RANDOM THOUGHTS -
Part 1 : Bridge
by Claire Withercross
Disclaimer : Xena and Hercules are copyright MCA /Universal, everything else is mine. Except the lyrics which are copyright Charisma Music Publishing / Rondor Music
The tall, dark-haired warrior had seen countless villages just like the one she was approaching. Had destroyed a good number just like it. She paused on a small rise just outside the village to survey the scene. It was second nature to check things out before proceeding.
It was just a village, she satisfied herself. Simple peasants going about their simple peasant lives.
"It could have been my life," she muttered to herself.
She clicked her tongue and nudged her horse forward. The large, golden mare obeyed and walked easily along the dirt track running towards the centre of the hamlet. The warrior kept her eyes facing forward, but noticed the stares in her peripheral vision. A leather clad warrior was not a common sight in the village; or a welcome one. She heard frantic whispers and saw children sent scurrying ahead to warn others. By the time she reached the village square a small band of men had gathered. The warrior chose to ignore the group, dismounted and tied her horse up outside the tavern.
A burly, grey haired man detached himself from the group and walked towards the new arrival. He cleared his throat and spoke. "What's a warrior doing in these parts?"
The dark warrior considered fixing an icy stare on the man, but now was not the time for intimidation. "Just passing through," she said.
"We don't want any trouble," said the spokesman.
"Neither do I. I just want a drink, some food for myself and my horse, then I'll be on my way."
"We don't have much spare."
"I'll take whatever you can afford to sell, or I can afford to buy."
The spokesman turned to his people. After a whispered conversation with a couple of them he turned back to the warrior. "We could let you have a couple of loaves, a few ounces of cheese and dried meat."
"Do you have any fruit?" asked the warrior.
The man shook his head. "Fruit's scarce."
The warrior nodded. "What about my horse?"
Another brief whispered conversation. "We can let you have a sack of oats for the horse."
"How much will all that cost me?" inquired the warrior.
The warrior pulled a pouch from a saddlebag, poured some coins into her hand and held it out to the man. He warily stepped closer and held his hand out to accept the money.
"There's ten dinars," said the warrior. "Make sure it's good stuff."
The man nodded, turned to the small group and ordered them to get the provisions. When he glanced back at the warrior she had already entered the tavern.
The inn was small and cramped. Luckily there was only one customer, the warrior would have hated to have to push through a crowd in this place. She ordered an ale and took a seat against the wall. The beverage was weak but had a pleasant taste.
The solitary customer, a dishevelled man with a long beard and long hair, limped over to the warrior.
"Whass yer name?" he asked.
His voice was slurred from drink. The warrior could only guess at how much of the weak ale he must have consumed to get inebriated.
"Go away," replied the warrior. "I'm not here to talk."
"Here to kill some'un, eh?"
"Yeah, you," she fixed him with a stare.
The drunkard cackled. The cackle turned to a wheeze, which turned into a coughing fit. "Yer don't," he started to speak when another bout of coughing struck him. "Yer don't scare me, lil' girl. I've been scared by the best of 'em."
The warrior bridled at being called a "lil' girl" and used all of her self control not to kill him. She took a deep breath to calm herself and smiled at the man.
The man smiled back. "Yer right pretty when you smile, d'yer know that?"
She let the smile fade from her eyes while leaving it on her lips. The drunk started coughing again and shuffled away as quickly as he could.
"Now you've been scared by the best," the warrior whispered, letting the smile touch her eyes again.
The group of men the warrior had met outside entered the tavern. The village spokesman placed a package and a small sack of oats on her table, then he put a pile of coins next to them.
"Your provisions and your money."
"I don't understand."
"You're Xena," said the spokesman swallowing hard. "We don't want any trouble."
"Is my money not good enough?" asked the warrior standing up.
The men shuffled back. "We-we just want you to-to l-leave."
A few weeks ago, before she had met Hercules, Xena would've started breaking heads at this point. Though a few weeks ago she wouldn't have offered to pay. Anger boiled beneath the surface, the anger became mixed with shame. Shame at her past that these people were judging her on. She wanted to shout, scream, explain somehow to these people that she was no longer who they thought she was. She gave up trying to find the words, grabbed the provisions, leaving the money on the table, and pushed her way out of the tavern. She stowed her purchases in her saddlebags, mounted her horse and galloped away.
After an hour the road led down into a valley where it crossed a river on a wooden bridge. Xena slowed her horse and paused on the bridge.
The river below me sparkles in the sunlight. I can see into its clear depths between the flashes of reflected light on its surface.
I dismount from my horse and sit on the edge of the bridge, my legs dangling over the side, and watch the fish.
It's a whole other world down there. The fish swim about, oblivious to us above them. Such a simple life. I wish I could join them.
Could it be that easy?
My life is like this bridge I find myself on. Behind is the past. A dark past of dark deeds. A past consumed by hatred and the need to fight. In front is a future divorced from my past, but ultimately linked to it. Have I the courage to face that future, or should I take the easy way out, and jump before I get there?
Hercules unchained me from my past, but who will chain me to my future?
Do I have one?
I look to the way I'm going, then back to the way I came from. They look exactly the same. Does that mean my future will hold the same things as my past? Death and destruction? Is it my destiny to fight? To forever be the Warrior Princess? Can I cast off my armour and weapons and return to a normal life?
Do I want to?
The water looks inviting as it flows under the bridge, cool and refreshing on this warm day. I could go for a swim and stay down there with the fish. They don't know me, they won't judge me. Yes, it would be very easy to jump, to avoid facing a future in a world I left so long ago.
My life has not been easy so far, it may not be easy in the future, why should it be easy now. I've been brave in the past, I can be brave and deal with the future when I get there.
I hear the sound of a cart on the planks of the bridge. My horse is blocking its passage.
The carter calls a greeting to me as I mount, I wave in response. He asks me where I'm going. I open my mouth to reply, but I have no answer to give him.
I point my horse to the future and ride on.
the end of this bit. to be continued......
"When they ask her name
Would she please explain
She simply chooses to say....nothing"
Bridge - Hogarth
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