Xena: Warrior Princess

 

“ A Necessary Evil”

Episode 46

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. OLIVE PLANTATION – COURTYARD – MORNING

The olive plantation is ten miles from Athens, the marbled, walled city visible in the distance, beyond the rolling, tree covered hills. The sprawling estate's main feature is a long, two story house with a large center courtyard. There is room inside for a hundred people.

The building is made of stone, covered with white plaster and topped with tile. A porch with columns faces the courtyard on the north side. The entry wooden doors, painted blue are the only ones in evidence. All other doorways and windows, apart from storage, have curtains. The courtyard is paved with stone, has a well and an open, cooking fire next to the kitchen, which is off on the left side. Storage rooms line the south end and male slave quarters run along both sides. The family, free Athenians in employment and female slaves live upstairs as evidenced by drying wash hanging from inner windows.

The only other structures near the main house are the stables with adjacent oxen, sheep, and goat pens and a small barracks with a training yard. A sea of olive trees surrounds the buildings, cut only by dirt road in the direction of Athens.

The MALE SLAVES are among the trees, harvesting. Two GUARDS are posted: one by the entry door, and one by the barracks. Two more GUARDS are sparring near the latter. The FEMALE SLAVES carry on domestic duties inside the main building. There is only one MALE SLAVE visible in or around the house; his function appears to be menial labor in assistance of FEMALE SLAVES. Currently, he is fetching water from the well.

CUT TO:

EXT. OLIVE PLANTATION – COURTYARD – MORNING

A relaxed hoplite GUARD converses with an armed and tunic-clad SARGEANT. While they are talking, the OVERSEER comes out onto the porch and waits impatiently. His presence is noticed promptly and the SARGEANT hurries over to him.

When the SARGEANT approaches the OVERSEER, the chiton-clad man starts walking towards the storage rooms and the soldier falls into step with him.

OVERSEER, tone making it clear he does not appreciate his time wasted this way

OVERSEER

You sure about this now?

SERGEANT, respectfully

SERGEANT

Yes, Overseer. Ileandra enters every two-three hours and she has lost weight. There are rumors she is involved with Sarpedon; that's him there.

He points at the MALE SLAVE hoisting the bucket from the depths of the earth.

SERGEANT, adding eagerly

SERGEANT

She is in there now.

OVERSEER, suspicious, sharply

OVERSEER

Since when do you pay attention to slaves?

SERGEANT, grinning lecherously

SERGEANT

She was a regular at the barracks and then another girl took over year and a half ago. You don't forget something that sweet.

Pause.

SERGEANT, not knowing when to stop talking, helpfully

SERGEANT

She would make an excellent pallakis; men talked and argued over the privilege of buying her. Then, without warning, she was transferred to the kitchen. The replacement is not as … enthusiastic. It was a mistake to remove her in the first place.

The OVERSEER'S face clouds and he scowls, the words triggering a memory and not a pleasant one.

OVERSEER, putting the SERGEANT in his place, sternly

OVERSEER

I remember now. The body slave is our Master's property and provided at his discretion. You work for him – remind the men that if they want one, get them somewhere else. Ileandra displeased Nicias and that was her punishment. You don't have a say in her sentence or commuting it.

SERGEANT, backpedaling, humbly

SERGEANT

Forgive me and mine, they will be made aware. We are thankful for the Master's generosity and we will not reach above our station again.

OVERSEER

See that you do.

CUT TO:

INT. HOUSE – STORAGE ROOM - MORNING

Ileandra is adjusting her tunic when the OVERSEER walks in. Initially, she has her back to him and on hearing him enter, she quickly spins around. She bows her head and looks at the floor.

Overseer, sneering

OVERSEER

Where is it?

Ileandra, mousy

ILEANDRA

I am here for the oil, Overseer.

OVERSEER, bullying, meaningfully

OVERSEER

Do you know what happens to slaves that lie, Ileandra?

Ileandra, giving the game away, crying out pitifully

ILEANDRA

Please don't take him!

The Overseer motions for the SERGEANT to remove the slave from the room once she confirms the presence of her son; he obeys and does. The SERGEANT grabs and roughly drags Ileandra out; she struggles mightily in his hold, even clutching at the door frame in a desperate attempt to stay. The SERGEANT hits her in the side and she lets go.

Ileandra, dying inside, anguished

ILEANDRA

MY BABY!!!

Once outside, her resistance only grows worse. FEMALE SLAVES stop what they are doing and watch the unfolding drama.

The Overseer does not see what is happening inside, intent on finding the baby.

Visible thru the open door, Sarpedon drops the buckets and runs to the fire. Grabbing a knife he runs straight for the SERGEANT, who is having trouble subduing the hysterical woman without hurting her permanently. He is completely focused on the task and quickly grows impatient with the impudent slave. The SERGEANT grabs Ileandra by the front of her tunic and cocks his fist in preparation for a punch that will knock her out.

Sarpedon arrives before he can throw it and viciously stabs the SERGEANT in the back. The GUARD posted at the entrance sees what is happening and runs out the front door to get help from the barracks.

The SERGEANT whirls around, drawing the sword. Unfortunately, the wound affects him greatly and his coordination and speed are not there. Sarpedon evades the blade and sticks the knife in the soldier's gut; the fight goes out of the SERGEANT. He crumples to the ground, bleeding heavily.

Ileandra continues lamenting, shocked with the violence and wailing for her child. The Overseer is still not aware that the tables have turned. Sarpedon does not give him time. He picks up the dropped sword; taking Ileandra by hand, he pulls her inside and shuts the door.

With the light abruptly decreasing, the Overseer turns, ready to scold anyone foolish enough to interrupt his search. He finds himself face to face with Sarpedon, sword in hand and he trembles. There will be no mercy for him.

Overseer, hiding his fear, with contempt

OVERSEER

They will hunt you down slave and you will watch her and your bastard suffer first.

In answer, Sarpedon runs him thru with a yell of rage.

CUT TO:

EXT. COURTYARD – STORAGE ROOM - MORNING

Seven heavily armored GUARDS are gathered around the door to the storage room. The eighth is kneeling by the SERGEANT, checking him. GUARD #8 looks at the others and shakes his head negatively – the SERGEANT won't make it.

The FEMALE SLAVES have returned to cooking, but they keep watching intently. Unnoticed by the men, a YOUNG SLAVE GIRL slips away, heading for the entrance to the house.

GUARD #1 walks to the storage room door and pounds on it.

GUARD #1, pounding on the door with a closed fist, menacing

GUARD #1

We won't be gentle with Ileandra this time and then it will be your turn. Open the door and buy her mercy.

Silence.

GUARD #2 joins him and they set aside their spears. Taking out swords, they begin hacking at the door, making excellent progress. It won't be long now.

CUT TO:

INT. COURTYARD – STORAGE ROOM - MORNING

YOUNG SLAVE GIRL returns and she is not alone. Behind her come the MALE SLAVES and they are armed; most with farm tools, few with weapons. They pour thru the front door, nearly sixty in number. The YOUNG SLAVE GIRL walks back and goes into the kitchen. The rest of the FEMALE SLAVES quickly join her.

GUARD #1 and GUARD #2 are almost thru the door. They are being somewhat hampered by Sarpedon, thrusting thru the hacked openings. The rest of the GUARDS are focused on the action in front, but one has the presence of mind about him.

GUARD #3 turns around and realizes what is happening.

GUARD #3, urgently

GUARD #3

Form up!

Eight trained hoplites versus a mob of slaves. The odds are not great, but they are not bad. Men close rank, shields go up, and spears lower.

GUARD #1

Advance!

Holding the rank, the GUARDS march as a unit. The MALE SLAVES heft their weapons and rush them.

Twenty feet from collision, GUARD #1 gives the final command.

GUARD #1

Charge!

The MALE SLAVES, having started running from very end of the courtyard, spread themselves thin. The GUARDS overrun the fastest with ease and slam into the main body, impaling MALE SLAVES on the spears and throwing several to the ground. Taking out the short swords, the GUARDS press their attack.

The battle quickly breaks down into individual GUARDS versus inferior, but numerous opponents. The advantage of discipline, training, and armor is met with sheer numbers and even thou the GUARDS are temporarily winning the individual matchups, they start losing the war. But they don't go quietly or alone.

CUT TO:

EXT. COURTYARD – STORAGE ROOM - MORNING

Ileandra, cradling an infant, and Sarpedon, wielding a stained sword, walk out and stop. Of the sixty MALE SLAVES, a score is left and half are wounded. The rest are dead or dying, as are all the GUARDS. FEMALE SLAVES are among the bodies, either offering final comfort or tending to the injured MALE SLAVES.

The survivors turn their eyes to him and in that instance Sarpedon becomes the unofficial leader by virtue of his initial, defiant act. He sweeps the courtyard with his gaze and his expression hardens at the carnage. Many of his friends lie dead.

Sarpedon, face twisted with hate, lifting the bloody weapon above his head, shouting

SARPEDON

BURN IT ALL!!!

FADE OUT:

END OF TEASER

 

 

 

ACT ONE

FADE IN:

INT. CAVE – CAMP – 2 DAYS LATER/EARLY EVENING

Athena sits behind Gabrielle, her chin on the right shoulder of her wife, arms wrapped around the bard's middle. Saddle supports her back and she in turn Gabrielle. Xena sprawls close by, using her bedroll and blankets for padding. The women direct their rapt attention at the pot of simmering soup, checked at the moment by the bard. Gabrielle tastes and then seasons it. After stirring, she blows on and samples from the wooden spoon; she offers the rest to Athena.

Quickly finished, Athena turns her head and kisses Gabrielle's neck, showing approval of the cook and the food. All three shiver as a sudden gust of wind flickers the flames; with great fanfare, the heavens open up outside. The volume is incredible, creating the illusion they are trapped behind the waterfall. Gabrielle's eyes open wider at the sight and light up with wonder.

Gabrielle sets the spoon down and twisting, jumps her wife, eliciting a squeak of surprise from Athena and a raised eyebrow from Xena. The bard returns the favor with enthusiasm, trapping the Goddess against the saddle and kissing her senseless as amused Xena watches the show. Leaving her wife breathless, Gabrielle pulls back and stands. Boots, belt, and tunic land in a heap, leaving the bard in her underwraps and Xena's second eyebrow joins the first. Laughing and divested of garments, Gabrielle sprints for the entrance of the cave. Xena and Athena look at each other and share a warm smile over the zest for life and joy that the bard brings daily into their lives.

Gabrielle runs out and stops at the opening, arms spread and eyes directed at the sky. The near-solid sheet of rain soaks her instantly yet takes away none of the impact; she cuts a striking, whitish outline in the darkness beyond.

Xena, amused, chuckling

XENA

Wife high on life again?

Athena, undressing as well, grinning

ATHENA

Afraid so.

XENA

How long before she expects you to join her?

ATHENA

Already; it won't be a request when she turns.

XENA

Say the word.

ATHENA

The word.

Xena sits there, not moving a muscle.

ATHENA

Well?

Xena, imitating an old sage, profoundly

XENA

With wifely benefits come wifely duties. Thus was, thus is, thus will be.

Athena is down to her underwraps as well.

Athena, leaning in and turning the tables on Xena, wickedly

ATHENA

Two words: wet bard.

Pause.

Athena, sneaking away on bare feet, over her shoulder

ATHENA

I win.

And just in time. Few moments later, Gabrielle turns and starts to seductively beckon Athena with her hand. It takes the bard a second to realize her wife in not by the fire anymore. Xena gives away the game with a small head gesture, indicating which side of the cave the coming surprise will spring from. Sure enough, the Goddess rushes from the left, out of the shadows. Gabrielle does not move and instead smiles as she is captured and spirited away into the night. Laughter and delighted screams of both women drift back to Xena.

Xena, thoughtfully

XENA

Warm fire and dinner or see-thru underwraps … decisions, decisions.

It is an easy choice. Xena takes out a spoon and is about to attack the soup when Gabrielle comes back into view, chased by Athena.

Gabrielle, shouting and waving to Xena as she runs from her pursuing wife

GABRIELLE

XENA!!! Help, barbarian!

Energized and motivated, Xena springs to her feet and hops around as she impatiently tugs her boots off, cursing. She takes off after Gabrielle and Athena, discarding the belt, leaving the tunic and trousers on self in her haste.

CUT TO:

INT. CAVE – CAMP – LATE EVENING

Xena, Athena, and Gabrielle look like drowned, muddy rats as they huddle together under the shared blanket, near the fire. The Goddess is in the middle. All three women are shivering and the sound of chattering teeth fills the space. As the wineskin gets passed around in silence, and the warmth from the fire, trapped body heat, and the alcohol soaks in, the symptoms start to disappear and color returns to pale faces.

XENA

C-c-crazy bard. What was the game this time: fair maiden and savage?

GABRIELLE

You got me naked under the same blanket; wife too.

ATHENA

Don't get ideas.

Xena, ignoring the warning, celebrating the occasion with copious amounts of wine

XENA

To quote: woo hoo!

Pause.

XENA

Too late.

GABRIELLE

Don't act on same.

Xena, to Gabrielle, alcohol hitting her hard, mischievously

XENA

We will always have Athens.

ATHENA

Speaking of Aphrodite …

Xena, voicing her disappointment

XENA

Now?

Aphrodite appears in Xena's blanket-covered lap, dressed in sheer white robe; it's cut low, short, and open in all the right places and purposefully very revealing.

Aphrodite, throwing her arms around Xena's neck, dramatically

APHRODITE

Ravish me, conqueror Xena!

ATHENA

Seriously?

Gabrielle, filing the details away for later teasing, practically purring with delight

GABRIELLE

Oh the fun we will have …

Xena, hanging her head, muttering

XENA

I hate you all.

Aphrodite gives Xena a hug and snuggles close, which only makes Athena and Gabrielle giggle harder. The Goddess of Love disappears and reappears on the abandoned saddle.

Aphrodite, taking in the scene, with avid interest

APHRODITE

What's with the threesome?

Athena, succinctly and cryptically, mysterious

ATHENA

Not that. Rain fueled, spontaneous, bard-inspired Bacchanalia.

APHRODITE

The who and the what? Double huh?

XENA

Don't ask.

Aphrodite, leaning away from the group, wary

APHRODITE

Your customs are strange.

GABRIELLE

Trouble?

Aphrodite, snapping forward, glad for change of subject, overly melodramatic

APHRODITE

The morning began tragic and turned pathetic. I hate days like that. Right, right? Am I right? Right. I mean, who else but yours truly is bothered in the afternoon? Don't the mortals have any consideration for the temporal commitments to look this good? With the begging and the pleading and the beseeching … Imagine that, I am so … so …

Athena, supplying helpfully, tone laced with fondness and softening the delivery

ATHENA

You?

Aphrodite, squealing and doing a little happy dance in place, joyfully

APHRODITE

Popular!

Aphrodite giggles and gets three stern looks telling her to get on with the story and make it make sense.

Aphrodite, sticking her lip out for added effect and proving to be drama queen, pouting

APHRODITE

I so am! The unlucky lovers did the whole sacrifice and groveling for boon thing and now I owe them. What can I say? I am a sucker for young, doomed love. Tragic romance hits right here.

Goddess of Love's tiny, delicate fist pounds the bosom of same to emphasize the impact of the emotion on her. Xena snorts at the overwrought drama and pays for it.

Xena promptly appears next to Aphrodite, dressed in a dry tunic and sparkling clean.

Xena, looking at the happy couple still under the blanket, grumbling

XENA

Don't rush to volunteer Gabrielle.

GABRIELLE

I did …

Pause.

Gabrielle, adding impishly after a beat

GABRIELLE

You.

Xena stands up and picks up a torch with a sigh. She lights it and motions for Aphrodite to follow her deeper into the cave. The Goddess of Love gets up and with a little wave and a wink to Gabrielle and Athena, hurries after Xena. Shortly, they both are gone.

Athena, noticing it is just her and the wife under the blanket, suggestively

ATHENA

Sleep, work, or play?

Gabrielle, a picture of virtue and innocence, piously

GABRIELLE

Early to bed is decadent and summons carnal temptations. Xena claimed sinful play. No, the responsible thing is work. Chores grow character and strong bodies, a wisdom we shall instill in our children.

Not fooled, Athena tackles Gabrielle and they wrestle, ending in a tangle of blanket and limbs. The bard puts up a token resistance, tickling instead of attacking, and is soon pinned. Athena ends up on top, looking down at Gabrielle.

Athena, naughtily

ATHENA

First we have to make them. That requires practice; lots and lots.

Gabrielle, theatrically

GABRIELLE

O Great Goddess, is there no end to my labors?

Athena brushes the hair from Gabrielle's face and gazes into her eyes.

ATHENA

You lay back …

The Goddess brings her face lower and touches noses.

ATHENA

…. make encouraging noises …

Athena brushes Gabrielle's lips with hers and the bard makes a cute sound.

ATHENA

… and leave the details …

The Goddess prolongs the sweet torture by planting tiny kisses around Gabrielle's mouth.

ATHENA

… to me.

Impatient, the bard opens her mouth to protest the slow teasing and Athena steals her word-carrying breath with a kiss. The Goddess knows her wife.

Gabrielle, coming up for air, flushed, squeaking out

GABRIELLE

Work! Work it is!

Actually, it's work and it's play.

CUT TO:

INT. CAVE – INNER CHAMBER – NIGHT

Single torch set in the crack of the wall lights Xena and Aphrodite sitting on a bedroll. They face each other, legs crossed under them. Aphrodite looks past Xena, presumably towards the opening to outside. She tilts her head, as if listening, and smiles.

Aphrodite, pulling the fabric from her shoulders, leaving them bare, seductively

APHRODITE

If you want, I can be her again.

Xena reaches out and adjusts the Goddess of Love's dress back to its original state; her hands unconsciously linger far too long, as if unable to stop touching the Goddess. Aphrodite clearly does not mind. Xena finally catches onto what her hands are doing and pulls back, physically and emotionally.

Xena, words contradicting her recent actions, strongly

XENA

No; it was wrong then and more so now.

Aphrodite, reaching out to cup Xena's face with her right hand, warmly

APHRODITE

You desire.

Xena, closing her eyes and leaning into the touch, ashamed of her weakness

XENA

Once, yes … her body. I had her soul and love and squandered both attempting to possess and bed her. Little did I know she was already mine. Aphrodite, I won't sleep with a lie; I respect Gabrielle too much. And I love Athena. I won't hurt either of them.

Ignoring the words and taking a cue from physical response, Aphrodite sits in Xena's lap; she wraps her legs around Xena's waist and brings their faces in close proximity. Her left hand goes around Xena's shoulder blades. Her right hand drops to Xena's neck and her fingers curl around the back of it. Xena's eyes spring open and fix on the Goddess of Love. Xena looks trapped and confused, unsure how she found herself in this spot. Aphrodite, focused only on her own pleasure, projecting power, predatory yet sweet

APHRODITE

Take me as I am?

Beads of sweat break out on Xena's brow as their lips part slightly and meet. Before the kiss can grow heated, Xena pulls back. She pushes Aphrodite off her lap and the Goddess ends up kneeling in front of Xena. The Warrior Princess then moves Aphrodite's hands to their owner's lap, which is the safest place for them at the moment. The Goddess of Love looks surprised and a little unhappy at the rejection.

Xena, fighting the attraction, breathing heavily

XENA

You are gorgeous and willing and what I want. But Aphrodite, you are not what I need.

Aphrodite wordlessly acknowledges the truth but it does not improve her mood.

Xena, pleading patience and understanding, painfully

XENA

I lost Sophus recently; again. Please, I don't want to be with anyone; it's too soon.

The Goddess of Love covers Xena's hands with her own.

Xena, pointedly

XENA

You have a reputation.

Aphrodite, her smile starting to peek out from behind the clouds, proudly

APHRODITE

Well earned - this is different. In light of earlier, unwanted advances, can I offer you a warm body to share the night?

Xena swallows and nods.

Aphrodite, elated, chirping brightly

APHRODITE

Knew it! Cuddler.

Xena, pretend threatening, darkly

XENA

Breathe a word to Gabrielle or Athena and Godhood won't save you.

Aphrodite, resolutely

APHRODITE

That's a favor and I am collecting.

The Goddess of Love takes her hands back and stretches languidly, showing Xena the body she missed on enjoying. Shifting, she lies on her side and pats the space next to her. Reluctantly, Xena unravels as well and lies on her back next to Aphrodite.

Xena, wary

XENA

Fine; what brings you here?

Aphrodite makes a wineskin appear and demonstrates a cork removal technique that is anything but chaste. Xena involuntarily licks her suddenly dry lips. The Goddess of Love spits out the stopper and takes a long drink, swiftly consuming half of it. She then hands the wineskin to Xena.

Aphrodite, charming, with a hint of danger and challenge

APHRODITE

Oh, fine wine, fine company.

Xena lifts her head and takes a small sip; unlike Aphrodite, she paces herself, steadily yet slowly draining the contents.

Aphrodite, propped on her elbow, takes advantage of her free hand; she reaches for Xena's hair and plays with it.

Aphrodite, spinning the tale, excitedly

APHRODITE

This two, Ileandra and Sarpedon, up and show up; poof, I got runaway slaves in love kissing my marble statue's feet, crying and moaning. In my temple! Hey, love and happiness, people! Keep your tears and depression outside. And guess who else? Come on, guess. Give up? Their son, screaming his lungs raw. What am I, Hera? Aphrodite here - I make them, I don't keep them. I am in it for the night, not the morning after. Done and gone, keep the memories.

Xena closes her eyes with a groan, feeling a headache coming on. The wine is not helping with that but it makes Aphrodite bearable. Xena increases the rate of her indulgence.

APHRODITE

And in trouble; big time, serious trouble. The kind they execute for. It began few days ago …

CUT TO:

END OF ACT ONE

 

 

 

ACT TWO

FADE IN:

INT. CAVE – INNER CHAMBER – EARLY MORNING

Xena comes to spooning Aphrodite and immediately draws back, confused and hangover. The Goddess of Love turns to the other side and sleepy eyes blink into Warrior Princess' face.

Xena, pointedly

XENA

It's morning.

Aphrodite, adorably grumpy

APHRODITE

Sweetheart, I don't do afternoon. Dawn is when the party winds down and the bed heats up.

Xena, after looking under the covers, worried

XENA

Did you take advantage?

Aphrodite, hiding something, answering too quickly and glibly

APHRODITE

No. Wanted? Yes.

XENA

Why am I naked then?

Aphrodite, unable to look Xena in the eyes, lightly

APHRODITE

Warm body your idea, naked mine. It's called a compromise, sweet cheeks.

Xena, certain now

XENA

Aphrodite, the truth.

 

APHRODITE

… I am done but not gone.

Xena moves away and lies on her back, staring at the ceiling. She crosses her arms over the chest, in a protective manner, with the hands resting over her biceps. Xena is closed off and the rejection shatters Aphrodite.

Xena, stiff in posture and words, hurt and accusing

XENA

Why?

Aphrodite, opening her mouth without anything coming out

APHRODITE

…

Resigned to her mistake and ashamed for it, Aphrodite turns away and curls in a ball.

Long moments pass in uncomfortable silence. In many ways, it is worse than shouting and screaming. At least things would be in the open then.

It is Xena who reaches out first. She relaxes her body and shifts, ending closely behind Aphrodite but not touching. The Goddess holds her breath.

Xena, softly

XENA

Tell me why.

Aphrodite, exhaling, trying again and finding her voice this time, jealous

APHRODITE

Athena found happiness with Gabrielle.

Aphrodite starts crying.

APHRODITE

I wanted that.

Pause.

Aphrodite, whispering

APHRODITE

With you.

The Goddess looks torn between leaving and staying, starting to shimmer. Xena embraces and holds the Goddess fast to her body and the effect fades.

Xena, pleading

XENA

Don't run.

Aphrodite, surprised

APHRODITE

How did you guess?

Xena, wisely

XENA

I was you once.

CUT TO:

EXT. OLIVE PLANTATION – ROAD – LATE MORNING

The black fingers clutch towards the sky; acres of ruined trees stretch away from the road. The sky is blue and cloudless, with little chance of rain to mourn the passing of life, both in the fields and in the house further ahead.

Xena is saddled on Argo and Gabrielle rides Athena in white horse form. Both women are lost in thought; the bard's hands unconsciously play with the luxurious mane.

Xena, breaking the peace of contemplation, looking at the charred destruction, morosely

XENA

The world is full of walking wounded.

Gabrielle, guessing right, sympathetically

GABRIELLE

Aphrodite?

Xena, nodding

XENA

She broke her own heart.

Athena stops and Gabrielle dismounts, the couple being of one mind. The bard starts walking slowly towards the house. Xena follows her example and joins her on the ground. She falls into step with Gabrielle and takes her hand. The horses follow.

Gabrielle, squeezing with her fingers, deeply concerned

GABRIELLE

And you?

XENA

Hurt.

GABRIELLE

You didn't want …

Pause.

Gabrielle, reworking the clues and reaching the wrong conclusion, alarmed

GABRIELLE

She didn't … oh Gods, she did!

Xena, quick to reassure but instead confusing things further, talking through

XENA

No … yes, but … it's complicated. I …

Pause.

Xena, settling on

XENA

We both needed different things.

Gabrielle, instantly, meaning it

GABRIELLE

You have an open invitation.

Xena, shaking her head negative, resolute

XENA

I cannot; I mustn't. The bedroll is your marital bed; it is not right to insert myself.

Xena stops and turns, pulling the bard to a halt. She takes the Gabrielle's other hand in her free one and they face each other. Eyes lock and then there is only truth.

Xena, sincerely and honestly

XENA

You speak of choices – please understand, Aphrodite was mine. The Athenian brothel remains a betrayal, wrapped hidden in my shame and unacknowledged by you. She was not you, she could not be you; no one is. I claimed her you, foolishly thinking it was love. It was sex and it was a lie and it festered until buried. But it was not over.

Pause.

XENA

The Goddess of Love came, offering wine and friendship. I chose to partake. She offered companionship and I chose to not. Aphrodite took what she wanted anyway.

Gabrielle, eyes watering, anguished

GABRIELLE

I'm so sorry.

Xena, with finality

XENA

I gave Aphrodite a chance and now I know. There is no trust and there is no future there.

Pause.

Xena, the smile shining in her own tears

XENA

Don't cry my light. You gave me love and opened my heart to it but you cannot protect it. And you shouldn't - I am strong.

Gabrielle, quietly and forcefully

GABRIELLE

Don't close it again.

Xena raises their joined hands and kisses Gabrielle's fingers on her right one. She drops the other set and they continue, hand in hand. Past a point, words are redundant.

CUT TO:

EXT. OLIVE PLANTATION – HOUSE – NOON

A detachment of Athenian HOPLITES have set up camp outside the burned-out shell of the formerly great house. Few HOPLITES stand guard; judging by the number of fires, most are on burial detail. A LIEUTENANT comes running out of the courtyard, no doubt alerted to Xena and Gabrielle's approach.

The two women pull up their mounts and wait for the LIEUTENANT'S arrival. Gabrielle is wearing her leather armor, but more than likely she will be recognized in Athens no matter the outfit or armor. Shortly, this is proven true by the LIEUTENANT, who kneels before the horse and bows low.

LIEUTENANT, with great reverence

LIEUTENANT

Goddess, you honor us. Xena, well met.

Xena nods in acknowledgement; Gabrielle is already down and at LIEUTENANT'S side.

Gabrielle, lifting the LIEUTENANT to his feet and shaking forearms once he stands

GABRIELLE

Ill fortune finds us here together but the heart is gladdened in the company of fellow soldiers.

LIEUTENANT, hero worshipping openly

LIEUTENANT

The bards' tales hold no light to the tavern tales told by survivors of Thermopylae. You have our lives.

Xena is next to exchange grips with the LIEUTENANT. She gives him a little extra and he grimaces but does not say anything.

LIEUTENANT, Xena's message received loud and clear, adds hastily

LIEUTENANT

Both of you.

Gabrielle, straight to business

GABRIELLE

Time is of essence. How many escaped?

LIEUTENANT

Score males and half that females. The leader had an unpermitted son with one, that's what started this.

Gabrielle, decisively

GABRIELLE

We will track and retrieve the slaves. Alone.

The LIEUTENANT does not question the orders; the discipline to follow commands and not ask why was drilled into him during military training.

LIEUTENANT

Yes, Chosen.

GABRIELLE

Where are the bodies of the Nicias' family?

LIEUTENANT

In the empty storage room, prepared for burial; next door are the free citizens and trusted slaves.

Pause.

LIEUTENANT, looking nauseated and disturbed

LIEUTENANT

It's bad. Some have no faces; others, worse.

Xena, trying to change Gabrielle mind without challenging her authority, neutrally

XENA

We don't need more memories haunting us.

Gabrielle, having none of it, looking right at Xena, with determination

GABRIELLE

Who speaks for the dead?

Xena drops the argument, knowing the bard's mind, once set on a course of action, as is the occasion here, is immovable. It is Gabrielle's strength and weakness. Xena looks away, signaling surrender.

Gabrielle, asserting herself anyway, strongly

GABRIELLE

I will see them all.

LIEUTENANT

Please forgive the offense. Your will, Chosen.

Xena, supportive

XENA

We're in this together.

LIEUTENANT

This way.

The LIEUTENANT turns and heads for the blue entry door, miraculously intact among the extensive damage to the building.

Gabrielle forgives by placing her hand on Xena's small of the back and delicately pushing her forward, after the LIEUTENANT. Xena lets the bard protect her.

CUT TO:

EXT. HOUSE – COURTYARD – AFTERNOON

A bloody, weary HOPLITE exits one of the storage rooms, carrying a large pile of crimson rags. He walks to the fire and tosses them in.

Xena and Gabrielle walk past him and stop at the door the HOPLITE exited from. The bard looks back on the LIEUTENANT who is a distance back and he nods affirmatively. Gabrielle takes a breath and opening the door, steps inside; Xena is right behind her.

CUT TO:

INT. HOUSE – EMPTY STORAGE ROOM – AFTERNOON

Covered completely in linen strips are the small bodies of six CHILDREN. They are joined by their MOTHER. There is something wrong with the shapes that the cloth cannot hide completely and it testifies to their cruel end. The room is empty aside from the corpses.

Xena and Gabrielle stand just inside, LIEUTENANT behind them.

LIEUTENANT, pale

LIEUTENANT

That was others; Nicias' dearest rest here. Mitak is the youngest, at five months. He was …

The women stare at the tiniest angel; he appears normal, except for the head, which is strangely sunken.

LIEUTENANT, choking with emotion

LIEUTENANT

… he has no …

And with that his voice is gone and so is he, rushing outside.

Gabrielle steps unsteadily towards the baby and kneels in front of it. She blocks the view of the infant as she uncovers Mitak. Xena, trembling, remains in place.

Gabrielle, inspecting the remains with a healer's eye, with great sorrow

GABRIELLE

Hate carved into flesh.

Xena does not need unobstructed view to guess the horror under the linen.

Xena, solemnly

XENA

He was innocent; the children all were.

GABRIELLE

The slaves' suffering is on Nicias; the responsibility here, theirs.

XENA

I agree.

Gabrielle, grateful

GABRIELLE

Thank you.

CUT TO:

EXT. HOUSE – COURTYARD – AFTERNOON

Xena and Gabrielle exit and approach the LIEUTENANT, who does not look much improved for the fresh air. Xena carries a small bundle wrapped in a cloak. The LIEUTENANT'S eyes immediately fall on her burden and he has a very strong reaction as understanding of contents downs on him.

Xena, with sudden insight, surprised

XENA

You prepared them alone?

LIEUTENANT

I am sworn to secrecy; the soldiers are ignorant.

Xena looks at Gabrielle and gets a nonverbal confirmation.

XENA

Announce that the rebellion began with the execution of a slave's child. Nicias' youngest was taken in revenge, possibly for ransom.

Gabrielle, throwing in, disapprovingly

GABRIELLE

I noticed the dead slaves were left in the sun. You will erect a pyre and give them a proper funeral.

Lieutenant, chastised

LIEUTENANT

Yes, Chosen.

CUT TO:

EXT. WILDERNESS – FOREST – LATE EVENING

Xena, Gabrielle, and Athena are chewing on some jerky, ripping the pieces off with strong teeth. They don't bother to sit, marking it a temporary respite from the road.

Hermes appears in front of them.

Hermes, without preamble, going straight into the message, his tone somber

HERMES

Your mothers arranged the burial in the common plot. Mitak is with his mother and siblings in the Elysian Fields. No one will hurt him again.

Pause.

It appears there is something else, but Hermes is not as forthcoming with it. Three expectant pairs of eyes bore into him and quickly produce the desired result. Hermes, looking embarrassed, brings out a large basket overflowing with food - messenger of the Gods indeed.

Hermes, handing the basket to Xena, sheepishly

HERMES

Cyrene …

Gabrielle, to Xena, giggling

GABRIELLE

Even Gods fear your mother.

FADE OUT:

END OF ACT TWO

 

 

 

ACT THREE

FADE IN:

EXT. WILDERNESS – CLEARING WITH A STREAM – 2 DAYS LATER/MIDMORNING

Xena finishes brushing Argo and walks over to Athena, drying in the sun, dressed in one of Gabrielle's tunics. Athena stretches out, legs crossed, head resting on interlaced hands; she gazes at the clouds chasing across the blue above. The clearing around Xena and the Goddess is modest, born in the death of a huge tree falling over and leaving a gaping wound in the green canopy. Fall sun smiles down on the women below.

Xena lies down and pillow's her head on Athena's abdomen.

Xena, idly picking at grass stalks, joking half-heartedly

XENA

You are a lousy conversationalist lately.

Athena, game nonetheless, grinning

ATHENA

I'm a horse lately.

Xena, without much enthusiasm, atypically not responding in kind, sounding distracted

XENA

There is that …

Athena, genuinely interested in Xena's welfare, caring

ATHENA

You shoulder hidden weight; wife is worried and hers is mine. So is yours, for we are family. Please tell me what is going on.

Xena, after a while, simply

XENA

… Solan.

Athena, carefully

ATHENA

Go on.

Xena, with a heavy heart, anxious of the reception

XENA

I have a plan and a ready answer from Gabrielle. She will do it regardless of what it costs her or you. I cannot, in good conscience …

Athena, interrupting Xena and erasing all doubts with a single word

ATHENA

Yes.

Xena, turning her head just enough to see Athena, gratitude mixed with awe

XENA

Just like that?

Athena, freeing one hand to brush the bangs from Xena's forehead, fondly

ATHENA

We both love you.

Xena captures Athena's hand and presses her cheek against it, closing her eyes.

Athena, tranquilly

ATHENA

When you leaving for the Silk Road?

XENA

Next month.

Athena, staunchly

ATHENA

Bring Solan back.

Pause.

Athena, making sure there is no misunderstanding of her commitment, rock-solid

ATHENA

Whatever it takes, Xena; the wife and I speak one voice.

CUT TO:

EXT. WILDERNESS – CLEARING WITH A STREAM – AFTERNOON

Xena and Athena stir to the sizzle of meat over the fire. Gabrielle has set up spits with vegetables mixed in among the generous chunks of rabbit. Currently, she is draining the waterskin. Once done, the bard corks and tosses it by the saddlebags. Next, Gabrielle starts to remove her leather armor and armaments and Xena is at her side in a flash, ably assisting. When Gabrielle is down to her tunic, Xena gives her a brief hug and sends her over to Athena who sits up.

Gabrielle plops gracelessly between the Goddess' spread legs and leans forward; she lowers her head and the hair cascades according to gravity, obscuring her face. Instinctively, Athena's hands go to bard's shoulders and start working the tense muscles with practiced motion. Xena comes over to offer moral support and listen to the scouting report. Gabrielle's behavior indicates bad news.

Gabrielle, confirming their worst fears, wearily

GABRIELLE

Athens sent messengers out with news of revolt. Unluckily, the slaves went to the nearby village for food and medicine after the runner passed through recently. They were followed back and later attacked by the village militia. The wounded were killed; the rest were chained. We will honor the dead on the way out.

XENA

It's over?

Gabrielle, shaking her head no, sounding more upbeat than a second ago

GABRIELLE

There are two sets of footprints leading away from camp and no infant among the dead or captured. Aphrodite is watching over Ileandra, Sarpedon, and little Pinullus.

ATHENA

The villagers?

GABRIELLE

Believe they captured or killed everyone.

XENA

Then there is hope.

Athena, parting the hair and kissing the Gabrielle's nape, warmly

ATHENA

But first a certain bard is going to eat and sleep. I have your imprint on my back and you fared no better.

Xena, teasing Athena and Gabrielle

XENA

You can take closeness too far.

Gabrielle, impudently cute

GABRIELLE

I can try.

Without warning, Athena scoops Gabrielle from the ground, lifting her around the middle. The Goddess carries her laughing wife towards the stream, clothes and all. Athena is already barefoot; Gabrielle manages to kick her own shoes off before the two women splash into the shallow waters.

Xena rounds up the soap and dry linens in record time and is there to join them, dropping the items on the shore. By this time Gabrielle has managed to dunk Athena and, still relatively dry, makes her escape. Xena intercepts and then the Goddess is there to help, grabbing the bard from behind. It is not a real struggle, more a play fight, with Gabrielle trying to avoid getting wet and Xena and Athena trying to get her so. There is a whole lot of splashing and falling, and it soon degenerates into an all-out war, with everyone out for themselves.

CUT TO:

EXT. WILDERNESS – CLEARING WITH A STREAM – EVENING

Athena kisses her wife and slips out of the bedroll. Yawning, she catches and puts on the cloak tossed to her by Xena. Behind them, as the two women walk away from camp, Argo moves towards Gabrielle, taking watch over the sleeping bard. Xena is sporting an hatchet, attached to her belt.

Athena, slowing down and glancing back, smiling

ATHENA

You have a traitor.

Xena, grousing

XENA

Gabrielle and her apples - Argo would sell her soul for treats. And did.

ATHENA

Love attracts like.

XENA

We are all moths and bard is the fire.

Some truths are obvious. Xena and Athena start to push thru the forest, the camp fading from view behind them.

XENA

You know the way?

Athena, stepping confidently in front, frowning in concentration

ATHENA

It's like perceiving and walking in wife's footsteps or more accurately … feeling her passage.

Xena stops the Goddess with an abrupt, iron clasp on her arm.

XENA

I won't take her away from you; not if you have this.

Athena, echoing the words from Gabrielle's past with matching intensity

ATHENA

Solan is ours – you made a choice. Now you know what you chose.

Except the words are not bard's, they are Xena's, from a time before the Goddess.

Xena, releasing and staggering back, shocked at the inadvertent revelation, accusingly

XENA

You … you have her feelings! Her memories? Our memories!

Athena, stopping and turning around to face unhappy Xena, nervously

ATHENA

It leaks.

Pause.

Athena, talking fast as she advances on Xena, pleading understanding

ATHENA

Gods listen to mortals the same way the dead hear the thoughts of the living. We hear your prayers, your hopes, and your fears. When you speak to God, you truly do. This, this was not meant to happen. Gabrielle thinks about me constantly and I can't turn it off. When she dreams, when she is awake, there is no respite. There are no thousands of voices anymore – there is only one.

Xena, trying to wrap her head around the concept, grimacing

XENA

Wife talkative?

Athena, deliberate and precise

ATHENA

Memories hitchhike on her thoughts: flashes, fragments, pieces. She creates worlds in her imagination, truth and fantasy indistinguishable. The sheer volume drowns the supplications of the worshippers; only weak, faint whispers reach my ears.

XENA

What have you done?!

ATHENA

I am meant to for; this is my purpose. I am a Goddess: I listen and I answer. The closer the mortal, the louder and stronger the connection; the priests in my temples, the Champions, and the Chosen have priority. They serve me and they are a part of me, channeling power from believers. Gabrielle refused ambrosia and Olympus; we live and love on the mortal plane. Do you understand, Xena?

XENA

Wow, I thought I had it rough, sharing souls.

ATHENA

I know. I accept. Gabrielle sings and I can't live without her song. Not anymore; I need.

Pause.

Athena, quietly

ATHENA

She is my faith.

Xena, hugging Athena, sagely

XENA

Then tell her what you just told me; trust me, you already are hers.

ATHENA

She is Gabrielle.

XENA

True.

They resume walking, Athena guiding unerringly.

XENA

Is it the same in reverse? Ares sent me visions ... before.

ATHENA

You have to be willing and receptive.

XENA

Stay out of my head.

Athena, ribbing

ATHENA

Why Xena, I am honored but married.

Xena, dramatically

XENA

I resign Champion.

Athena laughs.

CUT TO:

EXT. WILDERNESS – FOREST – DAWN

Ileandra, Sarpedon, and little Pinullus are packed and ready to depart. Their meager possessions are bundled on their backs and do not include food, judging by the rumbling of their empty stomachs. At least the infant still has food to eat. He sleeps in his mother's arms, innocent and peaceful.

Gabrielle appears like an apparition, stepping out from behind a tree without any noise. She wears the blood armor and is fully armed. In her hands, she carries a large medical kit. Despite this, Sarpedon moves in front of Ileandra. The gesture is symbolic – even a slave recognizes a servant of Goddess Athena.

Gabrielle, putting them at ease, friendly

GABRIELLE

Aphrodite sent us. Xena has the food and I am a healer. May I see him?

Xena, wearing a tunic, comes bearing a pot of stew and a loaf of bread. She is unarmed and takes a seat on the ground.

Gabrielle smile is genuine and convincing; Ileandra goes around Sarpedon and hands her the baby. The bard goes to find a suitable spot and laying the kit open, starts checking the baby. The infant takes to Gabrielle instantly, captivated by the open affection and cooing.

Ileandra and Sarpedon join Xena around the pot. She produces two spoons and they dig in eagerly, occasionally glancing over at Gabrielle and grinning at the interaction.

Xena, looking at Gabrielle, smiling affectionately and getting a brilliant one back

XENA

Gabrielle steals hearts wherever she goes.

Ileandra and Sarpedon share a knowing look but say nothing and continue to eat. The thick mixture vanishes rapidly, as does the bread, in chunks.

CUT TO:

EXT. WILDERNESS – FOREST – EARLY MORNING

In the background, Gabrielle checks the infant's cloth diaper and wrinkles her nose at the offensive contents inside. She looks meaningfully at Ileandra and then picks up the infant and heads out, taking with her a small bundle of cleaning supplies and materials for a new swaddling. This leaves Xena alone with the parents.

Sarpedon, dropping his spoon into the now empty container, suspiciously

SARPEDON

You and your wife are beyond generous. Why do we warrant attention from renowned heroes? We are runaway slaves.

Xena, gently correcting

XENA

We are best friends and I love her, but she is another's.

Pause.

Xena, back on topic, plainly and succinctly

XENA

Gabrielle told me at sunrise: hero code, you up.

Puzzled looks greet her.

Xena, to both, patiently

XENA

She inspected all the victims personally and knows Sarpedon ordered their deaths. She won't harm Pinullus but won't have mercy on his father.

Ileandra, jumping in, afraid

ILEANDRA

Did you?

Xena, scoffing

XENA

See? I am Xena, Warrior Princess; I caused worse in my time. Now I pay and so will you.

Sarpedon, growing angry and getting loud

SARPEDON

You pass judgment on us? You have no right!

Ileandra places a restraining hand on his forearm.

Xena, unperturbed

XENA

No, I don't. However, Aphrodite left your fate in our hands and that determination falls to me this morning.

Pause.

Xena, brutally honest

XENA

Your lover goes back in shackles to face justice, poor and biased that she might be. He is the leader of the rebellion and his end will not be kind. You will find a home and freedom either in Amphipolis or with the Amazons. Nicias regains his son.

Sarpedon, bitterly

SARPEDON

We are slaves to the end, following the dictates of so-called betters.

Xena, hint of steel entering her voice, outwardly calm

XENA

I see you as an equal, not property; do not presume things. Facts are: you are a slave, you are a murderer with innocent blood on your hands, you fall under the laws of Athens, and Ileandra is not your wife. I promise is that your love will be safe and your son will become rich and powerful. If the blood of his parents runs true, he will be a good man and your lasting legacy. Sarpedon, your death erases the blood debt and Pinullus answers for Mitak's. It is not perfect justice, but it is an imperfect world.

Ileandra, falling on her knees before Xena, begging tearfully

ILEANDRA

Don't take him from me! Nicias sent me to the barracks because I refused him after he killed my first.

Xena, showing emotion for the first time, with fire

XENA

I lost a daughter and husband, twice; your son will live. Do not speak to me about sacrifice!

Pause.

Xena, standing up, her tone making it clear the discussion is over

XENA

Gabrielle will bring the infant by shortly. Say goodbye and make peace with the Gods. We will return in an hour.

CUT TO:

EXT. WILDERNESS – FOREST – 1 HOUR LATER/MORNING

Sarpedon, Ileandra, and Pinullus lay together, a family in life and death. The adults have severed wrists and a bloody knife rest on the ground by them. They sleep in each other's arms, cradling the baby between them. Like them, it is cold but bears no visible wounds.

FADE OUT:

END OF ACT THREE

 

 

 

ACT FOUR

FADE IN:

EXT. WILDERNESS – FOREST – MORNING

Sarpedon, Ileandra, and Pinullus lay together, a family in life and death. Xena and Gabrielle stand over the bodies, staring mutely.

Xena, breathing into the silence, sad, regret coloring her words

XENA

Death is easy, life is hard. You and Athena taught me that.

Gabrielle, gazing down at Pinullus sleeping peacefully in her arms, softly

GABRIELLE

We saved their love.

Pause.

Gabrielle, reassuring

GABRIELLE

This is the hard part. Remember, we believe in you.

Xena, prodded into action, taking couple steps forward, whispering urgently

XENA

Aphrodite!

The dead infant shimmers and transforms into a Goddess of Love, who jumps up and away from the corpses. She wears the now rumpled white dress and is very distraught in manner and expression. Aphrodite is ashen and shaking, the emotions hitting her at once. She stands there lost, looking expectantly at Xena who appears to have lost her courage.

Seeing this, Gabrielle rubs Xena's arm and tops it with a squeeze. She then departs, leaving Xena alone with Aphrodite.

The contact does the trick. Xena goes up to Aphrodite and pulls the Goddess of Love into an embrace. Aphrodite buries her face into Xena's chest, spilling the feelings.

Aphrodite, sobbing

APHRODITE

It hurt!

Xena, drawing her closer, comforting

XENA

Shh, I know.

APHRODITE

Not the act!

Xena, reasonably

XENA

They were slaves; this was a tragedy from the start.

Aphrodite, lifting her head and looking Xena in the eyes, hurt

APHRODITE

But love …

Xena, hating herself for doing this, suffering as much as the Goddess, pained

XENA

Happy ever after in life is rare. You have to have faith in love; alone, it is not enough.

Aphrodite, Xena's words and meaning unheeded, tries to kiss Xena, who turns her face away. And that makes it official and final; all that is left is goodbye.

Xena, steeling herself, rushing out before her nerves fail her, bravely

XENA

Aphrodite, I don't believe in us.

Aphrodite, in denial, lamenting

APHRODITE

No! Please!

Xena, her conviction in the rightness of this action growing, gravely

XENA

I can forgive but not forget.

Xena finally meets Aphrodite's eyes.

APHRODITE

It is over?

XENA

Yes, before there even was an it. The trust is gone, Aphrodite.

Aphrodite, used to getting her way, stubbornly

APHRODITE

I want us.

Xena, quietly

XENA

Don't …

Aphrodite, making it sound like a threat, demanding

APHRODITE

I need us.

Athena, in golden armor, picks that very moment to walk in on the two of them. The Goddess of Wisdom comes to a stop right behind Xena and a little off to the side. The Goddess of Love gets the message: back off.

Aphrodite separates from Xena and takes a small step back. Xena holds onto her arms.

Xena, formally kissing the Goddess of Love, warmly

XENA

Goodbye, Aphrodite.

CUT TO:

EXT. WILDERNESS – FOREST – AFTERNOON

A grave disturbs the forest floor, the dark soil a stain on the living carpet. Gabrielle stands at the foot of it, cradling the baby. Xena and Athena are at her sides, hugging the bard. The three of them and the infant look a painting of an ideal, loving family.

A tall Goddess appears across from them, welcoming in her expression and posture. She wears a simple black tunic and is barefoot. In her hands she has a cornucopia, overflowing with produce, flowers, and nuts. She is Demeter.

Demeter, gazing right thru Gabrielle, oddly distant

DEMETER

Speak.

GABRIELLE

Here lie Ileandra and Sarpedon.

ATHENA

Here lies love.

Demeter, to Xena, commanding distractedly

DEMETER

Do.

Xena wonders why everyone is looking at her.

Demeter, focusing and coming out of her daze, chuckling

DEMETER

Open your hand, Xena.

Xena raises her right hand and puts it palm up, parallel to the ground. Demeter reaches into the horn and brings forth a lone seed. It vanishes from her fingers and appears in Xena's palm.

Demeter, lovingly yet mixed with great sorrow

DEMETER

Love grows.

Demeter vanishes.

Heeding her gut, Xena walks to the grave and digging a shallow hole, she plants the seed. Uncorking the waterskin, she pours a good bit out and covers with earth. Done, she puts away the water and rejoins the married couple.

It does not take long. Two shoots break the surface and grow rapidly before amazed eyes. The trunks twist around each other as the trees mature at a rapid rate. Soon, where there was but an empty, raw wound in the earth, now stands an adult, twin pine tree - Ileandra and Sarpedon, reborn and together again. Sometimes, love defeats death.

CUT TO:

INT. OLIVE PLANTATION – WOMEN'S QUARTERS – DAYS LATER/EVENING

Xena and Athena watch Gabrielle talk to Nicias, who is holding Pinullus. The rooms are newly redone and completely empty. In contrast and similar, he looks like a man cast into darkness and seeing the first ray of hope after long days of despair. Nicias is completely mesmerized with the life he cradles protectively and which grips his fingers possessively in a tiny fist.

Athena, watching Gabrielle and Nicias, seriously

ATHENA

He could not start over; his life has been on hold until the return of Mitak. It is like holding the breath you did not know you were.

Pause.

ATHENA

One day you will exhale too, Xena.

Athena reaches out confidently and takes Xena's hand in hers.

Xena, relaxing her fears yet still doubting

XENA

I did not raise him, he is years removed from my life, and I did not care for him then. Why then do I feel this way? Why now?

ATHENA

You love Solan - you proved that to yourself in the incident with the Fates. You are his mother and he is your son. What did Cyrene used to say?

XENA

A mother does not stop loving her child.

Athena, convincingly

ATHENA

You didn't; you just needed to believe.

Xena, sincere

XENA

You say you take; I say you give. Athena, you are my faith.

Xena hugs the Goddess and, as if sensing it, Gabrielle looks back and flashes them a bright, toothy smile. Next to her, Nicias coos happy nonsense to his son. Little victories make life bearable.

FADE OUT:

THE END

 

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