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INT. INN UPSTAIRS ROOM - NIGHT
We see a cozy room, with a large fluffy bed tucked into one corner. Next to the bed is a small desk and chair, and on the opposite wall is a row of pegs with a sword and scabbard, a chakram, a set of leathers, and a travel bag hanging from them. On the floor below the pegs two sais are crossed, lying next to a set of well-cared for armor.
A cheerful fire crackles in the fireplace, apparently for ambiance more than warmth, as the window to the room is open allowing a soft breeze to riffle the curtains. The remains of dinner sit on two plates on the hearth. Next to the two plates is a flagon of wine. Beside the fire is a large round wooden bathtub.
Xena is in the tub, her head resting back, her arms draping along the rim. Her eyes are closed, and in one hand she clutches an almost empty glass of wine. Steam rises all around her and the water's surface is covered in soap bubbles.
At the desk, Gabrielle is scratching away at a piece of parchment, a quill in one hand and another almost-empty glass of wine in the other.
We got any more of those
little cherry tarts left?
Gabrielle stops and puts her quill down, swiveling in the chair and tipping the glass against her lips to finish off her wine. She gazes at the back of Xena's head indulgently.
She rises and moves to the fire, retrieving a plate bearing a single tart, along with the wine flagon. Then she moves to the tub, sitting on the rim next to Xena.
(cont’d, smiling coyly)
This is the last one.
What's it worth to you?
Xena smiles affectionately as her fingertips dance up Gabrielle's bare leg, distracting her as Xena steals the tart, taking a bite and chuckling as Gabrielle re-fills her wine glass.
Gabrielle’s nose wrinkles in a smile.
Xena waves the tart in her face.
Thanks. Question is,
what's it worth to YOU?
Xena holds the tart up over the water, just out of Gabrielle's grasp, inviting her to try to get it back. Gabrielle sets down the flagon and leans forward, reaching for it. Xena gives her a solid nudge, and she falls into the water with a yelp. Gabrielle surfaces, standing on her knees in the water, and looking down at her now-drenched shift.
Xena! That was my
last clean nightgown.
Xena’s blue eyes glint with mischief.
Guess you'll have to sleep in the
buff then, won't you? What a pity.
Gabrielle shakes her finger at Xena in mock anger.
Xena flashes a sexy grin and pulls her closer, sharing both tart and wine, and we see the shift appear in one hand before Xena tosses it across the room, where it lands in a corner with a wet 'thwack.' They share a lengthy kiss, then Gabrielle settles back into Xena's embrace with a blissful sigh, holding the wine glass.
I needed a bath anyway.
Xena takes the glass from her and sets it and the plate on a small stand next to the tub. She picks up a washrag, giving Gabrielle's ears lengthy attention.
That you did.
Gabrielle glares over her shoulder, but warm and full of food and wine, relents. She closes her eyes, settling back again as Xena begins to wash her all over
This is nice. It's so peaceful here. Good
food, good wine, warm fire, gorgeous partner.
I can't ask for anything more. Thank you.
The words put a pleased expression on Xena’s face.
For suggesting we take a night off the
road. I needed this. I think I could
spend a month sleeping in a warm bed.
Is that what you really want?
Gabrielle catches her drift and moves away, dunking under the water and rinsing her hair before she surfaces and moves back into Xena's arms, facing her. She traces Xena's collarbone with one finger as she talks.
No. At least not a whole month. But a few
days would be nice. I think I'm just tired.
These last few months with Casey and his
people... it was great helping them get back
on their feet after Boudicca's attacks.
We did some good
there, my bard.
True. Their village is re-built and who
knew Peti would turn out to be such a
good teacher? Those kids, they
have a promising future now,
and that feels really good.
Gabrielle’s smile becomes a sigh.
But I'm exhausted, and it's nice to be
pampered now and then. That's all.
A few more days of the innkeeper's
cooking, and a few more nights
with you in that nice comfy bed,
and I'll be good as new.
Good enough to hit
the road again?
Gabrielle’s smile returns and she falls back into Xena’s embrace once more.
Xena appears unconvinced, her face pensive. She shrugs in resignation and resumes washing Gabrielle. The breeze from outside picks up a bit and she turns and frowns as it becomes an all-out whirlwind, swirling through the room and upsetting everything in its path.
Gabrielle stands behind her.
Xena? What's happening?
The whirlwind increases, and a form begins to take shape, morphing into a tall old man, with a long white beard and hair and wearing a dark gown and cloak. On his head is a strange pointed hat, and in one hand he holds a long staff. The wind dies down and he steps forward.
Xena grabs up a towel and hands it to Gabrielle, who immediately wraps up in it. Then Xena turns to glare at the old man, hands on hips.
Who are you?
The man steps forward, oblivious to her nakedness.
The name is Merlin. And I've heard your…
um... friend there speak your name.
You're Xena of Amphipolis, correct?
Among other things, yes.
What do you want?
You must come with me.
Gabrielle peers around Xena. Xena crosses her arms over her chest.
I don't blindly follow
She glances behind herself at Gabrielle.
Almost anyone, that is. So. Why
don't you tell us what's going on, and
we'll decide if we'll go with you or not?
I see. Where you go,
you go together?
Unfortunately, I need you
elsewhere before I can explain.
He raises his arms overhead and the wind picks up again. Xena glowers at him and leaps up into the air, turning a perfect flip and landing next to her armor, grabbing her sword from its sheath and holding it out menacingly, as water pools at her feet.
Make it stop. Now.
She starts to move closer, and Merlin merely stares at her, lifting his arms higher as the wind gains speed, forming a small tornado, holding Xena at bay as she tries to walk against it. She keeps moving deftly, holding one hand to block her eyes from flying debris, and with great effort, plows through the swirling wind into the center with Merlin, where the air is calm.
I don't know who... what… you are,
or where you come from, but you just
interrupted the first peaceful evening
we've had in over a moon.
Make... it... stop. Now!
I'm afraid I can't do that unless you agree
to come with me peacefully. I'm sorry to
disturb you, but I've come a very long way
and there's little time. There are things I
need to show you that are easier seen than
described. So. Are you coming or not?
In answer, Xena assumes a fighting stance, her sword held up, her empty hand twitching in anticipation. She lunges forward and Merlin meets her blow with his staff. Small lightening bolts fly out where staff and sword connect, and Xena is thrown back into the swirling wind.
With great effort she leaps back into the middle and they go at it, with Xena taking the offensive while Merlin merely deflects her sword strikes. Gabrielle is standing outside the tornado, looking on.
Gabrielle runs to the wall and picks up her sais, and then runs back to the edge of the whirlwind. She dances from foot to foot, as if she's trying to decide if she should dive in or not.
Gabrielle, stay back!
She continues to attack Merlin, and Gabrielle sees the electricity each time Xena's sword hits Merlin's staff. Xena is putting up a valiant effort, and Merlin begins to have to move around to avoid being cut.
I tried to do this the easy way;
now let's do it the sure way.
The vortex suddenly widens and Gabrielle is sucked into the swirl. She whirls around the room, clutching at her towel with one hand and her sais with the other.
Merlin smiles at Xena knowingly.
You will help your friend,
now won't you?
Xena snarls at him and turns her back, diving headfirst into the fray, grabbing Gabrielle and holding on to her tightly. She bats at the flying debris.
Gabrielle! Hold on!
Everything becomes a blur.
INT. CASTLE - NIGHT
It is the same castle from before. The tornado swirls into the entry chamber, depositing both Xena and Gabrielle on their behinds, next to the fire. They both leap up and look down. Their clothing has magically come along for the ride, and they are fully dressed with their weapons in place. They glance at each other before Xena draws her sword and Gabrielle her sais.
Merlin stands off to one side, along with a few assorted men, all dressed in armor. Among them is Arthur. They stare curiously at their two newcomers.
Xena, where are we?
Xena looks around.
Good question. It sure ain't
our cozy inn in Greece. You....
She steps forward, pointing her sword at Merlin.
Now that you've brought us... here.
You wanna tell us what in Tartarus for?
Yes. I needed you here first.
Forgive me, my lady.
Both Xena's and Gabrielle's eyebrows shoot up, and they glance at each other. Gabrielle smiles and mouths silently.
Xena pokes her in the ribs with her elbow, but lowers her sword. She steps forward, planting her feet shoulder-width apart, her attitude commanding and impatient.
Okay. Spill it.
Merlin motions to an old man in the group, urging him forward.
Is this the one?
The old man eyes Xena critically.
Yes. That's her. I'd never
forget those eyes. And you....
He points a gnarled finger at Gabrielle. Xena eyes the offending digit, then looks down at her chakram, her expression contemplative.
You. You were with her. Hair's
shorter, but the face is the same.
His eyes narrow suspiciously.
How did you avoid aging?
Are you wizards like Merlin?
No. It's a long story.
Her smile disappears.
But our story can wait.
Like Xena said... spill it.
Let's all have a seat.
He motions to a large round table, and they all find chairs. Xena and Gabrielle study the group, consisting of the armed younger men, the one older man, and Merlin.
Now that we're all gathered for this little
party, you wanna tell me where we've
met before and why in Hades we're here?
Why, we met here, of course.
I was a much younger knight
then, but I never forget a face.
And 'here' would be?
Camelot? Never heard of it.
Try again. Where... are... we?
Camelot is the Pendragon's castle.
The Pendragons rule Britannia.
Her eyes widen and she scoots closer, her fingers twitching in a desire to retrieve her sais. Xena touches her arm.
She faces the men, her expression one of barely contained rage.
There better be a damned good reason
why you've brought us here. So start
talking, or we're headed out to the
nearest port and a boat home.
It's very simple, really. Permit me to
introduce myself. I'm Arthur Pendragon,
son of Uther Pendragon. My father was
stricken down in battle yesterday,
and I'm the rightful heir to the throne.
Gabrielle nudges her gently, and Xena reluctantly softens her expression.
We're sorry for your loss, but what
does that have to do with us?
Arthur stands and starts pacing around the table.
Many years ago, you were here in this castle.
Xena withdrew Excalibur from the stone. We're
under constant attack by the Saxons. They're
re-grouping now. My father killed their king
before he died, but it's only a matter of time
before they attack again, and this time they'll
be seeking vengeance. Upon his dying breath,
my father told me Excalibur was mine for the
taking, but when I tried to retrieve it from the
stone, I couldn't, and I saw your face in the blade.
What's an Excalibur?
The sword of the Lady of the Lake.
Xena and Gabrielle exchange glances. Then Xena stands and leans forward, bracing her hands on the tabletop.
Who is the Lady, and where,
exactly, is this Excalibur?
Arthur gestures toward the sword in the alcove.
Why, right over there.
Xena moves abruptly away from the table, stalking toward the sword and ignoring his words. She walks around it, studying it, and her eyes narrow in thought.
"Gabrielle's Hope", and Xena pulling the same sword from the stone.
I remember this sword.
Nice piece of craftsmanship.
Xena’s back is turned to the room.
If there's one thing Xena
knows, it's her weapons.
But I only touched it once.
No big deal, really.
She grasps the sword and effortlessly pulls it from the stone, the length of the blade sparkling in the torch-light.
Just as nice as I remembered it,
but I don't understand what this
sword has to do with....
She hears a commotion behind her and turns. All the men in the room, save Merlin, have gotten out of their chairs and dropped to one knee, bowing before her. Gabrielle is looking around in confused amazement.
She stops, looking at each man in turn, then rolls her eyes upward.
Come on. One of you wanna
get up and fill us in on
the rest of the story?
She moves back to the table, idly swinging the sword as she walks. Arthur finally rises, along with two other men. They bow their heads.
I am your humble servant. These are
my closest compatriots, Sir Lancelot
and Sir Galahad. We are at your beck
and call for the good of Camelot.
Xena releases an exasperated breath, and hauls Arthur back to his chair by his tunic collar. She looks around, and her eyes fall on Gabrielle, who shrugs at her in response.
Merlin is standing to the side, silently observing everything, his expression pleased. He chuckles quietly to himself.
This one is full of fire.
She gazes meaningfully at Galahad and Lancelot, and jerks her head toward the table. They quickly scramble to take their seats.
Everyone back in your chairs.
She waits until they are all seated.
One more time.
Tell me why we're here.
For many years it was foretold by the Lady
of the Lake, Viviane, that whoever removed
Excalibur from the stone would possess it,
and lead our people in battle against our
enemies. Arthur here, as rightful heir to
the throne, was presumed to be the one
who would wield Excalibur. You, however....
He points a finger at Xena, who curls up a lip in response.
You apparently got to Excalibur first.
According to the Lady, you're the only
one who can bear Excalibur, and lead
us to victory over the Saxons. It's obvious
you're a warrior. Now you're our new queen.
Xena moves back to the table, standing next to Arthur. Her posture and expression suggest extreme displeasure at their circumstances. Gabrielle moves in beside her, her forehead lined in worry. She curls a hand around Xena's arm.
Now listen to me, and listen good. I don't
care about your quarrel with the Saxons,
and I sure as heck ain't your queen.
Gabrielle and I are going to head out of
here at first light, and go back home.
Here. Take it. I don't want it.
She hands Excalibur to Arthur, who tries to take it. As his hand closes around the hilt, he cries out in pain, and sparks fly out from where he touches it. He drops it and it clatters against the table top. Then he shakes his hand out to rid it of the lingering stinging pain.
It seems the Lady
is not convinced.
Very well then.
She tucks Excalibur into her belt with a stalwart motion.
Take me to this Lady.
END OF ACT ONE