Deciphering The Scrolls

part 10

by Azurenon & Savanna Mac

Please see part one for all disclaimers.


Chapter 18

 

The amber stone was lying on the table between them. Mel was staring at it, while her companion dug into the warmed over soup sheíd previously prepared for lunch.

"What did you say this is again?" Mel asked.

"Am-bur," Janice mumbled around a mouthful of cornbread. Mel looked over at her and frowned, obviously concerning her table manners. Janice chewed, then washed the cornbread down with ice tea before adding. "Fossilized resin... from prehistoric trees."

"Amazing," Mel commented, reaching over and picking up the irregular shaped, golden colored resin. She held it up to the light.

"Iíve heard of people finding pieces with prehistoric insects inside," Janice commented. "But this one doesnít seem to have any."

"Think thereís more of this down there?" Mel queried, rubbing her fingers over the smooth surface.

"Duní know," Janice mumbled around a spoonful of soup, then swallowed before adding. "Guess we should... look when we get more men and lanterns down there."

Mel brought the resin to her nose. "Umm, it smells good. Here..." She offered her hand to Janice.

"Hmm, youíre right, it does. Musta been a nice smelling old tree, hmm?"

Both women smiled. Janice went back to her soup.

"Whaddaya think think itís worth?" Mel queried. "Just in case we find more."

"Now look... whose talkiní... mon-ney," Janice mumbled around a bite of cornbread.

"Yeah, well... like you say, every little bit helps."

"You can say that again." Janice wiped her mouth.

"Every little bit..." Mel paused, as her companion looked up at her.

A slow smile crept onto both their faces; laughing eyes making suggestions of future endeavors. "Youíre sure youíre not hurt?" Mel inquired.

"You should know, you bathed me. Not a scratch... so you said."

"Whatís that supposed to mean?"

"Um, just that... your attention seemed to be centered on... certain areas, shall we say." Janice grinned slyly.

"Youíre not going back to work, are you?" Mel laid the amber back down on the table.

"Uh-uh," came the reply and a slight shake of the head. "Why? What do you have in mind, hmm?"

"Well, I guess you could help me with the scrolls. Thereís a lot we havenít read yet, ya know."

"Uh-huh. Or...?" Janice questioned, arching her eyebrows suggestively.

"I donít believe I mentioned anything else," Mel countered.

"No, but Iím mentioning it."

"Mentioning what?" Mel asked innocently, though finding it hard to keep a straight face.

Janiceís eyes strayed down to the thin white shirt Mel was wearing, which sheíd already noticed a good while before. It was evident the brunette was not wearing a bra. And also very obvious that she could not be unaware of how revealing the thin material was. Sheíd also left the top two buttons undone. Janice was reminded of the day Chuckie showed up. When their gazes met again, there was no more need for words. The remains of Janiceís lunch were left on the table, while the two occupants of the house endeavored to satisfy a different kind of hunger.

A few hours later, Janice was lying in Melís arms in their usual comfortable position.

"Janice, you remember what happened in that... temple, just before we... found the scrolls?" Mel began a bit hesitantly.

Janice merely grunted.

"You heard the words Xena and Gabrielle used in their... commitment ceremony from that scroll you told me about this morning, didnít you?"

"Yeah, thatís why Iím not sure they were... memories, as you believe."

"But, I never read that particular scroll before this morning," Mel reminded. "And I was privy to the same sights and sounds you were, I believe." Janice grunted again. "And I also, saw and heard things that... werenít in that scroll or any others Iíve read."

"What exactly did you see and hear?" Janice questioned.

The two lovers then compared notes.

"You really think those were memories?" Janice questioned.

"Yes... I do," Mel replied. "Itís the only explanation. If we both were just making things up, then... wouldnít our versions be different?"

Janice cuddled closer to her lover, feeling a strange tingle run up her spine. The thought that they might have been Xena and Gabrielle in a previous lifetime was just too frightening to contemplate for very long. It went against everything her grandmother, who was a devoted Methodist, had ever taught her.

"Letís not talk about this anymore, hmm?" Janice suggested, attempting to distract Mel with a light kiss upon the neck. She was just about to cross one leg over Melís, when there was a knock at the door. She groaned.

Mel sighed heavily . "Iíll get it," she offered. "Just stay put."

"If itís Solanos, tell him Iíll be there first thing in the morning," Janice said, watching her lover get dressed.

Mel threw on her shirt, donned her pants and went to answer the door. When she opened it, she was taken by surprise at whose back was facing her. It was none other than Jack, the Fuller Brush salesman from Hoboken, New Jersey, whoíd tried to pass himself off as a French army officer on their previous dig. She recognized him because he was wearing the same drab colored uniform, minus the sporty hat. His dark hair was thinning on top, the crown revealing he was more than likely several years from the normal baldness most males suffered. His casual stance was indicative of one pretending to be someone he was not.

Mel cleared her throat.

"Oh, hello," Jack said, spinning around, his gaze landing throat level on Mel. "Iím looking for..." He paused, eyes roaming down Melís body. He swallowed hard, taking in the thin shirt, pants and lack of shoes. "D-Doctor J-Janice C-Covington," he stammered, his gaze wandering back up again.

"Hi, Jack," Mel said, left hand on her hip now. "What are you doing here? I thought you went back to the States weeks ago."

"M-Mel!" he stammered, his gaze finally meeting hers; eyes flying open wide. "W-Woah!! Youíve cha-anged," he drawled. "Nixed the glasses, huh? Smart move! Wow!!" He growled deep in his throat, rolling his tongue. "Youíre looking goo-ood!!" he added, eyes roaming down again.

"She asked you what youíre doing here?" Janice spoke up, coming up beside Mel, still buttoning her shirt.

Jack quickly glanced over at Janice, drawing his tongue back into his mouth. "Oh hi, Doc." He cleared his throat, his eyes rapidly taking in her disheveled appearance; hair all mussed, shirt buttoned wrong and no shoes. "I came here looking for you, actually." His eyes strayed back to Mel, finally noticing her hair was a mess, as well. "But this vision of loveliness here..."

Janice stepped in front of Mel. "Whaddaya want with me, hmm?"

"Oh, I..." He tried to peek around Janice, as Mel moved back into the room. "Boy, oh boy, has she changed or what? Zow-wee, va-va-va-voom!" he added, shaking his hand suggestively.

"Jack, what the hell do you want?" Janice growled, grabbing the front of his uniform.

"Oh, yeah well... Hey, is that anyway to greet an old friend?"

"I donít remember saying we were friends," Janice grumbled, her face quite close to his.

"O-kay, then how about someone... bearing news you might wanna hear?"

"And what news might that be?"

"Let me go and... invite me in and I just might tell you." Janice tightened her grip on his uniform. "It has to do with your dig," he quickly added.

"Dig, huh? What about it?"

"Let go first."

"Keep those bug-eyes to yourself, understand?" she warned.

Jack looked away. "Okay, I wonít look at you, I promise."

"Not me, you jack-ass. Keep your eyes off Mel. And keep your comments to yourself, you got that?"

"Oh-h okay, Iíll... Iíll try."

"Do better than try or youíll be outta here a lot faster than you came in." He arched his eyebrows. Janice roughly let go of him. "Now what is this news?" she asked over her shoulder.

Mel was at the kitchen table. Janice spied her breasts through the white shirt. She caught Melís eye and made sure she knew what she was suggesting. Mel glanced down at herself, then crossed her arms over her chest.

"Hi, Mel, how you doiní?" Jack asked.

"Hello again, Jack," Mel responded politely.

"Sit down," Janice commanded, pulling out a chair between herself and Mel. "Letís cut straight to the chase, shall we," she added. "Spit it out."

"Yeah, well... did you know your permit on the dig ran out the other day?"

Janiceís eyes grew wide. Then she closed them and groaned. "Jesus H. Christ, I forgot all about that damn permit."

"Um-hm," Jack commented. "Well, now the Greek government is coming to shut you down. And collect everything youíve brought out of the site since then."

Janice opened her eyes and grabbed him by the shirt again. "How in blue blazes do you know so much about this?"

"Easy on the duds, toots," he cautioned. "This uniform didnít come cheap."

Janice pulled him closer. "Iíll cheap you if you donít tell me everything you know about this and how you know it, you got that?"

"Janice," Mel cautioned. "Calm down, give the man time, hmm?"

Janice shoved him back in his chair. "Now, you were saying, Jack..." Mel said, rather sweetly.

"Yeah, well... I..." His eyes wandered over Melís torso. She lifted an index finger from crossed arms, made a Ďcome hereí motion and pointed upward. "Iím up here, Jack. Talk to me, hmm?" He looked up, grinned sheepishly and Mel smiled tolerantly back at him. "Jack, do you remember when Xena took over my body in that tomb?" she asked.

"Uh, yeah, who could forget how she..."

"Yeah well, if you donít start talking, you just might see Xena again and this time, sheíll be after you, not Ares."

Jack cleared his throat. "I didnít have enough money for a plane ticket back home, so I had to get a job. You know the exchange rate here is tremendous. And these foreigners are just waiting to take advantage of an unsuspecting American..."

Janice slammed her fist down on the table. Jack jumped. "Yeah so, I got a job in the governent office. I saw you in town, by the way," he said to Mel. "With that American fellow. Who is he, your boyfriend or something?"

"Lawyer," Mel responded. "Go on, please."

"Well, so, I see this guy come into the government office. Heís checking you out." He glanced over at Janice briefly. "Checking on your credentials and your permit for here."

"And?" Mel prodded.

"Well, that brought the permit to their attention. And now theyíre coming to shut you down."

Janice jumped up and started pacing. Jack smiled at Mel, who tolerantly smiled back and said, "Iím curious, Jack. Howíd you become privy to all this information?"

"Oh, I have my ways," he said proudly.

"You working with the governement by any chance?" she prodded.

"Working with...? Oh no! No, I was just working for..."

"How do we know what youíre saying is true?" Janice asked over his shoulder, both hands around his neck now. "I hear government jobs pay well. So, why arenít you already out of the country on your way back home?"

"My... work per-mit... my... pocket," he choked out.

Mel reached in the pocket he gestured to. "Works for the government all right," she announced. "Heís a janitor." She smiled.

"Janitor," Janice scoffed. "Might know. Suits you." She let go of him.

"Look, I... I just came here to... warn you two," Jack squeaked out, rubbing his neck. "I... I thought we were friends, but... I see I was wrong. You donít... want my help, so Iíll just be..."

"Sit down!" Janice grumbled, putting her hands on his shoulders. "You know this is a real touching story, Jack. You coming all the way from Amphipolis just to warn us about this. But, you know what? I donít buy it. Why should you care what happens to this dig, hmm? Or us for that matter?" Janice paused. "You came for the scrolls, didnícha? Wanna try and take more than two this time?" Her hands were wrapped lightly around his throat once again; a sinister warning.

Mel stared at Jack. He cleared his throat and grinned sheepishly. "He stole some scrolls?" she queried.

"He tried," Janice answered. "I felt them in his pack when he was getting ready to leave on that motorcycle of his." She tightened her grip on his throat. "And while he was saying goodbye to you, I got them back." Jack was gasping for breath now. "Donít even think about getting your hands on those scrolls. You so much as touchíem again and Iíll kill you myself!" Janice then let go and Jack began coughing.

Mel sighed heavily and leaned back in her chair, arms still crossed. "And I was beginning to believe we could trust you."

"Hey," Jack squeaked. "I... risked... my life too.. ya know." He coughed several times. "I deserved... some compen... compensation. You all had... the bulk of the scrolls. I thought... my life was worth at least six!"

"Six!" Janice shouted. Jackís eyes flew open wide. Janice grabbed him again and he snapped his head back, catching her in the nose. She staggered backwards, hand to her face.

Before Jack even knew what hit him, Mel snatched him up out of the chair, turned him towards her and punched him dead in the nose. He flew backwards into the living room, skidding across the floor, his head colliding with the desk and knocking him out cold.

Mel glanced down at her own fist. "Didnít know I could do that," she mumbled, then turned her attention to Janice.

 

When Jack came to, he was tied to a kitchen chair. Mel was sitting on the side of the sofa, talking low and soft to Janice, who was stretched out with a cloth to her nose. The tall brunette leaned over and placed a kiss on the doctorís forehead. Jack was beginning to get a clearer picture now. Their disheveled conditons, Janiceís warning about not looking at Mel and now the kiss, was all coming together in his slightly muddled brain.

He licked his dry lips and tasted blood. His own blood. "Okay, you dames, listen up," he announced, deciding to come clean. "Iíve still got four scrolls. You wantíem, I gotíem, so letís make a deal."

"I knew he wanted something," Janice mumbled beneath the cloth.

So, hereís the deal," he continued, "you give me a deciphered copy of the scrolls and I give you the four I have. Safely hidden away, mind you," he added, just in case Janice decided to try and strangle him again to get them.

Mel looked down at Janice. They wanted all the scrolls. Question was, did Jack really have any?

"We donít believe you," Mel said bluntly.

"Yeah," Janice chimed in. "There were only two in the pack."

"Thatís because I had the others on my person. Iím not entirely stupid, ya know."

"Howíd you do that?" Janice asked, raising up. "Those scrolls are too big to hide in your shirt, I would have noticed..."

"The small ones," he corrected, rolling his eyes skyward. "They fit pretty nicely in a pair of socks; two on each leg."

The two women looked at one another. "Before you get anything out of us, we need proof you have them," Janice said.

"Yeah well, you dames cut me loose and Iíll show you proof."

Mel started to get up and Janice grabbed her arm. "I can handle him," Mel assured.

The brunette untied his arms, but not his legs. "You dames are something else, ya know that," he said, rubbing his wrists.

"The proof," Mel said brusquely, arching one dark eyebrow.

He reached beneath his pants leg and produced a small scroll with only one handle intact. "I tried to get an old woman to read it to me. She said she knew how to read ancient Greek. She threw it back in my face and... it tore in half," he explained.

Janice was beside Mel now, looking on as the latter unrolled the partial scroll. Both read the words, but couldnít believe them. Xena and Gabrielle had been brought back from the dead by someone named Eli.

Scanning down rapidly, Mel pointed out a passage about Gabrielle being stunned by Xena announcing that she was pregnant. Both women looked at one another.

"This is only part of one scroll," Janice said, trying to hide her interest. "How do we know you have the rest?"

"Youíll just have to trust me."

"Trust YOU!" Janice scoffed. "Iíll give you some trust..."

Mel put out her arm stopping her companion. "One deciphered scroll for each one that you produce," she suggested. Janice glanced up at her and frowned. "Fair enough?" the brunette asked. Janice shrugged and took the partial scroll, reading more.

"I guess thatís fair," Jack finally agreed. "As long as the ones I get are about my ancestor, Joxer the Mighty." Janice glanced over at Mel; both women shrugged. "Thatís what I came here for," he continued, "I know heís in those scrolls. And... Iíd like to hand these stories down to my own kids... someday." He grimaced slightly, rubbing at the dried blood under his nose. "No one ever believed the stories were true, but me. So, Iíd kinda like to have proof for my own kids. Letíem know where they really come from, ya know? Giveíem a sense of pride, that... I never had," he added a bit sadly.

Mel and Janice looked at each other once again. Janice handed Jack the cloth sheíd been using. Then she quickly dropped to her knees and felt up both of his legs.

"Hey, what the...?"

"Just checking," Janice muttered.

"You dames really must think Iím stupid." Jack blew his nose into the cloth.

Mel and Janice rolled their eyes.

They finally set Jack free - mumbled apologies all around - then fed him. Jack claimed the government agents were due tomorrow, which meant there were quick plans to be made.

They decided that to avoid suspicion Jack would go into town in the morning and mail the scrolls to Melís home in South Carolina. Mel herself would take the truck into town, separately, just to make sure Jack sent them off. Meanwhile, Janice would go to the dig site, as usual, as if nothing was amiss. Sheíd be waiting on the agents, however, and would put up a good verbal battle, just for show. Then she and Mel would meet Jack at the airport in Amphipolis two days later and theyíd all fly home together. The latter part being Jackís idea: his way of keeping up with his investment, so to speak. The safety of the ones deciphering the scrolls he wanted, uppermost on his mind.

Janice was placing the last scroll in the 2 ft. square cardboard box. It was a good fit, what with towels between each layer and bathclothes, T-shirts and anything else they could utilize wrapped around each scroll to protect them on their journey.

The piece of amber was in Janiceís pants pocket. She could sense its presence. She wasnít sure exactly why, but she felt an overwhelming urge to put the amber in with the scrolls. There was also a nagging impulse to say... something over the scrolls; a prayer for their safety perhaps? She placed the amber inside the box, then closed her eyes. She heard Mel walk up beside her -bringing the tape to seal the box- too late for her to pretend she was doing anything other than what it appeared.

Mel glanced down at the stone nestled in between two scrolls directly on top, then back up at Janice. "Iíll come back in a few minutes," she offered.

Janice reached out and grabbed her arm. "No... stay. I have no secrets from you," she continued, "I... I canít explain it, Mel, but... everytime I think about sending these off alone, I... I think of the temple and the tomb... how save they were in those places for so many, many years and... Iím afraid Iím going to screw up and loose them, by taking them away from here." Her eyes beseached her friendís for understanding.

Mel nodded and took her hand, interlacing their fingers. "Perhaps if we both said a prayer," she suggestly softly. "A prayer of protection, you think? Couldnít hurt, hmm?"

Janice felt relief wash over her; for, these were her thoughts. Only difference being she felt she should pray to Artemis, but she assumed Mel meant to pray to the One God, Jehovah. She looked into the box. "They were safe in the temple all these years," she murmured.

"Then weíll ask that she continue to keep them safe," Mel intoned.

Janice glanced up at her friend and lover. Warm knowing blue eyes gazed back at her. "Yes, those are my thoughts, exactly," she admitted.

Mel closed her eyes and Janice followed suit.

A few minutes later, the box was sealed and the two women were gazing into each otherís eyes again; Mel was leaning toward Janice, whose back was to the door.

"Hey, you dames!" Jack announced from the doorway. Mel abruptly straightened up. "We havenít got all day here. Those scrolls ready to go or what?"

Janice spun around on her heels. "Theyíre ready," she grumbled, advancing on Jack. He tried to step out of her way, but she reached out and grabbed his nose between thumb and index finger.

"OW-OW-OW-W!!" he yelped, as she squeezed.

"For your information, we are not dames. We have names. Sheís Mel and Iím Janice. No, make that Doc to you. You got that?" She roughly tugged on his nose, then let go abruptly.

"Yeah, I got it, I got it." He rubbed his nose, as she passed on by. He stared after her. "Whatís her problem?"

You, Mel thought, but didnít say.

Jack ambled towards Mel. "Hey, I was thinking, would it be possible to make my copies look like reals scrolls?" he asked. "Can you still get that old parchment stuff?"

"Weíll see," Mel answered, as she picked up the box.

"Hey, ho... hold on there," Jack objected. "That looks far too heavy for a frail little cookie like you. Let me carry that."

"Okay." Mel shoved the box in his direction. "All yours now."

"Humph!" he groaned and sagged. The box was heavier than he had anticipated, but this wasnít the true cause of his discomfort. The latter was caused by the corner of the box hitting him in a very sensitive area.

"And Iím not cookie, dame, babe or sweetie," Mel said, punctuating each name by pushing against the box. "The nameís Mel... capital M-e-l... got that?" She gave the box one last shove, for good measure.

"Oh-humph!" Jack grunted. "Sure... sure Xe... I mean, Mel."

"Thatís better," she purred and patted him on the cheek on her way by.

Chapter 19

 

Mel was back at the dig site before noon. She wanted to let Janice know that things had went smoothly in town. The government agents showed up just as they were leaving to have lunch. Mel decided to stick around, just in case Janice went overboard with her performance.

Janice was believably upset: she feigned not being able to understand the native language well, argued, conjoled and even off-handedly suggested a bribe, as any good archaelogist would in order not to lose the dig. The little short, round agent, with thinning hair, would hear none of it; he was going strictly by the book. The taller, burly young agent -a thick crop of black hair and a permanent scowl on his face- was taking everything in, but saying very little.

Having arrived in separate cars, the little man left the young agent at the dig site to secure it, until more goverment agents arrived the following day. Mel and Janice then had a long leisurely lunch, discussing what they needed to do next.

Janice and Mel were back in the tunnel of the cave, later that day, gathering up tools -the workmen being ordered to stop work at once when the agents arrived, leaving tools and lanterns inside- when the burly man, previously introduced as Micanos, walked up to them. He was followed closely by the worker who had once made vulgar comments to Mel, the day she came looking for Janice, after her trip to Amphipolis.

Micanos smiled, then pulled a small caliber pistol from his pants pocket. "Put those down," he ordered in accented English, gesturing to the pick axe in Janiceís hand and the chisel in Melís. "Over there... thatís right." Both women tossed the tools onto the pile theyíd already gathered.

Mel raised her hands and said, "Oh-h my-y!" Her southern drawl more pronounced than usual.

Janice glanced over at her, thinking what a time for Mel to revert back to her former ways.

"Now the whip and the gun," Micanos ordered. "Slowly put the gun down and kick it over here."

"Okay, whaddaya want?" Janice asked, as she did as she was told. "The tools and lanterns? Fine, take them."

Micanos chuckled and glanced back at his partner. "No, we want what you took out of here several mornings ago." Janice glanced over at her workman. "No use denying it, he helped you raise the cot. Too heavy for just a cot and blanket, huh Petracus?" The workman nodded, while leering at Mel.

Uh-oh, Janice thought. Weíre in deep shit now.

"Search them," Micanos added. "I donít want any surprises."

While Petracus searched them -spending far too much time on Mel for Janiceís liking- Micanos picked up Janiceís gun and stuffed his own back in his pocket.

"Not bad," Micanos observed, glancing from the gun to Janice with an "itís mine now" grin on his face. "Now, why donít we just take a nice long stroll back to your cottage and see what we can find, hmm?"

"The only thing we found were those weapons on the other side there," Mel said, her southern drawl still heavy and her voice very fine and ultra feminine. "I canít possibly imagine why he thought the cot was heavier than it should have been, unless he doesnít know that Americans make things that way to last longer."

Petracus smiled.

"He saw the place where you dug it up," Micanos added.

"Oh-h my-y," Mel drawled and actually blushed. "You didnít... Oh my, I... I never dreamed... I mean, what else was there for a... lady to do? I couldnít... hold it any longer."

Petracus blinked. Micanos glanced over at him and then back at Mel. "Nice try," he offered "But, Iím not buying it. Now, letís stop stalling, shall we? Ladies, after you..." He gestured with the pistol for them to move by him toward the entrance. "Letís go!"

"Oh-h my-y," Mel drawled. "Come on, Janice. Letís do as the man says."

It was late afternoon. Both women were walking ahead of the men, when Mel looked back and suddenly stumbled. "Oh-oh-Oh-h!" she cried and fell down on her behind.

"Mel, are you alright?" Janice asked, concern evident in her voice.

Mel was holding her ankle. "I think I... turned my... ankle. Oh no, no, donít touch it!" she admonished her friend. "It hurts so bad!"

Micanos was furious. "Get up! Youíre not hurt that bad. Get her on her feet!" he ordered Janice. "Now!"

Petracus reached over and touched his arm. In Greek he said, "Why donít you take the blonde to the cottage. Iíll wait here with the tall one. Itíll be faster that way."

"You think you can handle her by yourself?"

"Oh yeah. I got just what she needs." He placed one hand on the knife at his belt, the other cupped his crotch. "I been wanting to get my hands on her for a while now. I should be finished when you get back."

Micanos stared at the brunette. "Donít kill her, hmm? Save some for me. The blonde looks like a fighter... I may have to get rid of her, once I get what we came for."

Petracus grunted. "Sheís big enough to share, I think." Both men chuckled.

"Iím not leaving you," Janice whispered.

"Yes, you will," Mel countered. "Ow-Ow-OW-W!" she cried, as Janice tried to get her to her feet.

"Leave her!" Micanos ordered. "Petracus will stay with her." The latter drew his knife from his belt and grinned. "You and me, weíre going to the cottage," Micanos added. "Now move!"

"Iím not leaving her!" Janice growled, eyeing Petracus, who was leering at Mel.

"Leave her now or she dies right here. Your choice," Micanos said, pointing the gun at Mel.

"Okay, okay," Janice grumbled and started backing away. "Letís get this overwith then."

Petracus leered at Mel. "Me and you... we have fun, hmm?" he said in English.

Mel shook her head and tried to crawl away backwards. "Oh-oh!" she squeaked, her ankle obviously paining her. She rolled over on her side away from the workman, grabbing at her ankle.

Janice started back towards her and Micanos pushed the gun in her back. "Ah-ah-ah! Move!" he ordered.

Janice and Micanos were soon out of sight down in the little valley below. Petracus then bent down behind Mel. The latter glanced over her shoulder, showing the fear in her eyes. Petracus was bringing the knife towards her throat, when Mel blocked his arm, then rolled over, her fist connecting squarely with his nose. She trapped his right hand holding the knife between herself and the ground, then brought her knee up into his groin. Two more solid punches to the nose, splattered blood all over her white shirt and Petracus was disarmed.

"Wow, didnít know I could do that," Mel muttered, shaking her now throbbing right fist.

Janice glanced back, once they were on the next rise, and saw two figures on the ground. She gritted her teeth.

"Move!" Micanos ordered.

Once inside the cottage Micanos asked, "Where are they?"

"Where are what?" Janice asked. "She already told you...."

Micanos backhanded Janice. Her hat flew off and she stumbled into the desk. "Give me what I want and you just might live!" He grabbed her by the back of the head and held the gun beneath her chin. "Now, where are they?"

Janice had nothing to offer him. The scrolls were gone. "I donít have anything. I told you... the weapons out there, thatís all there is."

He growled. "I knew you would be trouble!" He glanced around the room. "The American said you had scrolls and I think you found more. I want them. Where would two women hide them? In there!" He gestured towards the bedroom with the gun.

They both heard a noise from the kitchen area. Micanos turned, gun swinging around in that direction. Both were shocked to see Jack coming out of the kitchen with an iron frying pan upraised in his hand.

Janice drew back and stabbed Micanos in the leg, with the letter opener sheíd acquired from the desk. Micanos yelped; the gun went off; Jack cried out; Micanos let go of Janiceís hair and she grabbed his right arm, sinking her teeth into his thumb. He was reaching with his left hand for the gun in his pocket, when Mel grabbed his arm from behind and put Petracusí knife to his throat.

"Drop it!" she growled near his ear.

Janice was going for the gun almost before it hit the floor. She then reached over and pulled his out of his pocket.

"Jack, you okay?" Mel asked.

"Yeah, just nicked me, I think."

"Better get the rope we tied Jack up with," Janice said, as Mel let go of Micanos and started towards her. She held up her hand. "Iím alright, really. Must look worse than it is," she added, noticing the expression on Melís face.

A few moments later, Micanos was hand were securely bound behind his back. Janice held the gun on him, while Mel went over to Jack to take a look at his arm. "What are you doing back here, anyway?" she asked.

"One of the workman I saw yesterday looked familiar, but I couldnít remember where I had seen him. Then when I left for Amphipolis it suddenly hit me that I saw him at the government office, with him." Jack gestured towards Micanos. "So, I hightailed it back here, thinking you da... ladies, might need some help. Good thing I did, too."

Janice glanced over at him. "Yeah, Jack, it is a good thing. I owe you one."

Jack was quite surprised to hear this from Janice and it showed on his face.

Mel ripped Jackís upper sleeve, so she could see the wound better. "This is more than a little nick," she announced.

"Really?" the injured man said, glancing over at his own arm. Blood was oozing from the wound, where the bullet had passed through the meat. Jack promptly passed out.

 

Mel was pulling the ladder up out of the hole in the temple ceiling, Janice holding the gun on their captives below. Micanos and Petracus were both unbound, having entered the temple, via the ladder, at gun point, on separate occasions. Pertacus was still out cold, as Mel had left him before.

Once the ladder was sufficiently out of reach, Janice reholstered her gun and helped Mel move the ladder further from the hole.

"That should holdíem til morning," Mel said, glancing up at the setting sun. "We better get moving."

Janice merely grunted. She was staring at the small pistol tucked in the waistband of Melís pants, which seemed to suggest that her companion was no stranger to guns, at least, not anymore. As they started back towards the cottage, Janice finally asked the question that had been nagging at her, since learning that Mel had handled Petracus all by herself. "Do... you really think we... were once Xena and Gabrielle?"

Mel glanced over at her. "What do you think?"

"Sounds... far fetched, but... I guess anything is possible, huh?" Janice said. Mel shrugged. "One thing for sure, if we were... we know who Jack was," Janice added.

The tall brunette chuckled and put her arm around the smaller woman beside her. "So, whatís next, Doc?"she asked teasingly.

"Hmm. Tell me about South Carolina. Any digs going on down there? Iíll need something to do while youíre deciphering the rest of those scrolls."

Mel chuckled again. "Actually, my father was contacted by another professor wanting him to take a look at some writings on a stone that had been found somewhere near the Georgia - South Carolina border, I believe."

"Writings? You mean, hieroglyphics, right? Indians didnít have a written language."

"It wasnít Indian. He thought the writings may have been made by the survivors of the Lost Colony of Roanoke."

"Roanoke?" Janice repeated. "Was that the colony established by Sir Walter Raleigh? Wasnít that off the coast of Virginia, though?"

"No, North Carolina."

"I thought they were presumed killed by the Indians?"

"Killed or taken captive into the tribes," Mel added.

"What did your father decide about the stone?"

"He never saw it. Heíd already had a light stroke by then," Mel answered, a bit sadly.

"Oh, Iím sorry." They walked on in silence a moment. "So, the stone had to be written in English, right? Why couldnít anyone else read it?"

"Back then, not everyone was literate, ya know. Only the upper class were taught to read and write."

"Sounds like youíve given this some thought," Janice commented.

"A little. After my father died, I wanted to get away... and well, I had two choices: going there or coming here."

Janice cleared her throat. "Are you... sorry you chose to...?"

Mel cut her off by stopping abruptly and taking her in her arms. "Coming here was the best decision I ever made in my life," she said, a very sincere look in her eyes. "I wouldnít change a thing." She sealed this proclamation with a kiss.

"Iím so glad you made that choice," Janice admitted, caressing the side of her loverís face. "I love you, Mel."

"I love you, too, Janice." The two women embraced. Their silhouettes against the backdrop of the setting sun blending into one.

"So, tell me more about South Carolina," Janice said, as they started walking once again, arms wrapped around one another.

"Well, I also heard they were excavating a site close to the Georigia border. The Catawba tribe, I believe... whose chief was a woman. She met DeSota on his search for El Dorado, I believe."

"A female chief?" Janice asked, incredulously. "You must be pulling my leg."

"No, really. Several of the southeastern tribes were matrilineal. The Cherokee have women in their councils to this day."

"Sounds like youíre really interested in Indians," Janice noted.

"Yeah, I am. Always have been, actually. I loved studying about them, as well as Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt..." Mel paused. Janice glanced up at her, a quizzical expression on her face. "Yes," Mel answered the unspoken question. "If what they say about reincarnation is indeed true, then we live many lifetimes here on earth. And always come in contact with the same group of souls in order to learn different lessons."

"You mean...?"

Mel shrugged. "In those western movies they make, I always rooted for the Indians. How Ďbout you?"

"Yeah. They got a bum rap," Janice grumbled, then glanced up at Mel. "Matrilineal tribes, huh? Which ones?"

"Oh, letís see... the Cherokee, of course... the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and the Yuchi." Mel paused. "The Yuchi were even known for being quite tall and having blue eyes. Probably due to intermingling with early white settlers, I should think."

Janice glanced up at her. "Your Nana was Yuchi, you said." Mel nodded. "Think you were? I mean you know, way back...?"

"Yeah, would have to be way back." Mel agreed, a slight smile curling up the corners of her mouth.

Janice read the implication "Oh, youíre not talking about ancestors.... you mean... you think you and me... we might have been...?"

"Like you said, anythingís possible. Come on, letís get a move on. I canít wait to show you my home."

"We kill Chuckie first thing or... wait til later?" Janice quipped.

Mel chuckled. "Heíll get whatís coming to him, donít worry," she assured.

1994 or thereabout:

"Tell me more about this Xena," said the tow headed executive producer.

"Xena? Donít you mean, Joxer, dude?" asked the young man trying to sell his idea.

"No, I mean Xena." The producer rolled up one scroll and unrolled another. "Got anymore of these?" he asked, perusing this one.

"Xena, huh? Figures," the young man grumbled.

"Do you have anymore or not?" asked the producer. "I havenít got time for this Joxer character. No substance."

"Okay, dude. I didnít come unprepared." The young man reopened his briefcase and pulled out a typed manuscript, then laid it on the producerís desk.

"Whatís this?" the producer asked. There was a brief silence as his eyes traversed the first page. He laid the scroll down and picked up the manuscript. "She knew Hercules?" he mumbled. "Interesting."

The young man sat down on the sofa. Knew that would get him, he thought. I played it just right.

"Who is this Gabrielle?" the producer asked, referring to the author.

"She was a bard. Xenaís sidekick," the young man replied. "She wrote all the scrolls."

"All?" The producerís eyes peered over the manuscript.

"Yeah, dude, thereís plenty more where that came from. You interested?" The young man crossed his arms. "Then maybe we can work something out, hmm?"

The young man silently thanked his lucky stars, his grandfather and the old maid who had willed the scrolls and manuscripts to his family all those years ago. These stories were gonna make him rich. And maybe even get him a part in a TV series, if he played his cards right.

The End

 

Note from Azurenon:

To those who may be wondering if there will be anymore stories: Well... Iíve got a few handwritten ideas on paper and others rambling around in the jumbled gray mass I call my brain, as does Savanna Mac. We will be jumping to the fifth season, because we feel the fourth speaks for itself.

These will still be under the title "between the episodes" even though, I have ideas to revisit and completely revamp "Antony and Cleopatra" which almost made me an ex-Xenite -at least as far as watching the new season goes- until Savanna said, "Hey, we can rewrite it our way, canít we? For us and others out there who might not have liked it?". So, if you liked our stories, check back in from time to time, there should be a few more coming. And these should be shorter. For, I nearly burnt out, what few brain cells I have left, on this one.

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