DISCLAIMER: The characters Xena and Gabrielle are copyright to Universal etc. No infringement intended. In this tale it is understood that X and G are lovers. Comments appreciated. Rabsterbgsb@aol.com
THE ANGRY MAN
Do you know what it means to be a Spartan?
The words were uttered in a quiet but clearly audible tone by a man who seemed almost physically incapable of such restraint.
Even hunched over, while contemplating his mug of ale he was a good head taller than any of the other men who lined the length of the quayside tavern.
Wearing his leather body armour his width was that of two of the taverns more normal patrons. Indeed those very same regular customers had given the stranger plenty of respect and body room when he entered the drinking den some time earlier.
Im from northern Greece it was the barkeep who replied.
The question hadnt obviously been addressed to him, but it would seem unlikely that anyone else would offer an answer.
The barkeep was wary of the stranger but not unduly concerned, he had worked for long enough and in far worse places to feel that his judgement of prospective trouble was sound. The declared Spartan had been morose and was surely the biggest thing he had seen since Mt. Olympus, but thus far at least, he had showed no violent or disturbing tendencies.
The giant shoved forward his now empty mug indicating he expected a refill, Magdus the barkeep quickly obliged.
"At aged just twelve I got beaten so badly I nearly lost an eye"
The Spartan spoke in the same timbre that could almost be a melodic growl. Unlike his customers who to a man looked terrified, Magdus was experienced and confident enough to engage with the stranger.
"Youre sure big enough to be a Cyclops!" the barkeep quipped
then mentally tried to bite back the words.
The Spartan stood up to his full height clutching the ale-mug tightly, but with an almighty grin on his face.
"Good one" his voice conveyed his amusement.
Magdus offered a silent prayer of thanks to the Gods en masse.
Again the ale mug was proffered and again Magdus showed no hesitation in refilling the vessel.
"Will you join Aiden in a soldiers toast?" the Spartan managed to make it seem like an offer best not to refuse.
Magdus was himself not averse to what he liked to call a "sociable drink" and was relieved that his comment had been accepted in good spirit.
To fighting men it was Magdus who offered the salute.
To Leonidas and Sparta Aiden gave his response.
The two men quaffed with gusto and gave simultaneous satisfied sighs. Without prompting this time, the barkeep moved to replenish both drinks and Magdus actually felt quite annoyed when he was called away to serve other people.
Aiden resumed his hunched posture and continued to speak, not knowing and perhaps not caring if the barkeep was able to hear his recollections.
At age just fifteen I slit the throat of a villager who failed the citizen test, by twenty I was blooded in four battles and leading twenty men ..
Gabrielle you just think too much! her voice carried more exasperation than the warrior had intended. The previous night had brought the most exquisite lovemaking, a state of such bliss that should have portended utter contentment, yet hours into daylight old frictions had re-surfaced.
For her part Gabrielle did not feel guilt free. She cursed herself for
straying into realms of philosophy that were oft times best left untravelled. If the woman standing alongside was not her eternal soulmate then Gabrielle would sell her beliefs to Ares for a dinar.
If you reach your zenith, dont try to jump higher the bard reminded herself - too loudly.
More words of wisdom? this time Xena kept levity in both her voice and her facial expression, it seemed only right after such a night, indeed such a week of absolute passion between them.
For my own benefit, love Gabrielle answered with a smile in her voice.
That I dare question you is an abomination her tone dipped into something akin to shame.
They had been walking at gentle stroll pace, Xena stopped and ran a single finger down Gabrielles cheek. Her blue eyes burned with emotion and sincerity.
You deserve my total love, utter respect and absolute commitment the warrior spoke deliberately clearly.
If I deliver just one iota short, may I burn in Hades for eternity.
The two women enjoyed a bountiful lunch thanks to Xenas hunting and Gabrielles cooking skills. They were suitably relaxed that in between kisses and caresses they ventured to rejoin the discussion that had ignited the earlier rift. This time each was mindful to temper their language, if not their opinions.
You have a standpoint of basic good and basic evil. Xena argued
to my mind people do what they have to.
But you ignore motivation Gabrielle countered
we do not act without some previous experience to inform our decisions
A hiatus occurred, fire-staring replaced words.
So what motivates me to consume every part of your being, right now? the warrior enquired.
Because Im beautiful! the bard replied deadpan.
Works for me said Xena before the lovers entwined in a Gordian knot of passion.
Magdus was aware that the still bi-focal "Cyclops" had consumed a quantity of ale that could have killed a lesser man. He was also painfully alert to the fact that he himself should have stopped drinking some time ago. Being coldly aware that you are drunk was one of the worst feelings, not least because you just knew that cold awareness was probably the next sense to depart.
Well my Spartan friend Magdus realised this was possibly his last opportunity to keep control, though now his confidence had deserted him. Strong ale did not make him bolder, rather it robbed him of his self-assuredness.
What plans for this good night?
I should have died with Leonidas Aiden bemoaned I missed Thermopylae by a matter of weeks Tears welled in the eyes of the giant man.
The glory of Sparta secured against the Persian horde, outnumbered forty to one my citizens showed all of Greece that we will never be conquered, each man a hero who lives eternally
Of course Magdus agreed, aware of the legend.
"Go Tell the Spartans
stranger passing by
obedient to their laws
Aiden recited the incantation, and for the first time looked and sounded drunk.
Magdus hovered briefly in front of the Spartan but was more than happy to observe that he had returned to morose silence.
His peripheral vision though impaired, Magdus could not fail to notice the two newest arrivals to his establishment.
The petite blonde was far too classy for this place, and had circumstances been different he would have either warned her away or taken her "under his wing", but following just behind was the statuesque, amazon type who looked to his near-befuddled brain like a Goddess or a visitation from Hades Harem.
By now the quayside tavern was bustling with the business of every sort that would normally transpire at this hour. Magdus scurried down to the furthest point of the bar.
Can I help you ladies? he asked with a grin that was just too salacious.
Two bottles of wine and a room for the night. A single room
Still basking in their afternoon ecstasies, Xena kept an even tone.
The wine is no problem Magdus leered too readily, but I only have one free room and that Spartan gentlemen may need it
He nodded in the direction of Aiden and emphasised the mans origins.
Has he paid for the room? Gabrielle asked politely.
Not as such the barkeep said with some hesitance but a man from Sparta surely deserves he broke off when he saw the look on Xenas face.
Do you know of Sparta? Magdus ventured.
Please! I am a bard, it is my job to know such things Gabrielle quickly broke in, sensing her friends growing ire.
An uneasy pact ensued in which Magdus promised to talk to Aiden leaving the two women sitting at the only free table enjoying their wine.
Spartans are feared throughout Greece, they train from childhood for war Xena noted matter-of-factly.
I have read many accounts of their ways the bard offered but are you afraid of them? He is one big brute.
Know when to fight, know when to run Xena repeated some age-old advice.
Gabrielle smiled at the memory of those innocent days when she was receptive to all the warriors words.
That didnt exactly answer my question she chided.
Maybe I dont have all the answers Xena retorted.
Listen, big guy Magdus said warily, do you need a room? cause Ive got two women asking for it
Aiden looked up, worryingly for the barkeep he also looked suddenly entirely sober.
I was that close to Thermopylae and you are comparing me to a woman?! his melodic growl was one step closer to a menacing roar.
No! No, no, I mean No! Magdus became totally unnerved.
The barkeep consoled himself with a mild feeling of guilt that tinged his sense of relief when Aiden stormed off in the direction of Xena and Gabrielle.
On one previous occasion Magdus could recall drinking himself into such a depression that he wanted to simply walk outside and throw himself off the quay, this night was proving to be a similar test of his willingness to simply exist.
Somehow able to function enough to provide sustenance to the thirsty, he nonetheless could not ignore the ignoble triad seated in the corner of his tavern. Straining to hear their conversation he also dreaded hearing anything at all. In too many years of barkeeping he had seen exactly one dead body, but never a murder.
One murder? Would Aiden stop there? Surely two dead women at least, and then what? A rampage throughout the inn culminating in his own grisly demise Spartans are evil scum to a man and Magdus wished he was dead.
Maybe another drink he told himself, what harm could it do?
A noble people with misguided aims Gabrielle suggested.
Misunderstood aims Xena interjected, clutching her friends knee and giving a sly wink.
I despise you people! Aiden spat the words.
So do you want the room or not? Xena attempted to re-route what had been a rambling conversation.
Ive stopped drinking. My next ale is dedicated to death!
Aiden had indeed stopped drinking as Xena had noted much earlier, she could feel her adrenalin begin to rise.
Spartan women are the same the giant again veered from the subject at hand, we are taught to respect them but they are little but whores. Sure Ive seen a couple that could fight, but you dont take on the Persians with a bunch of harlot women
As I understand it Gabrielle again tried to show reason.
To Death! Aiden bellowed as he finally raised his mug.
He then lowered his voice, to *your* death. He glared at both women in turn before swallowing the ale.
Aiden got to his feet, casting the table aside, sending drinks asunder. He pulled a short sword from his belt and waved it menacingly at Xenas throat.
The warrior stood up.
We are leaving she said evenly before turning her back on the Spartan.
Xena No!!! Gabrielle yelled.
Short sword thrust forward. Staff crashed down on wrist.
Spartan reached for dagger. Bard grabbed sword and pointed it at Aidens chest. Hiatus. Magdus drops glass.
Short sword knocked from blonde hand, dagger thrust at blonde neck.
Sword unsheathed, fatal blow, sword re-sheathed.
Dropped glass hits the floor.
Magdus surveyed his thankfully empty tavern, empty bar two patrons. He also noted the pool of urine staining the floor beneath his feet. He was happy, it was a reminder he was still alive.
Xena was holding her one and only very close.
I had to kill him, you do understand?
Gabrielle snuggled herself into those protective arms.
I will never question you, or your motives again
Uh-huh grinned the warrior, anticipating their room.
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