The Joining

Part 8

29

A Little Later...

" NOT NOW, James!"

"Look. You are insane."

"Ouch. In a good way, I hope."

"Do you know what they call women who use the rhythm method?"

"Good Catholics?"

"No. Mothers, Robin.".

"Oh. Oh! Youíre concerned?"

" Gods, yes, Iím CONCERNED..."

"Why are you searching around the bed, though? What makes you think Aphrodite would have left us something?"

"Because sheís hardly the Goddess of unplanned parenthood, considering her own conception."

"What does that mean?"

"Well, Iíd tell you, but it might discourage you from going for a swim if we ever go to ocean while weíre here...Ah! I knew it! Oh... boy...."

"What?

"Found a bit more than I was looking for."

"Yeah?"

"Letís say I found a, well, nevermind, I found some condoms..."

Later

"James, if I didnít feel so damn good, Iíd be really pissed at you."

"What...?"

"Iím impressed .Youíve proved that you can make love TO me..."

"I need to know if this is a family trait? Is everyone in your family this placid and relaxed after sex?"

"Shut up. Iíll show you placid. I feel like you put me on damned roller coaster, and sat back in some control booth pulling levers, while I went up and down...whatever. You SHOULD have been with me . But no, you still arenít ready for that. You still think youíre caught in some kind of wind tunnel, and if you donít keep clinging to whatever it is that youíre still holding onto, youíll be sucked into the blades. Right? Say something!"

"Nice metaphors?"

"Talk to me! Hey, Whoa... Jeez, When...when did the mirror fall down on us?"

"Remember when you were holding the post? I was pushing against the base board..."

"Thatís what I mean! James! Youíre doing a play-by-play, damn it! Let go! Did you ever consider that Iíve got just as much to lose as you do?"

"Really? Why? Thereís more glass on my side..."

"Not that! If I go back , without this, you donít think I wonít notice the loss? That when weíre back I wonít know that Iím missing something this important? How do you imagine I feel about maybe living half a life again?"

"So youíd miss the Amazons? Let me flip this out..."

"THE AMAZONS? Youíre kidding right? Listen, you...You remember the ads for the army, Be All That You Can Be? Well, to me the Nation is like that. Boot camp."

"Boot camp?"

"Well....Look. I was thinking...like, youíre going to need...Well, you canít just keep dropping out of the sky on top of Warrior Princesses without someone to watch your ass, you know."

"You want to..."

"Yes."

"Like partners?"

"I donít think itís a choice."

"Robin..."

"Yeah..."

"This ass?"

"Uh huh."

"You going to look after it?"

"Only if you promise to let go."

"No hands?"

"James. I didnít say that..."

Much Later.

"Mmmmm. Wha?! Why is part of me is trying to move?"

"I donít want to, but now the head of the bed is lying on my shoulders...ahh."

"I hate to ask the obvious, is it the bed or us? When did that happen, James?"

"I....donít remember."

"A ha! Good. No great!"

"Iím happy youíre happy. <kiss> Can I show you what I found before?".

"After you tell me what happened to the legs."

"Yours or the beds, my Amazon."

"Both."

"You can...stay...here...mmmm! if you want, I want to check out that stash in the drawers"

"James? What stash in the drawers?"

"There are these drawers built in. Very full drawers. At the very least some oils and jellies. And more condoms."

"Condoms and oils and gels? Oh my!".

"Yeah, you could say the bed came complete."

"Really? Lemme see, lemme see."

"If you would slither this way, I present to you, my Amazon...one stop shopping."

" Holy....Hell, James, we could open a store, ourselves."

"Look at the labels..."

"Aphrodite buys in Indonesia, USA, Taiwan?"

"No, I think the bed came this way."

"Not just the bed...."

"Hmmm, <kiss>

"Oooo, James. I see what you mean by complete."

"Thinking about replacing me already? What is it? Inflatable man or woman?

"Uhhh, according to this, both."

"Both? Whereís the fun in that?

"Detachable Plug in Extras. Says it swings both ways. AC and DC."

"No. Thatís batteries or electrical plug, Robin."

"My God, youíre right! <laughing>Itís got motors! Three of them. State of the art it says. Interested?"

"No, Iíd worry that at least two of them might actually be disguised pencil sharpeners."

"Definitely a danger to somebodyís timeline."

"Oh, shut up. <laughs>

"Do you know what this..."

"Donít wanna know. But could we keep it locked up in case it moves by itself?"

"Chicken. Hey, traveler. Werenít you supposed to be looking for oils?

"What do you want? Unscented, fruit flavoured, desensitizing...oh hereís something useful."

"What?"

"Knee pads".

"Boring! Ahh, James! This must be the ladies section. And look at the selection! Did you ever watch Blackadder? The one where he puts on The Black RUSSIAN? And the Queen comes along and goes Booiiiing!"

"Ahh, Robin? Would you mind not playing with... the competition?

"Oh. Are you ready to compete...?"

"Not a competition, team sport..."

Later again

"James, we canít leave a note IN the pot, because itís under glass in the museum, Right?"

"And we can be sure you wouldnít go to the museum on my say so anyways."

"Maybe we should forget the pot, and mark something else we know survives."

"You mean, go to the Parthenon and write ĎFor a Good time, call Robin...í Oww! Hey! No pinching."

"Donít remember any rules."<kiss>

"Very distracting. Wait, your phone number, that actually might work..."

"Oh yeah. <reporters voice> A Mystery 200 generations old was solved today when archeologists dialed a phone number discovered chiseled on the butt of the Venus de Milo..."

"No Robin, on the pot. Wouldnít you freak out if your phone number was on a pot with your face on it? We ask Neshia....

"Freaking out is a good thing?"

"Was a few minutes ago..."

" It would have to be in Roman numerals...."

"I donít know, a Roman reference might change itís value. Change itís history. The Museum might not buy it."

"Then she could work it in as a part of the pattern on the rim... and you canít see it unless you know to look,"

"Good. How do we get you to look at it?"

"Iíll write me a note. Well, Iíll write a note for you to give me, that I figure will catch my attention."

"You realize that by changing the design, or Neshiaís making it later, may have already changed the future, and thatís assuming it really is the same pot and not some parallel version..."

"Look, James, stop that. We arenít going to put all our eggs in one basket, because I am not going to lose this, Do You Believe Me?"

"When did you get that growl?"

"I donít know...Do you like it?"

"Seems appropriate for someone whoís planning on guarding my ass. Yeah, I like it."

"Good. Because Iím planning on keeping it."

30

"My goodness! You look so exhausted, James." Robin was enjoying her teasing.

They stood on a hill overlooking the parade grounds. A few clouds drifted on a light breeze. Amazons and guests were sparring, or generally milling about below.

James gave Robin a dirty look. "And you are annoyingly bright and cheery." He unsuccessfully fought a yawn. "If I had known letting you have a few hours to sleep this morning would put you in this unpleasant condition, I wouldnít have wasted precious sleeping time writing the my first poetry in ten years..."

"Wasted?" Robin pouted. "I woke up and let you read it to me."

"Let me? Oh, lady, sleep is a thing of the past for you."

"Promises, promises."

"If I have anything to do with it, you will be red-eyed and..."

"Miserable? I donít think so..." She pulled his head down and kissed him. "And here I was worrying about that bet."

James turned around and closed his eyes. His head fell forward in defeat. "All right. I give. I am apparently the last person in the village to know what this frickiní bet was. It sure as hell must be something, considering the looks and the smiles Iíve been getting. I donít get it! What could be so embarrassing in losing to Xena, right? Everyone here must have done that at least twice?"

Robin was trying to hold a straight face. She allowed only a small smile, but it was a strain. She began to explain in a very controlled tone.

"Well, you see, your bet with Xena was..." She took a breath.

"Yes," James said impatiently, "I bet Xena.."

"The bet was to see..." Robin looked down at the ground, "...to see who could pee...the furthest." And the strain was too much and she exploded with the repressed laughter.

"And I LOST?" Jamesí eyes were coming out of his sockets.

Robin was trying to control her laughter but not succeeding. She slapped her arm around him "She suckered you, James. You were too drunk to take down your pants." She broke up again.

She put her hand on her loverís shoulder. "Oh, Iím sorry" slowly containing herself, "I shouldnít be laughing , James, but..."

To her surprise, he seemed amused. "You know, Iím such a pompous asshole. I suppose the whole village really does know about this, right?"

Robin nodded.

"So, Iíve worried about being thought of as a danger to the women here. A Threat, a lean mean raping machine," he started a rueful chuckle. But then his head cocked and his tone and eyes changed. "So I suppose I owe Xena one, donít I?...For helping me like that, I mean..."

Robin saw the look in his eye, and worried. "Uh, James, I really donít think you want to get into paybacks with Xena..."

They heard a cough behind them and found a still sickly looking Hercules and Iolaus standing behind them. James frowned at Robin. "I thought you were supposed to hear people sneaking up behind us, Amazon?"

Iolaus added "And I thought Amazons walked more smoothly, but you both have this strange stiff..." Hercules hit the grinning blonde on the shoulder. "Ow! Hey, youíre the one who told me that you could hear them like they were in the next room...Ow!"

Robin and Hercules both hit him this time. James wished that he wasnít blushing. Robin just looked mad. She put her hands on her hips and asked, "Well, are we going to start picking teams? Though why do I have this feeling, that after we play Volleyball or something."

James grinned. "Except this time, the skinny kid with glasses is the captain."

Robin looked at the demi-god. "You used to be skinny with glasses?"

Iolaus laughed, "I donít know about glasses; I donít even remember bad hair days."

Hercules was becoming embarrassed and his weakness wore at his patience

"Can we get started? Because right now, I think Iím willing to trade Iolaus for Robin."

Iolous started to interrupt, but James stopped him. "Thatís not a bad idea. Look. I know that Gabrielle expects Iolaus on her side, and that after yesterday, everyone sees Robin as a miniature Xena... but I think it would mean a lot to Xena, after all thatís happened with you guys in the past, if Iolaus was on her team. If thatís all right with you?"

Ioulaus blinked and nodded. "If itís OK with Xena, I`d be proud to..."

"It would mean a great deal to me," came a low murmur. As usual, none of them had heard the warrior approach. They watched as she clasped the suddenly nervous looking blonde sidekick to her side. " Fact is, I think we all know, that if this really was a battle between Gabrielle and I, I`d be out there alone." The Warrior added, muttering. " And that just might include my Mother. So, ...Iím glad of the support." She released the nervously smiling Iolaus, and James realized that Hercules had probably told his partner that Xena might be needing... relaxation. She looked fine, but for a nervous twitch under one eye...

"Well then, " James said blandly, " I know that several of the Amazons are ready to fight each other for a position... And since we have to have equal numbers, the more on Xena`s side, the better for peace in the tribe. So, I`ll give you Joxer, Maleager, Minya..."

Later Robin took James aside and said "That was very...considerate of you, James." She gripped his face with her hands. "Obliging. Actually accommodating...."

"Youíre suspicious."

"Oh, yeah."

"You know how this ceremony is supposed to work?" he asked.

"Yeah, itís a throwback to raiding parties. Two warring tribes present their weapons, and then symbolically disarm, allowing the couple to be joined, joining their tribes as well." As with anything to do with the Amazons, Robin had quizzed Ephiny in detail.

"Well, maybe thatís how other people get married around here, but I donít quite see it that way. You see, if we had Iolaus, or even Elaini in our war party, ours would be the sidekicks, or the womanís group. Not going to happen.

"Itís not going to be the great Warrior Princess and her sidekick. This is a going to be a union of equals, the Queen of the Amazon Nation choosing her Consort, and Pony is going to piss herself for being on the wrong side." He grinned.

"James, " Robin was beginning to be worried. "This doesnít have to do with Xena and the bet, does it? You are planning a wedding, right? Gabrielle`s wedding? Donít you think she would like to be consulted?"

"Consulted? It was her idea." Robin stepped back, shocked.

"Iím just going to enjoy it a lot more, now." And he grinned again.

31

The afternoon was bright and clear. Certainly clear of any members of the wedding parties. Robin was watching from her perch in the trees that grew high above the platform. `Just your average wedding,` she thought.` Iím in ancient Greece, at least, sort of, like, ancient Greece, Iím waiting for the groom, who is a woman, with the bride, in a tree. Yeah, Iím handling it." She remembered James dealing with her objections.

"First off, Xena isnít a factor." heíd told her. "Whenever she does figure out whatís going on, she wonít do anything to stop us. The rest know that weíre a group of mainly Amazon warriors, but they wonít know that weíve selected all the archers. And they think weíd never do anything crazy with Gabrielle`s mom and her family involved. But with Hecuba on the ground, and Lila willing to try anything once...we do have the element of surprise."

"Gee. Why would they be surprised?" sheíd replied. "Why wouldnít the groomís party expect a fully armed attack by the bride at the wedding? Unless theyíre planning the same thing?"

"That motley crew of Kings, forest dwellers, Gods and thieves? They couldnít agree on lunch. Theyíre going to roll down that aisle like it was the beginning of the Bugs Bunny Show. All that will be missing is someone singing Overture, turn the lights...and maybe the kangaroo..."

Robin smiled at the memory and looked over to see a matching grin on her companion in the tree. She whispered to Gabrielle, "Is this REALLY how you pictured your wedding?"

"No. Never thought I`d be this lucky."

Robin just shook her head. "I thought you were afraid of heights?"

"Grrls gotta do, what a grrls gotta do!" The bard snickered.

Robin laughed, and covered her mouth quickly. "Then all I can say I guess, is you Go girl!"

There was a blare of some sort of trumpet, and the Warrior Princessís caravan came into sight. Robin had gotten to know the name and reputations of many of Xena`s friends, but was surprised at the amount of heavy artillery they were carrying. Even Salmoneous had been convinced to carry a sword for the ceremonial disarmament, and Robin began to have new doubts about the intelligence of this plan.

There were several carts, each hauling a different grouping of dignitaries, all joyfully waving at the seated guests. Xena, of course led, riding Argo, who was in full battle regalia.

Behind her was a somewhat recovered Hercules and Iolaus driving the cart with Cyrene, while Toris walked along side. Xena`s eyes scanned the ground, no doubt noticing the large bales of hay placed on the right hand side of the road. When her eyes did glance upwards, Robin felt as though the warrior was staring directly at her, even though she knew that she was hidden in the dense foliage. Gabrielle was carefully checking that each cart was in the expected position, her green eyes dancing with inner excitement. Another bird call sounded, and Robin watched Xena`s head jerk. `Wondering what that new one meant, eh warrior?` The caravan came to a halt. Xena, her tense posture clearly anticipating something, dismounted slowly. She climbed the steps to the platform directly below Robin, and stood waiting like a martyr.

Unusual in an Amazon attack, there were no war cries. The first intimation that something was planned was the crashing sounds as each cart had its rigged right wheels pulled off by ropes hidden in the path, and the shouts as the passengers lurched and fell onto the handily padded sides. Dozens of archers appeared from behind each hay bale, and more warriors vaulted from the trees. each with a specific assignment, only one or two surrounding the royalty, five archers in a ring around a chagrined Hercules and Ioulaus. Grabbing their ropes and closing their eyes, Gabrielle and Robin landed just out of swords reach of Xena. the Queen of the Amazonís gave her soulmate a dazzling smile before turning towards the now surrounded carts.

"All members of the Warrior Princessís contingent, DISARM! All weapons, NOW."

In the stunned silence a voice could be heard cursing fluently. "Three furking years." Eponin was saying, "Three furking years, trying to get the drop on her...and finally someone does it...and Iím...." The rest was unintelligible but one of the Amazons had her hands pressing on Xenonís ears anyways. James appeared along side, carrying a detailed weapons list. Salmoneous had already tossed his sword away the moment his cart had tilted, but most of the rest were looking to their commander. Xena dropped to her knees before the Queen and without hesitation formally presented her with her sword.

From her kneeling position she spoke clearly for all to hear but her eyes were fixed only on the Queen. "My sword, and whatever else I have, whatever I am, or will be... yours." For a moment it appeared to Robin that Gabrielle was ready to melt and call the whole thing off, but she gathered herself, took the sword, and pointed at the warriors side.

"The round killing thing, the breast dagger, the thigh knives, the boot dagger, the new whip.., lets go."

James was going through a similar list, and many of the guests were astonished at the pile of equipment that appeared in front of Autolycus alone. After a quick inspection by Ephiny, each victim was allowed to join the seated wedding guests. Finally when the last chobos, knife and spear had been removed, Gabrielle again called her warriors to attention. She raised her arms and a cry of victory rang out through the woods. Then, before the echoes had died, she lowered her hands and commanded "Amazons, HOLD!, Amazons, DISARM!" and their weapons were dropped in military precision, Gabrielle dropped to her warriorís side, and presented her staff , her eyes tearing slightly, saying with her love shining in the words, "Whatever I have. Whatever I will be. Yours. Forever." She then pulled her soulmate up with her, and for a moment they were alone in each others eyes. The Amazon Queen kissed her Consort; to the cheers of all the warriors present, and they were brought back down to mortality. As Ephiny mounted the platform to begin the ceremony, Gabrielle whispered, "You knew didnít you, and yet the Warrior Princess led her friends into a trap?"

Xena smiled. "All I knew, was that the Amazon Queen was unlikely to disarm her nation first, not if there was a choice. And the Amazon Queen is very clever about coming up with choices. As for traps, I trust you, my love. And I was trapped a very long time ago."

Gabrielle buried her head in her warriors shoulder. "Please, donít call this a trap. Or else weíre both prisoners. Itís home.

"Always. Where you go..."

"And where you go. I go. Always."

The Regent interrupted with a harsh whisper. "I am glad to say this for the very last time, Break It Up! Because in less than candlemark, the three of us are going to be very wealthy."

Gabrielle was about to ask for a definition of wealthy, but Xena asked "No one else bet on us?"

Ephiny smiled and rubbed her hands together and said "Consider it as sort of compliment." before regaining her Regentís poise and turning to the crowd and beginning the first of the prayers to Artemis.

After a soaking them in an alcohol mixture, Ephiny raised the coupleís hands and placed a double-edged dagger between their palms and withdrew it quickly, slicing identical wounds along their lifelines. She reached for the leather to bind their hands together, when she was surprised by a strong arm pulling her gently away from the couple.

The Patron of the Amazons dismissed the Regent, who dropped to her knees. Pleasantly aware of the sensation she was causing amongst her gathered faithful, Artemis spoke to Xena first. "Warrior?" Xena dropped her eyes for a split second before nodding, and Artemis almost smiled at the unexpected deference. She turned to Gabrielle, and said softly "Chosen?" and Gabrielle nodded as well. Ignoring the proffered leather strap, she reached into her ever present quiver and drew out an unused bow string. Running it through the drip of blood which had started to form at the base of their joined hands, she then began to tie their wrists and hands together, speaking the words of the ceremony as she did so. "As your blood is joined, so shall your hearts, your souls, and your future."

There was a bright light and Artemis was suddenly joined by her sisters; Aphrodite for once showing the regal bearing of her status, Athena, bold and strong as always, but with one eye looking through the crowd to verify the whereabouts of a certain child.

The Goddesses each raised their hands above the couple, blessing them, and then they were gone.

The crowd was hushed, staring in awe at the literally thrice blessed couple.

Robin whispered to James, "I hate to think of what they would have to go through for a divorce."

James knew he should be annoyed for her impertinence, but instead he was wondering where she got this nerve.

32

"There must be a whole subdivision in this tribe that just works as brewers." thought Robin as she watched as several more casks of ale were rolled out. She looked around at yet another Amazon celebration. She had secured a place near the throne as the line of guests continued to offer their gifts to the happy couple. Throughout the evening, groups of dancers, performers and musicians had come and gone, the only constant, Gabrielleís squeals of delight as she had received each present. Armor, weapons, clothing, exotic foods lay scattered about, and still her enthusiasm did not diminish. Though Robin had taken this position in the hope of spotting James, who had disappeared on some mysterious errand, she almost missed him hiding behind a tree trying to catch Xenaís eyes surreptitiously. She ran over to him.

"Where the hell have you been? Youíre not back to avoiding me..."

"No, of course not, not you, love," and he gave her a long kiss that left them both breathless. "Iíd just like to talk to Xena without..."

"Jaa-ames?" Gabrielleís voice carried over the music to them. James stiffened.

Gabrielle was doing the old crone imitation that she used in performing her stories.

"Come over her and give your sweet grandma a kiss."

James shot a look at Robin.

"I didnít say anything," she protested.

The traveler slouched his way over to the Queen.

"Thatís my sweet boy. Cute, and smart as a whip, Iíll have you know." Still joined by Artemisí string, she cackled to her amused partner.

James faced the grinning bard with hands folded across his chest.

"OK, what do you think you know?" he demanded.

"Whatís that?" She cupped her free hand to her ear. "Canít quite hear you..."

"Neshia the potter couldnít have known. Robin says she hasnít talked..."

Pure pleasure was shining from the jade eyes. "One of my people nearly passes out looking at drawings for an urn...?"

"Maybe I recognized it as a classic and valuable piece of art?"

She changed back to a her normal tone "Not saying that it isnít. But with all your traveling, youíve had the chance to stash any amount of gold and artwork long ago, if thatís what you were interested in. Nope," she rested her head on her palm, " Itís a link. Youíve seen that pot before. And if youíve already seen it, and it doesnít exist HERE yet, then it exists in your future." She cackled again. "Pretty smart for an old lady, eh? Now whereís my kiss, sonny?"

James hated being forced to smile. Now was no different. "One, I am not going to start treating beautiful 24 year olds, like grandmothers. And two, youíre right, I have seen that urn before, but when I saw it..." he paused dramatically, "... it had five Amazons killing that same panther." He almost added Ďso thereí

The dinar dropped. "Centaur droppings." Gabrielle cursed softly.

Xena looked over to Robin. "Five Amazons were supposed to kill that cat? You changed the future?" Robin shrugged. She grinned at her lover, "So, no more talking about flying machines for you, huh?"

Gabrielle actually started to sulk. "Never needed yours or anybodyís help..."

James looked at the unusual picture. Xena relaxed and smiling, Gabrielle sulking.

Xena used her free hand to placate her. "Why donít you open some more presents, love. Cleopatra sent that huge chest, Zeus knows whatís inside?" Still grumbling, the Bard signaled to a member of her retinue.

Xena turned her curious eyes to James. "So what have you been up to all day?" she purred.

"Yeah?" Robin interjected joining them.

"Well, you already opened the telescope, so I thought Iíd work up a new gift."

"Itís OK, you know, Lao Maís daughter sent a compass..."

"No, No. I want to introduce a fine new custom from the future. Itís called: ĎA Honeymooní."

"Oh?" Xena seemed intrigued.

"Yes, you see, basically what happens is the joined couple skips out in the middle of the party and goes off to be alone..." he paused as Xenaís eyes lit up. "And they donít tell anyone where theyíre going. Sometimes for days..." Pausing again. "Usually somewhere no one knows about. Well, almost no one... Sound like fun right about now?"

Xena contemplated Jamesí face, knowing that both of them were thinking of a certain nearby cave.

The warrior spoke cautiously. "But wouldnít this place be a little... uncomfortable for tonight?"

"Not if it had been completely and totally restocked, very recently." James hypothesized

"How well stocked?"

"Xena, you just stood up in front of the whole nation and saluted my survival training. I would have thought that you would have faith, and trust, that I know most of the basic and essential items needed for such an...outing."

"Basic essentials?"

"One extra large, fully loaded cartload of basic essentials, yes."

"Hmmm" The corners of Xenaís lips twitched. "And when would you advise that this... Ďhoneymooní begin?"

"Well, I donít know if you were aware that there are of several rather revenge minded types who have their eyes on a certain Amazon Queen..."

"Anyone I know?" Xena was only mildly curious.

"Iíd think itís safe to say, after todayís capture, pretty well everyone you know."

"Oh. Right."

"Iím told at one point there seemed to be a plan involving moving the Queenís hut to another, ah, less desirable location..."

This struck a chord with Xena. "I knew I should have finished the house. Like to see them move that! This is just like Gabrielleís story about the straw and stick houses."

Robin was stunned. "Gabrielle wrote the original Three Little Pigs?"

James grinned. "Yes, but in her alternative version the smart little pig ends up making it with the big bad wolf."

"I heard that!" came a voice from the throne.

Xena reached over to the Bard. "Be nice, love. James has been telling me some very important strategic information." She turned back. "What else is planned?"

"Well, someone suggested burning some parchment and substituting it in her scroll cases...but it was explained that there were rules to this if they wanted to escape being ...sternly lectured by you, possibly firmly and repeatedly ahh... lectured, and one of them was; Donít Touch The Scrolls."

"Good to know people are listening," The warrior commented.

"Not necessarily. There was a plan to drug her and haul her..." He stopped, seeing the expression on Xenaís face.

The warrior spoke with precision "Iím guessing that person didnít get the basic concept contained in Donít Touch The Scrolls."

"Donít Touch The Bard?"

"Yeah. So?"

"Well, as we speak, several small sacks of dye are being readied for an unusual attack late tonight."

Xena looked at James and smirked. "And why are you ratting them out?"

"As interesting and erotic as a multicoloured Bard might be, you would no doubt be forced to retaliate."

"No Doubt."

James smiled. "Iím just trying to stop the cycle of violence."

"Uh huh."

"Oh, and by the way, not that you need the help, but King Laius spoke to the guards of the night shift, about travelers...."

"They have the West quadrant?" she questioned. He nodded. She looked around the room and James could see a flicker of frustration. "When is night, night?"

"Finish with the presents, then thereís a toast... " Xena rolled her eyes and growled deep in her throat. "Thatís all, thatís it...and then both of you head for the back of the platform. There will be a friend waiting behind it."

"A four-footed friend?"

"None better."

"Oh I donít know," and with her free hand, the Destroyer of Nations gently pulled him to her.

33

"You told me " said a comfortable and pleasantly sloshed Robin, taking another sip from her cup, "that one of the reasons that the Amazons party so much, is Ďcause only a third can attend at the same time. The rest are sleeping or on watch. But it seems to me that just about everybody is here." She was sitting on James who was using her shoulder as a chin rest.

James pulled his lover even closer. "One of the advantages to inviting royalty to your wedding is that they tend to travel with a small to middle size army."

Robin almost jumped up. "Are you saying the Our Land is being guarded by foreign troops?"

"Our Land? Whoa, Amazon!." She settled back down in his lap. "Technically no. Actually itís being guarded by troops sworn to obey their Amazon Commanders, at least for tonight."

"They swore fealty to Amazons?"

"Something about having each of their rulers captured and released by the Queen seems to have influenced their ...trust." They both shared a grin.

"She probably considered that, didnít she?"

"She can be a very devious lady."

A voice came from behind them. "Talking about Xena?"

"Uh, yeah, who else, Joxer?" Robin resentfully stood up.

Someone had convinced Joxer to remove his armor, and he stood before them in a shift, hair brushed, looking, well, almost competent. "I think itís time to do our thing," and he thrust out the instruments he was carrying, nearly striking them on the table.

Gingerly removing his guitar, James asked "Are the music sheets distributed?"

"Worked all day, as many copies as we could make." was the reply.

Robin looked at a copy. "Is this the translation? It doesnít rhyme."

"Thatís how we know itís the translation." Joxer explained patiently.

Robin nodded, and then gave him a double take.

"How about the original Afrikaans Lyrics?"

"Handed out"

James looked to Robin. "What do you think, time to bring it to a close?"

Robin eyes wandered over the scene. Gabrielle was happily ensconced in her Xena, Warrior Chair. The bound hands were supporting her cheek, her free arm draped around her Consortís back. Laughing and intoxicated, the guests filled the clearing right to the edge of the trees, lit by the torches and the stars. James caught her suddenly pensive expression.

"Memorizing it all?" He guessed.

She turned to him and said firmly. "No need. Iím not going to forget this. Ever." She took his hand to her lips and repeated, "Ever. Now go up, there and finish them off."
 
 

To be concluded in Part 9


Taiko's Scrolls of the Xenaverse