The Warriors' Scroll
The writing of this particular story was aided and abetted by Jayne. She wrote Gabrielles' poem.
Xena stared up into the night sky. It hadn't been the usual nightmares that had woken her - the endless parade of the faces of the innocents she had slaughtered in her bloodthirsty warlord days - it had been Gabrielle. The normally quietly, deeply slumbering bard was moaning and sighing, tossing about in her sleep. And it had been happening a lot lately.
The bard shifted, gasped, and rolled over, finally quietened, leaving the Warrior Princess staring in silence at the stars.
In the morning, Xena rolled up the blankets and stowed them away as Gabrielle sat blinking and yawning between mouthfuls of bread.
"Sleep well?" the Warrior Princess asked nonchalantly.
Gabrielle looked at the grey ashes of the campfire. "Kind of," she answered.
"Hmmmm...." mused Xena, "only 'kind of'? Aren't I supposed to be the one who doesn't say much?"
The bard looked up at Xena. "I slept ok," she said, "but I'm just a little tired. All right?"
The Warrior Princess said nothing, pulling a strap tighter on her bedroll. It wasn't like Gabrielle to be so sharp.
Later that night, Xena lay beside Gabrielle, and closed her eyes, pretending to sleep. After a while, when the bard began to snore, she opened her eyes and watched the clouds gliding before the moon.
A little while after that and Gabrielle began to shift about and groan. Xena turned quietly, watching her friend. She was a little puzzled... it didn't seem to be a nightmare, the young blondes gasps and sighs sounded... more like cries and moans of passion...
Gabrielle started to mutter something. The warrior leaned closer, quietly listening. "Oh..... gods..... Xena!" gasped the bard in her sleep.
The Warrior Princess lay back, eyes wide. Gabrielle was dreaming about her??? Could it be her friend secretly desired to be her lover? It was something that she herself, Xena, was keeping to herself, her own attraction to the feisty bard. She loved Gabrielles' friendship more than she dared to risk scaring her away.
Letting herself relax and drift off to sleep as her friend sighed and went back to snoring, she resolved to talk to Gabrielle the next day.
Argo trotted easily along the trail, carrying the Warrior Princess on her back, with Gabrielle walking beside her, swinging her staff as she walked.
"Do you ever miss your family? Or anyone else in Potediea?" asked Xena thoughtfully.
The bard looked up at her warrior. "Sometimes. But I've moved on. Why do you ask? It's not like you to make small talk, after all."
"It's a long way to the next village," replied Xena. "I thought it might pass the time quicker for you. So... do you ever want to back to Potediea?"
"No," replied Gabrielle, frowning. This is it, the bard thought, Xena has become bored of my company and wants me to go. She's trying to let me down gently.
Xena rode in silence for a few minutes, deep in thought. She'd never had to seduce anyone before, in her warlord days she'd simply taken whatever and whoever she wanted. That memory set off a who series of depressings thoughts, and she shook herself. "You must miss Perdicus, you were going to marry him," she said.
"Not really.... it was an arranged marriage. I didn't love him," the young blonde said.
"But you must have fancied someone," the warrior probed.
"No," answered the bard. "Hey, if you keep this up I'll think you've gone all soft on me, Warrior Princess!"
"Can't have that," Xena smiled, all the while thinking to herself, Zeus, I used to chew up girls like Gabrielle and spit the bits out, how in Hades do I go about showing her how I feel, does she feel the same way I do, what if I've misread it all?
They continued on in silence for a few minutes, before Gabrielle asked, "Did I ever tell you the story of Xerses the Warlord?"
"Only three times so far," smiled the warrior.
When the two women arrived at the village, they agreed to spend the night at the tavern instead of camping out under the stars.
Xena led Argo into the stables, thinking to herself, Gabrielle might just be having fantasies or dreams of her in her sleep, but that didn't mean she'd want them in reality, and I can't bear to lose her as a friend. Thus she resolved to do nothing.
Gabrielle meanwhile entered the tavern and ordered food, ale, and a room for the night.
As she sat with her ale, gloomily taking small sips as she waited for her friend, a large, half-drunken man sat beside her.
"Hey, girl," he leered, "Want me to show you a good time...?"
The petite bard smiled at him sweetly. "No thank you, I'm waiting for my friend."
"And he left you all by yourself?" the man grinned, his breath smelling strongly of beer. Gabrielle fanned his breath away as he leaned closer and continued, "That's not good. What's he like, leaving you here all alone?"
Gabrielle leaned away. "I'll tell you what she's like," she said firmly, "Tall, long black hair, piercing blue eyes, wears leather, fights like the Harpies. And she doesn't take kindly to strange men bothering me."
The drunken man laughed loudly. "Yeah? Sure. What's her name?"
A hand tapped the drunken man on his shoulder. "My name is Xena," purred the Warrior Princess, standing behind him, her voice soft but with a hint of menace.
"Oh," said the man, looking pale. "Oh. I , uh, that is I..."
"Was just going?" asked Xena, stepping aside slightly.
"Thanks," smiled the bard as the Warrior Princess sat beside her, after the man had slunk away gratefully.
"Was he bothering you...?" Xena asked, glancing over at the mans' retreating back.
"No, he hadn't got that far," laughed Gabrielle, looking at her friend. She shivered slightly as she took in the Warrior Princess' look of concern.
They ate their meals quietly, happily enjoying each others' company at the end of the day.
Gabrielle finished first, and offered to go to the bar for more drinks. Xena, who ate rather slower, agreed and smiled at the young blonde as she got up to get to the bar.
The Warrior Princess picked over her meal thoughtfully. Gabrielle seemed to find her posessiveness amusing. And funny dreams, dreams in which she figured. She frowned, glaring at the chicken leg on the plate that she was pushing about with a fork. Did it mean anything? Should she do anything? It was all too hard. Her previous career as Destroyer of Nations hadn't left much time for flirtation and seduction. She'd always simply taken what she'd wanted.
And what she wanted right now, she decided, was something to drink. Then, she realized that the young bard hadn't returned from the bar, and had, in fact, been absent for some time now.
Looking round, she saw Gabrielle at the bar, beside two mugs of ale, engrossed in conversation with the barmaid. Occasionally the two woman laughed. Feeling slightly miffed, Xena rose and approached the pair.
Just as the warrior came close to the bard, the barmaid reached out and put her hand on Gabrielles' forearm.
Xena choked back a growl, and paused.
Gabrielle turned and smiled. "Hey Xena," the bard said brightly, "here's your ale - is anything up....?" The young bard paused, holding a mug up, the handle offered to the warrior.
"Nothing's wrong," snapped Xena, snatching the mug and sloshing some of the contents out. She glared at the barmaid briefly and strode stiffly back to their table.
Gabrielle smiled at the barmaid, and sipped her ale. "I think I better go over and talk to Xena for a bit."
The next evening, after a long day trekking across the countryside, Xena was busy with a needle and thread, repairing her boots, while the bard wrote on a scroll. Occasionally the young blonde would look up, and stare into the distance, pausing to choose words carefully.
The warrior glanced up, smiling. "What are you writing about now...?" she asked, "It's not like we've done anything much just lately."
Gabrielle looked up, her cheeks flushed. "Just trying out a few ideas," she said, "Tenses, sentance structures, that kind of thing." She looked down quickly.
Xena looked back at her companion steadily, for once feeling a little uncertain. "Can I see...?" she asked eventually.
"Maybe later," Gabrielle replied evasively.
Yes, thought Xena, as the bard began to colour. She had something to hide. But what....? she wondered. In all their time together they'd hidden nothing from each other.
Xena nonchalantly returned to her sewing. "OK."
The bard continued to scribble away, occasionally glancing over at the warrior, who pretended to be fully absorbed in her work. But, more than once, Xena pricked herself with the needle, as she watched the blonde opposite her.
The next morning, the warrior awoke early and bathed in the nearby stream. At least Gabrielles' dreams seemed to have stopped., although, in many ways, her recent behaviour was getting a little odd. Since that night at the tavern, when the barmaid clearly seemed to be flirting with Gabrielle, the bard had seemed wrapped up in her own thoughts.
Now she thought about it, those dreams Gabrielle had been having had seemed to stop that night. And last night, with the scroll.... Maybe the scroll would tell her something.
She cursed under her breath. How could she think about sneaking a look at one of the bards' scrolls, when she'd clearly not wanted to show it to her? And yet... perhaps it was something bad, something the bard was trying to shield the warrior from... but what?
Pulling on her armour, her wet hair trailing down her back in long rat tails, she returned to their camp. She shook her head, trying to clear it, and her damp hair whipped around, showering the still slumbering Gabrielle lightly.
"Hey," protested the sleepy bard feebly, glaring up at Xena. "You can just shake me awake, you know."
"Sorry," mumbled the Warrior Princess, still locked in her thoughts, as she rolled up her blanket.
The bard got to her feet slowly. "I'll fix us something for breakfast, after a quick wash," she announced.
Gabrielle turned and headed out to the stream. As she did so, she tripped over her pack, kicking it over and scattering scrolls, quills and bottles of ink. "Now who left that there...?" sighed the bard, picking up various items and stuffing them into the pack again.
Xena smiled as she strapped her rolled up blanket behind Argos' saddle. Good old Gabrielle, she thought to herself as the bard disappeared behind some trees, some things never changed. As she finished securing the rolled up blanket, she looked round to the bards' blankets.
And that was when she spotted the scroll, lying a few feet away from the bards' pack.
She recognized the scroll instantly, it was one of a set the bard had bought in the last market before she ran out, with ornately carved handles. Gabrielle hadn't started to use those scrolls yet, as far as Xena was aware, but she could see the scroll had clearly been written on. Telling herself she really shouldn't, she walked to the scroll, picked it up and, with just a moments' hesitation, opened it and began to read.
Her eyes widened in surprise at what she saw.
You are the sea that laps against me, I am your shore and ever will remain so,
Sometimes you are angry and crash upon me severely pounding upon my very being,
Sometimes you are gentle, washing me as you touch my soul, your beauty knows no end,
Sometimes I seem hard and sharp like rocks and sometimes hard but smooth like pebbles,
Sometimes I am soft like golden sand, touched and moved by you wherever we meet,
Sometimes we are watched and sometimes all alone we find each other when no one else can see,
Always I am here and always you know exactly what I think of, we were made to be together,
Under sun and under stars we share everywhere and nowhere, everything and nothing,
Brief moments are our lifetime and our happiness will last forever,
You caress my soul you fill my heart you wash away my tears, you gently lap my inner thoughts,
You protect and nurture me and I give you a place to rest your heart, my body is yours, my everything is nothing without you,
We were made when time began and we will love long after we exist no more,
So different and yet so much alike, so separate and yet so much as one we live,
You complete me, I belong to you and I would never want it any other way, forever will never be long enough.
Xena couldn't believe her eyes. Could it be true? Could Gabrielle have feelings for her?
Hastily, hearing Gabrielle return from the stream, she stuffed the scroll into the pack.
Late in the afternoon, Gabrielles' patience with the silent warrior ran out. They'd passed through two villages and travelled some twelve miles so far, and Xena had been even more sullen and introspective than usual. Gabrielle was beginning to fear her friend had been struck dumb.
"A dinar for them," she said brightly.
"Hmm? What?" asked the warrior.
"Xena, you've barely said a word all day!" the bard exclaimed. "I know you're not exactly the talkative one, but, really..."
"I'm just thinking," Xena replied.
"About some battle or other?" the younger blonde enquired, knowing the warriors' dark past and her guilt.
"Uh-huh," grunted Xena, thinking to herself, yes, a battle, but one she hadn't fought yet and which she wasn't even sure how she should approach. How can I tell Gabrielle I love her? she wondered, lapsing back into silence.
Later that afternoon, after they arrived at another small village, the bard was surprised when Xena suggested they stop early for the day and stay at the village tavern.
"Xena! Are you feeling OK?" exclaimed the bard, in surprise. "I mean, it's still early afternoon, and you want to stop?"
"Why not?" asked the Warrior Princess, dismounting her horse, "We have nowhere to go, nothing to do right now... you can tell some stories at the tavern, you like that."
"Well, yes," replied Gabrielle thoughtfully, thinking of the attraction of another new audience for her stories, and liking the idea.
Casually, Xena said, "Maybe you got some new story or other to tell?" while she led Argo towards the stable behind the tavern.
"I don't have any new stories yet," the bard answered, "and I haven't had any ideas for any lately."
Xena didn't ask about the new scroll she'd read that morning. As it happened, she had been thinking a lot about it over the day, and had a scroll of her own to write. She'd mulled over the words all day, and here in the tavern, while the bard practised her art, she could put quill to parchment in peace.
Xena was blushing slightly. Partly this was due to hearing of her efforts to defeat a warlord, which Gabrielle had embellished more than a little, but mostly it was down to the words she was writing on the scroll before her.
A mug of ale, barely touched, sat beside her hand, as she slowly wrote a line. She reread it, and crossed it out with a curse.
Hades, she thought to herself, this barding business is harder than it looks!
Biting her tongue, and feeling more like a schoolgirl than a seasoned warrior, she slowly continued to write on the scroll.
Gabrielle finished her last story, and smiled at her applauding audience, although her smile was tinged with concern. Xena just wasn't herself today, yes, she could be quiet, but, today she was silent as the grave. And why on earth was the woman sitting at a table, scribbling away on a scroll, mouthing obscenities every few minutes?
Walking through the crowd to the table, her apprehension grew. Why was the warrior looking so pale? the bard wondered.
"Hey Xena," she said with a smile, sitting opposite the Warrior Princess, "Did you have an enjoyable evening?"
"Kind of," replied Xena, noncommitally.
"Is that one of my scrolls?" the bard asked, looking down at the scroll in Xenas' ink stained fingers.
"Yes," the warrior replied, "I just wanted to write something... something for you..."
"Oh!" Gabrielle looked into the fearfull blue eyes opposite her. Paranoia blossomed within the bard, for what reason could Xena be looking so scared?
"Can I see it...?" she asked eventually, when it became clear that Xena wasn't going to say or do anything.
"I was going to show it to you upstairs in our room," the warrior began, and Gabrielle stood up.
"Well let's go upstairs now!" the bard said, cheeks flushing slightly.
"What, now...?" asked Xena, sounding vaguely horrified. She'd hoped to finish the mug of ale, for a little courage, at least.
"Yes," replied Gabrielle, turning on her heel and striding towards the back of the tavern, "Now."
Xena gulped, stood, and took a long pull of the mug of flat ale before her, before following the bard.
"OK, Xena," the bard said heatedly, as the warrior closed the door to their room behind them, "Let's see the scroll."
Wordlessly, Xena passed the scroll to Gabrielle, who unfurled the scroll and began to read. "Eight hundred and thirty one," she began.
"Eight three one," Xena corrected quietly.
The bard continued to read. "Gabrielle, I want to tell you something, and here it is."
Gabrielle took a breath, and continued, "Eight letters. Three words. One meaning. I love you."
The bard paused, realising how difficult it was for the Warrior Princess to express her feelings and commit them to parchment. The ale stained, ink blotted parchment with a mass of crossings out, that would be her most treasured scroll now. She looked up, tearfully, and looked into equally tearful blue eyes. It was a big step for the warrior to take, she realized, the next step would have to be hers.
Gabrielle spread her arms, stepped forward, and hugged her warrior tightly. "I love you, Xena," she said, resting her head on the other Xenas' shoulder.
Xena exhaled her breath in a rush. She hadn't realized she'd been holding it. "Oh, Gabrielle," she whispered, "I've wanted to tell you for so long..."
Gabrielle looked up, and placed her finger on Xenas' lips. "Say nothing," she suggested tenderly. "Just kiss me."
Xena raised an eyebrow in surprise, her face lit up by her smile. "Two things I never thought I'd hear from you," she teased, "Say nothing, and kiss me."
The young bard bapped her warriors' shoulder playfully, and began to unclip Xenas' bronze breastplate.
Several candlemarks later, an exhausted Gabrielle looked at the sleeping Xena beside her. For once the warrior seemed to be sleeping well, without dreams, and looked content. The young bard smiled with love for the other woman.
It had been slightly more difficult to seduce the warrior than she'd expected. She'd had to pretend to have erotic dreams of Xena (actually, that was rather easy), tried to make the Warrior Princess jealous, but in the end "accidentally" tripping over her pack and "letting" the warrior find her scroll with her thoughts had worked.
Lying back to sleep herself, she smiled. She had her Xena now; it had worked out rather well in the end.