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 author’s 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, NALA’S 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 XII
Artemis raised her hand in the air and all the Argonians both living and dead along with any trace of their existence disappeared leaving only a field filled with one nation of cheering Amazons and a very confused queen.
Chapter – 36 – Temporary losses
On the field…
Ephiny stared at the proud form of the goddess who she had since birth prayed in the name of. The weary queen’s eyes grew dim as she realized for the first time that the entire battle fought with the Argonians was something that had been orchestrated by Artemis herself starting with the disappearance of the very first Amazon. Ephiny shook her head as she stared blankly at the goddess. “You set all of this up?” she asked trying her hardest to hide her anger and indignation for the stoic figure that now stood before her.
Artemis glanced around at the field that was now littered with a mixture of cheering Amazons from her many tribes their hoops and hollers tied to together in a chorus that for once sang as a singular voice of unity. Suddenly with no more than a quick wave of her hand she froze each figure where they stood. Arms held in warrior salutation were locked in time’s dominion. Smiles and tears were solidified like sculptures taken from the great halls of Athens. She motioned her hand to a small group of Amazons. Each of the three figures was from a different tribe and yet their arms and their thoughts were joined together as one victorious group. “Look around you Ephiny and see what has happened on this great day. This battle has brought our people together again,” the goddess replied her chin lifted and her shoulders straight.
The queen stared at the now stone like figures of her own warriors mixed with those of the other tribes and shook her head. Her usually steady voice became shaky and low. “You thought that a war was the only thing that could bring my people together again? We were already talking of peace. Why did you have to interfere?” she asked in the most pleading of tones hoping for some clarification that would balance her world again.
There was none.
The goddess stared at this Amazon queen bewildered by the Ephiny’s sudden lack of taste for a good fight. Her eyes closed so that only the small wrinkles of her brow demonstrated her confusion. “So then Ephiny you think words would have brought your people together as one nation again?” she asked with a sad little laugh.
Ephiny looked again at the motionless figures of her friends some still caught with a sword held high while others were left in a mid-air jump of excitement at an obvious victory. She let out a long breath and again faced the goddess. “I don’t know much about the power of words…but I’m learning.” Her face became stiff and her jaw tightened. “But we deserved the chance to try. We’re not animals or play things Artemis.” She paused and smiled just a bit as she thought of the bard’s reaction at hearing this tirade of ‘wisdom.’ A long breath was taken and exhaled. “We are people and as a friend of mine says ‘fighting should be a last resort.’”
tilted her head to one side and smiled at the Amazon that now stood proudly
before her. “You have changed
Ephiny. You are not the same
angry young warrior I once knew. You
have opened your mind and your heart to new ideas.
That will be a great gift to your people in this time of growth,” she
said with a nod.
Ephiny turned away and looked again to the field of still frozen Amazons. Her eyes dropped to the bodies of the fallen now lying lifeless in the tall grass of this unnamed battlefield. She did not turn again but merely spoke with the pain of each lost friend dripping from each word. “And what of those that died? Who decides how high a price we pay for this unification?” She closed her eyes and thought of Shalia and little Tarren and all the others that had suffered or died as a result of this god made war. “As far as I can tell we have already paid too high a price,” she said in a near whisper tossing her heavy blade to the ground with a thud and swallowing hard. “Artemis please let my people go. We are mortals and as such we have wounds to tend, tears to shed and….” She again swallowed hard. “Dead to honor.”
The goddess of the Amazons again tilted her head to one side and stared at the queen’s slender form. Her words were low and seemed filled with a strange regret. “It was only my wish to rewrite the wrong of so long ago. Sometimes Ephiny, the price of the future is a heavy one but we have no choice but to pay it if we are to go on.” With the wave of a godly hand the Amazon people were once again animated and the air rejuvenated with shrills of a battle just one. “Think of this moment Ephiny. Yesterday is just a memory. For you tomorrow is still a mystery but today is a gift from the gods…that my queen is why it is called the present.”
Ephiny turned to address her goddess once more but it was too late. Artemis had already vanished.
The queen took a deep breath and lifted her eyes to the sky. After a slight pause she moved slowly into the center of the cheering crowd to see just how many friends she would have to honor on this “great day.”
As she moved through the fields the Ephiny was met with hardy slaps on the back and words of congratulations. However the Amazon queen’s steps came to a fast halt and her eyes narrowed as she fell to her knees beside the familiar body of another fallen Amazon lying just beside a large puddle of blood. Ephiny closed her eyes and let the tips of her fingers touch the fatal spill of life. She shook her head and held the red stained hand up in the air for all to see.
The cheers of victory stopped and this field of glory soon became so silent that not even the birds dared to sing.
Ephiny felt the air draining through her nostrils as she gripped the lifeless arm of the fallen warrior and held it tightly pressed against her own. “No Artemis the price of tomorrow should not be paid with today,” she whispered as she stared at the body of an old and respected queen lying on the ground with a fatal arrow positioned in her heart. “ Penella!”
Meanwhile back at the village…
In the silence of the vacant village the only sounds that could be heard were three heartbeats of life and the prayers of hope echoing so loudly through a mother’s mind that the very trees themselves seemed to drop the leaves from their branches as an offering of faith.
Xena made her way quickly to the royal cottage. Once inside she immediately placed the now unconscious child on the largest pallet pausing only long enough to wipe the beaded sweat from little Tarren’s face with the palm of her hand as she gently lowered the child to the sheets. “Come on Monster. Everything’s going to be just fine now that I have you. Momma’s going to make you all better,” she whispered kissing the unconscious youngster tenderly on the cheek.
With a quick breath and a hard swallow she looked back at the bard who was still standing in the doorway as if afraid to re-enter the sanctuary of this peaceful world she had left behind only hours earlier. “Gabrielle please get some cool water and cloths. I want to try and bring her fever down,” the warrior said trying to control the concern in her voice.
It had been a long and quiet ride back to the village and these were actually the first words the young woman had heard her warrior friend speak since they had left the battle area, the place that had taken something from both of them that might never be returned.
Each was fighting separate demons this day but each was first and foremost thinking of little Tarren.
The bard stared for a moment at the now still youngster and then her warrior friend and nodded. “Sure…I’ll get that.” Her thoughts were lost in the silence of the now vacant village and the sight of a little girl she loved that she knew might die. Gabrielle swallowed hard and closed her eyes trying to find a happy and peaceful place inside her that would allow a ray of hope into the blackness that was enveloping her thoughts. She could not. “I’ll ….run over to the healer’s hut and get some mixtures for poultice too,” she said quietly running her hand through the lost strands of blond hair that sat on her shoulder.
“Yeah that will be good.” The warrior turned and offered her friend a weak smile. “Thanks.” That one word seemed to speak volumes between these two comrades in life.
Gabrielle nodded and slowly turned but paused as if caught by a singular thought that would not let her move any further. “Xena she’ll make it won’t she?” she asked more bluntly than she had intended, her eyes focused on the outside world but her heart never leaving the confines of the hut.
The warrior mother ran her hands down the side of her child’s face letting only the tips of her fingers trace the outline of the little girls cherub like expression. “Of course she will. She has my recuperative powers right?” she replied with a forced smile and a voice that was trying to exude a faith that was not all that sure she had.
The bard nodded and quickly blinked her eyes allowing only one tear to fall. “Yeah she sure does. She’s just as stubborn as you are. Tarren wouldn’t dare leave us like….” She paused choking on the last words.
Xena closed her eyes and a tear ran down her cheek. She cleared her throat as she forced her words out in a steady thought. “Hey how about those cloths and things? You know how Tarren hates a bath so we better get her clean before she wakes up and makes a fuss about it,” the warrior mother said with a cracking voice as she tried to get a hold of her quickly crumbling emotions.
Gabrielle knew her friend needed a moment alone to gather that special strength and find control. She took a deep breath and then glanced one more time at the small child lying on the pallet. “Ok… I’ll be right back,” the young woman replied as she exited the cottage.
The door swung shut leaving the mother alone with her young daughter for the first time. Xena let the air drain from her lungs as she knelt beside the bed caressing her child’s face with the tip of her fingers. “It’s Ok Monster. Momma’s right here and everything is going to be just fine now,” she whispered placing a tender kiss on the child’s forehead. “I’m right here with you baby and we’re going to make you all better now…I promise.”
Xena reached under the pillow and was not surprised to find the thin vile Shalia had said would be there. But the warrior was quick to notice that the ornate silver top was positioned on an angle allowing all the precious liquid that had been inside to spill out onto the sheet beneath the child’s pillow.
The mother stared at the now empty vile in her hand for a long moment as if trying to imagine how it might have looked full. “No…N0,” she whispered in disbelief. Gently moving the youngster to one side she ran her hands over the medicine stained sheet and again stared at the cylindrical container. “Just two drops is all we need and two drops we’re going to get,” she said in a frantic and desperate voice.
Xena grabbed a mug of water and submerged the apparently empty vile in the liquid. If there were so much as a half of a drop of medicine left in the tube it would surely remain in that water. She then pulled out her boot knife and cut away the pieces of medicine stained sheet smelling the dark spots trying to allow her senses to register as many familiar odors as possible in case she needed to attempt to copy the remedy.
Carefully the warrior dipped each tattered bit of cloth into the mug dunking drenching and squeezing each fabric to make sure that every drop of medicine was either soaked or scraped into the mug. “Just two drops is all we need,” she repeated desperately as if chanting the words in a prayer. When the warrior was confident that no more of the magical medicinal remnants could be saved she again allowed her nostrils to take one more instructive whiff of the mixture so her acute senses could register that there was nothing dangerous in the concoction.
With a withering smile the mother lifted the youngster’s head coddling her close to her chest. “Come on baby take a drink,” she said gently, hoping the little girl’s eyes would just pop open and the child would fight the consumption of the liquid.
did not move.
Xena was not sure if the medicine gathered was enough or even if she should trust the word of the strange Amazon who had offered it. However, she was sure that Tarren was sick enough to die and that this Shalia had somehow helped the warrior’s child once before with the same mixture of medicine.
The warrior cradled her daughter’s head up to her broad shoulder allowing the youngster to lean in close to a place Xena knew the little girl felt most protected.
just the tips of two fingers the warrior opened the youngster’s mouth slowly
forcing the liquid down the little one’s throat eliciting gags and coughs
from the body but no cry from the child.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered hugging the small form closer to her
allowing her cheek to drop to the youngster’s head as she held her in a
protective maternal embrace. “I know that was pretty bad but I had to get it
down. I’m sorry…I’m really
sorry,” she said tossing the now empty mug to the floor and drying the child’s
face with a torn piece of cloth. The words spoken seemed to apologize for not
just the forced medicine. Xena’s words and expression were filled with an
absent mother’s guilt and love for her sick child.
Tears filled the warrior mother’s face as she stared at her youngster still lying limp in her arms. “I shouldn’t have left you Tarren. I’ll never leave you behind like that again. You have my word,” she said stiffly as if making it a vow to any and all that could hear it. “I’m your mother. I should have known you’d follow.” She lowered her head to her arm and kissed the child’s cheek lovingly. “I should have known.”
Xena continued to caress the youngster’s face with her fingers as if trying to draw a map in the soft skin that would allow her young daughter to find her way back to her mother’s arms. She held the small hand clasped tightly in her own as she waited to hear a squeaky little response or some complaint about the awful taste of the medicine but there was nothing but the sound of a mother’s regret.
Xena took a deep breath, closed her eyes and buried her face in the only slightly exhaling chest of her little girl and in what she believed to be the privacy of a vacant cottage the Warrior Princess allowed her tears to fall.
Meanwhile at the healers hut…
Gabrielle rummaged through various viles and wooden jugs filled with answers for other peoples ailments in search of all the ingredients that were needed to help Tarren. “Gotta hurry,” she muttered as she haphazardly tossed things into a large burlap sack sure it would be better to have too much medicine rather than not enough.
As the young woman nervously moved from one cluttered corner to the next she accidentally knocked from its pedestal a small-carved statue of Artemis. The stone figure crashed to the ground with a resounding sound of thousands of shards hitting the wooden floor.
Gabrielle turned quickly dropping the heavy sack and covering her ears as if the sound of the broken pieces dropping to the floor were crashing against her lobes like a rush of stones in an avalanche. “Nooooooooooo!” She screamed protectively covering the sides of her head with the palms of her hands.
As if caught in the rain of broken pieces that now covered the healer’s floor, the bard kicked at tables and tossed chairs against planking in an attempt to free herself from this mysterious prison. With the shattering of the stone she was enveloped, her mind amplifying all the darkness she felt in her heart into a flurry of exaggerated senses.
Gabrielle moved anxiously from one side to the other in an uncontrollable fit of fear and loss of all she ever was and would be again. “Stop it. Just stop it,” she yelled dropping to the ground, her fists pounding the floor in an effort to make the offensive little droplets of sound release her.
As the sun rises darkness disappears but it is merely an illusion for later the light shall again fade and the blackness return uninhibited by desire.
All at once the moment passed and the young woman found herself huddled in a corner of the healers hut surrounded by a most unnatural silence. Her legs were twisted beneath her among the broken pieces of the statue and clutched tightly in her hands a few sharp stones that had cut her soft skin and left it draining small puddles of red relief.
Gabrielle eyed the cuts on her hand and felt the tears flowing down her cheeks as she wiped the blood on her skirt in an effort to clot its movement. “Oh gods what have I done?” she asked running her hands over the soft skin of her skirt and staring at the now wrecked cottage. Her voice became a low tear filled whisper. “What have I done?” she repeated letting her head drop to her knees as she pulled them tightly in front of her. “Tarren,” she whispered.
After a moment filled with tears the bard stood ready to compose herself. She reached for a cloth and wrapped her still bloody hand in the linen like bandage. “I’ve got to get this stuff to Xena and help take care of Tarren,” she said drawing on every ounce of strength in her being to make her stand straight again.
The soft green eyes paused in front of a mirror where for the first time the bard was able to see a reflection of the person she had become.
The once bare arms were draped in tight Amazon feathered armbands and beads. Still positioned on her head was the bonnet of the queen. It had not fallen off in battle and the bard had not even felt the weight of it on her journey back to the village. The young woman’s eyes dropped to her skirt, which was now stained with blood. She stared at it for a moment wondering if it was just blood from her own hand or that of the Argonian that she had taken the life of. She let her fingers run over a spot that looked drier than the rest as she eyed her own reflection. “I killed a man,” she whispered to the twin staring back at her, dropping her hand to the red stained fabric as if wanting to believe it was all just a bad dream.
It was quite real.
ran her fingers over the small red stain and could feel her face draining of
color as she again looked into the mirror that was her soul and saw the face
of the once peaceful bard looking back at her questioning why she had murdered
another of the god’s creatures. “I
killed him…I….” She grabbed a cloth from the ground and submerged it in
water from a nearby bucket and started rubbing at the red stained spot
fiercely. “Go away…go away….”
But the blood would not disappear no matter how hard she rubbed or wished it
The reflection allowed no time for second thoughts. It spoke freely and directly to the bard. “Gabrielle you took a life to save your friends,” the second part of the young woman’s soul said quietly.
Gabrielle’s head snapped up at the unexpected solace from her own image. She dropped the cloth and moved closer to the figure with equally green eyes now addressing her.
first her slender fingers traced the outline of the reflection tenderly
touching the cold picture wishing she could reach through the glaze and
embrace this familiar stranger. Knowing
she could not the bard balled her fingers into fists and pounded them on the
table beneath the mirror. “Xena
didn’t need me. She could have
protected herself and Tarren. I
killed for no reason,” she yelled.
The image of a gentle and more understanding Gabrielle answered in a soothing tone. “You didn’t know that. If you had hesitated then Xena and Tarren might both had been killed just like….”
Gabrielle jumped back placing her hands protectively in front of her to shield her from the words. “Don’t say it. Just go away. I don’t want to see you now. Just go away.” She again looked at the image now and always looking back at her with warmth and understanding. “And stop watching me...stop staring at me,” she yelled snapping the tip of her boot into the mirror shattering the image in an explosion of reflective thought.
The frantic Gabrielle dropped to her knees in a fit of sobs and muttering. “Please go away …just please go away,” she cried burying her head in the crux of her arm.
Thoughts of Tarren and time already wasted brought the young woman’s thoughts back to the present. With a few hurried breaths and the swipe of her hand against her damp eyes she lifted her head from her arm and what she saw left her speechless.
The hut was no longer in a shambles and the statue of Artemis sat proudly on its pedestal in the corner just as it had when she had first entered the cottage. Taking deep breathes and turning quickly from left to right in disbelief, the bard was again caught by the sight of a now unbroken mirror.
Gabrielle moved tentatively to the image of vanity caressing the surface wishing that she could again see the self she once knew but the only image staring back at her now was that of a tired and confused young woman unsure of who and what she had become. She looked again at her reflection but it did not speak and all the distraught young woman could see was a confused and unidentifiable blond figure. “I don’t understand,” she mumbled running her hand over her face. She took one last look at the stain of blood on her skirt and swallowed hard knowing this was not the time for her to try and understand her own dilemma. “Xena and Tarren need you. You can fall apart later but right now Gabrielle you’re family needs you,” she whispered taking a pile of cloths, a burlap bag of herbs, and all her remaining strength back to the cottage.
reflection watched as Gabrielle left the hut.
The soft hearted and gentle young bard that lived on the other side of
the mirror shed a tear for she could not follow the figure that had departed
without her. “I will be waiting for you,” the image said before fading from existence.
As the door behind her creaked closed the warrior lifted her head from Tarren’s side and wiped her own eyes dry with the back of her hand. She did not have to turn to recognize the soft but now slightly dragging steps of her best friend.
The warrior made a mental note that the soft leather souls that usually moved with quick confident strides stalled every few steps as if unsure which direction to go. However Xena did not turn around but instead just started removing her youngster’s dirty and matted clothes. “Good you’re back I…want to get her clean…Can you bring over the large basin?” the mother asked, her voice unsteady and her hands shaking in a way she did not know they had the ability to do
took a deep breath and stepped closer to the pallet taking a few deep breaths
to try and clear her mind of what had happened in the healer’s hut. She
swallowed hard and stared at the warrior knowing her usually stoic friend had
been crying but also sure now was not the time to try and press her friend for
any conversation. “Sure…I…I…have
the water and cloths we need…Xena…I….” She moved up beside the pallet
and put the cloths and sack on the table beside the bed. “I got everything…I
wasn’t sure so I just…”
Hearing the unusually weak tone of the bard whose voice was always filled with such faith and good cheer made the warrior turn and stare at the figure of her friend. She quickly noticed the now disheveled appearance and blood soaked cloth wrapped around the young woman’s hand. “Gabrielle what happened?” she asked reaching for the bard’s wound.
immediately stepped back hiding the bandaged hand behind her back. “It’s
Ok Xena. I just…broke a jug…and
…cut my hand….” she said in a near whisper, trying to feign an
indifferent attitude. “It’s nothing.”
Xena held out her own hand and her features became tight as the blue trained warrior eyes traveled up and down the blond figure. “I’ll be the judge of that…let me see it,” she said in a stern but steady voice.
Gabrielle was about to protest when she saw in her friend’s eyes a message that said this was no time for being stubborn or playing games. They both needed to be fit for whatever was to face them. With a slight nod the young woman placed her hand in front of the warrior. “Ok but it really is nothing,” she said with a slight sniffle and a sickly smile
“Uh huh.” Xena started unraveling the bandage until she reached the bare skin. Her eyes grew wide as she turned the young woman’s hand over and found not even a scratch. “Gabrielle there really is nothing here. What is going on? Where did all this blood come from?” she asked trying not to think the worst.
The young woman looked at her own hand in disbelief and then the bloody rags. “Xena there was a cut there,” she exclaimed staring from her friend’s questioning face to her now clean skin. “First I…broke the statue and then I…knocked the stuff over and then the mirror…” She paused as she remembered the reflection that had spoken to her as if in a dream. “The mirror…I broke the mirror and it spoke to me….” she whispered as if lost in a far away daze.
Xena looked at the bard with concern knowing that both the memory of the dead Argonian and little Tarren’s illness were taking their toll on her gentle friend. She pulled the bard down and wrapped a tender arm around her shoulder. “It’s OK you don’t have to explain.”
jerked away from the rare offer of open affection. “But the mirror Xena…I
broke it and then everything was fixed…even the cut is gone now…but
the blood…I still see the blood.” She felt her shoulders collapse and she
surrendered to her friend’s hold. “I’m sorry.
I didn’t want to…”
The strong hand moved up and down the younger woman’s head. “It’s OK Gabrielle. It’s battle fatigue. You’re in shock. Its Ok.” Her voice was low and tender but steady. “Look I…we…need to take care of Tarren now but I promise that when this is all over and she’s….”
Gabrielle closed her eyes and pulled away from the warrior. “I’m OK now Xena…really. I’m sorry I fell apart,” she said with a sniffle as she straightened out her skirt and tossed the bloody rags to the floor kicking them beneath the bed.
The warrior shook her head. “Gabrielle you are not Ok and you don’t have to be sorry,” she replied
The bard shook her head and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye with the edge of her finger. “I’ll be fine Xena. Right now we need to take care of that little girl of…yours,” she said picking up a damp cloth and motioning to the sick child in the bed. “Tarren is our first concern.”
could not argue. Right now little
Tarren needed her mother’s complete attention.
“Yeah you’re right.” She stared at the blond figure as if sizing
her up. “Ok lets get to work,”
she said making careful note of every gesture and move the bard made.
The warrior stood and with a single motion of her hand wiped away her own tears and reached for the requested items taking water and cloth from the now silent bard. The mother’s own voice a stream of shaky words. “Thanks…we have to get her undressed and cleaned up. We need to cool her off as much as we can…while still keeping her warm. It won’t be easy but we….”
There was soon a familiar and gentle group of fingers curled around the warrior’s wrist. “Whatever it takes…we’ll do it…together,” the bard said now offering her trademarked smile of confidence. “That kids not even allowed out of camp at night alone. Do you think we’re going to let her wander anyplace further without us?” she asked with a reassuring nod refusing to give in to her own growing darkness.
Xena stared at her friend for a moment and then closed her eyes and nodded. “That’s right. We’ll do it…together Gabrielle…like we always do. Right?”
The blue eyes were filled with a wealth of appreciation and words that could not be spoken in any language other than a brief stare that told the bard all she needed to know in that one glimpse of her friend’s souls.
Gabrielle answered with two short blinks and another smile. She was determined to push away her own feelings of terror and loss and hold together the only part of her being that made sense, Xena and little Tarren.
After bathing the child in cooling waters and placing poultice after poultice on the youngster’s chest the warrior mother placed the youngster back in the warm blankets of the pallet.
The bard positioned a chair beside the bed and sat reaching out a hand to touch the hot but baby soft skin of the little girl she loved as her own. “Now what?” she asked watching the way the warrior gripped the tiny hand in her own rubbing each finger tenderly with the tip of her thumb.
Xena took a deep breath and shrugged. “Now we wait.”
Xena kept her hand still tightly griped around Tarren’s small fingers as she hummed a soft lullaby hoping the little girl could hear the words of love.
Gabrielle was still positioned in the small rocking chair just to the side of the pallet. The gentle creaking noise had become almost a soothing sound in the pale silence of the otherwise quiet room. “Any change?” the bard asked with a slight yawn and an exaggerated stretch of her legs.
The warrior mother ran her finger across the child’s forehead and bit her lip. “The fever broke a few hours ago,” was the quiet and flat reply.
The bard’s eyes shot wide open and she leapt from the
chair. “That’s good.”
Xena closed her eyes and continued to caress the youngster’s face. “No…not really.” She turned her head and faced her bewildered friend. “The fever is gone but she’s not awake.” She took a short breath. “Tarren’s fever is gone. I had hoped that was the reason she was unconscious but obviously it’s not…and if she’s not awake now I don’t know when she’ll wake.”
Both women stared down at the little girl they each loved so deeply hoping there silent prayers would be answered and the little eyes would flicker open but their was no movement.
Gabrielle dropped sadly back into her seat reaching out a hand and pulling the child’s blanket up closer to her face allowing a finger to run gently over the youngster’s skin. “Xena I don’t understand. If the fever is gone why doesn’t she just wake up?” she asked, her face filled with a mixture of frustration and fear.
The warrior who had healed many both on and off the battle field closed her eyes and let her voice become low and distant as she recalled the bodies of many soldiers she had been forced to leave on nameless battle grounds in a life of long ago. She pinched the bridge of her nose between two fingers and shook her head. “Gabrielle Tarren is very weak and her mind has turned inward. I’ve seen it happen before.” She wiped a few stray hairs from the child’s face and slipped a mug of water to the youngster’s lips pouring just enough liquid in to keep the little one hydrated. Leaning back she placed the mug to one side and faced her friend. “Some just never wake up. They just fall asleep giving up the fight and then….” She paused in the thought as she remembered how this small child had captured her heart.
Xena’s mind raced with images of moments spent by a stream.
“Momma look what I caught?”
The face of the child was now cemented in the warrior’s mind with a little girl’s mischievous smile and the glint in the big blue eyes.
“Momma can I have a pony?”
The mother closed her eyes as she felt the youngster’s heart still beating against her chest. She reached into her cuff and pulled out a small familiar object still wrapped neatly in parchment that was covered with a child’s scribbling of love and faith. Xena held the odd blue amulet in the air allowing it to dangle just over her child’s eyelids. “But not my little girl. She’s a fighter. She will wake up Gabrielle. By the gods she will wake up.” There was a force and strength in the words that made even the bard tremble a bit at the sound.
The bard reached over and squeezed her friend’s shoulder and nodded reassuringly. “Of course she will. She just needs some rest.”
The warrior cleared her throat as she continued to think of the first day she saw little Tarren, the cocky little raga muffin that swung through the trees without thought nor care for another soul. Her memories jumped forward and she was faced with mischievous smiles and a teary eyed child standing beneath a gnarly old tree outside of Amphipolis rubbing the seat of her britches.
“Momma do ya think if Uncle Lyceus had been a girl and your daughter and had just gotten the worst spankin ever that you’d sing her to sleep?”
The mother ran her hands down the little girl’s face and felt a tear escape as she whispered to her child. “I’ll always sing for you baby girl...always.”
watched her friend battling what she knew was a wealth of loving and happy
memories of not so long ago mixed with a weight of guilt for not having been
with Tarren since birth.
Xena leaned over and placed Nala’s magical amulet around the youngster’s neck where she knew it belonged and kissed the child gently on the cheek. “I love you Monster. No matter what happens and what you do I always will love you lots and lots. Don’t you ever forget that…Do you hear me?” The large shoulders were starting to slump a bit as the usually strong hands shook from movement. “Tarren if you could just wake up long enough to use the amulet…momma would be so proud of you.” She sniffled and tried to hold back the lump in her throat that was fighting its way up. “Please come back to me. I need you. I need you so much.” She picked up the little girl’s hand and rubbed the outer part against her own cheek gripping tightly to the small fingers as she cried. “Tarren don’t go. Fight baby girl…You fight like you have never fought before,” she yelled her lips clenched so tightly together that it sounded more like an order than the plea from the heart.
Gabrielle watched the raven-haired woman’s head drop to the child’s side never releasing the small hand she had laced around her own fingers. “You can’t leave me Tarren. I won’t let you go. I need you baby…I need you.” The mothers thoughts were now lost in the closet of her own pain and fear. “I can’t lose you too.”
Seeing that Xena was losing her usually steady hold, the bard immediately slid from her chair and crouched at her friend’s side wrapping her own body protectively around both mother and daughter wanting to shield them both from all the pain and suffering of the harsh world. “Shh Xena it’s Ok. It will be Ok. You’re going to see. Tarren will be just fine.” She paused and thought of her own empty feeling and the things she had seen or maybe imagined in the healers hut wondering what the meaning of it all truly was. It wasn’t battle fatigue and she knew it. Gabrielle tightened her hold on her friend and whispered. “We’re all going to be just fine.” The words were spoken with feeling and love, but in her own heart the bard was not now sure just what the future would bring for any of them.
There was no embarrassment at the display of open affection or the tears that followed but only the love of a mother holding her child and a bard clinging tightly to her family. For these two people were now the only reality the young woman was now sure existed in her life.
“Gabrielle she can’t die. She just can’t,” the usually strong and stoic voice said in a wave of hard broken sobs.
The bard felt the salty ripples racing down the surface of her skin as she held the famed Warrior Princess and once destroyer of nations caressing her friend’s head as she spoke in her most tender voice. “She’ll come back to us Xena. Tarren wouldn’t leave you. She’ll come back to us…you’ll see.”
The bard glanced down at the little girl lying still on the pallet. The breathing was slow and the skin was still pale. Heavy lids camouflaged the usually bright and mischievous blue eyes. “Tarren where are you? Where are you?” she asked as if hoping the wind would answer the question the child could not.
In a place far away but not out of reach…
Two children sat in the green pasture near a small brook staring at the water as it rushed by. The older child a boy of about 11 sat beside the little girl nearly half his size and age.
“Tarren are you ok?” the boy asked placing a gentle arm around the little girl.
The small child looked up at the blonde haired boy and shrugged. “Uh huh. I just miss Momma.”
sat on the log beside his little sister and patted her back affectionately.
“I know but you can’t go back just yet,” he said sadly tossing a small
stone into the stream with a loud clink.
Tarren bit her lower lip and stared at the face of her brother. “Why? Why can’t I go back to momma now Solon? She needs me and I need her,” she replied taking a similar stone and repeating the action noting happily that her rock had caused more ripples than her brother’s had.
Solon scratched his head and lowered his chin into an open palm. “I dunno Tarren. Nobody ever tells me anything.” He picked his head up and smiled. “Ya want to play warlord like we did the last time?” he asked hoping the game would take the little girl’s mind off the mother she missed so greatly.
Tarren rolled out her lower lip and slid to the ground letting her feet dangle just above the high grass that stood beside the shoreline. “Nah! I don’t really feel much like playin.”
was no sun blaring in the sky yet the air was warm and the sky was bright and
“Why not? You always liked playing that before,” he said confused by his little sister’s change of heart.
shrugged her shoulders and let her fingers fumble with the laces on her boots
noting that they were neatly tied for a change. “But that was different.
I was just dreamin when we played.
I could go to Momma anytime I wanted…Now I wanna go and I can’t.”
A tear formed at the corner of the little girl’s eye and a larger sibling’s
hand wiped it away. “I want momma.”
Solon could feel his own heart ache for the child because he knew what it meant to lose a mother. In fact he had lost Xena before he had ever gotten a chance to have her as his mother. He leaned in closer to the youngster and whispered in her ear as if revealing a secret. “Look I promise you’ll get to go back real soon. Mother just needs a little time,” the boy replied tasseling the little one’s hair.
Little Tarren’s eyes grew wide and bright at this knew information she was being given. This was the first definite word she had received that she would be returning to her mother since she had come to this acre of time that stood between the land of the living and those that had already passed.
Tarren leaned back as she tried to get a clear picture of her mother in her head hoping she could send a thought to Xena as she had done when she was a prisoner in the cell. The youngster frowned as she recalled a last image of her mother’s face just as the warrior mother had arrived to save her child. Tarren had felt the beat of her heart increase when she saw her mother arrive on the back of the great-war-horse and slide from the saddle rushing to her side. “Momma,” the child had cried before something from another place took her from that moment and placed her in this dream place. In the darkness of her mind she had tried to reach out to touch her mother but as she did the world went blank. Xena was gone. Shalia was gone. When she awoke she was in the middle of this large field greeted at once by her brother’s always-welcoming smile.
ya sure I’m going back to momma soon?” the little one asked biting her lip
and staring at the brother she had only come to know in the world of dreams.
would your big brother ever lie to you?” the boy asked giving the little
girl an affectionate hug.
Tarren twisted her lips as she considered the question. After all she did not know this boy from anyplace but her dreams. “No I guess not….” She let her large blue eyes open wide and stare up at the tall boy. “I’m real sorry you can’t go back with me. It would be fun to have a big brother to play with…and maybe I wouldn’t get in so much trouble if you were around for momma to yell at too.”
Solon chuckled at the thought of being his mischievous sister’s constant alibi “Something tells me you’d be Mother’s first concern no matter how many brothers you had,” he said with a grin knowing the link between Xena and Tarren was more special than either realized.
Tarren sighed as she dropped her still booted feet in the water knowing full well that in her mother’s presence this would be cause for a lengthy scolding. “I guess…But I still wish ya could come back with me Solon,” she replied with a sad frown.
For the first time the expression of the male child changed and he became a bit sullen at the thought of the life he might have had but knew he never would.
“So am I. I’d really like to know what it’s like to have known mother as a mom,” he replied, as he remembered a time long ago. It was just outside a cave with a waterfall where he had for one brief instant been given the chance to tell Xena he loved her before being sent back to his place in the circle.
He glanced at the sad face of his young sibling and smiled. “But you know Tarren, when you meet me in the dream place and tell me about everything you mother and Gabrielle do...it’s almost like I’m there too.”
Tarren crawled back onto the log and nestled beside her brother happy for his company. She smiled broadly at the thought that she was actually bringing comfort to the boy with her visits to his world on her ship to Morpheous “I can tell ya lots of stuff…Momma’s really great. She plays with me and teaches me stuff and always loves me….” She twisted her lips and let her voice drop to a whisper. “ But if you’re real naughty she warms your backside really good.” The child ran her hands up and down the seat of her britches to emphasize the point. “But she’s momma and I know she’s always there and that’s why I love her most,” the child said with a confident nod. Her eyes grew suddenly dim and her lip rolled out and she clutched the side of the boy’s knee. “Solon I gotta go back to her now,” she cried. “I don’t wanna play no more. I wanna go back to momma right now.”
know Tarren but it’s not time yet.” The boy placed his arm around the
smaller child and squeezed gently “Are you naughty a lot?” he asked hoping
to distract her from her fears and their mother’s absence.
Tarren sniffled a bit and wiped away tears with the back of her hand. “Uh huh but Momma says that I’m supposed to be cause I’m a kid and she loves me anyway.”
The boy’s eyes grew wide at the thought of such unquestionable love and devotion. “Wow it sounds like Mother is …very special.”
In the midst of this perfect world of beauty and peace two children allowed tears to fall for a mother they both wished to hold them.
Tarren leaned up against her brother’s chest allowing her head to drop on his shoulder. “Uh huh…She’s the best momma in the world.”
The boy swallowed his tears and smiled at the affectionate act. He took in a deep breath of the fresh air around him and leaned back on his arms. “And you have all these great adventures. Tell me again how you saved Mother and Gabrielle from the big dragon and the fifty warlords with only one pebble and a sack of mushrooms,” he said with a sigh knowing that while the act was fiction Tarren enjoyed the telling as much as he enjoyed hearing the tale.
The little girl raised a brow with confusion. “Huh? What dragon?” She bit her lip remembering the old story she had made up and shared. “Oh…uh…not now…maybe another time. I’m sort of tired ya know,” she said with an exaggerated yawn not too anxious to have her brother find out her heroic stories were merely fictional yarns she told for his enjoyment.
Solon shrugged his shoulders trying not to show his disappointment. “It’s OK…next time.”
little girl nodded her agreement and then picked her head up and stared at the
boy with a questioning glint. “Solon?”
Solon closed his eyes and tried to imagine life on the road with Xena, Gabrielle and Tarren. He let his head drop back a bit as he replied. “Yeah Tarren.”
The small child fidgeted with the sleeve of the boy’s tunic. “I’m sorry I haven’t told momma how you visit me in my dreams but she gets real upset when she thinks about you too much out loud.” She paused. “But I did draw a picture of both of us standing with momma that I gave her and I think she really liked it but…” She paused. “I think it made her sad too.”
The boy again swallowed his feelings and forced a smile as she glanced down at his younger sibling. “It’s OK…I hear her thoughts…I know what she feels Tarren…I just wish she would stop blaming herself for my…ya know…. It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t…” He paused remembering that Xena had asked in her thoughts for his understanding for never revealing just how the boy had died to Tarren. “It’s not anyone’s fault,” he said softly thinking of the rift his death had caused between his mother and Gabrielle.
The child raised a brow at her brother’s cryptic words. “You know how grownups are. They’re not real smart about some stuff.” Tarren shrugged and then took a deep breath. “Solon what’s momma thinking right now?” she asked eager to connect with Xena in any way at that moment since she herself could not sense the mother whose thought s and visions she usually shared.
The boy closed his eyes and frowned. “She’s worried…real worried about you. She’s…crying.” He lowered his head. “Mother misses you very much Tarren.”
Tarren jumped to her feet as if wanting to run in some direction that would take her home. “Solon please tell me how to get to momma. I don’t want her to be sad. It’s all my fault. I ran after her when she said to stay behind and now she’s cryin cause of me. I gotta go back to her.”
tears turned into wavering swabs and the older brother wrapped his arms
tightly around the little girl. “I know.
It’s Ok Tarren. You’re gonna be going back real soon. I promise and when
you do mother will be so happy to see you that she’ll hug you really tight.”
“Really?” she asked wishing she could feel the strength and security of her mother’s arms now.
grinned and nodded in agreement. “Yes really.” He hugged his small sister
and closed his eyes in thought. “Tarren if you ever do tell mother how I
visit you would ya tell her how much I love her and not to be sad or blame
herself or anyone else. Just tell
her I’m OK and I’m always with her.” His words became a bit softer and
his expression again a bit sad. “And tell Gabrielle I miss her a lot too.
I always liked her a lot.” He shook a warning finger at the youngster
he knew enjoyed torturing the bard. “And you be nice to her. Gabrielle is
real special and you’re lucky to have her.”
The little girl frowned at the length of the message “I know that. I’m not dumb ya know. Momma and Aunt Eph say I’m a genius.” She bit her lip. “That’s good right?” she asked wanting to be clear before she bragged too much.
The boy shook his head. “Yeah that’s good,” he replied with a wide grin. The smile faded and he looked to the trees filled with the song of birds that were not really there. “Can you just give them the message genius?” he asked with a smirk.
pursed her lips considering the task. “Gee that’s a lot to remember but I’ll
tell them… someday,” she said raising her hand in the air as if offering
an oath. After a moment she let her hand fall and stared at her now silent
The boy turned his head just enough to allow their blue eyes to lock. “Yeah.”
“Do ya think mommy wills till love me when she finds out my secrets?” the youngster asked finding it harder and harder to pretend any longer.
boy nodded. “Of course little sister. Why
would you think otherwise?” he asked with a look of genuine confusion.
Tarren picked a blade of grass from the ground and ran it through her fingers as she dropped her chin to her chest. “I do get in lots of trouble and…She’ll be stuck with me so long…and…I just don’t want to lose momma. I need her Solon…I really need my mommy again,” she replied wiping her eyes dry with the back of her small hand.
The boy stared at his sister for a moment before opening his arms and pulling the smaller child closer. “Shh It’s OK…You’ll see everything will be just fine. Mother will be happier than you can imagine to find out how special you are.” He tasseled the younger sibling’s hair “Now come on we don’t have a lot of time before you have to go back to mother. Play one game of warlord with me.”
Tarren let her head lay against her brother’s chest wishing with all her might he could return with her but knowing that could never be. She took a deep breath and then started the usual banter that existed between them in their private dream world. “We’ll play Warrior Princess,” she said firmly folding her arms tightly against her chest.
The boy got to his feet and shook his head. “No we play Warlord.”
“Warrior Princess!” was the immediate response.
folded his arms against his chest in equal imitation of his sister’s gesture
and stood to his full height. “We play Warlord because I’m older.”
Tarren frowned at the action noting it was similar to her mother’s. She stood up on the tree stump staring her brother straight in the eye. “We play Warrior Princess cause if we don’t I’m not gonna help you slay any more dragons with my slingshot,” she replied now staring off into the distance.
The boy frowned at this small child’s use of blackmail. “OK fine you can be a Warrior Princess and I’ll be the evil warlord….” He grabbed Tarren and tossed her over his shoulder. “ I‘ll be the evil warlord that carries the spoiled little brat off to his castle where you will be tickled until you surrender and agree to play warlord.”
Tarren giggled loudly as the boy tossed her from one side of his shoulder to the other. Soon all that could be heard in this large and perfect clearing was the sound of two children playing happily.
Back at the village…
The sun was slowly fading from the sky and the gray dusk was waiting patiently for darkness to put an end to this bit of day.
The Amazons returned to the village in large groups and in the solemn privacy of soft whispers all had agreed to stay for both the celebration of their victory as well as the honoring of the dead. Each of the tribal leaders had said that it was appropriate that Amazons that had fought together and died together in this one great fight, which was now referred to as the ‘Battle of Yesterday,’ should all make their journey to Artemis together as well.
Ephiny pulled at the reigns of her new mount as the familiar cottages of the village came in to complete view. Her eyes narrowed looking at nothing but empty cottages and dusty statues in a square that was normally filled with the vibrant voices of her tribe.
Without the people to make this place a home it was nothing more than a vacant and lifeless arena with no spectators or sport.
The queen took a deep breath and dismounted with a huff. She turned to her friend and fellow Amazon. “Solari I want you to take a band of warriors and go to the centaur village and bring our children home immediately,” she said with a stiff nod.
Solari bowed her head slightly. “Yes my queen.” She paused. “Ephiny do you wish all of our children brought home?” she asked keeping her eyes low so that the queen could not see the true question.
Ephiny let out a quick breath and grinned knowing her friend had overheard the conversation she had with little Tarren about her own son returning to the village. “No…” She paused. “I will bring Xenon home myself after things have calmed down here a bit.” In truth it was Ephiny who needed a little time to find her own peace. She again looked at the waiting Amazon. “Besides I need to talk to his grandfather before I take him. I want him to understand that this is where my son belongs…with me and with his tribe,” she replied with a nod as if trying to convince herself it was the truth.
Solari again bowed her head and tightened her hold on her reigns ready to ride in the direction of the centaur lands. “As you wish my queen,” was the obedient reply.
Ephiny leaned against the side of her horse letting her fingers run through the mare’s soft mane. She watched her friend start to depart but with a quick lift of her hand brought her to a halt. “Wait!” She turned and faced the now stalled rider. “Can you tell Xenon…tell him….” She bit her lip and let her voice drop to a whisper. “Tell him I’ll be bringing him home to stay very soon and that I miss him,” she said her eyes showing her genuine love for the boy.
The corner of Solari’s lip lifted and her eyes grew bright knowing this meant the young prince truly would be returning to his mother and his true home. "Yes my queen! I will be very happy to tell the young prince that he will be coming home."
Ephiny folded her arms and allowed a crooked smile as she watched the now grinning Amazon ride away. “It’s a conspiracy,” she mumbled knowing that Solari was among those that felt she should never have sent the boy away in the first place. “Xena’s kid has brainwashed my entire tribe...might as well give Tarren my bonnet and retire,” she mumbled with a smirk.
The smile quickly faded as she remembered that the last any one had heard was that Xena and Gabrielle had returned to the village and that the warrior was seen carrying the sick child cradled in her arms. Nobody was sure if the child moved.
Ephiny knew that for Xena not to rejoin the battle could only mean one thing. Tarren was sick enough where it was a choice between life and death for the youngster. Without further hesitation the now panicked Amazon rushed though the thick crowds of dismounting tribes and headed for the royal cottage.
However before the queen could reach her destination a large Amazon wearing a bonnet with many feathers stepped in front of her grabbing her arm bringing Ephiny to a fast halt. “Damn,” she muttered knowing this was a delay she could not avoid.
Mussona gave a fast nod holding Ephiny’s arm long enough to force it into a warrior salute with a hearty shake nearly knocking her off balance. “Ephiny I just want to say that I am in full support of the tribes now forming as one nation again.” She took a deep breath. “I’m not sure how it will be done but by Artemis it shall be done.” There was an odd and slightly evil smile that formed on the woman’s lips as she recalled the glory of the battlefield. Her tongue ran along the side of her lip as if still savoring the taste of a blood. “Amazons fighting beside Amazons against any that would dare to challenge us…That is the way it should always be.”
Ephiny lowered her head a bit and nodded knowing from
the hunger for further victory that dripped from Mussona’s words that this
was a queen that was only seeing a great army being formed and not a great
nation. Ephiny pulled her arm back and shook her head. “I’m glad you feel
that way Mussona but I don’t wish to bring together an army. I wish to bring
together a people.”
Mussona stepped forward her breath swaying the hair on Ephiny’s forehead. “Ephiny what is wrong with you? We were victorious against an old and feral enemy today and you seem almost disappointed by it,” she said with a slight growl at the Amazon’s reaction to an offer of an alliance.
Ephiny faced her fellow queen allowing her own features to stiffen and her jaw to tighten. The dead had not even placed on their pyres and already the petty arguments were beginning again. An alliance might be possible but it was far from an easy reality.
Ephiny could feel the muscles in her back tighten as she recalled the sight of the dead Amazons and the words that Artemis had shared with her about the price of the future. She stood straight with her chin high in the air. “I am as proud as any here that we were victorious and I am just as proud of the way the Amazons stood together shoulder to shoulder, but I do not want to be part of a force that only wants pointless wars.” She felt her fists tighten at the mere thought of another such meaningless battle. “We do not need conquests to be what binds us together Mussona. We are Amazons and that should be enough. I want the Amazon people to be a nation of warriors but warriors who know when they have to fight and when they don’t.” Ephiny gave her fellow queen a slight jab in the chest with her finger before turning away. “Think about that before you pledge any further allegiance to these negotiations and this cause Mussona,” she warned
Mussona stood speechless and dumbfounded by the shattering words and could only watch in disbelief and even awe as the wisest queen of the Amazons walked away.
Ephiny felt the air from her lungs drain as she again headed in the direction of the royal cottage. But before she could make the final steps that would bring her into the solitude of the hut she was again stopped by another familiar but much less imposing Amazon of the eastern tribes.
Continued - Part 12B
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