“Pop Quiz Hotshot: You return home to discover that an individual with virtually unlimited resources has placed a price on your head. What do you do?”

The Bounty

  The brigand charged in again. David Forester ducked beneath the sweep of his opponents’ sword, kicking his leg out and spinning low. The assailant’s feet flipped up from beneath him and he crashed to the ground with a thud, his weapon bouncing out of his hand.

  David rolled over and brought his heel down into the man’s forehead, sending him into unconsciousness.

  “You know!” he said quickly as he jumped back to his feet, scooping up the fallen sword and dropping his bow behind him. “I’ve been thinking!”

  Gabrielle kicked another opponent in the chest, sending him stumbling back, her sais writhing in her hands like two things alive.

She deflected another sword and spun in, driving her elbow into the nose of a heavyset man. His expression went blank at the impact and he fell back with a grunt.

  “Oh?” She replied, spinning to block a downward sweep of another sword. She kicked up in between the man’s legs. The man cried out and dropped his weapon, his hands covering his afflicted genitals. Gabrielle punched him in the nose and he also fell. “What about?”

  David winced in sympathy and parried another jab from the fourth brigand. He trapped his opponent’s blade, dropped it, let loose with a quick series of jabs, stunning his opponent and then knocked him skyward with a vicious uppercut. The last man sprawled on the ground.

  “Well,” David breathed heavily from the exertion. “You don’t like boats. So Sparta would be out. We’re still going to have the ceremony in Athens, right?”

  Gabrielle stepped over to him, and her foot jabbed out to render one of the recovering thieves’ unconscious for a second time.

  “Yes?” She asked, smiling, her eyes looking over the four motionless men lying about their little fire.

  “Well,” David wiped his sleeve across his mouth. “Gurkhan’s sent every thug he could find into this area.”

  “Yes?” Gabrielle looked at him with her brilliant green eyes.

  David Shrugged. “How about Egypt for the honeymoon?”

  “Egypt?” Gabrielle asked. “That would still mean a boat.” She crossed her arms.

  “Not necessarily,” David countered, smiling in return. “We’ll take the scenic route. That way, we have time to travel for a while, and we can get out of the area until these bounty hunters get tired of looking for us?”

  “Let me think about it,” Gabrielle answered neutrally. “I might be persuaded into dealing with a boat trip.” Her gaze darkened seductively for a moment.

  “Oh?” David smiled, and then he looked at the four figures lying about the campsite.

  “So, you think one of these is Valcis?”

  Gabrielle put one arm around his neck and also looked the men over.

  “I doubt it.” She finally sighed. “These four were amateurs. Probably just robbers preying on merchant traffic, or a band looking to get rich quick.” She sighed. “Valcis is a professional bounty hunter - one of the best. If he were here, we might not have been so lucky with these four.”

  David shrugged. He went over to his backpack and fished out a long coil of rope and a knife.

  The two of them had been attempting to lose themselves in the wilderness for the past month, ever since they had learned about the price on Gabrielle’s head. The contract had apparently been initiated by Gurkhan, the Warlord. The enigmatic warlord had held a grudge against Gabrielle ever since she and Xena had infiltrated his compound and freed his entire harem of wives, including Gabrielle’s niece, Sara.

  Apparently, the warlord had not forgotten that insult and was now directing a rather healthy percentage of his considerable resources to gain his revenge.

  Gabrielle and David had decided to lose themselves in the wilderness until things calmed down. They had anticipated only a week or two, but the attacks had been a constant concern now for nearly twice that long. Even with the multitude of dehydrated foods David had managed to stuff into the large knapsack he wore on his shoulders, their supplies had begun to dwindle.

 They had also noted that many of the marauding bands had changed from highly trained experts, to thieving bunches of rogues and brigands. If they captured the one with the price on her head, so be it. If it was simply another traveling individual, or small group, there was still profit to be made from that as well. The roads in and out of Poditea had become more treacherous than anyone could ever remember.

  “Well,” he said as he began binding the four men. “We can try and drop them off back in town and let the authorities deal with them?”

  Gabrielle nodded. “That’s fine with me.”

  “I wonder if there’s a bounty on any of these morons?” David mused.

  “David,” Gabrielle folded her arms. “Why do you always think about money?”

  “Cause there isn’t a Harley dealer in the area?” David grinned. “Besides, we’ll need supplies eventually, and we’ll need money to buy said supplies?” His eyebrow rose.

  Gabrielle looked at him for a moment.

 “Do you ever miss it?” she asked. “The time that you came from?”

  “Sometimes,” David admitted. “When my dogs start hurting.”

 Gabrielle shrugged. There was another one of his modern terms. “Dogs?”

  “My feet,” David smiled. “You know, the things at the end of my legs.”

  “Why do you call them “dogs”?” Gabrielle asked, shaking her head in amusement.

  David trussed up the last of the would-be attackers.

  “It’s a slang thing,” David smiled.

  Gabrielle looked at her fiancé, smiling in surrender. There was the man that had defied Time itself to win her. He sat before her, dressed in the same modern garments he had arrived in. The long dark gray coat, the thick black leather-riding jacket beneath it and the leather vest over the long sleeved pullover. Blue denim pants and tough utilitarian black boots completed his wardrobe.

  Her smile faded a bit when she looked at his face. A vicious looking scar criss-crossed over his left eye. His glass eye. He had lost that eye during her adventure into the future.

  She remembered the whole incident with the Chronos stone, and suppressed the sudden shudder at the darker memories.

  “You alright?” David asked.

  “Yeah,” Gabriele said. “Just thinking.”

  “Uh oh,” David teased. “What about? You’re not having second thoughts, are you?”

  “No,” Gabrielle said quickly. “No, not at all.” She went over to him and kissed his cheek. Then she stroked his face. “I’m just sorry about all the things you had to give up. Your friends, your time, your magical abilities,” she looked at him. “Your eye.”

  David shrugged. Then he touched his finger to the side of his neck. “I still got a pulse? And we don’t know that my magical skills are truly gone.” he offered. Then his smile softened. “I made my choice.” He stared at her for a long time. “Don’t feel guilty, okay? I don’t regret it at all.”

  She nodded, and then looked at the four men, lined up and bound before her. One of them began to stir, groaning in pain.

  “Ah,” David grinned. “Hello there, Sleeping Beauty.” He rose and stepped over in front of the man. “Here we go again.”

  The man looked up and saw David crouching in front of him, his own sword in David’s hand.

  “Hi.” David said cheerfully. He tapped the point of the weapon on the stony ground and shrugged.

  “We have a little problem, here,” he said. “You see, we were on our way to Athens, enjoying a little pre-wedding vacation, and then you four monkeys come barging in and ruin a nice little romantic interlude. I should be annoyed by this, yes?” He looked up at Gabrielle and gave her a quick wink.

  She covered her mouth to hide the smile.

  “Now,” David’s face went hard. “When I get annoyed. Bad, bad things tend to happen.” He raised the sword and laid it flat on top of the man’s shoulder, slowly sliding it back and forth next to the man’s throat.

  The man’s dark eyes widened with fear as David looked at him with total detachment.

  “I realize that I can be moody at times, right honey?”

  “Oh, absolutely,” Gabrielle stifled her laugh as she watched the scene.

  “And right at the moment, I’m feeling kind of tense,” David said. “Anxious, maybe a little repressed, and my therapist said I shouldn’t keep things locked up inside.” He smiled. “I think that’s extremely good advice.  So I’m going to give you one chance to let it all out.” The blade stopped and the man felt cold steel touching his flesh.

  “What?” the man stammered.

  “Well,” David resumed the slow deliberate movement of the blade. “You can start by telling me who sent you?”

  “No one sent us!” The man blurted.

  David shook his head. “See, that’s what I mean. You’re holding it in, and that’s not healthy.” The blade tapped once on the man’s shoulder. “Three of you came straight at me, and only one after the young lady. Now that tells me that you wanted me dead, and her alive, so, once more, from the top?”

  The man shook in his britches for a few moments and then said quickly.

  “Gurkhan’s bounty!” he blurted.

  Gabrielle had to turn away, knowing what would come next.

  David’s eyebrows rose in a mixture of surprise and affront. Then he looked at Gabrielle again with resignation. That expression quickly changed to something more mischievous, but only for an instant. When he looked back at his prisoner, his whole demeanor seemed to change again in one second. He oozed confidence and authority in a way that he hadn’t a moment before.

  “Bounty?” he asked with the air of an impatient employer. “The contract I sent out said that I wanted the Blonde Bard from Poditea!”

  The would-be kidnapper froze, looking at David with renewed fear.

  “You sent?” he stammered. “No, that’s not possible! Tindis, there, met with Gurkhan. That’s how we got the job!”

  “A lot of people claim to meet with me,” David replied, pouring it on thicker as he went. “That’s because I allow my agents to use my name when they do business.” He narrowed his eyes at the man. “It allows me to enjoy my privacy. Now, the contract was for a blonde haired young lady that traveled with woman called Xena. Do you see a blonde woman here?”

 The man looked at Gabrielle, noting that she did not have blonde hair. Her hair was actually a deep dark auburn red at present. Another of the little details from her previous adventure with her betrothed.

  The man shook his head.

  “No, I didn’t think so,” David looked down the line at a second man, now stirring back to wakefulness. “Ah, would that be Tindis?”

  The man nodded.

  David rose and then knelt down in front of the second man. It was the one that had received the kick to the groin from Gabrielle.

  “You know,” David said, continuing his little act. “When I hire someone to do a job for me, I expect them to follow my instructions to the letter.” He fished inside the man's tunic and found the rolled parchment. Drawing it out, he handed it to Gabrielle.

  “You not only tried to take deceive of me, you also tried to kill me. I don’t appreciate that.”

  Tindis, a young man with features more apt for a rodent than a person, stared up at him with beady, nervous eyes.

  “What are you talking about?” he asked.

  David stood up. “As I was explaining to your oh so intelligent associate there.You were sent to find Gabrielle, the Bard of Poditea, instead, I find you wasting my time.” He kicked dirt over the fire, smothering the flames. “You’re fired.”


  “I’m rescinding this contract,” David said. “Oh, if any of you are so foolish as to come to my palace, my guards will kill you on sight, do you understand?”

  “You’re Gurkhan?” Tindis asked in awe.

  “Shut up!” David hissed at him. Instantly, the stolen sword was at the man’s throat.“I should kill you just for saying that out loud!”

  “My Lord,” Gabrielle said quickly, playing her part. “Don’t kill him this early in the evening. It always gets you so worked up, and then you don’t rest.”

  David sighed, seemingly depressed at that idea. Then he fixed Tindis with a somewhat bemused, yet manic look.

  “She knows me so well,” He said. “I make it a point never to argue with a lady. That’s also good advice.”

  He joined Gabrielle at the far side of the camp and collected the rest of his gear and his bow, slinging it over the large pack on his shoulders. Then he looked at the four restrained kidnappers and smiled wryly.

  “Hopefully you’ll get free before the wolves find you,” he said, and then he and Gabrielle turned and vanished into the trees.

  “Um, David, sweetheart?” Gabrielle asked, once they were out of earshot. “Weren’t we going to turn them in at the village?”

  David shrugged. “They won’t mess with anyone for a while,” he said. “Besides, now we can see what this is all about?”
 He unrolled the dirty parchment and a low whistle escaped his lips.

  “Hello! Listen to this: the sum of twenty-five thousand dinars shall be paid to the person or persons who can procure, dead or alive, the Bard of Poditea named Gabrielle,” he read aloud. A brief but detailed description of her followed. He sighed. “I’m tempted to turn you in myself.”

  “I’m tempted to turn myself in,” Gabrielle replied as she took the parchment from him and read it. “Here’s the part I don’t like,” she murmured. “Dead or alive.”

  “Yeah,” David nodded. “That means Valcis won’t even try and capture you alive.”

  Gabrielle looked at him. “You know, the whole “blonde” thing isn’t going to work much longer.” She pointed to her hair. “And neither is your playing Gurkhan every time we get the chance?”

 David saw the blond roots coming in beneath the dark color. He sighed.

  “I know,” he said. “But it has been useful. That was how we found out about the contract in the first place. We’ll just have to think of something else.”

  Gabrielle looked resigned. “I can’t spend the rest of my life on the run, David. I have to end this, one way or another.”

  “That means a trip on a boat, Gabrielle,” David said. “You told me about how you and boats don’t mix?”

  “I know,” Gabrielle sighed. “But I might not have a choice.”

  We might not have a choice, you mean?” David corrected her. “We’re in this together.”

  Gabrielle smiled. “I’m still getting used to that.”

    The night was still young, and with the excitement of the fight, neither one of them felt like resting, so they adjusted their course and headed towards Athens. They made a good start of it before they noticed the roiling storm clouds in the sky. There was a flash of light somewhere high in the heavens and the air took on the damp scent of coming rain.

  “We might as well find another place to camp for the night,” David suggested. “Otherwise we’re going to get wet.”

  They found a small, secluded clearing, well away from the main path and quickly began to set up.

  Gabrielle found three long branches and expertly lashed them together, building a small, lean to for them to sleep under. David watched her for a moment and smiled.

  “I thought you didn’t want to get wet?” he asked.

  “If you’d help me with this, we won’t,” Gabrielle replied.

  David held up a finger, stopping her and fished around in his large knapsack.

  “What, you carry a house in that bag?” Gabrielle laughed.

  “Ah, ye of little faith,” David countered. “I had almost three days to get ready for my excursion back to you, remember?” He removed the small, olive green bag and pulled the contents from within. Two sectional poles held together with bungee cord and a small rolled bundle of nylon fabric.

  He rolled the fabric out and began fishing the long poles through holes on the side. The pop tent was up in under a minute as David pressed the four stakes into the ground at the corners.

  Gabrielle laughed and shook her head. “You’re amazing,” she said.

  “Actually, Field and Stream is amazing. I’m just the consumer.” David replied.

  The tent was small, only large enough for three people to sleep side by side. David tossed is knapsack inside and then gestured grandly.

  “Your quarters, my lady,” he said.

  She stepped forward and knelt down, looking inside at the cozy space.

  David followed her in as thunder rolled across the sky and the first thick drops of rain spattered on the tent.

  They laid out the sleeping rolls and made themselves as comfortable as they could. David pulled out a small lantern and shook it for several seconds, then he pressed a switch and soft yellow light filled the space.

  Gabrielle turned back from digging through her small bag and looked up at the lantern.

 “If you keep doing things like that,” she said. “People will start thinking you’re a wizard or something.” She pulled out a blank piece of parchment and a quill, seating herself beneath the light, and after a few moments of consideration, she began to write.

  David lay back and watched her for a long time, drinking in the sight of her. He smiled contentedly. There was something so young and innocent about the expression on her face whenever she wrote. It seemed to be the only time, when they were awake, that Gabrielle was truly in her element. He could read the myriad of emotions in her face as she wrote, and could deduce when she was writing something that brought her joy, or sorrow.

  “You are so beautiful,” he said.

  She smiled and blushed as she looked at him. “Stop that.”

  “You are,” David smiled. “It never fails to amaze me. Every time I look at you its like I’m seeing you for the first time.”

  Gabrielle was turning as red as her hair. “Will you stop,” she laughed.

  “Nope,” David grinned.

  She leaned over and kissed him. “You’re terrible,” she teased. She sat back up and resumed writing, but had to pause for a moment as she laughed softly. Sighing she resumed again.

  “What are you working on tonight?” David asked, rolling up on his elbow and watching her.

  “Another part of when we met.” Gabrielle replied. “I’m at the part where you were cooking dinner.”

  “Oh, Lord,” David grinned. He chuckled. “That was an interesting night.”

  Gabrielle stopped and looked at him.

  “I think that was the first time realized that I was falling for you,” she mused. “Just watching you bustle around like a madman and enjoying every minute of it.” She smiled again. “It was the first time I actually felt happy again.” Then she looked at him. “And I thought the apron looked good on you.”

  David laughed.

  “When did you realize it?” Gabrielle asked suddenly.

  “What? Me?” David sighed and thought back. “Oh, I don’t know.” He looked up, listening to the rain patter on the roof. “I think it was the night Derek came in with his phone to tell me that you had gotten arrested. The night you and the girls went into Downtown Chicago?”

  “The night of the accident with your Valkyrie?” Gabrielle asked.

  David nodded. “I was so mad at you.” He said, grinning again. Then his grin dissolved into a thoughtful frown. “No, not mad. I was scared. When Michelle said something had happened, I thought you had been hurt, or worse, and I realized that I was starting to care about you, more than I should.” He looked at her. “That’s when I first realized that I didn’t want to lose you. I didn’t care if it went anywhere. I just wanted you around.” He winked at her. “This whole marriage thing, for me, is just a major, major bonus.”

  “We’re not married yet, mister” Gabrielle retorted. Her face gave way to that enchanting smile again. “I don’t think I like being considered a bonus?”

  “I mean,” David said seriously. “That I never expected you to agree. I thought that we might remain friends, or that this relationship would burn itself out after a couple of weeks. We were from two completely different worlds - literally. How could it work?” He shrugged. “Then I let almost two years go by, trying to get my life back in order without you. I was so angry all the time. I never stayed home. It felt like being in a coffin, not a house. I was always out looking for Alti. I’d get a lead and it would turn out to be a dead end. One dead end after another. All I could think about was revenge. I wanted her to pay for taking you away from me.” He pointed to the scar on his face. “As well as this. It wasn’t until Professor MacGhee came by that I got a solid lead on how to get to you. When I found your ring in –“ he stopped suddenly. “Well, that was when I realized I had to get back to you somehow.”

  “Oh?” Gabrielle leaned over to him again, setting her writing implements down. “When you found my ring in what?”

  David’s face was serious now, and Gabrielle’s smile faded as she looked in his eyes.

  He swallowed. “When I found that ring in your sarcophagus, I realized that we had seen each other again, after. That ring was something that I hadn’t given to you before you were sent back.”

  There was a slightly haunted expression on his face.

  “I stood there, looking into the sarcophagus, and there you were,” His voice suddenly caught in his throat. “Well, what was left of you, anyway?”

  Gabrielle saw remembered pain on his face and she lay down next to him and stroked his cheek.

  “I found that ring lying there, wedged in a corner,” David continued. “And my heart about shot out of my chest when I realized that there was a way for me to find you again.”

  He looked into her eyes and smiled. “There was no way in Hell I was going to throw a chance like that away. I didn’t care what I had to do.”

  “Why didn’t you tell me about all this before?” Gabrielle asked him softly.

  David shrugged. “Once I got here, I didn’t really think about it. I was so whupped after the trip, and then the mess with those bounty hunters the night I found you.” He sighed. “And then I think I passed out for a good week.”

  Gabrielle snuggled up against him and she felt his arm wrap protectively about her shoulders.

  “Yeah, you weren’t very good company for a while,” she said. Her hand stroking his chest. “How did you mange to find me so fast?” she asked suddenly. “Lila told me about when you arrived at her house, but I don’t understand how you got to me as fast as you did?”

  “I ran my ragged ass off,” David replied. “Aphrodite – “ he stopped again and Gabrielle looked up at him.

  “Aphrodite?” She asked.

  “Well,” David said, realizing that it was confession time. “Navigating space and time isn’t as easy as it looks. I bounced around a bit. After my little encounter with Xena – “

 Gabrielle sat up, her eyes wide.

  “You met Xena?” she asked. “When did that happen?”

  “Two months ago,” David replied a wry smile on his lips.

  “No, I mean when, when?” Gabrielle asked, shaking her head.

  “Oh,” David nodded. “Well, it was while you were at the Bards Academy. She was on her way back to check up on you, and I bumped into her just somewhere between here and Athens.” He smiled at the memory. “She put the pinch on me, too.”

  “She didn’t,” Gabrielle’s sudden feeling of loss was replaced by amusement.

  “No, she did.” David chuckled. “I told her that I had just come from your tomb and wham, she went nuts.” He looked at her for a long moment. “She never said anything to you about it?”

  Gabrielle shook her head. “She seemed distracted when I met back up with her, but she never said a word. I knew she was keeping something from me, though.”

  David sighed in relief. “Thank God.” Then he looked at her, that mischievous grin spread across his face. “I thought about hanging around, just to see what you looked like back then, but I didn’t get the chance.”

  Gabrielle laughed and slapped his chest. “What for? I was a scrawny little kid when I met up with her.”

  “Would have been fun to see,” David joked. “Fortunately, Aphrodite showed up and got me where and when I needed to be.”

  “Uh, huh,” Gabrielle said, suddenly skeptical. “And what did she want from you in return?”

  “Me?” David asked. He smiled nervously. “Nothing. Not a thing, why?”

  “Because I don’t want anyone messing with my man,” Gabrielle said kissing him. “Goddess or otherwise.”

  David’s hand reached up to caress her cheek as he pulled her back to him. “Deal.” He said.

  They woke up the next morning and got dressed. David threw his vest on and grabbed his boots, unzipped the flap on the tent and crawled out –

  Right into the point of a crossbow bolt aimed at his head.

  The face behind it was a young, dirty man with long straggly gray/brown hair and a grin that was missing more teeth than it showed.

  “Good morning,” he said, and the stench of his breath made David wince. “On your feet.”

  David held up one hand in surrender and crawled the rest of the way out of the tent.

  “Oh, sweetheart?” he called. “We have guests.”

  There was another man with a cross bow a little further back and a third, barrel shaped man in worn brown leather, standing between them, picking his fingernails with a cruel looking knife.

  The man saw the gold pins on David’s vest, and his eyes lit up.

  “You’re camping on our land,” he said agreeably. It was an obvious lie. “And you didn’t ask permission. That’ll cost you.”

  Gabrielle crawled out, clothed in her red skins and boots. David saw the handles of her sais protruding from them and suppressed a smile.

  “Okay,” she said. “We don’t want any trouble. We’ll pay. What do you want?”

  The man smiled greedily as his associates backed away, standing on either side and behind him.

  “For starters, that gold broach,” he gestured at one of the pins on David’s vest.

  David looked down at his chest and saw the pin he was indicating.

  “Alright,” Gabrielle said. She looked at David. “Give it to him.”

  “What?” David asked in shock.

  “Give him the pin,” Gabrielle winked quickly.

  “This one?” David asked, he held it up for the thief to verify. The thief nodded.

  “Oh, no,” David shook his head. “You can’t have this one.”

  “Yes, he can,” Gabrielle said.

  David looked at her with annoyance. “No, he can’t.”

 “Look,” Gabrielle lowered her voice as if trying not to appear rude to the intruders, though they still heard every word. “It’s a pin. I’ll find you another one.”

  “Another one?” David protested, tapping it emphatically. “This is a Twenty-fifth Anniversary Star Trek: The Next Generation Commemorative Communicator pin. As far as I know, the Franklin Mint hasn’t been established yet? No pin!”

  “You can have the pin,” Gabrielle looked at the thief again, smiling agreeably.

  “No, you can’t!” David said loudly.


“I suppose you want me to give him the money belt too?” David asked angrily.

  “Shhh!” Gabrielle hissed and then rolled her eyes.

  “Hey!” The thief asked impatiently. “Give us your money, or we’ll take it and leave you here for the wolves to feed on.”

  “Take the fricking gold!” David shot back. “But no pin!”

  “Its gold,” Gabrielle said.

  “Plated!” David shouted.

  “Take off the pin!” Gabrielle said, her green eyes flashing. “And give it to him!”

  David looked at the thieves angrily.

  “You know, she’s got a price on her head!” He said quickly, seemingly at the end of his patience.

  “Hey!” Gabrielle’s arms dropped and she seethed.

  “Yup!” David stepped away from her. “Twenty-five large, hard cash!”

  All three men looked at each other in surprise.

  David unrolled the parchment and held it up as evidence. “Here it is in writing. You interested?”

  “Will you shut up!” Gabrielle shouted.

  She shoved him across the clearing.

  David fell back and rolled over. He bounced back to his feet and let fly with a stone that he had grabbed in mid slide across the site.

  It flew across the small clearing with perfect accuracy, striking one of the crossbow holders in the side of the head. He reeled and the bolt fired, striking the confused leader in the left buttock.

  That one cried in pain and shock while the remaining man with the crossbow looked back and forth between the two of them.

  “You want some!” David shouted.

  At the same time, Gabrielle drew out her sais and leapt forward.

  The three men retreated as quickly as they could, the last one trying desperately to remove the intrusive bolt from his posterior.

  David stepped up next to Gabrielle, a satisfied smile on his face.

  “Now, those were amateurs,” Gabrielle grinned. She slid the two weapons back into her boots.

  “I think that went rather well?” David commented.

  “Well,” Gabrielle leaned up next to him. “We found something to use after my hair grows out?”

  The two of them laughed out loud as they began to break camp.

  They made good time, even though they had no destination in particular. The dampness of the storm gave way to the humidity of a warm spring morning. The sunlight shone in beams through the branches of the trees in pale rays as they fought to dissipate the morning mist.

  They stopped before a small, clear river and built a tiny fire. Then, as David went to collect a little more firewood, Gabrielle set about trying to catch some fish for a late morning meal.

  When she returned, holding two good-sized fish, she saw David kneeling before the fire, motionless. She paused a short distance away and watched, unwilling to intrude on his private meditations.

  Softly, she began to hear his singing voice float over the grass and reeds, low and melodious.

“A-hay, A-hay, A-ho.

Four times at your eastern door.

Where your children will be born.

Where their future will be formed.

In that still part of dawn,

On the earth I’ll kneel upon.

In respect, my head I’ll bow

In Ancient Tongue, I’ll make a vow.

A-hay – oh.”

Gabrielle stood and watched him, kneeling there, his hands on his knees, his eyes closed as he sang. She realized that this was some sort of ancient prayer. She simply stood quietly, listening and realized that the noises of the animals around them seemed to be following the rhythm of the song. The ripple of the river melded with the noises of the creatures concealed in the trees and grasses about them. An underlying music accompanied his soft deep voice. The gentle breeze began to blow, cooling the humid air and caressing his long hair.

  She smiled as she felt the magic of that moment slip through her like a soft, calming current.

“A-hay, A-hay, A-ho.

The southern winds blow to and fro.

Grandfather show a spirit way,

To guide our steps throughout the day.

In the innocence of life.

You’ll comfort all eternal strife.

And I will learn to walk along,

With gratitude both great and strong

A-hay – oh.

A-hay, A-hay, A-ho.

Grandmother of the western shore.

Show us how to understand,

The beauty of this sacred land.

Creator it’s to you I plea,

At this time it’s strength I need.

To walk in balance on this earth,

Giving thanks for my rebirth.

A-hay – oh.

A-hay, A-hay, A-ho.

To the North the old ones go.

Reflecting wisdom deep within.

Echoes of the circle stand.

White eagle fly up to the sun,

Look upon us all as one.

In reverent prayer I’ll call your name.

In reverent peace I will remain.

A-hay – oh.”

David sat still for a few more moments before he opened his eyes and rose to his feet. He turned around and saw Gabrielle standing there, a wondrous expression on her face.

  “Maybe you haven’t lost your magic after all?” She smiled.

  David shrugged. “It seems right to keep up the traditions that I learned before I came here. You never know?”

  “What was that?” Gabrielle asked.

  “An old Native American prayer,” David shrugged. “It’s the one prayer that always stuck with me when I was studying. Shilah always said, “if something sticks, you should use it. It was meant for you.” He shrugged again. “I guess that one was meant for me?”

  “Will you teach it to me?” Gabrielle asked.

  David smiled, feeling a touch of embarrassment. “Sure.”

  He pulled a small flat skillet and several jars of spices from his bag and set about preparing the fish for their meal.

  As they ate, David carefully stowed the small plastic jars away again. Gabrielle looked at him thoughtfully.

  “What are you going to do when all your little toys are used up?” she asked.

  “Cry for about a week,” David joked. Then he looked around. “Most of those herbs and spices can be found growing naturally, in the wild. I’ll be able to replenish most of them when I have to, the others?” He shrugged. “One of the challenges of being a decent chef is knowing how to use what you have available. We’ll just see how good I really am?”

  David looked thoughtful for a moment and then his expression sobered.

  “Moving on,” he said. “We need to come up with a plan to get at our friend Gurkhan off our backs. Any Ideas?”

  Gabrielle considered for a moment and then nodded. “I have a rough idea. We can work on it as we go.”

  “Okay,” David set his tin plate down and folded his fingers together expectantly. “Lets hear it?”

  Gabrielle pursed her lips, she knew David would not like this idea.

  “We give him what he wants.”    


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