The first two stories are complete; the third is the prologue to a longer story which was never finished; and the fourth is an example of an idea which didn't progress any further.
Disclaimer: MCA/Universal/RenPics own all copyrights to everything related to Xena: Warrior Princess and I have no rights to them.
Gabrielle tries to catalogue their worldly belongings & bring some order out of chaos. But both Xena and Gabrielle discover that material possessions are not the most valuable.
This tale has a rather violent switch in tempo at its close which may seem excessive to some readers; but it is an experiment in O. Henry's style which I thought worth trying.
The morning was clear and sunny. The wide grass plain extended in all directions to the far horizon. There was no other person within a day's march. The birds were singing merrily in the branches of the small copse of birches where the two warrior women were resting. Xena was twenty yards away; supposedly fixing restraints on the horses to stop them wandering off, but in reality gazing longingly at the little stream which flowed by there. Gabrielle was stock-taking.
"Wish you'd stop throwing our frying-pans at people, Xena! This is the third in 4 months! And now its handle's bent, too!" She scribbled industriously on the parchment roll on her lap with a quill, then turned her attention to more mundane matters. "Four blankets, woollen. A change of clothes for each of us. Two pair of gauntlets. Two capes, with hoods. Two washing-cloths! Where are they?"
Gabrielle glanced around, but no sign of the errant cloths could be seen amongst the scattered equipment. After they had made camp she had also made plain her intention and started to empty their saddlebags and rolls; flinging everything rather haphazardly on the grass. Xena had attempted her usual defensive manoeuvre of complaining, but faced with the withering sarcasm this old ploy triggered she had retreated to the further reaches of the campsite; out of firing range, she hoped.
"I don't know! Xena must have lost them somewhere. More expense!" Gabrielle wriggled comfortably on the flat boulder and started writing again. "One extra sword, Warrior Princess for the use of; not that she ever does! Three daggers, Warrior Princess for the use of! Xena! Xena! Why do you need three daggers?"
Xena's reply was indistinguishable, but the intrepid assessor of all things needful was already another step further on.
"Two pair of boots, Warrior Princess for the use of." Gabrielle sniggered, but not loud enough for the distant figure to hear. "Why does she have such big feet! Assorted buckles, belts, straps; leather, Warrior Princess for the use of. Xena! Do you know you have more leather fastenings on your clothes than Argo has? Three pair of woollen socks, usually smelly, Warrior Princess for the use of! Three pair of woollen socks, clean fresh and dainty, poor companion for the use of! One steel-reinforced helmet, Warrior Princess for the use of; badly dented. She threw that at someone, I know she did! One patent folding iron shield, Warrior Princess for the use of; never used. Never seen, come to think of it! Xena! Xena! Why do you have a shield you never use?"
" 'Cause I never let anyone get that close! First Rule of War. Kill 'em, before they kill you!"
"That old chestnut! Humph!" Gabrielle wasn't impressed. "One bow, yew; one quiver and twelve arrows; Warrior Princess for the use of: slightly warped through lack of use. One bow, yew; one beautiful quiver and fifteen perfect arrows; un-appreciated sidekick for the use of! Xena! Why do you never use your bow? One leather pouch containing various extra breastplate ornaments, bronze; Warrior Princess for the use of. Gods! Xena! Do you know if we melted down those bronze thingumy-jigs all over your breast—chest—corset thingy we could probably pay off the Athenian national Debt! Did you hear me, Xena? Xena! Xe—"
"Hades, woman! I like my breastplate! Thought you did too, the way you constantly keep polishing it; even when I'm wearing it!"
Gabrielle forbore to answer this ridiculous calumny, instead bowing her head lower over the parchment and proceeding to index their supply of fine clothes.
"One chiton, red wool; Warrior Princess for the use of: and very fetching, too!" The scribe paused for a moment, as if enthralled by some inner vision; then continued briskly. "One chiton, green wool; charming bosom friend for the use of; oh yeah, looking good! Two peplos. Peplos's? Peplosi? Peplosae? Xena! What do you call two peplos—pelo—Xena what are two peplos called? Xena! Can you hear me? Xe—"
"Yeah, I can hear ya! Gods, the Macedonians can hear ya! Pipe down!"
Disregarding this uncourteous attitude in her revered but not-actually-worshipped cohort Gabrielle marched relentlessly forward with her plan to set their affairs in order; unruly and bored Warrior Princesses notwithstanding.
"One himation, blue linen with yellow banding; Warrior Princess for the use of. Gods, she doesn't wear that often enough! One himation, white and brown linen with red banding; delighted follower for the use of: suits me, too! One pair of sandals, well-aged and smelly; Warrior Princess used too much! Note: throw them away when she's off somewhere and pretend they were left behind at the last camp! She'll never realise! One fishing pole, in sections, ash; Warrior Prin—Oh Gods, that's why she's haunting the stream-bank!"
"Xena!" With instant reflexes the Amazon warrior jumped to her feet and gazed across the flat ground to the distant form musing by the tinkling water. "If you're thinking what I think you're thinking, then you can stop thinking what I think you're thinking right now, Lady!"
"Don't come the innocent with me, Warrior Terror of the Northern Wastes!" Gabrielle commenced to wave her fist at Xena, who was now trying to look as meek as the distance between them allowed. "No fish! D'you hear, there? No fish, or fishing! If I'da wanted to come on an expedition into the wilderness by myself I'da come by myself! And if you fish I might as well be alone for all the help I'll get from you!"
The statuesque figure in the middle-distance raised its hands slightly, then dropped them again in mute reply. Gabrielle, still muttering, sat down once more. She picked the parchment out of the grass beside the boulder where it had been unceremoniously thrown and resumed her check-list.
"Horses; Argo, golden and beautiful; Warrior Princess for the use of. One nondescript brown mare, rather old; insignificant supporter for the use of. Two pack ponies, names unknown; hardly ever seen or thought of, poor things! Though, mind you—mind me, that is!—if we got rid of one it'd lower our expenses at a stroke. Make a note! Xena! Xena! We have too many pack-horses! Wouldn't one be enough? A deafening silence! Right, that's it! The Warrior Princess is mine!"
Carefully placing the almost completed parchment on the boulder the Amazon Queen rose with a nasty glint in her green eye and strode, with long determined strides, in the direction of the feared Woman Warrior.
"Hey! Yeah, you!" When riled Gabrielle could resort to some quaint, not to say shocking, language; and several phrases were struggling in her mind for dominance as she reached the stream tinkling over its pebble bed with a deliciously cooling sound. "Here I am struggling to drag some kinda order from the wreckage all round us that you call home, and you're thinking of goofing off to slaughter every fish within a day's ride! What'dya thi—"
The tall warrior; who had been standing with her back to the approaching Amazon, turned abruptly to reveal tears running down her cheeks. As Gabrielle, suddenly silent, came to stand at her side Xena looked wistfully down into her face. The usually haughty warrior placed one hand on the bare shoulder of her friend and gazed unwaveringly, but yearningly, into those sea-green eyes. Xena's blue-violet eyes still sparkled with unrestrained tears and Gabrielle gently put out her own hand till, with infinite grace, a tender finger touched the taller woman's cheek.
"What is it, dearest?" Gabrielle's words were soft, sweet, and imbued with all the depth of feeling of one true and certain lover to another.
"I—I—was watching the ripples of the water!" Xena was unsure; irresolute; blinking under the calm gaze of her companion. "And—it—it was just as if suddenly I could see you in the water! Your smile! Your happiness! Your—your Love! Gods! Gabrielle, I love you so!"
The Amazon looked quietly into the face of the woman beside her, then stepped forward to clasp the taller warrior to her in an iron grip. Xena bent slightly, as if impelled, till their cheeks touched and Xena's tears ran down Gabrielle's face too. The two women stood enfolded in each other's arms, mindless of all around them; letting the moment wash over and claim them forever. In the peaceful silence of the surrounding meadows only the green-eyed Amazon spoke, and she spoke only that which needed to be said: all that was necessary.
"I love you, Xena! If I lost you there would be nothing left. Never leave me!"
The Warrior Princess circled her arms round the most precious treasure she had ever discovered, and held her close in an unbreakable union. Another tear ran slowly down her cheek as she nestled her face into the blonde, scented hair of the only person in the world who made life worth living.
'Falling in Love'
Xena and Gabrielle in love. This story charts a tranquil moment in the lives of the two lovers.
The spreading moor lay peacefully basking in the warm morning air. A nearby stream lay gurgling under the shadow of tall willows. On top of a nearby stone a small bird with a red breast suddenly appeared, with a ruffle of feathers, and began to sing in the dazzling sunshine. It's music rose into the silent air; giving voice to that hidden song which lay in the hearts of two women standing side by side amongst the heather.
"Oh, I suppose so!" Xena looked to the Heavens on this beautiful bright morning, then glanced again at the sprightly girl now jumping around the campsite dragging saddle-bags and piles of blankets under her arms. "But this ain't a fancy Inn, ya know, Gabrielle! I mean, there's gotta be some mess in a camp!"
"Not the sort of mess you seem to haul around at your heels, Warrior Princess!" The young golden-haired girl looked at her friend intently; clearly not willing to take prisoners. "Gods! It's like following a bunch of children around, tidying up after them! I've never seen any one person who could create such a mess so quickly! How d'you do it?"
"I'm a warrior!" The warrior tried feebly to gain ground. "I can't think about house-keeping every moment I'm out in the wilds! Hades! You'll be telling me next to bring a brush to sweep the ground each morning!"
"No need to use foul language, dear!" Gabrielle pursed her lips in a vivid recollection of one of her aunts. "A tidy house shows a tidy mind! And that goes for campsites, too!"
"No it don't!" Xena was incensed at this slur. "A camp, by definition, is out in the wilderness and not subject to ordinary social customs. So there!"
"Hah!" Gabrielle was unimpressed. She dumped Xena's saddle-bag next to Argo and made something of a drama of easing her back and rubbing a sore spot with one hand. "Oooh, that's better! You know, if I'da known my duties included this sort'a thing every morning I'd have put a clause in the contract for more pay!"
"Ha! Ya didn't sign a contract!" Xena smirked unashamedly. "Ya just imposed yourself on an innocent war-lord minding her own business! One moment I'm knocking bandits on the head with gay abandon; the next minute you're here, under my feet, and telling me to wash the frying-pan every morning and implying that a bath in a stream once a week wouldn't altogether be a bad thing! From freedom to slavery in one move! How'd it happen? That's what I ask myself!"
She found, however, that she was indeed asking herself. Gabrielle had long since lost interest and gone off to the two pack-horses, under the trees twenty yards away, to release their night tethers.
"Warlordess!" Gabrielle called from her place in the shade.
"What?" Xena grabbed Gabrielle's saddle and hoisted it on her shoulder with startling ease.
"A female warlord must be a warlord-ess. Don't you think?" Gabrielle was obviously off on one of her many tangents. Xena had found, soon after their first acquaintance, that her small friend had a sharp, darting mind which often left her wondering what on earth the girl was thinking.
"No, I don't!" Xena threw the saddle beside the nondescript brown mare they had bought recently in a small town. Having Gabrielle walking along beside her on their expeditions was all very well; but there were times when it just wasn't feasible. So she had insisted on buying a horse for Gabrielle's use; though Gabrielle's insistent complaints about her resulting sore butt had been making Xena regret doing so. A sore butt is certainly a sore butt, she mused, but just how long can a sore butt stay sore?
"Whatever." The young girl brushed her long red tresses from her face and regarded her friend. "That bruise on your cheek is fading nicely. Good thing your jaw wasn't broken!"
Xena remembered the fracas a week ago when they had come upon a band of horse-thieves attempting to steal from a small community on the flat grassy plains to the East. A lively fight had taken place before they had been driven off. The high-point being when Xena had lost her footing momentarily, after being hit in the face by a lucky blow from a thug, and fallen to the ground. In that instant of defencelessness; and just as the bandit prepared to slice down with his sword, Gabrielle had jumped in with her staff and deflected his blow at the cost of a hurt wrist. Xena had carefully bandaged her friend's injury that evening. Xena had also realised that without Gabrielle's intervention she herself would probably have been seriously wounded.
Over the last few days this incident had preyed somewhat on the warrior's mind. One, because she had always worried about bringing Gabrielle into these sort of situations where they were both in danger: and secondly, because she had to admit that her lithe comrade was very brave; had defended Xena at the cost of her own safety without a second thought; and fully deserved the acclaim given her recently by the Amazons.
Xena had tried to bring the subject up a couple of days later, but Gabrielle brushed it off as if it was a slight thing. So recently Xena had found herself looking at her gentle companion with an even more heightened love and respect.
"Well, that's the camp tidied up!" Gabrielle gazed around and nodded with satisfaction. "Now, I think, a bathe in the stream is indicated. It'll do that bruise good. Make it fade faster. Come on!"
"Whatever you say, darling!" The warrior grinned as Gabrielle led the way to one of the deep pools sheltering under a clump of white willows.
"Are you sure they do not see us?"
"The Amazon knows we are here. But she will not tell her companion: she respects our privacy too much for that!"
"The little one is pure at heart. She has a white radiance. But the taller; she glows red in her heart. Much sorrow. Much anger! She seems a curious soulmate?"
"She lives for the little one. The Amazon is her anchor. Without her the warrior-woman would die."
"Yes. You are right!"
About thirty yards upstream from where Xena and Gabrielle splashed merrily in the water, shaded by a willow, sat two figures. One was the water-nymph of this stream while the other was one of the many hamadryads of the encompassing woods and moorland. They sat sociably dangling their feet in the water and watching the antics of the two bathers.
"I spoke with the Amazon, yesterday." The water-nymph continued. "She has a beautiful soul. Her love for Xena is—forever!"
"I watch them from a distance." The hamadryad admitted. "I am too shy to speak with them. What is the Amazon's name?"
"Gabrielle! And Xena is her heart-mate. They are together for life—and beyond!"
"It is as it should be." The hamadryad smiled as the distant figures splashed in the water and cries of laughter came to them on the breeze. "Their love is pure. But the little one; she is the strongest of the two."
"Yes, Gabrielle is stronger." The water-nymph nodded. "But she does not know it! Such is love!"
"They have a hard life." The hamadryad mused as she sat, elbows on knees and chin cupped in her hands. "It is pleasant to give them the peace of our woods and moors, and your stream. It is a gift of tranquillity for them."
"Yes. The Amazon likes to splash about in the stream; and her lover likes to fish!" The water-nymph smiled gently as she glanced at her companion. "But, oh! She is so bad at fishing! Why, if I did not help, she would never catch anything!"
"I listened to them talking as they sat by their camp-fire yesterday evening." The hamadryad admitted. "I was a little shy because I did not want to impinge on their happiness. They spoke of love and contentment. The big warrior lives for the love of her small friend! Later, amongst the willows, I saw Gabrielle close by and she smiled at me. She is gentle and kind. I shall make her stay here calm and peaceful."
"And I shall make the waters of my stream cool and delightful for them." The water-nymph tool a last look at the playing figures in the water. "Come. Let us depart. They shall have their privacy. Love needs privacy too!"
"Yes. Let us go. Tomorrow we must bid them farewell." The hamadryad took one last glance at the two women. "Perhaps, in the morning, I too will speak kind words with Gabrielle!"
"Hey! That ain't fair!" Xena laughed as she brushed water from her eyes. "I wasn't ready!"
"Tough, Warrior Princess!" Gabrielle sniggered in reply as she splashed away from her friend in the waist-deep water. "Catch me if you can!"
"Oh! I can!"
Xena launched herself forward and dived under the surface. Her body was visible as a pale blur before Gabrielle suddenly felt hard hands clasping her legs and, with a cry, she disappeared below the surface.
A moment later Gabrielle rose up once more, brushing fingers through her long hair and gasping for breath. At her side Xena appeared too, splashing the white form beside her.
"Hey! Gim'me a chance!" Gabrielle spluttered with laughter as she spat out a mouthful of water. "Gods! You can swim, anyway! I can't seem to get away from you however hard I try!"
"Oh! It's just a knack." Xena offered her hand, which Gabrielle gripped with a smile. "Come on! Let's get ashore. I want to lie on the grass and let the sun dry us. Weren't you saying you'd learnt another poem of Sappho's? I'd like to hear it!"
"OK." Gabrielle grinned with pleasure as they splashed through the water and scampered up the pebbly bank to the cool short grass. Here, still naked, the two lay side by side; Xena holding one of Gabrielle's hands tightly. They looked up at the passing clouds in companionable silence for a while, then Gabrielle began to recite.
It was one of the poet's lesser known works. A short piece; but it spoke of love and the joy of being together in lifelong happiness. Gabrielle's voice, to Xena's ears, was like the sound of water tinkling over pebbles in the stream nearby. A sound which stopped far too soon as the warrior turned her head to contemplate the red-haired woman by her side.
Gabrielle's body, as Xena looked at her, was like a landscape too; with curves and hollows, and smooth plains leading to gentle shadowed glades. And when Xena's eyes met those of her heart-mate, and in those pools of green jade saw only Love reflected in its purest form, she was happy.
"That was the most beautiful poem I've ever heard, Gabrielle!"
"Thanks!" Gabrielle reached over and put an arm round Xena's neck. "I like lying here, like this. Nothing but the stream gurgling; and the sky above; and the trees! Makes me feel innocent and happy!"
"Well, in that case I'll hold you tight and we can stay here like this forever!"
"And freeze to death when night comes on!" Gabrielle laughed. "I don't think so! Come on! Let's get dressed."
"Those two fish you caught earlier will be great, fried. I thought you didn't have much chance of fish in this stream." Gabrielle admitted with awesome brazenness. "But I was wrong! You can fish!"
"Hey! That's not nice!" Xena laughed in her turn as they stood on the short grass and heather later on in the warm afternoon. The sun was nearing the horizon in a golden glow. "I'm the greatest fisher in North Greece, I'll have ya know!"
"Yeah, whatever!" Gabrielle turned to walk unconcernedly to their gear piled beside the campfire.
"It's peaceful here." Xena was dressed now in full panoply of leather and boots, with her sword in it's back-scabbard. It wasn't really necessary, but she felt more comfortable that way; even if Gabrielle laughed gently at her. Xena looked at her companion with clear wide eyes overflowing with happiness. "You look like a Goddess from Olympus, and I love you dearly!"
Gabrielle laughed at these words, shaking her head then turning to look Xena straight in the eye. The grin she had been directing at her friend softened to a gentle smile before she knelt gracefully at the fire, where she began contentedly preparing their supper. Her natural elegance brought sudden swift tears to the eyes of the warrior-woman gazing raptly at the nymph-like figure.
Xena smiled as she looked at the slightly-built girl. Gabrielle was dressed in a short brown linen skirt and top that showed firm muscles, while she happily hummed a light country song under her breath. Xena realised that Gabrielle entranced her in a way no other woman had done for years. That Xena loved her, in fact, as Sappho loved those she wrote of in her poems—unreservedly and forever! Quietly Xena crouched at the young golden-haired girl's side and picked up one of the freshly caught fish.
"What're you thinking of doing with that, Warrior Princess of my heart?"
The soft assured tone in which Gabrielle spoke these words cut into Xena's heart with infinite tenderness. She had to gulp before she could form a reply.
"Oh, just thought I'd show you how to cook it the Boeotian way." Xena smiled affectionately. "Y'know, with herbs and roots, and—er, things!"
"Thank you." Gabrielle carefully took the fish from Xena's hand and replaced it on the flat stone by the fire. "I think I'll pass on that! Last time you cooked fish for supper there was nothing left but a blackened crisp, remember?"
"Oh, come on!" Xena raised a hand appealingly. "That was because the fire was too hot; and we were interrupted by those brigands. You can't make supper while fighting 8 brigands and hope for gourmet fare!"
"And we didn't get it, either!" Gabrielle was unmoved, gently brushing the warrior's hand away from the items in question. "I'll do the cooking, dear. You go and collect some more firewood. I thiiink—yes, the Attican recipe! It has garlic and those red peppers you're so fond of, Princess! The garlic's in my small saddle-bag! Thanks!"
Later, as the evening drew on and a few stars made their early appearance, Gabrielle sat at ease beside the fire watching Xena.
"You're licking your fingers, lover!"
"Damn right I'm licking my fingers!" Xena nodded enthusiastically. "That was delicious! Best fish I've had in ages! You'll do. You can be my cook! Ten drachma a month, and all found! What d'ya say?"
"It's a poor offer, but I'll take it!" Gabrielle laughed. "Only out of compassion, mind you! Who else'd put up with your shocking table-manners?"
She reached out for Xena's plate and, placing it on top of her own, rose to cross to the stream bank. A small bucket of water was ready there and for a minute only the sound of splashing broke the companionable silence as she tidied up. On her way back she picked up the few small pouches which contained herbs that had been used in cooking and took them over to her saddle-bag.
Xena, meanwhile, had broken out their blankets and laid them together on the ground close to the low fire. She dragged the saddles beside each other and kicked some intruding twigs away across the grass before kneeling to arrange the warm blankets.
"How's it going, gal? Bed's are ready, here!"
Gabrielle tightened the saddle-bag's strap, then rose to her feet. She moved over to Xena again before pausing. Without a word she stood there on the sweet grass with Xena crouched silently at her feet. Gabrielle knelt at her friend's side, reaching out to grasp the hardy warrior's hands.
"Love you, Xena!" Gabrielle stared at their entwined fingers as she spoke, then looked up into the dark blue eyes of her companion. "I do—I just do! That's all I can say!"
"I know that!" Xena clasped her friend's hands all the more tightly. "I love you too, Gabrielle!"
In another minute they were both ensconced beneath the blankets, holding each other close.
Gabrielle lay cosily under her blanket. It was just an hour afterwards. The dark night had closed round them as they quietly chatted about mundane things; the actions of the past day; and of their plans for the morrow. Silence had reigned now for some minutes but Gabrielle, while pretending to be asleep, had been awaiting a certain moment. That moment when she could be sure her lover was asleep. She turned her head and looked at the flowing dark locks of the Warrior Princess now lying peacefully by her side. Only the lightest of breaths seemed to issue from her lips and Gabrielle felt assured she now slept.
Quietly Gabrielle put her arm out to rest a hand against the warrior's hair; fingers gently caressing one cheek. Then, laying her hand softly against the side of Xena's face, Gabrielle closed her eyes and slept contentedly.
Xena, without moving or changing the rhythm of her breathing, opened her eyes; aware only of the tender caress of Gabrielle's fingers. After a minute a single tear ran quietly down the warrior's cheek as she stared unseeingly into the dark silent night.
'A Storm on Olympus'
Aphrodite, Ares & Callisto have a discussion about sanity, madness, and Xena & Gabrielle. This story is Xena and Gabrielle Lite!
It was originally meant as the opening scene in a longer story in which Xena and Gabrielle would have appeared.
"Yo Bro! Wassup?"
"Sis! Would you please drop that stupid dialect and talk Greek!" The War-God was harassed. "Look, I've got War-things to do here. Is it important?"
"Important! Of course it's important, bro!" Aphrodite favoured Ares with a searing glance. Really! Sometimes even War-Gods could be dim. "I've got a guest arriving anytime now; and you're sort'a in the way!"
"Whad'ya mean—in the way! Ain't I got rights here too? This is still Olympus, I take it!" With this sarcastic remark the God of War looked ostentatiously around him.
The Hall they presently stood in was high and wide. Its cool white marble floors and columns shining in the morning sun. Large spaces between the columns gave access to green lawns liberally covered by flowerbeds. While in a brilliant blue sky towering clouds rolled in serene immensity. Altogether a perfect day in the home of the Gods.
The only let-down perhaps being the piles of weapons littering the floor and nearby tables where Ares was sorting his armoury. Even Gods have to spring-clean! Swords, knives, spears, armour, shields, it was all here; and all thrown about haphazardly in that off-hand manner which so endeared the God of War to his worshippers everywhere!
"Eww! What's this?" Aphrodite had picked up a curiously bladed knife from a nearby table and was waving it in the air between delicate fingers. The very femininity of her grasp exasperated the God as he turned to look at the wispily clad Goddess of Love.
"That, dear sister, is a kris. The wavy blade helps to disembowel your opponent when you stick it in their gut!"
"Awhh!" The cry was closely followed by a clatter as the weapon and the Goddess parted company spontaneously. "That is so—yeucch!"
" 'Dite! What are you doing here?" Ares rested his hands on his belt and favoured the gorgeous Goddess with a pained look. "I have things to do. An armoury doesn't clean itself out, ya know! I got work here! Can't you take your girls and talk about fashion and dresses somewhere else? Like to the land –
'of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders.'
"Yuck!" Aphrodite was unimpressed. "You been reading those nasty works of Herodotus again? I keep telling you—he makes most of it up! Ain't that obvious? No! No! I suppose it isn't!"
"It so happens I took a vacation in the future, sis! There's this time where their plays are—."
"Whatever! Anyways! I got someone to impress. And I want to impress them here, in this Hall."
"This is no place for a girlie chat on the latest peplum's and chiton's from Ephesus or wherever." Ares was unmoved. "I'm all in favour of pretty girls in dresses, or out of them for that matter; but really, sis, I got weapons here from every corner of the world and I gotta get them sorted in alphabetical order for the annual stock-taking! Gim'me a break!"
His reply came in the deepest thunder of an angry God's disfavour. The Hall seemed to quiver, and the floor shook beneath them.
"Hey, Bro! Enough with the drama!" Aphrodite was well-used to her brother's attitude on such occasions. "I've made a date with her; and we're going to take wine and have a chat—here!"
"That bitch!" Ares was, for a change, actually truly shocked. "The Bitch of Cirra! Have you lost your senses, sis?"
"We got things to discuss! I wanna look in her eyes. See what makes her tick!"
"What makes her tick, sis, is madness!" Ares came across and put a gauntleted hand on his sister's arm. "Not your run-of-the-mill crazy: but real psycho-insanity! This woman is truly out of it! Believe me!"
"Well, I want to do something to protect my friends." The Goddess pulled the wispy folds of her dress, if it was a dress, around her voluptuous figure as she frowned. "After all; seeing she's a God now, too—"
"She ain't a God!" Ares shouted once again, and the surrounding architecture shuddered in response as before. "She may be God-like! God-ish! But she ain't a God! She's a menace to Society!"
"I'm going to look out for those I love, anyway, bro!" Aphrodite clutched a nearby vase to stop it falling on the tessellated floor. "And would you stop making the place shake? You know how much I hate the sea!"
"The sea! The sea!" Ares ran fingers through tussled hair as he contemplated the woman before him. "Friends? What fri—oh, I see! Xena, and—and—er, that buddy of hers? The Amazon!"
"Gabrielle." The Goddess's voice was soft and loving.
"Yeah—her." The God of War was off-hand. "So what's the big event, that you need to conference with the craziest bitch on the planet about them?"
"She's been working some heavy aggro lately, so I—"
"Oh, OK!" Aphrodite tossed her head disdainfully. "She's been making life difficult for my gals. And I want to try and make her ease off. Is that bad?"
"Not bad, sis; just impossible!" Ares' look had softened almost to kindness as he gazed at his beautiful sister. "She'll never respond to reason. She's mad! I know these things. You can work with an army commander who's angry; who's determined; who's cruel: but when they cross the line into madness then you have to give up on them. They can't be controlled: they do illogical, nasty, things. Things you wouldn't believe! You just have to leave them to burn themselves out; and let the world recover its balance! No-one can work with madness! Hades! If you want madness I can recommend a trip into the 20th century from now! That's one mean, son-of-a-bitch world right there!"
"I've got enough to keep me hard at it just here thanks, bro." Aphrodite shrugged her bare shoulders. "Looking after Gabrielle and Xena'll keep me busy for a while."
"You can say that again." Ares laughed mirthlessly as he returned to the table and picked up a long-bladed sword. "Well! If you want to swap stories with Callisto I'm outta here! If ya need help, I'll be on call!"
There was a red flash and the Goddess of Love was left alone in the vast building. For a few minutes Aphrodite contemplated the landscape stretching away into the distance, with its fields of asphodels bright and colourful in the sunshine. Their scent wafting to her nostrils in delicate tones. But this vision of loveliness didn't last.
Aphrodite turned in a swirl of pink chiffon to face the latest entrant to the list of Gods on Mt. Olympus. The girl-warrior standing some yards away was not a prepossessing sight. Her light hair rolled in waves to her shoulders, while she was dressed in dark leather skirt and top. But what most focussed attention was her face; and particularly her eyes. They were screwed up in a way she had when gazing at someone intently, and from them beamed unknowable madness.
From the first glance it was obvious this young woman lived in a world separate from reality. That she looked out on a world of her own making, which was entirely different from the one most people recognised. What any spectator could see in her eyes was not beauty; or intelligence; or understanding; or any form of pity: but deep focussed insanity with but a single aim. To make life as much like Tartarus as possible for everyone she met, regardless of anything else. With a sudden intuition Aphrodite realised her plan, of discussing things logically, was hopeless.
"Got your message. Come drink wine; chat about life and things!" Callisto sniggered as she walked over to Aphrodite. "Don't think much of your dress! No protection. You should wear leather! Long-lasting; takes a lot'ta wear. You'd look good in black!"
"I'm happy. Pink is me! It's like, my personality!" The Goddess of Love looked the other woman up and down. "Your character is easy to see, too! You like—fight everybody! Why!"
"BECAUSE I HATE EVERYBODY!" The high pitched scream was so loud and unexpected that even Aphrodite stumbled back, away from the suddenly enraged woman before her. "EVERYBODY!"
There was a pause as the two women faced each other. The Goddess of Love proud, tall and handsome in her swirling gauzy dress; the other harsh, rigid, edgy, and full of rage as she frowned from under lowered brows at her opponent; the fingers of her hands twitching incessantly.
"So what'ya want to talk about?" The warrior spoke first, in a snarl. "The weather in Thessaly? The price of corn in Attica? Ares' imbecile activities just about everywhere? What? What?"
"You were in Epirus two weeks ago." Aphrodite recovered her serenity with an effort. "You made things difficult for a lot of people there. Including Gabrielle and Xena. Why do you kill people?"
"Because I like it!" Callisto did not hesitate for an instant in answering this question; then turned to the important topic. "So! You're cosying up to the warrior-women still? Would'a thought you'd gotten fed up with them by now?"
"They're my friends. I mean to stand by them, all the way!"
"She's mine!" Callisto spat the words out. "I like playing with Xena. Making her unhappy! It's so much fun!"
The simpering grin that accompanied this remark hit Aphrodite more powerfully than the words themselves. In her role as auditor of all things lovable in the world she had little experience in the more physical aspects of hatred and insanity. So the present situation was a steep learning curve for her. Looking now into Callisto's eyes; seeing the deep bottomless depths of her madness, Aphrodite saw also the impossibility of any meaningful discussion with her. This blonde beautiful violent woman was so clearly beyond intellect; or logic; or reason. She lived only for hatred and revenge; nothing else. Aphrodite realised suddenly that, although Callisto was now a minor Goddess, she had never actually been really Human in the first place. Even the most violent of savage animals, in Aphrodite's experience, had some hidden aspect of pity; but not Callisto: never Callisto.
"Go away!" Aphrodite waved her hand in cold dismissal. She felt sick at heart. "Go away! And don't think for a minute I won't stand by my friends! I have hidden powers you would not believe! And I shall protect Gabrielle and Xena! Go!"
Callisto tossed her long locks and turned away. She walked a few yards before suddenly, in the blink of an eye, twisting round to launch a white-hot fireball from her hand straight at Aphrodite.
There was a searing hiss as the bolt rushed towards its target; then a hush as, instead of the explosion of contact, there was silence. The fireball had simply disappeared as if it had never been.
Callisto looked curiously at Aphrodite, her expression turning to a deep frown as she contemplated the Love Goddess. Then Callisto noticed for the first time something in the glint of Aphrodite's eyes; in the way she held herself; standing boldly in front of her attacker. Suddenly Callisto felt unsure, perhaps even afraid!
"Some other time, sis!" With these words the blonde, beautiful, utterly mad woman disappeared in a flash of light.
Aphrodite stood unmoving for the longest time in contemplation, staring at the spot where her recent opponent had been. Not even the quiet re-appearance of Ares at her side, and the gentle pressure of his hand lightly placed on her arm, broke her line of thought. Then at last the two Gods turned and walked, arm in arm, into the gardens where asphodels scented the air with beauty and splendour and loveliness.
'Two Imaginary Conversations.'
In the 19th century Walter Savage Landor wrote a series of 'Imaginary Conversations' between various famous characters of Antiquity. Having read some I went mad and produced these two scenarios. Whether they have a meaning or any relevance to Xena and Gabrielle will have to be decided by the reader. They were meant as openings to longer stories which were never completed.
Xena & Lucrezia Borgia.
"Where is this dark place? Ah! I see a table and chairs. But there are no refreshments! What is the meaning of this?" Lucrezia looked around with an imperial air. "Where are the servants? You appear to be a Lady of Quality! Who are you? Be careful! You speak to the Lady Lucrezia Borgia. I do not take impertinence lightly!"
"Park it, woman! And don't give me any lip!" Xena raised her arm and threw her chakram so powerfully that it embedded itself, with an almighty crash, in the wainscotting surrounding the small room they stood in. "Of course there isn't any food or drink! Do you think I'm an idiot?"
"Guards! Guards! Assistance! Assistance immediately!" The dark haired Lady looked furiously from the still vibrating chakram to the lightly clad warrior woman and paled slightly as she cast anxious glances all round the room. "Where are my bodyguards?"
Her loud cry echoed in the room but no-one came in answer. Xena sat at the table with a faint smile; taking no other notice of the Lady's outburst.
"There aren't any servants, Lady! And there ain't going to be; just us, nobody else."
"What is this? Why am I here?" For the first time Lucrezia Borgia; for it was indeed she, began to look unsure of herself. "How was I brought here? I have no remembrance of coming here!"
"Oh! You came here the same way you'll be leaving; in a flash!" Xena sniggered quietly. "If you leave at all; that is!"
Lucrezia studied the expression of this dark dangerous-seeming woman for a few seconds and then slowly sat on the opposite side of the bare oak table.
"Who are you? Ah! I have it! Are you an Angel? Have I died and come to Heaven?"
"Haaw!" For an instant Xena was rendered speechless; then she laughed long and hard. "Heaven! Gods, woman! Have you no shame at all? You ain't scheduled for Heaven! It's the Inferno for you, bitch!"
"How dare you! I'll have you boiled alive for this!" The tall Italian jumped to her feet; face dark with rage. "As soon as I find soldiers I'll have them chain you and drag you to the dungeons. I'll know what to do with scum like you, there!"
"I just bet you will, too!" Xena sucked her lip thoughtfully as she looked over at the irate aristocrat. "Do you know what I'm thinking right now? No? Just whether to kill you myself; or give you over to your enemies for them to save me the bother!"
"My—my enemies!" Lucrezia's voice wavered; though she sat down again and watched her adversary with half-closed eyes.
"Yeah!" Xena was scornful. "That'll be about most of the population of Rome; and ¾ of the rest of the Italian Principalities and Kingdoms!"
"Bitch! Harlot! Scum!" Lucrezia rose and banged her fists on the table in fury. "Who put you up to this? Was it the Montefeltro's? I would believe it of them!"
"Nah! Someone more powerful." Xena watched the face of the angry woman across the table. She was considering if the Lady had any concealed weapons; and had come to the conclusion that she would certainly have at least one dagger, somewhere. "Si'down an' get a grip! You're making me dizzy! I gotta talk with you, woman!"
Gabrielle & Niccolo Machiavelli.
The young man appeared older than his years. His round close-shaven head and thin features gave him the look of a ferret. His voice was sharp and somewhat rasping, though low. He smiled with closed lips; haltingly, hesitantly, as if it was something he was unsure or ashamed of. His eyes caught those of the person he spoke to with a fierce intent. Behind his voice; behind his expression, what there was of it, could be seen the sharp intellect of a true schemer hard at work without pause or rest. He was someone who would always have a plan.
Gabrielle stood in a well-appointed room of the Palazzo Rucellai with the late morning sun streaming through high windows. Apart from the two people there was no-one else present. The room itself was not one of the State Rooms, but a small private drawing-room. A table of modest proportions held a set of silver cutlery with a light meal and wine placed ready.
The man was the first to open conversation; after looking long and hard at his companion.
"The Palazzo Rucellai does not often stand host to such a beautiful subject. I applaud my good luck in being here this day!"
"Ha!" Gabrielle wasn't to be taken in by Florentine suavity; especially from this man. "Nice try! I know who you are!"
"You have the better of me, I fear; for I have no idea who you may be. Should I?"
"I know you're Niccolo Machiavelli. Perhaps the most ruthless political tactician in the world today!"
"Ruthless! I fear not. But tactician; by all means. It is my job; it is my duty. In this way I hold the State of Florence together; against her enemies. And, believe me, there are many of them!"
"So I'm told." Gabrielle nodded, flexing her shoulders as she walked slowly round the table to pull out a chair and sit. For a few seconds Machiavelli surveyed her; glanced about the otherwise empty room, then sat a few feet from her, on the same side. He played idly with a silver goblet as he continued his survey of his opponent. For he regarded all conversations as a game of chess, with words instead of pieces.
"You dress unlike the Ladies of the Court." He started with a light tone, amusing himself, and trying to unsettle the woman beside him. "If indeed you are dressed at all! I mean, I've seen Ladies wearing more who were still naked!"
"Hawph!" Gabrielle didn't rise to the bait; knowing who she was dealing with. She was wearing her usual low top and short skirt, with boots. Certainly; viewed from the rear, she appeared to be wearing less than a lot, but who's business was that! "I ain't enamoured of that brown shirt and rather dirty cloth pants you're exhibiting. Looks like you slept in them once too often! Anyways; we two have something more important to talk about!"
Machiavelli raised thin eyebrows on his rounded forehead. His spare form; allied with an intent expression, always made him look like a falcon hunting its prey. Not many relished speaking with Niccolo Machiavelli at length.
"And what could that possibly be? Surprise me, please!"