' The Feast of Scipio Frontinus '

By Phineas Redux


Contact: Phineas_Redux@yahoo.com



Summary:— An innocently meant erotic fantasy, not too extreme, on a Theme of Xena and Gabrielle. They being invited to attend a Roman Proconsul's evening banquet in his Athenian villa, where a newly morally outgoing Gabrielle intends giving her first public wholly uninhibited dance performance, Xena willing.

Note:— The text of Frontinus's invitational letter-scroll is taken from Ben Jonson's ‘ Inviting a Friend to Supper ', ‘ Epigrams ', 1616.

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

This is the 7 th in the ‘ Xena's Exploits ' series—

1. Xena and the Island Fortress.

2. Xena and the Scythian Spy.

3. Gabrielle on the Chalcis Ferry.

4. Xena And the Kraken.

5. Xena And the Lost Ship.

6. Xena iIn the Baths of Trajan.

7. The Feast of Scipio Frontinus.


Hey, Gabrielle.” Xena sat at the table in their room on the second floor of the quiet Athenian Inn, reading the letter-scroll which had just been delivered that morning by a servant. “It's from the Proconsul Frontinus, of all people. He invites us to a banquet tonight. Hmm , should we go?”

“Yeah, I suppose so. Doesn't do t'rub these bigwigs the wrong way, y'know. The nasty side o'politics, an' all that—don't want him to pull a childish tantrum, do we?” Gabrielle resplendent in her nudity, for she was indeed as naked as a babe at the present moment, stood gazing—in apparent unknowing inner abstraction over the merely thigh-high lower frame, protected by a low iron rail, of the open-shuttered window— at the multifarious activity going-on in the street below; outwardly to all appearances wholly unaware of the reaction her unclothed beauty was having on certain of the passing crowd, Athens seeming extra busy that morning. “I was goin' to write a scroll, but I expect that can wait.”

“Write yer scrolls, pu-urph! ” Xena produced this disparaging noise between pursed lips, making the Amazon Queen turn to frown over her bare shoulder at the Princess. “If ye write any more scrolls, especially about me, the world holdings o' parchment'll be destroyed, t'no purpose. Give it a break, lady.”

Oh yeah ? My scrolls are always about you , are they, dear?” Gabrielle was incensed. “A great deal ya think o' yourself, don't'cher? Where do I come in, in your exploits, then? Just a passing member o' the Public, eh?”

“Don't give me that, dear.” Xena remained unimpressed. “Anyways, we're goin' ter Frontinus' banquet this evening, then?”

“O'course.” Gabrielle sniffed with dignity, nose high in the air. “As a matter o' fact I already knows about this here banquet; Frontinus spoke with me two days ago about it. I having a— er , I expects he'll be wanting to speak with me about Literature, an' philosophers, more'n he'll want t'hear about the latest sword designs from Macedonia, or wherever. The Higher Culture is what matters these day, Xena my love; rather than mere, hum , vulgar fighting an' killin' vagabonds, or suchlike.”

At this blatant example of self-promotion Xena turned fully round, to stare at the blonde Amazon, whose lips were still visibly curling with ill-suppressed glee.

Gabrielle remained standing comfortably with the sole of one booted foot, the only clothing presently covering her entire ivory-naked body, resting on the edge of a chair while she somewhat off-handedly perused the scroll she was engaged on; unaware, to all intents and purposes apparently, she was doing so otherwise entirely naked in front of a window where the people in the street below had a perfect view.

Then the tall dark warrior inclined her head slightly as she watched her partner, before smirking quietly to herself—Gabrielle was definitely gettin' above herself; and Xena considered, with an evil smile, a variety of methods capable of bringing this rebellious fact to the Amazon's attention.

Oh , that'd work, yeah.” Xena raised her eyes to the low raftered ceiling for a moment, then returned to staring at her partner. “You sure y're usual small top's all ya wan'na wear t'day, along with that new short skirt o'yours, when we go out, darling? The men'll have a field day whistling at you. It doesn't cover much, y'know—especially from the back. Remember that old merchant we passed two days ago, being hauled along in his fancy litter in the street. We turned round when we heard the commotion, an' it was him having a fit at the sight of your semi-unclothed—no, let's be truthful—your naked , that's nude , back. Poor fella.”

“Dirty old man.” The Amazon Queen showed no mercy. “He was far too ancient to be thinkin' about such things, anyway. Aagh , an' with me , too. Uugh.

“Even old men have their fond memories. Cut him some slack.” Xena spoke with all the experience of a seasoned traveller in the land of Aphrodite. “Well, I mean, ya might think about wearin' that long brown an' white woolen coat.”

“In weather like this?” Gabrielle negated that idea with a firm snap of her head, which set her short blonde hair rippling—Xena noticed. “I'd fry in the heat. Nah , I'm OK. Gods , look at me, as it is? I'm naked from top t'toe, an' still covered in sweat, running down my back, an' over my breasts—see? If anyone makes remarks I'll soon settle them, don't worry.”

It was at this point that the Warrior Princess finally woke to reality and did see; her first single thought being Oh Hades, this gal is trouble , but she didn't say it out loud. What she did say aloud was—

Great Artemis , gal, y're naked?”

“Yeah, I've just said so.” Gabrielle having turned her back on the busy street outside the open window with, it must be admitted, a certain poised almost knowing grace of movement, rested the back of her lower thighs against the low iron rail—thus giving the attentive spectators, now with cricks in their necks, another beautiful view of bare gleaming buttocks and finely muscled back. “An' covered in sweat, like I said, too; though it's still only early mornin'.”

“Not so early the crowd down in the street, out there, haven't been havin' the time o' their lives, appreciatin' the free view ye've been givin' ‘em this last quarter of a clepsydra.”

Gabrielle, apparently awoken to reality herself, opened her mouth in a fine approximation of silent shock, turned round to stare down into the very busy street—something of a blockage in the free movement of traffic having recently occurred right outside her window for some reason—gazed apparently transfixed at the mass of upturned faces delighting in her nude beauty for a considerably longer time than seemed really necessary, a faint simper still trembling excitedly at the corners of her lips, then took a delicate unhurried dancing step backwards; finally arriving, not much put out if the truth be told, close to the Warrior's lap.

F-ck me , ye might'a told me before, ya fool.” Gabrielle, recovering remarkably quickly, immediately affected an air of innocent surprise, but without much true credibility. “I've been givin' those, those, er , characters down in the street a free bloody show fer bloody hours. Gods .”

“What could I do, lady?” Xena pretending a casual off-hand uninvolvement in the late scenario; she seeing straight through Gabrielle's subterfuge. “ You were the one who stripped t'the bare flesh, then sauntered over t'give the whole populace o'Athens, fer ages an' ages, a free viewing o'coming attractions. Only yerself t'blame, ducks. Maybe—don't take this as a signed Law, mind—maybe y'might think about puttin' some clothes on? Jest a passin' thought, dear.”

“Idiot”. Still exhibiting only the merest hint of a blush, seemingly at her lack of attention to the social niceties, though perhaps also through a lingering suspicion the Warrior Princess knew the Amazon wasn't as entirely innocent in her actions as the blonde wanted to appear, the pseudo-unintentional Amazon exhibitionist danced composedly over to the large bed and started rummaging amongst the clothes ready laid out there.

“What does Frontinus write, then?” Gabrielle, as she searched for fitting clothes, setting her mind to safer matters. “What's on the menu? Something scrumptious, I hope.”

The Inn they were staying at during this, their latest visit to Athens for no particular reason, was of a reliable second-class efficiency. Not a palace by any means; but not impossible either. Quite comfortable in fact, as Gabrielle had admitted after their first night there. It went under the name of the ‘ Mermaid ', providing full-board and fine wines, as the written notice above the main entrance proclaimed. The first being true, though of merely Spartan efficacy; while the latter left something to be desired in the way of downright truthfulness. The room they had engaged was fairly large, being rectangular with solid oak floorboards and low raftered ceiling. The walls were whitewashed and the room was clean, with a flavour of flowers from the polished wood table and wide sideboard in the corner. When they opened the door and low drawers of the wardrobe, sitting against the wall, a scent of cedarwood came forth in waves. The bed was wide, softly mattressed, with clean white linen sheets and fluffy pillows. The window, scene of the late crime against the social mores of Athens, was high, with a low ledge, and double-mullioned. Altogether they could, as even Xena allowed, have done worse.

“Well, listen to this.” Xena flicked the short scroll, then started quoting from its beginning. “He says—‘ Tonight, grave ladies, both my poor house and I do equally desire your company. Not that we think us worthy such guests, but that your worth will dignify our feast. it would honour both my poor house and I equally if you are pleased to attend this evening's banquet.

“Dam' Roman smarm.” Gabrielle unimpressed from the start.

“— It is the fair acceptance, ladies, creates the entertainment perfect, not the victuals—yet you shall have, to rectify your palate, an olive, capers, or some better salad ushering the mutton; with a short-legged hen, if we can get her, full of eggs .” Xena smirked across at her companion. “Here it comes, you can start droolin' now, girl—‘ Olives, of course—of nine separate varieties. Lemons, and wine for sauce; to these a coney is not to be despaired of, for our money .

Mmm , I'm in.” The Amazon, relenting, licked her lips unashamedly. “Try'n hold me back, ducks, that's all. What's next? Come on, don't keep me on tenterhooks, I'm hungry already.”

“— Gods , what a woman; don't know how I've suffered you all these years—‘ partridge, pheasant, woodcock; of which some may yet be here, and godwit, if we can .” The Princess snuggled more comfortably on her chair and bent over the scroll, entranced by its contents. “ And though fowl now be scarce, yet there are scribes, the sky not falling, think we may have larks.

Oh Athena , I so love lark pie. Don't you, Xena?”

“Wait, I ain't finished.” The Princess grinning at her starving lover. “ ‘ I'll tell you of more, and lie, so you will come —”

Hah , no need for that, I'm so there, lady.” Gabrielle licked her lips again. “Fight ya, for the best place at the table.”

Hiirph— some hope.” The black-haired warrior thus expressing doubt of her companion's chances, but continuing bravely against all odds. “— a rhetor will declaim pieces from Virgil, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger; or some better book to us, of which we'll speak our minds amidst our meat.

Hmm , sounds like we could have a pretty good time.” Gabrielle pursed her lips somewhat censoriously, however. “Say, he' ain't goin' t'have that rhetor spoutin' from the dam' Iliad while we eat, is he?”

“I don't think so. The last party we attended with him didn't go that far.” Xena smiled sweetly. “And I'll promise not to boast about any of my own exploits; much as they would be appreciated, no doubt.”

Thank Athena.

“Gabrielle, darlin' o'my heart, y're gettin' close to the edge of a crumblin' cliff, an' I'm goin' t'be there t'push you off.” The Warrior gave her audience a distinctly not-impressed look, then returned to her letter. “ ‘ We shall start just after sundown, and I expect you both as early as is possible, for you are my most valued guests. Yours, Scipio Frontinus .' ”

“Does he say anything about what wine he's providin'.” The Amazon Queen, putting forth her long held view of herself as a connoisseur of the grape, recognised the important issues at these binges. “Hope it's not that awful yellow stuff they brew from young wine and pine resin— Gruuagh!

“Wait a bit,” Xena scoured the details of the scroll once more. “He does say somethin' about wine— ah , here it is. ‘ But that, which most doth take my Muse and me, is a pure goblet of rich Falernian , which is the Mermaid's now, but shall be mine. Of which had Horace, or Anacreon tasted, their lives, as do their lines, till now had lasted.' There you go. Does that come up to my revered Queen's high standards?”

“I can swallow any amount of Falernian.” Gabrielle raised her eyes to the ceiling once again, obviously fondly recalling past drinking bouts. “It has to be at least thirty years old t'be any good, y'unnerstan'. Y'can't get it just anywhere, y'realise. But—”

“Gabs, I do not wish to know about the probably limitless number of drinkin' dens of the world you've patronised.” The Warrior Princess delivered this aside with a tone of uprighteous moral rectitude, sniffing disapprovingly. “He goes on a little more—‘ Nor shall our goblets make any guilty women, or men; but at our parting we will be as when we innocently met. No simple word, that shall be uttered at our mirthful board, shall make us sad next morning; or afright the liberty, that we'll enjoy tonight.' Oh Aphrodite ,—some invitation. We really goin', right?”

“Too true, we're goin', Princess.” Gabrielle nodded assertively, and thumped her fist on the table for added emphasis. “We're goin', alright. Wonder what he means by those last few words, though? Got sumthin' secret he wants t'tell us about over the Falernian, I suppose. Oh well , we're goin' to eat Frontinus's house bare of provender. We're goin' t'drink the house dry. An' we're goin' t'dance the night away; then sing ourselves back along the streets to our warm bed here. An' if anyone tries t'argue with us in the streets, they'll feel the fine points o' my sais. Ahh , looks as if I'll need t'sharpen ‘em, too. Where's that small whetstone, darlin'? Duty calls.”

“Damn the stone, Gabs.” Xena had finally had enough. She rose majestically to her full height and faced-off the still naked Amazon Queen. “I think I have a few tight muscles in the small of my back; they've been nigglin' me all morning. So, here's the choices. You can sharpen your poor blunt sais; or you can settle down an' give me a long sweet ever-so-comfortin' back rub to end all back-rubs. The choice is yours, Queen-Consort o' my Heart.”

There was a short—a very short—pause. Then came the dull thud as a stone landed on the floorboards by the window—followed thereafter by both light sustained Amazonian giggles, and deeper growls of approval from another source.




“It's nearly dark outside now, Xena.”

“Right, got everything?”

“Les'see, wha'd'we need? Arms an' cloaks-yep, we're ready.”

Huh , glad you're so sure, dear.” Xena shook her head at the curious preparations of her Amazon lover. “Cloak, yeah, but I wouldn't call what you're laughingly wearin' under it actual clothes. A coupl'a gossamer-light veils, hah ; might as well be naked.”

“Well, that's the intention.” Gabrielle wholly composed in the face of amateur criticism. “Later, at the banquet, I'm gon'na dance myself entirely naked, for all the guests t'see, ain't I? Like I told you earlier? Don't worry, you'll enjoy the show. You'll come round to my way o' thinking, like the guests; they'll know a good nude dancer when they see me; just take your reaction from them, lady. An' remember, it's all simply pure Art.”

Wiirph. What about findin' our way about Athens, in the dark?”

“Lady, nowadays I can find my way through a trackless forest on a moonless night.” The Amazon Queen scorned this quibble on the part of her boon companion. “City streets are nuthin', compared.”

Oh ? Glad ya think so.” Xena's expression, half smile, half light sneer, hinted at her impression of this attitude. “ OK , I'll go out first; an' for all the Gods' sakes, don't slam the bloody door after you, like ya usually do. We don't wan'na wake everyone from Lycabettus t'Piraeus.”

“Get on with it, woman.” Gabrielle chose to ignore this contumely as she tightened the neck-band of her deep-blue thigh-length cloak, it being a cool night out. “Warrior Princesses, Gods .”

“What was that?”

“Nuthin', sunshine, nuthin'—come on, move it, will you.”

OK, OK .”

Gabrielle paused to slowly and quietly close the heavy door of the Inn behind them; then they were in the narrow secondary street, somewhere south of Lycabettus and north of the Agora, making their quiet, even stealthy, way down towards the Acropolis.

“How far's it t'Frontinus' place?” The blonde Amazon was always interested in such minute, and annoying, details.

Umm , maybe twelve stadia, or so. Not far.”

“That's helpful.” Gabrielle snorted, taking a deep breath of the sweet night air. “ Hey , look, y'can see a myriad o'stars, all over the heavens. Gods , that's beautiful.”

“Never mind the bloody stars, mind the edge of these stones at the side of the road, that pedestrians walk on. They're about two handspans high; y'could break an ankle slippin' off one unexpectedly, on'ta the road.”

“Well, y'could if y'were so silly as not t'be keepin' an eye out for them, lady.”

“Exactly my point, girl.”

“Don't call me girl.”

OK , anythin' t'keep ya happy.” Something like a concealed simper made itself heard for an instant, before being ruthlessly suppressed. “How's your gladius? Comfortable?”

“No it ain't, not by a long way.” Here Gabrielle took up the burden of a diatribe of criticism she had waged earlier in the evening. “Why should I have'ta take a bloody gladius, anyway? Y'know fine I'm easy with my sai. Nuthin' like a good pair o'sai; cover every possible eventuality, y'know, dearest. An' I'm only wearin' the thin veils I intends t'dance in, later, darlin', y'know. The gladius scabbard's spoilin' the lines o' my veils.”

Ssh . Will ya, for Artemis' sake , keep the sound down. People on ships out in the Bay, past Piraeus, can hear ya.” The Warrior Princess curled a scornful lip. “It's just extra security, is all. Athens is a hotbed o'scum an' ruffians, after dark. Wouldn't want a little ol' naïve country gal gettin' herself in trouble in the dark, would I.”


“Are ya really gon'na dance at the banquet, in that get-up?” Xena again taking up the gist of an earlier criticism of her own. “ Fer all the Gods sakes , ye're dam' nearly naked; I knows yer means it that way but, Hades , people can see right through those dam' veils o' spider's webs, lady; if'n ye didn't realise the fact already—which I knows ye surely does. An' d'ye really mean ter, er , take ‘em all off, an' finish in the nude? Is that necessary? It is a Greek symposium cum Roman banquet—we don't wan'na turn the whole thing in'ta a orgy, y'know.”

“Fool, my dancin' naked ain't gon'na create unbounded abandon; everybody dances naked these days; it's a statement o' the purity o' the female body an' it's rightful place in a reasoned Society; don't ye know that, at least—all the rage, nowadays, I believes. Anyway, I'm lookin' forward to it—had lots o' practice lately, dancin' nude alongside my Amazon sisters.”

Ares whatnots , those dam' Amazon sisters o' yourn have a lot t'answer fer.”

“What was that, lady? Didn't quite catch it, ye're whisperin' too low.”

“I'm whisperin' jest right, lady, don't worry. Come along, time's a'wastin'.”

The street being narrow; the buildings lining it being two to three storeys high; and its convolutions being devious and winding, the pedestrians were necessarily cloaked in deepest shadow, not to say complete stygian darkness. However, Gabrielle did seem to be living up to her earlier vaunts, skipping along smoothly and confidently like a little girl playing on a bright sunny day.




The villa of Scipio Frontinus, though nominally in the centre of the city, stood in its own private grounds; surrounded by a high stone wall, providing a fair amount of privacy; its first floor windows giving a fine view over the spreading city rooftops to Piraeus and the open Bay beyond. It was built in two storey's, with a delightful pillared portico and an enclosed garden with colonnade. The banqueting room took up almost the whole of the West Wing, near the kitchens; to allow for food coming to the tables whilst still hot. The hall enclosed a large space, the full two storey's high with wooden beams showing in the raftered sloping roof; a double row of marble pillars running its length, with space in the central area for any amount of couches and tables, though still leaving enough room to move around freely. The centre of the floor, left bare, was also ample enough for dancing exhibitions, or other entertainments. The room was lit by torches in metal sconces fixed along the walls and on the pillar-sides, while there were enough smaller oil-lamps scattered about to give excellent light; though the shadows still wavered drunkenly in the farther corners of the room, and in the dark angles of the high rafters.

Frontinus's House Steward, Lucianus, a freeman of imposing and stand-offish demeanour, had a great deal on his mind this coming evening. First there were the crowd of guests, all important persons of quality or wealth, or indeed both. Then there was the veritable army of slaves and free servants who would be administering to either the smooth running of the banquet, or the service of the guests themselves. Being the Proconsul—effectively the Roman power behind the Athenian Senate—Frontinus on such an occasion would need to have a section of the local Athenian hoplite regiment on hand, for security reasons and pure show; the Roman centurion leading this being, by necessity, a guest as well. Also not forgetting to take into account the huge numbers of cooks and servants in the vast kitchens; cooking and bringing together, at the appropriate times, all the exotic mixed ingredients of the banquet. There were also the throng of athletes, dancers, and other general entertainers on call in the outlying areas of the villa, who would provide an ongoing show for the guests during the course of the evening. The whole thing would need careful oversight, if no unforeseen problem or accident was to impinge on the guests' enjoyment throughout the evening.




It was pitch dark when Xena and Gabrielle arrived; and immediately a small argument took place in the vestibule; the higher servant in charge insisting on relieving the incoming male guests, coming before and after Xena and Gabrielle, of their swords and other weapons whilst allowing the warrior women to enter unhindered; an ongoing instruction from Frontinus himself—a stance which met with, as was only to be expected, dark frowns and several remarks from oligarchical well-bearded men and suave well-dressed women accompanying them of a nature to turn anyone's blood to ice, though the servant bravely stood his ground. Gabrielle, by a tight pressure of her hand on the wary black-haired warrior's clenched fist, held her back from any ill-advised retribution and so brought order to the situation; though Xena still favoured those responsible with an ill grace, dark frown, and low discontented growl.

Finally inside the great banquet chamber, already crowded with most of the other invited guests, all was forgotten as both women for the first time encountered the true magnificence of the Roman ego, freed of all physical restriction or moral encumbrance.

The walls, stretching away on both sides into what seemed like infinity, were of white marble with thin twisting yellow and crimson veins running through, like blood-vessels in a human body; thus affording the vast room a more brilliant illumination than might have been expected, as the walls reflected the candles and torches a thousandfold. The floor was of light green marble with darker blue and green striations, as of streams rippling across a grassy plain. All was polished to a scintillating gloss, so that by staring at their feet any guest so inclined could examine their own features in detail. The tables, scattered about with seeming insouciance, were of black ebony edged with pure silver. The low couches, upholstered in light blue or dark crimson silk, were of pale oak exquisitely carved with griffins, gerfalcons, and hippogriffs all painted gold. The eating utensils, knives, spoons, and suchlike were all of solid silver. The platters and dishes for the various courses of thin but pure gold, or richly incised and decorated red Samian ware; the wine goblets of silver, or transparent crystal.

Holy Artemis .” Gabrielle was first to react, as a servant in a long crimson robe led them to their couches a third of the way along the vast room. “Incredible. Wha'd'ya think of all this, Xena?”

“Wha'd I think o'what, gal?”

“Why, everything. Look around you. Have you ever seen anything like this before? I'ts—it's—stupendous.”

Oh , I've seen richer.” The Warrior Woman was nonchalant, curling a supercilious lip. “Why, in Ind once I—”

“Never mind, here comes the wine.” Gabrielle, still wrapped in her light cloak, at this point gracefully reclined on the light blue couch and waved to its dark crimson neighbour. “That's yours, lady, park it there.”

Hirrph .”

Many of the guests, awaiting the arrival of the Senator, were standing around in groups gossiping; many others were already, like Xena and Gabrielle, reclining on their various couches, absorbed in discreet conversation over the preliminary wine goblets. There was a great deal of colourful raiment on show; mostly by the ladies, but also by some of the more resplendent of the male guests. Togas, with purple or crimson borders; plain togas, though of the richest wool; chitons of all types and designs, patterns of gloriously stunning colour and invention. The ladies, of which there were substantially more than usual—as a result of the more open and relaxed social mores of the present times and the Athenian outlook in general—presented the latest in hairstyles and colours, with gold and silver pins and other ornaments of all types. Their faces made-up with the latest in creams and lotions; lips displaying all the tones of pink to dark crimson one would think possible. And from the ladies again, but also a certain number of the males present, emanated all the most expensive perfumes accessible via the Silk Road, Ind, and other exotic locales even further afield. The rich golden wine the army of servants were busily pouring into the guests' goblets was, of course, of the finest Falernian vintage.

Oh Gods ,” Gabrielle, after her first sip, glanced lovingly at her paramour. “it's delicious; like soft ripe sweet apples, marvellous.”

Xena forebore to answer, but smiled widely at her lover and drank deeply herself, with a nod of pleasure.

The guests and the wine, though, were not the only source of delicate aromas in the wide long hall. From some invisible spring the very air was perfumed with a delicious scent of pine needles, just as if one were reclining in the depths of a pine forest seeking shade from the midday sun. And all the while a myriad of servants, intent on their own secret purposes; and dressed in short thigh-length white linen robes or chitons, with bare feet, intermingled with the guests; hurrying after all those subtle needs necessary to the guests' pleasure during the coming evening.

Although generally conforming to the usual set-up of such banquets the present lay-out differed slightly. At one end of the long hall, furthest from the main door, was a raised dais, maybe an arm's-length in height but enough to set the Senator's couches and tables well above the general mass thronging the hall; these splendid artefacts in themselves presenting a spectacle of decadence beyond even that expected of the most debased Roman taste.

The low tables thereon, barely knee-high, were of what appeared solid gold; the knives, and other implements, of solid silver. Goblets, of gold or translucent crystal of the highest quality and richest design; the numerous pots, bowls, and drinking cups on each table being again of delicately moulded and richly decorated red Samian ware. And instead of the usual low couch a magnificent chair almost, or indeed actually, a throne sat awaiting its owner.

The frame was of ebony from southern Ind; the carvings showed griffins and sphinxes, while the high sides were chased with hunting scenes of men on horseback riding after deer. The armrests were curiously carved in deep lines representing the bodies of strange animals, while the fore-parts or hand-rests were carved into fantastic heads of unknown animals and birds. Encrusted everywhere over the body of the chair were clusters and lines of the richest jewels, including blood-rubies, grass-green garnets, yellow topaz, and scintillating mother-of-pearl. Opals gleamed richly in the surrounding candles' glow, while purple alexandrites glistened like drops of wine. The high backrest, where the sitter's head would recline, was intricately chased with lines of the richest blue lapis lazuli, figuring words of text in a picturesque language now long forgotten. In the glow of the torches the throne, for that obviously had been its original purpose, glistened and shimmered like a live thing, sending sparks and beams of multi-coloured light down the length of the hall.

“Talk about war-booty.” Xena allowed herself a low whistle. “Seems to have done himself proud, takin' stock o'one thing an' another.”

“Likes t'put on a show, don't he?” Gabrielle grinned as she took in all this overwrought embellishment. “What does he do for an encore, I wonder?”

They soon found out.

From the far reaches of the long room came a blast of serried flutes, followed by a timpani of light drums. The groups of people in conversation fell silent as, down the length of the hall, came a flickering, leaping, bounding group of dancers. All young and of an amazing suppleness; both the youths and the girls entirely naked, though their lithe bodies shone with anointed oils reflecting the surrounding candlelight in flickering sparks and shimmers as they writhed and twisted in the on-going dance. All barefoot their bounds, jumps, and leaps as they ran down the hall's length were spectacular; intricate entwined curves and spirals which appeared to defy gravity, allied with graceful springs and bounds like young gazelles. Behind them came a group of flautists, wearing short thin chitons, who remained as background musicians for the rest of the long banquet. Meanwhile, with expert timing and grace the athletes wound their way through the groups of couches and standing guests with perfect poise; their swaying movements seeming too ethereal for mere youths and girls, but rather a group of frolicking nymphs or dryads.

Great Gods , bet that took some rehearsing.” Gabrielle, though entirely unfazed by the all-encompassing nudity of the spectacle, was spellbound by the exotic atmosphere of the expertly presented interlude. “Wonder what's next on the agenda.”

But at this point their pleasure was interrupted by the arrival at their elbows of the House Steward Lucianus. A tall dark-haired native of some far Germanic country well beyond the pale, he was thin, austere, and totally lacking any sense of the lighter things in life.

“Ladies, my master Scipio Frontinus asks if you would do him the honour of coming to his private room, to discourse on matters of moment.” He inclined his head slightly in the direction of a door at the side of the long hall. “If you would be so good as to follow me.”

Gabrielle rose reluctantly, her innamorato less so, and they dutifully followed their guide into a long marble-walled corridor. Striding along several candle-lit passages Lucianus eventually hove-to beside a wide walnut door which he tapped on gently before opening to let his guests enter; he closing the door behind them without himself following.

The room the women found themselves in was relatively small, perhaps forty paces square, with a high ceiling of richly designed plasterwork. The furnishings were still of a high level of taste, low tables, small chairs, soft couches, and hanging silk curtains of splendid colour and design which could only have originated in Chin, at the far end of the Silk Road. Taking centre-stage amongst all this panoply of richness stood their host, Scipio Frontinus himself.

A native born Roman of high family he had previously enjoyed a successful career in the army, eventually rising to lead one of the very best Legions. Now he was a politician of great renown who had been rewarded by the Emperor with perhaps the highest honour of all, Roman Proconsul to the Athenian Senate—essentially the power behind the throne; Greece having been a subsidiary province of Rome for a good couple of hundred years now.

Ah , ladies, so good of you to join us for this, er , delightful celebration.”

Not one for underestimating the power or slickness of fine-grade olive oil, his usual system was to applaud the achievements of his multifarious guests with high-sounding compliments, even when he had no idea of what they were really capable of. But with some he trod a different, more realistic, path.

“Xena, and Gabrielle; it has been too long since we last met. Will you sit here on this couch? May I offer a goblet of this really fine Falernian? Gentle and sweet, it will not cloud your thoughts at all.”

They settled themselves in the otherwise empty room, while Scipio hauled over a single couch to recline on his elbow facing the women, a low table with goblets and wine jugs between them.

“Big display you're putting on tonight, Frontinus.” Xena was always one for getting down to brass tacks as quickly as possible. “I thought it curious you invited us, though; figured there might be an ulterior motive involved.”

“Well, ulterior maybe; but still of prime significance, certainly.” Scipio had all the language of the politician to hand—speaking much, while saying little; unlike Spartans, who tended to speak little and say even less. “There are a great many, er , persons of title, stature, and worth here tonight, I'll give you that. All of whom would make an excellent first audience for the aspiring artist among us. Is there an aspiring artist among us, at the present time, Xena?”

Oh yeah, me . I wan'na dance; I wan'na dance before an audience who can appreciate rhythm an' poise; I wan'na dance uninhibitedly, like the new modern style allows; I wan'na have fun.” Gabrielle had sipped the yellow wine and found it admirably to her taste; already wondering if, after this her second goblet, Xena would allow her to attempt a third. “I did note several bigwigs swanning around, as you say, Frontinus. Can there ever be such a thing as a surfeit of bigwigs?”

Hah , nicely put, Gabrielle.” Scipio liked people who were not overawed by his position and power, speaking openly to his face. “I don't know about that; but those who are attending tonight will definitely enjoy your performance, have no doubts, Gabrielle. Come, I have some things to attend to before I appear at the revels, but you should both return to the Hall. Your turn will not be long in arriving, Gabrielle.”

“I'm ready.” Gabrielle nodding decisively.

Oh, well. ” Xena giving in to the Fates.




The evening was still young; at least young as regarded an Athenian-cum-Roman banquet-orgy-symposium. There had been a pause in the dancing while the women were otherwise engaged but, on their re-entering the vast hall, they found a group of singers performing a quiet Lydian song over in one corner while the assembled guests got stuck into what was apparently one of the entrees to the banquet proper.

Wow , sturgeon hot-pot, with red peppers; Gods , do I just love that dish.”

They had returned to their couches and Xena was now attempting to reign in the more animal, baser, of her partner's instincts.

“No.” Xena indicated to the servant filling Gabrielle's silver platter with the said preliminary course. “One ladle only, two's too many—that's fine, thanks.”

Hey , a gal's got'ta eat, ain't she.” Gabrielle essayed one of her patented snarls, but without any real hope.

“Give it up, Amazon Queen.” Xena sniffed genteelly, simply picking delicately at her own serving of what she regarded as a mere hash. “We got other things on our plate, remember. Anyway, is it wise t'eat so much, before an energetic dance performance, dear? Although I can see this bloody ravenous crowd are diggin' in like starvin' dogs.”

Leaning over to put her mouth close to Xena's ear, the Hall reverberating with small talk, gossip, and bravado-laden lies as everyone tried to engage in conversation with everyone else throughout the vast marble-lined echoing space, Gabrielle indicated to her left with a slight motion of her delightful chin.

“That man's eating lobster an' truffles. Ever had those, lover? Delicious.”

“Where'd you ever eat truffles, Gabs?” Xena wasn't having any of it. “Never in yer life, is where. Stick with that chicken hash yer eatin' right now. Good, is it; goin' down well?”

“Surely is, dearest.” Gabrielle's interest was still mostly on the dish in front of her, which was rapidly reaching that sad point of being empty but for stains. “Wonder if I can catch that servant-girl's attention, over there? A second helping wouldn't go astray—”



“I said nix with the gluttonising.” Xena had reached her boundary of acceptance. “You'll be dancin' in a short while; an', anyway, tomorrow you'll be complainin' that your skirt belt has shrunk in the wash an' ya can't get it t'tighten round the blubbery ball that used ter be yer waist, youngster.”

Oh , do give over; you dramatise everything so much.” Nevertheless Gabrielle paused to look down at her trim waist, running a hand over the exposed expanse of her flat belly under the thin as gossamer veils she wore under her light cloak. “Flat as a board, and just as hard, lady. No fat there.”




Breaking the line of thought the warriors were still engrossed in, another group of dancers arrived from the shadowy corners into the centre of the hall, encircled by the couches of the guests. These new dancers consisted of some ten women, all attired in flowing colourful, but thin veils reaching to their feet; the lines flowing in the air as they danced round in a wide circle. It could be seen that, in the centre of the group, hidden by the flowing veils of the others, there was another dancer. Then, with an all-encompassing flicker of their coloured veils, the dancers dispersed, running into the shadows of the far ends of the Hall, leaving the hitherto hidden dancer in full view.

She was tall, with long dark wavy hair, entirely nude, sporting a perfectly honed muscular body in faultless shape; coated, again, with light-reflecting oils. Her dance, as she writhed to the music of the flutes, was slow, poetic, and beautiful in the extending lines of her graceful movements as she glided across the open marble floor, all eyes on her shimmering body.

“She's lovely.”

And Xena had to agree with her partner.

Her ivory writhing limbs, moving in tune to the music; her oiled muscular body, slim hips, flat stomach, and full rounded breasts; her face made-up with all the magic unguents of the east; altogether she represented an image which enthralled the spectators. But finally her dance, too, reached its climax; she slipping to her knees, one on the marble floor, the other foot flat on the marble, body straight as a spear-shaft, arms raised high above her head; a splendid spectacle of unbridled naked beauty. Then, with a swift rush of feet, the other dancers surrounded the woman and whisked her away into the dark, her dance completed; a brisk round of applause circling the hall in her wake.

“That was simply divine.”

“Yeah, she danced beautifully, give ya that, Gab.”

“It's the nakedness that counts, y'see, Xena.” Gabrielle, so imbued with the lingering energy of the woman's performance she had put down her wine-cup to emphasise the point. “Her dancin' naked, like that. If she'd jest remained clothed, especially at the conclusion, it wouldn't have had anywhere near the same effect; you got'ta admit that, lover.”

“Yeah, I see where yer goin' with it.” Reluctantly, but truthfully, Xena had to admit the beauty and professionalism of the woman's dance. “She made a great show; glad I saw her—wouldn't mind seein' her do it agin'.”

“That's the spirit, lady.” Gabrielle laughed lightly, leaning over to put a hand on the wrist of her partner. “It'll make you understand the finer points of my own dance, in a short while. You'll comprehend the essential nature an' meaning of my nudity at the climax better, I bet.”

“Your dance gon'na be that, er , unrestrained an', er , expressive , is it? With the, ah , nudity, an' all?”

“Yeah, too true, lady, Yer simply won't believe it, when ye see what I do, especially towards the end.”





At this point, the guests being well and truly fired-up, Frontinus made his imposing entrance. Although able, and willing, to lash out with every extravagance to astonish the hoi polloi, he affected a simplicity in his personal actions at total variance with this public face. Now, entering through the side-door near the dais where his magnificent throne stood, he simply walked across, accompanied by the peals of silver flutes, to his chair and sat with restrained dignity; his closest acquaintances and guests reclining on the nearby couches. He was dressed in a simple white toga, with the revered red edging; so dark a shade it was nearly, if just not quite, purple itself. After the commotion caused by his entrance had died down he raised an imperial hand, waving in some sort of signal, and the revels carried on all round.

Here, Gabrielle stood up from her couch, still wrapped in her short light-coloured cloak, and smiled at the Princess.

“Got'ta leave you, lover; things to prepare for.” Gabrielle turned to walk towards the far end of the Hall, looking over her shoulder with a merry twinkle in her green eyes. “Next time y'see me, ye'll see a lot o'me—as will everyone else here, too. Get ready.”

With this parting shot she vanished into the far shadows, leaving the Princess nonplussed, at a loss, puzzled, and slightly worried.

Left to her own devices Xena pushed the latest silver platter, filled with some unrecognised comestible mixture, to one side on the table in front of her; pulled her tall crystal goblet nearer, and refilled it with golden Falernian from the red clay flagon. Taking a sip and finding it to her taste she sat back to consider the noisy throng filling the Hall all round.

Many of the guests had come with their spouses or husbands; while others were attended by what were probably a variety of hetaerae. Other mature guests, men and women both, meanwhile reclined,—many of the couches provided for the guests being of double-width,—beside pampered, lightly clad, and clearly desired companions of all ages and ranks of physical beauty; some of these indulged partners, both male and female, indeed appearing younger than Xena felt altogether acceptable even in modern Athenian Society; but what was there to be done, in present circumstances?

Her thoughts, growing darker and less forgiving with each passing moment as she regarded the multitude around, were again interrupted, but for a much more personal reason—Gabrielle had made her appearance on the dance-floor.

To the ringing tones of the silver flutes, now accompanied by a trio of lyres, Gabrielle floated bare-footed onto the central open space of the marble-floored hall. Floated, because she seemed to be limbless under her floor-length series of coloured gossamer veils. They reaching from her shoulders, with high bodices, to her feet, swirling around her body like clouds or a host of rainbows come to life. As the music increased in speed and clarity, she swept across the marble like a soft breeze; like Zephyrus, or Aura herself. Always keeping her movements in time with the music Gabrielle ran from one side of the central dancing area to the other; at one moment legs sweeping high in the air one after the other, ankles at head height; then her arms flying wide and high, encircling the space around her body in flashing whirls of finely balanced movement.

She kept this up for several slow gyrations of the wide dance-area, the audience silent and entranced by the spectacle; then she suddenly, in one gentle quiet pass of an arm, threw one of her veils to one side, casting it adrift as if a leaf in an Autumn wind. The audience, abruptly realising what might well await them, came to life; a soft susurration passing through the packed Hall. Moving across in Xena's direction Gabrielle paused a few paces from her reclining partner, whirling faster and faster in a pall of multi-coloured veils which seemed to spread their individual colours into each other with the speed. Then, in one quick graceful movement, Gabrielle detached and threw her second veil towards Xena, it falling at the Princesses' very feet; after which the dancing Amazon swiftly crossed the floor once again to face the far side of the spellbound audience.

Here, the music increasing in volume as well as intensity, creating a heightened dramatic atmosphere, Gabrielle spun on her twinkling feet all the faster; her veils swirling around her body with ever more wonderful colourful effects; then, seemingly in one simple gesture of her hands, she had thrown all the remaining garments to the floor and twirled across the cold marble to stand in the centre of the arena, entirely nude.

An expectant hush fell on the audience, soft whispers as from many throats barely audible through the length and breadth of the Hall, awaiting Gabrielle's next move. They, as experienced spectators, knowing full-well this was not the climax, but simply the build-up.

Her body, now shining with sweat as was only to be anticipated, also reflected the massed candles and candelabra from the oil now seen to cover every iota of her naked body—reflecting the light in shining sparks and flashes with every smallest move of her limbs or the smooth planes of her flesh.

Suddenly the music drew itself up into a loud sustained chorus of notes; seeming with their very strength and purity to drag the nude dancer across the floor, limbs and body squirming, writhing, twisting, and curving in violent motion as Gabrielle flung herself around the Hall like an unhinged puppet, limbs astray from broken strings. Then, slowing to something almost like a composed unhurried walk, skin glistening in the sparkling light, she sought the centre of the open dancing-area again; twisting slowly, arms wide in the air, then one leg after the other raised high, ankle held in her hand's grasp at head height, she performing a slow turning full revolution each time on one foot before her fascinated audience. One more slow sustained pirouette, both feet swivelling on the marble floor and hands raised high above her head, then the Amazon came to a halt, legs spread far astride, feet flat on the cold floor, and arms held out wide-spread above her head.

Chest and full breasts heaving with the gasps of her deep breathing, the music now at a peak of interweaving notes, Gabrielle kept her position like a marble statue herself until the strains of the flutes and lyres slowed to a gentle calmness, before quietly passing away altogether—leaving the naked woman standing, arms and legs held wide, in the centre of the floor, as if transfixed herself by the power of the music and her own performance. A single flute gave a short sharp note as of a signal; Gabrielle remained motionless, a veritable statue; time passed unheeded, the only motion of the Amazon's naked body the heaving of her superb breasts as she took deep breaths; then the flute gave a second, last note of farewell. Gabrielle grinned, lowered her arms, brought her legs together—now looking exactly like a Kouros—and slowly pirouetted again in the silence surrounding her every movement, bowing from her waist, head lowering to her knees each time, as she acknowledged every section of the Hall's large audience. These spectators then went wild, thumping their tables and clapping their hands in ecstasy; the dance, as dances go, clearly being the best most had ever seen. Then Gabrielle tripped over to Xena to stand, gasping in all her proud shining nudity, before her lover.

“Ho—how—how'd you—like that,—lo—lover?” Still gasping for breath.

And Xena replied from her heart with what was simply the honest truth—

“It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, Gabrielle; I'm proud of ya. Just beautiful.”

Oh , I'm s—so—so glad.”




A short time later, Xena leading the still naked Gabrielle by her hand, the two women circled the edge of the groups of couches with their happily contented guests, heading for a side-door which Gabrielle had said led to a small enclosed roofless garden where a pool of clear water lay.

“There's a servant girl all ready waiting there, Xena.” Gabrielle had somewhat regained her breath. “With strigils an' unguents to wash all this oil off my skin.”

The women traversed the long wide Hall, guests waving and giving Gabrielle thanks for her performance as they passed the couches; Gabrielle, resplendent in her glistening nudity, waving back or pausing every now and then to reply politely to some more than civil acknowledgement of her dance. Xena standing by her side finding, curiously from her viewpoint she admitted to herself, Gabrielle's public nudity now being a thing of beauty and innocence which rather reflected even more intensely the Amazon's inward as well as outward beauty; the Public salutations of this aspect of the dancer's nakedness giving the Princess pleasure and content, instead of the mere anger which she might otherwise have felt in even recent days gone by. Yes, Xena admitted freely for the first time to herself, Gabrielle's naked performances were indeed things of beauty which the Public had every right to respect and recognise on their own account.

“If ya wants to carry on these dances, Gab, I won't stand in yer way.” Xena speaking as they traversed a corridor inside the villa. “That performance was the most beautiful thing I think I've ever experienced. An', like ya said, the nakedness was what counted; jest beautiful, dear, jest beautiful. Whenever ya want to have another public show, I'll be at yer side, backin' ya all the way; I means it.”

“Thanks, you're a dear, lover.” Gabrielle spoke softly, partly from a lack of breath, and partly from an overflowing heart at her lover's happiness and understanding. “That means a lot to me, you know that. I love dancing; and I love the innocence and pleasure, and freedom, dancing naked gives me—I just love it.”

“I'm with ya, Gabs, I'm with ya every step o' your way.” Xena's voice, too, was soft—with a deep abiding love. “Look, is this the garden, an' pool?”




The servant girl was indeed waiting on Gabrielle's arrival; within a few minutes she had Gabrielle standing calf-deep in the pond's water, covered all over with a bubbly unguent imbued with the scent of magnolias. The young woman used her bare hands to rub every visible part of the Amazon's body, sliding a strigil expertly over the exposed skin to clean off the oily mixture. Soon the cleansing operation had been completed to the servant's and Gabrielle's satisfaction, and the servant left the two women alone in the quiet dark garden; only a couple of torches under the roof of the encircling low colonnade lighting the area.

Still nude, Gabrielle came to sit on a low marble bench by Xena's side.

“So, you thought my dancing was pretty good, eh?”

“More than pretty good—stunning, gal.”

“Well, that's nice, I likes a compliment, here an' there.”

“The best compliment you'll get from me, lady, is that you can do it all again, in public, whenever ya choose—an' I'll be there t'back you up, wholesale an' without restraint.”

Something in the manner and tone of voice in which the Princess spoke made Gabrielle turn to her and, laying a bare arm on her shoulder, give the warrior a deep kiss on her parted lips.

“Xena, I love you, thanks so much.”

Before events could get any further out of hand an interruption came in the form of the appearance of Frontinus, from a nearby side-door.

“Greetings, Xena. Greetings, Gabrielle, may I compliment you on your beauty, and the great pleasure you gave to my guests with your enthralling dance?”

No whit put out by the presence of their host, Gabrielle still wholly nude, the women rose to greet him, both quietly at ease; after all Gabrielle had just danced erotically, wholly naked, in front of around sixty men and women; why should she show silly virtuous innocence now?

“I enjoyed it tremendously, Frontinus.” Gabrielle nodded happily, standing proudly with arms by her side. “Your guests did seem to like me, I think.”

“No thinking about it, at all, as Xena will agree; they adored your performance; you are a magnificent dancer. Did you not find your companion's dance supreme in beauty, Xena?”

“I did indeed, Frontinus.” Xena nodded, smiling widely. “We were just talking about it, while Gabrielle washed herself clean. l think she looks even more beautiful now, than before.”

Frontinus slowly, without pretending to any unnecessary polite reserve, looked Gabrielle over from head to toe at his leisure, taking in all that was on show; finally nodding with the air of a connoisseur. “Yes indeed, you are a lucky lady, Xena, to have the love of such a magnificent specimen of womanhood. Her dancing goes far to increasing the overall beauty and standing of the female sex in its widest aspects. Tell me, Gabrielle, when we spoke some time ago about your dance tonight, are you still thinking about enlarging the width and number of your likely future dancing appearances?”

“Xena and I have discussed the matter, Frontinus.” Gabrielle nodded, grinning widely, completely at ease. “She's just told me she'd love to see me dance more in public; I'm so happy.”

Frontinus turned to the Princess, inclining his head in that slight movement which with him served as a deep bow.

“I ask, Xena, because I spoke with high officials in the Senate some days ago about the subject.” He smiled quietly, glancing back at the naked blonde Amazonian dancer beside him. “The outcome is that you, Gabrielle, have been invited to dance in the Theatre of Dionysus, situated below the Acropolis, three days hence, at the opening of the latest series of classic plays by Greek and Roman authors. There will be an athletic and dancing display before the first performances each evening, over the ten days of the Festival. If willing, we will be honoured if Gabrielle dances on each day?”

Whee , that's wonderful.” Gabrielle jiggled around with unashamed glee, her breasts bouncing like ships in a storm. “Is that alright with you, Xena?”

“Roman theatre, yeah, we've been there t'see some plays.” Xena pretended to a serious expression, then grinned. “How big an audience, each evening?”

Oh , we expect full houses each day.” Frontinus allowed himself a smile of quiet satisfaction. “Good authors, great plays, fine Tragedy and Dramas, even some Comedy. Probably around, oh , fifteen thousand spectators attending the ten daily performance.”

There was a pause as each woman considered this news in their own way. Gabrielle by trying to imagine standing naked, and dancing erotically for a considerable length of time, before such huge numbers of people over several days; Xena in trying to compute the percentage difference between Frontinus' 60 odd evening guests, and a 15,000 theatre audience before finally giving-up, defeated by the appalling mathematics involved.

Whoa. ” From an astonished, but bravely determined, Gabrielle.

Hot Damn. ” From Xena, stunned but wholly resolute in her support.

“Yes, quite.” From a pleased Scipio Frontinus.




The next morning found the two women pursuing their regular routine in their Inn room once more. Xena sat at the table reading the latest edition from the weary scribes of the Weekly Athens Chronicle , by-line All The Gossip That Is Gossip . Xena being, as usual, already fully attired in her ordinary clothes, heavy leather corset, short skirt, high boots, and a mean expression. Gabrielle, as she was becoming more and more inclined towards lately, standing completely naked by the open window again, looking down onto the busy street and passer's-by, wholly at ease this time with no iota of put-on innocent bluff about her wholly acknowledged position; a gentle smile of content winking at the corners of her slightly parted lips.

“The people in the street are sort'a slowing-up as they pass below our window again, Xena.”

“Now why in all the heavens would they be doin' that, gal.” Xena being sarcastic, but remaining comfortably relaxed.

“I expect it's because they're all lookin' up at me; me bein' completely naked an' showin' everything I've got without let or restraint.” Gabrielle giggled lightly. “That'll probably be something t'do with it, don't you think?”

“Expects so, darlin'.” Xena affecting to be engrossed in the written news. “So, what d'ye think about appearing, tomorrow, before fifteen thousand ravening spectators, at the theatre, all studyin' yer nudity with droolin' lips an' gogglin' eyes, doll?”

Humph , it's an artistic performance, dear.” Gabrielle pretending to be on her high horse—a position which in reality she'd never been comfortable with. “The respectable, and respectful, audience will show their connoisseur's taste an' enjoyment of delicate artistry and a professionaly performed artistic, if also erotic in passing, dance display, is all. The whirls are poetic, dearest; the pirouettes, like Summer breezes; the athletic gambolling's a reference to youthful high spirits: the whole dance, a thing of joy, delight, poetic genius, resulting in general happiness all round, lover.”

“Of course, what else?”

“You're just jealous because you don't have the same athleticism or artistic capacity, is all.” Gabrielle sniggered as she spoke, still standing fully at ease in her proud open nakedness, facing down to the crowded street below. “ Oh , Xena, a man's just called up, asking how much I cost? The impertinence.”

Huh , tell him ten drachmas fer half a clepsydra, extras to cost more.”

Faced with this level of insolence Gabrielle did the only thing acceptable. She turned to walk over to her heartmate, standing in graceful nudity in front of her seated partner; shook her head sadly, then leaned down to give the warrior a tender kiss; a moment later Gabrielle had returned to her stance at the open window, where a soft susurration wafting up from the stones of the street below showed the delight of the pedestrians at the return of such an enjoyable addition to the natural beauties of the city of Athens.

“Better than the bloody Parthenon.” One loud appreciative spectator shouted, even Xena hearing this.

Hah , there's appreciation, Gabrielle. More beautiful than the Parthenon?; well, only downhill from here on.”

“Idiot. Say, why don't you strip-off, an' join me?” Gabrielle paused in her enjoyment of the captivated throng below her window to glance back at her lover. “The crowd'd love two of us.”

“Probably bring Athens to a complete halt.” Xena laughed quietly in her turn, finally throwing the Chronicle aside. “Come on over here, gal; the public's had their turn, now it's mine.”

Oo-er , what sort'a plans y'have, lady of my heart?”

Oh , nuthin' much.” Xena studied the slightly sweat-gleaming naked flesh of the young gorgeous woman standing before her; Gabrielle still wearing the expression of a contented cat, after a particularly delicious bowl of cream. “Jest involvin', lem'me see, what's t'hand— oh yes , jest a long length of thin cord; a pair o'steel handcuffs, ankle-cuffs, ditto; this strange affair of two leather straps, one on each side with a small hard red ball in the centre—have t'figure out what that's meant fer; and this short, thick, fore-arm length leather strap. So, what should I start with, Gabrielle, dearest?”

There was a long, long pause, then—

—in a soft pleading low hiss of desire.

The strap.



The End.



To be continued in the next instalment of the ‘ Xena's Exploits' series.



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