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by Lynn M. Price
Copyright 1998 by Lynn M. Price. The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo are the property of "Xena: Warrior Princess" and Universal/MCA. The rest are mine. This story may not be sold and may be archived only with direct permission of the author. Any archive must carry this entire copyright statement.
Lyrics to the song "In My Life," by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Copyright 1965, Northern Songs Ltd.
The events in this story take place between "Been There, Done That," and "The Dirty Half Dozen."
This work contains mild profanity and scenes of mild violence.
This is a first attempt at fan fiction, and is the first in a series of planned stories.
With thanks to the late, great Mark Twain and his "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" for providing the inspiration needed to complete this piece of fiction.
And a great big "thank you" to all of you who write and read fan fiction. You are the wind beneath my wings...
Date of work: 1/1/98-1/10/98
There's No Time Like The Present...
"OK, folks listen up!!" The chattering of the students slowly died down. "Since it's the weekend, you won't get too much homework. You need to finish reading Act II of *Hamlet*. It won't take you *that* long," the teacher laughed as she heard the good-natured moans and groans of her teenage charges. "And when you come back on Monday, we'll discuss it before we begin Act III. Are there any questions?" A loud bell rang through the building, cutting off their time together. The students rose out of their seats, exiting the classroom.
"Have a good weekend, Miss Evans," various students called out.
"Oh, I will!! You have a good weekend, too! And do that reading!!" replied their teacher.
She sighed fondly as she watched them leave the room. Mariah Evans considered herself one of the luckiest people around. She was blessed with a good job, great students, and a love for what she was doing with her life. She said a silent prayer every day, thankful for her life and how it was going. It wasn't too many years before that she found herself at death's door on more than one occasion as she battled cancer. Now, after several surgeries and chemotherapy, she still battled some of those private demons the cancer had left with her--fear, the almost-constant worries about her health--would it ever end?
"Mariah?" said a voice, taking her out of her reverie.
"Hey, Sandy! I didn't hear you come in! How was your week?" asked Mariah.
"Glad it's over, girl, glad it's over. Do you have plans for the weekend?" queried Sandy. She was dressed in a winter jacket, a backpack slung over her shoulder.
"Not much," replied Mariah. "I've got to get some notes ready for next week, grade a few essays...what did you have in mind?"
"How about taking in a movie? I heard that the new James Bond flick is a must-see."
"Sounds great!" said Mariah enthusiastically, her blue eyes lighting up. She was a movie junkie, and the more action, the better! "Let me put on my coat and get my stuff. Wait for me, will you?"
"Sure," said Sandy, smiling. That Mariah is something else, she thought, as she watched her friend load up her backpack. Not many people had her love for life and her love for teaching. Still, Sandy sensed that something was under Mariah's surface...something that had not been there in her pre-cancer days...
Sandy thought back to that awful time nearly seven years ago...she and Mariah had been the best of friends even then, which was unusual for Mariah, for she didn't get close to many people. Mariah had felt sluggish, noticed some swollen lymph nodes in her neck. A doctor confirmed her worst fears--cancer. She went into what she called her "battle-mode," remaining somewhat distant from people, putting on a tough facade to mask her fears, not showing many of her inner emotions. Sandy marveled at the survival instinct Mariah developed. Not many people could have gone through what Mariah did and not become bitter by it, Sandy thought, especially when the cancer came back the second time....
What Sandy didn't know was the emotional toll the disease took on her friend. Mariah, physically, was OK; emotionally...well, that was a different story. She knew nothing of her friend's private broodings in the middle of the night, her nagging worries of recurrence. Sandy knew nothing of Mariah's nightmares.
The nightmares didn't come as often as they used to when she was first diagnosed. They came often enough though, usually in the stressful times of Mariah's life. Those were the nights Mariah dreaded, the nights she would struggle to fight her way out of the dreams, waking up shaking, in a cold sweat, her brown curly hair matted to her head, her face wet with tears, unwilling to go back to sleep.
Those were what Mariah called privately her "dark nights of the soul."
"Well, I'm ready. Thanks for waiting, San," said Mariah, as she hoisted her backpack over her right shoulder.
"Hey, no problem. I've got to ask you something, Mariah. When you're teaching the King Arthur legends...." their voices trailed off as the women walked down the hallway to exit the building.
"....so that's what I do," finished Mariah, as the duo stepped outside. "Man, it sure is a bright day, isn't it?" It was cold, but the sun was shining brightly, reflecting off snow-covered surfaces. Mariah reached in her bag, pulled out her sunglasses, and put them on. Teenagers were milling around the high school, shouting to each other, waiting for rides. A typical late winter's day in northern Illinois.
"It sure is," agreed Sandy. "Is the weekend supposed to be nice?"
"I hope so. I've had enough of this cold weather!" laughed Mariah, as she stepped around a small but hard pile of melting snow.
"Come on, let's get out of here. Hey! Watch where you're walking!" cried Sandy, grabbing at Mariah's arm. Mariah had slipped on an icy patch on the sidewalk.
"God, I HATE this time of year!" said Mariah. "This stuff thaws, then freezes, then thaws again...it's a miracle we don't all break our necks! Nice grab there, Sandy!! Thanks."
"You're welcome. And if you wouldn't wear those sneakers on the ice..." began Sandy.
"Yeah, I know. But I keep thinking, if I wear them the weather will warm up!" laughed Mariah.
"Jeez, you never give up, do you?" said Sandy, fondly. "You're the eternal optimist."
"Yup, that's me," said Mariah. "Whoops, I better be careful. Look at all of this ice!"
"Here, hang on to me," said Sandy. "I'm wearing the better shoes today."
"You mean everyday, don't you?" said Mariah with a grin, as she took a hold of Sandy's arm. Mariah's insistence on wearing sneakers in all kinds of weather was known throughout the school. In fact, her students nicknamed her "Nike" because of her shoe preference.
"Girl, I am going to buy you some boots next Christmas, I kid you not," grumbled Sandy good-naturedly.
"I wouldn't wear them," said Mariah, slipping as she walked. "Hey, this is a lot worse than it looks."
"I know. Just hang on, we're almost to my car. You come with me, and I'll give you a lift over to yours," Sandy replied.
"WHOA!!" cried Mariah, as she slipped wildly on the ice. As she felt herself falling backwards, she let go of Sandy as to not pull her down, too. The last things Mariah remembered were landing flat on her back, a blinding light, and a terrible pain coursing through her head as the blackness enveloped her...
In A Time Of Ancient Gods, Warlords And Kings...
Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo walked along the path in the forest. It was a beautiful day--the sun was high overhead, birds were singing, and water rushed over the rocks in the stream parallel to the path. It was a good day to be alive, thought Xena.
"What are you thinking, Xena?" asked the young bard.
"Hmmm...with you, it's never 'not much,'" grumbled Gabrielle. Try as she might, sometimes it was difficult drawing the warrior princess out of her shell of silence.
Xena laughed. "OK, OK...I was just thinking about what a pretty day it was."
"Well, why didn't you just say so?"
"What? And get all soft on my best friend?" Xena grinned at her.
Gabrielle just had to laugh. Xena had a wicked sense of humor when she wanted to. Sometimes, though, it was hard to tell when Xena *was* being funny, as she was so serious most of the time. She's gotten better, thought Gabrielle. She's not as moody as she was two years ago when I first met her. Maybe she's leaving some of those demons in her past behind her...
Argo whinnied. Xena stopped, putting up her hand to stop Gabrielle as well.
"What is it?" whispered Gabrielle.
"I don't know," replied Xena. "But stay close."
"I know the drill," said Gabrielle, as she grabbed her fighting staff.
The women slowly approached a bend in the path. They noticed a figure lying on the earth, a figure that looked familiar, yet out of place. An odd-looking bag lay next to it.
"What is that?" asked Gabrielle.
"It looks like a woman," replied Xena.
"But she's dressed so strange," noted Gabrielle, as Xena knelt down next to the body. Xena found the woman was breathing, but those breaths were shallow and ragged. She gently turned the woman over, examining the back of her head. A frown crossed her face.
"Well, it's going to take her a while to tell her story, Gabrielle. Look." Xena pulled back her hand. It was covered in blood.
"Is she going to be all right?"
"Hopefully, but only time will tell. We better make camp. There's a clearing over there by the stream. Start unpacking Argo, while I get a place ready to treat her."
Gabrielle's only answer was a nod, as she picked up the strange bag, and took it and Argo over to the clearing. She quickly and efficiently unpacked the horse, set up camp, and started a fire. The bard carefully placed the bag against a nearby tree. She noticed Xena had prepared an area, and was going over to pick up the unconscious woman.
"Wait," said Gabrielle. "Let me help. You get her arms and I'll grab her legs."
Xena nodded, and the two women carried the unconscious woman into camp. When they put her down, a moan escaped her lips.
"Gabrielle, get the medicine bag, will you?"
Gabrielle ran and got it. "Here it is. What do you want me to do, Xena?"
"Start removing some of her garments. Why she's all bundled up on a warm day like today is a mystery to me. She'll get overheated if we don't get some of those clothes off of her. And take that metal band that surrounds her eyes off of her face. I need to roll her over, and I don't want it getting in my way. I'm going to put some water on to boil, and get the healing herbs ready."
Gabrielle walked over to the girl. She knelt down, and gently removed the metal band encircling the unconscious girl's eyes. What was it, she wondered as she looked at it. Gabrielle stared at the strange clothing. Where to start? She noticed a strange metal-like track running down the center of the outer garment. She followed the track until she came to small handle. She experimented with the handle, sliding it up and down the track. She pulled the handle down until it came to the end of the track, and the garment opened like a flower in the spring.
"Remarkable!" exclaimed the young bard. She had never seen anything like it. She opened the garment, and gently lifted up the woman as she took it off of her. Easing her down, Gabrielle noticed the other strange items. The woman was wearing pants! And on her feet! She had never seen footwear like that in all of her travels. Gabrielle felt the girl's high-necked shirt. Silk, she wondered? Were those clamps and holes holding it together? And what was that band of silver around her right wrist?? And those rings! What were those strange markings covering the silver ring on the right hand? The bard was full of unanswerable questions.
"Gabrielle, come here." Reluctantly, she got up and went over to Xena. On her way there, the bard put the metal band by the strange bag. "Keep stirring up the pot, will you? I need to get that head wound cleaned so I can stitch it up." Gabrielle nodded, and Xena went over to the still-inert form.
Like Gabrielle, she was fascinated by the strange garments, but knew this was not the time to focus on them. Gently, she turned the girl over so she lay on her stomach. Xena began cleaning the head wound. She knew it would hurt, and was glad the woman was still unconscious. When the wound was clean, Xena began stitching it shut, being careful not to entangle any hair in the stitches. When that was done, she eased the unconscious woman onto her back again, examining her more closely.
She's not old, though Xena. Late twenties, early thirties...around my age, I should think. Xena began to remove more of the garments. She needed to find out if the girl had any other injuries. Like Gabrielle, she was fascinated by the pants and footwear as she removed them and the silk shirt from the girl's body. Who is this girl, thought Xena. And where does she come from? Xena sucked in her breath as she examined the girl's neck and stomach. Look at those scars, she thought. Was the woman a warrior, too? Were those wounds from battles? Xena looked at the scars more closely. They didn't look recent. And, no, they couldn't be battle scars, she thought. Xena had battle scars of her own, knew much about battle wounds, and none of the wounds she had seen or treated left the crisp, clean lines these scars had. Surgical scars? She must have needed to be cut open, and it was a highly skilled surgeon with a fine blade who made those cuts, the warrior decided. Xena wondered what had been wrong with her. She looked at the girl's hands. The hands were soft, the fingers long and supple, not a callous to be seen. Not many people had hands as soft as these. The stranger wore two rings, a gold one on the left hand, a silver one on the right. And the silver band around the right wrist...what was that, she wondered. Xena's examination raised more questions and no answers, and the warrior had other pressing matters.
"Gabrielle, come here, would you please? Bring some blankets and bring a cup of that herbal medicine. We've got to get her to drink some of it."
Gabrielle soon came over with the blankets and medicine. Her eyes widened when she saw the scars covering the girl's body.
"Gabrielle, I don't know. We'll have to ask her when she can talk. I'm going to try and wake her up long enough to drink. And no questions. That'll have to wait."
Xena knelt behind the woman, slowly lifting her up and cradling her head. She began to talk to her softly. "Hey, come on! We need you to wake up."
The woman's eyes fluttered open. "Gabrielle, give me the cup." Gabrielle handed it over, and Xena pressed it to the woman's lips. She drank, coughed a bit, then drank some more. Soon, her eyes became heavy, and she fell into a drug-induced sleep, still cradled in Xena's arms. Her breathing became more regular; it was no longer shallow or ragged like it was when they first found her. Xena laid her down gently, covered her with a blanket, checked her pulse, and was satisfied with what she found.
"We'll have to wake her up every few hours to give her some more. I hate to do it, but the herbs will speed her healing. Gabrielle, keep an eye on her. I'm going to get us some dinner." She whistled for Argo, jumped on her back, and rode out of the camp.
Gabrielle was alone with the stranger...
Over The Rainbow....
Gabrielle walked over to the unconscious girl's strange bag. She had never seen anything quite like it. It was made from leather, but it had those strange metal tracks like she saw on the girl's outer garments. She wanted desperately to look through the bag, but she knew that it wouldn't be right. She'd hate it if someone went through her belongings. Stooping over, Gabrielle picked up the strange metal band. She put it around her eyes, and was startled to see everything go dark! Hurriedly, she took it off. She sighed as she put the bag down, laying the metal band carefully upon it, and wandered around the camp. She noticed a strawberry bush nearby. Grabbing a rag, she walked over to the bush, pulling off the ripest and plumpest of the bush, sampling some as she worked.
Xena soon returned with three rabbits.
"Three rabbits? I didn't think you were THAT hungry," said Gabrielle.
Xena grinned. "Well, we've got three people in camp. How about tending to the fire while I skin these?"
"OK. I found some strawberries, too. We'll split them for dessert."
"You mean you left me some?" teased Xena. She knew the bard adored strawberries. Changing the subject, Xena said, "How is our patient doing? Any change?"
"Still sleeping soundly," said Gabrielle, as she stirred up the fire. "When do you think she'll be able to talk to us?"
"Tomorrow, hopefully," replied Xena, as she began to skin the rabbits. "That was quite a gash on her head. I wonder what caused it? The ground around here is hard, but it isn't *that* hard. It's almost as if she fell on a rock, but there were no rocks where we found her."
"Do you think she was attacked somewhere else and left there?" asked Gabrielle.
"No, I don't think so. She still had that bag, so I don't think she was robbed. Also, I didn't hear anyone else in the forest. It's strange..."
"You're telling me! It's a mystery, but hopefully, we'll have some answers tomorrow. I'm going to fill up the water bags, and get some water for Argo, too," said Gabrielle, as she walked over to the stream.
Xena placed the skinned and spitted rabbit carcasses over the fire, and walked over to Argo. As she began to brush out the horse, she again thought of how lucky she was that Gabrielle entered into her life. Xena wasn't the easiest person to travel with, yet the cheerful young bard rarely complained, always chipped in. Oh, Gabrielle wasn't a morning person, but how many people were? Xena reflected back upon the two years they had been together...she felt those years were two of the best she ever had. Even through all of the difficult times--Callisto, Perdicas, the Bacchae, Velasca, Ares, The Furies, Cupid and Bliss--Xena wouldn't have traded those two years for the world.
As Gabrielle strolled back in to the camp, the two girls heard a moan from the strange woman. Xena left Argo, and went over to the stranger, as did Gabrielle. Mariah moaned again as she opened her eyes. She saw a horse and two women. The shorter girl was young with reddish-blonde hair; the other woman was older, taller, and had long, straight black hair. They wore strange clothes, she thought. The shorter girl with the emerald eyes wore a green halter top and a short skirt. The taller woman with the piercing blue eyes wore a leather bodice from shoulder to mid-thigh, and was wearing some kind of armor-type plating that covered her torso and upper body. Mariah looked around. Where am I, she thought, puzzled. What happened to me? Why am I lying in the middle of a forest? Correction, as she looked under the blanket. Why am I lying *naked* in the middle of a forest? Where are my clothes? Oh, god, my head hurts, she thought. Where was the school? Where was Sandy? Where am I??
"What happened to me?" she whispered.
As the two women approached her, the shock of her injuries and situation were too great. Mariah fainted dead away.
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other. Xena bent over the unconscious girl, examining her. As she straightened up, she said, "Well, we'll wake her up later and give her more of the herbal medicine. We can't do anything else for her now. The best thing she can do for herself is to get some sleep. Let's eat."
The two friends ate in an easy silence, questions about the mysterious woman whirling through their heads. After they ate, they went over to the woman, gently woke her up, and gave her more medicine. Later, as they sat around the fire, Xena sharpened her sword and Gabrielle worked on her scrolls. The young bard loved to document her adventures with Xena, and this encounter with the mysterious woman promised to be a dilly!! Xena watched her young friend at work.
"Gabrielle, we should probably sleep in shifts tonight."
Gabrielle glanced at the sleeping woman. "Why? Do you think she'll cause trouble?"
"No, but you saw how she reacted when she saw her surroundings. I don't think she's from around here; she seemed frightened. If she woke up, and she thought she was alone, it could be pretty terrifying for her."
"Huh," said Gabrielle. "I'll tell you what, Xena. I'll take the first watch, and wake you in a few hours, OK?"
"Sounds good," said Xena. "When you wake me, I'll give her more medicine."
The two friends got up, stretched, and laid out their bedrolls near the fire. Xena crawled in, relaxing for the first time all day. She watched Gabrielle, back at work on her scrolls, and soon fell into a light doze.
The next thing Xena knew, Gabrielle was gently shaking her. "Xena, it's your turn to watch."
"Thanks, Gabrielle. Any change?" Gabrielle shook her head. "No? Well, sweet dreams, my friend."
Gabrielle smiled at her as she crawled in to her bedroll. Soon the young bard was sound asleep, snoring ever so lightly as was her habit.
Xena walked over to the banked fire, and took another cupful of the herbal medicine. She walked quietly over to the unknown woman, and gently woke her up. She was groggy, still unsure of her surroundings.
"Here," said Xena. "Drink this."
The young woman began to protest weakly, but Xena waved her off. "I know, I know," the warrior said gently, "but you will heal faster if you drink this. Trust me."
The girl grasped the cup. Xena helped her steady it as she drank it off. The young woman sat up, pulling up the blanket to cover her nakedness, wincing at the pain in her head.
"You've got quite a gash back there," Xena said. "It'll be sore for a few more days."
The young woman felt the back of her head. It was slightly swollen, tender to the touch. "Do you think I could have a little water, please?" she asked.
Xena smiled at her. "Of course." Xena got up, returned with the waterbag, and sat down next to the woman. Again Xena steadied the girl's hand as drank deeply from the bag. When she was done, Xena too drank from the bag.
"Who are you?" asked the stranger.
"My name is Xena. The girl sleeping by the fire is my friend Gabrielle. Who are you?"
"Mariah...Mariah Evans," replied the woman. "I-I haven't had the chance to thank you or your friend for helping me. What happened to me? Where am I"
"You don't remember? You don't know?" asked Xena, her blue eyes narrowing.
"I-I'm not sure," said Mariah. Xena noticed Mariah's eyes were beginning to droop, a sure sign the herbal medicine was again working its magic.
"Don't worry about that now," soothed Xena, as she helped Mariah lie back down. "There will be plenty of time to talk in the morning. You're safe here. The best thing for you to do is get some sleep. Rest now." Xena watched as Mariah's eyes closed and her breathing steadied into a slow, deep, natural rhythm.
Xena stood up. Well, at least the girl knew her name...that was something. Sometimes, with head injuries, people forgot who they were. That doesn't seem to be the case here, Xena thought. But there were still many unanswered questions that would have to wait until morning. And what kind of person had two names? Xena continued her watch over Mariah until dawn began to creep in from the east. Deciding to let Gabrielle sleep, Xena crawled back in her bedroll to grab a little more sleep herself. It looked like tomorrow would be an even longer day than today.
Secrets And Dreams...
The girl slept.
As she slept, she dreamed.
Dreamed of hospitals, drugs, pain. Dreamed of nausea, scanning machines, wheelchairs, I.V. hookups. She was poked and prodded by people in white jackets, jabbed with needles...god, would it ever end? Stop, she begged. Stop it, I can't take anymore....
"STOP IT! DO YOU HEAR ME? I'VE HAD ENOUGH!! STOP IT NOW, DAMN IT!!"
The screams instantly awoke Xena, who jumped to her feet, sword in hand. Gabrielle, too awoke, but not with Xena's speed, scrambling to her feet, her staff at the ready.
The two girls looked around, and quickly discovered the source of the screams. It was the strange girl, thrashing around in the blankets. They put down their weapons and ran over to her. Xena knelt down and gently shook her by the shoulders to wake her up.
"Mariah! Mariah? Hey, Mariah, come on, wake up," Xena urged. Was this a result of the head injury, Xena wondered, or did this woman carry around her own private demons, too?
Suddenly, Mariah's eyes shot open. She looked around wildly, not realizing where she was, her breaths coming in shallow, panicked gasps. And then she saw the tall woman from the night before.
"Mariah, it was just a dream," said Xena soothingly, taking her into her arms to calm her down. "You're awake, now. You're OK."
The woman's body still trembled with the vivid memory of the dream. Would it ever end, she wondered silently. After all this time, to still be plagued by these damn dreams...these thoughts trailed off as her heartbeat slowed to its usual rate and the trembling eased. Mariah's breathing returned to normal too, and she began to relax in Xena's arms.
As the young teacher calmed down, she began to take in her surroundings. What a beautiful place, she thought. It's like it's untouched by civilization. This can't be home. It can't be. And if this isn't home, then where am I? Suspicion, fear, and dread gnawed at her heart. Nothing looked familiar. Nothing at all.
Xena watched Mariah carefully as the girl eyed the surroundings. "Lean over, will you?" asked Xena. "I want to see how that head wound of yours is healing."
Mariah leaned over, as Xena tenderly felt the area around the wound, sensitive to the pain she was causing Mariah. She eyed it expertly. Thanks to the medicinal herbs and her stitching, it was healing very nicely. It would be days before the stitches could come out, though. Suddenly, Xena made one more unexpected discovery: another one of those mysterious scars on Mariah. This one began just above the base of her neck, ran down the middle of her back, and ended about seven inches down from where it started. Xena didn't notice it yesterday, for when she treated Mariah's head wound, the girl was still wearing her high-necked silk shirt. Xena motioned Gabrielle to come over and take a look. They exchanged puzzled glances. Xena lightly ran her fingers down the scar line; it also was too smooth and too fine to be a battle injury. Another surgical scar? This girl had a spinal injury? Xena remembered the warriors she knew with spinal injuries. Most of them had lost the ability to use their legs. Many more were dead. Xena noticed some bruising around shoulders. That must be from the fall, she thought.
While Xena examined her head, Mariah looked at her watch to check the time. Nothing. She tapped on it a few times, but it was no use. The batteries were dead. Damn digital watch!! Suddenly, she felt Xena's fingers tracing her spinal scar line. She flinched and stiffened up.
"Sorry. Did I hurt you?" asked Xena, as she helped Mariah straighten up.
"No...well, not much," admitted Mariah, tugging the blanket. "My upper back and shoulders are sore, though. How's my head look?"
"Oh, you'll have a headache for a few days, but that should clear up. Your back is bruised up a bit, but that should clear up too, if you don't overdo it. Do you think you can stand up?" Mariah nodded, carefully. "Gabrielle, give us a hand, will you?"
Gabrielle and Xena stood on each side of Mariah, and slowly lifted her to her feet. Mariah's back spasmed, her vision swam, and her stomach lurched violently. She saw two Xenas and three Gabrielles. Suddenly, she leaned over, losing the blanket, vomiting up what little her stomach contained. She wretched until she brought up nothing but bile. She was a little shaky, but felt better as she leaned against a tree, slowly getting her stomach, her eyes, and her nerves back under control. When she opened her eyes, she was relieved to see one of each woman again.
Gabrielle looked at Xena. Would this woman be all right? Xena's affirmative nod told her what she needed to know. Gabrielle coughed delicately. "Ah, I don't mean to intrude, but even though it should be a warm day, we better find you some clothes."
Mariah looked down at herself, realized she was stark naked, and began to laugh in spite of herself. Xena and Gabrielle joined in, and the tension they all felt was broken. Mariah's laugh broke off suddenly as pain lanced through her head. Xena saw the look on her face, went to the medicine bag and returned with a packet of white powder.
Xena said as she returned, "Gabrielle, let me introduce you to Mariah. Mariah, this is Gabrielle, bard of Potadeia." The warrior walked over to Mariah, draped the discarded blanket over her shoulders, and gave her the packet of white powder. "Here. Put a little of this in your mouth, and wash it down with water. It'll ease the pain in your head. And sit down. Your head may not be quite ready for your feet."
Mariah gratefully did as Xena said. Soon, the sharp pain became a dull ache she could better handle. In the meantime, Gabrielle scrounged through their supplies, looking for some clothes. Xena walked over to the bard, and began to talk to her in a quiet voice Mariah couldn't hear.
"Gabrielle, I know you have a lot of questions for her, but take it easy. There's more to her than meets the eye"
"Why? What's the matter?" asked Gabrielle, her voice concerned.
"I don't know," admitted Xena. "It's almost as if she doesn't belong here...my gut's telling me something isn't right. Those scars, her clothes, that metal band she wore around her eyes,..." Xena shook her head. "No, something isn't right," the warrior repeated, almost to herself.
"Do you think she's some kind of spy? Do you think Ares sent her?"
"I don't think so," Xena said. "Just keep an eye on her. And to play it safe, try not to tell her too much until I get back. There's a village up ahead. Maybe someone there knows who she is. I need to get more healing herbs, and I better get her some clothes so she'll fit in. She can't wear that stuff we found her in. I'll also get some food for breakfast. It looks like she might be with us for awhile, at least until her head heals up and we can get some answers from her." Gabrielle nodded in agreement.
The bard walked over to the stranger, carrying a long shirt. "Put this on," said Gabrielle. "It'll help keep out the morning chill."
"Thanks," said Mariah, donning the shirt. But she had a more immediate need. She had to urinate. Desperately. She looked around the forest, not seeing what she needed. "Uh, I need to go to the bathroom. Is there an outhouse nearby?"
"Outhouse?" Gabrielle mouthed to Xena. Xena just shrugged her shoulders. Mariah eyed the two women, her suspicions growing.
"You know, an outhouse. A place where you relieve yourself??"
Understanding dawned upon the two women. "Gabrielle will take you where you can go relieve yourself," replied Xena quickly. "I'll go see about breakfast. Why don't you two wash up while you're at it?"
The bard shot Xena a look, but the warrior whistled for Argo, jumped on her back, and galloped away, hoping Gabrielle could not see the huge grin on her face. Gabrielle sighed. "Come on," she said to Mariah. "It's over this way..."
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