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INT. ROYAL RESIDENCE - EVENING
The inside of the temporary queen's residence is large and airy. There is a rich carpet on the floor, and well made wooden furniture. A huge wardrobe stands against one wall. Against the other wall is a dressing table, full of silver and gold beauty accessories such as brushes and mirrors.
Above the dresser is a large, oval mirror, lined in gold trim.
A silver and crystal candelabra hangs from the roof, its candles already lit. Equally ornate candle sconces are on the wall, also lit.
In an alcove stands a canopied bed, with silk bedding and lace curtains.
Despite the splendor, there is an air of un-use about the room. It is as though it is a model, not meant to be really used by anyone or lived in. The silver and gold accessories appear as would props.
The door opens, and Escobar enters, with Xena behind him.
Here is your place to sleep.
Isn't it wonderful?
Xena walks to the center of the room and turns in a circle. Dressed in her leathers and armor, Xena does not look like she fits in this room.
Nice. But what's
all the frills for?
Escobar seems to understand her point.
Well, it's expected. If
you are our queen, you
must look like one.
All this for a day?
Escobar goes to the wardrobe and throws it open.
Our laws are as much about
ceremony as they are about
rules. Part of the tradition
is the.... Um....
Pomp and ceremony.
I suppose. You must choose
what you would wear tomorrow
and put it on so you can be
presented to the people tonight.
Escobar studies Xena, seeming to doubt himself for the first time.
Please choose wisely.
Escobar leaves. Xena drops her sack on the carpet and wanders around the room, examining the draping on the bed and the silver brushes. Then she goes to the wardrobe and studies her choices.
Xena removes a few gowns. They are surprisingly sophisticated, and quite gorgeous. Xena examines them with a look of speculation.
This could be fun after all.
INT. ROYAL RESIDENCE - NIGHT
Gabrielle stands near the window of the grand room, looking out over the town. She is dressed in one of the fine gowns, in a deep shade of purple red. She is also draped in various bits of jewelry, and she has silver and colored enamel flowers threaded through her hair.
Xena enters the room and slams the door, storming across the room in a high state of annoyance. She is wearing a stunning dress in blue, has her hair piled high and laced with pearls, and is carrying a set of elbow length gloves.
Those little sons of bacchaes
with their damn curling this
and curling that....
Gabrielle turns to watch her. At the same moment, Xena sees Gabrielle, and they both stop and stare at each other.
Xena's freight train of indignation realizes it hasn't been invented yet and disappears in a flash. Xena's pace goes from irritated stomping to seductive swagger as she reacts to Gabrielle's admiration and crosses to her.
Ahh. Flattery will get you
everywhere. So you like this, huh?
Gabrielle reaches up and touches one curl of dark hair that has escaped the confines of the silver tiara on Xena's head.
Yes, I do.
Xena steps to one side, then circles Gabrielle, examining her new outfit. She stops behind her, then grins and continues around again to face Gabrielle. Gabrielle remains still, though her eyes follow Xena as much as possible.
Xena touches the tiny flower garlands threaded through Gabrielle's hair. Then she takes Gabrielle's hand, and they twirl each other around, ending facing each other again, both hands clasped. Gabrielle looks up at Xena and smiles.
You are beautiful.
Xena is briefly silent, then smiles back.
First time you told me that,
you were stoned off
your mind on henbane.
Yeah, but I meant it.
Xena's expression is fond, yet slightly wistful as she remembers.
Gabrielle pulls Xena closer and they kiss. Time passes. Candles burn lower. A few stars come out.
The door bursts open, and Escobar enters, flanked by several others. They all stop short on seeing Xena and Gabrielle.
After a moment, Xena and Gabrielle finish what they're doing, and they look up at the intruders.
Oh. That kind of pair.
Xena frowns. Gabrielle smirks.
Were you expecting fruit?
(under her breath)
Escobar waves a hand at the woman to shush her.
Never mind all that. The townsfolk
have assembled in the hall.
Xena, Gabrielle, are you ready?
You have no idea how ready I am.
Gabrielle hastily muffles a laugh. They follow Escobar out of the room.
INT. TOWN HALL - NIGHT
In the big hall, the entire town has apparently assembled. The room is very crowded - every seat is taken, and there are many people standing against the walls.
This is evidently an Occasion. The men and women are dressed in their best clothes, whatever those happen to be. Some of the people are very obviously well off. Others are less so, and most of those who are less so are standing against the walls.
Down the center of the room, a path has been cleared, and a thick carpet lain down. It leads up to the platform, and it has been lined with ceremonial flowers.
The two wide doors in the back open and Escobar enters. He waits for everyone to turn and look at him before he speaks.
My fellow citizens, I present
to you our queen for this
year's Judging Day.
Xena and Gabrielle enter. The crowd falls silent as they walk up the carpet. Xena keeps her eyes forward, but Gabrielle looks around her, catching the eyes of various onlookers.
As Xena and Gabrielle walk forward, the crowd surges closer to them to get a better look.
Oh! How lovely!
Malcos is standing at the very front, in a place of obvious privilege. He edges forward, and steps on the carpet itself, blocking Xena's passage briefly.
Our town is grateful for your
offer of service, Queen Xena.
Xena's face twitches at the sound of that.
Don't mention it.
I, myself, am looking
forward to your judgments.
Gabrielle notices that several of the people near the rear of the room are trying to push their way forward. The more richly dressed townsfolk in the front shove them back, glaring at them.
Malcos steps back and Xena keeps walking.
Instead of following Xena up onto the platform, Gabrielle stops and stands near the edge of the step while Xena continues on. Escobar hurries to keep up with her.
According to our custom, tomorrow
everyone who has a complaint
against his or her neighbor will bring
it here, for Queen Xena to judge.
The crowd, at least the ones in the front applaud. Xena regards them with wary bemusement.
You might want to save that
until you hear my decisions.
The crowd laughs, uncertainly.
I am sure whatever they are,
will be a relief for all. Many
have issues that have been
awaiting decision all year.
MAN IN FAR REAR
Yes! It's about time.
The man's neighbors hush him. He is shoved back. Xena notices, and her eyebrows go up. Malcos steps forward to distract her.
To welcome you, Queen Xena,
I have prepared a feast in your
honor. Please join us!
Another round of applause. Escobar looks uncertainly at Malcos, but shrugs.
Many wish to see
the queen, Malcos.
Of course! All are welcome.
Escobar seems mollified by this. The crowd starts to stir around and a buzz of conversation arises.
Well, all right. We can continue
over there... our guests must be
hungry. Excellent suggestion, Malcos!
Thank you for your hospitality!
It is my great pleasure. Queen Xena,
will you come with me, please?
Malcos holds out his arm. Xena studies him up and down, then she exchanges a look with Gabrielle before she accepts the offer.
Sure. Sounds great.
Gabrielle, why don't you....
Catch up with you later. Go on.
Malcos leads Xena out, smirking. The crowd starts to follow, the better dressed clustering around them as Escobar pushes to get in front himself. Gabrielle lets the crowd move past her, observing that the poorer dressed townsfolk stay behind.
Sooomething smells fishy here.
And I doubt it's his banquet.
EXT. TOWN SQUARE - NIGHT
The crowd moves across the square, splitting to avoid the well as they head towards Malco's residence. It is above his mercantile, and already the windows are lit with torches, and the sound of music can be heard.
I am sure our customs
seem strange to you.
Waiting a year to get an answer
on something? Yeah. Not my style.
No, I would have guessed that.
Xena looks at him. Malcos smiles, but does not continue.
Don't you find it... frustrating?
Oh, well. Not really....
Everyone looks at her in horror.
I'm not afraid to tell the truth! Yes,
it's maddening! My quarrel with
Amaina over the dress she made
for me has gone the entire year!
It starts off well, Queen Xena. Don't
let Seetha's impatience fool you.
After the cleansing, life is kind
and wonderful for many months.
Until cases start to pile up.
And then as the time comes
closer and closer, things get....
Until by this time of the year,
all are at the edge of... of....
Certainly not! We are
not a violent people!
The crowd murmurs agreement, seeming a bit embarrassed. They walk up the steps to Malco's hall, and as they reach it, the doors are flung open and they are greeted with bright light, music, and the smell of a banquet.
So, none of these
cases are violent?
No no no.
No fights, no knock
downs, no broken noses?
Absolutely not. We do not
believe in using force to
solve our problems.
Xena looks at Escobar, then she looks at Malcos.
Boy, did you pick
the wrong queen.
Xena shakes her head, and walks inside, heading for the bar. Escobar and Malcos look at each other in shock.
INT. TOWN HALL - NIGHT - SAME TIME
Gabrielle remains where she is, taking a seat on the edge of the platform. The poorer residents realize she is there, and they slowly start to gather around her, seeming a little suspicious.
Aren't you going to
join your friend?
Eventually. I was just trying to
figure out how this all works.
So you can laugh at us?
Gabrielle looks at her.
No... I mean, sure, the
custom's a little odd, but....
Custom? Yeah, right. We were hoping
maybe this year.... Escobar made so
many promises when he was trying
to become the chief seeker....
Gabrielle's ears perk up.
Okay. Then why don't
you tell me about it?
Why should we? You're
just one more in a long
series of their pawns.
Gabrielle stands up and walks over to him. She is shorter than he is, but as she faces him, something changes slightly in her stance, and whatever that something is, makes the man back off a step.
I'm no one's pawn.
If there's something going on
here, and you want our
help, then start talking.
There is fear in the room, and Gabrielle is aware of it.
Why should we trust you?
We can't pay you anything.
Try me. What have
you got to lose?
The small group looks at each other uncertainly. Gabrielle merely stands and waits. She folds her arms.
She raises her eyebrows.
Finally, the men and women cluster around her, hiding her from view, and all start to talk at once.
INT. ROYAL RESIDENCE - VERY LATE NIGHT
Gabrielle sits on the bed in a nightshirt, rubbing her toes. She looks up as the door slams open and Xena stalks in, looking like a lovely, if highly dangerous wild peacock. Xena kicks off her shoes and almost nails the wall with them, then impatiently takes off the gown, leaving her almost naked by the time she gets to the bed.
Hey.... Nice of you to
bring me back dessert.
Xena stops, and cocks her head, looking at Gabrielle in puzzlement.
Gabrielle looks her up and down, and smiles. Xena clucks her tongue and sits down next to Gabrielle, raking her fingers through her hair and releasing it to fall around her shoulders as she removes the tiara and twirls it around her finger.
I've had more entertaining
evenings mucking stables.
Where did you disappear to?
I went to the real town, so I
could talk to the real people there.
Xena regards her with wry surprise.
That bad, eh?
It's a crock, Xena. The whole thing’s
a farce. The only reason they do this
is to legitimize the rich people taking
everything from the poor ones, and
not having to get in trouble for it.
Xena tosses the tiara and rings a candle with it. She leans on her hands and frowns.
How? The judge is
supposed to be impartial.
Apparently they haven't found
one that's impartial to dinars yet.
The poor folks can't prove it, but
they say every time they try to
bring up a case against the town
leaders, they get ruled against.
Maybe they don't
have a good case.
Maybe horses talk, and
we just don't hear them.
Xena chuckles softly under her breath.
What's the point then, Gabrielle?
Why don't the poor people just
leave? Nothing's holding them here.
It's their home. It's not easy
to just turn your back
on that and walk away.
They both fall briefly silent. Then Xena gets up and exchanges her underthings for the nightshirt Gabrielle has left lying over the back of a chair.
Gonna be a long day tomorrow.
For them or us?
Xena returns to the bed and lies down on it, stretching out on her side and propping her head up on one hand.
Well, they're not gonna
pay *me* off, Gabrielle.
Gabrielle lies down next to her, in the same posture.
This could get very complicated.
But at least it won't be
dangerous, for a change.
Xena reaches over and hooks the front of Gabrielle's shirt, pulling her closer.
Not for us, you mean.
They kiss, and Xena reaches up to release the curtains as they embrace. The curtains drop, obscuring them from view.
EXT. ROYAL RESIDENCE - LATE NIGHT
Two shadowy figures stand outside, watching the window above them. A very soft echo of Xena and Gabrielle's laughter drifts down to them.
This one could be trouble.
Damn that Escobar. I knew
we shouldn't have picked him.
Let's meet with the rest.
We have to have a plan.
The two shadowy figures skulk away.
END OF ACT TWO