Sarah was groggy when she woke up since keeping one eye open while also trying to sustain deep REM sleep is not as easy as one might assume. She ran a hand through her hair as her eyes adjusted to the light rushing through the window. Once they were finally able to focus they settled on the dark eyes that belonged to the assassin tied to the ornate couch in the corner of the room.
“Oh thank God you’re awake; I’ve had to pee for the last two hours.” Rada said with an annoyance Sarah was becoming accustomed to.
“Of course.” Sarah said as she moved to untie the restraints. Once free her dark companion raced for the chamber pot.
Taking advantage of the small window of privacy she quickly rummaged through her bag for something to wear. As soon as she’d finished pulling a shirt over her head, Rada returned from relieving herself and Eve entered the room.
“Good morning beautiful. How did you sleep?” Rada asked.
Eve did little but acknowledge the fact that she had been addressed before ignoring the question and speaking to Sarah.
“Mother and Gabrielle have gone to fetch the Prince and the royal guard. You’ll need to tie her up again so he doesn’t figure out you two became best buddies overnight.” She said.
Sarah nodded her head and grabbed the rope from the sofa.
“C’mon killer. Time to put a little show on for the royal court.” She said as she secured the ties.
Sarah then addressed Eve.
“So, on a scale of one to ten, how mad at me are you?” She asked.
“I know why you did what you did.” Eve said without maintaining eye contact. Her tone was much more disconnected than usual and Sarah noticed.
“Good. I’d say you’re at about a 7.5 which is much better than I had expected.” She said, still not getting a reaction out of Eve. “I use the sarcasm to deflect conflict. My therapist used to say that it was a coping mechanism. But it obviously doesn’t work as well as an apology for tying someone up and leaving them alone in an unsafe environment, huh?”
After a few more moments of silence Sarah finally gave up and sat down to put her boots on. Once she was finished tying them she grabbed the knife that was starting to become an obsession. It symbolized her newfound immortality and though it wouldn’t have been much to look at to anyone else with its wooden handle and dull blade, to Sarah it was one of the most peculiar things she’d ever seen. As she studied it she was interrupted by Eve’s voice.
“What?” Sarah asked, having missed the first part of her statement.
“I said that I understand why you did what you did, but I think you’re too reckless for your own good. Just because you come from the future doesn’t mean you have the right to just set things into motion because you think it’s what’s supposed to happen.”
“So they told you about who I really am?” Sarah asked and was answered with a nod. “And I guess you’re figuring that since I saved Xena and changed her fate, that I could just take the chance on the peasant war not starting?”
“Would it be the worst thing?” Eve asked.
“Well as hypocritical as it might sound, saving the life of one or two people probably isn’t going to alter history all that much, but letting an entire war just disappear from the books could have some cataclysmic results. Plus the fighting would have started anyway; only the bad guys would have been the ones with a head start.” Sarah said.
“There aren’t good guys and bad guys in wars. There are good, decent people fighting for bad leaders.” Eve said.
Sarah wanted to say Yeah, and you were one of them. But Eve beat her to the punch.
“I know because I was one of them.” She said.
Sarah wasn’t expecting this and for the first time since meeting Eve she decided to give her a break. There was something about the remorse that shone through Eve’s words that almost made her feel bad for the reformed warlord. Before she could say anything the door opened and about a half dozen imperial soldiers barreled in with Xena, Gabrielle and the Prince right behind them.
“Ok, time to put your game face on.” Sarah whispered to Eve, and then spoke directly to the Prince. “I’ve got her tied up over here. It’s a good thing I was here last night to protect Eve, otherwise she would have been killed for sure.”
The Prince could barely hide the anger on his face as he looked upon the would-be assassin.
“To think that someone in my own palace would try to harm one of my guests is deplorable. Did she say why she came to kill you both?” He asked.
“We tried to question her a few times, but she wouldn’t talk. She was carrying this;” Sarah said producing the knife. “It’s a far cry from an Imperial weapon. From the looks of it, I’d say it was a peasant knife.”
“Which leads us to believe she was hired by the rebels.” Xena pressed on. “Making our need to leave the palace even more urgent.”
“Yes, Xena.” Said the Prince as he grabbed Rada by the throat. “I will personally make sure this vermin is disposed of.”
“Actually your highness,” Sarah said, stopping the strangulation. “We have our own plans for her, if you don’t mind.”
He paused to look her in the eye, knowing it would seem strange if he rashly insisted to keep her under his watch when she’d escaped it before.
“Of course. I only wish that the peasant pigs who employed her could feel the wrath of the emperor. I’m sure he would see to their punishment upon your insistence.” He said with a small bow.
Sniveling little snake, Xena thought. He’d try to get me in on his little war at any cost.
“Actually, I’m just glad that everyone is ok.” She said with a grin. “But we would like to leave as soon as it’s safe.”
“I understand your concern, Xena. I’ll be sending an attachment to escort you to the docks at sunset. It will consist of some of my best soldiers to ensure your safety. And please accept my most sincere apologies for the attack on your daughter.” He said, disappointment obvious in his tone.
“Thank you, your highness; we’ll be waiting for your troops to accompany us.” She bowed to him and he exited the room with the soldiers in tow.
“I’m sure we can count on anything but protection from the men he sends with us.” Gabrielle said to Xena.
“Yeah, but at least now we know for sure who to look out for.” The warrior said.
“And you have me.” Rada said. “How much more of an advantage do you want?”
They all turned to look at her, no one particularly impressed with the comment. It was Xena who broke the small silence.
“Once we head for the docks I want everyone to stay in formation around Eve. Rada will be tied up at the wrists, but she’ll have a knife hidden somewhere in her clothes so she can cut herself free once the fighting breaks out. The best thing we can do is keep things quiet. That way the townsfolk won’t decide to get in on it too. With the four of us prepared, we should be able to take on a few soldiers and make it safely to the docks.”
She moved over to the Slav and untied her bonds before addressing the girl.
“Now let me make something very clear. If you double cross us in any way I will personally see that you end your days begging for the sweet release of death.”
“You don’t have to worry about me, warrior princess. I have my own agenda, and it doesn’t involve any of you once I’m set free.” she answered.
“Good.” said the warrior. “Then while we have a little time to prepare maybe you could teach Sarah a thing or two about hand to hand combat. She may be hard to kill, but that doesn’t mean she’s any good in a fight.”
“Yeah, I noticed that.” Rada said, and Sarah gave her a small sneer.
“Eve’s coming with us where I know she’ll be safe. We’ll all meet back up at dusk and await the Prince in my room.” Xena said as she led Gabrielle and Eve out the door.
The two young women stood in the room alone as if they were scolded children who had just been told they could have a little breakfast so they wouldn’t starve to death. Rada finally let out a long breath and spoke.
“Well, we’d better get started. You’ve got a long way to go.”
Gabrielle decided to take what would most likely be their last luxurious bath for a while, at a languid pace, leaving Xena and Eve with some quality mother/daughter time. They chose to put it to good use in the form of a walk through the beautiful gardens of the palace. Exotic flowers and trees subsisted along their path as they danced around a subject that had, miraculously, never come up. Knowing that they could walk for miles before Xena would open up about anything uncomfortable; Eve decided to dive right in.
“So you died in Japa, huh?” She said more than asked.
“Technically I didn’t die; I just lost my body for a while.” Xena explained.
“But you would have stayed dead if it weren’t for Sarah coming back in time to save you?” She pushed.
“Yes, Eve, I would have.” She stated.
“But why?” The messenger pressed.
“It’s complicated sweetheart and I’ve already been through it with Gabrielle. I’m alive now; can’t we just leave it at that?” She asked, hoping it was her exit from this conversation.
“I see. So, Gabrielle is the only one to whom you owe an answer. Of course, why should I matter? I’m only your child.” Eve said, stomping ahead.
“Eve, wait.” Xena said as she tried to keep up.
Is Sarah rubbing off on her or something? I can’t deal with both of them, Xena thought as she grabbed Eve’s arm.
“You should know how important you are to me; I gave up nearly everything for you.” She told her daughter.
“Then tell me why I almost lost you to your own decision.” Eve pressed.
“Because I couldn’t take it anymore. I dedicated so much of my life to saving people and in the end there was nothing that would ever satisfy my guilt. It was as if every single day I was pushing a boulder up a never ending hill only to have to go right back down to the bottom each morning and start all over again.” The warrior explained.
“Mother, do you not think I understand what it feels like to want to atone for your sins?” Eve asked.
“I know you do, but the difference is that you don’t have someone else bearing that burden with you, Eve. From the first day she got on my horse and rode away with me, Gabrielle has taken part of my load without complaint. It just didn’t seem right to let her continue to do that, if I had a way to set her free.”
Eve thought for a moment and slowly continued their walk before she spoke.
“I would chastise you for your stupidity, but I’m sure Gabrielle has already given you an earful.” She said.
“You always were perceptive.” Xena said, patting her on the back.
“What do you plan to do after we leave Chin?” Eve asked.
“When you were a baby Gabrielle asked me, for the first and only time, to settle down. She wanted to stay with the Amazons and lead them. So that’s what we’re going to do. I doubt she’ll want to take the throne from Varia, so she’ll probably be on the council and I’ll figure out something to do.” She gave an optimistic grin.
“Do you think it’ll work? That you won’t feel the need to travel and right wrongs?” Eve asked.
“I think the only way I’d be able to ignore that boulder is if I were physically incapable of moving it. But since that’s not the case, I’m going to try helping Gabrielle move her own and hope we get farther along with it.” She paused. “But I think what you’re really asking me is, will I be happy. And the answer is yes, whether I deserve it or not.”
Eve gave her a soft, understanding smile and hugged her fiercely.
“Just don’t do it again, Mother. I couldn’t bear to lose you right now.”
“I promise, sweetheart.” Xena kissed Eve on the top of her head, then moved it so she could look her in the eye. “Now can we please end this conversation, I think you’ve tortured me enough. You’re such a terrible pacifist.”
“Ha.” Eve blurted as she started walking back toward the castle. “I’m a terrible pacifist. You wouldn’t last five minutes in my shoes.”
“You’re right; I’d beat someone with them within the first two.”
Xena put an arm around her daughter and they walked the rest of the way in pleasant silence.
“Tell me again, what this thing is you are fighting with?” Rada asked for about the third time.
“Ugghh. This is the last time I’m explaining it to you.” Sarah said. “It’s called a softball bat. You use it in a game to hit a ball that someone throws at you.”
“But if someone is throwing a soft ball at you why would you need to hit it out of the way? It’s not like it would hurt.” The gladiator countered.
“The ball isn’t actually soft; it’s just bigger than the ball the men use.” Sarah said, knowing the next question in the gauntlet.
“Then why call it a soft ball bat and not a big ball bat?” Rada asked.
“You know what? I’m not answering that stupid question again. From now on you can just call this ‘the big stick I kick your ass with’.”
And with that she came out swinging. Rada was excellent at evading the bat. Every time Sarah thought she had the dark girl, she would move just out of reach, causing great frustration to the novice.
“Getting angry isn’t improving your form, you know.” Said the Slav.
Sarah just growled and swung harder.
“And now you’re wasting more energy and still not hitting me.” Rada said, parrying her thrusts. “You’ll tire out and pretty soon…”
“Oooff.” Sarah grunted as she received a hard punch to the gut, followed by a hard rush of leg knocking her own out from under her. Before she knew it her attacker was poised above her, pushing the bat into her throat. She struggled just to keep it high enough to allow some airflow to her lungs.
“…you’ll find yourself on your back at the mercy of your opponent.” The gladiator said through the dark bangs that framed her eyes.
Shit, is she serious? Sarah thought. Did she decide to switch sides on us?
They stayed like that for a few seconds before she heard a soft chuckle and felt the weight lifting off of her body. When she looked up Rada was offering her hand, and Sarah took it while at the same time grabbing her neck.
“You know it’s a good thing you’re immortal, because you can’t fight worth shit. But you do have plenty of fire in your belly. You may prove useful tonight, just don’t get in my way.”
“I’ll try.” Sarah said, with little interest in the statement. Rada’s mention of the coming events had given her the uneasy feeling she had the night before in the passage way. For some reason she felt the need to talk to Lui again, if only to get some kind of closure on the situation. “Hey, how many guards are down in the dungeon during daylight hours?” She asked.
“The same number that there are at night. Why?”
She got her answer when Sarah began removing the tile on the floor.
“Oh, come on. What more could you possibly have to say to him? So he doesn’t like you. Who cares? It’s not your place to fight this war.” Rada said, following.
“Look, just stay up here and keep watch. I won’t be down there long. I just need to tell him something, maybe give him more of an advantage.”
“Uhg, fine, but if the big, tall one comes back looking for you I’m telling her exactly where you went. Don’t think for a second she’ll have to beat it out of me.”
She didn’t receive an answer; Sarah was already halfway to the cells.
The room that belonged to the Prince had one overpowering theme that smacked a newcomer in the face as soon as they walked in: ivory. The nearly offensive white that was hard to maintain was the only satisfactory resting place for his highness. The room’s owner decided every detail; from the large and expensive four-poster bed, down to the knobs on the drawers. One would think that a designer so particular about their sanctuary would be the last to defile it day after day. But then again one would only need ask the cleaning staff about how hard it is to remove dried crimson memories from white satin sheets. Torture came naturally to him, and most of the time it came in the form of a young girl paid to accompany him in the night.
Standing in front of the door that led into the Prince’s room were two very frightened, imperial guards. They had been there for at least five minutes, both just sweating and staring at the door. Neither dared touch the handle, let alone raise a hand to knock. Finally, one of them spoke.
“Well.” Ping sputtered out. “Aren’t you going to let him know we’re here?”
“Me?” Chang asked. “Why should I do it? You’re the one who fell asleep.”
“Yeah, well you’re the one who spent half the night outside because of your stupid stomach problems. I’d have stayed awake if I’d had someone to talk to.” Ping countered.
“And what would you have had me do, Ping? Take a nice, runny shit right there at our post?” Chang asked in defiance.
“Well it won’t matter much from here on out, you probably won’t be shitting anywhere. He’s probably going to shove our staffs right up our asses.” Ping said, before grimacing and summoning up the courage to knock on the door.
The few seconds they waited for it to open seemed like hours, but finally the doors slowly parted from each other and the prince could be seen standing in the middle of the room waiting patiently with his hands behind his back.
“Come forward.” He said sternly.
With swift steps they approached and then graciously moved into a deep bow, before rising back up. The Prince began to circle them.
“Last night you two were stationed outside the room belonging to Eve, daughter of Xena. You were given one specific instruction; not to let anyone in or out the door until morning. Not only did Eve exit and reenter the room, so did Xena and Gabrielle.” He stopped walking in front of Chang and stood nose to nose with him. “How do you explain this?”
“W-well your highness, you see I took ill late in the evening and was forced to depart from my post for a small amount of time s-so as to relieve myself.” He stammered. God I’m amazed I got all of that out. It sounded better than “I had to run to the garden before I shit my pants.” He thought. All he received in response was long, disbelieving stare before the Prince moved to put his partner in the hot seat.
“And you, young man? What is your excuse?”
Ping swallowed hard. He knew his excuse was the weaker of the two and wished he didn’t have to follow Chang’s act. Since when did he start “relieving himself”, the bastard.
“Your highness, sadly I’d worked so hard during the day serving his majesty that no matter how hard I fought off my fatigue, I had no choice but to succumb to it.”
The prince clenched his jaw and moved away, walking his circle again.
“So am I to understand that you so woefully failed in your duties because one of you has a weak stomach and the other has no stamina?” He surmised.
After a brief pause they both finally conceded with a “Yes, your highness.”
The prince nodded his head and with a snap of his fingers both men were being tightly held by the very guards who opened the bedroom doors for them. They didn’t dare struggle, knowing it would only make things worse.
“This one” the Prince said, pointing to Chang, “is to have his entrails slowly removed from his gut until death comes to him or he runs out of intestine to pull.”
Chang let the smallest of sobs escape as the guard dragged him out of the room and down to the dungeon.
“And this one,” the Prince continued, pausing to think, “Put him on his knees with spikes all around him. He’s had a rough day, he should fall asleep soon.”
Ping wasn’t so successful in keeping his cries inside. His wailing nearly overpowered the Prince’s request to his guard.
“And once you’re done setting it up make sure to stop by Sergeant Yang’s quarters. He’s leading an escort tonight and I have special instructions for him.” He said quite loudly.
“Please no! No, don’t do it for heaven’s sake. Stop. Please NOOOOOOOOOO!”
The scream bathed the dungeon in terror as Sarah made her way back through the corridor after her brief talk with Liu Xiu.
What the hell are they doing to that poor guy? She thought, sadly. Her heart was pounding as she tried to shut out the dreadful screams by putting her hands over her ears.
With quicker steps she made her way back to the tile that opened into her room. Once she’d pulled herself through she noticed Rada talking very loudly through the door.
“Just one more second Xena, I’m almost done putting on my shirt. I’m very shy and don’t like to show my naked body to strangers.”
Sarah chuckled and clapped the assassin on the back.
“Thought you said you weren’t going to stall for me.” She said.
“Well I thought about it and figured that if she came in here and found you gone she’d still kill me for letting you leave, so I took my chances and hoped you’d hurry back. Thankfully I was right.” She said in a lower voice than she’d been using just seconds before.
“Ok, I’m coming.” She said louder, and walked over to unlock the door.
When she opened it there was a disbelieving warrior standing on the other side wondering what was going on. But as she took in the scene before her things became very clear.
“You must think I’m completely clueless.” She said to Rada as she entered the room.
“What do you mean?” Rada asked, the tiniest bit of worry showing through in her voice.
“Ok, so you’re obviously not going to talk. Sarah how ‘bout you? Wanna’ fess up?” She asked, standing over her victim.
“I…uh…I mean…” Sarah stammered, trying desperately to think of something to say.
“Oh, don’t play dumb. It’s obvious what’s going on in here. A five year old could figure it out.” Xena said, waiting for her suspicions to be confirmed before she had to spell them out. Both girls simply stared with fear in their eyes. “By the Gods! Fine, I’ll just come out and say it. You were sleeping together, weren’t you?”
“Oh, thank God.” Sarah said with a sigh of relief, and then realized that Xena had heard her. “I mean thank God we don’t have to keep it a secret.” she recovered, putting an arm around Rada’s shoulders.
“Huh?” The Slav grunted, and Sarah gave her shoulder a hard squeeze. “I mean, yes, I’m glad we don’t have to hide our blossoming love.”
Sarah almost laughed when she heard the drab way the assassin forced out the word “blossoming”.
“I didn’t want to say anything because of the whole attempted murder thing that happened last night. I figured you would give me a hard time about it, but honestly I think things are better this way.” She said, feigning relief.
“Right, well, that’s great and all but we really need to get ready to leave. You’ve got about one hour to pack your things and I suggest you spend your time doing just that instead of… whatever it was you were doing before I got here.”
“Well it’ll be hard,” Rada said, “but I’ll try to keep my hands off her.”
Sarah let out a yelp from the unexpected squeeze to her ass. She gave a threatening glance to Rada who simply grinned at her. The Slav’s eyes were saying ‘smile, she’s watching’ in mockery of their ruse. And with that Sarah gave Rada a girlish slap to the gut.
“Not while Xena’s here.” She giggled.
“By the gods.” Xena said as she rolled her eyes and exited the room.
Sarah and Rada parted as soon as the door closed.
“What was that?” The young time traveler asked.
“What was what?” Rada returned.
“The ass grabbing. There was no need for ass grabbing.” Sarah said indignantly.
“I thought it made things more believable… and I thought it was funny.” She said with a small chuckle.
“Yeah, well try that again and I’ll let Xena in on what really went on here before she came in.”
“And what, let her kill us both?” Rada asked, as if she had the upper hand.
“Huh. Speak for yourself.” Sarah said. “I’m immortal.”
Try as she might Rada had no retort to that. Deciding that Sarah’s ass was now off limits she resigned herself to grabbing at the girl’s chest the next time she wanted to embarrass her publicly.
Eve was nearly finished packing up her meager belongings when she heard a knock at the door.
“I’ll get it.” She said.
Standing on the other side were Sarah and Rada. The latter had her wrists tied together and a gag around her mouth.
“I know she was supposed to be tied up, but why’d you gag her?” Gabrielle asked as they entered the room.
“I thought it would be funny.” Sarah said smiling as she mimicked the assassin’s words from earlier in the evening. She suffered a few bite wounds on her fingers, but it was worth it to put the extra restraint on her.
“Well you should probably take it off, before the guards get here. Communication is going to be extremely important once all hell breaks loose in our little escort party.” The Bard said.
Exhaling her disappointment, Sarah moved to do as she was bid.
“Does she have a knife to free her from the ropes around her hands?” Xena asked
“Not yet.” Rada answered once the gag was ripped from her mouth. She leered at Sarah.
“Here, this should be perfect.” Xena said as she reached into her cleavage and produced the breast dagger. Carefully she placed the blade between Rada’s wrists and positioned the horizontal hilt between her hands. “There’s no way the guards will notice it and all you have to do to be free of your bonds is give a couple of sturdy swipes to the rope. Just make sure you don’t lose it. It’s got a lot of sentimental value.”
“Oh that’s right,” Sarah exclaimed. “Gabrielle bought it right after you guys started traveling together, but you taught her that whole lesson about blood innocence and she ended up giving it to you… And because I’ve just proved what a total geek I am, I’ll just shut up now.”
They all stared at her for a few seconds more until Xena finally broke the silence.
“Just don’t lose it.” She said to Rada, when they heard a knock at the door.
Taking a deep breath, Xena looked around at everyone.
“Ok, it’s time. Is everyone ready?” She asked and was met with a unanimous round of nods. “Come in.” She called to the door.
A well-armored soldier entered the room and bowed. Ten similarly armored men waited outside the door.
“Xena, I am sergeant Yang. I will be leading the escort to the docks.” He stated. “The sun has set and if you are ready we should be on our way.”
“Very good, sergeant. We’re grateful for your assistance.” Xena said.
“If you and the other ladies would stand together, we will surround you on our way through the streets. You will be perfectly safe.”
“Whatever you think is best.” Xena agreed with a tense smile.
And with that they all moved out of the room and surrounded Eve; Xena to her front, Gabrielle in back and Rada and Sarah at her sides. The soldiers took their places around the core group and once all was settled the sergeant gave the order to march.
Ten to four and a half. That’s more than two men each. Sarah thought. I’d be so screwed if I could still die.
Things moved along rather quickly as they walked through the palace and outside the walls. At first the group stuck to the path, but after a while the sergeant gave the order to deviate from the road and go through the forest.
“Are you sure this will get us to the docks, sergeant?” Xena asked, more to her group than the soldiers. It was merely her way of warning them that the attack was about to begin.
“Yes, the trees will be much better for hiding from the villagers than the road.” He said.
They were barely under cover of the trees for five minutes before the sergeant gave the order for them to stop because he’d heard something. He spent a few minutes pretending to listen to something then gave a yell to signal the beginning of the slaughter.
The effect of his voice was that of a gun firing at a foot race. Everyone started moving. The soldiers drew their swords just as Xena and her crew drew their own unique weapons and they all dug into the fight. The Warrior Princess dispatched her immediate foes swiftly then turned around to take one from Rada and one from Sarah before flipping over to Gabrielle. As Sarah swung her bat furiously she wondered if everyone else was having as tough of a time as she was. Obviously Xena wasn’t because she’d already moved in on her and Rada’s action. But surely everyone else wasn’t having such an easy go of things.
She was actually proud of how well she was performing against her foe. Every swipe of the sword was deflected, and some were answered with a swing of her own. After a few moments of extreme concentration she finally got an opening. Her attacker lifted his sword above his head and hammered it down into the ground. Sarah twirled to the side then brought her bat down on the back of his head, knocking him unconscious. When she saw that he wasn’t getting back up from the blow she screamed victoriously into the air.
“Woo Hoo! Yeah!” She danced around his limp form. “That’s right! Thought you’d pick on the history geek, huh? Who else wants…” She turned around to see that the rest of the men had obviously been taken out a while ago as Rada was picking at her nails and the other three women were staring at her. “…some.” She finished quietly.
“So, I guess you guys are ready to go, huh?”
Xena, Gabrielle and Eve shook their heads in confusion and started walking. Rada stayed behind a few steps with Sarah.
“Do you practice being this pathetic, or does it just come naturally to you?” She asked as she clapped a sympathetic hand to Sarah’s back.
“Oh, it’s all natural.” Sarah assured her as they followed the pack.
It wasn’t long before they reached the docks and they were just in time. There was a boat for Greece about to launch.
“Hurry up, or we’ll miss it.” Xena yelled out to the rest of them.
They all ran as fast as they could and caught the deck hands just before they finished removing the ropes from the dock.
“We’ve got five for passage to Greece.” Xena called out.
“Four.” Rada yelled in correction, then in a softer voice said “I’m staying remember, got a little debt to settle.”
The deckhand nodded, “We can take four.” He said. Xena slipped a few coins into his hand.
Eve boarded first, followed by Gabrielle, then Xena. It was the messenger who noticed that Sarah wasn’t moving.
“Sarah, come on, the boat is gonna leave any minute now.” She said, causing the warrior and bard to turn and see what the hold-up was.
“Actually I figured I’d give you some breathing room. The boat’s probably gonna be crowded and sharing a hammock with a woman of god just seems wrong.” Sarah joked.
“Sarah, stop with the jokes already and get you’re troublemaking ass on the boat right now.” Xena said as the last ropes were being secured to the rigging.
“I um… I can’t Xena.” She said, half afraid the warrior would violently drag her ass onto the boat, and half afraid she wouldn’t. “Somewhere along the way my conscience got the better of me and I decided I couldn’t just be the catalyst for this war without helping to save as many lives as possible. I talked things over with Liu and now I have a post protecting the women and children. So I can’t leave.”
The ramp to the ship was being pulled away.
“Wait!” Gabrielle yelled at the deck hands. “Sarah, I know we’ve given you a hard time these past few days, but you cannot stay behind. A war is about to break out here and you have no idea how long your new gift will last. Please get on the boat.”
It touched her to see that Gabrielle cared, and she knew that a couple more admissions like that would be her undoing.
“Take care of each other.” She said to them. “I didn’t come back and save your asses just so you could screw it all up.”
And with that she turned to Rada as the ramp was pulled away and the boat was pushed off.
“You want company on the way back?” She asked.
The Slav regarded her with a puzzled expression. “So what, you’re like a hero now?” She asked.
“Oh, definitely not. I’m still just as pathetic as I was an hour ago. Only now, I’m a spineless sympathetic to boot.”
“Huh-ha.” She laughed and put a hand on Sarah’s shoulder as they turned to walk back into town. “You know if we both survive this I think we’ll make good friends…or at least good drinking buddies. I’ll teach you how to handle the ale.”
“Ha.” Sarah put her arm around Rada as well while they walked. “Believe me, I don’t need any lessons on that front.”
Back on the boat Xena was at a loss for what to do. The boat had drifted quite a few yards away and there was no turning it back. They were so damn close to escaping with everyone, then Sarah had to go and pull something like this.
“Of all the stupid, self important, pointless things to…” She ranted.
“Xena.” Gabrielle interrupted.
“Gabrielle, I know what you’re going to say, but she made her own decision and we just can’t risk taking Eve into a war zone or leaving her alone with a boat full of seamen.” The warrior said.
“But Xena that’s just it, where did Eve go?” The bard asked.
“What are you talking about she was right…” as Xena turned around to point at Eve her finger landed on a passed out drunk that probably had no idea he was on his way to Greece. “…behind us.”
Quickly they ran to the side of the boat and scanned the waters leading up to the docks. There, leaving a trail of bubbles in her wake, was the Messenger of Eli swimming straight for the war zone.
To be continued…
Back to the Academy