“And Cyborg moves in! Cyborg quickly jumps on Gina! But Gina attacks and punches! Cyborg tries to break her leg. Gina gets out of it! Now Cyborg gets her back. Gina tries to get to her feet. Gina’s getting up. Oh, nice left hook! Gina’s in trouble! Cyborg takes her down. Gina lends on top. Cyborg gets up. Cyborg has never had a really good punch. Will Gina be able to survive?”
In that moment a crowd is chanting: “Gina! Gina! Gina!”
“Gina goes down. She pools Cyborg in a half guard. Gina uses her foot trying to push away. She has to get her head out of that cage now! She tries to take one hand away from Cyborg!”
Then the snake bites her again and again and again. Her head is throbbing of all those strikes she had in the face and head. She can’t answer. It is too strong. The pain is too strong. She can’t move and the snake began suffocating her, taking away her power, her ability to survive.
“Gina, wake up! Wake up, do you hear me! Gina, wake up!” Xena had to slap the child to bring her back from a drastic nightmare.
The child woke up. She opened and closed her mouth like a fish without water beginning to understand where she was. Gina was out of breath for a minute or two while Xena was wiping girl’s face with a wet cloth and asking some questions to which Gina didn’t react at all. The child heard the woman but as if she was far away calling for her from the distance.
Only the moon light scarcely lit girl’s face. So, Xena lit up brushwood to see clearly.
“Gina, what’s wrong? What’s happened? Answer me!” The warrior princess shook the child wondering what the matter was with her precious girl.
“The snake, it was suffocating me. I couldn’t breathe.” Gina said in a hoarse voice.
“It was just a dream. I killed that snake. Do you remember?” The woman reminded the episode with a rattlesnake.
“Yeah… It’s just… I don’t like snakes.” She said softly.
“Why don’t you lie down next to me,” asked the woman.
“What for? Do you think that you can penetrate in my dream and atack that snake?” again Gina forgot that she was a 10 year old girl not an adult.
“No, I’m not a dream walker, though, maybe you feel more protected if I am closer.”
The girl looked at the warrior princess. The flames of the fire lit up Xena’s face and the child read only deep worry and care from the woman’s part. She thought about the time when her real mother used to stay with her all night long if she was ill, how she used to hug her and soothe her when Gina was crying. The same she read in Xena’s eyes. The girl put herself in Xena’s shoes. The woman gave away her own new born child to hide from the enemies. Now, when she thought that she has found her lost baby, the baby didn’t want to have anything in common with her own mother. That would hurt.
“Fine, but don’t cuddle. It’s too hot here.”
Xena rolled her eyes but didn’t say anything.
In the morning Xena wanted to stand up, it was nearly impossible not to wake up the girl too. Gina was curled next to the warrior princess. Her head was on Xena’s shoulder, one of her arms lied across woman’s torso and she was deep asleep. Xena smiled, nevertheless, she had to get up. She tried very carefully to take away girl’s arm but Gina woke up immediately and was really surprised by the pose she was in.
“Good morning, sleepyhead. Slept well?” asked the woman sitting up.
“Yeah, thanks,” she nodded yawning still ashamed by the situation she found herself in.
“Good. I go water Argo and bring some more water for us. Put away the rugs. We’ll go further after breakfast.”
They decided to walk in the morning and to ride in the afternoon.
“Xena,” said the girl.
“Have you ever lost your memory?”
“What do you mean?”
“When you wake up in the morning and you don’t know who you are or how you ended up in the place you are in,” the child explained.
“Yes, once when I was seriously wounded and my soldiers brought me to a shelter where I spent two days completely unconscious. When I woke up I didn’t recognize the place. They saved my life, though. I would be always thankful for that.” The woman told.
“No, I didn’t mean that. Have you ever lost the essence of your existence as if you wake up in the morning but you don’t know people around you, the place and the worst you don’t know, where you belong. It’s like you forgot all of your past, you name, parents, everything.”
“No, I’ve never experienced anything like that. Why?”
“I feel that I’m lost. I don’t remember how I turned up to be in that wood, I don’t remember anything of these ten years, if I am ten at all. The most bizarre thing is that I am a ten year old again. It couldn’t be if it was real, could it?” She asked.
Suddenly Xena pinched her hard.
“Hey, it’s painful!” Gina reproached the woman.
“It is pretty real, don’t you think?” Xena asked sarcastically. “By the way, what do you mean that you don’t remember anything of these ten years? What about your parents and gladiator’s club, whatever it was?”
“Listen, I lied about my parents. I don’t know who I am. The only thing I remember that last time I was fighting in the octagon together with another Martial Arts fighter. I was an adult woman and the fighter knocked me out in a technical knockout. That’s what I remember.” Gina was so agitated that she nearly shouted the last phrase.
“Fine, if you remember only the fight. Why are you so sure that your name is Gina?” The warrior princess started to mock because this nonsense the girl continued talking about got on her nerves.
“Because for 32 years my name has been Gina, because my parents named me that and everyone around called me by that name!” Gina was angry but tried to be convincing as well.
“Your parents are dead, aren’t they?”
“Yes.” Gina wanted to say ‘No’ but this world just wouldn’t let her do that.
“Please, ask me again.” She whispered calmly.
“About my parents.”
“Are your parents dead?” Xena didn’t understand why Gina wanted to be asked again but she did it.
“Yes,” was the answer.
The girl began to shriek like a hunted animal. She dug her fingers deep into the hair trying to rip it away. She concentrated only on one thought to come back to reality but a hard slap on the face brought her back. Xena held tight both of girl’s hands.
“Never, never do that again! Do you hear me!” The warrior princess hissed in girl’s face.
Gina understood. She couldn’t fight against this world which was swallowing her. Xena would never believe it and this place would never let the girl tell the truth. She was stuck here nobody knew for how long. Maybe she had to live here until she’s 32 or maybe she should die? Nobody could give her the right answer because nobody would listen.
The next day was like a déjà vu for Gina. Xena was fighting a skillful warrior in a dark hood who disappeared into nowhere. He killed three villagers in the fight.
“No, Xena, please! We have to go. You can’t help them! They won’t survive. The villagers will blame you.” Gina ran to the woman.
The child wanted to pull the woman by the hand, to get her out of danger but Xena just pushed her away.
“Don’t disturb me when I’m helping people!” Xena shouted at the girl.
The villagers were already coming for them. They accused the princess warrior of killing their fellows and took her to prison.
“May I speak to my mother?” Gina asked the elder of the village.
“Of course, child. You mother has done a bad thing but she’s still your mother, no matter what kind of monster she is.” He said reasonably.
“Thank you,” the girl pronounced fighting the need to kick this stupid man in the face.
Gina went into prison cell. Xena was standing in the center. Both arms were shackled and spread to the sides, her feet were also shackled to the ground. She was standing as if they spread her on the cross. The most humiliating was her under gown. They stripped her down off armor to make the woman vulnerable.
“Hey, little one, you shouldn’t have come here.” Xena said half glad that Gina has come and half worried that she has still been in this Hades forgotten place.
“You should have listened to me, at least once. But you’re like them. You see only a child in me.”
“Because you are a child.” Xena wanted to move her arms but couldn’t.
“That doesn’t matter right now. They don’t let me speak for you at hearings. I’m not the best sidekick, not the one you worth.” The girl said with regret in her voice.
“What? Gina, who told you you’re my sidekick? You are my child and you’re not responsible for everything I do.”
“Yeah, tell this those kids who were throwing stones at me today and shouting insults,” she uttered sullenly.
“I’m sorry, darling.” Xena looked at the girl with all the sadness of the world reflecting in her blue eyes.
“Listen, that man, who you have been fighting with, was Ares.”
“Ares?! How do you know?”
“Xena, believe me just once. Only a god can disappear in midair and I saw that as clear as I see you right now. I don’t know how but you should contact him. He is the key to your freedom.”
“Of course, darling,” said the woman trying to get rid of the lump in her throat. “Now you listen to me, I want you to take Argo and get back to Amphipolis. Please, do as I say.”
“I can’t do that. They took Argo as a compensation for the man whom you supposedly killed.”
“Then ask them to give you back your backpack with your belongings and leave this place. It’s only three days to Amphipolis, you’ll make it.” The woman ordered.
“I don’t think you’re in position to order, Xena. Your life is in your hands, I’ll try to take care of mine.
“Time’s up!” said the man who came back to let the child out of the prison.
“See you tomorrow,” were the last words uttered by the girl.
Gina asked the elder to give her a shelter for the night. He took her home and his wife put a rug on the floor in the hall for the girl. She didn’t give her a blanket or anything else to cover at night. The man gave Gina a piece of bread and water. She was thankful even for these Spartan conditions.
Xena wasn’t surprised to see Ares in the cell when everyone went away. She was left alone and she knew as well as the girl did who was the man she had been fighting with. When a group of villagers came into her cell to whip her, the princess warrior took the revenge and bate them up like puppies destroying all the chains and shackles holding her on the way. The woman caught a glimpse of the girl in the crowd gathered to see the show of how the mighty warrior was beating innocent weak men. The men put her in the cell again, this time without any shackles or chains.
In the morning people found Xena guilty. She had already made a bargain with the God of War. She named the killed villagers and was cleared of charges. The revived villagers confirmed Xena’s story about hooded man who attacked them.
“I don’t know how you did that but you’re free,” said the elder looking surprised at the revived men. “Nevertheless, please, take your child away from our village.”
“She should pay for this!” shouted the woman from the crowd trying to get closer to Gina.
Only now Xena realized that Gina was standing behind the elder. The sleeve on her shirt was torn, there was a big hole in the pans at the thigh, girls hair was a mess and she had some bruises but according to a silly smile on dirty face she was totally satisfied with herself.
“Gina, any explanation?”
“I broke the arm of one boy. It’s her son,” she pointed at the woman who was shouting.
“It wasn’t her fault,” the elder stood up for the girl. “I saw the boys began the fight, she was defending. Still I think you should both go the sooner the better.”
Xena and Gina smiled at each other.