The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, and Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles, and back-story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. The story is written only for fun, and no profit is being made. All other characters such as Tarren, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. The story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. The story itself as well as the character created by the author may NOT be duplicated or archived without the authors permission. All works remain the copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the authors consent. This story is a continuation of my first stories called SHE HAS MY EYES, ON THE ROAD AGAIN, NALAS GIFTS, HOME SWEET HOME, and Little Thief of Hearts You really MUST read those stories first. Otherwise you will be lost as to who some of the characters I have created are. This story contains some violence, no subtext, and the use or reference of corporal punishment. I will be putting that statement in all of the Tarren series whether it exists or not in that particular story. Please understand that this does NOT reflect on my personal beliefs or politics. I am just trying to stay true to the characters and culture of that period of history. Feedback is ALWAYS appreciated and I am most grateful to all that have written and will hopefully continue to write me with your thoughts.
Xena Warrior Mother Series Story 6
Legend of the Last Amazon-Part XI
Part 11 .
Chapter 34 The Hunt
Just as the Argonians had disappeared
Gabrielle rode fast through the unfamiliar woods following the wagon tracks just as Tarren had in search of Xena. The young woman did not stop until she came across the group of attacked Amazons that had left on a mission of rescue. Twice in an attempt to find little Tarren and reach Xena the young woman had fallen from her horse but each time quickly remounted and kept going. As she slid from her saddle in a frenzy of fear for the lost child she could not help but notice the battered and bruised bodies of her friends.
Seeing the great warrior standing alone and with her back to the group of fellow soldiers, Gabrielle ran toward her best friend. Her eyes traveled from face to face looking for an answer to the question that all seemed to know she was asking.
Eponons cheeks were moist and she lowered her head at the sight of the new queen.
Gabrielle ignored all others and reached for Xenas arm. Xena wheres Tarren? Wheres Tarren? She came after you and I rode as fast as I could but .
Her words were cut short as the warrior mother turned and all
answers were revealed.
Xena moved slowly and the queen could see that her friends face was a mixture of shock and rage. She held in her hands a small slingshot and the childs still unopened bag of private treasures. They have her. The words were filled with disbelief. They have my child Gabrielle They have my little Tarren.
Gabrielle closed her eyes as she ran her hand gently over the side of the soft satchel that meant so much to the little one. Gods no Xena, not the baby.
The warrior flinched at the sound of the spoken word that identified her child. She wiped a stray tear from her eye before it had a chance to make a public appearance and then with a deep breath and a fire in her blue blazon eyes that warned all to stay back, the mother moved forward.
Xena carefully put her childs belongings inside her armor and walked over to the fallen Argonians on the trail. Letting her eyes close and her ears open to listen carefully to all the sounds around her, the legendary Warrior Princess reached to the ground suddenly and pulled one of the creatures that was still alive to his feet.
The bard stepped back at the horrible sight of this man-like-being that tried to cover its eyes from the blinding light of bare sun.
The warriors face was cold and without mercy. After knocking his protective hands from his eyes, Xena immediately placed her famed pinch on the Argonian and watched as he dropped back to his knees struggling for a single breath of air.
The mothers words were cold and steady and filled with venom
not even Gabrielle had ever heard. She leaned in close to her prisoner. You have 30
seconds to tell me where my little girl was
taken. Ive cut off the flow of blood to
your brain and if I dont release it you will die slow and painfully. Those last words actually
brought a slight smile to the warrior mothers face.
The man tried to hold his throat but the warrior pushed his the extremities away and growled. Talk!
The Argonian nodded and with no effort Xena removed the pinch and pulled the man roughly to his feet. Hurry up and tell me where theyve taken my child, she ordered, ignoring the sights and sounds of all others around her.
For Xena the world had stopped.
The odd creature coughed and covered his eyes once again. He laughed a little at the sight of all the females that surrounded him I will tell you what you ask woman but it will do you no good. My people will catch you before you ever make it there.
Xena placed her fingers around the mans throat and with a squeeze gave him a sample of her great strength. Try me, she seethed.
Again he coughed, nodded his submission and was released. He pointed behind them to a path that led straight through the woods. Follow the trail to the mountain. There are caves that will lead you into the caverns below. It is there that we have taken our new women. Take the one closest to the rising fire in the sky and you will find what you seek and perhaps even die in that very spot.
After hearing those last words spoken, Gabrielle stepped forward. New women? she asked, wondering what purpose these creatures had indeed intended for the Amazons.
The Argonian smiled and licked his hairy lip as he stared at the blond before him. Why yes we need breeders. He sneered at the young womans obvious look of disgust. We were once dwellers of the top as you were woman until that cursed Artemis sent us to the darkness below. He paused and held his chin as high as he could without facing the sun. But we lived. We survived. We came back to get what should have been ours all the long the Amazons and we will not stop until we have every last one of you, he said through tightened lips.
By the gods. Gabrielle could see her large friends muscles tense at the threat. Why did you take the child? the younger woman asked, placing a calming hand on the warriors shoulder.
The man shrugged indifferently. A mistake. A youngster is
of no use to us. She will be killed, he said with not even a hint of emotion or
remorse for who the youngster was or might belong to.
Xena glared at her prisoner.
Youre right it was a very big
mistake. With a sudden flick of her hand and a slide of the edge of her chakrum
the warrior cut the Argonians throat and watched the strange man fall to the ground.
It was a very big mistake, she
growled, placing the still bloody weapon at her side as she turned to depart.
Gabrielle jumped back in horror. Xena! You shouldnt
have done that. We could have gotten
more information out of him. She stared at
the now still body at her feet. And he was not even armed, she yelled wanting to believe that
even a hideous creature such as this deserved more justice than a slit throat.
The warrior mother stopped and turned on her heals. Neither was my little girl . She took a deep calming breath and lowered her voice. Besides Ive heard all I need to hear. She said nothing more but merely walked quietly to her mount pausing for a moment to glance at the body of young Shalia. She closed her eyes in silent prayer before mounting Argo.
The new queen thought of words she might speak in an attempt to stop her warrior friend from making war on an entire race without so much as a thought, but she knew there was nothing that even she could speak to keep this mother from finding her child. As she stared at the warrior seated in the saddle all alone, the bard knew that there was something absent from her friend. There was a piece missing and until the mother found the child that completed her nothing and no one would be safe.
Eponon moved beside Argo and looked up at the great warrior.
The weapons master held the arm that still had a long arrow
protruding from it. Xena wait until I get this tugged out of my shoulder and
Ill ride with you to find Tarren and the others, she said still ready for
There were yells of unison offering the same from all the surrounding Amazons.
Xena lowered her head for a minute and then raised it quickly, her
voice filled with hostility not intended for these people that were her friends. No! I go alone! She took a deep breath and tried to calm her
words, as she looked over the sea of faces willing to offer their lives to save her child. You must protect your people and I must find my daughter. She looked directly at
Gabrielle. That may not be the same path
so we can not share the same road right now my friends.
Gabrielle moved forward suddenly grabbing the reigns hoping to make a last ditch effort at keeping the warrior from going on what she knew would be a bloody path. Xena we can work together to find Tarren and the Amazons both.
The warrior glared at her best friend. Gabrielle I dont want to work together with anyone. I never should have left Tarren. She lowered her eyes and softened her voice. Nala told me that we needed to share the same path and even Tarren knew that. Now I will cut down anything and anyone that stands between my child and me. She looked down the trail. This just became very personal Gabrielle and there is not one god on Olympus that can save the lives of anyone that crosses my path.
The queen stared sadly up at her friend. While she heard the words
of anger she could also feel the pain emanating from the concerned mother. What about little Tarren?
Xena closed her eyes and swallowed hard. Ill find my little girl Gabrielle. I will find her and I will kill the creature that so much as put a scratch on her, she replied, feeling her blood boil at the thought.
The young queen took a step back realizing that there was nothing she could or perhaps should say to stop her friend. And what do we do? she asked motioning to the people around her.
There seemed to be no leader amongst the group now.
Xena looked at the trail she was about to take and then leaned down out of the saddle to speak quietly to her best friend of many summers. Lead your people Gabrielle. Follow your heart and lead your people.
With those words spoken the Warrior Princess kicked her heals into the sides of the Great War horse and headed after her kidnapped child.
Gabrielle stood straight as she watched her friend disappear in a fast gallop down the path that had been chosen. She felt a tear well at the corner of her eye and quickly wiped it away. The bard wanted to go with her friend but knew her presence would just slow Xena down. If the new queen were to aid her friends and her people then it would have to be from another position. Good luck warrior. Find her Xena Dear gods find her fast, she whispered.
Eponon moved slowly beside the young queen and bowed her head
slightly. She too stared after the great
warriors now fading image. When
will she come back? she asked wishing she had been allowed to follow.
The young queen shook her head and closed her eyes. When she finds Tarren alive and well and not ever before.
Gabrielle knew that the warrior mother would not allow this child to ever be without her again even if it meant they would cross to the other side together.
Eponon swallowed hard and took a deep breath. So what do we do now Queen Gabrielle?
The bard pushed her shoulders back and threw out her chest and
turned ready to do what she must. You
Eponon, get back to the village right now and have a healer take care of that arm,
she ordered, observing what must be an extremely painful wound.
The weapons master glanced at her shoulder and shrugged. Its not that bad I can help with .
Gabrielles eyes grew wide. That was not a request. It was an order. Now either mount your horse or Ill have my guards take you back across mine. Move!
Eponon was a bit taken back by her much smaller and usually gentle friends tone but recognized the sound of authority when she heard it. Yes my queen. In an instant she was mounted and headed back toward the village.
Gabrielle nodded approvingly at the action and then looked to the confused faces of the remaining people. She took a deep breath and stared at the Amazons around her that were waiting for guidance and leadership. The bard took one last breath and addressed the group. Ok I want all the wounded back to the village now. She pointed to the bodies of the dead Argonians. Throw them in the back of the wagon. Theyll be of some use to us still. As she watched the Amazons scurry to obey their leader, the bard saw the lone figure of a familiar girl lying on the grass beside the crowd. Oh no Shalia, she said in a near whisper.
In the flurry of everything that had happened the young woman had not even noticed that Shalia had been missing from the group.
The new queen pushed her way through the group to the fallen form of the young girl who had been Tarren and Xenas friend. She dropped to her knees beside the still form and bowed her head. Gods not you too Shalia. Its all so senseless. She ran her hand tenderly over the girls face. I never got to know you as well as Xena and Tarren but I know how very special you were to them and Ephiny. She closed her eyes. Such a gentle soul Why?
An Amazon approached quietly from behind. She was shorter than most and slightly overweight. My queen? she said in a soft tone.
Gabrielle took a deep breath and turned her head slightly to see the unfamiliar face of another young warrior. "Yes."
The Amazon pointed to the dead girl. Shalia died taking an arrow for Xena. She stepped right in front of the Warrior Princess as if she felt her small body was a greater shield than the skills of . Her words trailed off. I thought you might like to know.
shook her head and closed her eyes at the thought of the unnecessary sacrifice this mere
child had made. Yes. Thank you for
telling me. What is your name?
The Amazon stood proudly. I am Rellona. Shalia was my best friend. We worked with the horses together sometimes. She lowered her eyes. I remember how proud she was when you asked her to be Xenas attendant. The short and stout young girl looked at her now dead friend. She was more special than anyone here ever knew. She had gifts from the gods but no one could see them because Shalia could not wield a blade. If not for Queen Ephiny . She paused and lowered her head. Shalia loved her very much.
Gabrielle listened to the heart felt words and tried with all her inner strength to keep her own emotions in check. She reached over and placed a hand on Rellonas wrist and nodded. They will know now. Everyone will know how special Shalia was. I promise you that. The words were filled with a new conviction.
It was becoming more and more obvious to the new queen that in this society of warriors there was a second class of those that were not born with the skills or the desire to fight or kill. This was something she vowed to change as she watched Rellona walk away.
Gabrielle took one last look at the form of the gentle girl at her feet and called to the nearest Amazon. Get my horse and put Shalia on it. I will take her back to the village myself.
warrior looked oddly at her new queen. But my queen we can just throw her in the
wagon with the Argonians and you need not be
The words cut though the bards heart like a knife. No! Shalia will not be just tossed in with that trash. She glared at the Amazon Warrior. Do as I say and dont ever question me again, she said with a new force that all understood. She brought her staff closer to her body as if to let all no she was prepared to accept any challenges to her authority in true Amazon fashion
The Amazon warrior bowed her head and quickly ran to get her queens horse.
The bard let out a breath and turned looking down the now empty trail that Xena had followed. You were right Xena. This is war and there is no place for my softness on the battleground so Ill just have to put it aside until this is over. She lowered her head. Please find Tarren and come back to me soon. I cant make it without my family. With those final words spoken the bard disappeared from sight and Gabrielle, queen of the Amazons stepped forward to take her place as leader.
Meanwhile in a very dark place far away
The large metal door swung open and the Argonian guard tossed a small child onto the wet floor with a thud. This type of action had been the standard for a while now.
The key turning in the tumblers would be heard and then the entrance to some outside world would be exposed long enough to drop another captive in the hand made prison below the earth.
As soon as the door had slammed shut once again the Amazon prisoners quickly surrounded the unfamiliar child.
One Amazon of the southern
tribes stared at the soft cheeks of the unconscious little girl. Why shes just
a little one
a baby. She placed her
hand on the youngsters forehead. It was hot and sweaty. Shes sick.
An Amazon from the eastern tribes moved a bit closer. Perhaps its contagious. Maybe those creatures threw her in here to see who among us would get sick as a way to separate the weak. We should kill her. There was a soft murmuring of agreement around the young woman, so she searched for a large rock to execute her words.
This cavern turned into a cell was dark. Only the light from a small caged fire in the center of the wet floor offered the Amazons any vision or warmth at all.
There was a brief silence and then the dripping sound of the water that ran along the heavy dirt walls was all that could be heard.
A tall and muscular figure stepped quickly out of the shadows. Her face was covered with dried blood from a day old battle but her voice was regal and full of force. Whoever touches that youngster dies at my hand, she growled.
Hearing this threat made all the Amazons back to one side and stare at the figure that had just approached them.
This woman had proven herself a worthy opponent to any that had dared to challenge her. There were none left stupid enough to make that mistake again.
The crowd parted and the queen stepped forward.
Ephiny stood protectively in front of little Tarren ready to fight any that would dare to touch her very young and obviously sick little friend.
There was not one who approached.
leaned down and cradled the sick child in her arms.
Tarren can you hear me? she asked as softly as she could.
The little girls eyes flickered open and she tried to focus in the dim shadows on the woman now holding her. Mommy?
Ephiny grinned and closed her eyes grateful the youngster was alive. No Junior Its me. Its Ephiny, she replied.
Hearing that her mother was not the person whose arms she was in sent the very sick child into a fit of panic Eph iny. I want Momma. Where are my Mommy and Gabby?
The Amazon held the child tight making sure the little one was not injured by her own small flailing limbs. Shellopa get me a piece of cloth and run it under that damn drip, she ordered. Finally that damn dripping sound will have some use, she yelled.
Shellopa nodded wondering if her queen could even see the gesture in the shadows of their prison but the Amazon warrior obediently ripped a piece of cloth from her own skirt and placed it below the water running down the wall and raced back to her queen. Here Ephiny, she said handing the cloth to her friend and leader.
Ephiny ran the cold rag over the little girls head.
Shh Im gonna take care of you until your Momma comes. Ok? The
queen bit her lip as she realized just how bad things must be back at her village if the
child of the Warrior Princess had been taken captive.
Tarren clung to her friends arm as she felt the cold shivers run down her small body. The room was damp and wet. Ephiny I want Momma. Please get my Mommy, she begged. I dont wanna play Warrior Princess right now.
glanced at Shellopa who took a deep breath at the pleading words of this small child. She turned back to the little girl. I know
I wish I could get her but I can't. Im sorry. Ephiny could feel
her insides melt as she spoke the words. She
was not accustomed to feeling so helpless.
child ignored the statement and continued to fidget in the queens arms. Momma
needs me ya know? She looked directly at her friend.
Ephiny nodded in complete understanding. Yeah I know she does Junior.
The little girl coughed and Ephiny pulled the youngster as close as she could to offer some warmth. When the hacking fit passed the small child had a look of peace and understanding for a brief moment.
It was as if
some great secret had been revealed to her in that one moment. She smiled and reached a hand out to touch
her friends cheek. Mommas lookin awful hard for me and shes gonna
be real mad at me when she gets here. She thought of her mothers words on the
trail when the warrior had seen that her young daughter had followed. The childs
smile quickly faded. Im gonna get the really
big one for sure.
Ephiny forced a smile as she continued to wipe the childs forehead with the cloth. Why is that youngster? What did you do now? she asked hoping to keep the little one occupied with conversation.
Tarren coughed a bit and took a deep breath. Momma left without me, Im her army ya know so I sorta followed after her cause she needs me. She paused and lowered her eyes. I was bad and Momma was real mad. Im tellin ya Ephiny its gonna be the really big one. Tears streamed down the little girls cheeks. But but I dont care I just want Momma to come and take care of me. I just want my Momma.
Shh Junior...Its Ok. Ephiny lifted the little girl into her arms and carried the small child back toward the wall. Its Ok youngster. Youre Momma will come soon. Believe me if I know her shell be knocking down that door at any time now. She bit her lip. If she can find it fast enough, she mumbled feeling the unnatural shivers crawling down the little girls body.
The queen knew that the youngster was already plagued with fever and if left unattended in these conditions would surely die. Ephiny was not going to let that happen. She placed the little girl on a small boulder to keep her off the cold and wet floor. Solari!
The Amazon warrior immediately stepped forward. Yes my queen.
The queen ripped off part of her own skirt and removed her wrist cuffs and placed them on top of the childs chest. She then faced her warrior. Gather as many pieces of spare cloth as possible. We need to keep Tarren as warm as we can until Xena and the others get here.
The word, the name, sent a wave of murmurs through the prisoners on the other side of the cavern.
The familiar Amazon from the eastern tribe stepped forward. That is Xenas child? she asked with a hard swallow pointing to the sick youngster.
Solari immediately stepped protectively in front of her queen and the small child immediately followed by Sheloppa and every other member of Ephinys tribe including an instructor named Gruella.
Ephiny ran her hand along the little ones face and then stepped through her warriors wall to face the strange young Amazon. Thats right. Do you have a problem with that? she asked, ready to solve any and all problems right then and there.
The young Amazon of the east remembered the great warrior from their short battle on the trail near the Amazon village. She thought of Tyrell, and how both this queen and the Warrior Princess had spared her friend even after the attempted assassination.
The young Amazon of the east shook her head and ripped some of the skins from her own body and offered them forward. No I have no problem with that at all. She turned her head to the Amazons that had been standing with her. Eastern tribe, give what you can, she ordered, before again turning to face Ephiny, bowing her head and returning again to her own people.
The queen stared at the cloth in her hand and grinned. Thank you, she said to the group before returning to the sick child shivering in the back of the cave.
Ephiny piled cloth upon cloth until she had formed some semblance of a blanket to keep the little girl warm. She settled herself beside the child offering her own body as an additional source of heat. Without so much as an order Shellopa and Solari moved to the to the other side of the youngster to do the same with their own bodies.
Gruella kept a watchful eye on the foreign tribes sure that one would make some kind of attack.
The queen smiled at the actions of her people and cradled the little girl close to her.
opened her eyes and stared up at her friend. I want Mommy. She really needs me. Wheres Gabby? Tell me a story Gabby
dont wanna bath
Sorry about the sword Momma. The youngster was delirious
from fever and shock. Ephiny
youll keep your promise about the
Momma needs that
I promised Nala
Gabby Im hot. Lets jump in the mud.
The queen wiped a few stray hairs from the childs sweaty brow and nodded. Shh Junior, Ill take care of my promise and you and Gabrielle and your Momma will all enjoy Nalas present. She forced a smile at the happy thought. Then you can show them your pretty picture Right?
Tarren nodded and felt a wave of air pass through her lungs like a hurricane.
The queen held her tightly in place and the youngster soon calmed.
The childs face turned red and she gripped the arm of her protector with all her might. Gabby was real hurt I didnt show it to her. Youll tell her I wanted to right? And youll tell my Momma Im sorry I broke her sword. I miss her. Shes gonna be real mad the big one Wheres my Mommy? The child sputtered bit and pieces of thought strung together as sentences that only made sense to her.
There was a respectful silence in the crowd of Amazons as the small child spoke in faint whispers.
Somewhere across a dark cave mixed only with shadows Ephiny knew there was a group of Amazons feeling the pain of this little girls words. She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer to Artemis to watch over this child.
The queen again looked at the face of the youngster. Shh you know your Momma will come and boy is she gonna be mad at you for getting so dirty. You really are gonna get the big one I bet, she said with a slight smile. Ephiny felt sure that any distraction was a good one.
The child nodded in agreement. Thats what Momma said and so did Shalia . Tarrens words trailed off and her face again filled with tears. Shalias gone too ya know. Those bad people took away Shalia forever...like Nala and Uncle Lyceus.
Ephiny swallowed hard at the words and pulled the little girl close enough to see the expression on the childs face. Tarren what are you saying? What happened to my Shalia? she asked nearly choking on the words.
The youngster coughed and closed her eyes as she tried to clear her mind. Momma was fighting the bad men and she was really kickin butt. She paused realizing she had said the forbidden words. Shalia wanted to come find you and we were hiding. I yelled for Momma to get out of the way and Shalia jumped out and then the arrow They hurt Shalia. They took my friend away and she never hurt nobody.
The queen looked straight ahead as she pressed the sobbing little girl closer to her chest. Shalias...gone, she whispered though a cracking voice.
Ephiny could feel the comforting hands of her friends reaching out to touch her but she shook them away. Now was not the time to mourn or question. She was the queen and she had a sick child and a cave full of Amazons to look after. No not now my friends, she whispered, placing a gentle kiss on the little girls head. Not now.
Tarren shivered at the mere thought of seeing her friend fall from the arrow. Mommys hurting lots. I can feel it inside. Shes coming for me but shes real scared. I gotta go find her. The youngster tried to rise only to be immediately pulled down by the grieving but still stoic queen.
Ephiny placed a firm arm around the little girl. No Tarren. Youre mother would want you to wait right here for her and do what I tell you to do until she got here. If I were in as much trouble with my Momma as you already are with yours, I wouldnt want to make it any worse, she said, hoping the youngster would here the command in her voice instead of feeling the tears that were now falling down the side of her own face.
The small child thought of her mothers words about following ones gut. She knew Ephiny was a person they both trusted so the youngster eased back against her friends chest. Ok Ill be good but Ive never been without Momma or Gabby that long since Momma found me in Rasa, she said with a muffled sob.
The queen brought her own legs closer to her chest to further cradle the child. Well Ill tell you what Until your Momma gets here you can have me Ill be your Aunt Ephiny.
The frightened child let her small hand move around the darkness until she found her friends face. She could feel the wet tears on the womans cheeks. Youll be my Aunt Ephiny? she asked in disbelief.
looked at Solari and then Shellopa expecting to see a slight smirk at the new title. Instead what she found was a wealth of compassion
and support in the eyes of her friends. She looked back at the youngster and grinned.
Yeah well your Momma and Gabrielle are like my sisters so I guess that makes me sort
of like your aunt
if you want.
The youngster cleared her mind and thought for a moment. I dont have any aunts I have a Grandma a Gabby My Mommy You really wanna be my aunt? the child asked, not sure why she was always treated so well by the person whos village she had nearly broken.
Ephiny closed her eyes and swallowed hard trying to put the thoughts of Shalia out of her mind. Sure Junior Id be honored, she stated proudly.
Again the child coughed but immediately calmed as she saw in her mind a vision of Argo with the Warrior Princess sitting straight in the saddle with the wind blowing through her hair as she rode closer. Momma! I feel her. I see Momma. She arched her back a little and tried to reach out a hand to touch the image in her mind but it faded too quickly.
The youngster bit her lip and again touched the face of her friend. I couldnt reach her, she said sadly looking up at the compassionate expression of the queen. Ok you can be my Aunt Eph, but when Momma comes I gotta go cause she really needs me. Shes real worried about me ya know.
The queen nodded and looked from one Amazon to the next as she addressed the child in her arms. I know youngster and I promise you will be with her again very soon. She smiled. If I know your Momma shes tearing up half the trees in the forest looking for you. Nothing is going to keep her from finding you Junior.
first time the child grinned. Momma doesnt like it when people hurt me Aunt
Eph. She coughed. And that big hairy thing grabbed me and he wouldnt let
me go. I tried to vault away but I
couldnt. I couldnt even kick him
real good, so I called for Momma but he just jumped in a real deep hole and then it was so
dark I couldnt even see nothin.
The anxious queen listened as she heard the tale of an ordeal similar to her own. I know Tarren. Shh its Ok. I promise we are going to get out of here. Im going to take you to your Momma myself, she stated firmly.
The little girl felt the shivers run through her body once again and she clung to her friend for warmth. How Aunt Eph? How are we gonna get out of here without Mommas help?
That was a
very good question.
Back at the village
Gabrielle rode quietly with the Amazons in a straight line behind her as they entered the village compound.
There was no reason to consider a rescue mission now that the Argonians knew of the one failed attempt to get close to the caves with a small group. The surprise aspect was gone so no small party would be able to penetrate whatever forces these creatures had in store for any future invaders. Besides Xena was on the path toward the enemy at that was not something even the Amazons dare interfere in.
This meant war and Gabrielle knew it.
The new Amazon queen smiled a bit knowing her warrior friend would surely clear a worthy path for them to follow when all the tribes had assembled.
Gabrielle lowered her eyes and looked at the group of half-beaten warriors that rode behind her. Even this small victory meant little to them in the face of failing to rescue their queen and the loss of little Tarren and the death of young Shalia. Where was the real victory?
The young queen closed her eyes and took a deep breath when she saw the approaching tribe of Amazons heading her way. Follow your heart and lead your people, she whispered, repeating her warrior friends words of advice. She turned in her saddle and saw the weapons master approaching with her arm in a sling. Eponon you should be resting, she said sternly.
weapons master lowered her head a bit. Its really not that bad
Gabrielle dismounted noting the ride back had not been nearly as painful on her seat as the fast ride with many falls had been. That was an order weapons master or do you still make it a habit of questioning the orders of your queen? she asked quietly.
a step back and bowed her head. No my
Good then go. She paused and glanced at the body of a young Amazon draped over her saddle. Her voice softened a bit as she called to her friend. Eponon?
The weapons master stopped and turned. Yes my Queen.
tone became gentle and for a moment the bard returned. Please have someone see that
Shalia is laid out in the royal mourning hut.
There was soft murmur over the crowd of gathering Amazons in the center of the compound.
That place was reserved for royalty only and Gabrielle knew it.
The new queen placed her hand in the air and addressed the crowd. Shalia was a member of Ephinys house and saved the life of Xena. She shook her head as she looked at the faces of each warrior. And gods know how many other good things she did when you werent looking at her simply because she could not swing a sword. She raised her chin. I do not swing a sword but I am your queen and I will fight anyone who dares to challenge my word. Shalia will be placed in the royal mourning cottage and when all our people have safely returned home we shall honor this great warriors memory. The words were filled with a new authority that did not ask for respect but instead demanded it.
None spoke again.
Eponon grinned a bit and motioned two of her warriors toward the body. You heard the queen. Take Shalia to the royal mourning hut and be gentle with her. If I see one of her feathers out of place so help me Ill pluck you both clean, she yelled. Even with only one good arm the muscular woman was still quite intimidating.
The two warriors gently lifted the young Amazon off the horse and carried her to the cottage that had once been meant only for the leaders of the tribe.
Young Rellona bowed to her queen respectively. Thank you.
Gabrielle smiled at the stout girl and then watched her disappear in the crowd of Amazons lost again in the faceless nation.
The young queen sighed hoping there would be no more need of that hut. She took a deep breath and thought of Xena and of little Tarren. It was all she could do to keep her tears from falling as she spoke reassuring words to herself. Xena will be fine and she will find Tarren. They will both be fine, she whispered. You must do as Xena said and be a leader. Follow your heart Gabrielle, she thought, staring out over the waiting faces of the tribe. She took another deep breath and again held her head high as she spoke. The rescue mission failed. Xenas group was attacked before they got near the caves.
another murmur over the crowd and again Gabrielle held up her hand to silence the people.
The good news is that Xenas invention worked long enough to
paused as she thought about the words that were about toe leave her lips. To kill
some of the Argonians.
There was a loud cheer for which the bard was sorry.
The new queen raised her hands in the air one final time and there was again immediate silence. As you can see we lost one of our warriors in the fight, she said motioning to the lifeless body of a young girl now being carried to the royal hut. And...and the Argonians took little Tarren as well. She felt her own heart sink at the mere saying of the words.
The bard in Gabrielle wanted to rush to a horse and trail after Xena in an attempt to help find this small child that now filled such a large part of her own heart. However the person she needed to be, the queen, knew she would be of no use to the great warrior as a mere sidekick. Gabrielle needed to offer a different and more formidable support for her people and for Tarren.
The crowds voices soon went from soft murmurs to angry cries.
Amazons reached for the reigns of their horses eager to fight alongside Xena in an attempt to get this small child back.
Gabrielle had to smile. Somehow this mischievous little moppet that was always getting in trouble of one kind or another had managed to win the hearts of an entire Amazon tribe.
The new queen took a deep breath knowing she had to put a stop to the chaos before it went any further. She stepped up onto a familiar stump that Ephiny had used when she first returned to her people. Hear me all of you. There was quiet. I would like nothing better than to ride out and help Xena bring Tarren and everyone else home. However she has asked no demanded that she be left alone in her rescue of her daughter. She swallowed hard. And that is how it shall be. Xena must put all her efforts into finding her little girl and we must put our efforts into finding everyone. She nodded. Trust me. When the moment of truth comes we will be there to help Ephiny and Tarren and all the people that these evil creatures have taken.
The crowds came together as a group. They did not yell. They did not cheer but instead they knelt in front of their leader ready to do as she commanded.
Gabrielle closed her eyes wondering how she had gotten in so far over her head. In what was little more than a week she had gone from a princess bard to queen of the Amazons.
The new queen was in need of a plan. She thought of stories she had heard and retold where Xena had lead a small but mighty army from all sides and straight into the middle of the enemy knowing they would never expect such a brash maneuver.
Gabrielle nodded knowing that was exactly the type of approach they needed to use now with the Argonians. Finally in telling all those stories of Xenas exploits the bard herself had learned something that would perhaps help these people.
The young woman looked at the heads bowed before her and smiled wishing her warrior friend was here to see this. Thank you all for your support. Please get up. This is not a time for bowing to one another. It is a time for joining together as one people and fighting the common enemy. Please go to your homes and ready your children to depart. I will be sending all the children to the centaur village immediately.
The tribe quietly broke up and quickly went about their duties of following their new queens orders.
Gabrielle took a deep breath. Ok that went well, she murmured. Next. She scanned the village compound until she spotted queens Penela and Mussona. Ok now for the tough part, she thought as she walked eagerly to the spot they were both waiting.
There was a new air of dignity and strength about this young bard turned queen.
nodded to each of the queens but spoke to Mussona first. How long before your people
arrive? she asked, wanting to gather as many Amazons together as possible before
approaching the Argonians again.
A half a day maybe less? Mussona replied.
sighed heavily and looked to the other queen hoping for better news. And
Penela threw her arms in the air. Maybe the same. She looked passed the young queen at the bodies of the dead Argonians Gabrielle had ordered brought back. Artemis be saved. So they really are here with us the legend is true and the creatures of our darkest days have returned, Penela said in a voice mixed with fear and horror. There was distinct shiver in the old womans voice.
let out a quick breath and glanced back at the bodies of the men who had fallen victim to
Xenas great strategy and strength. There here alright and theyre coming closer but
were not going to wait for them to get this far. She looked at both queens
again and allowed her voice to become firm. I know you dont have any faith in
me and thats Ok. Im not quite
sure how much I have in myself, she admitted. She stood as straight as she could and
locked eyes with Penela deciding the older queen was more of an adversary than Mussona.
But I am the queen of these people and I
will protect them with my life and I will lead them. She paused and swallowed.
I know you both would have followed Ephiny or Xena but I cant force you to
follow me. I can only hope you will.
Penela looked at Mussona and then both studied the young woman. Just what did you have in mind child? Penela asked at least willing to listen to a plan.
Gabrielle nodded and motioned toward the cottage that Xena had made into a generals office. Come with me and Ill show you.
Xena blinked her eyes in attempt to remain focused on her most important task, finding Tarren.
It was a great effort to hold back the overwhelming pain and fear for her child. However the great warrior knew that if she was to save her young daughter she needed to be the Warrior Princess that lived in the minds of others. She kept her eyes trained as she rode slowly along the narrow trail glancing at the tall trees on either side of the dark path. There was only the sound of birds chirping and a gentle breeze blowing through the cool day.
The warrior mother kept her senses on all the sounds and sights around her as she made a steady line toward the place she knew her daughter was being held. With a deep breath she tossed her cape behind her shoulder and patted the side of Argos mane. Its gonna be cold tonight and Ill bet that kid isnt even wearing the heavy tunic like I told her too, she mumbled as a stray tear ran down her cheek. She glanced down at her faithful mount. Can you believe she followed after me when I told her to stay behind. She never listens to a damn thing I say Argo. Tarren just goes along and does like she pleases as if nothing I say means anything.
The horse whinnied in agreement.
Xena kept moving still studying her surroundings and conversing with her horse. Well ya know Argo that all stops right now. Im tired of her never doing what shes told. When I find her shes gonna get a spanking that will keep her on her feet for a month. Shell not disobey me again like that. That is an oath to the gods themselves, she said, her face filled with angst. The mother gave a gentle tug on the reigns. When I find her . The parental anger suddenly turned to a cracking voice of fear. Gods Argo, Ive got to find her. Shes my baby. I cant make it without her Im her mother and she needs me. The warrior stopped and stared up at the sky closing her eyes for a second. Help me please, she said to whatever force would guide her to her small child.
The moment was interrupted by a cracking in the trees just to the right of the trail.
Xena did not even turn her head but merely clenched her teeth and with a loud growl tossed her chakrum in that direction.
The round weapon sliced through the air marking its targets with bloody memories that would not last longer than the final breath of the victims.
three Argonian spies fall to the ground the warrior effortlessly caught her weapon and
continued on her way. She sniffled a bit as
she tried to continue her conversation. So
Argo where were we before those bastards interrupted us?
Oh yeah finding Tarren
Im her mother you know. Me Argo? Me!
The words were spoken as if for the first time.
Xena smiled a bit at the title she had come to love as much as the child who used it. I swear there are times I could just paddle that kids little behind all day for the way she gets in trouble. Her voice became soft and low. And then there are other times when she looks at me with that innocent stare of wonder and her little mischievous glint. She patted the horse. You know what I mean girl?
The horse again whinnied.
The warrior nodded. Yeah I knew you did. At those times I just want to hold her and never let go. She can be a handful but I wouldnt have her any other way. Xena gave the reigns a yank and ran her fingers over her eyes to dry them.
The warrior mother addressed the child she knew was absent in body but hoped could hear her words anyway. Damn it Tarren why didnt you stay behind like I told you? she yelled to the prying eyes that filled the forest. She shook her head as if trying to regain control of her thoughts and her voice softened as she heard the answer she knew the little girl would give echo in her thoughts. I know its because you love me and you want to be with me. Not good enough. You have to learn that you cant...always be with me.
Xena took a deep breath and reached into her armor pulling out a drawing the child had given her days earlier.
The mother stared at the childs portrait of a warrior with a sword of fire and the little girl with slingshot in hand being held tightly in the warrior mothers arms. She smiled as a tear raced down her cheek. Argo girl I cant worry about what she did wrong now. I just have to get my baby girl back and fast.
Xena thought of how ill the child was and looked again up at the sky. I dont know who of you, if any, watch over little kids, but I am asking, no begging, you to watch over Tarren. Dont let the fact that shes my daughter change how you see things. Shes a good little girl and if you give her back to me I promise that Ill do anything.
The Warrior Princess waited for a minute sure Ares would appear to try and make some deal with her but much to her surprise there was nothing.
face turned cold as she thought of the arrogant gods of Olympus. Fine then
Ill get my child back myself
just dont get in my way.
With those final words spoken she kicked her heals into Argos side and started down the trail at a faster pace more determined than ever to rescue her child alone.
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