Early in the morning, Gabrielle managed to drag Xena into a large library full of scrolls. "Wow, I can't believe there are so many." The bard uttered in amazement.
"Tell me again why we are here?" Xena asked with some annoyance at having an adventure interrupted for this literary side trip. But the bard was insistent on helping a friend, and it was always hard to say no to the bard.
"Xena, I already told you." Gabrielle sat at a large table and patted the seat next to her, motioning for the Warrior Princess to take the seat beside her.
"I know, I was just hoping you were out of your mind or something." Xena sat next to the bard.
"Unfortunately, that's what some people think about Xenos," the bard sighed as she looked through some scrolls. "The poor man." The bard sighed.
"I thought you said 'poor woman' on the way here?" The Warrior Princess questioned her friend.
"I did...no one really knoooows," the bard said with a mysterious voice.
"How can no one really know? You look at them and you can tell," Xena responded curtly.
"Oh, like you knew right away about Miss . . .what's her name... in that Known World beauty pageant?" The bard responded with a superior tone.
"Yes. You were the one who didn't know," Xena responded with a raised eyebrow.
"Oh...well, this is entirely different Xena. You see, no one really SEES Xenos...." Gabrielle tried to explain the mystery, but the glaze in the Warrior Princess' eyes told her to move things along.
"Alright then, Xenos has been keeping track of all the fan fiction of our adventures..." Gabrielle explained pulling out a few scrolls.
"What's fan fiction?" Xena asked.
"Stories about us by fans." Gabrielle responded.
"Don't you do that?" Xena asked.
"Yes...but they write stories about us that haven't happened. I write stories about us that have happened. Understand?" The bard responded impatiently.
"Why would someone be crazy enough to write stories about us that haven't happened?" Xena asked.
"I think itís wonderful..." Gabrielle smiled warmly.
"Unhun...why are we here?" Xena asked again.
"XENA! I've already told you...we are here to read all the fan fiction and grade it. Once we have done that we will compare our grades to Xenos' and then post our findings at the forum," Gabrielle explained.
"That shouldn't take too long right?" Xena responded.
"Ah...lets get started shall we?" Gabrielle coughed and handed Xena one of 26 scrolls on the table.
"Wow, twenty-six scrolls...those bards HAVE been busy," Xena chuckled, actually flattered that anyone, besides her favorite bard, would write about her. "HEY!" Xena eyed her scroll then Gabrielle. "This is only list of stories with titles beginning with the letter 'J'...." Xena responded. "Gabrielle...just how many stories are we supposed to read?" Xena asked coolly.
"Well...uh..." Gabrielle hesitated.
"GABRIELLE?" Xena asked again.
"Uh . . .well, give or take ten or so...I guess about . . . oh three hundred and eighty..." Gabrielle laughed sheepishly.
"Three HUNDRED and Eighty?" Xena responded incredulously, and started to get up and leave.
"XENA you promised me you would read them!" The bard pleaded to the warrior making her stop.
"Ughhhhhh." Xena blurted knowing she was stuck because of her promise. She plopped back down on the seat and rested her head on her arms on the table. "You are going to kill me..." Xena muttered.
"Cheer up...maybe there is a story in there that has you go out of your mind and strangle me..." Gabrielle joked. Xena perked right up and grabbed a scroll. "Hey! Don't be too enthusiastic about that scenario" Gabrielle responded.
"After three hundred and eighty stories Gabrielle, you'll be glad if I only find a STORY like that appealing...." Xena responded.
"How are we supposed to grade these?" Xena asked, getting down to business.
"What ever you like the best you grade highest. I will grade on content, story development, grammar, punctuation ....whether or not I am the heroine." Gabrielle responded matter-of-factly.
"Whether or not YOU'RE the heroine?" Xena eyed her with amusement. "Oh THAT's really objective." Xena laughed.
"The grade is my opinion. You can have your own opinion if you want. I'm sure you'll tend to like those stories where you are the heroine," Gabrielle responded seriously. "I'm sure there are a few out there...." Gabrielle added sarcastically. Xena shook her head.
"Then why grade them at all if we have a different opinions? It's not like a true or false test Gabrielle. Everyone has their own opinions" Xena argued.
"You're right, everyone has their own opinions but its Xenos' index and she has put a lot of effort into compiling our stories and organizing them so people can access them...its only fair she can put her opinion down next to those stories." Gabrielle defended her friend.
"That's great Gabrielle...but what about those bards who toiled with each word and put their heart and soul into a story only to get publically humiliated with a low grade!" Xena argued.
"You are exaggerating Xena" Gabrielle responded.
"And bards never exaggerate!?" Xena countered.
"It is not public humiliation...it is one person's opinion...." Gabrielle ignored the warrior's snide comment. "...and as a bard I know that once I share my work with the public, I am exposed to criticism...however painful it may be. Not everyone will like my work...although those who don't are usually mentally impaired..." Gabrielle responded. "Gabrielle...Is it REALLY necessary? I don't like it...." Xena spoke simply, tired of arguing.
"I know...but you've promised to help me grade them..." Gabrielle responded. Xena sighed.
"All right . . . all right . . . but I'm never promising to grade anything again," Xena added.
"We are exercising our first amendment rights and performing a service," Gabrielle countered.
"First amendment whats ?!? Can't we just agree to disagree Gabrielle?" Xena offered.
"OK, ok But . . . youíre wrong." Gabrielle responded with a grin.
"Gods Gabrielle, just drop it, ok?" Xena shook her head and opened up her scroll.
Xena took a look at the list of stories with the letter "J" and sighed. "Oh this sounds really exciting . . . 'Just an Ordinary Day'. . ." Xena smirked.
Gabrielle's eyes rolled. "Would you just read and hold your comments until you're finished? You can't tell a story by its title you know," Gabrielle reviewed her lists. "Besides, Xenos' indexes have small descriptions that help you figure out what the story is about," Gabrielle offered. "Not that they are always helpful . . . ." Gabrielle muttered under her breath.
"Unhun..." The warrior responded.
"Let's see." Gabrielle pulled out an "S" scroll. "I'll start with 'Sleeping Gabby."
"Surprise, surprise," Xena remarked, drawing a sharp look from the bard.
"And OH . . .'Storyteller' sounds really good," Gabrielle tried to ignore the warrior.
"You just said the title didn't matter," Xena responded with amazement.
"I never said that. I said you can't judge a scroll by its title. I never said you couldn't use it to help you . . . What?" The bard stopped when she saw the stare from the warrior.
"Never mind...." Xena responded with a sigh, pulling out 'Just an Ordinary Day.í After reading it, Xena's mouth dropped.
"What? Didn't you like it?" Gabrielle asked.
"No. I mean uh . . . it was actually . . . good. Really good." Xena scratched her head in amazement thinking only her bard could write something that moved her.
After reading about thirty stories each, the two got a little punchy.
"Hey Gabrielle, you've got another sister." Xena laughed as she informed the bard.
"Oh really? What's her name?" Gabrielle rubbed her eyes and yawned.
"Sarah!" Xena announced.
"How many does that make now?" Gabrielle asked holding up her fingers ready to count.
"Uh, real or imaginary?" Xena asked.
"I know how many real sisters I have, Xena!" Gabrielle responded indignantly.
"Oh really, how many?" Xena challenged. Gabrielle held up her fingers.
"There is Lila, Sara, Becky . . . " Gabrielle responded.
"Ah Gabrielle," Xena leaned into her ear and whispered. "You only have one sister. Sarah and Becky, all the others, . . . imaginary." Xena patted her friend on the back.
"Better not tell them that," Gabrielle responded seriously, causing the two to break up laughing.
"How many Gods have we run into?" Gabrielle asked having lost count.
Xena made an effort to count then gave up. "Millions. Give or take ten or twenty," Xena responded, making the two laugh. "Boy you have ticked off quite a few," Xena noted.
"You have annoyed your share too, Warrior Princess," Gabrielle countered.
"Gabrielle, I just can't do this anymore. We both need a break," Xena wiped the tears from her eyes.
"I know what you mean." Gabrielle sighed. "We'll just have to continue this later." Gabrielle added, making the warrior cringe.
"Oh." Xena sighed with disappointment.
"Don't you dare tell me you haven't enjoyed them," Gabrielle responded with a look of warning.
"I have...its just... I can't grade them. They are all so different." Xena rubbed her eyes and yawned.
"I know what you mean. But it is only an opinion. Surely you have an opinion about them," the bard persisted.
"OK. Fine. YOU want me to grade them, I'll grade them. I give them all five whips!" Xena announced.
"You can't give them ALL five . . . ," Gabrielle blurted then questioned her friend. "WHIPS?"
"Yeah WHIPS, have a problem with that?" Xena countered.
"WHIPS??" Gabrielle repeated.
"What do you suggest? Loaves of nut bread?" Xena responded.
"Swords, chakrams, these things I can understand. WHIPS?" Gabrielle responded, ignoring Xena's comment about nut bread. "Oh. HOW. Petty," Gabrielle responded coolly when it finally dawns on her. "You're still mad at me for trading your whip aren't you? Can't you just get over it?" Gabrielle sighed, shaking her head.
"I am using WHIPS and every one gets five." Xena stood firm in her grading. "FIVE" Xena repeated, holding up five fingers.
"FINE! I, on the other hand, will be judging on merit of the work and unfortunately not all will be getting MY highest grade of Five... FRYING PANS..." Gabrielle responded.
"WHAT?!? Talk about not letting things drop!" Xena snapped.
The two sat silently for a while, at an impasse, stewing over a really stupid argument. Xena sighed heavily.
"We really shouldn't be arguing about this." Xena offered. Gabrielle looked over at her friend.
"I know...you're right. Itís just a topic close to home. You know?" Gabrielle sighed.
"I know." Xena looked at her and nodded thoughtfully.
"Gabrielle?" Xena eyed the bard with a grin. "My friend Lunacy tells me that the alternate fan fiction is REALLY good."
Gabrielle looked blankly at her.
"You trust the opinion of someone named Lunacy?" Gabrielle asked.
"Unhun . . . she hasn't steered me wrong yet," Xena responded.
"I suppose they all rate FIVE WHIPS," Gabrielle remarked.
"I understand that some of them rate SIX . . ."