The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, and Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles, and back-story are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. The story is written only for fun, and no profit is being made. All other characters such as Tarren, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. The story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. The story itself as well as the character created by the author may NOT be duplicated or archived without the authors permission. All works remain the copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the authors consent. This story is a continuation of my first stories calledSHE HAS MY EYES, ON THE ROAD AGAIN, NALAS GIFTS, HOME SWEET HOME, and Little Thief of Hearts You really MUST read those stories first. Otherwise you will be lost as to who some of the characters I have created are. This story contains some violence, no subtext, and the use or reference of corporal punishment. I will be putting that statement in all of the Tarren series whether it exists or not in that particular story. Please understand that this does NOT reflect on my personal beliefs or politics. I am just trying to stay true to the characters and culture of that period of history. Feedback is ALWAYS appreciated and I am most grateful to all that have written and will hopefully continue to write me with your thoughts.
Xena Warrior Mother Series Story 6
Legend of the Last Amazon-Part VIII
Chapter 24 Learning the hard way
The day after the big one
Xena emerged from the cottage early eager to start her young daughter on the path to redemption. She led the somewhat frightened child by the hand as they walked across the compound to the queens office.
Tarren carried her bag of treasures, holding tightly, in hopes they would offer her courage and strength. The little girl occasionally glanced up at her mother as if to make sure the warrior was still beside her. Xena gave the childs hand a gentle squeeze to let her child know she was going to be with her the whole way.
As they reached the doorway to Ephinys office the youngster stopped and stared at the imposing building with guards posted on either side of the entrance. "Momma, maybe Ephiny is real busy and we should come back much later," she said staring in the large doorway.
The queen sighed and ran her hands through her light curls as she sat by a large table looking over maps of areas that had already been searched by the scouts. She was finding it hard to believe that even Amazons could disappear without a trace. No murder would take place on her lands and go unpunished. She felt her muscles tense as she thought of her still missing scout party. She closed her eyes. Her anger at their obvious disobedience had now turned to concern. "Damn it Solari Where the hell did you go?" she mumbled not even noticing the warrior and child enter.
The warrior gave her friend a harsh stare and let her eyes point toward the small form now huddled beside her. "Tarren is here to speak with you Queen Ephiny."
The child swallowed hard and widened her eyes at the sight. She never realized how tall the Amazon queen appeared until forced to stand in her judgment. "Uh I I ."
Xena gave the child a gentle nudge forward. "Dont you have something to say
Tarren?" she asked in a parental tone that said it was a statement and not really a
The little girl again swallowed hard and glanced up at her mother. "No Momma I dont think so."
Xena arched her brow in warning and the youngster quickly decided that perhaps there
was something she did want to mention to the queen. She took a deep breath and stared up
at the stone cold eyes of the leader of the tribe. "Im real sorry I busted your
village up Ephiny." She reached inside her tunic and pulled out the red feather the
Amazon had bestowed on her holding it high above her small head. "I understand if you
want your feather back." The childs eyes were filled with sadness at the
thought of having to return such a prized item as this.
The stoic queen stared at the feather. Her expression grew a bit softer and she knelt in front of the child. "Hey now wait Junior. I gave you that feather because we are friends. I dont throw my friends away just because they make a few little mistakes. I stick by them no matter what."
Xena frowned at the soft tone and overly forgiving words. She rolled her eyes. "Oh
sure yesterday you said she destroyed the village and today its a little
mistake," she thought to herself.
Tarren looked at the prized feather still in her grip. "Ya do?"
Ephiny grinned and took the feather from the child, tucking it neatly back inside the little girls tunic. "Sure what kind of friend would I be if I turned my back on someone just because they made a few mistakes." She smiled. "Not a very good one huh?"
The child grinned happy to have her feather back in its place. "No I guess not." She lowered her eyes. "But I did break your village," she said remembering her mothers long scolding lecture on the subject.
Xena nodded to the queen as if giving her the signal to pursue this line of thought.
Ephiny chuckled at the childs words and the warrior gave her friend a nudge.
This was not the way the warrior mother had planned the day.
The queen ignored the message and continued. "Well you didnt bust it up any worse then your mother busted up my warriors, so Id say you were just being a little Xena again. How can I not be angry with that?" She gave her larger friend a stare to let her know there were still a number of Amazons recovering from her bad mood.
The warrior frowned at the queen and then glanced at her child. It was time to restore order. "Never mind what I did youngster. This is all about your bad behavior young lady." Someone had to be the parental voice and keep the child in line. "So you just worry about giving out your apologies and doing what youre told today," she said in a scolding parental tone that meant business.
Tarren lowered her eyes. "Yes maam." She turned back to Ephiny and smiled broadly. "So youre really not mad at me huh?"
The queen ignored her larger friends glare and returned the smile. "Nope!" She scratched her head. "Now Eponon is a different story. You may have to clean all her feathers to get back on her good side," she warned, knowing how angry the weapons master had been.
The child giggled and immediately hugged the queen. "Thanks Ephiny."
The Amazon welcomed the soft embrace and smiled. She could just not bring herself to be angry with her small friend especially when she knew of the prank that had been played on the child and the price the youngster had paid. "You are quite welcome Junior."
Xena folded her arms and shook her head at her Amazon friend. "Yeah thanks lots Ephiny. Big bad tough teach em a lesson theyll never forget," she muttered. The mother reached down for her childs hand and leaned in closer to her friend. "Why dont you just give her another feather too?" she said sarcastically.
The queen shrugged and reached a hand up to her bonnet. "Ok Xena I think ."
The warrior immediately pulled Tarren behind her and far out of reach of any gifts. "Dont you dare," she warned.
Ephiny smiled and leaned back against her desk.
Xena let out a long breath, took the little girls hand and led her out of the office. She saw the smile on the childs face and gave her a long scolding stare. "Ok Ephiny went easy on you because shes your friend but dont expect everyone else to be so forgiving." She paused. "You are being punished and I dont want you to forget that."
The little girl could see how serious her mothers expression was. "Yes Momma."
"Uh huh." Xena sighed and glanced at a parchment that contained the list of names of the Amazons the child had pelted with dough the day before. "Ok lets go." She pulled the youngster along behind.
One by one the mother led the wayward child to a person on the list and each time the youngster would smile offering both dimples, reach out a hand of friendship to apologize, and then pull a flower out of her satchel as a peace offering. This last part of her act had even the angriest warrior tasseling the youngsters hair or giving an all too forgiving smile.
The warrior mother frowned wondering where all the big tough Amazons were when you really needed one. Glancing down at the list she noted Gruella was the last of the pelted victims. She looked own at her waiting child and shrugged. "Nope that one deserved it," she mumbled, crumpling the parchment and heading toward the kitchen. "Come on you are going to work in that kitchen now and this time there will be no cute smiles or flowers," she scolded wanting her small daughter to learn from the mistakes she had made.
The child frowned but obediently closed her satchel to show she would not offer any more apologetic flowers. "Yes Momma."
Xena grumbled a bit dissatisfied at how easy the Amazons were being on her daughter.
They were not sending the right message to the youngster and the mother knew it.
"Morning. How was breakfast?" she asked knowing her friend had been up even earlier than the warrior for a change.
Tarren, however, immediately took refuge behind her mothers legs rather than be forced to speak with the young woman she had called friend.
Gabrielle stretched out her arms and let her head fall back so she could feel the warmth of the sun on her face. "Very good." She glanced at Tarren. "As a matter of fact I had it with some of the Amazon children. They wanted me to tell them one of my stories so I got up extra early to do it."
Tarren bit her lip wondering why the bard was not trying to gain her attention like she always did. The young woman had not even tried to say hello to the child and Tarren certainly did not like hearing that her Gabby was telling stories to other children. She poked her head out from behind her mother. "Hello Gabrielle," the small voice squeaked in a polite fashion.
Xena winked at the bard knowing that they had hit the right cord.
As if hearing a far away noise that she could not explain, the young woman let her eyes drop a bit to the location of the sound. "Oh hello Tarren. I didnt see you there." She smiled at the youngster briefly and again looked at Xena. "So anyway after I finished with the story and a big breakfast we all just sat around making pictures."
The little girl twisted her lips and waited for the bard to offer an explanation of these unacceptable events but it did not happen.
Gabrielle did her best to ignore the childs obvious displeasure. "So Xena has Solari come back yet?" the young woman asked with a touch of true concern.
The mother glanced down at her obviously annoyed child and then back at her friend.
"Uh no I dont think so. I have to drop Tarren off at Borallas kitchen and then Im gonna head back over to Ephinys. Im gonna help her map out the area we think Solari may have taken." She paused. "Eph wont say it but I know shes worried and angry. First Tyrell and now this."
Gabrielle nodded and looked again at Xena. This was not a topic to continue in front of the youngster. "So youre off to Boralla's for breakfast?" she asked knowing that was not the case.
The child looked from her mother to Gabrielle wondering just how long her presence would go unnoticed by the bard turned princess. The little girl did not give her mother a chance to respond. "No were going around saying sorry." She ran the tip of her boot in the dirt and poked out her lower lip in a distinct pout. "You can come if you really wanna." Tarren felt her own generosity toward her traitorous friend was more than kind.
The princess rubbed her chin as if considering it and shrugged. "Thank you Tarren but I think maybe that Ill go back to the school and tell the children a few more stories. They seem to really like them and appreciate the time I took to be there." She glanced up at the sky. "Yup! I have a bit of time before I am needed for any meetings or to finish planning the last of the feast."
The childs eyes widened as her offer was flatly refused. She bit her lip and stared at her friend. This was the look the mother had warned against. "Ya mean ya dont wanna come say sorry with me and Momma?" she asked in utter disbelief.
Gabrielle looked at the face of forgiveness and innocence staring at her and felt her insides start to buckle. She really did want to go with Tarren. The familiar gentle smile appeared. "Well maybe I could ."
Seeing the walls coming down, Xena gave her friend a gentle poke to remind her of the plan. "Maybe you could stop by later after your finished doing what you said you were gonna do." This was a subtle reminder.
The princess sighed and cleared her throat. "No Im sorry Tarren but I cant. I really want to tell stories to the children at the school. They really did enjoy it and they were so nice to me." The words were spoken but the bards heart was not in them.
Tarren lowered her head and shrugged. "Ok bye Gabrielle." She yanked at her mothers arm now very eager to move on. Even working in the kitchen was better than this conversation. "Come on Momma we have dough balls to make."
The mother felt the little hands tugging but did not budge. "Uh no you have dough balls to make. I am not the one who pelted anyone with food." Xena motioned the child to take the lead heading toward the kitchen.
Tarren twisted her lips and folded her arms. "But Ephiny said you wrecked
all her Amazons and
The warrior put one hand on her hip and pointed toward the kitchen with the other. "Move it," she yelled rather than offer explanation for why or how she had broken Amazons.
Noting the familiar arched brow and the now loud voice Tarren wasted no time skidding to a distant tree to wait for her mother.
Xena turned to Gabrielle. "Little Monster hears everything and that Ephiny." She let out a long breath. "Boy do I owe her a good one." She glanced at her quiet friend who seemed to be making an effort to look past the warrior to the child positioned safely behind a large oak tree. "Gabrielle you did just fine. I think you really taught her a lesson," she said softly knowing how difficult this was for her gentle friend.
The princess bit her lip as she watched the small form in front of her dragging her feet in circles around the tree. She motioned to the child with a wave of the hand. "But Xena look at her. She really wants to hear a story and I really want to be with her."
Xena shook her head. "No she has to learn a lesson here Gabrielle and apparently so do you. I do not intend to go through life with one of you crying because the other one isnt playing nice." That was final.
The princess let out an exacerbated breath and frowned and the leather clad warrior.
"Easy for you to say. Youve been giving and getting hugs and kisses from Tarren all week," she groaned remembering all the open displays of affection she had seen between the mother and child.
The warrior gave a glance toward the waiting child and nodded. "True my bard but I have also yelled, lectured, and spanked her. Do you want my job?" she asked with a smirk.
Gabrielle gave it a moment thought. "No thanks. Youre the Momma." What her heart said and what her lips offered somehow did not make sense. While she knew she would never be Tarrens mother she did want to be more than she was but was not quite sure how or to what extent.
Gabrielle took one last look at the youngster. She sighed wishing she could get one small hug before leaving. "Ok Xena you win. Ill see you later." She turned and faced her friend and spoke with a bit of venom in her voice. "But this idea had better work."
The warrior nodded and waved the princess away. She watched Gabrielle depart. "Crumbles like a piece of bread," she mumbled. She sighed and walked over to her young daughter. Seeing the youngsters sour expression she offered her hand in comfort. The little girl quickly accepted. "Something wrong Tarren?" she asked with a slight grin.
The child shrugged and concentrated on the ground beneath her. "No I was just sorta surprised that Gabrielle didnt wanna come with us."
Feeling very satisfied with her plan Xena suppressed a smile. "Oh really Are you sorry she didnt?" she asked hopefully.
Tarren immediately stopped and looked up at her mother. Her eyes were wide and full of
love. "No Momma
I really like it when its just you and me."
She gave the warrior a quick hug to enforce that fact.
The mother patted the childs back affectionately and swallowed hard. While she appreciated the childs love greatly she had not intended to further the rift between her friend and her youngster. This seemed to be another plan going bad. "Ya do? Are ya sure Tarren?"
The little girl grinned and again laced her fingers in her mothers hand. "Uh huh. Im real sure Momma and now that I know Gabrielle has someone else to play with I dont feel so bad leaving her alone."
The warrior covered her face with one hand and sighed. "You dont?" she asked finding it hard to believe that one of her own plans could be so far off.
The youngsters smile became almost jovial. "Nope now its just you
and me Momma."
Xena rolled her eyes and looked down at her young daughter. "Why does this feel like its gonna be a very bad day? " she asked not really expecting an answer.
The child shrugged and leaned her chin on the warriors thigh as she stared up at her hero. "I dunno. I think its been a pretty good day so far."
"Umm-hmm." The mother frowned realizing so far all her small daughter had learned was that people would always forgive her mistakes while she would not be forced to forgive anyone else. "Oh no young lady Your day is gonna get much tougher before Im through." Not wanting to waste another moment she lifted the little girl into the air and took enough long strides to place her in the center of Borallas kitchen before another word could be spoken.
In the kitchen
Seeing Xena enter with the reputed dough thief, the old cook immediately nodded to the warrior and glanced at the small child still hiding in the mothers arms. "Well its the little dough snatcher. Shame on you Tarren," she scolded with a shaking finger.
Xena nodded approvingly at the action. This was more like it.
The little girl lowered her eyes to show her repent. "Im real sorry Boralla."
The old cook shook her head. "Thats nice but sorry isnt gonna replace those dough balls I lost." Her voice was stern and steady. "Is it?"
Tarren glanced at the mother who could not help but feel a twinge of sympathy for her youngster. The child bit her lip and turned back to the cook "No Maam."
Xena grinned at the old Amazon for playing her part so well. She placed the child on the ground beside Boralla. "Well Tarren I guess I should leave you here to do your work. I have to help Ephiny with some mapping but Ill be back a bit later to pick you up." She leaned down and kissed the little girl. "You behave yourself and mind Boralla. Shes in charge. I dont want to come back here and find out you disobeyed her. Got me?"
Tarren nodded and hugged her treasure bag tightly. "Yes Momma."
Boralla winked at the warrior and again glared at the child. "Eaten little thief?" she asked trying to hide a smile.
Boralla pulled out a few pots and bowls. "Well I cant have you starving while you work. What do you want?" she asked stiffly.
Xena held up a hand to stop a long order from being placed. "Shell have oatmeal," she stated bluntly.
Tarren and Boralla both looked at the warrior and said in a voice of equal despair and unison. "Oatmeal?"
The mother shook her finger at her child. "Thats right. You are being punished. You are here to work not to enjoy a gourmet meal, so oatmeal will do just fine. Right Boralla?" She glanced at the Amazon for support.
The old cook coughed and cleared her throat trying to get back into her role as the angry cook. "Of course dry oatmeal it is," she said as if sliding the word through her lips. "Its not like I have time for special orders anyway. Tonight is the Feast of Artemis."
Xena frowned knowing that meant there would be extra work that needed to be done. She
only hoped that having Tarren to look after was not too much of an extra burden.
"Boralla I forgot about that. Maybe I should bring her back tomorrow."
The old cook shook her head. "Nonsense Ill need those dough balls for morning meal and this child will make them."
Tarren stood like a statue hugging that little satchel. She looked longingly at her mother as the warrior took a step toward the door. The sight of her obviously frightened child was enough to almost make the warrior remain but she remembered her own words of wisdom to Gabrielle. Tarren had to learn a lesson. So with a deep breathe the mother gave her small daughter one final look of warning. "Behave or else."
Tarren rubbed her bottom fiercely knowing full well her mothers hand had made an impression that would not go away any time soon. Not wanting to encourage a repeat performance she nodded vigorously. "Yes Maam."
Xena nodded and kissed the little girl on the head. "Ok then Monster, Ill see you later."
Boralla clanked pots together as she watched the warrior depart. She craned her neck out the door to make sure Xena had really gone for good and then turned to the little girl. "Had your little bottom tanned huh youngster?" she said in a softer and more sympathetic tone.
The child nodded and continued to offer some relief to the very sore spot. "Uh huh the big one."
Tarren considered the weight of her mothers palm and nodded. "If ya mean does Momma give a good spankin. Well Ill tell ya." She continued to rub the seat of her britches. "Ya sure dont forget it for a real long time."
Boralla chuckled at the childs lighthearted attitude about the state of her bottom. She motioned to a well-feathered seat. "Here youngster put yourself onto those feathers while I make you some breakfast."
Boralla put her hands on her hips and leaned forward. "Really child. You are not hungry for my eggs bacon and Flappy Jackies." Her words were both inviting and enticing.
"I was just playing." The old cook waved a hand of dismissal. "Your Momma may be the Warrior Princess out there." She pointed out the door. "But in this kitchen only Boralla is queen," she said proudly.
Tarren smiled at her friend. "Are ya sure? I mean I did take your dough balls," she said with a touch of remorse. Her mothers harsh reprimand had made it quite clear that stealing them had been a very bad thing to do.
The old cook nodded and scratched her head. "Well you really should have asked me for them Tarren, but to tell you the truth I heard you put them to better use than I ever could have," she said in a whisper as if sharing a great secret.
The childs eyes opened wide as she picked at a plate of bacon placed in front of her by a kind old cook. "I did?"
Boralla shrugged as she watched the child enjoy the first course of her breakfast. She chuckled as she noticed the small bacon crumbs forming on the little girls tunic. "That depends Did ya get mean old Gruella?" she asked, wiping the crumbs away from the little girls shirt and placing a large napkin around the childs neck.
Tarren smiled at the placement of her bib and nodded at her friend as she devoured the last of the bacon. "Uh huh three times." She held three small fingers in the air to illustrate. "But Momma said I didnt have to say sorry to her cause Momma wasnt real sure where she was or something I guess."
Tarren thought for a moment about the feast that had been mentioned. "Boralla whats the feast of Artemis?" she asked as a plate of eggs was placed before her.
The old cook smiled broadly. "Ahh child that is the day we Amazons share a meal together as one family and thank Artemis for all the gifts she has bestowed upon us. It is a night of eating drinking and friendship child." She paused. "I understand that Princess Gabrielle has been planning it this year along with all her other work on the negotiations. She must be very tired."
The old cook stared at the child for a long moment. "How is Princess Gabrielle feeling this morning? " she asked with noted concern. "I would expect she is a bit sore after such a hard work out."
The youngster frowned and lowered her head a bit. "Fine I guess. I dunno. Why?" the child asked wondering why Gabrielle had suddenly become everyones favorite topic of conversation.
The old cook cocked a brow. "Taking a staff to three strong teenagers for an hour is not exactly an easy exercise child," she replied with a smirk.
Realizing she had just spilled a secret the old cook quickly covered her mouth. "Oh Artemis feathers you werent supposed to be told?" She shook her head as she chastised herself. "Boralla you have a big mouth and Xena is going to kill you for sure," the old Amazon said with a slight frown.
Tarren leaned forward eager for more information. "Boralla please tell me what happened with Gabby. I wont tell Momma you told me," she said in a pleading voice the old woman could not refuse.
The secret had been half spilled so the old cook decided she might as well empty the entire mug. "As I understand it Ephiny and Gabrielle selected three rather unruly young Amazons to spar with." She smiled knowing that these three really deserved what they got. Her voice dropped a bit lower and her eyes focused on the youngster. "And my child the word around this tribe is that those three took quite a beating for something they did to you." Her voice softened a bit. "I understand Gabrielle took quite a stand against them and made an example of your friend Lexus especially."
The question was so full of concern and innocence that the old cook placed an affectionate hand on the childs face. "Youngster you already know the answer to that question. Dont you?" she asked.
The little girl lowered her eyes trying hard to fight her feelings. "But
Gabbys an Amazon now and she doesnt play with me and
Boralla dropped her head into her hands. "Tarren my child, love is something that comes from inside your heart. We all make mistakes and hurt people we care about unintentionally. Its part of being human. But when you love someone you see past all of that and forgive them because you share something inside here." She pointed to the childs heart. "You have something with Gabrielle that nobody else can replace. That is why she did what she did love youngster. She loves you."
Tarren swallowed hard and nibbled on a small piece of bacon. After careful thought she jumped off her soft pillow and started for the door with a very determined look on her little face. Boralla grabbed the small child by the back of her tunic. "Where do you think you are going?" she asked keeping a tight hold.
The child struggled to get free but the old cook was very strong. "Its time to kick some Lexus butt. Ill teach her to fight with my Gabby," she said as her feet danced nearly a foot off the ground.
Boralla smiled and lifted the child into the air placing her gently back on her soft cushion. "You do that youngster and I guarantee your mother will paddle you so long not even the feathers in that pillow will help your bottom."
"Another big one?" The child swallowed hard. The feathers werent helping that much now. "Well I dont want that to happen." She instinctively placed her hands over her still throbbing backside. "But I cant let Lexus trick me, make me bust Mommas sword, and then try and hurt Gabby too I am a Warrior Princess ya know?" she stated proudly doing her best to arch a small brow.
The old Amazon smiled at the youngsters use of title. "Look my little Warrior Princess people like Lexus always get theres in the end. If you were to try and seek revenge not only would you get yourself in trouble again but you would insult Gabrielle."
The old cook nodded. "Yes she feels she has taken a stand on your behalf. So you have to promise Boralla that you will not go within three paces of Lexus," she said sternly. "Trust me child, the gods will see that she gets whats coming to her."
This was a tough call. After all Tarren was sure she was a Warrior Princess in training and she was the daughter of the great Xena and Lexus had raised her staff to Gabrielle. However when the child looked into the eyes of the old cook she knew that there would only be one acceptable answer. "Ok Boralla my gut says I can trust ya." She rubbed her stomach hoping it was the truth.
When the Amazon turned her head the child grinned wickedly. After all if one was a bit creative one did not need to get within three paces to seek revenge. The gods could always use a little help.
The old cook smiled, patted the little girls head and placed a fresh mug of cold milk in front of the youngster. "Good girl. Now drink that up and Ill show you how we flip the Flappy Jackies."
Tarren grinned. She thought of Lexus for a moment and smiled but that idea would have to wait. The child guzzled her milk anxious to learn the mystery of how one could make food fly in the air without winding up standing in the corner.
Back at Ephinys office .
The queen walked around the table marking out all the areas the scout parties had been. She was determined to send out a search part for Solari but wanted to be as concise as possible about where the overly exuberant young warrior might have led her warriors. After all she still had no answers as to what or who had caused the death of Tyrell. She glanced at Xena. "Ya know Im grateful you came back to help." However the warriors thoughts were obviously elsewhere. "And Im sorry I just couldnt bring myself to yell at Tarren. She looked so small and sorry and when she handed me the feather I just buckled." The queen frowned wondering just when that child had gone from being her worst nightmare to her best friend.
Xena leaned against the table as Ephiny pointed to another location on the map they had yet to search. "Huh what? Oh its Ok Eph I understand. She has a way with people." She smiled at the mere thought of her child. "Damn kid went around handing out flowers and shaking hands. Youd think she was running for a magistrates office," she said with a grin and the shake of her head.
"Uh huh." The queen could tell her friend was now too distracted to be of service. "Xena do you think we should send the search party to Hades or Artemis?" Ephiny wanted to see just how distant her friends thoughts really were.
Xena grinned at the idea. "Yeah Ok maybe just a small pastry or something nothing big or fancy. I mean Tarren is being punished so no sloppy cheese Ephiny." After the way the queen had buckled earlier Xena was not taking any chances on a repeat performance.
"Agreed no sloppy cheese just something simple like pastry. I understand completely," the Amazon replied with a smirk.
The warrior shook her head at her friends humor and then the pair crossed the compound and entered the kitchen.
As Xena and Ephiny enter the kitchen
Tarren was standing on a chair wearing a heavy linen smock over her body and an overturned pot on her head in place of a helmet. To the side of her was a large plate of unfinished food including eggs, bacon and a full stack of untouched Flappy Jackies. Not having noticed her mother and the queen enter, the child continued her task. "Ok bad Warlord Boralla surrender or I will attack," she yelled waving a large spoon above her head.
Xena stood speechless at the sight before her.
Ephiny ran a hand over her face and lowered her head.
There was silence and then from across the room the voice of an older and more mature adult replied from beneath a counter. "Sorry Warrior Princess but Boralla surrenders to no one. Fire at will."
The child giggled and without hesitation tossed a large egg across the galley and directly into the area where the voice had spoken from. A pair of large hands reached up from behind the counter caught it. "Ha sorry Warrior Princess Tarren but I caught it," she cackled.
Before the woman could finish her sentence five more eggs bombarded her and it became immediately obvious that these eggs had all hit their target.
There was a low murmuring from behind the counter. "Damn kid daughter of how did she ." There was silence and then a white napkin was waved in the air. "Ok Warrior Princess I surrender to your many skills," the old cook said with a chuckle.
Tarren jumped to her feet and raised her spoon in the air. "Nobody defeats the mighty Warrior Princess in battle, " she yelled triumphantly. The youngster turned and for the first time noticed the very angry face of her mother standing only three paces away. She swallowed hard. "Hi Momma." The child dropped the spoon to the ground and kicked it away with the side of her foot. She waved at the queen. "Hi Ephiny."
Ephiny wiggled her fingers at the child and then turned to her stoic friend. "Uh Xena I think Tarren did a bit better than just oatmeal," she said with a smirk before taking a few steps out of the warriors path.
The mother folded her arms and stretched to her full height. She stared at her small child and shook her head "Tarren I could ." She took a deep breath and pointed to the spot in front of her. "Get over here right now," she ordered.
The youngster slowly moved to the spot right in front of her mother. She tried to look up but the pot turned helmet slid over her eyes. "We were just playing Warrior Princess I mean Warlord I mean we was just playing Momma," she said quietly hoping to build an early defense for a game she knew her mother did not approve of.
The mother scanned the war torn kitchen and then looked down at her small child
"Dont say another word young lady," she replied through clenched lips.
Tarren started to speak until a long single finger was placed over her lips. "I said dont say another word. If you know what is good for you and I know you dont you will not say one single word," the mother said in a seething whisper.
The child nodded and closed her mouth. Just to be safe she placed her hand over it to make sure nothing accidentally slipped out.
Xena glanced at the smiling queen. "That goes for you too Ephiny," she
The warrior mother twisted her lips and tapped her foot on the ground.
"Boralla!" The yell could be heard echoing through the galley.
The old cook rose from her hiding place. "Oh dont bellow at me Xena. I can hear you just fine young lady." Those final words were spoken to remind the great Warrior Princess of the difference in their age and life experience. The old Amazon got to her feet and frowned. She removed the pot from her own head and started to wipe egg from her clothing. "Sorry Tarren, funs over. The party pooper patrol has arrived."
The warrior stared at he old cook not quite sure how to respond. "Boralla you were gonna ."
The old cook raised her hands in the air. "My kitchen and my rules Xena. I decided how the borrowed dough balls were to be repaid and it has been a long time since I got to face a worthy opponent in a good game of Queen of the Amazons." She winked at Tarren who was still holding a hand over her mouth. "That last maneuver was really nice kid. I never even saw that second wave of eggs coming."
Xena let out a quick breath and glanced at the youngster who she could see smiling underneath her small hand. She removed the childs fingers from her mouth and shook a warning finger. "You were supposed to have oatmeal," she said quietly pointing toward the plate of extraordinary food.
The little girl bit her lip and held the plate above her head. "But Boralla didnt wanna make it and I was hungry so I just ate what she gave me. That is the polite thing to do Momma." Tarren picked up her breakfast plate and offered it to her mother. "Hungry Momma? Ive already had a full plate. I cant eat another one," she said with a two-dimpled smile.
Xenas eyes grew wide at the offering. This was getting worse and worse. "You already had a full plate? You were playing Warrior Princess? Xena took the plate and placed it on the table. She held her arm straight out in the air pointing a lone finger to the door. "Out."
The youngster tried to glance up but the pot was still covering her eyes. "What Momma?" she asked unsure of what had been said. The pot helmet was also making it hard to hear.
The warrior grumbled and removed the pan from her daughters head revealing a grinning child.
Xena tossed the pot to the side and arched her brow. Her voice dropped to a low husky growl. "I would not smile if I were you little girl," she warned.
The child swallowed hard and the smile quickly disappeared. The mother removed the youngsters smock and pointed to the exit. "Now you get your little tail outside right now before I ."
The little girl needed to hear no more. She waved to the old cook. "See ya later Boralla." Seeing her mothers arched brow the child sprinted quickly out the door. "Yes maam."
Xena looked at he old cook and the plate of food and frowned. "Flappy Jackies too Boralla," she muttered walking out the door. "Thank you for all your help."
Boralla stuck her tongue at the warriors back. "By Artemis try and have a
little fun," she mumbled. Her expression turned a bit sour when she glanced at her
now smiling queen. "Yes your majesty. What can I do for you?" she asked
The queen took a bold step forward. "How about some Flappy Jackies? Im hungry."
The old cook shook her head. "Ephiny really. Youll need to do extra sword drills for a week if you eat that." She smiled in a motherly fashion. "I have a nice healthy bowl of fruit for you."
The queen stared at a bowl of berries and other fruits that was placed before her. She slammed her fist on the counter. "Boralla I want Flappy Jackies. Damn it I am the queen you know." Her tone was demanding and authoritative.
The cooks eyes went wide and she folded her arms against her chest and spoke in a scolding tone. "Ephiny I know perfectly well who and what you are but if you ever speak to me in that fashion again so help me Ill take my staff to you. I was your mothers friend and your grandmothers. Dont you dare presume that your title allows you to disrespect your elders."
The queen swallowed hard and lowered her eyes grateful they were alone. "Im sorry Boralla. You are right. I apologize."
The cook nodded approvingly. "Thats better. Now sit down and eat your fruit and maybe Boralla will cook you one flappy jack." She paused. "Ya know I cant play with you children all the time.
The queen sat down at the table and stared at the familiar bowl of fruit. As she took a bite she grinned a bit thinking of Little Tarren. "Wish I had that kids touch," she whispered
Chapter 25 Mud and guts
"The big one." Xena shook her head and let some of the air drain from her lungs. This label made her grin a bit. "It was huh?"
"Yes maam it sure was the biggest one." She rubbed her backside gingerly just to show that the effects were and would be felt for some time. This particular lesson had been learned and she wanted her mother to know it.
Xena leaned against a tree and stared at her youngster confused by what her own reaction should be. "Tarren sometimes I swear I dont know whether to hug you or put you over my knee and paddle you until we both run out of tears."
The child bit her lip and offered her arms up in the air to help make the decision easier.
Xena grinned and lifted the little girl into the air holding her in a big bear hug. "Thats cheating ya know?"
The child nuzzled against her mothers chest. Cheating or not she was exactly where she wanted to be. "Sorry Momma," was the weak reply.
The mother sighed and crouched on the ground cradling the youngster on her lap.
"Ok relax you got the hug this time." She paused. "Now would you please
tell me how it is that I sent you into that kitchen to make dough balls as punishment for
stealing and you wound up playing Warrior Princess with Boralla not to mention
getting a better breakfast than I had." She shook a warning finger at the content
child. "What were you doing playing at all when you know you are being
punished?" Order and discipline needed to be maintained if the warrior mother was
going to teach the youngster right from wrong in this matter.
Tarren fidgeted with her mothers straps careful not to pull them just wanting to hold them and feel the cool buckles. "Momma you said to listen to Boralla and she said she wanted to play Warrior Princess I mean warlord." She glanced up at her mothers gentle expression. "I didnt want to hurt her feelings Momma. I dont think she has much fun when Im not around," she said with a shrug.
The mother ran her hand along the side of the childs cheek and grinned. "Well I doubt anyone has much fun when youre not around Monster."
"Was I naughty again?" The little girl asked with a frown.
The mother shook her head. "No I guess I did tell you to listen to Boralla but I wont make that mistake again." Her smile faded and her tone became serious. "However, you are being punished so all your fun has officially ended for the day youngster."
Tarren nodded knowing her mother was quite serious. "Yes Momma." She smiled.
"Ya know I really like my punishment so far," she said with a wide grin.
"Well not the spankin and scrolls and stuff. Thats no fun at all. But
todays punishment was lots of fun Momma."
Xena rubbed her own temples and sighed. She knew the child was just being honest in her statement. "I know and thats the problem which is why that is going to change right now.
The child bit her lip and glanced up at her frustrated parent. "Momma am I gonna get another spankin?" she asked fearing the wrong response would set her already hot bottom on fire once again.
The mother wrapped her arms tightly around the child and grinned. "No you are not gonna get a spanking." She frowned at the mere thought. "Its not your fault if youre too cute for your own damn good."
The child sighed with relief but then shook a warning finger at her warrior mother. "Momma you said a bad word."
Xena arched a brow at the little finger being waved under her eyes. "And?"
The child drew the small digit back and placed her hands neatly in her lap. "And Im not gonna say it just cause you did since youre the Momma and Im the kid and I dont wanna get in trouble."
"Thats a very wise choice on your part." Xena nodded approvingly. She smiled at the little girls look of contentment at being held in her mothers arms and took a deep breath. The warrior hated being forced to act as the strict disciplinarian all the time. She knew how it felt to want to run wild and free and explore without boundaries. However, she also knew the outcome of such escapades and she was not about to let her small child get off on the wrong foot. Tarren was wild enough and the child definitely had a gift for getting into trouble. The mother considered her present circumstances deciding a little clarification was in order for both of them. She glanced at the little girl and grinned. "Tarren do you know why you are being punished the way you are today?" she asked hopeful the child understood even a small part of it.
"Cause you said so Momma."
Xena scratched her head. This was not the answer she was hoping for. "Yeah but do you know why I said so."
The child nodded. "Uh huh."
"Cause I was naughty."
The warrior closed her eyes took a moment and opened them again. "Tarren what did you do that was naughty?"
The little girl lowered her head a bit at the memory. "I touched the sword. That was very bad," she replied.
The warrior nodded and slid to the ground still holding tightly to her daughter. She
scratched the top of her head again and started anew. "Yes Tarren touching the sword
was very bad and we talked about that last night but
"Yup got my butt kicked. It was the big one Momma." Some things just needed constant clarification.
Xena thought of a time in her life when she led armies into battle and her word was obeyed like the thunder of Zeus. Now this little waif had her desperate to explain the reason she was being punished. "Tarren I want you to understand why you are being punished today. Why what you did to the Amazons was wrong."
"Momma we already talked about that after I got my butt kicked."
The warrior tilted her head to one side and let her voice drop to a huskier tone. "First of all I told you I to stop using those words." She shook a warning finger.
The youngster let her head drop onto her mothers shoulder. "Im sorry
Momma sometimes I forget."
Xena felt the child cuddling her arm and did her best to remain stoic and parental. "Well next time you forget Im going to give you something that will help you remember," she warned watching her stray hand rubbing the little girls back at the same time.
The little girl lifted her head and smiled broadly at the thought of a possible gift. "A pony?" she asked with enthusiasm.
The mother bit her lip and shook her head. "No a swat to your britches."
The child chewed her lower lip and opened her eyes wide. "Oh Id rather have the pony Momma," she muttered, now realizing this was not a conversation of presents.
Xena arched her brow and pursed her lips together. "Keep it up and I wont wait for you to say it again."
Tarren swallowed hard. The fun was now over. "Yes maam." She lowered her eyes. "But I really would rather have a pony," she murmured.
The warrior shook her head and let out an exacerbated breath. "Youngster that moment of choice between the hug and the swats is coming close again," she warned.
This time Tarren did not wait for her mother to make the choice but merely threw her arms affectionately around the warriors neck and gave her a big sloppy kiss on the cheek. "There now you dont have to choose Momma."
Xena tried to remain unaffected by the action but the youngsters broad smile
pierced her frustration. "Tarren one of these days that hug is not gonna save your
"My sloppy kiss?" she asked showing her dimples once again.
The childs smile faded. This was a topic best to avoid at the moment. "Oh err Momma wasnt there something you wanted to talk to me about?"
Xena had to applaud the little girls quick tactical moves. She nodded as she considered that her small daughter had just for the second time in a few minutes saved herself from a well-deserved swat to the seat of her britches. "Yeah there is something I wanna talk to you about but you better pay attention this time because any more games and its the hand on the bottom instead of the hug. Youre getting a bit big for those britches again. Got it?" she asked in a no nonsense parental tone. The games were definitely over.
The child gave a gentle tug to her waistline noting that, if anything, it felt a little loose. However, she knew from experience, that pointing that out would at the very least have her facing a tree for an hour. "Yes Momma I got it and Ill listen really good cause I dont wanna get it."
"Mmmm." The warrior studied her child and sighed. "Tarren I want you to understand why you are doing things today." She flashed her eyes quickly waiting for the youngster to interrupt or answer with something cute. The child was attentive and quiet. "Huh What you did yesterday was wrong." She again flashed her eyes waiting for a remark but the child just kept her wide baby blue eyes obediently trained on her mothers face. Xena nodded nervously wondering just when the child might make her move and destroy her train of thought. "Ok so as I was saying you did a bunch of stuff wrong yesterday and today you are going around to try and make it right. Thats why you shouldnt have been playing with Boralla. Do you understand?"
The child shook her head. "No Momma cause I only did what Boralla said to do and you said she was in charge."
The mother let out a deep breath at the honest and all too accurate reply. "I know
but Tarren when you are being punished you are not supposed to enjoy it or have
"Why not?" the child asked wondering why one should not make the best of anything.
The mother again rubbed her temples. "Because you are supposed to be learning something."
The child smiled. "I learned something Momma."
"What?" the mother asked hopeful for any small victory.
The youngster threw her shoulders back and held her chin up. "I learned how to flip a Flappy Jackie." She patted her own chest. "Boralla said Im real good at it too."
"Nice very nice." The warrior covered her face with her own hand and ran it
down to her mouth. "Tarren what did you learn about taking something that wasnt
yours?" she asked with a grumble.
"Oh that ...I gave her a sorry." The child shrugged her shoulders. "Boralla said I shoulda asked her first and I said I wouldnt take nothing again without askin first then we had breakfast and she showed me how to flip the Flappy Jackies." She could not help but grin at this happy memory of an added skill. "Its all in the wrist Momma. The first four went too high and hit the ceiling. Then I accidenal like tossed one over my shoulder and it hit the wall but I finally caught one before we started playing Warrior Princess," she explained proudly.
The warrior wanted to make an attempt to explain this to her daughter in a way that it might be understood hoping that the child would learn to act on her own instincts a bit more. "So you think that was a fair trade for what you did wrong?" she asked.
The little girl lowered her eyes. She had not considered it as a trade. "Well no but you did give me a spankin and it was the big one and you did tell me I wasnt allowed to touch swords or take stuff that wasnt mine while I was getting it." She paused. "Wasnt that a fair trade Momma?" she asked hopefully.
Xena squeezed her temples between two fingers and grinned. This was going to take a lot of time. "Yes I guess that was a fair trade since it was the big one." She was learning more and more just how young her child really was and just what that meant. A new approach was in order. She needed to gear her thoughts to a smaller childs thoughts. "However when you break something thats not yours you should help fix it. Right?" She shrugged. "I mean thats what I would do."
The youngster had not thought about this aspect. "Ya mean like the way I helped
you fix the sword?" She smiled. "I liked doing that."
The mother ran a hand down the little girls cheek. "Why? That was a lot of work."
The youngster frowned at the warriors obvious lack of understanding. "Cause youre my Momma and I love ya lots and it made me feel better about busting it."
Xena nodded hoping she was on the right path. "Why did it make you feel better to help. I could have fixed it alone if I had too." She paused. "Why do you think I made you help me?"
The child ran her fingers over her mothers armor and shrugged. Her voice became a near whisper. "I dunno. I guess cause it was me that busted it."
The mother nodded and removed the little girls hands from her armor and held them in her own. "Good, now do you think that those dough balls you took just made themselves again or that Boralla had to spend extra time making them?" she asked desperate to keep the childs attention focused.
The youngster grinned and again reached for the armor. "She didnt make them at all again Momma. Boralla said they werent worth the bother so she gave out oatmeal instead." The child frowned at the thought of eating oatmeal.
Xena let her head fall back against a tree. To be so close and then have it slip through your fingers was tough. It was time to be the lecturing parent again. "Tarren the point is that because you took something that didnt belong to you someone else, in this case Boralla and everyone who ate oatmeal, suffered. Is that fair?" she asked in a more scolding tone.
The child picked a bacon crumb from her shirt and shook her head. "No Momma I guess nobody should have to eat oatmeal."
Xena pointed her finger at the child. "Well if you had not taken the dough balls in the first place or Boralla had made you make the dough balls the way she should have then maybe nobody would have had to eat oatmeal," she said with a nod.
Tarren glanced at the sky and empty woods around her. Suddenly there was no easy answer to give to these haunting questions. "We but Momma Im just a little kid."
The mother grinned a bit at the last ditch attempt at youth as a defense. "Uh huh but you are a little kid that knows a fair trade when she sees one. Did you fix things the way you should have so it was a fair trade or did other people fix it for you?"
The youngster lowered her eyes. "I guess Boralla fixed it for me."
Xena nodded knowing she had made her point. "Yes she did and is that the reason I said you were being punished?" she asked in a parental no nonsense tone.
The little girl shook her head. "No Momma you said I was supposed to make stuff right."
Xena nodded. "And you played Warrior Princess and learned how to flip Flappy Jackies instead. Arent you ashamed of yourself?" she asked in a quiet but firm tone.
"Yes if you say so Momma." She picked up her eyes. "But there is still the big one and flipping Flappy Jackies isnt easy work." Any defense was still a defense even if a weak one.
The mother ran a hand through her dark mane and let out a deep breath. "Im sure it isnt." She knew the child had at least absorbed a small part of the message. "Now then youngster I am going to take you over to Eponon and what are you going to do?"
"Fill in the mud hole I made," she said fumbling with a single strap.
The warrior forced their eyes to meet. "Why?"
The little girl smiled broadly. "Cause you said so and youre my momma."
Xena tightened her lips and shook her head as she stared at the innocent smile on her small daughters face. "And why did I say so Tarren my dear little one?"
"Cause youre the Momma." She patted her mothers arm and smiled broadly. "And thats all I need to know."
The youngsters smile faded knowing her mother was not interested in playing. "And cause Im the one who made the puddle and I should fix what I broke cause thats a fair trade but mostly cause you said so."
Xena grinned at the childs words. A few months ago the little girl would not have admitted that her mothers words were final, so Xena took even this small step as a step of some kind. "Well Tarren, if you want to learn to act like a real Warrior Princess then you will have to do much better at making things right."
The youngster gave her mother a quick hug. "Ok Momma. Ill do better. I do wanna be the best Warrior Princess there is next to you that is."
Xena sighed hoping using this title was finally a good idea. "Close enough I guess." She picked the little girl up in her arms and got to her feet. "So you are going to fill in a mud hole that you made. You are not going to play. Do I make myself clear?" she asked wanting the rules plain and simple this time.
Knowing her childs affinity for mud made the mother pause in her movements.
"And that means no playing in the mud while you fill it either," she
The youngsters eyes widened and her lower lip rolled out. To be so close to an entire pool of fresh mud and not even to be able to jump in was surely punishment. "Ahh Momma."
Xena shook a warning finger and let her voice become low and husky. "Tarren I mean it. Dont let me come back and find out youve been fooling around," she warned.
The child hung her head over her mothers arm. "Yes maam."
The warrior let out a quick breath. Repetition was sometimes a mothers only friend. "Ok so these are the rules for the rest of the day. You and I both know you are being punished and that means you are not allowed to play, so no matter who asks you to play you are not to do it. Do I make myself clear?" she asked sternly.
The child frowned hoping there might be a small loophole. "But what if ."
The warrior mother stopped the youngster before she could offer a scenario. "There are no what ifs. There are no exceptions. You are going to finish your work and return to the cottage as we discussed last night. That is that." The warriors words were stiff and straight to the point.
Tarren knew her mother meant real business. "Yes maam."
The warrior picked up her pace. "Lets get going. You have work to do." She looked at the honest and innocent face of her small daughter and closed her eyes "Oh and my little princess charming you may have worked your cute magic on Ephiny and Boralla but there is no way you are gonna get off that easy with Eponon." She bit her lip considering whether even leaving Tarren alone with the angry weapons master was a good idea. "I just want you to fill in the hole you made and thats all. Dont do anything to make her any angrier than she already is."
Tarren wrapped her arms around her mothers neck and lay her head down. She was
happy to be in her arms even if only for a few minutes. "Its Ok Momma I
dont mind this workin stuff," she replied with a shrug ignoring the warnings
about the ticked off Amazon.
Xena grinned and gave the small child a sideways stare. "Thats because you havent done any yet."
The little girl rolled out her lower lip wondering if her mother thought it was easy keeping a 200-pound Amazon pinned in one spot with a few dozen eggs.
At the mud hole
As the warrior approached the reputed mud pit she could see Eponon waiting impatiently under a shady tree. She nodded to her friend and then observed the puddle in question. The warrior put the child down and stood in front of the large pool and shook her head. "Tarren I cant believe you did this," she said in utter disbelief as she waved her hand across the length of the murky trail.
The little girl eyed the bandage on her hand and then her mothers stern face. "Well it sure wasnt easy but if you push the trough just right ." She glanced up to see that her mother was anything but impressed or amused. She lowered her head a bit. "Sorry Momma."
Xena looked down at the small child and again shook her head. "Push the trough the right way," she muttered under her breath. "You better be sorry little girl because its gonna take you a long time to fill this," she scolded motioning toward the pool.
Tarren glanced at the muddy waters and then at Eponon. She gave the large Amazon a toothy grin but the weapons master just looked away. The child swallowed hard and glanced back at her mother. "Im real sorry Momma." She ran her hand over the small linen bandage that covered her sword cut rather than face her mothers sour expression.
The warrior noted the maneuver and dropped to one knee. She had examined the cut
earlier and was satisfied that it was healing well but she had not considered the pain
lifting a shovel might cause the wound. She took the childs wounded hand in hers.
"Does it hurt?" she asked with noted concern.
The little girl shook her head and wiggled her hand free. "No Momma its fine. I was just wondering how I can keep it clean like you said I haffta and still touch the mud."
Xena sighed and pulled a sack from her pouch. "I was prepared for that youngster." She placed the sack over the injured hand. "Now you are going to have to try to not use that hand as much. Ok?"
The little girl smiled and tried to make the sack into a puppet. "Sure Momma Ill be real careful."
The warrior took a second look at the mud puddle and then her small daughter. The
puddle was much larger than she had thought and Tarren somehow seemed much smaller.
"Maybe I better do this. I dont want you to open those stitches," she said
with a deep breath.
The child tugged on her mothers arm. "Its Ok Momma. I can do it." The youngster offered up a wide smile to let her mother know she was serious. "If you do it then its not a fair trade cause you didnt make it. I did."
Xena folded her arms against her chest and gave a lopsided grin. "Yeah well Im your Momma so when youre in trouble Im in trouble. Your mess is my mess." She unfolded her arms and tapped the child on the nose. "Its not the same in the real world Tarren but between us thats how it is."
Knowing her mother had already made the decision to make things right for her, the child lowered her eyes. "But Momma you said you wanted me to do this so I could learn to be a better Warrior Princess." She bit her lip. "I wanna be a Warrior Princess like you. Please let me do it. I promise I wont hurt my hand."
Xena glanced at Eponon who had been listening to the entire emotional exchange with
dissatisfaction. "Are you sure Tarren?" she asked again glancing at the size of
The mother ran her hand along the side of he childs face and smiled at the way her daughter was now accepting her punishment. "Well Ok but if the hand hurts then you tell Eponon and shell come get me."
The child nodded. "Ok Momma." She looked happily at her muddy creation.
Xena quickly noticed the childs overly anxious expression and leaned down.
"And remember you are to put dirt in the mud not the mud on you. If I come
back here and see those little boots or anyplace else on you covered with mud youre
gonna get a small one put right on top of the big one," she said
tapping the childs britches lightly
"Oooooh." Tarrens eyes went wide at the coded message and the touch to her designated ouchy area. "Yes Momma." The small hands rubbed the tender spot once again. "No mud on my boots or nothin."
Xena tasseled the childs hair. "Just see that what you say now is what really happens and remember no playing." The child nodded and Xena moved beside Eponon. "Eppy dont let her work too much. Just let her throw a few shovels of dirt in and Ill fill the rest of it later," she whispered.
"Old softy." The weapons master frowned. "Shes your kid Xena but if she was mine Id have her fill the whole damn thing and then dig a few ditches in the field just for good measure." She frowned as she glanced at the small form standing eagerly by the mud.
Xena placed her large hand on her friends shoulder letting the weight of it lower the Amazon a bit. "You want to see how soft I am Eponon?" The warrior let her friend see the full extent of the Warrior Princess glare to let her know that she was anything but soft. "Remember shes not yours so just make sure she does what she has to and you take good care of her," she warned.
Eponon threw her hands up. She was well aware of how protective Xena was of her child "Relax I was just kidding. Shell be just fine," she replied with a forced smile.
Xena stared at her friend for a long moment to make her message clear and moved back
beside the child. "Ok I have to go finish up with Ephiny and then Ill come back
and get you," she said kneeling beside the youngster.
The child lowered her eyes wishing her mother would stay. It was fairly obvious that the weapons master didnt like her and the child knew it. "Bye Momma."
The warrior looked at the sad face and gave her child a quick hug to let her know her love was always present and available. "You just behave and Ill be back before you know it."
She took one last look at her small daughter and the weapons master before heading back to the queens meeting room.
Eponon waited until Xena was well out of sight and moved slowly beside the child.
Tarren offered her best-polished smile but the weapons master only growled at the sight.
She handed the child a shovel. "Put your little bag down and get started."
Tarren glanced at her satchel and frowned. "Its a treasure bag lady." She forced a smile. "You wanna see the feather Ephiny gave me?" she asked hoping to find something in common with this feather headed giant.
The large Amazon rumbled at the mere thought of this child being bestowed with one of the queens own feathers when she had done nothing to earn it. "No I dont. I just want you to get started filling in that hole, or do you want me to go get your mother and tell her youre not listening to me."
The child rolled out her lower lip placed her sack on the ground and shook her head. That would be a very bad thing. "No Im listening to ya," she mumbled.
Eponon handed the child the shovel and grinned. "Then start filling."
Tarren took the large shovel and sighed at the weight. She paused before she got her
first scoop of dirt. "Wait Momma forgot to give you a sorry."
The weapons master shook her head at the delay. "A what?"
Tarren leaned on the edge of the shovel wondering if all grown ups were so ignorant. "You know Im supposed to say sorry for what I did."
Eponon frowned and folded her arms. "Ok go ahead but then no more stalling," she warned in a not so friendly tone.
Tarren cleared her throat. "Im sorry I set a mud trap that you fell into and got you all dirty and full of feathers."
Eponon cringed at the memory. "Fine you gave your sorry. Now get
The child sighed at the Amazons failure to accept an apology properly. She pushed the shovel into the dirt and with a bit of effort managed to land the contents it in the mud. She smiled at the weapons master who did not return the look. "I got it in," she said proudly.
The large Amazon growled at the childs attempt at friendly banter.
Tarren let her shoulders slump and again pushed the shovel in the dirt for another pile deciding that if she couldnt talk she would hum.
Eponon watched the slow progress with great dissatisfaction. "Thats not how
you do it. Give me that." She took the shovel. "Ill show you."
Tarren took a step back and watched as the muscular woman heaved a heavy pile of dirt into the mud pool. "Wow you sure are strong. Ill bet you lift almost as much as Momma could."
Eponon shook her head and handed the child back the shovel. "Nice try but your little smile and big eyes are not going to keep you from filling this hole kid."
The youngster frowned. Apparently compliments were no better received than apologies. "I dont mind filling it. Momma says its the only way to learn to be a real Warrior Princess."
The Amazon shook her head at the thought but agreed with her friends imparted philosophy. "Thats right."
Tarren again pushed the shovel into the dirt and this time was able to maintain a pile nearly twice the size. She dropped it in and looked to her warden for approval.
Eponon nodded. "Thats not bad for someone so small."
Finally the child heard a word of encouragement. "Thanks."
The little girl decided a bit of conversation would make the time pass faster.
"Howd you get so many pretty feathers?" she asked as she again repeated
her shoveling task.
Eponon eased her muscles a bit. "I earned them," she stated proudly.
"By doing things better than other Amazons."
"Is that good?"
"Why?" the child asked. Her mother always said doing your best was good
The weapons master frowned. "You want to be the best dont you?" she asked confused by the question.
The little girl shrugged. "I dunno I just wanna be like Momma. I think shes the best."
Eponon grinned a bit at the way the child obviously worshipped her mother and the weapons masters friend. "Well I cant argue with you about that kid. She is the best."
Tarren smiled. Finally the two had found common ground. "I still have my feather ya know." She reached into her tunic and pulled it out. "See I know its not like yours cause I didnt do nothin better than anyone to get it. Ephiny just gave it to me cause were friends and I like having it." She placed the precious item aback in her tunic. "And it really is fun to try and tickle Momma with it."
The weapons master smiled at the image of the stoic warrior being tortured with a feather. She looked down at the small child shoveling the heavy dirt and shook her head. The youngsters wounded hand would surely hurt if she kept this up. "Give me that shovel. I dont want to be standing here all day," she said trying to act bothered by the use of her time.
The little girl arched her brow in fair imitation. "But Momma said I have to do it." She folded her arms against her chest.
"Yeah well Momma is not the one who fell in, so its my mud pool and I want to fill it myself." She started shoveling. "You just take a seat and Ill be finished in a while."
Tarren scratched her head. She had not realized that there was a question of ownership involved. The child bit her lip and rubbed her britches. "Can I stand?" she asked with wide eyes.
The weapons master glanced back and noticed how the child tenderly rubbed the seat of
her trousers. It didnt take her long to figure out the problem. "Oh yeah
Wait a minute."
Eponon dropped the shovel and ran into the storeroom returning with two sacks of feathers. She placed one on top of the other and then lifted the little girl on top. "I figure knowing Xena that one sack would never do. "Hows that?" she asked taking pride in her own creation.
Tarren felt as if she were floating on air. "Good! Thanks Eponon."
The weapons master smiled broadly at finally being called something other than lady.
"Its no big deal," she mumbled picking up the shovel and went back to work.
The child interrupted. "Eponon?"
"Will you tell me a story about how you got some of your feathers?" the little girl asked eager for someone to tell her a story. Since Gabrielle was no longer available the youngster felt starved for such a treat.
The weapons master smiled. "Are you sure you wanna hear them?"
The child nodded as she watched the mud become little more than a memory. "Sure." Her smile started to fade "But Hey wait Momma said if I dont fill in the hole I wont learn to be real Warrior Princess. I gotta fill it or its not a fair trade." She jumped off the cushions only to have a pair of large hands put her right back on top of them.
Eponon held the youngster in place easily. "Hold on! Youre not big enough
to fill this hole and Xena knows it but I am and Im gonna." She paused.
"However, if you want to make a fair trade of it so you can learn to be
real Warrior Princess like your Momma then I have an idea."
The youngsters eyes widened at the thought. "What?"
The Amazon patted the childs head. "Well first let me fill this hole and tell you how I got my very first feather and then well work out the details."
Tarren sat back and listened to the dramatic tail of a well-earned feather as the weapons master filled the hole.
Back at Ephinys office
Xena stared at the map putting markers in the still unsearched areas. "Well that should do it. That covers the entire Amazon territory. Solari must be somewhere up north in this area." She pointed to a small dense spot on the map.
Ephiny nodded in agreement and yelled for her lead scout. A young warrior with dark skin and long dark hair appeared. "Yes my queen."
"Sheloppa I want you to take a group here." She pointed to the spot on the map. "If you find Solari and her band in trouble then help them and send a messenger back." She shook her head. "If you find them in good health then toss her across a saddle and drop her at my door." Her voice was a mixture of anger and concern.
Sheloppa bowed her head. "Yes my queen. We will leave immediately."
Ephiny wanted to lead the group herself but her duties to her people and to her village forced her to remain. It was only in the most dyer circumstances that a queen would lead such a scouting mission. However, Ephiny cared for all her warriors as sisters and young Solari held a special place as her friend.
Xena stopped the young warrior with a wave. "Watch the trees and the ground carefully. If you see something strange strike first and ask questions later."
Sheloppa bowed her head knowing that any advice from the reputed Warrior Princess was a
gift. "Thank you Warrior Princess."
Xena shook her head at the title. "Its Xena just Xena."
Sheloppa glanced at the queen who blinked and then turned back to the famous warrior. "Yes Xena, I will watch above and below." With those words spoken the head scout hurried out the door and the queen and warrior could hear the flurry of hoof prints as the search party departed.
Xena glanced at Ephiny. "Wanna go dont ya?" she asked with a smirk.
The queen glanced at the map and then her warrior friend. "Yup but I am needed here. She sighed. "It wouldnt look very good if the queen wasnt present at the Artemis Feast." She grinned and let her head drop to one side. "You wanna go Xena?" she asked with a smirk of her own.
The warrior nodded. "Yup but I am needed here as well." She gave a crooked smile. "It wouldnt look very good if my kid destroyed the Artemis feast."
The two friends laughed at the ties that now bound them but then Xenas smile quickly disappeared and she again glanced out the window.
Ephiny allowed some air from her lungs to drain and moved beside the warrior. "Ok whats wrong now?" she asked knowing her friends thoughts had been divided all morning.
She grinned a bit but her mind still a bit distant. "Oh nothing I was just thinking about how it feels to be needed." She ran a finger across the surface of her own hand. Have you ever lifted a shovel with stitches in your hand Eph?"
Ephiny stared at her friend and smiled. "Come on." She tugged on Xenas
The warrior mother feigned a look of surprise. "Where are we going? I thought you had to help Gabrielle with the plans for the Artemis Feast."
"Oh she wont let me even look in the hall. She doesnt want any help" She grinned. "However, you are not gonna be happy until you check that kids bandage and make sure Eponon is not boiling her in oil."
Xena let out a quick breath and tried not to smile. "Well I would like to make
sure the bandage is staying clean and the stitches are Ok but thats it. We
are not helping. I already told Eppy to let her do only a little of it."
"Uh huh." Ephiny removed her headdress and armbands.
The warrior cocked a brow at the action. "What are you doing?"
The Amazon queen turned her head and frowned. "If you think Im getting mud on my feathers your crazy."
Xena thought about protesting the idea of letting her daughter off so early and so easy but the truth was she had wanted to stay with her from the very moment she saw the mud hole and the look on the weapons masters face. She grinned and followed her friend out the door ready to finish filling a very large mud pool.
Back at the mud
Ephiny and Xena walked across the compound to the trail where the warrior had left her child in the care of the weapons master. When they arrived the mud pile was completely covered over and the youngster and Eponon were no where to be found.
Xena turned her head and scanned the area. Her eyes immediately locked on the side of a tree near the edge of the now covered pool where a familiar satchel, a small pair of britches and a neatly folded tunic hung. On the ground below was a little pair of unlaced boots. The mother gathered the items in her arms and stared at the queen. "What in the name of Hades is going on?" The mother again scanned the area. "Tarren," she called.
There was no response from the youngster but only the sound of a distant childish giggle coming from the woods in front of the pair. Xena grumbled a "Cmon." and walked through the woods until she was brought to a halt by the sight of a large group of warriors with their heads buried in their arms leaning against trees counting in unison. "Eight nine ten ."
Xena dropped her daughters belongings on a grassy patch and with Ephiny at her side moved over to the most familiar figure that was now up to 30 in her count. The queen tapped her weapons master on the shoulder. "Eponon!"
The weapons masters shoulders slumped as she recognized the voice of her queen. She opened one eye out and let her head drop just a bit. "Hello Xena Queen Ephiny."
Ephiny glared at her Amazon when she noticed the womans face was covered in a mask of mud. "What in the name of all the gifts of Artemis is going on here?" she asked with a touch of anger.
Xena was not wasting time waiting for a response. She ordered all the Amazons hiding their heads to show themselves hoping one would reveal her missing child. The warrior closed her eyes when she saw that each of the Amazons that lifted their heads from their arms had faces masked in mud. "Wheres Tarren?" she asked with a slight growl knowing somewhere close by was her nearly naked daughter.
Eponon shrugged her shoulders. "I dunno yet. We have to find her," she replied meekly.
Ephiny clapped her hands together and the Amazons came to attention immediately. She glared at he group one by one. "Do you mean to tell me that my best warriors lost this child again." She wiped a bit of mud from the weapons masters forehead. "And what is this Eppy Some new form of skin cleanser?" She peered at the group. "You know there are patrols to walk and scouting expeditions to prepare for. Perhaps some of you need double duty rather than joining in the feast tonight." She looked at Eponon. "What do you think Eponon?" she asked knowing her friend was the leader of this bunch.
The weapons master cringed at the thought. "I can explain my Queen."
Before she could answer a small child wearing nothing more than her underclothes and a body covered in mud dropped to a branch right above the queen. She dangled her legs over the side as she stared at the regal Amazon. "No Ephiny please dont be mad at them. They helped fill the mud pile, so I said Id teach them show them how I hid from them Ya know like I did yesterday." She nodded stiffly and stared at the shocked queen. "It was a fair trade."
There was a familiar husky growl. "Tarren!"
The child turned her head and saw standing a few paces away a rather large muscular warrior who shared the same blue eyes. "Uh Oh," she said with a gulp. The youngster glanced over at her mother as if seeing her for the very first time. Her stubborn expression disappeared replaced by a rather contrite smile. "Oh hi Momma youre back fast. I figured youd be back much later," she said swallowing hard.
Xenas face turned from concern to utter disbelief as she stared at the small muddy creature that called her Momma. "Tarren what do you think I told you not to You cant ." The mother could not complete one sentence without feeling her blood pressure rise.
Ephiny looked up at the little girl and then back at the weapons master. "Eponon
you asked a child to teach you how to hide?" she asked in utter disbelief.
The mud faced Amazon shrugged and let her head fall slightly to one side. "I dont know what happened. One minute I was watching her fill the mud and the next I was filling the hole, telling stories of how I got my feathers and covering my face with mud." She shook her head. "I swear the child cast a spell on me."
Xena stared up at her young daughter as she listened to the all to a familiar tail. "Come down here," she ordered.
The child held tightly to the security of the branch. "Why Momma?"
The warrior took a deep breath and her eyes went wide at the question. "Because I told you too." That should be reason enough.
The youngster bit her lip and shook her head. "But you sound real mad. If I come down am I gonna get a spankin?" she asked remembering her mothers warning about the mud. She had expected to be cleaned and dressed before the warrior returned.
Xena stared at the ground for a moment and then glanced around at the group of Amazons waiting for her reply. She gritted her teeth and looked again at the child. "Tarren get your naughty little backside down here right now," she commanded. It was bad enough to have this conversation but to have it in front of the Amazons was too much.
The youngster held stubbornly to the side of the tree. "No Momma. Im a Warrior Princess now I dont haffta come down." She paused and tried to gather a bit of courage in her shaky voice. It was time for negotiations. "Unless you tell me I wont get a spankin."
Xena glanced at all the warriors that she called friends. "I would like to thank you all very much for the help you have given me today." With those words spoken the Warrior Princess vaulted in the air flipping easily onto a branch directly over her child. "Oh you are in real trouble little girl." She grabbed the youngster by the waist and vaulted once more to the ground placing the child on the ground beside her keeping a firm grip on her arm.
Tarren could not help but smile proudly at her mothers agility. "That was
real good Momma." She paused. "Ya know I was just teasing about being a
Warrior Princess. I was just coming down all alone when ya got there, se said
with a broad smile.
The warrior arched her brown and widened her eyes. The child immediately went quiet knowing this was the signal not to speak. "Uh huh Ill bet you were. Let me see your hand," she ordered. The mother pushed her anger to one side to examine the wound.
The child presented the hand that still had the sack covering it. "I didnt get no mud on it," she whispered proudly. "I was pretty good dont ya think?" she asked hopefully.
"No I do not think you were pretty good!" Xena looked at the bandage
and the cut thankful that neither had been damaged. She took a deep breath as she scanned
the muddy youngster. "Tarren how much of the hole did you fill?" she asked
wondering why she was covered in mud.
The youngster held up her fingers. "Three scoops."
Xena closed her eyes and bobbed her head up and down. "Three?"
"Uh huh then Eponon helped. The dirt was awful heavy and shes real strong
Momma. She told me some great stories about how she earned all her feathers. Then
the other warriors came over and helped too and they got some really good stories
too. When we were finished they asked if I could show them how to hide." The
youngster motioned to her muddy form. "I had to do it Momma since Eponon didnt
want me to fill the hole. It was the only way to be a better Warrior Princess." She
paused and took a short breath. "I got a feather every time they couldnt find
me. Ive got five cause they never found me."
Xena glared at the now quiet weapons master. "Youd have her digging ditches if she were yours huh?" She repeated the Amazons earlier words through clenched teeth.
Eponon kept her eyes lowered and let her head drop against the side of the hard tree trunk.
Xena glanced down at her small child and opened her palm. "Give me the
Tarren looked at the colorful but muddy feathers in her grip. "But I earned them fair Momma."
Xena tightened her hold on the childs wrist and leaned in closer. "Was that
you talking back to me?" She lowered her head. "Because if it was I should
warn you that you are already in very big trouble young lady."
The youngster realized for the first time just how very angry her mother was. This was serious. She immediately handed her the feathers over. "Yes maam. I really dont need any more feathers than the one I have anyway," she replied, grateful that the little red one was now in her satchel.
Xena closed her fist around the plumes and shoved them into Ephinys hand. She motioned to the muddy Amazons standing silently around them. "They are your problem to deal with." She pointed a finger down at her small wayward daughter. "She is mine." The mother picked up the childs belongings with one hand and with a quick swipe hoisted the youngster across her hip taking long angry strides toward a nearby stream.
Tarren waved to the group. "Bye guys. Thanks for filling the hole with me and
telling me the stories. It was lots of fun."
Eponon smiled and waved but seeing the expression on her queens face stood at full attention.
Ephiny paced back and forth in front of her. "Alright you and your warriors are feeling so compassionate. Good. I have an assignment for you. I want Flappy Jackies and I want you to get Boralla to make them for me," she ordered a she paced around the group.
Eponon lowered her head. "Ephiny no not that. You know shell skin us alive
for just going in there with mud on are bodies."
Ephiny grinned knowing it was the truth. She turned to her friend and let her voice become regal and authoritative. "Are you refusing an assignment weapons master?
Eponon bowed her head submissively. "No my Queen."
The queen smiled and pointed to the distant galley. "Then take your warriors and go get me my Flappy Jackies Now!"
Eponon bowed and tilted her head to motion her warriors toward the kitchen.
Ephiny watched from a safe distance as her best warriors entered the kitchen and in moments each one was tossed roughly out a window or a door. Finally all she saw was the old cook standing on the steps shaking her head warning the group not to enter her domain again.
The Amazon queen sighed and walked back toward the village. "Oh well no Flappy Jackies today," she mumbled.
Chapter 26 - Repent
At the stream
Xena took long strides until she reached the small stream on the outskirts of the Amazon trails.
The youngster lay limp at her mothers side considering her current situation. She knew that failing to dismount her tree limb had only added to the trouble. However she was sure this was not a good time to speak.
When they reached the edge of the water Xena dropped the clothes to one side and lowered her small daughter to the other. "Dont move," she ordered.
Tarren nodded. "Yes maam." She smiled up at her mother and wiggled her fingers in greeting but that only seemed to make the warriors brow arch higher.
Xena paced back and forth wearing out a spot in the grass. With each step she removed a piece of armor and tossed it to the ground until she was left in nothing more then her skiff. "Thinks this is still all some kind of game. She smiles and waves gets feathers covers herself in mud says shes training the Amazons to hide Shes a Warrior Princess Tells me shell stay up in the tree until I tell her ." The rambling stopped and the mother turned and faced her mischievous child.
Tarren swallowed hard and reached her arms up in offering of a hug but the mother just folded her arms across her chest and shook her head. "Not this time."
The youngster lowered her arms. "Wouldnt this be a good time for a
hug a Momma?"
Xena stared at the small form standing before her covered in mud. "Not at this moment."
Tarren bit her lip and waited patiently for some indication of what was to come. She did not have to wait long.
After removing her boots and tossing them over her shoulder the now quiet mother dropped to one knee grabbed the wayward child leaning the youngster over the muscular thigh. Before a pleading word could be spoken from the small form tilted over her mothers leg the large palm of justice delivered a half dozen swats to the seat of the childs under britches causing the youngster to immediately break into a wave of sniffles and tears.
When Xena felt her message had been delivered and the child had paid adequately for her infraction she lifted the child up tossed the muddy underclothes to the grass and carried the now bawling youngster into the center of the stream. With a scowl and a grumble the mother began the long arduous process of washing a body of mud without benefit of soap. The warriors expression remained stiff as she cleaned the caked mud from her young daughter using little more some balled up wet grass as a wash cloth.
Tarren lay in her mothers hold as the warrior removed the muddy remnants of a playful outing. "You gave me a spankin ." she said with a cracked voice as she held tightly to her mothers arm.
Xena turned the child from side to side washing off mud on every limb and finally the little girls face. The answer was quiet and without hesitation. "Yes I did."
The youngster bit her lip and sniffled as the tears ran down her cheek. "But but I didnt touch the sword or take nothin and I got the big one already."
Xena nodded as she continued to clean mud from the youngsters ears. "Yup you
got the big one and you just got the little one
Keep behaving the way
you have been and it will be back to a big one again."
"But Momma I was being a good Warrior Princess and training the troops. How come I got a spankin?" she asked reaching beneath the water surface to run a soothing hand over her newly swatted backside.
Xena turned the child to face her. "Answer that question for yourself. You tell me why you got a spanking?" The words were serious but not without genuine love and concern.
The little girl bit her lip and reached down into the water to rub her stinging bottom
once again. She felt sure she knew the answer but hoped that if she didnt speak it
out loud it would not be true. "I dunno
Xena shook her head and stared at the small contrite child. "Tarren you know I told you that you werent allowed to play at all today and you were playing hide and find me with the Amazons." She responded in a parental no nonsense tone.
The weepy child rolled out her lower lip and widened her eyes as the tears continued to stream. "I was training I wasnt playing."
Xena did not want to go so far as to ruin the little girls fascination with her favorite game. However she would not allow the youngster to use a game as a means to escaping the truth. "Tarren you were playing and having fun and you know it," she said sternly.
The little girl wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Maybe but I tried not to."
The warrior shook her head at the childs second attempt at admitting her mistakes. "Are you supposed to have fun when you are being punished?" she asked point blank knowing they had covered this subject earlier.
"Did I tell you not to get any mud on you?"
The little girl had a vague recollection of such a warning. "I think so. I forget."
"Well I dont think you will forget again. Do you?" she asked with a deep husky tone.
The child rubbed her bottom and let tears fall down her cheeks as her mother scrubbed her dirty skin clean. "No maam."
Xena gave the childs arm a gentle tug. "And when I tell you to get out of a tree you do not question me and you do not argue or try and bargain. You just move your little backside as fast as you can to do what you are told to do! Do you understand me young lady?" This was the most important thing to be made clear. Xena did not want to be on a trail in the midst of battle and have her small child dropping to the ground to play Warrior Princess with road bandits.
The child poked out her lower lip and lowered her head. She could not keep her tears from falling and her mothers stare was a bit too much to endure. "Yes maam."
Xena drained some of the air from her lungs and hoisted the child over her shoulder. The child was as clean as she was going to get under the circumstances. "That will have to do until we get back to the cottage and can give you a real bath," she muttered, daring the youngster to complain about such an event.
Tarren said nothing but merely lay over her mothers shoulder sniffling and wiping away tears wishing she could rub the spot where the little one had just met the big one.
The warrior mother placed her wet and naked child down on the grass and wrapped her leathers around the youngster to keep her warm while she picked up enough small pieces of dry wood to start a small fire. After she had started a flame she placed the still teary child in front of the burning amber to get warm while she washed out the muddy underclothes.
After stretching out all the clothes neatly by the fire, the warrior sat down across from the standing youngster. She folded her legs in close to her chest and twisted her lips in frustration. Somehow this day kept getting worse and worse and it was her friends who were helping it get there.
Tarren continued to let her tears roll down her cheeks and sniffle but said nothing. She did not wish to get into anymore trouble than she was already in.
After a calming moment the warrior mother called her child over. "Cmere."
The little girls eyes went wide and she turned to face her mother but did not move. "Am I gonna get it again?" she asked with a hard swallow.
The mother closed her eyes. Still this youngster had not learned to do as she was told. "If you are youll find out when you get here. Now come over here," she repeated in a gentle tone.
The child quickly skidded to her mothers side. "Yes maam."
Xena stared at the contrite child draped in a leather towel for a long moment and then let out a long breath and opened her arms.
Tarren did not wait for a word to be spoken or verbal offer to be made. She quickly fell into the affectionate offering eager to have the comfort of her mothers love.
The mother wrapped her arms tenderly around her child. Feeling the heat of the fire growing she tossed her leathers to one side and ran her hand gently up and down the childs back as she listened to the muffled tears being spilled into her shoulder. "Ok enough crying." She kissed the little girls head and cradled her so the youngster could not hide in her shoulder. "Damn it Tarren. The last thing I wanted to have to do today was give you a swat," she chided.
The little girl sniffled and bit her lip. "There were six and that makes it
a spankin not a swat," she replied feeling the heat of her mothers hand
from both the big one and the more recent little one.
Xena let her voice drop to a husky tone. "You are very lucky I didnt bare your little butt and give a really good one," she replied still keeping her voice low and gentle.
The child rubbed her eyes with the balls of her fist. "Why Momma? I was doing good stuff."
The warrior mother pulled the child in closer. "You were not doing what you were told and you were not doing what you were supposed to do." She took a deep breath and shook a warning finger. "And young lady if you learn nothing else you will learn to do what I tell you to do and you will learn that there will be a price to pay when you do not."
Tarren grumbled remembering just how that price was paid. "But Momma its not
my fault if Im too damn cute for my own good. You said so yourself."
Desperate times called for desperate measures.
Xena suppressed a grin and shook a warning finger at the child. "I also told you not to say words like that," she warned.
The youngster quickly covered her mouth and spoke through her fingers. "Sorry Momma I was just Sorry."
"Uh huh." The warrior shook her head and leaned back in the grass taking the little girl with her. "What am I gonna do with you?" she asked the small face with the wide blue innocent stare.
Tarren shrugged not really having a fair suggestion.
Xena looked at the chubby cheeks with the now masked dimples and sighed. She used the side of her thumb to wipe away a falling tear. "You must think the whole world is against you even me." She tried to consider how the world must look from the little ones point of view.
The child considered the words and sniffled. "No not you Momma. I love you
The warrior smiled at this childs undying love. "Really?"
The little girl rolled out her lip and nodded. She wanted her mother to be sure of this
fact. "Uh huh lots and lots Momma."
The warrior ran her hands through the youngsters hair and closed her eyes. "Even though I had to give you the big one." Even Xena was starting to make it sound like a religious experience.
The child nodded her head vigorously wondering why grown ups made such a big deal out of everything. "Uh huh youre my Momma and thats Momma stuff. You know that. Besides I did take your sword and bust it up," she replied still feeling a touch of guilt.
"Yeah you did." The mother smiled and wiped some wet hairs from the childs forehead. "So you love me even though I make you do scrolls and eat your vegetables and face the tree when you misbehave?" Xena wasnt sure exactly where she was going with this but she knew she had a point.
The little girl was confused by any question of her mothers love or methods. "Of course youre my momma. Thats your job cause you love me."
"Yup I sure do love you little one." Xena again nodded hoping her own train of thought was doing something more than causing a dull ache in her stomach from the recounting of her duties as a parent. "So you still love me even though all Ive done all day is yell at you, make you do stuff as punishment and then gave you another spanking?" She lowered her eyes for affect. "Ya know Im pretty tough on you sometimes, so I thought maybe you were sorry you had me for a Momma," she said in a near whisper.
The little girls eyes welled with tears and her lower lip started to quiver as
she made a vice like grip around the warriors neck. "No youre my Momma
and I love you. I dont want anyone else. Youre not too tough. I was bad.
Youre my Momma. I was just bad. I wasnt supposed to touch the mud or play and
I didnt come out of the tree when you told me too. Youre a good Momma
and I love you. I dont want no one else to be my Momma." The small child
hugged tightly to her mother as if afraid to loosen her hold meant to lose her.
Xena could feel a single tear rushing down her cheek ad closed her eyes in hopes it would discourage others from following. "Shh baby Its Ok. I am your Momma and nothing will ever change that." She took a deep breath and nuzzled the little girl closer. "Im all yours and youre stuck with me." She sat up and cradled the now crying youngster in her arms.
Tarren kept a fist full of her mothers dark mane in her hand and spoke through sniffles. "I like being stuck to ya Momma. I dont ever wanna be unstuck."
Xena smiled and closed her eyes. "Monster, I like being stuck together with you too and I promise nothing will ever unstick us. Ok?" Perhaps this approach had not been a good idea after all. It had taken so long for the child to become secure in her mothers love and presence that to test the youngsters faith at this point may not have been wise.
The child nodded but kept her hold tight on her mother anyway. "My Mommy," she whispered possessively.
"Yeah your Mommy," she repeated softly. Wanting to get back to the subject at hand the mother tilted the childs head back to face her. "But your mommy sees that when you think about it you know exactly what you did wrong today as well." She used the tips of her fingers to lift the childs chin up. "You know what you did wrong today dont you?" she repeated.
For a moment the sniffles stopped and the youngsters eyes went wide. "That was real tricky Momma," the child mumbled. The little girl frowned realizing that in her flurry of concern over her mother she had inadvertently confessed more of her thoughts than she had planned. "Rats! Yes Momma I know," she replied quietly realizing she had been outdone by the best.
Xena reached over and took a tiny piece of cloth from her armor and wiped the childs face and eyes. "Then you know why you got a spanking dont you?"
The little girl rolled out her lower lip. "Yes Momma I was naughty." She sighed. "I didnt do what you told me to do. Im sorry I just really wanted to play Warrior Princess with Eponon and her friends."
The mother grinned remembering her own days of childhood when she too would have given
anything to play such a game with a group of trained warriors. "I know you did and we
both know you did something wrong and you now know why your bottom is five swats
more sore than it was before."
The little girl looked up and into her mothers loving, blue gaze. "Six Momma. It was a six swat spankin." The child wanted her mother to know that each swat had its own painful meaning so the extra one counted quite a lot and should not be forgotten.
Xena nodded in understanding. "Sorry my mistake six swats."
The child closed her eyes and lay her head back down on her mothers chest. She thought about her mothers words and again let a tear fall. "Momma?"
Tarren ran her small fingers along the edge of the cotton shift. "I dont
never want anyone else to be my momma but I understand if you dont want me to
be your baby anymore. I mean you could probably trade me in for another kid or
one that listens to ya and stuff. I am lots of trouble and I do make
you mad and cry and haffta give spankins when you dont wanna." She bit her lip
trying to hold back her own tears at the thought of her mother taking her to some place
where parents traded their naughty children for ones that knew how to behave properly.
"Oh Gods Tarren." Xena gently placed the girl over one shoulder and wrapped her arms tightly around the small form. "Hey you are my kid my baby girl and dont you ever forget that. I wouldnt give you up for anything in the entire world Monster. Dont you know how much I love you? Dont you know how much I need you? I couldnt make it without you in my life little one. Remember you and I share one heart," the mother said through a cracked voice.
The little girl glanced up at he warrior. "I remember Momma." She noticed that tears were now streaming down her mothers face. The child reached out a hand to wipe a few away with her small finger. "Are ya sure Momma?" she asked realizing she had again made her mother cry.
Xena closed he eyes and took a deep breath. "I have never been so sure of anything in my life and if I ever even think you are considering finding yourself another Momma that big one is going to look like a gentle swat. You got me youngster?" her words were as stern as she could make them but she could not help but smile.
Tarren sniffled and tried to smile knowing that this was her mothers way of saying just how much love was inside of her. "I wont never want another Momma. I love my real Momma lots and lots." She paused and lowered her eyes. "Im sorry I didnt do what I was supposed to do to make stuff right. I guess Ill never be good Warrior Princess."
Xena ran her hands along the sides of the childs cheeks. "Yes you will. You
just need a little help. It seems that not everyone can get passed that little dimple
smile of yours but I can, so from now on we are doing this together." She
got to her feet and reached for the childs now dry underclothes. "I am going to
stay with you for the rest of the day and make sure you make things right."
The child raised her arms in the air so her mother could slip on the undershirt and tunic. "Ya will Momma?" she asked, excited just to have her mothers company on such a dark day.
The warrior leaned the child over her lap and yanked on the little britches. "You better believe I will. There is a pile of arrows waiting to be stacked and thats exactly what you are going to do," she said with a nod. The mother laced the britches and finally the boots tucked in the childs tunic and looked her youngster over for one final inspection.
The little girl felt her waistline to make sure her britches were not getting too tight. She sighed with relief to find they were still quite loose. "Momma are ya still mad at me?" she asked tilting her head back and staring up into the eyes of her very tall mother.
Xena lifted the little girl into the air and started walking. She thought about the events of that day and sighed. "No Im not mad at you. Tarren I wanted you to do these things so you learned a lesson about the right way to behave. I dont enjoy punishing you but Im your momma and I have to help you learn right from wrong." She paused and looked at the little girl in her arms. "How can I do that if everyone in the village plays with you when you are supposed to be thinking about what you did wrong?" she asked knowing it was a rhetorical question.
The child shrugged. "Sorry Momma I dont know. Thats a tough question. Im just a little kid and then sounds like Momma stuff again."
Xena grinned at the words and wrapped her arms around the little girl placing a gentle kiss on her cheek. "Yeah its Momma stuff alright and I wouldnt have it any other way."
The mother frowned at the thought. "Probably a party if the Amazons had
but they dont." She took a long breath and held the child
closer. "So your mean old Momma is going to stay with you and make sure you
stack those arrows."
The child gave her mother her best sloppy kiss and nuzzled in close to the warriors shoulder. "Youre not mean Momma." She opened her eyes wide. "You just love me more than anyone else does."
Xena paused and looked at the small child nestled in her arms. The simple wisdom that the youngster possessed amazed her. Everything the mother had been trying to explain in long lectures the small child had said in one sentence. She smiled and kissed the little girl and cradled her in the infant like fashion she knew the little one liked to be held. "Thanks baby, I do love you more that anyone could ever possibly imagine and Im glad you know that."
Tarren shrugged wondering why this information seemed new to her mother when the child had been aware of it from the first day they had met. "Momma sometimes you baffle my mind too." She wasnt quite sure what it meant but she did know that her own expression matched that of her mothers when she had heard the words spoken before.
The warrior mother chuckled and swung the child in her arms as they walked. "I do huh?" She grinned. "Good that makes us even."
The little girl smiled but then grimaced a bit. "Momma?"
Tarren glanced around at the trees. You just never knew who was listening from where around here, so the child whispered in the words in her mothers ear.
Xena gave a quirky smile. "You are spoiled," she said with a sigh.
The little girl bit he lip and opened her eyes wide. "But two spankins in two days is not a good thing. I know I was naughty but I got the big one and then the little one and ."
Xena grinned and placed a single finger over the childs lips. She tossed the child gently over her right shoulder. "But youre mine to spoil," she said with a raised brow and a grin.
The youngster let out a long breath of relief when she felt her mothers soothing hand caressing the seat of her britches. She smiled with appreciation. "Thanks Momma."
"Uh huh." As the warrior continued her maternal rub she sighed. "You are quite welcome little one." She paused. "You just see that I dont have to make it two in one day youngster," she warned knowing they still had a feast to attend.
The little girls eyes popped out just at the mere thought. "No no Momma Ill be real good and do everything you tell me. I promise." This was an oath that would not be broken.
Hearing what she knew was a sincere statement, the mother resumed the maternal caress
of the childs very well spanked bottom. "Good cause Id be really
unhappy if that happened."
The child swallowed hard at the mere thought of such an occurrence. "Me too."
The warrior mother nodded knowing that was the truth. "Ok then you and I will stack the arrows together and then we will go back to the cottage and finish this up."
The little girl tilted her head back. "Youre gonna help me Momma?"
Xena continued taking long strides as she spoke. "Yes I am."
"Why? You werent naughty Momma."
The warrior grinned as she remembered the field of fallen Amazons. "Because sometimes we all need a little help making things right Tarren and like I said before Im your Momma so your mess is my mess. Were partners." She paused. "But mostly because I love you and I wouldnt mind having you all to myself for a while this afternoon so Im anxious get this all over with."
Tarren grinned at her mothers desire to spend time with her. This was turning into a better day. "Ok Momma if you say so. Youre the boss."
The warrior brought the child in front of her and kissed her on the cheek. "Yeah so I keep telling myself." She paused as she considered her own logic and the child gave a slight wiggle of her rear hoping for a lot more comforting.
The mother sighed at the maneuver of a tiny backside shifting in front of her. "Gods you really are spoiled," she said firmly before resuming her parental task with a crooked smile the youngster could not see. "Youngster you better be so good tonight."
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