“Hexus, Kleon, tie up the girl, take the horses and go to Rome. I need the best bargain you can get me from the best ludus. This child’s worth a lot of gold,” ordered Duris gleefully rubbing his hands.
“Eugenius, take five men and make an ambush on Xena’s way to the town. I want to see her lifeless body and the shield of Ajax at my feet by the dawn!” He commanded.
The men didn’t ask twice why the plan had changed. They knew the commander very well, if they didn’t obey, he would slice them to pieces. He hadn’t any feelings for anybody. Duris meant ‘pain’ and people around him believed it. The man was tough, severe and merciless.
Xena had the whole subject at her fingertips. The man was an open book to the warrior princess. That’s why she rode nightlong to get to the town no matter what. She met six men on the road. They’ve just left the town and hadn’t the possibility to do anything except attacking the woman. Two men were killed while she still was on the mare. Four outlaws put up a short fight but were wounded or killed swiftly. Now the warrior princess was really sure that Duris declared their bargain off. It was unacceptable.
Gina stood up to the two big men as long as she could. They were aware of her skills and very quickly both guys made her toe the line. Her feet, hands and even legs at knees were tied up with a strong rope. She looked like a worm with no ability to move. Hexus threw the girl over his shoulder, then, put her across on the horse as a sack. The darkness just began breaking away when Xena jumped into the scene.
“Take your filthy hands off of her!” She shouted and took the chakram.
“Xena, I haven’t expected to see you so early,” said Duris trying to distract woman’s attention while his hand lined out to the sword.
“I met the end of our bargain. Release her, now!” She rapped out throwing the shield on the ground before Duris’s feet.
“Xena, I thought you died as many men whom I sent after this shield. I should have never underestimated you. My plan has changed, though. Your daughter seems to be a precious stone which I need to facet,” explained the man. “Don’t try to be a hero, Xena. You’re outnumbered. I’m giving you a chance to live.”
“Hence, you have the only possibility, Duris, to die!” hissed the woman.
She made a summersault and landed in front of Argo. The mare didn’t stand as if it was made of stone but hit the two criminals with back hoofs and headed off. Xena threw the chakram killing four men at once and started bunging some kind of stones making a circle around her. Duris’s men attacked her. Suddenly they backed away because soldiers in dragon scaled armor appeared from the ground.
“Dragon teeth! She has dragon teeth!” screamed one of the men and ran away leaving his sword on the ground.
The battle began. While dragon soldiers blow-by-blow were sweeping away the outlaws Xena defended her little girl. She took Gina down from the horse giving kicks and blows to soldiers and criminals at the same time. The woman put Gina safely on the ground near a building where nobody could harm her and jumped into action. When dragon soldiers butchered half of the men the warrior princess started chopping soldiers’ head because for these dragon idols there wasn’t any reason whom to fight for. They were born to fight and to die. They didn’t have emotions only battle instinct. As a coward Duris wanted to run away but Xena’s chakram cut him in the middle. He gulped air for the last time, slumped into the road dust and died.
The town square was covered in dead bodies and piles of dust left after dragon soldiers. About fifty men were slaughtered. Some were lucky and ran away. The warrior princess covered in blood and dust bent over Gina, cut away the ropes.
“Are you hurt?” asked the girl when she interrupted a bear hug she gave Xena.
“No, I’m alright, you?”
“Never better,” Gina smiled. “I knew you’d come.”
“Me too,” teased Xena.
Gina took a rapid glance at the square and was horrified with the consequences. Blood, dead bodies and heaps of dust were everywhere. Some people still curled in agony. The girl heard death rattle and saw mortal agony.
“Did you kill all these people?” she asked with terror in her voice.
“I would have killed more if they have hurt you,” told Xena without any slight regret.
The girl read about two World Wars only in the books. Of course, she saw battles in the movies but this scene was different. Dead bodies without limbs, with guts on the ground with wounds or smashed faces were lying as garbage. Nobody needed them. They didn’t need anybody. All their deeds, bravery, wishes turned into blood and bones which would be eaten by worms if anybody buries them. She gulped.
“You had no right to do this! How could you?!” Gina cried with tears in her eyes looking at Xena as if the woman was a monster.
“They were misfits!” Xena retorted harshly.
“They should have faced a trial!”
“Don’t look at me as I’m your enemy. I was these people. I know what they do and how they do it. They would have sold you to the nearest brothel but before they would have molested you. I did what I needed to do. Let’s go!” the warrior princess grabbed the girl by the hand and dragged her away.
Gina didn’t resist. She was too overwhelmed by the scene. Xena took the provision from the kitchen. Cooks ran away at the time she appeared there. The girl and the woman left the city followed by oaths from grieving women and children who lost their relatives in this battle and also by praises of common people who suffered from the army of Duris. The society divided into two parts, those who respected the warrior princess and those who wanted to smother her with their own hands.
“Gina, eat, please. Your hunger strike is of no use. You won’t revive them and you don’t need to blame yourself. They deserved the fate they faced,” Xena said firmly to the girl who hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch.
Gina was silent. She digested the scenery she witnessed today. How many men did this woman kill? She didn’t ask herself this question while watching the series. For her, Xena appeared as a hero not a cold-blooded murderer. Without any appetite the girl took a bowl with stew from Xena’s hands. She realized how hungry she was only when she put her first spoonful of meal in the mouth. When dinner was finished and dishes were washed up Gina broke the day-long silence.
“Tell me about yourself.”
“What do you want to know?” Xena parried the question.
“How did you become a warrior princess?”
“I was thirteen when a warlord came to Amphipolis. He took our harvest, soldiers raped our women, some houses were burned to the ground. The next year I and my brother Lyceus gathered strong, brave men to defend our home-town. We won the battle but I lost my little brother. He was thirteen that year and they already had a child with Gabrielle. I swore to avenge his death and left the town with some men who also didn’t want to stay. We followed the warlord and killed him. I lead his army and became a pirate until I met Julius Caesar. I was fifteen, young and silly, thought he loved me. It was the worst mistake in my life. He captured me, wanted to crucify me but I was saved by a slave girl who taught me pressure points. Caesar’s soldiers killed her and broke my legs. I went east to destroy everything that was in my path. There I met Borias. I was too fool and unruly to follow his advice. The best thing that happened to me that time was you. I hadn’t the possibility to keep you, though. Centaurs pursued me after the death of Borias. That’s why I gave you away to the Northern Amazon tribe and went south. For ten years I was at war with everyone including myself, until one man told me what was right to do. Then, I came across you.” Xena described all her life without any details.
“Who was that man?” Gina knew the answer, she just wanted to know if the whole story was right as she remembered it from the series because with Lyceus and Gabrielle, it was certainly incorrect.
It shocked Gina that Xena is now a 27 year old woman with such experience that Gina wouldn’t have thought about, though, her life was also tough. The girl remembered how at high school she searched in every ashram for her groover sister instead of going to the prom or having fun with friends. It was worse when Casey went missing and half of a year Gina didn’t have any news about her older sis. What a relief was to know that the police found her alive but barely breathing. Then, followed a slow and painful rehabilitation where Gina was the strongest link between her sister and the world outside. The time was hard. That’s why she made the decision to go into fighting and ended up in MMA octagon cage before Chris Cyborg.
Now, here in the Ancient Greece it seemed for this ten year old like it has never happened. She looked at Xena, a woman who massacred five dozens of warriors to rescue her, little girl with a burden of years weighing upon her shoulders. She remembered the time when she was jabbing at bastards, who were holding her real sister. Xena has done the same for her that she once did for Casey.
“Xena,” the girl sat near the woman on the rug.
“What, little one?” very carefully Xena sleeked some locks from Gina’s face.
“I’m sorry that I was angry at you because you slaughtered all those men. Thank you for rescuing me.”
“Not at all, Gina. I will always be near you. I promise.” She kissed the child in the forehead.
At midday a strange woman crossed their way in the woods. She was blonde, tall and many men would have envied her muscles. She attacked Xena by knocking down the warrior princess from the mare. The blonde woman unsheathed the sword. Courage and power ran across skills and tricks. It was worth seeing.
“Gina, run!” shouted the blonde warrior.
Instead running, the child took Xena’s whip and lashed it. The whip entangled woman’s ankles. Gina put all her might to pull this monstrous giant to the ground. The woman was at least one head taller than Xena and far more muscular. The warrior princess put the sword to the enemy’s neck making the later freeze still.
“Who are you? What do you want from Gina?” asked Xena.
“My name is Atlanta. I want to set her free from you, Xena,” the woman spoke with hatred in her voice.
“On your feet!” Xena commanded not lowering the sword.
The girl didn’t understand a thing. She has never seen the blonde “ottermode” woman before.
“How do you know her?” Xena continued interrogation.
“I saw her in Capua in octagon fighting kids the same as her age or older than her.”
Gina’s jaw dropped. How could this be possible? The first memory she had in this universe was the non-ending woods, a village with boys who attacked her and, of course, Xena. The story about octagon was from the real world and the fight definitely wasn’t held in Capua. Does the universe play tricks on her? What does this all mean? She looked wide eyed at the woman trying to absorb the information.