Disclaimer: The characters belong to MCA/Renaissance, but the story is all mine.It was almost high noon near a small village along the Greek coastline. The Lord of the land had long since passed away, and now his wife, the Lady Marina took hold. However, unlike her deceased husband, she had a heart about her, and her subjects adorned her. She had her guards, true, as any respected Lady would, but as peace began to spread, and without the threat of insolence or mutiny, all were safe. That night there would be a feast celebration to honour Artemis, for a great hunting season. A large boar and lambs would be roasted for all to eat.
Xena and Gabrielle, having fought off soldiers in the last town, aiding the escape of innocent women from a prison, and had heard of a celebration on their journeys, decided to head towards the village to check out the occasion. The walk was no longer than a half-days hike, and Gabrielle began to weave a new story of their adventures. A slight smile grew on the warrior princess' face as the bard spoke. It was these walks together between the villages and cities, that Xena appreciated. A small look here or a comment there made Xena realize how important her companion meant.
The two walked up to the village gates, Xena with a hold on Argo's reigns and Gabrielle held her staff as a walking stick. A guard approached them.
"Halt. Who comes here?" he asked.
"I am Xena, and this is my friend, Gabrielle."
"Xena, I've heard many things of you." He said warily.
Xena looked over to Gabrielle, then back at the guard. "We come in peace. We have heard that there will be a feast celebration tonight and we wish to take part. My friend here is a bard with interesting stories to tell." She said with a mischievious smile on her face. She got a poke in her side from Gabrielle's elbow.
The bard leaned up to Xena's ear and whispered, "Xena! What are you doing?"
"Relax, Gabrielle." She's still smiled at the guard. "I'm trying to let them know we're no threat. Besides, I thought you liked telling stories." Gabrielle inwardly cringed, but she smiled as best she could.
"Welcome, then. Lady Marina would appreciate your company on this night."
"Is there an inn where we may rent a room for the night?" Gabrielle asked him.
"There is an inn, but it is all booked up because of the celebration. I'm sure we can find some place for you to stay. Come with me to the castle, and I will show you a place to rest before tonight."
"Thank you," Xena responded. A look passed between the women with regards to trusting this guard. In a reverse of position, it was Gabrielle who was more suspicious of the guard. The warrior and bard followed the guard up to the palace, and along the way Gabrielle commented on the beauty of the grounds.
After several minutes, as they advanced through a maze of corridors of stone walls, the guard opened an oak door to a spacious dressing chamber.
"Wait here for a moment, and one of the helpers will be along to see to your needs," he said.
Gabrielle looked around and saw the expanse of clothing that adorned the four walls. "Wow. Xena, look at all this stuff. It's amazing. There's enough dresses in here to outfit all of Potedeia."
"This must be some celebration. I've never known anyone to go this far for two strangers."
At that moment, a young woman, no more than Gabrielle's age walked into the room. "I see that you've noted the Lady's collection. Is there anything particular to suit your needs?"
"You mean we can choose from these outfits?" Gabrielle asked astonished.
"Look, there's no need for that. I'm Xena, this is Gabrielle."
"Yes, Ma' - Xena. Well, take a closer look and choose. I will be back in just a moment."
The two women went through some of the clothes for a short while, when Gabrielle approached Xena with light blue dress, with off-the- shoulder sleeves and a long flowing skirt. "This would look beautiful on you. It matches your eye colour." She went to search for an outfit for herself, when Xena turned her around.
"You picked one out for me, now let me do the same in return." Into Gabrielle's hands, she placed a long dress of an olive green colour, and made of the finest fabric.
"This is wonderful," she responded as the young girl entered again.
"Are you ready now? Let me help you."
Not wanting to discourage the girl from doing her job, but feeling her independance, Xena kindly told her, "We can dress ourselves, thank you. Is there anything else here you could do?"
"The other helpers are preparing baths for you both. I will go help them. Here are some robes to keep you warm."
"Baths?" the bard asked.
"The Lady enjoys pampering her guests." The young girl curtsied, then left through the oak door.
"I guess she's leaving nothing to chance. Let's enjoy it while it lasts," Xena suggested, as she began to remove her armour. Following that, she removed the rest of her clothing, and replaced it with one of the robes that the young girl left. She found a chair and sat down in it to relax for a few minutes. A stray strand of her raven hair fell over her face as she lowered her head just a little. While in the corner of the room, Gabrielle removed her clothing and picked up a robe herself.
"You know, Xena, I could get used to this," Gabby said with a smile, as she walked up to her friend and placed a hand on her thigh.
"Don't even think about it. We'd be lucky if we ever get this kind of treatment again." But she returned Gabby's smile with one of her own. One seldom seen on the warrior princess, and for that she was rewarded with a light kiss on her cheek.
Later, after their baths, they returned to the dressing room, and began to put on the dresses that they had chosen. Gabrielle looked at her friend in awe.
"You look stunning."
"And so do you. There's just one thing that will top it. Come here," Xena told her. With that Gabrielle moved toward her and sat in the chair that Xena pointed to. Xena removed a brush from her bag that Argo usually carried and began to stroke the bard's hair. With deft precision, she loosely braided Gabrielle's hair. She tied it off with a wide leather band and string. When the bard stood, the braid lied gently against her bare back, and she turned toward Xena. In an unexpected move, Xena embraced the younger woman, and held her for several minutes. "You're friendship means so much to me. Thank you." When they separated, they lean down and both put on sandles that were laid out for them.
"Gee, they think of everything," Gabrielle said with a smile. They head out through the corridors and are met by another guide.
"Come now. The festivities await. Your clothing and bags will be delivered to you room." Gabrielle and Xena looked at each other and just smiled, both in awe of the whole occasion, almost as if they are enchanted. They are lead through another series of pathways, and when they heard the sound of lyres and whistles of music which came from a Great Hall.
Inside, Gabrielle stood in wonder at the display of foods in front of her. Xena stepped behind her and rested an arm around the bards waist to steady the young woman. "You don't have to eat your way through here, you know. Save some for the natives." Xena smiled at her friend, knowing Gabrielle's ferocious appetite. Suddenly there was a small commotion, then a woman emerged from one of the room's other entrances.
"Welcome one and all! Tonight we pay homage to Artemis for this wonderful feast, and to Athena for this continued peace in our land! Now, let us join together for food, stories, music and fun!" Shouts of joy and exhilaration rippled through the room like a wave. All around, people gathered stone plates, and walked up to the buffet of food near the head table. After a while, a young man stood up. Gabrielle recognized him as the soldier who met them at the gate.
"Ladies and Gentlemen!" he called out. People applauded, and he climbs up onto his chair. "Ladies and Gentleman! I am told we have a bard with us. Her name is Gabrielle and she travels with Xena, the Warrior Princess! Gabrielle, come up here and tell us one of your stories." The crowd cheered.
Gabrielle nearly choked on a piece of nutbread that she had just put into her mouth. "Oh, no." The crowd cheers louder as the soldier identified her. She glared at her friend. "Xena, I am going to get you for this!" She finished off the slice of bread, then stood and nodded.
"Go on," Xena smiles, mischieviously, then pushed the bard's behind forward.
As Gabrielle began to move to the centre of the grand hall, the applauding continued. She smiled then sat down and began to weave a tale of one of her and Xena's adventures with Hercules and Iolus. Throughout the tale, she stole glances towards her friend who watched with rapt attention, and a smile. "...and so, Hercules and Xena worked together and freed Prometheus from his chains." She wound her tale down, and when she finished the crowd clamoured for more. But Gabrielle declined. "My friend and I have been journeying for many days, and we are tired. There are many talented people here tonight. Let them show their great performances." There was a great response from the crowd as Gabrielle turned back towards her companion.
"See. That wasn't so bad, now was it?" Xena asked her.
"Actually it was quite fun. Thank you."
"Let us go thank the Lady for her kindness, then return to our room."
"Sounds good to me." Gabrielle followed Xena around the edges of the crowd toward the head table. They appeared before Lady Marina.
"Thank you, My Lady. Your hospitality is wonderful. My friend and I have been enjoying ourselves immensely. But now we must retire for the evening as our journeys have been long."
"You are welcome, Xena Warrior Princess. Gabrielle, you have a way with words, thank you." Lady Marina waved a young man towards her. "Cryphys, take these women to their room."
"As you wish, My Lady," he says as he bowed. He then took leave, with Xena and Gabrielle in tow. They headed to yet another part of the castle and up a grand staircase. They proceeded for ten metres more when they come to another oak door. The young man opened the door for them and once they are inside he left, he locked the door behind him. Xena heard the lock close, and paniced slightly.
"Xena, what's wrong?"
"That man locked the door on us." She moved over to the door to test it, but it was secure.
"I wonder why he did that? It's not like we're going anywhere else tonight," Gabby said.
"And there's no use banging on doors to get them to come back to open it. By now he's probably back in the hall."
"So, what do we do now?"
Suddenly, without warning, the Goddess Athena appeared in the room. Her white dress was brilliant as it flowed around her.
"How....how did you get in here?" Gabrielle managed to stammer out.
"I'm a Goddess. I have my ways. Now, to answer your question: You two have much to discuss."
"We do? About what, per se?" Xena asked her curiously.
"Xena, mighty warrior, you know in your heart what you feel, but you cannot say the words. Gabrielle, you speak words with such wonderful passion. But do you know where you get this passion?" The two women in front of Athena looked at her, then at each other and began to talk. Athena interrupts them. "Do not tell me. Tell each other." And then just as quickly as she appeared, she disappeared.
The two women just looked at each other for several moments, and it seemed if time has stood still. Then slowly they moved toward each other.
They had both started at the same time, then laughed. Gabrielle pointed to her friend to start.
"Gabrielle, she's right. I don't often say what I feel. Mostly it's because I'm afraid of being left alone again. And now, I don't think I could bear that. You mean the world to me." Xena stopped for a moment and looks up at Gabrielle. A tear rolls down one of Xena's fair-skinned cheeks. "You are part of my soul, and I would rather die than lose that, or you. You've taught me so much trust, such patience. You've taught me to love and appreciate even the smallest little things in life. For that I will always be grateful to you. You've brought a joy back into my life that I have long thought was dead. I love you, Gabrielle. More than life itself." This time, when she came to a stop, tears freely fell down her face. Xena collapsed to her knees and bows her head.
Gabrielle moved to this beautiful warrior princess, knelt beside her, and lifted Xena's face with her hands. Slowly Gabrielle wiped the tears from Xena's face with feather-soft kisses. She stopped and looked into Xena's luminescent blue eyes. "Remember what my life was like back in Potedeia? I was young, and naive to the ways of the world. You've taught me to be strong, to fight for the protection of innocents. You've taught me to strenthen my courage, to survive. I see the pain that you've been through. I see it in your eyes, every time you wake from a nightmare, or when you're afraid. I won't leave you. I would protect you til the ends of the earth. And most of all, you've taught me to love in ways I never imagined possible. I love you, Xena of Amphipolis. I always will."
Gabrielle took Xena into her arms and held her, with Xena's arms wrapped around Gabrielle in return. The bard began to nuzzle at her lover's neck and gradually kissed along the collarbone. Xena extended her neck backward, and Gabrielle kissed her upwards from the hollow, brushed Xena's hair away from her face. When she finally reached Xena's chin, she pulled the warrior's face down to hers, and kissed her fully, passionately.
Xena reached up, and untied the laces of Gabrielle's dress, then brushed the dress down from her shoulders, as she started to explore the bard's shoulders and back with her hands. Gabrielle let loose a soft moan as Xena found a particularly sensitive spot on her back. She heard a small laugh from Xena and smiled. It is a laugh that she loves, but one she doesn't hear very often. Gabrielle found the strings that laced Xena's dress together at the back, and deftly untied them, allowing the dress to fall to her waist. Very softly, lightly, Gabrielle traced a pattern of swirls up Xena's back, causing the warrior to press closer to her. She took advantage of this opportunity, to kiss her down the other side of her neck, then worked her way down to Xena's breasts. For a moment, Xena stopped breathing.
"You're good, my love." She smiled and looked deep into her lover's eyes and saw the love being reflected back at her.
"Only as good as my inspiration," Gabrielle responded and stood. She took Xena's hands and pulled her to the bed.
They removed the rest of their clothing, and as Xena knelt behind Gabrielle on their bed, gently she removed the leather tying the bard's hair back and ran her fingers through the hair, unbraiding it with one hand, while reaching around with her other to cup one of Gabrielle's breasts. Gabrielle lay her head back as Xena kissed her and nibbled at her ear. Gently, they lowered themselves along the bed, legs entwined in each other, and hands creatively exploring each other's bodies, moving in tandem. At last they were one. They had finally found peace in each other's arms.
And from her place at Mount Olympus, Athena knew that truths were spoken in that room that night, and true love was found.
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