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by Lynn M. Price
Copyright 1998 by Lynn M. Price. The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo are the property of "Xena: Warrior Princess" and Universal/MCA. The rest are mine. This story may not be sold and may be archived only with direct permission of the author. Any archive must carry this entire copyright statement.
Lyrics to the song "In My Life," by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Copyright 1965, Northern Songs Ltd.
The events in this story take place between "Been There, Done That," and "The Dirty Half Dozen."
This work contains mild profanity and scenes of mild violence.
This is a first attempt at fan fiction, and is the first in a series of planned stories.
With thanks to the late, great Mark Twain and his "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" for providing the inspiration needed to complete this piece of fiction.
And a great big "thank you" to all of you who write and read fan fiction. You are the wind beneath my wings...
Date of work: 1/1/98-1/10/98
The Village People....
Xena rode slowly into the town, as to not spook the villagers. She soon found what she was looking for--the marketplace. She picked up some bread, cheese, and fruit for their morning meal. She also bought some more healing herbs, and browsed through the clothing, guesstimating at Mariah's height and size. A shopkeeper soon came to her assistance.
"May I help you?" he asked politely.
"Yeah," said Xena. "I need to buy some clothes for...for my cousin. I wonder what colors would look good on her?"
"Tell me about her," said the shopkeeper, all smiles, eager to make a sale. "Height, size, hair color, eyes, skin coloring..."
"Let's see," Xena answered. "She's comes up to about my shoulder. She's medium sized. She has short brown curly hair, blue eyes, and is of fair coloring. Does that help?"
"Oh, yes," said the shopkeeper, eyeing Xena to get an idea of the size and height, pulling out several items. "She'd probably love..."
"Great. I'll take those two. Wrap them up for me, will you? I'll be back shortly," Xena said, walking off. The shopkeeper stared at her as she headed over towards the local inn/tavern.
Xena walked in the tavern, her eyes adjusting to the dim light and the crowd of people. She didn't need a drink--she needed information, and what better place to get information than the local watering hole?
The barkeep approached her, warily eyeing her armor, the sheathed sword on her back, the chakram hanging on her right hip. "How can I help you?"
"I'm looking for someone," said Xena, "and I heard she was from this area. Do you know anyone by the name of Mariah? Brown hair, blue eyes, fair skinned, about a head shorter than me?"
The barkeep shook his head. "No, there's no one like that around here. Do you want a drink?"
"Yeah, a cup of unwatered wine, and if you have a full wineskin for sale, I'll buy that too," replied Xena.
The barkeep reached under the bar, and pulled out a full, fat wineskin. He walked over to the wine cask and poured out a cup of wine. "That'll be four dinars," he said. Xena placed the money on the bar, picked up the cup and the wineskin, and stepped over to a nearby empty table.
As she nursed her drink, she listened to the swirls of conversation around her. No mention of any missing girls, no mysterious occurrences...yet all of her instincts told her that all was not right with the world. She finished her drink, picked up the wineskin, and left the tavern, returning to the marketplace to pick up her purchases.
Breaking The Waves...
"Mariah, can I ask you a question?" Gabrielle called to the girl, who was relieving herself behind some bushes after Xena rode off to town on Argo.
"About those clothes your were wearing...." Gabrielle began.
"Hey, I don't mean to interrupt, but I wanted to ask *you* the same thing," said Mariah, as she stepped back into view. "Oh, do I feel better!!" Now if I could only get rid of this rotten headache, she thought. "I'm sorry, Gabrielle; you were saying??"
"Those clothes you were wearing...I've never seen clothes like that before," Gabrielle began carefully, as they walked down to the stream to clean up. "They're not from around here, are they? And you...you're not from around here either, are you?"
"I don't know, Gabrielle. Where exactly is 'here'?" asked Mariah, her voice quiet as she stopped in her tracks, both wanting and fearing Gabrielle's answer. That question of where she was was still uppermost in her mind.
"Ah, I think we better wait until Xena gets back," replied Gabrielle, hedging.
Mariah was a little disappointed, yet relieved. "You're probably right. Let's go get cleaned up."
The girls stripped off their garments, Mariah also taking off her watch and her rings, and they eased themselves into the waters of the nearby stream. It was cool and refreshing. Mariah longed to dive in, go for a hard swim, and then wash her blood-caked hair, but knew enough to not get the stitches wet for a few more days. Instead she washed the dirt off of her face and body, as did Gabrielle. With the bard's help, she got back on dry land, and the two women sat on the rocks, the sun drying their still-damp bodies. Mariah looked out over the calm, peaceful waters, leaned back, and closed her eyes. I could almost get used to this, she thought, if I knew where *this* was. Little clues were falling into place, and she didn't much like where those clues were taking her.
"Mariah?" Gabrielle asked, breaking in on the girl's thoughts.
When Gabrielle didn't respond right away, Mariah opened her eyes and looked over. She saw the bard looking (but trying not to look) at the scars covering her upper body. Mariah sighed with resignation. Well, it would have to come out sooner or later, she thought. Let's travel down that road now and get it over with.
"I've never seen scars like those, not even on Xena. Were you in some kind of an accident?" began Gabrielle, blushing a little at her forwardness.
Mariah didn't answer right away. Finally she said, "If you don't mind, could we not talk about it until Xena gets back? It's a long story, and I'd hate to have to tell it twice."
"Sure," replied Gabrielle with a smile. "We're dry enough. Let's get dressed."
Gabrielle put on her green halter top, her skirt, and laced up her boots. Mariah put on the shirt Gabrielle gave her earlier, her pants, her sneakers, her rings, and her watch. Gabrielle watched her, fascinated. The girls walked back to camp, Mariah squinting, shading her eyes with her hand against the shining rays of the sun. Oh, for a pair of...
"Hey, have you seen my sunglasses?" Mariah asked.
"Sunglasses?" What were sunglasses, thought Gabrielle. Inspiration struck. "Do you mean that band of metal you wore around your eyes?"
"Y-Yes," replied Mariah, looking oddly at Gabrielle. Band of metal?? These people never heard of sunglasses? "Do you have them?"
"I put them by your bag, over near that tree," said Gabrielle. "Let me get them for you."
The bard hurried over to the tree, and soon returned with the item. She watched as Mariah looped the long hooks over her ears, and rested main part of the frame on her nose.
Gabrielle stared at the young teacher. "You look so different, Mariah. Those things...sunglasses...they help you see?"
Mariah laughed. "Not really. What they are good for is keeping the sunlight out of my eyes. I'm glad they weren't damaged when I fell on the ice..." she broke off her conversation. "When I fell on the ice," she whispered.
"Fell? Ice? You mean you remember what happened to you?" Gabrielle asked.
Mariah sat down suddenly, closed her eyes, her head aching, temples pounding. God, I would KILL for some Tylenol, she thought. Suddenly, she remembered something. "Gabrielle? Would you please bring my backpack over? And the waterbag?"
"Are you in pain? I have more of that white powder Xena gave you earlier..."
"No, no, that's OK. I have something in my bag that'll work just as well," she said, as the bard came over to her with the items. Maria unzipped the bag and pulled out a small bottle. Gabrielle watched Mariah as shook two white pills from the bottle, put the bottle back in the bag, picked up the waterbag, put the two pills in her mouth, and took a long pull from the waterbag. Her jaws worked as she swallowed the pills. Gabrielle, shocked at what she had just witnessed, didn't know what to say, so she didn't say anything.
At that moment, Xena and Argo stepped into the clearing. "Anyone hungry?" The warrior stared at Mariah; she was wearing that strange metal band around her eyes, the band she wore when they found her. Xena's eyes narrowed. She would find out about *that* soon enough, she thought. First things first.
"Mariah, do you think you can keep some food down? I brought some bread, cheese, and fruit, and there's still some rabbit left over from last night. Gabrielle, why don't you stir up the fire while Mariah helps me unload Argo?"
Gabrielle was almost bursting in her effort to keep silent as she worked on the fire. Mariah walked over to Argo and helped the warrior unload the horse.
Xena handed her the food. "Take these things over to Gabrielle. She'll show you were to put them," said Xena, as she put the herbs, wineskin, and clothing off to the side.
Mariah did as Xena directed. She also took off the sunglasses and stowed them in her backpack. She sensed, that for some unknown reason, Xena was uncomfortable with her wearing them. Soon, the three girls sat around the fire eating a late breakfast. Gabrielle, as was her habit, ate hugely. Xena smiled fondly at her young friend. What an appetite! I don't know where she puts it, the warrior thought to herself. Mariah ate sparingly as the Tylenol took effect, being careful not to eat too fast and bring it all back up.
As the meal wound down, it was time to get some answers. Head injury or not, Xena decided, there were some hard questions that needed to be asked.
"Mariah, do you feel like talking now? asked Xena.
The young teacher looked at the warrior and the young bard. "Yes. I think we *all* better do some talking, Xena," she said quietly.
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