This story contains some mild violence and profanity. All the main characters are the property of Rennaissance Pictures, MCA, Universal, and I guess, Seagram's Inc. I don't know how high up these things have to go. Nobody's trying to infringe on any copyrights. All the other characters are mine-- so nyah!
Suppose you were granted three wishes. What would you wish for? The obvious ones; wealth, fame, power? Or would you want wisdom or maybe, love? Let us chronicle the life of a certain young woman from Poteidaia for one day and as she is forced to come to grips with this very dilemma. For Gabrielle is about to discover the true meaning of the old adage, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!"
Gabrielle's foot was killing her. The sole of her right boot had developed a hole in it and every little pebble she stepped on in the rocky road she was stumbling down seemed like the stone of Sisyphus. The land on either side of the road offered no relief as it was as bad as the road. To compensate for the hole she began to place her weight on the inside of her foot. Soon a nagging little burning sensation informed her she was developing a blister there.
"Oh that's just great," she muttered.
This was beginning to be an all around bad day. First, those eggs she had eaten for breakfast refused to stop crawling around, then Xena had decided today was the day she had to get Argo's saddle mended, and now this.
"Stupid, dumb, road," she growled. "These blasted pebbles cut through leather like a knife through butter."
Why had Xena chosen this awful road anyway?
As Gabrielle wended her way down the stony road-path her mind drifted back to their morning's conversation.
"But why can't I just stay here and wait here for you?" Gabrielle had asked Xena.
"Because we are too pressed for time. If we are going to be in Corinth in two days we can't afford to lose time over a worn saddle strap. If you go on ahead I can catch up with you but if you wait it will just be time lost, you see?"
That morning, as she saddled Argo, Xena had discovered a very worn saddle strap. From the looks of it the strap could not take much more abuse so it was imperative to have it repaired.
"I saw a place in that village we passed through yesterday that does this kind of work," said Xena. "I'll just go there and 'insist' they place me at the head of their waiting list."
Gabrielle knew what that meant. "Just don't 'insist' too hard, okay?"
"Right," grinned Xena. She wrapped her arm around the little bard's waist. "Look, I know you aren't feeling well and I hate to leave you but this has to be seen to today."
It's so hard to stay mad at her, thought Gabrielle. "Yeah, I know." She tried to smile but it was a crooked effort at best. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. Oh, ah, don't you need some dinars?"
"Oh, yeah. About twenty-five or thirty should be enough," allowed Xena.
"Well, it's a good thing," remarked Gabrielle, counting out the coins. Because forty is all we've got."
Xena took the girl by the arm. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Make sure you stay on this road so I can find you."
Xena gingerly mounted Argo and smiled. "I'll try to find something in the village for your stomach."
"That's okay, I feel a little better now," said Gabrielle.
"I should catch up with you by dark," Xena called out over her shoulder as she kicked Argo into a trot.
"See ya," answered Gabrielle.
But Gabrielle had lied. Her stomach was just as upset as before. Yuuuuk. "That's the last time I eat duck eggs," she vowed.
For about two hours after Xena's departure Gabrielle's small ordeal on the road was a solitary one. An hour or so before midday her ears began to register what sounded like...what was it?...yes, men shouting. She rounded a bend in the road and came upon two men beating a much older man.
"Hey! Stop that!" yelled Gabrielle.
"Mind your own business, wench, or you will get some of the same medicine," warned one of the men.
Gabrielle tried to break into a run but her aching foot protested too vigorously and she could only manage a somewhat quickened hobble.
After their warning the two men had turned their attentions back to the unfortunate man now bleeding from his head.
"Oww. Darn it. Stupid road." Gabrielle's advancement upon the men was punctuated by her furious mumbling. The pain only served to make her more angry and in no mood for diplomacy or tact.
"I told you," she shouted, whacking her first victim on the head with her staff, "leave him alone!"
Her target dropped to one knee and at once his partner came to his support. "Well, my pretty," he snarled, "if you can't keep your nose out of other people's affairs I guess I'll just have to cut it off."
He lunged clumsily at her and even with the sore foot she easily eluded him and blasted him on his knee with the staff.
"Look out!", yelled the old man.
Gabrielle turned just in time to avoid a thrust from the first man's sword. She cracked him on the wrist causing him to drop his weapon and followed it up with a very nicely executed double smash to the fellow's face. He collapsed to the ground and Gabrielle, taking no chances, gave him one more solid blow to his head. She instantly turned to face her other foe only to find him fleeing down the road at full speed. She started to chase him but her foot said "nothing doing" and she stopped after a couple of steps. By now the other one was taking off in the other direction.
"That'll teach you!" yelled Gabrielle, shaking her fist. She knelt down beside the old man and took out a cloth from her shoulder bag. She doused it with water and proceeded to wipe clean his wound. "Are you okay?" she asked.
"I'll be all right. My thanks to you, young lady," said the old man. "I'm afraid those ruffians would have done me in were it not for you although I don't know why they were after me. I have no money."
"Well, I'm glad I came along when I did," smiled Gabrielle. She offered her hand to the old man. "My name is Gabrielle."
"Persiphides," said the old man, clasping her hand. "Where did you learn to fight like that?"
"That? Oh well, when one is on the road as much as I am it helps to able to defend oneself."
"You mean to tell me you travel alone?" asked Persiphides.
"Well ...no, not really. You see, I have this friend, perhaps you've heard of her. Her name is Xena."
"Rare is the individual whom has not heard of the feared Warrior Princess," said the old man. "Are you in her army?"
"Huh? Ahh no. She doesn't do that anymore. Xena's changed. She fights for good now," said Gabrielle.
"Oh really. Well, I guess stranger things have happened," said Persiphides. Slowly the old man rose to his feet. "I must be on my way now."
"No no, I'm quite all right now, young lady," he smiled. "Again my thanks."
He turned to take the direction Gabrielle had taken but she cut him off. "Here," she began, "why don't you take these? It's all I have but you look like you need them more than I do."
Persiphides looked at the outstretched hand containing Gabrielle's last ten dinars and and slowly shook his head. "No thank you, young one. Keep your dinars. Your kindness is gift enough."
He stared up the road for a moment and then gazed at Gabrielle with a most peculiar expression on his face."Young lady," he said, "you are the one I have been seeking. My quest for a mortal with a clean soul is over."
"Yes. You see I am not a mortal like you."
Gabrielle gave him a quizzical look and asked. "Are you sure you are all right? Maybe that bump on the head..."
"No, I am not delirious. I was sent by Artemis. Ares has wagered her there is not one virtuous mortal left and to prove him wrong she has instructed me to roam the earth in search of the one mortal most kind and clean of spirit. And because of you she has won the wager. As a symbol of her gratitude she has empowered me to bestow on that person three wishes which shall be immediately granted upon request."
Gabrielle squinted one eye and grinned. "This is a joke, right?"
"I assure you it is not," was the old man's reply. "You have gained the honor and the wishes are yours--with but these conditions."
"Yes. One, you cannot make wishes to help others. All must be for your benefit. Second, of course, is you cannot wish for more wishes."
"Well, of course," laughed Gabrielle.
"I know you think I speak in jest," said Persiphides, "but heed my warning, Gabrielle. Do not verbalize idle thoughts. Think hard before you spend a wish. It knows not what you mean, only what you say."
"Yeah, sure, okay," said Gabrielle, still not convinced.
Without another word the old man turned and started up the road.
Hmph, thought Gabrielle, that guy's alphabet is missing a few letters.
"Oww! Damn rocky ass road."
Her little encounter had helped her to temporarily forget her discomfort but now it was all rushing back to her. It's a good thing Xena didn't hear me say that, she thought. She would have a cow.
She picked up her sore foot to inspect the damage, lost her balance, and keeled over in the road. She sat there feeling sorry for herself when something odd struck her. The old man was gone. Gabrielle knew he had not had time to round the bend in the road yet.
"That's funny," she murmered, employing that little head jerk she involuntarily gave when puzzled. "Oh well, come on Gabrielle, let's show Xena how tough we are."
She stood up, brushed herself off, and resumed her arduous trek down the "Road to Hades" as she had by now dubbed it. For the next hour or so she bravely fought the Battle of Gabrielle's Toe but it was becoming all too apparent the toe was winning.
At last she could take it no longer and sat down to rest under a birch tree and pulled off the offending boot.
"You're the cause of all this," she accused. She reclined in a rare patch of soft grass and, without thinking, idly sighed, " I wish I had some new boots."
"That's one," a voice echoed around her.
"Huh?" Gabrielle vaulted herself to an upright position and quickly looked all around her. "Who said that? Was that you, Persiphides?" She happened to glance at her feet. "By the gods!" she gasped. "It's true!"
On Gabrielle's feet were new boots...but not the kind she wanted.
"Hey, wait," she sputtered, "these, these are men's boots and... and they are way too big for me."
Poor Gabrielle. Her wish had been granted. She did have new boots and they were an improvement over her tattered ones. But not by much. They were so heavy and only by wrapping rags around her feet before inserted them into the boots was she able to avoid an epidemic of blisters.
But now Gabrielle was not thinking about her feet very much. So it is true, she thought. I do have three, well two now, wishes. Oh gods, what to wish for. World peace? An end to hunger?
"You cannot make wishes to help others," she remembered Persiphides saying.
"That means I can't make a wish for Xena, either," sighed Gabrielle.
To Gabrielle this was the saddest restraint of all. She would have gladly used up both remaining wishes for the purpose of helping Xena at last achieve the innner peace she so justly deserved.
"I'll just have to be more careful next time," she allowed.
Gabrielle continued clumping down the road as afternoon paled into evening. Xena ought to be along soon, she thought. I sure hope so. It did not take a very long absence by Xena before Gabrielle began to miss her terribly. Now the sun was sinking very low in the sky and Gabrielle was becoming very concerned. Xena had still not returned.
"Where are you?" she whispered.
Her queasiness had long since vanished and now Gabrielle was getting hungry. But she had nothing to eat, no place to buy anything, and it was now too late to look around for something to eat. Not that she would have found anything. This was always Xena's department and, like everything else she did, she was exceptional at it. With Xena around Gabrielle never went hungry.
Xena, however, was not there and, left to fend for herself in the growing darkness, Gabrielle would have to do without. Tired, hungry, worried, frustrated, Gabrielle spent her next wish.
"I wish Xena was here."
"Hey wait-- I didn't. What is this?"
Gabrielle found herself standing in what looked like a village square. There were women and children grouped on one side of the square and men and boys on the other side. It was becoming too difficult to see much in the twilight.
Then the realization struck her. She was in Poteidaia!
And there was something else, too. Her hands were bound. They were connected by leather straps to a long rope which also served to restrain others.
The men and boys were not bound but were surrounded by dark, menacing figures armed with swords and spears.
"What's, what's going to happen to us, Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle turned to face the voice. It was Lila!
"Quiet!" commanded a huge, filthy man pointing his sword at Lila. "You slugs have offended our warlord and now you will pay for your treachery."
A soldier ran into the middle of the square and bellowed, "Our warlord approaches, all bow down!"
The dark figures began to beat the villagers until all had bowed to the mighty warlord. The warlord's horse passed by Gabrielle and she thought something all too familiar about it.
The warlord haughtily reined the horse into the middle of the square and scornfully scanned the villagers cowering like rabbits.
"Good people of Poteidaia," the warlord sneered,--
"Oh, my gods!" gasped Gabrielle silently, "it's Xena!"
"I politely asked you to kindly 'donate' provisions for my army as a gesture of your good faith and what do you do? Xena slowly shook her head and sighed, "You hurt my feelings by thinking me stupid. You have the gall to tell me your harvest was poor and there is nothing you can spare. WELL HEAR ME, SCUM!"
Xena's screams echoed eerily through the silent village. She stood up in her stirrups and continued. "I don't care if your damn harvest was poor. I will have my tribute and to Tartarus with all of you pigs!"
She lowered herself back in the saddle and smiled. "Now to show you I am not a spiteful woman I will not kill all of you, even though you plainly deserve it. The women and children will be sold into slavery and the best of your young men will be pressed into service in my army. The rest... well, the old ones are no good to anyone anyway, are they?"
Xena reached over and grabbed one of her men by the shoulder. "Get to work," she spat.
Gabrielle's second wish had been granted, all right. Xena was here. But not her Xena. Not the Xena she loved, the Xena that fought so bravely to help others. This was the old Xena, the one Gabrielle had only had mere brief glimpses of. Now this ruthless warlord had decided the fate of this little village and it was only up to her men to carry out her orders.
All ready they were carrying out Xena's commands. The warlord reined in her horse to leave the village when Gabrielle heard a voice cry out.
"Xena! Wait, it's me!" The voice was Gabrielle's own.
It caught Xena's attention and she turned back. "Which one of you worthless fools dares to address me?"
"Xena! It's me, Gabrielle."
"Shhh, Gabrielle," cautioned Lila, "you will only make her angrier."
Xena rode up to Gabrielle's place in line and looked down upon the petite blonde. "Am I supposed to know you?" she smirked.
"It's me," pleaded Gabrielle, "don't you know me?"
Gabrielle met Xena's gaze and it took her breath away. The warmth and love she knew so well were not present in those cold blue eyes. No, these eyes regarded Gabrielle as one would a bug or at the most something useful to be sold. Gabrielle found she could not keep contact with those unfeeling eyes and she bowed her head.
"I usually don't make it a habit of wasting my time on filthy village girls," yawned Xena. "However, I do like your spirit." She turned to the huge man guarding them. "Untie this one."
Xena leaned over and leered at the girl. "My men get lonesome. Maybe you're just the cure for that."
"Nooo!" screamed Lila.
The huge soldier punched her in the stomach and she melted to the ground gasping for breath.
Xena straightened up in the saddle and commanded, "Bring the little blonde. We have use for her. Now, burn the village!"
"Oh my gods." Out of the corner Gabrielle saw Xena's men rounding up the old men. This isn't happening, she thought. Then she remembered. The wish! In her anguish she forgotten about the wish.
"Got to think fast," she whispered to herself.
Persiphides' words echoed in her ears, "Think hard before you spend a wish."
"Only one chance...got to get this right. Let me see, I wish..."
The wails of the village women were now ringing in Gabrielle's ears. The first village elder was already being approached by one of Xena's men, sword an the ready.
"I wish...I wish my second wish undone!" Gabrielle hoped this was good enough.
"Gabrielle!" Gabrielle turned to Lila's voice and saw her being dragged away. "Gabrieeeellle!"
"Gabrielle. Gabrielle, wake up." Gabrielle felt a hand on her shoulder. Slowly she opened her eyes and there again were those remarkable blue eyes.
"Ahhhh!!" Gabrielle gave an involuntary shudder and threw herself back from those eyes.
"Gabrielle, what's the matter with you?"
By now Gabrielle was almost hyperventilating.
Xena put her arm around the bard, "Gabrielle, calm down. You were just having a bad dream, that's all."
Somehow Gabrielle managed to regain her composure and slow down her breathing. "Xena? Is...is it, I mean, is it really you?" Maybe it was all just a dream, she thought.
"Yes, Gabrielle, it's me," said Xena. "I'm sorry I took so long. I got diverted by a man who needed my help."
Gabrielle looked around and saw Xena had built a fire and something was cooking over it.
"Look, I brought us some supper," said Xena. "I knew you'd be hungry."
For a fearful moment Gabrielle could not bring herself to look into those eyes again but after a small inner struggle she managed to meet Xena's gaze. And there they were. All the things Gabrielle had come to see in those eyes over the last two years were present: warmth, caring .........love.
Gabrielle could not hold back any longer. "Oh, Xena." She launched herself into the arms of the warrioress.
Xena was surprised by the young bard's leap and just managed to keep from being knocked over. She felt Gabrielle's arms fiercely wrap themselves around her and she sensed there might be something more to this than some silly nightmare.
Xena pulled back and wrinkled her nose. "Gabrielle, what happened to you today?"
Gabrielle raised her head from Xena's chest and looked up at her. It was all just a dream, she thought.
"I missed you, that's all."
Xena decided to drop the subject. She kissed Gabrielle on top of the head and answered, "I missed you too. C'mon the rabbit is about done. Let's eat."
As they sat down to eat their supper Xena opened up her saddlebag and gave Gabrielle something wrapped in a cloth.
"Here, this is for you."
Gabrielle unwrapped the cloth and squealed, "Nutbread! Oh, Xena thank you."
"It's the least I could do after making you pound that road by yourself all day," said Xena.
"Xena, you're the best." Gabrielle leaned over to again hug the Warrior Princess.
"Just one thing. Where on earth did you get those awful boots?"
Gabrielle stared down at her feet and, indeed, there were those ridiculous boots-- the aftermath of her first wish.
Gabrielle was about to relate the events of her day but she knew she could not bear to tell Xena about the results of her second wish. That was not my Xena, thought Gabrielle. She laid her head on Xena's shouflder and thought, this is my Xena.
Looking up at Xena she smiled, shook her head and said, "Xena, you'd never believe me if I told you."
The Bard's Corner