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XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
"Love nor Honor"
DISCLAIMER: This script contains moderate violence. If this offends you, please find a different story to read.
This story takes place during the second season of XWP.
INT—INN’S COMMON ROOM—AFTERNOON
The room is filled with a variety of motley patrons, dressed shabbily and tired-looking. The furnishings in the room are well-worn but clean, and each table has a small clay vase with wildflowers in it. In one corner, XENA and GABRIELLE sit at a table by themselves; some plates with breads, cheeses, and cold meats rest on the table in front of them, as well as a pair of cups. GABRIELLE toys with a narcissus flower as XENA plays with her cup.
A small BOY approaches the table, carrying a clay pitcher.
C’n I give you ladies more wine?
GABRIELLE smiles at the boy and XENA nods yes. He fills her cup.
(as the boy pours)
These are pretty flowers.
My mum always sends us out for flowers. Says it makes the place look better, an’ with things bein’ as they are, we try to make the place look best we can.
GABRIELLE smiles at the boy. XENA’s face betrays a flash of guilt; both GABRIELLE and
the BOY miss it.
Well, they are very pretty.
(with a half-smile on her face and a gleam in her eye)
Say, do you know where this flower came from?
Sure, down by the river.
No . . . where it really came from. Before that.
XENA quirks a half-smile and rolls her eyes. It’s storytime.
Before that . . . hey, are you a bard?
GABRIELLE smiles and flicks a glance at XENA.
Well, now that you mention it . . .
A woman, the INNKEEPER, walks in, looking for the boy. She wears a well-worn apron.
Where are you? I need you in the kitchen.
She walks up to the table, where the boy looks both torn and a little guilty.
I’m sorry—it’s my fault. I was keeping him.
Mum, she’s a bard! She was going to tell me a story!
The crowd begins to murmur, interested. A bard? Where?
You’re a bard?
Well . . .
(she looks at the noncommittal XENA)
We could use a good story.
(She sits down at a nearby table, and her boy comes and stands by her).
Tell us your story!
Gabrielle looks at XENA; XENA raises an eyebrow and grins. GABRIELLE gets a wicked gleam in her eye and spins around to the crowd.
Well, if you insist . . .
(she dramatically holds up the flower to the crowd).
This is how it was . . .Narcissus was the son of the blue nymph Leiriope,
and he was easily the most beautiful young man you could ever hope to see.
And Narcissus knew his own beauty . . . by the time he turned sixteen, he had left
more rejected lovers behind than could fill this entire room . . .
The crowd watches GABRIELLE.
. . . but his pride and arrogance were to be his undoing. One day Narcissus came upon a perfectly clear pool, with shadowy depths. The day was hot, and Narcissus dropped to his knees for a cool drink. Imagine his surprise when, looking into this pool, he saw the most beautiful young man he’d ever dreamed of gazing back up at him. He instantly fell madly in love.
IN THE ROOM, the door opens and a group of rough-looking men enter, led by ENRIC. They all wear red sashes on their arms. Although the crowd, engrossed in GABRIELLE’s story, does not notice them, XENA marks their entrance. They stand at the door as GABRIELLE speaks.
. . . He reached for this boy, his dream lover, and as his fingers touched the water in the pool, he realized the boy was actually himself! What torture—he had finally found the one love worthy of himself, and it was himself! He could never have this boy—but neither could anyone else. The most faithful of lovers!
He stayed by that pool, day after day, staring at his reflection. Finally, unable to bear the torment any longer, he plunged his dagger into his own heart (she mimes the movement)! And where the blood fell to the ground, the narcissus flower bloomed (she opens the stabbing hand to reveal the flower).
The room is silent, savoring the story. The crowd begins to murmur—it’s a welcome story, told passionately, even if it’s tragic.
(breaks the spell as he approaches GABRIELLE)
A pretty story . . . such stories don’t come cheaply. Where’s the fee?
With hooded eyes, XENA watches him approach.
I don’t charge for my stories.
Well, I charge to hear it. I think it’s time for you to pay up.
He grabs the flower from her hand and crushes it. XENA slowly, dangerously, uncoils from
You can start with a kiss.
(He leans forward onto the table, lips puckered.)
XENA moves forward, but GABRIELLE moves first.
GABRIELLE draws back, and with a grimace, throws her best imitation of a XENA-style head-butt. She connects solidly with ENRIC’s nose. He falls back, clutching his nose, and GABRIELLE falls back off the table, clutching her forehead. They both howl; XENA is left in frame, looking startled as she glances between the two. ENRIC’s companions mill around, uncertain what to do.
(huddled on the ground, still clutching his nose) A
gh—gah—ah (seeing the men standing around) You IDIOTS! KILL HER!
The thugs step forward, and XENA casually, yet threateningly, steps between them and the still-moaning GABRIELLE. She glares at them, and they fall back.
(seeing them hesitate)
The men visibly gather their courage, and rush XENA. XENA grins fiercely and steps forward. Behind her, GABRIELLE gets to her feet. XENA closes with two of the men, as a third slides by toward GABRIELLE.
XENA clotheslines the two, one on each arm, and slams them together; their heads thunk together resoundingly, and they fall to the ground.
As the third man approaches her, GABRIELLE fumbles for her staff, only to have it slip out of her grasp and slide under the table. Desperate, she looks around, and grabs XENA’s goblet off the table. As he comes up behind her, she spins and throws the wine in his eyes. He paws at his eyes and keeps reaching for her. GABRIELLE throws the goblet at him, and it thunks satisfyingly off his forehead. He shakes his head, and with a growl of rage, advances on GABRIELLE. She retreats to the table, and fumbling around, comes up with a meat fork. She holds it up threateningly as she braces herself on the table with her free hand.
Haaa . . .
XENA leaves the two thugs drop and allows the fourth thug to approach her. He draws a sword, and she backflips to the table, kicking him in the chin mid-flip. As she lands, she narrowly misses coming down on GABRIELLE’s hand. GABRIELLE pulls back, and her attacker misses his grab for her. As his arm falls onto the table, she stabs at his hand with the meat fork, and spears his sleeve to the table. He pulls back, struggling, and rips free. GABRIELLE reaches for something else to use off the table, and comes up with a chunk of hard cheese. She draws it back to throw.
The thug closes on XENA, and takes a vicious swing at her ankles. She jumps over the swipe easily, laughing. He swings back, and again, she easily jumps over it.
Hey, third time’s the charm.
Enraged, the THUG takes a mighty, two-handed swing. XENA jumps off the table as the sword whistles by underfoot; giving her war cry, she does a front flip, planting a hand on the THUG’s scruffy cap.
AiYIYIYIYIYIIII . . . !
She pushes the cap over the THUG’s eyes as she flips, reverses, and lands facing the man’s back. He turns, disoriented, and swings wildly.
XENA ducks as another man charges her from behind; she ducks under him and flips him into the other attacker. They both fly back onto the table, and bounce off to land at GABRIELLE’s feet. GABRIELLE trips backward over the bodies; the fall saves her as her THUG slashes with a dagger at where her head had been. As she hits the ground, she comes up with her staff, and solidly pokes the man in his midsection. He falls over, wheezing.
(climbing to her feet next to XENA)
Thank you. I was down to the cold meats.
XENA smiles, and pounces on ENRIC, who is finally struggling to his feet. She grabs him by his shirt collar, and heaves him over onto the table. GABRIELLE jumps back as ENRIC flies by. XENA draws her sword as she approaches ENRIC; she holds the point against his throat, and smiles arrogantly.
Flat on your back again.
Ready to fight your own battles?
ENRIC does not move. He glares with frustration.
I didn’t think so.
(she pricks his chin up for emphasis as she speaks)
I don’t much like you, and I don’t want to see you again. Get out of town. And don’t come back. (she grins arrogantly) You’re not going to want to see me again.
XENA lets him off the table. ENRIC hesitates, but thinks better of trying to salvage his pride. He gestures to his men, who are just now picking themselves up. They leave.
GABRIELLE steps up next to XENA, and they watch them leave. XENA sheathes her sword, and GABRIELLE rubs her head, grimacing. The INNKEEPER approaches them.
Thank you . . . Enric and his men have been coming here for years, demanding
dinars for (with sarcasm) protection, what with the war and all . . . He’ll be back, and we’ll have
to pay then, I’m sure. But it was still nice to see him get his for once.
Her boy hangs onto her, alternately staring at XENA and GABRIELLE in awe.
D’ya do this stuff all the time? I bet ya got a bunch of neat stories to tell!
(with a quirk)
The door opens again and XENA and GABRIELLE spin defensively toward the sound. The newcomers are four scruffy people, an older man (PETRAL), younger woman (ELLA), and two adolescent children. They look weak and bedraggled, and the INNKEEPER and crowd immediately approach and surround them. XENA and GABRIELLE are left behind, unnoticed.
Petral! Ella! What happened?
(wheezing slightly, and allowing the INNKEEPER to lead him and his family to a
table by the door)
Damned rabble again—Meran’s "army" (with disgust). They ran us out for all
the food we put up. This is one time too many—we’re leaving. Going to Ella’s family in
The crowd murmurs, and PETRAL shakes his head.
This is enough—it’ll never end. Curse Althos, and Meran, and that damned Xena for making this place the next best thing to Tartarus for us! I’d love to get my hands on that slag right now!
The crowd murmurs in agreement, and parts enough for PETRAL to look up and see XENA. His eyes blaze in hatred and recognition.
GABRIELLE glances up at XENA, and holds her staff ready, concerned. XENA meets PETRAL’s gaze, impassive and unmoving.
FADE OUT TO:
PETRAL gets up from his chair slowly, angrily. The crowd parts in front of him and begins to murmur.
(hisses in hatred)
XENA stands her ground; GABRIELLE shifts nervously next to her, fidgeting with her staff. The crowd murmurs, surprised at her revealed identity, and unwilling to fight with her. PETRAL looks around him, and shuffles toward XENA, shrugging off his wife’s restraining hands. He stops in front of her; she stands tall, silent, and unmoving.
Well, Xena, looks like I’m alone here. On my own. So kill me . . . here I am!
XENA moves to step around him, GABRIELLE behind her, and PETRAL aggressively grabs her arm. She jerks to a stop, and snaps her head around to glare at him. GABRIELLE moves by XENA’s side, watching her friend worriedly.
I want you to KILL ME! Like you killed the hopes and dreams of me, my family! Come ON! (he tugs at her arm)
XENA pulls her arm out of his grasp and holds it back as if she’s going to strike. GABRIELLE definitely looks worried.
(drops her arm)
Go to Thebes, old man.
She turns and heads for the door, the crowd parting in front of her fearfully. GABRIELLE follows, stopping in front of the INNKEEPER. The INNKEEPER turns her gaze from XENA to GABRIELLE; GABRIELLE sees the fear in her eyes.
(sadly, as she presses some dinars into the woman’s hand)
For the meal.
(she shakes her head a little, and follows XENA out.)
XENA stands outside the door, impatient, and waiting for GABRIELLE to come out. She does not turn when GABRIELLE exits and joins her.
What was that all about?
Let’s get Argo and move on.
Just . . leave? Look, it’s pretty obvious you have some history here. We’re going to just leave?
Just . . . leave? Isn’t there something we could do?
Look, this isn’t like you at all—what’s going on?
XENA abruptly turns on GABRIELLE, who stops short, surprised. XENA angrily opens her mouth to speak, but is interrupted by A VILLAGE WOMAN before she can say anything.
(shouts from behind XENA)
XENA spins, hand automatically going for her sword. When she sees an apparently simple VILLAGE WOMAN hesitate nervously as she rushes up to XENA, XENA releases the sword and watches the woman impatiently.
You are Xena?
We need your help.
(XENA starts to turn away, then catches herself, and stops)
(GABRIELLE moves up next to XENA).
It’s my sister . . . Verai.
You DO remember Verai?
(GABRIELLE notices the intensity, but XENA does not).
. . . I do.
Meran has her in his castle . . . you have to get her away from him.
(moving as if to turn away)
A lover’s quarrel is not my problem.
(GABRIELLE looks at XENA strangely)
(moving after XENA)
Wait—it’s not that. Meran kidnapped her, and now he’s using her against Althos. When she’s of no use to him anymore, he’ll kill her just to cheat Althos of her. You have to do something!
(stops and hesitates)
(reluctantly, but resigned)
I’ll do what I can.
Oh, thank you . . . I knew the stories about you turning your back on war had to be true.
XENA shrugs slightly, and she and GABRIELLE step off. Behind them, the VILLAGE WOMAN’s expression changes from concern to calculation, as she watches them depart with an entirely out-of-place intensity.
Let’s go get Argo. There’s still a few hours left before sunset. We can make the next village before then.
You know where we’re going. . . ?
(frustrated, following XENA)
I never find out anything.
XENA rides ARGO as GABRIELLE walks alongside.
So when my army came through here, these two brothers, Meran and Althos, tried to organize a defense against us. Their family was minor nobility here. They were no threat, really; just a couple of boys trying to play hero. . .
Trying to do what you and Lyceus did against Cortese.
(a half-smile, slightly bitter)
Maybe. But my army made Cortese look like a simple childhood bully. They stood no chance against us, even as tired and wounded as we were.
So what happened?
Even though we could have beaten them down, I didn’t want to fight right then. My men needed shelter, rest, time to recover . . . But Althos and Meran were just boys, and they wanted to fight. (shrugs) So I helped them out.
You fought them anyway?
No. (pauses) I set them up to fight each other. And apparently they’ve been at it ever since.
GABRIELLE ponders this as XENA falls silent.
How did you do it—get them to fight each other, I mean.
(ignoring the question)
Up ahead . . . there’s the village. We’ll stop there and find out what’s going on. The manor isn’t far past there.
XENA rides off, leaving an irritated GABRIELLE behind. GABRIELLE follows, and turns a bend in the road to see the village. XENA has stopped ARGO, and, looking down at the village, waits for GABRIELLE. The village is a run-down collection of buildings, scorched and weatherbeaten. Windows are either boarded up or shuttered closed tightly, and some rough types sit idly outside on discarded crates and barrels, litter at their feet. Few people walk the streets on the errands, and those that do keep their heads down and hurry about their business.
(approaching XENA, and still irritated)
Look at that place. (pauses) Something’s not quite right there.
(peering down at the village, confused)
Yeah . . . the place looks like a war zone. (sarcastic) Which it is, right?
Not when I left it.
(GABRIELLE looks up at XENA)
And look at the people.
(looks back at the village)
What do you mean?
Nobody’s out there unless they have to be. And those that are, well, they’re looking for
trouble. (makes a decision) I want you to wait here while I go in and see what I can find out.
(starts to protest)
Hey . . !
XENA rides off toward the village, leaving GABRIELLE behind again. Indignant, GABRIELLE watches her retreating back momentarily, and then stalks away, muttering, and plops herself down on a rock to wait.
XENA rides into the village at a walk, looking for a likely candidate to speak to. Her face is closed and impassive, and she rides warily, her hand not far from the chakram at her waist. A few of the loiterers look up at her out of hooded eyes; she meets their gazes and they look away. No one seems approachable to her. She finally pulls up by a woman carrying a load of laundry; the woman looks up fearfully, and tries to walk away.
Hello . . .
The woman looks up, opens and closes her mouth as if she would speak, then tries to edge away.
Wait—I’m just looking for your village elders. Can you tell me where to find them?
They’re not here. I can’t help you.
XENA looks at her, and is about to speak again when she hears pounding feet and shouts. XENA looks around quickly for the source, and the WOMAN takes the opportunity to get away. She begins to run. XENA wheels ARGO around as a group of THUGS run into the village, shouting and waving short swords and daggers. They all wear red sashes around their upper left arms. Some of the loiterers jump up, revealing blue sashes on their arms, and dragging weapons out from under the litter. As the two groups of THUGS engage each other, XENA is caught in the middle, and, surprisingly, ignored. ARGO skitters fearfully, and XENA pulls her own sword, looking around for any approaching enemy.
OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE, GABRIELLE sees the melee begin, and jumps to her feet. She hesitates only for a moment before she runs toward the village.
IN THE VILLAGE, XENA sees two THUGS, laughing, run down the WOMAN she approached earlier. One THUG grabs the basket from the woman, and the other grabs her. XENA kicks ARGO toward the group; the THUGS and WOMAN stop and look up as XENA and ARGO approach. XENA pulls ARGO to a sliding stop and front flips off of ARGO to land in front of the three. XENA grins as the THUGS stand, mouths open; she punches out one THUG, and the basket of laundry he holds flies into the air. She kicks down the other THUG, and turns away as the basket lands safely in the stunned woman’s arms.
GABRIELLE runs into the village. Two brawling thugs wrestle past her, and she jumps in front of a cowering villager. As one RED thug approaches, GABRIELLE knocks him down with a vicious swipe; a BLUE thug steps to the other side of the cowering villager. He pulls a dagger, and smiling at GABRIELLE in apparent camaraderie, turns to the villager. GABRIELLE pulls the villager down and clubs the BLUE thug. Other thugs, both BLUE and RED, hold off in brawling to look at each other and GABRIELLE. They all turn on GABRIELLE, who anxiously backs into a doorway. As they approach, the door opens and GABRIELLE is pulled inside. The door slams shut.
XENA looks over and sees GABRIELLE disappear. She whistles for ARGO and leaps on. As she decides what to do next, an older man (JANNIS) leans out from a rug-draped narrow alleyway next to the building GABRIELLE has disappeared into.
(He waves her into the alleyway)
XENA hesitates, kicking aside brawlers from atop ARGO as she considers. She makes a decision, and rides toward the alleyway. JANNIS pulls aside the rugs, and XENA and ARGO hastily ride into the alleyway.
The building is an empty warehouse, with a few scattered baskets and sacks of goods scattered about. Some villagers huddle in the building, waiting for the fighting to pass. The room has a front door, and a boarded-up window with a tiny peephole. By the front door, GABRIELLE struggles with two brawny villagers. Her staff lies on the ground by one unconscious man. Another man sits on the ground, holding a sore foot (thumped by Gabrielle’s staff), and a third man leans over, victim to a kick in his privates. A young girl watches eagerly, although an older woman tries to discourage her from watching. Shouts and sounds of scuffling echo outside the building.
Let me go . . . I have to get back out there . . .
This is for your own good . . .
XENA, sword drawn, rides through the open doors into the warehouse, JANNIS behind her. Two villagers close the doors behind them. GABRIELLE sees XENA and stops struggling.
The villagers echo her name, and draw back.
XENA sees GABRIELLE and lowers her sword, although she remains alert. The brawny villagers release GABRIELLE with expressions of relief. GABRIELLE scoops up her staff and steps around the hunched-over villager.
(hesitates by the villager)
GABRIELLE runs up to XENA. JANNIS also moves up to XENA and ARGO.
It’s been a long time, Xena.
GABRIELLE looks between XENA and JANNIS.
You know each other?
(rolls her eyes at her own comment)
Of course you do . . .
I need to see your elders.
That shouldn’t be too hard.
(he laughs wryly)
I’m the only one left.
(He looks around at the cowering villagers)
Not too many are interested in getting involved anymore.
OUTSIDE, the shouts begin to die down.
XENA looks around at the villagers and turns back to JANNIS.
Is there somewhere we can speak privately?
I will guarantee your safety here (smiles ironically). We’ve heard the stories of the good things you’ve done, even here. But I have a place we can go when things quiet down a bit.
The little girl, FIA, breaks away from the older woman and runs up to JANNIS.
FIA: Granpa! Granpa!
JANNIS puts an arm affectionately around the girl.
(to XENA and GABRIELLE)
My daughter’s girl, Fia.
FIA shyly turns her face away as XENA and GABRIELLE smile down at her. GABRIELLE crouches down in front of FIA.
Hello, Fia. I’m Gabrielle.
(she gestures at XENA)
And this is my friend, Xena.
FIA looks at GABRIELLE and smiles, and then looks up—way up—at XENA. XENA smiles at the girl.
The OLDER WOMAN steps up and tries to pull the girl away. GABRIELLE stands up, surprised.
Don’t you talk to her, Fia!
And you stay away from her—murderer!
(turns on OLDER WOMAN)
She is a murderer! How can you forget that she killed your daughter, Jannis?!
I said enough!
XENA turns away, and GABRIELLE looks between the two, shocked. The older woman looks after XENA with satisfaction. GABRIELLE looks down at FIA. FIA watches XENA with large, frightened eyes.
INT.—JANNIS’ HOME—LATER THAT EVENING
JANNIS’s home is rather humble, a two-room earthen building with few furnishings beyond the bare necessities. A cooking pot hangs over the fire blazing in the hearth. A simple plank table stands close by the fire, with four cane-seated chairs tucked under it. A stack of terra cotta plates and bowls rest on the table with some cups, a pitcher, and a simple platter of bread and some fruit. Candles dimly light the room. JANNIS rests by the hearth, stirring simmering soup in the pot. XENA stands by the window, leaning her shoulder against the wall and looking out. Bright moonlight falls on her profile.
Place looks worse than when you left it, eh?
XENA looks at him sharply, still not moving from the window. JANNIS catches the look.
Ah, there’s nothing in that.
(He gets up, laboriously, and takes the bowls off the table).
What’s happened here, we’ve done to ourselves.
(spoons soup into one of the bowls).
(stepping away from the window to take the filled bowl from JANNIS)
What’s been going on here since—I left.
(She turns and sets the bowl at a place on the table).
(continues filling bowls and handing them to XENA).
Well . . . it’s pretty simple, really. After you moved on, Althos and Meran kept at it, squabbling over one thing after another. They both said either you or some other army’d be back some day, and each one was the one to save our lands . . . They said they’d be ready, whatever that meant.
Well, no army ever came, so then it was land allotment, and supplies. Even Verai. Always something. Pretty soon they started hitting up the nearby villagers for dinars and supplies, and the farmers for food. Said it was support for their protection.
They became the thing which they tried to fight against.
(looking at XENA consideringly)
Pretty soon it got to be the way it is now. Brawling in the streets, running off the townspeople. Just sport for them. (they fall quiet)
GABRIELLE and FIA enter; FIA holds GABRIELLE’s hand firmly. They hesitate in the doorway. Both JANNIS and XENA look over. FIA will not meet XENA’s eyes.
We . . . fed Argo.
(getting to his feet)
And you’re just in time to feed yourselves. Soup’s ready.
FIA runs ahead to the table and seats herself, as far from XENA as possible. GABRIELLE moves a little more slowly, and addresses XENA.
So . . . what’s the plan? After the soup, I mean.
We’ll go to Meran’s fortress before dawn tomorrow—if we’re lucky, his sentries will have as little discipline as those thugs we met earlier today. I’ll go in, get Verai, and we’ll be on our way.
And if we’re not lucky . . . ?
Verai? You came here for Verai? Why?
(looks at JANNIS, with an unreadable expression on her face)
You were here. You know why.
GABRIELLE looks puzzled, and looks between XENA and JANNIS. They all fall silent.
The interior of ALTHOS’ tent is fairly luxurious, with rugs and cushions scattered about. A fur-lined double-wide cot stands in a corner with a lit brazier. Torches light the room. ALTHOS sits at a square table in the center of the tent, a wineskin and goblet in front of him. He sits and broods, his eyes hooded, and his chin resting on his interlocked hands.
ENRIC enters the tent.
(with some arrogance)
You sent for me?
ALTHOS waits, unmoving. After a pause, he speaks.
( He holds ENRIC’s gaze until ENRIC looks away. ALTHOS pauses again.)
I should not have to send for you.
ENRIC does not respond; he continues looking away, uncomfortably. ALTHOS waits.
We went to the village. They owed us dinars . . . to support our cause.
And where are these dinars?
We . . . could not collect them. We were driven off.
Driven off? How did villagers (contemptuously) drive you and your men off?
It wasn’t the villagers. There was an outsider. A warrior.
I don’t know . . .
Two battered and bloody thugs burst into the tent. They breathe heavily, and obviously are very agitated. ENRIC whirls on them, angry at their interruption.
It’s Xena! Xena’s back!
(rising dangerously from his chair)
We saw her in the village. It’s her.
(a twisted smile of self-justification on his face)
I always knew she’d be back.
(as he grimly recalls his earlier humiliation)
Xena . . .
INT.—DINING HALL/MERAN’S MANOR—EVENING
Meran’s manor is a two-story stone building; castle-like in appearance. The dining hall holds a long table, covered with platters of roast meats, vegetables, breads, and cheese. Some wine flasks stand on the table, and a variety of candelabra light the dining area. MERAN and VERAI sit at the table as a young girl serves them.
A roughed-up THUG enters the room and stands by MERAN’s chair. MERAN selects some grapes, then looks up at the THUG. He frowns as he sees the state the THUG is in.
(holding a grape; disdainfully)
What happened to you?
Sir, we went to the village—to get supplies. Althos’s men were there.
(He pops the grape in his mouth; VERAI sits quietly in the background)
We had a few casualties . . .
(reaching for more grapes)
You did, I trust, get some of them . . .?
I think so.
You think so?
(shakes his head a little)
Well, whatever. Did you get the supplies? We’re running low on these (holds up a handful of grapes), I believe.
(looks at MERAN with some anger)
I don’t know about the grapes, sir (slurs it), but we could find very little flour and salt.
MERAN jumps up, mercurially, and snatches his dinner knife off the table. He quickly closes with the thug and presses the blade under this throat. The THUG freezes, eyes wide. MERAN stares him in the eyes; the THUG cannot look away. MERAN holds the tableau for a few long moments, then turns away, tossing his dagger on the table and snatching up his wine cup. He deliberately turns his back on the THUG and takes a long swig as he looks toward VERAI. She gazes back, unperturbed. The THUG is thoroughly cowed.
No matter. You can just go back tomorrow. Or find it somewhere else.
The THUG backs out of the room. MERAN sits back down, crosses his legs, and picks at the fruit again as he speaks.
Well, it looks like we’ll have to find some new sources, if all the (with light disdain) locals are running out . . .
Oh, I don’t think you need to worry about that . . .
MERAN jumps back up, dangerously. He pulls a sword from from under the table and holds it expertly.
The young serving girl morphs into ERIS, goddess of strife. The red-headed ERIS wears a revealing black leather top and short skirt, edged with silver trim. ERIS steps forward casually, completely at ease despite MERAN’s threat.
The least of your worries are those pathetic sheep. Wring them hard enough, and you’ll get more of what you need.
ERIS casually walks up to the table and helps herself to some of the grapes. MERAN continues to watch her with his sword at guard.
You do have some big worries coming up, though.
(arrogantly, with an expression that implies MERAN is a fool)
Oh, about this high (holds her hand at XENA’s height), dark hair, big sword, carries a (sarcastically, as if talking to a child) round-killing-thing
(MERAN begins to catch on)
(low and snarling)
(Rolls her eyes)
You mortals are so slow, but you do eventually get there.
Who are you . . . why tell me this?
Who am I? Who AM I?
(measures him, then shrugs)
Well, no matter. I simply thought you might like to know that Xena’s here, and she’s a friend to your dear brother, Althos.
Xena? With Althos?
But I’m a better friend to you than Xena could ever be to Althos.
(measures ERIS and then lowers his sword, although he does not put it down)
And the price of your friendship . . .?
Price? A price? You distrusting mortals.
(with a sly grin) With good reason.
(becomes serious, but the game is in her eyes)
I have no love for Xena.
All right then . . . what is she here for?
What do you think? She’s here for Verai, of course.
Yes, well, that’s up to you, isn’t it?
(directly) She comes before dawn for Verai.
ERIS vanishes. MERAN frowns and strides out of the room. VERAI remains where she is, an unreadable expression on her face.
EXT—OVERLOOKING MERAN’S MANOR—LATER THAT EVENING
XENA and GABRIELLE quietly creep to the edge of the surrounding forest. They stop in a clump of brush, and watch the quiet, torch-lit fortress.
EXT—OVERLOOKING MERAN’S FORTRESS—SAME
(watching the fortress)
It looks awfully quiet. I only spot one guard up on the walk.
Two . . . see the far corner? Watch for the torchlight off his helmet.
Yeah . . . still, that’s not too bad.
(shakes her head) Jannis said they all spent a lot of time inside a wineskin . . .
Let’s hope so.
I’m going in . . . this shouldn’t take too long.
GABRIELLE puts a restraining hand on XENA’s arm, a look of concern on her face.
Xena, are you sure this is the best way to do this?
Going alone in there—will you even be able to find her?
(hesitates, then reassuringly)
I know this fortress, and I’ve got a few pretty good ideas where she’ll be.
GABRIELLE looks uncertain.
I have to do this.
(As GABRIELLE looks at her)
Everybody deserves a choice.
If anything goes wrong, get out of here.
Go back to Jannis.
(looks at XENA)
XENA considers GABRIELLE, half-smiles, and rolls her eyes. She relents.
Okay. Just don’t come running in.
XENA eases out of her crouch and approaches the fortress furtively. GABRIELLE watches as XENA moves from shadow to shadow, until she crouches in the shadows at the base of the fortress wall.
XENA listens to the footfalls of the one guard walking on the paramount; as his footsteps fade away, she turns and quickly flicks her whip upward. The lash wraps around a decorative stone outcropping by a window ledge. She quickly climbs the whip, and rests a hand on the window sill. As a male voice coughs by the window, she quietly pulls her hand away. She waits, and hears him resume snoring. Satisfied, she pulls herself onto the ledge, disengages her whip, and flips the lash up to one of the teeth on the paramount. Moving stealthily, she pulls herself up and over, disengages the whip again, and glides into the shadows.
As the guard returns with his torch, she gracefully ducks behind him, light glinting off her armor, out of the guard’s line of vision. She continues down the paramount to the entry door. The guard at the door leans on the paramount, looking bored. XENA’s gauntletted arm reaches out of the shadows and pulls him back; he disappears into the shadows with a muffled thump. XENA steps out, and, after listening at the door for a moment, quietly pulls it open. She descends the dark stairs without incident.
XENA glides down a silent and dim torch-lit hallway.
INT.—MASTER SUITE FOYER—SAME
XENA enters a large torch-lit, rug-covered foyer outside the master suite. Tapestries hang on the wall, and padded benches rest against the wall. A candlelit chandelier hangs in the room’s center. The center wall has two large double doors, and the flanking walls each have doors.
XENA furtively approaches the door to her left. She pauses outside to listen, and cracks the door open. The room is silent, and XENA listens a moment longer. Satisfied that the room is empty, she quietly closes the door, and moves to the opposite door. She again pauses to listen and cracks the door open. She hears rustling inside. She ducks inside.
A canopied bed stands in the center of the room, veils draping the side. A few lit candles keep the room from total darkness. Another door stands on an adjacent wall. VERAI rests on the bed, her back to XENA. Out of XENA’s line of sight, VERAI’s eyes are open.
XENA quickly checks the room and stealthily approaches the bed. She eases onto the edge of the bed, and reaches for VERAI. XENA wraps one hand over VERAI’s mouth, and holds onto VERAI’s shoulder with the other. VERAI turns and sits up quickly, under XENA’s control.
Sssshhh . . .
XENA waits for a moment, gauging VERAI’s reaction. Satisfied, she slowly removes her hand from VERAI’s mouth.
Yes. I’m here to get you out. Get together what you need, quietly.
XENA releases VERAI’s shoulder, but VERAI does not move. XENA looks at her.
Do you understand me?
(Waits) Let’s go.
I’m here to help you. Stay quiet, I’ll have you out of here in no time. You’ll be fine.
I’m not going.
GABRIELLE waits for XENA, alertly watching the still-quiet manor. As she waits, she hears voices and rustling in the forest. She melts back away from her clump of bushes, away from the sounds of movement. She turns into the forest, and runs directly into ENRIC and two soldiers.
GABRIELLE brings her staff up defensively and looks around for an escape.
You can stay here with me, or take your chances with Meran’s men.
XENA looks at VERAI disbelievingly.
When you came here years ago, we were all farmers, shopkeepers
(she snarls, and XENA recoils)
Pathetic. Althos and Meran, they were just backyard nobility. Not really worth much—we villagers didn’t see them as anything special. But not anymore. Now they rule this place. And I’m one of them. I should thank you. Without you and what you did, I would’ve been some farmer’s wife (disgusted)
(she shakes her head, harshly)
You’d have done better to marry a farmer. I guess your sister needn’t worry about you.
Sister? What sister? I don’t have any family. They’re all dead, thanks to you.
With dawning realization, XENA jumps off the bed and backs away, looking around. VERAI holds XENA’s eyes.
The door on the adjacent wall bursts open. MERAN swaggers in, a couple of GUARDS flanking him, swords drawn. The door XENA entered through slams open also, with three GUARDS entering. The bed stands between XENA and MERAN, with the main door to her left. Everyone freezes momentarily.
Well, Xena. I heard you were in town.
XENA looks at him, alarmed. He signals the GUARDS forward.
XENA turns to face the GUARDS on her left. She ducks under the first one and flips him onto the table by the bed. She comes up with an uppercut into the second GUARD’S chin; he recoils back into the third GUARD, entangling him.
The other GUARDS circle around the bed; XENA jumps onto the bed, stepping over VERAI. VERAI squeals and kicks ineffectually at XENA from under the bedcovers. XENA ignores her and pulls her sword. One GUARD jumps onto the bed; XENA flips him off with a stiff kick to his chin. The other GUARD throws himself on the bed; XENA bounces up, and he lands on VERAI in a suggestive position. She shrieks. The other GUARDS charge the bed.
XENA bounces off the bed with a front flip, slicing the canopy and veils down over the bed as she flies off. The veils entangle the GUARDS on the bed. She lands in front of the approaching MERAN, grins fiercely, and fells him with a straight right, sword in hand. Off-screen, other voices begin shouting. More GUARDS rush through the main door to VERAI’s room. XENA quickly exits through the back door, into MERAN’s room.
GUARDS fill the foyer outside the master suite. Both doors from MERAN’s room slam open, silhouetting XENA in the doorframe. With a yell, she flips up to the chandelier and swings over the crowd. As she swings, she pulls a dagger and cuts the chandelier; she flips to safety as the chandelier crashes onto the guards.
XENA lands and looks back. The GUARDS are all pinned or tripping over each other. She turns and runs down the empty hallway.
GABRIELLE and ENRIC’s men are fighting; GABRIELLE clubs one man between his legs with her staff; he falls, gasping. A large soldier grabs GABRIELLE from behind, tying up her arms and lifting her off the ground. She flails with her feet, to no avail. ENRIC steps up and backhands her, hard. Her staff flies out of her hands, and the guard drops her. She falls to her knees, and ENRIC pulls a dagger. Reversing the dagger, he hits her in the back of the head with the butt. GABRIELLE collapses, face-down on the ground.
XENA runs frantically through the forest.
ENRIC steps over GABRIELLE and flips the dagger back around. He holds the blade over her prone body, sneering. He raises the blade and hesitates, savoring the moment. XENA’s hand comes into frame from behind him, grabbing his wrist. She jerks him backward off his feet. She throws him to the ground, and stands over GABRIELLE’s prone body. She whips out her sword and slices downward in one motion across one guard’s body. He falls back, clutching his midsection. The other guard stays down, and XENA turns back to ENRIC, furious. He cowers on the ground and she looms over him, sword drawn back for the kill, her eyes dark.
XENA hears voices in the forest. ENRIC looks around, panicky; it’s MERAN’s men. XENA looks back at ENRIC; she’s torn, but she quickly sheathes her sword, and carefully picks up GABRIELLE. She melts into the forest, and ENRIC scrambles away as well, leaving his men behind.
JANNIS’s bedroom is as simple as the rest of his home. Two cots, his and FIA’s smaller one, rest against the walls, some blankets piled carefully on them. A tiny table holds a group of lit candles and a pitcher of water. Early morning sunlight streams in through the small shuttered window.
GABRIELLE rests on JANNIS’s cot. Her head is bandaged, and some blood stains the wrapping. XENA finishes adjusting the bandage, and sits by the side of the bed.
It’s a nasty cut, but you’ll be fine.
JANNIS quietly eases out of the room. GABRIELLE turns her head away and tries to close her eyes to sleep.
Gabrielle . . .
(She puts her hand on Gabrielle’s arm; GABRIELLE blearily turns her head and looks up at XENA.)
Don’t go to sleep on me now. You have to stay awake.
I’m just tired . . . just for a minute . . .
No! Come on, talk to me.
(seizing on an idea)
Tell me a story.
GABRIELLE smiles at the irony of Xena demanding a story from her.
Now, normally I’d never refuse such an invitation.
(pauses, grimaces, and gingerly reaches a hand to her head)
XENA smiles wryly, and, after a moment, turns serious.
Gabrielle . . . I am sorry I brought you into this.
(a little testy)
Not now, Xena. I have a headache.
You didn’t bring me into this. I chose to come with you. Like I always do.
XENA doesn’t immediately respond. When she does, she seems to be speaking more to herself than to GABRIELLE.
I can’t lose another innocent here.
(confused, but trying to understand)
Innocent . . . ? Verai?
(pauses, then quietly)
Xena, what happened?
(pauses, then distantly)
When I first came through here, I wanted that manor.
Not for any strategic reason, really—I didn’t plan to spend much time here before moving on.
GABRIELLE watches XENA.
Well, Althos and Meran wanted a fight, although their father didn’t. I didn’t think it was worth any of my men’s lives, but I still wanted the manor . . . So I listened around a bit, and it didn’t take long to find out that both brothers wanted the same village girl—Verai. It was easy enough to kidnap her, to use her against the two . . . I figured that would confuse things long enough for us to take the fortress without a fight.
Then why all this . . . ?
(waves her hand to indicate the indescribable)
That wasn’t all. Althos and Meran did better than I could have ever hoped—they started bickering over her, and eventually it turned to fighting. It was even easier, then.
What about their father?
He didn’t want to fight. He would have sent us food and supplies if we’d just left them alone.
You didn’t take it?
It wasn’t what I wanted.
They sit silently for a moment.
He lost everything. His home, his sons . . . his daughter.
But I didn’t kill her. I don’t even know how it happened.
And I didn’t care.
XENA falls quiet, but her face betrays her fear that GABRIELLE will not be able to accept this admission.
GABRIELLE just watches XENA. XENA cannot look at GABRIELLE. They sit silently for a moment; Over XENA’s shoulder, FIA moves into the doorway. XENA catches the movement.
(quietly, still fearfully)
I wanted to come see Gabrielle.
(manages a smile for FIA)
Come on in.
(speaks to GABRIELLE, but does not look at her)
I need to speak with Jannis. And you need to stay awake.
FIA moves up next to XENA; XENA steps aside, making room for FIA. GABRIELLE smiles at FIA.
I’ll bet you like stories.
(FIA looks up and nods hopefully)
Well, Gabrielle just happens to love to tell them.
(she smiles at GABRIELLE with some unidentified emotion on her face)
GABRIELLE smiles at FIA, and smiles at XENA with something in her eyes as well.
If she stops talking to you, you come get me, okay?
FIA nods, looks at GABRIELLE expectantly, and hops onto the bed.
Uh, okay . . . let me tell you about the time we went to a kingdom where the princess looked exactly like Xena—even fooled me, too.
Although she still hasn’t regained her customary equilibrium, XENA smiles, rolls her eyes, and walks out as GABRIELLE and FIA continue.
Exactly. Right down to that little—
INT.—JANNIS HUT/MAIN ROOM—SAME.
XENA walks into the main room. Jannis enters the room through the main door; sunlight streams in through the door as it opens. He carries a basket of eggs, which he sets down on the table. Looking at XENA’s face, he sits at the table. XENA does not speak immediately; she walks to the window and looks out, conflicting emotions still playing across her face.
FIA’s laughter drifts into the room; XENA half-smiles and turns back to the room. She walks to the table and stands across from JANNIS, her arms braced on the back of the chair.
So what now?
Sighing, XENA spins the chair and straddles it, arms folded across the top. She leans forward against the back of the chair.
You know, the only people who really want this squabbling to continue is Althos, Meran . . . and Verai.
(she meets JANNIS’ eyes significantly)
We need to get rid of them.
JANNIS looks startled, fearing the worst.
(ignoring JANNIS’ reaction)
I’ll challenge them, take over their armies, and send everybody on their ways.
(relieved) Send them. . . (then wary) You’ll take over again . . .
XENA watches him silently as he decides whether or not he can trust her with that much power.
Finally he shakes his head a bit and continues.
Do you really expect them to accept a challenge from you?
Maybe. If they don’t, I’ll go after them myself and take them out.
But I thought—
I said take them out. NOT kill them.
Ah. I, uh, see. Then I’ll see that the right people in the village get the messages. They’ll pass the challenges on to Althos and Meran.
FIA’s scream interrupts the conversation. XENA instantly leaps to her feet, knocking the chair against the table. She whips out her sword as she rushes to the doorway. She throws herself through the doorway, and she sees FIA cowering in a corner, crying. She looks at the bed—GABRIELLE’s missing. Her face darkens in fury.
The large grey-granite cavern is lit by jets of flame in stone niches. Against one wall is an empty throne carved from a column of granite, and appointed with black leather. Stylized figures in battle poses are carved on the risers on the three broad stairs leading to the throne. In the center of the room, a dull-grey iron cage rests upon the marble floor. The cage is centered upon an inlay of a stylized sword.
Inside the cage, GABRIELLE lays sprawled upon the floor. She moans and shifts, and slowly opens her eyes.
(blearily looking around the room)
Aaaaah . . . (exasperatedly) What now?
GABRIELLE slowly pushes herself upright, although she remains sitting. She rubs at the back of her neck and head, and tries to clear her vision. She looks up and squints as she hears two voices murmuring off-screen. She looks over at a hallway , but does not see anyone.
She stands up slowly and turns her attention to the cage; she follows the perimeter, but the seamless cage does not have a gate or any sign of a welded joint. She also notices that the bars appear to rise directly from the marble. Puzzled, she looks down, and notices the inlaid design. As her eyes trace the pattern, they narrow in dawning realization.
Oh, for Zeus’s sake . . .
This had better be good. I was working on some pillaging over in Corinth.
You’ll like this.
GABRIELLE spins around to see ERIS enter the cavern. She smirks at GABRIELLE calculatedly, and steps aside to reveal ARES. ARES steps forward, and stops, hands on his hips, an arrogant smile on his face.
Well, well . . .
ERIS steps up by him, and they saunter toward GABRIELLE. GABRIELLE, with a stubborn expression, stands her ground. Although ARES and ERIS look at GABRIELLE, they speak as if she’s not there.
(drops the smile; irritated; to ERIS)
I presume you have a good reason for this.
GABRIELLE begins to look hopeful.
I wasn’t looking for a new housepet.
Hey . . .!
ERIS smiles and approaches the cage. She turns back to ARES.
Now, now, she’s not (suggestively) your pet . . .
(looks at ARES)
(pauses; grins widely)
(puts her hands on her hips)
HEY . . .!
(she shakes her head, annoyed)
Eris, you know how to do a brother proud.
GABRIELLE looks between ARES and ERIS, suddenly realizing the connection, and who ERIS really is.
You . . . you were the woman at the village . . . Verai’s sister.
(turns to GABRIELLE, laughing condescendingly)
Ah, yes. Verai. Do you know Verai doesn’t even have a sister? I never expected Xena to be such a fool. All this goody-goody (flaps her hand) nonsense has really dulled her edge.
(turns to ERIS, frowning)
You’d be wise not to underestimate Xena.
Ah, Xena’s not quite what she used to be.
(looks at GABRIELLE; contemptously)
Look at the company she keeps.
I’ll take that as a compliment.
ERIS steps toward the cage, snarling, but she is distracted by ARES. He turns away from her, and strides to his throne. He seats himself upon it, and props his head against his arm.
Then consider yourself warned.
You worry too much, Ares. Just sit back and enjoy the show.
ERIS flings out an arm, and a larger-than-life, distorted, and semi-transparent image flickers and forms between the cage and the throne. It’s XENA and JANNIS, arguing; their voices are also distorted, but recognizable. ARES’s silhouette darkens the background of the image. GABRIELLE’s eyes widen, and she moves forward, hands grasping the bars of the cage, to watch.
XENA and JANNIS stand by the table, arguing.
I don’t know which one has her, and I really don’t care. Whichever one it was has just made the biggest—and the last—mistake of his life.
For what? Those fools want to play at war, well, I’ll give them that and more.
But the plan—
You go ahead with it. I have my own plan.
XENA turns to storm out, and JANNIS steps forward to grab her arm. She whirls at his touch, and throws his arm off. She pushes him back and draws her sword. She holds it at his chest, and her eyes aren’t quite sane. JANNIS freezes and stares at her fearfully.
Snarling, XENA turns, sword still threatening, to see FIA standing in the doorway. FIA fearfully meets her eyes. XENA holds herself very still, and recognition, sanity, and something very like fear flickers into her own eyes. She snaps her sword away from JANNIS, and quickly pushes her way out the door, nearly fleeing. FIA watches.
ARES smiles as he sits on the throne; ERIS has moved to stand next to him as they watch the image play out. Within the image, XENA turns and heads out the door. GABRIELLE holds onto the bars, stricken, her eyes sorrowful.
Xena . . .
You see the gift I have brought to you, brother?
ERIS suggestively strokes ARES’ arm as she speaks. He catches her hand and touches it to his lips.
It is quite a gift.
It’s only a matter of time until I have her back.
GABRIELLE presses forward against the bars of the cage.
Ares, Xena helped you out not so long ago. You wouldn’t even have your godhood if it weren’t for her. Can’t you just leave her be for once?
Me? In case you hadn’t noticed, this isn’t my little project . . . Although I rather like it.
It just hasn’t been the same since I lost nine of my most ruthless warlords.
I suppose I should thank Sisyphus for that.
I wouldn’t be too hasty. It makes me eager to get my very best warlord back.
You shouldn’t get your hopes up too high. She really isn’t the person she used to be.
(getting up from the throne; smiles nastily)
No? And how can you say that, when you have no idea who she was? Look. This is your (contemptuously) friend, Xena.
ARES spreads his arms wide and images again form in the cavern, larger-than-life and distorted. GABRIELLE watches as the images reflect off her upturned face. ARES’s cruel laughter echoes in the cavern as the images unfold.
XENA whirls in battle, sword flying. Men fall before her, and she laughs exultantly, sword dripping red blood.
XENA sits atop her horse, hair blowing in the hot breeze from the flames leaping in the village behind her. Villagers run screaming, and XENA watches, amused, shrouded in the nighttime darkness, her eyes darker.
XENA, face dark with emotion, swordfights with a man GABRIELLE does not recognize. Their swords clash; he draws blood from her arm. She quickly slashes across his cheek, drawing blood in turn. With an expression that’s part smile and more snarl, she closes with him and kisses him passionately.
GABRIELLE watches, unflinching, though there is pain in her eyes.
(as the images fade away)
I may not have known who she was. But I do know who she is now.
(steps up to the cage; intensely)
Who Xena is . . . You think you know. Let me tell you who Xena really is. Xena is rage. Xena is ruthlessness. And Xena is determination. Xena gets whatever she wants. Give her a goal, and twenty men to go through to get it—no, a hundred men—and she will. Xena’s passion is her greatness, and you’ve no right to try to tame her, to take all that away from her!
Take it away . . .
(with dawning realization; she looks at him, surprised)
You really are in (shakes her head at the perversion) . . .love . . .with her.
As much as you could ever be.
On the throne, ERIS snorts derisively, and looks to ARES for his own scathing response. For a moment, ARES silently holds GABRIELLE’s eyes, and something in his own betrays a truth that he can’t possibly understand. Behind him, ERIS’s eyes widen first in shock, and then in indignation. ARES’s face closes up and he steps back, a fury building. He sneers, and the torches extinguish as red lightning flashes and deafening thunder crashes in the cavern. Bathed in the flashing red light, GABRIELLE jumps back from the bars as they glow red, then white, with heat.
ARES vanishes, and the lightning and thunder cease. The cavern is pitch black and silent.
EXT—LAKE BY JANNIS’ HOUSE—LATER
XENA stands and watches the early morning sunlight reflect off the lake. In her eyes is a faraway look, and it’s still not peaceful. Behind her, a group of men led by JANNIS approach her. She marks their presence, but does not turn.
XENA does not respond.
These men have come for you. They’re from the village.
XENA casually turns, eyes hooded. She nonchalantly rests a hand on her chakram.
Xena, we heard about your challenge at the village. Take us with you—we’ll fight with you.
XENA watches, waiting.
(also steps forward; angrily)
We want to fight! This is our village, and we’ll do what it takes to be rid of them! Althos and Meran have been lording it over us too long!
Why now? You’ve had years to fight.
Now we can win.
(looking aside at 2)
We just want to go back to our homes and farms.
XENA looks at them measuringly.
Fine. You know the time and place. Go there, and wait. Only wait. Any of you disobey my orders . . . (her eyes get a chill) and you die.
The men look at each other, uncertain.
The men quickly leave; JANNIS stays behind.
How many lives will this cost, Xena? Soldiers? Villagers?
(pauses) I don’t want my sons to die.
They deserve it a lot more than my friend.
Maybe so. But would your friend count it worth the cost?
XENA stands silently, back straight and stiff, but her eyes are turn sorrowful. JANNIS turns and walks away.
ALTHOS meets with three of his higher-ranking lieutenants. The four sit around his table; ALTHOS leans an elbow on the table, his chin contemplatively in hand. He looks off into the distance as his three lieutenants speculate among themselves.
ENRIC pushes the tent flap aside and walks in; ALTHOS looks up, and the other men fall quiet.
It’s all over town. Xena’s calling both you and Meran out. In the village, after zenith.
(with a smirk)
Hm. Interesting. That we can use.
Xena, alone . . .
Do you think she’ll actually come alone?
She has no friends in this town.
None that matter, anyway. Enric, you know what to do.
ENRIC smiles eagerly and turns to depart.
INT.—MERAN’S MANOR/DINING HALL—LATER
Soldiers scurry about, preparing for battle. MERAN and VERAI stand in the dining hall. MERAN checks the edge on his sword as he speaks. VERAI stands closely by.
(not particularly concerned)
Meran, you realize Xena’s helping Althos. You’ll be walking right into a trap. And then what will become of me?
Well, Althos may have Xena, but we have a goddess, after all.
And where is this goddess?
Quiet! We don’t want to anger her now, do we? This could be the start of some great things.
VERAI moves closer to him, and rests a hand suggestively on his arm.
(not noticing VERAI)
With a goddess at my side, there’s no limit to what I can do.
VERAI pulls her hand back, piqued. MERAN does not notice; he turns his attention back to his sword.
Xena’s no problem at all.
VERAI looks off to the side, and her pique turns to calculation. After a moment, MERAN stops working on his sword, apparently satisfied. He turns to VERAI and roughly grabs a kiss; he holds her arm possessively.
On to better things.
MERAN releases VERAI and strides out without a backward glance. VERAI turns away from his retreating form, calculation again on her face.
XENA sits on ARGO outside the village. The village has an air of suspense about it, and even now XENA can see three distinct groups forming. Shopkeepers are closing their shops and barring the doors, and a few wary people hurry to their destinations. A few thrill-seeking villagers are finding comfortable—and safer—vantage points.
XENA turns ARGO and rides off, away from the village.
The cavern remains dark. A quiet rustle is heard.
The torches suddenly flare up to reveal GABRIELLE protectively hunched over on one knee in the cage. She looks around quickly, and spots ERIS. GABRIELLE gets up slowly as ERIS approaches the cage measuringly.
Come along, mortal. The game is over. It’s time for you to leave.
It’s about time.
Yes. It’s time to die.
Of course, I really don’t mind staying right here . . .
ERIS reaches through the metal of the bars, unhindered by the substance. GABRIELLE steps back, looking around for help or a weapon, both of which she knows aren’t there.
Hey, now, won’t Ares be kind of mad if I just sorta disappear? I mean, where’s the fun in that? I know you gods are really into that fun thing.
ERIS stops, frowning.
I suppose that isn’t much fun, is it . . . ?
(with a little relief; sees an opening)
Yeah, exactly. And I’d really hate to be the cause of a family squabble . . .
Yes. . . yes. You mortals can be very creative sometimes.
GABRIELLE smiles, figuring her mouth has gotten her out of another jam.
I can do much better with your death than that.
(her smile drops; protesting)
Ah, no, actually, death wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.
Ignoring her, ERIS steps through the cage and grabs GABRIELLE by her shirt. GABRIELLE’s still talking as ERIS yanks her through the bars and they both vanish.
Hey! I got a better idea! How about—
The torches flicker in the silent and empty cavern.
INT—MERAN’S FORTRESS/VERAI’S ROOM—LATER
XENA stands in the shadows of the room. VERAI enters from MERAN’s quarters, and hesitates by the bed. She looks up, apparently right through XENA. XENA stays quiet, believing she hasn’t been spotted.
XENA startles, but carefully does not betray her position. She looks around for the quickest exit.
The main door opens, and a handsome young GUARD enters and bows. VERAI smiles coyly, seductively, when she sees who enters.
I was hoping you were on duty today.
XENA raises an eyebrow in sardonic amusement.
(smiles in anticipation)
I pulled a little rank . . . it’s just you and me.
The GUARD steps forward and gathers VERAI into his arms. XENA steps up from the shadows.
She taps the GUARD on the shoulder. The GUARD turns, and VERAI steps back, eyes wide.
XENA’s smile drops as she flattens him with a punch. XENA casually watches him hit the floor. VERAI opens her mouth to scream, and XENA’s expression becomes mocking.
Don’t bother. I know he was the only guard here.
(contemptuously) Now I know why.
So much for true love.
VERAI turns away from XENA, feigning hurt.
And what would you know about it? What true love can there ever be for me, in a place such as this? This place you made?
(dramatically puts a hand over her mouth and closes her eyes)
(rolls her eyes and laughs)
Nice try. But I’m not buying.
(drops the act and turns cold)
Then what are you doing here? I told you I don’t want to leave.
I don’t care what you want.
I thought you helped innocent people.
I do. But there are no innocents here.
The armies have arrived at the village; ALTHOS and MERAN sneer at each other from opposite corners of the open square. XENA’s would-be army is gathered in a third corner, looking around fearfully for XENA. ENRIC stands at ALTHOS’s right hand.
(quietly, but dangerously)
It’s been a long time since you’ve come down from the manor, Meran.
Why bother? I’m not living in a tent.
(he and his thugs laugh)
And, of course, I have Verai . . .
Then why bother with this, Meran? Unless, of course, you don’t really have anything at all.
Me, I’ll soon have everything I want. No matter what dirty tricks you play.
Why, it’s just like old times.
The men turn to see XENA at the entrance to the village square, holding a bound-and-gagged VERAI by the upper arm. ARGO stands behind her.
Now that I have your attention . . .
(stepping toward XENA)
MERAN looks at ALTHOS and frowns. Not to be outdone, he also steps forward.
Why is she gagged?
Because the things that came out of her mouth were enough to make my horse blush. To think that you two have fought for years over her.
(angrily, to XENA)
You release her right now. This is between you and me.
(snarls at ALTHOS)
Stay out of it, Althos. It’s between Xena and ME.
They turn toward each other, ready to fight.
(rolls her eyes)
(they stop and look at her)
Since we seem to be exactly where we were years ago, let’s finish it now.
ALTHOS and MERAN look confused; XENA watches them calculatingly.
Oh, it’s not exactly like old times.
The crowd parts to see ERIS appear with GABRIELLE in tow, behind ALTHOS and MERAN. GABRIELLE’s still talking, and looks a little green. ERIS gives her a shake.
Ugh, what a horrible way to travel . . .
(to GABRIELLE; irritated)
Are you ever silent, mortal?
. . . No.
XENA steps forward, but ERIS holds up a hand in warning.
No, no, Xena. I’m enjoying this.
You brought one girl into this years ago, and her innocence didn’t survive.
And look what I have here . . .
Hm. I don’t think any part of your little bard will survive this.
XENA stops, eyes narrowing. GABRIELLE watches XENA’s face grow ever colder. ALTHOS and MERAN look from XENA to GABRIELLE, recognizing her value to XENA; their faces betray calculation as they consider how to use it to their advantages.
Who are you?
Who am I? Who AM I? I am ERIS, GODDESS OF WAR!
Yeah, goddess of war, right. Giving yourself a promotion, aren’t you?
Furious, ERIS throws GABRIELLE away from her in frustration.
Whoever wants her can have her!
ALTHOS and MERAN scramble for her, and the battle breaks out in earnest. XENA turns back to where her villagers are eagerly waiting for orders.
All of you—stay out of this! If anyone gets involved, you’ll answer to me!
(the villagers back off)
XENA turns back to see a hateful ERIS walking toward her. As ERIS walks, her clothes morph into battle armor, and she holds a black-bladed sword. XENA pulls out her own sword, holds it at guard, and waits. XENA’s face betrays fierce anticipation for the fight; she grins with dark delight.
ALTHOS grabs GABRIELLE from behind, as GABRIELLE struggles. MERAN approaches them, VERAI forgotten.
Back off, Meran. This one is mine.
(MERAN steps forward anyway)
Not this time. Not with me.
GABRIELLE throws her head back and cracks ALTHOS in the nose. He falls back, but still keeps hold of her.
Huh. That wasn’t so bad.
She refocuses on MERAN, thinks about a head butt, and kicks him in the crotch instead. She tromps on ALTHOS’s foot, and breaks free. She ducks away from the two brothers, avoiding the other combatants. As the battle rages around her, she looks for XENA. MERAN pulls out a dagger, and the brothers grapple.
GABRIELLE sees ERIS advancing on XENA. She begins to step toward the combatants, but hesitates, recalling the images from the cave of XENA’s dark past. As she hesitates, staring, a THUG grabs at her, and she brushes his arm off and ducks out from under him. Another combatant entangles the THUG, and GABRIELLE moves away, desperately looking around her. As she backs away, one THUG punches another one, and his crude staff conveniently flies into GABRIELLE’s hands.
(eyes lighting up)
GABRIELLE begins to lay about her with the staff, whacking thugs from both sides with equal abandon.
XENA and ERIS circle, ERIS’s blade waving lazily, XENA’s steadily on guard.
Well, Xena. It’s time to play for real.
XENA spins her sword and yells as ERIS steps in and swings her blade in a wide, vicious arc. XENA steps aside as the blade whistles past. ERIS swings again, and XENA jumps back. XENA’s grin becomes a smile. ERIS chops down with her blade, and XENA, grimacing, catches it with her own. The crossed blades hover over XENA’s face; she breaks the hold and jumps back again. Again, they circle each other, XENA laughing a quiet, nasty laugh.
You didn’t wonder where your little friend went?
It must be hard, when everyone around you dies--because of you.
ERIS’s words provoke XENA, and, growling, she presses the attack. XENA whirls her blade around her head and slashes downward; ERIS blocks it. XENA spins the opposite way, and slashes at ERIS’s knees. Again, ERIS blocks it easily.
You shouldn’t bother with gods, Xena.
Relentless, ERIS stabs at XENA with her blade; XENA grabs her arm and yanks her forward. Surprised by XENA’s strength, ERIS briefly falls off balance; XENA backhands her with the butt-end of her sword. ERIS’s head snaps back, and XENA closes with ERIS and follows up with an elbow; she pushes ERIS back, and throws a hard kick to her chest. ERIS stands, momentarily stunned, but unhurt; XENA falls back, and one-handedly spins her sword back into position.
GABRIELLE spins after tripping up a thug; she looks over to see XENA’s kick. She sees XENA back away. She begins to step forward, but hesitates as she recalls the images of XENA from the cavern . . .
ERIS steps forward; XENA slashes viciously with her sword. ERIS catches it in her bare hand, stopping the motion; she contemptuously pulls it out of XENA’s grasp and tosses it on the ground. XENA pulls out her chakram, holding it in front of her, and ERIS knocks it aside. ERIS continues forward, and backhands XENA to the ground. Somewhat stunned, XENA scrambles to her knees, nose bleeding; ERIS kicks her in the ribs, sending her sprawling onto her back. ERIS steps over XENA; with both hands, ERIS raises her sword, point down, aimed at XENA’s chest. ERIS’s eyes blaze, and weaponless, XENA nonetheless holds her gaze defiantly.
Ares will never have you. I’ll send you to Hades instead!
XENA looks briefly confused at the mention of ARES’s name, but dismisses it to meet her fate with dignity. ERIS draws back to plunge the blade downward; savoring the moment, she hesitates before striking the blow . . . and GABRIELLE’s staff strikes her across her arms and head from behind, knocking one of ERIS’s hands off the sword. ERIS’s eyes widen in surprise, then anger. Time slows as ERIS menacingly turns on GABRIELLE.
GABRIELLE holds herself from backing away and stares back defiantly at ERIS, staff at the ready; in her eyes is the knowledge that she’ll probably die.
XENA looks between the two and quickly scrambles for her sword.
ERIS casually raises her sword, enjoying the game with GABRIELLE, then swiftly draws it back. As she’s about to strike, she hesitates and stiffens; her mouth falls open, and her eyes widen. Both GABRIELLE and ERIS look down at ERIS’ chest to see the tip of XENA’s sword protruding.
On one knee, XENA leans up on the sword in ERIS’s back; grimly, she gives the sword a twist. She pulls it out and then falls back.
The three stand motionless; XENA and GABRIELLE watch as winds howl in the village square, raising dust and breaking up the fighting. The winds all converge on ERIS; her mouth stretches in agony and her eyes roll back. As she howls silently, her body darkens to black and suddenly collapses in on itself, imploding, and vanishes. The winds immediately stop, and the square falls silent. GABRIELLE drops her staff and runs to XENA as XENA, chakram in hand, gets back to her feet.
Did you just kill a god . . .
In a far corner overlooking the square, ARES turns away and vanishes.
XENA and GABRIELLE look over as MERAN howls and falls to his knees besides ALTHOS’s prone body. MERAN’s dagger is in ALTHOS’s chest.
Althos! Althos! No, I didn’t mean it . . . You just wouldn’t listen!
XENA and GABRIELLE watch, recognizing the inevitable. Beside MERAN, ENRIC looks around stealthily, then raises his sword above MERAN. XENA quickly releases the chakram and it embeds itself in his chest. He falls back, and the bystanders look from his prone body to XENA. MERAN remains oblivious.
Come on, wake up! Wake up!
The square is silent, save for MERAN’s voice.
SLOW DISSOLVE TO:
XENA, GABRIELLE, and ARGO stand on a blufftop overlooking a meadow by JANNIS’s house. In the meadow, a funeral pyre burns; MERAN stands on one side, VERAI on the other, and JANNIS stands at the head. XENA and GABRIELLE watch, bathed in the red of both the flames and the dying sun.
It didn’t have to end this way.
Maybe it did.
XENA looks at her, surprised. And then she turns away. GABRIELLE sees her face close up.
Not because of you. Your . . . selfishness . . . may have started all this years ago, but you weren’t here to keep it going. What you did wasn’t right
(she sees the pain on XENA’s face, but keeps going)
. . . but you know that.
They’ve hidden everything they did in words of love and honor,
but in the end, the only ones they were in love with were themselves.
They stand quietly, watching the fire burn.
I wonder what Ares got out of all this.
(with a half-smile)
I think--I hope--Ares learned the same lesson himself. If he can.
(smiling at GABRIELLE’s ever-present optimism)
And what lesson did you learn out of this?
(rubbing her unbandaged forehead)
XENA smiles and begins to turn away, her hand on ARGO’s rein. GABRIELLE grabs her arm and stops her.
Oh, and Xena--
(XENA looks at her)
I . . .(hesitates, and then smiles a little)
am . . . proud of you. Not only as my friend. But as . . . you.
GABRIELLE steps past XENA before she can respond. XENA, her face a mix of emotions, waits for a moment; as her face settles peacefully, she follows.
A clump of narcissus flowers stand bathed in red light as XENA and ARGO exit the frame.