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by Lynn M. Price
Copyright 1998 by Lynn M. Price. The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo are the property of "Xena: Warrior Princess" and Universal/MCA. The rest are mine. This story may not be sold and may be archived only with direct permission of the author. Any archive must carry this entire copyright statement.
Lyrics to the song "In My Life," by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Copyright 1965, Northern Songs Ltd.
The events in this story take place between "Been There, Done That," and "The Dirty Half Dozen."
This work contains mild profanity and scenes of mild violence.
This is a first attempt at fan fiction, and is the first in a series of planned stories.
With thanks to the late, great Mark Twain and his "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" for providing the inspiration needed to complete this piece of fiction.
And a great big "thank you" to all of you who write and read fan fiction. You are the wind beneath my wings...
Date of work: 1/1/98-1/10/98
Risa Days, Risa Nights...
Xena prepared an herbal poultice for Mariah's battered face.
"It'll help keep the swelling down and ease the pain, but you're going to have a black eye for a few days," the warrior told her as she laid it on the right side of Mariah's face.
Mariah gratefully accepted the poultice, wincing as it made contact with her face.
Xena sat down next to her and Gabrielle. "You know, you were lucky today, Mariah. *Very* lucky."
Mariah sighed as she thought back on the events of the fight. "Yeah. I know. I won't make *that* mistake again, Xena. Next time, I won't turn my back on an enemy."
Gabrielle chuckled. "You know, though, when you had that guy on the ground and you were jabbing him and yelling at him, *that's* when I could see the schoolteacher in you!" Xena said nothing, her face still showing that thoughtful, slightly troubled look.
Mariah laughed a little in spite of the pain in her face. "Yeah, I bet he never expected to get a lecture on how to treat women!" Mariah sat back and closed her eyes as the poultice began easing the pain. "You know what? I was terrified. I had never been in that situation before, and I didn't think I'd be able to actually hit someone. It wasn't until he pulled that knife..." she trailed off into silence.
"Hey, I was the same way in my first fight," Gabrielle said softly, sympathizing.
"Me too," said Xena quietly.
Mariah opened her eyes, looked at her two friends, and smiled. "Well, at least I'm in good company," she said ruefully.
Xena got up. "Come on, you two. Let's get to Risa while it's still light. I don't know about you, but a soft bed and a hot homecooked meal sound pretty good to me." Mariah and Gabrielle agreed.
When they arrived in Risa, Xena took Argo to the stable and got her settled in while Gabrielle and Mariah got their room at the inn. After they each took a long, soothing hot bath, they went down for dinner. After dinner, they nursed their drinks in the crowded inn. A local group of musicians played, adding to the noise level. The girls tried to talk above the din, but soon gave up.
A man came over to their table. He coughed politely.
"Yes?" Xena said, arching her eyebrow.
He blushed a bit, and looked at Mariah. "Would-would you like to dance?"
Xena and Gabrielle grinned at Mariah, who grinned back. "Sure." she said to her admirer. "Would you excuse me?" she said to her friends. She got up, and the man took her in his arms as they moved off, dancing to the music.
Gabrielle looked at Xena. "I'd say she's fitting in pretty well, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah, she's doing all right for herself," Xena replied, as she moved her chair closer to Gabrielle. "But she scared the heck out of me today, though. I think we need to work on her reflexes."
" 'We need?' " Gabrielle parroted at her friend.
"Yes, we need. She needs to react faster, Gabrielle. She's where you were at this time last year. Mariah knows how to use the staff; she doesn't really now how to *fight* with it."
"Uh-oh," said Gabrielle, realization dawning upon her. "It's going to be 'test Mariah time,' right?"
"You got it," said Xena. "It's for her own good. She needs to keep on her toes so we won't have a repeat of what happened today. So here's what we're going to do..."
Their conversation ended as Mariah returned to the table, her face pink from her exertions on the dance floor. "Whoo, I need a drink," she said, sipping at her ale, grimacing. "Ugh. This has gone flat."
Xena volunteered to get another round, so Gabrielle and Mariah sat at the table as the warrior weeded her way towards the crowded bar.
"Mariah, there's something I've been wanting to ask you."
Gabrielle pointed to Mariah's necklace. "Your rings...you said they meant a lot to you."
Mariah untucked the rings from her top, looking at them, a softness appearing in her eyes. "You're right, Gabrielle. They do mean a great deal to me." She handled the gold one. "This was my grandfather's ring. My mom gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday. I never knew him; he died before I was born, but according to my mom, he was one of the nicest men you'd ever want to meet. You remind me of him, you know. My mom said he was full of wonder and stories and life...." she trailed off at the fond memories.
"And the silver one?" Gabrielle prompted after a few moments.
"Ah, that one is my high school class ring. You see, where I come from, it's a custom to buy a ring after you finish your first twelve years of school. This was a graduation present from my parents. I loved my school. In fact, I loved it so much that after I finished studying at the university, I went back there to teach." She leaned over and gave Gabrielle a closer look, showing her the inscriptions and the blue stone. "That school meant a lot to me, Gabrielle. I was a pretty shy kid when I got there, quiet and afraid. The people I met there helped me. I learned a great deal about myself at that school."
Xena returned with the drinks, and Mariah tucked the rings back in her top. "Drink up," the warrior said. "We should probably go to sleep soon, too. We've got another busy day tomorrow."
The two girls agreed. After they finished their drinks, they went upstairs to their room to go to sleep.
Two pairs of eyes followed them. "Xena?? Here?" one man said to the other.
She couldn't be, but she was. The second man broke into a grin. Wait until Galvous heard about this!! The men quickly finished their drinks. The second man, named Darvos, turned to the first and said, "You stay around here and keep an eye on Xena and her friends. I'm going to see Galvous. He won't believe this!!" The second man left the tavern, and rode off towards Galvous's camp, two days away. The first man, Darius, finished his drink, got up, and sighed. He had the difficult job, he thought to himself. How do you spy on Xena without her knowing it? He had to figure it out fast, too, before Galvous arrived...
An Abject Lesson...
Xena was right about Mariah's eye. It bruised and blackened up nicely during the night, but thanks to Xena's healing poultice, it looked much worse than it felt.
Mariah looked at it in the mirror, grimacing. "It's a good thing I'm not a vain person," she said wryly.
The three girls breakfasted at the inn, collected Argo, and were soon on their way. After they had traveled for about an hour, Xena turned to her companions and said, "I'm going to scout ahead. Stay on the trail; I'll be back shortly." She jumped on Argo, and rode off. Gabrielle had a secretive look on her face; she knew what Xena had in mind.
The two girls walked and talked a bit. Suddenly, from high overhead in the trees, they heard a yell: "A-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI!!!"
Mariah flinched at the sound, and raised her staff as the body came hurtling down towards them. Xena landed, spun, and easily kicked the staff out of the teacher's hands. Gabrielle stood off to the side watching the action.
Mariah looked stunned. "What was *that* all about?" she demanded of her friend.
"It was a lesson, Mariah," said Xena, her face serious. "If I were a real attacker, you would be dead by now. I don't think you know how much you scared Gabrielle and me yesterday. You know how to wield that staff; now you have to learn how to use it to defend yourself. Gabrielle?" The warrior motioned her head at the bard, and Gabrielle tossed her her staff. "Now come at me."
Mariah did, a little hesitantly, Xena easily blocking her swing. Suddenly, Xena launched into an attack of her own, wielding the staff with a flourish. Mariah blocked as many of the blows as she could, but a few got through, one catching her legs, sweeping her off of her feet. When she was down, Xena jabbed at her, catching her lightly in the stomach, as the warrior pulled back most of the force of the weapon. Mariah grimaced at the short, sudden pain in her gut. "Yeah, I see what you mean," she said, slowly getting to her feet with the warrior's help.
"I hope so, Mariah," Xena said as she tossed the staff back to Gabrielle. "And it isn't enough to be able to defend yourself; you're going to have to be constantly alert and on your toes, ready for anything." Blue eyes looked into blue eyes as Xena said softly, "We almost lost you yesterday, friend. And that's not going to happen again."
Gabrielle came over, putting her hand on the teacher's arm. "Don't feel bad, Mariah. You did better than I did when she pulled that stunt on me!" Mariah looked at the bard, staring into her green eyes. "You mean, you *knew* she was going to do that?" Gabrielle nodded, smiling at her friend.
Mariah thought for a moment, coming to a decision before she spoke. "Well, you better *keep* on doing it. Both of you. I won't get any better if you don't."
Xena looked at the teacher, amusement in her eyes, "Oh, don't worry...I can keep it up *all* day," she said with a smile.
"Yeah, I'll just bet you can," replied Mariah laughing, Gabrielle joining in.
And Xena did just that. Over the next few days, as Mariah's bruising eye faded to normal, the warrior princess and Gabrielle harassed and ambushed the teacher in a variety of ways. At first, Mariah's responses were slow and clumsy, the attacks providing valuable lessons for her. But after a short time, Mariah began to catch on, much to the her friends' satisfaction. Soon, Mariah was more alert, on guard, and watchful, just as Xena needed her to be. She didn't react quite as fast as Gabrielle, but she was learning to hold her own.
She would need that ability sooner than she thought.
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