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EXT. CAMPSITE - NIGHT - PRESENT
Xena pulls slightly away from Gabrielle when she notices the tears trailing silently down her soulmate's face.
Why are you crying?
Shaking her head, Gabrielle swipes at the tears.
Sweetheart, please, don't cry. What
happened to me back then was no
less than what I deserved. I was
a greedy, selfish, foolish bit....
I don't care. No one deserves to be
treated like that, Xena. No one.
I love you, Xena, all of you. Who you
were then is part of who you are now.
Please don't ask me not to grieve for you
being hurt. Please. I just can't do that.
All right. I won't ask.
I think it's time we
get some sleep.
No! Not yet! I've got
so many questions!
They can wait. The story's not going
anywhere, but we are. You did want
to make it to Selopolis in time to catch
Homer's performance, didn't you?
Gabrielle nods reluctantly.
All right, then. Time for bed. I'll
pick it up again in the morning
after we've hit the trail, okay?
Gabrielle nods again.
Xena rises to her feet, gently pulling Gabrielle up with her, and both head for their bedroll. Within moments, they're snuggled into their furs, and the only sound is of crickets telling their own stories to the night sky.
EXT. TRAIL - MORNING - PRESENT
As usual, Xena and Gabrielle are up early and on the trail before the sun has fully risen. Xena is atop Argo and Gabrielle walks beside her, munching on some travel rations. Finishing her breakfast, she wipes her hands on her skirt and looks up at Xena.
Gabrielle sighs. Xena has been uncommunicative since they woke up, and she suspects that the story she so wishes to hear will be forgotten.
Instead, Xena surprises her. Looking off into the distance, she begins to speak.
I don't know how long it was, but I eventually
woke up in the temple. My wounds were well
tended, so I knew that whoever had taken
care of me planned to keep me around for a bit.
INT. TEMPLE - DAY - PAST
Xena opens her eyes to see the smiling face of an old, gaunt, gray-bearded man looking down at her. He is dressed in a red robe with a black belt and sash. Beyond him is a small, immaculately kept room with space enough for a cot and small bedside table bearing a pitcher of water and a wooden cup.
Several days, warrior. You
were badly injured when
you crossed our threshold.
Xena lifts an eyebrow in surprise.
You speak Greek.
The man's smile broadens.
Fortunate indeed, since
I am Greek and serve in
a Greek temple besides.
Xena struggles to her elbows.
The man puts a restraining hand on her shoulder. It's a strong hand, despite the man's apparent frailty.
Fear not, warrior. You are in the
same place where you fell
unconscious from your wounds.
A Greek temple?
On the steppes?
A temple to whom?
The man raises an arm and sweeps it grandly.
To Ares, of course. What better
place to honor War than where it
is always so gloriously practiced?
Xena continues to look suspicious.
What's your name?
"Praise-worthy". Think a
lot of yourself, do you?
Once, perhaps. Now I am but a
lame, old man good only for
keeping the altar cleaned.
And look! My mind slips
from me even now.
He reaches for the pitcher and pours a mug of water, handing it to Xena.
Drink slowly. Your body is still
healing from its wounds.
Xena heeds his words and sips the water. It is clean and cold and slakes her thirst admirably. She hands the empty cup back to him with a nod.
You are a woman of few words,
yet I see many questions
burning in your eyes.
Xena narrows said eyes at him, causing him to grin.
Well, then, may I at least have your
name, warrior? It's good to know
for whom one is invoking blessings.
I don't need your
You'll receive them, nonetheless.
It is my job, after all.
Your name? Please?
Growling, Xena relents.
Ahh. I've heard talk of you. It is said
you left this land a cripple, yet aside
from your most recent wounds, even
an old man like myself can see that
you are strong and fit of body.
I had a little help.
Indeed. A story well worth
hearing, I'd wager.
Xena's smirk broadens, but she remains silent.
Another time, perhaps. For now, you
must rest and regain your strength.
If you have any needs, you need
only call out and I will return.
Still silent, Xena lowers herself back down to the cot and closes her eyes, almost instantly asleep. Aeneas smiles at her; it is one filled with glee and calculation.
You'll do, Xena of Amphipolis.
You'll do very well indeed.
EXT. TRAIL - MIDDAY - PRESENT
Xena and Gabrielle have stopped their traveling to help a merchant whose wagon has lost a wheel. Having turned down the offer of a live chicken, Gabrielle waves to the departing merchant. Xena wipes the mud from her neck and face with a wet rag.
Well, that was our good
deed for the day.
Don't speak too soon.
You're right. The way our lives are,
we'll be rescuing a king and his
family from a well before dark.
Rolling her eyes, Xena stows the rag, then hops aboard Argo.
C'mon. The faster we go....
The faster we can avoid that
king and his wells, I know.
So... what happened after you
woke up the second time?
Glutton for punishment,
Hey! I happen to think it's a very
interesting story. The delivery
could use a little work, but....
Excuse me? What's wrong
with my delivery?
Gabrielle pats Xena’s leg.
Xena, Xena, Xena... it's nothing
to be embarrassed about.
It happens to all novices.
Novice, huh? See if you
get another word outta me.
Oh, come on, Xena, please?
Xena hides her grin.
Pretty please with those little
dumplings with the red
stuff inside on top?
For dinner? Tonight?
Walked right into
that one, didn't I?
All right, all right, I promise.
Story now, dumplings with red
stuff inside tonight. Deal?
INT. TEMPLE - DAY - PAST
Xena sits on the edge of the cot, looking herself over. Her broken arm is neatly set and wrapped and doesn't pain her all that much. The arrow wounds, scrapes and cuts are already starting to heal, and she nods with satisfaction.
She rises to her feet, not letting herself sway as a temporary dizziness takes hold. Teeth bared and jaw clamped, she takes a few tentative steps then relaxes as her body is well able to support her weight and activity.
Aeneas is standing by the door, watching.
You are a very
Determined to get the
Tartarus outta here, yeah.
Why? Has your care been so
poor that being here repulses you?
This is a temple. I bow to no god.
Not even the god of War.
I don't recall asking you to
bow. Is my mind slipping
away from me again?
Xena, Ares neither wants
nor needs your worship.
Yeah, right. He's a god. That's what
all gods want. They're capricious,
egotistical little slimeballs who like
to meddle in the affairs of the mortals
they're supposed to care for.
The priest hides a chuckle behind a cough.
Xena, you are a warrior. Ares is War.
Don't you realize that every time you
draw your sword, you are invoking him?
That every time you feel joy in battle,
you are feeling joy in him?
Any joy I feel, Priest, is my own. My
strength is my own, my will is my own. I
don't need some two-bit god claiming
credit for what I do. I decide my own destiny.
And yet, if you had not been fortunate enough
to literally fall into one of his temples, you would
be dead now. If not from your current wounds,
then certainly from the barbarian horde intent
on displaying your head as a trophy.
I wouldn't feel all warm and
cuddly about that if I were you.
Oh, believe me, I'm not.
Please, stay. Khan's army roams at will over
these lands. As you are now, your chances
at getting through one of his many patrols is
slim at best. What can a little time spent
regaining your strength hurt?
You’re a lot worse than me if you insist
on trying to turn me into one of your
little Ares-worshipping puppets.
Believe me... that thought never crossed
my mind. Please. I obviously cannot hold
you here against your will. But I would like
to see you stronger before you leave here.
What's in it for you, Priest?
Only the satisfaction of restoring
a warrior to her full potential.
And I can leave
any time I want?
Xena looks around the small, neatly kept room, considering.
All right, but I want my weapons and
armor brought to me. I'm not about to
walk around this place half-naked.
I said, right away.
Xena stares coldly after him as he leaves, then she sits down on the cot.
Right away, my a....
END OF ACT TWO