Xena Warrior Mother Series Story 6
Legend of the Last Amazon-Part VI
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, and Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles, and back-story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. The story is written only for fun, and no profit is being made. All other characters such as Tarren, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. The story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. The story itself as well as the character created by the author may NOT be duplicated or archived without the authors permission. All works remain the copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the authors consent. This story is a continuation of my first stories called
The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, and Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles, and back-story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. The story is written only for fun, and no profit is being made. All other characters such as Tarren, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. The story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. The story itself as well as the character created by the author may NOT be duplicated or archived without the authors permission. All works remain the copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the authors consent. This story is a continuation of my first stories called
SHE HAS MY EYES, ON THE ROAD AGAIN, NALAS GIFTS, HOME SWEET HOME, and Little Thief of Hearts You really MUST read those stories first. Otherwise you will be lost as to who some of the characters I have created are. This story contains some violence, no subtext, and the use or reference of corporal punishment. I will be putting that statement in all of the Tarren series whether it exists or not in that particular story. Please understand that this does NOT reflect on my personal beliefs or politics. I am just trying to stay true to the characters and culture of that period of history. Feedback is ALWAYS appreciated and I am most grateful to all that have written and will hopefully continue to write me with your thoughts.
Chapter 16 - Separate Directions
Before the child could even call, Xena came up beside her and pulled the frightened youngster from the injured womans grip pushing the little girl safely behind her. "Tarren go stand by that tree," she said pointing to a small birch a few paces away.
Xena gave the youngster a gentle nudge. "Hey I said get going now," she said sternly trying to break the frozen youngsters concentration.
Knowing her young daughter was confused and scared by the sight of such a seriously injured woman, Xena watched her child depart with trepidation. The warrior did not know what had caused this Amazons injuries or if it or they were still in the area. She wanted Tarren close but not so close as to have the young child witness this young womans pain. Xena had been careful to never allow her youngster to witness a bloody battle or even see the aftermath of any real fight from any closer than a tree branch.
"Damn." The warrior took a deep breath and looked at the familiar face of the young Amazon lying on the ground before her. "Youre Princess Tyrell the one that attacked us on the road," she stated as she looked over the young womans sever injuries.
Tyrell nodded and a tear fell down her bloody cheek.
Xena dabbed a small cloth over the sword torn abdomen. Her eyes scanned the area around her as she still kept her eyes trained on Tarren. "Where are the rest of your band?"
Tyrell opened her mouth but no words came out. She struggled to rise grabbing onto Xenas armor. "I I ."
The injuries were bad and the young woman was going into shock. The warrior gently pressed the Amazons shoulders to the ground. "Ok
I have to get my horse and then Ill get you back to the village Ok?"
The young woman blinked but as Xena rose to get Argo she was quickly brought to a halt by the firm grip of her patient. "Dont leave the child alone. Its not safe I told her Its not safe ."
Xena tried to quiet the young womans rambling. "What are you talking about? What happened to you and what did you tell my daughter?" she asked, realizing that in her one brief moment of absence from the child this stranger had shared some secret.
Tyrell glanced over at the small child standing under the tree and smiled a bit. "Tell Ephiny Im sorry." She took one final hard breath and fell dead in the warriors arms.
After a final breath the warrior got to her feet and walked to Tarren who was now busy picking flowers from the base of the tree. She knelt beside the child and allowed her voice to be gentle and soothing. "Hey Monster we gotta go get Argo and take that girl back to the village."
Tarren hummed as she looked at the colorful flowers in her hands. "Why Momma? Cant you fix her here?" she asked still occupied with her task of choosing flowers.
Xena placed a loving hand over the childs face and shook her head. "No baby I cant fix her at all."
Tarrens humming stopped suddenly. She glanced at her mother and Xena could see the tears falling from the little girls eyes. "You can fix anything Momma. Go fix her."
The warrior again shook her head and this time lifted the small child into her arms. "No baby not everything. She was too badly hurt Shes ."
Before Xena could finish the sentence the youngsters smile returned and she handed her mother a flower. It was a large white daisy with yellow trim. "I picked this just for you Momma."
Xena let out a short breath and stared at the offering realizing this was the little girls way of not dealing with the horror she had seen. "Tarren we need to talk."
The little girls eyes lowered as she waited for her gift to be accepted. "I dont wanna talk Momma. I wanna give you a pretty flower." The child bit her lip in anticipation of the warriors next move.
The mother nodded and held the little girl closer. She took the flower and placed it in her shoulder strap. "Thank you baby. It smells really good and Im gonna keep it close."
Tarren grinned as she stared at the remaining flowers. "Good Momma I think Ill bring one to Gabby and Ephiny and Shalia and Boralla." She paused and let her eyes drop a bit. "Everyone should smell pretty stuff. Dont ya think Momma?" she asked with her wide blue eyes locked on her mothers face.
The warrior mother could feet her childs shivers. She positioned the youngster close to one shoulder and kissed the little girl on the cheek. "Yes baby. Everyone should smell nice things." The mother kept her arms wrapped protectively around the youngster as she headed back toward the horse. She scanned the trails and the trees but there was no sign of even the slightest struggle or intruder. As she walked she ran her hand up and down the little ones back hoping to chase away some of the fear that was still consuming her child. "Tarren what did that woman say to you?" she asked in a near whisper.
Tarren tightened her hold on her mother and stared at the now distant bush which, she knew contained the familiar face of a young Amazon that no longer shared this world. She buried her head in her mothers arms deciding it was not something she wished to see again. The child heard her mothers question but could not bring herself to say the words the Amazon had told her. "I love ya Momma," she replied, hoping those words would say enough.
Xena closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I love you too baby." She did not feel this was the best time to push for answers. The warrior mother wanted her daughter back in the safety of the village. She thought for a moment and cradled the child next to her chest. "Ok baby well talk about it later. You just lay in Mommas arms. I wont let anything happen to you."
The child nuzzled close keeping a firm grip on both her bouquet of flowers and her mother.
The warrior marked the tree with her knife so she would be able to identify where the body had been found. After placing a blanket around the dead Amazon and tying her over the saddle Xena stared at her young daughter who was once again picking flowers. The child had purposely ignored the entire proceeding never even glancing at her mothers actions. The warrior patted the great war-horse on the neck. "Argo my friend we have a problem."
The horse whinnied.
Xena tethered her mount to a tree limb and walked over to the little girl holding now more than two dozen flowers in her grip. "Hey it looks like youve got enough for the entire tribe," she said pointing to the multi- colored bouquet
The little girl shook her head. "Nope just you and Gabby, Ephiny, Shalia and Boralla."
Tarren handed her mother another flower and gave a wide-eyed expression of absolute innocence. "Here you need two."
The mother smiled. "I do?"
The child frowned as if the answer should be obvious. "Cause youre my Momma." The words and the action were an indication of the double dose of love she had for this person.
"Thank you very much." The warrior smiled placed the second flower beside the first and knelt beside her child. "Come on. Its time to go."
Tarren turned and glanced at her mother. "Im not done picking my flowers."
The mother held open her saddlebag and watched as the youngster placed the new treasures carefully inside. "Yes you are." She reached out her hand and the little girl laced her small fingers in her mothers.
"Ok Momma if I haffta."
Xena tossed the saddlebags over her shoulder and sighed. "Yeah you do sorry but well track again soon. I promise."
Xena closed her eyes now sure that Tyrell had shared something about the attackers to her little girl. Tarren had never passed an opportunity to leave a crowded village to spend time with her mother or search for adventure in uncharted territory. "Ok sure we can do that if you want," she replied, wanting the little girl to feel secure.
The mother stood and started walking back toward Argo keeping a firm grip on her young daughters hand. As they approached the saddle with the body strapped over it the youngster quickly skidded in front of her mother blocking the warriors path. She looked up at the questioning eyes of her mother and merely held her hands straight up in the air.
Xena smiled slightly and lifted the child into her arms again allowing the youngster to find safety. "Ok Monster Ill carry you."
The little girl sighed and held tightly to the warriors neck. "Thanks Momma."
The mother touched her daughters cheek knowing the child was not yet ready to discuss the sight of their discovery. "My pleasure."
Xena held her small daughter in one arm as she pulled Argo along. Her eyes were trained on the movement of everything around her. She could feel the comfort of the sword on her back and the chakrum at her side.
It was a long quiet trip back to the village and by the last leg of the journey Tarren was still positioned comfortably in her mothers arms. The child could not help but stare at the blanketed form tied over Argos saddle. She bit her lip and let a tear fall for a stranger who had died alone and hurt all the while thinking of the terrifying words the woman had whispered in her ear.
Back at the village
Xena could not help but feel her heart sink every time she looked into the questioning face of her young daughter. The mother had no answers at the moment so all she could do was hold the child tightly. She stopped in front of the Royal Office and without calling Ephiny appeared Gabrielle right beside her. The queen did not hesitate to run her hand beneath the blanket to seek out the identity of the dead body. Seeing it was Tyrell she closed her eyes for a moment and then moved beside the warrior. "What happened?"
Tarren tightened her hold on her mothers neck. "Momma I wanna go back to the cottage now."
Gabrielle looked at he little girl and then Xena. She knew there was a second problem because the warrior would never normally allow such an outburst at such a serious moment to go without correction.
The mother took a deep breath and put the child down beside her. "Ok give me just a minute to talk to Ephiny and well ."
The child shook her head vigorously and again the warrior could feel the youngsters shivers. "No now Momma." The tears forming in her eyes made it hard to refuse.
Xena glanced at the now silent Ephiny and shook her head. "Give me a minute Eph."
She glanced over at Gabrielle wishing her gentle friend would offer to take the youngster to the cottage but she did not. The young womans thoughts were trained on the dead boy of a young girl strapped over a horse.
Before the warrior could say another word she was tapped on the shoulder by a familiar hand. It was Shalia. She bowed her head slightly. "If you like I can take her back to the cottage for you Xena."
The warrior tilted her head to one side impressed with the young womans light step. She had not even heard her approach. The warrior glanced at Tarren. "OK Shalia is gonna take you back to the cottage and stay with you until I get there. I want you to behave for her. Got it?"
The child reached into her mothers saddlebags to retrieve her flowers glanced up at Shalia and back at her mother. "Will you come soon?" The little voice was filled with desperation. She did not wish to be parted from her mother.
Xena ran her hand along the little girls face. "Yup. Real soon."
Tarren lowered her eyes for a moment and then nodded. She walked over and handed Ephiny a pink flower. "Here Ephiny. It smells nice."
The queen took a whiff and forced a smile. "Thank you Junior." She placed the poesy in her cuff to show it would be properly displayed. "There now everyone will see it," she said choking back a tear for the young girl she had nearly killed in battle days earlier.
Tarren turned to Gabrielle who had now moved closer to the body lying over the horse. She took a step back deciding that the bards gift could wait until later.
Seeing the child had frozen, Shalia moved closer and offered her hand to the youngster and Xena watched as the two departed. She took a deep breath as she listened to the little girl informing the Amazon that she wanted to stop and see Boralla to give her a flower.
When Tarren was far out of sight, the warrior turned to Ephiny. The way their eyes locked seemed to impart either an unspoken message between two warriors or two mothers. "I took Tarren out tracking and the poor little kid found Tyrell like this." She motioned to the woman who was now being removed from the horse. "She was still alive and all bloody and battered and Tarren well she hasnt dealt with it too well."
Ephiny covered her face with her hands. "Im sorry Xena."
Xena nodded. "Eph I didnt see any signs of a fight or even any tracks. I couldnt look to closely with Tarren with me thought."
Hearing that little Tarren had actually been witness to such a barbaric act made Gabrielle shudder. Even she herself was having trouble dealing with the gruesome death of one so young. "Poor Tarren."
Xena slammed her fist down on the railing of a nearby fence. "Its my fault. I should have scanned the area before I took her there."
The queen placed a friendly hand on her friends shoulder. "Xena you cant always know whats everywhere. Things like this happen. Eventually even a small child is bound to see something of death."
The warrior nodded again and forced a lump in her throat down. She glanced at the unusually silent Gabrielle. "Tyrell whispered something to Tarren but she wont tell me what it was. The kids scared to death and confused. I really need to talk to her and ." She looked at Gabrielle. "I could use a little help."
Gabrielle turned her head as if waking from a dream. "Oh sure Im sorry Xena I was just thinking how young that girl was and Well we should send word to her mother."
She placed her hands over her face as she considered what the right words would be to say.
The warrior moved beside her best friend and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Gabrielle there is no gentle way to tell a mother she has lost her child." She paused as she thought of Solon. "But if there is a kind way I am sure you will find the words."
The young woman put her hand over the warriors and nodded. "Thanks Ill try, but first things first Tarren needs us."
The warrior nodded her thanks and turned back to Ephiny. "For all we know Tyrell was attacked miles away and dragged herself to the place we found her." She paused and then again looked at Ephiny. "Or ."
Ephiny lowered her eyes and finished the sentence. "Or she was beaten by her own band and left for dead."
Gabrielles eyes flew open at the suggestion. "What are you talking about? She was their Princess. Why would they do that?" she said, her words were filled with confusion and disbelief.
Ephiny looked at Xena who let out a long breath and turned away wanting the queen to explain her friend. The Amazon took a step closer. "Gabrielle not all Amazons share the same customs. That is why the joining of tribes is so difficult. In the eastern tribes if a leader fails in a mission such as Tyrell did in her attempt to assassinate me her band might thing her too weak to lead and kill her."
Gabrielle stared at Ephiny in disbelief and then glanced at Xena hoping her friend would tell her these words were not true. "No I wont believe that."
Xena took a deep breath. "Gabrielle its true. It might have happened that way. There were no tracks. Amazons are known for the ability to cover themselves that well. We wont know for sure until we search the entire area."
The Princess Bard nodded and looked away. "Well then lets not jump to any conclusions until we know for sure." She closed her eyes. "Come on lets go talk to Tarren."
Realizing her gentle friend was finding the possibility the warrior put her hands up and motioned toward the cottage. "Fine lets go."
Ephiny knelt beside the body of the young woman that had been carefully placed on the ground beside her. Tyrells still was still covered with the warriors blanket. She ran her hand over the young womans arm. "Why?"
Seeing the queens pain, the warrior paused and crouched beside her. "Eph she did ask me to tell you she was sorry."
Ephiny nodded and choked a bit on her words as she stared at the face of her fellow Amazon. She lifted her eyes and stared at Xena. "Ya know before all these talks started this kid and I were pretty good friends. She used to show up at all the competitions and sit with Xenon." She closed her eyes. "I want whoever did this to her. No Amazon No person should ever die such a death."
Xena glanced at Gabrielle and then back at the queen. "Eph in the morning well go have a look for ourselves. Its too late now. By the time we got there it would be close to dark."
Ephiny nodded her agreement and Xena got to her feet. The warrior again started to walk away.
The queen pulled back the blanket for one last look before sending the body to be prepared for funeral. "Xena."
When the warrior turned to answer the call she saw uncovered body of the young Amazon had a large flower tucked neatly between her fingers.
The mother swallowed closed her eyes and took a breath. "By the Gods Tarren." She looked at Gabrielle whose expression was one of equal horror. "Come on."
Back at the cottage
Tarren walked into the cottage holding tightly to Shalias hand.
The young Amazon sat down in a chair and the child immediately crawled into her lap. "Can I stay here until Momma comes?" she asked in a pleading tone.
Shalia smiled and closed her eyes. "Yes Tarren you are most welcome to stay in my lap." Her words were kind and soothing
The little girl smiled a bit and made her self comfortable as she recounted the number of flowers she still possessed.
Shalia could see the pain in the youngsters eyes, but forced her attention on the group of daisies held tightly in her hand. "What pretty flowers you have picked."
The childs eyes immediately brightened and she reached into the grouping and selected a large white daisy. She handed it to her new friend. "Here I brought one for you since youve been so nice." She paused as the young woman held it in her hand. "Its a present."
Shalia stared at the flower for a long moment as if it brought back some painful or wonderful memory. "Thank you Tarren this is a very special present indeed. The kind that comes from the heart is the best gift."
The youngster studied the young womans face and smiled. "Thats what Momma says too."
Shalia wiped a few stray hairs off the childs forehead. "Well shes right." She placed the flower in the side of her leather armband and then unfastened a small silver bracelet from her own wrist and double looped it around the youngsters tiny arm. "And this is a present I want you to have."
The child stared at the odd etchings on the silver string. It was definitely Amazon in design because it looked just like some of the jewelry Ephiny wore but it was more delicate. The youngster smiled but then shook her head. "Shalia, Momma wont let me have this. Its too expensive and I just gave you a flower. Its not a fair trade."
Tarren sighed and started to remove the gift when the young woman gently held the small fingers in place. "Doesnt your Momma also tell you that you shouldnt question a gift?"
The little girl considered the words wondering how this Amazon seemed to know so much. "Uh huh but when I gave Momma an expensive gift she changed all the rules around so Im not too sure how it works anymore." She paused. "Usually I think Momma makes the rules up as we go along."
Shalia smiled and patted the childs hand. "Well Tarren you gave me something special and I chose something special to give you. It seals our friendship."
The child studied the pretty bracelet and grinned. "Really?"
The little girl hugged the Amazon. "Thanks Shalia." She ran her hands over the bracelet. "It sure is pretty."
The Amazon ran her fingers over it and let her mind wander as she spoke. "It was my mothers. She gave it to me when I was not too much older than you."
The little girl frowned wondering if she was holding stolen merchandise. "Doesnt she want it back?"
Shalias eyes closed a bit and she shook her head. "No Tarren she is very far away now and she gave it to me as a present just like I am giving it to you."
The young woman took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "I hope so I really do hope so, but Tarren when people are far away or leave us they are never truly any further than our hearts."
The youngster shrugged. "Me and Momma share one heart," she stated proudly.
The Amazon smiled and patted the childs arm. "I believe you do Tarren."
The conversation came to a sudden end when the door opened and Xena walked in followed closely by Gabrielle. They were both surprised to find Tarren so relaxed with the young Amazon. She was after all still a virtual stranger to the child.
The warrior tilted her head to one side and grinned. "Well Shalia you must really have a magic touch. That kid doesnt sit on just anyone."
Shalia blushed as the child jumped to her feet and ran to her mother throwing her arms around the large womans legs. "Momma you wanna see the bracelet Shalia gave me?"
Xena stared at the antiquity and frowned. She looked at the young Amazon and shook her head. "Shalia that is very nice but its too much."
The child sighed and kicked the floor with the tip of her boot. "I just knew it," she groaned realizing this was another of those moments where her mother was changing the rules.
The young woman held up a halting hand. "Please Xena it is a sign of friendship and Tarren did give me this beautiful flower." She motioned to the daisy. "I would say we made a very fair trade."
"I am very sure Xena." Shalia touched her flower and placed a tender hand on the youngsters shoulder. "Perhaps I will see you later Tarren." She looked at the warrior and smiled. "If you need me for anything just call."
"Thank you I will."
The Amazon bowed her head slightly, nodded to Gabrielle as she passed through the door. "My Princess."
Gabrielle cocked her head to one side as if trying to figure out a riddle. The Amazon possessed a gentleness and calm that even the bard found soothing. "Thanks Shalia."
The door closed and Xena and Gabrielle moved into the cottage and the warrior immediately lifted Tarren playfully into the air. The child giggled and the Princess Bard had to smile at the ease with which her warrior friend now demonstrated her wealth of affection for her young daughter. "Im not gone more than a little bit and youre sweet talking Amazons out of their jewelry."
The child rolled out her lower lip. "I didnt give her any sweets Momma just the flower." She held up her hand as if taking an oath.
The warrior shook her head and kissed the youngster on the cheek. "I know I was teasing." She sat down positioning the child on her knee. "Well that is really a very pretty and very old bracelet. Shalia must really like you," she said as she eyed the jewelry.
"Uh huh and its mine. Right?" She wanted to be sure before she started accepting praise on its behalf.
The warrior grinned and ran her hand along the side of the childs cheek. "Shalia gave it to you so I guess its yours." She paused and let her eyes close a bit. "Did you say thank you?"
The little girl crawled in closer to her mothers shoulder liking the warmth of her body and the comforting smell of the familiar leather. "Uh huh."
The warriors face turned more serious as the child burrowed beside her. "Good girl."
Xena glanced at her still silent friend standing in the doorway.
Gabrielle nodded realizing this was her cue to join in. She sat down on the pallet on the other side of Tarren leaning in close to smell the childs bouquet. "Pretty flowers honey."
Tarren immediately turned poking her head out underneath her mothers arm to face her recently absent friend. "Ya really like them Gabby? I got a special one just for you." The child poked through the group until she found a big pink one with white trim. "Here ya go." She handed the young woman the flower and immediately returned to the safety of her mothers shoulder.
Gabrielle bit her lip and shook her head a bit to let her larger friend know that she felt the youngster was still too frightened to talk. It was evident by the way she clung to Xena that all she wanted was to be held in those strong arms.
Xena nodded and tightened her hold on the child allowing her own head to tuck over the youngsters shoulder protectively. "You Ok Monster?"
The little girl tucked her head in to the side of her mothers arm. "Sure Momma."
Gabrielle took a whiff of her flower and smiled. "Thank you honey. That is the nicest thing Ive gotten from anyone in a long time," she said lowering her eyes a bit.
The child ran her fingers over her mothers long hair and twisted her lips. "Well thats cause you havent been around much."
Xena let out a short breath and lifted her head up to face the child. "Hey Tarren we talked about this. Gabrielle has been busy helping people and thats a good thing," she said sternly.
The little girl gave a reluctant nudge so the warrior knew she did not appreciate the shift in position from her comfortable spot. "I know Momma. I was just saying why she hasnt gotten stuff. Ya cant get it if youre not here. Right?"
Tarren was used to having Gabrielle always within calling distance and since arriving at the village she had not been so available. Before Xena could respond the Princess Bard interceded. "Thats right honey."
The warrior cocked her head to one side confused as to why her friend was allowing the child to try and make her feel guilty for doing something they both knew was important. "Gabrielle ."
The young woman silenced her with a gentle touch. "No Xena Tarren is right. If Im not here she cant give me presents like this beautiful flower."
The youngster grinned and lifted her head up. "See Momma Im right."
There was a muffled defense from a child hugging leather. "Am too. Gabby said so."
Gabrielle placed a single finger to her own lips to silence her warrior friend. "I want Tarren to feel comfortable talking to me and if that means eating a little crow than Ill do it," she whispered. "Besides I have been feeling a bit guilty missing so much time with ." She pointed to the small form that was tightly hidden beneath her mothers strong arm.
Xena shook her head in disagreement of the concept but shrugged in surrender. "Have it your way," she muttered and loosed her hold on the child.
Tarren again picked her head up and poked it out under her mothers arm. "Am I still right?" she asked.
The warrior closed her eyes rather than respond dishonestly.
Gabrielle let out a long breath and placed both her hands on the little girls face. "Yes you are and Im sorry brat. I guess I have let myself get a bit too involved in the stuff going on around here, but I sure have missed you."
The young woman smiled broadly. "I sure have." She glanced at Xena. "As a matter of fact I was thinking that if youd like the three of us could have supper together out under that big old tree just outside the village. We could sit and eat under the stars like we do on the road and maybe talk...about some stuff."
Finally realizing the method to her friends obvious madness the warrior smiled. "Yeah that would be really nice. Wouldnt it Tarren? Boralla could pack us a nice supper and we could eat it outside and talk about things that maybe bother us."
The child considered the words and looked from her mother back to Gabrielle. Her voice dropped to a near whisper. "Ok but we gotta stay near the village. I dont really feel much like leaving."
Gabrielle tried to move a bit closer hoping the youngster would offer her fears up freely. "Why honey?"
The little girls eyes dimmed. "I just dont." She turned suddenly to her mother. "Momma can I run over and ask Boralla to make us supper?" The pleading tone in her voice made it hard to refuse.
Xena nodded and ran her hands through the childs mop of hair. "Yeah but you better come right back."
Xena let her head fall into her hands but after only a moment of thought picked it up and yelled out the door. "And no sloppy cheese stuff." She closed the door and paced around the cottage. "That kid definitely was told something and it scared the hell out of her."
Gabrielle leaned back on the pallet with a sigh. "Yeah this may take some doing."
Xena sat down on the pallet again and eyed her younger friend. "Well Ive got the time. Do you?"
Gabrielle lowered her head a bit. "Look Xena, Im sorry I havent been around much the last few days. I promise Ill make it up to both of you." She gave her large friend a nudge. "Come on warrior give me a break."
Xena shook her head and grinned. "Gabrielle dont worry about me. Ive found it quieter with you gone. Tarren has missed you," she teased.
Gabrielle poked her friend in the ribs. "Thanks a lot."
The warrior leaned in closer to her the young woman and smiled. "Look what I mean is that you and I have always been able to do what was needed and then join up, but now that Tarren is with us we cant do that as easily. She needs us to act more like a normal family." She paused as she considered who they were and how they lived. "Well Ok not normal but you know how much she needs us around especially now." She paused again and lowered her head a bit. "Gabrielle the help you are giving the Amazons is very important and I know that I just dont want you promising Tarren things you cant give right now."
The bard nodded. "I know Xena and I was just ."
Before Gabrielle could finish there was a knock at and a member of the Royal Guard entered. "I am sorry to interrupt Princess but Queen Ephiny requires your presence as soon as it is convenient."
Gabrielle smiled and waved the guard away. "Ok tell her Im on my way."
Xena twisted her lips and folded her arms against her chest. "Uh huh
What about supper and talking with Tarren?"
The Princess Bard smiled as she backed away to the door. "Ill be there...You know Eph. She probably just wants me to get that letter to Queen Penela done ."She moved tentatively out of the cottage." "Ill be there I promise." With those words she was again gone.
Moments later Tarren came through the door with a jolt. Her eyes scanned the cottage and immediately noticed her friend was again absent. "Where did Gabby go?"
Xena forced a smile and lifted the little girl into her arms. "Oh she just had to go help Ephiny with something. She promised to meet us under that big tree for supper."
Tarren looked at her mother and tried to return the smile. "Ya think shell come Momma?"
Xena nodded and gave the youngster a playful tickle. "Of course. Why would you think otherwise?"
The child lay her head on her mothers shoulder as she stared at a single white flower with pink trim lying forgotten on the pallet. "I dunno maybe she just doesnt think were important anymore," she whispered.
The youngster sat with her legs folded beneath her pulling at blades of grass. "No Momma. She knew about it. Gabby just found something better to do."
Tarren shrugged as she ran her hand over the length of her mothers leather straps. "I dunno but if she didnt find something better than shed be here. Right?"
The warrior took a deep breath and wrapped her arms around the little girl. "I think that Gabrielle just got caught up helping Ephiny and forgot. Lets go remind her."
The child stared at the flames of the small fire and shook her head. "No I dont want her to have supper with us anymore Momma. Id rather it was just you and me."
Xena could see the tears forming in her daughters eyes. "Shh hey its Ok. You know Gabrielle loves you."
Tarren wiped her eyes with the edge of her sleeve and let her body fall in closer to her mothers embrace. "No she doesnt. She didnt even take my flower and I gave her the really pretty one. Boralla put it on her hat and Ephinys wearing it on her waist but Gabby just left hers." The child stared at the two flowers her mother still had attached to her leather. "Youve got yours Momma."
Xena glanced at the daisies and smiled. "Well of course I do. Its a present from my little girl. I think its the best gift in the world."
The youngster ran her fingers over the silky pedals. "Thats what Shalia said too
The mother let her voice drop to a whisper and ran her fingers through her small childs hair. "Well then it must be true if we all agree."
Tarren shrugged. "Yeah everyone accept Gabrielle."
Xena wiped some stray hairs from the little girls face and motioned toward the basket. She did not want to get involved in a conversation about Gabrielles needs when there was a more pressing topic to deal with. "So are you gonna let your poor old mother starve or are we gonna eat that food?"
The child shrugged. "I guess we can eat Momma." She poked her head in the basket. "But theres an awful lot. Ya know Boralla made enough for your friend Gabrielle."
The warrior mother sighed and looked toward the village in a last ditch hope her friend would arrive. "I dunno baby. Well ask her but ya know Gabrielle loves telling you stories."
The child leaned against her mothers shoulder as she continued to search the basket. "Her stories were never that good anyway."
The mother closed her eyes. "Hey be nice. I want you to give Gabrielle a chance to explain before you get all mad at her. Ok?"
The child said nothing.
"Did you hear what I said?"
"Yes Momma I heard you."
The child smiled as she successfully pulled out a large turkey leg. "And ya wanna eat now right?"
The warrior took a deep breath deciding the conversation was again taking a wrong turn.
"Yeah I wanna eat now. Xena reached into the basket. "Well good thing Gabrielles not here because today I am so hungry I could eat as much as her." The warrior kept a steady eye on her child hoping for a reaction. There was none. She let out a quick breath and pulled out the contents of the basket. "By the gods roast beef potatoes and bread and cheese and is that cherry pie Boy Gabrielles gonna be sorry she missed all this. Ya now cherry pie is her favorite?"
Tarren took a bite from the turkey leg and dropped it back on the basket. "It is?"
The warrior mother frowned at the action but said nothing about it. "Yup and mine too so if shed have been here I might have had to sit on her just to get the pie."
The child smiled a bit knowing her mother was teasing. "You can have mine Momma."
"Thank you but you and I share our stuff." Xena placed the food down and lifted the little girl closer. "Oh Tarren I am sure Gabrielle has a really good reason for not coming and I promise that we will find out what it is after we eat all the food."
Tarren shrugged and considered the acceptable reasons for her friends absence. "Ya think she fell in a hole?"
Xena closed her eyes and shook her head. She grabbed two plates and muttered things under her breath about holes as she prepared two plates of food. The mother handed one to her child and dropped a napkin on the youngsters lap. "Just eat."
After finishing the meal mother and daughter relaxed under the stars allowing the small flames of the fire to light their small camp.
When all but the cherry pie had been eaten the mother patted her leg motioning for the child to return to her lap. "Cmere Monster. I need to ask you something?"
The child grinned and eagerly flopped on the warriors stomach. "Ok Momma"
Xena groaned and lifted the overstuffed youngster to one side. "That woman we found on the trails name was Tyrell." She noticed the youngsters expression change at the mention of the event. "Did she say something to you before ."
The child stared at her boot. "Ya know Momma that really is a neat way you track me."
Xena took a deep breath realizing she was going to have to press harder than she had wanted. "Tarren look at me," she ordered.
The little girl slowly focused her attentions on her mother. "Yes Momma"
The mother ran her fingers across her temple. "Gabrielle has a very soft and usually long approach to asking questions but me I just like to ask things straight." She took another breath. "Tarren I need to know. Its very important. Tell me what the woman said to you please."
The little girl shook her head and turned away. "No."
Xena closed her eyes and swallowed hard realizing her approach would need to be stiffer. "Young lady I asked you a question and you will answer me," she said in a forced scolding tone.
The child turned quickly around and stared at her mother with wide teary eyes. "I
The warrior knew the child had to release the words to release the fear that was eating her up inside. "I said answer me right now Tarren," she yelled.
Tarren bit her lip and Xena could see the tears streaming down the childs cheeks. She said said we had to be careful cause the cloud people would come and the ground would open up and swallow us all."
The warrior closed her eyes and swallowed hard as she wrapped her arms tenderly around her young daughter. "Thank you. Im sorry I yelled at you. I had to get you to say it. It was the only way baby." The mother held her daughter tightly placing gentle kisses on the little girls head. "Im sorry."
The child held tightly to her mother and cried in the warriors armor. "Why Momma? Why would anyone hurt that woman like that? Is the ground gonna swallow us up?"
The questions kept rolling out.
Chapter 17 - The Test of Love
Back at the Royal Office
Gabrielle sat at a large desk in the royal quarters trying to think of the right words to use. Knowing her friends gift for language the queen had asked Gabrielle to write a note regarding the death of Tyrell that could be sent quickly. However, each time a thought came to the young woman she would start to write think better of it and cross out the words. A messenger had been waiting outside the door for hours ready to take word to Queen Penela about the fate of her daughter.
Seeing that the messenger had yet to depart Ephiny walked in to the office. "Gabrielle I asked you to do a quick note. What is taking so long?" She paused. "Penela will come here for the burial anyway. You need not be so long winded."
The Princess Bard glanced up from her work and glared at her friend. "You asked me to tell a mother that she has just lost her child. That is not a quick note
It takes understanding
A husky voice at the door growled. "Yeah what would you know about compassion Princess?"
Ephiny stepped to one side as Xena entered realizing a fight between these two friends was coming.
Gabrielle threw her hands up and let out a quick breath. "What does that mean Xena?"
The warrior nodded at the queen and sauntered over to the desk placing her knuckles on the hard wood surface leaning forward just enough to overshadow her friend. "It means Princess you left a little kid in tears because you didnt show up for supper." She sneered as her friends face went blank. "She needed you and I needed you and you didnt even show up."
Gabrielle dropped her quill and covered her face with her hands. "Oh gods supper. Xena I am so sorry. Ephiny asked me to write this letter and ."
Determined not to have the blame for this incident shifted to her shoulders Ephiny held up a hand. "Wait a minute Gabrielle. I asked you if you were free and you said you had nothing to do."
Xena nodded knowing the words were true. "Well thats just what she did nothing." The warrior removed the parchment from her friends hand. "Id like to see the all important words that kept my best friend away."
Dear Queen Penela,
We regret to inform you that your daughter Princess Tyrell has passed to the great beyond. Xena, Warrior Princess, found her body. I am sure you have heard of her ."
Xenas voice dropped to a low growl. "Because Gabrielle this is about the death of a young girl. Its not a scroll about me. Stick to the facts. I told you there is no good way to tell a mother she has lost her child. I know." The words were filled with a venom for a son lost and a daughter left in tears.
The queen grinned and repositioned the petals a bit. "I thought it added a bit of class."
Ephiny nodded and grasped her friends arm. "Ill see you in the morning."
Xena took one last look at Gabrielle shook her head turned and left the quarters.
The young woman sprinted out of the door in a hurry to catch up. "Xena wait
The warrior who had been taking long strides stopped and turned. "For what?"
Gabrielle held up her hands defensively. "Look I said I was sorry and I am. I forgot all about the supper. I admit I have been carried away by all this princess stuff but I dont usually get people asking me what I think."
Xena folded her arms across her chest and frowned. "Gabrielle I ask you what you think all the time and so does Tarren."
The bard turned away to hide her tears. "Its not the same. Youve known me for a few years Xena and Tarren only hears what I say if it agrees with you." She lowered her eyes. "It took time for you to even trust me. I need to earn respect on my own not just because Im your friend." She paused. "I once told Tarren that it didnt bother me to be a sidekick I guess I was wrong. I guess I really do need to feel the strength off the sun on my face too Xena."
The warrior nodded and felt her muscles ease. She looked at this young woman who had been her friend and family for so long. They had shared so many burdens together gone through so much. They were joined by something deep inside that nothing could overpower. The warrior could feel her friends pain. She placed a tender hand on her arm. "Gabrielle you earn respect because of who you are inside not just by what you do. You had the respect of a little girl and
The bards eyes dropped. "I lost it "
Xena let out a quick breath and placed her arm around her friends shoulders and started walking once again. "No she loves you and you know it but you better have one big sloppy cheese sandwich for her if you ever want to be able to sleep with both your eyes closed again."
The young woman grinned. "Well do you think shell settle for a story?"
The warrior nodded as they approached the cottage. "I think its a step in the right direction." She smiled. "After all who can replace her Gabby?"
Gabrielle smiled at the special title and the pair walked over to the cottage where Xena could hear Shalia speaking.
The bard put her ear to the door and could tell the young Amazon was telling the giggling child a story. She cleared her throat and lowered her eyes. "Well it looks like I am easier to replace than you thought."
Xena let out a short breath and motioned toward the closed door. "Gabrielle just because Shalia tells her a story does not make her a Gabby."
The bard nodded and tried to hide her tears. "I know Well work it all out right?" She hoped those words were true.
Xena could see the pain in her friends face. It made her regret the angry words she had spoken earlier. She knew Gabrielle had a need to grow and explore her own self and to discover her own path. She put a hand on her friends face. "Gabrielle I understand that you need to find yourself your path and I am there for you. I always will be, but Tarren doesnt understand any of that. When you are not around she thinks you dont care about her. Shes such a little kid and we are all she has...all she knows. Cant you see how much you mean to her?"
Gabrielle rubbed the back of her neck with her hand as she considered the words. "Yeah I guess Xena I want to be there for her Its just ."
The warrior nodded in understanding. "I know you want to help the Amazons and so do I. Look why dont you spend some time with her tomorrow? I have to go out on the scouting party and that kid is not gonna be happy about that. I sure would feel better if she was with you."
Gabrielle nodded and leaned on her friends shoulder. "Thank you."
Xena shrugged and allowed a crooked smile. "For what? Dumping my kid in your lap. Youll be going nuts trying to keep up with her."
The bard grinned. "And thanking the gods for every minute of it."
The warrior chuckled a bit. Gabrielle really had been away too long. She had forgotten what a handful Tarren could be. "Yeah well tell me that when I get back and Ill believe you."
The bard pointed her finger at the warrior. "You just tell that kid to be ready to spend the entire day with just me."
Xena smiled at her friends enthusiasm. "Are you sure?" The mother didnt want to see her hurt again.
Gabrielle nodded. "Yes Im very sure."
As mile passed over the warriors face. Perhaps her family could be glued easily back together again. "Well why dont you come in and tell her yourself. You do still sleep here dont ya?" she asked, giving the gentle young woman a nudge.
Gabrielle nodded. "Yeah I do but I do still have to write a short and direct note to Queen Penela and Mussona has a list a field long of scrolls she wants to read." She shook her head. "That woman thinks Im her personal servant Ill see you later. Ok?"
Xena nodded and watched her friend walk away. She glanced up at the dark sky wondering if any on Olympus were listening. "Why me?" With a quick breath she entered the cottage and Shalia immediately rose from her seat.
Tarren jumped up from her place on the pallet. "Hi Momma."
The warrior lifted the little girl into her arms. "Hi Monster. Have you been behaving yourself?"
The response was fast and innocent. "Of course Momma."
The mother glanced at Shalia for confirmation.
The Amazon smiled. "Tarren has been quite well behaved. She even gave me a piece of her candy."
The little girl lowered her eyes under her mothers stare. "Found it again did you?
The child nodded. "Uh huh."
Xena placed the youngster back on her feet and put her hands on her hips. "Ok. Hand it over."
The child frowned but reached under her pillow and pulled out the bag of confections and placed it in her mothers now open palm. "Yes maam."
Tarren leaned toward Shalia. "Just so ya now stuff like candy is a secret," she whispered.
The Amazon winked at the warrior and nodded to the child. "Sorry."
The youngster shrugged and patted the young womans hand. "Its Ok your new at this and Momma always finds it anyway." She let her voice drop lower. "But then I find it again after too."
The young Amazon glanced at the warrior who grinned. "Not this time you wont," the mother said in a stern voice trying to suppress a smile.
The little girl recognized the message behind the threatening stare. "But if you want I can work on my picture Momma," she said, reaching under the mattress and pulling out the private item.
Xena motioned to the other room. "Good choice and dont forget to close the door behind you," she replied, waiting for the child to vacate the area so she could have a private conversation with the Amazon.
The youngster dragged her feet a bit. "Bye Shalia
see ya tomorrow."
The Amazon nodded. "Goodbye Warrior Princess Tarren."
Xena twisted her lips and rocked back and forth on her heals. "Tarren!"
The child looked from her mother to her new friend. "Uh it was just a game Momma. Shalia knows Im not a Warrior Princess yet. Right?" She looked at the Amazon hopeful for agreement.
The young woman suppressed a smile and nodded. "Yes of course Tarren."
The mother pointed toward the outer room and shook her head. "Well you better get your little butt in that other room before I find out just what a little Warrior Princess does besides find candy she shouldnt."
This action brought a small child flying back in caught only by the fast warrior reflexes of her mother. "Uh huh eavesdropping too?"
The child lay limp over her mothers arm. "Well my ear fell against the door and I sort of yes maam." When youre caught youre caught.
Xena nodded and stood the child up and turned her shoulders toward the room. She glanced at the Amazon. "Maybe we should talk outside. Ill be there in a minute."
Shalia nodded and left the hut.
The mother stared down at her young daughter and frowned. "Now you young lady are going to take your naughty little behind in that room and sit at that table and do your picture. You are not to move. Do you understand?"
The child glanced up at her frustrated mother. "Yes Momma."
Xena nodded and gave the youngster a fast swat to the seat of her britches to help her remember which direction to head.
Tarren yelped at the feel of her mothers muscular hand.
The warrior shook a warning finger. "That is for putting your little ear where it doesnt belong," she thundered. "Now get moving before you get another one."
The child did not waste time rubbing her bottom but merely sprinted into the other room before her mother followed through on that last thought.
Xena closed the door and shook her head. "Her ear fell against the door
playing Warrior Princess," she muttered, trying to hide a grin at her young daughters overly active imagination. She took a breath smiled and moved outside the cottage. To her relief Shalia was still waiting. "Im sorry but Tarren needed some attending."
Shalia was leaning up against the hut staring up at the night sky her long hair blowing in the breeze. The young Amazon seemed to find comfort in the gentle embrace of darkness. "It is alright. I have no place else to be and your duties as her mother should come before anything else."
"Thank you." The mother glanced at the Amazon as she took a seat on a bench beside her. The warrior had managed to have the royal guards dismissed at any time Gabrielle was not present. It had taken very little to convince them that it might be safer for all if she and her daughter were left to their privacy. Xena fiddled with her chakrum hoping to find the right words to impart to the obviously lonely girl. "Shalia you are so young. Dont you have friends that you would prefer to be with? I mean I love having you available for Tarren but she is not your responsibility."
Shalia lowered her eyes. "I have few friends. I am afraid that an Amazon who does not swing a sword well is not looked upon with much regard." Her voice was filled with a sadness of greater depth than one so young should ever feel.
Xena let out a quick breath knowing the words were true. "But you are a member of the queens house."
Shalia smiled a bit as she thought of her adopted family. "Yes and that gets me superficial respect but I know what is said behind my back. I dont mind." She offered the warrior a heartfelt smile. "Ephiny has been very good to me and very patient. She is a good queen and she will one day be a great one if ." Her voice trailed off. "I am sorry you wanted to talk to me and I am rambling on." She lowered her eyes.
The warrior grinned and placed a comforting hand on the young womans arm. She did not want the girl retreating into her shell again. "Its Ok I dont mind at all. I have a friend who rambles on like that and I sort of miss it."
The warrior tilted her head to one side. "Are you an oracle Shalia?"
The Amazon smiled. "No but some things are very obvious especially to those of us who do little more than observe the world."
Xena folded her hands behind her head and took a deep breath of the clean night air. "You can join it too Shalia. Its a big place. You dont have to stay here. What Tarren said about coming with us ."
The young Amazon smiled and shook her head. "Xena I have no intention of deserting my home and my people, but Tarren seemed so hurt that I could not tell her that. She misses Princess Gabrielle but she will not admit it."
Xena scratched her head a bit stunned by this young womans insight. "Shalia I have to admit you are not like any Amazon I have ever known. You always seem to say and do the right thing but
Shalia bobbed her head up and down. "But I am no warrior because I do not look like much of a fighter."
Xena a gain smiled at the young womans intuition. "I only agree with the part about you not looking like much of a fighter. Something tells me you are pretty formidable in your own way."
"I have my gifts as do we all Xena." She stared at the leather-clad woman for a long moment. "However, I do not wish to harm anything." She took a few steps away and turned. "A warrior is something that comes from the heart not the muscles. I was told that at a very young age and I still believe it."
Xena nodded realizing that this young womans wisdom was far beyond her years. "Youre right Shalia." She sighed remembering her earlier conversation with the bard. "I wish Gabrielle could see that."
The reply was filled with confidence. "She will in time I am sure."
The mother let out a long breath as she thought of her child. "And Tarren ."
The Amazon completed the sentence. "And Tarren needs her mother very much right now."
Again Xena smiled. "You are quite impressive Shalia."
Shalia bowed her head slightly. "Thank you. Coming from you that is a great compliment Warrior Princess."
Xena grumbled a bit at the use of title returning. "Hey you and I are friends Shalia. My friends never call me that."
The young woman nodded. "Very well Xena."
The warrior moved slowly beside the young Amazon and took a deep breath. "Ya know I really just asked you to stay so I could say thank you again. We are going through a bit of a
family crisis here and I appreciate your help."
Shalia stared into the large blue eyes of her friend. "I am glad to be of service " She paused. "I wish my Amazon people could see the value of a person as more than just how far they send an arrow or how fast they wield a sword The way that you can"
Xena could not help but grin. "Well perhaps you will have to teach them."
The young womans usually bright smile faded and she backed away nervously. "I am afraid there is no time for that."
Xena took a step toward her and again Shalia moved away. "Why not?"
The young woman struggled to regain her composure and give a fair answer. "Well the negotiations are time consuming."
The warrior settled back and stared at the young woman trying to decide which words she had spoken had pushed her away. She decided a friendly hand might be best to offer. "One day all this will be over." She glanced at the now sullen form. "However, if in the meantime you want to hang around with some friends this door is always open to you."
Shalia closed her eyes and tried to smile. "Thank you."
Xena folded her arms and moved closer to the cottage door. "Look Shalia I have to go out on a scouting trip in the morning. Tarren is gonna stay with Gabrielle. Im sure everything will be fine but will you just keep ." She shook her head. "I cant believe Im asking this."
The calmness that was the Amazons familiar persona returned. "I will be very happy to make sure Tarren is not alone." She lowered her eyes a bit not wishing to speak out of place. "Xena never feel guilty for wanting to protect your child. A good mother like a good leader should always puts the needs of their child or their people first."
The warrior let out a long breath grateful she did not have to finish the request. She heard the last of the words as if they were spoken inside her head in a whisper rather than out loud. She nodded at the young Amazon. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight." Shalia started to turn but paused and looked back at the warrior. "Xena be careful. Sometimes the things we cannot see really can hurt us. Do not be so quick to trust your eyes."
The warrior cocked her head to one side and even looked to the ground for some signs of the womans exit but there were none. "Damn shes good. Im gonna have to get her to track with us."
With a deep breath the warrior entered the cottage walking straight to the back room where she had left her daughter.
The youngster was busy drawing but seeing her mother enter rolled up her picture and placed it out of sight beneath the table.
The mother grinned at the action. "Relax Im not gonna peak" she glanced at the rolled parchment at the youngsters feet as she seated herself at the table. "Is that ever gonna be finished?"
The child moved the parchment to one side with the tip of her boot. "Yes maam."
The warrior mother shook head. "Oh I get it you got a swat and now youre gonna Maam me."
Xena folded her arms against her chest and started to rise. "Well if you feel that way I guess Ill just go back in the other room."
Tarrens eyes went wide and she yanked on her mothers arm. "No I dont want you to go Momma."
Xena again lowered herself into the chair. "Now Im Momma again?"
The child tilted her head to one side confused by the words. "You were always Momma. I was just acting mad at you for a minute."
The warrior mother leaned back in the chair and shook her head. "You try and eavesdrop on me get caught and get your tail swatted for it and Youre mad at me? Little one I think you have that backwards."
The child bit her lip. It sounded so much different when her mother phrased it. "Im the one who got a swat."
The warrior nodded and let her elbows lean on the table. "And you are the one who deserved it and will get another one if I catch you doing that again." She tilted her head to one side. "What have I told you about listening in on private conversations?"
"That its bad." Tarren lowered her head and let her fingers make circles on the surface of the table. "Sorry Momma."
Xena placed her hand over the childs and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Thats more like it." She paused and stared at the now silent child. She patted her leg. "Cmere Naughty Monster I want to talk to you."
The child bit her lip and moved around the edge of the table to slide onto her mothers lap. "Momma if this is about the candy. I found it accidental like and Shalia was a guest so ."
The warrior shook her head and grinned a bit. "No not the candy but I dont want to see you accidentally finding it again. You eat too much of that stuff Tarren. Youre gonna rot your teeth."
"Dont worry Momma I have spares remember." The youngster opened her mouth and displayed her baby teeth reminding the mother once again of just how very young her child somehow was.
Xena ran her hand through the childs hair and smiled. "Yeah I remember baby but still no more candy." She shook a finger. "We dont want all those little teeth coming out before the replacements are ready to come in. You have enough empty spots in there."
The youngster frowned realizing her supply of confections would be short for a while. "Yes Momma." She leaned on the warriors chest and fingered the straps. "So what you wanna talk about? Are we going tracking again tomorrow?"
Xena ignored the fingers on the leather and repositioned the child closer to one side. "Uh no baby not tomorrow. Thats sort of why I want to talk to you about Gabrielle."
The mother again shook a warning finger. "You know who she is."
Tarren started to hum as she yanked at the forbidden leathers. This was getting to be a very bad habit.
Xena grinned and grabbed the little fingers and held them in her and. "Are you determined to keep doing that until you rip it and I have to spank you. Because if you are then Ill just cut one off myself for you and paddle your little backside right now. It will save us both a lot of trouble and anticipation. Ok?"
"Well if you keep yanking on it you will so stop."
The child could sense the seriousness in the words. "Yes maam."
The warrior let out a growl and tossed the child playfully in the air catching her in her arms. "You are driving me insane?"
"Hmm Im sorry Momma."
The warrior cradled the child in her arms tightly. "No youre not."
"Yes I am."
"No youre not.
The little girl smiled and again reached for the straps. "Ok I dont wanna be dis
spectful Momma so Ill say Im not."
The warrior grinned and started tickling the grinning child. "Naughty."
When the youngsters smile had fully returned the mother sat placing her child back on her lap. "Ok enough play. I want to talk about Gabrielle and dont even think of saying who," she warned.
"OK why?" The child giggled and made a valiant attempt at escape only to find her self caught under the arm by the warriors fast reflexes.
The mother pulled the chuckling youngster back onto her lap. "Get back here you naughty little Xena."
All stops were being pulled out. The magic words were being spoken.
Tarrens eyes grew wide and her head turned. "Momma you never call me that."
Xena frowned and let her long hair drop in front of her. "Well thats because youve never acted as stubborn as me before."
The child smiled. "Thanks Momma."
"Youngster that was not supposed to be a compliment."
The little girl kept her smile and even allowed her eyes to grow a bit wider as if considering changing her name to little Xena. "Oh Ok Momma."
The warrior mother grinned and dropped her head onto the childs shoulder. "Tarren listen to me. This is important." She let out a long breath. "Look I know youre angry with Gabrielle and I understand that, but I want you to also understand that she is feeling very bad about missing supper with us and hurting your feelings."
The child shrugged and rolled a long strand of her mothers hair in her fingers. "She didnt hurt me. I dont care that she didnt come to supper or nothing."
"Yes you do."
"No I dont"
Xena watched as the little girl attacked the single braid she wore on one side. "Tarren you do care." She got a grip on the youngsters fingers before she could undo the single strand. "Stop playing and listen!"
The child folded her hands in her lap and shrunk against her mothers shoulder hiding her eyes. "Well maybe I used to care a little but I dont need Gabrielle anymore. Shalia will tell me stories and stuff when youre busy Momma."
Xena pulled the little girl closer. "Hey I know you like Shalia. I like her too. Shes a very good friend, but Gabrielle is family Tarren and we do not turn our backs on family just because they make mistakes. Do we?"
The warrior ran her large hand tenderly across the little girls face. She had not realized the child had been waiting each night for the bard to return. "Ok Monster, I guess this is something both you and Gabrielle will have to figure out on your own, but you remember to show her respect. Shes still my best friend and part of our family whether youre mad at her or not. Understand?"
Xena let out a long breath and lifted the child off her lap. "Now then tomorrow I have to go out with a search party to take a look around the area we found that girl."
Tarrens face turned white with horror and she clung to her mothers arm. "Youre leaving without me Momma. What about the bad cloud people?"
The mother placed a gentle hand on the youngsters face and smiled. "Im just taking a ride with a scouting party Tarren. I will be just fine and Ill be back as soon as I can. Gabrielle will be here."
The little girl frowned. "Big deal."
"Tarren be nice."
The youngster threw her arms around the seated warriors neck. "Cant I come with you Momma?"
Xena patted the little girls back and sighed. "No it might be dangerous and I want you here."
The warrior pulled the little one forward so the child could see the seriousness in her eyes. "No buts Now you are staying here and thats the end of it. Gabrielle will be here for you until I get back. She wants to spend time with you. Give her a chance for me"
The youngster kept a tight hold on her mother but nodded. "Ok Momma but just for you Im still mad at her."
Xena shook her head and dropped it into one hand as she leaned on the edge of the table. "You are giving me gray hairs again youngster."
The little girl glanced through her mothers dark main and shook her head as she settled back on the warriors lap. "You dont have any gray hairs Momma. How come you keep saying you do?"
Xena smiled as she wrapped her arms around her child. "I dont know. Maybe I just feel like I have them."
Tarren let out a short breath and stared at the woman who had given her life and then returned to offer her a new one. "Im sorry Momma. Ill be nice to your friend Gabrielle if you want."
The mother gave a crooked smile. "My friend? Shes our friend and you remember that."
The child said nothing more but merely lay her head down on her mothers broad shoulder trying to get the visions of people falling from the clouds out of her thoughts.
Tarren popped up gasping for air. "Momma get out of the way," she bellowed flailing her arms in attempt to aid her fallen mother.
Much to her surprise she was already cradled in her mothers arms and still in the safety of the royal cottage in the tribe of the Amazons. The warrior mother had seen the child was having a nightmare and immediately lifted her up and tried to wake her but the youngster had been reluctant to leave the land of Morpheous. Xena had moved the child beside the fire and cradled her close to her chest as she ran cool water over her daughters forehead in an attempt to bring her child back to the real world. She sighed with relief when the little girls eyes flew open and wrapped her arms tightly around the struggling child as Tarren popped up suddenly screaming for her mother.
"Its Ok baby. Momma is right here. It was just a bad dream. Calm down little one you just had a bad dream." The words were soft and soothing. Xena could feel the child shivering through the sweat soaked nightshirt.
Tarren felt her breathing slow as she looked into the soft blue loving eyes of her parent. She threw her arms around the warriors neck sobbing against her chest. "Momma."
Xena patted the childs back tenderly with one hand while she let the side if her own face drop and caress the youngsters small head. "Shh Im right here baby." She forced a slight smile. "Ya know I was beginning to wonder if you were ever gonna finish off those bad warlords and come back to me," she said softly, guessing the child had dreamt of some battle scene created in her own imagination.
Tarren lifted her eyes up and Xena could see the tear stained cheeks of her small daughter. The childs voice shook with the same vigor as her small form. "No Momma
bad cloud people
they got Ephiny and you I think
The warrior closed her eyes and cradled the child closer shaking her head at the ongoing repercussions of the little girls earlier discovery. "Tarren it was just a bad dream. There are no cloud people. Im right here an nothing is gonna happen to me."
The youngster clung to her mothers side so tightly that Xena could feel the childs heartbeat mixing with her own. "I dont want you to go tomorrow. Dont go Momma."
The mothers reply was soft and soothing and without hesitation. "I have to go. Im the only one who can show Ephiny where that girl was found and thats an important job."
Tarren shook her head and pushed forward hoping that she could somehow crawl safely inside her mothers skin. "No no no Stay with me Im your important job. Remember?"
Xena closed her eyes and felt her throat tighten as her own words were thrown back to her. "Yes you are the most important job I have baby, but remember how we talked about how sometimes I might have to go away for just a little bit and that Id always come right back for you?"
Xena ran her hand up and down the youngsters back rocking her slowly as she spoke. "Well this is one of those times and I need you to be the little Warrior Princess while Im gone. Ok?"
The warrior mother had used the magic words once again.
The child picked her head up immediately. "You want me to be a Warrior Princess?" she asked in disbelief.
Xena smiled at the sudden look of excitement in her small daughters eyes. She nodded. "Yup but just a little one, so that means you still have to do what Gabrielle tells you. And just while Im gone. When I come back its my job again."
The youngster considered the offer. After all someone had to stay behind and protect the innocent. "Ok Momma if you need me to take over while youre gone."
Xena suppressed a smile. "Thats my Baby."
The youngster sat up and shook her head. "Thats Warrior Princess Momma."
The warrior grinned hoping she was doing the right thing bestowing this title even as a game. "Not until tomorrow. Right now you are just my baby." She lifted the still shaking child into her arms. "Come on lets get you all cleaned up and changed and you can tell me all about your bad dream. If I should ever see one of those cloud people I want to know it."
Xena felt that if she got the child to talk about the nightmare that perhaps the little girl would realize the difference between dreams and reality.
Tarren clung to her mothers shoulder as the warrior took her toward the bath area.
She undressed the youngster and lowered her into the tub. For once the child did not struggle. However once in the water the child reached a hand up to her mother. "Arent you coming in?"
The warrior thought about it. There would be no time for a bath in the morning and she knew she would do little more than watch her young daughter sleep tonight so with a grin she tossed her shift to the floor and jumped in. "Of course I am."
The little girls fear seemed to dissipate once she knew her mother would remain close by.
As Xena bathed the night sweat from the childs baby skin she bounced the little girl playfully in the water. When she was sure the childs giggles had released enough of her fear to speak, she lowered the youngster to one side of the tub. "Now tell me about those awful cloud people. What did they look like?"
The child held onto her mothers neck making it difficult for the warrior to bathe her but Xena was not about to detach the child at any cost. "Well they were big and they had blond hair big teeth large mouths six arms and they told stories so you didnt pay attention to your fighting." She paused as she remembered further details. "Watch out for that Momma."
Xena nodded in appreciation as she noted the eerie monsters of the little girls dream all had some bard like qualities. "Yup it just never pays to take a vacation," she thought as she continued to bathe the now calm child and listen to her further description of the clouds and the great battle.
The tail was still being told and retold as the mother dressed the child and placed her back in the pallet.
Small arms waved dramatically in the air. "And I didnt see you get hit Momma, but an arrow came out of nowhere and whoosh
someone got hit."
Xena nodded realizing this flair for the overly dramatic was a gift the child had attained from the bard. She pulled the covers over the now quiet child and lay down beside her. "Well there you have it."
The little girl searched her hands for a new possession. "What do I Momma?"
The warrior mother leaned on one elbow as she tucked the covers neatly around her childs face. "You know it was all just a dream because you have seen me catch arrows. I cant have gotten hit."
The child stared up at the ceiling for a long moment. "Thats true I never thought about that Momma." She grinned at this added information and then looked at her mother. "Are you gonna teach me to catch arrows?"
Realizing her little girls attentions had been turned the mother smiled. "Yup."
Tarren sat up in the bed eager for a time and date to be given. "Really! When Momma?"
The warrior gently pushed the little girl back under the blankets and grinned. "At the same time I let you drink port."
"But Momma you said I could never...Ahh Momma." Realizing that meant never did not please the child.
The warrior ran her hands across the childs sides as she repeated the youngsters groan. "Ahh Momma." She smiled. "You dont need to catch arrows. Ill catch them for you."
Knowing this was just another forbidden skill like the sword and the chakrum only furthered the youngsters interest. "Will you teach me to catch apples real fast just in case someone ever throws one at me."
Xena grinned knowing the child was still very determined to imitate her. "Yeah Ill show you how to catch apples real fast but only if you behave while Im gone tomorrow."
"I will Momma."
Xena pulled the child closer to her and tucked her under her arm protectively. "Good girl So you think you can go to sleep again?"
Tarren bit her lip and faced her mother. "Ill try if you go to sleep at the same time."
The mother smiled. "Ok well take the same ship to Morpheous and if you see any more of those cloud people just stand aside and Ill take care of them all."
The little girl shook her head. "No Momma were a team. I haffta help."
"Not with fighting you dont." she replied sternly, forgetting this was just an imaginary battle.
The youngster shook her head and patted her mothers arm. "Its my dream Momma."
Xena smiled happy the youngster had finally accepted the word and realized where reality started and stopped. "Ok Monster in the dream you can lead the way but Ill be right behind you if you need me. Ok?"
The little girl smiled broadly at being allowed to head the battle. "Yup
come on Xena lets go get them."
The warrior twisted her lips at being called Xena by her daughter. After everything she had gone though in Amphipolis with this child she was not about to let that ever start again. "What was that you said my sore bottomed little girl?"
The child blinked innocently. "My bottoms not sore Momma."
The mother arched her brows. "Yet."
Tarren smiled broadly showing all her small white teeth and a few blank spot as well. "Oh . Sorry What I meant to say was lets go get them Momma If youre ready that is Momma maam?" The child swallowed nervously.
The warrior mother grinned and placed a gentle kiss on her childs cheek. "Uh huh much better you little Monster."
The youngster sighed with relief gripped her mothers hand tightly and nuzzled beneath the warriors side for safety as they headed back to the land where anything was possible and sometimes secrets were revealed.
Later that night
The little girl lay still as if asleep and watched as the young woman walked to her pallet on the tips of her toes and quietly slipped into a nightdress. The youngster kept one eye closed and the other trained on the bard as she sat on the pallet dropping her head into her hands. Tarren could see her friend was tired and warn out from something.
Gabrielle looked at the small not so sleeping form nestled beside the warrior and grinned. "You two become more like one person every day," she whispered. She knelt beside the pallet and Tarren quickly closed both eyes.
Not realizing the youngster could hear her the young woman whispered. "Im sorry I missed supper. I guess I really messed up." She moved the youngsters fingers from the edge of her lips. The child had began sleeping with all four of her fingers tucked in her mouth and both she wand the warrior were trying to discourage the habit. "I really did want to make it back earlier. I wanted to tell you a great bedtime story." She paused and wiped away a tear from her own cheek. "I guess Im not much good to you lately. Im sorry Tarren. I hope you know how much you mean to me. I know youre mad at me and I guess you have every right to be. Maybe some day when youre much older youll understand why the stuff Im doing for the Amazons is so important to me. I just get really confused sometimes and well Im not like Xena and I dont always know what to do." She paused and kissed the little girls forehead. "But nothing is as important to me as you and that leather bound rag doll of yours are. Gods I hope you know that."
Tarren kept her breathing steady so as not to allow her friend to see she was awake and hearing her pleading words.
The young woman lifted the blankets up closer to the child and then returned to her own pallet and with a deep breath and a long stretch crawled into the covers eager to find some comfort in sleep. "Goodnight Xena Goodnight Tarren." She had a need to say the words even though she was sure her friends would never hear them.
Tarren let her eyes open a bit as she watched her friend fall into her pallet. She bit her lip as she thought about her friends words. "Gnight," she whispered.
Beside the child a large figure opened her eyes and did the same.
Chapter 18 A Test of Love
Xena arose from the blankets eager for an early start on her mission. The sooner she left the sooner she could return and deal with her own growing family troubles.
The mother motioned the youngster toward the door. She wanted to get her child settled with Gabrielle before she left.
Tarren grabbed her treasure bag and opened her eyes wide as she looked up at the imposing figure of her mother. "Sure I cant come Momma? I'll be real good."
Xena patted the childs head. "No baby. This I must do alone. Besides I want you and Gabrielle to spend some time together." She paused. "I know you were just as awake as I was last night."
The child grinned. "You were awake too?"
"I was watching you just in case you needed me."
The child smiled. "Really? Thanks Momma. I was awake too."
Xena nodded. "I know."
Tarren tilted her head so she could look up into her mothers face. "I was watching you too Momma."
Xena grinned at the childs concern. "Why thank you for keeping an eye on me but I think I can sort of watch us both. Ok?"
The youngster nodded. "Ok Momma. It was sorta tough staying awake all night so if you think you can handle things Ill let ya."
The warrior mother let out a breath as she took hold of her daughters hand. I think I can handle it." She lifted the child into her arms. "However, the point is we both heard what Gabrielle said. Right?"
The youngster nodded and lowered her eyes. "Yeah we heard her."
The mother picked the childs chin up with one finger and kept a steady gaze on the youngster. "But we are not gonna tell her that are we because it would hurt her feelings and we dont want to do that. Right?"
"No Momma we wont tell her we were ears dropping."
"Hey it wasnt eavesdropping," the mother replied defensively.
"Yes it was Momma."
"No it wasnt."
"Why not Momma? We were listening to something that was private."
Xena thought for a moment. "Because I said so." There was no time for lengthy explanations.
The youngsters response was simple and filled with understanding for the familiar words. "Oh Ok Momma."
Tarren lowered her head and Xena lifted it immediately with the tips of her fingers. "You will behave while Im gone."
The little girl nodded already feeling the burden of her mothers absence. "Ill try."
The warrior shook her head. "No youngster you will behave."
The warrior took the little girl by the hand and motioned toward the door.
Tarren could not help but notice that while her mother was wearing her chakrum, she was leaving her sword behind. "Momma you forgot your sword."
Xena shook her head. "No I didnt. Im not taking it," she replied sadly.
The little girls grew wide. She hardly ever saw her mother without her sword. It was hard to believe she would ever leave it behind. "How come?"
As if chastising herself for not taking better care of her weapon she grimaced. "The strap on the sheathe broke and the handle feels a bit off so I have to repair it." She looked at the concern in her childs yes and rubbed the youngsters head. " Dont worry. Ephiny is gonna loan me a blade. Besides my chakrum will do just fine for a few hours. We are just taking a look at the area Tarren. We are not expecting a fight." She fingered her circular sword. "However like I said I still have this." She twirled it on one finger until the youngsters smile returned.
The warrior looked longingly at her prized weapon wishing she had found time to repair the handle. "OK come on. Lets go. Gabrielle is waiting for you and Ephiny is waiting for me."
Xena walked Tarren over to what had now become Gabrielles office and with a gentle push propelled the youngster in the door. The warrior cleared her throat to announce their presence. "Good Morning."
The young woman looked up from her scrolls and smiled at the sight of her family. "Hi guys."
Xena glanced at Tarren who had yet to greet the bard. "Tarren where are your manners?"
The child shrugged wondering if they were positioned next to her gut instinct. She lifted her tunic to see. "I dunno. Where are they Momma?"
Xena arched her brow in warning and the child smiled weakly. "Oh sorry ." She bit her lip and looked at the bard. "Hi Gabrielle."
The warrior rolled her eyes and yanked the tunic back in place. She nodded to her best friend. "I shouldnt be gone more than a few hours." She paused and looked down at the small now quiet form. "You behave yourself."
Tarren turned and looked up at her mother and Xena could see a stray tear falling. She dropped to one knee beside the little girl. "Tarren Im only gonna be gone a little while," she said softly.
The youngster could not control her emotions any longer. She rubbed her eyes with the balls of her fists as the tears started to fall. "I dont want you to go. Stay with me. I dont wanna be the warrior princess while youre gone. I want you to stay and be the real Warrior Princess Momma."
Gabrielle could feel her own throat choking a bit at the youngsters unwillingness to part with her mother.
Xena moved in closer to allow the little girl throw her arms around her. "Hey come on Monster. We talked about this. You know I need to go and you know Ill be back soon."
Tarren wiped her eyes with her sleeve. "But what if the cloud people come?"
"Hey Im still a Warrior Princess and Ephinys coming with me so thats an Amazon Queen and a Warrior Princess. I dont think theres anything that can beat that."
The warrior grinned. "Yup and I promise I will be back before you have time to miss me."
The child reached out and again hugged her mother. "I miss you already."
Gabrielle folded her arms against her chest and tilted her head. "Blond? Storytelling Monster?"
Xena shrugged at her friends words as she caressed the childs face. "She just had a nightmare."
The bard nodded. "Uh huh and an interesting one at that."
Xena hugged the little girl. "I miss you too Monster but remember what we talked about last night if you wanna learn to catch those fast apples." She moved in closer. "Dont let Gabrielle fall in any holes Ok?"
The child nodded and Xena gave her a gentle kiss. "Ok then I will see you later and I know Im gonna hear nothing but glowing reports about how well behaved you were."
Gabrielle watched the entire exchange in awe knowing that somewhere in the past months without warning without seeing it, Xena had turned into a warm and loving mother. She was really quite good at her new job and she and Tarren had a relationship that any parent and child would envy.
Xena stood and faced Gabrielle. "Will you be Ok with her?" she asked in a near whisper showing some concern for her departure.
This was a question the warrior had never asked before. She had always been sure Gabrielle could handle anything that came up and that Tarren would feel comfortable in the bards company.
Gabrielle let out a long breath and nodded. "Yeah well be fine." She moved in closer to her friend and gave her a gentle poke. "You be real careful warrior."
Gabrielle moved beside Tarren and together they watched Xena ride out toward the scouting party which, was waiting on the outskirts of the village.
Tarren turned and faced the bard. She was eager to make up with her friend and had even brought a peace offering deciding to break her own vow and show the bard her picture before it was even complete.
The young woman crouched down in front of the quiet little girl. "Tarren I just want you to know
Before Gabrielle could finish the sentence a pair of small arms were wrapped tightly around her neck holding on for all the love and affection they could get.
Gabrielle threw her arms around the child and dropped to her knees. "Hey whats all this about? I figured youd be mad at me."
The child wiped her eyes but kept a firm hold on her friend. "I tried Gabby but I couldnt be. I missed ya and awful lot."
The young woman hugged the child so tightly it lifted her off the ground. "I missed you too brat and I am so sorry I hurt you. I didnt mean to. I just got all
The youngster covered the womans mouth with her small hand. "Its Ok Gabby, I know how tough it is to be good all the time."
Gabrielle wiped tears from her own eyes. "I am so sorry about the flower."
The child smiled and pulled from her pocket the white flower with the pink trim. "I kept it for ya if ya still want it."
Gabrielle took the prized item and placed it on her shirt. "I cant imagine wanting anything more accept maybe another big hug."
Tarren smiled and embraced the bard again. "Do you think Momma will be Ok?" she asked, her fear for her mothers safety still evident.
Gabrielle signed. She knew the child was worried about her mother. "Hey do you think anyone could ever beat the great Warrior Princess?"
Tarren did not want to show a loss of faith. "No but
The bard nodded in understanding. "Youre still worried about her huh?"
The child lowered her eyes. "Yes."
Gabrielle leaned back and placed a tender hand on the little girls shoulder. "Ok Ill tell you what. If it will make you feel better I will send two additional guards just to look after her."
Tarrens mouth dropped open at the thought of such power. "Can you do that?"
The Princess bard waved a hand in the air. "Yup while Ephiny is away I am in charge."
She called to the door and a guard appeared. The Princess Bard gave her command.
"Pick two of the finest warriors we have and have them join Xena and Ephiny on the trail as an escort."
The guard nodded. "Yes my Princess."
Gabrielle leaned down and smiled at the child. "There now do you feel better?"
Tarren hugged her gentle friend. "Uh huh thanks Gabby."
The bard welcomes the affection and smiled. "You are quite welcome honey."
The little girl allowed her eyes to scan the large office. She could not help but notice a large pile of scrolls piled under a window near a small opening with a bamboo shoot.
"What are those?" she asked pointing the pile of untouched scrolls
Gabrielle knelt beside the child and grinned. "Believe it or not those are Amazons seeking my err wisdom I guess they dont feel they know me well enough to ask me something face to face so they send little scrolls through the window."
Tarren let her hands fumble through the rolled parchments. "Do ya answer them?"
Gabrielle shook her head knowing this was yet another responsibility she had not had time to fulfill. "No I havent had any time yet but I will."
The little girl nodded and kicked away a stray scroll with the tip of her boot. "Youre real important here now huh?"
The young woman found it hard to resist a chance to try and impress the child. After all Xena was always the hero and Gabrielle hoped for a moment in the spotlight too. "Well actually...yeah I guess I am," she replied with a silly grin.
Tarren lowered her eyes not wanting her true feelings to be seen. "So you like it here I guess."
Gabrielle looked around the office. It was nice to have a desk and a chair to write at sometimes. "Yeah its nice to be needed and feel like you make a difference. Dont you agree?" she asked, hoping she was truly impressing the little girl.
Remembering her mothers words the little girl tried to force a smile. "Yeah I guess."
Gabrielle noted the change in the childs disposition. "Hey now come on. I planned a big breakfast for us and I have been dying to tell my favorite brat a story for days now."
The little girls eyes grew wide with excitement. She had truly missed her friends stories. "You have?"
The bard took the child by the hand. "Yes I have so lets go eat. I am starving."
Tarren giggled as they headed out the door. "Gabby youre always starving."
The bard grinned and gave the little girl a quick tickle making the child giggle. "You know kid you really do sound more like your mother every day."
After a huge breakfast Gabrielle and Tarren returned to the office and sat down on the couch. Tarren nestled close to the bard and the young woman was happy to offer her lap as a source of comfort. She had not realized just how much she has missed the youngster until that moment. "Gods even Im full. Do you think we left any food for the rest of the Amazons," the young woman asked with a weak smile.
The little girl rubbed her stomach and smiled. "Nope."
Gabrielle chuckled and kissed the child on the head. "Well too bad. Let them go fishing." She glanced down at the small form looking up at her. "How about that story?"
The youngster put her feet up and dropped her head on her friends lap. "Ok but after that I have something I wanna show you."
"Fair enough." The bard stroked the childs face. "Comfortable?"
The child grinned. "Uh huh."
Gabrielle leaned back and for the first time in a long time felt relaxed. "Ok good once upon a time there was a Princess and ."
There was a knock at the door and the story was immediately interrupted.
The Princess Bard let out a quick breath and growled. "Yes."
Eponon entered slowly. "I am sorry to interrupt Princess but we have a problem. Queen Mussona has decided to leave."
Gabrielle moved the youngster to one side. "Excuse me honey." She sprung up from the couch. "What? She cant leave. We are waiting for the others to come."
Eponon shrugged her response. "She feels that because of the incident with the death of Tyrell that it would best for her to return to her tribe in case there is trouble."
Gabrielle paced around the room considering her options. "Ok Ill talk to her. She cant leave now. We have to keep this thing together. Have her meet me in the hall in an hour."
Eponon nodded and sprinted out the door.
Gabrielle turned to Tarren and sighed. "Im sorry honey but the story will have to wait a bit. With Ephiny gone I have to speak to Queen Mussona. I'll try not to be long. You can wait here. Ill send Shalia to stay with you if you like."
The child fell back against the couch and nodded. "Sure Gabrielle. Whatever you say."
The bard felt her insides melt realizing that she had just lost the very bond she had reaffirmed. She knelt beside the youngster. "Look Tarren I promise Ill be back soon."
Tarren jumped to her feet and shook her head. Her small hands were balled into fists. "No you always promise but you dont keep your promises. You said youd stay with me but you lied. You said youd have supper but you didnt. You promised Momma youd be with me while she was gone and now youre leaving." The child took a step away from her friend. "Now youre gone and Mommas gone and I dont want anyone. I hate it here. I hate all these Amazons." Tears streamed down the little girls cheeks but she would accept no comfort from her friend.
Gabrielle tried to reach out a hand but the youngster backed way. "Tarren if you will just listen
Before the bard could stop her the child pushed past her. "Im a warrior princess. I dont haffta listen to anyone." With those final words the youngster sprinted out the door before Gabrielle could stop her.
Tarrens trail of terror
Tarren ran back to the cottage and dropped her treasure bag on the pallet. She reached inside and pulled out her picture. All plans to show Gabrielle the artwork were now gone. She ripped it in half and dropped it to the floor as she cried. "Itll never happen It wont." Her face filled with tears as she realized that these Amazons had shattered all her dreams. They had stolen her friend and taken her mother away from her.
Hearing approaching footsteps the youngster quickly climbed out the window. If she was not to have her mother or Gabrielle then she was not to have anyone. She would live life alone as the Warrior Princess but first there was an enemy to deal with.
Shalia skidded into the cottage hoping to locate the missing child. "Tarren," she called. Seeing the torn picture on the ground she dropped to her knees. "Oh no Tarren not your beautiful picture," she whispered, picking the two pieces up rolling them and placing them safely in her cuff.
Gabrielle came running in behind her. "Is she here?" The bards face was filled with concern at the still absent child
Shalia shook her head. "No she was but now shes gone."
The bard dropped her shoulder against the door. "Damn! This is all my fault."
Gabrielle smiled at the young Amazons wisdom. She wished she had found some time to talk with this girl. "Thank you. Shalia I have to speak with Queen Mussona for a few minutes. Please keep looking for Tarren. I will get Eponon and the other warriors to join you."
Shalia bowed but Gabrielle ignored the gesture and headed back to the hall wanting just enough time to make her excuses fast and to the point for the impatient queen.
Tarren walked slowly behind huts and through bushes in an attempt to go unnoticed. She reached Borallas kitchen and crawled inside the now empty galley hoping for some refuge. The tears streamed down her face as she huddled in the corner hearing her name being called in the compound. "Go away Amazons," she muttered, wiping her face dry.
Seeing a basket of dough balls sitting by the stove the child wiped the last of her tears and smiled wickedly. "Fine they want a war. The great Warrior Princess will give them a battle they will never forget," she said standing straight. The youngster tucked a large wooden spoon in her waist as a fair replacement for a sword grabbed the basket of dough balls and again sprinted out the window. "Amazons who needs them. Nothing but trouble every last one of them," she muttered as she scurried up a tree covering the tracks behind her carefully with a branch. "The great Warrior Princess shall have her revenge." She snickered and found herself a comfortable branch to hide on.
The child sat on the tree limb watching as people in search of her passed by. When she picked a target out that she felt was Amazon enough she loaded a dough ball in her slingshot and took aim.
The pelted individual was always left dazed and confused wondering where the attacking ball of food could come from. The youngster had learned from watching her warrior mother how to ricochet an object to mask its origin.
The youngster chuckled as she pelted Gruella for the third time. "The Warrior Princess never forgets an enemy." She watched Shalia walk beneath and lowered her weapon. "Or a friend." When the young Amazon had passed the child resumed her attack.
Before the youngster could climb down she heard the voices of approaching Amazons that were apparently looking for her. "Huh no Amazon will ever capture the mighty Warrior Princess." She leaned up against a branch. "Ok this means war. Im a warrior princess so I can handle this," the child muttered determined to live up to her title.
The youngster moved through the trees until she spotted a very familiar Amazon with a rather hefty head full of feathers. "Hmm thats the one who called me an orphan
Got me in trouble for touching her old feathers." She held her spoon in the air. "I put the mark of the mighty Warrior Princess on you." She smiled as she watched the woman pass by. "That means you get your butt kicked lady," she said with a smirk.
The child looked at her surroundings until a plan took shape. She skidded down the tree and over to a water trough. Cupping her hands in the water she made a small mud pile beside her. She removed her tunic and covered her face with mud to mask her fair features. "Ok now well see the feathers fly." She chuckled at her own genius.
Making sure there were no witnesses present the child used all her little might and tipped the trough on its side until all the water had drained into the path leaving a rather large mud puddle. "Hmm this almost worked in Amphipolis," she mumbled remembering the sore outcome when Xena had stepped in her trap by mistake. "I think maybe my timing was off but Mommas gone so theres no chance of her stepping in it this time."
Tarren covered the mud with leaves and with her newly camouflaged face moved through the trees until she had spotted what she new was the supply house. She giggled as she crawled in the window retrieved her supplies and returned to the trees. The child could hear her name being called all over the village but ignored it knowing her mothers voice was not among them.
"I laugh at your lack of skills Amazons. No one can track the mighty Warrior Princess." She paused. "Except Momma and shes not here." The childs eyes lowered at that thought but she continued her plan. She took a rope and tied it to a tree allowing it to drag through the mud and be covered. She tied it around the base of the tree on the far side and then with a basket full of unearned feathers she climbed back in the high branches and called. "Eponon over here. Come get me
Oh feather lady."
The weapons maser heard the small voice and sprinted in that direction sure that locating the youngster would earn her a reward from the queen. Once she was about to pass over the rope Tarren gave a yank sending the Amazon face down into the mud. The youngster giggled as she dropped the sack of feathers onto the muddy warrior leaving a rather large angry warrior covered in mud and feathered from head to toe.
Feeling her work was done the youngster stood on the branch above her victim raising her spoon in the air. "You have just been defeated by the great Warrior Princess peasant," she yelled before disappearing into the thick of the high branches.
Eponon tried to stand but slid on a mesh of feathers. "If I catch that kid first ." She thought of Xena and growled slapping the mud with her open hand. "Xena you owe me big."
Back at the hall
Gabrielle paced around the hall. "Look Queen Mussona I realize this whole thing with Tyrell is unnerving but if we just work together
The arrogant Amazon shook her head. "Together? What do you have to offer? You have no idea what it even means to be an Amazon. You were made a princess by right of cast. You do not even live amongst your people. You are a visiting figurehead." She flicked her wrist dismissing the Princess Bards attempt at negotiating.
Gabrielles eyes flared at the action but before she could speak a messenger brought her a handful of parchments. "What are these?" she asked, annoyed by the intrusion.
The messenger bowed her head. "Complaints."
The Princess Bard stared at the messenger in disbelief. "What do you mean complaints?" She paused long enough to read some of the scrolls. "Tarren? Hasnt anyone found her yet?" she asked in shock. Gabrielle had expected the youngster to be found already. Now she was getting truly worried.
"Yeah she could." An angry voice from the door responded. "She may be a small child but shes not exactly innocent and do try and remember just whose little kid that is when youre trying to catch her."
Gabrielle turned to see her weapons master half covered in a mix of mud and feathers.
"Eponon! By the gods on Olympus is that you?"
The muddy figure nodded. "Yes Princess it is me and I am sorry to report that we have lost all signs of the
Queen Mussona stood and gave a hearty belly laugh. "You cannot even control one tiny little girl and you think you can bring our tribes together as a nation. I laugh."
Gabrielles eyes fell on the visiting queen. Her usually gentle green orbs were as wild as a flaming meadow. "Shut up."
The queens laughter stopped and she leaned on the table glaring at the Amazon Princess. "What did you say?"
The princess leaned on the very same table going face to face with the visiting dignitary. "You heard me you arrogant overstuffed feather headed bag of wind."
Eponon folded her arms against her chest and grinned. "Welcome home Princess Gabrielle," she said with a smirk.
The princess ignored the words of her weapons master and kept her attentions focused on the queen. "I have been bowing to your demands for days when I should have been paying more attention to that little girl. Right now she is more important to me than whether you stay or go. So Queen Mussona if you are not wise enough to see your presence here is best for all including you then you are not as wise as I thought and are of no benefit to any of us in these negotiations."
Gabrielle turned on her heal to leave but then glanced back at the shocked dignitary. "And if you ever address me as anything less than Princess Gabrielle or treat me with less respect than I treat you I will personally shove my staff up your royal backside." With those words said she shoved the parchments in her waistline hoping to use their locations to pinpoint Tarren. The Amazon Princess pushed passed the guards determined to find a child she loved as her own.
Tarren lay on a branch eating an apple she had pilfered from a nearby window. She glanced over her muddy hands and face and smiled. "Ya know I could get used to this
food and Amazons to throw stuff at." She paused in her thoughts. "I wish Momma was here to play too."
The little girl dropped her apple to the ground as she thought about her mother. She knew the warrior would not be happy with her behavior and the chance of being taught to catch fast apples was now gone. "Mommas sure gonna be mad at me," she mumbled to a squirrel sharing the limb. As the youngster considered her mothers reaction to the days events she heard a familiar voice echoing through the village. It was Gabrielle.
Tarren frowned and watched as her friend walked through the compound calling. "Tarren please come out. You are in enough trouble already. Dont make it any worse."
The youngster leaned on one arm and stared at her friend. She could see the anger and concern in her eyes but still the child did not move. "Sorry Gabby but you have your Amazons now," she whispered with a tear.
The child lowered her eyes and moved through the branches taking one last look back at her red-faced friend before disappearing into the trees once again.
Gabrielle scanned the trees knowing that somewhere in the limbs was a very small child watching her and not answering. "Oh Tarren where are you?"
Tarren took a deep breath as she dropped from a tree far from the compound. Suddenly playing Warrior Princess with the Amazons wasnt even fun anymore. Seeing a stack of well-stacked arrows the child whipped out her chucks and with one swipe brought the pyramid into a covering of rubble. "Amazons."
The little girl sat down beside the pile leaning against a wall that encircled the village. She was tired from her war and content to wait there for her mother to return and find her. There was a rustle in the grass behind her and when the youngster turned she saw
three slim figures standing before her. The first stepped forward. "Well what do we have here girls? I think its a lost child. Maybe we should take the baby home," Lexus said with mock concern.
Tarren immediately wiped her tears and jumped to her feet. She grabbed her chucks and swung them expertly in front of her to warn the teenagers back. "Im not lost and Im not a baby." That was a private word to be used between she and her mother. The small child gave the tall teenager a strong enough shove to send her back a few feet. "You try and take me back and Ill whack you good," she warned.
Lexus straightened herself out and glanced at her two friends. The child was definitely a bit too threatening with the wands to make it worth their while to drag her back. "Well we have a little fighter here." She looked from left to right. "Teril and Galia meet Tarren. She is the daughter of Xena
so they say."
Tarrens breathing became heavy as she glared at the teenager. "What do ya mean they say? I am her daughter," she replied with a little Xena like growl. She continued the motions with the chucks wanting to make sure that these enemies knew she meant business.
Lexus grinned evilly and folded her arms against her chest. "Really well I saw Xena ride out of here this morning and she did not have her sword with her." She paused. "I heard she borrowed one from Queen Ephiny."
Lexus studied the tips of her fingers. "Why was that?"
The child bit her lower lip and looked from one teenager to the next. "Momma said it needed to be fixed and she didnt have time to do it besides she had her chakrum."
Lexus shook her head. "Just like I thought. You cant be her daughter."
Tarren dropped her chucks into her boot and again the small child shoved the teenager this time with enough force to knock her opponent to the ground. "Say it again." The tears were welling but she was making an effort to hold them back.
Lexus chuckled and got to her feet wiping the dirt from her skins. She knew she had the child right where she wanted her. "Well Tarren its just that if you were Xenas daughter you would have tested the sword the way you were supposed to."
The child let her muscles ease and fell back against the long wall. "Test? What test?"
Teril and Galia stared at their friend eager to know about the test as well. Lexus only glared at them to let each know they too were expected to join in on the game.
Teril nodded in understanding. "Oh yeah the test
Everyone knows about the test."
With a light nudge Galia agreed. "Yeah sure I do my Mothers blade all the time."
Lexus opened her arms. "Ya see. Everyone knows but you youngster but I guess it doesnt matter. I dont think Xena expects too much from such a small child anyway."
Tarren swallowed hard. She did not want to fail her mother in any way. "How do I do the test?" she asked eager to prove her heritage and protect her mother.
Lexus smiled at her equally pleased friends. "Well I dont know if I should tell you or not. I mean its not like were friends and you have not been very nice."
Galia leaned in close to Lexus. "How far are you gonna take this? If she tells her mother or the Princess were dead." She paused. "Besides she is just a little kid. She could get hurt touching a sword."
Lexus shook her head as she placed the silver bracelet on her wrist. "Dont worry! I have it all covered."
Tarren skidded back to the cottage dodging in and out of small hiding places so as not to be seen. When she reached the hut she entered through the window. She walked into the sleeping area where the prized weapon was kept and stared at the sheathed blade for a long moment. The weary child let her hand touch the sheath and then pulled it back as she remembered her mothers many strong warnings about touching the sword.
Tarren was not sure if she was doing the right thing or not but she could not forget what Lexus had said about life or death. Without further hesitation she grabbed a sack and shoved the heavy blade inside dragging it to the window and using all her strength to move it unnoticed back to Lexus for the great test.
The child reappeared before the trio of teenagers dragging the sword in the sack. "Ok I got it. Now test it fast."
Lexus studied her nails. "Oh no we cant test it. You have to. "
Tarren let out a deep breath wondering how much more energy this might take. "How?"
The teenager let her foot run along the outside of the sack. "Well Ill tell you but if I do ." She paused. "Ya know this is a secret ceremony and if your mother didnt tell you then Im not sure I should. I could get in a lot of trouble for helping you."
The youngster dropped the sack. "Hey we made a fair trade. You gotta tell."
Lexus eyed her new bracelet and smiled. "True and I do keep my promises. Ok but then no matter what happens you can't tell anyone about any of this."
Tarren nodded in agreement relieved she could gain the information needed. "I wont tell."
The teenagers expression grew cold. "Swear on your mothers life."
The child swallowed hard and nodded knowing she now could never reveal this secret. "Yes I swear on Mommas life."
Lexus smiled broadly and pointed to large rock behind the stone wall they were taking refuge behind. "Well you have to make sure the blade is sound so the first thing you have to do is take it out of the bag."
Tarren removed the sack revealing the sword of the Warrior Princess.
The teenagers were speechless at the sight of the famed blade.
"Maybe you shouldnt do this." Galia said remembering the sight of the small child crying in the corner when they first approached. "She is just a little kid."
The teenager glared at her friend. "Nonsense she deserves our help.
Lexus shrugged. "No problem
I am glad to do it. Now you see that boulder over there." She pointed to the large rock. "If a sword is true then the blade will hold the blow. If its not then it will break in two."
The childs eyes went wide again. "You want me to hit the rock with Mommas sword. What if it breaks?"
The teenager held her hands in the air. "Would you prefer it to break in her hand in battle?"
"No that would be very bad."
Lexus motioned toward the boulder. "Well then?"
"Ok." Tarren could barely hold the sword none the less swing it. She rested it on her shoulder and swung with all her might.
"That thing will snap in two," the vicious teenager said with a chuckle.
The blade made contact with the rock and to the surprise of all stayed in one piece. It even sliced an edge of the hard boulder off. However, the force of the blow forced Tarren to lose her grip and fall to the ground.
Teril opened and closed her eyes quickly. "Ive never seen a blade like that."
"Me neither," Galia agreed
Lexus moved over and picked the blade up. She immediately noticed a small nick in the side. "Well it seems the blade is sound but you youngster have nicked your mothers sword. I doubt that will please her." She tossed the sword to the ground and laughed. "Now we are even little girl." The teenager grabbed her two friends by the arms and quickly left the crime scene before they were discovered.
Tarren watched the trio go and realized she had been tricked. She stared at the nick in the otherwise smooth blade and closed her eyes allowing a single tear to fall.
"Are you Ok?" a gentle voice from behind asked.
The youngster turned to see Shalia suddenly standing beside her. She knelt down beside the teary youngster. "You know Princess Gabrielle has had half the village looking for you."
Tarren shrugged and wiped her eyes dry with her sleeve. " I dont care what Gabrielle does." She looked at the sword. "But Mommas gonna kill me."
Tarren sat on the ground pointing to the nick of about a quarter inch in the side of her mothers blade.
Shalia asked no questions about the sword.
The child looked at her friend hoping for some advice. "I guess I should hide it or something?"
The young woman lifted the sword up and put it back in the sack. "No Tarren you will just take it back to the hut and put it back where it belongs and when your mother returns you will tell her exactly what happened."
"But Shalia I cant ."
The young woman seemed to have a new force in her voice. "Tarren I said take it back to the cottage." She handed the youngster the sack and motioned toward the cottage. "When Xena returns you will tell her what happened or I will tell her."
"No Shalia dont do that." The child crossed her fingers behind her back to protect her from breaking her sacred oath. "I promise Ill tell her. Please let me do it."
The young woman nodded. "Very well Tarren. You may tell her yourself. Now return to the cottage and wait for me."
The child lowered her eyes and let her shoulders slump. "Arent you coming?"
The Amazon looked down the path she knew the teenagers had taken. "Soon I have something to do first."
Tarren let her foot slide in the dirt. "Shalia about your bracelet ."
The young woman smiled. "Go my little friend. Everything will be fine."
Tarren nodded and slowly headed back toward the cottage.
The child felt her heart sink as she dragged the sword back to the hut and again slid it through the window. She placed the sword in its spot and stared at it again for a long moment. On the chair beside it was her mothers whetstone and that inspired an idea a very bad idea.
"Hey I can just fix it. Ive seen Momma do it a 100 times."
Out on the trail near the village
Lexus walked along the quiet trail feeling quite content with her actions. A hand reached from behind a tree grabbing her firmly by the arm. "I do believe you have something that belongs to a friend of mine."
Lexus shook her head nervously. "I dont know what you mean."
Shalia looked at the girls wrist and removed the bracelet. "Well then let me help you remember." She glared at the teenager who returned the expression without as much force.
Lexus tried to break free of the young womans grip but it was iron clad. "You are interfering where you do not belong Shalia."
The Amazon stood tall as she pushed the younger girl back. "That child is my friend and my responsibility. Do not bother her again or I promise you that you will be sorry."
There was a fire and a force burning in Shalias eyes that Lexus had never seen before. "You are not even a real warrior You wish to challenge me to a fight I accept."
Shalias laugh echoed through the trees. "I will not fight you child. You will do what I say because I am a woman and you are not and perhaps never shall be. I am an Amazon and a member of the house of your queen. Dare to defy me and suffer the consequences." Her words were so filled with anger and threat Lexus found it hard to believe it was Shalia.
The teenager bit her lip as she stared at the bracelet now dangling in Shalias fingers.
"Its not worth it. Youre not worth it." She started to back away only to be caught in a tighter grip then she thought possible for the slim figure to have. "Remember what I said. Leave Tarren alone."
Lexus felt a chill run up and down her spine and she nodded.
Shalia smiled approvingly. "One more thing. I want to know exactly what you said to Tarren to make her take her mothers sword and dont try lying to me. I will know if you do." The young womans eyes turned red as fire and she glared at the now frightened teenager. "So will you tell me."
Lexus nodded and without hesitation began to reveal her entire vengeful plan.
Back at the cottage
Tarren dropped the sword to the ground as the blood dripped onto the blade and across the floor. She swallowed hard and fought back tears at the throbbing pain cringing as she watched the blood cover her hand. The same dark liquid that had taken the life of the Amazon on the trail was now running down her hand and onto her clothes. She wished her mother were there to hold her. She wanted to call out for Gabrielle but could not allow herself to do so.
Shalia appeared in the doorway and seeing the blood ran to the childs side. "Tarren what happened?"
The youngster offered up her palm to her friend. "I I tried to fix Mommas sword."
The Amazon let out a long breath and examined the wound. "This will need a healers attention. Come on." Shalia ripped a piece of a cloth in two and bandaged the wound. "There that will be do until the healer sees it," she said motioning the child toward the door.
The little girl glanced at the sword lying on the ground now nicked and covered in blood. "Momma is gonna be real mad."
Shalia tilted her head to one side. "Tarren that is ridiculous. She loves you. Now come I must take you to her." She guided the child out the door and toward the center of the compound where she knew the princess was still searching.
The youngster thought of Gabrielle and all their time on the road and then of the way she had not shown up for supper or told her stories. She missed the friend that had never lied to her but she was now gone. Gabrielle was now an Amazon Princess. As the youngster considered her destination her heart began to race and she turned. "No I dont want Gabby. I want my Momma," she screamed sprinting toward the woods.
Shalia turned but only in time to see the child disappear once again. "Tarren come back," she called.
There was no response. The child had again disappeared.
At the compound
Shalia found Gabrielle still searching the village and immediately explained only that she had seen the child with the sword and that she had taken off into the woods. She had decided that further explanation should come from the child.
Gabrielles jaw dropped as she listened to the story being told. "By the gods she touched Xenas sword." Even as she said the words it was as if they held no meaning.
Shalia nodded. "Yes my Princess and she cut her hand."
The princess swallowed hard and closed he eyes. "How bad is it?"
The Amazon shrugged. "Not too deep but it should be attended to further. I am no healer."
Gabrielle felt her skin grow cold at the mere thought of Tarren in the woods alone and now hurt. She mustered all the strength and command she could. "Ok I want you to get every Amazon on two feet and start a circular sweep of the entire forest. Nobody sleeps eats or stops until we find her."
"Find who?" a husky voice, asked from behind.
"Xena!" Gabrielle turned and saw a large muscular figure in a long cape dismounting from a familiar steed.
The warrior stared at her friend waiting for an answer.
Ephiny, who had ridden beside her, dismounted and also waited. "Yeah who do you need an all Amazon search for?" she asked with a frown.
The Princess swallowed hard. "Xena
Ephiny youre both back."
Xena nodded as she moved closer to the group. "Yeah well we split the scouts. After we finished our sweep we returned to the village. The rest of the party should be back soon. Now who are you looking for?" Her eyes scanned the area and noticed her small daughter was not to be seen. "Tarren. Wheres Tarren?" she asked with growing concern.
Gabrielle stepped forward and stared at her friend. "Its my fault. We were having a really good time together then Queen Mussona said she was leaving."
Ephiny interjected. "Shes leaving."
Gabrielle pushed the Amazon to one side. "Yes and good riddens. Anyway Tarren got upset and ran off."
Xenas face grew white with concern. "Thats just great. How long has she been gone?" she asked, already scanning the area for signs of her child.
The princess pulled out her parchments. "Well shes been spotted ."
Ephiny and Xena looked at Gabrielle who handed them each a pile of the parchments. Xena flipped through hers. "Pelted with dough balls from the trees, food stolen, mud traps What is all this?" she asked in disbelief.
Gabrielle glanced at Shalia who closed her eyes. "Tarren Its Tarren. I guess shes a little upset." She folded her arms behind her back and lowered her eyes. "According to Eponon shes playing Warrior Princess and the Amazons are the err enemy."
The warrior closed her eyes and listened to the sounds around her. "Shes playing Warrior Princess?" Xena opened her eyes and could not hide the growing concern on her face. "Thats bad
Xena looked at Ephiny whose eyes flared as she continued to read the complaints. In only a few hours one small child had managed to put her village and people in a state of chaos. "So why didnt you send my trackers to find her?" the angry queen asked with a stare.
Gabrielle looked at Ephiny with some indignation for thinking she would not have already done that. "I did. The kid hides pretty well and every time they got close they were ."
Xena grabbed her friends arm. "What? What could she do? Shes just a little kid."
The princess lowered her eyes a bit. "She pelted them with dough balls."
Xena twisted her lips and shoved the parchments back into her friends hand. "Dough balls? Thats great just great." She handed Gabrielle Argos reigns and started toward the woods.
The Amazon Princess pulled on her friends arm bringing her to a halt. "Wait Xena theres one more thing."
The angry mother turned and faced her friend. "What? What else did she do attack the centaurs?" she asked trying to control her anger and fear.
Gabrielle nodded at Shalia who stepped forward ready to speak.
Before she could Queen Mussona pushed her way into the group. "Queen Ephiny I am now leaving and I want you to know
Gabrielle shook her head and gave Mussona a not so gentle push. "Look youve been saying that all morning and yet youre still here."
Queen Mussonas eyes flew open. "Impudent little ."
"Say it. I would love to get my staff." Gabrielle looked at the shocked queen and shrugged. "Yeah I know. Look Mussona we have something important going on here so if youre gonna go...go." She waved her hand in dismissal.
Mussona stood tall. "I am going to my quarters now to pack."
The princess nodded. "Umm hmm Well dont let the door knob hit you where the gods split you."
Xena and Ephiny both stared at Gabrielle for a long moment before bringing themselves back to the present problem. The warrior glanced at Shalia. "What else Shalia? Make it fast I have a very naughty child to find."
Shalia lowered her voice so her words were both soothing and quiet. "Xena she cut her hand Its not bad but Im sure it hurts."
The mothers eyes flew open. Now she was being told her child was hurt. "How? Who hurt her?" she asked feeling the flames boiling inside her.
Shalias reply was fast and firm. "On your sword. She cut herself on your sword Xena."
The warriors mouth dropped and her eyes filled with fury. "No my daughter would not touch my sword. She knows better." Her words held such force that none dared to speak except Shalia.
The young Amazon took a brave step forward. "Perhaps there was a reason. If you allow me to explain ."
Xena turned on her Amazon friend and Shalia could feel the pain in the great warriors heart. "No Shalia! There is no reason anyone can give except Tarren and I am going to find my daughter right now."
The warrior mother took a deep calming breath and looked again at Shalia. "Where was she seen last?"
The young woman pointed toward the area in the woods Tarren had run toward.
Ephiny moved forward. "Ill get every Amazon looking Xena."
The warrior closed her eyes and shook her head. "Thanks Eph but no. As a matter of fact get everyone out of the woods. Ill find her myself." She looked at Gabrielle. "I dont know what happened here but I intend to find out and I want everyone to stay away from my daughter until I do."
Gabrielle moved closer. "Xena shes scared."
The warrior nodded. "Gabrielle, right now she has every reason to be."
Gabrielle started to move behind her friend when the hand of her queen stopped her. "Not so fast Princess. Xena needs to be alone with Tarren and you have a bit of explaining to do about the state of this village and doors hitting visiting royalty in the ass."
Gabrielle let out a quick breath and watched Xena quickly disappear into the woods in search of a child they both loved. She closed her eyes. "By the gods please let Tarren be alright," she prayed. "Find her quickly Xena."
Continued in Part 7
Need I tell you to feed Little Ego?J Shes very hungry and we have a long way to go. Part seven is in the works so write with your thoughts. Fantimbard@aol.com
fan fic index <> homepage