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You can read more of ann's work at her fan fiction site Adventures with Xena: Warrior Princess.
The Finest Mentor
© October, 1998
by Ann Logan
Our family owned a small wheat farm in a community of earnest families. With new faces, trade means more than the bounty we harvest. New tools replace damaged goods and tanned animal skins will make fine blankets against the cold. At the end of line of strong brothers, I am Amica, the only girl. Father says this summer, I must make someone a husband. None of the boys interest me with their foolish pleas. Despite their many daring visits, I stroll in easy. Among my protective brothers, the strongest, Paul, is never far.
In my seventeenth winter, strange longings emerge in my dreams. One is with a stranger passing through town. Like Paul, he is strident in stance and steady in voice. Often mother yells as I wring clothes lost in my longings and the village boys, parading as men, laugh.
An early frost scares many farmers into their fields. As Papa meets with traders, I gather wheels of goat-cheese, protected in a crop cellar below our home. It's a cloudy day with gusts whistling through the wooden planks, above. None of my stacking toils seem to end. I thought wrong.
An awful shrill scares me to frights. I dash to the stairs and look up. Tossing down a small knife, My mother closes a trap door, my only escape. I hear a rag-rug drag as a great section of light progressively disappears. Slave traders? I duck behind a stack of grain and hear my mother scream to an abrupt finish.
Plodding boots stampede with mayhem. More anguished cries curb to silence my brother, Markus, and my father. The steps march hard, chairs bouncing as they pass. Pottery smashes in a quest I don't understand. Terrified, I bury myself in a loose bail of hay and clutch mother's knife.
Suddenly, a woman screams, "YiYiYiYi Ya"
I hear scuttles hasten and thuds land on the floors. Fearing the worst, I hide deeper in the hay. Some barbarians only want wine. A shiver runs throughout my body. Could they want more? Silence hovers and perspiration tickles down my chest. My sealed escape quickly opens to a flood of sunshine.
I peek to feathering straw whirling in and out of the upstairs light. At the top of the stairs, a lone feminine silhouette waits with a dazzling sword. She listening intensely and I hold my breath. Amazons?
Her voice is pleasing and firm, "Come forth, little one. I will not harm you."
Hiding my knife up my sleeve, I call out. "I'm a woman"
She slides her sword into a sheath slung over her back and gradually descends our narrow stairs. Shiny golden vines shield her shoulders and bodice. She's almost as tall as Paul with arms almost as strong. A tight braid of raven hair pulls to her back. Even as I nestle still, she strolls close to where I hide.
"And why would a woman cower in the dark?" She slightly waves. "I'm Xena, Paul sent me to you."
Leaving my knife, I step out, watching her smile. More fantastic is her probing hazel eyes warming like the many days of summer.
Taking my arm, Xena guides me upstairs then covers my head in a sack. "There is nothing here, you need to see."
I ask with caution, "How do you know my brother?"
She guides me along a snake path. Her pleasing voice seems lower, "Keep close and you'll be safe."
"I'm Amica," I tell her.
We stroll through a salty stench of blood. Buzzing flies echo off the walls. Even under the sun's light beaming through my sack, death is the girth of every brisk breeze. Xena tugs to and fro, over plodded earth, our oddly hushed main street. Reaching a stony path, the warrior removes the sack and I see our barn doors open, animals gone, and my brother, Paul nursing a mild bump on his forehead. He is only one of my former family. I back from him.
In a cracking voice he calls to me, "It's a gift that you are alive, Amica." His curly hair flies around his strong shoulders too weak to save mother or father. "Amica?"
"Stay away." I cling to the Xena, for security. Closing my eyes, I hear Paul storm into the woods.
Xena pries my arms, staring with a cold narrow glare. "Should one wound forever or are you too young to say?"
I lower my head in shame. "Will he be back?"
She holds me. "I'll make certain." Gently tugging away, she charges into the woods.
Paul is ten summers less than the warrior princess. I guess he needs to be less in other ways. For it is Xena who builds the funeral pyres. Paul only drags dead wood. And, it is Xena who hunts for our meals. Paul strolls by a scorched garden, numb in his thoughts. As night takes charge, I watch a small campfire in fascination. It is a woman keeping my belly full. My plans are hollow and Xena's mentoring is clear: for a new life, new land. I wish forever to keep by her side.
Riding separate horses, I follow Xena blazing a trek to a long hoof-battered trail in the north. It was swarthy barbarians who slaughtered our home and continue in other villages to seek treasures from a fool's tale. Because of pride, they will return to scrutinize any rock and every battered acre, now desolate of homes.
We ride by day for Thessaly. Hiding our path, Paul trails far behind. I don't know how Xena knows of my uncle in the hills. Or, of many things that she reacts without a need of words to interfere. When I hunger, she brings forth bread. When I thirst, she ensures I am quenched. And as I shiver in the worst of a wintry gust, she slows her lead to ride warmly by my side, breaking the cold.
As the sun descends, Xena pushes harder up a rocky slope. Growing layers of snow progress. An icy crust reaches knee-high and our horses struggle to climb. Snow beads like pellets of sand. Above a frozen pond, Xena spots a narrow cave and leads our horses inside.
It's a winding narrow entrance that opens to a vast sparkling cavern. Bundled logs are stacked by the wall of different colored barrels. Xena lifts me from my ride and glances to a shadow riding inside. She takes little time, to scratch flint stones to a blaze. Snow is whirling past a male silhouette.
Clapping the reigns, Paul rides to the brink of the fire light, staring at Xena like an eagle. "We should keep going."
She shouts to him, "Come join us for supper. Even those fools can't follow our trail."
Paul shouts to her, "Mind my sister." He turns his horse and gallops into a light snow storm.
"Paul," she yells.
As I unburden our horses, Xena jogs outside. This cave is but one of her many hides from capture. I wonder how many times, she dined knowing death was so close in pursuit. Xena struts back in. My brother must be gone. Watching her fire gnaw at dry logs, I hover my palms, melting the chill.
"He'll be back, Amica." Xena removes my cloak covered in slush, much like her own. "Can you wiggle your toes?"
I stamp my feet. "Is it far?"
"Don't concern about tomorrow." From dry hiding spots in the cave, Xena takes several bearskin pelts and snugly wraps one around my shoulders. "Today still holds challenges. Just ask your hunger."
Pork jerky is new and tasty I think. Of the many stories, Xena shares, I love the ones about her home in Amphipolis stricken with death. When she was two years younger than me, she lost most of the family, too. Now, she's a lone warrior, a true woman revered by many. I like this unplanned course, filling each moment of my life with intrigue. And, I love Xena speaking to a friend behind my eyes, as if I, too, am a person to be known. What adventures we shall live to tell when the ages have worn us old.
I smile to Xena laying our blankets, side by side. "Are you an Amazon?"
My brother barks from the entrance, "Blast the villains."
Without his horse, Paul staggers inside. His lips trembles and his hands are empty. He stares at me with dagger-eyes then glances away to the campfire.
Xena sighs, "I told you not to go."
He yells, "Silence."
Though his stomach groans, he ignores ample Xena's smoked venison and curls away from us, hating the warmth he needs from Xena's fire. We soon yield to sleeps, blistering with all the places we have past.
As I stir early in the morning, I almost laugh. Snoring soundly, Paul rests beneath the largest bearskin Xena snuck about him. She places me first upon her horse and leaves my ride for Paul to use.
I whisper to her, "Shouldn't we wake him?"
She wryly grins. "From that sleep, few men quickly rise. Come."
It's a clear day with a crisp north breeze. Many white clouds travel beside us. Xena slaps the reigns and we carefully trot up a small ridge. The snow melts to a land-lake of ice barely showing green grass beneath. At the edge of a vast woodland plateau, a sleek chimney offers no homestead smoke.
Xena slows to trot then woes to halt our ride. "Something is wrong."
A roaring gallop grows louder. Taking the lead, Paul races past us, in fury.
Xena cries to him, "Wait."
Paul keeps charging. "Uncle?"
Xena holds me tight, kicking our horse to run. As we approach the cabin, Paul dashes inside, calling and calling for my uncle to answer. Xena slips to the snow-dusted ground, studying wind- smoothed footprints. Then, she turns to the water well. Thick layers of ice cover the handle.
I look to her hazel eyes squinting to read my reaction. "I never knew him."
"There's no danger. Stay here," she orders and jogs inside.
A moment later, Xena returns and lifts me down. Then, she walks our horses into the barn, expecting to me to follow. I run to the cabin and open the door. Standing with burning eyes, Paul carries a corpse wrapped in many blankets.
I stand aside, "Will you joining us in the morning?"
He stares at me. "This is our home, now." Shifting his grips, he parades outside.
"No," I cry. "I won't bed with death!"
"Amica!" He continues to march. "You are too young."
I shout louder, "I won't live here."
"Enough." Snatching my hand, Xena guides me inside.
Dancing blue flames eat at spitting orange ridges. Gently, Xena tugs at my coverings, peeling wet chills, layer by layer. Her busy fingers rub warm life into my arms and shoulders.
I stare into the fires. "He lies."
"You know better," she says.
For a few moments, my eyes dry in the crackling heat. Then, moisture trickles across my wind burnt cheeks. "I want to go with you."
Xena steps into a storage room. "First, hear Paul's plan."
I shout to her, "Take me with you?"
"Amica." Stepping out of the storage room, Xena wears a dry cloth toga. "Be kind to your brother. As with most men, he harbors pain too deep for tears." She sits behind me and gently brushes my hair. "He needs you, now."
I almost whisper, "Don't go."
"Is that what you fear?" She holds me in a safety that I crave to continue. "No one will be hurting you. The neighbors are many and kind." Tenderly, she hums a melody and sways in unison to her strong heart beat.
My eyes grow heavy and my anguish calms. Morpheus wins in a lose of my vitality. The stranger, masked in brawn, creeps into my bedroom. His eyes are lust, gazing upon me. I want for his hands lowering to my bodice, to my silky gown soft against my skin.
A rogue breeze stirs me awake. Though the fire is strong, the blanket behind is cold and I'm alone.
I call into the other room, "Xena?"
She doesn't reply. I slip on layers of my dried cloaks and march to the door. Snow flakes whoosh inside as I step out. Across the yard, twittering amber glows hail from the barn. Xena's bootprints are faint in a thick coating of new falling snow.
I hear her voice, husky and teasing, "Why hide the weapon that defeats me, Paul?"
Racing to the barn, I stop at the door. Why is Paul so silent? Is he dead? On the side of the barn, a busted plank pours orange light onto the snow. I creep close and hear unusual knocks and clatters. Fearing the worst, I bravely peer inside.
A short sword is stabbed in a stable post, swaying feverishly to a harmless still. Directly in front, I see Paul shifting aside, in dragged strides. His hands are raised for a fight. Then, I see Xena twirling her sword in a skillful display, this way and that. Don't kill him.
Deliberately, Xena flings her sword to a hay-covered floor.
Snatches a staff, Paul twirls a warning then tightens his shaking grip. He speaks harshly, "Don't make me hurt you."
As Xena strolls in a circle, he steps around looking for a vulnerable point for his discretion. A wry grin disappears from Xena's face and her sparkling hazel eyes narrow with a catlike charm.
She almost coos, speaking to him, "Give me the chance to yield this night."
Run, I want to shout. My own advice I can't take. I kneel in the cold watching my brother stand quiet beyond quiet. The fool should run. Majestic and graceful, Xena prowls closer and strokes the edge of his staff.
Paul smiles her. "That much?"
Even from the dimness of several lanterns, her seductive stare glows. "Don't be afraid." One by one, she licks her fingertips.
Paul's voice almost squeaks, "Xena?" Paul drops the staff, laboring breaths that he held too long.
She circles like a playful predator, precise and alert, to his rear. A flying dark cloth passes through my view. Could she have seen me? I duck aside in the darkness. Thrash, bump and a long moment of quiet. I want to cry for help, shivering in howling breezes. What magic is this? A rough tumble echoes with curious laughter. I dare to peek again.
Paul is standing with his shirt ripped in several places. Tenderly, he lowers defensive hands and Xena's shadow envelopes him. As she steps to a lantern, her bare chest simpers beneath proud shoulders. She massages herself, shamelessly enjoying the warmth from her own hands probing forbidden places. Her unfettered raven hair billow down her back. Adding his touch, Paul steps behind her and kisses her shoulder.
She moans only a moment before turning and drawing him close. "Am I less than you remember?" He kisses holds her. "Forgive me, Xena."
"No." Her fingers gently rake his back and rip off his tog.
He kisses her neck and her lips, tender then strong. Turning her about, he pushes her against a support beam. All over her chest, his hands roam. As he kneels, Xena descends like an eagle, taking his lips in her hunger for pleasure. I should turn away but want so much to know.
Their kisses suckle the words never spoke. Paul lowers one palm to stroke her forbidden place. Deep panting slows into moans. Xena stretches tall for air so thin and rises with her feet quickly wrapping about Paul's back.
They twist toward the lantern, Paul cradling her buttocks in his hands. Kissing and moaning. Her legs bind them closer in a swoony spin.
Breaking a kiss, Xena rocks up and down. "No."
Paul staggers to a blanket lying in a clearing. His voice is earthy, "Oh, Xena."
She coos within his appeased baritone groans. Her hazel eyes glaze in desire. Grabbing his hair tightly, Xena kisses, inflamed with lust.
Paul groans expand in an unending lover's verse. "Xena." He kneels then lunges into a tumbling lust. Suddenly, Paul rolls on top, hovers above. He harshly warns, "No mercy, warrior."
Xena bites in the air. "Tell me."
Paul gazes into her eyes and glances down then up. "Mine."
Slowly, he suckles small kisses along her neck. Her legs part and flex. Wriggling lower, Paul kisses her chest and nipples, suckling and licking down to her stomach. I stagger backwards, suffering an old sweat beneath my cloak.
Xena cries to the gods, "Yes!"
Over and over, Paul moans in rhythmic tones, "Oh Xena."
I scoop snow to wash my heated face and dare a brief peek, again. Paul lays on the hay, caressing Xena's tightened breast. Her head is a pendulum swaying as her she arches to capture his undulating ecstasy. I see her ride my brother, her new toy, pushing down to capture him deeper inside her.
Paul throws a hearty thrust and recoils for several more. I back away and brush my face dripping with melting snow. Oddly, I hear Paul snoring.
I peek inside and watch Xena, a sultry woman, emerges to the lantern's dim light. She doesn't fear her naked vulnerability and gathers her possession, a lover appeased. Suddenly, a crackle echoes above me.
Xena sternly looks to the source. I leap out of the path of a falling icicle and run to the cabin, slipping and sliding over the ice. I close the door behind me. What if she saw? Tossing another piece of wood, I hide under a blanket. My snow soaked clothes breed strong shivers. Yet, I must be sleeping.
A moment later, precise steps strut through the doorway. I close my eyes and Xena steps behind me and kneels down.
She peels back the blanket and tucks my hair behind my ears. "You'll catch pneumonia, Amica."
I slap her touch away. "Get out!"
The action shocks me longer. I wrap my arms over my face.
Xena's voice is peaceful yet strong, "No woman apologizes for sharing love. When you are older, you will know my words."
My arms start to tremble. A cold breeze chills inside. Peeking out for her wondrous eyes, I see the door open. I scramble to my feet and run outside. A saddled horse is waiting by the barn.
I scream into the night, "Xena, don't leave me!"
"I'm not." Her hand pulls me inside. "Paul left belongings in my cave." Heavy bear skins drape about her.
"Amica, I'll be back by morning." She smiles, wiping tears from my chin. "We really need to talk."
I hug her tightly. "I'm sorry."
"We will see. Keep warm, inside." She strokes my hair, tender and slow.
I peek up. "Paul didn't mean to hurt you."
She chuckles and kisses my forehead. "Don't grow so fast, Amica."
Within a thick swirl of snow, I watched Xena gallop into the winter. Some know her as a warrior, others as a criminal. I know her as my mentor and friend who quietly purges her solitary strife in the love of lost people like me.