DISCLAIMER: Please refer back to "Step 1" for specific disclaimers

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While Naderus headed off to rally as much village support as he could muster given the turn of events, Lakme and Mallika headed directly to the palace to try and get an audience with the captain of the guard, Cyres.

They hoped to convince him of the evil-doings of Paracelsus and King Democritus. The girls finally had proof and the proof was in the bag.

Lakme patted the side of the sack softly and smiled. Even though it may be too late for her mother, she was going to make certain Democritus and Paracelsus never experimented on another of her neighbors again.

She glanced briefly at her constant companion, Mallika, and smiled proudly at the stern and determined features that graced her beautiful face as they approached the palace gates.

There were two large, burly guards standing at attention. Their size and demeanor did not daunt Mallika in the least. Both women proceeded as though nothing short of the Gods on Mount Olympus could stop them.

The guards eyed the two women warily as they approached the gate.

"What do you want?" A darkly bearded guard asked curtly.

"We want to see Captain Cyres." Mallika demanded. Lakme shifted the goatskin bag on her shoulder and waited, allowing her friend to handle the matter.

"Why?" The other guard, clean shaven, added.

"That’s between me and the Captain." Mallika answered, putting her hands on her hips.

"He’s busy. Come back later." The dark guard growled.

"Later is too late."

"Well, now is too early."

"We need to see him *NOW*."

"Ya can’t. Come back later."


Inside, fumbling through the contents of the bard’s cluttered goatskin bag, Xena tried to maneuver into a better listening position.

"This is getting us nowhere." The warrior thought to herself, pushing a stale piece of nutbread to the side and trying to climb up to the rim of the sack for a look, "Ugh, I have to get her to clean this bag out."

Mallika quickly decided to take another tack.

"Please," she smiled sweetly, glancing quickly at Lakme, who added her own smile to the conversation, "We REALLY need to speak with Captain Cyres. It is of the utmost urgency. We would be very grateful if you would take us to see him."

"Oh really?" The clean shaven guard took a step closer and leered, "And just how grateful would you be?"

He grabbed Mallika by the waist and pulled her into his grasp, extending his sharp spear to the side for a better grip on the girl.

"Hmmmph! Ugghh!" Mallika grunted, squirming to extricate herself from the guard’s lecherous clutches.

The dark guard laughed.

Lakme’s eyes widened in anger.

"GET YOUR HANDS OFF HER!" Lakme cried, jumping to Mallika’s defense.

Without a second thought, the barmaid grabbed the amazon bag from her shoulder, swung it once in a winding circle, landing a right good whack soundly on the side of guard’s forehead.

The guard stumbled backwards, releasing his grip on Mallika, stars obviously twinkling before his eyes.

The second guard rushed at Lakme, only to be intercepted by Mallika. She landed a solid kick right on the leg. The man grabbed at his shin and howled in pain, hopping in a circle.

And the fight was on.

The star spangled guard recovered quickly and rushed at Mallika, trying to prevent her from landing another kick on his partner’s other shin. Lakme swung the bag again, but missed him as he ducked. The missed swing sent the barmaid circling around in an uncontrollable spin. The bearded guard lunged at her instead.


Inside the amazon bag, Xena was clinging to the tail of the little wooden lamb, hanging on for her life. The toy bleeped each time the bag came to a thud against its intended target.


The guard intercepted Lakme as she spun and tackled her to the ground. The bag went flying out of her grasp and landed in the grass just shy of the palace’s main gate.

"GET OFF OF ME!" Lakme pounded the surprised guard with a barrage of slaps and blows. The other guard was unable to assist his partner. He was too busy avoiding a series of expertly executed kicks to his shins.

The amazon pouch skidded through the grass and rolled to a stop as the top flew open, spilling the warrior princess and various other sundry items out onto the ground.

Xena rolled with the lamb, a final bleep signaled the end of their fall. The warrior poked her head up, then immediately ducked down, shielding herself with her arms as a waterfall of scrolls tumbled by.

The avalanche finally finished, Xena risked another look at her companions. Mallika was holding her own, gracefully lifting her skirt in her hands and chasing after a retreating guard with a series of front kicks that would impress any ninja warrior of Chin.

Xena quickly turned her head to find Lakme. The barmaid was straddling the other guard as he lay in the dirt, pummeling him with slaps and blows so fast, Xena could hear the man calling for his mother all the way across the yard.

Another sound brought the warrior’s head around. The Captain of the Guards was running in their direction.

The warrior smiled and watched for a few moments longer, as a large contingent of villagers joined in the fray at the palace gate to intercept the captain.

"Well, this wasn’t part of the plan, but whatever works." Xena patted the lamb gratefully and then headed off in the direction of the front door.

Cobblestones were large boulders, and cracks in the pathway might as well have been ravines. Xena wound her way through the giant sized obstacle course and headed towards the door, her small warrior cry barely heard in the courtyard as she somersaulted over a root in her way.

Back at the gate, Lakme heard the faint battlecry and smiled, glad to know that Xena was on her way to helping her friend. She returned her attention to Mallika and Naderus, who were busy explaining the situation to Captain Cyres. Despite the fact that their ‘proof’ had just slipped under the palace door, the captain was listening carefully as Naderus unfolded the story.

Lakme grinned proudly at Mallika. Mallika nodded back with a grin.

"Hang on, Xena and Gabrielle," Lakme mumbled softly as she glanced back towards palace door, "Help is on the way!"

Xena could not hear her as she disappeared into the castle, scooting like the palace mouse through the crack between the ornate door and the marbled floor.


Continued in Step 19


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