I am Robin
Of the Warrior
And the Bard.
I stood patiently as another bucket of warm water was poured over me. When my gaze roamed across the blazing fire, it met eyes the same color as my own and an equally long suffering expression. After sending the two men off to smoke, my mother and Baba Xe’s mother had declared open warfare on the collective pitiful states of our physical shells. Mama G hustled me down to the river and dunked me in the cold water, scrubbing off the worst of the filth before I could even protest. We had both chuckled at the commotion of Baba Xe receiving the same treatment from Grandba, only Grandba had taken Baba by the ear. I reckoned that Baba had protested. Then it was up to the warm fire and warmer water that our Amazon friends had prepared, and a slower examination. Mama G’s sea foam eyes filled and spilled a few times as she cleaned the jagged cuts and abrasions she discovered on my body.
I put my hand over her empathetic fingers," I’m really ok, Mama."
She gave me a watery eyed smile, "Don’t lie to me, Birdie; I’m not up to it."
"Well, except for Marcus; that’s not ok." My wet hair curtained my eyes as the emotions of that event caught up with me again. It was an empty raw feeling; ragged claws working inside my gut and behind my eyes. I put it away again.
"He was very special, wasn’t he, Birdie?" My mother’s gentle fingertips brushed back my hair.
"Yeah, I guess so, Mama. It hurts that he’s gone."
"Tell me about him," she encircled me in a softer drying cloth and began to rub delicately beginning with my hair.
"Wait." She heard the intake of breath through my teeth.
I did, and she found the cut in my scalp.
"Not too bad, Birdie, just sore, I bet."
She continued the rubbing downward.
"Took stitches here?"
"Yes, m’am," I murmured, as her fingers flickered expertly over the thread.
"Looks well enough, no infection -surprising, as dirty as you were."
"Baba put those in immediately."
She finished her exam and unfolded a soft blue tunic for me, "Hands over your head, now."
"Mama, I’m not four." I chuckled, finally protesting.
She laughed too, "Sorry, I forgot.. Hands over your head, Birdie.."
I rolled my eyes and obeyed; she slipped the clean tunic over my head. It smelled and felt wonderful.
"Nice, yes?" She asked.
"Yes, m’am. " She continued to tuck and smooth a little.
"Do you think I’ll ever develop uh, ‘girly’ parts?"
A flicker of a smile escaped, "Anxious, are you?"
"Not very. "
"Yes, you will ... but I don’t think you will be voluptuous, if that’s what you mean."
"Val up shu what?"
"And it’s very likely that your cycles will be like your Baba’s. Rare. You are too active."
"Now, my little subject changer. About Marcus."
"We met him right away. "
Ah the pleasure of clean underwear. She then shook clean dark pants with lacings up the sides for me to step into, careful to avoid all of my scrapes and cuts, and I buttoned them; they were loose, as we had not been overeating.
"He was Greek; sort of a boy servant to the patrol. He took up with us, because his grandmother had raised him on stories of Xenarone. Titus.."
"That horrible heavy-set man whom you wanted to murder, and who is now headless."
"Picked on me from the start. But one evening he gave Marcus the flat of his sword to demonstrate what he would do to me for being insubordinate."
Mama G was threading a belt through the loops for me and stopped. "He didn’t."
"No, Baba did."
Again she stopped and looked at me. "Baba?"
"She did it so Titus wouldn’t, Mama. It’s ok, old stuff now. Titus would have broken me in half. For some reason, he really hated me."
"I see," she continued, looping the belt through the buckle and over itself, listening.
"So later, Marcus brought some medicine to help my backside recover from the flat of the blade."
"Did a good job, did she?"
"Good as I ever want to experience. She had to be convincing, so Titus wouldn’t just beat me all over again."
"You two do have this worked out, don’t you?"
"Yes m’am, but it wasn’t fun."
"No, my Little Bird, I don’t expect it was." She patted my second sock, and
presented my boots, all cleaned and brushed.
"Thanks, Mama, who cleaned them?"
"Your friend, Scrubby of course, who else would have them looking that good?"
I smiled. They were vastly improved.
Mama G. locked her fingers behind my head again to gaze directly into my eyes . She seemed to be searching for something, as she ran her palms down the sides of my hair and shoulders.
"I’m really ok Mama. Considering."
"Well, you are more presentable anyway. Coming to the fire to eat something?"
"Yes m’am, in a bit."
She kissed my forehead and left me with my thoughts as I put the leather of my turtle medallion around my neck and then pondered a silver ring I had taken from Marcus just before we sent him to the Fields. It had caught my attention shining on his pinkie finger as I laid his hand on the funeral bier, and something had told me he wanted me to have this small silver remembrance. It fit me exactly, and there was no guilt in me about it. There would be an explanation later somehow.
We had given Marcus a soldier’s journey by fire to the Elysian Fields. Baba had sung the haunting dirge that she sang at the end of all our heroes’ journeys. I was heartbroken, but proud; Marcus would have been honored.
Soup made on Mt Olympus for the gods themselves couldn’t taste better than the large bowl of my Grandba’s special trail soup. The food and fellowship were welcomed luxuries, and of course everyone wanted to hear our story. We talked a little, but it was evident to everyone that Baba and I were exhausted, and the stories could wait until morning.
"Come along little one," my Grandba put a kind hand on the back of my neck, "You and I are bunkies tonight. I have a nice pallet of furs all ready for you in our tent."
"That sounds wonderful, Grandba." I was somnambulant. We took quick leave of everyone around the fire, and she led me to the tent we were sharing.
Even the familiar sound of the tent flaps going back were a comfort to me; it was not my habit to take luxuries , or anything else much for granted, but recent experience had intensified my gratitude. I rolled into the soft hides, furs and blankets with a contented sigh. The aroma was of my Grandba’s inn, which was always sunlight and warm bread.
"Grandba, you have the best smelling, beds, food, the best smelling EVERYTHING in the world."
She groaned down beside me propped up on an elbow, and played with my hair.
"Yes, well enjoy it now, because these old bones don’t have much camping left in them, Grandbirdie."
"Sure they do, Grandba; how would we manage without your wonderful food?"
She gave me a playful cuff to the head, "Oh go on with your sweet-talkin’ GREAT THUNDERIN’ STARS AND PANTALOONS!!"
There was a terrific commotion at the tent flaps as something furry, sniffed and hunkered her way in under the heavy canvas. It was Zephyr.
I patted my leg, and received the nose laid to rest on it with a sigh. "Sorry, Grandba. I was so tired, it made me forgetful; sorry Zephyr."
A very offended look came from the fox, but she settled in, a black fur ball at my legs.
"So now I’m sleepin’ with foxes . And at my age." Grandba muttered.
"Sorry Grandba, she won’t stand for anywhere but with me."
"Oh all right then."
"Thanks Grandba." I lay back down and gave her hand a squeeze.
"Birdie, where did you come by that ring?"
I was a little ashamed.
"I took it from Marcus, Grandba. It might have been wrong, I guess."
"May I see it?"
I handed it to her and she turned it over studying it carefully. Then she held it close to the candle and looked on the inside of it.
"What is it Grandba?"
"Birdie, will you lend it to me when we return to Amphipolis for further study?"
She returned it to my finger.
"There is something about it; but I don’t know what. YOU on the other hand I DO KNOW must go to sleep, Little Birdie girl."
"I won’t argue, Grandba."
She continued to look down on me stroking my hair gently.
"We were so worried for ya, little one." One tear ran down her cheek.
I reached up to touch it; she reminded me just then, of my Baba.
"I am glad that you came, Grandba. We might have broken loose; but we were getting tired and discouraged. One of us was always beaten down. We had Marcus to help, but those guards were big, even for Baba."
"Yes, your Baba sometimes thinks she can take on the Titans, and even she has her limits."
Another tear. She blinked it back before I caught it, and so reminded me even more of Baba.
"She does, doesn’t she, Grandba? She’s an extraordinary person, but yet, a person, isn’t she? I have learned that about her."
"She is indeed, my little bird."
"One last question sweetie and then it’s time for eyes closed; you are exhausted."
I twisted the ring on my finger.
"Did Mama G have a real hard time worryin?"
Grandba ‘s marine eyes went away for a moment, and then she came back.
"Your mother can’t hide her feelings, child, but she’s one of the bravest people I know. Gabrielle may be terrified, but it has never stopped her from doing what must be done. You would have been very proud of her leadin’ the lot of us when the DOZ attacked. "
"I bet she was ferocious; she’s small, but she’s dangerous, Grandba."
"You are quite right, little one."
"I knew she was worried about us; I can feel it in her."
"You can? How Birdie girl?
"There’s no explaining it, Grandba. It’s a pain in my soul."
The hand kept stroking my hair soothingly.
"Ok then, lights out in that head of yours.."
"Birdie, what did I say?"
Will you tell me all about Xenarone one day soon?"
"You know quite a bit, darlin’."
"No, I want to know everything you can remember."
"Only if you go to sleep NOW. You don’t wanna make me mad now do, ya?"
Her fingers tugged at my hair.
I grinned at her.
"No m’am, I don’t wanna make you mad."
"Then fly away into sleepy skies, Little Birdie.."
I turned into her and snuggled up a little.
"Love you, Grandba."
I felt a gentle kiss on my head before Morpheus took me.
" I love you too, Grandbirdie ."
The Warrior and Bard were settling into their own tent. After reorganizing all of the furs, pallets, blankets, and padding to suit her, the Conqueror fell against them, closed her eyes and relaxed with the sound of breath held for days. She became aware of the Bard watching her looking slightly watery eyed.
"Gabrielle, don’t be maudlin." She growled. "I am in full Conqueror mode."
"Maudlin? Perish the thought. Why would I be maudlin?" barked the Bard, "Just because the two most important people in my LIFE were kidnapped and held by Romans for DAYS? Just because I had to hold off the DOZ on my own? Just because I finally have my family back together safe and sound? I have no reason to be maudlin. I only have smoke in my eyes. A true Spartan, that’s me."
"Well, I am glad to see you." Xena grumbled just a little bit.
"And I am glad to see you as well," replied her soul mate, " I am equally happy to have you all to myself and spotlessly clean thanks to Cyrene."
"Watchit, " grumbled the Warrior.
"Sometimes one should just submit," her partner offered. "Birdie was wise enough to do that. She knew that her mother needed to check her over top to bottom. So did yours."
"I am not a child, Gabrielle." grumbled the Conqueror.
"To your mother, you are always a child, or parts of you are," the bards offered gently.
"Is it childish and selfish to be glad I have you alone?, " crooned her partner, stretching like a long black cat, and smiling at her soul mate.
" Nope. That’s why Atticus and Scrubby are bunkies tonight. Birdie may not be ready to accept Scrubby and Grandba together."
Xena shrugged, "We’ve had most of ‘the talk’, and Birdie understands a great deal about connections, because of Zephyr. It wouldn’t be a huge stretch for her to see that people can have physical connections too."
"My baby," her mother reflected a little sadly, "However, having ‘the talk’, and knowing your Grandba is doing ‘the deed’, is another story. Especially with Scrubby. Perhaps Birdie has had enough ‘real life’ education these past few days."
"You are right about that."
The raven haired warrior groaned as she turned over to lay her head in the bard’s lap. "Too much, too fast, especially in the department of violence."
"We have much parenting to do, don’t we?"
"I am afraid we will have quite a bit over the next several years, Gabrielle. Birdie is not going to be easy; she is quick tempered and will NOT walk away from a fight. And I must say, she’s quite a good fighter." The warrior’s chuckle was low and earned her a light smack in the gut.
"She’s an excellent writer as well, but I know what you mean. She can be so foolish, angry, or impulsive I can’t whack her little butt fast enough, and then in the next moment, she will be deep, tender, sensitive and brave and I am so proud of her, my heart breaks."
"That’s our kid, and I wouldn’t trade her," smiled the Warrior, twirling back around, propped up on the furs. "Now you c’mere."
"Do I sense impulsiveness in the Big Warrior?" The Bard returned the smile, as the larger hands tugged her into a prone position atop the powerful body gazing directly into the sky blue eyes.
"Uh huh." the answer.
"Well, " was the returned whisper as hooks were undone and laces untied, and the bard’s tender hands began their journey down the bronzed muscled shoulders and curved toward unfastening the swaddling that supported the warrior’s breasts during periods of high activity.
"Remember we are in a very small campsite, so
She first whispered a warm breath on the right collarbone then a kiss, then to the center below the throat and a kiss, and to the left collarbone and a kiss, moving down,
She performed the same movement on each breast, the warm nuzzling breath and lingering kiss, causing Xena to breathe and arch her back rising,
She concentrated on the belly, covering the smooth flat skin in warm breath and soft kisses.
She tugged down the waist of the dark trousers to deliver the same gentle treatment to each hipbone,
She paused with soft breath at the top of dark curls.
"Gabrielle, I’ve been so edgy it won’t take much, "whispered her lover.
"I am in a similar state," inhaled the bard as she devoured the sleek body’s path forward again to meet the warrior’s lips in a kiss which stoked the fires. "We can’t exactly go off like howler monkeys in the middle of camp either."
There was a soft chuckle from under her.
"Well, no we mustn’t do that, it sounds downright uncivilized."
With that she rolled over on top of the smaller woman with the bright hair and smiled as she began with the Bard’s buttons.
"and we must never be uncivilized."
She looked down into her lover’s eyes a moment.
"I love you."
"And I you," the smiling response.
The dark head moved near the ear covered with blond hair and kissed the neck behind, brushing gently with warm breath around to the collar bone.
"Now," the words were barely breathed warmly into the ear," Let’s see how quiet you can be…"
The miles were going fairly quickly, but I was ready to be home. Baba and I had alternated turns riding Hades and riding in the wagon. Both of us preferred horseback of course, but we did what we needed to do. I was jostling along in the wagon, when Atticus rode up beside us and extended his hand to me.
"Fancy a little double time, Birdie girl? Just fer a spell?"
I stood up in the wagon quickly, (not supposed to do that), and hopped over in front of him as he slid back on his blanket to make room. Atticus rode a horse that was as big as Hades, perhaps a little bigger, so it felt like sitting atop a hillside.
"Thanks for coming to save us, Lord Atticus," I said quickly, "I know that my mother was glad to have you along."
"I was ‘appy to come , ya know that Birdie," he said. "I am just glad that you and the Conqueror are safe and sound. But I really want to talk to you about Talus."
"Lord Atticus, I am sorry about spying on the DOZ. It was very stupid, as my parents have pointed out to me."
"You know, Birdie, I never hada raise my hand to the boy til’ he went off there with you."
I hung my head. I wanted to cry.
"I am so sorry Atticus. I really am. It happens to me .. well not often, but …"
"Relax, girl.. I didn’t hurt him much. I think he was kinda proud."
"For the first time in his life, he was into that level of devilment."
"So, I don’ know whether to be upset wid’ ya or thank ya."
My inclination was to be silent. It was wise.
"I believe though, that I should counsel ya, my little friend, that you and Talus should not be makin’ that level of devilment a habit, am I clear on that?"
I turned around to smile at him.
"Yes sir, Lord Atticus, you are very clear on that."
"Soooo Birdie girl, would you like to see how fast my horse can run?"
"Yes sir, Lord Atticus, I would."
"Well, then Barney, you hear the lass! EEEEEEEHAAAA!!"
That puppy dog squeal of mine, I cannot control it sometimes, and it’s so inappropriate for a warrior.
It was good to be back in Amphipolis, but it wasn’t to be a sweet and easy homecoming for me. Trouble came looking before a single sunset passed.
An altercation occurred near our family entrance to the fortress; I was walking in from the training field, and came upon a fight between some stable boys- a slight scrappy boy who was taking the worst of the business from a larger, uglier bullying fellow. I had stepped in to try to stop it; the bully had taken issue with me, and of course there was no standing for that. The next thing I knew, Baba was pulling me off the big kid who had somehow acquired a bloody nose. The others had dispersed immediately at the command of Xena the Conqueror, and I was sent upstairs to my room with a stinging swat and a promise of later discussion. Entering my room, I immediately climbed into my window to sulk.
What would she have me do? Protecting smaller folk was part of my "greater good" now. That should be apparent to Baba! This wasn’t right; not right at all and I would tell her so. Zephyr climbed up into the window beside me to rest her head in my lap in deep sympathy. Stroking her dark fur calmed me eventually, and I began to enjoy the sun’s golden farewell in the distance. Murmuring voices from outside rose to my window.
"…..can’t have her believing that violence is a way of life Gabrielle --that breaking somebody’s head is the answer to every problem. She has a brain; she is articulate, she needs to demonstrate those strengths!"
I ducked down low in my window, but tried to keep my ears tuned to the conversation between my parents as they strolled the sidewalk to the garden.
"…Amphipolis is a violent place……….Athens was good for me….
…. Change of scene………different habits… she’s bright.. not long."
They wouldn’t, would they? Send me to Athens? Was I THAT bad?
……."she’s very young…. Don’t know if they would accept her… give it a try..
…for her sake … to steer from the violence…"
I looked at Zephyr.
"They are going to send me away, girl. Can you believe that?"
Athens. Nothing came to mind. Perhaps there was some sort of "finishing school" that would make a better person of me, a person who didn’t fight so much, or who would be such a disappointment to my parents.
Well, there was an answer to their disappointment; a plan had already begun to form in my head. It kept forming while I sat on my bed, listening to Baba Xe’s lecture on trying first to "reason" with people before punching. It kept forming while she told me if I had no explanation about the matter, the whole of the next day could be spent in my room until my "very good mind" thought of something to say. The plan only faltered a moment in growth when she squatted down, put her hands on my shoulders, to look me straight in the eye and said,
" I love you more than life itself, but there are hard times ahead for you Little Bird, if we can’t do better than this."
See, that was the biggest disadvantage of being a kid. A kid has no choices. Well other kids were not Robin of the Warrior and the Bard; they would soon see that. I would make my own choices; I could take care of myself.
When the fortress fell dark and quiet, I collected my ever ready field bag, and Zephyr and I crept down the stairs quiet as death. We lifted a couple of muffins from the kitchen before silently unlatching the door to go out into the moonlight. Hades was game for whatever I had in mind, so he walked quietly behind me from the stable, through the town gates, out to the big oak, where I hopped astride him, and we followed Zephyr into the night.
But it was a lonely night’s ride and a still lonelier following day, and I found myself returned to the pool and waterfall where Baba and I had spent such a happy interlude before the Romans took us. Zephyr didn’t argue with my indecision; in fact she knew that I had never intended to TRULY run away, but she waited patiently while I paced to and fro, and skipped rocks into the water trying to figure out my next move. How does one go home and still save face or even more so one’s backside? I had only just returned home for thunder’s sake! Becoming a permanent run away was NOT my first choice of lifestyle, but neither was becoming some kind of Athenian proper society person. The only sure thing was that I was definitely in trouble again. That always came easily for me.
"It’s not fair, Zephyr."
She didn’t act like she heard me. If she did there wasn’t much a fox could do to make life fair anyway, so she kept her gaze steady at the white cascades as I skipped another rock across the pool. If I took a running heave the rock could almost break through the crashing curtain. Even throwing stones was frustrating, so the next target became a perfectly innocent duck. That earned me a reproachful look from my fox, although I missed the quacking creature.
"Didn’t your Baba Xe ever tell you that the dead can hear your thoughts, Birdie?"
A quick spin revealed nothing behind, on either side, so where? Up. Sitting on the first overhanging branch on which I had loosely secured Hades’ reins. Dressed elegantly in a long white tunic with gold trim and he looked healthy, if a bit transparent.
"In the… .well, not quite the flesh. But in your thoughts? Absolutely. And your thoughts are not pretty my young friend."
"Is it really you, Marcus?"
My knees were weak, and he was immediately beside me helping me to sit on the ground.
"It is you. Did you just fly down here?"
He sat right next to me arms on his knees, and bumped shoulders with me affectionately. Zephyr collapsed in front of us, head on paws watching.
"It is I, Birdie Girl, and I don’t fly. It all happens by thought."
My head went down wipe my watery eyes.
"I miss you Marcus; you became important to me so quickly."
He leaned his head against mine,
"And you were important to me, Birdie, why do you think that I am here? You became family to me very fast. I care for you and what happens to you."
"I had never considered having a big brother or a brother at all until I was around you, Marcus. It was a good feeling."
"Well, you still have one, Birdie, just in a different sort of manifestation. You certainly need someone right now, don’t you? Tell me, why would you return to the scene of your capture?
"There were good memories here before there were bad memories, Marcus," was my explanation, "but I think that Baba Xe and Mama G are going to send me away to a boarding or finishing school or something similar in Athens. They fear that life around Amphipolis exposes me to too much violence, and in turn that I am becoming too violent. So I ran away before they sent me away."
"Birdie, Birdie, Birdbrain, "He sighed. "You honestly believe that the Big X and G would send you away?"
"I heard them talking."
"You heard their entire conversation?"
"No. Only segments."
"So you jumped to a few conclusions?"
"Birdie, if I weren’t in this wise-counseling spirit/form special relationship thing with you, I would kick your butt myself."
I had to giggle at that. Marcus had a way. Besides, he was making sense. When truly considered, it did sound, well--- dumb. Big sigh.
"I don’t seem to be able to do much of anything right lately, Marcus."
"Little Bird, you aren’t meant to. You are an emerging adolescent; you have very few answers. Adolescent life is about getting most of it wrong and learning. The trick is to only have to learn something ONCE, Birdie, especially if the lesson comes hard."
I sighed, "All of my lessons come hard, Marcus."
He leaned his head against mine again.
"You’re telling me kid."
We sat quietly a moment just being together.
"So what do I do now, Marcus?"
"Just wait. Your parents are on their way."
"I guess they are pretty mad at me aren’t they?"
"They have been quite worried, wouldn’t you be?"
"I suppose. So it’s hard lesson time, right?"
" See? You do learn quickly, my little feathered friend."
"Will you come back again, Marcus?"
"As often as I am able."
"I promise. And Birdie…
"I will always be listening.."
The golden palomino and the patient paint stood side by side at the trail head. In the distance, the silhouette of Hades could be seen grazing.
"I thought that she might be here. Birdie was angry, but she wouldn’t run very far."
"It’s a beautiful spot, Xena. This is where you came the day you were to find the DOZ?"
"Uh huh, we had a swim, some lunch, a nap, a really good time before the Romans took us. I regret to give her yet another painful association."
"Would you rather I…?"
The Conqueror’s gentle touch on her shoulder silenced her.
"No Gabrielle, I will not shy away from what she needs. The kid got into trouble, she got mad, and she ran away. Actually, that is typical adolescent kid attitude, but it is absolutely unacceptable and very dangerous, and Birdie knows that. We’ll make quick work of it, so we can get on with the talking things out, agreed?"
The emerald eyes gave agreement, and the warrior dismounted and walked ahead with purpose. She looked back,
"Nothing is worse than being captured by Romans anyway."
"You’re positive that you are good for this?"
The warrior paused and looked back at her soul mate.
"Well, I’m not looking forward to it, but I’ve come to trust myself much more in handling Birdie. I am her Baba after all."
And her soul mate gazed back, proud of Xena’s new confidence in herself as a parent, "Yes, my love, you are her Baba."
The tears would not subside, and I shook them from my face impatiently as I bent over to gather more dried twigs and branches. Baba Xe had begun assembling a stone circle near the water after she told me to collect some firewood; we were spending the night, and she and Mama G would talk to me in a little while. She had made small fuss of finding me. I felt her presence as she approached, so it was no surprise when she spoke my name and turned me around to hold me closely a moment. She pushed me back by the shoulders, adjusted my hair and looked into my eyes to ask me if I was whole and well. When both were affirmed, she firmly steered me to a nearby stump where she propped up a boot. Leaning me over her knee, she then gave me a quite emphatic reminder of why she had never needed to use anything other than her hard warrior’s hand to tan my hide properly when she desired to have my complete attention or to express disapproval of my actions. When she gently lifted me back to standing, she had gained my full attention, but she had said very little- only sent me off to chores, and that had upset me more than the walloping. I had managed to hold to the Spartan code of silence during the castigation, but my tears would not obey the code, and thus the stack of firewood continued to grow with my many trips to the forest to hide them.
I studied another small log and felt a light touch in my hair. It was my mother whose hand now stirred me gentle as a quiet breeze.
I couldn’t look at her, and my tears fell faster. She simply took me into her arms for a moment of much needed comfort and withheld the scolding I expected.
She took my hand.
"Birdie, come with me."
She led me to the fire circle, where now danced a warm fire. Baba looked more relaxed as well, sitting on a log, staring into the flames, and watching the fresh fish cook. She looked up at our footsteps, and gave me a somewhat melancholy smile when she extended her hand.
I slid in beside her immediately, and she tucked me under her arm and kissed my hair. "You understand why, don’t you, Birdie?"
The tears fell endlessly, and I sniffed, "Yes My Lady, I ran away and worried you. It was a bad decision."
Her voice was low and gentle,
"Tough love is tough, even when it is rightly deserved, isn’t it?"
I sighed shakily, held against the warmth of her strength and steadiness, and whispered, "Yes M’am."
My head felt another warrior’s kiss, and her other arm came around me for a moment of quiet peace and safety. Baba’s words came into my ear very softly," You do know my Little Bird, that tough love, is still very much love, don’t you?"
I burrowed into her then, hugging hard, and I felt her arms tighten around me. "I know, Baba."
She didn’t have to say that she had forgiven me; I could feel it coming from her heart as she held me.
After a little time tender hands were placed on both sides of my face, and forest eyes burned into mine as my mother knelt in front of me.
"Birdie, you gave us such a scare, why?" Mama G pierced my heart with the injury in her voice, and the tears I saw gathering in those eyes. I looked down.
"I was afraid you were going to send me away—to Athens; it just really upset me. So I just left."
"Whatever gave you that idea?"
"I heard you talking."
" Last evening."
She looked at Baba a moment and then smiled.
"Birdie, when did you stop asking questions, honey? It would have saved us some heartache, if you had simply asked a question. We are going to have a nice camping trip now, but it was very costly to all of our hearts, and not a lot of fun for your tail feathers, was it?"
"No, Mama. I’m sorry." Big sigh. " I just keep messing up."
"Well, would you like to know how the word ‘Athens’ was being used in our conversation?"
"If you want to tell me, Mama."
"Your Baba and I were talking about trying to register you as a bard or bard in training at the Royal Academy of Bards in Athens."
I blinked at her.
"Did you hear me, Birdie?"
"Yes m’am, I think so."
"What do you think of that?"
"I don’t know what to say, Mama; it’s wonderful. Is it possible?
"Perhaps. I am going to send some of your writings, and you and I will work on some other pieces. I was among the youngest when your Baba registered me. But you may be youngest bard ever. We are thinking that perhaps a good method to deal with some of the darkness in your nature is to further encourage the light in your nature and some of your other talents."
She rose gracefully and looked down at me.
It is about balance, Birdie, it always will be."
She shook her head a little, "Birdie, stand up."
Was she going to take her turn at me now? Bad news for that recently well tenderized area; Baba hadn’t gone soft on me this time. I gave it a rub and did stand as she told me, but she only pulled my head into her shoulder, her hand in my hair, holding me tightly.
"We would NEVER EVER send you away Birdie. You should know better," her voice hissed into a whisper that was both sorrowful and angry. It hurt as much as Baba Xe’s hand.
I butted my face into her shoulder, and spoke into it, ashamed to face her.
"You are right, Mama, I should know better; I am sorry to have worried you. It was especially wrong on top of your recent worry about Baba and me. It won’t happen again."
She pulled my head from its hiding place so that I faced her directly.
"You have told me that before, my little Bird."
Her eyes were locked on mine, not angry, but not gentle.
I dropped my eyes ashamed, but had no good explanation to offer. Only another sigh.
"I know that, Mama; perhaps it is as the writers say, I make my promises in the general, and life occurs in the specific."
She almost laughed at that, but caught herself and gave me a light cuff in the head. "Don’t be a smart aleck, Little Bird; you and I will talk."
I knew she meant it; there would be time spent on the red couch in my room in deep conversation, and time spent at my desk with many candles burning while I wrote for her. But I didn’t mind. Mama G was my soul searcher. That was how it should be.
For now, she smiled and kissed my forehead. She had forgiven me in the immediate; that was imperative for me collecting myself now. She understood that.
"Fish is ready, "Baba Xe said casually, "and I bet those specially seasoned vegetables and potatoes that Mama G managed to bring along are ready too. Are you hungry, Little Bird?"
I sniffed and wiped my eyes a final time, "I am very hungry, Baba. Haven’t eaten all day."
"Well, let’s see, consequences given, apologies made, misunderstandings clarified, and outlines for lessons learned have been worked out, I would suggest that it’s TIME TO EAT!"
"Baba, did you cook this fish?" I asked politely as she served me.
"Don’t worry, Birdie, Mama G. did all of the preparation before she went to find you. It should be quite edible." Baba Xe gave me a mildly dirty look.
Mama G. laughed openly then, her anger dissipated, and we sat down together as a family for some excellent food. I was very hungry and so was Zephyr, who had reappeared. She had a way hiding out until after all the human family drama was spent.
"Glad you could show up, Zephyr." I questioned her loyalty. She looked at me incredulously.
"I know why should you get into trouble; you make no decisions, do you? You are just a sidekick."
Well that was too much. She stalked away stiff legged.
"Zephyr." No response.
I walked down by the water to find her and squatted down, took her head in my hands and kissed her nose.
"I am sorry Zephyr. You are no sidekick; you are my soul mate, and I love you."
That was some improvement, but I had better watch myself. She nosed my nose and put her head on my knee.
"It’s just… I’m the one who gets all the lickin’s’."
She looked at me and stuck her nose up under my chin affectionately.
"Yes, I’ll live; I’m fine. It can’t be helped can it? Shall we go to eat?"
She stuck her head under my hand for another bit of assurance.
" I know, and I have more to learn than you do. Why are you so wise, Zephyr?"
Do foxes smile? There are times, I could swear that Zephyr smiles.
The Conqueror leaned back against the log allowing the Bard to rub her shoulders. Through the flickering curtain of the fire, they watched the silhouette of Birdie and Zephyr moving about down by the water.
The Conqueror and Defender of Mountainous Greece sighed deeply, "Well, all is safe and sound again."
"Yes, it is." The gentle fingers worked into slightly tense muscles, waiting for the warrior to talk.
"I do love that kid."
The Bard smiled fondly into the dark hair under her care.
"Even when you have to whack her ornery little butt?"
" I think especially then… Don’t misunderstand me, Gabrielle, it tears holes in my heart as much as it does yours to be hard on her. I’d rather take a dagger wound. No it has more to do with Birdie herself. There are many time that there are images of myself as a child in Birdie, and those troublesome parts that she struggles with… those same parts for me-- were lost in the darkness."
"And this time, with Birdie, those lost parts are being saved?"
"At least there is hope. I don’t know if it’s because of the’ Gabrielle element’ in Birdie or because she has you as a parent, but when the darkness in Birdie is redirected, and she accepts the redirection ; it’s gratifying to witness, and I love her more for it."
"And you give yourself no credit? Did you not just feel that kid try to bury herself in her Baba a little while ago after you gave her a pretty sound "redirecting"? You are amazing with Birdie. You really are, Xena."
"Well, I do love the kid."
The Bard’s hands paused on the shoulders,
"I worry about her impulse for revenge; I had to threaten her very hide to drag her off Titus."
"She had just witnessed the fatal injury of a friend by a coward whom she hated. Revenge is a basic instinct--very basic to warriors."
The green eyes snapped; Xena didn’t have to be facing them to be aware of the fire.
"May I remind you my dear Conqueror, that Birdie is a child of twelve and a half seasons and NOT a warrior, not even a little warrior?"
The Big Warrior winced,
"Her warrior instincts frighten me, Gabrielle. They rise quickly and they take her over in a heartbeat. We have a very complicated kid with very complicated abilities. She is going to make big mistakes, and she is going to do incredible deeds; we’ve already seen that. We must be present in her life, watching her, guiding her, praising her when she does things brilliantly, pulling her back in line very firmly when she goes astray. Most of all we must love her unfailingly, unconditionally, no matter what, she’s our Birdie. We cannot anger take over. That’s what I needed, but nobody could give it to me; I became too angry to receive love-- well-- until you came into my life. "
The Bard’s eyes had softened along with her hands on her soul mate’s shoulders.
"That was a big speech for you."
"Yeah, don’t know what got into me. "
"I think Birdie may help the Conqueror understand- Xena, the big warrior and the little warrior."
"You think so, my Bard?" The deep voice hummed.
"Maybe," the hands were rubbing again.
The Conqueror reached up and pulled the bright haired Bard down to sit cuddled under her strong sheltering arm.
"That’s why I know that the revenge problem will be ok. We-- you will teach her with time, just as you taught me. I think it will be easier with Birdie, because you will find the peaceful loving elements of yourself in Birdie as well."
The Bard pondered thoughtfully.
"I hope so. She did respond to me with Titus, and not only because I threatened her. "
"I know so, Gabrielle; Birdie responds to us because she knows we love her, even when we must be firm."
"It’s going to be quite a journey."
"It always has been."
The light and the dark heads touched and the words were spoken in unison,
"I wouldn’t have it any other way."
The night sky is always more beautiful when one is sleeping away from a city. There are no distractions at all, and Gaia and the gods of the sky display for us earth bound mortals, the best that they have to offer.
We all lay stretched about in a contented pile around the fire which was flickering lazily. Baba Xe had her head resting on the saddle, Mama G’s head was cradled in her lap, my head was in Mama G’s lap- her hand looping my hair absently, and Zephyr’s furry head rested contentedly in mine. Family portrait time.
"See Birdie, there is the Great Bear." Mama pointed out to me, "and the Little Dipper."
"I think I see it…. There?"
"And those three bright stars … those are Orion’s belt, " Baba’s low voice came from further up the pile.
"Do you ever tire of the same star patterns, Mama, Baba?", I asked them, "You’ve been watching for years.. don’t they bore you?"
"Never," was Mama’s thoughtful reply, "somehow they are ever-changing."
"I believe that I know why, " I looked up at the sky, "want to hear?"
"OF course, Birdie, "my parents were listening..
There was once a young Greek slave boy called Marcus who made it his business to be more than a slave. He served his wealthy masters of course, who were not very civil to him, but Marcus let their cruelty feed his own desire to be more kind to others. When Marcus was sent about the city on errands, if he came across a child who was hungry, he would stop, feed the child and help him find his way home. If his path traveled by an old beggar, Marcus likewise fed the beggar, and found him shelter for the night. One time he was returning from the bakery and a woman who was with child fell in front of him and went into labor. Marcus dropped the bread he had purchased, and placing the woman’s arms around his neck, he carried her to the healer’s hut, nearly a candle mark’s distance. He stayed with the woman until the baby was delivered healthy and hollering, all because Marcus had taken time to help.
When he arrived back at his master’s house later, he was beaten for being gone too long and for losing the bread, but it mattered little to him, because that day, there was a new baby boy in the village named Antony Marcus.
Over the course of a few years, Marcus became rather well known in the village. His owner could never understand why, that when Marcus accompanied him to a meeting at the coliseum or some other important event, it appeared that nearly everyone along the way, waved at his slave. His owner took it on his own ego, deciding that whatever Marcus did embellished his own reputation.
But there came a darker day. It was a very busy market day, and Marcus had been sent to purchase food for an important dinner his master was having that evening. There was a rich vintner coming to town bringing with him many kegs of fine wine to sell. The master chef of the kitchen had told Marcus to specifically look for this vintner. When Marcus arrived at the area the vintner had taken for market, there was a bit of confusion, especially around the horses, while trying to off load the great barrels of wine. A horsefly or perhaps a shout spooked the horses causing them to bolt suddenly and over turn the wagon. They did not stop, however, and began a terrorizing campaign of thundering hooves and heavy wood against anything or anyone who might be in the way. A tiny girl wandered into the path of this deadly combination. The only person who acted was Marcus. He scrambled into the heat of the situation, tossed the child to a bystander, and took the impact of the rushing wagon directly on his head and back. When they finally stopped the horses, there was nothing left but a crippled horse and a crumpled human figure, lying limp in the dirt.
The owner of Marcus couldn’t understand why people left piles flowers at his gate. Marcus was only a slave; he was only a nobody boy. But the flowers continued to mount, and when Marcus was buried outside the city in the slaves’ graveyard, there again, a large mound of flowers grew.
When Marcus reached the Elysian Fields, he was called into the great hall to speak with the gods. This was a surprise and somewhat terrifying to him, as he had never thought of himself as anyone special.
Zeus, Hera, Athena, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, and all the Greek royalty looked down at this humble young man who knelt with his head bowed in their presence.
Zeus spoke, "Rise young, Marcus. You have nothing to fear. You have pleased us well."
Marcus only said, "Thank you My Lord Zeus."
Apollo then spoke, "Because of your extraordinary life, we were wondering if you would like a special celestial position that we have need to fill. We believe that it would be perfect for you. "
"My Lord, I will be happy to serve. What does this position entail?"
The sun god chuckled, "Marcus we find that humans love to watch the stars, but they grow weary of the same patterns. We would make it your responsibility to ride across the sky and change the stars into new patterns occasionally; just to keep humans entertained and ever challenged.
Marcus was transfixed. "My Lord, can you possibly mean what you say? I am to arrange the stars themselves?"
The god’s deep laugh shook the chamber, "It is no small task, Marcus. The sky is endless, and the stars are huge. You will be constantly busy."
"I think it is a wonderful job and I am deeply honored, "said Marcus kneeling again. "I only hope that I can manage it."
"Oh you will have help," thundered Zeus, and a huge black horse with eyes made of stars and lightening bolts flashing on his hooves danced proudly into the hall. He came to a halt standing by Marcus.
"This is Bartholomew, "spoke the gentle Artemis for the first time.
"Bartholomew was the only horse killed in your market mishap. He will serve to carry you, and help you to transport the larger stars."
"Bartholomew, "Marcus stroked the great nose and the starry eyes closed in pleasure. He looked at the gods.
"We will take the job."
The deities rose as one applauding.
And to this day, during some seasons we see the Big Dipper and Orion the Hunter, and then clouds may cover the skies for a time.. When the skies clear, and the seasons change, we might see Cassiopeia and Scorpio, or even shooting stars. All is the celestial handiwork of Marcus and Bartholomew. If we watch carefully, when dawn is approaching we might catch a glimpse of two small bright stars that linger for a moment on the horizon. Those are the laughing eyes of Marcus, just before he and Bartholomew ride back into the night sky.
From the portfolio of writing
Xena of Amphipolis and
Gabrielle, Bard of Potadeia
In consideration for long distance membership
To Athens Royal Academy of Bards.
The end for now..
Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org You know how much your comments mean, and how grateful I am that you flew along with me and the bird girl…. You really are our wind… (ugh, such corn) THANKS. (especially 2 vx)
I will let you know when Birdie is back in action… take care..osb
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