ATHENS, GREECE - 2 YEARS AFTER JAPAN
The competition looks tough as Gabrielle stands patiently waiting her turn. It is not her choice to compete, but is doing so at Xena's insistence. Xena stands behind her and limbers her up by rubbing her shoulders.
How do you feel?
Do you think you can handle them?
(rolling her neck from side to side)
We'll soon find out.
Gabrielle scans the field as her name is announced. She takes a deep breath and starts to make her ascent up a set of creaky stairs.
Break a leg or two.
Gabrielle turns to Xena and scowls.
How do you talk me into these things?
Now get up there and knock 'um dead.
Gabrielle resumes her ascent up the stairs, steps out onto the platform and faces the gallery. It's been years since she has stood before a crowd of this magnitude and preformed as a bard. Her storytelling has been limited to small groups in taverns and fireside tales when she and Xena travel with others. As she takes the platform, there is a brief round of applause and then silence. Gabrielle peers out at the massive crowd and takes a deep breath.
In the times of ancient gods, warlords and kings,
a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a mighty
princess forged in the heat of battle.
Gabrielle pauses to breathe and a low murmur rolls through the crowd.
The power... the passion... the danger.
Her courage will change the world.
The total attention of the crowd is now riveted to the blonde, buff, battling bard who stands before them performing her story with her own brand of power and passion.
In a land deep in the forest lived the Hooves and Harlots.
The Hooves were the Centaurs, half man, half horse... a proud race.
The Harlots were the Amazons, warrior women lead by the
mighty Queen Milosa...
For the next 10 minutes Gabrielle mesmerizes the audience with her tale of the way Xena prevented a war between the Amazons and the Centaurs and how she herself, become a member of the Amazon Nation.
...and Xena brought a bond to the 2 nations that was everlasting.
When Gabrielle finishes, the audience erupts into thunderous applause. After 3 curtain calls, she reluctantly leaves the platform and bounds down the stairs to a congratulatory pat on the back by Xena.
Well, you out-did yourself as usual my friend.
A smile of satisfaction comes to Gabrielle's gifted, bardic lips.
I did really get them going, didn't I.
You truly have the gift. I'm just sorry you haven't been
able perform like this more often because of our travels.
Gabrielle looks at Xena strangely and wonders why she has been acting so NICE.
If I weren't traveling with you, I wouldn't have
all these stories to tell. Anyway, what's with you lately?
I'm not used to a kinder, gentler warrior princess.
Xena quirks an eyebrow.
Well, maybe it's time for a change.
Gabrielle puts her hand up to Xena's forehead, playfully checking to see if she is feverish.
Are you sure you're feeling alright?
Xena brushes Gabrielle's hand away with a gentle slap.
Hey, take it when you can get it.
Xena directs Gabrielle down a treed pathway that parallels the crowd.
So are you ready to move on?
We've stayed here much too long for your liking.
I thought we'd stay another day. Come on,
I have our camp set up down here.
Gabrielle follows Xena to the edge of a stand of trees and when they get to the spot, there lies a perfectly set up camp, complete with food and drink to last the day.
Gabrielle's eyes widen.
Now I know there's something wrong with you.
Hey! Can't I do something nice occasionally?
Gabrielle sits down on the blanket and folds her legs beneath her while Xena stretches out on her back, locking her hands behind her head.
As the day passes, they idly listen to the other bards perform while eating good food and drinking fine wine. The sun begins to set, casting a sepia hue over their camp as the last contestant takes the platform. Xena stokes the fire while Gabrielle nestles into her blankets and savors thoughts of the wonderful day.
You know Xena, this has been one of
the nicest days I've ever spent. Thanks.
Xena throws another log on the fire then looks over her shoulder at Gabrielle.
Hey, what are friends for?
At the end of the evening the winners of the Athens Academy of Bards annual competition are announced and Gabrielle takes top honors. After receiving her award, she returns to the campsite and finds Xena deep in thought.
Xena's concentration breaks and she looks up to see a very concerned Gabrielle starring at her.
I had no doubt you'd win.
Okay Xena, this has gone on long enough.
The day was great, but now tell me, what's going on?
Xena furrows her brow.
Now visibly upset, Gabrielle drops her ribbon and immediately takes a seat across from Xena.
What is it?
Xena stands up and walks to the other side of the fire. She turns and looks at Gabrielle.
(fear in her eyes)
Sineus has escaped from prison.
Gabrielle freezes in shear terror.
Sineus is the son of Dagnine, a member of Xena's army from her warlord days.
As a young boy, he lived in her camp and made Xena his misguided role model, patterning himself after her in every way. As an adult, he is hand's down, the worst mortal Xena has ever come up against. Physically, he is her equal. Mentally, he is cunning, ruthless and lacking of any mercy. He kills at will and takes what he wants. His bloody reign of terror was one of the few events that caused Xena to side with
the Romans. They had worked together 3 years prior to put an end to it and bring
this heartless murderer to justice. Sineus vowed that if he ever escaped from
prison, he would hunt Xena down, kill and dismember Gabrielle before her eyes
and then kill her also.
Unrevealed to anyone, dealing with Sineus, stirs up unpleasant memories of the past for Xena. Memories she thought had long-since been put behind her.
Gabrielle finally swallows the boulder size lump that has formed in her throat.
Xena, what are we going to do?
WE aren't going to do anything... I am.
And he won't have to look for me because I'm going to find him first.
What do you mean by WE aren't going to do anything?
I want you to remain here in Athens.
You can stay at the academy while I'm gone.
I've already talked with the headmaster.
Gabrielle's eyes narrow.
Please respect my wishes on this.
Gabrielle remains still for a moment then walks a short distance and stops at the rim of the camp. She puts her hands on her hips and shakes her head as she stares up into the night sky. Xena stands motionless and watches her reaction in silence.
Shortly there after, Gabrielle walks back to the fire with a determined look in her eyes.
The last time I respected your wishes, I came
down off of Mount Fugi with your ashes still in an urn.
Every instinct in my body said it was wrong then and
those same instincts are telling me, it's wrong now.
Sorry, NO DEAL!
Gabrielle, don't make this more difficult than it already is.
If I go alone, he'll have no one but me to vent his anger on.
This man thinks and acts like I used to, so I know what he's
capable of doing and I won't risk your life.
That's exactly why I'm going. If I'm there, you'll
do everything in your power to keep us both alive.
You're not going. End of discussion.
As Xena begins to walk away, Gabrielle grabs her by the arm and turns her only to meet an icy stare the sends a chill down her spine. Fighting the urge to back down, Gabrielle melts the stare with her own fiery gaze.
Haven't you learned by now that we're
stronger together then apart? I'M GOING!
Now the discussion has ended.
Xena abruptly pulls away as her eyes ignited into burning anger and she storms out
of the camp, into the night having been bested by the battling bard. Gabrielle angrily kicks several rocks from her path and throws aside some branches as she paces, unable to calm herself. After stoking the fire for the 3rd time, she viciously hurls her sais into a nearby tree and crawls into her blankets all the angrier that Xena hasn't returned. She rolls onto her side and tries unsuccessfully to turn off the intense fear she feels pulsing through her troubled mind.
CAMPSITE - ATHENS ACADEMY - LATER THAT EVENING
The embers of the fire are a soft pulsating glow of black and orange when Xena finally comes back and takes her place on the bedroll that has been put out for her. After settling in, she looks over to Gabrielle, who is laying on the other side of the fire with her back to Xena.
What do you think?
Xena exhales long and loud.
We'll go together.
Gabrielle sits up and turns to Xena.
Xena, I know you're just looking out for me,
but haven't we gone through far too much
to even be having this conversation.
I know, but Sineus brings out memories from my
past, that I thought I had put behind me and I know
when I had a vendetta in those days, there was no
stopping me until it was completed.
Gabrielle gets up and sits down next to Xena.
What do you mean?
I thought that was ancient history.
(looking away, forborne)
Sineus is who I used to be in every way. Everything
I hate about my past and have tried to atone for, comes
back to me at the sound of his name. I thought I had
begun to pay for my mistakes by doing good but now,
I don't think that will ever be possible.
Gabrielle grasps Xena's arm.
You don't know how much
it hurts me to see you this way.
I thought we where passed this.
I know... That's why I never want anything to happen
to you. Your presence in my life is the only thing
that gives me the strength to keep trying.
Now enough of this talk. Let's get some sleep.
Xena lies down on her side while Gabrielle reluctantly returns to her blankets. As her eyes grow heavy, she gazes up into a star-filled sky and wishes for Xena to have some closure.
CAMPSITE - ATHENS ACADEMY - MORNING
The morning sun rises and bathes the ground with warmth. A sharp ray pierces through a sturdy tree, finding its way to Gabrielle's eyes and abruptly wakes her. She stretches the kinks out of her back and scans the campsite only to discover that she is alone.
Gabrielle springs to her feet and covers the immediate area searching for Xena. She looks down to the now deserted meadow that had been filled with people the day before and sees nothing. She explores a nearby pond, in hopes of finding Xena fishing or swimming, but all she sees is a family of ducks on their morning constitutional.
After covering the entire area, she returns back to the campsite and falls onto the ground in frustration, which causes all the anger that had been released last night to quickly return.
(pounding her fist on the ground)
Xena, how could you?
Gabrielle angrily packs up the campsite, frustrated and hurt over Xena's betrayal. She violently throws the last cooking utensils into her pack and wonders just how she'll be able to follow Xena's trail because she had not been given the plan yet.
(growling voice talking to herself)
If she thinks all she has to worry
about is Sineus, she ain't seen nothin' yet.
Just as Gabrielle prepares to sling a pack over her shoulder, something grabs her attention out of the corner of her eye and she turns.
Xena stands casually at the edge of the campsite.
Xena! Where were you?
I went down to the wharf to book our passage.
Gabrielle remains calm on the outside even though her emotions are still churning inside over the angry thoughts she was just having.
I didn't want to wake you, but I 'm glad
to see you've got the camp packed up.
Gabrielle gives Xena a quirky grin in order to hide the embarrassment she is now feeling.
Not a problem.
We have to get moving if we want to
catch the ship before it leaves.
Gabrielle raises an eyebrow ever so slightly as her embarrassment turns into dread at the thought of ships and seasickness.
Where are we going?
Crete. The journey should take about
a 4 days. Sure you still want to come?
Wouldn't miss it for the world.
Gabrielle's mind is now reeling with unpleasant memories of sea voyages with Ulysses and Cecrops. Xena picks up a backpack and they head for the wharf district at the other end of town.
They walk down the main street and Gabrielle barters for the supplies they'll need for the journey ahead. Xena steps away while Gabrielle argues with merchant about a brick of cheese and his fat thumb on the scale. Shortly there after, she returns with a small pouch that she tucks into her saddlebag.
WARF DISTRICT - ATHENS - LATE MORNING
Xena and Gabrielle walk down a street that is crawling with sailors, prostitutes and pick-pockets. They make they're way down a side alley, toward a pudgy little unshaven man who smells badly of brew. He staggers into their path and begins to ogle Gabrielle.
(slurring his words)
Hey honey... how'd ya like to have a real nice day?
Gabrielle brushes by.
No thanks... I've made other plans.
Come on. What else does a sweet
young thing like you have to do?
The sailor begins to paw at Gabrielle so she pushes him away and he stumbles backwards.
If you must know, I have an appointment with 4 days
of seasickness. How could you ever top that?
Let me give it a shot.
Xena decides it's time to intervene so she positions herself in front of Gabrielle and gives the sailor an official warrior princess stare to warn him off.
Listen Popeye, we don't have time for this.
Now GET LOST.
Only if you come with me, sweetie.
The sailor staggers toward Xena and eyes her up and down.
Hey, you're quite a looker. I like tall girls.
They're worth the climb.
Xena's picks up the sailor with one hand and tosses him into a pile of empty crates.
Xena and Gabrielle walk away while the sailor climbs to his feet.
Thanks sweetie. Was it good for you too?
Xena and Gabrielle exit the alley and make their way down the wharf to the ship. Half way up the gangplank, Xena makes one final attempt to get Gabrielle to reconsider.
This is your last chance. Adeus said you were welcome
to stay at the academy as long as you want.
Gabrielle narrows her eyes and turns to face Xena. The angle of the gangplank makes her the taller of the 2 women, a position she is inwardly enjoying.
Xena, I've said this before and I hope
you'll never make me say it again.
Where you go, I go!
Gabrielle turns back around and continues to climb the board satisfied that she has once and for all made her point. When she steps onto the deck, a large swell catches the ship causing it to rise and lower quickly. She immediately feels queezy and groans low in her gut.
Well, I guessed I asked for that.
SAILING SHIP- CRETEBOUND - LAST DAY OF THE VOYAGE - NOON
The sea voyage is uneventful other then Gabrielle's regularly scheduled trips over the railing. Xena's demeanor is distant so Gabrielle gives her some space. She passes the time by entertaining the passengers and crew with tales of the bard and gets a standing ovation for her reenactment of Been There, Done That, which she performs with zealous animation. When land is sighted, Xena summons Gabrielle to the bow of the ship and sits her down on a stack of crates.
I guess you want to know what the plan is.
Gabrielle's eyes rivet to Xena.
When we were helping Iolaus' son last month, he was the
one who told me about the escape. He heard from some
Roman merchants that Sineus was headed for Crete.
I figure he'll lay low for a while and won't expect me to
come looking for him, so we can take him by surprise.
Crete's a pretty big island.
Where do you think he'll go?
The caves. They're perfect for hiding out. If I were
him, I'd head for the Cave of Sentoni. The chambers
are interconnected by underwater passages for easy escape.
Where will we find someone
that knows the layout of the cave?
We don't need to. I hid out there for a
season to avoid Caesar’s assassins.
I know it like the back of my hand.
Gabrielle shakes her head.
(look of admiration)
You never cease to amaze me.
What haven't you done?
Convince you to stay behind.
Gabrielle looks away.
PORT OF SITIA - CRETE - LATE AFTERNOON
The ship is slowly hauled in and a substantial jolt against the wharf is felt when the docking is completed. Xena and Gabrielle gathered their gear and head for the main street of Sitia.
It feels so good to be on dry land again,
and a soft bed will be even better.
Xena scans her surroundings to refamiliarize herself with this haven from her
You get us a place to stay while I go see if I can find
out anything. I'll meet you back here when I'm done.
Gabrielle takes hold of Xena's elbow.
Be careful, Xena.
Xena pats her hand.
They part company in front of a fishcake vendor and Gabrielle walks north toward Aristotle’s Inn while Xena goes south to the Moon Spinner's Tavern.
Xena cautiously enters the establishment and scans the room with an ice blue intimidating stare, then saunters to the bar and orders a mug of ale. After taking some refreshment, she turns around to face the entrance and leans her elbows back against the edge of the bar.
So tell me, I just got into town and I'm
looking for work. Anybody hiring?
The barkeeper eyes Xena's leather-clad, physique and snickers.
What can you do, honey?
I have many skills, but right now
I'm looking to offer protection.
I'm good with a sword.
Xena draws her blade and masterfully twirls it with expert precision to prove her point then slides it back into the sheathe on her back. The barkeeper looks thoroughly impressed as he wipes down the bar with a rag.
Well, you came to the right place. Rumor has it
that the warlord Sineus has escaped from a prison in
Rome and he's on the island. A lot of the merchants
in town would pay handsomely for protection.
Xena takes a swig of ale and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand.
And what about you?
Not me. I got it from a reliable source that he's headed
for the caves north of here. He'll probably lay low there for a while.
Xena picks up her mug and takes one more swig before throwing a dinar down on the bar.
She saunters out of the tavern and makes her way back to the fishcake vendor. As she walks, she starts to feel uneasy for having left Gabrielle alone so close to danger. She quickens her pace and as she rounds the corner, she suddenly stops and relaxes when she sees a very animated Gabrielle in the distance, waving her hands in a heated discussion with a unsuspecting merchant over the cost of a blanket. Xena chuckles as she watches the transaction go down.
(under her breath)
He doesn't have a chance.
Gabrielle sees Xena approach from the corner of her eye and quickly concludes her business.
Did you find out anything?
Plenty. It's just as I thought.
He's headed for the caves.
Gabrielle shivers in terror.
Xena, why don't we just disappear?
He can't look for us forever.
Gabrielle, this man is a ruthless butcher that
has vowed to hunt us down. I won't spend
the rest of my life looking over my shoulder.
Anyway, just disappearing has never been our style.
Gabrielle looks at the ground.
Come on. I've got us a
place to stay for the night.
They walk up the street and enter a quaint little establishment that Xena determines is noted for it's food, by the way the patrons are contently rubbing their bellies as they leave. Gabrielle leads them to a corner table where they sit down and order something to eat.
After they eat, Gabrielle leads them up to the roof and to the room where they will be spending the night. The room is adequately furnished with feather-filled cots that easily absorb the weight of their weary bodies, as they collapse onto the comfort of
an actual bed. A warm breeze lazes through an open window as the sun sets, casting a purplish orange hue across the textured walls. The hue eventually turns to a deep pink and then finally into shades of gray.
Gabrielle is practically asleep before her head hits the pillow, but Xena lies restlessly staring out the window. Unable to settle herself, she steps out onto the balcony and leans against the outer wall while she looks out into the darkness. A warm gust of air rushes over her body, consuming her in the combined fragrances of salt air and lilac. While she watches the simplicity of fireflies dancing near the ground, a comforting hand touches her arm and the Gabrielle slides over beside her.
Xena continues to stare out into the darkness.
Come on Xena, talk to me.
When Gabrielle still gets no response, she slides her hand up onto Xena's shoulder and turns her. She looks up into Xena's eyes and sees tears uncharacteristically flowing down her cheeks. Gabrielle's heart breaks and she instinctively hugs Xena. Xena struggles to regain her composure and turns back to her view of the darkness.
I just feel as though I'll never be able to
live down my past and it's ripping me up inside.
Especially when it puts people I care about in danger.
Xena, you've done so much good since I met
you. Doesn't that account for anything?
It just doesn't seem to be enough.
A twinge of hopelessness consumes Gabrielle as she remembers back to the day Solan died and how she still carries the guilt of not killing Hope when she had the chance. She struggles back to the present and searches for words of consolation.
You and I have seen more then our share of the world.
We've experienced the Olympian gods, the Titans, Krishna,
and Eli, just to name a few. Our journey is not over yet,
so you must have faith that things will work themselves out.
Xena's eyes soften at the thought of how Gabrielle has stood beside her for all these years and showed unfaltering support, even while knowing all the terrible things she has done in the past. She turns to Gabrielle and looks deep in her eyes.
You make me almost believe that could be true.
It is true Xena. Now come back
in and get some sleep.
ARISTOTAL'S INN - CRETE - EARLY MORNING
The morning light lazes through the window, creating a cascade of rainbows across the wall. Xena and Gabrielle pack up their gear in preparation for a day that both women are dreading. When they step out onto the street, Xena stops to get her bearings.
Let's get something to eat.
You go ahead. I'll get something later. I need to
find the blacksmith and get a buckle repaired.
Gabrielle's eyes narrow and she tugs Xena's arm, pulling her down the street.
We can find a blacksmith later.
Right now, you're going to eat something.
Xena raises an eyebrow and reluctantly bows to Gabrielle's wishes. They walk down to the fishcake vendor and eat breakfast there, then continue onto the blacksmith before heading out of town.
Xena points to a hilly section in the far off distance, north of the town.
We're heading for that ridge.
Gabrielle eyes the location and determines that it will be a half day's journey.
The trail out of town takes them though some of the most beautiful parts of Crete. Gabrielle makes small talk while Xena walks silently and listens, always staying alert to what's up ahead.
Late in the afternoon, they stop near a pond to rest and eat. Xena points to a spot under a large cypress tree and they settle there to be out of sight. Gabrielle takes out the bread and cheese she had bought yesterday in the market and begins to slice it.
How much farther do we have to go?
We're getting close. I remember that rock was
near to the cave entrance.
Xena points to a formation in the far distance that resembles a horse.
After they finished eating, Gabrielle grabs the water skins and heads down a gently sloped hill that leads to a small pond surrounded by tall grass. When she reaches the water's edge, she kneels down and plunges the skins in. She giggles in child-like fashion as the escaping bubbles tickle her arm when they rise to the surface. While she waits, she sees a doe and her fawn grazing along the water's edge, occasionally taking a drink from the cool clear water, on the opposite side. Gabrielle's mind lazes back to the carefree days of her childhood and a sense of tranquility engulfs her as she inhales the aroma of honeysuckle and fresh salt air. When the skins are full, she starts back up the hill.
As she nears the spot where she left Xena, she begins to sense that something is wrong and the tranquility she was feeling a moment ago, suddenly turns to fear. She stops and looks around. When she sees no sign of Xena, Gabrielle drops the skins and pulls her sais, immediately taking a defensive posture. She continues to scan the area as she makes her way to the base of the tree and then stops.
Without warning, something grabs her and pulls her skyward, stripping the breath from her body. Gabrielle lands hard on a branch and a hand comes over her mouth. She struggles to turn so she can see her captor. Her body relaxes when she sees she is safe in Xena's grasp.
Xena's hand slowly comes away from her mouth and points to the horse-shaped rock in the distance where Gabrielle sees 5 men walking in single file toward the cave's opening. She tenses when she recognizes the lead man as Sineus.
Xena leans down to Gabrielle's ear.
We may be in luck if there are only 4 men with him.
Gabrielle looks back at Xena with wide eyes, still trying to regain her composure from the wild ride up the tree. Xena's eyes stay pinned on the men until they all disappear into the cave. When she's satisfied that the immediate danger is over, she turns Gabrielle to face her.
Are you okay?
I just wanted you out of sight as quickly as possible.
(catching her breath)
Not a problem.
I've always wanted to fly.
Xena scans the lush green landscape to make sure there are no other men coming their way. When she determines it to be safe, she relaxes her posture.
We're going to stay here until dawn and then
we'll go in. He'll be most vulnerable then.
CYPRESS TREE BRANCHES - NEAR CAVE OF SENTONI - DUSK
The sun slowly slides down the horizon only to be engulfed by the soft, blue green swells that dance across the surface of the ocean as Xena and Gabrielle remain perched on the sturdy branches of the cypress tree. Gabrielle is nestled into a nook formed by 2 limbs while Xena is crouched on her knees with her eyes riveted to the cave's entrance.
Gabrielle studies Xena and contemplates just what exactly is going on inside her tortured mind. As she examines the intenseness of Xena's profile, she wonders if there will ever be a time when they will no longer have to worry about what kind of danger will be there to meet them over the next hill. She considers a passing thought of engaging Xena in conversation but decides that idle chatter will only add to an already tense situation, so she does the next best thing and falls asleep.
Suddenly without warning, Gabrielle's is jolted wake by sounds coming from the ground. Her eyes flutter open, but instinct tells her to stay still. She looks down and counts 6 men slowly passing under the Cypress tree. Xena and Gabrielle both stay frozen in place, only relaxing after the last man enters the cave.
CYPRESS TREE BRANCHES - NEAR CAVE OF SENTONI - NIGHT
2 hours passes and Xena not even so much even flinches, with her eyes glued to the entrance. Gabrielle gently reaches over and puts her hand on Xena's shoulder.
Xena's concentration is unbroken so Gabrielle leans in closer.
Xena reluctantly turns to Gabrielle.
Get some rest.
I'll keep watch til morning.
Xena's worried eyes soften.
Xena stretches the stiffness out of her body then leans back against a sturdy branch and dozes while Gabrielle keeps watch until just before dawn when Xena awakes.
Gabrielle turns when she hears Xena stir.
Nothing has moved since those men came by last night.
Good. It looks like 11 total.
Those are odds I still can live with.
Gabrielle nervously smiles.
I'm going to hold you to that statement.
Xena springs out of the tree, flips downward and lands on the ground with ease. Gabrielle follows her down in the more conventional way, by climbing.
They make their way to the cave's entrance and cautiously moved in. The acoustics are such that they can hear distant voices bellowing from deep within the cave. Sharp points of light from erratic cracks in the ceiling are the only guide they have as they move toward the garbled sounds. Suddenly, in the distance, the distinct flicker of torchlight bobs slowly toward them. Without a sound they each dive to opposite sides of the cave and mold themselves to the cold, damp walls as the 6 men that had passed under them during the night come by.
When Xena is satisfied that they are gone, she peels herself from the cold rocks and signals to Gabrielle.
There's an entrance to an underground stream
just up ahead. It's a short cut to the back of the cave.
We're going to use it to get behind them.
They walk a short distance then Xena stops and turns to Gabrielle.
There are some sections that are too low to wade through.
How good are you at holding your breath?
Gabrielle quietly snorts.
Ever since I've traveled with you,
I've had to continually hold my breath.
Xena narrows her eyes at the untimely humor.
They lower themselves into waist deep water that sends cold shivers through their already tense bodies and they begin to make their way down the stream. After a while, they come to the first section that will have to be traversed underwater.
Okay, it's going to be about 20 paces to the
next air pocket. Are you ready?
As I'll ever be.
Gabrielle starts to inhale and exhale deeply.
Just keep close to me.
I'm your shadow.
Xena ducks under the water and begins to swim with Gabrielle following close behind. The underwater tunnel is pitch black and it seems to take forever to traverse. When Gabrielle surfaces, Xena is already perched on a ledge and grabs onto her arm, easily hoisting her up. Gabrielle gasps for air.
Yeah, but seasickness is much
more appealing then this.
After a moment of rest, they get back into the water and waded to the next underwater tunnel.
Stay here while I check it out.
Not a problem.
Xena disappears under the water while Gabrielle waits. She shivers as a blast of cold air sweeps though the cold, dark chamber and chills her to the bone. A moment later, Xena's head pops back above the surface and she hops up out of the water. Concerned by the way Gabrielle is shivering, she briskly run her hands up and down Gabrielle's arms to bring some warmth back into the stiffened limbs.
We're almost there but be careful, there is a bend in the tunnel.
When we surface again, we'll be in a small side chamber.
We can go the rest of the way on foot from there.
Gabrielle watches while Xena ducks under the water again. After taking some more deep breathes, she plunges herself back down into the frigid water.
The tunnel is pitch black, just like the first one and when Gabrielle pushes off the bottom, her foot becomes lodged in a crack and she tries frantically to get it loose.
Panic sets in as she feels her body consuming the last of the air in her lungs. When she grabs for her ankle, her hand slides down over her sai and she frantically pulls it out of its holster to use it as a lever. With one final heave of desperation, the trapped foot painfully pops loose and she begins to swim for her life, leaving the sia behind.
She feels her way along the wall and finally comes to the turn that Xena described. As she continues to claw her way down the jagged walls, suddenly a light appears in the near distance and she swims all the harder. Her chest is now aching with the uncontrollable urge to suck in a breath and with one final thrust, she comes to the surface gasping desperately for air.
Exhausted and shivering, she feels a strong hand raise her out of the water
and stand her up on the floor of the cave. She immediately drops to her knees
and continues to draw in more air in raspy quick breaths. Suddenly, she is
violently hauled to her feet and when her eyes focus, to her horror she is face
to face with none other than Sineus.
Well... well, look what we have here,
a welcome home gift.
Gabrielle is stunned and tries to regain her senses as quickly as possible while she desperately looks around the chamber for Xena. As she turns, she is viciously backhanded across her face and knocked to the ground by Sineus, who then grabs her by the hair and pulls her back up to her feet.
Since we have Xena's puppy dog,
she can't be far behind.
NOW WHERE IS SHE?
Gabrielle's terror momentarily turns into relief when she realizes that Sineus doesn't have Xena. She rubs the side of her face and looks at him in fear.
She's dead. She was killed
in Jappa 2 seasons ago.
Sineus starts to laugh uncontrollably in a high-pitched squeal as he throws Gabrielle onto the ground.
Too bad, now she won't be able to watch
you die slow and painfully. But something tells
me YOU'RE LYING, so I won't kill you just yet.
SMALL SIDE CHAMBER - CAVE OF SENTONI - SAME TIME FRAME
Xena sits on a ledge impatiently waiting for Gabrielle to surface. When too much time has elapsed, she dives back into the tunnel and search for her. Xena makes her way back to the chamber where they parted and curses when she discovers that Gabrielle is not there.
Damn it! Where is she?
Xena dives back into the water and continues to search. Half way back, she finds the discarded sai and continues toward the turn in the tunnel. When she gets to the turn, to her surprise, she discovers that the turn is actually a fork so she quickly swims up the other tunnel. When she sees a flicker of light ahead, instinct tells her to come up quietly and against the wall.
She surfaces without a sound and only her eyes and nose are visible above the water. She quietly inhales a breath of cold, damp air as she scans the large chamber. Xena sighs in relief when she sees Gabrielle across the cave. Her relief quickly turns to rage as she watches 2 men drag Gabrielle over a pile of rocks and tie her up. Xena slowly moves to the opposite side of the pool and directs her attention to Sineus, who is standing with 2 other men.
We're going to move out of here.
That bitch knows this cave better than I do.
Xena's eyes burn with hatred as she watches the men and Gabrielle move out of the chamber. Quietly, she unholsters her chakram and waits for a clear shot at the ropes binding Gabrielle's wrists, but her body is too low in the water to get a good line. After they leave the chamber, Xena springs out of the water and begins to follow.
When they exit the cave, Gabrielle tries not to look too obvious as
her eyes search for any signs of Xena.
By the time Xena reaches the mouth of the cave, Gabrielle, Sineus and the men have stopped and are standing in a clearing. Sineus steps away and whispers something to one of the thugs, who then disappears into the woods. Xena starts to move forward but is suddenly halted when Sineus turns and rejoins the group.
Where to now, boss?
There's another cave just beyond those trees
That's were we're headed.
They start to walk through a the stand of trees and Sineus instructs one of the thugs to hold a knife at Gabrielle's back, making it impossible for Xena to take any offensive action. She keeps her distance and watches them disappear into the forest.
They slowly make their way through the densely wooded area to the sounds of Sineus taunting Gabrielle, trying to get her to reveal to him where Xena really is.
Hey little girl, how's your precious dead Xena
going to get you out of this? And if she can't, you
and me are gonna to have a real good time tonight.
Gabrielle summons all the mental strength in her body to say nothing.
CAVE OF SENTONI - ENTRANCE - SAME TIME FRAME
Xena waits until Gabrielle, Sineus and the men are out of sight before entering the clearing. She scans the landscape desperately trying to clear her mind of the dangerous predicament that her tainted past has once again put them in. Then a moment of clarity comes forth as she remembers something Gabrielle had said during their argument in Athens. "If I'm there, you'll do everything in your power to keep us alive."
Xena's mind becomes sharp and calculating as she decides that a frontal attack will be the most effective strategy. She takes to the trees Amazon style and silently passes over Gabrielle and the men as they walked below.
Just as she reaches the next cave, she sees the man that Sineus had spoken to earlier go in and disappear into the darkness. Xena effortlessly flips out of the tree and moves to the entrance in one swift motion. She follows the man back to a chamber not far from the entrance and listens as he gives instructions to the 6 men who had left the first cave earlier that morning.
Okay boys, this is the plan. Xena's following
Sineus to this cave so when she comes in behind him,
we'll be waiting on either side with nets to capture her alive
because he wants the pleasure of killing her himself.
After hearing the plan, Xena backs out of the cave.
When she exits, she surveys the surrounding landscape and determines that the best position for attack will be from above. She springs off the ground and flips effortlessly back up into a tree, positioning herself for the best view of the oncoming group.
Shortly there after Sineus, Gabrielle and the 3 other men walk directly under her and head for the cave's entrance. The 3 men lead the way and Sineus is now holding a knife to Gabrielle's throat, following behind.
(under her breath)
Perfect... They're at the rear.
He's really baiting me.
Xena unholsters her chakram and cocks her arm in preparation for a maneuver that holds Gabrielle's life in its grip. Just as the 3rd man enters the cave, she releases the chakram and sails it directly at the rock face just above the entrance, causing a pile of boulders to tumble down in a loud, dusty crash, trapping all of Sineus' men inside. Sineus spins around while Gabrielle dives out of the way of the falling boulders. Sineus' eyes turn to pinpoints of blinding rage as he looks through the settling dust in search of Xena.
Fearing for Gabrielle's safety, Xena flips out of the tree before her chakram returns and it eventually embeds itself in the tree where she had been perched.
Xena stands tall and intimidating directly across Sineus. When he sees her, his face changes from rage to a sinister smile as he unsheathes his sword.
Hello Xena. You look extremely well for
a dead woman. But I plan to change that.
Xena also unsheathes her sword and glances at Gabrielle before refocusing her attention back to Sineus.
I am now.
Gabrielle struggles to stand as the cloud of dust continues to settle.
Sineus, I'm taking you back to prison.
That may be true,
but not until you watch your friend die.
Sineus turns to Gabrielle and cocks his arm to throw his dagger. Xena quickly reaches down to her side for her chakram in order to deflect the strike and
terror consumes her when there is nothing to grab suddenly remembering it's
stuck up in the tree. Just as Sineus brings his arm forward to release the dagger
he feels a sharp sting on his wrist. His arm jerks sideways and the force sends
the knife sailing in a direction away from Gabrielle.
Xena recoils her bullwhip.
Sineus turns back to Xena.
Oh, you're good.
Not good enough since you're still standing.
Sineus lunges at Xena and the force of their clashing swords causes a shower of sparks to cascade over them. When they part, a quick thrust from Sineus causes Xena to stagger backwards but she quickly regains the advantage by swinging her sword, missing his head by inches. Sineus lunges again and they interlock their grips while staring angrily into each other's eyes.
Come on you worthless piece
of filth, give it up.
Xena, how can you talk that way
about someone who's just like you?
Xena's concentration breaks for a split second and Sineus head-butts her, knocking her to the ground. He brings his blade down with brute force, but Xena reacts just in time to catch the blow with her sword. He strikes again and again, finally having the clear advantage and as he brings his sword down once more, he feels a blunt force to the back of his head, which causes him to lose consciousness and fall limp to the ground.
Still dazed from the brutal attack, Xena looks up to see Gabrielle standing over Sineus with a large rock in her hands. Gabrielle immediately drops the rock and kneels down next to Xena.
Are you okay?
Xena gets up and sheathes her sword.
Didn't I tell you we were stronger
together then separate?
Remind me to listen to you more often.
Can I get that in writing?
After cutting the ropes off of Gabrielle's wrists, Xena uses them to tie up Sineus, who still on the ground and unconscious. When the ropes are secure, Xena begins to examine the bruises on Gabrielle's face.
Let's get some cold water on those.
They look pretty bad.
Xena meticulously tends to the unsightly welts and after Gabrielle is
properly cared for, she flips back up into the tree to retrieve her chakram
then back down to the ground.
Xena takes a skin of water and sprays it on Sineus to bring him to consciousness. He makes a low bellowing growl as he shakes his head and tries to regain his faculties. When the haziness clears, he gives Xena a vile, angry stare.
This isn't over yet warrior princess.
Sineus spits in Xena's direction.
Didn't your mother ever teach you any manners?
Gabrielle walks over and stand next to Xena.
What are we going to do now?
Take him back to town and then
get on the next ship to Rome.
Xena pulls Sineus up to his feet and they begin the long march back into town. With Sineus in the lead, Xena occasionally pokes him in the back with her sword to keep him moving. When they pass the cypress tree, Gabrielle retrieves the gear they had left there the night before and slings it over her shoulder.
They walked in silence except for an occasional rant from Sineus about the despicable things he plans to do to them if he gets loose. When Xena can take no more, she gags him with a piece of cloth she rips from his own shirt.
Why don't we just turn him over
to the authorities in Sitia and be done with it?
Because I don't trust him. I want to personally
make sure he is delivered back to prison.
Xena looks away from Gabrielle.
Deep down I'm just like him,
so I know what he's capable of doing.
Gabrielle grabs Xena's arm briskly and slows her.
You are NOTHING like him. You had the courage to
change, and you've done so much good since then.
Gabrielle, no matter how much good I do, something
always seems to come back and remind of just how bad
I was. I don't think I'll ever be able to live it down.
Gabrielle's eyes sadden.
Xena, you are the most special person I know
and the courage you show, not only in battle
but also in your desire to take responsibility
for your actions, is a continual inspiration to me.
A glimmer of hope flashes in Xena's eyes. Then she looks back at Sineus, who is sarcastically leering at her and the hope disappears.
Enough of this now, let's get moving.
CENTER OF TOWN - SITIA - LATE AFTERNOON
Xena, Gabrielle and Sineus walk down the main street of the town to the cheers of
the towns people. They stop at the local jail to inform the authorities about the men trapped in the cave and ask to have Sineus housed there, until they are ready to
leave for Rome. The jailer takes possession of Sineus and throws him in a cell. Sineus continues to taunt Xena as she leaves the building.
Hey Xena, are you sure you want to leave
someone exactly like you in this stinking jail?
Or maybe you'd like to join me. I'm sure there are
still a few people left whose lives you haven't destroyed.
Don't listen to him Xena.
Xena turns back and looks at Sineus, pauses, then turns to walk out the door.
DECK OF ALEXANDRIAN SHIP - HARBOR OF SITUA - MORNING
The winter season is coming soon, so it is difficult to find a ship that is headed in the direction of Rome. After a week of waiting, Xena is finally able to book passage on an Alexandrian ship uniquely decorated with figureheads of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. It is a huge vessel with a compliment of 226, including passengers and crew.
Xena stands on the deck of the ship with a bound Sineus in front of her. She pushes him in the direction of a Roman centurion named Julius to inquire about having him housed with the other prisoners on board.
I have the prisoner Sineus
that I'm returning to Rome.
The centurion gives her a look of respect.
So you captured the son of a bitch, did you? He's a bad
one alright. Rome appreciates your efforts.
Take him and watch him closely.
He's very cunning.
Come on scum. MOVE.
Julius gives Sineus a shove towards the cargo hold.
It is a exceptionally rough voyage due the winter weather. The winds are so strong that they hold the ship in place for hours on end, turbulently raising it up and down. Everyone is ordered below for their own safety so Xena and Gabrielle stay in their quarters most of the time. The severity of the weather is particularly hard on Gabrielle and her inability to cope with the uneasy motion caused by the rolling sea. When pressure points prove to be useless, Xena uses a special herb she acquired in Athens and combines it with some hot tea. Gabrielle groans and downs the brew which promptly causes her to fall into a deep sleep on the bunk.
Xena sits in a chair across from the bunk. As she watches Gabrielle sleep, she thinks back to the first time they crossed paths and still wonders why the young girl she had met in Potedeia so long ago would have even bothered to associate with the likes of someone such as herself.
As the ship violently sways from side to side, her mind retreats to thoughts of her dark past and how much Gabrielle's presence has inspired her to keep her eyes on the path of the greater good. Her heart grows heavy at the despair of knowing that no matter how much she tries, she will never be able to completely atone for all the horrific things she has done in the past.
DAY 12 OF THE SEA VOYAGE - SHIP'S MAIN DECK - MORNING
Xena goes up on deck to see if there is anything she can do to help get the ship to the next port safely. She heads for the wheelhouse, slowly working her way through the pounding sheets of rain that sting her skin, as the wind whips water droplets into liquid daggers. When she enters the structure, she finds the captain shouting directions to weary sailors. He looks like he hasn't slept in several days.
What can I do to help?
We can't make any headway, so we're going
to start throwing cargo overboard to lighten the ship.
I'm an experienced sailor.
Tell me what you want me to do.
Take the wheel and keep her steady.
Xena grabs the wheel and fights with all of her strength to keep it from escaping her grasp while the captain supervises the cargo removal.
DAY 14 OF THE SEA VOYAGE - SHIP'S MAIN DECK - LATE NIGHT
The deckhands take soundings and discover they are near land. To prevent the ship from being washed up on the rocks in the dark, the captain orders all 4 anchors to be dropped over the stern. Just before dawn, they spot unfamiliar land and in the distance they can see the mouth of a creek that opens up into the sea.
(shouting over the sounds of the storm)
We aren't going to be able to take much more
of this. If we point the ship toward that creek
and drive for shore, we've a good chance of
beaching it instead of breaking up in the surf.
That maneuver is too dangerous.
If we don't do something, we'll all be dead
by morning. Those rocks will rip the ship apart.
Xena points to a large, jagged outcrop of rocks that the ship is heading for.
You’re right. We have no choice.
The captain orders the anchors to be hoisted and the mainsail set He then gives another order to turn the ship towards shore.
Xena goes below to bring Gabrielle up on deck where it will be safer. When she
gets to their quarters, she finds a man standing inside with his back to the door.
Xena starts toward him, but when th man turns, he is holding Gabrielle in front of him with a knife to her throat. In a half concious state, Gabrielle is powerless to resist.
Xena... Perfect timing.
I told you this wasn't over.
Without Xena's knowledge, Julius had ordered the prisoners released from the lower decks so they wouldn't drown if the ship sank.
Xena steps back and raises her hands in a calming way.
Sineus let her go. You know
it's me you really want.
Oh no... It's both of you.
Now back out. We're going up on deck.
Xena slowly backs out of the way and gives him the space he demands. When they reach the main deck, Sineus drags Gabrielle to the railing and looks over. His eyes widen when he sees the ship heading for land. A wicked smile comes over his face and he looks at Xena.
Say goodbye to your little friend.
Before Xena has time to react, Sineus tosses Gabrielle overboard like a discarded pile of rags.
Gabrielle's voice fades off in the distance.