An owl surveyed the square of a small village in a smaller portion of a backwater section of Greece as twilight closed in. Beneath the bird, a few straggling figures walked, trudging across a space filled with drifting wood smoke and the sound of an ax chopping rhythmically, crisp and clear in the otherwise still air. With a fluff of it's feathers, the owl launched itself into the air, cruising slowly over the ground as it began its nightly hunt. "Whoo?"
The square was ringed with half finished buildings, only the one on the back side of it solid and square as shadows gathered at it's torch lit doorstep.
Two women dressed in Amazon garb walked by the steps, one raising a hand to wave at a dimly seen figure in the window. "Good Harvest, Dori!"
Dori climbed up on the bench, putting her hands on the wooden sill of the window and peering outside. "Lo!" She called back. "Where you going?" "Up the hill!" Solari told her. "I don't wanna be out on Solstice.. The goblin's will get me!"
"Goblin?" Dori cocked her heat. "Whazzat?"
The two Amazons swerved over and leaned on the porch railing. "You've never heard about goblins? C'mon Dori.. I know your mama knows about them."
Solari said. "You know, little green monsters that catch little kids and hide them away at harvest time?"
Dori cocked her head the other way, looking deeply puzzled. "No." She said. "Mama never said that."
"Well, you be careful." The Amazon warned, with a grin. "They'll get you and take you away!"
Perched on her bench, Dori put her hands flat on the sill and pushed upward a little. "No way!" She disagreed. "Get Boo, make all dem bad things go fly!"
Chuckling, the two Amazons moved on. "Confident little bugger." Renas said. "Wish we could all stay that way, huh?"
Solari sighed, as she started up towards the Amazon Village. "Well, all in all, we got off lucky I think. Coulda been she came out all cute and blond and biting everyone's ankles."
The older Amazon snickered. "Ain't that the truth. Wonder what Eph's is gonna be like?"
"Shh." Solari held up a hand. "She said at least this one won't have hooves." She shook her head. "Between that and watching Gran give birth.. I'm off kids for life."
"Bck bck." The dark haired woman shot back. "You bet your feathered ass I am."
"Hey!" Dori looked after them, with a frown. The cool breeze of a late autumn evening blew against her face, brushing back her thick, dark hair as she watched a hen strut by, looking suspiciously around before vanishing under the porch and out of her view.
"Hey." Dori called out. "C'mon back."
Neither the Amazons nor the chicken chose not to obey, and Dori leaned out a little, wishing her parents would come to get her. The inn behind her was empty, and she could hear people making noise in the kitchen but no one was in the mood to play and she was bored with just hanging around.
Across the square, she spotted one of the carters, walking across the open space leading a big, black horse. "Oo." Dori patted the sill. "Pretty."
"What was that, munchkin?"
Dori turned to find Cyrene behind her, carrying a bowl. "Gramma! Look!" She pointed at the horse. "He's pretty!"
Cyrene glanced at the animal, a shaggy, worn out workhorse. "If you say so, Dori." She said. "Why don't you come help me in the kitchen, won't that be fun?"
Dori crinkled her nose up. "No." She replied with frank honesty. "Wanna go find Boo."
The innkeeper chuckled. "You do, huh? Well, you know, that's exactly what she used to say to me when I asked her to help too, you little scamp."
"Boo boo boo." Dori hopped up and down on the bench. "C'n I go find her?"
"Not right now." Cyrene ruffled her hair. "She went out to find your mama some gourds, and I don't know how far she went, honey."
"That's right." Cyrene shook her head slightly. "Though why Gabrielle can't use what we've got in the garden is beyond me." She started back to the kitchen. "I'm sure they'll be here for you soon, honey. Just be patient."
Dori sighed. "Gramma, what's a gobling?"
Cyrene frowned. "A what?" She turned and looked at her granddaughter.
"Soso said goblings going to come get me." Dori explained. "You know that?"
The innkeeper rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. That old wives tale.. From a scatterling who'll never make an old wife. Don't you worry about that, Dori. It's just a silly tale and no matter." She said, as she walked towards the kitchen door. "Goblins. What's next? Ghosts?"
Dori sat down on the bench and swung her feet. She didn't like waiting. She didn't like being by herself in the inn, and she missed her parents presence.
A sound caught her attention though, and she turned and scrambled up onto her knees, peering out. "Guff!" She called out, seeing the wolf approaching. "C'mere!"
More obedient than either chickens or Amazons, , Ares the wolf trotted up the steps and came over to the window, standing up on his hind legs and putting his front legs on the sill. "Grou." He greeted his playmate.
"Where you been?" Dori petted him, scratching him behind the ears and pressing her nose against his. It felt wet and cold, and she could smell dirt and forest on his fur. "You find Boo?"
Ares wagged his thick tail.
Dori frowned. "H'come you get to go find Boo and gramma says no?" She leaned out the window, watching the last purple twilight fading. The square took on the shadows of night, but through the branches, she could see the rising moon peeking through, casting a silver pall down over them. Pretty. "Gots an idea." She told Ares. "You take me where Boo is?"
Dori turned and trotted to the door, pulling it open. "C'mere." She instructed, waiting for the wolf to enter before swinging it shut again. "Lets go." She went to the kitchen door and pushed it forward, poking her head inside the nice smelling space. "Gramma?"
Cyrene looked up from her stewpot. "Over here, honey. You want your toys.. Or do you want to help us?"
Helping meant doing boring stuff. Mama had her help do things all the time, but that was different because mama always made it into a game. Gramma didn't do that. "C'n I go catch the moon?" She asked. "Guff's here.. He'll go too!"
Cyrene gave the pot a stir. "Catch the moon?" She queried. "How are you going to do that?"
Silly Gramma. "Mama said you go close, you hold hands out like dis." Dori cupped her hands. "Catch the moon, it tells stories."
"Mama said that?" Cyrene visibly stifled a grin.
"Okay, honey, you and Ares go catch the moon." The innkeeper said. "Then you can tell me the stories it tells you, okay?"
"Okay." Dori agreed readily. "Cmon, Guff." She turned and headed for the outer door to the inn, with the wolf ambling behind her. "We go catch the moon.. Yeah? Maybe we c'n find Boo on the way."
"Gruff." Ares agreed, as they left the inn and headed off into the night together.
Ah. Dori hopped off the steps and was glad to feel the dirt under her boots. It was good to go away from all the people, and the noise, and the constant activity around the inn.
She liked being with Cyrene, and when her cousins were there, the big room became a raucous playhouse, but it was good to go into the forest too and feel the leaves and the trees around her. She liked the quiet feeling she got there, and the nice smells of all the living things.
It was nice. She found a leaf shaped like a heart and carefully plucked it, tucking it into the small pouch on her belt. Mama would like that. Maybe she would make a story about it.
It was dark. She turned up a small path and ducked between two tall trunks, reaching out to let her fingers trail against the rough, crinkled bark as she passed. The branches were half bare already and her boots crunched over fallen leaves as she climbed higher on the slope and left the torches before the inn behind her.
This was Boo's place. Dori moved away from the trees, so her steps fell on bare earth, trying to be quiet like Boo taught her. She tilted her head to one side and listened, hearing small sounds and rustles, and knowing there were aminals around her, peeking out as she passed.
Little aminals, she decided, as she heard tiny pattering steps nearby. Maybe mices, or rats, or a fly tail with it's wiggling black nose and tiny hands that took nuts from Boo's fingers.
Aminals liked Boo. When Boo told them to do something, they did, and so Dori got to see them up close the way she liked to, even the small horn heads that tiptoed up to Boo's hands as she cupped them.
Dori wished she could do that. Aminals never did what she wanted them too, except Guff, and even Guff only did it sometimes. Ares snuffled in the dirt, then hastily shied back, bumping into her as he yelped in surprise.
"Whatzat?" Dori grabbed a branch to keep from falling over. "What you finding, Guff? Aminal?" She ducked around the wolf and peered into the shadows. "Lo!"
A tiny pair of shining eyes blinked back at her. What was it? Dori was fascinated. She dropped to her knees and crawled towards the eyes, distracted from her meanderings by this new puzzle.
"C'mere!" She wiggled her fingers, like Boo always did. "You a gobling?" The eyes studied her, then started to retreat. Dori scrambled after them, reaching out a hand. "C'mere.. I won't hurtcha... " Her fingers passed through a patch of cold, and she stopped, blinking. "Lo?" The eyes went further back into the brush, but slowly as though enticing her to follow.
Dori forgot about the moon, and crawled after them, feeling the leaves c lose over her shoulders and back as she found herself in a small, dark tunnel formed from the branches of a thick shrub she hadn't noticed before. This was fun. Boo never did this with her, because Boo was so big, she couldn't go through , but Dori sometimes made her own tunnels near their house and she liked finding things in them. "Go." She called out to the glowing eyes. "I catch you!"
The eyes retreated, and she followed, scuffing her knees against the cool, damp ground. She'd played with mama like this before, she would hide, and mama would find her, but it always ended with her being itched and so she was glad it was only Guff there this time. "Guff, c'mon!"
"Growf." Ares' nose snuffled against her feet.
The tunnel went upwards, and that was good too. The moon was that way, and so was their home, high up on the mountain where it was quiet and pretty. Dori felt a rock under her hand, and she almost stopped to pick it up, but she had nothing to put it in so she left it there. "Get later." She grunted, ducking her head as a thick patch of leaves threatened to obscure her vision. "Hoo!" An owl cried out a warning. "Hoo!" Dori stopped and peered upward, but the bushes were too thick for her to see through. "Hush!" She instructed the bird. "Goway!" Ahead of her, the eyes blinked, then slunk back further, coaxing her on. "Wow." Dori forgot the owl and crawled faster. "C"mere, you." She felt a root under her hand and climbed over it, her nose twitching at the scent of mushrooms nearby. "Yum." She considered stopping, but the eyes were fading away faster and she didn't want to lose them. "Wait!" She ordered. "I'll get you gobling and show Soso!" The eyes floated off and she scrambled after them, up the path and through thick, heavy branches that caught at her skin and her clothing, leaving the scent of bittersweet autumn floating around her. Under her hands, the ground was getting harder, and she felt her fingers slip on moss as the dampness penetrated the thick wool covering her knees. Mama wouldn't' like that. She'd yell, Dori knew. Mama didn't like her or Boo getting wet all the time, except when they went for fishes. When Boo would come in wet, Mama would make her sit down and rub her with blankets and sometimes Dori thought Boo liked that so much she did it on purpose. Boo was sneaky that way. Suddenly, she could hear voices. She stopped and tilted her head to listen, but all she could make out were sounds like Gramma made when she was working. They were just noises and they didn't mean anything, so Dori didn't know what these sounds meant either. "Lo?" The eyes floated closer, peering at her. Now Dori could see they had funny middles, like seeds instead of round. "C'mere." She reached out a hand, and her fingertips touched the softness of fur before the eyes retreated hastily and almost disappeared into the foliage. "Wait!"
Dori got half up on her feet and hands and bolted after the eyes, as they went faster and faster up the path and through the leaves. She could see silver light ahead, and she redoubled her efforts, reaching out one hand again and lunging at the animal as they broke though the bushes at last and into the moonlight.
The animal turned, and hissed, now visible to her as she grabbed it's tail and hung on. "Gotcha!"
Dori realized the open space was full of motion. She barely had time to turn before hands started grabbing at her, and she was pulled off her feet, her throat erupting in a startled yell. "BOO!!!"
There was a sound of giggling, and she felt fingers winding around her with a strange, wild smell on them. She turned her head to see tiny figures outlined in the moonlight, with long arms, and funny heads, and huge noses that wiggled. "Yahh!!!"
"Ahhhhh!" The one nearest said. "A feisty little one for us to scare!"
"Yes! Yes!" The others replied. "Let's scare it! Let's scare it! Let's make it cry and shake like jelly!"
Behind her she could hear Ares struggling the bushes to free himself. Dori pulled her arms and legs back, trying to get free. "BOO!!" She yelled again, evading the hands that tried to cover her mouth. "BOO!! BOO!!"
"She thinks to scare us!" Another voice said. "Hahahahah!"
"Lemme go!" Dori yelled. "Stupid goblings!
"Ah! She calls us names!" One said. "We'll scare her good for that!"
"Let's turn her into a frog!"
"BOOO!!" This wasn't good. This wasn't fun. She tried to pull free, yanking one foot loose and kicking out with it like Mama did.
"A frog? We'll turn her into a mouse! And watch her run from the owl!"
Dori kept struggling as they carried her over to a flat rock, shining in the silver light she'd set out to capture. It was so bright, it almost hurt her eyes and she pulled her arm free as they tried to press her down on the hard surface, grabbing hold of thick cloth and yanking with all her strength. "BOO!"
"Now you're ours, human child! Ours to terrorize! This is our night, and you are our prize!" The one holding her chuckled into her ear. "I'm going to make you cry. I 'm going to turn your hair blue! I'm going to chill your bones!"
Dori felt rough granite under her back and she was staring up at the moon, as all the goblins stared down at her, reaching out to grab her and making horrible faces at her. "BOO!"
"Boo to you too,!" The goblins all yelled back. "Buggle buggle oo, frog will be you, scarier and scarier and scarier we'll do!."
Dori got her arm free and reached out to grab the nearest big nose, pulling it with all her might. The gobling yelled and let her leg free, and she kicked backwards and twisted herself from the grasp of the others. She scrambled back as they bolted after her and got to her feet, lifting her hands in a boxing motion and tightening them into fists.
A bird screamed overhead.
The goblins all froze, and stared at her. "BOO!" Dori shouted, at the top of her lungs. "GO WAY!"
Suddenly, the goblins all turned and ran, gabbling and scrabbling as they clambered over the rocks and disappeared into the deep shadows, leaving behind a smell of mold and old moss that drifted across the now empty clearing.
Dori blinked, puzzled at her sudden success. A soft sound made her turn around, and she looked up and up and up to see a tall figure standing behind her, outlined in moonlight and shadows. "You called?" The figure asked, in a mild, amused tone.
"Boo." Dori scrambled over the rock and squealed in delight. "Found you!" .
Xena sheathed her sword and looked down at her daughter. "Y'know something,shortie?"
Dori wrapped both arms around her parent's leg and hugged her. "Love Boo!" She warbled. "Boo, that was bad ! Those were mean goblings!!"
Xena sighed. "You get more and more like your mama every single day." She reached down and picked Dori up, cradling her in her arms and hugging her. "What are you doing out here on Harvest Eve? Looking for trouble?"
"Looking for Boo."
"Same difference." Gabrielle climbed up on the rock next to her. "Good grief, what was your mother thinking?" She swept her cloak back off her shoulders and ran her fingers through Dori's hair. "And what was that crack about her being like me?"
"Substitute Xena for Boo and tell me that's not your image." Xena retorted. "Or do I need to remind you about that whole bit by Bacchae on Harvest Eve thing?" She sat down on the stone and set Dori in her lap.
"Peas in a pod, the two of you."
"Ahem." Gabrielle cleared her throat. "Dori, were you really looking for us? Gramma said for you to do that?" She took a seat next to Xena, extending her cloth covered legs out before her.
"No." Dori felt happy. She'd found the moon, and found Boo too, and Mama, and Boo had scared the goblings good. "Told Gramma I was g'win catch the moon and make stories."
Gabrielle scratched her nose. "Were you going to do that?"
Dori giggled. "Find Boo." She evaded the question. "See? Found Boo, found Mama, now we go home and have cookies. Good!"
Xena started to laugh. "You little pirate."
"And that's supposed to be like me?" The bard inquired pointedly. "Xena, Warrior Princess?"
Xena smiled charmingly at her. "You get into trouble, I cause trouble." She bounced Dori on her knee. "Right , Dor?"
"Yes." Dori waved her arms, delighted with the impromptu ride. "Go Boo!"
They both chuckled at the child's antics, then sighed, and leaned against each other, as the moon bathed them all in a benign silver light in a clearing thankfully free of goblins. "Poor Goblins." Gabrielle finally said. "Figures they'd pick on our kid. "
"They'll be telling scary Autumn Harvest stories about her from now on I bet." Xena agreed. "We're such myth busters.." She slid an arm around the bard. "Hope those witches forgave us for last year."
"As if.." Gabrielle tweaked Dori's foot. "Were you scared, honey? Those were nasty goblins all right."
Solemnly, Dori shook her head. "Boo came." She looked up at her protector, the angular planes of Xena's face gentled as she smiled back at her. "Knew you would."
Xena watched her quietly for a moment, then she turned and looked at her partner. Gabrielle had drawn up one leg crossed on the other and she had her chin propped up on her fist as she leaned on it. Her eyes were on Xena's face as her lips tugged into a wry grin. "That's my kid." She acknowledged ruefully.
"C'mon, Boo. Let's go make something out of those damn gourds."
Xena stood. "Damned if I know what you're going to do with them... hard as rocks." She hoisted a bag to her shoulder as she held her hand out to Dori.
"You only use the inside." Gabrielle took Dori's other hand as they started up the path home. "You throw the outside away."
"That's a waste." Xena frowned. "Should be good for something."
Gabrielle ducked as a bat flew over them. "Well, honey.. I'll give them to you, maybe you can figure something to make out of them."
"Like what, carve them into a lantern?" Xena bumped into something. "Hey..who left a broom out here?"
"Your mother?" Gabrielle ducked, then reached up to grab something out of the air. "Damn bats." She tossed the hissing animal over her shoulder. "Hey, if you carve a happy face in one, we can put it in the window."
"In the window? For what?"
"To let people know they're welcome in our home, of course."
"Yeah, right. Next you'll be telling me to give them treats at the door."
A dark, slinky figure crossed in front of them, pausing to stare at them with glowing, green eyes before it slipped into the forest again. "Was that a black cat?" "Yeah. Supposed to be unlucky to cross it's path."
"For it, or us?"
Ares barreled out of the woods and plunged into the foliage after the cat, growling fiercely.
"Guess that answers that." Xena put her arm around Gabrielle's shoulders. "Good Harvest, my love."
"Good Harvest to you, to, Doriana" Gabrielle laughed. "Good Harvest to everyone."
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