Page last updated: January 1, 2005
Xena nursed her third ale. Gabrielle should have been back by now. Xena knew Gabrielle had a tendency to get sidetracked when she went shopping, but this was ridiculous. She'd been waiting for almost two hours and even she was starting to get hungry, so she knew the bard must be starving.
Xena downed the last of her mug and set the cup down on the bar. She flipped another coin to the barkeep and walked out into the sunlight. Another couple hours and the sun would be down. At this rate, they wouldn't have any travel time and she'd be stuck getting a room for the two of them for the night.
Xena's eyebrows lowered. If Gabrielle had done this on purpose, just so they had to stay overnight, she was going to be pissed. Gabrielle had never tried to manipulate her like that before, so Xena was a little puzzled. There was, of course, a much more probable explanation for Gabrielle's tardiness. She'd found trouble, or more likely trouble had found her, and now she was in need of a little rescuing, something the ex-warlord had unwillingly become an expert at over the last couple of years.
Xena left Argo tethered to the hitching post outside the inn and headed towards the market.
"Listen, really. My name is Gabrielle. I'm a bard. I travel with Xena, the Warrior Princess. Ever heard of her? She gets really upset when people kidnap me."
The acolytes continued to separate her from her clothing and pushed her gently towards a bathtub. They began bathing her with sponges and added flower blossoms to the water.
"She carries a really big sword. And she has this thing called a chakram? It's really sharp and..." Gabrielle trailed off as they continued to ignore her protests.
Xena was going to be so pissed. How had she gotten into this one? She'd just been minding her own business and then, bam, here she was being taken for a priestess of Aphrodite. Well, maybe Xena would get a good laugh out of the whole thing.
She was led from the wooden tub and dried off. Oil was rubbed into her skin all over her body and she blushed as certain parts of her started to tingle from the intimate contact. She closed her eyes and tried not to think about what they were doing. Then it was over and the acolytes wrapped her in a gauzy bolt of white cloth that went around her body at least a dozen times. They backed away and bowed out of the room, leaving her alone with her thoughts.
Gabrielle looked down at herself and sighed. How was she going to explain this to Xena? Xena didn't even know where she was and was probably still waiting for her at the inn and wondering what was taking so long.
Gabrielle walked towards the door the acolytes had exited through and reached for the handle. It turned and opened before she could touch it and she looked up to see who it was.
Her first thought was that a doorway was a strange place for a mirror. She backed up, but her reflection continued to stand there. Gabrielle raised her right arm tentatively, but the reflection's arm remained at her side. That's when Gabrielle realized she wasn't looking at a mirror, but another person.
"Who are you?"
Gabrielle started at the voice she knew as her own.
"I'm, um, Gabrielle. I'm guessing you're Priestess Daphne?"
"Yes. What are you doing in my chambers?"
"Oh. Well, uh, some of your acolytes thought I was you and brought me here and then dressed me up."
"You must have been sent by Aphrodite. It's the only explanation for your arrival during such a crisis."
The priestess shut the door behind her and moved to her dresser on the far wall.
"Crisis? No, I was just in the market, shopping. I need to get back to my friend. She must be worried about me by now."
"I'm sure your friend can do without you for a little while. The affairs of Aphrodite are much more important. Love itself is in jeopardy!"
"Love? What do you mean?"
Gabrielle just couldn't help herself. She was a sucker for romance.
"Yes. A match that was made by Aphrodite herself is being torn apart at this very moment and if that happens, Aphrodite has sworn to remove love from the world altogether."
"I don't understand. What does that have to do with me?"
"I don't know. But I'm sure that's why you're here. You're a sign from Aphrodite. You must be. This can't be just a coincidence."
Gabrielle stared at her twin. Xena was going to kill her for this one. But it technically wasn't her fault. The problem had existed before she'd even come along. So, Xena couldn't really blame her, could she?
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