Birdie’s Song Story VII. The Invasion.. Part 2
I am Robin
Of the Warrior
And the Bard..
The work and the weather were abysmal. The swaying of Hade’s head kept time with my boots as he bore his burden. I kept a steady stroking of his nose,” It’s not much farther now Hades; there’s a fine horse; that’s my big mighty horse.”
Zephyr trotted along by my side making the occasional detour into the side grass to investigate a toad or field mouse. The rain had fallen all night, but it did not deter the good citizens of Amphipolis from hauling war supplies out to Wild Horse Valley. Hades had actually drawn comparatively light duty. Across his big back were three heavy leather yokes on which balanced six kegs of the base oil of Greek fire. I didn’t understand all of the magic of Greek fire, but I knew that it was dangerous. It had its origins in a faraway swamp, beginning as a dirty tarry substance. A couple of processes cleaned it enough of the swamp debris, and it could burn for candle marks sometimes and not be extinguished with water. This was extremely deadly to humans and horses and caused a horrific death. But keeping our home safe was duty that was not always pretty or humane. My Baba the Conqueror had a contract with merchants who came through regularly with the stuff, and so the fortress always had a ready supply. We would use a sizable portion for this attack.
Far ahead were the huge work horses, six in a harness set, heads down, mighty flanks heaving, their large hairy hooves digging into the muddy earth. They were towing the heavy fire cannons from our fortress and the DOZ’s siege engines out to the west meadow.
There were no sounds of whips cracking or shouting. My Baba Xe never allowed any horse in the Conqueror’s stables to be mistreated or punished more severely than a scolding and a light slap on the nose. If a horse was in serious trouble, the Conqueror worked with it herself, and she was a legendary horse handler. If she was unable to settle the beast (which was rare), she found the horse a different job. All of the militia were expected to treat their horses as equal companions and partners in battle as Baba had always treated Argo. So even though the present work was very hard, the horses managed it with the encouragement of their humans. This was a challenge for the horses and a long journey, but the behemoths were managing with the encouragement of their handlers who walked beside them. None of us rode our horses; they needed no more burden added, and the journey was several leagues.
We all knew at the end of the journey my Grandba Cyrene, her best friend Rose, and Grandba’s special friend Scrubby waited with a huge wagon of refreshments for humans and horses. After a rest period, we rode back. This pattern had been the rule for three days, and we had almost completed the transporting segment of the preparation.
A selected group of Amazons led by my Effie, together with many of the DOZ had been hard at work all this time cutting and arranging large branches to camouflage the big weapons as we arranged them. They had done an amazing job. The branches were set around each weapon and so in between to give the appearance of a new entry edge of the forest. By half distance to the great road, one could see no evidence at all that there were weapons hidden, and if one walked the road, once would have so suspicion whatsoever. They had even camouflaged the barrels of Greek fire.
I looked up at approaching gallops to see Talus pull up his bay, Howard. Angie was clinging to his back, which was a regular sight these days.
“Talus, old man. Long time,” I slapped his boot in the stirrup.
“What do you think, Birdie? Is it a good layout?”
his face was flushed with excitement. “I helped with the design of the lay
out of the camouflage. You can barely make them out, right?”
“It’s perfect, so far as I can tell, Talus.” I was honest, “You have done brilliantly. I can’t make out the danger and I know where to look. Those thick-skulled Roman legions will march right on by and be fully taken in.”
Two of the militia fellows were unloading Hades’ kegs of fire. I carressed his nose gently.
“There you go, Boy, the hard part is over now. Talus, where is the refreshment wagon?”
“See that siege engine, Bird? Six dozen paces beyond, and you’ll make it out by the crowd through the smoke of the bonfire. See ya Bird. “
He put his knees into Howard to meet the next group. Angie gave me a shy wave, a pretty smile, and then wrapped her arms about his waist.
I watched, shaking my head. They were perfect together; I had never seen Talus so happy. Sometimes I missed my old best friend, but time worked itself round, and hopefully he would be back to talk now and again when Cupid gave him a break. Zephyr looked at me and read my thoughts in her magical way because she poked her nose inside my hand for a pat.
“Yes, I always have you, girl,” I let my hand drift through her fur, “and you are the best friend of all.”
My ebony colored friend agreed.
Hades shook his head against his bridle and danced around a bit on our way to refreshments. He was happy to be rid of the weight on his back.
There were large troughs of water which we visited first, and then we wandered to the wagon where I retrieved my own cold mug of water while feeding Hades a trio of carrots and Zephyr a special dog treat.
“Did ya make decent time Grandbird?” inquired my Grandba, working steadily handing out big mugs of cider and water.
“I think so, Grandba,” she playfully slapped my hand as it quickly snabbed a nutty muffin under her nose. The aroma of the treat was intoxicating.
“Grandba, I have dreamed of this muffin the entire long and lonesome walk.” My teeth sunk into it, “and it was worth it.”
Her blue veined fingers moved gently through my hair and down my cheek in a rare moment of affection, “Oh, you are full of pretty tales and sweet words Grandbirdie,“ she sighed, “and I love to hear them.”
I leaned into her hand a little and then on an impulse, turned and kissed it. The bright blue eyes, so like my Baba Xe’s softened momentarily before she took a swipe at my head. “Get on with ya, Grandbirdie; you’ve work to do and so’ve I.”
I turned from her but left another soft kiss in her palm.
Cyrene folded her arms watching her granddaughter move away in the company of the large black horse. Rose turned from her duty a moment.
“I can hear your thoughts, my friend,” Rose had a soft voice but it had a way of being heard.
“Ay Rosie, I was just thinking how quickly they grow up. Doesn’t seem so long ago that I watched my own Xena move about in that graceful way around a horse.”
“And now it’s your grandchild.”
“Suddenly, it’s my precious Grandbirdie, and here we are lookin’ at war again.”
“I am very grateful that Talus doesn’t have much of the warrior’s blood in him,” Rosie spoke reflectively, “ I thought his father might be disappointed at first, but he isn’t at all; he is happy that Talus is smart and artistically inclined. So long as he is ‘decent, honest, and good to his mother,’ that’s all Atticus wants from his son. So Birdie is the warrior child for both our families.” Rose softened her voice even more. “You know how much my Atticus loves Birdie, don’t you?”
“Ay, I do, and glad I am that Birdie has him as a male figure in her life,” Cyrene patted her friend’s arm. “Birdie and Atticus have a bond that the rest of us will never know all about.”
Rosie passed another soldier a tin cup of cold water and a thick slice of brown bread with jam spread on it.
“They shared a grand adventure, ‘tis true,” the memory shook her voice, “I was so worried about Atticus those days and had no reason to believe he was even still alive, except that I could FEEL it in my soul, you know.”
“Aye Rosie, t’was the same for us, you can be certain,”
Cyrene took her dear friend’s hand and patted it a moment gazing into her eyes.
“They may call my Xena the Conqueror, but with Gabrielle injured after that
skirmish with the Romans, and Birdie gone missing, surely she was far more the
conquered one. And I did not know how to help her.”
Rose stared steadily into her friend’s eyes, “If only we had known each other a little better than,” she sighed, “There I was beside myself with worry over Atticus, and Talus weeping non stop. It was a great day for us when he rode in on that great black horse of Birdie’s that just cleaned us out of carrots.”
The women touched their heads together and laughed.
“It’s a short history, but a precious one,” Cyrene squeezed her friend’s hands in affection. “And it will see us through what’s ahead.”
“Ay, that it will, “Rosie squeezed back, “That it will.”
Hades was due a candle mark’s quiet grazing before we rode back to the fortress, so I meandered over to the large campfire circle to listen to discussion of the ambush. My Baba Xe, Mama G, Chief Jom of the DOZ, Ephiny, and Pony were standing around a large map that Baba had scratched in the dirt near the bon fire. My eyes drifted over it, and I picked out our location, every single one of our fire cannons, and the entrance of the Romans designated by a dirt sketch of a Roman helmet.
I crept into the circle as if my presence were only an extra shadow and not a nosy squire.
“These are my thoughts, and I am open to other ideas,” the low commanding voice of my Baba Xe held the group without raising her volume.
“The Roman Legions will arrive in the next day or two. If you have no objection, Ephiny, Pony, if you and some of your fleetest warriors, together with some of the Chief’s fastest, and my strong men on the sieges and the cannons can mount the first fire attack from the west….”
She paused for their input. It was an enormous job, but Ephiny, Pony and the Chief all stepped forward immediately, fists saluting their hearts solidly.
“Whatever you need, Xena,” Ephiny said quietly.
The Conqueror smiled, “Well done then. The Amazons, DOZ and Militia can attack hard and from near invisibility with the greatest force. It is the most critical attack. The Romans must be funneled into the valley quickly. They must feel as if there is no choice.”
Pony spoke quietly, formally, “And we will give them none, My Lady Conqueror.”
She received a look of warmth from the sapphire eyes.
“Chief Jom, you will attack from the east slope of the valley and corral any legions who might try escape that way... You should be able to hold that hill with few soldiers shouldn’t you?”
The Chief gave a silent nod.
The Conqueror finished, “And I, Queen Gabrielle, the rest of the Militia and anyone else who shows up will greet the Romans right at the mouth of the valley and on the road to Amphipolis to hold for the final battle. I say we take no prisoners. Are we agreed on this?”
She pulled The Tide from its scabbard and set it in the middle of her dirt map laying her callused palm across the top of its hilt. My Mama G’s of course came next without fanfare; Ephiny and Pony stepped forward immediately to place their palms on hers; Chief Jom laid his huge hand on top. I took a chance and moved forward to place my hand atop the chief’s. It settled like a small leaf against a sheet of granite, and yet we were united. My mother’s eyes locked onto mine across the stack of hands, and I could not tell if she approved or not.
“Victory at Wild Horse; Death to Rome!” The Conqueror’s voice trembled with intensity.
“Victory at Wild Horse: Death to Rome!” Her followers swore on her sword.
The moment was charged; my heart felt as if it would fly from my chest. Then almost as if embarrassed by their expressions of passion, the war party broke up.
My Baba Xe’s voice followed me as I turned away heading to locate Hades for the ride back.
“Mind yourself on the way home, Birdie.”
“I will do so, My Lady.” I turned and gave her a slight bow which brought a round of chuckles from the fire.
At least she was out of her Conqueror mode for a moment. We wouldn’t see that again for days.
My response was an innocent smile paired with innocently raised shoulders.
Zephyr joined me looking quite refreshed, and I let my hand fall to her silky black fur.
“Hi girl, Where’s Hades?”
Zephyr took a hard right which took us in the direction of several grazing horses. Something flashed at my peripheral vision—Rachelle. Turning quickly, I caught sight of her golden hair glowing against the grim sky. Her head was bowed; she appeared to be in deep conversation with—Who was that?
“Who is that?”
Zephyr had no answer. I looked down at her soft eyes; she gazed up at me, as hurt as I was. What was this?
Rach must have felt something because she looked our way. She tugged the arm of her companion and they angled their ambling in my direction.
She-who-walked-beside-my Rachelle was tall, with a lean athletic build and tarnished brass colored hair. Her skin was sun tanned, rather the color of her hair, and her eyes, which had now met mine, were dark woods brown—impenetrable. Soft buckskin pants and shirt clothed her in understated class. She was quite striking in appearance, I had to admit.
Turning deaf ears, Zephyr and I resumed our journey towards the horses.
Don’t be silly.
I turned. “Oh, Hi Rach.”
“Birdie, you heard me.”
The forest granite eyes pierced me. Rach missed nothing.
Oh, that was quick, Bird.
A sigh from Rach.
“Birdie, this is Tosh.”
The gorgeous one held out a large strong hand. “Hello Birdie, I have heard so much about you. ”
I shook the hand politely as my upbringing required, “Hope it hasn’t been all bad.”
A chuckle, “Not all.”
“Tosh is here to visit me from the Seaside Amazon tribe, Birdie..”
“You must miss her over there,” I murmured making small talk but offering no eye contact.
“Indeed we do, “ Tosh said. She was older, wiser; I could tell. Even worse for me. Tosh was perfect for Rach. By the gods, she probably swam all the way here---by way of the rivers.
“Well, I’ll leave you to your visit then,” couldn’t keep the shakiness from my voice. Minotaur shite. This was not cool.
My arm was caught and my body spun around with strength surprising from Rachelle’s her slender form.
“What in Hades is wrong with you?” The words snapped and stung me.
Didn’t look at her.
She folded her arms waiting.
“Birdie, look at me and say that.”
I managed a moment’s glance.
Zephyr cast reproachful regard.
“Birdie, I didn’t think that you would lie to me so soon in our relationship.”
Still couldn’t look at her.
“Not lying. Ow!”
Zephyr nipped the back of my calf.
“Bite her, Zephyr,” the shattered voice of
the girl I loved flew back in shards as she strode away to rejoin Tosh, “Bite
“That went well,” I muttered to Zephyr as we moved on to Hades.
Zephyr had nothing to say to me.
“Zephyr, you are supposed to stand by me right or wrong.”
Difficult to stand by an idiot.
“Zephyr….” Almost begging
Warm fur rubbed against the side of my laced trousers.
“So do you forgive me?”
She gave a little lick of my hand and moved her head under it. I stroked it gratefully.
“ I panicked.”
Wish you wouldn’t.
“I wish that I wouldn’t too, Zephyr. Do you think that I am being replaced?”
Nobody could ever replace you, Birdie.
I knelt to look into the wisdom of my fox’s hazel eyes.
“Have I ever told you that you mean more to me than most of the people I know, and certainly my own life?”
Don’t be silly.
“I’m not being silly, Zephyr. You are my heart and soul.”
And you are mine, little mistress.
“So do we have a problem?”
I have no problem, but you do.
Yes. And I like Rachelle as well.
“What is the problem?”
You tell me.
“I was not truthful.”
Indeed you were not.
“That’s bad, isn’t it?”
She nipped my hand lightly.
Don’t make it a habit.
We had arrived at Hades who looked rested. I leaped up into my big horse’s saddle and turned towards Amphipolis. We would make it home before complete darkness settled in, and I had much to occupy my thoughts.
“What shall I offer for your thoughts, my Bard?”
Argo kept a steady beat with the lighter pace of Gabrielle’s Wendy. The two horses ran together quite often and thus knew the perfect gait for conversation between their riders.
The bright head peered upward at the cosmos. “How about a star?”
“A star for your thoughts, my love..” offered the Conqueror to her most precious advisor.
There was a soft chuckle and the forest colored eyes lowered to the saddle pommel.
“My thoughts are worth very little, for they are in conflict with each other, My Lady Conqueror.” She said quietly.
“Are they?” she was answered in equally quiet tones. “And it’s XENA, not ‘My Lady Conqueror’ to you, My Queen.”
The blonde hair looked up, “Touché,” she smiled. “I am wishing for the days my little Birdie did not have lethal combat skills, and I could leave her at home with her Grandba, while we went to battle. And yet, I am proud of her too.”
“I understand,” The dark head studied her own saddle pommel, “Actually, there were very few years before Birdie learned lethal combat skills, Gabrielle. She was born with a certain knack, you know.”
“I do know.”
“It was only a matter of time—always.”
“I know that; it doesn’t mean that I like it. It doesn’t mean that I want our child to find joy or excitement in going to war or killing.”
“Do you honestly fear that in her, Gabrielle?”
The poet paused considering.
“Perhaps somewhat,” she said carefully.
The warrior was equally careful. “You fear my darkness will make its appearance in our child, once she has a true taste of real bloodshed in a combat situation.”
And even longer silence. The horses’ steady clopping echoed in the night as the two women sought answers in the moon.
“Perhaps.” The bard whispered, “I am sorry if that hurts, Xena; it shouldn’t. The gods know I have my own dark side to contribute.”
The horses touched noses as their beloved riders fell silent again.
Xena released a long heavy sigh into Argo’s ears which flipped around.
“You know what I think, Mama G?”
That brought a smile, “What do you think, Baba Xe?”
“I think we have to trust our kid just as we trust each other. Yes, I go a little hardcore nut ball when the Romans are involved. I count on you to check me. Birdie‘s behavior restrains me in another way, because she will follow my example. You can go a little hardcore nut ball with worry about both Birdie and me. Birdie and I keep you honest.”
She chuckled, “one way or another I suppose. And Birdie… the gods know where and when she will go hardcore nut ball, hopefully not at all-- if we are lucky. Birdie has many eyes on her.”
The Warrior Princess took a deep breath,
“We do the best we can Gabrielle which is no slouch of an effort, and we also hope and strive for the best of outcomes.”
The horses paced, the moon listened; the warrior spoke again,
“Do you remember Helicon?”
The writer’s smaller hand came across the darkness to grasp the warrior’s larger one.
“Yes of course I remember Helicon, Xena.”
“Do you think it was easy for me to witness what happened to you there? You were the one part of my life that I had tried to protect most from the blood rage and violence of war. And there at Helicon you transformed, right in front of me. It hacked my heart to shreds, Gabrielle; my heart wept tears of blood to see it.” The sapphire eyes closed.
The young bard’s head lowered at this confession of the woman who remained her first and her only hero.
Xena reached for her lover’s chin to find the poet’s tears reflected in the moonlight.
“But life is hard Gabrielle; you know that as well as I do; life demands our heartbreak and our blood. All we can do is to guard those we love ---fiercely, and to believe in those we love --unconditionally. It’s really all we have in the end.”
“So we cannot protect our Birdie from life can we?” the bard acquiesced.
“No, my love we cannot. We can only to our best to love and to guide her.”
The horses continued on through the dark night under the starlight and moonglow.
“Are you still asking to hear my thoughts?, “mused her soul mate, picking up the pace a bit.
“A star for your thoughts, Gabrielle.” Argo sped up as well.
“Just two,” the bard was mysterious.
“And those would be….?”
“I love you, and I believe in you.”
“Still?” the question was a whisper from the Conqueror of all the lands one could see.
“Still and always,” the soft answer returned across the darkness.
They held hands all the way back to Amphipolis.
The following morning I was leading Hades out to the barns to collect his last load of Greek fire when I saw my Grandba and Rosie setting off toward the valley in their refreshment wagon loaded to the frames with the food that would reward our hard work.
“Birdie girl, come ride with me a moment before you load!” she waved me over. I turned Hades back and we caught up with the wagon. Quickly wrapping Hades’ reins around the frame, I hopped beside Grandba on the seat easily. In another breath, Zephyr was behind Grandba, sticking her nose on her neck.
“Stop, silly fox,” Grandba laughed, “I’m ticklish…stop!”
“She knows that Grandba...”
I was helpless for anything but laughter, and Rosie joined in as well. Zephyr gave the serious Cyrene of Amphipolis another large dose of cold nose before lying down on a pallet, very satisfied with herself.
Grandba looked back, “Silly fox; I’ll make a coat of ya!”
Zephyr gave Grandba a look which said she knew better.
“What is it Grandba? I am due at the loading place.”
She took my hand which wore the silver ring I had taken from Marcus, my Greco/Roman friend at his death.
“Look here Birdie.” She pulled from her little finger, an identical silver ring.
“Grandba they are just alike. May I see yours?”
I took hers and looked at it. There was one difference. On the inside of the one I had taken from Marcus, there was the letter “M” engraved. On the inside of Grandba’s there was the letter “C”.
“Grandba?” I waited for her to explain.
Her eyes went far away.
“I had a sister, Birdie; her name was Maxine. We were only a season apart and we were inseparable. One Solstice, when our father had a good year with his cattle, he gave us these rings, identical-- with our initials on the inside. They were the only gift we ever had from our father; he was killed in an accident soon after. We were so very proud of them, and we never took them off. But when we were about your age, Maxine was taken by raiders, despite the best efforts of my mother.”
My Grandba’s eyes filled suddenly even these many years later. I took her work worn hand in mine and held on tightly.
She closed her eyes and swallowed. “We never saw or heard from her again. My mother, Xenarone never spoke of her, so I didn’t either. I put away my ring and never wore it again. When you showed yours to me that night, it stirred a faint memory. I finally dug around and located it for you.”
“So what this means…” I said, “is that very possibly, Marcus was the son…..”
“of Maxine,” she finished. “My Maxine found some kind of life somewhere, perhaps Rome, and had a son.”
“Who was my friend, and my cousin,” I whispered.” Grandba, that is incredible.”
Her rough hand cupped my face, “In a way, your encounter with young Marcus brought me and you back full circle.”
“He was the kindest, bravest, and nicest fellow one could hope to meet, Grandba. You would have been very proud of him, “I said, wishing that I could tell her that Marcus was still quite often with me.
“Well, Birdie girl, I would like for you to have this ring too, “my Grandba pressed the glowing piece of silver into my palm.
“Are you certain, Grandba? This is very special to you.” I studied the simple beautiful object in my hand.
She closed my fingers around it. “You will find a use for it dear. I have no further need of it, and one day you might.”
I tucked the ring into a small pouch that hung on my belt for just that purpose and kissed her soft cheek.
“Thank you Grandba. I will both keep and use it well. Have to run now.” I reached for Hades’ reins.
“Ride carefully darlin’”
“I smiled at her from the saddle.
“See you at the snack wagon then.”
“Fine… fine.” She turned to the reins of her horses.
“Love you Grandba.”
I received a nod and a warm smile. Hades, Zephyr, and I went off to collect our load.
“But isn’t life odd?” I asked Zephyr later on as she walked beside me. Hades kept his steady plodding, his nose over my shoulder.
“But it works out the way it should I suppose; I hope.” We came to the meadow outside Wild Horse Valley with our final load. Hades was ready. We all were ready.
Zephyr slid her head under my hand.
I hope so too.
“Oh it will, Zephyr. See you in a bit then?”
I will find you my friend, as I always do.
And she did.
As she always does.
There was an “ambush feast” at the fortress that evening. That is what I called it; I believe others called it the” Wild Horse Feast” which did have a grander sound. Leave it to my Grandba to come up with new Wild Horse ale with which my Baba Xe made an inspired toast. My Mama G made a toast then to our own Conqueror who would lead us to victory, and hers was even better. When hearts needed to swell with pride or courage, no one could make that happen with words like my Mama G.
After the formalities, I felt the need for privacy and went to walk by the stream kicking rocks. Rachelle found me rather quickly; it wasn’t possible to avoid her all evening, and I wasn’t so cowardly that I didn’t want to see her again.
“Where’s Tosh?” I asked stiffly.
“I sent her home,” Rach said with a sigh, “she wanted to stay but I told her that with Auntie Pony taking such a big risk in the Roman ambush, I needed at least one surviving relative somewhere.”
“Tosh is a relative?”
“Yes, my first cousin. She’s always looked out for me some. I did want you to meet her.”
With no hesitation, Rach then extended a flat hand and delivered a light swat to my backside, and then quickly moved up to lay a harder smack to the back of my head. The hand then turned and was joined by her other on either side of my head and drew it to touch her own forehead.
“Dumbshite.” Her voice was gentle.
What could I say? Idiot.
“You… Were…. jealous.”
“ Never have been. Of anyone till you, Rach. “
Confession sucked the wind out of me.
Tears welled. Don’t. Talk to her.
“Didn’t want to lose you when I only just found you.”
She squeezed my head in her hands.
“You might have asked me.”
Yeah that too.
Her head moved up and down.
“You will find many knots on your head if you don’t TALK to me when something bothers you.”
We joined hands and walked again.
We enjoyed contented silence for a time, heads down watching the matched pace of our feet. Then, my mind went very sharp.
“Where will you be during the ambush, Rach?”
She turned, “NOW don’t be that way, Bird. I will be just fine.”
Too late, I as fully gone “that way”.
“You will be with Effie and Pony, right?”
She didn’t want to answer.
“In the primary attack from the west?”
I walked away.
“I don’t like that, Rach; I don’t like it at all. Who will watch over you?”
“I’m going to be hidden high in a tree.”
“With my sword.”
She disliked it as much I did.
“They’ll watch me Birdie, I’ll be camouflaged, and I am not entirely helpless.”
I stared away. “Not good enough.”
“I knew you would say that. But no one will find me. Everyone will be too busy fighting.”
She squeezed my hands and wanted to say more; it was in her eyes.
I looked at the ground stubbing my soft boot into the dirt reaching a decision.
“Then I am coming with the Amazon/DOZ party for the fire ambush of the Romans.”
“Birdie, your parents won’t allow it”
“I will ask permission, but you are very likely correct.”
.” Her eyes grew large. “And not only that, you are sworn to squire for the Conqueror.”
“I’ll work it out. Hades is a very fast horse. As soon as I see the fire ambush is good, and have you safe with me, we can open up for the center valley attack; Hades can make it; we’ve run faster and farther many times.”
“Birdie, we’ll be riding right along the parameter of the Roman Legions!”
“Yes, but we will be flying, and they will be fighting.”
She sighed. “You are crazy. Ephiny is going to kick your butt, the Romans may bloody well KILL both of us, and if we are lucky enough to survive, your parents will double kick your butt!”
“They’ve kicked it before.”
“But this is different Birdie, this is war!”
I took both of her hands in mine.
“That’s just it, Rach. I can’t function in any assignment, until I know for
certain that YOU ARE SAFE. “
“You aren’t treading on hubris again?”
“Don’t think so, Rach…think this falls under plain old disobedience..”
She laughed, “You are a piece of work, Robin of Amphipolis.”
“So they tell me…
“Out of the question.” The Conqueror strode away from me. “You understand that the ONLY reason you are involved at all in this exercise is that you are now my sworn squire?”
“Yes, My Lady.”
“And I intend also that you guard your mother’s back?”
“Yes, My Lady.”
At the other end of the room, I could still feel the sparks of her outrage snap at my skin.
“Baba.” My head was lowered submissively.
“Birdie,” She turned and the cobalt eyes were electric with intensity.
“Robin of the Warrior, do not dare to disobey me on this issue. Am I clear?”
“Yes My Lady.”
She walked back and stood tall over me. “Look at me Birdie; LOOK …AT…ME….”
I managed to meet the icy lightning—only just.
Suddenly she softened and ran her hand into my hair.
“Birdie, it is just too dangerous. Rachelle will be fine with Ephiny and Pony. They are warriors too, remember?”
“Yes My Lady.”
She gave my hair a gentle tug.
“So we are good now?”
“Yes My Lady.”
She looked into my eyes one more time. Her gaze penetrated straight into my soul.
Then she sighed, turned away, and left me standing her office.
Taking one more gulp of air, I tapped on the bedchamber door of the Conqueror and the Queen.
I entered the huge room, a room in which I had been brought home to safety, shelter and happiness so many times in my young life. Actually, it was the room in which I had been born.
My mother sat in her chair near the window writing on a parchment. She did not look surprised to see me. Baba Xe had gone to the field.
“My Lady, might I have a word?” My voice sounded formal, even though I felt my spirit shake all the way through.
The captivating jade eyes sent my mother’s fond gaze which never failed to ease me regardless of what I had to say or confess.
“Sit down, Birdie.”
I sat on the small tapestry covered footstool near her feet. I was a little tall for it now, but no matter; there were times that I still desired to sit at my mother’s knee. She felt my troubled mind and pulled my head into her lap, stroking my hair quietly.
“Mama, will you hate me if I disobey you and Baba and go to ride with the Amazons in the fire ambush?”
The hand stopped caressing, but it didn’t leave my hair. She took a deep breath.
“First of all, I could never hate you; you must never ever think that. And second, are you confessing to disobedience before you commit it? That is new for you, Birdie.”
I raised my head and met her eyes with my own near tears, “Mama I MUST GO. I cannot let Rachelle go into danger without going with her. Even though it means trouble for me here.”
I lowered my eyes and head to await her words.
She never took her hand from my hair, but gripped it.
“Birdie, you are old enough to make your own decisions and to face your own consequences. I cannot physically stop you short of chaining you in the dungeon. Do we have a dungeon?”
A chuckle from me, “Not that I am aware of, Mama. We have a jail. You could chain me in the jail.”
“Ah, the jail then.”
“Mama, how can I make you see that I feel there is no choice for me but to do this?”
She took my face in her hands and forced me deep into her stormy forest eyes. It was a rare sight, but quite as frightening as the blue flash of my Baba Xe’s anger.
“Convince me, Robin of Amphipolis. Convince me why you should share the extra danger of the first fire ambush of the Romans, when you are already involved in the danger of the final ambush as a squire in Wild Horse Valley.” Her voice shook slightly with her restrained anger.
“You know that I can hardly bear that you are taking part in that much of this military operation.”
“Mama I need to help keep Rachelle safe.” It sounded weak.
She closed her eyes.
“Honey, Rachelle will be SAFE. Her parents are Ephiny and Eponin of the Forest Amazons, and they are extremely capable warriors.”
“I know, Mama.”
“Then, we have no more worries about this, am I right?”
“LOOK AT ME, Birdie.”
By the gods, I looked her straight in the eyes; I had to. “Yes, My Lady.”
My conscience twisted and stabbed a finger into my gut.
“Liar Liar, pants on fire..” my heart, my conscience, my very soul taunted me.
I kissed my mother’s hand, rose from the little footstool, turned away from my mother, and went to make my own decisions.
To be continued
I have no words,
Only feelings pristine,
Encased in light.
Her face and eyes
So fill my sight
In her voice, or
All that I hear,
The touch of her
Hand which can both
Hurt and heal,
Are all that I feel.
With her wise
She mends splintered
parts of this
Is love defined
At the Academy
In some ancient
I need to know.
Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and thanks so much for reading…
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