Everything is Alive Part 3
When Gabrielle saw the end result, she was happy that Delicate Flower and Gurtha had talked her and Xena into waiting to visit the remaining Amazons. The thing was, they were all interested in what she, as queen of the Southern Amazons, would wear to meet the Northern Amazons.
Yes, her shift was fine for everyday, but didn't she want them to see what a Queen looked like? Sure, Ghurtha could make whatever she was used to wearing. No one could sew like Ghurtha. Gabrielle was beginning to suspect that Ghurtha was some sort of domestic goddess. She was not only the best cook in the tribe, but the best beadmaker and the best seamstress.
Gabrielle had drawn her clothing, and described the more intricate parts. In just two days, Ghurtha had presented her with a cropped, brain tanned leather tunic, leggings and skirt, all with applique panels as decoration, soft leather boots, beaded jewelry, and a headdress of copper and felt that featured tiny roosters circling her head, with a center piece of a crescent moon, and an open scroll. Large snowflakes of beaten copper cascaded down the sides of the headdress. Gabrielle was in awe.
"This is amazing work. How an earth did you do it in two days?", asked Gabrielle.
Ghurtha grinned so that her eyes closed. "I saw the headdress in a vision before I met you. I made it because I figured the owner would show up sometime. I make beads, so I had a lot of them. We raise reindeer, so I had the leather lying around."
"And the applique?", asked Gabrielle.
"Now how could a queen be seen in public with no applique on her clothing?", asked Ghurtha. And that was the end of the conversation. Gabrielle was about to dress when a idea stuck her. It wouldn't get out of her mind. She took a sharp knife out of the saddlebag and went to talk to Xena.
Xena was sitting at the edge of the camp on a log. She looked depressed. Gabrielle could hardly blame her. She walked up to Xena and smiled encouragingly.
"Hi. How are you doing?"
"Rotten. How's the Queen's outfit?"
"Wow. You'll have to see it to believe it."Gabrielle sat next to Xena. She slipped an arm around her friend.
"What's the knife for? Do you want me to kill myself?"
Gabrielle frowned to let Xena know she was being a jerk, and rubbed her back to remind her she loved her. "Actually, I want you to cut my hair."
"What for? The only reason most people cut their hair is to...show they are in mourning. What a great idea! Yes. I'll be happy to."
Gabrielle sat still while Xena took handfuls of her hair and sliced them away. Xena buried it deep in the woods so no one could use it in a bad way, while Gabrielle sat and felt the cool breezes on her neck after Xena brushed away the prickly hairs with her hands.
When Xena came marching out of the woods, she handed Gabrielle the knife. She had that determined look, and Gabrielle held her breath, hoping Xena wasn't feeling self destructive.
"Okay, its my turn. Cut my hair. I killed them, and I'm sorry. I think I'd better show it."
Gabrielle ran her fingers through Xena's hair, then kissed her on the cheek. She took the knife, and started cutting.######################################
Three riders approached the cave of the Amazons. Otere was lookout. When she saw Delicate Flower, she almost called out, but then she recognized the woman on the earth colored horse. It was Xena. She grabbed her sword and ran into the cave.
"Yakut. Hey, everybody. Delicate Flower is coming and she has Xena with her."
"Delicate Flower would never betray us. Are you sure it's Xena?", asked Yakut.
"I don't forget the faces of those who try to kill me."
"Maybe Delicate Flower has taken her prisoner," said Evenk. "Let's look. They don't have to see us."
So the young Amazons grabbed their masks, put them on and sneaked out of the cave. They hid in the bushes to spy on their visitors. Their conversation was in whispers. Their movements muted.
"Look, Xena's hair is cut. I wonder who she is mourning," said Samoyed, her brown eyes wide with curiosity.
"Behind Xena, see? It's a Queen. An Amazon Queen. Look, look," said Buryat, standing on her toes to see.
They all crowded close to stare at Gabrielle.
"Delicate Flower is stopping. She's hanging back, and Xena and the queen are coming here. Now what do we do?", asked Evenk.
They all gripped their weapons tighter. Xena dismounted, and helped the queen off the horse. They stood in front of the horse dropping their weapons on the ground, and placing their hands in the Amazon Peace sign.
"Now what do we do?", repeated Evenk.
"I vote we kill Xena because it must be a trick," said Otere.
"No. She brought us an Amazon Queen. Let's find out what she wants. Besides, Delicate Flower is right over there. She'll protect us if it's a trap," said Yakut, her chin set stubbornly.
Yakut was harder to move than Otere, so Otere finally gave in. Still gripping their weapons, the Amazons came out of the bushes, and cautiously approached Xena and Gabrielle. Xena knew that if she coughed, they would scatter. She held her breath. A slender blonde approached first, eyeing the two of them, then poking at Xena with the flat of her sword.
"This child doesn't value her own life," thought Xena. Xena mentally counted to fifty, then started again.
Gabrielle saw Xena tense, and knew she needed to deflect unwanted attention before Xena's temper blew. She turned so that the copper on her headdress caught the light. The shortest of the amazons, with black hair and brown eyes, walked up to her like a child fascinate by a new toy. She reached up to touch the headdress. Her hand hovered in the air, then she pulled it back and put it behind her back. It was obvious to Gabrielle that these youngsters had raised themselves, and still bore many of the habits of childhood. She smiled at the one staring at her. Buryat smiled back, rocking shyly on her toes, then she looked back at her friends.
"Hey, the Queen smiled at me. She won't hurt us."
"Yeah, well it isn't the queen I'm worried about," said Otere. She stomped over to Gabrielle. "Are you her prisoner?"
"No. Xena and I are here because I wanted to meet my Amazon sisters."
"Why is her hair cut?", asked Yakut.
"Her hair is cut because I'm in mourning for what I did to your mothers and your sisters," said Xena.
Otere placed her face within inches of Xena's. "Remember me?", she asked?
"It's been ten years or so."
"You tried to kill me. Borias stopped you."
"I remember. I was wrong. I'm sorry."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do you remember that prophecy that I would take your power?", asked Orete.
"Nope. But I'll bet you're going to tell me all about it, " said Xena.
"Shut up, Otere. I'm the oldest, and I want to talk to the queen," said Yakut. She stood in front of Gabrielle, her eyes hard and her jaw set. She was checking out Gabrielle's clothing, and as her eyes swept up from the boots, she stopped at the applique, and the ghost of a smile formed on her lips. When she got to the crown of the headdress, she took in a sharp breath.
"Do you know how to read and write?"
Gabrielle's heart went out to these orphans of war. They had never learned the rudiments of Amazon culture.
The pleading in Yakut's eyes held both Xena and Gabrielle's gaze. Gabrielle raised an eyebrow at Xena, who nodded almost unperceptively.
"Yes, I know how to read and write. And so does Xena. Do you want us to teach you?", asked Gabrielle.
As Yakut said, "yes", Otere shouted, "no!" The two Amazons glared at each other while the others held their breaths. Yakut widened her steps, as she had seen local warriors do, and stomped heavily towards Otere.
"Do you want to stay here, cut off from our people, and ignorant too? The queen can teach us to be Amazons--real ones, not just what Molpadia taught us and the few things we can remember about our mothers. We might even learn to be a tribe again."
Otere tensed like a bowstring. Hatred sprang from her eyes as she glanced at Xena. "She tried to kill me."
"You said I tried to kill you when I dropped that boulder on you when we were hunting last moon. That was an accident. And you still didn't want to forgive me. Xena did her killing right after Chuckchee was born. She's almost grown by now. It's been an awfully long time. Let it go, Otere," said Yakut.
"The prophecy said I would take her power, I want it now!", and Otere stamped her foot.
Gabrielle mustered her parenting skills, such as they were. "Stop it now, both of you. I am a visiting queen, and that is not how Amazons treat visiting royalty."
Buryat smiled at Gabrielle. She came close and snuggled up to the amazed queen like a friendly puppy. Gabrielle hooked an arm around her.
"I think we all have a lot to learn about each other. I'd like to see how you live and hear how you survived all by yourselves, said Gabrielle.
"Yes, that was very brave and it took a lot of cleverness to do it too," said Xena.
Yakut stared Otere down until she hung her head in defeat. Then she turned, and without another word, lead the group to the cave they lived in.
Samoyed and Evenk were all but skipping in their eagerness to show off their home. Buryat held Gabrielle's hand, while Chuckchee followed Xena like a lost child. Xena shook her head. They were still kids. Her heart hurt to think that it was her fault that they had raised themselves with no parents to guide them.
The cave was spacious, with a central fire for cooking, some old-fashioned pots that looked as if they had belonged to the older generation of Amazons were lined up along the edge of the fire. Sleeping furs were arranged along the walls, with caches of weapons and food near each sleeping spot.
Childish drawings in red orcre covered one wall. Fishing gear was piled near a rock, and a wooden bowl, intricately carved by Tendris was set next to it, with beaten copper fish hooks inside.
"This is our home," said Buryat. Do you like it?"
"Yes. It is very nice. Who did the drawings?"
"Chuckchee, Amur and Selenga. They like to draw animals," said Evenk.
"Yes, reindeer, and a bear, and a...wolf?" ventured Xena.
Chuckchee smiled so that her dimples showed. Amur and Selenga stood proudly.
"If you teach us to read and write, how long will it take?", asked Yakut.
"It takes some people only a few moons. Others take longer."
"Moons? I hoped I could learn in days. I'm pretty smart, you know," said Yakut.
"I know. But both Xena and I took at least a few moons. It's not that easy to learn."
"So, will you stay long enough to teach us?", asked Yakut.
"Yes. And, I will teach you how Amazons do things, while Xena will teach you some more fighting skills," said Gabrielle.
"Even more than Delicate Flower showed us?", asked Amur, her eyes glowing as green as Gabrielle's.
"She has many skills," said Gabrielle. Meanwhile she was looking around at the cave for a teaching space.
Gabrielle noticed right away what she had been looking for. There was a flat area in the dirt in front of the fire pit. And there was room for everyone to gather around and see what she would be doing. Gabrielle turned to Yakut.
"May I work here?", she asked.
"Okay," said Yakut.
Gabrielle took a slender stick from the firepit, and motioned for all the young Amazons to watch as she drew the letters of the Alphabet in the dirt.
"This is my favorite magic. These marks can be used to tell stories, to heal people, or to defeat an enemy. I'll show you how it works. I would like someone to come close enough for me the tell them a secret in their ear. But before I do, I would like Xena and another Amazon to go outside the cave and wait, so that you all know that she cannot hear us."
As Gabrielle waited, Samoyed took Xena outside the cave, while Buryat listened to Gabrielle tell her, "Xena will pretend to trip and fall down." Then Gabrielle wrote her instruction to Xena in the dirt.
Gabrielle raised her voice, "Hey Xena, you can come back now." and smirked as she saw the look Xena gave her at her written instruction.
"Ya had to do it, didn't you?", said Xena as she launched into an elaborate trip and fell at Gabrielle's feet. "Very funny," said Xena spitting out dirt.
The youngest Amazons giggled, while Buryat jumped up and down shouting, "That's what she said Xena would do!" Otere placed her hands over her ears.
With that level of interest, they managed the whole alphabet in one sitting. When Gabrielle saw the Amazons wriggling uncomfortable, she looked at Xena, at the Amazons, then at Xena's sword.
Xena stood, and stretched mightily.
"I think I need to get some kinks out. Who wants to spar with me?"
Xena barely got her sword and turned toward the door when the whole pack of youngsters was on her heels--except Otere. She kept a wary distance, but kept tightening and relaxing her grip on her sword.
"That's a Mongol sword, isn't it?", asked Gabrielle.
"Yes. Delicate Flower captured it in battle for me. She is very brave."
"Yes, she is. I like Delicate Flower. Has she talked to you about her village?"
Otere half smiled. "Yes, she said there are men there, and their chief is a man. Can you imagine? I'd like to see that. But since there are so few of us left, I can't leave. I envy you getting to see the world."
"Gods, you sound just like I did when I was young. What things are you most interested in?", asked Gabrielle.
"Healing. I pester Delicate Flower to teach me herbs all the time. She says her tribe has a Shaman School. I wish I could go there. She said that I would need two recommendation. She gave me a hawk feather with her mark on it, but I need another from a recognized shaman, and I don't know any. Alti only pretended to be one, and I wouldn't take anything from her anyway.
Oh, and Delicate Flower said they have big gatherings of all the tribes around here, at Solstice. I wanted to go, but Yakut said we couldn't. Delicate Flower said there are boys there...I wanted to meet one."
Gabrielle reached over and patted Otere's hand. "So, you like healing, adventure, and boys. You sound perfectly normal for your age. I liked stories, adventure, boys and girls. I think now that Alti is out of business, we can work on Yakut about those Solstice celebrations. I think I'll have a little Queen to Queen conference with her."
"Would Yakut be considered our Queen? I mean, she's our leader, but I thought we wouldn't be grand enough to have an actual queen. Hey, if we are a real tribe, we need a shaman. I need to find me a shaman. I'm going to go to shaman school if I have to walk all the way there and work all day and night."
"Good for you, Otere. I'll do what I can to help if you promise me one thing."
"What's that?", asked Otere.
"Promise you'll stop trying to kill Xena."
Otere grinned and nodded.**********************
Xena was exhausted. That darned Delicate Flower was a good teacher. These kids were a fair hand with swords, clubs and long spear, and they had an endless supply of energy. Xena had concentrated on teaching shield techniques, and now was sitting on the sidelines, pretending to be coaching while she caught her breath. Yakut plunked down beside her.
"You have a good arm on you."
"Thanks. I have to keep the whole lot of them in line, so I have to outdo all of them,"said Yakut.
"Been there, done that, have the tunic. You're doing fine."
"Well, they have been awfully mad at me for not letting them go to the big gathering of tribes at Summer Solstice. I don't think it's safe. There are only a handful of us."
Xena felt her face grow hot. Living down her past was not any fun at all. "Sorry about that."
"Xena, I was nine years old. It's been a long time, and you are here helping us. I'm just worried about surviving. So, what do you know about sex?"
"Now, that's a change in subject. What do you want to know, kid?"
"I'm thinking about our survival. How do Amazons get a next generation? If were are just women--doesn't it take both men and women to make babies?"
"Easy. There are men in Amazon cities, just not in the inner part of town. The women run everything, and some marry men, who live just outside the center of the city. Most find a man, and get pregnant, then come back home and raise their baby," said Xena.
"Hmm, so that Solstice party is a good opportunity, huh? Well, I guess I could go..."
"Yakut, the others will be very angry. They would see it as a big party you got to go to, and they didn't. If you'd like, Gabrielle and I can go with you, and make sure no one takes advantage of you--unless you want them to."
Yakut's eyes scanned her sister Amazons while her face showed conflicting thoughts crossing like clouds on a windy day. Finally she looked at Xena and smiled solemnly. "Yes, that would be nice."*************
The days were growing longer. The sun was almost constantly shining, with just a few hours of nightfall.
The Amazons settled into a routine, with reading and writing lessons daily, followed by weapons, then Amazon customs and history. By the time Solstice rolled around, the rag-tag group was ready to meet the public. Gabrielle had helped them fashion better clothing, and they were all lined up, with clean faces and hands. Of course, they just couldn't be still. Chuckchee had to tickle Samoyed, Buryat had to giggle, and Yakut needed to glare at them both. Xena cleared her throat. The Amazons straightened guiltily. Gabrielle took Yakut out of the lineup, and stood her on her right side, while Xena reached behind a rock she and Gabrielle used to provide some privacy in the cave, and brought forth a bundle. She handed it to Gabrielle, who opened it. Inside was a beautiful set of Amazon Queen regalia.
"Yakut, as Queen of this tribe of Amazons, Xena and I made these clothes for you to wear to the gathering, so that all who see you can know they are looking at Amazon royalty."
Yakut took the regalia, and changed in front of all. Now she was dressed in leather which was neatly stitched, and embroidered with entwined birds and beasts. Her hair sported a headdress with long bird feathers, and on her neck was a necklace made of polished antler bits, and a pendant of amber transferred from Gabrielle's own necklace. Somehow, Yakut looked two inches taller.
Feeling like proud parents, Xena and Gabrielle escorted the Amazons to the gathering place.
Return to the Academy