RANDOM THOUGHTS -
Part 2 : Living With The Big Lie
by Claire Withercross
Disclaimer : Xena and Gabrielle are copyright MCA /Universal, everything else is mine.
Except the lyrics which are copyright Charisma Music Publishing / Rondor Music
Violence warning : Nothing worse than a normal Xena episode. (Actually theres hardly any). However, to avoid unnecessary shock it may be wise to point out at this time that one of our heroines gets hit on the head. In order to keep some sort of suspense, Im not saying which one.
It wasn't that Xena went looking for trouble, it just sort of followed her. The trouble following her today was a young woman named Gabrielle. The blonde, wannabe bard-cum-adventurer trailed the warrior across country, chattering away, and making a nuisance of herself. She was so perky Xena could scream.
"What do you think?"
"Uh?" Xena was jerked from her thoughts by the insistent question from Gabrielle.
"What do you think?" repeated the younger woman.
"What? What do I think about what?" Xena shook her head trying to grasp what the girl was talking about.
"The cloth?" Gabrielle clarified. She held up a roll of green cloth from the stall. "I think I could make something out of this."
"Yeah, nice," said the warrior without interest, it looked like a piece of carpet to her.
"Don't sound too enthusiastic."
"Very nice," said Xena, and forced a smile. "It matches your eyes," she added. 'Why did I say that?' she thought with disgust. 'I'm a warrior. I don't worry about fashion.'
"Oh, that's a such nice thing to say," gushed Gabrielle, squeezing the warrior's arm. "You're so sweet."
A horrified grin spread across Xena's face and she slowly scanned the crowd in the market to see who had overheard the bard's comment. Judging by the number of heads turning swiftly to avoid her gaze, too many. At that moment she wished the ground would open up and swallow her. She did the next best thing and slipped away while Gabrielle was haggling over the price.
The blacksmith's forge was just off the market square. The smell and the heat in these places always felt comfortable to Xena, she didn't know why. The clanging of the smithy's hammer as he beat a horseshoe into shape drowned out the sound of the market crowd, and Xena felt she had totally escaped the embarrassing moment with Gabrielle. She nodded a greeting to the blacksmith and settled down on an old anvil to watch as the blacksmith and his assistant shod a black stallion.
When they had finished, the assistant led the horse away to the nearby stables and the blacksmith walked over to Xena. He eyed the warrior warily.
"Wha c'n," he started to say, then stopped. He removed a nail that was in his mouth and dropped it into a pouch at his waist. "What can I do for you?" he asked.
The warrior stood slowly and unsheathed her sword.
Gabrielle wandered wide-eyed through the crowd clutching her purchase close to her chest. The bustle of the market in this town was of a much greater magnitude than she had ever encountered. She had always thought market day in her tiny village was a huge event, but it was nothing in comparison to this. And this occurred every day!
Despite never having encountered such a huge crowd before, she was not afraid. She was overawed, fascinated, intrigued, fear never crossed her mind. She stopped in her tracks as the crowd about her picked up momentum and a clear space formed. Gabrielle found herself on the edge of the clearing in which two men circled each other. One man held a large wooden club, the other a loaf of bread and a dagger.
"Give it back," growled the club man.
The other looked around in mild panic for an escape route and made a half-hearted jab at his pursuer.
Gabrielle stepped into the clearing. "Wait!" she called. "Can't we settle this like civilised people without fighting?"
The two protagonists paused and looked at her with a mixture of disbelief and annoyance.
"I'm sure we can reach some sort of agreement," she continued. "What seems to be the problem?"
"He stole a loaf of bread from me," said the man with the club, pointing it at the other man.
Gabrielle turned to the knifeman. "Can't you afford to pay for it somehow?" she asked. She pointed at the knife. "Couldn't you trade the knife for the bread? I'm sure it must be worth something."
The knifeman almost burst out laughing at the absurd logic the young woman was spouting. 'Is she not quite right in the head?' he thought.
Someone in the crowd thought it was funny and they did burst out laughing. Gabrielle, club man, and the people in the person's vicinity turned to look at him.
"What's so funny?" asked Gabrielle.
This caused the laughing man to laugh harder. Knife man took the opportunity to run while there was a distraction. Club man spotted the thief's attempted escape and moved to stop him just as Gabrielle stepped in the way. His club clipped the side of her head sending her spinning. For a moment it looked as though the crowd would stop her falling, but at the last moment they stepped aside and allowed her to fall to the floor.
"Thanks," she muttered.
Xena held the sword up and examined the edge. "Perfect," she said "Excellent job."
The blacksmith beamed with pride.
Xena paid him and moved to leave. As she reached the door the smithy's assistant came rushing in and bumped into her.
"Careful, boy!" shouted the metalworker.
"Sorry!" he cried out. "I-I-I....sorry," he backed away, staring up at the malevolent glare of the tall warrior.
The blacksmith grabbed his assistant and shook him. He'd never been rough with the boy before, but it put himself between the boy and the warrior. "You fool! Why don't you look where you're going?" He turned to face the warrior. "I'm sorry about that. Maybe if I-"
Xena held her hand up to silence him. "Forget it," she said. "No harm done."
"Why were you running?" he asked the boy.
"Sorry. There was trouble in the market."
At the mention of the 'T' word Xena immediately thought of Gabrielle. 'Oh no,' she sighed. 'What has she gotten herself into now?' She hurried out into the crowded market place. She climbed up on a wall to get a better view and noticed a knot of people gathered round a particular spot.
The warrior shook her head in dismay, jumped down and pushed her way to the centre of the crowd's attention. The sight of her friend lying on the floor with a cut to the head dispelled all thoughts of berating her for getting into trouble. She crouched down next to her injured companion.
"Get back, give her some air," she shouted at the onlookers. Somehow they found the space to take a step backwards. She leaned in close to Gabrielle, tapped the bard's cheek gently and called her name.
Gabrielle groaned and her eyes fluttered. "Mother? Has Lila let me oversleep again?" She focused on the face floating above her. "Oh, it's you. What happened?" She tried to sit up, held a hand to her head and groaned. "Did anyone get the number of the cart that hit me?"
Club man was found dead with his throat cut, it didn't take a genius to work out who was responsible. The local law enforcement knew, but he was eighteen years old and terrified about going up against a killer.
"I only took the job for the uniform," he bleated. "There's never been a killing here before now. If I ever thought there would be I wouldn't have taken the job."
Gabrielle patted his shoulder and smiled weakly at him. "Don't worry, Xena will catch him for you."
"I will?" queried Xena testily.
Gabrielle glared at the warrior and nodded her head at the despondent law man next to her.
"Of course I will," said Xena in a neutral voice, glaring back at Gabrielle.
"His name is Timius," said the lawman, brightening at the prospect of not having to face the criminal. "He lives about a mile south of town."
The two women paused in a thicket a short distance from the shack where the killer lived.
"Stay here," ordered Xena.
Gabrielle smiled and nodded.
The warrior moved forward and the young woman followed her. Xena stopped and Gabrielle walked into her.
"What did I just say?" asked Xena.
"I didn't think you meant that exact spot, I thought you meant this general area."
Xena rolled her eyes. "Stay here," she repeated the request slowly.
"Here. Right," said Gabrielle with mock solemnity.
Xena shook her head in exasperation, took a step forward and sensed her companion doing the same. She stopped and turned around. Gabrielle was looking the other way examining something of great interest on the nearest tree.
"I mean it," the warrior warned. "This could be dangerous, I don't want you to get hurt."
"I just want to watch."
"Watch? This isn't some sort of spectator sport."
"I know. But I thought I'd start writing down the adventures we have, and I can't do that if you don't let me watch."
The warrior sighed in defeat. "Just stay out of trouble," she said.
Gabrielle followed Xena until they were clear of the trees. "I can get a good view from here."
"Timius!" Xena called as she got near.
Timius came out of the shack when he heard Xena call, he drew his knife and held it out threateningly. "If you think you've come to take me in think again."
Xena laughed. "Don't be silly," she drew her sword. "I'm a trained warrior with a sword, you're a small time criminal with a knife. Who do you think is going to win if you try and put up a fight?"
"You're wrong, I'm a small time criminal with a knife and two friends with swords."
At this cue two others came out of the shack. Xena noticed they were indeed carrying swords, and they looked like they knew how to use them. She grinned and twirled her sword. "Have it your way."
From her vantage point Gabrielle got a good appreciation of Xena's fighting skills. At first she thought her friend would have difficulty fighting the three men, but the warrior was just too good for them. She easily parried their blows. She jumped over their heads when they charged her. There seemed nothing they could do to win the fight. Before long the swordsmen were down. Xena turned her attention to Timius.
"Please," he begged, and threw his knife away. "I give up."
Xena seemed disappointed that she had to stop fighting, reached down and grabbed the back of his neck. "You could have saved your friend's lives if you had said that earlier."
The townsfolk cheered Xena as she led her captive towards the jail. Gabrielle walked alongside, beaming with pride, and telling anyone who'd listen that she was Xena's friend, and they could buy the story of the capture for a very reasonable price if they wanted.
That night at their campfire Gabrielle was holding up the cloth she had bought against her body to measure it.
"There's not much of it," commented Xena, returning from the bushes.
"There's enough," said Gabrielle. She stuffed the material back into her pack and sat down next to the warrior. "You were magnificent today," she said enthusiastically, grabbing Xena's arm. "They way you fought all three at once."
"I killed two men. Doesn't that bother you?"
"They were villains."
"And that makes a difference?"
Gabrielle paused to study her friend's face. "Yes. Okay, it's not nice that somebody got killed, but they were trying to kill you." She squeezed Xena's arm tighter. "You're a hero," she added.
Xena smiled and grabbed her sleeping roll. "I'm tired. I'll see you in the morning."
"Okay," Gabrielle retired to her own bed roll. "Goodnight, Xena."
Xena had lied about being tired and lay awake for a long time. Gabrielle had been asleep for hours and Xena noticed the first signs of dawn approaching, when she decided to get up.
She sat and stirred the fire and thought.
Yesterday I killed two men, and brought another man to jail where he'll stand trial, and if found guilty most likely be executed.
For that I was hailed hero.
I've killed many more in my past, and held mock trials for others I knew I was going to have executed.
For that I was called a monster.
I struggle to see the difference.
My friend assures me there is a difference.
My friend Gabrielle. She is.... Gabrielle. That's the only way I can describe her. She is a complex young woman full of surprises. At times she can be a bit annoying, always talking, telling stories and getting into trouble. Yet, she has been a great source of comfort for me. She listens when I talk, and I find I can talk to her more than anyone else I've known. She also has the ability to make me smile.
I asked myself a question a couple of months ago, who would chain me to my future? I think it could be Gabrielle. However, she doesn't really know me, and when she does get to know me she may not want to stick around.
Because I feel I'm living a lie, and Gabrielle is too honest to share her life with a lie.
She sees me as a hero who fights for good and brings criminals to justice. I see myself as a fighter who just happens to have chosen the right side... this time.
I'm no different from the ones I bring to justice, except I was given a second chance. A second chance which I'm not giving to them. Maybe that makes me worse.
the end of this bit. to be continued....
"The attitude of authority
The laws and the rules"
Living With The Big Lie - Hogarth
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