DISCLAIMER: The characters Xena, Gabrielle and Argo are copyright of MCA/Universal/Renaissance. (They are also THE best characters ever created for television.) No infringement intended. This is a story written by an irredeemable Xenite, for the benefit of anyone who cares to read it.
It is 'subtext' in nature, because they are clearly in love. However it contains no sex. (You can still read it anyway)
Any comments, nice or nasty would be welcome at Rab@xgrd.freeserve.co.uk
ENTERING NEW TERRITORY
"Vastarius is a closed city. As of two days ago no-one gets in or out, so I have no fresh provisions" The barkeeper was pouring himself a large beaker of wine while he spoke, he sounded quite indifferent to the situation.
"I can't tell you how long we have been travelling, and it is hot as Hades out there" Gabrielle was exasperated.
"I only carried on because I have heard about the inns and taverns of Vastarius. The finest food anywhere in the known world they say"
The barman shrugged his shoulders and took a long swallow of wine "just what I need, another chatty customer" he muttered under his breath.
"I had my heart set on three things" Gabrielle continued,
"a sumptuous meal, a cooling bath and a soft comfortable bed, you know the kind with clean, crisp cool sheets"
The barman leaned forward and grinned, he only partly registered the tall, leather clad woman who had put her head around the front door.
"Now we cannot get into Vastarius, and you have nothing here either?" there was a definite frustration in Gabrielle's voice.
"I've still got plenty of ale, bread and cheese. You can bathe in the horse trough outside" said the man.
"Maybe you should try it first" retorted the blonde bard, reeling from his foul odour.
"You know you are quite a cute little thing, blondie. You could pop upstairs to my bed, I won't keep you waiting long"
As he was speaking, the man noticed the tall, black haired woman coming looming into his view.
"Is there a problem?" she asked in controlled tones.
Gabrielle gave Xena's arm the faintest of touches, it was her way of saying 'keep calm, I can handle this one'
"Are you and blondie travelling together?" asked the barman "I hope so, it will save me having to explain everything again"
Xena gave him a smile that was both sweet and menacing
"May I suggest that you pour us both some ale, do explain things again and stop calling my friend blondie, OK?"
Dealing with the little girl had been fun, this other one looked a whole lot meaner. Not that he was frightened by her, but he could no longer be bothered with the hassle. The barman poured the drinks and retold his story.
"This is not an inn, all I do is food and drink, I don't have spare rooms. I usually get my food supplies from Vastarius, but a couple of days back they closed the city gates, so I can't get in. They are being guarded by General Varzag, so there is no point even trying to get in"
"Varzag? I know that name" the warrior interrupted.
"Of course you do. Who hasn't?" said the barman, "he is only the most feared soldier this side of Athens"
Gabrielle looked puzzled, the name meant nothing to her. She was just about to speak when Xena gave her a sly wink.
"I have heard he is so scary, much worse than that Xena woman" said the warrior in fake awed tones.
"I'll say!" the barman scoffed. "Xena! Huh! They call her the warrior princess or something. Varzag told us she was just a whore who had slept with half of his army!"
Gabrielle looked both astonished and outraged. Xena spluttered heavily on her drink, yet amazingly the bard was sure that her friend was laughing.
"This is very strong ale" said the woman with the piercing blue eyes, trying to cover up her coughing fit, "and being a mere woman I'm not used to strong drink" she added with a further wink to Gabrielle.
"Yes, the tales I've heard of that warrior woman and her man hungry ways" the barkeeper chuckled as he poured another large measure for himself but none for his two female guests.
Suddenly Gabrielle grabbed her fighting staff and with one swift motion smashed the beaker out of the barman's hand.
"I'll tell you about Xena:Warrior Princess" the bard yelled at the startled man "she is kind, beautiful and I love her!"
The young woman stopped, shocked by her own words.
She turned and began to leave the tavern. At the door she turned back to face the bar, but could not look at the warrior herself.
"Don't you EVER bad-mouth her again!" and with that final warning, she left.
Xena was a touch confused. She wanted to run right after her friend, but she also needed time to think. "I love her" there had been no mistake, that was what Gabrielle had said. But was it love as in "I'm in love with her"? or just "I love her" like "I love solstice" or "I love nutbread"?
There had certainly been passion in her voice. Xena felt her heart swell as she replayed those words in her mind.
Gabrielle, the sweetest, most beautiful person alive had said she loved her! Could it be, or was it too good to be true?
'you don't deserve her friendship, let alone her love'
the warrior thought to herself bleakly.
"What in Hades name was that all about?"
Xena looked up, she had all but forgotten about the barman, who had found himself another beaker to drink from.
"I know something about Xena too" said the black haired beauty, "she hates it went people aren't nice to her best friend"
and the warrior flashed out a hand and with two fingers twisted his nose until there was a crack of bone.
The man yelped in agony.
"Be nice" said the warrior before leaving the tavern.
Gabrielle was waiting outside, talking gently to Argo.
'That horse knows both our secrets' thought the warrior who had also used her trusty mare as a confidante.
"So, do you still want to go to Vastarius?" asked Xena
Gabrielle smiled an uncertain smile "You heard what that man just said, the city gates are closed"
The leather clad woman looked at her smaller friend, still wondering about those previous words. "I think we should go, it is not too far, and we have already travelled quite a distance"
"I expect you will be wanting to talk to that General Varzag"
"No doubt we shall have a little chat" smiled Xena "but I think we should go there just to get you fed, you looked pretty dangerous in there!"
They walked slowly in the still hot sunshine, the warrior noticed that her companion was unusually quiet, almost subdued. For her part, Xena wanted to talk more than ever, but finding the right words was not her strong suit. Finally, the bard broke the silence.
"You didn't seem too upset about what that man, or rather Varzag had said about you"
Xena smiled, tried to choose her words carefully.
"I've heard so many such lies, they just don't get to me anymore. Stories about my past sex-life tend to be greatly exaggerated" the warrior paused to smile at her friend.
"Varzag was in my army, but I never slept with him, in fact I only bedded about forty of them, not a half"
The blonde woman looked askance.
"That was a joke Gabrielle!" laughed Xena.
"It is none of my business anyway" said the bard, though she sounded forlorn, she had heard other tales too, and they always bothered her, though she had no claim on Xena's past.
The warrior studied a sweet face, haunting green eyes.
'Everything about me is your business, my lovely bard' she thought, yet she struggled to give voice to these feelings.
"The story is this simple, honestly" said Xena "Varzag was a soldier in my army, a good soldier who fought well and had a rapport with the other men. Discipline can be difficult to maintain sometimes, so because he was good at it I made him a General. Unfortunately, he seemed to take this as signal of some sort.
One night he came to me, looking for you know what. I turned him down. But somehow he still thought that my promoting him meant I favoured him, he kept pursuing me. I refused him each time.
Later on I learned that he had been telling his men that we were indeed lovers. Furthermore, he was boasting that he was in charge of the whole army, not I."
The warrior paused, she was not used to making such long speeches without the bard's interruption.
"The trouble is that some men resent being subordinate to women. I think the soldiers in his unit found it easier to accept his version of events, and I think Varzag had told these lies so many times, he had convinced himself they were true"
"So what happened" Gabrielle finally broke her silence.
"One night four of the men from Varzag's unit visited my tent, they had been drinking, but were not drunk. By the way, I was alone Gabrielle" the warrior added with a grin.
"They said that Varzag had told them that I was in the mood for a 'party' and that I had requested their company to reward their good work. I quickly put them right, but a couple of them pushed their luck and I killed them. Varzag himself had apparently fled the camp much earlier. I could have hunted him down, but I had battles to fight, and besides, I really didn't think he was worth the effort"
"And you have never seen him since?" it was a rhetorical question.
"And now he seems to have some sort of reputation" mused Xena, "though more likely he is just still good at telling stories"
"Certainly Vastarius is not renowned for being a hotbed of warriors, I guess any half decent fighter could be impressive there" Gabrielle decided.
"What will you do now? Kill Him?" she then asked.
"We shall play things by ear, Gabrielle. If he annoys me again, I think I will just set you loose on him!"
Xena was pleased to see her friend smile at that last remark.
She was always pleased to see Gabrielle smile.
Remembering those long ago days, the warrior realised that entering a place such as Vastarius back then would have not given her a second thought. When you commanded the deadliest army ever known, gaining access to guarded cities
was merely an irritant.
Today, she wanted to get in, not to plunder, but to make sure that Gabrielle got the sumptuous feast she so wanted. Neither did she wish to kill anyone in the process. Varzag could say what he wished about Xena, she could care less. However, one bad word about Gabrielle and he will be begging for death
As the city walls loomed into view, Xena had one final thought.
Even if her entire army had been with her right now, she would not have felt more protected than she did with this one amazing, beautiful woman by her side.
As they approached the city gates, Gabrielle felt a mixture of emotions. That horrible story about her warrior had really upset her, it had also caused her to finally utter aloud what she had felt for as long as she could remember. She loved Xena with all her heart. She was glad she had said it, yet Xena had seemed almost unaffected by her declaration. 'thank the gods it hadn't driven her away' Gabrielle thought. Yet, if only the warrior had given her some sign that she even felt a little of the same in return.
'that's not fair' the bard chided herself, Xena had often showed that she cared. 'but does she love me the way I love her?'
Gabrielle paused in her mind, then concluded to herself.
'No.' It would be impossible for anyone to love someone as much as she loved Xena.
There were a total of eight soldiers at the city gates, but Varzag was obvious even to Gabrielle. He wore an extravagant uniform of black armour, multi-coloured tunic and plumed head-dress.
"Stay back just a little" Xena said to her companion as she approached the general.
Varzag pulled himself up to his full height as Xena moved toward him, she detected he looked a little afraid, but not too much. He signalled to the rest of his men to hold their positions, then he drew his sword. Xena did not draw hers.
"Xena! You are looking well" said Varzag as if they were old friends. The warrior's eyes twinkled, she smiled.
"You look .. Flamboyant" she replied flatly.
"Entry into the city is by permit only" the general said, more loudly than he had intended, his tone was not as authoritative as it usually was. Xena smiled and fixed him with an icy stare.
She said nothing.
"Listen Xena, I have a single pass left, you can have it, for old times sake" Varzag had leant closer, was whispering in conspiratorial tones.
"There are three of us including Argo" Xena said sweetly.
Varzag glanced back to check that his men were alert.
"One permit, Xena. You and the horse are fine, there is no way in Hades that I can let the girl in too. Or she goes and you don't, it is your choice." He had restored some authority to his voice.
Xena sighed, she turned as if she were about to walk away, then she wheeled around quickly "Don't make me lose my patience with you, tell your men to open the gates!" she had kept her voice deliberately low, but it did not lack menace.
"For Zeus Sake! Xena! I have orders. You of all people should know that soldiers obey orders"
He looked at her imploringly.
Then he adopted his 'I'm doing you a favour' mode.
"Ditch the girl here, servants are ten a dinar in Vastarius. Good ones too, not scrawny little kids like that"
The warrior princess felt like she would explode. She was going for her sword, and in her mind she had killed every last one of them. Then she heard Gabrielle's voice.
"Xena, is everything OK?"
The warrior was all too aware how Gabrielle disliked violence and killing, if it could possibly be avoided. Cutting off eight heads would be hard to explain, given that they hadn't actually been threatened.
"Gabrielle, would you come here a moment? Bring Argo" the warrior asked quietly. The bard walked up and stood next to her tall companion. Xena cupped Gabrielle's face in her hands, leaned down and kissed the bard gently on the lips. She then turned to again face Varzag, her face one of ill-concealed rage, her voice was measured. It had the timbre of death.
"This is Gabrielle. She does not need permission from you, or anyone else for that matter, to enter Vastarius." The warrior paused only to put her arm around the shoulder of a somewhat bemused bard.
"In fact she does not need permission from anyone to travel anywhere on the face of this earth. If Gabrielle wishes to go somewhere, Gabrielle goes there." She then switched her gaze from the terrified eyes of Varzag to the other guards.
"Now does anyone not understand that, or do I have to explain it again?" As she spoke the last words, Xena withdrew her sword.
The general was visibly shaking. He had never heard or seen Xena as menacing, and he had seen her in battle many times.
The other soldiers too were fidgeting, looking very uncomfortable. "Varzag?!" Xena growled again.
"What are you waiting for? Open the gates for Zeus sake!"
the general shrieked at his men.
"Are you going to apologise to Gabrielle for keeping her waiting?" asked the still fierce looking warrior.
Varzag could barely speak, he spluttered something.
Gabrielle slipped an arm around Xena's waist and gave a squeeze. "I think the general owes you an apology for spreading malicious lies" said the bard.
"I swear Xena!" he stumbled "I, I I never "
But Xena just laughed.
Arm in arm, with Argo trotting behind, the warrior and the bard passed through the city gates.
"Hey! Do you realise what you said back there" asked Gabrielle once they were safely inside the city.
Xena smiled down at her friend.
"Yes. In my own clumsy way, I said I love you"
"It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard" said
the bard, who threw her arms around Xena's neck and kissed her. "I love you too. With all my heart, all my soul"
Both women were smiling uncontrollably as they walked down the main street.
"Back at that grotty tavern, I overheard you say that you wanted three things. A fantastic meal, a bath and a soft comfortable bed" said the still grinning warrior.
"Yes?" Gabrielle replied.
"Would you mind if I shared? All three?"
"Xena my love. I absolutely insist upon it!"