Terror at the Hotel Salmoneus.
Disclaimers: I don't own the characters of Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. I am only borrowing them for some fun. I will put them back when I am done. I promise.
Subtext warning: Yes. This is also a first time story
Timeline: Somewhere between second and third season.
Violence: There is violence in this story on the level of your typical horror movie
Disclaimer: disclaimer. I disclaim anything else that I might have forgotten. Especially the nasty rumor that I have any talent.
Gabrielle darted a quick glance at her traveling companion before returning her gaze to the narrow path in front of her. "Did the messenger give you any idea why Salmoneus wanted to see us, Xena?"
"No Gabrielle. I told you before that the only thing the messenger said was that Salmoneus wanted us to follow this path and meet up with him.
The messenger did say that Salmoneus said that it was not an emergency but that he thought we would like the surprise."
"I wonder what he has gotten himself into this time." Gabrielle said to herself as she glanced back at the following Argo. Gabrielle watched as Argo nervously shied away from the crumbling mountain path's edge and snorted. "I don't think that Argo likes this narrow mountain path and I must say that I agree with her." Gabrielle said as she also moved farther away from the crumbling edge of the path and bumped Xena's shoulder.
"Would you like for me to take the outside part? You can hug the rocky wall for a while." Xena asked as she noticed Gabrielle's nervousness.
"If you don't mind, you know how I hate heights." Gabrielle smiled gratefully. Xena raised Argo's leads up high in the air and Gabrielle passed underneath them behind her. Gabrielle then found herself nearly hugging the rocky wall as she tried to move over as much as she could to give Xena room to avoid the sharp drop off of the twisty path's edge. "Xena wouldn't this be easier if I just went ahead a ways, instead of trying to walk beside you?"
"No. I have never been on this path before and I don't know what might be waiting for us so I want you here beside me." Xena said, allowing herself to enjoy the forced closeness the path provided. Xena took her eyes off of Gabrielle and again looked at the path. She could see that they were quickly coming to a stretch in the path where a rockslide had narrowed the path to a point where only one person could pass at a time. Xena could see that the path made a sharp turn into a cleft in the rocky wall not far from the rockslide. "It looks like you are going to have to go ahead in a moment anyway though." She said with a sigh.
Gabrielle glancing up from where she had been watching where she placed her feet and saw the obstruction that Xena was referring to. "I'll be careful." And with that she quickened her footsteps and passed the rockslide and made the sharp turn in the path. As Gabrielle passed through the cleft in the wall, she found herself in a hidden valley that was surrounded by mountain peaks. Hearing Xena walking up behind her she asked without looking back. "It's beautiful. Isn't it Xena?"
As Xena made the turn, the first sight to greet her was Gabrielle's profile in the afternoon sunlight. Her honey gold hair streaming back from her shoulders in the breeze that was flowing out of the valley through the cleft in the mountain wall.
"Yes Gabrielle, you are very beautiful!" Xena said quietly to herself.
When Gabrielle moved slightly to the side to look back at her, Xena looked past her at the valley. Xena saw that the path wandered into a large meadow of gently waving green grass. The center of the meadow was dominated by a large castle. The path that they were on continued through the fields of grass straight to the castle, along the path's sides were scaffolding spaced every several yards and hanging from the scaffolding were baskets of roses. The castle itself would have been an imposing structure; almost oppressive except someone had went to the trouble of painting it in a bright cheerful garish yellow color.
"I don't know if I would call it beautiful. It's a little gaudy for my tastes but it is all right." Xena said raising her voice to a level that Gabrielle could hear her.
Gabrielle stopped along the path and breathed deeply. "Well what about the roses at least? Don't they smell divine?"
"Well I will agree with you about the roses. Roses are my favorite flowers." Xena said with a large smile as she walked up to stand beside her best friend. Turning to check on Argo she missed the thoughtful look that passed over Gabrielle's face at that news. Gabrielle made a mental note to add roses to a secret scroll that she kept detailing all the things that Xena liked. Gabrielle had started the scroll back when she had first met Xena. At the time it was just a list of things Xena seemed to enjoy that Gabrielle felt that by doing she could keep Xena from sending her home. As time went by and Gabrielle came to realize that Xena was not going to suddenly decide to send her away, the list became a journal detailing all the things that brought a smile to the face that Gabrielle had come to love. Gabrielle always made sure to keep that special scroll well hidden because she thought that if Xena ever found out how she felt about her, that would be the one thing that would make Xena send her away.
"Shall we go to the castle and see who it belongs to?" Gabrielle asked after watching Xena calm the large war-horse for a moment.
"Might as well. This is obviously where Salmoneus wanted to meet with us." Xena said giving a shrug and giving Argo one more pat on the nose and then turned to join Gabrielle in walking toward the castle.
As they walked toward the castle Gabrielle noticed that the path continued to the castle door and then went around the castle, through the valley and exited up a steep mountain path on the opposite side from where they were. She was just about to point this out to Xena and ask her if she thought that it might be an easier way to go when it came time for them to leave. Stopping suddenly in the path, Gabrielle saw what appeared to be off in the distance three people on the other path heading toward the castle. Shading her eyes from the afternoon sunlight, Gabrielle watched for a moment until she was not only certain that there was three people on the other path but that also one of them was a tall person wearing a yellow vest. One of the others was wearing a purple vest and the last looked like he was wearing dark green.
"Xena! Is that Hercules, Iolaus and Autolycus headed this way?" Gabrielle called out to Xena who had walked on a few paces. Xena who had been focused on noting the castle's strengths and weaknesses and had not even realized that Gabrielle had stopped, turned to look first at Gabrielle and then to where she was pointing. Xena shading her eyes in the same manner as Gabrielle watched the trio for a moment and then smiled. "It's them all right."
Reaching the castle Xena and Gabrielle waited at the corner of the building for their friends to reach them. They both saw Hercules wave at them to show that he had seen them but Autolycus and Iolaus seemed to be too busy in an argument to notice them. Xena leaned casually on the wall while Gabrielle stood leaning on her staff. They both smiled when their friends got close enough to hear Autolycus's and Iolaus's argument.
"I still can't believe that you thought you could seduce your way into the temple and steal that golden statue!" Iolaus yelled at Autolycus.
"It was a perfect plan, a temple of women, a king's ransom in gold in the form of a statue. I still don't see how those women resisted my charms." Autolycus said glaring at the smaller man walking beside him.
"It was a temple of Hestian virgins Autolycus! It's their job to resist the 'charms' of males. "Iolaus glared back at the King of Thieves.
Iolaus and Autolycus were so wrapped up in glaring and bickering at each other that they did not even notice when Hercules stopped, rolling his eyes at Xena over the two's argument. They continued to walk and argue and missed seeing Xena and Gabrielle and even the castle. They would have probably continued to walk and argue if they had not heard Gabrielle laughing.
"Xena! Gabrielle! What are you two doing here?" Autolycus asked with a warm smile.
Iolaus was a little more boisterous with his greeting and ran over to Gabrielle and caught her up in a large bear hug and whirled her around. "Gabrielle am I glad to see you! You too of course, Xena." Iolaus added glancing at Xena as he sat Gabrielle back down. Gabrielle blushing and a little flustered by Iolaus's greeting missed the frown that briefly passed over Xena's face.
As the five friends moved toward the front door of the castle, Hercules filled Xena and Gabrielle in on their journey to the castle. "Me and Iolaus received a request by Salmoneus by messenger to come up and see his latest money making scheme."
"Along the way we had to stop and pull you-know-who's butt out of trouble again." Iolaus added with a glare at Autolycus.
Autolycus glared right back at Iolaus. "As if I needed your help to get out of that little misunderstanding." Looking at Xena, Autolycus added. "I would have run into them in any case. Salmoneus sent a messenger to me as well. He told me that he had a way where I could make an honest dinar with my skills."
"I surprised that the idea of honest work appealed to you." Iolaus smirked at Autolycus.
"Salmoneus also had the messenger tell me that what he had in mind would only add to my fame as the 'King of Thieves'." Autolycus finished with his characteristic sweep of his mustache.
Iolaus made a slight groaning noise. "King of Thieves? Does anyone actually call you that except yourself?"
Autolycus glared at Iolaus and replied. "Most people know of my fame. Unlike you, great short sidekick."
Hearing Hercules clearing his throat, Autolycus and Iolaus looked up to see Hercules leaning on the wall near the large castle door with his arms folded. "Are you two done now?"
"Are you done?" Autolycus turned and looked at Iolaus. Iolaus looked back at Autolycus and answered, "I'm done. How about you?" Autolycus turned back to Hercules and replied. 'We're done."
Gabrielle smothered a giggle as Hercules rolled his eyes. "They have been like this the entire trip. As I was saying before I was interrupted. We traveled over a very hazardous path through the mountains and finally reached a small village nestled just at the bottom of those mountains there. The village was totally deserted and looked like it had been that way for a very long time."
"It had one of the largest cemeteries I have ever seen." Iolaus added with a shiver. "Gave me the creeps."
"I was all for exploring the village and see if we could figure out what happened to the people who had lived there but these two overruled me." Hercules added.
Gabrielle who had been half listening, was studying the large front door on the castle. It had obviously at one time had a large door knocker on it but someone had removed it. Gabrielle idly wondered what the knocker had looked like. Noticing that it had gotten quiet, she looked back and saw that everyone was looking at her. "What?" She asked.
Xena shook her head at Gabrielle's not paying attention and said again. "I asked if you were going to knock or just stand there and stare at it all day?"
Gabrielle blushed briefly and raising her staff she knocked on the door.
After a few long moments, they all heard as someone on the inside pulled the locking bolt and the door started to slowly creak open. Gabrielle felt a brief shiver at the mournful noise of the door's hinges and looked inside the entry way that was revealed by the door's opening. Wondering who opened the door, Gabrielle was just about to step inside when Salmoneus suddenly appeared from behind the open door, startling her. "Welcome, welcome my friends! Welcome to the hotel Salmoneus!" Gabrielle studied the image of Salmoneus. He was wearing an oversized purple robe with sleeves so long they covered his hands. The robe had an intricate design done in gold thread on it.
"Come in, come in." Salmoneus said as he ushered them all into the main reception hall.
"What's a hotel?" Iolaus asked as he looked around at the surroundings.
"It's like a tavern, except a tavern is a place along side the road that you stay the night when you are traveling somewhere. A hotel is a place that you go to when you want to be pampered. It is a place that you travel to when you want to get the full royal treatment and relax. And if you can afford it." Salmoneus added under his breath.
Gabrielle noticed a small boy standing beside Salmoneus, who was looking at her with a shy smile.
Salmoneus noticing where she was looking, slapped his head with the heel of his hand. "Where are my manners? This is Termuras. He is the stable hand that will look after the guests' horses when we open. He's great with animals." Salmoneus looked to the open doorway where a curious Argo was peeking in. "Xena is it all right if Termuras takes Argo around back to where the stables are?"
Xena who had been examining the over done entrance to the castle glanced back with a frown but she immediately softened it when she saw the boy patting Argo on the nose.
"Yeah but make sure Argo gets a good rubdown." Xena replied with a smile at the young boy.
"Oh I will ma'am" The boy said enthusiastically as he led Argo off.
"Make sure you bring their stuff to the room I told you about." Salmoneus shouted after Termuras.
Gabrielle smothered a giggle at Xena being addressed as ma'am and joined Xena in looking the place over.
Xena glanced around. "You are going to have to offer something really special to make people want to travel all the way up here to stay the night." She said skeptically.
"Oh I do! I do! I have the best cooks in Greece to prepare food. I have acquired the best in silks and satins to outfit the rooms and I have a totally new concept in beds that I came up with all my own."
"What could you do new with a bed?" Gabrielle asked.
"I'm glad you asked! We might as well start the grand tour with the bedrooms anyway." Salmoneus said as he ushered everyone up the large central staircase. Going down a long corridor, Salmoneus ignored all of the doors until he reached the end of the corridor. Opening the large door at the end, he entered the room and waited for everyone to enter. Throwing his arms wide he said. "What do you think? I am thinking of calling it a sweet."
"Why a sweet?" Gabrielle asked as she examined the room.
"Because the money it's going to make me is going to be sweet." Salmoneus said.
Pointing to the largest bed Gabrielle had ever seen, Salmoneus added proudly. "That's my great invention!"
The bed had its blankets pulled down to the foot and the sheets on the bed were made out of some dark black material that shimmered in the light of the room.
"It's very nice Salmoneus but I hate to tell you, you were not the first person to create a bed." Gabrielle laughed and then leaped on to the bed that was sitting against the back wall of the room.
As soon as Gabrielle landed in the middle of the bed, it started to rock back and forth with a loud sloshing noise. "What the Tartarus!" Gabrielle yelped. Struggling to get out of the bed only made it slosh worse. Gabrielle after a brief struggle to get up, stopped and grabbing her wrist started to frantically apply pressure to her seasick point.
"Calm down and only move slowly!" Salmoneus tried to calm the nearly panic stricken woman.
Xena walked over to the bed and prodded its surface with one finger and watched as ripples radiated out. She stopped when she saw Gabrielle glare at her. "What is this thing anyway?" She asked Salmoneus.
"It's a waterbed. I got the idea one night while traveling. I had a large water bag with me and when I made camp that night I used the bag as a pillow for my head. The water bag had absorbed the heat from the sun and not only did it make an excellent pillow it also kept me warm all night long. I got to thinking that a bed made like this would be really comfortable." Salmoneus finished with pride.
"Comfortable?" Gabrielle squeaked from the center of the bed.
"Relax and slowly move into a laying down position." Salmoneus instructed Gabrielle.
Hercules, Iolaus and Autolycus watched as Gabrielle reluctantly stretched out on the bed and laid flat on her back. "The bed is so warm!" Gabrielle's surprised voice called out. Suddenly a frown appeared on Gabrielle's face. "Salmoneus, why is there a hole in the ceiling over the bed?"
Hercules, Iolaus, Xena and Autolycus all glanced up at the ceiling and saw that Gabrielle was quite right. There was a large rectangle opening above the bed that was open to the sky.
"That's how I heat the waterbed. You open the roof in the mornings. Leave it open so that the sun can shine down on the black silk sheets all day and they help to absorb the heat of the sun. At night you close the opening with this wheel over here." Salmoneus said as he walked over to a small wheel in the wall and started to turn it.
Gabrielle watched as a panel slowly came out of the wall at the head of the bed and started to close off the opening. As the panel closed off the open sky Gabrielle saw that it was mirrored. "Xena why would anyone want a mirror over their bed?"
A slightly smirking Xena looked down at Gabrielle and saw Gabrielle blush deep red as her bard's imagination conjured up reasons why a mirror on the ceiling might be a good idea. "Never mind! I think I figured it out!" Gabrielle to take her mind off of the images running through her mind reached over and pulled the top silk sheet over herself.
"This silk feels so good." Gabrielle said as she ran her hand over the top of the sheet.
"How do I get out of this bed?" She finally asked Salmoneus.
"Turn over very slowly and just ease yourself out of it." Salmoneus said as he finished cranking the ceiling panel open again to catch the rest of the afternoon sunlight.
Gabrielle slowly moving her right leg and arm raised herself to a half upright position on her left elbow. Her red/gold hair fell gracefully over her right shoulder and the black silk sheet started to slide down her body as though it was something alive and it was caressing her gently.
Xena watching, suddenly found herself lightheaded and with a start realized that she had stopped breathing as Gabrielle slowly and unknowingly in a highly sexy manner made her way out of the bed.
Taking a slow steady breath Xena made herself look away from Gabrielle and saw that Iolaus and Autolycus were watching Gabrielle with a dazed look on their faces. Xena clamped down hard on the sudden surge of anger that filled her and unconsciously moved to block the view of Gabrielle from Autolycus and Iolaus and noticed that even Hercules seemed affected by Gabrielle's slow movements on the bed. Hearing a grunt from Gabrielle she looked back and watched as Gabrielle raised herself over the wooden side of the bed and stood up.
"Well it is comfortable as long as you don't move around too much but I would hate to have to get out of it in a hurry!" Gabrielle said as she ran her hand over the silk top sheet one last time. Glancing up she saw that everyone was looking at her. Looking behind her she tried to figure out what they were all looking at. "What?"
Iolaus and Autolycus let out a breath that they did not even realize that they had been holding and glancing at each other for a moment they both made for opposite ends of the room to examine the mirrors and tapestries hanging on the walls.
Gabrielle shaking her head, moved to the far side of the room and examined a full length gold framed mirror that was on the wall. "You must have gotten a great deal on mirrors Salmoneus."
Salmoneus moved from the wheel in the wall that he had used to open the roof panel and walked over to where Gabrielle was examining the mirror. "I did get a great deal on mirrors actually, but that one came with the castle. It's firmly mounted to the wall and can't be moved. I tried, thinking it would look better on that wall over there." Salmoneus said pointing to the wall behind the bed.
"I think the bed has all the mirrors it needs right now." Gabrielle said with a slight smile.
"Hmm? Oh well. Come on friends there is more to show you! The roof, the dinning hall, the kitchens, the library and the mystery room!" Salmoneus said rubbing his hands together.
"Kitchens? A library?" Gabrielle's eyes lit up.
Salmoneus could see in the mirror as Xena walked up behind them with her eyes narrowed. "What's this about a mystery room?"
"All in due time my friends. Come on." Salmoneus said as he turned and made for the door. Gabrielle looked up at Xena and shrugged her shoulders and joined the line of Autolycus, Hercules and Iolaus and followed Salmoneus out of the room. Xena looked at the large mirror in front of her one last time and then turned and followed the rest.