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 calledSHE 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 VI
Chapter 16 - Separate Directions
Before the child could even call, Xena came up beside her and pulled the frightened youngster from the injured womans grip pushing the little girl safely behind her. "Tarren go stand by that tree," she said pointing to a small birch a few paces away.
Xena gave the youngster a gentle nudge. "Hey I said get going now," she said sternly trying to break the frozen youngsters concentration.
Knowing her young daughter was confused and scared by the sight of such a seriously injured woman, Xena watched her child depart with trepidation. The warrior did not know what had caused this Amazons injuries or if it or they were still in the area. She wanted Tarren close but not so close as to have the young child witness this young womans pain. Xena had been careful to never allow her youngster to witness a bloody battle or even see the aftermath of any real fight from any closer than a tree branch.
"Damn." The warrior took a deep breath and looked at the familiar face of the young Amazon lying on the ground before her. "Youre Princess Tyrell the one that attacked us on the road," she stated as she looked over the young womans sever injuries.
Tyrell nodded and a tear fell down her bloody cheek.
Xena dabbed a small cloth over the sword torn abdomen. Her eyes scanned the area around
her as she still kept her eyes trained on Tarren. "Where are the rest of your
Tyrell opened her mouth but no words came out. She struggled to rise grabbing onto Xenas armor. "I I ."
The injuries were bad and the young woman was going into shock. The warrior gently
pressed the Amazons shoulders to the ground. "Ok
I have to get
my horse and then Ill get you back to the village Ok?"
The young woman blinked but as Xena rose to get Argo she was quickly brought to a halt by the firm grip of her patient. "Dont leave the child alone. Its not safe I told her Its not safe ."
Xena tried to quiet the young womans rambling. "What are you talking about? What happened to you and what did you tell my daughter?" she asked, realizing that in her one brief moment of absence from the child this stranger had shared some secret.
Tyrell glanced over at the small child standing under the tree and smiled a bit. "Tell Ephiny Im sorry." She took one final hard breath and fell dead in the warriors arms.
After a final breath the warrior got to her feet and walked to Tarren who was now busy
picking flowers from the base of the tree. She knelt beside the child and allowed her
voice to be gentle and soothing. "Hey Monster we gotta go get Argo and take that girl
back to the village."
Tarren hummed as she looked at the colorful flowers in her hands. "Why Momma? Cant you fix her here?" she asked still occupied with her task of choosing flowers.
Xena placed a loving hand over the childs face and shook her head. "No baby I cant fix her at all."
Tarrens humming stopped suddenly. She glanced at her mother and Xena could see the tears falling from the little girls eyes. "You can fix anything Momma. Go fix her."
The warrior again shook her head and this time lifted the small child into her arms. "No baby not everything. She was too badly hurt Shes ."
Before Xena could finish the sentence the youngsters smile returned and she
handed her mother a flower. It was a large white daisy with yellow trim. "I picked
this just for you Momma."
Xena let out a short breath and stared at the offering realizing this was the little girls way of not dealing with the horror she had seen. "Tarren we need to talk."
The little girls eyes lowered as she waited for her gift to be accepted. "I dont wanna talk Momma. I wanna give you a pretty flower." The child bit her lip in anticipation of the warriors next move.
The mother nodded and held the little girl closer. She took the flower and placed it in
her shoulder strap. "Thank you baby. It smells really good and Im gonna keep it
Tarren grinned as she stared at the remaining flowers. "Good Momma I think Ill bring one to Gabby and Ephiny and Shalia and Boralla." She paused and let her eyes drop a bit. "Everyone should smell pretty stuff. Dont ya think Momma?" she asked with her wide blue eyes locked on her mothers face.
The warrior mother could feet her childs shivers. She positioned the youngster close to one shoulder and kissed the little girl on the cheek. "Yes baby. Everyone should smell nice things." The mother kept her arms wrapped protectively around the youngster as she headed back toward the horse. She scanned the trails and the trees but there was no sign of even the slightest struggle or intruder. As she walked she ran her hand up and down the little ones back hoping to chase away some of the fear that was still consuming her child. "Tarren what did that woman say to you?" she asked in a near whisper.
Tarren tightened her hold on her mother and stared at the now distant bush which, she knew contained the familiar face of a young Amazon that no longer shared this world. She buried her head in her mothers arms deciding it was not something she wished to see again. The child heard her mothers question but could not bring herself to say the words the Amazon had told her. "I love ya Momma," she replied, hoping those words would say enough.
Xena closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I love you too baby." She did not feel this was the best time to push for answers. The warrior mother wanted her daughter back in the safety of the village. She thought for a moment and cradled the child next to her chest. "Ok baby well talk about it later. You just lay in Mommas arms. I wont let anything happen to you."
The child nuzzled close keeping a firm grip on both her bouquet of flowers and her mother.
The warrior marked the tree with her knife so she would be able to identify where the body had been found. After placing a blanket around the dead Amazon and tying her over the saddle Xena stared at her young daughter who was once again picking flowers. The child had purposely ignored the entire proceeding never even glancing at her mothers actions. The warrior patted the great war-horse on the neck. "Argo my friend we have a problem."
The horse whinnied.
Xena tethered her mount to a tree limb and walked over to the little girl holding now more than two dozen flowers in her grip. "Hey it looks like youve got enough for the entire tribe," she said pointing to the multi- colored bouquet
The little girl shook her head. "Nope just you and Gabby, Ephiny, Shalia and Boralla."
Tarren handed her mother another flower and gave a wide-eyed expression of absolute
innocence. "Here you need two."
The mother smiled. "I do?"
The child frowned as if the answer should be obvious. "Cause youre my Momma." The words and the action were an indication of the double dose of love she had for this person.
"Thank you very much." The warrior smiled placed the second flower beside the first and knelt beside her child. "Come on. Its time to go."
Tarren turned and glanced at her mother. "Im not done picking my
The mother held open her saddlebag and watched as the youngster placed the new treasures carefully inside. "Yes you are." She reached out her hand and the little girl laced her small fingers in her mothers.
"Ok Momma if I haffta."
Xena tossed the saddlebags over her shoulder and sighed. "Yeah you do sorry but well track again soon. I promise."
Xena closed her eyes now sure that Tyrell had shared something about the attackers to her little girl. Tarren had never passed an opportunity to leave a crowded village to spend time with her mother or search for adventure in uncharted territory. "Ok sure we can do that if you want," she replied, wanting the little girl to feel secure.
The mother stood and started walking back toward Argo keeping a firm grip on her young daughters hand. As they approached the saddle with the body strapped over it the youngster quickly skidded in front of her mother blocking the warriors path. She looked up at the questioning eyes of her mother and merely held her hands straight up in the air.
Xena smiled slightly and lifted the child into her arms again allowing the youngster to find safety. "Ok Monster Ill carry you."
The little girl sighed and held tightly to the warriors neck. "Thanks Momma."
The mother touched her daughters cheek knowing the child was not yet ready to discuss the sight of their discovery. "My pleasure."
Xena held her small daughter in one arm as she pulled Argo along. Her eyes were trained on the movement of everything around her. She could feel the comfort of the sword on her back and the chakrum at her side.
It was a long quiet trip back to the village and by the last leg of the journey Tarren was still positioned comfortably in her mothers arms. The child could not help but stare at the blanketed form tied over Argos saddle. She bit her lip and let a tear fall for a stranger who had died alone and hurt all the while thinking of the terrifying words the woman had whispered in her ear.
Back at the village
Xena could not help but feel her heart sink every time she looked into the questioning face of her young daughter. The mother had no answers at the moment so all she could do was hold the child tightly. She stopped in front of the Royal Office and without calling Ephiny appeared Gabrielle right beside her. The queen did not hesitate to run her hand beneath the blanket to seek out the identity of the dead body. Seeing it was Tyrell she closed her eyes for a moment and then moved beside the warrior. "What happened?"
Tarren tightened her hold on her mothers neck. "Momma I wanna go back to the cottage now."
Gabrielle looked at he little girl and then Xena. She knew there was a second problem
because the warrior would never normally allow such an outburst at such a serious moment
to go without correction.
The mother took a deep breath and put the child down beside her. "Ok give me just a minute to talk to Ephiny and well ."
The child shook her head vigorously and again the warrior could feel the youngsters shivers. "No now Momma." The tears forming in her eyes made it hard to refuse.
Xena glanced at the now silent Ephiny and shook her head. "Give me a minute Eph."
She glanced over at Gabrielle wishing her gentle friend would offer to take the youngster to the cottage but she did not. The young womans thoughts were trained on the dead boy of a young girl strapped over a horse.
Before the warrior could say another word she was tapped on the shoulder by a familiar
hand. It was Shalia. She bowed her head slightly. "If you like I can take her
back to the cottage for you Xena."
The warrior tilted her head to one side impressed with the young womans light step. She had not even heard her approach. The warrior glanced at Tarren. "OK Shalia is gonna take you back to the cottage and stay with you until I get there. I want you to behave for her. Got it?"
The child reached into her mothers saddlebags to retrieve her flowers glanced up at Shalia and back at her mother. "Will you come soon?" The little voice was filled with desperation. She did not wish to be parted from her mother.
Xena ran her hand along the little girls face. "Yup. Real soon."
Tarren lowered her eyes for a moment and then nodded. She walked over and handed Ephiny a pink flower. "Here Ephiny. It smells nice."
The queen took a whiff and forced a smile. "Thank you Junior." She placed the poesy in her cuff to show it would be properly displayed. "There now everyone will see it," she said choking back a tear for the young girl she had nearly killed in battle days earlier.
Tarren turned to Gabrielle who had now moved closer to the body lying over the horse.
She took a step back deciding that the bards gift could wait until later.
Seeing the child had frozen, Shalia moved closer and offered her hand to the youngster and Xena watched as the two departed. She took a deep breath as she listened to the little girl informing the Amazon that she wanted to stop and see Boralla to give her a flower.
When Tarren was far out of sight, the warrior turned to Ephiny. The way their eyes locked seemed to impart either an unspoken message between two warriors or two mothers. "I took Tarren out tracking and the poor little kid found Tyrell like this." She motioned to the woman who was now being removed from the horse. "She was still alive and all bloody and battered and Tarren well she hasnt dealt with it too well."
Ephiny covered her face with her hands. "Im sorry Xena."
Xena nodded. "Eph I didnt see any signs of a fight or even any tracks. I couldnt look to closely with Tarren with me thought."
Hearing that little Tarren had actually been witness to such a barbaric act made
Gabrielle shudder. Even she herself was having trouble dealing with the gruesome death of
one so young. "Poor Tarren."
Xena slammed her fist down on the railing of a nearby fence. "Its my fault. I should have scanned the area before I took her there."
The queen placed a friendly hand on her friends shoulder. "Xena you
cant always know whats everywhere. Things like this happen. Eventually
even a small child is bound to see something of death."
The warrior nodded again and forced a lump in her throat down. She glanced at the unusually silent Gabrielle. "Tyrell whispered something to Tarren but she wont tell me what it was. The kids scared to death and confused. I really need to talk to her and ." She looked at Gabrielle. "I could use a little help."
Gabrielle turned her head as if waking from a dream. "Oh sure Im sorry Xena I was just thinking how young that girl was and Well we should send word to her mother."
She placed her hands over her face as she considered what the right words would be to say.
The warrior moved beside her best friend and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Gabrielle there is no gentle way to tell a mother she has lost her child." She
paused as she thought of Solon. "But if there is a kind way I am sure you will find
The young woman put her hand over the warriors and nodded. "Thanks Ill try, but first things first Tarren needs us."
The warrior nodded her thanks and turned back to Ephiny. "For all we know Tyrell was attacked miles away and dragged herself to the place we found her." She paused and then again looked at Ephiny. "Or ."
Ephiny lowered her eyes and finished the sentence. "Or she was beaten by her own band and left for dead."
Gabrielles eyes flew open at the suggestion. "What are you talking about? She was their Princess. Why would they do that?" she said, her words were filled with confusion and disbelief.
Ephiny looked at Xena who let out a long breath and turned away wanting the queen to explain her friend. The Amazon took a step closer. "Gabrielle not all Amazons share the same customs. That is why the joining of tribes is so difficult. In the eastern tribes if a leader fails in a mission such as Tyrell did in her attempt to assassinate me her band might thing her too weak to lead and kill her."
Gabrielle stared at Ephiny in disbelief and then glanced at Xena hoping her friend
would tell her these words were not true. "No I wont believe that."
Xena took a deep breath. "Gabrielle its true. It might have happened that way. There were no tracks. Amazons are known for the ability to cover themselves that well. We wont know for sure until we search the entire area."
The Princess Bard nodded and looked away. "Well then lets not jump to any conclusions until we know for sure." She closed her eyes. "Come on lets go talk to Tarren."
Realizing her gentle friend was finding the possibility the warrior put her hands up and motioned toward the cottage. "Fine lets go."
Ephiny knelt beside the body of the young woman that had been carefully placed on the ground beside her. Tyrells still was still covered with the warriors blanket. She ran her hand over the young womans arm. "Why?"
Seeing the queens pain, the warrior paused and crouched beside her. "Eph she
did ask me to tell you she was sorry."
Ephiny nodded and choked a bit on her words as she stared at the face of her fellow Amazon. She lifted her eyes and stared at Xena. "Ya know before all these talks started this kid and I were pretty good friends. She used to show up at all the competitions and sit with Xenon." She closed her eyes. "I want whoever did this to her. No Amazon No person should ever die such a death."
Xena glanced at Gabrielle and then back at the queen. "Eph in the morning
well go have a look for ourselves. Its too late now. By the time we got there
it would be close to dark."
Ephiny nodded her agreement and Xena got to her feet. The warrior again started to walk away.
The queen pulled back the blanket for one last look before sending the body to be
prepared for funeral. "Xena."
When the warrior turned to answer the call she saw uncovered body of the young Amazon had a large flower tucked neatly between her fingers.
The mother swallowed closed her eyes and took a breath. "By the Gods Tarren." She looked at Gabrielle whose expression was one of equal horror. "Come on."
Back at the cottage
Tarren walked into the cottage holding tightly to Shalias hand.
The young Amazon sat down in a chair and the child immediately crawled into her lap. "Can I stay here until Momma comes?" she asked in a pleading tone.
Shalia smiled and closed her eyes. "Yes Tarren you are most welcome to stay in my
lap." Her words were kind and soothing
The little girl smiled a bit and made her self comfortable as she recounted the number of flowers she still possessed.
Shalia could see the pain in the youngsters eyes, but forced her attention on the group of daisies held tightly in her hand. "What pretty flowers you have picked."
The childs eyes immediately brightened and she reached into the grouping and selected a large white daisy. She handed it to her new friend. "Here I brought one for you since youve been so nice." She paused as the young woman held it in her hand. "Its a present."
Shalia stared at the flower for a long moment as if it brought back some painful or
wonderful memory. "Thank you Tarren this is a very special present indeed. The
kind that comes from the heart is the best gift."
The youngster studied the young womans face and smiled. "Thats what Momma says too."
Shalia wiped a few stray hairs off the childs forehead. "Well shes right." She placed the flower in the side of her leather armband and then unfastened a small silver bracelet from her own wrist and double looped it around the youngsters tiny arm. "And this is a present I want you to have."
The child stared at the odd etchings on the silver string. It was definitely Amazon in design because it looked just like some of the jewelry Ephiny wore but it was more delicate. The youngster smiled but then shook her head. "Shalia, Momma wont let me have this. Its too expensive and I just gave you a flower. Its not a fair trade."
Tarren sighed and started to remove the gift when the young woman gently held the small fingers in place. "Doesnt your Momma also tell you that you shouldnt question a gift?"
The little girl considered the words wondering how this Amazon seemed to know so much. "Uh huh but when I gave Momma an expensive gift she changed all the rules around so Im not too sure how it works anymore." She paused. "Usually I think Momma makes the rules up as we go along."
Shalia smiled and patted the childs hand. "Well Tarren you gave me something special and I chose something special to give you. It seals our friendship."
The child studied the pretty bracelet and grinned. "Really?"
The little girl hugged the Amazon. "Thanks Shalia." She ran her hands over the bracelet. "It sure is pretty."
The Amazon ran her fingers over it and let her mind wander as she spoke. "It was my mothers. She gave it to me when I was not too much older than you."
The little girl frowned wondering if she was holding stolen merchandise.
"Doesnt she want it back?"
Shalias eyes closed a bit and she shook her head. "No Tarren she is very far away now and she gave it to me as a present just like I am giving it to you."
The young woman took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "I hope so I really do hope so, but Tarren when people are far away or leave us they are never truly any further than our hearts."
The youngster shrugged. "Me and Momma share one heart," she stated proudly.
The Amazon smiled and patted the childs arm. "I believe you do Tarren."
The conversation came to a sudden end when the door opened and Xena walked in followed closely by Gabrielle. They were both surprised to find Tarren so relaxed with the young Amazon. She was after all still a virtual stranger to the child.
The warrior tilted her head to one side and grinned. "Well Shalia you must really have a magic touch. That kid doesnt sit on just anyone."
Shalia blushed as the child jumped to her feet and ran to her mother throwing her arms around the large womans legs. "Momma you wanna see the bracelet Shalia gave me?"
Xena stared at the antiquity and frowned. She looked at the young Amazon and shook her head. "Shalia that is very nice but its too much."
The child sighed and kicked the floor with the tip of her boot. "I just knew
it," she groaned realizing this was another of those moments where her mother was
changing the rules.
The young woman held up a halting hand. "Please Xena it is a sign of friendship and Tarren did give me this beautiful flower." She motioned to the daisy. "I would say we made a very fair trade."
"I am very sure Xena." Shalia touched her flower and placed a tender hand on the youngsters shoulder. "Perhaps I will see you later Tarren." She looked at the warrior and smiled. "If you need me for anything just call."
"Thank you I will."
The Amazon bowed her head slightly, nodded to Gabrielle as she passed through the door. "My Princess."
Gabrielle cocked her head to one side as if trying to figure out a riddle. The Amazon possessed a gentleness and calm that even the bard found soothing. "Thanks Shalia."
The door closed and Xena and Gabrielle moved into the cottage and the warrior
immediately lifted Tarren playfully into the air. The child giggled and the Princess Bard
had to smile at the ease with which her warrior friend now demonstrated her wealth of
affection for her young daughter. "Im not gone more than a little bit
and youre sweet talking Amazons out of their jewelry."
The child rolled out her lower lip. "I didnt give her any sweets Momma just the flower." She held up her hand as if taking an oath.
The warrior shook her head and kissed the youngster on the cheek. "I know I was teasing." She sat down positioning the child on her knee. "Well that is really a very pretty and very old bracelet. Shalia must really like you," she said as she eyed the jewelry.
"Uh huh and its mine. Right?" She wanted to be sure before she started accepting praise on its behalf.
The warrior grinned and ran her hand along the side of the childs cheek. "Shalia gave it to you so I guess its yours." She paused and let her eyes close a bit. "Did you say thank you?"
The little girl crawled in closer to her mothers shoulder liking the warmth of her body and the comforting smell of the familiar leather. "Uh huh."
The warriors face turned more serious as the child burrowed beside her. "Good girl."
Xena glanced at her still silent friend standing in the doorway.
Gabrielle nodded realizing this was her cue to join in. She sat down on the pallet on
the other side of Tarren leaning in close to smell the childs bouquet. "Pretty
Tarren immediately turned poking her head out underneath her mothers arm to face her recently absent friend. "Ya really like them Gabby? I got a special one just for you." The child poked through the group until she found a big pink one with white trim. "Here ya go." She handed the young woman the flower and immediately returned to the safety of her mothers shoulder.
Gabrielle bit her lip and shook her head a bit to let her larger friend know that she felt the youngster was still too frightened to talk. It was evident by the way she clung to Xena that all she wanted was to be held in those strong arms.
Xena nodded and tightened her hold on the child allowing her own head to tuck over the youngsters shoulder protectively. "You Ok Monster?"
The little girl tucked her head in to the side of her mothers arm. "Sure Momma."
Gabrielle took a whiff of her flower and smiled. "Thank you honey. That is the nicest thing Ive gotten from anyone in a long time," she said lowering her eyes a bit.
The child ran her fingers over her mothers long hair and twisted her lips. "Well thats cause you havent been around much."
Xena let out a short breath and lifted her head up to face the child. "Hey Tarren we talked about this. Gabrielle has been busy helping people and thats a good thing," she said sternly.
The little girl gave a reluctant nudge so the warrior knew she did not appreciate the shift in position from her comfortable spot. "I know Momma. I was just saying why she hasnt gotten stuff. Ya cant get it if youre not here. Right?"
Tarren was used to having Gabrielle always within calling distance and since arriving at the village she had not been so available. Before Xena could respond the Princess Bard interceded. "Thats right honey."
The warrior cocked her head to one side confused as to why her friend was allowing the child to try and make her feel guilty for doing something they both knew was important. "Gabrielle ."
The young woman silenced her with a gentle touch. "No Xena Tarren is right.
If Im not here she cant give me presents like this beautiful flower."
The youngster grinned and lifted her head up. "See Momma Im right."
There was a muffled defense from a child hugging leather. "Am too. Gabby said so."
Gabrielle placed a single finger to her own lips to silence her warrior friend. "I want Tarren to feel comfortable talking to me and if that means eating a little crow than Ill do it," she whispered. "Besides I have been feeling a bit guilty missing so much time with ." She pointed to the small form that was tightly hidden beneath her mothers strong arm.
Xena shook her head in disagreement of the concept but shrugged in surrender. "Have it your way," she muttered and loosed her hold on the child.
Tarren again picked her head up and poked it out under her mothers arm. "Am I still right?" she asked.
The warrior closed her eyes rather than respond dishonestly.
Gabrielle let out a long breath and placed both her hands on the little girls
face. "Yes you are and Im sorry brat. I guess I have let myself get a bit too
involved in the stuff going on around here, but I sure have missed you."
The young woman smiled broadly. "I sure have." She glanced at Xena. "As a matter of fact I was thinking that if youd like the three of us could have supper together out under that big old tree just outside the village. We could sit and eat under the stars like we do on the road and maybe talk...about some stuff."
Finally realizing the method to her friends obvious madness the warrior smiled. "Yeah that would be really nice. Wouldnt it Tarren? Boralla could pack us a nice supper and we could eat it outside and talk about things that maybe bother us."
The child considered the words and looked from her mother back to Gabrielle. Her voice dropped to a near whisper. "Ok but we gotta stay near the village. I dont really feel much like leaving."
Gabrielle tried to move a bit closer hoping the youngster would offer her fears up
freely. "Why honey?"
The little girls eyes dimmed. "I just dont." She turned suddenly to her mother. "Momma can I run over and ask Boralla to make us supper?" The pleading tone in her voice made it hard to refuse.
Xena nodded and ran her hands through the childs mop of hair. "Yeah but you better come right back."
Xena let her head fall into her hands but after only a moment of thought picked it up
and yelled out the door. "And no sloppy cheese stuff." She closed the door and
paced around the cottage. "That kid definitely was told something and it scared the
hell out of her."
Gabrielle leaned back on the pallet with a sigh. "Yeah this may take some doing."
Xena sat down on the pallet again and eyed her younger friend. "Well Ive got the time. Do you?"
Gabrielle lowered her head a bit. "Look Xena, Im sorry I havent been around much the last few days. I promise Ill make it up to both of you." She gave her large friend a nudge. "Come on warrior give me a break."
Xena shook her head and grinned. "Gabrielle dont worry about me. Ive found it quieter with you gone. Tarren has missed you," she teased.
Gabrielle poked her friend in the ribs. "Thanks a lot."
The warrior leaned in closer to her the young woman and smiled. "Look what I mean is that you and I have always been able to do what was needed and then join up, but now that Tarren is with us we cant do that as easily. She needs us to act more like a normal family." She paused as she considered who they were and how they lived. "Well Ok not normal but you know how much she needs us around especially now." She paused again and lowered her head a bit. "Gabrielle the help you are giving the Amazons is very important and I know that I just dont want you promising Tarren things you cant give right now."
The bard nodded. "I know Xena and I was just ."
Before Gabrielle could finish there was a knock at and a member of the Royal Guard entered. "I am sorry to interrupt Princess but Queen Ephiny requires your presence as soon as it is convenient."
Gabrielle smiled and waved the guard away. "Ok tell her Im on my way."
Xena twisted her lips and folded her arms against her chest. "Uh huh
about supper and talking with Tarren?"
The Princess Bard smiled as she backed away to the door. "Ill be there...You know Eph. She probably just wants me to get that letter to Queen Penela done ."She moved tentatively out of the cottage." "Ill be there I promise." With those words she was again gone.
Moments later Tarren came through the door with a jolt. Her eyes scanned the cottage and immediately noticed her friend was again absent. "Where did Gabby go?"
Xena forced a smile and lifted the little girl into her arms. "Oh she just had to go help Ephiny with something. She promised to meet us under that big tree for supper."
Tarren looked at her mother and tried to return the smile. "Ya think shell
Xena nodded and gave the youngster a playful tickle. "Of course. Why would you think otherwise?"
The child lay her head on her mothers shoulder as she stared at a single white flower with pink trim lying forgotten on the pallet. "I dunno maybe she just doesnt think were important anymore," she whispered.
The youngster sat with her legs folded beneath her pulling at blades of grass. "No Momma. She knew about it. Gabby just found something better to do."
Tarren shrugged as she ran her hand over the length of her mothers leather
straps. "I dunno but if she didnt find something better than shed
be here. Right?"
The warrior took a deep breath and wrapped her arms around the little girl. "I think that Gabrielle just got caught up helping Ephiny and forgot. Lets go remind her."
The child stared at the flames of the small fire and shook her head. "No I dont want her to have supper with us anymore Momma. Id rather it was just you and me."
Xena could see the tears forming in her daughters eyes. "Shh hey its
Ok. You know Gabrielle loves you."
Tarren wiped her eyes with the edge of her sleeve and let her body fall in closer to her mothers embrace. "No she doesnt. She didnt even take my flower and I gave her the really pretty one. Boralla put it on her hat and Ephinys wearing it on her waist but Gabby just left hers." The child stared at the two flowers her mother still had attached to her leather. "Youve got yours Momma."
Xena glanced at the daisies and smiled. "Well of course I do. Its a present from my little girl. I think its the best gift in the world."
The youngster ran her fingers over the silky pedals. "Thats what Shalia said
The mother let her voice drop to a whisper and ran her fingers through her small childs hair. "Well then it must be true if we all agree."
Tarren shrugged. "Yeah everyone accept Gabrielle."
Xena wiped some stray hairs from the little girls face and motioned toward the basket. She did not want to get involved in a conversation about Gabrielles needs when there was a more pressing topic to deal with. "So are you gonna let your poor old mother starve or are we gonna eat that food?"
The child shrugged. "I guess we can eat Momma." She poked her head in the basket. "But theres an awful lot. Ya know Boralla made enough for your friend Gabrielle."
The warrior mother sighed and looked toward the village in a last ditch hope her friend would arrive. "I dunno baby. Well ask her but ya know Gabrielle loves telling you stories."
The child leaned against her mothers shoulder as she continued to search the basket. "Her stories were never that good anyway."
The mother closed her eyes. "Hey be nice. I want you to give Gabrielle a chance to explain before you get all mad at her. Ok?"
The child said nothing.
"Did you hear what I said?"
"Yes Momma I heard you."
The child smiled as she successfully pulled out a large turkey leg. "And ya wanna eat now right?"
The warrior took a deep breath deciding the conversation was again taking a wrong turn.
"Yeah I wanna eat now. Xena reached into the basket. "Well good thing Gabrielles not here because today I am so hungry I could eat as much as her." The warrior kept a steady eye on her child hoping for a reaction. There was none. She let out a quick breath and pulled out the contents of the basket. "By the gods roast beef potatoes and bread and cheese and is that cherry pie Boy Gabrielles gonna be sorry she missed all this. Ya now cherry pie is her favorite?"
Tarren took a bite from the turkey leg and dropped it back on the basket. "It is?"
The warrior mother frowned at the action but said nothing about it. "Yup and mine
too so if shed have been here I might have had to sit on her just to get the pie."
The child smiled a bit knowing her mother was teasing. "You can have mine Momma."
"Thank you but you and I share our stuff." Xena placed the food down and lifted the little girl closer. "Oh Tarren I am sure Gabrielle has a really good reason for not coming and I promise that we will find out what it is after we eat all the food."
Tarren shrugged and considered the acceptable reasons for her friends absence. "Ya think she fell in a hole?"
Xena closed her eyes and shook her head. She grabbed two plates and muttered things
under her breath about holes as she prepared two plates of food. The mother handed one to
her child and dropped a napkin on the youngsters lap. "Just eat."
After finishing the meal mother and daughter relaxed under the stars allowing the small flames of the fire to light their small camp.
When all but the cherry pie had been eaten the mother patted her leg motioning for the
child to return to her lap. "Cmere Monster. I need to ask you something?"
The child grinned and eagerly flopped on the warriors stomach. "Ok Momma"
Xena groaned and lifted the overstuffed youngster to one side. "That woman we found on the trails name was Tyrell." She noticed the youngsters expression change at the mention of the event. "Did she say something to you before ."
The child stared at her boot. "Ya know Momma that really is a neat way you track me."
Xena took a deep breath realizing she was going to have to press harder than she had wanted. "Tarren look at me," she ordered.
The little girl slowly focused her attentions on her mother. "Yes Momma"
The mother ran her fingers across her temple. "Gabrielle has a very soft and usually long approach to asking questions but me I just like to ask things straight." She took another breath. "Tarren I need to know. Its very important. Tell me what the woman said to you please."
The little girl shook her head and turned away. "No."
Xena closed her eyes and swallowed hard realizing her approach would need to be stiffer. "Young lady I asked you a question and you will answer me," she said in a forced scolding tone.
The child turned quickly around and stared at her mother with wide teary eyes.
The warrior knew the child had to release the words to release the fear that was eating her up inside. "I said answer me right now Tarren," she yelled.
Tarren bit her lip and Xena could see the tears streaming down the childs cheeks. She said said we had to be careful cause the cloud people would come and the ground would open up and swallow us all."
The warrior closed her eyes and swallowed hard as she wrapped her arms tenderly around her young daughter. "Thank you. Im sorry I yelled at you. I had to get you to say it. It was the only way baby." The mother held her daughter tightly placing gentle kisses on the little girls head. "Im sorry."
The child held tightly to her mother and cried in the warriors armor. "Why
Momma? Why would anyone hurt that woman like that? Is the ground gonna swallow us
The questions kept rolling out.
Chapter 17 - The Test of Love
Back at the Royal Office
Gabrielle sat at a large desk in the royal quarters trying to think of the right words to use. Knowing her friends gift for language the queen had asked Gabrielle to write a note regarding the death of Tyrell that could be sent quickly. However, each time a thought came to the young woman she would start to write think better of it and cross out the words. A messenger had been waiting outside the door for hours ready to take word to Queen Penela about the fate of her daughter.
Seeing that the messenger had yet to depart Ephiny walked in to the office. "Gabrielle I asked you to do a quick note. What is taking so long?" She paused. "Penela will come here for the burial anyway. You need not be so long winded."
The Princess Bard glanced up from her work and glared at her friend. "You asked me
to tell a mother that she has just lost her child. That is not a quick note
A husky voice at the door growled. "Yeah what would you know about compassion Princess?"
Ephiny stepped to one side as Xena entered realizing a fight between these two friends was coming.
Gabrielle threw her hands up and let out a quick breath. "What does that mean Xena?"
The warrior nodded at the queen and sauntered over to the desk placing her knuckles on
the hard wood surface leaning forward just enough to overshadow her friend. "It means
Princess you left a little kid in tears because you didnt show up for supper."
She sneered as her friends face went blank. "She needed you and I needed
you and you didnt even show up."
Gabrielle dropped her quill and covered her face with her hands. "Oh gods supper. Xena I am so sorry. Ephiny asked me to write this letter and ."
Determined not to have the blame for this incident shifted to her shoulders Ephiny held up a hand. "Wait a minute Gabrielle. I asked you if you were free and you said you had nothing to do."
Xena nodded knowing the words were true. "Well thats just what she did nothing." The warrior removed the parchment from her friends hand. "Id like to see the all important words that kept my best friend away."
Dear Queen Penela,
We regret to inform you that your daughter Princess Tyrell has passed to the great beyond. Xena, Warrior Princess, found her body. I am sure you have heard of her ."
Xenas voice dropped to a low growl. "Because Gabrielle this is about the death of a young girl. Its not a scroll about me. Stick to the facts. I told you there is no good way to tell a mother she has lost her child. I know." The words were filled with a venom for a son lost and a daughter left in tears.
The queen grinned and repositioned the petals a bit. "I thought it added a bit of class."
Ephiny nodded and grasped her friends arm. "Ill see you in the morning."
Xena took one last look at Gabrielle shook her head turned and left the quarters.
The young woman sprinted out of the door in a hurry to catch up. "Xena
The warrior who had been taking long strides stopped and turned. "For what?"
Gabrielle held up her hands defensively. "Look I said I was sorry and I am. I
forgot all about the supper. I admit I have been carried away by all this princess
stuff but I dont usually get people asking me what I think."
Xena folded her arms across her chest and frowned. "Gabrielle I ask you what you think all the time and so does Tarren."
The bard turned away to hide her tears. "Its not the same. Youve known me for a few years Xena and Tarren only hears what I say if it agrees with you." She lowered her eyes. "It took time for you to even trust me. I need to earn respect on my own not just because Im your friend." She paused. "I once told Tarren that it didnt bother me to be a sidekick I guess I was wrong. I guess I really do need to feel the strength off the sun on my face too Xena."
The warrior nodded and felt her muscles ease. She looked at this young woman who had
been her friend and family for so long. They had shared so many burdens together gone
through so much. They were joined by something deep inside that nothing could overpower.
The warrior could feel her friends pain. She placed a tender hand on her arm.
"Gabrielle you earn respect because of who you are inside not just by what you
do. You had the respect of a little girl and
The bards eyes dropped. "I lost it "
Xena let out a quick breath and placed her arm around her friends shoulders and started walking once again. "No she loves you and you know it but you better have one big sloppy cheese sandwich for her if you ever want to be able to sleep with both your eyes closed again."
The young woman grinned. "Well do you think shell settle for a story?"
The warrior nodded as they approached the cottage. "I think its a step in the right direction." She smiled. "After all who can replace her Gabby?"
Gabrielle smiled at the special title and the pair walked over to the cottage where Xena could hear Shalia speaking.
The bard put her ear to the door and could tell the young Amazon was telling the
giggling child a story. She cleared her throat and lowered her eyes. "Well it looks
like I am easier to replace than you thought."
Xena let out a short breath and motioned toward the closed door. "Gabrielle just because Shalia tells her a story does not make her a Gabby."
The bard nodded and tried to hide her tears. "I know Well work it all out right?" She hoped those words were true.
Xena could see the pain in her friends face. It made her regret the angry words she had spoken earlier. She knew Gabrielle had a need to grow and explore her own self and to discover her own path. She put a hand on her friends face. "Gabrielle I understand that you need to find yourself your path and I am there for you. I always will be, but Tarren doesnt understand any of that. When you are not around she thinks you dont care about her. Shes such a little kid and we are all she has...all she knows. Cant you see how much you mean to her?"
Gabrielle rubbed the back of her neck with her hand as she considered the words. "Yeah I guess Xena I want to be there for her Its just ."
The warrior nodded in understanding. "I know you want to help the Amazons and so do I. Look why dont you spend some time with her tomorrow? I have to go out on the scouting party and that kid is not gonna be happy about that. I sure would feel better if she was with you."
Gabrielle nodded and leaned on her friends shoulder. "Thank you."
Xena shrugged and allowed a crooked smile. "For what? Dumping my kid in your lap. Youll be going nuts trying to keep up with her."
The bard grinned. "And thanking the gods for every minute of it."
The warrior chuckled a bit. Gabrielle really had been away too long. She had forgotten what a handful Tarren could be. "Yeah well tell me that when I get back and Ill believe you."
The bard pointed her finger at the warrior. "You just tell that kid to be ready to spend the entire day with just me."
Xena smiled at her friends enthusiasm. "Are you sure?" The mother didnt want to see her hurt again.
Gabrielle nodded. "Yes Im very sure."
As mile passed over the warriors face. Perhaps her family could be glued easily back together again. "Well why dont you come in and tell her yourself. You do still sleep here dont ya?" she asked, giving the gentle young woman a nudge.
Gabrielle nodded. "Yeah I do but I do still have to write a short and direct note to Queen Penela and Mussona has a list a field long of scrolls she wants to read." She shook her head. "That woman thinks Im her personal servant Ill see you later. Ok?"
Xena nodded and watched her friend walk away. She glanced up at the dark sky wondering if any on Olympus were listening. "Why me?" With a quick breath she entered the cottage and Shalia immediately rose from her seat.
Tarren jumped up from her place on the pallet. "Hi Momma."
The warrior lifted the little girl into her arms. "Hi Monster. Have you been behaving yourself?"
The response was fast and innocent. "Of course Momma."
The mother glanced at Shalia for confirmation.
The Amazon smiled. "Tarren has been quite well behaved. She even gave me a piece
of her candy."
The little girl lowered her eyes under her mothers stare. "Found it again did you?
The child nodded. "Uh huh."
Xena placed the youngster back on her feet and put her hands on her hips. "Ok. Hand it over."
The child frowned but reached under her pillow and pulled out the bag of confections and placed it in her mothers now open palm. "Yes maam."
Tarren leaned toward Shalia. "Just so ya now stuff like candy is a secret,"
The Amazon winked at the warrior and nodded to the child. "Sorry."
The youngster shrugged and patted the young womans hand. "Its Ok your new at this and Momma always finds it anyway." She let her voice drop lower. "But then I find it again after too."
The young Amazon glanced at the warrior who grinned. "Not this time you wont," the mother said in a stern voice trying to suppress a smile.
The little girl recognized the message behind the threatening stare. "But if you want I can work on my picture Momma," she said, reaching under the mattress and pulling out the private item.
Xena motioned to the other room. "Good choice and dont forget to close the door behind you," she replied, waiting for the child to vacate the area so she could have a private conversation with the Amazon.
The youngster dragged her feet a bit. "Bye Shalia
see ya tomorrow."
The Amazon nodded. "Goodbye Warrior Princess Tarren."
Xena twisted her lips and rocked back and forth on her heals. "Tarren!"
The child looked from her mother to her new friend. "Uh it was just a game Momma. Shalia knows Im not a Warrior Princess yet. Right?" She looked at the Amazon hopeful for agreement.
The young woman suppressed a smile and nodded. "Yes of course Tarren."
The mother pointed toward the outer room and shook her head. "Well you better get your little butt in that other room before I find out just what a little Warrior Princess does besides find candy she shouldnt."
This action brought a small child flying back in caught only by the fast warrior
reflexes of her mother. "Uh huh eavesdropping too?"
The child lay limp over her mothers arm. "Well my ear fell against the door and I sort of yes maam." When youre caught youre caught.
Xena nodded and stood the child up and turned her shoulders toward the room. She glanced at the Amazon. "Maybe we should talk outside. Ill be there in a minute."
Shalia nodded and left the hut.
The mother stared down at her young daughter and frowned. "Now you young lady are going to take your naughty little behind in that room and sit at that table and do your picture. You are not to move. Do you understand?"
The child glanced up at her frustrated mother. "Yes Momma."
Xena nodded and gave the youngster a fast swat to the seat of her britches to help her remember which direction to head.
Tarren yelped at the feel of her mothers muscular hand.
The warrior shook a warning finger. "That is for putting your little ear where it doesnt belong," she thundered. "Now get moving before you get another one."
The child did not waste time rubbing her bottom but merely sprinted into the other room before her mother followed through on that last thought.
Xena closed the door and shook her head. "Her ear fell against the
playing Warrior Princess," she muttered, trying to hide a grin at her young
daughters overly active imagination. She took a breath smiled and moved outside the
cottage. To her relief Shalia was still waiting. "Im sorry but Tarren needed
Shalia was leaning up against the hut staring up at the night sky her long hair blowing in the breeze. The young Amazon seemed to find comfort in the gentle embrace of darkness. "It is alright. I have no place else to be and your duties as her mother should come before anything else."
"Thank you." The mother glanced at the Amazon as she took a seat on a bench
beside her. The warrior had managed to have the royal guards dismissed at any time
Gabrielle was not present. It had taken very little to convince them that it might be
safer for all if she and her daughter were left to their privacy. Xena fiddled with her
chakrum hoping to find the right words to impart to the obviously lonely girl.
"Shalia you are so young. Dont you have friends that you would prefer to
be with? I mean I love having you available for Tarren but she is not your
Shalia lowered her eyes. "I have few friends. I am afraid that an Amazon who does not swing a sword well is not looked upon with much regard." Her voice was filled with a sadness of greater depth than one so young should ever feel.
Xena let out a quick breath knowing the words were true. "But you are a member of the queens house."
Shalia smiled a bit as she thought of her adopted family. "Yes and that gets me superficial respect but I know what is said behind my back. I dont mind." She offered the warrior a heartfelt smile. "Ephiny has been very good to me and very patient. She is a good queen and she will one day be a great one if ." Her voice trailed off. "I am sorry you wanted to talk to me and I am rambling on." She lowered her eyes.
The warrior grinned and placed a comforting hand on the young womans arm. She did
not want the girl retreating into her shell again. "Its Ok I dont mind at
all. I have a friend who rambles on like that and I sort of miss it."
The warrior tilted her head to one side. "Are you an oracle Shalia?"
The Amazon smiled. "No but some things are very obvious especially to those of us who do little more than observe the world."
Xena folded her hands behind her head and took a deep breath of the clean night air. "You can join it too Shalia. Its a big place. You dont have to stay here. What Tarren said about coming with us ."
The young Amazon smiled and shook her head. "Xena I have no intention of deserting my home and my people, but Tarren seemed so hurt that I could not tell her that. She misses Princess Gabrielle but she will not admit it."
Xena scratched her head a bit stunned by this young womans insight. "Shalia
I have to admit you are not like any Amazon I have ever known. You always seem to
say and do the right thing but
Shalia bobbed her head up and down. "But I am no warrior because I do not look like much of a fighter."
Xena a gain smiled at the young womans intuition. "I only agree with the part about you not looking like much of a fighter. Something tells me you are pretty formidable in your own way."
"I have my gifts as do we all Xena." She stared at the leather-clad woman for a long moment. "However, I do not wish to harm anything." She took a few steps away and turned. "A warrior is something that comes from the heart not the muscles. I was told that at a very young age and I still believe it."
Xena nodded realizing that this young womans wisdom was far beyond her years. "Youre right Shalia." She sighed remembering her earlier conversation with the bard. "I wish Gabrielle could see that."
The reply was filled with confidence. "She will in time I am sure."
The mother let out a long breath as she thought of her child. "And Tarren ."
The Amazon completed the sentence. "And Tarren needs her mother very much right now."
Again Xena smiled. "You are quite impressive Shalia."
Shalia bowed her head slightly. "Thank you. Coming from you that is a great compliment Warrior Princess."
Xena grumbled a bit at the use of title returning. "Hey you and I are friends Shalia. My friends never call me that."
The young woman nodded. "Very well Xena."
The warrior moved slowly beside the young Amazon and took a deep breath. "Ya know
I really just asked you to stay so I could say thank you again. We are going through a bit
family crisis here and I appreciate your help."
Shalia stared into the large blue eyes of her friend. "I am glad to be of service " She paused. "I wish my Amazon people could see the value of a person as more than just how far they send an arrow or how fast they wield a sword The way that you can"
Xena could not help but grin. "Well perhaps you will have to teach them."
The young womans usually bright smile faded and she backed away nervously. "I am afraid there is no time for that."
Xena took a step toward her and again Shalia moved away. "Why not?"
The young woman struggled to regain her composure and give a fair answer. "Well the negotiations are time consuming."
The warrior settled back and stared at the young woman trying to decide which words she had spoken had pushed her away. She decided a friendly hand might be best to offer. "One day all this will be over." She glanced at the now sullen form. "However, if in the meantime you want to hang around with some friends this door is always open to you."
Shalia closed her eyes and tried to smile. "Thank you."
Xena folded her arms and moved closer to the cottage door. "Look Shalia I have to go out on a scouting trip in the morning. Tarren is gonna stay with Gabrielle. Im sure everything will be fine but will you just keep ." She shook her head. "I cant believe Im asking this."
The calmness that was the Amazons familiar persona returned. "I will be very happy to make sure Tarren is not alone." She lowered her eyes a bit not wishing to speak out of place. "Xena never feel guilty for wanting to protect your child. A good mother like a good leader should always puts the needs of their child or their people first."
The warrior let out a long breath grateful she did not have to finish the request. She heard the last of the words as if they were spoken inside her head in a whisper rather than out loud. She nodded at the young Amazon. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight." Shalia started to turn but paused and looked back at the warrior. "Xena be careful. Sometimes the things we cannot see really can hurt us. Do not be so quick to trust your eyes."
The warrior cocked her head to one side and even looked to the ground for some signs of
the womans exit but there were none. "Damn shes good. Im gonna have
to get her to track with us."
With a deep breath the warrior entered the cottage walking straight to the back room where she had left her daughter.
The youngster was busy drawing but seeing her mother enter rolled up her picture and placed it out of sight beneath the table.
The mother grinned at the action. "Relax Im not gonna peak" she glanced
at the rolled parchment at the youngsters feet as she seated herself at the table.
"Is that ever gonna be finished?"
The child moved the parchment to one side with the tip of her boot. "Yes maam."
The warrior mother shook head. "Oh I get it you got a swat and now youre
gonna Maam me."
Xena folded her arms against her chest and started to rise. "Well if you feel that way I guess Ill just go back in the other room."
Tarrens eyes went wide and she yanked on her mothers arm. "No I
dont want you to go Momma."
Xena again lowered herself into the chair. "Now Im Momma again?"
The child tilted her head to one side confused by the words. "You were always
Momma. I was just acting mad at you for a minute."
The warrior mother leaned back in the chair and shook her head. "You try and eavesdrop on me get caught and get your tail swatted for it and Youre mad at me? Little one I think you have that backwards."
The child bit her lip. It sounded so much different when her mother phrased it. "Im the one who got a swat."
The warrior nodded and let her elbows lean on the table. "And you are the one who deserved it and will get another one if I catch you doing that again." She tilted her head to one side. "What have I told you about listening in on private conversations?"
"That its bad." Tarren lowered her head and let her fingers make circles on the surface of the table. "Sorry Momma."
Xena placed her hand over the childs and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Thats more like it." She paused and stared at the now silent child. She patted her leg. "Cmere Naughty Monster I want to talk to you."
The child bit her lip and moved around the edge of the table to slide onto her mothers lap. "Momma if this is about the candy. I found it accidental like and Shalia was a guest so ."
The warrior shook her head and grinned a bit. "No not the candy but I dont
want to see you accidentally finding it again. You eat too much of that stuff
Tarren. Youre gonna rot your teeth."
"Dont worry Momma I have spares remember." The youngster opened her mouth and displayed her baby teeth reminding the mother once again of just how very young her child somehow was.
Xena ran her hand through the childs hair and smiled. "Yeah I remember baby
but still no more candy." She shook a finger. "We dont want all
those little teeth coming out before the replacements are ready to come in. You have
enough empty spots in there."
The youngster frowned realizing her supply of confections would be short for a while. "Yes Momma." She leaned on the warriors chest and fingered the straps. "So what you wanna talk about? Are we going tracking again tomorrow?"
Xena ignored the fingers on the leather and repositioned the child closer to one side. "Uh no baby not tomorrow. Thats sort of why I want to talk to you about Gabrielle."
The mother again shook a warning finger. "You know who she is."
Tarren started to hum as she yanked at the forbidden leathers. This was getting to be a very bad habit.
Xena grinned and grabbed the little fingers and held them in her and. "Are you determined to keep doing that until you rip it and I have to spank you. Because if you are then Ill just cut one off myself for you and paddle your little backside right now. It will save us both a lot of trouble and anticipation. Ok?"
"Well if you keep yanking on it you will so stop."
The child could sense the seriousness in the words. "Yes maam."
The warrior let out a growl and tossed the child playfully in the air catching her in
her arms. "You are driving me insane?"
"Hmm Im sorry Momma."
The warrior cradled the child in her arms tightly. "No youre not."
"Yes I am."
"No youre not.
The little girl smiled and again reached for the straps. "Ok I dont wanna be
spectful Momma so Ill say Im not."
The warrior grinned and started tickling the grinning child. "Naughty."
When the youngsters smile had fully returned the mother sat placing her child back on her lap. "Ok enough play. I want to talk about Gabrielle and dont even think of saying who," she warned.
"OK why?" The child giggled and made a valiant attempt at escape only to find her self caught under the arm by the warriors fast reflexes.
The mother pulled the chuckling youngster back onto her lap. "Get back here you naughty little Xena."
All stops were being pulled out. The magic words were being spoken.
Tarrens eyes grew wide and her head turned. "Momma you never call me
Xena frowned and let her long hair drop in front of her. "Well thats because youve never acted as stubborn as me before."
The child smiled. "Thanks Momma."
"Youngster that was not supposed to be a compliment."
The little girl kept her smile and even allowed her eyes to grow a bit wider as if considering changing her name to little Xena. "Oh Ok Momma."
The warrior mother grinned and dropped her head onto the childs shoulder.
"Tarren listen to me. This is important." She let out a long breath. "Look
I know youre angry with Gabrielle and I understand that, but I want you to also
understand that she is feeling very bad about missing supper with us and
hurting your feelings."
The child shrugged and rolled a long strand of her mothers hair in her fingers. "She didnt hurt me. I dont care that she didnt come to supper or nothing."
"Yes you do."
"No I dont"
Xena watched as the little girl attacked the single braid she wore on one side. "Tarren you do care." She got a grip on the youngsters fingers before she could undo the single strand. "Stop playing and listen!"
The child folded her hands in her lap and shrunk against her mothers shoulder hiding her eyes. "Well maybe I used to care a little but I dont need Gabrielle anymore. Shalia will tell me stories and stuff when youre busy Momma."
Xena pulled the little girl closer. "Hey I know you like Shalia. I like her too. Shes a very good friend, but Gabrielle is family Tarren and we do not turn our backs on family just because they make mistakes. Do we?"
The warrior ran her large hand tenderly across the little girls face. She had not realized the child had been waiting each night for the bard to return. "Ok Monster, I guess this is something both you and Gabrielle will have to figure out on your own, but you remember to show her respect. Shes still my best friend and part of our family whether youre mad at her or not. Understand?"
Xena let out a long breath and lifted the child off her lap. "Now then tomorrow I
have to go out with a search party to take a look around the area we found that
Tarrens face turned white with horror and she clung to her mothers arm. "Youre leaving without me Momma. What about the bad cloud people?"
The mother placed a gentle hand on the youngsters face and smiled. "Im just taking a ride with a scouting party Tarren. I will be just fine and Ill be back as soon as I can. Gabrielle will be here."
The little girl frowned. "Big deal."
"Tarren be nice."
The youngster threw her arms around the seated warriors neck. "Cant I come with you Momma?"
Xena patted the little girls back and sighed. "No it might be dangerous and I want you here."
The warrior pulled the little one forward so the child could see the seriousness in her eyes. "No buts Now you are staying here and thats the end of it. Gabrielle will be here for you until I get back. She wants to spend time with you. Give her a chance for me"
The youngster kept a tight hold on her mother but nodded. "Ok Momma but just for you Im still mad at her."
Xena shook her head and dropped it into one hand as she leaned on the edge of the table. "You are giving me gray hairs again youngster."
The little girl glanced through her mothers dark main and shook her head as she
settled back on the warriors lap. "You dont have any gray hairs
Momma. How come you keep saying you do?"
Xena smiled as she wrapped her arms around her child. "I dont know. Maybe I just feel like I have them."
Tarren let out a short breath and stared at the woman who had given her life and then returned to offer her a new one. "Im sorry Momma. Ill be nice to your friend Gabrielle if you want."
The mother gave a crooked smile. "My friend? Shes our friend and you remember that."
The child said nothing more but merely lay her head down on her mothers broad
shoulder trying to get the visions of people falling from the clouds out of her thoughts.
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