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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am Robin
Of the Warrior
And the Bard
Gabrielle awakened the next morning and lingered a bit longer in the bed; they had sat with Birdie until very late, listening to the narrative of her nightmare. The bard cast a glance to her right and noted that the sky blue eyes were wide open and staring at the ceiling.
“Have you been awake long?” she caressed the dark tresses with the back of her hand.
“I don’t believe that sleep ever came to me,” was the haunted answer, “Gods be damned, Gabrielle, I wanted that chapter of our lives to be completed and banished forever, and Minotaur shite if it doesn’t keep reappearing time and time again! I feel like a turtle dumped on its back, kicking helplessly, FURIOUSLY.” The Conqueror covered her face with her hands in frustration.
Silent tears ran down the sides of her head into her pale hair as Gabrielle lay quietly by her soul mate glaring hard into the ceiling-imploring it for answers.
“Xena, have we done something terribly wrong?” There was a tremor in her voice.
Her warrior rose to an elbow and looked down at her concerned, “What do you mean by ‘something terribly wrong’ Gabrielle?”
The kindly bard didn’t move and the continued river of tears pooled and made wet spots on her pillow on either side of her head.
“We work for the greater good; we do our best to help those in need ; we protect those we love, and everyone else we are able to protect, and yet this evil, this demon of darkness, Dahak, chooses us as his portal into the world, time and time again. Why do WE continue to be his chosen entrance?”
The Conqueror knew there was no simple answer for this, the most complicated reoccurring aspect of their lives. She slid her strong arm and shoulder under her soul-mate’s head and neck, to help hold the weight of the thoughts pressing on the sensitive bard’s mind.
“I wish I had an explanation for you Gabrielle,” her low voice sighed. “But I do not believe that we have done anything wrong. Perhaps the situation just never really ended all those years ago when I became so obsessed with defeating Caesar that I forgot to look out for you. Khrafstar’s cult was able then to take advantage of your trust, your blood innocence, and to use you—mind and body. Certainly that was the worst mistake of my life—and..”
The Bard’s gentle finger touched her lips.
“Xena, my love, my life. There is no reason for us to drag ourselves back over those fiery nails is there? We know the story; it is petrified water under the bridge, love. Leave it. I think that perhaps Dahak is like a snake that will seek till it finds a crack in the stone bridge wall and then use it to enter. It may have nothing to do with how we are behaving. Regardless, I believe that Birdie is the latest crack, and I don’t know if I can survive watching her being victimized by Dahak. I WILL NOT give him another child.”
A sob escaped; she clamped her hand over her mouth to capture it
The warrior leaned over the small Amazon Queen and held her as tightly as she could, feeling the sobs shake her soul mate’s body.
“Gabrielle, I know I can’t stand it.” She whispered. “I just don’t know what to do.”
For The Conqueror found herself in similar shape. The bard’s arms reached up and encircled the dark headed woman with strength. Eventually, the near panic of the pair quieted, and they found the peace and power that their love had always built bit by bit for whatever seemingly impossible situation was given to them.
The warrior leaned back on her elbow again. Verdigris eyes met azure and the plan was known almost without words.
“We will just have to love her and guide her through it,” the bard whispered. “There is no map to follow, Xena. We must be united in our support and our protection of her.”
“Do not worry about that, Gabrielle,” sighed the Conqueror. “I learned those lessons years ago.”
“What I hate is that we will just have to wait and watch for his moves.”
“Yes. I hate that as well, but there is no other course. We must wait and watch---carefully.”
“I’m not allowed to use my new sword?” My voice was carefully controlled. Even if one is a new adolescent, one is careful about one’s “attitude” with the Conqueror.
“Not just yet,” She handed me an old wooden sword thing, of similar shape to my new sword, and actually very close to the weight.
She smiled, “Put the new one down, Birdie.”
I sighed and walked over to the edge of the field slipping the scabbard over my head and placing it carefully in the soft grass.
“Watch it for me, Zephyr.” The fox lay down with a careful eye on my prize.
“Birdie, we know that you have an abundance of natural talent with a sword, so we are going to begin to work on the aspects of sword fighting that do not come quite so easily for you.”
I frowned at her, “Such as?”
Hadn’t ever given it much thought.
“BREATHING? Don’t I breathe, Baba?”
She laughed. “Not ordinary breathing, Birdie, CONTROLLED breathing. Such as when you practice yoga and meditation with Mama G.”
“Oh. What does that have to do with sword fighting?”
“Everything. Allow me. Stand here with your practice sword in the position of ‘Namaste’.”
“Namaste it is, Baba Xe.”
And next I felt the back handed smack of the flat of her wooden sword across my butt as she landed the front flip behind me and bounced away grinning.
I charged her with an overhand swing; she caught it easily and flipped me back. I did anticipate that move however,and returned the counter swing to tap her leg on the side.
“Not bad, kiddo.”
She leaped into the air twirling in a spin which landed another smack on me.
She stood twirling the sword as if it were a dinner knife.
She laughed again.
“Now, be ready!”
She came at me full out then ; I blocked the overhead, parried from the right, the left, the upswing, a circular, jumped over a low slash at my feet, and managed a front flip of my own, which carried me over her entirely; I threw my sword backwards in time to block her downswing without watching, then turned and blocked two more sides and one right at my head which I ducked, another circular swing, a diagonal slash, and then collapsed to my knees.
The Conqueror walked over to me, took me by the collar, hauled me to my feet and listened to me gasping for air.
“Not bad; catch your breath, “she said calmly.
I leaned over slightly putting my hands on my knees to study the ground, utterly spent. I was immediately straightened by a third good smack of the wooden sword to my backside. It occurred to me at that moment that Baba Xe had neither broken a sweat nor altered her slow and steady breath.
“Birdie, if you control your breathing you can fight forever. “
The Conqueror’s iceberg eyes gentled when they fell on me.
What else could I do but stand in front of her, hands in prayer position, head bowed.
Namaste, the divine in me honors the divine in you, Baba Xe.
The teacher has taught; the student has learned.
Cyrene looked up from her mixing bowl when Gabrielle entered the large, well-appointed, inn kitchen which was the older woman’s domain.
“What brings my favorite fair-haired daughter to visit this morning?” She wiped off her hands and came immediately to take the bard by the shoulders.
“You look exhausted, child; tell me- what is it?”
The gruff and kindly innkeeper pulled the young woman whom she considered her own down into a chair at the table and put a mug of warm tea into her hands, allowing only a moment to pass before she joined her.
“Now, tell me.” Attention fully focused.
The bard spoke into her tea.
“We need to ask an enormous favor of you, Mother Cyrene.” She didn’t look up.
Cyrene’s hand moved across the table and clutched the poet’s; both hands were thin and strong, no ladylike softness there.
“Whatever it is, I will do it, Gabrielle.”
“We need for you to tell Birdie our story of Dahak.”
Cyrene was startled, but she rallied, “Of course I will honey, if I must. May I ask wh…….oh gods, Gabrielle?”
Her voice lowered; her eyes widened; she sat back in the chair.
Tears fell from the Bard’s lashes, but she still would not meet the innkeeper’s eyes.
“We believe that he is trying to find a way ‘in’ again. Birdie is having a nightmare which is a near dead ringer for the funeral we conducted for Solon and Hope, only…” her voice drifted….” Only Dahak is there too, Mother Cyrene, and Birdie knows NOTHING of that history, Mother Cyrene, NOTHING!”
The resolve broke and she leaned forward into Cyrene’s shoulder.
The older woman stroked the blond head.
She pushed her daughter’s head back to look at her directly,” Know you now that I will do whatever it takes to protect ALL of you. Whatever it takes, Gabrielle.”
She wiped the tears falling from the green eyes with her sturdy thumbs.
Gabrielle smiled a little and sniffed a lot.
“That is a comfort, Mother Cyrene. We don’t want you to tell Birdie every ghastly detail. But she needs to know some of the story and neither Xena nor I can bear to tell her; and I am not sure we would know how just WHAT to tell her. But we agreed that we trusted you to tell her the kindest, fairest, most objective account. I know that it’s a lot of responsibility to place on you Cyrene, but..”
Cyrene’s part in this new chapter became crystal clear to her at that moment. “I am honored by your trust.” She spoke in a rock calm voice, “ If you can give me a little idea of what you need for me to tell the child, I will do it for Birdie and for you.”
Hard hot earth slammed into my back, but I managed to bring my sword between my neck, his wicked saber, and his fetid breath. Greasy saliva dripped in my face.
Think! Think through the revolted lurching in my gut. I rolled up my knees and feet than thrust them into his crotch and focusing all my power, flipped him over my head and onto his back which bought me a moment or two.
Scrambling to my feet, I readied my sword knowing that my time was limited; he was much heavier; he would recover quickly and without injury. I tried to regulate my breathing—slow, in and out controlled, the same, no matter how many times he slashed at me.
We fought in an arena of dead livestock- stacked four and five deep. All of the animals had their bellies slashed open revealing cavernous interiors.
At opposite ends of the heap eyes locked were the boy and the girl from the previous dream. I could make no sense of the surroundings at all except to speculate that the man/beast thing with the demonic amber eyes and horns had eaten the livestock innards, and he meant to put me on the menu. It seemed that the other children should help me, but they remained uninvolved.
He came at me hard; I met him by kicking a boot into his gut, and this time gained the leverage to flip over him with a twist and slash a cut into his back as I landed. He shrieked as if the demons in the underworld should hear him and exploded in a red mist which splashed into my face drenching my senses with the coppery smell of blood.
I jerked wide awake, panting, sweating, but whole in my bed without waking the entire fortress. Zephyr was giving me a very concerned look.
“I’m ok, girl,” she nuzzled her head under my trembling hand, while I caught my breath.
” Wish these gods be damned dreams would stop Zephyr; I can barely recall what complete night’s sleep was like, my friend.”
She continued to look at me.
“Zephyr,” I looked down. My sword was in my bed again. There was blood on it.
I recoiled, nearly climbing the wall in horror. My fox was immediately in the bed with me licking my hand and then my face—the best way she could give me comfort. She sat by me until I could calm down.
“OOO, oooooooo brother.. This is trouble, Zephyr, real trouble.”
There wasn’t a lot of blood on the sword; I carried it to my wash basin and rinsed it off. But there were a few blotches on the sheets. The fox just looked at me.
“Zephyr, What am I going to do?”
“There now,” my mother left the bundle on the mattress when she carried out the sheets.
“You can try out any of those supplies, and let me know what works for you. There is also that handy little item that your Baba invented for the days we were out in the field or in battle. You might come to prefer those over all others; she and I do—they are so much less trouble—just an absorbent little rolled up plug thing with a string, but they work very well. “
She gave me one of those sad/happy motherly little smiles that mothers give you when you do something wonderful and grown up, and you don’t have the foggiest idea what that is.
“My little girl becomes a woman. Wow. Let me know if you have cramps, Birdie or if you feel bad. We have a whole line of teas for that. Just lie down for awhile now Honey..”
I turned over on my side, and she pulled the covers over me.
“Nap a little and stay relaxed. The first day is the worst. You will feel better tomorrow as you begin to accept the changes your body is going through.” She looked far away.
“I remember… but you don’t want to hear that now, do you? Just take a little nap, Birdie.”
I watched her leave; the deception of my mother tortured me. She had made assumptions, true, but I had not corrected her. However, what ACTUAL information had I with which to correct her ? Zephyr gave me a reproachful look.
“Well what would you have done, Zephyr? Said, ‘oh mama I had this bloody awful nightmare, and when I woke, guess what, there was blood?’ I don’t think so, missy- know- it- all- foxy.”
Zephyr lay her head back down beside me. I stared into her fur, rubbing it hard.
“Girl, if only you could answer me.”
“Take a walk with me, Grandbirdie,” my grandmother extended her hand late that afternoon.
I had been headed to the stable to talk to Hades; he must have been feeling neglected lately, but something told me to go with Grandba
,”May Zephyr come?”
“Of course, Grandbirdie, “ I caught up with her and we took the stone path that cut through her famous rose garden behind the kitchen and wound itself around and through a grove of oaks out to the practice fields. She walked quietly with her head down watching the stones in a manner which I had come to associate with serious conversation on the horizon. Finally, I put my arm through hers and offered,
“What is it, Grandba? Have I done something wrong?”
She squeezed my arm next to her, “No Birdie child, no. I have a story to tell you and I am simply struggling for the right words.”
“Well,” I told her, “Mama G always says to ‘speak from the heart.’ Baba Xe says to ‘spill it’.”
Grandba laughed, “A more perfect portrait of your parents has never been painted in words,” she chuckled, “I will do some of both, Birdie, but I want you to listen with your heart, all right?”
She dropped our arm link and grasped my hand; I felt concerned as my Grandba was seldom at a loss for words. Zephyr pacing beside me had worry in her deep eyes.
“Birdie, your Mama G and your Baba Xe had children before they had you.”
“I know that Grandba, but I know nothing about them, I know only that they never speak of them,” my words were soft and I clutched her hand tightly; the timbre of the conversation was making me very uneasy.
“Yes, it was a dark time for them. Your Baba Xe had a son when she rode as a Warlord. His name was Solon. Solon didn’t know that Xena was his mother. She never told him, because she felt it might have endangered his life; Xena the Destroyer of Nations had many enemies who would have used him against her somehow or even killed him. So she left Solon to be raised by a tribe of centaurs whom she trusted, and he grew strong and brave. She was very proud of him.”
I remained silent walking, listening, and my hand brushing Zephyr.
“Your Mama G had no such pleasant experience, Birdie. Her innocence—her blood innocence and her bodily innocence were taken by a wicked cult searching for a person just like her to sacrifice in order to bring a force of evil they worshipped into this world. They deceived her and they succeeded. Gabrielle was impregnated by the personification of the evil force—the demon Dahak, and Xena delivered the little girl within two days. Your Mama G named her Hope, for the hope she had of recovering from her terrible ordeal. But Hope was not good, Birdie; she was the spawn of evil, and not even Gabrielle’s love could cure her.”
What a terrible thing my parents had been through. I thought of the calm steady courage of my Baba Xe, and the gentle unconditional love of my Mama G, and it pained me to think of them suffering this personal trial. It brought tears to my eyes.. I squeezed my Grandba’s hand.
Grandba took a very deep breath. “Are you able to hear the worst of it, Birdie?”
I stopped and looked at her taking both of her hands in mine,” How can it be worse, Grandba?”
She led me to a stone bench in the garden, sat down and looked at me.
“Birdie, dear child….Hope and Solon were directly and indirectly responsible -each for the death of the other.”
I said nothing, but allowed it to settle in. It was as if someone had hit me in the stomach with a board. No wonder my parents never spoke of them. They who might have been an older brother and sister to me-- dead because of each other.
Grandba was speaking again,” It’s a more complicated story than that, Birdie, but it’s all you need to know at this point. It created an emotional abyss between your Mama and Baba for awhile, but they were able to work through it and come round to each other stronger than ever. The price was very high, Birdie, but their love was more than equal to it. And that is what you must remember.”
There were no words for my feelings at that moment. It was mind boggling. That children played an unhappy part in their past, was known to me, but I had no idea. My eyes were on the ground, and I said what I was thinking,
“They must be rather disappointed in me, huh, Grandba?”
She took my face in her hands,” Now why would you say such a thing, Grandbirdie?”
“Well, I’m not a son, they didn’t name me Hope, and I give them a good deal of trouble sometimes.”
Grandba rose to her feet and extended her hand once again.
As my hand joined her rough work worn hand, she began talking, “Grandbirdie, that is part of what makes you so very special.. You are both your Baba Xe and your Mama G in one child, brought forth as a gift from the gods, girl! It doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes; it doesn’t mean that you are perfect, but you fill every heart you meet Grandbirdie. Never have any doubt of that.”
She was quiet again, and I felt that I must ask.
“Grandba, why did you tell me this?”
She sighed and then spoke very casually, “It’s Dahak, Birdie. We think that he is trying to return to our world again, through your nightmares and perhaps through you.”
The world began to spin, “Grandba, “my voice shook so badly, the words would hardly form.
“Tell me if I am correct in my descriptions; Solon had longish blond hair and blue eyes like Baba; Hope had rather reddish blond hair and green eyes like Mama’s, am I right?”
She was quiet a moment before she answered slowly, “Yes, Birdie.”
I made it to a rosebush before everything I had eaten that day came back up. I was on my knees retching helplessly; Grandba came to me calm and collected. Even in my wretched state, I considered that perhaps Baba must have inherited some of those qualities from Grandba.
“Sorry about the bush, Grandba; it was sudden.”
I stammered, dripping, leaning over. Her cool hand lay on my forehead, holding me steady, and she produced a hankie from the place grandmothers always have hankies --to wipe my face.
“It’s quite alright, Grandbirdie; I should have expected it.” Her voice was low and soothing, “feeling better?”
She put her arm around me and we made our way back to the kitchen. Zephyr licked my hand, and I gave her a pat, “I’m ok, girl.”
“So what shall I do, Grandba?”
“I don’t know Birdie,” we walked into the kitchen and she began to prepare a stomach settling mint tea for me.
“You will need to chat with your parents about this. It will be easier on all of you since now they know that you have the background.”
“I wonder why they couldn’t tell me themselves, Grandba, not that you weren’t fine to tell me.”
“It was just too painful for them Birdie; it was a horrible time for them; they hate to speak of it.”
“Ok.” There was nothing but to accept that. Perhaps it was too painful for them to speak of even to me.
My sword flashed and slashed, this time fighting the two children who also had swords, but neither was very good with the weapons. By practicing my breathing, I was able to fight them both at the same time. The blonde boy had the completely black eyes, and the girl had not only had the black eyes, but also a set of the long curved horns atop her head.
The demon Dahak was standing behind, chewing on a bloody leg of pork and laughing. The knowledge was given to me that I would have to slay both children to get to Dahak. So I fought using all of the techniques I knew—the flips and parries, all of my agility.
Then the girl, Hope, killed the boy, Solon. She simply ran at him when he wasn’t looking and impaled him with her horn.
While she was distracted by her kill, I leaped into the air with a spinning slice and took her horns and then her head. I looked at my sword expecting blood, but there was none. The children had been mere apparitions- shades- non realities.
That left me facing Dahak. His glowing amber eyes petrified me; his fangs dripped a substance that sizzled on the ground. He threw back his horned head and began to laugh at me,
” SO ROBIN CAN KILL! Just like her parents; just like her mother.”
His voice sounded like thousands of voices,
“ SHE IS NO BETTER THAN ALL THE REST OF THEM. I will have her blood innocence. THIS SHALL BE ---child’s play.”
I came awake with a gasp of breath, in my mother’s arms -- safe for the moment.
“Mama, did I wake you; did I make noise?” trying to regulate my breathing again; it felt good to snuggle into her chest and allow her to rock me back and forth comfortingly as if I were four instead of someone old enough to learn sword craft.
“No, no noise, Birdie I awakened and sensed your distress so I came and found you tumbled clear out of your bed and into the floor.”
Her presence eased my hard breathing, and I began to relax in her reality.
“Yes, Mama.” The dream was beginning to recede. I leaned back into her shoulder.
“You need to tell me about this.”
Keeping me in one arm, she reached to her side, and brought forth my newly bloodied sword.
In the end, there is always only the truth.
“Mama, I honestly do not know how that is happening.”
“Honestly. If I did, I would tell you.”
In my dream I had slain apparitions; there should be no blood.
She was silent for a moment.
“I believe you Birdie.”
Then the door opened and Baba Xe entered with thunder clouds in her eyes.
It was then that other noise became apparent to me, a muffled roar--people below my window talking, shouting, a small mob sounding very upset. I had no idea about what; the convergence of an angry mob did not often occur under the government of the Conqueror and Amazon Queen.
“Birdie, front and center,” Baba Xe commanded in the Conqueror’s voice. I left my mother’s arms immediately and stood before her.
“I need to ask you some questions, and I need for you to tell me the truth.”
“Yes, I will My Lady,” I was frightened, but resolved to bring no more shame than was already visited upon my parents.
“Birdie,” she leveled those icy blues that boded bad times for liars. “Give me your sword.”
I turned around, “Mama,” she handed it to me, almost reluctantly. I in turn surrendered it to Baba Xe, who appraised it, taking in the blood.
“Can you explain the blood, Birdie?”
“No Baba, I cannot.”
I wondered what would happen to me. This was the Conqueror I was facing, not just my Baba. Would she have me imprisoned or whipped? In this situation, I could expect no favors. My head was bowed and my knees shook.
She stood looking at my sword in her hands, the sword she had made for me; the one that I had promised would bring her no shame. Well it hadn’t taken me long to break that promise. I felt her eyes slicing into the top of my head trying to read my soul. Then she turned and left.
My mother was there as I sagged.
“It’s ok, Birdie, “she whispered, “She believes you.”
“How can you tell, Mama?” I leaned my head back against hers.
“You forget that I have known her a very long time.”
Outside, I heard my Baba Xe’s voice in the tone of command.
“My friends. You are upset because of the slaughter of your livestock. I understand. I will look into this problem and take care of it very soon. Until then you must trust me as you always have.”
There was a bit of muttering.
That was a word they didn’t often hear from their leader. The group disbanded and shuffled away. Inside I could hear heavy boot steps clonking around and further loud voices. It then sounded as if someone pounded a table.
“Toris, I don’t care what the evidence is, I will not just hand my kid to a lynch mob. What is the MATTER with you? Since when did family take a back seat to live stock?”
I could hear the deeper voice of my uncle, and then, “Because I am the Conqueror, that is why!”
And then a door slammed.
The jingle of her boot buckles ascending the stairs made me uneasy, even though she had just turned away an entire lynch mob who wanted my head.
Perhaps they might have been easier to face. She came into my room where I remained standing and sat down on the loveseat.
“C’mere, Birdie,” she said almost gently. I walked over, as did my mother, joining Baba on the red couch. I stood in front of them.
“We must talk Little Girl.”
“Baba..” my voice was shaking.
“Birdie, sit down.”
I dropped to the floor. Zephyr came and put her head in my lap. Stroking her head helped me talk.
“I have been having nightmares for some time now.”
“Birdie, some of those people reported seeing you in their fields killing their livestock in the middle of the night or dark hours of the morning. They report that you are in some kind of berserker combat mode.”
I was completely bewildered.
“If that is the case, I am sleepwalking, Baba, for I have no awareness of it.”
I buried my head in Zephyr’s fur retching as realization hit me,
“It explains the blood, doesn’t it, Baba? How many have I killed?”
“Yes Little Bird, it does; and dozens, I am afraid.”
This time I made it to my chamber pot before becoming ill.
“Gods, Baba, Mama.” The tears ran down my face; some kind of disgusting mucus was dripping from every orifice in my head.
I curled up on the rug. Zephyr curled up beside me.
“How can this be happening? Baba? Mama?”
“The only explanation is Dahak.” Baba stretched back with her hands locked around a knee. We must find a way for you to destroy Dahak. We must train you to fight him on the spiritual plane. And I am sorry Little Bird, but we may need to bind you and keep watch over you at night until we do.”
What was there for me to say?
“Mama, Baba—I trust you.”
My sword is small
My scabbard new,
My fox is fierce
My heart is true.
If the demons come
To take the light,
If the fortress fails
To stay the night.
I will fight the dark
With all my might,
Still I am only
To be continued
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