WHOSE CHILD BE THIS?
Picture - #9
DISCLAIMER: Story mine, Characters not.
"Well?" Gabrielle leaned against the fence, wistfully watching the smoke billowing up from the farmhouse into the late afternoon sky. The grass about them was green now, but she could tell by the heavy clouds gathering and the chill in the air, snow would soon blanket the land.
"Her husband and brothers are selling livestock in the next town over," Xena replied, referring to the woman she'd spoken with. "Said we can bunk down in the stable."
With a disappointed sigh, Gabrielle started towards the main road.
"Hey," Xena grabbed her by the arm, stopping her, "You're going the wrong way."
"The stables, Xena. Meaning she'd obviously be going against her husband's wishes in giving us lodging. That storm's rolling in. What if her menfolk come home early? It wouldn't be right for us to put her in that position."
"What's not right is me not being able to take care of you, to provide for you, give you a roof over your head for a single night."
"Just for the night?" Gabrielle asked, "Then, back on the road at first light?"
Xena nodded, silently agreeing, knowing if she answered verbally, Gabrielle might guess the truth.
The bard was perspiring profusely, despite the chill wind blowing in through the slats of the stable walls. Xena dampened a rag in a bowl of snow she'd gathered and used it to wipe at Gabrielle's brow. A weak smile appeared on the bard's lips as she recognized Xena's touch.
That smile wavered as feverish green eyes opened and one hand instinctively went to her belly. "Xena?"
Xena guiltily looked away, cursing herself for ever giving Gabrielle cause to ask.
When she discovered Gabrielle had been hiding her pregnancy, Xena had gone ballistic, demanding to know who the father was, suspecting Hercules or Iolaus, even Joxer. Still, Gabrielle swore she'd been with no one else, even as her belly grew larger with child with each passing day.
Eventually, Gabrielle had confessed that it had to be the work of a God. Xena called upon Ares, so furious with the God of War that she'd tried taking his head off with her chakram. He'd laughed at her, declaring, "I wouldn't touch that irritating blonde with a ten foot spear. You'd better look elsewhere, 'cause I ain't that baby's daddy."
Thoughts of Dahok spun in Xena's mind, tormenting her until Gabrielle awoke one night to find Xena's chakram poised above her belly, ready to cut the spawn out.
Gabrielle's tears had melted Xena's hardened heart, her pleas to let her baby live causing her to stay her hand. The bard couldn't explain how she knew, but she did…she swore this child was not evil. And despite her better judgment, Xena listened.
News traveled fast, faster than a warrior with a pregnant bard could. They were turned away at every inn, every home. Until finally, Xena took them south, realizing the only place they might be safe was in the Amazon Queen's village. She'd been relentlessly pushing them day and night trying to get them there before the bad weather overtook them.
What she hadn't told Gabrielle when she asked if they could leave at first light was that she already knew the bard would give birth that very night.
"It's okay, Gabrielle." Xena leaned over Gabrielle, placing a firm kiss to her forehead. "Nothing's going to happen to your baby this time. I promise."
Using her chakram to rake over the mud and snow, Xena buried the afterbirth and soiled horse blanket. She hated leaving Gabrielle so soon, but it was something that needed to be done and both mother and daughter were resting comfortably. So, she'd left Argo to guard over them while she made the trek on foot to bury the pack in the woods where it wasn't likely to be found.
The sound of horses' hooves made her head snap up. She saw the single bright star in the midnight sky, used it as a reference point to find the silhouette of the stable. Her gut clenched as she saw three riders dismounting.
"The farmer…GABRIELLE!" She ran towards the stable, the door already closing before she could throw her chakram.
Xena flung the door wide open, then froze. The dark-haired, green-eyed baby looked perfectly at ease with three deadly warriors hovering over her, smiling and playing with tiny fingers and toes.
"Xena, look at what they brought."
Xena cautiously moved into the straw-filled bower, carefully settled down beside Gabrielle, cradling the new mother in her arms.
"A boar's tooth necklace for courage," Eponin paused from cooing long enough to slip the leather cording about the infant's neck.
"A blue feather for honor and loyalty," Solari intoned, twining the object about an ebony curl.
Ephiny dutifully leaned in and secured a tiny leather headband in place, "A crown to signify royalty."
"You knew about our baby?" A dark brow arched.
"Melosa and Terreis appeared in a vision, commanding we follow the Northern star, bringing gifts to honor the birth of an Amazon princess. You said our baby." Ephiny smiled. "Then, you know of Artemis' intervention?"
"Gabrielle believed. I was…suspicious."
Gabrielle tried to defend her warrior. "After Hope and Solon…"
The Amazons nodded. They'd experienced the rift between their Queen and Xena and understood why the Goddess would choose to bless them with a child of their own.
"You know," Feeling the need to interject some levity, Gabrielle tilted her head back, gazing up at Xena, "I'd like to think that if our roles were reversed, I would be more accepting of the situation and believe you said you were pregnant through divine intervention."
"Oh, I don't have an issue with immaculate conception," Xena clarified, a devilish glint in her eye as she added, "What I have trouble believing is that we found three wise Amazons to visit us from afar."
Story by: DEL ROBERTSON
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