A Friend In the Making
Disclaimer: All characters from the show Xena: Warrior Princess belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended.
Summery: Book 1 of the Argo Tails Series. The events of "The Greater Good" as told from Argo's point of view.
Gabrielle continued to twirl that long, decorated staff in front of my face. I'm not really sure how she expected me to react, but at least it was entertaining. Well, more annoying than entertaining, but there really wasn't anything I could do about it.
"Wanna try it again?"
I just turned to look at her and neighed, completely unimpressed.
"Okay," she grinned.
"What did I say that makes you think it's okay? Why don't you practice on the trees for once?"
Gabrielle raised her staff in the air, pointing it at my nose. I looked away and grunted, realizing I'd never be able to change her mind. When Gabrielle had her mind set on something, there was no changing it. Frankly, I don't know what Xena sees in her. She may be nice and all, but she's so chatty and she can be so annoying sometimes.
"I wish Xena would come back. I don't know where she went and I don't understand why she'd leave me alone with the blonde. Oh well. Maybe if I ignore her, she'll go away. Probably not, but it's worth a shot."
I tried as hard as I could to ignore her. Didn't work. Then, I heard someone whistling in the distance. I knew it was Xena. She was coming to save me from the crazy bard and I knew what Xena wanted me to do. I turned to look at Gabrielle who now knew something was going to happen. She looked uncertainly at me as I nodded my head in her direction and grunted.
I swiftly kicked the staff right out of her hands, propelling it into the air. Gabrielle looked slightly annoyed when I did that, but I didn't care. Xena told me to do it and I'd never dare disobey Xena.
Soon, Xena came walking up from behind some bushes carrying Gabrielle's staff and looking at Gabrielle, disappointed. It was quite amusing to see Gabrielle's expression change to that of frustration, looking at Xena.
"I hate it when you do that. I need to practice."
I watched as Xena handed the staff back to Gabrielle. "Not on my horse."
"Yeah. What she said."
Xena walked up to me and started to rub my nose. I love that.
"I wish the two of you would just get along."
"It's not like we're at constant war or anything. Argo doesn't like me."
"And do you know why I don't like you? If you were quieter and if you didn't think that I was some kind of target for you to practice your fighting moves on, then maybe I'd like you better."
"Sometimes you have to have patience with things that annoy you." Xena said, still rubbing my nose.
I whinnied lightly and rubbed my head up against her.
"Why can't Gabrielle just be more like you, huh?"
Gabrielle was still standing next to me and she had begun to put something into my saddlebag.
"Oh, I never said she annoyed me."
Xena looked at Gabrielle then turned back to me. "I wasn't talking to you."
"Oh, funny--very, very funny," Gabrielle chuckled.
I was barely paying attention to their conversation. Xena was still next to me and I wanted it to stay that way. I was hoping she'd take me with her instead of leaving me with Gabrielle again. I didn't want to spend any more time with the bard, even if Xena did say to try and get along with her. I didn't think that could ever be possible. Gabrielle was just not my type and probably never would be.
Then, suddenly, Xena stopped rubbing me. I looked at her and saw her extending her arm in the other direction.
"There's a road on the other side of those trees. I'll meet you there; bring Argo."
"Wait, wait. You're not going to leave me with Gabrielle again, are you? You can't! She doesn't understand me and she never will."
I heard Gabrielle sigh. "You go on. We'll catch up."
I knew I didn't want Xena to leave me, but I had no way of keeping Xena from doing what she wanted. Then, she leaned her head against mine again and whispered. "Be nice."
I neighed quietly in response and Xena backed away from me. I'd try. I really would. But I didn't know how long I'd be able to put up with Gabrielle. Xena and Gabrielle talked for a moment more, but I didn't know what they had said. All I could think about was what I'd do once Xena was gone.
I saw Xena walk off and Gabrielle looked at me and sighed. "Guess it's just you and me, girl."
I didn't answer. All I could do was watch as Xena disappeared behind some trees.
Gabrielle walked up beside me again and started to tighten my saddle. Thankfully, she knew a little about what she was doing and she didn't tighten it so tight that I couldn't breathe. At least that was a good thing. At least I could somewhat trust her to not hurt me--for now, anyway.
After she'd fixed up the saddle, I suddenly was so surprised when I saw her put one foot in one of my stirrups and tried to get on my back.
"What are you doing?! Xena never said anything about riding me. I bet you don't even know how to ride a horse, do you? You're making a mistake. But you're Xena's friend, so I can't do anything too terrible to you, now can I?"
She just smiled a little at me. I could tell she was a little nervous and uneasy. And who wouldn't be? She's awfully small to want to get on top of a huge animal like me. Well, okay, I'm not that huge, but to her, I must seem very large. She did say one time, after all, that she never planned on riding any more horses until they were made closer to the ground. Now, why didn't she just remember that and stay off me? I don't understand how her mind works. Too complicated for me, that's for sure.
Gabrielle continued to easy herself up onto my back.
"Hey--this is good. See, I knew we could get along."
I didn't do anything except stand there wondering how long it would be before something was going to happen, like if I decided to buck her off.
"No, that would be wrong."
I still thought about it, though. And, honestly, it sounded like fun. I could do something to her and get away with it. No one know if I had meant to or not.
Gabrielle continued to climb up. "Xena will be so surprised."
"Yeah, she'll be surprised, all right, when she finds you lying on the other side of the forest after I decide to throw you off my back. Not that I'd do that or anything, of course..."
Unexpectedly, I heard that familiar whistle again. It was Xena, calling me. I took off in a gallop, completely forgetting about Gabrielle. I heard her land on the ground, grunting and somewhat upset after falling off my saddle. I didn't even look back.
"Hey, it's not my fault Xena called me. I will not disobey Xena. It's your own fault when you decided you were going to take a little ride on my back. You should have never of done that."
"You stupid, conniving, four-foot daughter of a...mare!" I heard her faintly say as I galloped away, leaving Gabrielle behind.
I soon saw Xena. She rushed up and as I ran by, she climbed on my back. It took her a long time to master that move, but lately, she's gotten pretty good at it. It's quite impressive to see.
I galloped down a dirt road through the forest, Xena urging me on. I had no idea where we were going, but at the speed she wanted me to travel, it must have been to a place of some importance. I could see the gates to a village in the distance and I realized that was where we were going. I heard Xena begin her shrilling war cry and then saw her chakram fly out in front of my face and past me, into the streets of the down.
I galloped into the village, Xena flipped off my back and I stood back as I watched her fight a bunch of bad guys. One can never get bored watching her fight evil people. Makes my life interesting. I heard Xena whistle and immediately I knew what she wanted me to do. Behind me, I saw a man struggling to get free of one of the bad guys and I forcefully kicked him in the gut, allowing the man to free himself. I love helping Xena fight the bad guys. It makes me feel so proud when I can help Xena.
When the fight was over, I was so thirsty and I don't really know why, I didn't do much. I found a barrel full of water and started drinking from it. Xena was several paces in front of me, but I didn't pay much attention to her. All I wanted was the water in that bucket. I saw Xena, Gabrielle, and that guy I'd saved talking nearby, but I had no idea what was going on. I'm not usually told anything. I always have to find out things for myself.
They talked for a long time. Again, I had no idea what it was about. Then Xena walked back over to me and rubbed my nose.
"Hey, girl. We've got work to do."
I whinnied and she mounted on my back. She led me out of town and soon I was galloping through the forest again.
She stopped me behind some trees and dismounted from my back. I looked at her and she looked at me.
"Stay here, girl," she said, starting to walk away.
"Wait. Where are you going? You're just going to leave me here in the forest all by myself? I want to help you with whatever it is that you are doing."
I neighed and Xena looked back at me. "I know. You want to come. But you'll be more help here. Just wait and be ready."
Xena walked off and I watched her until she was gone from my sight.
I stood there, waiting and waiting. Then I heard something. It sounded like a whistle, but it was so quite I could barely make it out. I knew, though, that if it were a whistle, it would be coming from Xena. I took off in the direction the sound had come from. When I turned a corner and reached a clearing in the forest, I found some warlord guy lying on the ground along with a bunch of other guys. Gabrielle was standing near a bush and Xena was lying on the ground.
"Xena! What's wrong?"
I galloped up to her and moved as close as I could to her. She looked so weak. I was scared. I didn't know what was wrong with her. She slowly climbed to her feet and grabbed onto the side of my saddle. She seemed too weak to climb into the saddle; she just hung onto my side. She seemed sick or hurt. Her face was all sweaty; she didn't look good at all.
Gabrielle ran around to my other side and hung on. I didn't know what was going on.
"Go, Argo," Xena said, faintly.
I immediately obeyed and galloped off down the path. Gabrielle and Xena hung onto my side. I knew I was saving them from those bad guys, but why Xena wasn't able to fight them off, I didn't know. Something was terribly wrong. I knew it.
Back in the village, I stopped by one of the buildings. Gabrielle ran over to Xena who was still hanging onto my side.
"Xena. Are you all right?"
Gabrielle helped Xena walk and they went into the building I was standing next to. That's the last I saw of them for quite some time. I wish I had known what was going on inside. I wanted to know if Xena would be all right. Gabrielle sounded fearful when she asked if Xena was all right. I knew that meant that something bad had happened to Xena and I wished I knew what.
I turned my head to look at the building. There was a small window so I walked up to it and looked in. There were people walking all over the place. I looked harder and saw, in a far corner of the building, Xena lying down on the ground and Gabrielle talking to her. It was too far for me to understand what they were saying, but it wasn't good. Gabrielle looked troubled and Xena looked very ill. I hoped that nothing bad would happen.
I turned away from the window and shook my head from side to side.
"Xena, I hope you're all right. I really do. You're the only human I've ever felt attached to. You're all I have, Xena. I know Gabrielle cares a lot about you, but she's not the only one. I may be a horse, but I have feelings too and you are the only person I've ever felt connected to. I hope that, whatever's happened to you, you'll get better."
I waited outside for I don't know how long. All I could think about was Xena and what was happening in there. I wanted to know what was going on. I was afraid.
I hung my head, deep in thought when I heard the sound of a door opening. I looked back and saw Gabrielle, or I think it was Gabrielle, coming out of the building. She looked very different. In fact, she looked like...Xena. It was weird. I whinnied.
"Yes, it's me," Gabrielle said.
"Then why doesn't it look like you? Where's Xena? Why do you look like her? This doesn't make sense."
Gabrielle walked up to me. "Now look. We have to call a truce, okay?"
She got onto my back. Never thought I'd actually let her do that. But seeing as how that something must be wrong with Xena, which would explain why Gabrielle was dressed like her, I figured that I had to go along with whatever Gabrielle wanted to do. There must have been a point to it.
So, I let her climb on my back and I told myself that I'd do whatever it was she wanted--just like I do with Xena.
I soon heard Gabrielle whistle. I was a little confused at first; I turned my ears back for a moment, but then I thought that if Gabrielle is giving me a command, I should obey...no matter what it was she was telling me to do. So, I did as she asked--and sat down on the ground.
I looked around while I was still sitting on the ground and saw that man I had saved before standing nearby.
"Yeah--see, I must have a different definition for the word, uh, gallop. I thought the whistle was this--"
He whistled. It was a different whistle than Gabrielle had used and I immediately stood up.
"At least he knows the command for gallop. I don't know how I'm going to be able to do anything with someone on my back who doesn't know the difference between sit and gallop."
I'm guessing Gabrielle finally got it right the next time because I heard another whistle and started off, galloping out of the village. It didn't sound like it came from Gabrielle though. Oh well. I was just doing as I was told. No questions.
I road for a long way until I came upon a bunch of rugged looking warrior men in the forest--I think they were the same ones from before only this time they weren't lying on the ground unconscious. Gabrielle guided me to a stop; I was impressed that she could actually ride a horse. But anyway, I stopped and those men, they looked a little frightened, probably because they thought the person on my back was Xena, though, I don't really know how anyone could have ever mistaken Gabrielle for Xena. Yeah, sure, Gabrielle had dyed her hair black and was wearing Xena's armor and all. But Xena had a certain grace and dignity and ferocity about her that no one else has. I can't see how anyone would be able to pull of a Xena disguise and make it look believable. Xena's unique, unlike any person I've come up against. But that's beside the point.
"This is your only warning--either leave this valley forever, or suffer the wrath of Xena! Up, Argo!"
Gabrielle could have fooled them right then and there. She almost did until she decided to try to command me to do something through whistling. She whistled and I did as I was told. I kneeled down and bowed to the bad guys.
"Yeah, good going, Gabrielle. I think when we get back, we need to work on you're whistling skills."
She whistled again and this time, she got it right. I was so amazed. I stood and looked at the warriors who were now a little suspicious about the whole situation. I could tell they knew that the person on my back wasn't Xena. It was too obvious, even for them.
"I always bow to my enemies before I destroy them!" I heard Gabrielle shout.
She was trying her best, she really was, but it wasn't working out the way that she had hoped.
"She's bluffing. Get her!" One of the warriors said.
The men started at us, anger on their faces. Gabrielle whistled again and whether or not the whistle was the correct one or not, I decided to take matters into my own hands, uh, hooves, and get us out of there before those warriors had a chance to chop us into little pieces. I galloped away, Gabrielle trying her best to do the war cry like Xena.
"Gabrielle, you might as well give that up. It's no use. You can't be Xena."
We returned to the village only moments later. Of course, those bad guys were hot on our trail. I galloped into the village square and Gabrielle told me to stop.
"This is your last warning!" Gabrielle said to the warriors who were now completely unimpressed and really ticked off.
"Gabrielle, I told you. Give it up! It's not working!"
I saw a round wooden disc fly through the air and then I saw the chakram pass it at amazing speed, heading straight for the warriors. I was so glad. I knew Xena was all right now.
Those warriors were defeated as always and they nearly ran out of town whimpering. It was great. While I thought about Xena, Gabrielle got off my back and headed back into the building where she'd been before. Again, I was left outside, alone.
Gabrielle finally came out, still wearing Xena's armor. My hopes that Xena was okay began to fade. If Gabrielle had to take Xena's place again, something must be seriously wrong. Gabrielle walked over to me and put some round pouches in my saddlebag.
"Time to go."
I looked at her as she mounted and whinnied softly.
"Please tell me what's wrong with Xena."
She took my reigns in her hands and I galloped off, still wishing I knew what was going on.
We stopped in the forest. I saw Gabrielle light a fire and start to put those brown pouches she'd had in my saddlebag and put them in the fire. They started to flare up and she'd throw them while tying, again, to do Xena's war cry. I have to admit, though, she was getting pretty good at it. At least it sounded somewhat like Xena, but those bad guys weren't going to be fooled a second time.
I didn't really know what Gabrielle was throwing those things at, but I assumed it had something to do with the warriors. When all of those pouches were gone, Gabrielle got on my back and we road down the hill in front of us. Below, I could see a camp, presumably the warrior's camp. Tents were on fire; men were running around. Gabrielle did the war cry again and I galloped through the camp. One man stood in front of me, though. He looked very scary, and he was probably the leader of those warriors. He took a stick and swung it at me, only he wasn't aiming for me, he was aiming for Gabrielle. I don't know what happened next. I suddenly felt that Gabrielle was gone from my back and I heard a splash of water, but I just kept on running. I didn't want to be stuck in that camp with all those bad guys.
I ran as fast as I could into the forest. I didn't stop. But then something inside me compelled me to stop. I don't know what it was, but I knew something was wrong. I knew I couldn't leave Gabrielle behind. She'd probably die at the hands of those warriors. I looked back and I could still see the camp. I stamped my foot on the ground, and dug it into the dirt. I was trying to make a decision. Finally, I knew what I had to do. Xena wouldn't have left her back there and neither would I.
I galloped back as fast as I could. When I reached the camp, I saw that same, nasty looking warrior, standing over Gabrielle with a sword in his hand. I let out a loud neigh and I began to race through the camp, kicking every man that I saw including the leader who almost killed Gabrielle. They tried to attack me, but I was too quick for them, knocking them on their backs with my strong hooves--they never even had a chance.
I saw Gabrielle grab her staff and she started to fight the man who was going to kill her. I stopped and she ran up to me and mounted in a hurry.
"Go! Ya! Go, Argo! Go!"
I knew what that meant and I didn't even have to wait for Gabrielle to give the signal. I just took off.
I let Gabrielle off back at the village. She went inside the building and I didn't see her for a long, long time. It was getting dark anyway. I knew I'd be spending the night outside. I stood by the building, waiting. Everything had gone quiet and somehow I felt that something bad had happened.
It was dark when I saw Gabrielle again. She came out of the building, not saying a word. She rushed over to my saddlebag, grabbed her folded up staff and ran off. I knew something was really wrong at that point. She seemed upset. She had tears in her eyes-and I knew something had happened to Xena.
I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that Xena might be gone for good. I didn't know how or why any of it might have happened, but by the look on Gabrielle's face, I knew. I knew all too well. Some say I'm just an animal, that I wouldn't be able to understand certain things. But I know things that not even people know. I can sense things like danger when people around me can't. And that is how I knew that something had happened to Xena. I knew it from the very beginning, but I never thought that I'd be right. It now seemed that I was.
That night was probably the longest night I had ever had. When morning came, I found Gabrielle and the guy I saved, who I still don't know the name of, talking near the building. They both seemed sad yet determined. I watched them for a moment and then they nodded at each other. Gabrielle went off in one direction and the guy came toward me. He grabbed my reigns and he walked me out of town.
We walked all the way to the warrior's camp where he handed me over to one of the warriors.
"What are you doing?"
I had no idea what his intention for me was, but I now knew that it probably wasn't good. Either that, or he and Gabrielle had some kind of plan that, for the life of me, I had no idea what it could be.
The warrior led me over to the side of a building and stopped. I don't know how long I stood there, waiting for whatever was going to happen.
"Bring out the horses!" I heard a man shout from a distance.
"Let's tear this carcass limb from limb."
A warrior soon walked up to me and led me forward. I walked in front of a crowd and stopped. In front of me stood another horse, one with a nice brown coat. I looked at the horse and he looked at me. Then out of the corner of my eye I looked down--and saw Xena laying only a few paces away. She seemed lifeless. She was dead. I pawed the ground. I was in pain.
"Tie Xena to the horses!" The leader said.
The same warrior took a rope and tied it to my saddle horn and I saw that another warrior was doing the same to the other horse. I saw the man tie the rope to Xena's feet and I had a hunch about what they planned to do. One warrior stood next to me and the other stood next to the other horse. They began to whip us and it really hurt. But I knew what they were trying to do. They wanted us to run and tear Xena apart. But I wasn't going to let that happen, not to Xena. I turned my head to look at the other horse who looked at me too. I neighed.
"We can't run, do you understand? I won't let them tear Xena apart, even if she is supposed to be dead." I said firmly.
The other horse whinnied back.
"I don't know if I can do that. It doesn't feel very good, being whipped."
"You have to." I said. "I can't let them destroy her. Please."
The other horse gave out an exasperated grunt.
We stood fast, not moving a muscle while they whipped us. It hurt, it hurt a lot, but I knew that I couldn't give up one Xena. I'd never give up on Xena.
"That's Xena's horse--kill it." I heard the leader say.
He was very angry and he had discovered that I wouldn't harm Xena. Just when I thought that they were going to come and kill me, I saw Xena's body slowly rise from the ground.
"You're alive! Oh, thank the gods. You're alive!"
I neighed loudly. I was so happy to see her again. I knew I couldn't give up and I knew it would take something drastic to let her die. She's strong in that way.
Xena grabbed the bad guy’s hand and snarled.
"Don’t you ever touch my horse again." I heard her say to the nasty men.
"You tell them, Xena!"
I stood back and watched. She fought the warriors fiercely, eventually knocking all of them out. It was great to see her fighting again, to see her well again. I can't say how much joy I felt, as much joy as a horse can feel, I guess.
Once all the warriors were dealt with, Xena walked over to Gabrielle and they talked. I don't know what they talked about, but they sure seemed very happy. They hugged each other; it was a very touching moment. When Xena was done talking to Gabrielle, she came over to me and brushed her hand against my neck. It was so good to feel her touch me again. I'd missed it.
"I knew you couldn't harm me, girl. Even if I were dead, I knew you'd never be able to hurt me."
I whinnied softly and she nuzzled her head up against me before taking my reigns. We walked over to Gabrielle who smiled at me as well as Xena and then we headed back to the village.
It was a quiet walk back, but I was happy and so was everyone else. In the village, I stood by a tree while the villagers thanked Xena and Gabrielle for what they did, helping their town against the warriors and such.
When the villagers had left, Gabrielle walked over to me and started to rub my nose. I actually liked it, to say the least. Gabrielle wasn't as half as bad as I once had thought. She could be brave and courageous when she wanted to be. Get past her annoying tendencies and she's great.
"I'm glad to see you two are getting along," Xena said, walking up to Gabrielle and I.
"Yeah, I think we may be able to get along from now on. As long, of course, as Gabrielle doesn't try to practice her staff on me again, I'll be fine."
"Well, the best of friends are made in strange situations."
"I think 'friends' may be taking it a little too far at the moment."
"And Argo's okay. I mean, at least, I know she doesn't hate me. She's still too tall, though."
"Well, maybe, Gabrielle, it's not me who needs to get shorter. Maybe you need to get taller."
I neighed to myself. No one else could really hear. Gabrielle and Xena were too busy talking about something; I wasn't really paying attention. I was just glad to have Xena back. And yeah, I'll admit it, I'm glad to have Gabrielle around too. At least I can know she'll take care of things if Xena's not around. Or try to, that is.
Maybe 'friend' is the right word. I'll definitely give Gabrielle more of a chance in the future. I'll just have to keep my mind open, learn to understand her. I mean, if Xena sees something in Gabrielle that I don't, there's no point in not trying to find out what that is, right? That's really the only way all three of us will get along. We have to not judge each other. It'll take some time, but I think I can do that.