On Xena, still looking shocked.
An all-veggie menu? (her jaw set) All right, I love animals as much as the next person...
But you prefer them broiled or grilled.
XENA (icy glare):
This isn't funny, Eve!
Definitely not. You think you've seen her grumpy before? Wait till you see her on a vegetarian diet.
Xena sits down next to Gabrielle, looking very ticked off. A serving girl approaches them.
You ready to order?
Yeah--how about a steak?
SERVING GIRL (smiles):
You're new in town, aren't you? Well, I'm afraid that if you're looking for meat, you won't find it in this inn--or in this town. You see, here in Anderida, we don't eat meat of any kind. We respect animals here, big or small--we treat them as our equals. We think it's wrong to kill them just to fill our stomachs.
Really. Are the cats and dogs around here vegetarians too?
SERVING GIRL (confused):
I'm not sure I get your point.
Well, if you treat animals as your equals, then I would think you'd expect them to follow the same rules people do.
EVE (touches her arm):
XENA (looks sarcastically at the waitress, who is obviously at a loss for words):
Well? Are you telling me that a cat is allowed to eat meat around here, but I'm not?
SERVING GIRL (nervous):
Look, I don't make the rules...I just serve the food.
I'll have the baked eggplant and walnut salad.
XENA (spits out the words as if talking about something particularly disgusting):
The all-veggie casserole.
Xena, Gabrielle, Eve and Darion are finishing their meal.
Come on, Mother, you have to admit it wasn't that bad.
Xena gives her a rather nasty look.
GABRIELLE (finishes her meal and moves the plate aside; to Xena):
We'd better get out of here fast before you kill a rabbit and they charge you with murder.
She looks around and her attention is captured by the murals on the walls of the inn. They all have animals depicted in them in some way. One is of a girl who is smiling with joy and feeding the pigeons that flock around her hand, landing on the ground, her shoulder and even her head. There is another one of a man standing beside a chestnut steed, holding up a blue ribbon, smiling happily. The large mural, taking up an entire wall across the room, depicts a splendid white horse walking through the city streets, with a white dove on its head and a white cat seated on its back. A crowd of people looks at them in amazement, some of them kneeling worshipfully. The figure of a beautiful golden-haired woman in a dress of rich purple fabric is floating in the sky.
Look...beautiful, isn't it?
Sorry, Gabrielle, I'm not in a mood to appreciate animal worship right now.
What do you think it means?
It must be something important to this town.
They are approached by the innkeeper, an elderly woman.
Pardon me, but I noticed that you were admiring our mural...
XENA (under her breath):
Not all of us...
You probably want to know its history.
Can you tell us about it?
Sure. You see, it tells the story of how Anderida became what it is today. Over a hundred years ago, this area was struck by a terrible famine and drought...
As she speaks we fade into a:
We see the streets of Anderida. They are not happy and full of life like they are now. The streets are bare and dusty; there are no animals in sight, and the flowers in the window boxes are wilted. The people look sickly and starving.
There was no more food coming in from the surrounding farms, no more water in our wells. Many left to look for a better life elsewhere. But there were many others who couldn't bear to leave the homes of their ancestors.
[END OF FLASHBACK]
So what happened?
The priests prayed to the gods, hoping that their prayers would be answered. (Xena rolls her eyes)
We see several priests bowed down before an altar on which a slaughtered goat lies.
Many weeks went by and it seemed that no one was listening to our pleas for help. It seemed that the only thing any of us could do if we wished to survive was to leave Anderida forever.
We see a line of people carrying baskets and bags on their backs, leaving the town gates (with no animal statues) and heading down the hilly mountainside. Some of them look back sadly before continuing out of town.
Then, a seer said he'd had a vision that things would soon turn around and that the goddess Epona would send a sign, though what that sign would be was unknown.
Epona? The goddess of animals, to whom horses, cats and doves are sacred?
She's the one. Several days after the seer's vision, a pure white mare came in through the town gates, with a snow-white cat riding on her back and a dove sitting on her head.
We see the horse with the dove on her head and the cat on her back, walking gracefully into town, people standing about, looking on in awe.
What a sight that must have been, after no animal nor bird had been seen in Anderida for so long. Then we knew that it was Epona's sign--and we were right. Just two days later, the rains came, the drought was over, the land around the town grew rich with fruit and vegetables, and then animals and birds began to show up to offer us their milk and eggs.
We see a montage of people picking berries, apples and other fruit, harvesting vegetables, milking goats and cows; a young boy holds up a basketful of eggs, smiling. Some young children are seen dancing around the well, splashing up the water onto each other and drinking. People are laughing and shouting for joy.
[END OF FLASHBACK]
Since that time, Anderida has worshipped Epona as our goddess. She was our savior. And in honor of her, we keep the animals in Anderida free and happy. We do not eat them, we only use what they can provide us for food--such as eggs and milk.
That was a wonderful story.
Thank you for telling it.
Oh, you are most welcome. We are always happy to tell visitors about our town's history. We know that many think our customs are odd--but it's our way of life, and we wouldn't change it for anything. (smiles) I hope you enjoy your stay here.
She walks away.
Hey, wait! Those statues at the entrance to town--that's the horse, the dove and the cat, right?
That's right, Darion. (Darion beams proudly while Gabrielle looks at Xena) Well, there you go. How often do you see gods actually helping people?
Amazing what they can do when they put their minds to it.
Xena glances at them thoughtfully.
Well, here we are--in animal heaven.
Later that night. In the moonlight, we see a cat, with a collar and a small medal on it, leaping off the window ledge of a house. As it starts to walk away, a dark figure appears and snatches the cat. It shrieks in terror and tries to claw at the man but the man quickly shoves it inside a sack.
You are going to make me rich.
He walks off, the sack wiggling in his hand, the cat's muffled cries coming from inside.
The next day. It's bright and sunny; Xena, Gabrielle, Eve and Darion are walking through the streets, looking around.
This place is even more beautiful in daylight.
A little girl in a blue dress, eight or nine years old, comes out running from behind a corner.
Help! Someone please help my cat!
She runs up to Xena and the others.
The little girl looks scared, tears streaming down her face.
My cat, Stripes--some other cats are attacking her. They could kill her! Please help her out!
Where is she?
Over here--come quick!
The girl runs into a side alley. Xena follows her. The sounds of hissing and loud meowing are heard. The camera pans down to show four large cats attacking a small striped tabby who is trying valiantly to fight back.
Can't you pick on someone your own size?
She rushes toward the cats and grabs two of them by the scruff of the neck. The cats growl and wiggle in her hands, trying to charge at the tabby. Xena knocks their heads into each other in a parody of her usual fighting moves. They are slightly stunned and she throws them away from the tabby. The two other cats turn and hiss at her. Xena hisses back and they shrink back, obviously intimidated.
Don't make me angry or fur is going to fly.
One of the cats growls at her and lashes out with its paw trying to scratch her. Crouching down, with a feral grin on her face, Xena advances on the two cats, hissing. The cats flinch back, turn and run off whimpering.
GABRIELLE (comes up behind Xena, with Darion in tow):
Well, that was different.
XENA (picks up the tabby):
Let's take a look at you. Are you hurt?
The cat, whose fur is bloodied, meows piteously.
XENA (looks her over):
You'll be okay.
The little girl comes up, with Eve behind her.
Stripes! You're all right! (takes the cat from Xena and hugs it) Oh, thank you--thank you so much!
No problem. You'd better put something on those cuts so they don't get infected.
I will, miss. Thanks again.
The name's Xena.
Thank you, Xena. I'm Clelia.
DARION (pushes forward):
Hey, I'm Darion. I hope your cat will be fine.
I know she will be. (she hugs Stripes and strokes her head) Xena, can Stripes thank you?
Clelia holds out her cat to Xena who, after a moment of hesitation, takes her from Clelia's arms.
The cat starts to purr and licks Xena's face, her nose, and then her ear. Xena glances at Gabrielle and Eve, who watch smiling.
XENA (pulls the cat away):
All right. I think that's enough thanks for one day.
She hands the cat back to Clelia.
Good-bye, Xena. Thank you again.
Good-bye, Clelia. Nice to meet you.
She walks away with Stripes in her arms. Xena watches her go into a nearby house; then she turns and wipes her face with her hand.
Not a fan of kitty-cat kisses?
Xena chuckles, along with Gabrielle, Eve and Darion. They come out of the side alley and start walking down the street again.
Well, it's nice to see that you can care for animals as much as you do for people.
Who, me? I was only doing it for the kid.
I wish I had a cat. Or a rabbit. (sighs, then suddenly becomes excited and points) Look! A pet shop!
The camera pans over to a large gray stone building; a large sign with Greek lettering and drawings of animals hangs over the entrance.
DARION (turns to Gabrielle):
Can we go in and look at the animals? Please?
Sure, Darion--why not.
Darion smiles and takes Gabrielle's hand, pulling Gabrielle toward the building.
I think I've had enough of animals for now. I'll head back to the inn and give Argo a good brush down.
Enough of animals? And what's Argo?
XENA (in mock outrage):
Watch who you're calling an animal.
The stables. Xena enters and walks up to Argo.
She opens the saddlebag that is slung over a post and takes out a brush, beginning to brush Argo slowly.
The stableman comes in and walks up to Xena, smiling his unctuous smile.
Keeping her coat nice and clean, I see. Always good for such a beautiful animal.
Xena gives him a cold glance.
Say, how old is she?
XENA (gives him an impatient glance):
Do you like horses that much or do you just like to be nosy?
STABLEMAN (holds up his hands):
Sorry, my dear lady. Just being friendly. (off Xena's chilly stare) I'll leave you and this fine animal of yours alone.
He retreats. Xena snorts and shrugs, and starts brushing Argo again when there is a faint whooshing sound behind her back and then the sound of barking. Xena turns around and sees Horace, who runs up to her, wagging his tail.
XENA (steps toward him, surprised):
She looks around, obviously sensing Ares' presence. Ares materializes lying in a haystack, in a casual pose with one leg slung over the other. Horace runs up to him and licks his face.
This is bringing back memories of the farm.
Eve walks in and stops cold in her tracks as she sees Horace licking Ares' face.
ARES (in mock anger):
Enough of that, you miserable mutt--
He gets up, patting Horace on the head. Eve coughs; Ares looks up at her in alarm.
This is your dog?
ARES (slightly embarrassed but trying to hide it and putting on his usual bravado):
Yeah. Haven't you ever heard of the Dogs of War?
Right...those fluffy ears just scream ferocious war hound.
You haven't seen him in action. (nods toward Xena) She has the bite mark to prove it.
EVE (glances questioningly at Xena):
I don't see any need to go into the details. (off Ares' smirk, turns to Eve) Ares got him as a pet when he was mortal. You should have seen him when he thought Horace had run off and left him all alone on the farm. (clicks her tongue and shakes her head in mock sympathy) He was almost--
ARES (gives her the evil eye):
You know, you're right--there's really no need to go into the details.
Thought so. (smiles) So, what are you doing here with him anyway? Let me guess...poor Horace is getting pretty bored, cooped up on Olympus in some marble doghouse with his own golden doggie bowl and a satin pillow to sleep on--so you're taking him out for a walk?
Actually, I just figured that since you were visiting this little den of animal lovers, it was the perfect time for me to bring Horace along. Let him find out what it's like to have people worship the ground he walks on.
Right. (looks at Xena and Ares) Well, I think I'll go and... (thinks a moment) ...be somewhere else.
She goes out.
ARES (to Xena):
So, here we are. You and me and--
Pan to Darion running into the stable, followed by Gabrielle.
ARES (rolls his eyes):
Horace leaps up and barks.
Wow, a dog! (he runs up to Horace, who jumps up and down and licks Darion's hand) Whose dog is that?
Ares looks away, embarrassed.
GABRIELLE (looks mischievously at Ares):
So--who's going to be the one to tell him?
ARES (clears his throat):
All right--he's my dog.
DARION (sincerely surprised):
Your dog? I thought you would have a different kind of dog--you know, like a huge wolfhound or something-- (demonstrates the size of the dog with his hands)
ARES (with a grumpiness that's part fake):
Yeah, yeah, yeah...
DARION (turns to Xena):
Hey, you'll never believe what I got to do at the pet shop! I got to touch a snake! It was so cool!
A snake. Now there's my idea of a pet.
Gabrielle glares daggers at him.
DARION (eyes light up):
He looks at Gabrielle but is immediately crestfallen when he sees the look on her face.
Sorry, Darion. I'm afraid I'm going to have to say no to this one.
DARION (sighs, disappointed):
Oh well. That would have been such a cool pet.
GABRIELLE (pats him on the head):
Why don't you... (glances at Xena and Ares) ...why don't we go play with Horace for now.
DARION (with a renewed excitement):
Yeah! Come on, Horace!
Darion and Horace run outside; Gabrielle gives Xena a mischievous little smile and follows them.
Left alone, Xena and Ares look at each other.
So. (after a pause) You haven't found Sabina. You know--I could help you. (off her uncertain look) And your next line is: "Sorry, Ares, I've got to do this my own way."
A close-up of Xena who smiles teasingly but obviously trying to conceal her discomfort; then the camera pulls back to show both Xena and Ares, who grins at Xena.
Unless, of course, you weren't going to say "sorry." (Xena chuckles; Ares reaches out to caress her face, and after a moment's hesitation she takes his hand and presses it to her cheek) How long do you plan on staying in this town, anyway?
We'll head out tomorrow morning if Gabrielle's horse is well enough to travel again.
ARES (smirks at her):
Stuck for a whole day in a town of vegetable-eating animal lovers... (off her glare) I bet I could offer you something to make the rest of today more interesting.
XENA (smirking back):
And what's that?
Xena stares at him in open-mouthed shock. Then, they both laugh.
ARES (suave and mischievous):
I can tell you what your next line is. (off Xena's questioning, amused look) "Gabrielle, I'll be back in the morning."
Xena chuckles, then leans forward and kisses him.
Late at night. A room in one of Ares' fortresses, dimly lit with a glowing fire in the fireplace. In the reddish reflections of the fire, we can see weapons displayed on the walls. The camera pans to a large bed, with an ornate headboard decorated with battle images, where Xena lies asleep by Ares' side.
She seems restless in her sleep. The camera zooms in closer and then we:
Into Xena's dream.
Xena is standing under the arch at the Anderida town entrance, holding Stripes the cat. Stripes meows and leans closer to Xena, licking her face. Then she meows again--and her meow suddenly becomes an articulate voice.
Just listen, Xena. Just listen.
Back to a close-up of Xena's face. She frowns in her sleep, obviously startled.
Morning. The stable. A rather content-looking Xena opens the stable doors and walks in and up to Argo.
Morning, Xena. Sleep well?
Xena's mouth drops open; she stares at Argo with wide-eyed wonderment as we:
END OF ACT ONE