(Remember when you were fourteen? Your parents knew little about life, if anything at all, you and your friends were the only people who were wise, and goddess help everyone if you were in love….. ) This one is about utter rebellion and the repercussions, so hold on to your horse. The Bird is back. Big thanks always to my beta reader Trace, who kicks butt and takes names till it's right….
I am Robin of the Warrior and the Bard.
It was evening and the militia had been dismissed for almost two candle marks. I watched and tried hard to read the program as Baba Xe walked about, setting up with deliberation the final chakram challenge for this day.
She had been true to her word about the training, true to the point of nearly confiscating my beloved birthday present one rainy afternoon when she had caught me striking warrior poses in my bedroom. Utter mortification.
"Even more so than a sword, Birdie, a chakram is NOT A TOY." The icy blues had flashed at me. Droopy boots carried me over to my bed, chagrined. Zephyr slid quickly underneath in a show of support.
"Baba Xe, I know that," My downcast eyes filled, but remained hidden from her.
Three jingled strides crossed the room and my bed sank a little as her weight pitched back against the wall. The Conqueror tugged my hair from behind.
I scooted my butt back to lean against the wall beside her. One long strong arm came around me pulling me closer as the other big hand turned my chakram carefully in every direction while the commanding countenance gave it full regard.
"I wondered if I would ever give you this type of weapon," she spoke to the chakram reflectively, "But then when you displayed,” she nudged me with her elbow eliciting a giggle from me, despite my sulk, "such talent ," she sighed, "I knew it was inevitable."
I said nothing, but accepted the tightening of her sheltering wing, which told me that she too, was recalling the blazing backside she had administered after catching me in during my first ‘experiments' with her chakram. I knew with certainty, that Baba Xe would be very strict in my training with this weapon.
She peered at the top of my head and suddenly plucked a hair
A snort. "Quit fussing and watch."
She held the thick black hair in a sunbeam just breaking through the rain showers and brought the edge of my chakram straight down so that it was split neatly in half. I was awed.
"MInotaur sh--, I mean gosh, Baba, I knew it was sharp, but..."
The chakram fell to the other side of the bed and suddenly I was across her lap looking at the disc closely. Minotaur shite, was this a walloping offense?
It was not.
My Conqueror parent's voice was low and calm, “This is only to remind you, Little Bird, “ her big hand fell in one firm swat and remained in possession of my arse, “ that though you are now fourteen winters old, you are a fine warrior, and you have a new chakram-- who is in charge of you?”
That was easy. “You are Baba. Always you.” I hoped she felt no need to prove it further.
“And?” her long fingers tugged the back of my hair.
“The chakram is not a toy.”
“Good girl.” She turned me in her lap and wrapped me in a rare, fully encompassing embrace. Somewhat surprised, I snuggled in close, listening to her powerful warrior's heartbeat, just as I had done when half my age. It seemed like forever since we had done this, now that I was older, and it felt safe warm and it nurtured parts of me that had been craving it, though, neither of us had realized it.
Her voice resonated from deep within, quietly, “You know that I love you more every day, Little Bird, don't you?”
I stayed burrowed, “Really, Baba?”
“UmmHumm, I do. And I'm very proud of you.”
The rare “p” word. My squeeze on her waist tightened, “I want you to be proud of me, Baba.”
“But I cannot bear the thought of you being hurt, Birdie.”
She uncovered my head so that our eyes met; there was water rising in the icicle orbs of the Conqueror.
“I know Baba; I'll be more careful.”
She pulled me back in and her voice became an intense whisper, reminding me of Mama G.
“That's why I'm hard on you. It's protective, Birdie, it's not anger, even though it sounds like anger; it isn't. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Baba, I understand.” I could feel the closeness ending, and I didn't want it to.
“You know very well when I am angry.” She jostled me teasingly.
“Yes, Ma'am, I do know that for certain.”
She tickled me unmercifully then and left the room, with both of us laughing.
I cleared my head as her tall figure made quick strides back. The course was simple, yet the course was always different. There were several hand tied bales of hay that we had ‘borrowed' from my Uncle Toris, and we had tied together as many rough brooms from fairly straight tree branches and longer pieces of hay and straw. They weren't fit to sweep a floor with, but they suited our purposes. I studied what the Conqueror had set for me, thinking that if I could only anticipate; but I never could. And that was part of the lesson of the chakram; one couldn't really anticipate the need or course; one really never had time.
Baba Xe put her hand on my shoulder ready to instruct. “Hit the tree to the right, take off all three heads, ricochet it from the stone to the left, “I followed her finger to the stone; it wasn't very big. “and bring it home to you, Birdie.”
Three heads meant the tops of three brooms stuck in three hay bales she had set up. Shouldn't be too difficult, but she had set them a distance apart. I would have to throw quite forcefully, and that was a little frightening because when the chakram returned hard and fast I had to be certain to catch it by the inside edge if I didn't want my hand taken off.
Focus and one-step, two –steps, FLING! We watched as the bright silver circle sang airborne. ZING! It hit the tree perfectly, Slash, Slash, Slash, through the three heads, and SNOCK from the rock and ….. CLUD. It stopped. Fell into a clump of grass. Minotaur Shite.
“Watch your language, little girl!” followed me, as I stomped over to retrieve my errant disc.
Had I said that out loud? “Sorry, Baba!” I looked at the beautiful weapon a moment lying innocently in the grass. “Why didn't you come back?” It had no answer, so I fetched it, clipped it to my belt, and returned to my teacher.
She stood, arms folded, grinning, "It's ok, Little Bird, that was a difficult throw. It was beyond your strength at this point. However," she ruffled my hair, "you did come very close, Bird; in fact, you threw it better than I thought you could."
That made me feel better. "Really Baba?"
"Sure, watch." My Conqueror parent took one step back and unwound a powerful catapult shot of her chakram . ZING ! When it hit the tree, birds flew out of it, SLACKSLACKSLACK, the mighty yin and yang disc carved through the MIDDLE of the hay bales; she had cut three men in half. Then SHOCK from rock and ZANG . It snapped quietly into her hand as if it had never left it.
"Baba, that was awesome," I admired, "I'll never be that good."
She clipped the weapon to its hook on her belt and steered me by the back of my head towards the fortress. Grand. I was tired and hungry.
"I believe that you will be that good, Birdie," Her hand ran up and down my hair gently, " I don't know if you will ever be as strong, simply because you are smaller, but you are clever and creative, and you will find ways to compensate athletically, just as you do with the Baby Tide.”
I shyly ran my arm around her waist trying to match her long stride, “Do you truly believe that, Baba Xe, or are you just trying to make me feel better?”
“Birdie, Birdie…” she sighed, and kissed my head, “Don't you know by now that I do not waste words on what I do not mean ?”
I shifted my gaze up at Xena Warrior Princess, The Destroyer of Nations, Xena the Conqueror, aka, my very own Baba Xe. Her long dark hair blew behind her in the breeze, the silk shirt matched the icy blue of her eyes today, and it was just chilly enough for her to wear black leather laced vest. By the gods, she did look like a goddess herself. And she had been very patient with me today.
I chanced leaning into her side just a bit. “Yes, Baba. You always say what you mean.”
The lights of the fortress were in sight, cheerily inviting us home. Soon I'd be sitting at the big wooden table in Grandba's kitchen ready to eat whatever delicious surprise she had created to serve her family. The smells would be rich, the fireplace glowing warm, laughter plentiful, and contentment abundant.
Baba Xe threw back her head and smiled, “Looks welcoming, doesn't it Bird?” She was reading my mind. Her hand came up into the back of my hair.
“Yes, Baba, it does.”
“I love being on the road, but I love being home too. There's something very satisfying about working hard at honing my skills, the army's skills, taking care of the occasional ‘problem' horse, or soldier”, she smiled to herself, “ all the day's work, and then coming home at night to put up my feet and enjoy my family and the fire.”
“Well, you deserve it , Baba, you work the hardest of all, and then you work with me.”
She smiled down at me, “That , Little Bird, “ she gave me a little head swat, “is because, you are the most important of all.”
I hugged her all the way to the light greeting us from the kitchen. Then I let go. Warriors shouldn't be mushy in public.
There was a soft knock at my bedroom door rather late. I turned from just wrapping a dagger in heavy cloth, slipped it into my pack, and called, "Come."
Mama G slipped inside. "You're up late." She padded across my room barefoot to peek into my pack.
"Have you forgotten that I have permission to spend sixth and seventh days out at the camp with Rachelle, Mama?"
She looked up at the ceiling and rolled her eyes, "Hummm, Birdie is going to see Rachelle, do I remember giving permission?"
That broke down her attempt at bluff and she wrapped her arms around my waist, laying her soft blond locks on my shoulder for a moment.
"Yes, my Little Bird is off restriction,” (I had been grounded last sixth and seventh days for using a very snappy tone with her, which I immediately regretted. Adolescence was Minotaur shite at times.) , “and I know that she is just about crazy to go and see her Rach."
My mother turned me to face her then straightening my hair and moving it back over the ear which held the softly shining earring.
"Birdie," she looked straight into my eyes; I was just a hair taller than she now, "you are quite serious about Rach, aren't you?"
Serious? I wasn't ready to tell her about the chosen consort business. I was deliriously happy to be Rach's chosen consort, but somehow I knew my mother wasn't ready to hear that news.
"Pretty much serious, Mama. You know that I love her very much; I have for some time now.”
The Bard's gentle hands locked behind my neck and squeezed, "I do know that, Birdie. But you are very young to be seriously involved with anyone just yet. I just don't want you to grow up too fast."
I knew what she meant but decided to play with her turning back to my pack, “Growing up too fast, Mama? Do you refer to the fact that I am taller than you now?”
I was spun quickly back around by the rear waistband of my pants. Flashing emerald orbs met my own at exactly eye level. I grinned. Don't ever turn your back on the Battling Bard.
The Queen's arms were akimbo, “I believe we are exactly the same height, Birdie, “ she continued the evil eye on me, “so let's watch our getting too big for our britches, shall we?”
I resisted the temptation to tug at my pants which were quite loose. Being a smart ass would only find me grounded again and I wanted badly to see Rach.
“Mama G,” I folded my heavy cloak and laid it upon the pack. “Don't worry. Didn't you tell me that Amazons have to be…. What age did you tell me, anyway?”
Mama looked sheepish, “I forgot to research that ; I will in the morning, Bird.”
I shrugged as I hung up my tunic and slipped into my nightshirt. “It doesn't matter. Pony says eighteen winters. PERIOD. And then there's Artemis, the goddess chaperone; her mark on my head catches fire if we even kiss very long, so I really don't know what you are worried about.” With a properly aggrieved adolescent sigh, I sat down on my bed, took off my boots, and slid under the covers. Zephyr turned her three circles before she relaxed on her rug.
Mama G walked across the room, sat down on the side of my bed, took my head in her hands and gazed into my eyes for a long moment.
“I'm worried about my Birdie's heart,” she said quietly. The bard then kissed my forehead, rose, and made her departure.
“Mama,” just as she was closing my door.
“Hum?” the bright hair was back in my presence.
“I love you.”
Her smile. It was dark, but it came across the room to me. “I love you, too, Little Bird. Sweet dreams.”
The door closed. I lay there wondering how long it had been since I had told my mother that. Perhaps I was getting a little big for my britches.
Bright and early, cool and gorgeous. “Perfect.” I said to Zephyr as I fastened the last of my gear in place on Hades's saddle. “Now there are just good-byes, and we are free!”
I stepped into the kitchen where my parents sat enjoying their morning tea with Grandba. Sixth and seventh days were leisurely at the fortress.
“Are you off?” Baba Xe grinned at me. “ Not in too big of a hurry are you? I think the sun's been up a whole candle mark.”
“You are taking Hades and not the vines?” Mama G asked, “ You are finally old enough to use the vines by yourself legally, and you don't take them.”
“Rach and I might ride a little, “ I explained, “ and it's dangerous to take the vines with extra gear, you know.”
“See? Good head on the girl, “ My Grandba beamed at me, “Here Birdie, “ she slipped a biscuit spread with cheese wrapped in paper into my pocket and patted it. “In case you get hungry before you get to the camp.”
I wasn't hungry, and it was under a candle mark's ride to the Amazon camp. “Thanks, Grandba,” I kissed her cheek.
Mama G and Baba Xe had left their seats and come to see me off as well. Minotaur Shite. Such a big deal, so much drama about every little thing. I acquiesced to a family hug.
Baba held my eyes a moment. “Home before dark tomorrow, Birdie. That's an order. Right?”
“Yes, Ma'am, “ I agreed quickly, trying to depart, “I will be home before dark tomorrow. Promise.”
“Go on then, have a good time,” my mother turned me around and gave me a little swat out the door.
“Bye!” I called as I climbed aboard Hades and we left the courtyard.
“Good-bye Birdie, behave!” , came from the kitchen.
Outside the gates near the giant oak, I stopped, and dismounted. From under the blankets of my saddlebags, I threw the Baby Tide across my back and clipped the silver chakram to my belt.
“Little Mistress, weapons? Was this not to be a friendly visit?” Zephyr cocked her head at me.
“It is,” I said to her as I remounted Hades, “but a warrior should always be ready.”
"I love sixth and seventh days" the Conqueror took a flying leap at the huge bed and sank into it body and soul, “I can be lazy."
"But do you want to be completely lazy?" the little bard with the bright hair closed the heavy wooden door to their chambers and slid the bolt into its keep.
"Are you totally good for nothing, Big Warrior?" the question was a purr as she padded to join her closed-eyed partner.
The smaller body curled up beside the reclining Conqueror in repose and nuzzled her in just that certain way.
The blue eye opened, "What do you have in mind?"
"A little intimate recreation, perhaps?"
"Oh, I was thinking..." the bard's words were whispered into the warrior's ear, followed by a delicate circle of the tongue around the area.
-The result was a fully awake, decidedly not lazy Xena the Conqueror executing a lightning quick-raise up-grab the arm- and suddenly, but gently, the bard was lying beneath her lover, and there were embers smoldering in the icy blues.
"I think that's a good idea, Gabrielle." It was an understatement after that move. Gabrielle could not keep track of the warrior's moves either on the field or off. Life was never boring with Xena. And that kiss......looong and deeep and penetrating to every- single...
"Xena..." the smaller woman took the dark head in hands.
"Gabrielle, I'm on a roll here that I'm not sure you want to stop…” The black hair curtained the light head again..
By the gods this woman... willpower .
"Xena, I need to tell you something," breathe deeply, bard. This is important.
"It can't wait?" the voice was an impatient growl.
"We've been known to spend the occasional entire sixth or seventh day in here,” the poet reminded her.
" Very occasionally, especially with the kid," Xena was deep in Gabrielle's neck.
"Let me tell you what I need to tell you, and then we have all day," always the bargainer.
"All RIGHT!" The warrior collapsed on top of the bard.
"Xena, I can't breathe," muffled words from underneath.
" You , my dearest love, can be such a pain," The former Destroyer of Nations rolled over and looked at the ceiling, arms folded across her chest.
Gabrielle crept over to her pouting warrior, "I'm sorry, Xena, I don't mean to be a pain, but I've been a little perplexed by what I am about to tell you, too."
At the tone in the bard's voice, Xena immediately raised her arm so that her lover could come under the familiar shelter.
"What is it, Gabrielle?" Now the Conqueror was perplexed at what could have her Queen acting so strangely.
The bard sighed, "I am not ready to make it public yet; it may mean nothing at all. But Xena, I missed my last cycle."
I quickly dismounted Hades and strode to the outer guard of the Amazon camp who happened to be my old friend Arrot. “She's WHAT?”
Arrot looked at me sympathetically. We were really very close friends after our rather rough beginning.
“Aye Bird, it was her cuzin from da sea; wat's er name—da good-lookin' one?”
“Tosh.” My gut roiled. Rachelle, gone?
“They come yesterday and said that the old regent of the Amazons by the Sea ha' died. And Rach hadda come an be Queen until new arrangements cud be made. Pony was crying all night. Evryone cud hear her. Eph was tryin' but she waz inconsol'ble."
The blood pounded in my ears, suddenly everything was going black; Zephyr whined worriedly.
"'Ere, Bird, take a sit down, will ya? Yer scarin' me!"
I sank to my knees.
"Breathe deep, ol' chum. It'll be alright, Bird. It's a temp'ry thing."
My eyes returned to the intense concern hazel concern showing in the eyes of my big Amazon pal.
"Breathe, Birdie. That's it, friend. Breathe. 'Ere, take a sip." She handed me her water skin. Zephyr had laid her head in my lap. I stroked the sable fur, and calm begin to return. The water tasted good.
"The last thing Rach said to me as they rode away was, 'Tell Birdie'," Arrot was saying.
I reached for her arm and she clasped it entirely, immediately, in the warrior's exchange of love, loyalty and friendship. It bolstered my courage.
"And so you have my friend, and thank you." I rose to my feet.
"What 'r ya gonna do, Bird?" Arrot looked mildly alarmed now. So did Zephyr.
Hades seemed to know as he turned in the right direction when I mounted him. "It will be better for you, Arrot , if I do not tell you." I looked down at Zephyr, " Let's go, girl."
Arrot came to attention then and placed her fist over her heart in a salute, "Best o'luck and safety to ya, my Birdie friend."
I returned the salute to her, " Thank you Arrot, my good friend. I will see you again."
Then we rode.
Xena the Conqueror lay flat on her back staring at the ornately carved ceiling in the royal bedchamber. She had not uttered a single word for what had to be at least a quarter candle mark, and Gabrielle had had enough. The forest eyed beauty turned so that her head lay upon the warrior's rippled abdomen and regarded her carefully, “Xena, I think you have spent enough time in shock and awe.” She smiled.
The raven tresses hoisted the head further upon one of the large pillows and the warrior raised her evil eyebrow at her partner. “Gabrielle, I can spend as much time in shock and awe over this little Greek fire ball that you just dropped on me as I want to; I am Xena the Conqueror.” She rolled the cobalt eyes upward, “No matter what the challenge.”
The bard scooted closer, beginning a soft soothing rubbing of the mighty chest, “Well, we had talked about another child, remember?”
“Yes, I do remember TALKING about another child, Gabrielle. That is not the same as actually bearing and raising another child. By the gods”, she fell back gazing at the ceiling again, “ and here I thought we were finally about to have Birdie sorted out.”
Gabrielle pulled away and reclined on an elbow, “I would seriously doubt that we have Birdie ‘sorted out' just yet, Xena; she's fourteen now, and that is not exactly an 'easy' age either. “
“Well, how, where , when…. ?” the warrior sputtered, then fell back again. “Stupid questions, I know.”
The bard looked wise, “I can tell you what I believe may have happened.”
“Please tell me, Gabrielle.”
“I believe it happened that final night on the road. Your eyes were golden again, remember? I called you ‘my warrior of the gods'? Artemis must have been nearby. She may have blessed us again. Actually,” the bard looked down, and when she raised her eyes, there were unshed tears, “ I am very happy.”
The former Destroyer of Nations then sat all the way up and rested her arms on her knees looking far away for a moment. The she returned the intense saphire gaze to her lover. “Gabrielle, you are telling me that you ARE REALLY QUITE CERTAIN that we are going to have another child? There is no doubt?”
The tears did fall down the beautiful skin of the bard then, “No Xena, personally, privately, I have no doubt.”
“Well then,” The Warrior shot straight up, nearly to the ceiling executing a perfect flip and landed flat on her ass beside her soul mate, “What in Hades are we waiting for, Gabrielle? Let's go ring the bells, toss some tankards, tell MY MOTHER!! Oh she'll go crazy!!” She bounded off the bed and sprinted for the door. “I wish Birdie hadn't left.”
The bard's voice could always arrest any charge of her partner, be it angry or joyful.
“Come back, you can't.”
“Why..” The tall beauty looked crestfallen as she padded back over to the bed. Gabrielle chuckled and took the goddesss gorgeous face in her hands. “Well, for one, you are buck naked. “
The icy blues looked down, “Oh. Forgot.”
The bard was beginning to laugh, gently but constantly, “ And I would just like to wait a little.. There is more to tell you before we go public. Ok, Big Warrior?”
The Conqueror's heart belonged to the bard, and she returned to the bed and cradled her lover, her life closely, “Ah, Gabrielle, “ she sighed deeply, “What did I do to deserve the sweetness of you?” She began to laugh, “ Never one dull moment in Amphipolis is there? A wee baby… by the gods!”
And the warrior and the bard remained embraced and kept laughing together.
We had been riding for close to a candle mark when suddenly I missed Zephyr. “ZEPHYR!”
Giving Hades the slightest tug left turned him full circle. Hades didn't “talk” to me the way Zephyr did, but he knew my mind.
“Minotaur Shite, that foxy fox!”
We reversed and trotted back. It wasn't long before her sitting form became visible, sitting calmly in the middle of the wide and worn trail, apparently waiting for me. I dismounted at once and came face to face with her kneeling; Rach mattered to me, meant everything to me, but so did this fox.
“Zephyr,” my words were soft, for there was an aura of aloofness about my companion; one I had never felt. “Zephyr, tell me.”
She dropped her head, revealing the white blaze that matched her tipped tail and feet. My head touched hers.
“Little Mistress….Robin…never in all of our adventures or pursuits have I questioned you. I have always followed or led or stayed by your side to serve, assist, comfort, or guide you.”
I wrapped my arms around her tightly stroking her soft sable fur, breathing in her cedar essence, and then bringing her golden eyes to meet mine, I asked again, “Tell me , Zephyr.”
She lowered her head, “This is the most rash, unplanned, dangerous, and reckless undertaking yet, Little Mistress. I understand your desire and drive; I love Lady Rachelle as well. But would we not be better suited to return to the fortress and ask for help from your parents?”
I sighed. She was right, of course she was right. But, “Zephyr, they wouldn't allow me to go. You know that they would say no.”
“They might come with you.”
I shook my head. “It would take too much time. Zephyr, I am Rach's consort. She needs me.”
Zephyr gave the equivalent of a fox's sigh of acquiesce , “Very well, Little Mistress, we will travel until tonight. I serve another Mistress, you know, and we can expect a visit. She will make the final decision.”
That meant Artemis. Oh Bird dog. That goddess did make me nervous.
“Little Mistress, do you have any idea where you are going?”
“Yes, I will show you tonight. Rach scratched it out on the ground for me one night on the road by the campfire. I have a very good idea how to find the way to Abdera. It's a good three or four days' ride, barring any problems.”
“Well we best make some progress and have some food for our visitor tonight”, my fox licked my cheek.
“So you are with me, Zephyr?”
“Always, Little Mistress.”
“I love you, Zephyr.”
“And I, you, Little Mistress.”
As I climbed back into the saddle, I looked down at the beautiful animal, “The truth is, Zephyr, I know that this is probably not the wisest choice I've ever made in my history of unwise choices.” The open sky took my gaze for a moment and then lowered it to reality with it a sigh. “I know there will be consequences.” Then I returned my address to Zephyr.
“I feel so strongly that I must be at Rachelle's side; she needs her consort now. I feel it in here.” My fist thumped my gut. The distance beckoned to me, but I needed to be honest, “ Regardless of that strong draw, my friend, I don't believe I could go without you. We are too deeply connected.”
My fox just cocked her head at me wisely, “We lose daylight, Little Mistress, let's run.”
So we began again headed east toward a dry hilly region.
“Why don't you want to make it public?” the warrior asked. She sat straight. “You do have doubts? If Artemis is involved, I would think there is certainty.”
The bard had joined her partner against the pillows and now she studied her own belly. “Oh, Xena, I am certain.” She smiled. “It's just that I have an entirely different feeling about this child. She…”
“You have your warrior, I believe?”
“You have a bard, as well.”
Gabrielle smacked Xena's gut. “Hush a moment and listen. I have a feeling that Artemis has definite plans for this child. This child will not be so like us.”
“Great!!” The Conqueror rolled her eyes, “A special needs child. As if Birdie isn't ‘special needs' enough!”
The Conqueror found herself in a firm headlock rather suddenly, by none other than the Battling Bard, who had lost none of her skills, “Whatever her needs are, we will LOVE her, Xena.”
“Of course we will, Gabrielle, I was only kidding.”
“Try something for me?” The bard let her up.
The blue eyes softened, “Anything love.”
“Listen to her…”
“Any special reason? It's so soon; there is something to hear?”
“Well,” The bard looked down at her fingers on her belly. “I can hear her already within. I need confirmation.”
“Very well, “ The warrior lay her head against her lover's belly and they were both silent. Time passed.. Silence. Gabrielle wondered.
The warrior sat up shaking her head, puzzled.
“What did you hear?”
“Gabrielle, tell me what you hear.”
Her blonde lover shifted uncomfortably a moment, and then admitted, “ What I hear… well, not really hear, but what resonates in me, is a kind of singing… no words, but it's definitely singing.” The jade gaze awaited judgment.
The cobalt eyes blinked. “That is what I heard, Gabrielle.”
The weather held fine for our first campfire. I caught fish quickly with a small fishing bow and arrow set that I had fashioned soon after my first adventure in the rough. It was a permanent part of my gear now, along with a small assortment of my favorite cooking herbs now in my trail pack. There was also a rudimentary healer's kit meant for only slight injuries. The road trip had been an excellent education. We had selected a comfortable spot, far enough from the main trail, near a small creek, in which I had already bathed . (BRRRRR!!!)
Zephyr and I sat together and I drew her map to Abdera with a stick in the dust while our fish cooked.
“See Zephyr? We follow this run of water northeast around this mountain to Philippi. If we need supplies, we can pick up a few there, because then we must cross the next mountain. That will not be easy, we will walk a good bit, I imagine, and we won't eat so well. But barring that, it's a straight run across a great plain to Abdera, and the Amazons are near there.”
As always, I felt the energy first.
Zephyr picked up her ears , “Little Mistress, I told you to expect this.”
The hairs on my arms became brittle with static, and my hair probably went porcupine status. One does not become accustomed to the appearance of a goddess, even if she appears with some regularity, even if she is responsible for one's birth.
“Robin of the Warrior and Bard.”
I stayed kneeling near the campfire and kept my gaze lowered. “Yes, My Lady Artemis.”
Her hardwood colored feet in their jeweled sandals strode across to study my little map drawn so painstakingly in the dirt. Her amber eyes studied, appraised, and concluded. Zephyr had assumed her god fox form without a sound. She had become the size of a small wolf, sleek, sable, with the same amber eyes glowing; nothing one would have as a pet.
“You may rise, child.”
I may have turned fourteen, but we are all children of the gods. My eyes did not rise.
“Robin, child, some would call this a very foolish quest, especially without obtaining PERMISSION from your parents, am I right?” The heat increased as her presence moved closer. Soon I would have to meet the amber eyes, which could flash and burn like the sun.
“My Lady Artemis,” I found myself on one knee again, “I am certain that you know, I am the chosen consort of Rachelle, now acting Queen of the Amazons by the Sea. Since she was taken, I have a tremendous urge to go to her and stand by her side at this challenging time. I feel that she needs me.”
My chin burned as the goddess raised my eyes to meet her wise, ageless, amber. “Why did you not secure permission from your parents to make this journey? I understand your drive very well, but I cannot say that I approve of your methods, young Robin.”
“My Lady,” I cast my gaze to Zephyr, “My parents would not have allowed it, and even had they agreed to come with me,” Here I ducked my head again, “I was in too much of a hurry; I had to begin the journey as soon as I heard.”
Zephyr took her regular fox form and came to sit by me. I fell back on my heels. “Lady Artemis, I know there will be consequences that may be dire. But I can do this; I can make this journey alone and be with Rach. She needs me; I can feel it!” Now the tears came. Minotaur Shite. Didn't want to do that.
There was a very long silence, which I bore, while the goddess walked in circles around me. Finally she spoke.
“Robin of the Warrior and Bard, I , Artemis, Goddess of the Moon and Hunt, and Goddess of the Amazons, will allow you to make this journey.”
The breath was held again.
“You would do well to hold straight to the plan and go directly to Rachelle's side. I will dispatch Icarus to you, so that you may send word of your well being to your parents. As for the consequences, I shall decree that any punishment of you for carrying out this heroic, but rebellious mission, will be dealt by Amazons only.”
I didn't know about that, “That means Baba Xe can't tan my hide, My Lady; I would d expect it first from her.”
“Xena the Conqueror is not Amazon Nation. This may be a learning experience for her as well. She will cope. There are many Amazon issues in play just now. Rise, Birdie.”
I did so with eyes cast down. Hubris was never appreciated by this goddess. Her hand was heavy on my hair, and then her lips left that familiar burning sensation on my forehead.
“Be wise and be safe, Little Bird, on your flight to the side of your princess, for she does indeed need you. I will watch over you, and I will also appear to your parents and offer explanation. You should expect your Godmother Euphiny and Rachelle's Aunt Eponin within the next several days. You WILL RETURN with them, Birdie, no arguments, no scenes. Is that UNDERSTOOD?”
“Yes, My Lady. Thank you, My Lady.”
The mahogany hand rested on my fox. “Take care of her, Zephyr.” Something passed between them.
Then the golden light was gone, and we had only the campfire.
I looked at Zephyr, “Doesn't she scare you at all?”
The fox laughed silently inside my head, “Perhaps, Little Mistress, you need a good healthy dose of fear at times. Perhaps you ARE too big for your britches, as your mother suggests.”
“Perhaps,” I lay back and looked at the endless stars. Maybe Marcus would visit me on this trip. It had been a very long time. Zephyr settled in closely with her back to me, I turned on my side, put my arm around her, and we slept.
Lady Artemis, Zephyr,
What have I done?
Why have I run?
When I know better?
Shall I blame this shining
Silver piercing in my ear?
Does it beckon me near
To the piercer?
She needs me, no doubt.
The thunder reverberates,
Within and without.
I must go to her.
I forsake all that I know,
Of what is right and wrong,
To seek her siren's song,
But there is no choice.
Dear Artemis, I pray
With your powers divine,
Tell the Warrior and the Bard.
That I'm capable and I'm fine,
And that all of you guide me….
Robin of Amphipolis
(To be continued.)
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