right-angles halfway between the Agora and Acropolis heralded a pause in their Odyssey when the ladies reached it. Standing on one corner was a large stone plinth atop of which sat a curious and somewhat complicated mechanical instrument enclosed in a wooden box but with a facia looking out on the thoroughfare with flat metal pointers revolving round an outer circle of incised numbers. Both hands pointing to the same number, at the top of the circle, and the sun being at its height overhead, the populace were so invited to imagine, if not outright actually believe, that it was now exactly midday.

“A Time-countin’ machine!” Gabrielle not impressed. “They’ll never catch on, take my word for it!”


“Well, back t’the Inn, or find a eatin’house somewhere close by—very close by!”

“For why—or which?”

“Soup, darlin’.” The Amazon patting her stomach affectionately. “The Lady’s got an appetite!”

Gods!” Xen giving in instantly, knowing the impossibility of any other course. “Wouldn’t wan’na stand between a starvin’ Amazon an’ her nourishment. Eatin’-house. That one over there do?”

“It’ll have soup, what more d’ya want! Let’s go!”

Inside, sitting at a bench as far away as possible from the two stone ovens, fierce fires burning under each, that heated the various dishes on the top surface, Gabrielle got down to the important matters of the day.

“They have vegetable or beef soup—which ya fancy, doll?”

Hah! Ya sure got an attitude on ya t’day! OK, beef.”

“As if I hadn’t guessed!” Gabrielle keeping her end up heroically. “OK, garçon, one beef, one vegetable. What’s for the main course?”

The scruffy and hard-pressed man shrugged disinterestedly.

“We got bean mash, steak fritters, boiled fish, fried fish, eel pie, octopus in red wine with two boiled veg, kedgeree, or boiled haggis, a recipe from far Alba. The latter freshly made from imported wild Haggi newly killed t’day.”

He saying this last with a peculiar expression neither the Queen nor Princess could quite read.

Yeuch!” Xena sure of her position on one of the items, at least. “Had haggis that last time we visited the Northern Wall there—never again!”

Gabrielle couldn’t stop a grin forming on her sweet perfect pink lips.

“What? The Wall or the haggis?”

“Fool! I’ll have the steak fritters, thanks.”

“Eel pie for me. Can ya add boiled corn, too? With cayenne pepper?”

Gods, woman! Ya put that stuff on every dam’ thing ya eat! Surprised your stomach ain’t burnt to a crisp yet!”

“Different outlooks, different tastes, dear.” Gabrielle smiling smugly. “You don’t know what you’re missing.”

The act of settling down to refresh those inner parts that thrived on food well-cooked, or at least merely cooked, now in progress all that could be heard was the clatter of cutlery against pewter plates; even the usually loquacious Amazon nearly silent as she imbibed her vittals like a professional.

And here the varying eating habits of the differing Regions of Greece could be appreciated in all their glory. Xena, from Amphipolis, ate with a curious delicacy considering her chosen Life career; while Gabrielle, from Potidaea, ate like a ravished sailor deprived of fare for a week, her usual habit at every meal. With Xena you could never tell what had formed her last meal; with Gabrielle a close scrutiny of the stains and crumbs on her clothes would normally provide the interested spectator with a full itinerary of every meal she had consumed that day from breakfast to late supper.

And, of course, as in every public eating-house, there was always one who had a perceived distaste for what had been offered him, and wanted to make his displeasure known. A burly, not very clean, customer rose from a side table with a plate in his hand and a red flush covering his features; they of no great worth to begin with.

Ho, landlord, ya call this mush food? I wouldn’t give it t’my dawg! But, by Hades, I’m gon’na make you eat the dam’ mess!”

He moved forward menacingly towards the sweating man overseeing the ovens at the rear of the shop, but Gabrielle was too quick for him. Pausing for only a few seconds in the serious business of eating she displayed her world renowned expertise in the Amazon leg-kick technique. Swiveling as her prey passed by behind her, she stuck out her right boot, tripping him without warning; as he folded she brought her left boot into play, sticking it right in his gut, then again jerked her right boot lower down, contacting his most cherished possessions with a hearty impact that made the other male customers wince in unison; the victim collapsing to the dusty floor a spent force in the food critic line.

“Sorry about the mess on the floor, Landlord.”

“Thank you, won’t take but a instant t’mop it up, lady! Only a little hash.”

“Wasn’t talkin’ about that!” Gabrielle returning to her fare as if merely having swatted an annoying fly.


The view of the Acropolis from this section of the Pan-Athenaic Way was spectacular. The Propylaea, the large gated entrance to the top of the low hill, stood white and strongly outlined while just above and behind the massive bronze statue of Athena with her gold-tipped spear, reflections from which could be seen by sailors from as far away as Cape Sounion, cut the skyline; while on the eastern side the magnificent Parthenon dominated that area of the peak of the hill.

“Shall we?” Gabrielle staring towards the magnificent sight with raised eyebrows.

“Nah, ain’t got no reason to—you?”

“Reason? No, not really; just, I thought—”

“Then why bother?” Xena sure of her position.

“What about the poetry an’ simple pleasure of—”

“Poetry! What? Pleasure in climbing a dam’ steep hill on a hot day? For why? Ya suddenly got religion, or what? Not that there ain’t Gods, o’course. We know that well enough; but worshipping the bums! That’s a different matter.”

“Poetry passed you by in your early education, didn’t it, madame?” Gabrielle unable to resist telling it like it was.

“It didn’t infest me, like a nasty disease, if that’s what you’re tryin’ t’imply!” The Princess refusing to see sense because she chose not to.

Huh! OK, no Acropolis!” Gabrielle giving up the one-sided argument, knowing she wasn’t going to make any reasonable impression. “What time’s it, anyway? Been a coupl’a hours since our lunch; if we walk slowly it’ll just be time for dinner when we get back t’the Inn in Lycabettus. What ya say, doll?”

“D’ya ever think of anything except your dam’ stomach?” Xena sighing loudly. “The amount you put away every day you ought t’weigh around two hundred pounds by now.”

Gabrielle, well aware of her petite litheness, merely shrugged this nasty remark off with all the scorn it merited.

“Y’know, the older ya get, baby, the more you sound like a crabby Boeotian farmer every day. Just an observation of mine! Shall we take the Way back, or the side streets?”

The Amazon taking long strides ahead, leaving Xena in her wake, the Princess instead of fielding a perfect reply which had just occurred to her, had instead to jump to catch up.

Hey! Wait fer me! Is there a fire somewhere, or what?”

Then, as they were proceeding homewards at a fair pace the inevitable happened—Xena suddenly had a chance to show-off her military prowess and knowledge gained over many years. In the gutter of the road three children were playing with toy wooden swords; two 12 year old-ish boys in small togas and a young girl the same approximate age in a small chiton. As they passed the women saw the girl round on one of the boys who had just hit her side with the flat of his sword and give him such a thump in return he fell over with a cry of pain. Xena was delighted.

Hi, gal, nice action! But use the edge next time—much more effective, an’ don’t forget t’follow through. Gives ya much more power in the swing. Remember that when ya grow up, but  good start, sure; boy got what was comin’ t’him.”

Which was about as bad a suggestion as could be—a distrait mother erupting from the door of the nearest building in a full-on motherly rage, and not at the kids.

“Who in Hades ya think ya are, woman! Messin’ with my kids like that? What ya mean tellin’ Sophia ter hit him harder? Are ya some sort’a monster or what? Get away with ya, b-tch!”

Xena was taken aback, having no prepared or acceptable reply to this unexpected tirade; Gabrielle politically standing to one side pretending she wasn’t there, valiantly struggling within herself not to laugh out loud.

“What’s goin’ on? What’s she up ter?” From another woman, head of a small group of three or four, their attention caught by the budding argument, having now mysteriously materialized from seemingly nowhere, as such groups often do, surrounding the bickering trio.

“Accostin’ young Sophia here. An’ the boys too, t’my mind. Some sort’a one o’those kinky monsters who go fer kids I’m sure.” With an appreciative back-up the Mother now in her element. “Ho, Guards! Security Guard! Ain’t it always the same! Ya need a Security Guard, there ain’t one between here an’ the dam’ Parthenon! Guard! Guard!”

“This way, darlin’.” Gabrielle coming to her partner’s rescue. “There’s a corner just up ahead; we can lose ‘em in the side streets—come on!”

Following-up this request by peremptorily grabbing her lover’s arm, pulling her forward, they left the group of still shouting women behind though not without a few parting shots echoing in the public street after them.

“An’ don’t come back, or I’ll have the Guard on ye first thing I sees either or both o’yer agin, b-tches!”

Twenty breathless strides later and they were safely round the corner and in the maze of lanes and alleys that ran behind the Pan-Athenaic Way, lost to sight and sound of their attackers.

Gods, the citizens of this dam’ polis are more dangerous than Scythian brigands!” Xena pausing, somewhat anxiously, to catch her breath. “Are we safe?”

“Yeah, lost ‘em.” Gabrielle for some reason unable to stop a wide grin from flowing over her features. “Why in Hades did you take it into your head t’give that child lessons in fighting, right in front of her mother? Have you no sense at all?”

“She had a fine arm action—just thought some expert advice’d prove worthwhile’s all.”



“Don’t do that again—got me?”

“What about—”




Oh, sh-t!”


There being no sense in staying amongst the winding side streets to the west of the Way Xena and Gabrielle soon sidled, if cautiously so, back into the main thoroughfare, keeping a watchful eye open for any interested Guards who might have been informed of the earlier fracas, but all seemed quiet as they mingled with the flowing crowds once more.

“It’s somewhere along this stretch.”

Xena raised a curious eyebrow.

“What is?”

“The leather goods shop.”

“What leather goods shop? Thought you’d expended all your shoppin’ energy earlier? Not t’say all your drachmas!”

“Wan’na buy a leather pouch, with a shoulder strap, for an Amazon friend. Top quality; the shop’s around here somewhere.”

But Xena was following another track.

“Amazon friend? Friend? Who’s that, then? Jus’, y’know—”

“Darlin’, I have other friends, an’ a mite of acquaintances, all to my little self, y’know—not just you!”


“Here it is; come on, nearly closin’ time.”


Inside the shadowy interior, the shop having only a small exterior window, lamps were already lit casting shadows over the goods laid out on racks, hanging from horizontal poles, and on benches and stalls. For all the establishment obviously catered to the higher end of Society there were still a fair number of customers milling around the aisles, eyeballing the expensive wares.

“Look at this small leather skirt, Xena! Ain’t it quaint?”

“That! More like a thin scarf t’me. No-one could wear that as a skirt an’ remain decent.”

Gabrielle raised an impish eyebrow.

“An’ that includes you, lady.” Xena implacable on this point of moral virtue, or implied lack of same.

“What about this jerkin, then.” The Amazon changing her direction of attack.

“OK, but how’d ya close it? What’re those jagged metal strips down each side where buttons ought’a be?”

Gabrielle, with her innate knowledge of modern style, had the answer to hand.

“You clip the tag at the bottom, on this side, into the bottom on the other side, then pull the little metal handle there all the way up. See?”

Huh! Bound t’rust solid in the rain or get clogged with dust an’ dirt. It’ll never catch on, trust me.”

But Gabrielle had already spotted something far more interesting.

“What about these leggings? Leather, an’ in the Germanic style. Think I’d look good in ‘em. Might—”

The Princess, however, was on a critical voyage without a port in sight.

“Those? Look how small they are! They’d be so tight on you they’d be like a second skin. It’d be—it’d be—well, immoral!”

Gabrielle laughed out loud, making some of the nearby customers take interested note.

“Xena, sometimes you act so like my old Grandma it hurts!”

Oh, thanks. Only tryin’ t’save you from yourself’s all! No-one else around t’do so!”

“Idiot! Oh, here they are.”

Xena glancing at the stall indicated was relieved to see they had arrived at the objects her lover had first suggested as her immediate quarry—the leather hand pouches.

“Yeah, OK. So, which one?”

“Gim’me a chance!” Gabrielle, as always, in no hurry. “Let me browse, thanks.”

The Princess sighed, well knowing what was about to happen.

“Browse? There’s a difference between examining the wares an’ then buyin’ something, and taking up residence in a shop for the duration, only t’be evicted when the roof caves in from old age an’ dry rot—that latter bein’ your usual routine, baby!”

“Fool! Gim’me room, this’s important. Now, what colour would she appreciate best?”

Again, this only impelled Xena along her earlier concerned path.

“She? Who’s this she? Just, I like to meet my lover’s friends, when the chance occurs. Do I know this friend, at all?”

The Amazon made a noise between compressed lips that wasn’t at all polite.

“If you must know—and I don’t know why you should be so interested!—she has red hair, an edgy temper, and her best friend, after me, is her sagaris axe”

Oh,” Xena relieved beyond compare. “Bremusa! Why didn’t ya say, gal? OK, go ahead.”

Gabrielle snorted sarcastically.

“So glad you approve! Well, let’s see, this brown one looks the part; not small, but not too large, either. What d’you think?”

But the Princess had now lost all interest.

“Couldn’t care less; make your own mind up, can’t you!”

Oh, that’s nice!”

Pushed into a corner Xena finally came clean.

Oh, sorry; but it’s my dam’ feet! I’ve been walking round this semi-derelict township all bloody mornin’ an’ most of the bloody afternoon, an’ my feet are killin’ me! I need t’get back t’our Inn an’ bathe them in a bowl of warm scented water fast’s ya like. Only a suggestion, of course, lover mine!”

Attacked so unmercifully on her soft spot Gabrielle sighed wearily.

“OK, darlin’. Seein’ you’re in so much distress I’ll make it quick. I don’t think this sample’s quite the thing, mind. I’ll take a look at the rest of the stock; won’t take but, oh, three more clepsydras or so; then we can go home. OK? Oh, look, there’s a nice piece! I think Bremusa’d like this. What’s your opinion, lover? Or, perhaps, this one, meb’be?—”

Oh, Gods!”


The End



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