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Xena, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the series Xena: Warrior Princess, are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are my property. Please do not use my characters without my consent.
All works remain the © copyright of the original author.
This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.
This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story. If one is fortunate enough to love, then theirs is a greater garden within.
Webster describes Quondam as " that which once was" This story takes place sometime after If The Shoe Fits. I welcome all comments and can be reached at email@example.com
The Quondam Stone
|Chapter 1-3||Chapter 4-6|
Xena was out numbered six to one by her adversaries but this was nothing new for the Warrior Princess. The two attackers, which came directly at her, both landed on their backs, as she placed a foot in each man's chest with a double high leg kick. She back flipped over the pair that was advancing at her from her rear, landing behind them and running the first through, as he turned around with a single thrust of her sword. She decked the other by knocking his legs out from under him, then punching his lights out. As he lay on the ground, Xena threw her Chakram, hitting two ricochet points of contact and sliced the swords of the remaining two attackers in half. She turned back and finished off the culprit on the ground with a swift kick, while two of his companions rose to their feet only to be dropped cold by a fast, double punch to each of their heads. The remaining two assassins ran into the rocks and disappeared.
The brief encounter was no more than a distraction to Xena and quickly her mind returned to the real crisis at hand. Gabrielle was on the Warrior's mind first, foremost and with good reason. The note only stated that the Bard had been taken and was being held by the old ruins outside of Paramythia. There was a map with directions to the meeting place and scribbled on the bottom were the words 'The Debt Is Not Forgotten' and it was signed by Tzannas.
Tzannas was a lean lowlife that excelled in petty theft, con games and holdups. Most recently he had murdered someone. He played this up to make himself look tougher than he was, feeling that this might help him move to new and better levels of being a criminal. He stood 17 and a half hands, sported a goatee and liked to dress in the fashion of a rogue. He thought himself somewhat the ladies man, however, when he opened his mouth, his true colors were exposed. He qualified for the scum that he truly was.
Xena thought, It must have been twenty moons since I put Tzannas's brother under the sea. He wasn't even fitting fish bate.
Xena stuffed the map in her belt after taking another look at it. She wondered if this attack was set up as an ambush for her and that bastard Tzannas didn't have any intentions of letting the Bard go. In fact, it could be possible that the Warrior was never supposed to get to her destination, from the looks of just what happened.
Xena moved up the trail and kept her eyes peeled for any other surprises that might cross her path. She patted Argo on the side of her neck in a gesture of reassurance, holding a steady pace. The rocky terrain and overhanging cliffs gave way to many places of concealment but the rest of the ride was uneventful.
Two candlemark's later Xena arrived at the ruins of a temple that dated back before age of reason. The area was desolate and void of life or any sign of life, with the exception of some recent horse tracks. It looked like eight to ten riders, with one horse making deeper hoof prints in the earth possibly from having two people on it. Xena figured it was Gabrielle.
The Warrior got down from Argo and walked carefully around one of many partial walls that still defied gravity. Across what once was a courtyard restrained upright to a pillar was Gabrielle. Xena could see that the tightly woven ropes held their victim securely. She appeared to be all right even though her mouth was gagged, her arms were stretched behind and bound. Her eyes showed fear and at the same time a level of comfort in knowing her champion had arrived. Xena picked up movement and three adversaries stepped out of the shadows on each side of the ruins. Tzannas and his second in command approached the Warrior from her front.
Xena was somewhat glad for the little warm up she had earlier and held her position, as Tzannas approached her.
"Well now Xena, looks like I've got something you want!" The vengeful killer laughed.
"Let her go Tzannas, she never did anything to you. Your business is with me. Let's see if we can heal those old wounds." Xena taunted him with a smile.
"Get that bitch!" he cried out. "She killed my brother!"
Six armed figures moved forward as Xena pulled and threw her Chakram, it ricocheted off of the wall and struck the last of three attackers on the left side. She turned her body and ran the first man on the left straight through with her sword. A forward flip cleared her way as she dropped Tzannas's second in command; forward flipping again, she cut Gabrielle free from where the Bard was bound to the post. "AYiYiYiYiYi" Came her war cry, as she made a half twist in the air and smashed a fist into the face of one of the three killers on the right. Xena, then grabbed the other two by the front of their shirts and banged their heads together. Slipping her sword under her arm and to her rear, she sunk the weapon into the chest of the last man.
Gabrielle pulled the gag from her mouth and screamed, "He's getting away Xena!"
Tzannas made a break around the ancient ruins with Xena not too far behind. He jumped onto his horse and Xena pulled the Chakram again to stop the bandit. She threw it at a large bluegray monolith, expecting the Chakram to glance off and hit its mark but instead the weapon sunk into the stone and was embedded half in and half out. It was as if for just a moment, the monolith turned into liquid and instantly returned to solid stone. When contact was made between the Chakram and the monolith, there was almost a musical sound, similar to a giant tuning fork. The vibration carried for a long time, fading into oblivion. The assassin, Tzannas escaped in the confusion down the trail laughing uncontrollably, "Another time Xena."
The two incoherent henchmen on the ground cleared their heads and slipped away while Xena stood there puzzled at what had just took place. The Warrior grabbed Gabrielle by her forearms and asked, "Are you all right? They didn't touch you, did they?"
Xena looked her over for any telltale marks or bruises but the Amazon Princess was in one piece.
"I'm OK now that you are here," the Bard said in a rattled and upset voice. "They grabbed me before I ever made it to the village! I was just walking down the road and the next thing I knew, I was surrounded! I gave one of them a lump on the head and cracked another ones shin pretty good but they still overtook me."
Xena turned to the monolith of stone. It stood the height of three horses and on the side that the Chakram protruded from, the surface was as smooth as glass. The remainder of the rock surface was rough and pitted. It took on the appearance of volcanic rock but much harder and less porous. The Chakram was stuck two staff lengths off of the ground level. Xena examined the predicament from below and called Argo.
Xena whistled, then called, "Here girl!"
The Warrior guided the horse next to the stone monolith and climbed up on the saddle in a standing position. The Chakram was about chest high. Xena gripped the weapon and pulled with all her might but the stone would not release her treasured ring of protection. Again, she attempted to remove it but it would not budge.
"Xena! What are you going to do?" Gabrielle pleaded.
"Nothing right now. Nothing at all." She turned to the Bard and simply said, "Let's go."
They knew if they stayed too long, there could be another attack and they might not be as fortunate. Xena guided the horse back down the winding trail that was curtained by cliffs on either side. Gabrielle followed closely behind. She had retrieved her staff from the ruins and felt quite a bit of guilt for Xena's loss.
Gabrielle thought, If Tzannas and his gang had not captured me, Xena would still have her Chakram.
"Don't worry about the Chakram Gabrielle. If I can't get it out of the stone, then nobody else will either."
Working their way downward along the trail for some time, Xena finally estimated they had reached the halfway point and decided to take a short rest. A faint cackle disrupted her thoughts. The sound grew louder as the Bard and Warrior continued along the only path down. Xena reacted by reaching over her shoulder and pulling her sword.
"I won't harm you," The voice said.
And from the shadows of a small, well-hidden cave came forth an old crone. She was older than the mountain and cousin to the sun itself. Her clothing appeared rotted, void of color and had more holes than fabric to it. One of the crone's eyes was shut and her face drooped as if she suffered without the use of part of her brain. Her hair was the color of fresh fallen snow. She wore nothing on her feet and they took on the appearance of leather. A small, twisted staff was in her left hand for balance and in her right, a translucent purple crystal the size of a grapefruit. The Warrior and the Bard made their assessment of her and waited.
"I have an answer for you, Warrior!" The crone continued while she moved closer.
"I didn't ask a question old woman," Xena said with a smug expression on her face.
"Maybe not out loud, but I heard you any way, honey," the crone purred.
The crone looked into her crystal and then back at the Warrior and the Bard.
"Remarkable," she exclaimed. "There are few in this life that have a bond as close as yours. It's as if something greater than the gods has put you two together............. but let us get to the matter at hand, instead of listening to a old woman babble."
"Come, sit with me awhile and I will tell you a tale of long ago." The crone directed.
"We don't have time for this," Xena said with impatience.
"Wait Xena! This might be a good tale!" An excited Gabrielle exclaimed.
"You'd like to get your Chakram back, wouldn't you Warrior?" The crone said with a drip of sarcasm.
That got Xena's attention and she motioned Gabrielle to move toward the old woman and sit on the rocks in front of her. Xena placed her sword in front of her as a precautionary step in case of trouble. Slowly, the old woman took a seat with a sigh and cleared her throat to speak.
"The monolith that stands in the mist of the ruins up above, is not of this place. It was found at the beginning of time, maybe before the gods, maybe of other gods.....no matter. A race of people that existed long ago honored the monolith as a source of good to protect them from the forces of evil. The monolith was known as the Quondam Stone and was said to have the powers to heal not only the flesh but the soul as well. The secret of the stone was hidden well from all but one who finally stumbled across its source of power. Only a hole remains where the stone once dwelled. It was said that greed overtook the guardian of the stone and he removed its heart. When this happened the heart being separated from the host, turned cold and became nothing more than a heart of stone. The monolith was no longer a living entity and no longer a source of healing of any kind."
"The monolith has stood dormant for all this time." The old woman continued on. "All this time until you, Xena, threw your Chakram. The stone felt the power and makeup of who you are, when your weapon made contact. It also felt the essence of your lover and the goodness that you both shared and the wonderful deeds you have performed together. Realizing that you can restore its life and strength the monolith captured your Chakram. This is why I have the answer you seek, Xena Warrior Princess."
"If you want your weapon back then you have to retrieve the monolith's stolen heart. That is the task at hand and the stone recognizes you as its champion. You and the little one must do this together. It has shared these thoughts with me and I believe this you can and will surely do." The crone concluded.
Xena looked on with a distant glare, almost right through the storyteller.
Gabrielle responded with much enthusiasm, turning to Xena and saying, "well, when do we leave, where do we start?" She then was aware that her questions were directed at the wrong person and she turned her gaze back to the ancient one.
"The journey is not an easy one. It will take you across land and over water, then land again before you get to the place were it is hid. You will be given four challenges upon this quest. If you are fortunate to survive, you will take possession of the heart of stone and begin the return." The old women wheezed.
The crone was out of breath but looked at Xena with an inquisitive eye, waiting for a response.
The Warrior silently nodded.
"The Island of Crete is your destination. You need to sail to the Port of Paleohora. Look for a woman warrior much like yourself. She will guide you to the gorge of Agia Eirini. You will find what you are looking for there. This Cretin will take you to places that will be stepping stones to the Heart of Stone."
The ancient one began to walk back into the cave, as Xena and Gabrielle locked eyes for a time. When they turned in the crone's direction, not only was she gone but so was the cave.
"Let's get out of here Gabrielle, this is no place to set up camp or hang around." Xena directed as she led Argo down the trail.
Once they made it to the bottom and were several candlemarks away from the area Gabrielle spoke up. "Are we going to Crete Xena?" the Bard asked impatiently. The silence was driving her curiosity way beyond its limit and she needed an answer.
"Nobody....nothing takes my weapons for a good reason or for any reason. That Chakram is irreplaceable just as you, my love are irreplaceable." Xena said with worried eyes.
"Oh no! Don't start with that I'm leaving you behind crap Xena! You heard that old lady, she said the stone likes us both! It's what we have together that makes us work. Don't you see that? Didn't you hear her say those things? It's not going to happen again. I'm not staying with the horse or meeting you in Amphipolis. This time I'm going along for the whole trip!" The Bard demanded.
"Yes I did hear her and I agree that you need to go with me," Xena replied in a cool balanced voice. "But let me be afraid for you. Allow me to be afraid for us. We need to get a game plan to be prepared for what ever comes our way and find some lodging for tonight. Lets get some rest and think this all through. We will go but not without being ready for the worst that could happen."
Xena turned to the Bard and said, "I know you don't care to ride but let's double up and get moving."
Xena mounted the horse and Bard took a helping hand up from the Warrior. With Gabrielle taking the front position, they rode away on Argo. The Bards arms were wrapped around Xena's waist with her head leaning gently on her back, still shaken a bit from weird events that brought them to this place.
They got to the village of Louros near sunset and looked for a decent inn to spend the night. The search was short lived because of their fatigue and they took the first place that they looked at. Gabrielle opened the door and entered the inn yawing. The lighting was poor but the Bard could make out some figures. The room had a half a dozen people scattered throughout it. Most were old regulars who looked up briefly and then returned to staring at their drinks or continued their conversations. A husband and wife argued over at a corner table but were too far back to be audible. She must have won the argument because he shook his head from side to side and went back to his drink.
Xena came in a little after and scanned the room from the doorway's shadow. All appeared in order and a table was acquired. The two of them sat down and ordered a couple of drinks. After a short wait the refreshments were brought to the table and the Warrior waited until the barkeep walked away before she spoke. Xena kept her voice down and talked quietly to Gabrielle about taking care of herself and not doing anything foolish while they were on this adventure. They finished their drinks and got up from their seats.
Sleep was on the menu and in the back of Xena's mind was an early start in the morning. The two retired to the room, which was inviting by its virtue of being there.
"Goo-nigh Xena," the Bard mouthed as she drifted off to sleep. Xena responded with a tender rub on the shoulder and closed her eyes.
Morning came as an early caller and entered the quiet village. The only movement from the streets was Xena getting Argo from the stables next to the inn. The Warrior returned to the room to gather her friend but found her awake and writing on a scroll.
"Gabrielle, let's get going, as long as you're up." Xena said with a hurried attitude.
"Wait Xena, I'm almost finished."
"What are you writing at this time of the morning?" Xena asked.
"Just everything that happened to us yesterday. This could be our greatest adventure together and I do not want to forget anything. I'm going to need a few more scrolls before this is all over I bet, so let me catch up a little with what has happened so far!"
"Alright, but hurry up! Argo is ready to go and so am I. I'll be downstairs." And Xena closed the door behind her as she left.
They traveled towards the sea to the Port of Preveza where they hoped to book passage on a ship headed for the Port of Zakynthos, on the island of the same name. Preveza was three to four candlemarks away but the road was a constant descent to the sea and this made the mornings travel easy. As they moved closer to the port, there was a place that overlooked the bay and Gabrielle pointed at the ships in the harbor. "Xena isn't it beautiful! The place looks fascinating from here."
"Let's hope it stays that way when we walk into town. We need to get business taken care of without any fuss. I don't want to draw any attention towards us," the Warrior explained.
The Bards hair blew around in the wind. A wind that danced across the water and carried inland before it lost its way in the cliffs and rocky crag's scattered along the coastline. It could have been the very wind that was in Crete only yesterday. It called to them both and beckoned them forward.
At the next turn they entered into the town. The smell of fish filled their nostril as they came into the coastal port, a seafaring man's haven. A tavern called the Mermaid boasted of baked fish dinners, squid, clams and shark, so the women stopped for a meal and two cold drinks. The tavern baked fish outside in a pit in the ground. Less than half a candlemark went by and the two were eating fresh baked rolls, baked fish and a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, olives and scallions. Xena ordered two more waters with lemon before they were finished. Catching the proprietor with her eyes she decided to inquire of a ship that might be heading south to Zakynthos. The owner was an odd sort by appearance, he was tall and thin with red hair that was worn tied back in a ponytail. He sported a black leather vest on over a purple shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and dark pants with black leather boots that were folded over at the calf of his leg. His teeth left something to be desired, for most of them were missing and if he donned a patch over one eye he would have made a dandy pirate. He needed a shave three days ago and he had two fingers missing on his right hand. Apparently Xena thought he was a good contact.
Gabrielle was too far away to hear the conversation but she watched the body language of the two. It appeared that Xena was haggling over the price of passage. First he would say something and point out the window then she would shake her head no and counter his reply. She then began to walk away and he called her back. He pointed again out the window toward the harbor and she nodded in agreement then the conversation looked as if it went back and forth for awhile. Finally the Warrior pulled out her money purse and paid the man the appropriate amount of dinars. He gave her a paper that he signed which would get them on board and the deal was complete. Xena returned to the table and sat down.
"Well, what was that all about, Xena? Did you get us passage?"
"Yes, we're all set to leave in the morning on the Red Shark," Xena responded.
"Well..........what was the problem?" The Bard nit-picked.
"There was a little misunderstanding about Argo. The one ship would not take the horse so I asked for another. The barkeep wanted to buy her and I said that was not an option. Then he suggested another ship but that one was trouble, so we eventually found a good ship that would take Argo but they won't take you," Xena said to Gabrielle with a straight face.
"WHAT? What did you SAY?" As she stood up in the direction of the barkeep. "They won't take ME!"
"Calm down," Xena said, laughing. "I was only kidding! We have a room here for tonight. Don't get us thrown out now."
The Bard stomped and huffed for awhile until she regained her composure.
Xena thought to herself, a night with my Bard, alone on the coast. This could be an interesting evening.
"Let's get our things up to the room and check out the shops in town. Then we can come back, take a nice hot bath and talk." Xena offered.
"Yea! Talk, we can talk all right," the Bard gushed, breaking into a large grin and grabbing Xena's hand under the table. "What was it you exactly wanted to talk about Xena? Do you want to know how I'm feeling right now? Since they won't take me...will you take me? Do you know that I'm getting wet thinking about tonight and where you might take me! Do you know what I want to do to you, Xena?" Gabrielle taunted.
Xena got up from the table gritting her teeth and said, "Are you trying to drive me crazy? Let's go!"
The soulmate's headed out the door, one laughing the other wrinkling up her nose and trying to calm herself after the untimely arousal.
The streets were full of vendors and people selling all kinds of wears but before the couple could enjoy a late afternoon of browsing they needed to get Argo stabled and fed.
With that task finished, the two set out to discover new things the world had to offer. Things that might prove interesting, enlightening and educational were on their list to do. First, they headed down to the dock to look at the ship they were to board in the morning. It was an older but handsome vessel. Although it was weathered by many trips across the sea, the ship was full of character and looked like it was fast, if the winds were with it. The crew was busy loading the ship's cargo on board. There was much movement everywhere, with the first mate calling out orders to each and every sailor. The Red Shark would get them out of Preveza safely and closer to their destiny.
Argo would have to be put on the ship first thing in the morning. That meant an early call for the two adventurers.
Gabrielle wanted to shop for a couple of trinkets so she whined to Xena until she got her to leave the docks and head into the town again. The Bard found a nice cloak to help keep her warm while they crossed the water and Xena picked up a new stone for keeping an edge on her sword. While the Bard was busy watching a juggler who was trying to wow the crowd into parting with several dinars, Xena moved ahead focusing on a weapons merchant and his shop. She was searching for something that might replace the lost Chakram, but after milling over a number of smaller swords, hatchets, a variety of knives and Chinese throwing stars, she gave up the quest. There just wasn't anything to replace her weapon of choice.
They each grabbed a pastry from the bakery and nibbled on them while they looked around the streets. After a couple candlemarks of wandering around the Warrior and the Bard stopped and had a couple of glasses of wine at another Tavern called the Blue Waters. They were playing some soft music on a mandolin in the adjoining room. The sound of the music created a mood between the two lovers that started a fire deep within them.
They headed back to the Mermaid Tavern and Inn just before the evening paid a visit. The Warrior and the Bard sat at a table talking in low voices about the next leg of their journey. Once they landed on the island of Zakynthos, they would have to connect with another ship, as the Red Shark was to return to Preveza.
The Warrior worried about the sailors that eyed her Bard. They were too afraid or too smart to mess with Xena and her reputation but the slimy characters would take on Gabrielle, if she were left alone. Even though Xena knew that the Bard could hold her own she was still wary of these sea snakes, as she called them.
One more wine and the two of them retired to their room. Xena had told the proprietor to make sure that the bath water would be delivered. They had picked up some scented soap at an herb and spice store with plans to use it immediately. Gabrielle pulled off her boots, walked out of her clothes and stood for a moment just for effect, then climbed in the tub calling, "Xeeenaa! Come join me......I need you to wash my back."
The raven-haired beauty sat on the chair and she too, removed her boots, then her armor and finally she slipped her leathers and breeches off. The candle light flickered and her shadow danced across the walls and ceiling as she stretched her arms in the air and yawned, "Commm....ming!"
Xena walked over to the tub and Gabrielle reached to touch her mound but Xena pulled back and rubbed herself between her legs, then smiled. She slipped one leg, then the other into the tub. They wrapped their arms around each other, tongues entwined and they tasted each other slowly and passionately. Their hands probed beneath the water in search of tender places.
"I love you Gabrielle!"
"I love you also, Xena!"
Xena washed the Bards hair and the favor was returned. They each washed the other and worked at it like an artist molds the wet clay when creating. Hands moved back and forth across flesh. They would have stayed in the tub but the water cooled off, so they decided to get out and dry each other. In the process of drying each other off, they only made certain spots wetter. The towels dropped to the floor and Xena sat down on a sea chest at the end of the bed. Gabrielle straddled the Warrior brushing her lips across her lovers lips, then kissing the underside of her jaw, then her neck and finally she bent toward a breast and let her breath cascade over the firm, full, mound. When she figured that her lover was about to burst, she started to grind her pelvis into the Warriors thigh. Gabrielle ran her tongue around the areola before her lips engulfed the nipple and sucking on it steady brought it to full extension.
Time stopped as Gabrielle worked her magic over the Warriors breasts, licking the firm nipple over and over while she massaged the other breast with her hand. She tortured the each nipple for a period then switched breasts and continued the seduction. Xena's head was back and her mouth was half-open as she moaned softly at the pleasures that her lover bestowed on her.
The Bard whispered in Xena's ear, "Please slip your finger inside of me. I need you. I need your touch."
Xena obliged and rubbed her finger over her lover's clitoris then deep inside again, bringing her to short spasms. Then the Warrior slipped a second finger in and rubbed the inner walls until her body trembled. Her nectar ran over Xena's thigh and the dark haired Warrior had the Amazon Queen stand on her feet as she worked three fingers into the fevered abyss. In and out she pumped her fingers as her lover quivered above her. Xena grabbed the Bards buttocks with her other hand and kneaded the flesh while she stroked her.
"Oahhh! I 'm gonna c..collapse Xena......the bed p..please, " Gabrielle gasped.
They staggered to the bed, never losing contact and continued satisfying each other. Xena rolled on her side and lifted her leg as an invitation and the Bard slid her face into position. She penetrated the raven colored hair with her tongue, searching for the honey. Hidden between the fleshy folds was her reward as she licked and darted her hungry tongue over every inch of sweetness. Finally the Amazon Queen located Xena's clitoris and sucked the nub until the Warriors back was arced like Ulysses Bow. The lovers continued to taste each other's essence late into the night.
The cry of seagulls filled the air and morning was a reality. Gabrielle rolled over with energy and kissed the Warrior on the lips.
"Good morning!" The little one yawned and smiled.
Xena replied and returned the smile, but her hands were behind her head and she was preoccupied in thought. She moved to a sitting position and said, "Let's get going. We need to get going...."
They washed and dressed, packed their things and headed to the stable to settle up with the owner and pick up Argo. The two adventurers took the horse to the docks where there was already early morning activity, as last minute preparations were being made to set sail. This was a short trip to Zakynthos, and then the longer leg of the journey would be to Crete, if they could connect with another ship.
The Red Shark set sail about four candlemarks before the sun was straight up in the sky. The anchor was raised; some sail was unfurled and hoisted into position as the ship slowly moved out of port. The distance was not great between the two ports but there were a number of dangerous places that the Captain needed to navigate carefully around to get there safe.
The weather was fine and the water carried a morning mist on it. Xena and Gabrielle grabbed a position on the port side of the ship and watched the land bid farewell for a time. Xena looked out to sea and said in a thoughtful voice, "When this is all over we need to stop home and visit our families for a short time."
"That would be nice Xena." The Bard replied as she placed her hand over Xena's on the rail of the ship.
"Are you all right Xena? You look far away in thought."
"I am, my friend. I'm wondering what the four challenges will be and who the woman warrior is that we are to contact. How will we know her?"
"I think she will know who we are, Xena. Somehow everything the old woman told us will come to pass." Gabrielle reassured her.
The waters were the bluest of blues, Gabrielle thought, with the exception of my love's eyes. I too fear for the safety of my Warrior but I hesitate to share that with her. She seems troubled enough and does not need for me to add to it.
The Red Shark went to full sail and moved around the coastline with great speed. The Captain knew his ship like an extenuation of his very self. It appeared that the crew liked working for this man. The spirits of the men were high, with singing and joking going on as they worked.
Xena went below to feed Argo a few apples and made sure she was doing well with sea travel. Gabrielle found a place to sit on some cargo and update her scroll. By mid afternoon the ship was close enough to see the Port of Zakynthos. They would be anchoring within a candlemark the Captain told the Bard. She also was told of a connecting ship that could possibly be in port and was known to deliver supplies from Zakynthos to the Island of Crete by way of the port of Paleohora. This good news Gabrielle shared with Xena when she came back from a second check on her horse.
As they settled into port the Captain pointed out the ship he had mentioned earlier. It was a two-mast vessel. Xena asked the Captain of the Red Shark what the ships name was and he replied, "Why that's the Destiny! A beautiful ship she is and very seaworthy my friends. I don't know when she's sailin out but I'll bet a week in port that it will be before tomorrow's sunset."
The Red Shark docked and the two women said their good-byes and headed down the catwalk to the dock. They did a little checking around and found the acting purser in a local tavern that was suggested to the Warrior and Bard. They talked to him about their destination and paid for passage on the ship. After that they went to look for lodging, as the Destiny did not leave until high sun the next day.
Another night alone with you, my love. The gods have been so very good to me and I'll repay them by treating you like the Amazon Queen that you are. I'll ravish you with kisses and bring you to your peak, and then I'll take you there again if you want me to my precious Bard. And so the Warrior Princess daydreamed as they walked along the street.
"Xena, let's find a really nice place tonight. Maybe I can share a story or two and get us free lodging?" The Bard suggested. But Xena shook her head in a negative manner, saying, "It would be nice to sit and listen to you love but I still think we need to keep low and not draw any attention to us. If the warrior on Crete will be able to know us or find us, then others as well might know what we are in search for. We'll find a nice place but quietly, OK?"
They walked up a small street and entered a quaint place called The Owl Inn. A young man and woman were behind the desk and broke into large smiles when they saw the perspective customers. The woman was quiet but the man talked for both of them.
"We'd like lodging for the night please and do you have a stable for our horse," the Bard questioned.
"Welcome ladies to our humble establishment. We do not serve spirits if that is what you are looking for." The young man rambled and continued on by saying, "but we do have pleasant accommodations with bath. A free meal in the morning will help get you on your way. The stable is around the back and is included in the price of the two rooms."
"No! You misunderstand. We only want one room for the two of us," the Bard clarified to the man who reminded them of a sneaky kind of creature. His mannerisms were that of a weasel. When he talked to you, he never looked directly at you but tilted his head to the side and made contact out of the corner of one eye. He was very slight in build and fidgeted with his hands as he talked. What finished the impersonation were the little pointed face and the protruding teeth. If he had fur and a hen house, he would have been all set.
Although his wife was plain, she carried herself with a degree of elegance for an innkeeper's wife. She also appeared to be the business sense and the guiding light of the establishment. Nothing seemed to happen without a nod of approval from the woman.
The weasel looked at his wife for a yea or a nay and when he got the nod, he replied, "Wonderful! Let me show you upstairs."
He led the way up the stairs to the first door on the right, pulled out a key and unlocked the door. It opened into the hall and when the two looked in, they both said in unison, "We'll take it!" The room was absolutely gorgeous, based on other places Xena and Gabrielle had stayed over the past fourteen seasons.
It wasn't prissy by the standards of the Warrior but it was feminine rather than rustic or manly for a room. Soft white linen on the windows and a large bed that felt like a cloud must feel, if someone would lie upon one. The walls were easy on the eyes and the fresh flowers in a vase added to the pleasant smell that filled the room. The women figured that the lady ran the show here and kept her husband, the weasel, sniffing around all the guests to let her know the goings on.
Xena turned around abruptly and chased the weasel out of the room by saying, "Thank you that will be all for now but you can fill the tub later when we return from our walk," as she slammed the door against his rear end.
"This is great, Xena! I love it!" the Bard said with glee.
"Me too!" Xena said as she pushed on the bed with her hand a couple times.
The two needed to take a walk into the town. There was reason to pick up a map of their destination so they could plan several steps beyond their arrival on Crete. It didn't take long to find a good mapmaker. They were quite common in a sea-fairing town. He ended up having just what Xena was looking for and a couple of dinars later the map was in Xena's hands. The Warrior stopped to pick up a bottle of wine at a tavern for later in the evening. She knew she would have to sneak it in but was up for the challenge.
The thought of the nights entertainment got the Bard aroused and wet. She danced around Xena as they walked back toward the Owl Inn. Gabrielle stopped in a small shop that carried a little bit of everything. Xena stayed outside and watched two sailors beat each other up over some idiotic reason, when a really big and gruff sailor walked over to her saying, "What the hell are you lookin at Amazon?"
This guy had arms on him like an oak tree. He wore a large gold earring in his left ear and was clothed in just a vest, which showed off many of his tattoos. They were mementos from different ports that he had been to and were scattered across his torso. Pants that went to the middle of his calves and were tied with a rope covered the rest of him. He had nothing on his feet other than the dirt from the street. His head was shaved but he sported a mustache.
"Easy now! I'm not looking for trouble sailor." Xena explained, but he got too close, raised his hand and the next thing that happened was his head jolted back three times in succession from Xena pounding him in the face. The Warrior back flipped out of his reach as he swung at the air, then she ran forward, planting both feet into his chest. He tumbled backwards only to get up and start after the Warrior. Xena delivered six punches to his stomach and dodged his wild swing as he moved the air around. She forward flipped over him and landed both feet into the back of his shoulders driving him forward and into a wooden beam on the corner of the building. That put him to the ground and as he got up on one knee rubbing his head, Xena gave him a shot in the neck, cutting off the flow of blood to his brain.
"Listen, you large piece of horse manure, give it up or you are gonna end up dead!"
He choked and nodded in an understanding way and Xena released him and ripped the gold earring out of his ear.
"This will remind you to never pick on a woman!" Xena growled, as she dropped the earring in the hand that was not holding the bleeding ear.
Gabrielle came out of the shop and had missed the whole commotion. She smiled at her lover and said, "Have I got a night for you, my love!"
Xena said, "Oh yea?"
And they both walked away arm in arm. What escaped the Warrior though, was the package in the Bards other hand.
One of the other sailors who were fighting came over to the big one and said to him, "You idiot, you could of gotten killed! That was Xena, Warrior Princess!"
The adventure continued as they both returned to the Owl Inn. Xena hid the bottle of wine where no one but the Bard would have looked, went up to their room and stuffed it under the pillows. Gabrielle had carried a different bottle, along with a couple of other things she picked up and hid from Xena in the leather bag she had with her. They did not join the weasel, his wife and the other guests for dinner but sat out side and just enjoyed each other's company while they looked out toward the sea.
Darkness brought them back to the room and the hot bath that Xena had ordered amongst a raised eyebrow, when she told the weasel that one tub would be enough. The two had tasted life together and Xena thought we have shared many a pond and many baths on our journeys. One more will never hurt.
Gabrielle slipped out of her clothes and asked Xena to join her in the tub. She emptied a bag of sweet smelling flower tops and petals that had been dried for the purpose of later releasing their magic in the heated waters. The vapors filled the air and created an euphoric atmosphere that the two lovers entered with joy. They repeated the ritual of washing each other. This was a display of tenderness and intimacy, which opened the door to deeper levels of loving each other.
When they were finished Gabrielle dried herself, as did Xena and the Bard asked Xena, if she would rub some oil that she purchased that afternoon into her skin. Xena did not have to be asked twice.
"Come lie on the bed my love. Lie on your back and I will work your tired muscles with my hands."
Xena poured a small amount of the oil on Gabrielle's ribs and the scent of the Jasmine filled their nostrils. There was something about Jasmine that tore at the fabric of the passionate soul and took one to a place of fevered bliss.
Her hands made contact with the Bards flesh and the oil gave it a new sensation. She tenderly worked her fingers between the tired flesh and massaged away reality. Ever so slowly, Xena worked the muscles in Gabrielle's shoulders, trying to loosen any that were tight. The hypnotic rhythm took both of them away to mystic places. More oil was poured onto Gabrielle's breasts. The Warrior watched the fluid run down the curves of her lover's body. She let her hands rub and work the soft white mounds until both nipples reached toward the gods.
Xena slid her hands down on her lover's thighs and worked those muscles free. Gabrielle opened her legs in response as Xena slid down to the Bards mound and placed small kisses all over the fevered flesh. Waiting purposely before she penetrated the sweet entrance, she let her heated breathing announce she was ready.
"Your tongue, pleassseee!" the Bard begged.
The Warrior slowly worked her tongue between the folds, gently prying the flesh apart and letting the juices pour from the vessel into her open and wanting mouth. Xena spread the Amazon Queen and pushed her tongue as deep as it could go, trying for every drop of Gabrielle. She circled the nerve center over and over again until her tongue was satisfied that the Bard could not reach a higher plateau in nirvana.
They both collapsed on their backs and held hands as sleep over took them. When they awoke a candlemark later, they changed positions and committed to each other again.
"Breakfast would have been an interesting time with the weasel and his wife," Xena mentioned to the Bard, as they headed for the ship, "but I couldn't take anymore of him just popping up unexpectedly."
"I hear ya," Gabrielle mumbled, still not fully awake.
They stopped at the bakery, grabbed some fresh bread, and bought some cheese, apples and pears for the ride to Crete. Before they left the Owl Inn, they studied the map to get a better feel for the terrain and where they would make port. Xena began to take on the face of the Warrior again and Gabrielle knew that the time to be intimate would have wait and that they needed to cherish the last few nights they had.
They were treated to a meal of boiled squid that evening as guests of the cook himself, whom Gabrielle ran into earlier on board. She worked up a conversation, told a story to his fellow shipmates and himself, so in return the cook invited the Warrior and her to a hot meal. The shock of how tasty the meal was took the two adventurers by surprise.
After the stars were in full splendor, Xena stood along side Gabrielle as she rambled on about them. When the Bard returned her eyes from the cosmos towards Xena, she caught the Warrior reaching to touch her Chakram but it was not there.
Gabrielle looked back up at the sky and said, "Look Xena! A shooting star! Quick, make a wish!"
Xena made a throwing motion with her arm, as if she was hurling her Chakram. "That's my wish."
Xena thought to herself, is this just about me regaining my Chakram or am I being driven because there is good to do here? Maybe I just thrive for adventure and life was becoming dull. Then she looked toward her love and realized that life was not, nor could ever be dull as long as they were together.
The Warrior suggested that they get some sleep, so they retired to the lower deck and settled into a couple of hammocks they had strung down in the supply area. The comforts of home were not on this leg of the journey. They needed to stay sharp and watch the little they had. Xena did not want the Bard telling stories in any inns and draw unneeded attention to them.
The ship rocked them to sleep and while they were in the dream state of the mind, the attack came. The figure was no more than a shadow. It moved along the deck reaching the hold. It then crept down the stairs, along the hall and into the supply room where the two women were sleeping. The eyes glistened in the dark as the attacker moved closer to Gabrielle's throat. As the blade was raised in the air, Xena latched on to the arm, breaking it between the wrist and elbow. The shadowy assassin slipped the Warriors hold and began to make a hasty exit as Xena reached to her side and remembered ............ it was not there. She followed the shadow to the ships deck and chased it to the railing, where it dove into the sea. Xena searched the surface with her eyes but there was nothing. Gabrielle ran up behind her and Xena was momentarily startled to the point of going into a defensive stance before she realized it was the Bard.
"Gabrielle! Are you all right?" Xena asked with great concern.
"U huh! I'm OK.... What was it?" She asked as they both peered at the water.
"I'm not sure I can answer that Gabrielle," Xena said a little mystified.
The ship rounded the southwest end of the Island of Crete and began its journey around the coastline to the southern shore. Gabrielle had never been to Crete although Xena had. It was quite some time ago when Xena was a warlord. She took time to rest on the island and to let things cool down after a very destructive period in her life. She explained this to Gabrielle but not in great detail for there was no reason to nor would it have served any purpose today. Although Xena had been to Crete, she had never been to this end of the Island. She and Borias had spent time in Sitia on the northeastern tip of Crete.
The ship made port before the sun stood much over the horizon. The gulls were active and there were several smaller ships in the harbor. Xena gathered Argo and the three of them were happy to be on land for awhile. They looked around the city and stocked up on supplies. The rest of the morning was spent milling around the port, looking for some unknown who was looking for them. They found a nice place for lunch and had seasoned lamb and vegetables. That done, they waited to be approached in a large tavern near the docks called The Meeting Place but nothing happened. Xena was getting agitated for they had been in port for three candlemarks and two were just waiting. She had figured that with all of the mystery about this warrior of sorts, The Meeting Place would have been fitting.
"Xena, I need to do something or I'll go crazy! I'm going to ask the barkeep if I can earn a few dinars by sharing some stories." The Bard told her mentor.
"Oh, all right, go head! Maybe something will happen. We traveled a long way to be duped by an old woman but what the Tartarus, the evenings have been pleasant!" Xena replied with a smirk.
Gabrielle got up from the table they were at and walked over to the barkeep, exchanged a few words while pointing at herself. Much body language followed with hand and arm gestures, finally the barkeep pointed toward a place up in the front of the room. Gabrielle nodded and set herself up for a brief introduction by the barkeep that she wrote down on a piece of scroll he had behind the bar.
"This little lady here, is going to entertain us, we hope, with some recollections of her adventures with Xena the Warrior Princess." He blurted out. Little did she know he couldn't read and he just tried to remember what she had said to him, so he could say something to the patrons. Gabrielle took the platform and began.
The Bard did well, fascinating the crowd with the adventures the two women had lived. Three candlemarks passed and Xena's edge was beginning to dull. There was the thought of having to get a room for the night, although the dinars were coming the Bards way all afternoon. While she was busy mulling over these thoughts in her head and keeping one eye on the Bard, she missed the tall figure that walked through the curtain separating the back room from the bar and table area.
The figure slipped into a chair along the wall and kept both eyes on Xena.
The Warrior must have had a feeling she was being watched because she rose from her seat without turning her head. She nodded at Gabrielle while she walked over to the wall, pulled out a chair and sat down facing the woman. Their eyes penetrated each other never losing contact for what appeared to be an eighth of a candlemark. Neither said a thing as their eyes began to move over every inch of surface that could be taken in.
The woman was not quite Xena's age, but she had her height and build. She had medium length hair that was a shade of deep brown and her eyes were cold and green. There was a two-inch scar that ran from her right cheek to her lip but it did not take from her beauty. If anything it added to her mystique. She was armed with a sword and two daggers that slipped into sheaths below each breast on the outer sides. The handles were deer horn. She too wore leather but it was a pale brown or fawn color, with matching boots that ended at the knees.
Xena thought, This is like looking at me in another setting. She is magnificent!
The Bard watched from the front of the room but could not come over for she was nearing the end of her story and had to finish.
"They call me Eudocia." And she smiled lightly.
"I have been sent to you.....and her," as she lifted a finger in the Bards direction but never lost eye contact with Xena.
"Gather her," referring to Gabrielle, "and we will go somewhere less open to talk." Eudocia directed.
"She is very precious to me." Pointing a finger in Gabrielle's direction also.
"If she is harmed; if a hair on her head gets displaced, you will die." Xena told the mysterious warrior from Crete.
"Of this, I am aware of Warrior. Let us go."
Gabrielle retired from her story telling, picked up her hard-earned dinars and scurried over to the table to see what had transpired.
"Yes, I know. You are the Amazon Queen, among other things. I am Eudocia. Let us go...." She spoke and rose to her feet. The three women headed out the door. Gabrielle, with a twisted look on her face and Xena at the ready for anything that might transpire kept pace with the Cretin Warrior.
They followed her down the street to a small establishment that served food and beverages. The Bard ordered tea for all, while the two warriors continued to mentally examine each other.
Eudocia spoke, " I will guide you to the Heart of Stone. Understand that I do not know where it is but I am given pieces of direction in my mind's eye. You will both be in danger but know this; I am not the one you need to fear. This I also know. There is a place that few would go but we will have too. Our final destination is Agia Eirni. Legend says, that the gods fought a great battle with an evil force and that force tore the earth into a deep gorge. It is filled with the seed of the evil that was scraped off of its claw when it altered the land. That evil will keep you from the Heart of Stone, if it can."
Gabrielle was mesmerized by what she heard and thought that this warrior was as good of a storyteller as she was. The Bard was also concerned that there might be some kind of physical attraction between Xena and this woman. After all, she was a woman and she was beautiful, Gabrielle reasoned. Even I think so.
Eudocia went on to tell the two that there was a room all ready for them right behind this establishment and that she would be by at first light to meet with them and start the journey.
"I bid you goodnight." And she got to her feet and walked out the door.
She was waiting............just standing there in the middle of the street. Her horse stood behind her with the same independence and total detachment. It was an attitude, as if life would catch up with her eventually.
This was not the wake up Gabrielle preferred but it was on today's menu. Xena remained quiet and observant as they all mumbled good morning.
The trio headed east along the coast. There was little talk along the way, even when Gabrielle tried to pull answers out of the stoic warrior. After a candlemark of prodding by the Bard, Xena broke her silence and ordered everyone to stop and rest. She got down from Argo and walked up to the Cretin Warrior and said, "Listen Eudocia, let's get an understanding. We have to accomplish this quest with your help, right?" Xena questioned.
"Correct," the Cretin Warrior replied.
"Gabrielle and I were approached. We were told that you would come our way or someone would come and make contact with us. This individual was to guide us to four challenges. I had hoped we might somehow work together and maybe do this with some conviction if possible. What I am trying to say Eudocia is......"
The Cretin Warrior spoke up. "I am here to guide you, to help you. I apologize for my edge but I am not used to people. I was raised by the Guardian and taught only to defend. This was to be my destiny."
"Your destiny?" Gabrielle questioned. "You make it sound like you were groomed for this purpose and nothing else!"
"That is true," the Cretin Warrior said.
Xena understood that there was something deeper in what was happening here than what was visible on the surface but Gabrielle was having difficulty and was puzzled by the answer.
Was it possible that Ares was involved in this? The Bard thought to herself.
"I will attempt to be, uh, more pleasant," Eudocia told her listeners and then smiled weakly. "I must tell you that we are within a days travel of Sougia. We will leave Crete by boat and travel to the Island of Gavdos. It is there that you Xena will be challenged for the first time. There will be a place protected by one who can be beaten by the gift of vision. This is all that I have been given to tell."
Xena mounted Argo; the Cretin did the same with her horse and Gabrielle, staff in hand walked along the coastline with the two warriors in the direction of Sougia. The terrain was green and lush toward the interior. Sandy beaches and a variety of rock formations made up the coastline. There were no towns or villages between where they were and the next destination. About two thirds of the way to Sougia, the Cretin suggested they camp on the beach for the night. This would help in making sure that they were well rested for the boat trip to Gavdos Island, the next morning.
All were in agreement and they began to set up camp. Xena liked the idea of sleeping under the stars again. It had been awhile since the Bard and Xena had gotten the chance to sleep in the elements. This was a very beautiful place as long as it continued to remain as peaceful as it was now.
Gabrielle picked up driftwood off of the shoreline for the evening campfire while Eudocia and Xena tended their horses. Xena went inland to see if she could come up with some dinner for the three of them. Before she left she asked if the Bard felt she would be all right.
"Yes Xena, I'll be fine. Anyway she said she wouldn't harm us and I believe her," Gabrielle assured the Warrior.
While Xena was hunting, Gabrielle watched Eudocia as she meditated for awhile. Then something took place, which appeared to the young Bard as if the woman went into a trance. This lasted for the length of a candlemark Gabrielle guessed.
There was a small island off of the shore that did not constitute more than a large pile of boulders above the waterline. Eudocia came out of her trance and told Gabrielle that she was going for a swim. The Cretin Warrior did not wait for a response but began to disrobe and stacked her leathers, breeches and boots in a neat pile near the fire. Gabrielle watched with much interest and thought, what a magnificent body she has.
She was Xena's equal in physical stature.
While Gabrielle was pondering, Eudocia walked up to her and bent down, kissing the unprepared women full on the mouth. Gabrielle froze in a state of shock as Eudocia turned and ran toward the water. The strange woman entered the sea and swam to the rock island that rested just off of shore. The young Bard watched the figure in the water, still mesmerized by what had happened. She saw the Cretin pull herself up onto the rocks and lie down to rest. This took place about one or two candlemarks before sunset.
"Gabrielle!" Xena said as she walked up behind her.
"Yahhh!" The Bard screamed and jumped. "Gods Xena! You scared the life out of me!"
The Bard was flushed in her face and Xena looked questioningly at her.
"Where's the Cretin?" Xena asked as she dropped three cleaned rabbits on a rock near the campfire.
Gabrielle pointed in the direction of the small island.
"What's going on?" The warrior asked.
"Nothing Xena. Eudocia said she was going for a swim and away she went"
"Oh look! I think she's coming back!" The Bard tried to say without too much enthusiasm, as she pointed again toward the island.
They could see the lone figure in the water. A short time later Eudocia came out and Xena met up with her on the shoreline. Xena looked at the Cretin with a raised eyebrow and thought to herself, she's beautiful! What an excellent body she has. I better keep some distance between her and Gabrielle.
"Hello," she said to Xena, as the Cretin used her hands to remove the water from her breasts, stomach and thighs. The woman headed toward the fire to warm up and indulge in some rabbit as she nodded at Xena.
The smell danced in the air working everybody's taste buds. Gabrielle broke out the cheese and bread, while Eudocia put her clothes on before sitting down to eat. She never mentioned the kiss between the Bard and her. Only a glance in the direction of Gabrielle and a soft smile gave any indication that the Cretin even remembered it happened. It was a good meal in a majestic place and yet there was confusion between the three women.
They all were friendly the rest of the night as they talked of the stars and of the gods. At one point, Gabrielle asked Eudocia if she had anymore to share with Xena and herself about what the dawn would bring. The woman grew silent and shortly thereafter, said goodnight and went to sleep. The Warrior and the Bard looked at each other for a moment, kissed lightly and slipped into their sleeping gear.
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