THE AMAZON QUEEN
Part XIV: Warriors and Mothers
by L.M. Townsend (e-mail: QueenLaese@aol.com)
DISCLAIMERS: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Cyrenê, Virgil, Meg, Autolycus, Joxer, et al (meaning anyone else I didn't list and should have.) are the property of MCA, Universal, and Renaissance Pictures and anyone else who has a legal claim (thanks for letting the girls come out to play!) The character of Hercules, although a mythical/historical figure in his own right, for the purpose of this story, also belongs to them. Melysë and The Amazons belong to themselves, (and I dare any man to say different!)This story is mine, though, and written just for fun, not profit.
Subtext? Subtext? - YES, though nothing explicit.
Violence: Not really.
Language: Pretty tame.
*Spoiler Alert - several references to various episodes throughout the history of the show,
Xena strode across the compound towards the drilling field. She saw her heart-daughter, Arynë already leading the drill, the troops well-disciplined under her able command. More than I can say for myself, Xena chuckled to herself. Of course, it's all Melysë's fault - but gods I love this "insatiable" stage of her pregnancy! She had left her priestess, asleep once again - for now. Melysë hadn't started to show just yet, but Xena could already feel her leathers were a little tighter and her back was achy - well, it had been, until that back rub this morning. Grinning at the newly Joined Arynë's knowing smile, Xena joined her at the front of the line.
"How's Mother?" asked Arynë.
"She's great - no morning sickness now," said Xena.
"Weird cravings start yet?" grinned Arynë.
"No - no 'weird' ones, anyway," said Xena, grinning back and raising an eyebrow.
"Eww, Xena - that's way more information than I needed," said Arynë, wrinkling her nose but smiling.
"What?" said Xena, eyes wide in mock innocence, then indicating the troops. "So how're they doing this morning?"
Enthusiastically changing the subject, Arynë began leading Xena down the roster, evaluating each warrior's strengths and weaknesses. Xena looked proudly at her protégée.
"You know each and every warrior," she said. "You were born to lead, 'Ryn."
"I just had a really good teacher," said Arynë, pleased with the praise. "You said it yourself, Xena, to be an effective leader, you have to know who it is you're leading. Makes it tough, though - in battle. Losing them, I mean."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," said Xena, placing an arm around her daughter's shoulders. "But that's part of it, too - and it means you take more care to plan your strategies better and to train them well, so that you lose fewer people. Especially if you know them and care about them, each one."
"You know, I hadn't thought of it that way," said Arynë. "I thought of it as a weakness, but I couldn't help it - caring, I mean. I mean, how can I send these women into battle knowing they may very well die there? But I have to, if it comes to that."
"It's not a weakness at all, 'Ryn," said Xena, smiling. "That's just part of your mother in you."
"It's nice to know there is something there of her - besides my face, that is," said Arynë, quietly "I know she didn't want me to be a warrior."
"'Ryn, no mother wants their child to be a warrior or to go to war," said Xena, gently. "Not even me. What, you think she's disappointed? Think again. We're both so proud of you."
"I know," said Arynë, smiling a little sadly. "She let me go my own way, even if she didn't like it."
"That's what mothers do, 'Ryn," said Xena.
"What about this baby - these babies, Goddess that's so strange!" said Arynë, shaking her head and smiling.
"You're not kidding," said Xena, smiling. "It is strange."
"But wonderful," said Arynë, wistfully.
"That it is," said Xena. "What about you and Tecmessa?"
"Huh?" said Arynë, startled. "What about us?"
"Do you want a baby?" asked Xena.
Arynë laughed. "That's one thing of my mother's I don't have - magic," she said.
"But do you?" asked Xena.
"Yeah, we do," said Arynë, sighing. "I just can't...well, I could but..."
"Yeah, I know," said Xena, smiling gently. "You have plenty of time for that, though, 'Ryn."
"I know," said Arynë. "But Tecmessa, well, she really doesn't want to wait. You know she's extended her duty at the House of Maidens in the Nursery?"
"'Ryn, what do you want?" asked Xena.
"I want the same thing she wants," said Arynë, sighing. "And I want her happy."
Xena chuckled. "I know what you mean," she said.
"Xena...you don't have to answer this if you don't want, but..." said Arynë, frowning in thought.
"What?" asked Xena.
"How come you and Mother never had a Joining Ceremony?"
"I never really thought about it," said Xena. "It's actually never even come up between us - gods, 'Ryn, after all these years and four ... no five...well, now six children, between us..."
"Yeah, I guess I see what you mean," said Arynë.
"'Ryn, do you think your Mother wants that?" asked Xena, now frowning herself.
"I don't know," said Arynë. "Have you ever even asked her about it?"
"No," said Xena. "Like I said, it's just never come up. But it's something to think about."
"Xena what did you think when Mother first asked you be our Warrior Queen?" asked Arynë.
"Where are all these questions coming from?" asked Xena, smiling.
"Sorry," said Arynë, grinning, sheepishly.
"No, it's alright - I don't mind," said Xena. "I'm just wondering - is there a problem you need to talk about? You know I'm always here for you."
"Yeah, I know, Xena - thanks," said Arynë. "Maybe after drill this morning - if that's okay?"
"Of course," said Xena.
Melysë arose, hearing her youngest, Neiromei waking up. She went into the little girl's room and lifted her from her bed, cuddling the sleepy toddler close.
"Hey, Romy, what do you say you and I get breakfast for your sisters and your other mother?" said Melysë, softly as she gently dressed the child. "Well, sister - 'Ryn's probably going to go home to break her fast with Tecmessa. Goddess, I miss her."
"Miss 'Ryn," said Neiromei.
"Yeah, Mommy misses 'Ryn," said Melysë, smiling at the child as she sat her in a chair at the table.
"Romy misses 'Ryn, too," said the child, solemnly. "T'messa likes Romy."
"Everyone likes Romy," said Melysë, smiling as she started a pot of porridge for the girls and some eggs for Xena.
"Romy likes 'Tolycus," said the child, banging her spoon on the table.
Melysë frowned. She still wasn't sure about Autolycus. He was staying at the Lodge, helping Gabrielle out in Perdicas' absence and it was true, he had been on his best behaviour, but still, there was just something about the "King of Thieves" she didn't quite trust. Oh, she liked him, alright - it was impossible not to, but he always seemed to have a scheme up his sleeve. Not that he ever acted on any of them, but for the Priestess-Queen, it was enough that he had them. And she still wondered why he was sticking around. Suddenly, Melysë heard a disturbance outside her door. She picked up Neiromei and went to open the door.
"It's alright," she told the guards, who were restraining an older woman. "Please, come in. How can I help you?"
The woman looked her up and down, then grinned, entering the cottage. Melysë fought the urge to stare - this woman could be Xena in about fifty years! she thought. "Won't you please sit down?" she said aloud, offering a chair. "I was just making breakfast - will you join us?"
"I was lookin' fer Xena," said the woman, seating herself.
"Well, she's not here right now," said Melysë. "But she'll be back soon. You're welcome to wait. I'm Melysë, and this is Neiromei." The child squealed in delight, squirming out of her mother's arms and climbing into the woman's lap, cuddling.
"I'm Meg," said the woman, surprised, but delighted by the little girl's reaction to her.
"Meg!" said Melysë, smiling brightly. "That explains...You're Virgil's mother! I've heard so many nice things about you. Welcome."
"Thanks - uh, didja mean that about breakfast?" asked Meg, hopefully.
"Of course," said Melysë, kindly.
Gabrielle angrily slammed down bowls of porridge for the children. Morning wasn't her best time anyway, and that scene with her mother-in-law had really set her off. Meg had strode in and accused her - her- of cheating on Virgil! And then refusing to believe that this child was Goddess-sent, had pointed to Autolycus as the "father"! Yeah RIGHT! thought Gabrielle. Although, he has been a huge help around here - it's not my fault her son took off on some hare-brained excuse... Gabrielle sighed. What else could Meg think? It really wasn't her fault, either, Gabrielle decided. Maybe if she goes to see Xena, Melysë would talk to her. If anyone would convince Meg of the truth, it was the priestess.
Xena took Arynë riding after the drill. It was a good way to clear their heads, she decided and give her heart-daughter a way to order her thoughts. Hope she's not having second thoughts - Amazons don't have divorce! thought the Warrior Queen.
They stopped by the river and just sat, gazing out at the moving water. Finally Arynë spoke.
"This is where Ares met us that time," she said. "You remember - when you started training me?"
"Yes, I remember," said Xena. "'Ryn, do you ever regret becoming a warrior?"
"No," said Arynë, still gazing out at the river. "It's all I ever wanted to be - but now I want ... I don't know, more."
"What, 'Ryn?" asked Xena.
"That's just it, tanti-meia," said Arynë, sadly. "I don't know what I want. Just...more. It's hard to explain. Did you ever feel this way?"
"More times than I can count," chuckled Xena. "And boy, did it get me into trouble!"
"And now?" Arynë looked over to her mentor.
"Now? I have everything I've always wanted - and more," said Xena. "That doesn't mean I don't sometimes get restless - I think that's normal. It's easy to forget sometimes just how hard life on the road really was."
"Would you ever leave my mother to go back to that life, Xena?"
"I would never leave your mother - period," said Xena, firmly.
"No matter what?" asked Arynë.
"I can't think of any reason ... severe enough," said Xena, frowning.
"What if she became a full goddess?" asked Arynë, looking back out at the river.
"It wouldn't matter - she'd still be Melysë," said Xena. "I don't know anyone better equipped to handle god-hood than your mother."
"Maybe Hercules," said Arynë.
"Maybe Hercules could handle it as well as your mother, but even he wouldn't be better," said Xena. "In fact, Hercules and your mother are a lot alike - in many ways."
"Yeah, their father dumped both of them," said Arynë, bitterly.
"Whoa - where'd that come from?" asked Xena, raising an eyebrow.
"I don't know," said Arynë, quietly. "Xena, I'm the only one of my siblings that isn't yours. Yet you've always treated me as if I was. I appreciate that - you can't know what that means to me. Even Tecmessa's other mother hasn't been as close to her as you and I are."
"'Ryn, you are my own - the daughter of my heart," said Xena, reaching over and taking her hand. "I've always felt that way - since you were born, I've felt...I don't know, a bond with you."
"That was before you and mother were even together, Xena," said Arynë.
"I know," said Xena, smiling. "That's why it's so special. It wasn't just my feelings for her causing it."
Arynë chuckled. "What?" said Xena.
"Oh, nothing - just, remembering something," said Arynë.
"Well, if it's that funny, share," said the warrior.
"Oh, alright," said Arynë. "It was right after you guys got back from Gabrielle's wedding feast. Tecmessa and I were just goofing around the way kids do and I wanted to show mother this rock we found - or something like that. I guess I was always doing silly stuff like that."
"Nah, it was cute," said Xena, fondly.
"Huh, you might not have thought so if...never mind," said Arynë, grinning at her. "Anyway, Argo was standing outside the front door of the cottage."
"Oh, gods," laughed Xena. "I'd forgotten about that - the Amazon 'do not disturb' sign. I never knew about that until much later, by the way."
"That's what's so funny," said Arynë. "Tecmessa tried to pull me away from the door - I guess her mothers used it a lot. Anyway, I didn't know what it meant either - Mother had always been alone before."
"What did Tecmessa say?" said Xena.
"Well, she told me what it meant and I just said 'No way - my meias are way more discreet than to advertise that by parking Argo out front where the whole bloody village could see her!'"
Xena laughed aloud. "You got that right," she said.
Melysë finished the breakfast dishes, wondering where Xena was. Meg had taken Neiromei into the sitting room after Melysë declined her help and was playing with her. Suddenly there was a knock on the cottage door, and Gabrielle poked her head in, looking around.
"Gab- " started Melysë.
"Shh - is she still here?" asked The Bard.
"Yes," said Melysë, knowing immediately who "she" was. "Come on, Gabrielle, she's not going to...to ...hit you or anything."
"Huh - you don't know Meg," said Gabrielle, entering the cottage, and going to the table, cutting a piece of bread.
"Well, I think you could take her, anyway," chuckled Melysë, drying her hands and pouring a cup of tea for her friend.
"Thanks," said Gabrielle, grinning, as Melysë sat with her.
"It's okay - she's playing with Neiromei - she took to Meg right away - wonder if it's the resemblance to Xena?" said Melysë.
"Oh, that's nothing - you should have seen her when we first met her," said Gabrielle. "Even I couldn't really tell them apart - until one of them spoke, that is."
"Well, time does that, I suppose," said Melysë.
"Not to us,' said Gabrielle. "Have you noticed, none of us has aged? You'd think by now we'd have a grey hair or something - and none of should be pregnant now."
"Themiscyreia did that," said Melysë. "When we were there the 'magic' of the land worked on us, too. You know that Laesë is over eighty birth-seasons?"
"Gods!" said Gabrielle. "That explains it. Not that I mind - it was just - "
"There you are, you little harlot!" said Meg, entering the room.
Xena and Arynë rode back into the village, parting at 'Ryn and Tecmessa's hut. Xena rode on to the cottage she shared with Melysë and prepared to dismiss the guards - 'Lysë had gotten the sentries to compromise and only post guards when Xena herself was absent from the cottage - then heard a disturbance inside.
"Wait here," she told the guards, rushing in the door. There she saw Meg, chasing Gabrielle around the kitchen with a wooden spoon, Melysë doubled up in the corner, laughing. Xena stood, hands on hips, just watching until Melysë saw her and rushed to her side.
"Xena, can you stop her?" said the Priestess, breathless.
Xena looked at the merry twinkle in her priestess's dark green eyes and grinned. "Do I have to?" she said.
"I think you'd better," said Melysë.
"Alright," said the warrior, with a sigh, unclipping her chakram. Suddenly the double rings flew, ricocheting off the walls, knocking the wooden spoon from a startled Meg. Both women stopped and stared at Xena.
"Hi, Xena," said Meg.
"Meg - Gabrielle, what's going on here?"
Both women began speaking and Xena looked at Melysë and rolled her eyes. The priestess shrugged. "Alright - enough," said Xena. "Meg, what are you doing here and why in Tartarus are you chasing Gabrielle?"
"Because the little harlot cheated on my boy - and with Auto!" said Meg.
"What!?" said Melysë. "No she didn't."
"Then who's kid is that? My Virgil sure didn't put it there. He's been gone," demanded Meg.
"No, the Goddess of the Amazons did," said Melysë, gently.
"Huh?" said Meg. "Oh, gods, Xena - you got one coming, too?"
Xena frowned. "Yeah - and so does Melysë," said the warrior.
"Can't tell on her," said Meg. "So this goddess gotcha all preggers, huh?"
"Meg, I tried to tell you that this morning," said Gabrielle.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," said Meg, sitting wearily down at the table. Melysë went to her and poured a cup of tea. "Thanks - but ya got anything a little stronger?"
"I think so," said Melysë smiling at Xena. With a sigh, Xena went and brought out a pitcher of ale from a keg in the pantry.
"Mom's special recipe," she said, proudly, pouring a mug for Meg.
"Ha, now that hits a spot," said Meg smacking her lips after a few swallows. "Sorry about that, Gab. Guess I just lost my head for a while there."
"That's okay, Meg," said Gabrielle. "I guess it would seem ... suspicious."
"It shouldn't 'a though," said Meg, pouring more of the ale into her mug. "Aphrodite gave Virgil to Joxer 'n me. Never thought I'd have any kids o' my own, then one day - 'poof' - goddess of Love pops in and says 'cause Joxer's such a good friend and all, she'll give us one - it was her wedding present to us, I guess. Then after that, we started adopting more - all orphans. Jox and me, we wanted a big family."
"I never knew that," said Gabrielle, softly.
"Yeah, well, anyway, I'm sorry I didn't believe ya," said Meg, slamming her mug down on the table with a thump and rising unsteadily. "Well, I'm off - where to, I don't know, since my boy's not here. I reckon I'll just - "
"Meg, we've plenty of room," said Gabrielle.
"Oh, no - I'm not stayin' with you - I'll drive ya nuts," said Meg. "But thanks for the offer."
"Meg, will you consider staying in the House of Elders? Your grandchildren are here, you deserve a place among us," said Melysë, kindly.
Tears rose to Meg's blue eyes. "I appreciate that," she said. "Truth is, I've got no where else. I went to the Hestians - where that priestess, Leah was, but they wouldn't take me. And then I went to King Lias - only King Lias and Queen Diana already crossed over and no one at the palace remembered me. So I thought I'd come to Virgil - only he's gone."
"Meg, you're more than welcome among the Amazons - and not just as Virgil's mother," said Melysë, gently. "Please stay."
"Thanks - I'll take you up on that - but I got to earn my keep,' she said. "Been takin' care o' myself since I was little."
"Of course," said Melysë. "Our grandmothers do whatever they can to help out the Tribe - usually as teachers or caring for the children in the House of Maidens."
"I can cook," offered Meg.
"That would be wonderful," said Gabrielle, grinning. "Meg's a great cook."
"And that Lodge of yours - I have some ideas..." said Meg, putting an arm around Gabrielle's shoulders and leading her out of the cottage.
"That was...interesting," said Xena, closing the door and surreptitiously motioning dismissal to the grinning guards.
"Yeah, it was," said Melysë. "So where were you this morning?"
"'Ryn had some things on her mind," said Xena, pulling the priestess into her arms, looking deeply into those dark eyes.
"Like what - or is it private?" asked Melysë.
"Hm, she didn't say it was," said Xena, stroking Melysë's long dark hair. "She's...restless."
"Already?" asked Melysë frowning. "Goddess, Xena, she's only been Joined a few weeks..."
"Yeah," said Xena, kissing away the furrows of her frown. "There was another thing she brought up, though."
"What's that?" asked Melysë, smiling.
"She wanted to know why we never had a Joining," said Xena.
"What, a ceremony?" said Melysë, smiling wider. "Blessed Goddess, Xena, Hekate Herself blessed our Joining years ago."
"She did?" said Xena, eyes widening in surprise.
"Yes," Melysë chuckled. "I never thought you'd want a ceremony - I know you don't like to be the centre of attention."
"I could do it for you, though," said Xena, gently taking her priestess's face in both hands and kissing her tenderly.
"Xena-meia!" Xena felt herself being tackled by a toddler and broke off the kiss, Melysë smiling apologetically. Xena grinned.
"Come on Romy - primeia wants you," said Xena, swinging the giggling child up and carrying her out of the cottage, Melysë chuckling. And she says I'm insatiable! thought the priestess, watching them.
Arynë sat at the table in the hut she now shared with Tecmessa, silently eating a cold lunch of bread and cheese. Tecmessa was gone - to the House of Maidens - again. 'Ryn sighed. This was getting old - real fast. We need to get away, she thought. Just the two of us. I wonder where we could go?
She rose to answer the knock on her door and was surprised to see her mother.
"Meia! Come in," she said.
"Hi, 'Ryn," said the priestess. "I just brought you two some lunch - oh, you've eaten?"
"No, not really," sighed Arynë, sitting with her mother at the table as Melysë unpacked the food.
"Where's Tecmessa?" asked Melysë, serving her daughter.
"House of Maidens - where else?" said Arynë, eagerly eating her mother's cooking.
"'Ryn, I've been thinking," said Melysë. "Would you like to meet your father?"
Arynë nearly choked on a piece of nutbread. "What?" she said. "Have you been talking to Xena?"
"Well, she didn't betray any confidences, if that's what you're worried about," said Melysë, smiling.
"I'm not," said Arynë, thoughtfully. "I don't have any secrets from you, Mother. And yes, I really would like to meet him. Who is he?"
"His name is Telepinu - he's a Hittite prince," said Melysë.
"Hittite," said Arynë, musing. "An alliance with them might be useful to the Amazons."
"You know something, my daughter - no matter who your earthly father is, you are Xena's daughter - all the way," said Melysë, chuckling.
Gabrielle sighed in relief as Meg settled in the House of Elders. Her "ideas" for the Lodge were...creative, to say the least. Although Gabrielle had to admit, not all of them were bad. Thank the gods for the Elders, thought the Bard. I'd never hesitate to let her stay here, but she's right - she'd drive me nuts!
"Gabrielle," said Xena, approaching with a huge grin.
Must be 'Lysë's "insatiable" time, thought Gabrielle, smiling. "Over here, Xena," she called.
"'Ryn and Tecmessa are going to the Hittites and I need help leading the drills in the mornings," said Xena. "How would you like to..."
"Hittites?" said Gabrielle.
"Yeah, Melysë thought it would be a good idea for 'Ryn to meet her father," said Xena, smiling. "So? Are you up for staff work with the troops in the morning?"
"Yeah, sure, Xena," said Gabrielle. "So, you're not going with them?"
"No, and neither is Melysë," said Xena. "We both decided that what those two need is time away from everything and everyone - just the two of them."
"But what if - ?"
"Gabrielle, Arynë is a full Warrior - in, fact she's as good as I ever was," said Xena. "They really don't need me."
"Oh, okay," said Gabrielle. "Well, when do we start?"
"Tomorrow morning," said Xena.
"Morning - yeah, I'll be in the mood for a little staff practice," said Gabrielle, eyes gleaming.
Melysë had sent a messenger bird to King Mursilas, introducing Arynë and Tecmessa, and another to Arynë's father, Prince Telepinu. They were eagerly packing for the trip and Melysë was trying to stay out of their way, while at the same time, gather as many moments with her eldest daughter before their departure. Neiromei was another story, constantly underfoot, until Tecmessa, laughing, picked her up and whirled her around until she was dizzy. The toddler staggered over to her mother and put her little arms up, grinning, to be lifted.
"'Ryn, I'll take Romy home - it's her naptime - promise you two will stop by the cottage before you leave?" said Melysë.
"Of course, Mother," said Arynë, hugging her quickly, then going back to the preparations. Melysë took the squirming child back to the cottage, holding back her tears as best she could. Goddess, I promised myself I wouldn't do this, she thought. Xena's going to be there and I really don't want her to see me crying. She hates that.
Wiping her eyes before entering, Melysë pushed open the door and saw her heartmate, sitting before a cold hearth, shedding her own tears. Melysë set the child down and watched her toddle off to her toys then went to her warrior, wrapping warm arms around her and laying her dark head on her shoulder.
"You weren't supposed to be home yet," said Xena, chuckling and wiping her own eyes.
"Good thing I got here when I did," said Melysë, smiling gently. "Of course, you know, I was doing the same thing all the way over here."
"Gods, aren't we a pair," said Xena, shaking her head.
"Yeah," laughed Melysë. "But a pair of what?"
"Really proud mothers," said Xena, pulling her priestess down to her and gently capturing her lips with her own.
"Hm, yes, but one of our daughters is here - and still very much awake," said Melysë, smiling. "And I think your mother is going to get suspicious if you drop her off there one more time."
"My mother, suspicious?" said Xena, grinning. "Nah, she doesn't suspect - she knows exactly what I'm doing."
"Oh, Goddess, Xena," said Melysë, blushing furiously, but smiling. "Still, it's Romy's naptime anyway - she'll be asleep soon."
Xena growled through her grin as Melysë playfully swatted her hands away from the laces on her tunic. "Oh, alright," said the Warrior, sitting back in the chair. "I can wait - just don't make it too long."
Laughing, Melysë planted a quick kiss on her warrior's cheek and rose. "Don't worry," she said, collecting their daughter. Xena watched, entranced as Melysë brought the little girl back into the room, sitting and rocking her as she softly crooned some Amazon lullaby. Neiromei's eyes slowly drooped shut and she fell asleep. Melysë took the child into her room, and closed the door after her.
"Now, where were we?" she asked, sitting with Xena and wrapping her arms around the warrior's neck.
"You are magical," said Xena, softly. "I love watching you with our daughters."
"Hm, the feeling's mutual," said Melysë, lowering her hands to knead the broad shoulders. "Where was it you said your back was hurting?"
"Lower...much lower," said Xena, once again capturing her priestess's lips with hers.
Xena awoke to the sound of Neiromei stirring from her nap. Melysë still slept and the warrior smiled. A tiny bulge had begun to appear in the priestess's slender waist, and Xena leaned down to kiss it, briefly, then arose and dressed to retrieve her youngest.
She lifted the little girl from her bed, cuddling the sleepy child close and carrying her out to the sitting room, where she, too, took a turn rocking the child gently and gradually awake. She looks like 'Lysë, and wakes up like her, too. Gods, I love this kid! After Neiromei was fully awake, Xena sat on the floor, playing and listening to the child ramble on until she looked up to see Melysë watching them, a soft smile on her lips, her long, dark curls still sleep-tousled. Xena, who had been making neighing noises with a little wooden horse, much to her daughter's giggling delight, grinned sheepishly.
"Don't stop on my account - I'm just going to start supper - hopefully 'Ryn and Tecmessa will join us," said the Priestess, going to the kitchen.
"Go, horsie, go!" urged Neiromei, giggling. "Fun meia! Romy loves funny meia!"
"I love you, too, kid," said Xena, ruffling the child's dark curls. "Neeeigh!"
Melysë made dinner for the whole family, as Gabrielle and her children joined them with Arynë and Tecmessa. Melysë was happy to see that things had already eased between her daughter and her malatyr, just with the anticipation of the pending journey. Tecmessa was less shy since their Joining - at least with Melysë and Gabrielle. She was still a little timid with her love's mentor, Xena, but the warrior - under strict orders not to tease from Melysë - refrained from intimidating the young woman further.
"Well, Mother," said Arynë, rising and handing her sleeping little sister over to Xena. "We have to go - we'll be leaving early in the morning."
"Be safe and well, my girls," said Melysë, hugging both Arynë and Tecmessa. "Come home to us, soon."
"We will, Meia," said Arynë, hugging her back, her dark eyes, the same shade of green as her mother's, shining in anticipation.
"Remember what I told you - about checking for rocks before you put the bedrolls down," said Gabrielle to Tecmessa. "Unless 'Ryn's a really good hunter, take plenty of journey bread, too."
"Actually, Tecmessa is the hunter," said Arynë, looking proudly at her malatyr, who only blushed slightly at the compliment.
"Come on," said Xena, impatiently, as she carried Neiromei into her room.. "The girls have an early morning."
"Okay," said Melysë, quickly kissing both of them on the cheek, as Gabrielle said her good-byes as well, gathering her own sleepy ones. Melysë stood for a long time staring after them, even when Arynë and Tecmessa were no longer in sight. Xena came up behind her, wrapping strong, comforting arms around her priestess's slightly swelling waist.
"Hey, you know, you got a little something here now," she said, softly in Melysë's ear, tickling pleasantly. Melysë smiled slightly, still staring out into the dark.
"Xena, do you remember 'Ryn's First Initiation - her birthday?" she said softly, pushing the words past the growing lump in her throat.
"Yes, I do," said the warrior, sensing her heart-mate's wistful mood.
"Tantis, look!" cried Arynë, running into the room.
"Doesn't that child ever walk?" asked Xena, grinning.
"Not often," said her mother following her into the room, smiling. Arynë twirled around in a full set of leathers, similar in design to Xena's. "Now I can be a Warrior Princess, just like Xena," she said, hugging the warrior.
"Arynë," said Xena, holding the child so she could look her in the eye. "Do you know what a warrior princess does?"
"Of course," said Arynë, looking at Xena, puzzled at her godsmother's sad demeanour. "A warrior princess fights for people who can't fight for themselves. Xena, do you think that when I'm a real warrior princess, I can go with you and Gabrielle and fight giants and Cyclops's, and harpies and mean, evil warlords?"
"Well, when that time comes, you can decide if that's what you really want to do," said Xena, with a sigh, her heart dropping once again as she thought about Melysë's child becoming a warrior...
"Don't worry, tanti," said Arynë, patting Xena's face gently, intuitively knowing the warrior was saddened by her words. "I promise to only fight when I have to, like you always say. But I will be a warrior princess 'cause I'm already an Amazon princess, and I will learn how to be a warrior to protect myself and the Amazons when I am their queen."
Xena hugged the little girl tightly. "And you'll be a good one, too," she said.
"She's going out there tomorrow," said Melysë, her voice still soft. "Think she'll get to fight any Cyclops? Or mean, evil warlords?"
"Gods, I hope not," Xena chuckled, pulling her priestess even closer. "But if she does, she'll have a great story to tell when she gets home!"
(To be continued)