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INT. STRONGHOLD - COMMON ROOM - NIGHT
Mahon and Fergal sit at table, drinking. Their men surround them, and the hall is full of clansmen and women enjoying the chance to get together.
I dunno, Fergie, m'boy.
Trusting a little girl like
that to take on my Niall?
Mahon's men laugh.
She's a feisty one, Mahon.
I'd put my money on her.
Fergal's men nod in agreement.
Would you now? How much?
Lorcan enters. He spots The two men and stands in The shadows, listening.
How much do y'got?
I'll go easy on you. Twenty silver.
Lorcan makes his way over to the table. The two clan chiefs lift their mugs to him respectfully. Lorcan sits down, reaches a hand out. A mug is placed in it. He drinks.
Mahon, my boy. I see we're
still due your tribute.
Mahon drains his mug, and slaps it on the table.
You'll have it. Before I leave those
gates, it'll be in your purse.
Mahon gets up and slaps Fergal on the back, and staggers out. The men start up a ribald song. After a moment, Fergal and Lorcan join in.
INT. STRONGHOLD - FERGAL'S QUARTERS - NIGHT
A small area has been set aside for Fergal's family. There are no cots, or niceties. Sleeping rolls are scattered. Off to one side, there is a bend in the wall that creates an alcove. In this small bit of privacy, Xena and Gabrielle have set their sleeping furs up.
Gabrielle is seated on their furs, her arms wrapped around her knees. Xena crosses over to her and sits down, steeling herself for a sensitive chat. Xena takes a breath.
I know what you're going to say.
Xena shuts her mouth with an audible click of her teeth hitting. Gabrielle looks at her.
You think if I wanted to do
this badly enough, I could.
No, I don't.
Yes, you do, Xena, because
that's how it works for you.
When you want to do something
bad enough, you find a way.
Xena fiddles with her bootlace.
At least I'd try.
I wouldn't just give up.
Gabrielle looks at her.
I'm not giving up.
I already know I can't do it.
How? Have you tried?
I don't even know these people.
Maybe that's a plus.
Sorry. I think being in
Britannia's getting to me.
Yeah. Me, too.
Gabrielle leans against Xena.
We both lost so much here.
They are both quiet for a few moments. They can hear the singing still going on in the hall. For a minute, they listen to it.
Gabrielle puts her arm over Xena's shoulders.
I'll spend some time with them.
That's all I'll promise.
Xena turns her head to look at Gabrielle.
I think you're wrong about yourself.
You can do this.
Gabrielle looks sad, though grateful for the sentiment.
Thanks. But don't count on me.
Gabrielle gets up and offers Xena a hand up. They exit the room and head towards the sound of singing.
INT. STRONGHOLD COMMON ROOM - MORNING
The common room looks like a giant tromped through it overnight. Tables are overturned, and men sleep off the previous night's ale in the dirty straw.
Gabrielle enters, dressed in her tartan. She pauses in the doorway, spots Fergal and two of his men at a table, and approaches them.
Top of the morning, Gabrielle.
Did you sleep well?
Gabrielle sits down next to them. She is a little uncomfortable.
I… um, thought maybe we could talk.
I’d like to get to know your people a little better.
Fergal motions over a man with a platter of miscellaneous food, and a brace of ale mugs. He hands Gabrielle a mug, and offers her some food.
(picks out least deadly
looking food type item)
So, tell me.
What's it like, living in a clan?
EXT. STRONGHOLD BATTLEMENTS - MORNING
Xena is prowling around the stronghold. She inspects defenses with a knowledgeable eye, and tests the strength of a few ropes that hold the gates up.
She walks up to the gates and looks out, along the road and down past a wooded slope with hills rising beyond. Two men stand outside the gate, idly talking. Xena listens in.
Bad luck for Fergal, eh? Lost two
men, and almost his meal ticket.
Yea. Talked to his man last night. Said
there were at least a dozen come on ‘em.
He'd say that.
Both guards chuckle.
Yeah… he was drunk enough to say
one of them had a clan tattoo.
What? He must be daft. Daft as Fergal is
to be bringing some stranger gilly in here.
Xena steps back into the shadows, her face thoughtful.
INT. STRONGHOLD - COMMON ROOM - DAY
Gabrielle now has four or five clansman gathered around her.
So, your bards are also your
judges? How does that work?
Bards keep the truth. They hold tight to
all that we are, and they know everyone
in the clan - who better to pass judgment?
Tis true. We trust the bards. When it's
time where we need to change, as
now, it's dangerous for all of us.
Our Chief bard, see, he's very
old, and sickening. That's why
we have to pick a new one.
Gabrielle is intrigued.
Can you take me to see this Chief Bard?
Can I talk to them?
Fergal, he's sick.
And he wouldn't be feeling better
to see this bonny lassie?
Fergal holds a hand out to Gabrielle. Gabrielle takes it, and he leads her out of the common room.
INT. STRONGHOLD - CHIEF BARD'S ROOM
This is a spacious room. It has woven wall hangings, and a large, comfortable bed. Near one side is a desk, with a worn abacus on it. Lying in the bed is an old man, with silver white hair and beard. He is dressed in worn, tan bedclothes and is obviously very ill. This is PADRAIG - the Chief Bard of the clan.
There is a knock at the door. For a moment, the man on the bed does not react. Then, his eyes open.
The door opens, and Fergal enters with Gabrielle.
Padraig, a moment with you?
Padraig nods, then his eyes go past Fergal and fasten on Gabrielle. His bushy, white eyebrows lift.
Bring the likes of her with you, Fergal, you
old dog, and you can stay the day through.
Is this your outsider bard, then?
Come over here closer, girl.
Gabrielle walks over and kneels next to the bed. Fergal watches for a moment, then slips out the door, leaving them alone.
I’m not a girl. My name is Gabrielle.
Padraig hitches himself up in bed a trifle.
Well, Gabrielle, who is not a girl. What
got the likes of you involved in the
likes of us? I hear you and your friend
bailed out old Fergal on the road. True?
It's true. We heard them being
attacked, and we went to help.
Padraig starts laughing, ending up in a heavy cough.
Easy there. What's so funny?
A bit of a thing like you,
what were you helping with?
Gabrielle reaches beneath the tartan she's wearing and draws a sai, bringing it up into Padraig's view. It catches the candlelight.
I'm not exactly what I seem.
Padraig stares at her, then slowly smiles.
Now, here is a story I want to know more of.
Gabrielle re-seats her sai, then sits on the ground next to the bed, resting her arm against it.
All right. If you tell me about your people.
And a bargainer to boot. My kind of girl.
(patting Gabrielle's hand)
Gabrielle laughs, knowing she's been topped.
EXT. STRONGHOLD - COURTYARD - DAY
Xena is on the prowl again. She spots a sparring match, and goes to watch. Two of the clansman are fighting with double-handed broadswords. More men stand around, cheering and or heaping abuse on the fighters.
Bran, you slow dog!
He'll cut yer arm off next!
The fighter Bran, who wears Mahon's colors, backs off and waves. The other fighter wears Lorcan's colors. As the two men fight, Xena watches them closely, her eyes spotting the tattoo on Bran's right calf. Mahon notices Xena, and walks over to her.
Well, well. Our other newcomer.
Xena, was it?
That's right. That your man?
Xena indicates Bran.
Aye. He's middling. Lucky he is that
Lorcan's best ended in the healer's.
Else he'd be getting his rump wiped.
Xena doesn't think either man is particularly skilled, but she keeps quiet. Mahon notices the sword half hidden under Xena's tartan. His eyebrows lift.
Had a run in with thieves, or so he says.
Me, I think he was drunk, and went full
on into a tree. His head's cracked.
Xena looks thoughtful. Mahon gestures to the men fighting.
Fergal claims you've got a good weapon
hand yourself. Care to take a go?
Xena smiles, with a touch of mischief.
Mahon slaps her on the back and chortles.
INT. - STRONGHOLD - CHIEF BARD’S ROOM - DAY
Gabrielle and Padraig are still talking. Padraig has his hand clasped around Gabrielle’s and they both seem very at ease with each other. In a very unlikely place, Gabrielle has found a kindred spirit.
And from a small boy, it was
all I’d ever wanted. Pah.
Just like that, it slipped away.
Gabrielle looks sad.
That’s how it happens. Sometimes you
don’t even realize you’ve lost
something until it’s gone.
Padraig studies Gabrielle from the corner of his eye. He clasps Gabrielle’s hand again, and lifts it between them.
Unless you hold tight to it, Gabrielle.
Like a dream on waking, remembering
every detail in all its color.
Sometimes life takes you down a different
path, and you have to let the dream go.
Gabrielle looks around, indicates the room.
Like you have. You’ve moved on.
Padraig looks at her with a half wry, half pained expression. He reaches down and pulls out one of Gabrielle’s sais and holds it, turning it in his hand.
Ah, now have I?
You should never let go of a dream, Gabrielle.
They are precious, and so few do they come to us.
Padraig closes his eyes, obviously exhausted.
Let me let you get some rest.
Maybe we can talk again later.
(opening an eye)
I would like that.
I would like that indeed.
Padraig closes his eye. Gabrielle reaches for her sai, but his hand holds it firmly. Gabrielle gently covers him with the blanket, and stands, then turns and leaves the room. Her face is very thoughtful.
INT. STRONGHOLD - CORRIDOR - MOMENTS LATER
Gabrielle walks slowly through the dark corridors. She is deep in thought. She passes the entrance to the armory, where the clan keeps all of their weapons. As she walks past the door, shadows jump out of the entrance and attack her.
END OF ACT TWO