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The Incident at Vanity Fair
or: How Xena met Khans
by Adam Fry
"Can't we take a break yet? My feet are killing me!" Gabrielle begged with exhausted breaths in between. Xena proceeded onward, silently answering her question as they continued forward. "Cause, I mean, it's a known fact people travel twice as fast when they're well rested." Gabrielle said as she tried to reason with the uncorrupted plans of the Warrior Princess.
"We're close, Gabrielle. I can almost taste it" Xena grunted as she reached the top of what seemed to be the millionth hill. "There it is." A panoramic view of tents, markets, and motion stretched across the vast horizon. "Vanity Fair." Xena flashed a devilish smile.
"I don't understand what you're so interested in, Xena. It's only an oversized market place. No different from the one in Athens."
"Oh there's ONE difference." Her eyes narrowed," Tell me, Gabrielle, have you ever heard of a man called Kah?"
"You mean that creepy Antique Dealer?"
"Something like that. Yes."
"What do you want with him?"
"Seems this Mr. Kah just.. 'collected' something that could be very valuable to the wrong people." Xena tightened her fist, "And I intend to make sure the wrong people don't get it."
"What could be so valuable to the 'Wrong People' " Gabrielle imitated Xena.
"A Stone?" Gabrielle quirked an eyebrow.
"A Very special stone. Made by the gods. Legend has it, whoever possess it has the power to control the minds of anyone. And all they have to do is reach out and touch 'em." She gritted her teeth.
"But, if he has the stone, why is he still just a lowly merchant?"
"Because he doesn't KNOW what it's for. And if he did, I doubt he has the know how to use it's powers."
"Then why worry, I mean, if he doesn't know how to use it, it's probably safer with him, anyway."
"Listen," Xena grabbed her youthful partner's chin, "He's a merchant, Gabrielle! His job IS selling things just like this. And it's just a matter of time before one of Ares' goons, or some demented Warlord, finds out about it. And then there'll be no stopping them."
A commotion could suddenly be heard from heart of the Fair. "That's Mine!! Come back with That!!" was the cry that rung out between all the disturbed 'whats?' and 'whys?' of the crowd.
A pack of hairy hoodlums fled the man's cries, all the while, shoving unlucky pedestrians out of their way.
"Let's go!" Xena drew her sword and charged towards the would-be thieves. Gabrielle followed at a slightly slower pace, staff in hand, and ready to battle.
"It's Xena!!" One of them warned the others as he was swiftly put down by blow from her incoming boot.
"Let's get her!" Came the cry of another. He raged towards her with his spiked club, swung and missed stumbling forward.
"That's no way to treat a princess," Xena quipped and drove her sword into his vulnerable ribs. She withdrew the blade. "No apology necessary." She kicked the goon to the ground.
Meanwhile, the two surviving sinisters charged Gabrielle, grabbing her arms, limiting her only defense to crying out, "Xena!!"
Xena turned away from her last victim," Gabrielle!" she stammered. The two poorly groomed men began dragging her off. Xena was forced to draw her Chakram. "Gabrielle! Duck!!" she yelled as she launched the deadly disk towards the struggling three. Instinctively, Gabrielle bowed her head as the missile skimmed her blonde skull, bounced off a near by wall, sliced down an awning causing it to tumble down, capturing one of the crooks, bounding off another wall, and planting itself firmly in the spine of the other unlucky kidnapper.
"Ugh!" he gurgled as he fell to the ground, releasing the flustered Gabrielle.
"Xena!" Gabrielle repeated as she rushed toward her. "Who are these creeps?"
Xena walked past her, and lifted up the tarp covering the unlucky survivor.
"Alright pal, let's play it smart. Who are you working for?"
"Screw you, Xena!" He blurted out, "You aren't getting nothing from me."
"The hard way then." She grinned sadistically, then jabbed her fingers into the sides of his neck, striking his pressure points. He stammered and struggled, coughing all the while. "Well?" He quivered some more.
"Alright.. (gag) Alright.. I'll t-tell you!!" He coughed more, as he struggled to finish his response, "Khaos! I-I-I'm working for... KHAOS!" He coughed out. "Now... p-please?"
"Don't mind if I do," Xena said, in a disinterested tone, taking the object clutched tight in his hand and holding it up to the light. "The Stone." She said, in awe.
"B-B-But what about..?"
"You?!" Xena stared into his fear stricken eyes, "You die." And with that, she drew the bloody Chakram from out of his eternally injured assistant and ran it across his neck. He choked once more, and died.
"Remind me not to get on your bad side," Gabrielle remarked as she surveyed the carnage Xena had created just now.
"Khans," Xena pondered. "Gabrielle, before you met me, did you ever remember hearing about a Khans?"
"Because it looks like we're going to meet this.. Khans, sooner or later."
"Well," came a hissing voice followed by a hand on Xena's shoulder," Maybe I could help you with that."
She flipped around immediately. "Kah, I presume!"
"Yessss." The cloaked character bowed. His voice before, during the robbery had be frantic, and drowned in the background, but now it could be clearly noticed he had a definite snakely quality to his speech.
"Kah, you old snake in the grass." Xena's tone had become more disgusted now,"Do you have any idea what They just took?"
"Yessss. A Stone. A very pretty stone. I must remember to thank you.. for returning it to me." Gabrielle flinched. She could of sworn she heard a snake rattle after his last word.
"Kah, I don't know how someone as stupid as you could have ever gotten this business. THIS," she help up the shiny stone, won in the recent combat, "belongs to the gods. Not a serpent like you."
The mysterious merchant shivered, and flustered, exclaimed, "It's MINE!! Xena! MINE!!" He reached out a scaly hand, stoped immediatly by her unruly fist.
"Not anymore," She tighten her grip on his green sweaty palm, causing him to let out a great 'Hissssssss!' "Now get outt'a here, snake boy. Before you get the same treatment as your pals over here." She let go of his fist, and stepped aside, giving him a clear view of the mutilated corpses scattered across the background.
Kah took one fleeting glance at the doomed masses and turned, slithering away and yelling" Xena, you'll PAY for thissssss!!"
"Well, he's gone." Xena wiped her hand the side of her skimpy leather skirt.
"Good," Gabrielle sighed, "that guy gives me the creeps."
"It's what happens when you breed out of your species." Xena smirked and held the stone up to the light again. Then she frowned once more, "This Khans guy bothers me. Someone who knows enough about the stone to send people after it, I should have already know about."
"Maybe he's just a new Warlord. There've been a lot of those showing up lately."
"No. This isn't exactly Rookie Warlord stuff. We're dealing with an unknown here." Pearing up at the setting sun, "We've got some searching to do. But tomorrow. Come on, let's seek shelter."
Meanwhile... A shadowy figure watches all that occurs here in the sphere of crystal in a stone dragon's eye.
"That's right Xena," the voice chortles, "You and your.. heh.. 'Traveling Companion' get some rest." The shadow turn quickly, with a slight jingle of bells," After all, you gotta long day ahead of you tommorow. A long.. Deadly.. day. Mwhaahahahahahahahah!!" Cackling, it ran off leaving the occult, candle lit, cave empty off all signs of 'life'.
Xena rose from her bed, yawning, then slapping Gabrielle on the shoulder, "Rise and Shine!" she sung in her usual over ambitious voice.
"Xena!" Gabrielle gasp, "I had the most horrible dream! It had this--"
"--I hope I'm not interrupting anything. Heh heh heh." a voice remarked.
They both turned to, gawkingly, greet the unknown speaker. It was... Khans!
Xena stared at the oddly dressed, sharp fanged, glowing eyed..uh.. character in the doorway. "What the Hell do you want?!"
"Ooo, I've been here for like, what? Five seconds, and they're already swear'n mad at me. Guess I just have the effect. Why I remember this one time, I was at the Presidential ball and Tipper Gore was wearing a-- wait a minute, gotta stay on track here!"
"Who, or WHAT, is that?!" Gabrielle shrieked as she finally came to her senses.
"Wait, your that.. ick.. THING from my dream! Aren't you?!"
"Oh, you got me there, blondie. And did I ever tell ya'? It's NOT healthy to dream about your 'friend' like that. Eeesh, haven't seen anything like that sense I figured out how to squint just right to unscramble the playboy channel."
Xena hopped to her feet, drew her nearby sword, and pointed at this Khans' neck. "Alright, you sicko, gimmie one reason why I shouldn't just slice you open right here!"
"Cause maybe I can do.. THISSS!!" And with a hiss and a flash, her sword turned into a black and white ringed snake.
"Grr!" she grunted as she tosses her sword, now a snake, into a corner, and watched it crawl away.
"Now, if we're done flinging wildlife around," Khans' eyes narrowed with a toothy grin, "let's talk magic rock! shall we?"
"If you want the Stone, you Can't Have it!!" Xena demanded.
"If you want your 'traveling companion', you can't have her, either, but that's for completely different network reasons, now cough off the stone before I cough up something for you!"
"What do you think you can do?"
Khans began to gag, he bent over, seizing his knees as he coughed. Then, suddenly, an axe burst from his mouth and grazed Gabrielle ear and planted itself firmly onto a wall. "Now that's what I call a hacking cough." He gagged again, at his own bad joke.
"AAAHHHH!!" Gabrielle screamed" Xena!"
"You demented little freak!" Xena quivered with rage as she step forward, "I'm going to--"
"--Uh uh uh, you still haven't learned." Khans shook his head," You can't hurt me. So why don't ya' just give me the stone and we'll leave it at that."
"The only way you can get this stone is to pry it off my dead body," Xena curled her lip and challenged.
"As much as I'd like to take you up on that offer, I'm in a real hurry, so I'll just take the stone, give ya' a rain check on the second part of that, K?" He reached out, and plucked the stone from Xena's ear like a bad magician trick. "I'm way ahead of you, Babe" and with those words, Khans waved, and disappeared as quickly as he came.
"Xena!!" Gabrielle grabbed her arm, "What the Heck just happened here?!"
Xena scowled coldly, and uttered, "We just met the new enemy Gabrielle. Hope ya' Got a good look at him, cause it's going to be tough to put him back together when I'm Through With Him."
Khans peturned to his cave, practically giggling with glee. He skipped up a stairway leading to a giant gargoyle holding out it's hands and carefully placed the stone in it's grasp. "When the time comes, this is going to make one hell of a hood ornament." He then began to cackle "Eeeheheheheheheheehehhehahaahahahahha!!"