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ext. forest road - night
Xena and Gabrielle gather their things.
You could stay here with Argo.
I could grow wings and fly, too.
Xena gives Gabrielle a wryly exasperated look.
Xena, this is an old argument
Xena tosses Gabrielle her makeshift staff.
I know. Where I go, you go, right?
So itís probably a good idea I stick
Xena laughs, and holds her hand out. Gabrielle joins her. They head off after the prisoners together.
EXT. slaverís campsite - late night
The column has stopped for the night. The prisoners are chained to trees in crowded circles. Guards stand around them with crossbows. One guard walks around with a bag, and throws chunks of hard, dried bread to the slaves. Most of the prisoners examine the bread, and discard it as inedible.
Thatís all youíll get. Eat it!
One of the prisoners has worked his ankle shackle loose. He waits for the guard to pass, then stands up and bolts across the camp, heading for the forest. He gets two steps before the nearest guard raises his crossbow and shoots him in the back. The prisoner sprawls to the ground almost at Variaís feet. He cries out in pain as he reaches for the arrow stuck in his spine, then with a shudder, he dies.
Thatís what youíre all in for, so pay attention.
Varia does not react. She keeps her head down. The dead manís ration of bread falls from his fingers and she takes it quickly and hides it. A guard sees her.
Hey! Fast learner!
The guard grabs Varia by the hair and pulls her head back to look at her. Variaís eyes narrow. The man leans over and kisses her roughly, then shoves her back against the tree.
See you later, sweet thing.
The guards all laugh.
ext. forest - outside slaverís camp - night
Xena and Gabrielle crouch together behind some bushes, watching.
What in the world did she get into, Xena?
Thatís exactly what Iím gonna ask
If we just bust in there, theyíll kill those people.
Xena studies the campsite carefully.
(under her breath)
Oo... thereís a switch.
Xena gives Gabrielle a slap on the behind, and they fade into the bushes together.
ext. slaverís campsite - later that night.
The guards joke amongst themselves as they stand by the fire. Several guards are on the perimeter, keeping watch. Two of the guards around the fire shove a third, the one who kissed Varia, towards the prisoners.
Go on, big man!
The second guard swaggers towards where Varia is chained. Nearby, one of the men watching turns and puts his back to the forest as he stands under a tree.
Awright, baby... you ready?
From behind the watching guard, a dark figure suddenly drops down from the tree branch over his head. It is Xena, hanging up side down. A hand taps him on the shoulder. He turns, and Xena whacks him in the face with her head. The guard drops without a sound into the underbrush. Xena pulls herself up into the branches again and disappears.
ext. slaverís campsite - underbrush - night
Gabrielle crawls on the ground towards the prisoners. She stops as she hears footsteps coming closer, and pulls one of her sais out.
You just stay right there and bend over!
Better watch those teeth!
The first guard walks right past Gabrielle and stops, his boot inches from her face. Gabrielle grits her teeth - he is standing between her and the prisoners, and she canít get around him. She picks up a rock and tosses it to her right, hoping it distracts the guard.
The guard doesnít hear it. Gabrielle tries another rock, but gets no results.
Here we go!!!!
ext. slaverís campsite - tree - night
Xena is crouched in a tree over two other guards. She watches impatiently as the guard nearest the prisoners stands without budging.
ext. slaverís campsite - UNDERBRUSH - niGHT.
Gabrielle is at a loss. She readies her sai and steels herself, tensing her body to rise up and attack the guard. Something touches her hand and she jumps. She looks at her hand - crawling on it is a very large, black, slimy leech.
(under her breath)
A leech. I *hate* leeches.
Gabrielle looks around for a place to ditch the leech. The guard standing over her chooses that moment to break wind. Gabrielle looks up in disgust, then realizes the guard is not wearing anything under his leather battle skirt. Her eyes go to the leech, then up to the guard. Gabrielle smiles wickedly.
ext. slaveRíS CAMPSITE - TREE - niGHT.
Xena unstraps her chakram and readies it, out of time. The guard is standing over Varia. Xena takes aim, and pulls her arm back.
I wanted to do this the easy way.
ext. slaverís campsite - night.
The guard stands over Varia. He unlocks her shackles, and bends to grab her hair. Nearby, a watching guard suddenly screams, and grabs his groin. Everyone looks. The man starts frantically clutching at himself. The guards all laugh.
Hey! Wait your turn, buddy!
The guard hops backwards, and suddenly falls into the underbrush, thrashing around and squealing. The guards all laugh. A sharp crack resonates through the darkness, then the man stops struggling, and the brush stops moving.
Okay, okay, you had your joke.
There is no answer.
Three of the guards run towards the spot.
ext. slaVERíS CAMPSITE - UNDERBRUSH - night.
Gabrielle crawls forward, pulling her makeshift staff with her. She examines the stick, then smiles and pats it almost affectionately.
Iíve missed being able to do that.
She squirms through the grass until sheís at the edge of the slaves, and waits.
ext. slaveríS CAMPSITE - night
The guards mill around in confusion. Suddenly, a soft whining is heard from the bushes nearby, as though an animal is hurt.
The sound gets louder, and moves away a little.
They race off into the underbrush, following the sound. Xena drops from the tree silently and races across the campsite. The prisoners all stare at her wide eyed.
Gabrielle jumps to her feet and limps towards Varia. With a single blow of her sai, she knocks the guard standing over her to the ground and gets him out of the way.
Xena jumps over the campfire, somersaulting through the flames and landing inside the ring of prisoners. Variaís head jerks up and she looks right into Xenaís eyes.
Xena grabs one of Variaís arms, and Gabrielle grabs the other, and they leap into the forest, carrying her with them before the guards realize what has happened.
The branches close behind them. The guards come running back into camp, looking around in bewilderment. Four of them carry two limp bodies.
Did you see something?
No, did you?