As he ran, James kept reminding himself, that if he was seen by the archers he wouldn't
live to warn Robin, but it was hard for him to keep to his side of the ridge that hid him from the
rival army. His heart was urging him to charge down by the straightest course, but he forced
himself to run diagonally towards the base, his arm catching occasionally on an outcropping ,
once nearly twisting his ankle slipping into a hole. Finally at the base, he stopped to get his bearings and saw one of the archers moving into position for a shot.
"Shit, they think she's the dawn courier." he cursed and plotted a line of interception.
There was a grove of trees right along the ridge he was on. He should be able to reach her at
that point, he thought.
He was almost there when he realized that the archer was not going to wait until Robin
had cleared the trees to fire, and as he reached the top and saw Robin pulling up just below
him, knew that there wasn't going to be time for a warning yell. As he leaped towards her, he felt
rather than saw the release of the arrow, and time seemed to almost come to a stop as he hurtled towards her. A conversation with Xena about being fired upon flashed through his mind, and he remembered her saying 'present a profile, harder to hit and you protect the vitals', and in this strange suspended moment he had time to turn his body. He thought that the arrow would strike like a knife and there would be simple shock, not pain, but there was an great agonizing impact as it hit him hard on the right shoulder, knocking him slightly off trajectory. But he still seemed to have all the time in the world as he grabbed at Robin pulling her off Titan to carry her to the culvert below where he instinctively knew there was safety before another shot could be launched. There was a moment of struggle from Robin as he impacted, and he knew that because of the great height of the horse, muscle tension could be deadly.
So using his forward momentum, and against every instinct
he had, he struck her jaw. Then, as he pulled her body into a protective
embrace he felt her go limp. Still amazed at the slowness of their fall,
he almost forgot to begin to roll to distribute the impact while relaxing
his own limbs until the ground was all that he could see, and then there
was nothing at all.
"Hades, one of those bitches shot James."
"Where? How's Robin?"
"I don't know yet, check for broken bones, that was a big fall. They might have
internal injuries too."
Robin felt someone lift her slightly. Damn, she hurt. Her jaw, shoulder, sides, especially
her right shoulder. She lay still while the examination was made, and felt vaguely resentful when
she was pronounced fine. She heard James complaining querulously that he was fine as well, but Gabrielle just snorted at that.
Eponin was asking him what he had landed on to be without any breaks.
"Parachute class at home." He started explaining to the blank looks. "You jump from
high places with some material that slows your fall. But they train you how to land if there are
problems. How to roll and distribute the shock. And I had all the time in the world to do it too, I
presented only profile..." He stopped and looked at Xena. She was nodding. "That's how you two
do what you do, isn't it? You both seem to move so fast, but to you it's all in slow motion. The
adrenaline speeds your mind..." Xena was grinning, and smirked,
"If you had all that time, why didn't you just catch it?" pointing to the arrow. James
"Only wimps catch the arrows in their hands." The warrior laughed.
Robin finally spoke out. "Would someone do something about my shoulder, damn it?"
She opened her eyes and saw Gabrielle staring at her from the ground with an Amazon
behind her. James and Xena were on either side of her, and the positions were so familiar. She
followed their glances to her unmarked right shoulder, but the pain hit her again and the memories overwhelmed her.
A very pregnant Gabrielle was arguing with Saras. She was lying on a litter being
dragged by Xena who had a wicked smirk on her face. The expectant Queen was red in the face
"I am not staying in that room any longer, Saras! I am not sick. This," pointing at her
belly, " is not an injury or a disease! It is my baby and it is going to be born under the same
stars it was conceived under!"
Xena drawled "The Queen has spoken, Saras."
Gabrielle turned on her warrior. "You, you shut up and pull."
She lay back as another contraction hit her and Robin instinctively grabbed her hand and felt her own groin pinch and flare. She rode out the pain until it passed, and looked to Gabrielle in astonishment. James looked over at Gabrielle and from his own pain-filled hunched position and questioned, "That wasn't too bad?"
Gabrielle nodded and looked up at Robin, who shyly suggested, "Maybe if we were holding hands each time, it would help?"
In assent, Xena pulled Gabrielle's pallet to the centre by the fire they had built and
began to move the log seats around her. James picked up his present from Gabrielle. She had
commissioned a craftswimman, with instructions from Robin, for the addition of a sixth string to
a five string lute, and with some ingenious adjustable clamps as frets, James was trying to tune
it as a guitar. Xena listened to him for a while and growled, "I still say you should have just
learned to play the lute."
He ignored her, and looked to Robin "how's this?" and played a G chord. Robin grimaced, it was getting closer, but...
They had just gotten settled, and Saras had left predicting dire consequences, when James called out "Incoming!" Robin grabbed Gabrielle's left hand and Xena her right, and James dropped the instrument and closed the circle. Immediately they all felt a grinding, tensing pain that left them grateful when it had passed.
They looked to Gabrielle who nodded weekly. "Much better", but she looked at each of
her friends questioningly. Robin spoke what was on their minds.
"I don't know why we can do this, I'm just glad we can. For some reason we're in this together, and we're going to help. OK?"
Gabrielle smiled crookedly, and said, "Much more than OK."
James picked up the pseudo guitar again and Xena, after whispering a few words to Gabrielle, began adding to the fire Robin stopped her, said "I can do that," and motioned her
back to sit by Gabrielle.
She watched the two women together. Women. Sometimes it was hard to think of Xena
that way. Except around Gabrielle. She had been so frightened of Xena, intimidated by both her beauty and presence even before she had heard about her warlord days; but here and now, observing the tenderness between the two of them, and the gratitude she had tried to express every time Robin or James did some small thing for her bard, she now knew where James had the courage to defy her. There was a core of loyalty to friends and family that overrode any of her inner violence. All you had to do was touch
her heart, and she could never hurt you again. She looked up to see Xena watching her gather the wood. There was a wordless exchange between them, and then the warrior turned back to her bard.
"There, " yelled James triumphantly, startling her. He immediately began banging a boogie riff in E, until the strings stretched and he had to stop to tune again.
"There is no way," Robin pointed at his hands, "That you are going to introduce Rock
and Roll to Ancient Greece. Got that?"
"But I could be Elvis!" he mock whined.
"No you couldn't." but gave him a kiss on the forehead seeing his disappointment.
"We're all here for a while, so let's figure out what we can sing."
James thought. "Nothing based on rhyme alone. I've tried it before, and it doesn't seem
to survive the translation from English to whatever it is we're all talking. Presumably modern French wouldn't do any better. And that would rule out most syncopation as well, because it's based on the beat of the words."
"Well, what does that leave?"
"Any simple songs, with real poetry in the lyrics."
Between contractions, Robin tried accompanying Xena, introducing the concept of harmonies, Gabrielle told stories, and Saras would interrupt periodically to remind the queen that she had promised to return at the slightest complication. Ephiny had gotten over her resentment at not being able to join the 'contraction circle' as she called it, and sat behind Gabrielle, occasionally massaging her queen's aching lower back muscles.
Finally James took over the guitar and began to play. He began with songs of children,
and switched to laments of love and wars, before switching to a song by Holly Near. With Xena
and James as the basses
And the Junta....
Ephiny's tenor would join in,
And the Junta...
then Robin's clear contralto
And the Junta knows...
And Gabrielle with the weakest voice, but still the most creative in finding a new or
different harmony between the singers
And the Junta knows where she is hiding and dying...
And the sounds filled the clearing and glowed with the fire and the anticipation and
sense of the uniqueness of the moment. Several times, various guards on the perimeter had
attempted to approach with some message, and had been stopped by an almost physical
barrier that had been created by their circle.
When James next tried a song by Cris Williamson, Robin finally decided to corner him.
"What is it with the gay songwriters? How do you know all this stuff?"
James seemed shocked. "Robin. Gay Songwriters? These are folk songs. Like Woody
Guthrie, some are songs about what's wrong, and unfair or how things should be. They're
political and some are about human values and feelings, and when they're well written I want to
She stared him down.
"OK. So there's a song I want to do, and I'm softening you guys up so that the irony of a
man singing won't be as apparent."
"What is it?" she asked.
"I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar."
She hit him.
"OK ! No, it's by a local, Ferron. It's called Testimony. I just hope I remember all the words."
Despite breaks for contractions, by half an hour they had the first few verses of the song
"There's Godlike, and warlike, and strong like
on-ly some show
"There's sad like and mad like, and had like we all kn-ow...
But by my life, be I spirit
And by my heart be I Woman
And by my eyes be I open
And by my hands be I whole.
There were other songs, but as the night drew on Testimony was requested again,
especially by Gabrielle. She said it gave her strength. Robin could see that Ephiny was
memorizing the song for future camps, and she wondered what the implications would be
for Ferron to know her song had been sung around Amazon campfires.
She decide that the writer would probably appreciate it.
It was only after a particularly heavy contraction that left them all weak for a moment,
that James introduced the third verse.
You young ones, you're the next ones
And I hope you choose it well
You can be baited, and trade it
For the Jaded Jewel
But by your lives be you spirit
But by your eyes be you open
And by your hearts be you women
And by your hands be you whole...
Earlier in the night, there had been a crying towel that had been passed between them
when the emotions had overflowed. Occasionally with jokes and smirking comments. But that
had long passed. They had also stopped breaking the circle of hands between contractions, and
while James played, Xena and Robin's hands lay across his lap completing the circle. With this
last verse there was no attempt to wipe away the tears, the only movement occurred when Xena
leaned over to gently touch Gabrielle's belly with her lips.
If the third verse had been a prayer, the fourth was a declaration of purpose.
Listen, there are waters
Hidden from us
In the maze we find them still
We'll take you to them
You take your young ones
May they take their own in turn
And by our lives be we spirit...
And by our hearts be we women
And by our eyes be we open....
And by our hands be we whole....
And the moon and stars were listening and waiting, and the whole universe was complete within that group and they were part of it all like never before and Robin was thinking, 'I will never, ever forget this moment, this night. I will hold it with me until I am an old woman, I will
Robin couldn't move. She felt overburdened by memory, joy and pain, and she tried to
find her way back to the present, to the attack, her shoulder, and James being hurt, but the first
thing she saw was Gabrielle and she felt such a sense of betrayal that she broke down and
clutched her, crying,
"Gabrielle I'm so sorry. I swore I would never forget and..."
And then they were both crying and Gabrielle was laughing too,
"I told you I was being selfish..."
Whatever she might have said next was cut off by the pain that shot through Robin's
shoulder, and she looked over to see that Xena had just thrust the arrow backwards through James' arm.
"I thought you said I wouldn't feel it, that I'd probably just faint." James complained.
Xena sniffed at the arrow head for poison. "I used to tell people it would hurt like
Tartarus, but I found they tensed up." She put her hand out without looking and Gabrielle
dropped a needle and thread into it. Robin wanted to turn away, but the pain was just as strong
whether she watched or not.
"I missed something didn't I? How did you, we, get that arrow?"
James tightened as the needle passed through his skin.
"There was a sale." he said through clenched teeth.
Gabrielle explained. "You were riding into an ambush. James got between that arrow
and your heart..."
Robin slumped down beside Xena.
"I never had anyone save my life before. What do you say?" Then to James
"Why did you do it?"
"I don't know. Why did you come ahead and not wait for the cavalry?"
Robin took James` hand, and they both grimaced as Xena tied off the last of the
Eponin coughed. "Excuse me, but the civil war is passing us by. I think we have a few
decisions to make?"
"She's right. And though I'm assuming that forty trained Amazon warriors aren't having
any problems subduing twenty-odd rag-tag mercenaries, this doesn't solve the bigger problem,
does it?" James said to Xena.
"And even assuming we capture a few who name names, we still will have a danger
"So we need to get them to expose themselves, and crush them completely in front of..."
James and Xena were now thinking out loud.
"But then the ones in the village would have to think..."
"But we'd need casualties..."
"The centaurs wouldn't mind loosing a few sheets in a good cause would they?"
"There are some berries on the hillside that would be perfect..."
"As a genuine casualty, I could go ahead..."
The others were staring at them. Eponin asked, "Who's bonded to who?"
Xena looked at James. "Straightforward tactics, that's all."
James added "A leads to B leads to C."
"Exactly. Gabrielle, we need materials for litters and berries for blood. I'll point them out
to you. Robin, sorry about the arm, but we're going to need someone to make bandages, lots of
TO BE CONTINUED...