Xena: Warrior Princess

 

“Lyceus and the Dusk”

Episode 26

by

Bard

Editor

Bleu Gato

 

 

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.

Contact: bard@xena2.com

Blog: www.xena2.com/blog

 


 

TEASER

FADE IN:

EXT. AMPHIPOLIS – INN – 14 YEARS AGO/WINTER/EARLY MORNING

Eleven year old Xena and ten year old Lyceus are heading towards the stables from the inn kitchen side entrance. Both are wearing thick tunics, trousers, and light cloaks. It is a bit nippy this morning and they can see their breath puff out and spread.

Lyceus, curious

LYCEUS

What's the sudden fascination with horse riding?

XENA

What do you mean?

LYCEUS

Not that I am complaining, mind you; from one morning a week to seven is quite a jump.

Xena, hoping to distract him

XENA

Crybaby. I like horses.

Lyceus, not deterred, working it out

LYCEUS

Bite me. You always did. However, you love me and where one goes the other follows. Somehow I don't see you loving that horse.

XENA

Drop it.

Lyceus, quarry in sight now

LYCEUS

So not the animals, not the building … why Xena, is it the new stableman?

Xena, defensively

XENA

I don't know who you are talking about.

Lyceus, pointedly

LYCEUS

Sophus, the thirteen year old who started in the summer.

XENA

He is helpful and knows his job, that's all.

Lyceus, ironically

LYCEUS

Sure.

XENA

I think he is mute. Not a word, he just smiles kind of weird, shy and cute.

Lyceus, singing out

LYCEUS

Xena has a crush.

Xena, bumping him

XENA

Do not.

LYCEUS

Xena has a crush on mute stable boy.

XENA

Stop it.

Lyceus, grinning

LYCEUS

Have you checked if he has a tongue?

XENA

Lyceus, I am warning you.

Lyceus, grin widening

LYCEUS

Did you kiss him?

XENA

One more word, brother; one more word …

Lyceus, acting out the kiss

LYCEUS

Smooooooooooch … AAAAAAAAAA …

Lyceus is unceremoniously lifted and dumped into a water trough, his scream cutting off. The passing VILLAGERS hardly give them a glance, used to their antics by now.

Sophus comes running outside and helps sputtering Lyceus out. He shoots an unhappy glance at Xena, who shrugs.

Sophus, politely

SOPHUS

Please don't do that.

He leaves the astonished siblings and goes back inside.

LYCEUS

Thought you said he did not speak.

XENA

He didn't.

LYCEUS

How did you take his speech away?

Xena, growling

XENA

Don't go there.

LYCEUS

Did you cover his mouth?

Lyceus lands back in the water with a yelp.

Sophus rushes outside, agitation apparent and drags Lyceus, none too gently, out of the water.

Sophus, upset

SOPHUS

By all the Gods, stop that! I have to dump the water and fill it now. Your horses are ready, take them and leave.

Sophus grabs two wooden buckets and heads for the well.

Lyceus, on a roll, teasing

LYCEUS

You made boyfriend mad.

Lyceus is not surprised to find himself in the watery domain for the third time.

Lyceus, wisely

LYCEUS

I think I should just stay in here.

Sophus stops and looks back at Xena.

Xena, innocently

XENA

What? Just helping you drain it.

She dumps the trough and her brother flops on the muddy ground like an overgrown fish. He theatrically lies on his back and does a whale imitation, sending a small fountain of water up into the air from his mouth. Xena picks him up and dumps him in the second through to wash the dirt off. Lyceus splashes happily.

Sophus sighs and plods to the well, resigned to his fate.

Xena helps Lyceus out and dumps the second trough. Soaking wet, he marches to the inn to change.

Xena, calling out

XENA

Meet you at the bridge.

Lyceus, waving his hand, signals understanding and Xena goes into the stable. The VILLAGERS scatter away from the square and the road out of town.

Sure enough, as Lyceus turns to watch, Xena tears out of the building and gallops away. He shifts his eyes to the well, where Sophus is staring after the departing figure with an interesting expression. Lyceus chuckles and proceeds inside the inn.

Sophus is startled back to reality by a shrill voice in his ear.

VILLAGE WOMAN, sharply, disapproving

VILLAGE WOMAN

You going to work or stare at the pretty girls all day?

SOPHUS

Sorry.

VILLAGE WOMAN

Shows you have no sense to pine for that one. Men! Show them a skirt and they forget their mind.

Scolded and embarrassed, Sophus' attention is captured by the dirt at his feet. This does not go over well with the VILLAGE WOMAN who has things to do.

VILLAGE WOMAN, impatiently

VILLAGE WOMAN

Move it boy; stop gaping and start filling the buckets.

Sophus, chastised

SOPHUS

Can I fill yours?

VILLAGE WOMAN, pointedly

VILLAGE WOMAN

You better, after wasting my time.

SOPHUS

Yes madam.

FADE OUT:

END OF TEASER

 

 

 

ACT ONE

FADE IN:

EXT. AMPHIPOLIS – INN – 14 YEARS AGO/WINTER/MORNING

Xena is standing on the bridge, one hand full of small rocks, the other busy tossing them. Her horse is grazing on the town side, right by the road. The sun smiles weakly and by the lack of clouds and low wind it appears to be the beginning of a nice day. Xena stops torturing the water and turns her face to toward the source of heat above. Stray breeze kisses her hair and tosses a few hairs in her eyes. It departs, laughing at her, dipping down to chase the floating bits on the river's surface. Xena is happy and at peace. She starts daydreaming.

The growing hoofbeats revert her back to the real world with a start and she loses her balance and sits down hard. The familiar laughter that reaches Xena lets her know that her clumsiness was noted.

Lyceus dismounts gracefully before the bridge and runs up to her, his smile lighting the day and Xena's soul. He grabs her hands in his and starts spinning them both, around and around. Xena gives in to the moment and spontaneity, laughing as they whirl around the bridge. They slow down by unspoken agreement and then stumble around like a couple of drunks, purposefully bumping into each other to see who goes down first. Lyceus wins, for thou Xena is bigger and stronger, her long limbs take a lot of coordination and turn hazardous when the mind is impaired. Lyceus makes a triumphant sound and jumps on top of her. They wrestle and she lets him win. She always does, for it makes her happiest when he is.

Lyceus, pinning her arms, gazing in her eyes intently

LYCEUS

Did you let me win?

XENA

You won fair and square.

LYCEUS

Really?

Xena, sincerely

XENA

I am proud of you, Lyceus.

LYCEUS

Wow, thanks.

Lyceus stands up and helps her regain her feet.

Lyceus, shyly

LYCEUS

You not mad about earlier?

XENA

How many times did you end up in the water?

LYCEUS

Four.

XENA

I will let it go - this time.

LYCEUS

Joking aside, Sophus is okay. Mother likes his work and customers give complements on his handling of horses. He took over from his grandfather who was the best stable hand in Thrace.

XENA

How do you know that?

LYCEUS

Boys at school said Thersites trained Athenian cavalry before he settled here. Sophus is his favorite and while he does not share the same touch with animals, he had the techniques and knowledge passed to him. He would be a cool person to befriend. You should apologize to him.

They slowly walk over to the horses.

XENA

I don't need anyone else, I have you.

LYCEUS

Phokas taught us to fight because mother paid him, Sophus can instruct us for free.

Xena, unconvinced, uneasy at the thought

XENA

I'm not sure …

LYCEUS

Ask him, see what he says.

Lyceus, seeing her indecision, adding

LYCEUS

For me? Please?

Xena, unable to refuse, agreeing

XENA

Yes.

Xena and Lyceus reach their goal and take to the saddle, with Xena assisting her brother first before easily mounting her horse.

XENA

Lyceus?

LYCEUS

Yes?

Xena, praising him, warmly

XENA

That is a great plan. Race?

Lyceus, beaming

LYCEUS

Thanks. And Xena?

Before she can answer, he spurs his horse forward and takes off, catching her by surprise. His smaller frame melding to the horse, he shoots down the road leaving dust and laughter behind. Xena curses and flies after him. Lyceus is learning fast, she thinks.

CUT TO:

INT. AMPHIPOLIS – STABLES – 14 YEARS AGO/WINTER/LATE MORNING

Xena leads the horses inside and hands them over to Sophus. She is walking away when her promise to Lyceus halts her. She turns and looks at Sophus who immediately drops his eyes, unable to face her. He was watching her leave.

XENA

You talk?

Sophus nods.

XENA

That's not talking.

Sophus shrugs his shoulders and stiffens when he hears her footsteps approach.

Xena, suddenly enjoying this power she has over him, charmingly

XENA

I want to learn how to groom and train horses. Your recommendation would help.

Sophus, finding words at last, raising his head and staring at her, stammering

SOPHUS

… M … m … me?

Xena, pleasantly

XENA

Perfect. We will be here tomorrow morning, ready for our first lesson.

Xena smiles and walks to the outside as Sophus goggles at her.

Sophus, talking to himself quietly with a note of despair, stunned

SOPHUS

What happened? What did I just agree to?

His disorganized and confused thoughts are interrupted by the sounds of Xena drawing steel and charging with an enraged yell. Sophus runs after her.

CUT TO:

EXT. AMPHIPOLIS – INN – 14 YEARS AGO/WINTER/LATE MORNING

Toris, his best friend Timoteus, and a bunch of OLDER BOYS are hanging around the inn front door. Wisely deciding on caution, Lyceus alters his course to the kitchen side door. The OLDER BOYS spot him and exchange snickering glances; it is not looking good. Lyceus fights the urge to call for Xena or turn and run for the stables. He can't do that and live it down so he looks towards his brother for help as he approaches the group and gets a jolt instead.

Toris, mocking

TORIS

Hey Lyceusia, where is your apron?

Now that they have his older brother's approval, the groups smells blood. Laughter buffets Lyceus and he is surrounded by OLDER BOYS. The OLDER BOYS start their fun.

OLDER BOY #1, pushing Lyceus, taunting

OLDER BOY #1

Should you not be at home taking care of your man?

Lyceus drops his hand to his sword and then stops when he realizes his opponents are unarmed; he can't well unsheathe a blade on them. He gets no reward for his restraint.

OLDER BOY #2

Watch out, she is going to pull out a spoon!

OLDER BOY #3

Why don't you run and hide behind your big sister's dress?

OLDER BOY #4

She can't – Xena is the one wearing the trousers.

While the insults ring out, the OLDER BOYS are shoving Lyceus around the circle they formed around him. He endures in silence, knowing Xena is not far behind.

Lyceus lands on the ground from a particularly vicious push and standing up faces a familiar face. Tears form in his eyes at the betrayal – Toris has joined the circle. Toris sneers at Lyceus, payback for Xena foremost on his mind.

Toris, sending him into the arms Timoteus, ridiculing his own blood

TORIS

Show us your dress Lyceusia.

Timoteus catches Lyceus and leans into his face.

Timoteus, callously and loudly, with malice

TIMOTEUS

You are a freak like Xena.

Everything changes with those words. The OLDER BOYS step back and Toris comes and tries to separate the two.

Lyceus, angrily

LYCEUS

What did you say?

Toris, glancing around nervously, imploring

TORIS

He is not worth it, leave it.

Lyceus chooses that moment to deliver a hard punch to the face of his tormentor. Unfortunately, it has little effect on the older and stronger boy. Timoteus replies with three hits that blacken Lyceus' eye, split his lip and double him over. He collapses to the ground. The younger boy curls into a ball in the dirt as Timoteus starts landing kicks. OLDER BOYS start to back away, knowing this is going too far.

The scream of rage that freezes everyone in place could only come from one person. OLDER BOYS run for their lives as the fury that is Xena comes at them, blade in hand. Unlike Lyceus, they are under no illusion she won't use it. Timoteus and Toris are left alone, standing over the bloodied and beat up boy. Toris takes one look at his sister and wisely bolts for the inn door. Timoteus is left to face death alone.

Xena rushes at Timoteus, bringing the sword up. Lyceus raises his head and sees her fast approaching his attacker, made immobile in the grip of fear.

Lyceus, screaming

LYCEUS

NO!!!

Xena, with effort, pulls up at the last minute and Timoteus makes the biggest mistake of his short life - he tries to escape. Xena drops the sword and is on him in the flash. She takes him down in a bone crushing tackle and starts pommeling him with fists. He resists at first but his resistance grows weak and then stops when the shots start landing on his head. Xena is literally pulverizing Timoteus into pulp, her teeth bared and madness in her eyes.

Lyceus knows she is going to kill the boy if he does not bring her back from the fury that consumes her. He crawls on all fours to her and throws his body over Timoteus', wincing as the blows meant for the older boy find his already battered flesh.

Lyceus, hurting

LYCEUS

Xena, stop!

Pause. Lyceus, yelling at the top of his lungs

LYCEUS

XENA!!!

Xena blinks. She looks dazedly at Lyceus below her and them down at her stained hands. She does not understand how she ended up hurting her brother. She begins to keen her pain and staggers away from the source of her anguish. She falls to her knees, still making the mournful sound until it dies into a small rattle in her chest.

The gathering VILLAGERS give her a wide berth. They look at her with repulsion and … fear. Xena casts her eyes down in shame and starts crying.

The arms of Lyceus are around her, picking her up, strong and sure where she is feeble. They gather her, lend her support, and guide her. Together, the two of them limp to the kitchen. Xena stares stubbornly at her hands, refusing to meet her brother's eyes. Inside, she is dying.

Lyceus, soothingly

LYCEUS

It's over. It was an accident, a fight that got out of hand. The boy will be fine, you will see. Let's get you looked at.

Xena, sobbing

XENA

What about you? Why?

Lyceus, affectionately and honestly

LYCEUS

I will be fine and I am here because I love you. I forgive you before you forgive yourself. If you ever lose faith in our bond, I will keep the faith for both of us. Xena, we will always be together.

Behind them the cries for a healer go out as the crowd surrounds the limp body.

VILLAGERS

Healer!

Xena did this!

Someone get the healer now!

Cursed she-monster!

Freak!

Xena closes her eyes at the denouncements. Forgiveness is not going to be as easy for others and her as Lyceus' was.

Sophus stands a way outside the barn, keeping his distance from the gathering group of VILLAGERS and staring sadly at the two figures making their way to the side of the inn.

Sophus, worried

SOPHUS

What did I get myself into?

FADE OUT:

END OF ACT ONE

 

 

 

ACT TWO

FADE IN:

INT. AMPHIPOLIS – XENA'S ROOM – 14 YEARS AGO/WINTER/NOON

Xena is sitting on the edge of her bed. Lyceus brings over the wash bowl and some linen. He takes one of her hands in his and wetting the cloth, starts washing the bleeding and cracked skin of the knuckles. Xena hisses in pain and he gentles his touch, patting gingerly and with caring patience.

Xena shifts her eyes to see her mother standing in the partially open door. The scowl disappears at the sight of Lyceus' ministrations and a ghost of a smile materializes on Cyrene's face. She watches her son in silence for a moment, then walks over and taking another cloth, begins on Xena's other hand. They work together in concert, Cyrene shooting concerned looks at Lyceus' injuries but keeping her tongue. Cyrene finishes the work by wrapping the hands.

Strong arms guide Lyceus to the bed and he sits down. Xena kneels to the side and holds the bowl. Her mother, having taken over and settled her son where she can take care of him, begins cleaning his battered face. She dips and wrings the linen and tenderly begins removing the dirt and blood. Xena can't hold it anymore and starts crying, looking away from Lyceus. Cyrene effortlessly takes the bowl from her shaking hold and sets it on the bed beside her son. She hugs Xena and kisses her head. Lyceus abandons his seat and embraces his sobbing sister as well. Together, the family stands strongest.

CUT TO:

INT. AMPHIPOLIS – KITCHEN – 14 YEARS AGO/WINTER/AFTERNOON

Xena sits at the table in the busy kitchen, her bandaged hands resting on the worn surface. Lyceus, shaking off the beating, is helping his mother manage the tail end of lunch and start on dinner. They work well together, each having a place born of long practice in the chaos of the kitchen. They move in a dance that took years of practice and is now paying dividends.

Xena watches her mother pass by the table and inconspicuously drop few nuts into the dish prominently set in the middle. She reaches for them immediately and starts stuffing her mouth when a hand slaps her.

Lyceus, possessively, the grin betraying his amusement

LYCEUS

Mine.

Xena, laughing

XENA

Hey bruiser, less watching the payment dish, more work.

Lyceus, black eye and bruises making his face look ghoulish, simpering

LYCEUS

Not when you are around. Why are you here? To eat my profits?

XENA

That too. Then there is the fight.

Cyrene, stepping in, firmly

CYRENE

Lyceus, take over.

Cyrene takes a seat across from Xena, handing the plate with the goodies to Lyceus. He annihilates the leftovers with enthusiasm and drops it in the wash bin, before assuming top chief position with gusto.

Xena, bantering

XENA

How long can you leave him in charge before the kitchen is on fire and there are screaming people and animals everywhere?

Cyrene, pointedly

CYRENE

Unlike you, he actually listens and dare I say, has a talent for cooking.

Xena, lightly

XENA

Admit it mother: he loves food and you are the source of his weakness.

CYRENE

I am a mother; I am allowed to spoil my children.

XENA

What about me?

Cyrene, flexing said hand, wincing

CYRENE

My right hand hurts just looking at you.

Xena, smartly

XENA

So does my behind so we are even.

CYRENE

That mouth on you is growing the fastest.

XENA

I'm sorry, mother.

Cyrene, resigned

CYRENE

What did you do this time? Do I want to go to the front and get an earful?

Xena, carefully

XENA

Toris' best friend jumped Lyceus and I got involved.

Cyrene, harrumphing

CYRENE

If your hands look like that, I hate to see him. Xena, if you smashed them into the wall they could not appear worse. Dare I ask: is he alive?

Lyceus, coming to the rescue of his cringing sister, hopefully supplying

LYCEUS

When I covered Timoteus, he was breathing shallow and moaning.

It does not have the desired effect.

Cyrene, blazing

CYRENE

You brutally beat a boy to within an inch of his life for striking Lyceus?

Xena, seeing the approaching storm building, weakly protesting

XENA

No …

CYRENE

Yes, yes you did. Look at me.

Xena is attempting to become invisible, shrinking into self, head down and eyes tearing up.

Cyrene, reasonably and evenly

CYRENE

If Lyceus had to save the boy, it was bad.

Xena timidly looks at her mother and sniffles.

Cyrene, sighing

CYRENE

Xena, you know you have to watch your strength around others. You can't just blindly wail on others and not expect there to be consequences. You get angry, you strike out and eventually someone won't get up. Phokas worked hard to install discipline and control into you. He failed. Instead, he only succeeded into making you deadlier. Xena, with your history it is a matter of time before you hurt someone bad and they put you in chains. You have few friends left in Amphipolis; the trial will not be fair and they will punish you severely. I don't want them to lash you senseless but that is the path you are on.

XENA

…

CYRENE

I asked you to stop fighting with boys and you did. No more broken bones and missing teeth for them. Their future wives thank you. You made peace with Toris even if he did not with you. You were doing great and then this.

Pause.

CYRENE

You are a good person and a daughter most would be proud to call their own. Yet sometimes you do things without thinking and you are being stigmatized by them. It is not fair but that is the way of the world. Once people think the worst of you, that perception is fixed in stone.

Pause.

Cyrene, taking Xena's hands, soothingly and affectionately

CYRENE

They don't see the love you have for your brother, love so vast and beautiful it takes even my breath away. They don't see you work hard in the inn or the vulnerable girl that loves her mother. They don't see the sweet, young child that wants nothing more than to be loved if they give you a chance.

Pause.

Cyrene, sadly

CYRENE

All they see is the few incidents, blown up and spread false by mean gossip; minds that judged you guilty long ago and hold on with tenacity. Like Toris.

Lyceus, who stopped working and is quietly listening for a while, comes behind and embraces his sister.

Xena, with remorse and sorrow

XENA

I went too far this time. If Lyceus did not stop me …

Xena gets an encouraging squeeze from the arms around her.

Cyrene, nodding her acceptance of admission, standing up

CYRENE

I can't believe I am about to do this and willingly leave you here after the numerous robbery attempts. Xena, behave. Lyceus, hit her with a skillet or wooden spoon if she starts eating the sugary stuff.

LYCEUS

The honey sweetness is under my protection.

XENA

In your stomach soon, more like it.

CYRENE

Children, play nice. I will be at the healer. Xena, we will talk more later.

XENA & LYCEUS

Yes mother.

Cyrene, under her breath as she is almost at the service hallway door

CYRENE

Please Gods, don't let me regret this.

CUT TO:

INT. AMPHIPOLIS – XENA'S ROOM – 14 YEARS AGO/WINTER/NIGHT

Xena lies in her bed, unable to sleep. She stares at the ceiling and counts the knots on the beams.

There are footsteps in the hallway and then the door opens and Cyrene enters. Cyrene comes over and tucks the blankets around Xena. She sits on the edge of the bed and watches her daughter in silence. Xena suspects the news is not good and starts tearing up under her mother's gaze.

Cyrene, quietly

CYRENE

Timoteus has a few broken bones, concussion, and he lost sight in his left eye. He will live.

Xena, ashamed of her actions, closing her leaking eyes, sincerely

XENA

I'm sorry.

CYRENE

You will go to his house every morning for a month and take care of Timoteus. You will assist the healer and help the boy with whatever tasks are required for half a day. You will get a close look at what you did and have plenty of time to reflect on your actions.

XENA

I have things to do in the morning …

Cyrene, angrily

CYRENE

No, you don't. Do you understand, child?

Xena, turning on her side, showing her back to Cyrene, unhappily

XENA

Yes mother.

Cyrene, sighing

CYRENE

Xena, there are consequences and this is a good way to show the village your penance.

Xena, resignedly

XENA

It won't change their narrow minds.

CYRENE

This is for you.

XENA

What does that even mean?

CYRENE

Next time your temper gets the better of you, close your eyes and imagine Timoteus.

XENA

…

CYRENE

Trust me.

Cyrene ruffles her daughter's hair and kisses her head. She moves over to the door and opens it, only to be stopped by Xena's voice.

XENA

I won't throw the first punch. You have my promise, mother.

CYRENE

Thank you. Good night.

CUT TO:

EXT. AMPHIPOLIS – RIVER – 13 YEARS AGO/LATE WINTER/MORNING

Dozens of sticks are driven into the soft ground on the bank. Finished clay products of various purposes and shapes are set on or attached to the wooden supports. It looks like a bizarre field of growing pottery. On the grass nearby are two slings, empty sacks, and a pile of small, round rocks.

Xena brings over a few more from the river, her feet wet and bare. She appears not to mind the cold in the slightest. She lifts her head to spot Lyceus approaching down the dirt path. He lifts a small bag with their lunch in a way of greeting and then runs the last part of the distance between them.

Lyceus, slightly winded, calmly but with a hint of accusation

LYCEUS

I heard you leave in the middle of the night. Your sentence ended yesterday and you are back to trouble the very next day. That has to be a record.

He points to the strange construction that is erected in front of him, fairly certain that whatever it is, it is illegal and potentially risky.

XENA

Have to stay in practice. You mind?

Lyceus, fondly

LYCEUS

I love the troublemaker you.

Xena smiles in answer and gives him a warm hug. She picks the slings and ammo and splits it between them. Lyceus steps to the side to give her room.

Xena whirls the sling and lets a stone fly. Satisfactory sound of broken pottery rewards her effort. Lyceus is next. He winds up and hits his target as well.

LYCEUS

Where did you get all those?

Xena, cheekily

XENA

Stole them from the potter.

Lyceus, not amused, alarmed

LYCEUS

Xena!

XENA

No, I did. Hermogenes got a big mouth on him and sticks it into conversations about me.

Lyceus, sighing

LYCEUS

You promised mother.

Xena, strongly

XENA

I told her I won't start a fight. Since that incident with the wolf he has been my harshest critic in the village and that qualifies as attacking. I think it is about time people who speak ill of me received their just rewards.

Lyceus, relieved, good humor restored

LYCEUS

In that case I don't feel bad about it. What's next?

Conscience clear, he lets another missile fly and is rewarded with destruction.

XENA

We put the broken pieces in cloth sacks and take it back to his storage shed.

Xena follows his example and from now on the conversation is punctuated with dying pottery.

LYCEUS

Hermogenes will know it was you.

XENA

He can't prove it. You in?

LYCEUS

You have the best ideas. Let's break clay.

CUT TO:

INT. AMPHIPOLIS – STABLE – 13 YEARS AGO/LATE WINTER/LATE MORNING

The stables are starting to fill with new arrivals from the road. Sophus has his hands full and his mind is concentrated on his job. Right now he is busy brushing the latest arrival. All the tack is already removed and set aside. The HORSE is wearing a halter and is tied up outside its stall. Sophus is working his way towards the rear.

Xena walks into the stable and spotting Sophus, moves to him, making sure to approach the HORSE from the front. She offers her palm and after being accepted, starts scratching its neck.

Xena, to HORSE, soothingly

XENA

Hey there. Looking for treats? Sorry, fresh out.

The HORSE gives her a reproachful look and Xena decides to try her luck somewhere else.

Xena, to Sophus, slightly nervous

XENA

I will be joining tomorrow.

Without a word, Sophus reaches over and hands her a damp cloth.

Xena, puzzled

XENA

What's this?

He points at the tack with his head.

SOPHUS

Wipe the saddle, bit and bridle with this.

Xena, staring at the item in her hand, grumbling

XENA

I am not here to do your job.

SOPHUS

Lyceus did it and did not cry about it.

Right as the words leave his mouth he realizes his mistake. Xena draws up to her full height and fixes his eyes. The HORSE senses the tension and tries to step away.

Sophus, conciliatorily

SOPHUS

Please.

Xena, taking a step towards him, coldly

XENA

I am not my brother.

To her surprise Sophus does not run away screaming. Xena is mildly disappointed. Instead he does something shocking.

Sophus, standing up to her, boldly

SOPHUS

You want lessons, you help me.

Xena, tilting her head and now fully engaged, curiosity evident

XENA

What changed?

Xena takes another step. Younger and a girl she might be, but she is taller and bulkier than him. And she does not appear to be amused.

Sophus, courage leaving him as fast as it arrived, chagrined

SOPHUS

I spent a month talking with Lyceus about you. You don't scare me.

Xena, crossing into his personal space, right in his face and looking down at him

XENA

Did I before?

Sophus, admitting weakly

SOPHUS

You terrified me.

Xena, scowling, sternly

XENA

And now?

Sophus, beginning to think that being mute was better, afraid

SOPHUS

A little … a lot.

Xena laughs and lightly punches his arm. She steps back. Sophus releases his relief, knowing he had been had.

Xena, smiling and extending her hand

XENA

I'm Xena.

And just like that he is in and they are friends. Sophus takes his lumps like a man and adds his own touch by going for forearm handshake. Xena, ever the alpha, makes sure to squeeze his arm in a manner that leaves no doubt who is number one. Besides, she will not be topped.

Sophus, wincing

SOPHUS

Sophus.

Xena relents the pressure but does not release the hold. She brings him close to her.

Xena, growling

XENA

So Sophus, what did he tell you?

Sophus smiles at her.

SOPHUS

Oh no, I am not falling for that trick again. Go make angry faces at someone who does not know you.

Xena lets him go right away and he earns a pat on the shoulder. She lifts her rag in the air, salutes him with it and goes to her work. Few moments pass in labor. Then ...

XENA

Sophus?

SOPHUS

Yes?

Xena, sweetly

XENA

I have many tricks.

Sophus gulps involuntarily and hides his discomfort in his task. Xena is not fooled.

Xena lets him sweat for a while.

XENA

Relax, you are okay in my scroll.

 

FADE OUT:

THE END

 

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