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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 8 - The Mystics Way
Xena kept Tarren close as they entered the old temple. It was dark, and the walls were thick with cobwebs. The roof had many holes in it, and the entire building was in great need of repair.
Xena stepped inside cautiously. "Hello, is anyone here?" she yelled.
Tarren gripped the warriors hand tightly as a small figure came from the darkness. An old woman wearing a ragged robe and carrying a long staff approached them. She looked to be more than 100 summers old Tarren thought. Her skin was leathered from the sun, and her eyes were black like the night sky. "Someone is always here, child," the old woman answered, her voice clear but fragile.
The old one stared down at the child and reached to touch her face, but the youngster backed off behind Xena.
"Sorry, shes just shy," the warrior said reaching behind her to pull the child forward.
The old woman laughed. "That is fine, warrior. We know all about the little one and you," she said softly, motioning them to follow her into the darkness. At that moment Xena was sorry that she had not sent Tarren with Gabrielle.
The Warrior Princess and her child slowly moved behind the old woman until darkness surrounded them. Then with a quick wave of the old womans hand, the room grew bright. Xena noted 11 other woman in the same garb and all about the same age sitting in a circle in the center of the temple.
Sitting in her seat and offering a chair to the warrior and child, the woman said, "I am Derma. You might say that I am the leader here, though each of us is part of the other and together we all make the one."
Xena carefully sat, and Tarren just stood behind her gripping at the warriors shoulder.
Derma smiled and said soothingly, "Child you do not need to be afraid. We are your friends. We will not do you any harm."
Tarren slowly moved forward and stood beside the warrior who motioned for the youngster to sit in the chair beside her.
Tarren looked at the chair and then at her mothers stare and cringed.
The warrior knew the gesture would be painful but did not want to insult these people. Having Tarren sit in her lap was not proper etiquette in this place.
Carefully, the child lowered herself to the wooden chair, but before she landed, Derma waved her hand and a soft pillow appeared on the girls chair. The youngster smiled as she felt the cushion beneath her, "Thanks!" she said with a wide grin.
Derma nodded, "You are quite welcome, child. You may take that with you when you go. I think you may be needing it quite a lot in your travels," she laughed.
The youngster sat. "Is that a vision?" she asked with an innocent frown.
The old woman laughed. "Perhaps or perhaps just a lucky guess, little one," she said with a gentle smile.
Xena noted the exchange with some amusement but wanted to get back to more serious matters. "I am here because..." the warrior began, but Derma stopped her with the wave of a hand.
"Princess we know why you have come, but there is nothing you can do to save this evil place of Goden," Derma said looking to her sisters in the circle.
"How do you know who I am?" the warrior asked studying the silent faces of the other mystics. "We are the first. We are the Twelve Princess," Derma whispered slowly.
The warrior looked at her with confusion.
Tarren thought about the old womans words. "Xena, they are the first ones who came here over the great waters...right?" the youngster cried her eyes filled with excitement.
Xena steadied the child and pulled her back.
The old woman nodded. "That is right, little princess, but your mother does not quite understand what that means."
The youngsters mouth dropped at the mystics discovery. How did they know Xena is her mother?
The warrior looked at Derma and closed her eyes hoping the old woman could hear her thoughts.
The mystic nodded and waved her hand.
A good 20 paces away from the circle another light beamed on a small area filled with all kinds of toys and small contraptions of amusement.
"Child, much is over there that would interest you. Take whatever your heart feels closest to," she said motioning to the newly lit area of the temple.
Tarrens eyes filled with excitement, but she looked to Xena for approval before she went.
"Go ahead, but stay where I can see you," she said softly as the youngster ran over to the toys, rifling through each item.
"Thank you," the warrior said, and the old woman nodded.
"There are some things a child should not see or hear, Princess," she said with a slight smile.
Xena sat straight back in the chair eyeing the old woman. "Ok, tell me what I need to know," she said knowing there was no point in sharing her thoughts with those who could already see them.
Derma nodded, "The young one is correct. We are the first.... We came to this land many years ago... before the birth of your mothers mother... we twelve. With us we brought families and hoped to find a place of peace where we could live our lives. We traveled far and long and were chased from everywhere we ever tried to settle. Finally, we found this place of Goden. The people were simple farmers and quite poor. We were welcomed at first..." her voice trailed off.
"Please continue, Derma," the warrior said looking at the old woman with one eye and watching Tarren with the other.
"We shared our food... our lives ... and even our wisdom. As the years passed, the people started to change. They became wealthy...prosperous...and greedy. Goden became a very dark place. The villagers made sacrifices to a dark force that does not even exist, my friend. They created their own God, made out of solid gold, and offered the lives of the young in hopes of attaining even greater riches."
"We tried to stop them from killing the innocent, but they would not hear us. My people were called evil and hunted down like animals. Soon, all of us were branded as witches and chased from the village. Some were even burned alive," the old woman said with a tear remembering a vision from long ago.
"Many left, like Nala, hoping to find a new and better life in another place. Others chose to hide their gifts. Now, we 12 are all that remains of my people in Goden. We are the keepers, the watchers. We built this place into the evil dwelling that it is, and we must stay here until its retribution," she said with a deep sigh.
Xena leaned forward studying the face of the mystic. "Nala mentioned a darkness in her diary. Are these people in danger? Is something going to happen? I came to help you... all of you, Derma," she said hoping her words held the meaning that she wished them to.
Derma nodded, saying, "Child, the darkness mentioned by Nala is something no one can stop. The earth will shake beneath this village and swallow all that is evil. The fates will purify all that has been tainted by blackness. We have told the people to leave this place, but they do not listen. We are only safe here in the temple because they know that, as 12, we can bring great force. Take your child and your friend and leave this place, warrior. Walk away and do not look back," the old woman said with a wave of her hand.
Xena thought for a moment. " If something so bad is going to happen, I cant just let an entire village of people die. I must get them to leave," she said jumping to her feet.
Derma stood and placed a gentle hand on the warrior. "Princess, do not try to walk amongst these people. You will find they are little of what they seem to be. They will not listen to you, and you will be in great danger," the old one warned.
Xena walked in a small circle considering the old womans words. "I have to try to help them see the error of their ways. I have to make them realize that they must go. I cant just leave them to die. They cannot ALL be guilty of the crimes you mention. What of the children?" she whispered looking at the innocent child who stood in a far corner fascinated by a stick of light that had no flame. Tarren waved the wand in the air playfully trying to get the light to vanish but it would not.
Xena hid a smile as she noticed the giggling childs efforts.
Derma touched Xenas arm and, searching her eyes, said with a smile, "You have a great heart, warrior. My granddaughter chose a good friend."
Xena stared oddly at the woman.
"Yes, child. Nala was my granddaughter. She is with me now. She is here with us all now. Can you not feel her?"
Xena sniffed the air and felt a slight chill through her body. "Nala!" she whispered.
Xena swallowed hard and looked at Derma. So much was gong on that she did not understand. Yet, she knew attempting to help the people of Goden was the most important thing.
"How much time?" the warrior asked trying to maintain a stoic composure.
The old woman shook her head. "None, child. I am sorry, but perhaps you can save those that the fates do not take."
Xena nodded to the old woman and waved to Tarren, "Come on... its time to go," she said firmly.
The child stuffed the light stick in her tunic and left the other toys finding they were all too heavy to take with her on the road. However, she grabbed the pillow the old mystic had given her. "Thanks!" she said to the woman as she obediently stood beside Xena.
Derma eyed the amulet the child wore around her neck. "Young one, you wear the amulet of Nalas home land. You know it has great power. Use it wisely, child," she whispered.
Tarren smiled having remembered the same words that Nala had spoken when she gave it to her. The youngster caressed the amulet. "I will," she promised, heading for the door.
Xena raised an eyebrow wondering just what power the amulet contained and made a mental note to discuss the item with Tarren at a better time.
"Derma, thank you for your help. I wish I could...."The old woman shook her head. "Child, for many summers our fate has been sealed. When we are no longer needed, we will return to our home. But warrior, if you can save one innocent of Goden, then you will have saved them all. Do not worry about us. Guard that one," she said pointing to the youngster waiting by the door to leave. "She is a special one. She has many gifts, Princess. It must take all of your strength to hold her in place," the old woman said with a smile.
Xena glanced at her daughter fidgeting by the door anxious to leave the dark place. "All my strength and then some I do not always have," she said with a grin.
Derma nodded, "You are doing fine, Princess. Follow your heart. Let your love guide you, and you will never fail her."
The warrior let the words fall on her like a gentle breeze. She turned to thank the old woman but she was already gone. The light was again replaced with blackness.
Xena walked to the door and took Tarrens hand. "Come on, lets go find Gabrielle," she said with an odd grin looking back one last time before she left the mystics circle.
As they left the temple, Xena studied the large village before her and then looked at her daughter who was eagerly awaiting some excitement.
"What are you grinning about?" she said with a smile, rubbing the childs head.
"I was just wondering.... Ya see, Nala said there is a cave here filled with nothing but crystals. She said it is up on top of the highest hill here. Can we go see it?" the little girl asked stepping in front of her mothers path.
Xena shook her head looking down at her little adventure seeker. "Im sorry...but no, Tarren. We are here to help these people, not to explore. Besides, based on what Derma said, some sort of trouble may happen very soon, so I want you with me at all times, understand?" she said in a no nonsense tone.
The child shrugged and kicked the dirt in front of her, wishing she could go in search of treasures in the hills.
Xena was nervous about the unknown disaster predicted to come and really wanted Tarren and Gabrielle out of the village before nightfall. "Tarren, do you understand?" the warrior repeated in a stern voice.
The child said nothing, so Xena grabbed the girls ear for emphasis and asked, "Are we having a hearing problem, little one?"
"No, No, No! I heard you. I understand.... I wont leave your sight. Ouch! Please let go, Momma!" she cried.
The warrior released her. "Good, because I dont have time to help you make use of that right now," Xena said pointing to the childs soft new source of comfort.
Tarren frowned as she remembered her sore bottom. "I dont need any help right now...thanks!" the youngster murmured trailing after the grinning warrior.
Gabrielle entered the small merchants tent ready to do some pretty sharp haggling. They needed some bread and cheese and other supplies, but dinars were hard to come by so haggling was always in order. She carefully picked up the items on her list and took them to the counter, figuring no more than 20 dinars for everything. She grinned at the small, dark man behind the counter ready for the fight.
"How much?" she said with an attack plan in mind.
He smiled at her and then studied the items. "I would say 20 dinars, yes?" he asked with that still wide smile.
Gabrielle drew back a bit and handed him the money. "Ok, yeah...that sounds right, I guess," she said lost in confusion at the fairness of the prices. The puzzled bard took her bundles and slowly left the merchants place shaking her head.
Walking onto the road, she was met by Xena and Tarren. "Boy, these people are acting strange. I just got all of this for 20 dinars without even a haggle, and everyone keeps smiling at me. Its giving me the chills. What do you say we get out of here? This place looks pretty safe to me," the bard said loading the packages onto Argos saddle and handing the reigns to Xena.
The warrior nodded as she scanned the streets for one person not wearing a sickening smile. "We are gonna leave. I want you and Tarren out of here right now. Well push on and set up camp. Afterward, Im coming back to talk to the elders of this friendly little village."
"What? Why?" the bard questioned.
Xena tugged at Argos reigns. "Ill explain as we go," she said with a scowl wanting her friend and child away from any and all danger.
"Hey, we could camp on top of that big hill over there," the child said hopefully pointing to the hill where the crystal cave was said to be.
The warrior glared at her, "Ya know I was wrong. I can always find time to help you make use of that pillow." Xena growled grabbing the childs arm and drawing her menacingly closer.
Tarren swallowed hard staring at the piece of large fabric in her arms. She quickly shoved it in her satchel, "No...no...thats Ok.... You are VERY busy, and I was just kidding, Momma," she whispered nervously, hoping that parental title would earn her a pardon.
Xena nodded releasing her firm hold on the child. "Uh huh...thats what I thought," the warrior said with a nod. She motioned the youngster to move ahead of her where Xena could keep her in sight yet out of ear shot while speaking privately to Gabrielle.
Chapter 9 A Debt to A Friend
As they walked, the warrior shared her experiences of the old mystics with the bard. "Look, I need you to look after Tarren. I want you two to set up camp and stay there tonight. Dont leave for anything," Xena stressed.
The bard looked at her with some concern. "Xena, whats going on? I mean what do you think is going to happen?" she asked.
Xena shook her head as she lead Argo down the trail out of Goden. "I dunno, but I dont want you two anywhere around it if something does happen. I need to try and get the elders of this town to listen to reason...to listen to the mystics and leave this place."
The bard nodded then, touching the warriors arm, said softly, "Look Xena, if what you are saying is true, there may not be anything you can do."
Xena sighed heavily, "I know, but I have to try, dont I?" she said staring at the young bard.
Gabrielle nodded, "As always, you do what you have to do, warrior. Dont worry, Ill look after Tarren until you get back, but remember our deal... you better come back," she said shaking her finger at the warrior.
Xena smiled and, placing a gentle hand on her friends shoulder, said with a broad smile, "Dont worry, Ill be back." She let her eyes fall on the small figure skipping rocks on the trail ahead. "I have to come back," she murmured.
Gabrielle set up camp at a location Xena chose just 2 miles outside of Goden. The warrior wanted her companions far away but not so far that she could not get there quickly if she was needed.
As Gabrielle prepared the evening meal, Xena saddled Argo readying for her trip back to Goden.
Tarren slowly nudged her way up to the warrior and stared up at her as she tightened the cinch on the horses saddle.
"Whats wrong?" Xena asked staring down at the sad face of her child.
The youngster lowered her eyes and said softly, "I dont want you to go. I want you to stay with us."
Xena sighed and dropped to one knee. "Look, Tarren, I have to try to help these people. I may not be able to, but its something I must at least attempt to do. Can you understand that?" she asked rubbing her hand affectionately against the youngsters cheek.
The child shook her head and whispered emotionally, as she stared at her feet, "No, you help enough people. Let them help themselves. I dont want anything to happen to you."
Xena picked the child up in her arms and smiled, realizing that her life no longer belonged to her alone. "Tarren, I promise you that I will be back. I promise you that I will never leave you. Now have I ever lied to you?" the warrior said tickling the youngsters side.
The child giggled and lay her head down on the warriors shoulder, "No, I guess not," she whined.
Xena dropped the girl gently to the ground, "Well then, sweetheart, you have nothing to worry about, do you? I will be back as soon as I can. While Im gone, I want you to mind Gabrielle, got it?" the warrior scolded gently.
Tarren looked up at her mother. "Why cant I come with you?" she asked
Xena shook her head, "Because I have to take care of these people, and if I have to worry about you, that will make it harder. So you stay here, got it?" she said fondly patting the childs cheek.
Tarren nodded and watched her mother quickly mount Argo.
Gabrielle came to the childs side and, with her arm across Tarrens shoulders hugged her comfortingly as they watched the warrior gallop off.
Xena paced before the line of men who called themselves the village elders. She shook her head furiously at the stubbornness of the group. "Look, whether you believe the mystics or not, it cant hurt to vacate the village for a little while just to be sure," she yelled slamming her fist down on the table to emphasize her point.
A thin man donning robes of gold stood wearing the patented toothy smile of Goden. Xena thought how nice it would be to just wipe one or two of those big grins off their faces. "I am Trelas, leader of these fine people. We appreciate your concern but we are at peace with the god of Goden. We have nothing to fear here," he said waving his hand to emphasize the gold adornments in the room. "We prosper because we honor our own god. We do not need to fear his wrath," Trelas said in a soothing tone.
Xenas frustration was reaching its peak. There was no monster to slay or warlord to fight. If she was to save these people she had to do it with words, and that did not come easy. She wished that the bard were at her side speaking in her place.
"At least allow me to take the children to the safety of the forest for a few days," she said softly hoping she could appeal to a love for family.
Trelas looked at the fellow elders and shook his head. "Children belong in the arms of their parents, not in some strange wood. We will see to their safety, but we do thank you for your concern," Trelas said quietly once again smiling broader than the warrior could stand. She threw her arms up in frustration and left the Hall of the Goden Elders trying to think of a way to at least get some of these people to safety.
As the evening came and the dinner plates were put in a pile, Tarren stared at the fire thinking of her mother and the town of Goden. Gabrielle had been readying herself to take the dirty dishes down to the stream when she noticed the child was unusually quiet. Sitting beside her and wiping the girls hair from her face, the bard said, "Ya know, Xena always comes back, Tarren. Thats why shes Xena.... Dont worry so much."
Tarren nodded, " I know...I still wish we were with her."
Gabrielle sighed and said with a slight frown, "Me too!" Then, she jumped to her feet; "Look, I have to go wash these dishes. When I get back, I promise I will tell you a really great story. By the time I finish, Ill bet Xenas back in camp."
Tarren nodded and smiled at her friend. "Hey, Gabby, ya wanna go to the Crystal Cave first?" she said hoping the bard was not aware of Xenas ruling on the subject.
Gabrielles smile quickly faded, "Tarren, you know what Xena said about the cave...OFF LIMITS... You better keep your little butt right here in this camp if you dont want Xena using it for target practice again!" she scolded.
Tarren threw her arms up in surrender, "OK, it was just a thought," she murmured slipping onto her bedroll.
Gabrielle eyed her for a moment and grinned, "Look, I promise that AFTER all of this stuff is said and done, I will try to talk Xena into stopping by this cave, OK?" the bard said softly.
The child quickly smiled and nodded.
Gabrielle picked up the dirty dishes. "OK then, Ill be back in a few minutes. YOU stay put! she ordered and headed for the stream."
Tarren watched as her friend dropped out of sight. Her thoughts were torn between the safety of her mother and a driving desire to visit the crystal cave Nala had spoken of so many times. Nala had said that every inch of the cave was made of the purest crystal and that one could actually feel the presence of those they loved inside. Tarren lay there thinking of the vision and suddenly got to her feet, grabbed her satchel, and with one last nervous look towards the bards direction, headed back to Goden, her mother, and the crystal cave.
Xena worked rapidly. Even if she couldnt convince these people to help themselves, perhaps she could save the children. At the very least, she had to try to do this...for herself...for them...for Nala. She owed her old friend at least that much.
The warrior slipped into bedrooms and play areas, pulling the youngsters quietly into the woods. "We are playing a game," she whispered to each child. "The winner gets a wonderful prize." The eager children seemed enthused by the idea of such a challenge.
She led them all to a meadow a mile outside the village, hoping it would be far enough to keep them safe. One small boy of about 12 summers tugged at the warriors leathers. She knelt beside him.
"What of the festival of Goden tomorrow? We must be there for the ritual, or the god of Goden. will be angry," he whispered.
Xena stared into the innocent eyes of this boy before her and was quickly reminded of her own child. "Whats your name, little one?" she asked with a smile. Xena noticed that the boy wore a large gold ring on his tiny finger that she could only guess had been a gift from a father or grandfather.
"Hetran" he said proudly.
Xena nodded, "Well, Hetran, I promise you that you will be back in time for the festival, if that is your gods wish," she said hoping that was not a promise shed break.
The boy smiled broadly at the warrior, and she had to appreciate his genuine friendliness. As she caressed his small face, she thought of the villagers. How arrogant these people had become to create a god so that they themselves could worship in the name of profit, and yet how loving the children seemed to be. Xena patted the boys shoulder in hopes that she was truly doing the right thing.
As the last child was brought into the meadow, Xena explained the game. "Ok, everyone, listen up. The object of this game is to hide out in the woods so no one can find you. Now your parents and even the elders are playing with us, so they will use all kinds of tricks to get you to come out. Dont let them fool you. The game is not over until I call you all out and declare a winner," she said waving her hand signaling them to hide. Quickly the children scattered into the surrounding woods.
The warrior sighed again hoping she was doing the right thing, knowing the anger and worry she would feel if someone took Tarren from her. As she looked towards the dark village, she could see the torches in the center of the town. The angry parents were looking for their children. Now was the time for Xena to face the mob.
Gabrielle returned to the campsite with a pile of clean dishes and a freshly scrubbed frying pan. She hummed a tune as she placed the items in her pack. "Tarren!" she called her eyes quickly scanning the camp. Not seeing the child, the bard stood with her hands on her hips and fear racing through her. "Tarren!" she yelled but there was no response.
Gabrielle kicked the dishes she had neatly piled and reached for her staff. "I cant believe she would go off after everything we said to her," she murmured heading down the same path back towards Goden cursing all the way.
As the young bard made her way down the dark trail, three men with torches stopped her. They were dressed in what appeared to be gold ceremonial robes, but unlike the others of Goden she had met, they were not smiling.
"Excuse me, I am looking for a little girl about 10," she said with a forced smile.
Each man looked at the other. "We seek our children as well," the smallest man said eyeing the young woman carefully.
Gabrielle stared oddly at the man, wondering what he meant. "Had all the children disappeared with Tarren," she wondered.
The small man held his torch closer to the bards face, and she jumped back from the scorch of the heat.
"She bears the golden hair. THAT is why our children have been taken. SHE is the one the elders spoke of. We have not satisfied the gods with our choice of sacrifice. SHE is to be the one given to the god of Goden," he yelled.
Gabrielle took a few quick steps back and readied her staff for action, but the three men moved on her all at once. Even the bards fast swings could not hold them back. Her staff fell quickly to the ground.
The men grabbed the young blonde and headed back toward Goden. "Ya know, my hair really isnt blonde...its more of a red," she said squirming to free herself from the grip of her captors.
The men said nothing but merely pulled her back toward town.
"Look, I have to find this little girl. She could be in great danger," she yelled struggling to get free. Her concerns fell on deaf ears for these men would not listen to her pleas.
Xena stood at the edge of town as the angry mob approached headed by the elder Trelas. "Where are our children, warrior?" he asked pointing an angry finger at Xena.
The warrior unsheathed her sword as a warning not to approach. "I have taken them to safety, and, if all stays well, they will be returned to you unharmed," she said holding the sword out in front of her warning the crowd away.
Trelas stepped forward. "How dare you.... The god of Goden will curse you for your actions here," he condemned.
The warrior nodded and purred, "Ill just take my chances with that. The important thing is that your children will be safe and that is all that matters to me now," she yelled whistling for Argo.
Just as she mounted the great horse, she looked down at the crowd of anxious men and woman who she guessed were the parents. "Im sorry, " she whispered, as she rode off into the darkness hoping to make it back to Tarren and Gabrielle quickly.
Chapter 10 The Day The Earth Moved
As she galloped down the path, Xena noted the flames of torches ahead of her. She could make out four figures, and one was a struggling young woman with blond hair. "Gabrielle?" she whispered as she drew her sword and headed for the group.
The warriors angry battle cry sung through the air as she dropped from her horse in front of the men. "Well... well... Gabrielle, what have I told you about entertaining young men. Its one at a time, young lady," she said waving her sword at the men.
The bard swallowed hard, "Gee, I must have forgotten. Guess I should say goodnight, then," the bard whispered trying to break her grip with the hands that held her.
Xena kicked the three men to the ground and leaped onto Argo, pulling the bard up behind her.
"Wait ...wait... we must give her to the God of Goden, or our children will never be returned," the small man in the golden robes yelled as the warrior and bard rode away.
"Wheres Tarren?" Xena asked as they galloped out of sight.
"I dunno. She took off when I was doing the dishes. She was worried about you.... I think she went to find you or perhaps to go to that crystal cave."
The warriors face went white at the thought of either event. "Ill kill her!" the warrior growled.
The bard nodded "Wait in line warrior," she said with equal anger.
Xenas mind filled with terrible thoughts of her daughters fate. Had her need to help these strangers placed her child in danger? The warrior shook her head trying to stay focused. " Stupid little kid," she murmured biting her lip to hold back the well of emotions inside of her as she kicked Argo into a faster gallop.
Tarren had watched Xena ride off on Argo and happily noted that her mother was safe. She then felt that a little time for exploring was in order. She knew that Gabrielle would have already figured she was gone. So she already knew she was gonna get it from Xena. Therefore a trip to the crystal cave seemed a small thing to ask of the gods.
The youngster climbed to the top of the highest hill above Goden, just where Nala had told her the cave was. She searched through the brush until she found a small opening in the side of the hill and crawled inside. When she stood, the sight that was before her made her eyes grown wide with excitement. The cavern was filled with crystal...all shapes and all colors, just as Nala had told her. Everywhere she looked was another glimmer of the naturally cut glass.
"By the gods!" she whispered as she ran her hands along the wall. Instantly, she pulled her hand back as she felt the pain and saw the blood. The beautiful crystal was quite sharp and had left a small cut on the palm of her hand. Tarren eyed the wound with a frown, "Now, Im really in trouble," she whined knowing the wound was going to stand as clear evidence that she should never had gone to the cave. The child sighed and pulled a small piece of linen from her bag and wrapped her palm tightly. Then, she eyed the caverns floor, which was covered with loose crystals.
The youngster smiled and quickly selected two of the nicest ones she could find. "Xena and Gabby will love these," she whispered. She threw the crystals into her satchel wishing she could go further into the cave to explore but knew she was already in a lot of trouble and didnt want to make it any worse, if that was even possible. She sighed and headed for the entrance.
Just as she approached the small exit, the ground beneath her began to shake and the crystal above began to fall. Tarren covered her head with her satchel trying to protect herself, but in moments she was knocked to the ground and pinned beneath a large, colorful piece of quartz. The child screamed as she felt the pain of its weight shoot through her body. She looked toward the opening through which she had entered the cavern, but it was now gone, sealed with dirt rocks and heavy crystal. The youngster coughed as she used all of her strength to try and break free, but the earth continued to shake and the crystal continued to fall until most of her now still little form was covered in rocks, her breath quickly taken by the blackness of the cavern.
Argo reared up nearly tossing the warrior and bard to the ground. Xena jumped off and dragged the bard with her. "Hit the dirt." she cried, and the two friends fell to the now shaking earth beneath them. Argo reared up again and then raced off down the path. Xena watched after the mare, knowing her instincts would lead her to safety.
Xena thought of Tarren and tried to stand, but the constant shiver of the world around her kept even the great Warrior Princess on her back. Then, as quickly as it started, it just stopped. The world was once again still.
Xena jumped to her feet and helped the young bard to stand. "Are you all right?" she asked concerned for her young friend.
The bard nodded and looked wearily at the warrior. "Xena what was that?"
The great warrior shook her head, " I dont know, Gabrielle. I would guess that it was the catastrophe the mystics spoke of."
Xena whistled hoping the faithful mare would return but there was no sight of her. She whistled again, and Argo quickly trotted back to her side.
The warrior looked her over quickly, making sure she was not injured and then hopped into the saddle with Gabrielle right behind. "Come on, we have to get to Goden and find Tarren," the nervous warrior cried.
Xena and Gabrielle rode through the village of what was once Goden. The finely chiseled buildings were now nothing more than rubble. The earth had swallowed the houses and altars at which these people had prayed to their god. Xena scanned the entire village and saw nothing, but destruction. There was not one living soul left on the streets.
"Tarren!" the warrior mother yelled, but there was no reply. Xena and the bard looked at each other as a small band of children came from the meadow their young faces in shock at the destruction. Xena looked to the heavens and then the faces of the youngsters. She had not been able to save the village, but at least the children had survived. In a glance, Xena assured herself they all appeared to be unharmed.
She motioned the bard down. "You stay with them and look for any survivors. Im gonna find my daughter," the warrior said with a careful whisper, fear rushing through her body at the thought of her little girl being anywhere around this dark destruction.
She looked to the high hill where the child had said the crystal cave was and kicked Argo in that direction.
Chapter 11 The Warriors Daughter
The youngsters eyes flickered open. She winced feeling the great weight on top of her. She could move only her arms. Everything else was firmly pinned beneath rock and crystal. She cried as she felt the pain in her leg and saw the blood oozing from small cuts all around her arms and felt warm trickles down her forehead. She knew she was hurt, but she also knew Xena would come.
She reached for her small satchel pulling it out of the debris and searched inside for the small light stick the old mystics had given her. It lit the cave up like a small fire, and the youngster was grateful for the comfort of the light, "Xena!" she whispered holding tightly to the little stick as a tear ran down her cheek.
The warrior followed Tarrens tracks until she had found the opening to the cavern. She noticed that the small entrance was sealed with rock and crystal. "Tarren " she groaned leaning against the rubble. The anxious warrior began throwing heavy stones and rocks to the side, not caring where they landed. "Dont worry, baby, Im coming. Your mom's coming," she yelled, tears running down her face.
As the hours passed, Tarren slipped in and out of darkness. She caressed the small blue amulet around her neck knowing that if she broke it, help would be hers, just as Nala had promised.
"No, Xena will come. She always comes for me," she cried to the echoing tavern that sent her words right back to her. She looked to her left and saw an image of the warrior and the bard digging through rocks. She shook her head not sure if it was real. "Momma!" she yelled reaching for the ghostly image, but before she could touch it, it disappeared. The youngster felt the pain rush through her legs again and she screamed in agony, "Momma, I want my mother!" she yelled with all the force her weak and teary little body could handle.
Xena felt a rush of pain as the words echoed in the chambers of her mind forcing her to fall back.
"Momma, I want my mother!"
The warrior grabbed her heard with both hands and fell back a little.
"Tarren, Im coming, little one. Hold on!" she yelled as she used all her rage to pull at the rubble.
Gabrielle came running up behind her and without asking immediately understood what had happened. "Xena!" she whispered but the warrior did not hear her. She touched her friends arm, "Xena."
The great warrior turned on her, anguish contorting her face.
Gabrielle had only seen her friend show such fear once before. "We are gonna need more help," the bard carefully whispered.
The crazed warrior stared at her friend for a moment. "More...help?" she repeated as if coming back to her senses for a moment. "Fine, Gabrielle, you go find help in this den of Hades. I will not leave my daughter. I will not lose my daughter...the way I lost ...Solon," she screamed, tears racing down her face as she dug.
The bard looked down at the warriors hands and noticed the blood that now stained her palms from pulling at the sharpened crystal.
Gabrielle dropped beside her friend knowing what she was doing was dangerous even for her. She pulled at the warriors hands and screamed, "STOP!"
Xena eyed her young friend but said nothing.
"Let me bandage your hands. You must rest for a few minutes, or you will be no good to Tarren. Ill keep digging," she said through her tears as she tugged at her friends arm.
The great warriors rage subsided, and for a moment the bard thought she would listen, but with a quick scream the warrior pushed her friend to the side and began digging with a new found fervor and strength.
Gabrielle watched in horror as her best friend slipped out of her reach in a maddening effort to free her daughter from what promised to be many feet of sharp crystal and heavy boulder. The young bard could do nothing more than drop to her side and dig with the same fervor and pain.
"Thank you," the warrior whispered swallowing hard as she eyed her friends equal efforts.
"Hey, were family, right? What happens to one happens to all. Besides, that little brat means a lot to me too," she said with a tear.
Xena paused long enough to hug her friend and then began the digging anew.
Tarren felt a coldness pass through her body and then once again saw an image. This time she saw Nala standing in front of her, leaning on that old familiar stick. "Child, why do you not call upon the amulet to save you?" she asked.
The youngster reached out her hand, wanting to touch her old friend. "No Nala, Xena will come. Shes my mom, and she always comes for me. I wont break the crystal. My Momma will come," she cried as the image of the old mystic stood before her.
"Shh, shh. Sleep my little brave princess. You are right, your mother will come for you. Rest easy, little princess." With those soft words the image of Nala faded, and the child fell back into blackness.
Gabrielle and Xena dug for hours, seeing no end in sight to the solid path before them.
"Princess," a voice from behind called. Xena turned and saw the old mystic, Derma, standing before her.
The warrior quickly got to her feet. "Derma, Tarren is inside. How can I get her out?" she begged, hoping the old woman could help.
The mystic smiled and touched the warriors bloody hands. "The little one has the power to get herself out, warrior, but she refuses to break faith with you. She will not free herself because she knows that you will come for her," the old mystic whispered touching the warriors arm gently.
Xena looked at Gabrielle and then at Derma, puzzled by the words. "What do you mean she can get herself out?" the warrior asked trying to control her growing frustration.
The old mystic smiled slightly, "The amulet she wears. Nala gave her the amulet of Opus. It is a very powerful gift of my people. If she breaks the crystal and says the chant, then she can find freedom, but she will not."
The warriors eyes filled with pain. "She must. I cant get through the rock fast enough. She must break the crystal," Xena whispered.
The old mystic shook her head, "Do not allow anger to cloud you thoughts, Princess. The little one loves you too much, and she has faith in you. Nothing will break that faith." She said taking a step towards the cavern entrance.
Xena paced nervously trying to regain control of her mind. "Derma, I know you can read my thoughts. Can you send my thoughts to her?" the warrior asked calmly.
The mystic nodded and took the warriors arm.
Xena closed her eyes and sent her thoughts to Tarren, "Break the crystal, Tarren. Please!" she thought, hoping the youngster would hear her.
Inside the cave the child opened her eyes and again caressed the small blue stone and shook her head as the thoughts that filled her mind. "NO!" she screamed. "My mother will come for me!" she cried.
Derma released her hold on the warrior. "Her love and faith are too strong warrior. You must save your daughter, for she will not break faith with you and save herself."
Xena closed her eyes and swallowed hard.
Gabrielle jumped to her feet. "How? How can we save her? There must be another way...another entrance... something?" the young bard said grabbing at the old mystics robe anxiously.
Derma touched the young womans cheek. "So much love for the little one. That is good," she said with a smile.
Derma then turned to the warrior and pointed a weak finger at her. "You are the Chosen One. You saved the innocent children of Goden, just as was foretold. By breaking the cycle of the evil, all is now, as it should have been. Do not fear my princess, we will not leave you alone with this pain. We will help you free the child," the mystic whispered.
The warrior smiled for the first time in what seemed like an eternity.
Darkness was falling and Xena was getting more worried about Tarren with every passing moment.
The old mystic took a step back, and with the wave of her hands the other mystics appeared.
Gabrielle watched in awe at the magic that was being performed right in front of her. "By the gods!" she whispered leaning on Xena.
The old mystic formed her sisters into a circle. "Warrior, my oldest sister has crossed over, so we are now only 11. We must be 12 to have the gift, so you must join us in the circle. You must complete us, so we can be one," she whispered, offering the warrior her withered hand.
Xena nodded and without hesitation joined the circle of what was now 12.
"Princess, clear your mind of your painful thoughts and use your heart to guide you. THAT is your greatest strength. Allow our thoughts to join with yours so that we may all become the one," Derma commanded.
Xena nodded at the old woman, closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Derma nodded approvingly as she too shut her eyes and then yelled to the heavens.
Chapter 12 - The Magic of Love
"As it was in the beginning, so it is now. We the 12 are as one, and we join our hands to become the body, the soul, the heart of all that is or ever will be. WE call upon the power that links us as the one to enter us now...to save this child," Derma chanted.
The bard watched as a circle of light slowly formed around the 12 woman. They were like links in a chain each melted into the other ones hands. Soon, it was hard for her to tell where Xena started and the old mystics stopped. The bright light grew into a great force and then with all the power of Zeuss thunder, the light shot out in a straight arrow and burst the rock at the entrance into a thousand pieces knocking Gabrielle to the ground.
When the bard stood, the mystics were all gone, and Xena lay still on the ground. As the dust settled Gabrielle rushed to her fallen friend. "Xena!" she cried shaking her friends still form.
The warrior opened her eyes, shook her head and rose quickly to her feet. She touched the hand of the bard. "Are you all right, Gabrielle?" she asked.
The bard nodded, always amazed at the strength her friend possessed.
The warrior rushed to the entrance and entered the cavern, followed by the bard
Within moments, Xena found the small form of her youngster buried beneath a pile of crystal and rock, "Tarren!" she whispered.
The childs eyes flew open and her tears turned into heavy sobs as she weakly reached out to touch her mother. "Momma, I knew youd come!" she cried.
"Tarren," the anxious warrior repeated, taking the youngster gently into arms cradling her head in her lap.
Xena kissed the childs bloody forehead and tried to soothe her daughters shivering body with her gentle touch. "Let me get you out," she whispered, and the great warrior started removing the heavy objects that pinned her.
Immediately, Gabrielle joined her, and together they removed the last piece of quartz from the childs leg. Tarren screamed in agony as they removed it, "AHHHHH!"
Xena quickly caressed her cheek. "Shh, shh, its Ok. Im here," she whispered, knowing her touch would ease the youngsters fear.
Xena looked at Tarrens wounded leg with concern. As they removed the final bit of debris from the childs body.
Gabrielle dropped beside the little girl. "Gods, are you all right, Brat? We were so worried about you," she cried hugging the youngster with all her strength.
Tears ran down the little ones cheeks as she looked at her friend, "Sorry I left ya, Gabby," she whimpered staring at the bard.
Gabrielle only wiped the tears from the little girls cheeks. "Shh, later!" she whispered and again she hugged her.
Xena noted the exchange with a soft smile. "Gabrielle, we are gonna need Argo. Can you get her?" she asked gently rubbing her hand along Tarrens arm.
The bard nodded and ran out of the cave.
Xena knelt beside her daughter and stared into the face of the one who had her heart.
"Why, Tarren? Why didnt you break the crystal?" she asked gently grabbing the childs face with her hands.
The youngster swallowed hard and tears ran down her face. "Cause I knew youd come. You always come. I knew youd be here," she said her eyes filled with love and faith in the woman who knelt before her.
The warrior wiped a tear from her own eye. "You did, huh?" she said with a simple grin.
The child only nodded, and the warrior kissed her forehead gently and with as soft a swipe as she could lifted the girl into her arms and carried her out of the cave.
Xena mounted Argo with Tarren still in her arms. She held her tightly not wanting to ever let her go again.
Gabrielle retrieved the girls satchel, and they headed for the nearest stream they could find atop the hill.
For the first time Xena and Gabrielle could see the amount of tiny cuts on the youngsters arms and legs. The gash on her head was small but not deep, and Xena was grateful that it would not need stitching. Tarrens leg was sprained, and her foot was probably fractured. "This will need a small splint," the warrior whispered, and the bard brought over two small but heavy sticks.
With the expertise of the greatest healer, Xena deadened the pain with a pinch and wrapped the ankle with bandage sandwiched tightly between the two sticks. Tarren winced in pain and tears fell quickly from her eyes. Xena noted all the small cuts again. Each would have to be cleaned, and that would be painful and take time.
"Gabrielle, take your clothes off," the warrior commanded.
The bard looked at her with confusion. "What?" she asked with a grin.
Xena shook her head as she removed her armor and leathers and then slowly removed Tarren's tattered tunic and boots. "We have to get her into the water, so we can clean all the cuts," the warrior chided.
Gabrielle stripped off her clothes, and together they floated the small child out into the water. Xena and Gabrielle slowly began washing each wound as the child bit her lip trying unsuccessfully not to cry. "No, enough! Dont do anymore," the youngster begged.
Xena closed her eyes and looked into the face of her daughter. "Tarren, sweetheart, I have to get all the small pieces of crystal out to clean the wounds. I know it hurts, and Im sorry. Ill be as careful as I can, but I have to do this," she whispered rubbing her hand on the childs cheek.
For the first time Tarren noted the bloody wounds on her mothers hands.
"What happened to your hands?" she cried.
Xena shook her head having forgotten about her own wounds. "Its nothing," she whispered softly. "Now, lay back and try to relax, OK?" she said soothingly as she continued the arduous task of removing 100 tiny shards from 100 tiny cuts.
When they were finally finished, Tarren had a large bandage on her head and a splint on her foot. Xena looked over the youngster and thanked the gods she had been so lucky to only have such minor injuries. Gabrielle pulled a fresh tunic and trousers from the satchel to cover the childs open wounds. As the youngster lay quietly by the water, Xena wiped the tears from her face, and cradled the girl in her arms lovingly, hoping her caress would ease the pain and fear she knew the youngster felt.
"I was real scared, but I knew youd come, Momma," she whispered as she sipped at a familiar mixture of healing herbs with a vile odor.
Xena tenderly kissed the childs forehead. "I know you were, little one. Im sorry I didnt get to you sooner. Im sorry I ever left you," she groaned fighting back her own tears.
The child yawned as she nuzzled into her mothers side, wanting to feel the comfort of her familiar leathers near her. "Not your fault, Momma...I knew youd come for me," she said with one last yawn before heading off to the land of Morpheous.
Xena wiped her eyes and hummed a gentle tune as she rocked the child, and Tarren quickly fell asleep in her mothers arms.
The bard motioned for the warrior to join her by a large rock about 10 paces from the water's edge. "Lets see them! " Gabrielle said firmly.
The warrior sighed. "Its nothing Gabrielle. Theyre fine," the warrior lied.
The bards face grew angrier. "Look, you are not indestructible. Let me see them now before I get rough with you," she chided, motioning for the warriors hands.
Xena smiled at her young friends concern and offered up her hands for inspection.
The bards jaw dropped at the sight. There were many small cuts in her hands, and two large gashes in one hand that needed stitching right away. "Xena!" she cried.
The warrior shook her head as the bard reached for the salve from the medical kit and slowly stitched the open wounds. The warrior closed her eyes not allowing a single groan to escape her. She did not want Tarren to know her pain.
When she was finished, the bard wrapped clean cloth around the wounds. "Now, dont you go pulling those off," she admonished, and the warrior bowed slightly and headed back to Tarren.
The childs eyes flickered open. "Momma!" she called still half asleep.
Xena dropped to her side "Im here. Im right here" she whispered soothingly bringing her body close to the childs so she could feel her warm touch. "Did you see Nala?" she whispered as her eyes opened and closed.
Xena looked at Gabrielle, and the bard shrugged.
"Nala said youd come, and I knew you would. After all, your not just my mom... you are Xena, the Warrior Princess," she said with a broad smile as she headed back to sleep.
The warrior shook her head wondering just what had really happened in that cave. She eyed her daughter for a moment making sure that she was now deep in the place of dreams.
"Gabrielle what happened to the children of the village?" the warrior asked jumping to her feet as if only in that moment being brought back to the reality of the entire situation.
The bard knelt beside her and glanced lovingly down at the child. "I dont know. One minute they were there, and the next they were gone. I looked everywhere, but I couldnt find them."
Xenas face went blank and she whistled for her mare. She leaned down and kissed the cheek of her daughter, "You stay here with Tarren. Im gonna go find them. This is no place for a kid to be wandering alone," she said stiffly.
Xena looked down at her child, reluctant to leave her even for a few minutes. However, she knew that Gabrielle would care for her, so, with a final glance Xena kicked the side of the great war-horse and headed down the hill into the village.
Chapter 13 The Chosen One
As the warrior slowed the horse down to a walk, she surveyed the landscape with her eyes. It was different. Everything was different. There was no longer rubble where buildings had fallen. There was no evidence that the city had ever existed.
In the distance, she saw an old man farming a small piece of hard ground. She rode quickly toward him. When she was reached him, she slowly dropped off her horse.
"Sir," she said trying to get the old mans attention.
When he turned, he offered the warrior a gentle smile, "Yes, what can I do for you?" he said leaning heavily on his hoe.
Xena eyed him strangely. There was something familiar about him. "I was just wondering... I was looking for the village of Goden and a large group of children," she said in a steady voice.
The man looked puzzled by the words and shrugged, "Goden! By the gods, theres a name I have not heard since I was just a small boy. There is no Goden...anymore. Not since the earth opened up and swallowed it nearly 60 summers ago," he laughed.
Xena shook her head. "What?" she whispered, finding it hard to accept the words. She then noticed on his hand a large gold ring that she recognized immediately. It was the one she had seen on the little boy only that morning. "What is your name, sir?" she asked quietly.
He smiled again and went back to his work, "I am Hetran, and this village is called Xenithia. It honors the memory of the brave warrior that saved the children of our village those many years ago," he said with a smile.
The warrior took a few steps back not sure what to think or say. She nodded at the man mounted Argo, and headed towards the Temple of Mystics, but the building was gone. She stood in the place where the building had been and closed her eyes.
"Derma, you said someone was always here. Please, come to me," she whispered.
Soon, Derma appeared. "Yes, child, we still watch over this place until the last of our people has crossed home," she said quietly staring at the warrior.
Xena shook her head and pointed to the old man in the distance. "Please explain. What happened here?" the warrior asked.
The old mystic smiled, "Child you were the Chosen One. YOU broke the cycle of evil when you saved the children. I told you if you saved one innocent, then you saved them all. Those children grew into farmers and merchants and honored the gods and the land. They became what they were before and were always meant to be...simple people."
"Now all the souls of Goden rest well, and peace is once again restored to this place. The darkness is no more. Go now, Princess. Take your loved ones, leave this place, and do not look back. Your job here is done, and the little one is calling for you," she said pointing to the hill.
Xena nodded not fully understanding what had happened in this strange village. The warrior took the horses reigns and nodded at the old mystic, "Thank you for saving my daughter," she whispered.
Derma raised her hand and said, "Princess, it is you that saved her. It was your heart, your love that gave her strength and faith, and then your love that moved the mountain. You needed to learn that there was no true safe place for that child except within your heart. Her safest place is truly with you, no matter where you travel warrior. She needed to test her faith in her mother, to know that you would always be there for her. You were, Princess, and you always will be... Keep her close and have faith!" she whispered before fading into the winds.
Xena smiled, "I will...believe me I will!" she said to the empty space before her as she mounted Argo and headed for the hill where Gabrielle and Tarren waited.
Xena carried Tarren in her arms as they made there way to the edge of the village that was once Goden. The warrior explained all the old mystic had said to her as they walked.
"So, are you saying that all this never really happened?" the bard asked with a puzzled look as she yanked gently at Argos reigns.
Xena looked at the small form cradled in her arms and shrugged, "Well, Id say it was real enough for me," she whispered.
Tarren smiled at her mother, "Well, I say none of it ever happen, and since it didnt happen, then nobody can be mad at me for going to the cave," she whispered, hopeful that her logic would be sound.
The warrior looked at the bard, and they both laughed. "OH yes, we can!" the two friends said in unison.
The child frowned, "You mean Im gonna get in trouble," she whimpered.
The warrior nodded without hesitation, "OH YES! BIG TIME, little one...big time," she said kissing the youngsters forehead and smiling at her friend.
The child frowned at the thought of further consequences, but at the moment all she really cared about was that she was with her friends and safely in her mothers arms. "So what else is new?" she said with a grin wrapping her arms tighter around the warriors neck and digging her head into the familiar place she often slept.
The trio traveled through the day wanting to put as much distance as possible between them and the place once called Goden. Xena lay Tarren down by the stream to check her bandages while Gabrielle set up their camp many miles from Xenithia.
Xena examined the small wounds along the youngsters arms dabbing them gently with a cloth. The child glanced up at her, "Are you mad at me?" she asked hesitant of the warriors response.
Xena thought about it for a moment and smiled, "Now, why would I be mad at you?" she asked quietly continuing her task.
Tarren bit her lower lip and continued, "Well...for going to the cave when you told me not to I guess."
Xena picked her head up and considered the thought, "Hmm that could be a VERY good reason to be mad at you all right. Or maybe it could be everything that happened as a result of you going to the cave AFTER I told you not too," she said stiffly giving the child a quick flash of her blue eyes.
Tarren swallowed hard and tried to smile, "Yeah, that could be it too...So are you ...mad at me?" she again asked slowly.
Xena examined the small cloth in her hands and then looked at her daughter. "Tarren, when I thought that I had lost you, every possible emotion ran through my mind and my body. I felt a rage and fear that I didnt know could exist even in me. And then when I saw you were alive and held you in my arms, all I felt was relief and love for the most precious thing in my life. SO, no, I am NOT angry with you. I should be, but Im just too happy to have you back," she said with a grin.
The child smiled at her mother sighing a breath of relief, "Whew! Good I thought you meant it when you said I was in trouble."
The warrior cocked her head and grinned at the youngster, "Oh, you ARE in trouble...lots of trouble...BUT Im not angry at you," she said with a smile.
Xena started to examine the small splint.
The child frowned, "But you cant punish me, Im wounded," the child whined folding her arms in a pout.
Xena rubbed the youngsters cheek gently, "Oh, I know, and Im gonna take care of you so you get well," she said softly.
Tarrens smile returned, but the warriors smile then faded. "So, Ill just wait until youre all better, and THEN, boy, are you gonna get it GOOD!" she warned slapping her hands together to make her point. "I am very patient that way, ya know," the warrior said with a slight grin.
Tarrens shoulders slumped "But Xena...Momma...you might be waiting for months," she said with a weak smile.
The warrior stood shaking her head, "Nah, youll be up and in more trouble in a week. You have my recuperative powers, dear," she said evenly.
The child sighed, "Great, Ill be able to stand just in time to not be able to sit!" she groaned.
Xena frowned a bit and rubbed the girls head gently. "Oh, dont take it so hard, little one. It will give you something to think about during this long recuperative period. Maybe when that fateful day comes, youll actually understand just WHY youre being punished, and just how much you are really loved," the warrior said staring down at her daughter.
The child frowned, and Xena shook her head and smiled. "Now, come on, my wounded little waif. It looks like Im your horse for at least a week, so lets get going."
The youngster looked up at her mothers face. It was filled with love and concern, and Tarren knew that nothing could deplete. "OK, horsy, if Im gonna have to ride you, then I want a soft saddle," she said with a grin reaching up to climb on her mothers back.
The warrior chuckled, "Yes, my princess. Ill see what I can do," she whispered as she headed back towards the camp.
Xena gently lowered the child to her bedroll, and Gabrielle handed them each a plate of food fresh from the fire. Tarren placed it to her side not really too hungry. "Im not very hungry, Gabby," she said trying to get comfortable.
Xena reached over and elevated the childs foot and placed her pillow behind her head and then handed her back her plate. "Eat!" she ordered dropping down beside the youngster to make sure she did.
Tarren picked at the food and then slowly began eating it.
Gabrielle looked at Xena, who only shook her head, "Tarren, you need your strength to get better, so you must eat," the bard ordered.
"I dont want to get better too fast," the child whispered staring at her mother and thinking of THAT fateful day Xena had mentioned.
Xena glared at her daughter letting her know that a week was not really that long a period of time, and it might be best if she behaved herself. The youngster quickly got the message and started devouring her food.
When she had finished enough to satisfy her companions, she eagerly reached for her satchel and looked deep inside for the treasures she had hidden there days before. She pulled out two pieces of beautifully carved crystal and handed one to each Xena and Gabrielle. "I wouldnt want you guys to think I wasnt thinking of ya while I was in the cave," she said with a sly grin.
Xena examined the crystal with a smile. It was cut perfectly to size. Each groove seemed to meet the other with meaning.
Gabriel held hers up to the light and noticed how the colors of the late sun shone through giving a rainbow effect to the small rock. The bard leaned over and kissed the youngsters cheek, "Thank you, Tarren, its beautiful."
Xena stared at the crystal for a long moment and then ran her hand gently along her daughters face. She had tears in her eyes, "Yeah...its just ...beautiful.... Thank you, little one...Uhh... I need to go for a walk," the warrior said quickly grabbing her saddlebag and heading out into the woods alone.
Chapter 14 Nalas Most precious Gift
The bard watched her friend depart with sadness.
"Whats wrong, Gabby? Didnt she like it?" the child asked with trepidation.
Gabrielle pulled a blanket over the youngster. "No, Tarren, she loved it. You know Xena. She doesnt like it when people see her get all mushy," she said looking towards the path her friend had taken.
The child nodded and lay back yawning, "Look, Im gonna go chat with the Princess. Will you be Ok?" she asked with a gentle smile.
Again the youngster yawned. "Yeah, Ill be fine," she said with a slight grin.
Gabrielle quickly headed after the warrior. She found her seated on a rock near the water staring at the crystal that was a gift from her daughter.
"Ya know, I find it amazing that this little kid can have such faith in me, Gabrielle," she said without turning her head.
The young bard just sat beside her silently. "Ya know, I almost lost her in there...I almost didnt make it..." she choked as tears fell freely down her cheeks.
The bard wrapped her arm around her large friend, bringing her close. "Shh, you did what you always do Xena. You did the impossible and brought out the most in all of us. Tarren is fine...just let it go." And for the first time since the young bard had known the great warrior, she cried freely in her arms, shedding tears for the people she loved and the loss she almost faced.
The young bard held her best friend tenderly letting her know that nothing she ever faced would be something faced alone.
After a short while Gabrielle returned to the camp, leaving the warrior to sort through her own feelings, as she needed. For a while she just sat staring out at the waters. Xena then closed her eyes and pulled Nalas diary from her saddlebag and quickly flipped through the pages until she found the entry about Goden. Her eyes went wide as she noticed the once blank page below the entry was now filled with writing...a new entry! The ink on the paper looked only days old. Xena examined it with great wonder as she read the words,
"My princess has accomplished all she was meant to do. I feel sadness for the pain she suffered, but it was something that had to be. I knew that she would rise above all to do what she must and be who she was meant to be. I see in her now a peace and a love that I have never seen before. The little one and she are now bound together forever. There is no place she can go where the child will not follow. The Princess just needs to know that this great love the child has for her is not merely a gift, but is a part of her path. She cannot stray from it, and the fates will not rob her of it. I hope she knows that Nala will be with her always."
Xena slowed as she spoke the last words and then stared up to the sky closing her eyes as she spoke, knowing the dead could hear her thoughts. "Thank you, Nala, for ALL of your gifts," she whispered, feeling the tears falling slowly down her cheeks once again.
That night Xena sat staring up at he stars, her eyes never closing. Tarren had crawled up beside her as soon as she lay down to sleep, and Xena was happy to hold her close. She wrapped her arm protectively around the youngster and drew her in next to her so as to let her know she was right beside her. Xena knew that the ordeal in the cavern had left the child more terrorized than she even realized, so she vowed not to let her out of her sight for quite some time.
Gabrielle poked at the fire and stared at the child. "Ya know, that little kid sure showed a lot of guts. I dont know how I would have handled being locked in that cave," she said in a soft whisper.
Xena stroked the childs back gently and felt her hold tighten at the thought. She nodded to the bard. "I was just thinking how she waited for me to come for her instead of breaking the crystal. Gabrielle what if I hadnt made it? What then?" she whispered staring into the soft green eyes of her best friend.
The bard placed a gentle hand on Xenas arm, "But you did make it, and youll always make it. Its part of who you are Xena. I should know. Youve always been there for me," she said with a soft smile.
The warriors face brightened, and she squeezed the bards hand. "And I always will be."
Gabrielle swallowed and again looked at the child, "Ya know, she has a lot of faith in you, Xena. As far as shes concerned, you can move Olympus off the mountain all by yourself. She really loves you. That is such a special gift you have. Dont ever let her forget how much she means to you too," she said wiping a tear from her eye.
The warrior pulled the bard in next to her and hugged her. "I wont...hey, you two are my family. I dont want either one of you to forget how much you mean to me," she said squeezing the bards shoulder.
A tear ran down the young womans cheek. "I know, Xena," she said hugging her large friend.
"Are you two ever going to stop all this mushy stuff," a small voice whispered from a blanket beside the warrior.
Xena and Gabrielle stared at the now wide-awake child that was cradled in Xenas arms. The warrior frowned and the bard giggled. "Well, we did not mean to keep you awake your highness," the warrior said bowing her head slightly
The child shook the sleep from her eyes. "Well, now Im awake, so you have to play a game with me," she grinned.
The warrior sighed heavily, "No games tonight, little girl. You need your rest, so go back to sleep," she scolded gently.
Tarren shook her head. "Im awake now ...I cant sleep unless you... sing me a song."
The bard smiled and crawled into the bedroll next to Tarren. "Yeah, sing a song, Xena," she said hoping for a soft melody.
Xena stared down at the two figures of the ones she loved most and shook her head. "Ok, I can tell when Im out numbered."
Tarren grinned wildly and repositioned herself, burrowing deeply in the warriors side.
Gabrielle merely lay there peacefully looking up at the stars.
Xena sang a song of friendship, trust and love, and watched closely as the young bard and her small daughter fell asleep.
In the morning Gabrielle packed up the camp under the direction of young Tarren, "Gabby get my satchel! Gabby get my boots!" the child ordered.
The bard waved a warning finger at the child, "Remember, Tarren... that day will come when the splint comes off," she warned.
The youngster giggled happily as she watched her friend do her chores.
Xena was busy saddling Argo when the young bard approached. "So where are we off to now?" the young woman asked.
Xena smiled "Well, I believe you were very patient about waiting for a trip to Potedia to see your family, my bard, so that is where we are going."
The young woman bowed her head slightly; "My family is right here, Xena. Seeing Potedia can wait. Right now, I think its more important that we head for some place where we can ALL relax and heal. I think thats Amphipolis," Gabrielle said quietly.
The warrior stopped her movements when she heard the name of her village mentioned. She had been considering heading home. With everything that had happened in the last few months, Xena felt a real need to return home and seek out her own mother.
The bard had sensed that and was again sacrificing her own needs for that of her friend. "Hey, I dont want..."
The bard threw up a halting hand to silence the warrior. "Well then, its settled Amphipolis it is ...no arguments," she ordered.
Xena nodded, "Thank you." she said softly. and the bard merely winked and returned to her packing.
When they were ready to travel, Xena hoisted Tarren onto her back and headed out on the trail "Ya know, Momma, I could ride Argo. You dont have to carry me," she said with a grin.
The warrior shook her head, "No, little one, I want to carry you," she said with a smile.
The youngster grinned at the bard and shrugged, "Ok, then lets go, horsy," she said with a smile, patting her mothers head.
The warrior laughed tossing the youngster gently up in the air.
"So where are we going?" the child asked as she got comfortable for her morning ride.
"Amphipolis...the place where I grew up. Your gonna get to meet my mother, your grandmother," she said with a wicked smile.
The bard giggled, "Oh, that should be a real interesting combination," the young woman said trying to imagine Tarren and Cyrene in the same room.
Tarren thought for a moment trying to decide if this was a good thing or not. "Well good, Id really like to hear about ALL the stuff YOU did when you were a kid," the youngster finally said with a mischievous smile.
The warrior stopped and stared at the bard, who only shrugged her shoulders. "Gabrielle, are you so sure this is really such a good idea?"
The young bard smiled, "Shes your daughter, warrior," the bard said with a giggle.
Xena looked back at the face of her child and smiled as the grinning youngster. "Yup! She sure is...SHE sure is, my bard," Xena said with a pride as the trio headed for Amphipolis, home of the Warrior Princess.
|Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Epilogue|
I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as I did writing it. It is the third in this ongoing series with young Tarren. Please look for the next story of this happy trio called, Home Sweet Home. Feedback is always appreciated, so please feel free to write with your thoughts and ideas. By Fantimbard
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