|Episode Guide||Teaser||Act 1||Act 2||Act 3||Act 4|
EXT. POMPEIAN HARBOR - NIGHT
Xena scans the harbor, scowling. Few boats remain at the docks, and most of those are either capsized or useless wrecks. Grabbing a torch from one of the huddled men, she walks the dock, peering down into the dark, churning water below.
Finally, she spots a longboat, half buried in pumice. Its mainmast is splintered, its sails nothing more than torn, fluttering rags. Its paint is chipped and peeling away. But it still floats atop the water soundly and its oars, five to a side, are straight and whole.
With a grim smile, she nods and turns back to the shore. As she steps off the dock’s wooden planking, the earth trembles again, almost throwing her to her knees. The torch gutters, but remains blazing as she quickly turns toward Vesuvius.
Thankfully, the flattened cone appears to be intact. For now.
The sound of running feet alerts her to Gabrielle’s presence, and she smiles as Gabrielle comes into the torchlight and embraces her.
I saw you nearly fall.
Are you all right?
I’m fine. Is everyone else…?
We’re all okay.
She turns concerned eyes in the direction of the volcano.
Is it going to happen again?
Yeah... but not yet.
We’ve still got time.
I found a boat. A small one.
It should hold a couple
dozen, maybe a few more.
Oh, thank the gods.
Her expression turns pensive.
Xena, I counted at least fifty
people on the beach. What....
We’ll do what we can.
EXT. POMPEIAN BEACH - NIGHT
Xena maneuvers easily through the small crowd. She stops before the huddled forms of Marcellas Flavias and the elderly couple.
You al right?
We’re fine. Was your
Nodding, Xena turns to face the crowd.
(voice slightly raised)
I’ve found a boat. I want the women
and children to head for the docks.
Whatever room is left, you can
draw lots among yourselves.
A large man jumps to his feet.
Forget it! Survival of the fittest!
C’mon, lads! To the boat!
The hiss of steel is loud as Xena withdraws her sword, planting herself firmly in the path of the oncoming men.
Stay where you are or I’ll
gut you where you stand.
Gabrielle! Escort the women
and children to the boat.
Resheathing her sais, Gabrielle begins to do as Xena asks, talking softly to the women as they pass on their way toward the docks.
It’s thirty of us against
one of her! Let’s go!
The men rush Xena. At the last second, she reverses her grip on her sword and starts beating them away with the pommel, adding a few kicks and punches for good measure.
After the first several men go down, the others lose their starch and come to a stop, breathing hard.
I would suggest that the rest of
you decide among yourselves
who will come and who will stay.
Sheathing her sword, she steps forward and easily hefts the elderly man and, turning, makes her way to the docks.
EXT. DOCKS - NIGHT
Gabrielle has made quick work of helping the women and children aboard the rickety craft. Twelve women with children on their laps sit along the outer wall, looking up at Gabrielle expectantly.
Hearing a soft sound behind her, Gabrielle turns and smiles as she watches Xena approach, the old man resting comfortably in her strong arms. She holds the boat steady as Xena boards and carries the man to the rear, where she rests him gently on the ground next to his wife.
We’ve got room for
about ten more.
And here they come now.
Fourteen men arrive on the dock, all looking rather diffident. The youngest, Gaius by name, steps forward with a small stone in his hand.
We… took your suggestion,
Warrior Princess, and drew
lots. Is there still room?
We can take ten of you.
Nodding, Gaius begins the short procession onto the boat.
You eight, man the oars. Leave
room for Gabrielle and myself.
When all are finally settled, Xena looks back to the men still on the docks.
Keep looking further down. There
might be a small boat or two
that were overlooked in the panic.
The men nod and begin to disperse.
A moment later, Xena and Gabrielle are at their positions, each manning an oar.
All right. Let’s get
the hell outta here.
EXT. SEA - NIGHT
It has taken awhile, but finally the rowers have managed to find a rhythm and the boat moves quickly across the dark water as the rowers strain against the wind at their backs.
Where are we going?
That’s too far away! I say
we head for Herculaneum!
I have family there!
No! The wind is moving in
that direction. Herculaneum
is no better than Pompeii!
MALE ROWER #2
We’re heading for
Mycenium. Keep rowing!
EXT. SEA - NIGHT
The rowers are covered with sweat and panting hard as they work their way across the churning sea. Suddenly, a huge explosion sounds, and Xena looks up, eyes wide. As if in slow motion, the widened cone of the volcano falls in upon itself in a huge upwelling of ash, smoke, and fire. Like a runaway chariot, the hot ash and gases are pushed down to the ground and begin to flow outward with a speed and a force greater than anything she’s ever seen.
I see it! ROW!!
The boat moves sluggishly at first, then gains speed as the wide-eyed rowers strain against the oars with panic-driven strength as the noxious cloud hurtles toward them.
After several moments, Xena notices with some relief that the cloud of hot ash appears to be losing speed as it approaches. Then her heart pounds hard and fast in her chest as she sees something tall and black and glistening above the slowly dissipating cloud.
Son of a bacchae!
WAVE!! BIG WAVE!!!
YOU GUYS… OARS, UP!!
Everybody, HANG ON!!!
Xena, what are we doing?!?
We can’t hit it this way!
We’ll be crushed! PORT
SIDE OARS, DIG IN!!
Xena comes to her feet, muscles straining against the pressure of water on her oar. The thick wood vibrates painfully in her hands, creaking and threatening to snap.
The small boat hits the huge wave at a slight, oblique angle, climbing halfway up the glistening face before turning and hurtling back down, picking up tremendous speed as it rides the energy of the roiling water behind it. Xena’s oar snaps in half and she is thrown forward by the force of it, cracking her head hard against the lip of the boat and nearly flying free.
A bit unsteadily, Xena drags herself back to her feet, holding tightly to the lip of the boat with one hand while wiping the blood streaming into her eyes with the other.
I’m all right. I just....
Gabrielle looks up in time to see a large ship coming out of the darkness, looming like a giant directly ahead. They race toward it, completely out of control.
She feels herself pushed aside as Xena grabs the oar from her hands . With all of her considerable strength, Xena digs it into the water, desperately trying to steer the out-of-control craft away from its inevitable destiny.
Suddenly there is a sickening crunch of wood on wood. Gabrielle feels herself catapulted into the air, the breath driven from her lungs. Gravity pulls her in and she drops like a stone, only to find herself grabbed and cradled against a strong body she knows as well as her own.
Then all goes black.
EXT. MYCENIUM SHORE - DAY
The sun peers weakly through the still thick clouds of ash and smoke that float over the sea to Mycenium. Gulls circle and screech overhead and the water laps gently over the sand.
Gabrielle, lying face down, opens one eye, then blinks the sand from her lashes. The pain hits her like a cresting wave and with a groan, she turns over onto her back, squinting at the filtered sun.
Memories flow into her with sudden force, and with a gasp, she sits up, trapping an arm tight against her bruised and hurting abdomen.
Blinking rapidly, Gabrielle looks up and down a beach littered with bodies.
Jumping to her feet, and stumbling just a little on trembling legs, she begins walking, then running, down the stretch of sand. Seeing a shock of dark, unbound hair, she stops and comes to her knees.
Marcellas Flavias blinks and turns, looking up into Gabrielle’s concerned eyes.
Am… am I dead?
No. You’re fine.
Have you seen Xena?
I can’t find her.
The older woman’s eyebrow knits.
Not since… I remember hitting the
water. It didn’t hurt, but I also can’t
swim. I felt myself going under,
and then… and then… someone
pulled me up by my hair... It was
Xena! She dragged me to shore
and then went back out.
She looks up at the sky and frowns.
Surely she can’t still be looking
for survivors, can she?
I don’t know. I have to
find her. I have to....
Just then, a wave rolls in and breaks on the beach. Behind it, Gabrielle can see Xena, half staggering under the heavy weight of a body in her arms. She is pale and soaked and bleeding from a dozen slashes to her skin.
Jumping to her feet, she splashes out into the surf.
Xena passes her by without speaking and lays the body gently upon the shore. It is the elderly invalid, and it is obvious that he is dead.
Without pausing, Xena strides back into the surf, once again passing Gabrielle by without speaking. She bends over, straightens, and turns, bearing another lifeless body in her arms. Gabrielle sees that it’s the old man’s wife.
Like a puppet whose strings have finally been cut, Xena collapses to her knees and lays the body of the old woman next to that of her husband. Gabrielle approaches from behind and also kneels, laying a hand of support on Xena’s shoulder.
I couldn’t save them. I.... He couldn’t
swim, and she... she wouldn’t leave him.
I tried to pull her away, tried to get to him,
but.... There was a young child and when
I... when I looked back, she was gone.
Reaching up, Gabrielle tenderly strokes the sodden hair from Xena’s face, and rests her chin on Xena’s shoulder.
You did everything you could.
No one could have done more.
I could have. I could have
tried harder. I....
No. No, you listen to me. I
know what you did. So does
Marcellas Flavias. So do
all the rest of these people.
She waves a hand to encompass the men, women and children slowly coming to consciousness around them.
You saved them, Xena. You
saved me. We would have died
without you. You know that.
I don’t. I....
Gabrielle looks down at the old couple. Their expressions, in death, are peaceful.
Look at them. They died, yes.
But they died together. It’s what
they wanted. It’s what I want.
Sliding her hand over, she turns Xena’s face toward her, and smiles.
You did more than anyone
could ever have hoped
for, and I love you.
Opening her arms, she takes Xena into them, guiding the proud head to her shoulder and holding on tight.
I love you.
Behind them, the waves roll in as the smoke and ash continues to spew from Vesuvius.
END OF ACT FOUR
EXT. MYCENIUM - SUNSET
The ash from Vesuvius stains the sky, causing the setting sun to throw off a riot of extraordinarily beautiful color. It seems a fitting legacy for the city and people of Pompeii. The volcano itself is finally silent, once again the placid mountain that everyone loved and none had feared.
Xena and Gabrielle sit atop a cliff that faces the sea and Pompeii. The town is empty of life; a tomb for the dead who litter her streets and houses, covered in ash and eternally silent.
Also on the cliff, but some distance away, Pliny’s nephew, Pliny the Younger, looks over the scene, his quill never still as he pens an epitaph for his uncle.
Do you think anyone will
ever come back to Pompeii?
I doubt it. They say the
city’s cursed, and with a
monster like that looming
over it, I don’t blame them.
A comfortable silence falls between them.
Do you think that maybe one
day, a long time from now,
someone might come back
and wonder what happened?
Xena thinks about it for a moment.
Maybe. But if they do
come back, I don’t think
they’ll have to wonder.
Why do you say that?
Because with bards like you, and
like Pliny over there, who put
history into words, I think they’ll
already know what happened
to Pompeii and her people.
Smiling, Gabrielle gives Xena a side-armed hug, then settles back to watch the sun set over Pompeii.
It sure is beautiful.
But Xena has eyes not for the city, or the sky, but only for the windblown profile of Gabrielle.
FADE TO BLACK.
Neither Lot, nor any biblical references were harmed during the making
of this motion picture. No, really, they weren’t. Pompeii and Sodom and
Gomorrah were already pretty badly harmed before we got to them.
The writer would like to thank the wonderful DJWP for her brilliant story,
Seven Days in Pompeii, which was the inspiration for this work.