Page last updated: November 9, 2009
The attendant returned for them several hours later and escorted them to dinner. Xena's leathers were still a little damp, but they were only mildly uncomfortable. Xena had endured much worse, so she hardly even noticed.
The King sat at the head of the long table with his daughter at his right hand side. Gabrielle was seated at the King's left and across from the Princess. Xena sat next to Gabrielle on her left and the rest of the members of the royal court took their preferred places around the table. The servers brought in the food and then King Pericles gave his permission for everyone to begin their meals.
"Tell me more about why I should allow my daughter to marry so far below her rank, Priestess," King Pericles asked around a mouthful of chicken.
Xena kept the smirk off her face as she watched Gabrielle go into 'bard mode.'
"Well, it's not really a matter of Princess Calandria marrying beneath her royal station. It's a matter of the Princess being allowed to marry the one she loves. Do you believe she could love someone who would be a bad king?" Gabrielle asked pointedly.
The King looked at his daughter and his eyes softened. He turned back to Gabrielle.
"My daughter could love only a good man, but good men do not necessarily make good kings. The boy you mentioned, the blacksmith. What could he possibly know of running my kingdom, collecting taxes, keeping an army to defend the people, or negotiating with neighboring realms? As a blacksmith, he can make the coins of my realm, or forge the armor of my troops, but that is all."
"You could teach him what he needs to know before you passed the crown to him. Being born from royal blood isn't always a requirement for becoming a king. Just two years ago, Xena and I.. I-uh, ay-uh, a girl, a woman, Xena's friend, Gabrielle. Um, they helped King Gregor adopt an orphaned baby that had been prophesied to become the next King. The boy was born to one of the King's servants, but the mother died in childbirth. At first, King Gregor thought the boy would grow up and take his throne by force, but Xena made him realize if he took the child as his own, then the infant would become his rightful heir and inherit the throne peacefully. So, you see, even though King Gregor's son isn't a prince by blood, he will learn what he needs to know from his adopted father. King Gregor is a good king, so it stands to reason he'll teach his son to be a good king, too. You could do the same with Jason. Take him under your wing, show him the ropes..."
Xena nudged the bard before she got too caught up with her metaphors.
"Um, and you wouldn't have to decide right away either. You could postpone the wedding, while Jason is learning how to be King. And just think. You could teach Jason to be the kind of king you are, not the kind of king he was raised to be by foreign parents."
Xena found it hard not to smile. The bard just kept piling on the pros of letting Calandria be with the one she loved, without actually focusing on that part of her reasoning. Xena knew Gabrielle cared more about making sure the Princess had the right to choose than whether or not the King would be able to turn Jason into a suitable ruler.
King Pericles remained silent as he finished his meal, quite obviously deep in thought over Gabrielle's words. When he'd cleared his plate, he stood and addressed everyone at the royal table.
"Ladies, gentlemen. I bid you all a good evening." He lowered his voice and turned to his daughter and the two women at his left. "I will think more about the things you've said, Priestess. I will announce my decision in the morning."
He bowed slightly and left the dining hall, followed by two guards.
Princess Calandria watched her father leave, then turned back to face Gabrielle and Xena.
"Thank you, Priestess Daphne. I think you might actually have changed his mind." She glanced down at her mostly empty plate and then back up at the two women. "I think I'm going to turn in as well. Goodnight."
The Princess left with several ladies-in-waiting trailing after her.
Xena looked over at the bard and smiled.
"You were pretty convincing. If I were him, I'd seriously reconsider my laws about how a new king is chosen."
"Yeah. I always preferred soldiers that didn't have any prior training because then I could train them myself without having to break them of any bad habits they'd picked up from previous instructors. You definitely gave him a few things to think about."
"I did, didn't I," Gabrielle agreed, a warm feeling flowing through her from the praise of her friend.
Gabrielle went back to work on her food. She'd stopped while talking to the King and had only gotten through a single serving, while the king had finished his meal. But all that talking had made her hungry and she ate the royal food with gusto. Xena kept half an eye on the bard as she slowly plowed through her own meal. She really got a kick out of watching Gabrielle put away more food in one sitting than most people did in an entire day.
After a full hour, the bard was finally sated. Xena had learned a while ago to pace herself so that she wasn't just sitting there staring at Gabrielle while the little Amazon ate. She was just finishing the last bite of her food when Gabrielle called it quits.
"I'm stuffed," Gabrielle sighed and patted her firm belly through her white robes.
Xena held her tongue on the immediate replies that wanted to come out of her mouth and instead changed the subject.
"You ready to turn in?"
"Oh yeah. I could definitely go for a nice soft bed right about now," Gabrielle agreed.
"Come on, then."
Xena stood and helped Gabrielle to her feet. They bid everyone at the table a goodnight and returned to their chambers. Once there, Gabrielle began to unwrap herself from her gauzy robes. Then she realized Xena was in the room with her and looked up to find the warrior watching her intently.
"Are you all right?" Gabrielle asked uncertainly.
Xena blinked and her eyes seemed to focus on the room again.
"Yeah. I'm fine. But what are you going to sleep in? Those acolytes never found your clothes."
"Oh, I forgot about that. Well, I'm not sleeping in this thing. It's too warm with all these layers."
Gabrielle went back to unwrapping the cloth from around her body and Xena turned around to rummage in her saddle bag. She found her brown shift and tossed it over to the foot of the bed where Gabrielle was standing.
"There ya go. You can wear that to bed."
Gabrielle looked down.
"But what about you?"
"It's all right, Gabrielle. I'll just sleep in my leathers like I always do."
"Gabrielle, don't argue with me."
Xena prayed that Gabrielle would just drop it. If she actually had to sleep with a naked bard in the same bed, she'd lose it.
Gabrielle opened her mouth to protest, but then changed her mind. She finished pulling off the white robes and then donned the shirt. It came down to her knees and she felt like a little kid in Xena's over-sized shift, but the scent wafting up to her from the material was making her dizzy and she knew it had nothing to do with any childish thoughts.
Gabrielle climbed under the covers and curled up on her side to go to sleep. She listened to Xena remove her armor and boots and then felt the mattress shift as Xena moved to lie down on her side of the bed.
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