Xena the warrior princess was riding slowly her horse along the street of a small town when suddenly an amazing scene attracted her attention. She saw a group of boys methodically beating a smaller one, but she had to render this boy her due because no matter how hard he was beaten he tried as hard as he could to defend himself. He slapped and kicked the other boys in a very unusual style. He jumped from one foot to another swiftly throwing his hands at one-two, one-two punching the others. Sometimes the hits came as one-two-three-four. He protected his face and tried not to fall down but failed. Six older boys and this little one weren’t a match. They whipped him off feet and started to beat him. Xena let out her warrior cry and in a second she dispersed all the gang. She offered the little one her hand.
“Thanks,” the child stood up wiping the blood that ran down the eyebrow. His whole face and body were a mess. Lips were bleeding too. Arms from shoulders till hands were in bruises. Knuckles were red of blood. Legs covered in bruises and scratches.
“Nice look.” Xena took a clean cloth from the bag on her horse, moistened it with water from the water-skin and pressed to child’s wounded eyebrow. The kid hissed and wrinkled but was thankful for help.
“What’s happened?” She asked the kid.
“I don’t know. I was sleeping in that stable when they came and started to tease me, call me names and then beat me.”
“Where are your parents?”
“Died a year ago. My relatives sold me in slavery. I ran away,” the child felt that he could trust this woman. It seemed to him he knew her but he couldn’t understand when or where he met this woman. Actually, he understood it quite well in his head but the words didn’t come. Everything in this world was awkward and strange. “What is your name?”
“Xena,” the woman replied pressing harder, trying to stop the bleeding.
“Xena?...” the child pronounced feeling this word in his mouth. The kid began to understand where he was, but “HOW?” that was the most important question.
“Xena, the warrior princess?” He asked again as if taken aback by this revelation.
“Yes, what’s so surprising?”
“Nothing, just… you’re so tall,” he didn’t find what to say but it really surprised him that people around were taller than he was. It couldn’t be at this era at least according to the history books people had to be several inches smaller but not in this world.
“And your name is?” Xena moistened the cloth covered in blood once again to wash some other bruises.
“Gina, nice to meet you…” The kid didn’t know how to address to the savior.
“You’re a girl?!” Now it was Xena’s turn to be astonished. This little creature covered in scratches and bruises was not a boy but a small girl.
“Do you know many guys with name Gina?” She looked at Xena with dark brown piercing eyes.
“No, I don’t. Who taught you to fight? You have a strange style but it looked like a professional one.”
“I’m a gladiator in octagon,” the girl didn’t want to say gladiator but she couldn’t pronounce MMA fighter here in this alien universe. It was like the words stuck in her throat and she couldn’t tell the truth.
Xena smiled: “Yeah, of course. And I’m the ruler of Athens. You’re too little to be a gladiator. Besides, women-slaves can’t be gladiators, men only.”
“Why does everyone treat me as a child? I’m not a child! I’m a 32 year old woman!” The girl grabbed the cloth from Xena’s hands and pressed it angrily to her eyebrow. Xena laughed.
“Oh, then I’m even younger than you are. Fine, let’s stop this. I see a girl about 10 years old, who is beaten black and blue and who speaks nonsense because every inch of her body hurts so much that she would rather speak nonsense than cry,” Xena partially reprimanded partially wanted to calm her down.
“I don’t believe you. A day ago I fought in octagon and the opponent sent me into knockout. I don’t remember what happened after that. I don’t understand how I ended up here,” She sounded angry and frustrated. Now she told the truth though she was sure that Xena wouldn’t believe her. Nobody did. This made things even worse.
“Shhh, everything will be alright. Let’s find an inn where we can eat and I can treat your wounds. Come on.” The woman took her horse by the bridle. The child plodded along.
They found an inn, Xena paid for a room and asked the inn-keeper to give them some buckets with water. She ordered dinner for the girl.
“Eat and wait here until I come,” she told the girl and left.
The woman returned soon with two packages and small sack with bottles.
“What’s this?” Gina asked looking puzzled at one of the packages.
“Your clothes are ruined. Besides, these are garments for boys and you’re a girl.”
“Oh, thank you,” Gina was grateful to have something appropriate to wear.
“Fine, first of all let me treat your wounds. Take off your shirt,” the woman told the child.
Gina turned her back to the warrior and in one smooth movement took off the rags that covered her upper body. Xena sat on the chair and examined the back. It had some bruises here and there. Maybe the girl received them from that bunch of boys who beat her an hour ago. They weren’t serious.
“Turn to me,” Xena asked.
The princess warrior had to bite her lip in order not to laugh out loud. This girl was standing clasping hands protectively to her bosom as if there was anything to be ashamed of.
“What are you doing?” Xena asked trying to wipe a wide grin from her face.
“Nothing,” replied the girl pressing arms even closer to her chest.
“You’re too shy for a small girl. What are you hiding there?”
“My boobs,” the child said uncertainly.
“Oh, I see,” the woman smirked, “you mean little pimples that maybe only started to swell up and hurt a little two days ago.”
“No, I’m an adult woman!” the child jerked away when Xena wanted to touch her.
“Come here and look.”
There was no mirror in the room but Xena prepared a basin with water to wash the bruises. She asked the girl to come and watch the reflection in the water. The child awkwardly approached the basin still embracing her chest and looked in the water. She thought that if she closed her eyes everything would go away. She did it yesterday but nothing had changed. She was in this hell and it wasn’t a dream. The bruises hurt badly and when she communicated with people and fought the boys everything was real. She felt pain, hunger, despair and fear. Fear that she could never come back to the reality she was from. Gina looked carefully in the surface trying to understand why she’s like this not the woman she used to be in reality. The water reflected a kid of about 9 or 10 years old covered in wounds and bruises. She knew where they were from, though she was shocked of how hard was the last fight and maybe this was only the after effect of it and she was just dreaming.
On the other hand, Xena saw a 10 year old girl upset and frustrated as if she lost something very important in her life. Gina had dark straight hair just like Xena’s. It only was cut shorter exactly covering her jaw-line. She had dark brown eyes, a turned up nose and her lips formed a perfect bow. She resembled a small goddess if not for a black eye, a gash on her right eyebrow, a swollen cheek-bone and bruised lips. Her poor boy’s garments had trashes and holes everywhere. She was barefoot and all her form was pitiful to look at. Xena watched as the little girl unclasped her arms to see what she was trying so hard to protect. Of course, Xena was right. Her breasts just began to swell as many girls’ bodies only start changing at her age. Except for two tiny stings that she proudly called ‘boobs’ her chest was flat as a board.
“You won’t understand,” the child said softly turning to face the warrior princess. At this time she left her chest uncovered.
“Let me see if I can help.”
The woman moistened a cloth in the basin and very gently began to wipe away the dust from girl’s body. Even Xena was shocked to see so many blue, red and purple bruises on the child. Gina had a purple bruise on her neck as if somebody was choking her. Rib cage was also covered in bruises of different color. Left nipple was red and swollen. It seemed as somebody punched her hard in the chest. The abdomen area also didn’t look nice.
“Who did this to you?” Xena stared worriedly at the child.
“I told you but you didn’t believe me. I’m a professional fighter. A day ago I was fighting a very strong opponent. She was maybe more powerful and skillful or it wasn’t my lucky day. I can’t say right now. We punched each other hard. I tried to withstand her attacks but ended up on the floor when she gripped me in a vice. Her arms were around my neck and she started to choke me. I unscrewed myself from this lethal grip and made an attempt to throw her off of me and get up but took an elbow to my temple. I don’t remember what happened next. I woke up in the forest in these garments and strange state. My head is still aching like hell. I went all day through the forest until I found this town.” Gina wanted to tell that she’s not from this universe or this time. The words stuck in her mouth and the only thing she produces was a groan when Xena pressed the cloth to one of her bruises harder than necessary.
“I’m sorry,” the mighty warrior apologized. “You’re right. I don’t believe you. I’ve never seen kids in octagon. This is something new. Don’t even think catch me hung up on the story that you’re an adult woman. You’re a bad liar. On the other hand, you were struck in the head. It explains your foolish story. Still I’ll help you.”
Gina didn’t say anything. She just frowned and let the woman treat her wounds. Xena bandaged her hands because skin on knuckles was torn off and every time the child tried to ball her fists the wounds started to bleed. The warrior washed the wounds and scratches at girl’s legs and bandaged her knee that also had a bad injury. Then she gave Gina some privacy to wash her intimate places only because the child stared at her so furiously when she only thought of touching the rope that was used as a belt for her pants, that Xena smirked and let that go at least for now.
Xena finished washing her own clothes after ‘a bath’ that she made for herself that included two buckets of water and a small bar of soap. She also made Gina wash her hair with the soap. The warrior princess didn’t hide her amenities because in ancient times the Roman people thought of the body as of the god’s vessel which must be adored and worshipped.
“It’s time to go to sleep,” said Xena after both of them were fresh and dressed in undergarment dresses.
“And where will you sleep?” Gina asked not sure if in the bed for one person could sleep two people.
“Here, silly,” Xena pointed to the bed.
“Then, where I will sleep?” the girl bit her lip awkwardly.
“Together with me,” the woman replied nonchalantly.
“It’s too small for two people.”
“It too small for two adult people but you’re little. Don’t worry I won’t let you fall down.”
“I would rather sleep on the floor if you have some kind of a blanket.” The child proposed.
“Why? Are you afraid that I suffocate you at night?” Xena raised her brow.
“No, I don’t sleep well. I can kick when I’m sleeping.” She tried to find an excuse.
“I’ll cope with it. Get in.” Xena uncovered the blanket for Gina.
The girl rolled her eyes but got under the blanket. The woman followed her example and blew out the candle. After a long time of being awake and motionless the girl wanted to get out of the bed to let the woman sleep.
“Where are you going?” asked the female voice and Gina shivered.
“Nowhere. I can’t sleep,” she responded.
“Why?” Xena raised herself on her elbow and stared at the child. Her eyes already got used to darkness of the room because she wasn’t asleep either.
“What if I fall asleep and you will leave me. I don’t know where to go or how to survive. I don’t know what to do.”
“Are you scared?” The woman asked.
“If I were an adult it would be another situation but I’m a child in this gods forgotten place.”
“Hey, mind you language. I won’t go anywhere until I find you a place to live.”
“I promise.” The warrior said.
“No, vow the life of your mother that you won’t leave me.”
“Hm, who taught you this?”
“So, now you won’t vow because you will leave me at the earliest opportunity.”
“On the one hand, you trust me, on the other hand, you tell me I’m a liar,” Xena frowned.
“Vow then, or are you afraid?”
“Fine, I vow the life of my mother that I won’t leave you until I find an appropriate place for you. Now get in the bed and let’s sleep.” Xena’s voice was strong as steel.
Gina snuggled beside the warrior woman and closed her eyes ready to fall into the world of Morpheus.