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 some-- mostly PG13

Violence: It's that XWP setting, you know? There is some in part IV...

Comments to onesockbard@aol.com 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.... 


            Amphipolis!  The last word I intended to hear out here in the rough was Amphipolis!   Home, so far and right in front of me.  My knees trembled with indecision.  But not for long.

            “Show yourself, little one,” the deep voice rumbled,” I am master sergeant with the Conqueror’s Army, and we don’t wait kindly.”

            There was an authority in his voice that demanded I step from my hiding place.  

            “Why you are just a lass,” he said, lowering his bow and arrow.  “Why are you and a fox out this far alone, girl? How have you made it on your own?”

            Zephyr reevaluated her loyalties and returned to me.  

            “We’ve done all right, sir. “was my answer. “ How did you come to be here, sir?”

            “First things first, “ he said, “ What’s your name, child?”

            I hung my head.  “My name is “Toady, sir.”

            “Where are you from, Toady?”

            “No place, sir.”

            “Here now, everyone is from someplace and some people.”

            “Not thisToady. sir.”

            He waited a moment. My turn then.

            “How did you hurt your leg, sir?”

            “Well, Toady there was a battle a day and a half’s ride from here, near Amphipolis; ever hear of Amphipolis, or the Conqueror?”

            “No. sir.”

            “Well there was a big battle near Amphipolis; I was hurt in it.”

            My eyes ran over the wound.

            “I have some supplies in my camp; can probably help a bit with that leg, sir.”

            “Whatever you have, lass.  I won’t be going anywhere, my fever’s raging.”

            “I’ll just go down, put out my fire, and move stuff up here.  Coming, Zephyr?”

We walked down the hill; my mind was racing everywhere.

            “What do you think, Zephyr? Shall we trust him?  No matter.  Baba Xe and Mama G have never passed a traveler in need.  That is their code, and regardless of what has happened, I will continue to live by the code that they have taught me.”

            It was quick work to extinguish the fire, collect my pack and weapons, and lead Hades up the path.   The horse didn’t mind the move, and I quickly rekindled a fire near Atticus, and walked back down to the pool to catch some fish...  At least four fish, tonight, I decided.  The man looked hungry.   My work was done silently, but I found myself glad for company of the human kind; someone who needed me.

            After I had the fish staked out to cook, I looked around.

            “Lord Atticus, have you a bowl or a helmet, or something in which we can boil water?  That would be the place to begin with your leg.”

            He tossed an armored helmet to me and I filled it with water and set it on the fire.  I looked in my pack and began to cut up pieces of my livery.  It had been in the pack since the battle; I had no plans to ever wear it again.  Cut it into long strips it should be unrecognizable to him, because it was smaller and of a different material than core soldiers’ anyway. 

            The fish was ready and I carried him a piece and some water from his water skin.   He finished two fish and half of another in no time.

            “Toady lass, you are my hero today.” He smiled.

            Zephyr and I finished the fish and I fetched the helmet with the hot water in it from the fire.  

“That view will probably change, sir.”  I said, carrying it towards him with my rag strips.  Taking my dagger, I cut the trouser material away from his wound.  It was ghastly looking, with yellowish pus seeping out.   I folded one of my rag strips into the hot water and said, “Take hold, Lord Atticus; this will not be pleasant.” 

“Ay Lass.”

He set his teeth, but made no outcry.   If I had ever doubted that he served in my Baba Xe’s army, those doubts were dissipated by his stoic forbearance of the first aide.  It had to have given him more agony than any he had born so far.  But we kept a steady soak in the hot water until the infection burst, which did illicit a groan from him at last.

            “Lass, “he whispered weakly, “are we nearly finished?  It’s about all I can do.”

            “Yes sir, we are,” I said… soaking up the nasty stuff and hanging the rags in the creek to rinse while I packed the leg in warm rags.  

            “Lord Atticus, you must drink all the water you can sir, for your fever.”

            He gave me a smile. “Yes ma is, Toady.  You are no Toady; you are an angel, lass.”

             It felt good to smile.


            “Whoa,” Xena dismounted and walked to a small circle of stones at the edge of a rushing creek side. It was Birdie’s fire sight- created just the way they had taught her to build one. Stirring among the ashes, she found tiny bits of dove bones.  Zephyr must have provided those, because Birdie would never have hunted birds; it went against her daughter’s own personal code of character.  All of the evidence was stone cold at least a day gone.   She had run a long way from home.  Too far for the warrior to follow tonight.  She would go back home and lay in supplies to continue the search in a journey of however far it took.  Damn kid.   Tears came unbidden.  What she would do to that birdie girl when she found her… She shook her head and allowed herself a small smile.   Now that she was certain her child was alive, she could comfort herself somewhat by dreaming of consequences for Birdie.   She swallowed.  But not too many.  First things first.  Had to find the kid… Had to carry her home to safety and warmth first.


            I hoped the larger fire wasn’t drawing the attention of anything or anyone dangerous.  We had arranged a sleeping place for Atticus to be near to the fire as possible, because his fever was very high.  He still seemed to know me, but the recognition came and went.   I did my best to keep him warm, make him drink, and bathe his face and arms when the fever took hold to burn him up.  I kept soaking the leg as well, because there was still infection leaking from it occasionally, although it was draining more clear matter with blood now.   I hoped that it meant a critical turning point.  

            “ROSE!!” the scream pierced the night, just as I had settled a bit, “Get under the bed!! Take the boy! Talus, go with your mother, do as I say lad!”

            I was up in an instant, “ Please, Lord Atticus.  Hush. You’ll bring people to us.  I can’t have people here.”

Zephyr was already beside him looking very concerned, tilting her head at him.     “ROSE!!”  He screamed again.

            Finally in desperation, I threw two handfuls of water in his face.  That woke him.  He stared at me breathing hard…  

            “Sorry, sir.”   I apologized.  “you were dreaming.”   I bathed his face again which was burning up.   He laid his head back; he was unaware of me.

            “Here Lord Atticus, drink.”  I gave him the water skin.  He looked at me wildly but took the drink.  Please don’t let him die.  Please all the gods on Olympus don’t let him die.  I cannot cope if he dies; not someone else.

  “Please Sir, drink some more.”

 He did drink a bit for me, lay back down, falling immediately into unconsciousness.

            I stayed by him, bathing his face, his wrists, and making him sip water when he woke until dawn; it was very close to morning anyway.

“Mama!”  I woke sitting straight up.  That hadn’t happened in awhile.  Obviously this was not a night for sleeping. Might as well wait out what little was left.

            Apollo’s gray rise brought a gloomy mist.  I gathered more wood and stoked the fire for more warmth and sat quietly. 

                        Zephyr waited beside me, waiting to see what would happen with Atticus before we went foraging for breakfast.   I rose and sent Hades on his way to find his own breakfast. He had become very good at going out and returning at noontime and evenings, to be near us and the fire.  It might have been the crab apples, but we hoped it was the company too.

            I tried to walk back quietly, but Atticus was watching me.  He had green eyes, not like my mother’s, more of a hazel green, but they gave me thought of her.  


Gods, he knew me.  Weak, but he knew me.   His skin was cool to touch, and even the leg looked less angry.  Perhaps we had passed a crisis.   I gave him extra packing under his head and covered him again, and left him with the water skin and went to find blackberries and fish.   He fell into a deep sleep and didn’t stir until the food was ready.

            “Toady, do ya think I could sit up?” he asked softly.

            That seemed like a good sign.  I shoved the saddle close to where he lay and then took hold of both arms and leaned back with all my weight.  He made a face, but pulled himself up enough to brace against the saddle. 

            “You are a tough little Toady, “

I laughed.  It felt good.  Looking at his leg, I could see bits of new pink skin filling in.

            “You are on the mend, sir,” Was my comment.  We ate our breakfast in silence, and I went to fill the water skins again.  We sat quietly a moment and I felt his eyes on me, so my gut reaction was to take the first offensive and ask my questions before he asked his.

 “Lord Atticus, what happened to you?”

“Pretty simple and stupid, really,” was his reply, taking another long swig of water,

 “I was in too deep in the enemy ranks, separated from my squad; battle frenzy is the only excuse I can offer.   Didn’t even see who gave me  the ax wound, and then a young Roman officer took me prisoner,  he roped me like a bloody steer,  damn him; he bound my hands and I was on foot behind his horse..  Dragged sometimes. But then one of our lads killed him and the horse towed me a long way before the rope came undone and I was able to slip away, run into the forest and make my way up here.  By that time, I was near dead of blood loss.  Would be stone cold had you not found me, Toady. Helpless, foodless, practically weaponless.”

He paused.  “You are Robin of the Warrior and Bard, aren’t you, lass?”  His voice was very gentle.

My eyes didn’t meet his.  “How did you know?”

“Didn’t at first, but the time has made me see that you favor them both.  One is my commanding officer, whom I hold in the highest esteem, and the Queen, I respect and would defend like my own wife.”

I hesitated but I am not a good liar.
“I’m Birdie, not Toady.”

“Are you now?”  Pleased to make your acquaintance, Birdie, and thank you for saving my life.”

“It was little I did, Lord Atticus.”

“It was a great deal to me, Birdie.”

He was quiet a moment, sipping water.  “I know you another way, lass.”

“Really, sir?”

 “I have a son; his name is Talus.  Smallish, blond hair; he has a withered foot?”

I smiled.   “Talus is your son?  I like Talus.”

“You fought for him.”

“I did, “my answer carried no hubris,” “Bullies were shoving him around because he is a bit different.  I take issue with that kind of behavior. “

He grinned, “You were my son’s first hero.  He still talks about you.  A fierce little girl fighter who took on the masses; ‘ Battlin Birdie’, he calls you.”

My turn to laugh.  “ Think it went ok in the armory that day, too.”

“Sorry, Lass?”

“My ‘altercations’ are evaluated by the Conqueror; she deemed that fight justified, fortunately for my hindquarters.”

He laughed, “ Ah, so the Conqueror approved the fight for Talus?”

“Yes sir, she did.”

 Another pause.


            “Birdie, girl, why are you out here?”


            Xena was completing the inventory of her field pack.  All that was left to do was to organize Argo and she would be prepared for several days in the rough.  She would not return without Birdie this time.

            “Xe, are you sure?”

The warrior’s hand was gentle on her soul mate’s back.  She turned into the hug.

            “Gabrielle, love, I know your heart, but you are still prone to the occasional dizzy spell.   I can’t have you falling off a horse and re -injuring your head.  Besides, what if Birdie should come home?  You must be here.”

            The Conqueror sat on the bed, and looked seriously into deep forest eyes. 

            “I won’t stay gone more than four passes of Apollo. If she can’t be found in that amount of time, we will need to form a different plan.”

            “I’m not even thinking of that,” whispered her soul mate.” You will find Birdie.”  Hands were clasped; light and dark heads rested against each other.

            There was the sound of heavy feet in the hall and doors slamming, which led to knocking on their door with fervor.  The warrior and the bard looked at each other, with knowledge that once again, the greater good had arrived to interfere with their lives.

            “Conqueror, sorry to bother you, but it’s raiders.  Decendents of Zon by their banner!”

            Xena blew straight upward and threw her field pack across the room.  “Zeus’s bloody rotten thunderbolts!”

            Tears ran down her face, and as she strode purposefully to the weapons locker fetched the Tide, strapped it to her back and was marching toward the door before she was blocked by the small blond bard who wrapped a loving body slam around the warrior.

            “It’s a small setback, Xe, and we know Birdie’s ok.  Settle down, Conqueror, I know that you are frustrated.” Slowly, firmly she slowed the charge.

            The warrior rested her chin on her soul mate’s hair.  “I want Birdie home.”

            “She will be-- I know it.”  soothed Gabrielle.  “ Now go kick around a few raiders.”

            “All right, “ a grim smile.

            “Sorry I’m not up to speed.”

            A stern look, “YOU stay right here, my bard.”

            “Yes ma’m.”

            “I love you.”

            “You, too-always.”

            The Conqueror took the stairs two at a time and ran toward the main gate lifting her head to throw a wild grin at her army as they came running from every direction.

“C’mon boys! Yiyiyiyiyiyi! ”  Xena sprinted toward the towers of the main gate.

            She trotted up the seventy steps to the top of the wall where she could gain perspective on the raid.    There appeared to be more than the usual number of Zon’s descendents, but that created no problem.  The Amphipolis Fortress was constructed for defense   The Descendants of Zon had been attacking the Amphipolis area once every four or five moons ever since the days of Xenarone and Zon as reminder to the citizens of Amphipolis that they still existed and had the means to attack.   But Xena the Conqueror was the greater force to be reckoned with as she shouted orders. 

            “Are the wall catapults ready?”   The affirmative signal came.

“Load them with Greek fire,” 

“Are the Amazons here and ready release the first volley of arrows?”

 The Amazons signaled, “Completely ready”.


“Are the hand to hand fighters on the wall to take out the first scramblers?”

“We are ready, Conqueror.”


 “Are the runners with the blades stationed to work up and down their areas to  discourage those who would try to come in and open the gates? “ “

“Perfect, “she growled, twirling the Tide.

 As her army’s eyes looked to her, dark hair blowing, boot stance wide apart, livery flapping in the breeze high on the wall , a heavy-set barbarian in a hairy cloak found purchase at the top of the wall, only to have the Tide rammed into his throat while Conqueror’s boot shoved his head backwards.   He lost his grip and fell with a roar smashing into two of his comrades on the way down. This she did while jumping into a half-twist side kick into the groin of another hairy fellow who had made his way to the top of the wall and thought to take her from the side.  She pulled the Tide from the throat of the enemy falling backwards into air and thrust it into the heart of the gentleman she had just side-kicked.  He had not been invited, after all.  She addressed her troops.

  “This, my friends, will be nothing more than a live drill for us! Yiyiyiyiyiyiy!”  And the militia brought their defense full on.

            The barbarians had prided themselves on the construction of two large siege engines to front their attack .But mere construction is only part of the battle.  An army must be competent to use the engine.  The DOZ had not sufficiently rehearsed with their machine and were somewhat slapstick in their attempts at doing any real damage with the engine although they managed three stout rams at the main gate.  Eventually though, one engine was taken out with two direct hits of Greek fire.  The other was captured on foot by a dozen of the Conqueror’s own led by Galto and Thomas. The Conqueror’s “boys” simply swarmed the siege engine, scrambling to the top, and slashed, chopped, and kicked every barbarian who tried to regain the engine .  Eventually, there were enough of the Amphipolis Militia to roll the great battle weapon inside the main gate of the fortress.  It was an awesome capture.  Galto and Thomas would later be decorated for outstanding service and given raises for their bravery and determination.

  The DOZ was driven back by mid-morning and the militia had them completely on the run by noon.  Then there was nothing to do but clean up the mess, assess damages, and account for any wounded and prisoners.  Xena walked down the stairs from the wall, blood and gore splattered, with a cut on her left cheek, and various cuts on her hands, and a savage smile on her face, which was greeted in turn by every one of her soldiers she met.  And every single warrior she encountered on her walk, received a personal handshake shake, a smile, and a hearty Conqueror, “well done!” 

  Her duty fulfilled, her expression changed completely as she made her way back into the fortress to her soul mate, and to begin once again, the search for Birdie.


            My tale took some time to recount, and it was the first time it was spoken aloud, but Atticus listened gravely, and waited patiently through the times my voice choked.   But it came to an end.  After enduring his silence a few moments, I spoke,

            “Lord Atticus that is why I told you that you would not consider me an angel, once you knew my story.”           

            “There’s quite a lot to ponder there, Birdie,” he said.  “But if you don’t mind, I will offer a few opinions, as friend.  As a friend who’s just a mite older than you; you are my friend, you know, Lass. You bloody saved my life.  Will you listen to me, Birdie?”

            “Yes, sir.”  I had come to trust the man in very short time.

            “From what you tell me, lass, only thing that you have done wrong is disobey the Conqueror’s order to stay in quarters.  Now Birdie that was wrong, parent or no, orders is orders, and she will deal with you on that for certain. We in her army follow the Conqueror’s orders; she’s just not to be trifled with, lass.  But your mama, Birdie.  That weren’t your fault.  And whether or not the queen is alive or gone, your Baba Xe NEEDS you with her. There’s no question about that, girl.  And it’s bad that you have stayed away instead of going in to face the truth, Birdie.  If you were a full grown man, I’d call you a coward.  But you are a child; a child who has made some mistakes and found the price to be very high, haven’t you?”

            By this time, I couldn’t see him for the tears.  Zephyr laid her head on my lap, and Atticus reached out a kindly hand and I scooted over by him to lean on his big soft shoulder.  He patted my head gently with his huge hand while he waited for me to speak.

            “I think that we had better go home Lord Atticus.”

            “There’s a good lass.”

“Shall we start tomorrow; give you one more night’s rest?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

My heart felt unfettered as I headed toward the pool to catch fish for our dinner.  I actually felt young and light again, and skipped down the path jumping over bushes.  Zephyr ran along beside me looking up at me as if she knew, and I reached down to ruffle her fur.

“We’re going home, girl.”


“Hold still, “the bard gave a stern look to the warrior while cleaning the scratches on her face.   “You won’t be going anywhere on the road without your injuries dressed, so just settle yourself and be patient, Xena.”

Azure eyes were sullen.  


Then they smiled, and the blond smacked the dark tresses in the head.   “ Be cooperative.  Just because you kicked the DOZ’s butt...”

“Yes, we did that…”

“Are you going to give it another day before setting out for Birdie?”

“Gods be dammed could be two, now, Gabrielle.  Barbarians did some damage to the main gate with their bloody siege engine and I want that at least well on the way to repaired, before I set off.  How is the blue star holding?”

“It’s holding.  Bright.  Actually it’s getting brighter.”

“Perhaps that’s a good sign?”

“We can only hope.”

“Gabrielle, I will start at first light on the gate repair, and try to ride out tomorrow night for Birdie.”

“Xena, let’s just see how everything goes.  You have so much stress right now...”

“Yes, and to top it off, it’s going to storm...”


 Our first night on the return was status quo, which was good since we were descending the mountain, and the footing was tricky at best.   Naturally, we lost our good weather when we turned back toward the great valley which was the main route to Amphipolis.   But nothing lasts forever, and I didn’t mind. Atticus said it wasn’t that terribly far; I had been in such an emotional state, that my concept of distance was faulty.   I gave Atticus a boot up into Hades’ saddle and took the lead rope to walk along, Zephyr beside me.  The rain wasn’t unbearable, but it wasn’t pleasant.   My thoughts were everywhere but on the steps that went one before the other, however.

“What are you thinking of, Birdie lass?” 

“My Grandba’s good soup, Lord Atticus.  I don’t ever need to eat fish again. ”

He laughed, throwing his head back, and it made the rain less miserable.

“I’ll be glad for my warm fireplace and my wife Rosey and my son’s company.”

“Tell me about Talus, Lord Atticus.”

“He’s a quiet lad, but a good one.  Loves to read, doesn’t speak without thinking, good to his mother, and he likes to carve animals out of wood.”

My boots took a dozen paces...  “So I would like your Talus.”

“You would, Birdie.”

I didn’t like to be so exposed in the valley.  It had been days since we had seen the wide open spaces and it felt much too vulnerable.  Atticus was in similar mind, because he sat taller and kept his eyes going in a constant circular scan.

“How is the leg?”  was my inquiry after mid morning.  

“Not so bad.  Need to get off this monster and elevate it for a bit of a break, I think.”

We did after awhile.  I left him with his leg propped up on the saddle while I took the skins to go to find water.  There was an area where all of the reeds were bowing in the same direction which I followed and soon enough, the reeds dampened and then there was water.  I lay on my belly and drank my fill, scrub my face and hair.  It was very cold and refreshed me.  Zephyr shook her fur on me and she gave me a pleased fox face when I laughed.

As we approached Hades, I could hear voices and one of them was not Atticus.  Zephyr’s fur stood up, and she snarled; Zephyr never snarled, and she showed her teeth.   I dropped and bellied in closer.  There was filthy fat man in a hairy coat with his sword pointed at Atticus who still lay on the ground.

“I ain’t seein’ no ways yer stoppin’ me takin’ this fine amenal.” Hairy man was saying. “ so I’ll be a’doin just that.”

“That kind sir would be a serious mistake.” spoke Atticus with a twinkle in his eye.
            “Mesteak, I see no mesteak,”

“I’m the mistake.” were my words as I rose with an arrow notched in my bow.

Hairy man laughed.  “I see, it’s a wee sprat of a gerl, that’s the mesteak.  C’mon little gerly.”

My first arrow hit him in the side of the left knee.  He screamed and went down.   I reached his side in five strides and shot a second arrow dead next to the first at point blank range.  He screamed louder.  The third arrow went into his thigh.   The fourth, I pointed at his head.

“BIRDIE!!  Stop it lass.  Stop it.  Think of your folks.  Let him go.”

The hairy man was still rocking on the ground and moaning.   I drew my dagger and cut off the arrows near their entry points which caused higher pitches in his outcries, but he could walk.

 “Leave us.”  I said to him.  “If you so much as glance at my horse again, I will kill you before you take another breath.”

The hairy man pulled himself to his one good leg and hobbled away.  He didn’t look back.

I saddled Hades, helped Atticus into the saddle, handed him the water skin, and we continued.

            Evening came. It had begun to rain again – a hard driving black rain that seemed to hang from the sky in great dark ropes that flogged us with every step.  I could hardly tell the differences among the rain, Hades, Lord Atticus and Zephyr.  But on the horizon there was a soft glow and it gave me the strangest tingle in my soul that after how long—a seven day away in the rough. I might be seeing the glow of life from Amphipolis.  Home. I turned back to Atticus with the question in my face, and he nodded.

Wrapping my coat closer my staggering foot speed increased. . Whatever was left of my family was within that glow, I needed to arrive at the gates before losing all courage.


            Gabrielle rose and crossed to peer again into the rain.  

                        “What is it, Gab?” 


            “It’s Birdie isn’t it? Is she coming?”

 The warrior came to the window to stare into the dark deluge with her soul mate.

                        “I don’t know, Xena something is different.”


            There was a knock at the door and the warrior crossed to answer it.  

 “Begging your pardon, but we need to inform Your Ladies that Lord Atticus is returned…”

            “That’s wonderful news, Eurylocus, is he well?”

            “Yes your ladies, but..”

            “What is it Eurylocus?”

            At this point there was vibrating clap of thunder and an insistent scratching at the window.  A little whining.  Gabrielle went to the window and let in a bedraggled black fox.

            “It’s Zephyr!”

            “That’s just it, Conqueror. Atticus rode in on Hades.”

  Sapphire met jade…

The jade directed.

 “I will attend to Zephyr and prepare the largest hot bath for you… GO.”

            Xena took the two flights downstairs in two steps.    Atticus was being helped down from Hades.  He met her eyes.

            “Half a league out, Lady; she’d come no further, Conqueror.  The big oak.”

 Xena pushed past him. 

 “Conqueror!”  She turned.

 “The lass saved my life, My Lady.  She nursed me back to health.  I had a hand in her return, but I wouldn’t be here at all if not for her.  “

Xena extended her arm and they clasped each other in the warrior’s handshake.   He met the famous azure eyes directly.

“So don’t be too hard on her, My Lady Conqueror.”

In the next breath, the woman he addressed had vanished


The giant oak kept some of the downpour from me as I huddled among the roots shivering and considering my next direction.   But I felt her presence, a tall shade cutting a shape in the endlessly dark and drenching deluge.  She stood silent as the tree; I dared not raise my head.   A hand was extended to me.

“Birdie,” very quietly.

“Baba?” my voice cracked on the name, tears began; I reached upward.  The strong hand clasped my smaller one.  The voice still quiet, sure.

“Birdie, it’s ok.”

No more words now, but she tugged gently then pulled up and completely into her arms like a small child.   I wrapped myself around her as a vine does an oak, the rain blending us into one mass of human feeling.   She held me very closely, rubbing first my back, then her hand on my head, in my hair, and I could feel the warmth of her fresh tears on my face, mixing with mine.

“Birdie, your mother… she’s ok.”

I pulled away, “Mama’s alive, Baba?”

White teeth showed in the darkness, “She had a bad injury and concussion, but she’s fine, Birdie.  She’s probably going to have your hide.  Right after I do.”

“Baba...”  I could hold my tears no longer then, and she walked around in a circle with my head on her chest, humming a little tuneless soothing sound. It took me back to when I was very small and she would come in to comfort me when I had so many nightmares.  She carried me up and down the floor in her powerful arms, so strong, so calm.  Baba Xe was always a safe place.  I was returned to that safe place again, and it calmed me.

“We better be going in; your Mama G will be going mad to see you.”

 She let me down, and I put my arm around her waist and leaned against her and we walked toward the fortress.  The rain was subsiding now and I could see the moonlight streaming through the dissipating clouds.


“Yes, little Bird.”

“I guess there’s some explaining to do...”

She chuckled.

“Quite a bit,  My Little Bird. Quite a bit to answer for.  But I am proud of what you did for Atticus.”

“He’s a very nice man.”

“He is indeed.  And you don’t need to explain anything tonight, Birdie. We are just so glad that you are home. There’ll be time enough for explanations after you are clean and dry and rested.  Tomorrow we can worry about explanations, ok?”

“Yes, my lady...”

She kissed my head, as we entered the fortress, and my lady mother grabbed me away into a soul encompassing bear hug.  I had thought to be finished with crying but seeing her well and whole destroyed any resolution of that type.   I remember saying, “Mama, “ and that we were in a tearful heap on the floor for awhile.  It was a joyful thing to see her.

Mama hustled  Baba and I  into the biggest bathtub in the fortress, where she scrubbed me down.  (glorious hot water).. and put me into a nightshirt.   They took me into their bed chamber where  Mama had made the sitting couch into a bed for me in front of the fire.  Zephyr was clean and dozing on the rug.  My parents tucked me in and stayed by me listening to parts of my story until I could talk no more.  Then they retired with promises to continue in the morning.   I woke up once and pondered gratefully the soft bed, the fire in the fireplace, and my contented fox curled up on the rug. My eyes wondered across the room to the warrior and the bard sleeping in a peaceful embrace, illuminated by the three-quarter moon.   It was surely good to be home.


We may run

We may hide

We may crawl as deep

As we can inside.

We may go as far

As we can go

Do as much as

We can alone--

And then it’s time

To go back home.

 Out that part.                            To be continued…

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