Disclaimer: Don’t own them, just wrote the story. Friends like Thenorm, Temora and Extra read it, and made it easier to finish.
Sex and Violence: Less violence than the show, and there are two women in love here. So run for the hills if you have problems with that.
Timeline: fifth season
A Solstice Card to my Friends in the Xenaverse
A SOLSTICE BENEFIT
I was in big trouble.
I think that for just a moment, the tanned hands clenching the poster would have been much happier doing the same thing to my throat. I could sort of understand why.
The main body of the flyer read:
Salmonius Productions presents:
For the benefit of the war orphans
A Solstice Concert
Gabrielle, The Great Bard Of Potadaia
Favorite of Kings and Gods!
ONE NIGHT ONLY!
Spellbinding you with her Tales of War and Love
ONE NIGHT ONLY!
Eyewitness to History
One of the Great Performers of our Time!
Considering that I hadn’t performed in public for over a year, I thought I might also have had some reason to be angry.
The real problem was that it continued on.
One Night Only!
The Warrior Princess
The Destroyer Of Nations
displaying one of her many skills!
Oh yeah, someone was going to have to die.
And if I didn’t talk fast… it was going to be me.
I watched as her eyes bypassed all of the hubbub of the Athens market place, zeroing in on each of the damned posters, plastered on every conceivable surface. Watched the bronzed face and shoulders tighten with each one she spotted. When she grinds her teeth like that, it’s usually better to get out of the way, but I knew this REALLY wasn’t my fault. I just had to hope that her natural sense of justice would give me a chance to explain.
Or, I could start running.
"Gabrielle." Very quiet. Not good.
"Gabrielle, when you and Salmoneous," she bit the name off like a curse, "were talking about you having a chance to perform again, I was very supportive of it, wasn’t I?"
"Yes, Xena, you were very supportive."
"And when Salmoneous..." She was going to hurt herself saying his name like that, I could tell, "...asked if I would participate to help the orphans at Solstice, what did I say?"
"That they would have to be baking them in a bread oven before you would sing in public." Hard to forget a picture like that.
I tried, though.
"I thought that would have made my sentiments clear."
Uh oh. Much more indicative of storms clouds ahead than teeth grinding could ever be, Xena had not only spoken using complete sentences, but three times had employed words more than two syllables.
She began to move. Trying to keep up with her long strides, I nearly collided with a piper, two fruit venders and a harpist. "Xena!" I yelled. She stopped and turned to look at me.
"Now, you know I would never try to make you do something you didn’t..." Her eyes nailed me before I could continue with THAT thought any further.
"Look. Xena. We both know that Sal is trying to push you into this thing by promoting it as a done deal, but he wouldn’t have tried that if he hadn’t been counting on your good heart, and generous nature when it came to a worthy cause..."
I think that line of crap just might have had an effect, but unfortunately at that moment, a hawker came around the corner calling out about the concert with his arms filled with leaflets. The Good Hearted, Generous Natured Warrior Princess hauled him up in the air by the crotch of his pants and held him at eye level. He looked pretty scared, so he got points for the right response.
"Are you an Orphan?" She snarled into his face. He shook his head wildly.
"Would you like to BE an orphan?" Same response.
"Then tell me where that Centaur’s butt of a boss of yours is hiding."
Speaking when you think that you’re about to breathe your last is a bit of a trick, but somehow he managed to babble out: "He’s got a secret office, behind the staging area, it’s marked by a lions head, you pull down a lever beside the head and slide a panel under..." Xena dropped him.
The Destroyer of Nations smiled. "Oh, I don’t think opening it will be that complicated," she assured him, and started walking.
"Xena!" This time I crashed through a schoolmaster, his class, and two dancers before I caught up.
She waited. "Gabrielle. I’m not going to hurt Salmoneous. At least not too much. After all, he’s the only one who can turn this around." I smiled in relief, but she continued. "Then I’ll kill him."
I wasn’t worried any more, so I laughed. Because as dangerous as she is, her temper is short lived, unlike mine. When I get mad at her, it usually lasts for at least a day. Being dead and leaving the Way of Love hadn’t improved it any, either. Lately, if she saw I was angry she would just say, "Tomorrow?" and disappear with Argo for the rest of the day.
We arrived at the theatre, and I found out that it was an open air stadium, with a capacity of well over a thousand. Maybe even three times that. My heart dropped into my knees.
She didn’t smile or anything, but I think a large part of her was enjoying the fact that now both of us had been screwed.
"A little bigger than you thought it would be?" The concern in her voice was so sweet that you could have bottled it as syrup.
"Xena. I haven’t performed in over a year. This was supposed to give me a reason to practice, to see if I could still do it."
She smiled and gave me a bland quizzical look. "And...?"
"AND...” Even I could hear the panic in my voice. “...I worked in taverns. Enclosed spaces where your voice could carry. Where I could start by working the front rows and bring them in seat by seat, until the whole place would listen. Taverns; where I had the Warrior Princess sitting in the rear if anybody so much as coughed.... Taverns, Xena!"
I stared out at the audience pits, which seemed to be stretching into the horizon in front of my eyes.
Xena merely smiled. "Then I take it we might need to toss a coin over who...?"
I wasn’t laughing now. "I’m going to kill him."
Salmoneous was quite jovial in his welcome. "I see you girls got in. Wonderful! Are you looking for a place to stay?"
Other than the fact that his voice was half an octave higher than usual, you could never have told that Xena had just kicked in his wall and was now standing on his chest with her sword at his throat.
"Is this a problem about the billing?" he asked.
I moved quickly to hold Xena’s sword hand as she raised it high. "This wasn’t what we agreed to, Sal. The concert is off."
Now he was frightened. "Canceled? It can’t be canceled! It’s been sold out for over a week! Every important figure in Athens is coming. Tickets are as prized as a seat in Parliament! You can’t cancel! It’s impossible."
I could tell Xena was about to comment on the many difficult things that were very possible, especially to a large overweight human body with skilled use of fists and/or knives, but I cut her off and said, "If it’s been sold out for so long, why are you still promoting it? Where’s the money for the Solstice dinner? You swore to Athena you wouldn’t keep a half dinar for yourself."
"Gabrielle." I hated when he talked with his hands. Made me so conscious that I did the same thing. "Don’t you see? I don’t need to touch a single coin. This concert is going to be the making of me. I’m sending out flyers just to keep my name out there. And we’re not talking about just a dinner and toys for the orphans anymore." He clutched his fists to his belly and then unfurled one hesitant finger towards Xena still looming above him. Grudgingly, she lifted him up. He oiled his way over to a large chest in the corner of the room. Showman to the end, and it had been that close, he threw open the lid.
I had never seen that many dinars in my life.
"How, how many..." I stuttered.
"Would you believe, approximately... 48,346?" Sal said.
I collapsed in a chair. Xena smirked. "Approximately? How many times have you counted it?"
He tried to look earnest. "Only a dozen times. Today. But don’t you see? You can rebuild, double the size of the orphanage. Hire teachers, and teach trades, you can change their lives. Kids will be banging on their doors claiming to be orphans. Hera’s Girdle, Xena, I would do it!"
I could see the effect this was having on Xena. I know the effect it was having on me. This time she only muttered "I am not singing in public."
Salmoneous made a tent with his fingers and touched his lips while he thought. He turned to me, probably trying to come up a plan to divide and conquer when he was sidetracked by a memory, "Oh. Gabrielle? You left me as your next address, and one of your Amazons left a scroll. It’s on my desk there." He turned to try to work on my partner, and I walked over to the paper strewn table.
Sure enough, there was a scroll with Chalupa’s seal on the outside. I carefully examined it to see if it had been tampered with. Salmoneous saw this, and gave me his best hurt expression.
So I very carefully examined it again.
It seemed fine, and I opened it to discover it was the Solstice pardon, a tradition that I had first instituted two years before. Apparently the practice was spreading because this one was by the Northern tribes, or at least what was left of them. It was for a Xena of Amphipolis, written by the Shamaness of the tribe, and it absolved her of the crime of murdering their Amazon leaders 10 years previously.
I sat down.
Apparently, this Xena of Amphipolis had returned in search of her companion Gabrielle in the past cycle, and risked her life and soul to enter the spirit’s realm in an unsuccessful attempt to speak with Gabrielle (at the time presumed dead) the holder of the Rite of Caste. When this was unsuccessful this Xena person had then stayed to free the souls trapped behind by her previous actions, again risking her soul and life to do so. Chalupa had made a note at the base indicating hope that I would be happy that this Xena would no longer be considered a war criminal by my people.
How nice, I thought.
Wish I’d known about any of this previously, so that it could have been a relief.
Xena had been waiting, becoming more and worried as my silence continued. "Gabrielle? What is it? Is something wrong?" she reached out to touch my hand but I jerked it away.
"Is something wrong?" There was tremor in my voice. "Yes, there is something wrong. You, are what’s wrong. You and Me, are what’s wrong...."
I stood and threw the scroll at her. She scanned it for just a second, and her face went white. "Gabrielle, that was a long time ago...I was, you always said..."
"Yes, that WAS a long time ago. But your not telling me about it, was today, and yesterday, and every day we’ve been together since I first took the mask. You dishonest, lying scrap of pig’s slime."
"Ummmm, should I go somewhere until tomorrow?"
"I don’t think tomorrow is going to come for a looooong time, Xena." I said.
And I walked out.