PROLOGUE - in which Gabrielle, the blonde bard, arrives in Athens with Sapphic verses at the tip of her tongue
"If you forget me, think of our gifts to Aphrodite…"
It had become a habit for Gabrielle to hum quietly to herself when she travelled by Xena's side, but today she had the dusty country road all to herself and no reason to keep the volume down.
"…braided rosebuds, dill and crocus twined around your young neck …"
She was in an unusually good mood considering the fact that Xena was busy with some warrior princess mission of unknown duration. A mission, which she apparently found the petite bard unfit for. Consequently, Gabrielle had – once again – been left behind.
Xena meant well, but her overprotective behaviour was becoming an increasing pain in the neck for Gabrielle, who was perfectly capable of reading between the lines. What she found there was the fact that Xena still didn't consider Gabrielle and equal.
While she could not compete with the warrior princess' combat skills – no one could – Gabrielle was far from helpless. She had long ago shed the remains of the naïve, rural girl who had initially been at Xena's heels like an eager puppy. She had grown older, wiser and excellent at defending herself as well as others with the wooden staff that doubled as her walking stick. In fact, Gabrielle had managed to save Xena's life a few times. Admittedly, not quite as many times as Xena had saved hers – but in any case; Xena's endless concern for her was misplaced at best, if not downright insulting.
However, on this particular day Gabrielle's spirits were high. You see, while Xena was off on adventures Gabrielle would pass the time in Athens – the most glorious of cities with an abundance of stories just waiting to be discovered and told. Gabrielle had spent a few days behind its massive city walls some years back. Back then she had been trying to enrol at the Academy of Bards, but this time, with no tests at hand, she would be able to explore Athens more thoroughly.
"…myrrh poured on your head and on soft mats girls with all that they most wished for beside them…"
She tapped her walking stick rhythmically against the ground, adding a bit of percussion to her tune. With every step the city gate seemed to increase in size as she approached it. Soon she would disappear into a sea of people, but she was too happy to lower her voice and continued singing at the top of her lungs while closing the distance to the entrance.
"…while no voices chanted choruses without ours, no woodlot bloomed in spring without… song."
The last word of the verse never amounted to more than a dry whisper stuck in Gabrielle's mouth, for in that moment she crossed the threshold to the political and cultural centre of Greece: The sight that greeted her resembled ruins.