Xena: Warrior Princess is copyright MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. All original content of Xena: Warrior Princess 2.0 is copyrighted by the author and is not to be used or modified without permission. All rights reserved.
EXT. ATHENS OUTSIDE CITY WALLS MORNING
Xena and Gabrielle are standing on the edge of a field. Crops are being raised as far as eye can see and SLAVES work the land. Ahead of them, the stone paved road leads to a Dipylon, a massive northern gate. In the distance on a hill above the city is the Parthenon. Other structures partially peak over the walls. Gabrielle's eyes are like saucers as she drinks in the sight.
You open them any wider and they will drop from your face and go rolling on the ground.
Gabrielle creates a mental image of it and giggles.
Plunk, plunk, roll. Xena, we have to stay at least a week.
You mean I have to stay in the inn for a week, trapped in a room. Gabrielle, bored warlord is a trouble waiting to happen. Don't blame me if I start a war or two.
Name your price, excluding anything involving a certain bard and you in birthday suits. Both combinations.
Xena considers how far she can push this.
I want a quality inn with tub in the room, three meals delivered daily with drinks, and scrolls to read, not just yours. Plus for following month we stay overnight at the villages thrice per week.
Deal, you moocher.
Gabrielle, firmly yet with twinkle in her eye
Yes you are.
Seal with a kiss?
Gabrielle grabs Xena's hand with her right one and kisses her own knuckles with a flourish; she then releases Xena's hand.
Sealed in the spirit of the law and in accordance with governing contract statutes.
statute ass mmph!
Gabrielle covers Xena's mouth with her hand and laughs, shaking her head.
You are something else.
Gabrielle rapidly takes her hand away and shoots Xena a warning. Xena smirks.
Thanks to you, I am.
Gabrielle takes in Xena's new look. Henna turned Xena's hair red. Simple yet conservatively elegant dress covers her body. Soft walking boots and finely crafted leather belt are topped by a simple cloak. Gabrielle is wearing her leather armor and the usual arsenal of weapons minus the staff.
Throw the hood over your head well before we get to the gate. Make sure the hair is hanging down in front. Walk on the balls of your feet to hide your usual powerful stride. Trust me, it will work.
Said the lamb walking into wolves' lair.
EXT. ATHENS CENTRAL SQUARE LATE MORNING
Xena walks beside Argo, with Gabrielle riding. They enter the open space of central square. Ornate buildings and covered and columned walkways surround the square. To the south, wide avenue snakes ever upward towards the Parthenon. Milling about are TOWNSPEOPLE, VISITORS, LOCAL MILITIA, SOLDIERS, SAILORS, ARTISTS, MERCENARIES, MERCHANTS, MUSICIANS, and SLAVES going about their assigned task plus a few THIEVES working the crowd with deft fingers. The noise of humanity is pronounced. Xena picks up her narration, pointing things out.
South Stoa marks that border of the marketplace; others are named after the Gods. The rich part of town begins there, including Royal Academy of Bards and other important political, cultural, and military institutions. Temples, statues, law courts, and the monuments surround the square in spaces between Stoa. If you ever get lost in Athens, ask for directions to here.
Where is the Grand Amphitheater?
The site of your legendary bardic victory is on the south slope of Acropolis, behind the Parthenon.
I am so wearing steel armor.
Which of your talents will be on display? You know, Athena has a temple up there.
Xena, they have high class brothels in the city of this size. Not the scary selection of traveling flesh sellers we had at festivals in Potidaea. Consider it part of the deal. Have a night of fun and discovery; my treat.
With a woman.
When we get to the inn I will give you the drachmas. I will ask around discreetly for the location of the establishments.
EXT. ATHENS GRAND AMPHITHEATER NEXT DAY/EARLY EVENING
The stage is littered with organic debris as the latest aspiring ARTIST scurries off the stage in produce covered ignominy. Just before reaching safety, a tall, red haired woman throws a perfect strike with an onion and causes him to crash drunkenly into the background. The ARTIST recovers to his knees and crawls on all fours backstage. Laughter and appreciate cheers sound from the audience and Xena's back is patted in congratulations. The CROWD sits and reloads on ammunition, with THEATER STAFF passing baskets around the rows. The admission is paid, the performers are free, good time is had and everyone wins. Well, mostly. Meanwhile, SLAVES rush out and quickly clean the stage. Full capacity crowd of five thousand eagerly awaits the next victim.
Shortly, MASTER OF CEREMONIES enters the stage and dodges an errant tomato nimbly. He waves cheerfully to the crowd and is rewarded with applause.
MASTER OF CEREMONIES
Athenians, the highlight of the festival, the one, the only, Queen of bards!
The CROWD explodes in noise and then for the first time in the history of this place, complete silence erupts as a figure strides onto the stage. Clad in steel armor with leather armor skirt, bow and quiver slang over the shoulder and sword and buckler hanging from a belt, Gabrielle fills the place with her presence. MASTER OF CEREMONIES fades from view silently as she takes center stage. Xena stands up and tosses an apple in an arc at her, which falls short of its target when the arrow pierces it midflight. Gabrielle slings her bow as the gasps of wonder still ring.
Gabrielle, in bardic voice
I sing of Gabrielle of Potidaea, who entered the forest a child lost and emerged a young woman found.
END OF TEASER
EXT. POTIDAEA FOREST 9 YEARS AGO/SUMMER/AFTERNOON
The heat of summer is warded away by the dense canopy overhead. Small beams of light visit and dance among the murky green depths of the old growth forest, foreign visitors to the land that does not reveal its secrets easily. The usual chatter of birds and sounds of foraging animals stop as a small girl makes her way semi-loudly thru the sea of dense vegetation with determination unusual for her age and gender. Short bow and quiver are slang over her shoulder and grimy hands clutch a staff. Gabrielle stops, sets the staff against a trunk and stands still. Eventually, the sounds of nature return and a rabbit ventures in search of food. With deliberately slow motion the bow comes into her hands and arrow notches. Few more seconds and it flies true.
Gabrielle, supremely satisfied
Her stomach shares her enthusiasm with a long, low rumble. Gabrielle pats it as she walks to the rabbit and kneels next to it. She pets the soft fur, still warm and sighs. She takes out the arrow and expertly guts and dresses the catch. She cleans the skin carefully and wraps the rabbit in it. The whole package is tied with rope and secured to her belt. She buries the remains in a shallow grave.
You were sweet and fluffy, hopping on the ground without care when mean Gabrielle shot you. I promise to tell Lila a story about you, a lovely adventure with carrots and celery and happy times.
Gabrielle looks around and spotting some wildflowers, she goes over to them and picks a few. She takes them back to the impromptu burial site and places them on disturbed earth. She stands up and after taking one last look, collects her staff.
She starts to walk away and then freezes, her body automatically assuming fighting stance with staff raised and senses extended in all directions. Finding nothing, she relaxes slightly and then resumes her walk, a lot more vigilant and lighter of step. The forest swallows her tiny form and nature reigns in this corner of the land once again.
Few minutes pass and a lithe form separates from a tree above. It soundlessly covers the ground to the grave and crouches in front of it. Gnarled hand reaches toward the earth and touches it, as if in wonder. The fingers move of their own accord and grab one of the flowers, bringing them to an ancient, weathered face of an OLD MAN. He is almost six feet tall, dressed in skins, with long gray hair falling over his back. He stands up with quick grace, motion still smooth despite his fifty eight years on this earth. His weapons consist of a bow, slang over his shoulder, and a dagger and a knife on his belt. He stands holding the flower, taking in the fragrance, lost in memory. Coming about, he looks thoughtfully in the direction the child, no Gabrielle, went. He puts the flower in a pouch on his belt.
OLD MAN, approvingly
Respect for life.
EXT. POTIDAEA GRAZING FIELD 1 WEEK LATER/SUMMER/EARLY EVENING
Large flock of sheep grazes contently on the gentle slope of the hill. Sounds of staff striking wood come from a large grove of trees at the base of it. Eight year old Gabrielle is inside, busy attacking a tree trunk. The bark has been stripped and the surface is weathered and scarred. It now serves as training post for weapon drills. Few straw targets are set on the ground and in the trees. Fire pit has been dug and is smoking heavily, spreading scent of hickory and venison in the air. Large rocks surround it and more are piled to the side. Bow and quiver of arrows are set on a blanket next to a large oak, along with a small bundle and a waterskin.
The horde of sheep was endless, but the brave girl stood her ground. Possessed by evil wood spirits, their eyes glowing and their fangs showing, seeking to overrun and trample her under their sharp hooves.
Gabrielle repeats a series of fast middle strikes, alternating left and right and then switching the order and even stringing several of the same type in a row.
Hmm, I wonder if sheep's wool can stop a staff strike. It is so soft and thick. I could try it but what if I hurt one? And father will be angry. Wait, that makes the decision easy.
Gabrielle stops beating up on the defenseless tree and resolutely marches towards the grazing herd. Picking her victim, she strikes the animal on the rump. The sheep bleats, turns and butts her, almost sending her sprawling.
Hey, cut that out.
The sheep is now coming after Gabrielle with intent and she uses the staff to block the animal from reaching her. Suddenly, she realizes what is happening and starts laughing.
Come on sheep, you think you can take me?
The sheep is being denied revenge by quick footwork and well placed taps with staff that keep the animal at bay. Then a quick thrust to the nose sends the sheep running away.
Yes! My first real fight and I win. Woo hoo!
Gabrielle looks at the position of the sun in the sky.
Back to Tartarus.
She heads to the camp. Straw targets go into thick bushes, hiding them from view. She adds more wet wood to the fire and then sturdy branches and numerous rocks on top of them to loosely cover the pit and keep the wildlife away from the goodies inside. Satisfied, Gabrielle gathers the rest of her meager belonging and staff in hand, sets toward the sheep.
Back to Gabe.
She herds the animals and heads toward Potidaea. Sun leaves the sky and dusk falls.
Out of the edge of a nearby forest an OLD MAN approaches. He scouts the area and then moves into the grove. OLD MAN stops and appreciatively sniffs the smoking process. He examines the ground then heads toward the bushes; he checks the straw targets put away. Next he moves to the training post and feels the worn surface with his hands. He nods to himself.
OLD MAN, chuckling
Fighting sheep. And they call me crazy.
He leaves back to the forest whence he came from.
INT. POTIDAEA HERODOTUS' BARN 8 YEARS AGO/FALL/LATE EVENING
The boards on the side of the barn swing back. Four year old Lila enters and Gabrielle follows. They head around the haystack hand in hand and Gabrielle sets her younger sister down on the front of it.
Shh, I know. Wait here.
She takes in her sister's gaunt appearance as she is about to walk away and stops. Food is sparse at the table already and the worst of winter is still months away. Her little sister is the last to eat and there is hardly anything left by that time. Her father makes sure Gabrielle eats her entire portion in front of him. This year it will be bad. The air is already chilly and Lila shakes in her long sleep shirt.
Lila, hide in the hay.
Confused eyes look back at her.
Gabrielle changes tactics. She drops next to her sister and smiling, starts tickling her.
Burrow you little bunny.
Lila squeals and dives into straw with enthusiasm, disappearing without a trace into the depths, the disturbance releasing the scent of warm summer days into the air. There is some movement near the surface and then a dark haired head pops out.
Gabrielle tussles the straw tinged mop on top of Lila's head.
Gabrielle laughs and heads to the upper loft. She comes back shortly with a bundle. Lila has fallen asleep, her face relaxed and peaceful. Gabrielle unwraps the bundle and selecting a piece of meat, kneels and moves it under her sister's nose. Lila's nose twitches and her mouth opens wide, even thou she is still sleeping. Gabrielle explodes with laughter and Lila wakes up and closes her mouth. She looks at Gabrielle and then at the meat dangled in front of her and makes a face at Gabrielle. A little hand emerges from straw, nimbly takes the food from Gabrielle's hand and shoves the entire large piece into the mouth without biting any off. Lila's jaw works hard and her eyes open wide in appreciation. Gabrielle stops laughing and catches her breath.
Lila bird, slow down.
Lila's mind is firmly on the contents of the bundle. She finishes chewing and gazes expectantly at Gabrielle.
Lila's hand goes back into the straw and she opens her mouth to underscore her point. Gabrielle shakes her head, takes out a dagger and cuts off a piece from her supply and places it in her sister's mouth. Lila eats contentedly. Gabrielle settles down into the straw comfortably, next to her sister.
I am not hand feeding you. Come on out you skinny rat.
Lila crawls out of her straw cocoon and nestles on her mother, who starts cutting off pieces and handing them to Lila. Gabrielle cuts a piece for herself and eats it and Lila gives her a hurt look.
Gabrielle, gently reminding
Lilas face brightens and she nods.
She draws her sister closer to her and continues to hand her cut portions.
This food will be our big secret. Can you keep a secret Lila?
Lila nods seriously.
You can't tell yaya (Greek for grandma) or papu (Greek for grandpa) or any of your friends. They will take the food away.
I like food, no take away. Love you.
I love you too bunny.
EXT. POTIDAEA GRAZING FIELD 8 YEARS AGO/EARLY WINTER/AFTERNOON
Rain falls in sheets, leaving small veins of water racing across the soaked earth. Gabrielle makes her way thru the torrential downpour, her small legs churning the ankle deep mud. Few more steps and she reaches the tree line. She glances back at the herd, soggy wool and all, and continues on her way. The rain drums a cadence on the leaves and marches a rhythm on the brunches and trunks. The volume of falling water lessens considerably inside the forest. Despite the soaked cloak and general personal dampness, Gabrielle is in high spirits. Being away from Potidaea is freedom and she eagerly tastes the smells enhanced by the storm. Everything is more vivid, more alive.
Gabrielle, speaking to the trees, resolutely
I know you are out there, shadowing me. You visited my camp and followed me home. Now I hunt you.
Gabrielle drops her cloak, bow and quiver. She takes off in random direction, leaping over fallen trees and darting between trunks and around bushes. She switches direction again, then once more as she quickly covers the ground. A motion out of the corner of her eye and she hurtles in that direction, heedless of obstacles. The prey is ahead of her, silver hair flashing among the dark green and the chase is on. Deeper into the forest, down a gully and thru the stream, boots sending fountains skyward. Up the steep bank and thru the moss covered rocks. Plowing thru waist high ferns and out into the clearing, Gabrielle stops. Her quarry is gone. Right in front of her is a giant fallen tree, trunk beginning to rot. A deer carcass is laid out nearby and a tiny splash of color on it catches Gabrielle's eye. She can't shake the feeling of being watched, yet nothing stands out and there is no sense of another. She circles the clearing a few times, darting in and out of the forest. Only then she draws the dagger and approaches the deer cautiously. She checks for traps as she steadily works her way to it. Finding nothing, she kneels and examines the fatal wound.
Poor thing. Thankfully, clean shot, no suffering. Fairly recent kill, not here thou; someone dragged and posed you. And what are you?
Gabrielle reaches out and picks the soaked flower from the hide.
Hello there flower. Someone dried you and left me a present. Why?
Gabrielle furrows her brows in deep thought and then slaps her head as understanding downs. She stands up and looks around.
Wood spirit, wood spirit, come on out.
Gabrielle, considering a thought that occurred to her just now, puzzled
Do wood spirits hunt with bows?
She listens for answers and there is nothing except rain drops whispering. She shrugs and kneels down again. Carefully, she puts the flower away. Then she field dresses the deer with some difficulty. It is a small one, but she does not have a lot of practice with them. She manages and then goes looking for leaves. Finding some nice, broad ones, she takes them back and cuts some steaks, which she places on the leaves. Additional cuts of meat are wrapped securely and she sets them aside. Camp is next.
EXT. POTIDAEA FOREST 8 YEARS AGO/EARLY WINTER/LATE AFTERNOON
Gabrielle sits in a partially smoky and mostly dry lean-to she constructed against the fallen trunk. On a clear ground, in a circle of stones, fire happily feasts on wood. The dead tree provides a nice, dry source of fuel once you work at it a bit. Steaks are cooking above the fire on wet branches. Raindrops work their way in and bravely jump into the fire, only to die with a sizzle. Gabrielle checks the progress and emits a satisfied grunt. She removes and packs two, leaving three. One of them goes in partial leaf wrapping and she starts munching on it happily. She extinguishes the fire and puts dirt over it. She takes a piece of parchment, a sharpened feather and tiny container of ink. She slowly shapes a note to go along with the offering over the fire. Finished, she impales the message on one of the stakes holding the cooking setup over the fire.
Hello wood spirit. Mmmm, juicy, tasty, herbed steaks. Enjoy.
Working her way thru the one in her hand, she collects the venison she packed earlier plus some raw meat for cooking later and leaves the clearing. She ignores the driving rain as she heads for her cloak and weapons.
Belly growing full, extra on my belt, and offering left in the clearing. This is a good day. Gods smiled on me today.
INT. POTIDAEA GABRIELLE'S BEDROOM 8 YEARS AGO/EARLY WINTER/NIGHT
Lila sits on the edge of straw pallet impatiently, looking at the window, open shutters letting in the chill. She has a blanket tightly wrapped around her. Her heels beat an impromptu composition as the wait grows longer. Finally, there is a sound at the window and Gabrielle's head pokes over a window sill slowly, seemingly rising like a ghost from the ground. Lila giggles and hops on the ground. Tiny, bare feet patter over and a cold hand grabs Gabrielle's nose.
Lila, quietly but enthusiastically
My nose just froze. Lila, back in bed.
Lila sniffs out the smell of something nice nearby.
No. You have food.
Gabrielle, mock threatening
You don't get back under the blankets, you going into the pot next time.
Lila considers the possibility, not sure if her mother is just teasing or serious.
Gabrielle's right hand comes over the sill and feels the muscles on Lila's arm.
Lila makes a frightened sound and scurries onto the bed and under the blankets. Gabrielle laughs and comes inside thru the window. She is carrying a pot that fills the room with mouth watering scents. Gabrielle closes the shutters and brings over a chair, short stool really, near the bed. She sets the pot on it and takes a seat on the floor. Lila uncovers and sits across from her. Gabrielle produces two rough-hewn wooden spoons and takes the lid off. Large chunks of venison and veggies swim together in the thick sauce. Both girls dig in enthusiastically.
I saw a wood spirit today.
Lila's eyes grow big. However, she is too busy inhaling food to comment.
If you eat too fast you will burst.
Lila stops, spoon frozen in mid motion. She looks down uncertainly at her belly and pokes it experimentally with her free hand. She gives it another poke just to be sure and looks at Gabrielle, who is trying to hold a laugh. Lila sticks her tongue at her and resumes her eating campaign, albeit at a slower pace.
Chased it thru the woods and found a deer.
Gabrielle points with a spoon at the stew. Lila is less concerned with animal wellbeing than the condition of her stomach, which is pleasantly expanding and making her sleepy.
Lila pats her belly and continues her assault.
Yes, good. I cooked the meat and left an offering. Why?
Lila has to think hard, but it comes to her eventually.
That's right, we share with others.
Soon the spoons are scraping bottom and Gabrielle lets her sister finish it. With great concentration Lila scrapes the bottom thoroughly with her spoon, licking intently after each pass. No satisfied she sticks her hand in there and then licks her fingers.
Gabrielle produces a leaf wrapped package and has it waiting when Lila is finished. There is stew on Lila's hands and face. Her face lights up at the sight of additional goodies. Lila sticks out a hand.
Gabrielle slaps Lila's hand playfully then opens the leaves and selecting a large, ripe berry, holds it to her sister.
Dessert. What do you say?
Lila, eyes fixed firmly on the berry, licking her lips
Gabrielle gives her the berry which vanishes without trace and then Lila's tiny hands are shoving the rest of them into her mouth. Gabrielle manages to grab a few before the great berry carnage claims them all.
Lila is quite a sight, with stew and berry juice liberally coating her. Gabrielle brings a waterskin and a square of linen and sets about cleaning her younger sister. At last, Lila resembles a young girl again and not a food monster.
Dream time bunny.
She helps Lila into bed and tucks her into the blankets. Lila refuses to close her eyes. She wants her warm pillow. She reaches with both arms towards Gabrielle.
Shh, let me clean up.
Gabrielle moves the chair back, sets the waterskin near the bed and heads back out outside thru the window with pot and spoons.
Gabrielle comes back inside and closes the shutters behind her. She slides under the blankets and gently moves closer to sleeping Lila.
Soft, stuffed ma is here. Goodnight bunny.
Lila snuggles to Gabrielle with a small, contented sigh.
END OF ACT ONE
EXT. POTIDAEA FOREST 8 YRS AGO/WINTER SOLSTICE/LATE AFTERNOON
The forest has lost a lot of its cover up top like a middle aged man but green still reigns supreme below the tree crowns. There is little wind and the air stands still among the tall trunks. Gabrielle moves on the familiar path, enjoying the walk, the cooler air perfect for brisk movement. Soon, she enters the clearing and heads for the lean-to. It has improved thru her efforts and now the roof only leaks occasionally. She enters inside and sits on the leaf lined ground with a rustle. She opens one of her pouches and spreads a square of clean white linen on the leaves. She hears the faintest sound outside and knows there is someone there now. Gabrielle smiles and speaks loudly.
I think about you being alone, my wood spirit. Lila asked if you can stay in the barn but if father found out he would be mad. He does not like stories and mythical creatures. Lila really likes you and wants to meet you. She thinks you are not happy, with no one to talk to. She will give you the biggest hug and she will hold it forever. She promised not to let go until you are sad no more. If you want, me and Lila can be your friends.
Silence answers her, but she imagines she can hear breathing on the other side.
Gabrielle, continuing shyly
We made a present for you. This is a carving of a sheep. It is that way because Lila got berry juice on it. So you get a purple blue sheep. There.
Gabrielle sets down a roughly carved wooden animal slightly resembling a sheep that is stained in unusual color.
This is a mix of various nuts I gathered.
She adds a leaf wrapped package to the square.
I am tying the linen into a pouch and I will hang it from the roof of the lean-to.
Slight noise outside again as Gabrielle sets about her task. Gift secured, it's time for her to depart.
Gabrielle, shouting a warning
There is no one around when she exits but closer examination shows large impressions in the grass next to lean-to. Gabrielle looks around and once again it feels like eyes are watching her. Gabrielle waves and departs.
Happy Solstice, wood spirit.
EXT. POTIDAEA PASTURE 8 YEARS AGO/LATE WINTER/EARLY AFTERNOON
Gabrielle and the sheep are in sheltered valley south of their usual grazing grounds. There is a small stream meandering thru with a line of trees and bushes following its haphazard course. The forest surrounds the valley on three sides, but the winter turned out mild, game is plentiful and wolves are not a problem this year. Gabrielle does not take any chances, keeping bow and staff close at hand and frequently glancing at the slopes and tree line. There is an open scroll in her hands and several more poke their heads from an open, furry backpack at her feet. Small fire dances in the circle of stones and couple fish turn on a stick. Gabrielle stretches and takes in her surroundings. She brings her cloak closer around her body.
Let's see. Plan for today is yummy fish cooking over the fire and hours to whittle away reading scrolls. No practice, just eating and lazing about.
Gabrielle stands up and faces the sheep.
I, Gabrielle of Potidaea, declare today lazy day. Let no finger lift in labor. So say the Queen.
EXT. POTIDAEA PASTURE 8 YEARS AGO/LATE WINTER/LATE AFTERNOON
Gabrielle reluctantly puts away the scroll and closes the bag. She walks over to the clear part of the stream bank nearby and checks the lines; her reward is three large fish. She cleans and prepares them and they end up rotating above the fire. This time she adds wet wood and the fire responds, infusing smoky flavor into the fish.
Lila will be so happy when I surprise her with fish. Little rat eats all that food and still skinny as a beanpole. Where is it all going? Maybe I should forage as well, plenty of time left.
Gabrielle secures her weapons and makes for the tree line.
EXT. POTIDAEA FOREST 8 YEARS AGO/LATE WINTER/LATE AFTERNOON
Quick rounds turn up leaves for fish and some small wild apples for the stomach. Gabrielle puts her fruity catch into a pouch and heads back, only to stop in surprise as an OLD MAN steps directly into her path. He appears out of nowhere and there is no warning to announce his arrival. Gabrielle is no wilderness expert, but she is a good hunter and few things get a jump on her. She just met one of them. OLD MAN puts a finger to his lips and calls her over with his other hand. Since questions are about to start spilling from her, that is a prudent thing. Gabrielle is hesitant until she realizes that the silver hair bears a striking resemblance to her wood spirit. In fact, it is. She looks him right in the eyes and something happens. The moment passes and Gabrielle looks at the OLD MAN in a different light. She feels safe and somehow knows that he is a good person. That often happens with people she meets for the first time, but Gabrielle is not sure what that means. She just looks and knows right away if they are a friend.
Her mind at ease, Gabrielle walks over, only to be halted by a hand raised in a stop signal. OLD MAN points at his feet and Gabrielle follows with her eyes. He points out the path ahead of him, pointing at the ground and either approving or disapproving of the choice of terrain for the next step. OLD MAN then moves one foot forward and repeats the instructions.
Gabrielle, catching on fast
You are showing me where to step?
OLD MAN nods yes.
Are you a wood spirit?
OLD MAN shakes no.
Are you going to talk?
OLD MAN shakes no.
Well, I will.
OLD MAN shrugs.
Gabrielle stands directly behind him and they walk step by step, with him pointing out each good and bad spot. She quickly figures out the details and finds her body moving quieter following OLD MAN's instructions. Then he stops and gestures her to come to the front. All of a sudden it is difficult again and the ground around her looks the same. OLD MAN patiently points out a first few steps and Gabrielle relaxes enough to trust her recently gained knowledge and just go.
Very sneaky. Not nice, pretending to be wood spirit. Hmm, in a way you are.
OLD MAN does not answer.
I know everyone in Potidaea and you don't live there. Where is your home?
OLD MAN raises an eyebrow.
Oh, I am a boy. Well, my father says I am a boy and he runs the household. But he does not run me. He thinks he does but I don't cut my hair like he wants.
OLD MAN nods. He points to the ground, reminding her to concentrate on the task, but Gabrielle is off like a runaway wagon and the flood of words can't be stopped.
Every time mother wanted to shorten my hair I ran away. She chased me with scissors in the kitchen for ages one time. You think she wanted to kill me and by the end she probably did. Then she just gave up and accepted it. I think she is proud of the fact that I stand up to him. I don't think anyone in the entire village does. Especially not when he drinks and is in one of his moods.
OLD MAN just listens.
I like to talk and I met everyone in the village. They are nice to me and sometimes give me treats. I don't know why; I take them back to Lila. She likes sweets. I call her bunny, because this one time she was eating a carrot with just the cutest face and she wrinkled her nose just so and that is how I call her bunny. But she is not a bunny, not fluffy and furry. I mean she is a normal girl. Except she is skinny and you can feed her and feed her and feed her and she is still a rat. That is what I call her; I call her a rat, but in a nice way. Not that she is a skinny rat, she is just skinny and the rat is something I call her. Lila likes both names and I like both names. I think they are cute and I love my little sister. So it is okay.
OLD MAN raises his eyes to heavens in supplication, realizing he unleashed a monster.
Gabrielle, on a roll
I know there are no villages near here; teacher showed us maps in school. See I am a boy even thou I am a girl so I go to school like other boys. I don't mind being a boy. I learn to read and write Greek and Latin and I can read all the scrolls I want. I have some back in the valley with me today. I like reading about heroes and adventures and I look at the maps and dream of going to those places someday. My weapons teachers, Alcaeus and Galenos, say that one day I will be a great soldier. One day I will be a great soldier that goes to all those places. Maybe they will write scrolls about me too. Would that not be great to be in a scroll? Every time I open a scroll I imagine what it would be like to see my name in it; to see the word Gabrielle written on the parchment. Alas, the only time my name will be put down is in the marriage contract. And I hear women don't even sign those, not because they don't know how, but because it is not their decision. My father will pick for me when I am thirteen or fourteen. Then my dreams will end and I will be like the other women in the village. I will be like my mother. Trapped.
OLD MAN points at her weapons.
I am not going to kill my father, if that is what you are suggesting! I love my father and he loves me. Well, he loves Gabe. But in a way he does love me or a part of me that is Gabe. I was thinking of running away. Can I stay with you?
OLD MAN shakes his head vigorously no. Then he points at her and the ground, telling her to stay here. He takes off quickly and Gabrielle lets him go reluctantly. It is getting late and she has to bring the herd back.
Gabrielle, gazing wistfully at the empty spot where the OLD MAN was
I found you, wood spirit. You listened to me and you showed me the ways of the forest.
Gabrielle deliberates and comes to a conclusion. Things are clearer now and there is hope for the future.
You showed me the way out. I will live in the forest alone or with you until I am old enough to travel. Thank you, wood spirit.
EXT. POTIDAEA FOREST 8 YEARS AGO/SPRING/AFTERNOON
The forests, with all their life and sounds of nature, feel empty to Gabrielle. Her wood spirit is gone. Many weeks pass without anyone following her or watching her. It felt safe knowing there is someone out there. Now she is alone again and she does not like it. Sighing, Gabrielle squares her shoulders and focuses on the hunt. Her feet step like shown by the OLD MAN, the result of patient practice. She is not there yet, but given time she will be. Then the feeling of being watched returns and Gabrielle breaks into a smile. Her friend is back. She stops and gazes around. She guesses the direction and is rewarded when the OLD MAN appears from there. She mentally pats herself on the back.
Hello wood spirit.
OLD MAN rolls his eyes.
I can call you bunny or rat.
OLD MAN raises his hands in surrender.
I missed you.
OLD MAN is fighting emotion at this heartfelt statement. He regains his composure and nods.
I am sorry, don't be mad at me. I did not mean to scare or turn you away. Stay. Please.
OLD MAN looks at her then points at himself and then the trees, sweeping his extended arm horizontally in front of him. He then bends his arm and points a finger skyward. He makes a circle with his hand, finger drawing it in the air.
This is your home.
OLD MAN nods yes and then shakes no.
Yes and no. You have another, a house in the woods?
OLD MAN nods yes.
Can I visit?
OLD MAN nods yes then raises his hand in caution.
There is a catch, right? What am I saying, there is always a catch. Nothing is ever easy with you mythical creatures. So, great wood spirit, what is to be my test?
OLD MAN points at her feet then gives her a direction. He walks right next to her. After a few steps, Gabrielle steps on a twig under the leaves and it breaks with sharp sound. OLD MAN raises a single finger and motions with his head for her to continue. Few more steps and another mistake. This time OLD MAN raises two fingers. Gabrielle realizes she is running out of chances and really concentrates on her foot placement; to no avail. Three fingers go up and the OLD MAN shakes his head sadly. He turns and leaves her standing there, dejected.
Gabrielle, in small voice
I will do better, I promise.
OLD MAN stops and then starts walking with exaggerated slowness, letting Gabrielle see exactly what he expects of her. Gabrielle follows, her face intent in concentration and her eyes recording his motion.
Right. Don't promise, do.
INT. POTIDAEA KITCHEN 8 YEARS AGO/SPRING/EARLY AFTERNOON
Door opens and Gabrielle wonders into the kitchen. Sometimes her mother has a bit of food for her before she heads out again to the herd. This time Gabrielle has a different mission. She approaches her mother who is busy preparing food. Being good and knowing it helps her cause, Gabrielle restrains her twitching hands and does not try to sneak food out under her mother's watchful eyes. Which of course has the opposite effect as Hecuba now suspects something. Being a mother of two perpetually hungry children who attack any goodies in sight with ravenousness of wolves and having one of those wolves patiently standing next to said goodies and not react is a cause for alarm.
Ma, let me take Lila off your hands today.
Don't you ma me you young rascal. What are you up to?
A grown up, fine and responsible boy such as myself?
Try nine year old spawn of Tartarus. Gabe disappears when you pass the last house in the village and Gabrielle runs wild. Think I don't notice blood stains on your clothes? Smell the wood smoke on you? I know you sneak out at night thru the window and Gods know what you hide in that barn and from us. Your father was a fool. Took a nice, proper young girl and turned her upside down. I have a son who smiles and says all the right things, but has no soul and a stranger who rather be alone than with her family. I want my daughter back.
I am still here. You have not said my name in over two years; until today. You lost Gabrielle by your own choice when you accepted Gabe. Lila is the only person who still believes in this family. Now, do I have your permission? Mother.
Go, take her. Gabe.
EXT. POTIDAEA GRAZING FIELD 8 YEARS AGO/SPRING/AFTERNOON
Gabrielle almost carries Lila as they enter the camp. The little one is tired from her walk. Or she was until her eyes fall on her surroundings. Lila makes a beeline for the stone covered pit that is smoking a delicious scent and looks back on Gabrielle with questioning and hungry eyes.
Don't fall in Lila bear. We will eat in a minute. Let me scout the area first.
Lila nods and sits down in front of the pit, look of calm expectation on her face. However, as soon as Gabrielle leaves, she springs into action. Heavy rocks are no match for the slender yet determined girl moving them. Having cleared the rocks, Lila quickly removes the branches laid across and at last gazes on her prize. Only to be caught from behind around her waist by strong arms and lifted into the air.
Caught me a cub.
She spins with her squealing sister away from the fire until they are both dizzy and they fall in a heap into the grass. Lila will not be stopped and she makes her wobbly way back immediately. Gabrielle tackles her and tickling ensues. Finally, they both just lie down and look up at the sky. Puffy white clouds chase each other in a sea of blue.
Lila, gazing at her mother
Gabrielle ruffles her sister's hair and does not need to say anything. Her eyes say it already.
EXT. POTIDAEA GRAZING FIELD 8 YEARS AGO/SPRING/EARLY EVENING
Gabrielle and a much dirtier and scruffier version of Lila walk hand in hand toward the sheep. Gabrielle takes another look at Lila and a mischievous sparkle enters her eyes.
Gabrielle, under her breath to herself
Trouble it is, mother.
Gabrielle looks over the sheep and picks a larger, older one. The animal has a mellow disposition and is perfect for her plan. She leads her sister over to the sheep.
Lila, do you want to ride?
Lila's eyes look around, then at Gabrielle, then to the sheep in front of her, then back to Gabrielle, and her face is a fight between fear and excitement.
Trust me bunny.
Lila, the excitement winning and evident in her voice
Want to ride.
Gabrielle gives her a hug and then picks her up sits her on the sheep's back. The animal stands still, not sure what to make of the weight on its back.
Lean forward and put your hands around her neck. Kick lightly with heels to make her go.
Lila does what she is told but overdoes it on the encouragement and the animal bleats in protest and takes off at moderate pace, heading home. Lila's terrified screams soon change into screams of delight and her laughter comes back to Gabrielle who drops her weapons and runs after her sister. Lila kicks again and the sheep really takes off, leaving Gabrielle behind. Gabrielle stops and starts laughing so hard tears run down her face. Her legs give out and she collapses. It takes her a while to calm down.
The charge of the sheep cavalry. The few, the proud, the wooly. Hee.
Gabrielle gathers herself and moves back to sheep, stopping to collect her dropped weapons. She guides the herd toward Potidaea, her sister long gone and hopefully okay.
Mother, be careful what you expect of others. Expectations have a way of coming true.
EXT. POTIDAEA GRAZING FIELD 8 YRS AGO/SUMMER/EARLY AFTERNOON
Gabrielle strides out of her main camp in the grove of trees and heads for the tree line. In April she turned nine and since then her body hit a growth spurt. She is taller and her shoulders are broader. The muscles on her arms and legs are starting to define. In her boy's clothes she looks like one of them and only the long blonde hair, freely dancing with the warm breeze, hints at her gender. Dark tan colors her skin bronze.
You would think how hard it would be to walk in the forest, until you try it against a mythical creature that demands perfection. Well, today is the day, wood spirit. I am going to finally pass your test and visit your home. Today, I win.
She disappears into the trees.
EXT. POTIDAEA FOREST 8 YEARS AGO/SUMMER/AFTERNOON
Gabrielle and OLD MAN are next to a small stream. He is getting a drink of water, while Gabrielle is dancing. Or something that a nine year old without experience would approximate as dancing. There is a whole lot of limbs trashing and some head movement, but the end result has neither the grace nor the coordination to be considered nothing other than a seizure. Gabrielle finally calms down and indulges in water by jumping into the stream and splashing around, soaking herself and managing to partially include OLD MAN among her victims before he hastily backs away.
She emerges with trousers wet to her thighs and heads further upstream to get water. Having drank her fill, she returns.
Sometimes you just have to let go. It is like there is this bouncing sphere of happiness inside me and it has to find the outlet or I will burst. Hug?
OLD MAN takes a step back and puts a hand out.
No one ever turns down a hug. That is like turning down food or water. What kind of wood spirit are you?
OLD MAN shakes his head no.
Fine, but one day you will be hugged and you will like it. Or I will bring Lila and turn her loose on you.
OLD MAN shrugs.
Oh, you don't know Lila. She looks harmless enough but get her arms around you and you will fall in love. When mother takes her to crafting circle she is always afraid someone will steal her.
OLD MAN motions for Gabrielle to start walking again. Gabrielle just stands there, with her arms spread wide and a grin on her face. OLD MAN recognizes defeat staring him in the face and raises his hands in surrender. Gabrielle makes a happy sound and practically bowls him over as she crashes into him and hugs him fiercely. He lowers one of his hands and pats her gingerly on the back. Gabrielle breaks the hug and steps back.
You are alive and solid. I was afraid you really were a spirit. Whew.
OLD MAN considers this and appears to make up his mind.
OLD MAN, pointing at his chest
Gabrielle's genuine and warm smile shatters the green gloom. It is like the sun has risen right in front of Praxiteles. He can't help but have a small smile of his own escape and once again he is shocked by the effect this strange girl is having on him. They stand there, the outside world forgotten, healing. Then the moment passes and the world returns.
Praxiteles beckons for her to follow and they set off deeper into the old growth forest. Two wood spirits gliding soundlessly thru the murky depths; together.
To Be Continued
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