Gabrielle closed her eyes and sunk deeper into the hot water. It felt so good to finally relax in a real bath. Xena had gone off to buy some supplies and she had decided to use the inn's hot tub. She had just sunk chin deep in the water when a bright flash of white light assaulted her closed eyelids.
"Sweet Pea, you got to help me!" Aphrodite cried. The usually beautiful Goddess was a mess. Tear streaks ran down her face and her pink, see-through outfit had several rips in it. "It's terrible! Ohhh...what will I do?"
"Aphrodite? What's wrong?" Gabrielle moved to the edge of the big wooden tub and watched the Goddess with concern. "You know I'll do anything to help."
"Really?" Aphrodite sniffed, tears falling out of her big eyes. "Oh! I just knew you'd help me!" The Goddess reached for Gabrielle's wet wrist and grabbed it.
"Aphrodite! Wait!" Gabrielle cried. But it was too late and Aphrodite popped them out. They reappeared a few seconds later at her temple. "I'm not dressed!"
"Well, I'm sorry!" Aphrodite said. "But I have more serious problems than your missing clothes!"
Gabrielle tried to cover her naked body with her hands. She hoped no one was around to see her like this! Why did things always go wrong when Aphrodite showed up? Why couldn't she think before she just did stuff? Geez, was the Goddess of Love really such an airhead?
"Take that! And that!"
Gabrielle's heart leaped into her throat. She knew that voice! Ares! She couldn't let him see her like this! Spoting a large white curtain hanging near a window, Gabrielle yanked it down and quickly wrapped it around herself. It wasn't perfect, but it would have to do. Then she hurried into the next room to see what was going on.
"This is all your fault, Ar!" Aphrodite screamed at her brother. "It's your stupid war that drove those....disgusting things into my temple! You better get them out of here!"
"I'm trying!" Ares said. He held out his hand, produced a fireball and flung in into a corner of the temple. For a moment there was a bunch of squeeling, then silence. The sickening sent of charred flesh and burnt fur filled the room.
Something brushed against Gabrielle's bare legs. Glancing down, she saw a huge dark brown and black mottled rodent. Gabrielle shrieked as loudly as she could and leaped onto the nearest object. Unfortunately, it was Ares!
Ares staggered for a moment under the sudden unexpected weight. His arms wrapped around her as he held her up above the floor. He glanced down at the loose curtain she was wearing. "Well, this is a new look for you. I like it!"
"What...what are those things?" Gabrielle clung to Ares' neck. She glanced around the room and saw they were everywhere. Each rodent stood about two feet tall. They scurried around the room rapidly on their powerful hind legs. A long tail with a thick clump of fur at the end dragged along behind them. Their huge claws clattered noisely on the temple's stone floor. The head looked similar to a rabbit, but with bigger gnawing teeth and shorter ears.
"They're called Jarbo." Aphrodite cried as she batted one large rodent with a bright pink feather pillow. "Ar started some dumb old war nearby in the next valley. These things were forced out by all the fighting and they all came here! Oh! You filthy creature! Take that!"
The angry Goddess swung the pillow at the huge jarbo. It hit the creature right on its face and busted. Hundreds of feathers flew up into the air and the rodent started to gulp them down rapidly. Another large rodent started to munch on the back of Aphrodite's pink dress. The dress tore and the rodent swollowed it. "Ooooh! This is no use! We'll NEVER get rid of these things!"
"Aphrodite!" Gabrielle leaped out of Ares' arms and ran over to the Love Goddess. She kicked at the nearest rodent and instantly regretted it. Her foot was bare and the rodent had a solid body. She gripped her aching toes and started to hop on the other foot.
Ares raced over and used his sword on the closest hungry rodents. More rodents were closing in on his sister and on the bard. He had to protect them!
"Aphrodite," Gabriele said as she yanked another curtain off the wall. This one was partly ate, but enough material remained to wrap around the almost naked Goddess. "You're a Goddess! Use your powers on the things!"
OH! Right!" Aphrodite concentrated and held her arms out. Pink and red hearts filled the air and floated down onto the rodents. The rodents froze for a second, then started dancing. They jumped up and down on their hind feet, twirling around. A few locked front paws with another rodent and danced as couples.
"Aphrodite! They're DANCING!" Gabrielle said loudly as she wrapped the white curtain around the Goddess. "You were supposed to pop them away!"
"Well, I tried!" the Goddess cried. "I'm too upset to use my powers!"
"That's OK. We can fix this." Gabrielle rubbed her forhead. A banging headache was in full swing. She felt the pain throbbing right behind her eyes. There was a tug on her 'dress' as a dancing rodent had come up behind her. She kicked at it and felt a sharp pain in her leg. "That thing bit me!"
At the same moment Aphrodite cried out. An extra large rodent had sunk its teeth into Aphrodite's arm. Gabrielle raced over and grabbed the thing. Then she threw it against the wall.
Ares was busy slicing and dicing dancing rodents. His war cries bounced off the walls as he swung his sword and leaped through the air. He was trying to keep most of the Jarbo away from the girls, but there was just too many. Once in a while a few fast ones snuck past him.
Gabrielle felt odd. The bite on her leg throbbed and blood ran down her skin onto the floor. Her entire body felt hot. "Geez, I wonder what disease that thing was carrying? Aphrodite? Do you feel OK?"
The Goddess had a dreamy look on her face and her feet were tapping. She grabbed Gabrielle's hand and started to dance with her. Gabrielle also felt the urge to dance and she raised their arms high in the air as they spun around. Aphrodite squeeled with glee as she was spun around faster and faster. She used her powers and a pair of white puffy wigs appeared on their heads. Gabrielle didn't care. She was having too much fun dancing with Dite!
Somewhere in the back of her mind, Gabrielle knew she shouldn't be dancing. It was Aphrodite's spell working on them. They must have caught it somehow when the Jarbo had bit them. She tried to stop dancing, but it was no use. The spell was too powerful. Her bare foot slipped on a puddle of blood and she started to fall. Aphrodite fell on top of her, giggling. Apparently, the spell had made the Goddess forget all about the rodents. The two climbed back to their feet and started to dance again. Gabrielle wondered if the spell would ware off. Or if Ares could remove it. She hoped so. She had to do something!
"Aphrodite! You have to remove this dancing spell!" Gabrielle said as she swung Dite around the room.
"Why? This is so much FUN!" Dite threw back her head and laughed. "I didn't feel so good in a long time!"
"This is a spell! Big ugly rodents are eating your temple! Remember?" Gabrielle told her.
"WEEEE!" Aphrodite cried as she continued to spin around.
"Aphrodite! Listen to me!" Gabrielle hopped around and the Goddess followed her.
"Oh, phoey! Ar's taking care of those nasty things! Why should we have to worry about them for?" asked Aphrodite.
There had to be a way to get through to the Love Goddess, but what? Then an idea struck her! It just might work!
"Aphrodite! Look at you!" Gabrielle cried as she was spun around faster and faster by the out-of-control Dite. "You're wearing a chewed up curtain. There's rodent blood all over it! You're hair is getting all limp and sweaty. And you're beginning to smell."
"Eeeewww!" Aphrodite stopped suddenly and let go of Gabrielle. The Goddess gazed into the mirror at herself and cried out in horror. "That can NOT be me! I look so....GROSS! I'm out of here! Later!"
Gabrielle flew across the room and crashed into Ares. He had just dispatched the final jarbo. When she hit him, they both went down in a tangle of arms and legs. Somehow she had landed on the bottom. She could feel wetness soaking through the back of her curtain. She hated to think what it was. She looked up at the War God. "So, Ares. Did you win your war?"
"Oh yeah. It was glorious!" His eyes were dark with battle lust as he pulled her to her feet. "The battlefield ran red with their blood!"
Gabrielle had to laugh. Only Ares could get excited over killing rats!
Ares placed his hand on her leg and the bite vanished. "Let me take you back to the inn before Xena starts looking for you. She might get the wrong idea seeing us together like this, in Love's temple. Who knows what she might think?"
Gabrielle blushed. Was Ares flirting with her? She couldn't beleive it!
A moment later she was back in the inn, in the room with the hot tub. The water still felt warm, so the whole crazy ordeal hadn't taken as long as she thought. Ares grinned at her before he vanished in a sparkle of lights. She took off the blood soaked curtain and wadded it up in a tight ball. Then she threw it out a tiny window. She couldn't let Xena see it. It would raise too many questions.
Gabrielle sank back into her bath and began to scrub the blood off. She felt quite proud of herself. She had gotten out of a tricky mess without Xena's help. One she had not created! Her mind drifted off to thoughts of Ares and she wondered when she would see him again.
Just then the door flew open and Xena came in. Xena frowned and stopped in her tracks. She stared at Gabrielle.
"Hi Xena! What's wrong?" Gabrielle asked, concerned. "Did something happen at the market place?"
"What's that white....thing on your head?" Xena asked suspiciously as she stared at the puffy wig. "Where'd it come from? Who was in here with you?"
Gabrielle's face paled. She had forgotten about Aphrodite's wig!