Once again, I apologize for the time between parts of this everlasting story. The epilogue kept growing in length, and you do not want to know how long I worked on the #*^@!! Paw print!! ( see poem)… But I am grateful to my readers.. (lalaland), who love Birdie, grateful to my faithful beta reader, the Tyrant, and to VX without whom Birdie would not exist. Thank you to all.. And just to remind you… Xena fought Rankor; Cookie was killed, taking a knife meant for Caleb. Because Rankor killed his own parent, the Furies came and took him away to a fate worse than death by sword.
Part 10 of The Birdie Series
I am Robin of the Warrior and the Bard….
Two seven days have passed since Baba Xe defeated Rankor, and we all came home to Amphipolis.
Perhaps because I had been gone so long; the fortress and city seemed smaller to me than when I left.
Perhaps it was my own growth.
Certainly my ROOM seemed to shrink by the day, and I have served only half of my confinement!! A full moon has been a long time to be grounded, but I cannot complain. Mama G works me for a candle mark in the mornings with the staff. Baba works me for two candle marks in swordplay, chakram, and hunting before dinner; so I am sufficiently exercised. I join the family for all meals and Mama G expects a single parchment page of writing every day which she inspects after the evening meal. My mother is an excellent writer, and she demands the best from me. There have been days when I have only managed to work out a rough draft which is acceptable, if it is fine-tuned the following day.
As I write this, suddenly two more seven days seems like a very long time, and yet I also know that it is good to have a home—a safe place. I have written about it at length and would HOPE that such lessons should chisel their ways into my head of stone. My heart of stone, however; is not working out so well.
I miss Rachelle; I miss Rach so much it feels like a great hole in my chest and I can't fill it with any amount of activity, work or play or creativity. There are times I ask for Grandba's special “sleep tight” tea and I just go to bed early to escape my sadness. The mornings are better—many activities keep me occupied. But evenings... Mama G says it's a human characteristic: we go our separate ways until dinner time. Then we want everyone home and nearby. If someone is missing, like Rach is for me, it HURTS. I can't bear it and the escape is to retire early. I wonder if Rach feels the same or if I am just a big ball of Bird mush.
I am a fortunate girl; well not so much a “girl” anymore, because my responsibilities are great. Singer has changed many of childish thoughts. In the evenings, Mama G allows me to listen to her for a time. This little soul growing within my mother already knows me well. She is a gift.
And speaking of Artemis, she was the ‘dealer' of ‘Amazon discipline'. Great globs of Minotaur shite, give me a quarter candle mark in the armory with Baba Xe any day. But the Conqueror is not an Amazon. She believes in cleaning up after one's own messes. Amazons are thorough, very thorough.
Mama G called me out after I had slept for a day and a half. The rest had boosted my strength and mind, and I felt ready to face the consequences of my numerous impulsive acts and poor decisions.
Zephyr accompanied us. My mother held my hand and paced along with her head down, lost in her own thoughts. We came to the center of a small practice field and she turned to me, cupping my face in gentle hands.
“My Little Bird, you are now accountable to Artemis for your recent behavior.” Tears filled tender green eyes; a sight which often was punishment enough.
It would be a falsehood if I did not say her words shook me; my encounters with Artemis could not be declared “moderate”. Though our relationship had improved, I had no reason to think the goddess would be gentle with me today.
“I am here as a consultant, Birdie,” my mother finished, which gave more relief than I care to admit, but there was little time to sigh, as the goddess materialized just then. Zephyr crossed to join Her.
I bowed my head, resolving to guard my mouth. But the glow of her power, the luminosity of her presence caught me, and my shadow was small.
“Robin of the Warrior and the Bard, do you know why I am here?”
“Answer the Goddess, Birdie.”
“Yes, My Lady; I was just pondering a moment, My Ladies.”
This could be really dangerous. Speak carefully, Bird dog.
“You are here,” I began,” as the Goddess of the Amazons. I have committed grievous wrongdoings both in the eyes of Amazons, and also as a member of the Amazon nation myself.”
“You are no ‘ member ', Robin of Amphipolis. You are an Amazon princess and now you are bonded consort to Rachelle, Queen of the Amazons by the Sea. “
The lesson I learn again and again, is that the repercussions of my foolishness are almost always worse than I can imagine. This was no different. Think MORE. My mother always told me to “write it from your heart and then give it to your brain”. Her wisdom would well apply to life. Brain, Bird dog, BRAIN. Too late now.
“No it isn't, Little Mistress, “thoughts from Zephyr, “It's never too late to think and LEARN.
“You are right , ” returned thoughts.
“Many moons ago, I gave to you this black fox, Robin, “the goddess was thundering again, “So the first step of your disciplinary actions to face will be… loss of her..”
The sob was wrung from someplace more abysmal than I had ever been, “My Lady….” I sank to my knees in total desolation. Zephyr, my first soul mate, no please, not Zephyr…
My mother's hand lay cool on the back of my neck. “What length is this separation to be, My Lady?“
There was a chuckle which I felt in the ground beneath my knees. “A seven-day only, Little Bird; do not despair.”
The evergreen smell of my fox was near my ear .” I go to train a companion for Rachelle, Little Mistress,” she sent, “that will better the communication between you and your love during your separation.” Her velvet tongue cleared my cheeks.
“Thank you, My Lady, “ I managed to gain a grip on myself, “Zephyr is your gift, and I did not heed her when I should have. An absence will reinforce my need to THINK HARD.”
“We are not finished, Birdie,” was there any reassurance in the use of my diminutive name?
But the goddess extended an arm; a silver staff appeared in her right hand... Minotaur shite, here it comes.
Mama G brought me her own staff, “ I will stop her at enough, Birdie, “ she said in a low voice, “But mind you, Lady Artemis worked me to my expert level.”
I took her staff and studied it. There were marks of a thousand fights, but she sanded it, redid the bindings and rubbed wax into it every six moons or so, and it was good fit and a fine weight for me.
Thwack!! The first blow came as my mother retreated; I only just blocked it by ducking and instinctively throwing up the staff. But as I caught my breath, a second thwack, connected behind my thighs. It stung like a thousand bees, but I recovered quickly and blocked the following blow. It was going to be a long afternoon.
“Xena, you need to check on our lad, “ Cyrene eyed her daughter while kneading dough.
“He seems to be adjusting well enough, isn't he?” The Conqueror had just begun her second cup of tea and wanted no interruption.
Her mother stood hands akimbo and delivered a “Look”. The warrior removed her feet from the table and sat up straight. She managed not to sigh- that would mean real trouble.
“He is totally dependable at his kitchen work, “ Cyrene, having seized her offspring's attention, returned to her dough. But there is great sadness in him. I see it in his eyes when I can make him look at me, “ the little woman kneaded harder, “But think of Caleb, Xena. I know he's a good soldier to you as well, but he did lose his family very quickly. And right in front of his eyes.”
The warrior quickly slurped her tea. “You are right, Mother. I found Rankor to be such a s--- “ pause, “ sheep of a creep.” Saved but lame. Keep going, “and a jerk, I forgot he WAS Caleb's father, and Cain, the cook was a fine man. I guess that is why Caleb is handy in the kitchen; he helped his grandfather from a young age.”
“He let me hug him once, “ Xena noted the fast blinking which heralded tears in her mother, “and he was stiff as a young tree. I know the lad's heart is broken; he is such a sweet boy, “ there were tears falling now, “ ya know who he reminds me of…”
“I know, “ from behind the Conqueror wrapped her little mother in strong arms, “He reminds me of him, too. I'll talk to him, Mother.”
Cyrene swiveled about and returned the embrace, “Thank you, Honey. I think if he knows it's all right to be sad; if the Conqueror tells him it's acceptable to be sad and that we love him, he will open up a bit more.” She gently released her girl and blew a kiss, “I love the lad, you know. There is so much TLC he can collect from me if we can soften his stone wall.”
“Wish me luck, “ Xena's eyes twinkled, “You know this is really more Gabrielle's department.”
“Posh, you'll be fine, “ Cyrene's eyes reflected the same twinkle. As she pushed her daughter out the kitchen door she clutched the warrior-hardened hand for a breath. “Xena—In case you need to hear it, I love you too.” She squeezed the hand gently, “And I am so proud of you.”
“I love you too, Mother, “ Xena exited the door before she turned into dough in her mother's hands.
“Mother is absolutely right, “ she thought to herself, “Family, family of any kind, is essential, and our boy needs it.”
The Conqueror approached her youngest soldier on soft boots. She had watched him for some time, sitting under the giant oak outside the fortress. For the past candle mark, he had done nothing but draw circles in the dirt beneath the tree. He jumped up at the strong hand on his shoulder.
“Hey, Soldier,” His commander's tone was soft, “How are you doing?”
Caleb refused to meet her eyes, but she noted the tear drops landing in the dust.
“All right, My Lady Conqueror,” he muttered and then choked, “Great to be ‘ome, idn't it?”
“It is,” she began kicking on a nearby root of the tree worn smooth by kicks over the years. (Yikes, I am in a ‘sensitive chat' situation… Gaa bri ellllllle, help me.)
The ever humble boy spoke, “I'm lucky to have such a ‘ome, My Lady. I am so grateful.”
“Hey,” Xena saw her opening and a little Conqueror growl infused her words, “Caleb, this IS your home and it will be so for as long as you desire.”
She had calculated well; the boy suddenly without family, as no matter how shabby it had been, still felt orphaned.
She clapped his shoulder firmly, “You are my soldier, kiddo, perhaps a bit young, but then again…. You are also very special to me and to the Queen... rather… like a son, perhaps?”
(Too strong too soon?) She asked herself, ( no matter, it was true)
He finally lifted his violet eyes, one tear running down each cheek. “Ya mean that, My Lady?”
“I do, “ his hero, clad in blue silk shirt, voiced an unspoken dream of his, “I do, Caleb. That doesn't mean you can shirk any duties as part of the militia, ask my Birdie about that. But it does mean, “ She paused, “it does mean that you are invited to any ‘family' event we have, if you choose to attend. My mother adores you. She lost her youngest son many seasons ago, my little brother, Lyceus. It left a hole in our hearts that you can fill, I think.”
His stance relaxed under her hand; good Conqueror, Gabrielle would be proud.
“I'd luv that, My Lady, “ his voice cracked, “I'd love that and always be my best for ya.”
She left his shoulder with a gentle pat, “good, it's settled then.”
Not done yet there were new wet spots. Deep breath, Xe. You love this boy; you must show him your heart.
She reached across to capture his far shoulder and turned him to face her. He could not look up.
“Caleb,” she stooped to meet his damp eyes, “Caleb, it is ok for a warrior, a soldier, a man, to grieve, kiddo. It is ok .”
He resisted very little, and she tugged the blond mop to her shoulder, swinging a strong hand to cup the back of his head. He did considerable sniffing, but thank the gods, he had a handkerchief. When she felt him relax, she released him with a pat and, cocked her blue eyes at him with a mischievous smile.
“And as a family member, you best be ready for our Queen to cut your hair.”
He chuckled, “Ya, I could do wid' a trim.” The tree root was kicked.
“I think Birdie is first in line, but you'll be a close second.”
“I'd be proud, My Lady. Thank you My Lady.”
“No worries, “ she clapped his back again. “Go get your sword and prepare for a brisk lesson.”
His eyes widened, “From you, My Lady?”
“No, from Argo ... YES, from me, and I won't be easy on you.”
He flashed a gorgeous smile, “I wouldn't expect that, My Lady”.
“Good, now run!” She whipped a hand across the wheat hair in a playful smack. He jogged away.
Gabrielle might be proud. She was rather proud of herself.
Every bone, every muscle below my waist was chorusing a high pitched song .Sweat stung my eyes and made them run; they were NOT tears, by the gods they were not tears. I pushed back my hair with a dirty hand and came to “ready” position again.
“I am almost finished, Queen Gabrielle, with your permission?” The goddess paused and looked at my mother.
I stole a glance and witnessed the tears I expected on my mother's face. She shook back her head and said, “Yes, My Lady Artemis. I think our Birdie has had enough.”
WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! Firm blows of the Artemis staff nipped my backside and brought me to my knees once more. Sobs wrestled within me, but no way, not happening Bird dog.
A mahogany hand was extended and its grip brought me flying to my feet.
“You have been very brave, Robin of the Warrior and Bard, “ the thunder soft voice of the goddess spoke, “ I did not go easy on you; I have staffed many much stronger than you, and put them sobbing in the dirt. The unflagging courage you have displayed pleases me greatly.”
“It could have been worse, “ I managed to respond, “Thank you My Lady Artemis.”
The hand lay on my head gently then, “This was a first for me, Birdie, “she lifted my chin, “ I have disciplined many warriors, but never one so young. I hope that you know how special you are to me, Little One. ”
I could only nod into her hand. The amber eyes looked away, “ Your mother is right, Birdie, even loving discipline is difficult to deal.” A single tear traveled the dark face- a falling star, and Artemis began to fade.
But her voice returned, rumbling, “I could say I hope it is the last time, but somehow, “ her laughter was loud thunder, “somehow, I don't quite… think… sooooo.”
My knees buckled and I caught myself with my hands, dropping the staff. I was exhausted beyond any idea I had ever had of exhaustion.
My mother knelt by my side. She hid no tears from me.
“Birdie, I hope I do not have to witness this pain for you again, “ my mother could always speak clearly through tears, “even though it was what you deserved, it was very grim for me to watch.”
“I'm so sorry, Mama,” in her arms now, the bravado broke and fell away, “I am so sorry…”
She pulled me in close and I sighed into her warm sandalwood scent.
“My Birrrr… dee…sad for Birr…dee.”
“I am ok, Little One, “ I whispered to my baby sister, “Thank you, but I promise to be your strong big sister, never worry.”
Mama G unslung a large water skin; after a deep draw, I leaned against her almost falling asleep with relief. She stroked my hair.
A realization pierced me, as sharp and as agonizing as the snake bite.
“Zephyr,” I cast my eyes about and then sobs came, “Oh Mama, Zephyr's gone.”
“How's our Birdie?” Gabrielle was deeply relieved to feel the towering presence approach.
“Exhausted, smarting, but smarter , I think,” The bard's evergreen s met the cerulean blues. She stroked her child's cheek with her knuckles gently, “She is sound asleep.”
“I am sure the dread of facing Artemis stressed her, “ The Conqueror said with a chuckle, “I would have been stressed, and I am ‘Xena the Conqueror.”
“You would have been proud of her, Xena, “ the bard looked down at the shaggy hair, “She took some rough stuff, but she never faltered. Artemis praised her courage.”
The Warrior leaned down and scooped her daughter into her arms easily, the dark head falling on soft silk. “I am proud of her,” she whispered, “No matter how annoyed or angry I am with her, the pride always comes in first. “ She kissed the slumbering forehead, “ She is a great kid.”
The pair began a slow walk to the fortress.
Gabrielle put her hand on the carved wood arm, “I feel the same way, “ she said, and then placing a hand on her belly, looked down, “I think Singer may be easier to raise but far far different to raise as well. I believe our Lady Artemis has her in mind for an Oracle.”
Xena inclined her head, “I cannot say that I am surprised; that little one has shown uncanny ‘sight' ever since she came into that belly.” A sigh, “Oracle, huh? It will not be an easy life for her.”
Gabrielle ran her arm around the slim tree trunk waist, “Which is exactly why she has US, my love. It is quite an honor actually. Despite Birdie's… ‘Challenges' to us in parenting, Artemis loves her and thus we have been gifted and specially trusted with Singer.”
The Warrior blew her bangs from her forehead with a raspberry noise, “I believe our first duty now is to get this one to the bathing pool and clean her up. I wonder if she will even wake ; she is OUT.”
“She is healing, “ the bard said, “I think you have the perfect idea. A warm soak sounds wonderful to me.” She took her partner's arm again, “It is a beautiful night, isn't it? The full moon….”
The bright beams lighted their way to the baths. Artemis was watching.
Bright moonbeams through my bedroom window awakened me. A tall silhouette startled me until it turned and sat down on my bedside. Baba Xe.
“How are you doing, Little Bird?, “ her hand pushed my hair out of my eyes. I felt the cool softness of my sheets and the relief of clean hair and body.
“ Better than I expected, Baba. How long have I been out?”
“Close to four candle marks.”
“Whoa. Wow.” I just shook my head.
“Artemis laid into you pretty good, huh?”
I shrugged, “No more than I deserved, Baba.”
“Smarts a bit, though, doesn't it, kid?”
I shifted on a few bruises, “Yeah, pretty much. But I'm fine.”
In the next breath I was face down across her lap. Minotaur shite, would there be Baba Xe discipline on top of “Amazon discipline”?
Her big hand lay quiet on my backside, “What should I do with my errant little Bird?”
I could not keep my voice from trembling, but my resolve was as strong as it had been with Artemis.
“What you think best, Baba Xe; I can take it.”
Then I was back against my pillows fighting tears.
“And what do I intend for you to understand right now , Birdie?” Her hand was on my head again.
“That I will never be too big to go across your knee?”
“Perfect,” a low chuckle and her lips brushed my forehead, “Don't ever forget it, Robin of Amphipolis.”
I couldn't help but clutch her tightly around the waist, “I won't Baba. Baba, I am so sorry.” Tears squeezed out.
“It's ok, Little Bird, “ she rocked me gently, “You were actually incredibly lucky, my girl. Spending the night at a cold and high altitude, and the Ochia's bite--- either of those could have taken you….either could have killed you Birdie.” Her voice cracked. I listened to her heartbeat slow down, and she continued, “As long as you learn from your mistakes, and as long as you…”
“Remember.” I finished her sentence. “ I will; I love you Baba Xe.”
She pushed me back with serious regard, “I believe that you finally mean that. I love you too, Birdie. I will always love you.” She guided me back against the pillows and tucked the sheets under the mattress firmly like she had when I was little and might fall out of bed. It felt good… safe.
My warrior parent turned back, “Yes.”
“Baba Xe, how do you manage when you and Mama G are apart?”
The Conqueror walked across my room to gaze at the moon from my window.
“I know it hurts; I know how much it hurts… “ Swallow, “because… of Rach.”
“Yes, it does hurt, Little Bird, “ Baba addressed the moon, “You have been very tough about it.”
“Not inside, Baba Xe. Inside it feels like… it feels like that story Mama G tells about people searching for the other half of their souls.”
“Half your soul is missing, “ Baba Xe whispered, “I know that feeling well, as does your mother.” She sighed, “ I wish there was an easy answer for you, Birdie, but the fact is… it is not easy.”
“I know, “ no more tears Bird, listen to Baba, “But you and Mama manage.”
“We have had experience, Little Bird. Too much experience, I think.”
“So you can't help me with it, Baba?”
She turned, I could feel the blue gaze even in the dark, “You and Rachelle will find your own ways to cope. And you WILL cope; you must cope.”
“Yes, My Lady, “ I addressed Baba Xe in the respectful tone. It seemed appropriate.
“I can only give you a few words, Birdie. But you will know what to do; you are a bard's daughter as well as a warrior's daughter.”
“Yes, My Lady.”
“Time, Patience, Sensitivity, Love, and most of all Faith, “ the low voice crossed the room.
“Unshakeable FAITH that you will be reunited. No matter the distance or time, you keep the faith in each other as bound for all time.”
“I see,” I whispered, “Work on replacing loneliness with faith. Rachelle and I are together forever.”
“Thanks, Baba…” That was some heavy head and heart work, and I was tired. A good writing assignment for tomorrow, “g'night.”
“Good night, Sweetheart.”
“She's ok.” The warrior returned to her bedchamber where a blond head sat waiting. “She's a little uncomfortable, but she should be.”
Gabrielle sighed into her soul mate as she joined her under the covers. “Artemis did not ‘staff'her any harder than either of us would have done.” She whispered into the dark tresses. “Reminded me of Tara and what you called ‘tough love', however….” The Conqueror needed no light to know tears filled the bard's eyes, “it was difficult to witness.”
Xena squirmed away and stood up on the bed. She opened one ceiling panel which allowed chilly air and moonlight into the bedroom. She rejoined her partner and looked up into the celestial display. “Tough love… My Love….” She breathed softly “is tough on everyone.”
She pulled Gabrielle in closely and brushed her lips across golden eyebrows. “I am thinking now of a different kind.”
The bard caught her breath as the lips moved to her own lips and began drifting down her neck and breasts. Her body began to rise in response, “I...” she managed to whisper, “….. liiiike it….”
And then the Warrior possessed her.
I awakened the next morning, feeling a peace which had thus far eluded me. I had faced Amazon discipline without fear and gained the praise of the goddess. I leaned over the side of my bunk- an automatic habit.
Further….head to floor, “Zephyr?”
Memory flooded my eyes. Gone.
Only a seven day, the goddess promised; you can do a seven day without your fox, Bird dog. Soldier up. But I lay back and felt dampness form pools in my ears. Zephyr was a constant conscience, guardian, friend and soul mate, both talking to me, and walking with me wherever I had gone, right or wrong, for several seasons' round. Her absence was more painful than any I had endured physically. Turning back over to gaze at the wall, I allowed the tears freedom.
Rachel perched on the Watching Rock alone. She wandered about her consort- a constant activity of the mind since they had been joined. A soft smile formed as the sea breeze lifted her hair. Birdie had much to answer for. But she would do it bravely, Rach thought. It was something she loved about her impulsive consort; Birdie blamed no one else for her mistakes, and she was courageous in taking responsibility for her actions. That would take them far—courage. Oh but she missed that girl.
Her peripheral vision caught activity down beach; two small figures approached at a quick trot. Smallish four legged fellows, one all black.
“Zephyr?” She called and the ebony fox broke into a swift run. Rachel quickly descended the rock and ran to throw her arms around Birdie's fox.
(Sorry, keep scrolling down)..
The end of GONE… wow!! Comments and irritation can be expressed at email@example.com . I am grateful for the faith the bard feeders show in Birdie. Very very grateful. The next story arc is called “Six Moons” so, we are still flying. Take care….osb
Comments and irritation can be expressed at firstname.lastname@example.org for the slow pace of this story. I feel very fortunate that both Birdie and her readers have remained loyal as I have tried to manage this huge life change. Thank you. You keep
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