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Sweet, Sweet Siren

Chapter Text

FADE IN

EXT. CAMPSITE

Mid morning, XENA and GABRIELLE are clearing their campsite near a river. The last of it is almost packed. They both look tired but happy. GABRIELLE rolls up their bedroll, strapping it to ARGO, who grazes while she waits. XENA packs the last of the food into their satchel, singing as she works.

XENA
[Singing]
While you live, shine
have no grief at all
life exists only for a short while
and time demands its toll.

GABRIELLE
Song of Seikilos!

XENA
[Smiles, picks a new song]
As storm winds foundered their bolted chest
and mouthing breakers hollered them about,
she wrapped her arms around her son and wept
into his ear, "Pale child, while night fears rise
to fuel this storm, death-bound in our brass-ribbed
boat you sleep the sleep of infancy.

GABRIELLE
Simonides.

With the campsite packed and ready, XENA mounts ARGO. She extends her hand to GABRIELLE and helps her up behind her on the saddle. She gives ARGO a gentle kick and they’re off at a leisurely pace.

XENA
If we hug the coast we’ll reach Thrace easier than going direct. Plus, we need to stop at the next town and restock food if we’re going that far. Mineas is closest, a few hours ride north.

GABRIELLE
[Still invested in their game]
You’ve got to be better than that to stump me, Warrior Princess. What, are you still waking up?

XENA
Yes, actually. You snore like a hydra with pan flutes up every nose.

GABRIELLE
[Mockingly]
Gods, it must be hard being so perfect.

XENA
[Leans back, kisses GABRIELLE softly]
Oh, it is – a real burden.

 

CUT TO:
EXT. EDGE OF RURAL VILLAGE
The game continues, the two women laughing and joking. They’re passing farmland where occasionally workers pause to look up at them. Ahead is a quiet seaside town, looking empty from a distance. GABRIELLE begins to notice they’re being watched but she dismisses it. She gives XENA a gentle nudge.

GABRIELLE
I’m waiting.

XENA
[Singing]
Skimming down the paths of the sky's bright ether
On they brought you over the earth's black bosom,
Swiftly--then you stood with a sudden brilliance-

Screams from the nearby villagers fill the air. ARGO startles and rears, GABRIELLE grabs XENA around the waist to keep from toppling backwards.

XENA
Steady, Argo! Easy!

Everybody in earshot is curled on the ground with their hands over their ears.

XENA
Everybody’s a critic.

GABRIELLE
Xena, we’ve got company.

GABRIELLE nods her head toward the old woman hurrying towards them, holding up her skirt so she doesn’t trip. She appears frantic, puffing from running. She has balls of fabric stuffed in her ears.

WOMAN
[Almost shrieking]
Was it one of you singing? Was it?!

XENA
It was me. What about it? Singing’s not a crime.

WOMAN
Turn back! You can’t go any further!

XENA
[Confused and cautious]
We’re just here for supplies. We’re not staying.

WOMAN
[Looking around nervously, wringing her hands]
Go another route – you can’t come through here!

GABRIELLE dismounts ARGO, holding her hands up gently.

GABRIELLE
It’s okay – take it easy. I’m Gabrielle. This’s Xena. What’s going on?

The woman stops, staring wide-eyed and nervous as XENA hops down from the horse.

WOMAN
Xena? As- as in Warrior Princess Xena? D-Destroyer of-

XENA
Just ‘Xena’ is fine.

GABRIELLE
Why turn back?

There’s silence as the woman’s eyes rests on their weapons.

WOMAN
I think you should come with me. Just- please, be quiet.

XENA and Gabrielle exchange a look. XENA takes the first step, leading ARGO by the reigns, and the three walk tensely towards the village. People cast nervous glances and scurry out of sight as they head down the main road. It’s otherwise deserted.

GABRIELLE
[Whispers]
Xena...they-

XENA
I see it.

Every person has fabric crammed in his or her ears. The old woman leads them to a tavern where they tie ARGO outside. Inside is a crowd of people. Everybody stops and stares as the warriors enter. A group parts as a young man moves through them. He’s red faced and glaring alternately between the woman and the warriors.

MAN
Aegis, what in Tartarus do you think you’re doing? Bringing outsiders in? And you two! What are you doing here? Get back on your horse and go home!

AEGIS cowers slightly but XENA doesn’t flinch. She straightens up.

XENA
My name is Xena. Want to tell me what’s going on?

AEGIS
Heral, maybe they can help! This’s Xena – the Xena!

HERAL
…Are you really? That would make you-

GABRIELLE
Gabrielle. Listen, maybe we can help, but we can’t if you don’t tell me what’s going on. Where is everybody? Why do you have cloth in your ears?

HERAL frowns in thought. Everybody else is fearful or suspicious.

HERAL
Sirens.

GABRIELLE
Sirens? As in singing, luring sailors-

HERAL
On our shores. I- we’re a fishing village – we WERE – but we’ve been chased from our waters. These- these things. They sing – so sweet – luring people to the water and…

GABRIELLE
That explains the fabric, to block the sound. So, when Xena sang-

AEGIS
It…it was so beautiful, we thought…
[Sniffles, wipes her eyes on her sleeve]

XENA
How long has this been happening?

HERAL
A month. We’ve had to send people away, its too dangerous. If this doesn’t end…we’ll all have to leave. None of us are safe. They sing at random, day or night. We never know who or when…

GABRIELLE
How many people have you lost?

AEGIS
Four, so far. They took my son.

HERAL
[Places a comforting hand on Aegis’ back]
There’s nothing to be done. I’m sorry but, please, you need to leave. It’s not safe!

GABRIELLE
Xena-

XENA
Way ahead of you.
[Drops her satchel on the table.]
How much for a room?

FADE OUT

INTRO

In a time of ancient gods, warlords and kings...
A land in turmoil cried out for a hero.
She was Xena, a mighty princess forged in the heat of battle.
The power...the passion...the danger...
Her courage will change the world.

Chapter Text

INT: INN

XENA, GABRIELLE, and HERAL are sitting at a table in the now-cleared inn so they could talk in private. XENA’S boots are up on the table. HERAL clearly isn’t happy about it but isn’t dumb enough to say anything. Everybody has a mug of mead in front of them.

XENA
From the top, let’s hear it.

HERAL
[Nervously]
Maybe a month ago, we started hearing rumours. Our sailors were coming back…wrong. They kept ranting about songs, desperate to get back on the boats. We thought it was just too many days in the hot sun but then…

GABRIELLE
They stopped coming back.

HERAL
We lost Simaon first. He was only young. We thought maybe he’d been stupid out there.

XENA
What did the crew say?

HERAL
That one night he had too much to drink, yelled about singing, dove into the water, and never came back up.

GABRIELLE
Nobody else heard the singing?

HERAL
No one.

XENA
So what makes you think sirens? Maybe you’ve just got waves of madness. It happens.

HERAL
[Shortly]
It does, but this isn’t it.

XENA
You know this how?

HERAL
[Becoming more distressed]
We’ve had sightings! Beautiful woman, not from here, perched on the rocks. You only see them for a glance and then they’re gone!

GABRIELLE
What about the tails?

HERAL pauses to look at GABRIELLE. XENA smirks but hides it well.

HERAL
Tails?

GABRIELLE
[Almost sinking into her chair]
Sirens have tails, don’t they?

XENA
That’s a mermaid.

GABRIELLE
There’s a difference?

XENA
Mermaids have tails all the time. Sirens shift at will. They can walk on land but can’t sustain it for long. ‘Drowning Maiden’ is a common lure. But to fully hypnotise, they sing.

GABRIELLE
Why would nobody else hear it then?

HERAL
A siren picks a target and sings for them only until they’ve got them. We’re going to have to pack up the village. It’s too risky to stay here.

A moment passes. XENA is suddenly on her feet and headed for the door. GABRIELLE groans and wipes her face, getting up.

GABRIELLE
Xena, no-

HERAL
What?

XENA slings her sword back into its holder, no longer paying attention.

GABRIELLE
She’s making the face.

HERAL
What face?

XENA is heading out the door. GABRIELLE is caught between them then hurries after her wife.

GABRIELLE
The ‘challenge accepted’ face. XENA!

Chapter Text

EXT: DOCKS

XENA and GABRIELLE make their way through the deserted docking ports, a safe distance from the water. XENA occasionally digs through discarded tools, GABRIELLE keeping lookout. Everything looks to be abandoned, tools and equipment thrown down in a hurry, but there are four sets of wilting flowers left out, obviously memorials to the lost men.

GABRIELLE
Let me get this right. We are, for all intents and purposes, stranded in village plagued with sirens-

XENA
Correct.

GABRIELLE
[Running a hand through her hair, frustrated]
And because you have the self-preservation skills of my left boot – which is about to kick you up the ass if you get any closer to that water – you decide to go swimming.

XENA
Not swimming. Investigating. Something’s off about this place.

GABRIELLE
You mean aside from sirens luring people to their deaths?

XENA
Yep.

GABRIELLE takes a slow breath, and watches the sun setting. She rolls her tired shoulders and cracks her neck.

GABRIELLE
Xena, you’re my wife and I love you. It’s late. I’m hungry. I’m tired. You make me play Twenty Questions and I’m taking you down.

XENA
I’d like to see you try.

Without warning, GABRIELLE grabs her wife around the waist and lifts her off her feet, arms playfully pinned. XENA tries to look annoyed but smiles.

XENA
This is unbefitting the Warrior Princess.

GABRIELLE
[Arches an eyebrow]
More like ‘pillow princess.’

XENA
You ever tell anyone that and I’ll tell your whole tribe about the time you ate the nut bread.

GABRIELLE gives her a soft kiss and puts her down.

They hold hands subconsciously as they work to the final pier. There are claw marks on the railing of an abandoned rowboat. GABRIELLE scans XENA’S thoughtful face as she surveys the damage.

XENA
Look at this.

GABRIELLE
Sirens?

XENA
No, look at the round edges. Sirens have talons in aquatic form.

GABRIELLE
They’re human. Wait, they’re…they’re going the wrong way – and these boards are bent. They weren’t trying to get out, they were-

XENA
A siren’s song is powerful. These men would’ve given their own children to get in that water.

XENA stares at the flowers. They’ve been out a while, their level of rot showing the order of the lost sailors.

GABRIELLE
Let’s hear it.

XENA
(absently) Why four?

GABRIELLE
Four what?

XENA
Four people. Its just…there should be more.

GABRIELLE
More people called to their deaths?

XENA
Yes!

GABRIELLE
You’re losing me.

XENA
[Looks concerned into Gabrielle’s eyes, brushing a stray lock of hair from her face]
Gabrielle, sirens are insatiable. They call more people than that, and this place is like an all you can eat buffet. I don’t know I think this is…selective.

GABRIELLE
Xena, the sun’s setting. We should get out of here. We’ll go talk to the family’s and see if there’s a common thread.

XENA
Gabrielle, I know you never do anything I tell you-

GABRIELLE
It’s why you love me.

XENA
But this…I don’t want you going near the water when I’m not around.

GABRIELLE
Xena-

XENA
You’re not the best swimmer, you get seasick to the point of passing out, and you’re… well, you have a weakness for song, let’s put it that way. Promise me.

GABRIELLE
Xena-

XENA
Promise me. Gabrielle, please.

GABRIELLE
[Thinks carefully.]
Okay. Okay, fine, I promise.

XENA
I love you.

GABRIELLE
I love you, too.

XENA
[Sighs, smiles slightly, but still looks concerned]
You were right - the waters are still now but we need to get out of here before the sun sets. We’ll rest the night and talk to the families in the morning.

The warriors cast a last glance over the bay before heading back the way they came. When they’re out of sight, the water ripples dangerously. The tip of a fin flicks from the surface and disappears.