DISCLAIMER: The characters Xena/Gabrielle/Argo are copyright of Universal/Renaissance. No infringement intended. WARNING: This story openly centres on love and sex between two women. If that offends you, best not to read it. If you find love offensive, Hades! What kind of person are you? Anyone who does read the tale (there must be one of you) feel free to comment.
by Rab Donald
Gabrielle made a mental note.
Next time you enter a bards competition, be more prepared.
Being the first to perform had not helped, the audience were yet to settle, and she had not fully rehearsed. Rather than a specific story, the young bard had chosen to recite a pastiche, an amalgam of some of their adventures.
Foremost in her thoughts had been to stress the goodness behind Xenas actions, as well as her courage and skill. The crowd however were, if not hostile, distinctly unimpressed. Even when she tried to add some additional gore, a sop to the audience, it failed to impress.
Gabrielle stood backstage, feeling almost stunned. She had rarely been received so badly, to call the applause lukewarm was being kind. Her fellow bards were equally distant. There was little sign of camaraderie here.
The red-blonde was only glad that the great woman herself was not present to witness her performance. Xena had remained in the previous village, using her healing skills to tend to a family who had been badly injured by a runaway horse and cart. Gabrielle had accepted a ride on a hay-wagon, with the warrior promising to follow her into town as soon as she could.
Still smarting from what she herself perceived as a humiliation, Gabrielle decided to join the audience, partly to hear her fellow competitors, but mostly so she could get a drink.
You are not much of a drinker she cautioned herself as she ordered a mug of cider, and a large port. But, boy did it taste good.
The proximity of bar and stage was another factor, the bard reassured herself as she strained to hear the on -stage competitor. The young man, handsome in a conventional sense, but looking very nervous, was all but inaudible as the jostling crowd shouted for drinks.
This was not bards heaven. As she edged her way to the side wall, clutching her drinks, looking for an empty seat, Gabrielle gave the speaker a sympathetic smile. He did not notice. Now looking terrified, he muttered and mumbled his way through a story of ..
It was impossible to tell. Missiles of fruit were being thrown.
Gabrielle sighed, I got off lightly she mused to herself.
The back wall of the room, from door to corner, was one long bench.
The length of three tables, all empty save for a single middle-aged woman. The red-blonde bard had not even noticed this when she performed, so unsettled had she been. She looked now. The woman was unremarkable, sandy-brown hair swept back into a pony-tail, plain features made distinguished by a somewhat crooked nose. Her clothes were clearly expensive, rich coloured silks, but shapeless and unflattering. The woman caught Gabrielles gaze, and gestured the bard to join her.
She happily made her way to the sanctuary of the back seats.
The woman smiled broadly as Gabrielle sat next to her.
"I am Lyssia, this is my humble establishment" she said warmly.
The bard introduced herself, and was immediately struck by the womans smile. Up close, she was still plain-looking at best, yet Lyssia seemed to radiate some kind of heat, some energy that was palpable.
Gabrielle sipped cider then port in turn, sighed yet again.
"My dear, you were magnificent" said Lyssia "quite the most talented bard I have ever heard."
The younger woman nearly choked. "I was awful! I dont think anyone was listening" she bemoaned.
Lyssia took Gabrielles hand, an action that caused the bard to jolt.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, her stomach began to feel hollow. This woman exuded .. something inexplicable.
"My dear, do not judge your performance by the crowd reaction.
That young man IS awful" she nodded to the hapless bard who was now speaking as fast as he could, determined to finish, but finish quickly.
"You have all the skills of a great orator, a fine story-teller. I fear you misunderstood our little competition" Lyssias voice was soothing.
"A contest of stories for discerning adults" Gabrielle quoted from the advertising jargon.
"You havent been to Athens recently?" it was not a question.
"The phrase discerning adults is a euphemism." The owner grinned.
"For what?" the bard asked sincerely.
"For non-discerning adults" laughed Lyssia, "for those whose main, if not only interest is in sex, carnal matters, ways of the flesh"
"Oh!" said Gabrielle, simply.
Further conversation was momentarily halted by cheers and applause as a top-heavy, face-painted, young woman bustled on stage.
"One of my regulars" explained Lyssia, "she has no narrative skills, but she knows what this sort of audience wants to hear"
Gabrielle looked around as a more respectful hush descended.
The crowd were mostly men, about 4:1 in ratio. Some quite young men who were flushed with drink, and possibly embarrassment as the speaker launched herself into her recital. Her opening gambit was to précis the tale "how I spent last solstice, bedding five different men, from five different lands" Cheers rang around the room.
Ive lost this contest Gabrielle laughed to herself.
They both listened briefly to the on-stage performer.
Her delivery style was surely lacking, but the graphic, not to say lurid descriptions of her various liaisons on a single day had the room captivated. Gabrielle herself did not find it enthralling.
"You mentioned Athens earlier, this is not Athens surely?" she said, confident that her geography was up to scratch.
"No" grinned the older woman, "we call it Little Athens because .."
Lyssia hesitated for a moment " because we do rather follow the trends of the great metropolis. As I mentioned, the vogue for private clubs and the like, for em, discerning adults" she laughed.
The woman had again taken Gabrielles hand, the bard found it quite unsettling. With her free hand, Lyssia made the slightest of gestures.
Within seconds, a buxom, young, blonde waitress appeared, she leaned over the table, smiling lasciviously, her low-cut black dress putting breathtaking cleavage on full display.
"A glass of wine for me" Lyssia turned to the bard, her eyes a question.
"Im fine" insisted Gabrielle, though the view of milky white bosom was causing her further unease.
"One for yourself" beamed Lyssia, who pressed a coin into the cleavage of the waitress, her hand lingering to stroke, then gently squeeze on a breast.
The bard gulped on her cider. She suddenly realised that all the waitresses and the barmaids were of a likeness. All wore the same style of black dress, short and low-cut. All were blondes, from corn-blonde to white-blonde. None were it seemed, a day over 20yrs.
The bard on stage was concluding her epic tale with what looked like an impromptu striptease, the crowd were cheering their encouragement, and Gabrielle was beginning to wonder what she was doing here.
When the waitress returned with the wine, Lyssia stood up and kissed her full on the mouth. "Thank-you. Later, my dear"
It was as well that the audience were all facing the front, Gabrielle thought, as the busty blonde sashayed away.
She also pondered the fact that the explicit words of the solstice story-teller had left her cold. However the sight of that kiss, and the earlier slight breast fondling, caused her to squirm in her seat. Her breeches were wet, her nipples sensitive, her breathing not entirely relaxed.
If the tavern-owner was aware of Gabrielles predicament, she did not
allude to it.
"It was a wonderful conceit, a stroke of genius, to make your warrior hero a woman" she smiled as she raised her glass of wine. "Xena wasnt it? Even the name sounds exotic" she added.
Gabrielle looked puzzled, almost shocked.
"That wasnt a story. I mean I didnt make it up. Xena is a real person, a very real person. We travel together, she is my best friend" the bard made no effort to conceal the pride in her voice. She never tired of saying that phrase Xena is my best friend
Lyssia smiled, perhaps patronisingly. "she sounds like quite a friend"
There was still a certain amount of humouring in her voice.
"She IS!" the bard was assured, almost defiant. "No-one will ever have a better friend. Or a worse enemy" the latter statement was not meant to sound threatening, but Gabrielle was enraged.
It seemed that these days, everywhere they travelled, the warrior had a bad reputation. Here, she apparently wasnt known at all.
It seemed somehow, almost worse.
Lyssia stared deep into the bards green eyes. Gabrielle again felt a frisson of something . This woman was bewitching. But it was Lyssia who broke from the gaze.
"Zeus above!" she said, "I do believe this Xena is real!" she exclaimed.
"And furthermore, you are in love with are arent you?"
Gabrielle spluttered on her drink.
"It is so obvious to me" laughed Lyssia, "you speak about her with total admiration, a passion. Each time I have simply said the name Xena, your eyes have sparkled, your face lit up"
Gabrielle grinned, there seemed little point in disputing the assertion.
"I wish it were that obvious to her" she said forlornly.
"This noble, brave warrior does not return your affections?"
"That would be unfair" said the bard, after some thought. "I know Xena loves me, she has done so much for me. Saved my life, she risks her own life for me, it seems, constantly. I said before, it would be impossible to have a better friend"
"But you want more. You want to be her lover" Lyssia spoke plainly.
Gabrielle sighed, took a large swallow of cider.
"Yes, no I dont know" this was not the sort of conversation she was practised at. "My feelings are so deep, so intense, they overwhelm me." The bard lowered her head, then raised it again, looked Lyssia straight in the eyes.
"She sure makes my blood boil, my loins turn to fire!"
The older woman patted her hand, smiled softly.
"You see those girls? The ones in the black uniform? The locals call them my bed-slaves" she grinned "I have never in forty-two years slept with a man. It has never even crossed my mind. These girls are not my slaves, the ones that do, sleep with me willingly"
Gabrielle looked puzzled "do I need to know this?" she asked.
Lyssia shrugged. "It seems that people can accept a never-married, rather ugly, middle-aged woman, wanting to seek pleasure with her own kind. What they cannot accept, is that Lil, Cara, Bea and any other girls, all young and beautiful, could feel the same way. So they call them slaves pretend that they only go with me through force, not choice"
The bard was beginning to understand . Perhaps.
"It could be, Gabrielle, that you readily accept that for you to lust after the mighty warrior is understandable, but you refuse to believe that you are worthy of her desires. Maybe she has been giving you signals, but because of the awe you have for her, you ignore, or misinterpret them"
The red-blonde took a swallow of port this time, what should have been a routine competition to earn a few dinars, had turned into a day of heavy thoughts and soul-searching.
"Let me tell you one more thing" said Lyssia, squeezing her hand again.
"I had a single lover for 25 years. Magdalena and I were almost inseparable, totally in love. Though I gain enormous pleasure from my indulgences with my so-called slaves, nothing can ever compare to what Magdalena and I shared. I am truly blessed to have known her."
Lyssia hesitated as tears welled in her eyes.
"She died one night, quite unexpectedly. It was simply one of those things, the will of the gods. It was one of the few occasions I was not with her. I was working late, she had gone to her own home, and for some reason I decided to not visit her that night. I was just too tired I guess. We rarely slept apart. Of course I was, still am, heartbroken that she died. I regret even more, the fact that I was not there. It may sound silly, but if she had died in my arms, I think it would have been easier"
Gabrielle squeezed her hand, her own emotions were rising.
"That is so sad" she said softly.
Lyssia drained her wine glass.
"I learned a lot from your story. I was listening, if the rabble were not.
You and Xena have travelled together for a while, you are both courageous people. From your descriptions, she is gorgeous, you yourself are simply divine. I think Xena needs you, otherwise why would she still be with you" the older woman suddenly stopped, looked worried. "where exactly is this Xena right now? You havent had a fight or something?"
"No" smiled Gabrielle "she is back at a village, tending to the sick. She has many skills" the bard laughed.
So deep in conversation had they been, that neither of the women noticed that the contest had ended.
"Oh dear!" laughed Lyssia "I am supposed to be one of the judges, I rather fear I have missed the last few contributions" she seemed unconcerned by this admission.
"Before I go, I just want to say that I believe in you and Xena, I just sense that you are meant to be together. Stay here as long as you wish, but I will have to get back to work. Good luck, my dear"
Lyssia gave the bard a chaste kiss before going into the throng of the crowd.
The bard sat, reflecting on their conversation trying to recall any time when the warrior may have given her signals that their friendship could be deepened. The buxom waitress arrived with a fresh mug of cider, a new glass of port.
"On the house" she winked, before striding away.
To Gabrielles surprise, the other bards all walked to the back of the room and joined her on the long bench.
"The judging should be over soon" said one "you were excellent" said another. This was a bit of a shock, earlier, none of them would even speak to her.
The surprises just kept coming. Gabrielle was announced as the third place winner, and was handed 50 dinars. She received better applause than her story had on its telling. The second and first prizes were duly announced and given out. Gabrielle had heard neither of them speak, but she offered warm congratulations, and kind words.
The bustle of the tavern seemed to be increasing, the nervous bard, who had gone on stage immediately after Gabrielle, came up to her.
"Third place, 50 dinars! Well done" he said.
"I thought you were unlucky" she replied, remembering the thrown fruit. He sat down next to her.
"So what are you doing now?" he asked.
The bard was hesitant, "I cannot stay, sadly" she said "I must return to Panthis, it is a small village"
"Terrific!" the young man beamed "I am going there too. My wagon is just outside"
Gabrielle had been unable to think of an excuse, so she found herself travelling with the man, who had longing in his eyes. He also had an elder brother who was pungent, to say the least.
Sitting between the two men, the bard felt uncomfortable, they both seemed to be staring at her, then at each other. She was convinced they were making signs and gestures that she did not understand.
"Your story really was clever" said the older brother who had been amongst the crowd, "a woman warrior!! Most amusing" he grinned.
The bard shook her head, what was it about this place? Had no-one heard of Xena , Warrior Princess?
"It was not made up!" she was exasperated "Xena really exists. She is the most courageous, probably the most feared warrior in all Greece.
And she happens to be my best friend!"
"Of course, little girl" the rancid man again displayed rotten teeth, but worse, he patted her on the knee.
The bard sensed danger. "I think I will walk from here, I like walking"
The younger of the men stopped the wagon. "Fine" he said.
Gabrielle gratefully climbed down.
The two men followed her.
"But before we part company for ever, you have two thing we want"
It was again the previously nervous bard who spoke.
"50 dinars, for one" he no longer looked nervous, but menacing.
"And your hot little body for two" his older brother leered.
Gabrielle began to run, then stopped, took a defensive stance, her staff at the ready.
"A fighter, I like them when they struggle and squirm" the malodorous man was leering even more.
Gabrielle swallowed hard, took a deep breath. They both suddenly looked very big and strong as they approached her.
"Is there a problem?" it was a voice from the heavens.
Gabrielle had no need to turn around, she broke into a huge smile.
"Gentlemen, meet Xena. That fictional warrior I was telling you about"
The two men stopped, looked at each other.
Six feet tall, leather-clad, lustrous black hair and all beauty. There was little doubt, Gabrielle had described her just so.
The bard felt a hand on her shoulder, it was exquisite.
"WELL?" Xena spoke again.
The two men turned on their heels and ran into the woods, leaving their horse and wagon behind. Gabrielle finally turned and gave her friend an enthusiastic hug.
"I cannot leave you alone for a moment!" laughed the warrior "though if I get this sort of greeting every time, I may leave you more often"
Gabrielle could have screamed with joy. Surely that was a signal?
Though it was impossible, Xena looked more beautiful than ever.
The bard was reluctant to give up all physical touch, as they walked, she linked arms with the taller woman.
"How are that family?" she asked.
"They are doing OK, they will be just fine" said the warrior "but what about you? the contest?"
"It was different" laughed Gabrielle "I got 50 dinars for third place" there was excitement in her voice, it had been unexpected.
It was unexpected to Xena for other reasons.
"Third!? You only finished third! Barbarians!" she hissed.
Gabrielle looked at her quizzically.
"You are the best bard ever, no question" said the tall woman, "if two people were placed above you, then it must be a fix" she added.
The younger woman glowed at these words. She knew Xena was sincere.
"It wasnt a fix, just a specialised contest, my tale didnt quite fit in"
They walked happily together, smiling and joking, Argo faithfully trotting behind them. Gabrielle felt happy, but nervous. She was considering the words of Lyssia, and pondering making a move.
She had an idea. "Why dont we go back to the tavern where I just was, we can afford a room, and I would like you to meet Lyssia, the owner. She is a wonderful woman" suggested the bard.
However, by the time they reached Little Athens Lyssias tavern was closed, in darkness. "Have fun with your slaves" Gabrielle said, but not loud enough for her friend to hear.
They found an alternative inn, and after a light supper, and a further mug of cider, Gabrielle suggested they retire.
She was annoyed, there were two beds in the room. Xena sat down on one of them, began to remove her boots. The bard sat behind her, helped her unbuckle her armour. She struggled to keep her breathing even as she then began to remove the leather bodice.
Xena tensed slightly, then relaxed. She said nothing.
The warrior now wore only an off-white shift. Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xenas waist, rested her chin on the warriors shoulders.
Xena again briefly tensed, again relaxed. "Everything OK?" she asked.
"I love your breasts" Gabrielle could hardly believe she had said it aloud, but she had, there was no going back.
"That little scar" she continued, and brought a hand up to gently caress the small blemish. "I just want to kiss it"
Xenas back arched, as the bard moved her head around and down to gently plant a soft kiss upon the scar at the top of the warriors bosom.
Gabrielle then plunged both her hands down the front of the shift, to cup and mould the warriors breasts. She felt the nipples stiffen against her palms. "I love you Xena" she breathed, "I just love you"
The warrior merely enjoyed the sensations for a few moments. Then she turned her head and looked Gabrielle straight in the eye.
Each held the gaze of the other. Finally, Xena smiled.
"I do believe you do, my bard" and she kissed the blonde on the lips.
"I have loved you for a long time" the warrior admitted when the tender kiss was broken, "but I could never dare to think that you could feel the same way about me"
This time, the kiss was more passionate. Gabrielle took one of Xenas hands and guided it down her body.
"Feel me" she whispered and she steered the warriors hand down the waistband of her skirt.
"Feel my sex" she moaned, "that is what you do to me"
Xenas fingers passed over the hairy mound, then curled up inside the bards creamy folds.
"See how wet I am?" gasped the blonde as fingers began to ease in and out, in and out. She grasped Xenas wrist, guiding her, indicating she wanted this to continue, but faster.
"OH! My love, finger-fuck me! Take me!" she moaned.
The warrior obeyed happily, caressing Gabrielles breast with her free hand and seeking out the bards mouth with her own. This time, the embrace was frantic, as tongues savagely explored and hands relentlessly caressed. The bard climaxed quickly, her appreciation evident in her yelps of delight.
For a moment, they lay together, staring lovingly at each other.
"You know, if my imagination, my fantasies are a guide, we still have many things to do" grinned the younger woman.
"And we will do them, and more, I promise" Xena retorted with a wink.
It was a night of heartfelt endearments, sheer lust and passion.
Sleep had not been on the agenda. By the time first light had arrived, the bard was almost sated, her attempts at counting orgasms forgotten hours before. The warrior too looked utterly satisfied.
They were still kissing, caressing, fondling, but at a gentler pace.
"Do you ever think about death?" it was Gabrielle who spoke.
Xena looked puzzled "a strange change of topic" she laughed.
"Im sorry. That woman I mentioned, Lyssia. She had the same lover for 25 years, but they died apart. It sounded so sad" explained the bard.
"We wont die apart, I promise" said Xena "we will probably take on one fight too many, die in battle, but together. We go to the other side arm in arm, my love. I swear it"
"Pity, I was hoping we would die together, but in bed" laughed Gabrielle.
"You always have the best ideas!" grinned Xena, and they kissed.
"Im not planning on crossing just yet" said Gabrielle.
"Oh, what were you planning?" asked the warrior.
Gabrielle slid down the bed and began to nibble on Xenas clitoris.
"Mmmmm. I was hoping that was the case"
Gabrielle had booked the room for three days.
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