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The beautiful killer rose from her seat in the tent and casually strode over to where her lieutenant was standing. "Good," she replied, curling her lip into a sneer. Suddenly she lashed out and caught the man Darfus by his throat and clamped down hard. "Only ahhh, next time don't be so slow in carrying out my orders, hmmm?" she cooed, watching his face turn first red, the blue. "I despise ineptitude in an underling."
She held him there until she gauged his bulging eyes were just the right size and then released him. Darfus fell to his knees gasping desperately for air. Xena sat back down and leisurely helped herself to the nearby huge pile of grapes and watched in amusement as her slave--for Darfus was no different than anyone one else as far as she was concerned--gagged and clawed for air.
When he had recovered sufficiently enough to speak he wheezed, "Shall we attack tonight, Princess?"
Xena picked a grape seed from between her teeth and spat in onto the ground. "Nahh, let the men rest tonight. We're still a good two leagues from the village yet. Those sheep have no idea we're here."
"As you wish," said Darfus.
Xena had only to use her index finger to dismiss the fawning man.
However as Darfus turned to leave, his commander said, "Oh, and Darfus?"
Xena's ice blue eyes bore straight through him. "Stop by my tent later on. I may need to be entertained." She smiled wickedly and added, "I promise I won't hurt ya...too much."
"Yes, Princess," replied Darfus, almost gushing. He then gave a fist-to-the-heart salute and took his leave.
Men are such spineless slugs, thought Xena. She stood up and, finishing off her last grape, walked over to a small table. There she picked up her map of the area and placed her finger under a small speck indicating the location of her next victim.
"Tomorrow," she whispered huskily, "you are mine." The name on the map now underlined by her
fingernail was of a more or less insignificant little place--Poteidaia.
Submitted for your approval on the best Athenian parchment; one Xena of Amphipolis, ruthless warlord, star
protegé of Ares, also known as the Warrior Princess. A cruel and heartless woman who not only knows
what she wants but delights in crushing others to get it. She is a woman seemingly on the road to world conquest.
But when our warlord awakens in the morning, she will find herself on a very different path. For you see, Xena
of Amphipolis is about to become an early visitor--a pioneer if you will--to a place where the mighty and the meek
are not so easily distinguished. A little place that we know as...The Twilight Zone.
The Warlord awoke to a hand on her shoulder. "Gabrielle," a voice said, "what are you doing asleep? For Zeus' sake, get up!" The Warlord lay there for a moment blinking the fog from her eyes. She then bolted upright in the bed.
Something was wrong.
She was in a cramped, dusty little room with a dark haired girl she had never seen before in her life. This girl was busily throwing things into a burlap bag. "What is all this?" the Warlord asked suspiciously.
Where am I?"
The dark haired girl stopped her packing and walked quickly over to the Warlord. "Gabrielle," she said urgently, "this is not the time to be playing one of your silly games."
The Warlord narrowed her eyelids and caught the girl by the wrist. "Who's this Gabrielle you're talkin' about?" she demanded.
To her utter astonishment the dark haired girl easily wrenched free of her grip and shoved her on the shoulder. "You are, you idiot," the girl said in exasperation. "Remember? You, Gabrielle, me Lila."
For the first time the Warlord noticed her own body. It was not her own long, powerful, well toned body but rather that of a petite, almost delicate...kid--a girl of no more than fourteen or fifteen. The hands were not large and strong but small and sensitive. The Warlord fingered her hair and then pulled it in front of her eyes. It was not the raven hair she so loved but something almost flaxen in color. What is happening here?
A final shock came when the dark haired girl shoved a small piece of mirror into her hands and said, "Well, ya satisfied now, daydreamer?"
The mature, beautiful, but hard face was not there. In its stead was a young, gentle-looking, and obviously naive vision of loveliness. Almost in a stupor, the Warlord place a hand on the delicate cheek. "I-"
"Come on and help me," pleaded Lila. '"You heard what Father said. We've got to gather up what we can and get out of here."
"But...why?" the Warlord heard herself asking.
Lila looked at her almost in despair. "Come on, Gabrielle, snap out of it. Don't you remember? That trader came by here early this morning and told everyone about the armed men encamped a couple of leagues away. He said Xena's coming!"
The Warlord numbly looked down first at the ankle-length peasant's dress she had on and then at the complete stranger staring so earnestly back at her. "I, I don't...know."
Lila stamped her foot and shouted, "Gabrielle, what is wrong with you?"
The Warlord opened her mouth to speak but the words were drowned out by the thunderous pounding of many horses.
"Oh my gods." gasped Lila. "They're here!"
The Warlord arose from the bed and stumbled through the small house to the front door. She threw it open and saw armored men on horseback sweeping into the village--her men. They were soon followed by many, many more men on foot emitting loud, guttural cries. Everywhere now she saw panic-stricken men, women, and children fleeing in every direction. She saw some of the men of the village bravely trying to stem the irresistible tide of terror but they were no match for the endless tide of strong men with their sharp swords and their superior fighting skills--skills she had taught them.
She saw a young child, a girl of no more that two toddle out into the street in front of her. Where is its mother? the Warlord wondered. All around the crying waif horses were racing past and men were fighting.
The next thing the Warlord knew she was out in the street advancing toward the wailing child. A man rode past and just before his foot struck her heavily on the forehead and sent her spiraling downward into blackness she realized who it was--Darfus.
The last thing she remembered was hearing the terrified voice of the dark haired girl screaming, "Gabrieelllllle!"
The Warlord awoke to utter silence. Everywhere there were smoldering ruins of burned out buildings and except for the broken bodies of those that had dared to get in Xena's way--her way--she was alone. Included among these unfortunates was the little child she first saw in the crying in the middle of the street--and Lila.
She got to her feet and looked all about. The smoke stung her nostrils. Then she heard a horse whinny and she spun around to see who was there. There, sitting on a dark stallion, smirking at her was....her!
"Murderer!" a voice cried. To the Warlord's surprise it was her voice. "You didn't have to do this!"
The personage on the horse kicked the horse into a walk and stopped beside her
The Warlord glared up at her and hissed, "I hope to one day spit on your grave."
Xena reached down and picked the Warlord off the ground by the neck. "Keep that anger, little girl," smiled Xena. "Maybe in a couple of years I'll have some use for ya."
Xena dropped her to the ground and the horse broke into a slow trot.
"Come back here," the Warlord screamed. "Come back here and fight. Xena, I'll kill you!"
As the blackness returned the Warlord saw Xena throw her head back and laugh. "Not in this life, kid," she said. "Not in this life."
"Princess Xena, wake up, it's time."
Xena sat up on her cot and stared blankly at Darfus.
"What's the matter, are you sick?" Darfus asked. "Don't you remember, you said we were to make an early start on Poteidaia so we can be in Dascus by nightfall."
"Oh yeah, right." Xena swung her feet onto the ground and stood up. She ran a hand through her hair. She remembered the girl with the flaxen hair and slowly pulled a tress of her own around to her face. "Get my horse ready." she commanded.
Darfus was almost to the entrance to the tent when Xena called after him, "Darfus, wait. There's...there's been a change in plans. We're not going to Poteidaia, we're going straight to Dascus."
Darfus looked her incredulously and said, "But, Xena, we planned on having that grain for our..."
"Silence!" snarled Xena. "Darfus, if you ever question me again, it'll be your head. You'll just have to make do with what we have."
"Of course." Darfus saluted and quickly made his retreat.
Xena sat back down on the cot and wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. Why did I tell him that? she wondered. Darfus is right, we need that grain. But something...
Again she thought of the kid in the dream. For some reason the girl touched something deep within her. What?...What? Damn the gods, what was it?
Xena stood up and strode resolutely out of the tent. Outside her commanding tone could be heard. "Strike my tent, and make it quick. I want to reach Dascus in time to take the town before dark."
This is not a new beginning nor even a start. It is however, a spark. And on that rare occasion, if the individual is unique enough, a little spark of mercy struck against a tinder of hope is all that's needed to create an eventual inferno of goodness. Especially if that spark happens to have been struck from that little old cosmic flint found only in...The Twilight Zone.
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