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Lady Jane Gray
Copyright Warning: The characters Xena, Gabrielle, et. al. are all the intellectual property of MCA Universal. Athena copyright Olympian Productions. Inclusion here is not intended to violate their copyrights. The poetry quoted here is an altered version of Jim Powell's translation, Sappho: A Garland, published by Noonday Press, 1993. Publication here is for fannish activities, and is not meant to infringe on the copyrighted work of Mr. Powell. The story may not be copied or reproduced, in any form, without this copyright warning.
Content Disclaimer There's some physical violence against the lead characters, as well as a very light portrayal of sexuality between them.
Good Advice I'd personally recommend skipping Isle/Wrath of Achilles/White Warrior.
Cliff's Notes: This is part of a story arc: Isle/Wrath of Achilles/Higher Wisdom/White Warrior/Commitment/High Priestess. It is the first story I wrote; parts of it were posted beginning July 1996, making it one of the very first ffic pieces on the web. I recommend the arc be read: Higher Wisdom- Commitment - High Priestess. Skip this one, less'n you're interested in the early history of fanfic.
Late winter afternoon, snowing heavily. In the half-dark, Xena and Gabrielle walk side by side with Argo. Xena wears battle-dress, a heavy, black, fur-edged robe over her shoulders, alert and looking straight ahead. Gabrielle has a cloth over her shoulders, like a sarape; earthen colored with a muted pattern. Wool, but no match for the cold. Using her staff to walk, she looks down: the snow caught them by surprise.
X:(warning) Torch-light ahead.
G:(lifting her head) Thank the gods! Do you think it could be an inn?
X:(starting out very big sister, then surprisingly gentle) Gabrielle.... we gave away our last dinar to that woman with the children in Corinth. We'll stop at the next woods and set up for the night. It could be a farm . . .
Gabrielle puts her head down again and they walk.
G:(all of a sudden very tired) Xena . . .
Xena suddenly reaches out and feels Gabrielle's face.
X:(shocked) You're cold.
For a second Xena's face almost looks gentle; then she withdraws:
X: Gabrielle, . . . you need some winter clothes.
Gabrielle bites her lip; too tired to argue. Meanwhile, they near the torch, and see signs -- runes. A path leads off the main road, and dim shapes waver in the distance.
G: It is an inn! We can
G: We could at least *try*.
Xena looks at her, and walks Argo up the path to the inn. They haven't gone a minute when a man looms in the dark. Gabrielle lifts her staff, but closer up, they see a boy, not more than fifteen.
X:(menacing) Who are *you*?
Boy: Groom. The horses heard you coming.
He reaches to Argo but a glance from old "nobody touches *my* horse" stops him. Xena frowns.
Gabrielle turns; through snow, we see an outline of a house.
G: Xena! . . Xena, the worst that could happen, they'll kick us out in the snow.
X:(reluctantly letting go Argo's reins, keeping her voice very steady) We'll try.
The groom walks away with Argo, and Xena shifts the robe away. We see the sword on her back.
X: I don't like this . . .
Next scene, Gabrielle and Xena are inside. It is like no inn or tavern we've seen. Soft light, without flickering torches, and there are several young women wearing short togas. It's more like a small palace than an inn.
G: I could get used to this . . .
Xena turns and we focus on a short, wide woman with red complexion; she's striding - more like charging - towards them, from a doorway in the distance, along a carpet with flanking columns. She has a very big frown on her face.
X: We're travelers . . .
G: We don't have any money . .
Xena looks at Gabrielle with a slight smile, like there hadn't been an interruption
X: . . . and we'd like shelter for tonight.
The woman looks around.
Woman: Travelers! Shelter! Ha! We'll see. The mistress will hear about this.
She turns and charges away, muttering 'travelers'. Meanwhile, Xena and Gabrielle have the full attention of the room, about ten women. Xena's expression goes completely blank. Gabrielle leans her staff on the ground, looks around, and smiles:
G: Hi! You're probably wondering . . .
Just then we hear a loud voice, and a door flings open. A tall, slender gray-haired woman strides purposefully down the carpet. Her eyes flash, and long pure white robes stream behind her. Three or four other woman are trying to keep up with her, saying things we just barely can't hear. She stops just in front of Xena, who tenses but doesn't move or change expression. They stare eye to eye, level, for a moment before . . .
So suddenly that Gabrielle gasps, the woman sweeps up her tunic from behind and gets on her knees before Xena. Looking at the ground,
Woman in white: Forgive us. Our mothers knew the laws of hospitality, laws that Athena herself was not ashamed to honor. You yourselves might be gods, for I have seldom seen women of such bearing and strength. You will honor us to accept our roof and our food.
She might have memorized a speech: it comes out recited, but she continues to look down at Xena and Gabrielle's feet.
X:(suspicious) So, you honor the ways of the double-headed axe. And I thought the old ways were dead.
Xena looks down
X: Get up. I'm not a goddess or a lady. Just so there's no misunderstandings. But we'd like to stay . . . tonight.
Instead of looking at Xena, the woman turns to her companions and whispers. A young woman with short black hair and a white robe with purple trim takes Gabrielle's arm to lead her away, and asks, "Do you want your hot baths in the morning or before you go to bed?"
G: Hot baths?
The two go away talking, as the woman in white turns to another. "Warm up the kitchen." Then, to Xena, "We have little to offer. Will you share it?"
Xena: Do you always talk like that? You sound like some poet's idea of an innkeeper. By the way I'm Xena.
Woman in white: I know who you are. And I talk many ways. Maybe you'll get to hear them all. Call me -- Diana.
Xena: Not likely. But I am hungry. My friend -- Gabrielle probably wants some too.
Diana(smiling): I think she's going to be occupied with her bath for a while. Let's talk.
They sit at a marble table, rich cushions on the chairs.
Xena: So. You give total strangers food and a roof. To remember the ways of the goddess. You make a lot of money at this?
Diana:The old ways aren't such a bad idea. Treat everyone you meet as if she's a goddess in disguise. If not -- maybe you've made a friend. Lots of friends is a good thing in these times.
A woman with short blonde hair brings a tray with something that looks like phyllo pastries, and a flask with stoneware cups. She pours a steaming black liquid. Xena tastes it:
X: This is good. You're planning to keep me awake?
D: Maybe. It could be interesting. Wine?
Diana nods to another young woman standing nearby. Xena and Diana look at each other as the younger woman serves wine.
D: Usually we get paying guests. Merchants, princes, army captains. There's a lot of politics going on, a lot of travelers. They'll pay -- for safety, for luxury.
X: And meanwhile you keep track of all of 'em all, don't you?
(Suddenly reaching forward to grab Diana's arm, pulling her forward) X:Who do you sell the information to? Persians? Who wants to buy *my* secrets?
Diana looks down, looking shamed, maybe avoiding Xena's intensity. Then moving as fast as Xena had, she twists her arm, releases Xena's grip, and is standing over Xena, hands on the table, leaning forward 'in Xena's face.'
D: I work for myself. And . . . I don't remember asking to hold hands.
Diana strides away, eyes flashing, throwing her hair back angrily, regaining her queenly posture. Xena is alone; her face -- pained. She looks around; through a hall we see a group of woman gathered for some sort of performance. She walks slowly over; wine in hand.
A small performance space, modeled on traditional Greek amphitheaters: concentric half circles leading down to a small dais. Fireplace in back of the dais, where a middle age woman is singing to the plucking of a stringed instrument. Very Greek, like the music in the Xena opening chorus. Women sit at the edges of the circular steps leading down. Something in the music strikes Xena, and for a short time all we see is her, listening intently, perhaps sadly, the warm light of a fire flickering on her face.
Gabrielle, wearing a long robe, hair down, sits down in front of Xena. Xena puts her hand on Gabrielle's head, hesitates, then rests it on her shoulder, near the neck. Gabrielle shifts slightly, leaning into Xena's leg.
X:(soft) How was the bath?
G: Really unique.(she nods to herself, half-smile) They're all refugees from some island, and they take baths together. It was like -- when I was fourteen; my age group all had our ceremony together, and we all took the bath together. In fact . .. I remember . . . a girl . . .
Gabrielle leans more into Xena. Now she has life in her voice: she's going to tell a story, and nothing could be better than sitting in front of a fire, telling stories with Xena. Xena hands the wine down to her.
G: We called her Rosie; you know, 'rosy-fingered dawn.' She'd always be waking up with someone, one of the girls. During the ceremony. We could never figure out how she picked who to be with. It seemed part of the initiation. (Gabrielle wipes wine from her lips). Into the mysteries of womanhood. Anyway, that's what it reminded me of.
X: (quiet voice, but slightly unbelieving) She slept with you?
G: No. My sister is in my age group so we went through the ceremony together. We always shared the same bed. Until I left. (quiet voice now)
Then they're both quiet, listening to singing with the tones of loss and longing. Camera pans; focuses on Diana and a group of women talking in whispers, looking at Xena. In the stable, the groom finishes brushing down Argo and puts a blanket over her. Outside, a very heavy snowfall. Back inside, Gabrielle is asleep, stretched out at Xenas's feet. Xena is staring in the fireplace, face expressionless. And now Diana stands next to her, looking down at Gabrielle, asleep:
D: "The golden flowers are no match for her loveliness".
Xena looks up.
D: The clouds are holding close to the mountain. I think you may have to stay here a few days.
D: We could at least try to get along.
X: I don't even know who I'm getting along with. You know all about me.
D: You're part right. An inn is a great place for hearing stories. Your partner told more than one about you, I heard.
X: You're not even trying to talk . . .
D:(quiet laugh; firelight flashes in her eyes) You make it all so dark and sinister. You like a little mystery. . . ?
X: (firm voice) Why did you leave Lesbos?
D: Political exile. Sappho, dear young girl . . . didn't agree with our ideas. Our politics. And, her family has lots of friends, in very high places. Also, she was after my girlfriend.
X:(waving) So all of these women. Exiled. They're your girlfriends . . .
D: Maybe. Look, Xena. Around you. In Greece: warlords. Warriors. Warrior *princesses*. We're tired of it; all of it. We want -- we want the golden age. No fighting, no conquests. That's why I keep up with politics. And that's why the young women are here.
X: So what are you actually *doing*?
D:(smile): I'm just starting here. "I don't expect to touch the sky with my two hands . . ." What are *you* doing? Protect a widow here. Crush a warlord there. And I'm sure, Xena, you feel a lot better. But what's really changed? Tomorrow there's another warlord. What are you going to be doing twenty years from now?
X: I won't be alive in ten years.
D: And what about her? (Looking at Gabrielle). Beautiful, graceful girl. Will *she* be alive in ten years? You know she'll die beside you. . .
X: No! (loud; shocked. Gabrielle turns over in her sleep). She can take care of herself.
D: Look. (looks down at Gabrielle) "At the top of the branch, a red apple. Did they miss it? No. . . they couldn't reach it." You reached it, Xena. Now . . . where are you going with her?
Diana stands up; Xena stands with her. Once again, they stand eye to eye for a moment before Diana breaks the gaze . . .
D:(softly) Your eyes are very bright. Is it the wine or is it me?
She tosses her hair back, turns, and walks slowly down the long-columned entry, through a doorway. Xena stands, slightly bewildered. She tilts her head, nods to herself.
X: Bright eyes. (tosses her own hair back. pause, softer) . . . laws Athena herself was not ashamed to honor . . . oh, no ...
And runs down the columned entryway, running after Bright Eyes, favorite daughter of Zeus. Bright-eyed Athena, goddess of wisdom.
Early dawn; Gabrielle sleeps where we last saw her; the fire glowing embers. Xena's black fur robe is over her legs, but no Xena in sight.
The camera shows the inn from outside, two women in heavy fur standing guard outside the main door; snow deep enough to be over their knees. Camera pulling back, we see the inn on the side of a mountain, near a woods, snowed under. The inn itself is clearer, and much bigger than we thought: stables, pens for animals. It looks like the estate of a wealthy landowner.
The camera moves further back, into the woods: a wisp of smoke. Closing in, hazily, a camp: soldiers in black armor stand, clapping their hands before a thin fire, shaking against the cold. We hear very faint conversation: "Cylon better not find out . . ." The camera moves away.
Full dawn now. At the inn, sharp focus: the kitchen. Several young women move around, busy but organized; the heavy red-faced woman we saw last night gives quiet firm orders. Gabrielle stands, still in robes, beating eggs in a large earthenware bowl. In the foreground, women take brown breakfast breads and pastries from a stone beehive oven.
Gabrielle is carrying on a conversation with a very young woman working next to her. Who in turn is awed, hero-worshiped, and totally-crushed-out-on Gabrielle.
YW: You were with Xena at Troy? You fought beside her . . .
G: It was no big deal. Xena did most of the fighting. *She's* great. Xena can . . .
YW: How did you learn to fight? Diana won't let us. Do you use a sword?
G: No! (exasperated) Look. It's dangerous -- people can get killed.
YW: Isn't that a good thing? Don't you think some people should die?
G: (almost giving up. Deep breath) I'm supposed to decide that? I fight when I have to. Because I'm in danger. Because . . . someone I love, their life, her life, could be . . . (fades)
Behind them, standing quietly in the doorway, listening: Xena, her face . . . open. Not her usual big-sister look, almost as though she is hearing Gabrielle for the first time.
G: In fact, Xena said . .
Xena shakes her head, looks up at the ceiling, twists her mouth in an ironic half-smile. She strolls over to the tray of breads, picks one up, then strolls to where Gabrielle and YW are talking.
G: Xena! This is my friend, uh, Agape? (YW nods shyly) We were just talking about . .
X: (sarcastic) I know. Me. (now abrupt) Get dressed. We're going for a ride. (pause) Argo needs exercise.
Xena starts to stride right out of the kitchen, but stops near the tray. She looks down at the breads and with a small smile quickly takes two pastries. *Now* she strides out.
G: Wuff! What side of the floor did *she* wake up on?
YW: (ingenuously) You don't know? She wasn't with you?
G: (taken aback) Oh no. We . . . aren't like that.
YW: Why not?
G: (opening her mouth to reply. No sound comes out of Gabrielle's mouth. She shakes her head in surprise, but can't seem to say anything).
Agape: And why *wasn't* Xena with you?
X: (looks in from the doorway) And bring something to eat. (then quickly disappears)
Scene shifts to the stables, Xena talking to the groom. Argo is saddled, ready to go, but Xena has her hand on the flanks of a large chestnut brown horse. Gabrielle enters, with Xena's robe, as the groom brings a saddle.
G:(handing Xena the cloak) Here. I guess you didn't need this last night.
X: (puzzled, but shakes it off) Gabrielle, this is Athanike.[ahth AH nih kay] (the horse nuzzles Xena's hand). She and Argo made friends last night. Take her for a ride with me.
G: Me? Oh, no. You know me and . . . . whoah!
Xena pushes her butt towards Athanike. Gabrielle looks strangely at Xena, a frown and a very puzzled look now on her face. Things Are Left Unsaid. But she walks forward, stroking the horse, whispering to it
G: Athanike, huh. We're going to be friends. But I'm gonna call you Nikkie.
X: Gabrielle! Mount up.
We next see the two women racing across the hillside. Xena is alive, hair streaming behind her, immersed in the pleasure of the ride. Gabrielle is -- focused, intent. Side by side with Xena.
They reach the top of a hill, where the wind sweeps the ground clean of snow. Xena pulls up the reins, turns Argo, dismounts; Gabrielle stops beside her. Xena pulls something long from her saddlebag and tosses it to Gabrielle. She catches it, one hand, and looks at it.
G: A sword?
Gabrielle throws it at Xena's feet.
X: I want you to learn to use it.
G: Xena, I don't need a sword. I don't know how to use one. I *have* my staff. (pause. Gabrielle looks away) It would just put you in danger.
X: This wouldn't be the first time you've used a sword. Here.
Xena grabs Gabrielle's arm roughly, leads her into the woods, hands her the staff. Gabrielle looks at her, then assembles it, stands ready, looking at Xena. Xena lunges, Gabrielle turns the staff around, and in the narrow forest, hits the side of a tree. The force twists her own body around, and she now falls backwards against Xena. They both tumble to the ground.
G:(embarrassed half-smile) Oops. Xena, I didn't see that tree.
X: (grimace) That's why. In a small area -- at the inn -- the staff would be useless. And you might be dead.
G: The **inn**? Anyway, you'd still be there.
X: I don't know where I might be. Gabrielle, you've watched me use a sword hundreds of times. How many times have I killed?
G: Almost never?
X: Right. And that's why you have to practice. So you can make that choice.
G: (upset) Xena. "That choice?" You just tell me to make a choice? That's not the kind of *choice* I want to be making.
X: If someone took your sister. (smile) Or Agape, back there. What *choice* would you 'want to be making"?
G: Xena, I am not her protector. Agape!
X: She worships the ground you walk on. Like you...
G: (hotly) I do not! Xena, that is the. most. ridiculous . . .
X: It gets old, Gabrielle. Anyway, we were talking about Agape.
G: We were talking about me! I'm not a warrior. ess. It isn't what I want.
X: (cold) We can't always have what we want, Gabrielle. I need to know that you'll be safe if I'm not here. (now almost pleading) Gabrielle. For me. I need to know that you really can take care of yourself. Please?
Gabrielle stands, then Xena with her. Xena holds the sword out again. Gabrielle takes the sword, hefts it, fitting it to her hand. She holds it, menacing, for a second -- then lunges at Xena. Xena twists away, turns, and with her bare hands, knocks the sword from Gabrielle. Gabrielle overbalances . . .
and sits, legs splayed, on the rocky hillside.
G:(mad) Of all the dirty, lowdown . . .
X: Gabrielle, listen. Don't try to stick me with it. Move it like your hand, like your staff.
Xena smiles encouragingly, holds her hand out, pulls Gabrielle to her feet and takes Gabrielle's staff. She twirls it, moving it around her body, then nods at Gabrielle. Gabrielle takes the sword, feeling its weight, its motion. She holds it out again, takes a deep breath, then . . . moving with Xena's motion, tries to hit the staff. Xena moves back a step, and the sword clangs against a rock, flying out of Gabrielle's hands. Xena looks at her, eyes lock. Gabrielle looks down . . .
They sit together, looking out over the hillside. The smoke from the inn is visible, a ways off. Xena holds the sword.
X: (quietly) When I was fourteen, my brother took me to Athens. A place called the Agora. A marketplace ... where you could find anything, from anywhere in the world. We looked for a day, and then -- he saw this sword and my chakram -- together, a pair. The merchant told me it was from an island, far off in the east. Maybe he thought I was just a girl. But I've always felt the magic in them. We used my whole dowry to buy them, a pair.
G: Why don't you use it? You use the chakram.
X: I used the sword to avenge my brother's death. (a long pause)It doesn't balance right. It's your size, weight.
G: (takes it in her hands, turns it over) Xena . .
X: I want you to have it. A pair, Gabrielle. Wherever we are.
G: I've never even drawn blood. I don't want to kill anyone.
X: (standing up) Gabrielle. Don't argue.
Five heartbeats. . . . .
G: Xena . . . are you going away? Is this a good-bye?
Xena looks at her, sets her mouth, turns, and walks away.
Gabrielle turns her head to one side, mouth twisted, pained.
She breathes deeply. Then jumps up, runs towards Xena.
Xena turns, sees Gabrielle charging with the sword, and just in time lifts the staff. Gabrielle's sword comes down on the staff, breaking it. Xena rolls with the staff, rolls again on the ground as Gabrielle's sword strikes near her. Then Xena is on her feet, her own sword in hand.
Gabrielle attacks, fighting with concentrated fury; panting with the effort, her face twisted in pain. Xena backs away carefully, also concentrated, trying to not hurt or be hurt. But it puts her at a disadvantage, she backs away slowly, as Gabrielle takes the high ground and forces her down the mountainside. Xena is finally forced to the edge of a short drop.
Gabrielle looks up; brought suddenly back to her senses. She falls to her knees in the snow, panting, sobbing, looking up at Xena; the sword beside her, unimportant. Xena kneels in back of her, grabbing her and holding her from behind. Gabrielle continues to sob, as Xena rocks her back & forth . . .
The camera pulls away from the two women in pain, over the mountaintop, to the soldiers camp. A tall, urbane man with gold embellished Armour, a neatly trimmed beard, and very dark eyes, is talking to five other men. Subordinates; you see it in his stance and theirs.
Cylon: Scouts report a large estate, a half day from here. I want you men there by nightfall. They won't be expecting an attack. I want you to be careful anyway. Watch them, and wait for us to join you at daybreak. Clear?
The soldiers nod; they obey but they don't like being talked to like this.
Cylon: Remember. Nothing happens until *I* get there.
A young soldier speaks out: We heard there was just women there. We can take them. And bring you everything back. By nightfall, if you'll give us horses.
Cylon suddenly looks a lot less civilized. Though he's a head shorter, he lifts the other man up in the air.
C: You want me to explain my orders? (throws the young solder against a tree). Cylon looks at the others) Can I trust the four of you?
Very vigorous nods of assent. Cylon walks away. Ah, the life of a petty warlord . . .
Camera takes us back to our main characters. Xena is sitting with her back against a tree, and Gabrielle with hers against Xena. Xena has one arm around Gabrielle's waist.
X: I'm hungry. And thirsty.
G: Uh-uh. I'm not moving. (pause) Xena . . . what did happen last night? Between you and Diana?
X: (smiling) That is going to be a very long story. C'mon. Let's get something to eat.
We next see them sitting, eating.
X: I ran after her. Into her bedroom. Gabrielle, this "we're-all-sisters-share-what-we-have" is -- well I don't know what it really is. But she's no refugee. From Mount Olympus, maybe.
G: A goddess? Let's see. Persephone. Demeter. Oh, I know. It was really Hercules. Why stop? Ares? Hades? You get around.
X: Gabrielle, listen. I think it was Athena. In person. What I don't know is why . . .
Camera takes us to last night, Xena running through the long-columned entry, then moving cautiously through a very dark hallway. At the end of the hall, a heavy wood door, iron reinforced. Xena pushes it open. Beyond that -- luxury, in sharp contrast to the classical simplicity of the rest of the inn. Cushions, drapes, golden goblets, crystal, wall-hangings. Heavy wooden beams held up by marble statues of women, holding two-headed axes in their right hand. A bizarre style to the whole room. The statues of the women are not stylized like the kouri sculptures, nor yet naturalistic like the Venus de Milo. A curious, mixed, angular style.
In the center of the room, a table with a parchment map, held down by matching heavy brass weights of a woman holding a crystal globe. The goddess is lounging on a sofa.
Athena/Diana: I don't really need guards . . .
X: I said I like to know who I'm dealing with.
Athena: Oh. *Now* you're ready to trade information.
X: Most of the gods I've met aren't as -- friendly. Although, I get more attention than I want from your brother Ares.
Xena sits at the edge of the map table, which clearly annoys Athena.
X: (in her very best annoying voice) Now . . . I don't know what you really want, but I don't think it's me. If you really want information, I can tell you Cylon is on the move. His men are hungry after a long winter, and they'll take whatever they can find.
A: Oh, but Xena, don't jump to conclusions. We still have the night.
Xena shakes her head.
A: Ares and I both want you. But we *are* different. Ares has an absolute - fascination - for minor warlords. Cylon would be right up his alley. They don't interest me.
Xena: I know Cylon's type. This minor warlord will be here soon. Killing farmers, taking the women, and burning what they don't take. Tell, me, goddess of wisdom. If that doesn't interest you, what *does*?
Athena: The Persians are coming.
Xena: (raised eyebrows) Before Cylon?
Athena: The battle at Troy was just the first incident. Odysseus and I stopped them, to buy time . . . for you.
Xena: Are you gods always like this?
Athena: Xena, your sarcasm is really the most attractive thing about you, but not now. I'm very serious. In a hundred years, they'll be here. And if they take the cities of Attica -- there will be nothing but wars and fighting for centuries. No villagers to protect. No women safe. Civilization will be ended. Even before I start it.
X:(overwhelmed) A hundred years ... just like that. You can see that, like I see Cylon.
A: It is a talent. One of *my* more attractive gifts, I'm told.
X: (pulls herself together). Like I said. I won't be alive in ten years. And nobody here except you will be alive in a hundred.
A: You could live that long. With me. Be my consort, my champion among mortals. Bear my Aegis.
X: You want me to raise an army. Funny. Ares made the same offer.
A: (smiles, shakes her head almost -- condescendingly) No. Not an army. I want you to found a city, an empire. Xena! I almost had it. A city where wisdom ruled. An island of culture, of art and science, in a sea of barbarism. Look!
Athena gets up, touches one of the large marble statues.
A: It's all gone. All beneath the ocean, the damned eternal, the wine-dark, sea.
A: I built that city. It was the greatest city on the face of the earth. Even before your great-grandmother could talk. Poseidon Earthshaker destroyed it in one night.
A: Ancient history. I want *you* to rebuild it.
Athena walks over to the map table, across from Xena.
A: Here. A small trading village. They call it "Athens". Charming name, don't you think?
X: (shocked at Athena's tone, recoils) What do you really want from me?
A: I want you to build an empire. Change the course of history. Athens will be everything Atlantis wasn't. A center of trade, a home for for art, wisdom. And, when the time comes, you will lead the people and stop the Persians. Here. (Athena points at the map: Marathanos). You will stop the Persians, and the name of Athens, the name Xena, will be remembered for all time.
Athena shakes herself, as though coming out of her own trance. Her eyes seem so bright they almost glow. Those bright eyes focus on Xena.
X: Athena. Cylon will be here in a few days. Not in a hundred years.
A: (still consumed by her vision) Here? This is *my* island. No one hurts me here. Feast with us tonight. Meet the other women; feel their energy. Xena! We can change the world.
(and now she really is down from whatever consumed her)
Besides, you'd get to be the consort of a goddess. You're by far the most interesting mortal I've met. (She laughs and Xena recoils again). Think about it, Xena.
Athena turns away, touching her beautiful marble statue.
Camera fades back to present, Xena and Gabrielle facing each other.
G: Xena . . . she doesn't sound like a goddess. She sounds like a crazy old lady.
X: She's Athena; you can feel it in her, the power, her focus. I've felt it before: some of the older women in my village. Wisdom.
G: She's crazy. In her own world. Xena . . . you aren't really going to do this, are you?
X: I don't know. But you're wrong. She just isn't used to thinking on our level. A life doesn't mean as much to her . .
G: It does to me! Especially yours. Xena, I can't believe you're falling for this. The gods are crazy. All of them. They can do whatever they want, and they have no obligations to anyone. They treat us like . . . their . . . their game. Besides . . .
G: Did you hear what happened to Odysseus? The last mortal Athena "helped"?
G: I heard his ships crashed against rocks, coming home with the gold of Troy. Homer told me . . . he heard a rumor . . . no-one survived.
X: A rumor.
G: Xena. Please. Be careful. Even if she is insane. She's still a god. And she's still smarter than both of us.
X: (smiling) Speak for yourself. Come on. I want to be at this dinner Athena promised.
They both get up.
G: So. I was pretty good back there, huh?
X: You were ok. (touches Gabrielle on the back, then, changing her tone) Gabrielle -- next time we practice -- don't try to kill me. OK?
G: You carry this thing on your back, huh?
X: It won't get in your way, if you have to jump. Or ride. Even if you fall down, you can still reach it. I'll show you.
Gabrielle nods, and they ride back towards the inn.
Late afternoon; three soldiers in the woods, huddled around the embers of a fire, heavy animal skin robes over their shoulders. With what looks like animal parts still attached. A fourth stands nearby, leaning against a tree.
Standing soldier: Why are we even bloody *out* here? Cylon won't be here 'till morning.
Huddled soldier, using a stick to stir the embers, pulls out something like a small rock, then three more: What? You want me to explain my orders?
Rough laughter, then: Here's a spud; keep you warm.
Soldier by fire: Wonder what *they're* eating. (nods off in one direction). I wager it's no potatoes. Lamb and chicken, by the look of that house. That's what I want when it's all over. A nice, fat, farm.
"Standing": Ha! ask Cylon for that! He'll talk your head off about booty and women, but ask him for that! (nods to himself). Lads! Company's coming! Horses!
"Explain": Leave 'em be. I'm not moving.
"Standing": And what if it's Cylon? Wouldn't put it past him, to check.
Huddled soldier: Then he can have a spud, like the rest of us.
More laughter, but the soldiers by the fire get up and join the one standing, who's moved off to thick bushes by the side of the road.
"Spud" : Will you look at that.
"Farm" : Zeee-oose! Warriors!
We get a view out on the road and see, of course, Gabrielle and Xena. They're riding into the stable area, swords strapped to their backs. Two very tall women holding staffs topped with double-headed axes move to let them in. Then heavy gates close off our view.
"Spud": Did you see the size of the women? And the horses? Cylon rides a mare like those. They're no plow horses, I'll tell you. They're meant for battle.
"Farm" Did you see the one in black? She has a mean look to her.
"Spud" And the sword on that fair one. Many a man's met his end on her stick, I'll wager. (laughs).
"Standing" (nods to himself and smiles) I'm thinking we'll be needing to tell Cylon. It's an armed camp, not a farmhouse. And I'm thinking we'll need to tell him in person.
The men smile, hit each other on the back, start to cover up the fire and hide their traces.
"Farm"(nervous): We're not leaving our posts, now . . .
"Standing": He wanted a scout, right? A scout reports, right? Look, now. Pack up . . .
Next scene: inside the inn, Gabrielle and Xena walking in, brushing light snow off their clothes, when the older, heavier woman, the day-to-day manager of the inn, meets them:
Manager: Ah, well you're back and in time. Mistress said you'd be at the symposium tonight. Meanwhile get cleaned up, both of you. Mistress had us make up a room . . .
They follow her down the long-columned entryway, along the dark hall, to a small room. Opposite the entry, a fireplace with a bright fire; on either side, benches built in against a wall, spread with cushions and fabrics in muted earthen colors. A large sturdy table with stoneware pitcher, washbasin and towels at one end; goblets at the other. Following them in, the young woman who took Gabrielle to the bath the previous night. She's carrying a very heavily laden tray.
G: (looking over at the tray) Mmmmm, wine, and olives, cheese and fresh bread. Yum! . . . . Cyrene, right?
C: (nods and smiles, sets the tray down on the table)
G: What's this? (points to a small red-earth bowl on the table)
C: Incense. Agape asked me specially to give it to you; her own blend of herbs. She called it "Strange Fire".
Cyrene turns to the fireplace, picks up kindling and holds it in the fire. She waves the flame down, blows on the ember, then touches it to the incense.
C: Enjoy! (leaves with a smile)
X:(when they're alone) How do you remember the names? They all look alike.
G:(smile) You don't forget a bath like the one I had. Cyrene scrubbed my back.
X: Mmmm-hmmm. (unbuckling sword and Armour, sits heavily on the bench and leans back into a cushion) I could use one right now.
G: Well let me know. I'll get a group together. A great custom .... (walks over to the table, nibbles at something) Now *these* are olives. Like home . . . In fact (stops, picks out the pit and looks at it like it was a bug) Yuck! I remember. All those temple-school stories. Great Goddess Athena gave mankind the olive. (shrugs, shakes her head) Whatever.
She turns back to the table, pouring wine, breaking off some bread.
G:(breathing deeply) Wow. That's some incense. (shakes her head, carries wine and bread over to Xena, sits beside her)
G:(brightly) Here. This'll perk you up. (shakes her head again, confused look on face)
Xena picks up the goblet, looks over the rim at Gabrielle, who hesitantly reaches over and places her hand gently on Xena's neck. She rests it there as Xena puts down the drink. Taking a fast shallow breath, Gabrielle turns her head slightly, moves forward slightly, pauses a heartbeat, and kisses Xena on the lips.
Xena closes her eyes, lets the kiss happen, then pulls slowly away, her expression unchanged. She too takes a shallow breath, sits up from the cushions, parts her lips slightly . . .
as Gabrielle leans forward to kiss her again. They kiss gently, until Xena moves back again, and with a slow turn of the head, shakes her hair away from her head. Gabrielle leans forward, kisses Xena's neck, above the collarbone, then, bold, kissing up the side of her neck, under the chin, to her ear. Lips parted, Xena twists her upper body slowly, moving as though bound, trying to escape, unable to set herself free.
Her palms on Xena's shoulders, Gabrielle pushes Xena back; Xena yields and half-reclines against the cushions. With both hands on the back of Xena's neck, Gabrielle kisses her again on the lips. Xena tosses her head and moans, Gabrielle catches an opening at her neck and kisses her there again. She pauses, draws back, looks into Xena's eyes and smiles gently at what she sees there.
X: (a very weak voice) Gabrielle, what . . .
leaving herself open to another kiss. Gabrielle, now sitting astride Xena's hips, holds Xena's cheeks between her palms, looks her directly in the eyes
G:(whisper, her own voice trembling) I wish I'd done this . . .
caught by surprise as Xena kisses her between her breasts, then quickly up Gabrielle's chest to her neck. Gabrielle arches her back, closes her eyes, opening her body to Xena's kisses. The camera pulls back, Xena and Gabrielle blur in the background, and we see in the foreground the thin line of the rising incense.
Muted, sound of a woman's scream in the distance, then a man shouting, then, a third voice: prolonged screams. Footsteps, voices in the hall. Sharp focus on Xena, who pushes Gabrielle aside, struggles up, and runs out. Gabrielle looks up, shakes her head, and runs after Xena.
The main dining room: confusion. One of the tall guards we saw earlier, several other women, the Manager, and . . . Agape kneeling on the floor at the side of the other guard. Who has a bloody gash down one arm, and a dirty wound on the side of her head, above her cheek. She writhes in pain, breathing heavily, moaning. Xena and Gabrielle arrive just as Diana/Athena pushes her way forward.
A: All of you. Go back to your rooms. Kore: clear them out.
The Manager moves forward, herding the women away from the wounded guard. They move away slowly, talking, but they do leave. Athena puts her hand on Agape's back.
A: (talking slowly, very gently) She'll be fine. Do you want to help her? Yes? Breathe deeply. Good girl. (Agape, tear streaked face, looks up at the goddess). Now go get my healing herbs.
Agape looks around her, desolate. Gabrielle reaches a hand, hugs her. Agape sobs, then runs down the hallway. Athena looks around, sees only Kore, Gabrielle and Xena, nods.
A: This was her lover.
Athena, kneeling, puts her hands on the arm of the wounded guard, half-closes her eyes and bends her head in concentration, her lips moving silently.
From that angle, Athena's face is transformed. She seems gentle, beautiful. She looks up, sees the faces of the mortals around her and smiles. The camera looks past her, to the wounds of the guard, closing, healing. Athena stands.
A: She won't remember this. But she needs rest. Kore . . .
Agape runs in, holding a carved wooden box. She kneels at her fallen lover's side, sees the quieted body, the healed wounds, and looks around, disoriented. Athena takes her up, holds her, rocks her wordlessly. Agape throws her arms around the goddess, sobbing quietly.
A: Agape. (quieter but firmer) Agape. I need you to help her. (Agape lets go, looks at her. Athena rummages through her chest of herbs, takes out a pouch)
A: She won't remember anything. But she will have a fever. Give her this tea. Stay with her.
Kore and Agape take the sleeping guard away. Leaving Xena and Gabrielle.
X: (very sharp tone) What happened?
A:(shrug) They were walking the road at the edge of the forest. Four men -- local farmers -- attacked her.
X: And the wound on her arm?
A: How should I know? One of them had a knife. The farmers are always trying to steal our sheep.
G:(puzzled look) Agape told me you wouldn't let her learn to fight.
A: (shrug again)
G: So. Where did your guards learn. To fight.
A: I don't really need guards. This is my sanctuary, my island. No one hurts my people here.
G: No? (pause) What about Agape? Someone hurt her.
A: Her lover is fine. She won't remember anything. I fixed her.
G: Oh you did. And Agape? What about her feelings? Are you going to fix that too? You don't know what mortals feel. What do you even know about feelings?
Xena moves to put her body between Athena and Gabrielle.
X: Ah, Gabrielle (lilting tone. Facing away from the goddess, Xena raises her eyebrows, a small head motion in the direction of the room).
Gabrielle twists her mouth in annoyance; tries to look around Xena.
G: You gods think you can do anything. You think . . .
X: Let's go back to our room.(teasing) Remember?
G: Huh? Xena not now. I'm talking to (all of a sudden very quiet) . . . the goddess . . .
A: So good of you to remember.
X: Gabrielle. Why don't we go back to our room.
Xena grabs the arm of a very confused Gabrielle, who keeps looking between Athena and Xena. She lets herself be led down the hallway, then turns and shouts "I'm not done with you!" before Xena grabs her, pulls her into the room.
G: Xena, that woman is crazy. Do you think there's a support group? For sociopathic goddesses? I think (breathes deeply. Shakes her head). Wow. Where was I?
X: Teaching ethics to the goddess of wisdom?
G: No. I mean. (breathes) What do I mean? Us. Am I still a virgin?
X: (forceful) Gabrielle: later. Now, get dressed.
G: Am I?
X: Gabrielle: I said, later. Get ready to go.
G: (taking another deep breath): Nope.
Xena grabs an armful of clothes, shoves them into Gabrielle's arms, and shoves Gabrielle into the hall.
X: Now *stay* there.
Xena goes back into the room. A look of bewildered pleasure briefly crosses her face. Gathering up her own sword and Armour, she rushes out into the hallway.
Gabrielle and Xena stand for a moment, each exhausted and very lost, each looking at the other.
G:(breathing deep) Xena. Did we . . .
X: Gabrielle: listen. I have a plan. Now turn around....
She picks up her own sword, starts strapping it to Gabrielle's back.
G:(looking even worse than a moment ago): Are you really going to go to Athens with her?
X: Here's what we're going to do . . . .
Still late afternoon, darkening, but now back with Cylon's army in the woods. The scouts we recognize, standing very stiffly at attention. Cylon, pacing back and forth; a short step behind him, another soldier with gold-trimmed Armour, but standing at attention: Cylon's aide-de-camp.
Tallest scout ("Standing") There were two of them, sir, very fierce. We came back straightaway to report.
ADC(stepping forward): The one in black could be Xena. She's been shadowing us for days.
C (scowling back at him): Yes of course. Obviously she's on to us and decided to make a stand at the farmhouse. (looks at the scouts) Well? How many more reinforcements?
"Standing": Just the fair one, sir. That we saw.
C: That you saw. That's why I sent scouts! So I'd know! Idiots! (grabs "Standing" by the shirtfront) If I lose one man, because of this, I will take it out of your carcass. (releases him, turns, then around again) Guard duty in camp, for the next moon. Dismissed.
ADC: Sir. The fair one. It could be Callisto; they've been seen together. Very dangerous, a pathological killer.
C: Yes, yes, I *know* all that! Get the men ready for a night march. We'll attack while we still have some surprise left.
Camera fades from Cylon and his aide; focuses on the scouts, standing in front of their own tent
"Spud": You didn't tell him about the guard we fought.
"Standing": He'd just get worked up. No use in it.
Spud: Why'd you do it, anyway? She wasn't doing us no harm.
Standing: I don't know. I don't bloody know. Pretty lass, and here I bops her one. (smile) Must'ha been mad with hunger.
And then the camera focus, and voices, fade. Back to the inn, where Gabrielle, wearing her traveling skirt and robe, is striding down the long-columned entryway. Xena is wearing Gabrielle's robes from the morning, her dark thick hair down, framing, softening her face.
X: Gabrielle. That's *my* sword.
Gabrielle stops at the entryway, turns around.
G: Like *you're* going to do anything.
Diana/Athena walks up, stands by Xena.
Athena: Gabrielle . . . why are you dressed like that?
X: Gabrielle doesn't trust you. She wants to go after whoever attacked that guard.
A: Gabrielle. I know you don't like me. I know you think (looks around) the gods don't care. (spreads her hands) Believe me. What can I do to convince you?
G: You've already shown me who you are and what you really care about. (turns to Xena) I expected more from you.
G: Alright. Stay with *her*. You don't care about Agape or anyone. Any more than *she* does. I'm going to find those men. (strides to the door, turns again to face Athena and Xena)
G: You two will really get along.
X: (annoying superior tone): Go ahead. If you think you can handle my sword. Athena already told you: there's nothing to find.
Diana steps up behind Xena, puts her arm around Xena's waist.
X: Gabrielle! Watch out for rocks in the dark. They're dangerous . . . if you're not used to a horse.
Gabrielle, furious, blinking back tears, throws open the door. A gust of wind blows in, wrapping the robes around Xena's body; Gabrielle leaves.
D: She'll be fine. Athanike knows the road. I'm sure she'll come back safely.
Talking to Xena, Athena turns her 'round to what used to be the performance space, and is now the site of a large banquet. The steps of the small amphitheater are strewn with cushions, and women recline, leaning into each other, eating finger foods. The dais/fireplace has a reserved bench; in back of that, two crossed labryses, in front of them, a golden shield, with a sun-symbol and embossed rays. Diana/Athena leads Xena down the steps, and they both sit upright on the bench. Diana claps her hands.
D: Women of Lesbos -- soon Athens! Tonight we have a symposium, and the custom is to choose a symposiumarch. We also have a visitor, a guest. Well, I'll let her tell you, but I think she will be with us for a long time. Xena will be our Archon tonight!
Loud voices, cheers; Xena stands up. She looks back at Diana, smiles and picks up a curious flat bowl/cup. She mixes wine and water in the bowl, and holds it up. We look out, over the rim of the cup, from Xena's view, row and row of women, watching, waiting.
X: Pallas Athena, hear me! If ever I have offered sacrifices to you, be with me now! Protect me here, protect these women my friends, protect my love.
The women stop what they're doing, fall silent. In the background, Agape sits down.
Xena spills some wine on the ground and continues,
X: I'm not much for philosophy. But I love good poetry as much as I love a good fight . . . or a beautiful woman. (loud cheers). Tonight I choose two themes : poetry in the style of Sappho. Or . . . fighting in the style of Xena!
Laughs, cheers. Xena smiles, nods, passes the bowl to Diana, who drinks, and passes it down.
The older woman comes to the front, navigating the steps slowly, nodding her head.
K: I'm not much at poetry. I'm a better lover, (laughter) as many of ye know. (a lot more laughter) But I'll fight any woman here -- and you, Xena.
Xena laughs, showing a beautiful smile.
X: Well. (looks back at Diana) I can't try your lovemaking. But I will try your . . . arm wrestling!
Cheers; the libation bowl is passed around. Some women drink deeply, some not at all. Some rest their heads in the laps of their lover, some on the receiving end of a back or neck massage. Others reach forward for a bite, a snack.
Shouts, laughs, Xena and Kore sitting straight. We don't know who won, but Xena stands again.
X:(sneer, menacing) Nobody does *that* twice. (laughter, cheers for Kore. Xena smiles beautifully again, hugs Kore) I think we need something gentler. (looks around the room) Cyrene, it looks like you're in a *very* gentle mood.
Cyrene, blushing, disentangles herself from the arms of a short-haired blonde woman, and walks down to the dais. . She looks at Xena, who nods.
C: (drawing in a big breath)
The short-haired blonde runs down the steps, sweeps Cyrene up in her arms, and the room erupts with laughter, applause. Xena sits down, relaxes, leaning into Diana.
Under a full moon, Gabrielle, outside the inn, rubbing herself down against the cold. Glancing from time to time through a window, frosted over.
Cylon, stiffly tall in his saddle, riding in the dark, at the head of a mounted detachment of soldiers.
Inside the inn. Laughter, Xena has her head in Diana's lap. Two women are wrestling on stage; one slips and the other pins her quickly. Applause. Xena stands up, also applauding.
X: Well, now you both have a date for tonight.
Xena turns to Diana . . . when we hear a blast of wind . . . see the front door opened. Gabrielle strides in. Xena looks up, surprised.
Gabrielle stands at the top of the steps. She reaches down, takes the libation bowl from Agape, drains it.
Xena, angry, looks up.
G: My turn.
Xena sits down, turns to Diana, who whispers something.
X:(coldly) The custom is to wait, until you are chosen.
G: I *was* chosen. (points at Diana) *She* took *my* place.
X: Just get it over, Gabrielle.
Gabrielle stops in mid-sentence, like she's forgotten what comes next.
G: Well. Whatever. (grabs a goblet; takes a swig, turns to Diana, menacing) You stole my girlfriend.
Diana puts her arm around Xena, whispers, stands up, but Gabrielle jumps up on the dais in front of her. She draws Xena's sword from the scabbard on her back, and holds it, menacing.
G: I challenge you. Fight me. Now!
Xena rises, stands beside Diana.
X:(forced calmness) Gabrielle. Give me that. Before you hurt someone.(holds out her hand)
Cyrene meanwhile has moved in back of the dais and taken down a labrys. She holds it, watching Gabrielle. Kore and Cyrene's lover are slowly edging down towards the dais.
Gabrielle moves quickly, circles so that no-one can take her from behind, and steps back, covering both Xena and Diana, keeping Xena away from the second labrys.
G: No! Xena, get away. I don't want to have to hurt you too.
D: (smiling arrogantly) Oh, child, you will have to.(turns, touches Xena on the arm) I choose Xena as my champion!
Gabrielle takes the sword from her side, tosses it to Xena. Xena picks it out of the air, looks down at it, looks at Gabrielle.
X: No. (She turns to Diana, hands her the sword) If you want me . . . fight for me. Or don't. Either way, get it over.
Diana grabs the sword, moves back, looking from Xena to Gabrielle, realizing that she's just fallen into their trap. She snarls, a vicious, inhuman sound that stops everyone where they stand. And then, still holding the sword, Athena sheds her human likeness, transforms. An animal with a pointed snout and curled horns shimmers briefly . . then, still snarling a face . . . and:
X: (flat tone; no surprise at all) Ares.
Ares: Oh, yes. We've met. But we haven't been introduced. Let me begin . . . (Ares snarls again, and advances on Gabrielle, his sword at the ready).
Gabrielle looks at him, her mouth twisted half in desperation, half in fear. She shakes her head, then attacks.
X: Gabrielle, no! He'll kill you!
Ares: You know, Xena . . . you're right.
And Ares mercilessly drives Gabrielle back. She stumbles and falls heavily against a cushion. He smiles, and, effortlessly knocks the sword from Gabrielle's hand. Standing over her:
Ares: You're very sweet. Too bad they also don't teach manners in temple school. Never, ever, play games with a god.
He raises his sword to finish her . . .
As the front door bursts open; Cylon's men rush in. Ares looks up, distracted for a moment . . and Xena has grabbed the labrys from Cyrene, thrown it flat like a chakram, and knocked the sword from Aries' hand. Gabrielle rolls, out from under Ares, going after the sword, as the god of war and destruction looks around. The hall is filled with soldiers in black Armour struggling with women, pushing them aside or knocking them off their feet. The columns in the entryway have been knocked over; food and wine are everywhere on the floor.
Ares:(smiling) My own men couldn't have done better. Well, ladies, it's been charming (vanishes)
The women of the inn are in serious trouble: unarmed, facing fifteen soldiers in full Armour with swords and spears. Gabrielle finally has her own sword but is only half sitting up. Cyrene has the other labrys, but is backed up into a corner by two soldiers. She watches their eyes, waving the double axe between them, but they close slowly in on her. Xena, on the dais, in her robes, takes in the room in one glance, lifts her lips in a sneer.
She forward-somersaults off the dais, takes a half roll forward, and her feet strike the soldiers menacing Cyrene. One of them falls forward into the blade of the labrys and screams; the other hits the wall, recoils back into Xena, who has finished her roll and is standing. From behind, she grabs his neck with the crook of her arm, twists, and drops him to the floor. She smiles at the trembling Cyrene, touches her briefly on the shoulder, takes the labrys, tosses it, and it lands with a solid thunk in the back of a soldier with his arms around Kore's throat. She looks over as he falls, gives Xena a thumbs-up, detaches the labrys, and wades into battle.
Gabrielle in the meantime has looked around, seen Agape on the floor, a tall soldier standing over her. She rushes forward in time to receive a gauntleted fist on the side of her head. Dazed, she stumbles, then raises the sword hilt back over her left shoulder, and with her full body following, swings at the head of the soldier. We follow the flight of the blade . . . as the hilt of the sword crunches into the side of his head and he falls heavily to the right. Gabrielle takes the momentum of her swing into a half step-and-turn, facing around, sword at the ready, protecting Agape. She steps back, but not in time to avoid a soldier rushing in, who impales himself on the sword. She gasps, withdraws the sword covered in blood . . . in shock. Xena comes to her side, looks, puts her hand on the hilt of the sword.
as Cylon and his aide-de-camp calmly walk into the room. Cylon frowns, Gabrielle jerks back her hand, holding the sword, and begins hacking, hewing her way up the steps, through the soldiers protecting Cylon. He smiles, but the smile wavers to doubt as one-by-one his men fall to Gabrielle's quick sword; he draws his own sword.
G:(face contorted, blood smeared on her arm) You hurt my friends.
Cylon's aide moves back, stumbling, blocking the entryway as Gabrielle faces Cylon. She looks in his eyes, watches him draw a trembling breath . . .
and attacks, striking low, slashing at Cylon's knee. He tries to parry but his knee is hit, and he drops, sword down. Gabrielle lifts her own sword, double handed, high above her head; Cylon, now sitting, fallen, looking at the sword coming down. . .
Xena's hand stops the sword in flight, as she kicks Cylon, who falls backwards, finally letting go his own sword. Xena releases Gabrielle's sword, leans forward, grabs Cylon by his gold-braided shoulder, lifts him to his feet, turns, and shouts:
The few men remaining in Cylon's attack force stand, holding their weapons. Xena sneers, throws Cylon forward, and he slides down the stairs, into a goblet of wine. Kore and Cyrene each with a labrys, and Agape with Xena's sword, move through the room, disarming the soldiers.
Gabrielle meanwhile is standing, sword at the ready, looking back and forth, as though holding off some unseen enemy. Her mouth is open, her body rigid. There's blood on her sword, more smeared on her arms. Xena turns back to her, looks; puzzled, walks around her. Gabrielle doesn't respond. She ducks round the sword, grabs Gabrielle by the shoulders, shakes her.
Gabrielle blinks, lowers her sword, then, with short breaths, almost starting convulsions, repeats "uh . . uh . . ."
X: Gabrielle! Stop it! It's over, Gabrielle.
Gabrielle stops making sounds, looks up at Xena, stricken, empty. Agape comes up behind, hands Xena her sword. She tosses it away, annoyed.
A: Gabrielle. You saved my . . . (Gabrielle doesn't seem to notice; Agape turns to Xena, puzzled)
A: What happened to Gabrielle?
X: Battlefield shock. I've seen it before, even in hardened soldiers. (shakes her head) This is my fault. I made her use the sword.
A: Fault? She was wonderful! She saved my life! She saved everyone!
X: Wonderful? (angry; grabs Agape by the shoulders, turns her to face the room). Look.
Agape looks over the room: wreckage, men being led out. The soldier who ran into Gabrielle's sword is having his side bandaged. Kore, Cyrene stand, bloodied, robes torn. Agape looks back at Xena.
X: Gabrielle has never killed a man. Never even drawn blood. She left us because she can't face what she did, who she became. Call it wonderful. (Xena almost throws Agape forward, kneels by Gabrielle, who is sitting, looking open-mouthed at the blood on her hands. Agape follows; Xena looks up at her)
X: Some soldiers never come back.
A: (puzzled) She didn't kill anyone. Arm and leg wounds. *Lots* of blood. No-one's going to die.
X: (shakes Gabrielle) Gabrielle! Come back! It's safe. Gabrielle, it's me, Xena. You have to trust me. Gabrielle....come back.
Gabrielle's sword drops with a loud clang. She looks up at Xena, Agape.
G: Xena? Why am I sitting? Where's Cylon (panic starting) Where is he? What...
X: (shout) Stop it! Cylon's alive. You didn't kill him. You didn't kill anyone.
G: (quiet; almost trance-like) A choice. You said to make a choice.
X: (fiercely hugs Gabrielle against her)
G: Xena. (pushes away) Xena.
G: (still weak) Is this what it feels like, being you?
Xena looks down, turns.
G: (more energy, panic starting again) Xena, don't run away. Xena! Don't go! I have to know.
X: I think . . . you felt what happened to me.
Xena gets up to move away; Gabrielle grabs her arm, turns her around. She puts a hand on Xena's cheek, turns Xena's head to lock eyes with her. She holds Xena's eyes a second, surges up, and kisses her on the lips. There's nothing sensual about about the kiss; Xena withdraws, with tears starting down her cheeks.
G: (whisper) A pair. Together.
X: (in a very quiet voice) Don't get all soft on me. (swallows)
Gabrielle gives a very small but contented smile. She sits, takes up the sword again. Pause.
G: (back to old self: perky) So. . . do you think . . . maybe this sword has a curse?
Xena looks, twists her lips in mock-disgust, takes the sword.
X: Give me that.
Gabrielle smiles, hands over the sword, wipes her own eyes. The camera focuses past them to the background. Agape, bright-eyed, smiling slightly.
Next scene: late morning sunlight, outside the inn. Xena stands in front of Argo; Gabrielle, Kore, Cyrene, and several other women stand around.
X: You'll be safe ?
Kore: Safe enough. We even have recruits -- farmhands. (She nods her head, over to where our four scouts are standing, smiling). Said something about eating better here.
Xena and Kore shake hands, and Xena mounts Argo. The the camera turns to Gabrielle, giving a sisterly hug to Cyrene. She turns as the groom brings up Athanike.
Kore: She's yours if you'll have her. We owe you more, lass.
Gabrielle strokes Anthanike on the neck, smiles.
G: She's beautiful. I think we were made for each other.
Gabrielle is about to mount, when Agape runs up, breathless.
Agape: Gabrielle. Here. (hands Gabrielle a shiny something) My first lover gave me this. I want you to have it.
Gabrielle takes it, looks: a necklace, with a small golden labrys at the end.
G: I can't take this.
Agape places a finger over Gabrielle's lips; then takes her hands, moves them, placing the chain over Gabrielle's neck.
Gabrielle smiles radiantly. Speechless, she leans forward to hug Agape, who stops her.
Agape: Gabrielle. I've never met anyone like you. You're a great warrioress; I'm just a country girl. But -- I want to show you how the women of Lesbos hug.
She steps forward, puts her arms around Gabrielle, draws their bodies together, breast to breast. She looks for a moment in Gabrielle's eyes, half closes her own, then kisses Gabrielle on the lips.
Agape: Come back.
X: We will. Gabrielle explained about your custom for a bath ....
Everyone laughs, Gabrielle mounts her horse, and the two women warriors ride down the tree-lined path. After they are out of sight of the inn. . .
G:(fingering the necklace) Wow. Does this make me an honorary Les ... Lesbos-sinnian?
X: (bright smile) I think the word is Lesbian.
G: (nods) Lesbian. Right. (pause. deepened voice) Gabrielle! Lesbian warrioress! I like it. It has a kind of ring to it.
X: Trust me. It'll never catch on.
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