'Criticising Gabrielle's Scrolls'

By Phineas Redux

—OOO—

Summary:— Bacchius of Ephyra, noted literary critic, rather unwisely turns his attention to Gabrielle's works, as do some moderner critics.

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

Note:— There is some light swearing in this tale.

Notice:— This is the 1st story in the coming series 'Xena's Adventures'.

—O—

Prologue.

An old tattered long-forgotten palimpsest now in the care of the Laningham City Museum in Yorkshire, England was, some months ago, freshly dusted off and translated; the following being the curious result—

—O—

Part 1.

'. . . which is all well and true. Only so great an author and researcher as the great Pausanias could have discovered such treasures and made them shine anew to modern travelers, for which he must be duly rewarded with the Public's respect.

It is not often one finds oneself falling from the splendid surroundings and panoramic view from the third floor of a richly decorated palace to the dark dingy basements of a tenement, but such is now the case as I move from the glories of a magnificent writer to the outpourings of a Pan-Athenaic Way hack; one, namely, Gabrielle of Potidaea.

What is one to do with such people? Those who scribble wholesale and unrestrictedly on parchment and, because they have filled the scroll with their outpourings, fondly imagine they have produced literature? I myself, Bacchius of Ephyra, am a student of the Academy of Aristotle, and am proud to proclaim my education therein; but a young woman, a girl, from the wilds of Chalcidice, who has scribbled inanities on more than a few scrolls describing her life with a renegado warrior woman who is no better than she should be and indeed, from what is admitted in these appalling scrolls, definitely inferior in moral as well as intellectual standing; what can one say about such garbage? Let us examine some choice quotes which easily enlarge on my concerns—

'. . . She then performed a double back-flip, head over heels ten feet in the air, coming down on her boots behind the three thieves. Before any one of which could react she knocked one on his head with her fist, sending him sprawling unconscious in an instant. The second she kicked where it's just got'ta have hurt, putting him entirely out of commission while he considered whether he'd ever again be able to fulfil his contractual duties as a male human being. The third, making the mistake of brandishing his gladius in her direction, I knew already was dead meat. She paused, raised a cynical eyebrow in the fool's direction, then swiftly crouched to slice her chakram under his wavering thrust, slitting him wide open with one well-aimed slash. While he was crawling around on the floor, trying to recover most of his insides, she and I walked over to the Inn-keeper and apologised for making such a mess but, as She-Who-Is-Wonderful blithely remarked as we made for the street door, if you let that sort of customer in, you have to deal with the consequences yourself. It was a beautiful sunny morning outside and we decided to hit the bazaar, I needing an update in my wardrobe urgently; She, of course, only sighing but tailing along defeated as is only right and proper in the circumstances.'

Well, dear reader, what is to be made of such trash? A desperado, even if female (which only, of course, makes it all so much worse) lays waste to an Inn, knocking down several customers (who may all be perfectly respectable for all we are actually told in the text) and killing one. Clearly an outrage which the local authorities ought to have dealt with in a condign manner; but did they, of course they did not. For what kind of climax to a fictitious tale would that be? The whole thing is obviously a barrel of lies from the start; if a person, even a woman, decides to harass the unsuspecting Public with the ramblings of her imagination then at least I expect her to admit they are works of fiction at the start; not go around boasting as if this horrendous renegade she has produced from the suppurating Tartarus which is her imagination is actually real. And it is not as if she has only written one such piece of nonsense; but has had the temerity to make a series of her lies and boasts, this present epistle being no less than the seventeenth in the group. It makes one wonder just exactly when the Public's appetite for such brutal violent nonsense will ever be assuaged. What a ghastly failure as an author this Gabrielle of Potidaea is. I adamantly implore those of my readers of an intellectual nature (who are, of course, the vast majority) to ignore these ravings from a damaged mind, leaving them in the gutter where they so clearly belong.'

—O—

'Gabrielle of Potidaea to Elissa of Olynthus, greetings. Yes, my loved friend, I received your scroll from last month, and hope everything is well with you in Olynthus. I have read the scroll you included, of Bacchius', and have taken due note of his opinions. So, I am a liar, am I? I produce my scrolls from the workings of a diseased mind, do I? I am a horrible writer, and a disgrace to literature? And my large output is appallingly vulgar, is it? I would very much like to meet this person with a quill and parchment—very much. But to other happier things, dearest Elissa; do you remember darling . . '

—O—

Bacchius of Ephyra, in the second essay of his famous 'Diatribes against the Lax in Literature', waxes lyrical, perhaps too much so for his own good, on another of Gabrielle's scrolls.

'. . . which is not the worst of it, no; there is more, oh, so much more. She purports, this Gabrielle of Potidaea, to have visited Athens itself, alongside her infamous co-hort the almost certainly fictitious warrior woman whose name I will not sully my manuscript with. And even has the brash audacity to make believe she herself is at least as great an athlete and warrior as the ghastly representative of that group she so scrupulously describes by her side.—

'. . . and then I ran down the side-street trying to cut the escaping traitor off before he could lose himself in the crowds milling in the Agora. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, but not by me, at least, not always,—where was I?—oh, yes—had stayed up in the Pan-Athenaic Way covering the main route towards the Acropolis. One of the man's sidekicks came running down an alley-way and crashed right into me as we met at the corner. We both went down in the dust, and when I rose again I was somewhat miffed; Oh, alright, I was fuming with rage, and took it out on the loser's belly with my boot as he struggled to regain his feet. Gods, that was so satisfying; my boot went in as if his belly was a sack of grain; he grunted harshly, then fell back into the dust gasping for breath; Gods, I nearly laughed outright; what a great kick, dead centre on the target, with no hanging back; She would've been proud if only she'd been there to see—my only sadness at the time. Well, one down, two to go; so I took up the pursuit again, restored in body and soul by my late little bit of physical exercise. Then . .'

How can a lady, I use the term very loosely indeed, possibly write such nonsense? Her, a poor small—I am told that in life this Gabrielle is little more than dwarfish in stature—representative of the female species, is supposed to have the stamina to chase an escaping thief, and also to engage in combat with him, and win? Rubbish, what utter garbage; every word and sentence fiction of the lowest sort; and not very well written at that. Her grasp of the basics of grammar are also clearly hazy at best, while the normally recognised style in working up an essay is obviously beyond her. Why in all Greece this Gabrielle of Potidaea continues to sully perfectly good parchment with her ravings and place them before an innocent Public is beyond my understanding. Cannot there be a Law made by the Senate to protect the Public from this sort of thing?'

—O—

'Gabrielle of Potidaea, to her loving Amazon sister, Galthyia, greetings. Yes, you do not surprise me, I have already heard of the ravings of this ball-less piece of sh-t, Bacchius. I sat down, one evening in camp, and read the scroll of his you sent me and my lover, darling that she is, had to hold me down from going off right then and there and bearding the b-st-rd in his foul den and setting about him with my sais. Later, when things had cooled somewhat, the Lady-Of-My-Heart said she'd hardly ever seen me so incensed—well, wouldn't you be if such a sh-tless off-shoot of a diseased hyena had written such things of you? I am making my plans, have no fear Galthyia, I am making plans. The-Loved-One says it is just about time we infected the capital with our unwanted presence once more, and I at least certainly have some business to transact when we reach there. Anyway, do you remember, sweet Galthyia, when we . .'

—O—

Bacchius of Ephyra, his 'Diatribes against the Lax in Literature'; the third essay—

'Readers may feel, perhaps, that I focus too much on a single subject, and that one unworthy of such attention? The latter fact is, of course, indisputable, but the former needs further discussion. After all, the only way to eradicate an infection from the body is to fight it with ongoing and frequent remedies and doses. In one of Gabrielle of Potidaea's most recent scrolls I find the description of her, apparently reciprocated, dubious partnership with her female companion. It is hardly part of my writ to discuss this matter here, gentle reader, but allow me to say that, whatever of moral worth may be associated with such partnerships, boasting about and flinging them in the Public's face so arrogantly as Gabrielle insists on doing is very much beyond the pale, in my view. For instance, how is the Public to regard being told, openly, such matters as the following?—

'The-Love-Of-My-Life led me, 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 we were staying during the course of the extended Public ceremonies.

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

"What's the rush, lady." I told her, wholly relaxed and enjoying my bare-footed nudity; my naked oiled body sparkling in the sunshine, as I strolled I have to admit 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." The-Mistress-Of-My-Emotions showing her innate moral rectitude; 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." I did the old trick, curling 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, quietly walkin' back home, y'wan'na come over all censory? 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. Oh, here we are, lover, 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."—'

'Now I admit, dear reader, that when the particular ceremonies alluded to by this disgrace of an author took place I was elsewhere in the country, so cannot state by my own witness whether these appalling actions either did or did not occur as Gabrielle so unconcernedly states. I only say that I have consulted various of my friends and acquaintances, some of whom are Senators, and none allow of having heard of this wholly immoral spectacle having taken place as Gabrielle relates it. Lies, all lies, in fact; a distorted imagination given free rein, apparently. And yet, so I am informed by the scroll-sellers, this awful woman sells such scrolls by the hundred; how I fail to understand. Is it possible that the majority of those who read and buy scrolls in the city are so corrupt, so tainted in their senses, that this sort of unbridled immorality passes for actual literature? If so I can only say it must be time for me, at least, to seek a more salubrious occupation.'

—O—

'Gabrielle of Potidaea, to Damaris of Stagira, greetings. Many thanks for your last scroll, which I had much enjoyment in reading, my loved friend. Your inclusion of a separate scroll, from the hand of Bacchius, I could actually have done well without, truth be told; but from no mistake of yours, dear heart. This Bacchius seems to be very much unhinged, or perhaps in the pay of some unknown enemy of mine. His 'Diatribes' are reaching that point in personal castigation whereby the subject is left with only one recourse, that of showing exactly how good she is with a pair of sais—and won't I just do that, dearest. He's been asking for it for the last few months, carping over every scroll I've published in the last half year. My Loved Partner, you know who, and I are journeying on our way and will reach Athens in three more days; then Armageddon will encompass one at least of its citizens, leaving nothing but a pink stain on the sand to record his passing, believe me. So, Damaris, I am told you . .'

—O—

'From the sick-bed of Bacchius of Ephyra, to his much-loved friend Ageas of Ephesus, greetings. Thank you for your expressed concern over my continuing health. I have been under the care of the priests of Aesculapius at their House here in Athens for the last two weeks. I am told my fractures are healing together very well, and that the pain will soon recede completely. This also refers to the immense areas of deep bruising all over my body; and you will be especially glad to hear, as I admit I was, that my, er, manhood and, er, reproductive facilities will eventually return to normal; though the pain of the moment will continue for some time to come, the Priest tells me. Yes, it was undoubtedly one of the worst days of my life, as you say. There I was, taking a post-luncheon beaker of ale at my favourite Inn in the city, when what I at first took to be an irate child, a girl, ran into the public room and began shouting at me in astonishingly vulgar terms. I was only able to recognise I was in the presence of an undersized, but definitely dangerous, woman when she proceeded to physically attack me. Perhaps it is best if I gloss over the ensuing events of the next short period, it paining me in all meanings of the term to remember. I woke up in the House of Aesculapius, slightly hazy from drugs, but still feeling much pain. Broken bones, bruised body, manhood, all proponents of such, heavily assaulted to my ongoing concern, and a certain loss of blood. At least I can inform you, dear Ageas, that the Authorities have had the good judgement to disbar both the undersized but brutal Valkyrie who attempted my life and her taller, darker, meaner, but hardly less forgiving partner—who as far as I remember simply stood to one side with a sniggering grin on her awful cold features during the whole course of the crime—from entering the capital for the next year. A sentence, I need hardly tell you, which does not seem to fit the crime in any way, as far as my own judgement goes, but what can a simple citizen do, Ageas? I think, when I am fully recovered, I shall voluntarily exile myself to Egypt, somewhere deep in the desert where no-one I do not wish to meet will ever find me. Perhaps there I will be able to continue my literary career uninterrupted.'

—O—

'Gabrielle of Potidaea, to her loved friend Hermione of Dodana, greetings. What you heard is the truth, sadly; the imbecilic members of the Senate, wholly misunderstanding the course of events as always, decided to bar both myself and my Lover from entering Athens for the next year. They could hardly do anything greater, considering the help we both have given the State over the years, and are still capable of doing. Anyway, as you want the details I shall tell you, dearest Hermione, exactly how it went down. My Love-For-Life and I walked into the Inn, intent only on screwing an explanation and apology out of the decrepit has-been, Bacchius. But what did we find? Only that he had provided himself with a gladius of his own and a personal bodyguard of immense physical proportions. You know the type, Hermione, a man built like a small mountain, and about as capable of swift movement. I admit I was somewhat riled with energy and excitement—my partner later described my attitude as deadly enraged blood-mania, but she always exaggerates, as you know—and started right off with telling him, Bacchius, just what I thought of him. Yes, I shouted, I admit it; possibly this worried him a trifle, because he bellowed a command in a scared fear-ridden scream to his henchman and stood to wave his own ridiculous gladius at me. Well, of course, that just made me see red. While She-Who-Can took care of the hulking man-mountain, I went for Bacchius with what My-Lover-Who-Remembers-Dam'-Everything later called unhinged ferocity. Anyway, I nearly slipped myself when the mountain of meat who thought he was a fighting bodyguard crashed to the floor under Her ministrations; but I steadied myself and went for Bacchius' most cherished possessions with a will. Gosh, that was so much fun; I must do it more often, when the chance offers in future fights. Sadly She-Who-Is-Stronger-Than-Me dragged me off my victim before I could actually deliver his free pass to Tartarus and, anyway, the City Guard chose that moment to show up and put us both under arrest, dam' it. Anyway, dear Hermione, we are both at our camp in the country now, free as the wind and raring to meet our next warlord. I have a fancy I won't be hearing any more criticisms from Bacchius in the future—once bitten, twice shy, you know; oh, did I say, I did bite him, too, several times. I took it that, from his screams, he didn't like it. Oh Gods, Hermione, I did so enjoy myself—even if She-Who-Is-Such-A-Party-Pooper later lectured me on trying to have some restraint and keep hold of my more brutal appetites. Gods, She can be such a Drama-Queen.'

—O—

May 2017. Report from Professor Brian Hamilton, Carfine College, Cambridge University, England, to Professor George Cairnes, Head of Greek and Roman, Laningham City Museum, Yorkshire, England, about Palimpsest PLQ 03—

'The tests were inconclusive, I'm afraid. At such a remove from the original date of its composing, somewhere within 40 years either side of 80AD, it cannot be exactly proved who was the author. It seems to contain material from at least two sources; the now lost 'Diatribes against the Lax in Literature' by, we think, Bacchius of Ephyra, a minor author at best; and someone who appears to be a till now wholly unknown female author, one Gabrielle of Potidaea. Of the latter I, and those I have consulted here at the University, are certain it is a parody by some as yet unidentified male author. The whole thing should, in my opinion, be taken as an extended parody of some work or works now long lost to literature. The present partial palimpsest itself also has some dubious points against its true authenticity, I'm afraid. It has no literary worth, in my opinion; being almost certainly a fraud from some period in the distant past. If I were you, George, I wouldn't go to the trouble of cataloguing such a poor remnant; just wrap it up, put it in a manuscript-box, and file it away in the basement out of the way; no-one will ever want to consult such a vapid specimen.'

—O—

Part 2.

Extract from 'Gibson's Monthly' magazine, October 2017. Literary review by Andrew Killaird.

'And so Miss Gabrielle Barclay has honoured the Public with her latest effusion? I call it an effusion, because it certainly isn't a literary work, even though the innocent author obviously believes so. 'Three Steps From Eternity' is, I can assure my readership, wholly missable; it contrives to sheer off from any affectation of a plot within the first forty pages; its characters are so flat they made my eyes water in the reading; any form of tension, drama, or simply interest in the body of the text was wholly to look for: in short, if the pallid author had not written this pale echo of what might have been a novel, even those masses of empty pages so resulting would still have held more of interest and excitement than the actual novel placed before the Public in the form of this abortive work. Put squarely, Miss Barclay, how could you?'

—O—

Miss Gabrielle Barclay, to her friend Helen Halton, —

'Yeah, I read the b-st-rd's review an', given half a chance, I'll make him wish he'd never learnt t'write at his prep school, won't I just. The-Light-O'-My-Life is standing behind me as I write, looking over my shoulder and offering fatuous—yes dear, fatuous—comments. She's so helpful that way. So, according t'this failed literary wasp buzzing ineffectually round the Literary Picnic of Life, my novel's uninteresting, with flat characters, an' no plot—dam' his meatballs. I'd like t'see him sit down an' write a bloody novel; in fact, I'd dam' like t'review same when it pollutes the bookstores, wouldn't I just. Anyway, Helen, what's this I hear about—'

—O—

November 12, 2017. The Johnson Literary Banquet, Hambleton House, London: main speaker, Mr Andrew Killaird on 'Grub St. Today'.

'As everyone here already knows, but I am not ashamed to remind them, Grub St was a phantasm dreamed up sometime in the late Eighteenth century alluding to a host of poor would-be writers and authors, beavering away in cold damp garrets for little pay. They usually wrote for piecework, a penny a line, or some such salary; and their quality was far to seek as a result. Today, with modern avenues of authorship, topics, and outlets, it is sad to relate the Grub St. mentality still exists alongside more respectable levels of literature. Examples of the same are easily discoverable, if the curious reader, seeking adventure and at the same time extreme boredom, puts their mind to the search. Why, only a month ago Miss Gabrielle Barclay, in an aberrant moment she has likely since repented of, published her latest effusion, I won't burden it with the title of novel, 'Three Steps From Eternity'. Well, I've read the thing and, put simply, goodness gracious, what was she thinking? As to other—'

—O—

Miss Gabrielle Barclay, to her friend Miss Fiona White,—

'Yes dear, I have been made aware of his gibberings at the banquet. Three other friends sent me notes, with quotes; it was covered, again with quotes, in the 'Daily Gatherer'; and an item on a respectable evening TV program aired a few days ago. Put simply, my literary reputation is in the gutter—I'll have his manhood for a Christmas-tree decoration if I swing for it, dam'mit. But don't fret, my enraged black-haired inamorata, here, is holding hands with me at the moment, an' we're making plans, oh yeah; just wait, darling Fiona, you'll see.—'

—O—

January 17, 2018. Evening cocktail party at the premises of Mr Andrew Killaird. Just a few friends, literary acquaintances, and those in the driving seat of contemporary literature and publishing. Andrew busily swinging the influence stick.—

'Hallo, Hal, so nice to see you here. This's is my better half, Ghislaine. Ghislaine, dear, meet Mr Halbert T Morrison, head of Anaconda Publishing. Oh, excuse me, there's Georgia Faslaine just appeared, must go an' jolly her along. Hey, Georgia, how's it all hangin'? Yeah, it is a bit of a crush, but my parties are always so popular. Ah, I hear the front door, more guests, may have to phone for more champagne, eh? Michael, didn't think you'd make it, thanks; can I introduce you to Marjorie Wellbanks, CEO Marindale Literary Company; she's got all the influence in the topical thriller market, y'know.'

Suddenly, along the long hall of the expensive flat, the front door leading to the sixth floor corridor is flung open with such force it cracks the plaster of the interior wall. Footsteps—resounding footsteps full of resentment, tense anger, and a determination to get the job done with knobs on—echo down the hall and suddenly Andrew becomes aware that Nemesis was not at all merely an old debunked Classical Greek myth but, instead, is all to real,—then things happened.'

—O—

Quote from 'The Daily Reporter'. January 19, 2018. Conflict at Literary Bash, Literally.—'

'The day before yesterday the noted literary auteur Mr Andrew Killaird very nearly became an example of the first part of his surname when, at one of his famous evening crushes for the high and the mighty in literary circles, a victim of one of his infamous wormwood and gall essays turned up in person and gave him back some of what he had been used to giving out himself. It wasn't, according to eyewitnesses, pretty, no sirree. In a quite literal sense Miss Gabrielle Barclay, noted author and recent object of the great man's ire, came, saw, and conquered, no prisoners taken, thank you. She was accompanied, probably as back-up though such wasn't needed in the event, by that close female friend of hers whom everyone knows without being named. It was messy, it was a spectacle, it was nasty, it was an education. At the end Miss Barclay left triumphant, leaving her victim both bloody and bowed; his flat had suffered, probably structurally, as well. Gosh, what a party that was! Andrew'll certainly remember the evening, that's for sure, folks.'

—O—

Miss Gabrielle Barclay, to her close friend Charlene Foster,—

'Yeah, Vengeance is mine, sweetheart!'

—O—

Part 3.

The campfire was dying down, in the close of the evening, and it was just about that time when Xena could realistically look forward to combined bedrolls, and some light-hearted party-time. But first, topics to discuss—

"Gabs?"

"Yeah, lover?"

"See y've just finished your latest scroll—adventures of a crazed sidekick to a warrior woman who can't believe what she's just read."

"What kind'a crap's this, lover?" Gabrielle never willing to take prisoners, even when in a good mood. "So I wrote up our latest little to-do, with that loser Gaulus. What's t'carp about? We won, as usual, didn't we?"

"Lem'me see if I can remember, doll." Xena having a sarcastic turn of mind too, when needed. "We go to his broken down hovel, argue with him and his two mates, knock them all on the head as duly required by all known moral codes, an' turn 'em over to the City Guard. Would ya say that kind'a covered the whole she-bang?"

"Weell—"

"So why did ya write, in that there scroll, that we stood against thirty blood-crazed bandits, did deadly battle leaving bodies strewn across the countryside like as if there'd been a natural disaster; an', final, went t'the City Guard with Gaulus' head on a silver platter? Gilding the lily a trifle, ain't we, love of my life?"

This was too much for the slighted authoress; Gabrielle sighed deeply and strode over to take the hand of the woman who was her all and everything, but what a dope sometimes, and smiled encouragingly into her deep blue eyes.

"Lem'me tell you the realities o'Life, dearest." Gabrielle, when pushed, could sound like everyone's mother, and then some. "First, what we did was all very well an' good; but it was, well, somewhat boring. No real fighting, just a couple of punches an' the whole thing was over. And Gaulus didn't, as you so perceptively noted, have an army at his disposal; just two run-down has-beens. So, of course, I had to, er, dramatise the situation—'

"Dramatise? Is that what you call assembling an entire army out'ta y're imagination?" Xena's head spun with the effort of taking in her companion's regal chutzpah. "I only gave Gaulus one punch, an' he was out'ta it. While you went after the two side-kicks, an' disposed o'them in, what, three breaths? Gods, you're savage when riled, lover."

"Hmmph." Gabrielle simpered at this wholly deserved compliment, but said nothing being too embarrassed.

"That wasn't a compliment, lady." Xena standing on her principles. "What's with all these lies, an' things? People'll believe I'm some sort'a deranged warlord, with world domination as my goal. And as for the incredible—yeah, lover, incredible—fighting skills ya gives yerself; well, I don't know. Anyone reading such garbage'd think ya could stop an army all on your lonesome? Don't know why y'require my presence in your stories, at all. Seems you're capable enough, all by your little self."

The mighty Princess instantly realised her mistake, in the heat of the moment, but it was too late—the blonde Amazon had heard.

"Little? Little?" Gabrielle stood up straight, released her lover's hand from durance vile, and let her jade-green eyes snap dangerous sparks in someone's direction. "So, what's with the carping criticism, all of a sudden? Worried the world t'come'll get the wrong idea about you, dear? Think my gentle embellishments—'cos that's all they amounts to—will stain the purity o'your honour, or somethin'? Well, lem'me tell you, sister, if it wasn't for me an' my—'

But perhaps, dear reader, this would be a good place to leave the two lovebirds to their gentle cooing and loving—after all, we don't want to get in amongst them when they're having a moment or two of quiet personal down-time, do we? No, no, of course not.

Finito, finish, fin; exit, pursued by a bear,—end.

The End.

—O—

The next story in 'Xena's Adventures' will arrive shortly.

—OOO—