~ Beginnings ~
WARNING: This story contains scenes of a sexual nature
between two adult women. If that sort of thing bothers or
offends you then please read no further. People under 18
years of age should not read this story as it contains adult
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Argo,
Hercules, and Iolaus are owned by MCA/Universal and no copyright infringement is intended.
Feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dim, flickering light.
Damp; bone chilling damp.
The light seemed to emanate from the distant walls and from the
river that flowed turgidly through the immense cave. Pale blue
flames engulfed floating masses of black ice. An occasional
swirl and roil of the surface hinted at things unseen and better
unimagined. The far shore seemed not so much far way as dim,
misted, shadowed and unattainable.
The smell. Oh, yes, the smell! An oppressive mixture of mildew,
the bottom side of rotten logs, eggs gone bad, and old meat that
was carried on currents of damp air and seemed to stick to
everything and clog the nose and lungs. The throat itched to
cough, but coughing only cleared the way for more of the same.
Low moans, distant shrieks, and long periods of utter,
Time seemed to have little meaning here. It seemed a place
where an eternity could pass in an hour, an hour seem like an
At some point, across the waters a muted, rhythmic splashing
began. As the sound grew louder, a darker shade emerged from
the mist and unintelligible mutterings could be heard. A barge
appeared, poled by an old man, the source of the mutterings. He
was clothed in grey robes and his hair fell in greasy mats around
"As if this job was such a big deal! You'd think they did me a
favor. 'Immortal among the mortals' hah! Miserable, tedious,
ungrateful wretches," and more of the same.
He stomped from one side of the barge to the other, pushing
down and back with the pole, grunting with effort at each thrust.
Reaching this side of the river, he tied off the barge with ropes
at the decayed wharf and looked over at a line of the recently
deceased that shuffled up and waited patiently. The ferry man
took a coin from each, checking the value with a bite of his
teeth and continuing his musings on his fate and that of this new
lot under his fetid breath.
When the blond girl appeared as next in line, he started in shock
"What! You again! This makes how many times? Three? or is it
four by now? Let me guess: you died saving Xena again, right?
Gabrielle, you've got to get a better contract, girl; isn't she
supposed to be YOUR protector?"
"Yeah, well, Charon, it seemed like the only thing to do at the
time. Actually, I didn't think. There was this spear coming at her
back and I've never quite got the hang of that 'grab it out of the
air' routine, so...."
"Don't think you're going to get out of this one as easily as the
last. Hades and I really caught it the last time. You guys are
giving death a bad name. Coming, going, coming, going -- as if
there was nothing to it. People are starting to talk. This time,
you're here to stay. Where's the coin for passage, by the way?
Don't tell me you came without one again!"
"Sorry. I spent our last dinar on some food in the village. When
you're a bard, times can be lean. Want a story, instead? There's
this one about ... "
"No, no, no! I heard enough of your stories the last time around.
It almost made it worthwhile to send you back for nothing. Get
in and let's get this over with."
Gabrielle seated herself quietly at the front of the barge. That
very quiet seemed to make Charon uneasy. He kept looking at
her as he untied the barge and began to pole across the river.
Finally, he stopped, and leaning on his pole he looked her in the
"What's with the quiet? This isn't like you. I don't trust it."
Gabrielle looked up into the dark gulfs of his eyes and quickly
"I think this may actually be it. Xena and I have been together
for a while, and I think she's tiring of me. I thought if I was
more like her -- you know, fighting, flipping, doing the eyebrow
thing and the lopsided grin, even if I never could get the hang of
the catch the spear or toss the Chakrum -- she'd like me better,
that I'd be handy to have around. Lately, though, she's been even
quieter and more distant than ever. And I don't just mean her
usual "Warrior Princess" aloof self -- if I get anywhere near her,
she takes a walk, moves away, decides to gather wood,
whatever. She's gotten more reckless in battle, too, like she
doesn't care anymore, like doing good has gotten boring and
she'd like to try her old ways again. She's got a real edge to her.
I don't think she's going to come for me."
Charon harumphed and went back to his poling. "Well, it's about
time. Get over it, girl. Death happens to everyone. Why not you,
As the barge neared the middle of the river, it began to slow.
Then it stopped. Charon pushed and sweated and pushed some
more to no avail.
A hand appeared on the side; then two; and a shrouded figure
pulled itself up onto the barge beside Charon.
"Xena?" whispered Gabrielle softly.
For an old man, he had sharp ears. "Hah! In your dreams!"
And turning with a bow and a simper, "Lady Styx -- to what do
I owe the pleasure of this visit? And, why have you stopped me?
You know the ferry and the crossing are mine."
In a hollow, but somehow still sweet voice from the folds of the
shroud, came the response.
"And the river is mine, Charon. You have your rules and I have
mine, and mine take precedence."
He cringed and whined, "I don't like this. No, I don't like this
one bit. I'm not going to like this, am I? It's going to be like
when Herc beat me up. And, me an old man. Big deal! And,
who gets punished? Me! Of course. It's just not fair."
The shroud seemed to move in what could only have been a
"It's tough, Charon, but the rules (what few there are) cannot be
broken easily. Or ignored. Remember, 'An oath sworn by the
waters of the Styx'...."
"But that only applies to the gods, the immortals. What's that got
to do with these mortals I am ferrying? No. Wait. Let me guess.
It only has to do with THIS particular mortal. The blonde here,
right?" and he gestured toward Gabrielle.
She had been listening, but without much interest. What did a
debate between two gods have to do with her, anyway, but this
remark of Charon's piqued her curiosity enough to ask, "What
oath? What's the rule? How am I involved? I mean...."
Charon interrupted her, waving her off dismissively. "If a god
swears by the waters of the Styx, the oath is sacred. Break it and
you get a great year in some sort of la-la land and banished from
Olympus for eight more after that. And, the great years are eight
of yours. This isn't your conversation. Shut up and sit down."
Lady Styx had followed the exchange with some impatience.
"Actually, Charon, I'm afraid it does have to do with her. Sorry
about that. Nobody told you I guess, but Ares swore an oath by
my waters that for at least seven years (you know how he likes
those mystical numbers) Gabrielle would stay with Xena, come
hell (you will forgive the expression) or high water. This
particular little episode with the spear happened when he was out
having a romp with Aphrodite and now he's got to make good or
face the great year in a coma (can you seriously imagine Ares
letting himself get that far out of it? I can, but it's wishful
thinking). Then exile for another eight great years. Whew. By
that time, Xena'd be dead and the game over with. Not what he
had in mind. Anyway, he made some sort of deal with Zeus and
he's going to make it all go away. At least most of it."
Gabrielle had continued listening, needless to say, but not
without an occasional movement to interrupt or ask a question.
Her efforts were ignored. Finally, in exasperation, she jumped
between them. "Excuse me, your imortalnesses, but don't I have
a say in this? Maybe Charon is right, maybe it's time I stayed
dead. I'm not interested in Ares' deals, and having him in a coma
and exiled from Olympus for all that time wouldn't exactly
bother me. Like maybe Xena would just as soon I stayed dead
too, and maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. So, give me a
break here and let it alone. Besides, what do you mean 'most of
Lady Styx glanced at Charon. "Is she always this way?" He
shrugged and nodded. Styx towered over Gabrielle growing
somehow larger and more threatening. "Look little girl, you do
NOT have a choice (although you seem to have plenty to say
about it). This is a god matter, and it's been decided."
With that, the shrouded figure glided towards Gabrielle, who
shrank backwards from her touch and soon found herself
hanging over the edge of the barge by her fingertips, suspended
above the vile waters.
"Eeuch! Isn't there another way?"
"No!" and with that Lady Styx pried her fingers from the edge
and Gabrielle fell ....
Chapter 1: A new beginning
Gabrielle kept her eyes closed and did not yet breathe. There's
wind among trees, and, I guess that's Argo cropping lazily at
some grass. There's a smoky smell, but it's a campfire and
something else... soup, maybe? And what's that? Mint? She let
one eyelid open slightly and took in the campsite. Yes, Argo
over there. Xena tending the fire and a pot of something. OK,
just a bad dream. But when she shifted her position, she felt the
stab of pain across her shoulder and yelled, "Aiyah! Hades, that
Xena looked up and gave one of her lopsided grins. "Feeling
better, hmm? Want something to eat? Sure you do." She ladled
out some soup into a bowl, and grabbing some hard flat bread
came over to sit beside Gabrielle and help her eat.
"Wait. What happened today, anyway? As far as you are
Xena arched an eyebrow quizzically. "As far as 'I' am
concerned? You don't remember?"
Gabrielle nodded, and Xena thought a minute. "Okay, eat up; it's
not a long story."
(It never is with you, mumbled Gabrielle. I always have to fill in
"Hmm? What? Well, anyway. For once you agreed to ride Argo
instead of pig headedly trying to keep up on foot. It was okay
for the first couple of miles, but then we reached that area by the
swamp and something spooked her. I never could figure out
what. It's not like Argo, but, anyway, she spooked and ran and
when I found you, you were flat on your back in the water and
you'd hit your head on something and landed hard on something,
a stump or root, I guess. I was a little worried about a
concussion, you were out so long, but you seemed ok, aside
from that nasty bruise on your back. That and a bad smell. That
swamp water was REALLY bad. I don't know if I got it out of
your clothes. I tried, but laundry's not my thing and I had a hard
enough time getting you to where you were tolerable. Luckily,
there's a big patch of mint over there."
"That's it? No battle, no spear, no 'Gabrielle sacrificing her life
for her friend' -- one more time?"
"What are you talking about, Gabrielle? It was just an accident,
and if you had ever learned to ride properly, it wouldn't have
happened." Xena was obviously being patient and it was wearing
"That's all, huh. Well, let me tell you . . ." but seeing the
expression on Xena's face, Gabrielle's voice trailed off. "It
doesn't matter. You're right, just a dream while I was out of it."
Xena nodded, and gave her a small smile. "Well, I'm glad you
are ok, and it wasn't more serious."
"Are you really? Oh, I know you wouldn't wish me any harm,
but lately I've felt you would just as soon be on your own
Xena tensed and sat up straight. She looked away and drummed
her fingers on her thigh for a moment. "I'm sorry it seemed that
way. I've had a lot on my mind." She seemed a bit, what?
She rose and went to put some more wood on the fire. She
tended it carefully, too carefully, poking at the logs, throwing in
bits of twigs and leaves from the cleared area around where she
Gabrielle sighed, "That's what I mean." Xena looked up and then
away again to the fire as Gabrielle continued. "You seem to be
always keeping about ten feet between us, as if you can't stand
to be around me, anymore. Unless, I am sick or wounded or
something. Look, just don't bother, ok? I understand; it's just not
working for you any more having me around. I'm not as good in
a fight, and I can't ride, so I slow you up, and things like this
happen, so just don't bother. The next village we get to, I'll head
out on my own." And, she turned over in her bedroll. Her throat
hurt as if she were being strangled, but she would NOT cry. She
WOULD tough this one out. Hey, get angry. Why not? Just
because I'm not a warrior, just because I can't ride well doesn't
mean I'm not tough, doesn't mean I don't have value, damn it! I
don't have to "tag along." She doesn't have to feel sorry for me
and "let" me come along. I'm fine. Just fine, thank you.
Xena was still, focused. Then, she looked across the fire at the
back of Gabrielle's head for a long, long time.
"Gabrielle?" There was no movement.
Xena sighed. "Gabrielle, why does it always seem to go like
this? After all we've been through? If I get a bit withdrawn, you
are always thinking that I don't care about you. And, ok,
sometimes it's because I think we shouldn't be travelling
together. But it's not because I don't care for you; it's because I
care too much. I'm a danger to you. And, maybe you are a
danger to me. It's better not to care in a battle. It's better not to
worry about being hurt or about someone else being hurt. I can't
fight the way I used to, and it scares me."
Gabrielle turned over and getting up on one elbow, wincing a bit
from the strain on that bruised shoulder, gave Xena her
Xena poked the fire some more. She rubbed her forehead, took a
breath, and then looked directly at Gabrielle.
"We've been together, how long? Sometimes it seems like all my
life. I can't imagine it without you. At first, yes, I did just think
of you as a young kid. Your hero worship was kind of cute,
certainly a change from the usual fear and loathing." Xena
smiled, remembering. "It was appealing. I liked it. It made me
feel like maybe I really could make up for things. You gave me
a bit of hope. But, after a while, I don't know when, things
changed -- and no, stop before you start, I don't mean I got tired
of you. It's like you grew up and got a better sense of who you
were. You learned so damn fast! How to use your stories to
calm things down or stall for time when we needed it, how to
fight with a staff, how to live on the road, sometimes on the run.
I got to depend on you. Like I said, that scares me."
Gabrielle started to say something, but Xena raised a hand to
her. "Let me finish."
She fed another log to the fire, pushed the coals around, and
took a deep breath. "Things have been different between us
lately, because they ARE different. One day I looked around at
you expecting to see the kid, and I saw a young woman instead.
A very attractive young woman, someone I respected, someone I
really cared about, someone I really wanted to think well of me.
And, I realized that I had grown to love you. That was fine. A
little scary, but fine. Then I also realized that . .. " and she
hesitated, stopped, and looked again at Gabrielle. "You know,
sometimes in a battle there's a still moment when everything is
suspended and all the different choices are laid out before me,
and I know I have to pick one, but I don't know how it will turn
out. This is like that."
"Anyway. At first, I thought it was just a momentary thing....I'd
been too long alone, too long on the road, I could take care of
that, the feelings would go away. They haven't. I don't want you
to think I'm asking anything of you. I don't want to scare you."
Poking the coals some more, she sighed and then smiled her
lopsided grin at the fire. "This is not exactly what I had planned.
Here I am, the great Warrior Princess! And damned if I know
what to do. I can't pretend things are the way they used to be; I
don't pretend well. And, I can't very well just go along feeling
the way I do. It just adds to the danger for both of us."
"Xena? Hey, look at me.... No, come over here instead and talk
to me -- it's hard to see you through the fire, especially since
you keep torturing it."
Xena squared her shoulders, stood, and crossed over to where
Gabrielle was. She sat down cross-legged in front of her.
"Xena, the only times you've frightened me were when you'd get
hurt or when you'd talk about leaving me. But, I'm not clear on
what you are trying to say."
Xena gave a small rueful smile. "Hmmm. I didn't get to that, did
I? Ok. Gabrielle, somewhere along the line, I fell in love with
you. Do you know what that means, do you know what I am
Gabrielle did not speak for a moment, and then she quietly said,
"You really are very brave, my friend. I know what you are
saying. I am not such a country girl as all that. Sometimes I am
still that hero worshipping kid I once was, but, yes, I have
grown up. You're right, things have changed, and we cannot go
along as before." She reached out and laid her hand on Xena's.
"I don't know if what I feel for you is what you feel for me. I
know that I love you more, and differently, than anyone before. I
know that I want to stay with you. And . . . " she hesitated and
blushed and looked down at her hand ... "that there are times
when all I have wanted in the world was to do just this, reach
out and touch you, and have you touch me. And not have to
make up reasons for doing so."
Xena put her other hand over Gabrielle's and they sat together in
the light of the fire an eternity, at least a heart beat or two.
Who said it first? It seemed as if they spoke together: "What
now?" And, they laughed.
Xena thought a moment. "I think we need some time to think
about this, see how we are going to work this out, and we can't
do that when we're fighting warlords every day." She frowned
and then said decisively, "We'll go to Elis."
"Why Elis?" Gabrielle asked.
"It's a land of peace. No weapons, no fighting within the borders.
Really nice country, too. We're close by, and, besides, it'll make
a good story for you. I think those games they are having at
Olympia are becoming really important."
She reached over and gently brushed a lock of hair back behind
Gabrielle's ear. "Go to sleep now. We'll start first thing in the
End Chapter One
Chapter 2: On the Road
The sun was just breaking over the horizon. The light was still
dim, but growing stronger and the morning dew sparkled on the
grass and clung to spider webs among the bushes. Argo's breath
came in a light fog, and she stamped impatiently as Xena
checked the gear on her back.
"Easy, girl. We'll be going soon enough." But, glancing over at
the campsite, she added, "At least I think we will, if a certain
someone ever manages to wake up. Gabrielle! Come on. It's
Muffled groans from under the blanket. "Already? It's still dark.
How about another half an hour? Ok, ok, I know: 'We have to
get going now so that we'll get there (wherever that is) before
Xena folded her arms and waited to see exactly how long it
would take this time.
Gabrielle's other words were lost in the blanket folds as she
struggled to dress without exposing any of her skin to the chill
morning air. A final, all-purpose shiver and a brief flurry and
she was dressed and her blanket was rolled for traveling.
"Ok, I'm ready. Do I get anything to eat before we leave? Or am
I on a diet or something?"
Xena shook her head in amusement at the usual morning routine.
"Catch," and she tossed Gabrielle some bread and then a piece
of fruit, which she caught without difficulty. "I was going to ask
you how you were feeling this morning, but you seem fine --
good eye-hand coordination, reflexes operating smoothly, normal
mood -- for morning."
Gabrielle gave her the eyebrow in response, and between bites,
asked, "And, which way are we going today? And, what kind of
traveling will it be, if I may ask?"
Xena gestured down the road. "We'll keep on this until we reach
those foothills. Then we'll take the path over the mountains.
Hills really. On the other side, you can see the sea. We'll be on
the borders of Elis then, the region. On the plain below is the
town of Elis and the Olympia area. It's not the easiest traveling,
but we've had harder."
Xena stopped to give Gabrielle a speculative look. "I know after
yesterday, you probably don't want to get anywhere near Argo,
but we would make better time if we rode together at least for
some of the day. What do you think? Can you do that?"
For a moment Gabrielle looked a bit confused. "Yesterday?
What did Argo have to do ...? Oh, yeah. Hmmmm. I tell you
what; let's start with you riding and me walking, and I'll tell you
a story about what 'I' remember about yesterday."
What with all the "details" that Gabrielle added to make the
story a real story, the sun was well up and they were only a
couple of miles from the foothills before she finished. "So, what
do you think? Did I really save your life (again) and die, and get
brought back because the gods were playing some sort of game
with each other? Or, was it just some sort of dream brought on
by a knock in the head. It gets a little hard to tell sometimes
when the gods get involved. But, I tell you -- one argument in
favor of my memory is that I don't hold anything against Argo,
and I think if she had thrown me in a swamp I'd hold a grudge.
Brother, would I! Sorry, old girl," and she gave Argo a pat, "but
I think you are getting a bad rap in the current reality."
Xena could not help but smile at that, but her brow then
furrowed in some concern. "I don't know Gabrielle. I prefer this
reality and your getting thrown to your dying for me. And, I
don't like the gods messing with me and mine. But...well...maybe
we need to stay alert. And, since you don't hold anything against
Argo, how about riding with me for a while? Another couple of
miles and we'll have to walk anyway." She reached down and
lifted the smaller woman up in front of her on Argo's back.
Gabrielle settled in, leaning back slightly for balance, just as
Xena leaned forward and put her arms around Gabrielle to grasp
the reins. They had ridden this way before, but not for a while.
Xena felt warmer than the day would warrant. She was very
conscious of the way their thighs touched, the feel of Gabrielle's
body within the circle of her arms, the smell of her skin, and the
light sound of her breathing. Xena held herself somewhat stiffly,
attempting a delicate balance between enjoying the closeness and
not giving into it. Gabrielle, on the other hand, seemed to just
relax and let herself be there. She settled back some more, and
sighed, "This is nice." She was quiet for a while, and then
looked back over her shoulder and up at Xena's face. "You
know, I've been thinking about what you said last night."
Xena got, if anything, stiffer. "And?"
"And, you said that you couldn't fight the way you used to, that
you worried about what would happen to me, if you got hurt,
and you worried about me being hurt if I was fighting with you.
And, that it scared you."
Xena relaxed. A little.
Gabrielle continued, "I was thinking of solutions. One,
obviously, is not to fight, but that's not you. You have things to
do and fighting is part of that, or being willing to, and you're not
going to change that. I wouldn't want you to. Being scared is
probably a good thing for you. As little as you've told me about
the old days, I get the impression that you fought ruthlessly and
recklessly, as if you didn't care whether you lived or died."
"I didn't care, Gabrielle, and frankly no one else did either, and I
can't blame them."
"Ok, but there are lots of brave people who fight very well for
what's right, and they care and have people who care about
them. Maybe, the problem is that caring and fighting the way the
old Xena did won't work, but you could learn to fight a new
way, a way that still allows you to ... well, have me around for
"That's an interesting idea, Gabrielle. Maybe there's something to
that. I'll think about it. In the meantime, "Xena's arms tightened
around Gabrielle's waist and she leaned forward to bury her face
ever so lightly in the blonde hair. "I DO want you around."
By this time, they had reached the path that would take them
over the hills more rapidly than the main roads. The track was
narrow and rocky, so they both dismounted. After agreeing to
stop at the top for something to eat, Xena led the way with Argo
and Gabrielle followed. She thought of last night, and the things
Xena had said, and how she had looked at her. She thought of
this morning and how somehow more than "nice" it had been to
be sitting there with Xena wrapped around her. ("Nice." Great
word choice! And I'm the bard, the eloquent one! And, look at
her: Striding up the mountain as if it were a flat village street.
I'm going to be panting when we reach the top, and she'll
maybe, just maybe, have a slight sheen of perspiration. It'll just
be enough to energize her and she'll have that glow she gets
when she feels really alive, and if the view is any good, she'll
smile and my heart will break.) She stopped a moment in her
tracks. (My "heart will break"? Where did that come from? Why
didn't it seem strange until after I thought about it?) And, she
started walking again.
The pastures there were lush and green. The sheep they could
see on the far hills were plentiful and looked fat and healthy.
The sky was high and the palest of blues, the color it gets only
on clear spring days. The chalky limestone rocks set up a soft
contrast to the greens and blues, and when they reached the top,
they could see the sea below, dark at the horizon, but a
spectacular deep blue below. Gabrielle's mouth gaped and she
said not a word, just stared. Xena touched her arm in concern,
"Are you ok?"
Gabrielle started. "Xena -- the sea -- it's exactly the color of
your eyes! That's incredible!"
Xena flushed and shrugged. "Well, yeah. Anyway. How about a
break and something to eat?"
Gabrielle shook herself and mumbled under her breath. "Sure.
Right. Food. Of course."
There was a low wall, something left over from a nameless
building that was long gone. It made a convenient spot to sit and
lay out the bread and cheese and the few olives left in their
stores of food. The skin held water now, but the strong wine that
it had held previously lightly flavored the water and lent a
festive touch to the simple food.
Finishing, Gabrielle stretched and stood up to walk along the
wall, admiring the view of the sea. Reaching a particularly good
view, she called Xena over to admire it and they easily stood
together, Gabrielle's hand on Xena's shoulder, Xena's arm about
Gabrielle's waist. At some point, in response to some thought,
Gabrielle turned to say something to Xena, but she forgot what it
was. She cocked her head to one side and smiled in delight.
Xena was mystified. "What?"
Gabrielle laughed. "Well, it's another view. I don't think I've ever
looked you straight in the eye before. I usually have to look up
at you. Way up when you're on Argo. It's kind of nice." (There's
that word again!)
Xena laughed, too. "Well, all right. Take advantage while you
can. We're NOT taking the wall with us."
So, Gabrielle looked into Xena's eyes, the blue pools that would
forever remind her of the sea. And, Xena looked back, into
Gabrielle's green eyes. Who would ever think that green could
have such warmth, such fire? Their smiles faded as Gabrielle
leaned forward the few inches between them to lightly,
tentatively place a kiss on Xena's lips. They were warm and
inviting, the kisses soft and gentle. Xena held herself as still as
she could and still encourage the exploration. Gabrielle's hand
moved to Xena's neck and she leaned into the kiss seeking more.
Xena's hand went up to Gabrielle's cheek and her fingers lightly
traced the line of cheek and throat. As their lips parted and their
tongues first touched, Gabrielle suddenly flushed and drew back
with a small gasp. Xena turned away in bitter disappointment,
but Gabrielle pulled her back. "No," and she laughed, "I just
forgot to breathe. That's all." And Xena's smile was so open, so
wide, so dazzlingly happy that Gabrielle couldn't help it, she
burst into tears.
It took a while to explain that. And then the sheep (and the
shepherd) started to come over the crest of the hill, headed
towards the lower fields, and it was time to go.
Chapter 3: Elis
It was early evening when they reached the outskirts of Elis and
a priest appeared to bar their way. He chanted: "No weapons in
Elis, no arms, no wars, or disputes in Zeus's sacred territory.
Leave them here; you'll have no need of them. They'll wait here
for you," he said gesturing towards the stone building off the
Gabrielle offered her staff but the priest declined it. "Sometimes
a staff is a weapon, and sometimes it is just a staff. A sword is
never anything but a sword." He looked pointedly at Xena.
She'd known that this would be required, but Xena found herself
reluctant to part with her sword, the chakrum, and small daggers
carried secretly on her person. Still it was necessary and she
handed over each one, but slowly. She followed him to the
building to see them stored properly and, recognizing some
familiar arms in a corner, asked the priest where the owner was
Smiling, she grabbed Gabrielle's arm in hers and set off over the
fields to a prosperous farm nearby, to, as she said, "stay with an
"Xena -- which old friend? Most of your old friends aren't
exactly charmers, you know? I think I'd like a little briefing."
But Xena just grinned and pulled her and Argo along. As they
rounded the corner of the farm house, she gave a wild whoop
and leaped on the back of the tall man before her. They wrestled
briefly, Xena laughing. "Hercules! Your reflexes are still not
great. You rely too much on strength!" He laughed back at her.
"Xena! As beautiful and unpredictable as ever! I'd heard you
were around, but I thought Elis would be too tame for you."
Gabrielle coughed. When that didn't work, she tried a little
louder. Xena turned and put her arm around her and said,
"Gabrielle and I are looking for a place to stay while we're here.
Have room for us?"
"Hi, Gabrielle, good to see you again. Plenty of room here for
such great company. The housekeeper will get you settled in.
Say, when you have a moment, Xena, I'd like to talk to you
about something. Maybe you can help me out."
"You know I owe you, Herc. A lot." Taking Gabrielle aside for
a moment, she asked "Could you take care of the gear, while I
find out what Hercules needs? It's not like him to ask a favor,
and it would mean a lot to me to be able to do something for
"Sure, I'll take care of everything," and she led Argo toward the
barn. (How would I describe this? "The two proud warriors
walked off to trade battle stories, compare war wounds, and talk
of old comrades in arms, while the faithful side kick took care of
the horse." Hmmm. Sometime, I've got to write a story about the
strong and stalwart side kick that doesn't end in domestic details.
I could have stayed home for this part of the deal. Oh, well; a
bath would be good and something different to eat...)
Hercules and Xena walked arm in arm around the farm, and he
pointed out the improvement he was making. Then, he asked her
if she had heard much about the games on her travels.
"Sure. Every -- what? four years? -- you have contests here for
athletes. Male athletes, anyway. The games are dedicated to Zeus
and there's a big temple at Olympia for him."
Herc nodded. "They used to be Hera's games, but you know we
don't get along so well. She still holds a grudge against my
Mother for what happened with Zeus. Anyway, the games have
gotten better and better, and the peace of Elis is beginning to
extend beyond the borders. I want athletes and spectators to be
able to get here without having to risk their lives. But the local
kings bicker among themselves and there is constant warring and
raiding. It's bad for the games and it's bad for the people."
Xena turned and faced Hercules. "What can you do about that?
It's what petty kings and warlords are like. It's in their nature. It's
a ... " and she stopped. Hercules smiled, "Yes, I know, it's a
'guy' thing. But there's lots of guy things -- like the games -- that
don't tear up the countryside and peoples lives. I know I'm not
usually a big thinker, but I've been talking to some people, and I
think maybe we could do something. I want to get these guys to
agree to a truce once every four years. It doesn't seem like
much. I call it the 'ekecheiria' -- has a ring to it, doesn't it," he
said proudly. Xena looked dubious.
"No, really," Hercules went on. "Think about it. If they all
observe the truce for the year of the games, everyone can come
to Olympia to train and compete and see the games."
"Ok, Herc. Works for you. But, what's in it for them?"
"That's just the problem. I know that they get a year off from
war and a chance to recover from that. But unless they all agree,
none of them will, and I don't know how to get them all to
agree. That's what I wanted to talk to you about."
Xena took his arm again as they walked back to the house. "I
don't know. Let me think about it. And I'll talk to Gabrielle, too.
She's really good with the people side of things; I can't tell you
the times she's gotten us out of a fix with one of her stories or
made some friends we ended up owing our lives."
"Thanks, Xena, for whatever you can do. Maybe we can talk
some more tomorrow. I've got to go round up Iolaus now. We
have a 'state' dinner thing tonight. You'll be well taken care of
here. See you in the morning."
With her usual perceptiveness, Xena tried the kitchen first in
looking for Gabrielle. She was there all right, listening raptly to
the cook. He was a tall man in his middle years, but still well
built. He was smiling indulgently at the young girl, flirting a bit,
and he talked while he worked making bread for the evening
"Xena, this is Coroebus, and he's got the most fantastic stories to
tell about the games! He actually won the first one. You know,
when they only ran a single race. And he's been to all the rest
and knows all the stuff that happens behind the scenes. This next
year they're initiating a thing called the Pentathlon where there
are five events. If they let women compete, you could probably
beat them, Xena. One of the events is a discus, and we all know
what you can do with a chakrum! And, even if I can't go to the
games, I am going to have terrific tales to tell!"
Xena greeted Coroebus with the respect due the original
Olympian, but she also made sure that he knew that she was
protective, perhaps proprietary about Gabrielle. He took it with
good humor, and they settled down at the table to give the meal
the attention it deserved. After weeks of hard traveling, small
towns with miserable inns, it was a treat to have good wine and
eat fresh bread, succulent lamb, vegetables, ripe fruit, and
After dinner and a walk out to the pasture to check on Argo,
they went up to their room.
Xena had been preoccupied, and she finally turned to her friend.
"Gabrielle. I need your help."
"What with? Your armor? You want me to brush your hair or
"No, I want your advice."
That struck Gabrielle speechless. At least for a moment. "I beg
"Seriously. Let me tell you what Hercules is involved in here,"
and Xena outlined the plan and problems she and Hercules had
discussed earlier. "Do you have any ideas?"
(This is too good an opportunity to miss, Gabrielle thought. I've
got to come up with something. Anything.) "Well, the crucial
piece seems to be what you pointed out -- what's in it for the
local tyrants. Besides peace and prosperity, that is. The 'guy'
thing is also good. There's some potential there; I can feel it."
Gabrielle paced up and down the small room, rubbing her chin.
Every once in a while she would stop, look pleased, but then
shake her head and resume pacing. Finally, there came a time
when she didn't shake her head. She looked at Xena and said,
"Ok, try this. Chances are these guys are in competition with
each other, right? I mean, they are always fighting to see who is
the biggest, toughest, richest, etc. etc. And, they've got to prove
it before the other guy proves it all over them. You following
me?" Xena nodded. "Ok, so you combine that with Herc's
arguments: what you say is: One -- constant war is expensive,
they need a year off every once in a while to regroup. Two --
war is a way of winning something, but once every four years
you can pick another way. Three -- you can pick your athletes to
be in the games. Sponsors of winners have proven they are the
best and rumor has it Zeus looks favorably on winners and their
people. Four -- everyone will agree to the truce so no one will
have any advantage. And, if anyone breaks the truce ..." she
trailed off. "I'm not sure about that part."
Xena looked thoughtful. "That's good, Gabrielle. It might work. I
think Herc and I can handle truce breakers. That's more in our
Saying that, she started to unbuckle her armor. Gabrielle
motioned her to the bed. "Let me help you with that. I know, I
know. You can handle it yourself, but why should you when you
don't have to? Now, sit down." She knelt behind Xena on the
bed and unbuckled the shoulder pieces and then the back of the
body armor, while Xena undid the wrist guards. There were red
places on Xena's shoulders where the leather must have been too
worn. Gabrielle rubbed them with her thumbs to get the
circulation going. "Didn't it bother you? Amazing. We really
have to fix that. Lean forward a little; you're really tight. Let me
loosen up these muscles." But even when the tender spots had
been soothed and the knots worked out, her hands continued to
move, just lighter now, less a massage and more a caress. Xena's
eyes were closed. Her forearms rested on her knees, her head
hung loosely, her dark hair falling forward around her face and
she gave herself up to the small, but surprising strong hands that
seemed to channel all the fatigue and tension out of her back,
and shoulders, and neck. Then a different kind of tension began
to build, and she could feel Gabrielle's breath on her neck and
her lips delicately touch that sensitive area just at the hair line.
"Tell me," Gabrielle asked. "Just how many women have you
Xena started, then turned to face her, but said nothing. Gabrielle
jabbed her playfully with a fist. "What's the matter? Can't count
that high?" Xena shook her head. "No, that's not it. There hasn't
been anyone. Well, not really."
"What exactly does 'not really' mean?"
"When I was much younger, there was a woman, a girl really.
We were just getting to know one another. She was killed. We'd
never been ... close; I always regretted that."
"Oh. Xena, I'm sorry," and Gabrielle put her arms around her
and held her until the time came when she just had to say it.
"So, that means you don't know what you are doing here,
Xena raised an eyebrow and smiled her lopsided grin. "I
wouldn't exactly say that. I know what I like; I'm pretty sure I
could please you. I tell you what. I'm going to kiss you this
time. When I am finished, I want you to tell me how you feel.
Are we just ...what? 'affectionate friends' or something more."
Gabrielle smiled, a little nervously. Xena cupped her face in her
hands and lowered her own face to place light kisses on
Gabrielle's forehead and temples. Then she rubbed her cheek
softly against Gabrielle's cheek, and brought her lips around to
trace the line of her jaw to her mouth. Like someone blind,
using their fingers to discover a face, Xena's lips traced the line
of Gabrielle's mouth, memorizing their shape and texture, the
full under lip, their warmth, their softness. And when she felt the
lips open to her, when she felt Gabrielle's body move toward
her, her tongue found new delights, new depths as her kisses
were met with kisses, and their tongues explored each other.
Then she moved lower, to trace the lines of Gabrielle' throat
with her lips, with her tongue, to taste her skin and feel the heat
of it and the pounding of the blood. Gabrielle's head arched back
to let her, and she found that shallow area at the base of the
throat and then worked back up the other side of Gabrielle's
neck, her lips and tongue sometimes hungry, sometimes light
and teasing. And, then they kissed again, mouth and tongues
demanding more, until they both were flushed and Gabrielle
made a small noise in her throat of desire and need. Reluctantly,
Xena stopped kissing her and pulled her into her arms, rocking
her, and stroking her hair, murmuring, "Shhh, now; it's ok" until
both their breathing quieted.
"You are so sweet. I could seduce you, I know. But, I want
more than that. Much more. I want you to want me as much as I
want you. Not yet. But, we are more than friends, aren't we?"
and Gabrielle, still shaken, could only nod her head. And Xena's
arms held her tighter, embracing her and reveling in the feeling.
"It feels so good to hold you! Gods, I have wanted to do this for
so long!" And she smiled, and Gabrielle looked up to match that
smile and use her own fingers to trace the face before her with
And they lay together that night wrapped about one another,
pretending to sleep so as not to disturb the sleep of the other.
Xena slipped out of bed early, admitting to herself that patience
was a virtue she valued because it was not natural to her. She
hoped a strenuous workout with Argo, a mad gallop down to the
beach might burn out some of the energy that threatened to
overwhelm her best intentions. She wanted to be sure, she
wanted it to be right, to be perfect.
Gabrielle was left in bed thinking that Xena thought entirely too
Chapter 4: Day 2 in Elis
When she came back from the morning gallop, Hercules, Iolaus,
and Gabrielle were gathered around the table having breakfast.
The four friends conferred and more fully developed the plan.
Iolaus suggested that they could send out runners carrying
boughs from the olive trees in Zeus's sacred groves to the
primary warlords and kings, calling them to a conference with
Hercules in the north and Xena in the east. If these leaders could
be convinced to take the oath of peace for the year of the games,
the others would fall in place. Hercules would guarantee the
truce and punish the truce breakers -- he and Zeus, that is.
The runners would need to have a two day's lead, which gave
Hercules time to brief Xena on the cast of characters she would
meet in the east and work out strategies for dealing with them. It
also left some time to do a little sightseeing at Olympia, to see a
wonder of the known world, the statue of Zeus made by Pheidias
of ivory and gold. It was immense! Over 42 feet high and there
was even a spiral staircase to reach the top. Xena wasn't much
inclined to dealings with the gods, but in this magnificent temple
she was struck by the difficulty of the task before them. She and
Hercules were fighters, warriors. What they were going to try to
do was not in their usual repertoire. They were not going to be
attacking or defending, they were not going to be forcing a
peace, they were going to be trying to convince men to not fight
at scheduled times. Under the circumstances, she joined
willingly in the sacrifice to Zeus that Hercules arranged, and the
signs for the project were propitious, if not totally unclouded.
Gabrielle was fascinated by the complex at Olympia. Oh, there
were stories to tell there! The visit also gave her some time to
wander off by herself, to think through the storms of emotions
that were giving her no peace.
She looked at Xena with new eyes, she watched her in new
ways. She was quiet. She found moments to touch her, lightly,
in passing, to smile and then move on. Xena smiled back and
was always very much aware of where Gabrielle was, following
her with her eyes, making sure that they were not separated long.
Hercules and Iolaus noticed and grinned at each other and, when
her back was turned, at Xena.
They would set out the next day to establish what they could of
an Olympian in peace. But, for tonight, there was tonight.
As they walked through the door to the bedroom, Xena closed
the door, and Gabrielle backed her up to the wall. Looking her
squarely in the eye, making Xena look down so she could do so,
she asked, "Exactly what are your plans? Not for tomorrow, for
Xena had a feeling that things had suddenly gotten out of hand.
"Well. I thought ...." and her hands stroked Gabrielle's shoulders
and arms as she leaned forward for a kiss. But Gabrielle stopped
"You think too damn much, Miss Warrior Princess! You are not
going to put me through what you did last night again. Is that
There seemed nothing much else to say, except, "Ok."
"Now, come on." And Gabrielle led Xena to the bed, where
Xena stopped. "But I wanted things to be perfect for you." And
Gabrielle replied, "But it will be -- I'll stop talking and you can
stop thinking. Deal?" Xena nodded and smiled. And they
reached for one another and tumbled laughing on the bed.
Somehow both their clothes became nonexistent, and Xena found
herself lying on top of Gabrielle, her arms on either side of
Gabrielle's head, kissing her deeply, feeling the breasts against
her own breasts, the smooth belly against her own belly. Their
lips and tongues circled, their mouths pressed against each other,
hard. Blue eyes and green in the candlelight, dark with desire
and arousal. They had begun sweetly, gently once again, but
tonight there was more urgency. Xena's lips moved down
Gabrielle's throat and her teeth grazed the soft skin and the
throaty moans of response sent her lower to the swelling of
Gabrielle's breasts and then the erect nipples that she licked and
teased until Gabrielle forced her head down in mute request for
more and harder. And, Xena found herself grow more aroused,
she could not get enough of her, her hands seemed to be
everywhere, her lips, her mouth, and Gabrielle's skin was flushed
and hot with a fever, her lips were moist and open, her heart
pounded powerfully within her chest, and it seemed the exquisite
pleasure and pain would never end. But a pressure was building,
and Xena moved lower yet, kissing, nipping at the tender skin of
the inner thighs, kissing and rubbing her face on the soft swell
of her lower belly and into the blonde hairs that curled there.
But Gabrielle felt an ache within herself that never seemed to be
touched, an emptiness that had no fill and just as she despaired,
she felt Xena's tongue ever so softly stroke her there, her fingers
slide so smoothly, silkenly around and then inside and she
mouthed a long "oh" and a sigh. Her breathing grew more rapid
as Xena's tongue and fingers picked up the rhythm. Her fingers
twined in Xena's hair and the pressure inside her built, her back
arched, her hips rolled and suddenly, wrenched out of the bottom
of her soul she yelled and her body bucked and arched again.
Xena waited a moment and then moved up to cover Gabrielle's
body with her own. To stroke the blonde hair and kiss those lips
and whisper endearments over and over and nuzzle in the soft
skin beneath her ear. Gabrielle tried to reach her, but her body
seemed to have difficulty coordinating. Xena whispered to her
that it was ok, she'd be fine, it was enough tonight, sleep, my
love. And Gabrielle slept.
Waking very early the next morning, Xena stretched languidly
but found herself alone and felt momentarily devastated by a
sense of terrible loss. But there was quick relief when the door
opened and Gabrielle came in with a tray of food, crawled back
in bed and gave her a kiss sweet with the taste of honey and
figs. Xena sighed, "I should have known you'd be hungry."
"You should be, too," and Gabrielle broke off a piece of honey
cake and fed it to her. It was good, and when Gabrielle put
another piece in her mouth, Xena held her hand and licked each
finger clean and then proceeded to suck on the fingers and watch
her lover's reaction. Gabrielle's eyes widened. "Oh. Oh, my.
That's ... that feels .... you've got to ... stop that. It's my turn."
But, Xena pulled her down and kissed her and would have made
love to her again, but Gabrielle stopped her, saying, "When are
you going to stop being afraid to let me love you?" It was
Xena's turn to be surprised. "That's what I'm doing, isn't it?"
And, Gabrielle simply nodded and with her hand in the middle
of Xena's chest gently pushed her over on her back. "Let me,"
was all she said.
She was slow, partly tentative, partly a bit fearful about getting
it right. She could also see the small controlled fear in Xena's
eyes. She wanted to reassure, to comfort, to prove that it was ok,
everything was very right. The night before had been so intense,
it felt burned in her brain, her body. Thinking about that she
followed the same path, finding herself kissing Xena's eyes and
lips, teasing her mouth with licks of her tongue until both their
lips parted and their tongues met. Using her fingers to see Xena's
body, to feel the strength beneath the soft skin, to feel the
heartbeat beneath her lips, to hear her breathing deepen. The
breasts were a surprise, so soft, so delightful to touch and then
to kiss. And she felt the tension build in Xena and let her hand
drift down to twine in the dark silky hair. She felt Xena's legs
open, and she slipped her hand lower to feel another kind of
silkiness, a smooth slickness among the folds that led her fingers
on and in. And she let her lips follow her hand, kissing Xena's
belly, letting her tongue trace around the navel and then slip
There was mystery here, the unknown, and some anxiety -- will
I like it, won't I, will she? But, as her tongue found places that
wrenched a throaty moan from Xena, and felt her body respond,
she discovered that passion mirrors passion, desire reflects
desire, and they build off one another. As Xena's breathing
deepened, so did hers, as one groaned with pleasure, so did the
other, as one flushed so did the other, as the heat between them
built and the urgency. Her fingers slipped in and then out, in and
then out. Her tongue stroked soft and then hard. Xena's body
glistened with sweat and her head thrashed from side to side.
Her hands grasped convulsively at the sheets, her back arched,
and she uttered a series of "ahs" that became longer and louder
and faster, until the excitement, the pleasure became a torture
begging release and the release came in a rush of light and
sound, and neither of them was really ever sure who yelled. And
Gabrielle felt Xena's body sweetly clasp her fingers, shudder,
and then be still. She moved up to take Xena's face in her hands,
to tell her how much she loved her and they fell into one
another's eyes and arms.
Chapter 5: Negotiations
Morning had to come eventually. It was time to pick up their
arms and set out for the conferences -- Herc and Iolaus to the
north, Xena and Gabrielle to the east.
Skepticism was the initial response. Xena first had to convince
them that she spoke for Hercules; then she had to speak to them
as a fellow warlord about the costs of constant warring, the
benefits of an occasional peace. Gabrielle proved a perfect
balance, using her eloquence to flatter their vanity, stroke their
pride in the athletes of their districts, interest them in the fame
that bards would bring to the Olympic heroes and the men who
sponsored them, the towns that called them their own. Oxylus,
the host for this conference, was a self-made king, who gained
his kingdom by war, not inheritance. He was not as susceptible
to the flattery, and was leery of any advantage his neighbors
might get over him. But even he, finally, considering his sons
and their future (as well as some promising athletes in his
personal guard) agreed. And, with his agreement, the rest came
around and the oaths were sworn to honor the "ekech...", the
"ecish..." -- oh, well, let's just call it the Olympic truce.
Everyone was happy with the conclusion. Everyone was
enthusiastic about the promise of the arrangement. Well, almost
There was one group they had not accounted for in their plans,
one group that found Hercules' and Xena's efforts a threat to
their livelihood. If there was no war every four years, that meant
no pay for mercenaries every four years. They weren't farmers,
they were fighters, and peace would not serve their interests. Oh,
some could see the road to other places, but there was one small
group of particularly limited imaginations that had only worked
and fought here in the Pelopponisos. Battus, their leader saw
only that the Warrior Princess and her pals were putting him out
of business without so much as a "sorry about that." His
resentment smoldered as the conference progressed and burst
into flame with the swearing of the oath. Someone would pay,
he decided, that woman and her friend would pay, and the gods
be damned! And, with any luck, when they died, the truce would
The day of their return, Xena and Gabrielle set out early. The
day was fine, and they were well-provisioned for the trip.
Gabrielle was energized and enthusiastic.
Xena didn't seem to think the tale worth telling, but Gabrielle
begged to differ. "As usual, you have no sense of the dramatic
moment, what makes a good story," she sighed. "Don't you get
it? Here's the Warrior Princess as the fighting diplomat, an
ambassador of good will with a sharp sword to back it up!
Making peace between warring factions, gathering allies to
defend that peace! It's a whole new image -- 'Xena, the Warrior
Ambassador' or maybe 'Xena, the Arbitrator'? No, I'll have to
work on that."
Xena rolled her eyes. "Just don't make me listen to it, ok?"
The road curved sharply among the trees in the forest ahead,
obscuring the view. The attack came just as Xena and Gabrielle
made the turn: five men ahead of them, five behind, all armed
with swords and knives.
Xena instantly assumed a defensive crouch, sword drawn and
assessed the situation, while Gabrielle took her staff in a fighting
mode and the two women stood back to back.
Sunlight glinting dully on sword blades, arms thrusting, leather
armor creaking, duck, side-step, kick, slash, leap, kick, punch,
slash again. Grunts, screams, yells; the smell of sweat and fear,
and blood, and death. Whirl, punch, elbow, kick, slash, stab,
duck. Keep cool, act don't react, vary the pattern, don't be
predictable, see everything, move, move, move! Only three left
now, and they are more cautious, make them angry, taunt them,
when they lunge, feint to the side, leap over them, attack from
behind, kick, slash, stab, punch.
It was going well, one more was down, but then Battus stepped
out of the trees with three fresh troops and matters got more
serious. Swords flashed and thrust, sometimes into air,
sometimes into flesh. Battus concentrated on Xena, her sneering
smile and beckoning gestures making him wild with rage. He
lunged as she parried off one of the other mercenaries, but his
blade glanced off her shoulder and caught between the leather
and a brass whorl on her arm guard. She pulled him off balance
and knocked him in the head with her sword hilt; he fell like a
stone. The fighting was at close quarters, and Gabrielle was
tiring, Xena could tell by her gasping breaths. She'd have to risk
it. "Gabrielle! On three!" and with that she threw her chakrum,
banking it off a tree to fly back at the knot of fighting bodies.
As the third second arrived, Xena and Gabrielle both ducked
under the swords of their assailants and the chakrum took out
one more before burying itself in a tree.
Coming up to continue the fight, they found they were alone as
Oxylus and a troop of his horse guard thundered around the
curve and chased the still standing mercenaries into the trees.
The fight was over. Nine of the mercenaries lay around them;
some dead, some unconscious. Gabrielle was bruised but
untouched, Xena's shoulder needed a couple of stitches, and both
were breathing heavily. Gabrielle sat down in the middle of the
road with an emphatic "Whew! And, I thought this was supposed
to be a quiet trip!"
Oxylus let his guardsmen take care of the mopping up and made
sure the two women are all right. "I'm sorry I didn't get here
sooner," he said as he watched Gabrielle tend to Xena's wound.
"One of that scum's men is not such a bad fellow and he told me
what was planned. I feel the mercenaries here are my
responsibility. When I pay them they follow my orders. When I
don't require their services, I expect them to behave or get out.
Hercules can guarantee the truce between kings, but we'll have
to protect it within our own borders." And, over Xena's protests,
Oxylus sent a squad to escort them to Elis.
Hercules had also been successful at the conference in the
northern kingdoms. Xena's story about Oxylus and his approach
toward the mercenaries was of interest. "The mercenaries may be
a recurring problem, but if we can get the others interested in his
approach, insuring the truce will be a lot easier."
Xena laughed. "I don't think there will be a problem getting the
word out. Gabrielle has been telling every bard she can find
about the Olympic truce and all that went into it. Just do me a
favor and don't listen to any of them, ok? She gives me a bit
more credit than I deserve."
Hercules hosted a celebratory feast the evening of their return.
There were dishes from all over the province, music and
dancing. The rich dark wine flowed freely and Hercules rose to
propose a toast: "To my friends, Xena and Gabrielle, for their
efforts in establishing the Olympic peace, I salute you!" Before
he drank, he leaned down to whisper in Xena's ear, "And, much
happiness to you both -- it's time for you, Xena." She clasped his
hand gratefully and rose to propose a toast herself: "And I
salute Hercules and his vision of peace. Let the games begin!"
A few weeks later, it was time to leave. The athletes would be
arriving soon to begin their training and women would not be
wanted around the sacred precincts. Neither Xena nor Gabrielle
much liked the idea of there being places they were forbidden to
go, simply because they were women. Rather than take chances
and be tempted to rebel against the gods and local custom, it
seemed like a good time to take advantage of the truce and make
their way north to Corinth.
Riding out, Gabrielle mused. "Zeus should be pleased. His
games now have a good chance of becoming something beyond
athletics. Come to think of it, it's been a little odd. Think about
it: Here we had soldiers and armies and mercenaries, but no war.
Instead, a truce and peace. It's like .... oh, Xena! Ares hasn't
been around at all. Do you suppose that was the deal?"
"What do you mean?" Xena asked.
"Well remember my 'dream'? When I died again? That Ares had
to make a deal with Zeus to get out of trouble at having broken
his oath? Maybe the deal was not to interfere as Hercules
established the games and the truce?"
"If that's what happened, Gabrielle, we'd better be VERY
careful. Ares is going to be really unhappy with this. And, when
Ares is unhappy, lots of people are unhappy."
"Sounds like more work for the Warrior Princess and her faithful
Putting an arm around Gabrielle, Xena said, "No, I don't think
so. I think it means more work for US, and you need to come up
with a name for what we are that doesn't make you a 'side'
"Hmmm. Let me see.... how about...the two Musketeers?"
(What? asked Xena; I don't know where that came from either,
replied Gabrielle. How about . . .)
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