Disclaimer: See Part 1
Birdie's back and this time her challenge is to live through six months (six moons) apart from Rachelle. She has also been “grounded for life” after her adventures in the story “Gone”, but Birdie's boundaries are never too harsh; her famous parents make certain she is kept very busy. Meanwhile, Zephyr's son, Rain, is learning to communicate with Rach in similar fashion to how Zephyr works with Birdie. Both are gifts of Artemis. Singer, another miraculous gift from Artemis grows within Gabrielle, and she can already understand and speak a great deal with a chosen few members of her family.
Thanks as always to Trace the Tyrant, my faithful beta reader, and to VX who keeps saying, “are you writing Birdie?” and to all the readers who have helped keep Birdie, and her muse receiver moving in a more positive life direction…
Part 11 of The Birdie Series
I am Robin of the Warrior and the Bard.
Gaius seemed like a nice enough kid; he was pretty quiet. Mama G had suggested I take him to see Talus and Angie's shop.
I was only just beginning to sort out what was going on. My memory of Dax was quite strong; the unspoken truth was that Aurora and Gaius were hiding at Amphipolis and sooner or later, we could expect a visit from Rome.
Aurora had told the story at dinner. My old friend Titus Rufus Tiberius (son of a Minotaur shite) unfortunately had sired a SON, Titus Rufus Tiberius II, but he went by the name Rufus. Sounded like a good dog name to me, and apparently he owned the name, because Aurora had made Rufus an enemy by refusing his romantic advances. (Duh on Titus)… (Bird, you have to stop these random silent asides, because one day you will speak one.) But I imagined Rufus being nothing but as disgusting as his father, and Aurora had validated my thoughts including the fact that he had picked on Gaius. That was intolerable and what had eventually led the two to flee Rome.
“This is a nice town, “Gaius remarked as we rambled on our way to Talus's shop.
“I like it here, “ was my answer.
“Why do you always have that FOX, Birdie? Is it your pet?”
This elicited an audible snort from Zephyr.
“Zephyr is much more than a pet, Gaius,” I explained, “in fact; I am more Zephyr's pet than she is mine.”
Now my fox's soft chuckles filled my mind and heart.
“Zephyr is my companion and my life guide, “ a good start.
His dark eyes looked far ahead our path. “I would like that,” He said, “Seems good.”
“She is a gift, “ I replied, “Perhaps if you ask, the gods might give you a gift.”
“I don't like Mars,” the boy's eyes were flames, “If he offered me a gift, I would refuse.”
“Is Mars the only god you know about, Gaius?”
“Come sit by me here, “ a detour into my parents' garden. The stone bench which held the energies of Solon and Hope would be a good place for us to talk.
The trees had grown and swayed in the breeze as if to pace the conversation.
“Here,” I offered him a drink from the water skin and an apple. Grandba never allowed anyone to leave through HER kitchen without water and a snack.
“It's pretty here,” Gaius looked around.
“It's meant to be, “ I answered, “It's meant to be a place of quiet contemplation.”
“Con tem what?” Large dark eyes met mine.
“It's a good place to think, and you don't feel lonely because of the trees.”
“I like it,” he decided.
“Good,” now, Bird, where are you gonna take this conversation?
“About Mars,” I ventured, “Mars is the sum total of your knowledge of the gods?”
Gaius had incredibly long eyelashes which could hide his eyes quickly.
“Uh huh,” he dug a sandal into the dirt.
“Well, there are many others, kiddo, “ Just hop in Bird.
Baba Xe passed through our vision and waved. She was headed for the drill and practice fields.
“I don't like HER either,” this was a barely audible mutter, “I'm sorry; I know that she is important to you, but I just don't like her.”
“Go on….” Wow, such maturity, Bird. You might make a big sister yet.
“HER and MARS killed my Uncle Dax.”
Well that was true.
I dug a hole with my boot next to his and allowed a silence to settle.
“I know that Gaius,” use an easy voice, “I was there.”
He jerked his head around so fast the dark hair covered his eyes.
“You were there, Birdie?” He moved the hair, but I caught sight of a falling tear.
“I was,” wait for it… “Would you like to hear the whole story?”
Now tears were no longer hidden, and I wrapped a warm and firm arm about his skinny shoulders and pulled him closer.
“Yeah,” he managed.
“Baba Xe and I and your Uncle Dax met the for the first time many seasons ago, “ He was listening to my chest . No, he couldn't possibly remind me of myself could he?”
Yes, he nodded into my heart beat.
“Baba Xe and I had just spent a day swimming up at a lake not too far from here, and…..”
Best to just say it, “We were captured by a Roman patrol led by Titus; you've heard that name.”
“Just barely remember him, “ Gaius supplied, “But I didn't like him; he was mean.”
“Well he was very mean to both me and my Baba Xe, “ I continued, “He was trying to torture information from her and me…. Well, he just liked being mean to me.”
“Mama says he was a bully, “ the boy spoke softly, “he didn't like kids.”
“That's the truth, “ bad memory moment here, Bird, watch yourself , “He beat me for no reason.”
“Pretty bad.” He would have killed me.
“I'm sorry, Birdie, “ what a sweet kid.
I stood, stretched and swigged a gulp of water. Pace this conversation carefully, Bird.
“Your Uncle Dax was the only person who tried to be nice to us.” Gaius didn't need to hear about Marcus. “When my mother arrived to free us, your Uncle Dax was even helpful.”
Now Gaius found his feet and walked away to kick a rock. Must have hurt in those sandals, but he didn't let on. Need to get the boy some boots.
“That's why I don't understand why your ‘buba xe' or whatever you call her, had to kill my uncle!”
“That is a valid concern,” I answered, “And it is complicated to explain. Are you up for it?”
“C'mon back then and sit,” I patted the bench.
He did so, swinging his legs.
“A season's round of time or so later,” not a perfect beginning, but would serve. “Rome came for revenge on Amphipolis. The ‘big guys'……”
“Caesar, “ Gaius supplied.
“Right, Caesar could not let it stand that Xena the Conqueror had escaped and killed one of his ‘finest' centurions, and thus sent several legions to collect.”
“I know, “ he replied looking at the grass.
“So you know….”
“Uncle Dax was in charge; I remember; we didn't want him to go, but he had to…”
I remained quiet and allowed the boy to ponder on his own.
“”Mama didn't want him to go; she said she hada a bad feelin' and she was right.”
Now his dark eyes welled; I held out my arms-- an invitation to burrow. He tunneled into my tunic.
“War, battle, conflict, whatever one may call it is never fun, Gaius. Actually, I have trouble understanding it myself -why there must be so much conflict. It's as if someone always has to be proving something.” I squeezed him lightly, “Ready to go on?”
“The attack on Amphipolis didn't last too long; we have many friends outlying whom you have not met.”
“So you won?”
“Basically. Your Uncle Dax rode in to talk terms of surrender. That was when he asked my Baba Xe to kill him.”
“HE ASKED?” the kid's voice was incredulous and I didn't much blame him.
“He did, Gaius. You know why? Think about it.”
He stared at the ground for a while, “I'm sorry, Birdie. I just don't get it.”
“That's just fine, Gaius, “ I pulled him a little closer, “It isn't easy to understand. Baba Xe called me out to visit him before his death. We talked briefly and I apologized to him because we had ‘won'. He laughed. I didn't quite know what he meant but your Uncle Dax said ‘thank you for the innocence, my friend.”
“This is getting harder to understand, Birdie, not easier.”
“Ok, “ I removed my arm and stretched long from arms to toes. “Your Uncle Dax asked my Baba Xe to kill him, because his legion had failed to sack Amphipolis. If he had returned to Rome and confessed defeat, it would have placed unbearable shame on your family. So your Uncle Dax elected to be ‘killed in the service to Rome' in order to protect YOU and your mother. Otherwise Caesar might have treated you unfairly or he might have hurt you.”
“Oh,” he pondered, “So when Caesar began to be ugly just lately, my mom brought us here.”
“Yes,” I answered, lifting his chin now to meet his eyes, “My Baba Xe swore to your Uncle Dax that should you ever find it necessary, you and your mom would have a shelter, a home, and protection, at Amphipolis under Xena the Conqueror.
“I see, “ tears were falling again, “I loved my Uncle Dax, Birdie; I miss him so much.”
“I know you do,” I stood and offered a hand which he accepted. “You are going to learn a great deal in the coming days and seven days, kiddo, and guess what?”
“What?” Those cow eyes were so trusting it hurt my heart. No harm will find this boy, Bird.
“I, Robin of Amphipolis, believe that Gaius Amato of Rome is ready.”
“You think?” this was innocence.
“I think,” my hand ruffled his hair; “Now you want to go see my friend's carvings?”
“Yes,” he gripped my hand hard; “but I have one more question, Birdie.”
“Ok, “ I steered him back onto the main village walkway.
“Did it hurt my Uncle Dax to die?”
What a question; a perceptive kid, this Gaius. I liked him very much and thus swung him around to place both hands on his shoulders.
“My Baba Xe has many skills, “ something inside me smiled, “she knows the pressure points on a person's body which can cause remarkable things. She can touch someone's neck and cut off the blood to his brain.”
“That doesn't sound so nice, “ his eyes widened in fear.
“Being Xena the Conqueror requires her to be not so nice at times, “ I defended, “but my point is, she knew the pressure points in your Uncle Dax's body to turn off any pain.”
“Really? Wow.” He was finally impressed.
“She did not want to kill him, Gaius; she respected him and would have liked to have him join our militia. But they both knew death was the only way your Uncle Dax could protect you and your mom from harm. “ Now my eyes felt full, so I shook my head back; this was not my favorite memory either. “She was holding him closely; they talked as he died and I even heard him chuckle.”
“I am sorry I said that about your Baba Xe, “ the boy said, “ I didn't understand then; I was little and I just missed my uncle.”
“Well, “ we were nearly to Talus's shop now thanks to the gods, “if you go back to that bench sometime and watch the trees and listen very hard, you will be able to feel your Uncle Dax's presence. The dead don't leave us, Gaius.”
He stopped and regarded me seriously with those huge eyes, “Really, Birdie?”
“Really. I will go with you the first time if you like.”
I opened the door to my friend's shop. Angie had anticipated our visit, and some of their best toys were front and center. I breathed gratitude to my friends.
“Thanks, Birdie, “ Gaius kissed my hand and immediately began playing with an oak wolf with a hinged jaw. Angie allowed him to experiment with several. It had been her idea to make toys.
“Well, once again, my girl is right, “ Talus whispered, “Toys will find a market here.”
“OF course they will, Talus,” I gave him an elbow to the ribs, “There are many children in Amphipolis, including those of us who haven't grown up.”
Our eyes met in the manner of friends who knew each other too well, “A'm thinkin' of doing an entire ‘warrior' series, Bird. You know, our ladies Xena and Gabrielle, the Amazons and our ‘airy fellas'.”
“I have a feeling that your timing might be perfect, “ I looked at him seriously. “Will you take a commission from me?”
“Anything, my friend.”
“Try your skills at a Roman Centurion, and he must somehow project gentleness.”
“Ah can do it, I thinks,” he said immediately, “been practicing trying to capture such character in our Queen.”
“Awesome, “we gripped hands to elbows. “That would be awesome.”
As we stood there watching Gaius's delight over different toys, I reviewed my talk with the boy. Zephyr had an opinion.
“My little mistress showed great ‘maturity', “ her thoughts came into my consciousness.
“Really?” my turn to be incredulous.
“Really, “ she answered, “ Now don't become all full of yourself, or I will have to bite you, “ she chuckled , “ I am glad I lived to see the day…”
Now my mind fairly shook with the laughter of my soul mate—my Zephyr.
“Jom!” Xena the Conqueror clapped the shoulders of the chief who responded by enveloping her in enormous furry arms. “You are more bear than fellow, “ she chuckled into his furs. “It has been too long, my friend.”
He pushed her back and drew her forehead to his, “Has been too many moons.”
Gabrielle was already cradling a furry bundle. May, wife of the chief was beaming.
“Girl,” rumbled Jom, “Kade.”
“Kade— I love that name; ‘hello pretty Kade, “ the bard offered a finger which was grasped at once.
“Whoa, she is strong, May,” she laughed, “What do you feed her?”
The big woman shrugged, “Feed same as boy. Kade strong.”
Gabrielle returned the child, “And who is this handsome fellow? Could it possibly be Tond?”
“Yes, Queen, “ the youth had grown taller, but was slender for a man of his DOZ tribe. He embraced his friend carefully, “Missed.”
“I have missed you too, Tond,” the wheat hair went to his chest, “But you are becoming a good man; I see it and I am proud.”
The boy smiled and stepped back, “Try.” He wore his dark auburn hair long in the tradition, but his beard was clipped short. Only the chief was allowed to grow a long beard; it was thought to contain wisdom for the leader.
“You?” May was looking pointedly at the bard's belly. “Yes?”
Gabrielle stroked the small hump, “Yes, “she answered, “Four moons or so.”
Now the chief came to embrace the bard as May traded cheek kisses with Xena.
“This good,” Jom said into the top of the queen's hair, “For good people. Birdie?” He looked about.
“Running a little late, “The Conqueror growled.
The hardwood arm was feathered by a fair hand, “She is entertaining Gaius, remember?”
The bard's hand tightened on the arm with a soothing energy. Her partner tended to “stress” just a little when she knew a big battle was in the works. “Xe, I am going to check in with Cyrene about our meal tonight. Why don't you show Chief Jom and his people their new camping area…?”
“You will really like it, “ Xena took the direction quickly, “We have rerouted a stream to flow directly through the camp, dug a new well with fine cold water, and constructed a four door latrine.”
May's eyes sparkled and she took her husband's arm. “Good, is good.” She smiled, cuddled her little furry bundle and followed the Conqueror.
“So, Lass—will you tell me just exactly what is going on?” Cyrene never looked up from her dough ball; her powerful arms and hands heavily flowered with constant kneading.
“First, how can I help you?” the bard retorted, “Now I mean that, Mother C…. I talk better while I am occupied.”
After shooting the small blond a familiar version of “The Look”, Cyrene murmured, “ya can grease the pans for the oven.”
“Oh, Goody… something messy, “ Gabrielle donned a pair of clean linen gloves from a drawer, stuck her hand into the larder and began swirling grease. “In a nutshell…”
“Rome is coming,” the older woman said.
“Uhhh… yes, that pretty much sums it…” emerald eyes concentrated on her grease blinking back tears.
“It's ‘cause of the Roman woman and her son?” Not really a question. “Can ya just fill in a few gaps fer me? I don't need you to tell me that my daughter has a personality change when she hears the word ‘Rome'.”
“No,” replied her second daughter, “I don't. Will the quick version do?”
“Aurora and Gaius are the sister and nephew of Dax.”
“Ah, the only decent Roman she ever met.”
“Yes. Unfortunately, relatives of the ranking officer who long ago took Xena and Birdie from their swimming hole, has taken offense to the kin of Dax.”
“So does that mean that a horse's arse can beget more of the same?”
Now the bard's eyes lifted and Cyrene was heartened to see the smile.
“I'm not touching that, Mother C,” she chuckled and recommenced her work, “That is as slippery a question as this stuff I am working with, and I prefer to keep the rest safe in the larder.”
Gabrielle was rewarded with a deep bellied laugh from the blue eyed innkeeper which was almost as rare to hear as it was from Xena the Conqueror.
We had a veritable feast that evening; not that we ever did without, but it was unusual to have pot roast with the trimmings and ham as well. Advancing age never affected my Grandba's energies or talents. Halfway through my second piece of apple cobbler, I pushed back from the table in misery.
Tond only raised his eyebrows. “Take it Tond, or I will regret this for more than a night,” I groaned.
The boy leaned across me, stabbed the piece with his dagger, consumed it in a single bite, and then returned to his own heaping plate. The “hairy fellas”, (they didn't mind that designation, but I resolved to think of a different one) didn't often eat such a variety and so much food. Their lifestyle favored simpler menus.
Now, Baba Xe rose from her chair and tapped a dagger on her ale mug. It gained audience immediately. I often wondered how she could do that. Was it her near goddess height and stunning beauty? Was it her fighting skills, which were without match? Was it the sapphire eyes which could warm or freeze another's eyes in the space of a heartbeat? I sensed no such charisma with in, and felt far inferior in the presence of the Conqueror.
“Little Mistress, do not compare yourself to others, “ Zephyr's tail flicked my legs and I quickly offered her several bites of roast and ham , “ When it is your time to command, you will do so in the manner of Robin of the Warrior and the Bard, and not as Xena the Conqueror.”
I stroked her silky head, “Always ahead of me Zephyr, aren't you?”
“That is my job, little one, “ she licked my hand gently.
“No thank you, Little Mistress, it was a goodly portion. I am not a hog.” She snorted.
Baba Xe's voice yanked my consideration back quickly; she raised her mug, “My compliments and my love to Cyrene, Innkeeper extraordinaire, and my own good mother, “ she said.
Everyone at the table found his or her feet- mugs raised.
“To Cyrene of Amphipolis... Three hoorahs for her efforts.”
“HOORAH< HOORAH<HOOOOOOORAH!!!” The timbers reverberated; the hairy fellas loved that word.
Grandba only inclined her head which Baba Xe gifted with a kiss . Jory and Jojo entered and began clearing the table.
I leaned back in my chair and caught Jory's hand, “Congratulations, my friend.”
Jory's face flushed pink, “Thank you, my lady Robin.” She and Jojo had been married a few moons ago, and now Jory was with child. Grandba was thrilled, “more grandchildren to toddle about.”
“Let us retire to my study now, and talk war, “ the Conqueror's eyes chilled quickly.
Atticus and other leaders of the militia had readied the big round table in Baba's study. Trying to file in, my chest was halted by a firm hand.
“No, Birdie.” The icy eyes encouraged no argument, but I tried.
“Baba Xe, when will I be old enough? Tond has entered; he has only a few seasons' rounds on me; look, Aurora is going inside, what does she know?”
“Birdie, I said NO ,” She turned away.
My mother's calm hands came to my shoulders from behind, “Do not argue with her Little Bird,” She whispered, “She is in a mood, and if she doesn't wallop you now, she will most certainly wallop you later for flagrant disrespect of her status and her ORDERS. Understand, Sweetheart?”
I turned to her with a heavy sigh. Baba Xe was waiting, hand extended to my mother.
“Yes,” I whispered, “will you at least wake me when Pony and Ephiny come in late tonight?”
“I will,” the Queen's promise.
I stalked away grabbing the two sets of wooden practice swords and shields which rested in a barrel outside Baba's study. “Gaius, come with me. I will give you a lesson in sword play.”
The boy's eyes widened in excitement, “will you Birdie?”
“Absolutely, “ I tossed him sword and shield, “It would seem to be all I am good for.”
The boy ran ahead of me and didn't hear my remark.
When flashing sky blue eyes told me the Conqueror had, I met the gaze without flinching.
The door closed.
“What?!?!” I blasted to my feet immediately.
“Better keep your distance, pard; that's a mighty fearsome Amazon you just disturbed.”
“Ephiny!!” I flung myself like a small child at my godmother. Her embrace was warm, and I could whiff the cold and the road in her cloak.
“How's my Little Bird,” she whispered, “I've missed you.”
“I've missed you too,” why were there tears? Unacceptable.
“Pony,” Pony's embrace was that of an Amazon weapons master, just shy of a real bear hug. By a bear.
“Rachelle is fine,” Ephiny anticipated my question. “She misses you, and she sent you this.”
Positioned delicately into my hands was an exquisite shell. A tiny tip on one end spiraled to a wide shape with sharp points.
“It's called a ‘king's crown conch', “ Pony explained, “We of course, call it a Queen's Crown.”
“It's beautiful, “ the sound of the sea echoed from the shell and suddenly I missed the water. “Thank you.”
“You are very welcome. Now back to sleep for Birds,” Ephiny steered me back to the bunk while Pony spoke to Zephyr.
“Rain is wonderful, Zeph. He never leaves her side.”
My fox's heartbeat increased with maternal pride.
“We will catch up in the morning, “ the Amazons promised.
“Yes, you need to rest after your long journey. But thanks for waking me up.”
Ephiny smiled and ruffled my hair. It was then I noticed the long tall silhouette leaning in the doorframe.
“I'll be right with you, “ Baba Xe said over her shoulder.
“Baba,” I sat on my bunk head hanging, “Baba, I am sorry about earlier. It's only that you know I can fight and want to be a part. I am fourteen seasons' round now.”
She sat down beside me; the bed boards creaked.
“ I am sorry to have been disrespectful ,” stupid tears. Great warrior, Bird.
I was quickly drawn into a firm embrace. She rocked me side to side on the bed. “Birdie I know you are ready and what you wish to do. Be patient, little one. I do have a special job in mind for you.”
“You do?” a complete surprise.
“I do,” a light swat to my backside, “ but you are going to sleep now, because I do not have it all worked out in up here.” She tapped on my head.
“I can wait, Baba. Thank you My Lady,” the bed called and she tucked me in, pulling the sheets so tightly I couldn't move. I loved it when she did that; it stemmed from the time I was small and often fell out of bed. Being tucked in that way insured no falling.
“I love you, Birdie,” her voice came low across the room.
“I love you too, Baba,” I answered and in the next breath, fell asleep.
“Little Mistress, Little Mistress ,” Zephyr was tugging at the sheets . “The moon beckons, quickly!”
She led my somnambulant form across to the big window. The lunar light awakened me thoroughly.
By the gods. “Rach?”
“Oh Birdie, I am so glad you answered.”
“Thank our foxes,” I stretched. “How are you? I miss you so much.”
“Well, except for missing you and now missing Pony and Ephiny. Did you like the shell?”
“It is gorgeous, Rach. Nature and the sea make incredible things, don't they?”
“The shells are beautiful. The actual animals which live inside the shells are frightful.”
“Yes, they are cannibals aren't they?”
“Law of survival. You ate some conch chowder when you were here, didn't you?”
“Don't remember---- Rach?”…… Focus Bird. “How are you?”
“I miss you, Birdie; I miss you with each breath; I don't know what I would do without Rain.”
My hand caressed silk ebony fur, “If he is even half as good as Zephyr, he is exceptional.”
My hand was licked appreciatively and I continued, “I am ashamed to say, I was asleep, Rach. I might have missed your call if not for Zephyr.”
“Stuff is stirring there, I guess.”
“All kinds. The Hairy Fellows arrived today. I am sure now that Pony and Ephiny are back, the Amazons won't be long in following.”
“ I guess I needn't worry over you being in trouble this time because of me.”
“Oh, you know me, Rach; I am already in trouble.”
“You want to fight and your parents won't let you?”
“Something like that. Gosh, Rach, this is at least the fourth time we have encountered Rome; I should be OLD enough, don't you think?”
“Oh, Birdie… it's nothing to do with age…. You are so hard headed.” Exasperated sigh. “If I were there I would thump you!”
“Rach, I have trained my whole life to be a warrior; I should be allowed to fight.”
“Your parents and by the way I do not want you hurt….. or kil….” Zephyr fixed amber eyes on me.
“I get it.” My mind answered the wise fox.
“Robin of Amphipolis, I am your Queen, you are my consort; I will not forbid you to fight, though I could.”
“Thanks…” Humility bowed my head, recalling my good fortune to know such a girl.
“But this kind of thing will haunt you, Birdie. You remember this when we have a daughter who wants to fight in a war.”
“Oh….. By the gods,” as usual, Rachelle did add perspective.
“Well there is time yet; I will keep you posted, Rach.”
“Yes, you will keep me posted. Or else.”
I chuckled at the gentle threat. “Promise.”
“I love you, Birdie.”
“And I love you, Rachelle, Queen of the Amazons by the Sea. I miss you dreadfully.”
“Sweet dreams, My Love….”
“Sweet dreams, My Lady…”
Zephyr cleared my face of tears with a tender tongue.
“Thank you, Zephyr.”
“My pleasure, Little Mistress; I know you miss her. I feel the hollow in your heart.”
She guided me back to bed and hopped in beside me. Soon my breathing paced itself with hers and we slept.
The darkest night befits the Moon;
Her time of brilliance; crave not too soon
For day--before Her work is done.
One cannot speak with stars- in sun.
Unwavering patience bears the claim-
Linger through zephyrs,
Endure through rains,
For in time the mists will pass,
And I shall greet my love… at last…
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Robin of Amphipolis
To Be Continued...
Questions and comments may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org , and thanks to one and all for your loyalty to Birdie. You really have no idea what you, the readers and she, the character have done for me. ((((Birdie readers)))
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