Disclaimers: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess and all other associated with the television series of the same name are owned by MCA/ Universal Pictures. This is a work of fan fiction and no copyright infringement is intended.
Subtext: I guess with my writing so far we'll just quit calling it subtext and call it maintext. Yes they are in love with each other.
Violence: Mel and Xena doing what Mel and Xena do best.
Other: Part Seventy-three in the series "Raising Melosa". Takes place about a month after "You Play, You Pay."
Teamwork at its Best
I should have known when I heard the pounding on my door there was trouble. Over the course of the last month or so, I had become so accustomed to being jangled out of bed at all times of the day and night I had just learned to get up.
"Mel get up now! Right now!" Mother yelled through my door.
"Im up, Im up." I grumbled as I sat up in bed. Glancing out the window I could tell it was the middle of the night. "Parents are supposed to get older not younger." I mumbled as I pulled my leggings on and tossed a tunic over my head. "Man she does know how to hold a grudge."
When I pulled the door open I found her snapping her swords into place around her hips. She glanced up at me. "Get dressed. Full armor. Were riding out."
I learned the hard way about asking questions I just turned to get dressed. My blood started to pump when I realized she said we were riding out. I dressed quickly and joined her back in the main room. Mom was downstairs now, packing things into our saddlebags. "Xe please be careful."
"I will love. Its a scouting trip, nothing more. I have to see if the reports are true and I need to start a defense plan if it is."
"I should go over to the village and make sure everyone is prepared there." She handed Mother her saddlebags. I watched as they took the time to be with each other.
"Ri. Please by the Gods be careful. Dont take any chances and dont leave the village. No matter what the scouts say when they come back."
She nodded. "I promise. When will you be back?"
"If all goes well, before sun up."
"Love you Warrior." Mom leaned up placing a tender kiss to Mothers lips. "Gods Xe be safe."
"Always." Mother slowly stroked her knuckles down Moms cheek. I was always amazed at the love and devotion I saw between these two. "Love you bard. Well be home soon."
She turned to me, tossing me my saddlebags. "Lets go runt."
I tried to follow her out the door, only to be stopped by Mom. She smiled at me as she took me into her arms. "You be careful."
"Oh I wont have a choice. Well be home soon." I gave her a hug as I turned to follow Mother out the door without question.
I would have time to ask her questions later. As I made my way off the porch I noticed several of the Royal Guard around the house. I drew a deep breath and waited for the yelling to begin. I was actually surprised when all I heard was her clearing her throat before issuing orders.
"The Queen needs an escort to the village." She looked at the half dozen Royal Guard who stood on the porch waiting for the wrath of the Consort as it had become known over the last month. She was riding us hard on every single little thing and the sound of her voice made most of us flinch. "You," She pointed at Shawn, I just dropped my head. Poor Shawn was about as high on my Mothers list as you could get. "You will personally guard the Queen while Im gone. Gods help you if I come home and find one hair out of place on her head. So much as one scratch, one mark and Ill make you wish for a quick and painless death." I watched as the blood drained from her face and Mother closed in. "Which you wont get. I will kill you slowly. Very slowly. Do you understand?"
"Yes Your Highness I understand."
She straightened up as she looked to the other guards. "The rest of you will stay here near the house. Remember that you are responsible for the safety of the Princesses and my sons. I will assure you all more pain in this lifetime than you could ever imagine in a thousand other if anything happens to them. Trust me on the multiple lifetimes thing. They do exist and if anything happens to my family, yours are screwed."
She turned and came down the steps to join me. She vaulted into the saddle of her horse then turned back to the guards. "You do understand me right?"
"Yes Your Highness." They all answered in unison.
"Good. Well be back before sunrise." I mounted my horse and followed her away from the house. "Arent you going to ask?"
"Will I get yelled at?"
"Okay then where are we going?"
"I just got a report from a scout that there is a large army on our western boarder. Were going to see if its true."
"Why would one of our own scouts lie?"
"Oh Im not saying she was lying. Over estimating maybe, not lying."
"So what if there is? Then what?"
"Then we try to figure out why theyre there." She slowed her horse and waited for me to catch up to her. "Mel you know why Ive been so hard on you dont you?"
"Yeah. Because I apparently cant do anything right."
"Not true. Im hard on you because a long time ago I made a promise to your Mom. I promised her that I would train you and make you a warrior. You chose this path Mel, its a hard life and I tried to tell you that."
"I know. It just seems like Im constantly in trouble lately."
"Mel have you made the same mistake twice?"
"Are you nuts! No way!"
"Ah runt youve learned something already." She chuckled as she reached her hand out and took mine. "I love you Mel and I just want you to be the best damned warrior I can make you and please dont think I wont kick your ass from here to Tartarus and back to see that it happens."
"Mother were half way there now."
She laughed again as she released my hand. "Yeah, well there will be some fun spots along the way, I promise."
"I trust you."
"Glad to hear it." She glanced at me with a little grin. "So tell me about Celia."
"Eh whats to tell? She doesnt know Im alive."
"Oh I find that hard to believe. Youve got half the nation lusting after you."
"Shes firmly on the side thats not." This got me another little laugh. "Gee thanks so much."
"Im sorry Mel. Its just that I know the feeling."
"You? Oh please."
"No really its true. Gods I must have spent two seasons trying to find the right way to approach your Mom. I know how it feels to want to say something and not be able to do it."
"Well Celia is a couple of seasons older than I am and see only sees two things when she looks at me."
"And those two things are?"
"A kid and a warrior wannbe."
"Hmm thats tough. For what its worth Mel I know youre not a kid." She reined her horse as she turned to me. "And Ive had you draw your sword up to take my head off. I know you are truly a warrior." She chuckled as she nudged her horse. "You need a little work, but you got the basics."
"Well I dont think it would matter to Celia if I was the best warrior in Greece ."
She held up her hand. "Second best."
It was my turn to laugh. "Yeah second best. Shes got the healer thing and well I dont think she thinks too much of our class."
"Yeah you know, the warrior class."
"Hmm never heard it put quite that way before."
"Yeah well there are several classes. Warrior class, religious class ."
"Crazy healer class?"
I chuckled. "Umm-hmm howd you know?"
"Never met a healer who wasnt crazy. Something in their personalities make them pushy."
"Could it be something in your personality that makes you stubborn?"
"Nah couldnt be that." She grinned at me. "You know, I could break your arm. Give you a chance to spend time with Celia."
"Im not that desperate, thanks anyway."
"The offer stands. Come on runt lets get moving." With that she healed her horse into a gallop. I followed and soon we were cutting across the field at full speed.
Three candle marks later with very little rest we slowed as Mother held up her hand. She dismounted and sent her horse off with a slap. I dismounted and moved next to her. We crouched down as we moved to the top of a small rise. Crawling on our stomachs we slowly peeked over the top. I let my head drop at the sight before us.
"This isnt good." She whispered as she started counting campfires. "There must be a thousand men down there."
"Anything is possible, but what does your gut tell you?"
"That they are definitely not just passing through."
"So now what?"
"Well we need to find somebody and ask em whats going on."
"Like theyll tell us."
"Oh yeah theyll tell us."
We moved closer to the camp, taking shelter in a grove of trees. Mother pointed up and I nodded as I followed her into the trees. We moved along in the tree line watching the soldiers. They moved around preparing weapons, organizing supplies and tending horses. We crept through the trees until we got to the other edge of the camp. Mother pointed down at a lone sentry. She dropped down behind him. As she stood up she tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around she delivered a right to his jaw that sent him spiraling back. She caught him, dragging him into the trees.
I dropped down and watched as she gave him a couple of good shakes. The man wasnt really more than a boy. The whites of his eyes showed his terror as mother pulled him close to her face. "Whose camp is this?"
The young man stammered a couple of times but he didnt say anything that could be useful.
"Okay that was your first chance. I give three. Second one coming up. Whose camp is this?"
He just continued to shake and stammer.
"That was two. Now Im going to get real mad if a nice boy like you makes me hurt him to get the information I need." She growled giving him another shake.
I put my hand on her shoulder. "Can I try?"
I moved up to his face and leaned over to his ear, his head tuned slightly and we made eye contact. "Whats your name?"
"Dayis." He stammered as he looked back to mother, who was still sneering.
"Okay Dayis look heres the deal. All she wants to know is, who youre riding with. If you tell me Ill make sure she leaves you intact. If you make her break her three chances rule, chances are shell break you with them." I leaned in a little closer. "I know you cant tell, but umm, shes got a really bad temper."
"I I I can tell ."
"Yeah and well unfortunately its been a while since shes gotten to hurt someone and shes really in the mood."
"Delcar, Delcar the Mighty." He swallowed hard as he looked back and forth between us. He made eye contact with me. "Hes a warlord from the north."
"Whats he doing here?"
"Amazons. He wants amazons."
"Thanks." As I thanked him, Mother drew back her hands and knocked him out.
"Go job runt. Tie him up while I take a quick look around."
I bound him up tight enough that he wasnt going anywhere for sometime to come. I was going to gag him but it occurred to me that one, he was out for the night and two, we were close enough that his compatriots could still hear muffled screams through a gag. So, basically, it was pointless. I turned to find Mother moving in the back of the camp toward the commanders tent. As she disappeared around the corner the trouble started.
I bolted out of my cover drawing my staff as I did. I had to duck quickly to keep from getting hit by the guy who came charging around the corner. Damn that was fast! I whirled as I came up and caught him in the stomach. He doubled over then fell to the ground. Ah I love it when that happens. I grinned as I turned to find Mother. As I rounded the corner she came up with a roar as she sent a man sailing over her back. I had to duck again keep from getting hit by him.
I could hear the soldiers coming to life in the camp and I knew that real soon we were gonna have real problems. I moved to her back as she slowed a bit and we circled back to back to get a feel for our current situation. "Any suggestions?" I asked as I twisted my staff, hearing the click I waited for her answer before I drew the blade.
"Im thinking fight."
"Youre just really in the mood arent you?"
"Yeah pisses me off when they drag me out of bed in the middle of the night for something like this."
"Okay. You want the tall ones or the short ones?" You could
see the confused looks on the soldiers faces as they listened to our exchange. They
were wondering what we could be up to.
"Actually Ill take the redheads and the blondes you take the brunettes." I heard her swords slide from their scabbards.
"You always get the redheads." I gave a little whine, as I grinned a man in front of me as we continued to turn.
"Thats because you cant." She laughed as I felt her twirl her swords. I stood up and turned around tapping her on the shoulder.
She stood, turned around to face me and grinned. "What?"
"Whaddya mean I cant?"
"Whaddya mean I cant get the redhead?"
"One word. Celia."
"You know it really pisses me off when you say stuff like that."
"Really runt? What are you gonna do about it?"
"Im gonna," I grinned as I tuned and gave a left jab to the closest face to me. "Hit this guy!"
"Good choice." I heard the fight start up after that. Pretty soon we were fighting together as we moved back to the tree line. "I hate it when this happens." She yelled as she tossed a man over her shoulder sending him upside down into a tree.
"Yeah well," I cut one man down with my blade as I swung around and took another down with my half staff. "If you werent so nosy," I turned and ducked a blade headed for my neck. A quick slash across the midsection made him cease that particular course of action. His next action was to drop to my feet. Love them there. "We wouldnt have these problems."
"Picky, picky. Are you done playing around now?"
"Yeah its getting old."
I heard her whistle, the horses responded by meeting us at the edge of the trees. We continued to drop man after man as we moved out and to our mounts. Kicking the last man down I turned with her and we raced up the rise and headed for home.
"Oh you did it." I yelled as we continued the fast pace home. "You just had to go stir em up. I bet you poke sleeping bears too dont you?"
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