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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, and ON THE ROAD AGAIN. You really MUST read those 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- well I guess some is implied
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 10 11 12 13 14 Epilogue|
Chapter 1 - Mother in Training
Gabrielle swung her staff in the air, meeting her opponent head on, but the move was swiftly blocked, forcing her to draw back. Panting a bit, she repositioned her grip on her staff. Her stance changed in an instant as she struck out at her opponent, only to have the blow blocked again. This practice session was definitely getting out of hand. The young bard knew now was the time to step up her efforts to finish off the enemy with one good swipe.
Crouching low, she lured the figure before her into a forward lunge. Then, with lightning speed, the bard swept her staff at her opponent's feet, throwing the would-be attacker to the grass with a hefty thud.
"Ouch!" Tarren cried landing on her back.
Gabrielles grin from successfully employing the move, quickly became a sympathetic smile. She offered a helpful hand to the youngster, who gratefully accepted.
"Gabby, I am getting a little tired of winding up on my butt every time we go through this drill of Xenas," she whined rubbing her back to emphasize her pain.
The bard could only grin at the childs predicament having often landed in the same position while sparring with Xena.
It was Xenas wish that Tarren learn defense with the staff. The warrior expected the bard to join in teaching this skill. In fact, often Xena just instructed the pair about which exercise she wanted performed and told them to drill for an hour straight while she went off on her own.
"Well, youre blocking has gotten much better, Tarren," Gabrielle said. "Xena will be very happy to hear that. However, you must learn to stay focused on me - particularly on my eyes -- and not on my staff. If you had done that, you would have caught me crouching before that swipe and anticipated it. Remember, Xena just wants you able to block a blow," she said softly patting the childs shoulder.
Tarren nodded, "Yeah, I know.... Wisdom before weapons and all that," the little girl moaned sarcastically.
The bard shook her head at the childs lack of enthusiasm for those words. "Come on, brat, we still have another half-hour to go. Pick up your staff," Gabrielle ordered, trying to contain her amusement.
Tarren reached down for the long stick that Xena had skillfully carved into a staff. Feeling the weight of the heavy stick in her hands, the little girl groaned, "Ah, come on, Gabby. Lets go swimming."
Gabrielle lowered her staff and sighed, "Tarren, you know what Xena said... an hour of drilling. That means a full hour of drilling. If we quit now, shell be angry.... Besides, you need the practice. You know she doesnt like it when you dont follow through with what you start," the bard warned twirling her staff with an air of expertise.
The childs shoulders slumped in defeat. "Ok...Ok...lets go," she whispered readying her stick for action.
Suddenly, Gabrielle crouched into her fighting stance and swung the staff above Tarrens head. However, this time, instead of deflecting the weapon as instructed, the child moved to one side and swung her staff toward the bards back, knocking her slightly off balance.
Gabrielle quickly steadied herself. "Hey! What was that?" she snapped, waving her hands in frustration. "Xena said just defense. Where are you picking up the attack moves?" she demanded to know.
The child giggled as she circled the woman carefully. " I have many skills," she slowly whispered, letting her best imitation of the warrior fall on the bards ears.
Gabrielle impatiently ground one end of her staff in the dirt. "Look, you are only to use this to defend. That's all! So let's get back to the drill before Xena returns," the bard chided, her concern about the youngsters unwillingness to behave growing.
Tarren gave her friend a slight smile and moved back into position. "OK, I was just trying to have a little fun," she moaned.
The bard again raised her staff to attack. This time the child merely vaulted over her, landing easily behind Gabrielle. With a rapid swipe, she knocked the bards legs from beneath her. Gabrielle fell with a loud thud!
The child giggled fiercely, "Hows the view down there, Gabby?" the youngster said to the angry bard from whom a soft groan of pain escaped. Before the bard could reply, Tarren heard something whistling through the air beneath her.
The youngster turned just as the warriors staff struck her legs, toppling her. "Ouch!" she yelled as her backside collided with the ground beside Gabrielle. Xena stood above her two students, anger filling her dark blue eyes.
"What in Hades is going on here?" she yelled. "I leave you two alone for a little, while and your lessons turn into a school yard fight," she scolded peering down at the two forms reluctant to rise from the dirt. Xena shook her head and sighed. She reached down and yanked each victim up slowly by the ear.
First, the great warrior glared at her best friends face. "Ok, Gabrielle, I told you to drill only on defensive moves. So, why is she attacking?" the scowling warrior asked.
The bard wiped the dirt from her skirt as she eyed the child. "Well, I didnt teach her that! Your daughter has her own agenda for the drills today, it seems," she finished as she reached for her staff.
Xena took a deep breath and lowered her voice to a whisper, never releasing the struggling youngster while she addressed her friend. "Gabrielle, you are supposed to be in charge here. You are the adult. Make her listen to you," she demanded.
The bard threw her arms up, showing her frustration. "Xena, you're her mother. She doesnt listen to me the same way she listens to you! Maybe you should stick around for the drill," she whispered through tight lips.
Xena sighed and eyed her daughter closely. "I told you that the staff is all about defense." In a tone that sent a shiver through the child, the warrior stated, "You are to listen to what Gabrielle says and do it!"
Tarren kicked her staff hard with the toe of her boot, "Well, I dont want to play with the staff any more today. Its not fun anymore," she whined, casting a glance at her mothers constant stare. "Im hot, and I wanna go swimming."
Xena released the child. Nodding her head slowly as she glanced at the bard, she looked back to Tarren. "You dont want to play anymore today because its not fun?" the warrior repeated through clenched teeth. "Well, Tarren, this is not play, and its about time you learned that! So pick up your staff and get into position. You have just earned yourself an extra hour of drilling," she stated. She gestured for Tarren to pick up the fallen staff.
The childs jaw dropped at the thought of an additional hour of staff drilling on such a hot day. Reluctantly, she reached down and grabbed the long stick and squatted into a defensive position.
The little girls eyes were filled with rebellion and frustration. She wanted some excitement and fun, but all she was getting was a long work out with a big stick.
Xena walked over to the bard and softly whispered something to her. Gabrielle nodded and lowered into her attack pose.
"Go!" the warrior, yelled.
The bard rapidly brought the staff down behind the childs feet, pulled and once again dropped Tarren to the dirt, with the youngster having made no attempt to counter the move.
Xena shook her head and sighed as she lifted the youngster to her feet once again. "Look at me," she demanded.
Tarren peered into her mothers piercing blue eyes.
"I want you to concentrate on your opponent. Forget that its Gabrielle. Imagine that she is a real threat to you. Can ya do that, Tarren?" she asked rubbing the childs head affectionately, in spite of her aggravation with her at the moment.
The girl nodded, glaring at the bard with new eyes. "OK, you are no longer Gabrielle. You are now my enemy. All is fair then," she whispered with a slight grin and tightly gripped her staff.
The bard noticed the look in the childs eyes and gave Xena a quick glance. The warrior just nodded. "Tarren, remember, what I said. You are only to do a defensive drill. Gabrielle is the attacker," she warned.
The child frowned and nodded. Xena took a step back and waved her hand. "Go!"
The bard moved in with an attack from below, but Tarren easily jumped above her staff and moved back into a crouch, waiting for the enemy to try again. She smiled at the opponent who looked just like Gabrielle. She hoped her "enemy" would do something that left her open for a good thump.
Tarren anticipated the bards attempt to bring her staff to her side and blocked it. The little warrior followed that with two rapid moves. She jabbed the bard in the stomach and swiped her leg, sending her victim once again to impact the ground hard with a moan.
Xena angrily yanked the staff from Tarrens hands and reached down to offer her friend a hand up, "What did I tell you? You are not to attack! Apologize to Gabrielle for that stunt, right now!" the angry warrior yelled at the disobedient youngster.
The little girl sighed, not quite sure why she was being scolded for winning. "Im sorry Gabrielle," the child said dejectedly, never taking her eyes off her mothers angry stare.
After giving Tarren a warning glare, the bard nodded, as she tried to get her wind back in her lungs.
Xena stood over her daughter, staff in hand. "That move makes it another two hours of drilling. Do you want to go for three?" she asked sternly.
The child shook her head and looked longingly in the direction of the river. Xena could see that the youngster wasnt really listening to anything she was saying, so she decided a lesson was in order.
Xena waved Gabrielle back and handed Tarren her staff. "OK, you want to attack so badly, come at me... but remember, I will not show you the mercy Gabrielle does."
The child took the staff with trepidation, noting the warriors glare.
"Get into position," Xena yelled.
Tarren fell back into the defensive crouch her mother had taught her. Going up against her physically certainly wasnt something the child wanted to do. She knew Xena was angry and would dump her in the dirt fast. The fun was definitely gone from this game.
"Attack!" Xena ordered ... but the child did not move.
"I said attack!" she yelled in a no nonsense tone leaving no room for question.
Tarren sighed and swung her staff toward the warriors midsection. Xena, who thumped the girl across the back of her legs, easily deflected the blow. "Come on, you can do better than that," the warrior taunted hoping to teach her daughter a well-deserved lesson. "You wanted to be the attacker."
Tarren rubbed the stinging spot where the staff had hit. She glared at her mother, arching her eyebrows in Xena style. She had had enough staff practice for one day, but she knew Xena was not about to let her off so easy.
"Attack!" the warrior demanded.
Again, the child moved lunging with her staff toward Xenas legs. The warrior merely vaulted up and landed behind her daughter. She swatting the girl meaningfully across the backside with her staff and then swiping her legs.
Gabrielle covered her eyes as the youngster fell, "Oooh, that had to hurt," she murmured trying not to feel the childs pain and humiliation.
Tarren slowly got to her feet refusing the hand of her mother to help her up.
Leaning on her staff, the warrior asked sternly, "Are you ready to go back to your defense drill now, or do you still think you should be the attacker?"
The impudent youngster shook her head and threw her staff to the ground at the warriors feet. "I dont wanna do this anymore," she yelled sending earth flying with a kick.
Xena did not appreciate her daughters tone or behavior. She was determined to make certain Tarren was taught a lesson. Glaring down at the youngster, she said stiffly, "Pick up the staff, Tarren. You will show respect to both your opponent and your weapon!"
The little girl did not move.
The warrior looked at Gabrielle and then back at Tarren and shook her head. Her tone became low and quiet, "OK, thats enough for you, young lady. You asked me to teach you the staff, but you seem to think this is just some kind of game. Well, its not. Our lives often depend upon being able to defend ourselves if were attacked." Shaking an angry finger at her child, she continued, "Until I think you understand that...all of your lessons are over...not just today, but every day."
The girl kicked her staff further into the dirt, "Fine," she said with a sulking tone, happy not to have to throw the long heavy stick around on such a hot day.
Xena again pointed to the staff. "Pick that up and bring it back to camp now," she ordered trying to keep control of her temper.
Tarren stared at the staff and then the angry face of her mother. Picking the staff up seemed like a very good idea. "I wanna go swimming," she said biting her lip as the warrior turned away.
Xena laughed wickedly throwing her free hand to the side of her hip, "Swimming? You are not going swimming, little girl. You are gonna go back to camp and just sit on your bedroll until I return. Then, you and I are gonna have a very long talk about your behavior today. Got that?" the warrior, yelled pointing the way back toward camp.
Tarrens eyes grew wide with realization that the trouble she was escalating by the minute. Yet, the hardheaded child kicked the dirt in front of her again. "But I want to go swimming! I dont wanna go back to camp," she whined, stomping her foot in the soil.
Xena took a long, deep breath, battling her sense of frustration.
The bard just shook her head, unwilling to intercede in this one.
"OK, Tarren, thats it," Xena said finally. "I wont tolerate this little temper tantrum of yours. Go back to camp and go straight to bed. There will be no swimming... no fishing...no playing...just bed! And if I hear one more word out of your little mouth, I will put you over my knee right here and right now!" Bending down so her nose was within inches of her daughters, the warrior growled, "Do I make myself clear?"
The child swallowed hard and nodded complete understanding of what her mother told her.
Xena straightened up to her full height. After slowly drawing, holding and releasing a deep breath, she said, "Good! Im glad we cleared that up." Pointing toward the trail, she ordered, "Get back to camp, now!"
Tarren glared at her for a moment. Then, dragging the staff behind, she reluctantly headed back for the site and a daylight sleep.
As the parent watched her child stomp slowly back down the path, she sighed heavily and shook her head. Knocking herself gently in the forehead with her staff to vent her frustration, she moaned as her eyes met the bards, "What am I gonna do with her?"
Gabrielle stood next to her friend glancing back at the fading figure of the defiant youngster. "Well, she definitely has your little temper, doesnt she?" the bard said with a laugh to break the tension.
Xena turned and glared at her friend. Then, one side of her mouth pulled into a smirk, as she whispered, "Yeah, scary isnt it?"
The young bard was always impressed with the way Xena could handle Tarren. No matter how frustrated or angry the child tried to make her, the warrior always seemed to be able to reign her emotions in and remain parental. It was a softer side of Xena that Gabrielle was happy to see. She delighted in the thought that this little scamp could bring the great Warrior Princess to her knees with a gentle smile or a pouting lip.
"Maybe were just pushing her too hard with all of this, Xena. She is just a little kid," the bard said with a grin.
The warrior nodded, "I know how old she is, Gabrielle, but she asked me to teach her the staff. When we started this, I told her that this wasnt a game... that becoming skillful at it would take a lot of work and training. We encounter too much danger on the road for her not to develop strong self-defense early, as much as I hate the necessity for it. I want her to learn to respect people and the things around her... and to know the difference between self-defense and fighting. Obviously, she has not learned anything yet except how to act like a spoiled brat," the warrior finished in a low, even tone.
Gabrielle placed a reassuring hand on her frustrated friends arm. "Hey," she said smiling gently, "Shes just in one of her brat moods. She probably needs that nap. Let her spend some time alone thinking about what shes doing wrong. Shell come around."
Xena began to grin a bit, taking comfort from her friends words and look of confidence on her face. She hoped the bard was right. "By the way...howd she get you into the dirt?" the warrior asked with a sly smirk.
Gabrielle quickly studied her feet, embarrassed by the youngsters ability to catch her off guard. "Err...well...lucky shot, I guess," she said not meeting her friends eyes.
Xena picked up her staff and nodded at the bard, "Uh huh...Well, lets see if I can get that lucky cause you still have a half hour's drilling left, my bard," she said falling back to face her youthful opponent.
Gabrielle smiled and crouched low into a fighting position, "Any time you are ready, my warrior," the Amazon queen said, ready for the attack.
All that was heard for a long while was an echo of sticks clashing and, eventually, the groan of Gabrielle finding her way into the dirt once again.
Chapter 2 Visions
Xena found a quiet tree to sit under after leaving Gabrielle to finish her exercises alone. Feeling the comfort of a fresh breeze around her, the warrior settled back and tried to relax. She reached into her saddlebag searching for Nalas diary.
With a fond touch of the cover, her hand released the lock and opened the book that was a clear path into the mystics thoughts. Xena had been reading the diary in small parts since Tarren had given it to her. She smiled as she ran her fingers against the old parchment in the beginning of the diary. The book was filled with a lifetimes wisdom.
Nala had been raised in a small village called Goden, reputed to be the only known settlement of mystics. The old village had a reputation for black magic, which the warrior suspected, was more myth than reality. She slowly flipped through the pages, scanning until a passage grabbed her attention
|"The Princess I have joined with is a great force in nature. She has strength and power unlike any I have ever seen. She takes the title of Warlord now, but that is not her true path. This young woman is consumed with great pain that drives her wildly through her life. I must help her to realize all the good that is in her heart so that she may find her true path again. For she is the Chosen One and without her we all may be lost."|
Xena was confused by the words. "Chosen One?" she whispered. "Chosen for what?" the warrior murmured as she continued to read on. The spot just beneath that entire passage was blank. It was the only blank spot in the entire diary. That too was a bit of a mystery to the warrior. Xena sighed and put the words aside as she read of a time much later:
|"The Princess is with child. I think she carries two, but her heart is still too hard to allow the forces to change what must soon be. I fear that her demise as revealed in my vision will break her. Perhaps it is that break which will allow her to rebuild her life and take the path the Fates have chosen for her."|
Xena wiped a tear from her eye as she thought about her old friends words. Never had she realized how the old mystic could see so deep inside of her and know the very core of the pain she felt. The warrior sighed heavily and stared up the heavens, thanking Nala in her thoughts for all this woman had ever been and done for her. Just as Xena closed her eyes, the exhausted bard dropped down on the grass beside her.
"What are you doing?" Gabrielle asked panting for air. Xena could only smile at her young friends tiredness, increased, no doubt, by the tension between her two friends and muggy afternoon heat. Xena was very proud of Gabrielles dedication not only to her own self- improvement but also to teaching Tarren.
The warrior again stroked the smooth feel of the book. With a voice soften by emotion, she explained, "Its Nalas diary."
The bards eyes lit up with excitement, and she slid closer to her friend. Xena had told her about the book, but this was the nearest she had ever come to examining it.
Noting Gabrielles obvious enthusiasm, the warrior handed her the book. The bard was awed by the way the parchment was so carefully bound into one solid form. "Amazing!" she whispered her eyes lighting up with interest. Every last page was filled with writing. Gabrielle was tempted to peak at the words inside but knew that would be an invasion of Xenas privacy, so she handed the diary back to her.
Xena smiled, "Would you like to hear an entry?" she asked with a sly grin knowing that was what the bard was hoping for.
Gabrielle broke into a big smile as she nodded enthusiastically, barely containing her impulse to jump at the thought.
The warrior shook her head at the impatient motion of her young friend and turned the pages until she found the spot she was looking for:
"Today, I bid farewell to my friend for what will perhaps be many years. Her world is crumbling, and the transformation has begun. She will now go through the hardest part of her life before she finds her new beginning. I take with me her daughter, the little Princess. I hope my friend can forgive me for not telling her of the babys existence, but there is no place in her life right now for this one. When she has found her way, I will call her back to me. Then, she can be the mother this young one will need. Until that time comes, I will keep the baby in safety."
"I must offer the little Princess a name. I choose Tarren for the friend that the Warrior Princess lost in battle. I know that loss caused her pain for I saw the tears fall as she carried the young woman back to camp. Perhaps with this name she will regain a little of the loss she felt for that friend. I will try to do my Princess proud in caring for her child."
Xena closed her eyes as she finished that last sentence. Tears slowly etched trails down her cheeks. The bard put her hand gently on the warriors arm. "This diary is truly a gift," she said touching the cover.
Xena nodded, "I was never aware she watched me so closely. She knew more about me than I knew about myself," the warrior whispered staring down at the book. Xena wiped her face dry and flipped through the pages towards the end. "Gabrielle, there, is something in here I want you to hear. It is one of Nalas last entries."
"I had the vision again last night. It was darker than usual, but I fear that only means my time is coming closer. I have thoughts of Goden, home of the mystic way. There is a great darkness that looms over my people. A disaster will befall them, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I cannot risk taking the child to such a place. The Warrior Princess will be here soon, and I must be here to see her take her child in hand."
Gabrielles eyes closed, "What kind of disaster could wipe out her people? A plague or a warlord?" the bard asked, analyzing the mystics words carefully.
The warrior shook her head. "I dont know, but she did not return home because she was caring for Tarren. Gabrielle, I was thinking...."
The bard silenced her with a hand. "You were thinking that, since were not too busy right now, perhaps we could go check out Goden to see if our help is needed," she finished with a smile.
The warrior grinned at her friends obvious intuition about her thoughts, "Well, I know how badly you want to get to Potedia to visit your family. I will understand if you wish to miss out on this one and...."
The bard raised her hand again. "Oh no you dont, warrior! Not again! Potedia can wait. I am going to Goden with you. Dont even think of trying to leave me behind on this one," she warned.
Xena smiled and squeezed her friends hand gently, "How could I have even have considered it?" the warrior said playfully.
Shaking her head, the bard chided, "That is a good question."
Xena closed Nalas diary and put it back in her saddlebag. "Well then, in the morning we will head for Goden. But, in the meantime, I do think you skipped about a quarter candle mark of your drill," she said sternly pointing at her friends staff.
The bard frowned. "How do you do that? How do you know exactly when the candle mark is up?" the young woman groaned as she rose to her feet grabbing her staff.
"I have many skills, remember, my bard."
Gabrielle shook her head. "You know, Xena... Tarren even sounds just like you now!" she said with a grin. The image of the childs earlier impersonation of her mother saying those words flashed in the bards mind.
The warrior chuckled as with a deep sigh the young bard returned to the clearing to complete her grueling drill routine. Xena smiled at her friends dedication and loyalty and rose to her feet, ready to return to camp. It was time to catch dinner, and perhaps also to give the youngster a second chance.
Tarren lay on her bedroll sulking. She couldnt sleep. She knew her mother was angry with her, but she did not like playing with the staff much anymore. It was no fun at all, especially since Xena would not allow her to attack.
The air was hot and hung heavily on the childs skin. She wanted to run down and jump in the river, but she knew the heavy price for doing so would be far greater than the joy of the momentary cool water against her skin.
She rolled in her blankets trying to block out the sun. As she studied the fire and the rest of the camp surroundings she hoped to find something to amuse her. At that moment she caught sight of the most precious item in all the camp, Xenas chakrum. The rule about this had always been clear, "DONT TOUCH!" This one thing her mother seemed to repeat daily, which, in itself, made picking up the forbidden object all the more tempting. There it was... just sitting there... its silver and gold metals reflecting the sun's rays.
"Now theres a weapon that would be fun to play with," she whispered to herself. She began crawling toward it on all fours, just to get a better look. Xena never let her even hold it, so this was the closest she had ever actually been.
Tarrens small hand to glided lightly over the smooth, cool surface of the metal and then caressed the sides of the sharp edges carefully avoiding getting cut. Her eyes filled with excitement as she reached to pick up the shiny object. However, before she could do, so, a large, muscular hand pulled it quickly from her sight.
"What did I tell you about touching my chakrum?" a loud, husky, voice scolded from above. The child swallowed hard, afraid to look up, knowing her mother was standing next to her. Very gradually, without saying a word, she retraced her steps back to her bedroll.
"I asked you a question, young lady, and Im waiting for an answer. You look at me when Im speaking to you, little girl," the harsh voice again yelled.
Tarren lifted her eyes to see the very angry face of her mother, Xena, Warrior Princess, staring down at her. Her blue eyes were filled with danger, so Tarren chose her words carefully, "Im not supposed to touch it...but I was just looking at it Momma. I wasnt going to do anything with it," she whispered quietly.
The warrior shook her head, tossing her staff to the ground and pulling the child roughly to her feet. "You know what I said about swords and my chakrum! There is no just touching.... There is no touching at all!" she yelled pulling the girl over to a large tree at the far corner of the camp.
Xena positioned the child to face the tree. Then, she pointed to a small knot in the center of the trunk. "OK, you need to learn how to remember things so maybe you need to practice concentrating more. You will face this tree and keep your eyes on that knot until I say other wise. You will not sit. You will not move. Do you understand that?" the warrior warned in an angry, low voice.
Tarren swallowed hard and nodded as she looked at the tiny knot in the tree.
Shaking her head in frustration, Xena stomped back to the fire to grab her fishing pole. "Dont you dare move!" she yelled as she headed for the river below.
Tarren stood there straight as she could, staring at the spot her mother had chosen. She eyed the knot with little interest but after a while started counting the grooves in the wood, just to pass the time.
Gabrielle returned to camp dragging her staff wearily behind her. Xena had worked her hard, and she was tired. As she scanned the camp with a yawn, she caught sight of the small figure staring blankly at a tree in the corner of camp. She shook her head and dropped her staff to the ground moving over to where the child stood. "What did you do now?" the bard asked with a heavy sigh.
The girl shrugged, "Touched the warriors precious chakrum," she replied with a pout. The youngster had been standing there, staring at the knot in this tree for nearly a candle mark, and her legs were starting to ache.
The bards bewilderment clearly showed on her face. Trying to understand this childs need to always go against the rules, she asked, "Are you crazy, Tarren? You know how she feels about you even looking at the chakrum. Whats with you?"
Tarren bit her lip. A tear dropped from her eyelashes and ran down her cheek, but she never took her eyes from the knot in the tree with 237 grooves. "I only wanted to play with it, Gabrielle. I wasnt going to hurt it," she sniffled.
The bards face filled with sympathy for this small adventure seeker. Tarren wanted so much to see and touch the world around her that she had been locked away from for so long. Everything was so new and exciting. But most of all she wanted to be just like Xena -something the warrior found a bit unnerving at times. Xena would never allow her daughter to become a warrior.
Gabrielle tenderly rubbed the childs cheek and shook her head. "The chakrum is not a toy to be played with, Tarren. Consider yourself lucky that your mother did not follow through on her threat and take a switch to you," the bard said quietly.
Just then, a large, muscular, figure holding a string of fish called, "Gabrielle, she is being punished. That means no talking," the warrior said evenly dropping the fish near the fire.
The bard sighed and returned to the campfire to prepare the dinner the warrior had just caught.
Tarren closed her eyes and allowed tears to fall at the still angry sound of her mothers voice. Apparently, this punishment was going to last longer than she thought. The youngster returned her gaze to the knot before her and once again started counting.
Xena filleted the fish with her usual speed and handed them to the bard to prepare. Afterward, she lay back and stared at the small figure staring at the tree in the far corner of the camp.
"How long are you gonna make her stay there?" Gabrielle asked noting that the childs muscles were starting to buckle a bit.
Xena shook her head. "I should let her stand there all night," she said with a grin, certain Tarren heard her.
The bard smiled, discerning that the warriors love for the youngster had won out over her anger.
Xena looked at her friend and hunched her shoulders with her palms up, indicating the bard was right on target with her assessment of the warriors feelings.
Grumbling, the parent jumped to her feet but took her time gradually making her way over to the tree. Leaning leisurely with one arm against the oak, she asked, "So what have we learned today?"
Tarren never took her eyes off the knot, but lowered her head a bit. Barely loud enough for even the warriors acute hearing, she muttered, "That I shouldnt touch your chakrum."
Xena nodded approvingly. "Good!" she responded, "Because this is your one and only warning about it, Kid. If you touch it again I will take a switch to your backside!" Then, in an even but tender tone, she said, "Now go get your dinner and get to bed," sending the child on her way with a fast swat to her bottom.
"Yes ma am" she whispered looking up at her mother with large, sad eyes.
"OK, cut the doe eyes. Youre off the hook," Xena said with a soft smile. She wrapped a loving arm around the youngster. As they moved back toward the fire, Xena asked with a simple grin, "Tarren, how many grooves in the knot are there?"
The child thought for a moment before replying, uncertain about why the warrior even cared to know. With a slightly puzzled look, she said, " 234 no 237...!"
Xena nodded and tightened her grip around the youngsters shoulder, hoping the child had learned something about focus from her confinement. "Time to eat," the warrior mother said as she handed her daughter a plate and then reached for her own.
Tarren finished her supper under the watchful eye of the bard. She ate all of the fish Gabrielle had prepared but carefully avoided touching the wild mushrooms the bard had found earlier. "Tarren, you need to eat your vegetables," the bard said pointing at the plate.
The child frowned. "Yuk! I dont like them," she groaned pushing them further away from the real food on her plate.
Gabrielle looked at Xena, who shrugged. The bards gaze narrowed, sending a warning message to prompt the warrior to intervene.
Xena quickly placed her plate down. "Tarren, just eat the vegetables like Gabrielle asked!" she whispered in the childs ear.
The youngster looked over at her mothers plate and noticed plenty of untouched mushrooms there as well. "How come you dont have to eat yours?" she protested pointing at the plate.
The warrior smiled and leaned in closer to her child. "Because nobody here is big enough to spank me if I dont," she quipped playfully. The youngster frowned at the evil smile on her mothers face and started slowly chewing on the vegetables.
Gabrielle watched the exchange with great dissatisfaction. Tarren followed Xenas lead on everything, so if the bard hoped to get that kid to eat vegetables, then Xena would have to set a better example.
The young bard picked up the warriors plate and handed it back to her. "Eat!" she commanded.
Xena glanced down at her friend in awe. "Excuse me?" she said starting to rise.
Gabrielle met her half way, not willing to accept any nonsense. "Look, vegetables are good for you, and you should eat them -- just like Tarren does."
Xenas face twisted in disgust at the suggestion the bard was making. She had not been forced to eat those vile things since she was a child, and she did not intend to be forced to now.
"Sorry, my bard, but Im a big girl, and I dont have to eat what I dont want to eat," she purred.
Tarren watched this exchange with great interest as she quickly swallowed the last of her mushrooms.
"Xena! Either you eat what I cook, or you can do all your own cooking from now on!" the bard yelled, never taking her gaze off the warrior.
Xena studied her friends face for a smirk or a smile but none was to be found. She did not want to eat the vegetables, but it was a far less price to pay then eating her own cooking. The warrior growled, picked up the plate, and slowly began eating the small mushrooms, rolling her eyes with every bite.
The bard nodded approvingly and returned to her own dinner. "Thats better!"
Tarren giggled fiercely at the expressions of displeasure her mother made as she swallowed. "Good arent they?" the youngster teased, showing her empty plate to the warrior.
Xena nodded and smiled at the child. "Oh well, if you like them so much, you can have more.... Gabrielle?"
The bard reached into the pot and happily threw a large heap of vegetables on Tarrens plate with a grin. "Youre a growing little girl. You need to eat your veggies," Xena said with a smile.
Tarren groaned looking at the large portion of mushroom her big mouth had earned her. Xena winked at her daughter and together they raced to finish the last of the unbearable vegetables under the very watchful eye of a certain friend of theirs.
For a short while after being lovingly tucked in and kissed goodnight by her mother and hearing a story from the bard, Tarren reviewed the events of the very tiring day in her mind. Her legs ached from standing in one position for so long, and she was still a bit angry with Xena for punishing her.
As she drifted off to sleep, she knew what she wanted to do now more than ever to learn to use the chakrum. She wanted to prove to her mother that she could toss it as skillfully as the warrior. Definitely, the chakrum would prove to be more challenging to master than any staff. Soon, the youngsters face produced a wide grin as her dreams filled with images of her sending the chakrum whistling through the air, hitting bulls eyes on every target.
The bard looked over at the sleeping child, "Hmm, I wonder what that little grin of hers means," she said with a soft gaze.
Xena looked over at the small sleeping forms mischievous smile and chuckled, "Id say it means trouble."
The two friends sighed and then laughed at the youngsters ability to find mischief even in the land of Morpheous.
Chapter 3 Loving You
Tarren tried unsuccessfully to sleep. Her thoughts were all over the place. She could not seem to get her mind off that chakrum. As the sun had barely started to rise, she eyed her still sleeping companions. Gabrielle was snoring peacefully, and her mother was finding peace in her dreams. Tarren could not help but eye the shiny chakrum lying on the saddlebag beside Xena.
The youngster grinned mischievously as a plan formulated in her mind. Quietly, she removed the blankets from her form and reached for her satchel. Slowly, she emptied all her clothes under the blanket, patting them into what she hoped looked like her body beneath. Tarren eyed her creation with a grin and then placed her chucks underneath one side of the blanket for effect. Xena knew she often slept holding them, so this was a nice touch. Satisfied that her twin could now pass for her until she returned she crawled over and cautiously lifted the chakrum from its place.
Xena did not move a muscle, and for that the child thanked the gods. Within seconds the little princess was heading down the path towards the clearing for some great adventure.
Tarren studied the chakrum intently. She would only get one chance at this before having to return to camp, so she wanted to make it good. She started pushing large sticks into the ground in the field in front of her to act, as would be opponents. "Ok, you guys are the bandits," she whispered to the large sticks protruding from the ground.
Allowing her eyes to scan the entire clearing, she chose her marks with care. First, the chakrum would hit the large tree to the left and then the small boulder to the right before slicing down all the wooden stick bandits before her and returning safely to her hand.
The child smiled in satisfaction at her plan. "This is gonna be easy," she murmured. With all her might, she tossed the chakrum towards the tree, just as she had seen Xena do so many times. The youngster giggled with happiness as it hit its target. Then, much to her dismay, instead of ricocheting off the large rock, as intended, the chakrum bounced off a much smaller one. The weapon caught only one bandit before accelerating back towards her higher and faster than she thought possible. "UH OH!" she cried dropping to the dirt as the weapon whirled over her head and hopefully landed in the tree behind her.
Tarren let out a heavy sigh of relief and picked herself up off the ground. She had noted that the sound of the weapon had abruptly halted behind her, so she dusted herself off and turned to see where it had landed. What she saw was the angry face of her mother, who was holding the weapon straight in the air. Beside her stood the bard, whose eyes were filled with an equal if not greater anger.
Tarren tried to smile but could not seem to find it inside of her to do so. She knew she was in a lot of trouble and nothing she could say would change that. She considered running, but that was not really an option. So the child merely lowered her head and waited for the warriors screaming to begin.
But Xena said nothing. She placed the weapon at her side, where it belonged, never taking her fiery gaze off her disobedient child. Then, she reached down into her boot and pulled out a small knife and handed it to Tarren. Xena pointed to large tree just to the side of her. "Go, cut me a switch!" she ordered trying to control the pace of her strained breathing.
Tarren held the knife in her hands and looked up at her mother in disbelief. "Would she really follow through on that promise?" the child thought. Fear slipping through her small form. "But..." was all she could say before the warriors eyes closed in on her.
"Go, do it now!" she commanded still pointing to the tree.
Tarren looked to the bard who only shook her head, "Xena... Ill see you back at camp," the bard said softly, obviously believing that the warriors choice of punishment was appropriate for this offense.
Sheepishly, Tarren looked into her mothers eyes, but found nothing but anger. "Yes, maam," she replied, barely able to utter the words that seemed caught in her dry throat.
The youngster stared at the small knife briefly but, bowing her head, walked over to the tree and cut the switch the warrior had requested. She then returned, handing both the knife and the thin birch branch to her mother.
After placing the knife back in her boot, Xena examined the branch for its usefulness. Next, she broke it in half. The shorter length would serve her hand better.
Tarren swallowed as she carefully watched her mothers actions. When satisfied that her instrument was worthy, the warrior mother grabbed Tarren by the arm dragging her determinedly to a fallen log. Xena lowered herself down and pulled in a long breath, holding it briefly before releasing it. Now, she was ready to do what she must. She positioned her daughter over one knee.
"Momma, dont!" the child begged, knowing that the threat of the past was now to become a reality of this moment.
Xena closed her eyes, calling upon her emotional strength. She glanced down at the small child who lay helpless across her knee. Again, the great warrior closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Reconciled to her course of action, she said, "Im sorry, Tarren, but you made this choice. Believe me, this is not something I want to have to do, but you just dont seem to remember what I say. This, I promise, you will not soon forget."
With that final word the switch fell against the childs breeches. The youngster cried out. That one thrash felt like 100 swats of the warriors hand rolled into one fall. Tears instantly fell down the childs cheeks as she struggled to free herself before the birch fell again, but the warrior pinned her in place easily and allowed the small branch to hit its target once again.
The little girl begged for a second chance. "Momma, please, no! STOP! I wont touch it again, I promise," she wailed, tears pouring out of her eyes. Xena heard the words, but knew they were not yet true.
"Not yet, little one," she yelled as the switch continued to fall. "But I promise you," she whispered through tightened lips, "Before Im through, those words will be as true as the pain in your backside." Xena did not pause any longer. She allowed the switch to fall steadily across her childs tender bottom for a dozen, firm strokes before she was finished.
Tarrens face was red and full of tears. As the warrior lifted her off her lap, the child quickly backed away out of her mothers reach.
Xena stared blankly at the girl and then at the switch in her hands, not wanting to touch either at the moment. The warrior eyed her daughter, but said nothing for a long moment. "Go back to camp and pack up. We are moving out in a few hours," she said in a low, broken voice.
Tarrens face filled with hurt and humiliation. She panted heavily as she sobbed, waiting for some sort of comfort.
Xena pointed back towards camp. "DO AS I SAY NOW!" she ordered jumping to her feet.
The child quickly sprinted towards the path leaving her mother alone in the clearing.
Xena lowered her eyes and snapped the switch in two, throwing it to the dirt and kicking it far away. She then lowered herself to the log once again, covering her face with her hands and allowing a few of her own tears to fall.
Tarren ran quickly down the path afraid of Xenas wrath resurfacing. When she was far enough from the clearing, she stopped and ran her hands gently over her backside feeling the scorching heat emanating from it. Xena had not even offered her any comfort, and Gabrielle had walked away from her as well. Her mother had spanked her more than a few times with her open hand, but never before like this. "Is this chakrum of hers so important? More important than me?" she cried leaning up against a tree to steady her uncontrollable sobs.
At that moment Tarren felt like she was all-alone in the world. Her friend had deserted her, and her mother had sent her away when she needed her most. The child was confused and scared and desperate for a place of sanction where she could deal with her pain and humiliation. The youngsters tears fell to the ground.
She again started running but this time not towards camp. She wanted to be alone and far away from these strangers who had professed such a great love for her and then abandon her. She wanted to deal with her humiliation privately, but her mother wouldnt allow that this time.
Tarren ran down a side path leading only the gods knew where. Xena had often told her to never go down such paths because they often had drifters or outlaws on them, but the youngsters shame drove her down that road anyway. Letting her feet move as fast as they would take her, she ran and ran until her small legs were worn out. She dropped into an unfamiliar place at the side of the path. Burying herself in a large growth of tall grass, she hoped she had found a safe, quiet place to set her sobs free.
Xena slowly walked into the camp where a concerned Gabrielle greeted her. "Are you all right?" the bard asked placing a tender hand on her friends arm. The warrior shook her head. "I just took a switch to my daughters backside, Gabrielle. No, I am not all right," she said evenly, her voice still filled with anger and remorse.
The bard reassuringly patted her arm before she spoke, "You did what you had to do, Xena. We both agreed on that!"
The warrior nodded, knowing she did what needed to be done, although that did not make the task any easier to do.
"How is she?" the bard asked swallowing hard at the thought of the tears the little one was spilling.
Xena gave her a puzzled look. "You tell me. I sent her back here to you an hour ago," she growled scanning the camp for the youngster.
Gabrielles face went blank. "Xena, she never came back here," the bard said with concern.
The warrior took a deep breath and kicked the ground beneath her. "Well, if I felt bad about punishing her before, I sure dont now!" Xena said allowing her anger to grow as she whistled for her horse. "Pack up the camp. Ill go find her," the warrior said mounting Argo and galloping towards the trail she had just come from.
Tarrens eyes opened slowly as she heard the sound of large feet before her. She swallowed nervously, not yet ready to meet the angry in her mothers face. She quickly rose to her feet and turned, ready for the glare she anticipated would be waiting. Yet the face she caught sight of before her made her hastily pray to the gods that, if she blinked her eyes, Xena would be there instead.
Standing before the small, wayward child were four, large, dirty men eyeing her as if she was going to be their morning meal. They reeked of needing a bath, and their clothes were tattered and filthy.
Tarrens nose wrinkled at the odor. The child first grinned, then grimaced, at the thought of Gabrielle trying to bathe this group.
The youngster squirmed as one of the men yanked her up and then threw her roughly to the ground. "Shes a bit young, but Ill bet we can still fetch a few dinars for her in Rome," the largest man laughed as he eyed the little girl at his feet.
Tarren felt the thunder in her bottom come alive as she landed on the cold hard ground, but she tried not to let her tears show.
"Oh, look, shes crying," the second man laughed as he pulled the youngster to her feet. Tarren rubbed her bottom and lowered her eyes as the stubborn tears fell. The largest man noted her discomfort and laughed loudly. "Oh, whats the matter, child. Did you run away from home because your mommy spanked you?" he asked in a mockingly vicious tone. All of the men laughed at the childs obvious dilemma, which only made the little warrior princesss eyes, turn cold and angry.
She looked to her boot and sadly realized she had left her chucks in camp. "Dumb... dumb... dumb," she thought to herself. Tarren scanned the area looking for an escape means or weapon. Swiftly, she reached down and picked up a long tree branch from beside the road and held it like she was taught to hold the staff.
The four tramps threw up their arms in mock surrender. She began backing down the path. Two of them raced behind her, and in moments she was surrounded. Tarren swung the branch at the head of her first opponent knocking him to the ground. The other mens smiles faded fast as they drew their swords.
"Well, I think we better teach this small child some manners," one said, waving his blade above the girl.
"Sorry boys, but thats my job!" came a low, husky, voice from behind. Turning, the child saw a large, leather-clad, warrior setting comfortable on a huge, white palomino. The girl had to smile at the sight.
Xena threw her chakrum, slicing the blades off the road tramps swords. She smiled wickedly and drew her own sword, vaulting from Argos back right in front of Tarren. With a quick hand she shoved the youngster behind her. "So, you guys like picking on little girls. How about taking on a big girl?" she purred.
The men quickly advanced. Xena kicked two of them to the ground and waved her sword at the third. "So, do you want to teach me some manners, too?" she said in a low voice, carefully waving her blade in front of each of them. The three tramps backed off, and Xena pointed to their fallen friend.
"No....No...boys, always take your garbage with you when you go," she said with an evil grin and pointed to the fallen man at the side of the path. The men lifted their friend to his feet and hastily ran down the road and out of the warriors sight.
Xena sheathed her sword and then slowly looked over her child, who dropped the stick in her hands to the ground.
"Are you all right?" Xena asked evenly.
Tarren nodded but lowered her head so as not to meet her mothers eyes and see all the disappointment she knew was there.
The warrior nodded her head slowly and reached for Argos reigns. "Good then, lets go," she said mounting Argo and lowering her hand down to Tarren.
The childs face went white at the thought of sitting anywhere, much less on the hard saddle, but the look on her mothers face told her that this was the price for not returning to camp as ordered. The youngster offered her arm to Xena and was quickly placed on the unrelenting saddle in front of her mother who tightly gripped the childs waist. Tarren silently let the tears flow from her eyes as Xena headed in a steady gallop back toward camp.
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