Xena couldn’t stand anymore the child’s tossing and turning on the rag. Yes, the night was hot and even the woman felt drops of sweat forming on her forehead. The air was damp, the fire went out and swarms of mosquitos rushed towards them anticipating a great feast. The child was covered with a sheet but it didn’t help very much.
“Why aren’t you sleeping?” Xena asked killing an annoying buzzing creature on her arm.
“I can’t they are eating me alive! And it’s too hot under cover,” the girl partially cried partially seemed to be angry.
“Children!” Xena muttered. She took out a small bottle from the bag and gave it to Gina. “Rub yourself with this. It will help.”
Gina took it but there was very little liquid left: “And you?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll survive.”
“Thank you. Is it a wolf?” Gina started rubbing herself with ointment when suddenly she heard a lingering howl.
“Yes, it is. It’s too far away. There’s nothing to worry about,” the princess warrior reassured her.
“What’s in the bottle?” the girl asked trying to understand what it can be by its smell.
“Decoction of a couch-grass root.”
“Does it help against mosquitoes?” the girl was surprised to hear it. She’s never read the composition of creams against mosquitos.
“Yes, it’s very late already, aren’t you tired?” Xena huffed.
“Sorry,” Gina rubbed her whole body with the liquid and went to sleep.
It seemed as if she only closed her eyes a minute ago when the voice above her heralded.
“Rise and shine, rainbow,” the warrior princess was mounting above her in all her leather grace. The rays of the rising sun filtered through the leaves of trees.
“No, I fell asleep like a minute ago. Besides, only the sun can rise and shine but not a rainbow,” the girl got up very slowly as her whole body was sore from traveling all day long on horse.
“When I see your face only in one colour but not in different colours then maybe you’ll be the sun. Unfortunately now, it resembles a messy patchwork.”
“That couldn’t be that bad, could it? At least today I can open my eye even more.” Gina said proudly.
“Uh-hu, and try the left one.”
“Why, it is open.” The child tried hard to open it even wider.
“What so funny?” The child struggled to open her eye but the lid was too heavy, “I can’t open it! Why?!” she sounded scared.
The woman quit laughing and looked at the girl who was nearly crying. She kneeled beside Gina.
“It will be fine. A mosquito bit you in the eye. It will disappear in few hours. Go to the spring and wash your face. Let’s eat something and we have to go.”
When Gina returned from the spring they ate sandwiches with cheese and olives on sesame flat bread and drank water with a small amount of wine in it ‘to clean it from different impurities’ as Xena said.
“Can we go on foot today?”
“It will be faster to ride or your body is so sore that you can’t bear another day on the horse,” asked the woman greasing girl’s face with oils and creams.
“It’s not comfortable to ride on a horse in this dress. It would have been better if you had bought me boy’s clothes.” Gina pouted.
“If this is the only problem then…” In one swift movement Xena ripped the sides of girl’s dress.
“Hey, what are you doing?” The child pronounced, though, it was too late. Now her dress was looking more like pieces of fabric sewn together from underarms to thighs.
“Now it will be easier to ride. If you want I can rip off the rim too, to make it shorter. It’ll be easier to move too.” The princess suggested.
“No, thanks. I already look like a mess. Now I’m even dressed in rags!” She scowled.
Xena rolled her eyes: “While you are travelling with me, be kind, and steer clear of making complaints or I’ll leave you somewhere in the wood where nobody will find you. Are we clear?”
“Yes, we are. Better tell me how you brush your teeth here, because I haven’t brushed them for ages and that’s not good for my health!” Gina crossed arms on the chest and looked sternly at Xena.
“Here, take this powder and this,” She gave the girl little purse with black powder and small branch smashed so that it was smooth in the end and looked like a brush.
“Why is it black?” The powder wasn’t the colour Gina used to see in her life and the smell was even more disgusting.
“These are ashes of burnt horns, wood, some eggshells and some sea salt.”
“And you brush your teeth with it?” the girl winced.
“Do you brush it with something else then enlighten me.” She teased the child.
It took time to brush her teeth with this strange device and powder. The taste was even more disgusting.
“Take it and chew,” Xena gave the girl some kind of dry weed.
“What’s it tobacco?” The girl looked at the small dried leaves suspiciously.
“I don’t know what tobacco is but this is balm. It has a good taste and your mouth won’t reek so much.”
They rode on the horse for some time when Xena noticed that Gina started dozing off. The girl hanged her head and put it up again as if she was falling asleep and was startled by something that woke her up again.
“Gina, sit across.”
“What?” She murmured in a slumber.
“Sit across, lean on me and sleep.” Xena proposed.
“No, I don’t want to sleep. It’s just… I’m so tired.”
“Because you have been tossing and turning all night long instead of sleeping.”
“It was hot. Is it always so hot here?”
“Yes, it is summer as you could notice.”
Xena stopped the horse to let the child sit across the saddle.
“Lean on me.”
“No, I won’t.” The girl protested.
The thought that she had to lean on Xena’s shoulder made Gina uncomfortable. How could a woman lean on the other one and sleep. This was unbearable! She couldn’t afford to find herself in such an awkward situation.
“Why? You’re sleeping on the move. Now you’ll be definitely sleeping.”
“It won’t be comfortable for you to ride.” She tried to find an excuse.
The princess warrior pulled the child closer to her chest.
“Close your eyes and have some sleep. It will be a long day today.”
Gina wanted to struggle but Xena’s grip was too firm and the girl surrendered. Gina couldn’t have ever imagined sleeping in Lucy Lawless arms. She has never dreamed about it and the thought that she fell asleep like a log in another woman’s arms made a knot coming to her throat because she was always strait in all the relationships. The girl forgot only one little thing. In this universe she was a child, just a ten-year old girl who didn’t sleep all night and her body failed her. There was nothing to be ashamed of.
She woke up when the horse suddenly stopped. She put up her head and looked around.
“Hey, did you sleep well?” Xena asked when Gina sat straight on the horse.
“Yes, thanks.” The girl rubbed her eyes with her fists.
“We’ll stop here for a while. There is a stream nearby. I need to water Argo and I would like to wash a little. It’s too hot today.” The woman explained.
Gina nodded. Her dress became damp of sweat on the side where she was leaning on the woman. They spend some time near a small stream. It was enough to dip your hands in it and maybe to relax your feet in cool water. But everyone was happy. Argo drank for half an hour as if it was a camel not a horse. Xena took off her leather battle dress and remained in her under gown. She splashed happily as a child standing in the stream and taking some water in hands, throwing it up on her face and shoulders.
“Take off your dress and wash a little. It’s very refreshing.” The woman told the child.
Gina looked around. When she was sure that there’s no one who would stare at her, she carefully took off her upper-dress and remained in undergarments. When she approached the stream, Xena splashed handful of water on the girl. Gina screamed in surprise to feel slightly cold water on her skin but in a minute she recovered and raised so much water with her hands and feet that Xena was soaked from head to toe in seconds so was Gina. They were splashing and laughing for some time.
“Fine, enough. I surrender,” the princess warrior was the first to finish this fight. “Let’s find a place to dry our clothes, eat and will go on.”
Xena was sitting in her fresh lingerie and eating olives, cheese and bread together with Gina who was still sulky with the woman because she didn’t buy her another pair of undergarments and the girl absolutely refused to take off her completely soaked panties.
“How could you forget to buy me another pair of lingerie?” She reprimanded Xena with a frown.
“Tell me, please, who is looking at you here? You are in a dress which covers everything.”
“Yeah, except the big trashes on the sides through which you can see a lot, thanks to you.” The girl huffed.
“You are too modest for a child. Actually, it’s a miracle that I found a pair of panties for children at that shop. I don’t know where you are from but in my village all the girls under 12 don’t have anything under their dresses. Women wear panties only for their special needs.”
“Oh, that’s gross, you know. In the place where I live all children from the infantry wear panties.” Gina said as a matter of fact.
“It seems to me, in your village live strange crazy parents, who torture their children.” Xena concluded.
Gina just rolled her eyes. How could she explain the ancient woman that hygiene is important. Though, maybe Xena is right and we are too obsessed with moral norms and politeness. Anyway, Gina couldn’t get used to the thing that a woman could take off her clothes in front of the child without any shyness.
“Further we will go on foot. I hope you’ve relaxed enough.” Xena said.
She collected their things, put still damp clothes across the saddle to let them dry and they went.
“Tell me, how are you going to call out a truce with that Cyclops?” The child spoke.
“Who said I’m going to work out a truce? Cyclops don’t bargain.” Girl’s question made the princess warrior smile.
“How are you going to defeat him? As I know, they are much bigger than men.”
“Yes, they are. I don’t know yet, I’ll figure it out when we’ll be at the place. I have to see what I can do.” Xena explained.
“Can’t you blind him with your chakram?” The girl shot out a question after question.
“It’s complicated. Cyclops don’t often stand still. He can duck any time and I can be damaged. I need to see the situation then I can act according to the conditions.”
“Don’t you usually have a plan?” Gina was surprised to hear woman’s answer.
“Sometimes our enemies can outsmart us. A good warrior always must have a strategy and at least two plans in her mind. To understand the strategy you have to know the conditions and possibilities of your enemy. I don’t know them yet. I need to see what I have in my disposal.”
“Yeah, it’s like in a fight. You better know your opponent’s weaknesses and work on yours, otherwise, you lose.” Gina concluded and suddenly became quiet.
Again she remembered the last fight that caused her appearing in this universe. If she only could redo it somehow in order to get to her parents, to say that she’s alright but she didn’t know how this could be possible to do now or in the future.