Disclaimers: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess and all other associated with the television series of the same name are owned by MCA/ Universal Pictures. This is a work of fan fiction and no copyright infringement is intended.
Subtext: I guess with my writing so far we'll just quit calling it subtext and call it maintext. Yes they are in love with each other.
Other: Part Sixtythree in the series "Raising Melosa". Takes place right after "The Inn."
We Need a Thief
I stood at the entrance of the caves staring at it, not believing what I was seeing. Mel joined me after securing our horses from view.
"What in the name of Tartarus is that?" She asked as she approached.
"That my dear," I gave a really irritated gesture. "Is a gate with a lock."
"What kind of person locks up a cave?"
"A person, or a Goddess who doesnt want anyone inside."
"Well, my first instincts tell me to bust in." I looked at it carefully noting a slight shimmer around it. "My second instincts tells me that would be bad, very bad ."
"Doesnt change the fact that we gotta get in."
"So what we need is someone who can pick a lock."
"A thief perhaps?" Mel grinned at me.
"Yeah. You got one in your back pocket or something?"
"Well, isnt the festival of Hestia taking place in Palmadora?"
"Yup. Want to be a Hestian virgin now?"
"Umm no not in this lifetime thanks. Anyhow lets see here shall we?" She held up one finger. "Beautiful women right?
A second finger went up. "Add merchants with full pockets ."
"Go on ."
A third finger joined the other two. "Lots of drunk festival goers . Whats that add up to?"
I lifted my brows and smiled. "Three?"
"Mother please." She gave me a disgusted little look.
"Your Uncle Autolycus?"
"Id think so. Can see him turning a blind eye to that now can you?"
"Nope I sure cant. Palamadora is only a half day ride from here. Lets get going."
"And even if Uncle Auto isnt there we are bound to find a thief. Think we can persuade someone to help us?"
"Oh yeah, I have persuasion down to a fine art."
We rode into town in the late part of the day. The town was absolutely packed with people. Oh there was no doubt in my mind that Autolycus had to be here somewhere. Now all we had to do was find him.
Mel shifted in her saddle, as she looked the crowd over. "So where should we start?"
"Hmm where are we most likely to find lots of money, drunk patrons and women in a small space?" I asked waiting for her to put it together.
"Oh well eeewww." She rolled her eyes. "The local brothel."
"You know there should be a law against a brothel being open during the festival of Hestia."
"They never close."
"How would you know?" She tilted her head to me as we dismounted and headed into the crowd with our horses in tow behind us.
"Mel Im not gonna lie to you. Ive seen the inside of my share of brothels."
She threw her hand up. "More information than I needed thanks."
I chuckled as I tapped a merchant on the shoulder and made a discreet inquiry about the location we needed. He gave me the directions then he gave me a long hard look then he glanced to Mel. "Forget it." I whispered to him. "Shed kick your ass." He turned away quickly.
"What was that all about?"
"He thought you were for sale."
"Me? Why I should ."
"Nah. Pick your fights carefully kiddo. That ones not worth it. Lets find Autolycus." We headed toward the brothel. I drew a deep breath as we approached the building and tied our horses to the post. "Ready?"
"Well as ready as Ill ever be I guess."
"Mel before we go in, you should be aware that you are more than likely gonna get propositioned by one of the girls dont hurt the girls."
"Be polite and decline."
"Right." She just shook her head as we stepped inside.
I watched as Mel took her first good look. She seemed to be taking it all in stride with just a shake of her head from time to time. As we approached the barkeeper I ginned at Mel. "You wan to handle this or should I?"
"You know Mom there are just times when youth and enthusiasm should bow to experience and finesse."
"Aww arent you sweet." I gave her a nudge as I leaned on the bar and motioned for the barkeep.
He was a good size guy my guess would be he served as the muscle too. "Yeah." He drummed his fingers on the bar. "What?"
"Im looking for someone."
"Arent we all darlin. However around here itll cost you. Itll cost you extra."
"Im not interested in hiring anyone. Im looking for a customer ."
"Were not hiring. Besides arent you a little ."
Before he had a chance to finish that incredibly stupid sentence I picked him up by the shirt and drug him to my side of the bar. He promptly found four things, he was flat on his back, and my foot was in his chest, my sword at his throat with Mels sword at his forehead. He glanced nervously between the two blades. "Were a team ."
"And a damn good one ." He said as he swallowed hard.
"Thanks. Now let me clarify. We think a friend of ours may be here. We want to find him."
"You know," Mel grinned at me. "I said finesse."
"Hey they way I drug him over the bar was a thing of beauty." I looked back to the barkeep. "Now about our friend. Male tall dark hair mustache ."
"Dont forget extremely good looking and charming to no end Warrior Princess." I smiled when I heard his voice. "Xena what are you doing here?"
I sheathed my sword and turned to his voice. I smiled at my friend. "Autolycus I need your help."
"Okay." He approached us as he gestured to the man on the floor. "We can talk about it without hostages."
"Sure." I moved my foot and motioned for Mel to put her sword away.
"Mighty Zeus! Is that Mel?" He brushed past me. "My Gods girl youve grown up so much." I smiled at he gave her a hearty hug then stepped back from her. "Youre the spitting image."
"Thanks Uncle Auto."
"Hey! Do you two mind? Were on a mission here."
"Right of course." He smiled at Mel as he turned back to me. "What up? Lets get a table."
"No time. Autolycus Kessa is very sick. She may be dying ."
"Oh Xena no ."
I nodded. "Theres a fever in the village. A lot of amazons have it. Ive been told that the reason is because Hera has Artemis in the caves of Magos."
"Yeah ." He gave me that little sideways look of his. "And I would fit in where?"
"Theres a lock and a gate at the front of the cave."
His head dropped. "Of course there is ."
"I have to get in there Autolycus ."
"I know you do. Lets go."
He retrieved his cloak, kissed the young woman he had been with and headed for the door. I cocked a brow as I watched him leave.
"That was easy." Mel said as she turned for the door.
"Yeah it was. He must be getting soft in his old age."
When we joined him outside he tossed his cloak over his shoulders as he turned to me. "Xena your family is the closest thing Ive ever had to having a family of my own. Im not going to argue with you when one of them is in danger." He paused as he fastened the clasp of his cloak. "Especially one of the children."
"Thank you my friend."
"Youre welcome. Okay take me to the caves." He grinned at me. "Funny I said that very same thing not two candle marks ago ."
"Oh Gods ." Mel groaned as she mounted her horse. "Please spare us the details." She nudged her horse and moved out ahead of us.
"Whats with her?" Autolycus whispered as he settled in behind me.
"Shes right on that line between wanting to know and not wanting to know."
"Ah gotcha. What are you going to do about that?"
"Nothing I can do about that. That is up to her."
"I feel for you my friend."
I nudged my horse. "Thanks and to think I have three daughters."
"Theyve always said its harder to have girls than boys."
"So far theyd be right."
By the time we got back to the caves it was too late and we were far too tired to try and get in. "Well, well make camp tonight and go to it first thing in the morning."
"That sounds like a plan." Autolycus grinned as he and Mel started unloading gear. "So you catching dinner Xena? Im in the mood for a little rabbit."
"Actually Ill get it." Mel offered as she drew her daggers from her boots, doing a very impressive tossing routine with them as she walked away.
"Whoa!" Autolycus looked to me as he watched her. "You let me hug her."
"Nah she let you hug her. Trust me if she hadnt wanted you to, you wouldnt have. She has this real thing about being touched."
"Oh Id hate to be on the receiving end of her not wanting you to."
"Its not pretty."
"Ah like mother, like daughter." He grinned at me as he spread out the bedrolls. "Shes really growing up isnt she?"
"Yeah she is. You know," I built up the wood in the fire pit then began getting out fire started. "I wasnt much older than her when I fought Cortese, just a couple of seasons. Then I left home ." I trailed of as I watched the wood catch.
He joined me next to the fire. "Hey thats what they do Xena. They spend the first few seasons of their lives spitting up on you. The next few seasons of their lives learning everything they can from you and then ."
I added quietly as I watched the flames. "Then they leave."
"Hey," He gave me a nudge. "Mels still young yet. Youve got at least two maybe three seasons before she leaves home."
Mel came back to camp with a very nice rabbit. "Okay I caught it." She held it out to me. "You cooking?"
"Oh no." Autolycus took the rabbit. "I want to be able to eat it when its done. Ill do it."
"Oh very funny. You know no one has any confidence in my cooking abilities."
Autolycus grinned at me as he prepared the rabbit for the spit. "Thats because weve all eaten your cooking."
"Respect! What ever happened to respect?" I growled as I took my whetstone to my blade.
"Oh we respect you Mom. Wed just rather you not cook for us." Mel snickered as she settled down to remove her armor. "But hey, youre the first person were gonna call if theres a fight."
"And youre the second." Autolycus chuckled as he settled back against a log.
"Thanks." Mel grinned at me.
Autolycus crossed him arms as he watched the rabbit cook. "So tell me about these caves."
"Well," I sat my sword aside. "My guess would be that lock we have to get past is somehow enchanted or protect by Hera."
I watched as his head dropped forward, he shook it slowly then lifted his eyes to meet mine. "You are gonna be the death of me."
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