These characters are
not mine and I do not intend any infringement on the copyright thereto
'em. Yaddah yaddah. Lesbian content. Yaddah yaddah. Deal with it or
surf elsewhere. Yaddah yaddah. Happy Halloween! Yaddah yaddah. Ume.
Yaddah yaddah. Beta freak. Yaddah yaddah. Eternally grateful. Yaddah
yaddah. E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yaddah yaddah. Story time!
Return of the Headless
by Crème Brûlée
A chill wind blew, across
the fields, through the trees, casting dark shadows and whistling shrill
cries as of the screams of tormented souls. In other words, the season
was changing; it was darker earlier in the day; and the villagers were
grumbling about the prospect of many months of labor in the cold winter
Several figures took
refuge from the harsh elements in the common room of an inn. They sat
huddled before a speaker, a storyteller, gathering what warmth and security
they could from one another. The room was lit by candles, which were
placed around the circle that the listeners formed. A small fire crackled
in the fireplace behind where the storyteller sat, shadows twitched
and flickered on the walls of the chamber. The occasional pop from a
log caused the group to jump. This was no warm tale of love or petulant
gods they were hearing, but the harrowing and gruesome tale of a warrior's
A hand shot up, straight
into the air. Every person in the group jumped. A few screamed.
"What is it Jonah?"
the storyteller asked.
"Xena, I gotta
Xena rolled her eyes
at the small boy. Several of the other children seated before her giggled.
But the warrior was pleased to note that they remained wide-eyed and
huddled into a tight mass, unmoving.
"Go on then,"
she dared him, but he didn't move.
"I really gotta
pee!" he whined.
nodded at an older boy. "Take Jonah to the privy."
She was again pleased
to note the pale complexion on the older boy's face as he rose and took
Jonah's hand. Once standing, neither moved.
"What is it?"
"You're not gonna
tell the ending while we're gone are you?" Tovok asked.
"Of course not,
just hurry up and don't let any Bacchae get you. I don't know why, but
they seem to favor that privy."
Both boys scurried from
Another hand shot up
from the group.
"What is it Kara?"
"Is this story
about you and Gabrielle?"
"No, I told you
before, it's about a couple of other women warriors."
Another hand shot up
from the huddled circle.
"Sure, ever heard
"I'm going to marry
an Amazon when I grow up." Tirasus, one of the smaller boys sighed.
Xena murmured under her breath.
"You can't marry
Amazons stupid," Sarah, a girl seated behind him, taunted. "They're
women who hate men."
"My dad says that
Amazons make bad wives because they only do stuff by consensus and they
never look after the home because they're too busy hunting." Sarah
Xena murmured, then said, "Your father seems to know a lot about
"Maybe it's because
my Aunt Margos joined the Amazons when she was younger. Or maybe it's
because of the picture scrolls he buys from the back room of Xerxes'
market stall. I saw one once..."
Xena interrupted. "I think this is when the adult steps in and
gracefully changes the subject."
"I'm gonna marry
an Amazon when I grow up, you'll see." Tirasus looked downright
defensive on the point. His little features were screwed into a scowl.
Xena sighed relief at
the site of Tovok and Jonah scurrying back into the room. They were
panting; half with the efforts of their exertions, half from fright.
They nearly trampled their companions in their haste to rejoin the group.
for the rest of the story?" Xena pumped her eyebrows and delighted
in the eager fear-struck faces before her. "Where was I?"
"You and Gabrielle
had gone to Japa and the evil warlord had cut off your head!" Prith
squeaked, her eyes nearly popping from her head
Xena sighed, "I
told you, it's two other women warriors."
A hand shot up from
Xena asked, slightly deflated.
"Why was Gabrielle
spinning an umbrella on the boat, when you told her about your other
Xena stared at the small
child, wondering why this insignificant detail had mattered to him.
She knew better than to question the rationale of an eight-year-old.
"It's a literary device, background texture - now zip it, I'm going
to finish the story."
Another hand shot up
from the group. The fingers of Xena's hand that lay next to her chakram
twitched. "Yes, Prith?"
mad at you for not telling her about your other friend? I mean, Gabrielle
is your best friend in the whole wide world, wasn't she mad?" Inquisitive
eyes awaited a response.
"Okay, I'm only
going to say this one more time. These are two women warriors who traveled
to Japa. They are not Gabrielle and me. We've never even met
them, you do NOT know them, nor are you ever likely to. Got it?"
The heads of the group
nodded as one.
"Okay. Our heroine
had just fallen in a great battle and been beheaded by the evil..."
Xena took a breath,
trying to maintain her calm. "What?!"
"Why would a warrior
ride into battle wearing metal underwear?" the boy asked.
"Who told you she
was wearing metal underwear?" Xena was perplexed.
"Well, the way
you described her armor..." Tovok mimicked the hand movements Xena
had made in describing the warrior's final battle dress. "It doesn't
sound like armor that would be good for a fight like that."
"The warrior was
employing a psychological combat tactic. Besides, she looked damn good
in it." Xena sounded a little defensive. "Any other questions?"
The group shook their
heads in unison.
Let's see, ah... heroine gets brutally slain and beheaded - faithful
companion kicks ass all over the place - blood, gore, guts... companion
gets head back... let's warrior go to the land of the dead... is left
to an empty, colorless existence... Oh right! Many years pass..."
Xena bit her tongue to repress the curse that nearly slipped past her
lips upon seeing another hand shoot up from the huddled mass of bodies.
"What - is - it - Sarah?"
"Why is it that
in tales, many years are always passing before stuff happens?"
"Because the people
telling the story keep getting interrupted! That's why. The next person
who interrupts me is going to have to walk home alone. Got it?"
The heads bobbed in
unison and the children moved closer together.
"Okay, so - many
years pass. A wretched king comes to power and starts plaguing the land
of Japa. He's a real baddy - kidnaps village children and feeds 'em
to his pet dragon - that kind of thing. A powerful and crafty witch
decides that the only way to save the people from this evil is to resurrect
the legendary warrior." Xena saw movement in the group and glared
at Prith who quickly put her hand back in her lap. "The witch found
an ancient incantation and all the necessary ingredients for her ceremony.
Over three long days and nights she toiled in the darkness of a dense
forest. On the last night, in the darkest hour, when the world of the
living and dead are but a breath away from one another (some witches
call this the witching hour, others, the twilight zone), the long dead
warrior stepped from the shadows into the world of the living. There
was only one problem; right at her neck, right here," Xena indicated
the middle of her neck. "There was lots of blood, gore and... blood,
but there was no head!"
The children gasped.
"That's what the
witch said." Xena concurred. "Right before she noticed that
the warrior was carrying her own head in her hand! And there was blood
and gore and... blood coming out of that too!"
The children gasped
"Yeah, that's what
the witch said again. Because it would have been really hard for that
warrior to fight the evil king's army with one hand while holding her
head in the other. So the witch went back to her spell books and came
up with a quick fix. She found an enchanted strip of cloth which she
soaked in a potion of newt's skin and bat spit, dying it deep purple.
She chanted over the cloth for a full candlemark before it was ready.
She had the warrior place her severed head atop her neck and hold it
there. The witch carefully wrapped the enchanted purple cloth around
the warrior's neck. The smell of burning flesh filled the air and an
acrid smoke stung the witch's eyes.
The warrior screamed
and clutched at her neck to tear the cloth away, but it was no use,
she couldn't remove it. Eventually it stopped burning quite so bad and
settled down to an interminable itching (the witch said that was a good
sign because it meant the skin was healing). The witch also said that
when the itching was gone, the warrior could take the enchanted bandage
off. In any case, the warrior rode off to fight the evil king, his army
and his pet dragon.
Once the warrior had
decimated the evil king's army and declawed his pet dragon, she went
after the king. It just so happened, as it sometimes does in such tales,
that this evil king was a descendant of the evil guy who'd chopped the
warrior's head off. And another thing that sometimes happens in tales
is that history repeats itself (because nobody learned from it the first
time around). So during the fight between the warrior and the king,
it wasn't a total surprise when the king, with a mighty stroke of his
blade, beheaded the warrior again."
The children gasped.
Xena nodded. "Which
is exactly what the king said when he saw the warrior bend over and
pick her head up off the ground. She placed it carefully out of the
way, before starting up the fight again. The king used every dirty trick
he could think of, he even tried kicking dirt in the warrior's eyes.
He realized, too late, that he should have aimed the dirt at the severed
head nearby, not the headless body that faced him in battle. That was
his last mistake as our heroine took that opportunity to thrust her
sword into the evil king's heart.
The darkness and shadows
that had plagued the land lifted, and the people didn't suffer anymore.
But on dark nights, when there's no moon, some people claim to have
spotted a headless warrior riding across the countryside in search of
evil doers. Or at least that's what they tell their children when they're
A tense silence followed
Xena's final words. Not a muscle moved in the group of children. The
fire crackled, the candles flickered, the warrior gloated.
Someone giggled, someone
shoved someone else and the small mass of bodies dissolved in the release
of their pent-up fear. Except for one girl, Prith, who sat rigid with
fear staring wide-eyed and pointing. It took the children a moment to
notice her, but they did and then they noticed what she was pointing
at. Xena. The warrior smiled back amiably. "Good story, eh?"
A couple of children
began to back away.
"What's up? Tovak,
Prith? Story's over, why the theatrics?"
"Why do you have
a purple cloth tied around your neck?" he asked like he didn't
want to know the answer.
"It's kind of chilly
tonight, I didn't want to catch a cold."
"But if you're
cold," Tovak tried to keep his voice steady. "Why aren't you
wearing a cloak or something more than your battle dress?"
Xena shrugged. "If
I keep my neck warm, the rest of me tends to stay warm."
asked in a barely audible whisper.
"Are you the headless
"Do I look like
the kind of woman who goes off without her head? Oh come on! You guys
know me better than that."
"Take off the bandages
then." Sarah challenged, near hysterical.
"Fine, all right."
Xena said, sounding hurt. "I will."
All eyes were glued
to Xena's hands as she lifted them to the cloth at her neck. She paused;
an eerie silence crept into the room. In the blink of an eye, she ripped
the cloth away. All of the children screamed at the site of a horrid
gash in the warrior's throat. Xena stood and the festering ooze that
had been concealed by the cloth began to dribble down her neck.
The children were catapulted
into action. Clutching and grabbing at one another, they scrambled as
best they could to get away from the disfigured horror before them.
Screams reverberated off the walls of the room, bodies tripped, fell
and scurried in all directions. In the space of a minute, every child
had gotten out before the cursed warrior could get them.
Xena stood in the quiet
room, fingering her disfigured neck.
"I suppose you're
feeling proud of yourself?"
Xena turned to see Gabrielle,
standing in the open doorway off to the side of the room. "You
nearly managed to cut the village population by 10 this evening. You
almost scared those kids to death! And now they're tearing around the
village in the dark, half out of their wits."
Xena chuckled. "I
told their parents to wait for them outside. They'll be fine."
Gabrielle walked over
to her partner. "Xena? Is that your mother's elderberry jam on
your neck? Tell me it's not! That was her last jar, she's going to kill
Xena swiped her finger
through the gruesome mess and licked it. "It was the only one that
had the right consistency. I was after an authentic look. Want some?"
"No, I'm not going
to be your accomplice. After your temper, your mother's is the last
I want to have to face. You were telling them the headless warrior story,
I take it?"
They sat before the
fire. Xena smiled. "Yes."
"I don't know what
gets into you this time of year. But I'm warning you, if you keep telling
these tales, people will start believing that they're true."
"Come on Gabrielle,
they're just spooky bedtime stories for kids. No one believes them."
Xena wiped the jam from her neck with a damp cloth she'd stashed nearby.
"Oh sure, that's
why people keep asking me why I travel with you after you threw me off
of a cliff once and tried to kill me another time with your chakram
after I'd attempted to kill your immaculately conceived daughter? And
of course, don't let me forget my personal favorite, how you can stand
me after I let my demon spawn child kill your son?" Gabrielle rolled
her eyes. "I suppose I should be grateful that you only do this
about once a year. It's probably a healthy outlet for your darker impulses,
but I'm telling you, stories are like diseases - they spread."
"It's not like
they're written down, people will forget them." Xena finished wiping
her neck and put an arm around Gabrielle. When she noticed the bard
wasn't cuddling up to her she looked down to see Gabrielle staring back,
"Ever heard of
the oral tradition?" Gabrielle asked.
"Is that an Amazon
rite of passage? Now that would explain why they made you their
queen." Xena teased.
me and appoint you Empress if I gave them half the chance. You know
darn well that most of the stories we have were passed down from the
ancients by storytellers. It's only recently that anyone started writing
them down." Gabrielle gave Xena a good shove.
"Besides, one of
us always dies in your stories. It's creepy." Gabrielle shuddered.
we'll die - probably sooner than later. Life isn't all sweetness and
"Living with you
is a constant reminder of that fact, I don't need gruesome stories to
reinforce it." Gabrielle snuggled into Xena's embrace.
Xena feigned a pout,
then shrugged. "So how would you tell the story of our last days?
Would we live out our dotage as crotchety old warriors? We're going
to die somehow, death in a just and glorious battle is every warrior's
dream come true."
"The hero has to
live to fight another day. Every bard knows that."
"Well, I guess
we know who the bard in the family is. I've noticed, in stories, that
heroes don't age and yet you and I seem to."
"If there is a
glorious battle, we go out together." Gabrielle was adamant.
that the next time I get an urge to tell a story."
Gabrielle rolled her
eyes. "I can just imagine..."
Xena paused, "I'm
thinking crosses. I've not done a good crucifixion story yet."
"Most people would
think that having actually been crucified yourself would have cured
you of the urge."
"It's not so bad
once the nails are in." Xena gave Gabrielle a squeeze.
"You're a perversion."
"Which is why you
enjoy my company so much."
They sat in a companionable
silence for several minutes, enjoying the warmth from the fire, the
closeness, the quiet.
Xena asked, "Have
you ever wondered if you're in a dream? When you know that you're awake?"
"You mean like
having a hallucination? You think you're seeing wild stuff, but you've
actually eaten spiked nutbread?"
that. I was just thinking about our stories and how people either remember
them or they don't - how they mix up stories I've made up with scrolls
you've written about actual events. How what's real can sometimes be
forgotten and what never happened can become reality... sort of. It's
like how memory works only on a larger scale. And I thought, how do
we know what we remember is true at all and not something that happened
in a dream? Maybe it's not even our dream, but somebody else's and we
just exist in it. Maybe our whole existence is somebody else's stray
thought, a momentary entertainment, and we'll cease to exist when they
become distracted. Have you ever thought of that?"
"No, and I wish
you hadn't either. Your philosophizing is as twisted and creepy as your
"Guess you'll just
have to stay snuggled up here in my arms to feel safe." Xena grinned.
"Why would I do
that when you're the one who's creeping me out?" Gabrielle asked.
"How about you
tell a story then?"
I've got one - the day we first met."
wriggled until she was settled in. "I like the ones where the village
women throw themselves at me!"
"I did NOT throw
myself at you. Though you could hardly have blamed me if I had - you
were wearing next to nothing when I first set eyes on you."
"'Take me with
you, Xena!'... 'Teach me everything you know.'" Xena shrugged.
"You wanted me."
"Be that as it
may..." Gabrielle rearranged her tunic, knowing a losing battle
when she was in it. "Do you want to hear this story or not?"
Xena accepted her victory graciously.
"Then you'll have
to stop talking."
Xena leaned back, closed her eyes and listened as the bard began to
tell her absolute favorite story.
to the Academy