Chapter 5 Voices of the Past
The older woman stared down at Gabrielle who she considered a second daughter.
"I was raised to respect my elders, and I try. However Xena is my best friend and the way you are treating her is wrong," the young woman said sternly.
Cyrene started to protest and the young bard silenced her with a scowl, "Look I dont want to interfere between you and Xena, but I think there are a few things you should know. First of all we dont live like savages. Yes we live under the stars and sometimes its hard, but mostly its a beautiful thing. We travel around and we help people. Xena has given her life over to serving the greater good. She has given her heart and soul over to raising that child. How dare you condemn her for choosing to raise her in a world she feels most suitable in a life you know nothing about. People admire your daughter...I admire her little Tarren worships her, but Xena came here because she wanted to see you, her mother. The last few months have been really hard on her. She nearly lost Tarren in a cave-in. I saw the pain in her eyes as she dug through stone with her bare hands fighting to get to that little girl. You will never know how much that child means to her to both of us. But you should know that she came home because she needed your love, your support, and the understanding of her own mother. You passed judgment on her the minute she walked in the door," the bard scolded, trembling at the way she was addressing her best friends mother.
Cyrenes face went cold, "Now you listen to me young lady "
Gabrielles eyes were welling with tears forced out by the pent up emotion she was feeling. "No you listen Cyrene, better yet come with me," she said, taking the womans arm and gently leading her to the room Xena shared with her daughter. "Do you know why Xena and Tarren are sharing a room?" the bard asked.
The older woman shrugged. "Xena said that she didnt feel it was necessary to take up three rooms, Cyrene said quickly.
Gabrielle shook her head. "No its because Tarren doesnt like to be that far from her mother. She gets scared at night. Xena always keeps her very close," the bard said, slightly opening the door so Cyrene could get a glimpse of her daughters private world.
Xena looked under the bed and saw a shivering little form wrapped in blankets sobbing.
The warrior mother smiled. "Hey Tarren would you please come out from under there?" she asked softly.
There was another loud clap of thunder and the youngster just froze in place staring at her mother. Xena sighed, "Come on honey. Give me your hand. I wont let anything happen to you. You trust me dont you?" The large muscular figure reached her hand under the bed hoping the child would take it.
Tarrens tears continued but she stretched out a small shaking hand to Xena, who slowly pulled the trembling child and a mass of blankets into her arms.
"Hey now. Whats all this hiding under the bed?" she asked cradling the youngster.
The child held tightly to her mother as the thunder continued to roll over. " Make it stop Momma!" she cried, burying her head in the warriors side.
Xena shook her head. Im sorry little one, but I cant do that. Besides the thunder cant hurt us in here. Its just a loud sound. Im right here with you, and I promise you nothing is going to hurt you," she whispered, rocking the youngster in her arms.
"Its too loud. I want it to stop," the little girl cried trying to cover her ears.
Xena looked into the teary eyes of her daughter and could feel her pain. "Hey listen thunder is just old Zeuss way of letting off a little steam. Its his way of letting us know that hes gonna give us the gift of water from the sky. Its sort of like my battle cry .Its his way of letting everyone know whats coming. Now theres nothing wrong with that is there? I mean you wouldnt want me to stop using my battle cry would ya?" she asked wiping the childs tears away.
The youngster shook her head. "No Momma then nobody know it was you coming," she sniffled.
Xena smiled at her daughter, "Well then what do you say we let Zeus have his fun and make all the noise he wants tonight?"
The child let her head fall on her mothers shoulder feeling protected from the thunder and the world around her. "Ok but you gotta stay here with me," she said taking the warriors hand.
"Now where else would I go?" the warrior asked simply, leaning back on the large pallet, pulling Tarren right beside her and humming a soft soothing tune while she stroked her daughters back.
The bard quietly closed the door allowing the moment to become private once again.
"You see Cyrene, Xena is a great mother. She may not be kind of mother you were or the kind of mother I had, but shes wonderful mother to Tarren. That little girl loves her and respects her. She may not raise her in the conventional way, but shes teaching her to have respect for everyone and everything around her. Shes showing her all the beauty and yes the bad in the world, and shes teaching her what it means to really be loved unconditionally. Ya know Cyrene I wish my mother had been more like Xena. Tell me could you do any better that?" the bard asked slowly walking back to her own room, wondering if she had just made a huge mistake.
Cyrene leaned her head on the wall just outside her daughters room door and ran her hands over the wood. She could hear Xena humming and soon the childs tears were replaced with a playful giggling. The warriors mother leaned against the door feeling the tears fall from her eyes for the mother she knew she was never able to be.
The following morning Tarren walked into the kitchen where Cyrene was busy making breakfast. "Good morning Tarren," she said with a smile.
"Good morning" the youngster grumbled. The little girl did not like the way this stranger was making her mother sad and she intended on make her feelings known.
"Would you like some breakfast little one?" the grandmother asked, offering the child a biscuit.
The little girl stared at the food and shook her head not wanting to accept anything from this intruder. The older womans face went blank as she lowered her hand turning away from the child.
Xena entered the kitchen and gently kissed her mother on the forehead. "Good morning mother," she said obediently. Cyrene nodded and tried to smile.
The warrior dismissed her mothers obvious displeasure and turned her attentions towards her own child. "So brat are you ready for a day filled with seeing my old stomping grounds?" she asked, tasseling the youngster's head.
The child glared at Cyrene. "I dunno is SHE coming?" the child asked pointing to her grandmother.
The warriors face turned hard quickly. "What was that you said young lady?" she demanded to know.
Tarren glanced at he angry face of her mother. "I dont wanna to go if shes coming," the child repeated, keeping a steady glare on Cyrene.
Xena bent down and faced her daughter. "Young lady you had better apologize to your grandmother right now for being so rude and disrespectful." she ordered.
Cyrene quickly interceded. "Xena its all right. She has a right to feel that way," she said quietly wiping her hands on her apron.
The warrior shook her head. "No mother it is far from all right. She has no right to speak to you that way and I wont have it. Tarren I am waiting to hear that apology NOW!" she yelled, her voice raising with parental authority.
The youngster curled her lips and locked her arms against her chest tightly saying nothing.
Xena sighed and took a step back. "Mother I apologize for her behavior," she said looking at her mother with sincere regret. She then turned her attention back to her daughter. "You little girl are going straight back to your room and wait for me," she said sternly pointing the way.
Tarren bit her lip and started moving slowly towards the door.
"I think if I were you Id move a little faster young lady," Xena said, letting the child see the anger in her eyes.
Tarren saw the look and quickly sprinted back to the room.
Xena let out a long breath as she watched the child go. "I really am sorry Mom. I will talk to her. Shell apologize," the warrior vowed. Before Cyrene could say another word Xena disappeared out the door.
Gabrielle entered the kitchen with a yawn. "Good morning," she said, hoping the older woman was not angry with her for her ranting the night before. "Cyrene Im sorry about last night I shouldnt have said anything," the bard said touching the older womans arm.
Cyrene shook her head. "No child, you did me a favor. I never realized how much I really did judge Xena, but the truth is dear I love her so much I miss her so much I just want her to be close," she said wiping a tear.
The bards face went blank and she hugged the older woman, "Why dont you just tell her how you feel? She would love to hear that. She needs you Cyrene, more now than ever."
"I will talk with her when the time is right dear. Now is not the time. Ive caused enough trouble as it is," Cyrene said wringing her hands together nervously.
The bard cocked her head in confusion. "What are you talking about? Xena loves you," she said placing a hand on the older womans shoulder.
"Yes but the little one hates me. She as much as said so a few minutes ago, and Xena got angry with her. Now the young one is being punished because of me," Cyrene said slowly, feeling the weight of the guilt on her shoulders.
The bard threw her hand over her head in frustration. "Where was this all gonna end," she thought. "Cyrene whatever lesson Xena chooses to teach Tarren is one she needs to learn. Its not your fault. Shes a little kid and a bit of a spoiled brat at times. Xena wills straighten her out fast youll see." Gabrielle slumped into a nearby chair hoping she was right.
The warrior entered the room and grimly noticed the small figure lying on the large pallet sulking. "Well what should I do with you?" she scolded, staring at the youngster, "I know you know better than to speak to anyone like that, none the less my mother," she warned.
Tarren child looked at her mother. "She makes you unhappy. I dont like her anymore," she said quietly, as she stared at the tips of her boots.
Xena shook her anger off realizing that all of this was still as a result of the previous night. "Tarren what happens between me and my mother is as private as what goes on between you and I. You will treat her with respect and you must apologize to her," she said evenly, sitting on the bed beside her daughter.
The child shook her head stubbornly. "No!" she yelled, testing the warriors resolve.
Xena took a deep breath and slowly exhaled trying to find an inner calm. "Ok Tarren, Im gonna give you a choice. You will apologize to my mother and really mean it, or I will put you over my knee right here and right now and then, oh then, you will apologize. Its up to you," the warrior mother said in a husky voice, folding her arms tightly against her armored chest sure the little girl would show wisdom.
Tarren shook her head holding tightly to her anger and her stubborn Xena like pride.
"No I wont do it and you cant make me," she said stiffly, finding it hard to believe that her mother would actually punish her for refusing to bow to an enemy.
Xena shook her head in disappointment at her childs choice. "Why did it always have to be the hard way? Why couldnt Tarren just once make the situation easier for both of them?" Xena thought as she reluctantly reached took the child by the arm. The warrior let out a deep breath not sure which frustrated her more the youngsters failure to apologize or her blatant disobedience of the warrior mothers command. Things had definitely not turned out the way she had planned.
"Ok we will just see about that little girl," she said with a scowl. Then without hesitation she began an all too familiar ritual of landing her large muscular hand against the childs small tender bottom. "You tell me when you are ready to apologize little one, and Ill let you know when Im finished," she said allowing the reluctant cadence to continue. It was not long before Tarren realized that her mothers resolve was definitely greater than her own ability to tolerate the warriors hand. She had tried to out bluff the Warrior Princess and lost.
"Ok Momma Ill apologize. Ill apologize," she whined, through her steady flow of tears.
Xena lifted the youngster off her lap, placing the chastened child in front of her, staring sadly into the wide blue eyes of this little girl who had her heart. The warrior mother wiped the youngsters tears away with the side of her hand not sure who was hurting more at that moment. She took a quick breath and stood grabbing Tarrens hand. "Good and you better say it real nice about it," she gently scolded, taking the youngster back towards the kitchen.
Tarren sniffled as she stared up at her stoic mothers face. All the child had wanted was to get rid of the person who was hurting Xena. She hadnt meant to disrespect her own mother and get into so much trouble. Things were definitely not going the way she had planned.
The bard frowned when she caught sight of the teary eyed Tarren and the still tense Xena entering the kitchen. The warrior quickly placed her sulking daughter in front of her.
"Tarren has something to say to you Mother. Right?" she asked glancing down at the small form.
The youngster wiped her eyes with her sleeve and bit her lip. "Im sorry I was rude to you. I shouldnt have said what I said. Im sorry," she said quietly, staring at the older woman.
Cyrene swallowed hard at the sight of her humbled granddaughter. "Its all right little one. We ALL make mistakes and say things we really dont mean. Later we wish we could take them back and say what was really in our heart, but it can be difficult sometimes," Cyrene whispered, staring at Xena while directed her words to Tarren.
The confused youngster looked up at her equally confused mother for instructions. The warrior broke with her mothers gaze and looked own at her teary child. "Ok young lady you go to you room. I think you need to spend the day in their thinking about the difference between right and wrong," she said sternly, pointing towards the door.
The little girl looked sadly at her mother and then at the sympathetic bard. Slowly she made her way back to her room feeling abandoned and betrayed.
"Really daughter do you need to punish her any further? She looks so hurt and alone as it is," the grandmother said sympathetically.
Xena smiled at her mothers concern. "Mom she needs to learn the difference between right and wrong. A few days on her feet and a few hours in her room are not gonna kill her," she said quietly.
"A few days on her feet more like a few weeks," the bard murmured, remembering how long the child used the warriors bedroll to sit at meals after Xenas previous paddling.
Xena stared at her young friend. "Gabrielle!" she said in a warning tone.
The bard threw her arms up in surrender. "Did I say that out loud...sorry Ya know I sort of mouthed off to your mother myself last night, so I dont really deserve to go out either. Why dont you and your mother go out for a nice walk and chat, and Ill just stay here and relax. Ill keep an eye on Tarren, maybe read a good scroll," the bard said trying to quietly slip past her large friend.
The warrior grinned and grabbed the young woman quickly by the arm. "And just what did YOU say to my mother dear bard?" she asked, smiling at the young woman squirming to break free of her tight warriors grasp.
"Oh this and that," Gabrielle said with a weak smile, "But I already apologized so you dont have to ask me to Xena."
Cyrene placed a gentle hand on her daughters arm. "Xena let her go. She was trying to help," she said softly.
The warrior looked at her mother and then the bard and released her friend. "Fine if you are gonna act like a disobedient child then you should be treated like one. I asked you to stay out of this, but you didnt listen, so you can spend the day in the room with Tarren, Gabrielle," Xena scolded, pointing towards the rooms.
"Xena I am a grown woman. You cant ground me," the bard said with a fast smile, waving a warning finger at the warrior.
The warrior folded her arms in front of her and grinned. "I think I just did, so unless you need some help finding your way there, I suggest you go to your room," she ordered.
The bards jaw dropped. "Xena! You cant " she said in disbelief.
The look in the warriors eyes said that she was definitely serious and that Gabrielle had better vacate the room quickly. "Ok fine have it your way, but you better learn how to cook while your hear. It will be a cool day in Tartarus before I make you another meal," the young woman growled as she headed for the door.
Xena merely smiled and gave a quick wave to her friend, "Uh huh," she said, hoping the bard would not follow through on that threat.
"Well mother it looks like its just you and me," she said running her fingers nervously across the counter.
Cyrene smiled and patted her daughters cheek. "Dont be so hard on them. They are only doing what they do because they love you so much. Tarren was trying to stand up for you, and that Gabrielle has turned into quite a young lady. She has a lot more wisdom than you give her credit for," Cyrene said, taking her daughters arm, and leading her out into the streets of Amphipolis.
"Oh no mother thats where youre wrong. I never underestimate the bard," the warrior said with a smirk, thinking of the look of indignation on Gabrielles face after being confined to the Inn, "I am sorry if she interfered. She leads with her heart, but she means well. Sometimes she just needs to be reminded that even SHE does not have all the answers."
Cyrene nodded, "Yes she has a pure heart Xena. She is a good friend to both you and my granddaughter. You do realize she wanted us to have a chance to talk. That is why she confessed," the older woman said with a chuckle.
The warrior sighed at her silly friends dramatic attempt to arrange for this private time between she and her mother. "Yes mother I know. Im not angry with her. I really just wanted to spend some time with you, and at the same time teach Gabrielle a lesson about keeping promises. Besides she wanted to stay with Tarren. She is my daughters greatest source of comfort at times like this," she said quietly.
Cyrene placed a loving arm on her daughters shoulder. "I am sorry Xena. If I had not been so pig headed and foolish these last few days none of this would have happened," she replied lowering her eyes a bit as they walked.
Xena felt a rush of relief over her mothers apology. She had hoped they could reach some sort of common ground and maybe now they could. "Well mother I could have been a bit more understanding too, but Tarren still needs to learn the meaning of respect. Besides I was far from thrilled with the way she blatantly disobeyed me when I asked her to apologize. That little girl tends to get a bit big for her breeches now and again and needs a little reminder as to just who is in charge. Look Mother, I know why she did what she did, but you know that doesnt make it right. I gave her a choice and the little monster made the wrong one. That is not your fault," she said gently patting her mothers hand.
Cyrene smiled knowingly at her daughter, "Well I guess I would have done the same thing if I had been you. Im just grateful those days are gone for me. Punishing you always broke my heart in half Xena."
The warrior lowered her eyes at the memory of the look of sadness eyes in little Tarrens eyes as Xena had lifted her from her lap. "Yes mother I know exactly what you mean," the warrior said with a sullen stare.
The two women smiled at each other and allowed the moment to be silent for a while as they walked slowly through their home village. "Its still beautiful hear. I love coming home," Xena said as the gentle wind whipped through he hair.
"I wish you would stay Xena, but if you cant do that I do hope you will come much more often. I miss you so much and I worry when you are not here," she said with a soft smile. The warriors heart sank as the strong woman she had known as a child let down her shields to show her true feelings.
Xena was about to answer when a strange dark figure came forward blocking the womens path. Xenas eyes went cold and her muscles stiff and she quickly drew her sword.
"Metilius!" she seethed, staring at a face she had not seen in a dozen summers and hoped she would never see again. He had been the father of her best friend Terius of her youth. The young woman had joined Xena and her brother in their battle to free Amphipolis from Cortez. When the village had been attacked Terius stood with a sword in her hand ready to fight while her father had run for safety. The young woman had been left when a soldier had caught her with his blade. She lay there bleeding to death while the cowardly Metilius watched from the safety of the hills.
The older man was large, his eyes wild and crazed with a plague of unresolved hatred.
He stood before Xena and Cyrene wearing only a moth eaten robe. His hair was long and unkempt, and his face weather beaten and unshaven. At his side was an old but well sharpened sword that he carefully caressed as he stared at the Warrior Princess.
"I thought you left this village yeas ago," the warrior growled, tightening her grip on her sword as she felt the dark memories of the past coming alive.
Cyrene gently pulled her daughter back, and the stranger smiled wickedly.
Metilius smiled and studied the warrior and her mother for a moment before he spoke.
"Cyrene, and of course the mighty Warrior Princess, Xena. Yes, I left but I was never so far that I could not see could not watch and wait for your return," he answered with a dramatic an unbalanced wave of his hands.
Xenas expression turned to one of disgust and disdain for the figure that stood before her. "Well Im here so what do you want?" she asked stiffly.
"What could I possibly want from the one responsible for the death of my daughter blood your blood Xena," he laughed, dancing in a circle.
The warrior waved her blade in the air. "Well then if you think you can take it...come get it," she purred, pushing her mother out of harms way.
The crazed man licked his lips eager to taste Xenas blood, but he hesitated. This was too quick. There would be no suffering. "No Xena, not so easy My daughter did not know when she would die. She suffered and youll suffer too just like she did just like I have for more than 12 summers," he groaned, glaring into the warriors icy blue eyes
"I didnt kill your daughter Metilius, Cortezs men did," she answered, waiting for the man to pull his sword.
His eyes went wild and he covered his ears as if to keep the pain from escaping.
"No you brought the fight to our village. We stood because we were fools that followed you like sheep to a slaughter," he hissed at the warrior.
"Your daughter died like my brother did, fighting for something she believed in. She was a brave woman and my best friend. You would have know that had you been man enough to stand beside her rather than running when she was attacked," the warrior said, trying in vein to control the anger at the memory of her fallen friend. "Now either draw your sword or shut your mouth," she ordered.
The man reached for his blade but Cyrene jumped quickly between them before a blade could take flight. "No! No more Metilius many good people died on that day including my son. It was not Xenas fault. She saved our village. Those that died did not die in vein. It took me many years to realize that. Let the hatred stop," she pleaded.
Xena stared at her mother taking in each supportive word she spoke as a breath of new strength.
The old mans face went blank for a moment as he stared at Cyrene. "Woman you and I were once friends and for that I walk away now. However Xena we will meet again and you will know the pain of the loss I have felt before you die at my hand," he warned, stepping back and with a crazed laugh. Metilius then dashed quickly into the crowd lost from sight.
Xena frowned and sheathed her sword. "Mother you could have be killed doing that," she scolded.
Cyrene looked into her daughters eyes noting the depth of her concern. "So could you daughter. Hes a madman. He has become lost so deep in his guilt and hatred that he will never find his way back. A man like that has no fear because he has nothing to lose. He is not afraid to die. I believe he welcomes death," she whispered grabbing her childs arm. "Promise me you will stay away from him Xena," she begged.
The warrior looked into the gentle face of the woman who had raised her, who loved her and frowned. "Ill try Mother, but if he comes after me again then you must let me deal with him. I wont be looking over my shoulder for the likes of that coward," she replied with disgust at the harsh memory of her friend falling as her father ran for the hills.
Xena had arrived in time to fight Cortezs men off, but Terius was too badly wounded to survive. She died in the warriors arms with one word on her lips, "Freedom!"
Cyrene nodded. "Very well daughter, but its best to leave the past where it belongs in the past," she said slowly. The older woman took a deep breath and forced a smile, grabbing her daughters arm again. "Come, let us not let that old fool ruin our day of rest. Walk with me daughter. Tell me of the life you live and the pain you have endured. I wish to share these things with you as best I can," she said.
Xenas gaze softened and she walked quietly with her mother telling of her greatest horrors and her greatest hopes, but her thoughts were still of the dark figure from her past that she knew would one day return.
Tarren lay on her bed crying into her pillow. Gabrielle entered and slowly lowered herself beside the child. "Tarren, come on stop crying," she whispered, but the youngster merely burrowed deeper into her blankets. "I cant talk to you if you wont even look at me," the bard said softly patting the youngsters back.
The child turned slowly and Gabrielle could see how hard shed been crying. "Shh tell me what happened," the bard whispered, placing a gentle arm around the youngsters shoulder.
Tarren sniffled, playfully pulling at the young womans hair. "I told Cyrene I didnt want her to come with us today, and I got in trouble cause I didnt want to apologize," she cried.
The bard shook her head and lay down next to the little girl, "Well I warned you to stay out of it kid. Well I guess your pretty mad at everyone especially Xena huh?"
The youngster quickly nodded. "She punished me cause she loves Cyrene more than me," she moaned leaning on her side to face the wall.
The bard shook her head in disbelief. "Tarren that is not true and you know it," she scolded.
The child said nothing but merely lay back on the bed feeling the truth throbbing beneath her.
"Tarren let me ask you a question. Why didnt you want Cyrene to come today?" the young asked.
The little girl folded her arms across her chest. "Cause she makes Momma unhappy and that ruins everything," the child said quickly.
The bard nodded. "Well why do you care if Xenas unhappy?" she asked poking the girl gently.
Tarren looked at her friend oddly. "Cause shes Xena shes my friend and MY mom," she answered, not sure why Gabrielle was asking silly questions.
The bard nodded again. "Well that makes perfect sense to me accept for one thing. Did it ever occur to you that Xena might get just as upset when she saw that HER Mom was unhappy?" the young woman asked, patting the childs arm.
Tarren thought about the comparison and shook her head. "No Gabby I guess not," she replied quietly.
"Why not? Dont you think that Xena could love her mother as much as you love yours?" the bard asked hoping to make her point clear.
The confused youngster settled quietly into her friends arms, "But Gabby, Cyrene has been mean to Momma. Why would she care about how Cyrene feels?" the little girl asked, pondering the question on her own as well.
The young woman smiled as she stroked the child head. "Well Tarren when you misbehave Xena gets angry with you, but it doesnt change the way she feels about you. I mean she still holds you when you cry right?" she asked.
The child nodded. "Yeah thats when Momma sings to me. I like that," she said with a quick smile.
"Youre angry with her right now, but you still love her right?" the bard asked softly.
The child paused for a moment. "Yeah I guess," she said with a sniffle.
Gabrielle tickled the youngster hoping for a more accurate answer, "You guess huh?"
"Ok I do I do I still love Momma stop!" she laughed in a pleading tone.
"Then why cant Xena and Cyrene be angry at each other, but still love each other enough to care about each others feelings?" the young woman asked, knowing she was making headway.
The youngster shrugged feeling like she had been backed into a tight corner. This was her time for sympathy and attention and all they were talking about was Cyrene and Xena.
The bard smiled realizing the little girl was lost in the logic. She shook her head and squeezed the youngster tightly. "Some day youll understand Tarren. Right now lets stick with the basics. You were disrespectful to Cyrene and you got in trouble for it. Plain and simple," she said sternly. "Right?" she asked eyeing the fidgeting child.
The youngster frowned and nodded.
"Good now we understand each other cause Xena and Cyrene went for a walk and are hopefully having a nice mother daughter chat, and when they get back I want you to apologize to Xena so we can get back to acting like a family should. Ok?" she asked rubbing the childs head affectionately.
Tarren rubbed her bottom gingerly and gave the bard her best pout. " No I wont. Momma didnt have to spank me," she mumbled.
The bard leaned in close to the childs ear. "I think you forget who you re talking to Tarren. I know you, and I know Xena. Id say that if she did it then its because you left her no choice Hmm?" she questioned, turning the little girls face around to look at her.
The child frowned remembering the option her mother had given her and the choice she had mistakenly made. "Well she didnt have to hit so hard. Gabby Im never gonna learn to ride a horse like Momma at this rate," she whined.
The bard chuckled a bit at the childs constant desire to duplicate Xenas actions. "Now Tarren you wouldnt want Xena Warrior Princess to get a reputation for doing things half heartedly. Would you?" she asked, running her fingers along the youngsters side.
The child frowned and looked at her friends gentle eyes. "I could have lived with it this once," she said with a slight grin and a sniffle. The little girls thoughts were quickly interrupted by the bards extended stay inside on such a beautiful day.
"Hey Gabby what are you doing here? Why didnt you go with Momma and Cyrene," she asked as the bard rubbed the childs back.
Gabrielle fidgeted a bit trying to come up with an honest yet dignified answer. It was impossible. "Err well I thought they needed to spend some time alone. Besides I think Im sort of grounded," she said with a chuckle.
Tarren looked at her friend with a strange stare. "But Gabby youre a grown-up. Grown-ups dont get grounded," she said, with a look of youthful awe.
The bard smiled. "Hmm, tell that to your mother," she said with a smirk.
The child could not help but laugh, and Gabrielle was happy that even her humiliation had ended the childs tears. "Hey Gabby what did you do to get in that much trouble with Momma?" she asked playfully teasing the bard.
Gabrielle wrapped her arms around the youngster and smiled. "Well lets just say youre not the only one, who has a big mouth around here," she answered.
Tarren dried her tears and smiled at her gentle companion. She reveled in the warmth and company of her friend. "Hey Gabby do ya think that Cyrene would punish Momma if she talked back to her," she asked, wondering just how old or big one had to be to be released from a mothers rule.
The bard laughed wildly as she tried to get the image in her mind. "Hmm that is a very interesting question youngster a very interesting question indeed," she said with a smirk
Soon the two wayward inmates settled back for a long day of solitary confinement.
Metilius watched from behind the large oak tree as Cyrene and Xena laughed in each others arms. The two women looked so happy and full of life that the dark figure felt a rush of anger and hatred just at the sight of their happiness. "Laugh now Warrior. Soon you will only have tears and then only pain and death," he murmured, letting the whites of his clenched teeth show through his smile.
Cyrene and Xena entered the tavern laughing. It was late and the pair actually had felt a bit guilty leaving Gabrielle and Tarren alone all day. They opened the door to Xenas room and found just what the warrior expected. The bard was sprawled out on the large pallet with Tarren tucked neatly at her side. The floor was scattered with scrolls, the bards staff, Tarrens chucks, two well-used pillows, a few plates of sweet food, and the warriors whip.
"The poor dears. Xena we should have come back sooner," Cyrene said, wearily looking down at the exhausted partners in crime.
The warrior shook her head and picked her whip up off he floor and frowned. She quickly surveyed the debris. "Mother Gabrielle spent the day reading Tarren stories and playing games with the little monster. This was not a punishment. It was a carnival," the warrior said waving her hand across the room. Xena pointed to the staff and chucks. "Lets see they were using these and then they had a pillow fight oh and look they were jumping rope with my whip yes mother they suffered terribly," the warrior said with a husky chuckle.
Cyrene laughed at her daughters assessment of the evidence. "Maybe you would have enjoyed it more here dear," she said slowly.
Xena patted her mothers hand and smiled, "No I can toss them around every day. Its not often I get to spend a day with you. It meant a lot to me."
"And to me as well daughter lets do it again soon," the grandmother replied.
The warrior nodded. "Id like that," she whispered kissing her mothers cheek. "Now lets get these two on their feet. If Gabrielle is gonna tell stories in the Inn tonight youre gonna have to get her up. Ill take care of Tarren," Xena said with a deep breath, staring down at the small figure wrapped tightly in the bards arms.
Cyrene nodded and quickly pulled the young woman to her feet.
"And then the giant Cyclops came..." the weary bard said, still half asleep.
"Yes dear" the grandmother chuckled leading the bard to the kitchen for some strong tea.
Xena sat on the edge of the bed and stared into the face of her sleeping daughter. The little girl looked so innocent lying there. She looked so small that the great warrior had to swallow hard at the still fresh memory of the spanking she had dutiful administered to the stubborn little imp. "Well you got me again little one," she whispered gently wiping the childs hair from her face.
Tarrens eyes flickered open and the child rubbed them with the balls of her fists. The child opened her eyes wide and stared up at her mother.
"Well?" the warrior asked quietly.
Tarren looked up at her mother not quite sure what to say, "Well what Momma?"
"Well what have you learned today?" Xena asked, leaning in closer to the child.
Tarren thought about the question and everything Gabrielle had said to her earlier. The child wanted her answer to be as accurate as possible, so she was giving it a lot of thought. "Well I guess you love your mom no matter what sort of like I love mine no matter what," the youngster whispered, fiddling with the warriors wrist cuff nervously.
Xena considered the cryptic way the words were put together and knew the bards handy work was there. She couldnt help but smile. "Thats right Tarren I love you no matter what. Thats part of what being a Mom is about," she said gently lifting the sleepy child into her arms.
The child quickly embraced her long absent mother with a quick yawn. "Im sorry Momma. I just didnt want her to hurt you anymore," she said grabbing onto the warrior mothers neck for support.
Xena rubbed the childs back and twisted her lips. "I know Tarren and I appreciate your concern...really I do BUT there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. And what you did today was wrong. You should have come to me and told me how you felt and maybe I could have straightened you out on a few things before you got yourself in trouble. Things can be very complicated between parents and children," Xena said with a long drawn out sigh.
Tarren dramatically rubbed her bottom once again. "Hmm doesnt seem too complicated for you," she whined.
The warrior mother grinned and kissed her daughters forehead. "Well it may not always be so simple, but I hope you and I will always be able to talk to each other like we do now," Xena said squeezing the youngster in her arms.
The child nodded. "Of course Momma Youre my best friend, and youre my Mom," she said hugging the warrior.
Xena smiled at the words and for the first time, felt sure she was taking her daughter down the right path. "Good! Little one Cause You are much than just my best friend," she said quietly. She stood picking the youngster up with her. "Im sorry I was gone so long. Did ya miss me or are you still mad at me?" she asked.
"Well I missed ya, but Im still real mad at you ya know But dont go away again for so long Ok," the little girl answered with a quick grin.
Xena nodded, "Ok Princess next time you get in trouble, Ill stay with ya. Ok?"
Tarren started to smile but then quickly frowned at the thought of a next time.
The warrior laughed and tossed her daughter in the air holding her in place. "Now then little girl tell me which one of you had the very bad idea of using my whip as a jump rope?" she asked the dangling child.
Tarren giggled wildly as her mother tossed her in the air. "Uhhh well do I have to tell?" she asked not wanting to tell on anyone, especially herself.
The warrior grinned. "No you dont have to tell. Besides I already know," she said tickling the youngster into a giggle and bringing her back down to her chest for a long loving hug.
Xena entered the bards room slowly. The young woman was busy changing for a night of story telling. Gabrielle acknowledged the warriors presence with a stiff nod.
"Have a nice day with your mother I hope?" she asked with a quick but slow smile.
The warrior nodded sitting on the bed feeling a bit of guilt for her earlier desertion.
"Mother told me what you said last night I guess I should thank you for interfering," she said softly.
The bard turned and gave a mock smile to the warrior. "Oh it was nothing and you need not thank me for warrior. Sending me to my room for the day like I was Tarren was thanks enough," she chided.
Gabrielle was not gonna make this easy and Xena knew it.
"Look Gabrielle Im sorry, but you were out of line with what you did. You told me you would not involve yourself between me and my mother, and then you did," the warrior scolded trying to find a loophole to crawl through.
The bard held her chin high in the air as she walked past her large friend. "I never promised any such thing. Besides if I left it up to you two to talk things out then wed all be praying to the Gods for mercy," she said with a snicker.
Xena stood trying to maintain her stoic poise. "Look I just wanted to apologize and tell ya that I really appreciate you staying with Tarren the way you did," she said quickly.
The young bard raised her hand in the air. "Hey I love Tarren. I didnt mind staying with her, but then again I didnt have much choice I believe I was grounded by a certain Warrior Princess," she said shaking her finger in the air, as if trying to remember just who that person was.
Xena frowned at her young friends inability to accept her apology. "Look Gabrielle " she said quickly, but the bard stopped her with a dark stare. "Oh dont tell me Ive made you angry Xena. Please no dont tell me...Im being sent to bed without supper No wait I know, youre gonna spank me," the young amazon queen said, throwing her arms in the air with mock fear.
The warrior cleared her throat and stood overshadowing her young friend. "Maybe I will if you keep this up," Xena said with an evil smile.
Gabrielle looked into her large friends eyes and noted that there was a serious threat behind the smile. "Apology accepted," she said quickly, deciding the fun was now over.
Xena nodded, "Uh huh thats what I thought. Now hurry up and get dressed. Mother needs help in the kitchen and were it," she said stiffly, heading out the door. Before Xena left she turned to address the bard unable to let an opportunity pass. "Oh and Gabrielle?" she said
The bad turned to answer, "Hmm?"
"Your punishment is over you can come out of your room now," Xena said with a chuckle and a broad smile.
"Thanks a lot you great big warrior " she murmured under her breath, but then smiled to herself knowing her friend had found peace with her mother
Chapter 6 Night and Day
The foursome seated themselves for a quick dinner before the Inn got too busy. This time Tarren didnt even ask, but just quickly jumped in the warriors lap forcing Cyrene to smile. Xena definitely had a way with that child. Only Xena could punish this youngster in the morning and have her happily bouncing into her lap by evening meal.
Cyrene placed a large pot on the table filled with beef stew. The bard was quick to note there were no vegetables in it. She smiled at the older woman. "Not taking any chances are ya?" the young woman chuckled, as she took in the aroma of the spices.
The older woman shook her head and grinned. "Why Gabrielle I dont know what you are talking about," she said with an innocent wink.
Tarren eyed the food happy there were no vile vegetable in the mix, but she waited for Cyrene to sit just as Xena had instructed the night before. The grandmother nodded at her daughter noting the child was retaining her manners. Xena merely smiled and tasseled the youngsters head. It was a quiet meal between the three adults. Tarren did not speak to Cyrene, but merely maintained a very polite and respectful distance. The child had placed the responsibility for her sore backside squarely on the shoulder of that woman and Cyrene knew it. The little girl merely finished her meal and leaned back against her mothers chest to relax, carefully listening to the grown ups chat about cooking, shopping, and people of the village.
As the evening turned into night the Inn filled with customers. Xena walked over to the small child standing in the doorway of the kitchen. "Ok you its time for bed," she said taking the childs hand.
"But Momma, Gabby hasnt told any stories yet. I want to hear them," she pleaded giving her mother an innocent stare.
Cyrene turned from her cooking to face her own daughter. "Dear let her stay up for a while please?" she asked, hoping her daughter would accept the request. Xena looked into the eyes of her child and then at her mother and let out a surrendering breath.
"Ok you can stay up for a little while but you sit at the table in the back where I can keep an eye on ya. Dont move from that spot," the warrior replied.
The child nodded and quickly ran to the table where Gabrielle was reading over her scrolls. Xena watched as the bard placed a gentle hand on the childs shoulder and let her sit in her lap as she read.
"You are very lucky daughter." The older woman said, staring past Xena at the sight of her younger companions. "They love each other like family. You have a wonderful friend and a beautiful little girl," she said with a proud stare.
Xena turned to her mother with an expression softer than the warrior usually showed. "Thank you Mother Look I know Tarren has been a bit distant, but I promise shell come around. Give her a little time," she said gently.
"Daughter that child has no use for me in her life. I can understand that. I cant live the life you do. I dont wield a sword I am not a warrior or a bard, and as far as she can see all I have brought her grief," she whispered wiping her hands on her apron as she always did.
The warrior shook her head. "No mother thats just because she hasnt gotten a chance to know you Youll see " she said touching the older womans hand gently.
Cyrene nodded, "Maybe dear maybe," she said hopefully, and Xena stared at her friend and daughter again hoping what she was saying was indeed true.
That night Gabrielle told story after story captivating her audience, especially little Tarren who never seemed to tire of the warrior and bard tales. Xena was busy helping Cyrene move food and drink from table to table and keeping an eye on the crowd making sure there were no troublemakers in the group. The warrior quickly threw a loud mouth out on his ear when he had too much ale and not enough sense to leave on his own.
Tarren giggled quietly as the man flew out the door and then quickly turned her attentions back to Gabrielle. The bard waved her hands in the air to emphasize the large size of the six-headed Gorgon that Xena had slain to save a village from annihilation. The warrior listened and frowned slightly as she recalled the reality of a two-headed Gorgon she slay to save a small family of travelers. Yet when she glanced at Tarrens smile she too grinned. The child was laughing at the Xenas obvious discomfort at the bards exaggeration.
Xena gave her daughter a crooked smile and joined her at the table. "I take it you are enjoying the stories," she said handing the little girl a mug of sweet cider and grabbing a mug of ale for herself.
Tarren giggled again. "Ya know big as you are in Gabby's stories. I dont know how you fit through the door Momma," she said with an impish grin.
The warrior pulled the youngster out of the chair and onto her lap tickling her as she squirmed. "Oh you are so funny You just wait until your bath tomorrow morning. Then well see whose laughing," Xena said with a sly smile.
The youngster continued to giggle. "Hey isnt it Gabbys turn to give the bath?" she asked, looking forward to finding a new place to hide from the bard. Tarren had come to enjoy the torture she got to give the bard on bath days.
"Nope! I decided to give her some time off from your tricks monster. Im gonna give you ALL your baths this week," Xena said pinning the youngster tightly against her chest.
"Oh no " the child moaned, knowing there would be no running from the tub for a while.
Xena raised her eyebrows at the little girls reaction to the news. "Thats right so you better behave yourself and start being nicer to me," the warrior mother teased, squeezing the still giggling child in her lap.
Cyrene approached the table and smiled at the sight of her daughter and granddaughter enjoying each others company.
"Six," Xena said.
Tarren shook her head, "Nope eight," she argued.
"Whats going on?" Cyrene asked quietly standing to the side of the pair.
The warrior pointed up at her friend on the podium. "Were just having a bet to see how much Gabrielle exaggerates this story. Last time she told it there were three Titans, so now we figure there will be more. The loser has to clean the winners boots," she said, tugging gently on her daughters ear, to remind her there was now a third party at the table.
"Yeah and I want mine polished real nice," the child said with a grin, ignoring the warriors tug and the woman at the side of the table.
Xena shook her head, "Well then you better start polishing them little one. You have yet to win a bet, so dont get your hopes up. I always win," the warrior said winking at her mother. Unfortunately even when she did win, Xena usually wound up polishing not only her own boots but Tarrens as well. The childs doe eyes and pouting lip had greater power than the warrior cared to admit.
The trio stared at the bard and waited for the winner to be declared. Gabrielle was approaching the crucial part in the story. " And then just as we thought it was safe, Xena was faced with eight of the largest Titans youve ever seen," the bard said, raising her hand in the air to emphasize their height.
Tarren raised her hands in victory and winked at the bard who quickly winked back.
Xena frowned at her defeat and the subtle signal between Tarren and Gabrielle. "Hey what was that all about?" she asked, looking into the youngsters eyes.
"What was what Momma?" the child asked innocently.
The warrior looked at the bard who was deep in the middle of her story and then at her daughter knowing she has been taken. "Ok little one you win this time, but remember whose bed you want to sleep in tonight," she said with an evil grin, "Id keep one eye open if I were you little one."
The childs face turned quickly from a smile into a pout, and Cyrene shook her head.
"Xena you lost fair and square. Pay off," the grandmother admonished.
The warrior shrugged and glanced at the sulking child pressed against her chest. "Ok mother Ill polish her boots," she groaned playfully turning Tarren upside down to examine the leather. The youngster giggled loudly as Xena held her high in the air examining the little ones boots.
"Well Tarren I guess the easiest thing to do would be to just get a cloth and start polishing Are ya ready?" she asked staring down at the laughing youngster. The child laughed uncontrollably and tried to speak, but when she started to cough Xena quickly brought her back to her lap and offered her a drink, "Ok enough playing Ill polish the boots in the morning," the warrior said with a deep breath.
Tarren leaned against her mothers shoulders examining her own boots. "Nah you just bought these for me last week Momma. Theyre still clean," she said with a smile.
The warrior grinned. "Hmm thats right I guess the bets off then," she said taking a long drink of her ale.
The child shook her head. "Nope a bets a bet Momma, so since my boots are so new I want you to polish Gabbys boots instead," she said winking again at the bard.
The warriors jaw dropped, knowing for sure that she had been set up. "Why you little traitor ." she chuckled, running her hands up and down the youngsters side and cupping the little girls mouth with her hand, so the patrons could not hear her daughters pleas for mercy.
The childs face went red with laughter until Xena released her. "Did you two set me up?" the warrior asked, letting her dark blue eyes lock with her daughters little twinkle.
Tarren shrugged, "I dunno maybe, but Momma you never said we couldnt talk about the story before Gabby read it," the child stated matter of factly, trying very hard not to look her mother in the eye.
Xena frowned and stared at Cyrene and then her little daughter. "Youre in trouble ya know brat," she said with a sly smile. The child giggled and nodded lying happily back in her mothers arms.
"Yup, but at least I dont have to polish any boots," the youngster said with a smile.
The warrior sighed and stared at the bard on stage, not relishing the idea of polishing her friends dirty boots.
"Well Im glad you are having such a good time Tarren," Cyrene said softly, wanting the youngster to give her a chance to make amends.
"Yes ma am," was the childs only response.
Xena frowned and whispered in her daughters ear, "Be nice!"
Tarren scrunched her face up in a childish pout and stared at Xena. "I am nice," she whispered.
Xena gave her a soft blue glare, Be nicer for me the one who is gonna bathe you in the morning," she said with a smirk.
Tarren sighed at her mothers warning words and then turned to face Cyrene and forced a slight smile. "Cyrene why don't you sit with me and Momma for a while?" she asked hoping the woman would refuse.
The older woman stared at the child and smiled thankfully, "Id like that Tarren. Thank you dear."
Tarren looked quickly at her mother not grateful for the new visitor she had forced her to encourage. "I want a pony," the little girl whispered, figuring Xena owed her that much.
The warrior squeezed her daughter tightly. "One more word out of you and Ill get you a pony to ride ALL day tomorrow," she warned, gently patting the childs backside
Tarrens face went white at the thought and Cyrene touched her granddaughters hand.
"Whats the matter Tarren? Are you sick? You look pale dear?" Cyrene asked with concern.
The child quietly slumped back against the warriors chest wondering if running away from home was an option. The thought quickly faded when she realized that wanting to take Xena and Gabrielle with her would really disqualify it as truly running away.
"No mother shes fine. I think she was just excited thinking about what she'd like to do tomorrow," the warrior said with a grin, giving her daughter a dramatic bear hug.
The older woman stared at the pair knowing there was some kind of secret communication going on but not wanting to interfere again. "Oh well perhaps we could all go on a picnic up on the hill," she said with a hopeful smile.
Xena patted her daughters leg. "Well Tarren how does a picnic sound? We could fish and swim and maybe do a little riding if youre good if thats what you would like little one?" she asked quietly, hoping the child was getting the message.
Tarren knew that the offer for riding was one that meant she could either ride on the hard saddle or on a soft bedroll depending on her reaction at that moment. The unhappy youngster nodded at the grandmother, "Sure Cyrene, that sounds like fun," she said, hoping she was sounding more enthusiastic then she felt.
The older woman nodded happily and rose from the table needing to return to the attention of her Inn. Xena looked at her daughter and grinned, feeling a bit guilty at the tactics she had resorted to, to get Tarren speaking to Cyrene. "That was very good. Im very proud of you," she whispered in the childs ear.
"You didnt exactly give me a choice Momma," she whispered back, letting her chin droop sadly on her chest.
The warrior mother thought about it. " Hmm didnt I whoops sorry about that," she said with an almost innocent look.
The child gently poked her mother in the side and smiled. "I want a pony," she wined.
"No!" the warrior said firmly having heard this request 100 times in the last two weeks.
"Why not? the little one asked, acting as if she might cry.
Xena turned the youngster around so they were facing each other. "Well for four good reasons Youre not old enough, youre not responsible enough, you dont behave enough, Id rather have you ride with me, and if none of those sound good enough go with my favorite an yours cause I said so," Xena said with finality.
The child folded her arms and grumbled realizing that was really only three real reasons. "Well are you ever gonna teach me how to ride Momma?" she asked tilting her head back a bit.
The warrior bounced the little girl on her knee. "Yup! As soon as you can sit in that hard saddle for a month straight," she said quickly.
The childs shoulders slumped in defeat. "Damn Ill never learn to ride," she moaned.
The warrior mother frowned and then turned the youngster around to face her once again, "Nope, not if I ever hear you swear again you wont little girl," she said quickly.
"Sorry Momma," the child said quietly, giving her mother the most innocent face she could muster.
Xena nodded and settled back to listen to the bard finish her story, "Uh huh!"
As the evening came to an end the bard told her last story and thanked the kind people for their applause and their generosity. She quickly slipped over to the table to join Xena and Tarren, who was already yawning.
Gabrielle poked playfully at the sleepy child, "Gee I hope I wasnt boring you."
The youngster shook her head, "No Gabby you were real good, and Moms gonna clean your boots," she said with a quick giggle.
The warrior frowned and nodded at the bard.
Gabrielle smiled and put her feet up on the table in front of her warrior friend, "Why Xena I didnt know you cared about the shine on my boots."
The warrior raised her eyebrows pushing the young womans dirty boots off the table. "Dont push it Gabrielle," she warned.
The bard put her hands up in surrender and winked at Tarren who quickly returned the action, making sure her mother witnessed the exchange.
"And will you two stop doing that," Xena said firmly, tiring of the private signals the two had established at her benefit. The two friends just giggled and the warrior just sighed with contentment happy to be in the company of those she cared so much for.
Tarren yawned again and Xena stood lifting the child into her arms, "Ok you monster time for bed. I should have put you to bed hours ago."
"But Momma, Im not even tired," the child said, staring into her mothers gentle eyes trying hard not to yawn.
"Uh huh Well youre going to bed anyway young lady, and I dont want any more arguments," she said firmly heading towards the room.
"Come on Gabby?" Tarren yelled, reaching out her hand, wanting the bard to follow.
Gabrielle smiled at the youngster, "In a bit honey. Ill be in later to say goodnight." The bard scanned the room grimly noticing the piles of dirty dishes around the Inn. "Much later," she said with a groan
Xena gave her daughter a quick stare and the child sighed. "Goodnight Cyrene," she murmured, and the older woman popped her head from the kitchen. "Good night little one," the grandmother said happily.
Xena opened the door to the sleeping chamber and tossed the youngster playfully on the bed, yanking off the little girls boots. Tarren struggled to get out of her tunic and trousers as the warrior reached into her bag for a nightshirt. When the child was placed neatly under the covers, the warrior sat on the side of the bed staring down at her daughter. "Ill be back after I help Mother clean up, so dont go hogging all the blankets," she said with a grin.
The child smiled a bit and then her features became more determined, "Momma can I ask you a question?"
Xena leaned on one arm facing her daughter. "Sure Whats on that mischievous little mind of yours now?" the warrior asked, gently running her hand along the youngsters cheek.
Tarren thought for a moment. "Well I was just wondering. Youd never leave me here would ya?" she asked her eyes falling a bit afraid of the answer.
Xenas face went blank. "No! Tarren Ive told you I would never leave you anywhere. You belong with me and thats where you are staying kid," she said softly, staring at the little girl. "Why would you think otherwise?" the warrior asked, wiping stray hairs from the little ones eyes.
"Well you and Cyrene were talking yesterday, and I heard her say something about me living here," she said biting her lip nervously.
Xena ran her hand tenderly along the youngsters face. "Well that explains a lot doesnt it," she whispered to herself.
The warrior put her arm around the childs neck and pulled her next to her. "Tarren my mother is lonely for me sometimes, so shed like me to be here more. Shed like to watch you grow up, but sweetheart I told her that your place is with me no matter where I go and right now we like the life we have right?" the warrior asked, hoping the little girl did truly enjoy the way they lived.
The child nodded. "Of course Momma," she said with a broad smile.
"Good then I dont want to hear anymore of this stuff about me leaving you behind. Where I go you go my little shadow. I told you, you are stuck with me. You and Gabrielle and me are a team. Were a family understand?" she asked, waving her finger at the small form.
Tarren looked up at her mother. "Ya mean it. You wont leave me for anything?" she asked looking hopefully at the person whose love meant the most to her.
Xena nodded and hugged the child tightly. "Not for anything or anyone monster," she answered gently tugging at the little ones chin.
The warrior mother pulled the covers up over the child and kissed her tenderly on the forehead. "And one more thing little girl, no more listening to other peoples conversations I know just how hard youd have to listen for you to have heard any of that private conversation," she said with a quick frown.
The youngster smiled weakly and pulled the covers over her face.
The warrior nodded realizing that her little girl had very big ears. "Hmm thats what I thought Well dont let me catch your little ear where it shouldnt be or your little behind is gonna be in big trouble," she warned, staring down at the covered youngster.
The child peaked her head out to respond. "Yes Momma," she said quietly.
Xena shook her head and rubbed the youngsters cheek. "And remember what I said about those covers Ya little bed hog," the warrior mother said with a grin.
Tarren giggled and reached up to hug her mother. "I love you Momma," she said softly, and the warrior closed her eyes soaking in the words.
"I love you too little one," Xena said kissing the childs cheek, before returning to an Inn full of dirty dishes.
The following morning Xena opened her eyes ready to rise. She was very careful to get out of the pallet without waking the youngster beside her wrapped in all the blankets. "Little bed hog," she whispered, kissing the childs cheek gently and smiling.
The warrior quickly filled the tub with water and quietly slipped in for a soothing bath. Just as she was relaxing her eyes fell upon the bed and noticed it was now empty. She smiled as her eyes scanned the room looking for her little sniper. She closed her eyes and without turning threw an arm behind the tub and lifted the youngster to her feet, yanking her into the tub with a splash.
Tarren spit water out in every direction and laughed wildly. "I almost had ya," she yelled.
The warrior shook her head. "Nope! I heard the floor board creak...sorry," she said staring at the still dressed youngster standing in the tub.
The child frowned. "Well Ill get ya next time," she groaned ready to exit the water.
Xena smiled and quickly pulled Tarren back in. "Where do you think your going young lady As long as you have already invaded my peaceful bath, you may as well finish the job," he said with a wicked grin.
Tarren splashed the water hard in Xenas direction. "I dont wanna!" she whined.
The warrior shook her head as she yanked the youngsters soaking nightshirt off and tossed it to the ground beside the tub. "Well arent we just full of courage this morning? Well want to or not youre here and youre staying, so you might as well enjoy it," Xena said quietly, pulling the youngster in front of her and beginning the arduous task of getting her clean.
Tarren pushed her lip out and reluctantly succumbed to her fate of being made clean. "Momma can we go for a walk around the village alone this morning?" the little girl asked hopefully.
The warrior smiled at her daughters desire to spend time alone with her, but shook her head. "Sorry sweetheart but we promised your grandmother wed go on that picnic," she replied as she rubbed the suds into the little girls hair.
The childs shoulders slumped in disappointment. "Great, I dont even wanna go," she whined.
Xena shook her head and pulled the childs face tightly next to hers. "Hey Im getting a little tired of this attitude of yours. Now you knock it off before you find yourself involved in another one of our private chats," she warned, returning once again to her task of making the unwilling wash.
The little girls eyes closed and she said nothing but sat there obediently while she was bathed. The warrior grimaced at the now silent child. "Look if you behave yourself this morning then you and I will go walking around the village alone tomorrow OK?" the warrior asked, tugging gently at the childs hair.
The youngsters frown quickly turned into a smile. "Ya mean it?" she asked eagerly.
The warrior splashed the grinning child with water. "Yeah I mean it ya spoiled little brat," she said quietly. The youngster giggled and sent the wave of water back at her mother. Soon yet another water fight was underway.
Cyrene heard the noise and came running in. "What is all the racket in here?" she yelled eyeing her descendants in the tub and noting the wet floor. Cyrene looked at her daughter and then the child who had quickly slid behind her. "Xena you should know better. Look at this floor. I hope you know your gonna clean this up young lady," she said firmly.
The warrior nodded at her mother as the youngster behind her giggled. Xena reached a hand under the water and began tickling the childs side as she answered Cyrene, "Yes mother well clean it up."
The older woman nodded at her daughter as the young bard casually walked in. "By the gods what happened in here?" the young woman said waving at the floor as if shed never seen water before. Xena merely frowned at her friends dramatics.
"My daughter, the Warrior Princess is allowing a water fight in MY Inn," she said stiffly staring at the warrior daughter.
Gabrielle put both hands on her hips in mock surprise. "Cyrene I am so sorry. I can only apologize for their behavior. I should tell you this happens all the time. I try and warn them, but your daughter never listens to me, and the little one just follows Xenas example," the bard said with a dramatic sigh.
Xena growled at the bards betrayal, but said nothing waiting for there to be no witnesses before she extracted her revenge.
"Well she should listen to you Gabrielle. Its obvious to me that you are the one of good sense here," Cyrene said staring at her daughter and the giggling youngster hiding behind her.
"Well I dont want you to worry about a thing Cyrene. I will make sure they clean this mess up before we leave," the young woman said, leading the innkeeper to the door.
Cyrene nodded at the bard. "Thank you Gabrielle. They BOTH seem to need a baby-sitter, and I am leaving you in charge," she chided, closing the door behind her.
Tarren slipped out from behind the warrior. "Whew! Now I know where you got your temper from Momma," the child said with a sigh and a whistle.
The warrior mother eyed her daughter. "Hmm something to think about isnt it?" she whispered once again starting to tickle the child.
Gabrielle slowly turned facing the wet pair in the tub. "Hold it you two. Xena you heard your mother, Im in charge," she said with authority, moving next to the tub carefully kicking away the wet clothes that had been tossed to the floor.
"Oh really my bard. Well did you happen to wonder how you were gonna enforce that authority?" she asked with an evil grin.
Gabrielle smiled as she leaned on the tub next to her muscular friend, running her small finger in circles over the surface of the water. "Well if I were you I wouldnt push my luck warrior. You are in enough trouble with Cyrene as it is. Dont make me have to call your mommy warrior," she teased.
Xena smiled wickedly at her own daughter who gave her a wink and a nod in understanding. "Well Gabrielle like you always say we are a family, so what one gets we all share," she said moving menacingly close to the young woman.
Without warning the mother and daughter combined their efforts yanking the fully dressed bard into the tub with a loud splash! The angry young woman stood in the water glaring at the laughing warrior and her smaller twin.
"Gabby you really should try taking your clothes off before you bathe," the youngster teased.
Xena leaned back against the tub smiling at her now wet friend, "Share and share alike my bard. Thats what you always say."
The bard nodded as she wiped the dripping water from her face. "Very funny both of you it took me an hour to get my hair dry," she moaned, thrashing water at the pair. Xena and Tarren quickly splashed water back and the bard was now completely soaked.
"Thats it! This is war," the amazon queen declared, and soon the water was once again splashing all over the room.
Outside the door the older woman laughed loudly at the antics of her daughter and her family, happy that this was the type of love they found in each others company, as they traveled the world.
Chapter 7 What we do for Love
An hour later, Tarren slowly skulked into the kitchen trying to get past Cyrene before she was spotted.
"Well is that floor in there cleaned up?" the woman asked without turning.
"Just like Xena how do they do that?" the child thought.
"Momma and Gabby are cleaning it up now," she said quietly trying to get something to eat without drawing too much attention to herself.
The grandmother turned and studied the youngster. "And how is it you got out of helping little one?"
The youngster shrugged. "Momma says she doesnt need my kind of help right now," the child said repeating the warriors words.
Cyrene laughed and handed the youngster a honey biscuit and a mug of milk. "I used to say the same thing to your mother when she got under foot. Somehow I always got the feeling that she did it just to get out of helping though," the older woman said with a grin, sipping at a mug of hot tea.
The youngster lowered her eyes and for the first time in days smiled at the woman. "You werent really mad at Momma for making a mess were you?" she asked gulping her milk.
Cyrene shook her head at the childs perceptiveness. "No little one but that will be our secret," she said with a smile, and Tarren just nodded.
The youngster turned to leave and ran into the wall like structure of her mothers legs.
"I thought you went to get more towels you little scamp. Get your little butt back in that room and help clean up that floor," the warrior scolded, pointing back to the room. The child quickly swallowed the last of her biscuit and ran past the warrior, barely missing her muscular hand from reaching its small target as she slid by.
Xena watched the child go and shook her head. "You really didnt think I would be fooled by that old routine did you mother?" she asked with a smile, reaching for a mug of tea.
The older woman chuckled and shook her head. "No daughter No more than I was," Cyrene said with a smirk. The two women smiled knowingly at each other and knocked together two mugs of tea toasting their own maternal brilliance.
Tarren entered the room with a pile of towels to sop the wet floor. The bard sighed as the child dropped them squarely in front of her.
"Thanks" she groaned, spreading them out across the still wet floor.
"Where's Xena?" she asked, not seeing the warrior bringing up the rear.
The child licked her fingers. "Momma is talking to Cyrene. She said you should finish up," the youngster said, slowly flopping on the bed.
"That figures. She makes the mess and I have to clean it up," the bard grumbled.
Gabrielle looked at the little girl and spotted a few crumbs on the youngsters tunic.
"Tarren you had food?" she asked longingly, hearing the rumbling in her own stomach grow louder.
The child nodded. "Yup! Honey biscuits," she replied with an impish grin.
The bard licked her lips and the little girl reached inside her tunic revealing a second biscuit. Tarren jumped to her feet and handed it to the bard. "I didnt forget ya Gabby," the child said with a quick grin.
The young woman wrapped her arms around her young friend. "Oh I can always count on you my little brat," she said with a smile, taking a small bite from the hot biscuit that was nestled in her hand. Before she could take a second bite there was a loud thud outside the window.
"Is that wind?" Tarren asked, moving towards the shudder.
As the little girl poked her head out the window, a large man holding a knife to her throat quickly pulled her from the floor.
"Now dont say a word and maybe you will both live to see the next solstice," he whispered.
The bard eyed her staff sitting in the corner and then the youngster kicking in the mans folded arm. There was no way to reach it without putting Tarren in danger.
"Lock the door girl," the stranger said motioning to Gabrielle.
The bard slowly backed up and turned the key in the lock. "Look I dont know who you are or what you want, but you better put her down right now," she warned trying to position herself closer to the man.
The old man smiled and his eyes went wild with the challenge. He tightened his grip on the childs neck, pressing the steel of the knife close to her skin. "Tell her to stop fighting me, or Ill slit the babies throat here and now," he snarled.
Gabrielle took a deep breath and steadied her gaze on Tarrens eyes, which were full of both fear and anger. "Tarren this is a time for wisdom. Stop fighting him." she ordered, hoping the child understood that this was not the moment to question her words.
The youngsters eyes welled with tears as she lay limp in the strange mans grasp. "Very good little girl," he said stroking her hair with the back of his blade.
"What do you want?" the bard asked, trying to control her urge to rush the large man and free her young friend from his grasp.
"Why I want you both of you," he said with a wild wicked laugh, telling the bard that this man was not one to be toyed with.
Xena and Cyrene finished packing the basket for the picnic. "Arent those two done yet?" Cyrene asked.
The warrior shook her head. "Ill go help them finish," she said with a sigh, feeling a slight rush of guilt for not doing her fair share of the clean up. When the warrior got to the door she found it locked. "Ok you two, very funny. Open the door, and Ill help you clean up," the warrior said quickly. There was no reply.
"Hey I mean it open the door right now Tarren Gabrielle!" she scolded.
Still there was no reply.
The warrior felt her frustration building. "You two are really gonna be sorry if you dont open this door," she warned.
Xenas anger quickly turned to concern when she put her ear to the door and heard nothing but the sound of the wind blowing through an open window. She quickly kicked the door open snapping the lock from the frame. The warrior drew her sword as she rushed in and saw nothing but a heap of wet towels and a piece of parchment with the message. "Feeling the pain of your loss yet Warrior!"
"Metilius" she growled, gripping tightly to her sword.
Cyrene came rushing in behind Xena. "What s going on " she started to say, but was silenced by the empty room, and the sight of her daughter carefully holding her sword as she peered out the window.
"By the gods Xena, What happened? Where are Tarren and Gabrielle?" she asked, her voice shaking at the possible answer.
"Metilius took them. Im going after them mother," she said with a growl, jumping out the window and rushing for the barn.
The older woman ran out of the Inn and into the barn. She quickly began saddling a horse that was stabled beside Argo. "Where do you think you are going mother?" Xena asked with a scowl.
"With you Xena. Gabrielle is like a daughter to me and that child IS my granddaughter, so dont argue. I may not be a warrior but I can still hold my own," Cyrene said jumping into the saddle of the large dark steed. Xena shook her head in amazement at this woman who had made her eat her vegetables, but here was no time to Argue. With a kick of her heals, Xena Warrior Princess was on her way with a warriors mother riding quickly behind.
Xena carefully followed the trail of the Metilius. He was making no effort to hide his tracks wanting the warrior to follow. She could see the tracks of two horses. One carried two figures and the other carried one. Xena figured that either Gabrielle and Tarren
were bound on one horse, or the crazy man had little Tarren tethered in front o f him. Both images made her warrior blood boil.
Cyrene stared down at the tracks and looked to her daughter for instruction.
"Mother he will be expecting me," she said with a frown looking up the hill to where she thought the trail ended.
The grandmother nodded. "Yes daughter, but he wont be expecting us," Cyrene replied.
The warrior smiled a bit as she contemplated a plan of action.
Metilius carefully tied the bards hands and feet and pushed her into a chair inside the small cabin he had called home for a dozen summers. The young amazon would make no attempt to fight while Tarren was present. She did not want to risk the youngster being injured. The mad man finished tying his victim and then turned to the warriors child.
"And you little baby Do I need to tie you up too?" he asked, laughing at the little girl who stood trembling in front of him.
The youngster looked at her friend struggling in her bondage and quickly reached into her boot for her chucks. The mans laughter and the sight of Gabrielle tied up was enough to help push her fear away. "Let my friend go," the little one ordered, kicking the kidnapper in the groin and then hitting him squarely in the face with the chucks.
Gabrielle struggled against her bonds and pleaded for Tarren to stop knowing the child was up against a lunatic, but the youngster ignored her friends pleas. The large mans eyes turned to fire as he caught the childs weapons in mid air. Tarren back flipped a few feet away and front kicked him in the midsection making the man grimace, but his eyes went wild and he grabbed for the childs throat. There was not enough room to run or vault, and without her weapons the little warrior was defenseless.
"Tarren," Gabrielle screamed, as she struggled to get free.
The small child, daughter of the Warrior Princess fell quickly to the ground as the large mans hand landed roughly across her head knocking the little one to the floor and into darkness.
The bard stared down at her young friend. "Tarren " she whispered, but the youngster did not move. She just lay there, her small body appearing lifeless and still.
Metilius tied the little girls hands and feet and dropped her small form in the chair next to the bard.
"That child needs to learn some manners," he said with a wild glare making the usually gentle bard wish she could be set free just long enough to throttle this stranger.
"Shes a little kid. What kind of an animal are you, to do that to a little kid?" she screamed, wanting to break free from her bonds and hold her best friends child safely in her arms.
The dark mans face went blank as he stared at the youngster. A strange calm came over him as he reached onto a table and pulled out a water skin gently splashing the youngsters face with water. He then turned to face Gabrielle.
"You are so much like my little Terius." he whispered to the bard. His voice was low and soothing and he blinked constantly as he studies the young woman. "Dont worry Poppa is here child. I will not let the warrior kill you again," he said stroking Gabrielles face.
Gabrielle looked at him oddly hoping that playing along would free she and Tarren.
"Oh Ok Poppa could you untie me? My wrists really hurt a lot." she whispered gently, hoping to make use of the mans leap from reality.
The large man caressed the bards cheek. "I didnt mean to run Terius. I wanted to stay with you. I was afraid so afraid," he cried.
The young womans eyes grew wide as she watched the man transform once again. Soon the soft spoken gentle soul turned once again into the raging lunatic, slapping the face of the bard, sending her bound form hurling back.
"Dont try to fool with me girl, and if that brat so much as moves again, Ill cut her open," he warned, slamming the door to the small room they were now confined too.
Gabrielle ignored the sting in her face and tried to move next to the child. "Tarren honey, wake up Tarren can you hear me?" she asked, but the youngster was lost in a world of complete darkness.
Chapter 8 And Justice for All
Xena sat in a tree outside the small cabin that she knew contained her best friend and her daughter. She watched patiently as the old lunatic peeked out the window.
"I know you are out there Xena, watching and waiting, but it wont do you any good. Theyre both already dead Can you feel the pain warrior? Can you feel my pain?" he yelled to the empty clearing.
Xena tried to allow her logic to win over her feelings, knowing that the mad man would not kill his hostages until he had what he wanted, her. She whistled twice and watched as a dark cloaked figure seated upon a large war-horse rode quickly through the edge of the clearing and into the trees behind the cabin. Metilius ran from the cabin with his sword in his hand. "Coward You cant run from me warrior," he yelled, chasing after the dark figure on Argo.
Xena grinned and jumped to the ground. "Go Mom," she whispered, as she slid to the interior of the cabin. Once inside she went from room to room calling, "Tarren! Gabrielle!"
It was like music to her ears when she heard the bard call, "Xena were in here."
The warrior quickly moved to a small door at the back of what looked to be a kitchen of some kind. She entered the room and her heart sank to the inner most part of her soul when she saw her best friends swollen face and her child, slumped unconscious on the chair with a large lump forming on the side of her forehead.
The warrior growled at the thought of the man who had done this but moved quickly to untie the bard and her daughter.
Gabrielle jumped to her feet hugging the warrior. "Where is he?" she asked staring down at Tarren, wanting her own vengeance.
"Mother is leading him away for the moment," she said quickly.
Xena lifted Tarren into her arms and examined the lump on her daughters head, dabbing it with some water. "Tarren baby, wake up Come on honey wake up," the warrior mother said softly fighting the lump in her throat.
"Momma!" the child whispered, staring blankly at the familiar figure above her.
"Of course its Momma. Who else would it be?" she asked choking on the words.
The youngster started to rise and the warrior gently pushed her down. "No sweetheart, You cant get up yet. You have a bad lump on your head. You just stay still. Ill carry you," she said softly, lifting the child easily into her arms, and holding her tightly against her chest.
"My chucks?" she asked in a low broken voice, tears racing down her cheeks.
Gabrielle reached down and picked up the wands displaying them for he child to see. "Thanks Gabby," the little one said with a weak grin, and the bard smiled at the youngster.
"Anytime kid," she said gently touching the childs hand. Xena eyed the weapons and then the bard anxious to know exactly what had happened. But knowing details were not as important as getting her friend and daughter to safety.
Xena moved slowly through the cabin listening to the sounds around her. She wondered just how far her mother had been able to lead the man before he realized that he had been tricked. Her worst fears were quickly brought to reality as she heard the crazed mans voice outside the cabin.
"Xena Warrior I have something you may want," he hissed.
The warrior looked out the window and saw the old lunatic with his sword pressed against Cyrenes throat. He laughed at the concern in Xenas eyes.
"Now you just come on out of there. Surrender yourself to justice, and maybe, just maybe I wont slit her throat," he said.
Xena glared at the man and turned laying Tarren gently down on a table. She kissed her daughters cheek and started for the door.
"No Momma dont go!" the child cried, grabbing onto the warriors arm.
Xena stared down at her daughter wishing she could stay and hold her. "I have to honey, but dont worry Ill be back. I promise," she whispered, caressing the youngsters cheek with the back of her hand.
Gabrielle put an arm on her friends arm. "Xena hes crazy," she warned.
The warrior smiled at her friend, "Gabrielle he has my mother, " she whispered, again looking down at her own child.
"You two stay right here. Dont move from this spot for anything understand?" the warrior ordered.
The bard nodded and Xena could only smile at her friend, knowing she wanted more than anything to help in this battle, but the child just stared at her mother with tears in her eyes.
"Momma!" she cried, reaching for her mothers arm.
"Tarren stay here, right here. Gabrielle will take care of you until I get back," she said sternly. The child could feel the tears rushing down her cheek as she watched her warrior mother leave the cabin.
Xena moved quickly to face the mad man who held her mother in his filthy grip.
"Well, well the great Warrior Princess. You dont seem so mighty now do ya," he laughed.
Cyrene cringed under the tight hold of Metilius, and Xena felt her rage building at the sight.
"Now then warrior drop your sword," he ordered.
Xena reached behind her and took her sword from its sheath dropping it quickly to the ground in front of her.
"Now let her go," she ordered, slowly moving towards the crazed old man.
Metilius just laughed wildly. "What? Why, the fun is just beginning. Now throw that spinning disc of yours next to the sword," he said with a wicked smile, carefully placing his blade next to Cyrenes face.
"Dont do it daughter think of the little one. She needs you," the grandmother said with a proud glare.
Xena nodded at her mother. "She needs us both Mother, and she shall have us both I promise," she whispered. The warrior fingered her chakrum and then dropped it in the dirt beside her sword.
Metilius pointed his sword at Xena and laughed. "What makes you think I will let any of you live warrior? You killed my daughter and now Im gonna kill everything dear to you, and then Im gonna kill you slowly," he said with a roar.
Gabrielle watched from the window, trying to think of something that she could do to help her friends. She noted how closely the blade was held to Cyrenes neck and knew one wrong move could cost the woman her life. The bard watched the tense muscles of her large friend. Xena was anxious at the sight of her mothers pain, and she wanted more than anything to end this nightmare.
Tarren listened quietly to the exchange outside, and when she heard Metilius say he would kill her mother, slipped off the table, chucks in hand and raced out the door before the bard could stop her.
"Momma!" the youngster yelled, falling in front of the warrior.
Xena quickly pulled the child safely in front of her.
"Momma," she whispered again, her legs giving quickly out from under her. The warrior stared at her daughter noting the lump on her head was larger than she had thought.
"Get back inside," Xena yelled in a low husky voice, closing her eyes to hide the tears in her own eyes.
"Wait!" the old man ordered. "Xena you have a daughter?" he asked with a crazed laugh, turning the direction of his sword slowly from Cyrene to the child.
Those words had sealed this mans fate.
Tarren clung to her mothers armor trying to stand straight. The blow to her head had left the little girl dazed and unsteady. Xena watched the mad man in front of her with one eye and dropped to her knee protectively in front of her daughter. "I told you to stay inside. Why cant you ever do what your told?" she scolded in a broken husky whisper, tears filling her eyes at the sight of her injured child.
Tarrens lip quivered as she stared at the dark blue gaze of her mother. In that one single moment she saw all the anger, love, fear, and rage that was in the womans heart.
"Im sorry Momma. I just wanted to give you something," she whispered, slowly dropping her chucks on the ground beneath her, out of the sight of Metilius.
Xena stared at the weapons and shook her head in wonder. "Go back inside little one," she said gently kissing the youngsters cheek and slowly lifting the chucks into her left hand.
"Oh how sweet I think Ill kill your child first Xena," he said with a growl.
Xena quickly pushed Tarren back in the cabin into the bards waiting embrace. The young woman this time held the child firmly in place not allowing her to even watch the exchange.
Having heard Metilius threaten the life of her granddaughter gave Cyrene a courage and strength she never knew she had. The grandmother quickly elbowed the man in the gut throwing him off balance enough for Xena to lift the chucks in the air spinning them into a small cyclone as they flew through the air wrapping tightly around Metiliuss throat sending him to the ground. The great Warrior Princess lifted her sword and vaulted over her mother yelling her famous battle cry.
The old man pulled the wands from his neck and grabbed his sword. "Very well Xena, you can go to Hades first," he said waving his blade in the air.
Xena smiled with relief as she watched her mother reach the cabin with the bards help. Wit her family now safe the Warrior Princess was free to use all her many skills. She warrior playfully tossed her blade form hand to hand. "Come on Metunius take your best shot," she said through clenched teeth, remembering the lump on her daughters head and the red mark on the bards cheek.
The madman swung his blade and the warrior blocked it and kicked him to the ground with an easy blow. The large man rolled in the dirt and jumped to his feet. Xena could not help but find some pity for this lost soul that stood before her.
"Your daughter was my friend, and she died because she had a father who was a coward and a fool," Xena hissed, as her sword clashed with the man in battle. "Now I dont want to kill you Metilius so drop your sword," she begged, hoping he would surrender.
The crazy mans rage erupted as the memory of that day came flowing back to him. He swung his sword at Xena with all his might but it was a move made in vein. The warriors expert blade caught him in the midsection and he slid slowly to the ground.
Gabrielle came running to her friends side as the man lay dying. He looked up at the bard and smiled." Terius my daughter, Forgive me," he said, before closing his eyes and heading to wherever lunatics spend eternity.
Xena sheathed her sword and closed her eyes asking forgiveness from her friend of long ago. "Find peace old man," she said throwing a cloak over the fallen figure from a time long ago.
Cyrene could not contain the small child any longer. She burst out the door and ran to the warrior stopping only a few feet away. Xena turned and looked at her daughter.
Momma," the little girl whispered, not quite sure if her presence was welcome.
The warrior mother saw the innocent face of her young daughter looking up at her. Xena let out a long breath and dropped to her knees, allowing the child to fall into her embrace.
"Are you Ok Momma?" she asked as she saw a tear fall down the warriors cheek.
"I am now little one I am now," Xena said softly, holding her child closely.
"Are you mad at me?" Tarren asked, staring longingly at the chucks lying in the dirt at the warriors feet. She wanted them back, but wasnt sure if this was a good time to bring it up.
Xena shook her head and picked the wand weapons up and handed them to her young daughter. "No Im not mad at you," she said cradling the injured youngster.
"Am I in trouble?" the child asked quietly.
Xena smiled. "Brat you are always in trouble," she said with a laugh, caressing the childs cheek.
"Can I have a pony?" the little girl asked with a sly grin.
Xena stopped and stared in disbelief at the youngsters persistence. The warrior mother laughed and then answered finally, "No pony!"
Chapter 9 Forever Together
Tarren lay squirming on the bed as the warrior placed the poultice on the injury.
"Will you stay still," Xena ordered. The anxious child just stared at the faces of her mother, Cyrene, and Gabrielle.
"I want to go on the picnic," the child whined.
The older woman smiled, "Dont worry little one. There will be plenty of picnics for us to go on when you are up and around," the grandmother said softly.
Xena carefully bandaged the wound. "Now you are gonna have to stay in bed for the rest of the day, and I dont want any arguments. Your head has a bad bruise and you have to stay still to let it heal. No getting up," the warrior mother ordered, gently fingering the youngsters chin.
The child said nothing but looked longingly out the window wanting to go play. "Can I have a pony?" she asked with a mischievous glint.
Xena looked at her mother and the bard who both chuckled at the request. The warrior frowned as she stared at her daughter. "No, for the very last time, you cannot have a pony," she gently scolded.
The child started to get out of the bed. "If I cant have a pony then Im getting up," the youngster said with a smirk.
The warrior mother gently pushed her back onto the large pallet. She quickly held up
her hand with the tiny scars in the center and pointed to it. "Tarren tell me what you see," she said quietly.
The youngster smiled eagerly at her mother. "We played this game already Momma. I see that my mom loves me," the child said quickly, happy with herself for knowing the answer.
The warrior nodded. "Very good little one. Thats right. What else do you see?" she asked.
The child looked at the hand again and shrugged. " I dunno what?" she asked with a confused look.
Xena grinned and lowered her face so close to her young daughters that they were nose to nose. "You see the hand thats gonna warm your backside if you try to get out of this bed again before I say you can," she warned, tenderly rubbing the childs face.
Tarrens smile disappeared, "Yes Momma," she moaned and the warrior mother smiled. "Good now you lie here and relax. Gabrielle will tell you a story and then Ill come back in and stay with you in a bit," she said quickly.
The child grabbed her mothers hand. "You wont be long will ya Momma?" she asked with pleading innocent eyes.
Xena shook her head and kissed the youngsters forehead. "No honey just long enough to take care of Argo." she said with a gentle smile.
Gabrielle touched Xenas shoulder, and the warrior stood looking into the swollen face of her young friend. "How are you doing?" she whispered to the bard.
The young woman nodded. "Im Ok. It takes more than a mad man to knock an amazon queen down warrior," she said quietly.
The warrior wrapped a loving arm around her friend, grateful for everything she always was and would be for the warrior and her daughter. Gabrielle smiled. "Hey relax warrior you dont think some big guy knocking me around is gonna hurt me do ya?" she asked with a tender look.
Xena shook her head and caressed the wound on the young womans face. "When I come back, youre my next patient," she said pointing to the small swelling on the bards cheek.
Gabrielle nodded and then sat beside the child ready to tell her story. Xena slipped out of the room before Tarren could notice.
"Gabby you dont look so good," Tarren whispered, gently touching the bards face.
Gabrielle kissed the youngsters hand. "Hey brat you are not exactly looking like a 100 dinars yourself, " she whispered fighting back a tear. The bard quickly crawled on the pallet next to the child ready to begin telling a wondrous tale.
Can I have a pony?"
The bard smiled. "Switching strategies hey kid Well it wont work No pony yet," she said with a playful giggle. Tarren smiled broadly knowing that she had found a new allie in her fight for her pony.
Xena strode out to the barn and unsaddled Argo and began rubbing her down. The warrior was quiet and stoic and lost in thought. She turned quickly when the small figure of her mother came up behind her.
"Are you all right daughter?" she asked.
"Sure, Mom Im not the one who got hurt."
Cyrene took her daughters arm and forced her to face her. "Xena I am your mother and you cant hide from me anymore than Tarren can hide her pain from you. I see the wound inside."
Xena dropped the brush to the ground and slumped to her knees. "Mother I nearly lost her. I nearly lost her again, "the warrior daughter said with a broken voice. Cyrene held her daughters head in her hands burying it deep within her chest, stroking the Xenas head lovingly.
"No child you did what every mother does. You protected her. Xena every day we walk on this earth we stand the chance of something taking our life from us. Its just part of the fates wishes. That child is alive and well because she has a mother that loves her. Dont think of what might happen, daughter. Be thankful for what did not. She is your daughter Xena and I cannot think of better hands for her to be in and a better person to raise her than you. I am very proud of you my daughter very proud." Cyrene said holding her chin high in the air as she spoke.
Xena looked at her mother astonished by the words she was hearing. "Youre proud of me?" she asked. Cyrene nodded. "Of course daughter you are my greatest accomplishment."
Xena held her mother not wanting to let go feeling safe in the arms of this woman who now loved her unconditionally.
Cyrene gently closed the door after the sleeping forms of her daughter and granddaughter neatly sleeping in each others embrace.
Gabrielle turned to the older woman, "Both sound asleep?" she asked.
"My daughter is exhausted and the youngster is wide awake I am sure," the older woman said with a chuckle.
The bard smiled as she followed Cyrene back to the kitchen for some tea. The older woman sighed. "Well I guess after all thats happened you three will want to get going as soon as the little one is well."
Gabrielle shook her head and sipped at her tea. "Well actually Cyrene, Xena and I were talking about it and since we have no dragons to slay or warlords to crush at the moment, we thought wed stay a bit longer."
The older woman smiled at the news.
"Xenas birthday is coming up next week, and I think she would much rather spend it here than anywhere else," the bard said with a quick smile.
Cyrene jumped back with excitement. "Child I cannot remember the last time Xena spent her birthday here. We can have a party."
Gabrielles face went blank. "A party? Uh You know Xena shes not big on parties."
Cyrene shrugged. "Oh well well just have a small party."
The bard shook her head knowing better than to try and argue with the warriors mother,
"Ok if you insist. Youre the boss Cyrene."
The older woman nodded. "That I do... and that I am," she said with a wide smile. Soon the two women were lost in gentle laughter as they began planning a warrior birthday bash.
Xena rolled her eyes gently as she stared at the child nuzzled closely at her side. "I know you are not asleep Tarren," she said with a twisted grin.
The youngsters eyes popped open. "Howd you know?" she asked, disappointed that she had been discovered.
The warrior grinned. "I have many skills little one. Besides Im your mother. Havent you learned that you cant hide anything from me?" she teased.
Tarren giggled rolling on her side to face the warrior. "Hmm I guess not. Can I get up now?" she begged.
Xena shook her head. "No, you cant get up now. You have to stay still until I am sure your head wound is healing," she ordered, tucking the little girl safely under her arm.
It had actually been more than a day since the child had been hurt and the warrior felt confident that the wound was healing, but she felt better with the youngster lying safely at her side.
"But I wanna get up!" the child whined.
The warrior held her hand up in the air showing the little girl the small scars again, reminding the child of all they represented.
The youngster groaned and sulking buried her head in her mothers chest, pulling the blankets over her head so as not to be seen. Xena chuckled at the action and slowly peeled the blankets away until she could see her daughters blue eyes looking up at her.
"Tomorrow you can get up and run around and see what kind of trouble you can get into, but right now I want you here with me," the warrior said quietly pulling the child beside her.
Tarren pursed her lips together in a smirk. "Well if you cant live without me," she said with a quick grin.
Xena nodded. "No I cant not for a minute you little monster," the warrior said squeezing the child tightly.
Tarren smiled at her mothers desire for her company, but then quickly became lost in a passing thought. "Momma why did that man want to hurt us?" she asked remembering the large mans fist falling against her face.
Xena s hold tightened on her daughter and she stroked the youngsters wound gently.
"Sometimes people get lost Tarren, and they cant find their way back. His heart was lost in a time long ago, and he was not able to escape the pain and anger of his own failings, so he wanted to hurt other people hoping it would set him free. Do you understand?" she asked slowly.
The youngster shook her head. "Nope, not at all! But it doesnt matter cause you stopped him Momma, and Grandmother did pretty good for an old woman that is."
Xena smiled to herself hearing her daughter refer to Cyrene as Grandmother for the first time. She was sure in time that they would all find a neutral ground on which they could strengthen their bonds as a family.
"Yeah she did pretty well, but I wouldnt let her hear you call her an old woman Tarren," she said with a chuckle.
The child raised her eyebrow and shrugged not sure why the facts would bother the old woman. However having found Xenas words safer to follow than to ignore the child made a mental note. "No calling the old woman an old woman."
Xena lay back and thought about her mother. The woman who had raised her, had taken care of her, had been a mother first and foremost, risked her life in true warrior fashion to save the ones she loved. She smiled realizing for the first time that she had as much to learn about her own mother as Cyrene had to learn about her.
"Momma?" the small voice whispered again.
"Yes Tarren," the warrior said wearily, wishing the child would go to sleep.
"About the pony?" the child whispered softly.
The warrior smiled in the darkness of the room and turned on her side to face the youngster. "Tarren taking care of another living thing is a big responsibility and not one you are old enough or ready for. It is a privilege you have not yet earned little one, so NO PONY!" she said firmly, playfully poking the youngsters side.
The little girl shrugged knowing she would have to find more wisdom and better weapons for this battle to be one. "Momma?" she whispered again and the warrior frowned at the still wide-awake youngster.
"Yes Tarren," she said softly, not wanting the little girl to hear her impatience.
"Which am I a responsibility or a privilege?" the child asked not sure which was better.
The warrior mother smiled broadly as she thought about the question. Xena pulled the youngster into her arms holding her in the air above her. "You my little princess are both!" she said bringing her little girl close to her chest for a gentle hug. "You are definitely both!"
I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please look for the next story in my Tales of Tarren Series calledThe Little Thief of Hearts. Please know that all comments are welcome mad appreciated. I am a very hungry bard, so please feed me. Fantimbard@aol.com
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