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Bonus Disclaimer: This story was written after reading too many Xena and Gabrielle fan fiction stories. Don't let this happen to you!!
Preamble: Don't you hate fan fiction stories where the author/authoress places themselves in the story? Xena and the Gabster are getting along just fine, until "Rebecca Brandywine" steps in, and hogs every scene. I thought it would be nice to take this to its absurd conclusion, and find out what really happens when you put yourself in a Xenaverse story. And away we go...
Final warning: This story is an affirmation of the love between
Xena and Gabrielle, and that's all that really matters, isn't it?
It was a typically lovely spring morning in a nameless Macedonian forest. An unseen songbird whose ancient Macedonian name escapes me warbles its lovesong from high in the soft fir trees, and a red-tailed squirrel is carefully burying its treasure beneath a well-sized wasp nest hanging about ten meters (this is the Mediterranean after all) off the ground.
All of a sudden, the songbird pauses in its serenade. The squirrel stops digging as well. Sitting up on its haunches, the squirrel sniffs the forest air. Something is amiss. Following the basic squirrel strategy for amiss-ness, the creature scampers off into the brush just as a small spark seems to curl right out of the tree's bark. That spark is followed by another, and then another, until great lancing arcs of electricity begin raking the length of the tree trunk, lashing out at neighboring trees and filling the air with the peculiar scent of ozone and burning bark.
An unnaturally-perfect sphere of absolute blackness erupts out of nothing, enveloping a small sliver of the tree and part of the wasp nest. The electrical arcs seem to climax and then vanish, along with the sphere, leaving a circle of burning pine needles and a crouching male figure in the center of the blasted area.
I slowly stand up. I can feel that my hair is standing straight up and out, like when you are standing on one of those Science Fair gizmos. Pausing for a moment, I intake a breath. The air is cool, and ignoring the slight bit of smoke, I savor my first breath of ancient air. Ah! To be alive in the ancient past! From the vague historical references seen in that third season episode, this should have placed me within half a kilometer of the Warrior Princess. Now I only have to- my musings are interrupted by a most unpleasant stinging sensation to my backside!!!
"Yeowtch!" I yelp as I jump forward and whirl at the same time. My sight
is filled with angry, swarming insects, behind which is a paper nest which
has a neat little section carved out of it. Another sting plants itself
on my forearm, and all thought escapes me as I begin running screaming
through the forest as fast as my feet can take me. I painfully step on
a pine cone, but don't feel it as succeeding stings increase their urgency
to my senses.
Gabrielle dries her sienna-burned hair out with her sleeping blanket, flinging her long strands into the air to allow the steady breeze to dry it. She idly watches Xena rinsing her sword off at the corner of the pond, a small pool of blood spreading out from her blade.
"Do you think he'll ever be able to walk again?" the blonde warrior asks her companion.
"Well," Xena responds dryly, sitting up and slinging the water off her blade. "he won't be pursuing highway robbery as a career again, for certain." Walking over to Argo, Xena began rummaging through a leather saddle bag as she added, "You shattered his knee pretty good. Your undersweep has improved."
"Uh huh." Gabrielle mumbled, embarrassed somewhat. She didn't mean to cripple the bandit for life. He looked like he was nothing but rags and bones. But that didn't bother her as much anymore. Was it callous not to care as much whether a nameless thug could find a new trade? No, that would be up to the Fates, she decided. It was Xena she was more worried about.
"Who used up my sword oil?" Xena called out irritably as she walked over to Gabrielle.
"What? Oh, um, I was out of rubbing oil, and uh..." Gabrielle began, a pleading look in her eyes. Xena flashed her the look and turned away, hurriedly drying every drop of moisture off of her sword with a rag. Gabrielle bit her lip and took a breath. Walking over behind Xena, she placed her hand on the warrior's shoulder and softly asked, "Do you want to talk about it?"
"What do you mean?" Xena replied dismissively. But then again, that's how she always talked. Gabrielle tried again.
"That bandit." Gabrielle continued. "You nearly severed his entire head."
Xena turned to face her bard. Her bard, she mulled over in her mind. Xena blinked once and considered how to gather up the right words. She rarely killed now in front of Gabrielle, and only then in the direst life-or-death situations. How to explain her brutal reaction?
"When I saw him slash your back open with his knife, I assumed the worst. I had to get him out of the way as fast as possible." Xena's eyes hardened as she continued. "I didn't know he had only cut your bili... uh, green bra tunic."
"I understand..." Gabrielle responded, searching for something more in Xena's eyes. Between running into Joxer's brother, the King of Thieves, and the outcast Queen of Egypt, she hadn't much time to ask Xena about Lao Ma. Maybe now she would finally feel the time was right to tell her more.
"It's time I told you about my... relationship with Lao Ma." Xena finally said, averting her gaze from the intense stare of the younger woman before her. "And how it affects... us."
Gabrielle waited expectantly, swallowing hard. Her stomach was full of butterflies. Oh gosh, maybe this wasn't such a good time to bring this up! What is she going to say? Xena's eyes rose up to meet hers, and she began to speak. Just then Xena's eyes grew wide, and her head snapped to the side.
"What in Tartarus..." Xena swore as she stepped back, raising her sword.
Gabrielle looked at her, and then towards where she was looking and it
was then that she heard someone screaming.
"Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!" I scream as I run right towards the body of water I saw through the trees. With my first step splashing into the water, I take a deep breath and leap headlong into the green water, uncaring of its state of stagnation.
I submerge myself completely, and begin swimming towards the center
of the pond. I can't remember how long I can hold my breath, but I'm gonna
try to break that record and hope the bugs go away.
Xena lowered her sword and looked at Gabrielle. The bard's eyes were
wide open, and she just let her mouth hang open as she looked back at Xena,
her face filling with an expression of merriment. They had just watched
a pale, naked man run screaming from the woods to dive right into the pond.
He disappeared with just a slight ripple, giving Gabrielle the impression
he knew how to swim. A flurry of bubbles came up, but other than that,
the water grew calm again.
After about a minute I carefully poke my head up, and find to my delight that the wretched creatures have indeed departed. This is not going to plan...I think to myself as I catch sight of two women standing on the pond shore, and they take my breath away.
There's Xena, as breath-takingly beautiful as I thought she would look. She wasn't as tanned as LL's Lyla portrayal, but who cares! I allow myself to sink up a bit as I take in her companion, all auburn.. no, sienna and green, it's oh-so-perky Gabrielle! Now, if I can just remember my ancient greek, or was that Koine? No matter. I gingerly begin swimming to their shore, hoping Xena won't shish-kabob me on sight.
"Heh-heh-heh," I chuckle, waving off to the side of the lake, "Wasps! They sure are a pain!"
"He doesn't sound Greek." Xena whispers to Gabrielle, her sword still held at the ready. "Although he reminds me of Joxer."
"He sounds like one of those Egyptian bards who learnt greek off a papyrus..." Gabrielle declared, eyeing me as a possibly insane man.
Drawing myself up, I give the speech I've been preparing to give for years. "Greetings, Warrior Princess and Companion. I am... Ogami."
Silence. Hmmmm... Did I leave something out?
Without even turning her head, Xena coolly says to Gabrielle, "His name sounds Khitan, but he looks Semitic to me."
"Definitely Semitic, maybe an Israelite?" Gabrielle offers, furrowing her brow as she places her fingertip on her chin, a smirk appearing on her all-too-cute features.
I feel a definite chill coming on, and look down. Blushing furiously, I quickly drop back into the water, up to my neck. Cripes! I forgot that the timeball doesn't transport any possessions back into the past. My clothing was left in the future! Gotta explain fast.
"Uh, no, I'm not a H-Hebrew." I stammer, partially from the cold. "I'm from a far away..." I stop myself. I can't tell them the truth! They would never understand, despite what some of those fan fiction writers would have you believe. I know...
"I apologize for my nudity. As a boy, I was caught in a Khitan rice picker." I state plainly, hoping they buy it.
At their continued silence, I decide to ask, "Would either of you have something I could wear, I seem to have misplaced my clothing."
At this, Xena throws me a rust-stained cloth, which I realize is blood as I wrap it around me.
"So, you've heard of me?" Xena states coldly, not lowering her blade.
Hmmm, now what was that list Minya rattled off in that episode? Oh yes. "Yes, you unchained Prometheus, slew Callisto,..." Ate out Lao Ma..., I thought to myself. "and subdued The Horde!" I say through chattering teeth.
"The Horde?" Gabrielle asks as she hands me her sleeping blanket.
I pause to luxuriantly wrap Gabrielle's own sleeping blanket around me. How many Xenites have yearned for this? Ahhh... I pause in my revelry to sniff the blanket, and intake the scent contained within. Mmmmm... The scent of Gabrielle.... I adopt the expression Homer Simpson has when contemplating a donut.
"Ahem, " Gabrielle cleared her throat. "What have you heard about the Horde?"
"Oh! Well..." I considered the matter. The Athenian soldiers who passed on the account of my heroines' encounter with the Horde would have left out all that nonsense about the Kaltaka, uh water. Okay, that seems about right.
"I've heard of how you rallied a few scattered survivors to destroy an entire Horde army, leaving their lifeless husks as a reminder for the barbarians never to mess with civilized Athenians!" That should do it.
Gabrielle frowned while Xena smirked a little, lowering her sword. "Well, that sounds typical. Do you know where you are?"
"Somewhere to the east of the Mediterranean?" I reply.
Perhaps because I appear to be in a daze (Time travel can do that, you know), or perhaps because she doesn't like strange nude men running out of the forest, Xena says "Well, you can't come with us. You're about a day's travel from Atreus. Just travel that way and you'll find it alright. Don't follow us." She added with a cold stare. "We've just dealt with some bandits, and I'm not in the mood for strange men. You don't want to join them in Tartarus." she concluded, glancing sharply at Gabrielle.
Hmmm. Something unspoken between them? I wonder what. Oh well. I step up to Gabrielle, finally feeling warmed again. "And you must be..."
She put her hands on her hips (Geez, what a view! Just don't drool on her!) and waits for me to complete my sentence. What's the proper way to handle this?
"Lariel!" I say with a certain nod, a knowing smile on my face.
Gabrielle feigned enlightenment and gave a half-chuckle reserved only for Joxer, or for Xena during a PMS moment.
"Say, would you know where I could get some real clothing, maybe a sword?" I ask.
"Xena?" Gabrielle asks, turning for approval to her companion. Xena considers for a moment and then nods. Gabrielle says "There are some bandits up the trail that way that we fought. They've probably been stripped already, but you can look."
I thank her and move off. After about twenty minutes walk I come across a grisly scene. There lies two warriors, both are bloody, and one appears to have had his head nearly cut off. All that held the head to the body was a small flap of skin.
Magnificent... I thought, A perfect stroke worthy of Itto Ogami.
The bodies appeared to have been rifled of possessions, but one of the warrior's armor and clothing remained. I put on what I could (that which was not soiled with blood or waste) and noticed a sword that had been stomped into the damp earth. Lifting it up, I balanced it on my finger, and frowned. This sword had no balance, and would snap if stressed... about here! I thought as I flipped it up in the air and broke it in half with my other hand. The pieces clattered to the ground, and I returned to the pond, where, I was relieved to see, my two heroines were still there, although they were packing to move on.
"Here is your sleeping blanket back, uh..." I say as I offer the prized garment to her. I'm going to miss it.
"It's Gabrielle, and it's not mine." Gabrielle corrects as she takes it. "It's Argo's."
Argo whinnies and bucks her head, looking at me.
"Uh yeah, thanks Argo." I say as I turn to leave. Then I turn back to Gabrielle.
"Oh, one more thing..." I say as I peer intently into Gabrielle's gorgeous eyes. "Thanks!" I finish, turning away from her. So that's what her actual eye color is... I think to myself. Boy, there's people on the Web who would kill to know this! Heh heh heh...
"I must bid you good travels, ladies." I said as I wave to them to set out for Atreus. "May all of your differences be small ones." I add with a subdued grin, setting off.
I happily let them go, for I know that I will encounter them again soon.
"Sorry!" the figure continues past me. "I'm on an important mission!"
"Say... aren't you Joxer the Magnificent?" I slyly call out as he passes.
"Yeah?" Joxer says, turning. "I mean, yeah, that's me. And who are you?"
"Name's Ogami. The Lord of Swords." I state as straight-faced as possible.
"Oh yeah? Well I'm the Master of Mayhem." Joxer responds, puffing himself up proudly.
"So I've heard." I continue, and ask "So where are you off to now?"
"Got a message to deliver to some friends of mine." Joxer says as he shifts back and forth, clearly wanting to leave, but not so eager to stop talking to someone who doesn't actually despise him.
"You wouldn't mean Xena would you?" I coyly throw in, my eyes trailing
off to the sky. I've got to keep from laughing. I love Joxer, and would
always defend him from those on the Net who hate him, er, will hate
him. But how could this guy even survive from day to day in the
"How many do you count?" Gabrielle asks, flipping her staff up to its proper stance.
"Eighteen." Xena coolly responds, fingering her Chakram. "Just stay close to me."
"Now's my chance to try out my 'Staff Shield'." Gabrielle whispers to herself.
A swarthy one-eyed man steps forward, confident in his power as his associates gather in a wide circle around their prey. He speaks: "There is a toll to pay for passing through Axe-finger territory. Who do you think you are, huh?"
"That's Whom." Gabrielle offers innocently. The gang leader does a slow burn.
Xena turns to look at her, and Gabrielle lets out a grin, "Little joke."
"Well, we don't want to pay your toll." Xena states in that unique way
of hers. "Why don't you boys just play nice and beat it before someone
gets hurt?" as she draws her sword.
"You've seen her??" Joxer cried, delighted he was on the right path, which must be unusual for him. I tell him about my encounter with them, along with where I think (know) they are heading. He agrees to set off with me, mumbling something about needing a sidekick.
"What'cha got in the basket?" I ask to make idle conversation, as we briskly walk along.
"Oh, just some tomatoes for me and Gabby...uh Xena." Joxer replies, holding up the basket. "Why, you want one?"
I take one of the proffered tomatoes out of the basket and stare at it.
"[This can't be real...]" I say incredulously in English.
"Yahh!!!" Gabrielle cries. Separated from Xena for the moment, Gabrielle cracks her amazon staff against the temple of one ruffian, only to have two more take his place. Dodging to the side, she inhales deeply, preparing herself for the new technique she's been practicing. Twirling her staff like a baton over her head, Gabrielle begins rolling its twirling path all around her. Three bandits strike at her simultaneously, with two swords and a club. All find their blows deflected away by the young woman before them, and as shock sets in, the tallest of them has three of his ribs shattered by her follow-up blow, and the second has his knees taken out from under him as Gabrielle spins out of her form into a crouch.
"Ay-Yi-Yi-Yi-Yi-Yi-Yi!!!" Xena ululates as she flips through the air towards the bandit leader, determined to take the fight out of them. The one-eyed man pushes one of his lieutenants in front of him, cowering behind him. Fine, Xena thinks as she runs her sword through the charging oaf's spleen. She ducks away from his diminishing attack, only to find to her horror that her blade is caught in his spine. Relinquishing it, she rolls on the ground to avoid another's attack and comes up with a discarded short sword, casually twirling the weapon with a demonic look in her eyes.
"Who's next?" she asks roughly.
"What?" Joxer frowns as I stop.
"Sorry," I respond in greek. "My native tongue is American. Can you say it?"
"A-meer-i-cahn" Joxer tries, as best he can. "What's wrong? Is the fruit alright? The farmer wanted almost a whole dinar for the bucket. Come on, let's go!"
"Hmmm? Oh yes, it's fine." I say as I bite into it. Yep, it's a tomato alright. A New World vegetable. I catch up to Joxer as the weight of this fact bears down on me.
Something is very wrong here. I had assumed that a tomato on the television show was merely a historical anachronism, like Caesar and David and Hippocrates all existing at the same time. Merely a mistake on the show, right? Let me think... If the tomato is here, then that means that I am not in my world's past. I have traveled not only through time, but across dimensions as well! If I am right, I have entered an alternate reality, where tomatoes are here in the Old World, and historical inaccuracies from the show have somehow been melded into the correct history for this world!
In this world then, the Gods of the ancient Greeks, such as Ares or Aphrodite, are real. The God of the Israelites, (whose son is worshipped over much of my world), may either be a myth or merely another deity in a large pantheon of gods! I shuddered at the import of all this. In my world, all religion is mythological, and science and evolution are considered the correct interpretations. Yet here, in Xena's world, "God" may simply be a jealous "local" god, carefully shepherding his Israelites from other Gods who bestride entire empires in their power.
After interrogating Joxer I determine that the episodes as far as I know them have transpired according to the show, but already the path has begun changing from what I knew would happen here. What does this mean? Where was this "episode" supposed to go? Joxer was supposed to meet Xena and Gabrielle at the pond, so that he could step in and heroically take the blow meant for Gabrielle later in...
"Faster!" I cry to Joxer as I whip his sword out of its scabbard.
"Hey!!!!" Joxer yells as he follows. "A warrior is never parted-"
"Save it." I respond as I tear through the underbrush. If my arrival
has caused this dimension to depart from its proper history, then all future
"episodes" occurring to Xena and Gabrielle have just become blank, and
only the Fates know whether they'll live through their next battle or not!
Freeing herself from being surrounded, Gabrielle catches her breath for a second to realize that more men are rushing her way, apparently figuring her to be easier prey than the armor-clad woman before them. Preparing her stance as they approach, Gabrielle begins her staff shield again. I must time this right, she thinks to herself, as four men try to surround her.
They come, and she deflects two of their attacks with her staff. Gabrielle
judges wrong the angle of attack of one swordsman, and she deflects his
blade badly, causing her to bop herself with her own staff. This leaves
her off-balance for the third's attack, who hits her in the back with his
club, knocking the wind out of her.
Joxer and I slow our approach, and I motion to him to shush as we carefully walk closer to the large group in the clearing before us. There are no sounds of battle, and the worry on Joxer's face matches my own as we stealthily approach. (Thank God... er, Zeus he's still wearing his brother's outfit from the last episode, and not all those frying pans!)
I peek behind a tree to see what's going on.
"That's right, you crazy bitch." a swarthy one-eyed man says to Xena. "Put down your sword, or your little honey gets it."
Zeus, I think, it's just like one of those godawful fan fiction stories where Gabby gets captured, and Xena must submit to being put in chains and whipped, etc. in order to free her. Then they bond over the ordeal. Please!
"You sneak around for a chance to come out and surprise one of them." I whisper to Joxer. "I'm going out."
"Well?" the one-eyed bandit demands. Xena glares at him, but her resolve weakens at the sight of Gabrielle helpless before their enemies. If only she had a distraction...
The two thugs holding Gabrielle grimace in agony and flop down on the ground, grasping their severed hamstrings. I step up next to Gabrielle. Now, what is a sufficiently corny thing to say in this situation?
"Mind if I cut in on this dance?" I simply state. As everyone stares at me, Gabrielle bends down and retrieves her staff from one of the crippled oafs.
"E-Yi!!!" Xena howls as she executes an astonishing backflip onto the shoulders of the thug behind her. She simply bears in with her weight and sends him headfirst onto a rock. (Not the worst way to die, I think to myself, between Xena's thighs.)
Gabrielle delivers a staff end to the jaw of one of the crippled thugs, and he drops his club and his head. "Jerk." she mutters under her breath.
She steps away from me to get some room for her staff, and I calmly crouch, resting my left hand on my knee as I raise Joxer's sword up behind me. "Come on, dead men!" I shout, meaning it.
Two men rush me, and I see they are used to fighting together. The first will strike high while the other hits low. I give a tight smile before rising to meet them.
"Hah!" Xena yells as she crushes a cheekbone with her sword pommel. She can see three of the thugs finally losing their nerve and fleeing into the woods. About time, she thinks. But then she sees the leader pull a jar out of his pack, ready to heft it.
"Gabrielle!" she yells. "Look out!" She frees her Chakram, about to hurl it, but another bandit is already in her face.
I cut a wide swath across the belly of the low bandit, but miscalculate the weight of Joxer's sword, nearly losing it in the backswing. He screams in agony and falls away, as the upper bandit brings his sword against mine, painfully rapping it out of my grasp. He grins.
A strange, warbling war cry ululates out of the woods, as Joxer swings in on a vine, of all things, towards the nearest bandit. The bandit neatly sidesteps his swinging opponent, ignoring him to look for an opportune moment to backstab the berzerker swordswoman.
"Whoah-whoah-whoah!" Joxer bellows, spinning wildly. The bandit leader just has time to turn and see 180 pounds of idiot coming his way before Joxer collides with him. The collision forces the leader to break his jar over his own forehead.
Kneeling before him, I lock eyes with the thug towering over me. He twirls his sword off to the side and then brings it up over his head, planning to chop my skull like a melon. (Did they have those in the Old World too?, I idly wonder, or is that another anachronism?)
"Ogami!" Gabrielle yells, but she is too far away to do anything.
"Yahhh!!!!" he scream as he brings his sword down in an arc to meet my forehead. Now, I think as I clap my hands together before me, clasping the blade that he strives to strike me down with.
Gabrielle watches in horror, then fascination, as she sees the bizarre warrior catch the sword in his hands. She is even more surprised to see him twirl the sword in a movement almost too fast too see. Ogami stands up, and the bandit staggers behind him. The bandit turns, and the sword has somehow embedded itself midway through the bandit's stomach, having cut through his entire side!
"Know your enemy, destroy your enemy!" I growl as I lock eyes with my dying opponent. He drops to the ground as I hear a guttural scream from behind me.
Joxer scrambles to his feet as he watches the clear liquid run down the bandit's face, the man screaming wildly. Joxer gulps as he watches the bandit's face smoke and melt, as the stench of acid fills the air.
All battle comes to a stop as the bandit leader's men turn to gawk at his agony. As if in unison, those that can flee take the opportunity to do so, and Xena holds back on a killing stroke to allow her opponent to escape.
"Hey!" I yell at the five fleeing survivors. "Don't you wanta take your wounded with you?"
Xena pushes past Joxer to pull Gabrielle to her. She holds her very tightly for a moment and then pulls away, stroking her hair.
"Are you alright?" she asks the Bard, and the blonde nods that she is okay. Xena searches her eyes for a moment and then nods.
I retrieve the too-heavy sword and sling it, but most of the blood still sticks to it. I walk over to Joxer, who is brushing himself off and surveying the scene of carnage.
"It lacks a proper blood channel," I say as I offer him his weapon, "but it's a very fine sword. How did you come by it?"
"Family heirloom." Joxer proudly states as he takes the sword and inspects it. "I come from a long line of warlords." he adds with smug assurance. I wince as he jams the sword back into its scabbard, blood and all.
Xena comes over to me, the slightest smile on her lips. Unless you're Ulysses, most men don't get any kind of smile from the Warrior Princess. (Steady now!)
"I want to thank you for helping us." she says, in that deep-throated official voice of hers. "I guess I misjudged you, but you can't be too careful with strange... strangers." she adds, her eyes twinkling.
Oh Zeus, don't look at those Poseidon-colored eyes of hers! "Q-Quite alright, Xena, but Joxer's the one you should thank." as I gesture at him.
"Yes Joxer..." Xena wryly grins, looking down at the ground, "You were very heroic."
"Yeah, well..." Joxer hem-haws, "When I get in that warrior haze... look out!"
"This one is dead." Gabrielle says quietly, standing up from the bandit whose head is resting on a rock. A pool of blood has begun to trickle from him.
"Agghh!" one of the hamstrung bandits cries out. He had apparently tried to move, but found it to be a painful experience. His eyes grow wide with terror as I approach him.
"Your friends left you here to die." I muse as I kneel before him. "Well, hold still, and I'll bind your wounds as best I can."
Gabrielle helps me strip some rags from the dead, as we begin binding the survivors' wounds. She looks into the eyes of the one she knocked out with her staff a few minutes earlier, and he averts his gaze in shame.
You should give them water, I muse to myself, lots and lots of water!
"Th-thank you..." the bandit manages as I finish binding his wounds up.
I coldly gaze at him and say, "Don't thank me. The only reason you're still alive is that I didn't want to get any blood on my friend." at which I sit up and walk away.
Gabrielle stares after me in shock, and then murmurs to her patient, "I suggest you find another line of work." before getting up.
She walks over to me and says, "Thanks for your help, although your timing could use some improvement..." she adds, rubbing her back. "If you don't mind me asking, what was that move you did with grabbing the sword, and all?"
"That was... -sigh- You've never heard of it. It's the secret Blade Seizure technique of the Yagyu Clan." I finally finish. I can't help but add, "It's ahead of its time." And grin like an idiot.
"Oh, Xena." Joxer says in his nasally voice. "Got a message for ya here."
Xena takes the message and unfurls it. She glances at it and rolls it back up, putting it away. "Thanks, Joxer."
"What is it?" Gabrielle asks, wiping the end of her staff off in the grass.
"Nothing." Xena replies, or sort-of replies. "I'll tell you later."
"Alright, boys and girls." Xena growls, "Let's get out of here."
"It's fine, really." Gabrielle shrugs, pushing Xena away. Xena begins feeling along Gabrielle's back, searching out the tender spots.
"Why don't you boys go sit by the waterfall for awhile?" Xena suggests as she begins undoing the back of Gabrielle's bilious-green sports bra.
As Joxer and I depart, a thought occurs to me. This is the perfect time to find out if all that subtext I've been hearing about Xena and Gabrielle is true! This is what every Xenite has wondered: Is their relationship sororal or sapphistical? (As Kevin Wald would say.) Is their love lesbian, or a Romantic Friendship? (As Whoosh! magazine puts it.)
"Say Joxer," I ask as we reach the gurgling basin. "You've been around Xena and Gabrielle a lot. Are they-" I stop myself. Do I really need to know this? Anyone can tell that Xena and Gabrielle love each other. That's pretty obvious. Does it really matter for me to find out what that love is? No, I guess not...
"Are they ever going to cut you some slack?" I finish.
"Well, Xena's a lot more tolerant of me than most. " Joxer offers. "Even more than my older brother is. I guess I think of her and Gabby as my family now."
"That's not a bad family to be a part of." I agree. "It's good to be part of something..."
-Phew!- I guess I've got a lot bottled up inside. Maybe a little off-tune yodeling would help. Now how did that old song go?...
"Boston." I respond, staring up at the night sky. I gaze back at the campfire, and see our heroines in the flickering yellow light. Xena is massaging... no, caressing Gabrielle's bare back. Two against the world..., I think to myself.
Shivering a bit, I turn back to Joxer. "C'mon," I say, "let's go get
Joxer: "Uhn! Uhn! Uhn! Ohh!"
Xena: "-pant- Oh Yes! Just a few more times... -pant-"
Me: "-grunt- -grunt- Ah!!!"
"Ohhhh..." I groan as I roll over on my side. Joxer has already given up, his eyes rolling wildly as he lays as flat as possible.
"You boys look out of shape to me..." Xena coos as she finishes her sit-ups. Gabrielle pulls herself into Indian... uh, folded leg position, her toned belly glistening with a thin sheen of sweat.
"I thought you needed to be in shape to be a master of 'Zimbuto'." Gabrielle chides as she grins at me and Joxer.
"-pant- It's Zanbato. -pant- Suio-school Zanbato..." I gasp out. "And yes, you have to be in shape for it, but you don't have to do a thousand sit-ups!"
"Now you know why I try not to hang around them all the time..." Joxer gushes out, giving all the appearance of man-sized Jell-O.
"[two warrior women on the same monthly cycle.]" I mutter in English. "[No wonder no one else travels with them!]"
"What was that?" Xena asks, getting up.
"Nothing, nothing..." I quickly respond. -Ouch!- I think as I slowly get up. And I thought Daigoro's workouts were tough...
Xena towels her face dry and walks off, her hand lightly trailing along
Gabrielle's arm as she goes. The gesture is not lost on me, although Joxer
either didn't notice or doesn't think it unusual.
Gabrielle luxuriantly immerses her head beneath the small waterfall, as Xena resumes washing her back for her. Athena, that feels nice... Gabrielle thinks to herself. If only she would do it more often... her thought trails off. Who am I kidding, she muses. Getting Xena to unwind is like getting... she paused. Poseidon on dry land?... No, that's not right... Gabrielle went into full bard-thought, as Xena's hands began sudsing the sides of her ribcage.
"Xena?" Gabrielle asks over the sound of rushing water. "What is it you wanted to tell me about Lao Ma?"
Xena let her hands drop while she considered her words. Hopefully, this time they would not have an untimely interruption. It's funny, she thinks, this reminds me of my first bath with Lao Ma...
"Before Lao Ma," she began, "I had only thought of love as something for other people, not for me."
Gabrielle drifted away from the waterfall to hear her better.
"I could tell when we first met that she was attracted to me, but I had never... been with a woman before. She intrigued me, but I couldn't tell if she was really interested or just being mysterious."
Boy, I know how that is... Gabrielle thought to herself, a slight smile appearing on her face.
Xena paused, struggling to express herself intimately to her best... friend.
"You don't have to spell it out for me, Xena." Gabrielle chided, her eyes speaking more than words. "I gathered from the first time you told me about her that you two were... intimate." she added, unable to keep her gaze on the Warrior Princess.
"Lao Ma told me something I would never forget," Xena continued, exasperation in her eyes. "even though I didn't understand it properly at the time. She told me that we try to serve those we love, in the hope that they will return that love." She stopped, as if the weight of years was pressing down on her thoughts.
Gabrielle dared not speak, knowing that Xena rarely spoke long of her past. Is she talking about me? she thought. I am sort of the packhorse around here...
"Lao Ma was the best... lover I ever had." Xena smiled wryly, thinking. "But after we parted, I turned what I learned from her to my... advantage." she finished disgustedly.
"What do you mean?" Gabrielle asked, deciding to prompt her.
Xena sighed. "I used the techniques of pleasure that she taught me to seduce both men and women alike." Xena said, her eyes growing cold. "I made them think I loved them to bind them to me and my army. My body, moreso than ever, became a tool that I could exact allegiance with. I would viciously use people, and then cast them aside when they were of no further use to me."
Gabrielle lifted her eyes to meet Xena's disillusioned gaze. "You're afraid."
Xena was caught off-guard. "What?" she shook her head.
"You're afraid of using me, aren't you?" Gabrielle whispered, barely louder than the falling water. Taking her warrior's hand, she continued. "Xena, I know you could never do that to me."
"Couldn't I?" Xena snapped, pulling her hand away from her. "Gabrielle, I've hurt so many people that loved me. When I saw we were getting closer, I deliberately distanced myself from you." Xena paused as she considered the depth of her self-loathing. "You are the source of light in my life. I felt that if I were to return your interest, your love, it would... soil you." she finished, and Gabrielle could see the wretchedness in Xena's eyes, if not her heart.
Gabrielle shocked Xena by mirroring her own expression, crossing her arms over her bare chest. "So that's why..." she said in that inaudible whisper of hers.
"Look, I'm sorry..." Xena reached out to touch her, but Gabrielle brushed her off, holding up her hand. Then she turned to face the warrior.
"I always thought you didn't want me." Gabrielle said, her voice barely keeping from cracking. "After all, I was just the silly girl from Poteidaia, remember?" she continued, irritation growing in her voice. "How could I compete with kings and warrior women? Whenever you turned away from a kiss, or brushed off a compliment..." and her expression hardened. "I thought about your past loves, and wondered why you never wanted to be that way with me..."
"Well I haven't been turning away from your kisses recently, have I?" Xena smiled in that special way of hers, hoping to lighten the mood.
"No..." Gabrielle mumbled, averting her gaze at last. "But that's different." Gabrielle splashed around Xena, turning to gaze downstream from where they floated.
"Is it?" Xena softly said, sending an electric shiver down Gabrielle's spine. What did she say? Gabrielle thought.
"I've told you the truth," Xena said to her back, "and now it's out there. I never wanted to hurt you, Gabrielle. What do you want from me?!" she finished, furious that she had started this discussion, and not knowing how to explain her way out of it.
"Touch me." Gabrielle whispered.
"What?" Xena's voice caught.
"I said touch me." Gabrielle repeated, turning her head to her shoulder without actually turning around.
"Gabrielle..." Xena breathed, her breath now cool against the bard's neck. "Didn't you hear what I said? What if I..."
"What if you what?" Gabrielle nearly spat. "Think of me as a woman? The woman who loves you?"
Gabrielle waited for Xena's retort, waited for her excuses. She blushed furiously at her forwardness, but she didn't know what else to do. It was then she felt wet fingertips wrap around her shoulders.
"I love you too, Gabrielle..." Xena breathed in her ear, only to then slip her tongue right underneath the bard's ear. She heard Gabrielle gasp sharply, and relished knowing that she induced that reaction. That's what Lao Ma started with, Xena thought as she began running kisses up the length of Gabrielle's ear. Gabrielle never had a clue why I made sure she had the cleanest ears in all of Greece! she mused to herself as she luxuriated in the taste of her best friend's ear.
"Xena!" Gabrielle gasped, certain she was going to swoon, as she felt her ear nibbled with a lover's sensitivity. Lovers... Gabrielle savored the thought in her mind. How I've dreamed of this day.
"Hu-huh, Hu-huh!" an irritatingly-familiar voice laughed from far above. "Last one in's a rotten harpy!"
"Xen- -Whoulp!!-" Gabrielle yelps as Xena grabs her by the chest and pulls her into the waterfall behind them.
They get under the waterfall just in time too, as two cannonballs drop from above to splash into the basin with massive geysers of water. Joxer and I surface, laughing like the ninnies we are.
I rub the water out of my eyes, only to turn and notice the most unnoticeable sight since... well, ever!
Xena and Gabrielle emerge from the waterfall, hair slicked down and water cascading off their bodies, their breasts unashamedly in full view. Gabrielle's nipples are just the lightest shade of pink, everything I've dreamed about, and Xena's are dark and full. Oh gosh, I think as I struggle to retain any neuron activity at all, those are very hard nipples, too. But the water's warm? I ponder.
Xena and Gabrielle exchange knowing glances, and then they begin moving towards us. It is a dream unsurpassed by any fan fiction, as Gabrielle splashes towards Joxer, as Xena drifts towards me.
"Have you seen the soap, by chance?" I manage, gulping as I struggle to retain a semblance of rational thought.
"Those, my boy, are what they call famous last words!" Xena growls as she moves like lightning, shoving me completely underwater.
I get a glimpse of Joxer going under, his expression that of utter helplessness
as Gabrielle holds him down. "-Help!-" I manage to gurgle as I swallow
a mouthful of mountain-clear water.
"-Cough-Cough-Cough!-" Joxer gasps as I pat him on the back.
"Head between your legs!" I urge as he chokes, expecting to see him cough up a fish. I help him up as he regains a bit of his usual composure, his eyes puffy. My eyes are reddened and sore, too, but then I guessed we deserved it. I don't know what we interrupted Gabrielle and Xena with, probably girl-talk or something.
"Well at least we're clean now." I offer as Joxer stumbles away. I think he'll be scarred for life for seeing Gabrielle's breasts, but that's his problem.
I get dressed and apologize to Xena, who receives it as if I cursed her. "It was my fault." I say. "I dared Joxer to race me over the waterfall. I'm sorry we intruded."
Gabrielle sits down next to Xena, a towel wrapped around her head. For a moment it makes her look like the twentieth-century Texas Amazon Princess, but then I remember that this really is Gabrielle.
"So, Ogami. Tell me:" Xena says in that commanding way of hers. "Why did you seek us out? I hope you're not here looking for romance. Is that what's on your mind?" she adds with a raised eyebrow for effect.
For a moment, I'm shocked. Then a vision passes before me... I see Marcus taking an arrow through the heart... I see Callisto's sword slip through Perdicus' heart and out his back... Then I see a continual stream of falling bodies, all of whom took a romantic interest in these women.
"Bw-Hah Hah-Hah!!!!" I bust out laughing. "Ah Ha-Ha-Ha-Hahh!" There's tears in my eyes, but I just can't stop!
"Ha Ha Ha Ha Hah!" I'm on the ground now, and Xena exchanges a nervous glance with Gabrielle, who takes on an insulted expression, which makes it even funnier!
"Ahhhh...." I wind down, getting back up. Got to act dignified. "Sorry about that. What was the question?"
"[Deep intake of breath]I mean, why do you want to travel with us?" Xena continues, her cheeks reddening slightly.
"Because," I add with a wink as I turn away, "I'm here to train Joxer to be a master swordsman!"
"Really?" Joxer pipes up. "You're gonna teach me that spin you did with the guy's sword earlier?"
"No, Joxer!" I respond with a laugh. "Let's start with something a
little more basic, hmmm?"
"Something I can help you with, Warrior Princess?" I curtly ask.
Xena closes the gap between us until we are practically nose to nose. How many warlords, I wonder, lost their composure being this close to her? Fortunately, I am immune. Well actually, mostly immune. Okay, I'm silly putty in front of her! (Don't look at her cleavage!) The peace of the Buddha, Zen, and the Tao are of no help to me now. How did Ace Ventura handle this? Good thoughts in, bad thoughts out. Good thoughts in, bad thoughts out...
"I thought we should talk alone." Xena says, commandingly and softly at the same time. How does she do that?
"Why are you here?" she asks again, her eyes searching mine, although whether for weakness or deception, I cannot say.
"I'm here because of a prophecy, Xena." I say flatly. "The meaning of it baffles me, yet I must find out what it refers to."
"What prophecy?" she asks, obviously a woman of few words.
"It's only one sentence," I begin, "but if I tell it to you, well, I don't know if it's happened yet."
"Go ahead and tell me." she induces.
"All right..." I say, going against my better judgment. "The Power... The Passion... The Danger... Her courage will change the world!"
"That's it?" Xena asks quizzically.
"It sure sounds like something an Oracle would say, isn't it?" I say sheepishly. "It has puzzled me for months."
"Well, I'm not much of a philosopher..." Xena begins. (Boy what a whopper that is, but I let it pass.) "But if you're looking for 'passion', you'll have no better chance with us than Joxer did."
"Heh!" I laugh at the notion. "So Joxer isn't the great lover he claims to be?"
"He's also not warrior material." Xena warns.
"...And my training could get him killed." I continue Xena's line. "Yeah. I should have seen it. Some people just aren't meant to be warriors. Still," I add, "he has a good heart. I have no doubt that he would lay down his life for you or Gabrielle. As would I..." I softly include, locking eyes with her.
Xena seems to stare right into me for the longest time. Then her expression softens, as if she had reached some internal decision. "All right," she concludes with a small smile. "You can travel with us, if only to keep Joxer out of my face."
"Done!" I reply cheerily, happy to have won, at the very least, the
Warrior Princess' tolerance.
We've been traveling for a little while now. I have no idea where, but asking where we are going is Gabrielle's line, and I don't want to get in the way. But it is me that Gabrielle walks up alongside to.
"Ogami," she begins, touching my shoulder to get my attention. How could she know that no one could hold my attention more raptly than her? "You said the way you learned swordplay was a long story."
"Well," she says airily, waving around us, "we appear to have plenty of time."
"So it would seem." I say, not really wanting to go into it. I'll have to twist the story away from the truth, that I traveled back in time to enter the Japanese saga of Kozure Okami. I know... Now how to put it to use. After all, I am here on a mission.
"I'm not much of a bard." I begin, "But I'll tell you my story on one condition."
"Yes?" Gabrielle asks, shoulder to shoulder with me. I am overwhelmed with an urge to learn over and smell her sienna-tinged hair, then stop myself with a mighty struggle. I'm just like that old pirate from 'Cecrops'! I think to myself, shaking my head. Control yourself!
"When I finish, you must tell me a story of one of yours and Xena's adventures!" I finish, raising my eyebrows.
"It's a deal..." she rapidly agrees to.
Riding ahead of all of us on Argo, Xena shakes her head. When you ask my Bard to talk, Xena thinks to herself, you do so advisedly!
"-Ahem!-" I clear my throat. "Far off the shore of distant Khitai, there
exists a set of islands..."
"This is a story of a young man named David, and a mighty giant named Goliath." she begins importantly, glancing at Xena, who has Argo trotting slowly next to Gabrielle. Xena smiles at her.
Oh no! I whine in my mind. Not that one! Of all the stories... Still, having Gabrielle tell you a tale is priceless beyond words, so I listen.
At this, Gabrielle had to stop reciting from memory and pulled a single scroll from Argo's saddle bag. She unfurled it, and while it looked quite ragged, her face lit up as she began to sing it:
Gabrielle, true to form, sang off-key, but truly to all of us, her voice was a thing of beauty.
Gabrielle took a swig from her waterbag before continuing. She spoke of how the Levitical priests denounced the song, and denounced the honors given to the foreign women. There was a struggle being waged, she said, between the Levitical priests, who considered women property, and wealthy women who demanded the right to prophesize, the right to conduct ceremonies.
My eyes grew wide as Gabrielle continued the story, far beyond what had been shown in the television episode. This is not how it was in my history! I think to myself. What is going on?
"King David was initially predisposed towards taking the Levitical priests side. But the Warrior Princess uncovered a scheme by them to murder one of the women and blame it on her. With the wise counsel of the Warrior Princess, David eventually decided in favor of the women of Israel. He granted them the right to prophecy, stripped the Levitical priests of their titles, and conveyed such honors to the women, leaving the future of his nation to their guidance."
"What?" I cry, shocked. This is not how it was supposed to happen!
Gabrielle frowns at me, unused to being interrupted in her narration.
"Gabrielle, I-I beg your pardon." I continue, brushing past my faux pas. "This may sound mad, but how many goddesses are being worshipped right now?"
"Huh?" Her gaze turns to befuddlement.
"Astarte, Isis, Ishtar, Ashtoreth!" I exclaim, my eyes wide with wonder, "Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera! They are being worshipped, yes?"
"Well... of course!" Gabrielle replies, giving a confused smile. Xena brings Argo to a halt at my latest display of oddness.
"The Parthenon!!" I cry out, grabbing Gabrielle by the shoulders. "The Parthenon of the Acropolis! Does it exist?"
"Uh-huh." Gabrielle nods, her eyes growing wide at my apparent delirium. Xena dismounts Argo in a flash and is at the bard's side. I quickly let go of her.
"And who is it dedicated to??" I ask intensely.
Gabrielle looks at Xena for a second before answering me: "It is a sacred site of the goddesses."
"Zeus!" I fairly shout, causing Joxer to back away from me, his hand going to his swordhilt.
"What is it?" Xena asks, concern showing on her face. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, Xena!" I cry with glee, giddy with emotion. "In fact, everything is right! It was you! The prophecy! I was wrong! It's not that the prophecy has not yet happened, indeed, the prophecy has already come to pass!!"
"Prophecy?" Gabrielle turns to Xena, confused.
"Her courage will change the world!" I firmly state, mania flashing in my eyes.
At their confused expressions, I strive for inner calm, and consider what to say. Well, there's nothing to hide now.
"It's time you know the truth." I state as sincerely as possible. "I am not of your world. I am a traveler through time, from the distant future." From their dubious expressions, I continue.
"I learned of your exploits through the Xena Scrolls, which yes, Gabrielle, are still extant in my time. My mission was to come back in time, to find out what the Prophecy was, and why it didn't come true."
"Didn't come true?" Xena asks, as the others appear speechless.
"Xena, until the Scrolls were unearthed, no one knew you had even existed. When I heard the Prophecy, I wondered what it is was you did that changed the world."
I begin walking around them in a circle. "Did you kill Julius Caesar, thereby changing the history of the world?" Her eyes flashed brilliant blue at the mention of his name. "No, for power-mad conquerors like him are a drachma a dozen in Rome. Another would have risen to take his place."
I continue my pacing. "Was it bringing Da-" I stop myself. I don't want to summon Dahak here by invoking his name! "-the horned demon from Britannia into the world?" I look at Gabrielle, whose adopts a pained expression. Oh Hades, I curse myself. That was thoughtless.
"I apologize, Gabrielle." I say softly. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
I turn back to Xena, who is glaring at me with a fierce intensity. "No, it was not that foul creature, for while I don't know what happens to him, he is obviously a minor demon of no great import."
"No, I couldn't surmise how it was that Xena changed the world, but now I do."
I pause meaningfully, wetting my throat. "Let me tell you of my history, of my time. Roughly 600 years from now, the ancient sanctuary of Ashtoreth at Aphaca will be closed by a... tyrant, putting an end to her worship throughout the land of Canaan. He claimed it was 'immoral'. 80 years after that, another tyrant will close the temple of Artemis at Ephesus in western Anatolia. He claimed that he 'despised the religion of women.' He then closed several more goddess temples in Eleusis and in Rome."
Ah, now I have their attention, I muse to myself. I pause and motion for Gabrielle's waterskin. Taking a drink, I continue.
"70 years after that, the supreme tyrant of Rome converts the remaining temples of Isis into Christian temples. In the same period in Athens, the Parthenon of the Acropolis is also converted to Christianity."
"Christianity?" Xena asks.
"A splinter cult of the Israelites." I explain, "With the coming of this religion, the worship of all other Gods is swept away, in order to worship Him. All worship of female goddesses is ended, all female priestesses are driven out or murdered. A time of darkness sweeps across the known world..."
I shudder as I consider the import of my words. "In your day, women buy and sell property, and trade in the marketplace. The inheritance of property is passed from mother to daughter."
"Women priestesses run temples in your time from Babylon all the way to Britannia! All of this is swept away by the coming of the new order. Women are reduced to the status of property, your rights are eliminated. Better than the status of slave, but not by much. In the temples, women are not permitted to speak, and are certainly not permitted to prophecy or conduct ceremonies of marriage."
Xena's expression hardens as she turns to look at Gabrielle. And Gabrielle, oh Gabrielle. She looks like she is going through morning sickness again.
"And things are like this in your time?" Xena asks, her expression of incredulity.
I clear my throat as I continue. "No. In my time, things are not quite as bad... for women." I add wryly, allowing myself a small grin. "By my time, men and women are in a state of constant turmoil. Marriages ebb and flow like the seasons, ending with shattering lives and parentless children. Bitterness and acrimony are the order of the day, and love, life-long love, is a rarity."
"But you said the Prophecy has already come true." Gabrielle prompts.
"Yes it has, my sweet, beautiful Bard." I say without hesitation or embarrassment. "You see, Xena has changed all that. My history as I know it will never transpire."
"What do you mean?" Xena asks.
"You changed the future, the world, Xena, when you convinced David to make female priestesses the official priests of Israel. For the splinter religion that influenced my world so much was based on the hegemony of the male Levitical priests. It was they who invented the story of how Woman committed the first Sin, and corrupted Man. They used this myth to banish women from the temples of Israel, and to reduce them to property. They crippled the future, not just for women, but for us men, too."
"How is that?" Xena asks, her eyes narrowing.
"Do you know how much fun it is having the 'history of oppression' waved in your face every day?!" I ask, with just a hint of irritation.
I pause again as I consider the ramifications. "The splinter religion that is based on their teachings will never occur, and your pantheon of gods and goddesses will remain intact. You Xena, have changed the world!"
It is then I sense my timeball activating, beginning to gather the fundamental forces of science in order to return me to my own time, my own dimension.
"Now that my mission is over, I must return to my own time." I warn as I step away from the adventurers. "The effect is quite turbulent, so stand back. I bid you farewell!"
For whatever reason, my newly-made friends step away from me, as I can feel the ozone of the air just left of me crackle with nascent ozone.
"Ares." I hear Xena disgustedly say, the way Seinfeld says 'Hello, Neuman.' whenever he sees him. I can't control my fall, and I land hard, barely avoiding a broken neck.
I struggle to get up as I see the timeball form next to Ares, the God of War. Xena tries to approach him, but the arcs of electricity keep her back. Those same arcs don't seem to bother the god.
"Looks like I choose a good time to drop by. A portal to the future, where I am the only god! Wait till they get a load of me!" he says with a laugh.
Where have I heard that before? I think as I try to blink the stars out of my eyes. Xena isn't doing anything, just standing very rigid for some reason.
Ares doesn't wait for her reply. He simply salutes her goodbye and turns to step into the timeball.
"Ares, No!!" I shout. To my surprise, the god actually stops and turns back, looking at me. He knows! I think, as his eyes stare death into me.
"Ee-Yi!!!" Xena shouts as she puts her hand out, and a bolt of pure chi erupts from her palm and smacks into Ares. The impact knocks him off his feet, right into the timeball!
I cover my mouth in horror. Well, not actually horror, but how often do you see a god fall into a time vortex? There is not so much of a whoosh as an absence of sound as the timeball disappears, taking its passenger with it. Ares is gone.
Where the timeball once stood, a sword now spins like a top, right on its point. All of us gather around it as it slows and clatters to the ground.
"By Artemis..." Gabrielle whispers. "Everything you said was true. You are from another time."
I look at her and then at Xena. "Yes, but the timeball can only carry people, not objects, which is why the Sword of the God of War was left here."
We all gaze down on the beauty of the sword of the Gods, forged by Haephaestus, no doubt.
"Then that means that Ares-" Xena began, but is cut short.
A bolt of blue lightning cleaves the air before us, blinding me with its intensity. As the glow fades, I see an elderly man standing where the bolt struck, who for some reason looks like Anthony Quinn.
"Zeus." I say in awe. This is the second time in as so many minutes that my eyes have seen an actual god. His eyes water as he seems to struggle to contain his fury. The wrath of Zeus, I think, as I behold his power. Yep, this is about the most trouble that I could possibly be in.
"Almighty Zeus," I begin, thankful I'm still breathing. "your son is not dead."
"Not dead?" he says, this time with the quavering voice of an old man.
"No sir." I say, considering what actually happened to Ares. "He is lost in space and time. But he lives."
The gaze of the ruler of the gods seems to harden, and it is then that I can actually feel his presence in my mind. I'd swear I can hear/feel his footsteps, but then the sensation is gone.
"So." he says simply, averting his gaze to the ground. "I understand. I will stay my wrath."
-Whew!- Having read my mind, he must know that not only is his son now mortal, but he also can never return to this dimension. He is gone. I see something seem to wink out in his eye, and then his composure returns.
"So be it. I have another son." he says, his eyes growing hard. Then I remember that this is the man who dispenses curses and death without breaking a sweat.
The Sword rises from the ground. Zeus casually takes it and flips it around, offering the hilt to me.
"Zeus, no." Xena whispers, then regains her voice. "No mortal can handle the power of a God, Ares himself knew this!"
"No mortal save one, Xena!" I say as I clasp the hilt.
I feel... well, everything, as the omniscience and omnipotence of the Sword flow into me. I savor the rush, but only for a moment, as I know what must be done.
"Gabrielle?" I boom and then correct myself. "Do the bard-thing."
"Huh?" she says, a little dazed. "Oh. Well, legend has it that whomever should strike down a god may not assume that god's mantle. That person's burden is to choose another."
"Zeus?" I turn to look at him for guidance.
Ignoring why he originally came here, his eyes wrinkle into a smile and the god says "Look into your heart, warrior. You will choose wisely."
"Alright." I say, thinking out loud. "I should choose someone who personifies courage. Someone who will protect the meek and defend the innocent. Someone who seems out of place in this world, as if meant for something better." I turn to Xena.
At her expression of undisguised horror, I smile and console her. "No, Xena, I could never bear to part you from Gabrielle. That would be a crime greater than what I've done here today."
"Gabrielle meets all of those qualifications..." I say as I give her the once-over. "But by the same token, I would never set her apart from the Warrior Princess."
"No..." I continue, turning past her, "There is someone here who has the heart of a fighter, but none of the skill, the courage of a tiger, but none of the ferocity. A person who seems ill-suited to exist as a mortal, yet has much nobility about his silly manner. And that person...is Joxer." I say, turning to him.
"Joxer!!" Gabrielle and Xena say in unison. While little could surprise them after all this, they watch in continued astonishment as I hand the hilt to Joxer, who takes it reluctantly. I feel the power lurch out of me as he glows brightly with divine power. When that glow fades, there he stands, the unarmored proud warrior that Aphrodite charmed him into long ago. Xena was right, I think to myself, he really did have all that inside of him.
"Come with me, my son." Zeus says in a kindly manner as he approaches the new god, although whether he will remain the God of War remains to be seen. They vanish in the way only gods can, leaving the three of us (Argo too) standing in silence.
"Whoah." Gabrielle huffs, leaning against her staff.
"Well ladies." I say, trying to sound as much like Autolycus as possible. "I must be going."
"Where are you off to now?" Xena asks, probably relieved I won't be traveling with them.
"I'm going to look up this con-artist, I mean, merchant named Salmoneus." I say, causing Xena and Gabrielle to exchange glances.
"Whatever for?" Gabrielle laughs, it finally dawning on her that she should be in a good mood.
"Let's just say I have a business proposition for him..." I say, striding over to Xena as she tends to Argo.
"Xena," I say with a big grin, "before I go, I want to ask you for something."
"Yes?" she prompts in that rich voice of hers.
"Can I have a kiss goodbye?" I ask as I hopefully close my eyes.
"Sure." Xena says slowly. Then she makes a double clicking sound with her teeth.
I feel a wet piece of leather slide along my cheek, and I lurch back.
Xena and Gabrielle start laughing, as I try to pull a huge drool of saliva of my face. I'm not succeeding, and they continue laughing as Argo neighs at me.
"Kissed by a female... It's a start." I mumble as I smile at them, setting
"Yes, Gabrielle?" the warrior woman responds, glancing at her friend with a smile.
"What was in that scroll that Joxer brought you?" the Bard asks.
"Oh!" Xena yelps as she fishes around the saddlebag for it. "Here." she says, offering it to the younger woman.
Gabrielle reads through the scroll, and her eyes widen. "A temple of Aphrodite is going to be dedicated! Oh Xena, do you think we could-"
"Stop by?" Xena interrupts her. She reaches out a hand and cups Gabrielle's
cheek with it. "I think we can fit that into our schedule..." she adds
with a smile as they set off into the sunset.
"Through a wondrous invention, my friend." I grin evilly as I whip out my scroll. "And we'll have the monopoly on it!"
Salmoneus unfurls the scroll, grimacing as he looks over the schematics I have drawn. Then he frowns some more and looks back at me.
"Feminine Hygiene Protection?" he asks skeptically. "What's that?"
"Something that will make us richer than all the Pharaohs of Egypt!!" I triumphantly proclaim.
Feminist ranting in this story is excerpted from 'Sacred Origins of
Profound Things', (1996, Charles Panati) which in itself does not provide
much more detail than what is presented here. That author quotes historian
Merlin Stone, from his book 'When God Was a Woman', which may be a better
source for those wishing to read more on the subject.