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(c) copyright 1997 by WordWarior@aol.com
There was a time, when I was younger, that I chose my words carefully. I was spare and selfish with their use. I spoke through action; letting my deeds be my message. Now, as my battered body fails me more each day, I've found my voice at last.
I guess I have Gabrielle to thank for that. She was my student and my teacher; my friend and my lover; my life; my hope; my dreams. I never expected to outlive her. In fact, I was sure that I would die in my prime at the end of a blade. So strange to see myself age. So strange to watch my hair whiten, my muscles weaken and my skin map a lifetime of smiles and frowns.
My memory has remained sharp, however. Sometimes I think it's because my body won't let me forget a single injustice it has endured. Scars litter the parchment of my flesh, joints ache from remembered wounds, and my eyes see the battles of my past clearer than objects only a few feet away. I live in a blurred haze now. In a way, it's a pretty life. Nothing too sharp or focused. Everything is without edges; soft and indistinct.
My granddaughter, Melira, takes care of me. Solon's child is young and beautiful and full of righteous outrage whenever she hears of injustice. Don't know where she found these traits. But happily, she doesn't show me her anger. With me she is kindness itself. Her patience amazes me; especially rare in one so young. She'll sit and tell me stories, or sing in her strong, clear soprano. She cleans up after me, feeds me tempting dishes, and is content just to listen when I'm in the mood for remembering.
My granddaughter spurs my heart to continue beating; makes my smile a frequent visitor and fills my life with enough joy to welcome each new day. I am surely the most blessed woman alive.
Melira has just left to go picnicking with her young man. He's a quiet soul, with wise eyes and handsome features. It's good that she has someone her age to be with. Can't be very much fun for her to hang around a crusty old warrior like me.
I miss her when she's not here in the house; when I can't hear her voice or her sunny laughter. In many ways, she reminds me of Gabrielle. Melira is pure of heart, as was my companion of long ago. And like Gabrielle, my granddaughter is a being of light. She practically glows with it. How fortunate I am to have had two such women in my life.
I had a visitor this morning. A stranger from the north, wanting to meet the 'legendary' Warrior Princess. Said she had walked for a moon to get here. Rains held her back part of the way and I could tell she had feared that by the time she arrived I would have finally expired. People are always surprised to see that I am not frail and breathing my last. Strength, it seems, was my birthright.
The stranger gazed at me with bright eyes, hanging on my every remembrance. Treating me as though I was more goddess than woman. It used to bother me when the young ones revered me in this manner. But I've since resigned myself to it. Age coupled with fame is enough, it seems. I allow them to worship at my altar as long as they concentrate on my deeds and not my person. And as long as they honor the good and not the evil that I've done. Sometimes it's tales of my warlord days that they crave. This I will not indulge. That Xena wasn't someone who should be venerated. It took dozens of winters to erase her shadow and I will not resurrect her now. That is my right here in my twilight.
I have the most fun when it is tales of Gabrielle that they request. This is a subject about which I can speak for endless suns. The irony is not lost on me. It should be her sitting in this chair, regaling the young of exploits past. It should be the great bard who tells the stories, not her taciturn warrior. Took me a long time to reconcile the injustice of it in my mind. But I have. For when I speak, I hear her voice, imitate her phrasing and cadence and make her live again. Happily, her scrolls have survived. And in that expansive sea of quilled words on parchment, her voice lives on. That is her legacy.
This morning Melira broke the news. Her young man's father has died and he must return home to work the family farm. He asked her to accompany him as his wife. She turned him down because of me. She didn't want to leave me unattended. I told her she was a fool to throw away happiness, for I know that she loves him completely.
Looking at my granddaughter, I am reminded what it was like to be young. I never had the drive to be married and settled, but I know what it was to love. So I changed my tactics, for bullying only brings out her stubbornness, and I told her the legend of the soulmates. She had tears in her eyes, knowing it was her story and his. In a quiet voice, she agreed that her heart would break without him. So I gave her my blessing, my reassurances and a kiss on her fair cheek.
When she ran off to tell him, my hazy eyes filled with tears as I came to terms with living without her company.
I'll miss her so.
The wedding was a grand affair. People came from all points to attend. Solon's position as a magistrate of Athens demanded that it be a celebration measured with pomp and circumstance. And there we were, my family -- the ancient Warrior Princess, the distinguished Athenian Archon and the exquisite raven-haired bride. We sat on the dais, cutting quite a picture, I suppose. The eyes of the guests followed our every move, hung on our words and honored us with their rapt attention.
Ah, but that wicked part of my soul that has mellowed but never quite disappeared prompted many a cagey and evil thought. I wanted to leap screaming onto the table, my sword in my hand and shout "Take the village!" just to see the reaction. Imagine that! An old lady barely able to carry her decrepit sack of bones, carrying on so! Well, the thought struck me funny, anyway.
I think Solon sensed my atrocious humor humming just beneath the surface. At one point he whispered in my ear, "Mother, whatever you're thinking, I pray you will reconsider. It is Melira's day, not yours." My son has a great mind, a loving heart and a father's pride but he has no sense of humor. So I nodded innocently and pretended not to understand what he could possibly mean, even as I eyed a vine that was perfect for swinging across the gathering, knocking out guests with well-placed kicks.
It's difficult, sometimes, not to remember who I once was.
Melira left today. Packed her things, gave me a soft kiss on my withered cheek and now my house is empty.
How loud the silence is.
The days are blending. I'm lonely without Melira. I'm ready to go now.
The healer told me that there is no cure. I knew as much, but pretended shock so she could feel useful and comforting. Healers do so enjoy it when they can be helpful.
Yet another parade of well-wishers streamed through today. Bestowing their last respects; wishing me safe passage across the River Styx. Not one of them realized how welcome this news had been to me. I'm tired. I'm ready to let go of this aching body and blurry world. I found peace many summers ago and since that time, I've been prepared for the final journey.
I have only one fear. And it is the same fear I've endured since Gabrielle left us so long ago. What if it wasn't enough? What if all the years fighting for atonement haven't earned me my place in the Elysian Fields? Most people, on hearing this, would think I fear the tortures of Tartarus. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am willing to pay whatever price is asked of me. I have no weakness when it comes to owning my past. I was who I was and admit it readily.
No, what turns my strength into trembling dread is the possibility that I won't be spending eternity with Gabrielle. That is a fate even I cower before.
Solon and Melira arrived today. The death vigil has started. I asked for my quill and parchment and received protests. But I am first and always, a warrior. I won this, my final battle, so here I am. Writing my last entry.
Whomsoever shall read this, I hereby state that I, Xena, Warrior Princess, daughter of Cyrene, citizen of Amphipolis, mate of Gabrielle, and mother of Solon the Archon has left this life willingly. My past is a matter of record now. I deny nothing. The balance of pride and regret has been filled and no matter what the results, let it be known that I lived fully. I leave all my earthly possessions to my son, Solon, and to his daughter, Melira; to be divided as they see fit. To future generations, I leave the stories of my deeds.
Mother died this morning. I took leave from the courts of Athens and brought Melira from her husband's farm. We sat in Mother's comfortable cottage and wept silently, so as not to disturb her final moments. Just before the end, she opened her eyes and there was clarity again. Like shards of sapphire, those keen eyes sparkled at both of us and she smiled. There was wicked humor in her grin. How she managed that even as she prepared to leave this realm, I'll never know. Then suddenly, her ancient features were suffused with joy and triumph. She spoke, her voice reverent as she said, "I made it. The Elysian Fields. I'll be with Gabrielle. Rejoice for me."
And then she breathed her last.
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