Big Surprises in Small Packages
By Joseph Connell
Disclaimer: I don't own either Xena or Gabrielle. They and the third central character (in concept at least) all belong to Ren Pics and MCA/Universal. I'm using them without permission and without hope of material profit. There are instances of violence and bodily damage. There is subtext/maintext between Xena and Gab, but only if you're looking for it. Nothing graphic or described. If even this offends, go run along and leave us open-minded people alone.
Note: I'm naming the third central character after a certain rumor MaryD posted a short while back. Whether it pans out or not remains to be seen. After seeing the "Globe" article, this just leapt out at me. I'm combining the two for my own nefarious purposes.
For now, enjoy the show.
I don't like it.
I don't like the way she planned this. I don't like the odds against us. I don't like the situation in general.
And I really don't like her choice of who she has watching her back.
I'm crouched beside her, both of us looking into the forest clearing at our target. The slavers are there, forming a rough circle surrounding the village girls they had taken. The slavers total only six, but all are heavily armed.
I've tried to talk Xena out of this, arguing I could call upon the local Amazons and lead the attack myself. I even tried pointing out how she had other, more weighty responsibilities now. Ones that anyone would tell her overrode any previous mission or obligation.
All to no effect. Xena had listened, face blank and immovable, then turned right around and outlined her plan to rescue the girls in the clearing. I doubt she'd heard a single word I'd said.
I look over at her now. To look at her now you would not believe she had given birth only three moons ago. The extra pounds gained as Eve grew within her have been shed like so much dead skin. Her movements are as graceful and swift as ever. But her skin still glows and her breasts remain heavy for feeding. These are the only physical evidence of the trial she endured to bring that small, beautiful person into the world.
That, and the carrying pouch on her back, within which sits the small, silent form of Eve.
As is normally the case, the infant is sitting facing away from her mother's back, looking all around Sensing my scrutiny, the child looks over and waves a tiny fist towards me. She regards me with those intense blue eyes and I can only shake my head. Those eyes and her wide, toothless grin are every bit a lethal as her mother's chakrum and sword. Ever since reaching her first moon Eve has learned to use both to devastating effect, leaving a trail of bodies behind her. The poor souls are left so dazzled and charmed they often forget in who's company she travels.
I really don't like her plan now.
The baby suddenly gurgles quietly and shakes her fist again. Not at me, but directly behind us. My head snaps towards her, my lips parting instinctively to deliver a silent rebuke. I sense the movement only a heartbeat later, but already Xena is reacting. She spins and lets the chakrum fly, its twin halves instantly splitting apart and ricocheting off the pair who were trying to ambush us from behind, felling them instantly. The halves rejoin and Xena plucks them from the air, leaping that same instant into the clearing. Her sword is drawn and she charges the slavers.
They are caught completely unawares by her attack. I shake my head again and race towards the girls; I had forgotten Eve never made a sound unless it was time to change her diaper, feeding time, or when someone was trying to sneak up on us. Hence her unusual position on Xena's back. There are times when the girl's hearing and sight seem so sharp that she seems almost omniscient. This is not the first time Eve has saved us from being ambushed, nor will it likely be the last.
I'll be damned to the lowest circle of Tartarus before I like it though.
It is my job to get the captives back into the forest while she deals with their guards. My sais are drawn in preparation for that one guard who always manages to slip away from Xena. I suspect she deliberately lets him get past her just so I don't feel completely left out. I am not disappointed on this score and easily dodge his rather clumsy strike at me, then proceed to disarm and pummel him senseless.
Xena is busy taking on two at a time, spinning this way and that. One has foolishly tried to run her with a spear. She dodges and breaks it evenly in half, blocks the sword coming at her from the side, and delivering a simultaneous roundhouse kick to the fool behind her and a solid punch to the one in front. Both go down without comment.
By this time a I have seen the girls safely to the treeline and turn back. The last of the slavers appeared to have fallen by then. I'm surprised there's so little blood, even though we both have made a conscious effort since Eve's arrival to keep the killing to a minimum. Granted its unavoidable given the life we live, but neither of us wants the infant exposed to the gory side of it if it can be helped. With all the spinning and weaving Xena's done, Eve will be lucky if her little eyes arent rolling about in their sockets from this.
I'm about to start back towards her when the slaver closest to her feet suddenly reaches out and trips her. Xena could normally have controlled the fall and simply somersaulted back upright. With Eve on her back, however, her only choice is to fall flat on her face so the infant is cushioned against the force of the fall. She falls much harder than normally. I wince as I clearly hear her head impacting with the solid ground. This gives the bastard all the time he needs to jump to his feet and, to our mutual horror, pull Eve from her pouch!
He grips her by the neck of her deerskin tunic, the durable material bunching in his shaking hand. In his other hand is a stained knife, its tip waved generally in Eve's direction.
"Let her go!" I snarl through clenched teeth, my world shrinking to this fool's head and how easy it would be to split it open. For touching Eve, he is already a dead man. The only question was how quickly his demise might happen.
"Stuh stay away !" It is the shaking of his hands more than his weak words that stay my approach. He is shaking so hard there is the real danger he might drop her before Xena or I can act. I risk a glance at the small hostage, who to this point has been completely silent. My eyes widen slightly at seeing how her pudgy face has gone an alarming shade of green, worse than my old Amazon halter.
The slaver follows my eyes, just in time to see Eve scrunch her face tight.
Everything in her small belly is expelled out an instant later, shot through her mouth and into her captor's face with the force of a tidal wave. I find myself forgetting this strong, stoic individual is barely out of the womb, and no less susceptible to motion sickness than I am. The slaver screams as though scalded by boiling water, dropping both his hostage and weapon as he frantically wiped at his eyes.
Xena, who had played the waiting game until then, quickly reaches out and catches Eve before she's half-way to the ground. I race forward at the same instant and proceed to hammer into the slaver.
"Never! Ever! Touch! Her! Again!" The handles of my sais reinforce the message, each one delivering a bone-cracking hit with each word. I leave him alive, though barely, with broken ribs and jaw to remember me by. He falls at my feet, groaning in agony through his ruined mouth. I can't help but leave a final message. The heel of my boot finds his so-called manhood, eliciting another pained groan.
I finally look up, nearly bursting into tears at seeing mother and daughter clinging to one another. They are beautiful, the connection between them as obvious as the noonday sun in a cloudless sky. At moments such as this I cannot help but feel excluded and alone; an irrational feeling, given Xena makes sure I am as involved in the child's life as she is. The fear that I will be cast aside by both sneaks in all the same and leaves me terrified as nothing else might. Eve must have sensed my distress, as she immediately turned towards me and reached out with both arms. I barely manage to keep the tears in check as I take her daughter our daughter and hold her close.
Xena grasps me by the shoulder and half-pulls us both back to the forest, her sword still drawn and ever watchful. No telling if there are more of these slavers around. She won't relax her guard until we've seen the girls safely back to the village and are far from here.
I race alongside her, never loosening my hold on the small, now-smelly bundle in my arms. I hold her closer, as one should with a treasure worth more than all the wealth hidden in Olympus.
Return to The Bard's Corner