The afternoon passed by quickly. Between keeping the fire
going, foraging for food, and drifting in and out of sleep, the
sun had begun to set before Dari knew it. She hadn't realized
how tired her body was. She couldn't even remember the last time
she had slept the day away at home. It was just another little
hole punched into her continually leaking bubble of logic.
As the day had progressed, Dari discovered that Gabrielle
had been right. Xena was not the most communicative person she
had ever met. But the bright-eyed blonde more than made up for
any lulls in the conversation. Dari had felt an instant report
with Gabrielle even before she could understand what the young
woman was saying. And now that they could talk together, the bond
between them only seem to grow more comfortable.
As the sun sank into the horizon, Xena "ordered" that
they all return to the cave for the night.
"Why so early?" Dari questioned. That was one thing
that hadn't changed.
"It's safer in the cave," Xena explained, not used
to being questioned, "plus we need to get up at sunrise to
start searching for your way home."
Sunrise! This was not the proper atmosphere for a night person.
Dari watched the dark warrior as she gathered up what needed to
be taken to the cave. There had been times when Xena had looked
upon her with kind, but questioning eyes. And then there had been
those occasions when Dari was certain that she viewed her as an
enemy. The truth was, Dari wasn't sure who wanted her home more-
herself or Xena.
* * *
At six o'clock, on the dot, Lutheran arose from his dream
heavy slumber. Visions of gusting winds and swirling light filled
what was usually peaceful sleep. He squeezed his eyes tightly
shut to rid himself of the lingering images. When he reopened
the slightly puffy orbs, he was startled by the site of Collingsworth
standing like a statue at the foot of his bed. "I didn't
hear you come in." Lutheran's voice squeaked out having not
been used in several hours.
"I came to wake you sir, as per your instructions."
"Oh yeah, right." The Boss yawned as he spoke. "My
little internal alarm took care of that for you." Lutheran
tapped the side of his head with a stout index finger. "Guess
it comes in handy being left-brained sometimes."
Collingsworth merely bowed in response, and asked, "Would
you care for some dinner, sir?"
Lutheran patted his paunch and contemplated. "I'm in
the mood for Filet Minong, rare, with all the trimmings. You know
how I like it."
"Of course, sir." Collingsworth headed for the bedroom
door as his master threw the silk lined duvet aside. "Do
you have a preference of wine this evening?" He asked before
fully exiting the room.
Lutheran sat on the edge of the bed, allowing his box like
feet to dangle. "The Chateau Lafite Rothschild . . . No,
make it the Latour instead."
"It doesn't matter. I only stock the cellar with the
best." Lutheran laughed wickedly as he bounded off of the
mattress, grabbed the suit Collingsworth had laid out, and strolled
into the adjoined dressing room.
* * *
The evening meal was the "usual" fish, along with
fried bread. And even though Gabrielle and Xena had tried to encourage
her to eat in order to regain her strength, Dari ate very little.
The two warriors glanced anxiously back and forth between one
another and their guest during the entire meal.
Dari had planned on explaining what led up to her bizarre
arrival, as best she could. Somehow, the words just wouldn't come.
Occasionally, Xena would open her mouth, about to express some
bit of encouragement to prod Dari along. But inevitably, Gabrielle
would sense what Xena had planned and she would place a light
touch upon her, stopping the woman before she could utter the
The tension inside the cave slowly grew unbearable. With every
passing minute, Dari's strong features became more pale and gaunt.
When finally it looked like the flood could be held back no longer,
Dari began her tale. She held very little back from her saviors,
she saw no reason to. Who knew how long she would be in this strange
land, or for what purpose she had been brought here. Maybe, if
she told them everything that she could, everything which was
relevant up to when the lightning apparently took her, then maybe
they could help her return home.
It was worth a shot.
She told them of her back alley brawl, followed by the chase.
The chase- that constant, exhaustive running which she was afraid
would never end except with the expulsion of a bullet. She described
the storm, with its voracious thunder and lightning, especially
the lightning. How the streaks had appeared to be aiming specifically
for her, until, when that last bolt of blue-white heat had struck,
and she had awoken here, in excruciating pain.
With every detail, Dari relived what had happened. The truth contained
in the experiences hit her harder than any bullet ever could.
Finally, Dari was no longer able to deny that this was real. Whatever
By the time Dari had finished, the tears had begun to spill
out of her aqua eyes and onto her highly sculptured cheeks. She
reached up and dabbed at the salt water with the back of her hand,
angered by their arrival, infuriated more by her loss of control.
She wanted desperately to be at home. But more than that, she
wanted- Before the name could even reach her mind, Dari succumbed
to the pain and confusion she had felt since it all began. She
bent her knees up to her chest, wrapped her arms tightly around
her shins, bowed her head, and sobbed uncontrollably.
Gabrielle could take no more. Before Dari had completely released
her first ragged breath, she was by her side, draping herself
around the rocking figure. "Please, Dari, don't. We'll find
out what's happening. We'll get you home. Won't we?" The
bard turned a limpet eye to her companion.
"Of course," Xena replied. How could she say otherwise?
Between Dari's story and Gabrielle's reaction, the decision had
already been made.
* * *
Lutheran finished his meal with a hearty belch. No need for
politeness at his own table. Especially since he dined alone.
He pushed the empty plate aside and rang for Collingsworth. Before
his finger had released the button, the manservant appeared.
"Any word from 'Mutt and Jeff'?"
Collingsworth imperceptibly raised an eyebrow and replied,
"Mr. Karl and Mr. Roscoe just rang. They're on their way."
"It's about time." Lutheran mumbled into his Laleek
crystal wine glass. "They better have some good news for
me. I'd really hate to be forced to kill them inside the house."
"Yes, sir." Collingsworth bowed ever so slightly. "I'll
inform you immediately upon the arrival of your employees."
"You do that." The Boss stated, absentmindedly sucking
the final bits of his dinner off his teeth. From beside him, Lutheran
was brought back to reality by a concerned sigh. "What is
it, Ole Boy?"
"Forgive me, sir. I was just thinking that hopefully
violence wouldn't be necessary this evening. Blood splatter is
so difficult to clean up properly." With that, Collingsworth
exited the dining room.
Lutheran, falling back into his own world of thought, merely
nodded his head in silent agreement.
"NO!" Dari shouted, reaching out, not knowing what was
dream and what was reality. She awoke to find herself shuddering,
in a cold sweat, encircled in Gabrielle's caring embrace. She
looked around her nervously, "What
"Shhh." Gabrielle soothed, glancing over to where
Xena's fur was and saw it empty. A quick glance around the cave
told her she and Dari were alone. "It's ok, I've got you.
It was just a dream, that's all." She brushed her hands over
the woman's hair several times, beginning from the temples, working
backwards, pressing her forehead to Dari's. "Just a bad dream
"It was so real. I was being chased again, and this time
they caught me."
"Shhh." Gabrielle laid her back down and moved closer
than she had already been, tucking herself neatly against Dari.
"Everything's all right now, you're here, with me, those
men wouldn't dare lay a hand on you."
Gabrielle's inner nervousness laid lie to those words. What
if they were to attack, and Xena wasn't here to save the day as
she always was? Now stop that! You're a great fighter in your
own right, Gabrielle, she chastised herself. Yeah, but what about
those "guns" Dari had told her of, the mysterious weapons
of the 21st Century? How was she to fight those? She may be a
good fighter, but she doubted she could catch a bullet in her
hand like Xena could an arrow. And what of Xena? Could she catch
a bullet? The doubt she felt was beginning to show on her face.
"What's wrong?" Dari inquired, wide eyed, still
unsettled from the dream.
Gabrielle breathed deeply to regain her composure. "Oh,
I'm just thinking about your dreams. I wish I could take them
away." She smiled down at Dari, leaned forward and kissed
her forehead at the hairline. She could faintly smell that fragrance
she had emitted when she'd first been in her arms. "What
is that smell? Or was that smell?" She laughed gently.
"Salvador Dali." Dari supplied.
Dari smiled. "It's a perfume I wear. Like it?"
"Oh, do I
" Gabrielle flushed and looked away.
"Yes, it's very nice. I can barely smell it now though, it
" She trailed off, remembering holding
Dari all that first night, how she'd fallen asleep several times
to her uneven heart beat and shallow breaths. The dreams she herself
had experienced that night
she stopped herself there, the
thought totally unrealistic. If anyone, she would share her first
soul kiss with Xena, and not some stranger that fell from the
sky. A change of subject was in order, "It's unlike any perfume
I've ever smelled."
"You have perfume in this time?"
"Of course we do," Gabrielle giggled, "only
ours are more singular fragrances, like jasmine or lilac."
"Hmmmm." Dari was unaware of the historical beginnings
of the perfume industry.
Xena stepped into the cave, noting Gabrielle's whereabouts
Again. She tossed her Chakram down on her fur skin and reached
for her sword. "What are you two doing up?"
"Where did you go?" Gabrielle watched her friend
as she prepared for bed.
"For a walk, nightly check before bed. Everything ok
"Yes, Fine now. Dari just had a bad dream."
"Well, get back to sleep. We'll be leaving soon, better
get some rest. We have a long journey ahead of us."
Gabrielle glanced back at Dari. "She's right, get some
sleep. I'll be right here if you need me." She stroked Dari's
hair until the woman closed her eyes and drifted back into a deep
* * *
Xena sat awake as the two slept soundly beside her. She watched
as Gabrielle, even in sleep, kept a protective arm around Dari's
waist, pulling the woman closer to her at the slightest movement.
She was disturbed with how Gabrielle caressed the stranger. The
loving way she stroked her shoulders, her neck, and her face.
Their faces -- so close, Gabrielle's lips just at the corner
of the other woman's. If either turned only slightly, they'd be
sleep kissing. Xena closed her eyes to shut out the images, but
she knew that wouldn't stop them from dancing across her inner
lids. She mentally cursed whoever bestowed this stranger upon
What did it mean? Why had it happened? Everything had a purpose,
a reason. So what logic lay in this? Was this person supposed
to come into their lives and take her Gabrielle away? How could
they stay together if Gabrielle's heart belonged to another? No.
That would never happen. That she sincerely believed. Their hearts
beat the same. She knew that now. She was as much a part of the
young bard as Gabrielle was of her. They may not have the physical
closeness Xena craved, but they had the emotional connection,
and that was nearly as good. And nothing would sever that.
"She's gorgeous," Dari commented upon seeing the
mare. "Hi, Argo," she patted the horse's strong neck
when Xena came astride her. The horse nuzzled her hand then bumped
her in the chest, making her lean backwards without taking a step
"She likes ya." Xena beamed with pride at her horse.
"Guess we do, too." She reluctantly stated. The warrior
had begun to feel the uneasiness Dari had around her. Actually
it was a feeling she was used to. Most people seemed to automatically
go on alert as soon as she entered a room. But for the sake of
her bard she would try to keep the intimidation factor down to
an acceptable level.
"Well that's good, I guess." The cop wasn't completely
convinced of Xena's sincerity.
"You're a good person, Dari. It emanates from you. It's almost
blinding it's so bright. I doubt you could be evil, even if touched
by it." That much she meant.
"Very poetically stated, Xena, but it hardly sounds like
me." Dari laughed and turned to see Gabrielle traversing
the incline from the cave with her arms loaded. She jogged over,
scooped the supplies up before the petite woman could protest,
and carried them over to Argo's saddlebags.
"Thanks." Gabrielle spoke with uncharacteristic
shyness. "But you didn't have to do that. I'm used to lugging
around our provisions."
"Oh, I don't doubt that you could have handled everything
just fine." Dari kept a watchful eye on Gabrielle as they
stuffed the bags full. "But I can never resist assisting
a beautiful lady."
Gabrielle blushed as she finished fastening the saddlebags
and proceeded to check on Argo's cinch without looking up at the
rider. She knew that Xena had heard and saw everything, especially
the things left unsaid. Her constant traveling companion had the
unnerving knack of reading between the lines. And at this moment,
she had no intention of looking into those penetrating eyes to
review the paragraph she had just been privy to. A change of subject
was most definitely in order. "So what does a 'Cop' do?"
Gabrielle asked as they fell in behind the now traveling Xena
and strode side by side at a leisurely pace.
"Generally we keep the peace, stop bad guys from doing
bad, and lock 'em up when they do."
"That's what Xena and I do!" Gabrielle beamed.
"Hadn't thought about it. I guess so. I can't wait to
see the towns here. They'll be something, I bet."
"They're pretty much the same. Some places, like India,
are different. Bigger buildings -- different way of life. Is it
the same where you're from?"
"Yes, it's global I would imagine." For the next
hour, they settled in to an unhurried gait, two figures walking
beside one another, and one on horseback. Each thinking their
* * *
"Gabrielle, quick, hide Dari!" Xena shouted from
up ahead. Dari grunted when Gabrielle grabbed and then shoved
her into the bushes, nearly falling on top of her.
"What's wrong?" Dari sputtered, trying to right herself,
feeling the weight of Gabrielle's body as it hovered over hers.
"Trouble." Gabrielle informed, quickly hopping up,
darting from the brush, and racing to where Xena, sword already
drawn, was standing.
Dari peeked through the bushes and saw Gabrielle standing
taut with her staff at mid-waist, ready to defend herself and
her traveling companions. In front of she and Xena stood a band
of dirty, horridly dressed men, their swords also drawn, with
one or two carrying bows and arrows. She couldn't just lie there
and do nothing. She had to lend her knowledge of defense to the
brawl, which she knew was eminent. These women had saved her life,
she owed them at least that much. Feeling resolved in her decision
and confident in her abilities, Dari jumped from her hiding place
causing all eyes to dart in her direction.
The gang of marauders stood there, jaws agape, staring at
her as if she were a Harpy.
"What is THAT?" The leader questioned, momentarily
forgetting about the fight.
"Dari, get back where you were!" Xena commanded.
Dari cursed under her breath. "I'm not an invalid, I
can defend myself. I am a cop ya know."
Xena rolled her eyes. For the love of Zeus! This was not the
time for heroics. Besides, now that these men had seen her, word
would get out and trouble would be sure to follow. Xena just shook
her head. This wasn't the old days. She couldn't very well kill
them all to keep them silent.
The exceedingly tall female not only looked strange, the leader
of the ruffians surmised; she spoke in a strange accent, with
most of her words sounding unfamiliar to the band of thugs. She
would gain them a hefty price if they captured her. Oh, a hefty
"Grab her!" The leader ordered.
Dari's eyes widened in surprise, and she just stood there
as a band of ten men came racing toward her.
"See? What'd I tell ya!" Xena said in exasperation,
and with her warrior yell, bolted after the throng of men, swinging
her sword ahead of her. Gabrielle also leapt into action, spinning
her staff with grace and power, knocking several of the men down
to their knees with a series of jabs, then whacking them over
the head to render them useless.
The few men that did escape both Xena's and Gabrielle's attacks
charged at Dari like a pack of wild dogs, shouting and drooling
as if she was a mountain of dinars. Her law enforcement reflexes
kicked in, and with lightning fast movement, Dari cracked several
of the men in the chin with the heel of her hand and the sole
of her boot, knocking them backwards and down. She stood there;
men sprawled out around her feet, first glancing down at them,
then up at Xena and Gabrielle, who were also standing, gaping
The cop reached down and grabbed the scruff of one of the
ruffian's furs, hauling him up to the tips of his toes. "Just
what did you think you were doing?" she asked. He could only
shake his head and slobber an unintelligible answer.
Disgusted, Dari dropped him to his feet and side stepped him.
She spotted the leader and narrowed her eyes. "Go!"
she ordered, most persuasively, and the man turned tail and fled.
Gabrielle was gushing with pride. "Great Gods! Where'd
you learn those moves?"
"Karate training." She shrugged and sauntered up
beside the pair. She smirked when her gaze met Xena's. "Like
I said, I can take care of myself."
"So, what are we gonna tell the Boss?" Roscoe hopped
nervously from one foot to the other.
"The truth, what else?" Karl 'sheeshed' at his partner
as they stood at the entrance to Lutheran's house. "Don't
be so chicken. What's he gonna do? Kill us for telling him the
truth?" The small man froze in mid buzz of the grand double
door's bell and turned to Roscoe. "On second thought, maybe
we should wait 'til morning." But just as the duo was about
to step down off of the lanai, one of the front doors swung open.
"Mr. Ingles is expecting you, and you know how he doesn't
like to be kept waiting."
Collingsworth stepped sideways to allow the men into the foyer.
Reluctantly, Karl and Roscoe walked onto the tiled floor. "This
way gentlemen." The manservant extended his right hand and
preceded to follow the two in the direction he had guided them
When the men reached the door to the study, Collingsworth took
the lead and entered the room. Seated at the oversized mahogany
desk was Lutheran, dressed in his usual dark, tailored suit, typing
like a madman on a streamline laptop. "It took you long enough."
Lutheran spoke without bothering to look up from the screen. "Come."
He ordered, as he bent the chubby fingers of his right hand in
a chopped forward motion.
Karl and Roscoe stepped farther into the room. As soon as
the pair stood clear of the entrance, Collingsworth shut the door
deftly behind them, leaving the three men alone to conduct their
* * *
"So where are we headed anyway?" Dari asked once
they had been back on the trail for a few hours without any further
"Amphipolis," Xena called from up ahead.
"That's Xena's home . . . town," Gabrielle added,
leaning closer to Dari. "You'll like her mom, she's one of
the best cooks around."
"We're making a stop first." Xena interjected. "We
have to get her dressed in something other than what she has on;
we can't take any more chances."
"I'm not wearing a skirt." And that was final.
Xena smiled to herself and gently guided Argo forward with
a tap of her heels to the horse's side flanks. During their journey,
she'd tried to rationalize what had happened, and how to correct
it. She dallied with the idea that Dari's "praying"
for help had had something to do with her escape from the men
who were chasing her. The means of transportation for her arrival,
obviously being the lightning bolt. So, Xena surmised, that a
possible way to get her back to where she belonged was to have
Dari pray again to the entity she had first called upon, under
However, Xena could never recall a spectacle the likes of
which she and Gabrielle had witnessed the night Dari arrived.
Although the storm still lingered when the three had left the
cave site, Xena was certain that from the weather they were experiencing
now, the squall would have already dissipated. Besides, no ordinary
lightning would do. So, that left the warrior woman with two problems:
one, how to recreate the light show that exploded in the sky on
that fateful night; and two, what to do with the stranger until
conditions permitted her an attempt to return home?
The answer to one, would require planning. The solution to
the second question was much simpler. Hide her.
Xena glanced back at Gabrielle and Dari. So how come Xena
just couldn't seem to shake the feeling that there was something
. . . fishy about the whole situation?
* * *
Lutheran saved the material he had been working on and gently
closed the computer case. "I'm waiting."
Roscoe nudged Karl with his elbow, in essence telling his
comrade that he had better do the talking.
"Ya see; it's like this Boss." Karl swallowed hard
and glanced up at Roscoe, who nodded his head in affirmation of
what Karl was about to say. "We done everything like you
asked. We got a couple of the boys to stake out the Redmond broad's
house, and the precinct she works in, while I combed the waterfront,
and Roscoe searched the woods. We even got a tail on the other
chick the cop lives with. But we got nothin'. We're sorry, Boss."
"You're sorry?" Lutheran clasped his hands atop
the desk and inhaled deeply. "Did you bug her telephone,
check out her other friends- family?" The crime lord was
beginning to turn that certain shade of color again.
Both Roscoe and Karl instinctively took a step backwards.
"All that, Mr. Lutheran. It came out a total bust every time."
Karl shrugged his shoulders, wishing that he and Roscoe had waited
'til morning, or maybe never to come and see their boss.
"I see." Lutheran loosened his grip and began to
drum his fingers on the black leather desk cover. His temple was
throbbing again. He raised his other hand to massage the area,
when a glint of blue caught his attention. He looked up and watched
as a sparkle of light from in front of him reflected the flames
in the fireplace and refracted throughout the study. Blue and
white shards danced across the ceiling and twinkled intermittently
against the walls. Upon tracking the light back to its source,
the display appeared to be coming from the hand of one of his
hired henchmen. "What's that you've got, Roscoe?" Lutheran
questioned the big man as he stood from behind the desk.
"What Boss?" Roscoe whirled around 360 degrees in
an attempt to figure out what he could possibly possess that Mr.
Lutheran might want.
"There! In that baseball glove you call a hand!"
He pointed, stretching across the desktop.
"Oh, this?" Roscoe extended his arm and opened his
left hand, flattening out the palm. "I found it this morning,
in the woods."
"And why didn't ya tell me about your lil' discovery?"
Karl placed closed fists against his hips in indignation.
"We was lookin' for the Redmond dame, not shiny blue
" Roscoe glanced back to the object in his hand,
"of whatever this thing is."
Karl rolled his eyes at his partner's shear magnitude of density.
"Of all the numbskull things you've ever done Roscoe, this
ranks right up there with the numbskulliest."
Roscoe, now indignant himself, attempted to defend the way in
which his mind worked, by replying, "And how was I ta know
. . ."
"Enough! Both of you!" Lutheran's gaze was still
affixed to the item currently under such passionate debate. Lying
motionless in the middle of the large hand was a brilliant blue
gemstone. All three men stood, suddenly struck silent, staring
at the square-shaped object. Lutheran reached out to take hold
of the jewel, but just before he could touch it, a shaft of light
emanated from the center. The entire room flooded with a brilliance
bright enough to cause the men to flinch in response. Then just
as quickly as the light appeared, it faded, pitching the room
back into its normally darkened hues.
The men all staggered, momentarily blinded by the stones ray.
"What the hell?"
Lutheran finally managed to blurt out. He reached for the
gem a second time, only with much more caution.
Roscoe and Karl stood opened mouthed as their Boss took the
jewel from the bigger man's possession, caressing the stone as
if it were a lost child, now found. Roscoe was relieved that he
was no longer in contact with the thing. Plus, Mr. Lutheran seemed
pleased by the shiny hunk of glass. He could only hope that maybe
what he had found would keep Karl and him outta too bad a'trouble.