Birdie's Song- Part III by onesockbard
A story of Birdie, the twelve year old daughter of the warrior and bard in a Conqueror setting.
Birdie continues to fly in my head, which is a happy thing.
Disclaimer: All of the usual suspects apply. Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renaissance Pictures and none of us, though I think that we love them more. I have borrowed them and will return them in mint condition. Birdie, (Robin of the Warrior and Bard), Hades the horse, and Zephyr the fox, are mine, and hopefully will stay with me awhile. Missy Good's Dori is adorable, but I know the middle school age very well and find them soooooooo darn interesting. Hopefully, Birdie is going to take me through a few stories; she is good therapy. Many thanks also to VX, my Xenite buddy who reads and tells me what works.
subtext: there is a PG13 love scene in this chapter; I tried to be tasteful, but you have been warned if you can't handle this kind of X&G stuff.
Violence: It's that XWP setting, you know?
Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and I am grateful to you for taking the time to read. Thanks to everyone in the Xenaverse for BEING out there. It gives us a place to be happy. Battle On….thanks again to all the "Bird Feeders" you make the songs in my head..
The best plan that Zephyr and I had constructed thus far was to keep
following the water. My parents had taught me this at a tender age—when one has no other direction or clue, always follow water. The trail along the water was rising and that suggested that eventually there might be mountains and the possibility of caves for better shelter. We couldn’t continue to count on fair weather every night. I walked along leading Hades so that he could find his own footing; the trail was quite stumbly with rocks, and he had run hard enough for three horses escaping the battle yesterday. Zephyr believed it was her job to explore in some depth the peripheries of our path. So far she had ambushed only a few ground squirrels, and quail—but they were dangerous in the mind of a black fox.
I worked hard at paralyzing my thought processes, but there were times of failure. No matter how my mind ran the equation of events, it kept working out that had I not gone to the battlefield, had Mama G not frozen her sights on me, had the archer not locked his crossbow on HER, my beloved mother would still be alive. Was there any possible way that she survived? No, the wound was too horrific; no hope should be held out for such a reprehensible child as I.
Would the Furies come to punish me, or were they already with me? Every time I thought surely my body must be emptied of every last tear it could manufacture, more came unbidden, and I fell into a chasm of despair - -a mental darkness in which I became lost. But after some unmeasured time, awareness would return, with cool nose and tongue of my fox -coaxing me back with worried little whines and my steadfast horse standing patiently waiting. It was right that the gods sent to me these silent friends for this difficult time. I could have asked for no better.
It was the second morning since the skirmish. The army had actually come from the battle very well, no deaths, a dozen wounded, seven seriously, and one missing- an officer. The Conqueror was on her balcony as always pondering these matters while watching Apollo drive his chariot across the sky, and she offered a private plea that he send her wayward youngster in the direction of home. Though Xena had ridden out on Argo in the four directions from the fortress, the previous day, she could pick up no trail of Birdie. Apparently, the girl had remained on the back of Hades, and while Hades’ hooves were larger than many , there had been so much activity in the vicinity, it was impossible to pick up any clear tracks to follow a distance... As more time passed, the more it seemed likely, that indeed, Birdie had taken the blame for Gabrielle’s injury, or death, in Birdie’s mind anyway, and that the girl had self-exiled from Amphipolis. Xena felt very sure of Birdie’s reaction because it would have been the reaction of the warrior at such and age and situation-- to run.
As the Conqueror passed through the heavy double doors and quietly placed her mug of tea on the table in front of the fireplace, she felt them first, the intense gaze weak, but true.
Spinning around, she met the tired but clear jade eyes fixed on her. Xena leaped over the edge of the bed and planted herself in the chair beside her lover, taking the thin hand in her own tenderly.
“Welcome back, Gabrielle.”
The pale hand brushed the tan cheek to catch the involuntary tears that fell, even though Xena’s face was a vision of joy and relief.
“How do you feel?” came the soft question.
“Thirsty,” was the answer.
Her lover poured water from a nearby pitcher into a cup, eased the bard into a slight sitting position against her chest, and helped her take a sip of water, and then another...
“Easy, babe… easy... slowly at first.”
“That tastes good, thanks,” said the bard, easing back down. “I feel like someone has put a pot over my head and is constantly banging on it with a metal spoon. That’s a vast improvement over when it felt like an enormous ball of Greek fire.”
Xena kissed her hand and brushed the blond hair behind the delicate ear.
“I can’t tell you how good it is to have you back.”
“It’s nice to return; I didn’t like where I was.”
“Xena, I know about Birdie.”
The Conqueror’s head dropped to the bed for a moment, the pale hand stroked the dark hair.
“I also know that for the moment, Birdie is ok.”
The head lifted. “How?”
“It’s difficult to explain; I will show you sometime when I am feeling a bit stronger—perhaps tomorrow?”
The warrior gave her a slightly puzzled look,
“Fine, I guess.”
“You’ll just have to trust me for now... I wish I knew more, but wherever she is, she’s alive at least.”
“Well, that’s some relief anyway; much better than knowing absolutely nothing about Birdie, and watching you lie there unconscious.” Xena sighed, “I guess I can live with that much improvement for the time being, but now that you are on the mend, I am going out to FIND our kid.”
“That could be difficult, Xe, if she doesn’t want to be found.”
A silent warrior gave the bard another drink...
“Are you hungry?”
“Of course.” A smile,
“Is there something sweet of Grandba’s over there?”“Yes,” the warrior laughed, leaped across the room and fetched the goodie laden tray.
“You are better already, aren’t you?”
“Yeah hmmmm. Be stronger in no time.”
“You are taking on my recuperative powers, perhaps?”
“Must be your mother’s food.”
“Could have helped.”
“Xena, “the voice took a sober timbre.
“ ”Birdie thinks that what happened to me is her fault, doesn’t she?”
A pause while the warrior shifted in the chair.
“Yes, I believe she does, and not only that-- she may believe that you are dead.”
“Oh, gods,” now the green eyes filled. “Poor Birdie.’”
“ I am very worried about her,” said the warrior, “I vacillate between extreme worry and extreme irritation, and thoughts of how much trouble she will be in.”
“Sounds like Baba’s mad,” said the bard...
“Baba’s been to Hades and back worrying and is still worried to death about our kiddo... She is good at evading searchers. Isn’t that something? Xena the Conqueror can’t find her own kid “sighed the warrior, “All the gods on Olympus know that I just want her to come home.”
It was a stunningly beautiful evening. We had stopped in the foothills enjoying the extraordinary light effects the sun can have when it mixes with the natural filters an ever changing landscape can provide. Hades was searching out good grazing, and combined with the crab-apples I was able to harvest here and there, we were keeping him fed relatively well. Zephyr was again checking the perimeters of our camping spot, but I expected her to join me at the clear pool where I was preparing to do some fishing.
Soon, Zephyr’s large black ears peeked from the cattails along the water. I readied my bow and arrow, took careful aim, shot into the water, and proceeded to pull in a good sized fish by the cord which was tied to the arrow.
“It’s not a bad method is it, Zephyr?” I asked my fox, “Fishing is one of the few skills I’ve never needed to do the same way Baba Xe does. She tried to teach me, but I rejected her way. She didn’t like that. So I gave it a try, but Zephyr, Baba’s way is too quiet and TOO SLOW!! She just stands motionless, in the water waiting for fish to swim by and then she grabs them barehanded! My way is a better way and I said so!”
Another fish came in view of my arrow. I shot it and pulled it in straight away, enough for our supper. I took the two fish to the bank of the pool to clean them. Zephyr came over to watch.
“Well, I thought Baba might wallop me right there, but Mama,”
A swallow and pause,
“Mama told us both to stop it. Mama G said that we both were exhibiting HUBRIS over fishing for heaven’s sake. FISHING..”
I completed the fish chore and hiked up the bank to start the fire.
“Do you know what hubris is, Zephyr? It’s excessive pride. The gods reward courage and punish pride. You could have hubris because you are a black fox, and black foxes are rare, Zephyr... Did I show hubris the day we went to the battle, my friend?”
The sparks caught the dry kindling which I blew gently, and then added larger twigs to the size of a good evening blaze within the circle of stones. Zephyr lay near by staring into the flames while I checked the fish again for bones and added a little salt. Then I sat down beside the warmth as well.
“Perhaps I did, Zephyr, Maybe that’s why we are on the run now... maybe I was too proud in thinking it was time for me to go to war. That is why you and I are on this journey. For certain, something was wrong.”
I turned the fish over.
“Sure do wish you could talk, Zephyr.” She looked at me sympathetically, her yellow green eyes intent on my face.
“Nobody beats you as a listener though, Zephyr, Nobody.”
I removed a cooking stick and took a couple of bites from it. Then I held the stick for Zephyr who politely slid her bite from it. It had cooled enough for her then. We repeated the routine with another stick.
“Fair enough.” I smiled at my dining partner. “Perhaps I can remember how Mama G made some of her soups, Zeph. Fish sticks are going to become tiresome.”
My head drooped with my mood.
“I miss them so much, Zephyr. Do you suppose there would be any chance Baba would want to even have me around, when I am responsible for Mama’s death?”
My eyes filled, but I kept myself in check.
“I wouldn’t want me around.”
Zephyr was by my side immediately. I eased my body down, making a pillow of my arm, and my fox lay down beside me. We watched the flickering firelight, and as the woods sounds came on in the darkness, silent tears dropped into the dry dust beneath my head.
Cyrene drove the team into the stables and lifted her long skirts to climb down from the wagon. Galto the big stable hand was there to offer her a bear like paw of a hand down.
“Thank you, Galto. Time was I wasn’t so fat, and I could still sit astride a horse, you know? “
“Yes, my lady.”
“Time was, the Tide was mine.”
“Yes, my lady.” She gave him an older version of “The Look”.
“Ahhhhhhhh. Get on with you then...”
Cyrene had decided to stay at the fortress for as long as was necessary to find Birdie. Xena the Conqueror might be “The Conqueror” to many folk, but she was only Xena, her daughter, to Cyrene, and her daughter was in crisis, there was no doubt of that. Cyrene had spent a good part of the day out with the team trying to gain any kind of fix on a direction her grandchild might have ridden. But with no luck.
The older woman released a heavy sigh, as she entered the kitchen and poured herself a cool cider. When she had passed the Tide on to Xena, she had hoped a good bit of the stress would go with it. She smiled to herself. That had been self delusional. The wearing and tearing that life places on human beings isn’t handed down with an heirloom sword.
Cyrene had been somewhat of an unwilling recipient of the Tide. But her mother, Xena’s grandmother, Xenarone had been a great warrior, protecting the same general Amphipolis area during a time when there were constant raids by vagabond tribes of barbarians.
Xenarone had been tall, with icy blue eyes and dark hair that turned silver-white before her twenty-fifth season. The Tide had been a gift to Xenarone from the goddess Athena. Cyrene had always wondered at the special relationship that her mother had with the goddess, but she it was not her place to ask. When Xenarone took a fatal blow from the barbarian, Zon, it was Athena who stood at her death bed, rather than Cyrene. And it was Athena who handed The Tide to Cyrene, who had never been so frightened in her life. Well, no matter. Cyrene had never shamed The Tide, she had handled it well enough, along with raising three children, and Amphipolis had never been enslaved.
But when Cortez arrived to challenge Amphipolis, Cyrene knew it was time for her to give The Tide to her own daughter, Xena, who at fifteen seasons already exhibited signs that her grandmother Xenarone’s blood ran very strong and wild in her young body.
Xena had defeated Cortez, but then she rejected the goodness of the Tide and went her own dark path for many years. Cyrene had kept the sword safe for the day her daughter found her soul again and came home.
And she had. Gabrielle was as much a daughter to Cyrene as Xena. The returned Conqueror was the happy loving child, Cyrene had known in the pre- Cortez days, and Amphipolis couldn’t be in safer hands. But when Birdie came into her life, Cyrene had witnessed even more growth in her warrior daughter. Cyrene had watched Xena grow from a soul-mate, lover. responsible daughter, conqueror/ commander of armies, into a woman who was also a firm, loving, warm, patient, and tender parent as well. Birdie was a vital part the complicated person Xena Warrior Princess had come to be.
Cyrene put her face in her hands, sat down, and allowed a few tears to escape. She felt in her ageless bones, that despite her small stature, Birdie possessed many of the finest traits of Xenarone and Xena, Add to that the heart and soul of the Bard, and Birdie might be the greatest of all of them. But she would need the guidance and nurturing of all who knew her to keep her from straying from the light as Xena had done. However, they had to locate the missing child.
There was a stir at the door and she looked up to see Scrubbers standing with two cold beers.
“I was wonderin’ if the lady might use some company and comfort after a long day.”
“You, Scrubby,” smiled Cyrene, “Have beautiful timing.”+
We had been climbing for awhile. I no longer knew a plan at all except to stop climbing. If we reached a place of shelter, I would call it a day, because I could tell that Zephyr and even Hades were tired. The mountain was very steep, but we were still following the water. There was a muffled, but steadily increasing roar which would indicate a waterfall in the future, though we apparently came no closer no matter what distance we walked.
So when we arrived at a clearing with a flat area suitable for a fire, shade for Hades to rest and drink, I designated it our stop for the night. We needed a new plan. Not only was my physical journey becoming more lost and wayward by the day, it felt as though a similar event was happening in my mind. Talking everything over with Zephyr was perhaps not quite enough.
Soon the evening’s spearing of fish was cooking. While completing the final steps of washing myself and my laundry, I found myself staring into the rushing water. Where to next and for what purpose? How should I come by money? This was not the future which came in daydreams when sitting in my high window sill watching Baba Xe’s army.
Depression was dogging me. I was spreading my clothing to dry, as was my habit, when I saw Zephyr’s ears turn in an opposite direction very quickly followed by her head. I listened intently, climbed quickly from the water, dried and dressed, and ran up a dusty path out of the noise of the water to listen again. Zephyr was practically connected to my leg; her fur was standing as straight as her ears, and she whined and stamped her little paws.
“Easy girl, easy….” I whispered, but in spite of my warnings, “ZEPHYR!” the fox suddenly bolted straight and fast ahead of me. Sprinting back to camp nearby, I threw the Amazon sword over my shoulder and went to catch her.
A smile came to me while pondering all of the ways the fox would suffer for running off with out even a look back; must be the way my Baba and Ma…
Stop. Stop thinking again.
Up a steep scramble ahead and then I was peering at a large clearing backed by a cliff, a trickle of a waterfall, and a small cave. It was exactly what we had been seeking for shelter. However, it was already occupied by a good sized man, near twenty stone, I reckoned, with fair freckled skin, red hair and beard. Zephyr sat beside him, tail flickering in a friendly manner.
The man was filthy, like he had been dragged behind a horse, and as my observations became more focused, it became apparent that his hands were bound and that he was covered in cuts and abrasions. Worst by far was a long, festering and deep wound to his left leg. My limited experience surmised it to be an ax wound. I had never seen such an angry wound; it would have stopped any man or beast, no matter how determined.
My fox is usually a fair judge of character, but caution kept me from showing myself immediately. However, the big man spoke first.
The first rays of sunlight entered the vast bed chamber and along with the heat generated by the fire place, the temperature was warming nicely. The pale hair and foggy malachite eyes fluttered open and the head rotated carefully on the pillow to discover a pair of robin’s egg orbs already staring at her in a manner that suggested their owner had been awake for awhile.
“Good morning,” the bard said softly.
“You don’t know how good it is to wake to your eyes, and to wake to your awareness again, “whispered her soul mate. “I just can’t do without you for very long, Gabrielle; the world stops...” The eyes were bright.
A gentle touch moved through the dark tresses.
“It’s alright. I’ve got you now. “ A pause while she took account of herself.
“I’m feeling much better; want to see Birdie?”
“Then be with me...”
“Gab, are you?,,”
“Xena, I don’t mean making love like rutting Minotaurs at the feast of Dionysus.”
A big smile.
“more like… butterflies, perhaps?”
The dark head moved adjacent to the blond head and tender lips with quiet and warm breath moved lightly from the edge of her ear, along her jaw, and slowly down the pale neck and collarbone. Large hands began to unbutton the sleep shirt, while the bard’s performed the same duty and moved the warrior’s garment away from tan, strong, beautifully sculpted shoulders. These simple acts elevated heartbeats and breathing in both bodies simultaneously. The shirt slid down muscular hips and Gabrielle’s fingers danced across them, the tips scooting up the powerful back and ribs, full hands under to linger on the breasts, and back up to rest on the shoulders.
The warrior put her finger on her soul mate’s nose, “You remain as still as possible. I’ll do the work. You’re hurt.”
Gabrielle closed her eyes, and felt the warrior rise suspended effortlessly above her by her arms. Beginning with a deep and lingering kiss, Xena worked her way down the bard’s body with kisses, tastes, at times just breathing pauses, butterfly touches, moving slowly, languidly, lower allowing the heat to build. Then she would rise with a warm sigh and begin again, a light sheen of perspiration casting a defining glow to the warrior’s muscles as she moved down her lover’s quietly rising receptiveness. The warrior moved like a dolphin- diving, cresting, gently riding her lover’s swelling body like a wake. Kiss, rise, ride, swell, repeat. Kiss, again, linger.. Every moment, every breath, they came closer to the edge – where it seemed the wave MUST crash over the seawall, then the warrior would suspend herself again- above. The bard opened her eyes and gazed into her lover’s, intense with desire,
A smile. “Don’t want to hurt you.”
“Allow the wave to wash over me this time, and be with me,” were the whispered directions, “ and then lie with me on the quiet shore with your eyes closed; just listen to my voice, when we arrive, be with me in the quiet..”
“All right,” Xena began her kisses again progressing, but the bard’s mouth kept hers this time, and her hands moved over the warrior’s suspended body, as the kiss drove deeper, until the warrior gently lowered herself to her lover, to hold her while the ocean swells rose and fell, and rose again and fell back, then crested like a tsunami to flow over all, any barriers in its path, nourishing, relaxing, easing, smoothing.. loving… . The soul mates lay together of one mind, one heart, one vision, one soul, in the quiet, in the place of stillness, together for a time unmeasured.
“You are with me on a clean sandy beach?
“The sea is aquamarine?”
“ ummmm… yesss.”
“Is it evening?”
“Lift your head and look far down the beach, as far as you can on the horizon. What do you see?”
“I see a small bright blue star, just above the beach line.”
“Xena, that’s Birdie.”
“When did this happen?”
“The day she was conceived. I’ve always come to this beach in meditation. Birdie appeared there one day as the little blue star. It’s her life force. Remember a season ago when she had the coughing illness? The star was a putrid yellow color. Then it became blue again. So Birdie is ok. I know it.”
The Conqueror shifted herself down, wrapped her arms around the bard’s body and rested her head inside her arm. She took in a deep breath.
“How did you do that? How did you take me with you?”
“The Bard of Potedia has many skills.”
“That gives me great relief. Now if only we can find the Little Bird in this reality.”
The Amazon Queen gathered her Conqueror in closely.
“We will, or she’ll come home.”
Tears formed and slid down the sides of the bard’s head, stinging her injury badly, but she did not release her warrior.
“ Birdie must be feeling some of our fear and love despite her own pain. Perhaps she will find the courage to begin the journey home.”
I am Robin
Of the Warrior
When there was
So much left to teach.
Now is no one left
To tell me truth,
If the Bard's words
And none to fight
The demon night
When the Warrior's
Heart is broken?
So demon night
Become my light,
The stars will
House my heart,
And pray the
Furies stay away
The bards left
Out that part. To be continued…
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