Disclaimer: All characters herein are property of MCA/Universal/Rennaissance Pictures

Raptor

By Aquila


 “Gabi, come here for a second, would you?  I have something I’d like to show you.”
 “What’s the surprise this time?  Every time you say that we get in trouble somehow.”
 “You’ll see.  Trust me.”  She raised her right arm about halfway as if to ward off a facial blow.  Her call rang out through the clear, still afternoon... “Come Aquila!”
 Suddenly, from somewhere above the heads of the two women came an unearthly, high-pitched, shrieking cry.  A dark, winged shape appeared to divebomb directly at Xena’s face...With a final skreeeawk the shape made itself known as a bird of prey...
 “Xena!  Look out!  Duck!” Gabi called.
 The bird didn’t mean harm, however, and landed directly on Xena’s upraised gauntlet.
 “An eagle!?” Gabi exclaimed, “where did you ever learn to falcon?”
 “I have many skills...” Xena responded enigmatically.
 “How come you never told me?” Gabi queried.
 “A woman has to have her secrets...”
 “Yes, but falconry?”
 “You’ve got your hobbies, I’ve got mine.  Believe it or not, this is actually a throwback to my evil days.  Ares taught me a bit of falconry on a slow day.  It has served me well when I needed to hunt for meals on the road.”
 “So it was really Aquila who was doing the hunting?”
 “You know I couldn’t make that clean a kill, no matter how hard I tried.”
 “Now that you mention it, those kills didn’t look human.”
 “He does make quite a hunter, though, doesn’t he?” Xena responded.
    ******************
 The two were up early the next morning in order to practice with Aquila.
 “So, when am I going to get a bird to hunt with?” queried Gabi.
 “As soon as you can handle Aquila,” Xena joked.
 “Right,  like I’m supposed to handle a bird that divebombs for my face every time I call it!”
 “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.”
 Aquila dove at her face for the fifth time that morning, and Gabi was starting to get kind of agitated...  “Like I can get used to this!”
 “Gabi, you have to gain the trust of the bird before you can ever hope to hunt with it.  As soon as Aquila gets to know you, he won’t dive at your face anymore,” responded Xena with a slight smirk.
 “Are you sure he’ll get used to me someday, ‘cuz I’m not about to become hawk chow!”
 “He seems to know you well already.”
 “Yeah, and he hates me!
 With Gabi’s one last slightly anguished cry of Come Aquila!, he finally landed on her arm for the first time.
 “OW!  Sharp claws!  But at least he finally came when I called him...”
 “Firstly, Gabi, you have to wear a gauntlet!” Xena chuckled, “and, secondly, I think Aquila trusts you now.  After a few more mornings of training, I think you’ll be ready to train a bird of your own.”
 “Can I really train a bird of my own, or will it, like, shred my face off or something?  I’m not sure I’m up to this.”
 “I know when a warrior is properly trained in a skill, Gabi, and you, my little bard, are ready for a bird of your own.”
 So at the next town, they stopped at a vendor of birds of prey...
 “What do you think of this one, Gabi?” Xena questioned, showing her a peregrine falcon.
 “I’ll...keep it in mind!” she answered, backing away from it, as to her it looked fierce.
 “This one?” she asked, showing Gabi a hawk.
 “It’s small, it’s light, it’s claws aren’t too sharp, and it really doesn’t look too mean...I’ll take it!”
 “That will be 200 dinars, please.  Do you want the cage and blinders for it as well?”
 “We’ll take it.”
    *****************
 “So, what are you going to name it?” asked Xena when the pair returned to the campsite with the caged bird.
 “How about...Sangria?”
 “You wish to give it such a violent name?”
 “It’s not so bad, is it?”
 “I don’t guess so, but just remember, this is a violent force of nature you’re dealing with, so, just don’t encourage it’s bloodlust any.”
 “I won’t.  Believe me, I won’t!”
 “You sound like you can keep this bird at least somewhat tame.  Just always be sure of what you’re getting into with an animal like this.  With your nature and skill with taming wild creatures...”with this, Xena gave Gabi a sly wink, as if to indicate how Gabi had calmed even her nature, “I don’t think you’ll have much to fear.”
 “In other words, you’re just trying to warn me not to make this...hunter any more violent than it is, and you think that I’m gentle enough to cure it of its bloodthirsty tendencies.”
 “Little bard, once again you have sorted through what I’ve tried to tell you and made some sense of it.  Nice job.”
 “Like I don’t have to decipher most of what you tell me every day!  Sweet Athena, you’re complicated at times!” Gabi chuckled.
 “More than you know, little bard, more than you know...”
    *******************
 So the two women spent most of their mornings training their birds, and Gabi actually became quite good.
 “You may actually be able to hunt on your own in a few days.  You appear to be handling Sangria quite well, and he responds quickly to your summons.  Well done.”
 Suddenly, the two women heard a sound from the bushes behind them...They whipped around, birds on gauntlets, and drew their weapons...
 The warriors spat taunts and curses, circling the pair as hounds track hares... “The mighty Warrior Princess training a bird!  Is that all you can do now...let a hawk do your fighting for you...”
 “You have no idea!” Xena shot back, “and as for the bird...AQUILA!  ATTACK!”
 Her cry rang out across the battlefield over the shouts of soldiers and ring of weapons.
 “Right!  Like that bird’s gonna...AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”
 The taunts ended in sharp cries as the warriors watched the bird divebomb their ranks, swooping and attacking among the band, talons and beak slashing for their faces...
 “Okay...we give...just call off the bird!!!!”
 “Are you sure you won’t keep fighting once the bird returns to me...”
 Their last screams as the bird slashed and dove affirmed their unspoken answer.
 “COME AQUILA!”
 The bird swooped back onto her gauntlet, preening itself as if nothing had happened, but the glint in its eyes proclaimed differently...
 The warriors ran screaming, terrified now not only of the Warrior Princess, but also of her bird...
 “Nice battle, right Aquila...”
 His high-pitched shriek was her only answer.
    ***********************
 As the two wandered back to camp, Gabi seemed to be curious as to how Xena gained her knowledge...
 “Where did you ever learn to do that?”
 “Actually, to be completely honest, I didn’t!  I just figured that if Aquila were that good a hunter, then he may also be able to attack in battle...”
 “Talk about playing a hunch!  What would’ve happened if that hadn’t worked!?”
 “I would’ve resorted to conventional weaponry.  I just hoped I wouldn’t have had to.”
 “Why?”
 “I don’t want to harm any more than I have to...at least not by myself...”
 “So, do you think I’ll ever be able to do something like that with Sangria?”
 “Let’s hope you’ll never have to, but...yes, I think you could.  Just make sure you train better!”
 With those words, the two walked off, birds in hand, into another adventure...
    THE END
 


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