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It was the annual Amazon Summer Solstice Celebration. Heavy drums were beating, accompanied by women chanting. In the blazing midday sun, twelve scarcely dressed, masked Amazons were performing their ritual dance with in their centre their young and popular Queen. The other Amazons had gathered around the dancers.
Leaning her tall dark body into a shady tree was Xena, Warrior Princess, watching the celebration with an amused look on her beautiful face, and more in particular, she was admiring the gorgeous blonde that led the dance. Gods, the girl looked like the sun itself, her blonde hair radiating the light, only accentuated by the white leather garment she wore. She looked more like Apollo's daughter than like his twin sister Artemis'. She had a positively regal poise, when she was at the Amazon Village. It always seemed to come over her just as soon as they crossed the borders of the Amazon territory.
Xena was no Amazon and she didn't like to stay in one place for a long time, but she absolutely loved to see her companion blossom into being the wise and graceful leader of the Amazon Village. Xena feasted her eyes on the concentrated young blonde, wondering at her luck that Gabrielle always followed her away from her people, whenever the Warrior Princess wanted to leave.
Suddenly the object of her reflections looked at her across the crowd and flashed her a beaming smile, that made Xena catch her breath. Apparently, she was not the only one to have noticed the sign of affection: half a dozen Amazons turned to look at Xena. The dark woman felt a deep crimson creep from her neck upwards, and hoped the shade would hide most of it. Under the pretext of guarding the surroundings, she looked away, but not before she made a mental note of all the women that had looked at her. She concluded they must all have been watching the Amazon Queen like she had, although there were twelve other enchanting women to be watched.
There was Ephiny, the Queens' Regent, who always took Gabrielle's place when she was away, an attractive blonde with intelligent features and untameable blonde curls. Xena knew she had not approved of Gabrielle at first, but the amiable young bard had quickly, and effectively, won her over. Now Ephiny was Gabrielle's most loyal friend. But one, of course.
There had been Tessa, a tall redhead that was very good with horses and was in charge of breading and training them in the Amazon stables. She also taught the Amazons to ride. Xena was quite an equestrian herself, but in Tessa she had met her equal. Tessa would probably be the only person in the known world that she would completely trust with Argo.
Another was Galena, a petite brunette. She was the healer's trainee and was kind and patient. She spoke in a soft voice and had a keen eye. And she was very eager to learn. She had asked Xena more than once for alternative remedies and treatments and wanted to know every detail when Gabrielle told stories about Xena treating people on the battlefield. Her build was not unlike Gabrielle's.
There was Tbele. She was a small woman of African complexion and very beautiful. She had travelled a lot. She came from far beyond Egypt and had travelled to Greece over land to join the Amazon Tribe. She could tell animated stories about unknown peoples and used strange consonants to liven up her tales. She spoke Greek with a rolling accent.
Then there was Hilda, a tall blonde and a courageous warrior that had come from the north. She loved to exercise with Xena on the practice field, especially when their Queen was watching, come to think of it. She was very good with the sword and had even beaten Xena once in practice. She spoke with a heavy accent too.
And finally there was Amara, a brunette who had only shortly joined the Tribe. A young, good fighter with a great sense of humour. As Xena watched her, Amara caught her eye and crossed over to her.
She stood next to Xena for a moment and then sighed. "Gods, she is beautiful, isn't she?"
"Seems to me like you have a thing for your Queen, Amara," Xena teased.
"Yeah, you're right," Amara blushed, but tried to talk fast to hide it. "Would it be alright with you if I uhm… tried to uhm … get her attention?"
"Why would you want to ask me that?" the Warrior reciprocated.
"Oh, well, because you guys are so close and you sort off take care of Gabrielle when you are on the road."
"Gabrielle takes good care of herself, I can assure you," Xena snapped. "Why don't you ask her yourself?"
"Is that all right with you?" Amara asked.
"Sure," the Warrior said, with a confidence she didn't feel, "I know I would." She added softly. Well, I know I should, anyway.
The festivities were going to continue until late that night, because Summer Solstice coincided with the Full Moon ceremony this time. There was an informal banquet between the two celebrations in the Community Hut. Gabrielle enjoyed eating at the enormous table. The wine was good and the food was great. She was seated between Ephiny on her right and Xena on her left and was having a lively conversation with Hilda across the table. Ephiny took the opportunity to talk to Xena behind the Queen's back.
"If I didn't know it would be pointless, I would try to get Gabrielle to join me in my hut tonight," she confided softly.
Xena swallowed. "Why would that be pointless?" she asked.
Ephiny chuckled. "Because she's been spoken for, of course!"
"By whom?!" Xena asked. She felt a surge of panic. Anything she had missed out on?
"You're kidding, right? Xena, you may fool all the others, but you don't fool me!" Ephiny said.
"No, I'm not kidding, tell me!" Xena threatened.
"Xena, do you mean to tell me you two are not a couple?"
"Yes," the Warrior said. "I mean no, we're not."
"You are definitely kidding." The regent decided and sat back up to take a bite.
"I swear to you I am not," Xena said, a little louder than she intended.
Ephiny was speechless for a moment. "Why not?" she asked finally.
"Eph, we're friends, that's all", Xena tried to convince herself too.
"Friends my ass!" Ephiny mocked. "You and I are friends. Do you want to tell me you feel the same for her as you feel for me?"
"Well, no, I mean, Gabrielle is my soulmate, But I …"
"Do you want to tell me you are not crazy about her?" Ephiny interrupted her.
"No, I can't deny that," Xena admitted, "But Gab..."
"Xena, the girl is smitten," Ephiny interrupted again, "Even a child could tell you that, my friend."
"You are out of your mind." Xena said indignantly and sat back up again. She played with her food and took no part in the dinner conversation. Under the table, Gabrielle slid a hand onto her thigh, knowing without looking at Xena that the Warrior was upset. Which of course, didn't make things better, especially since Ephiny obviously saw the hidden caress. She smirked at Xena, who sat like she had swallowed a broomstick throughout the rest of the meal. Finally, when the plates were gathered and the crowd started to mingle, she swallowed her pride and sought out Ephiny again.
"Amara asked me this afternoon if she could pursue Gabrielle," she whispered with a pained expression.
"And Hilda is not even going to ask your permission," Ephiny informed Xena. The Warrior swallowed and saw the tall redhead that looked adoringly at the Amazon Queen across the room. "As far as I know, she was suggesting a swim at the lake together tomorrow."
"And do you see Tbele?" Xena said, pointing her out. "Those two could swap stories for nights on end." Gabrielle was enthusiastically talking with the small dark woman now.
"If, and only if, they keep to stories…" Ephiny said suggestively, which really made Xena feel better.
"Gods, she is beautiful, isn't she? What am I going to do, Eph?"
"If I had your luck, I'd open up. She doesn't want anybody else, I promise you."
"Are you jealous, Eph?" Xena asked.
"Yes," the Regent answered simply. "I would give almost anything to have her. But I will settle for two very happy friends."
"Thank you, my friend." Xena gave Ephiny a hug.
Neither of them had noticed the approach of the Queen.
"What was that all about?" Gabrielle asked with a warm smile. "Thank you for what?"
"You two have to talk," Ephiny said with a meaningful look, before she turned around and left them alone.
"About what?" Gabrielle turned to the Warrior questioningly.
"Uhm…. Gabrielle, I have to tell you something important." Xena felt an annoying colour creep up from the direction of her neck upwards.
"This sounds serious." The bard looked up into those blue eyes, that tried to avoid hers unsuccessfully, with a smile. "Wouldn't it be better to wait until after the celebration? We'd have more time then."
"Yes, much better," Xena let out a relieved sigh.
"That sensitive, huh?" Gabrielle asked. "I know you hate sensitive chats!" she teased. "Just tell me it's not something bad."
"No, it's definitely not something bad." Or was it?
"Okay, I'll seek you out after the celebration. Stay close." Gabrielle planted a little kiss on Xena's cheek and mingled again.
"Don't worry, I will," the Warrior muttered to herself.
The ceremony of the Full Moon and the patron of the Amazons took place at the same spot as the solstice celebration earlier. About an hour after sunset, when it started to get dark, the Amazons gathered again, their bodies painted with white pigments and hung with feathers. Heavy drumming accompanied the chants of the women. Leaning into the same tree stood Xena, watching the ritual dance around the unlit campfire. Xena could clearly make out Gabrielle's small form. The Warrior felt a jolt of nerves in her stomach when she thought of what was going to happen after the celebration. The full moon hung low above the horizon and looked enormous. Artemis blessed couples that joined in the face of the full moon, the Warrior thought with a smile. Even though she did not much care for the Olympians herself, she knew Gabrielle was Artemis' chosen and would like her consent.
"I would get her for you, if you wanted," a soft voice whispered in her ear. Xena could not believe she hadn't heard anyone approach. She must have, for the first time in many years, let down her guard. She looked up and saw Tessa stand near to her. The redhead was just as tall as Xena and …uncomfortably close.
"Get what for me?" she tried to pull herself together.
"The moon," Tessa replied softly, looking Xena in her eyes. "We could chase her together on horseback, you and me."
Gods, this woman was not interested in Gabrielle, but in her, Xena thought with a touch of surprise and… relief!
"Tessa, I don't want the moon," she replied with compassion.
"We could still chase it together," the amorous Amazon pleaded.
Xena wanted to be delicate, because she really liked the tall horsewoman.
"Tessa, I feel very flattered, but my heart belongs to another."
"I was afraid so," the tall Amazon sighed. "But you two never showed any intention of asking Artemis' blessing for your union, so…."
Suddenly Xena knew exactly what to do. "You are right, Tessa, and I thank you very much!" she hugged the redhead. "I would like to go riding with you some other time, but there is something very important I have to do first."
"I understand, Xena," Tessa said. "And you have my blessing."
"Thank you, my friend."
Xena waited for the first part of the ceremony to finish. There would be a lot of wine, more dancing and singing afterwards, and she had to fit in her plan before that, because otherwise nobody could think clearly anymore. She polished her sword, armour and chakram until they reflected the moonlight while she waited.
When the drums fell silent, Xena stepped forward. This was rather unexpected, as the Warrior Princess mostly kept to the background in Amazon matters. She stood in the ceremonial circle and looked impressive and beautiful. She had everyone's attention immediately. Gabrielle looked at her in surprise and with a questioning smile on her face. Xena addressed all the Amazons, but her eyes were locked on Gabrielle. She spoke with a clear voice that only trembled once.
"Amazons, I would like to ask Artemis' blessing, and yours, to love your Queen Gabrielle and to be her champion." She said simply.
A huge smile appeared on the lovely face of the small Amazon Queen. The crowd was beginning to applaud, when a second figure stepped forward. The blond northern Amazon cut in.
"Sisters, I vould also like to ask Artemees' and your blesseeng to love our Qveen and be her champion." Hilda said with her northern accent. The other Amazons collectively pulled in their breaths. Xena was not surprised. Maybe it was just as well to have this out in the open.
It was in this silence that a third voice was heard.
Amara stepped forward and said: "Sisters, I would also like to ask Artemis' and your blessing to love our Queen and to be her champion." Amara looked at Xena and the Warrior nodded her acknowledgement. Amazons whispered and speculated what was going to happen next, when a fourth woman stepped forward.
The dark Tbele cleared her voice. "Sisterrs, I also want to ask forr the blessing of Arrtemis and the Amazons, to love ourr Queen." Xena admired her guts.
Now everyone was talking. Somebody called "Anybody else?" and another "Me too!" until Ephiny took control of the situation.
The Regent climbed onto the platform and cleared her voice. "Sisters, it seems that Artemis is in a romantic mood," she said, looking at the full moon. "It also looks like our Queen Gabrielle is not going to be alone tonight." Everybody grinned, which broke the growing tension. Someone lit the campfire and several Amazons brought torches to the platform. "Your Majesty, would you come up here and choose your champion and let all the others chose someone else?" More grins. Gabrielle did indeed join Ephiny on the platform, and for one moment, Xena felt a surge of fear run through her body. What if Gabrielle preferred another woman? She quickly dismissed the thought. They had been through so much together, Gabrielle had to choose her. Although maybe one of the other suitors would be better for her…
Gabrielle didn't know how to start. She looked charmingly shy and frail next to her Regent. "Uhm, Amazons," she started with a small voice and then cleared it, "I feel very honoured and yet very humble that four such beautiful and gallant women have offered me their love in front of Artemis and all of you."
"We all love you very much, my Queen," Ephiny said. "And some love you even more than that." Only Xena knew what really went on inside the Regent.
"Yes!" came in different voices and from various sides. More giggles.
"You give me way too much credit", Gabrielle said with a blush that was visible even in the light of the full moon.
"Obviously, you will have to choose, my Queen," Ephiny said.
"Yes, of course. I want to thank each of you very much for the honour you bestow onto me. Each one of you would have been a good choice and each one of you will make somebody very happy. But I have to tell you that I have no choice," Gabrielle said without beating around the bush any longer than necessary. "My heart is already taken. It belongs to Xena." Gabrielle held out her hand to the tall dark Warrior.
One or two of the Amazons sighed in surprise, several others let out a disappointed yell but most of them cheered. Hilda, Amara and Tbele were comforted by friendly arms around their shoulders. A ball of happiness exploded inside Xena's heart, she feared it would burst. Yes!! The Warrior Princess stepped forward, relief, pride and intense joy showing on her normally stoic face as she joined Gabrielle on the platform. The Queen took Xena's hand and looked the Warrior in her eyes where she saw her own happiness reflected.
"Together we would like to ask for Artemis' blessing." Gabrielle said aloud, with Xena's hand in hers, facing the full moon again.
Suddenly Artemis, in the form of a deer, emerged from the trees. Normally the hunting Amazons would immediately have gotten their bows and spears, but it was very clear that this was their patron goddess. She jumped up onto the platform and let Xena and Gabrielle stroke her neck. All the Amazons sank to their knees, before the deer jumped off the platform and disappeared into the bush again.
It remained deafeningly silent for a few moments.
"It looks like the Goddess Artemis just gave you what you asked for, my Queen," Ephiny said with shaking voice.
"Amazons, we would also like to ask your blessing," the Queen said, her voice thick with emotion.
The Amazons slowly got up one by one and started cheering their consent and their blessings towards their beloved Queen and her beautiful companion.
"I will take that as a yes," the Queen said, smiling at her Amazons. "Thank you, Amazons!"
"This calls for some serious celebrating and some serious drinking for some," Ephiny announced. "Now let's get on with the celebration."
And so they did. After the ceremony was finished, the more informal dancing, storytelling and drinking began. Many Amazons wanted to congratulate Xena and Gabrielle personally on their choice. The Queen made sure to see each of the other suitors in private, to convince them of her great sympathy. Each one of them seemed to take their loss with good grace.
Xena ran into Tessa again.
"You did very well, Xena. I am happy for you." The tall redhead said.
"Thank you again, my friend," the Warrior said. "If it weren't for you I might not have done it."
"Glad I could be of help."
Ephiny tried discretely to get Xena's attention, but she was well on her way to get drunk, so it was a little less than subtle. She giggled and almost lost her balance when she tried to whisper something into the tall Warrior's ear. She had her other arm wrapped around the middle of Eponin, who kept her from falling.
"Just want to remind you that after Summer Solstice follows the shortest night of the season," Ephiny murmured meaningfully into Xena's ear. Xena caught the drift and sought out Gabrielle in the crowd. She started to guide her love towards the Queen's Hut stealthily. Two of the royal guards followed discretely. The party was still blazing noisily, when they were finally alone.
Xena pulled the blonde into her arms in the privacy of the Royal Hut and ever so slowly lowered her lips onto the enticing, welcoming lips of the small Amazon Queen. That first kiss took a very long time and was deliciously slow and wildly passionate.
"So, Warrior Princess, exactly what was it you wanted to tell me after the ceremony?" Gabrielle teased, when she had finally regained some breath.
Somehow, it was not all that hard to say anymore. In fact, it came out quite smoothly. "That I am so very much in love with you, Gabrielle. And that I want to spend my life with you and make you happy for the rest of time."
"I love you too, Xena," she pulled down the dark head again. "With all my heart and soul."
"So do I, and I have for ages…"
"You certainly took your sweet time to tell me!" Gabrielle mockingly scolded her Warrior. "But it was well worth waiting for."
"To be quite honest, I had some encouragement." Xena confessed.
"From whom?" Gabrielle asked.
"From Ephiny, for starters," Xena confessed. "And I noticed that half the Amazon Nation lusts after you much the same way I do!" She buried her face in Gabrielle's neck to start a trail of soft wet, very seducing kisses in the general direction of her ear.
"Oh, silly, do you know the other half lusts after you?" Gabrielle giggled. "Galena confessed as much to me the other day. Many people confide in her. And what she doesn't hear, she knows just by looking at you."
"What can I say? Amazons all have great taste!" Xena was drunk with happiness.
Gabrielle laughed. "This was the most beautiful ceremony in my life." She sighed.
"Oh, but your Majesty, the best is yet to come," said the dark Warrior, one eyebrow raised suggestively, before she scooped up the small Queen in her arms and carried her to the royal bed.
It was about noon the next day that the first people stirred in the Amazon Village. Most women were tired for lack of sleep and abundant use of wine. In the Royal Hut, one very satisfied Warrior lay still asleep with a happy smile literally dried up on her face. One equally happy Queen awoke because her…. stomach grumbled! She got up with some difficulty, relieved herself in the pit in the corner of the hut and put the lid back on, but there was no food in the hut. She had to go outside, so she put on a bare minimum of clothes. When she opened the door, she found two grinning guards waiting, one of which was holding a large bowl of water.
"Complements of the Regent, my Queen," she said with a meaningful smile. Gabrielle got hold of the bowl and went back inside. She realised she was dehydrated, and drank a few handfuls, before she washed her hands and face, that felt rather tight and sticky. If the Royal Hut had contained a mirror, Gabrielle would most probably have sent the guard to get her some food, for she would not have gone out if she had known what she looked like.
But since she didn't, she reopened the door and started to cross the clearing towards the Food Hut. The few women that had their eyes open could see a shabby, yet radiant Queen that had trouble walking on her shaking legs. She might just as well have been naked, everybody could see just what she had been doing. Her hair was a mess; her upper lips were swollen, as were her nipples, which could hardly bear the soft top that covered them. She had two obvious love-marks on her neck and she could not seem to hold her legs close together. She had aching muscles that she didn't before know she had. When she tried to greet a few smiling Amazons that crossed her path, a hoarse croak came out her throat, husky with overuse. The teasing looks of the other women told her they all knew what had caused her messy state, and it was very, very difficult to move around with a Queen's dignity if you knew everybody had been earwitness to your coming and coming and coming over and over again….
Her heart bounced violently when she thought of last night… bounced right down to her belly and exploded in her still swollen lower lips. Xena, the love of her life, had made passionate and insatiable love to her. She had been tender and skilled and had taken Gabrielle all the way to Elysia all night long, until they had finally fallen into a sated, exhausted sleep shortly after dawn. Gabrielle had stopped walking, as the power of that memory pushed all ability of coordinated movement aside. Making love to Xena literally took her breath away.
Oh well, she straightened her shoulders as she realised she had stopped. The Amazons that were smiling were most probably just jealous. They ought to be, anyway! Here she was: the happiest woman alive and she was loved by the most beautiful, arousing, delicious woman in the known world! She was not really ashamed, no, she felt proud! She ran her hand through her hair and her nose caught a hint of her lover's juices that lingered on her fingers… her heart jumped another beat or two.
Finally she had made her way to the Food Hut, where Cook and her assistant were only too eager to please the Queen. Gabrielle, with her rough voice, ordered double portions of everything, so she could spare Xena the embarrassment of going to the Food Hut herself. Cook, an older woman of generous build, redoubled the double portions with a knowing smile. The young Queen would not come back for food any time soon… The ragged Queen remained standing while waiting for her food to be prepared, as sitting felt uhm… a trifle uncomfortable.
The guard that had followed her and Cook's assistant carried everything on trays back to the Royal Hut. To the door, that was, for when Gabrielle opened it, she sensed a very telling odour, that she preferred to keep to herself and Xena.
She took the trays from each one of them and placed them by the bed, where her beautiful lover had woken up and threw her a beaming smile with lips that were as swollen as her own. One of the guards softly closed the door, as Gabrielle slid back onto her lover and said, with her lips on the Warrior's: "Oh, Xena, this was so embarrassing!"
"Was it, now?" Xena asked, with an arousing smile and a voice that was as hoarse as Gabrielle's. "I am so sorry," she said insincerely, "Can I make it up to you?" She smothered any possible answer with her lips that bore the same exciting odour as the room.
"So I presume you showed them I take very good care of all the desires of their Queen, didn't you?" she inquired finally.
"They could tell just by looking at me…. I could hardly walk!" Gabrielle grinned. "But somehow I think they must also have heard us last night."
"Do you really think so?" Xena asked with a naughty look on her beautiful face.
"Yeah, I do. But in case they didn't, we could still give them a chance, couldn't we?"
"I'd be more than happy to." The Warrior assured.
"After breakfast." Gabrielle stated.
"After breakfast," Xena promised. "And after lunch, and after dinner and…"
The rest of her plans were suffocated in a long, very hungry kiss from the Amazon Queen.
Or is it? There is a sequel:
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