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Lady Jane Gray
Copyright Warning: The characters Xena, Gabrielle, et. al. are all the intellectual property of MCA Universal. Athena copyright Olympian Productions. Inclusion here is not intended to violate their copyrights. The story may not be copied or reproduced, in any form, without this copyright warning.
Content Disclaimer There's some physical violence against the lead characters, as well as a very light portrayal of sexuality between them.
Good Advice I'd personally recommend skipping Isle/Wrath of Achilles/White Warrior.
Cliff's Notes: This is part of a story arc: Isle/Wrath of Achilles/Higher Wisdom/White Warrior/Commitment/High Priestess. It is the third story I wrote; parts of it were posted beginning October 1996.
For Lynne, Roo, Lucy: Recovery
Lyrics from the following songs/albums are copyrighted as follows. Ferron: Call Me, Cactus (Driver) Michelle Shocked: Short Sharp Shocked
Light, filtered through forest. Xena, running, her sword and chakram missing. Serious, focused, she runs.
A small motion in the branches ahead of her: Xena dodges but not quite quickly enough. Blur, as a figure leaps out, tackles her. They roll on the forest floor, only the sounds of their struggle audible. A hand raised up, holding a dagger. Xena's gauntleted arm meets it.
Gabrielle: How was that?
Lying on top of Xena, holding the dagger: Gabrielle. She sits up, brushes leaves from her clothes.
Xena: You learn fast. I almost missed that one.
G: Thanks. (gets to her feet) You know, I still don't feel ready.
X: It'll be better tomorrow, when you've started.
Gabrielle reaches her hand down; Xena takes it, pulls herself up and glides her arm around Gabrielle's waist. They retrace the steps Xena has just run, walking quietly for a minute or two, listening to the sounds of the forest. Xena looks straight head, expressionless. Twice, Gabrielle looks up at her. Puzzled.
G: Xena? What's worrying you?
G: (gives her a look)
X: I don't want to talk. (quick look sideways at Gabrielle) Yet.
G: OK.(continues walking) Fine.
They come to a small spring: stretches of flat rocks, trees. Argo and Athanike wait, the sword and chakram strapped to Argo's saddle. Xena loosens her body armor, sets it on the ground, while Gabrielle waits by the stream, braiding her hair. Xena sits down next to her.
X: (annoyed) You just *have* to prove yourself.
G: (looking out over the stream) We've talked it into the ground. Yes, I need to know I can make it, on my own. (soft, but challenging) And I think you need to know it. But . . . there are some things I have to face. Alone.
X: (upset) You want to talk? Alright, Gabrielle, we'll talk. Darius gave us this so we could be together. We've had five days. Now you decide you have to be alone. How am I supposed to react?
G: I'll only be gone three days. And you said I'm ready. What could happen?
X: It's not about anything happening. It's about . . .(picks up a stone, skips it across the water). Instead of continuing, she lies back, saying nothing, as if that ends the argument. Stretching her arms above her head, closing her eyes, she withdraws.
Gabrielle looks down at her, then gets a wicked smile on her face. Reaching behind Xena, she pins her arms to the ground. Xena looks up, struggles, but her arms are in exactly the wrong position to use upper body strength. Straining to lift, her teeth clenched:
X: Where'd you learn this?
G: (casually) I've always known how to do this. I just never needed it before. (looks around; in a dramatic half-whisper) Taken captive and ravaged by a crazed Amazon princess, . . .
Xena turns to her, a smile slowly creeping over her face. Gabrielle releases her, leans down, brushes away a lock of hair. Xena looks up, face relaxed, . . .
Fierce, Gabrielle kisses her. Cradling Xena's head in one hand, lifting it slighty, kisses her again, longer. She shifts her weight, resting on Xena, placing her hipbone on Xena's lower body. She moves, slightly; Xena closes her eyes, turns her head to the side, holding her breath . . .
Later. Gabrielle lies in Xena's arms, asleep. Xena looks down, strokes her hair, hums quietly. She looks into the fire, almost embers, and their glow reflects in her eyes. Kisses the top of Gabrielle's head.
Xena wakes to a dim predawn. Gabrielle is gone.
She rises, walks to the stream and splashes water on her face. Disappearing, returning with brushwood, arranges it in the firepit. Blowing on an ember, she restarts the fire. Leaning against a tree, looking into the fire, images come to her:
Running along a shore, laughing, keeping pace with Gabrielle on Argo. Gabrielle reaches down, tries to gather her up; they both tumble in the surf.
Night; full moon. Sitting outdoors in front of a fire, Gabrielle's hand in her lap. Agape sits across from them. The flames illumine her face with a flickering light, as the goddess of wisdom talks of the commitments and meaning of marriage.
Standing together on a small outcrop, overlooking the sea. Gabrielle fingers a necklace at her own throat: a small oblong glass bead, brown with deep crimson tones, strung on a thin leather cord. Looks up, at a similar necklace on Xena, smiles shyly. Xena puts a hand on Gabrielle's waist, draws her closer.
Gabrielle looks up to her: waiting. Trust, fear together in her face. Xena takes her hand, kisses the fingers; Gabrielle, impatient, puts her arms around Xena's neck, pulls Xena's lips to her, kisses her: "I want you". Xena, anxious, now hurried, kisses her neck, her breath short, sharp.
Gabrielle moves her leg, Xena bends a knee; arms around Gabrielle's waist, pulls her close. Shocked, Gabrielle cries out. Xena unlaces her top, kisses her, shifts Gabrielle's position, and Gabrielle, eyes closed, loses herself in her, their body.
Lying together under a heavy blanket. Gabrielle, propped up on an elbow, looks down at her, smiles: "Like a fire got out of hand."
Xena opens her eyes. Touches the bead on her neck.
X: Two days, thirteen hours.
She stands, kicks out the fire, pours water over it. Short scenes of her, riding along the beach, standing on a rock overlooking the sea, practicing with her sword. Night again, sitting alone in front of the fire, face empty.
Late afternoon, second day. A small outcrop of rock divides the woods from a meadow; Xena sits at the edge. The land slopes into a gentle valley, sprinkled with whites and yellows of spring meadow-flowers. Some ways in the distance, a small village with a line of farmers rolling bales of hay. The sky has the makings of a late afternoon shower. Xena holds a small flower, idly twisting it between thumb and forefinger, simply waiting for the next thing.
Distant voices. A few hundred yards away, a group of fifteen or so men emerge from the woods. All carry weapons: swords, spears, bows. Some wear armor over a mix of dirty cloth and leather scraps, in poor condition. Five or six ride horses. They look like an army defeated and starved, but there's no semblance of a common uniform.
She stands, face set, slightly annoyed. Turning, she looks down the valley again. Villagers set up behind bales of hay. Pitchforks stand out, also long poles.
Xena turns, whistles for Argo. Her back to the valley, she hears a battle cry, turns in time to see a large black horse charge through the middle of the small army. The horse carries a warrior, dressed completely in white; yelling, brandishing a sword, the rider picks up a few more of the soldiers on horseback, and the foot soldiers begin to follow. The raid has begun.
Argo, still on vacation time, finally arrives; Xena rubs her flanks, whispers in her ear. Strapping on her sword, she mounts, turns Argo to the valley.
The white warrior is almost at the bales of hay. A neatly executed jump, and he is in the midst of the farmers. Sword raised, slashing, the warrior cuts through a cluster of farmers trying to dismount him. The remainder of the army seem to hang back in front of the hay, while the white warrior runs his horse back and forth thru the defenders, each turn through taking down one or two farmers.
Xena, gallops down the hillside, lifts her chakram, yells. The mounted soldiers turn, think better of it, move clear of her path.
Just in range, Xena looses the chakram; it flies straight and true towards the white warrior. Who turns, lifts his sword, waits, and, as the chakram comes in range, gives a short chop. The sound of metal on metal resounds through the valley like a bell, as the chakram flies off the sword. Surprised, but with a look of angry determination, Xena urges Argo forward, draws her sword, yells again.
The white warrior turns his mount; head lowered, he digs in his spurs, charging at full speed towards Xena.
He lifts his sword, raises his head, and Xena sees his face:
Gabrielle, wearing white, the color of death, charges at Xena.
Shocked, Xena reins in Argo, but Gabrielle's charge continues. Xena quickly sheathes her sword, draws a dagger from her waist, aims along her arm, and throws. The toss is low: missing Gabrielle, it lands with a thunk in the rear flanks of her mount. The horse rears; hooves flying, threatening to trample the soldiers and farmers near her. Gabrielle, looking grim, drops her sword, and with both hands tries to control her injured horse. Xena turns Argo, looks, sees one of Gabrielle's raiders standing, holding the chakram. From the soldiers point of view, we see an angry Xena riding at full speed, head on. Too late, the soldier tries to run, dodge. Xena, slowing, matches his moves, and, as he turns to look up at her, leans over, reaches down. Xena grabs the soldier, still holding the chakram, throws him over the front of her saddle.
X: (deadly) Don't move.
She gallops up the hill and into the forest. In back of her, dismounted, Gabrielle stands in the middle of battle. Her soldiers and the farmers are fighting hand to hand. But Gabrielle stands, staring at the retreating figure of Xena. Brows furrowed, face set, she picks up her sword, angrily sheathes it. Turning, she looks around, grabs a farmer, flips him, and calmly walks bare-handed into the fight.
Back at the spring, Xena dismounts, takes the soldier off Argo. His hands are already bound behind him; now she sits him down in front of the firepit. Wordless, she lights another fire against the night chill, then sits opposite him, watching. The soldier stops struggling; through the slits of a helmet, we see gray eyes, staring at Xena.
She gets up, kneels by him, yanks his hands back, forcing his head up, to look at her.
X: We're going to have a little talk.
Still holding his hands, she rips off his crude helmet, tears off his simple leather body armor. Hiss of indrawn breath:
Looking up at Xena, a young woman, wearing a dark sleeveless tunic, gold nose ring and an angry face. She twists again, spits past Xena.
YW: You want to talk? Untie me first!
X: (menacing) Talk anyway. Talk about your leader.
L: (lifts her head proudly). Gabrielle. Eumonius found her. (shakes her head) Big mistake. Single combat -- very fierce.
X: (bitterly) She killed him.
L: Womon warrior, you think you know. Be quiet, listen.
Xena tilts her head, searches the woman's face. Gets up on her knees, slowly, unties her.
The young woman looks suspiciously at Xena, rubs her wrists. Then, striking herself on the chest with her fist, proudly:
YW: I am Lydias. My people are the Yoruba.
X: Talk about Gabrielle.
L: She banished Eumonius. Told him, go back to his farm. Then she told the others, no more killing. (curls her lip) They called her 'white warrior.'
Lydias sits back, looking at Xena, a challenge in her eyes.
X: (sarcastic) Nice try. You were raiding a village.
L: (shakes her head) Not a raid. Punishment. They ask for protection; we give it. They forgot to pay . . . .
Xena sits back; she rests her head on one hand, thinking, confused. Lydias looks up at her.
L: Your necklace (touches her own throat). Gabrielle has it too. So, you both from the same tribe? All warrior women?
X: (distracted) No. We're . . . lovers.
L: Hm! I'm no child. And warrior woman, you're no man.
X: (smiles grimly) No. So what?
L: Gabrielle's lover is a man. We heard him last night, in her tent.
Xena stands, looks down at Lydias, who quickly moves her legs out of the way. She looks around, strides to Athanike, takes Gabrielle's staff from the saddlebag. Assembles it, tosses it to Lydias. Lydias catches it with one hand, then takes it in the other. Looks, shakes it, nods approval to Xena. Xena strides over to her, grabs the staff in the middle, one-handed pulls Lydias to her feet, bringing them eye to eye. Tilting her head back slightly, mouth twisted in anger:
X: You like to fight? Punish farmers? Try fighting me.
Lydias, gray eyed, only looks at her. As they stare, we see Xena's face relax; puzzled, as though she no longer remembers why she was holding it, she lets go the staff. Turns away, comes back with a bedroll. Throws it at Lydias' feet.
X: I'll take you back in the morning.
Lydias, still standing, looks over at Athanike.
L: What else you got in those bags? Food, maybe?
X: (sits down; exhausted) No. Gabrielle . . . was fasting. She said she had to find herself. (looks up, shakes her head, angry again) Why am I telling you?
L: Because, warrior, right now you need a friend. And I'm all you got. (sits down next to her) So, Gabrielle. She was on a spirit quest?
X: I . . . guess.
L: Hmm! (shakes her head) Bad time for combat. (frowns) Very bad.
She pauses, looks at Xena.
L: And you. Her teacher?
X: (hesitates) Yes.
L: (shakes her head) She needed a guide. So many evil spirits.
Much later. Quarter moon, animal noises in the forest. The sky is clear, showing thousands of stars. Lydias, under a blanket, lies quietly by the fire. Xena sits, back against a tree. Her head is tilted up to the stars, but her eyes are closed. She cries without sound, without expression.
Morning. The village lies quietly; a mist rising from the valley. Xena is sitting on a log, at the edge of the woods. Lydias stands nearby, shoulder resting against a tree, a dun-colored blanket over her shoulders. Athanike, Argo graze in the meadow nearby.
L: You going to keep your promise, take me back?
X: She's not down there.
L: And how do you know that?
X: Let's just say . . . I know how she thinks. (stands) I'll show you.
Scenes like snapshots: Xena and Lydias ride slowly through a looted village. A woman clutching a small girl to her, as the two ride by. A house, the roof burnt out, the door thrown back, twisted. A group of men, bandaged: head, arms, legs. Tended by the women of the town.
But, mostly, silence. The fear in the farmers' faces, as Xena rides by.
L: This . . . is wrong.
X: This is what you wanted. Punishment. (turns) I should leave you here for them.
L: No. This isn't right.
X: You should have thought of that yesterday. (turns) I could have stopped this. If I'd faced Gabrielle.
L: Womon warrior, you listen. Gabrielle told us to end fighting. Make peace. (she urges Athanike on, comes level with Xena, looks her in the eye) Last night. We talked about Gabrielle. And a spirit quest. Remember?
X: (looks at her, challenging)
L: Something very evil has happened here.
X: And I know who caused it. Let's go find her. Yii-ah!
Xena, with fury in her face, leans forward, and Argo surges ahead, away from the ruin of the village. Lydias pauses. Looks again at the village. And follows Xena.
The next scene is a small town. A wall protects the main houses, but the town gate lies open, and no guards are posted. A dark black smoke rises from within the walls.
Inside, the quiet of death. In the central marketplace, wagons lie overturned. An occasional horse, dead. Flies gather. They turn a corner and . . the white warrior, talking with three of her shock troops.
G: Lydias! Whose side are you on?
L: You are everything I despise. (rides up to Gabrielle, spits at her feet)
G: Then get off my horse. (shouts) Now!
Lydias looks over to Xena, who gives a small signal: no. Gabrielle starts to draw a sword from her side . . . and the sound of a whip cracks; Xena holds one end; the other is wrapped around Gabrielle's body, pinning her arms to her side. Gabrielle looks up in surprise, as Xena yanks, bringing her to her knees.
X: I should have stopped you yesterday.
Gabrielle looks, sneers, and throws herself down, rolls, undoing the whip, frees herself. Finishing the roll on her feet, she turns back, runs towards Xena. Halfway there, she throws her hands forward, onto a bale of hay. She flips, somersaults through the air . . and lands on Argo, in back of Xena. Xena's neck is in the crook of her arm.
G: I've never killed anyone. You'd make a fine start.
X: (calm) So what stops you?
G: I give everyone a second chance. Take Lydias and get out. And then stay out of my way.
Without a word, Lydias dismounts.
Xena sits, alone in the deep forest, immersed in dark green. A small waterfall splashes along moss-covered rocks. The scenery seems to match her mood:face in the palms of her hand, withdrawn.
Suddenly, in back of Xena, a young man. Wearing a short leather tunic, collar turned up. He has a necklace almost the match of hers, but with a death's head at his throat.
Ares: Is this any way to treat an old flame? Not even a wedding invitation!
Xena jumps up, then stands back, her face wary, her body tense, waiting for an attack.
X: What did you do to her?
A: Completed her . . . education, of course. You gave her such a fine start.
Ares, like a bird of prey, circles around Xena. In back of her, whispering:
A: You know it's true. You took her innocence.
Ares walks around, to face her.
A; Who taught her to fight? Gave her a sword?
X: (pushes at him, pushes at empty air) You corrupted her.
A: (smiles, leans close, whispers again) You took her virginity. (blink; he's gone; reappears standing; the waterfall as background) Without you, she'd have a husband and two beautiful young children. A normal life.
X: (hands fisted, eyes closed)
In the background, faintly:
L: Yo! Warrior womon! You talkin' to yourself now? Very bad sign.
Lydias' voice seems to break Aries' spell. Xena, regaining her confidence:
X: God of death. Tell me about . . . normal.
With the last word, Xena lunges at him, catches him off guard, for a moment has him by the collar. Then he's gone.
Ares reappears, sitting on a rock.
A: You could have her again. It's true (waves his hand). . . you and I had our time. I'm willing to move on. A new relationship. Friendship. Business partners? Gabrielle wouldn't have to know. She'd love you. She'd never suspect who you really are, inside.
X: She knows. (smiles) She knows and she chose me.
A: Did she?
Ares begins to circle again, smiling, closing in for a kill.
A: The fates spin so many futures. You could die. She could die. Tragic. Young lovers -- you had a whole life ahead. (sighs, shakes his head) Think about it.
Ares turns away, stops.
A: And I never kissed the bride. But then, I wasn't invited to the wedding. Old flames never are.
He walks over to Xena, who looks at him, not moving. Ares walks around in back of her, as she steels herself for the kiss. And then he vanishes.
X: If you touch her. . .
L: Hey! You are crazed. (shakes her head) Talking to yourself, In the woods. It's no good.
X: (calls back, relieved) Lydias! Here! (Lydias plows her way though a dense undergrowth. Pulls a burr off her tunic)
X: I was talking to Ares. (Lydias looks, uncomprehending) You can't see him. The god of war.
L: Ah. Talk to the god. My people do that (nods).
X: You said, something evil. Ares.
L: This is good news?
X: I know what happened. He . . . put a spell. On Gabrielle.
L: I think, Gabrielle set the spell. On you.
Xena looks at her, smiles. Touches the bead on her neck.
X: You're right.
L: So, happy again?
X: I'll get her back (thinks, puts a hand on Lydias' shoulder, turns to walk with her, out of the woods). Lydias . . . if someone put a spell on your man, what would you, your people, do?
L: Who says it's a man, now? (smiles sweetly)
Xena drops her shoulders, looks, twists her lips in a half-smile back, shakes her head. Lydias stops, moves close to Xena, places her palm flat on Xena's chest.
L: Good heart in there. Much love. Some, still locked in.
Then, resuming the walk:
L: For a womon under a spell, we work roots.
X: Roots (barely suppressed smile).
L: Dark magic. Before the gods. Before time. Fire, water, earth, air. (she looks up at the sky, clouded) More clouds, maybe tonight.
Dusk. Back at the spring, Xena sits, waiting for night. Lydias is busy bundling together roots, leaves, plant stems.
L: Good. Now, an altar. Open to the moon. Flat, for the ritual. Rock, for the fire. (looks at Xena) Find it.
X: (looks up) Find it?
L: You heard. Go!
Xena squats down before her:
X: (smiles) Why do I listen to you?
L: Hm! No choice. (puts a hand on Xena's head, caresses her hair, looks at Xena) Soul empty. No choice.
Full night. An owl hoots. Lydias and Xena stand before a small, flat rock outcrop. The moon is a tiny sliver, almost covered by clouds. Lydias looks up, looks to Xena.
L: Now. Be still. Your heart, spirit.
She takes her bundle, unwraps it, placing herbs, roots in a circle around the rock. Opening a small pouch, she pours a fine powder around the circle, stops, looks up to the clouds around the moon, whispers:
A small blue flame dances along the powder, circling, wavering.
L: (whispers to the flame) Fire, purify. (turns to Xena) Quick, now! Something from her.
Xena looks at Lydias, looks frantically around . . .the wind begins to rise, whipping leaves around the altar.
X: I don't have anything!
L: Quick, womon!
Xena's eyes start to show panic. She grabs at the necklace, tears it off, hands it to Lydias.
L: No good: it's yours. Some thing that's hers!
X: (louder, barely audible above the wind) Her love! This is her love! It's all I have!
L: (shouts) Womon, what am I supposed to do with that? (takes the necklace; muttering, places it in the center of the altar) Earth!
A loud crack of lightening: nearby, a tree falls. Rain, heavy, elemental, pelts them. Still the blue flame dances.
L: Water! Take my hand!
Holding hands, they stand back from the altar. A whirlwind of water, leaves, fire forms in the center, centered on the necklace. The flame grows, then flashes, disappears. The wind dies down, the whirlwind vanishes. Lydias drops Xena's hand, approaches the altar. A fist-sized gray lump sits where the necklace had been.
X: Is she free?
L: (laughs) You'll free her. (hands Xena the lump) Crush this. Throw it on her; she'll forget the spell. (nods at the lump) Her love is in here? She'll forget that too.
X: (shakes herself; face hardened again) It's already gone.
Xena walks away into the moon-shadowed forest. Behind her, still at the altar, Lydias. She cocks her head, thoughtful.
L: Mmmm hmmm. Warrior womon.
Next morning, Lydias is busy at the firepit, pulling things out and putting things in. She looks over at Xena, just rising.
L: Food. End of fast.
X: (looking with distaste at a collection of steaming roots on a large leaf) Isn't that the same stuff you used last night?
Lydias smiles at her.
L: You throw this powder on Gabrielle, and she's free. Right?
X: No. Ares doesn't give up.
L: So. Today, you fight the god of death. (looks down at the roots) Purify yourself, warrior.
Xena swallows, looks pleadingly at Lydias.
Xena and Lydias ride together to the walls of a large city. The guards at the gates take one look at Xena, step back. She stops near an older, gray-bearded guard.
X: We need to see the city elders. It's urgent. Where are they?
G: This time of morning? The tavern. Or, council chambers. Follow the main road, to the fountain. Then ask. (nods) Good speed to you, ladies.
L: (as they ride off) Impressive. How do you do that?
X: A gift?
Xena stands in front of a table. Behind it, five men. All well-dressed, three of them heavy, very well content with themselves and the world. One very thin, nervous. And one, in the center. He sits back, holding a scroll in his left hand, looking at Xena. A beard along his chin, perfectly groomed: the picture of civic virtue and responsibility. A row of windows in back of the men give a strong clear light. It shows carpets, fine tables, plush chairs. The signs of a prosperous city, and elders who have grown wealthy with it.
Center elder: The simple fact is, we have been paying tribute to Eumonius for the last ten years, and we have never had a problem.
X: Eumonious was defeated. The white warrior took over his army. They're not interested in tribute. They want conquest.
Nervous elder: This white warrior. What is he like?
X: The white warrior is a woman. And she is deadly.
Center elder: She? I don't think this woman is going to be a threat. (turns to the others with a smile) Do you?
Murmers of assent, laughter.
X: Take her seriously. You'll write your own death.
Nervous elder: I think . . five men here. We can handle her.
X: It's on your own heads. (shakes her head in disbelief) One last thing. Where is the temple district?
Center elder: Going to pray, before the white warrior comes? (the elders laugh) The temple of Zeus is just to the north of the fountain. But from what you say, I think you want Athena Nike. Opposite Zeus, of course.
He has just turned to point, as the door to the room opens. Two guards fall through the portal, wounded. And Gabrielle, smiling, holds a sword. Looking at the elders:
G: I don't see my tribute. (turns, sees Xena) Interfering again. (turns back to the council) She won't save you.
The thin, nervous elder stands up, starts to speak. Gabrielle, her eye and sword on Xena, walks sideways to him, grabs his collar, twists until he starts to choke, releases him. Still looking at Xena, still smiling:
G: You'd be better occupied bringing the gold.
Gabrielle steps forward, quickly brings her sword up, and smashes it down on the council table, cutting it in half.
G: By the way. We're going to renegotiate the tribute.
Xena moves, draws Gabrielle's instant attention. And then she turns, leaps out the window. We see her, dropping to the courtyard below, looking quickly around to get her bearings, then running. Gabrielle, her sword raised against the room, looks out the window, notes where Xena is running. She turns back to the council.
G: I'll be back. I expect you all here. With the gold.
And then she too jumps, lands in the courtyard below.
Gabrielle, standing in the courtyard, scans for a trace of Xena. Fountain, wagon, businessmen . . a trace of black hair, in front of the temple of Zeus. Gabrielle runs forward, sword raised.
She hears rather than sees it: the chakram, coming straight at her. She steps aside, raises her sword; the two metals clang, and Gabrielle's sword is thrown from her hand. Xena, smiling, holds the chakram again.
Gabrielle, wasting no time, flips end over end forward, finishes with her feet flying up at Xena's chest, knocking Xena back against the temple steps. Xena falls; Gabrielle moves forward, her legs twisted around Xena's next, ready to twist. Xena lets herself slide forward, then rolls sideways, releasing her neck. She slides further down, past Gabrielle. Who reaches out as Xena moves past, and holds Xena's sword.
Standing, backing away, Gabrielle blocks Xena's entry to the temple of Zeus.
G: The gods aren't going to save you this time, Xena.
Xena, her body tensed against an attack, watches Gabrielle. She feints left, Gabrielle lunges, as Xena turns and runs to the fountain. Gabrielle lifts the sword, about to throw like a spear, thinks better of it, runs after Xena.
Gabrielle catches up to her on the steps of a building across the central plaza. Xena, on the fifth step, holds a short dagger. Gabrielle stands at the foot of the stairs, looking up at Xena.
X: You can't win, Gabrielle. You never could.
As Gabrielle shows anger, Xena leaps, lands in back of Gabrielle, bends forward, and kicks. She connects, knocking Gabrielle's legs out from under her, then turns. Gabrielle, on her back, still holds the sword. Xena circles round to the right, climbing up the steps to get the advantage of height. Then she breaks, runs up, and Gabrielle gets to her feet.
G: (smile) Trapped.
Gabrielle runs after Xena, into a building. Cautious, waiting for an ambush, she looks around. The building consists of one large hall, a statue and a small marble table at the end opposite Gabrielle. In closer focus, as Gabrielle walks slowly forward, searching, the table resolves into an altar, with a crimson cloth covering, and offerings of fruit. The statue resolves into the goddess Athena.
Xena, flying through the air, hits Gabrielle from behind. She falls, rolls with Xena's attack. Xena slides forward along the marble floor. And Gabrielle stands over her, holding her sword.
And then, suddenly, it is over. Lying defenseless, Xena looks up at Gabrielle. Emotionless, Gabrielle takes the hilt of her sword in both her hands, raises it above her head, blade pointing down at Xena's chest. Gabrielle pauses, a small smile of triumph on her face . . .
As Xena rolls, crushes the stone in her left hand, tosses it in Gabrielle's face. She pushes herself back, sliding along the polished marble, out of range of the sword.
As the fine powder hits Gabrielle,, she throws up a hand to protect her face. She wipes her face with her arm, steps back, looks up, like she's been hit in the stomach. She steps slowly back, one hand letting go the sword, her mouth open. Gabrielle stops, her back against the altar, a look of horror on her face. She wavers, splits in two; half solidifies into the figure of a young man. The other half, Gabrielle, cries out; drops unconscious to the floor. Xena looks up:
Ares: Very clever. But you know, it won't save either of you.
X: I think you have the wrong temple.
Ares looks back at the figure of Athena, looks around, searching.
A: Athena! Come out! Come out and fight!
His words echo through the marble hall, he looks around, but the goddess does not appear. Crazed, frothing with rage:
Ares (turns to Xena) This isn't over. Next time . . I will come for you both. (disappears)
Xena stands, looks around. In the silence of the great hall, Gabrielle lies, crumpled, her sword beside her, at the foot of the altar. Xena looks up at the white marble statue of the goddess. Helmeted, resting on a spear. Athena, her eternally youthful face composed, quietly wise, stares blankly back. Xena kneels, holds Gabrielle's upper body in her arms.
X: Athena. (places her cheek against Gabrielle's) You said . . . when Ares came again, to remember you (a tear just beginning to streak her face, again looks up at the statue).
Lydias walks out from behind the statue, looks up at it.
L: Pretty bad likeness, huh, warrior womon? (smiles) Don't know what Phrygias was thinking.
X: (halfway between a laugh and a sob) Athena. (shakes her head, too many shocks: overload) What's going to happen to Gabrielle? To us?
Athena:(sits down beside Xena, takes Gabrielle's hand) My gifts to you were wisdom and courage. *Everything* else, you make. Kings like Darius can give you a country for a wedding present. But even a goddess can't give you love. (lays Gabrielle's hand down on her chest, stands) Take her home.
X: That's all?
Athena: Wisdom and courage. Yes. That's all.
Gabrielle lies, wrapped in a heavy robe, near the spring. Xena sits, holding a small white flower between thumb and forefinger. Looking up from time to time at Gabrielle. Looking down at the flower.
Gabrielle stirs, groans; Xena smiles, stands quickly, kneels by her. Looking up, Gabrielle smiles dreamily.
G: (disoriented) I . . . was dreaming. You were in it, and Agape. We were all sitting in front of a fire. Except then it wasn't Agape it was Athena . . . (smiles again, shakes her head, sits up). Ouch! I feel like a horse stepped on me. (looks around) Xena. Where are we? I don't remember . . . how long was I asleep?
X: You're home.
G:(still soft and dreamy) Home? (looks around) It looks so different. But I know this place. Are we going to see my mom and sis?
Xena, trying to be gentle but visibly upset:
X: Gabrielle. Don't you remember anything?
G: Why? (turns to her) Ooooo. (shakes her head) Remind me to never sleep on a rock again. (looks up, sees Xena's face) Did I miss something?
Xena blinks, starts to say something. Takes a deep breath, regains control of her voice. Very softly:
X: Tell me about your dream.
Gabrielle smiles shyly, looks down.
G: We were in it . . . .
She looks up at Xena. Silent. Closes her eyes, looks down. Then:
G: Xena? Did you ever have a dream . . . it was so beautiful, when you woke up you wanted it to fill your whole life?
Taking Gabrielle's hand, Xena sits, facing her. Looking into her eyes:
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