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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 story called SHE HAS MY EYES, and you really MUST read that one 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.
Sex - well I guess some is implied
|Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Epilogue|
On The Road Again
Chapter 6 Lessons and Learning
Xena s anger carried such force that, by the time she had reached the exit of the arena, she had lifted the youngster under one arm and was taking quick stomping strides toward the inn. When she reached her destination, she entered the room dropping the girl on the first available bed. The warrior mother quickly removed her wrist armor and took a deep calming breath.
"OK, so you dont want to be nice. You dont want to be polite. Tarren, you asked me how I knew when a person needed something. Well it is quite obvious to me by your behavior that you, young lady, need a very fast lesson in manners, and I am going to give it to you right now."
The child did not struggle or squirm but merely submitted to the lesson at hand.
The youngster gritted her teeth and winced just a bit with each fall of Xenas hand. However, the pain she felt from the warriors quick castigation could not be matched by the pain she, felt for the friend she felt she had already lost.
Xena paddled the child until she heard the muffled tears of the little girl give way. It was then that she knew that the child had been reached. Her message had gotten through loud and clear. She quickly brought her daughter to her feet.
"Now I dont know what your problem is, but I have had ENOUGH of it. As far as I am concerned, you can stay in this room until we are ready to leave Athens. I have never been so disappointed in you as I am right now, Tarren!" she yelled, her voice breaking trying to fight back the emotions she felt at having to once again punish her child. "Dont you dare leave this room!" she scolded as she got to her feet.
Tarren looked away ignoring the pain of Xenas message. "You broke your promise," she said through broken sobs never daring to face the warrior.
Xena stopped at the door and stared back at her small daughter.
The child turned quickly and Xena could see the streams of tears that ran down her small cheeks. "It was just supposed to be you and me at the games. Thats what you promised. Just the two of us, and then you brought him." The youngster cried slowly crawling up on the bed seeking comfort in her satchel of belongings that lay on top, wishing that Nala were there with her.
The warriors shoulders slumped as she remembered the promise she had made on the road about the games. Xena felt a deep remorse for having broken her word. The warrior was confused and for once not quite sure how to respond. She looked back at the girl and watched the way she held onto that satchel. She had broken her promise. In fact she had not even remembered it. Xena just stared at her daughters sobbing figure lying on the pallet. A part of her wanted to take her in her arms and seek forgiveness for the promise not kept, but another part of her thought that the child needed to learn a much greater lesson without her. She saw how tightly the youngster held her chucks in one fist, and she knew what she was thinking, what she was wishing for, and Xena was wishing for the same thing. "Im sorry," she whispered, not even sure the child had heard her.
The warrior then slammed the door behind her and stood outside the wooden barrier listening in angst as the childs sobs turned into a steady flow of hysterics. Xena slumped against the door not wanting to leave her child, but having no great words of wisdom or guidance to offer at that moment.
Gabrielle came racing up the steps, but hearing the child crying and seeing her friends face, knew she was too late. The bard slumped up against the same door and listened to the youngsters sobs. She had to fight her own tears and urge to go in and hold the little girl.
Xena motioned her away with a broken whisper, "Let her be Gabrielle. She needs to learn... Why does she always choose the hard way?"
The bard noticed the tears streaming down her friends face and decided delay was no longer an option. "Xena, we need to talk now!"
Xena stood wiping the wetness from her face. "Gabrielle right now I dont want to talk to anyone. I need to be alone."
Before the bard could utter another word, Xena quickly sprinted down the stairs and into the streets of Athens. Gabrielle considered going after her, and she considered going to Tarren. Yet the young bard felt at a loss for she knew neither would listen to her now. Slowly Gabrielle slid to the floor covering her face to hide the sadness she felt piercing at her very being.
Tarren wiped the tears from her face as she packed the last of her things in the satchel. Xenas words echoed in her mind, "I have never been so disappointed in you as I am right now." The child bit her lip at the pain that shot through her at the thought of those words.
She looked at the giant tub and smiled as she recalled the great water fight that she and Xena had just days before.
She looked at the bards staff carefully leaning up against the wall and shook her head. "You really should keep that with you more, Gabby," she whispered.
Then this small child slung her heavy bag over her shoulder and vaulted out the window leaving only a small piece of crumpled parchment behind for her friends to find. She was sure Xena would be happier without her, and Gabrielle always had her scrolls. Tarren wanted to find someone who would be there just for her. She wanted to find her mother, so she set out for the Warlord Traigers camp hoping that he would tell her where she was.
After a few hours had passed, Xena returned to the inn and found the very sullen bard seated quietly in the corner sipping at a mug of port. She lowered herself beside her friend.
"You dont drink Gabrielle," she said noting the near full mug. The bard looked up into the blue eyes of her friend and mentor. "Yeah, well, maybe I should start," she growled sipping at the mug and twisting her face into an expression of disgust.
The warrior shook her head, "I dont think so!" she warned sliding the mug out of the bards reach.
"Hey, give that back! Youre not my mother. If you want to be someones mother, there is a kid upstairs who needs you now," the bard yelled waving her hands in the air.
Xena swallowed hard at the angry words of her young friend, and Gabrielle was immediately sorry she had spoken so harshly. The warrior started to rise out of her seat when the bard gently pulled her down. Seeing the tears on her friends gentle face made even the great warrior crumble a bit.
"Xena, Im sorry. I didnt mean that. Its just that you and Tarren...." her voice quickly trailed off. She released the arm of the warrior and just buried her head on the table. Xena sighed as she sat back down.
"Its all right Gabrielle," she said soothingly touching the girls arm. The bard looked up and faced her warrior with a slight smile. "We seem to cry a lot, dont we," the bard whispered, wiping her eyes.
The warrior nodded gently rubbing the head of her friend. "Too much!"
Gabrielle straightened herself up and focused on the warriors eyes. "Xena, we need to talk about Tarren."
The warrior leaned back in the chair feeling the pain welling up inside her again. "OK, whats on your mind?" she said with a slight smile.
"Xena, you have to talk to her. You must make her understand what she means to you."
Xena shook her head. "Gabrielle, I have told her many times, but nothing I say seems to sink in. I am failing her."
The warriors frustration was starting to show. Gabrielle placed a hand on her friend. "Xena, you guys were doing great until... Hercules came," the bard whispered hoping the words would not anger her friend.
Xena laughed a bit. "Gabrielle, that poor man has done nothing but beg that kid for a smile, and all he has gotten in return is a bunch of nasty stares and an unplanned bath."
The bard giggled a bit remembering the look on Hercules face when Tarren hit him with the water. "She sure does have a little temper, doesnt she?" the bard said with a smile.
The warrior nodded in agreement, but then her smile faded. "Look, theres something I think you should know. Tarren..." Before the bard could finish, the warrior waved her hand and finished for her. " Tarren is jealous of Hercules, and angry with me because I broke my promise about the games!" Xena said evenly.
The bards mouth dropped open. "You knew! Then why didnt you say anything?"
Xena lowered her eyes and sipped at the bards drink. "Gabrielle, I told Tarren that if she ever had a problem or needed to talk, that all she had to do was come to me. I cant always change the world to suit her needs, and I certainly cannot have her acting like a spoiled brat every time she does not get her own way. I tried to give her every chance to tell me how she felt. I tried to talk to her. I gave her every chance to do the right thing, but she is determined to always learn the hard way. I am not an oracle, so IF that is the choice she makes, then that is the choice I have to deal with," the warrior said with finality.
Gabrielle shook her head in disbelief. "I thought I had the key to all the problems," the young bard said, slightly dejected by her lack of contribution.
Xena placed a gentle hand on her friends arm. "Hey, you supply many answers. I know how hard you tried to convince Tarren to be nice. I also know how hard you tried to keep her out of trouble. Besides, I never would have realized what her problem was if I had not had such a good teacher these last few years," Xena said with a wink.
Gabrielle smiled. "Thanks! So what are you going to do about it?" The great warrior leaned back in her chair again and sighed. "I dunno. Nothing I do seems to get through to her. Tarren has to learn to trust me. She has to know how important she is to me. I cant coddle her every time she feels a bit threatened by someone I spend a day with. Then shell never feel secure with herself or in her place with me. But she is right, I made a promise, and I broke it, and for that I am more sorry than she will ever realize," the warrior said lowering her eyes.
The bard thought for a moment and then spoke in a tone just above a whisper. "Xena, I dont think its just the promise or the games. She thinks that you dont want her around."
Xena sighed heavily placing her arms on the table in front of her. "Gabrielle, how could she possibly think that I wouldnt want her with me? I have told her countless times that I do. Am I failing her that badly already?" the warrior said with a frown.
The bard shook her friends arm roughly. "No, Xena! Dont even think like that! Tarren is just a little kid, and she is trying very hard to find a place in our lives. She is just scared. Xena, you are so worried that you are doing the wrong thing with Tarren that you are ignoring everything you do right. Dont you see the way that kid looks up to you? She follows behind you just happy to be with you. She watches you with absolute awe, and its because you have done so much right with her that she is so afraid of losing you. Tarren loves you, Xena."
The warrior smiled a bit gazing down at the bard. "When did you get so wise?" she said with a grin.
"I think its the company I have been keeping these last few years," the bard said gently. The warrior shook her head and the bard smiled and took her friends hand knowing the remorse she was feeling. "Hey, dont be so hard on yourself. You are right. Tarren has been acting like a spoiled brat since she got here, and that was not right either. She needs to learn the hard way sometimes, just like someone else I know," the bard gently scolded. "You are both so stubborn that neither one of you has the good sense to tell the other one how you feel," she continued, trying not to let her own frustration show.
The warrior smiled at the bards restraint. "Well, thats what we have you for," she said with a quick grin.
The bard smiled poking her friend gently in the ribs.
Xena laughed at her friends new found smile and stood. "Well, I for one am through playing these games. That child and I are going to have a very long talk, and for once she IS going to listen." Her voice was filled with a new determination and strength as she started up the steps. "Hey, you be nice," the bard called after her.
Xena offered her a sheepish grin. "I am always nice."
Chapter 7 Searching for Answers
Xena entered the room and her heart sank when all she saw was any empty pallet with a small piece of crumbled parchment. The warrior scanned the room and grabbed the note.
"Dear Xena, You have Hercules and Gabrielle. I need to find my mother, so I will have someone too. Im sorry I let you down. Please tell Gabby I said goodbye, Tarren."
Xena crumbled the note in her hand and ran to the window scanning the street, but the child was gone.
"Gabrielle!" she yelled as she sprinted down the stairs holding tightly to the note.
The bard quickly came running to the warriors side, keeping pace with her as she ran through the inn. "What is it? Whats wrong?"
Xena handed her the note and headed for the stables.
Gabrielle went white as she read the parchment. "Xena, where are you going?" she asked, her voice shaking in fear of the words she had just read.
"To get my daughter," the warrior said gritting her teeth. She did not wait for help. She did not even wait for Gabrielle. The Warrior Princess mounted Argo and took off in the only direction she thought the child might head ... towards Traigers camp. If she thought him as a friend of her mothers, then she would go there. With a quick kick of Xenas heels, Argo burst out of the stable into the streets of Athens with an angry warrior on her back.
Tarren walked quickly up the hill outside Athens where Xena had met Traigers men. She followed their tracks, just as Xena had taught her. She knew that if anyone could help find her mother than it would be Traiger. Xena needed Hercules, and she was only in the way, so, with tears in her eyes, she pushed on hoping to find a mother she never knew. She wondered what would happen if she did find her. Would this stranger even want her?
It was not long before, two large men jumped out of the woods and stood before the small figure.
"Well, look what we have here," one tall, overweight warrior said with a toothless grin.
The girl stood as straight as she could. "Im here to see Lord Traiger," she said trying to hide her fear and stay focused on her mission.
The toothless soldier dropped to one knee. "Come to join up, have you child?" he said with a belly laugh reaching for the youngster.
The girl sneered at the joke and pulled her chucks from her boot. "Maybe!" she whispered and then with a quick whip at his groin she brought the large warrior crumbling to his knees. "Maybe not!" she said with a smile.
The other man started to laugh at his large friends demise. "Oh, Traiger must see this for himself. Come on kid. Ill take you to him." The man bowed his head and allowed the child to walk ahead of him, staring at the fallen form of his friend with a smile.
When they entered the camp, the soldier left Tarren and walked into the largest of the tents that surrounded them. It had been many years since she had been in such a camp, but Tarren recognized the tent he entered as belonging to that of a Warlord.
Within a few minutes the soldier returned followed by a much older man. The warlords face had many scars most likely from sword fights. He wore an armor full of gold and silver plates and a long soft robe trailed slowly behind him. He glanced down at the child who swallowed hard at the amount of men in the camp now surrounding her. He studied her. "Do I know you child?" he asked with curiosity.
Tarren held her chin out. "Im Tarren. Nala and I stayed with you."
He cut her off. "Of course, little Tarren," he yelled tossing her up in the air with ease. "Hows that old mystic?" he said with a wide smile.
The child lowered her eyes. "She died."
Traiger lowered his eyes for a moment too. "I am sorry child. She was a good one. One of the few... So what brings you here, and why is one so small traveling alone?"
The child glanced up at the man, her eyes unsure of his true nature. Xena had told her to not always believe what she saw before her was real. She did not know if this warlords friendly pose was real or not, but she had little choice and no where else to go.
"Well, Nala told me that you knew my mother, and I was hoping you could tell me where I could find her," she asked quietly, hoping the other men would not hear her request.
The man shook his head in disbelief and motioned for the girl to enter his tent. The girl did as she was asked and once inside dropped her heavy satchel on the floor.
"Can you tell me where my mother is?" she asked hoping for a quick response.
The mans expression turned a bit cold, "Tell me child, have you been alone since Nala died?" the warlord asked, prying for information.
The child shook her head. "No, I was traveling with a friend, Xena, but..."
Traiger fell to his knees and grabbed the childs tunic and laughed. "YOU were with Xena. Does she know where you area?" his once friendly tone now filled with venom.
The girl shook her head wildly, fear filling her small body. "No, I ran away. I want to find my mother. Will you help me or not?" the child stammered, taking a quick step toward the opening of the tent.
Traiger laughed loudly walking around the tent, considering her words. "I do not know why you would seek THAT one. She is pure evil. She never even wanted you. However, child, you will not have to look for her. I promise she will seek you out quickly enough. I assure you. I am only sorry that my needs are such that I must make your reunion short," he finished.
Tarren considered his words and felt her face filling with tears and her heart filling with hatred for this man. She knew he was not her friend.
Traiger eyed the youngster carefully. "You see, I need to make use of your presence here, but that is the way of the true warrior. You should know that," he said with a quick grin. Tarren knew that whatever he was talking about was not good. She tried to run out of the tent only to be stopped roughly by two guards. Reaching into her boot, she pulled out her chucks. She knocked each man in the head and ran past them, hoping to make it to the trees. However the large group of soldiers quickly surrounded her. She nervously waved the chucks in the air hoping to keep them all at a safe distance. "Wisdom before weapons." Xenas words echoed in her mind. She was outnumbered, and she knew it. Surrender was the wisest choice.
Traiger laughed at the sight of this small child. "Little warrior, there is no place for you run and no one for you to run to. Throw down your weapons before someone hurts you or you hurt yourself," he laughed.
"OK!" she yelled, tossing the chucks spinning quickly in the air knocking Traiger in the head. The youngster smiled as her target was hit her target.
As a trickle of blood dripped down his face, the angry warlord took a few quick paces toward the child and backhanded her across the face sending her reeling backward. "I tried to be nice. I tried to be your friend, but you want your mother so much, then so be it. You can share her fate. Throw her in the pit," he commanded.
One of the huge warriors lifted the girl off the ground and carried her kicking and fighting to a deep pit outside the camp. The soldier pushed the heavy grate that covered the opening of the pit away and dropped the girl into an oblivion of darkness.
Traiger wiped the blood from his head and picked up the childs weapons studying them. He called for Rendan, his son to join him in his tent. Tossing the chucks on the table he instructed his son, "Xena will be coming into camp to get that child. I want every man we have circling the outer perimeters of the camp. I want Xena taken. She will no longer interfere with my plans," he said with a smile. "Not while I have her daughter," he laughed.
The Warrior Princess jumped off of Argo and studied the tracks before her. She saw where Tarren had stopped and the two men had joined her. After a brief scuffle, the girl had left on her own with one of the men, the footprints showed.
Xena noted an ailing body to the left of the road and smiled a bit at his demise. She reached over and roughly pulled the groaning warrior to his feet. "What happened to you friend?" she said with a steady force.
The man eyed the warrior but said nothing. With a quick pinch to the neck she lowered him to the ground.
"OK, I have just cut off the blood to your brain. You will dies in 30 seconds if you dont start talking. Now, tell me what happened to you," she ordered.
The man choked as he spoke, grabbing at his neck for breath. "Some little kid came looking for Traiger. She whipped out these sticks and knocked me off my feet."
The warrior suppressed a grin at the image of her child taking this large man down. "Where is she now?" Xena demanded.
The man choked again. "Teril took her to the camp," he groaned gasping for more air.
Xena removed the pinch and then knocked him unconscious with a quick punch, rolling him into the brush. "Damn foolish little kid," she muttered as she mounted her horse and headed towards the camp.
Tarren lay in the darkness feeling the cold mud all around her. She looked up at the bars above. She knew there was no way to climb up. The wet mud walls had nothing to grip onto. She tried in vain to vault up, but her reach was not high enough. After expending her last bit of energy, she lay down in the cold mud. She buried her face in arms wishing that someone were there for her. She thought of Xena, but knew that she was wishing for something that would never be.
Traiger was pacing around the camp, barking out orders of attack when he heard the sound of groaning men and bodies falling. He looked into the woods ahead of him. There was an eerie silence and, all at once, a sound he had not heard in years cut through the air, sending a shiver of fear through his body, "YIYIYIYIYIYI." It was the battle cry of the Warrior Princess.
Xena was coming straight through his camp. As if in slow motion, to emphasize her anger, the warrior thrust her sword into the crowd of men, cutting down each warrior who raised a sword against her. With fast blows from her arms and kicks from her mighty legs, each attacker was soon knocked to the ground. She circled the camp before disappearing into the woods once again.
"Get her! Find her, you useless fools!" Traiger yelled ordering his greatly diminished troops to give chase.
The warlord angrily returned to his tent, cursing each man under his command, but when he entered his tent, he met the Warrior Princesss blade. She held in her hands, the chucks that she knew were Tarrens. Keeping her sword pointed straight at Traigers heart, ready to thrust it straight through if he spoke the wrong word, she growled through clenched teeth, "Where is she, Traiger?"
The warlord tried to steady his voice. "Now Xena, is that any way to greet an old friend?" he said, moving around his tent, trying unsuccessfully to escape her blade.
Xena pressed the sword to his skin and blood trickled out. She observed the fresh cut on his forehead. "Well, old friend, thats a nasty bruise. Whered you get it?" she purred. The warlord said nothing, so the warrior pushed the blade in more.
"That brat of yours did it!" he yelled.
Xena smiled wickedly. "Well, where is that brat of mine, Traiger? So help me, if she has so much as a scraped knee, I will kill you," the warrior said evenly, her voice lacking all feeling.
Traiger backed to the edge of the tent. "Kill me, and you will never find her, Princess."
Xena smiled strangely as she watched the cringing warlord. Her eyes were crazed with anger and fear for Tarren. She had been in this situation once before with Solan. The mere thought of that brought back such pain and anger that she could barely control her rage. "Sure I will, Traiger. Ill go man by man until one talks. After youre dead, nobody will really care about the kid anyway. So, one last time, where is my daughter?"
The warlord felt the point of the blade pushing forward and threw his arms up in surrender. "All right! Shes in the pit outside the camp."
Xenas eyes flew open for she knew what the pit was. She had used it often enough herself in her darker days. Rage rippled through her muscular figure, and she grabbed Traiger by the neck. "You put a little kid in the pit!" she growled.
He struggled for air under the great warriors grip. "I had to. She attacked my men trying to escape. That little kid is dangerous."
The warrior shook her head in disgust and neatly tucked the chucks in her armor and pushed the man forward. "Come on, great warlord. Lets go get her." Xena roughly pushed Traiger out the opening she had made in the back of his tent, easily slipping past all his guards.
When they reached the location of the pit, Xena knocked the warlord out cold with the butt of her sword. Xena quickly lifted the grid off the hole and looked down into the darkness. "Tarren, " she called, but there was no response. The warrior jumped into the pit and sat beside the now still form of her child. "Tarren," she cried gently shaking the girl.
The childs eyes opened slowly. "Xena what are you doing here?" she asked weakly.
The warrior shook her head, lifting the girl into her arms, thankful she was alive. "That is what I am supposed to ask you," the warrior said vaulting into the air and landing on the ground above the pit. Xena placed the filthy child on the ground and quickly looked over her nervously searching for any wound. She wiped the mud from the childs face and saw the large bruise forming on the side of her cheek.
"Who did that to you, Tarren?" Xena asked, trying to control the fury building inside her toward the man who dared to harm her child.
But Tarren had been down there for hours, and her eyes were having trouble adjusting to the bright light. "Xena, I cant see you," she cried, blocking the sun weakly with her arm.
The warrior studied their surroundings looking for a safe place to tend the child. Quickly she noted that Traiger was gone.
Xena knew that in moments there would be an army before them.
To soothe Tarren, she told her, "Relax. Close your eyes and let them focus for a while." Gently, she wiped the tears from the youngsters face.
The child opened her eyes blinking steadily at the warrior "Better," she said in a weak whisper grabbing onto Xena to steady herself.
The warrior held the child securely by the arms and peered into her face. "Tarren, who did that to your face?" she asked caressing the wound.
The child lowered her eyes. "Traiger!" she said a tear falling down her cheek.
The warriors eyes filled with a flame that nothing could extinguish. She looked at the girl lovingly, angry with herself that she had not there to block that blow. "Tarren, can you make into the trees?" the warrior asked.
Tarren smiled a bit and shook he head, ashamed by her lack of ability. "Im sorry, Xena, but this is one time when I dont think I can."
Knowing the girl was weaker than she had even thought, the great warrior looked directly at her. "Its OK. You just stay behind me. Dont move for anything, OK?"
Tarren stared into the blue eyes of her large friend, and then her glance dropped to the warriors side. Seeing the familiar sight of her weapon, the girl eagerly reached for her chucks. "No, Tarren! Not this time!" Xena said sternly, pushing her small hand away. The warrior stood to her full height and pushed the girl safely behind her.
Xena pulled out her sword keeping her back to the trees and Tarren behind her. She heard the men approaching. Before the first one reached her, she whispered to the small figure leaning behind her, "I love you, Tarren."
The child looked up, but before she could respond, Xena was already caught in a battle with the first swordsman. As each man approached, the great warrior cut him down with a slice of her sword or a kick.
Tarren knew that her presence so close to her friend was keeping the warrior from using all her skills. So, using what little strength she had left, she slowly climbed into the trees behind her and collapsed into blackness on a high branch.
Xena noted the movement and shook her head in awe, staying in position until the girl was safely hidden. With bellowing laughter the Warrior Princes then vaulted into the center of the band of men quickly knocking bodies in every direction.
One man tried to climb to the tree that the child had found refuge in, but the whistle of Xenas chakram was the last thing, Rendan, son of Traiger, ever heard.
The warrior fought man after man, not sure just how many more would come. Traiger had an army, but she would take them all on to save her child.
Her smile quickly broadened as she heard the sound of familiar hoof prints pounding the road. Men started falling at her feet without her lifting a sword. Some flew threw the air while others roughly skidded to the dirt. Xena looked across the battleground and saw Hercules and Gabrielle fighting their way into the battle. She smiled to her friends, and, sounding her warrior cry again, vaulted through the air and landed in front of Traiger.
He raised his sword, but she blocked it so easily. He threw a punch, but she tossed him to the ground with a thud!
Lowering her sword, Xena smiled at him coldly. "I told you if you had hurt my daughter that Id kill you. Now Im giving you a fair chance to go for your sword," she growled. The man threw his arms up in surrender, and she sighed in disgust at his fear. "Traiger, you always were a coward!" she said picking up her sword and turning to walk away. Her thoughts were now only of Tarren. But, just as she had turned, the coward picked up his sword and made an unsuccessful lunge at the warrior.
"Xena, behind you," the bard screamed, running towards her friend.
The warrior turned just in time to thrust her blade into the garbage that fell at her feet.
Hercules and Gabrielle managed to chase the remaining warriors deep into the woods, and Xena stopped for a moment to thank her friends before racing to the tree limb where Tarren had found shelter. The warrior climbed into the tree and gently carried the child down.
Gabrielle came rushing over. "Is she OK?" she asked scanning the child and noting the large bruise on her face.
The warrior nodded at the bard who, despite all the mud covering the youngsters body, hugged her anyway.
Xena merely kept a gentle gaze on her and caressed the side of Tarrens wounded face. "Just exhausted," was all Xena would say, a tear falling down the warriors face.
Hercules tapped Gabrielle on the shoulder. "Come on, lets make sure those guys find their way out of Greece," he said smiling carefully at Xena.
The bard knew that he wanted to leave the warrior and the child alone. So, with a fond glance at her friends, she took a place behind Hercules on his large horse and rode off.
"My bag, Xena. I want my bag," the child cried.
Xena nodded and retrieved the girls satchel from Traigers tent and then whistled for Argo. She mounted the great war-horse while still cradling the weak child in her arms. With a quick whistle the horse trotted in the direction of a nearby stream.
Chapter 8 Secrets
When they reached the waters edge, Xena removed the mud soaked clothes from the girl and carefully placed her in the cooling waters.
The childs eyes finally opened wide, and she smiled at the warrior.
"Its about time you came back," Xena said with a slight grin wiping the mud gently from the small form.
"Always a bath," the youngster replied with a smile.
The warrior returned the smile. "Yeah always a bath," the warrior laughed.
When Xena was tending to the bruise on her face, Tarrens eyes locked onto her friends. "Xena, why did you come?" she asked with tears streaming down her face.
The warrior bit her lip gently wiping the wound. "How could you think I would not come after you?" she asked sternly.
The girl shrugged. " I didnt think you really would care that much."
The warrior swallowed hard. " Well, if thats what you think, little girl, then you are not very observant. Tarren, I dont know how to make my feelings more plain to you. YOU are the most important thing in my life now. When I read that note and new you were gone...." Her voice trailed and she grabbed the girls face gently for emphasis her emotions. "Why did you run away ...just because I spanked you?" the warrior said evenly.
The girl shook her head. "No, because you... needed Hercules, and I was just in the way. I wanted to find my mother so we could both have what we needed - someone who would be there for each of us. I didnt want to be a burden to you like I was to Nala."
The warrior dried the girl hair with a towel and wrapped her in a large cloth placing her gently on the grass. "YOU are not a burden, Tarren. I WANT to be the one there for you because I love you. Dont you know that by now?" the warrior said in a soft but firm tone.
The child shrugged in confusion.
Xena paced around the small clearing in circles, trying to consider her options. Tarren knew Xena was angry that she had run away, but it was more than that! The warrior turned and faced the child. There was a tear running down her cheek that she quickly wiped away.
"Tarren, you can be a pain in the butt sometimes. You are always getting in trouble. I feel like I have you over my knee every other day lately, and you have a lot to learn about respect and patience," the warrior said slowly, as she leaned beside the child.
The girl lowered her head at the chastisement. Xena took the childs face lovingly in her hands.
"But you have a soft heart and a gentle spirit, and your laughter fills me up like nothing else ever could. I wouldnt have you anywhere else in the world, but right here with me. I need you in my life more than you will ever really understand."
"I love Hercules. He has done many wonderful things for me. I love Gabrielle like she was my sister, and I would die for each of them. But nobody can ever be as special in my life as you are. There is a place in my heart that belongs just to you. Nobody will ever take that away," Xena whispered gently, staring into the blue eyes of the youngster, hoping she was listening to her.
The child rose from the ground wanting to dress. She was confused, and Xena knew it. The girl pulled the dark long breeches on and threw the tunic over her head and faced the warrior. "Will you always come for me, Xena?" she asked, staring at the warriors muscular form.
Xena smiled and nodded, taking the youngster into a quick embrace. "Yes I will, little one, through Tartarus and back, if need be. But you better never run away again," she said shaking her finger at the girl.
Tarren smiled up at her friend. "I wont. I promise," the child said again hugging the warrior. After a few moments Xena realized that it was time to make things clear for both of them. She sat down on the grassy ground and lowered Tarren into her lap. The warrior sighed heavily trying to choose her words carefully.
"Do you realize what could have happened to you today? You could have been killed, Tarren!" the warrior said anger flowing through her words.
The girl shook her head and buried herself deeper in the warriors arms. "Im sorry I caused you so much trouble, Xena," she said lowering her eyes and sniffling away tears.
The warrior sighed and rubbed the girls face gently. "Hey, you are worth the trouble. I know I should have paid more attention to you, and I should have not broken my promise about the games. I am so sorry about that, Tarren. But that is no excuse for your behavior either, Tarren. You cannot act up every time things are not as you want them. You have to know that you can come and talk to me and tell me how you are feeling. We may not always agree, but acting like a spoiled brat is not going to get you anything more than what you got. I am NOT sorry I spanked you, and if you ever act like that again..."
The girl threw her hands up in the air. "I know, I know. Please dont say it," she said rubbing her bottom wearily. The warrior laughed a bit and her soft voice turned more serious.
She wrapped her arms tightly around the child not wanting to let go. Xena then pulled out the girls chucks and handed them to her. "You keep them, Xena. I dont want something that belonged to a mother who never even wanted me," she said with a gasp, leaning her head on the warriors chest.
Xena hugged the child and swallowed hard. "Oh, she wanted you, Tarren, and she still wants you," she said quietly.
The girl looked at her with total confusion, and Xena wiped the wet hairs from the girls eyes as she spoke. "Let me tell you a story. A very long time ago, I was in the land of Chin. It was in a very dark time in my life, and I did a lot of bad things. Then I met a person who became my friend. She even saved my life. Her name was Lao Ma. She taught me about focus and healing and many other things that I want to share with you when you are older. She tried to help me get my life on a new and better path, but I was not ready to change." The warrior paused and then continued.
"We did not part on the best of terms. I had not learned how to change my path, so I left."
"Before I went, she gave me these as a gift." The warrior caressed the chucks and placed them lovingly in Tarrens lap. "She told me that they would teach me the fluidity and grace of motion and perhaps open all the doors to the peace and tranquillity I needed."
The childs mouth opened as she stared at the warrior, but she did not say a word.
Xena swallowed hard as the tears fell down her cheeks, and she looked down into the eyes of her daughter and caressed the youngsters face as she continued. "I worked with these for a long time, but they were not as deadly as a sword nor as fast as my chakram, so I just kept them as a remembrance of an old friend who had saved my life."
"Then, about 12 years ago...things started happening." The warrior choked and she could feel the childs grip growing tighter, begging her to continue. Xena nodded knowing there was no turning back. "I was carrying a child. I was still a warlord but I was carrying a child."
"The father, a good man named Borias, knew that our lives needed to change because there were things we did that a child should never see. I couldnt understand that. I was still too consumed with hate to let go, and, because of that hatred, he died. He died trying to reach me when he felt I needed him most."
Tears now fell steadily down the warriors face. She made no effort to stop them or control them for they were tears for all she had lost, and they needed to fall.
Tarren carefully wiped them away one by one. Xena gently repositioned her child closer to her body, and the girl nuzzled in next to the warriors shoulder to hear more of the story.
"So, on that same night that Borias fell, I gave birth to a son, Solan. I had a servant girl tending to me at the time. I thought I could trust her, but she was evil. I guess... I guess I made her that way. I dont know." The warrior sighed heavily and looked into the innocent blue eyes of her youngster. "She drugged me heavily with herbs for the pain of the birth and I guess to keep me from seeing what was going on around me. Its all such a blur. I was lost and confused. There was a lot of fighting going on around me. So when she said we had to go, I looked into the face of my son and followed, never looking back. I wanted him safe. I...never... knew that she had left behind something so VERY precious to me," Xenas voice faltered a bit. "You!"
Tarrens eyes filled with tears and wonder. "YOU? YOU are MY mother, Xena?" the child whispered in disbelief.
The warrior nodded and wiped her own wet cheeks dry. "Tarren, I am sorry. I never knew you were even born. Nala took you away to keep you safe. If I had only known, I would have laid down my sword down and been with you and Solan always."
The confused child laid her head back down, anxious to hear the rest. "What happened to my brother?" she asked with a shaky voice.
The warrior could feel the shivers running through the girl and wrapped her arms tighter around her, hoping it would offer warmth and comfort.
Xena again swallowed hard, stroking the childs back lovingly. "I left him with good people to raise him, and he died. He died because my enemies found out he was my son," she cried.
Xena lifted the child off her lap and stared at her. "Thats why I didnt tell you, and thats why we cant tell anyone else right now. I need to keep YOU safe. When Solan died a part of me died with him, and I thought that I would never feel so alive again. When I found out about you.... My heart just filled...Tarren, I could never bare to lose you the way I lost him. I could never live with that. I would give my life, my soul, to protect you. YOU are MY daughter. You are part of me. Do you understand?" she whispered through her tears.
The girl nodded absently thinking about all Xena had said. Tarren looked at the chucks and shook her head in disbelief. "Youre my mother?" she asked again. The warrior nodded not sure how the child was taking this. The girl stood breaking away from the warriors gentle hold. She turned away and faced the water and Xena stood closely behind her, not sure if her touch would be welcome.
Then the warrior spoke softly. "Hey, its OK if you are not thrilled with the idea. I wouldnt blame you if...." Before she could finish her sentence the girl turned and embraced the great warrior, allowing years of anticipation and tears to fall from her eyes. "YOURE MY mother!" she cried.
The warrior lifted her easily into her arms, cradling her close to her heart. "Yes, little one, I am your mother!" she said holding the youngster tightly, vowing never to let harm come to her. Xena smiled through her tears as her heart filled with a mixture of relief and joy at the childs reaction to her revelation.
Chapter 9 Xena Warrior Mother
After many hours of talking the two started back towards Athens. Tarren had many questions, and Xena tried to be patient answering as many as she could.
"Does Gabrielle know?"
Xena smiled. "Of course!"
The girl walked in quiet contemplation, and Xena said nothing allowing the child to come to terms with this herself. "Does this change anything Xena?" the girl asked staring up at the warrior.
Xena shrugged, "Well I hope it will change things for you. I hope you will come to realize that you have a very secure place in my heart and in my life that no one else can ever have," she said with a smile.
The child grinned. "Will you teach me to fight with a sword like you?"
The warriors face went blank. "NO! But I WILL teach you how to stand at every meal if you ever even pick up a sword," the warrior said with a grin.
"You already taught me that!" the child said with a painful frown. "Will you teach me how to throw your chakram?" she asked eagerly.
The warrior again smiled. "Maybe some day when you are older, but in the meantime, if you so much as touch it, I..." The girl stopped her with a dejected look.
"I know... meals... standing up... I remember," she said absently touching her aching backside.
Xena laughed and tasseled the girls hair "Good! I am glad we understand each other so well."
The child had just about given up. "Well, will you teach me to defend myself with the staff?" the child asked quickly.
The warrior shrugged. "Maybe, if you can behave yourself for more than one day!" she said with a slight grin.
"Ahh, come on. If I could defend myself better, then you wouldnt have to worry so much about me getting hurt on the road."
The warrior considered the argument. "Ill worry anyway, and you WILL run for safety WHEN there is trouble, but I guess there wouldnt be anything wrong with you learning a few new skills," she said sternly.
Xena knew that she would not be able to contain the childs eagerness to attain skills for long, so if she taught her the staff, then perhaps she could teach her a discipline and respect for things around her. Amazon children used a staff from the time they could walk. While she would never allow Tarren to become a target, she did want her able to defend herself in the event she was ever caught off guard. The chucks were a good weapon but not much defense, and it was defense that concerned the warrior most.
"Tarren, I know you have a lot of questions, but slow down a bit. We have a lifetime to talk. I promise you," she said with a smile a bit exhausted by the entire day.
The child sensed the weariness and merely reached out and embraced her mother who welcomed the hug with a new relaxation and ease.
"Whats that for?" the warrior asked.
The girl just shrugged, "You looked like you needed it."
Xena smiled and lifted the child quickly into her arms.
"Thank you for coming for me and for telling me who you...who we are," the youngster said with a wide grin.
The warrior rubbed the childs head and placed her back on the ground. "You are quite welcome, little one," she said gently.
Tarren bit her lip and reached down into her left boot pulling out the chucks. "Do you want these back? They are yours?"
Xena eyed them and shook her head. "No, you keep them. They are a gift from your mother, remember? You learned to use them with more grace than I ever did. That is something I am very proud of. But remember, Tarren, its always wisdom before weapons," she said with a stern look.
The child nodded and placed the chucks back in her boot happy that they truly now were a gift from her mother. "I would like to practice with you, if you dont mind," the great warrior said staring proudly at the girl.
Tarrens eyes opened wide. "You would?"
The warrior nodded. "Of course! Perhaps there are a few things I could teach you, and a few you can teach me. Maybe I will find some of that peace I never found."
The little girl smiled at the thought of teaching Xena anything and then her smile quickly faded. "Will I always travel with you or will you leave me behind the way you did Solan?" the child asked quietly.
Xena stopped struck by the words. "NO Tarren, my path may not always be easy, and I will not be easy on you because of that. But you and I will walk the same path together, no matter where it leads us," she said with finality, leaving no doubt in the childs mind that Xena would never leave her behind.
The girl smiled widely, and they continued walking. "Will you ever tell me ALL about your past?" the youngster asked, walking backwards in front of the warrior.
Xena stopped again, poking the girl playfully in the stomach pushing her into motion. "Maybe someday when we are both MUCH older," the warrior said, thinking of gray hairs and canes.
The child shrugged it off and then let her mind fall into deeper thoughts.
Xena studied her for a minute "Yes, another question, my Little Princess?" she said with a slight bow and a questioning smile.
"Am I gonna get in trouble for running away, for going to Traigers?" the girl asked her expression filled with great concern.
The warrior laughed at the question but did not slow her pace. "Oh yes! Definitely!" she said loudly.
The girl cringed and rubbed her throbbing backside. "Great! I wont sit down for the next month as it is," the child said with a sad sigh fearing the inevitable. The warrior smiled again. "Im not gonna spank you, Tarren. Frankly, youve worn the muscle in my hand down. It needs to rest for at least a week, so Id appreciate it if you could stay out of trouble that long," the warrior chided. "Besides, no spanking I could give you would be severe enough for what you did," she said with an evil grin trying to look angry.
The girl swallowed hard. "Why dont I believe that?" the child said in a shaky voice.
The warrior considered the statement and giggled a bit at the childs newfound wisdom.
"Then whats my punishment gonna be?" she said with concern, knowing the warrior had a very imaginative way of addressing these things.
"Well, I think, that considering you scared the wits out of me and nearly got yourself killed," she said in an angry but controlled tone, "that you should have the most severe punishment I can think of."
The girl closed her eyes in contemplation of the coming sentence, and Xena smiled at the sight.
"You are going to spend each and every day confined to my company. YOU will go everywhere I go and do everything I do, and dont go crying for mercy because there will not be any this time," she said with finality.
The child looked at the ground and then at the warrior and smiled. "Whatever you say, Mother," she cried running into the warriors open arms.
Xena let the word sit on her mind for a while, knowing that she would have to keep Tarren from using it as much as possible for her own protection. But for now, for this moment, she wanted to hear it again and again and again!
Xena mounted Argo and lowered her hand down to Tarren "Come on. At this rate we will never get back before nightfall!"
The girl thought for a moment staring at the hard saddle. "Are you kidding?" she said feeling the throbs of pain and knowing the warriors handprint was forever emblazoned on her bottom.
The warrior reached behind her and pulled out her soft fur bedroll, patting it firmly on the saddle in front of her. She then reached her hand down again, and the child gladly took her place gently in front of her mother.
"How fast do you want to go?" Xena asked wrapping one arm around the child. They approached an open field overlooking Athens. Tarren turned to her mother. "How fast can you make her go, Mom?"
The great warrior smiled. "Thats MY daughter," she said with a wicked smile kicking Argo gently into a quick gallop. Xena laughed wildly as the wind whipped through her hair feeling the freedom of the nature around her.
Tarren screamed in equal delight leaning her head back against her mothers chest and stretching her arms out like a bird to feel the speed of the air flowing through her. She had no fear because she had total trust in the woman who held her so tightly.
The warrior could only smile at the childs ecstasy at the rush of the movement beneath her. Xena thought she was the only one in the world who could appreciate that feeling, but now there was another, another that she could share it all with.
Gabrielle waited anxiously after seeing Argo race into the stable. Tarren came charging into the room full of smiles. The bard opened her arms and embraced the child carefully looking over the wound on her face. "Are you OK?" she said holding the youngster. The girl nodded enjoying the bards affection for a while. "Wheres Xena?" she asked looking out the door. The child released the bard. "Shes saying goodbye to Hercules," the child said with a smile. Gabrielle studied the youngsters face. She was glowing with excitement. "So are you sure youre OK?" she said putting a cold cloth on the bruise on her face.
The child lay on the bed and folded her legs in a twist. "YUP! Im fine," she said whistling.
The bard sat on the edge of the bed. "So I guess Xena really chewed you out about what a stupid stunt you pulled?" the bard said sternly.
The child nodded, but her smile did not fade. There was a mystery in the girls eyes, and Gabrielle was dying to know what it was.
"So what else did you and Xena talk about all this time you were gone?" she asked pressing the cloth closely to the wound.
"Nothing much really...mostly about how much shopping youve done," Tarren said with a giggle.
Gabrielle smiled "You know you are in a pretty good mood for someone whose in as much trouble as you are," she chided.
The child smiled again. "Hmm, you are right, Gabrielle, but then again Im always in trouble, so I might as well enjoy it." This was more than the bard could stand.
"You think youre so funny dont you. Well, lets see if you think this is funny." The bard quickly started tickling the youngster, who cried and laughed in one loud moan. "Ill get it out of you one way or the other," she sneered as she continued. "Hey, hey stop it, or I will tell MY mother," she cried in delight.
The youngsters words froze Gabrielle in motion. The bards eyes filled with joy and tears and she grabbed the girl "Thank the gods she told you. Are you OK?"
Tarren stood and smiled at her friend. "Sure. It seems a bit strange to think about it, but, hey, my moms Xena Warrior Princess. Why wouldnt it be OK?" she asked.
The bard nodded and hugged the small figure. "Why indeed, little one...why indeed." Gabrielle again brought the child into her arms, and this time they both allowed a few tears to fall.
Tarren was grateful to have found her mother, but just as happy to have also found a good friend like Gabrielle.
Hercules stood by his horse staring at the warrior. He kissed her gently on the lips. "Next time," he said with a smile.
The warrior shook her head "No, not for a while, Im afraid. I owe whatever is in my heart to Tarren right now. She needs me, and I need her. There is just not enough left at the moment to give to someone else...even you," she said touching his arm tenderly.
"Well, we will have our time. Children grow up eventually."
The warrior nodded in agreement "Yeah, but Im not too anxious to push this one into that," she said with a smile.
He nodded understandably and gently caressed her face. "I can wait," he said, reaching for her face with his hand wanting to have their lips touch one last time.
Just then Tarren came racing into the stable, startling the pair.
The warrior shook her head and smiled. "Timing. I have to teach her about timing," she whispered to herself.
The girl was motionless for a moment, and then Xena waved her over.
"Hercules is leaving. Dont YOU have something to say to him?" she asked in a parental tone.
The girl looked confused at the warriors words. and then Xena wrapped a gentle arm around her neck, giving it a little squeeze. "Oh yeah...Im sorry I acted so rudely to you and dumped the water on you at the arena. Hows that?" she asked looking up at Xena.
The warrior grinned and rubbed the childs head "Everything up to HOWS THAT was fine," she said with a crooked smile. Hercules got on one knee and faced the child. "Well, I do appreciate the apology. I hope we can be friends one day, Tarren," he said with a grin.
The child looked up at the warriors soft gaze and then at the muscular man and extended her small hand towards him, "Sure!" she said with a slight smile.
The large man looked at Xena with surprise and shook the childs hand. "Friends then!" he said, and the girl nodded. He winked at his Warrior Princess and mounted his horse. After a quick wave and a smile, he headed out of Athens.
Xena watched as he rode away and sighed a bit at the sight knowing that they would one day all be together again. She then looked down at Tarren and placed a tender arm on her shoulder. "THAT was very good. I am very proud of you for accepting Hercules friendship. It means a lot to me," she said turning the girl to face her.
The child shrugged. "Well, the way I see it, if hes your friend, then he should be my friend too...right?" she whispered.
The warrior nodded, "Right!" She then picked the child up and tossed her in the air, and the girl giggled in delight and begged to be thrown much higher.
Chapter 10 The Great Bards Competition
Tarren and Xena waited patiently as the last of the bards gave their oration. Gabrielle had told a wonderful story about how Xena had saved the souls in the Elysium Fields from the evil and restored order in the world.
The warrior frowned. "I wish just once shed tell a story about something other than me," she whispered to Tarren.
"Xena, thats just Gabbys way of telling you how much she thinks of you," the girl said frowning at the warrior for her lack of understanding.
The warrior eyed the child. "Well, arent we the wise little oracle today?" she said with a sly wink genuinely impressed by the youngsters innocent wisdom. The great warrior knew how the bard felt about her, but she had never viewed the scrolls and her stories as a true expression of those feelings.
Tarren gave her an odd look. "You really should listen more," she said in a slightly chastising tone. "Oh yes, maam," she said with a bow making the child giggle. The two fell silent as the judge moved to the front of the stage to announce the winner.
Gabrielle sat behind him with the other finalists eyes closed and fidgeting in her seat a bit.
Xena had to smile at the bards obvious discomfort at being told she had to wait. It was something Xena knew well that Gabrielle was not good at.
The judge unrolled the scroll that lay before him. "Our winner of the Athens Great Bard Competition is Gabrielle of Potedia," he said clapping his hands motioning her to approach the podium to address the crowd and accept her award.
The young bard wiped tears from her eyes as she accepted a small golden quill and a parchment that declared her the winner.
Xena and Tarren jumped to their feet clapping loudly and whistling far above the sounds of the other spectators.
Gabrielle motioned with her hands for everyone to sit and then pointed a finger at the two Princesses giving them special instructions to calm down.
When all was quiet, the bard was silent for a moment and then staring out at the auditorium filled with faces she spoke quietly, "Ya know I have been telling stories since I was a little girl. Its just something I have always loved to do, so I want to thank you all for giving me this award. It means a lot, but not nearly as much as I thought it would."
The hall filled with gentle murmur and Xena and Tarren stared up at the stage in confusion at Gabrielles lack of excitement.
The bard continued, "I had very worthy competition here, and I am honored just to have stood beside these people," she said pointing to her fellow bards on the stage.
Again the crowd applauded and again she silenced them. She looked at the golden quill and then her award scroll and choked a bit. "However, I have learned, most especially, in recent time that life is about so much more than just telling stories. It so much more important to be a part of the story than to JUST be the person telling it. With your indulgence I would like to tell you about two friends of mine who have taught so much."
A few weeks ago, this very young friend of mine was hurt and didnt want to share it because she was afraid I would miss this competition. Can you imagine this child wanting to risk her life just so I could find a bit of satisfaction with myself?
"For a while I was angry with her and myself. I kept asking myself what I had shown her to make her think that her safety, her life, could ever be compared to a mere story or any competition. Then I realized that I must have made this look VERY important, much more than it ever should have been." The bard stopped and wiped tears from her eyes. "I even got really angry at her for hiding from me when it was time for her to take a bath. She does NOT like taking a bath, but most kids dont," the bard said with a quick grin again wiping tears from her eyes.
Tarren watched in awe, biting her lower lip as her friend continued.
Xena was so caught up in the speech herself that she barely noticed when the child slid into her lap and leaned her head against the warriors shoulder.
The crowd laughed at the image, and Gabrielle took a deep breath and continued. "I got angry at this kid for being what she should be, a beautiful vibrant child chasing after every breath with pure and complete energy. I got mad at her for being a kid, and for that I am so sorry Tarren," the bard cried tilting her head and staring down at the child.
"So, while she was out experiencing life with all its pain and suffering, I was writing about grand adventures. I was looking to be recognized by strangers while my friends, my family, were living life without me. Those are moments that I can never have back, but they are also the moments that I intend to never let slide by me again. I want to be part of this childs life for as long as she wants me to be, and no story I tell or applause I receive could ever match that desire. I only hope she can understand now, what it took me so long to figure out...."
"The gods give us gifts to share with those closest to us, so we can make the lives of the people around us better. We, as people, are merely guardians sent to treasure and protect the talents bestowed on us. True gifts, I mean the things worth dying for, are found in the people we love and care for. I hope Tarren knows that I consider HER presence in my life such a gift, and that there is nothing I would ever place above guarding it."
The bard lowered her eyes and tried to regain her composure before she continued. The crowd applauded loudly, and the child shook her head as a tear fell down her cheek. She turned to Xena, "I dont understand," she cried hugging the warriors neck for security.
The great warrior patted her back gently. "Shes giving you a gift Tarren. Remember, you told me, this is Gabrielles way of showing us how she feels," Xena whispered to her daughter.
The child wiped her face dry and let her eyes fall back on the bard who once again silenced the crowd. "Well, I better keep going. It is not too often that I have such a captive and willing audience," she joked. The crowd laughed and yelled for more.
"My other friend... well, you all know her Xena, Warrior Princess. I guess I DO talk about her a lot, but only because I am so proud of her, so in awe of the fact that she is my best friend. Every story I tell is about her."
"She complains a lot about that because she doesnt like being singled out as the good person... for the hero ... she really is."
"Xena has taught me about living pure and true, breathing the air, and feeling the lust for life thats in my heart. She saw in me something untouched, and she helped me bring it alive. Nobody else could see it, but she did."
"I have watched her fight the evil and risk her life for the innocent. She has offered her life to save mine countless time, but I have also seen her risk her life for a stranger, and lovingly give her life over to a youngster that needed her love and guidance most."
"She is gonna kill me for getting all mushy up here and using her name next to the L word so much, but thats a chance Im willing to take."
Gabrielle paused and caught the blue teary stare of a tall muscular figure sitting proudly in the front row holding her child. "Her shoulders are broad enough where she carries the weight of her own life plus that of many of the rest of us. I have never met anyone with more honor and dignity that dedicates their life to the greater good."
"Everyone knows that Xena was once a warlord, but what people dont know is how she lives with the pain of those days inside her heart. She wont let it go, and I watch her rip herself up with guilt sometimes. It tears ME up just to watch because I KNOW that the friend that walks beside me every day is not the same person that she remembers. The one she cannot forgive. I hope one day she will realize that."
"Not many people know this because she doesnt let many people see it, but Xena has a gentle soul. She helped me find myself, and she is my best friend, and there is nothing in this world that can ever change that. I owe her so much, and I hope she knows how much she means to me, even if I cant always find the words to say it. Imagine that, Xena -- ME, not knowing what to say," the bard laughed, the tears now steadily falling down her cheeks.
"These two people I have mentioned are my true family. I love them both with all my heart. I would give my life for them, but since that is not required... well, not today, anyway... Id like to dedicate my award to them. Its not much to give in comparison to what I get from both of them every day, but maybe it will remind them how much I really love them both."
"I want to thank you all for you patience and your faith in me. I hope I am truly worthy of the trust youve bestowed in me. Thank you!"
Gabrielle held her scroll in the air, and the crowd jumped to their feet applauding wildly for the young bard who had just shared the story of her life with them.
Xena jumped to her feet clapping her hands together, proudly fighting back the urge to shed tears in public, but one stray tear still managed to get away. The great warrior paid little attention to it as she clapped even louder for her friend. She was so immersed in the moment that she did not even see Tarren run to the stage. Before Xena could reach out a halting hand, the child has already sprinted up the steps and run into the arms of the waiting bard.
Gabrielle wrapped her arms around the child and swung her in the air, laughing loudly at the girls wild approach. She held her in a long embrace and nodded to the warrior whose gentle wink answered all questions that ever needed to be asked.
The camp was set up in familiar style. They had only left Athens a day ago and already Gabrielle felt like she was home again.
She placed her bedroll carefully next to the fire she had just made. Tossing a few sticks on it the young bard took a good long breath of the fresh air around her.
She would miss the great city of Athens and all the challenges it offered, but she was happy to be traveling again. Gabrielle was now eagerly looking forward to the next adventure she and her friends would share.
"Oh Zeus!" she cursed staring at the large pile of packages Xena had left in the center of camp for the bard to "attend to." The warrior had dumped them in a large heap rather unceremoniously, making it clear that anything she could not carry was not going any further than this camp sight.
The bard studied the pile trying to think of new and inventive ways to pack. Surely Xena wouldnt mind a few of her silky cloths under Argos saddle. After all, it would only make it softer on the horses back. Laughing quietly to herself, the bard started sorting through her bundles, carefully stashing items any place the warrior might not think to look.
It was nearly dark and Xena had not yet returned. She had asked for some time alone to practice her sword and be with her thoughts, so she had taken off towards a small clearing hours ago.
Tarren had gone down to the water to fish although it seemed she too wanted time to herself.
Gabrielle smiled at the thought of her two weary warriors, but her smile was quickly lost when Tarren came tramping into camp dragging a large string of fish behind her. The youngster dropped the great haul in front of the bard with a heavy sigh. "Dinner!" she announced flashing an impish grin.
"For how many days?" the bard laughed. "Tarren, why did you catch so many fish?" she asked looking at the child with a smile slowly counting the great number of fish before her.
The girl only shrugged. "Xena said to catch enough, so you didnt go hungry. Is that too much?" she asked with an innocent stare, truly concerned that she had not properly fulfilled her task.
The bard noted the childs frown and shook her head wrapping a friendly arm around the girl. "No, no that will do just fine. I am actually very hungry tonight, and I will make sure that Xena eats whatever we dont," she said with a sly grin.
Tarren smiled with satisfaction at the bards words. Xena rarely let her go fishing by herself on the road, so she wanted to make sure she did a good job filling the warriors order. "Wheres Xena?" the child asked scanning the camp.
"Shes still practicing," the bard said picking up the smelly fish and wishing the warrior would return so she did not have to clean the fish.
"Im gonna go find her," the youngster said with a smile and a quick jump.
Gabrielle grabbed Tarrens arm pinning the child in place. "Not so fast. You know the rules. Xena does not want you around when she is practicing, and she needs some time to herself right now, so youll just have to wait here until she gets back."
The child lowered her eyes and her smile faded, "But Gabby I want to talk to her. Its important. I dont want to wait," she said kicking the dirt with the toe of her boot.
The bard shook her head, "Oh no! Dont even try it," she said seeing the sad pouting face routine starting to surface. The bard dropped to her knees and began the unpleasant task of dealing with the fish. "Yuk!" she groaned as she ran her hands across them.
Gabrielle turned to ask Tarren for some help, but the child and her satchel were gone. The young woman stood and looked slowly down the path to the clearing, knowing exactly where the youngster was heading. "Youre gonna get in trouble Tarren!" the bard yelled, but the child was long gone. Gabrielle shrugged with dissatisfaction. "Little scamp," she murmured, as a gentle grin replaced her scowl.
Tarren followed the warriors tracks as best she could. Xena often covered over them just so she couldnt be found, but Tarren was doing her best to follow her. She held tightly to her satchel and its precious contents.
When she reached the edge of the clearing where she thought Xena was, she found it was empty. "Whered she go?" the child whispered looking to the horizon. As she started to turn around a large hand covered her mouth and drew her roughly back.
"What are you doing here?" the warrior whispered in the youngsters ear releasing her from her firm grip.
Xena tapped the blade of her sword in the palm of her hand waiting for an acceptable reply. "Uh, well, I missed you!" the girl said with a quick grin.
Xena nodded folding her arms against her chest. "Uh huh! And what IS the rule about my sword practicing?" the warrior asked sternly as she leaned up against a tree.
The girl lowered her head. "Im not allowed to come around because you need to practice without distraction, and I could get hurt," she said slowly repeating a speech she had heard the warrior give her many times.
Xena glared down at the child, "Please do not tell me that you ALREADY need me to give you another quick reminder about what happens when you do NOT listen to me!" the warrior mother said in a parental no nonsense tone.
Tarrens voice filled with disappointment at her mothers scolding, and she shook her head indicating that she would prefer no such reminder. The girl quickly started to walk back towards camp.
Xena smiled a bit at the childs obvious displeasure and studied her for a moment. "Wait!" she commanded. "I was just about done anyway," She said with trying to soften her tone as she sheathed her sword.
Tarren turned an eyed the large warrior as she motioned for the girl to return to the spot directly in front of her. "Really, it can wait. I should go back to camp," the youngster said nervously afraid that she was about to once again about to feel her mothers wrath.
Xena grinned at the childs obvious trepidation. "Come here!" she said softly pointing to the ground before her. Slowly the frightened youngster advanced until she was standing before the muscular form.
Xena sighed and stared down at the child with confusion, noticing for the first time that Tarren was carrying her satchel. She pointed to it with a flick of her finger. "We are not running away again ARE we?" she said with a husky laugh.
The little girl shook her head. "No, I just wanted to..." Her words faltered, and she fell silent before Xena. Her mothers displeasure at her arrival had taken all the excitement out of the youngsters intentions.
Xena shook her head and crouched to face her daughter knowing that the childs courage to speak up had been silenced by the warriors admonishment. "You wanted to talk to me about something?" she said gently.
The child nodded, not picking her head up enough for the warrior to even see her eyes.
Xena planted herself on the ground and gently patted her leg signaling the child to join her. The youngster gently lowered herself to the warriors familiar lap.
"OK, now what is it that was so important that you would risk your hide by coming out HERE?" Xena said with a smile pushing the childs wavy locks from her face.
Tarren tilted her head and grinned at the warrior knowing that the warriors anger was gone. "Maybe I just wanted to see my mother," she answered slowly never taking her flashing blue eyes from the warriors face.
Xena gazed at the child, trying to determine if she was being sincere or just trying to get out of the trouble she was in by using the, "I miss my MOM" routine.
The warrior patted the girls cheek gently. "OK, well, here I am, so what do you need Tarren?" she said gently.
The youngster reached into her satchel and pulled out Nalas diary and handed it to Xena. "Actually, Mother, I was hoping it was something you needed," she whispered, lowering her head a bit waiting for the warriors response.
Xena ran her hand over the familiar book with the odd golden lock and shook her head. "Nalas diary? I thought she had left this behind years ago." The warrior said staring at the nervous child.
Tarren shook her head. "No, she wrote in it lots. She said she wanted me to give it you... when... you needed it most except... I was never really sure when that was. Nala said it was her gift to you because she was... proud to be your friend." The child finished as if reciting a speech she had practiced in her mind 1000 times.
Xena closed her eyes and ran her hand again over the familiar book allowing her fingers to touch carefully upon the puzzle lock that confined all the old mystics secrets. Within seconds the lock opened and the cover popped up.
The warrior smiled and then eyed the child that sat on her lap. She gently reached up and kissed the youngster on the cheek. "Thank you, little one. This is just what I needed," she said hugging the child.
Tarren smiled at Xenas obvious satisfaction at receiving the gift and started to rise.
"Hey where are ya going?" the warrior asked pulling her back down into her lap.
"Well I figured you... needed to be left alone with Nalas diary," the girl said a bit puzzled by the warriors expression.
Xena closed the book securing the lock with a snap. "Nah! That can wait. Right now what I really NEED is to spend some time with my daughter," she said stroking the childs arm tenderly.
Tarren quickly leaned against her mothers chest happy for any chance to spend time with Xena. "Will you ever read me whats in the book?" the youngster asked with a mischievous grin as she settled herself against the warriors shoulder.
Xena put her large arm protectively around the small figure and smiled, "Maybe some day my little one. Maybe some day."
|Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Epilogue|
If you enjoyed my story, and I hope you did, Please look for the next adventure of this trio called Nalas Gift. I would truly appreciate any and all feedback about my stories, so please fell free to e-mail me comments, critiques, or thoughts. It is appreciated. Please e-mail Fantimbard@aol.com
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