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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 4 Confusion and Understanding
When they arrived back at the camp, Xena dismounted and reaching up lifted the now ashen child from the horses back She knew the pain the girl was now suffering was greater than any she could feel at the warriors hand.
"Go, pack up your stuff," the warrior ordered in a steady but firm tone.
The youngster eyed her mother hoping for a word... a lecture... anything, but the warrior said nothing more. She did not scold her or yell.... She was just ...silent. Tarren closed her eyes and slowly sucked in a deep breath, struggling not to let her tears start again. She began packing her things into her satchel.
"What happened?" Gabrielle asked noting the warriors heavy scowl.
Xena pulled Argos reigns to the far side of the camp and started filling her saddlebags as she spoke to the bard. "A couple of road tramps had her pinned on one of the side trails," the warrior said trying to control her anger at her daughters disobedience and her own fear at what might have happened.
Gabrielle gasped at the mere thought, "By the gods! She knows better than to go down those trails alone." She sighed, eyeing the small form out of the corner of her eye.
Xena slowed her actions for a moment staring at the youngster, critically. "Well, apparently she didnt think the warnings about the paths applied to her," the warrior cursed slamming her fist down on her bedroll.
Gabrielle rubbed the sides of her temples feeling a long headache coming on. "Xena you should talk to her."
The warrior shook her head and placed a halting hand in the air. "Gabrielle, right now, I am so upset, I dont think that would be such a good idea. I might just forget what a sore bottom that kid already has and give my hand the pleasure of making another impression. I need some time to calm down and make sure my next words to her are very clear and concise about the subjects at hand. Obviously, they werent before. Otherwise, she would not be having trouble sitting, and I would not be fighting tramps on side paths." The warrior scowled jumping up into Argos saddle. "Im gonna scout the path ahead to Goden while you finish packing. Wait for me here," she ordered giving an agitated glance at her child before nudging Argo into a trot down the path.
Tarren watched Xena go knowing that she was riding ahead mostly to get away from her.
Gabrielle quickly packed the remaining camp items and sat beside the sullen child as she rolled her blankets and tethered them to her satchel.
"How are you doing?" the bard asked evenly reaching for Tarrens shoulder.
The child pushed the gesture away and turned to face her friend. "What do you care?" she said her eyes filled with hurt from her friends betrayal earlier.
The bard took a step back. "What? Oh I get it. I was supposed to tell Xena not to punish you after you took her chakrum," the bard said angrily standing above the child. "Well, Tarren, you and I are friends, but I also made a promise to Xena to help raise you. That means that sometimes our friendship is put aside for the greater good. In this case, I happen to have agreed with your mother. You knew you werent supposed to touch that weapon, and you certainly knew you werent supposed to try and use it. You did it anyway! So, if Xena spanking your little butt keeps you from touching something that can get you killed, I am all for it!" she finished sternly standing right above the pouting youngster.
Tarren let the bards words soak in but didnt say a word. She merely threw her satchel over her shoulder and headed for the road.
Gabrielle gave the youngsters arm a yank. "I am not done talking to you, miss," the bard said, pulling the child back. Tarren was thrown off guard by her friends parental tone.
"You know all you ever think about is what something does to you. Did it ever occur to you how Xena feels every time she has to punish you? Did you maybe think that she was worried about you when she came back to camp and you werent here?" Gabrielle lectured, trying not to allow her tone to get above a gentle scolding.
The youngsters face was blank with confusion. "No of course not!" the bard ranted. She shook her finger at the smug child, "Well, Ill tell you! It hurts her, Tarren. It hurts her to have to hurt you. She does it because she loves you so MUCH that she doesnt want anything bad to ever happen to you. You are not old enough to understand that, but you should at least understand that she cares about you, and be enough like her to admit when you are wrong. And Tarren, today you were wrong...very wrong," the bard scolded reaching for her own bag on the ground.
The contrite youngster lowered her eyes at her friends scolding tone. Gabrielle just shook her head and looked at the small, confused figure in front of her. With a sigh she gave into her heart. "Come here, brat," she whispered allowing the little girl into her gentle embrace. "Tarren, what is it going to take to convince you just how much you mean to both of us? We only want whats best for you. Dont you know that?" the bard asked allowing the youngster to lean her head on the young womans soft shoulder.
"Im sorry Gabrielle" was all she could whisper through her tears, and the bard smiled a bit pulling the girl forward, "I know you are, but I am not the one you need to tell that to," she said wiping the childs cheek with her fingers.
Tarren lowered her head. "She doesnt want to talk to me, Gabby. She doesnt care about anything but her chakrum. She didnt even..."
Before the child could finish or the bard could respond, a husky voice from atop a large war-horse spoke, "Come on, you two. The road ahead is clear. I want make some time to Goden before nightfall," the warrior ordered stiffly, barely glancing down at her daughter.
Tarren quickly headed for the road.
The bard stared after her, wishing she could talk to Xena and wondering what it was Tarren was about to say Xena had not done.
The travel through the day had been quiet. Xena stayed mounted on Argo through most of the trip, and Tarren just walked along beside the bard with very little to say. Every once in while, the youngster would throw an eye up at the proud warrior sitting on the large horse, but Xena merely gazed down never saying a word.
They made there camp that night about a days travel from Goden.
Tarren picked at her supper quietly standing against a tree behind the bard who had been busy writing in her scrolls. She handed the plate back to Gabrielle having done little more than move the food around.
"Youve barely eaten anything," the bard whispered, her face showing concern as she looked at the youngster.
Tarren shrugged as she eyed the reflection of her mother's face in the flickering flames of the small fire. "Im not...real...hungry...May I go to bed Momma?" she asked focusing directly at her mother.
Xena only nodded, and the child just lowered herself gently to her bedroll. The great warrior was busy running a stone along the sides of her blade but watched carefully as her daughter wrapped herself in her blankets burying her small face quickly in the covers. Xena sighed knowing she should speak to her, but her frustration about her childs actions had left her short on words or wisdom.
Gabrielle leaned over and pulled the blankets over the now sleeping child noting the dry tears on her cheek. She gently kissed her forehead and whispered, "Goodnight!"
Then, she returned to her writing. However each time Gabrielle put her quill to the parchment, her thoughts were dashed by the sight of the sleeping child and the sound of the warrior running the stone against her blade. Dropping her golden quill in angst she turned slowly to her large friend. "Xena, can I ask you something?"
The warrior shook her head wearily at the thought of a question, but nodded anyway, "Sure whats on your mind?" she said never halting the smooth grinding sounds of sharpening her sword.
"When you were a kid, did you get spanked?" the bard asked studying her friends face for an answer.
The warrior stopped her task and lowered her sword. "Yes, Gabrielle, many times," she said with a slight smile knowing where this was going. Gabrielle nodded knowingly, "Yeah, same here, but it was usually my father, not my mother. Hed paddle me, and Id go crying into the house. My mother would come find me and hold me until I stopped crying," the bard said with a gentle smile remembering that moment.
The warrior suppressed a grin as she returned to her sword. "Somehow, I find it hard to imagine you ever doing anything bad enough to get punished for, Gabrielle," the warrior chuckled.
The bard frowned. "Hey, I was a pretty wild kid, ya know?" she quickly defended.
Xena smiled. "Oh yeah, I can only imagine...the Terror of Potedia," she teased looking fondly at the innocent face of her young friend. T
The bard frowned again, obviously considering how to put her thoughts, and Xenas smile faded. "Whats your point Gabrielle? All little kids get spanked when they misbehave, including that one," she said motioning towards the small form wrapped tightly in the blankets.
Gabrielle shook her head innocently. "I know that Xena...Uh, I have no real point. I was just wondering...." she said with a grin.
The warrior saw at her friends smile and nodded suspiciously, "Uh huh!"
Gabrielle repositioned herself next to Xena and watched carefully as she sharpened her blade. She wanted to continue with the conversation, but didnt want to appear too obvious. "So what about you, Xena? Was your mother tough?"
Xena smiled a bit and looked at her friend. "Youre just not gonna be happy until we make this nasty little walk through my childhood, are ya?" she asked already knowing the answer.
As the bard shook her head, Xena chuckled, aware she might as well see where her friend was going with all of this.
The warrior lay her sword down in her lap and sighed. "Ok... well, with 3 of us and no father around my mother had to be strong. I guess I gave her more trouble than my brothers did. I was always doing something I wasnt supposed to be doing, and, boy, my mother had a real no nonsense way of getting her point across." the warrior said with an evil grin remembering a few of those painful moments.
"But you knew she loved you, right?" the bard asked glancing from the fire to Xenas sleeping little girl.
The warrior raised an eyebrow and allowed her thoughts to drift to a time long ago. "Of course, I knew. When I got punished, I knew my mother was feeling my pain with me because shed always crawl into bed beside me and just hold me. Mother didnt want me to be alone. She didnt think I was awake, but I was. I always sort of wished she would say something but I knew...." The warriors words stopped cold, and she stared at the bard.
"Ok, Gabrielle, I get your point. I shouldnt have just sent Tarren back to camp. I should have been there with her and explained why I did what I did. I should have talked to her about taking off down the side path instead of shutting her out. I was just too angry and disappointed with her actions," the warrior whispered sheathing her sword and gazing at the sleeping childs small form.
The bard smiled with satisfaction at the skillful way she had just manipulated the great warriors thoughts.
"Ya know, I really hate when you do that," the warrior chided poking her friend gently in the ribs.
The bard only giggled and returned to her scrolls. "I know!"
Xena kept her eyes glued on her daughter. She sighed remembering the way she had felt when she was punished as a child and how she felt afterward as well, comforted in her mothers arms.
Later, while the bard slept quietly, Xena pulled the blankets up to cover her friend to keep the cold night air from penetrating. She then eyed Tarrens still form and knelt beside it. "I wonder some times if you even know what you mean to me, little one?" she whispered kissing the childs cheek gently and laying down beside her. The warrior wrapped her long arms lovingly around the youngster so Tarren could feel her presence.
The sleepy child opened one eye, "Momma?" she said wearily still half-asleep.
"Im right here. Go back to sleep, Tarren," she whispered as she kissed the youngsters cheek and wiped a few stray hairs from her eyes.
The child lay her head back on the warriors chest content to have her mother so close. The youngster blinked and tears ran down her cheeks. "I...I...didnt think youd...." Her voice faltered.
Xena pulled her in closer nuzzling her head against the youngsters face. "Shh... Im sorry, little one. I should have held you sooner, but I guess I forgot how much a... mothers touch means when you are a little one and feeling so alone.... I promise I wont forget again," Xena vowed.
The child swallowed hard and the warrior felt a small hand reach out and squeeze hers tightly. "Im sorry, Momma...I..." she started to whisper but the warrior silenced her.
"Shh... I know..." Xena said. "Well talk tomorrow...I promise. Right now, lets get some sleep." The little girl nodded and leaned into her mothers embrace.
Xena pulled the blankets neatly around them both and tightened her hold on Tarrens hand so the youngster knew that she was there with her feeling all of her pain and fear with her. She gently hummed a song in the childs ear, and the little princess quickly fell asleep.
The bards eyes filled with tears as she quietly watched the warrior lower her walls to mother her child.
Chapter 5 Apologies and regrets
The following morning Xena rose earlier than usual and headed for the top of a small hill over looking the clearing. She could easily watch over the two sleeping forms below from where she sat. The warrior watched from a distance as Tarren rolled in her blankets trying to get comfortable.
It was still quite early, not even sunrise, when the child opened her eyes and stood searching for her mother. She noted the large figure seated on the hilltop and sleepily started walking towards her. As she approached the great warrior she slowed her pace and then stopped waiting for Xena to see her.
The warrior tilted her head forward and nodded. "Youre up early," she said never turning her head but merely feeling the childs presence.
"I couldnt sleep anymore," the girl whispered, not sure if she was welcome.
The warrior studied the youngster and then reached out her hand motioning the girl to come closer. "Come here!" she whispered. "We have a few things to talk about, Tarren," she said, grabbing the childs blue eyes with her own.
The little girl bit her lip and moved slowly closer to her mother not sure if she was in trouble again.
Xena noted the distance and lowered her arm. "Tarren, its Ok. I dont want to hurt you. I dont EVER want to hurt you," she said with a whisper choking on the words.
The child slowly moved to the side of her mother and Xena gently wiped the hair from her face. "What am I to do with you?" she said with a sigh. "One minute, you are this kind, charming, little girl that I just want to hold in my arms forever; the next you are this rebellious little brat that disobeys everything I say. Still, all I want to do is hold you in my arms and protect you. Youve got me, Tarren. I cant win," Xena said quietly wiping the dust from her eyes.
Tarren lowered her head and whispered with true regret, "Im sorry Momma."
Xena reached out and gently pulled the youngster into a bear hug, and Tarren wrapped her arms quickly around her mothers neck. "I know...Damn it, ya little brat. Dont ya know I love you, no matter how rotten you behave?" she scolded gently as she squeezed the child. "But sometimes, as an adult and as a parent, which I am quickly learning, I must do what needs to be done, even if its not what I wish to do." Xena held the child by the arms and looked into her deep blue eyes slowly wiping away the falling tears.
Tarren looked at the leather-clad warrior, a bit confused by the cryptic statement, so Xena lifted the child into her lap cradling her tightly against her chest. "I want to say this so you understand it, so listen up. Tarren, I am NOT perfect. Believe me, I have made my share of very big mistakes. This being a Mom thing is still very new to me, and Im sure Ill make mistakes, but Im gonna do my best to be good at it. I promise you that I will always be there for you, Ok?" The warrior asked squeezing the youngsters shoulders tightly.
The child bit her lip and nodded.
Xena sighed and continued. "I dont like spanking you, Tarren, but I will do it each and every time you disobey me if I have to, no matter how much it pains either of us. Its because I want you to grow up the right way. Can ya understand that?" the warrior asked quietly staring into the eyes of her young daughter.
The youngster shook her head and the warrior smiled at her honesty, "Well, ya do you know that I love you, and I would never do anything to hurt you, right?" she whispered, hoping the child truly did know her heart.
Tarren thought for a moment and smiled softly, "Of course, youre my mom!" Xena closed her arms around the little girl.
"Thats right, Im YOUR mom, and that means something very special between you and me. Sometimes, that means that I have to act a lot like a parent and you have to be what you are, a beautiful, bratty, little kid." Xena chuckled rocking the youngster gently in her lap.
Tarren lowered her eyes, "Im really sorry I touched your chakrum," she said in a slow whisper.
The warrior took a deep breath. "I know you are, and Im sorry I had to spank you."
The girl lowered her eyes at the memory of her recent visit over her mothers knee. "Tarren, Im more sorry I sent you back to camp without talking to you. I should have let you hold onto me while you were learning such a painful lesson," the warrior whispered leaning her cheek on the childs face still rocking her gently.
Xena sighed and then quickly placed the youngster on her feet before her. "I have been giving things a lot of thought lately and it occurs to me that maybe you need a bit more structure than you have. Maybe I have to be a bit tougher on you," the warrior said with a heavy sigh.
The child swallowed hard at the thought of her warrior mother being ANY tougher than she already was.
Xena wiped a tear from the childs cheek. "Tarren, you remind me so much of me when I was small, and I cant allow you to make the same mistakes I did. Being on the road only makes it harder. Out here, a mistake can cost you your life. I cant afford to have you disobey me like you did running off down that side path. Those men could have killed you," she said sternly shaking the child a bit to emphasize her fear. "I dont ever want anything like that to happen again. Do ya understand?"
The child nodded and Xena sighed heavily at the now sullen form that stood before her.
"Tarren, I am gonna make some NEW, very definite rules for you, and you are going to follow them. There will be no arguments about it. You will do what I say because I AM your mother and I say so. Got it?" she scolded gently.
Tarren lifted her eyes to meet her mothers, and she slowly nodded that she understood. "Yes, Maam."
The warrior caressed her cheek. "But no matter how tough I have to be or how many times I have to punish you, I will always be there to hold you, and I will never ever stop loving you. Ok?"
The girl swallowed hard and grabbed the warriors neck holding tightly to her mother.
Xena closed her arms around the small form squeezing her tightly to show just how much she welcomed the embrace. The teary eyed warrior then pulled the child gently forward.
"Now, for starters you WILL drill with the staff just as I instruct you. WE will start with a half-hour and see how you do from their, but no more games and no more fooling around. That is one area that I will NOT play with you, Tarren. I want you to learn to defend with a staff for your own safety, and if I have to whack that staff across your butt every day until you take me seriously, then I will," the warrior said sternly.
Tarren nodded understanding that her mother meant what she said. The training was a serious matter to her and the youngster was going to have to endure it.
"Second, I have given it some thought, and Gabrielle and I are going to start schooling you in things we both think are important for you to learn."
The child groaned, and Xena suppressed a slight smile remembering her own feelings about school.
"Hey, you want to have many skills, right? Well, we are going to offer you a few more. I am going to teach you about the maps and the stars, and Gabrielle will handle the philosophy and reading stuff." The warrior said choking a bit on the last words.
Tarren shook her head as she whined, "But I wont have time to play or do anything else then."
Xena smiled and tasseled her daughters hair lovingly. "Oh, youll have plenty of time to find mischief, I am sure. Besides maybe with so much to occupy your time, you will stay out of trouble...just a bit," the warrior mother said hopefully.
The child thought about it and sighed, "But I just want to spend time with you, Momma. Thats why I wanted to learn the staff, so YOU would teach me. Now you just give the drill to me and Gabby and leave. I love Gabby too, but...." The youngster frowned lowering her eyes.
Xenas heart sank a bit as the words hit home. She had been so focused on the drills that she had not even realized. Tarren had been missing her. Her daughter wanted to be with her. No matter how many times she had to punish her, this child still wanted to be with her.
The great warrior dropped to one knee. "Well, I promise you, little one, from now on you are going to spend so much time with me that you are gonna be begging for mercy. We will do the drills side by side...all of us," she vowed carefully cupping the childs face in her hands.
The warrior shook her head and said with a crooked smile, "Hey, somebody has to watch you and be there to kick your butt when you step out of line, right?" She tenderly wiped the cheek of this youngster who looked at her with complete wonder and adoration.
Tarren grinned and jumped up into the warriors arms, and Xena held her tightly amazed at this childs unquestioning love for HER. The large warrior then placed the girl back on the ground shaking a single finger at her. "BUT you are still going to get the schooling," she scolded with a smile.
Tarren kicked the dirt in front of her and frowned.
The warrior shook her head at her daughters look of dissatisfaction and rubbed the youngsters shoulder gently before setting herself down once again and dropping her voice to a more serious tone. "And finally..." she said pulling her chakrum from her side and holding it before her, "lets settle this subject once and for all."
She handed Tarren the chakrum but the child would not take it. "Its Ok hold it. Look at it...Go ahead," she said quietly handing the weapon to her daughter.
The youngsters eyes lit up as she examined the beauty of the weapon in her hands in a way she had never had a chance to do before.
Xena had to smile at the glint in the little ones eyes at just the touch of it. She was truly a daughter of the Warrior Princess, and that could be a problem at times.
"Do you know why I punished you, Tarren?" Xena asked with a sigh.
The youngster looked at the warrior. "Cause I took your chakrum, and its important to ya," she said still staring at the weapon.
The warrior nodded, "Yeah, but thats only part of it. Tarren, holding a weapon, ANY weapon, brings great responsibility. You show such respect for your chucks because you know they were mine, and that means something to you."
"This weapon in your hands is very special to me ... and also very dangerous. It is not a toy, and it is not for you to touch. It is a tool - one that can both save lives or take them if need be. What you did down on the field could have cost you your life or your fingers had you tried to catch it," the warrior scolded.
Tarren took one last glance at the chakrum and handed it back to her mother.
Xena tossed it quickly at the dirt at her feet.
"That is not important to me, but you are. You could have been seriously hurt throwing that, and I will do everything within my power not to let that happen," she said sternly staring at her daughter.
Xena reached down, picked up her chakrum, and placed it quickly at her side. "Now, I know it fascinates you, and I know you just want to put your little hands on everything you know you are not supposed to because you are a kid and that is what little kids do," she said sternly.
"However...." The warrior stood to her full height and looked down at her daughter. "Just like naughty little kids do what they do, mothers do what they HAVE to do. SO, IF I EVER see you pull a stunt like you did by taking my chakrum or running down a side path alone again... I give you my solemn oath as a warrior, that I WILL wear my hand raw paddling your little behind... DO we understand each other, daughter?" the warrior asked in a no nonsense Warrior Princess parental tone.
The youngster looked up at the large, muscular figure of her mother and swallowed hard knowing that making that oath meant real business. "Yes, Maam," was all she could whisper as she protectively rubbed her backside with both hands.
Xena nodded hoping that she had made her point clear. "Good, because I dont ever want to see you hurt, Tarren. I love you, ya little brat. Dont ya know that by now?" she asked tenderly swiping the childs hair.
The girl smiled and lifted her arms into the air wanting Xena to pick her up.
The great warrior shook her head and lifted her daughter into her arms knowing that her punishment from the day before was still very much a sore subject. She still needed to be rocked, held, and told she was loved by the person who was most important in her life...her mother.
"I love you, too, Momma!" she whispered in the warriors ear.
Xena kissed the youngsters cheek and slowly looked across the horizon. She held her small daughter allowing the childs tears to fall onto her broad shoulders and soothed her with a gentle caressing hand up and down her back, "Shh... Shh... little one. Your mother is here with you, now and always."
The great warrior watched the sun rise as she held her child tightly in her arms thanking the gods for the greatest gift they had ever given her.
When Xena returned to camp, she was still carrying the clinging child in her arms. The bard smiled at the sight knowing that the two had found peace with each other.
Xena slowly lowered the reluctant little girl to the ground. Tarren just leaned against her mother not wanting to leave her side. She did not want to break with the childs affections, but she could not get much work done with her attached to her leg. The warrior looked at the bard and shrugged not knowing exactly how to break from her childs need to be close to her.
"Tarren, Im gonna go for a quick ride. Do ya wanna come?" the warrior asked with a flashing smile.
The child took a step back shaking her head. "Err, no, I think I should stay here and help Gabrielle!" she said slowly backing away.
The bard giggled, and Xena saddled Argo for a morning run.
Tarren really wanted to go with her mother, but the thought of that saddle beneath her was more than she could bear.
Xena jumped onto her horse and with a quick smile and a warning look, she spoke. "Behave yourself!" she said pointing at her child.
Tarren nodded and grinned a bit at the playful chastisement. "Ill try!" she said with an impish grin.
The warrior mother shook her head, "Oh no...youll do more than try, little one," she said with a stern look kicking at the war-horses side and headed for the open clearing to let her spirit run free.
Gabrielle stood beside the youngster, placing an affectionate arm around her shoulder. "Dont worry. Shell be back in a little while," she said with a soft whisper.
The child nodded and lowered her head, "I know."
The bard saw the still wet tears falling from her eyes and put a loving hand on the girls shoulder, "Hey, are you all right?" she asked.
Tarren wiped her eyes. "Yeah... except for the fact that I dont think Ill ever sit down again, I guess Im Ok," she whispered as a single tear ran down her cheek.
The bard reached over and pulled the small youngster into an embrace. This poor little one had so much love to share and needed so much love in return. All she ever wanted was to be held. Xena tried to be there for her as much as possible, but it never seemed to be enough for Tarren. She always had one more hug in her to give. She could fight like a little Warrior Princess, be stubborn as a mule, and get into more trouble than five Joxers. Yet such an affectionate little one this child had turned out to be. The bard was saddened by the thought of all the years the youngster had spent alone without anyone to truly love her the way she needed to be cared for.
She tried to smile as she released the little girl.
"Hey, guess what?" the young bard said with excitement squeezing the childs shoulder.
The youngster sniffled, "What?"
"Its time for you to take a bath," the bard said with a smile, and the child started to pull away ready to run for the hills.
Gabrielle held her arm tightly. "Not so fast, scamp. You may find that some cooling water may be a bit soothing on a certain VERY tender little part of your body," the bard whispered with a quick smirk.
The struggling youngster froze and stared at her friend. A small grin ran across her face, and she grabbed the bards hand. "Come on, Gabby. Bath time.... Lets go...."
Gabrielle barely had time to reach for the satchels before the youngster dragged her down to the stream. The bard smiled with satisfaction at her own cleverness. "Too bad this only works when the warrior throttles you," she mumbled to herself.
Chapter 6 A Time for Work and A Time for Play
Down by the river Gabrielle and Tarren happily splashed in the water. Tarren had succumbed to having her hair washed and taking a bath and now the rest of the time was spent simply enjoying the coolness of the river. Tarrens eyes filled with a small amount of relief as she noted that the cool water did indeed ease her suffering just a bit as long as she stayed in the water, so she was in no hurry to get out. The youngster splashed water at Gabrielle who in turn splashed her back, and the two giggled wildly as the water sprayed through the air.
Their innocent laughter and yelling was music to the great warriors ears as she approached the embankment. "Hey, you two, if we are ever gonna get on the road today, then youll have to leave the water," she yelled trying hard to hide her smile.
Gabrielle and Tarren both turned and eyed the warrior with a mischievous grin. They looked at each other exchanging smiles and then started swimming further and further away from shore until they were on the other side of the gentle river.
"Sorry, warrior, but its too hot to leave so early on such a beautiful day," the bard yelled.
Tarren grinned and ducked below the surface coming up taking long, even strides across the river.
Xena shook her head at the two arrogant children who lived under her watchful eye. "Ok, but if I have to come in and get you two, you will BOTH be sorry," she warned taking her armor off and dropping it to the ground.
"Well, Xena, I guess youre just gonna have to get wet, then," the bard said playfully aiming a puddle of water at her friend and smiling.
Xena removed the last of her leathers and ran out of sight.
Tarren and Gabrielle scanned the edge but the warrior was no where to be seen. They looked at each other with a bit of trepidation and angst knowing Xena was capable of many things. They had no idea what to expect.
"Gabby, maybe we should get out while we can," the child whispered nervously.
The bard nodded in agreement, and they started to move towards shore.
But before they could move more than a few steps, a large, muscular figure made a perfect dive from a small cliff far above, landing right in the water beside them. She grabbed each wayward girl by the ear. "Now, you werent gonna leave after I got all wet, were you?" she scolded as each girl tried in vain to free themselves from the tight grip the warrior had on their tender ears.
Xena brought them both tightly into her chest wrapping a muscular arm around each. "No, I didnt think so. Now, children, let me ask you a question. When Xena says its time to get out of the water, what to we do? Gabrielle, you first. You are my oldest after all," the warrior teased.
The bard held onto the warriors arm trying to break its vice-like grip unsuccessfully. "We get out!" she yelled begging to be set free. Xena nodded. "Very good!" she praised as she released the bard and turned to Tarren
"And you, little one?" she asked.
The youngster giggled wildly enjoying the game. "Uh, I forget the question," she said with a wild laugh.
Xena smiled and brought her free arm around and wrapped it tightly on the childs waist. "Remember now?"
The girl coughed a bit. "Yes! We get out when you say to get out," she cried as the warrior set her free.
Xena threw her head back in satisfaction, easing herself into the flow of the water. Gabrielle and Tarren started to move towards shore when the warrior stopped them
"Wait! Now where do you think you are going?" she asked pulling them each back.
"You said to get out of the water," Tarren said softly confused by her mothers words.
Xena smiled as the cool water ran down her arms. "Ah, little one, that was before. NOW Im telling you to stay in. After all, its too hot and a much too beautiful a day to head out onto such a dusty trail. Goden will still be there tomorrow. Right, Gabrielle?" she said with a grin staring at her friend.
The bard smiled at her friends decision to take a day off. It was unlike Xena to ever slow down when she had a destination in mind. However the last few days had been tough on all of them especially Tarren. Xena knew that a day of simple play together was perhaps just what the three companions needed.
Gabrielle nodded at her friend and winked, "As you say my warrior," she answered with a bow.
Xena smiled "Hmm, a little respect. Thats more like it!" she purred.
Tarren and Gabrielle stared at each other for a moment. Then, in a flash, the two friends jumped on top of the Warrior Princess trying to submerge her for a well deserved dunking. But the warrior was too fast and her attackers soon found themselves flying over her head landing with a splash behind her.
Xena laughed at their valiant attempt and waited for them to come to the surface, but they did not. Instead the great warrior felt a small tug at her feet before two pair of hands below the water pulled her under.
Tarren and Gabrielle came up laughing at their accomplishment and waited for Xena to come up so they could gloat, but she did not surface.
Gabrielle started playfully calling, "Xena...Xena...." There was no response. After a few minutes the bard became frantic. Even the great warrior might have been caught under the river current.
Tarrens eyes went wide as the bard searched. The youngsters looked in every direction and then finally called out. "Momma where are you?" she screamed. The fear in her voice was enough to bring the warrior immediately to the surface.
"Miss me?" she asked with a grin, but the child angrily wiped a tear from her eye and headed for shore not wanting to play this game anymore.
Gabrielle splashed water at her large friend, "THAT wasnt funny, Xena. You really scared her. If she did that to you, youd be very angry," the bard scolded.
The warrior sighed looking a bit guilty for staying submerged so long. "Im sorry. Youre right. I thought shed know I was only teasing," she whispered staring at the small figure heading for the safety of dry land.
With a few quick, even strokes, the warrior swam up to Tarren gently taking her by the arm. "Im sorry, sweetheart. I was only playing with you. I didnt mean to scare you. Forgive me?" the warrior, asked staring softly into the youngsters eyes.
The child wiped the tears from her face and nodded, and Xena lifted her in the air above the water. Tarren only smiled a bit which was not the loud laughter Xena had hoped for. She really had frightened the girl, and that was something she had not meant to do. Xena brought the child down into her arms and hugged her close allowing the youngster to wrap her arms tightly around the warriors neck.
Gabrielle watched with a smile happy to see that the warrior could now be humbled so easily by this little imps affections.
Tarren looked at her mother. "Dont do that again," she scolded.
Xena smiled, "No, maam... I certainly will not," she said with a fast smile.
Finally, as the child gave way to a giggle, Xena tossed her over her head hoping to resume the playfulness of the afternoon. The great warrior reached out into the water and, using her large muscles started swimming in even strokes the length of the river.
"Wait for me!" Tarren yelled eagerly copying her mothers smooth strokes.
Soon, the bard took up the third position and the three companions were swimming in absolute unison, at one with the world around them.
As the day slowly passed, the water play wound down, and the three left the water. Tarren was slightly assisted by the warrior throwing her small form over her shoulder. Gabrielle dried her hair and dressed happy to just lie on the shore enjoying the cool breeze.
Xena ran the brush through her own dark mane and then attended Tarrens tangled mess as the child struggled to get free. "Hold still before I give ya a swat with this thing," the warrior scolded at the anxious youngster.
Tarren immediately fell still fearing the warrior was serious.
Xena grinned and turned the youngster around and kissed her forehead. "All right, go lie down. Youre done, ya little brat," she sighed surrendering to the girls pouting face.
The child smiled and went to join Gabrielle on a blanket near the shore.
The bard gently poked her in the side. "Hey, youre still wet!" she moaned.
The youngster giggled as her mother lay down beside her. "So, Ill sun dry, right Momma?" she said turning her head to face the warrior who had comfortably placed her hands behind her head to relax.
Xena turned and winked at the bard, "Right!" she growled trying not to let the child see her smile.
The bard giggled and again poked the child. "You are such a spoiled brat," she whispered rolling onto her side and wrapping an arm around the little girl.
"I know!" the youngster answered with a playful grin. Tarren threw her arm around the warriors stomach and soon the three were tangled together in one large knot.
Xena opened one eye and looked at her companions with a smile and a sigh, "By the Gods! How did I ever get into this?" she murmured as she wrapped her large arm protectively around the two small figures beside her.
The warrior allowed that they needed the rest and relaxation for some little voice inside of her told her this simple trip to Goden might turn into more than she expected or wanted.
That night, after they ate, Xena lay staring up at he stars lost in thought. Gabrielle was trying to get Tarren to fall asleep with a story, but it wasn't doing much good. Xena smiled at the bards persistence.
"Gabby, tell me another story about you and Momma," the child begged.
Gabrielle considered her options. "I swear Tarren I am running out of stories that you havent already heard," she said with a sigh. The bard sat beside the child trying to think of an adventure she had not already told. "I got one.... Well you remember the story I told you about Princess Diana?"
The child nodded.
Gabrielle grinned as she started the tale. "Well, Xena was again called to the castle when Diana thought her father was dying. I was supposed to meet her in this tavern, but she never showed up. I met Joxer there instead and...."
The child stared at the bard. "Whats a Joxer?" she asked.
Gabrielle thought about how she could possibly describe the man. "Err, its... I mean hes..."
The warrior sat up and said with an evil grin, "Actually, Tarren, we have not quite figured that out ourselves yet."
The bard smiled and poked her friend in the ribs. "Joxers just a friend...a very strange... friend," the bard said nodding at the warrior who shrugged. The bard continued, "Anyway, he told me Xena had already gone to the castle, so I went there. When I got to the castle I found someone dressed just like Xena named Meg and...."
The child frowned. "Whats Meg? A warrior? A bard? A princess?" she asked anxiously waiting for a reply.
The bard looked at Xena, and the warrior chuckled at the corner she had worked herself into.
Gabrielle begged for help with those pleading eyes, and Xena could resist coming to the rescue.
"Tarren, we have to get up very early to get to Goden. I think youve heard enough stories for one night. Go to sleep," the warrior said gently.
"Why?" the child cried in protest.
"Because I said so," the warrior mother responded in an even tone.
The child frowned and yanked the blankets over her face.
Gabrielle sat beside the grinning warrior. "Thanks," she said under her breath. "I have to remember to edit some of these stories for her," the bard whispered.
Xena smiled at her friend and then looked at the child, covered head to toe in blanket, and moved over to her crouching beside the small form. She slowly removed the blankets from the childs face. "Hey, I said you had to go to sleep. I didnt say you had to bury yourself," the warrior teased.
The youngster looked up at her mother. "But I cant sleep. Im not tired."
The warrior frowned and sat next to the little one allowing her to lay her head in her lap as she stroked her back gently. Xena then began to sing a quiet song of peace, and soon the child was fast asleep.
The bard watched in awe as the warrior sat there still rubbing the sleeping youngsters back. "That was beautiful. I wish youd sing more often," the bard said as Xenas eyes met hers.
Xena held the child close to her as she spoke. "Gabrielle, a song is like a story. When you feel the moment is right, you sing it," she said with a gentle grin.
The bard studied her friends anxious movements. "Youre worried, arent you...about Goden?"
Xena looked at the young friend who had traveled with her so long and knew her too well. "Yes... but I cant say why. I just have a bad feeling about it. I cant explain it. Im hoping that we pass right through Goden, find out everythings fine, and can get back on the road again," she said.
The bard nodded. "Well, maybe its just that whole thing about Nalas vision."
The warrior frowned as she stared at the innocent face of her sleeping child. "Maybe," she said, although she did not sound convinced.
The bard knew the warrior had a great deal of respect for visions and did not take them lightly. So this one, from the old mystic who had predicted Xenas future so well, almost raised the hairs on the warriors neck as she thought about it.
"Uh, Xena, is all this superstitious stuff about Goden true?" she asked her voice a bit shaky.
Xena eyed her friend closely. "Gabrielle, are you afraid?" she asked with a slight smile.
The bard shook her head. "Of course not. Im a grown woman... not a child like Tarren. Why would I believe that these silly stories are true?" the bard whispered staring up at the sky.
The warrior nodded her head. "Well, maybe because some of them are," Xena said with a blank stare.
Gabrielle swallowed hard at the thought of entering a place where there might be black magic and witches. "Ugh, ya know, I better get some sleep. We do have to get up early. Good night, Xena" she said looking around them warily as she slipped into her bedroll and pulled the blankets over her head.
The warrior chuckled a bit at her frightened Amazon friend. "Goodnight, Gabrielle."
Dawn came earlier than usual, it seemed. Xena was up and ready to go before Gabrielle and Tarren had ever opened an eye.
The warrior threw her saddle on Argo patting the Great War horses mane. "I know I should let them sleep, girl, but I want to get in and out of Goden fast," she whispered to the mare.
Then, Xena turned and gently shook each of the sleeping figures. "Rise and shine, little beauties. Its time to hit the road," she said. There was no movement. Xena eyed Gabrielle with an evil grin. She lowered her mouth to the bards ear and whispered," Get up or Ill take you for an early morning swim."
The bards eyes flew open, "No, No, Im up!" the weary young woman said throwing the blankets off and stretching out her muscles.
Next, Xena looked at the very still figure of her young daughter. She gave her a quick tassel. "Hey, come on. Time to get up, sleepyhead," she said gently.
The child moaned but did not make any signs of rising.
The warrior sighed in frustration. "Why is it always so hard to get you two up in the morning?" the warrior yelled to the bard and child.
Gabrielle smiled and said with a laugh as she packed her things, "Maybe we just dont like getting up before the sun does!"
Xena shook her head and picked the youngster up off the ground, blankets and all.
The sleepy child quickly opened her eyes. "A swim?" she asked with a smile lazily lying in the warriors arms.
Xena shook her head and replied, "Nope, YOU would enjoy that, but since youre still so tired, I thought Id let you ride Argo today."
Tarren immediately started to struggle. "No! No, Momma, please. Im awake. Please, I dont want to sit up there. Ill get up...please," she begged.
Xena had just about reached the side of the horse when she gently lowered the child to the ground. "Hmm, well, if you are sure youre awake," she said with an evil smile.
The child nodded and sighed with relief.
"Well then, get moving," the warrior commanded gently sending the youngster on her way with a quick swat.
Tarren winced at the fall of her mothers large hand.
"Ouch!" the child yelped rubbing her bottom gently. Even through all her blankets, the sting was still very strong.
Xena suppressed a grin, as did the bard. "Oh, Im sorry. Is that spot still a bit sore?" the warrior chuckled, knowing full well that it was and would be for a very long time. Xena Warrior Princess was not one to do anything halfway.
The child mumbled something under her breath and started packing her things for the long journey.
Chapter 7 The Road to Goden
Walking towards the home of the mystics, they ate a cold meal of bread and cheese
Xena wondered what lay ahead. Gabrielle had looked a little pale this morning just at the thought of entering this place.
"Tarren, did Nala ever mention this village to you?" the warrior asked hoping for any additional information she could get.
The youngster slowly considered the words and nodded. "Uh huh!"
The apprehensive bard stopped. "What have you heard?" she asked staring at the child.
Tarren looked to her mother, then at Gabrielle. She could not understand why there was such a fuss over Goden or why the bards face was so white.
"Well, its where Nala grew up. Nala said when the mystics came from across the great waters they were chased out of every town cause people thought they did bad things. They moved around until they found Goden. The people in that village were real poor, and Nala said the mystics helped them in exchange for being able to make their homes there.... Is that good?" she asked looking to her mother for approval.
Xena nodded at the youngsters story and with a quick flip tossed the child over her shoulder. "Perfect!" she said to the little girl now struggling and laughing under her mothers arm.
The bard merely bit her lip. "How did they help them, Tarren? I mean, did they use magic or potions or silly stuff like that?" she whispered trying to pretend like she was only half-serious.
The youngster smiled realizing her friend was a bit frightened. Tarren laughed wildly as Xena turned her upside down, but that did not prevent her from continuing her story.
"Well, Gabrielle, the way Nala told me, each year the mystics would choose one woman from the village to sacrifice to a god. That way they would always get a good harvest because it always pleased the god. They only did it once a year though because it took them a long time to find that very special woman that would FEED the god," she whispered evilly, emphasizing each word and waving her hands around as the bard did when she told her stories.
Xena smiled at the child dangling in her hand. This was quite a tall tale the youngster was telling.
Gabrielle was captivated by the words. "Err, why was it so hard to find this special woman?" she asked closing her eyes.
Tarren swung in the air trying to get a grasp on Xenas leg, but each time she did the warrior merely stepped back and laughed. "Well, you see, the people couldnt just give any old woman to the god. She had to be special. She had to be young. She had to be pretty. And most of all she had to be blonde, and there just werent many blondes in Goden. As a matter of fact, Nala said many times hunting parties went to other villages just looking for that ONE special blonde to make their sacrifice with," she said slowly.
The bards face went white as she repeated the words, "One...special... blonde.... Excuse me, I have to go use the forest," she said running into the trees.
Xenas smile quickly faded at the sight of her now terrified friend disappearing into the woods. The warrior swung her daughter around to face her. "Oooh, thanks! I was getting dizzy down there. Lets do it again," the child said with a broad smile anxious for more play.
Xena put the little girl down in front of her giving her an angry stare. "THAT was not very nice!" she said in a scolding tone.
The youngster frowned and kicked the dirt with her boot, "But Momma, Gabrielle asked me to tell her."
Xena bent down and faced the child. "Tarren, either you tell her that was a nasty little story you made up and apologize for scaring her, or you will ride the rest of the way on Argos back," the warrior scolded.
Tarrens eyes went wide, and she backed away a bit. "But you said Im not allowed to lie, and I told the truth," she whispered bowing her head and shuffling her feet.
Xena lifted her child straight in the air looking deep into the little ones blue eyes for the truth. Tarren had never lied to her, and she wasnt lying now. "Are you telling me that THAT story you just told Gabrielle is something Nala really told you?" she asked studying the youngster.
The childs head nodded strongly. "Uh huh!" she said with innocent eyes.
The warrior shook her head and lowered her to the ground. "Great! Thats just great! Why didnt you tell me any of this before?" she scolded tossing Argos reigns to the ground as she watched her friend returning from the woods looking paler than before.
The child shrugged, "You never asked me about it," she said with a grin.
Xena knelt before her daughter and whispered, "Now Tarren, I want you to listen to me. I dont want you to say one more word about any of this to Gabrielle, got it?" she said gently tapping the childs cheek.
"Why?" she asked anxious to share more of the stories Nala had told her. She had never seen the bard so white before.
"Because I said so. Got it?" the warrior scolded.
The child nodded still not really understanding why there was such a fuss, but not wanting to get on the warriors bad side again so soon.
Gabrielle made her way over to the pair and tried to smile.
"Are you Ok?" the warrior asked with a bit of concern.
The bard nodded waving her off.
"Gabrielle, you are not gonna believe some fairy tale about sacrifices told by some little kid whose trying to scare you, are ya?" the warrior said with a broad smile.
Tarren started to protest, but the warrior quickly cupped her hand over the childs mouth. "Argo?" she whispered slowly gazing down at the youngster. The child shook her head wildly and the warrior removed her hand.
"Yeah...err...Gabby, I was only teasing ya...sorry," she said with a forced grin.
Gabrielle stared at the little girl. "Oh! Thanks a lot, Tarren. Well, you just wait until you want ME to tell you another story or find yourself in more trouble with Xena than you can handle. Dont come running to me," the bard warned stomping down the road ahead.
Tarren looked up at her mother.
"Thanks a lot Mom!" she groaned.
Xena put an arm around her daughter. "Im sorry, kid. I promise I will set her straight as soon as we leave Goden. Right now, I need Gabrielle completely focused, and she wont be if she thinks someone is gonna mark her as the next sacrifice. Understand?" she asked tenderly as they headed down the path behind the angry bard.
The child shook her head, "No, but Ill keep my mouth shut if I can ride my favorite horsy," she said with a grin.
The warriors lips twisted, and she lowered herself to the ground. "Get on! Ya little brat" she said swinging the youngster onto her back for a fast ride into Goden.
Xena could only smile at the childs innocent laughter as she bounced happily in the air.
As they came to the end of the trail, the warrior noticed how all the trees had similar carvings of animals, just as Nalas camp had.
"What are they?" the bard asked, remembering the ones hanging from the old mystics trees.
"Warnings!" the warrior answered.
The bard readied her staff for action. "Great!" she murmured.
As the trio passed the last of the tall trees, they entered a small, prosperous looking village. The buildings were all carved from stone, and many had intricate designs on the door frames. Some even had gold inlay set into the carvings that sat outside the buildings. It was a very busy little place full of what appeared to be normal people scurrying around doing their work, while children played in the fields.
The bard smiled with relief. "Sacrifices...you just wait until were alone you little brat!" she scoffed staring over at the youngster still mounted on the warriors back.
Tarren grinned widely as the bards color had quickly returned. "This place is beautiful. Look at the buildings, Xena. I feel like Im in a little Athens," the bard said waving her hand around at the architecture.
Xena nodded in agreement and lowered the child to the ground "I think you can walk from here," she said with a grin.
Tarren stretched. "Sure...Thanks, horsy. Im gonna go look around," she said slowly heading away from her companions.
Xena grabbed her by the scruff of her tunic. "Not so fast, little one. YOU know better. Youre staying where I can keep my eye on you," she said sternly.
The youngster shrugged as she teased, "Sure, I know youd miss me while I was gone."
"Yup!" the warrior nodded. "I would, so dont make me have to go looking for you," she scolded giving the youngster her famed Xena stare.
The child only smiled and reached out her hand to her mother.
Xena sighed and took Tarrens hand in her own and headed deeper into the village. "Brat!" she whispered with a smile.
The warrior eyed the town and its people curiously. All this wealth for one small village seemed odd, and so did the villagers. Xena looked at the bard who was happily taking in the sights. She then looked down to her daughter and closed her grip tighter on the childs hand. The warrior did not know whether there would be trouble, but just in case, she made sure Tarren was never more than a few feet from her protection.
The villagers all smiled at the trio walking through the streets of Goden. Xena scanned the area looking for some sign of obvious danger, but she found none.
Gabrielle shook her head at the sight of the peaceful village. "Oh yeah, real dangerous place, warrior. A village filled with friendly farmers."
Tarren frowned at the bard. "Remember what Xena says, Gabby. Things are not always as they seem," she scolded trying to imitate her mothers tone.
The warrior nodded at the child. "Well, at least you listen to some of what I say," she said glancing down at the youngster.
Tarren raised her eyebrows and smiled. "I always listen!" she argued.
The warrior lifted her daughter into her arms.
"Yeah, then how come you never do what youre told?" she asked looking into the eyes of her little girl.
The child considered the question. "Well, you wouldnt want me to be perfect, would ya?" she whined laying her head down on her mothers shoulder.
Xena smiled and gently hugged the little one. "Nope...wouldnt want that to happen," she murmured with a slight grin.
As they moved through the streets, Xena noted that the people were indeed friendly... very friendly ...perhaps even too friendly.
One man offered the bard a flower and merely bowed and walked away. Gabrielle smiled, "Hmm, I could get used to this," she said sniffing the aroma of the flower.
When they reached the edge of town, Xena stared at a large, dark building set on top of a hill on the outskirts of the village. It was the only building not adorned with fancy inlays or gold. In fact it looked to be some sort of holy place. She stopped a boy in the street and asked him what that place was.
"Why, thats the old mystic temple." he said pointing up at the dilapidated old structure.
The warrior nodded. "The mystic temple?" she murmured and started up the hill.
Gabrielle stared at a small enclosure that looked to be some sort of merchants booth. "Uh...Xena... Id like to get some supplies we need before we find a place to camp... unless we will be spending the night here? Gabrielle asked with a slight smirk."
The warrior shook her head. "No, I want to get out of here as soon as we check the place out. You go get the supplies, and well meet you at the edge of this road in an hour."
The bard nodded, "Ok, you two, go have your fun Mystic hunting. Ill see you in a bit," the young woman said, still not sure why the warrior was so skeptical about this wonderful place.
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