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The Seige of Potedeia
except where characters copyrighted by Rennaissance and Universal Pictures
Xena never knew how she did it. Here they were, on the far side of
Greece--miles from home. And Gabrielle was in the middle of another bardic
A cheerful bonfire burned in the middle of the village plaza and
seven bards stood around, singing and telling tales. Xena was trying
hard--she really was. But she had a well -developed ability to sleep
standing up. She found herself dozing at a story told by a timid little
mouse of a girl.
Gabrielle was sitting in front of her. Her eyes danced with
excitement. Xena tried to be supportive. She gave Gabrielle a quick hug,
then stood back.
A young fellow with curly, black hair stood up. He was well dressed,
with a green tunic embroidered in a stair-step pattern. He turned his
bowed psaltry and began a plaintive lyric.
"Boleus was a man of pride,
A warlord of acclaim..."
Gabrielle stiffened and bolted from the circle. Xena started after
her. She just barely noticed the bard stop singing, and run the same
Gabrielle was facing a corner of the village wall, crying. Xena
reached for her, but a man's hand was on her shoulder already. Gabrielle
turned to glare at the bard--silent.
"You're from Potedeia.", he said, waiting for a reply. "I'm sorry. I
usually ask. But, you're so far from home."
Gabrielle just stared at him, her eyes unfathomable. Xena reached
out to her and she turned away.
Gabrielle walked away. Xena knew better than to follow. The bard
looked at Xena, shaking his head sadly.
"I'm sorry. I never would have sung that song if I had known where
she was from. I should have asked."
"What song? I've never heard of it.", said Xena.
"Hmm. Arcadian accent, armor--Xena Warrior Princess?"
"Some call me that."
"It's better than, 'Xena of the bloody hands and eyes of death.'"
"Yeah, I heard that song once. Just once. Something or other happened
to the singer, but that was a while back."
"I changed the last three verses. I think you'd let *me* live. So,
that does explain why you never heard of the Siege of Potedeia.
He put his bow and psaltry on his lap after he sat on the low wall
near the village well. The light from torches and lamps lit his face. Xena
sat next to him.
"Why didn't I? Potedeia isn't far from Amphipolis."
"In a word--Cortez. You had your hands full. And you might not have
liked a song or story about an uprising against a warlord."
"Depends on the warlord.", said Xena with a grim smile. "Tell me the
"Did you know Boleus?"
"Yes. He was pretty full of himself."
"He was angry, stubborn and proud. He collected tribute from the
villages for miles around and all of them paid except for one--Potedeia.
The people of Potedeia were prosperous farmers. They minded their own
business and expected others to do the same. When Boleus demanded
tribute, they refused."
"He laid siege to the village. They'd had a good harvest. They
expected him to hold out for a few weeks, then get bored and go away. He
was probably the most stubborn warlord around in those days. He held them
inside their own walls for eight months."
"They did alright for three months. And, on the fourth month, their
grain gave out, and the turnips, and the flour...They slaughtered their
livestock and horses then. But Boleus hung on. Next they killed their
children's pets, and ate the little cats, dogs, rabbits..."
"And ponys.", said Xena.
"By the end, they were reduced to eating rats, mice, grass and dirt.
Half the village died, stacked like chords of wood. See, I'm from Costia.
We went to Potedeia when the siege lifted, and buried the dead in a common
grave. We brought food to those poor living skeletons. We nearby villagers
were so angry at this siege, we hunted down Boleus and killed him."
"The people of Potedeia are considered heroic, but we know that they
live with memories most of us can't even imagine. That's why we never sing
that song in front of them."
Xena was stunned. She couldn't cry. She was having trouble breathing.
Gabrielle had been about ten years old during the siege. She had never
"That's why she's always hungry. Why she seems to know so much about
death. Why she's so hard to get close to. They had to eat her pony. Oh
Gods, if I had known. Why didn't she tell me?"
"Most of them *can't*talk about it. That's why we made up the song,
to honor them by telling the story they aren't able to."
"Thanks for telling me. It's important for me to know.", said Xena.
Then she went to look for Gabrielle.
In a dark corner, a small figure was sitting. Her knees were against
her chest, and her arms were tight around them. Her face was against her
knees. Xena spoke softly, afraid to frighten her.
Her head lifted. The green eyes were on Xena, but Gabrielle was
somewhere else. Here was an empty shell. Xena reached down to touch her,
but felt as if she had touched a stinging nettle. She drew back and
"Why didn't you tell me? It helped me when I told you about Surah.",
"Don't. I have to be alone now. It's not that I don't want you here.
I can't have you near me right now. I won't re-live the siege. I won't."
"I'm glad I know. I understand you better now."
"I'm a stranger you thought you knew. Go to the inn. Have a drink or
two. I need to be alone."
The words were like blows. Xena winced. Then she remembered, "Words
"I'm not leaving you. I can be as stubborn as you. You made me talk
about Surah when I didn't want to--and it helped. Talk to me."
"About what? What it means to be hungry? Everyone has been hungry. To
see death? You know all about death. I can't tell you anything new."
"You can tell me about the stranger I thought I knew."
A shudder went through Gabrielle now. She rested her head on her
knees, facing Xena. She looked so young. Xena's heart went out to the ten
year old who had lived through the siege.
"Sometimes I'm hollow inside and nothing can fill me. And sometimes
my anger is the flame when you blow alcohol across a torch at an enemy.
Why can't people change? We are born so good. So innocent. What happens to
those babies to turn them into a Boleus or Draco?"
"Or me.", said Xena.
Gabrielle started. She licked her lips in some shadow of memory. Xena
didn't want to picture what.
"So one abuses another, who abuses another, and so on, and so on.
Where does it stop?" The grey eyes pleaded for an answer.
"I stopped when I lost everything and someone cared enough to show me
my way back to the road. But I would have fallen right back off if someone
who knew right from wrong hadn't insisted on following me. My conscience,
my constant reminder of who I could be, my love.", said Xena.
Gabrielle unfolded like a rosebud opening. She turned to face Xena.
"Have I made that much difference?"
"I have a permanent welt on the back of my head to remind me. You
swing a mean pitchfork."
She smiled for the first time. Xena came a step closer.
"I made a difference. Then it's worth everything.", she breathed.
"Everything? You've been through so much."
"That's why I don't fear death for myself--just others. Mostly you."
"So you're afraid I'll die. I'm afraid you'll die. Aren't we a
pair.", said Xena.
"Yeah." Then Gabrielle reached out to Xena. Knowing she was welcome
at last, she took refuge in Gabrielle's arms. It was almost like the first
time. They held each other close, reassuring each other. Then Xena kissed
Gabrielle put her head on Xena's shoulder. She was no longer taut,
but relaxed, as if she knew that this was where she belonged. Xena could
feel her fingers in her hair.
"Xena, I'm sorry I lied to you, about Tympani, I mean."
"You told me in a way I could understand."
Xena could hear her breathing, feel her heartbeat.
"Love me.", she pleaded. And those two words stuck in Xena's heart
Xena stood again, taking Gabrielle by the hand. They went into the
inn, up to their room, and closed the door.
Xena hardly noticed the room. Her eyes were filled with Gabrielle.
She finally saw past the innocence in the ever changing eyes, to the
woman who had suffered lifetimes, and still loved so much.
Xena drew the precious one to her, holding her--feeling her heartbeat
again. Words failed her once more. Gabrielle slipped out of her arms, put
her hands on either side of Xena's jaws, and smiled. then she went to the
bed, slowly undressing.
Xena remembered how to take her armor off, but it took some effort.
All she could see was Gabrielle--the red-gold hair, white skin and slate
colored eyes, on the surface, a blindlingly beautiful spirit inside.
Xena removed her chiton, and joined her love in bed... So warm and
soft, smelling of woodsmoke and the chamomile she used to clean her hair.
Their lips met, then their tongues, each trying to get closer,
to touch the spirit inside. That was why they made love. It was as
close as they could get to each other.
Then they slept as Xena relaxed, knowing, that no stranger lurked inside
Gabrielle, and that she loved her.
Anya Dot Tethl(respect for kindred)
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