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Teresa M Shafer - For books that kindle thought and ignite the imagination!
Happy Birthday 

Galatia gave Cadence nothing to complain about for the next hour. She went out of her way to be accommodating to everyone and when they yelled at her to not help them for whatever idiotic reason she simply excused herself and found something else to do. She had decided on the walk home that she was no longer going to be the victim. Xena had been right, if Gabrielle succumbed to the tortures then she would be giving Alti the win… and that just wasn’t going to happen. She had never given in to hate or any of its many manifestations and she wasn’t going to start now. 

So she marveled at everything that came to her five senses. The strangely colored grass and other vegetation, the sound of the birds calling in the trees that sounded like no bird would on Earth, the smell of the flowers and even the feel of the air on her skin… they all made her glad that she was alive and able to experience them. 

It was in this state of extreme calm and contentment that Galatia arrived at her birthday party. Many of the guests had already arrived including some of her best friends and their families. Galatia greeted everyone with a grace that Cadence never imagined that she possessed. And for once Cadence felt a certain amount of pride for her daughter and it showed. Galatia either did not notice the affection from her mother or she modestly ignored the extra gentile attention. She wandered from guest to guest chatting amiably with everyone so that no-one was left out or felt slighted. In short she was the perfect hostess.

When Zaria arrived, instead of allowing her friend to occupy her time Galatia looped an arm through Zaria’s and took her along with on her tour of the Family. Their other four friends joined them and as a group they went about entertaining and greeting and serving everyone at the party and seemingly in a single stroke changed the way that everyone perceived them.

By and by the grandmothers arrived. They strolled into the park as if they were Queens themselves where only one of them presently was a Queen. Faith was the current Queen of the Amazons. Galatia’s group went immediately to greet the grandmothers and because Galatia was the guest of honor everyone else had to step aside.

Galatia was gracious and sly at the same time. She kissed Dura on the cheek and gave her a gentle hug when she greeted her and moved on to Faith who also received a kiss on the cheek and a small hug. When she came to Solace she changed it only slightly. She was still within decorum and she made it look as natural as the sunshine when she kissed her grandmother on the cheek and leaned in a bit further to embrace the woman. But then she whispered ever so lightly into Solace’s ear, “Greetings Solace, the last time that I held you such our ages were reversed. Perhaps we can speak later without quite so many ears.”

Solace went slightly stiff when she registered exactly what her granddaughter was saying in her ear. But as always she recovered quickly and said in Galatia’s ear, “After the cake everyone settles in to chat. Come to us then.”

So it was that the afternoon wore on. There was entertainment from without and from within the Family. There was food and drink and games galore and finally it was time to open the presents and then cut the cake. Galatia was perfect the entire day and Cadence was congratulated on how well her daughter was coming around. They were referring to her manners as well as her apparent new interest in weapons. Cadence admitted that perhaps her daughter was finally getting her footing in life. She had no idea just how truthful that statement to be.

The cake was cut and Galatia opened her presents and as predicted the adults did in fact start to settle in to chat and the children had formed teams and began a game of tag ball. Galatia and her friends as well as Harmony all managed to drift in the direction of the grandmothers. A few of their children, Galatia’s aunts and uncles had been speaking amiably with their mothers but as Galatia and her cadre approached the grandmothers sent them away.  They nearly sent Harmony away as well but Zaria grabbed her mother’s hand and pulled her along to sit beside her. They all sat at a round table together.

“So Galatia, explain yourself.” Solace said gruffly.

“Hmm, grand… daughter that is an interesting tone to take with me. But due to the circumstances I can’t say that I blame you.” Gabrielle had obviously left Galatia behind.

The grandmothers all smiled warmly. “So it is you Gabrielle. I am so very happy to see you again. It’s been about thirteen years… is that right sister… yes thirteen years since we have spoken with you.” Solace remarked in a much more inviting voice.

Gabrielle was confused. “Thirteen years… I don’t understand Solace.”

Faith giggled. “She always likes to be dramatic. When you as Galatia were a child, you were three. You had just learned how to make full sentences and were learning how to spin a staff. You came and sat in my lap at a party and suddenly you weren’t Galatia anymore. You were Gabrielle. You as Gabrielle asked about our families and wondered why you were so small and we were so big. And you told us that one of my daughters would be a Prophet of God and that when you returned we were to call her and have her come to you.” She stopped and looked at Solace and Dura.

“You told us a story… it was a horrible story. You told us what happened to you and Xena when you went after Alti in the Castle. You told us not to disturb the Castle but to watch it only. We of course had been trying to excavate it for years but upon your word we stopped immediately.” Dura continued the story and then looked to Solace.

“Once you knew that the Castle would remain untouched you suddenly became the three year old Galatia again. Since then we have done as you bid and only watched the Castle… and you of course. So the question that I have now is which one of your friends is Xena? We know that she is close to you so which one is she?” Solace asked as if she wanted to know who had one the bet… and perhaps she did.

Gabrielle was a little stunned. She didn’t remember any of what they had told to her. But she didn’t doubt it either. She turned to Zaria and raised an eyebrow.

“That would be me Solace. Good to see you girls again. You’ve grown up a bit.” Xena answered.

“Hah, one of mine! I knew it. Pay up you two!” Dura burst out, and got quickly shushed by Faith.

There was a moment of stunned silence and then almost as one they all burst out laughing. Many heads turned to look but when they saw who it was that was making such merry they turned away. Those that were near saw how the grandmothers had sent their own children away to speak with this group alone and alone they would stay.

When they finally calmed down again Solace once again took up the conversation. “I’m gathering that you do not wish to make yourselves known. May I ask why?”

“The question Solace is should you need to ask why?” Xena was completely disgusted with the lack of shape of her body.

“Xena” Gabrielle shook her head after barely mouthing the name. Xena in turn mouthed what back at her. Gabrielle closed her eyes in defeat. “Okay she has a point… we aren’t exactly in any kind of shape to be meeting anyone in battle. I lost to my sister yesterday and believe me she’s no Alti.”

“Hmm, point taken… but surely you’re not here to simply get into shape.” Faith cut in.

“No, I figure that we were awakened early because we aren’t in shape and because we need to really work out what it is that we’re going to do. This is different; we have never actually been born as ourselves before… well except obviously the first time.” Xena explained.

“But I thought that back in the twentieth century you were reincarnated into bodies that were your own.” Lacey said what nearly everyone else was thinking.

“No, had we actually been reincarnated into the bodies then they wouldn’t have been mixed up like that. No, we actually popped into them when the threat of Ares was recognized. A lot of that was his doing somehow. We lived out our lives in those bodies but they weren’t ours in the first place.” It was Gabrielle’s turn to explain.

“Yeah, but these bodies… have been ours since birth. We just got all of our memories yesterday. It was as if they were downloaded like in a computer. All the other stuff is still there but now all of what we knew before is there too.” Xena continued Gabrielle’s thought.

“Okay so you have the memories of two lives in there?” Rachael wanted to know.

“Oh we got a few more than two. How many times have we died and come back… that we can remember honey?” Xena asked Gabrielle.

“I have lost count but I do know that it was one lifetime too many.” She answered sardonically.

“I gotta agree with that one.” Xena’s voice was just as cynical.

Faith held up her hand to silence the women. She was listening to her ear piece. She looked over at Gabrielle. 
“You broke up with that boy Lance am I right?” Gabrielle nodded. “I thought so.” She said something very quietly into her hand and motioned for them all to wait.

Soon a half dozen Amazons appeared out of the trees and Faith motioned for everyone to stand and follow her. They all stood to the side while her Amazons moved the table and chairs that they had been using a bit further away from the party. They set them all back up and then after the women were seated the Amazons took three steps away from the back of the chairs and remained turned away from the table. They were now on a specific guard duty.

Once they were all seated and the Amazons were comfortably stationed Gabrielle silently asked Faith what was going on. “I’m taking advantage of the situation and giving us a bit more privacy while my girls hunt down your ex-boyfriend and I think yours as well.” She indicated Xena. “Don’t worry I’m not concerned. It’s not like we have a shortage of Warriors here. They apparently made a diversion so they could run one of the side gates. They will be found soon.” She finished but the younger girls were suddenly mute. “So, to put everyone’s mind at ease these Amazons would sooner be boiled in oil than divulge a single word that they hear… even considering the information that we all have.”

“Okay… so where did we leave off?” Xena had lost track of the conversation. She looked at Gabrielle
“What are we doing?” Gabrielle said helping.

“Right, what are we doing? Well beyond getting into shape we also need to make a plan. This time there is a reason why God gave us our own bodies instead of the bodies of someone else dead or alive. I think that if we plan this right we may actually get a real life together. That could be wishful thinking but I know that He’s giving us a chance to make a real plan and map it out. If I’m right then we have years to execute this plan. That’s why Gabrielle was given the opportunity to tell you to stop digging in the Castle. Alti never left and you have no idea where she might be. You could have set her free prematurely and then we all would have been screwed.” Xena was forming a plan even now but she had to really see where everything was at before she solidified anything.

They all had listened closely. “So what you need is to go to Uranus and see for yourself the condition of the Castle and if Alti is securely trapped?”

The heroes looked at each other quickly. “Yes, and to retrieve a couple of bodies.” The answer had come from Gabrielle. Xena nodded. “…And a couple of swords. You can disguise it as a school field trip or a Family training mission. I don’t care, but we know where to find them and we can figure out where she would have run to when the walls started to crumble. I’m fairly certain that we can avoid her and just retrieve the swords, the Marines and… Amy and Hope.” Gabrielle still had a knot in her stomach just thinking about reentering that room.

“It will be done.” Solace said quietly. She knew as did Faith that Hope had been more than the body of just another of Gabrielle’s descendants. Hope had been her daughter reincarnated to get a second chance to making the right decisions. Her life had been cut short by Alti in the mines of Titan. Hope had been Solace and Faith’s mother and Amy had been Dura’s mother. They needed to come home.

“I need new clothes and some good boots and some weapons. I know that it sounds trivial but I feel naked without my Sais and I have no boots in which to put them even if I had them. I just feel funny dressing like this all the time.” Gabrielle indicated the cute party dress and dainty shoes that she was wearing.   

“I agree with that as well. But in addition… if you girls plan on being our personal guard then you need to change some clothing as well.” Xena indicated their four friends. They were all nodding. “And last but most certainly not least… we need Cadence to take Gabrielle off of grounding. She’s gonna spend the night at my house tonight.”

“You are willing to take on this responsibility Harmony?” Dura asked her daughter.

“Yes” She answered without hesitation.

Dura smiled. “Good then you can take the girls, all of them to the store for shopping tomorrow as well and you will watch over them as they train. You may enlist the help of anyone but you are sworn to tell no-one who they are. I’m sure that I need not tell you these things but it is a formality.”

“I understand mother. I knew what I was getting into when Xena told me who she was this morning.” She smiled at her daughter Xena.

Xena had not realized the situation in which she was placing her mother Harmony; but now that it had been spelled out she thought that it had not been such a bad choice after all.

“Now let’s deal with Cadence.” Solace called a stray Amazon over to her and bid her to go and find the woman in question.

They chit chatted about the party while they waited. It took several minutes for Cadence to make her appearance. By the look of her she had been playing kick ball with the children.

“Cadence, I understand that you have grounded Galatia here. Is this so?” Solace asked her daughter

Cadence automatically became defensive. “She’s my daughter and she needed to be punished.”

“Hmm, yes she did. Now the punishment is done. She should not be punished for finally finding her backbone. If we punish for such a thing then what incentive would there be for improving oneself? In addition to this she is spending the night at Harmony’s house and then tomorrow she is going out shopping with them. Don’t worry about the cost… I’ll pay for anything she wants. It is my birthday gift to her.” Solace really had to bite her tongue to keep from smiling when she got to the birthday part.

“Mother” Cadence began to plead.

“I will hear no argument on this matter. And I best not hear of retaliation against her from anyone… period. If I do then you my dear daughter will pay the price. Am I in any way unclear?” Solace was very firm with Cadence. It made Gabrielle wonder what kind of bad blood was between them.

“No, mother I understand.” Cadence sounded more sad than she did angry.

“I am not angry with you daughter. But I think that you favor your other children too much. Have you not felt pride for this child at all?”

Cadence remembered how she had felt just this afternoon. “Yes I have mother.”

“That’s good because if you will only allow yourself to feel that towards her, I think that she will surprise you.”

“Perhaps mother, I will consider your words.” Cadence also remembered trying to gain her mother’s approval. She never thought that she would; now she tried to gain it through her children. Perhaps she should have noticed a long time ago that the one child that she held in little esteem was the one child that her mother, the other grandmothers and the Sisters all held in high esteem. Could it be that her own jealousy had blinded her to that one thing that she wanted most?

“I know that you will dear. Now go on back to the party. We wish to monopolize the birthday girl for a bit longer.” Solace had stood to hug her daughter. It took some of the sting from her words.

When Cadence had gone Solace looked at Gabrielle. “She is a good woman. Please don’t judge her too harshly. I fear that we had too many children to care for and our own grandmother could help us only so much. So many of the little darlings did not get the attention that they needed. Cadence was one of those children that needed more attention than the others. But I did not have the time. That does not mean that I love her any less.”

“I never imagined that you did. She is a good mother. It’s just that she has little tolerance for children that don’t fit into the mold that she has pictured in her mind and I guess I never did.” Gabrielle was trying to figure it out.

“You did once, when you were three you were the perfect little Amazon girl child. Even at that age you could spin your tiny little staff better than anyone else. But then Gabrielle came forward to tell us to leave the Castle alone and from that day forward you shunned all weapons and anything that had to do with any kind of violence. It was an abrupt and for your mother an unwelcome change.” Dura told them.

“Why would I do that?” Gabrielle was shaking her head.

Xena looked at her soul mate quizzically. “Are you kidding? Why would you do that? You suddenly filled the mind of a three year old with all of the memories of pain and death and humiliation that you had endured in several life times. All of it was due to the way of the Warrior and you wonder why she shunned it that way? Really Gabrielle I thought that you would be more intuitive.” Everyone was looking at Xena most couldn’t believe that she was speaking to the great Queen in that manner. Gabrielle on the other hand was looking at the table. Clearly she had not seen what Xena had. “Gabs, honey are you alright? You seem to be a bit slow. This isn’t like you.” Xena had put her hand over Gabrielle’s when she had become concerned and now she pulled that hand to her face and gently kissed her knuckles.

Gabrielle had been thinking furiously while Xena had spoken. She could think of no reason why she was feeling and acting like she was living in a fog. “Do you remember Helicon Xena?”

“Of course.” The table had gone silent. This should be a private moment and they all knew it but here they were with no place to comfortably go.

“This is like Helicon for me. I had a mission then and I couldn’t be distracted or coddled. I had to see it through, for a strong Amazon Nation. Now I need to return to Uranus and return to that room and retrieve my daughter’s body… for a strong Amazon Queen. I have to put her to rest.” She had been speaking to the table but at the last she raised her eyes and lanced each and every woman there with a determined look. Finally her gaze rested on Xena.

Xena nodded. “Then let’s make this happen.” Her comment was made for them all. It only made partial sense to Xena. She knew that Hope was at rest. But no-one else did. Xena knew that it was Gabrielle’s fear and anger that needed to be put to rest. What happened in that room had Gabrielle by the throat and wouldn’t let go until she faced her fears and went back. Then maybe she could conquer it and it could make her stronger. It had been much easier for Gabrielle to face the fear while in heaven but now back in the real world it seemed much harder on her.

She had awakened feeling fine but with each passing day the weight of her fears was pressing down upon her with more weight. Gabrielle didn’t fear what happened she feared how it might change her. It didn’t have to change her at all but that doubt, that single cancerous doubt was eating away at her. They say that doubt is mankind’s most dangerous weapon. Xena was seeing firsthand the truth of the saying. Xena didn’t tell Gabrielle any of this, her thoughts were only theories after all.

Someone suggested that Xena take Gabrielle home to Harmony’s house but Gabrielle flat refused the offer. “No, I’m the guest of honor. I will stay and I will be the perfect hostess until the party is over. Xena… don’t argue with me on this point.” She had that piercing glare that silenced any argument from her partner.

“Fine, I hope you won’t mind if I stay glued to your side for the rest of the night?” Xena said with a crooked smile.

Gabrielle smiled warmly and kissed Xena’s hand. “My dear love, I expect you to stay glued to my side for the rest of your life and a thousand more if that is what God wills.”

“Even in death Gabrielle, I will never leave you.” Xena whispered so low that not even Gabrielle had heard her.