was heating water for her morning tea, she was trying to make a concerted
effort to wean herself off of Pepsi, and she was having limited results. This
morning she was also trying to get a nagging kink out of her shoulder when she
heard footsteps on the front porch. She was already heading for the door when
the knock sounded. At her command the GEV opened the door. It was Naomi and
Sherese. They both dropped to one knee and saluted.
speak.” Gabrielle had given up on trying to keep them on their feet. It was
easier to just let them do what they would do. It made them feel better about
Majesty, we pray that this fine morning finds you well.” Sherese spoke first
but Naomi did not wait for Gabrielle to reply to what she surly considered to
be an inappropriate way to address the Queen. Surly Queen Gabrielle did not
have time to exchange small talk with a Shadow.
found several pieces of land that might satisfy your desires. All meet your
requirements but we would like for you to see them all and then decide if they
are what you want.” Naomi was all business.
us in an hour and we will look at these pieces of land.” With women like Naomi
it was best just to keep
to the business at hand. She would never be the kind of person that you could
befriend… at least Gabrielle could not befriend her. Gabrielle was her job and
her Queen not her friend.
nodded smartly, saluted and turned on their heels and returned to their
conveyance. They probably would drive around the block and sit across the
street until Gabrielle emerged again.
awoke Xena and got her moving. She had made up two large to-go cups of tea and
when she stepped out of her doorway she saw the conveyance with Naomi and
Sherese standing just outside of it conversing with some other Guardians or
Shadows. They spotted Gabrielle and Xena and were at the curb with the vehicle
when the two young women reached it.
they were driving on a dirt road going up a small mountain. They had already
seen several prospective building sights. Gabrielle suddenly got a bug of
curiosity and started asking the Shadows questions. “So is every Guardian a
Shadow and every Shadow a Guardian or is there some other set up?” Gabrielle
asked whichever woman that would answer.
Guardian is a Shadow and visa-versa. It is a matter of assignment. To be a
Shadow usually means that you are with us… either of you. So it is a great
honor to be a Shadow for more than one reason.” Sherese was not driving so she
that mean that there are no Shadows unless one of us is here?” She should know
the answer to that question but she wanted it clarified.
“Yes and no,
a Shadow is a term that you coined so we are still defining it. But it looks
like it will be defined as a person who shadows a person of importance… or
something like that. So in answer to your question we had no Shadows before just a few months ago but
the assignment was available in other times.” Sherese was trying to make sense
but she wasn’t quite sure that she was.
was a called a Shadow assignment what was it called?” Not that it mattered
detail.” She said almost with disgust.
Shadow assignment better.” It sounded mysterious.
me too.” She got a glare from Naomi for her familiarity.
not miss the exchange. “So are you two always teamed up?”
recently, my usual partner is… busy with other work.” She was too hesitant.
not another assignment?” Curiosity was a task master.
rather no… she is not currently assigned.”
injured?” Naomi shot Sherese another nasty look. Sherese was older and more
experienced than Naomi but she was tolerating her insolent actions.
raising her family. Her children are more important than an assignment right
now.” There was nothing like dodging a question.
realized that if she was to get a straight answer she was going to have to ask
a straight question. “What’s the name of your regular partner?”
looked a bit white. “Her name is Harmony.”
surprised but Xena just smirked as if she had figured it out a long time ago
and she probably had. Both Xena and Gabrielle knew Sherese from when they were
younger. Gabrielle had realized that she knew the woman just this morning. She
had told Xena and the connections were made. Gabrielle wondered if Naomi would
make the connection or if that was the reason behind her behavior. For now
Gabrielle continued to pretend innocence. “Well that explains a few things.”
They rode in
silence for the next few minutes until Naomi stopped the vehicle. This was the
third piece of land that they had stopped at. The first two hadn’t hit the spot
for Gabrielle but when she stepped out of the vehicle she knew that this was
There was a
gentle roll in the landscape and as they topped the small knoll they could hear
the meandering stream just on the other side of a small cope of scrub brush and
trees. The slope was not so steep that it made the water rush down the hill but
it was not flat either.
over to the stream and Xena’s face lit up like a bonfire. There was a pool just
below a small waterfall and from the pool the stream wandered deep and slow. It
was a great place to fish. Gabrielle could feel the excitement in her partner
and could only smile in pleasure. Xena began talking happily about how nice the
pool was and speculating on the kind of fish she could coax out of the water
and on and on. Gabrielle listened to the wind in the trees and the birds on the
branches and of course to Xena.
had finally run out of speculation and Gabrielle had convinced her that she
could fish later they started back over the rise. When they reached the peak
Gabrielle stopped and Xena wrapped an arm around her waist.
“This is it
Xena. This is where we’re going to build our house and live.” She was gazing at
the valley below the way that Xena had been gazing at the stream and Xena was
smiling just as she had a few minutes before.
“It’s a nice
view babe.” Xena was going to let Gabrielle describe what it was that she was
seeing. It was probably more than she was seeing anyway.
than a view Xena. That’s our Nation. Those are our Amazons down there. They’re our legacy.” The view overlooked
the valley that the Amazons had made their own generations before.
“That’s your legacy Gabrielle. I wasn’t even an
Amazon until recently… remember.” Xena was being her usual modest self.
laughed lightly. “If I remember right you were the one that promised Ephiny
that you would not let the Amazons die out and you were the one that killed
Pompey to ensure that it happened.” She slid her arm around Xena.
“But it was
you that let Brutus return to his troops so that he could attack Pompey from
the flank and it was you as Queen that gave him the treaty of peace.” She
kissed Gabrielle on the head.
that Caesar burned… or so I was told.” She said with a little fire in her
matter what Caesar did with the treaty, you wrote it… that’s what matters.
Besides it was you that took your Amazons to war in Helicon and returned the
victor.” They had a lot of history with the Amazons.
“It was your
plan and we couldn’t have come out alive had it not been for your part in it.”
She had given up trying to see who had done more for the Amazons, she was
would not have followed me. You were their Queen.” She had sensed the change in
“Should I be
Queen again Xena?” She asked hoping that Xena would know which answer she
wanted to hear.
is good Queen. She reminds me of you actually. She is benevolent and kind and
strong when she needs to be. She tries to rule by example and education, not by
a strong hand and rules. No sweetie, she is quiet capable of being the Queen,
but she could probably use your wisdom as a Matriarch.” Xena knew that was what
Gabrielle both wanted and needed to hear.
“I kind of
blew that assignment last time.” She shook her head in disgust.
didn’t actually. The Guardians and the Shadows exist because of that blown
assignment. You saved the entire Amazon Nation… what more could they ask of
you?” Xena knew that Gabrielle would argue the question. But she really felt
that Gabrielle was asking too much of herself… again.
Xena… I was their Queen. They needed me to lead and instead I was… throwing
pebbles.” She hung her head.
“No, you had
reached the end of your endurance… and that was my fault for listening to
someone else instead of you… instead of my heart.” Xena had her own demons that
still ate at her. “You saved them and when you knew that they were safe and
that they had an heir, then you sat down and threw pebbles… stop beating
yourself up about it. Just look at that…” She lifted Gabrielle’s chin and made
her look at the valley below. “That exists because of you. You put your life on
hold to save them. You raised a daughter to give everything a future and then
you just couldn’t take any more. There is no shame in that. You did not fail.
The very fact that they flourished is testament to that fact.” She couldn’t
help but smile at her beloved. She was beautiful when she was pouting.
looked at the houses below in silence for quite a while. Finally she looked up
at Xena who was still looking at her. They both smiled. “We both did a lot for
them. They are our legacy Xena… and
this is the perfect place to watch over them.” They both looked out over the
behind them had of course heard every word. They were both smiling… for
different reasons. Naomi was pleased that she had pleased her Queen, Sherese
was just happy for the young woman that she loved so dearly. She fondly
remembered the day that Xena was born… she had been there. Harmony was her best
friend. They had been at each other’s weddings and the births of every one of
their children. Harmony had held her when she cried at her husband’s funeral
and at the funeral of Sherese’s eldest daughter. There was a bond between
Sherese and Harmony and hence Xena that the young snippet Naomi did not
appreciate or even understand. In fact Naomi had made it perfectly clear that
she felt that Sherese often overstepped her bounds. Sherese didn’t care she
loved Xena as if she were her own child. It hurt her deeply that because of orders
and tradition she had not been allowed to help Harmony in Xena’s training. She
had not been included in any of it.
I’m sorry that you were not around these past few years. We could have
benefited from your wisdom.” Xena said as if she could hear Sherese’s thoughts.
“Where did you go? I remember you being there and then you were just gone.
Things moved so fast for me when I regained my memories that, I’m sorry to say
but you were forgotten in the rush.” She turned to look at the redheaded woman.
Sherese was still smiling but it was a lopsided smile. It was the kind of smile
that one wears when they are both melancholy and happy.
“I could not
stay. Harmony had the responsibility of training the two of you and your
friends.” She said as judiciously as she could.
at the smirk on Naomi’s face and then down at her partner. Xena cut to the
chase. “So suddenly because you weren’t family you weren’t good enough to be
around me? Is that it?” Xena was angry.
lowered her head. “I’m sorry ma’am it is not right for me to speak to you about
these things.” She sounded like she didn’t want to start a war. It was too late
required to tell us the truth when we ask.” Gabrielle had taken a step forward.
“Now answer the question.” She was barely controlling her anger.
raised her head and looked Xena in the eyes. Naomi was fidgeting. “I did not
want to leave you. Harmony is my best friend. But because of tradition and…
things I was not… I could not help her. I’m… not Family as you say.” She had
almost said that she was just an Amazon but had managed to stop herself.
mates exchanged another glance. “So we were robbed of your knowledge and love
and Harmony was robbed of your friendship and counsel for… what… tradition?
Humph, we’ll see about that. Naomi, get Faith on the vid.” The young woman
hesitated. “Now!” Naomi jumped and ran back to the vehicle.
am so sorry.” Xena said and then pulled the woman into an embrace. “Why didn’t
you just make yourself known to me? You should have known that I wouldn’t let
this travesty stand.” Xena remembered bouncing on her knee at picnics and
playing kill the Gods with her. How could she have dismissed those memories so
easily? She was chiding herself when Sherese became the comforter.
dear, don’t beat yourself up. You’re as bad as Gabrielle when it comes to
self-recrimination. I never really left. I requested Shadow duty every night
and I got it most of the time. I tolerated young brats like Naomi just so I
could watch you grow. I am so very proud of you… both of you. My apologies to
you my Queen but I have watched you for so long… you were always around when
Xena was growing up… I just feel as if I know you as well as her.” She tried to
look ashamed as if she had been peaking in someone’s bath.
That is when
the memories of her time with this woman truly surfaced. “You always played
Athena didn’t you?” It wasn’t quite a question.
nodded and tears began to run down her cheek. Gabrielle reached up and wiped
the tears from one cheek while Xena wiped them from the other. Sherese was too
well trained to put her arms around Gabrielle but she allowed her to wipe the
tears without flinching.
reappeared at Sherese’s side. She was scared and frustrated. All of her
training told her that she should be angry at Sherese right now and she should
be reporting her for some breach of protocol but it was Queen Gabrielle and
Xena that were initiating the infraction. She had no idea what to do.
you have her on the line or not?” Gabrielle had no patience for the youngster.
She had rubbed her wrong from day one.
Naomi managed to stammer.
back… unless you want to listen. Then again I’m angry enough you may hear all
you need to from here.” Gabrielle stalked off with a purpose in mind.