'Gabrielle – Rambles Through Arcady'

By Phineas Redux

—OOO—

Summary:— An innocently meant erotic fantasy, not extreme at all and done with the best possible taste, on a Theme of Xena and Gabrielle. Xena and Gabrielle, especially the Amazon Queen, engage in a series of mostly athletic activities, in varying locations in Athens and Boeotia.

Note:— The Temple of Aphrodite Urania, or at least its partial remains, actually exists today in Athens.

Disclaimer:— MCA/Universal/RenPics, or whoever, own all copyrights to everything related to 'Xena: Warrior Princess' and I have no rights to them.

—O—

Part One.

"So, this's Upper Karcharis?" Xena, looking around in open disdain, was not amused. "Makes y'wonder what in Tartarus Lower Karcharis's like?"

"Don't be so picky, Princess." Gabrielle, walking confidently by her paramour's side, was dismissive of this critical attitude. "Nothin' worse than a picky Princess, especially this early in the morning. Y'do realise we had t'crawl out'ta our warm blankets before sunrise t'get here early?"

"Yeah, yeah, don't make it sound like Achilles' assault on Troy."

"Ha, you sound just about as enthusiastic as he did, doll; remember why we're here, after all." Gabrielle paused to punch her fist lightly against the Warrior's protective leather corset. "Ouch."

"Serves ya right."

The town under discussion lay in the heartland of Boeotia, among spreading grassland and low rolling foothills. It boasted a population of around five thousand citizens and had been founded some four hundred years previously. Its main industries were grain, horses, root crops, and sheep. It also regularly held a local Festival and Games every two years, where aspiring athletes, who fancied their chances elsewhere at greater Games, came to hone their skills against the local yokels. Gabrielle, after a particularly disastrous bet taken while she was half-seas over on local wine at an Inn a fortnight previously, now found herself under the strict thumb of her new coach-trainer in general, Xena; she, Gabrielle, having placed a bet with a group of upper crust citizens that she could win the 4-stadia foot-race for women at the upcoming Karcharis Games, against any opponent.

"Great Hades." As Xena immediately spluttered, when told the next day after the Amazon had regained her faculties, or at least most of them. "Any opponent? Have ya lost yer mind?"

Basically Gabrielle had found herself in a corner—yes, she had lost her mind; yes she had done what Xena had heard she'd done; yes, it was imperative for Gabrielle's good name, and for that of the Amazon Nation as a whole, that Xena just calm the Hades down, an' start training her partner; right away, eh?

So, here they were.

At least they had some friends in the local area. Back in Thebes, Lady Hortensia, with whom they had been staying, giving them a scroll of introduction to Lady Selena; who had a town-house in Karcharis and a small estate in its immediate vicinity.

"Where's this house, again?"

"How do I know, never been here before, just like you." Gabrielle, taking no nonsense. "Let's accost a passing stranger; now who'll—yeah, him. Hey, you, mister?"

"Yeah, what? Immm, nice boobies."

Crunch.

"Did ya have to, Gabs?" Xena, studying the semi-corpse laid out in the dust of the road, passer's-by distastefully passing by the quivering remnant of humanity.

"Yeah, I did, the moron." Gabrielle, looking so mean some pedestrians decided the other side of the road beckoned with sharp necessity. "So, a passing local—Hey, you?"

"Gods; I mean, yes, ma'am. What can I do fer ye, beggin' yer pleasure, ma'am." A man who clearly knew which side his bread was buttered.

"Lady Selena, town-house, some'ers round this way—where?" Gabrielle practicing her Spartan conversational skills.

"Second on yer left, third on yer right, second on the right, agin'; ignore the next crossroads, then fourth on yer left, third on yer right, an' second on the left." A man who believed in detail. "From there ye can see the villa's red-tiled roof sticking up above the surrounding houses, some stadia t'yer left."

"Easy, thanks, get lost."

"Sure ya got—"

"O'course, what d'you think I am, lover, a innocent gal, instead of a professional Amazon?" Gabrielle being easily riled. "Directions as clear as that shining light in the sky—what's it called, agin'?"

It took them the rest of the morning to locate the villa.

Xena saying nothing, simply remaining silent with a disappointed cast to her brow—which only made Gabrielle all the angrier.

Lady Selena, it turned out, was tall comfortable and fortyish. She was dressed in an ankle-length woolen chiton of a delicate shade of yellow, and smiled widely when confronted by her visitors.

"I have been expecting you, my dears." Her voice was deep, with a commanding tone, while she stared both Gabrielle and Xena straight in their eyes. "Lady Hortensia having warn—er, let me know of your imminent arrival. I have a nice room all ready for you; and I have set up quarters for you out on my nearby estate. Come, please enter my humble home. Ignore the mosaic warning on the threshold, about cave canem, my late husband had a strange sense of humour, never allowing a dog in the house or anywhere near."

—O—

Lady Selena's villa in the country was in fact barely a parasang outside the small town; but because of the rolling countryside, all densely wooded ups and downs, it might have lain in the wastes of Scythia. After taking up temporary residence in a fine apartment on the first floor of the villa, with a view of the extensive gardens Lady Selena tended with care and beauty, Xena initiated immediate business. She took her unwilling Amazon charge, early in the cold misty morning of the second day, out to a wide grass lawn lying to the rear left side of the villa. The house rose up to the women's right, with a wide gravel path allowing passer's-by to, ah, stroll by under the windows of the house but with a full view of the lawn. Standing in the centre of this green-floored natural square arena Xena got down to it.

"OK, gal, whip 'em off."

"What?" Gabrielle was taken aback, nonplussed, perplexed, and failed to understand, in that order.

"If ye're gon'na run in a foot-race at the Games, ya ain't gon'na get far swathed in enough clothes t'cover an army, are ya?" Xena being cruel to be, er, just cruel. "You know the rules. Off."

"Oh sh-t."

Surprisingly,—or perhaps not, considering,—Gabrielle revealed everything she had to offer in an amazingly short time. Her boots she simply kicked-off with vulgar abandon, one narrowly missing Xena's shin, probably aimed deliberately: Xena made a mental note, her motto always having been retribution at all costs. Gabrielle's top, ha-ha, was so small—always a topic of concern and criticism with the grumbling Princess—that a simple twitch of agile fingers behind her shoulders freed the nearly invisible strings holding it in place, allowing the blonde Amazon to throw it aside in one svelte movement—revealing as superb an upperworks and superstructure as anyone could possibly wish to see before they died—many, starting with entirely the wrong motivation in this respect, having indeed accomplished this ancient maxim—to see, and then to die. Where were we? Oh yes, Gabrielle gettin' naked—hold on, don't push at the back; we'll get there, don't worry.

What was left was Gabrielle's skirt, for want of a better term—many seamstresses and dressmakers throughout Greece avowing they had never seen the like; no, never. Sometimes the Amazon wore a leather belt with this short article of clothing; sometimes she wore a particular skirt, still far too short for the tastes of some Warrior Princesses who shan't be named, with a built-in waist-clasp. It was the latter she wore this morning; but, as present events had swiftly shown her, not for long. A brisk fiddle with the clasp, which always gave trouble, and she threw the last of her modesty to the four winds, sniffing disdainfully while doing so. Sometimes she wore a short thin loincloth underneath, for comfort and that annoying modesty thing everyone talked so much about everywhere she went; but sometimes she didn't, today being one of the didn't mornings. So, there she stood—one Amazon Queen, one Warrior Princesses' consort, one famous Bard, one shor—petite woman shivering in the altogether in the early morning breeze, saying nasty things under her breath whilst clasping her arms around her fore, er, arrangements to keep some iota of warmth.

"There, happy? Gods, it's bloody cold."

"Ye'll soon warm up, don't worry." Xena standing close by, an offensive grin on her lips. "D'ya know what the first necessity of winnin' a foot-race is, dear heart?"

"Gods, tell me; don't keep me waitin' in the nude in this bloody cold."

"Long hard gymnastic exercises, young lady."

"Oh, Artemis."

"Right, drop t'the ground face down, legs stretched out parallel behind ya, hands at your collar-bones, palms flat on the grass, fifty press-ups, now—one, two, three,—"

"Fifty? F-ckin' fifty? Are you out'ta yer mind?" Spoken with all the venom of an attacking cobra.

"Oh, I suppose we can start with twenty, then; if ya feel ya can't handle fifty."

"Nobody can f-ckin' handle fifty, except maybe you—an' I ain't so sure o'that, either." Gabrielle determined to go down fighting. "F-ckin' fifty, she has lost her bloody mind."

"Keep yer breath for the important stuff, gal; we ain't but hardly started yet, an' there's all the afternoon, after the morning."

"F-ckin' Tartarus."

—O—

Ivory-toned body, skin as smooth as marble, muscles well-defined, proportions, though petite perfectly formed. Limbs a wonder to behold. Gabrielle, naked, standing legs far apart swinging her arms in semi-circles whilst bending low and turning from side to side. Gabrielle lying flat out on the grass face up, throwing her arms and legs wide, open and shut, open and shut. Gabrielle standing straight, then bending at the waist to touch her feet with the tips of her fingers, legs straight the while. A naked Amazon Queen running in wide circles round the large lawn, five circuits, ten circuits, fifteen bloody circuits—I hate that bloody Princess—an Amazon Queen holding one hand on her waist whilst raising the other arm to point her fingers high in the air, bending slightly at the waist to achieve the most height; then repeating with the other arm. All these exercises going forward while passer's-by strolled along the gravel walk by the villa, taking every opportunity to pause and stare, one couldn't rightfully say spectate. Gabrielle by midday gasping for breath, standing in the nude gloomily receiving further instructions from her harsh coach; by now not caring a whit if the entire bloody Athenian army walked by, uttering commendations of her naked beauty.

"That's it fer now, lunch."

"F-ckin' thank f-ckin' Artemis."

—O—

Afternoon.

"This'll teach ya t'make idle bets while yer drunk, anyway."

More circuits of the lawn; further numberless attempts to reach for the sky and clasp the passing clouds; Gabrielle lying on the grass while Xena took one ankle after the other in a firm grip and tried to separate her limb from her body by raising the leg high then pushing it from side to side in semi-circles; a naked woman sitting on the grass while Xena knelt at her feet, clasping her ankles again, but this time to hold her legs down while the blonde Amazon did sit-ups with arms clasped in front of her magnificent, if freely sweat-soaked, chest until she felt dizzy. Xena reaching new depths of depravity, showing Gabrielle a small sand-timer filched from the villa's kitchen; this holding enough sand to time the pseudo-athlete while she ran across the full width of the grassy lawn, over the gravel path, spectators be damned, touching the sill of one of the villa windows, then returning to a waiting, foot-tapping Xena, before the sand ran out. First attempt, failure; ditto for the next ten attempts, eleventh try, success, by a hair. Rest period.

"Huur, huur, huur, huu—"

"I've got the rest of the afternoon's exercises all planned out." The Warrior coach relentless in her search for perfection. "First we'll—"

"Huur, huur, huur, huu—"

Late afternoon. Running round and round and round the lawn till Gabrielle could only see the passing green of the trees edging the grass as one single swathe of colour that seemed to blind her to anything else. Gabrielle naked, standing feet apart, her body covered in a light-reflecting sheen of sweat, drops hanging off her nose, running down her sides and legs, and dripping from the points of her sumptuously-full breasts, Gabrielle not caring a dam' anymore, though the gravel path by the house had become nearly hidden by the crowd of apparently workless servants, guests, and unknown strollers in the estate—all taking great delight in her display of such vibrant, physical perfection of body and mind. Finally, Gabrielle gasping like a stranded dolphin, unable to take any more come Tartarus or Hades' himself.

"No—no—no more—"

"Had enough?"

"Dam'—dam'—urrh." Gabrielle reduced to shaking her head wordlessly, then collapsing to the grass, to sit with hands spread holding her up as she continued to exercise her lungs, the only muscles left which had not gone into spasm and lock-down.

"Oh well, suppose that's quite good fer a first day." The Warrior coach still merciless. "Bet ya sleep t'night, Gabrielle, eh?"

"Fu—fu—fuc,—oh, dammit, help me get up t'our room, an' bed." The Amazon at the end of her tether. "No, f-ck my clothes, jest grab my arm an' don't let me fall down. Gods, what a bloody day. Tomorrow, y'say? Tomorrow?"

"Yeah, I got some doozies lined up fer ya, tomorrow." Xena displaying all her renowned lack of feeling for others. "An' there's still the whole o' the rest o' the week, t'come."

"F-ckin' f-ckery."

—O—

During the rest of the week Time, taking a page from Xena's itinerary, took to filling each day with a double ration of hours, if not more. At least this is the impression Gabrielle gained as each awful tortuous day passed. Standing naked from top to toe on the grassy lawn, spectators wandering around freely, Xena unfazed, obviously thinking it good practice for the aspiring athlete, when she would stand on the track at the Games nude in front of thousands. Gabrielle exhorted to ever greater feats of supernatural physical exertion she had never before thought herself capable of. Finally, the endless circuits of the wide lawn, under the shade of the trees, seeming like country strolls; the swift dashes across the grass to the windowsill and back easily accomplished within the circumscribed limit of the small sand-timer; all the limb swinging and leg training as easy as pie; Gabrielle standing four-square and straight, wholly proudly unashamedly naked, feet wide apart, arms by her sides, head up, breathing deep and even—reveling in her newly acquired athletic physique and strength. Not caring a whit for the still large crowds, a seemingly now permanently naked Gabrielle beginning to think Lady Selena, with even Xena's connivance, brought them in specially day by day from the nearby town on purpose.

At last, the last day. But was the petite blonde Amazon athlete fit?

"I could run fifty stadia by myself, then race you another ten an' still win by stadia."

"My, there's confidence." Xena sniggering with pleasure as she stood on the lawn regarding the nude woman before her. "Got'ta say, ye're lookin' good, lover."

"I feel good." Gabrielle raised her arms high in the air, stretching luxuriously on tip-toes. "Wonderful, never felt better."

Across on the gravel path leading by the villa a large number of what by now were indeed card-carrying spectators obviously felt the same, as a soft breeze carried a faint, restrained but deeply felt, air of applause to the women's ears. Gabrielle, nude and openly pleased to be so, by now wholly acclimatized to public nakedness, turning to give the viewers a gentle wave of appreciation, smiling broadly the while.

"When do the Karcharis Games start, Xena?"

"Just over a month from now, dear." Xena nodding contentedly. "An' ye're ready, I'll allow. Anybody they put up against ya will have their work cut-out."

"Anybody up against me, Warrior Princess, I'll bloody annihilate 'em; leave 'em gasping in my dust,—ha-ha."

Lady Selena here appeared strolling across the lawn from her villa, a servant girl by her side; the now dispersing spectators making respectful passage for her as she crossed the gravel path. Standing by Xena's side Selena regarded the naked Gabrielle with the eye of a connoisseur.

"Your skin is a tone or so darker, old ivory now, instead of new." Selena being a Lady of education and poetic nature. "Your limbs, dear Gabrielle, are perfectly formed, wholly in tune with your body as a whole. Arms wonderfully muscled; legs a delight from toe to waist. Your belly just hinting at a gentle arc; flat stomach with, well, what magnificent muscles; yes, as I thought, as hard as granite,—I haven't seen such muscular development before except on male wrestlers. And your breasts, Gabrielle; your breasts,—curved as if delineated by Praxiteles himself; full and rich, nipples dark and pleasing, the whole in complete relation to your flawless frame. Let me see, yes, your back is that of an athlete too, muscles rippling smoothly, like waves on a gentle sea; your beautiful rounded full-swelling buttocks faintly quivering like leaves in the wind;—so pretty, one wants to caress them slowly and carefully in cupped hands just for the sheer pleasure of it. Is she not, Xena, after your ministrations just the most excellent example of pure, unashamed naked womanhood you have ever seen?"

"She's always been that, Lady, to me—always." Xena spoke from the heart. "Now, more defined physically, but the same glorious love, to me, she has always been."

Gabrielle took two paces and flung her arms round the Princess, hugging her tightly, face buried against the hard leather of the warrior's corset.

"Auurgh, ye'll squash me, darlin'." Xena pretending to gasp breathlessly. "Lem'me breathe, at least."

Of course, the outcome could only be a deep, long-held and enjoyed, loving kiss joining the two closer in their love than even before.

Lady Selena, being a woman of the world, gave this romantic interlude all the time it required; but then came back to the realities of business.

"Gabrielle? —er, Gabrielle?"

"Mmm, worth it. Yes, Lady Selena?—and thank you so much, you're too kind."

"A letter-scroll here, addressed to you; apparently from the Athenian Senate, if the superscription on the wrapping is correct. Here you are."

Gabrielle, naked, proud, unashamed, took the scroll from the servant girl, untied the thin ribbon and unfurled the parchment, before studying the text carefully.

As she did this Xena and Lady Selena were able to study the nude woman again, each in their own way. Lady Selena, assuaged with the sheer beauty of Gabrielle naked and gleaming in the morning sunshine, merely enjoyed the moment by searchingly addressing every inch of Gabrielle's naked flesh with the eyes of one with much experience. Xena, on the other hand, gazed on her handiwork with all the pleasurable delight and insight of pure love.

The Princess considered her partner's lithe frame in glad happiness; Gabrielle's tight waist, hips swelling out just in the right proportions; flanks tight and smooth as a youth's; buttocks, the land of ecstatic dreams; belly, stomach, and those wonderful jutting jaunty full-rounded breasts so perfect in form the Princess could never get enough of them. Then Gabrielle's features; her true beauty of facial expression; a slightly pointed chin, smooth cheeks, full red lips even now beseeching Xena to press them tightly to her own; Gabrielle's eyes of pale sea-green, into which Xena forever wanted to dive and lose herself in their depths; all topped by her short blonde hair, always floating or whipping in quick snaps from side to side, depending on Gabrielle's mood of the moment. Xena sighed quietly, so much Love, so much Beauty, and all apparently given by Gabrielle wholly and unrestrainedly only to her, a completely unworthy Warrior Princess? Xena raised a finger to her eye to capture a tear before it was seen, and made her embarrassed;—though, she knew, she would never, never, be embarrassed bathing in the uninhibited innocent flow of Gabrielle's freely given Love.

"It is from the Senate." Gabrielle looked up at her companions, slightly bemused. "Listen—'The Senate, in addressing the subject of the upcoming Rites of the Temple of Aphrodite Urania, in this great city, has the pleasure to inform Queen Gabrielle of the Amazon Nation Confederation she has been given the honour of suppliant to the Goddess Aphrodite Urania; the ceremony of acceptance to be carried out on the opening day of the Festival, this day next week; followed by nine further days of religious ceremonies involving the chosen suppliants. The Senate hereby invites Queen Gabrielle to attend, with all her necessary followers or sponsors, to take part in the full ten day festival as an honoured suppliant of the Goddess Aphrodite Urania. Replies, to the Senate-House, Athens.' Well, who'd have thought it?"

"Y'goin' t'accept, Gabs?" Xena having made some rapid mental arithmetical calculations. "There's more than enough time, as it is, fer you to do it, an' still come back for the Games."

"—'course I'm goin'." Gabrielle raised her chin commandingly in the air, with Queenly dignity. "For the honour of the Amazon Nation, an' ol' 'Dite, I'd do anything, as you well know, lover."

"Yeah, sure, only sayin'." Xena well stamped on, but still grinning inwardly. "So, it's back t'Athens fer a little Public Ceremony; all naked an' in, er, the altogether just like here, then?"

"Too right, Princess." Gabrielle nodding calmly, with an insouciant air, wholly hardened to her natural condition by this time. "What're clothes t'me these days; nuthin' at all, obviously; an' Aphrodite'll just love me swannin' around in public like this."

"Haarmph."

—O—

Part Two.

Athens, on a sunny Summer's morning. In the middle of the small group of temples and official buildings near the Acropolis, centre of life in the city, stood the beautiful secondary smaller Temple of Aphrodite Urania; the larger primary Temple of the Goddess being located near the Northern Gate, north-west of the Agora. Circular in lay-out, it had a conical tile roof and an exterior colonnade of columns surrounded by an open grassy square, around which many other buildings stood; the Temple, though fine, not being the most dominating presence of the municipal establishment. At present, in glorious sunshine—a good omen in itself, as everyone affirmed—a number of worshippers stood in line awaiting the appearance of the priests from the dim interior of the Temple.

Those who had come to spectate, and there were perhaps thousands, had found board and lodging in the many Inns and other houses of Athens. Now, on the second day of the long series of commemorative ceremonies, a further group of devotees and private citizens, all women, stood ready awaiting the moment to be blessed by the priests under the eye of the Goddess. As was traditional, over the last two hundred years at least, these devotees were nude; as all were who came to be blessed in the famous ceremony, for these female attendees were required to undergo the rites of Aphrodite Urania in a state of pure nakedness, in honour of the Goddess and Womanhood in general. And, of course, this simple aspect though minor in itself, held sway as the primary concern of at least the majority of those hundreds of people in the excited and interested crowd watching the unfolding ceremony; many Athenian citizens only holding a passing faith or real belief in any religion, simply going through the motions, though dearly loving the chance to goggle at a group of naked women, and men come to that, in any Public Ceremony—one of the most intent spectators today being a tall, dark-haired, warrior Princess—Xena.

"Gods, got'ta admit she looks great, naked as a athlete at the Games; an' lookin' hot coated with all that light-reflecting olive oil? Those exercises have really brought out an' highlighted her natural physique an' defined her muscles." The great warrior pursed her lips happily, as she glanced around at the smiling faces of the crowd just behind her. "Makes Gabrielle shine like a nude marble statue at midday."

The crowd stood ten deep, though respectfully, behind a low rope set at knee-height and held up on small poles. On the Temple side of this barrier were the various officials, sponsors, and relatives of the devotees; while past them, immediately in front of the Temple, stood the line of chosen ones, indeed like a row of beautiful nude statues—the oil with which they traditionally coated their skin shining in the daylight, sumptuously outlining their muscles and bodily planes to the greatest effect. At the moment, just before the entrance of the priests for the ceremony of blessing the suppliants, the sponsors and relatives were mingling with their charges; seeing they were in the right frame of mind for this particular ceremony, the first and most important of the day, as well as being charged up for the later day's activities. Xena walked up to Gabrielle, eyeing her smooth glistening body critically.

"Say, ye're gleaming delectably, babe, covered in oil like that." Xena essayed a wide smile of approval, though knowing full well this would slide off her partner's bare gloriously oiled flanks like an arrow from a shield. "I can see every muscle and contour o'your body—from toe t'head."

"Wonderful ain't it, lover." The naked Gabrielle turned her head to grin at her companion, and official sponsor. She was rather in her element, if the truth be told. "Let's the spectators see how good each suppliant's individual physique is."

Here she wriggled her body; twisting from the waist with hands on hips, bending slightly before twisting back again with a sharp hiss of breath released. Then she bent her head from the neck in a circular motion, before grinning back at Xena again. From the nearby crowd a subdued susurration of appreciative delight wafted across the intervening space, bringing a quiet calm smile to the blonde Amazon's lips, and an unexpectedly indulgent grin to the tall black-haired Warrior's face.

"Remember, a while since, when ya told me t'tell ya when y'were showin' off? Well, ye're doin' so now, lady. Though I got'ta say, after several days consideration, I think's I meb'be loves the way ya show off t'everyone, Gabs." Xena's natural happiness, in present circumstances, getting the better of her. "You're makin' like a dancer at an orgy. An' all these people are lookin' at ya an' takin' it all in, praise Aphrodite, ha-ha."

Gabrielle was unfazed, merely offering her unusually compliant sponsor and lover another perfectly-at-ease smile.

"You're right there, lady; praise Aphrodite, indeed. I'm so glad you're easy with accepting this ceremony, an' everything else, Xena. I'm so proud to represent my Amazon sisters and their tribes here today." At which point Gabrielle, clearly completely unembarrassed, swung round first to her left then right, to give the closer-standing members of the grateful crowd a wide grin and wave of her hand; bringing on another round of delighted, but still quietly controlled, applause. "It's a different situation entirely, strollin' naked through Athens' streets of an ordinary day as part of these celebrations; yesterday was something else, but I think I'm gettin' used to it, all the same. Oh look, here come the priests. Stand back out'ta the way will you, dear?"

The celebrants of Aphrodite Urania, curiously all male in this particular temple at this period, were dressed in pure white togas as they processed from the magnificent main door and under the tall Corinthian columns of the Temple's encircling colonnade. Standing in line awaiting them, in front of the crowd, were all the suppliants attending for the morning's initial ceremony, with a full day's itinerary before them all; some forty women, all told; they were all, needless to say, in prime physical condition, having been chosen with beauty or good looks high on the agenda as a major and significant aspect of the ceremony's necessities. They made a wonderful show in their own right; as might only have been expected of a group of naked women in top form standing proud and unembarrassed before a large appreciative crowd.

And here another aspect of the religious rites on these occasions made themselves apparent; certainly to Xena, if no-one else. The usual procedure was for the priests to lead a short prayer in praise of Aphrodite Urania, and the attending suppliants; the women present having been given this honour through their association with some Public aspect of Athenian life or political activity. Gabrielle attending as a result of the Senate magnanimously allowing a representative of the Amazon tribes, Queen Gabrielle herself, to attend and take part as a mark of Athenian respect and to honour the Amazons as a whole social group. The priests now prepared to personally bless each of the naked women standing before them individually; and it was this procedure which the Warrior Princess awaited a trifle nervously, having already experienced the same the day before, and primarily having been rather put-out by the nature of the rites involved, until Gabrielle had quietly and resolutely taken her partner in hand and explained the facts of life.

It being the custom for the priest to touch and so anoint, with fingers dipped in a silver goblet of Holy oil, the forehead and either side of the chests of the suppliants, so blessing them. This, understandably, meant the priest would touch the exposed breasts of each woman; tracing the holy symbol of Aphrodite Urania each time. A specific attention on the part of the Priests which, from a purely religious and traditional point of view, was only to be unreservedly commended; though from Xena's vantage-point a certain more mundane view of the unfolding matter existed; she frowningly taking note, of course, of any visibly dubious reflections and echoes of mere physical groping, over the body of the woman she loved most in all the world. She was a happy sponsor so far, and wanted this state of mind to continue for the whole day; eyeing the man through piercingly blue eyes as the priest in question passed along the line of suppliants, administering his blessing with, she hoped and dearly desired, a professionally impersonal, if intimate, attention.

Then, the moment of truth; he reached Gabrielle—his hand dipped into the goblet held by a young acolyte at his side; with a sweeping gesture he gently rubbed his fingers over the blonde Amazon's forehead; his hand dipped to the goblet once more and he raised his fingers to Gabrielle's left breast; with a firm, but vexingly slow, motion he passed his fingers over the top curve of her breast, sweeping down and across, without overdue haste, as he made the religious sign of Aphrodite Urania's favour, finger-tips eventually slowly caressing—for what seemed, to the nervously twitching Xena, a long drawn-out eternity—the very point of Gabrielle's bare nipple. In no unseemly hurry he turned again to his acolyte, dipped his fingers once more, then turned to Gabrielle's right breast.

To Xena, watching the whole electrifying scene through narrowed eyes and pursed lips, he appeared this time to spend an unnecessarily longer time over this breast than the other. The first touch of his spread fingers started at the top of her full breast; sliding down, ever so slowly,—the priest obviously anxious that his blessing should be allowed the greatest capability of imbuing its fullest power into the athlete's body—before graduating, in the awful slow fullness of time, to the waiting nipple. Here he seemed, again to at least one nervously judgmental watcher's view of the matter, to take his own sweet time; sliding his several fingers across one after the other, as if amply appreciating the texture and firmness of the nipple to the fullest; another dip of fingers into the oil goblet, and he touched his fingers to Gabrielle's chest midway between her breasts—slowly, peering close to keep his aim true, he slid his finger-tips down in a straight line, over chest, over flat well-muscled stomach, over the full rich curvature of her belly, and lower still till he finally flicked his fingers aside just as he reached and blessed the bare smooth fount of all existence itself. Then, as if slightly sad at parting, he finally took his hand away and smiled into Gabrielle's proud, if slightly trembling, countenance the accomplished smile of a Priest of Aphrodite Urania who knew he had performed his duty, er, to the hilt. Xena letting her breath out in a long slow hiss of relief which made those standing close to her at first smile then, realising her true emotion as etched in the tight expression of her face, step a few careful paces further away to safety. Then this initial phase of the ceremony was over.

Next stop the beginning of the Panathenaic Way, the wide avenue, more or less, cutting directly through the heart of the city, one side to the other, from the southern Dipylon Gate to the Northern Gate, north-west past Lycabettus, where the primary Temple of Aphrodite Urania stood awaiting the suppliants—in the fullness of time. It was going to be a long slow procession, with many stops along the route to dedicate the suppliants to various other Gods, Goddesses, and religious institutions. A long day ahead for everyone concerned—especially the suppliants, who remained naked throughout.

—O—

They had all processed up through the Propylaea to the crest of the Acropolis with its many fine temples, finest of all the Parthenon. There the suppliants had undergone another long blessing ceremony, much like the first, each person being picked out individually for attention by this new group of priests and priestesses. Then another slow procession back down to the city streets and the long Panathenaic Way. Here and there along its length were several other minor religious temples, sites, and altars of varying kinds. At each in turn the suppliants, still wholly naked and passing along the street between the crowds spectating on each side, underwent some form of blessing or anointment. In Gabrielle's case, in her winding route from the Parthenon to the Agora and beyond, this meant—

Firstly, standing straight and proud, chin in air on the wide paving before the Parthenon's front portico, while a priestess anointed her face, chest, breasts, belly, flanks, and sides of her legs, with a specially prepared holy oil. Then, along with the other suppliants, the Amazon stood quietly while a hymn was sung; after which the return procession began back down the steep incline of the hill to the city below.

Secondly, part way along the Panathenaic Way, a halt before a small, almost decrepit temple, its true age lost in the mists of time. Here a solitary priestess gave the suppliants, still surrounded by an admiring crowd, a pre-blessed honey-cake and sip of holy wine, before another hymn was sung.

Thirdly, reaching the open Agora where, before the Stoa of Attalos, another lengthy ceremony took place; this orchestrated by a group of both priests and priestesses. The respectful, still large, crowd of citizens and visiting travellers from afar standing quietly in the Agora enjoying the ongoing series of ceremonies while each suppliant stepped up to the line of priests and priestesses, where one by one each religious representative touched the suppliants' naked bodies with richly aromatic oils on their seven holy spots. After which the group of nude women reorganised themselves into a line two or three wide to continue their public walk along the crowded street.

Fourthly, with Lycabettus standing proudly some way off on their right-hand, the suppliants halted before another shrine. Here further anointments took place, the crowds encroaching a little nearer in their ongoing interest in the activities. Xena, at one point, wondering whether she ought to bring her chakram into play to preserve a little order; but the expert priests, long experienced in crowd control themselves, soon brought the affair under control, and all passed off peacefully.

Fifthly, and last of the day, the suppliants, with their attending priests and priestesses, finally hove up at the Temple of Aphrodite Urania by the Northern Gate where the last religious ceremony took place; another quiet, comprehensive, carefully choreographed anointing with holy oil. Each suppliant being brought forward, introduced to the watching enchanted crowd by her name, then instructed to parade round the whole margin of this wide lesser agora in close proximity to the appreciative ranks of the densely-packed crowd, so these knowing experienced spectators could more closely view the honoured suppliants' glistening naked physiques one by one. A last hymn, a short exhortation from the Head Priestess, and all was finished; except for—

Sixthly, it being the tradition, after this last anointing, that the suppliants should, of their own volition, proceed individually along the Panathenaic Way to the turning-place leading to the incline up to the Acropolis crest. At which point they were finally allowed to return to their separate homes, but staying naked the whole way there, escorted by their sponsors, partners, or relatives. Only then, at last, the ceremony would be seen to have been satisfactorily completed, and the suppliants could dress for the first time that day, if any so wished.

Seventh, and extra leg; Xena leading her personal Amazonian suppliant, naked, oiled to the gills, and gleaming in the sunshine like a new coat of paint on a marble wall, along the last street leading to the Inn where they were staying during the course of the extensive ceremonies.

"Gods, I can see the dam' Inn in the distance, at last."

"What's the rush, lady." Gabrielle, wholly relaxed and enjoying her bare-footed nudity, naked oiled body sparkling in the sunshine, strolled at no fast pace completely at ease amongst the still numerous crowds. "It's a bright afternoon; sun shining and nice people about,—why, thank you sir, yeah it was fun. Oh, ya get used to it, thanks. Yes, ma'am, feels kind'a funny at first, but then y'just seem t'get into the flow, if you see what I mean. Nah, I don't mind bein' naked in Public, ma'am; at least, not anymore. Yeah, thanks, again; you're sweet."

"Gabs, kindly don't interact with the hoi polloi, it ain't the thing, y'know." Xena showing her innate moral reserve; trying on her part to ignore the encroaching passer's-by and their remarks. "Some o' them might get the wrong idea."

"Oh, come off it, Princess." Gabrielle curled a sweet pink lip, disdainfully; being now a hardy veteran of nude Public walking. "Bit late in the day for that attitude, isn't it? Naked for a whole week, back in Karcharis, exercising before how many score spectators? Now here in Athens, two days o' walkin' about the streets an' havin' my body touched an' stroked in all my most tender an' secret places,—secret no more, ha-ha, for the sake o' my ol' Goddess pal Aphrodite Urania; with another eight further days of the same in store? Now, here, quietly walkin' back home, y'wan'na come over all schoolmarmy? Nah, I'm not havin' it, baby.—Why, thank you, sir, that's the nicest thing anyone's said t'me all day, thanks. You think so, ma'am? Well, I might indeed take up walkin' around in Public all the time in the nude, if it weren't for those who'd stop me havin' that much fun. You know exactly what I mean? Yeah, ye're right, thanks again, g'bye. Oh, here we are, Xena, home at last. Don't think I'll bother gettin' dressed, at least not yet; you're supposed to give the holy oil on your body enough time to soak in and evaporate in the light an' warmth of the open air or whatever room you're in, y'know."

"Is that right?"

"Yeah; it must be true, 'cause that Priest in front of the Parthenon, earlier, explained it to me so."

"Oh, did he, indeed?"

"Yep."

"Sheesh."

Repeat same over a further eight days before the series of religious ceremonies was deemed complete.

—O—

Part Three.

The Stadion at Karcharis, seat of the two-yearly Games, was, as befitted the size of the nearby town, open-air; consisting of two parallel rows of inclined grassy slopes rising gently to around twenty feet in height, running for the necessary half a stadia; open at one end for the athletes to enter the running area, and with the needed curved bend closing-off the further end, with the spectators' slope curving round there in its turn. The whole arrangement was large enough to hold around three to four thousand spectators, depending how closely packed they might be on any particular events day. Let's follow for a short space three like-minded men, citizens of Karcharis and old veterans of these local Games as they wend their way along a short green-hedged country lane, among the jostling crowds on their way to the Stadion—

Aetius, Brygus, and the younger Cleon had pushed their way through the crowds lining the route to the stadion and now had a clear view of the naked athletes as they passed between the temples and public buildings leading out of the town towards the nearby running-ground. The three, meanwhile, discussing the styles and presentations of several already naked male athletes walking in the same direction surrounded by their coaches and trainers.

"Look, there's Basilides of Ephesus; built like a bloody trireme. Look at those biceps."

Aetius, the speaker, was a follower of the ancient sport, if beating your opponent to a bloody pulp with a baying crowd egging you on could be so described, of the pankration; a mixture of wrestling and boxing with virtually no rules—and those for the most part generally ignored. The extremity of the sport might be judged from the fact that if you crippled, or even killed, your opponent that was usually taken as a win on your part and the games continued with no ill-natured repercussions against you.

"I like the runners." Cleon, being young and full of enthusiasm, let himself go on the subject. "Tall, well-built, gorgeous legs an', er, everything to match."

"Ha-ha." Aetius smiling broadly at their shared liking for the male nude.

"He-he." Brygus, who liked to step in both directions at once—thereby always finding two-way crossroads particularly trying—nodded affectionately at his youthful friend. "There's certainly a lot ter be said fer a fine specimen o' naked manhood showin' away like a good 'un; though I see's there's quite a crowd o' nicely formed nekkid ladies present, too. Plenty t'see here t'day, youngster."

"I think I'll get near the running-track somewhere, so's I can follow Kleitos, when his race comes off." Cleon licking his lips in anticipation. "He's the man for me. You two goin' over to the pankration-ring, then?"

"Can't say I'm much of a lover of the pankration." Brygus, at forty the eldest of the trio, shook his head as he studied with a professional eye the passing nude men and women. "Too bloody, especially if you're near the ring an' get splattered. No, I'll settle for the foot-races; you get t'see the form of the contestants much better there—especially the women—Gods, look at that short blonde just passing-by—Hades, I could easily go fer a piece o' tha—"

Whatever he had in mind fell stillborn in the dust as one of the naked coaches moving at the sides of the athletes, a tall dark-haired woman-warrior type with a stunning physique of her own and an evil glint in her dark blue eyes, caught Brygus' attention and sizzled him to a crisp with one glance—she obviously having heard the last remark he was in the course of making.

There was a certain tidal movement amongst the tightly packed crowd, of many hundred spectators; as a result of which, with the ongoing pace of the contestants as they headed for the distant stadion, Brygus' group and the blonde athlete and her dangerous-looking protector were swept apart and away from the scene of confrontation almost before it had happened. Brygus, of course, being the first to draw a relieved breath.

"Brygus, old mate," Aetius shook his head sadly. "if you're gon'na say things like that publicly, give us fair warning first so we can hide, OK?"

"Gruuh, Hades."

—O—

Today was the second in the series of athletic sports and, the 6-stadia race for young 18 to 20 year old ephebes' having just finished, it was now the turn of the young women in their 4-stadia foot-race. The starting-point was simply a thin flat stone line set in the bare earth of the track, crossing from one side to the other. Here the athletes stood awaiting the signal, from the official off to one side, to start the race. In line with ancient custom all the athletes were naked; the men since darkest Antiquity, the women in line with modern Spartan influence over the last one hundred years. Also, in line with accepted custom from long ago, the coaches and trainers necessary to the immediate needs of the runners were also required to be naked while attending their charges on the track. To this end some of the women runners, depending on their standing and previous training, had one or two nude men standing by giving last moment advice; the other's, Gabrielle included, having nude women by their elbows performing the same service—Xena, completely naked from head to bare feet herself, now standing on the track beside the blonde Amazon to lend that last iota of help and comfort.

For the approximately three and a half thousand spectators, standing on the slopes along the track so thickly the grass could hardly be seen under their sandals, this was a rare chance indeed; to see completely naked in Public, close enough for every detail to be examined without eye-strain, or real physical danger come to that, the famous Warrior Princess in person in all her wondrously naked glory, accompanied by her equally renowned, and also presently nude, companion Queen Gabrielle of the Northern Amazons; a white stone day indeed for everyone on the spectators' slopes.

From long hours and days of practice and effort Gabrielle was now wholly acclimatized to being nude in public; the presence of scores, hundreds, even thousands, of men and women looking at her naked body in intimate physical motion held no horrors for her anymore; in fact she had grown to feel relaxed, calm, and at peace whilst naked in public over extended periods; having now developed a regal insouciance which perfectly suited her relaxed acceptance of her position.

Xena though, being still a stubbornly unwilling public nudist, brought her trademark glowering scowl to bear on everyone she met whilst in this unwelcome bodily state. If it was another coach, male or female—but mainly male—passing-by, she glowered at full heat; if a Games official, these being mainly priests, she lowered the flame to half-roast; if merely some member of the hoi polloi scuttering past, she added a sneeringly curled lip which generally sent the victim veering-off in another direction entirely. For the massed ranks of spectators filling the slopes around the stadion she affected to disregard their presence as being of no moment whatever.

These unregarded masses, however, had other thoughts on the matter. For them the two famous women put the other naked female contestants present in the shade. All the town's spectators knew Xena and Gabrielle were there, competing, and most had come primarily if truth be told only to see these two women, and no others. And what were they offered for their time and interest?

Xena naked, not a stance she habitually took in public, stood over six feet in height, thick black hair flowing in waves down her back; the end strands touching the smooth curved tops of her firm rounded buttocks. Her bare shoulders and chest were those of a boxer or wrestler; while her breasts,—the most obvious features of her front view—standing firm curved and fulsome to the world, rose like volcanoes to crested red tips; desired by many, but a victorious field to few surviving, especially men, who had succeeded in conquering those mighty twin peaks. Her waist was, in relation to her body, tight and firm leading to a belly curved gently like the foothills before a mountain range higher up. From there down to the junction of her legs was a region hardly explored by many, again especially males of the species, but jealously coveted by all who stared at her magnificent features this morning. Her legs and flanks were like pillars holding up a great temple, hardly far from the truth; while from the rear her back quivered with muscular development which would have made a gladiator jealous. Her buttocks, mentioned earlier, were full, rounded, firm though not hard and, in motion quivered as the scend of the sea rises and falls on a calm day. Standing imperious and unregarding in her nakedness Xena seemed, to all who glanced at her today, the epitome of a particularly dangerous Goddess come to life.

Gabrielle, as the attending spectators easily observed for themselves, was of a different style of beauty, but almost greater nonetheless. She stood around five feet six inches; the extreme height of her constant companion making the Amazon seem all the shorter in comparison. Her overall skin tone was that of pale or slightly golden ivory, depending how obvious her light tan appeared on any particular day. Curiously, she gave the impression of being much more muscular than Xena; this being a result of her hard, toned body, well used to constant exercise; most apparent in the flat plate of muscles outlining her stomach, which made otherwise powerful men jealous wherever she went. Her breasts, also, partook of this hallucinatory impression, they being full round and, though clearly at least a definite size larger than usual for her proportions, still splendidly related to the rest of her body, with little pink tips which drove the Warrior Princess wild every day in succession. Gabrielle's belly curved, for want of a better term, like a low dune in the desert; finally subsiding to that field of Pleasure, presently smooth across its surface, which is lauded by all the best poets as the onlie scene and begetter of Love entire. The Amazon's legs, though relatively short, could not be called stocky because their ratio was so beautifully in line with the rest of her body—this being well seen today while she stood on the running-track, calm and proud in her nakedness.

Altogether the majority of the thousands of spectators present could happily admit they had already had their money's worth, even before the first female race had begun.

"How d'ya feel, Gabs?"

"Fine, lover, just fine." Gabrielle stood in all her magnificent nudity, head high, green eyes gleaming with spirit and strength. "Look, over to the side of the track there; one of my opponents? Sylvia's got her brother attending her; he's a famous runner himself; bet he's given his sister some professional coaching tips that'll put her a step or two ahead of nearly everyone else on the track today."

Xena glanced at the naked twentyish man, of medium height, though with a splendid physique and stance he bore with a pride and knowledge borne of long experience as an athlete who knew his capabilities.

"Yeah, well, she's only an amateur; doesn't make a career of this sort'a thing—just enters these athletic events now and again, fer the fun o'the thing, so I believe." The Princess curling a dismissive lip. "Her brother's tips an' coaching'll certainly give her the edge over most of the other gals t'day—but not you; you're out ahead o'her by a long way, nothin' clearer."

"Glad you thinks so." Gabrielle shrugging her bare golden-tanned shoulders, sweat already beginning to give an all-encompassing sheen of reflective light over her whole nude body. "I'm easy; I've got her mark."

"That's the spirit, gal." Xena instilling the last drops of determination into her fired-up charge. "What're ya goin' t'do with all these opponents o'yours, out on the track?"

"Leave 'em all in my dust, lady; an' beat 'em t'the finish by at least half a stadia."

"Ha-ha, that's my gal."

—O—

With one short sharp peal of the starting-official's trumpet, the race began.

Seven runners; all varying heights, varying length of leg, varying strength of body; varying impetus to actually win. One or two, only there to fill up the numbers; two or three, amateurs who enjoyed the drama and energy of the events, as well as not being averse to the chance afforded to appear publicly in the nude without criticism; the remaining couple, Sylvia and Gabrielle, determined to win at all costs and leave the others gasping.

Over the first stadia the runners swept round the curved track in a close group, their nudity letting the sunlight reflect from already sweat-soaked bodies in gleaming flashes; bare legs and arms scintillating as they ran, now and then someone's elbow or foot or knee accidentally attempting to throw one or other opponent to the ground. Sylvia and Gabrielle, both too much veterans of either similar races or close-run fights, not succumbing to this early childish form of warfare.

The second and third stadia took their toll of those runners who weren't up to the sustained effort required. The place-fillers dropped by the way, one falling to her knees midway through the third stadia, giving up altogether. The others reforming into a straggling line which more or less showed the crowd watching who was likely to come in at the head of the general pack, and who was likely to win.

The fourth and last stadia, saw the line of runners extend in length, with greater empty space between the individual participants. Then, as they came round the last bend at the far end of the stadion, it could be seen several women were grittily carrying on in a more or less close group, though well behind the leaders. These forward runners being Sylvia and Gabrielle; there being four chariot's-length's or so between these two front runners and the rest of the pack.

In the last two-score or so of paces Sylvia, who had kept a lead of some three body-lengths between her and the hotly pursuing Amazon, now all at once clearly ran out of any remaining breath and stamina. Her naked body seemed to visibly wilt, her shoulders drooping, her strides becoming shorter and slower, her chin and head lowering as the strain proved too much: then Gabrielle was shoulder to shoulder with her rival. For what may have been three body-lengths of the sandy earthen track they ran side by side; then Gabrielle's flashing bare legs could be seen ahead of her opponents'; a moment later Gabrielle had opened a clear space between her and her pursuer. Finally, in the closing paces, Gabrielle seemed to reach for and grasp a new store of energy; with flying naked limbs she shot ahead to cross the finish line far ahead, winning the race with consummate ease, before staggering to the trackside to collapse into Xena's waiting arms, exhausted—the Amazon Queen having won her race, as she had said she would.

—O—

Part Four.

The large extensive gardens of Lady Selena's country villa, not far outside Karcharis in Boeotia, were planned and designed by her alone; she having an aptitude for horticulture. Of course, having a veritable army of servants to cover the large estate helped enormously.

The villa itself dated from around one hundred years earlier. Rising to three storeys, including the ground floor; with inclined red-tiled roofs over its three wings. The extensive gardens lay mainly to the rear, the villa's sides and front being served by wide grassy lawns; one of which Gabrielle had become intimately acquainted with immediately on her first arrival.

Lady Selena was essentially a flower and flowering bush sort of person; slightly raised flower-beds edged by stone facings, and long flower borders along the sides of wide flat grassy lawns being her favourite subject. Low hedges, gravel or stone-paved paths, comfortable benches for the weary stroller to rest; and selectively distributed copses of bushes and trees at eye-catching points in the landscape, were her second forte.

This summer's morning, just over half a month since the return of Xena and Gabrielle from Athens, all three were strolling at peace in the broad rear gardens; Gabrielle some way off on her own at the moment, Lady Selena and Xena sitting on a wooden bench chatting while they observed the Amazon from a distance over the low hedges.

"It's been more than, what, ten days since she won her race." Lady Selena smiled indulgently as she gazed over the wide lawn to where the figure of the Amazon was gamboling by herself. "And she's hardly put a stitch of clothing on since."

"She's jest goin' through a, er, naked phase, is all." Xena shrugged, at ease with the world, and the present scene in particular. "She'll soon get over it, mostly. Though I got'ta tell ya, and I wouldn't admit such t'everyone, Lady Selena, but I'm gettin' t'like seein' the gal naked all the time; seems so—well, just right."

As if hearing these words Gabrielle, though many paces off, paused in her dancing—she being, as noted by her entranced admirers, at the moment completely nude, her ivory skin making her look to her spectators like a statue come to life especially for their enjoyment. She raised an arm and briefly waved, before returning to what appeared to be some form of mysterious Amazon dance ritual.

"What is it like, Xena, to be loved so much?"

Xena pondered this important question seriously before turning to look her hostess in the eye.

"The best feeling in all the world; you just can't imagine."

A quiet pause followed; Selena still admiring the naked woman across the lawn dancing in innocent delight in the warm bright golden morning sunlight; Xena gazing in the same direction, but seeing something entirely different.

What Xena saw was a gentle, ivory-pure girl dancing proudly nude in complete enjoyment; wholly aware her lover was watching, and glad of it.

"What's that she's doing now, over there?"

"Chasing butterflies." Xena smiled indulgently at the antics of her distant partner. "She does that, sometimes."

"And what does she do when she catches them?"

"She never catches them; she always makes sure of that."

Xena sat back on the bench again, openly admiring the svelte beauty of the naked woman, now dancing around in the shade of a distant line of low trees.

"I shall have to leave you, Xena, I have things to do in the villa." Selena smiled as she rose. "See you both at lunch."

Left on her own Xena settled on the bench, arms thrown sideways along its back, wholly concentrating on the vision moving in the middle distance.

"Can the Elysian Fields ever be so beautiful as this one present moment?"

The thought, spoken aloud, gave the Warrior food for thought, but the answer was not far to find.

"No, never."

A distant cry flowed like a tinkling mountain stream across the intervening wide lawn.

"Hi, Xena; you alright?"

"Yeah, you havin' fun, darlin'?"

"Oh yes, the cool air on my skin's delicious."

Saying this the Amazon, gasping slightly in a wholly adorable manner, her bare body naked and fresh gleaming under a light sweat, green eyes sparkling with merriment, ran across the lawn to stand before her seated lover.

"Gods, I just love this. Wish I could be naked for ever."

"That'd frighten the cit's."

"Idiot."

"Y'gon'na spend the rest of the day like this—y'know, unclothed, in a state o'nature, not dressed, complet—"

"Naked—nude—bare as a babe—like a statue?" Gabrielle had her answer ready for this easy question. "Yep, why should I get dressed? I'm used t'the servants seein' me like this; an' they're used t'seein' me like this. We're just by ourselves, an' Lady Selena, who's simply lovely an' kind an' acceptin'. An' it's still only mid-mornin'. I've got all day t'dance around in the gardens, or go for walks with you around the estate—gosh, this is a big place Lady Selena's got, ain't it, goes on for parasangs. Yep, think I'll stay like this for the day. Why, any objections, Warrior Princess? A young, virile, beautiful stark naked Amazon gal too much for you t'handle?"

Xena grinned, shaking her head, then rose swiftly and took two paces forward, grasping the mutinous girl's bare shoulders with gentle fingers. Their heads slowly leant closer to each other, till what followed was one of those passionate kisses which are liable to go down in History, set in verse by the best poets of the age.

Finally their lips parted and the blonde Amazon skipped merrily away over the lawn once more—her absolute nakedness seeming merely a natural part of her personality.

"What'cher doin', Gabs, dear?"

"Dancin'; just dancin' in the sunlight." Gabrielle's voice was full of sweet happiness as she gamboled over the grass, waving her arms wildly in the air as she went. "Gods, I just love been' like this so much."

Xena shrugged, grinning; turning back to sit on the bench again and simply become a delighted spectator of great things whilst Gabrielle, naked and proud, carried on dancing among the flowers.

The End.

—OOO—