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EXT. XENA’S DREAMSCAPE - MORNING
The sky is brilliant with sunlight as Xena awakens. She finds herself beside a large, well-kept HOUSE sitting on the outskirts of a thriving VILLAGE. The house itself is large and sturdy, with a newly thatched roof and a wide porch that wraps around three of its four sides. Two ROCKING CHAIRS sit to the left of the wide door, and a SHAWL hanging over the back of the one furthest away.
Xena moves her gaze from the house to the town. From what she can see, it appears peaceful, content, and colorful. No angry voices break the tranquility she can sense all around her.
The high-pitched laughter of children shatters her reverie, and she looks up as four youngsters linked by their hands, run by her and into the house.
More laughter rises up in the house and drawn by her natural curiosity, Xena silently treads the two steps up onto the porch. She stands in the shadows of the overhanging roof as she peers around the corner and in through the door.
The room is alive with children of all ages who laugh and run about in the large, bright space. The crowd parts for a moment and Xena freezes, unaware that her jaw has dropped slightly open.
Before her, in a well-padded and well-worn chair, sits Gabrielle. Older by far than Gabrielle truly is, her hair is a brilliant, snowy white and hangs long and loose about her shoulders. Her face is mapped with a lifetime of laughter, and her eyes, from what Xena can see of them, are still the brilliant green gemstones of her youth. Her body is thinner, yet unbowed by age, and she is still the most beautiful vision Xena has ever seen.
A young child of no more than two sits curled up on her lap, his head resting against her chest, thumb tucked securely in his mouth. Gabrielle rocks the child gently as her laughing eyes dart around, watching the other children’s antics as they play.
Those eyes meet Xena’s directly for a split second before moving away without recognition. Xena feels a brief stab of sadness before realization hits.
She can’t see me.
Sighing, Xena steps out from the shadows and stands directly in front of the door. The children begin to settle as Gabrielle brings a scroll down from the table at her side. They form a knot at her feet, eyes shining with anticipation as they look up at her.
Xena can’t help the smile that comes to her lips, but it fades quickly as a long shadow falls across the assembled group. The shadow moves as a man, tall though slightly stooped with age, walks into the large room. Seemingly as old as Gabrielle, he looks slightly familiar, but Xena cannot immediately place him. Then the man trips over something on the floor, and his identity becomes immediately clear.
Her eyes narrow as a feeling she can easily identify as jealousy flows through her. That feeling grows stronger as she watches Gabrielle greet him with a beaming grin and tilting her cheek to him to be kissed, which he does soundly.
Her eyes widen.
Hope. That’s what this is
Xena watches silently as Virgil moves away to gather up several children who clamor for his attention. He is easy with them, smiling and laughing, and it is very clear to Xena that they care for him deeply. As does Gabrielle.
Xena sighs again and almost turns away as Virgil steps over to the chair at Gabrielle’s side and eases himself into it. He takes Gabrielle’s hand into his own and clasps it gently before releasing it.
Something, however, keeps her feet rooted where they are, and she continues to look on as Virgil and Gabrielle, both bards of note, settle in to make a group of children happy.
Despite herself, Xena smiles as the sound of Gabrielle’s voice, essentially unchanged even after obvious years have passed, weaves its customary spell over the youngsters. Though the words are softly spoken for the benefit of young, and in one case, napping ears, the lilt of Gabrielle’s voice is as soothing as ever to Xena’s oft-troubled soul.
Xena studies Gabrielle carefully as she talks. The years have been very kind to her. She glows with peace and contentment, and a joy that Xena sometimes feared would be gone forever shows brilliantly in her eyes.
Xena looks over at Virgil, whose grin is so reminiscent of his father’s, and a flash of pain erupts in her again.
It should have been me.
It should be me.
The story ends, and the children cheer and clamor for more. Xena takes a last, long look at Gabrielle, as if storing the vision in her heart. She takes a step away, then stops.
She hovers, caught between leaving and staying.
No. If this is about hope, then
it’s about my hope. Not just
for Gabrielle, but for me as well.
She sighs, then turns back.
I won’t leave it like this.
I can’t. We belong together, and
I believe that with all my heart.
Taking in a breath, she crosses back to the threshold, and then takes a step inside.
Gabrielle looks up from the children, drawn as always by a soul-bound connection between them. Her smile outshines the sun in its radiance.
Virgil looks up, meets Xena’s eyes, and grins. The grin carries with it a blush, and he shrugs guiltily as he rises from the chair at Gabrielle’s side and steps away quickly.
Surprised by Gabrielle’s exclamation, the children turn. Then beaming themselves, they jump to their feet and surround Xena, holding onto her legs and waist, greeting her with an exuberance only children possess.
And suddenly, she knows them all, from the youngest (her great-grandchild by Eve) to the oldest (one of Virgil’s). As she bends down to hug them all, a strand of silver hair—her own, she realizes—briefly obscures her vision. She can feel every joint by its ache, every scar by the tension in her skin, every wound ever received in battle, and she realizes that she has never been happier in her life.
She had been concerned that in stepping through the doorway she would change the future. Instead, she realizes that she’s been a part of this picture all along.
She straightens as she feels Gabrielle’s presence at her side, and opens her arms wide for the love of her life. They embrace tightly, lovingly, completely.
Welcome home, Xena.
A brilliant light flashes, and the scene dissolves into a million shards before disappearing to blackness.
INT. TEMPLE OF THE VIRTUES - EVENING
Gabrielle smiles as the vision in the mirror fragments into nothingness.
I’ll do everything in my power to
make that dream into a reality, Xena.
Janos grunts and rises from his chair. It’s obvious the trial is not going as he expected it to. Stalking across the room, he mutters something inaudible to the priest, then returns to Gabrielle, scowling.
This is far from over, Gabrielle.
As far as I’m concerned, Janos,
it was over before it started.
Xena is an honorable woman.
If you need a sham like this to
prove it to yourself, fine. I don’t.
Janos grunts and settles back into his chair.
EXT. XENA’S DREAMSCAPE - DAY
Xena awakens in a blinding snowstorm. It is a winter wasteland as far as the eye can see. To the east is a large black cloud billows, seemingly impervious even to the icy winds. To the west, a lightening of the horizon promises some relief from the storm.
Xena is dressed in her leathers, boots, and a woolen cloak. Her armor and weapons are absent. The snow is halfway to her knees and rising. Scanning the wasteland in all directions, she finally turns west and begins to walk.
As she walks, she begins to pass what she discovers is a long, if somewhat scattered line of cold, bedraggled, and soot-covered people headed to the west, as she is.
An elderly, wizened man with a long ragged beard lifts a hand in a wave as his gaze crosses Xena’s.
The man squints at her through the falling snow, then nods to himself, satisfied.
Didn’t think you were one of them.
The thugs that burned down our village.
Bastards. We didn’t have two dinars
to rub together and they looted us
anyway, then burned us down for sport.
The old man spits in the snow, then wipes his hand over his mouth.
Only death back there now.
Death ahead, too with this storm.
The old man sighs.
Xena lifts a hand, and the man disappears into the strengthening storm.
EXT. XENA’S DREAMSCAPE - DAY
The storm has almost doubled in intensity. Xena continues to walk, bent into the swirling wind. Her head is deeply buried within the hood of her cloak.
She looks up as she hears a faint cry. A man, wife and two small children, are struggling along in the blizzard. They are dressed in soot-covered rags that do little to protect them from the bitter cold.
A child of no more than
four is screaming as his distraught mother pulls him up out of the
snow. His face is a ruddy red, while his hands and feet, bare of
covering, are blanched an unnatural white.
it all! Please, just leave us alone!
Xena eyes each in turn, taking in the gaunt, flaccid lines of their
flesh and the blank, almost empty eyes that stare back at her.
The woman leans away, as if Xena has drawn a weapon, and screams. The young child in her arms echoes her scream, while his sister, a girl of no more than seven, ducks her head against her father’s hip, her eyes closed tightly in fear.
The woman and her husband continue to stare at her as if she were a demon birthed from the depths of Tartarus, and speaking a language they can’t understand.
After a long moment, the father steps forward, his posture that of a
whipped dog crawling to his master, unsure if he will be beaten or
praised. A shaking hand reaches out and snatches the cloak from Xena’s
fingers. The man backs quickly away, standing close to his wife and
children. His eyes are sunken and round, dark and distrustful, even as
he holds the cloak in a talon’s grip. He is hugging it to his chest as
if afraid she’ll demand its return.
INT. TEMPLE OF THE VIRTUES - NIGHT
EXT. XENA’S DREAMSCAPE - DAY
much longer like this.
both die. She won’t go on without
I won’t go on without her.
Xena looks at him closely. She can see the love and absolute devotion
in his eyes. A devotion to this woman who is his wife. She recognizes
that look, having seen it in her own eyes too many times to count, and
she reaches a decision.
Both boots finally give up their hold on her feet, swollen with the wetness and bitter chill. She straightens, boots in hand.
Releasing his wife’s hand, the man lifts his foot and slides it, wincing, into the gaping maw of Xena’s boot. She settles his foot inside, then quickly ties the laces as tightly as she is able. The second foot is covered just as quickly.
you get where you’re going,
but these should do for now.
The old man stares down at his feet, fresh tears sliding slowly down his cheeks.
Xena gives a wan smile, trying to ignore the bright spikes of pain in her own bare feet.
Before the man can answer, Xena turns and begins running to the west and to the light brightening the horizon, once again.
EXT. XENA’S DREAMSCAPE - NIGHT
She stops before a mother and her newborn infant, huddled together in the snow. The woman is clad in tattered rags. The baby has a loin wrap on and nothing else. His skin is as white as the surrounding snow, and his lips are blue. The young woman looks up, her face a frozen tableau of fear and anguish.
Xena squats down beside them, ignoring the screaming bolts of agony shooting up from her nearly frozen joints.
My…my baby.... I…I can’t
wake him up.... he won’t
nurse.... he won’t even cry....
Xena holds out her arms.
The woman looks at Xena,
uncomprehending. Then with a soft, hopeless sigh, she hands her infant
Xena cradles the infant to her chest, trying to share her own scant body warmth. The child stirs slightly, his eyes fluttering open before drifting closed again.
Xena meets the woman’s eyes. The truth is evident in them. The woman pales, and looks away again.
to walk through the night, as quickly
as you can, and stop at the first
house you come to. If he wakes,
try to feed him. The milk should
warm him inside.
The woman looks up at Xena, eyes shining with gratitude.
You’ve saved his life.
Xena shakes her head.
Xena helps the woman to her feet and steers her in the right direction.
I’ll never forget this. Never.
Xena looks on as the woman breaks into a shambling, shuffling run, headed west. A moment later, she follows in her tattered shift and nothing else.
EXT. XENA’S DREAMSCAPE - PRE-DAWN
This time, she doesn’t get up. The world around her grays then goes black as her body finally gives up its valiant fight against sleep and the cold hand of death.
INT. TEMPLE OF THE
VIRTUES - PRE-DAWN
Wake up, damn you!
Xena remains motionless. Reaching out, Gabrielle grabs hold of her shoulders, wincing at the icy coldness of her flesh, and shakes once, twice, a third time. Xena’s limp body moves under the force like a rag doll.
Releasing her unresponsive partner, Gabrielle turns to the silent priest, teeth bared in fury.
The priest slowly shakes his head.
Are you blind?!?!?
Janos comes to his feet.
Gabrielle turns without releasing her hold on the priest.
Janos points to the mirror.
EXT. XENA’S DREAMSCAPE - DAWN
When no response comes, she pokes again, harder.
The girl’s FATHER looks on, shaking his head.
A groan comes up from the “corpse” and Xena’s eyes flutter open.
Larissa jumps, startled, then smiles. She holds out a tattered rag.
Summoning up the last of her energy, Xena shakes her head.
Xena shakes her head again.
take charity from the likes of us.
Hearing this, Xena struggles to lift her head. She fails, and collapses back into the snow.
Her eyes flutter closed again, her spirit and body drained.
She’s given everything.
As long as she holds on
to that, no one can help her.
The mother sighs.
got a long way to walk before
we make the village.
The child turns stubbornly away from her father, and pokes Xena once again, keeping at it until the warrior opens her eyes. She holds out the blanket.
As Xena stares up into the dark, earnest eyes of the child, she realizes that sometimes, receiving can be just as precious a thing as giving. With the last of her strength, she reaches up and takes the offered blanket, pulling it down over her chest. The last thing she sees is Larissa’s beaming smile.
Charity, in giving and receiving.
I am well pleased. It is done.
The scene breaks up in bright shards of light, which then swirl and disappear into a deep gray mist that deepens into a flat black.
END OF ACT THREE