by: EpTalk 10/04/00

***** "HOOFERs & TRAMPS" *****

Disclaimer: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle & Terreis are the sole property of USA/MCA & Renaissance Pictures. They are used in this fiction only to entertain and no copyright infringement is intended. The characters of Epiny, Gadiva & Gala are all tramps who served as concubines in a Muslim temple before breaking free and seeking on their own to create their own tribe of hoofers (tap dancers).

Other: The haricot was well seasonsoned stew prepared slowly over the grill and contained the secret spices of these concubines. Only one little baa! baa! lamb was harmed during the production of the stew and 3 matching hoofer sweaters.

********* The adventure begins ! *********

"Terreis wait!" shouted her good friend and companion Epiny from the woods off to the side.

~whoosh~! An arrow headed for Terreis as Gabrielle leaped from a tree to cover the woman in the arrow's path but it was too late as the arrow found it's mark in Terreis chest and with her last breath she gives Gabrielle her right of dance!

"No! No!" screams Epiny as she has overheard Terreis give Gabrielle her right of dance and then the eyes became fixed as Terreis drew her last long breath of life.

Xena joined the attack and blocked all the other many arrows flying at the women. She didn't hear the last words of Terreis but asked Epiny what's going on here? Epiny introduced herself and explained they had escaped their Muslim temple where they served as concubine tramps and now were being hunted by the Centaurs. Two other women stepped forward from the forest to join in shock of their fallen friend.

"Why are you being hunted?" asked Xena.

Epiny rolled her eyes back as if she thought Xena would be quicker to know the answer and then told her, "because Xena. At the temple we were no more than tramps to the two-legged variety of male. We have all decided the four-legged Centaur is more inviting, and perhaps we came on a little too strong. They seem to have revolted, fought among each other for our favors and now seek our deaths instead."

Xena checked her scabbard to insure her sword secure, telling Gabrielle "you wait with these women. I'll find out what's going on here."

Xena departed as Gabrielle joined the three remaining women to carry Terreis back to their campsite and place her body inside a tent to await the burial ceremony.

Epiny joined Gabrielle in private and sharing some haricot (seasoned stew of the lamb mutton), explained to Gabrielle the duties of having Terreis' right of dance.

"Hey! I'm no hoofer! I have two left feet, both of them behind me," Gabrielle informed Epiny.

"Well, I'm sorry dear new princess but you're obligated as accepting the right of dance and the title of Hoofer Princess " Epiny continued. "You will need to choose your tap dancing shoes or face a fight to the death with me."

"Princess? You called me princess," Gabrielle said with a stunned tone to her voice.

Xena returned and joined the women at camp to tell them she had found the Centaur gathering place. Having known the Centaurs in her past, Xena felt like she could negotiate with them and halt any further attacks or killing.

Gabrielle had changed into a dancing outfit given her by the other Hoofers and Xena seemed quite pleased to see her friend enjoying the camaraderie. She gave little notice to the curtain and stage being constructed in this camp and joined to share in some of the haricot.

"So, you have your own ceremonial way to put Terreis at peace, do you?" Xena asked Epiny.

"Oh yes - we'll bury her quietly and then the ceremonies are after as Gabrielle takes her rightful place as our lead dancing princess."

"Your what!" Xena exclaimed as she gave a what have you done now look over to Gabrielle who shrugged and grinned innocently.

"Our lead dancing princess, " she told Xena.

"When Gabrielle risked her life to save Terreis she was given right of dance. She is now Terreis replacement and will do the dance of taps to send Terreis spirit to the stage in the after-life."

Xena began to form a very wide smile toward Gabrielle as she finished telling the Hoofers she would need to know their intentions of seeking out the Centaurs.

Epiny motioned for the small red headed girl named Gadiva to join them as she asked her to explain their purpose to have entered Centaur territory.

"Xena," the young woman said, "Have you not heard that we were tramps? Our former masters have as much as told us our talent is as a hoofer but our purpose is being tramps. If this be the way and our destiny, then we will choose our own mates, bear children and then create our own tribe we are hoping."

Xena gulped on her haricot as her eyes were wide in shock. She gave a real scowled look at Gabrielle and said, "you women want to mate with Centaurs? That's your purpose?"

Epiny, Gadiva and the other woman all smiled widely as they nodded affirmatively to Xena's questions.

"Oh, I'm Gala. I am Gadiva's younger sister. I was only a concubine servant briefly and it's the season of virginity sacrafice for me, " the taller brunette chimed in on her own.

Xena took a real deep sigh as she sat her bowl of haricot onto the ground. She turned to Epiny again to ask, "so this is what you want me to negotiate with the Centaurs?"

"Yes, Xena it is. Can you do this one thing for us?" Epiny replied.

"Xena wait," interrupted Gabrielle. "Let's not judge a scroll by its paper. These women seem misguided. Let me talk to them while you go and first insure peace and safety. We can help them consider this more perhaps."

"Yeah Gabrielle you do that. I'm not into dancing funerals anyway. I will find the Centaur in charge when it's dark. You do your thing and good luck!"

With that comment, Xena climbed aboard Argo and rode off to the north.

Epiny had gathered cloth and gone to prepare Terreis for burial as darkness covered the campsite. The women respectfully laid their friend to rest with adding a nice marker to her grave with only the symbol they had chosen for Hoofers, the new name of their tribe.

Gabrielle was then given instructions to meet them at the stage as the dancing ceremony would begin.

Thinking she needed to fulfill the right of dance and then speak with Epiny, Gadiva and Gala about their plans to attract themselves to the Centaurs, Gabrielle entered the stage and began to do a traditional twisting dance of her own.

The other women circled around her, laughing at her light of feet but un-coordinated movements. Gala pounded a small drum as they all kept the rhythm and Gabrielle began to shake and shimmy her shoulders in a new and strange motion.

Gabrielle's outfit was skimp but covered with beads that were glowing in the moonlight as her body movement was comical but her creative and stunning female form captured the eyes of the others. They let her dance on in the glow of the moon's light til daylight time was near.

As the morning sun began rising, the women finished the ceremonial dancing and offered Gabrielle a specially chosen staff with which to spin herself around in her dance act. They complimented her repeatedly and announced her as the new leader of the Hoofers.

Gabrielle was surprised about the new leader announcement and quickly asked to speak openly to them all.

Gabrielle cleared her throat and swollowed deep as she explained, "I don't know what has driven you girls to think you need a Centaur or you have to be tramps. I truly don't understand what life is like as a tramp or a concubine either. I do know you owe it to yourselves to explore love and caring before you commit to a life you have only heard in stories from your captors."

All three women listened close to Gabrielle's words as they looked back and forth at one another.

"You have a right to be free and choose a mate that is chosen for love not for their playful entertainment only. No one should require your favors unless you want that" Gabrielle concluded.

The women thought silently for a moment.

Finally, Epiny addressed Princess Gabrielle to ask, "we don't have to be both hoofers and tramps?"

Laughing only slightly Gabrielle replied, "you should be who you are. You aren't obligated to do that which you do not want to do. Not now …..not ever."

Seeming surprised at that profound comment, Epiny and the others began to place their hands on Gabrielle's staff in a ceremony that would affirm her as their leader.

"No! wait.." Gabrielle told them.

"I cannot be a hoofer or your leader right now. My place is with Xena and she and I will be leaving this territory when we know you are all safe. I give my place as your leader, to Epiny."

With that statement and the sun now shining brightly, Xena returned to the camp to inform the women they would be safe now. The leader of the Centaurs had invited them to join their camp for an evening meal and they could state their purpose for crossing Centaur territory. Xena explained that the Centaurs had given their word the women were to be allowed to come and go of their own choosing and no harm or demands would be made toward them.

With that explained, Xena nodded to Gabrielle that is was time for them to move on.

"Keep the staff Gabrielle," Epiny said. "Your dancing skills are unlike any we have seen in all our days as hoofers. You surely are the kindest and most wise hoofer among us and I'll lead until you return to take your rightful place, princess."

Xena didn't seemed surprised that Gabrielle had organized the women and trusted she had explained to them their rights as free women.

Gabrielle thanked them for her new staff she now twirled around with a gleam in her eye.

As she and Xena walked off into the new sunset, Gabrielle told Xena, "You're a Warrior Princess. I'm a Hoofer Princess. This is going to make a great story."

Xena turned to walk down the hill away from Gabreille in jest, as she said, "Nah….that's silly."

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