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EXT. VILLAGE CAMPFIRE - DAY
The inhabitants of the small village are gathered around the campfire. It is obvious this is where most of the activity of the town happens. There is a small shelter made of limbs and dried leaves to one side, and crude shelves hold pots, cups and other rough serving utensils.
Around the fire are set stumps to sit on. Scattered around also, are various projects the villagers are working on - small tables, etc. A pile of dried branches sits to one side, and some bark lies next to it.
Peti and several other women are clustered on the far side of the fire, watching Xena and Gabrielle with unfriendly looks.
Gabrielle stops and looks around as they enter. Her expression is sober.
They don't have much.
Why would raiders
bother with them?
Casey enters the clearing and walks over to Xena and Gabrielle.
I'm sorry we greeted you
so harshly. It's not usually
our way to do that.
Speak for yourself, Casey. If it
was up to us, all strangers
would be greeted with worse.
Xena pulls a coin from her non-existent pocket. Gabrielle looks at her, then simply takes the coin.
Don't even bother.
Gabrielle walks towards the group of women, leaving Xena with Casey.
They watch Gabrielle leave.
Is there something wrong
with your friend?
You are friends, yes?
Among other things.
So, tell me about these attacks.
She looks around.
What were they after?
Casey also looks around, then grimaces, appreciating Xena's point.
Not much here, I grant you. But come,
sit down. I'll tell you the whole story
and maybe you can understand
why we acted the way we did.
Xena appears to momentarily regret the non-coin flip. She follows Casey over to the stumps and they sit down. The villagers nearby look at them, but remain silent and continue various tasks.
EXT. VILLAGE CAMPFIRE - FAR SIDE OF CLEARING - DAY
Gabrielle approaches the group of unfriendly women. She picks a stump near them and sits on it, waiting to see if they start talking.
They do not.
Hi. I know you're not really interested
in hearing this, but we're not
intending on harming anyone here.
The women look at Peti, their apparent spokeswoman.
You could easily be lying.
I could. But the fact is, if
we wanted to destroy this
place, we would have.
The woman all stare at Gabrielle. Gabrielle smiles briefly.
Really. You couldn't stop us.
Gabrielle pulls a sai from her boot and throws it overhand towards the nearest tree. It sinks into the bark several inches with a loud sound. Gabrielle gets up from her stump and walks over to it, pulling it loose. She puts the sai back into her boot.
Two of the women walk over to the tree and examine the holes. One sticks her finger in. It disappears up to the second knuckle.
You captured the boy. What were
we supposed think? You acted just
like the others. If it smells like sheep,
and looks like sheep, I say shear it.
Catchy. I like it. But some sheep are
harder to shear than others, and I
should know since I grew up with them.
We weren't trying to capture
anything. We just didn't want
him and the goat to run into us.
She put the boy on the horse!
Argo's a big horse. It was the
safest place for Xena to put him
to get him out of harm's way.
The women look doubtfully at her.
Why do you think we'd want
to capture him anyway?
The women look at Peti. Peti crosses her arms and stares at Gabrielle.
EXT. VILLAGE CAMPFIRE - DAY
Xena is sitting with Casey and two other men. There is a shocked look on her face.
They steal your children?
We were fine here for two seasons.
It's not much, I know, but we managed
to gather enough to live on, and we
were happy. Anything away from
the wars was good, you know?
Then they came. I don't know where
from. I don't know where they settled
at, but one day I saw one of them in
the woods, and after that... it started.
We're the last of our kind. We don't
want anything; we just want to be
left alone to live and raise our
children, and keep our customs.
Every moon or so, they come down
in the night. They never come into
the village, but if one goes to get
the goats, or to get water, or if they're
out playing... they take them.
We've never seen any of them
again. I lost two sons.
The second man indicates women on far side.
That's why the mothers.... They're
so angry. We have only four children
left. The boy is one of them. They
thought you were going to take him
when you grabbed him today.
Xena looks up and past the men to where the women are. She meets Gabrielle's eyes looking back at her. It's obvious Gabrielle also has heard the story.
Anyway, I didn't mean to tell
you all that. After all, why
should you care?
Xena turns her head and looks at Casey.
You have no idea where these
rats are taking your kids?
Espos... he's a our best hunter. He
tried to track them, but they just
disappear. We think they come from
north of here, but we're.... Well....
You're too scared
to find out.
The men look embarrassed.
We're not fighters. We tried to
leave all that behind us. We're
just farmers, trying to live.
Well, we're not farmers.
But living scared is never
a good answer either.
Xena turns and leaves. The men look after her, both worried and intrigued.
EXT. VILLAGE CAMPFIRE - FAR SIDE OF CLEARING - SAME TIME
Gabrielle turns back around and faces the women.
I don't know why we're bothering
telling you this. You don't care.
You're wrong about that.
Peti rolls her eyes.
Sure I am.
We'll find your children.
We'll bring them back here,
if they're still alive.
The women stare at Gabrielle in disbelief.
We have many skills. But I don't
expect you to believe that. You'll
just have to take my word for it
until you see it happen.
I will lay no hope on you, stranger.
Come, the rest of you. We have
chores to finish, and water
to get for dinner.
Peti leads the women off. Gabrielle remains where she is, her back turned to the fire. She doesn't even flinch when Xena lays a hand on her shoulder.
Could be a lot of reasons.
Xena winces. Gabrielle turns her head and looks up at Xena.
What's our plan? Do we go
out now, and look for them?
Xena looks at the sky, which is darkening into twilight.
Morning. Let's see what
we can get to add to their
dinner pot tonight.
Ah, the old ‘way to their hearts
is through their stomachs’ trick?
Yeah, and sometimes it works.
Xena looks at Gabrielle.
Me? Like what?
Gabrielle gets up, and they walk off together.
EXT. FOREST - TWILIGHT
Xena and Gabrielle glide through the trees, making almost no sound. Xena carries a dagger, Gabrielle carries a bow and arrow. Xena signals Gabrielle to go one way, she chooses a second and they separate.
Xena creeps up behind a moss covered boulder. She puts her dagger between her teeth and climbs it, cautiously poking her head over the top and looking past it.
She spots a wild goat, and she grins. The goat is cropping grass near a patch of trees. Xena climbs back down and circles the rocks, stalking the goat.
EXT. FOREST - CLEARING - TWILIGHT
Gabrielle has chosen a different hunting method. She has come upon a stream, and has settled behind a fallen log, downwind from the bank. She waits patiently, turning her head to listen to the sounds around her.
She hears something. Slowly, she puts the bow in front of her and draws back the arrow, her eyes fixed on an opening in the brush.
There is motion, and Gabrielle's shoulder tenses. Then the leaves part and a man steps into the clearing, walking very softly.
Gabrielle freezes, then she lowers the arrow and ducks behind the log.
EXT. FOREST - TWILIGHT
The goat is chewing grass placidly.
Ten feet away, the brush parts, revealing Xena's eyes, and a wicked grin.
Just then, the goat looks up, hearing something. Stalks of grass drop out of its mouth and it starts, then runs off into the woods.
Don't tell me I'm losing
my touch already.
A sound catches her attention, and she looks towards the far side of the patch of grass the goat was on. Two men step out of the forest, dressed in a mixture of animal hides and cloth, their skin stained a purplish color. Xena's eyes widen.
The men slink off into the forest just past where Xena is laying. Xena waits, then she gets to her feet and follows them.
EXT. FOREST CLEARING - TWILIGHT
The two men step out into the clearing, joining the third already there. They talk together in inaudible voices as Gabrielle watching from behind her log.
The three men separate and go to different trees, hiding themselves behind them. There is an open space leading down to the water, the grass is beaten down there by many people and animals going to the edge of the creek for water.
Xena creeps up behind Gabrielle and hesitates, not wanting to startle her.
Gabrielle reaches back without looking and touches Xena's head, tweaking her hair and pulling her forward. Xena looks a bit surprised. She taps her ear, and looks at Gabrielle in question.
Gabrielle shakes her head, and touches her chest above her heart instead.
Xena joins Gabrielle behind the log, an intrigued expression on her face. After a moment, she merely shakes her head and presses close to Gabrielle as they watch the now empty space.
They hear voices coming towards them. From between the trees, they can see a group approaching, and after a moment, it's obvious it's the women from the village.
Gabrielle grips Xena's wrist and looks in that direction.
You get the ones
on the right?
Gabrielle puts her bow down and reaches for a sai. Xena grabs her hand and holds it still. Gabrielle looks at Xena questioningly.
Xena points at herself, then at Gabrielle, then at the women. She gathers the fingers of Gabrielle's hand together and closes her fist around them.
Gabrielle rolls her eyes.
Let them take us?
Easiest way to find ‘em.
Gabrielle looks at the oncoming women. Then she sighs, and pushes her bow and arrow under the log, shaking her head. Xena carefully excavates a trench and lays her chakram and her sword inside it, covering everything with leaves.
Got in a lot of trouble
last time I did this.
Gonna take those
leathers off too?
The women enter the clearing and go to the water, unaware of anything around them. As they cluster near the log, Xena and Gabrielle slip out and join them.
What? Oh. It's you.
Yep, it's us. Just
needed some water.
Well, you'll wait till we finish.
Peti and two others go to the edge and start to fill basins with water.
A moment later, a soft hiss is heard, and darts fly from the underbrush, hitting the women.
Xena hears them.
Three women fall, then more darts rush out.
Xena and Gabrielle drop to the ground almost in unison, flopping into attitudes of convincing unconsciousness.
No one screams. After a moment, the clearing is littered with women's bodies, and silence has returned to the forest.
END OF ACT TWO