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by Stephen C. Looney
"Tisí a grand day to be sailing, isnít it Doubar?" Sinbad asked, watching the shoreline of Greece move toward his ship.
"Aye little brother. Itís the kind of wind and tide sailors dream of.
But we have more pressing matters too attend to this day." Doubar replied has he gentle steered the Nomad into the dock.
"Very true," Sinbad said, "If we donít find an antidote soon, that village will not be there for us to help. Itís very odd the way that villageís water suplie was poisoned."
"Yes. Just as odd the note that told you that the cure could be in this town." Doubar reminded him. Soon the ship was docked. Sinbad ordered Firouz and Rongar to see to buying fresh supplies, while he, Doubar, and Maeve searched for the one called Actaeon who had sent Sinbad the note.
They soon came to an old tavern. The sign above the door had the faded picture of a boar on it and the letters that spelled the name were completly unlegible. The main taproom of the tavern was mostly empty, except for the bartender, a dirty man who stood behind the bar washing glasses, and three customers siting at a table to the side. Two women and a man, though this group seemed rather oddly gathered. One woman was dressed in a two pieced grecian halter top. She had sandy blond hair and bright, curious eyes. A finely ornameneted quarterstaff leaned against the wall beside her. The man sat across from her. He wore a strange tan colored overcoat which kind of looked like a cape with sleaves. He had dark brown hair and a curved sword hung in a scaboard attached to a violet shash across his cheast. A dark green backpack sat on the floor next to his chair. The final woman was clearly a veteraned warrior. Her sleek, muscled body was garbed in leather armor, decorated with bronze. Her hair was raven black and her eyes were like two ponds, iced over in the winter. Sinbad studied this woman until Maeve pushed by him. "We do have work to do, oh master of the sea." she mocked. She aproached the barkeeper, with Sinbad shaking his head behind her, and said, "Excuse me sir.
But we were hoping you would help us find someone."
"Sure lass," the barkeep answered in a skrachy voice. "Iíll do what ever you want." His downcast eyes made little contact with herís.
Maeveís face darkened but she continued without torching him. "We are looking for someone named Actaeon. We were told heíd be in this town."
The bartenderís eyes looked up, "Why, Iím Actaeon!" he exclamed.
"Well good," Sinbad broke in, "then prehaps you could tell us wherethe antidote you wrote about in your letter is."
Actaeon looked confused, "I wrote no letter to the likes of you.
"Sinbad laid a piece of paper on the bar in front of Actaen. "I recieved this letter two weeks ago, it has your name on it, and it was sent from this town. Now I suggest you show me what Iím looking for and stop wasting my time," Sinbad stated flatly.
"Look, sir," Actaeon said, puting as much contempt as possible into the word "sir," "I donít know who you think you are but I do think you and your friends should leave."
Sinbadís patience ended right there and then, "I donít have time for this," He grabbed the front of Actaeonís shirt and lefted him a few inches. "Tell me what I want to know, and we will."
Sinbad felt a hand on his shoulder, "Friend," a female voice said, "I believe you just wore out you welcome."
Sinbad let the man fall to his knees and slowly turned around. The woman warrior, who had been siting at the table, now towered before him. "I didnít think this was your concern, madam,"
"Oh I believe it does," she replied, "Right Actaeon?"
"Thanks Xena." Actaeon said, shakily returning to his feet.
"Xena is it," Sinbad said, drawling his scimitar, "Shall we?"
Instantly Xenaís sword was in her hand and steel rang against steel. Sinbad backed a little, surprised and the womans skill then, began to return offensive strokes.
Ate the table where Xena had been siting, the other woman grabbed her staff and hefted it into her hands. "Oh good! Things seemed alittle slow today," she said cheerally. "Come on, Spencer. Which one do you want?"
The man sighed. "Gabrielle, do you have too?"
"Yes, I believe I do." Gabrielle said. "Which one?"
Spencer sighed again. " Iíll take the big guy," drawling his saber," you take the woman. Fair?"
"I can deal with that." With that Gabrielle headed toward Maeve. Spencer raised his saber in front of Doubar, who raised his massive broad sword in responce.
Spencer pondered this for a moment and put his saber back in its sheath.
"Giving up so quick?" Doubar asked.
"You donít mind if I change weapons do you?" Spencer said.
"Be my guest." Spencer moved back to the table and reached into his
backpack. From it he pulled a heavy metal hammer with a long wooden handle. Doubar knew that there was no possible way for that large a hammer to fit in that pack, but he quickly dismissed the idea as Spencer return. "Ready?" Doubar asked.
"Very much so. Thank you." Spencer got his hammer up just in time to deflect a blow from Doubarís sword. He tried for a short jab but had to move back as the next sword stroke came towards him. With amazing speed. Doubar swung his huge sword, never quiet leaving himself open for a counter attack.
Finnally the hammer came down toward his cheast, to be blocked by Doubarís sword, but the weapons locked for a moment. "A question. Why are we fighting?"
"Oh. Well we are distracting you so you donít hit our buddy Xena from behind," Spencer replied.
"That sounds resonable enough," Doubar said.
Meanwhile, not as much conversation was going on between Meave and Gabrielle. Meave struck with and overhanded sword blow. Only to have to duck an end of Gabrielleís staff moving for her head. Gabrielle faked a low blow, the swung her staff to the right, scoring a hit on Meaveís sword hand. Meave quickly tossed her sword to her left hand, rubing the pain out of the right. "Why you little...." Suddenly a ball of light formed in Meaveís injured had. She threw it toward Gabrielleís feet.
Gab had to jump to avoid being hit by it, only to have a knee strike her in the stomach. She quickly had to limp behind a table, tring to keep it between her and Meave. "Spencer," she yelled. "Didnít tell me this one was gonna be a sorceress!"
"Well how was I supposed to know?" Spencer called back.
Doubar threw a punch which almost conected, "Thats Meave and Iím Doubar,"
"Spencer and Gabrielle. Pleased to meet you." The two men paused to shake hands, then returned to their fight.
"Hey guys," Meave called, "Will you two cut that out and get on with it?"
"Sorry," Doubar and Spencer replied together.
"Good grief," Meave sighed. "I give up."
"I knew you would eventually," Gabrielle said, adding a swing of her staff behind that.
"Not to you!" Meave yelled deflecting the blow with her sword.
Sinbad leaped to the top of the bar and brought hs scimitar down toward Xenaís head. Sparks flew as their blades met. Xena made a wide swing at Sinbadís feet. Sinbad easlly jump over her sword but that gave Xena enough time to flip up to the bar. Sinbad nodded his approval. Blow after blow, overhand and uderhand strikes were made as the two warriors fought. Light flashed off as their swords and soon the were a blur of motion, both looking for an opening in the otherís defences.
"Hey, Spencer!" Gabrielle yelled. "Remember when you were telling my about stereotypical situations. Well what happens in this one?"
"Well in this type of sterotype," Spencer started, dodging another punch, "I defeat my opponent, you get beating by yours, and then it comes down to between Xena and Sinbad over there."
"And who wins that?" Gabrielle asked.
"Thats Xena right?"
"How should I know?"
That statement was fallowed by a massive puch from Doubar to the side of Spencerís head.
Spencer droped like a rock. "I guess this isnít that type of stereo," Doubar chuckled.
Meave swung her sword with all her might toward Gabrielle, but over estimated the distance and slightly lost her footing. That was all Gabrielle needed. Meave felt something hard strike her cheek, them felt something that felt like the floor but she wasnít sure. Darkness then overtook her. "Guess not," Gabrielle said. Both she and Doubar looked toward the bar.
Sinbad and Xenaís sword flash towards each other striking in the middle of the pair. Sweat covered both of them as it seem they were too equally matched. Then Xena made a spining kick to Sinbadís side. Sinbad skillfully grabed an held on to her leg, preventing any damage. "Now this ends" he panted.
"It sure does," Xena replied. She swiftly swung her other leg up and around to Sinbadís head.
Sinbad felt the wind over his head. He had just bearally ducked the kick in time but had had to release his hold on Xenaís leg. He staggered back as Xenaís palm hit his forhead. Xena raised her hand for the knock out, but stopped.
The forms of Firouz and Rongar, bound by ropes and gagged, fell through the door of the tavern. They were followed by about fifteen armed soldiers. Then a man garbed in full metal armor painted completly crimson red entered. A large sword hung at his side and he held a decorated sheild in front of him. His face was hidden by the crimson helmet he wore. From deep inside the armor boomed, "Ahhh Sinbad and Xena. So good of you to accept my mistressís invitation." Sinbad glanced at the note, lying at his feet. "You catch on quickly, sailor. Rumina wasnít finished with you when last you met." The soldier laughed with a horrible, inhuman sound.
Xena and Sinbad raised their swords and began to move toward soldiers. "Not so fast you two," the man raised his hand halting them. By this time the soldiers had surrounded the room and now held the others at sword point. "You wouldnít want my men to get jumpy and accidently slit one of your friendís throat, now would you?" He laughed again as the two heroes threw down their weapons. "Good choice," he said. He move toward them and said, "By the way, call me Abas." With that he swung his massive shield, connecting with both of their heads, knocking them unconscious.
Maeve awoke in Doubarís huge arms. Slowly she focused on what he was saying to her.
"Yeah Doubar," she said, shakily, "Iím just wonderful." She looked around. She, Doubar and Rongar were in a cage, suspended from the ceiling of a cave. In a cage hanging about five feet from them was Firouz and those two they had met in the bar, Gabrielle and Spencer. The bar!!
She remembered now. There was a fight and the pain in her cheek told her that she had not won. Doubar filled her in on what had happened since then. They had been taken to a cave not far from town. Sinbad and Xena were taken to another part of the cave while the rest of them had been hung in these cages above a very deep pit.
"It is a very ingenious set up," Firouz explained. "Both cages are conected by a chain hooked to that pulley over there by the door. If either cage shifts to much or loses any weight, both cages will fall, so even if we could get the doors open, no one could leave or the others have had it."
Maeve considered this, "I could get the doors open with my magic. Is there any way that we could block the pulley?"
"Mabey," Firouz said, "A dagger could do it but they took all of our weapons."
Spencer was just now regaining consiousness, he shook his head and wearily reached inside of his coat and pulled out a small, steel dagger and handed it to Gabrielle. "Would this do?" she asked.
"Now how did he do that?" Doubar asked, "I know they searched all of us."
"The same way I got my hammer out of my backpack," was Spencerís reply but he didnít add anything else.
"Rongar?" Firouz asked, "Do you think you could get this dagger in between the locking mechanism of that pulley?" Rongar nodded. "Then the question is, Ďhow do we get this dagger over to you?í"
"Iíll do it," Maeve said. She pointed her fingers toward the dagger and slowly it lifted out of Gabrielleís hand and levitated towards her. When it was close enough she took it out of the air and handed it to Rongar. They all looked at her. "Something new I just learned that Iíve been dieing to try out," She said.
Rongar lifted the dagger in hand and let it fly. "Great shot!"
Doubar exclamed, "Now lets get out of here." Maeve used a little magic fire to melt the locks off of the cages and they all jumped out to the sides of the pit. Spencer and Doubar stood on both sides of the door. Then Maeve walked up on pounded on the door. An window opened up in the door and a soldier looked in.
Maeve backed away. Suddenly the door opened and two soldiers ran in with swords drawn.
"Nighty night," Doubar muttered as he and Spencer clobbered them.
Out side the cell they found their equipment and weapons. The backtracked to where they had seen Sinbad and Xena taken. They came out by another pit. This one was larger but not as deep. Xena and Sinbad were at the bottom while Abas and his soldiers stood above them. He had not seen the others yet. "You two have caused my mistresses quiet a bit of trouble" Abas said.
"Happy to be of service," said Sinbad.
"But now," Abas continued, "That comes to an end, but Iíll be
sporting." Abas threw down a pair of sword to the two then signaled one of his soldiers, who pulled a lever in the side of the cave. A huge door in the pit opened and out of it came dark-skinned man with empty eyes. His hand were crablike claws while his lower body was the bony form on a scorpion with a long pointed tail. It walked on six legs toward them. Xena and Sinbad, swords in hand, split up, trying to suround the beast. The head of the monster faced Xena. It swung is massive claws at her.
She blocked the first with her sword but was barely able to to avoid the second. She struck back but her blade could not penitrate the bony hide. Sinbad was fending off the stinging tail. It was to fast for a clean strike with is sword. He moved back toward the side of the pit. The stinger came flying toward his heart. Just as it was about to hit him, he rolled to the side an the stinger struck the stone wall, breaking off. The thing screamed in pain. Xena used this distraction to flip over the creature and land on its back. It flailed around, trying to buck her off.
Meanwhile, the others had moved around, behind Abas and his soldiers.
When they were ready, Maeve nodded and they charged. Several of the soldiers fell before they knew what had it them, but they managed to regroup and begin to drive their attackers back. Doubar grabed one by the armor and lifted him above his head. He threw the screaming man at Abas, knocking him to he ground in a heap. The force of the blow released Xenaís chakram from his grip. Gabrilelle leaped for it as it rolled past her. "Xena! Catch!" she called as she threw it into the pit.
Xena caught the disc and let it fly once more, toward the cave wall.
The stone reflected it back toward the creature, but it was able to move to avoid it. As the chakram flew towards him, Sinbad lifted the blade of his sword and batted it back. It struck the monster across the face, blinding it. Xena fliped backwards, kicking it in the back as she passed. The kick drove the creatureís head into the walk. It fell to the floor, limp.
Sinbad grinned at Xena, "May I give the lady a lift?" he asked.
"Why thank you, sir," she said as she ran at him. Sinbad cupped his
hands and boosted her to the top of the pit. She caught the edge and flipped up to face Abas. Xena lashed out with her sword, leaving a large gash in the chest of Abasí armor. He just stood there.
Xena drove her sword clear through him, but when she pulled her sword free, he only laughed. "Fool." Abas cackled, "I am touched by Hera and favored by Rumina. Their magic makes all blades useless against me." As he spoke the cuts in his armor slowly sealed, leaving no trace of their ever being there.
The cave rang with laughter, but this time it belonged to Spencer. A devilish grinned crossed his face. "Doubar." Spencer said as he tossed the big man is hammer.
Doubar looked puzzled for a moment, then a grin mirroring Spencerís appeard beneath his beard. He stomped toward Abas, the war hammer lifted above his head. Abas back away but was unable to avoid the blow. Abas screamed in pain as Doubar struck blow after blow. Finnally Abas called out. "My Mistresses! Save me!" With that he vanished, a split second befor the hammer struck stone, sending sparks everywhere.
Gabrielle turned to Spencer. "What did you do?" she asked.
"Think about it," Spencer said, "He said that no blade could harm him, so..,"
"So?" Gabrielle said. Then a look of knowlege lit up her eyes. "So you didnít use a blade," she giggled.
"And this is no blade," Doubar said, handing Spencer back the hammer.
"Well that takes care of about everything."
"Hey!" Sinbad called from the pit, "Donít you think you have forgotten something."
"Sorry, little brother," Doubar yelled, "Weíll throw down a rope."
Suddenly Doubarís smile disappeared. "Sinbad, look out!"
Sinbad spun around to see the creature looming over him. It raised its claw to strike the staggered back, Xenaís sword projecting from its chest. "Now, that takes care of everything," Xena said. The only thing Sinbad could do was bow to Xena in thanks.
Later aboard Sinbadís ship, "I really appreciate you coming with us to help out those villagers, Xena," Sinbad said.
"Think nothing of it," Xena said, "We were on our way south anyway."
With that the two heroes clasp hands and Doubar steered the ship out into the open sea.
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