Gina woke up in the morning to find that Xena was long gone. Where were no things, on the table she discovered a mug of milk and a big piece of a meat pie. Xena’s things weren’t seen anywhere, so, the girl made the conclusion that no matter what vows the woman had to give her everything was in vain. It was strange to use a chamber pot instead of comfortable lavatory pan but “O tempora! O mores!” (what times! what habits!) She couldn’t change anything here. It was ancient time and she had to adapt to it somehow. The girl ate the pie which was really good or she was really hungry. After she drank milk she tried to use some water from the jug near a small basin to wash her face and for the first time she used her finger to ‘brush’ her teeth because people didn’t know much about hygiene here. She put on a dress over her undergarment one and put on the boots made of pure leather. They were comfortable but it seemed they wouldn’t last long as if the soles were made out grass and leather woven together. The girl looked the last time at the room, a few minutes later she was in the yard of the inn.
“Ah, finally! I was about to go and wake you up, sleepyhead.” Xena’s voice came from behind.
“Xena, I thought you left me,” Gina couldn’t hide her happiness to see the woman but her smile on a bruised and swollen face was a sorry sight.
“Holly gods, you need some snakes on your head and you’ll kill everybody only with your look,” Xena approached the girl staring very concerned at her sore face.
“Don’t worry, it’s not the first time I’m looking like this. A week or two and everything will be alright,” she smiled.
Xena didn’t share Gina’s enthusiastic mood. Girl’s eyebrow was swollen and blood drained to her eye so the eyelid swell too and covered half of the eye. Lips were too dry and when she smiled they cracked and started bleeding. The swelling on her cheekbone diminished a little but the bruise became purple and the other eye was black. Xena took a clean cloth from a small bag on her hip and pressed it to girl’s chin to stop the blood dropping on the gown.
“Is your head still aching?” The warrior asked.
“No, whatever you put in that tea helped. I feel only the pain from bruises. The head isn’t aching anymore. Thank you.”
“Come here, seat on the bench.” The woman opened her bag, took out different bottles with ointments and tinctures and began treating the bruises again. While she was doing this the girl sat calmly only sometimes hissing if the pain was too unbearable.
“You’re a very quiet patient,” Xena told the girl really proud of her behavior.
“The wounds should be treated, if not I may have aggravation and the pain will be even worse than this,” the girl said nonchalantly.
“You’re a brave girl. Has your memory returned yet?”
“What do you mean?” the child didn’t understand the question because she remembered all very well.
“You’re story of a gladiator fighting in octagon didn’t impress me much. Do you remember how you ended up in the forest?” Xena looked the girl in the eyes.
“I told you the truth. I don’t have any other memories because this story is the only true one. If you don’t believe me then I can’t tell you anything else, I’m sorry,” Gina sounded angry and hurt that the woman didn’t believe her.
“Fine, I don’t have time for all of this rubbish. We have to move,” Xena closed her bag in a swift motion and went to the stalls to take Argo.
When the princess warrior approached Gina was a little bit scared of such a big animal. She used to ride horses in her world but here in this child’s body Argo seemed to be a giant.
“I would rather walk.” She said quickly and made a step back from the horse.
“Don’t be afraid of Argo. She is a wonderful lady.” Xena clapped the horse on the back.
“I can’t even reach the stirrup.”
Gina came closer and within a second she was sitting on the back of the horse. The woman lifted her up as a fluff. She just had a moment to grasp the saddle and sit properly on the horse. The woman sat behind her and took the reins. In several minutes they were at the border of the wood near a lake. A bunch of boys were splashing in water. They definitely weren’t having fun. One of the boys was swimming in the middle of the lake dragging something with him. As Xena came closer she saw that he dragged the body of another boy of the same age but he was definitely unconscious or even dead. The woman immediately jumped from the horse and ran to the boys. She turned the boy on one side and pressed his chest to make the water flow from him but nothing happened. Gina ran to her.
“It is too late. Let’s try another way. I close his nose and try to breathe in his mouth as much air as I can. You press his chest in the heart area. Try not to break his ribs.” The girl started CPR.
Xena wasn’t sure about this method but she tried her way and it didn’t help. Gina breathed and asked the woman to make three or four presses to boy’s chest. After a minute the boy coughed water and started breathing.
“How did you know what to do?” One of the boys asked.
“My mother was a healer,” Gina lied standing up. Her lips began bleeding again.
“Aren’t these the same boys who beat you yesterday?” The woman asked curiously.
“We didn’t know that she’s a girl,” the oldest of them found an excuse.
“So, what? You want to tell me that it is a brave deed to beat smaller boys?” Xena raised one brow.
“We are sorry. We won’t do that again.” The older boy finally apologized.
“It’s fine. Don’t worry,” the girl replied.
“We didn’t hit her that hard. She was already in bruises,” the smaller one spoke.
“Thank you for saving my brother,” another boy gave her a hand to shake. Gina did so.
“Where is your cloth? The lips are bleeding again.” Xena found a clean cloth and gave it to the girl. “Let’s go, we have a long road to cover.”
“Don’t swim too far if you can’t swim,” The woman warned the boys.
In a swift lift Gina was already on the back of the horse and the princess warrior was behind her. They moved further.
“Where did you learn how to push out the water from his lungs?” Xena sounded curious.
“I told you, my mother was a healer. The technique is called “mouth to mouth breathing”. You have to press the chest to make the heart beat again and breathing helps lungs to fill in with air.” Gina couldn’t pronounce CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation because there were no such words in this world but at least she could explain how it works.
“Amazing that a little girl knows so much about internal organs and how they work. Who were your parents?”
Gina wanted to say that her father was a quarterback but instead of this her mouth pronounced: “My father was a merchant and my mother was a healer.” She was shocked to hear her own voice speaking such bullshit, but in this time and place there were no American football and she was just a 10 year old girl not an MMA fighter.
“What happened to your parents?” Xena was extremely persistent.
“Dad was killed in battle when Gallic tribes came to our town. My mother had died treating diphtheria a year earlier. My aunt, father’s sister, sold me at the slave market. I ran away.” Gina couldn’t believe the words her mouth has just uttered. It was an unbelievable story and she didn’t even think about it. The world made her do things she didn’t expect to do. She read a lot of books when the main character got into a fantasy world and had wonderful skills to make his way in this reality but she has never read about any character, which lost at least 20 years of her life and was totally vulnerable. In addition, the world made her do the things she didn’t want. It was as surreal as being Alice in Wonderland. She closed her eyes and shook her head wanting to open them and to see her own universe of the 21st century.
“What’s wrong?” Xena asked when the child shook the head as if a fly got in her ear.
“Nothing, the sun is shining right in the eyes.” The girl made a wry face.
“I’m sorry about your parents. How did you end up in octagon? It is restricted. Former gladiators or men who completely lost their dignity fight in octagon. There people fight till death and you’re a child.”
“As a slave my owner was the mistress’s daughter, a girl of about 13 year old, very moody and unpredictable villain. She treated me badly and once it was too much I beat her and her friends who also humiliated me. Her father saw this and liked it. They started to train me as a new gladiator but I already knew some fighting moves because my father always wanted a boy. I was the only child, so he taught me fighting and brought teachers from different parts of the world to teach me this. That’s how I started to fight in octagon,” Gina was surprised to hear all of this nonsense. Her voice was calm, though.
Xena rode for a while in silence digesting the information. The girl was thankful that there were no more questions and she didn’t have to say the sentences she didn’t even expect to think of.
“You’re a brave girl. Don’t worry, nobody will hurt you anymore. You’re safe for now and I’ll find you a good place to live,” the princess warrior assured the girl.
“Where are we going?”
“We’re going to Lissus. A cyclop blocked the spring that gave water to all wells in the village. He collects payment from people who live in a village. Many of them had to flee their homes. Others stay because they have relatives to take care of.” Xena explained.
“You mean cyclops are real?”
“And you thought they are only in fairy tales?” Xena grinned.
Gina shook her head absorbing the news. It was strange and unusual like everything in this world. After two hours of horse riding the silence was too annoying for the woman warrior.
“Speak or I’ll kill you,” she whispered in girl’s ears.
“I thought people don’t like talkative kids I didn’t know anything about silent ones,” the girl deflected.
“You’re too silent for a child. Did somebody send you to me?”
“You saved me from those boys, remember? Nobody sent me.”
“Maybe you made them beat you to attract my attention,” Xena hissed in the ear.
“You’re very suspicious for a warrior princess. Maybe you’re not a warrior but a swindler who pretends to be Xena?” Gina spat back. She was already tired to sit on the back of the horse for two hours in a row. Her legs became numb, the weather was too hot and now Xena tried to play tricks. She didn’t want it. Her mind wasn’t childish.
Suddenly, in a second the girl was on the ground and Xena stood above her pressing the fingers to her neck to block her blood flow. The whole body became numb. Gina couldn’t move any finger. She felt just an unbearable pain as if somebody was choking her.
“I cut your blood flow. You’ll die in 30 seconds. Speak, who sent you?” Xena shouted.
“I can’t tell you because I don’t know what you are talking about. Though, if you kill me here maybe I’ll revive in the place I’m from. I don’t understand how I got here. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to explain it to you. If you want me to die maybe it’s a good idea and this is just a horrible nightmare.” The child was scared not only because she couldn’t move and she was choking but because this was the reality and she was lost in it.