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The Box and the Bait

by mlocket

"He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity's sunrise."

William Blake

All over the valley, husbands are waking up to find that their wives are no longer lying in the bed beside them, children are waking up and find there's no mother to care for them, young men find no lover waiting. The marauder leaves behind a lump of gold and takes what is priceless to all.

Gabrielle and Xena are looking, one each, down a Y in the road..

Gabrielle: Apparently Joxer left a tiny detail out of his directions to Duboious.

Xena: Apparently.

Gabrielle: What do we do now?

Xena: We could climb up that ridge over there and get a better idea where we are.

Gabrielle: Or we could wait for a traveler to come by and give us directions.

Xena: We can't wait . . . we must act now. Autolycus said that this entire valley is living in terror.

Gabrielle: Well, we won't find that Deoclete character if we go in the wrong direction . .. wait! I saw something (she looks down the left-hand fork of the road, Xena is already turning to climb up to the ridge)

We see a figure disappearing slowly into the bushes beside the road. Gabrielle follows. She finds a man sitting on the ground, nursing a wound in his leg. She goes over to him .

Gabrielle: You're hurt, let me help you!

Deoclete: I'm fine.

Gabrielle: No you're not (she pulls some cloth out of her bag for bandages. An activity she is familiar with)

Deoclete: (gruffly) don't waste your time, girl.

Gabrielle: ( a little impatient with him) I'm not wasting my time or yours, you need . . .

Deoclete: I'll tell you what I need (he grabs Gabrielle's arm and pulls her up face to face with him, he pins her other arm against her body) I need for you to get - away - from - me.

We hear shouting in the background

Deoclete: Damn!

Deocletes head-butts Gabrielle, she falls back dazed, he scrabbles around for his knife, but the sound of an angry group is getting closer, so he struggles to his feet. Gabrielle is trying to stand up at the same time and as the crowd breaks in through the bushes, they see what appears to be Gabrielle supporting Deoclete. Deoclete turns and crashes through the bushes, three men follow him. The three that are left grab Gabrielle's arms.

First Man: We have the murderer's trollop!

Second Man: Take her to the village! We'll have her heart for dinner.

First Man: Let's go, demoness.

When the foursome gets back to the road, partly dragging Gabrielle, one holding her staff, Xena is sitting cross legged on the other side of the road with Argo beside her. She takes in the scene.

Xena: What's the matter with you people, did you wake up without the will to live?

Xena jumps up, simultaneously hand chops the two hands from Gabrielle's arm and kicks Gabrielle's staff to her. Together, they turn the Three Avengers into molly coddlers.

Xena: Don't you have anything better to do around here than kidnap innocent travelers?

First Man: She's not innocent! (He sees Xena's look and reflexively puts up a hand to defend his head.)

Second Man: She was helping the murderer Deocletes, we saw her.

Xena (to Gabrielle): You found Deocletes?

Gabrielle (to Second Man): I found Deocletes?

Third Man: You know who it was!!

Gabrielle: (Gets in third man's face.) If I had known who it was, I would have killed him, or I would have Xena kill him, but either way, he'd be dead.

Xena: Where did he go?

First Man: The others went after him. And if they catch him, your lover boy won't have a bone that hasn't been picked clean by vultures while he lived and watched.

Gabrielle: Listen Mister . .

Xena: Which way did they go?

The second man points. Xena gets Argo and prepares to leave.

First Man: You're Xena aren't you?

Xena: Yes I am.

First Man: It won't do you any good to have saved the demon's trollop. We'll get her in the end.

Xena dismisses this with a shake of her head and she and Gabrielle head into the undergrowth where Deocletes and company disappeared.

Gabrielle: They were going to eat my heart for dinner!

Xena: Seems unlikely.

In a completely different area Xena and Gabrielle struggle through brush back onto the road.

Gabrielle: Well that was a chase for a lacata bird.

Xena: You can say that again. We'll have to go on to Duboious. Here's some water.

They walk to a well.

Gabrielle: Uh, Xena, oh great! (disgusted)

There's a drawn parchment picture of Gabrielle on the well post with the title 'Murderer and Harlot'. And "The people of Duboious want this woman dead, 10,000 dinars" written below it. Below that is a parchment advertising a Yard Market.

Xena: I'm sending you back to Autolycus.

Gabrielle: No you're not! I can take care of myself, Xena. We need to stop this man.. I'm not leaving.

Xena: I need to go to Duboious and get information. I can't take you in there with this going on.

Gabrielle: Well hide me.

Xena and Gabrielle approach a farmhouse. A man is feeding his chickens. Xena eyes a wagon and a storage box beside an outbuilding.

Xena: We need to borrow these, and a horse. We'll return them.

Farmer: Well, let me see.

Xena and Gabby wait

Farmer: I'm thinking, I'm thinking I oughta get something

Gabrielle: Of course you'll get something, what do you want?

Xena and Gabrielle are pitchforking hay into a silo. Xena almost hits Gabrielle with the pitchfork.

Gabrielle: Hey watch that thing

Xena lifts an eyebrow, she still owes Gab one.

The horse is saddled up to the wagon. Argo is tethered to the back. The box, about 4 by 4 by 4, is loaded on the back of the wagon.

Gabrielle: (brushing her hands off) So we're going as farmwomen, very good.

Xena: No, no.

Gabrielle: No?

Xena looks at the box.

Gabrielle: For Persius' sake Xena, not the box.

Xena: The box.

Gabrielle starts to crawl into the box.

Gabrielle: What was in this thing?

Xena: Looks like chicken feed.

Gabrielle: What if there are rats?

Xena: You're not afraid of rats, are you?

Gabrielle: No! (Gabrielle crawls in and Xena shuts and latches the lid)

Xena: You ok?

Gabrielle (tentative) yeah

Xena: Are there rats?


Gabrielle: There were. (makes a gaggy noise). I need an airhole.

Xena: No you don't. There's plenty of space between the boards.

Gabrielle: I - need - an - airhole!

Xena drives the wagon down an exceptionally bumpy road, bounce, boing, bounce,boing goes the box on the back of the wagon.

In Duboious, Xena is talking to a woodworker.

Woodworker: You want a hole in your grain box?

Xena: Just a small one, so I can get a jar of grain easily, then close it again.

Woodworker: How could you stop all the grain from falling out?

Xena: I'm quicker than I look.

Woodworker's helper: (pointing to the box) Isn't it a pain hauling that around with you?

Xena: (looks at the box) Oh that, no, I couldn't do without it, really.

It's night in a shed. Xena has hauled in the grain box and pries off the lid. A very dour Gabrielle climbs out.

Xena: There's a bucket of water over there.

Gabrielle scowls at her.

Xena: What's the matter?

Gabrielle: Nothing.

Xena: You're the one that wanted to come here.

Gabrielle: (Stalks over to the bucket mumbling) "never stops, takes the bumpiest road in Greece, drives like an old woman on the way to the grave"

Xena: Gabrielle!

Gabrielle: (turns) what?

Xena: I heard that!

Gabrielle: Good.

Xena: hmmm

Xena and Gab are lying on the floor of the shed.

Gabrielle: Xena

Xena: Yeah

Gabrielle: shouldn't we get going before Deoclete strikes again.

Xena: He has enough people after him, he'll lay low for awhile. We're going to make sure it stays that way.

There's a pounding on the door

It's Joxer

Joxer: I saw Argo outside.

Xena: Why did you come here?

Joxer: Well I was sort of following you, no reason really, I was with some friends, and then we saw your pictures. I mean it's downright dangerous around here for you.

Xena: I'm keeping Gabrielle hidden.

Joxer: Where are YOU going to hide?

Xena: Me?

Joxer: "Aiding and abetting the demon's harlot" was pretty close to the wording I remember.

Gabrielle: I can't believe they keep calling me a harlot.

Joxer: It's a stretch alright.

Xena: We'll have to leave now.

Joxer: Those posters are all over the countryside. They're looking for you everywhere.

The wagon is behind the shed in darkness. The box is on the back.

Gabrielle settles down into the box, Xena crawls in after her. Joxer puts on the lid.

Xena and Gabrielle: Get your . . .Don't you think you . . . I just . . .OUCH! . . Oh for the sake of the Gods, HOLD STILL! . . . Is that your Chakram?


Gabrielle: Did you HAVE to wear your armor?

Joxer: Would you two stop squabbling!

There is silence from the box, then

Gabrielle: Joxer?

Joxer: What?

Xena and Gabrielle: Can we go?

Joxer: Oh, yeah, sure, right.

Joxer is driving the wagon down the road. A group of townspeople is catching up with them on horses. The woodworker is among the leaders. That's the cart! Look in the box!

Joxer puts a passion into the farmhorse and away they go banging down the road. As Joxer is not much of handyperson the box is beginning to skid off the back. One giant chariot rut sends the box flying off the wagon, down the side of the road, down a steep hill heading for a cliff. We see the screw in lid for the small hole Xena had made being unscrewed from the inside. Twist twist twist - Xena's hand shoots out and grabs a root which stops the fall a couple of feet fromt he edge of the cliff.

The villagers barrel down the hill and surround the box.

Xena jumps out out of the box, to the ground in one hop.: Hello, boys!

Gabrielle tips the box over and crawls out, she clambers up the side of the hill where Joxer is standing with the wagon.

Gabrielle: (to Joxer) You're a big help.

She turns the horse to face down the hill and the wagon along with it. She unhitches the horse and sends it away with a slap and then gets Xena's sword and her own staff from Argo's pack.

Xena is doing the best she can with her chakram, flying kicks and blistering backswings, but there are a lot of angry townspeaple . .

The cart is careening down the hill toward the fighting group (and the cliff beyond) . Gabrielle is poised in a crouch on the front with her staff and Xena's sword, just as the wagon scatters the crowd, she throws Xena her sword and jumps off the back by letting the cart go under her.

Xena and Gabrielle, locked and loaded, the people didn't have a chance. Pretty soon we see them sitting subserviently on the ground. Xena is lecturing.

Xena: Get back to you town, you are needed there! Don't give up your vigilance! Deocletes will clean the earth with your tears. Go!

They leave for Duboious.

Xena: Joxer?

Joxer: Uh, yes.

Xena: Where are you going?

Joxer: Well, remember, I told you I was with some friends, and we were just going to have a few drinks, and they know a couple of . .

Xena: Just leave, would you?

Gabrielle is standing back from the cliff, looking out over the canyon. It's daybreak.

Gabrielle: Look over there, Xena!

There is bright metal glinting in the sunlight in the canyon below.

Xena: There's no village down there.

Gabrielle: Deocletes was headed this directon.

Xena: Let's go.

Gabrielle: Xena

Xena: Yes?

Gabrielle: You do remember that you can't fly?

Xena: Don't need to.

Xena turns around and begins to climb easily down the cliff.

Gabrielle: I'm going to be sick. (She tentatively walks over to the side of the cliff)

Xena: Come on, it's a pretty easy climb, I'll talk you through it. Come on, Gabrielle.

Gabrielle hums nervously to herself: hmmm, mmmm, take it easy, here we go, hmmmm, hmmm, not so bad, oh dear (she's making her way down slowly) Xena is quite a way ahead of her down and looks up at her and smiles.

Xena: Good, Gabrielle.

Gabrielle: Oh, thank you.

Xena and Gabrielle reach the bottom of the cliff. Xena takes off toward the forest where the reflection was coming rom. Gabrielle looks back up to the top of the cliff.

Gabrielle: Will wonders never cease?

We're in the camp of Deocletes. He sits in a shelter eating a large, ugly purple fruit. All up the side of the cliff at the camp is built next to are natural caverns with women in them behind steel bars. One woman cries out for food, immediately the darkness in the back of the caves is lit by orange and blue light and with a low-toned howl.

Deocletes: Hush, woman. Dinner doesn't need to eat.

There is panicked whispering among the women. The orange glow has abated, but returns slightly..

Xena steps out from the forest.

Xena: Deocletes.

Deocletes: Who are you?

Xena: To you - the end of time.

Deocletes: I don't think my friend will like that very much.

Xena: What friend?

Gabrielle is scrambling up the side of the cliff, using her excellent skill to unlock the women's cages. Deocletes looks up.

Deocletes: You!! Both of you!! You will not deny me my power!! Marthgad!!! They would steal the treasures your faithful servant is preparing for you!!

The ground rumbles, trees fall, a sinkhole grows at the feet of Xena. Up rises a vile creature of transluscent white with stinking patches of surface that burst into sulfurous torches of blue and orange flame.. It is 200 feet tall and looms over Xena. Deocletes, turns to put down his food, knocks some salt over. He absent-mindedly throws some over his shoulder, Marthgad flinches and smokes.

Deocletes: Sorry friend. This - is Marthgad. Not yet Marthgad.. (Marthgad, looks around then goes back into the earth, leaving a small crater)

Xena - what does he want with these women.

Deocletes - I understand it as kind of a craving. For 2,000 years he has been eating sheep, no variety. Cooks em, eats em. One day I saw him come up out of the ground and eat a sheperdess, seemed to find her particularly delightful, much moreso than the sheep, and then he disappeared. And do you know what he leaves behind:? Gold, gold. Gold! It lines his tunnels, this tunnel (he points to what's left of the sinkhole), those tunnels (points to the cavern). I let him have his very favorites, and you know what he owes me, nothing. Just a natural bodily function for him.

Xena - You would trade these women's lives for gold.

Deocletes - What are these women to me? This is MY life.

Xena: - He understands you.

Deocletes - He has been around humans for thousands of years. Surely you've noticed an unexplained bad smell now and then - that's Marthgad!

Xena signals Gabrielle to escape up the cliff, with the women.

Deocletes - What are you doing?

I'm going to gather an army, many soldiers would face death to take this gold from you.

Deocletes - They wouldn't stand a chance against Marthgad.

Xena: We'll see. (she takes off, scrambling up the side of the hill, Argo is waiting at the top)

Deocletes sits at the bottom smiling smugly, then looks unsure, looks up to where Xena left.

Deocletes: Marthgad! Did you smell that woman? Find her!!!

Xena, astride Argo and looking down from above, smiles and gallops off.

Xena flies across the countryside on Argo, ground pops up and trees tumble behind her as Marthgad chases her underground. She gallops all the way to the beach, leaps off Argo, rips off her armor and begins to swim straight out to sea.

Sand flying, Marthgad reaches the underbeach. He rears up out of the sand for a moment and plunges into the water after Xena, flames still leap up from his glistening slimy white back. Xena is swimming furiously. Marthgad gains on her, closer and closer. He reaches out one mucky 'arm' and grasps Xena in toward his center.

Then Marthgad appears to hiccup and flounder. He drops Xena back into the ocean. She backstrokes and watches the monster. It writhes in the water then struggles back to the beach. On the beach it twitches and smokes and seems to curdle. Bilious brown and green smoke rise up from it's skin and spreads through the air around it. Xena, who is swimming back to shore, coughs.

Xena walks out of the water back onto the beach, holding her hand over her nose and mouth.

Xena: It's saltwater, slug.

Marthgad shrivels and dies.

Back in Duboious the villagers hand Xena some gold ingots.

Village Leader: Please accept this. We owe you so much more.

Xena: No you don't. Just promise that you will bring justice to Deocletes.

Leader: We have handled Deocletes quite justly, I think.

We're back on the beach. The shriveled , fly-infested body of Marthgad still lies there, with streams of foulness seen pouring off it.. On the outside of it we see stout leather stiching in an incision and then through the curdled transluscent skin we see Deocletes, screaming, coughing, and pounding to be let out.

Xena and Gabrielle are walking away. We're hear them going on.

Xena and Gabrielle: Well I don't know why you had to wear your armor . . . well it's a good thing I did . .. but you could have let down for a minute . . you were the one squirming around for no good reason . . . I had plenty of good reason . . .and what does that mean? . . .and another thing . . . .

The End

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