THE AMAZON QUEEN
Part XVIII: Cyrenês Tale
by L.M. Townsend (e-mail: QueenLaese@aol.com)
DISCLAIMERS: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Cyrenê, Meg, 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!) 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: YES, though nothing explicit.
Violence: Yes, but no more than youll see on the show.
Language: Pretty tame, so far.
Other: If you havent read the previous installments in this series, you may have difficulty following along with whos who. You can find these at :
Moonlit Xena reading Corner at http://members.tripod.co.uk/xwap/whats.html
Royal Academy of Bards at http://www.academyofbards.org/academymain.html
Tiggster's Fan Fic site at: http://tiggsxenapage.com/XenaVerse/Xenaverse.html
Lynka's site at: http://www.amazontrails.com/xena/xenaindex.htm
Red Hopes Collection of bards at: http://www.geocities.com/red_hope/bard.html
Xena Eyes at: http://www.xenaeyes.com/
ForevaXena at: http://www.forevaxena.com/
*Spoiler Alert - several references to various episodes throughout the history of the show, especially IDES OF MARCH and LOOKING DEATH IN THE EYE (with perhaps more to follow as the story progresses)
I want to especially acknowledge my own nykel, "Tai" for all of her encouragement. Brightest blessings, my Sister. Thank-you - for everything.
The blood-chilling scream had Melysë flying out of her bed and into her daughters room, for once moving even faster than Xena. The priestess rushed in to see Neiromei sitting up in her bed, her eyes wide in horror, drawing another breath to scream again. Melysë sat on the edge of the bed, wrapping the little girl in the comfort of her arms, and rocking her gently, crooning softly in her ear. Xena, only a step behind her priestess, checked the room carefully for whatever had so terrified the child. Finding nothing, the warrior sat next to her priestess, worry for their young daughter in her deep blue eyes.
"Just a nightmare," whispered Melysë.
"Another one?" said Xena, concerned.
"Xena-meia," cried the child, stretching her little arms out past Melysë toward her warrior-mother. Xena took the child into her strong arms and immediately Neiromei quieted. "Hey, Ive got you, Little One. Whats so scary?"
"Y-you and tanti Gabrielle..." sobbed the child, snuggling closer to Xena. "Y-y-you were...dead!" Once again the little girl wailed, clutching Xena tighter, as Melysë looked on, frowning in concern. Xena looked up Melysë, who nodded.
"Neiromei, look at me," said the warrior, pulling the child back a little, but still holding her securely. "Im not dead now, am I?" Neiromei shook her head.
"But you were," she said quietly.
"But not now," said Xena, firmly.
"But it was awful, Xena-meia," said Neiromei, shuddering. "Those men hurt you and tanti Gabrielle - they hurt you very bad. They were bad men. And it was snowing.... "
Melysë knew the story, but to her knowledge, no one had ever - would ever - tell it to a young child like Neiromei. With a sigh, the priestess lit a lamp in the main room of the cottage. She checked on the other children; Selenë had arisen and went to the kitchen to make some warm milk for her little sister, smiling knowingly and sympathetically at her mother, then decided that chammomile tea might do a better job of relaxing the little girl to sleep once again. The babies, Dylanda and Leilae were - thankfully - still sleeping in their cradles.
Neiromei had been having nightmares for over a moon. The healer said it was probably due to Neiromei adjusting to the new babies, but Melysë didnt think so. The childs dreams were so violent - and had a basis in truth, but a truth Neiromei would have no way of knowing about - unless she were gifted in magic like her mother, Melysë. A very good possibility, thought the priestess.
Melysë left the babies room and found Xena sitting and rocking their young daughter, singing. Mesmerised by her warriors incredible voice, Melysë sat and listened. She knew Xena rarely sang. When she did sing, it was a gift to those she held most dear. Neiromei, too, was caught up in the magic of the warriors voice and soon fell deeply asleep. Xena held her and rocked, singing to her sleeping daughter, for a while longer. Finally, she arose carefully and carried her back to her own bed. With a sigh, she went back to Melysë in the main room of the cottage. Melysë smiled at the warrior.
"Thank-you," she said, softly.
"Im worried about her," said Xena, sitting with her priestess, wrapping strong arms around Melysës slender waist and pulling her close.
"Me, too," said Melysë, resting her head back against the warriors shoulder. "I mean, I know children have nightmares, but Neiromeis dreaming every night - and the dreams are so violent, theyd even scare me."
"I know," said Xena, troubled. "But the really frightening thing is that these dreams are things which have actually happened - how could she know about the crucifixion?"
"I dont know, Xena," said Melysë. "Maybe shes coming into her powers - if she has any. Shes so young for that, though."
"Well, she is your daughter," said the warrior, smiling and gently kissing the top of her priestesss head.
"And yours," said Melysë, returning the smile. "What are we going to do for her, Xena? This cant go on much longer."
"I dont know," said the warrior. "Weve already talked to Hypsyple - maybe we should take her back to the shamenki ."
"Or I could call on my nykel, Tai," said Melysë, thoughtfully.
"Tai?" said Xena. "You really think Romy needs a healer?"
Xena was well aware of Tais incredible healing skills - she and Melysë had trained together in the Great Temple. Tai had had some tragedy in her life, but Lysë never talked about it. Xena only knew that it involved an incredible sacrifice on Tais part to save the priestesss life - and for that alone, Tai had Xenas rare respect and gratitude. Although Xena respected and genuinely liked Tai, still she felt uneasy around the healer. Tai was an empath of great power and strength - even more so than Melysë - and although Xena knew that Tais integrity was above reproach, there was just something about the fact that Tai had the ability to see straight into Xenas mind and heart that made the warrior edgy. There was also the small fact that Tai and Lysë could communicate mind to mind even over great distances - and while Xena had no doubts about where her priestesss heart lay, still Xena felt....left out. No doubt how Lysë feels about the soul-bond between Gabrielle and me, sometimes - and there isnt even any history between Lysë and Tai.... mused the warrior, absently plaiting Melysës dark hair. Yet she never lets on, never says a word about it. I really ought to just let it go...like she has....
"Tais not only a healer, but a shamenki in her own right. And as you know, shes a very powerful empath which makes her a very skilled healer of the mind as well as the body," said Melysë.
"Healer of the mind? Oh, Lysë, Romys not crazy," said Xena concerned. "Its just some bad dreams."
"No, she isnt crazy," soothed the priestess. "But Xena this is happening every night. I remember the nightmares I used to have." Melysë shuddered and the warrior pulled her closer.
"Bad, huh?" said the warrior. Melysë nodded, snuggling closer for comfort. "What made them stop?"
Melysë smiled and looked up at Xena. "You did," she said, softly. "From the first time you came to Aemetzainê, when Ares sent you - Ive never felt safer than when you were here. That was the first time in a very long time - since before I escaped Kraes, the Black Mage, in fact - that I slept through the night. And every time you visited in between then and when you agreed to stay on as Warrior Queen, I slept peacefully all night. Now the nightmares only come rarely - and usually when youre gone."
"So thats why you keep me around, huh?" chuckled the warrior, teasingly. "To chase away the bad dreams?"
"Among other things," said the priestess, teasing back, then she grew serious again. "I dont want Romy going through that anymore."
Xena heard the weariness in her voice and looked at Melysës paleness and the deep shadows under her priestesss eyes and felt her own exhaustion at the lack of sleep theyd been having of late.
"Okay," said the warrior. "Go ahead and get Tai - if anyone has to work on Romys mind, I d rather it be her, anyway."
"Tomorrow?" said the priestess.
"It is tomorrow," chuckled the warrior, indicating the lightening sky outside of the window. Melysë reluctantly began to rise, but Xena gently pulled her back. "No, you need some more rest - we all do. Selenë is still up - Ill ask her to keep an ear out for the babies when they wake up. You are going to back to bed."
"What about you?" asked Melysë. Xena grinned.
"Ill be right there," she said.
Melysë awoke later that morning the bright sun, streaming in through the window - and the sound of her warriors "angry voice" just outside. Quickly she arose and dressed, peeking in at the babies, who were freshly changed and playing together happily with their older sister, Selenë.
"Its okay, Mother - Ive got them," said her older daughter, smiling up at her. "I hear her, too."
Melysë smiled her thanks, and rushed outside to see Xena, kneeling in front of a tearful Neiromei, gently scolding the little girl.
"I tell you these things for a reason, Romy," Melysë heard her say. "You could get really hurt. Now if you must climb, stay to the smaller trees. When youre a bit bigger, Ill teach you how run through the taller ones, but until then..."
Neiromei nodded, solemnly, and Xena released her, rising to her feet. Neiromei ran off to play as Xena turned and saw the priestess. Grinning, the warrior shook her head. "Romy got stuck - way up in a tree," she said.
"And you had to rescue her?" said Melysë. "Poor baby - shes probably so embarrassed! You know how she loves to do big girl stuff."
"She really got up there, too," said Xena, proudly. "Too bad she couldnt get down. Lilia and Terreis put her up to it, Im pretty sure. If shed been able to climb down, they might stop teasing her."
"Oh, Goddess," said Melysë. "Shes really going to hear about it now, isnt she?"
"Aw, she can take it," said Xena. "One of these days, shell impress the hells out of them and theyll back off on the teasing. Its just kid stuff - theyre older and Romy just wants to feel like shes a big girl, too, like they are."
"I know," said Melysë, frowning. "But I dont like to see her teased. Maybe I should talk to Gabrielle..."
"No, Lysë," said Xena. "You cant do that - thatll only make it worse. I should know."
"You got teased when you were little, Xena?" said Melysë, smiling. "I find that hard to picture somehow."
"Uh, no," said Xena, grinning sheepishly. "I, um, did the teasing. And when they told my mother, I only got worse. Just let it go, Lysë. Terreis and Lilia really actually like her or they wouldnt bother with her."
"How come we never went through with this with the other two?" said Melysë, sighing, as Xena pulled her into a hug.
"Because both Ryn and Selenë are older than Terreis and Lilia and every other kid was too intimidated by the fact that theyre the princesses to give them a hard time," said the Warrior Queen, chuckling. "Besides, Ryn wouldve just decked anyone who bugged her and Selenë just gives people that smile of hers and really freaks them out. Just let Romy handle this herself in her own way. Trust me - shell be fine."
"I know," said Melysë, frowning. "But I was teased when I was little - I didnt like it. And I dont think Romy does, either. But Ill let it be - for now."
Neiromei ran towards the group of children, but stopped, seeing Lilia and Terreis giggling with each other. The little girl assumed they were laughing at her. Well, why shouldnt they, thought the child, glumly, as she turned and walked slowly away from the other children. Im Romy, the Dummy - always needs her Mummy - she cant even climb a tree - what kinda Amazons she gonna be?
The child sang very quietly to herself, tears rolling down her cheeks as she climbed a smaller tree - one of her favourites, but still Romy thought of it as "baby tree". She perched herself on a branch and watched as the other children played among themselves, laughing happily. She hadnt meant to doze off, but she hadnt been sleeping at night with all those bad dreams, so she didnt see it when Ephiny, Gabrielles oldest daughter, walked up to Lilia and Terreis, grabbing both of them by the arms and pulling them off a bit from the others.
"Whyd you do that to Romy?" she hissed at them. "I saw you - you picked on her until she climbed that tree. She could have been hurt!"
"We didnt think shed really do it!" said Lilia. "That was a big tree - I sure wouldnt have tried it."
"Me, neither," said Terreis.
"Yeah, well, Neiromei is a nice little kid," said Ephiny. "You guys need to lay off her. You dont want to make Xena mad - and you really dont want tanti Lysë mad at you - trust me, I know!"
"Okay," sighed Terreis. "Well apologise."
"And stop picking on her," said their older sister, arms crossed in front of her. "Or youll answer to me. Got it?"
"Yeah, yeah, okay," said Lilia. "Can we go now?"
"Go on," sighed Ephiny, watching her little sisters running back to the other children. Her malatyr, Selenë had told her of Neiromeis nightmares, but even though Ephiny knew her sisters werent causing them, she still thought the little kid deserved a break. Ephiny really did like Neiromei, and she knew that her sisters liked her, too, but they would probably keep teasing her despite her warnings. They really dont understand, thought Ephiny. Because, even though Mother is a queen, they werent born to be Amazons - not like me. Theyll probably never even take the Oath. Maybe I should talk to Mother - shell make them behave. Or maybe not - she never could get me to be good. At least not until ... anyway, maybe I should just leave it alone.....Romyll show them, one of these days....
Romys nap in the tree deepened into sleep and with sleep, came the dreams.
Athena's warriors were shooting arrows at Xena and Gabrielle. Xena, driving a wagon, sees a cliff, and drives alongside of it, while more arrows flew at them and flames. Tanti Gabrielle threw her sais and two of Athena's warriors were hit and fell down. Then the wagon stopped and Xena threw her chakram, killing a platoon of warriors. Athena threw a fire bolt and hit the wagon with Xena and Gabrielle. The horses broke loose from the wagon and they ran. Romy saw her beloved tanti Gabrielle fall slowly back, as if overcome from the smoke of the burning wagon, and heard Xena call for her, reaching as the wagon fell over the cliff....
With a cry, the child awoke startled and tumbled out of the tree. She sat up, clutching her throbbing little arm, looking frantically about to make sure no one had seen her fall, then ran deeper into the woods.
Melysë was frantic. She had already called upon her Oath-Sister Tai, and Tai had agreed to come right away. Xena was out looking for Neiromei, since the little girl hadnt been seen since her scolding by her warrior mother. Xena, feeling guilt-ridden, combed the woods. Melysë had told her it was no more than Romy deserved for her disobedience, but all Xena could think of was the hurt in her little girls dark blue eyes. I was too hard on her, thought the warrior. Shes just a little kid - but Ive told her so many times not to climb the tall trees. Where is she?
Romy ran through the deep woods, her arm hurting more with each jarring step. She didnt know if anyone had seen her fall out of that "baby tree", but she knew that she was in big trouble. Thats why Xena-meia was so cross with me - she knew Id fall. Im so dumb! Falling asleep in that stupid tree!
Suddenly, Neiromei stopped. A tall figure stood before her on the path and beside the tall one, a smaller one - a girl, perhaps a little older than Neiromei. Romy looked up and smiled a little.
"Tanti Tai," she said.
"Romy - what are you doing out here all by yourself?" asked Tai, kneeling beside the little girl. "Do your meias know youre out here? I bet they dont."
Romy looked down and silently shook her head. "No, tanti," she said, quietly. "I just....ran."
"Come here, Sweetie - youre hurt," said Tai, gathering the little girl to her. "Why, Romy! Your arms broken!"
"I...fell," said Neiromei, miserably. "I fell asleep in the tree and I fell out - pretty dumb, huh?"
"Not dumb at all," said Tai, gently. "Your mother told me youve been having bad dreams - its no wonder you fell asleep somewhere you felt safe. Come, Kaiyte - lets take Romy home - her mothers very worried about her. Both of them - Xenas looking for you even now."
"How - how do you know that?" asked Neiromei.
"Your mother and I can talk to each other with our minds, Romy," said Tai. "Thats how I knew you needed .... me."
Skillfully splinting the childs arm until they could get to the supplies she would need to properly treat it, Tai whistled the signal to Xena that Romy had been found, then scooped the little girl into her arms and, taking Kaiytes hand, led both girls back the Amazon Village.
Xena met them, gratefully taking Neiromei into her own arms, her blue eyes filling with relieved tears. "Tai - how can I thank you?" said the warrior.
"Its alright - watch that arm - its broken," said Tai.
"Romy - how did you do that? asked Xena, hugging her daughter more tightly.
"I...fell..." said the child.
"Okay, Little One," said Xena. "Its okay - lets get you back to your meia - shes sick with worry about you. Well discuss everything later - when Im ready to be mad instead of scared, myself."
The group approached the Queens cottage where Melysë awaited them. She took her daughter first, setting the child on a chair and examining her arm. Melysë held the little girl while Tai removed the temporary splint. Fortunately the break wasnt a bad one and Romys arm didnt have to be set, so the two women merely wrapped it tightly in a more permanent splint while Xena looked on, worried. When they finished, the warrior took her whimpering daughter to her room and laid her down.
After the priestess saw to her daughter, she greeted her sister with a warm hug.
"Thank-you, Tai," she said. "Goddess, its good to see you - and Kaiyte! Welcome, Little Sister. Its so good to see you both here. Ive missed you."
"Ive missed you, too, tanti Lysë," said Kaiyte, hugging the priestess. "Will Romy be able to play soon?"
Melysë smiled. "Yes, I think she will," she said. "In fact, why dont you go on in there with her now - and please tell Xena I need her out here, will you?"
Grinning and nodding, the little girl skipped off to do as Melysë asked her. Kaiyte entered the room and saw that Xena had propped pillows behind Romy. Kaiyte also saw the warrior grin at her daughter and whisper something that sounded like "croisus" and "wildberry dumplings". Romy nodded, smiling slightly. Xena turned to Kaiyte, one eyebrow raised.
"Tanti Lysë said she needs you - and that I can stay and visit with Romy - is that alright, tanti Xena?" asked the girl.
Xena smiled at the girl, ruffling her blonde curls affectionately. "Sure, you can, Kaiyte," said the warrior. "Ill be back in a little while, Romy."
"Kay," said the little girl.
Xena left the girls to themselves. Kaiyte approached, smiling, then noticed the silent tears in Neiromeis dark blue eyes, about to spill over. "Whats wrong?" asked the girl.
"Im just a dummy," said Neiromei. "Everybodys being nice to me - but Im just...."
"I dont think youre so dumb," said Kaiyte, perching herself on the side of the bed.
"I fell asleep in a baby tree - and then I fell out - thats not dumb?" said Neiromei. "And I broke my arm, too. It hurts."
"I can fix that," said Kaiyte. "If you let me?"
"You can fix broken arms?" asked Romy. "My meia can too, sometimes."
"Sure - here," said Kaiyte, reaching over and gently taking Romys broken arm in her two small hands. Neiromei felt the other girls hands growing hot and then pretty soon, the pain was gone and Neiromei could move her arm again. She pulled off the splint.
"Wow - how come my meia didnt just do that?" said Neiromei. Kaiyte shrugged.
"I dont know - but Im sure she had a good reason," said Kaiyte.
"Yeah - like Im so dumb to fall out of a tree - specially after Xena-meia warned me - I deserved a broken arm," said Neiromei, glumly.
"I dont like it when you say youre dumb, Romy," said Kaiyte, closing her blue eyes. "Youre not dumb at all. Youre really very smart."
"How would you know?" asked Neiromei.
"I just...know things," said Kaiyte, opening her eyes.
"My meia and my sister, Selenë are like that, too," said Neiromei. "I dont have any magic like they do."
"Yes, you do," said Kaiyte. "You just havent found it yet. But you will - soon. You can read already, too, cant you?"
"Well, sure," said Neiromei, frowning. "Meia taught me. I like tanti Gabrielles scrolls."
"So, what else do you like to do - besides climb?" asked Kaiyte. "We could play - or something."
"Okay," said Romy, excitedly. She climbed out of her bed and took her friends hand, leading her into the main room of the cottage where their mothers were talking. "Were going out to play," Romy announced.
"Neiromei, what about your arm?" asked Xena.
"Its okay - Kaiyte fixed it," said Neiromei, flexing the now-healed arm for her mothers to see. "Is it okay? I promise I wont fall out of any more trees."
"Go ahead," said Melysë, smiling at the girls. "Just be careful."
"Stay close," said Tai.
"Okay," said Romy and Kaiyte. The two girls looked at each other and burst into giggles, then skipped outside.
"Kaiyte fixed it?" said Xena, raising an eyebrow to Tai.
"I wondered if she would," said Tai.
"Like mother like daughter?" said Melysë.
"So it would seem," said Tai, smiling proudly.
"Why didnt either of you - ?" began Xena.
"Sometimes I can, and sometimes I cant, Love," said Melysë. "This time I couldnt."
"I tried, too," said Tai. "I think I sense Hekates hand in this."
"You mean Hekate wanted Kaiyte to heal Romys arm," said Xena. "Why would She care who did it?"
"Who knows?" said Melysë.
"No, I think I do," said Tai. "I almost didnt bring Kaiyte with me. But she begged to go, so...."
"You brought her - and Im glad - Romy needs a friend," said Melysë.
"Yeah," said Xena, sighing. "Lilia and Terreis like her alright, but...well children can be cruel."
"Unfortunately, Xena, I have to agree with you," said Tai. "Kaiyte and Telaros have certainly had their share of teasing from the village children - being the children of an Amazon seems to carry that curse. I thought Kaiyte might have a better chance of making friends among the Amazons."
"So - you two will stay for a while?" asked Melysë, hopefully. Tai smiled.
"Yes - we can stay as long as you like, Little Sister," she said.
Neiromei and Kaiyte walked through the Aemetzainê village, hand in hand. "Thats where I fell," said Romy, pointing.
"Wow - from way up there? No wonder you broke something," said Kaiyte. Neiromei shrugged.
"Thats nothing," she said, pointing to another, taller tree. "I climbed that one, too - only I couldnt get back down. Xena-meia had to climb up after me. Boy, was she mad, too!"
"Gosh, Romy, I couldnt even have gotten up there, let alone back down," said Kaiyte. "You sure are brave."
"You really think so?" said Neiromei, looking over at her new friend.
"Yes, I do," said Kaiyte. "I never say things I dont mean, Romy."
Neiromei smiled, pleased. "So, what do you want to do?" she asked.
"I dont know," said Kaiyte. "What do you usually do - besides climbing, that is?"
"Well, we could go to the Lodge and ask tanti Gabrielle for a story," said Neiromei, thinking. "Tanti Gabby tells the bestest stories. And Meg might be there - she always has stuff to eat in the kitchen."
"That sounds like fun," said Kaiyte. "Mikala - she stays with us and helps my meia - she tells really good stories, all about the Olympian gods - specially Zeus."
"Zeus was my meias father," said Neiromei, proudly. "Cept I dont think he was very nice."
"Sometimes he was," said Kaiyte. "Mikala says he tried to be - he just didnt how sometimes."
"Like Lilia and Terreis," said Neiromei, quietly.
"Theyre pretty mean to you, huh, Romy?" said Kaiyte.
"Yeah," sighed Neiromei. "But I dont think they mean to be - like Zeus, sometimes they just dont know how to be nice. Oh, gosh! What if theyre at the Lodge? Theyll really give it to me - cause I got stuck in that dumb tree!"
"No they wont," said Kaiyte, slipping a protective arm around her friends shoulders. "I wont let em."
Neiromei looked shyly over to her new friend, then impulsively hugged her. "Thank-you, Kaiyte," she said. "Im glad youre here. Maybe we can teach Lilia and Terreis how to be nice - like you are."
Kaiyte returned the hug and smiled. "We can sure try," she said.
"Still," said Romy, frowning. "Maybe we can go and see my primeia first. Id like her to meet you. And her treats are excellent!"
"Tai, what about Romys dreams?" Melysë asked, her brow furrowed in concern.
"I dont know," sighed Tai. "She had one today, too - thats why she fell - it startled her awake in that tree."
"She told you?" asked Xena.
"No - just flashes I picked up - something about you and Gabrielle and Eve ... a wagon, going over a cliff?" said Tai, her grey-green eyes closed in concentration. Melysë looked to Xena, questioningly.
"Yes," she said, grimly. "That happened just before Ares put Gabrielle and me "on ice" - so to speak. We faked our deaths and Eves to escape the Olympian gods."
"Tai, how could she know about that?" asked Melysë. "I didnt even know that."
"Im reading it like a...memory? But thats not possible," said Tai, shaking her head.
"Unless shes picking it up from Xena," said Melysë, softly, looking to her heartmate. "Have you been having nightmares, too, Love?"
"No, Lysë," said Xena. "I havent even thought about these things in...well, years. Not until Romys dreams brought them up. Tai, Hypsyple said that Romys dreams might be from her fear of losing one of us to the babies - you know, our attention, love - some kind of nonsense like that."
"Well, I wouldnt quite rule that out," said Tai, thinking. "But I doubt it. I know the two of you have been just as loving and attentive to Romy as you always are."
"Well, its easier with Selenë helping out as much as she does," said Melysë, smiling.
"Ah, yes," said Tai, smiling. "Selenë - I must see her before we leave. But thats for another time. For now, I think well just keep watching Romy and monitor these nightmares."
"Thats what weve been doing," muttered Xena.
Tai reached over and gently laid a hand on the warriors arm. "Xena, I know this is very hard for you," she said. "For both of you. In fact, Lysë, is there a guest hut available?"
"Well, sure, Tai, but you always stay here with us," said Melysë.
"I think it would be best if Kaiyte and I took Romy with us and stayed in a guest hut - just for a few days," said Tai. "It would give me a chance to see these nightmares - firsthand, if you know what I mean." Melysë nodded, but Xena frowned.
"I dont know if I like the idea of anyone getting inside Romys mind like that - even you, Tai," said the warrior.
"I understand your concern, Xena," said Tai. "And I wont do it without consent from both of you - and Neiromei. But I really think it might help."
"Xena?" said Melysë, looking up at the warrior, hopefully. Xena raised an eyebrow at the priestess.
"Gonna be like that, huh?" she said, smiling at last. "Make me decide? Lysë, you know I trust you both. You also know I will do anything to make these nightmares stop. Alright Tai. Ill see the guest hut is ready for you and Kaiyte - and Romy." Xena left the cottage.
"Shes going to be patrolling outside that hut all night, you know," said Melysë, smiling fondly after her warrior.
"Hm, yes, probably," said Tai. "Shes very...protective, isnt she? Of all of you."
"No more so than my big sister always has been," said Melysë, grinning at Tai. "But even more, I think shell miss not having Romy here. It was tough on her when Arynë left and Selenë will soon be going."
"To Britannia," said Tai.
"Yes," sighed Melysë.
"Unless she comes with me," said Tai. "I would train her."
"Yes, you could, couldnt you?" said Melysë, brightening. "Oh, Tai - that would be the answer to many prayers."
"I know," said Tai. "And when it is time for her to take her place there, shell be ready."
Romy and Kaiyte knocked on the door to the large cottage, and it was answered by a delighted Cyrenê.
"Romy! How good to see you," said Xenas mother, picking the little girl up and hugging her close. "And whos your friend?"
"This is Kaiyte," said Neiromei, shyly as her grandmother set her gently down and hugged her new friend.
"Welcome, Kaiyte," said Cyrenê, warmly. "What are you girls up to today - or shouldnt I ask, Romy?"
"No, primeia, Kaiyte doesnt get me into trouble - thats Lilia and Terreis," said Romy, solemnly.
"You get yourself into trouble, Romy," chuckled Cyrenê. "Just like your mother. Did I ever tell you about the time Xena....ah, better not. She wont thank me for telling that tale."
"How about another one, then, primeia?" asked Neiromei, settling herself into a chair.
"A story?" said Cyrenê. "Well, Im not the storyteller your tanti Gabrielle is, but I may know one or two."
Cyrenê went into the kitchen and emerged with a couple loaves of nutbread and some milk.
"Now, you two come over here and have some of this - I just baked it fresh this morning - and Ill tell you a story my mother told me," said Cyrenê, settling both girls in her lap.
"Once upon a time, there was a magical tree - an oak tree. Now this tree desperately wanted be special. It wanted to have something that no other tree in the forest had. And so the tree made a wish upon the first star in the evening sky. As you know, the evening star is named after Aphrodite -
"Tanti Dite?" interrupted Romy. "I didnt know that."
"Yes, Romy - only its called by her Roman name, Venus" said Cyrenê. The little girl considered this quietly as her grandmother went on with the story.
"Aphrodite took pity on the poor tree and gave it something very special - something no other tree in the whole forest had - a golden acorn. The tree held tight to the acorn in its highest branches, and as it grew, the acorn was lifted up higher and higher, so no one could see it or touch it. But the tree knew that it had the acorn and it clung even tighter, afraid someone would try and take the golden acorn from it.
"This made Aphrodite mad. She stamped her foot and told the tree, "I didnt give that to you to hide it from the world, but to share its beauty with everyone - "
"That doesnt sound much like Tanti Dite, primeia," said Romy, doubtfully.
"Now, Romy, I may not be able to talk just like your tanti Aphrodite, but...well, you know how she likes her gifts displayed - especially the beautiful ones," said Cyrenê.
"Oh, yeah," said Romy, nodding. "But the part where she stamped her foot - that sounds like her."
Cyrenê chuckled and continued.
"Aphrodite was angry because the tree refused to share the beauty of her gift, so what did she do? She made the gift even more wonderful. She made the golden acorn magical, so that anyone who could find it and get it, would receive their dearest wish and their hearts desire. And she told people about it. Soon people were climbing the tree, trying to get the acorn, but the tree hid it higher and higher in its branches and no one ever did get it. And the tree still holds tight to that magical golden acorn to this day."
"That was a good story, primeia," said Romy, grinning up at her grandmother.
"Yes, it was," said Kaiyte. "Thank-you for telling it to us."
"Why, youre more than welcome," said Cyrenê, kissing both girls on the top of the head. "And now, you two scoot - I have work to do here. And Romy, stay out of trouble."
"Okay," sighed the little girl as she and Kaiyte left. "But it wont be easy. Come on, lets go and see if Megs at the Lodge."
Kaiyte and Neiromei walked through the kitchen door of the Lodge. Sure enough, Meg was there and greeted both girls with a hug. "Howre my sweetings?" she asked, pouring them cider and passing a plate of cookies to them.
"Were good, tanti Meg," said Romy, biting into a cookie.
"And hows yer mother, young Kaiyte? Havent seen much o her since I came here," said Meg.
"Shes well, Meg, thank-you," said Kaiyte. "Shes visiting with tanti Lysë right now - if you wanted to go and see her."
"Well, you know, I might just do that," said Meg, grinning. "Sure they wont mind?"
"No, meia likes you, tanti Meg," said Romy.
"Well, then, off I go," said Meg, leaving the girls in the kitchen. Just then, Lilia and Terreis came in.
"Hey, whatre you doing here?" said Lilia to Romy. "Whos your friend?"
"This is Kaiyte," said Neiromei, proudly. "We just came to see Meg - but she had to go somewheres."
"Climbed any trees lately, Romy?" said Lilia, giggling.
Neiromei looked down, quiet.
"As a matter of fact, Romy and I were just going to the forest to look for a certain, special tree," said Kaiyte.
"Better make it a small one," snickered Terreis. "Cause Romy gets stuck in the bigger ones."
"I do not!" cried Neiromei, jumping to her feet, her little fists clenched at her sides, as Lilia began sing-songing.
"Romy, the Dummy, always calls for Mummy, she cant even climb a tr-" Lilias singing was cut short by Romys fist, connecting squarely with her nose.
"Hey, hey," said Gabrielle, coming into the kitchen. "I better not be hearing anyone called Dummy! I- " The Bard stopped short at the sight of the blood streaming from her daughters nose. "Okay. I can deal with this."
"Im sorry tanti," said Neiromei, her little head down, all anger forgotten. She knew she was in big trouble now. But Gabrielle merely looked at her and smiled a little.
"Thats okay, Romy," she said. "I heard Lilia teasing you. I dont like the hitting, but I can understand it - gods know, I understand it. Youve got your mothers temper. You go on home now. Come on Lilia, lets clean you up."
Head down, Romy took Kaiytes hand and together they walked slowly back to the Queens Cottage. "Boy, Im really gonna get it now," sniffed Romy. "Meia doesnt like hitting. Specially other Amazons - and most specially tanti Gabrielles kids."
"Lilia isnt an Amazon," said Kaiyte, looking off into the distance. "Terreis might be - someday - but Lilia wont."
"How do you know that?" asked Romy, temporarily forgetting about being in trouble.
"I just do - Lilia will find something else that makes her happy," said Kaiyte, smiling at her friend. "Come on, Romy - better get it over with."
"You gonna tell?" said Neiromei, looking at her friend, eyes wide.
"Nope," said Kaiyte, grinning. "You are."
The girls entered the cottage, Neiromei, her head down. Xena, Tai, and Melysë were sitting at the table, cups of tea before them.
"Hi, Girls," said Melysë, rising from her chair. "How was your day?"
"Go on," said Kaiyte, nudging Romy.
"I slugged Lilia," said Neiromei, quietly. Melysë sat back down, quickly.
"Wh - but Romy," she said. "Why? Was she teasing you again, Sweetheart?"
"Ag - You knew, meia?" said Romy, her blue eyes wide.
"Well, yes, Romy, but Xena and I decided to let you handle it your own way," said Melysë, casting a look at the warrior.
"Oh," said Neiromei. "Yes - she called me a dummy - and other stuff. Im sorry, meia. I know you dont like hitting. I just got too mad." Melysë arose and enfolded her small daughter in a tight hug.
"I dont like it," said the priestess. "But I dont like teasing, either. I hated it when I was a kid, too - and I would have slugged a few of the ones who teased me - but that doesnt make it right."
"I know," said Neiromei. "You got teased, too, meia?"
"Yes, she did," said Tai, smiling. "I slugged em for her."
"Wow," said Neiromei, looking over to Kaiyte, whose eyes had widened at her mothers confession.
"So I didnt have to," said Melysë, suppressing a very un-queenly giggle. Then she grew more serious. "But you know hitting is wrong, dont you Romy?"
"Yes," sighed the child. "Guess I have to say sorry, huh?"
"Well, maybe after Lilia says sorry for calling you names, you might apologise," said Melysë. "What did Gabrielle say about it?"
"She said I had Xena-meias temper and that she understood," said Neiromei, grinning. "And primeia started to tell a story about Xena-meia, but she said you wouldnt preciate her telling that one. Did you get in trouble when you were little, too, Xena-meia?"
"All the time," chuckled the warrior. "Which is why I know all about what youre up to, young lady. Youre not quite off the hook yet. But well worry about that later. Just tell me - was it a good punch?"
Neiromei grinned. "Right in the nose - blood all over the - "
"Romy!" said Melysë, glaring at Xena.
"Sorry!" said both her daughter and her warrior.
"What were you saying about Like mother like daughter?" chuckled Tai, rising. "Well, are you two tired of each other yet?"
"Gosh, no, tanti Tai!" said Romy, smiling at her friend.
"Well, thats good," said Tai. "Because your mothers said it was alright - if you want to, Romy - for you to come and spend the night with us in our guest hut."
"Really?" said Neiromei. "Its okay even though I..."
"Yes, Romy," said Melysë, smiling.
"Yeah - if you want to, Romy," said Xena.
"Yes, I want to!" exclaimed the little girl, hugging Kaiyte.
"Okay, then," said Tai. "Lets get your stuff and go. Ill make some dinner, so dont you two worry - Romy wont starve."
"You got that right," said Kaiyte, thinking of the nutbread and cookies her friend had consumed that day.
Melysë and Xena merely looked at each other and chuckled since Romys appetite had rivalled the Bards since the day she was born.
Neiromei slept, cuddled up to her new friend. She had agreed to let her tanti Tai help her with her dreams, but she was a little scared. Soon, the dream came and Romy was glad that tanti Tai was there with her.
"Okay Romy, tell me whats happening," said Tai, softly to the dreaming child.
"Xena-meia's tied up in some weird-looking chair . Tanti Gabrielle's about to be burned at the stake. Some lady with crazy eyes is saying to Xena-meia, Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk. Its a nice fit, dont you think? and Xena-meia answers her, Dont get too fond of it.
"Then the crazy lady says How are you gonna get out of this one, Xena-- hmm? Xena-meia is still being tough and she tells her It aint over till its over.
"And the crazy lady tells Xena meia , Oh, but it will be, soon. Youre about to watch the
friendship of your life go up in smoke. Hmm-- I envy her in a way. She gets to leave this life so pure. I wonder if I could have been her. Burn her. Oh, dont bother struggling, Xena. Be thankful for that beautiful throne. Itll give you peace if you let it."
Suddenly Neiromei cried out, "Im coming, Xena! Oh! I fell! Oh, no! Oh, its okay - Xena-meia got her chakram - gee, that looks like Ryns, that tandos Ares gave her."
"Whats happening now, Romy?" asked Tai, guiding the little girl through her dream.
"Theyre fighting," said the child, frowning. "Im here to save my friends - oh!"
"Romy - whats happening?" said Tai.
Neiromeis eyes popped open and she and drew a breath to scream, but Tai was there, holding her, and Romy felt soothed. "Oh, tanti, I got hit - but Xena and tanti Gabrielle were safe - thats the first I ever dreamed they got to be safe," said the child, breathless. "And I got to help - I really did - if I didnt come and distract the crazy lady, Xena-meia couldnt have got her chakram and save tanti Gabrielle. I really helped."
"Yes, you did," said Tai, soothingly. She smiled at the child. "Can you sleep the rest of the night now?"
"Yeah," said Neiromei, with a sigh of contentment. She lay her little head back down, snuggling close to Kaiyte and drifted back into a dreamless slumber for the rest of the night.
The next morning found the girls happily playing. Melysë made her way to Tais guest cottage after feeding the babies and Xena. Xena had gone off to Ryns hut - ostensibly to check on the new roster. Melysë smiled at the thought. She knew that Xena had decided to "take some time off", but she also knew the Warrior Queen missed the drill field. Lysë had taken over feeding both babies, since Xena had started working out again - to get back into "fighting condition". Like she was ever out of it, thought the priestess. Even to the day we delivered, she was battle-ready.
"Meia!" Neiromei cried, stopping her play and running to embrace her mother. Melysë picked up her young daughter, swinging the child to one slim hip and hugging her tightly.
"Did you have fun, Little One?" said Melysë, beaming at the child.
"Oh, yes - Kaiyte is my bestest friend - can I get down and play, meia?" said Neiromei.
Melysë chuckled, setting the child down gently and watching her run off with her "bestest" friend. "Shes great, Lysë," said Tai, approaching from the guest hut. "Very bright, and very well-behaved. You and Xena have done well with her."
"Thanks- but Im afraid a lot of the discipline has been on Xenas shoulders," said Melysë, sighing. "I cant help it - she just looks up at me with those eyes and I melt."
"I rather guessed as much," said Tai, smiling at her friend. "You forget, Ive known you better than almost anyone and for almost your whole life, Little Sister."
"Thats true," said Melysë, returning the smile as they watched their girls playing.
"Romys exactly like you, Lysë," said Tai.
"Oh, I dont think so," said Melysë, softly. "Shes very much like Xena - very strong-willed...."
"And youre not?" chuckled Tai. "Since when?"
Melysë grinned over at her friend. "Okay, okay - maybe she did get a little of that from me," she said.
"A little?" said Tai, laughing.
"A lot?" said Melysë, joining her friend in laughter. "Aw, come on - I wasnt that bad - was I?"
"No, Little Sister - not bad at all," said Tai, now smiling. "In fact, its that strong will of yours - and the patience you have learned over the years - which gives you such strength of character - it makes you a very formidable Queen and Priestess."
"Thank-you, Tai," said Melysë, quietly. "Xena told me a friend she had once - a long time ago - said that The entire world is driven by a will-- blind and ruthless. In order to transcend the
limitations of that world, you need to stop willing-- " stop desiring-- stop hating....the thought completed itself in the priestesss mind, much to her surprise. Where did that come from? "I dont think I could do that if I tried." At least, not now ....
"No," said, Tai, hearing the unspoken thought. "Thats not your path, Lysë - although its been a valid one for many, its not who you are." Not now, anyway.... "And anyway - your will isnt blind and ruthless - its focused - and its focused on serving your family and your people, the Amazons."
"Thats true," said Melysë smiling fondly at her little girl. "I guess shes more like me than I thought."
"Come on, Sis," said Tai. "Ive got some klafé on inside - well let them play."
Neiromei watched her mother go into the hut with tanti Tai, then quickly grabbed Kaiytes hand, leading her into the woods.
"Come on," said Romy. "Weve got to find - "
"What?" said Lilia, stepping in front of the two girls, Terreis behind her. "Your special tree?"
"Leave me alone," said Neiromei, placing her small hands on her hips, Kaiyte standing behind her.
"Or what? Youll sucker punch me again?" said Lilia.
"Why?" said Kaiyte, quietly "Are you a sucker?"
Neiromei giggled, then grew serious again. "Primeia told me a story about the oldest oak in the forest - and the Golden Acorn and Kaiyte and me are going to find it," she said. "You guys can come, too, if you want to. But no teasing."
"I never heard that story," said Terreis. "And my meia tells us stories all the time - no one knows more stories than my meia."
"Thats true," agreed Neiromei. "But primeia said that her mother told her this one - all about how Aphrodite gave this magic golden acorn to the oak, but it wouldnt share. So tanti Dite got mad and made it even more magic and told people that it would give them their dearest wish and hearts desire. Im going to find that magic acorn."
"This I gotta see," said Lilia, moving out of their way. She and Terreis trailed after Kaiyte and Neiromei through the deep woods. At last they came to a very old oak, its gnarled branches reaching high up into the sky.
"This must be it," said Neiromei, solemnly.
"Romy - you cant climb that," said Terreis, nervously. "Thats way too high. What if you fall?"
Neiromei set her jaw - just like Melysë did when the priestesss mind was made up - and looked at Kaiyte. "Do you think I can do it?" she asked.
"Do you?" said Kaiyte, looking her friend in the eye.
Neiromei looked up to the top branches. She could have sworn something glinted in the sunlight which poured through the leaves of the oak tree. That decided it. Romy swung herself up onto the lowest branches, climbing from limb to broad limb, rapidly ascending.
"Romy - Im telling Xena!" cried Terreis, scared for her friend.
"Yeah," giggled Lilia. "Maybe you better - someones going to have to go up there after her!"
"Shut up, Lilia!" cried Terreis. "Just shut up - she wouldnt even be doing this if you didnt keep bugging her all the time."
"So?" said Lilia, unable to counter her sisters unexpected defence of the princess.
"No," said Kaiyte, smiling up at her friend. "Shell be fine - youll see. Romys very brave."
Lilia rolled her eyes, but watched as Neiromei swung from branch to branch, ascending ever higher. Romy focused on that glint - she knew she had seen it, now. It was still there, ever before her. For Neiromei, all that existed was this tree and the prize she sought. Forgotten were the nightmares and taunting of her age-mates - Neiromei had turned her dreams around with tanti Tais help. She had a new best friend - one who believed in her and sort of told her to believe in herself. And she had heard Terreis - whom she had always really liked - tell Lilia - her own blood sister - to shut up. Suddenly, she saw it - it was true! A golden acorn, just like primeia had said, way up high.....Neiromei faltered a moment, thinking about just how high she must be. Dont think about that, she heard somewhere in her mind. Just get it - and come back. You can do it, Romy!
Neiromei reached over to take her prize, but the tree swayed and she missed. Clutching the not-so-sturdy branch upon which she was standing, Neiromei leaned forward again, this time using the momentum of the branchs swaying to extend her reach - and grasped the Acorn in her little fingers. She grinned widely - until she realised she had to get down. Resolutely setting her jaw, Neiromei tucked the magic acorn into her pocket, and started her descent. Climbing down was slower than climbing up, but Neiromei was determined. She was also terrified, but no way was she going have Xena come and rescue her again. Shed rather fall than face that humiliation. You wont fall - just keep going, the voice in Romys mind encouraged. Neiromei swung her little body at last to the ground, grinning triumphantly.
"I did it!" she cried. "I really did it!"
"Yes you did," Neiromei turned around to see both her mothers standing there with tanti Tai.
"Oh," said Neiromei, her eyes wide. "Um, am I in a lot of trouble?"
"Yep," said Xena, arms folded across her waist.
"Okay," sighed Neiromei, but she grinned at her mothers. "But it was worth it - look what I got!" In vain, Neiromei felt around in her pocket, then frantically checked the other pocket. "But I had it!"
"Had what, Romy?" asked Melysë.
"I had the Golden Acorn - the one tanti Dite made magic - its gone!" cried the little girl. Suddenly there was a pink sparkle and Aphrodite stood there, smiling at her small niece.
"Yes you did have it, Romy," she said. "And you got it fair and square. Give it up!" she called up into the tree. There was a sound like the wind, blowing through its leaves - or a very sad sigh - and the Golden Acorn plunked at Neiromeis feet.
"Stingy old tree," said Aphrodite, wrinkling her pretty nose at it. "Go ahead, Romy - pick it up - its yours now. Way to go, Kiddo."
Romy bent and retrieved the Acorn, gasping at its beauty. "Wow," she said. "It sure is pretty."
"Of course it is," said Aphrodite. "I made it, didnt I? Well, Romy - whats it gonna be?"
"What?" said the child, tearing her eyes away from the acorn.
"Come on, come on - your dearest wish, your hearts desire, yadda, yadda, yadda - come on, kid, I dont have all day," said Aphrodite, looking at her perfect manicure.
Neiromei thought for a moment. "Tanti, will the tree be sad without its acorn?" she asked.
"The tree? Who cares, Romy? Come on and tell me whats your dearest wish?" said Aphrodite.
"Well, I already got to save Xena-meia and tanti Gabby in my dream," said Neiromei, thoughtfully. "An I got a new bestest friend already. An Terreis told Lilia to quit picking on me. I dont need anything, tanti. But the tree needs its acorn. So, my dearest wish is to give it back to the tree."
Aphrodite rolled her eyes and looked over at Melysë. "Shes your kid alright," said the goddess, snapping her fingers and the acorn disappeared from Neiromeis hand. Suddenly, the old Oak, straightened, its trunk no longer gnarled and its leaves took on a golden tint.
"No thats what you were supposed to do with it in the first place," said Aphrodite, smiling, and shaking her head. "Stupid tree. Well, gotta fly! Laters!"
With that the goddess disappeared in a pink poof! and Neiromei looked up at her mothers. Melysë was smiling proudly at her and Xena was trying very hard not to beam - Romy was still in trouble, after all, for disobeying her and climbing the tallest tree in the forest!
"Im afraid Kaiyte and I have to leave, too," said Tai. "Lukos sent a messenger bird."
"Trouble at home?" asked Melysë, concerned.
"No, not at all," chuckled Tai. "He just misses us. Come Kaiyte." Kaiyte hugged her new friend good-bye. Neiromei looked up in disbelief.
"You have to go?" she said. "But I thought...."
"No, I have to go home, Romy...for now. But Ill be back," said Kaiyte, taking her mothers hand and starting down the path toward Lycastia, their home. Tears slipped from Romys blue eyes. Romy, dont be sad.
"Huh?" startled Neiromei looked up and saw Kaiyte standing down the path, smiling at her. "Kaiyte, did you say something?" Melysë looked startled and glanced over at Tai, then smiled and nodded.
Silly, Ill always be with you - we are nykelae just like our mothers are - we are never alone, Sister.
Wow - I didnt know I could do this! thought Romy to her friend, delighted.
Well, I told you that you had magic - you just had to find it.
Yeah, said Romy, grinning. And I found a friend, too - my bestest friend - thats real magic!
(To be continued in Part XIX - Coming soon!)
The following is a story by my own nykel, Tai called "Tais Return". This takes place shortly before "Cyrenês Tale" . Same disclaimers apply. I was reading this at the same time I was writing "Cyrenes Tale", so you will probably see the influence of my sisters tale as you read. Anyone wishing to to send feedback may send it to my e-mail address, QueenLaese@aol.com and I will forward. Thank-you.
The midnight stallion pawed nervously at the ground while the golden blonde of his mistress' hair blew in the wind. Dressed in royal blue, her tribe's leader's colors, the young woman watched the sea's colors change with the onslaught of the coming storm.
She was sure this was the place to meet Lukos. Her visions told her this was to be the day, the hour, yes even the moment he would be returned to her, if only for a little while.
She had waited so long; it seemed, forever
Queen Taiytelata of Lycastia, Daughter of Astraea, was unlike any other stereotypical Amazon. She preferred the company of men. Although Queen Melysë of the Aemetzainê was her oath sister and Tai found her extremely intelligent, she found most women to be tedious in their pettiness and mundane in their conversation. Because of this and her sadness at losing Lukos, Taiytelata left her tribe in the hands of her sister Amelea and had lived in relative solitude raising her twins, Kaiyte and Telaros. Her only woman visitor, besides her blood sister and her companion Mikala, was Melysë her chosen and faithful sister.
Melysë had come by that morning, personally, entreating her dearest friend to return to her duties and lead her tribe against an ancient warlord, Grabthar. Tai had no heart for warfare. She, like Melysë, preferred the quiet study of healing and magic. However, she couldn't deny the pleadings of her oath sister. But before she could fulfill her pledge to her sister, she had one undertaking left to fulfill before she could join the Queen of the Aemetzainê. That was one of the heart.
Lukos was her mate, her soul, her heart, her everything. They had met during the time of Atlantis when she had traveled back in time to retrieve an antidote to cure Lysë of a terrible disease that had spread throughout the tribe. When she arrived in Atlantis it was to find she, too, had contracted the disease. Lukos had cured her of the disease and during her recovery they had fallen in love. She chose to marry him instead of pledging herself to a consort. Tai needed to return to her time to give the antidote to her sister, Melysë. Lukos stayed behind and she had intended to return to him but found it was too late - because unbeknownst to both of them this was the time just before the fall of Atlantis and it had sunk into the Aegean Sea. Tai prayed to Hekate, the Goddess of all, that Lukos be spared. In order to ease her mind, Hekate told Tai, in visions, of how she would see her true heart and soul mate again, if only briefly.
Up until this time while she waited on the beach, Tai lost herself in her sadness at losing Lukos. Even the happiness of giving birth to Lukos and her twins did not quiet the tumult she felt at the loss. She hadn't wanted to listen to Hekate or Melysë for seven years as they tried to reason with her, to understand this pain she felt deep inside. She had given him up as Atlantis sank and though Tai would never have forsaken Lysë she still harbored thoughts of dissatisfaction at what had occurred.
She loved Lukos as no other and Tai had prayed to the Goddess to strengthen her resolve to stay with Melysë and train in the temple rather than run and hide in sorrow. Tai did finish her training and returned to her tribe to lead as Queen; only to find that after the birth of her babies that she had no will to lead a tribe of Amazons. Tai felt she needed to leave for a time escape from her duties and to meditate which led to her honing her skills as a healer and wielder of magic. Tai always had the gift and had been trained early on by the tribe's healer, but since she had been alone her skills had become so perfected that she had no trouble reading, or feeling for that matter, anyone's emotions or well being. Tai was truly an empath. She could now draw from others their pain and agony, release them from it, strengthen them and return them all the better for it.
Now as she sat upon her stallion watching the sea as it changed color, all of it seemed unimportant except the thought of seeing her Lukos for one last time. As a shadow of shimmer hit the water Tai dismounted and Hekate stepped forward to embrace her child. "Daughter, it is good to see you. You have more color to your cheeks since last we spoke. Do you fare well?"
"Yes, Mother. I am happy this day has finally come. I'm only sorry it is a time of storms," replied Tai.
"Yes, storms. Taiytelata there is one last thing before you see him. You will only have until tomorrow at the hour of night to day. Be careful that you do not upset the time line. You may not warn him of the coming storm. You may not tell Lukos what you know. I will also tell you this; someone of great importance seeks you. Take the time to speak with him. It will be hard to take the time from Lukos but it is vital to your wellbeing and understanding of the changes that are about to take place within you. I go now to open the door."
"Mother, wait. What do you mean I cannot let Lukos know. Know what?"
"My daughter, be at peace. Time is fluid. I am bringing him forward as a gift to you. For now he will be alive, but in our time he is no more. I have chosen a time that was before his death. He knows nothing of the fall of Atlantis." Hekate placed her arms around her daughter and held her for a moment. "Be strong, Taiytelata. All will be well."
Hekate turned and walked into the shimmer. Tai turned to her stallion Mirth whispering in his ear to stay. He nuzzled her ear as if to say, "be at peace my friend." Tai followed the Goddess to the edge of the sea. In the distance she saw her friend Dolphinium jumping out of the water as if giving her strength for what was ahead. She waved and sent her thoughts back to him in the old tongue. He swam off into the horizon sending her thoughts of love and peace and strength.
Hekate did not return, but out of the shimmer stood Lukos. Her Lukos, hardly changed and infinitely more wonderful than she remembered.
"Tai? Tai!" Lukos grabbed her and swung her around kissing her as her feet hit the sand. "What happened? Where did you go? Where are we?"
Laughing and crying at the same time Tai hugged him back kissing him with an abandonment that left him breathless. "Lukos you knew that I had to return to Lysë to give her the antidote. I tried to return but . . . I found I couldn't. The time rift closed behind me and I couldn't reopen it." She invented quickly. "I'm so happy to see you, it's been so long."
"Tai, my heart, it's only been a day since you left." Lukos said with a smile.
"A day?" wondered Tai then remembered when she left him. "Of course, a day. It just seems like an eternity when I am not with you. As to the where, the Goddess allowed you to visit my time until tomorrow at the eve of the new day. Come, my stallion is just there and we can go to my cottage. I have some friends I'd like you to meet."
"Friends at a time like this? I have a better idea for now." Said Lukos. "It's been a whole day and night since we loved. There is no one around, do you not think that . . ."
Tai thought for a brief moment. "Why not? You are right there is no one else around and Goddess I have missed you so! Let's go out into the grotto. It reminds me of the place where we made love the first time."
Tai and Lukos divested themselves of their clothing and entered the water swimming a little ways towards the grotto that edged the shore. Tai had hungered for this moment for so long that she could hardly contain her passion for her husband. The time they had was so precious she felt they needed to make the most of every moment.
Afterwards, the two of them returned to the beach out of breath and happily drying each other off. "You get better with age, my love," teased Lukos.
"It's been a while, dear heart," replied Tai "but you, you are by far the best."
"Best?" replied Lukos cocking an eyebrow. "I'd better be the only one so far."
"Ah, my love, you are the one and only of my heart and soul," Tai answered him caressing his face with her fingertips. "Come, let us go home." They both mounted Mirth and started towards the cottage.
As they rode along, the rain started to fall. Tai didn't mind the rain; in fact she reveled in it. Water to her was healing, hoping, and trust. Water was all. They were almost to her small stone cottage when a rather tall man with a snow-white beard came out of nowhere. Mirth stopped abruptly jolting Tai and Lukos in the saddle.
"Mirth, whatever is the matter?" asked Tai.
"I am the matter mistress," answered the stranger. "I seek shelter from the storm. Do you know where I might find some?"
"Just below this hill is a tavern with rooms to let. A friend of mine, named Meg, runs it. You will find her most congenial. Tell her Tai sent you."
"Tai? That will be fine. I thank you for your courtesy, mistress," said the stranger gratefully.
Tai looked behind her to Lukos, but he was patting Mirth and not seeming to pay attention. "You are welcome, sir." Tai hesitated a moment then asked, "Are you the one I am to expect?"
"I would like to get out of this rain," said the stranger avoiding her question. "I bid you farewell, fair lady and sir."
"Of course. I am sorry for detaining you in this weather. Just continue on down this path," said Tai watching as he walked on. There was something familiar about him. It was as if she had seen him . . . she had seem him in a dream. As soon as she thought it, the thought left her and Tai continued on to the cottage. When they arrived, they dismounted and Tadius, her houseman, took her stallion to the barn. Tai and Lukos entered the cottage to find the two children running around a woman who was laughing gleefully watching them.
"Mikala, I'm back. How were the children for you?" Tai deliberately did not look at Lukos for fear of what she might see. She felt his awe and confusion, but not enlightenment.
"Kaiyte and Telaros were wonderfully well behaved as usual, Tai. We just finished our studies and have energy to spare, methinks," answered Mikala. "I will go now to tend to your dinner if you like. Anything you especially wish for?"
"Anything will be fine, Mikala, thank you." Tai looked at Lukos who was still staring at the children in awe. "Lukos, do you remember when you said it was a day to you?"
Lukos nodded his head. "Well, my heart, it has been seven years for me." Tai said quietly. "Lukos, these are your children, Kaiyte Mariyte and Lukos Telaros. I found when I came back that I was with children." Smiling Tai asked the children to come and meet Lukos.
Lukos was astounded - seven years and he had children . . . him? How was it possible? Why? When? He turned to Taiytelata and asked, "When, how, why didn't you tell me?"
"Lukos, my heart, I could no longer see you because the door was closed." Hekate, as a favor to me, brought you back for one last time. After this brief time I cannot see you again. The time band only allows so much travel I'm told." Said Tai sadly.
Lukos looked at her stunned. No, this was not possible. And the children . . . Lukos looked at the children then turned to Tai. "They are such lovely children. Kaiyte looks like a miniature version of you and Telaros looks like I did as a child. They are beautiful Tai and I thank you for them." He put his arms around Tai hugging her closely to him.
"Children, this is your father. Remember how I told you that some day you'd meet him? This is Lukos." Tai said smiling separating herself a little from Lukos. "Can you say hello to him?"
"Hello, Father," said Telaros with a stiff little bow and a tiny smile. "How do you fare?"
"I fare well, Telaros, thank you. How do you fare?" answered Lukos with equal formality and with a tiny smile of his own.
"I fare well, too, Father. Thank you," Telaros said. "I am awfully glad to meet you. Meia told us you live somewhere else." Telaros suddenly hugged his father then ran to Tai hugging her his face in her cloak.
"My name is Kaiyte Mariyte. I have blue eyes like yours. Meia says you are the nicest man she has ever met. Are you going to stay forever?"
"I wish I could Kaiyte. But I'm told I can only stay until mid of night," answered Lukos. Kaiyte went up to him, looked him in the eyes, put her hands one on each side of his face and closed her eyes for a moment.
"He's sad, Meia. I can make you feel better, Father." Before Tai could stop her young daughter, Kaiyte hugged him gently and as she did so a soft warm glow encircled both her and Lukos. When she let him go she looked at him again and announced, "You are not so sad anymore are you?"
"No . . . no I'm not, Kaiyte. What did you just do?" asked Lukos with a bewildered expression.
"Children, it is time for you to wash for supper. Please go with Tadius while I talk with your father," ordered Tai. The children turned obediently to go when Kaiyte looked over her shoulder at her mother.
"Meia, I just wanted him to be better. Did I do something wrong?"
"No, my love, just unexpected. Go on with your brother, sweeting," smiled Tai.
"What did she just do, Tai?" asked Lukos.
"It seems that Kaiyte has inherited my gift of empathic healing," she answered. "I am going to have to start training her and see how much of my gift she has inherited.
"You have been through this all alone without me to support you. And when I leave this night, you will be alone again," Lukos said softly shaking his head. "I am so sorry for that."
"I've never been alone, truly. My oath sister Melysë is always there in my thoughts. We are able to speak to one another with our thoughts from great distances. My blood sister Amelea visits with me and I have Mikala who helps with the children and my training. I chose to be alone to practice my arts to be a stronger person for the people of this village. I am their healer."
"Healer? Have you chosen to be a physician, Tai, like I am?" asked Lukos. "If you came back with me to Atlantis with the children, we could be so happy. We could heal the sick together and have more children."
"More children? Well, that can be arranged if we keep up what we did the first time we saw each other this afternoon," laughed Tai. "As far as returning with you to Atlantis, I'm afraid I cannot. That door is closed to me now. But we will speak of it later. Come, I think Mikala has supper for us. Come, children." Kaiyte and Telaros followed their parents into the dining area.
At Meg's tavern, the stranger entered and was greeted by the owner. "Well, howdy stranger. What can we do for you?"
"If you are Meg, Tai sent me," replied the Stranger.
"Tai, huh? Well, come on in before you soak my curtain here. Come on. What did she send you here for? A room, a bottle of my best, a girl?"
"A room, thank you, Meg. If you have a hot meal that would be appreciated as well," answered the stranger.
"We have one that just became available and a hot meal is a yes, too. Where'd ya meet Tai? She ain't one for talkin' much. Great healer, though. I had a monstrous headache one-day and she put some of those herbs together and whoosh no more headache. She's got a touch that is golden"
"On the road to the village."
"You asked me where I met Tai and I said on the road to the village," answered the stranger shaking the rain off of his hat. "It's pretty wet for a ride."
"Tai is always one who enjoys a good rain. Melysë, her "oath" sister she calls her, use to not be able to get her out of it when they were small. Did ya know that Tai can talk to fish? Yep, she made friends with one of them there dolphins and lived on the water for a while. She's special, she is."
"Yes." The stranger looked very long into Meg's eyes, then smiled. "My room, please, Meg. I am very wet and very tired."
"Surely. What name should I put down."
"Myrlion. I am called Myrlion," answered the stranger.
"Myr . . . uh lion? Myrlion. Hmmm. What kind of name is that exactly?" asked Meg curiously as she showed him the way to the rooms above. "Not from around here I bet."
"No, much farther to the north, dear lady. And your rain is a bit warmer than Britannia," said Myrlion as he followed her. "It is not so cold to these old bones."
"Britannia? Oh ho! That's a far bit of traveling."
"Not really. I have a way of getting where I'm going quickly, Meg. Much thanks for letting me stay," said Myrlion gratefully as they reached his room. "I really could use the rest."
"You let me know what else you need when I bring up your supper. It isn't much tonight due to the storm always blowin' out my fire. But it should be edible. I'm known for my wild boar stew and a bit of the grape," said Meg proudly.
"Thank you, Meg both would be appreciated," said Myrlion. He shut the door as Meg turned to leave. He looked around the room of the tavern and used a binding spell to keep the elements out further. He used a repel spell to keep the wind from blowing out Meg's fire then lie down on the bed and closed his eyes. Myrlion concentrated on Taiytelata. He could feel her essence even from here. He wanted to contact her earlier, when she had reached the age of ascendancy, but time prevented him. If he was going to keep the ancient evil from causing great grief, they were going to need Tai's skills. Already her oath sister had brought her back for one of those battles. Would Tai listen to him? Would she recognize him? He had put a memory charm on her and her mother to stop the pain of loss. He became lost in his thoughts and did not here the quiet knock at first.
"Sir? Mister Myrlion, sir?" inquired a small, shy voice.
"Yes, please enter," answered Myrlion getting up from his bed.
"Mistress Meg sent me to give you your supper. She was able to heat it up. Strange thing that. The wind isn't coming through the roof opening. The fire is so cheerful now."
"Thank you miss. What is your name?" asked Myrlion.
"Clandia, sir," she said curtseying. "Is there anything else in which I might serve you?"
"No, but my thanks for asking," replied Marylyn.
"Well, then I must go because I need to finish washing the dishes, sir. If you leave your plate outside the door, I will come and get it later and not have to disturb you. Have a good night, sir."
"Thank you again, Clandia. Good night." The door closed behind her and Myrlion started to eat. Meg was right, this was very tasty. After he finished his supper he washed up and lay back down on the bed. Soon he was in a state of deep meditation. His spirit flew across the village to Tai's cottage.
Tai awoke with a start. She looked over at the sleeping form of her beloved husband then realized someone else was in the room. She also realized that it did not have flesh. At first she was frightened, then after calming her spirit she knew whom it was without reservation.
"Taiytelata, we must speak together. I have much to tell you."
Tai put her finger to her lips and motioned him out of the bedchamber into the living area. "I cannot be seen by anyone other than you, Tai," said Myrlion.
"Yes, that may be true, but I do not want Lukos thinking I am mad talking to myself," smiled Tai. "Now suppose you tell me what it is you want of me."
"There is a storm brewing over the earth."
"Storms are always coming and going, sir. But all over the earth at one time?" asked Tai skeptically.
"Let me start at the beginning. I am a wizard. I am the oldest of all the wizards. We are immortal beings who fight the ancient evil. You were to be told of your immortality when you reached the age of ascendancy, but I wanted to keep you safe until the need was imperative. I made you sleep and put a memory spell on you to make you think it was a dream. Tai have you not wondered how you came into your powers at such a young age? Has it not seemed strange to you that you have the ability to cross time lines and not upset the time continuum? Have you not wondered why you can speak the language of creation? You talk to dolphins. You talk to your friend in thought. This is not something that happens to just anyone. You are one of a small number of beings who were designated by the Creator to be fighters of evil," explained Myrlion.
"Immortal? How is that possible? I was ill and Lukos cured me."
"You can be ill. But you would not have died. If you had not traveled back to Atlantis, your beloved friend and oath sister would have died and the darkness would have won. She has a great destiny as you have. You did it out of love. Tai, I will be here for a while. After Lukos returns to his time, we will talk again."
Tai pondered this for a moment then said, "Lukos had to die, didn't he? He needed to die."
Myrlion looked at her. "We will speak more of this later. Get some rest. You do not have much time with him. Make the most of it. Goodnight, my child. Sleep well."
"Good-night, Myrlion." Myrlion's spirit vanished in front of her.
Tai returned to the bedchamber waking up Lukos. Lukos looked into her eyes and took Tai into his arms sighing with pleasure at the thought of sharing their love one more time this evening.
The next morning found Tai gazing out over the ocean from the back of her cottage. In the distance Dolphinium was standing out of the water dancing backwards singing to her. Tai laughed sending her thanks to her sea friend. Dolphinium spoke to her, "Tai, you knew all along did you not? Did you not tell me of the dream you had where a man with a white beard came to tell you about your immortality? Why are you so pensive? Rejoice and be glad thereof for today begins a journey unlike any other."
Tai sighed, "Dolphie, I am pensive because it takes me from the peace and quiet of my village life. I cannot fully protect my children if I am always going into battle. It is the reason I chose to stay hidden from view."
"You were never destined to have a life of quiet solitude, Taiytelata. I tried to tell you that when you came to live with us on the sea all those years ago. You chose not to listen when we talked of your dream three years hence from your journey with us," admonished Dolphinium.
"I was hoping that it would not be necessary for me to fight in wars of any kind. Mikala has trained me to be a healer and healer I intend to be," Tai said with a note of defiance in her thoughts. "I need to go in to break fast with my family. Try to understand, Dolphie, I want what I have now."
"I will go back to the pod and let them know how you fare, Tai," sighed Dolphinium. "May I send greetings back with me from you?"
"As always Dolphie, give them my love," Tai replied.
"You may not believe this now, my old friend, but you will make a different decision and it will be sooner than you think. My love goes with you," said Dolphinium as he turned and swam away from her.
Tai felt tears in her eyes as she watched her friend swimming quickly towards the horizon. She knew he was right. But what right had anyone to upset the joy of this moment in time with Lukos and the children. Tai turned and went into the cottage. As she entered the doorway she heard the sound of laughter from the dining chamber. Lukos was teaching the children how to break an egg with one hand. The sweet moment brought more tears to Tai's eyes and they threatened to spill over down her cheeks. She rubbed her hands over her eyes, took a deep breath, and walked into the cottage.
Lukos looked up as she entered the room. "You were up early, my love. Do you fare as well this morn as I?"
Tai smiled at him dropping a kiss gently on his forehead, "Yes, my heart, I fare very well. Now, with what have those little ones decided they want to break fast?"
"We want what father is making for us," announced Telaros.
"Yes," agreed Kaiyte.
"Alright, proceed, Lukos. I am going in to speak with Mikala. It will let you spend more time alone with the children," said Tai leaving a happy Lukos and cheerful twins.
Tai went into Mikala's sleep chamber to speak about the night before. "Mikala, I am troubled."
"Troubled? You find Myrlion's visit troubling do you? Why?"
Tai smiled at her mentor's questions not surprised she knew about last night. "I do not wish to leave the life I have here for one of battles against the dark side. The children are to be protected from this evil world."
"Taiytelata! Have I taught you nothing? Have you forgotten your gift? You have been handed an opportunity to help others to see the light. The children need to be protected yes, but they also need to learn how to protect themselves against evil. If they stay here it will only keep them naïve and helpless against those who would oppose the light and goodness. I cannot allow you to do that anymore. It isn't safe for you, the children, Lukos, your tribe, or this village for that matter," said Mikala forcefully. "You are being selfish!"
"Selfish?" Tai asked astounded. "I thought I was been selfless giving up the tribe for one of quiet healing."
"You are only fooling yourself if you believe that Tai. You know you wanted out when you thought you lost Lukos for good. You are an immortal, Taiytelata. You can cross lines of time and space if you choose to - to any given moment in time. Do you think that you cannot cross those lines anytime or call him to you? Do you not realize that . . ." Mikala was interrupted by Myrlion who said:
"Halt and cease, Mikala. She is not to know all at this point. It will serve no purpose to our fight."
"I am sorry, Myrlion. Forgive me. I only thought it might help her to understand her capabilities."
"Her sacrifice cannot be made with too much knowledge," answered Myrlion.
"You realize of course how rude it is to talk of me as if I am not here," said Tai archly. "Fine don't tell me anything more. I do not think I could handle it anyway. What exactly do you want from me, Myrlion? I thought we weren't going to talk until Lukos left tonight."
"Things have changed. Come with me to the Aemetzainë village now."
"No," answered Tai
"No?" Myrlion repeated. "No?"
"No. Lukos is here. When he goes I will come with you, but not before."
"Taiytelata, if you do not come now, all will be lost," said Mikala.
Tai closed her eyes and concentrated for a moment. She looked as if she was listening then opened her eyes. "No, all will not be lost, Mikala. Lysë says that I have time. Grabthar has not made a move towards her village. She and Xena feel that there is nothing to be gained by rushing in at this time. I will wait."
"Mikala, I would like a word with Tai alone if I may," asked Myrlion.
Mikala nodded slowly then moved into the outer chamber following the sound of the children and Lukos' laughter. She turned her head and said:
"Tai, you have a duty."
"Yes, I do, to my family. Can you not understand that my family comes first above all else?" asked Tai. Silently Mikala left the room.
Myrlion looked at Tai for a moment and said quietly, "Can you feel Grabthar's heart? Can you tell if Melysë and Xena are right in their summation of what is occurring?"
Tai stood quietly with her hands at her side. In her mind she flew across space and time to where the heart of Grabthar was. She saw him clearly. Red beard, red hair, filthy dirty from traveling - a big beast of a man. Tai saw into his heart and soul. "He is thinking of me. They are not pleasant thoughts. How he knows of me, I do not understand but he is in no rush. He thinks no he seems to know he will win, and will wait." Tai opened her eyes to look at Myrlion. "You taught me how to do that, didn't you? I know you I have known you before this time. I know who you are. You left us to fight . . . you left us."
"Tai, we need to plan. We do not have the time for this."
"If Mikala is right. I have all the time in the world. Who are you? Are you my father?" asked Tai.
"Tai? The children are waiting for you to eat with us," said Lukos entering Mikala's chamber. Noticing Myrlion he continued, "Hello again. It is nice to see you. Have you broken fast yet? Can we offer you some food? There is plenty."
"No, thank you. Tai, you and I will speak again, later."
"Are you? Answer me," said Tai as if the conversation hadn't been interrupted.
"Yes," answered Myrlion and with that he vanished from sight.
A thick mist shrouded the enemy camp outside the Aemetzainê village. Every so often a great roar of displeasure emanated from the largest of the tents. Melysë and Xena looked over the field from the hill beyond.
"That mist should keep them in confusion for a while," observed Xena.
"I think that is what Tai had in mind when she wielded it," said Lysë.
"Tai did this? How? She's leagues away from here."
"Tai is a master magic wielder - although even I am impressed at the magnitude of power this entails. My sister is stronger than even I imagined," Melysë said softly. "Wait - I hear her."
Melysë closed her green eyes concentrating hard. Xena looked over at her a slight frown upon her forehead. Even though she respected Tai she was a bit in awe of her power. But she wouldn't let anyone know this - not even Melysë. To admit a weakness, even to her heart mate, would allow someone to take advantage and cause great harm.
"She apologizes for not advising us about the mist. Lukos leaves tonight and she needs a diversion to keep Grabthar here and not advancing on us until she and Myrlion can get here to help fight," explained Melysë.
"Myrlion? Are we talking about that old wizard from Britannia that we met a while ago?" asked Xena. "What on earth could he do to help."
"Apparently, a lot from what Tai has told me. It seems he is an immortal. This is what he does for humanity," said Melysë her eyes fixed on the field ahead of them. "It looks like they will be here for tonight. I don't feel we need to worry until tomorrow morning. Let's let Gabrielle and Arynë know what is going on."
They both nudged their horses towards the village lodge. In the distance they heard another great roar emanate from the mist.
Back in Meg's Tavern Myrlion was pacing back and forth. "How can she be so stubborn at a time like this? Did you not teach her responsibility along with her powers, Hera?"
Mikala stood in front of him patiently listening to his tirade. "Myrlion, I have given her all of the training you requested of me. Even Zeus had no idea that I was training her for this battle. She has a great sense of responsibility, but she also has a great love of her family. Tai would never willingly sacrifice others for her own benefit. Besides you were to train her. She is after all, your daughter."
"I was called away to another battle," replied Myrlion. "But that is unimportant now. What is important is for us to convince her to fight Grabthar once again."
"When did she fight him before?"
"Tai has always fought him," Myrlion said thoughtfully. She fights him now, though she does not realize it. It is what keeps her from Melysë's village. It has suddenly occurred to me that the battle has already begun and I do not think she is really aware of it. Quickly, Hera, we must go to Tai's cottage, I fear what is happening. If she doesn't understand we might lose this battle and all will be lost."
Tai was quietly meditating in her sleep chamber when both Mikala and Myrlion appeared. "Must you always enter my home this way, Father. I do have a front door."
"Tai, where are Lukos and the children?" asked Mikala.
"I sent them away for awhile. Actually, I sent them to Atlantis for safety. Do not worry, Father. They are at the time long before the fall. I told Lukos all and he understands what I did to send him back. He will make sure the children are safe. I was thinking about Grabthar and the battle I am fighting. I have always fought him, haven't I?"
"Yes, Daughter. The last time you battled was when you ran from your duties as a child and lived on the ocean with Dolphinium. You eventually returned all the more strong. We must go and meet your sister at her home. They will be waiting."
"Time is fluid and can be folded. Waiting will never be a real problem for me," said Tai suddenly aware of her real power. "Come 'Lysë needs us. Grabthar has decided that the mist I surrounded his camp with is nothing more than an illusion."
The three apparated and appeared outside of Melysë's cottage. Melysë ran out to hug her nykel, "Sister! How I have missed you!" Xena followed holding out her arm to grasp Tai's.
"It is good of you to come, Tai. Thanks."
"I had to come, Xena. This is my fight," Tai said quickly. "Grabthar is nothing more than a test from the gods to see if I am willing to sacrifice all for the sake of the earth. They have been training me since they found that Merlin is my father and one of his kind. Lukos and the children were all part of their show, weren't they Hera?"
"Hera?" cried Xena.
Hera quickly assumed her normal façade. "I have been with Tai since the beginning as a favor to Tai's mother. I was nykel with Astraea and could not let her daughter fall into any harm. Merlin assumes it was because of his place as an immortal that I took care and nurtured Tai through all. But Tai is quite correct, this is her fight and hers alone. I know, Xena, that you, Melysë, Gabrielle, and your tribe want to help, however, Taiytelata must stand on her own to take her rightful place among the immortals of Earth."
"You did not answer me, Hera. Did you put Lukos into my life through that disease that almost killed Melysë? Does he truly love me or is this a trick of Aphrodite?"
"No, Tai. Lukos truly loves you. I would never have gone that far. You were Astraea's daughter. I do have some integrity," Hera answered.
"I just wanted to be clear on this. That is all. Father, you had to know that this was one more battle for me to fight to show my true heart. I ask you now - did I pass?" Tai asked holding her breath.
"Not yet, Daughter. The gods are happy with you, but you still need to put Grabthar in his place. No one but you can do that," answered Myrlion.
Tai slowly let out her breath looked at them turned and disappeared.
Tai appeared on a hill just outside the enemy's encampment. With a wave of her hand the mist that shrouded the camp disappeared. Her gray-green eyes narrowed and her brow furrowed as she looked on Grabthar's treatment of his men. The whole of the camp was filthy, raw sewage was running parallel with the tents. The stench of the place was almost overwhelming. She saw, in her mind's eye, Grabthar torturing an Amazon that he had captured. Stunned she saw that it was Arynë. What was she doing here? How was she taken? Was this a trick? Immediately, she put up mind blocks to keep Melysë out of her thoughts. Tai needed all of her concentration to release her without Grabthar's knowledge. She sent a message to him that there was a problem at the farthest most part of his camp. A deserter had been captured.
After she made sure he was gone, Tai disappeared from the hill and reappeared beside Arynë. Her lovely face was matted with blood, her hair lank, her head bowed. Tai's eyes filled with tears. "Arynë," whispered Tai. "It is your tanti Tai. Can you hear me, sweeting?"
Arynë tried to lift her head, her lips were swollen and she could barely speak. "Tanti Tai? How . . . why?" Silently tears fell down upon Arynë's bruised cheeks.
"Ryn, listen to me very carefully. I am going to assess the damage. It will hurt. Do not cry out for any reason. I know that seems silly of me to say, but even Amazon's can cry out in anguish. Will you concentrate on something in the room to focus your attention while I assess the harm that creature has evoked on you?"
"Ye . . . s, tanti," whispered Arynë. She tried to look around the room, but her strength left her. So she focused on the garnet crystal hanging from her aunt's neck.
Tai placed her hands on Ryn trying to get a feel for the damage. She nearly wept with the pain she felt emanating from her niece. The injuries were too great for her to heal all at once. All of a sudden she heard a roar coming from the tent where she sent the demon. "Ryn, I am going to give you the strength you need to travel with your meia. I do not have the time to heal you all at once. Grabthar is coming back. I am going to send to your mother and have her come and take you away from here." Tai quickly put her hands back on Ryn, a glow emanating from them surrounding her fallen niece. Ryn's breathing became less a struggle and more strong as Tai worked. When Tai realized that Ryn was calmer she sent a message to Melysë. "Tell no one. Ryn is here with me. Come, now"
Melysë suddenly appeared in the tent. She saw her daughter and caught her breath, swaying as if to faint. Tai looked at 'Lyse. "She'll be all right. You must get her back to the village, now. Grabthar is coming. I've given her the strength to apparate with you." Tai walked over to Melysë and said more softly, "I'm sorry to be short, Lysë, she will recover. Please go now. Do not let Xena come for revenge. If I need her I'll send for her. Please, sister go now before it is too late."
"I cannot leave you to face this creature alone, Tai. Let us face him together. That is what sisters do."
"I wish I could, Lysë, but . . . he is all that is evil in me."
"What?" cried out Melysë.
"When I left the tribe to be a recluse, I left all of my warrior instincts behind. Grabthar is a collector of those aspects of human souls."
"You would never have hurt Ryn. This cannot be, sister."
"No, I wouldn't have. But Grabthar would. He knew just where to strike to wound me. I kept Lukos and the children safe by sending them back in time where I was still a true Amazon with warrior instincts. Grabthar didn't have a hold over me there. I didn't think that he would strike those you love. I am sorry. It is my fault Ryn is so hurt. I will of course attend to her when I return from this battle. Now I ask you to go. I cannot ask you to forgive my shortsightedness," said Tai.
Melysë sighed, started to reach for her nykel, then went over to her daughter, and disappeared.
Tai looked back at where they were, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I am so sorry 'Lysë. Please forgive me." Tai left the tent only to find that Grabthar was standing right outside.
"So, you have decided to be a warrior after all Taiytelata. How did you know I had your warrior's soul?" crowed Grabthar.
"I knew it as soon as I saw who you chose to torture. Ryn is my oath sister's first daughter and a true warrior. In a way, I suppose, you felt that it would be a slap in my face to choose a warrior to harm. You knew that I would trade my own life for another's. I am here now to take back that which you stole." Tai said her shoulders squared, standing proudly.
"I didn't steal anything, Queen Taiyte . . la . . .ta," sneered Grabthar. "You gave it to me on a silver platter. I just happen to recognize quality when I see it. As to giving it back. I'm afraid you will have to fight me. Or do you not have the will?"
"I have the will, Grabthar. I had it when I was ten years of age, and I have it now," Tai retorted. Saying that she lifted up her hands and shot off a bolt of energy that sent Grabthar flying into the next tent. As his warriors were closing in on her, she summoned her powers, lifted her right arm and sent them away as if she was swatting an insect.
"Your powers have grown, majesty. But I am stronger."
"No, I don't think so." Tai said. She turned her back on him and called on Xena, Gabrielle, Melysë, Merlin, and Hera. They appeared next to her. "Yes, it is my fight. It is also my right to have warriors at my side to help me if I deem it necessary. Are you ready to fight me now, Grabthar?"
Grabthar stopped, suddenly smiled and shot what looked like a bolt of energy into Taiytelata. It pushed her back into Merlin.
"It's about time you discovered that, Tai. I was wondering what it would take to get you to realize that you cannot do everything by yourself nor desert your duties" The voice was Dolphinium's. "Welcome back to the fold." With that Grabthar changed into Lukos.
"Lukos? Lukos what is going on?" cried Tai in total bewilderment.
"Tai, I am sorry for the deception. But you see, Hekate, Hera, your father, and your sister were worried that you were sinking into the abyss of depression and self-doubt. They needed you to fulfill your destiny as a healer and an immortal." Explained Lukos.
"But . . . have you always been this way?" asked Tai
"Yes, I am an immortal as well, Tai. It is unusual for two such people to connect in a human lifetime. But when I saw you there on the beach when you were small, I knew that you and I were meant to be. I was young then myself. Myrlion was my teacher and I was experimenting with shape shifting. Luckily for me you happened on me to treat my wounds. Myrlion was fighting a battle and could not be there to help me."
"But what about the morning after you arrived. I was speaking with Dolphinium then." Asked Tai confused still.
"That was Jasmine. She is one of the pod. I sent her a message to pretend to be me in dolphin form. I can send messages like you telepathically." Explained Lukos.
"What about Arynë? You hurt her to make a point. I cannot forgive that." Said Tai angrily.
"She was never hurt, Tai. It was an illusion to further our goal. We would have never hurt her."
Tai turned to look at the others. They were all smiling. Melysë came forward to hug her sister. "Tai welcome home. You have been missed."
"You were a part of this Lysë? How come I never felt or heard your plottings?"
"I, too, can block thoughts, Tai. I knew you could never be whole unless both your soft heart and your warrior spirit were one once again." Said Melysë.
"All of this time . . . you didn't come to see me Lukos and you could have." Said Tai with a hurt expression.
"My love, I was with you every time you swam with Dolphinium. I've never been away from you, truly. I had to sacrifice my time with you to fight those same battles as your father. They will be your battles, too."
"Do you want to be a part of this, Daughter?" asked her father.
"Yes," said Tai quietly. "I know now that I cannot hide what I am. When I saw Ryn' there in pain and agony, my warrior's spirit rose up naturally. For the good of all and their safety I see that I want to be there again. My children will be taught how to fight evil not hide from it as I did. But I do not want to give up my healing, and I think Amelea makes an excellent leader of our tribe. I do not want to lead however, when called upon, I will serve."
Hekate appeared. "My Daughter that is all we ask of you. I am happy you are one." Kissing Tai's forehead the Goddess turned her head to the others. "Thank you all for your help. I leave you now to continue your fight." With that she disappeared.
Tai looked at Lukos really for the first time. "Lukos, does that mean we have eternity together?"
"Yes, my heart, yes. Can you live with me that long?" asked Lukos with a little concern in his face.
"Well, I should be extremely vexed with you. Why couldn't you just tell me all of this?" asked Tai. "I'm pretty good at listening."
"Oh Tai," laughed Melysë. "You wouldn't have listened. You have to be hit over the head with a stunt like this to listen."
"Don't be too hard on her," said Gabrielle. I know someone who that had to happen to and look at the results." She said looking at Xena.
"What are you looking at?" growled Xena with a smile. "Looks like we are more alike than I thought, Tai. Good thing, too."
"Thanks, sister." Said Tai smiling back at Xena. "I think a party is in order, don't you? Lukos, I'm assuming the children are with a reputable nanny?"
"Of course. They are with Meg."
"Meg? Oh no!" laughed Tai "We'll be listening to drinking songs for the next moon.
That night Tai and Lukos were standing in the back area of her cottage looking out over the sea watching Dolphinium's pod dancing across the water. Lukos put his arms around Tai and whispered, "An eternity to love, Tai, just think of it."
Tai leaned back into the shelter of his arms, "There is no need to think, my heart, just to be."
(To be continued)