Autolycus was standing at the market place and dressing down Xena who was looking at him like a doctor at her patient.
“I gave you money to buy her clothes but you bought this?” He looked at Gina. The latter was wearing a very comfortable blue shirt, long baggy grey belted pants and her previous boots which were modified by good, solid soles.
“Don’t look at me. I bought her what she wanted. She already has two dresses. How many clothes does she need to travel?” Xena responded to Autolycus tirade.
“You call that piece of fabric with two trashes on each size a dress? I thought we’ve left it at Herta as a floor-cloth,” resented the man.
“It is good for horse-rides!” disagreed the princess warrior.
“In the name of Zeus, can you finish quarreling for today? I have a headache because of you two!” Gina scolded both adults.
“Headache? Maybe she should still rest in bed but not wander around here.” The man touched Gina’s forehead. The girl frowned and shook away his hand.
“Hey, I’m fine! Xena bought everything what I need.” She flapped on the bag she was carrying. “Thank you, Autolycus, for spending money on me. I would like to eat something if you don’t mind, then we can move.” The child proposed.
The best thing that she wanted to eat was French fries or a hamburger. Unfortunately, there were no potatoes in ancient Rome, that’s why a goat stew with lentil and a piece of cherry pie together with water was everything she could ask for. Gina missed her time enormously. Still as she was stuck here, the girl didn’t want to die of a stupid pneumonia. It was a miracle that Xena managed to cure her because without antibiotics one of three children died in ancient time from this disease. Gina was really thankful to these people who took care of her, especially, Xena, the true Princess Warrior and a skillful doctor at least for this savage age.
After three days of travelling which were very peaceful and quiet, taking into consideration that Cesar tried to conquer the barbarian lands and groups of soldiers were robbing villages to take provisions for the army, there weren’t any criminals on their road. In the morning of the fourth day a small unit of heavily armed men took them by surprise attacking from the bushes.
“Ginny, take Argo and my horse and let mom and dad deal with these guys,” shouted Autolycus jumping down from his horse while Xena was dismantling her mare.
The princess warrior only casted a rapid look at the honorable thief trying to make clear that she would talk to him about this inappropriate remark later. The girl did as she was told riding the horses away from the battle scene but she reappeared without horses within a minute. Xena was fighting two men, the other two were already lying on the ground with different types of wounds on their bodies. Autolycus was in a much worse condition. He was also fighting two men but two more got behind him and wanted to attack the thief from behind. The girl didn’t have time to think. She took out the dagger from the chest of one man down and threw it at an outlaw behind Autolycus. It stuck in his loin, the man howled and turned to Gina. The sword on the ground was too heavy for her, so, she quickly grabbed a huge rock and threw it in the head of the other man. The throw was good. The man lost his balance and dropped to his knees but not for long. At least it gained some time for Autolycus to get away from the deadly encirclement. Now Gina’s situation turned to be bad. The man stabbed with the dagger and that hit by the rock were heading fast toward her. The girl couldn’t do much against fully armed men, so the best decision she made was to run. Instead of running to Argo she ran into the forest. Two angry criminals followed her. Xena saw the scene from the corner of her eye and very quickly tried to get rid of the annoying attackers. As a squirrel the girl climbed the tree. The man nearly caught the rim of her shirt but she was too fast for him.
“Come down, you little skunk! Come down, I’ll kill you slowly!” shouted the one hit by the dagger, although, he didn’t want to climb the tree because his back hurt too much. “Hey, Vibius, take that little harlot down, I’ll teach her manners!” He addressed to his sidekick.
“Oh, your mommy didn’t tell you that it is bad to beat little children?” asked Xena walking slowly as a predator to the man. The other man was not far away under the tree with his throat slit open.
It took the princess warrior several seconds to kick out the sword from the outlaw’s hand and she practiced her pressure points technique on him.
“Who sent you to attack us? Speak or you die in 30 seconds.”
The man didn’t think twice: “Lord Civus, he thought, Autolycus wanted to take the scroll for his own. He was late with the delivery. Lord Civus doesn’t like when somebody betrays him. He hired us to find Autolycus, kill him and take away the scroll.”
The blood from his nose already started streaming down to his upper lip. Xena released the pressure.
“Go to Lord Civus and tell him that Autolycus is a business man. He keeps his promises.” The woman looked as the man stood up and hobbled away.
“Get down, please!” Xena’s voice sounded extremely calm, thought, Gina hesitated because she saw clearly the eyes of the woman. The look spelled trouble. Her mother looked at her once like that when Gina rode her bike on a busy road. She was only eight and after that she was grounded for a month.
“No, I like it better here,” she tried to deflect.
“Believe me if I get up there, it’ll be even worse.” The woman said calmer than usual.
Very slowly Gina went down the tree. As soon as her feet touched the ground Xena grasped girl’s ear.
“Ouch! You’ll tear it away!” Gina stood on tip toes.
“Yes, I will!” Xena hissed twisting girl’s ear. “What did Autolycus tell you to do?!”
“To take away the horses and guard them,” whimpered the girl.
“Why didn’t you do, that you were told?!”
“Those men could have killed Autolycus. He didn’t see them!” The girl tried to find some established facts.
“Autolycus is a grown-up. He can take care of himself. You’re not!” The warrior nearly shouted at the child.
“Please, let me go. I won’t disobey anymore, I promise!” The child begged for mercy.
Xena took pity upon the girl. Gina’s ear was red and burning. The girl immediately tried to caress it somehow to ease the pain.
“If we come back and find cold body of Autolycus on the ground, it will be your fault! Besides, I can take care of myself!” mumbled the girl.
“Shut up and go!”
Autolycus was trying to get into consciousness one of the men whom he wounded lightly in the battle.
“Leave him alone, they were hirelings paid by a well-known Lord Civus. He sent them to kill you and take away the scroll motivating this peaceful act by making some references to your betrayal.” The woman explained.
“Being late for a week doesn’t mean to pull out of the deal!” The thief disagreed, “Furthermore, I sent him an express-letter that I would be late.”
“Are you wounded?” Xena saw blood on man’s left arm.
“It’s just a scratch. Don’t worry,” Autolycus waved away.
“Let me see,” the woman insisted.
The wound wasn’t too serious but it was more severe than Autolycus thought. That’s why, the princess warrior tended it.
“What is in that scroll that this collector is ready to kill you for?” She asked him while bandaging his arm.
“Unfortunately, I’m not that skillful in the Sumer’s language. Moreover, I don’t have any intention to go to Egypt. Here I still have a lot of work to do,” said the man standing from the ground.
“Then, I will help you to give the scroll safely to the customer and we go to Greece.”
The man nodded.
Gina asked to ride on Autolycus’ horse together with the man. She didn’t talk much to the warrior princess during the day. She was a little bit insulted that Xena thought she couldn’t protect herself. Yes, she was a child here but it didn’t mean that she had to behave like a child. When Gina was ill, Autolycus bought her a doll or stole it from somewhere, who knows. It was a simple rag doll. In her time she saw much prettier specimens but here it was strange and unusual to have a doll, especially, for a professional fighter. Yes, she was a girly girl. In her childhood she played with dolls and used a lot of cosmetics in her teens. She liked to put on smart dresses, though, to have a doll at the age of 32 was really weird even if her childish body made people treat her differently. Gina called the doll Casey as her older sister’s name in reality was.
In the evening after dinner Gina was sitting on a snag far away from the fire. She went away to be alone for a while and took Casey with her.
“How are you, sister? I miss you so much. Here everything is upside down. These people don’t know so many ordinary things that all little children at school learn in the first grade. Still, they have their own chivalry code and sometimes it’s even fairly good to be near them, but I miss you and mum, and dad. I don’t know what I should do to get back. Maybe I need to die here to get back? If that is the only way, then I’d rather die. The only thing that worries me: if death is not the answer, it will be final for me here and also there. Tell me, should I try it or not?” Gina asked the doll. It was silent.
Xena was passing by and heard this strange monologue. She didn’t hear everything but the last three phrases. The woman held her breath not to show her presence.
“Pity, you can’t tell me anything. If you at least give me a sign but again no,” the child pronounced with regret. “You can’t even imagine how much I want to see you with mom and dad.” Gina didn’t realize that tears started running down her cheeks.
“Gina?” Xena came out of her hiding place. She approached the girl and wanted to comfort her.
“Leave me alone! Please, leave me alone!” Gina shook off Xena’s hands and ran away.
The woman didn’t understand the situation. At least not what Gina’s meant by killing herself. She had never seen a child wanting to die before, that’s why, her instinct told to run after the girl. It didn’t take too long to catch Gina up. Xena held the girl tight, the latter one tried with all her might to break away.
“Leave me, please, leave me! You don’t understand!” Gina was crying and sobbing, trying to jerk away. The woman was too strong for her. She gripped her like in a vice until the child calmed down.
“Please, let me go. I won’t go anywhere, I promise,” whispered the girl when she had no more tears and power to cry.
Xena released her.
“Gina, did you have a sister?” The warrior asked.
With all her might she wanted to say ‘yes’ but the universe made her pronounce: “No, I didn’t. I had a friend. She died.”
“I’m sorry,” replied the woman, “Little one, look at me, please.” Xena bowed to look in girl’s eyes. “Listen, I know that you miss your mom and dad very much but to die is not an option. I’m sure they would like you to be here alive. They love you and they will always be in your heart.” The woman gently touched the place where Gina’s heart was beating too fast.
“I know I’m sorry if I scared you.” The girl apologized.
Xena smiled. She embraced girl’s tiny shoulders with one arm and they went to the fire.