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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 stories called SHE HAS MY EYES, ON THE ROAD AGAIN, and NALAS GIFTS. 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.
Sex - Nope
Comfort/hurt- well you may need a Kleenex in a few spots if youre like me.
|Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Epilogue|
Home Sweet Home
Chapter 4 Mothers and Daughters
"Mother." Xena called as she entered the empty tavern. It was early and the Inn was not yet even open. The warrior quietly listened to the sounds of the silence, and then from the kitchen came the familiar sight of Cyrene rubbing her hands clean on an apron.
"Xena my little one you are home," she yelled with joy, running up to embrace her large daughter who easily lifted the older woman off her feet.
Tarren heard her mother being referred to as little one and wondered just whom the older woman might be addressing.
Cyrene quickly turned to Gabrielle. "Ahh and my other daughter. Gabrielle how are you dear?" she asked cupping the young womans face tightly in her hands and hugging her.
"Hello Cyrene. Its good to see you," she answered, embracing the woman and trying to get the feeling in her cheeks back.
Cyrene then turned to the smallest figure of the trio who had taken up a safer position behind her own mother. The older woman s face went blank and then her smile grew broad. "By the gods Lyceus...I mean Tarren...you must be ...Tarren. I heard so much about you in...Xenas letter..." she said slowly staring at the childs face.
Cyrene looked to her daughter with an odd stare. Xena had written about Tarren, but had failed to mention a few VERY important details about the child that now traveled with her. Xena had not thought it really safe or appropriate to tell her mother about Tarren being her daughter in a letter. Xena looked at Cyrene and shrugged.
"Tarren meet your grandmother," she said quietly.
Cyrene stared at her daughter for a drawn out moment, letting her know that a long private talk was in order later. The warrior leaned against a table and frowned in understanding knowing this would not be a very pleasant conversation.
The older woman then turned her attention back to the child before her. "Well Tarren this is an unexpected surprise. Its not every day you get the gift of a grandchild," she said with a tear, reaching out to touch the child.
Tarren quickly backed away behind Xena again, not wanting this strange person getting to close. Xena sighed and gently pulled her forward. "Tarren say hello," she whispered
The child looked at her mothers dark gaze and lowered her eyes to the floor.
Xena shook her head. "Mother Im sorry. Shes just having a bad day," the warrior said regretfully.
Cyrene gently lifted the childs chin with her finger. "Whats wrong cant you speak child?" she asked. Tarren looked once again at her own mother whose expression was one of a parent getting a bit frustrated. Cyrene noted the exchange and nodded in understanding. "Well child you dont have to speak if you dont want to," she said softly, bringing the little girl close to her chest in a friendly embrace.
Tarren allowed the hug happy for some affection after her own mothers recent scolding.
Cyrene looked up at her own daughter and frowned. "Now Xena you stop intimidating this poor little girl," she warned, shaking her finger at the leather-clad woman.
The warriors mouth dropped open, "Mother shes been misbehaving all morning...Im just..."
Cyrene silenced her with a wave and took the youngster by the hand placing a gentle and protective arm around her. "Hmm seems I can remember a certain little girl that used to misbehave around here on a daily basis," the older woman said with a grin.
Xena put her hands on her hips defiantly. "Yes mother and I remember what happened to her when she got caught," she said with a smirk.
Cyrene waved her off. "Oh you deserved what you got and probably more since I could never even catch you half the time," she said with a smile.
Tarren looked at the older woman with awe. She had never heard anyone talk to Xena like that. "Perhaps she would be a good friend to have after all," the youngster thought.
The bard giggled at the image of a little Xena running from her mother and the warrior glared at her friends obvious amusement. "Whoops sorry!" the bard, said covering her mouth and seating herself at the table.
Cyrene once again looked at the youngster beside her. "Now Xena you cannot tell me that this adorable innocent little imp could ever cause you such a great fuss," she said patting the child head.
Tarrens eyes went wide as this stranger spoke in her defense. She smiled broadly at this woman and Xena could feel her own frustration mounting. She was about to argue the point when her mother silenced her with the wave of her hand. "Xena you know better than to argue with your mother," she warned.
The Warrior Princess closed her mouth and shook her head, "Yes ma am," was all that she could say.
Tarren started to giggle and then quickly covered her mouth as she caught her own mothers stare beating down on her.
Cyrene looked lovingly into the young face of the child that had both her daughters eyes and the expression of her long dead son. She took the childs satchel off and handed it to Xena. "This little one should not be carrying such a heavy load...shame on you Xena," she scolded.
Xena surrendered to her fate and just nodded. "Oh yes mother your right I wouldnt want her to bruise her little body with this great big bag of her things," she said mockingly.
Cyrene frowned at her daughters lighthearted attitude but then her smile returned. "I am sure that you are all tired, so Xena why dont you and Gabrielle go take baths while Tarren and I get aquatinted. Ive made up three rooms in the back for you," she said with a smile.
Cyrene took the childs hand and started for the kitchen. "Tarren I do believe that I have some milk and cookies you would enjoy," she said happily.
The youngster looked at Xena oddly. The warrior mother never let her have such foods before meals. "But mother she has not even had mid day meal yet," Xena said quickly.
Cyrene waved her off. "Nonsense Xena go bathe and rest. Ill see to the little one," she said with a grin.
Tarren looked to Xena and then to Cyrene not exactly sure which way to go, but since Xena seemed to be listening to the older woman the youngster figured this was a good path to follow. She threw the warrior a quick mischievous smile. "Yeah you go take a bath Momma. You need your rest. Youve got save your strength," she said with a teasing glint in her eyes.
Xena folded her arms tightly against her chest and gave the youngster her patented Warrior Princess stare. "Tarren, would you like to find out just how much strength I have right now?" she asked sending an instant message with her dark blue gaze. Tarren understood the meaning and her smile slowly faded as she was dragged into the kitchen.
Gabrielle had been watching the entire exchange with amusement and saying nothing. She placed a gentle hand on the tense warriors shoulder. "Look Xena, your mother just found out she has a granddaughter. Let her spoil her a bit," she said softly.
The warrior shook her head in frustration. "Hmm she never let me have cookies and milk before a meal," the warrior moaned, grabbing the belongings and heading back to the rooms.
Gabrielle sighed at the sight of her friend storming away. "Yup its always so nice to come home," she murmured.
The bath water caressed the great warriors muscles as she allowed the suds to envelop her skin and her mind releasing all anxiety. However her sword and her chakrum were placed close by just in case trouble did break out. A good warrior was always prepared.
Gabrielle shuffled in from her adjoining room with her hair neatly wrapped in a cloth and wearing a large towel. "Hello Xena," she said as she flopped on the warriors bed. "I must have taken two buckets of road dust off of me...I feel wonderful," the bard mused.
The warrior nodded and smiled as she felt her body go limp in the soothing bath water.
The young woman stretched out on the bed allowing the soft breeze from the window to caress her dampened skin. "Hmm so I filled the other tub...whose turn is it to give the brat a bath this time?" she asked, smiling affectionately at the thought of the coming battle.
Suddenly the calm from Xenas face was replaced with a scowl. The warrior rose from the tub pulling a soft sheet around her muscular form. " I will be most happy to give my little princess a bath myself Gabrielle...I look forward to it actually...Yup a little quality time alone...yup all alone," she purred.
The bard shuddered at the childs fate. "Now Xena I know Tarren has not exactly been on her best behavior today, but she hasnt done anything really wrong either. If shes doing something thats bothering you then talk to her," she instructed.
Xena pulled a white cotton shift over her head and grinned. "Not exactly what I had in mind," she said with a wicked smile.
Gabrielle stood and faced her friend. "Xena she hasnt done anything wrong yet," the bard hissed.
The princess grimaced a bit under her friends stare, "Yet is the operative word my friend. The way shes going its only a matter of time. Oh and when she does I will be so happy to wipe that smug little grin of hers off her face. Did you hear that little monster tell me to go take a bath?" she asked with a grin, as she pulled her leathers on.
Gabrielle threw her arms up in the air. "Xena dont confuse your anger with your mothers actions with Tarren acting like...well...Tarren. You told her to behave herself and I think you scared the Hades out of her, so shes trying," she replied.
"I did, didnt I," Xena said with a smile of satisfaction.
The bard gave the warrior a stern look, and Xena nodded at her friend. "All right...all right...As long as she behaves herself then I will too," she said quietly as she stood, "Besides I dont think my mother would let me near her right now."
Gabrielle giggled. " She does seem to have Cyrene under her spell doesnt she...I swear that child could charm the thunder away from Zeus," the bard said with a chuckle.
Xena grinned at the image of little Tarren carrying off the Gods thunder, but then suddenly the warriors smile faded and her face grew sad and empty. "Shes sees my brother in Tarrens face...Gabrielle she looks so much like that him sometimes I forget myself," she whispered, lost in her own thoughts.
The bard felt her friends pain, but the warrior soon smiled again and jumped to her feet. The sadness of the brother lost was quickly replaced with the memory of the daughter found. And once again Xena smiled at her friend. "You take your nap my bard. Ill see to my daughters bath...I promise Ill be good," she said raising her hands in the air.
Gabrielle studied her friends eyes and noted the sincerity. "All right then," she said, and with a yawn and a stretch the bard returned to her own room to sleep.
Feeling refreshed and renewed Xena strode to the kitchen where she could hear her mother s voice telling tales of her misspent youth and the sound of childish laughter. "By the goods no!" she groaned, rushing in, but she could tell by the smirk on her daughters face that she was too late.
"Hi Momma have a nice bath?" the youngster asked wickedly, as she chewed on a cookie leaning up against the stove where Cyrene was cooking.
The warrior nodded at her daughter and stared at Cyrene. "Mother what have you been filling her head with?" she asked with a frown.
The older woman shrugged. "Oh she just wanted to hear some stories about when you were little. You were such a naughty little one sometimes, " she said, squeezing her daughters chin.
"Remember the time..." Cyrene began.
The warrior sighed and put up a halting hand. "Please mother no stories. Tarren gets into enough trouble without any suggestions," she warned staring, at her daughter.
Tarren smiled broadly and shook her finger at the warrior. "Really Momma Im surprised at you, such behavior from a future Warrior Princess. All these dangerous things you did. Stk. stk. stk.," she said with a giggle, eyeing her frustrated warrior mother.
"You never mind what I did or didnt do young lady. You just get yourself to your room. Its time for you to take a bath," she ordered, hoping to avoid having to explain any of her childhood.
The youngster frowned trying to avoid the subject of a bath. "Uh Momma did you really bury a kid up to his neck in dirt cause he called you a ..." she began. The warrior raised her hand not wanting to recall the entire memory. Xena nodded. "Yes I did, but what Im sure what my mother didnt tell you is that when she found out what I had done she paddled me so I couldnt sit for a week. Same as I would do to you if you pulled a stunt like that," she warned, lowering herself down to meet her daughter's eyes.
Tarren bowed her head under her mothers harsh gaze.
"Xena there is no need to scare the little one. SHE hasnt done anything wrong," Cyrene scolded, putting an arm around Tarren and leading her to a small table. "Here sit down child," she said softly
Before Tarren could object the older woman pushed her down into the chair soliciting a loud yelp from the youngster that quickly sprung to her feet. "Ouch!" she cried, rubbing her still tender bottom carefully.
Xena could not help but smile at her conniving childs dilemma. The warrior merely stood there rocking back on her heals and grinning. "Uhh something wrong Tarren?" the warrior mother asked.
The youngster bit her lip and glanced at her mother for a little sympathy but found none.
Cyrene looked at her daughter and then the child. "Xena you spanked this child?" she asked.
"Yes mother I did," the warrior said politely, folding her arms and relaxing at the thought of what at that brief moment seemed like a pleasant memory.
"For the love of Zeus why?" Cyrene asked caressing the youngsters head.
"Because she deserved it and she needed it mother," was the warriors fast and solemn reply. She did not feel a need to explain, even to her own mother, how or why she disciplined her child.
Cyrene shook her head in frustration at her unyielding daughter and turned her attention back to Tarren. "More milk dear?" she asked.
Before Tarren could respond Xena held up her hand. "Sorry Mother but its time for her bath and a nap...Tarren lets go," Xena said quickly, motioning for the doorway, her face now very serious.
Cyrene started to protest, but the warrior stood firm. She would not allow her authority to be challenged where her daughter was concerned. It had taken too much time and effort to get to the level of understanding the two shared. Xena gave the youngster a long hard glance. "Tarren go to your room and get ready for a bath. Ill be there in a minute," she instructed in a no nonsense tone. Tarren looked to Cyrene for help but the older womans gaze was now locked with Xenas.
Sensing the little girls attempt at a coup Xena yelled, "NOW!" and with that one single word the youngster sprinted quickly past the warrior as fast as her feet would carry her.
Xenas eyes followed the child pleased with her quickness to opt to obey her command. Perhaps she was learning after all. Xena looked at Cyrene a moment longer and shook her head. "Mother," she whispered and then turned on her heal and headed for the room.
When Xena entered the room Tarren, much to the warriors surprise was already obediently sitting in the tub washing herself. Xena closed the door behind her and moved over to the tub. "Here give me that...You never get behind your ears," she said, taking the cloth from the youngster.
Tarren swallowed hard and waited for her mothers scolding to begin, but Xena just gently washed the childs hair never saying a word. When the warrior had finished bathing her, she held up a large towel and motioned for the little girl to get out of the tub, which she did quickly and quietly.
Tarren bit her lip as she stared at her mother who was sitting on the edge of the bed drying the child. "Momma?" she whispered.
"Yes," the warrior mother responded, never straying from her task.
"Are you gonna...Am I in trouble?" she asked quietly.
The Warrior Princess did not even look up. "Why do you think you should be?" she asked with a crooked smile.
Tarren thought about it for a moment. "Im never really sure Momma," she said lowering her eyes a bit.
Xena half-smiled and turned the youngster to face her. "Well Ill admit I was a bit angry at you before, but Im not anymore. I know your trying to behave and you just cant resist the urge to ask lots of questions about me even when you know Id rather you didnt," she said with a grin.
The child let out a long breath and quickly threw her arms around her mothers neck.
"Well what was that for?" Xena asked, wrapping her arms around her daughter.
The little girl smiled. "Cause I missed ya and cause you knew I was just playing. I didnt really like staying with Cyrene. I was just waiting for you to come get me," she said with a childish grin.
Xena let her eyes grow wide. "Oh is that right? You missed me that much while you were eating all those cookies?" she asked with a smirk.
Tarren lowered her head a bit. "Momma you told me to not argue. I was only doing what you told me to do," she said quietly, searching for a loophole in her defense.
Xena nodded her head and smiled at her daughter. "I guess you were at that little one," she said pulling Tarren gently onto her lap.
The youngster sat comfortably against her mothers chest. "Momma, Cyrene said I have my own room. Do I have to sleep so far away?" she asked with a hopeful look in her eyes.
Xena kissed the youngsters cheek gently and shook her head. "No sweetheart. You can sleep in here with me if you like. Id sort of like the company," the warrior replied, not wanting her daughter to feel bad about her need to be close.
The youngster nuzzled her head into Xenas shoulder and smiled. "Dont worry Momma. Youll never be lonely with me around. I wont let you be alone for one second. I promise," she said quickly.
Xena bit her lip trying not to chuckle at the childs honesty. "Im sure you wont, and I would not have it any other way little girl," she said squeezing the child tightly.
Tarren giggled as the warrior tickled her side, but then her thoughts focused more on the stranger in the kitchen. "Momma do you and your Cyrene always fight?" she asked
The warrior sighed feeling a bit guilty at the example she had set. "Well no not always, but weve never been what you would call very close. We are just very different people. Sometimes that just makes it hard for us to agree on things. That makes us argue a little. We still love each other though," she said softly, thinking of the woman who had raised her alone.
The youngster leaned her head against her mothers shoulder, once again wanting to feel her closeness. "We wont fight will we Momma? Were close arent we?" she asked, hugging the warriors neck hoping for the right response.
Xena smiled and embraced her youngster. "Little one, if you and I were any closer wed be the same person...sometimes Im afraid we are," she said, kissing the childs forehead.
Tarren smiled at the thought of her being so much like Xena. "Im sorry about what I said about the farmers Momma...I didnt mean to say anything bad...I..." she began.
Xena stopped her. "Hey I know. Its Ok...I shouldnt have come down so hard on you. I do still remember what it was like to be a little kid ya know?" she whispered.
Tarren giggled at the thought of Xena ever being little. "When you are little a small village of farmers seems pretty boring, but trust me Tarren as you get older you come to appreciate that there is nothing more valuable as home, friends and family," she said, stroking her daughters back.
The child thought about it for a moment. "Wheres my home Momma?" she asked staring into her mothers blue eyes.
Xena rubbed the youngsters cheek with her hand. "With me little one. My home is now your home whether we are here or on the road. Your home will always be with me," she said softly, and Tarren just lay against to her mothers chest as the warrior rubbed her back gently.
There was a knock at the door and Cyrene walked in. She could not help but smile with surprise as she saw her daughter, the Warrior Princess, playing the role of a nurturing mother. "I didnt mean to interrupt. The little ones room was empty, so I came here to see if she needed anything," the older woman said quietly, realizing she had intruded on a private moment.
"Its Ok Mother...Tarren and I like to share a room. Besides I dont want you using up a third room for us. Well be just fine bunking together. Right?" she asked, looking down at her child.
Tarren nodded and quickly buried her head back in her mothers chest trying to hide again from the stranger at the door.
Xena looked at her mothers puzzled expression and lifted Tarren off her lap and motioned for her to go to the other room. "Gabrielles sleeping in her room. You go lie down in there with her for a while," she said gently, and the child slowly walked into the other bedroom.
Still feeling the need for the attention of her family Tarren snuggled in on the bed next to Gabrielle. The movement startled the bard. "What the?" she said groggily looking down at the small form lying next to her.
The young woman smiled. "Ok kid you can stay, but lets not make a habit of this. Its not often I get an entire bed to myself," she teased. Wrapping a loving arm around the tiny form, the pair happily heading on the way to Morpheous.
Xena stared at her mother for a long moment. She dried the water from her leathers and then placed the cloth back on her bed. "Im sorry mother. I didnt meant to be disrespectful to you," she said softly.
Cyrene smiled and ran a soothing hand over the soft skin of her daughter. "No little one it is I who am sorry for interfering where I should not. She is your daughter. Please tell me of her," she begged, motioning for Xena to follow her back to the kitchen.
The warrior nodded her head and followed her mother. The two women sat at the large table in the center of the Inn drinking Ale as they spoke. The great warrior shared her most recent tales and adventures including how she came to find Tarren. Cyrene could only shudder at how the child had survived so long in such a "savage way." Xena bit her lips at her mothers choice of words not wanting to start another argument.
"Shes a tough little kid mother...shes had to be, but she also has a very warm and gentle heart. She needs a lot of attention," the warrior said with a sigh, sipping at her mothers brew.
Cyrene covered her daughters hand with her own. "Daughter do not blame yourself for things you did not know of. The most important thing is that she is with you now, and youre going to raise her the right way. She loves you Xena. That is plain to see, and I know you love her...I see it in your eyes when you look at the child," she said.
The warrior smiled. "Yeah I guess the little brat sort of grows on ya, but if you think I got into trouble...This one needs a tether...I turn my back for one second and shes running off down some trail or fighting with some road tramps," she said with a sigh.
Cyrene gasped at the thought of the little girl in such a situation. Xena just shook her head and smiled proudly. "Then she gives me that innocent little smile...that mischievous little grin knowing the entire time shes doing something wrong and just daring the world and me to challenge her...can you imagine?" she asked with a chuckle.
Cyrene gave her daughter a knowing stare. "No I cant possibly know what you are talking about Xena," she said with an odd smile.
The warrior lowered her eyes under her mothers gaze and then both women broke into a loud laughter over the comparison. "All right so I was no darling either, but I had you from day one. Tarren has been alone so long," the warrior s voice faltered, "Sometimes I have to be so hard on her to make sure she follows the rules. The way we live the consequences are just too great to allow even a small infraction. It tears me up inside to punish her Mother, but it seems to be part of my weekly routine lately," she said with a somber look.
Cyrene nodded in understanding. "Its not easy to watch your child suffer Xena. It is even harder to be the one that causes the pain even if you know its for their own good. Just remember daughter, temper your need for discipline and obedience with love and affection. She needs that just as much dear," she said patting her daughters hand gently.
Xena allowed the words to soak in and smiled. It felt good to be home and able to confide her deepest feelings to her mother. Cyrene stood to refill their mugs and then quickly turned to face her daughter with a more serious face. "But if you ever catch her fighting with road tramps again you paddle her good daughter," she ordered.
The warrior held back a laugh and nodded obediently, "Yes mother."
Xena was enjoying the quiet conversation with this woman she felt she barely knew anymore. They shared the ale as Cyrene shared her wisdom, but the moment was quickly shattered by the older womans need to have the world her way. "So how long before you are ready to return to Amphipolous for good and give that child a proper home?" she asked.
The words came crashing down on Xena like thunder from the sky. "Mom we wont be returning to Amphipolous. We are just visiting. After we leave here well be stopping in Potedia and then well go wherever were needed," she said.
The older woman sighed. "Xena Tarren is just a little girl. That is no life for her. She needs stability. This wandering around the countryside, playing hero may be fine for you and Gabrielle, but Tarren is just a small child. She needs a home and a family," Cyrene lectured.
Xena dropped her mug on the table trying to control her frustration.
"Mother Tarrens home is with me and Gabrielle. We are her family. Right now our place is on the road. I dont know where it will be in the future, but for right now that is where I am, so that is where she stays...with me," she said quickly, trying to let the anger out of her words.
Cyrene stood and faced her daughter. "You would keep that youngster on the road living like a savage in the wilderness," she yelled.
Xena turned her back on her mother feeling the words hit her like bricks. "Savages mother? Well thank you very much. I should have guessed you would not approve of anything I did, even how I choose to raise my daughter. Well it doesnt matter...This is my life and I like it and whether you believe it or not she likes it. And that is the way it is going to stay," she seethed.
Cyrene slammed her own mug on the table. "Xena you are the most stubborn...I have to go get dinner on the table. Please wake Tarren and Gabrielle," she said quickly walking to the kitchen.
Xena stood staring up at the ceiling praying to all the gods on Olympus to give her strength to endure her mothers judgments. "Well so much for that warm mother daughter thing we had going Mom," she murmured as she walked back to the rooms.
The war torn warrior entered the room where the two figures slept totally enveloped in each others comfort. Xena smiled at the closeness the two had had established in such a short period of time. She stared at them both wondering if there was any truth to what her mother was saying. She shook her head and smiled a bit.
"Come on you two get up. Mom has dinner ready," she said poking the bard.
Neither seemed eager to rise so Xena quickly lifted a pillow and threw it at the sleeping forms. Gabrielle was the first to jump reaching quickly for her staff. Noticing it was only Xena, she gave her friend a crooked smile and dropped her staff, leaning back on her arms. "Well good morning...or afternoon or whatever," the bard said with a yawn.
The warrior nodded, "Its actually closer to evening, but thats Ok...you were tired," she said wearily.
Gabrielle noticed the tired look on her friends face and sighed. "Did you ever get any sleep Xena?" she asked.
The warrior sat on the side of the bed shaking her head. "No I was talking with my mother," she replied with a frown.
Gabrielle took a deep breath. "Xena whatever she said...its just not true." the bard said knowing her friend was upset by something Cyrene had said.
Xena stared at her best friend. "Well talk about it later Gabrielle," she said motioning towards the youngster who she was not quite sure was still asleep.
The bard nodded in understanding and poked the youngster gently in the ribs. "Hey brat wake up...If you gonna share my bed...your gonna share my misery...I have to get up, and so do you," she said with a yawn.
The youngster growled as she turned over on her side and opened her eyes, smiling at her mother. "Hi," she said with an innocent childs smile.
"Hi yourself," Xena replied, reaching over and pulling the child from the blankets. Tarren looked at her mother and threw her arms quickly around the warriors neck with an unexpected hug. Xena raised her eyebrows but returned the embrace.
"What was that for?" the warrior asked, staring gently at her young daughter.
The child shrugged. "I dunno...It looked like another one of those times ya needed a hug," she said with a smile.
The warrior looked at he bard and closed her eyes. "Well you know something little one, you were right. I did need that and I thank you," she said rubbing the childs cheek.
Tarren jumped off the bed. "Anytime Momma," she said with a grin.
Xena shook her head in wonder at her daughters love. "Get dressed its supper time," she said softly.
Gabrielle got out of the bed nearly tripping on the sheet that wrapped her body. She fell towards the warrior and Xena reached out and caught the bard before she hit the floor. "Thanks," the young woman said, trying to regain her lost dignity.
Tarren giggled wildly at the clumsy bard and Xena threw her a quick glare to silence her.
"Anytime my bard...anytime," she said with a simple smile.
Gabrielle nodded and reached for her bag ready to dress. Tarren was already dressed as she threw on her soft deerskin tunic and stuck her beloved chucks in her left boot. Xena frowned at the childs need to carry them, but said nothing. She just gave her a warning glare to let the youngster know she had better not see them leave her boot. Tarren smiled at her mother as she noted the chakrum attached to her side. The silent conversation these two were sharing fascinated the bard. The warrior folded her arms fully across her chest to remind the child who was boss and the youngster just giggled bouncing up and down on the bed, not the effect the warrior mother had hoped for.
"Sorry Momma but I know all your secrets now," the child said jumping off the bed, flipping through the air in a somersault, and landing on her feet by the door.
Xenas eyes went wide as she watched the childs short but difficult maneuver. Tarren offered her famed mischievous grin and waited for her companions to join her.
"Like mother like daughter hey warrior," the bard said poking her friend in the arm.
Xena looked at her child and grinned. "Yup...I guess so," she replied.
The trio quickly left for supper with the still angry grandmother.
Cyrene quietly placed the plates in front of each of the seats as her visiting family entered the room. "I hope youre all hungry, " she said with a smile pointed at Gabrielle. "I made lots," she said tapping the bards cheek.
Gabrielle frowned at the warrior. "Why does she always look at me when she says that Xena. Have you been telling her I eat like an army again?" she asked ready to poke her friend in the ribs again.
The warrior shrugged and took a seat next to her friend trying not to smile. "Later warrior," the bard whispered.
Tarren ignored the prepared chair preferring instead her mothers soft lap. The warrior moved back and let the child jump into her lap, knowing she was still in need of her closeness. "You can stay as long as you behave yourself," she said with a grin.
The child leaned back on the warriors chest and smiled. "Who me Momma?" she asked winking at the bard.
"Yeah you," Xena said tickling the child into a wild giggle.
Cyrene entered with a stern glare. "Is that appropriate manners for the table," she asked.
Xena looked at Gabrielle and sighed. "No mother," she said simply.
"Tarren dear why dont you come sit next tome. Ill get you a soft pillow if you like," she said.
The child shook her head. "Id rather stay here with Momma," she said fiddling with the warriors armband.
"Its Ok Mother. Shes fine where she is," the warrior added.
Cyrene sighed and nodded. "Of course dear," she said with a forced smile.
Gabrielle covered her face with her hands knowing this was gonna be a very long meal. "Can I help Cyrene?" the bard asked but the older woman just waved her off.
"Thank you but I can manage dear," she said looking at the gentle young woman gratefully. Cyrene passed out plates with roasted pork, large potatoes, carrots, and honey biscuits...all of Xenas favorites. The warrior could feel the guilt meter starting to rise as she stared at her mother. "Thank you," she said, eagerly accepting a plate.
Xena held Tarrens hands back from starting. "We all start together when we are seated at a table like this," she whispered in the childs ear. The little girl frowned and eagerly waited for Cyrene to seat herself so they could eat.
"Well child dont wait for me. Dig in," the grandmother said.
Tarren quickly did as she was told and started to eat her meal. Xena just sighed. "Thanks Mother I just told her to wait," she said simply.
Cyrene sat down and shrugged. "Sorry dear I didnt know you ate so formally in your little travels," she groaned.
Gabrielle started to raise her fork and paused as those words hit her ears. "Actually Cyrene we have our meals on plates, with forks, seated around a fire just like this. The only difference is that Tarren would know better than to speak rudely to anyone sharing our meal," the bard said with a cat like grin.
Xenas mouth dropped as she watched the young bards temper start to flare.
Tarren lowered her head to pay better attention to her meal rather than the "adult" conversation going on around her. She was not too happy to hear her name mentioned so much in this conversation.
"Of course dear...I didnt mean anything by it," Cyrene replied with a forced smile of her own.
Gabrielle nodded and then gave Xena a quick stare warning her that she had better have a good explanation for whatever was going on. Xena could see her friends frustration starting to build, so she tried to change the subject as she ate. "So mother how has business been?" she asked.
Cyrene waved her hands in the air. "Oh its been so busy...it never seems to stop. Its getting more and more crowded with every passing night. Sometimes it can be hard doing it alone but I manage daughter," she said quickly.
Xena felt the guilt meter rising inside of her.
Gabrielle dropped her fork in her plate staring at her large warrior friend waiting for her to respond, but she said nothing. "So Cyrene have you considered hiring more help?" the bard asked, deciding that if Xena wouldnt speak up then she would.
"Yes dear but this has always been a family business, and its hard to have strangers working so close," she answered staring at Xena.
The guilt meter just went through the roof.
Tarren listened to the entire exchange in disbelief. She was not exactly sure who was mad at who or why, but she knew something was wrong. She only hoped she wasnt gonna be the one to get in trouble in the end. Having finished most of her food, the child pushed her plate away.
Gabrielle noted the untouched carrots and pointed to them. "Eat!" she ordered with more frustration towards Cyrene then Tarren coming out. The child shook her head and leaned back on her mothers chest not wanting to touch the carrots.
"Tarren eat the vegetables," Xena said quietly handing the little girl her fork. The youngster groaned but quickly pulled the plate in front of her again ready to swallow a carrot.
"Xena if she doesnt want to eat them then dont force her," Cyrene warned.
Tarren smiled and happily pushed the plate away once again.
That was the last straw. The warriors eyes lit up. "Mother I know what Im doing. Tarren eat the carrots," Xena said firmly.
Again the child pulled the plate in front of her and started to chew on the vegetables.
"How could you know what youre doing. Youve been a mother for all of two months. I have raised three children including you little one...Tarren you dont have to eat that," Cyrene said with maternal authority.
The child wearily pushed the plate away confused by all the yelling over a few carrots.
Xenas eyes went wild as she stared at her mother. "First of all Mother it has been a long while since I was a "little one", and while you may have raised three children you are not raising this one. I am...Tarren eat!" the warrior mother ordered in a no nonsense parental tone that made it clear to the child whose words to head.
The little girl pulled the plate in front of her and started devouring the carrots before Cyrene could alter the command again. She was eating so fast that she began choking on the vegetables and coughing. Xena and Gabrielle patted the youngsters back as she spit out the vile vegetables.
Cyrene got to her feet and ran to the child side. "Now see what you did by trying to force her," the older woman scolded. She reached out to touch the child, but Tarren pulled quickly away burying herself in Xenas shoulder.
The warrior mother tried to soothe her daughter by rubbing her back. Gabrielle handed her a mug of water and soon the child quieted and just lay panting in her mothers arms.
"Im sorry Tarren," Xena whispered, gently rubbing the childs head.
The warrior glared at her mother as she lifted the youngster to her feet. "Gabrielle please take Tarren back to the room," she said, watching the bard gently take the confused childs hand and lead her back to the sleeping chambers.
Xena looked at her mother as she threw the napkin from her lap onto the table.
"Mother theres a storm coming in and I want to check on Argo and the rest of the stock. We will talk when I get back," she said evenly, never taking her eyes off Cyrene.
Gabrielle sat beside Tarren on the edge of the bed. "Are you Ok?" the bard asked.
The little girl nodded. "Why are they fighting over carrots so much Gabby?" the child asked, leaning on her friend for support.
The bard smiled and stroked the childs hair. "I don know honey. Xena and Cyrene have never been really close, but I know they have been trying very hard to get closer...to be more of a family to each other. Sometimes Cyrene can be..."
The child frowned. "A big pain in the..." she started.
The bard covered Tarrens mouth before the child could finish the sentence. "Dont even say it. Dont ever let Xena hear you say it. You can think it if you want, but dont ever say it. Shes still Xenas mother and your grandmother, and whatever is going on is between the two of them and we just have to let them settle it," she said softly.
Tarren held her breath falling back on the bed. "Thats easy for you to say. Youre not the one theyre fighting on top of," she whined.
The bard lay back beside the child feeling sympathy for the youngsters obvious confusion, wishing she could give her answers that she didnt have yet.
"Gabby is this my fault?" she asked with a tear falling down her cheek.
The bard quickly embraced the child. "No honey...This is not your fault. This is just how Xena and her mom get along sometimes. That happens in families sometimes. You and Xena get mad at each other, but you always make up. Xena and I fight, but we always get over it...right?" she asked quietly, holding the child tightly.
The youngster shook her head. "Momma would never let us fight over carrots," she whispered.
The bard shook her head realizing that Tarren really didnt understand that this went deeper than vegetables. "Well dont you worry. You and your mom are too close to fight like that. Beside do you think Id ever let that happen? Id knock you both around if you acted like that," she said with a teary grin.
Tarren giggled as she let her head fall on the bards arm. "Well then its a good thing we have you isnt it Gabby. You wont ever leave will ya?" she asked holding onto her friend.
The bard smiled "Not a chance kid. Not a chance," she whispered, still wondering what was going on with Xena and her mother, and wishing she could throw her two dinars in.
The warrior secured the barn as the dark clouds moved quickly overhead.
"Argo my friend. I thought things could change, but I guess I was wrong. I am never going to survive this visit," she said stiffly patting the horses mane gently. Xena cocked her head to one side as she heard the soft steps of the bard enter the barn.
"Hows Tarren?" she asked without turning.
Gabrielle considered the question. "Confused, scared, angry...How should she be?" the bard chided.
Xena took a deep breath and faced her friend. "I know...I know...Its my fault. I should have just backed off," she said folding her arms and leaning against the railing.
The bard shook her head in disbelief. "Youre fault? Xena, that was Cyrenes fault. She had no right to interfere," the young woman scolded.
"Gabrielle it doesnt matter anyway. Were leaving in the morning," she said stiffly.
The bards eyes went wide. "What? But we just got here. You wanted to heal the wounds with your mother. You wanted to spend time with her and give Tarren a chance to get to know her. What happened?" the young woman demanded.
Xena shrugged her shoulders. "Well it just wont work. I wont have Tarren put in the middle of my problems with my mother. You saw what happened to that poor kid tonight. I will not allow that to happen again Gabrielle," she said evenly, trying to control her frustration.
The bard moved up next to her friend and placed a gentle hand on her arm. "Xena just what did happen tonight? I know you and your mother have never exactly seen eye to eye but you two are going at it like two dogs fighting over a bone. What did she say to you this afternoon?" the bard asked.
The warrior shook her head and faced her friend. "Look Gabrielle my mother has never approved of me. I cant say that I blame her based on my past, but even now she thinks we live like "savages" because we travel around so much. She thinks I should move home and raise Tarren here," Xena said, trying to hide the hurt from her mothers words.
The bards face grew cold and angry. "Hey you listen to me warrior. You have never taken that from anyone, and I dont want to see you start now. We are not savages. We live an exciting and thrilling life and we help people Xena. Tarren is well cared for and well looked after. Her studies are far better than if she were in school with 30 other kids, and I cant imagine her being more loved. Xena you are a good mother to that little girl. Do NOT let Cyrene tell you otherwise," she ordered, feeling the depth of emotion welling inside of her.
The warrior smiled at the faith in her friends voice. "Thank You Gabrielle. I appreciate your support, but Im afraid my mother will never understand. I wish...Well wishes just dont always come true," she said with a sigh.
The bard shook her head staring back towards the Inn. "We cant leave yet Xena. Tarren already thinks this is her fault somehow. If we go then you will never convince her otherwise," the bard said with a frown.
Xena dropped her head down. "What? Why would she think that?" She asked.
The bard shrugged. "Maybe because it seems to her that you and Cyrene started fighting the minute her name was brought up?" she asked quickly.
The warrior mother stood straight. "Well I wont have that Gabrielle. Mother and I will just have to get along while we are here. Ill work it out. Dont worry. Just promise me youll stay out of it," she said firmly.
The bard gave her friend an innocent look. "Me?" she asked.
Xena twisted her lips as she looked at her friends face, "Uh huh."
Gabrielle placed a gentle hand on her friends arm knowing this would not be easy for her.
"Hey the skies are gonna open up any minute. Lets get inside," Xena said, forgetting the bard never actually made a promise.
Xena entered the tavern followed by the bard. The warrior motioned for the bard to check on the child and she quickly moved passed Cyrene.
"Mother the animals are secure in the stable," she said stiffly.
Cyrene nodded her thanks, "Good now lets talk."
Cyrene started to say something, but the warrior held up a hand halting her. "Please Me first. Mother for a dinar I would leave here in the morning rather than have Tarren stuck in the middle of this. However my daughter seems to feel this is somehow her fault, and I wont have her leaving here feeling that way, so you and I are just gonna have to put our differences aside for her sake," she said quickly.
The older womans face went blank when her daughter said she wanted to leave. She had never wanted to drive her away. She only wanted her home, but she did not know how to tell her that without fighting. Cyrene was a proud woman and weakness was not an option.
"Xena...I never meant...Im sorry," was all she could say.
Her mothers sudden softness and emotion confused the warrior. "Mother... I dont wish to fight with you...I know you dont approve of me but...." she began. A loud clap of thunder above quickly halted her words.
The warrior was about to continue ignoring the startling weather when the bard came skidding in. "Xena you better come. Shes under the bed crying, and I cant get her to come out," the bard said quickly.
Xena took a deep breath as her face filled with a deep concern. Tarren was terrified by the sound of thunder. Xena thought it must be somehow connected to an entry in Nalas diary about how the child was lost in a thunderstorm at the tender age of three.
Gabrielle stopped Cyrene from following. "Wait! They need to be alone and I have something to say," she hissed.
Chapter 5 Voices of the Past
The older woman stared down at Gabrielle who she considered a second daughter.
"I was raised to respect my elders, and I try. However Xena is my best friend and the way you are treating her is wrong," the young woman said sternly.
Cyrene started to protest and the young bard silenced her with a scowl, "Look I dont want to interfere between you and Xena, but I think there are a few things you should know. First of all we dont live like savages. Yes we live under the stars and sometimes its hard, but mostly its a beautiful thing. We travel around and we help people. Xena has given her life over to serving the greater good. She has given her heart and soul over to raising that child. How dare you condemn her for choosing to raise her in a world she feels most suitable...in a life you know nothing about. People admire your daughter...I admire her...little Tarren worships her, but Xena came here because she wanted to see you, her mother. The last few months have been really hard on her. She nearly lost Tarren in a cave-in. I saw the pain in her eyes as she dug through stone with her bare hands fighting to get to that little girl. You will never know how much that child means to her...to both of us. But you should know that she came home because she needed your love, your support, and the understanding of her own mother. You passed judgment on her the minute she walked in the door," the bard scolded, trembling at the way she was addressing her best friends mother.
Cyrenes face went cold, "Now you listen to me young lady..."
Gabrielles eyes were welling with tears forced out by the pent up emotion she was feeling. "No you listen Cyrene, better yet come with me," she said, taking the womans arm and gently leading her to the room Xena shared with her daughter. "Do you know why Xena and Tarren are sharing a room?" the bard asked.
The older woman shrugged. "Xena said that she didnt feel it was necessary to take up three rooms," Cyrene said quickly.
Gabrielle shook her head. "No its because Tarren doesnt like to be that far from her mother. She gets scared at night. Xena always keeps her very close," the bard said, slightly opening the door so Cyrene could get a glimpse of her daughters private world.
Xena looked under the bed and saw a shivering little form wrapped in blankets sobbing.
The warrior mother smiled. "Hey Tarren would you please come out from under there?" she asked softly.
There was another loud clap of thunder and the youngster just froze in place staring at her mother. Xena sighed, "Come on honey. Give me your hand. I wont let anything happen to you. You trust me dont you?" The large muscular figure reached her hand under the bed hoping the child would take it.
Tarrens tears continued but she stretched out a small shaking hand to Xena, who slowly pulled the trembling child and a mass of blankets into her arms.
"Hey now. Whats all this hiding under the bed?" she asked cradling the youngster.
The child held tightly to her mother as the thunder continued to roll over. " Make it stop Momma!" she cried, burying her head in the warriors side.
Xena shook her head. "Im sorry little one, but I cant do that. Besides the thunder cant hurt us in here. Its just a loud sound. Im right here with you, and I promise you nothing is going to hurt you," she whispered, rocking the youngster in her arms.
"Its too loud. I want it to stop," the little girl cried trying to cover her ears.
Xena looked into the teary eyes of her daughter and could feel her pain. "Hey listen thunder is just old Zeuss way of letting off a little steam. Its his way of letting us know that hes gonna give us the gift of water from the sky. Its sort of like my battle cry....Its his way of letting everyone know whats coming. Now theres nothing wrong with that is there? I mean you wouldnt want me to stop using my battle cry would ya?" she asked wiping the childs tears away.
The youngster shook her head. "No Momma then nobody know it was you coming," she sniffled.
Xena smiled at her daughter, "Well then what do you say we let Zeus have his fun and make all the noise he wants tonight?"
The child let her head fall on her mothers shoulder feeling protected from the thunder and the world around her. "Ok but you gotta stay here with me," she said taking the warriors hand.
"Now where else would I go?" the warrior asked simply, leaning back on the large pallet, pulling Tarren right beside her and humming a soft soothing tune while she stroked her daughters back.
The bard quietly closed the door allowing the moment to become private once again.
"You see Cyrene, Xena is a great mother. She may not be kind of mother you were or the kind of mother I had, but shes wonderful mother to Tarren. That little girl loves her and respects her. She may not raise her in the conventional way, but shes teaching her to have respect for everyone and everything around her. Shes showing her all the beauty and yes the bad in the world, and shes teaching her what it means to really be loved unconditionally. Ya know Cyrene I wish my mother had been more like Xena. Tell me could you do any better that?" the bard asked slowly walking back to her own room, wondering if she had just made a huge mistake.
Cyrene leaned her head on the wall just outside her daughters room door and ran her hands over the wood. She could hear Xena humming and soon the childs tears were replaced with a playful giggling. The warriors mother leaned against the door feeling the tears fall from her eyes for the mother she knew she was never able to be.
The following morning Tarren walked into the kitchen where Cyrene was busy making breakfast. "Good morning Tarren," she said with a smile.
"Good morning" the youngster grumbled. The little girl did not like the way this stranger was making her mother sad and she intended on make her feelings known.
"Would you like some breakfast little one?" the grandmother asked, offering the child a biscuit.
The little girl stared at the food and shook her head not wanting to accept anything from this intruder. The older womans face went blank as she lowered her hand turning away from the child.
Xena entered the kitchen and gently kissed her mother on the forehead. "Good morning mother," she said obediently. Cyrene nodded and tried to smile.
The warrior dismissed her mothers obvious displeasure and turned her attentions towards her own child. "So brat are you ready for a day filled with seeing my old stomping grounds?" she asked, tasseling the youngster's head.
The child glared at Cyrene. "I dunno is SHE coming?" the child asked pointing to her grandmother.
The warriors face turned hard quickly. "What was that you said young lady?" she demanded to know.
Tarren glanced at he angry face of her mother. "I dont wanna to go if shes coming," the child repeated, keeping a steady glare on Cyrene.
Xena bent down and faced her daughter. "Young lady you had better apologize to your grandmother right now for being so rude and disrespectful." she ordered.
Cyrene quickly interceded. "Xena its all right. She has a right to feel that way," she said quietly wiping her hands on her apron.
The warrior shook her head. "No mother it is far from all right. She has no right to speak to you that way and I wont have it. Tarren I am waiting to hear that apology NOW!" she yelled, her voice raising with parental authority.
The youngster curled her lips and locked her arms against her chest tightly saying nothing.
Xena sighed and took a step back. "Mother I apologize for her behavior," she said looking at her mother with sincere regret. She then turned her attention back to her daughter. "You little girl are going straight back to your room and wait for me," she said sternly pointing the way.
Tarren bit her lip and started moving slowly towards the door.
"I think if I were you Id move a little faster young lady," Xena said, letting the child see the anger in her eyes.
Tarren saw the look and quickly sprinted back to the room.
Xena let out a long breath as she watched the child go. "I really am sorry Mom. I will talk to her. Shell apologize," the warrior vowed. Before Cyrene could say another word Xena disappeared out the door.
Gabrielle entered the kitchen with a yawn. "Good morning," she said, hoping the older woman was not angry with her for her ranting the night before. "Cyrene Im sorry about last night...I shouldnt have said anything," the bard said touching the older womans arm.
Cyrene shook her head. "No child, you did me a favor. I never realized how much I really did judge Xena, but the truth is dear I love her so much...I miss her so much...I just want her to be close," she said wiping a tear.
The bards face went blank and she hugged the older woman, "Why dont you just tell her how you feel? She would love to hear that. She needs you Cyrene, more now than ever."
"I will talk with her when the time is right dear. Now is not the time. Ive caused enough trouble as it is," Cyrene said wringing her hands together nervously.
The bard cocked her head in confusion. "What are you talking about? Xena loves you," she said placing a hand on the older womans shoulder.
"Yes but the little one hates me. She as much as said so a few minutes ago, and Xena got angry with her. Now the young one is being punished because of me," Cyrene said slowly, feeling the weight of the guilt on her shoulders.
The bard threw her hand over her head in frustration. "Where was this all gonna end," she thought. "Cyrene whatever lesson Xena chooses to teach Tarren is one she needs to learn. Its not your fault. Shes a little kid and a bit of a spoiled brat at times. Xena wills straighten her out fast youll see." Gabrielle slumped into a nearby chair hoping she was right.
The warrior entered the room and grimly noticed the small figure lying on the large pallet sulking. "Well what should I do with you?" she scolded, staring at the youngster, "I know you know better than to speak to anyone like that, none the less my mother," she warned.
Tarren child looked at her mother. "She makes you unhappy. I dont like her anymore," she said quietly, as she stared at the tips of her boots.
Xena shook her anger off realizing that all of this was still as a result of the previous night. "Tarren what happens between me and my mother is as private as what goes on between you and I. You will treat her with respect and you must apologize to her," she said evenly, sitting on the bed beside her daughter.
The child shook her head stubbornly. "No!" she yelled, testing the warriors resolve.
Xena took a deep breath and slowly exhaled trying to find an inner calm. "Ok Tarren, Im gonna give you a choice. You will apologize to my mother and really mean it, or I will put you over my knee right here and right now and then, oh then, you will apologize. Its up to you," the warrior mother said in a husky voice, folding her arms tightly against her armored chest sure the little girl would show wisdom.
Tarren shook her head holding tightly to her anger and her stubborn Xena like pride.
"No I wont do it and you cant make me," she said stiffly, finding it hard to believe that her mother would actually punish her for refusing to bow to an enemy.
Xena shook her head in disappointment at her childs choice. "Why did it always have to be the hard way? Why couldnt Tarren just once make the situation easier for both of them?" Xena thought as she reluctantly reached took the child by the arm. The warrior let out a deep breath not sure which frustrated her more the youngsters failure to apologize or her blatant disobedience of the warrior mothers command. Things had definitely not turned out the way she had planned.
"Ok we will just see about that little girl," she said with a scowl. Then without hesitation she began an all too familiar ritual of landing her large muscular hand against the childs small tender bottom. "You tell me when you are ready to apologize little one, and Ill let you know when Im finished," she said allowing the reluctant cadence to continue. It was not long before Tarren realized that her mothers resolve was definitely greater than her own ability to tolerate the warriors hand. She had tried to out bluff the Warrior Princess and lost.
"Ok Momma Ill apologize. Ill apologize," she whined, through her steady flow of tears.
Xena lifted the youngster off her lap, placing the chastened child in front of her, staring sadly into the wide blue eyes of this little girl who had her heart. The warrior mother wiped the youngsters tears away with the side of her hand not sure who was hurting more at that moment. She took a quick breath and stood grabbing Tarrens hand. "Good and you better say it real nice about it," she gently scolded, taking the youngster back towards the kitchen.
Tarren sniffled as she stared up at her stoic mothers face. All the child had wanted was to get rid of the person who was hurting Xena. She hadnt meant to disrespect her own mother and get into so much trouble. Things were definitely not going the way she had planned.
The bard frowned when she caught sight of the teary eyed Tarren and the still tense Xena entering the kitchen. The warrior quickly placed her sulking daughter in front of her.
"Tarren has something to say to you Mother. Right?" she asked glancing down at the small form.
The youngster wiped her eyes with her sleeve and bit her lip. "Im sorry I was rude to you. I shouldnt have said what I said. Im sorry," she said quietly, staring at the older woman.
Cyrene swallowed hard at the sight of her humbled granddaughter. "Its all right little one. We ALL make mistakes and say things we really dont mean. Later we wish we could take them back and say what was really in our heart, but it can be difficult sometimes," Cyrene whispered, staring at Xena while directed her words to Tarren.
The confused youngster looked up at her equally confused mother for instructions. The warrior broke with her mothers gaze and looked own at her teary child. "Ok young lady you go to you room. I think you need to spend the day in their thinking about the difference between right and wrong," she said sternly, pointing towards the door.
The little girl looked sadly at her mother and then at the sympathetic bard. Slowly she made her way back to her room feeling abandoned and betrayed.
"Really daughter do you need to punish her any further? She looks so hurt and alone as it is," the grandmother said sympathetically.
Xena smiled at her mothers concern. "Mom she needs to learn the difference between right and wrong. A few days on her feet and a few hours in her room are not gonna kill her," she said quietly.
"A few days on her feet...more like a few weeks," the bard murmured, remembering how long the child used the warriors bedroll to sit at meals after Xenas previous paddling.
Xena stared at her young friend. "Gabrielle!" she said in a warning tone.
The bard threw her arms up in surrender. "Did I say that out loud...sorry...Ya know I sort of mouthed off to your mother myself last night, so I dont really deserve to go out either. Why dont you and your mother go out for a nice walk and chat, and Ill just stay here and relax. Ill keep an eye on Tarren, maybe read a good scroll," the bard said trying to quietly slip past her large friend.
The warrior grinned and grabbed the young woman quickly by the arm. "And just what did YOU say to my mother dear bard?" she asked, smiling at the young woman squirming to break free of her tight warriors grasp.
"Oh this and that," Gabrielle said with a weak smile, "But I already apologized so you dont have to ask me to Xena."
Cyrene placed a gentle hand on her daughters arm. "Xena let her go. She was trying to help," she said softly.
The warrior looked at her mother and then the bard and released her friend. "Fine if you are gonna act like a disobedient child then you should be treated like one. I asked you to stay out of this, but you didnt listen, so you can spend the day in the room with Tarren, Gabrielle," Xena scolded, pointing towards the rooms.
"Xena I am a grown woman. You cant ground me," the bard said with a fast smile, waving a warning finger at the warrior.
The warrior folded her arms in front of her and grinned. "I think I just did, so unless you need some help finding your way there, I suggest you go to your room," she ordered.
The bards jaw dropped. "Xena! You cant..." she said in disbelief.
The look in the warriors eyes said that she was definitely serious and that Gabrielle had better vacate the room quickly. "Ok fine have it your way, but you better learn how to cook while your hear. It will be a cool day in Tartarus before I make you another meal," the young woman growled as she headed for the door.
Xena merely smiled and gave a quick wave to her friend, "Uh huh," she said, hoping the bard would not follow through on that threat.
"Well mother it looks like its just you and me," she said running her fingers nervously across the counter.
Cyrene smiled and patted her daughters cheek. "Dont be so hard on them. They are only doing what they do because they love you so much. Tarren was trying to stand up for you, and that Gabrielle has turned into quite a young lady. She has a lot more wisdom than you give her credit for," Cyrene said, taking her daughters arm, and leading her out into the streets of Amphipolis.
"Oh no mother thats where youre wrong. I never underestimate the bard," the warrior said with a smirk, thinking of the look of indignation on Gabrielles face after being confined to the Inn, "I am sorry if she interfered. She leads with her heart, but she means well. Sometimes she just needs to be reminded that even SHE does not have all the answers."
Cyrene nodded, "Yes she has a pure heart Xena. She is a good friend to both you and my granddaughter. You do realize she wanted us to have a chance to talk. That is why she confessed," the older woman said with a chuckle.
The warrior sighed at her silly friends dramatic attempt to arrange for this private time between she and her mother. "Yes mother I know. Im not angry with her. I really just wanted to spend some time with you, and at the same time teach Gabrielle a lesson about keeping promises. Besides she wanted to stay with Tarren. She is my daughters greatest source of comfort at times like this," she said quietly.
Cyrene placed a loving arm on her daughters shoulder. "I am sorry Xena. If I had not been so pig headed and foolish these last few days none of this would have happened," she replied lowering her eyes a bit as they walked.
Xena felt a rush of relief over her mothers apology. She had hoped they could reach some sort of common ground and maybe now they could. "Well mother I could have been a bit more understanding too, but Tarren still needs to learn the meaning of respect. Besides I was far from thrilled with the way she blatantly disobeyed me when I asked her to apologize. That little girl tends to get a bit big for her breeches now and again and needs a little reminder as to just who is in charge. Look Mother, I know why she did what she did, but you know that doesnt make it right. I gave her a choice and the little monster made the wrong one. That is not your fault," she said gently patting her mothers hand.
Cyrene smiled knowingly at her daughter, "Well I guess I would have done the same thing if I had been you. Im just grateful those days are gone for me. Punishing you always broke my heart in half Xena."
The warrior lowered her eyes at the memory of the look of sadness eyes in little Tarrens eyes as Xena had lifted her from her lap. "Yes mother I know exactly what you mean," the warrior said with a sullen stare.
The two women smiled at each other and allowed the moment to be silent for a while as they walked slowly through their home village. "Its still beautiful hear. I love coming home," Xena said as the gentle wind whipped through he hair.
"I wish you would stay Xena, but if you cant do that I do hope you will come much more often. I miss you so much and I worry when you are not here," she said with a soft smile. The warriors heart sank as the strong woman she had known as a child let down her shields to show her true feelings.
Xena was about to answer when a strange dark figure came forward blocking the womens path. Xenas eyes went cold and her muscles stiff and she quickly drew her sword.
"Metilius!" she seethed, staring at a face she had not seen in a dozen summers and hoped she would never see again. He had been the father of her best friend Terius of her youth. The young woman had joined Xena and her brother in their battle to free Amphipolis from Cortez. When the village had been attacked Terius stood with a sword in her hand ready to fight while her father had run for safety. The young woman had been left when a soldier had caught her with his blade. She lay there bleeding to death while the cowardly Metilius watched from the safety of the hills.
The older man was large, his eyes wild and crazed with a plague of unresolved hatred.
He stood before Xena and Cyrene wearing only a moth eaten robe. His hair was long and unkempt, and his face weather beaten and unshaven. At his side was an old but well sharpened sword that he carefully caressed as he stared at the Warrior Princess.
"I thought you left this village yeas ago," the warrior growled, tightening her grip on her sword as she felt the dark memories of the past coming alive.
Cyrene gently pulled her daughter back, and the stranger smiled wickedly.
Metilius smiled and studied the warrior and her mother for a moment before he spoke.
"Cyrene, and of course the mighty Warrior Princess, Xena. Yes, I left but I was never so far that I could not see...could not watch and wait for your return," he answered with a dramatic an unbalanced wave of his hands.
Xenas expression turned to one of disgust and disdain for the figure that stood before her. "Well Im here so what do you want?" she asked stiffly.
"What could I possibly want from the one responsible for the death of my daughter...blood...your blood Xena," he laughed, dancing in a circle.
The warrior waved her blade in the air. "Well then if you think you can take it...come get it," she purred, pushing her mother out of harms way.
The crazed man licked his lips eager to taste Xenas blood, but he hesitated. This was too quick. There would be no suffering. "No Xena, not so easy...My daughter did not know when she would die. She suffered and youll suffer too just like she did...just like I have for more than 12 summers," he groaned, glaring into the warriors icy blue eyes
"I didnt kill your daughter Metilius, Cortezs men did," she answered, waiting for the man to pull his sword.
His eyes went wild and he covered his ears as if to keep the pain from escaping.
"No you brought the fight to our village. We stood because we were fools that followed you like sheep to a slaughter," he hissed at the warrior.
"Your daughter died like my brother did, fighting for something she believed in. She was a brave woman and my best friend. You would have know that had you been man enough to stand beside her rather than running when she was attacked," the warrior said, trying in vein to control the anger at the memory of her fallen friend. "Now either draw your sword or shut your mouth," she ordered.
The man reached for his blade but Cyrene jumped quickly between them before a blade could take flight. "No! No more...Metilius many good people died on that day including my son. It was not Xenas fault. She saved our village. Those that died did not die in vein. It took me many years to realize that. Let the hatred stop," she pleaded.
Xena stared at her mother taking in each supportive word she spoke as a breath of new strength.
The old mans face went blank for a moment as he stared at Cyrene. "Woman you and I were once friends and for that I walk away now. However Xena we will meet again and you will know the pain of the loss I have felt before you die at my hand," he warned, stepping back and with a crazed laugh. Metilius then dashed quickly into the crowd lost from sight.
Xena frowned and sheathed her sword. "Mother you could have be killed doing that," she scolded.
Cyrene looked into her daughters eyes noting the depth of her concern. "So could you daughter. Hes a madman. He has become lost so deep in his guilt and hatred that he will never find his way back. A man like that has no fear because he has nothing to lose. He is not afraid to die. I believe he welcomes death," she whispered grabbing her childs arm. "Promise me you will stay away from him Xena," she begged.
The warrior looked into the gentle face of the woman who had raised her, who loved her and frowned. "Ill try Mother, but if he comes after me again then you must let me deal with him. I wont be looking over my shoulder for the likes of that coward," she replied with disgust at the harsh memory of her friend falling as her father ran for the hills.
Xena had arrived in time to fight Cortezs men off, but Terius was too badly wounded to survive. She died in the warriors arms with one word on her lips, "Freedom!"
Cyrene nodded. "Very well daughter, but its best to leave the past where it belongs...in the past," she said slowly. The older woman took a deep breath and forced a smile, grabbing her daughters arm again. "Come, let us not let that old fool ruin our day of rest. Walk with me daughter. Tell me of the life you live and the pain you have endured. I wish to share these things with you as best I can," she said.
Xenas gaze softened and she walked quietly with her mother telling of her greatest horrors and her greatest hopes, but her thoughts were still of the dark figure from her past that she knew would one day return.
Tarren lay on her bed crying into her pillow. Gabrielle entered and slowly lowered herself beside the child. "Tarren, come on stop crying," she whispered, but the youngster merely burrowed deeper into her blankets. "I cant talk to you if you wont even look at me," the bard said softly patting the youngsters back.
The child turned slowly and Gabrielle could see how hard shed been crying. "Shh tell me what happened," the bard whispered, placing a gentle arm around the youngsters shoulder.
Tarren sniffled, playfully pulling at the young womans hair. "I told Cyrene I didnt want her to come with us today, and I got in trouble cause I didnt want to apologize," she cried.
The bard shook her head and lay down next to the little girl, "Well I warned you to stay out of it kid. Well I guess your pretty mad at everyone...especially Xena huh?"
The youngster quickly nodded. "She punished me cause she loves Cyrene more than me," she moaned leaning on her side to face the wall.
The bard shook her head in disbelief. "Tarren that is not true and you know it," she scolded.
The child said nothing but merely lay back on the bed feeling the truth throbbing beneath her.
"Tarren let me ask you a question. Why didnt you want Cyrene to come today?" the young asked.
The little girl folded her arms across her chest. "Cause she makes Momma unhappy and that ruins everything," the child said quickly.
The bard nodded. "Well why do you care if Xenas unhappy?" she asked poking the girl gently.
Tarren looked at her friend oddly. "Cause shes Xena...shes my friend and MY mom," she answered, not sure why Gabrielle was asking silly questions.
The bard nodded again. "Well that makes perfect sense to me accept for one thing. Did it ever occur to you that Xena might get just as upset when she saw that HER Mom was unhappy?" the young woman asked, patting the childs arm.
Tarren thought about the comparison and shook her head. "No Gabby...I guess not," she replied quietly.
"Why not? Dont you think that Xena could love her mother as much as you love yours?" the bard asked hoping to make her point clear.
The confused youngster settled quietly into her friends arms, "But Gabby, Cyrene has been mean to Momma. Why would she care about how Cyrene feels?" the little girl asked, pondering the question on her own as well.
The young woman smiled as she stroked the child head. "Well Tarren when you misbehave Xena gets angry with you, but it doesnt change the way she feels about you. I mean she still holds you when you cry right?" she asked.
The child nodded. "Yeah thats when Momma sings to me. I like that," she said with a quick smile.
"Youre angry with her right now, but you still love her right?" the bard asked softly.
The child paused for a moment. "Yeah I guess," she said with a sniffle.
Gabrielle tickled the youngster hoping for a more accurate answer, "You guess huh?"
"Ok I do...I do... I still love Momma...stop!" she laughed in a pleading tone.
"Then why cant Xena and Cyrene be angry at each other, but still love each other enough to care about each others feelings?" the young woman asked, knowing she was making headway.
The youngster shrugged feeling like she had been backed into a tight corner. This was her time for sympathy and attention and all they were talking about was Cyrene and Xena.
The bard smiled realizing the little girl was lost in the logic. She shook her head and squeezed the youngster tightly. "Some day youll understand Tarren. Right now lets stick with the basics. You were disrespectful to Cyrene and you got in trouble for it. Plain and simple," she said sternly. "Right?" she asked eyeing the fidgeting child.
The youngster frowned and nodded.
"Good now we understand each other...cause Xena and Cyrene went for a walk and are hopefully having a nice mother daughter chat, and when they get back I want you to apologize to Xena so we can get back to acting like a family should. Ok?" she asked rubbing the childs head affectionately.
Tarren rubbed her bottom gingerly and gave the bard her best pout. " No I wont. Momma didnt have to spank me," she mumbled.
The bard leaned in close to the childs ear. "I think you forget who you re talking to Tarren. I know you, and I know Xena. Id say that if she did it then its because you left her no choice...Hmm?" she questioned, turning the little girls face around to look at her.
The child frowned remembering the option her mother had given her and the choice she had mistakenly made. "Well she didnt have to hit so hard. Gabby Im never gonna learn to ride a horse like Momma at this rate," she whined.
The bard chuckled a bit at the childs constant desire to duplicate Xenas actions. "Now Tarren you wouldnt want Xena Warrior Princess to get a reputation for doing things half heartedly. Would you?" she asked, running her fingers along the youngsters side.
The child frowned and looked at her friends gentle eyes. "I could have lived with it this once," she said with a slight grin and a sniffle. The little girls thoughts were quickly interrupted by the bards extended stay inside on such a beautiful day.
"Hey Gabby what are you doing here? Why didnt you go with Momma and Cyrene," she asked as the bard rubbed the childs back.
Gabrielle fidgeted a bit trying to come up with an honest yet dignified answer. It was impossible. "Err well I thought they needed to spend some time alone. Besides I think Im sort of... grounded," she said with a chuckle.
Tarren looked at her friend with a strange stare. "But Gabby youre a grown-up. Grown-ups dont get grounded," she said, with a look of youthful awe.
The bard smiled. "Hmm, tell that to your mother," she said with a smirk.
The child could not help but laugh, and Gabrielle was happy that even her humiliation had ended the childs tears. "Hey Gabby what did you do to get in that much trouble with Momma?" she asked playfully teasing the bard.
Gabrielle wrapped her arms around the youngster and smiled. "Well lets just say youre not the only one, who has a big mouth around here," she answered.
Tarren dried her tears and smiled at her gentle companion. She reveled in the warmth and company of her friend. "Hey Gabby do ya think that Cyrene would punish Momma if she talked back to her," she asked, wondering just how old or big one had to be to be released from a mothers rule.
The bard laughed wildly as she tried to get the image in her mind. "Hmm that is a very interesting question youngster...a very interesting question indeed," she said with a smirk
Soon the two wayward inmates settled back for a long day of solitary confinement.
Metilius watched from behind the large oak tree as Cyrene and Xena laughed in each others arms. The two women looked so happy and full of life that the dark figure felt a rush of anger and hatred just at the sight of their happiness. "Laugh now Warrior. Soon you will only have tears and then only pain and death," he murmured, letting the whites of his clenched teeth show through his smile.
Cyrene and Xena entered the tavern laughing. It was late and the pair actually had felt a bit guilty leaving Gabrielle and Tarren alone all day. They opened the door to Xenas room and found just what the warrior expected. The bard was sprawled out on the large pallet with Tarren tucked neatly at her side. The floor was scattered with scrolls, the bards staff, Tarrens chucks, two well-used pillows, a few plates of sweet food, and the warriors whip.
"The poor dears. Xena we should have come back sooner," Cyrene said, wearily looking down at the exhausted partners in crime.
The warrior shook her head and picked her whip up off he floor and frowned. She quickly surveyed the debris. "Mother Gabrielle spent the day reading Tarren stories and playing games with the little monster. This was not a punishment. It was a carnival," the warrior said waving her hand across the room. Xena pointed to the staff and chucks. "Lets see they were using these and then they had a pillow fight...oh and look they were jumping rope with my whip...yes mother they suffered terribly," the warrior said with a husky chuckle.
Cyrene laughed at her daughters assessment of the evidence. "Maybe you would have enjoyed it more here dear," she said slowly.
Xena patted her mothers hand and smiled, "No I can toss them around every day. Its not often I get to spend a day with you. It meant a lot to me."
"And to me as well daughter...lets do it again soon," the grandmother replied.
The warrior nodded. "Id like that," she whispered kissing her mothers cheek. "Now lets get these two on their feet. If Gabrielle is gonna tell stories in the Inn tonight youre gonna have to get her up. Ill take care of Tarren," Xena said with a deep breath, staring down at the small figure wrapped tightly in the bards arms.
Cyrene nodded and quickly pulled the young woman to her feet.
"And then the giant Cyclops came..." the weary bard said, still half asleep.
"Yes dear" the grandmother chuckled leading the bard to the kitchen for some strong tea.
Xena sat on the edge of the bed and stared into the face of her sleeping daughter. The little girl looked so innocent lying there. She looked so small that the great warrior had to swallow hard at the still fresh memory of the spanking she had dutiful administered to the stubborn little imp. "Well you got me again little one," she whispered gently wiping the childs hair from her face.
Tarrens eyes flickered open and the child rubbed them with the balls of her fists. The child opened her eyes wide and stared up at her mother.
"Well?" the warrior asked quietly.
Tarren looked up at her mother not quite sure what to say, "Well what Momma?"
"Well what have you learned today?" Xena asked, leaning in closer to the child.
Tarren thought about the question and everything Gabrielle had said to her earlier. The child wanted her answer to be as accurate as possible, so she was giving it a lot of thought. "Well... I...guess you love your mom no matter what...sort of like I love mine no matter what," the youngster whispered, fiddling with the warriors wrist cuff nervously.
Xena considered the cryptic way the words were put together and knew the bards handy work was there. She couldnt help but smile. "Thats right Tarren... I love you no matter what. Thats part of what being a Mom is about," she said gently lifting the sleepy child into her arms.
The child quickly embraced her long absent mother with a quick yawn. "Im sorry Momma. I just didnt want her to hurt you anymore," she said grabbing onto the warrior mothers neck for support.
Xena rubbed the childs back and twisted her lips. "I know Tarren and I appreciate your concern...really I do...BUT there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. And what you did today was wrong. You should have come to me and told me how you felt and maybe I could have straightened you out on a few things before you got yourself in trouble. Things can be very complicated between parents and children," Xena said with a long drawn out sigh.
Tarren dramatically rubbed her bottom once again. "Hmm doesnt seem too complicated for you," she whined.
The warrior mother grinned and kissed her daughters forehead. "Well it may not always be so simple, but I hope you and I will always be able to talk to each other like we do now," Xena said squeezing the youngster in her arms.
The child nodded. "Of course Momma...Youre my best friend, and youre my Mom," she said hugging the warrior.
Xena smiled at the words and for the first time, felt sure she was taking her daughter down the right path. "Good! Little one...Cause You are much than just my best friend," she said quietly. She stood picking the youngster up with her. "Im sorry I was gone so long. Did ya miss me or are you still mad at me?" she asked.
"Well I missed ya, but Im still real mad at you ya know...But...dont go away again for so long Ok," the little girl answered with a quick grin.
Xena nodded, "Ok Princess next time you get in trouble, Ill stay with ya. Ok?"
Tarren started to smile but then quickly frowned at the thought of a next time.
The warrior laughed and tossed her daughter in the air holding her in place. "Now then little girl tell me which one of you had the very bad idea of using my whip as a jump rope?" she asked the dangling child.
Tarren giggled wildly as her mother tossed her in the air. "Uhhh well...do I have to tell?" she asked not wanting to tell on anyone, especially herself.
The warrior grinned. "No you dont have to tell. Besides I already know," she said tickling the youngster into a giggle and bringing her back down to her chest for a long loving hug.
Xena entered the bards room slowly. The young woman was busy changing for a night of story telling. Gabrielle acknowledged the warriors presence with a stiff nod.
"Have a nice day with your mother I hope?" she asked with a quick but slow smile.
The warrior nodded sitting on the bed feeling a bit of guilt for her earlier desertion.
"Mother told me what you said last night...I guess I should thank you for ...interfering," she said softly.
The bard turned and gave a mock smile to the warrior. "Oh it was nothing and you need not thank me for warrior. Sending me to my room for the day like I was Tarren was thanks enough," she chided.
Gabrielle was not gonna make this easy and Xena knew it.
"Look Gabrielle Im sorry, but you were out of line with what you did. You told me you would not involve yourself between me and my mother, and then you did," the warrior scolded trying to find a loophole to crawl through.
The bard held her chin high in the air as she walked past her large friend. "I never promised any such thing. Besides if I left it up to you two to talk things out then wed all be praying to the Gods for mercy," she said with a snicker.
Xena stood trying to maintain her stoic poise. "Look I just wanted to apologize and tell ya that I really appreciate you staying with Tarren the way you did," she said quickly.
The young bard raised her hand in the air. "Hey I love Tarren. I didnt mind staying with her, but then again I didnt have much choice ...I believe I was grounded by a certain Warrior Princess," she said shaking her finger in the air, as if trying to remember just who that person was.
Xena frowned at her young friends inability to accept her apology. "Look Gabrielle..." she said quickly, but the bard stopped her with a dark stare. "Oh dont tell me Ive made you angry Xena. Please...no dont tell me...Im being sent to bed without supper...No wait I know, youre gonna spank me," the young amazon queen said, throwing her arms in the air with mock fear.
The warrior cleared her throat and stood overshadowing her young friend. "Maybe I will if you keep this up," Xena said with an evil smile.
Gabrielle looked into her large friends eyes and noted that there was a serious threat behind the smile. "Apology accepted," she said quickly, deciding the fun was now over.
Xena nodded, "Uh huh...thats what I thought. Now hurry up and get dressed. Mother needs help in the kitchen and were it," she said stiffly, heading out the door. Before Xena left she turned to address the bard unable to let an opportunity pass. "Oh and Gabrielle?" she said
The bad turned to answer, "Hmm?"
"Your punishment is over...you can come out of your room now," Xena said with a chuckle and a broad smile.
"Thanks a lot ...you great big warrior..." she murmured under her breath, but then smiled to herself knowing her friend had found peace with her mother
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