Disclaimers: Any resemblance between the characters described in this story, and those in a certain show produced by Renaissance Pictures, is only coincidental. But I tried. After some of the 'comedy' episodes of the fourth season, I figured I couldn't do any worse. But then again...
Act 1. The Set Up
Scene: Cyrene’s Tavern.
Our story begins quietly in a small but seemingly prosperous inn near the centre of the town of Amphipolis. It is daytime and our imaginary camera slowly pans through the temporarily empty tavern portion of the inn, until it falls upon a tall figure in armor slumped alone in the corner. Going closer we see that it is a ravishingly attractive, dark woman, somewhat the worse for drink. On the table in front of her there are several empty flagons and a scroll which has been read several times by disconcerted blue eyes. She sips at her drink, her mind focused on some object only she can see. Two fingers tap at the side of her mug pensively. Her attention suddenly shifts, and she turns her gaze to the opposite wall, where the God of War appears in a shimmer of God dust.
Ares leans casually against the wall.
“Xena. Xena. Xena. Drinking alone. And quite a bit,I see. But you can’t say I didn’t warn you. That’s what comes from opening your heart… to loooove.”
There is no response from the warrior except a look of disgust. “Let’s try this another way.” Ares strolls over and places his hand on her shoulder. Cocking his head, he says, “Come here often, Princess?”
The bleary blue eyes glance to the offended shoulder and she growls, “Move it or lose it, Ares. And I am not talking about your hand.”
Ares smiles, but quickly removes his hand, then coolly leans against the wall again. “I don’t see your little pal, What’s Her Name?”
There’s a small slur in her voice as she turns to stare at the God of War. “You know, I’d like to think that you had something better to do, but...”
“I always have time for my favorite. Especially when she seems so down.” Ares smiles and waves his extended hands. “Hey! I’ve got an idea...”
Xena snorts. “Yeah, I’m sure you do. But I’d have to be a lot drunker and angrier than this, to break my promise....”
“That promise to the blonde? That would be the same blonde who promised never to leave you?” Ares makes a show of searching about the tavern “Funny, I still don’t see her around. Again.”
“She needed a break. Just a vacation.”
“Yes. Of course. Sounds sort of like a woman I knew. Husband said he was going to the apothecary to pick up some herbs.”
“He took three suitcases. To this day she’s still telling her friends that he must have stopped off to get some milk. “
Xena closes her eyes in frustration, when an idea occurs to her. There is a glint in those cerulean orbs, and a smirk briefly flashes. None of this is seen by Ares. She turns and stands suddenly; grabbing hold of his armor, clutching him and with great exaggeration begins sobbing. “Oh Ares, I don’t know what to do.”
Ares backs up in complete shock, carrying Xena with him, who is still gripping him. Xena continues to babble. “She was supposed to be here today,” and her voice rises, “and instead I got a NOTE... What am I going to do without her?”
Unable to deal at all with this unwarriorlike emotion and trying to regain control, Ares begins to try to pry off the leach-like grip.
“Xena. Xena?” Ares gives a nervous laugh while still working on the grasping fingers. “Listen to me. I have this really nice army just a few miles from here. You’ll love them. They’re rough, but young. Just waiting for the right commander. With proper training, some weeding out...”
“I can’t. I can’t do anything without her. You don’t know what I might do...” the Warrior is laying it on thick now.
“Sure I do! You could be having fun! Like old times. Remember the good old days? A thousand men waiting for a single word from you? Ready to throw their lives into a battle, willing to die for the Destroyer of Nations? Fun!”
The Warrior shakes her head emphatically. “Nothing’s fun anymore without...without Gabrielle!!!”
Ares is near panic, unable to think, now. “Xena, uh, the leathers, Xena, you’re getting tears all over them. Damn it, snap out of it!”
The warrior quietens slightly. “If she doesn’t come back, I might as well just stay here,” there is a pause as if she has just had a revelation. “Maybe I could try farming...?”
“No. NO!” The God of War has now moved from being shocked to horrified.
“But what am I, without my sweet Gabrielle?”
“Something better than this! Look, you could wait here, look, stop it! I’ll, just stop crying! How about if I go get her!”
Hidden from him, the blue eyes gleam as she thinks, ‘Gotcha!’.
The sobbing diminishes slightly, and the tear stained face emerges and stared beseechingly into Ares’.
“But, I couldn’t have you hurt her, or force her to come in any way; she has to want to come back to me of own her own accord,” Xena snuffles, wiping her nose on Ares chest. “And I can’t owe you a favour , Gabri...elle... wouldn’t like that either...”
“Fine. It’s a freebee. I’ll just go talk with her. I promise. But, please? Stop crying!” The God of War adds forcefully, “And No Farming!”
“I think there’s this old man, he said he needed a shepherd.” Xena looks innocently into Ares’ face. “I could get to like sheep, couldn’t I?”
Ares pushes her away. Pointing both of his index fingers at her, he says, “Stay ...Here. I’ll be back. And keep away from the sheep.” He disappears in his customary shimmer.
Immediately, Xena stands up straight, pulling at her nose while her mouth forms an evil smile. She looks about the empty tavern and chortles, “That was fun.” Then finishing off her mug, and pleased with herself, she salutes a certain parchment. “Paybacks are a bitch, love. Stand ME up, would you? Ha!”
Xena’s mother, Cyrene enters, looking from side to side. “Xena? Did I hear you talking to someone?”
She turns a satisfied grin to her Mom. “Just Ares, with nothing to do.”
“The God of War? Here?” Cyrene’s face is concerned.
“It’s all right Mom, Not to worry. He’d never do any...”
She looks about the tavern in horror. “But it’s so messy!”
Xena gives her Mom a strange look. “Ares spends a lot of time on battlefields, Mother? They get pretty messy occasionally.”
“Yes, but...What did he want?”
“Just the usual. He’s got an army nearby. Thought because I was without Gabrielle I might listen to him.” She holds up her index finger. “But get this, I siced him on the Bard.” She smiles proudly.
Cyrene is shocked. “Because she was late?”
Xena nods happily.
“You sent the God of War after your soul mate because she was late?”
Xena almost begins to back away from the irate, advancing woman. “Mom, it was just a joke. It’s okay. I made him promise not to hurt her, and he’s bound to a promise to his Chosen.”
“And you thought that this would be funny?” Xena nods, wiggling her eyebrows.
“Well, you can just call him back,” but she sees Xena’s expression and loses her steam for a moment. “Well no, maybe not. But you will get on your horse right this minute, and do whatever you have to do to straighten this out. NOW, young lady.”
“Mom....” Xena whines, unmoving.
“Don’t you ‘Mom’ me! Just go!”
Moments later, a grim and grumbling Xena strides to the stables, where she collides with her brother Toris.
“Where you off to?” her brother asks, as she helps him up off the ground.
“Gotta go get Gabrielle,” Xena resentfully grouses.
“She’s in trouble? Same old, same old, huh? How d’you know?”
Xena’s eyes dart for a moment before she answers. “Uh... it’s that connection thing we have, we just know...”
Toris nods understandingly. “Ahhh...”
Scene: Mount Olympus
Camera pans throughout white marble expanse, freezing as Ares strides in, finding Artemis lying on some pillows watching the mortal realm in a mystic pond. Various snacks are scattered about.
“I knew it,” he exclaims with bitterness. “The great huntress is vegging out, watching mortals and eating junk food.”
The Patron of the Amazons leaps to her feet and returns his glare. “Don’t mess with me now, I’ve had a bad day.”
“Fine. Just tell me where your (makes hooking motions with two fingers of both hands) Chosen is, and I’ll go”.
Artemis just laughs. “Oh, no. I don’t think so. And you know very well I haven’t made Gabrielle my Chosen officially. As long as she keeps turning down the mask like it was a plate of Hor d’eurves....”
“Gabrielle? Turn down food? Have you ever spent ANY time with this girl?” Ares mocks her quietly.
“Girl? Listen, if she was my Chosen you never would have dared try to hustle her the other day. So, let us understand something. That WOMAN is under my protection. Got it? Stay away from her.”
Ares bites back a retort and replies piously, “But I’m on a mission of love, to reunite the soulmates, and if you’re so worried, you can come along.”
“Xena asked a favour of you?” Artemis looks at him skeptically. “Hmmm, I’d come just to make sure you keep on track, but.... since it’s a mission of Love....” The Goddess looks to a doorway and calls out, “ ‘DITE??”
“Oh, crap,” says the God of War.
Scene: The Queens Hut, Amazonia
The Queen of the Amazons sits at a desk, head slumped on the top, clearly depressed. An Amazon warrior, Eponin enters.
She addresses the Queen sarcastically, “Well, congratulations. They’ve left.”
Without moving her head, Chilapa mumbles, “You knew I was a warrior, not a diplomat.”
Eponin glares at her. “Well, if the treaties with the Centaurs fall apart, and we go from having valued allies along our own borders, to having them attacking us as well, you’re going to have to be one Tartarus of a warrior.”
Chilapa stares upwards. “Dear Artemis, what did I do?”
Eponin begins to itemize a list on her fingers. “Well, let’s see. You sent their delegation to stay in the stables...”
“But that’s where they always stayed!”
“I think Ephiny would have usually removed our own horses first! Cleaned it out a bit? And then there’s the banquet. You put bales of hay on the main table!”
“But that’s what they eat!”
“Gabrielle always made sure there were snacks, carrots, and she would have the grains specially picked and served on platters...”
Chilapa stands. “All right! I’m not Ephiny, I’m not Gabrielle. I don’t do this stuff well. What do we do now?”
“I suggest that you swallow any pride you have, and get our errant Queen to come back and negotiate a new treaty.”
Chilapa mulls it over, staring at the Queen’s mask hung in the corner. She glares at it and turns back to Eponin. “We know where she is right now, we always have someone on her, right?”
“She’s the holder of the Rite of Caste. We always track her. What I don’t understand, is, that she turned down the mask to be with Xena. But according to our scout, at the moment she’s not with Xena.”
Chilapa stands, begins to pace. “You know I’d hand the mask over to her in a second if I thought she’d take it. Maybe if we approached her properly...showed some respect, we could get her to return.”
Eponin is doubtful “Gabrielle’s never been one for that sort of thing...”
“Well, she’s older, maybe it wasn’t done right before. You say we have no immediate problems, and word about the break with the Centaurs can be kept quiet for a while, right? Especially if we tell them Gabrielle is coming? So, what if we took a full complement of the honour guard, fifty would be enough to impress and still leave the village safe, and we’d never be more than two days ride away...”
Eponin mulls this over. “But it won’t help your leadership if they find out we’re begging for help, so we better have a cover story...”
Scene: Meg’s Tavern.
Long shot of sleazy whorehouse cum tavern. Camera eases through crowds of tables, finally picking outan older couple seated , arguing, oblivious to the trade going on about them. The older man says, “I don’t see why you have a problem with this. She’s our daughter, and she has a responsibility to the farm.”
His wife looks upset. “But dear, she seemed happy with her new friends and she works so hard for her money...”
Her husband interrupts. “If what we heard is true, that she’s finally dumped that warrior, she’s finally come to her senses and will come home. And if she has some coin...”
They are interrupted by an eccentric looking goofus. His eyes light up to see them.
“Hey, you’re Gabby’s parents, aren’t you?” They look up guardedly and watch in amazement as the interloper slips trying to move around their table and falls face forward to the floor. The couple glance at each other and sigh.
“You’d be Joxer, right? I think we met before, but since then...”
Turning but still lying on the floor, Joxer delightedly smiles. “Gabby told you about me?”
“Warned is a better word.” Herodotus puts out a hand and helps Joxer up. Once up, the warrior without a clue calls over to a table. “Meg! Autolycus! It’s Gabrielle’s parents!”
Turning back, he asks the annoyed couple. “You’re a ways from Potadeia. Where you headed?”
There is another exchange of glances. Hecuba speaks out.“ Well, we heard that Gabrielle was no longer with Xena, and we thought...”
Herodotus interrupts. “We thought we should see if she’s all right.”
Joxer is shocked. “Not with Xena? I’m their best friend. She may need me! Where is she?”
Gabrielle’s parents don’t answer as they stare at the couple approaching them. The woman is a dead ringer for Xena. She smirks and says “ Hi yah.”
Joxer intercedes and explains, “this is Meg, she’s a friend of Xena and Gabby’s. She’s a... the owner of this...fine establishment. And this is...”
Meg interrupts, “we just call him Mr. Stinky.”
Autolycus pauses, closes his eyes, and then extends his hand, “Autolycus, The KING...of Thieves.”
Speaking out of the side of his mouth, Herodotus says, “These… are our daughter’s friends, dear...”
Scene: The Holy City of Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth and Family
Our camera moves past various hawkers and customers meandering about a busy marketplace. Gabrielle, dressed in a simple peasant costume is being escorted past a series of vendors and indoor stalls, by a tall, dark and chaste priestess. Leah points proudly to an object displayed with much embellishment, surrounded by guards, hanging on one wall.
“Made of the puwest of gold, encwusted with jewels, The Platter of Zeuth!”
Gabrielle examines the item. “Is that why you brought me? Why is it so important that you had to dwag, drag me here?”
“Gabwielle. I know you to be an honouwable pethon. And I must be assuwed that you will not weveal what I am about to tell you.”
“Leah. You know I will help you if I can, but I was supposed to be meeting Xena today...”
“Gabwielle, this concehns the Godhood of the most thacwed Hethtia!” Leah lowers her voice to a whisper, “ It has been twapped in that very platteh!”
Gabrielle stops to stare at the plate again. “Then Hestia is a mortal?”
“No, thank all that ith holy. She ith thtill an immohtal. But unless a pehthon who is pew of heart can be found...”
“What of heart?”
“Pew, she hath to have pewity, pewneth...”
“Ah.” Gabrielle nods. “Then why do you need me?”
“Gabwielle, I know I once said many hawsh things to you. But I twuly believe you have a special...”
The priestess smiles. “Yeth. And only a pehthon who can apwoach being one with the great Hethtia, can help uth in thith time of cwithith.”
Gabrielle spots a puzzle on one of the vendors tables and absently begins to work the pieces into position. She glances up at Leah. “So how did Hestia lose it?”
Leah stops dead. “What Awe you thaying?”
Gabrielle rolls her eyes. “I was referring to her Godhood...”
“Oh.” Mollified, the priestess continues. “Well, the plate wath cweated and enchanted by Zeuth ath a twick to twap the powers of hith wife. But when it wath prethented to Hewa, she neveh touched the platteh, only the fwuit it contained.”
“So...how did Hestia get caught by it?”
Leah blushes. “I’m afwaid our beloved patwon felt the need to do the disheth afteh the meal.”
Gabrielle is only partly listening, as she finds the last pieces of the puzzle board. “So you have it, why can’t you just give it back now?”
“The platteh mutht be pwethented to the mohtal who motht cleahly embodieth the vihtues of Hethtia, who will then fweely return the Godhood. Theh ith a giwl, Mahta, who theems to have thweatened motht of the challengehth in ordeh to thecuwe her victowy.”
Patting the last piece in with satisfaction, Gabrielle looks up at the clear dismay in Leah’s voice. “Why would it be a problem if Marta wins?”
“We thuthpect that, inthtead of offewing the Godhead to Hethtia, we bewieve she intends to make demandth, pothibly even take the holy powehth unto hehthelf!”
Gabrielle is perplexed. “Leah, I guess I’m flattered, but why do you think I might be able to challenge her? You know I’m not... I was married.”
“But he died wight afteh the cewemony. Wight? “
“Well, a little later....”
Leah glows at this confirmation. “That’th wondehful!”
Gabrielle frowns. “I think it sounds better than it lives.”
Leah is instantly apologetic “No, I’m tewibly thowwy for your gweat loth, but that ith jutht the thoht of thing that will give you thympathy in the eyeth of the judgeth.”
Gabrielle sighs and shakes her head. “Well, what are the requirements?”
Leah begins to enumerate. “Contethtantth can not be a Hethtian Priethteth, or have a membeh of their immediate family who ith a Hethtian Priethteth...”
“Fine so far...”
“The contethtantth must be couwageouth, stwong, demure...”
Gabrielle becomes more hesitant. “Well, maybe two out of three...”
“...modetht, coy, humble, retiwing, quiet...
The Bard stares at the Hestian Priestess. “Right. I think you should be talking to Autolycus if you want that plate, not me. Who would ever think that I was any of those things?”
Leah smiles and looks slyly at the table they just left. “The town counthil.”
“They’re the judges? Those guys?” Gabrielle stares appraisingly at a motley crew of bozos struggling over the puzzle that Gabrielle had just solved. She smiles to herself.
“This is really important to you?”
Leah nods beseechingly.
“All I have to do is be disgustingly quiet, shy and demure for two days?”
Leah nods again.
Gabrielle says a quiet apology to a certain warrior princess. “All right, I’ll give it a shot.”
“Pwaise Hethtia! I’ll thign you up wight away!”
But as they walk away, the camera remains on the town councilors as they finally work together. Ramming the wrong piece of the puzzle in with a rock...
Voice over shot of Gabrielle writing in her diary:
“So, I am once again delaying my return to Themascara. This time apart has been so hard, and I’m going to owe Xena big time, but I know her, she’ll come up with some sort of payback, and then we’ll be okay. And as worried as I am for her, I think this separation will be good for both of us. I know our relationship will be stronger, maybe even more equal...”
Quick cut to Scene: Outside Amphipolis
Xena, riding furiously, talking to herself “I’m going to find her, throw her over my shoulder, and if I have to tie her to Argo, I am going to bring her home...”
Scene: Halls of War
Ares: “Look. Are you ready yet?”
Aphrodite: Look, Bro. You’re not really just going to chat with Sweet Cheeks are you?”
Ares: “I’m just going to have a nice little chat.”
Aphrodite: “Uh huh. Maybe I’ll have a chance at seeing some nice flying pigs while I’m there, too.”
Scene : Amazon Border
Chilapa, to fifty mounted Amazon warriors: “As you know, our beloved Gabrielle, Queen by Rite of Caste, is alone and without a protector. This cannot be allowed to continue! We march to show her our devotion, and our love for her...”
Scene: Meg’s Tavern
Joxer: Are you SURE her parents want us to come along? I think...”
Autolycus: You can stop that sentence right there, because it either will make no sense or it’ll be an impossibility. No, I know all about this Festival, and if Gabrielle needs me, so does a certain piece of dinner ware that I heard is just hanging around. I think we’ll just go in, get them both out, and everybody will be happy. Certainly I intend to be.”
Scene: Gabrielle’s Quarters
Gabrielle: ( Now writing a letter) As much as I miss you, Xena, I have decided to stay for another few days. To accomplish just this one little thing on my own, to help our friend, and to prove to myself that I can work for the greater good, without any disasters. Even if it is only a bit of acting, it really is important to me. Then I promise to come home and burn off this chaste and quiet stuff with my favorite Warrior.
It’s been very hard being away from you, but at least it’s been quiet. And I think I can finally lay to rest that Trouble Magnet reputation...”
Tomorrow, in Act Two : Convergence
Autolycus looks on in amazement at the now mortal, former Gods
“Let me get this straight. There really are people who worship you guys, right? How do you survive? Does Athena cut up your meat for you at the table, or what?”
Ares moves confidently forward. “I believe my daughter is here? Gabrielle of Potadiea? I’m Herodotus, and this is her MOTHER, Hecuba.” Aphrodite winces.
A very dark, and angry Warrior Princess. Her entrance is unnoticed as Horace races past her, throwing a pile of dinars on a table, calling out “Drinks to celebrate my betrothal! Gabrielle of Potadeia has agreed to marry me!”
The camera moves in for close-up of Xena’s face. The eyes are like stones.