Page last updated: January 1, 2005

Chapter 5

The ride out to Pericles' castle was short and uneventful. They were allowed into the courtyard and Xena requested a meeting with the king. A few well-placed glares got the right people moving and she and Gabrielle, who was still wearing the robes of the priestess, were escorted into the king's throne room.

"Ah, Priestess Daphne. Have you come to bless my daughter's engagement already? I haven't even sent out the invitations."


"Yes. Prince Boris has proven to be a worthy suitor to my little Calandria and I've agreed to give him my daughter's hand in marriage. Isn't that wonderful?"

They'd agreed that it was too much of a hassle to try to explain to everyone that Gabrielle wasn't the Priestess and that Xena would just be there for backup. At the moment, though, Gabrielle seemed to be struggling with a direction to take. Xena jumped in.

"I'd heard the Princess was in love with someone named Jason."

"The blacksmith? She couldn't possibly love someone so beneath her station. And who are you?"


"The Warrior Princess?"

"The one and only."

"What are you doing here?"

"The Priestess here asked me to come along and help you see reason."

"What are you talking about?"

Gabrielle finally seemed to find her voice.

"Your Highness, I think you should let your daughter decide for herself who she will marry. The goddess herself is married to a smith. Are you saying he's beneath her?"

"Only when he's lucky," mumbled Xena under her breath. She didn't like Aphrodite, but she had to admit, the goddess was beautiful.

Gabrielle blushed slightly and glared at her partner. She really didn't need that image in her mind right now. King Pericles was oblivious to the side conversation going on in front of him and took the question at face value.

"No, no, of course not. But we mortals aren't like the gods. We live by different rules. My daughter must marry a prince."


"Because that's the law."

"But why is that the law?"

"Well, it ensures that whoever marries the princess has been raised to be king when his time comes. I won't live forever and I must think about the future of my kingdom."

"What makes a good king?"

"A good king must be fair to his people and have a good heart. He must be able to rule with compassion, but also be strong and able to administer the laws of his people with a firm hand."

"So a good king is a man who is fair, compassionate, just, strong, and has a good heart. You didn't say anything about him having to be a prince."

Gabrielle grinned at the open fishmouth movements the king was making. Xena kept her smirk firmly in check. Someone should have warned the king about verbally sparring with a bard. Especially her bard. Damn. Gotta stop that.

The king collected himself and studied Gabrielle.

"I must think about what you've said, Priestess. Please, stay tonight and have dinner in my court. You're welcome to stay as well, Xena."

Xena nodded and the two women were escorted out of the main hall. The attendant led them through the castle and stopped outside a pair of heavy wooden doors. He pushed them open and then stood to the side to allow the women entry.

"Thank you," Gabrielle told the young man.

"Dinner will be served in the King's court after sundown. I will return for you then," he said, and then left them to inspect their room.

Gabrielle looked around at the finery that covered all of the furniture in the large room and hummed her approval.

"This is amazing. King Pericles must really be rich to be able to afford so much luxury."

"Yeah, I wonder if his people know they paid for all this," Xena criticized.

It took a moment for Gabrielle to realize what Xena meant. King Pericles hadn't worked for his opulence; it was a part of his station and had been created from taxes levied against his people. The money that went to furnishing his extravagant home could just as easily have been used to feed and clothe the people the money had been taken from.

Gabrielle thought about what they could do to change things, but then shook her head. No one seemed unhappy with their King's rule and Gabrielle had to admit that things could have been much worse. At least he appeared to be open to Gabrielle's ideas concerning his daughter's right to choose her own husband.

Gabrielle opened the first door she came to in her explorations and turned around to look at Xena with a full grin on her face.

"Well, we shouldn't let all that hard-earned money go to waste. What do you say to a real bath?"

Gabrielle moved aside to give Xena an unobstructed view of the massive marble tub she'd found waiting for them in the bathroom.

"You go ahead, Gabrielle. I think I'm going to take a nap."

Gabrielle frowned. That wasn't like Xena. Xena was one of the cleanest people she knew and never turned down a chance to bathe, especially in hot water because it helped ease her normally tense muscles.

"Are you all right, Xena?" Gabrielle said as she walked over to place the back of her hand at Xena's forehead.

Xena gave an indulgent smile.

"I'm fine, Gabrielle. Go enjoy your bath."

Gabrielle looked less than convinced, but went back to the bathroom anyway. Maybe by the time the bath was ready, Xena would change her mind.

Gabrielle took a torch down from the wall and lit the logs that were housed to the side of the tub underneath where the rainwater had been stored in a reservoir built specifically for the bath. She puttered about the room for an hour, studying the tapestries that covered the walls and marveling at the incredible talent the weavers must have had in order to create something so beautiful, while she waited for the water to heat up.

Finally, she went back to the bathroom and pulled the plug that stopped the cistern and heard a rumble as the water moved behind the stone wall and poured into the large tub. When it was almost full, she tried to push the plug back in, but the water pressure was too great for her.

"Xena? I need your help," Gabrielle called out.

Xena was at her side in an instant.

"Are you okay? What's wrong?"

"I can't get the stopper back in the hole and it's about to flood the place," Gabrielle said, a tinge of panic in her voice.

Xena smirked.

"Give me that."

Xena took the plug and held it in front of the rushing water with one hand and used her other fist as a hammer to slam the thing back in place. The water ceased its attempts at escape and Gabrielle heaved a sigh of relief.

"Thanks, Xena."

Gabrielle looked down at Xena's body and realized she was soaked from the water that had been racing out of the hole in the wall.

"Still sure you don't want to take a bath?" Gabrielle grinned.

Xena looked down at her soaked leathers and grimaced. It would take several hours for them to dry and now she really didn't have an excuse not to share a bath with the bard.

"Well, since I'm already up, I guess I might as well," Xena replied nonchalantly.

Xena sat on the edge of the tub and began working at her armor. She laid everything out in front of the still burning fire a few feet away. Finally, she was down to just her leathers and she slowly peeled them off. She grabbed the chair that sat in front of the dressing table along the opposite wall from the tub and draped the bodice over the back of it, then pulled off her shift. She turned around and found Gabrielle staring at her.

"What?" Xena asked.

Gabrielle blinked and shook her head.

"Sorry, I was just thinking," Gabrielle mumbled and turned away.

Gabrielle heard the splash as Xena lowered herself into the tub and she began unlacing her sandals while trying to concentrate on removing the blush from her cheeks. She hoped she'd turned around fast enough to keep Xena from seeing it. Soon, Gabrielle had finished undressing and walked over the cold stone tiles to join Xena in the bath.

Gabrielle eased herself over the side of the warming marble and sighed as she sank into the hot, steaming water.

"Ohh, Xena, this is great. I can't believe you didn't want to try this."

"Hey, maybe you could get the amazons to install something like this in the Queen's hut for when you visit."

Xena kept her eyes closed, trying to block out real life images of a naked bard from her vision, but she grinned as she imagined Gabrielle indulging in the excesses of being a Queen.

"Think they'd do it?" Gabrielle asked, a lazy grin forming on her own lips, as she let the heat of the water seep into her muscles and relax them.

"I don't know. Couldn't hurt to ask."

"And I'm sure the Queen's champion wouldn't mind some extra perks, right?"

Xena's grin turned into a smirk.

"Well, there's gotta be some kind of reward for saving your butt all the time."

"This was not my fault this time. They just kind of kidnapped me and I couldn't..."

"Hey, hey. It's all right." Xena had opened her eyes at the sadly apologetic tone and was partially standing in front of the bard. "I know this wasn't your fault. You can't help it if people mistake you for the love goddess's priestess."

Xena almost choked as she realized how that sounded and quickly continued.

"You two look identical. Even I had a hard time telling you apart."

Xena moved back to her previous position and took long slow breaths as inconspicuously as she could.

"That's true. Isn't that amazing? I mean, she looks just like me the way Diana and Meg look like you. You know, they say everyone has a double and if you travel enough, you'll eventually meet them. I guess you've traveled so much you get to have two doubles."

"One would have been more than enough."

"Well, you're one of a kind, Xena. Even if Meg and Diana do happen to look like you, they could never replace you."

"That goes double for you, my bard."

Gabrielle covered her surprise at the endearment with a loud groan at the pun.

"Oh, that was bad, Xena."

Xena just smirked.

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