Birdie’s Song III The Nightmare part 3 (see earlier stories for disclaimers, etc.)
I am Robin
Of the Warrior
And the Bard.
I flashed my very best “pitiful eyes” to my mother,
She snorted and flicked my bangs playfully,
“No Sword. No Discussion.”
Her volume gentled, “Besides, Birdie, your Baba and I will be right here. You will not need your sword so close. Right Baba Xe?”
“Absolutely,” the lower voice assured me as the Conqueror of all the lands we see tucked me under the sheets so tightly we were like parts of a bed sandwich.
“Now. Sleep.” It was an order.
Worth the risk.
… “No story? No song?”
“Biiirrrdddiieeee….” A sigh.
“Please? How often do I have both of you here with me at bedtime unless I’m sick? And remember, I am growing up very quickly, and might not even want to ASK for this in a few years.”
Two versions of THE LOOK were catapulted in my direction. I hid behind the covers and tried one more sweetened request.
“Please? I promise to go to sleep ever so fast.” Very best big blues.
Zephyr snuggled up and put her nose on my belly, adding her soulful eyes to the show.
The bard looked at the warrior.
“Think we can still do it?”
The warrior cleared her throat and sounded a deep resonating hummmmm. She smiled at the bard.
I put my hand on Zephyr’s head.
“You listen now, girl, “
My whisper was soft so as not to break the kindling magic, “this is my favorite thing in the whole wide world.”
The Bard looked away a moment and then directly into the Warrior’s eyes to speak,
“The sun lies down to rest..”
Her words were crooned in the warrior’s deep alto voice, as the bard spoke the next line,
“The birds fly home to nest..”
Immediately the words became song..
“The moon knows it’s her time..”
A slight melodic rise on the word it’s, and fall on time.
“To sail the sky and shine..”
My parents were in such perfect alignment with each other—such perfect harmony--
“The little stars sparkle bright..”
The bard spoke the words; the warrior sang the words, and a lullaby was born.
“in wakeful children’s eyes…”
in a rich and soothing voice that few people knew the Conqueror possessed.
“But when gentle night falls deep…”
And ever since I had been a baby, I had been the one and only receiver of these lovingly woven lullabies.
“All little birdies sleep….”
“She’s out, like a little campfire in the rain; so is Zephyr.”
“It’s never failed, no matter how tired or sick or upset she is.”
“Well, it’s a beautiful voice you have Big Warrior.”
“Hmmmmm… I believe it’s been enriched by being desperately in love with a poet.”
“Xena, you are nuzzling me in that way.”
“Xena, should we in here?
“Oh but we are GOOD.. So quick.. so quiet.”
“You devil warrior you…”
“Well, Gabrielle, all holy Hades may break loose later. We might as well relax a little while if we can. “
“You’re convincing me… .”
“I have so doggone many talents.”
“Come to me little one,”
The horned demon beckoned to me from across the space. The carrion arena had reached a new height.
I drew my sword and approached him. We circled each other. Suddenly Mama G was between us.
“Mama, get away!” I shouted and pushed her aside slashing at the demon who produced a pig to shield himself. My sword slash disemboweled the critter and Dahak dug his claw inside and tasted the offal.
“Such a good little provider you are Birdie,” he smiled showing bloody teeth.
“You know my name?” I asked in a voice that did not sound like my own.
The blond boy appeared, far away and to the right. So did a ram. It came at me and I banged its horns with my sword making it turn toward Dahak.
“Are you Solon?”
His eyes changed from black to a familiar blue.
“You are, then; is Hope here as well?”
Solon looked over his shoulder. The smaller redhead stood behind him. Her eyes remained black.
“Silence!!!” Dahak shrieked. He charged me, wielding his sword overhead. I managed to block the blow but the intensity brought my sword down on my own head and drove me to my knees. He laughed and turned around to slash down again. I only had time to stabilize my own sword, and brush some blood from my eyes.
“Thank you for bringing the horses, Toris.”
“No problem, sis. Gab, did you learn anything by following Birdie?”
The horses plodded quietly in the moonlight.
“The poor kid is going through Hades, Toris. She is killing the animals; that’s why there has been blood on her sword and in her bed; I don’t want to even TELL her that. But it isn’t her doing; it’s Dahak’s. His shape was not quite apparent to us; it’s almost foggy. But I recognized the horns; it’s Dahak alright. But it seems that this time, he is here for Birdie.”
“How were you able to stop her, Gabrielle?”
“I am not sure exactly what happened. When I tried to intervene in her nightmare/reality, she knew me, though she was still sleepwalking. Then she was beaten in some kind of invisible sword encounter and went down with a head wound. When Xena picked her up, the head wound healed. Dahak subdues Birdie, but he cannot afford injure her badly, because he still has need of her. Xena and I are going to try to travel into the spiritual realm with Birdie next time to see if we can’t assist her in battling Dahak. He can’t handle three of us.”
The Conqueror had taken two giant strides and leapt upon Argo’s back, cradling a slumbering Birdie in her blood splattered night clothing. Gabrielle swung astride Wendy wearing Birdie’s sword and sheath. Zephyr padded over to look up at Gabrielle.
“Zephyr, would you like to ride? Wendy isn’t too tall, jump up!” She patted the saddle.
The little ebony fox jumped up across the Amazon’s lap and settled in; she was exhausted from running, watching, and worrying and was happy to accept some fur stroking. Stroking the soft fur was a quieting thing to the Bard’s spirit as well.
The trio rode silently back to Amphipolis.
“I paid the farmer for his animals.” Toris broke the silence.
“Thank you again, Toris. You have been a great help in this. I don’t who else we might have asked,” Gabrielle spoke softly.
“Glad to be of assistance,” The older brother inclined his head forward to the dark figure with the child in her arms. “She’s pretty upset, isn’t she?”
“We’re all upset, Toris. I don’t know what we are going to do.” The bard lowered her head. The moonlight caught a flash of tears.
His strong hand reached out and grabbed her shoulder, “Hey now, buck up little sis. We will find a way.”
She put her hand over his and gave him a weak smile, blinking bravely,” We will, Toris; but it’s so very hard when it’s our kid.”
“I know, “he whispered softly, “It must be excruciating. But we will be OK. That is a special kiddo you have there; think of what she has already survived. She’s a fighter, that one.”
“Thanks.” She squeezed his hand.
I awakened to the sound of birds cheeping outside the window but I was no longer in my room. Instead I was in my Mama and Baba’s bed in a completely different nightshirt, and it seemed that I was unusually CLEAN. Zephyr was curled up at the foot of the bed, and my parents were still snoozing quietly in their embrace of sleep. I slid out of the bed and moved like a breeze down the hall to my room. Zephyr’s clicky claws were soon behind me, but she woke no one.
Once inside, I slipped on my blue tunic, my laced pants, and my boots. I was running a comb through my mop of hair when the bloody nightshirt in my washbowl caught my eye. My stomach lurched. I walked over to my sword standing in the corner. Also bloody.
“Minotaur Shite, Zephyr,” I leaned my head on the wash basin before I picked up the nightshirt to clean the blood from my sword. “Now what have I done?”
“A great deal of damage in your sleep, Birdie,” the Conqueror’s deep voice turned me around to face her. “But it is Dahak’s doing and not yours.”
“So you followed me, Baba?”
“Yes, we did, Little Bird,” she walked over to me and placing a steering hand behind my head, led me to the red couch to sit.
“It wasn’t easy to keep up with you once Dahak took possession; he moves very quickly” she continued in a low calm voice, “You climbed the fortress wall like a squirrel and flew down a rope on the other side; your hands should show rope burns, See?”
She took my hands in hers palms up; my hands were scraped and burned, nearly to blood- and I wouldn’t have known the reason.
“He took you to the second farm outside Amphipolis where you began to fight some unseen foe. That is where you began some evisceration of animals. “
I swayed a little on the seat, but her hand locked on the back of my neck.
“It is NOT YOU, BIRDIE. KNOW THAT.”
She was very firm, piercing my eyes with hers.
I took hold.
“I am guessing, at this point, that you are the tool by which he feeds. When he is on this plane of existence, he cannot kill for himself, and therefore must have you kill for him, to provide his disgusting diet of animal offal and entrails. I suppose he is working to gain a certain amount of physical strength.”
“I am sick.”
“Ok, Little Bird.”
Chamber pot again. Zephyr licked my face.
When I finished, she suggested we go to clean the various dishes in my room. I was happy to go outside. I carried the chamber pot and she gathered my wash basin and bloody nightshirt.
On the stairs, we met my mother.
It was difficult to face her, “Morning Mama G.”
She lifted my chin, “Morning Little Bird. Going out to do some washing? Mind if I come?” I shook my head.
The latrine was a tidy simple shed near a clear stream perhaps one hundred steps from the fortress. I dumped my barfings down the hole and brought my little pot around to the stream to clean it. Baba was working on my basin and Mama was scrubbing the blood from my nightshirt. Zephyr sat on the bank watching the operation.
“So,” Mama said in a very low, very casual tone, “you did not begin your moon cycles, did you, Birdie?”
“No, Mama G, I did not.”
My guilt was extreme, but so was my relief, that she should now know the truth.
“But I didn’t know how to tell you the other.”
My eyes did not look toward hers. Zephyr bumped me with her nose as if to say, “Told you.”
“Well, shall we save small issues till later?”
She put a hand, cool and damp from the stream on the back of my neck and into my hair.
“Dahak is the bigger danger.”
My sigh and relief were deep.
The next voice was Baba’s, “Your lessons in fighting, Little Bird are going to accelerate a good bit more than you bargained for. We must teach you to fight and defeat Dahak in the spiritual realm. But the next time you venture there, you are not going alone.”
I stood before both of them with my clean chamber pot as if it were the primary weapon, “I’m in your hands, Baba Xe.”
“How was today’s lesson?” the Bard looked up from her journal as her soul mate entered the room.
“She’s much better at controlling her breathing now,” chuckled the Warrior, “Now that I have convinced her it’s the key to longevity in a sword fight. We worked on balance and timing today; both of those factors come much more naturally to Birdie than breathing correctly. Breathing takes patience and focus; Birdie is a little short in both of those areas, but she is young, and it’s only natural.”
“What did you do today? Did you put her through some of those horrible drills you used to torture me years ago?” The Bard shook her head at her own memories returning.
“Yes, I did, “The Conqueror smiled as she landed on the bed beside her lover. “I put her up on that narrow beam out in the practice field and made her fight me from that point. Poor kid, she only fell off about twelve times. I took pity on her and caught her twice.”
“Evil Baba,” a cuff in the stomach.
“Then, I made her ‘read’ me for the other half of the lesson. Gave her only a shield, no sword. She had to read me through about fifty attacks from a standing position. I stood, I attacked, she blocked. Stand, attack, block. Stand, attack, block. Over and over and over. She improved after the first twenty attacks. But I wore the kid out.”
“Xena,” a sigh.
“Gabrielle, THIS HAS TO BE DONE. You forget BIRDIE MUST BE A WARRIOR as well as a poet. I know that you don’t like it; I myself wish it could be another way. But Birdie MUST be able to defend herself and to defeat her enemy if that is what is required of her. Dahak is coming for her. If for some reason we are unable to enter the spiritual realm with her to help her face Dahak, she must be prepared to face him on her own!”
The Conqueror’s tension had coiled like an angry serpent, and then it seemed to collapse.
Gabrielle propped herself up to look at her soul mate.
“Xena, I know that, love, “she spoke gently, sparing a finger to catch
the single tear escaping the sapphire eye.
“And I have absolute faith that our child will be ready to defeat whatever Dahak brings. I have absolute faith, Birdie is being trained by the best teacher she could have.”
“We can only hope,” the warrior spoke softly,” I have a terrible fear that whatever we do, it will not be enough.”
“Why do you feel that way,” the bard took her by the shoulders in a near panic, “Xena! Tell me! Why do you feel that way?”
The sky blue orbs met hers, “I see you have the same fear, Gabrielle.”
The forest eyes lowered.
“I do, Xena.”
“So why don’t you answer the question?”
There was a pause.
“I feel that whatever we do will not be enough,”
“Because it wasn’t enough…. before.”
The Conqueror reached for her soul mate pulling her down so that they faced each other on the bed and laced her hands behind the bard’s neck.
“Gabrielle,” she said softly,” Dahak nearly took us from each other the first time, and he DID take both….”
“He took both of our children.”
She closed her eyes.
Gabrielle scooted over and snuggled in; the powerful arms enfolded her tenderly. The Warrior spoke once more.
“By the Gods, Gabrielle; Dahak will not take our Birdie.”
The Demon waited for me; the boy and the girl flanked him left and right, with flames between. I knew now from my Grandba’s story that they must be Solon and Hope. It was my logic that they should be willing to help me if they knew who I was. But they didn’t, and that became my mission this time, to make them know me. As I ran to both meet and avoid the demon, I presented my case to my somewhat siblings,
“Solon, son of Xena, if the blood of the Warrior Princess does run in you, will you not help me to defeat this demon?’
His black eyes cleared for a moment. “Who are you?” His voice had a hollow otherworldly quality to it.
“I am Robin of the Warrior and Bard.” He kept walking toward me.
“Why should I care and what is gained for me if I help you, Robin of the Warrior?”
“I shall tell our mother and she would be proud.”
He stopped and considered this; the black eyes became blue.
Dahak was engaging me by this time. I jumped up avoiding the low swing of his saber and then met his mid slash driving it to the ground. I immediately came back up in a slice that took one horn from his ugly head. He staggered away howling. My drills with Baba Xe had increased my strength. The opportunity to address the girl was very brief.
“Hope, daughter of Gabrielle, if the blood of the Bard of Potidaea runs in you, will you not help me?”
Her voice carried the same otherworldly quality as Solon’s but it had a deeper lonelier timbre to it, as if the wind moaned her words for her. She was a small girl.
“Why should I care, and what is gained for me if I should help you, Robin of the Bard?”
“I would tell our mother that there was good in you after all, and it would heal part of her broken heart.”
She stopped to consider this, and I fancied a greenish hue showed momentarily over the black in her effervescent eyes.
I felt the heat at my back, turned and slashed just at the moment to take Dahak’s second horn from his head. He fell to his knees with a shrieking howl that stirred the whirlwinds blowing and I was pulled and then pushed back into the howling vortex..
Into my bedroom, and into my own bed. Zephyr lay with her head on my stomach.
“Zephyr, where is my sword, is there blood?” The bindings had held. My wrists were rubbed nearly to blood in the leather straps going from my bed posts to my wrists. I looked across the room at my sword.
No blood. Thank the gods. No livestock slaughter tonight.
“Zephyr, will you go and fetch Mama or Baba to unbind me please?”
Well, at least we were beginning to understand who and what the enemy was. Something and someone inside and outside the realm of the ordinary. I was to blame and not to blame. Perhaps with the aide of The Warrior and the Bard, I could find a way to defeat this evil. But I knew deep down inside, that my parents had fought this force before and yet it returned. If it were to be defeated once and for all, it was up to me. Where that feeling came from, I couldn’t say, but it was very strong. The final defeat of Dahak was up to me.
I danced on the balls of my feet a little trying to find courage.
“Baba, you need to come at me with all you have, I guess,”
“Birdie, there is no guessing.”
My head dropped, “Sorry, I feel woefully inexperienced at this.”
She placed her hand on my shoulder.
“And that is why we will stay with the wooden swords just a while longer, Little Bird”
Silence from me.
A little slap to my backside with the sword.
“Look at me.”
“You are Robin of the WARRIOR and the Bard right now. You must think WARRIOR, Birdie. You hear me?”
“Yes, My Lady.”
“Good. Now. Do the flying flip shot again.”
We stepped back four strides and ran toward each other. When she raised her sword, I slashed it to the ground and took a step leap kick from both of our hilts. She grabbed me right out of the air and set me firmly in front of her. Her eyes flashed blue sparks.
“You must go much higher, Birdie.”
“Yes, My Lady.”
“You must believe that you can fly, Birdie.”
“Yes, My Lady.”
“There are no limits except those a warrior places on herself.” She put her finger to my forehead.
“Yes, My Lady.”
“Now FLY, ROBIN OF THE WARRIOR!”
Four strides back.. The wooden Tide slashed, I met it and drove it to the ground, slammed my boot on the hilts, and----- flew—above---!
I landed behind her and gave her a light swat in the backside with my “pirate’s sword”, as I had named it.
She turned around slowly and raised her eyebrow.
“Good job, Little Bird.”
“Thank you, Baba.”
She yanked me under her arm roughly and kissed my hair. It felt like a blessing.
I would take Dahak now.
It was not an unfamiliar story; they had told me the tale of Mama G going to fight Alti, and the ritual she had gone through to attain the spirit world. It was not a voyage I had wanted to take personally anytime soon. But there was no choice; I had to try.
Finally I loosed the arrow and it flew straight to its mark in the heart of the deer.
Baba Xe did the butchering and drained the amount of blood needed for the ritual. Mama G was having trouble with it too, I could see it in her eyes; — many difficult memories for her.
They painted the deer’s blood patterns on my cheeks and forehead; I even managed to sip some without losing my guts. As the “present realm” began to fade, they eased me down on the blankets.
“Take the chakram.” Baba handed it to me with a slight smile.
“Chakram? No chakrams here.”
I picked up the joke woozily. About two seasons ago I had “experimented” with the chakram, sans permission or supervision. (It was temporary insanity.)
When Baba and I left the armory after dealing with that little mistake, it had become my habit to remark, “Chakram? No chakrams here,” any time that particular weapon was mentioned.
It became a family joke.
I didn’t need to see that chakram again until I was at least eighteen winters old.
Bring in all the demons you want. No chakrams here.
“Appreciate it, Baba, but this has to be just me, my sword, and maybe Zephyr.” I reached over and slapped a bit of deer blood on the fox’s nose, to her displeasure.
“Birdie.” My mother was troubled; I squeezed her hand.
“Birdie just have a look around; take note of the layout then,” were my battle teacher’s instructions, “Do not try to engage him this time.”
“I may not have a choice Baba.”
My mother’s eyes were clear marsh grass as I was sucked away… into a vortex between planes of the real world and the spiritual dream-like place where a demon waited for me.
“Should we have told her?” Gabrielle took the three fingers of blood and dragged them across each cheek and her forehead.
“No, because then she would have been distracted watching for us to appear. I have worked too hard with Birdie on FOCUS to become the very thing that ruins it when she needs it most.”
The Bard decorated her Warrior’s face in like fashion. She then locked eyes with Xena as she drank from the hind’s blood and prepared for the disorienting journey from the corporeal to the spiritual realm. Xena finished the ladle of blood and set it aside. The couple whose previous journeys to this land were made at great cost joined hands and drew strength of character, heart and soul from each other to join their daughter in this latest challenge from the dark forces. Eyes remained locked as the tingling and vertigo began. The grip of hands tightened.
And then. nothing.
Nothing at all.
Something kept them from making the passage with Birdie. Xena rose and threw the chakram with a fury that caused the weapon to slice through three trees before it returned to her hand. Gabrielle only buried her face in her hands and wept.
If they were Solon and Hope; why would they not help me? If this were truly a battle between good or evil, they should be more inclined to help me. But they knew nothing of me. As I approached the demon, I presented my case to my siblings once again.
“Solon, son of Xena, if the blood of the Warrior Princess does run in you, will you not help me to defeat this demon that damns us all?”
His black eyes cleared for a moment to a sapphire blue.
“You do know my mother?” he said, and his voice echoed as from a mountain valley.
“I do, Solon; she is my parent as well.” His eyes met mine and this time accepted the truth of my statement.
“Who are you?” it was a simple question.
“As I told you before, I am Robin of the Warrior; I am your sister.”
The simple answer.
The girl, Hope was chuckling in a voice that was not a little girl’s.
“Ah, Robin of the Warrior and the BARD, you grace us with your honorable presence at last,” she purred. She threw a fireball at me which Zephyr caught in her mouth and dropped.
“ Oh, and her fuzzy little god fox is come as well.”
“Cease at once, Hope,” Solon commanded.
“Will you help me Hope? For the sake of our mother Gabrielle?” I asked her directly. “She suffered much for you.”
The girl looked at her feet. When she raised her eyes, they were green.
“I will help you in whatever way I am able, Robin of the Bard, and we can only pray that the price will not be too high.”
Her voice changed to the terrible echoing thunder again,
“But know you this; whatever help I can give—it will be very limited, and you will be in grave danger. I cannot control Dahak’s power within me but for a breath at a time, and what I control I am given is volatile.”
“Thank you, Hope.” My response was sincere. “I will tell our mother. And ours the same, Solon.”
He gave me a smile that reminded me of Baba.
“How does she fare, my mother?” he asked.
“Do you not listen to her?”
“I do, but please tell me anyway.”
“She fares well, Solon; she is one of the greatest warrior/rulers of our age.”
“Tell her I am proud.”
“I will Solon.”
The vortex was pulling me.
“Till the next meeting then, my brother, my sister.” I looked from one to the other.
“Till then,” they spoke in unison.
And I had only a moment to grab Zephyr by the scruff as we were dragged on the return through the vortex.
My eyes opened and gazed into two sets of very concerned orbs hovering over me.
“Hi,” Mama G, Baba Xe.”
“Hi Birdie.” Mama ran her fingertips through my hair. She had been crying. “How are you?”
“Well, I think we have a plan.”
“You talked to them,” Baba the warrior, inquired.
“Yes. It will do no good to take your weapons, Baba. It’s all me. But I will take Zephyr.”
The next night we made ready. I had a bowl of my Grandba’s soup, changed into my chain mail shirt, my new boots and sword and scabbard, and my parents and I walked out to the back practice fields.
We build a large fire, and they spread out blankets while I paced around. Then it was time again.
I knelt before them; Mama G made no effort to hide the tears traveling down her face. I hugged her.
“Mama, don’t worry,” putting my fingers under her chin, I lifted her face in the fashion she had done to me so many times in my life. I wiped a tear from her cheek.
“I will be fine.”
She said nothing, but simply kissed my forehead a long moment, and then bent to kiss Zephyr on her nose.
Baba Xe looked at me straight in the eyes—sapphire to sapphire.
“Tonight you are ‘of the warrior’, my little Robin.” She said softly.
“I am of the warrior, My Lady. Indeed, I am of the Conqueror.”
My voice was steady. She offered me the warrior’s arm clasp, and I gripped it hard.
Her hand fell to Zephyr’s head who gazed at her seriously.
With no further words, they painted me with the hind’s blood, the streaks down from cheekbone to chin, across the forehead, and on Zephyr’s nose. Then I received the vile traveling tonic.
Sheath now your sword
No blood to shed
All cries are still
Lay down your head.
Look to the star
Evening is come
Peace will reign here
Til rise of the sun.
quiet your heart
From rampaging beat
Far from the roar
Of thundering feet.
Sleep under angels
Robed in moonbeams
In search of sweet dreams..
Gabrielle the Bard
To be continued (promise, not too long) special thanks to VX this time, and to all the great feeders… you keep me going.. firstname.lastname@example.org
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