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 VI

By Fantimbard@aol.com




Chapter 16 - Separate Directions

Before the child could even call, Xena came up beside her and pulled the frightened youngster from the injured woman’s 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.

The child kept her eyes trained on the injured woman and did not move.

Xena gave the youngster a gentle nudge. "Hey I said get going…now," she said sternly trying to break the frozen youngster’s concentration.

Tarren took one last long glance at the battered body of the stranger and gave her mother a questioning stare before moving toward the tree.


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 Amazon’s 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 woman’s 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. "You’re Princess Tyrell…the one that attacked us on the road," she stated as she looked over the young woman’s 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 band?"

Tyrell opened her mouth but no words came out. She struggled to rise grabbing onto Xena’s armor. "I…I…."

The injuries were bad and the young woman was going into shock. The warrior gently pressed the Amazon’s shoulders to the ground. "Ok …Relax…I have to get my horse and then I’ll 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. "Don’t leave the child alone. It’s not safe…I told her…It’s not safe…."

Xena tried to quiet the young woman’s 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 I’m sorry." She took one final hard breath and fell dead in the warrior’s arms.

The warrior lowered her eyes and lay the woman gently down placing her hands over her heart in Amazon tradition. She took a deep breath and shook her head for another life wasted in battle. "I don’t know who did this but you fought well young warrior. Find your way to Artemis."

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? Can’t you fix her here?" she asked still occupied with her task of choosing flowers.

Xena placed a loving hand over the child’s face and shook her head. "No baby I can’t fix her at all."

Tarren’s humming stopped suddenly. She glanced at her mother and Xena could see the tears falling from the little girl’s 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… She’s…."

Before Xena could finish the sentence the youngster’s 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 girl’s way of not dealing with the horror she had seen. "Tarren we need to talk."

The little girl’s eyes lowered as she waited for her gift to be accepted. "I don’t wanna talk Momma. I wanna give you a pretty flower." The child bit her lip in anticipation of the warrior’s 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 I’m gonna keep it close."

Tarren grinned as she stared at the remaining flowers. "Good Momma…I think I’ll bring one to Gabby and Ephiny and Shalia and Boralla." She paused and let her eyes drop a bit. "Everyone should smell pretty stuff. Don’t ya think Momma?" she asked with her wide blue eyes locked on her mother’s face.

The warrior mother could feet her child’s 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 one’s 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 mother’s arms deciding it was not something she wished to see again. The child heard her mother’s 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 we’ll talk about it later. You just lay in Momma’s arms. I won’t 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 mother’s 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 you’ve 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?"

"Uh huh."


The child frowned as if the answer should be obvious. "Cause you’re 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. It’s time to go."

Tarren turned and glanced at her mother. "I’m not done picking my flowers."

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 we’ll track again soon. I promise."

The child shrugged. "It’s Ok we can track in the village. We don’t haffta come way out here."

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 daughter’s hand. As they approached the saddle with the body strapped over it the youngster quickly skidded in front of her mother blocking the warrior’s 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 I’ll carry you."

The little girl sighed and held tightly to the warrior’s neck. "Thanks Momma."



The mother touched her daughter’s 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 mother’s arms. The child could not help but stare at the blanketed form tied over Argo’s 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…


As the warrior led the horse with the body draped across through the compound a crowd of Amazons stopped and stared. Soon there was a murmur in the group. All wondered if this was yet another fool that had come up against the great warrior’s blade.



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 mother’s 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 we’ll…."

The child shook her head vigorously and again the warrior could feel the youngster’s 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 woman’s 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 woman’s 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 mother’s 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 girl’s 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 bard’s 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 hasn’t dealt with it too well."


Ephiny covered her face with her hands. "I’m sorry Xena."

Xena nodded. "Eph I didn’t see any signs of a fight or even any tracks. I couldn’t 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. "It’s my fault. I should have scanned the area before I took her there."

The queen placed a friendly hand on her friend’s shoulder. "Xena you can’t always know what’s 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 won’t 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…I’m 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 words."

The young woman put her hand over the warrior’s and nodded. "Thanks I’ll 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."

Gabrielle’s 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 won’t believe that."

Xena took a deep breath. "Gabrielle it’s true. It might have happened that way. There were no tracks. Amazons are known for the ability to cover themselves that well. We won’t 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. Tyrell’s still was still covered with the warrior’s blanket. She ran her hand over the young woman’s arm. "Why?"

Seeing the queen’s 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 we’ll go have a look for ourselves. It’s 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 Shalia’s 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 youngster’s eyes, but forced her attention on the group of daisies held tightly in her hand. "What pretty flowers you have picked."

The child’s 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 you’ve been so nice." She paused as the young woman held it in her hand. "It’s 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 woman’s face and smiled. "That’s what Momma says too."

Shalia wiped a few stray hairs off the child’s forehead. "Well she’s 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 youngster’s 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 won’t let me have this. It’s too expensive and I just gave you a flower. It’s not a fair trade."

Tarren sighed and started to remove the gift when the young woman gently held the small fingers in place. "Doesn’t your Momma also tell you that you shouldn’t 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 I’m 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 child’s 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?"

"Yes 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. "Doesn’t she want it back?"

Shalia’s 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 child again smiled at the value of her newest treasure. "Do you think you’ll see Momma again soon?" she asked, knowing all to well what it was like to be without one

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 child’s 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 doesn’t sit on just anyone."

Shalia blushed as the child jumped to her feet and ran to her mother throwing her arms around the large woman’s 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 it’s 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."

Xena glanced at Gabrielle who nodded her approval at the exchange. The warrior let out a long breath and looked at the now brightened eyes of her child. "If you are sure." She gave a grateful nod to the young Amazon. "Thank you Shalia…again."

"I am very sure Xena." Shalia touched her flower and placed a tender hand on the youngster’s 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. "I’m not gone more than a little bit and you’re sweet talking Amazons out of their jewelry."

The child rolled out her lower lip. "I didn’t 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 it’s 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 child’s cheek. "Shalia gave it to you so I guess it’s yours." She paused and let her eyes close a bit. "Did you say thank you?"

The little girl crawled in closer to her mother’s shoulder liking the warmth of her body and the comforting smell of the familiar leather. "Uh huh."

The warrior’s 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 child’s bouquet. "Pretty flowers honey."

Tarren immediately turned poking her head out underneath her mother’s 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 mother’s 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 youngster’s shoulder protectively. "You Ok Monster?"

The little girl tucked her head in to the side of her mother’s arm. "Sure Momma."

Gabrielle took a whiff of her flower and smiled. "Thank you honey. That is the nicest thing I’ve gotten from anyone in a long time," she said lowering her eyes a bit.

The child ran her fingers over her mother’s long hair and twisted her lips. "Well that’s cause you haven’t 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 that’s 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 hasn’t gotten stuff. Ya can’t get it if you’re 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. "That’s 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 I’m not here she can’t give me presents like this beautiful flower."

The youngster grinned and lifted her head up. "See Momma I’m right."

A large hand cradled the child’s head and brought it immediately back down to it’s hidden place on the mother’s shoulder. "You are not right. Now stay there for a minute."


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 I’ll 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 mother’s 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 mother’s 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 girl’s face. "Yes you are and I’m 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."

"Ya have?"

The young woman smiled broadly. "I sure have." She glanced at Xena. "As a matter of fact I was thinking that if you’d 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 friend’s obvious madness the warrior smiled. "Yeah that would be really nice. Wouldn’t 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 don’t 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 girl’s eyes dimmed. "I just don’t." 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 child’s mop of hair. "Yeah but you better come right back."

The child nodded and slid off the warrior’s lap. She hugged both her mother and Gabrielle before scooting toward the door. "Yes ma’am."


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 I’ve got the time. Do you?"

Gabrielle lowered her head a bit. "Look Xena, I’m sorry I haven’t been around much the last few days. I promise I’ll 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 don’t worry about me. I’ve 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 can’t 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 don’t want you promising Tarren things you can’t 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 I’m on my way."

Xena twisted her lips and folded her arms against her chest. "Uh huh…What about supper and talking with Tarren?"

The Princess Bard smiled as she backed away to the door. "I’ll 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." "I’ll be there…I promise." With those words she was again gone.


Moment’s 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 she’ll come Momma?"

Xena nodded and gave the youngster a playful tickle. "Of course. Why would you think otherwise?"

The child lay her head on her mother’s shoulder as she stared at a single white flower with pink trim lying forgotten on the pallet. "I dunno maybe she just doesn’t think we’re important anymore," she whispered.





Tarren sat under the large tree staring at the basket filled with food.
Xena leaned up against the tree and watched as her young daughter craned her small head back toward the village hoping Gabrielle would come. Hours had passed and there had been no sign of her.
The warrior had built a small fire to keep the pair warm as the sky started to grow dim. She shook her head and knelt beside the now sullen child. "Hey Monster maybe I should go remind Gabrielle about supper."

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."

Xena swallowed and pulled the small form into her lap. "That’s not true. What could be better than having supper with you?" she asked, knowing the child was hurt.

Tarren shrugged as she ran her hand over the length of her mother’s leather straps. "I dunno but if she didn’t find something better than she’d 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. Let’s go remind her."

The child stared at the flames of the small fire and shook her head. "No I don’t want her to have supper with us anymore Momma. I’d rather it was just you and me."

Xena could see the tears forming in her daughter’s eyes. "Shh hey it’s 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 mother’s embrace. "No she doesn’t. She didn’t even take my flower and I gave her the really pretty one. Boralla put it on her hat and Ephiny’s 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. "You’ve got yours Momma."

Xena glanced at the daisies and smiled. "Well of course I do. It’s a present from my little girl. I think it’s the best gift in the world."



The youngster ran her fingers over the silky pedals. "That’s what Shalia said too…sort."

The mother let her voice drop to a whisper and ran her fingers through her small child’s 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 girl’s face and motioned toward the basket. She did not want to get involved in a conversation about Gabrielle’s 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 there’s an awful lot. Ya know Boralla made enough for your friend Gabrielle."

The warrior sighed as she heard the child refer to her friend as Gabrielle instead of the more affectionate label of Gabby. "Oh I see so now I have sole custody of our bard?"

Tarren stuck her hand in the basket letting her fingers search for something tasty. "Uh huh. Ya think maybe Shalia tells stories Momma?"

The warrior mother sighed and looked toward the village in a last ditch hope her friend would arrive. "I dunno baby. We’ll ask her…but ya know Gabrielle loves telling you stories."

The child leaned against her mother’s 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.


"Uh huh."

"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 Gabrielle’s 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 Gabrielle’s 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 she’d 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 friend’s absence. "Ya think she fell in a hole?"

The warrior shifted a bit hoping the child was showing some concern. "I dunno you wanna go check?"

"Nope. If she wasn’t watching where she was going then she should stay in the 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 youngster’s 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. "C’mere Monster. I need to ask you something?"

The child grinned and eagerly flopped on the warrior’s stomach. "Ok Momma"

Xena groaned and lifted the overstuffed youngster to one side. "That woman we found on the trail’s name was Tyrell." She noticed the youngster’s 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. It’s 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. "I…I…"

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 child’s 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. I’m 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 girl’s head. "I’m sorry."

The child held tightly to her mother and cried in the warrior’s armor. "Why Momma? Why would anyone hurt that woman like that? Is the ground gonna swallow us up?"

The questions kept rolling out.

Xena sighed as she considered the meaning of the Amazon’s last words but at the moment she was more interested in calming her now hysterical child. "Shh Shh… I don’t know why anyone hurt that girl Tarren but no we are not all gonna die." She held the child’s chin in her hand and looked straight into the youngster’s eyes. "Now do you think I’d let anything happen to you?"

The child sniffled. "No but that woman was a warrior and…."

Xena shook her head and waved a hand in the air. She was determined to ease some of the child’s fears. "Yeah but not a Warrior Princess like me. Right?"

Tarren chewed on her lower lip. "No I guess not Momma."

The mother turned her head to one side and widened her eyes. "You guess not. Hey who took on the 50 warlords?"

"That was a story Momma."

"Yeah but I still won right?"

"Uh huh."

"Well then do you think any cloud people could ever get passed me?"

"No Momma."

"Well then don’t you worry about it. Don’t you worry about anything."

The youngster’s tears slowed but her fear was still apparent. "But Momma she was so hurt and I…. "

Xena sat the child up and wiped her tears with the edge of a cloth. "Tarren listen to me. I know what you saw scared you and I’m really sorry for that. It was a very bad thing and I wish I could keep you from seeing all the bad things that happen in the world. I try but I may not always be able to." She cringed knowing it was true. "There are just some things you will have to face but I promise you won’t ever have to face them alone…Ok?"
The little girl lowered her eyes and nodded. "I was scared."

The mother lifted the child’s chin. "There is nothing wrong with being scared Tarren. Sometimes it’s a very good thing. It sort of warns us that something is wrong. But how we deal with what scares us it what makes us strong."

"It is?"
"And how should I…deal…with it?"
Xena stared up at the night sky and smiled. "Come to me and we’ll talk about it. I will always tell you whether or not there is something to really be afraid of Tarren and I won’t ever laugh at you for being scared."
"You won’t?"

"Never…That’s a promise."
The child wiped her face with the edge of her sleeve and looked into the eyes of her hero. "Momma have you ever been scared?"

The warrior nodded. "Sure."


The mother ran her hand along the side of the little girl’s face. "Whenever I thought something bad might have happened to you youngster."
Tarren scratched her head. "Ya mean like when I was in the cave in and when I fell out of the tree and when the crazy man took me and Gabby and…."

The mention of these bad memories made the mother cringe. "Yeah all of those so could you not bring them up."


Xena let out a long breath. "It’s Ok. Tarren I just want you to know that you can come to me with anything that scares you. I’ll always be there."

The child sat back and stared at her mother. "Always?"

The mother smiled and hugged the child. "Yup. You couldn’t get rid of me if you wanted too little one."
Tarren smiled. "I wouldn’t ever want to get rid of you." The little girl nodded and wrapped her arms tightly around her mother’s neck. "I love you Momma."

The warrior mother leaned back and closed her eyes grateful to hear the words once again. "Yeah I love you too Monster." She pointed to the basket. "Now about that cherry pie."

The child sniffled but her smile reappeared and she reached for the basket leaving Xena to ponder the meaning of the dead Amazon’s words. "Cloud people?"


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 friend’s 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…It takes understanding…tact…and…compassion."

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 didn’t show up for supper." She sneered as her friend’s face went blank. "She needed you and I needed you and you didn’t 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 that’s just what she did…nothing." The warrior removed the parchment from her friend’s hand. "I’d 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…."

The warrior dropped the letter on the desk and pointed to the statement that included her name. "Take that part out," she demanded.


Xena’s voice dropped to a low growl. "Because Gabrielle this is about the death of a young girl. It’s 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.


"I was trying to show some feeling." She jumped to her feet and faced off with her friend. "I know how it feels to lose a child too Xena."
The warrior nodded and backed off a bit. She knew the pain of Hope’s death ran as deep as her lose of Solon. "I know you do Gabrielle." She paused. "That’s why I am so surprised that you would hurt Tarren like that."

Gabrielle fell silent under her friend’s hash words. "Xena I said I was sorry…What more can I say?"

Not wishing to fight with her friend the warrior just waved a hand. "Nothing…You can say nothing, but pay attention Princess Gabrielle. Pay very close attention because while you are gaining all this insight to yourself… you are losing something else."



The bard’s eyes flew open at the warning. However, before she could speak the warrior turned to Ephiny. "Eph Tarren told me what the Amazon said." She paused and took a cleansing breath. "Tyrell told her we all had to be careful or the cloud people would come and the earth would open up and swallow us all."

Ephiny leaned against a wall and folded her arms against her chest. "Cloud people? Earth swallowing us up?"

The warrior scratched her head and nodded. "Yeah. I don’t know what it means either. Tyrell was pretty delusional. Who knows how long she lay in that brush alone? It may mean nothing but I figure we should take a ride back out to the area at first light and have a look around."

Ephiny nodded in agreement. "Ok I’ll get a party together and meet you at first light." She studies her friend’s tired expression. "How’s Tarren? Poor kid seeing that and being told such a thing. Now wonder it scared the hell out of her."

Xena shrugged and rubbed her temples slowly. "She’s better. Shalia is with her. My kid seems to like that young Amazon a lot."

Ephiny smiled proudly. "Shalia has that touch with kids."

The warrior stared at the flower the queen was still wearing. "Thanks Eph."

"For what?"

Xena pointed at the daisy. "For wearing the flower Tarren gave you. It meant a lot to her." She glanced at the now fallen eyes of the bard but said nothing.

Gabrielle felt her stomach turn as she realized she had left her own gift behind in the cottage.

The queen grinned and repositioned the petals a bit. "I thought it added a bit of class."

Xena grinned at her amazon friend. "You don’t need the flower foe that Eph." She grinned. "I better get back before Tarren chases poor Shalia up a tree."

Ephiny nodded and grasped her friend’s arm. "I’ll 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 wait…."

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 don’t 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. "It’s not the same. You’ve 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 I’m your friend." She paused. "I once told Tarren that it didn’t 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 friend’s 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 bard’s eyes dropped. "I lost it…"

Xena let out a quick breath and placed her arm around her friend’s 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 she’ll settle for a story?"

The warrior nodded as they approached the cottage. "I think it’s 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…We’ll work it all out right?" She hoped those words were true.

Xena could see the pain in her friend’s 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 friend’s face. "Gabrielle I understand that you need to find…yourself…your path and I am there for you. I always will be, but Tarren doesn’t understand any of that. When you are not around she thinks you don’t care about her. She’s such a little kid and we are all she has...all she knows. Can’t 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…It’s just…."

The warrior nodded in understanding. "I know you want to help the Amazons and so do I. Look why don’t 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 friend’s shoulder. "Thank you."

Xena shrugged and allowed a crooked smile. "For what? Dumping my kid in your lap. You’ll 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 I’ll 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 friend’s enthusiasm. "Are you sure?" The mother didn’t want to see her hurt again.

Gabrielle nodded. "Yes I’m very sure."

As mile passed over the warrior’s face. Perhaps her family could be glued easily back together again. "Well why don’t you come in and tell her yourself. You do still sleep here don’t 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 I’m her personal servant…I’ll 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 mother’s 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 mother’s now open palm. "Yes ma’am."

Tarren leaned toward Shalia. "Just so ya now stuff like candy is a secret," she whispered.

The Amazon winked at the warrior and nodded to the child. "Sorry."

The youngster shrugged and patted the young woman’s hand. "It’s 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 won’t," the mother said in a stern voice trying to suppress a smile.

Tarren turned to her mother hoping for a fast change in subject. "You missed a great story Momma. Shalia tells the best stories I’ve ever heard Momma. I think she should come on the road with you and me."

Xena rubbed the sides of her temples realizing the bard’s name had been left out of the traveling trio. A headache was definitely on the way. "Yeah well we will talk about that later Tarren. In the meantime don’t you have scrolls to do in the other room?"

The child frowned realizing this was just a way to dismiss her from an upcoming conversation. She shook her head. "Nope Gabrielle hasn’t given me any, so I can stay here with you and Shalia." She seated herself back on the pallet hoping the conversation would begin.

The mother arched an eyebrow shook her head and bounced the bag of confections in her hand. "No you can’t."


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 don’t 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 I’m 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 shouldn’t."

Those words carried weight.
The door immediately closed and the Amazon opened her mouth to speak. The warrior dropped the confections on the table and raised her hand to silence the young woman. She moved over to the door to the outer room and yanked it open.

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 mother’s arm. "Well my ear fell against the door and I sort of …yes ma’am." When you’re caught you’re 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. I’ll 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 mother’s muscular hand.

The warrior shook a warning finger. "That is for putting your little ear where it doesn’t 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 door…playing Warrior Princess," she muttered, trying to hide a grin at her young daughter’s overly active imagination. She took a breath smiled and moved outside the cottage. To her relief Shalia was still waiting. "I’m sorry but Tarren needed some attending."

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. Don’t you have friends that you would prefer to be with? I mean I love having you available for Tarren but she is not your responsibility."

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 don’t 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 woman’s arm. She did not want the girl retreating into her shell again. "It’s Ok I don’t mind at all. I have a friend who rambles on like that and I sort of miss it."

"Princes Gabrielle?"


‘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. It’s a big place. You don’t 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 woman’s 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 woman’s 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 woman’s wisdom was far beyond her years. "You’re 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 of a …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 woman’s 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. I’m sure everything will be fine but will you just…keep…." She shook her head. "I can’t believe I’m asking this."

The calmness that was the Amazon’s 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 turned to address the warning told in the form of a riddle but Shalia had again slipped into the cloak of darkness.

The warrior cocked her head to one side and even looked to the ground for some signs of the woman’s exit but there were none. "Damn she’s good. I’m 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 I’m not gonna peak" she glanced at the rolled parchment at the youngster’s 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 ma’am."

The warrior mother shook head. "Oh I get it you got a swat and now you’re gonna Ma’am me."

"Yes ma’am."

Xena folded her arms against her chest and started to rise. "Well if you feel that way I guess I’ll just go back in the other room."

Tarren’s eyes went wide and she yanked on her mother’s arm. "No I don’t want you to go Momma."

Xena again lowered herself into the chair. "Now I’m 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 You’re 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. "I’m 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 it’s 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 child’s and gave it a gentle squeeze. "That’s more like it." She paused and stared at the now silent child. She patted her leg. "C’mere 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 mother’s 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 don’t want to see you accidentally finding it again. You eat too much of that stuff Tarren. You’re gonna rot your teeth."

"Don’t 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 child’s hair and smiled. "Yeah I remember baby but still no more candy." She shook a finger. "We don’t 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 warrior’s 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. That’s 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 I’ll 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?"

The child rolled out her lip and shook her head. "No Momma not Ok. I haven’t ripped it and you said I only get a spankin if I do."

"Well if you keep yanking on it you will so stop."

The child could sense the seriousness in the words. "Yes ma’am."

The warrior let out a growl and tossed the child playfully in the air catching her in her arms. "You are driving me insane?"

"I am."


"Hmm I’m sorry Momma."

The warrior cradled the child in her arms tightly. "No you’re not."

"Yes I am."

"No you’re not.

The little girl smiled and again reached for the straps. "Ok I don’t wanna be dis…pre…spectful Momma so I’ll say I’m not."

The warrior grinned and started tickling the grinning child. "Naughty."

When the youngster’s smile had fully returned the mother sat placing her child back on her lap. "Ok enough play. I want to talk about Gabrielle and don’t 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 warrior’s 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.

Tarren’s eyes grew wide and her head turned. "Momma you never call me that."

Xena frowned and let her long hair drop in front of her. "Well that’s because you’ve 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 child’s shoulder. "Tarren listen to me. This is important." She let out a long breath. "Look I know you’re 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 mother’s hair in her fingers. "She didn’t hurt me. I don’t care that she didn’t come to supper or nothing."

"Yes you do."

"No I don’t"

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 youngster’s fingers before she could undo the single strand. "Stop playing and listen!"

The child folded her hands in her lap and shrunk against her mother’s shoulder hiding her eyes. "Well maybe I used to care a little but I don’t need Gabrielle anymore. Shalia will tell me stories and stuff when you’re busy Momma."

Xena pulled the little girl closer. "Hey I know you like Shalia. I like her too. She’s 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 youngster kept her eyes low and her voice at a near whisper. "She turned her back on us Momma."

The warrior mother turned the child’s head to face her. "No she didn’t. Baby, Gabrielle is just learning lots of stuff about her self and well…it’s new to her. She needs to grow a bit on her own sometimes. Do you understand?"

Tarren ran her hands on the outside of her mother’s jaw line wondering if she would ever get so big. "No she’s a already a grownup. Its not like she can get any bigger is it?"

Xena grinned at the question. "No she won’t get any bigger on the outside but she can grow in here." She pointed tot he child’s heart. "Adults need to keep learning too…at least the wise ones do." She ran her hand along the child’s face. "Tarren we never stop learning. That’s what life is all about Kiddo."

The youngster frowned at the way her mother was obviously forgiving the bard. "Momma are you gonna tell me I can’t be mad at Gabby?"

Xena shook her head reeling this while she could force the child to behave appropriately she could not even ask her to deny her own feelings. "No only you can decide how you feel inside Tarren."

The child grinned and folded her arms against her chest. "Good cause I am and I wanna stay that way."

Xena shook her head. "But…."
The little girl frowned and slapped her own leg. "I knew there was a catch."
The warrior mother lifted the little girl straight up in the air and positioned her right above holding her easily in place as a reminder of just who was big and who was not. "But…I can make you behave young lady. That means you will treat Gabrielle with kindness and respect. Do you understand me?"
The child watched her own feet swaying freely in the air and nodded. "Yes Momma."
The mother lowered her small daughter back to her lap. She sighed as she ran her hand through the child's tangled wave of hair. "Tarren you are more stubborn than me and that’s not very nice."

The youngster bit her lip and lowered her eyes. "Neither is making a promise that you’ll stay with someone and then going away or saying you'll have supper and not showing up or not telling someone a bedtime story when they wait for you to come in at night."

The warrior ran her large hand tenderly across the little girl’s 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. She’s still my best friend and part of our family whether you’re mad at her or not. Understand?"

"Yes ma’am"

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 girl."

Tarren’s face turned white with horror and she clung to her mother’s arm. "You’re leaving without me Momma. What about the bad cloud people?"

The mother placed a gentle hand on the youngster’s face and smiled. "I’m just taking a ride with a scouting party Tarren. I will be just fine and I’ll 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 warrior’s neck. "Can’t I come with you Momma?"

Xena patted the little girl’s 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 that’s 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…I’m 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 mother’s dark main and shook her head as she settled back on the warrior’s lap. "You don’t have any gray hairs Momma. How come you keep saying you do?"

Xena smiled as she wrapped her arms around her child. "I don’t 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. "I’m sorry Momma. I’ll be nice to your friend Gabrielle if you want."

The mother gave a crooked smile. "My friend? She’s our friend and you remember that."

The child said nothing more but merely lay her head down on her mother’s broad shoulder trying to get the visions of people falling from the clouds out of her thoughts.


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