The real story behind the myth . . . .
Another juicy grape was poised before her lips. She opened her mouth
and took in the fruit, lightly catching the ends of the fingers that
held it between her lips.
Someone cleared his throat. "Uh, Xena, could we talk to
She stared at the three men standing before her. Warm summer breeze,
music filtering through the air, lover seated on her lap feeding one
appetite and whetting another, and they wanted to talk to her. They had
to be kidding.
"Some other time, fellas." She turned her attention back to
Gabrielle's tunic. Or, more accurately, to the swell of skin beneath it.
The garment had been loosened such that it afforded Xena a clear view of
round white flesh. Her field of vision stopped tantalizingly short of
its culmination, but a surreptitious hand inside a few minutes earlier
had assured her that Gabrielle's body was alert, ready for her
attentions when the tension finally overcame them. Xena's palm moved on
Gabrielle's thigh, almost imperceptible to an observer but instantly
perceived by her aroused lover.
She readied herself for another grape.
"Uh . . . Xena?"
The warrior's expression, not the friendliest before, was now overtly
menacing. The spokesman instinctively took a step backward.
"Yes, uh, we can see that." Quaking hands squeezed the
cloth hat that had covered the man's balding head a few minutes earlier.
"Then I'd suggest you go away."
He swallowed nervously, but did not move. He had some backbone, she
had to admit. But if she had to stand up in order to convince them to
leave her alone, he was also going to have some broken bones.
"We can't. I mean, it's important."
The petite blonde woman on Xena's lap whispered something in her ear,
and the Warrior Princess leveled her gaze at the intruders. "All
right. What do you want?"
She had acceded to Gabrielle's request that she hear them out, but
she hadn't agreed to make it easy for them. Or for Gabrielle. Her hand
began to move slowly up the younger woman's thigh.
"What do you want?" she repeated. The first man pulled his
eyes back to hers, while his two colleagues continued to gape at the
"Don't," came the soft murmur in her ear. But it was one of
Gabrielle's 'we shouldn't, but I want to' protests that only served to
fuel Xena's determination. Any moment now, propriety would yield to
desire . . . . The corners of her mouth turned up slightly as Gabrielle
lay her head against her shoulder.
"We . . . ." The town's representative cleared his throat.
"We have a problem."
Cool blue eyes regarded him with indifference. Fingers stirred on the
younger woman's thigh again, accompanied by a faint whimper, and their
petitioner's face began to take on a reddish tint. The hand was only a
few inches from the bottom of the brown skirt now, and he desperately
hoped to get through his speech before it . . . . He pulled himself
together, and launched into the oration he had rehearsed before
approaching the warrior.
"There are but three ways into this valley," he began.
"You and your friend came over the mountain. Travelers also come to
us from the south, over the pocked road." He gestured toward the
southern edge of the town. "But we have had no one from the north
for several months now. We have sent half a dozen of our own men to find
if the road is blocked, but none have returned."
Gabrielle shifted on her lap. Damn. They had caught her attention.
"Do you have any idea what's happened to them?" the bard
"None. We have had no word." He turned back to Xena.
"We're afraid to send any more men. We're not really trained to
fight . . . ." His next words, like a warrior, hung as
clearly as if he had spoken them aloud.
Xena appraised the townsmen coolly, sensing her companion looking at
her. She knew what she would see if she turned her head, but couldn't
resist looking into those green eyes anyway. As she expected, they were
bright with excitement at another opportunity to right the world's
wrongs. After a moment, she turned back to the agitated delegation.
"Where's your home?" The speaker pointed to a house a short
distance down the main road. "Find the last person in town you know
of who came through the north road," Xena ordered. "I'll be by
in the morning." She paused for effect. "Right now I have to
get my hands on this woman."
Gabrielle froze, her face warm with embarrassment. Xena smirked as
the men disappeared as though fleeing from a ghost.
"You shouldn't do things like that," Gabrielle chided.
"Saying that. And your hand."
"People will think you don't have any manners."
Xena looked at her.
"Well, all right, but do you want them to think you're a
"Hey, you're the one who said these people are a little uptight.
They're lucky I didn't rip your clothes off and take you right
Gabrielle shook her head, exasperated, and looked up again. She met
Xena's eyes, her own widening at what she saw. "You wouldn't."
She backed away slowly. "Xena . . . ."
She took off running toward the inn. Xena gave her a few seconds,
then started after her.
* * *
The disheveled bard stepped into their room, followed by the cause of
her disarray. "Well, that's one barn wall that'll never be the
same," she observed wryly. Xena smiled, and followed her friend
around the side of the bed. Watching Gabrielle stuff leftover grapes
into a saddlebag, Xena sat on the bed facing her and leaned back on her
Gabrielle turned around and stood still, recognizing the pose. Xena
wanted a show. She wanted to see all the things she had fondled through
cloth behind the innkeeper's barn. Gabrielle began to reach for the tie
on her tunic, then stopped, feeling a bit mischievous.
A fleeting look of confusion crossed over the warrior's face. Another
moment passed, and Xena's expression hardened. "Take off your
The ice blue of Xena's eyes deepened as she took in her lover's
playful expression. She rose and drew herself up to her full six feet.
"I said, take off your clothes."
"And I said no."
The Warrior Princess stared at her, then slowly began advancing
toward her willing victim, footsteps noiseless on the wooden floor.
Gabrielle's heart raced, and for an instant she experienced a spark of
fear, even though Xena had never hurt her and never would. Xena smiled.
* * *
Rumpled cloth landed on her face. Gabrielle tossed the tunic aside
and opened her eyes. "You're so romantic," she said dryly.
"Time to get up. Unless you want to stay here while I--"
"I'm up. I'm up." The bard examined the garment in her
hands. "Where's the rest of it?"
"You'll have to look for it. I saw that under the table. Your
boots are over there." Xena gestured toward the window. "And
there." Her thumb pointed to the other wall.
Gabrielle dragged herself out of bed and gathered her clothing from
its assorted locations. After several minutes of searching, she threw up
her hands. "Have you seen my skirt?"
"You had it last," Gabrielle reminded her. "What'd you
do with it?"
"Got it out of the way."
Gabrielle sighed. "Well, it's got to be here somewhere."
She peered under the bed again. "You know, if someone hadn't gotten
a little carried away with herself last night, we wouldn't have clothing
thrown all over the place," she remarked.
"You can't help your passionate nature, Gabrielle."
"My--?" She pursed her lips. "Yeah,
Xena smiled and walked to the window, looking out at the day. Nice
weather for-- her eyes were drawn to a discolored patch on the ground
below. Uh oh. She paused, then turned to her frustrated
companion. "I'm going downstairs for a minute. I'll be right
"Oh, no, you don't," Gabrielle replied. "You're not
going anywhere until we find my clothes."
"Well, actually . . . ." Fiery eyes narrowed suspiciously
at Xena as the love of her life stalked over to her. A blonde head poked
out of the window and looked down, then slowly drew back inside.
Gabrielle turned and stared at the sheepish face a few inches above
"I'm going!" Xena hastened to the door.
Amused eyes watched as the Warrior Princess checked casually to make
sure no one was looking, then strolled over and picked up the errant
apparel, folding the skirt inconspicuously. By the gods, she's
magnificent, Gabrielle thought, eyeing the incredible body as Xena
strode back toward the building. She grinned. It had been a great night.
* * *
The road seemed to narrow in direct proportion to the elevation of
the cliff, Gabrielle noted unhappily. She glanced apprehensively over
the edge, staying close to her leather-clad escort, nearly bumping into
her when they suddenly came to a halt. Voices -- three, no, two men --
echoed from around the bend.
Xena reached back with a hand and pressed her against the rock wall,
raising a finger to her lips. Gabrielle nodded, and the warrior stepped
quietly around the corner. My protector, Gabrielle thought with a
smile. After an appropriate period of time had elapsed without the sound
of metal or fists, she tiptoed after Xena.
Two male figures were in the road directly ahead of them. The first
was about Xena's height, with shoulder-length brown hair and fairly
impressive biceps. He was dwarfed, however, by the other form, an
immense man seated on a boulder in the road with a large water basin at
The giant's eyes shifted to take Xena and Gabrielle into his gaze,
drawing the smaller man's attention to the new arrivals. He sauntered
over to them with his palms out. "You'd better stay back,
ladies," he said. "There may be some trouble here."
"Looks like you could use some help," Xena offered.
"I don't need any help, thank you, miss."
The two women exchanged glances. Xena shrugged, and tossed her hand
toward the large figure blocking the road. "By all means . . .
The stranger moved forward, followed a few yards behind by what he
thought of as his admiring entourage, Gabrielle suspected. The giant
regarded the three of them with disdain. "If you wish to pass, you
must pay the toll," he boomed, his voice carrying over the cliff to
the water far below.
"What is the toll?" his challenger asked.
"You must wash my feet."
Gabrielle looked at Xena, her eyebrows raised. Not only a giant, but
a weird one. She refocused her attention in time to see the stranger
kneel and begin to remove the oversized sandals.
Suddenly, a strong arm reached out and caught the giant's ankle,
jerking it forward with surprising strength, nearly sending the huge
creature over the precipice. The giant thrashed angrily, but finally was
able to regain his balance. Enraged, he swung his leg out wildly, until
finally the smaller man's grip failed, and he tumbled over the ridge.
Gabrielle screamed and ran to the edge of the cliff, held back a safe
distance by strong arms. She wrestled free from Xena's embrace and crept
out onto the ledge, searching for signs of their would-be savior's fate.
In the depths below she saw--
She closed her eyes and then opened them again, sure she was seeing
things. No, it was indeed an enormous turtle, eyes blazing red, its
sharp jaws open for an expected treat.
Gabrielle pulled her attention away from the awful creature below and
swept her gaze across the cliffside, abruptly stifling an exclamation.
Only a dozen feet below them, the man clung to a single flimsy branch,
his legs suspended over the abyss. Gabrielle looked back over her
shoulder at Xena, who nodded; she had seen him. The two women conferred
for a few minutes, and then approached the giant together.
"Halt!" he thundered. "Only one may pass at a
Xena smiled seductively. "We're two helpless females. Surely you
don't think we are a match for your power."
An arrogant sneer rendered the brute's visage even more unpleasant, a
feat Gabrielle had not thought possible. "Of course not. But anyone
wishing to pass must pay the toll."
Gabrielle stepped forward. "Yeah, we know. We have to wash your
feet. Well, let's get this over with."
Xena smiled soothingly again, an outward calm belying the pounding of
her heart at the sight of Gabrielle within reach of those deadly arms
and legs. Gabrielle knelt, careful to balance herself as Xena had
instructed in case-- She decided not to think about it. "OK,"
she said. "Now are we talking just a general wash, or an every-toe
The giant blinked and opened his mouth. Gabrielle launched into a
thorough interrogation. "I mean, how much walking do you do on your
feet? Are we going to have to find some kind of scrub brush to get them
clean? You're not ticklish are you? Because if you are, it'll take
longer, you know."
Xena smiled. Gabrielle's chattering had overwhelmed her listener into
temporary paralysis, as it could anyone. Her own little Medusa. She
slowly edged around the pair, unnoticed.
"And you have got to be kidding about this water," the
scolding voice continued. "It's disgusting. When's the last time
you changed it? If we wash your feet in this, nobody will be able to
tell the difference."
Xena slipped behind the rock, working her way around as quickly as
she could. The giant's bemusement could turn to anger at any instant,
leaving Gabrielle at his mercy. She needed a few more seconds . . . .
"Quiet, girl! Just do as you are told."
"I haven't been told anything yet, except 'Wash my feet',"
Gabrielle retorted. "That's what I'm trying to do. Do you want the
job done right, or--" She stopped short.
Xena winced. Gabrielle apparently had just realized that the fiend
didn't actually care about his feet at all. He intended to kill everyone
who sought to pass, regardless. This foot-washing business was simply
designed to make his task easier by having his victims willingly
prostrate themselves before him.
The spell was broken, and a repulsive grin distorted the giant's
face. He rose and drew back his right leg, aiming it directly at the
frightened young woman on her knees before him. A triumphant chuckle
emanated from his chest, and he began to swing the limb forward.
Gabrielle snapped out of her trance and rolled to her left. From the
corner of her
eye, she saw a dark blur, followed shortly afterward by an angry
masculine roar. She spun around and saw the giant hopping up and down on
his left leg, trying to dislodge Xena's fingers from their solid grip
around its thick ankle.
Xena reached out with her other hand and grabbed the giant's right
foot, which was still suspended in midair, and planted her much smaller
boot against the sole. Seeing an opportunity to help, Gabrielle jumped
to her feet and threw herself hard against the back of the giant's legs.
His arms flailed as he began to fall forward, and in the same instant,
Xena pulled hard on his ankle and kicked upward with her foot, grunting
loudly as she propelled him up and over the precipice.
Her adrenaline and breathing still at maximum, the warrior lay on her
back for a while, sufficiently cognizant of her surroundings to
appreciate two shapely legs coming into view as Gabrielle approached and
stood over her. "Are you all right?"
Gabrielle peered down into the depths below, turning away as the
mutant turtle commenced feasting on its former benefactor. From the
cliffside below them, a plaintive cry echoed up. "Uh, hello? Ladies
. . . ?"
With a roll of her eyes, Xena rose leisurely to her feet. Uncoiling
the length of whip attached at her waist, she stepped over to the edge
and tossed the end over. "Here. Grab hold and I'll pull you
"You can't lift my weight!"
"How does he think that thing ended up over the cliff?"
Xena shrugged. "If you'd rather, we could go back to the village
and get a man to help you," she yelled down. "We can be back
here in half a day." She smiled at Gabrielle, who grinned. They
peeked back over the edge.
Silence, then Xena felt a tug on the whip as he reluctantly
transferred his grip from the branch. Drawing the leather toward her
hand over hand, Xena hauled the dense load up the side of the cliff
under her lover's admiring gaze. Gabrielle couldn't help but notice the
bulge of well-defined muscles on Xena's arms and shoulders as they
strained with their burden. The bard's scrutiny shifted to muscular
thighs, which flexed alluringly as Xena worked to maintain her balance,
and images of a quick detour to their room in the immediate future began
to form in her head.
Soon, the traveller's relieved countenance appeared at the edge, and
he clawed at the ground, scrambling on hands and knees until he was
safely on solid ground. "Well, I guess I should say thanks."
He brushed debris from his pant legs, then started on his shirtsleeves.
"You guess?" Gabrielle stared at him, wide-eyed.
"Forget it, Gabrielle."
"Xena?" He straightened. "The Warrior Princess?"
She didn't bother to reply. She had no interest in prolonging the
"I've heard of you from my cousin," he continued.
"Oh?" Xena replied. "And who's that?"
The two women stared at him. Now that he mentioned it, Gabrielle
decided, there was a certain resemblance. They were both amply endowed
with brawn, if slightly less so with brains.
"So ," he said, "I never could figure it out from ol'
Herc. Are you and he--"
"No," Xena interrupted firmly.
"Oh, really?" He stepped closer to her. "Let me
introduce myself. Theseus, traveler and adventurer." He ran his
gaze down her body. "And a great admirer of Xena, the Warrior
Gabrielle thought she would gag. "Excuse me, but she's already
Appreciative eyes continued their study of Xena's form. "But
he's not here, and I am. At the very least, allow me to escort you back
to your village." He reached out a hand to Xena's arm.
Before the Warrior Princess could throw off the unwanted appendage,
she heard a resounding whack. "Hands off! Now, you just go your
way, and we'll go ours." Gabrielle took the warrior's arm and led
her back down the road toward the village.
Xena looked down at the bard's determined face and smiled. Her
to the Fanfic Summary Page