Copyright © by Wakar, 1997
The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny, Solari and the television show Xena: Warrior Princess are copyrighted by MCA/Universal. They are used here for fan purposes only and no copyright infringement is intended. The Poetry of Gabrielle's performance is by Lord Byron and I've long thought it is an almost perfect description of Xena. This Story also contains some description of sex between consenting adults. If you are under 18, do not continue.
NOTICE: There are bits before and after the actual Story. They are not necessary to understand or enjoy the Story but I thought I'd let you know some of the behind the scenes events. And as it evolved, it didn't have to be a dream after all but I kept the title anyway.
Gabrielle: I won't do it.
Wakar: What do you mean you 'won't do it?' What makes you think you have any choice - I'm the author!
Wakar: Well why not?!
Gabrielle: Because it's not me. I would never behave that way. It's too harsh, too cold hearted.
Wakar: But Gabrielle that's how the story unfolds.
Gabrielle: Then change it.
Wakar: I can't!
Gabrielle: Then make it a dream.
Wakar: That's no good! Dreams as plot devices are ok in small doses, but this would have to be almost the entire story!
Gabrielle: It's my way or the highway.
Wakar: (surprised, pauses, sarcastic) Gabrielle you don't even know what a highway is.
Gabrielle: (stands with hands on hips, fingers taping the leather belt of her skirt)
Wakar: (reluctantly tearing eyes away from "that peasant muscle") Oh, all right!
Xena brought Argo to a halt. She slipped to the ground and stood waiting for Gabrielle to catch up. Gazing back at the young bard, Xena was rewarded with the smile, the look of tender affection that never failed to touch her heart. She smiled in return and wondered again how someone like her could deserve the friendship and companionship of someone like Gabrielle. She dropped her eyes to the ground and shook her head, knowing she would probably never have an answer. And that was all right. She was just grateful for every day Gabrielle was with her.
"What are you shaking your head about?" Gabrielle asked as she stopped next to Xena.
Xena glanced at Gabrielle then let her eyes slide away. "Oh, nothing," she mumbled as she turned to look down the road.
Gabrielle's smiled deepened with affection as she looked at her warrior friend. For a long time Xena's reluctance, and sometimes out and out refusal, to share her thoughts and feelings had hurt. But eventually Gabrielle came to understand how difficult it was for Xena to let anyone get that close.
Xena glanced again at Gabrielle and saw the look of amused acceptance on her face. They both chuckled. "I don't know why you put up with me Gabrielle," Xena said as she turned and headed down the road. "But I'm glad you do," she added softly.
Gabrielle grinned and her eyes widened. For Xena that was a regular outburst of affection! With heart dancing she caught up to her friend and briefly clasped Xena's arm to show her appreciation of the older woman's words.
"So what's this town like? Are you familiar with it?" Gabrielle asked, partly out of curiosity and partly so that Xena wouldn't feel uncomfortable with the moment's closeness. She only half listened to Xena's reply. The rest of her was savoring the brief moment of intimacy. Those moments were so rare that she could almost remember every single one. 'Like pearls,' she thought to herself, 'strung together to make a beautiful necklace.'
Soon the two travelers were within the town gates. There were people everywhere. Flags and streamers were draped from every roof or balcony and the entire town seemed to be celebrating.
Gabrielle was thrilled by all the excitement. Xena was not. She wanted a hot bath and, for once, had actually been looking forward to sleeping in a soft bed.
"They must be having some kind of festival. I wonder what it is?" Gabrielle exclaimed.
"Come on," Xena grumbled, "we may as well get back out on the road. With this many people we'll never find a place to stay."
"I guess so." The young woman's shoulders slumped a little. "But couldn't we at least eat here?"
Xena knew Gabrielle would love to stay and enjoy whatever was being celebrated. She looked down at her disappointed friend. "Sure," she said. "And we can stay for a while. We just have to leave in time to find a place to camp."
They found a good tavern where Argo could also get fed and watered. The food was excellent and they took their time over the tasty fare. Finally they were done and Gabrielle became anxious to see what the celebration was all about. Xena rose and led the way toward the door.
"Excuse me. Are you Xena?"
The warrior stopped and looked down at the young man who had spoken. He had just come out from the kitchen and was still drying his hands on his apron.
The young man grinned. His joy was evident as he turned slightly and said "Then you must Gabrielle!"
The two women exchanged glances and Xena smiled slightly.
"Yes, yes I am."
"Oh, this is great! I've been trying to locate you for weeks and weeks."
"Do we know each other?" Gabrielle asked, a little taken aback by the enthusiasm.
"Well, we were never introduced, but I did get to hear you once. My uncle has a tavern in Phaloireia. I was helping out a few months back when you performed. I was working in the supply room and had left the door open. I heard you but was too busy to come out front and listen. That's why I didn't recognize you. You do have a beautiful voice."
Xena was smiling openly now. Gabrielle looked a little embarrassed. She was used to her performances being well received, but she wasn't use to being gushed over.
"Thank you. That's very nice." She nodded and began to move away.
"I'm sure you'll win," the young man called out as they reached the door.
Gabrielle stopped and turned back. "Win what?"
"The competition," he answered, frowning a little. "You're here to compete aren't you?"
The young man went on to explain that the town was holding it annual arts festival and competitions. He had tried to locate Gabrielle to invite her to come and compete. "I thought that was why you were here. Didn't you know about it?"
Gabrielle explained that she had not known and that she and Xena were just passing through.
"But you have to stay and compete! You're sure to win!" He paused and grinned sheepishly. "I guess I sound silly. But, you see, this is my family's tavern. I've been listening to bards perform all my life. I know talent when I hear it. You're good Gabrielle," he said softly. " Very good." Gabrielle looked at him as if for the first time and noticed the dark, loosely curling hair, fine cheeks and soft brown eyes. Eyes that were gazing very intently into her own.
"When's the competition?" The young man and Gabrielle both turned to look up at Xena.
"Tonight and tomorrow night. The winner will be announced the next morning. And whoever it is gets an invitation for the next competition in Athens." He looked from one to the other, anxiously waiting. Gabrielle continued to look up at Xena and wait. She could have asked, pleaded, begged. She had done so on occasion in the past when she had really wanted to stay in some town or village and perform. And, unless they were needed somewhere, Xena had almost always agreed. But suddenly she was tired of having to beg for permission to do something that was important to her, something that gave her great pleasure. She was glad she could help people who needed it but after all being a bard was her calling, not being a warrior.
Xena frowned slightly at the idea of spending two days here. She looked around the room, fighting off the demons that were always at her back, driving her on. She waited for Gabrielle to say she wanted to stay but the young woman was silent. Xena looked back at the bard. Gabrielle stood quietly, without expression, looking at Xena, waiting for her decision. "Sure, why not," she said finally. Her frown deepened as Gabrielle continued to look up at her without any reaction. Usually the young woman would burst into cheers.
Gabrielle continued to look at Xena for a long moment. Just once she wished Xena's support, if it could even be called that, would be just a little bit enthusiastic rather than begrudging. Slowly she turned back to the young man. "I would love to enter the competition. Is there anything special I need to do?"
"Just be here. Tonight's program is already set so you'll have to wait until tomorrow evening."
"That's fine. Since you live here you must be familiar with the area. Is there a good place nearby where we could camp?"
"Sure, I know a great spot. It's pretty secluded so I doubt if anyone else is there. I wish I could offer you a room here but we're all full. You could stay here tomorrow night though. Tomorrow is the last full day of the festival and I know many of the guests are leaving."
"That would be wonderful."
He gave them directions to the camp site and returned to work.
"I'm going to check on Argo," Xena said as they stepped outside. "Why don't you go ahead and look around." Gabrielle nodded and headed off down the street. Xena paused a moment looking after her. She didn't understand her friend's lack of excitement. She wondered briefly what was wrong, then shrugged and headed for the stables.
The young man had been right about the site. It was convenient to town but hidden enough to be completely private. And it had a small stream nearby. Xena had found the place and done a little setting up while Gabrielle was enjoying the festival. She knew it would be late when they returned that evening and wanted to be able to just turn in for the night.
They met back at the tavern in time to have dinner before the competition began. As they ate Xena watched Gabrielle surreptitiously as the young woman still seemed a little distant. 'Maybe she's just thinking about the competition,' the warrior thought. "Have you decided what story to tell?" she asked.
Gabrielle looked up in surprise, then smiled and shook her head. "I always try to decide ahead of time but it almost never works," she confessed. "It's like I have to see the audience first, to get a sense of them. Sometimes I don't know until I finally begin to speak."
"Really? You always seem so...prepared," Xena responded in surprise.
Gabrielle chuckled. "Well, it's not like I make up the stories on the spot. I already know them I just don't know which one or the best way to tell it until the last moment."
"I've noticed that sometimes you tell the same story in different ways. Why?" The young woman began to explain the hows and whys of her methods as they continued their meal. The two talked easily and the tension Gabrielle had been feeling all afternoon began to drain away. Finally dinner was over and it was time for the performers.
Nikos, the young man who had spoken to them earlier, came to their table and asked if he could join them. He supplied a round of port and they sat back to listen. He and Gabrielle spoke quietly at the end of each performance, going over what they liked and didn't like. Soon, however, Gabrielle noticed that Xena was beginning to fidget. Inwardly she sighed and knew that she would probably not get to see the rest of the competitors. Finally during a break she stood up. Gabrielle moved to follow.
"You're not leaving yet are you?" Nikos asked the bard.
"I need to get back and check on the camp site," Xena replied.
"But you can stay Gabrielle," he said.
"I can come back later if you want to stay," Xena offered.
"Oh, that's not necessary," Nikos said quickly. "I know where the site is. It isn't that far. I'll take you back Gabrielle, if you don't mind walking."
"Is that all right with you Xena?" Gabrielle asked.
'No,' Xena thought. "Yes," she said.
Xena tossed and turned on her bedroll. It was late and Gabrielle still had not returned. For the hundredth time she cursed herself for not staying with her young friend. Who knew what that boy was really like. Referring to him as a "boy" rather than a "man" did nothing to help ease Xena's mind. Sure he seemed nice, and very respectful of Gabrielle. But that was in public, and when the warrior had been at Gabrielle's side. Now that he was alone with her . . . . 'That's it,' Xena thought, throwing off her blanket, 'I'm going after her.'
But before she could sit up she heard soft laughter not far away. Relief flooded her, Gabrielle wasn't hurt or in danger. She listened as the voices drew nearer. They spoke quietly and she relaxed, pulling the blanket back over her.
After they'd said good-night Gabrielle sat quietly, smiling into the fire. Nikos' attentiveness had not been lost on her. She was flattered but also a little uncomfortable. She wondered if Xena was awake, decided it wasn't something she could talk to her about anyway, and lay down to try and sleep.
Xena sat, leaning against the wall of the inn, sipping port, Gabrielle at her side. The evening's competition had begun and Xena smiled into her cup at how intensely Gabrielle was watching each performer. She wasn't even paying any attention to Nikos, though he certainly paid attention to her every time he passed near their table.
Nikos and Gabrielle had spent the day together enjoying the games and entertainment being offered throughout the town. Xena had taken the opportunity to give Argo a good run and polish her armor. Later in the day she had moved their belongings into the room at the inn and had met Gabrielle for dinner.
Gabrielle had talked excitedly about the festival and everything she'd seen, but had not once mentioned Nikos. Xena wasn't sure why. She'd seemed happy to see him that morning and had given no indication that the day had been anything other than pleasant.
Xena decided that Gabrielle deserved to have some privacy and had not asked her about Nikos. But as he again passed by their table, Xena admitted to herself that she also had selfish reasons for not bringing up the subject of the young man. Her affection for Gabrielle had been growing steadily and now was on the verge of unfolding into a deep love. This was something she'd been aware of for some time but had avoided thinking about. The warrior sighed with the realization that it could no longer be avoided. The flow of her feelings wasn't about to ebb and she must come to terms with them.
"What's wrong?" Gabrielle asked, looking with concern at her friend.
Xena paused and shook her head slightly. "Nothing's wrong Gabrielle. I was just . . . thinking over something."
Gabrielle knew that Xena would not be dishonest with her, but she could be craftily evasive when she chose.
The performer was done and Nikos came over to see if they wanted anything. "Nothing for me, thanks," Gabrielle said.
"I'll have another port," Xena replied. Nikos looked at Gabrielle for a long moment before moving toward the bar. Xena watched him go. Gabrielle watched Xena.
Gabrielle wondered what was going on in Xena's mind, but knew it would be futile to ask. She shifted on the bench, moving a little closer to Xena and reached her hand to lightly touch the warrior's arm. "So what did you think of the last performer?"
"Wait 'til you hear this next guy. He's wonderful!"
Nikos arrived with Xena's port and hurried on to deliver other drinks. Gabrielle was focused on the stage and had not even acknowledged his presence.
Again Xena watched Gabrielle over the rim of her cup. The young bard's lack of professional jealousy had amazed her when they first met. But she'd come to see that Gabrielle always wanted the best for everyone and didn't see other bards as rivals - only as fellow artists.
Gabrielle was right, this poet was very good. Xena wished that Gabrielle didn't have to perform right after him, then reprimanded herself for not having more confidence in her young friend. And she knew that, while Gabrielle might be disappointed if she lost, she was never bitter.
The poet finished to great applause and it was Gabrielle's turn.
As the young bard began to weave her tale Xena realized the two strong points that made Gabrielle a great story teller. First, having lived through several adventures herself, the young bard could bring any adventure to life. She added elements from her own experiences to make the story real and exciting whether it was fiction or some oft' heard, well worn tale. And, second, the people in her tales were always vivid and charismatic. When she was done the audience more often than not felt as if they knew the people in the story and had been part of it themselves.
As she looked around the room, seeing the audience beginning to fall under Gabrielle's spell, she smiled and felt very proud of her friend.
Xena stood and finally stepped out of the hot bath. It had been wonderful and she'd allowed herself a nice long soak. The only thing that had kept her from relaxing completely had been Gabrielle who had been constantly pacing.
After the competition they had been joined by Nikos and had sat discussing all the performers and Gabrielle's chances of winning. Though Xena had not contributed much to the conversation she had decided that this night she would not leave until Gabrielle was also ready to go. Nikos had not been happy with the warrior's continued presence and at one point had asked Gabrielle to go for a walk with him. She had declined and shortly thereafter had suggested they turn in for the night.
Suddenly Xena wondered if her presence had kept Gabrielle from taking Nikos up on his offer. She dried herself off and climbed into bed. "Gabrielle." Xena waited for a response but her friend seemed not to have heard and continued her pacing back and forth in front of the window. 'She looks so lovely in the moonlight,' Xena thought. "Gabrielle."
"What's bothering you?"
"Gabrielle, if you wanted to go for a walk with Nikos . . . I mean . . . I hope, I hope I wasn't in the way."
The young woman stopped and turned to look at Xena, a slight frown on her face. "Xena, if I win . . . I do want to go on to Athens, to the next competition."
Xena's lips pressed together. She hated Athens and they both knew it. But she knew she would go.
"You don't have to come, you know," Gabrielle said, her frown deepening. "I know you don't like being in Athens." She stood, every muscle taut. "Nikos said he would take me."
Xena was quiet for a long time, staring at her friend. With her heart constricted she could barely bring herself to ask, "Is that what you want Gabrielle?"
"No," the young bard answered quietly. "But you hate Athens and he's planning to go anyway so I thought . . . that . . . ."
"It's a long journey from here. We should begin right away to make sure we get there in time." Xena continued to look at Gabrielle, saw her relax, and was rewarded with the beautiful smile that she loved so much.
Slipping into bed next to Xena, Gabrielle said, "You know, Xena, if I do win I'm sure we won't have to be in Athens for very long.'
"Well, I don't know about the people who performed last night, but tonight you were the best. I'd vote for you."
Gabrielle turned her head on the pillow so she could look into Xena's eyes. She wanted to thank Xena, to tell her how much her support and friendship meant. But she was afraid to speak, afraid that once begun she would say more than Xena would ever be comfortable hearing. She quickly turned away, mumbling "Thank you," and tried not to think about all the things she really wanted to say, and about how wonderful it would be if she won and could go to Athens.
"Wake up sleepyhead." Gabrielle moaned and pulled the covers over her head. "There's a hot breakfast here." Xena said. The sheet came back down and Gabrielle sat up, rubbing her eyes and yawning.
"Wow, this looks great!" Gabrielle exclaimed as Xena put the tray on the foot of the bed. The young bard dove in with great enthusiasm.
Soon the meal was finished and they went downstairs to await the results of the competition.
She had known her chances were good, but she had not really thought she would win out over Melias, the poet. The official invitation to compete in Athens was made out in her name and she and Xena prepared to leave.
As it turned out Nikos would not be able to begin the journey for several days yet. It was obvious that he wanted them to wait so he could travel with them. Gabrielle knew that that would not suit Xena, and, in truth, she had had enough of Nikos' attention for a while. He was clearly interested in more than just her bardic skills. She liked him, but not that way. She told him that she and Xena were going on ahead, but that maybe they would meet in Athens. To his credit Nikos acquiesced gracefully and let go of any thoughts that the lovely young bard might return his affections.
The days flowed by uneventfully and the pair made good time. Gabrielle was relieved that nothing arose to slow them down, no emergencies that required Xena's help and would keep them from reaching Athens.
As the days passed she had to admit to herself just how important this was. Nikos had explained that this was only the second year of the competition but that it was already a prestigious event that would greatly enhance the career of anyone who made it to the finals in Athens. And, after all, that was what she wanted. She loved traveling with Xena and helping people, but she was a bard, not a warrior. This was her calling and she so much wanted this opportunity. She had not shared her feelings with her companion, understanding that Xena, though she would listen, was just not very interested in things artistic.
Her head snapped up to see Argo galloping in her direction, Xena with sword drawn. She immediately whirled to look behind her, bringing her staff to readiness. Charging down the road in their direction was a lone rider. Both reached Gabrielle at the same time. The rider abruptly reined in and leapt to the ground in front of Gabrielle, bending to one knee just as Xena flipped through the air to land between the two.
"My Queen," the rider gasped.
Gabrielle lowered her staff and stepped in front of Xena to address the Amazon warrior before her. "Rise."
The woman stood, glancing warily at Xena who had not changed from fighting stance. "My Queen, I bring an urgent message."
Gabrielle's heart sank. Here it was, the news that would keep her from competing in Athens. She sighed, then chastised herself for being selfish when someone might need their help. "What is it?"
"A messenger arrived two weeks ago. Ephiny sent out three dozen riders to try to find you." She paused and looked at Xena,"The messenger was from Amphipolis. Your mother has fallen ill. He said the healer couldn't tell whether or not she would recover or . . . how . . . long . . . ."
"What's wrong with her?" Xena demanded.
"The messenger didn't know. He thought it was something to do with her breathing."
"We'll start right away," Gabrielle said. "I can take turns riding with both of you so the horses won't get worn out."
"I'm afraid that's not possible My Queen." The Amazon turned to look at her horse which was breathing heavily, head hung low to the ground. "She's already been pushed to the limit, any more and she'll die. She must have rest."
"But . . ."
"She's right Gabrielle," Xena said softly.
The bard looked up at the warrior and waited but Xena said no more. "Then you go ahead," Gabrielle said softly. For a moment there was pain in Xena's eyes but it was quickly hidden. "We can follow. I'll get there as soon as I can."
Xena looked at the young woman for a long moment before speaking. "No Gabrielle. I want you to go on to Athens." Xena placed a firm hand on her friend's shoulder before she could protest. "Listen to me. Mother may be fine by the time I get there. Then you'll have missed the competition for nothing."
"But what if she isn't?"
"Gabrielle, I'll be fine." Xena spoke in a determined manner, "This is the way I want it. You can come to Amphipolis after the competition."
The bard continued to look at the warrior, trying to decide whether or not she could override the older woman's decision. Xena's look became more determined as the moments passed.
"I'm capable of taking care of this myself Gabrielle," Xena said harshly as she turned toward Argo and began unloading their packs. Gabrielle cringed under the reprimand. "Send word to Ephiny that I'm grateful for what she's done. And you," Xena continued, looking hard at the Amazon warrior, "you're not to leave her side. Is that understood?"
The Amazon glanced briefly at Gabrielle who nodded. "I will do as you say."
Gabrielle dropped her belongings to the floor and walked to the window. Behind her she could hear Kalia pick the bag up and begin unpacking, storing her Queen's few possessions in a cupboard. She sighed and was again assailed by the feelings that had been generated by Xena's abrupt departure. Feelings of doubt about their friendship. It sounded like Xena was being generous in making Gabrielle go ahead with the competition. But part of the young bard wondered if Xena just didn't want her around for what could be a very emotional time. Was Xena trying to give Gabrielle something the bard wanted, or was she just pushing her away?
'Well, just because we're friends doesn't mean she has to share everything with me,' Gabrielle thought. But still . . . the circumstances had brought up some issues and she continued to wonder at their relationship. Sometimes it seemed the strongest thing in the world. At others a diaphanous thread. She knew, had always known, that Xena must be accepted on her own terms. And she knew that Xena cared for her deeply and valued her friendship. But suddenly she was very tired, tired of watching out for Xena's moods, tired of always being the one to make allowances.
"My Queen . . . ."
Gabrielle turned toward the soft voice. Kalia stood by the door, her face full of concern. Gabrielle waited but the Amazon spoke no more. She sighed inwardly and wondered why she always found herself with strong, silent warriors. "Yes?"
"If it please you, My Queen, I will have a bath and dinner readied for you."
"Yes, that would be fine." She watched the warrior leave, then returned to gazing out the window. She could see nothing but buildings and roof tops even though the Amazon lodge was close to the outskirts of the city. Kalia had insisted they stay here rather than some place more convenient to the Academy where the competition was being held. The young Amazon had fully understood Xena's implied order to protect Gabrielle from any harm, and she had no intention of allowing anything happen to her Queen.
Though Gabrielle had never ruled the Amazons, giving Ephiny that task during her absence, she had been greeted with respect and deference upon their arrival. It was nice, but lonely. Slowly she began to undress and prepare for her bath.
Much to Gabrielle's surprise the following days were very enjoyable. They had arrived three days before the competition was to begin. She handed in her official invitation right away and met many of the other performers. They would gather each day to commiserate and share the ups and downs of life as a traveling bard. At first many of them were a little taken aback by the Amazon body guard that accompanied Gabrielle at all times. But soon even that was accepted and she had many pleasant and entertaining hours with her new acquaintances. In the evening she would regale the Amazons with stories and poems. They soon relaxed their reserve and began treating her more as an equal. She, in turn, relaxed also and allowed herself to fully enjoy it all. But at night, when there was nothing to distract her, she wondered how Xena's mother was and worried about Xena.
Finally the competition began. Gabrielle's turn came on the second day. Since this was a public affair, it was held in one of the city's theaters. It wasn't as large as where the plays were performed but it was full. The young bard stood off stage waiting and fidgeting. Kalia, as always, stood still and silent by her side. At last it was her turn. Just as she was about move she felt a restraining hand on her arm. She looked up and saw Kalia smiling down at her, conveying with one look all her support and encouragement and pride in her Queen. Gabrielle was surprised for a moment then she smiled her gratitude at the young warrior who had been so reserved and formal their entire time together. She headed for the center circle determined to enjoy the moment. As she looked at all the people crowed in together she saw one entire section filled with Amazons and her heart soared even more. The she began:
I sing of Xena, the Warrior Princess
She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes...
The wine flowed freely that evening at the Amazon lodge. They were proud of their Queen and drank toast after toast to her skill and prowess as a bard. 'Too bad they don't get to vote' Gabrielle smiled to herself.
It had been a wonderful experience to perform before so many people, and so different from the rowdy drunks she often had to cope with on the road. The audience had been there specifically to hear the bards perform so there was no need to win them over. This allowed her to devote all her focus on the story. And they had responded with cheers and loud applause.
She sighed contentedly and looked around for Kalia. There she stood, several paces behind Gabrielle, still and straight, back to the wall. She held no drink, her look was watchful. "Kalia," Gabrielle called out, "come over here." The warrior obeyed. Gabrielle patted the bench beside her. Kalia looked sightly alarmed, shook her head and again lifted her eyes to roam the room. Gabrielle sighed and gave it up. She knew the woman was doing her job and she would not make it harder by arguing with her. She turned back to her other drinking companions.
Later, when one of the other Amazons was relating a particularly funny story about Ephiny as a young girl, Gabrielle leaned back laughing and came to rest against Kalia's leg. She glanced up at the warrior, surprised that she had not returned to her position against the wall, but received no answering look, only a slight tensing of the hard muscle of the warrior's thigh. Gabrielle quickly looked away and after a long moment forced herself to shift her weight from the young woman's leg. She took a drink, hoping it would quell the strange sensations which had suddenly flamed within her.
Finally the party began to dwindle and Gabrielle decided it was time for bed. She rose, a little unsteadily but for the most part with dignity, bid goodnight to her subjects and made her way up the stairs to her room. As she stepped inside she turned to look again at Kalia. "Thank you. At the competition I mean. For your . . . encouragement. It helped a lot." The warrior, expressionless, nodded. Then as she reached in to close the door behind her Queen she broke into a huge grin, "You were wonderful!" she exclaimed, and closed the door.
Gabrielle came in third in the competition and everyone was very happy for her, though the Amazons made grumbling noises about crooked judges. The bard herself was thrilled. She had been amazed at the talent and was truly awed that she had done so well.
That afternoon Gabrielle and Kalia made plans for the trip to Amphipolis. They would leave the next morning, but for now she was going to just relax. She hoped that Xena's mother was all right. If not . . . Well, the bard knew that Xena would be stoic and keep it all to herself. The memory of a camp fire flooded into her thoughts. Xena, being stoic as she relived the horror that had happened at Cirra. Then, for a moment, the facade had dissolved and the warrior wept. Gabrielle could still feel her own longing to comfort her friend. But Xena had pulled away. Gabrielle had tried to understand and accept Xena's emotional independence, then and many times later. The understanding had finally come but the acceptance had not. She knew Xena did not need her comforting, but that didn't stop the feeling of being shut out.
She sighed and thought about the last several days. The Amazons, the other bards she'd met, even the ever present and ever silent Kalia, had all brought joy to her heart. Gabrielle sat her cup down forcefully and began pacing the room. Finally she had to admit that she wasn't looking forward to leaving. That she had secretly been hoping that Xena would show up, say everything was fine and why didn't they stay on for a while. Part of her felt guilty and selfish. And part of her felt at home. With a sigh she poured herself another glass of wine, returned to her seat and waited for supper.
"I'm looking for the bard Gabrielle." Kalia was immediately at Gabrielle's side as the stranger was shown into the main lodge room. They were just preparing to eat and the young man saw no friendly faces.
"I have a message from my master. He name is Brakis, he is an instructor at the academy." Kalia stepped forward to take the paper from the young man and he quickly departed. She gave it to Gabrielle and watched as the emotions flickered across the bards face. Then Gabrielle folded the paper and put it away.
The next morning as they were preparing to leave Gabrielle requested one of the Amazons deliver a message to Brakis. But before she could do so another messenger arrived. This one was from Amphipolis. Gabrielle quickly read the short note. Xena's mother was still very ill but Xena thought she had a good chance of recovery. It would be a while though and she would have to stay there to tend to her. There wasn't really anything Gabrielle could do to help so if she wanted to she should stay in Athens. Xena had given no time table so Gabrielle decided to just wait until she heard from her again. She sent a message back to Amphipolis that she would remain in Athens. Then she changed the message that was being sent to Brakis.
"He had asked me to give a performance the day after tomorrow," she explained to Kalia when they had taken their bags back up stairs to unpack. "I'd refused but now I'll be able to go." Kalia merely nodded but Gabrielle noticed the slight smile that played on the warrior's lips. "Kalia, you must be bored to death by now. Why don't we assign someone else the job of body guard?"
Kalia rarely looked Gabrielle in the eyes but she did so now. "Are you displeased with my service?"
"No! Not at all. I meant just what I said Kalia, I wasn't talking in riddles. You deserve some time off. You've done an excellent job."
The warrior continued to look into Gabrielle's eyes and the bard saw the indecision there. "My Queen . . ."
"You know, I think when we're alone I would prefer you to call me Gabrielle."
"I'm not sure that would be appropriate."
"Do you mean that because you are my guard that we can't also be friends?" The Amazon finally looked away and Gabrielle saw the anguish on her face. She laid her hand on the woman's arm and felt the muscles tense, saw her breath quicken.
"My . . . Gabrielle," she said at last, "I would be honored to be your friend."
"Good, it's settled then." She smiled up at the warrior who again turned her gaze back to the bard. Her hand still rested on Kalia's arm and after a moment longer she felt the woman relax. Her smile deepened and she realized that, while meeting all her new friends was nice, she had missed the one to one interaction she was used to with Xena.
Kalia and Gabrielle worked out a schedule to allow the Amazon some time for herself. At first Gabrielle had tried to do away with having a constant body guard. But Kalia had been firm and would not even listen to Gabrielle's suggestions. When it came to guarding her Queen, Kalia had explained, her word was law. Gabrielle gracefully withdrew her protests and resigned herself to the inevitable reactions of others.
She had attended the performance Brakis had invited her to and had found many other invitations to perform being sent her way. Most she accepted. Some were public performances but most were for private gatherings. She enjoyed them all and her audiences enjoyed her work.
Then came the most prestigious invitation so far. She was invited to perform at the Artemis Festival on the island of Delos. There was never any doubt about her accepting, even though it was several weeks away. She would not miss the opportunity to honor the patron goddess of the Amazons. Everyone at the lodge began making plans. They would all go. Gabrielle was very excited and she and Kalia spent many evenings discussing the trip.
One morning another messenger arrived from Amphipolis. Xena's mother was out of danger and recovering quickly. Xena also informed her that she would need to hurry to Amphipolis as they would need to leave right away. A few war lords west of Corinth were attempting to band together and the people had sent for Xena to try and break it up before they gained too much power.
Kalia found Gabrielle sitting in her room, staring at the fire. "They said you had refused any supper. What's wrong."
Gabrielle told her what was in the note. Kalia gently put her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder. Gabrielle reached up to take the hand in her own and leaned back against Amazon's legs. She remembered the night after the competition when she had accidentally done the same thing and suddenly tears were falling down her cheeks.
"Gabrielle . . .? Gabrielle they need her."
"Her, yes. But they don't need me. My being there or not wouldn't make any difference."
"It might make a difference to her. It certainly would to . . . ."
"To me," Kalia said softly. Gabrielle held her breath and continued to stare into the fire, but the woman said no more.
"Well, I'm not going. Everyone here has been so wonderful to me. They're all looking forward to Delos and I'm not going to back out. Xena can handle the situation without me. We can always meet up later."
The next morning she sent the message to Xena. She had expected to get a reply before time for the trip to Delos but none ever came.
The festival was both lively and inspiring. Since Ephiny could not attend, Gabrielle was asked to preside over many of the rituals. She had been very nervous. Since she had not been raised as an Amazon there were still many of their rites and ceremonies that she was unfamiliar with. But Kalia coached her through each one and the other Amazons gracefully made allowances for the circumstances, knowing that she was sincere in her desire to honor them and Artemis.
After three days the last ceremony was finally over. They would leave the next day for Athens but tonight they would celebrate a successful festival. There had been many reunions and much revelry but it had been held somewhat in check. Tonight everyone could relax. Gabrielle found herself sitting with a small group of people who were a little less rowdy than most. But they did insist on making toasts to their Queen. Soon the young bard was in desperate need of fresh air. As she rose someone pressed the wine jug into her hands - in case she got thirsty before returning they laughed.
Gabrielle made her way slowly down to the shore. The moon was full and the sand was bathed in its light. As she began to stroll along the beach she did not have to look back to know that Kalia was following. After a while she moved away from the water's edge and found a place to sit. She looked up at Kalia and patted the ground beside her. This time the Amazon did not refuse. Gabrielle took another drink and offered the jug to Kalia, who declined the offer. Setting the jug down Gabrielle stretched out and leaned back on her elbows. Kalia turned to face the ocean.
"Why are you turning away from me?"
"I'm just looking at the ocean and the moonlight."
"No you're not. You're deliberately not looking at me. I may be a little tipsy but I'm not stupid."
Kalia quickly turned to face the bard. "Gabrielle I know you're not stupid."
"Then don't lie to me." They held each other's gaze for a moment then Kalia dropped her eyes, though this time she did not physically turn away. "You're doing it again!"
"Gabrielle . . . please. . ."
"Please what?" Gabrielle asked softly. Silence. After a moment Gabrielle put her hand on Kalia's chin and lifted her face until their eyes met once more. This time Kalia did not look away and Gabrielle slipped her hand behind Kalia's neck, drawing the Amazon's lips to her own.
The kiss was slow and soft but the young bard heard the moan that Kalia could not quiet hold back. Gabrielle placed her other arm around the woman's waist and pulled the warrior down on top of her. She felt Kalia's hand on her cheek as the woman slipped her tongue past Gabrielle's lips. She heard the moaning again but realized it was coming from herself. The weight of Kalia's body on top of her, the insistence of the warrior's tongue, let loose the passion that it seemed had been pent up for years.
Gabrielle softly cried out as Kalia withdrew her tongue, her lips, her body. "Shhh," the Amazon whispered as she raised the bard to a sitting position. She gently reached to the clasp on Gabrielle's right shoulder that held the tunic in place. The fabric released, and the body of her Queen was immersed in the silvery moonlight. She slid her hand down to gently caress the full breasts. Gabrielle's breath was quick and shallow. Kalia moved to kneel between the bard's legs and then lifted Gabrielle on to her lap quickly taking one of the erect nipples into her mouth. Gabrielle moaned again and held the warrior's head tightly against her. Soon her hips began the rhythmic rocking that begged for release. Kalia tightened her arm around the slender waist and slipped her fingers into wet dankness.
For a moment Gabrielle thought her passion, her need, would overwhelm her. But she could not stop, the force driving her was too strong. She left Kalia no doubt about what she wanted and gave herself over to release.
Gabrielle sat in her room, staring at the fire. She shivered slightly and pulled the woolen blanket closer around her. It had been a month since the Artemis Festival and winter was closing fast. It would have already started snowing in the mountains. Holding her hands out to the fire, she hoped that Xena was safe and warm. For a moment the memories of winters on the road filled her mind - cold, often wet, sleeping mostly in caves, and only occasionally persuading Xena to stay at an inn. The corners of her mouth turned up slightly as she recalled how her sense of adventure had so completely overridden any discomfort. But the smile faded quickly and she pushed the memories away.
She reached for the cup of tea on the table, but, almost on its own, her hand opened the small drawer instead and pulled out a piece of paper. It was the letter from Xena that had arrived while she was at Delos. She lay it in her lap and again thought regretfully about the last note she had sent her friend. She could have said more, been nicer, explained about the Artemis Festival. But no, she'd been selfishly afraid, had only said she had agreed to a performance and could not join Xena.
Xena's letter had explained that the problem with the war lords was only part of some conspiracy. She hadn't given all the details but explained that she had to go straight to Delphi and did not know how long she would be gone. Then she had written the words that had burned into Gabrielle's mind: "I hope you're happy in Athens." She knew. Even before Gabrielle herself had been conscious of it, Xena had known that her young friend had chosen to remain in the city, to give up her life on the road, their life together.
Gabrielle had then wanted to explain to Xena her reasons for ending their time together, but she'd no idea how or where to reach the warrior. She gently rubbed her fingers over the corse paper as tears brushed her cheeks. 'Xena deserved better,' she thought. 'Our friendship deserved better.' She lowered her head and let the tears flow, knowing her choice for a life as an artist had cost her the best friendship she would ever have.
Gabrielle looked up from her breakfast then leapt from her chair. "Ephiny!" The young woman ran into her friends arms almost knocking her to the floor. The two embraced joyously for several moments then Gabrielle began an endless stream of questions.
Laughing, Ephiny finally held up a hand to silence the bard. "Oh, Gabrielle, it's so good to see you again."
"What are you doing here? Why didn't you let us know you were coming?" She led Ephiny to her table and sat grinning in delight. After making arrangements to take care of their gear and horses, readying rooms and ordering breakfast the two Amazons Queens finally began to talk.
"To be perfectly honest with you the reason I'm here is pure restlessness," Ephiny said. "This winter was very harsh but since it looks like we're getting an early spring I decided I just had to get out and move around a bit." She smiled affectionately at Gabrielle. "Now tell me what you've been up to while I eat. I'm famished!" Gabrielle told her about the contest she competed in and the unending requests for her to perform. She spoke matter-of-factly, though, with very little animation. This was not lost on Ephiny though she made no comment on it. "Sounds like you're taking Athens by storm," she grinned. I decided I just had to get out and move around a bit." She smiled affectionately at Gabrielle. "Now tell me what you've been up to while I eat. I'm famished!" Gabrielle told her about the contest she competed in and the unending requests for her to perform. She spoke matter-of-factly, though, with very little animation. "Sounds like you're taking Athens by storm," she grinned.
Ephiny finished eating and they took their tea to sit before the fire. Finally most of the hustle and bustle of the Amazons' arrival quieted down and Ephiny and Gabrielle were left along in the main room. She filled Gabrielle in on all the news and gossip of the past year. Ending up by telling of another encounter between Solari and Autolycus which had them both laughing. But for Gabrielle joy was brief as it brought up memories of rescuing Xena's body and returning her to life with the Ambrosia. She grew quiet and stared into the fire.
Finally, after a long silence she spoke, but did not turn her head from the flames. "Have you . . . have you heard anything about Xena?" she whispered.
"As a matter of fact," Ephiny said after a long pause, "we met her on our way here."
Gabrielle looked up quickly. "Is she all right?! I mean, how did she seem?" The young bard strove to sound neutral but every muscle was taut.
"She seemed fine Gabrielle." Ephiny looked at her for a long time. "I admit it was a surprise to learn the two of you had . . . were not traveling together any more. You were so devoted to one another." Gabrielle turned her gaze back to the fire, unable to speak. "You ARE very different though, she's a warrior, you're an artist. I guess it was inevitable that eventually your paths would diverge." Gabrielle simply nodded and continued to stare into the flames.
Xena flipped through the air, landing in the middle of the bandits. The odds against her were quickly being reduced. But then twenty more came roaring out of the woods. The men fought as if crazed, with no concern for their own safety. The warrior held her own for a while but there were just too many. 'Why doesn't she run?' Gabrielle thought. 'She's not protecting anyone, no one will get hurt if she retreats.' But the warrior stayed. Gabrielle tried to run to her friend's side but found she couldn't move. She struggled against invisible bonds to no avail. 'Help her! Someone help her,' she screamed, but it only came out in a whisper. Suddenly the men began dissolve back into the woods. Gabrielle was flooded with relief, until she saw Xena lying on the ground. Finding herself no longer bound she ran to Xena. The warrior was lying face down in the grass. Gently Gabrielle turned her over as saw the deep cut over the warrior's heart. "Xena. Xena! Wake up! XENA!" But the fallen woman made no sound and no breathe escaped her lips.
Gabrielle jumped out of bed, looking wildly around her and gasping for air. In the ashen moonlight she saw the woman on the bed, dark hair, long muscular legs. She almost called out but the name died on her lips. This was not Xena. Even in total darkness she would have known it wasn't the warrior princess. Xena never slept through Gabrielle's nightmares, Kalia always did.
She moved to put more wood on the fire. Spring had indeed come early but the nights were still cold. Though Gabrielle thought that the chill filling her had nothing to do with the weather. Her sleep was becoming more erratic and she had not written a new story or poem in months, and - perhaps more frightening - she felt no desire to do so.
Knowing there would be no more sleep for her this night, she reached for an extra blanket from the foot of the bed. Kalia was still sleeping peaceful. Gabrielle lightly caressed the woman's cheek with her fingertips. She had welcomed the closeness of the Amazon, her loving ways, her tenderness and, perhaps most importantly, her willingness to fully express the affection and caring she felt for Gabrielle. That openness had helped Gabrielle to realized how much she had longed for such a connection with someone. She kissed the Amazon's soft lips and turned to sit by the fire.
She knew that the dream had been triggered by seeing and talking with Ephiny. After Xena had gotten her body back, Gabrielle had still suffered nightmares about her death. But they had retreated in the time she had been in Athens, as had her feelings for the majestic warrior woman. Now everything was suddenly flooding back as she realized that all her feelings for Xena had not diminished but had only been dormant. With a deep and peaceful sigh she accepted the truths she had learned about herself. Her childhood dreams of being a successful artist had come true and it was more fun and exhilarating than she had dreamed. But the greatest truth of all was that without Xena her life was incomplete. Gabrielle smiled, knowing that she would find more happiness and joy in life performing in the humblest tavern with Xena sitting in a far corner than performing in the palace of the king of Athens.
She rose quickly, slipped out the door and made her way to Ephiny's room.
"You don't have to come yourself, you know," Gabrielle said. "You've been traveling for days. I can take a couple of the guards from here."
"I told you I was restless," Ephiny grinned. "Besides, you're my Queen and I want to make sure you get safely back where you belong."
Gabrielle felt a warmth fill her heart at Ephiny's phrase. 'Where I belong,' she repeated to herself. It felt like a song she would sing for the rest of her life. She had said her good-byes to Kalia. They had parted well and the bard knew she had another friend for life.
They had found a calm and good tempered horse for Gabrielle to ride. She wasn't happy about it but knew it would take them much longer to find Xena if she walked. And she wanted to be back with her warrior as quickly as possible.
Only once, shortly after rousing Ephiny with her plan to leave at first light, had she had any doubts about the reception she would get from Xena. She had deserted the warrior twice before but Xena had welcomed her return both times. For a moment Gabrielle worried that maybe asking her to forgive three times would be too much. But if anyone knew how difficult it could be and how long it could take to finally find one's place, it was Xena. Neither did she worry about her love not being returned. She would accept however much or little Xena could give and she would let that be enough.
Finding three Amazon warriors standing around his bed had shaken the inn keeper considerably. He decided to chance the possible future threat for the current real one. So when they asked again which room the Warrior Princess was in, he told them.
Gabrielle stood at the end of the darkened hallway. The single candle she held did not allow her to see more than a few feet. She thought about trying to be quiet but smirked as the odds of actually getting into Xena's room without waking the warrior. In fact she might not be able to get in at all. Xena had the one room at the inn that locked with a key. And, though the innkeeper had been persuaded to give her the extra, there was also the possibility that Xena would have barred the door somehow. Well, she could only try.
She moved slowly down the hall until she was standing before the last door. Taking a deep breath she slipped the key into the lock and quickly turned it. It was impossible to suppress the smile that came to her lips as she heard the faint sound of a sword being drawn. Not wanting Xena to think someone was actually trying to sneak up on her, Gabrielle boldly opened the door. Letting it swing wide on its hinges she stepped into the room and faced the warrior.
As Xena rose from her slightly crouched position, Gabrielle turned, closed the door and locked it behind her. She tossed the key on to a table and moved toward her friend. The sword had been resheathed and Xena stood quietly before her. The young bard looked up into the warrior's eyes, the intensity of their color barely visible in the firelight. Until this moment Gabrielle had been excited but still calm and composed. Suddenly she found tears of joy running down her cheeks.
"Xena," she said softly. "It was a surprising road I had to travel in order to find my bliss. But I finally know where my home is." She stepped closer and gently clasped Xena's arm, never breaking eye contact. "I love you Xena. You are the completion of my life as I live it each moment. And whatever of yourself you share with me will be accepted, enjoyed and reveled in as the precious gift it is. I will love you and stand by you always."
Gabrielle saw her blink rapidly several times before Xena's arms came around her in a fierce embrace as the warrior pressed her face and lips to Gabrielle's neck. Then she quickly bent to pick up the small bard and sat on the bed holding her young love in her arms. Xena rested her head on Gabrielle's shoulder as the young woman softly caressed her face. Thus they sat, quietly, each taking in the nearness of the other, until they accepted that this moment was not a dream. Finally, feeling safe and secure, they whispered their words of love and their lips met.
Wakar: Well, it's certainly not the same as I had intended to write it - but I like it.
Wakar: Ok, I like it better than the way I was going to do it. And I know that you're the one who made it different. I'm glad it worked out so it didn't have to be a dream too. But, (frowns slightly) if all my stories keep going like the ones so far, everyone's going to think I'm a hopeless romantic.
If you have enjoyed Wakar's "Dreamtime", be sure to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and thank her for posting this Story.