The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are owned by... I dont know anymore, but not by me and Im not making any money off of them in any case.
This is a self-indulgent piece that Id intended to post, as an aside, when I put up my next story. Its also a bit of absolute silliness. My hope is that it lifts your spirits some, gives you a momentary respite - though I imagine its more likely to cause excessive rolling of the eyes instead. Thats cool too...
Cult of Personality: Ive noted that sometimes in fanfiction, the bard inserts her or himself into the storyline to advance the plot. I felt it my duty to tackle this challenge as I make my way through the fanfiction genre. To immortalize (read: thoroughly humiliate) myself in fanfiction. Its handled in my usual subtle style, so keep your eyes peeled or you might miss it.
Glossary: A truffle is a mushroom, considered by many to be an ambrosial fungus. They grow in the wild and for generations French people have gathered them by clever means from the countryside. Before they figured out how to grow them domestically, they cost their weight in gold. Theyre still not cheap.
It Happened One Night
by Creme Brulee
It was a quiet, refreshing spring evening. The sky was clear, the sun had just dipped below the horizon and stars began to appear in the indigo sphere of the heavens. The pleasant sound of crickets trilling their evening lullaby was broken intermittently by a rhythmic grinding noise that emanated from a clearing where a small, but bright campfire burned.
Xena and Gabrielle had found yet another bucolic setting to make camp and rest their weary bodies. Theyd had a particularly long and tiring day, having rescued another village from sure and total destruction at the hands of yet another dim-witted warlord.
The people of the village were a sour and ungrateful lot. Despite the rescue, they had complained that the heroic duo had not retrieved for them an important anointed sacrificial beast that had gone missing the very morning of their arrival. The village elder even insinuated that the pair was somehow responsible for the disappearance of the sacrificial quadruped.
Xena, after explaining that she and Gabrielle were unlikely suspects for having absconded with said sacred beast, given that A: theyd been kind of busy during the afternoon and B: they werent in the market for a pet. She went on to point out that the reason the elder had given for making the beast sacrifice-ready in the first place was to offer it up to a god in hopes it would show mercy and wipe the warlord that threatened the village from the face of the earth. That warlord, she helpfully added, had been wiped. So what was the problem?
The village elder was unimpressed with her reasoning and noted that thats what you got for sending a couple of women to do a mans job. Why in his day, things had been different. He whined on, explaining that in times of need a suitably heroic man would show up, huge, smelly and drunk. Hed abuse the women and save the village at the last minute from whatever impending catastrophe had made his presence necessary. Xena had mumbled that shed gladly abuse a few of the village women if itd make them feel better. Gabrielle had elbowed her in the ribs, smoothed the situation over as only she could, and dragged Xena out of the hut before shed set it on fire.
It had been a long, long day.
Gabrielle sat writing on her bedroll, occasionally glancing up at the warrior and wondering how it was that Xenas sword wasnt sharpened down to a fine thread given the amount of attention it got. She smiled when Xena, without glancing up, pumped her eyebrows in a suggestive manner.
Something interesting you over here? The warrior asked.
Could be. Gabrielle answered. But I can see that youre hard at work and I wouldnt dream of distracting you from such an important task.
It is important Gabrielle. This weapon is all that stands between us and them.
Yes, but you didnt even use it today and you sharpened it last night.
Xena narrowed her eyes and looked at the bard. She wondered if Gabrielle had finally caught on to her favorite stealth foreplay technique. The one that drove Gabrielle crazy night after night. The brooding, dedicated-warrior-sharpening-her-sword routine. It primed that woman like no aphrodisiac could. But this musing would have to wait for another time, because Xena was on her feet, sword at the ready, having sensed... something.
What is it? the bard asked.
Not sure. Two, maybe... Xena listened, extending her warrior senses out into the darkness. Ill go look.
Dont be long. Gabrielle responded. Biting her lip at the intense sensation that had made itself known so suddenly between her thighs. It was bad enough to have to listen to Xenas soulful one note warrior tune play across her sword all night, but to have to watch her stoic and well muscled companion receding into the darkness in full, overly-protective mode, well, the bard was nearly undone.
Before long Gabrielle heard a loud rustling and scuffling commotion coming from the bushes at the edge of the camp site. Voices raised in protest proceeded Xenas coming into view. She was carrying two women by the scruff of the neck.
Put us down you overgrown ox! And back off before you get walloped or smote or something else fierce and regretful. Hence! I say! You unwieldy beast of a woman!
Gabrielle noted that while the voice carried and the threats were surely heartfelt, they issued forth from the mouth of a woman who was surely no taller than her own vertically challenged self, and certainly no threat to Xena.
Xena! Put them down! Gabrielle scolded. It was clear that neither of the two were a threat as the second woman in Xenas grasp hung unresisting with her arms crossed, rolling her eyes in a bored fashion and pretending not to know the struggling woman dangling from the warriors other fist.
They attacked me! Xena exclaimed as she dumped the duo unceremoniously to the ground.
It was self defense. The bored woman stated matter of factly as she readjusted her tunic.
She came running at me with a stick! Xena pointed at the shorter one.
You killed our truffle pig! You lout! the short one accused.
Xena! Gabrielle exclaimed, aghast. How could you?
Sensing an ally in the midst, the short one turned to the blonde woman to plead her case, She comes flying out of nowhere and Whoosh, chucks this round, sharp thing and takes that poor, sweet, truffle sniffing head right off.
That was no truffle pig you idiot, Xena snorted. That was a wild boar! It was charging me!
That guy who sold it to us said it was a truffle pig straight from Gaul! The short one shouted indignantly. We spent our life savings on that pig and you killed it!
Whats a truffle pig? It occurred to Gabrielle to ask.
Xena turned to her inquisitive companion. A trained swine that can smell expensive fungus. Theyre used in Gaul to find this fungus they call truffles and put them in every damned dish they can think of. But that was no truffle pig. She turned back to the couple, eyeing the short one in particular. You should have taken a good look at its snout you dumbass, then maybe you would have noticed the tusks.
The short one looked at her less short companion and said, Hey, shes right. Why didnt you notice that? Youre supposed to know about animals and stuff.
Ive told you eight hundred times. Im an ornithologist. I dont know about pigs, or fungus - or sauces for that matter!
The short woman made a face at her partner then turned back on the huge warrior who seemed a safer target for her ire. You killed our wild boar! You owe us 500 dinars! Having issued this dictum she nudged her partner in the direction of the affronted woman in leather. Go get the money from her. she encouraged.
Im not giving you a thing. Xena countered.
Now, now, Im sure we can come to an understanding. Gabrielle said soothingly.
The two strangers looked at Gabrielle, fully acknowledging her presence for the first time. As one, they took in the bards exposed abdomen.
Yes. Came the simultaneous reply from the couple, nodding their heads enthusiastically. Were sure we can.
Xena stepped forward, arms folded, blocking her beloveds abdominals from view. I dont think so.
Xena, be reasonable... let me talk to them. Gabrielle urged.
Yeah Xena, the obnoxious little woman said in a smug voice. I think you ought to let the lady speak.
Yes Xena Gabrielle agreed, nudging the reluctant and often bossy warrior aside. I think shes right.
Xena narrowed her eyes at the short irritation that was about to get walloped so fast she wouldnt know what hit her for a fortnight. But before she could move the taller woman of the vexatious pair popped the shorter one on the back of the head. Cut that out, you.
Yes you. Stop being such a git Brulee, maybe we can sell the boar carcass to the people in the village. That ought to get us a dinar or two.
Brulee? As in Creme Brulee? Xena asked in a mocking tone. What kind of a name is that?
The short woman approached her, glaring up at her impeccable and impressive form. The kind I used to beat kids up for making fun of. You got a problem with it?
Xena raised an eyebrow in response to the ludicrous challenge.
Used to? asked the annoying womans partner. What about that little guy last week? You nearly made him cry when he called you Creme Puff.
He deserved it! Brulee turned to face her traitorous partner.
He was six!
You cant let em get away with that kind of thing! Im tellin ya. Next, theyll be walking all over you.
Wouldnt be hard for em, considering your size. Xena noted.
Hey! Two voices protested in unison. Gabrielle, always touchy about her height, pitched in on the vertically challenged womans behalf.
Thered been no alternative but to let the discommodious duo stay with them for the night. And if their company wasnt challenge enough, there was the matter of their names. Xena had thought Brulee a ridiculous appellation, but shed balked altogether at the other womans name.
Creme Brulee and Ume Boshi, whered you get names like that? Gabrielle had asked before turning in for the night. Whered you two grow up?
Its a long story. Brulee had answered.
And if youre not careful, shell tell you. Ume interjected, yanking her partners hand firmly and guiding her off to their bedroll.
Xena and Gabrielle set off to secure the perimeter and returned from their thorough exertions for a well earned nights rest.
Xena awoke some time later having sensed something awry in the camp. There was scuffling and some low, grunting noises. The warrior took a deep breath, as Eli had taught her, and counted to five before saying, That had better be Gabrielles hand on my ass or someones going to regret it.
Ooops, sorry. came the muffled reply as two bodies rolled away from her, the quiet noises continuing a little further off.
The scene they woke to the next day was unwelcome, but hardly surprising to Xena who had surmised that their two guests were going to be nothing but trouble. Their camp was surrounded by the entire population of the village theyd rescued the day before.
They dressed in a rapid fashion and prepared to deal with the roiling crowd.
You guys always invite this many people over for breakfast? Brulee asked, eyeing their saddle bags and noting they didnt have nearly enough food in stock for such a large turnout.
The village elder stepped forward. Xena and Gabrielle! We find you guilty of the crime of prematurely sacrificing our divine boar! You will die the death of the three hundred blows from an under ripe avocado.
Youve got to be kidding. Xena groaned.
Village elder, Gabrielle said. Xena killed that boar in self defense, it attacked her last night!
Nevertheless. That boar was anointed by the High Priestess Zot! Had been promised to the god of I Will Save Your Useless Asses From Yet Another Pathetic Warlord Whom You Could Defeat If You Had A Half Of A Wit Amongst You! The penalty for such a heresy is death!
Oh, give us a break you old windbag! Brulee chimed in. You people wouldnt know a divine boar from pot-bellied swine.
You! Several people in the crowd exclaimed, while pointing at the small woman. Its you!
The villagers, many of whom carried rakes and pitchforks, began to close around the four of them.
Xena drew her sword. Gabrielle held her staff at the ready.
Back! Back off. Okay, were just going to walk out of here slowly. Xena warned them.
Yeah! Brulee agreed. Like she said!
Shush you. Ume hissed. We wouldnt even be in this situation if you hadnt started that fire in the market yesterday.
I was buying you a new spy glass so that you could watch those damned birds you seem to like so much more than me. They put it out before most of the market burned down! Brulee reasoned. Besides, it wasnt my idea to have that lantern so inconveniently placed on that shelf. And who knew there was a scroll merchants booth right next door? Stupid place for it. Near a precariously placed paraffin lamp, I mean. Brulee felt that she was often misunderstood and got a bum deal as a result.
That was you?! Gabrielle asked, amazed. Shed gone to the market to buy some much needed scrolls only to find the entire establishment a pile of ash.
Lets discuss this later shall we? Xena interrupted. She moved quickly to smack several hands from the crowd that were reaching towards Gabrielles abdomen.
Wait! Ume exclaimed. Quiet!
Though all of the villagers were boiling with blood lust and barely concealed carnal desire shined in their eyes, all stopped and paid attention to the seemingly unassuming woman. Perhaps it was the urgency of her tone that promised some missive of import, perhaps a divine message. On some unconscious level they may have hoped for some glistening pearl of wisdom that would pull them back from the brink of carnal frenzy, thus saving the focus of their attentions from a sure and horrible death by rake or pike or whatever.
There it is again! Ume exclaimed. The Thebian Grib call. Its rare to this region. They must be migrating early!
What the hell is she talking about? Xena asked.
Brulee, thoroughly embarrassed by this personal tick of her bird-obsessed partner, tried desperately to cover. She often speaks in tongues when being attacked by a mob.
Why am I not surprised to hear that this isnt an uncommon occurrence for you? The warrior asked.
The mob, realizing once again that is was such, resumed its advance.
Xena let out an ear splitting whistle that was answered by the neighing of two horses and the sound of hooves pounding the forest floor. This caused the mob to pause again to take note of the two horses that came thundering into the clearing. Mostly they took note to get the hell out of the way of the two giant animals who took no heed of them. The parting villagers created some much needed space around the threatened foursome. Both Xena and Gabrielle hopped upon their steeds, dragging the other women up behind them and galloped off, through the stunned populace.
Several minutes later they slowed to a canter. Brulee glanced over at Ume and pumped her eyebrows. The two of them were holding on tight to their rescuers. Brulee had nothing short of a death grip on Gabrielles abdomen and she was sure that Ume wasnt just holding onto Xena for balance.
The horses stopped and Xena and Gabrielle pried the women from their bodies.
I think we ought to part company. Xena announced.
Oh sure, Brulee answered in mocking tones. Kill our truffle pig, get a whole village after us and then ride off into the sunset. Now theres a heroic howdie do.
For the last time, that was no truffle pig! Xena declared.
Whatever. You still owe us. Brulee countered.
Brulee, zip it. Ume turned to Gabrielle. We need a ride out of here. Well take it as compensation for killing the boar. You drop us at a convenient crossroad, Ill make sure she shuts it for the rest of the ride.
Gabrielle considered the proposition. This woman seemed to have a knack for bargaining. You keep your hands off my warrior, and weve got a deal.
Only if you stop scoping out my girlfriend. Ume countered.
Deal. said Gabrielle.
Brulee looked puzzled, fairly sure that the fair haired bard hadnt once looked at her with anything but understanding or mild irritation since theyd met.
The two hagglers spat in their palms and smacked their hands together in a hearty handshake, sealing their deal. Both Xena and Brulee exchanged disgusted looks.
Mid afternoon, the travelers stopped briefly to water the horses and eat a light meal.
How is it that you two are so far from home? Gabrielle asked.
Were compiling data for the field guide Im writing, Birds of Ancient Greece. Ume answered.
But then, why were you hunting for truffles?
People pay well for them. You have to make money. Ume shrugged. Ever try living off a book advance?
Gabrielle shook her head. No, but its no easy feat living off a bards income.
What about the warrior? Doesnt she make any money? Ume asked.
Gabrielle smiled at Xena, who was busy making bristling-type motions. Shes on a path to redemption. Its a full-time undertaking. She was once a feared warlord, fierce and uncaring.
Path to redemption? Sounds like a twelve step thing. Howd you get her on it? Ume asked, eyeing her own partner.
Hey! Since when have I ever been fierce and uncaring? Brulee huffed.
What about all of those nights you stayed late in the village tavern, listening to those adventure stories? That was pretty uncaring.
Oh sure, and abandoning me for our feathered brethren every chance you got, that was what?
Weird. Xena answered for the group.
The strange couple, locked in this eternal struggle, but damned if theyd let anybody else butt in on it, turned to glare at the warrior. Xena shrugged. The women turned back toward each other and continued their argument in the torturous and telepathic manner available to people who spend too much time together.
Gabrielle sat next to Xena. Do you think well ever be like that? She gestured at their silent, intently focused, guests.
Have I ever showed you how to administer the pinch? Xena asked.
Here, Ill show it to you now.
But why now?
Because if were ever like that, I want you to use it to kill me.
Late that afternoon, they reached a convenient crossroad. One road lead to Athens, the other to nowhere in particular, but surely danger and adventure lurked around its next bend.
The group stood saying their goodbyes.
Brulee tried to dispel the awkward moment that always seemed to creep into a parting. Gabrielle, thanks for lunch, it was... real. Xena, watch that twitchy chakram arm of yours, that next pig might just be looking for truffles.
Xena, having withstood more than enough from this pain in the ass, swept the woman into an iron grip and delivered a series of noogies to the top of her head.
Uncle, uncle! Brulee submitted.
Xena released her, a triumphant sneer gracing her otherwise perfect features.
Ume thanked Gabrielle for the rescue and Xena for not killing her exasperating partner. She knew that Brulee had oft tested the warriors barely suppressed murderous rage that afternoon.
The couples parted ways. Dubious wishes of safe travels exchanged between them.
I think Xena likes me. Brulee admitted as they strolled toward Athens.
Yeah, I kinda got that feeling. Ume rolled her eyes. Hows your head?
Ah, shes not so tough. Brulee winced as she rubbed a particularly painful knot on her dense and bruised noggin. I coulda taken her, you know? But I didnt want to embarrass her in front of Gabrielle.
That was big of you.
Watch the height jokes or Ill swipe your bird guide and sell it at the first wallpaper merchant we cross paths with.
Not if you ever want to get in my tunic again, you wont.
This gave Brulee an idea. Hey, wha'dya say we spend the night at an Inn? Fresh towels, good wine?
How will we pay for the room? You dont expect me to give bird call lessons in Athens? Pishing doesnt go over too well in the city.
No, I was thinking I could tell that story. You know, the one where we went to the land of the big hole in the ground and the cart we rented had that blind horse and I got attacked by one of those short, pointy plants. We usually get a dinar or two for that one.
Ume sighed. Couldnt you just work in the kitchen for a night?
Not tired of me and my stories, are you my sweet? Brulee asked, only somewhat worried.
Of course not. I just havent had a decent meal in weeks and Gabrielles very nice, but that lunch she fixed us is leading a revolt in my digestive tract. I miss your cooking.
Xena and Gabrielle stood arm in arm on a hilltop not far off, watching the strange couple as they receded into the distance.
Do you think theyll be okay Xena? Gabrielle asked.
Theyll be fine Gabrielle. Its Athens Im worried about.
The pair turned and mounted their steeds. With a hearty, Yah! they galloped happily down the road to danger and adventure.
Tune in next week (not!) when Brulee gets kidnapped by cannibals (tells them their cooking techniques suck) and Ume has to convince Xena and Gabrielle that its a worthwhile cause to rescue her.