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The Wrath of Achilles
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 second story I wrote; parts of it were posted beginning September 1996. I recommend the arc be read: Higher Wisdom- Commitment - High Priestess. Skip this one, less'n you're interested in the early history of fanfic.
Bright Mediterranean afternoon: sunlight on clear blue sea. A small boat, sails full, cuts through the water, short waves chopping at the sides.
Moving in closer, two figures: Gabrielle, at the prow of the boat, looking ahead over the open sea: spray rising around her. Xena, walking up behind.
X: You make a perfect ships figurehead.
G:(smiling) I can do better than that. I can tell you a story of a young girl who loved the sea so much that the gods changed her into a figurehead.
X: (grimace) Yugh! (sits down in front of Gabrielle)
G: No; it's a happy story. The girl got her wish, to travel over the sea forever.
X: That I'd like to hear.
G: Alright (rubs her hands together; looks back, and sits down) There once was a young girl who lived in a small fishing village. Every day her brothers went out to check the nets, and her heart followed. At night, when they came back, she sat between the boats, watching the boys patching boats, repairing nets. She loved to hear the old men talk of places they'd seen, and wonders that were just over the horizon.
She wished she'd been born like her brothers, and could travel over the sea and see other peoples, other ways. She tried to help with the nets, but her brothers told her it was men's work.
Every morning, when Dawn spread her rosy fingers across the sky, she rose with the men. They went to their boats, and she went to a small hill over the harbor, and looked out on the sea . . .
X: By any chance . . . was this girl was named Gabrielle?
G: (nod) She could have been. If a certain warrior princess hadn't interrupted her young life.
They both laugh, Xena leans back into the spray.
G: Isn't this great? I could stay out here forever. Peace. No-one chasing us. No princesses to rescue.
X: (ironic) How long to Athens?
G: A day. (half-laugh) Why? Bored already?
X: How many stories do you know?
G: Enough . . . OK, I make 'em up as I go. It's something I'm always thinking about. Like you with your sword: you even sleep next to it.
X: (defensive) It *has* saved our lives . . .
G:(piqued) Oh. I guess telling stories isn't exactly life-saving. But. You still need to practice. OK. . . . Look . . . over there. See that big Greek warship? (In the near distance, a trimerine: warship with oars, a sail)
G: Anyone can say, oh, a warship, I wonder where they're going. But to a bard . . . (voice deepens) that's a ship returning from Troy; laden with the spoils of war. In command, a mighty king, Agamemnon, returning home after ...
X: Ah, Gabrielle. That ship. It's heading straight for us! (yelp)
G: Xena. Get on the other side of the sail! Get ready to move when I say!
X:(spray mounting; noise; the warship bears down on them. A fierce demon-figurehead looms. Xena shouts above the spray) They're going to ram!
G: Not if I can stop it!
X: They're bigger and they're faster. (ship looms unbearably close)
G: We're smaller and we move better! Now . . . pull!
They both turn the sail, and the small boat turns sharply as the trimarine warship speeds past them. Then they're in the wake; bobbing up and down.
G: I did learn something from my brothers . . . Xena, look!
Xena turns, to see a figure in white jump from the stern of the warship. At the same time, two grappling hooks land, take hold as the small boat jerks forward sharply, almost capsizing. A wave of water slams into them, knocking Gabrielle chest-forward against a gunwale. The wave passes; Xena, drenched, takes out her sword and cuts the line to the first hook. The small boat slews, throwing Gabrielle forward. Gasping for air, she looks on as a pitch-covered arrow lodges in the main-mast. Flames take hold slowly, creeping along the sails. Then Xena has the second line cut free and the boat slams back; this time Xena loses her balance. The flames are half-way up the wet canvas sail, dying.
X: Gabrielle! They'll turn back!
Gabrielle, face set, looks out at the warship.
G: They're not turning!
X: (mean tone) Gabrielle. Do us both a favor. Let me worry about the fighting.
Gabrielle bites her lip, looks down. Xena looks at the retreating warship, moves to the rudder and calls out:
X: At least help get us to whoever jumped overboard.
Gabrielle, still hurt, nods.
The small boat again glides peacefully through the water, towards a white figure, bobbing up and down with the waves. Xena steers towards it; the two of them lower sail and the boat comes to a stop near the figure. They reach over the side, pull up a young woman, gasping for air.
YW: (on her back, looking up) Gabrielle?
G: By the gods! Agape?
Agape leans up, death-grip on Gabrielle's arm.
A: I'm so glad it's you. They -- they've been raiding up and down the coast. They took us when Cyrene and most of the others were out. Oh, Gabrielle! The inn is gone; they took the livestock and burnt it down.
X: (puzzled) Who else did they get?
A: Kore and I were the only ones left. A guest, some fat merchant. Gabrielle, Xena, you've got to do something! Kore's still on Agamemnon's ship!
X: That was Agamemnon?
A: (sitting up, coughing) I saw him myself. Please, we've got to go after her!
G: This is crazy. Wasn't looting Troy enough for him?
X: Most of these kings aren't above burning villages and enslaving the survivors. (shakes her head) At least I never took slaves. (looks at Agape) Don't worry. We'll get Kore back.
Moonlit sea. Xena sits at the rudder, singing wordlessly to herself, alert, scanning the horizon. Gabrielle and Agape sit at the prow, talking quietly.
G: You know, this is the happiest I've seen her. Like she lives for the danger.
A: Must be. (smile) So. How are you two doing?
G: Xena's fine. (nods). This is kind of a vacation. Or was.
A: Gabrielle. That's not what I asked.
Gabrielle turns to look at Agape, says nothing. Agape's face, like an owl's, seems to gather light. Bathed in silver light, her eyes glowing, Agape waits, looking at Gabrielle.
G: (very quietly, still looking down) You know, I told you. We're not like that.
A: And I asked you why not. Ask again?
G: No. (pause) Xena . . . Xena's life now is about helping people. (looking up into Agape's moon-filled eyes) I don't know where it's going to take me. But I have to follow her.
A: Oh, yeah. Warriors and the women who love them. Hmm! And I don't even have my incense with me.
G: (animated, shakes her head) That was a really low trick.
A: It worked, didn't it?
G: (quiet. the only sounds are the waves and Xena's singing)
A: It *didn't* work? I think this is a first. I don't believe the two of you.
G:(whispers) She won't even talk about it.
A: So. (shakes her head) Alright. I want to know something. What are my chances? With you.
Suddenly, looming in back of them both: Xena.
X: Is this a private conversation?
G: (bright again, smiling) We were just talking. . . girl things.
X: Oh. (grimace) Definitely not for me. (serious) I need a break. Agape. Can you steer?
A: Born on the water. A natural. (gets up, glances at Gabrielle, walks away)
Xena sits down, next to Gabrielle.
X: Do you trust her?
G: (shrug) She's ... a good person. I feel it in her. But ... she did plant the incense on us (smile).
X: (sarcastic, angry) And I forgot to thank her.
G: Xena, why are you so angry? She's a friend.
X: Agamemnon's ship attacked us. Then Agape jumped overboard. And after your little maneuver, we were an easy target. But they didn't even come back. Figure it out, Gabrielle!
G: Are you mad at me?
X: Yes! No! . . .
G: I'm sorry.
X: Don't be sorry....
G: "do better". I know. I try, Xena, I try so hard.
Gabrielle turns away, Xena grabs her shoulder, turns her back.
X: Gabrielle . . . I don't know who you are anymore. When we met .... you could have been my kid sister. 'Cept for that hair (smiles). Now . . . one minute you're a strong warrior. Defeat Talmadeus, Cylon. I rely on you, think you'll always be there, at my back, if I need help. (long pause. Xena looks up at the moon, takes a deep breath) I forget you're not a warrior. I forgot again today, and we almost got killed.
G: I can learn. I've learned so much already.
X: (her face in the moonlight, very sad). Yes. You have. C'mere.
Xena puts her arm around Gabrielle, who slides over, leans into Xena, resting her head on the dark, rich hair falling about Xena's shoulder.
X: What are you going to tell Agape?
G: Do you hear everything? (when it's clear she's not going to get an answer) I'd like to be at least a little bit in love with someone before I sleep with him. Her. Romance would be nice, too.
X: (smile, pause, then serious) Gabrielle. Listen to me. Hero-worship isn't the same as love. I made that mistake once.
G: (lifts her head from Xena's shoulder) Now what's that mean?
X: Just think about it. Before you make any decisions.
G: (head still up; looking around) Xena . . .what are those?
She points to the horizon. Tiny stars, flickering red, blinking on one by one in a line from left to right.
X: Signal fires. Someone is passing a message. If I had to guess . . . Agamemnon is announcing he's on his way home. (stands) I think, we'll just follow him there. Agape!
A: Aye, captain ma'am.
X: (aside to Gabrielle) Someday, she is going to grow up.
G: I like her. She's wild, but fun.
X: (looks strangely at Gabrielle, but calls out again) Can you steer by the stars? I want to stop following the warship; head straight for Argos.
A: Consider it done, great Princess. Argos, look out!
Agamemnon's warship dominates the docks at Argos. Streams of servants, slaves unload it. There's a long line of people, winding up steps from the docks, with soldiers posted at regular intervals. Women captured at Troy, men taken on raids. Whatever their status before, now slaves of Agamemnon.
At the head of the line, a large table, covered with scrolls, ink. Sitting, surrounded by guards, the major domo, who runs the operation of the palace. He's dressed is a rich red toga, clean shaven and clearly well-fed. Beside him, the men who run Agamemnon's farms, his quarries and mines, his ships. The chief of the herders, the women who operate the household, or oversee spinning and cooking. The major-domo goes quickly through the new slaves, assigning them places, tasks. They leave, one by one, with soldiers or with other household staff.
A few hundred yards away, standing against a marble railing, Xena, Agape and Gabrielle watch the procession.
A: Look. See that man in purple, near the head of the line? That's the merchant they took same time as me. I don't see Kore anywhere. She must have already been assigned.
Xena looks at Gabrielle, smiles.
X: See anyone familiar? No? I'll go down there, see what I can find out. Agape -- I don't want anyone recognizing you. Stay here with Gabrielle.
Xena puts on her best warrior scowl, strides over to the docks and the major domo. Who has finally come to Agape's fat merchant. One of the guards nudges the major domo.
G: Minos. Get a load of this one.
Minos looks at the merchant, from gold-braided sandals, rich purple robe, golden belt, ragged beard and bald head. Salmoneus.
M: Aha. Men's Harem.
S: Really? Oh, thank you sir.
M: Don't grovel. Yes, I think you'll find a good place there. Especially considering your . . . special tastes.
S: (frenetic as always) My tastes? How do you know about ... (sees the guards laughing, pointing) Oh, *those* tastes. Aha, that's very funny. Don't you have anything more ...maybe in the women's harem?
M: A eunuch? (looks at Salmoneus' beard) I don't think so. Of course, it *could* be arranged, if you wanted it badly enough.
Xena walks up behind him.
X: He'll be a lot more use in the kitchen. Trust me. (looks down at Minos' lunch. In a misshapen bowl, what looks like large beans. Covered by a film of grease, and an anonymous bone sticking out) I think you could use the extra help.
S: (gets down on his knees) Oh thank you great Princess! Yes. I can make falafaels. Every day. (under his breath: Xena, you gotta get me out of here)
X: (also quietly: just play along).
M: Well, it is worth a try. Name?
S: Salmoneus, your worshipfulness.
Minos nods to a staff member.
M: Put him with the other kitchen help. (glances back) You might as well take a group back to the palace. Show them the slave quarters.
Salmoneus is led away, giving hopeful glances back at Xena. Now Minos turns to her.
M: And you, my lady. Thank you for taking an interest. You know this slave?
X: He was an old retainer of my parents. He'll do here.
M: And how can I help your ladyship?
X: I'm looking for my old nanny. I heard she too might have come through here.
M: Perhaps, perhaps. (gathers a bunch of papers) We might . . . (looks around, motions to Xena, who bends over him) I might be interested in a sale. What's her name?
X: Kore. She's about this tall (sets he hand at chest level) short-haired. Heavy, red complexion.
M: (looking through his lists) Oh, too bad. We've already placed her. If only you'd come to me earlier. Yes, Kore. Here she is. Quite a woman. She'll be overseeing the younger women who attend the queen. You know, if you ever need a servant, I do beg of you to come to me. (looks around) You know.
X:(suddenly tough) I also need to see the captain of the guards. Point him out.
M: The captain? You wouldn't mention . .
X: Don't worry (palms a small piece of gold into Minos' hand) I never forget a friend.
M: Oh, the captain. There he is. Why don't I just take you there and introduce you. Oh, look. Here's Lord Aegisthus. He oversees the palace guards.
They stop on a landing of the broad marble staircase, in front of a young, muscular man, tall as Xena, with a full head of brown hair and a very neatly trimmed beard tracing the outline of his jaw.
M: Lord Aegisthus. May I trouble you? this is Princess . . ah . . .
X: Princess Xena. (turns) Thank you, Minos. You've been most helpful. And I will remember.
Aegisthus: Princess Xena? He bows slightly. It seems I've heard that name. And just where does your family rule?
X: I'm not from one of your . . . local families.
Aegisthus: Of course not. (looks her over) I would certainly have heard about you.
Xena gives him a brief but beautiful smile, acknowledging the compliment. She turns, offers him her arm, and they walk off together, Lord and Princess, overseeing the slaves and peasants.
Scene changes; Gabrielle and Xena walk quickly through the palace corridors.
Xena looks quickly around, then ducks down a side corridor, turns to Gabrielle, speaks in a low voice.
X: I met Aegisthus at Agamemnon's armory this morning. For Orestes' sword.
G: Oh. And the party?
X: Turn here. Gabrielle, something isn't right. Aegisthus has free run of Agamemnon's palace. And the guards at the armory -- they're all his.
G: Agamemnon? Xena, I thought we were here to get Kore. And go.
X: (distractedly) There's something about this that I don't like. I'm not leaving until I find out what.
G: And Agape? Kore? Are they not leaving, too? Xena, I want to know. Is it Agamemnon's palace you're so interested in? Or Aegisthus?
X: Turn here. (they stop in a small alcove, in front a barred, heavy wooden door) Facing each other, Xena gives Gabrielle . . a look.
X: Gabrielle. Remember what Agape said? That we're in over our heads? Can we please trust each other? It's only going to get worse from now on out.
Xena touches Gabrielle briefly on the shoulder. Gabrielle smiles quickly, swallows and then nods her head, not quite satisfied, but going along.
X: Good. Now, let's see if there's what I think behind the door. Aegisthus told me ....
She lifts the bolt of a heavy wooden door, opens it slowly.
The room is large, luxurious. Couches, cushions, a bed. A large feast sits, untouched, on a side table. The room opens out onto a balcony, with an extraordinary view of the mountains and the sea. If the queen of the gods had a palace on earth, this would have been her sitting room.
In the middle of the room, standing, looking out at the open ocean, a tall, slender young woman. She is dressed, incongruously, in black. In profile, they see a single black pearl hanging by a gold chain from her neck, set off by the pure white of her skin. And a face . . . empty of all human emotion.
G: (whispering) The prophet Cassandra? But . . . she's beautiful!
C: (turning) Yes. When I was born, the gods hated me so much, they cursed me with two burdens: great beauty, and the vision to see the future. For my beauty, Agamemnon took me as his slave, his mistress. Slave! Mistress to a monster! I take that curse to my grave.
X: You changed your curse into a gift. A gift of healing. (pause) You healed me, Cassandra.
G: You two know each other?
C: (shows a warm smile) I still have the scar to prove it. (bares her left forearm, showing the scar from a ragged cut).
G: Xena! Why!?
C: As it happens, no mortal woman really wants to know her future.
X: "The son of a god will destroy you. He will take you and you will not lift a hand against him".
X: I didn't understand it until later. *Much* later.
C: (laughs, looks at Gabrielle) That's the way it is. They always want to know and then they don't understand.
She stands, smiling, then moves forward and hugs Xena.
C: (drawing back: surprised) You truly have been healed. You've found peace.
Cassandra turns to Gabrielle, frowns, then speaks sharply to Xena:
C: You ignore the other part of the prophecy.
G: (puzzled) The other part? Xena, what other part?
X: I don't want to talk about it.
Suddenly, Cassandra sways; faint, she sits down on a richly cushioned bench. Suddenly, she looks old, weary.
C: Xena, you will find your voice. (blinks; looks at Gabrielle) You, child. What is your name?
X: This is Gabrielle.
C: (severe) Quiet. Let her speak.
G: Gabrielle . . ma'am (kneels).
C: (takes her hand) Gabrielle: Agape is your ally. Trust her but do not believe her. (closes her eyes, furrows her brow) I can't see. It blurs.
Cassandra suddenly opens her eyes, but looks at Xena, not Gabrielle. She takes off the pearl, presses it into Gabrielle's hand. Smiling,
C: When the time comes, you will know what to do with this.
G: Is there more?
C: You are so young, Gabrielle dear. Beyond that, I see . . . my own death. And beyond that, I see nothing.
Cassandra closes her eyes again; sighs. Her shoulders slump. Gabrielle and Xena stand, together, silent in the presence of Cassandra's gift.
C: I tell this to you, Xena. I will die this week, the royal family with me. The palace is a place of darkness. Leave it. Go into the sunlight.
And Cassandra, doomed, closes her eyes.
The two leave, as quietly as they came. There seem to be no words for what has happened.
Scene change again: nightfall. Salmoneus, sneaking along the servant's quarters of Aegisthus' palace, finally stops in front of Agape and Gabrielle's room. He knocks quietly, and in a loud whisper: (Xena!)
A hand reaches out, grabs him. Inside the room, Xena are sitting next to each other on the bed; Agape is standing at the entry.
Agape: (giggles) You should have seen your face. You were so scared!
S: Well, at least you didn't make me drop your dinner. (shoves a cloth-wrapped package at her) Here. That place is crazy. The servants are stealing the palace blind. Can you believe it? They haven't even heard of a black market. (turns) Xena! How long are we staying? I could make a fortune here. They could resell everything to the palace.
Agape: Salmoneus. Are all your business ideas immoral or illegal?
G: Yeah! Doesn't the phrase 'golden age' mean anything to you?
S: Gold? Yes. It means a great deal. And no, they are not, Agape. Have I told you about my falafael franchise idea?
X: Well. We could just leave you here. Since you enjoy being a slave.
S: Yes, your great warriorness. With you it could be a lot of fun. With Agamemnon . . I'm not so sure.
X: What have you heard?
S: (glances around. conspiratorially) The word on the street is, he's finished. The people are just waiting for the chance. Now Aegisthus . . . he's a real leader. Ten dinars to one: the peasants and the small landowners will rise up. Agamemnon out, Aegisthus in. Simple. Of course, we're going to be long gone by then. Aren't we. (looks around) We aren't?
G: Cassandra said the royal family was going to be dead within the week.
Agape: (visibly upset) Cassandra? You saw *her*? (turns to Xena) What did she tell you?
X:(very suspicious) My, how suddenly you become interested.
S: Excuse me? Cassandra said Orestes . . and Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra . . . they're all going to die. Right?
X: Her prophecies sometimes mean different things. "Dead' may not mean dead. Royal family could be just Orestes and Agamemnon.
Agape: Right. No royal blood in Clytaemnestra.
G: No. I remember. "I see my death. After that I see nothing".
S: Dead is dead.
G: But who would want to kill Cassandra?
S: That's easy. Clytaemnestra. It's the hottest item in the kitchen. She hates her.
G: And Orestes? I can understand Agamemnon. But Orestes is just a little boy.
Agape: Anyone who wants the throne needs to get Orestes out of the way.
The others look at her with surprise. She shrugs:
Agape: Basic court politics. They'd probably do it before the investiture, tomorrow night.
G: That doesn't give us a lot of time.
X: (looks at her) I thought you wanted to get Kore and leave.
G: It's more complicated now.
X:It's always more complicated, Gabrielle.
S: Can the three of you stop arguing for long enough . . .
X: Alright. Are we together on this?
Agape: I wouldn't lift a finger to save Agamemnon. He deserves to die.
G: How can you just say that? Isn't it for the gods to decide?
Agape simply shrugs.
S: Please. I'm getting a headache.
X: Gabrielle? Salmoneus?
They look at each other, nod.
S: So what's our first move?
Gabrielle looks surprised, then nods, acknowledging what she's just taken on.
G: First. (pauses) Who would want to kill a young boy? (looks around) Anyone?
Gabrielle stands, walks to Agape.
G: You know court politics. Help us. Please?
A: Already said it: anyone who wants the throne. So this would be organized by nobility; they'd benefit.(looks at Salmoneus) Leaves out your peasant uprising, unless it's a set-up. (looks at Gabrielle) I do good?
G: We're making progress (rubs her hands) Salmoneus. Xena. Who's powerful enough?
Agape: Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra. One kills Cassandra, the other Agamemnon; they marry and live happily ever after.
Xena gets up, walks over to Agape.
S: Oh! My head! Why didn't I see it?!. Word is, he and Clytaemnestra are an item. (looks up at an angry Xena, looming over him) Did I say something?
G: So it is Aegisthus.
Xena strides to the bed, picks up her sword, begins to buckle it on her back.
S: Where are you going?
X: To see Aegisthus. (firmly) Gabrielle. Come outside with me.
Outside, Xena, Gabrielle stand facing each other, faces bathed in moonlight.
X: Gabrielle, I don't know how long I'll be gone. Can you . . . handle things on your own?
G: I won't be alone.
X: No. I guess you won't.
Xena turns away, walks a few paces, then turns back. But Gabrielle is gone.
End of Part II
The outside of Agape and Gabrielle's quarters. Through a window, voices:
G: I don't want to . . .
Agape: Gabrielle, will you at least *try*?
G: (doubtful) Xena said . . .
Agape: Hey! Look around you. Alone. No Xena, right?
G: (still uncertain where this is leading) Right.
Agape: So could you for once let yourself go and have an experience of your own? One that doesn't involve Xena?
G: (deep breathing) Alright. But Agape . . . I've never tried this. Just let me go slow.
We hear nothing for a few moments, then a kind of slurping sound.
G: Yuck! That is the vilest thing I have ever tasted!
Agape: (confused) I'll tell Salmoneus he needs to work on the recipe. (sadly) Too bad. The falafael stand idea sounded so promising. The way Salmoneus talked, anyway.
G: I tried to tell you. Xena was sick for two days after one of these. I can't believe I listened to you!
the Wrath of Achilles (conclusion)
Late night; clouds half-cover the moon. An owl screeches in the distance. Through the window of the servant quarters at Aegisthus' palace: Gabrielle sits at a small table; Agape lights a short, heavy candle.
Agape: Are you going to wait up?
G: She told me not to. Agape . . . why? She didn't even want to hear about Aegisthus. Now she's with him.
Agape stands in back of Gabrielle, massaging her.
Agape: I think . . . Xena sees the dark streak in Aegisthus. She's attracted to it.
G: She thinks I'm her kid sister (turns; in dim candlelight, we see her face, a tear starting). Is that what you see?
Gabrielle stands; Agape holds her as she cries. Pulling away:
G: What do you see, Agape?
Agape: A powerful warrior, who doesn't believe her power. A sensual woman with no-one to love.
Xena strides through the main hall of Aegisthus' palace. Like animals before a forest fire, the servants run before Xena. She stops one, grabs him by the tunic:
X: Take me to him.
They stop at an enormous painted wood door. Xena kicks, once, twice. She throws the servant aside, strides into the room.
Around a table, five or six middle-aged men. And Aegisthus. Xena looks at him:
X: You made a fool of me.
Aegisthus: My dear princess. Whatever. . .
Xena strides over, stands eye to eye with him.
X: Don't give me that. I know about Clytaemnestra.
Aegisthus: Princess. Please! How could I be interested in the queen? She's wedded to great king Agamemnon!
X: And if he died?
Aegisthus (suddenly wary) What do you know?
X: Aegisthus, I don't care about your plans. I don't care about the old tyrant. But if you make a fool of me . . .
Aegisthus: (smiling) And how do you think Clytaemnestra is feeling since you arrived?
X: (slow, menacing) I warn you. Don't play us against each other.
Aegisthus: (recovering his composure, smiling again) You needn't worry, my lady. That's the last thing I intend.
Xena leaves; outside the room, she smiles wickedly to herself.
Agape half sits on the bed, her back against the wall. Gabrielle lies in her arms. The candle burns low, flickering.
Agape: When you're over . . . her. I won't be used.
Gabrielle sits up, pulls her hair back, looks at Agape. She turns, straddles Agape's legs, pulls off her tunic.
Agape: Gabrielle! Stop it!
Gabrielle sits, looking at Agape.
Agape closes her eyes, breathes deeply, then breathes again. Looks at Gabrielle. Leans forward. Kisses her.
Gabrielle responds slowly, and Agape does not hurry. Stroking her back, kissing along her shoulders, neck, Agape explores her body. Finally Gabrielle takes her hand, guides it . . .
Xena walks in the room, stops at the entry. The flickering lights picks out Gabrielle on her back, Agape astride one leg. Agape moans. Xena shakes her head, looks around the room for something she may have missed, something that could make sense of what she is seeing.
Xena draws her sword; two handed she lifts it high, brings it down, shattering the small table. Xena, her mouth twisted in pain, her eyes wild, strides to the bed. Sword in her left hand, with her right she pulls Agape off Gabrielle, shoves her against the wall. She slashes at the bedcovers. Her eyes focus . . on Gabrielle. Their eyes meet . . . as Gabrielle rolls to her feet, pushes Xena away.
G: You coward! Get out!
Xena steps back.
G: Get out! Get out!
Each word is a blow, until Xena can take no more and runs from the room.
The face of the moon, clouds moving quickly across. The sea, waves rising, sinister in the partial light. Xena sits on the marble steps overlooking the docks, looking out to sea. Kore comes up behind her; they sit together, silent.
K: I've been to see them.
K: You're too old for this jealousy, lass.
X: Why Agape?
K: (looks at her) Similar features? Your hair is longer. Agape was there? She could have waited. Xena, it's not about Agape. It's about you.
X: All I wanted to do was play up to Aegisthus. (looks down at the stairs) I lost her. (twists her mouth into a smile of pain) I thought I had so much time.
K: What now?
X: I'll leave tomorrow, after the banquet.
K: And the prince?
X: Gabrielle can do it. She doesn't need me.
K: You won't fight on our side?
X: Not after what I did.
K: Lass, it won't matter to Gabrielle.
X: I can't face her.
K: (standing) Pride's a slippery weapon. Watch how you handle it.
And then Xena is alone again.
Early dawn; Agape and Kore stand together on the palace grounds, overlooking the town, the sea.
Agape: They've talked to Cassandra. They know what's coming.
K: It doesn't matter; Xena's out.
Agape: Then they can't stop us.
Kore looks up at her.
K: You play it hard, woman. (sigh) Maybe I am getting tired. Well, young one. What's next?
Agape: First, the king must die.
Dusk, outside the palace of Agamemnon. The camera takes us along a wide dirt road, leading up the hill. Peasants crowd at the side of the gates of the main entrance. The massive gate is flanked by enormous stone lions; guards in dress uniforms stand at either side of the entrance. Wearing black upper-body Armour with gold trim, crimson tunics underneath, and helmets crested with red plumes, they keep out the peasants and lower classes, admitting nobility in their carriages.
Inside, the dirt changes to cobblestone, and we see the entryway courtyard. Fully three stories high, with painted columns supporting balconies, they dwarf the people below. Two enormous fountains stand on either side of a sculpture: a naked, muscular man, one hand on the horns of a bull, the other holding a sword at the bulls exposed throat. The horns are gilt, as is the hilt of the sword.
The balconies converge at a central entry to the great hall of the kings of Myceneae. More royal guards stand at the entry, and the crowd in the courtyard moves slowly through the massive doors. Just inside is a small room, marble floored, with marble columns defining an entryway. Behind the columns, a few sculptures, and doorways leading off into the palace. At the end of the entryway, between a set of columns, stand Clytaemnestra and Orestes. Clytaemnestra wears a simple white robe, with heavy gold brocade at the neck, cuffs and hem. An enormous blood-red gem hangs at her throat. Orestes wears a miniature set of armor, a short sword buckled to his side. Well in back of them stand Kore and Gabrielle.
Aegisthus walks through the reception line, with Xena on his arm. Both are wearing Armour; Xena her usual short leather skirt, but over that is a gold embellishment that matches that of Aegisthus. We hear nothing, but see Aegisthus kiss Clytaemnestra on the cheek; Xena bows formally. In the background, Gabrielle stands, her eyes on Xena. But Xena's face is rigid; her eyes avoid Gabrielle entirely. As Xena and Aegisthus walk though the entryway to the grand hall, the camera glances backwards, to see Gabrielle's contorted face, and Kore whispering to her. The camera pulls back to Xena's perspective, and the great hall opens before us.
The hall stands two stories high, held up by enormous wooden columns. They're painted a light rust red, with gilt at the top. In the very back of the room, wooden paneling has been painted with hunting scenes. From mythology, a Diana; other scenes show a king and a lion. Along the wall, a long table is set up with a large central throne, heavy chairs on either side. On the throne, a tall, gray-bearded man sits; in front of him, a heavy two-handled drinking cup that a servant is filling. To his right, other middle aged men talk, drink. Servants come and go from a kitchen entrance to the right.
Xena and Aegisthus walk to the kings table; kneel before him, talk briefly, then stand, together, in back of the king.
The hall fills quickly; Clytaemnestra and her entourage finally enter. Of course all eyes turn to them, in a slow procession to the kings table. She formally presents Orestes to Agamemnon, who stands, taking the boy by his side. Gabrielle stands back against the wall, behind and to the right of Xena. Xena's face is frozen; her eyes fixed rigidly ahead.
Agamemnon:(his voice booming through the hall) Great god Zeus, who has guarded our house. Great goddess Athena Nike, who has brought us victory before the walls of Troy! Tonight we proclaim our heir. We ask you to guard this ceremony (he lifts his drinking cup, spills wine on the ground then drinks from the cup) Let the feast begin! (Agamemnon sits; the servants bring food to the tables)
Agamemnon:(turning to the queen) Where is the bard? I want a song.
Orestes: Daddy, Gabrielle tells good stories! Let her tell one!
Agamemnon looks out over the crowd of guests, nobles, retainers, guards and drunks. Turning, he finds the eye of Gabrielle, nods, beckons her to him.
Gabrielle kneels before the king.
Agamemnon: Gabrielle, Gabrielle. All we hear from Orestes is Gabrielle. (smile) You brought him life again, after our long absence. The house of Atrius is in your debt.
From his little finger, he takes a ring, set with a ruby, places it in her hand, folds her hand over it. In the background,standing behind Xena at the curtains, Salmoneus licks his lips.
Agamemnon: So, you have the gift of poetry. May we hear your voice?
G: I've never . . . performed before a king.
A: (smiling beneficently) You must first choose a kingly subject.
Gabrielle nods, looks down, breathes deeply. Finding her focus, she stands, looks across the room.
G:I have this story from the great bard, Homer. He is called the blind seer, for though he is blind, he sees into the hearts of men, and knows their thoughts.
Aegisthus turns to Xena, whispers in her ear. She nods, and he leaves, walking along the back wall.
G: The tale is about anger, and pride. The anger of Achilles, and how it destroyed him. Yes, and his pride. The gods blessed him above all others. He was the greatest warrior in all Hellas (Gabrielle turns, looks straight at Xena; throws back her hair: defiant). He was blessed with the love of a friend. The warrior Patrocolus, who cared more for Achilles than for his own life.
(Agamemnon, pleased, nods to his companions, takes Orestes on his lap, whispers to the young boy)
But Achilles did not count his blessings, he was deaf to the will of the gods. He was obsessed with a woman, a slave. He would not take his mind from the fair Briseis. And for his pride, for his anger, he lived to see his companions killed. He watched while the body of his best friend was dragged in the dust before the many-gated city of Troy. Yes, the dogs ran after it, licking the blood from his wounds. Achilles did not think of fair Briseis then!
But the gods were not done. No, his pride brought ruin on them all. (Xena, in back of Agamemnon, sets her mouth in a frown. And still Gabrielle looks only at her). Achilles did not live to see what became of his army, yet the curse of his pride followed them. Odysseus, who was never at a loss for words or a scheme, is now lost to the sea. And . . .
A disturbance in the back of the great hall draws her attention. A murmer, growing. Shouts, confusion. A young soldier, in dress uniform for the banquet, runs forward.
Soldier: Cassandra's been killed!
Agamemnon tries to sit up; Orestes, frightened, leaves his lap and runs to Gabrielle, who kneels, holding him from the back, whispering in his ear. Two guards from the sides move in quickly, converging on Gabrielle and the boy. Clytaemnestra picks up a serving knife from the banquet table.
Xena looks around, sees Aegisthus rushing from the back of the hall. She leaves the side of Agamemnon, stands in front of Gabrielle, draws her sword.
X:(quietly) Gabrielle. It's started. Whatever you're going to to, do it now.
Gabrielle stands, her left hand holding the boy to her. As though rehearsed, she draws a short sword from a scabbard at Xena's side, and steps back and right towards Salmoneus. With Gabrielle watching their retreat, Kore and Salmoneus take Orestes away. Xena stands, smiling, watching the two soldiers.
The king sits, stricken; hands over his heart, he mutters "Who could have done this." The banquet room is in turmoil, with guards running through the crowds, some moving forward to the royal couple; others closing off the palace exits. Aegisthus, delayed by the turmoil in the room, disappears in the crowd; Clytaemnestra looks around wildly. The noise from the panicked crowd of soldiers, revellers and nobles drowns out the king.
Xena looks the guard on her left in the eye, then turns right; dropping her left hand from the sword, she slashes at the guard on the right. Quarter way through the turn, her left leg comes up, kicks the remaining guard in the throat. With both guards down she completes the turn, looks back at Agamemnon. . .
As Clytaemnestra, who can no longer wait for Aegisthus, leaps up, throws herself on her husbands body, plunging the serving knife deep into his heart. In his death throes, Agamemnon's arms jerk backwards, throwing Clytaemnestra onto the table. Aegisthus, sword drawn and with a trace of blood on his tunic, appears in front of the dead king, protecting Clytaemnestra. Xena strides up to him, sword lowered.
Aegisthus: Where is Prince Orestes?
X: (looking him directly in the eye) Safe.
Aegisthus:(raising his sword) Don't play games with me, princess. You have no idea what this is really about.
X: (smiles) You fell for my little princess act? You're pathetic.
As Aegisthus' guards move into position around him, he turns away from Xena, then suddenly whirls around, to slash at her. His sword clangs against hers, and with nowhere to take the force of his turn, he stumbles back into the dead kings lap. Xena's smile broadens.
Aegisthus pulls himself to his feet, brushes off his sword arm. Around him, Agamemnon's war companions are standing, pulling short daggers and fighting with the guards in back of Aegisthus. Others of his guards are escorting the queen along the back wall, to the kitchen entry, to safety.
Xena, her sword hand free, stands warily, keeping her eye on Aegisthus. In the center of the hall, soldiers loyal to Agamemnon begin fighting their way forward through Aegisthus' men.
Aegisthus looks at Xena:
Aegisthus: We'll get you long before they get here. Why don't you tell me now where Orestes is?
Xena lifts her sword, slashes viciously at a guard in front of Aegisthus. He watches, amazed, as two more of his men quickly fall. Backing away, holding his own sword, Aegisthus turns to run, also towards the kitchen.
A spear flies the length of the crowded hall, runs through Aegisthus' upper arm, pinning him to a wooden pillar. Xena strides to him, kicks one guard to the side, hits a second with the butt of her sword.
And the room is suddenly quiet.
Xena stands before Aegisthus. Writhing in pain, he looks at her:
Aegisthus: Help me. Please.
X: (quiet anger, sneer) Don't move.
Xena stays his arm against the pillar with her left hand, pulls the spear out with the other. Aegisthus screams with the pain; Xena, arms around his waist, turns him to face the hall.
Striding directly towards Xena is a young woman. The crowd melts before her. In her hand, a golden shield, with the face of a Gorgon embossed on it, so realistically that it almost seems to move. The woman herself is supernaturally beautiful. And she bears a striking resemblance to Agape.
Pallas Athena walks through the crowd; they kneel before her. She pauses before Xena's side, kisses her on the cheek, then moves on, to stand before Clytaemnestra.
Athena: How dare you defile *my* ceremony with blood!
Clytaemnestra: Great goddess, Athena, I demand justice. For my daughter.
Athena: Justice! This is savagery.
She reaches over, lifts Aegisthus up in the air, throws him at Clytemnestra's feet. He howls in pain.
Athena: You two understand the justice of beasts in the woods. I don't even know how to punish you. Xena? What do you think?
X: Let them live. Blood spilled never stops.
Athena's voice is soft, but it fills the room: everyone hears her quiet, measured tones.
Athena: The killing, the blood justice, is over. Now there will be my justice. And you two will spend the remainder of your lives waiting for it to fall. And when that day of terror comes, *I* will be back.
Athena turns, to face the citizens of Argos.
Athena: And you, citizens: I charge you with the keeping of my justice. And I will be watching.
Xena sits on the edge of the banquet table, Athena standing beside her, the great hall empty. Several bodies still lie on the floor. The hangings on the walls are torn, tables turned over, food and drink spilled.
X: The glory that was Myceneae.
Athena: Don't mourn it's passing. It should never have been.
X: Gabrielle would say, that's for the gods to decide.
Athena: (softly) Civilization was my gift to you. Keeping it alive takes work. You already know it: justice can't come from the gods. It has to be won, by mortals like you.
X: (circles under her eyes, her voice weary,looks up at the goddess) What now?
Athena: Kore and I have work here. Watching over Orestes. Keeping Clytaemnestra in line. I'll start a tribunal of justice here. Kore wants to take over administering the palace; end corruption.
X: Kore told Gabrielle she's getting weary. Will . . she be alright?
Athena: (laughs playfully, now looking like Agape) She's as old as I am. Give or take an eon. Ah. Reminds me (lifts Xena's hand, removes the amber bracelet). Borrowed it from my sister (guilty look).
Xena looks up at the goddess, and Athena leans over her, takes off the amber locket.
X: Will I see you again?
Athena: Maybe. Xena?
X:(looks up, sad)
Athena: Ares will come for you again. When he does, remember me.
Athena: Now. About Gabrielle.
Xena winces, but the camera pulls away. We hear their voices but can't quite make out the words.
Bright Mediterranean afternoon: sunlight glinting on clear blue sea. A small boat, sails full, cuts through the water, short waves chopping at the sides. Gabrielle stands, looking at the open sea. Then turns to sit in front of Xena.
G: You know, I'll miss Agape. I mean, it's not every day you get to meet the goddess Athena. At least I don't. But . . . I really liked Agape.
X: I hope so. You made love with her.
X: Almost! You mean . . .
G: If you hadn't interrupted. Hey! You must have already known about Agape-Athena. You weren't really angry.
X: (sets her lips, looks at Gabrielle and shakes her head) Oh, you can believe I was angry. (pauses) Athena . . I should have guessed. You know? She's always been with Kore. They've been together . . . since time began?
G: (smiles) I like that. It's very poetic. (she looks down, draws a deep breath, looks Xena in the eyes) Speaking of which. I shouldn't have said those things about anger and pride, during the banquet. (shakes her head) I never knew what Athena was planning. She set us up, didn't she?
X: I'm glad she did. Otherwise I would never have seen the anger of Gabrielle.
G: (laughs) I was pretty good, wasn't I? I added a couple of things to Homer's story, though.
X: Like the "blind seer"?
G: (laughs) Hey! It sounded good!
X: All poets are liars (smiles). I think your version will be remembered.
G:(reflective) And that's what Cassandra meant when she said I should trust Agape but not believe her. I mean, she was working on our side. But she wasn't telling us the truth. (pauses, thinks) One thing still bothers me. Cassandra's prophecy. She said the royal house would be destroyed. But Orestes is alive.
X: Cassandra is . . . was, one of the great prophets. I don't think there'll be another like her. What I learned from her is that we make our own destiny. You and I changed Orestes' fate.
They sit, quietly for a minute. Then, softly,
G: What was the rest of Cassandra's prophecy. About you? Is . . . it about your death?
Xena looks at her, sadly.
G: You don't have to . . .
X: No. You deserve to know. Cassandra was one of the great healers. Her prophecy is a large part of who I am. I've dreamed it and thought about it and lived with it every day for the last five years. She knew it would change me.
Xena pauses, looking out over the sea. A flash of light momentarily blinds her: a reminder. She looks back at Gabrielle, takes a deep breath:
X: "The son of a god will destroy you. He will take you and you will not lift a hand against him. The daughter of a fisherman will hold you captive, and you will not try to escape."
G: Xena. We make our own destiny.
X: This is hard. At the banquet, when you sang . . . of anger, of pride. I've never seen you more beautiful. Watching you, I wished that everyone there could have seen you by my side. Instead of Aegisthus.
Gabrielle looks at Xena. Kneeling before her, she reaches behind Xena's neck; fastens something. Then rests back on her heels. Xena looks down:
X: The black pearl.
G: (smiling) She said I would know the moment. It fits, don't you think?
X: (smile in return) I almost forgot. (digs in a pouch) Before she left, Athena asked me to give you this. (hands over the amber locket)
Gabrielle, puzzled, takes the locket, looks, unscrews it carefully. Inside, a fine-grained powder. She smells . . .
X: She also said to go easy on me. At first.
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