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EXT. PATH - EARLY EVENING
The sun is close to setting and the day has grown progressively colder. Still dressed in wet leathers, the chill hangs around Xena like a mist.
We need to start thinking about
a place to sleep for the night.
And no camping out. Youíll be an
icicle by morning. I already donít like
the way your voice is starting to sound.
Thereís a town on the sea
coast, but itís about a quarter
dayís walk from here.
Nothing any closer?
Well, at least riding Argo
kept my legs pretty fresh.
We should both ride.
Get there quicker that way.
Gabrielle considers for a moment, then nods. Clasping the hand reaching down to her, she swings aboard, settling herself comfortably behind Xena, wrapping her arms tight around her partnerís waist as Argo eases into a canter.
EXT. FIELD TRAIL - MID EVENING
Xena and Gabrielle are riding along the trail in the deepening dark. As they ride, the faint sound of music comes to their ears, a sound that becomes louder and more frenetic the closer they come.
I thought you said there
werenít any towns between
here and the coast?
Then whereís that
music coming from?
Looks like weíll find
out soon enough.
Argo crests a small rise and in the slight valley before them they can see a myriad of colorful tents, each with a banner fluttering in the cool breeze. Spread out from the tents are ten or more strange looking, six-wheeled covered wagons pulled by large draft horses.
A sizable group of men and women gather around a blazing bonfire, laughing, drinking, and shouting to one another. It is a scene of barely controlled chaos.
Slightly away from the central fire, a group of musicians plays while a group of colorfully garbed women twirl like wooden tops, around and around and around. As Xena and Gabrielle watch, the rhythm speeds up, and the dancers spin so quickly that they become a blur of color.
Who are they?
Czigany. Borias called
Yeah. Borias admired their merchant
skills and as you can see, theyíre
not bad as performers either.
Iíll say. Iím getting dizzy
just watching them.
Suddenly, two men jump up from their seats on the ground before the fire and begin to shout at one another in an unintelligible language. Several more rise up followed by still more, until there is a swarming group of men pushing and shouting and brawling.
Behind them, the music comes to a cacophonous stop, but the women continue their frenetic dance, oblivious to everything around them.
A woman, gray-haired and heavy with years, pulls herself up to her feet and attempts to force her way between the combatants. She makes her way to the center just as one of the men withdraws a short sword and thrusts forward, unintentionally stabbing the old woman through the shoulder. She drops like a stone.
Needing to see no more, Xena urges Argo into a run.
EXT. CZIGANY CAMP - MID EVENING
Bodies fly like sacks of wheat as Xena and Gabrielle break their way through the melee and into the center. Gabrielle squats down and examines the fallen old woman. She nods up at Xena. The woman is alive.
A YOUNG WOMAN kneels beside Gabrielle and applies a clean cloth to the old womanís bleeding wound.
Xena stares down the man who started the fight.
Whatís going on here?
This is none of your business.
Xena grabs him by the front of his vest and pulls him close.
The minute you stabbed that
old woman, I made it my business.
The man looks at her for a long moment, then nods. Xena releases him. He then points to a SECOND MAN standing across from him.
He put a spell on our women!!
I did not!!
The feuding men fall silent.
(contíd to first man)
What do you mean?
What kind of spell?
The man turns and flings his arm out pointing in the direction of the wildly twirling dancers.
Look at them! Theyíve been like
that since the sun was high in the
sky! He says this is normal, but I
say theyíve been spelled. By him!!
Xena looks at the women. Her eyes narrow.
With confident steps, Xena approaches the dancers, taking care to keep out of their way while observing each one very closely. What she sees concerns her greatly. What could be taken for laughter and shouts of joy are instead screams of agony and pleas for help. Each womanís face is frozen in a horrorís mask of naked pain, mouths twisted into cruel shapes, eyes wide and pleading.
Assured that the old woman is in no immediate danger, Gabrielle leaves her in the care of her young tender and slowly approaches the dance circle, watching Xena watch the dancers.
After another moment, Xena comes to Gabrielleís side, her expression grim.
Do you know whatís wrong?
Tarantism. Itís what some people
call thisÖ condition. Uncontrollable
dancing movements. They
literally dance until they die.
By the godsÖ.
What causes it?
Some think a shamanís spell.
Others say itís caused by
the bite of a spider.
However, in this case, Iím pretty
sure the culpritís right there.
Gabrielle looks over to where Xena is pointing. Her eyes widen.
Xena, thatís Hemlock.
EXT. CZIGANY CAMP - EARLY EVENING
The entire camp, save for the still dancing women, gathers around the fire, where Xena is carefully pouring a boiling cauldron full of water and herbs into another deep pot covered by a thin cloth. Gabrielle is kneeling next to the second pot, moving her face away from the noxious fumes coming up from the hot liquid.
How do we know youíre not
trying to finish the job he started?
Having had enough of the manís constant bickering, Gabrielle stands up, pulls her sais, and faces him head on.
Look, Iíve heard just about all I want
to from you today. Xena is the best
chance those women have, so just
sit down and be quiet, or Iíll put
a Ďspellí on you you wonít forget.
The man, and indeed half the camp looks at Gabrielle, aghast. He begins slowly reaching for his sword, only to be stopped by a look from Xena.
His eyebrows rise in twin question marks.
Xena slowly shakes her head.
He relaxes his arm.
Xena smirks, then grins at Gabrielle, who returns the smile. She deliberately re-sheathes her sais and squats back down next to the pot, removing the straining cover.
I think itís ready.
How are you going
to give it to them?
Right behind you.
EXT. DANCING CIRCLE - EARLY EVENING
Gabrielle stands outside of the circle, pot and a crude wooden drinking cup in hand. Xena steps forward toward the dancers. Ducking and dodging away from swinging arms and legs, she patiently awaits her opportunity. When it comes, she steps forward, lashes out her own arms, jabbing her fingers into the neck of one of the women. The woman collapses to her knees, gasping for breath.
Gabrielle steps forward and lifts a cup of Xenaís concoction to the laboring womanís lips while Xena steadies her head.
Itís okay. Swallow.
Thatís it. Good job.
Gabrielle steps back and nods to Xena, who removes the pinch, and releases the woman to lie on the ground, limbs still spasming slightly. A moment later, the drink comes back up in a violent rush, along with the last vestiges of poison in the womanís system. She collapses back to the ground with a grateful sob, her muscles relaxing at last.
Two young women come forward with robes and cloths to aid the stricken woman.
Thank the gods.
Ready for the next one?
EXT. CZIGANY CAMP - NIGHT
The recovering dancers are clustered in a small group, watched over and cared for by women and men from the clan. Xena and Gabrielle, well fed and finally warm, stand close by, receiving the heartfelt thanks of the group.
The old woman, her arm in a brightly colored sling, presses a bundle of food into Gabrielleís hands.
Thank you both for saving our
women. You will always be
a friend to the Czigany.
Gabrielle looks around as various men and women hurry around the camp, quickly packing their stores into the oddly shaped wagons that ring the perimeter of the camp.
The old woman notices Gabrielleís interest and smiles.
They believe the ground here is
cursed. We will travel on to the
coast and seek our fortunes there.
Thatís where weíre headed
too. Maybe weíll meet again.
If it is willed, we shall. Goodbye
to you, and thank you both.
Xena returns from a final check on the women, walking to Gabrielleís side and nodding to the old woman as she takes her leave and returns to her family. Xena sniffs interestedly at the warm bundle in Gabrielleís hands.
What ya got there?
Dessert. And if youíre very good,
Iíll let you have some of it later.
Iím always good.
Gabrielle laughs, and the two leave the camp, leading Argo by the reins.
EXT. FARM - LATE EVENING
Having traveled another hour, Xena and Gabrielle have chanced upon a lone farm sitting among the vast rolling fields that dot the way to the sea. At Gabrielleís suggestion, they have stopped to ask for lodging for the night. Xenaís chest congestion has worsened, and Gabrielle is concerned.
Gabrielle stands before the stout wooden door, hand poised to knock, when the door flies open and a gaggle of giggling young women and girls brushes past them as if they werenít even there. The women head toward the large barn and soon disappear inside.
Xena and Gabrielle look at each other, the barn, and each other again.
Could have been worse.
They could have been sheep.
Smirking, Gabrielle returns her attention to the doorway, which is now filled with the form of a large, middle-aged farmer who is scowling at them both.
Gabrielle gives him her best smile.
Beautiful daughters you have.
The farmerís scowl deepens.
Gabrielleís smile fades a bit.
Donít have nothiní for no beggars.
Come back tomorrow with honest
coin, and Iíll deal with ye.
No. No. Weíre not
asking for anything.
Well, sort of, but not really.
What I mean is....
Ye deaf, then? Didnít ya just
hear me tell ya ta get lost?
Xena steps out of the shadows. The farmer stiffens. Gabrielle hastily reaches out and lays a calming hand on Xenaís wrist.
Please, sir. Weíre not beggars
and we donít want your food.
Weíre cold, and tired, and looking to
take shelter for the night, thatís all.
Iíve got a full house. Youíll have
ta look somewhere else.
Your barn, then? Weíll gladly pay
you for the use of your hayloft.
Gabrielle removes her money pouch and gives it a little shake. The farmerís eyes light up with greed. A smile twitches the corners of his seamed mouth.
The farmerís scowl reappears.
A very fair price, wouldnít
you say, Xena?
Xenaís scowl outdoes the farmerís, and Gabrielle squeezes the wrist in her hand. She then pulls the dinars from her pouch and hands them over the farmer. He makes them disappear.
Youíre an incredibly generous man.
Thank you. Solstice Blessings on you.
Just donít go touching my daughters,
or youíll wish you never saw this place.
Donít worry, we....
She finds herself talking to a slammed door.
(contíd sotto voce)
Well arenít you just Mr. Sunshine?
As they turn toward the barn, Xena grins.
Ya know, this reminds me
of a traveling merchant joke
Salmoneus once told me.
Sounds like it must
have been a funny one.
Xena opens her mouth to respond.
But I donít want to hear it.
Xena closes her mouth.
INT. HAYLOFT - NIGHT
Xena and Gabrielle are snuggled into the warm hay, their exhausted bodies all but groaning with relief. The young women are still beneath them, laughing, singing, and tending to the animals in the barn in an almost mindless manner.
Despite the din, the duoís eyes grow heavy, and they nearly find sleep when Xena stiffens. Gabrielle notices, and looks up at her partner questioningly.
Do you smell something?
Gabrielle takes an experimental sniff.
You mean aside
from cow sh....
Her last word is cut off by Xenaís fingers across her lips. Gabrielle grins and takes another sniff.
Donít go there, Gabrielle.
Xena grabs hold of Gabrielle, stands, and jumps down from the hayloft. Releasing Gabrielle, Xena grabs the first young woman from her milking stool and hauls her up.
The barnís on fire.
Time to go.
The woman gives a vapid giggle as Xena shoves her toward the barnís open doors.
Smoke begins filling the barn and the animals start to panic.
Gabrielle! Go out and get some
buckets of water from the well! Try
to put the fire out! Iíll be right there!
Nodding, Gabrielle races off with a second woman in tow. Several animals follow her outside and she narrowly misses being trampled by lowing cows.
Xena rushes further into the barn, grabbing the young women away from their mindless tasks and shoving them in the direction of the door. All the while she moves adroitly to avoid being trampled herself. The smoke is getting steadily thicker, and she draws an arm across her nose and mouth, attempting to filter some of it away.
EXT. BARNYARD - NIGHT
A blazing fire on the barnís dried, thatched roof lights the night. With the help of the farmer, Gabrielle has managed to form a bucket brigade of sorts from the large well to the barn itself.
Young women and animals rush out of the barn, coughing and covered with soot.
As the group watches, part of the roof collapses, sending sparks high into the sky.
Gabrielle drops the full bucket sheís holding and runs to the doorway, almost overcome by the heavy smoke billowing out.
A split second later, Xena emerges from the smoke, soot caked and black as night carrying an equally soot covered young girl in her arms.
Gabrielle gazes at her with profound relief. Then she looks down. Her eyes widen, then narrow at the blood-streaked, already darkening bruise on Xenaís thigh just above her leather armor.
The answer, a small, white and foul tempered goat trots out bleating. It swings its wickedly horned head and stares at Xena, seeing its favorite human still in the warriorís arms. It bleats again and paws the ground. Baring her teeth, Xena growls.
The goat turns tail and runs.
Gabrielle hides a laugh behind her hand.
EXT. WOODS TRAIL - NIGHT
The full moon spreads a ghostly light over the bitterly cold night. A chill wind moans through a forest of denuded trees. To the north, a small mountain shines with granite whiteness. Caves dot the base of the mountain like empty eyes, black and blank against the stark white of the moonlit stone.
Xena and Gabrielle ride through this forest on their way to the coast. Gabrielle is driving, while Xena sits behind in light meditation trying to restore the energy sapped from a long day and a burgeoning cold which she wonít admit to having.
Gabrielle hears a sound that seems out of place among the rest and waits for Xena to react to it. When she doesnít, Gabrielle relaxes, then tightens again when the sound is repeated.
Remember when you taught
me to listen for the sounds
behind the sounds?
Well, I think that cave weíre
passing is talking to us.
Xenaís eyes pop open and she stares at the back of Gabrielleís head as if sheís lost a marble or two.
Do you hear that?
Itís just the wind.
I know wind, Xena,
and thatís not it.
A denning coyote, then.
Itís a full moon.
Gabrielle looks at the cave in question for a long moment, then shrugs.
Guess youíre right.
ĎCourse I am.
Gabrielle turns her head to look over her shoulder.
Unless that denning coyote of
yours is really, really lonely and
looking for some friends, I think
maybe weíd better investigate.
(through gritted teeth)
INT. CAVE - NIGHT
Guided by their torches, Xena and Gabrielle make their way to the center of the smallish cave, where they are greeted by a most unusual sight.
What appears to be half a man, visible only from his protruding belly up, is sitting on the cave floor. He wears clothing that none of them has ever seen before, a round glass object propped against one eye, and a strange looking hat that has a still burning candle strapped to the wide brim.
The man smiles and his teeth are barely visible beneath his wide, bushy mustache.
Well, jolly good to see you ladies!
You are ladies, arenít you?
Itís so hard to tell these days,
you know. Why, with all that
weaponry and armor....
He smiles at them
Of course you are.
Smashing. Simply smashing!
Xena and Gabrielle look at one another, then back at the man.
Oh, how rude of me!
Randolph Nigel Smytheson Carruthers,
spelunker, at your service, ladies.
Oh my. Donít speak Greek,
then? This is a bit of a dither.
We speak Greek just fine.
Weíre just not sure
what youíre speaking.
All right! Well, you must think
me a bit daft, but Iím not
going to argue the toss.
I need a spot of help, you see.
In a bit of a sticky wicket, yes?
Beginning to regret her decision to make this detour in the first place, Gabrielle carefully walks closer to the strange man, looking him over carefully.
Whereís the rest of you?
Ah! Well, thatís the
problem, you see. ItísÖ.
The man points down.
Carruthers laughs heartily.
Oh, you are a jolly one, arenít you?
Yes, I suppose you could say that
the rest of me is in Tartarus.
At least, thatís the way it feels.
Fell through the floor did you?
Ace! Youíre the catís
whiskers, you are! ĎSítruth!
You actually understand him??
Bit of a balls-up, it was. My mates
and I were exploring these wonderful
caverns when the floor caved in.
Where are the others?
Carruthers points down again.
I was the last one to go, you see.
Got stuck, tight as a cork. They
tried to push me up, butÖ.
Help a sport out, then?
Iíd be ever so obliged.
Xena looks at Gabrielle, who shrugs, then nods. Xena rolls her eyes.
As Xena approaches the man, Gabrielle removes his hat. Squatting down, Xena wraps her arms around his considerable bulk, then gradually stands, pulling the caver out of the hole.
Dear gods! Youíre a strong
one, arenít you? Amazon?
Carruthers hesitates before replying
Setting Carruthers aside, Xena looks down into the hole. Several dirty, tired faces stare back up at her.
Are you all all right?
Moments later, Xena has pulled them all up from the hole, and they surround her, offering their devout thanks. Shrugging off the praise, Xena returns to Gabrielleís side. Gabrielle wraps an arm around her waist and squeezes, then steals a kiss from her cheek.
A heroís work is
never done, huh?
Letís find an inn.
INT. INN SLEEPING ROOM - NIGHT
After another hour of traveling, Xena and Gabrielle have finally found lodging for the night. Freshly bathed, Xena lays out on the large bed and watches Gabrielle, who is sitting on the roomís lone chair. She is holding a scroll in her lap, and looking out the slightly open window.
Arenít you tired?
Xena lifts her arm and takes an exaggerated sniff.
I think Iím safe enough
to sleep with now.
XenaÖ I think Iím the reason
we had the day we did today.
Pushing herself up, Xena sits on the edge of the bed, looking at her partner questioningly.
Remember last night, when we
were having our little discussion?
Gabrielle blushes slightly.
Well, after you went to sleep,
IÖ kindaÖ wished on a star.
It wasnít a bad wishÖ.
It just came out that way.
What did you wish for?
Some way to prove to you
that you werenít getting old.
Smiling, Xena rises to her feet and walks over to her partner, gathering her in a warm embrace.
It was just a coincidence, Gabrielle.
You didnít do anything wrong.
Xena nuzzles Gabrielleís neck.
In fact, I think itís kinda nice that
you would wish that for me.
YeahÖ so, are you
ready to come to bed?
END OF ACT TWO