It was the third day of their travelling together.
“Maybe I can distract the Cyclops by giving him riddles. I know many of them and if he guesses right, people of the village will pay their tribute for water but if he is wrong, he will go away and leave them alone,” the girl proposed her solution to the problem which amused the princess warrior even more.
“Have you ever seen a Cyclops?” Xena asked with a grin because she couldn’t hear such nonsense without smirking.
Yes, of course, Gina saw Cyclops in movies but this universe made her pronounce another words.
“No, never, but I heard about them.”
“You should know, then, that Cyclops aren’t naturally very smart. So, first, he will eat you and maybe when he is digesting you, he’ll think about your bargain. Furthermore, who told you that I let you approach the Cyclops. You’ll be in a village together with other people while I try to settle their little problem.” The woman explained.
“I say and don’t even think of talking back.” Xena warned the child.
“Or what?! I thought we had a deal. You take me with you wherever you go, you bet on your mother’s health.”
“No, no, no… As I remember I take care of you until I find you a good home to stay. I emphasize TAKE CARE not risk your life, otherwise, our deal is cancelled.” The woman looked strictly at the girl.
“I’ll think about it.” The child said and passed quicker to go ahead the woman.
Xena just shook her head. This child was even more stubborn when she was at this age. She couldn’t neglect the feeling that something was so familiar in this girl as if she was her, only smaller. Xena tried to get rid of these stupid thoughts. It’s not safe for a child to travel with her. She should find her a good place to live where she’d belong.
At midday they arrived in the village that suffered from the lack of water because of Cyclops. Half of the houses were empty. People suffered from thirst. There remained several goats but most of the cattle was sold or given as a tax for Cyclops because farmers couldn’t pay for water. People were emaciated. The princess warrior asked where she could find the Cyclops.
“Gina, stay in the village. I’ll try to find out what the matter is and come back,” the woman went up the road into the hill.
When Xena came at Cyclops camp she didn’t like what she saw. The Cyclops lived on the top of the hill, near a big, deep trench that was blocked by some enormous rocks. The water flew into the trench but there was no way out of it because of this artificial check dam. There were no trees on the top of the hill, there was no cliff or mountain nearby. Xena couldn’t do any avalanche. The task was even more difficult that she couldn’t use the kite either. The weather was too hot and there was no hope for a thunderstorm even a rain was questionable at such heat. She returned to the village.
“Can you help us?” was the first question Melisa, who sheltered Gina for some time asked when the princess warrior entered the house.
“Tell me, when should you pay your next tax?” The warrior asked.
“Tomorrow morning,” the woman replied.
“Do you have any horses or bullocks in the village? I have an idea. Where is Gina?” Xena recollected suddenly.
“She was outside with other kids.”
“No, I haven’t seen her there.”
“I left her outside with my son.” The woman insisted.
“Try to find animals and some beams,” Xena left the house.
She searched the whole village to find any tracks of the girl until she saw small footprints in the dust on the road up the hill. The woman pursed her lips and went back up the hill.
“Hey, put me down! It’s not fair!” Gina hanged in midair upside down. The Cyclops was holding her by the leg trying to guess either he was so hungry that he could eat her right now or he should do the fire and fry her.
“How I like little children. Their meat is so soft and gentle. It melts in the mouth,” roared the creature.
“Hey, you, I thought you had a deal with villagers. They pay the tribute and you give them water and don’t take their children,” Xena shouted for the Cyclops to hear her.
“Who are you? You’re not from the village! I give them water and they give me cattle. If they can’t keep an eye on their children it’s not my problem,” he said licking his lips.
“Yes, that’s fair, but you’re so big and she’s so small. You won’t even understand how she tastes, besides, look at her face. Do you see blue and purple marks on it?”
“Yes, I see.” The Cyclops brought the girl nearer to examine her face thoroughly.
“If you look closely her whole body is like that. It’s a horrible disease. If you eat her the effect will be as of poisonous berries. You can die.”
“She doesn’t look like dying,” the one-eyed giant disagreed.
“This disease is tricky. The patient always feels fit of energy before dying. Tomorrow she won’t even move her foot and she’ll be dead in a day. If you eat her, you’ll be dead in three days and villagers will win. They let her come here on purpose. I want to help you. I’m your friend.” Xena wormed herself into Cyclops’s confidence.
“What I get instead?”
“I bring the girl into the village and tell them that you saw through their plans. I’ll make sure they will bring you tomorrow twice as bigger tribute than you ordered.”
“Fine, I’ll give you the girl back. If you lied to me, I’ll destroy their village tomorrow. Nobody will play tricks with mighty Arges,” yelled the monster.
“Of course not, please, put her carefully down for me to show the villagers that you’re not just the mightiest but also the most polite Cyclops they’ve ever seen.”
The giant put the girl down and Xena very quickly took the naughty child to the village.
“What did I tell you to do?!” Xena screwed girl’s ear so furiously that the kid yelped with pain.
“Please, you tear it apart!” Gina begged.
“He could have eaten you today for dinner. What were you thinking about?!” The woman let the girl go.
“I wanted to see a Cyclops,” Gina stepped back from the woman paying her a resentful look.
“Next time you want to do something stupid, tell me to kill you, before you poke your nose into something dangerous! I must have left you in that town I found you in the first place!” the woman was really pissed off.
Gina didn’t say anything. What she could say in these circumstances. In real world she knew that white is white and black is black. Giants, dragons and Cyclops were only in fairy tales or in fantasy stories. Here it was real. This disappointed her even more. She didn’t understand how to behave in this world. She was sick and tired of it.
Whole day long people from the village gathered stones from the crease of the dried river. Men went for big logs and beams to a faraway forest. They had to come back only late in the night. Xena was everywhere at once. She told women to sharpen the sticks they had found in the village, teens and children gathered big stones and hid them in special strategic places. Gina also took part in this total madness. In the end of the day the girl was so tired that she didn’t even argue when Xena told her to lie in the room together with children. The woman, in whose house they stopped, had 6 children. Children’s room was a very unusual one, especially, for a modern person. The bed was made of boards nailed together and it was two meters long but very wide. It spread from one wall to the other. It meant that all children slept on it together. The bed was covered with two different, very old rugs. Pillows were filled with straw and each three children could use one patchwork blanket.
The whole village suffered from lack of water. So, the conditions people were living in were far from being sanitary. But Gina didn’t mind. She only hoped that tomorrow when they get rid of the Cyclops she could go to the river and wash herself and her clothes if nobody disturbs her.
At dawn, when all the beams were on their places, the strongest villagers scattered to their hidden posts, Xena saddled Argo and rode to the Cyclops. She found him making a bonfire near a lake.
“Again you are here! Where are the villagers with my tribute? I’m hungry!” The giant grumbled.
“I’m here to tell you that nobody comes to give you the tribute. They left the village. I told them that it is the only decision they could make in this situation. They listened to me because you made their life miserable.” Xena said dismounting her horse.
“What?! How dare you tell me this?! I’ll kill you with my own hands and then I’ll go after them and kill everybody!” The Cyclops raised his hand and hit the place where Xena was standing but she made a somersault backwards, ran to his side and buried her sword in one of his toes. Giant cried as a wounded bull. The warrior princess made a flip and landed right on the back of the horse.
“Gee-up!” the woman was rushing at a full speed down the slope. Giant followed her.
On her way down Argo jumped over three piles of beams thrown about the road. The Cyclops jumped over two of them but on the third he slipped and fell down backwards hitting severely his back and his head. At this very moment a group of strong men appeared from nowhere and began throwing blazing bottles with oil at the one-eyed giant. While the creature recovered from his fall the fabric of his clothes flared up. Instead of going after the villagers he turned back to run to the lake but people on the hill were already throwing stones, so, the monster stepped on them and got down the slope again. At this time Xena and some men began throwing spears at the Cyclops. All the villagers even the kids were involved in this fight. The monster roared and whined. He flung himself from side to side and rolled on the ground to put out the fire but nothing helped. Xena interrupted his agony by throwing her chakram which slashed Cyclops neck and he stopped breathing forever.
It took another week to get rid of the Cyclops body and return the river to its river-bed. Xena was sitting on the river bank when Gina approached.
“May I talk to you?” the girl asked.
“Oh, so bossy! I thought that you have to lay off the laundry.” Xena stared at the girl whose face almost turned to normal with only slight dark stains from bruises.
“I’ve already done it.” Gina sat near the woman.
“What do you want to talk about?” She looked curiously at the girl.
Nights were still hot and stuffy but it didn’t feel so much when they sat near the water.
“I know that you want to leave me here. I heard you talking to Melisa.” The girl said strongly and strictly as if she accused the woman of something horrible.
“And?” Xena’s mood immediately changed.
“Are you leaving tomorrow?”
“Yes, I’m. Gina, it’s not safe travelling with me. Here you’ll be happy. A lot of kids you may play together. Melisa is a wonderful woman. Yes, this family is not rich but they gave everything to that Cyclops in several years things will sort themselves.” Xena half persuaded half apologized for the decision she was going to make.
“You just want to disclaim the responsibility!” The girl looked at the woman stubbornly.
“No, I want you to have a better life,” she pronounced gently.
“You want to get rid of me, that’s fine. But don’t even think that I stay here!” The child stood up and went to the village leaving Xena with her thoughts.