Xena Alternative Fan Fiction
Between the Hammer and the Anvil
This story was written without the knowledge or consent of MCA/Universal and is not intended to infringe on any copyrights.
This story is the work of the author and is protected by copyright. Please gain permission before copying and/or publishing any or all of this story.
Gabrielle and Xena blew into the Amazon village like a pair of hurricanes. They'd ridden double on Argo for the last few miles and as Xena handed Gabrielle down and swung out of the saddle herself, the pair gaped in disbelief. For the pair of travelers, one of the major pleasures in visiting Pontus was the immaculate cleanliness and order in which the village was always kept. So it was shocking to see the huts with thatching falling apart and rotting walls, trash in the streets. And the *stench*! Xena's nose wrinkled. "I'm not usually one to object to strong odors," she said, "But *that* is over the top!"
"Agreed," said Gabrielle. "What in the world is going on here?"
Ordinarily, they would have been greeted at the border marker and escorted in by an alert armed party of Amazons. But they'd gotten all the way into the village square before any notice was taken of them, and that was lackadaisical. A few half-hearted waves and greetings, "Hey, Xena. Hey, Gabrielle." Gabrielle waved back absently.
"I've got to get to the bottom of this!" Gabrielle started off in the direction of Ephiny's hut. When she got there, the Regent was asleep in a tousled bed. Xenan was playing quietly in a corner. He was fast approaching the age when he would have to be fostered out. Too old to be allowed to live as a male among Amazons.
"Xena," Gabrielle whispered, "Loan me your dagger." The warrior passed the weapon to the bard, hilt-first. "And go call the Council together. We'll meet in the Council Hall in half a glass."
"What are you going to do with that?" Xena gestured toward the blade in Gabrielle's hand.
"I'm going to give Ephiny a wake-up call."
Xena nodded and left. Gabrielle moved to Ephiny's bedside and, carefully setting the blade of Xena's dagger across the Regent's throat, she leaned in and whispered in the other's ear, "You're about to be raped."
Ephiny came awake with a start and a sharp intake of breath. Then she saw the bard and relaxed. "Oh, it's only you! I had a terrible ..." "I wasn't kidding, Ephiny," Gabrielle interrupted. "Xena and I came up here by the main road and got all the way to your hut without being stopped or challenge or anyone's warning you we were coming. An enemy could have gotten in here with a whole company of soldiers and wiped this village out!"
"Ai yai-yai. I've heard that song before." She grabbed Ephiny by the ear and dragged her protesting out of bed and out of the hut. "Wh-where are you taking me?" Ephiny tried to stop in the street, to go back to her hut, but Gabrielle's grip on her ear was firm and the bard was determined.
"To the Council Hall. You have some answering to do for the condition of my Queendom."
"Ow! Wait! I just woke up! I'm not dressed," Ephiny gestured at her sleeping robe, her unkempt hair.
"Well, if you sleep the morning away, there's gonna be some embarrassment in the afternoon." They walked in silence the rest of the way to the Council Hall and into the large hutment. Gabrielle released the other's ear and shoved her toward a chair. Ephiny sat in resentful silence while the bard paced the Hall, fuming. In a few moments, Xena came in and, announcing that the Council would gather shortly, took up station next to the door. Gabrielle paced for several minutes. Finally, she could contain herself no longer and rounded on her Regent.
"Ephiny!" Gabrielle shouted. "What are you trying to do? Preside over the destruction of the remaining Amazons? Is this all that it's all been for? We're supposed to be a symbol - and example - for oppressed women everywhere and you have reduced my tribe - the tribe I by the gods trusted you to act as steward to ... to this!" "And such a fine Queen you've been," Ephiny shot back. "You abandoned the Mask as soon as you got it and ran off to tramp around the world with *her*. She tries to kill you ... drags you through the rocks for a mile and a half and then tries to throw you off a cliff ... and you kiss and make up like nothing ever happened. You left us wondering what in Tartarus was going on. Why would Xena want to kill you? What happened in Chin, for Zeus' sake? Plus, you left that goofball Joxer hanging around here and drooling all over and sniffing the laundry - thanks for nothing! You have no right to come traipsing in here every couple of years ..."
"She has every right," Xena interjected. "If you don't like being Regent, you can always step aside."
"*You* don't even belong here! You were offered the sisterhood many times, from what I hear. Every time you turned it down. Now your little girlie wants something and you think we'll forgive the insult!"
"Ephiny!" both Gabrielle and Xena exclaimed simultaneously.
"What has gotten into you?" Gabrielle asked.
Ephiny clouded up, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I don't know," she wailed. "Nothing has gone right for me since Xenan was born. The Amazons won't listen to me. There's constant bickering over the spoils of the hunt. Half the tribe have left to get married or have babies. It seems like we're always a war with this army or that king or warlord. Artemis hasn't come to our festivals in forever." Gabrielle looked over at Xena and shook her head. Xena took the hint and walked out of the Hall. Gabrielle took a deep breath and waded into Ephiny. "Get a grip on yourself, woman! This is no way for the ruler of an Amazon band to behave! Where is the loud, proud warrior woman who taught me how to use a staff? You make me ashamed to be an Amazon! My baby sister could do better than this! Sister of the breast my ass! You have about as much tit as a man! For the gods' sake! Look at you! Your clothes are a mess. This camp is a disaster area! I bet the jacks hasn't been dug fresh in a week! (And somebody should tell these women not to eat asparagus! Phew!) Queen Melosa wouldn't have let this place get into such a state. Hell, *Velaska* would have done a better job!" "Oooooh, Gabrielle!" Ephiny laughed and sobbed at the same time. "That's a low blow." She grabbed a hanky and blew her nose. "Anyway," she went on. "I've been feeling like something was wrong for a long time and haven't known what to do about it." "Well, why didn't you send for help? I would have come ..."
"And where the Tartarus were you? Last I heard you and butch bitch over there were off to Rome to fight some grudge match with Caesar."
"Well, it wasn't like that, but ..."
"But you weren't around. Anyway, I'm supposed to be better at this job than you are. That's why you gave it to me. How would it look if I had to call you in every time ..."
"And how does it look to have the finest band of Amazons in Asia Minor all of a sudden turn into a whimpering bunch of sissies who can't wipe their own noses? Okay, so I wasn't around all of the time while this was going on. Am I the only one you can turn to for help?"
"Pretty much. I mean, I couldn't exactly ask the centaurs for help with internal Amazon politics." "Don't you pray to Artemis? Don't you have any contact with the other Amazon villages?" "You *have* been gone a long time, haven't you? We're the last village of the sisterhood for hundreds of leagues around." Gabrielle rocked back on her heels at that. She hadn't heard. Had she been so wrapped up in Xena and their problems that she'd neglected her duties here? But wasn't Ephiny capable of handling things? What was going on here? Just as one would probe a wound for infection, she would have continued with Ephiny, but the Council began to arrive and she had to put on her Queen face. The Council meeting was short and sharp. Gabrielle asked pointed questions and got unsatisfactory answers. Finally, she'd had more than enough.
"That's *it*!" she roared. "No more sweetikins! Get those bitches out of their freakin' sacks and assembled in the square! On the double! I'm holding an inspection and the Gods help the slacker!"
The council scattered before her wrath and within moments, there were the sounds of furious preparation all over the village: shouted orders; shrieks of outrage as bunks were dumped, bedding and occupants on cold ground; more than a few slaps and heavier blows; running feet and gasping breath.
Gabrielle turned to Ephiny. "As for you, you ... you ... I'll deal with you later! For now, you're confined to your hut. If you know what's good for you, you won't stick your nose out the door until I send for you."
Ephiny rose and slunk out the door. "And keep that *colt* of yours indoors, too!" At the insult in Gabrielle's parting shot, Ephiny burst into tears and she stumbled off to hide in her hut.
"Abby. Get up." Abigail heard though her sleep a familar voice..a mother's voice that called her for dinner and some fun. Dressing her dolls. Running in the trees like the big Amazons...
"Abby!" The now startled young cook's apprentice flaps her arms and legs causing her to fall out of her top hammock. The scream returns Abby to her hut with her best friend, Candice, and her other frantic bunkmates in the Amazon barracks. Abby jumps to her feet, ready for battle
"What! What! Are we under attack?!"
Abgail raises her 'sword'..(OK, it was a large spoon, but half-asleep, it's a sword)
Candice looks out the window as she replies "No, much worse"
"Why are you waking me in the middle of the night?" Abby whines as she drops her defensive pose. Abby looks around at her friends running around the barricks "Why is everyone running around?"
Candice motions Abby to the window.
"This is the last night I sleep in the top bunk" Abby complains as she rubs her sore back and neck. Abby yawns and looks out the window. "What are you rambl........oh, shhhhit"
Abby instantly snaps awake as her eyes come across Queen Gabrielle, the whole damn Council and Xena in the compound. Regent Ephiny looks on sheepishly as Gabrielle inspects the compound. The Queen looked like she could strangle a Titan with her bare hands just out of anger.. "She came out of nowhere. I was on the borders patrolling when I got the order to return to the compound." Candice whispers to Abby "I got back and heard Queen Gabrielle yelling at the Council and the Regent for, like, forever. I didn't hear much, but then, she wanted to do a inspection. Ephiny went to her hut crying"
"Yeah. Regent Ephiny and Queen Gabrielle started arguing again in the Regent's hut."
"What did Xena say?" Abby inquired as they watch Gabrielle enter the healer's hut.
"Nothing. Xena never talks. You know that."
"No, we don't." Abby watched Xena as she stood outside of the healer's hut.
"All I know, Abby, is that my ass is in deep trouble. I was supposed to spot them and I didn't." Candice's voice broke with worry.
"C'mon, Candice. You're a great sentry! And you can shoot better than anyone here. You are just starting out" Abby softly says comforts her worried friend. "There's nobody I trust and admire more than you, Candyass"
Candice smiles and punches her buddy on the arm "Watch it, Scabby"
Suddenly, drums fill the air and the captains start yelling to the Amazon troops "Everyone!! LIne up now!! WAKEY WAKEY!!"" "ALL AMAZONS, READY FOR PASS AND REVIEW!! DOUBLE TIME, LADIES!!"" Candice and Abby scramble around with the rest of their squad as they dress and ready themselves to be inspected by the Queen. Candice grabs her bow and quiver and runs out the door as Abby is lacing up her boots. "Hey, you got my last good pair of socks! Some friend you are!"
"All now pay their respects to Queen Gabrielle, Chosen Leader and Trusted Servant to the Moon Goddess, our beloved Artemis." Regent Ephiny's voice echoed through the compound. All Amazons, in their squads, bow before the Queen. Gabrielle pauses and then speaks in a soft, but clear voice. "Rise my Sisters" Gabrielle looks at her entrusted warriors as she pauses. "It has come to my attention of the declining morale and discipline here. Never in my life as your Queen have I been ashamed to be your leader. As always, I'm proud of you all. But these sloppy performances as of today will stop."
"My companion, Xena, commented on how everyone here is getting soft and backsliding. I commented to her that she was incorrect. We are Artemis' warriors, no room for softness or second best. So, I decided to test her theory." Queen Gabrielle's face turns to sourness... "Well. I saw that she was correct. I rode into the compound on a horse, past the guards, and woke Regent Ephiny with a knife to her throat." The Amazons gasp in surprise "Yes. A knife. If I was a intruder or a spy, I could have killed her. Or maybe rape her first. Nasty thought." Queen Gabrielle starts pacing on the stage as Xena watches the Bard and the crowd. "Everyone knows I come from humble beginnings. I'm not from noble blood, so I never sat on my ass and I would never ask any of you to do anything I wouldn't do myself. I busted my back on a farm and my family almost starved to death one horrible winter. I never had a priviledged moment in my life. I come here, and I'm nice. I guess being nice doesn't help. Time for me to be your Queen and give you the spanking you deserve." The Queen pauses dramatically, then narrows her eyes into the crowd. Her finger sweeps the squadrons before her. "You are now in between the anvil and the hammer, ladies. Gods help you if you fail Artemis as you failed me this day. But that will change." Gabrielle red locks fly as she turns her head. "Solari! Prepare the troops for inspection." Solari nods to the Queen then commands "CO's! Prepare your troops for inspection! No talking in ranks and eyes forward! Now!" Candice heard Queen Gabrielle yell at Solari, so now, Solari looks so pissed, she could chew boulders..Abby's knees start shaking, but gives her friend a smile. Everyone instantly obeys and are ready. Solari bows "Your Majesty."
Gabrielle steps off the raised stage as she approaches the first squad of Amazons. Regent Ephiny follows her, then Solari, then Xena. Gabrielle looks over the squad.
Queen Gabrielle stands face to face with the squad leader and Candice's CO, Anteia. Candice's mind races as she panics in her mind "Oh, gods. She would start with my squad."
Gabrielle, as Queen, must inspect and discipline all squad leaders who act as Commanding Officers. The actions of that squad, good or bad, are the reponsiblity of that squad leader. One warrior goes out of line, the whole squad is punished, including the CO. The CO's report to the XO (Executive Officer) which is Solari.
Anteia stands at attention as Gabrielle stands before her and inspects her sword.."You the leader of the sentries, Anteia?"
"Yes, my Queen. I deeply apologize.."
Gabrielle's hand comes up, cutting off Anteia's words. "I'm not here for excuses. Excuses don't bring my friend back from the dead, do they?"
Anteia looks at Candice then answers "No, your Highness." Gabrielle raises her voice higher as she stands closer. "Eyes forward, Captain! I'm not over there. I'm here. Is this what I expect from all the sentries here?"
"No, your Majesty"
Queen Gabrielle then started, to Candice's horror, to venomously scold Anteia on her lack of duties, then ended the public lashing with "If I EVER see anything like this again, I'm going to have fun busting you down to foot soldier and then breaking my foot off in your ass! You understand me?!?"
"Yes, My Queen!"
"Good!" Gabrielle handed Anteia her sword.
"That's it. My life is over.." Candice cries in her mind, imaging the ass-kicking from Anteia she's going to get after this..
Queen Gabrielle looked around. "What am I doing? I hate this. I just hope they don't hate me for this. But....Xena said it was for there own good." Gabrielle thought to herself, sucking in the flood of tears. "C'mon, Gabrielle. Time to be a leader." "What's your name, Sister?" Gabrielle eyes over Candice and inspects her bow.
"Candice, your Highness." Candice clearly answers. Never has she been so close to a hero as Queen Gabrielle. As all young Amazons, Candice heard the tales of adventure about the Queen and the Warrior Princess, Xena. Fighting Ares, giants, Caesar...Freeing Promethus. These tales made Candice thirst for adventure, but also made her wish to meet the duo under more friendly curcimstances.
"Hmm. Feathers for archery. Top of the class?"
"Yes, Queen Gabrielle. Two seasons in a row."
"I may need of you in the future. Good job." "Thank you, Highness. It will honor me to assist you in any way." Gabrielle returned Candice's bow and walked to the stage.
Gabrielle felt a headache come on and felt sick to her stomach..she needed a break from this. "Allright! I feel there's no need to inspect you further for now. Now, I want everyone to have a nice 5 league run..half in the trees, half in the ground. It'll give you a chance to think and let my words sink in. I'm not your little girlfriend. We are not going on shopping trips, and eating lunch and watching for sales! I'm your Queen, and you are warriors! Time to act like warriors! Now get running! Dismissed!" The drums beat as all the Amazons bow and Queen Gabrielle exits.. Xena hears sobbing as she knocks on Gabrielle's Royal hut.
"Gabrielle? You allright?" Xena's heart nearly breaks as she sees her little companion in tears on the bed. "Come here. It's alright" Xena walks to the bed and comforts the Little Queen.."I hated it, Xena. I just. Just hated doing that." "I know, sweetheart." Xena answers, kissing the Queen on the forehead as Gabrelle holds on to the Warrior Princess.
"How did all this start, Xena? We were always such a proud, elite military force. Is it because Peace is not the way? I can't believe I am saying that! Don't know what to think anymore!" Xena holds her friend closer, rocking gently.
"You will find a way and your people will be stronger as a result." As a tentative knock is heard on the door Gabrielle reluctantly pulls away from Xena's embrace and quickly dries her tears resuming her formal queenly facade. 'Enter!" she commands. A flushed and slightly out of breath Ephiny is before her standing at rigid attention but her manner conveys a mixture of embarrassment and anxiety.
"'The punishment run is completed my Queen." she announces flatly.
"We have to talk." the Queen says with the authority she does not really feel "What is going on here!"
The Regent lets out a long sigh not knowing where to begin. "I, I can't explain it I..." Gabrielle looking over Ephiny's shoulder at Xena interjects after getting an encouraging nod. 'Ephiny, pull yourself together!! This is a very serious case of apathy!" Then softening a bit adds " Sit down." The Regent sits and starts to relax a bit beginning her narration.
"It all started when Queen Melosa was killed, really before that. Some feel that we should be like we were- aggressive taking what we needed and wanted, at war all the time with the Centaurs, never giving up anything always taking. A force to be reckoned with. Peace with the Centaurs brought an end to the daily funerals but with it a false sense of security. We got into a daily routine of patrols that have become almost painful with the sameness. There seems to be no real reason to hone our military skills if they are not going to be used or needed. Last week two of our warriors on routine patrol were killed by poachers. That only deepened the anger. They were never caught. They escaped into the Neutral Boarder zone and we could not persue them nor will they ever pay for their crime. Velaska's followers are meeting in secret. They feel as she did. That we are weak. I had them arrested when they were planning an incursion into the Zone to avenge their Sisters. There is nothing that can be done. We are sitting targets for any random acts of aggression if we can not respond with full military force. To do that would start a war. Our crops failed with the drought of last Summer and the violent storms that washed what was remaining away. It is becomming harder and harder for our hunting parties to find game. There is no solution." she concludes despondently.
"Of course there is a solution, you just need to change your point of view." Xena commented as she cleaned her nails with her breast dagger "What do you mean?" the Regent asked.
"You said that the crops were wiped out and the hunting parties are having difficulty getting meat. That leaves everyone on a bland low meat diet. That alone will suck the fire out of any soldier. Combine that with a break down of morale from the Regent." "You mean everyone is not being fed well? That would explain the low energy." The Queen pondered on Xena's analysis "Not to mention all the stress of running the whole tribe caused Ephiny to lose her grip. Her son being here, the apathy, sleeping all day.."
Xena patted Ephiny's shoulder "It just became too much."
A voice called out at the Queen's hut door "Your Majesty? I have your meal here." Gabrielle's face lit up as she called out "Enter!" Abby entered the hut with the Queen's tray of food. She nervously stepped around Xena and approched the beautiful Queen. Ephiny appeared happy to see the young girl and her spirit instantly picked up. Xena raised her brow and looked at Gabrielle as the Regent praised the cook's assisstant. Here's another piece to the puzzle solved. "Abigail..good to see you around. Gabrielle, this is the new assistant to the cook, Abby." Abby bowed respectfully "Your Highness..it's a true honor to meet you. I hope the meal is to your satisfaction."
Gabrielle smiled "Oh, it always is. My stomach thanks you..Don't worry, Abby. I'm not usually a flaming bitch on wheels." Abby eyes grew in shock at the Queen's comment as Xena snickered. Abby seemed jumpy around Xena and Gabrielle tried to relax Abby "Don't worry about Xena..If I feed her on time, she behaves herself." No smiles..Gods this is going to be tough to pick up spirits here.
"Uh, yes, my Queen. No worries."
"What's wrong, Abby? You seem exhausted." Gabrielle observed.
"Nothing to worry you, Majesty. I just was up all night cleaning and preparing the cooking for the next day. I get to bed.."
"And I come storming in. Looks like I'm getting the whole story. Let me ask you. Since the drought, has there been any changes in the meals?"
"No, your Majesty. None."
"Not even small ones?" Gabrielle noticed that Ephiny was staring at Abigail with appreciation for the young girl..
Abby thought to herself a moment, then shook her finger "Some small changes. All of the reserves are unspoiled, we used the same water source, and the grain is still good. We had to use alot of bread and vegtables this season..very little meat. We also made alot less vegatables.. We got fish once in a while and the venison wasn't as good as before."
"Thank you, Abby. You helped alot." Gabrielle bowed her head to dismiss the girl. Abby bowed and left the hut.. Gabrielle paced around the hut in thought...then she turned to her partner.
"Xena, I need you to go into the next town for some supplies, medicines and some fresh meat. Lots of it...I also need to talk to Ephiny alone. Buy whatever you think the Amazons need. Take as many warriors as you need. When everyone gets there strength back, we'll improve the morale and find the Valeska sympathizers later..
"Babysteps." Xena observed.
Gabrielle nodded "Babysteps" Xena hugged her partner goodbye, looked at Ephiny and exited the hut.
"I feel like such a failure. You saw how Xena looked at me." Ephiny poked at her food.
"Ephiny" Gabrielle paused at she scraped around her plate.
"Ephiny, you are not a failure. Everything just went wrong, it started piling up on you and you folded a little. It happens to all leaders. Now, we are going to solve this problem and the others one at a time." Gabrielle touched Ephiny's arm gently "Also, I want to apologize for insulting your son. It was way out of line of me to do that. I'm sorry.."
"It's allright, Gabrielle. I just have a hard time letting go..He just loves me so much and he helps me so much. It just gets so lonely. You probibly noticed my new fascination with Abby." Gabrielle nodded and Ephiny laughed nervously, then wiped a tear from her eye. "The poor girl doesn't even know it. I never felt this way for a woman like I feel for her. She just amazes me..how beautiful and innocent she is. She is so young and I don't want her to be scared of me..At least you have Xena."
"Not exactly, Ephiny" Gabrielle sighed "We told each other of our love for one another and kissed a few times, but we never..."
"Oh..I see" Ephiny nodded, but a surprised look was on her face.
"It's like we don't want to, but we are just unsure on how to start it out."
"It's a very big step, Gabrielle..I don't blame you for waiting." Ephiny supported
"Yes. Big step..Anyway, it looks like you need to do some thinking and
have some relaxation time..let's go to the baths and you can catch me up on the full business on this poacher and Veleska's followers.."
Return to Writing Symposium