(Written: April 1997)

by Enginerd


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Index

Author's Notes & Disclaimers:

This Xena: Warrior Princess story takes place immediately after On Uncertain Ground. While not absolutely necessary, it is recommended that this story be read before "The Gift of Gab."

Content: While not sexually explicit, the story involves mature themes and a romantic relationship between two woman. This story also depicts violent acts.

This story exemplifies how the author is unable to write a short story. Unless you have taught yourself to read very quickly or you are related to Evelyn Wood, be prepared for a long haul. Avoid operation of heavy equipment if you read this story in one sitting. For those who are impatient, the story may really bother you.

This story is dedicated to my fellow recreational writers who are possessed by an urge to touch others through their words and endure the constant struggle to find the right wons.


Xena quickly left camp to intercept the intruder, wondering who was foolish enough to approach them this late at night, and more importantly ... interrupt them. "Damn it." Xena muttered under her breath, feeling for her chakrum only to find an empty thong. At least she had enough wits about her to remember her sword, an irritated Warrior Princess considered.

No longer on uncertain ground, the two best friends finally embraced the feelings they had for each other. Xena could not believe that after such darkness in her life, she would be able to experience so much joy. How wonderful it was to finally show Gabrielle how much she loved her, well...almost show her, the Warrior Princess sighed heavily.

Her eyes narrowed hearing yet another sound from the ill-timed interruption.

Quickly moving through the forest to flank the noisy intruder, Xena's thoughts lingered back at the camp with Gabrielle. She could not believe the incredible depth of Gabrielle's love for her. A smile slowly crossed Xena's face as she recalled the most recent evidence of that love...the tender words, the gentle touch.... the incredible passion in her kisses.

"Focus, you idiot." Xena scolded herself, hearing the surprising sound of a second intruder. Waiting motionless, Xena monitored the progress of the two intruders by their not so subtle noises.

As the second intruder came closer, Xena's body tensed, ready for a battle. Finally appearing, the second intruder surprised Xena again. "I thought I told you I'd take care of it." Xena sighed as a disheveled bard came along side her.

"I know what you said," Gabrielle responded, trying to tie her top's laces with her staff awkwardly wedged under her arm. "But you were taking entirely too long," The bard complained, still fumbling with the laces. The staff slipped. As she grabbed for it, she knocked herself in the head. "Ow..." The bard muffled her moan and rubbed her head.

"You ok?" Xena asked, wisely wiping the grin from her face before the bard's eyes caught it.

"Just wonderful," Gabrielle muttered, placing her staff back under her arm and continued her struggle with the laces

"Let me help." Xena offered with a slight grin, reaching out for laces that moments ago, the warrior had no difficulty untying.

"Thanks." Gabrielle responded, placing her staff in the surprised warrior's hand. "There." Gabrielle exhaled with quiet triumph over the stubborn top. With a slight sigh of disappointment, Xena returned the staff to the now-laced bard. Back to the business at hand, Xena's attention refocused on the intruder.

The Warrior Princess seemed amazingly calm to the bard. Almost too calm.

"You act as if you expected this," Gabrielle whispered, also noting the warrior fully dressed and ready for battle. "...and how did you get your armor back on so quickly?" Gabrielle quietly interrogated her partner who tried, with great difficulty, to keep her attention on the intruder's movement.

Gabrielle looked at her feet, one bare and one booted. "You don't happen to know where my other..." Xena gently put her fingers on the bard's lips and pointed towards the shadowy figure, now very close.

The shadowy figure tripped and fell down with a familiar metallic thud. The two women looked at each other. "Joxer" They sighed in unison.

"You know Xena...I won't hold it against you if your chakrum just happens to slip out of your hand," Gabrielle offered, eyeing the intruder as he quickly picked himself up and looked around to see if anyone saw him.

"Gabrielle," Xena sighed and shook her head, hiding her amusement. "Ok, chakrum...hey...where IS your chakrum?" Gabrielle noticed and touched the empty thong.

Probably next to your boot, Xena thought to herself. "Hard to get a good shot with all these trees." Xena explained to the interested bard. "For close-in confrontations, a sword is a better weapon." Xena lectured, further amusing the bard.

Before Gabrielle could respond, Joxer called out to them. "Xena? ... Xena? ...Gabrielle?" He scratched his head wondering why both of them were away from camp this late at night.

The two sighed again as they looked back at Joxer. "OK...Did you know sword accidents are very common? People trip and fall on swords all the time," Gabrielle casually informed the warrior.

"Are you trying to tell me something Gabrielle?" Xena asked innocently.

"Well you did say YOU would take care of it didn't you?" Gabrielle turned to her partner with a raised eyebrow, causing the warrior to smile and laugh softly.

"Well?" Gabrielle quickly added as she crossed her arms and impatiently tapped her bare foot. "Gabrielle," Xena responded, tenderly caressing her cheek, making the bard's irritation evaporate. "Patience..." Xena whispered, leaning towards the bard for a kiss.

With her flame of desire just extinguished by that incredibly cold bucket of wisdom, Gabrielle's eyes narrowed. "All right." Gabrielle responded with a polite smile as she stepped back from the Warrior Princess, avoiding the kiss. "I can be patient." Gabrielle slowly added.

"Gabrielle....I didn't mean...I....Gab..." Xena called to her partner, who ignored her as she briskly turned and headed back to camp. Watching the one-booted bard hobble away, the warrior made a mental note that not all of her wonderfully sage advice should be shared with the bard.

"Ugh" Xena groaned, wondering just how patient the stubborn bard intended to be.

Returning to camp, Gabrielle's eyes furrowed at the intruder who was inspecting her misplaced boot. "Joxer!" Gabrielle called out with a forced smile.

"Gabrielle!" He responded happily but coughed and took on a more dramatic tone to deliver his news. "I have news for Xena, where is she?" He looked around the camp, then down curiously at the bard's bare foot.

"Out there." Gabrielle sighed, pointing over her shoulder to the forest. "Being PATIENT." Gabrielle snapped, taking the boot from his hands and plopping down on her bedroll. Lying back with her head on her arm, Gabrielle let out a long sigh.

"Joxer..." Xena nodded to him, noting Gabrielle ignore her return. "You said you had news?" The warrior questioned the intruder, disclosing mild interest.

"You bet Xena, your friend Texius needs your...uh ...OUR help." He grinned widely, excited there was to be another adventure for him with the Warrior Princess.

'So somebody needs her help, what ELSE is new?' Gabrielle thought. 'Will THEY get told to be patient? Oh no... just the bard,' Gabrielle sighed heavily.

"Why?" Xena asked, ignoring Joxer's "our" comment and Gabrielle's belabored sigh. "He wouldn't tell me...just that it was important to his people. He said he would tell you everything once you got there." Joxer shrugged.

"There where?" Gabrielle asked, still staring at the stars. As if it really mattered, she sighed.

"Someplace you will appreciate Gabrielle." Xena spoke enticingly, eyeing her. Rolling on her side, Gabrielle propped her head up on her hand and finally looked at Xena.

"Oh?" Gabrielle responded casually.

Xena grinned slightly, waiting for the ever-curious bard to ask again before explaining. Gabrielle, however, had no intentions of complying. Although dying to ask, she just looked at the Warrior Princess and demonstrated...patience. The Warrior Princess considered the bard's curiosity would ultimately overwhelm her, so Xena waited....patiently.

"Well, I thought the Verbinians were just a myth until I actually met them." Joxer offered, drawing a sharp look from Xena, who carefully weighed the pros and cons of the chakrum and sword accidents.

"Verbinia! We are going to Verbinia?" Gabrielle bolted up with a huge smile on her face, all evidence of her annoyance evaporated. A response that pleased and, though she wouldn't admit it, relieved Xena. "Unless Texius moved..." Xena looked at Joxer.

" know it's weird that not too many people get a chance to see their city." He shrugged. "They seem nice enough. Makes you wonder why the walls and secrecy." Joxer added as he plopped down his bedroll between the two women. They stared at him for a moment as he made himself comfortable.

"So what is Verbinia like?" Gabrielle asked her partner, exaggerating the need to look around an unaware Joxer. Xena smiled, considering perhaps her comment about patience was water under the bridge.

"Don't know. I wasn't allowed in," Xena replied, sitting down on her bedroll. She eyed the distance between bedrolls and sighed. A sigh not lost on the bard.

"Well...I've seen it and once you've seen one Greek town, you've seen them all  ...I don't know what all the fuss is about." Joxer lied back on his bedroll, shifting around a number of times to get into the most comfortable sleeping position.

"But to be around a people with such a RICH literary history, to be around such great story tellers!" Gabrielle responded with infectious enthusiasm. "It is said that the Verbinians are gifted with the ability to tell their tales at a very early age, some say they are gifted from BIRTH. Imagine!"

"I'm not sure I'd like to hear a story from a newborn." Xena grimaced.

"Me neither." Joxer interjected.

Ignoring the two, Gabrielle continued with her unabashed appreciation of these mysterious people. "A elderly Verbinian poet, Loquus, came to the Athens Academy causing quiet a stir in the bard community. His poetry was SO incredible." Gabrielle beamed.

Xena enjoyed watching the bard, especially when such enthusiasm radiated from the young woman. Of course, Xena noted as she eyed the intruder, watching was the only pleasure she would be able to enjoy this evening. Patience, oh wise warrior, patience, Xena sighed heavily, starting to remove her boots for a second time that evening.

"What's wrong?" Xena asked softly, noticing the bard's smile fade.

"For a man so proud of his people, I would have expected him to want to talk a bit more about them. He always seemed to be alone in the library, writing." She relayed.

"The Verbinians are a secretive people." Xena responded from experience. Gabrielle nodded.

"Tell me about it! I kept asking Texius what was wrong and got no where fast," Joxer relayed.

"Wait a minute, why would Joxer be allowed in their city but not you?" Gabrielle questioned her partner.

"Yeah." Joxer interjected.

Xena stopped unlacing her boots and looked Gabrielle directly in the eyes. "I was with my army. They made the right decision to keep us out." Xena said bluntly.

"But how could they stop you? Especially with how strong your army was." Gabrielle questioned, always wanting to understand.

"Yeah" Joxer interjected, wanting to participate in the conversation.

"Their army was formidable and they had the benefit of a strong defensive position. It wasn't worth the risk." Xena relayed matter-of-factly, staring into Gabrielle's eyes, wondering what she would ever do if those beautiful eyes, that had always shown her love and understanding, ever turned away in fear or disgust.

The bard shook her head, confused. "Hmm...all the stories I've heard about the Verbinians were about their stories and literary gifts... I've never heard of a Verbinian army...seems ....odd." Gabrielle shrugged. "Do you think that could be the problem now? Someone challenging their army?" Gabrielle asked her partner.

"Don't know. I guess."

"Hmm!" Joxer interjected thoughtfully, wanting to participate in the conversation.

Gabrielle looked at Joxer and sighed, not exactly happy about the evening's interruption. Nor was she happy about this mysterious Verbinian problem which threatened to prolong the interruption, not that the Warrior Princess seemed too concerned, the bard noted with irritation.

"Well, rather than letting my imagination run wild and guessing the worst about your friend, I guess I should be... PATIENT... because we'll find out once we get there." Gabrielle informed her partner with a thin smile, as she pulled her blanket up over her and laid down.

Well, so much for water under the bridge, Xena sighed, removing her boots. The bard was not going to let this drop, Xena correctly concluded. Wondering what it would take to get Gabrielle to forgive her, a slight grin formed as she thought of ways they both would enjoy. There may be a silver lining in this after all, Xena considered.

"Good night you guys." Joxer said happily. "Good night Joxer." The women sighed in unison.


"How do you feel?" A young man asked his brother, touching his forehead and temple gently. "Gods, I feel...REBORN! I want to sing the songs of Verbinia from the highest mountain!" The soldier announced enthusiastically. "I had no idea it would be so wonderful!" He beamed. The young man smiled, relieved there were no adverse side affects.

"Look" The soldier pointed to the evening mist over the pond. "In the still of the night, a heavenly cloud steals a gentle kiss from the slumbering pond." The soldier smiles at the sight. "I see things...differently...Like I have been stumbling my way through a dreary cave and finally a torch has been lite, revealing the wondrous beauty of the path I've been traveling." He laughed when his brother raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Well, at least I can express my wonder more articulately." He added with a grin.

"Brother, you know you mustn't let anyone know of this yet." The younger brother cautioned, attempting to temper his enthusiasm. "I know. I know." The older brother sighed sadly. "But you don't know what it was like to live without it all your life, and to finally get one so truly great." The older brother explained with great emotion, tears forming in his eyes.

"No....I don't. But I do know what it is like to want something better...for all of us." The younger brother responded. "I hope you can restrain yourself from singing brother, we are not finished yet." The younger brother added.

"I owe you brother. You have my help." The soldier promised.

Xena spent most of the night lying back with her head resting on her arm, listening. Between Joxer's snoring, interrupted by occasional mumblings of grandeur, and the bard's heavy sighs as she tossed and turned, the warrior found little sleep.

"You're up." Xena stated softly, hearing the bard stir more as the first rays of morning light peered over the mountain.

"Unhun." Gabrielle mumbled affirmatively, rubbing her eyes. "Sleep well?" Xena asked, already knowing the answer.

"UnUn." Gabrielle mumbled negatively, slowly stretching her stiff body, unknowingly mesmerizing the Warrior Princess. "You?" The bard asked with a yawn, snapping Xena's attention back to the conversation.

"NO." Xena responded gruffly, making the bard giggle and in turn, the warrior chuckle.

Gabrielle rolled over on her side, eyeing Joxer. "You know, I've heard of people accidentally suffocating while they sleep," Gabrielle noted with great seriousness.

"Gabrielle!" The warrior tried to feign annoyance but couldn't keep a straight face. The two chuckled again, making sleeping beauty stir, but not wake.

"He looks so...." Gabrielle sat up and looked at Joxer thoughtfully. "Annoying?" Xena guessed the first word that popped into her head.

"No...ok...yes...annoying does describe him, ESPECIALLY his snoring." Gabrielle agreed. "But he LOOKS so..." Gabrielle responded, still thinking.

"Peaceful?" Xena got up to get a closer look at Joxer. "Well yes, but that wasn't exactly the word I was looking for," Gabrielle responded thoughtfully then grinned, thinking of the word. "Vulnerable! Veeeery vulnerable." Gabrielle spoke with a sinister tone while eyeing him.

"Gabrielle, I'm not going to kill him. Not even for you." Xena responded matter-of-factly.

Gabrielle sighed with disappointment as she got up from her bedroll. "I know...I know...not enough of a challenge for you..." The bard eyed the sleeping form at their feet, then her warrior. "But a girl can dream, can't she?" Gabrielle shrugged.

"I know I do." Xena slipped her arm around the bard and pulled her close. "Good morning Gabrielle." Xena greeted the bard, looking deeply into her eyes.

"Good morning Xena." The bard responded softly, almost forgetting how annoyed she was with the warrior. As Xena slowly leaned closer to the bard, she noticed the bard not stepping back. Finally forgiven, Xena happily concluded with a smile.

A loud yawn interrupted their attempt at a morning kiss, drawing their attention towards sleeping beauty. Xena reluctantly broke from their warm embrace, but the thought of Joxer observing an intimate moment between them was even more distasteful.

Finally aware of someone watching him, Joxer bolted up from his prone position and looked around until he focused on the two familiar faces.

"Oh! Good morning you guys" Joxer responded, surprised to see the two standing at the foot of his bedroll.

"Good morning Joxer." The two responded flatly. Gabrielle shook her head and returned to her bedroll to pack up.

"You guys were waiting for me? You should have woken me up. Warriors don't need much sleep. In fact, I could have stayed up to guard the camp...I..." Joxer found himself talking to the air. Xena had also returned to her bedroll to pack up. "Could have woken me up...." Joxer muttered to himself.

A robed man stood nervously before the Verbinian Counsel of Elders. This very rare audience with the Counsel was granted due to his position as lead Attendant. A position, he wondered if he would still have after all of this.

Respecting protocol, he waited for the Counsel of Elders to formally address him before he spoke. Texius found himself scanning the long, semi-circular table with nine chairs, one of which was now vacant. A sight that painfully reminded him of their people's desperate need for help.

Actions taken involving Outsiders were not allowed without the Counsel's consent. Despite that knowledge, Texius still sent word requesting the Warrior Princess to come to Verbinia for help. He wondered if they would actually listen to him plead his case, or just make an example out of him.

"Texius, you have gone TOO far this time!" One Elder snapped at the man, finally breaking the silence. "Verbis, we are a DYING people! We need help." Texius responded emphatically, looking at the empty chair.

"You know we do not involve Outsiders in our problems, our worries." Thesaurus, the First Elder, spoke with fatherly warmth, a stark contrast to Verbis. "They do not understand our ways, our can they possibly help, assist?" Thesaurus added, holding his hand up to prevent an annoyed Verbis from interrupting.

"If lack of knowledge of our ways is a problem, then we should explain our ways." Texius spoke confidently. The bold suggestion caused a great murmur from the other counsel members. "NO!" Verbis strongly objected.

"Thesaurus, we can not allow that WOMAN in here. She's a murderer!" Verbis argued, remembering as if it was yesterday when her army camped outside their walls.

"We already have one murderer to deal with Thesaurus, we should not invite more trouble." The Third Elder, Loquus, agreed with Verbis.

"I have asked for her help only because I am unwilling to let our people loose our Gifts. We have already lost one Attendant and an Elder! An ELDER! If we don't get help, who will be next?" Texius looked each of the Counsel members in the eye, making many of them shift uncomfortably.

"Our past is in jeopardy Thesaurus....we suffer every loss, even Attendants and their modest Gifts. Xena is my friend and she WILL help us." Texius looked at the unconvinced faces of the elders.

"I stake my life on it." Texius added, making Thesaurus sigh.

"We will put it to a vote, decide by ballot." Thesaurus waived his hand for Texius to leave. Texius bowed and left, uncertain he had been convincing enough. For the first time, he was envious of those blessed with a superior Gift.



As they entered the town of Sensuria, Gabrielle and Xena walked numbly side by side. They stared at Joxer who continued his enthusiastic lecture on the Sensurian tourist sites they just shouldn't miss. Joxer pointed to the blacksmith's shop. "The blacksmith is really good Xena, he'll have Argo's shoes fixed up in no time." Joxer said happily.

"Why don't you show Gabrielle the sights while I tend to Argo." Xena offered. It seemed like a good idea, until she saw the look on Gabrielle's face. Gabrielle's cold glare at a certain, helpful Warrior Princess, was interrupted by her tour guide.

"Sure thing Xena! Come on Gabrielle!!" Joxer bubbled as he pulled Gabrielle's arm and the bard attached to it, towards the shops. "You'll like the shops Gabby, the best craftsmen and artists from all over display there goods here. OH, and they have the BEST taverns here too!" Joxer informed her with a huge smile.

"JOXER, you've told me this already!" Gabrielle stopped in her tracks. "In fact, you've told us EVERYTHING about this place.....MANY times!" Gabrielle blurted, yanking her arm from his hand. Turning to have a word with the Princess of Help, she found the woman and her horse gone. "How does she DO that?" Gabrielle muttered with annoyed amazement.

"Sorry Gabby...uh Gabrielle. I just wanted to show you this place, since you've never been here and all...uh I guess I..." Joxer stumbled over his words, making the bard feel bad.

"Joxer, I'm sorry too. I have been... preoccupied lately. Sorry for being so short with you." Gabrielle smiled weakly, feeling trapped.

"No problem! Let's start with..."

"Joxer?" Gabrielle held her hand up to stop his tidal wave of enthusiasm. "Why don't you go on ahead, I need to tell Xena something." She added.

"Tell her what?"

'She's a dead woman', Gabrielle considered would be a good start. "Uh, I just wanted to see if she needed anything... at the stores." Gabrielle considered that close enough to the truth. "No use in both of us going. You go...enjoy the sights, I'll catch up." She smiled, patting his arm.

"Oh, ok Gabby." He responded with a shrug. "Don't take too long...there is this really neat glass blower..." He noted, instinctively launched into another lecture on Sensuria as he looked towards a favorite tourist spot. Turning back to see if Gabrielle found this as interesting as he did, he found her already gone.

On her way to the blacksmith's, Gabrielle slowed to a stop, watching a man in a familiar looking robe enter a store with a young child in hand. Two soldiers traveling with them waited outside.

"Verbinians." An old woman offered flatly, confirming the staring bard's suspicions. "Do they travel here often?" Gabrielle asked, not sure from the woman's tone how she felt about them.

"Not often." The old woman responded, arranging the fruit on her cart. "They don't like to leave Verbinia unless they have to. Many Sensurians don't like them, weird customs...too secretive." The woman shook her head, watching the soldiers use hand signals. A sight that fascinated the bard.

"But if they bring us business..." The woman shrugged. " the whole lot of them are welcome as far as I'm concerned." She eyed her potential customer. "Apple? Best you'll ever taste." She held a beautiful red apple up to entice the bard.

"Oh, no thank you." Gabrielle declined, focused on the soldiers as they used hand signals. Xena mentioned that hand signals allowed warriors the ability to communicate without giving away their position. These Verbinians, however, were using hand signals in public, she noted curiously. "Do you know what they are saying to each other?" The bard asked.

"No. Though I wish I could. I might be able to sell them an APPLE." The woman responded. The bard was still watching the soldiers. The woman sighed.

"I heard the young one was sick and needed a healer." The woman finally got the bard's undivided attention. "Of course, in Sensuria, we have the best here. Best healers, best APPLES," She added, holding up an apple, eyeing it then her tough customer.

Gabrielle grinned at the woman's tenacity and bought an apple. She wasn't disappointed. "Mmmm" Gabrielle relayed appreciatively, biting into the best tasting apple she ever had.

"Told you." The woman responded. Gabrielle smiled warmly, wiping the juice from the side of her chin.

"Why don't the Verbinian's have their own healers?" Gabrielle asked.

"Don't know. I've only seen Soldiers and Attendants. I've heard about the Elders. None of them are healers. Guess they realize Sensuria has the best healers....did I mention we also have the best APPLES?" The woman added with a smile.

Gabrielle looked at her and chuckled. "You ARE good." Gabrielle grinned as she bought another apple. Not a bad bargain, she considered. For one price, she not only got a delicious apple but interesting information.

"The best." The old woman stated with pride.

"I heard the Verbinian children are gifted with the ability to tell stories from birth," Gabrielle relayed.

"Well, I don't know about that. I heard that child is mute. Can't speak or understand a single word. Most kids you can't get to stop talking at that age. Such a shame. Maybe that's why they needed a healer." The woman guessed. Gabrielle pondered the intriguing information. "Of course, they are in the best place for healers...and APPLES." The old woman grinned.

Enjoying the sights of Sensuria, Joxer failed to see a well-dressed portly man, who was frankly, not easy to miss. Due to the man's enormous size, Joxer merely bounced off him.

"Hey! You ...You....YOU!" Joxer called up from the ground, tongue-tied with annoyance. The large man looked down at the skinny, oddly clothed soldier in the dirt and shook his head.

"Verbinian idiot" The portly man sighed, shaking his head as he walked away.

Joxer jumped to his feet. "Yeah...wise choice my friend." Joxer called out to the portly man. "And I just washed!" He whined, brushing the dirt off himself.

"OK?" A young soldier asked Joxer with concern, having heard the insult. "Oh him? No problem there. He knew not to mess with me... too intimidated by my warrior bearing." Joxer saw the soldier look at him oddly.

"Joxer's the name." He held out his hand to the soldier, who smiled and happily shook it.

"Joxer." The soldier said slowly, repeating his name a few times.

"Yeah buddy, don't wear it out." Joxer responded with a little concern at this man's fixation with his name. The soldier looked at him and smiled.

"JOXER!" The Verbinian soldier called out happily. "My name... is... Basullus." The man said slowly. "Call me Bass. Easier." Bass added with a smile. Joxer returned the smile, concluding the poor young soldier was a few slices short of a full loaf.

"Well Bass, thanks for your concern...Believe me, I can take care of myself...don't you worry about me! Are you a Verbinian? Your armor looks Verbinian. I don't recall seeing you there the last time I was there. Have you been visiting Sensuria long? They've got the best Tavern food don't you think?" Joxer rambled on, delighted to find a new friend, even one who's eyes glazed over as he rambled.

Finished chatting with the old woman, Gabrielle finally made it to the stables, armed with a large bag of apples. She spotted the blacksmith nervously watching Xena as the Warrior Princess thoroughly and slowly inspected Argo's new shoes. Apparently satisfied with his work, though not obvious from her expression, Xena silently paid the blacksmith.

"Uh, I hope you'll consider me the next time your in the area and need a black...smith." He smiled weakly as the still silent Warrior Princess raised an eyebrow and dropped the last coin in his hand.

"Well, I'll be going now." The blacksmith nervously informed her and quickly left. Waiting until he was out of sight, Xena turned toward her beloved horse. "There there" She patted the horse's neck lovingly. "Happy now? Do you like your new shoes?" She asked, causing the amused bard to grin.

"Don't look at me like that." Xena told the bard in the shadows.

"Like what?" Gabrielle asked, approaching the warrior and her horse.

"Like I'm being over protective." Xena responded coolly, placing Argo's saddle back on. "There you go girl." Xena spoke warmly to the horse.

"You ARE." Gabrielle answered, scratching Argo's neck. "But I think it is sweet." Gabrielle added quickly with a warm smile.

"Sweet huh?" Xena responded, tightening up the saddle.

"Yes, VERY." Gabrielle answered, gazing appreciatively at this beautiful, caring, strong, amazing woman, wondering how she could ever get annoyed with her.

"Try to remember that the next time you think I'm being over protective of you." Xena noted dryly. "What's with all the apples? How much did you spend? How much do we have LEFT!?" Xena asked with concern, eyeing the large bag. Gabrielle sighed, knowing EXACTLY how she could get so annoyed with this woman.

Argo neighed and nudged the bard, who handed over an apple. At least someone appreciated her purchase, she considered.

"We still have about 6 dinars. Why?" Gabrielle asked, slightly defensive in her tone.

"Well, Sensuria IS supposed to have some of the best food and Inns in the area. How does a good meal and a comfortable room sound to you?" Xena asked with a twinkle in her eye, stepping closer to the bard.

"Sounds WONDERFUL." Gabrielle responded with a large smile that quickly faded. "But do you think 6 dinars will get two rooms?" Gabrielle asked.

"Two?!?" Xena responded with confusion. "Oh...yeah." Xena exhaled.

"And we can't let him eat alone...." Gabrielle sighed as she hugged the warrior with her free arm. "No, I guess we shouldn't." Xena responded, resting her chin on top of the bard's head.

"Unless..." Gabrielle offered. "Unless what?" Xena asked looking into the bard's serious face. The bard placed the bag down and picked out a single apple, which she carefully inspected.

"Did you know a number of people have died in apple choking accidents over the last year?" Gabrielle responded with a serious face.

"Gab..." Xena's attempt to scold the blood thirsty bard was interrupted by a kiss to the warrior's neck. "ahhh...uh...Gabrielle?" Xena responded, quickly looking around for intruders.

"Xena, we should make the most of the privacy we get. And right now, its just you ...and me." The bard responded with a sly smile. Argo snorted. "Oh...Sorry." Gabrielle apologized. "And Argo." She added. "You don't mind do you?" She asked the horse. Argo neighed. "I didn't think so." Gabrielle smiled then looked at the warrior who chuckled at her bard.

Xena's smile faded as she gazed upon the amazing woman who completely captured her heart. Not needing anymore encouragement, she leaned down for a kiss. Their lips barely touched when the two heard the sounds of swords clanking. Xena's head snapped towards the noise. "Why am I NOT surprised?" Gabrielle blurted with frustration.

The Warrior Princess looked back and smiled warmly at her bard. "Gabrielle, pa--" The warrior stopped just before finishing the bard's least favorite word.

"What?!?" Gabrielle's eyes narrowed. "Nothing." Xena blurted innocently. The sound of clanking swords was now accompanied by the unnerving screech of a child.

Rushing out to the main road, the Warrior Princess and Amazon Bard immediately found the source of the disturbing noise. A large group of armed Sensurians were closing in around three Verbinian soldiers, a robed young man, a small child and....Joxer. Greatly outnumbered, the soldiers bravely fought the advancing men.

The familiar war cry of the Warrior Princess made Joxer's face brighten with a huge smile. "That's Xena... the Warrior Princess, she's my friend." Joxer proudly informed his new friend Basullus, who successfully parried the thrusts from two Sensurian swords.

Unlike Joxer however, the sound of her war cry and name caused the three Verbinian soldiers to look to each other nervously. They were acquainted with her reputation and results of her deeds. She killed two fellow Verbinian soldiers during a brutal interrogation.

The Warrior Princess somersaulted into the middle of the Verbinian group, making it perfectly clear she was fighting with the Verbinians.

The first two men who dared to approach the Warrior Princess held their weapons awkwardly, obviously inexperienced in fighting. Revealing a relaxed grin, Xena pulled out her sword with a flourish. The Sensurians stood frozen for a moment, considering whether or not to continue with the attack.

"Tsk...Tsk....Tsk...You know, hospitality like this is the kind of thing that really hurts tourism." Xena warned them and proceeded to easily disarm the men. Skillfully parrying their uncertain thrusts with great power, the Warrior Princess grinned as their swords flew through the air and imbedded in a water barrel.

Only half of the Sensurian mob was not wise enough to realize they had no way of winning. Incorrectly concluding the raven-haired warrior lucky, three Sensurians exercised their poor judgment and decided to approach her. One man with an axe went first, cautiously stepping towards the smiling warrior.

"Please, everyone... PLEASE! Stop fighting!" The well-dressed portly man called out, trying to squeeze his way through the spectators. The man's pleas fell on deaf ears.

"Perhaps if you recommend a REALLY good restaurant, I will over look your town's little hospitality problem" Xena informed the attackers, kicking the axe out of the man's hands. The axe whirled over the head of another attacker, knocking his hat off and pinning it to the side of a wagon with a reverberating thunk.

"What do you know, Sensurians DO have some manners after all." Xena smiled at the shocked and now hatless man.

The Verbinian soldiers watched with amazement at how much this warrior woman talked during the fight. They silently signed to each other and shrugged.

Easily blocking the attacks of two Sensurians, Gabrielle made her way over to Joxer, who successfully avoided getting killed by sticking with his new friend Bass. "Hi Gabrielle!" He greeted the bard with a happy waive.

Gabrielle sighed and shook her head before deflecting a swordsman's lunge with the end of her staff. With a graceful sweep, she followed through with a blow to his chest. With the wind knocked out of him, the attacker collapsed to the ground.

"JOXER! Why are these people attacking these soldiers with this child here?" Gabrielle asked hurriedly, watching out for attackers. "DUCK!!" Gabrielle ordered as she swung her staff towards Joxer's head.

"Huh?" Joxer responded, unaware that a man behind him about to thwap him over the head with a spiked club. Bass, finishing up with his attacker, grabbed Joxer just in time and pulled him out of the way. The staff forcefully met the attacker's arm, imparting great pain to the man. In a quick and concise motion, Gabrielle lunged at the attacker's chest with the opposite end of her staff, knocking him down.

"Hey! Are you trying to KILL me????" Joxer snapped at the bard who glared at him.

"Never ask questions you don't want to know the answer to." Gabrielle responded coldly, surprising Joxer. Seeing that her comment drew a raised eyebrow of reprimand from a certain Warrior Princess, the bard sighed with exasperation just before responding to another attacker. With swift and precise staff work, she blocked another blow, swept the feet out from under the attacker and knocked him out.

Seeing four Sensurians approaching, Xena swung her sword easily around her in a amazing flourish. The sword appeared like an extension of her body. With a deadly grace, the sword was guided through the air in intricate patterns that mesmerized the oncoming Sensurians. The fighting around her slowed down to a stop as everyone's attention was drawn to the skillful sword display.

Gabrielle smiled as she considered the Sensurians may have a lot of bests, but none could hold a candle to Xena.

Xena stopped her sword display, indicating she was ready to fight again as she sported an unnerving grin. "Come on." She encouraged the hesitating attackers as if they were little children. "Come on," She repeated her invitation. Suddenly, they must have heard their parents calling, for they abruptly ran away.

"Leaving so soon?" Xena questioned the four fleeing men. "And I was just starting to enjoy this place." She muttered. Looking to her bard, Xena found an amused grin on Gabrielle's face. "What?" Xena asked innocently.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Library