Xena’s Warrior Headband
The events in this story happen in between ‘Sins of the Past’ and ‘Chariots of War’
The two women had been walking through the mountains for an executive number of days since they left the camp.
Xena figured it took that long because Gabrielle had always stopped (every time her horse Argo took a slight breather) to pick flowers and gaze in wonder at the view from the Craig’s “since she had never been outside her village in her entire life”.
To be fair on her part, it was a very glorious number of days in the mountains. The skies were as blue as sapphire (not a cloud in sight) as if the egg shell of fog filled with all of human kind’s sinful past had broken, spraying its yolk of sunshine all over the world.
“My grandmother always talked about the wonderful adventures she had with my grandfather when she was younger. How she ventured to get water from the well, and a mysterious dark stranger scooped her up in his arms and took her far, far away. At least — that’s what she said, before she went to the other…side…” Her voice faltered and she shook her head.
“If only she could see where I am now.” And she flashed a toothy grin towards Xena’s Direction, in which Xena didn’t know how to respond.
This little farm girl with the bright eyes never seemed to stopped talking, no matter the weather. She found it quite irritating, but also found a strange comfort in it. It gave her something that was constant; something she could rely on; as if her soul knew more about her than she did. Whatever that meant. She also wondered why Gabrielle liked flowers so much. Often in the day, when Argo stopped to drink from one of the dip pools in the cliff, she would weave the flowers into a crown and try to pose it on Argo’s head. But from the horse’s dark expression, she quickly removed it, before the risk of being kicked in the stomach.
“What are you doing?” Xena exasperated, as if talking to a child.
“I’m trying to be friendly to your horse. I’m not sure she likes it very much.”
“Argo doesn’t like flower decrements” Xena replied dryly, giving out another little sigh while fixing Argo’s reigns.
Gabrielle frowned coming to a conclusion.
“There’s something up with you. You’ve been sighing and puffing all day and I’m going to find out what.”
This tended to be an ongoing thing with her Xena thought to herself.
Whenever she tried to order her around, it was like Gabrielle didn’t comprehend it in the slightest. Xena had previously been a warlord, a leader of an army, the ‘destroyer of nations’ not that long ago. Barely three months in fact. Gabrielle was just a rag tag girl from a small village. She could have potentially been one of her victims, had her ‘men’ gotten out of control again. But her steely gaze or ‘dark past’ never seemed to phase her. And Xena didn’t know how to grasp that in her mind.
When they stopped for the night among a “beautiful patch of trees” — as Gabrielle put it — Xena noted to Gabrielle to set up camp while she went off to hunt a rabbit.
Gabrielle gave her a disapproving look.
This made her smile in response and say “That’s better.” making Xena shake her head.
When she returned to the circle of the birch like trees, with the caught rabbit, she found that Gabrielle had already set up the camp, and a fire with a mini spit, made out of one of the silver twigs, hovering over it. She looked up and greeted her with a small smile. The sight made Xena quite teary to the eye, as she realised just how tired she was inside her head. Gabrielle placed the rabbit on the mini spit while Xena made her place beside her and stared into the fire. She was too tired to ask how Gabrielle had learnt to do that.
They ate their dinner in silence, when suddenly a spark that came out of the fire reminded Xena of that dreaded day. She was withholding telling Gabrielle this, partly because she barely knew her — but the atmosphere was so calm and peaceful..
“It was fire.” She broke the nights silence. Even the birds nesting high up in the trees had to listen.
She breathed in and out for the first time. Her feelings were unfamiliar.
Gabrielle beside her nodded for her to continue, her wide eyes glistening and reflecting the moonlight.
“I had to walk…the…gauntlet.” She gestured to explain “This is a process when you get disowned by your army. It’s supposed to be deadly.” She gestured some more. “Your’e not supposed to survive it. But..I..did.”
“Well that’s good isn’t it?” Gabrielle’s chirpy, grating voice jumping her out of her thoughts “Because now you can focus on being good.”
“I wasn’t supposed to survive.” Xena repeated, not understanding why that information wasn’t affecting her.
“But you did. And that must count for something because now you have a chance to start all over again.”
“Mmm” Xena grunted. She wasn’t used to talking to someone who was completely untouched by the world and had no real experience with life or death.
“Think positive and you can conquer anything.”
This particular conversation by the fire happened for many days afterwards, as Xena casually revealed bits information of that dreaded day slowly, Gabrielle patiently listening and giving “naive” comments with a toothy smile. But Xena appreciated the effort.
After what seemed like two weeks of it, Xena finally revealed the end of her tale, of how she met Hercules. She was surprised to hear no response. In fact, Xena had gotten so wrapped up in telling her story of how Hercules had turned her life around for the better; but she had to leave to find herself — that she weirdly hadn’t noticed how Gabrielle had removed her warrior head-band and started braiding her hair.
“What are you doing?” Xena flinched, making Gabrielle sigh.
“I’m making your hair look pretty”
“Because your’e my best friend.”
As simple as that. Xena’s mouth moved into what Gabrielle thought was a ghost of a smile.
“Haven’t you been listening to me?”
“Well it seems to me..” Gabrielle said thoughtfully, while finishing off the little braid in her hair. “that you were already changing before you even met him. You saved that baby. You should give yourself more credit.”
She was taken aback by the way Gabrielle was speaking so forwardly to her.
“I don’t really know how to do that.”
“Well you have me.” Gabrielle gave her the constant toothy smile “And I’ll keep reminding you of that.”
The next day, they set out again, only this time, Gabrielle led the way as if she had passed some sort of test of Xena’s trust and ran ahead. When they had reached half way down the mountain, Xena had realised that she’d left her warrior band behind at their last camping place, where Gabrielle had taken it out to make ‘her look pretty’.
It was probably ‘collecting dust’ She thought and shook it off. They had almost reached the bottom of the mountain, it was too far to go back for it now.
The headband lay forgotten in the clearing. The breeze tossing it this way and that. A mouse came and nibbled at it. Another mammal used it as a house. Leaves and lichen covered over it. It was more than just a forgotten warrior headband. It was a grave.