THE BETWEEN THE LINES SERIES
(or what happened between the episodes)
For Disclaimers, see "Looking for Trouble"
1.10 -- Fit for a Queen
(post "Hooves & Harlots")Ephiny: "Choose your weapon, or, choose your champion."
So we have a new princess, and the princess has a formidable champion. I can't say which one intrigues me most. Gabrielle is brave yet kind-hearted, and Xena is fearless and intelligent. I've come a long way in a very short time. Neither one of them impressed me when I first met them, and I certainly didn't trust either one of them. Now I consider them both to be allies, but more than that, they are our friends. Unbelievable, given our start. Then again, a moon ago if someone had told me I'd find myself falling in love with a centaur, I would have slit their throat.
I couldn't believe my ears when Terreis passed her right of caste on to Gabrielle. True, the girl was brave enough to throw her own body over our princess to try to protect her, but beyond that, she certainly didn't appear to be Amazon material. In that long skirt, and bearing no weapon of any kind, she hardly appeared to be more than twelve summers old, yet I knew she had to be old enough to be traveling with Xena. It puts us in an interesting place, having an outsider in line for the Queen's mask, and even more interesting that she comes packaged with the former destroyer of nations.
If Terreis had died without passing on her rights, Melosa's adopted daughter in the next village over, Velasca, would have been next in line for the throne. Terreis was brave, and a fierce warrior, but she believed in building bridges of peace whenever possible. Velasca is of the old school, and often clashed with Terreis and still clashes with Melosa. Maybe Terreis saw something in Gabrielle and her champion. They seemed to be getting on well enough while they were talking. There would be few if any challengers who could defeat Xena, were they to try to usurp Gabrielle. Gabrielle seems to share Terreis' view on how the world should work, and she has Xena's protection to back her up.
I've heard things about Xena -- rumors of her dealings with other Amazon tribes -- sinister things, but nothing that has been substantiated. One hears a lot of rumors about the Warrior Princess. I saw the smirk on her face when Eponin took her sword before we escorted them to our village. I get the feeling that Xena needs no weapon to win handily in battle.
Yes, she intrigues me on many levels. I couldn't help but study her as we walked. She threatened to gouge my eyes out if I didn't stop. I have no doubt she meant it. She knows our Amazon ways - our peace sign, and our means of moving through the trees. It makes me wonder about the truth to the rumors. And then there is Gabrielle.
Why this warrior was traveling with a mere slip of a girl was a mystery to me. At first I thought perhaps the girl was a servant, perhaps even a body slave, though why a woman like Xena would need a slave for such purposes when she could probably have any woman she wants, is beyond me. The mystery was soon solved, at least to my satisfaction.
Xena loves Gabrielle. The minute we were attacked by those arrows in the woods, she called for her, and placed herself between Gabrielle and the hidden archer. No one puts their own life at risk for a slave. Her first concern before she fought Melosa, was to ask me to get Gabrielle to safety if she lost. I tested the waters a bit, asking her why she puts up with Gabrielle, and finally, before they left, I asked her outright if they were lovers. She burst out laughing, and said absolutely not, but I see the way she looks at Gabrielle, and the adoration in Gabrielle's eyes when she looks at Xena. They may not be lovers now, but they will be.
I figured when Gabrielle learned what all is entailed in being an Amazon princess, she'd go running away, but she didn't. I'll admit it was a big improvement when we got her dressed properly, and out of that peasant girl skirt and blouse she was wearing. She actually has a nice body underneath all that material. At least she looked more like an Amazon, even if she doesn't quite move or fight like one. And she certainly doesn't talk like one - she doesn't know when to shut up.
She did okay with her weapons training with Eponin, though I didn't see most of their lessons. I was surprised when she chose a staff. It's my weapon of choice too, but I just assumed with her relationship with Xena, she would have chosen a sword. I understood it better after Xena and I traveled back and forth to Krykus' camp. I kept trying to bring up the right of caste business with her, but she is so damned focused, it was tough to get her mind on anything beyond the current strategy.
I did manage to ask her if she had ever taught Gabrielle to use a sword, and she said no, that Gabrielle doesn't kill. That was when I knew it would be best to keep quiet about her friends' new royal status, and let Gabrielle tell her herself. I could tell she was none too happy about it when she found out, either. Makes me wonder about those rumors even more. If she's been enemies with Amazons, it must be conflicting for her to be in love with one. She'd probably make good on that eye-gouging threat if I were to name the emotion I see between them, but I'm not stupid. I know what I see.
I'm glad I got a chance to know Xena. If not for her, we would have made a terrible mistake in killing Phantes. A good number of my sister Amazons would probably be dead, and I would not have met the person I want to spend my life with. Phantes and I have met halfway between our villages each evening since we defeated Krykus. He's kind and noble, and I find myself wanting to know everything I can about him. I owe Xena a world of gratitude for keeping a cool head.
Whatever her relationship may be with other Amazon tribes, it's well-established fact she was an enemy of the centaurs. Everyone has heard about her battle with them at Corinth. A smaller-minded person would have encouraged us to go to war with them. Xena has changed from any rumors I may have heard about her. I'm glad she's on our side through our princess.
Her assessment of our situation was amazing - the way she determined that centaurs did not kill Terreis. I learned a lot from her in a very short time - valuable things to know, and I couldn't help but be flattered when she asked me to come with her to scout out Krykus' camp, especially since I tried to kill her in that clearing at first. I assumed, wrongly, that she was playing the spy to the centaurs out there, or maybe tampering with the evidence I wanted to look at. I changed my mind when she saved both my life and the life of the centaur who attacked us.
That changed everything about what I thought of her. Even more flattering was her trust in me. She just seemed to make some internal deduction about what kind of person I am. I get the feeling Xena doesn't trust quickly or easily. I also get the feeling she has some supernatural sense about people that is beyond most of us, and her skills are definitely beyond what most of even our most hearty warriors could attain.
Our princess, on the other hand, I had my doubts about. I was purposefully cruel when she tried to make a light game out of her staff training with Eponin. I had thought I might make her cry, but instead she had this sad expression on her face after I showed her how to kill a centaur with a staff. There was a thoughtful intelligence in those eyes that I had not believed she was capable of up to that point.
Still, I had my doubts about her fighting skills. According to Xena, Gabrielle not only doesn't kill, she hadn't done any fighting at all during their travels together. I would have thought she might get herself killed in the battle with Krykus' army, and I groaned when I found myself fighting back to back with her, wondering if I was going to have to keep an eye out for both of us, although I could see Xena watching her, even as she fought her own battle.
While I was fighting, I could hear Gabrielle landing a fair number of blows with her staff. She didn't run, as I had expected, and she didn't scream at the sight of blood, as I had expected. What I never expected was for her to save my life instead. That changed everything about how I thought of our princess, just as Xena sparing me changed my thoughts on her. Only a brave and good person puts themselves in jeopardy for someone who is almost a stranger. After that, I was glad to have Gabrielle at my back.
I gave her my staff as a sign of friendship, and of my acceptance of her as my princess. Unless Gabrielle dies before Melosa, she will be Queen someday. Given my relationship with Phantes, I'm more than glad our future Queen is not quick to fight. The more I talked with her, the more I understood that there is more to her than meets the eye. She has an astounding knowledge of history and philosophy, and it was obvious she was soaking up all the details around her - our customs, our people, the way we do things. She will make a good leader someday.
It was a difficult thing to go against Queen Melosa. I've known Melosa since I was born, and have always been in alliance with her. But she was wrong, and people were going to die because of it. She was hurting from the death of her sister, and she held grudges from our first war with the centaurs. She did not want to listen to reason, but was out for vengeance.
I fully expected to die if Xena didn't defeat her, and I wasn't so sure Xena could defeat her. Of all our warriors, Melosa is one of the fiercest. Shrewd of Xena to choose chobos, given her weapon of choice is the sword, or that fancy chakram she carries with her. But I realized after she chose them, that Xena had probably seen Melosa fighting with chobos when we first entered the village to ask for their safe passage through our lands. Knowing her as I do now, Xena had probably observed enough of Melosa's skills to have an assessment of how to defeat her.
Xena could have killed Melosa and made Gabrielle our Queen, right there on the spot. It would have been an easy jump for Xena to take control of our village from there. Once again, I knew she was changed from the stories I've heard about her. I think Melosa understood this as well - I saw it in her eyes.
I also saw the easy communication between Xena and Gabrielle by facial expression alone, when we were working out demanding the challenge. Intelligent or not, it's one more factor in my thoughts on how they feel about each other - you have to be in tune with someone to get a response out of them by raising one eyebrow, which is exactly what Xena did. And I couldn't help but notice the pride in Gabrielle's voice when she named Xena her champion, or the glow on Xena's face as the words were spoken.
She wants to be so much to Gabrielle. That much is obvious. They've gone on their way now, and left our village in Melosa's capable hands. They left a great deal of positive change behind. We've formed a new alliance with the centaurs, which makes my relationship with Phantes more accepted than it would have been. There are those in our ranks who will never accept something so different, but I don't care. I know I love him, and that's all that matters to me.
I watched Xena and Gabrielle as they walked away. Xena was walking, leading the horse, and Gabrielle was talking, of course. She walked away in Terreis' clothing, and there was a confidence in her step that wasn't there when she first entered our village. That staff fits naturally in her hands, and she told me privately she's glad she can use it, and will be able to be useful to Xena now.
I have news for her. She's already won the heart of the warrior princess, a champion fit for a queen.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~NEXT in the BTL Series - Influence (post "The Black Wolf")
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