Disclaimer Xena:Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and back story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author....Except for the one's borrowed from Vergil's Aeneid...but he has been dead for 3000 years I don't think he can sue me from beyond the grave. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

This story in part describes a close emotional bond between two women and in places implies that there is a significant physical dimension to that relationship. Readers that are offended by this concept should read no further. If you are under 18 or it is illegal where you live....get out of here right now or I will call your mother.

Note: the time line of this story is BC and anything is fair game so if you were looking for history go read Herodotus or Thucydides.

 

The Secret

by Mary Cornwell

 

As Gabrielle sits by the fire watching the sleeping princess, thoughts begin to race though her mind.

She knows the moment that she has been desperately waiting for is close at hand. She had loved this one for at least three winters now. She had wished it in her mind so many times but the emotions of the stoic princess were hard to read. Yet till now she was not sure if the Warrior Princess felt the same way.

The day of joining was less than 5 days away and Gabrielle was tortured by secret. Before she could enter in this partnership, she must tell Xena that she has kept a secret for many years.

Staring in to the flames Gabrielle found her self transformed back to Poteadia. She was not more than 16 years old. A simple village girl, very bright who took every opportunity to learn new things. She was just one of five people in the town that could read and write.

One afternoon Lila came charging into the room where Gabrielle was doing her household chores. "Hurry come quick" Lila said " there is a traveling teacher in the square." "Hurry"

Gabrielle dropped her mending and ran out of the door after Lila ,dashing to the square.

There in the square stood a traveling bard/teacher. Gabrielle moved through the crowd to get a place up front. The teacher spoke with a bit of an accent that Gabrielle thought could be Phoenician.

The storyteller was telling tales of places far away,....all exotic places that Gabrielle could visualize in her mind.

After the last tale was told , the teacher inquired as to vacancy at the Inn. But before anyone could answer Gabrielle had already invited the scholar a place to stay with her family.

The teacher tried to decline—It was a kind offer but Sidon did not to be indebted to anyone. But the Gabrielle suggested an arrangement that could mutually benefit each of them.

Gabrielle wanted to learn to tell stories and the teacher needed a place to stay. The two agreed and Gabrielle escorted the new houseguest to the family farm.

Lila ran ahead to fill Hecuba in on Gabrielle's latest scheme to get a little more of a formal education.

Hecuba was used to Gabrielle's thirst for knowledge. She knew that her daughter would never passed up a chance to learn something new.

By the time Gabrielle and Sidon arrived at the cottage, Hecuba had made up a sleeping area for their guest.

And according to Greek custom the teacher was immediately fed and made to feel welcome. Once hospitality had been satisfied, Hecuba spoke to Sidon,"Tell me about yourself , where are you from and what begins you to Poteadia."

Sidon took a deep breath, "I am from Carthage I came there with my family as refugees following Queen Dido." The bard continued,"Carthage is a beautiful country off the Ivory Coast of Africa. Our Queen was a very capable leader until the Trojans arrived on scene. She fell hook , line and sinker for their leader Aeneas. My home land is being overrun with these people fleeing Troy. We were a thriving country but I fear that Athena has abandoned us. And that if the Trojans don't leave soon that Aeneas will be our new king. So I decided to travel to make a sacrifice at the Temple of Athena and pray that the Trojans leave. And since I have always wanted to travel and tell stories I have been doing it along the way to pay expenses."

Gabrielle hung on her every word.

Chapter 2

A loud crackle of the fire thrusts Gabrielle back to the present. The flames of the fire burned low. She threw several logs on the fire. That noise woke the warrior. She immediately jumped as if possessed into a fighting stance.Gabrielle laughed at the sight.X. " What's so damned funny."

G. "You are, don't you ever rest?"

X." Rest and you can end up dead"

Gabrielle mumbling under her breath "death might be easier than what I have to do.

"X "What did you say"

G "nothing"

X "Lay down and get some sleep, we are breaking camp at first light." "I want to make the Amazon nation by nightfall"

The two drifted back to sleep –yet Gabrielle's sleep was fitful......

In her dreams she found her self back in the place in the past........

A new day was dawning on the tiny cottage. Gabrielle was up before the roosters first crow.The anticipation of learning was too much for her to bear. She prepared breakfast for the entire household –hoping that the aromas coming from the kitchen would wake all inside.

But she hoped that Sidon was awaken soon so she could get started learning her craft. Gabrielle had made attempts at writing in past but was never quite satisfied with the result.

As the smell of food filled the cottage–the residents began to gather around the table.

Lila: "Gabrielle have you lost your mind -the sun isn't even up yet"

Gabrielle:"No, I just want to get a early start this morning"

Hecuba:" well that I think you have daughter."

Sidon:"Sounds to me like someone is eager about starting their lessons."

Everyone laughed – because they knew how true that statement was........

After breakfast was finished, Gabrielle cleared away the dishes and she started to cleanup. Hecuba said "Gabrielle leave the clean up to Lila , go start your lessons before you bust."

Hecuba didn't need to repeat herself. Gabrielle almost dropped a dish in mid air. She quickly put things down and ran to get her scroll and quill. She dashed to the barn where Sidon was clearing a space to serve as a makeshift classroom.

The anticipation that Gabrielle felt at that moment –was almost more than she could bear. Sidon looked up and spoke," Come sit, so we can begin."

Wasting no time.....Sidon in a calm soothing voice said," Always remember to write want about you know, write what is in you heart– that is the real key to success. Feel the passion , feel the emotion and do it with your whole heart." Gabrielle looked at the teacher a bit puzzled.

Sidon continued," Put your self into your work and do it right or don't do it all." Gabrielle was a bit taken aback by this revelation. "So there is no special thing I must learn to be a writer other than to be true to myself."

Sidon chided her, "No Gabrielle just be your self, write what you know or have experienced and practice." " and practice some more."

Sidon asked to see some of Gabrielle's work. Embarrassed by the request that the teacher had made Gabrielle handed over her scrolls.

After several minutes that to Gabrielle seemed like hours, Sidon spoke,"They need some polishing and some work on grammar but I think that you have the makings of a good bard."

With those words Gabrielle beamed. She liked the praise that her teacher had given her. It made her feel special.

Gabrielle asked Sidon to tell her more about Carthage. Sidon granted her request and spoke of grandeur and the beauty found there. The teacher sang of Queen Dido and her beauty.

Gabrielle thought how she would love to see such places someday.

"Enough, young bard you need an assignment for tomorrow—write me a story of my queen and use your imagination and tell me things that you have heard." "I have told you how beautiful and special she is so express this to me in your bardic song."

Gabrielle looked stunned , "Didn't you tell me to write what I know?" Sidon, "yes, I did — you have experienced my song– use it along with your imagination to tell me about my Queen."

Sidon added ,"Be off with you , I have go to town to make preparations for my journey to Athens."Off the student went quill and scroll in hand.

Chapter 3

Morning rolled around quickly-----Xena awoke before the bard.

Xena stared at her restless partner, "Hmm another nightmare, what's going on —Doesn't she think that I see the distant in her eyes or the torture in her soul....something is wrong...... did I do something to her with out knowing?----what?—I have to find out what is going on but for right now she needs to get up." Xena gave her a playful slap.."Are you going to sleep the day away?"

Gabrielle," Is it time to get up already----I will rise but I will not rise..... GEEZ I say that a lot don't I?"

They ate breakfast and spoke nary a word to one another......For Xena that was natural but for Gabrielle this was not normal. Xena knew in her heart that something was terribly wrong......

They silently packed up the camp and headed in the direction on the Amazon nation Xena asked Gabrielle to ride with her. Gabrielle nodded in the negative.

"I'd rather walk today." Xena pressed," I rather you ride, this road isn't the best, I can't have you falling down and hurting your self before the ceremony." "Let alone bring an injured Queen back to her people."

Gabrielle finally agreed and she was pulled up on the great horse.

Argo whinnied, she too felt as if she was Gabrielle's protector. Gabrielle put her arms around Xena waist—holding on as for dear life. Xenasmiled........

The rhythm of the horse trotting down the rode sent Gabrielle back in to her thoughts of Sidon and that time in Poteadia.

Chapter 4

As Gabrielle's head filled with the memories of her teacher, she began to wept ever so softly. Xena couldn't help but wonder----what was bothering her bard. Not only was she not talking but now she was crying......

Xena further thought she can't push Gabrielle,...her bard would tell her when she was ready as she had always done.

As the sobbing continued Gabrielle began to think back to that very first story she wrote for Sidon.

Gabrielle had stayed up all night to finish her tale.

At the appointed time Gabrielle met Sidon in the barn ......

Sidon,"So my young bard do you have a story to share?"

Gabrielle," yes,....Yes, I do." Then Sidon said ," well you don't sound so sure." Gabrielle clearing her throat....My story is Mother- I don't know who? , Well it's not that good but here it goes."

Once a upon a time in land far, far away.......

There was a Phoenician king named Belus. As a young man he was brave and ruled his people wisely. Often as was his custom he would take walks in the hills surrounding his city to gather his thoughts and make plans for the monarchy.

One day while out strolling in the foothills, he came upon a group of young women, beautiful creatures, frolicking and communing with nature.

He was overwhelmed with a sense of unity of these creatures. As they spied him, they were taken by his manliness. He was a man's man--strong, brave and with the body of Adonis. Little did he know that he was about to become a pawn in the Titan games. Nor would he have cared.

Belus was for the first time in his life also in tune with nature, and nature took its course. One of the women pulled him aside and lead him away from the crowd. His life was about to change without him even knowing it. This woman as were the others was a Oread (a mountain nymph) a fairy like creature, beautiful to behold with the charms no mortal man could resist.

Belus had no control of what happened next, his natural male self took over. He carried her off into the woods and made mad passionate love to her. But as he was satisfying those manly urges-- the real plan was just beginning to unfold.

He was never really in control or did he have choice, the Oreads had chosen him to be the one. He was being used so that they might please their goddess Artemis. Although the Oreads lived long lives they were not immortal so they too had to make special offerings to their protector, Artemis.

This particular individual that had so enamored Belus was a special favorite of Artemis. Which made this offering much more pleasing to the goddess. Along with this favorite status, Artemis herself bestowed fitting graces upon this creature as well as a name to set her apart from the other nymphs. She was anointed with the name Luna Dimidiata, a name that was delightful to the ear and it served as a offering to the goddess as well.

Little did Belus know that out of this union, twins would be made, a son and a daughter. And with their birth the history of the Phoenician people would change forever.

Time passed and Belus had forgotten about his chance encounter with those lovely ladies in the foothills. They one day while out walking, he came upon the very same woods as he had been before. Suddenly this lovely creature came from out of nowhere. "Belus", she said," Here are your children, a son and a daughter, raise them, love them, they have been touched by the gods." Upon saying these words she disappeared.

It was clear to Belus that he held in his arms the future of his people. He also knew as if by magic their names. The son was Pygmalion and the daughter was Dido. Little did he know the future story that would unfold.

The children grew strong and beautiful. Dido was graceful and astute with keen mind, truly charismatic. She could charm the gods. Pygmalion was dark and deceitful, hungry for power, lusting for wealth and for the throne of his father.

The gods watched their development. And given that their birth was a tribute to Artemis she was especially watchful. She was pleased with Dido and secretly was her spirit guide, bestowing on her many of her own traits so that some day she would have the resources to lead a nation.

Now the child Pygmalion was a disappointment to Artemis. Yet she watched him in fear of his treacheries. He too had a secret protector, Hera, the most cunning, calculating bitch of all time. And through her he had the resources of all the lesser gods who could promote his evilness.

As time progressed the story grows thick with the goodness of Dido and the inhumaneness of her brother. Ever watchful from Olympus the gods played with their lives like a chess match.

After she was done Gabrielle held her breath:........there was a long pause. Sidon let out a sigh "By the gods for a moment it made me not miss homeland so much. Your story needs work on meter and some style but for most part it is a good story. My queen would love your tale of her birth —she would make you the royal bard."

G: Oh yeah I can see that the Royal bard I guess that is better than being the village idiot." They both laugh. Sidon instructs Gabrielle ,"Now take the story and revise it and we will work on it till it is good enough for the royal court of Carthage." " tonight work on the meter–the story needs to flow like a song." " Now off with you, I have business to tend to."

Gab was undaunted by her task but was little dismayed that she was dismissed so abruptly. She wanted spend as much time with her new mentor as she could. But she did as she was told and , gathered her things and went to the stream that ran through the family farm.

Meanwhile Sidon straightened up the makeshift classroom and then set out for the village. The teacher visited several shopkeepers; at each one; supplies were ordered for the journey to Athens. After arranging everything, Sidon returned to the cottage.

Upon entering the cottage, Hecuba said to Sidon," Where is Gabrielle?" Sidon replied, " I'm not sure, her lesson was over several candlemarks ago.

I know she had planned to work on her assignment. Would you like me to go find her for you?" Hecuba: "If it wouldn't be too much trouble supper will be ready soon and I don't want to have to send her father out to look forher." Sidon left the kitchen and proceed to the farm yard. Lila was approaching from the direction of the village. Hello Sidon. Hello Lila each greeted.

"Have you seen Gabrielle?" quizzed the teacher. Lila:"No I haven't seen her since this morning – Did you check down by the stream—she likes to sit by the water—I think it helps her think." Sidon: " Thanks. Lila:" It is in that direction - she points to her left– Lila: "it's about 25 meters you can't miss it. Sidon picked up the pace and jogged in that direction.

Before long Sidon approached the young bard who was lost in thought. The only sounds to be heard were the sounds of the water running over the rocks in the stream. Sidon reached out and placed a hand on Gabrielle shoulder.

Gabrielle jumped. "By the gods, you almost scared me half to death." –Gab shrieked . Sidon," I'm sorry I didn't realize hear me approach."

Gab: It's my fault . I just lose myself sometimes when I write. Sidon: "That's good but it would be better if your audience got lost in your thoughts." ":Hmm", pondered Gabrielle

Sidon sat next to Gabrielle — so close that Gab could hear the breath of her teacher. Sidon mused ," This place is beautiful. I wish I could stay here longer but my plans are almost complete. I will be leaving soon. I think I will miss you, a lot Gabrielle."

Sidon leaned forward and brushed the hair from the young bards eyes. Gabrielle touched her teacher's hand.." I'll miss you too.."

Sidon once again leaned forward but this time placed a soft kiss on the young bard's lips.Gabrielle sighed every so sofltly.....

Sidon quite spoke," I'm sorry I shouldn't have done that." Gabrielle mouthed slighted, "don't be sorry" and returned the kiss. The embrace lasted a few moments.

From a distance Lila was calling for both of them.......The moment was broken..........

Chapter 5

Argo reared up and sent Gabrielle sailing off her back end. "What happened " Gabrielle shrieked. Xena," Don't move there's a snake." Gabrielle froze--------With one shift thrust of her blade Xena killed the slithering creature. Xena, " yum , snake —great roasted over an open fire."

Gabrielle " Oh I think I'm be sick ,'

Xena, " you have to try it first, you'll like it , trust me........(smirking)"...............(thinking of other things she has had Gabrielle try and there were never any complaints)

In the fall Gabrielle gotten a nasty bruise on her posterior anatomy.

Xena: "we'll camp her tonight........one more day to the Amazon nation won't matter.

How's your bottom......still sore? Want me to kiss it and make it feelbetter?"

Gabrielle:"Funny, real funny"

Xena: At least you are smiling, I was beginning to wonder. If you were the real you or some imposter----gods know the two of us have had our fair share.

Gabrielle not wanting to joke around....."I'll start the fire."

Xena shrugged " Geez, I guess just I'll fillet this snake then".........thinking all the while to her self that they were in for another long night.

As the evening progressed Xena sat sharpening her sword with a stone. Gabrielle was watching her. The slow striking sound of the metal against the rock carved out a cadence of it's own–it served as din to blank out space and time.

An hour nearly passed as Gabrielle stared off into space –total oblivious to everything around her. Finally as if in a trance she got up and began to walk toward the stream that was some 10 meters from the campsite. There she sat watching the water.

Xena had been so absorbed by her task that she had not noticed that Gabrielle had left.

Panic took hold of her-- She jumped to her feet. It wasn't like Gabrielle to wander off, alone, in the dark. Had someone grabbed her?–No couldn't have I would have heard that Xena thought.

Xena mentally chastises her for being so self absorbed......then she set out on a search and rescue mission...She put her newly sharpened sword into it's resting place.

She began to walk tensilely through the brush until she heard a familiar sound. It was the sound of light singing coming from an easterly direction. She recognized the melody as one that the bard sang often.

Gabrielle was singing a poem from long ago. The actual words were not clear to Xena since she was too far away but knowing her bard; she was almost certain that they were words of love.

Xena slowly and stealth fully approached her prey. And with ease grabbed the bard in her strong arms, lavishing kisses on Gabrielle's neck and back. Gabrielle startled screamed, What do you think you're doing...you could have given me a heart attack!!!" At that point Xena released her grip on the bard."I'm sorry didn't mean to scare you" "Now where was I?' going back to nibbling on the bards neck.

Gabrielle ,"Xena I thought we agreed we wouldn't make love again until the ceremony."

Xena " You agreed, I just listened" Come on Gabrielle I miss you please – you want me to beg –I'll beg.......smiling with a evil grin. Xena stands up beating her chest ," Xena want zug zug ."

Gabrielle laughing Xena "oh please stop......you know I can't stop once I get started ....please "

Through the laughter, "Xena I just want our day to be special".

Xena, "I promise you that it will be." "Well then tell me one of your stories– let's go back to the fire."

Gabrielle,".....you do know that I love you ."

Xena:" yeah, I know " as she wraps her around the young bard. They stroll back to the campsite.

Gabrielle," you know that I would never do anything to hurt you?"

Xena," yes I know that....Is there something you want to tell me?"

Gabrielle," No, I just want you to know that I love no matter what !"

Xena,"Ditto" thinking to herself that the bard is not telling her something.......Is she wanting to back out on the ceremony? Maybe it's just a bad case of "cold feet"–I'll get the bottom of it Xena mused to herself.....But maybe she just needs time this is a big step we're taking.........

Back at the fire Gabrielle threw 3 large logs on the fire and cuddled up to the warrior.

Gabrielle,"I've been working on a new poem....this one is for you . I was going to use it at the ceremony but it's private. I want you to hear it before anyone else.She clears her throat......

In the dream timethose blue eyes meet mine

For what they cannot say in the light of day

For in the that dream those blue shine always wishing they will be mine

Once the dawn comes, a memory faint and sweet

until that day our eyes do meet.

Xena: "Gabrielle, I love it and I love you.....I know I never say it enough but I do love you with all my ‘big dumb warrior heart'."

Gabrielle smiled and cuddled tighter into the warrior princess and got lost in sound of her beating heart.

–It had been two weeks since Sidon had arrived and all the provisions needed for the quest were now ready and the teacher had confided in Gabrielle earlier that her beloved teacher would be leaving in the morning.......

As everyone in the cottage gathered around the table for the evening meal, Sidon made her plans know to the family .

Gabrielle said to her in positive tone," Not without me you're not. It's only a few days to Athens. I am going with you .......so I know that you get there safely.....and besides I've always wanted to see Athens...You know there is a bard's school there you know." "Maybe I can check it out while we are there." "I'll be in the company of "such a great teacher, I just have to go."

Sidon was stunned but replied." Only if your parents say it is okay."

And making a toast to the hosts who had been so kind, Sidon spoke." I would like to thank you for making me feel like part of your family...." " I wish for you that love and prosperity always fill your home As I take my leave in the morning...I will take with me the memory of your kindness."

Hecuba,:"you're such a dear–you are family– you are welcome here anytime......

Herdotus,:ditto........ Gab......Mother/ father I would really like to go with Sidon to Athens............I have a couple of dinars saved. I would be only gone a couple of weeks......please.................... Herodotus spoke...."I'm not sure it is safe for one's so young to be alone on the road...."

Hecuba: " Honey , Gabrielle will be with Sidon I don't think that there will be anything to worry about..."Gab: Alright it settled —Let's go pack.....

Herodutus and Hecuba smiled at their daughter......

Sidon and Gabrielle each went to their room to pack all the things that they would need for the trip.

Gab grabbed her quill and a few blank scrolls, along with a sleeping shift. And she also tucked an extra pair of clothes in her pouch...She methodly folded each piece ......placing the writing instruments on the top. Then she went to the kitchen to get enough provisions for the trip....she packed 3 weeks worth just to be on the safe side. She sat alone in the kitchen staring at the hearth dreaming about the adventure on which she was about to embark.

Chapter 6

Day came around quickly - Gabrielle awoke much before Xena for a change. She hugged the Warrior Princess, who smiled as she continued to sleep. It must be a good dream Gab thought for the WP to simply smile and not to awaken. Gab got up and prepared a breakfast fit for a queen or at least for a Warrior Princess.....

Fruits, nuts, fish and a few eggs that she hidden away for special treat. And of course a few olives-knowing that the Warrior Princess has a particular fondness for olives.

Gabrielle was feeling a little frisky but not wanting to compromise her vow to wait till the joining. She thought to herself what harm would it to do to toy with the Warrior Princess.... a bit just to keep things interesting. And besides it might take her mind off her problem. Slowly and stealth fully Gab snuggled back up against the sleeping princess. She had brought with her a small supply of olives. But little did Gab know that Xena had been awake-she had just spent the last few minutes watching her love work around the campsite. And she too was feeling a little amorous. And Xena being Xena was already beginning to play with her prey. The skilled huntress was almost sure what Gabrielle was up to....So she decided to play along.until the time when she would take over the game.

Gab softly talked into Xena ear:"Xena ....Xena are you going to get up today?"

Xena: "hmmmm go away I'm sleeping."

G: "Xena," kissing softly on her neck-"get up.....it time for breakfast."

Xena sleepily rolled over (as part of her game)---

Gabrielle touching her face ever so gently ....took an olive and rubbed it on Xena's lips.

Xena as if on command snapped up the olive with her tongue. A low purr came from her lips-Gab thinking she was in control placed another olive on her lover's lips. It too was snatched away immediately and another came from the Warrior. Now Gabrielle was feeling brave and placed the next olive between her own lips and touched it to Xena's. This was the opening that Xena had been waiting for. As the olive touched her lips-she shifted her body and flipped the Gabrielle who was now hopelessly pinned under the Warrior Princess.

X: "So you think that you'll toy with me little one?"

G:" Xena, Be nice....Be good."

X: " Oh I'm always good."

G:"Now let me up it is time to eat."

X:"Hmmmmmm and what is the main course?"

G:"Please let me up and I will get your breakfast"

X:"I think not----you have to pay for your crime....."

G: "Crime? What Crime?"

X:"Oh as I recall you were going to start something and planning on finishing it."

G:"Now Xena, would it help if I said I love you more than life itself?"

X:"Maybe-but for such a crime-what will be the punishment.?"

X:"Let me think-first I think you deserve a spanking for being a bad little girl or better yet maybe I will just finish what you started."

X:"I think I will chose the latter." As she speaks she begins to demonstrate her intentions....first I will kiss the top of your head then both of your eyes, nose, and when I reach your mouth I will descend on your lips. I will feast on these luscious gifts from the gods. Then I will move to your snowy white breasts, kissing each one in turn, drawing circles on each nipple with my tongue."

Gabrielle let out a large sigh........and with that Xena jumped an said "Time to eat breakfast...we got to get on the road soon." The whole event left poor sweet Gabrielle in somewhat in the lurch.

G:" What in the name of Tarturus......."

X:"hey remember not till after the ceremony -Isn't that what you said...." ( Xena turns snickering to herself but inside her own fires wereblazing.......) Xena thinks to herself -"my poor bard you may not last through the wedding night , I plan on ravishing you." She muses further to herself -this will teach her from toying with a Warrior Princess.........

After composing herself the bard rose from the blanket.....she ate her breakfast....not speaking a word the Warrior Princess. She was really perturbed. Xena ate her breaksfast and busied herself with packing up the camp.

Gab continued to pout....Xena queried,"what's wrong? You should know by now not to dish it out if you can't take it."

G:"You don't play fair."

X:"Come on...the ceremony is in a few days - plenty of time to play then."

Xena bent down to kiss the bard.

X:"I love you Gabrielle". She hugged her bard......

G:"I love you too, Xena but one of these days............." Gab knew she had been bested.....

They held each other for a few moments. Then went about the task of packing up the camp together. Xena mounted Argo and she pulled her Bard up behind her.

Gabrielle hugged Xena and kissed the back of her neck. Xena smiled her crooked smile-happy in the love she had found in Gabrielle.

Gabrielle continued to hug the Warrior Princess as they rode. She subconsciously was drawing circles on Xena's thigh. It wasn't long before Xena realized that her companion was off in her thoughts again.

Chapter 7

As the fire crackled young Gabrielle wondered what adventures she would find on her trip to Athens. Sidon joined Gab by the fire. " Tomorrow we will be off. Are you ready for what lies ahead?" Once we get started there is no going back?" ,Sidon chided . Gab replied," O I am ready,-- this will be a new experience for me." Sidon:"We had better get some sleep." And with that each retired for the evening. Of course Gabrielle couldn't sleep-she was so excited about her great adventure.

Gab was up before dawn- she had so much energy that she milked the cow, collected the eggs and had begun breakfast.

The entire household awoke with,"NOT AGAIN." As everyone was enjoying breakfast-a clatter was heard in the farm yard. It was a man -he arrived with a horse and wagon. He hopped off the wagon and knocked at the door. Hecuba opened the door.....the man inquired for Sidon. Sidon talked with the man and money was exchanged hands. The man left on foot.

Sidon said to Gabrielle," We are going to traveling in style, we will make much better time with a horse and wagon." Gab smiled she wasn't really looking forward to walking all the way to Athens.

Herodotus added their belongings and the supplies they had packed to already loaded wagon. Everyone hugged and said their goodbyes.......Gab's adventures was underway at last.

Gab and Sidon chatted the morning away. Sidon drove the wagon toward Athens at a moderate pace. It was midday when they stopped to eat.

Sidon prepared a light meal for them of cheese, fruit, and somedried meats. As they sat eating, Sidon spoke with concern ,"Gabrielle, I need to tell you something before we continue on to Athens."

Gab:"What's wrong you sound so worried."

Sidon:"Well first , Gabrielle if after I tell you what I have to say you want to go back home ,I will understand" Sidon continued, "I don't really know where to start."

Gab injected," Well how about the beginning for starters."

"Ok" said Sidon,"Ok then," "first off I am not who you think I am. I'm not a teacher or a bard and my name is not Sidon." Gab stared ----speechless... Sidon broke in...." Let me finish -my name is Anna."there was a long pause.....Sidon had tears in her eyes repeating herself....... "I'm not Sidon, my name is really Anna .........I am a..a....a Dido's younger sister. I am sorry I had to lie to you....but I didn't want anyone to know that I was a princess. Yes I am a princess but I have a mission to fulfill I have to get safely to Athens to beg Athena to look favorably on her people and to make the Trojans leave our shores..and ...so my sister Dido will be free from the charms of Aeneas." Anna rambled on,'If you want to leave it's up to you. I can take you back to Podetia....it will only take a few hours...I'm sorry I lied to you and your family but it was the only way I could make sure that my mission would not be jeopardized. If people knew who I really was it could be dangerous for you. So now you know that I am a Princess, I want you to know it doesn't change anything----you are my friend...or at least I hope you still want to be.........."

Gabrielle , bowing...."I do want to be your friend, your highness." Anna:" stop it right now, my name is Anna ." " but for safety's sake in public call me Sidon-there could be spies or worse following us....I haven't noticed any but as we get closer to Athens...it could become dangerous...."

They were both silent for what seemed like hours - Anna spoke, "Hey we had better get a move on-there is only a few more hours of light and we should make good use of it."

Gabrielle helped her pack up the gear and stow it in the wagon. And the duo hopped up on the wagon to continued the journey toward Athens.

Chapter 8

Gabrielle had been drawing circles on Xena's thigh for what seemed like an eternity.

To the point that Xena was about to jump out of her skin.......Finally she grabbed Gabrielle's hand. ----the sudden contact snapped Gabrielle back to the present.

X:"We have just crossed into the Amazon territory, so your highness you had better look alive, your subject await you.....

G:" Stop it with the your highness stuff!!"

X:"Oh my queen -your wish is my command."

G:sternly"I said stop it."

X:"I was only teasing......let's stop her so we can get cleaned up----there is a lake just beyond those trees...and the Amazon border guards are sure to be just ahead ......to lead you home."

G:" Sounds good to me -last on in the water ...has to kiss Joxer. And with that Xena did 3 somersaults in the air flipping over Gabrielle to the water in one fluid motion......

That left Gabrielle standing next to Argo-Gabrielle shrieked," you are sooooooo funny----Gabrielle joined her in the water......

X:, not as funny as you are going to be kissing ol Joxer....." Xena continued,"oh have you broken the news to him jet about the joining.....you know you should have done it by now....he really has it bad for you . Unless you are planning keeping him around as your back up man."

G:" you are so baddddd-No I haven't told I figured he would have figured it out by now but doesn't have a clue........I just want to shake him sometimes........"

X:" Well maybe I should have a talk with him."

G:"this is a sensitive chat .....you don't do those........"

X:"We are past the point of being sensitive...maybe I should just draw him a picture....This is Xena. This is Xena bonking Gabrielle!!!!......I guess you better do to it.....He really annoys me sometimes......

G:" I'll talk to him as soon as we get back"

X:"Thanks -last thing I want to do is to start our lives together dodging Joxer.

They continue their swim and spend time cleaning each other up. As they were drying off.....as if on cue......A war cry was heard through the trees......The Amazon scouting party had arrived......

Chapter 9

With the arrival of the Amazon scouting party Gabrielle was immediately transformed from simple bard to Amazon Queen. And with that transformation Xena took her place as her champion. On their visits to Amazon territory Xena withdrew from the forefront as this was Gabrielle's time to shine.

In fact this was the one place the Xena was subservient to her bard. A role that she enjoyed on these occasions. Although to her people she was Queen Gabrielle she made the point of always reassuring Xena that she was still Gabrielle of Poteadia the farm girl that she fell in love with over 3 winters ago.

The Amazons greeted their queen with the suppliant salute and gift offerings. Soleri led the party as Ephiny was tending to the arrangements for the joining. Solari informed her queen that all was going as planned and the guests were beginning to arrive. She went through the litany of guests she mentioned that the Queen of Carthage had arrived the day before and with that comment Gabrielle's heart sunk.

The day of reckoning was upon her and she still had not nor did she know how to tell Xena the secret that was haunting her very soul. A secret she knew that she would have to find the words to tell or her vows would be a lie.

Xena sensed once again that Gabrielle was not herself. She thought to her self that maybe now among her Amazons she would feel free enough to tell her what she was troubled about.

After talking amongst themselves for nearly a candlemark....Soleri suggested that they make the trek to the settlement. Gabrielle nodded in agreement and Xena followed.

Gabrielle was lifted unto a litter and carried to the village in royal style. Xena rode Argo following the processions of Amazons.... As the Royal Party traveled the Amazons sang chants to Artemis praising her for the safe return of Queen Gabrielle. The meter of the chant drew Gabrielle back to the time when she was young.

Chapter 10

Anna and Gabrielle continued their pilgrimage to Athens. To while away thehours... Anna would regale Gabrielle with stories of Carthage and how wonderful her homeland was.

She also would always relate what an able leader Dido was. In a man's world Dido stood tall above many men. It was the first time Gabrielle had heard the philosophy of : "it's a man's world not because they deserve it because we let them have it." This is the code by which Dido ruled her kingdom. And why Anna knew that Dido was under some spell or something with the way she was allowing the Trojans to usurp their land.

The sadness in Anna made her cry often especially at night. Gabrielle did her best to comfort her friend but she always felt inadequate.

On particular night -----Anna was sullen and withdrawn...Gabrielle wanted to comfort her friend. Anna had not eaten much at their evening meal so Gab made up a small plate for Anna to nibble on. Gab approached her friend who was crying-----thinking that no one who hear. Gab hugged her her and offered her a piece of cheese. Anna accepted , then Gab offered another....then Anna offered an olive to Gabrielle. Then Anna maybe it was her vunerable state or just maybe the fact that she had lingering memories of their first kiss......leaned in and place a soft kiss on Gab's lips. At first it was tentative but the longer they continued deep feelings arose in both girls. Gab was not sure of these feelings that she was having.....But Anna was more experienced and had eaten of this of this forbidden fruit before. It wasn't long before the passion rose to a intense level and Anna assumed the role of the aggressor and Gab was no match. She became the conquered in a short while. Although the experience was brief. It left a lasting impression on the young bard. She never knew that she could feel that way or that she would so enjoy the feeling especially at the hands of another woman. This was just the beginning of their trysts that occurred daily or more often during the trip to Athens. These new found pleasures made the time pass very quickly.

Once they had finally reached the city wall, Anna put them on alert! It was time to change into their assumed identities....Anna became Sidon the bard and Gab the farm girl tag along.

With their mission ahead of them all personal pleasures would have to be put on hold much to Gabrielle's dismay.

Chapter 11

As they arrived in the city Gabrielle was amazed at the sights and sounds of Athens. The bazaars, the shops, so much to do and see. She could see the Acropolis from their vantage point. She could not wait to get there. Sidon reassured the young bard that they could see the sights as soon as their mission was completed.

The first thing that they needed to do was to secure accommodations. Gabrielle spotted an inn at the end of one of the streets. The duo made their way to the inn. Once inside they found a table near the hearth and ordered two mugs of cider. The innkeeper brought the cider and asked if that would be all. Sidon spoke," We need a couple of rooms and a place to board our horse and wagon." The innkeeper replied," We have one room..it's small....it's yours if you want it."

Sidon: :We'll take it."

Innkeeper:" I can board your animal and you can leave the wagon behind the barn. I can put some extra blankets and couple of pillows in the room...so you can make up a second bed on the floor."

Sidon replied," Thank you sir and gave the man a few gold coins." He immediately went about the business of readying the room and caring for the horse. The two travelers finished their drinks and gathered their possessions and sought out their room.

Upon entering they found a sparsely furnished room. A bed, a table with several candles, and in the corner a small tub for a bath. Water was heating in the hearth for a bath. On the floor was a make shift bed for one of them. The duo dropped their things and sat down on the bed.

Gabrielle asked Sidon," Are we going to the temple today?" Sidon,"No first thing in the morning...right now we need to rest from our trip....but maybe we can walk around Athens and see some of those sights that you are dying to see." Gabrielle didn't hesitate, " Come on let's go."

Sidon chuckling okay- she was always amazed how much Gabrielle relished new experiences and never could wait to become part of them.

They walked around the city, sampling from the food vendors. Gabrielle had some offerings from every booth in sight. Sidon laughed at her young friend. Then they had managed to make to the Acropolis.

Gabrielle wanted to visit every building she saw. Then Sidon had to break her friend's joyous mood. She informed her that women were not permitted there. Gabrielle was appalled. Sidon reminded her that she wasn't in Podetia anymore. In Athens there were rules that Grecian women had to follow. Sidon told her of a few examples women could not worship in the temples, they could not participate in oratory, government or the theater. Gab muttered how this was so unfair. Sidon reminded her that this was Greece, and added that it was not they way in her country.

Gabrielle inquired as to how they would be able to make a sacrifice to the goddess if they could not go to the Acropolis. Sidon told her that there were other temples that were open to women but they are not near the Acropolis. They were on the outside of town and they were primarily use for the Thesmophoria. This was a woman's festival that was held in the fall every year and it was dedicated to Demeter.

After they had walked around for several hours...Gab finally admitted that she was very tired. They made their way back to the inn. Once in their room, Sidon said she was tired and was turning in. Gab on the other hand had a lot of energy and was not sleepy. She thought that she would take a bath to relax. She glanced at Sidon who was already asleep on the makeshift bed. Gab smiled and disrobed letting her dress drop to the floor. She stepped into the water. As she did, Sidon was watching the whole show with lightly closed eyes. She loved to watch the young bard. She especially loved the vision of her young naked body.

She watched as Gabrielle washed her hair and her body. Gab closed her eyes thinking about all her new experiences she had on this trip. She smiled thinking how much she enjoyed the ones that she had with Sidon on the way to Athens and she had hopes that those wouldn't be the last. As she touched herself she felt a second pair of hands on herself. She sighed, knowing that Sidon was the one who was pleasuring her. Gabrielle just relaxed into Sidon's loving hands. Sidon ravaged the bard until there was nothing left. Gabrielle was totally exhausted, collapsing into Sidon's waiting arms. Gabrielle was to spent to reciprocate to her partner. Sidon whispered to her, "In the morning my love we have time tomorrow, and the next day and the next, just sleep my beautiful bard. Just sleep." They both drifted into the land of Morpheus.

In the morning Gabrielle was the first to rise and she thought of a novel way to wake her partner. She started by kissing her from head to toe and back again. It was not long before both girls satisfied their passions. They lingered in each other arms for a while. The morning sun was beginning to break through the night sky. Sidon spoke," We better get a move on, it will take a while to make it to the temple. We should get dressed and get started. " Gabrielle had other ideas.......within minutes they were making love once again which carried them into mid day.

Finally Sidon had to put her foot down forcing them out of bed and on with their mission.

Within a few minutes they were on the outskirts of town, walking towards the temple which was a good candlemark away.

They entered a forest and in clearing stood the temple. The acolytes were running about tending to the needs of the goddess. The chief acolyte inquired as to their purpose. Sidon spoke," We come to worship the goddess and to place an offering at her feet. We wish to petition unto her that she free my people from the barbarians that ravish our lands." The acolyte escorted the pair to the inner sanctum of the temple where they could meditate and place their offering. Then she left the duo to their prayers.

Gabrielle never had been to a temple so she was trying to remember every detail so she could write of her experience later. Gabrielle sat quietly as Sidon began.

Sidon gazing on the statue of her patron goddess then in respect bowed her head she began her prayer:

Unto my merciful god I turn,
I make supplication.
I kiss the feet of my goddess and crawl before her.
How long, my goddess, until your face
be turned toward me?
How long, known and unknown goddess,
until your unfriendly heart be purified?
Humanity is perverted
and has no judgement of all
People who are alive, who know anything?
The sin which I have sinned
turn to mercy:
The iniquity which I have committed,
let the wind carry away.......
Known or unknown goddess
my sins are seven times seven;
Forgive my sins!
Forgive my sins and I will humble
myself before you.

Upon finishing Sidon fell prostrate in front of the altar and laid motionless for what seemed like hours. Gab just sat with her eyes transfixed on the still form of Sidon.

Then Sidon's body began to float above the floor. Starting low then rising equal to the altar....then as if by some magic Sidon was infused with a strange light. Then she was place gently upright on the floor. A shimmering form materialized next to her ....it was the goddess herself. The goddess spoke to Sidon....She told her that her petition would be granted and that the Trojans would leave the shore of Carthage. But that she and her family would suffer anguish in the process. Sidon thanked the goddess and told her that any price would be fair to rid her homeland of these people. Then with a flash and a lingering aroma of roses the goddess was gone.

Gabrielle was dumb struck....it was probably one of the few times that she could not speak. Sidon broke the silence...."My mission is a success the goddess promised that the Trojans will leave my homeland. Now Dido can get back to ruling our people and get on with her life." The pair left the temple feeling content and with a feeling that all was well with the world. On the way back to Athens, they stopped and ate at some food vendors to cure Gabrielle's perpetually hungry stomach. In the walk back to the inn, Gabrielle realized she was walking hand in with Sidon. She was bashing in the love and admiration that she felt for her friend.

Once back in their room, Gabrielle immediately pounced on the Carthagian princess.

Anna chide,"Can you wait till I get the door shut.'' Gab." Well no not really." Anna just grinned ...they fell into another long evening of their favorite past time. With the morning light -Anna was up and about making plans for the return trip to Carthage. As she sat at the table making notes in her scrolls, a loud knock was hear at the door. The pounding woke the sleeping young bard.....she laid there as Anna answered the door.

At the door stood a messenger in a soldier's uniform. He bowed to Anna....She bid him entry. The messenger spoke," Your highness I have come to bid you return to Carthage immediately. Your sister has been taken ill she has sent me to find you and bring you back to her side as soon as possible."

Anna quizzed the messenger and from his answers she deduced that the madness had overtaken her poor sister. And she could not delay her return home. She instructed the messenger to make arrangements to accompany Gabrielle back to Podetia and to find her the fastest horse in all of Athens. She dispatched him with a regal command. Gab just sat stunned watching what had just taken place.

Anna:" I must go it is my duty."

Gab:"I want to come with you!"

Anna;" no now is not the time, I will send for you in the future but I must first return to Carthage ...it is the will of my queen." Anna hugged Gabrielle and gave her a tender kiss....

The messenger returned in a short while informing the princess that all was in order. She once again dismissed him and told him that they would leave at first light. Gabrielle spent the better part of the day crying due to the impeding separation. Anna sat next to Gabrielle and drew her into a hug...she told her that she wanted to spend their last night together just holding her. Anna kept reassuring her that they would be together again soon enough. They held each other until Morpheus took them.

As dawn broke through the night sky, the messenger returned to escort Gabrielle back home.

The scene was filled with sadness...Gabrielle felt as if her whole soul had just been ripped away. After a long kiss, Anna said goodbye for a final time. She mounted her horse rode toward her homeland. Gabrielle stood there till she disappeared over the horizon. Sadly in her heart she knew that she would not see her beloved teacher again.........a lone tear ran down her cheek.

Chapter 12

The trip to the Amazon village took about 2 candle marks. The trip gave Gabrielle time to think about ways of working through her dilemma.

But before she could find a suitable solution they had arrived at the village. Gabrielle was besieged by her adoring subjects.

Xena was acknowledged but and treated as any other warrior among the tribe. This would change once she became consort to the queen. Until then she would have to find things to amuse herself as if preparing for the day of joining wasn't enough.

The preparation for the ceremony was the focal point of village. Everyone had their part to perform. Even the children were given the task of making decorations for the walls of the banquet hall where the food was to be presented and served. And with Gabrielle's appetite the Amazons were planning an ex-large menu. It would consist of all of the queen's favorites as well as traditional Amazon fare. When asked if she had any particular requests for the menu Xena replied,"no","just make sure there is plenty of port." She made a comment under her breath about making plans to work up a
thirst.

Gabrielle after greeting all her subjects, she was directed to the guest barracks where the visitors were being housed.

Gabrielle was an able ambassador. She made each guest feel at home and made sure that they had all they needed. Then Ephiny informed Gabrielle that the Carthagian Queen was in residence in the hut reserved for visiting dignitaries. Gabrielle thanked Ephiny for seeing to the Queen's needs. Ephiny asked."Are you going to pay a visit to the Queen?"

Gab,"Yes as you know protocol demands it." Ephiny," Shall I accompany you my Queen?"

Gab,"No, Ephiny I will visit her alone, you need to see to this evening's meal ...it will be an affair of state..everything must be perfect."

Ephiny bowed to the Queen and took her leave. Gab sighed as she walked to the royal hut. Once at the door she knocked. From somewhere inside, the words,"Enter" were heard. Upon entering the hut, Gabrielle approached the queen whose back was to Gab. The Carthagian Queen spoke without turning around," I am in need of nothing ....I await the arrival of your Queen."

Gabrielle spoke," Then you need to wait no further." with those words the Queen spun around. She grabbed Gabrielle in a fierce hug and kissed her passionately on the lips. Gabrielle responded in kind. They both sighed and began to laugh. They hugged again. They both started to talk at the same time.

Gab: " It has been so long."

The Queen," I know and I have missed you so." She grabbed Gabrielle and kissed her again.

The Queen," I should not do this ...you are about to be joined but you know I will always have feelings for you."

Gab,"I know I for you also but Anna I really do love Xena."

Anna, "After our time together in Athens and the years that we have written to one another...I still can't get you out of my soul....Your were such a comfort to me after Dido's death, I wouldn't have survived without you.'

Gab," What are friends for.......".

Anna," Friends......I always thought we were more than just friends.....?yes?"

Gab,"Yes okay we were lovers and in love but it was never meant to be....you in Carthage -a queen and me a farm girl from Podetia....

Anna," But just look at you now "Queen of the Amazons" a far cry from that farm girl you one were.....and you have grown into an even more beautiful woman. This Xena person she means more to you than I do?"

Gab," Oh Anna , I love her with all my heart and soul. I would die for her if I had to."

Anna," Gabrielle you have to know what you mean to me . I love you and I will always love you. What would you do if I challenged this Xena person for you hand in marriage?"

Gab," Oh please don't ...I love you both and I fear that you would be no match for Xena .....besides she doesn't even know about you or our history. I have to warn you she tends to be a little jealous."

Anna," You mean you never mentioned me to her. I can't believe it.......after what we shared ...nary a word.'

Gab," It's not like that.....you see Xena has this temper ....she gets a little overprotective of me sometimes.......well let's just say that I sometimes have to decide what she needs to know but if it makes you feel better I have been trying to find the words to tell her."

Anna," you are getting joined in less than 4 days and you still haven't told her."

Gab," I know but I am afraid of what she might do......She might leave me or worse just kill every living thing in sight......As I told you she has a temper."

Anna hugging Gabrielle," I am here for you. Do what you must . If it means not telling her I will understand but understand this.....I will challenge her if you don't tell her. I want you to enter into this union with a clear conscience. If you tell her the truth I will step aside and not make the challenge. The decision is yours!"

Gabrielle looked at her friend and began to cry....she is truly scared of the task at hand and of what the outcome will be. As she cries she thinks back to the memories of the time in Athens. And then how she met Xena. All these memories make this so difficult....she thinks to her self ....I love them both. I don't want to lose either of them....what will I do?

To be continued...............



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