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INT. INN DINING ROOM - EVENING
As the woman heads for the door, Malum darts around the bar and grabs her by one arm.
No! Don't go out there!
The woman struggles against his grip.
Let me go! He'll die!!
You don’t know that, Sally.
Don't know that?!? Of course I know
that! My husband! Your brothers!!
All the men in this town, dead!!
And now, my only son.... Vanus!!
One of the old men painfully rises from the stool and totters over to the struggling pair.
what happened to them men. Ain't never
seen a body, and ain't none of 'em ever
come back sayin' somethin' was killin' em.
Me, I think it was Kregus. He's always been
jealous of our wealth. I think he kidnapped
'em so he could have it all for hisself.
And that's supposed to
make me feel better?!?
The old man shrugs and looks away uncomfortably.
Kidnapped, dead, it's all the same,
isn't it? And in three days, it won't matter,
because the rest of us will be just like them!
Then… maybe what Vanus
is doing is for the best?
Sally rounds on the man, her face a mask of rage.
Best? Best for who, Malum? You??
You've never so much as dirtied your
hands in this town's business, and
now you're willing to sacrifice my
son to keep your precious Inn running?
It's true, Malum, and we all know it.
If you're half the man my son is,
you'll go out there and stop him.
Or join him.
Malum stares at both of them, then drops his gaze to the floor, flushing slightly.
Fine then. Stay a coward if it
pleases you, but don't barter
my son's life away for it.
She starts to move toward the door.
Xena rises slowly from her seat, hand raised. Gabrielle doesn't look too surprised.
I'll go after the boy.
She turns to Gabrielle.
You stay here and figure
out what's going on.
With that, she exits, leaving the townspeople to stare after her open-mouthed.
EXT. TOWN OUTSKIRTS - EVENING
Evening has drawn down over the desolate land, but Xena has no trouble following the dusty trail left by Vanus. Though obviously hurrying, Vanus does not make it much past the outskirts when Xena catches up to him, stepping just ahead and to the side of the young man. Terrified, he grunts and swings his pick-axe, only to have its handle caught in Xena's strong hand.
You... you're the one from the
inn, aren't you? The warrior.
The King didn't really
send you, did he?
In answer, Xena lifts an eyebrow, eyes glinting.
Didn't think so. You wouldn't
work for someone like Barakos.
Barakos? I thought
Kregus was your king.
Kregus? Kregus is the Lord
of the flatlands to the east.
Barakos is our King.
When Xena releases the pick-axe, Vanus relaxes then gestures to a small rock outcropping just ahead.
Would... you like to sit down?
I could explain it to you.
He seems eager to delay his journey.
INT. INN - EVENING
The inn's dining room is a scene of chaos. All the adults, and most of the children as well, are busy trying to shout over one another to be heard. Unable to deal with the bedlam any longer, Gabrielle puts her fingers to her mouth and blows a piercing whistle that produces instant silence.
Thank you. Now, it sounds like you have
a problem. Xena and I would like to help
you, but we can't do that unless we know
what's going on. So, this is what we're
going to do. When I point to you, you speak.
The rest of you, keep quiet. Understand?
She looks around the room. Several reluctant nods answer her question.
Good. Sally, why don't you start? Why
is your son going... wherever it is that he's
going, and why are you upset about it?
Because he's going to die out there!!
Haven't you heard what I've been saying?
You don't know for sure....
Gabrielle cuts him off with a glare. He flushes, then studies his boots with fascination.
Sally, I understand that you think he's
going to die. What I don't understand
is why you think he's going to die.
She holds up a hand before the argument can start anew.
Remember, I'm a stranger passing
through here. I don't know your town,
or its history. Somebody needs to
start filling in some blanks for
me, or I can't help you.
She points to the old man.
We're a minin' town, like you musta
guessed when ya saw Vanus leave
with that stuff in his hands.
And what do you mine?
Malum pulls something from his dirty pocket.
Gabrielle takes it, looking it over carefully.
I saw one of these upstairs in
my room. It's very beautiful.
Does it have a name?
We call it Janusite. The most
precious gemstone in all the
lands, to hear our King tell it.
Kregus is an idiot.
The other people in the room murmur in agreement.
EXT. ROCK OUTCROPPING - NIGHT
Xena sits atop the outcropping, idly playing with a chunk of stone as Vanus looks on.
So, your miners started
a moon ago?
A little more, but yes. Everything
had been fine up until then.
Well, when the sun rose, our four
best miners went down, just like
always. By sunset, they hadn't
come back. We thought, maybe
a cave in. It's happened before.
Did you send rescuers
Yes. Five men,
They never came back either. We
wanted to send more out after them.
I even volunteered, but Torad, he was
the Headman, he said no. He said to
wait until the sun came up so we
could see what we were doing.
He looks down at his thin, dirty hands, twisting them in his lap. His face is a mask of anguish.
Two of my best friends snuck out
after everyone else was asleep.
They were goin' to try to help, you
know? They never came back.
Xena lays a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it briefly. Vanus scrubs at his eyes before turning to Xena.
I should have gone with them.
Maybe I could have done something.
Maybe I could have....
You might have died.
hadn't pushed us so hard, maybe none
of this would have happened at all! I've
got no choice now, don't you see? Die
in the mines, or die at that bastard's
hands in three days! It's all the same!
INT. INN - NIGHT
Gabrielle is now seated atop the table, feet planted comfortably on one of the chairs. The inn's patrons surround her, faces eager.
All right, let me see if I've got this
now. Barakos is your King. And
after he discovered what you were
mining, he went a little crazy.
Right off the deep end.
Right. So, he demanded that you
step up your efforts and give most of
what you mined to him as tribute.
Plus the taxes he was already squeezin'
outta us. Made it so we could hardly
make a decent living anymore.
And then your men
The people nod gravely. Many of the women have tears in their eyes.
What did the King do then?
Sent out his soldiers ta try and beat the
gems outta us, like we wuz hidin' 'em
from him or somethin'. We tried explaining
to them, but they wouldn't listen. They
demanded all the gems we owed, plus
extra for makin' the king angry. PLUS a
whole shipment more to make a wedding
cloak for his oldest daughter on account
of her marryin' Kregus' son.
Kregus. The one you think
kidnapped the miners.
Well, o'course! It makes sense,
don't it? Kregus is dirt poor, even
if he is a king. He's always been
jealous of our wealth.
But why kidnap the miners when
he's going to get the gems
after the marriage anyway?
The old man looks away for a moment, not having a very easy answer to Gabrielle's logical question.
Maybe he just don't
wanna share 'em.
You might be right, but he has
to know that once Barakos
finds out, it'll start a war.
Wars've been fought fer a
whole lot less than this.
And that is logic that Gabrielle can't argue with.
EXT. ROCK OUTCROPPING - NIGHT
So, you have three days to mine a wagon
in tribute, a wagon in interest, and a wagon
for a wedding cloak to be used as dowry.
And if you don't, the king will imprison
everyone and burn down the town.
I know you don't think I can do it. But I
can't just let my mother and the rest of
those people be imprisoned, or killed,
while I sit back and do nothing. I have
to try, don't you see? I have to!
Taking in a deep breath and gathering his courage, Vanus stands and hefts his axe and turns, facing Xena.
So... now you see why I have to do this.
I don't want to hurt you, the gods know
I don't, but I can't let you stop me, either.
Before he can even blink, he finds himself weaponless. He gulps in fear as blue eyes, now silvered in the moonlight, glitter down at him.
Relax. I'm not gonna hurt you. But
I am taking you back to your mother.
I think we can figure out a solution to
your problem. One that doesn't involve
facing whatever's out there alone.
But... why? Why would you help
us? You don't even know us.
It's what we do.
END OF ACT TWO