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EXT. CAMPSITE - NIGHT - PRESENT
The fire has been laid, Argo tended and the dumplings with the red stuff inside have been made and duly enjoyed. Xena and Gabrielle lie on their furs, looking up into the star-speckled night. Gabrielle points to a certain collection of stars.
Look, there's the fish you
shot into the heavens.
Gabrielle's finger moves just the slightest bit as she points out a star that looks as if it's been dipped in blood.
There's Ares' planet.
Xena's head turns slowly and she eyes Gabrielle.
Gabrielle's eyebrows lift.
Segue! I'm impressed.
Pays to live with a bard.
Well... since we're
on the subject.
Xena's own eyebrow raises and she considers refusing, not wanting to break the feeling of well-being she's currently experiencing. But the look of poorly hidden expectation on Gabrielle's face changes her plans and she sighs.
All right, then....
INT. TEMPLE - DAY - PAST
Xena stands at the threshold of the temple, looking out onto the small clearing. Ten men in mismatched armor and weapons spar with one another. Two or three have the makings of decent fighters, but the others are inept at best. Xena rolls her eyes as she watches a giant, bearded bear of a man trip over his own boots, almost impaling himself on his sparring partner's sword.
Aeneas approaches Xena quietly and stands beside her, looking into the melee.
Whoever hired 'em sure
didn't get their money's worth.
Ah, he's dead now, actually. These
are the only ones who remain out
of an army of nearly five hundred
who had the misfortune to go up
against one of Khan's war bands.
Serves him right, hiring
pathetic idiots like these.
True, true. This group escaped
only under the most...
His lips twitch slightly, suppressing a smile.
Seems a storm blew in out of
nowhere and they blundered
their way here under its cover.
Xena's eyes narrow as she looks at the priest.
Yes, they are, aren't they?
Lifting the hem of his robe, he steps over the threshold and glides down the step to the small, dirt-packed clearing that surrounds the temple.
Come. Join me. The fresh
air will do you good.
Xena continues to look at him with suspicion for a long moment, then shrugging, casually saunters outside.
EXT. TEMPLE - DAY - PAST
Several of the men, seeing the priest, stop sparring and bow in his direction. These men are quickly knocked to their knees by their less pious fellows. Xena snickers.
When in battle, never let anything
distract you. Focus. Let that be your
watchword. Distraction equals
death. Isn't that right, Xena?
The smirk falls from Xena's face, and she stares at the man coldly. His lips twitch again.
Gentlemen, I would like to
introduce you to a fellow
Greek and warrior, Xena.
All the men stare at her; some coldly, some leeringly, some haughtily and some with no expression at all. Xena holds their stares until, one by one they have no choice but to look away. Aeneas laughs softly.
An excellent example
of focus, no?
The mercenaries shuffle in place, swords hanging limply in their hands.
We are actually very fortunate to have
this warrior among us, gentlemen. It's
said she has traveled many lands and
led many armies to victory. Perhaps
she will be kind enough to share
some of her knowledge with us.
I'm not the sharing type.
Pity, but perhaps you'd consent
to doing a bit of sparring with
these brave lads, then?
Xena looks at the priest, then down at her splinted arm, then back at the priest. One eyebrow slowly elevates. Smiling, he steps closer to her until their bodies touch.
Surely you realize that you
could beat all of these men
with both arms broken.
He eyes her long frame, lingering for a moment or two.
And perhaps a leg or two as well.
I'm not laughing.
And I'm not joking. Xena, these men are
haughty, thinking that their lucky escape
has proven them blessed of the gods.
I believe you're just the person to
teach them the error of their ways.
And why would I wanna do
that? They're pathetic.
Perhaps... but you could make them
less so. When it comes time for you
to leave this place, they could
be of great value to you.
She looks past the priest's bony shoulder toward the group of men who are either staring blankly at nothing or are picking at or scratching various parts of their anatomy. She returns her gaze to the priest.
Then think of this as an
opportunity to regain your strength.
That is your goal, is it not?
Xena sneers at him, well aware he's trying to play her like a lyre. Still, he does have a point, and she draws her sword with her good left hand, twirling it, then laying the tip against her shoulder. She looks at him challengingly, and he laughs in true delight.
Turning to the men, he claps his hands.
All right then, gentlemen. Line
up by twos please. Each group
will spar with Xena in turn.
But... she's a woman!
Just figured that out, didja,
Plato? What clued ya in?
The man flushes.
And she's injured!!
You refuse to fight injured enemies,
then? How very honorable.
His tone suggests it's anything but.
No, it's not that. It's just....
You came here asking... no begging...
for my help. I am offering it to you
right now. If you think you can find
better elsewhere then by all means,
eave this place and search.
The men shuffle their feet again, then mercenaries one and two heft their swords.
MERCENARIES #1 and #2
Xena meets their combined attack with negligent ease, blocking their two swords with her one and using it to push them away from her. As they gather themselves, she twirls her sword again and grins at them.
Is that the best you can do, boys?
I thought we were fighting, not dancing.
MERCENARIES #1 and #2
The men run forward again, one aiming high, one low. Xena stomps the low sword onto the ground, trapping it beneath her boot as she easily sweeps the second man's blade from his hand and sends it sailing across the clearing. She uses the hilt of her sword up against the man's temple, then frees the second sword and kicks the handler right between the legs. He goes down with a breathless groan, cupping his injured parts.
Aeneas stands off to one side, grinning widely with his dark eyes flashing as Xena easily decimates the men sent against her. Even injured, she hardly breaks a sweat, though he's pleased to note that she's pulling her blows just the slightest bit to avoid killing those she's sparring against.
In all too soon a time, the clearing is littered with injured, groaning men. Xena stands among them, untouched and smirking. She turns to a grinning Aeneas and speaks with obvious sarcasm.
Nice workout. I feel
And with that, she saunters back into the temple.
INT. TEMPLE - NIGHT - PAST
Xena is sitting on her cot, staring down the length of her weapon as the light from the full moon reflects off the high polish. She shrugs the shoulder of her broken arm, trying to loosen the stiffening muscles. She wasn't much tested during the sparring, but her arm does not appreciate even the small amount of work it's been forced to do.
She looks up a second before Aeneas joins her.
You were quite impressive
out there today.
A trained monkey could
have fought off those idiots.
Mm. Is your shoulder
What's it to you, priest?
One good turn deserves
another, does it not?
Xena stares at him, her suspicion plain.
You did me the favor of sparring with
the men, yes? The least I can do
is lessen the pain of your injury.
She stiffens as he approaches, staring at him through dangerously narrowed and glittering eyes. He laughs softly.
You have no need to fear me,
Xena. I will not hurt you.
I fear no one.
Good. Now that we've
got that settled....
With a quickness belied by his age, he glides behind Xena and gently presses his hand down on her shoulder. Heat, intense and immediate, radiates through her skin, instantly softening her tense muscles.
She yanks herself away after a moment and turns to glare at him.
How did you do that?
One of the perks of being a Priest
of Ares, actually. It pays to know
how to comfort those on his side.
Accept it as a 'thank you', then.
I don't like being touched
without my permission.
I'll be sure to keep that in
mind for the future. Not a
very trusting soul, are you?
Trust is a distraction. You trust, you
wind up dead. I much prefer being
alive. What's your angle, anyway?
Yeah. Angle. You claim to be interested in
me as just another warrior, but I don't see
you out there 'comforting' the men I beat
the Tartarus out of today. I'm sure there
are a few of them a lot worse off than I am.
Smiling, Aeneas shrugs and holds his hands, palms up.
What can I say? You're rather a unique
specimen, Xena. A woman, yes, but
with beauty, brains and brawn; quite
a combination, wouldn't you say?
And so rare in one
who is not an Amazon.
Xena's head snaps up.
How do you know
I'm not an Amazon?
He laughs again.
I wouldn't be much of a priest if I couldn't
tell an Artemis worshipper when I saw one,
now would I? There is great potential in
you, Xena. I feel the need to nurture that
potential, to bring it out, shining and glorious.
Xena's face goes stony.
Others better than you have thought
the same thing, priest. They wanted
to use that potential for their own
ends. I am no one's tool.
I don't want to use you, Xena. I am but a
priest of an obscure temple in the middle
of nowhere. The local barbarians already
fear me. What need have I for another warrior,
even one so... impressive... as yourself?
What need indeed?
Either you will learn to trust me, Xena,
or you will not. I certainly cannot force
you to. You are free to leave here
at any time. Nothing is holding
you here but your own desire.
He crosses to stand in front of her.
Think about what I have said.
I will see you in the morning.
With a slight bow of his head, he turns and leaves. Xena looks after him, suspicion and thoughtfulness warring for position on her features.
EXT. CAMPSITE - NIGHT - PRESENT
Gabrielle is laughing, and Xena looks at her, uncomprehending.
Like god, like priest. You draw
them like moths to a candle, Xena.
Xena rolls her eyes.
If you say so.
Oh, come on! Tell me you
can't see it. It's plain as day!
Whatever you say, Gabrielle.
Gabrielle shakes her head.
Fine. So, what happens next?
Did you stay? And what about
the chakram? I thought that's
what this story was about.
Xena, it's been two
Do you want to hear
the rest of the story?
Of course I do!
Then let me tell it my way. And
that includes ending it here
or the night. It's getting late.
No. Besides, I'm in the mood for
another story. One that'll take your
mind completely off of this one.
Gabrielle catches her tone and smiles.
Oh yeah? Think so?
Xena slowly slips one of Gabrielle's straps down over her shoulder, and kisses the skin laid bare there.
Oh yeah. I guarantee it.
END OF ACT THREE