by JM Dragon
It was a beautiful day for Easter Solstice, scattering its welcoming rays on the small but thriving Amazon village, untouched by many of the trials and tribulations that beset many of their sister villages in the province. There was a good reason too, with an interior dense and unwelcoming to only those that chose to live here.
As with every rule there were exceptions and today for the Easter celebration they were going to have two very special guests, Xena warrior princess and Queen Gabriel the bard.
They had been working hard from early morn to midnight for many days to have the preparations ready for such distinguished guests to visit. The prime guard not to mention most of the able bodied village had ventured to the perimeters of the village to give them a special village Easter welcome.
"Flora have you arranged the centre piece yet?" Gladry asked annoyed at the delay, she'd arranged for everything according to their custom.
"No I haven't, everyone has vanished to welcome our honoured guests you're lucky I'm still here to help you finish up!" affronted at the superior attitude of the partner of the leader of the village, Catriona.
"Well, it is an event you know! I wish I was there in the frontline to greet them as well. All the stories I've heard, wow what a pair!" Gladry had relished every exploit of the couple who journeyed the world to help others, in particular the stories about their adventures with their sisters in the other provinces, which sounded exciting and incredibly unbelievable. However, Catriona had explained to her as she fell asleep inside their hut last night that you did not question the feasibility of the exploits, The warrior princess would take offence on behalf of Queen Gabriel, it was common knowledge they had a bond though few knew how deep that went.
"Are you going to help me string these lights or not?"
"Yes, yes I am, give me the bow. You know what we need is a few hundred elves to help us along."
I'd second that! Not to mention a sleigh to carry all this stuff. Let's do this before they arrive," heaving the items towards the spectacular tree awaiting adornment.
"Gab, is this a good idea?" Xena dismounted from Argo and looked around the forest; it was so dense she could hardly see more than a few feet in front of her beloved horse's neck. A most disconcerting experience, fortunately for her she had sensitive hearing and before anything could pounce on her she would be ready and waiting, sword drawn and battle ready, her one priority to keep her bard safe at all costs.
Gabriel pushed back her blonde hair and smiled indulgently, had she been travelling with anyone but Xena there would have been no journey to this outpost. However, as she did have the mighty warrior princess at her side there was no time like the present to make such a visit, anyway no one else went there according to Ephany, unless you were... better not tell Xena that one or she would want to turn back.
"Xena we sent the message they will be waiting and I'm sure they will have special treats just for you," poking a gentle finger at the warrior's midriff, laughing as she was allowed to touched the soft leather that adorned the lithe figure.
"Got to hand it to you Gab no one but someone like you would ever want to seek out such a place, got to be that Easter bunny syndrome they told me about."
"What are you talking about Xena?" chuckling at their easy camaraderie who would have thought it when they first met.
"Eph said you loved the Easter parade, chocolate eggs, fancy wrapping paper on the baskets and she said thank you. Not that I know what the thank you is until you tell me?"
"I do love Easter, besides Christmas it's a wonderful time of year and we Amazon's love to celebrate." Gabriel grinned as she heard a heavy sigh from her friend.
"You love anything that means you can have fun and eat, eat and more eat!" Xena stopped walking her ears picking up as something unfamiliar rang in the air.
Gabriel stopped and was about to ask when her lips were sealed by the finger to the lips from her companion. Her green eyes flashed constantly to and fro trying to see or hear what had alerted Xena.
Moving away from the bard and Argo Xena stealthily walked towards the under growth, it was moving and there was a peculiar sound in the distance. She had heard it before but surely it couldn't be…not here in the forest.
"What is it Xena?" Gabriel whispered and was given a look that pierced her like a dagger…opps not a good time.
A few moments later Xena came back to Gabriel and Argo. "I must have had too much ale last night I'm hearing things."
"What things? And you only had two jugs."
"Two, three what does it matter I heard bells!" Xena sounded aggrieved and stupid at the admission.
"Bells, here? There isn't a church around these parts there couldn't be…could there?"
"No! No self respecting priest would live out here unless they were ostracised."
"The Amazons do! I don't think you should say such remarks when we meet them Xena, you know how sensitive they are we could end up in a battle of honour again!"
"Nope my bard, you would be the one in the battle I'm just your …willing warrior slave." Winking as the bard collapsed into a fit of laughter.
Suddenly Xena pulled Gabriel close listening intently. The bard was more than happy to keep silent, she didn't think words would come that easily anyway, now she was held close against the warriors chest…if only that happened more often like every night when they went to sleep!
"Them?" Gabriel squeaked out and saw the eyebrows of the warrior lift in surprise, was Gab catching a cold her voice sounded as if she'd swallowed a piece of coal.
"Hmm yeah, Amazons you can tell them anywhere." Smiling as she released the bard who sighed heavily, too many fantasies so little reality.
Out of the dense forest they saw coming towards them a line of small flickering lights and within moments the darkness of the overhead foliage was shrouded in the beauty of a hundred single candles as the Amazon tribe moved forward.
"Queen Gabriel?" A tall Amazon stepped forward she did not hold a candle as most of the others in sight appeared to do.
Xena moved to allow her bard to speak but within arms length should there be a problem, as always her safety was paramount they had experienced enough with would be upstarts in the Amazon nation.
"Yes, I'm Queen Gabriel and this is…" Unable to finish as the willowy Amazon grinned and saluted Xena as one warrior to another.
"We are honoured to meet you Xena your exploits have kept us alert at our campfires many a cold evening.
"Yeah right, well lets get this show on the road where is your village?" Xena didn't like being caught out, and today she had been, it had to have been the strange attack on her senses, bells, now candles what else was in store she wondered?
Feeling a nudge in her ribs Xena turned, "what, that hurt?"
Whispering but unable to stop the snigger that escaped her Gab replied, "behave Princess, I still think you're wonderful."
"What do you mean by that?" unable to comprehend what Gabriel meant for the moment, had she been reading more than her scrolls lately.
"The village is only a few more minutes away we will lead if you have no objections?" Catriona was slightly offended at the lack of attention to Amazon greeting but it was getting late and she imagined even the great Warrior Princess became tired and irritated, especially when snook up on. What a story that would be for the little ones in the future.
"You've dished protocol again Xena, we don't know who is in charge here."
"Oh come on Bard it's not a hanging offence is it?" bored with the forest this trip and being caught off guard by a bunch of candle wielding Amazons. What could be worse!
"No, next time I'm going to hang bows and ornaments around your neck to show them you are one card short of the deck." Moving away fast before the warrior could exact her revenge for the remark, she slipped forward towards the woman who had spoken and struck up an avid conversation and regained some of the lacking pleasantries.
Xena puffed out her chest grimacing as she muttered under her breath, "bar humbug!"
Gladry heard the welcome party moving forward to enter the village, Flora had gone to check on the cooks, not that there were many there, her closing gambit had been "Too many cooks spoil the broth," in their case the fruit cake."
Rushing forward she grinned broadly as Catriona arrived with the guests talking animatedly to Queen Gabriel, where was Xena? Glancing around her eyes finally found the stoic warrior, and she looked every inch what the stories had depicted, incredible!
"Welcome honoured warrior."
Xena glanced at the person who had spoken, she was the first person who had actually spoken directly to her, all the others had looked but shied from actually making her acquaintance, maybe she needed to bathe.
"Thanks, who are you," Xena stood tall and strong beside Argo as she faced the friendly Amazon?
"I'm Gladry mate of Catriona the leader of our village, who is talking with your…Queen Gabriel." The woman held herself upright and with dignity, obviously proud of her status, and the woman she loved.
"Pleased to meet you Gladry, I need a place for Argo."
"No problem," clicking her fingers a young Amazon arrived and smiled shyly at both horse and rider.
"Bethany will do Argo proud I assure you, especially at this time of the year."
"Argo likes only the best." Xena carefully place the Argo's reigns in the young woman's hands stroking her mane for a moment as she was led away.
"Argo will have every comfort afforded as we do for our honoured guests." The woman swiftly left, and Argo unresistingly followed obviously she liked the handler.
Xena watched the formalities of introduction to the village, she knew they acknowledged her, however their main accolades were towards the bard, and rightly so she deserved every single one of them.
"Gabriel I hate to say this but…" A look was enough so Xena remained silent for now.
"We have a tradition Queen Gabriel…"
"Please, please Gabriel. I'm not much for formality I'm sure Ephany mentioned."
Catriona starred at the bard, Ephany? Who was Ephany?
"I'm sorry Qu…Gabriel; we are not used to visitors. May I show you our centre piece?"
"Yes of course please do." Gabby was pleased for the change of event, she had listened intently for over an hour to every minor occurrence in the village life, reminding her of when she left home with Xena.
A loud peel of bells heralded the opening ceremony.
Xena had been having a great conversation with Gladry and a few of her friends, now however; she had been summoned by her bard. Things were about to happen and when it did the only place to be was by Gabriel's side.
"Be good Xena." Gabby whispered and felt the gentle pressure of Xena's leather bodice close to hers, damn this was hard to keep your head when the woman she loved was so close, made her shiver right down to her toes.
"I will if you do my bard." As she spoke her blue orbs were ensnared by the beautiful green of the bards eyes, if only what I think is in the depths could be true!
Then the centre of the village was ablaze with lights from the large tree, adorned with multi coloured ornaments and candles shedding marvellous images in all directions. Bells peeled with what could only be a twist on a Christmas theme and holly decked everywhere possible. This was surely a little late, more like Christmas than Easter.
"Gab I think these people have their seasons mixed up."
"Actually yes they do, I expected…"
"You expected this? Why didn't you warn me?"
Laughing at the outraged warrior Gabriel placed a tender palm against her warrior's cheek, "You would never have come."
"Darn right I wouldn't! These Amazons are short of a few cards in their deck."
"Oh no Xena, these people are merely mixed up in the seasons Ephany said it was such a quaint disorder that no one wanted to hurt their feelings by letting them know. They celebrate in rather strange ways but who knows tomorrow we might end up with our chocolate Easter egg, barring that we might find a sack full of toys, I think it's wonderful!"
"You knew, and you didn't tell me?"
"I didn't know exactly."
Xena puffed out her chest and stood up "I need some air!" Leaving the bard alone embarrassed momentarily, until she quickly began a story to cover for the absent warriors departure.
"It was a wonderful evening of celebration Catriona, thank you." Gabriel spoke smoothly but her heart was elsewhere wondering where the warrior had gone it had been over three hours ago.
"It was my pleasure Gabriel if you want me for anything else I would be honoured?"
Mussing over Xena's disappearance she failed to notice the invitation in the Amazon's tone.
"I'd like…" suddenly Gabriel was in the arms of the leader of the village being kissed on her cheeks, chin, neck, shoulder and almost everywhere else. Struggling to escape the kisses without the need to cause a scene, she was gratefully interrupted from her pondering of how, as the body of the village leader was wrenched away from her.
"What's going on here?"
All eyes turned to the warrior who held the leader of the village aloft easily. Xena's eyes were starring piercingly at the bard who was struggling to right herself from her prone position.
"I was being friendly." Catriona choked out, she wanted away from this grip, it felt as if the perpetrator could crush her easily.
"That's too friendly with my bard." Xena gave the woman a long hard look and dropped her viciously on the hard earth.
"It will never happen again." The leader quickly stated and rushed off to her hut and the welcoming arms of her partner Gladry.
"And you wanted this?
"No! You know me well enough to know that I wouldn't." Gabriel picked herself up off the floor, and walked towards the hut they had been given.
"Are we going to talk about this?" exasperated at the situation Xena followed closely behind the bard towards the hut.
"No, we are going to bed."
Muttering under her breath Xena failed to hear her bard slow and then stop, walking into her. What now?
"Look Xena a Christmas wreath on the door."
"These people really have the vacations screwed."
"They do not I think it's …quaint." Opening the door she was greeted with the smell of fruit punch and a basket of chocolate eggs.
"Weird if you ask me, how many people have an Easter tree with all the Christmas adornments? I bet you can't tell me any others?"
"No I can't, what's wrong with it? We're here and the place is safe, we have a wonderful hut. Argo is being well looked after, and even you said who'd come here. Why can't we relax Xena just for one night?"
Glancing around the room she was amazed to see a small fireplace and there in a barrel were several pieces of coal. "Hey you think if I put a piece of coal out for good luck it will answer me?"
"Depends on the luck you need." Gabriel walked further into the room and was astounded when she saw several cards wishing them the seasons creating. Ephany was right this tribe was rather unorthodox.
"Well with all that's gone on around here, I'd love to see you in red stockings." Xena grinned devilishly, but the expression changed as she saw into the depths of the bard's eyes.
Gabriel smiled slowly here was the teasing warrior again, "maybe if you wished upon a star it might happen. I'm going to bed I think you should too it's been a long day."
"Yeah and it might snow too!" Xena gave the bard a smile as they undressed retiring with heavy sighs, if only things were different, settling into their respective cribs without another word each with their own thoughts.
"Do you hear that Xena?" Gabriel sat up in bed the coarse sheet pulled over her modesty.
"What it's nothing, rain maybe?" Turning in her bed she closed her eyes the bard was dreaming about stories again.
"Xena listen, you have bat hearing isn't that more than rain?"
Listening for a few moments Xena tried but failed once more to pinpoint the sound; it couldn't be what she first thought…could it? Swiftly moving out of bed she stood at the window of the hut and looked out, her naked body silhouetted by the full moon.
Blinking at the sight she shook her heard, "Xena what is it?"
Turning back to the darkness of the interior of the hut she shared with the bard, "Snow Gabriel, snow. Who would have believed it?"
"Snow?" the bard squeaked out and shifted in her bed, her eyes unable to leave the sensuous body of the warrior at the window.
"Yep snow." Xena rushed back to get undercover, her body although weather hardened liked the comfort of a warm bed when the elements closed in.
"I guess that means I owe you."
"Nope not you my bard, you owe me nothing we are friends remember?" Xena turned in her bed and settled down it was going to be hard work getting out of this area with snow on the ground.
"Are you cold?"
"Cold me, don't be ridiculous Gab."
"Oh I just wondered you might want to snuggle up with something warm red and stocking filled."
Xena caught her breath and nearly choked, did her bard say what she thought she'd said?
"Only if we can wake up to something wonderfully egg related."
Giggling like a child Gabriel pulled back her sheet to allow Xena inside her warm cocoon. "No problem warrior I've order eggs for breakfast."
"Not sure you will get those in this mixed up village. However, want some help in taking the stocking off?" Xena's hand trailed gently and sensuously over Gabriel's thigh.
"I thought you'd never ask my warrior." Succumbing to the marvellously emotionally feeling of been in the arms of the one she loved.
"For you anything my love, Merry Easter," her hands trailed further in their delightful task this was one Easter they would never forget.
Happy holidays! Whichever they might be?
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