If this is your first Birdie story, thanks for finding it. You might do better to read the three stories that came before, but it’s not absolutely necessary. This one does refer to events in Season Three however, so you might need to research “The Rift” episodes lightly. Anyway, the disclaimers are in the former stories and thanks for reading…osb… comments to email@example.com.
I am Robin
Of the Warrior
And the Bard
The silver buckles jingled faintly as I bounded to my feet..
I walked around the dining room, stomping from stone to stone, listening to the tinkle of the buckles and enjoying the sturdy bumpfing sound of the heels and soles. Zephyr followed, sniffing at the new leather smell.
“Well, how do they feel, little one?” My Grandba queried.
“Unbelievable. Grown up. Serious. Wonderful. Thank you.” I threw my arms around her. “I can’t believe these are for me, Grandba!”
“I remembered how happy your Baba was the day we bought her first pair of solid boots.”
“Yes, I had begged for them for a season.” Recalled Baba Xe.”
“I have to say, it was a proud day for me to give you those boots though.” smiled her mother.
“Did you know I still have them?”
“Do you, now?”
“Stored in a box; couldn’t part with them.”
“Really now?” Cyrene seemed startled.
“Well, you wouldn’t allow me to wear them for the first moon.”
The Conqueror obviously still felt certain resentment over that. “ so they are in pretty good--- well, no, they are not in good shape; I wore them.. night and day; even slept in them at first.”
Blue eyes looked up and found the entire room listening; the Conqueror was rarely so forthcoming with personal history.
“What?” her eyes darkened and so did her voice.
Normal conversation resumed immediately.
My own mother had put her arm around me, “Now they aren’t for your every single day rough and ready stuff,” she flashed a slightly evil eye. “Of course now that you are thirteen winters, you might not be quite so likely to jump into every mud hole that you encounter.”
She shared a look with Zephyr.
“Not in my new boots, My Lady Mother.” I stood proudly. “My Amazon soft boots will still be my daily attire. I’ll wear these for the longer horse trips and for more formal occasions. “
“Did you see that there is a built in dagger sheath on the right one?” My warrior parent pointed out.
“Yes, it’s perfect for my dagger; I must try it .” I turned to run toward my tower room.
“Robin of the Warrior and Bard,” my full name from my mother halted me in my new boots’ tracks.
“We aren’t finished with you , “She was smiling.
“Oh.” I returned obediently and sat back down.
“Xena, you have a gift for Birdie.”
“Gift? Humpf. “her voice was gruff, but dancing sparkles in the indigo eyes betrayed her. “Let’s see.”
She leaned way back and made great pretense of searching underneath her chair. What came forth was a long brown parcel tied with string and my hopes were increased.
“And what might this be Birdie?”
“I am sure I do not know, Baba.”
“You don’t know?”
She grabbed me tickling , “You little storyteller.”
After sufficient giggles, she turned me loose to examine the package; my hands shook almost beyond the articulation required to unwrap string and paper.
At long last, my sword. MY sword. I was speechless- stunned beyond expression.
“I made it for you.” My Baba Xe remarked mildly.
Wordlessly, I threw my arms around her neck and she gathered me into her lap for a very unconqueror-ish moment. Tears were squeezing from my eyes and I sniffled slightly.
“Here now,” she pulled me back, “none of that. It’s your birthday.. only happiness allowed.
“This is happiness, Baba,” I exploded from her lap.
“Well, pick it up and try the weight and balance of it.”
My sword resembled the Tide, but it was smaller and lighter customized for someone my size. The bronze hilt had the shape of the Tide, but instead of the paua shell inlays, the inlaid parts were bright silver. The hilt was wrapped in soft black leather and the blade was buffed so brightly I could see my face. As I took the grip, it felt immediately like a natural extension of my arm.
“And, “The Warrior waited.
I jogged a distance from the party group, spun it thrice around my wrist and completed the first drill holding it like a spear. Then I tossed it high into the air and watched it catch the light; as it fell back down, I took a step forward and caught it neatly behind my back. Stealing a glance toward my mother, I noted that she had closed her eyes. Swinging it back around hard, I gave it one more toss into the air while performing a front flip catching the sword on the horizontal in flight so that I landed with it in full ready position, and spun in a circle.
“Baba, it is PERFECT, “ my voice and face must have beamed, “I love it.”
“You’ll have to practice with it some,” Baba Xe looked very pleased, “But it looks like a good fit.”
“Aww, don’t want to nick it!”
“That is what a sword is for, Birdie. Its job is to take the nicks so that you do not. You will sharpen the nicks out.”
“Child of my heart, you come home with too many nicks in that sword too often, and it will take residence under my bed.”
“Ah Mama,” a little whiny for a warrior.
In truth, I wondered when she would assert herself, but still the protest had to be made.
“Gab,” Now the Big Warrior spoke softly, guardedly, “We talked about this.”
Mama G smiled at Baba, “And we will never stop talking about it, Xena, NEVER.”
Baba sat back with a smile at me; we were whipped by the little blond; she could do us both with one finger.
I shot her my most innocent grin, but she didn’t buy it for a heartbeat, and raised her eyebrows.
“Come here to me my fledgling.”
I obeyed; she wouldn’t take my new sword this quickly, even if she wanted to. It was my birthday; she’d wait until after the party.
“I have a gift for you as well.”
This package was of similar size to the other.
“Did you make me a sword too, Mama?” That earned me a light cuff to the head, a smile, and a tug down onto the ottoman in front of her
“ Not a sword, but I too made your gift , Little Bird.”
It was the scabbard. The back was of stiff black leather with the laced front of brown leather; it would match any pair of boots. The front had been beautifully tooled with the crest of the Amphipolis dragon and circling stars. But what was most striking was an inlaid silver piece at the doubled folded top – a small silver robin carrying its own feather as a quill. It was a functional work of art and a scabbard fit for royalty.
Again I was gobsmacked. Stunned beyond belief.
“Turn it over, Birdie. “
On the backside, was a pocket laced on three sides with a flap that tied. Inside was leather bound journal which kept several parchment pages, a tiny flat jug of ink, and a quill. The scabbard had removable clips to be attached to armor, or it also had a handsome strap which would go across my body.
I felt quite splendid when I donned all of my presents. There could not be a happier kid of thirteen winters anywhere in all of Greece. I had new well made boots, boots fit for fighting. I had a sword of my own, designed for me by the greatest Warrior of the age, and I had a beautiful casing for the sword which declared fully who I was—a junior member of the Militia of Amphipolis, a warrior, a writer, and just me---Birdie, which my mother had inlaid in pure silver. It was a statement of my identity, now in my thirteenth season, a young person coming into her own. Perhaps at times, a confused young person, but nevertheless a person.
Shaking back her bright blond hair, she came to me now and brushed my dark hair back from my forehead before leaving a gentle kiss there.
“Happy Birthday, Little Bird.”
“Thank you, Mama G.” I put my arms around her waist and lay my head on her shoulder a moment. That moment and motion brought back a hundred memories of the times I had been in that same position at different stages of my life. There were the times she had carried me as a drowsy toddler from an evening of stargazing, or carried the same weeping toddler with a scraped elbow or hurt feelings after a tumble on the cobblestones. When I was older, there were times my tears fell on her shoulder after she spent a couple of candle marks of coaxing the truth of a wayward deed I had committed. And it was the same shoulder where I found comfort following the times she deemed it necessary to be firm in her discipline of me. But no matter my need or situation, there was always the warm strong shoulder, the gentle words, the encompassing arms. Always. Perhaps I would write tonight.
I looked at her.
“My Lady Queen, the scabbard is a precious gift; I will cherish it always.”
I stood back and included Baba with my gaze and a hand.
“The same goes with the beautiful sword My Lady Conqueror I promise to never bring you shame with it.”
The Conqueror stepped forward to kiss the top of my head and then clasp my arm in the warrior’s handshake.
“You are very welcome, Little Bird. And we like those promises. However, it’s your birthday, and we should be partaking of your Grandba’s FEAST!”
We made good work of it; Grandba had made my favorite foods. I was just finishing my carrot cake and sneaking Zephyr a bite when the great dining hall door blew open with a crash against the wall. A tall figure covered in furs stomped in from the snowy outside.
It was my Uncle Toris.
“Happy Birthday Birdie,” he said, shaking the snow from his dark hair.
“You already missed the party,” the sarcastic tone of Baba Xe.
Whenever I was around my Mama G and Aunt Lila, I always wished for a sibling; exposure to the relationship between my Baba Xe and Uncle Toris, however, made me glad to be an only child.
“I’m sure Mom’s got a bit of this or that left over.” He said pointedly. “And I’m sure that Birdie isn’t going to reject a gift.” He handed me a parcel.
“Thanks for remembering, Uncle Toris, “I gave him a smile. Though I saw him seldom, I liked the man who favored my Baba Xe and me so much in looks, and he had always seemed fond of me.
It was a rag doll.
“Little old for dolls, and she never played with them anyway,” another remark from Baba.
I studied it carefully. It was dressed trousers with little laces up the sides, and a leather tunic and boots. It had black spun hair and blue button eyes. Under its arm was a stuffed black fox, and in the other hand it carried a little sword.
“Actually, Uncle Toris, I quite like it. Is it me? And did you make it?”
His sky blue eyes sparkled and he flashed the smile that made him look so much like his younger sister.
“Tried my best, Birdie.”
I gave him a shy hug which he returned. “Thanks Uncle Toris. It’s nice. I won’t be playing ‘dollies’ with it, but that’s not what it’s meant for, is it?”
“No, not so much, Birdie.”
“I will take good care of it; it’s very special. Thank you again.”
“You are welcome, little niece..”
Tables were cleared, candles extinguished; it had been a superior evening. My mother came over to put her arm around me with a smile.
“Come along birthday girl, let’s go put away your new things and make you sleepy,”
“G’night everyone!” I raised my voice. “Thank you for the best birthday ever!
Everyone was filing out, either giving me a hug or a bit of tousled hair , everyone but Baba Xe and Uncle Toris. Uncle Toris had taken a seat at the table and was slurping hot soup Grandba had brought, and some tea. Baba Xe did no more than sit and glare at him as she had since he had entered the door. I made my way over to Baba and gave her a hug and kiss good night. She returned it warmly.
“We’ll have to begin sword lessons again, right?”
“I am ready anytime, Baba.”
She flashed the quick smile that could illuminate the darkness in a room and gave me a little pat.
“Perhaps tomorrow then?”
“Tomorrow is great, Baba.”
I did an about face, and she went back to glowering at her brother.
“Why don’t they like each other?” I asked Mama G as we ascended the stairs, Zephyr’s bushy tail dancing merrily ahead of us.
“Ohhh Birdie, they do like each other; they just don’t show it well. Sometimes people harbor resentments from childhood, even though they are no longer children.” Mama’s hand moved up my back and squeezed the back of my neck. We entered my room.
“If I had a big brother, we wouldn’t be like that.” I said confidently, as she found my nightshirt, I washed up in the big bowl of water in the corner.
She laughed. “I would wager, Birdie that you would be worse.”
“Hah! Huh uh!” was my retort.
She gave me a light smack to the back of my head, “and my point is made.”
“So,” intoned the Conqueror, “What brings you to this neck of the woods, my brother? Mom sure would like to see you more?”
“I know, Toris stared into his soup, “the country life is wonderful, Xena, but it is more demanding than I ever thought. I love my wife, the boys and the farm is beautiful, but it’s not an easy life out there. It’s always something.”
“That is very true,” said his younger sister. “There is seldom a free moment to just be with friends and family.”
“But I should do better; I know that sis,” The trademark sapphire eyes met the Conqueror’s own, “It takes such a long time to ride into town and back, and I am not easy with leaving my family alone for that amount of time.”
“Are there problems out there?”
“I am afraid that there will be. Something is brewing on the farms closer to town. I have been talking with different farmers on my way in. That’s why I was so late.”
Xena leaned forward, “What kind of problems, Toris? “
“Something is killing livestock.”
She sat back. “But that is nothing new; Wolves, bears, mountain lions. It’s just a matter of figuring out what the predator is, and tracking it down, isn’t it?”
“No, sis, this is different. I walked out to a few kills. Natural predators don’t eviscerate their prey. And that is what it is... There isn’t any meat taken, like a wolf or a lion would take to feed itself or its young. Only the entrails removed. It’s bizarre, Xena, even chilling.”
The Conqueror leaned forward, her interest engaged,” Are the killings random, or is there a pattern?”
“Only patterns thus far are the eviscerations and the animals taken are swine.”
“Well, that is a pattern, “ Xena put a boot up on the table.
Toris smirked, “Bet you wouldn’t do that if Gabrielle were down here.”
Xena smiled, “Bet you are right.”
Mama G walked over to my big window while I washed my feet. Zephyr was making certain that I did them correctly. Sometimes she is a very nosy fox.
“Yes’m,” I was drying the left foot, and feeling good enough to hop into my bed. However, over on the red loveseat were my sword and scabbard begging for just one more look. I padded over and sat down, sliding the blade out to admire the weight and flash of it.
“Why are there so many candle drippings in this window?”
I fitted the blade back into the scabbard and slipped the strap over my head. My clean feet went into my new boots and I stood up, completely garbed, except for the fact that I had on my striped nightshirt.
Mama G turned around, “Why Birdie? Birdie.” She shook her head and rolled her eyes.
“Birdie, you will NOT be sleeping in your new presents. OFF. Right now.”
She walked toward me.
“Mama, I was just trying them one more time.”
She reached me and helped me raise the scabbard strap over my head and laid it on the couch.
She tugged off the new boots and left them on the floor by the sword and scabbard.
“Now they stay there. Understood?”
“Birdie, honey, it is dangerous to sleep with a sword.”
“Now come on, let’s get you into bed, it’s very late for little warriors.”
I climbed into my bed and she pulled up the covers and snugged them around me.
“Mama, don’t you think at thirteen winters that I might be too old or too big for you to tuck me in?”
Her forest eyes softened, and she reached up to push back my hair.
“No Birdie, there are some things you will never be too old or too big for me to do for you. “
I looked at her a moment then dropped my eyes. “Good.”
She reached for my head again making me look at her, “So are you going to tell me about the sizable accumulation of candle drippings in your window sill?”
Don’t know why this was hard to give up. I played with the coverlet.
“Bad dreams, Mama. Really bad. When I wake up, I can’t stand for it to be dark. So I have been leaving candles burning.”
Her eyes softened again, “I’m sorry Little Bird, what we will need to do is find you a lantern then. It is less dangerous to burn all night than an open candle. Can you tell me about the dreams?”
“I’d rather not, Mama.”
Her hand was ever gentle in my hair.
My eyes were filling just thinking about it; be tough now.
“Because they are about you and Baba.”
“Oh Honey,” She leaned over me in a comforting embrace; I wrapped my arms around her neck and shoulders. The tears squeezed out. Zephyr gave me an approving look from the foot of my bed. She knew that my nights had been troubled.
Mama G sat back and caught my tears with her fingertips. I did the same on her face. We smiled at each other; at times we were so very alike.
“How long has this been going on, Birdie?”
“Around a seven day, I’d say.”
“Perhaps you are approaching your first cycle and your body is just going somewhat wonky. I am going down to fetch a long burning lantern for you now. And if you have a nightmare tonight sufficient to wake you, You COME to us, you hear me? I will be angry if you don’t, little girl.”
She smiled, sniffed and one more tear found its way down her tender countenance.
“I love you, Birdie; do you have any idea how much?”
“I don’t know Mama, but I love you just as much.”
I sat up for one more good hug. After a moment we felt a furry nose squirming between us and an impatient squeal, and we chuckled.
“Zephyr wants in on the affection.”
Mama G returned with the long burning lantern and we exchanged a quick hug and “sweet dreams.” Then I was alone. The wind blew my window shutter noisily and I hopped out to go and secure more tightly.
“Why don’t we look at what Marcus has done to the sky tonight, girl?” I smiled at Zephyr. When I opened the shutter I was nearly undone by the presence of my hawk.
“Icarus? Well how are you? Have you been sleeping here?”
She just gave me her angry eyes and groomed her feathers. I went to my field pack and fetched her bite of dried meat.
“So how have you been? Icarus had been fine. “Will you protect me girl? I have been having unwelcome visitors in the night.”
She cocked her head at me seriously as if to say that she would do her best.
As she flew away, I secured the shutter. Walking back to my bed, I considered the sword and scabbard again. Gliding silently over to the loveseat, I took the sword within the sheath and carried it back to my bed. Zephyr gave me a reproachful look.
“I know, Zephyr, she will skin me if she catches me with this. So the object will be for her NOT to catch me alright?”
Zephyr just laid down her sleepy head. I placed the sword in its tooled leather casing next to me on the bed. Placing my hand on it, I allowed Morpheus to come.
The Bard turned over when the Warrior slid under the heavy coverlet with a contented sigh,”C’mere.”
“ummmm brrrrrr, you feel good.” The combined body heat didn’t take long to warm the bed.
“Did you have a good talk with Toris” Did he stay downstairs with Mom tonight?”
“Yes, once we quit circling each other and yes, Mom is thrilled to have the first son with her.”
“He told me about some problems in the outer farms, Gabrielle.”
“Really…” The bard was drowsy.
“Strange stuff. Pig eviscerations.”
“What?” Gabrielle came fully awake. “That’s horrible.”
“Yes, I don’t like the sound of it. I need to ride out there and see for myself.”
“Well that doesn’t put the best pictures in my head before sleeping… I’ll have nightmares like Birdie.”
“Kid having nightmares?
“For the past seven day. She’s been leaving a candle burning all night they’ve been so bad.”
Xena came up on an elbow, “Did she tell you what the dreams were about?”
“She’d rather not; Xena they are about us.”
“I don’t like the sound of that, Gab.”
“Me either. I believe tomorrow, we better sit with her and make her tell us. I don’t know if it means anything at all, but it is unsettling.”
“I am with you. We will talk about it first thing in the morning. Perhaps she was so excited tonight that she won’t have bad dreams.”
“She had a great birthday, didn’t she?”
“She’s a great kid.”
“I know another great kid.”
“ummm hmmm, lying next to me, she smells very sexy and warm…”
I was enveloped by a blood red fog; it hung about my neck and ankles like chains. There were dead animals strewn about on both sides of my path, cows and pigs mostly, but there was a horse now and again. My sword was on my back, and its weight was a comfort. I came to a river looked for a bridge, but there was none so I had to ford it on foot. My Amazon boots soon turned red; the river ran with blood.
On the far banks I could see Mama G and Baba Xe kneeling across from each other. My heart was encouraged and I swam through the horror and my feet felt the rocks on the other side. I called to them, but neither noticed me. That was when I saw that each had a child lying on the grass in front of her. Baba had a golden haired boy, and Mama a strawberry blonde girl. I didn’t understand the lack of response and kept walking toward them. As I approached closer, calling to them, Baba and Mama simultaneously lifted their heads to look at me. Their eyes, the whites and colors had turned completely black.
A huge being took form between them; a man shape only with horns as big and tall as a mountain ram might have. He wore little clothing and his body was covered with a black oily hair. His eyes were the same black color as my parent’s except for a glowing red center in each one under bushy brows. His lips were black as well and his teeth were like fangs.
He was laughing a resonating thunderous deep laugh that had no joy. In his arms was Zephyr, blood dripping from her closed eyes and tongue.
“Birdie, Birdie, honey, wake up. Wake up Birdie, you are dreaming.” Cool, cloth on my forhead. Cool hands rubbing my arms. Low gentle voices. My hand on soft fur. I’m home; the dream was gone, for now.
“Birdie, come back now, it’s safe.” I felt my head raised and rested on a muscular knee and a large hand running through my hair gently. Baba?
My eyes opened to look into the concerned sea foam-colored eyes of my mother.
‘Mama? Baba? You are ok? Is Zephyr ok?”
“Shhhhhhhhh…” the lower voice of Baba was soothing, “Birdie, everyone is fine. We heard you in distress and came to check on you. It must be a very bad dream, Little Bird.”
Mama patted my burning face and sweat drenched hair with her cool cloth.
“There now, you are safe, Honey. It’s ok.” She raised her eyebrows at me. Though if your eyes weren’t already teary, I would give you a few tears for having that sword in bed with you after we had that conversation about it.” She gave me the LOOK. Baba had a LOOK, so did Mama.
“The sword was with me in my dream,” I said sheepishly, “It did help, Mama.”
“I believe Little Bird,” Baba Xe’s low voice rumbled with authority, “that it is time for you to tell us about your dreams.”
To be continued
Written by Birdie on her 13th winter
My Baba’s shoulder
Will hold my head
When strength is needed
When life is dangerous
The Warrior’s sword
Protects with love
I lay me down
In her safe arms
And close my eyes
On Baba’s shoulder
On Mama’s shoulder
Soft tears are shed
When strength is needed
When life is painful
The Poet’s soul
Protects with love
My heart is safe
In gentle hands
And tears may fall
On Mama’s shoulder.
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