See chapter one here See chapter two here See chapter three here See chapter four here See chapter five here See chapter six here
Little Bard: Chapter 7
Gabrielle wasn’t sure how late it was when she woke up the next morning. She could tell by the light seeping through the curtain that the sun was already high, and by the empty room and cool sheet next to her that Xena had left some time ago. With a frown she sat up, scanning the room and noticing a tray of food and a note on the table. Although she didn’t want to get up out of the warm bed, her curiosity eventually got the best of her. She padded across the room to open the curtain, fully taking advantage of the warm sunlight, and then turned to retrieve an apple and the note.
She took a bite of the apple as she flipped the note open. It read:
Took Argo for a run. Don’t leave the inn. -X
Gabrielle digested note for a moment as she chewed and swallowed the bit of apple. She then slowly shook her head, and in a sudden burst of anger, she crinkled it up and threw it on the floor. The apple, with only the single bite missing, soon joined the note. “Took Argo for a run. Don’t leave the inn,” she seethed, repeating the note to herself once again as she began to pace back and forth in annoyance. “What you really mean is I went to go check something out that I think is too dangerous for you. I’ll just be a good little Gabby and stay here and wait. Well not this time warrior, I’m tired of you leaving me behind!”
The little bard then marched over to the corner where Xena had propped her staff against the wall. She reached out to grab it, and then stopped; realizing that her hands were so small, she could barely wrap her fingers all the way around it. With a little effort, she redoubled her determination and was able to grip it, but it felt awkward. It was too heavy and about two feet too tall.
Still, she managed to drag it away from the wall, and once she judged she was far enough from anything decided to take a practice swing. If she could just get the right balance, maybe the weapon would still be useful. She started with a simple swipe and smiled that she was able to execute it, but the next move, a one-two block didn’t go so well. The staff hit the edge of the bedpost, which caused it to rebound unexpectedly. Gabrielle lost her grip and watched, almost as if in slow motion, as it twisted and hit the edge of the table that was holding the water bowl and pitcher. She cringed as the table tipped and the pitcher and bowl came crashing to the ground, shattering into dozens of pieces.
For a moment she stood there, her mouth agape, for that wasn’t even the worse of it. The bowl full of water just happen to fall on top of one of their bags, the bag she knew that contained the bulk of Xena’s healing supplies. Letting out a small string of curses that would make anyone blush –especially coming from one who appeared so young – she crossed the room to survey the damage.
She carefully negotiated around the broken shards of ceramic and made her way to the bag. She then groaned realizing the damage was worse than she thought. Xena must have gotten something out of the bag recently, for the latch was undone, and the cover left partially open. The water from the bowl had flooded in the contents.
With a heavy sigh, Gabrielle carefully picked up a sharp piece of the pitcher. She was moving it to the side, so she could safely access the bag when a knock at the door startled her. Jumping she hissed in pain as her hand caught on the shard, slicing a deep gash across her palm.
“You okay in there, little one?” a man’s voice called it. “It’s Syrus, I heard a crash.”
The little bard clenched her teeth to keep from crying out. The blood from the gash quickly pooled and began to overflow her slightly cupped hand.
“Gabrielle?” Syrus called again.
“I’m fine,” Gabrielle was finally able to call out, hoping that he’d just go away.
“You don’t sound fine. I’m coming in.”
Before Gabrielle could protest, she heard the rattle of keys and the clank of the door latch release. Looking back down at her hand she began to frantically dig through the bag in search of a bandage. She only got it half wrapped around the bleeding palm before she was interrupted.
“Mother of Zeus! Child, what happened?”
Gabrielle paused, looking up at the large innkeeper who was standing over her. “I’m fine,” she protested. “It’s just a scratch.”
“That’s a lot of blood for a scratch, little miss. Let me take a look,” Syrus coaxed, squatting down and motioning for Gabrielle to give him her hand.
Gabrielle scowled but gave in. She knew that it be useless to argue, and besides he was right, it was a lot of blood. It had already soaked through the bandage. The then grimaced as he slowly unwrapped the hap-hazard dressing to get a better look.
Letting out a low whistle, the innkeeper exclaimed, “It’s pretty deep. I reckon it could use a couple of stitches.”
“No, it’ll be fine. I just need to get the bleeding to stop,” Gabrielle objected pulling her hand away and cradling it to her chest as she began to search the bag for another bandage.
“Now, none of that, little one. No arguments. You are coming with me,” Syrus decided, scooping up Gabrielle between his two strong arms, and cradling her. “I promised Xena I’d keep an eye on you. We need to attend to that.”
“What? No, put me down!” Gabrielle protested, futilely struggling in his strong grip, but
Syrus held her firm.
“Just a minute, child. Wait until we get to the hall. I don’t want you getting cut again.” Moments later, Syrus made good on his word and set the bard back on her feet. “Here, little one,” he commented, producing a rag out of his back pocket and pressing it down onto Gabrielle’s palm. “Hold that firm.”
Gabrielle grimaced, the pressure making the wound sting. “Stop that,” she pulled away. “I can do it. And stop calling me little and child. My name is Gabrielle.”
“Ah, excuse me… Gabrielle,” Syrus chuckled in amusement.
Gabrielle glared at him, biting her tongue. She wanted nothing more than to tell the old man off, but she realized that he was seeing her as a child and had no idea what or who she really was.
“Can you walk, or do you want me to carry you down to the kitchen?”
“Look, I know you mean well, but I can take care of myself…”
“Carry it is,” Syrus interrupted, stepping forward.
“Okay! Okay, I’ll walk,” Gabrielle reluctantly replied.
Syrus gave her a smile of approval before hastily escorting her down the hall.
Once Gabrielle and Syrus arrived at the kitchen, he introduced her to his wife, Malissa, who was easily one of the biggest women that Gabrielle had ever met. The woman had to have at least six inches on Xena, and although not incredibly overweight, she was stocky, and to the little bard’s eyes rather intimidating. Gabrielle blinked, surprised to find herself suddenly hiding behind Syrus, feeling frustrated and confused as to why the woman would make her feel so small and suddenly uncharacteristically shy. It wasn’t as if the woman was threatening. In fact, she seemed very friendly, even bending down to Gabrielle’s level so she could address the bard directly. It was an odd feeling and one that Gabrielle decided that she didn’t like. After all, she was usually so bold –as one had to be when traveling with Xena – but she couldn’t shake off the feeling of apprehension.
Syrus seemed not to notice the sudden change in the little girl’s demeanor as he pushed her forward, talking not to her, but about her to his wife. Gabrielle listened to their conversation, not being asked, but rather told to show her palm to Malissa. She complied; not really realizing what she’d done until the make-shift bandage was off and the innkeeper’s wife was poking at the wound.
“You’re right Syrus, it is pretty deep. Looks like the bleedings stopped, though. That’s good. I’ll get her patched right up.”
“Thanks,” Syrus replied, pecking his massive wife on the cheek. “I told Xena I’d keep an eye on her. After what she did for our town, I’d hate to let her down.” With a nod from his wife he then excused himself to attend other matters.
“Alright, little one,” Malissa said, shifting her attention to Gabrielle, before picking her up and sitting her on the edge of a table. “Let me get my kit, and I’ll sew you right up.”
“Sew?” Gabrielle asked as if suddenly awoken from a haze. The events of the past few minutes, including the shyness and intimidation, quickly faded, and she once again felt like her old self. She pulled her hand back, clutching it securely to her chest. “Xena should be back soon. I have her to look at it.”
“No,” Gabrielle interrupted.
Malissa was taken slightly aback by Gabrielle’s sudden stubbornness but shook it off as the child just being frightened. “I’ll tell you what. You be a good girl and let me take care of that for you, and I’ll give you a piece of my blueberry pie. I just took a batch out of the oven. It’s still warm.”
Gabrielle narrowed her eyes. “Don’t patronize me. And stop referring to me as a child or little one. My name is Gabrielle!”
“Well excuse me, Miss Gabrielle,” Malissa admonished, placing one had on her hip, and using the other to wag a scolding finger. “I don’t know what that warrior woman lets you get away with, but you just remember this is my kitchen, so you best behave yourself.”
Gabrielle scowled. She looked up at Malissa; the beginnings of an argument forming on her tongue, but then it occurred to her that she might be going about this the wrong way. Letting her feeling get the best of her, Malissa was only seeing her as a disobedient child. She had to change her mind and to do that, she had to do what she did best; talk. “Look, I’m thankful for your help, but really it’s not needed. I can take care of myself. I know that I look like a kid, but I’m really not.”
Malissa raised a questioning eyebrow as Gabrielle continued, “You see it’s not my fault. Aphrodite put a spell on me. Well, it was kind of my fault, but she turned me into a kid so that Xena could learn to appreciate me. We tried to get her to undo it, but she wouldn’t, so I’m stuck like this until I can figure out how to break her spell.”
The expression on the older woman’s face softened. “You really do have an active imagination, don’t you?”
Gabrielle watched as she turned away and filled a bowl with warm water. If Gabrielle’s hand wasn’t so sore, she would have slapped it to her forehead. Malissa didn’t believe a word of her story, but then who could blame her. It did sound pretty outrageous, even for a bard like herself.
Malissa soon returned to Gabrielle’s side with the water and a soft cloth and began to gently clean off her bloodied hand. “Perhaps I should have a talk with that warrior of yours. You’re much too young to be invoking the name of the Goddess of Love.”
Gabrielle narrowed her eyes again, but the innkeeper’s wife wasn’t paying attention. As soon as she got the opportunity, the bard swore she was going to take off and hide somewhere until Xena got back. She had to get away from these people!