For disclaimers see Betrayal. Email the author at email@example.com.
"Gabrielle! Behind you!!"
Without looking back the amazon queen raised her staff behind her head blocking the sword strikes of the two men that worked their way behind her. With cat like reflexes she spun around taking one man out with a quick strike and then the other. As both men lay scattered across the ground unmoving she was finally able to rejoin her partner.
"Good work," Gabrielle smiled. "Come on," she said as she motioned her traveling partner toward a young woman who was curled up on the ground, timidly watching the action.
"Are you okay?" the bard asked.
"Yes . . . thanks to you," the young woman answered. She finally had the chance to look up and when she did she found herself getting lost in the green eyes that shined down upon her. Great Aphrodite, sheís beautiful.
"No thanks needed," Gabrielle replied with a comforting grin. "Did you know these men?" she asked pointing behind her to the four men that lay unconscious on the ground.
"No theyíre not from my village. Iíve never seen them before," the young lady replied. Aside from a little dirt and some scraps the lady was quite beautiful Ė dark, flowing brown hair and eyes to match. "I was doing the laundry and they came out of nowhere."
Gabrielle dusted the woman off a bit and stood up offering her arm. "Well letís get you home. Whereís your washings?" the bard asked.
"Over there," she pointed meekly, still a bit shaken by the events of the day.
"Iím all over it," Gabrielleís new partner replied, before starting toward the bank to get the womanís belongings. "Iíll tie the men up and catch up in a bit."
Gabrielle gave a nod and turned back to the young woman. "Letís get you back to the village and notify the sheriff," Gabrielle said starting to walk down the path.
The young woman couldnít take her eyes off the bard and she tripped on a rock in the road. Gabrielle helped her catch her balance and couldnít help notice the sense of awe transpiring in the young womanís eyes. There was a time when you were in awe yourself Gabrielle so tread lightly here, she warned herself.
"Are you sure youíre okay?" Gabrielle asked.
Donít blush now. Sheíll think youíre just some stupid kid, the young woman berated herself silently. "Yes Iím fine. I guess I just never saw a real amazon before . . . I mean you are an amazon arenít you?"
Gabrielle grinned. "Last time I checked yes I was still an amazon," she teased. "My name is Gabrielle."
"Gabrielle, the amazon bard?! Is that Xena?!" the young woman asked excitedly, looking back over her shoulder to the woman just putting the finishing knots on the attackers.
"Yes Iím the amazons bard." I guess my reputation DOES proceeds me at this point. "And no thatís not Xena. Thatís Eponin Ė sheís an old friend of mine thatís been traveling with me for the past moon now."
"Oh . . ." Come on! Come on! Think of something witty or clever. Youíre a poet for gaiaís sake. It was obvious the young woman didnít know what to add so Gabrielle picked up the conversation.
"And whatís your name?"
"Iím August," she answered. Yeah that will really wow her. "Iím a writer too. Not stories. Just poetry. My folks think itís a silly waste of time but someday Iím going to be famous - like you!"
"Iím not famous," Gabrielle chuckled.
"Are you kidding?" the girl said excitedly, the pace of her speech quickening. "Every traveling bard that comes through our town has at least one story of the Warrior Princess and the Amazon Bard. I know lots of the tales about your journeys. Would you like to hear one?! How about Cecrops? Or Baccus? I could tell you one if you like. I said I write poetry but I know I could do a good story too if you want."
Oh boy. Did I sound this over anxious when Xena road into town? Yep. You probably did. No wonder Xena was always so quiet. I did all the talking, Gabrielle chuckled out loud and the girl gave her an inqusiative look. Gabrielle shook her head to clear her mind of the memory and to let the girl know it wasnít her jabberjaw that was making her grin. "No thatís okay," Gabrielle told her. "Iím sure youíre a great storyteller. Letís just get you back home safe okay?"
The rest of the way Gabrielle learned practically everything about the young girlís life. She was non-stop and very open about everything. The more Gabrielle listened the more it sounded like an echo of years ago. But soon they were at the girls home where she was met by her parents and her brother.
"Please stay for the evening at least," her mother insisted. "A hot meal and a warm bed are the least we can offer you for saving August."
Eponin and Gabrielle looked at each other and nodded in agreement to each other before taking the offer. Later that night after dinner Augustís father offered to give Gabrielle one of their horses but Gabrielle solidly refused. Dinner and shelter for the evening was more than generous enough. Augustís father relented but made the bard promise if she ever needed anything that their door was always open. That was an offer Gabrielle could accept in good faith.
As Eponin and Gabrielle walked around the village after supper they noticed August trying to follow close behind but also trying to be inconspicuous. Eponin couldnít help but take note of the smile that played on the bard lips.
"You seem awfully happy this evening."
Gabrielle looked around the town and then back to Eponin. "This little place reminds me of my hometown. Itís funny. When I was Augustís age I could wait to leave it but looking back now . . . it was a peaceful place. Quiet. Sometimes I miss it."
"Looking to settle down my queen," Eponin teased.
"Far from it," Gabrielle chuckled. "Poteidaia is a nice place to visit but I donít think I could ever live there again. Kinda like you and the amazon village. You miss it . . . but then again you donít. Do you understand?"
Eponin considered the question. "Yeah . . . but I left because of love," Eponin countered. "After Ephiny and I broke up . . . I couldnít sit by and let Solari build the life I hoped to share with Ephiny. It was too hard . . . I left because of love."
"I left Poteidaia because of love too," Gabrielle winked. "Although the circimstances were different . . . the end result seems to be the same though huh? Abandonment." I traveled the world with Xena and came full circle and what do I have to show -- numberous notches of kills on my swords and once more, a staff in my hand.
Eponin noticed Gabrielleís mind at work and she could tell it wasnít anything good. Gods how I wish I could make that ache go away thatís in her eyes, her soul. "At least weíre not alone," Eponin countered optimistically.
"I get the feeling in this village weíll never be alone," Gabrielle teased pitching a thumb over her shoulder toward their Ďshadowí who quickly turned to act like she was looking at some scarfs.
"You know what I meant," Eponin pushed. "Weíve got each other now. Itís been a long time since I had anyone I could relate too. I make a pretty good sidekick even though Iím almost 50 summers old."
"Partner," Gabrielle corrected. "Iíll never have a sidekick . . . ever."
Eponin gave an agreeable nod and let the conversation be. So what did the hero do to you Gabrielle? Whatís happened that the word Ďsidekickí brings such pain to your eyes? Gabrielle had opened up and told her of some of the facts that drove sidekick and hero apart. She was sure there were many more tales to be told and she was confident that in time Gabrielle would confide them to her.
Weeks before she was delighted that Gabrielle had recognized her. It HAD been a long time since she had a real friend to relate to. The years she spent away from the amazon village consisted mostly of traveling from place to place doing odd jobs here and there. Then suddenly she was there . . . And as gorgeous as ever. Eponin felt herself admiring her traveling partner a little too close and looked for another destraction. She soon found it when she turned around to see August move a few stalls closer.
"What are you going to do about her?" Eponin teased, nodding toward the young woman. "Sheís been bitten by the love bug you know," she smirked.
Gabrielle chuckled. "Believe it or not I remember what thatís like . . . hero worship I mean. I had Xena so high on a pedastal youíd never think she could fall," Gabrielle answered with a grin. "It seems like another lifetime some days."
"You gonna set her straight?" Eponin asked.
"Whatís to set straight? Nothing wrong with admiration," Gabrielle countered.
Thatís good to know for future reference. "Thatís true," Eponin answered outloud. "But still . . ."
Gabrielle put down the bottle of wine she was looking at and faced Eponin. "I gotta tell her huh?"
Eponin shurgged her shoulders. "Itís your call . . . your admirer," she teased.
"Thanks," Gabrielle answered sarcastically before giving a sigh. "Why donít you head back to the barn for the night while I have a sensative chat, okay?"
Eponin gave a hearty chuckle. "Sensative chat?" she grinned. "I like the sound of that . . . Okay, Iíll catch you later . . . PARTNER."
Gabrielle saw her young admirer taking a sudden interest in some horseshoes when the duo had turned around. "August!" she yelled over toward her. When the girl looked up Gabrielle waved her over.
"Did you need something Gabrielle?" the girl asked excitedly, nearly tripping over herself willing to help as she passed Epinon.
Gabrielle did her best to hold back a smile. "Youíve been following me around for some time now. Is there something you want to ask me? Something you need from me?"
You bet there is the young woman thought lecherously. "Youíve done so much I really couldnít ask for more," she replied instead.
"Care to tell me why youíre following me around?" Gabrielle asked without malice. The bard saw Augustís cheek grow crimson and her suspcious were confirmed. "Look August," Gabrielle began, "Youíre a very beautiful young girl and we have a lot in common. I can see you admire me-."
"You really think Iím beautiful?!" the village girl replied hopeful.
Oh no now youíve done it. "Yes August but let me explain. Youíve got a family and life here and come sunrise Iíll be leaving and-."
"Then take me with you! I can cook for you and clean for you. I sharpen my fatherís sword all the time so I can even do that. Please say you will. Iím not meant for this town Gabrielle. Iím not the little girl my parents wanted me to be. Iím meant for bigger and better things."
What?! Oh great. I should have let Eponin do this. "I canít," Gabrielle replied. Why canít you? Xena did. Oh shut up you donít know what youíre talking about. Youíre not up to babysitting a starry eyed kid. You could do it you know. You could be a mentor to her. . . Just great. Iím arguing with myself and losing. I think my mind IS going. "August," Gabrielle said holding her temples trying to regroup. "You donít understand what youíre asking."
"Yes I do. I want to be a poet. I want to go to Athens. I canít be a poet here. If I want to be someone - ANYONE - who leaves a mark it wonít be in this little town. I mean look at you! You did it didnít you?! I could do it too if the right opportunity comes along and like it or not YOUíRE that opportunity . . . So Iím begging . . . Please . . . Take me with you. You canít leave me here in-."
"Potiedaia," Gabrielle mustered with a far off look in her eyes completing the girlís sentence.
"No. Geddeus . . . Potiedaia is at least 10 towns away," August answered somewhat confused.
"Huh?" Gabrielle asked reflexively before coming back to the present conversation, pushing the one from years back further into her memory. "Anyway August, the answer has to be no. Iím sorry."
Gabrielle started to walk away but she heard Augustís voice behind her. that stopped her in her tracks.
"Havenít you ever dreamed?"
That stopped Gabrielle from taking another step away.
Dreams. Yes I did have dreams and despite the pain, the suffering most of my dreams came true . . . except for Ďhappily ever afterí . . . and the reason they did was because of Xena. She believed in me when no one else did. I was never the proper young lady and if I had stayed in that little town I would have been dead years before . . . perhaps not physically but spiritually. You gotta do it. You gotta say yes.
"Okay," Gabrielle sighed before turning to face the girl. "But you have to tell your parents youíre leaving. No sneaking out. Understood? I made some mistakes when I left home and I donít want to see you repeat them. Got it?"
August stood slack jawed but quickly recovered. "I got it! No problem. Weíll go right now and Iíll let them know that Iím going to Athens with you! This is so great! I canít believe it! Maybe while weíre on the road you can give me some bard tips and we could-."
"Your parents have yet to agree," Gabrielle pointed out. "If they say no then I say no."
"Of course, of course. But I doubt they would say no. If I leave then father doesnít have to pay the dowery for me to marry Erereous - heís a nice guy but very dull and boring . . . Hey! You know what?! Maybe at night I can read my poems to you? Would you like that? Iíve got one that Iíve been working on for the last month!"
Ohhhh boy was all Gabrielleís mind could repeat.
CONTINUED IN PART VIII: CONFESSIONS