A Swan is Born
by Nene Adams ©1998 - All rights reserved. 


The storyteller speaks:

Once, there dwelled in the land of Greece, in the humble village of Poteideia, a maiden named Gabrielle.

Gabrielle lived with her father, mother and sister in a small hut. They were an ordinary family, with ordinary ambitions and dreams, content to live from day to day in the same existance as yesterday, and anticipating no better for tomorrow. All of the villagers thought the same.

All, that is, except Gabrielle.

Gabrielle? GABRIELLE!'' Hecuba sighed and wiped her floury hands on her apron. ''Where is that child off to now?''

Lila looked up from her spinning. ''I bet she's reading again,'' she said nastily.

Hecuba sighed again. ''By Hera! When will she get her head out of the clouds and pay attention to the real world?'' Gabrielle's mother gave the bread dough one last punch before deftly shaping it into loaves. ''Here, Lila. Put these in the oven.''

''Oh, mother! Why do I have to do it?'' Lila whined.

''Because I said so! Do you want your father to come home and find no food on the table for dinner? Get to it, young lady. I'm going to find your wool-gathering sister. She has chores, too. And Hera help her if she hasn't finished them!''

Hecuba bustled out of the hut, scattering a few chickens from her path.

Gabrielle sat in the twisted olive tree that overlooked the tiny cove where fishing boats would be drawn up on the sand after the day's haul was brought in. Immersed in a scroll, she didn't hear her mother's approach until it was too late.


The young girl started, nearly falling from the tree. Her precious scroll, cadged from a traveling merchant, fluttered to the ground. Her mother snatched it up. ''Well?'' Hecuba said, clutching the scroll in her beefy fist. ''Get down from there now, young lady!''

Gabrielle scrambled down out of the tree. ''Mother, may I have my scroll back please?''

''No, you may not! Look at you! You're the eldest child of this household, and instead of doing honest chores, you're cloud gazing again. Oh, Gabrielle! When are you going to learn?''

Gabrielle held her ground, but stared at the scroll in her mother's hand nervously. ''I'm going to be a bard, mother. It's my destiny.''

''Gods above, child! Don't let your father hear you say that! Now, come along and help Lila with the spinning. After that, there's plenty of other work you can be doing. When Herodotus returns with the catch, you'll be helping him gut fish, too. And salt it down for storage. Come along, girl.'' Hecuba began trudging back to the village, Gabrielle at her heels.

''May I at least have my scroll back, mother?''

Hecuba didn't answer until they returned to the hut. Entering, she said shortly, ''Go help your sister, Gabrielle.''

The young girl darted a desperate look at her precious scroll. ''But mother...''

''ENOUGH!'' Hecuba crumpled the scroll up into a ball, oblivious to Gabrielle's distress. ''Why the gods chose to curse me with such a lazy child is beyond my ken. But enough of this, Gabrielle! You're no better than the rest of us, and it's about time you learned that.''

She cast the scroll into the fire, grabbing her weeping daughter's shoulders to keep her from getting burned when she made a desperate grab for the flaming parchment.

Holding Gabrielle's shoulders in a bruising grip, Hecuba said firmly, ''No more reading. No more scribbling. No more of this foolishness, you understand? You're a young woman, almost old enough to be a bride, and it's time you set these childish fantasies of yours aside. Now, stop this crying and get to work before your father comes home and really gives you something to cry about.''

Gabrielle watched her scroll burn... the most precious article she owned, she who could claim very little in her life. At last, when the parchment crumbled into graying ashes, she bowed her head and did as she was told.


The storyteller speaks:

Gabrielle was something of an outcast in her village; not a day passed that the youths did not taunt her for her dreams of becoming something greater than the common weal.

Her sire, Herodotus, was more direct in his disapproval.

''Why spendest thou thy days in dreaming, child? Thou wilt ne'er be more than a villager's wife, as thine own mother is, and her mother before her. Heed me well, girl,'' he spake, thrusting a work-gnarled finger in Gabrielle's flinching face. ''Put aside thy fantasies and immerse thyself in the real world. Thy destiny is here, in Poteideia, where thy family hath dwelled for generations.''

Gabrielle protested, ''But father! Can it not be that I am fated to become something which thou art not?''

Enraged, Herodotus delivered unto his eldest child a blow that sent her crashing to the floor. ''Speakest thou as if thou wert somehow better than I? Than thy mother? Than the folk of this village? Thou art but a girl-child whose head hath been stuffed full of nonsense! From this day forward, speakest not of thy bardly ambitions!''

And so Herodotus left the weeping Gabrielle and stormed away to speak to his wife, to counsel with her as to what they might do with their wayward child.

In the days and weeks that followed, Gabrielle had scarcely a moment to herself. From dawn to dusk, she labored under the direction of her mother, her father, and most humiliating of all, her younger sister.

While she worked until sheer exhaustion claimed her at night, her thoughts were her own. And Gabrielle began to realize that she did not want to spend the rest of her days in this small village where nothing, and no one, ever changed.

She was different. She craved adventure, not peace; acclaim, not the safety of boring anonimity; Gabrielle wanted to see the world, not sit at home by the fire and tend to a husband and children. She had ambitions, dreams of hero's tales, and visions of a bright future where she no longer had to struggle to fit in a mold not of her own making.

But one day, her dreams were cut brutally short by a sudden reality.

''Mother! Father! Surely thou must reconsider!" spake Gabrielle in horrified tones.

Herodotus shook his his head. ''E'en as thy mother hath said, daughter. Thou art to marry Perdicus.''

Hecuba spake, ''He is a good provider, Gabrielle. And surely it is past time that thou wert wed.''

Gabrielle boldly spake, ''No! No! I will not marry Perdicus!''

Herodotus rose. ''Thou defiest thy father?! Wicked child! What gratitude is this? Thy mother and myself hath thought long and hard about thy husband-to- be. We wish only the best for thee, and this is how we are repaid?''

''Father, please...'' Gabrielle wrung her hands. ''Have I not been dutiful these past weeks? Please, do not force me into this marriage against my will!''

''Thou wilt marry Perdicus, Gabrielle!'' Herodotus was top-filled with wrath. ''So I have spoken, and so it shall be! Will ye, nil ye, thou shalt be wed!''

And when Gabrielle turned to her mother, she met only stony silence.

Distressed, the young girl summoned her eloquence, using every trick of logic and reasoning she had gleaned from the few scrolls she had been able to read. But to no avail. At last, terror lending strength to her will, she spake, ''I will not marry, father. Do what thou wilt.''

And Herodotus did.

Lila examined Gabrielle carefully. ''Well, he didn't break the skin... much.''

Gabrielle winced as her younger sister prodded her back. She was naked, lying face down on the pallet they both shared. ''And he was careful not to touch my face, either.''

Lila sighed. ''Why don't you want to marry Perdicus, anyway? He's not bad looking. Not like Cyroneus. Those crossed eyes... ugh!''

''I don't want to marry anybody.'' She wiped her nose with the back of her hand and flinched when Lila smeared another handful of cream on her bruises and welts. Herodotus had used a length of leather when his hands had gotten sore.

''You'd better wear a long sleeved dress to the wedding, Gabrielle.'' Lila finished her ministrations and wiped her hands clean. ''It's in a week, but I don't think you'll be fully healed by then.''

Gabrielle sighed and lay her head down on her crossed arms. The pain of her beating would linger for some days, she knew. But she also knew that no matter what, she could stay in Poteideia no longer.

That night, Gabrielle prayed. She opened her heart to the gods, pouring out her thoughts, even the most secret ones she kept locked away and safely hidden from the world. She told them of her longings, of her dreams, of her wish to fulfill her own potential, not remain a peasant's daughter in a tiny village forever. Gabrielle prayed for a miracle.

And the gods answered.

The storyteller speaks:

And so it came to pass that on a bright day, the former warlord Xena had just buried her arms when, by chance, she happened upon an all-too-familiar scene. A young woman was being threatened... and seeing a chance to make amends for her past deeds, Xena intervened, rescuing the girl, her mother and others.

Gabrielle, too, saw a chance, and recognized the warrior's presence as a gift from the gods.

Her task required persistance, but Gabrielle persevered.

And at last, discovered her true destiny... at Xena's side.


Please comment to Nene Adams at wynna1@yahoo.com

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