“No, she cursed me for the death of her youngest son Lyceus and next time for taken away provisions for my army,” the woman confessed.
“Now you want to come back home and give her a child to care?! That’s a very smart step, I would say.” Gina countered.
“Nevertheless, I go home. Amphipolis is not over that mountain. We’re on the Roman territory and it would take us a month or so to get there. Maybe during that time I’ll figure out what to do to you.”
It was a strange bargain but for now it was OK for Gina. She didn’t have any plan either. The only thing the girl knew that maybe her meeting Xena wasn’t just a coincidence. It could be a key to getting back to the future and reality.
“Do you have anything to eat? I haven’t eaten since yesterday evening,” the girl pleaded. After all the trouble she had been this morning, she felt very hungry.
Xena sighed, took a piece of cheese, a slice of meat and some bread from her bag and gave it to the hungry child. Gina immediately nibbled in bread and cheese.
“Can you teach me how to fight with a stick?” came an unexpected question after breakfast was finished in maximum 7 minutes.
“I thought only a week ago you were all covered in bruises. I left you for one day and somebody tried to smother you. Again I see bright track of bruises on your neck. Do you want more?” Xena was more and more amused by this little creature.
“Yes, that’s right, but if I knew how to fight with a stick, that guy would still have been alive and you shouldn’t have helped me at all,” the girl made a conclusion.
“Of course, you would have been lying under the tree soaked in blood with a stick in your chest,” the princess warrior ended the little girl’s bravado.
“You’re so mean! I lost to that guy only because I’m a child and I don’t have as much power as I had before. Still I made him drop to his knees and put a knife to his neck. I didn’t have guts to cut his throat, though. My style of fighting is useless against adults.” she explained.
Xena’s eyebrows got high on her forehead at such a confession.
“Yeah, tell me, how did you make him drop to his knees?”
Gina explained in colors how she got a kitchen knife from the sack, hid it behind her back, kicked the poor guy in his crotch and badgered the man.
“That was smart. Remind me next time not to give you any knives. Don’t want to get hurt,” Xena mocked at the child.
“You don’t believe me, do you?”
“Why? I do. You’re a very bright child. The word I should highlight here is ‘a child’. A knife is not a toy for children.” Xena reprimanded.
“How should I defend myself then?”
“If you can run, run. If you can’t run…” Suddenly Xena was interrupted by a very bored childish voice.
“Yeah, yeah. I know. Rule number two: if you can’t run, surrender, then, run. Rule number three: if you outnumbered, make them fight each other while you run. Number four: if you can’t do any of these, talk your way out of it.” The girl finished her lesson.
Xena just huffed.
“Who taught this to you?”
Gina couldn’t say that it was from the series of the princess warrior she saw in reality. She had already learned the lesson that this world didn’t give her any possibility to say the truth. So, the girl opened her mouth to pronounce the words and begin coughing or sneezing, whatever. Instead, her mouth uttered something very believable.
“My mother, she didn’t like when I was fighting with other kids. I wasn’t very talkative either.” Gina shrugged her shoulders.
Xena smiled looking at this small and very brave girl.
“Fine, at the next stop you’ll show me how you fight.” The woman patted child’s shoulder.
Only in the evening when the heat of the sun wasn’t so burning Gina had a chance to show Xena her abilities.
“So, what did you want to show me?” Xena asked nonchalantly as if the whole day they were having a rest but not walking through the not ending grove.
“Do you have some kind of bandage. I need to bandage my knuckles. I’m good at close combat. There is no use to damage my hands just to show you some moves,” Gina said professionally.
“Oh, so serious. Let’s find out what I have in here.” Xena fished out two bands of material and gave it to the girl, who started to bandage her hands very skillfully.
“Now look, if this tree was my opponent. I would do this.” Gina came close to the tree and showed the woman warrior her best shots and kicks. She used her fists, elbows, legs and knees to break down her imaginary opponent. The girl even succeeded in scratching some bark off the tree.
“Impressive,” was the only word the woman uttered.
“Now it’s useless,” said child in frustration.
“It’s not, if you know where to hit.” Xena encouraged.
“Believe me, I know.”
“Fine, let’s do it together. Come here. Show everything you did again but now I’ll be your opponent. A tree can’t give much of a fight.”
The child attacked Xena very unsure at first, but with every hit the girl became more and more focused. She didn’t miss any vital spot on woman’s body: solar plexus, spleen, liver, kidneys, breasts, Achilles tendon, shin. She methodically attacked all these vital spots and Xena blocked all girl’s attacks.
“Very good. I’m definitely impressed.”
“What’s so good. I haven’t even touched you.” The child was extremely disappointed.
“If I let you do that I would be right now on the ground begging for mercy.” The woman assured her.
“What’s the point, if you can do it. All adults can hurt me. I can’t defend myself.”
“Yes, you’re partially right.”
“Adults are higher and stronger, though, you have a great trump card in your pocket. Nobody expects from a child to be so skillful in Marshal Arts. Besides, you try to bring me down with your power, we have to change that. Try to be smart. If you use your head instead of your muscles you can win.” Explained the princess warrior.
“How? You don’t want to show me how to defend myself with a stick. Can you at least teach me how to do somersaults and all those amazing jumps you can do?”
“It needs a lot of training.”
“You told the way to Amphipolis is not that short. I want to learn. Would you teach me,” The girl pleaded. “I can already do some things. I’ll show you!”
The girl ran up and turned three somersaults and after that did two forward flips. Xena pursed her lips and nodded in approval.
“You know a lot for a little girl. Can you do a back flip?”
“I’m not sure about it.”
“Come here. If you fall I’ll catch you.”
Xena stood by while Gina was making a back flip. It was a little bit awkward and shaky but the girl did it well.
“Fine, that will do for today. I don’t want you to train today. We don’t have much water. The weather is still very hot. Tomorrow when we come to a stream you’ll train more.”
“Promise?” asked the child.
At night when the child was asleep Xena was wide awake. She stared at Gina deep in thought. How could such a young girl know all these Marshal Arts’ moves? The girl used different styles as well as Xena. Even the princess warrior didn’t see some techniques before that this child used. What did this girl go through to know these things? The woman would teach her jumps and flips and summersaults but she would never give the child any weapon. She didn’t want her to become a beast like she was not long ago. Xena looked at Gina who was twitching in her sleep. The night was less hot than the day. Heavy, stuffy air filled their lungs and hair stuck to the forehead because of sweat. Suddenly Gina jerked and sat up in terror. The girl couldn’t catch up her breath for a while and didn’t understand where she was.
“What’s wrong?” The woman approached the child and sat near her.
An owl hooted above and the kid trembled of its unexpected cry.
“Hey, that’s just an owl. There’s nothing to be scared of.” Xena put her arm around girl’s shoulders.
“It’s just a nightmare,” the girl responded in a small voice.
“That man you killed in the morning. He ran after me, wanted to throttle me.” She said in horror touching her throat as if that man was somewhere near and Gina tried to protect herself.
“It’s just a nightmare. He wouldn’t hurt you anymore,” said Xena kissing the child on the top of her head.
“Can I have some water? I won’t drink much.”
“Sure, drink as much as you wish. We still have a skin of wine.”
“Wine, in this heat? Yuk!” the girl grimaced.
“You’ll drink water. You’re too small for wine.” Xena teased. “Now, go back to sleep.”
In the morning Gina woke up to Xena’s cursing about the cheese that was rotten because of the warm weather.
“Don’t worry, Xena. Fried eggs with bacon will be just fine for me,” the child told with a happy smile on her face.
“You’ll do with dried crust that I have,” the woman said grumpily.
“Don’t we have anything else?” Gina asked looking in the empty sack with their food.
“Sorry, bread is covered in mold and fruit you ate yesterday.” Xena half apologized half stated the fact.
“Fine, who needs to eat in such a heat anyway?” The girl showed that she wasn’t hungry but deep inside she wanted to eat an elephant because yesterday she ate only some fruit.
The whole day long the princess warrior drank only wine from the water skin she confiscated from that dead thief and Gina was really amazed that in this heat the woman wasn’t drunk at all. At midday they found a small spring that came right from the underground. The water was very cold still child drank it with pleasure.
In the afternoon the woman and the girl came to a small town. They stopped in a tavern. After a good bath, washing of clothes and some rest, in the evening Xena was outside drinking something, watching Gina jumping rope with some local kids. The girl wasn’t eager to play with children but Xena insisted on her going and socializing.
“You have an adorable daughter out there,” said the woman waitress coming with a portion of mutton stew.
“She’s not my daughter,” Xena answered taking a fork to eat the stew.
“Then you have an admirable similarity. Maybe except your eyes. Though, if she isn’t your daughter it’s even better. Here, look. I think it will be a good investment for you and obviously for her.”
The woman left an advertising leaflet on the table.
To whom it may concern,
King Vitus searches for a girl of 9-10 years old to be a companion to his little child, Princess Inanna. The candidate must have good manners and show some talents. The girl would live in the palace together with the princess. Her parents will receive a decent refund for their child.
“Marvelous,” said Xena sipping some strong drink from her cup. She reread the leaflet again. It was a great opportunity to find a good place for the girl and even to get money for her troubles. It was worth thinking about.
The princess warrior was sitting at the table. Her stomach was full and she was half drunk. The woman shot a last glance at the merry girl and went to the room. She needed to think over this possibility and maybe to have a short nap.