Raiders of the Dancing Gabbys
by JayBird (Jay Markle)
Like most of the major crises of their lives, this one started out simply enough for Xena and Gabrielle in a village tavern around lunchtime.
Gabrielle was sitting at their usual corner table, happily stuffing her face with nutbread, goat's cheese and an apple, while Xena had gone up to the bar to get a couple of free refills on the cold cider. That's when a drunken lout came staggering up behind Gabrielle, grabbing her in a tight bear hug and groping her breasts as he yelled in her ear, "HEEEEEEYAAAH, BAAAABY!!! Where'r ya sistahs? Wanna dance fo' me?"
Almost instantly Gabrielle was on her feet, chewing and swallowing as she kicked her chair back into the man's shins and grabbed his middle finger, yanking back on it hard enough for him to release his grip and allow her to twist his wrist so that he was bent over and straight-armed before her, now helpless and gasping for mercy.
Xena walked up to the table carrying the two mugs of cider.
"Trouble?" she asked innocently.
"Nothing I can't handle," Gabrielle wheezed, still a little shaken, but not wanting to admit it. "This... this..."
"Yeah... drunken idiot, obviously has me confused with someone else!"
"Awwww... com'n, Meg!" the man whined at Xena. "Call off yer Gabby, willya? She's hurtin' me!"
Xena nodded at Gabrielle, who let go. The man took his hand back, whimpering.
"Damn, Meg! Ain't like ya ta hurt a guy... lessen he wants t' get hurt!" He looked her over. "And wha'cha doin' wearin' yer Xena outfit like that? Y'know if the real Xena catches ya she'll cut ya a new one! I hear she's a real bitch on wheels!"
"You got that right," Xena growled. Somehow realizing that he had stepped in it, the man looked nervously about as Xena put the two mugs of cider on the table.
"Well... guess I'll be heading on back to the bar..." A beat later he was gasping for breath as Xena held him by the throat.
"Not so fast..." Xena paused, grinning evilly. "You got a name?"
"Lu... Lu... Lucieus," he replied, sounding like he was gargling with gravel. "M-My father was a Roman centurion... if that means anything to you..."
"Oy vey!" Gabrielle rolled her eyes.
"Siddown!" Xena dumped him in the chair and kept him there by jamming her booted foot into his neck. "Lucieus... you got some 'splaining to do!"
"Y-Your not Meg, are ya?" he whimpered
"And ya ain't that Hestian lady..."
"Oh shit..." He started to cry, and despite herself, Gabrielle started to feel sorry for him.
"All right, Lucieus," Xena said. "Now I know you thought I was Meg, but exactly who did you think my friend was?"
"And how did you know I have a sister?" Gabrielle asked.
"Sisters!" Lucieus corrected, trying to talk around the boot in his neck. "Your sisters! I thought ya were one o' the Three Dancin' Gabbys!"
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other and then back to Lucieus. "The what?" they asked simultaneously.
"The Dancin' Gabbys!" Lucieus said. "Y'know... They're at Meg's Tavern up on the Hestian Way. Appearin' nightly... well, also daily. Damn, now that I think about it they're always there! Three naked dancing girls who all look exactly like... her!" He pointed to Gabrielle.
"What else do they do at Meg's place?" Gabrielle asked, trying not to feel sick to her stomach.
"Nothing!" Lucieus said. "Oh, they get plenty of offers... but all they wanna do is dance, dance, dance! The weird thing is that even when the house band ain't playin', this strange music with this craaaazy beat just comes outta nowheres! It's weird!!!"
"Okay, Lucieus," Xena said, releasing her hold on him. "Go."
"Thank you." He nodded gratefully and scampered back to the relative safety of the far side of the bar.
Xena took the seat he had vacated and started on the nutbread.
"Xena," Gabrielle sat down beside her. "What now?"
"We finith our lunth," Xena replied. She took a deep swallow of cider. "Then we have a little chat with Meg. We should be able to reach her tavern by dark. Here. Eat up."
"Not hungry," Gabrielle replied, leaning back in her chair.
"What's your damage?" Xena asked as she bit off a hunk of cheese.
"I did it again!" Gabrielle replied. "I wish I had never seen that damned enchanted scroll that Aphrodite cooked up! I just wanted to do some good in this world! And I end up making two Gods of Olympus mortal, making it rain ale inside a tavern," she looked at Xena, "and sending you on a three day fishing expedition!"
"Don't knock yourself out about it," Xena replied with a shrug. "You're not the first mortal who got the short end of the stick when dealing with the Gods. Besides, you weren't the one who created the Dancing Gabbys."
"No, that was Joxer," Gabrielle said. "I just thought that when I finished the scroll and everything went back to normal, that the Three Dancing Gabbys would disappear!" She sighed. "I guess that means those Five Barbarians from Barbaria are still running around loose..." She looked back to Xena. "But how did the Dancing Gabbys find their way to Meg's place?"
"Think about it," Xena said. "Who's the one person well-acquainted with both the Gabbys and Meg?"
"Joxer!" Gabrielle closed her eyes and gently pounded her head on the table.
"I gotta have me a long talk with that boy," Xena said.
"So we go to Meg's place and find the Gabbys," Gabrielle said. "Then what?"
"What do you think?" Xena replied. "These Gabbys aren't real people. They're... simulacrums, creations of the Gods. Like that fake Hercules that Atalanta forged." Xena shrugged. "We'll just take the Gabbys out back of the tavern and..." Xena made a cutting motion across her neck, using the proper sound effect.
"Oh, Xena!" Gabrielle shuddered.
"Get a grip," Xena said. "Believe me, you do not want to go through life with three mirror images of yourself wandering around loose." Xena shook her head. "Take it from someone who knows."
"But killing them..."
"Might be for the best all around." Xena grinned wolfishly. "Being able to cut your pretty throat three times in a row might help me work out some of my inner rage." She glanced at Gabrielle and saw that she was staring at her with pie-plate eyes. "That was a joke. You can laugh."
Leah opened her eyes and stared serenely over a smooth lake, clear and beautiful in the afternoon sunshine, She sat on the shore with legs crossed and palms extended outwards, finally getting in-tune with her inner-self...
It was indeed a wicked and depraved world she lived in, a world even the High Priestess of a Hestian temple could no longer ignore. She hated to leave her temple--her sanctum--for any reason. But this was indeed a mission of mercy. Once again she attempted to find herself.
She heard the sound of galloping hooves approaching, along with the harsh shouts of a woman.
There was a long whooping scream from the rider as a black stallion galloped by on the nearby road, sending a cloud of dust slowly drifting over Leah's resting form. As she was coughing, the rider managed to halt her horse and get him turned around and headed back towards Leah.
"Sorry 'bout that!" Leah stared as Xena, the Great Warrior Princess--resplendent in her armor and battle leathers--hopped off her saddle and, scratching her backside, ambled towards her. "Howza like my new ride? Slick as snot, ain't he? Gotta get me a new saddle, tho... This one makes my ass itch!"
Leah stood up and faced her, once more feeling the amazement of staring into a mirror image of her own face.
"Meg," Leah said gently. "Why awe you dwezzed like Xena? You know if she catches you she will... be vewy, vewy upset!"
"Yeah, well..." Meg snorted. "What Xena don't know won't hurt me!" She chortled over that one. "'Sides, alotta my regulars like me to wear my Xena leathers. 'Specially the subs, they just looooove for me to top 'em out as Xena." Suddenly Meg's face took on a serious cast, and for an instant, she was Xena. "You shall pay for your insolence, worm. Now kneel and worship at the boots of your warrior princess!" Meg snorted again, unable to keep a straight face. "Pretty good, huh, Priestess?"
"Meg," Leah said. "We must talk."
"Hey, I'm standing here, ain't I?" Meg replied. "You sent for me, remember? It's your dinar."
"Meg," Leah took a deep breath. "I have hea'wd... distwezzing things about y' tav'wun."
"Y'can say that again," Meg snickered.
"Especially in wegawds to th'wee naked dancing gulls... The Th'wee Dancing Gabbys?"
Meg's face went serious. "What about my Gabbys?"
"That these th'wee awe in the mi'woah image of Gab'weelle, Amazon Queen and Baawd of Poteidia. That they dance fo' you fo' days on end, with no need fo' sleep o' sustenance."
"I'll admit they're low upkeep..." Meg sniffed.
"And that you keep them as slaves..."
"Now hold yer horses, sister." Meg stuck her finger in her face. "I would never... ever... keep a slave, okay? Nobody is at my tavern lessen they wanna be there, unnerstand? As for the Gabbys... I give them a home. A place to hang their... well, a place to be. And as far as their dancing goes, that's all they wanna do! All they ever wanna do!" Meg looked crossly at Leah. "'Sides, Priestess Prisspot... what biz is it of yours anyways?"
"Well it just so happens that today I weceived distwezzing news from a pilgwim who came to my temple," Leah replied. "It seems that a contingent of wogue Amazons awe coming f'wom the No'thlands to take the Dancing Gabbys and lay waste to y' tav'wun!"
"Amazons?" Meg snorted. "What in Tartarus do they want with my Gabbys? Let'm get their own girls!"
"You don't undewstand," Leah said patiently. "The Gabbys awe in the likeness of Xena's Gabweelle, who besides being a baawd is also an Amazon Queen! And fo' an Amazon Queen to dance naked befo' lusting men all day and all night... is an afwont to the Amazon Nation!"
"Shit!" Meg kicked at the dirt with her Xena boot. "Everytime somethin' good comes my way, somebody's gotta muck it up!" She rolled her eyes. "Now how do I get outta this!"
"Tis only one way," Meg said quickly. "And that's to let me take the Dancing Gabbys back to my temple. I will keep them safe and sound and help them lead cloistewed and chaste lives as twue Hestian Vi'gins!"
"Say what?" Meg said in bug-eyed amazement. "Have you been dipping into the communion wine again, or what? I ain't givin' up my Gabbys to no Amazons and I sure as Tartarus ain't givin' 'em up to you!"
"Fine," Leah said tightly. "Then the Amazons will come and take the Gabbys anyway and waze y' tav'wun to the vewy gwound and pwobably kill you as well!"
"So?" Meg groused. "What's it to you?"
"Meg," Leah said. "We shawah mo' than the same face, you know that in y' heart." She smiled. "Don't you, sistah?"
Meg looked at her suspiciously. "What are you talkin' about?"
"Meg," Leah sighed. "Did you know y' fathah?"
"No," Meg laughed. "My mom raised me by herself, never did have me no father." She snickered ruefully. "But I sure had me a shitload of uncles!"
"My mothah was a Hestian Vi'gin," Leah said. "Until one night when a wounded wawwiah came to the temple. She nuwsed him back to health... and by the time he left, she was with child." Leah looked down. "She left the temple in disgwace. But she also left Hestia the gweatest joy any woman can have. A daughtah... who became the Temple Pwiestess the mother could no longah be!"
Meg yawned. "Is there a point to this?"
"The point is that we awe all sistahs!" Leah said, almost in tears. "You, me, Xena... even the Pwincess Diana."
"Look, Priestess, I appreciate what you're sayin' 'n all. But I ain't never had me no other family after my mom died, and I don't need to start on one now." Meg sighed. "I don't need no one lookin' out after me, okay? I look out after myself just fine."
"So what awe you going to do about the Amazons?"
"Ahhhh... I already got that knocked!" Meg replied. "Don't the Amazons hold Xena in high regard as some kinda... honored warrior lady?"
"Well, yes. But I don't see..." Leah's eyes went wide as she held her hands over her open mouth. "Meg! Y-You can't!!!"
Meg laughed. "And why not? You can't say I'm not dressed for the occasion!" And with that she jumped back up on her stallion, kicked him in the slats, and took off like a madwoman down the road, with Leah running and screaming for her to come back... come back... please come back!!!
All she got for her trouble was another faceful of road dust. Finally Leah stopped - still hacking and coughing- and realized that if Meg wanted to go to Tartarus in a well-bucket, she was quite capable of doing the job herself.
Still, Leah thought, even if Meg was lost, there was still a chance she could save the Dancing Gabbys from certain Amazon Annihilation.
And so with a determined set to her jaw, the Priestess Leah started running like a harpy out of Tartarus for Meg's Tavern.
It's amazing, Joxer thought as he sipped his wine. How some things just get better with time, to be savored... to be appreciated.
Sitting at the bar at Meg's Tavern, Joxer continued to stare unabashedly as the Three Dancing Gabbys continued to twist and gyrate before him. A symphony of naked flesh and tight curves, with each Gabby identical and yet... oh so different.
And all this set to that otherworldly music coming from nowhere, with a strange driving beat that thankfully drowned out the shouts and catcalls of the hundreds of drunken men around him.
He took another careful sip of his drink and shuddered. It was safe to say that Meg's swill she called wine could sure stand a little time. But it was the cheapest thing on tap and the choice of most of the men who lined this bar day and night in thrall of the Gabbys, It was, after all, a house rule; no drinky, no Gabby.
He was once again studying the juncture of the center Gabby's inner thighs, when a fat, drunken lout stumbled up onto the bar and jumped onto the stage, shouting incoherencies as he made for the Gabbys. Joxer shook his head. Poor dumb schmuck. When ya gonna learn?
As the drunk approached the Gabby at stage right, she brought her elbow up -in perfect sync to the beat of the music- and smacked him in the nose hard enough to cause blood to geyser from his face. He stumbled back screaming, allowing the Gabby at stage center to kick him in the groin--again without missing a beat--and then he was tumbling off the stage and into the area behind the bar. Two of Meg's bored-looking girls were there to pick him up and escort him outside.
Amazing, Joxer thought. Since the Gabbys had arrived, most of Meg's girls had been relegated to becoming barkeeps and waitresses. No need for bouncers. No need for a house band either with that constant, driving music that played unendingly for the Gabbys on cue.
Yeah, Meg is sitting pretty, Joxer thought. And all because of me!
After the incident with the Enchanted Scroll of Aphrodite, Joxer had returned to the caves where most of the action in the fourth act had occurred. After all, maybe Ares had dropped his wallet or something.
That's when he had heard the mysterious, pounding music still echoing throughout the caves. And so with torch in hand he had searched for hours before finally finding the Three Dancing Gabbys happily... well, dancing to one another in a dark niche.
At first he was going to keep them for himself. But that's when he discovered the Dark Curse of the Dancing Gabbys. For while they traveled well, and would even consent to wear cloaks while in transit, once they stopped--if only for a few moments--the cloaks would fly off and the dancing would begin! And also that music, that crazy, wild music that sounded like it belonged in another time or place. After two nights of no sleep with the Gabbys dancing around his campfire, Joxer had more or less given the Gabbys to the one person who could do the most good with them. Meg.
And so, all's well that ends well. Except for the fact that the generous finder's fee Meg had paid him was almost gone, used to buy the cheap wine that he was actually developing a taste for. As he took another sip, someone shoved him aside as they climbed up on the bar.
"Hey!" Joxer shouted. "Watch it, assho... ho... oh... Hi, Meg!"
"Hello, young man!" Meg replied as she stood on top of the bar, a little wobbly. Joxer saw she was wearing her Hestian priestess robes, always a popular costume when the guards from the temple were on the premises.
"Gabbys!" Meg shouted as she clapped her hands to get their attention. "Come along with me now! Chop chop!"
>From the chorus of screams and moans of disappointment you would have thought that every man in the tavern had just gotten a red hot poker jabbed in his eye. Meg looked around wide-eyed as the Gabbys happily bounced off the stage and the music came to a grinding halt.
"Meg," Joxer said as he helped her down. "Where ya going with the Gabbys?"
"Ahem... just a little west bweak, tis all!" Meg replied.
"Meg," Joxer said suspiciously. "What's in the rucksack?"
"The wuck... uh, rucksack you're carrying. Looks kinda full."
"I weally don't..."
"I know what's in it." Joxer moved in closer. "It's outfits, isn't it? Outfits for the Dancing Gabbys, right? Cute lil' fru-frus from the Silk Road. Or maybe..." he swallowed, "lea... leather?"
"You'll see!" Meg smiled. She turned back to the Gabbys. "Come along, gulls!"
She led the Gabbys down the hall to the back rooms, while every pair of male eyes in the house where glued to their cute little butts.
After they left. the crowd of men started milling about aimlessly. Some wandered out through the red bat-wing doors while most stayed. Meg's girls perked up, hopeful for some customers at last.
"Damn!" A young merchant stood at the bat-wing doors squinting at the outside. "I can't remember if it's afternoon or morning!"
"The tavern faces west," Joxer replied. "So it'd better be afternoon."
"I've got a shop in the village... and a wife. And I haven't seen either in three days!" He shook his head. "I suppose I should check to see if I still have either to my name!"
"Whatever," Joxer said.
"Naw, I'll stick." Joxer looked around and leaned in closer. "Meg's puttin' the Gabbys into some outfits!"
"What kinda outfits?"
"I dunno." Joxer grinned. "Maybe leather."
"Well..." The man pondered his options. "Perhaps I could stay a bit longer..."
"I see it."
Gabrielle sighed. They were making good time to Meg's Tavern and were giving Argo a break by walking themselves. The sight that had gotten Gabrielle's attention was that of two oxen pulling a plow through a field, the plow guided by a young woman who was obviously pregnant. A little boy rode on one of the oxen, urging them on with gentle taps from a birch, while a little girl helped guide the oxen along in front.
Gabrielle stopped and looked at Xena.
"I've seen it before," Xena said wearily. "Some king decides to declare a war and every man and boy in the kingdom joins his army. Leaving the women and the children to do the real work."
"Can't we do something?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena sighed and hopped over the ditch separating the road from the field. Gabrielle followed while Argo nibbled on some high grass.
As Xena approached the woman, she still didn't know what to say to her. A problem that solved itself as soon as the woman saw her.
"Bitch!" the woman screamed, eyes blazing at Xena. "Filthy whore!"
The woman pulled away from the plow and stumbled towards Xena with arms flailing.
"You stole my husband!" she wailed. "And now you come here to mock me and my children? I'll kill you!"
She swung her fist at Xena, but all her precious energy had been spent reaching her. She ended up collapsing into Xena's arms, sobbing. Xena held her tight. She looked to Gabrielle, unsure of what to do herself.
As Gabrielle knelt down by the woman, the children stood frozen near the oxen and stared at their weeping mother.
"Listen to me," she said. "My name is Gabrielle, and this is my friend Xena. We mean you no harm; in fact we want to help you. I don't know who you think Xena is, but she would never steal another woman's husband." Gabrielle looked up at Xena and smiled. "Believe me, she's not that kind of girl."
The woman looked up at Xena with sad eyes. "You are... Xena? The Great Warrior Princess?"
"I... I am so sorry!" she whispered. "My name is Clea. I thought you were..."
"Meg?" Xena finished.
"Yes!" Clea hissed. "The foul bitch who took my Tyldus away from me!"
"Excuse me," Gabrielle said. "I don't mean to doubt you, but Meg doesn't seem like the type to steal away a man either... at least not just one!"
"That's it exactly!" Clea replied. "That bitch has stolen away every man in the countryside, from here to the Strymon! Our fields lay fallow, our farms deserted... all because of Meg and her damned Dancing Gabbys!" She frowned and looked up at Gabrielle. "What did you say your name was?"
"Mavis!" Xena said quickly. "Her name is Mavis!"
"What about these Three Dancing Gabbys?" Gabrielle asked.
"They came to that tramp's tavern six days ago," Clea said. "And since then they have bewitched every man who walks through her doors. The men leave only long enough to sell their family valuables so they'll have the dinars to watch the Gabbys some more!" The woman leaned back and began to sob uncontrollably in Xena's arms.
"Mavis," Xena said. "Get her kids." She looked down at Clea. "Where's your home?"
"No... No!" Clea sobbed. "These fields must be plowed and seeded before the next rain or we will have no crop!" She struggled in Xena's grasp.
"Now you listen to me," Xena growled. Something in her voice made Clea stop struggling and look up at her. "If you continue this madness you'll deliver your child early, or even possibly miscarry..."
"But the fields..."
"Listen," Xena said firmly. "Rest. And I swear to you that your husband will return to you tonight, and be working these fields by tomorrow morning."
Clea found her eyes. "I-I believe you."
"Good." Xena smiled. "Now, show me where your home is." And with that, she picked Clea up in her arms while Gabrielle gathered together the children and unhitched the oxen. Clea hugged her tight and rested her head on Xena's shoulder as the strange procession headed home.
Riding north on the Hestian Way at a fast gallop, Meg thought she would have little trouble spotting the group of rogue Amazons. She was right.
The Amazons were riding five abreast, taking up the whole road, their warhorses snorting and looking fierce as passersby hurried out of their way. Meg pulled her black stallion to a halt as the Amazons did their own horses, facing her off.
Meg swallowed hard but tried to maintain her 'Xenatude' as she liked to think of it. She slipped off the stallion and walked forward, clasping her hands over her head.
These Amazons looked a lot meaner than the few she had seen in her travels. They were all very muscular, and wore heavy battle leathers and the usual masked headdresses. The leader wore the most ornate headdress of all and carried a sword at her side. Beside her were two Amazons armed with war staffs, and beside them two armed with crossbows.
The leader dismounted and approached Meg, who put her hands down but kept them away from her 'weapons,' her wooden chakram and tin sword.
"I am Xena..." Meg began.
"I know who you are," the leader replied. Her voice seemed cold coming from behind the mask. "I saw you five years ago when you and your army asked Queen Hippolyta for safe passage through Amazon Land."
"Then you have me at a disadvantage," Meg said.
"The Great Warrior Princess of Amphipolis is seldom... disadvantaged," the leader said with a chuckle. "But you have the honor of addressing the commandrix of the Velasca Legion, a cadre of pure Amazons dedicated to the restoration of the true Amazon Nation!"
"Charmed," Meg deadpanned. "So what's your business with the Three Dancing Gabbys?"
"Good news travels fast," the leader said. "Our business is... our business. And none of yours."
"I'm making it my business," Meg snarled, taking a step closer to the leader who involuntarily took a step back. Awww... this is easy! Meg thought to herself. "The three Gabbys are mere creations of the Gods. They are not your Queen Gabrielle and they are not an insult to the Amazon Nation."
Meg paused, realizing the Amazons were suddenly laughing.
"Oh... excuse me!" the leader said, still chuckling. "But you have us all wrong! Gabrielle might be an Amazon queen, but she isn't our queen!" Her voice suddenly went hard. "We recognize no queen of lineage from that bitch Melosa, or her traitorous sister Terreis. As far as we're concerned, the true Gabrielle is enough of an insult to Amazonia!"
Meg frowned. "So why..."
"Come now... Xena." The leader took a step forward, getting right into her face. "You've heard the talk. How the Dancing Gabbys have decimated the countryside of any man who falls under their spell. They are indeed 'creations of the Gods' as you say, and they possess the same powers as the Sirens of a mysterious island, who tempt men with their song to wreck their ships on the rocks."
Meg could tell she was grinning under her mask.
"You see... Xena," she continued. "We mean to take the Gabbys for ourselves, and use them to bewitch and belittle every man in our path! And as their men desert them, the women of this land will follow us. Our legion will grow, and we will conquer this land and restore Amazonia to her former glory! Because an army with the Three Dancing Gabbys before it... is invincible."
"What a vivid imagination you have," Meg replied. "I can't let you do this."
"That would be a problem," the leader said. "Because the real Xena could probably take out all eight of us without breaking a sweat. Good thing you're not the real Xena."
Meg smirked. "And what makes you think that?"
"Because the real Xena wouldn't let three of my warriors sneak up behind her." Meg shrieked as she was grabbed from behind by three strong Amazons, who twisted her arms behind her back and then brutally forced her to her knees. Another hand grabbed her hair and yanked her head up to face the Amazon leader.
"Com'n," Meg wheezed in pain. "Cancha take a little joke?"
"You haven't heard the punchline yet," the leader replied. She pulled her masked headdress back to reveal her own face, and for the second time that day Meg found herself looking at a mirror image of herself.
"I am Lysia," the Amazon said, her blue eyes holding Meg's attention. "And I have long known that I am a dead ringer for the fabled Warrior Princess, as I also know I bear a striking resemblance to a certain slut tavern wench named Meg."
"Small world, huh?" Meg gasped.
"Its about to get a little smaller," Lysia replied. She pulled a dagger out of her boot and brought it up to Meg's throat. "Don't worry, I always give women a merciful death..."
"WAIT!" Meg squawked. "Don't kill me! Y-Y-You need me! You need me to help you get the Dancing Gabbys! There's a couple a hundred guys at my place watching 'em! Y'think you and your leather girls can just walk in there 'n take em?"
"No... we couldn't," Lysia admitted. "But when I enter your tavern posing as you..."
"Oh shit," Meg muttered.
"Say hello to Charon for me," Lysia said, bringing her blade tight to Meg's throat and stepping to one side to avoid the arterial spray.
"Lysia," Meg whimpered. "Please... don't kill me. I don't wanna die!"
"Who does?" Lysia replied. "Look, I take no joy in this, but it must be done. Now show some backbone, girl!"
"WAIT!" Meg again squawked. "P-Please... can I have a... last request?"
Lysia sighed and stepped back. "Okay, but make it quick, this is a public thoroughfare."
"Just... Just tell me the name of my father."
Lysia blinked. "What?"
"My father. I never met... never knew... my father. All I want to know is his name." Meg looked up to Lysia. "We share more'n the same face. Y'know that in your heart. Doncha, sister?" The Amazons holding Meg looked up from her to Lysia.
"Yes," Lysia replied. "I know." She paused and when she spoke again her words were soft, almost gentle. "My mother was a brave Amazon chieftess, who one day met a famous warrior of Ares. As is the way of our people, she asked him to conceive a child with her, because from a union of two brave warriors, only another such warrior can be born. If the child had been a boy, she would have given it to him to raise as his own. But the child was a girl, and I became the warrioress I am today." Lysia looked down to Meg. "The Warrior's name was... Atrius."
"Thank you," Meg rasped. She closed her eyes as a single tear coursed down her cheek.
Lysia considered her for a moment, tapping her dagger against her leg. "Look, do you still want me to spare your miserable life?"
"Yes, please," Meg whimpered.
"Fine," Lysia said flatly. "You will live among us as an Amazon slavegirl, forever in servitude to other women." She looked at the warriors holding her. "Bind this bitch, and make it hurt."
The Amazons gleefully slammed Meg belly down into the dirt, binding her wrists and elbows with leather thongs.
"Hey, com'n, girls," Meg muttered. "Usually I get paid extra for the kinky stuff..."
Xena and Gabrielle arrived at Meg's Tavern a little after sundown, just as one of Meg's girls finished lighting the torches on the marquee proclaiming...
HOME OF THE 3 DANCING GABBYS!!!
"This must be the place," Xena said as she hitched Argo to a post. She noticed roving crowds of drunken, discontented men loitering about outside. Not a good sign.
"Xena," Gabrielle whispered. "Shouldn't we be in disguise or something?"
"We are in disguise," Xena replied. "I'm Meg in her Xena outfit and you're a Dancing Gabby dressed like Gabrielle."
"This is getting confusing," Gabrielle muttered.
They entered the tavern relatively unnoticed, but once inside there was a sudden hush as at least a hundred Gabby-starved men eyeballed one of the objects of their desire. There was a low murmur that seemed to slowly build to a chant that Gabrielle finally recognized as, "Gabby dance... Gabby dance... Gabby dance..."
Gabrielle slid behind Xena as she realized the men were closing in.
"Awwwwright, ya big lugs, back off!!!" Xena yelled in her best Meg-voice. "First one-a-yuhs touches the Gabby 'n I shut down for the night!"
That was enough to send everybody scampering like rabbits back to the bar. All except...
"Meg!" Joxer shouted, arms outstretched. "Nice outfit on the Gabby! Not that your outfit isn't great either!" He looked them both over, nodding his approval. "Seeing you two together dressed like that really makes me hot to trot!"
"Joxer..." Xena growled, advancing on him.
"Ah-ah-ah!" Joxer said, holding up his hand. "I know where you're going with this, and I agree wholeheartedly!" He turned and bent over, presenting his backside to Xena. "Joxer has been a bad, bad boy and deserves to be punished!"
Xena smiled and looked to Gabrielle, who nodded. Xena cocked her leg back, took careful aim and a beat later Joxer's long scream echoed across the tavern as his flailing body sailed through the air to land headfirst in the pickled fish barrel.
"She shoots, she scores!" Xena said, popping Gabrielle's outstretched hand as they walked to the barrel, where Joxer's legs were still kicking above the splashing brine. They pulled him out, trying to keep a safe distance as he hit the floor sputtering, finally spitting out a pickled smelt.
"You okay?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yeah, Gabrielle," Joxer said, looking up at the two women. "Hi, Xena."
"Hi, Jox," Xena said, squatting down next to him. "Sorry, but..."
"I know, I know... I had it coming," Joxer muttered. "I guess you're here for the Three Dancing Gabbys, huh?"
"Something like that," Gabrielle replied.
"Okay." Joxer groaned as Xena helped him to his feet. "I guess it was too good to last. Com'n, Meg has 'em around back somewhere..."
Joxer led them through the double doors and down the long hallway, past the notorious 'back rooms'.
"Quiet back here," Xena remarked.
"Well nobody wants to do anything except look at the Gabbys," Joxer replied. He grinned at Gabrielle. "They're quite popular!"
"You idiot!" Gabrielle said, smacking him on the back of the head. "Do you have any idea of the misery and suffering you've caused?"
"Hey, what was I supposed to do?" Joxer whined. "Leave 'em dancing in a cave forever?"
"That would've done for a start..."
"All right, you two," Xena said, shaking her head in disgust. Kids.
They continued down the hallway until they all began hearing something. Singing. Women's voices in a beautiful harmony coming from behind one of doors. They turned a corner and homed in on the voices, finally stopping at a door at the end of the hallway.
"Stand back." Xena made ready to kick the door down.
"Xena, wait." Gabrielle reached forward and turned the knob. The door opened easily. Xena sighed and walked in, finding a large room lurid with red and pink satins and silks in vulgar display.
Standing in the center were three white robed figures with hands clasped in prayer, being led in song by a mirror image of Xena, dressed in a white robe as well.
"Onward Hestian Virgins... Marching as to war! With the virtue of Hestia... Going on as before!"
Xena stopped and grinned, while Gabrielle and Joxer looked like they had both taken a hit to the head with a stout length of wood.
"Hello, Leah." Xena said.
Leah gave a startled scream and turned to look wide-eyed at the group. "Meg! By the Gods y' back! Now I can explain evewything..."
"Its me. Xena."
"Oh my!" Leah held her hand over her heart. "You gave me quite a fwight! I was wondewing whewah she had found anothah Gabby!"
"I'm the original," Gabrielle replied, walking towards the robed girls. "Are they..."
"Gulls!" Leah commanded proudly. All three of the Gabbys pulled back their hoods to reveal their smiling faces. Gabrielle blinked, trying to comprehend that she was standing before three replicas of herself.
"They... They aren't dancing!" Gabrielle exclaimed.
"And they have clothes on!" Joxer whined.
"Gulls," Leah again commanded. "Hestian Chant number sixty-th'wee...f'wom the top!"
The Gabbys began a beautiful choral chant, their voices in perfect harmony.
"They awe innocents in many ways," Leah said softly to Xena. "And as cweations of the Gods they awe touched by the vewy muses! I simply...wediwecked th' cweative enwegies into something vi'tious!!
"Indeed," Xena said.
"And the best thing is that they awe all vi'gins!" Leah said happily. She turned to Gabrielle. "I once said you would make a gweat vi'gin! Now I'm wight th'wee times ovah!"
"So what are you going to do with them?" Xena asked.
"Why take them back to my temple!" Leah said. "They will live simple, chaste lives of sequestewed se'vitude!"
"That sounds awful!" Joxer said.
"Beats a chakram across the throat," Xena replied. "Gabrielle, how do you feel about this?"
Gabrielle smiled. "It's the right thing to do, Xena."
"I guess," Xena muttered. "Okay then, let's find a back door outta here and get the Gabbys to Leah's place..." Xena paused. "Hey, aren't we missing somebody? Where's Meg? It's not like her not to be guarding her meal tickets."
"Oh, she's out intewcepting the Amazons!" Leah volunteered.
"Amazons?" Xena and Gabrielle said in unison.
"Wha-What Amazons?" Joxer asked.
"The Amazons who awe coming to kidnap the Gabbys!" Leah replied patiently.
"I don't get it," Gabrielle said. "How does Meg think she can deal with Amazons? Unless she's's still dressed like..."
"Leah," Xena growled. "Is Meg dressed as me?"
"I'll kill her!" Xena said, her voice tight with rage. "If those Amazons don't kill her... I will!"
"Xena!" Gabrielle said. "Focus..."
"Right, right..." Xena took a deep breath. "Oooookay! First things first. Let's get the Gabbys to the temple, then try to save Meg's ass."
"Hey," Joxer said. "Shouldn't I ride ahead and try to save Meg?"
"I don't think so, Joxer," Xena said through gritted teeth.
"Because I don't feel like digging TWO shallow graves by the side of the road!" Xena shouted. "Okay?"
"Okay, okay." Joxer said. "Com'n. I'll show you the back door."
Joxer led the way out of the room and up the hallway, with Xena and Gabrielle behind him, followed by the Gabbys with Leah pushing them along like a mother hen with her chicks.
"Hey, Gabrielle," Joxer whispered, "D'you think Leah might let me visit the Gabbys on weekends..."
"There they are!"
Everybody looked to see three beefy Amazon warriors suddenly blocking the hallway at the corner. Two had cocked crossbows aimed right at them, the third had a wicked pair of short swords in her hands.
The two Amazons released their bolts together. At such close range Xena barely had time to think, it was pure instinct that let her snatch one of the bolts from the air a scant finger's width from her chest. The second bolt impaled Gabrielle's war staff just before it would have skewered Joxer through the face.
"Get everybody to the tavern!" Xena said to Gabrielle. She then launched herself at their attackers, screaming her warcry as two of the Amazons were frantically recocking their crossbows while the third was swinging her short swords about with a wild abandon.
Xena executed a tight somersault before them, kicking out with her legs to strike the crossbow twins in their chests, while the Amazon in the middle caught two fists to the face hard enough to shatter her masked headdress.
Gabrielle turned the corner and rushed up the hallway to the tavern, making sure her group was all with her. She also saw Xena gleefully beating the be-Zeus-us out of the Amazons.
She burst through the doors into the tavern expecting to at least find some safety in numbers. Instead she found the tavern deserted except for another Amazon in a masked headdress holding a sword to a frightfully bound Xena --Meg in her Xena outfit, Gabrielle correctly guessed-- along with several other Amazon warriors bringing their weapons to bear.
"Hold!" Gabrielle ordered. "As an Amazon queen I order you to..."
"Kill her!!!" the leader shouted.
"Gabby!" Joxer shouted. He shoved her aside as a tall and very muscular Amazon hidden behind the door swung an impossibly long broadsword right for Gabrielle's neck. Joxer parried the blade with his own sword, but then had to keep retreating under the fiercesome assaults.
"Leah, find a corner!" Gabrielle shouted. She found herself being rushed by two young Amazon girls with war staffs like her own.
"Spawn of Melosa!" one hissed as she swung her stick, only to get it blocked at every move by Gabrielle's own staff. The second girl tried to move in behind her, but Gabrielle turned and kicked her hard in the belly to put her on the floor.
Gabrielle and the first Amazon continued to trade blows, but both realized that they were evenly matched. Until Gabrielle pulled a trick Xena had taught her and slammed her staff down on the fingers of her opponent. The Amazon yelped in surprise and pain, dropping her guard long enough for Gabrielle to crack her on the head and drop her like a bad habit.
The second girl was just making it to her feet, so Gabrielle swung her staff into her face as well, sending her back to the floor.
She turned at Joxer's howl just in time to see the beefcake Amazon relieve him of his sword. He tripped to the floor, howling as she drew her broadsword back to cleave him in two.
Gabrielle drew her war staff back like a javelin and cut lose with a short whistle that made the Amazon look as she threw her staff as hard as she could. It sailed across the room, hitting the Amazon square on the forehead with a solid -THWACK!- that even made Joxer wince. A beat later he was screaming as the mighty Amazon fell unconscious on top of him, trapping him under her muscles.
Gabrielle did a quick shoulder roll--picked up another staff from one of the fallen Amazons--and faced off the last girl who had been busy menacing Leah and the Gabbys.
"Hold!" the Amazon leader shouted. The fighting stopped. She did a quick headcount and realized three of her girls were unaccounted for, while three more were on the floor in varying states of unconsciousness. She drew the blade of her sword tight over the throat of the bound and gagged Meg. "Enough of this foolishness! Drop the stick, 'Queen' Gabrielle! Or I'll give this worthless bitch a permanent happy face!"
Gabrielle faced her off, staff at the ready.
At that instant the double doors to the hallway were kicked open and Xena strode in, carrying the unconscious body of an Amazon over her left shoulder, while dragging two more unconscious Amazons along by their hair. She let go of the two she was dragging--their heads hitting the floor with solid thumps--and dropped the girl on her shoulder onto the floor.
"Gabrielle!" Xena said in amazement. "I can't believe you started without me!"
Meg squalled loudly into her gag, getting Xena's attention. She also noticed the masked Amazon leader was looking back and forth from Leah to Xena and finally to Meg.
"Ah-aah!" Xena said. In an instant her chakram was in her hand, the lethal circle of iron and bronze glittering evilly. The Amazon kept her sword to Meg's throat, but her eyes were on the chakram.
"I know what you're thinking," Xena rasped. "Is she the real Xena or only an impostor? Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I've kinda lost track myself." Xena grinned. "But being that this is a chakram, the most powerful edged weapon in the known world and would take your head clean-off, you've got to ask yourself one question, 'Do I feel lucky?'" Xena's voice went hard. "Well do ya, bitch?"
The blade at Meg's throat trembled slightly. "I would rather die than surrender!" she hissed.
"Fine," Xena replied. "Let's call a truce. I'll kill you later if I feel like it."
Xena carefully slipped her chakram back onto her belt as the Amazon sheathed her sword. She shoved the bound Meg away from her and into Xena.
"Hello, Meg," Xena grinned. "How's tricks?"
"Ummph mppph!" Meg hummed into her gag.
"Well those thongs do look a little uncomfortable," Xena observed. "But that gag is a definite improvement."
"Fumph ewww!" Meg snorted.
Xena patted her cheek and walked over to Gabrielle, stepping over a moaning Amazon who was busy spitting out teeth.
"Not bad," Xena said. "Looks like you kicked some serious Amazon butt!"
"I had a good teacher," Gabrielle replied, giving Xena a hug and a quick kiss. "By the way, I can't believe I finally have you outnumbered!"
"What are you talking about?"
"Well, there are only... one... two... three Xenas, including you. And four Gabbys, including me! I got you beat four to three! Hah!"
"I don't think so."
Xena and Gabrielle turned as the Amazon leader strode up, pulling back her feathered headdress to reveal her face.
"I am Lysia," she intoned regally. "Commandrix of the Velasca Legion!"
Gabrielle sighed, glancing quickly between Lysia and Xena. It was another exact match.
"Sorry, Gabrielle," Xena said. "Looks like it's a tie game. Four-all!"
Later that night, an unbound Meg banged through the kitchen doors of her tavern with another huge platter of roasted game hens, making her way to a long table where all the interested parties --including Xena, Gabrielle, Lysia and her Amazons, Leah and the three Gabbys-- were still squabbling among themselves.
Meg had changed into her usual tavern wench attire, much to the delight of the Amazons who kept slapping her butt and pinching her whenever she got close to them.
She dropped the platter onto the table and jumped back as the roasted birds were quickly grabbed up by the Amazons. Almost instantly, stripped bones began flying over their shoulders with an efficiency that would have done a pack of vultures proud.
Meg rolled her eyes; not only were the damn Amazons eating and drinking her out of tavern and bar, but her men customers had all totally disappeared, no doubt running back to their homes and wives. Nothing puts a horny man off his feed faster than a tableful of bossy wimmen! "Okay-okay!" a slightly tipsy Xena said, pounding her ale mug against the table. "Let's have a lil' order 'round here!"
"You guys done yet?" Meg whined.
"Almost," Xena replied. "Siddown, Meg. This concerns you too."
A couple of the more muscular Amazons grabbed Meg and made her sit beside them.
"All right, everybody!" Xena shouted. "Lissen up!" There was silence except for the low chanting of the Gabbys.
"First off," Xena said, reading from a scroll. "The Three Dancing Gabbys will become the responsibility of Leah and the Hestian Temple, agreed?"
Leah applauded, the Amazons grumbled.
"Second, Lysia and the Velasca Legion will cease and desist from all warmongering in this region, and return north of the Strymon River."
More grumbling from the Amazons.
"Xena!" Gabrielle whispered. "Third!"
"Right. Third, Meg will never allow the three Gabbys or any other simulacrum of the Gods to perform at this tavern or any other venue she has control of. Meg will also never--EVER--again wear her Xena outfit under any circumstances. Failure to comply will cause immediate reinstatement of her verbal agreement with Lysia to become a slavegirl to the Amazons."
"Hey..." Meg started to get up, then yelped as she got pinched by one of the Amazons who surrounded her. "Okay-okay, awreddy! Zeus onna stick!"
"Alright," Xena said, "That's all."
"Not quite." Gabrielle stood up beside Xena. "Lysia?"
"Yeah?" she said warily.
"As a recognized queen of the Amazon Nation, I hereby charge you with treason and sedition..."
The Amazons started shouting and throwing things. Lysia stood up. "Why you little..."
"Shut up!!!" Gabrielle shouted. She brought her staff forward. "Shut up or I'll put this staff upside your thick skull!!!"
The Amazons quieted down. Lysia swallowed and lowered her eyes. "Yes, ma'am."
"That's 'Yes, my Queen!'" Gabrielle corrected. "Now here's a scroll telling of your crimes and my recommendations. You will deliver this along with yourself and your cadre to Ephiny at her Amazon enclave on the Strymon..."
Lysia looked up. "No! Not..."
"Yes, Ephiny!" Gabrielle replied. "There you will place yourselves under her command and accept her as your superior. Is that understood?"
"Yes, my Queen," Lysia said, looking like she was going to cry. Meg noticed the Amazons around her now seemed enraptured with Gabrielle, so she quietly managed to slip away.
"Very well, this meeting is over!" Xena finally broke the mug on the table and everyone moved off to their respective groups.
"Leah," Xena said. "Gabrielle and I will escort you and the Gabbys to your temple tonight."
"Thank you!" Leah said. "Fo' evewything!" She turned to the Gabbys and nodded. Each of the Gabbys rushed up and shyly kissed Xena on the lips, giggling as they returned to their spot behind Leah. "And the Gabbys thank you too!"
"Yeah... whatever..." Xena shook her head and wiped her mouth.
"You okay, Xena?" Gabrielle smiled.
"I will be in a moment," Xena replied.
Gabrielle turned to face Lysia.
"My Amazons... and I, want to thank you for your mercy. I read the scroll I will give to Ephiny. You were generous with us."
"We all make mistakes," Gabrielle replied. "Just remember... War is easy; peace is hard."
"Those are wise words, my Queen," Lysia said.
"Aren't they?" Xena muttered.
Lysia arched forward and planted a sudden kiss on Gabrielle's lips, making it long enough for Gabrielle to be gasping by the time she pulled back.
"You okay, Gabrielle?" Xena smirked.
"Ahem! Will be in a moment!" Gabrielle replied.
"Farewell, my Queen!" Lysia said. She turned to her lieutenant. "Amazons! Let's away!"
"We still can't find Gira!" the lieutenant reported. "Well where did she..."
"Here I am!" Gira burst through the hall doors arm in arm with Joxer. She was the tall, beefcake Amazon who had tried to cut Gabrielle's head off.
"What in Artemis are you doing with... him?" Lysia asked.
"As is the way of our people, I have granted a union with the brave warrior who bested me in battle!" Gira said proudly, still sporting a large bump on her forehead where Gabrielle's staff had hit her. She grinned and hugged Joxer to her firm bosoms. "Hopefully a girlchild will be the result, and a great warrior will she be!"
"Remember, if it's a boy, just drop him off here," Joxer said dreamily. "I'm in and out of this place all the time!"
"You going to tell her the truth?" Xena whispered to Lysia.
"Depends," Lysia replied. "How badly do you want your friend to live?"
A little while later Joxer was waving goodbye to all his friends, both new and old. Xena, Gabrielle, Leah and the Gabbys were heading east to the temple, while Lysia and her cadre were going north to their new life with Ephiny's Amazons.
"Ah..." Joxer said, walking back through the bat-wing doors into the deserted tavern. "All's well that ends well!"
"What's so gawds-damned 'well' about it?" Meg snorted. "Everybody got what they wanted. Everybody got a taste. Including you! Everybody 'cept me!" Meg killed a bottle of wine and started playing with the bird bones.
"Aw, com'n, Meg!" Joxer said. "Turn that frown upside down! After all you still made a boatload of money off the Gabbys! And you still have your tavern, and your girls!"
"Yeah..." Meg grumbled.
Joxer sighed, it was getting late. "Look, I'll see ya tomorrow, okay?"
"Wait up." Meg looked at him. "I... uh, don't suppose you'd wanna do somethin'... tonight?"
"Sorry, Meg. I don't have two dinars to rub together."
"Awww... I'm talkin' freebie." Meg shrugged. "Yknow, Jox... 'Sides Xena and Gabrielle, you're about the only person I think of as a... friend."
"Meg," Joxer said quietly, "I am your friend."
"Swell!" Meg stood up and put some serious liplock on Joxer. When she broke away both were panting. "You sure... you ain't worn out... from that... Amazon musclegirl?"
"Heeeey! They don't call me Joxer the Mighty for nothing!" He grinned. "Still... think you could wear your Xena outfit... one more time?"
Please send any comments to JayMarkle@webtv.net
Author's note: No simulacrums of the Gods were harmed in the making of this fan fiction.