Two Horse Family
Disclaimer: All characters from the show Xena: Warrior Princess belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended.
Summery: Book 4 of the Argo Tails Series. The events of "Animal Attraction" as told from Argo's point of view.
Snow. Not my favorite kind of weather in the world, but unfortunately, that was where Xena and Gabrielle decided to take me. I didn't know where we were, but I did know that it was very cold. It wasn't fun. And just because I have fur doesn't mean that it blocks out the cold. It doesn't. Hardly.
Xena was riding me, Gabrielle was walking alongside, and Amarice and Joxer were in the distance. All of them were wearing nice coats made out of thick fur or something. Whatever they were, they looked warm and I wished that I had a blanket or something on. I wanted to get warm and I really hoped that we'd get to a place that was warm really soon.
We traveled on and on and on. It seemed like we'd been traveling for days. I so wished we'd get somewhere warm. Then, I heard something in the distance. I perked up, turned my ears toward the sound, hoping to hear it again so I could find out what it was. The sound came again, this time much louder. It was the sound of another horse, calling for help. I stopped in my tracks and neighed, trying to alert Xena that it needed our help. I heard Xena speak, though she seemed a little out of it.
"Huh? What was that?" She kicked me and I started off in a gallop, my fine sense of hearing leading the way.
I dashed through the forest off the path, the neighing of the other horse getting louder and louder. In a clearing up ahead, I stopped suddenly as I saw a wonderful brown horse with a black mane leaping around in a frenzy--she was caught in a hunters trap, her leg bleeding pretty badly.
Xena dismounted from my back and gasped at the sight of the horse in the trap. I really felt bad for this young horse. She was hurting so much, and it really got to me.
Xena was quick with her actions and she grabbed a rope from my saddlebag as I just continued to stare at the other horse. The brown horse didn't notice me, though; she was too scared. She must have been in that trap for quite a while.
"Okay, Argo, I'm gonna need your help here," Xena said. I watched as she tied the rope to my saddle and started to walk slowly toward the other horse with the rope in her hand. "Come on, big fella. It's okay. It's okay."
"Yes, please listen to her, my friend. She's going to help you. She doesn't want to harm you. She's really nice and gentle."
I tried to neigh quietly to the horse to calm her down, but it didn't work much. She was too distracted by the trap on her leg and all the people around her.
"You're gonna feel a whole lot better by the time we're through with ya," Xena said, still walking toward the horse. She quickly lassoed the rope around the horse's neck. "All right. All right. We gotcha now." She turned to look at me. "Okay, Argo. Here we go. Easy, now. There, boy. Who-o-o-oa."
She instructed me to stay put and to keep the rope taut. I did so and watched as the horse began to rear even more, the sound of the metal trap crashing the ground and the horse crying out in pain was heart wrenching. I wanted to get her out of it as soon as possible. I didn't like seeing her suffer. Oh, how I hated hunters and trappers.
"Oh, by the gods," Gabrielle gasped, walking up next to Xena.
"Gabrielle, come here. Joxer, Amarice, you stay there," Xena held the rope as firmly as she could, but the horse was just getting more and more freaked out.
"G--Gabrielle--talk to him."
"What do I say?"
"Say anything. See if you can calm him down while I set his leg free from that trap."
"Okay." Gabrielle slowly started to walk up to the horse, talking to her gently. "It's okay, boy. It's okay. Easy. Good boy. It's okay. No one's gonna hurt you." As she got closer, the horse got more agitated, but Gabrielle kept trying anyway. "Hold still. Steady. Steady. It's okay. Steady-y-y-y. That's it. Hold still. That's a good boy. Good. Sh-h-h, sh-h-h. It's okay. Be still. Stay still."
Xena walked up to the horse while Gabrielle coaxed her. I saw Xena bend down and grab the sides of the trap, pulling hard at it to open it so that the horse's leg would be freed. I just watched intently. Xena was able to release the trap from the horse's foot and she reared up once she was free, neighing loudly.
"There you go," Xena said, smiling.
Gabrielle too was smiling. "Good boy."
"Well, actually that's not a boy, but I'll let it slip for now."
"We're gonna have to treat that wound before we set him free," Xena said.
"Set him free?" Gabrielle looked at Xena, a little shocked and I have to say that I was too. I'd grown attached to this young horse even after our brief meeting.
Xena looked at Gabrielle, a smile growing on her face "What's on your mind?"
Gabrielle smiled too and then looked at the horse. "I think it's finally time I got myself a horse."
She walked up to it and though she was still a little jumpy, the horse let Gabrielle rub her nose. It was sweet, seeing Gabrielle finally bond with a horse. I thought that I'd never see the day that she'd ever get one, thought they were still too tall for her. I guess friendships can come out of unusual circumstances.
Gabrielle continued to pet the horse and then looked over at Xena and Joxer and Amarice, who were walking up. "I think I'll call her...Amber."
"Sounds like a fine name to me," Joxer said.
Xena nodded. Then she turned back to me and grabbed my reigns before looking back at Gabrielle.
"Well, what are we waiting for? I'm in the mood for a rest. There's a town not far from here where we can stay a little while."
"Yea! A place where I can finally get warm! This will be great."
Xena started to lead me down a path, Joxer and Amarice following. Gabrielle grabbed the rope that was still secured to Amber's neck and led her along, smiling the whole time. I knew she was happy and I could see that Amber too, was glad to finally have someone nice around, though I could tell that she still wasn't completely trusting.
We got to the town, called Spamona, rather quickly--quicker than I'd expected. Xena and Gabrielle took Amber and I to a stable area where we each got our own stall. It was a nice little town. The stable had lots of hey to eat and it was pretty good, after having eaten frozen grass for probably the last five moons.
After Gabrielle, Joxer, Amarice, and Xena left use to rest once Amber's leg was fixed up, I couldn't help but watch Amber. She was very agitated, even in the stable. She kept pacing back and fourth--it was making me nervous. I didn't know what to do, so I guessed the only thing to do was to talk to her.
"Hey, it's okay. It really is. These are nice people. I've spent many happy years with them."
Amber turned her head to look at me and I could see there was sadness in her eyes.
"Nice people? I don't really know what a nice person is like."
"What do you mean?"
Amber shook her head and looked down sadly.
"When I was a filly, my mother was taken from me by some people...and I was forced to work for them--haul heavy loads of wood and rocks and anything else they saw fit to strap in a wagon and hitch to my back. It was painful work, and I hated those men. One day, while I was out in the pasture when they didn't need me to work, I saw the opportunity to run and run I did. I leaped over the small fence that enclosed the pasture and I took off, never wanting to see them again."
"Is that how you ended up in this forest?"
"Yes. I've lived free in this forest for nearly two winters now. But several moons ago, I was walking around, looking for something to eat and, well, I got stuck in that hunters trap. I know it wasn't meant for horses, but I was sure that when whoever it was that had put the trap there came back, I would surly become a slave to their will."
I looked at Amber and walked up to the side of the pen.
"So you should be thankful for what my friends have done for you."
"I don't know whether or not they'll do the same thing to me that those other people did. I don't know what to think of these people."
"Amber, I'm really sorry about what you had to go through when you were young. I have some disturbing stories from my past to tell, too. But please trust me on this--Gabrielle and Xena--they are the best humans I have ever been around and they will not harm you or make you do hard labor. They're good people."
Amber shook her head and turned away from me, walking to the other side of the pen.
"I don't know."
I was about to say something more when I heard the door to the stable open. I looked over and saw Gabrielle walking up, carrying an apple. My eyes lit up at the sight of it, but then, when Gabrielle walked right past me and over to Amber, I knew the apple wasn't for me.
"Come on. Here you go."
Amber just continued to stare at her, making no move to take the apple Gabrielle was trying to offer her.
"Go on, it's an apple. Oh, I know you're hungry--you know it. Come on. Come on, I'm your friend. Argo, will ya tell him I'm not gonna hurt him?
"Sorry, Gabrielle. I tried that. Didn't work out too well. You're just going to have to convince her yourself."
I neighed to Amber a few times and she neighed back, but then I just turned my head and looked at Gabrielle with an 'I told you so' look. Gabrielle was looking a little frustrated. She looked at Amber then at me and then set the apple down on one of the boards of Amber's pen.
"Fine--if that's your attitude, you can just--take it when you want it."
Gabrielle was about to leave until she caught herself and stopped, looking around oddly. "I'm talking to horses. Am I nuts?"
"No, you're not going nuts. I talk to you people all the time--even if you can't understand a word, or neigh, that I say. It's that darn species gap, I tell you. If we could all understand each other, it would simplify things so much."
I heard the door to the barn open again and saw Armon walk in. He and Gabrielle started to talk, but I didn't really pay attention to what their conversation was about. I just watched Amber as she stood in her stall, staring at the apple. It was in her reach, but she wouldn't take it. I could tell, though, that she really wanted it.
When Armon had left, Gabrielle turned back to Amber. She bent over and began to wrap a clean bandage around her own ankle. When she was finished, she looked up at Amber.
"Look familiar? Pretty painful, huh? Who-o! Boy! Nah, it's not a nice feeling."
Gabrielle started to hobble around on the ground, limping like her ankle was hurt. I always knew that Gabrielle was a smart girl. She was clearly trying to connect with Amber by showing her that she too was hurt. I thought it was a brilliant plan.
I looked over at Amber who was watching Gabrielle.
"Give her a chance, Amber."
Amber continued to watch Gabrielle and she looked at Amber.
"Yeah, I know what you're going through. It's tough--tough on a horse. We're equals now, though. You know that? You can trust me, now. Horse."
But Amber wasn't willing to trust Gabrielle, even at that point. I could tell, by the way Amber looked at the blonde. Gabrielle was still frustrated.
Gabrielle unwrapped the bandage from her ankle and walked over to a bail of hey in the barn, sitting down. She sighed and leaned back. I looked over at Amber, but she just turned her head. She didn't want to look at me. After a moment, Gabrielle stood up and started to pace slowly around the barn, back and fourth. Then she stopped at looked over at Amber and me, the apple still in the same place as she'd left it.
"I don't know why I tried." She sighs. "I'm just like an idiot. Talking to horses. Think I'd have no friends."
Gabrielle walked forward and tried giving the apple to Amber again, one last time. I could tell she was frustrated and I don't blame her. Even with my coaxing that Gabrielle was okay and that she wouldn't hurt anyone, Amber didn't understand. I don't know. Maybe she was really young, didn't understand adult horse talk.
Then, while Gabrielle held the apple out I saw Amber twitch and I knew what she intended. I don't know what it was, but something must have gotten to her. She reached out with her muzzle and took a bite out of the apple. Gabrielle smiled.
"It's about time, Amber! Now do you see that Gabrielle is a nice human?"
Amber didn't answer; she was too focused on eating the apple. While she did so, Gabrielle started to stroke Amber's mane gently. She was smiling so big I couldn't help but be happy for her. I knew that now she finally had a horse of her own. It was so sweet.
After Gabrielle was done petting Amber and the apple was all gone, she patted her lightly one last time and then left the barn. I whinnied softly and looked over at Amber who was licking her lips. We looked at each other for a few moments then the door to the barn opened and Xena walked in, looking exasperated. I neighed and she walked up to me.
"I've got something I wanna tell you. Just stay put. Believe me, you don't wanna be standing when you hear this."
"Um, I don't really think I can sit in this small stale. Actually, I don't know how to sit."
"Not that it's bad." She continued, looking around nervously. "See, I would sense that and it's not, but--there is this small question of how it happened, and--once you get past that, it's really great."
"I haven't a clue as to what you're talking about, Xena. You humans just make no sense sometimes."
I looked at her and she got this weird look when I did, like I was hiding something.
"Don't give me that look like you knew. You didn't know."
Xena started to rub my nose nervously. "I didn't even know, and I'm the one who's expecting."
"Expecting? You're...you're gonna have baby? That's great! Wait, how did that happen? Oh, yeah, that's what you're wondering, isn't it."
"Or, maybe you did know--but don't let on to the others. I wanna tell them myself."
"Yeah, like I could really tell anyone anything. I'm a horse, remember? No one understands me and all that."
Xena was stroking me harder now; I could tell she was really disturbed.
"Gabrielle's gonna freak."
Xena quickly left the barn, I watched until she was gone. I shook my head and looked around. Everyone kept leaving and I was bored. And besides, I wanted to see the look on Gabrielle's face when she finds out that Xena is pregnant. That would have been great.
I just stood there and time past. Soon Gabrielle came in and she smiled, walking up to Amber, patting her on the nose.
She started to open the stale to bring Amber out when Xena, Armon, Amarice, and Joxer walked in.
"What is this, a party? Let me out, I want to play!"
They all started talking all at once. It was very confusing and the next few minutes were interesting. Xena let out that she was pregnant, which completely stunned everyone. Not surprising. And then when everyone had gotten over it and congratulated Xena and all that, I heard Joxer say something about some bad guy coming to attack the town. I hated when that happened, because bad guys always wanted to destroy the buildings by putting them on fire and fire is scary.
After the news was out, everyone left the barn. Amber and I were left all alone. Amber was scared that something bad might happen and I assured her that nothing would happen and if it did, Xena would save us before it got to the really bad stuff. Amber was a little unsure, but she was able to trust me. After all, I was right about Gabrielle.
We stood around in that barn for a long time, I don't even know how long. Amber and I could hear shouting outside and we had no idea what was going on except that it was definitely bad. Then, Amber perked up. I looked at her and wondered what she was doing. She started to get frantic and excited, trying to break her way out of the stall. Eventually, she was able to break the wooden latch on it and get herself out. I just watched in confusion as she ran toward the front door and pounded on it with her hooves, finally getting it open. She dashed out and I heard the sound of screaming and a man, I think, being kicked in the behind. I knew what Amber was doing.
Everything became quiet after that and I knew that whatever it was that was out there, was now gone. Moments later, Gabrielle walked in leading Amber and I heard Gabrielle mention something about Amber having saved her life, having come to her rescue. Xena soon came in afterwards, smiling.
Xena walked up to me and opened my stall. She grabbed my saddle and bridle and placed it on me, Gabrielle doing the same with Amber. I wasn't sure if Amber would allow Gabrielle to ride her, but I guessed that if Amber saved Gabrielle's life, then she'd be willing to have Gabrielle on her back.
After I was saddled and ready to go, Xena stroked my mane and then rubbed my nose, I whinnied contentedly. Gabrielle was doing the same to Amber.
"Well, congratulations. Looks like we're a two-horse family," Xena said, still smiling.
Gabrielle looked up. "Yeah--family being the operative word."
Xena looked down at her stomach and patted it for a second. "Yeah, how about that, huh?"
Gabrielle smiled and looked back at Amber, who was nuzzling her. It was so sweet. Yeah, I know I've said that before.
"You know what I think?" Gabrielle looked over at Xena. "I think it's the beginning of a beautiful relationship."
"Yup--for all of us."
They looked at each other, still smiling. And then they took our reigns and led us out of the barn.
It was still cold outside, snow still on the ground. It was better in the barn, I have to admit, but it was nice to get some fresh air. And of course, I couldn't wait until I could taste some nice, green grass again.
Xena mounted my back and I watched as Gabrielle tried to get on Amber. She was having a little trouble, her height still a bit of a problem, but Amber was willing to let her get on--that is, until she was actually on. Amber went a little nuts for a moment.
"Whoo! Whoa, boy. Whoa." Gabrielle said, coaxing Amber, who was nearly jumping around.
Amber calmed down soon enough and I gave her a nod.
"It's all right, Amber."
She nodded back, understanding. Gabrielle, now having control over Amber, smirked at Xena.
"Come on, Xena. Race ya to Greece?"
"I don't know if you're ready for that."
Xena started me off in a trot, Amber following.
"Are you chicken?" Gabrielle asked.
"No, just being considerate. We race to Greece, and you won't be able to walk straight for a month."
I neighed at that.
"Plus, I just know I'm way faster than Amber. She wouldn't even be able to keep up."
Amber looked at me, almost seeming to glare, if horses can glare, and I just looked at her with a challenging look. She backed down instantly, of course. She knew she'd be no match for me. So, we just neighed back and fourth between us as Xena and Gabrielle chatted while we galloped off down a dirt path, leaving the town behind.