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by Kevin Reid (The Visitor)
Walking along a rocky path surrounded by a few sparse trees are XENA and GABRIELLE, with ARGO THE HORSE in tow. They walk with a woman of about twenty years named ARISIA.
ARISIA: I can't thank you enough for coming, Xena. When we heard you might be in the area, a dozen of our best runners were sent out to find you...I'm glad I was the one who found you first, the others'll be so jealous! Especially my brother.
XENA: Settle down, Arisia. You still haven't explained to me why these giants you told me about are so intent on destroying your celebration.
ARISIA: But that's just it, we don't understand it ourselves! The giants have lived in the hills near our town for centuries, we've always known that, but they've never ever bothered us before! The people of our town have always stayed well clear of the giants' homes. Now, this year, they've been making small attacks on our city for the last two weeks...ever since our annual festival of Artemis began. And this year's was to be the most spectacular in memory!
GABRIELLE: How come?
ARISIA: Well, one of our most important local businessmen, a man called Trabeius, says he has discovered a cache of crystalline powders that, when lit aflame, produce great sparkling showers of light and colour...he calls them fire-works. It was his intent to use these crystals all throughout the festival, but the giant's raid's have destroyed the first batch of equipment necessary to launch them.
XENA: Launch them? Where?
ARISIA: Well, Trabeius created these devices that work kind of like catapults, to hurl the crystals high into the sky, after they were lit. That way their brilliance would shine for all to see, even Artemis herself!
GABRIELLE: Neat! I can't wait to see these things, Xena.
XENA: First things first, Gabrielle. Tell me about these attacks, Arisia. Has anyone seen them?
ARISIA: Oh, yes! My brother was there during the first attack. Of course, the whole village could feel it...the ground really starts to shake when they get to running. Apparently, one of them just bolted out from the hills, screaming and waving a huge club. All he seemed interested in doing was destroying Trabeius' equipment. After that, he just thumped back off to his home. We've had two other such attacks since then. One was at night, but he was making no efforts to conceal himself, believe you me.
GABRIELLE: What are you thinking, Xena?
XENA: Just that a race of giants that's kept their nose out of human affairs for over two hundred years must have some sort of reason to be getting all riled up now. And to be so singular in their purpose...like I said, interesting.
ARISIA: Well, you can both see for yourself in a few minutes, we're just about there now.
There is a short moment of silence, when suddenly the air is shattered by an incredible booming sound, followed by a tremor that almost knocks all three women off their feet. Argo is spooked, but Xena keeps her under control.
GABRIELLE: What was that?
ARISIA: It came from up ahead, from my city! Oh, Xena!
XENA (leaping up onto Argo): Gabrielle, stay with Arisia. I'm going on ahead to see what's happening.
GABRIELLE: Be careful, Xena!
XENA: Just keep back until I come get you. Hyaah!
Xena and Argo gallop off towards town, leaving behind a concerned Gabrielle and Arisia. As Xena rounds the bend towards the city gates and enters, she is greeted by a huge cloud of smoke and dust. She and Argo stumble around lost for a moment, unable to see or breath properly. Finally, the cloud clears, and Xena coughs the last of it out of her lungs. The sight that greets her when she looks up is that of a monstrous hill giant, lying flat on his back and unconscious! There is a huge throng of townspeople in the surrounding area, and all of them are cheering. Xena, confused, saunters towards one group to get some answers.
ONLOOKER: Did you see that? Incredible!
ONLOOKER2: Why, I've never seen anything like it! Wait'll I tell my cousins about this.
XENA: What happened?
ONLOOKER: What happened? You mean you didn't see it? It was the most fantastic thing this town's ever seen! Took him out with one blow!
ONLOOKER2: Did you see the look on that giant's face when he started going down? Hah, I'll bet he never saw it coming!
XENA: Who defeated the giant?
ONLOOKER: Who? Who do you think, woman? There...(turns and points to a mob of happy townspeople)...he's over there, I think.
Xena turns and rides in the direction of the mob, hearing a lot of cheers of praise coming from them, directed towards someone in the center of the group. She rides straight on into the group, people parting as she and Argo move in. Soon she hears a familiar voice, humbly turning back the praise.
HERCULES: Really...that's not necessary...what can I say, it was a lucky punch.
IOLAUS: Come on, Hercules, admit it. I mean, I've seen you in a lot of scrapes, but the way you handled that big guy just now...was...
Iolaus stops in mid-speech, having just spotted Xena watching. Xena sees him as well, and they exchange a quick smile. Hercules, however, still has his back to Xena.
HERCULES: Iolaus, if you've beaten one giant, you've beaten them... all...Iolaus, what are you staring at?
Hercules turns, and instantly sees Xena. She raises a customary eyebrow to him, and after a few seconds he shakes the shock out of his head. His face brightens up noticeably, actually.
Switch to the local TAVERN, where Hercules and Xena sit at a table with one of the town leaders, MARIN, and a lad in his twenties named ROLAND. The tavern is more than half-full, many of the patrons standing and staring at the two new arrivals in town.
MARIN: So you see, when we heard news that the warrior-princess was somewhere in the vicinity, we sent runners in all directions. It was sheer coincidence that our young Roland happened upon you and your friend, Hercules.
HERCULES: Well, like I said, I'm happy to be of service.
XENA: Looks like you have quite a party planned here, Marin.
MARIN: Eh? Oh, yes, yes, though we were afraid that there wouldn't be a festival this year, what with these horrible attacks. But, now that the two of you are here...well, Artemis herself must be smiling on our humble village this day!
The front door of the tavern flies open, and in comes Iolaus, with Gabrielle and Arisia in tow. Iolaus is all smiles.
IOLAUS: Hey Herc, Xena! I found 'em!
MARIN: Ah, so it was Arisia who found you, Xena. I'm not surprised, not at all.
XENA: How's that?
ROLAND: If I may...Arisia is my little sister, Xena, and if I know her she'll be less than pleased...
ARISIA: Roland! What are you doing here?
MARIN: Congratulate your brother, Arisia. We sent him to find Xena, and he brought home Hercules himself!
ARISIA (angrily): Oooohhh!!!
Arisia quickly turns and storms out of the tavern, Roland rising and going after her.
ROLAND: Arisia...Arisia, wait!
Many of the patrons chuckle at the scene they have just witnessed, as Iolaus and Gabrielle take a seat at the table.
IOLAUS: What was that all about?
HERCULES: I think it was just a bad case of sibling rivalry.
MARIN: Those two have been competing with each other since Arisia was old enough to walk! Their competitions are almost legendary in these parts. But please, introduce me to your lovely young friend here.
GABRIELLE: Who, me?
XENA: Marin, this is my companion Gabrielle. Gabrielle, this is Marin, one of the town's leaders.
GABRIELLE: It's a pleasure to meet you, sir. This is a beautiful town!
MARIN: Why thank you, my dear. The place really does come alive around festival time. Oh, but where are my manners. Have you been introduced to our man of the hour yet, Gabrielle?
GABRIELLE: We've met, thank you. Great to see you again, Hercules.
HERCULES: Same here, Gabrielle. Both of you.
Hercules flashes Xena a meaningful glance, which she responds to with a customary raising of the eyebrow.
MARIN: Well, since you all seem familiar with one another, I suppose the time has come to fill you in on our situation here.
HERCULES: How long have the giants been attacking?
MARIN: The first raid came only thirteen days ago, shortly after the festival began. We were preparing to officially start the festivities with Trabeius' new contraption, when all of a sudden...wham! The very ground started shaking terribly, and there was one of the giants from the hills, running towards us! Damned near scared the life out of me. He pulled the roof of off the tent housing the fire-works, took one look, and shattered all the launchers with one sweep of his club.
IOLAUS: Didn't he attack anything else?
MARIN: No, after that he returned to his mountains. There was another raid two days later, at night. Again destroying what few devices we had rebuilt, and actually stealing a supply of the powdered crystals themselves! A similar incident happened shortly thereafter, and that was when we sent for you, Xena. I never dreamed we'd find you and the son of Zeus.
GABRIELLE: Must be your lucky day.
XENA: I'd like to talk to this Trabeius if that's all right.
MARIN: Of course. In fact I believe he was hoping to talk to...ah, here he is now. Trabeius!
Marin waves to TRABEIUS, a distinguished gentlemen who has just entered the tavern with two other men. Trabeius nods, and dismisses his entourage in order to join the group at the table. He does not sit, however.
MARIN: Welcome, Trabeius. Good to see you.
TRABEIUS: As always, Marin. I see we have...distinguished guests?
MARIN: Indeed! Allow me to introduce Xena, and Hercules, and their companions...Iolaus, is it? and Gabrielle.
Our heroes wave politely at Trabeius, and Iolaus and Gabby share a self-depricating look. Companions, indeed.
TRABEIUS: You honour our humble city with your presence, my friends. Dare I presume you have truly come to deliver us from the clutches of these beasts, who hold our citizens in such a grip of terror?
HERCULES: We'll do what we can, of course. It sounds like you've been hit the hardest in these raids, Trabeius.
TRABEIUS: Yes, the mountainous curs seem to have it in for me, though I can't imagine why. They seem hell-bent on preventing my fire-works from reaching the skies. I ask you, who could harbor such resentment against such beauty?
IOLAUS: Hey, after the way my buddy dealt with that last troublemaker, you're problems as good as solved. Personally, I'm a little beat. It was a long haul here, y'know.
XENA: Iolaus is right. Marin, if you could direct us to the nearest inn, we'll get...
TRABEIUS: Inn? Has Marin not told you?
IOLAUS: Told us what?
MARIN: Oh, dear...
TRABEIUS: Well, all our inns are closed for the duration of the festival. No lodging to strangers is permitted during the festival of Artemis. It's...kind of a tradition.
MARIN: Dear me, I don't know how that ever slipped my mind...
GABRIELLE: Hunh! Neither do I!
XENA: Forget it. Gabrielle, why don't you and Hercules go with Trabeius, take a look at these crystals everyone seems so fascinated with. Iolaus and I will find us a couple of campsites...outside of town. We'll meet back here later on.
Marin bows his head with embarrassment.
TRABEIUS: If you please, Hercules...Gabrielle.
All five leave the tavern, splitting up afterwards. Hercules seems reluctant to part, but finally, Xena and Iolaus are making their way back out of town.
IOLAUS: I can't believe this...travel all this way, beat up a giant, and it's 'sorry boys, no room at the inn for you. Why don't you sleep on some twigs and rocks...again?' Aaargh.
XENA: Iolaus, is it my imagination, or did Hercules seem, I don't know, different?
IOLAUS: Oh, so you noticed. I know, it's the weirdest thing. He's been acting all moody for the last couple of weeks now. To be honest it's starting to get on my nerves a little. He seems depressed about...whatever, but he's hardly spoken a word in days! I tell you, I'm sure glad you're here.
IOLAUS: Yeah! Didn't you see the way he lit up when he saw you?
XENA (smiling to herself): Hadn't noticed.
IOLAUS: Oh, absolutely! Listen, if anyone can put the zip back into his stride, it's you.
IOLAUS: Hey, who knows, maybe after we finish off the rest of these giants, you and Herc could take a little breather, like a night off. I'll bet you could use a restful night just as much as Hercules!
Xena glances sideways at Iolaus, keeping one eyebrow raised.
IOLAUS: Sure, and then Gabrielle and I could, y'know, get to know each other a little better...all work and no play after all...
Xena slaps her hand down on Iolaus' shoulder and gives it a squeeze. HARD.
XENA: Business before pleasure, Iolaus, so save your strength. And do remember...
Xena applies a little more pressure, producing a squeak from Iolaus.
XENA: ...be nice.
Xena releases Iolaus and keeps moving. Iolaus massages his shoulder.
IOLAUS: I'm nice! When wasn't I being nice?
Iolaus meekly jogs alongside Xena as they continue their search. Meanwhile, Trabeius has led Hercules and Gabrielle into a large tent, where several craftsmen are working diligently on small, catapult like devices.
HERCULES: These are what the giants have been after? No offense, but they don't look like much to be concerned about.
TRABEIUS: The launching devices themselves? Oh, I concur, it's highly unlikely these are their targets. They're really just modified, miniature catapults. But these...
Trabeius produces a small pouch, from which he pours a handful of colorful powdered crystals that sparkle as if alive. Hercules looks on with mild interest. Gabrielle is a little more impressed.
GABRIELLE: They're beautiful! Where do they come from, Trabeius?
TRABEUIS: I..would rather not divulge the exact location of the mine...trade secrets, you understand. However, if you think they are something to behold now, take a look at this.
Trabeius leads his guests back outside, where he pours the handful onto the ground. He slips back inside for a second, and emerges with a small lit torch. Ushering Herc and Gabby back a few steps, he carefully puts the flame to the small pile. Seconds after they have caught, a loud explosion erupts from them, accompanied by a burst of colour like has never been seen before. Now even Hercules is starting to take notice.
HERCULES: I'll say. It's quite impressive, Trabeius. Is it possible the giants are, I don't know, angered somehow by these explosions? Maybe they're being spooked by them.
TRABEIUS: I don't really care what their problems with my innovations are...they haven't the right to terrorize us, no matter what heathen superstitions they are trying to uphold.
GABRIELLE: Have you had a chance to launch any of these things yet?
TRABEIUS: No! Those wretched buffoons destroyed the very first batch, before we could even use them. Only a few small tests, on the ground, have been performed.
GABRIELLE: Then the giants couldn't be upset by the explosions...from down here, they wouldn't even be able to see or hear them. Maybe it's just a coincidence?
HERCULES: Maybe. At any rate, I think we've seen enough for tonight...Trabeius, thank you for showing us around, and try not to worry. Everything's under control now, I hope.
TRABEIUS: Does this mean you'll destroy those beasts? They deserve nothing less, I assure you.
HERCULES: Well, let's not be too hasty. We'll set out at first light tomorrow. Hopefully, we can resolve this without bloodshed.
TRABEIUS: I tell you that's a mistake! These giants care nothing for human life, they don't even speak our language!
GABRIELLE: That's no reason to slaughter them! Besides, I thought no one had been hurt yet in the attacks.
TRABEIUS: Exactly...not yet! Mark my words, they won't be satisfied for long with mere terror.
HERCULES: Well, let's sleep on it, shall we? Gabrielle, let's get back and wait for Xena and Iolaus. Good evening, Trabeius.
TRABEIUS: Yes..good evening.
Herc and Gabby take off for the tavern once again. Trabeius casts a dubious glance in their direction, then returns into the tent. Switch to the forest once again, where Xena and Iolaus seem to have found a spot they are pleased with, a small clearing inside a circular grove of trees.
XENA: Well that wasn't too hard, was it? You're sure you and Hercules will be all right?
IOLAUS: Oh, yeah, no trouble, I spotted a great little campsite on the other route into town. Not exactly the presidential suite, but it'll do. Would you like me to tell you how to get there? You know, ships that, uh, pass in the night, if you know what I mean?
XENA (smiling): What did I tell you, Iolaus?
Iolaus remembers, and nods his head emphatically.
IOLAUS: Nice, I'm being nice. I was just trying to...
XENA: Let's get moving back to town. Gabrielle and Hercules are probably waiting for us.
IOLAUS: After you, Xena.
Iolaus bows exagerratedly to Xena, and she's passing by with a grin when a gang of ten THUGS spring out from the woods around them. Our heroes are surrounded, and instinctively move back to back, sizing up their attackers. They are an ugly bunch, some with poor, tattered armor, most brandishing daggers or staffs. One man, the GANGLEADER, wields a broadsword.
GANGLEADER: Well, well, lookit what a pair we've bagged ourselves here, lads! I must say missy,...(eyeing Xena appreciatively)...it's catches like you that make this whole job worthwhile. We'll have some good times with you, before selling you to the slavers. And as for your little serving boy there...
IOLAUS (indignantly): Hey! The name's Iolaus, thank you very much!
GANGLEADER: Your name'll be roadkill when we're done with you, less you kindly hand over all your money right about now. And I'll take those boots of yours too, blondie, while you're at it.
IOLAUS: Blondie? Oh, for the love of...Xena, are we waiting for something?
XENA: Oh, I thought I'd let you lead, Iolaus. Old times sake.
IOLAUS: Really? Hey, you are nice!
Iolaus takes off like a shot, hurling himself at two of the thugs immediately before him. He tackles them to the ground and stuns them with a fist each in the face. Xena waits for her attackers to come to her, felling the first goon with a swift kick to the face. Her second foe enters swinging a staff. She lets him have a couple of free shots to her side, lulling him in close enough to get her arm around his neck. She yanks him off his feet with a yell and swings him about, taking a third goon down with his flying feet. When he stops swinging, Xena rips into him with a series of knee-strikes to the gut, and tosses him aside. Two more goons face off against her, waving daggers. Xena smiles and unsheathes her sword, impressing them with a few of those one-handed circular movements that she does so well. Iolaus meanwhile is fighting two gents at once, one in front of him and one behind. He is moving like a whirlwind, punching one foe then the other before they can recover. He is enjoying himself immensely. The gangleader, hanging back, is growing impatient to say the least.
GANGLEADER: What are you waiting for, you rabble? Get them! Get them!!
Well, they are trying, for sure. Xena's remaining attackers get bold and rush her simultaneously. She diverts both strikes with her sword, and parries with them both for a few moments. Then she gets serious, and starts nailing them with a couple o'kicks, and a sword-hilt or three to the head. Iolaus is having a similar experience. He wails away on one of his foes, leaving him standing in a complete daze. His second attacker tries to hit Iolaus from behind, but he ducks at the last second, causing the blow to hit foe number one. The poor sap flies to the ground with a thud, and Iolaus spins around and uppercuts his last sparring partner into dreamland. He looks over at Xena, who's taking her remaining foes down with a two-for-one flying kick. When the dust finally settles, Xena and Iolaus are standing in the midst of a great pile of badly beaten goons, the Gangleader gaping in awe and fear.
XENA: Isn't this where you tell us what a big mistake we've just made? And how you're going to have to, you know, teach us a lesson?
Xena lets her look go on the Gangleader with both barrels, and he bolts outta there, running in the opposite direction from town. Xena sheathes her sword and regroups with Iolaus, who is gleefully watching the gangleader run.
IOLAUS: And don't call me 'blondie', pal! Wow, that was great! You know, when we, that's me and Hercules, fought that first giant, just before you got here, well, actually, Herc got to do most of the fighting, so I've had all this energy just pent up and waiting for...
XENA: You know something Iolaus? Sometimes you can remind me a little of Gabrielle.
IOLAUS: Really? You know, funny you should mention that, because when I first met her, I thought that we might actually have a lot in common. Just a feeling, I couldn't really put my finger on it...
XENA: I think I've got it. Let's get going, I want to tell the local authorites about these pests before we see Hercules.
IOLAUS: Lead the way!
Xena and Iolaus leave the battlefield and head for town, where Hercules and Gabrielle are waiting patiently at the local tavern. There are several dozen other patrons milling about, keeping a good distance from the new folks in town. One man, though, is sitting noticeably closer than the others.
GABRIELLE: So, Hercules, tell me about that giant you fought today! It must have been exciting, I mean, wow, a giant! I've met a cyclops once, but that was more of a cerebral thing, as opposed to a punching thing.
HERCULES: Not much to tell. You've fought one giant, you've fought them all.
GABRIELLE: Hmmm. Oh, hey, congratulations by the way! We heard about Alcmene and Jason getting married. I'm sorry we couldn't make it to the wedding, I would have loved to have been there.
HERCULES: Oh, don't worry, Gabrielle. I'm sure there'll be...other weddings to go to. But I'm sorry, I should have asked; how are you and Xena doing these days? It's been a long time since that thing with Prometheus.
GABRIELLE: Well, we've been doing pretty good. I've been getting some great reviews for my storytelling, and Xena's been doing great. Well, except for when she died that time.
HERCULES: (shocked) She died??
GABRIELLE: Yeah, but she got better.
Hercules leans back, a mite confused. Gabrielle plays with some peanuts on the table in front of her, when Xena and Iolaus enter the tavern.
GABRIELLE: Xena! Iolaus, over here!
Xena and Iolaus make their way to the table and sit down, Xena and Gabby on one side, Herc and Iolaus on the other.
GABRIELLE: So, how'd it go?
XENA: More exciting than I would have expected. Seems giants aren't the only problem in this town.
GABRIELLE: What was it?
IOLAUS: Ahh, just a gang of petty hoods. Thought they were hot stuff, but me and Xena gave 'em something to think about! We told the local magistrate, and he said that these guys have been raiding travellers in and out of town for months now!
HERCULES: Quite a friendly place to visit. Did you manage to find...proper accomodations?
XENA: We'll be fine. To be honest, the sooner we're out of this town the better. They seem a little touchy around here.
GABRIELLE: I figured touchy would be right up your alley, Xena.
XENA: (smiles) Only from me. I prefer my company a lot friendlier.
IOLAUS: Hey, let's order something to eat, I'm starved! How's the food here, anyway?
HERCULES: It's difficult to tell.
IOLAUS: Difficult? How come?
GABRIELLE: They won't serve us. No strangers are allowed to eat at the taverns during the festival of Artemis. It's sort of a tradition. I think the only reason they're even letting us sit here now is because we're helping with the giants.
IOLAUS: Oh, great! Cheese and wild berries, again. This place just gets better and better.
HERCULES: Really. I mean, Artemis always was a bit of a cold fish, but this is a little extreme.
XENA: We're wasting our time here. It'll be dark soon, not much time to scrounge even a half-decent meal. It's not as if people here are clamoring for the pleasure of our company.
GABRIELLE: Yeah, let's blow this joint!
HERCULES: As you wish, ladies.
Our four heroes rise from their table and file out of the tavern. The man seated near them, in fact a SPY working for Trabeius, gets up also and moves swiftly to another table at the back of the room. Seated at this table are three men in dark clothing, other LACKEYS of Trabeius'.
LACKEY: So, what are they up to?
SPY: He's not gonna like it. That Xena woman and Hercules' little friend defeated Trabeius' border gang and sent them packing.
LACKEY2: Ahh, I knew we should never have sent for outsiders' help.
SPY: They're staying in two separate campsites outside of town...follow them, and don't let them out of your sight unless you've got something important to report. I'm going to see Trabeius.
The four men scoot out the back way to attend to their various sinister duties. Out front, Herc, Xena and the gang are walking en masse to the outskirts of the town, when someone shouts to them. It's Roland and Arisia, apparently back on speaking terms.
ROLAND: Hey, Hercules! Iolaus! Wait up!
IOLAUS: Roland, Arisia!
ARISIA: Xena, where are you and Gabrielle going? Aren't you enjoying the festival?
GABRIELLE: I don't think we're even allowed to enjoy the festival. Y'know, they're making us sleep in the woods.
IOLAUS: Yeah, won't even give us a meal. Now how are we supposed to go toe to toe with giants on an empty stomach?
GABRIELLE and IOLAUS: What?
ARISIA: I don't believe it...they're actually enforcing those stupid rules on you? But you're here to help us!
ROLAND: Yeah, you've already stopped one giant! I'm really sorry about this. Most of the elders in the town are pretty rigid when it comes to the traditons of the festival. But this...
XENA: I take it you two aren't such sticklers for the rules?
ARISIA: A lot of the younger townspeople think we should change a few of the more...unfriendly of the traditions. I mean, it's kind of bad for the town's image. Who's going to visit if you won't be welcome during the best time of the year?
ROLAND: Listen, we can't help you for accomodations, but if you want, we can get you a little food for the road. Just between us.
IOLAUS: Ahh, now you're talking!
HERCULES: Iolaus, why don't you and Gabrielle go with them and get...whatever they have to offer. We'll wait here.
IOLAUS: Hey, Herc, four people can carry more than two.
Hercules tries to make a subtle sideways gesture towards Xena, indicating he would not mind having a minute or two alone. This attempt does not go unnoticed by Xena.
IOLAUS: ...on the other hand, I'm sure me and Gabrielle can deal with it. Roland, Arisia, lead the way.
Iolaus ushers Roland, Arisia, and a confused Gabrielle quickly away. Hercules and Xena start slowly walking together. Xena is playfully guarded, Herc is acting even more bashful than usual.
XENA: Well, they're gone. Now what was on your mind?
HERCULES: Oh, well, I was just...that is, I've been thinking lately...Xena, our lives..well, we see a lot of action, you and I. I mean, it seems like, on a regular basis, someone, or something, is trying real hard to kill me. Like, all the time. Sounds as if you're in the same boat.
HERCULES: Well, Gabrielle mentioned something about you--being---dead?
XENA: She always blows that out of proportion. What are you getting at, Hercules?
Hercules moves around to face Xena, and puts his hands on her shoulders. Whatever it is, it seems important.
HERCULES: Xena, for months now, I've been feeling...like there was something missing from my life. Every fight, every monster or warlord I fought, just made me think it more. I--I'm tired of being...alone.
XENA: Hercules, you're not alone...
HERCULES: I know, I know. Iolaus is a great friend and I will always cherish that, of course. But now...I want something more. Don't you ever feel the need for the kind of relationship that even a friend like Gabrielle just can't provide?
Xena doesn't have an answer for that one.
HERCULES: Deianara has been gone for a long time now, and not a day goes by when I don't think of her, or the kids. But I finally feel as if I can.. move on in my life. And I'd like you to be a part of that.
Hercules descends gallantly to one knee and takes Xena's hand tenderly in his. Xena is flabbergasted, and has no clue how to take any of this.
HERCULES: Xena...will you marry me?
Hercules gazes up expectantly at Xena, who is staring down in utter shock. She spends several seconds trying to formulate a response, when Iolaus and Gabby return with an armful of food and get a gander at the scene being played out.
IOLAUS: Hey guys, we're ba...Holy cow!!
GABRIELLE: Oh my goodness...
Xena and Herc both look over, flustered. Herc leaps to his feet, and Gabrielle starts distractedly picking up some of the food she dropped a moment ago.
XENA: Uhh, give us a second, will you?
GABRIELLE: S-sure, Xena, whatever...
IOLAUS: By all means. Take your time! Think it over!
XENA: (to Hercules) Listen, I'm gonna need...a little time on this one, okay?
HERCULES: Uhh, yeah. I guess this was a little sudden.
XENA: Well, I'm sure Iolaus would agree.
Herc glances at Iolaus, who is wandering about in circles, waving his arms about. He seems decidedly unsure about the wisdom of this venture. Gabrielle is simply staring at Xena and Hercules.
HERCULES: Yeah, I suppose he'll have a few questions for me. And we do have a big day ahead tomorrow. Maybe we should call it a night for now.
XENA: Heh, yeah. I've certainly got a lot to sleep on now. It's not every day a girl gets propositioned by a demigod. I'll...see you tomorrow, Hercules.
Xena touches two fingers to Hercules' lips, then waves for Gabrielle, who scoots over, casting Hercules an incredulous glance. Both ladies leave for their campsite, leaving Hercules to deal with a very distraught Iolaus.
IOLAUS: You coulda warned me. Do you have any clue what you're doing, by the way?
HERCULES: Just trust me, Iolaus. I'm a big boy.
IOLAUS: Listen, Herc, I know you've been feeling a bit down lately, but that doesn't mean that you have to...
HERCULES: Iolaus...not tonight, okay?
Iolaus throws up his hands in defeat, and Herc pats him on the back. Now on their way outside of town, Xena and Gabby are walking in silence.
XENA: You're awfully quiet.
GABRIELLE: Yeah...yeah. Can you blame me?
XENA: Look, I'm as surprised as you are, all right? I mean I haven't seen the guy for months and then...
GABRIELLE: Did you say yes?
XENA: Of course not! I mean, I...need to think about it, that is. Pretty big decision, you gotta admit.
GABRIELLE: So you are thinking about it then? Marrying Hercules?
XENA: I don't know...maybe.
The two of them walk on without saying another word, and far behind them, we see one of Trabeius' lackeys stealthily skulking along, dogging their trail. Eventually they reach their campsite, and have started a small fire in the center of the clearing. It is later now, and night has fallen. Xena is sitting close to the fire, occasionally poking it with a small stick. Gabrielle is perched at the far end of the clearing, gazing pensively up at the sky.
XENA: Gabrielle, would you please say something? You're making me nervous. And if I ever needed you to talk to, it's now.
GABRIELLE: I've just...been thinking. About you, and Hercules...
XENA: Well, join the club.
GABRIELLE: ...and you getting married.
XENA: Maybe getting married. I haven't answered yet, remember.
GABRIELLE: But still maybe. I mean, okay, I guess somewhere inside me I always knew someone, Hercules or someone else, might pop the question. Heck, someone might ask me to marry them someday. I've always known that, but...I just didn't think about it before, not really.
Gabrielle turns to look at Xena.
GABRIELLE: Xena, I don't want to lose you.
A sentimental smile crosses Xena's face, and she gets up and walks over to where Gabby is sitting, plopping herself down beside her. With one hand, she lightly strokes Gabby's hair.
XENA: Gabrielle, you mean more to me than anyone I have ever met. No matter what happens, we will always be friends, and you will always be a part of my life.
GABRIELLE: Oh Gods, I don't know how to say this. I don't even know where to start!
XENA: What is it? You can tell me, Gabrielle. Anything.
GABRIELLE: Boy, I hope so. The thing is, Xena, I know we'll be friends forever, and I cherish that, believe me. But...when I saw Hercules down on one knee today, it made me realize something. Something I think I've always known, but just never admitted to myself. You're more than my friend, Xena. You're like a part of me, maybe the best part. It feels weird to me to think that there was a time when you weren't a part of my life.
XENA: I know, I know. I feel the same way, Gabrielle.
GABRIELLE: Do you? When I thought today about you, getting married, moving away, not being with me every day anymore, it hurt, Xena. It hurt so much! And I'm so scared to say what I'm about to say, 'cause if you don't feel the same, then I really might lose you forever.
Xena stops stroking Gabby's hair, and looks at her seriously, but warmly. Gabrielle is shaking.
XENA: That will never happen, Gabrielle.
GABRIELLE: Forgive me...Xena, I think...no, no, I know. Xena...I love you.
Xena breathes a sigh of relief, as if she were expecting something terrible. She has, of course, missed the point entirely.
XENA: Oh, Gabrielle. You know I love you too.
GABRIELLE: Nnnoo, nonononono. I mean, I love you, Xena. I love you, with all my heart.
XENA: (a little confused) And I love you too, Gabrielle. What's the problem, exactly?
GABRIELLE: (lets out a frustrated sigh) What's the problem? Here's the problem.
Without another word, Gabby leans forward, closes her eyes, and kisses Xena full on. It's a doozy, believe you me. Xena's eyes pop wide with surprise, although she makes no move to separate. Gabrielle gives it a few more seconds for full effect, then pulls back, and looks nervously at an obviously unsettled Xena.
GABRIELLE: ...I'm sorry...I...shouldn't have done that?
XENA:(shocked) Gabrielle, what are you doing?
Xena bolts upright, standing very stiffly, still looking very shocked. She glances down at Gabrielle, who has a few tears rolling down her cheeks.
XENA: We've...we've got a long day tomorrow. Get some sleep.
Xena turns and strides to the other side of the camp, and lies down on a blanket. She avoids the gaze of Gabrielle, who is crying more now.
GABRIELLE: Xena, please...I'm sorry, I-I just wanted to...
XENA: Forget it. Go to sleep.
Xena forces her eyes shut and turns her back to Gabby. Gabrielle buries her face in her hand and tries to weep silently. A dozen or so feet away in the woods, a startled lackey of Trabeius has just witnessed the entire scene.
LACKEY: (whispering) Artemis protect us...
The lackey looks around nervously, then quietly makes his way away from the campsite, back in the direction of the town. Back in town, the lackey enters the dwelling of Trabeius, where he is met by a GUARD at the door.
LACKEY: I've come with news, I must see Trabeius!
GUARD: Is it important? The master values his beauty sleep.
LACKEY: Of course it is, you ninny! Now go wake him, this instant!
The guard reluctantly heads inside, and emerges moments later with a bleary-eyed Trabeius, clad in a nightrobe.
TRABEIUS: By Artemis, man, this had better be of staggering importance.
LACKEY: I promise my lord, his time will not be wasted. I bring disturbing news indeed, Lord Trabeius, concerning two of our 'guests'.
TRABEIUS: Oh, really? Well, do come in, my good man, and tell me all about it.
Morning comes, and a red faced Gabrielle is aroused from her slumber by the sounds of movement. She opens her eyes and sees Xena hopping onto Argo and getting her set to leave. Gabrielle raises herself up on one arm.
XENA: I'm headed into town. Hercules and I will visit the mountains today, and see what we can see. When you get to town, stay there with Iolaus and keep watch.
GABRIELLE: Xena, please, I think we should...
XENA: I've got to go.
Xena nudges Argo, and they speed off down the trail. Gabrielle plops back down pathetically.
Back in town, Iolaus paces impatiently in the center of town, alone. Citizens mill about him, politely smiling but generally avoiding him, until one OLD MAN walks straight up to him, looking somewhat perturbed.
OLD MAN: Hey, you!
IOLAUS: (startled) Huh? Oh, hey, hi! Uh, what's up?
OLD MAN: Just what do you think you're doin'?
IOLAUS: Who, me? Well, right now, I'm waiting for two friends of mine, ALONE, because my big, goofy, impulsive OTHER friend decided he wanted to go on ahead to the hills before anyone else. So now I'm stuck here waiting for...
OLD MAN: Waiting for your two blasphemers, are ya? Shame on you!
IOLAUS: Come again?
OLD MAN: Don't try an' pull the sheepskin over my eyes, stranger. Word's out all over town about the things yer two ladyfriends have been doing! May Artemis strike them both down with her righteous bow before the day is out!
IOLAUS: Who, Xena and Gabrielle? Listen, buster, I don't care what stories you've heard, but Xena has long since paid her debt to society. She's done more good in this world than most people can even dream about! And as for Gabrielle, why...
OLD MAN: I don't know what you're yammering on about, but it won't work! Ellipius saw them last night, with his own two eyes. Engaging in their filthy, immoral deeds. They'll bring the wrath of the Gods down on our town for sure if we let'em stay.
IOLAUS (curious): What...immoral deeds? What do you mean?
OLD MAN: As if you didn't know! Carnal lust, boy! Going against nature! I tell you, we won't stand for it!
IOLAUS: All right, that's enough! I've had as much of your rambling as I'm gonna take, you old nut. Why don't you go talk to a tree or something?
OLD MAN: A pox on the lot of you strangers! The sooner you're gone, the better! (old man turns and walks away from Iolaus)
IOLAUS: Oh yeah? Well, the feeling's mutual, pal!
Iolaus stammers about looking upset for several moments when Xena rides into view on Argo. She draws near to Iolaus and dismounts.
IOLAUS: Xena! At last, a friendly face.
XENA: Where's Hercules? I have to talk to him. IOLAUS: Herc? Oh, he went on ahead to the mountains. I'm here to, uh, wait for you.
XENA: Iolaus? Something wrong?
IOLAUS: Ahhh, it's nothing, really. Just this crazy old man, making all these...wild accusations. Had some crazy story, about you, actually, and Gabrielle...
XENA: What? What about us...I mean me and Gabrielle?
IOLAUS: Aw, it's too crazy...I wouldn't want to upset you.
XENA: What did he say, Iolaus?
IOALUS: Well, he said...and remember, I don't believe this for a second...but he claimed that someone, well, saw the two of you last night, engaged in...ahem...carnal, uh, lust, or something to that effect...(Iolaus bows his head bashfully. Xena lights up with rage)
XENA: Someone was spying on our camp?
IOLAUS: Hey, yeah, I never even thought about that. I guess someone would have to have..been...wait a minute. You're, ummm, you aren't suggesting that there's actually any truth to his story, are you?
XENA: Of course not!
IOLAUS (relieved): Right! Sorry, of course not! Silly, silly me!
XENA: 'Carnal lust' indeed. It was just one kiss...
IOLAUS: Kiss? You mean, like, a sisterly peck on the cheek, right? These things can be so easily misinterpreted, after all...
XENA: Iolaus...I have to talk to Hercules.
IOLAUS: ....yeah, yeah. I guess you do at that. He went out that way, (points towards the mountains) following the riverbank. He said he'd wait somewhere near the base, just wanted to--you know--get the lay of the land.
XENA: Thanks. Could you wait here...for Gabrielle?
IOLAUS: Yeah, sure thing Xena. Get going.
Xena smiles at Iolaus and pivots Argo towards the mountains.
IOLAUS: And Xena?
IOLAUS: ...Go with your heart.
Xena stares at Iolaus, pondering his comment for a moment, then spurs Argo and starts heading for the mountains. Back at the campsite, Gabrielle has packed all her things and stands on the road to town when a TRAVELLER, heading towards the city, happens by.
GABRIELLE: Excuse me, sir, but are you headed for the festival of Artemis?
TRAVELLER: Of course...wouldn't miss it! Are you headed that way as well? I don't recognize you...
GABRIELLE: No, no, I'm just...listen, could you do me a favor?
TRAVELLER: Certainly, madam.
GABRIELLE: (pulls a small note out of her handbag) There's a woman in town right now, called Xena. Tall, dark-haired, beautiful...you can't miss her, trust me. Could you please find her and give her this?
TRAVELLER: (takes the note) As you wish. This Xena...she's a friend of yours?
GABRIELLE: Used to be...
TRAVELLER: Say, are you sure about not going to the festival? You look as if you could use a little cheering up.
GABRIELLE: Thanks anyway. I've got to get going...too many bad memories around here.
TRAVELLER: hmmm...yes. Well, good day, my lady. Your message will be delivered, I promise.
GABRIELLE: Thank you. Goodbye...
With little enthusiasm, Gabrielle turns about and starts walking away from town, and Xena, her head sagging morosely.
Xena, meanwhile, has ridden hard and reached the foot of the mountain in question. Stopping Argo, she peers around until her gaze finds Hercules, his back to her. He is perched atop a mighty boulder lodged above the mouth of the river. She stares at him affectionately for a long time, until a strange look of shock crosses her face. She glances to either side of Argo, then turns about in the saddle and stares desperately back into town.
With renewed vigor, Xena gives Argo a yell, and she pounds up to where Hercules is standing. He spots her, and waves happily.
HERCULES: Xena! Up here!
XENA: Hercules! We need to talk! Right now!
HERCULES: Hold on, I'll be right down!
With that, Hercules leaps down, and lands right beside Xena. Xena hops down off of Argo and stands toe to toe with the son of Zeus.
XENA: You're off to an early start this morning.
HERCULES: Couldn't sleep. Have you...given any thought to my...proposition, last night?
XENA: A lot. Hercules...you mean so much to me, more than any man since Marcus. After he died...I never thought I could love someone, ANYone, in that way again.
HERCULES: You don't have to explain. I felt the same way after Deianara.
XENA: What I'm trying to say is...how DO I say this? Hercules, I...I can't...
HERCULES: What? Please, Xena, tell me. It's okay.
XENA: The thing is...I just realized...there's someone...
Xena's attempt at baring her soul is interrupted by a tremendous rumbling, as the Earth around them starts to shake furiously. Confused, our heroes glance upwards to see a massive rockslide headed down the mountain, straight for them! Argo rears up and scoots off to safety as small rocks crash into the ground all around them. Xena and Hercules bolt about, dodging some of the boulders, until they look up again and see a giant shoving loose the grandaddy of all boulders. It comes loose with a crash, and within seconds it is virtually on top of them. Hercules throws Xena to the ground and braces himself overtop of her. The boulder hits, and after a few minutes the dust settles, revealing naught but a massive pile of rock and rubble. Far above, the giant admires his handiwork.
GIANT: Kolos com nia skula. Arr har ha!
The giant slinks off into the mountains. Under the rubble, something begins to stir...
XENA: ooowwww...Hercules? Hercules, where are you?
Xena rolls over to see Hercules standing above her, bracing the final boulder with his shoulders. Around them is a prison of rock, and an unstable one at that. The rocks shift constantly, held up only by the huge proportions of the boulder Hercules hefts.
XENA: Are you all right?
HERCULES: Yeah. Never...ufff...better. We, however, do have a large problem.
XENA: You have to hold that boulder up or it'll crush us...but these walls are about to flood in and smother us anyway. Yeah, that certainly could be tricky.
HERCULES: I'm afraid I won't be much help from here...
XENA: I'll take care of it. You just sit back and relax.
HERCULES: Very funny.
XENA: I think this is the shortest route out...(Xena feels her hand along one of the walls of rubble)...I'll start here.
HERCULES: What do you have in mind?
XENA (smirking): Hercules, prepare to be amazed.
Xena unsheathes her sword, and then takes out her chakrum. She then loops the chakrum over her sword, and holds her sword perpendicular to the floor. With a quick yell of her battle cry, Xena gives her chakrum a mighty swat, sending it spinning furiously in a stationary circle. Grasping either end of her swords, with the chakrum spinning madly in the center, Xena puts the world's first chainsaw to good use, quickly turning their stone prison to so much dust.
HERCULES: Well, well. What will they think of next?
Xena gets that mean gleeful look on her face that she always gets when she's doing something really cool that makes someone else look stupid. Within moments, she's broken through to the surface.
XENA: We're through! Come on!
HERCULES: You go on ahead, then get clear...I still have to dump this thing, and it'll make quite a mess.
XENA: How will you get out, then?
HERCULES: Same as always...dig.
Xena smirks at him and reholsters her weapons. She starts climbing to the surface.
HERCULES: It never would have worked out between us, would it?
XENA: ...no,...no, it wouldn't have.
HERCULES (smiles sadly): All right, now hurry up! This is getting pretty heavy!
Xena emerges on top of the pile of rubble, and clambers down off of it onto solid ground. She waits patiently for a few moments, and then the boulder Hercules was holding literally flies straight up in the air! The rock walls of their 'prison' collapse, but not before Hercules leaps out of his near-tomb, landing beside Xena. Seconds later, the boulder lands and pounds everything into the ground. Soon, the dust settles.
XENA: Thought you didn't like to show off?
HERCULES: I was feeling...energetic. Xena...
XENA: I, uhh, guess I owe you an explanation...
HERCULES: No, I'm the one who should explain to you. Iolaus was right...I've been feeling--burnt out. Tired, tired of all the monsters, the attacks, the constant fighting. I suppose I felt like I was in a rut. And when I saw you again, well...
XENA: ...You saw a way out.
HERCULES: Xena, I'm sorry, I had no right to use you like...
XENA: Hercules, it's all right. No matter who your father was, you're still only human. And human beings get lonely, and get bored, and make mistakes. At least you seem to have gotten your second wind now.
HERCULES: I just had to remind myself why I'm always fighting...and it's to help people. I can live with that for a little while longer.
XENA: I'm glad. Now it's my turn. This...may be a little difficult for me.
HERCULES: Trust me, it's best to just let it out, Xena. Feelings don't like being bottled up.
XENA: Y'know, I once told Gabrielle something very similar...Me, giving HER advice on feelings. What a joke. Hercules, what I tried to say before, it's that...there's someone else.
XENA: Please believe me, I never meant to hurt you, or anyone. I just realized it myself, a few minutes ago.
HERCULES: I'm glad for you, Xena, really. May I--ask who the lucky man is?
Xena smiles and bows her head. A little laugh escapes her.
XENA: Well, ummm, it's...Gabrielle, Hercules.
HERCULES (confused): What about Gabrielle?
XENA: No, Hercules...it's GABRIELLE.
HERCULES: Huh? ...OOhhhh! Oh...
XENA: Well, it kinda surprised me too.
HERCULES: Well...my little sister Aphrodite always did used to say...love comes in all shapes and sizes.
XENA: She told me last night, how she felt about me, and I kept thinking, 'this isn't how it's supposed to be'! I treated her TERRIBLY...and when I rode over here this morning, I had every intention of saying yes...of becoming your wife.
HERCULES: What stopped you?
XENA: Something Iolaus told me a few minutes ago...something I hadn't been doing. I thought about it, and I realized, that my life was never complete before she came into it. And I could never be whole again without her. Whenever she's not with me, I can FEEL that she's gone...like a part of me is missing. It sounds so crazy, but...
HERCULES: It doesn't sound crazy at all. It sounds like you're in love. But--maybe I'm not the person you should be telling this to.
XENA: You're right...you're right. But first things first. I want to have a word with whoever it was who just dumped half a mountain on top of us.
HERCULES: Umm, Xena...I don't SPEAK Hill Giant.
XENA: I do. Come on, let's get climbing, I think I know what's going on around here.
HERCULES: All right, but be careful.
XENA: Always. And Hercules...(kisses Herc on the cheek)...thanks.
Herc blushes bashfully, and the pair start climbing up the mountain. Back in town, Trabeius meets with several other local businessmen, religious officials, and elders, including Marin.
TRABEIUS: The legends speak clearly on this matter, Marin! If we let these strangers stay in our town any longer, they will bring disaster upon us!
PRIEST: Indeed, the writings concerning Artemis' views on such matters are a matter of public record. The visitor's must be made to leave immediately.
MARIN: I do not question the legends, noble fellows. I merely ask how our friend Trabeius came by this somewhat...sensitive information? Or how he plans to save our village from those giants without the help of Xena or Hercules?
TRABEIUS: What does it matter how I know? And as for the giants, better them than the wrath of a GOD!
BUSINESSMAN: Trabeius is right! The blasphemers must be driven form here!
TRABEIUS: My friends, gather your men! Rouse your fellow townspeople! Let us show these...offenders to nature that here, the laws of God and man are respected! We shall not be sullied by their presence any longer! For Artemis!!
Despite Marin's protests, Trabeius whips the assembled men into a frenzy. They spill out of the meeting hall to assemble their followers. Trabeius slips out on his own, and meets up with an ASSOCIATE outside.
TRABEIUS: It's done. Those fools will drive Xena out of town on a chariot, or tear her to shreds in their fervor.
ASSOCIATE: But Trabeius...what about the giants? Who will stop them?
TRABEIUS: Who cares? We both know what they're after, and I'll be DAMNED if they're getting it! Once Xena is gone, and the threat of my plan being revealed goes with her, we'll leave this place to be destroyed by those monstrosities, and peddle our wares at a sweet profit in Sparta!
ASSOCIATE: Ah, Trabeius, you're all business.
TRABEIUS: What else is there?
Shortly, a bored Iolaus, waiting impatiently for anyone to arrive, is found by Arisia and Roland.
ARISIA: Thank Artemis we found you!
IOLAUS: Well, at least SOMEONE found me! I'm going out of my mind in this place. Wait for this person, wait for that person, it's enough to make you wanna...
ARISIA: Iolaus, Trabeius is organizing a mob!
IOLAUS: What? What for?
ROLAND: He's saying that your friend Xena has...blasphemed somehow against Artemis, and that we have to run all of you out before it's too late.
IOLAUS: Oh, terrific...
ARISIA: Iolaus, what's going on? Xena's no heretic, she came here to save us! Why can't they see that?
IOLAUS: Look, I can't explain now...I have to go tell Xena and Herc about this. But listen...Gabrielle is supposed to be meeting me here, although she's REALLY late. Wait for her, and if she shows...get her outta sight, fast! I'll explain later.
ROLAND: Count on us, Iolaus.
ARISIA: We won't let you down!
IOLAUS: Thanks, guys...see you soon!
Iolaus dashes off, just missing the traveller as he waltzes up to Arisia and Roland.
TRAVELLER: Excuse me...have either of you two seen a large woman by the name of Xena?
ARISIA: Yes, but she's in the mountains right now, fighting hill giants.
TRAVELLER (gulps): Ah yes, I, uh, see. Well, I suppose it'll keep for now.
The traveller wanders off. Towards the mountain, Xena and Hercules have apparently completed their business. Xena is astride Argo and trotting towards town, Hercules jogging along beside her.
HERCULES: So how'd you know about Trabeius?
XENA: I've worked with enough scoundrels in my time to know one when I see one. How about you?
HERCULES: Ah, he just seemed like a creep to me. Say, do you mind slowing down a bit? I'm not on horseback, you know.
XENA: You're Hercules, aren't you? Besides, we should get back in time to prepare the townspeople for our...guest.
HERCULES: That the only reason?
XENA: (smiles) Less talk and more running, buster.
HERCULES: Yes, ma'am!
Herc and Xena pick up the pace, and are nearing town when they are intercepted by a madly dashing Iolaus. They come to a halt.
HERCULES: Iolaus, what's wrong?
IOLAUS: Herc, we got trouble. Trabeius is whipping the townspeople into a frenzy...he wants us out, big time!
HERCULES: What?!? I don't understand, what's his reason?
IOLAUS: Well, he's saying...wait a minute. Have...you two talked?
XENA: Everything's been said, Iolaus. Now what is it?
IOLAUS: Well, you remember that...thing, Xena, that we were talking about? It seems that Artemis, and a few others, frown on 'that sort of thing'. They're ready to burn you as a witch!
XENA: Where's Gabrielle?
IOLAUS: I don't know, I haven't seen her.
XENA: She hasn't arrived yet? Why not, where is she??
HERCULES: I'm sure she's fine, Xena. Let's not panic. Come on, let's get back there and explain to these people what's going on here.
IOLAUS: What IS going on here?
HERCULES: I'll tell you on the way. Let's go!
Herc, Iolaus and Xena head back to town once again, and soon they arrive, only to find themselves confronted by an angry mob, with Trabeius at it's head. Arisia and Roland run out to meet the returning heroes.
IOLAUS: Huh. Some welcome.
ARISIA: You'd better leave, Xena, they're really angry!
XENA: I'm not going anywhere. Not until we clear the air around here about a few things.
TRABEIUS: There, my countrymen! There is the wolf in our fold! Let us rid ourselves of this blasphemer that we may enjoy our purity unspoiled! Death to the woman who spits on nature's laws!
HERCULES: I have had just about enough of your posturing, Trabeius! We know what you've been up to, and it's over!
TRABEIUS: More lies from the tongues of strangers! Would you listen to those who defy the divine will of Artemis?
HERCULES: You all seem to be forgetting, Artemis is my SISTER! I've met her! It's true she's an isolationist, not to mention a tremendous bore, but she never killed anyone simply for being in love!
VILLAGER: Liar! The legends state clear...
HERCULES: I can tell you from experience that legends exaggerate.
ROLAND: Listen, Hercules, I'm all for being a little less strict with the interpretation of the scriptures, but this...maybe he's got a point. Maybe this IS going against nature.
ARISIA: Roland, how can you say that?
ROLAND: Come on, Arisia, it seems pretty obvious to me that men and women were meant to be together. But two women...it just doesn't make any sense!
ARISIA: And so Xena deserves to die? Is that it?
IOLAUS: Listen, ask yourselves this; how can two good people falling in love possibly be against the will of the Gods? And if it is, well, then I say the Gods must be crazy!
TRABEIUS: Enough! They're trying to deceive you all! Death to her, I say! For the glory of Artemis!!
Without another word, Trabeius whips out a small dagger and hurls it at Xena.
Before Xena can catch it, Arisia manages to slip herself into it's path, blocking the throw but taking the weapon in her side.
ROLAND: Arisia! ARISIA!!
Xena quickly speeds to Arisia's side to administer aid. Hercules and Iolaus keep everyone at bay while Roland tries to comfort his sister.
XENA: Just stay calm Arisia, you're gonna be fine. Someone get me some clean rags, and some water, fast!
ROLAND: Arisia...hang on, please!
HERCULES: Is that the side you want to be on, Roland? People who would kill someone for the crime of loving another?
TRABEIUS (flustered): Well...don't just stand there, my friends! Get them!!
VILLAGER#2: Are you mad? Arisia's been wounded!
VILLAGER#3: What kind of monster are you, Trabeius?
HERCULES: The thieving kind. Everyone, we know why the giants have been raiding your festival...and so does Trabeius. Don't you?
TRABEIUS (nervous): What are you talking about?
HERCULES: Those crystals you mysteriously procured for your little sound and light show? The ones you stole from the caves of the hill giants?
VILLAGER: Is it true?
MARIN: Trabeius, you weren't foolish enough to steal from the giant's treasure horde, were you? For CENTURIES, our people have had the wisdom to keep away from those titans!
HERCULES: Why do you suppose every attack was directed at his crystal supply, or his launching devices? Those crystals are sacred to the giants.
TRABEIUS: Lies, scurrilous lies! Where is your proof, outsider?
A loud thud is suddenly heard, and the earth shakes. And again. Several more booms follow, and then, over the rooftops of the houses appears one of the hill giants, the same one who caused the landslide on top of Xena and Herc. His presence is greeted with general fear and anxiety, to say the least.
HERCULES: Everyone, please, calm down! He's here as a friend!
TRABEIUS: You see, you see? The blasphemers are in league with the monsters!
ROLAND: Enough! The only monster here is YOU, Trabeius!
KORDOS (the giant): Zeee-naa...soolom fro?
XENA: Yes, Kordos. Now.
KORDOS (reaches into a huge leather pouch at his side, and procures a huge multicolored crystal): Dolo fut.
HERCULES: This is the same kind of crystal that Trabeius and his men have been stealing from the giants' caches. They grind them down to that powder to make those 'fire-works' of his.
VILLAGER#2: YOU brought this on us, Trabeius! You and your greed!
VILLAGER#3: String him up!
MARIN: I don't know what to say...Xena, please express to your large friend our sincerest apologies. He MUST believe that Trabeius acted alone, and we shall return all the stolen goods at once!
XENA: We've already explained all that. He understands, and comes with an offer to make.
XENA: It seems that the giants are TIRED of their isolation from humans. They wish to share knowledge, and language, with you, if you will permit it. They've even agreed to let you keep the crystals that Trabeius stole, for your festival celebration. That is, if you're willing to let them attend?
MARIN: It would be a slight bending of the rules...but perhaps some rules are better broken. So be it! I welcome this new alliance with our ancient neighbours, and the dawning of a new day in our little town.
TRABEIUS: This...this is madness! The Gods will smite you all for this outrage, I promise you!
MARIN: Guards, take this thief to the prison!
Several guards move in and manhandle a vainly struggling Trabeius off to his just reward.
IOLAUS: Well, it's about time.
MARIN: Now, how is young Arisia? In all the confusion...
XENA: She'll be fine, but she needs to get her wound properly dressed. We need to get her inside.
ROLAND: I'll take care of her from here, Xena. And Xena,...I'm sorry that I stood against you earlier. I was just...stuck in an old way of thinking, I guess.
XENA: Don't worry about it. And who knows? A day ago, I might have agreed with you.
ROLAND: Will you stay for the festival? I think this may turn out to be the best one ever!
XENA: Thanks, but I have to find...
TRAVELLER: (just arriving) You MUST be she. Xena, right?
XENA: That's right. Who's asking?
TRAVELLER: A rather sad looking young lady asked me to deliver this to you earlier today...I think it's a message of some sort.
XENA (snatches the note away): A young lady? With red hair? And a wooden staff?
TRAVELLER: Hmmm...yes, that's the one! Excuse me now, please, I must be going. (Traveller exits)
XENA (reading): "Xena...I can't say how sorry I am for wrecking our friendship. Please believe me when I tell you that you mean the world to me, and leaving you now is the hardest thing I have ever done. But I know it's for the best, and that you and Hercules will be so happy together, just like a fairy tale. My best wishes go with you, and the hope that you won't judge me too harshly...after all, I acted from my heart. Forever love, Gabrielle." (pause) What have I done?
IOLAUS: It's still light out, you could still catch her!
XENA: I--I don't even know where she's going...Gods, how will I...
HERCULES (shaking her by the shoulders): Xena! You--can--STILL catch her!
XENA: ...You're right...you're right! I've, umm, I've gotta go! Argo...where's Argo?!?
IOLAUS: Uhhh, right behind you?
XENA (turns to see Argo right behind her, and is suitably embarrassed): Right! Let's go, girl! (hops up onto Argo) Hercules, Iolaus. thank you...you ARE the best, you know!
IOLAUS: Ahh, get outta here! You've got stuff to do.
HERCULES: Good luck, Xena. To both of you.
Xena gives the boys a smile, and then she and Argo are off, riding out of town like a shot.
IOLAUS: Hey Herc...
IOLAUS: Remember when I asked you once if everyone had someone out there who shared a part of their soul?
IOLAUS: You think maybe those two..?
HERCULES: I know it. Now, do we stay for this festival or not?
IOLAUS: Only if they plan on feeding us this time. I'm starved!
DUSK. A lonely figure walks without enthusiasm along a deserted path entering a small forested area. It seems as if her staff is the only thing keeping Gabrielle standing. She trudges along, oblivious to several small movements from the bushes ahead. She is about to enter a grove of trees, when out of the woods emerge a group of thugs, the same ones driven off by Xena and Iolaus earlier on. They number only six now, but Gabrielle is still surprised and outnumbered. They move to surround her and she instinctively raises her staff for action.
GANGLEADER: My, my...things are looking UP, boys!
GABRIELLE: What do you want?
GANGLEADER: Why should we tell you, sweet thing, when we can take it just as easy? Get her!
The leader motions sharply towards Gabby with his hand, and his goons start rushing for Gabrielle. Gabby takes the initiative herself, and knocks two forward opponents off their feet with a roundhouse blow to the noggins. A reverse thrusting motion nails a third attacker in the midsection, taking the fight out of him. Two more thugs run at her from either side, and she whips her staff up in a flash, positioning it so they each run into one end of it face first. They fall to the ground, writhing in pain. Gabrielle takes a deep breath and glances up to try and see the leader. Suddenly, a hand darts out from behind her and grabs hold of her staff. She half turns in time to see his fist drive into her face. She lands hard on the ground, and the gangleader hurls her staff into the trees. She massages her aching cheek, and the gangleader walks over, standing directly above her. Reaching down, he roughly yanks her by the hair and pulls his face in close to hers.
GANGLEADER: Oh, you don't like that? Well, it's gonna get a lot worse, honey! See, me and the boys, we've had a frustrating couple of days...
GABRIELLE: I bet you get a lot of that...
GANGLEADER: ...And we're gonna take it all out on you! So get ready, sweetheart...'cause here it comes!
XENA'S VOICE: YIYIYIYIYIYIYIYIYIYIII!!!
GANGLEADER: What the...
Enter Xena, riding all-out on Argo and heading straight for Gabby and her assailant. She orders Argo to a sudden halt, and leaps off of her, flying through the air like an arrow, finally connecting a powerful dropkick to the gangleader. He flies back a country mile and collides with a tree. After a moment, he and his dazed cronies pick themselves up and regroup. Xena pulls her sword and brandishes it in their direction.
XENA: Run now and you MIGHT live. (accompanied by...the look!)
Self-preservation finally wins out, and the goons all flee into the woods. Xena resheathes her sword, and turns to help up a bewildered Gabrielle.
XENA: Are you all right?
GABRIELLE: Xena? What..what are you doing here?
XENA: I was worried, Gabrielle. You ran off before we had a chance to...talk.
GABRIELLE: All I can say is I'm sorry, Xena...and even that wouldn't be the truth. I'm NOT sorry. I told you the truth...and that's that I love you. I just pray that you can find it...
XENA: I love you, Gabrielle.
GABRIELLE: ...find it in your heart to forgive me. You must think...I don't know WHAT you must think of me. Maybe that I'm some kind of freak, or weirdo or something...
XENA: (smirking) No more than always.
GABRIELLE: ...and I don't know, maybe I am, but it just FEELS so right, and I know you always believe people should..should...wait a minute. I missed something...WHAT did you say?
XENA: (starts absent-mindedly rearranging Gabby's hair) You know something? In all the time I've known you, I don't think I've ever told you...how beautiful you are.
GABRIELLE: (little face lighting up, eyes getting misty) You think so?
XENA: Oh yeah...
Gabby starts to angle her face upwards towards Xena's. Xena is about to lean down when, all of a sudden, she leans back and stares down at Gabrielle. Then, she glances quickly all around at the ground. Finally, her eyes fall on a rock about a foot high. She smiles.
GABRIELLE: Xena? What's wrong?
Without a word, Xena grabs Gabby tight around the shoulder, and hoists her right up off her feet! Gabrielle emits a startled peep, but doesn't struggle. Soon, Xena swings her friend around and places her back down onto that aforementioned stone. When she at last stands free on the rock, she is for the first time in the unusual position of looking down on Xena.
GABRIELLE (giggling): Xena...what..?
XENA: Don't ask. Just do.
Xena places a warm hand on Gabrielle's cheek, which Gabby covers with her own. She leans down, Xena looks up, and they finally kiss. They stay like that for a long time, oblivious of everything else, including the fireworks that have started exploding in the far off nighttime sky.
DISCLAIMER: A few traditions were curtailed in the writing of this story, and Gabrielle was feeling pretty down for a while. But don't worry...true love conquers all.
Dedicated to those nutty lovebirds Sara and Diana.