Birdie, the 13 year old daughter of our favorite Warrior and Bard, is growing up but the misadventures continue, and so her life and learning expands.  One can read this song without reading the earlier stories, but you will understand her better if you do.

The setting is a light handed Conqueror time, and the characters are mine, except for those you will recognize that we all love and borrow.   I mean no copyright infringement, and I guess we’ll be doing this forever if there is no movie, so BATTLE ON BARDS, right??

Subtext?  Of course.

Violence?  Sometimes, and hard lessons learned.  The way we learned them, without high tech. J

Gratitude? From me to the readers who fill my little heart.   More than I can say… especially to Iseqween who puts up with me,  to Nancy who gives good feed, to Jynaki who is so encouraging, and my dear pal.. VX, who is first.  Just first.


Birdie’s Song --Rachelle         

Rachelle  Part II

I am Robin…

Our water speed increased; the level was higher and there was a lengthy run of white water coming that had been classified “rather intense” before last night’s storms.   The  speed had been upgraded to “rather dangerous”, today.   The area of the river had a name—Tower Rock-- obviously a tall boulder stood mid river and caused the most rapid part of the water to split left or right around it.   Historically, it was the quintessential “rock and a hard place” decision that sank boaters on the river, because this boulder had caused many to end their journeys right there –having lost everything in a spill.   That had seemed very odd to me; how difficult could it be to choose a direction of left or right?

“Which hand at the Tower, Rach?”

There was no hesitation. 

“I’ve run it a few times, Bird and it feels as if the left is just a bit smoother.”

“Left it is then,” felt a smile on my face.” Hope we don’t discover any Amazon chums there.”

She chuckled, “If no one is hurt, they are on their own.  We all receive the ‘expert’ feather, but the canoe who arrives FIRST receives the largest and most beautiful feathers.”

“Agreed,” and I lifted my paddle to study the smaller rapids beginning, dragging just a bit of a reverse to steer us carefully.  Ahead was a large waterlogged stump, and I concentrated  to turn the canoe just so around it—focusing so intently that I did not see the edge of Rachelle’s paddle dragging a spray of bright splash into my face.

“Hey! SPLURBLEghblurgh…”  A successful out of water dunk.

She laughed, a musical sound coming from her, like a wind chime.

We cleared Tower Rock like we had partnered for winters and then ran easily through another quarter candle mark’s light rapids before banking the canoe for quick trips to the bushes.  We munched on cheese wrap snacks and jogged about, stretching our legs and arms for a few moments.  As we moved to re-enter I made the dramatic gesture of surrendering to her the stern of the canoe.

She looked at me appraisingly, “Nah, you’re fine, “she winked at me, “not bad at all.”

I felt a ringing in my ears and the earth’s rotation stopped for a moment, but I remained cool collected.

“Thanks,” gave her the offer of the warrior’s grip, and she took it, “We’ve a big decision to make now, regarding the next fork.  It’s really a matter of following orders.  I don’t have the best record of doing that.”

“So I hear.” She didn’t comment further.

“Our Amazon Instructors ordered ‘all go left’ at the main fork after the Tower.”

I worked it out for her with a stick in the dirt.

“Pony and the other instructor said the rains have made the right fork too dangerous, and there is a newly fallen tree amid the higher waters which also creates danger.  However, if we’ve any hope to win, Rach, taking the right fork is our only chance, because it cuts a half candle mark of time.”

She was quiet for a moment studying my dirt map and then looked at me, “We are pretty good together.”

“We are excellent together—like we have canoed together for seasons.”

She shrugged, “I believe we can handle it.”

“I know we can, Rach; we can beat all of them. Let’s go for it!”


Hubris means excessive pride, and the gods always punish hubris.

I should have known better.


At mid- day the small group of Amazons halted their ponies for a break on the land journey to the end of the “expert” trip.  The plan was to set up an overnight camp with a light celebration and a big campfire for the awarding of the Expert Feathers, and to return to the village the following morning.    Regent Ephiny smiled in greeting to her partner and handed her a meat wrap as the weapons expert brought her pony alongside hers.

“Did you make it to the river?”

Pony tore a vicious bite from the sandwich, “Yes, blast it!”

Uh oH.   “Problem with the count?”

“Three of four passed,” the weapons master growled through another bite, “give you one guess which canoe was missing.”

Ephiny sighed, shook her head and swallowed.  “The dynamic duo—it would be them.”

“Why does it HAVE to be them? “ Pony was really miffed.

Ephiny laughed then, “Now Pone, we are becoming well acquainted with your niece and by the gods, I DO know my goddaughter.  It will always them, because they ARE who they ARE.” She looked ahead.  “We never should have put them in the same boat.”

“But they drive the others BANANAS!” said Pony, “Even though Birdie and Arrot are friends now, since Arrot and Evaline are an item, we need to encourage harmony, and the other two pairs are beautiful together.”

“Birdie and Rachelle?  We knew this could happen Pony,” Ephiny cleared her throat, “We better work it out, because I don’t want Xena and Gabrielle to show up tonight and find we are missing one canoe, do you?”

“Well your hindsight is lovely!” snapped Pony as she steered her sturdy paint back again toward the river.  “It’s just bloody brilliant!”


Atticus thrust his great paw out to the Conqueror as she approached the fields.

“Tanks for comin’ My Lady; I’ve got a live one for ya.”

“You know I am always glad to help, Atticus,” her graceful stride ceased in front of the big man, and he marveled at how her slim build, clad in her every day attire of leather pants, boots, and long wool coat disguised her amazing combative talents.  The famous Tide was balanced unsheathed in her hand; she spun it a cycle, making the blade sing.

“Which?-----ah—got him.” The icy orbs hardened at a tall muscular young man with long red hair who was making great show of beating a smaller opponent down to his knees and further.

Atticus turned and bellowed, “Clayburg!! Enough!”  The redhead stopped, but he

continued to glower over the smaller man, kicking dirt in his face and lifting his sword so that the smaller man still cringed in fear.

“Jackass,” Atticus muttered, “I was that feller a lifetime ago.”

Xena blinked tossing him the Tide as she slipped out of her coat, revealing the pewter breastplate and blue silk shirt.

“Honestly? I’d never believe that of you, Atticus.” She smiled as he presented her the Tide across his arm, hilt first clicking his heels.  “What happened?”

“Rosie,” his eyes went dreamy, he smiled and then he laughed, “Rosie, Rosie, Rosie.”

“Then Talus?” she added.

“Aye,” his voice gentled, “and Talus.”

Xena put her hand on his shoulder as she focused on Clayburg, “You are one of my heroes, Mr. Atticus….Mr. Clayburg.” She raised her voice only slightly.

The redhead froze.

She spun the Tide once. “Turn around, please.”

He did a perfect about face and bowed, “My Lady Conqueror.”

She turned up her sleeves with expert sharp flips while never releasing his eyes.

“Mr. Atticus, will you please take Mr. Abstone to the infirmary to be attended?”

“Come lad, “Atticus put the boy under the canopy of his arm and led him away.  As they passed the Conqueror she touched the boy’s back lightly with her hand and smiled.  He straightened immediately, shoulders back.

Her gaze went to the hilt of her sword as she spun it again.

“Mr. Clayburg, “The Conqueror’s voice was of the low and dangerous timbre that anyone who knew her would have shuddered to hear, “you have considerable skill.  I am wondering why the reports that I receive of you are that you use your skills to bully smaller opponents, rather than sharpen your skills on TRUE challenges?”

“The truth, Conqueror?” he did not disguise his arrogance.

She only raised an eyebrow.

“B’cause that behavior brot me face to face wit you all the mor faster, “ he spun his own broadsword and flashed a grin of mostly good teeth.

A slow smile crossed the angular face and put twinkling stars in the indigo skies.  Sometimes it was good to be Aries’ Chosen.

“Mr. Clayburg, have you ever heard the saying, ’take care what you wish for?’”

His first attempt was a lunge bringing his sword straight down as if to cleave her in half from head to groin.  She caught it with the flat of the Tide and used his own strength to flip the sword over her shoulder and delivered a slamming fast boot to his face.  He went down like a tree.

The same boots stepped over his bulk to retrieve his sword, azure eyes admired it and strong hands stabbed it into the ground beside the thick head.   It took little imagination to see birdies flying in a circle tweeting about his eyes.  The question: was Clayburg smart or was he dumb?

Dumb.  He sprang up and she caught his slow cross slash and parried his second.  Strong fellow but he needed to learn that strength was far from all that was required.

With an abbreviated war cry she flipped over him and razored through his hair with a graceful Tide.  He turned to see the red locks on the ground.  This was a flag to a bull, but she needed to force him to his worst to ascertain if he was worth keeping or not.


Gabrielle smiled at her young charges and spoke firmly, “Ready position.”

Though none in her class reached even close to her shoulder in height, all eight tiny staffs were flicked smartly into the diagonal position-- forward hand up and under the staff and the back hand on top of the staff facing down.  Legs were spread shoulder width, dominate foot followed dominate hand a bit back to direct and force the blows.  Eight small faces were deadly serious and didn’t blink.  She walked among them checking form, “Good job, Freeda,   Bernie, May I touch your arm? There. Good.  Kane,  Excellent.   Shanda, legs just a little bit further… there you go.”  She stood back from them.

“Now.  Everyone three arm lengths apart, quickly!”  The kids spread out and all eyes locked on her.  “Ready.”  Position assumed.

 “Opponent is coming overhead!!”  Immediately all small staffs were raised horizontally and the kids were down on one knee braced.  “Perfect!” “And Counter!”   The staffs swooped by in hard swings left to right into the waists or legs of imaginary opponents.

“Behind you!”  The staffs continued the three- sixty sweep and stopped with a vicious poke in an invisible solar plexus.

 “And  Ready.”  Back to position. 

The Bard clapped her hands smiling, “You are the best Junior Staffers ever!”  She received shy grins. 

“Alright, an extra quarter candle mark free- spar, but I’ll test you at the end.”  A cheer rose from the group that actually sounded more like the group of seven seasons’ old kids they were as they scampered for the cushioned soft staffs they used to battle each other.  It was their favorite thing, as they could actually make contact with little damage. 

Gabrielle had begun Junior Staffers by accident years ago when dealing with her own little hothead --finding ways to channel her temper.  As a result, she had taught a few of Birdie’s companions, and then as those youngsters grew older, they assumed the job of teaching younger kids.  The end result was that every child in Amphipolis could both handle and respect a staff as a weapon, and there were very few fights among the children.   Older kids continued to work with younger kids, but the Amazon Queen/Lady of Amphipolis herself still taught the beginning course. This both initiated the children with the correct attitude, and also endeared them and the Queen to each other.  The Queen’s First Course went every seven day for six moons and when a child finished the study at age eight seasons, he or she was VERY good at the staff, and received a Robin’s patch.  Many of the Amphipolis Militia’s youngest and finest members had begun in Junior Staffers.   They were famous their good form, work ethics and for bedrock loyalty.

Gabrielle watched several scuffles with the quilted staffs and feeling safe that all the little ones were in good moods, she scooted over to Rosie who was pouring juice into clay tumblers.

“Mind if I snag a juice, Rosie?”

The warm hearted wife of Atticus and mother to Talus topped of the small tumbler, watched the queen drain it and topped it off again.

“Rosie that restores me, “the Bard released a deep sigh which suddenly caught as if a fish were hooked.  She clutched her side.

“Are you alright My Lady? Was it the juice?  Should you sit?” Rosie was behind her queen immediately to catch her.

“No Rosie, I’m fine--- it’s my family.  My inner sense, you know.”  She put her hand to her heart.

“Should you sit, My Lady?”

“No, but I must leave.  Will you dismiss the kids for me?”

“Of course, My Lady.”

“Thank you Rosie. “ She walked by the little scrimmages, “Kids-- spar for a quarter candle mark more, have your juice, and I’ll see you next Fifth day, ok?” She managed a cheery smile.

“Goodbye Lady Gabrielle, Goodbye My Lady, thank you..” the lilting little voices followed as she hurried from the room.


Clayburg continued to roar with mighty thrusts of his broad sword that Xena easily sidestepped or blocked with small effort.  This was tiresome.  Wrap it up.  She eased around and smacked the pinch on him which left his eyes bugging, his tongue rolling out, his voice gagging.

“Clayburg you have until the count of thirty to decide if you will fight for me in my militia, walk away forever, or die.  Make up your mind quickly.  I do think you have some talent which is trainable.”

“Fight fer you m’lady,” strangled voice.

“Good decision, “ She slammed his neck,  he fell forward gasping, but a faraway glimpse of sunlight on bright hair had already distracted her  and as she moved toward it , she gave Clayburg a hand up .  The indigo eyes froze as she felt a shift in the air behind her; she twirled the Tide once and drove it underhanded into his thigh, even as he tried to strike his own sword into her back.

He howled like a dog.

The Conqueror then turned and gave the foolish man with shorn hair and bleeding thigh, a flash of ice lightning eyes which made him fall to one knee, head bowed now—conquered.

“Mr. Clayburg, if you were not such a pitiable idiot I would kill you.  This is your last chance.  Will you swear to serve in my army faithfully, turn and limp away, or die?  Otherwise why DID you come here?”

The young man now had tears in his eyes for the mercy he was shown.  He took her hand in his reverently now, and kissed it.

“My Lady Conqueror, you have my life offered in service to you,” he choked, but regained control and looked at her square, “I swear it.”

She studied him long and then smiled, “ I knew that you were worth something by your good manners.  Well done, Mr. Clayburg.”

Going to one knee, she quickly ripped off his left sleeve and tied off the bleeding of his wound.  Then she rose, giving him a hand up. 

“Are you able to walk?”

“Well enough, My Lady.”

“Go to the Infirmary and find Atticus or the Healer Mari-sue.  Then seek barracks four and Headbarracksman Galto.  He will settle you in.”

“Thank you My Lady Conqueror.” The new man’s eyes were showing new adoration for his leader.

“And Mr. Clayburg,”

He turned, “Yes, My Lady Conqueror.”


“Thank you My Lady Conqueror.”  Gone was the bluster and in its place were humble good manners.  Containing man’s strength combined with some training of his talent would result in a good addition to the army.  Clayburg was limping slightly, his hair was shorter, and he was bleeding, but he was already a better man.

Xena jogged to meet the bard who fell into her arms.  The forest colored eyes searched hers quickly, “It’s not you; it must be Birdie.” She said.


   The water had become the color of mud, as if it were no longer our friendly clear running friend, but had become a thick murky foe, with secrets hiding beneath.  Gone was our easy bantering by silent agreement; we concentrated on the job at hand, and the job was growing.  The water ran fast, very fast, and I could see by the levels on the banks and trees that it was quite high.  There were several trees wading deep in the water not by choice, and many had fallen into the river.

I reversed my paddle hard as Rachelle dug right to steer into the V of a quick muddy set of rapids , and we both reversed our paddles to shove away from a large floating log which dipped by us dangerously.

“You all right?”  her words came to me calmly.

“Yeah, you?” my answer.

“I’m fine.  Good job.”

We leaned hard and low into a lengthy run of white water which continued down river as far as I could see.

“Rachelle, I’ll follow your signals.  Whichever way you direct, I will pull, ok?  You will see it first, so you take charge!”

“Ok.”  The river was upon on us.

She was an expert.

 We glided through the rushing water like a huge fish-- wordlessly; I followed her lead, and we didn’t miss a beat.  But this water was trouble for us, and we both knew it.   We navigated a large rapid and missed two large rocks, round a bend and I caught my breath.  It was the tree—an enormous thing spanning the entire length of the river. We couldn’t miss it; there would be a collision.


“What is it?”  Xena put her hands on her soul mate’s shoulders and looked into her eyes.

“I just feel the fear, Xena; something is not right.”

“Let’s go—you are never wrong.”  The Conqueror slung her coat over one shoulder hanging on the Tide, and ran a gentle arm around her bard and they walked toward the fortress.  The blonde head rested in the crook of the arm.

“Who were you fighting?”

“Just doing a bit of ‘place-putting’,” the dark head sighed and rested hers on the fair one.  “Did result in a pretty good new recruit though, I believe.”

“Uh oh, something is up for sure.. Look.” Gabrielle pointed to the door exiting the stable.

Zephyr was touching noses with Fire, turning the care of Silver and Rain over to their father.  She trotted up to the parents of Birdie with an expectant look on her face.

Gabrielle knelt and looked into the serious gold-flecked eyes, “Can you find Birdie, girl?”

The black fox simply sat down as if to say, “Hurry Up.”  She looked toward the horizon.

Xena and Gabrielle hurried.


“Bird!” was the last sound I heard from Rach as I fought to angle the canoe so it might crash broadside rather than head on.   The front went into branches and trunk, but then the furious current caught the stern (my part) to fling it in a whiplash hard left at the larger part of the tree.

“Minotaur Shite,” a growl in my voice, a wood splintering sound, and I was launched into a tangle of branches flung underwater.   A roaring roaring roaring steady roaring sound.  Water, the strong hands of the sculptor of earth.

Disorientation.  Light.  Silence and noise together.  I was among endless branches submerged; the tree was enormous and I banged my head on the canoe? The trunk  A bit of sense came to me, where am I? Find right side up.  Beams of sunlight pierced the tangle; the water was clear down here.

 It was peaceful.

 “I’m drowning.” The thought that came to me.  “It’s not so bad.”

But another survival part of my brain kicked on, “Not yet.” And I turned and swam down, like a frog, deep as I could under the tangle, and tried to go up.  No, not yet. Still too much tree. My sandal was caught.  Undo it.  My head was pounding.  A little bit more… there, clear to the top.  I shoved from the bottom as hard as I could, still fighting through the occasional stick, but I exploded into the air with a wheezing heave, inhaling, lights floating in front of my eyes, the river still roaring, sweeping me down, choking on the water I drank, but finally, I got enough air to calm down and flounder to shallow water. Footing, thank the gods.  Staggering forth I took two good breaths and it was time. 



Panicked, I tramped back into the rush, “RACH!”


She wasn’t in the water.  Where?  Listen.



“Bird.”  Weaker.


I dashed back on shore .


and sloshed back into the water again.  Behind a thicket of rushes, she clung to the grasses with one hand and to what was left of our canoe with the other.  Wading out into the flow, I got my right arm about her waist and my left on the canoe, and began to walk backwards against the current.

“MINOTAUR shite, Rach!”

Our combined leverage once she found her feet was sufficient to bring the canoe against the current and shove it on the rocks.  We fell to the gravel face down side by side to catch a breath.  Without hesitation, our hands, trembling, found each other and clasped, gripped, hard--- safe.


I awakened, braced up on an elbow.  Cold.   Put a hand with blue fingernails on her shoulder.

“You ok, Rach?”

“The blue spruce eyes cracked opened, “Yes, just cold, Birdie, “shivery voice from blue lips, “I was so afraid you were.....I saw you thrown out…”  One single tear,  “The canoe and I somehow just tucked under the trunk; I don’t know how, but we rolled under it, not too bad actually.  Drank a lot of river.”

“Here, “ I sat up and pulled her up and into my arms between my legs, wrapped myself around her, rocking her a little, trying to warm her.  Her shivering eased a bit.  Our breathing steadied together.  She touched my forehead.

“You’re bleeding.”


“Be still.”  She frowned, “Tough girl, eh?  There’s a cut.”

“Hit my head on the canoe and the tree, I think.”

She moved light fingers over it, “Don’t believe it’s as bad as you’re bleeding.”

“Yeah, head wounds.”

We sat another moment.



“We’ve got to move; get warm, we’re in shock.”

“Right, let’s check to see what survived our crash.”  My voice sounded days away with my eyes—staring, but my feet responded.

Stumbling over, I pawed through the packs tied into the canoe.  Mine had broken open my food was lost, but hers was sound; we could have a fire.  I tossed her the flint striker.

“I’ll work on this; check the weapons,” she directed.

Good luck, both short “baby Zon” swords were still lashed in; we had  tied them well in front and back of us for safety.  It was rather chilling to note that the stern of the canoe, my seat, was fully smashed in.  I was safe because I had been thrown out.

“Swords are here!”

“Brilliant, we may make a go of this.  Is there another small kit by my sword?”

“This one lashed very tightly?”

“Bring it.”

“Yes Ma’m.”

On the return, I dropped an armload of wood beside her as well and we continued to feed the fire.  The warm flames were a great comfort.

Rachelle rose and walked into the water again.   She returned very shortly carrying a fish. 

Shook my head at her, “I should have known..”

Rach cleaned the fish efficiently with her dagger and soon it was cooking in pieces on stones in the fire.  Hunger set on both of us at the smell.

She opened the smaller kit.

“Come here, Birdie.”

Patrolling the parameters of our fire lighted circle, I was listening.

“No one is here, Bird.”

“Why do I feel eyes?  Why do I hear feet?”

“It’s called ‘shock’, Bird.  Now come here and let me see your head.  You should drop your pants as well.”

My eyebrows shot up so high, it hurt my head wound.

She gave my leg a light smack.

“Latrine brain.  I was raised by a HEAL—ER? Take a look at your left hip.”

Soaked in blood.  Hadn’t even felt it until she mentioned it. 

“Ah,” followed directions meekly and eased down the pants and the edge of my loin garment.  Nasty.

“Think you must have rammed a ragged branch there – like a stab wound with a broken lance,” she made a noise.  “ I always carry a small healer’s kit. “  From her pack she fetched a small pan which she carried to the river and returned to place water on the fire to heat..  She also turned our meal; the aroma was enticing.  From a cloth fold in the pack she took a thin bone needle and thread.

“Hate that.” 

“You really are a tough girl, aren’t you?  Lie down so I can see your head.”
            “My head is fine.”

“You’ll do it or you’ll have no fish.”

I did it but gave her such a dirty look. 

She soaked a small patch of cloth in her heated water and dabbed at my head.

“See? You can do as you are told.  I have heard that you do not.”

“Depends on who is doing the telling….”

“”Ah, so I should be terribly flattered.”  Her touch was light and gentle on my head.   I tried not to wince.

“Well, are you flattered?”   I don’t know where the attitude was coming from .

“You need two small stitches here; shouldn’t sting too much, ready?”

Pinch.  Wince.

“So Are you?”

Pinch. Wince.

“Am I what?”

Snip, tie.

“Rach.” She was doing this deliberately.

“All done.”


“Now about this other.”

I jerked up again.  Minotaur shite. I missed Zephyr’s ears. 

“Birdie, what is it?”

“There is a disturbance, Rach.  We’re being watched.”  I rose and stalked about the fire with my sword attempting a menacing swagger.

“You are quite good at bluffing,” she smiled when I returned.

“I have learned from the best,” chuckling to myself.  “Can we eat before you torture me more?”

She begrudgingly held me a cloth,  “Push this against it and eat fast.  I must attend to it while there is daylight left.”

The fish offered about seven bites for each of us, but it satisfied.  I walked about again and collected a few herbs.

“These will make decent tea in your little pan when you are finished ‘healing’.”  Her smile was genuine.

The hot water was ready.  She threaded a larger needle this time and took a deep breath.

“All right Robin of the Warrior and Bard,” she said quietly, “You will do as I tell you because we have some bit of adventure left to us here and you can’t manage very well if you have some ghastly infection.  I need you in good shape.  So buck up, tough girl, lay across my lap a bit.  Here.”

Obediently, I moved and she sat cross-legged and guided me ; I wrapped my body about her in a crescent shape, so my wound was foremost in front of her eyes and hands.

“Now you may holler, cry, thump and squeeze me if you like, because this will hurt, Birdie,” she said gently as she reached over to fetch the hot water, “but try not to jostle my hands; they must be steady to clean this nasty injury of yours thoroughly and sew it up.  It won’t be easy  because it’s so uneven and there is wood in it.  If you need to rest tell me, but remember the daylight factor.”

“Ok.” I put an arm inside around her waist.


“Just helps me to hang on, Rach; I promise not to impair you.”

“Want me to tell you what I am doing?”


“Ok, we are going to start cleaning out bark here now.  It’s in there deep, Birdie.”

She kept talking and I watched my tears make spots in the sand.


The Warrior and the Bard slowed Argo and Wendy.  Zephyr circled back with an impatient tail.

“We need a plan; this is far too wild a goose for my taste,” growled the Conqueror.

“Xena, Zephyr has never been wrong.” insisted the Bard, “and neither have I.”

“Do you not think we should fetch Pony and Ephiny? Rachelle will be with Birdie.”

Gabrielle knew the Warrior was just thinking out loud. 

“I believe the Amazons will arrive where our kids are at about the same time we do, Xena.  Pony and Ephiny are parents too, and they will figure it out.  Zephyr is waiting.”

Xena tilted her head.  “You are right of course, Gabrielle.  If Birdie is in trouble there is no time to waste, is there? Don’t know where my mind is.  Sorry, Zephyr!”


“All present and accounted for but you know who!!” Pony’s pacing was so angry she was kicking up dust puffs.  “This time I WILL tan some Royal Amazon butt!”

“Which one?” Ephiny was calmer but no less annoyed, “and before or after the Queen kicks our butts?  We will put those two before the formal board for insubordination as well.  We TOLD them not to take that fork.”

Her partner sighed,” Let’s go ahead and send the others home and head up river.”

“Toward the right fork?” Ephiny gave her a knowing grin as she put a boot in the stirrup.

“Where else?  I am cutting a switch on the way.”

“Pony, you’ve a lot to learn about parenting.”

“Such as?”

“First you make certain they are safe, sound, fed, unhurt.  Then you cut the switch.”


“Birdie, that’s the last one, stitch number twelve I believe.” She placed a warm gentle palm on my raw hip, and it was soothed.

I sniffed, sighed, and remained buried somewhere beneath her waist and my own elbow on the gravel.

“Hear me?”

Finally trusted my own voice, “Yeah… thanks, Rach.”

As I untangled myself, she eased my garment and pants over the wound.

The gentle hand remained on the hurt.  Her voice was equally gentle, “The answer is ‘Yes’, Birdie.”

I turned to look her light evergreen eyes.

“Yes--- I am flattered that you do what I tell you to do, “she lowered her eyes, “What or when-- I ask you to do it.”

The river ran and the fire flickered.  And she was so beautiful.  My fingers reached for her chin, slipped beneath and raised her eyes to meet mine.

“Well,” I smiled, “don’t get too full of yourself.”

I grabbed the pan from near the fire, and walked to the river managing not to clutch my wound too much.  Washed out the container and filled it.

“Steady Bird,” I told myself, “ you are in enough trouble.”

Soon we both watched the water with the herbs in it waiting to share some evening tea.

I took her hand in mine and squeezed it.

“Rach, “I said, “We need a plan.”



The strong hands

Of the sculptor

of Earth


 Hands with

 which she

Created canyons

Gorges, Olympus,

All earthen



Itself comes

Of water.

And we two

Set out

 in our tiny pod

With paddles,


 to navigate

Her mighty


Without a



Is a word

Too small

For our


To be continued


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