Vaxen - A Starting Place
[pwaxen@yahoo.com]
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This story was written during season two of Xena: Warrior Princess and reflects the characters as they were portrayed at that time.

Disclaimer: Please forgive me for brazenly usurping the characters of "Xena: Warrior Princess." While MCA and other parties will no doubt lay claim to them, I believe that in a larger sense they truly belong to those who love them. No infringement is intended.

Warning: This story is like the show. There's subtext if you're looking for it.

Please do not reproduce without author's consent. Thank you

All in a Day's Work

by Vaxen (pwaxen@yahoo.com)

"Did you ever think about where plans come from?"

"They come from necessity," Xena answered Gabrielle in her usual pragmatic fashion.

"No, I mean the plan itself. One minute you're standing there with no idea what to do and the next, you've got a plan. Where does that little spark of inspiration come from? "

"You mean like making a weapon out of something that isn't one?"

"Yes. A string of fish becomes a mace. Inspiration is very important to a bard, you know. The work of a bard is based on inspiration. That's why bards are good planners."

"And warriors aren't?"

"Well..."

"Well the next time we're surrounded by thugs I'll let you inspire our way out of it."

"OK, you're much better at the physical planning, but on a level field where strength doesn't matter, I bet I could equal or better you."

"You're on."

Gabrielle was suddenly quiet. The morning fog surrounded them like a moist blanket. It was difficult to see more than a few yards in any direction. It also played tricks with the sound. "Xena," Gabrielle whispered, "I hear horses."

"I know," Xena replied.

"Maybe we should take cover."

"Too late." At that moment the heads of a dozen horses broke through the mist. They were mounted by a dozen armored men, who encircled the women. All eyes turned to one man, who dismounted and handed his reins to his second. He approached Xena with one hand on his dagger and the other on his sword. The morning seemed to hold its breath.

"Xena," he cried, throwing his arms open. "Sidas," she replied, grasping his forearm. Gabrielle breathed a heavy

sigh of relief as the warriors murmured approval. "Rest the horses and prepare a meal," Sidas shouted. In a quieter tone he said, "Xena, will you and your friend join us?"

"It would be our pleasure. This is Gabrielle."

"Hi," was all Gabrielle could manage.

"You're far from home, Sidas. What brings you to these parts?"

His brow furrowed at the sudden recollection of his mission. "A sad business. My daughter had been abducted by the Surus. The king's son intends to marry her."

Gabrielle giggled. Sidas and Xena both looked at her.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I just thought the Surus were a joke. Aren't they the midgets that marry tall women?"

"The Suru may not be tall," Xena interjected, "but they are not midgets. Most are as tall as you. And don't let size fool you. They have incredible fighting skills and they would rather die than be defeated. Many take tall women as wives. It's a kind of status symbol."

"You mean it's a my-wife's-taller-than-your-wife deal?"

"And my daughter is almost as tall as the Warrior Princess. Tobar, the son of the Suru king, met my Philan during our trade negotiations. Now I am here to get her back."

"With twelve men?" Gabrielle asked.

"More are on the way."

"You're ready to start a war." Xena's eyes narrowed.

"What else can I do?"

"There's another way. Gabrielle and I could get Philan back for you."

Gabrielle choked.

Sidas smiled, "What are you up to Xena?"

"Preventing a war, I hope."

"But how?" Gabrielle asked.

"We'll be disguised."

"As what?"

"As husband and wife."

"Oh Zeus, she has a plan."

Xena smiled, "Yes I do and if everything goes as I plan no one will be harmed. So, Gabrielle, do you think you're man enough for the job?"

"Oh, no," Gabrielle moaned, "Oh, no."

"Sidas, I'll need clothes, a cart and information about Tobar and the Suru."

"I'll send a messenger right away."

"Oh, no," Gabrielle whispered.


Gabrielle gazed at her image in the mirror, amazed and horrified at the transformation. Her hair was greased and darkened. A single unadorned plait trailed down her back. Her upper lip was framed by a heavy mustache that drooped down the sides of her mouth to her jaw line. Her skirt and top were replaced by loose britches and a finely tailored shirt.

"It's fortunate Tobar was in such a hurry that he left his clothes. They are a perfect fit." Xena said, lifting an eye brow and struggling to restrain an admiring smirk.

"Now, have you got the story straight?"

"I'm a bard. Stories are my business." Xena shot her a skeptical glance. "Ok, Ok. I'm the son of the king's brother who left the Suru years ago to seek -- whatever a man who won't be king seeks. That would make Tobar my cousins. I've come back to the Suru to meet the family I've never known. I'm a merchant by profession, hence the cart load of goods I brought will me, which could double as a hiding place for Philan when we sneak her out of the stronghold."

"And I am..."

"You are my lovely wife, Sila. And we have been married for..."

"Three years."

"And do we have any children?"

"No."

"After three years?"

"No children," Xena stated firmly.

"I guess I'm not much of a man."

"Maybe this will help." She handed Gabrielle a ball of rags.

"What's this for?"

"Put it in our pants."

"No way. There's a line I won't cross and this is it. Between the things that stick out but shouldn't and things that should stick out but aren't, this disguise is getting just a little uncomfortable. Besides, what if this thing falls down my leg?"

"You've got a point. I guess the pants are baggy enough that no one will notice. Just don't let anyone get too close. Suru wives are expected to be seen as little as possible and not heard at all, so you'll have to do most of the talking. Can you handle it?"

"Can I handle it," Gabrielle said with a smug laugh.

"Yeah, well, lower your voice. You sound like a girl." Xena attached a scabbard to Gabrielle's belt and slid her sword into it.

"What's this?"

"I can't carry a sword. You'll have to carry it for me." Gabrielle made a quick quarter turn to check the effect in the mirror, sweeping the sword across Xena's shins.

"Xena, I'm sorry. Are you all right?"

"Never better," she replied through gritted teeth as she rubbed her bare legs. "Maybe you should go practice being a man while I get dressed."


Gabrielle studied Sidas and his men moving about the camp and imitated them. In no time she was strutting about like a rooster in a hen house. She kept the sword parallel to her leg as much as possible, not an easy task since it nearly touched the ground.

"Be glad you don't have to wear that thing all the time."

Gabrielle whirled about, scattering embers as the sword dragged through the campfire. For a moment she didn't recognize the woman who had spoken. Gabrielle's jaw fell to her chest. "Xena, why you're, you're..."

"A tart?"

"Yes, I mean no, I mean the dress is a little revealing, but it looks..."

Gabrielle was at a loss for words. Xena placed her finger under Gabrielle's chin and gently pushed it to close Gabrielle's mouth.

"The cart is ready," Sidas announced.

"Argo looks strange hitched to a wagon," Gabrielle said.

"Look who's talking about strange." Before Gabrielle could retort,

Xena threw a cloak over her outfit and climbed into the wagon. Argo snorted.


The castle was impressive, even from a distance. It was built atop a natural formation that rose straight out of the plain. A narrow path, easily defended, found its way to the only entrance to the enclosure.

"It would be suicide to attack this," Gabrielle exclaimed.

"Sidas wouldn't have attacked, not at first, not directly. He would cut off the castle's supply line -- starve them out. Meanwhile, the Suru would take out as many of Sidas's men as they could, even things up for a battle. It could drag on for months, even years."

"What a waste."

"That's war."

As formidable as the castle appeared from the outside, inside it was even more impressive. Finely detailed tapestries adorned the walls and the doorways. Gold accented the windows and pillars. The castle was built around a central courtyard, surrounded by balcony upon balcony, rising up into the gloom until they could no longer be seen.

"I hope they give us the penthouse suite," Gabrielle whispered aside to Xena.

"If they do, you can carry the luggage."

The servants quietly vanished as half a dozen richly dressed men and women approached.

"Welcome to the son of my brother. These are my sons Tobar and Rashar."

"I'm pleased to meet you, my uncle and cousins," She replied.

"Thank you for your hospitality. This is my wife." The three men looked shocked and bewildered. "I'm sorry, is there something wrong?" Gabrielle glanced at Xena, who was looking at the floor. It was then that she noticed that the other three women had not looked up.

"My brother has been remiss in your education. Women are not mentioned during formal introductions."

"Please forgive my manners. In other lands, I am expected to introduce my wife. I have simply forgotten myself." The men seemed satisfied. "And now if you will forgive me once again, the journey has been long and we, I mean I am tired."

"Of course, we will talk this evening." The king gestured and servants appeared to usher them to their quarters.

"Father, allow me to show them the way," Tobar interjected. He had

been watching them intently. Gabrielle tried to use the opportunity to engage him in conversation, but her attempts were met with monosyllabic responses until they reached the door to the guest rooms.

"You will stay here," he said, "and these are the quarters of my fiancée." He looked at the door, then a nearby guard, glared at them and left.


"I think Tobar is going to be trouble," Gabrielle said as she relieved her self of sword and scabbard. "Next time we play dress-up, you can be the man." Xena raised an eyebrow. "This mustache is driving me nuts. I'm almost afraid to ask, but what did you use to make this?" Gabrielle gingerly peeled the hairy appliance from her upper lip.

"My hair wasn't course enough, so I used the only other source available."

"Argo?!"

"Of course not. Argo is too light. I used another horse."

"Mane or tail?"

"Mane."

"Thank the Fates for small favors," Gabrielle said with relief.

"I've got to get to Philan, tell her we're here and to be ready to move fast. I want you to..."

Gabrielle didn't hear the rest. Just past Xena's shoulder she could see the door opening. She put one hand on each side of Xena's head, pulled her down and kissed her. Stunned for a moment, Xena heard the soft creak of a hinge. She pressed her body into Gabrielle's, slowly rotating them both until Gabrielle's back was to the door. Xena glanced up under her brow and found an embarrassed servant standing in the doorway.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Please forgive me. I didn't know. I have these," she said, indicating towels. "I'll leave them here. I'm so sorry."

"You'd think she never saw two people kiss before."

"Mmmmm," Gabrielle replied in a dreamy tone.

"I'll get Philan. You better put that thing back on." Xena indicated the mustache.

"Yeah, I guess so, but how ARE you going to get to her. The hallway is full of guards."

"I guess I'll have to use the back door," Xena said as she strode to the balcony. She jumped to the railing, paused to get her bearings, then leaped, using a convenient awning as a trampoline, and landed on the rail of Philan's balcony, then slipped silently off it.

Philan was admiring herself in a mirror, talking incessantly as a servant scurried about retrieving discarded bits of clothing. Her voice was like nails on a slate. Xena plastered herself against a wall, waiting until the servant was within reach. She went limp in Xena's arms as pressure was applied to the base of her neck. When the servant failed to return and Philan came to investigate, Xena grabbed her, planting her hand firmly across Philan's mouth.

"Don't scream. I'm a friend. You're father sent me." Xena slowly removed her hand. Suddenly, Philan jerked herself free.

"Keep your dirty, callused hands off of me."

This was not the reception Xena had expected.

"You can just go back and tell my father I'm not leaving."

"What?"

"I love Tobar and I'm going to stay here and marry him."

"Does your father know this?"

"No."

"Well, why didn't you tell him?"

"We were in a hurry, he might have forbidden it and who the hell are you anyway to question me?"

"I'm the one who's going to throw you in the moat if you don't come with me and explain this to Sidas. He's ready to go to war for you."

"Really?" She beamed gleefully. Xena scowled at her. " All I need to do is raise my voice and you'll never get out of this castle."

Xena snorted in disgust.


"What do you want here?"

Gabrielle spun around to discover Tobar standing in a corner that had been empty moments before.

"What are you doing here?" she gasped.

"I asked first."

"I don't know what you mean," Gabrielle replied.

"You're wearing my clothes."

"Oh, these old things." She lunged for the sword she had discarded earlier, but the distance was too great and Tobar too fast. She wound up pinned to the bed under his weight.

"Since the last place I saw these clothes was in the kingdom of Sidas, I can only assume he sent you and your wife. Where is she?"

"She just stepped out for some air."

Tobar was about to respond, but as he shifted position, his hand brushed against the inside of Gabrielle's thigh. Something was missing. He probed again. Gabrielle shrieked and bucked. Tobar was so stunned it knocked him off balance.

"You're a girl!"

"Yeah, well, I think you learned that on the first grope." she retorted, then the gravity of the situation gripped her. "I don't suppose you'd consider just forgetting the whole thing?"

"You don't understand," he said. "I know you're here to rescue Philan and I want to help."

"I thought you wanted to marry her."

"I thought I did, but you don't know what she's like."

"No, but I do." They both turned to find Xena, standing in the doorway.

"I wish people would stop doing that," Gabrielle fumed. "Did you talk to Philan?"

"She doesn't want to leave."

"So your plan isn't working out so well."

"This is not a good time to gloat."

"When would be a good time?" Gabrielle smiled impishly.

"Excuse me..." Tobar attempted to interject. Xena and Gabrielle both gave him a withering look.

"Come on, dear. Let's get out of here," Xena said and began gathering their belongings.

"No," Tobar cried, "you can't leave without Philan." His pleas had no effect as Gabrielle joined Xena in gathering their belongings. "You'll never get out of this castle alive."

"You and Philan may be better matched than you think." Xena smirked for a moment then her mouth grew taunt. "And I don't respond well to threats."

"What about Sidas? The war? What if Sidas doesn't believe you?

Wouldn't he be more convinced hearing it from his own daughter?"

"He has a point, dear. By the way, he knows I'm not a man."

"Is there anything else that went on while I was gone that I should

know about?"

"No," Gabrielle replied, trying to read Xena's peculiar expression. Then it hit her and she blushed. "No!"

"Ok, Tobar, tell your father we're taking Philan back to her father."

"I can't do that. I'll never be able to face my family again. They'll say I can't handle a woman. I'll be disgraced."

"Well then, how do you propose we get her out."

"We need to find something that would make her want to leave, like jealousy," Gabrielle said, warming to the task.

"I could pretend I was interested in Sila," Tobar suggested.

"Xena," Gabrielle corrected.

"The Warrior Princess?"

"Some people call me that. It wouldn't work. Philan knows who I am. She would suspect something."

"OK," Tobar pressed on, "how about seduction? He, I mean, she could seduce Philan." He knew it was a lame plan even as it left his lips. Xena frowned, then she smiled.

"I know a way to get us all out and still let Tobar save face." Xena explained the details of her plan.


"Sidas is going to kill me," Tobar wailed.

"No he won't," Xena responded.

"I don't know why I had to come along."

"Gabrielle, explain it to the man."

"The only way to get Philan out of the castle was unconscious." Gabrielle glanced at Philan lying on a litter in the back of the cart, her head lolling back and forth. "After you slipped her the drug, we could have rolled her up in a rug and stuck her in with the other merchandise, but sooner or later someone might have wondered what happened to her. So, we disguised Philan as Sila, who had taken ill and wanted to returning to our home and Xena disguised herself as Philan, who is accompanying her fiancée to see this some wonder of the world that his cousin told him about, which happened to be on the route home."

"Wouldn't have looked right for Philan to ride off without you now would it?" Xena interrupted.

"No, but now you want me to ride into Sidas's camp."

"Yep. Actually, he'll be meeting us. I saw one of his scouts a few minutes ago. Come on, let's take the scenic route along the ocean." Xena smiled. "I love the salt air."


"You tricked me," Tobar screamed as he blocked Xena's sword from its deadly downward arc.

"You broke a trade alliance. You kidnapped a girl. You almost started a war." Xena punctuated each phrase with a blow. She was at least a head taller than Tobar, but he handled a blade well and managed to parry the attack. The two combatants were a blur and the sound of clashing steel was deafening. At last, Tobar began to lose ground and the ground he was losing was in the direction of a dizzying cliff. He tried to penetrate Xena's defense, but she swatted his thrusts away like annoying flies. Her eyes flashed, a steely blue that could smoke the paint off a chariot. Tobar heard Philan's unintelligible screams and caught a glimpse of Sidas and Gabrielle restraining her. As he was inched closer and closer to the edge, he gathered his forces for one desperate assault. Xena ducked and responded with a perfectly executed upper cut. The only sounds were a soft whoosh and the ripping of Tobar's shirt as the blade sliced through it. He grabbed at his midsection and tumbled head first over the cliff.

Philan stopped struggling. She gazed the at spot where Tobar had been. Sidas and Gabrielle released her. After a stunned moment of silence she cried, "If only we had been married -- I could have been a widow," and fell, weeping, into her father's arms.

"Sidas," Xena shouted, "I suggest you take your daughter and your army and go home and stay as far away from the land of the Suru as possible."


"And I suggest you keep as close to home as possible."

"You're right, Xena." Tobar smiled. "One thing before I go, how did you know about that cave just below the edge of the cliff."

"Because I've been there myself, only in my case it was a root tangled around my ankle, not a rope. I went over the edge and swung into the cave just like you did."

"How did you know I would jump?"

"I didn't. I'd have thrown you over the edge." Xena's smile gleamed.

"I think you would. Thank you for saving my life and my reputation." He turned to Gabrielle. "Take good care of your wife."

"Poor guy," Gabrielle commented after Tobar left, "he just doesn't understand women."

"I'd say he got a pretty painful lesson."

"I've got to give you credit, Xena. That was a great plan you came up with."

"Part of the credit is yours. If Sidas had known Philan was in love with Tobar, he probably would have made him marry her and I don't think anyone would have been happy with that in the end. Killing him was brilliant."

"That was pretty good, but you came up with the cliff and cave thing."

"Of course, we could have told Tobar earlier instead of making him sweat most of the trip."

"Think of it as part of his education."

"So, now what's the plan?"

"A quiet campsite, a good meal and a pleasant night under a starry sky."

"Absolutely inspired."