“That’s insane. I start to behave like a child,” Gina thought to herself.
She knew that it was just an ordinary trick but the man did it so professionally that she couldn’t resist. She wanted to understand how he did it. The girl remembered how she played with those kids near the tavern where they stopped until she was kidnapped by those “charming” warlords. Gina remembered how many times she was crying like a 3 year-old. Obviously, this world made her behave like a child or maybe she started to forget who she really was. This thought made her frown. Gina needed to be strong to survive here but she was causing only trouble for Xena. And again the stupid cold that turned into a flu or who knows what it was. The girl felt herself horrible. The only thing she wanted to do right now was to sleep whole day long without going anywhere or doing anything.
In the evening Xena appeared before ‘her husband’ in a sexy slash collar sleeveless chiffon dress. It had an embroidered ornament and of course it showed all Xena’s straight, beautiful legs. She had sandals with long laces that covered nearly all her leg from ankle till knee.
“You look gorgeous!” said Autolycus admiring the view.
“Yeah, men always pay compliments to barely appropriately dressed women but still they like to marry long-skirt, shy and chaste girls,” the princess warrior commented on Autolycus exclamation.
“Xena, with you I’m ready to go down the aisle right now,” Autolycus continued smothering in compliments.
“I’m afraid you have to take care of our child, dear husband.” Xena changed the topic as she heard a noise behind the door. Obviously, the landlady came back home.
“Change cold compress every hour. Gina has a bad fever. Give her herbal tea I prepared. She’s coughing permanently and her chest is aching. That’s really bad. Try to feed her with as much honey as you can. I know she doesn’t want it but I don’t like her condition at all.” Xena sounded extremely worried about the girl.
“Don’t worry. I’ll do my best,” told the man.
The warrior hid her breast dagger in the bosom, put on long blue cloak made of fabric and went out of the room.
“Where did she go? Her child is ill! Did she go to celebrate the Bacchus day?” huffed the old lady.
“No, don’t say that! She hasn’t slept this night and cried her eyes out because of our little daughter. She went to the herbalist to buy some more solutions,” lied Autolycus.
He heard Gina’s cough from another room and hurried there.
Xena got into the castle without any trouble. Those women she came with were professionals. She just played along until one guard became too annoying but the woman got rid of him very fast. One punch and she was free to search the castle on her own. The warrior went down the corridor examining the chambers. All of the guards were distracted by women except one, the head of the security. Finally, he showed himself. It was a man in his fifties, though, very good-looking with partially grey beard and moustache. He was tall and seemed quite strong.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?!” He shouted.
“My name is Lyla. I’m searching for the commander of this castle.” She told innocently.
“I’m the commander. How did you get in here?” The man asked suspiciously.
“Because of the holiday Lord Maltus hired us to please his men. My friends are downstairs with your subordinates. I came here to find you and take care of you.” Xena came closer and put her hands on his chest gently caressing the man and smiling silly at him.
In her own way she made him lead her to the secret pass off of this castle. The other guards were surprised when they saw their commander coming to the castle’s gate because everyone thought he was inside drinking wine and making merry with the girl. Commander Rasmus was leaning heavily on Xena. She nearly carried him to the gate.
“Oh, your commander is a very naughty boy. He likes doing it outside. So, I don’t mind but I think he drank too much. Boys, take him to the chamber and good night,” said Xena making sure that two men held their chief strongly.
“Hey, don’t go. You may have a lot of fun here,” one young soldier proposed.
“Sorry, boys. I had all the fun I wanted for tonight. I think you have other girls who would be eager to please you as you wish.” She winked at them and disappeared in the darkness.
It was long past midnight when the princess warrior came home. The water dropped down from her cloak. It was raining again.
“Finally! Where have you been? I thought something bad happened! I even decided to go after you!” Autolycus whispered angrily.
“How is Gina?” was the first Xena’s concern.
“Asleep but really bad. I can’t relief fever. I tried to make her eat some honey. She ate half spoon and began vomiting. I brought another blanket because she was shivering uncontrollably. I managed to give her some medicine you’ve left. Finally she fell asleep,” the man explained. Rings under his eyes told her more than this short story.
The woman went to Gina’s room to check on the girl. The child made hoarse and wheezy sounds while sleeping. The temperature was the same. The girl was sweating under two heavy woolen blankets. Xena adjusted one of the blankets and went to Autolycus.
“Do you have a scroll and some ink?” She asked the man. He nodded and gave everything to her.
“What have you found?” The thief asked anxiously.
“That Lord Maltus is a suspicious rich decadent,” the warrior hissed.
“And where is the map of the viaduct?”
“There is no map of the viaduct. I made the commander show me the way himself because this secret passage knows only Maltus and Rasmus. Others who saw it died already. That’s why, just sit really quiet and let me draw the map while I still remember it.” It took the woman half an hour to draw the picture.
Autolycus was mesmerized by Xena’s ability to learn all the details in such a short period of time because the map was a maze and she showed all the passages and dead ends.
“How did you keep in mind all of this?” the thief asked amazed by the idea that he had to be at her place and learn everything in several hours.
“I don’t know. Rasmus wanted to play with me. So, he always led me to the dead ends until I thought that it was enough for me and pushed some very agonizing spots on his body. I think he’ll remember this night forever,” The woman said with fury and disgust.
“Did you kill him?”
“No, I didn’t. Though, you surely had to tell me how quick was that poison, I gave him. The man weights a ton. I barely dragged him to the guards at the gates.”
“Sorry, I think this was too strong,” He apologized.
“Yeah, whatever. One more thing, Lord Maltus is leaving tomorrow at dinner hour and your scroll is in his bedroom, in aquarium with one very small and extremely poisonous snake. This is a mold of a key from his bedroom. Wish you good luck.” Xena tossed a piece of wax on the table where the print of the key was clearly seen.
“Xena, you’re a masterpiece,” Autolycus jumped with excitement to her and lightly kissed her on the cheek.
The woman frowned and left the room.
“Autolycus! Wake up! Go to the market and buy cayenne, garlic, ginger and turmeric. Hurry!” The woman nearly jumped on him.
“Hey, what’s up? Stop shaking me!” He answered trying to understand what she was talking about because she shot the words at a cosmic speed.
“Gina, she breathes very fast. Her chest is falling down at every breath she takes. I saw this before. It’s the worst sign, do you hear me! If we don’t do anything the girl will die, do you understand?!” She whispered in his face but it felt that Xena was shouting at him. Her eyes ran about as if she was mad. He gulped. He knew this woman for a long time. He respected her. Now he read fear in her crazy lost stare.
“Yes, yes, I got it! I’ll try to come back as fast as I can.” He rushed to the door.
Gina didn’t want to cry, though each breath she took was agonizing. It hurt so much. The girl couldn’t take a deep breath and with each minute her mind became hazier and hazier. The lack of oxygen, pain in the chest and fever made her restless and weak at the same time. The child threw away the blankets because it seemed to her that she could breathe easier without them. The princess warrior approached her bed. Gina looked at her tired.
“Xena,” the child pronounced weakly between two shallow breaths.
“Shhh, don’t talk. I’ll tell you a story,” she said sitting at the bed side. This was an excuse. She didn’t know what to do but she had to distract the girl somehow, to make her think about something else instead of the illness that was slowly suffocating her.
“No, no… please, listen…” She told but was interrupted by a long chain of coughing. Gina even sat in the bed because of it.
“Listen, if I die…”
“You won’t die, don’t even think about it!” Xena interrupted the child.
“Please, if I die… I want you to know… It was a pleasure to meet you.” She started coughing again. “Thank you for being so caring and good. I was lucky to know you, Xena…”
“It’s me who is lucky to find you, little one. You’ll be fine. I promise you,” the woman smiled with tears in her eyes.
Gina coughed again, had a seizure and lost consciousness.
When Autolycus came, the princess warrior made a potion and poured it into the mouth of still unconscious child. Her hand closed Gina’s nose to provoke a gulping reflex. The woman made sure the girl wouldn’t choke.
“Thank you for making me to drink that antidote beforehand. That snake was a fast little predator. Nevertheless, this is what I wanted,” he showed the woman the scroll.
“I’m glad for you,” said Xena definitely preparing to go to bed.
“How’s the girl? Did she have any more seizures?”
“No, she didn’t eat anything either but at least the temperature fell down a little. She is still wheezing, though.”
“That’s good news, I suppose.” Autolycus said cheerfully.
“I hope so.”
“You’d better go to sleep. I’ll check on her later, I promise,” the man suggested.
“No, I got used to sleep there on the floor beside her bed.”
“As you wish.” The thief told her ‘good night’ and went to his room.
“When do you have to deliver the scroll?” It was the first that the princess warrior was concerned about in the morning.
“I need to bring it to Lord Gaius in Torrette. It’ll take a week on horse to get there. I’ll stay if you don’t mind, until Gina is better,” He casted a quizzical look at the woman.
“Yes, I’ll appreciate it. After that we can see you off to Torrette. It’s a port and I have to find a ship to go back home.”
“Are you going to settle down? What about the ruthless warrior everybody is scared of?” The man asked.
“I won’t settle down. It’s just not me. The warrior you knew is also in the past. I have to find her a house. I thought about my mother, though, I’m not sure if she wants to see me at all,” she smiled nervously.
“That’s right, if I had been your father, I would have flogged you first and then maybe I would have excused you.” He said sincerely.
“I’m happy that you’re not my father. Do you have any more tricks under your sleeve? I know she’s weak and fever is back again but I can’t give her the potion until she eats at least something.”
“Let’s find out what I’m capable off.” With these words the man tucked his sleeves up and went into Gina’s bedroom.