8.20 The Rebel



The same scene as before.

MAN IN BLACK (proudly):
     That's right. I am Korax--the priest of Ares in Pelius.

     So who's this ruler of yours, and what's his beef with Ares?

KORAX (spits out the name as if it were an insult):
     Paeonis--he became our king last year.

GABRIELLE (concerned):

The tall middle-aged woman next to Korax, probably his wife, speaks up.

     He saved the city. You see, two years ago there was a terrible fire that swept through Pelius, much too fast to be put out by ordinary means. It would have destroyed everything--our homes, our possessions--it would have killed hundreds. And then this man, Paeonis--he used his powers to stop it.

XENA (frowns):

     Yes, he has special powers. (awed) He held out his hands (she stretches out her arms to illustrate his action) and commanded the fire to stop--and suddenly, the flames began to die down. Everyone hailed him as the savior of the city. Our king at the time, King Therapon, didn't have any heirs--

     And what better solution than to give the job to the most popular man in town.

KORAX (contemptuously):
     The most power-hungry man in town! When King Therapon died--that's when this Paeonis showed his true colors. That's when we learned that he hates the Olympian gods--all of them, but especially Ares.

     What did the people think about this?

     Oh, he has a lot of them wrapped around his little finger. They figure they don't need any Olympians when they have their god-like mortal king to worship. Others were scared of him. But a lot of us remained loyal to our gods, no matter how much we were mocked by the king's followers. When the king saw that persuasion didn't work, that people still went to the temples of the Olympian gods and made offerings--that's when... (she trails off, too overcome to speak)

     That's when he decided to use violence. Paeonis sent his thugs to destroy our temples, to burn our homes... Finally, (he lowers his head in shame) we had to leave.

GABRIELLE (shakes her head in disgust):
     Has anyone tried to oppose him?

     Some of the old king's counselors tried. (bitter and sarcastic) They're holding their meetings in the dungeon now.

     Sounds like a job for us, Gabrielle. I take it this is the road to Pelius?

KORAX (nods toward the city in the distance):
     Keep going this way and you'll be there in about an hour. Though I don't think you're going to have much luck.

GABRIELLE (smiling):
     Who needs luck when you've got Xena?

KORAX (scowls at Xena):
     Xena--you're Xena? I've heard of you--you're a defender of those Eli people!

     I'll defend anyone who gets chased out of town for worshipping their god.

KORAX (softens a little):
     Well, then...if it's true what I've heard--then if anyone can defeat this infidel, you can. (Quick pan to Xena, who looks pleased in spite of herself; then back to Korax, who turns to his followers) All right--let's move on. (he hesitates and turns to Xena and Gabrielle, speaking softly) The gods be with you.

Xena nods thoughtfully. She and Gabrielle look on as the refugees continue on their way.

     I don't get it. Ares' worshippers are getting pushed around like this and he doesn't do anything about it?

     You're right. He's started wars over less.

     Maybe you should talk to him.

Xena gives her a pensive look, then turns Argo off the road with Gabrielle following her, and stops under the trees.

     Ares! I need to talk to you!

With a flash of blue light the God of War appears.

ARES (trying to act casual):
     Uh...Xena. You called?

Xena and Gabrielle both stare at him for a second.

     What do you know about Pelius?

     Well, good morning to you, too.

XENA (tersely):
     Good morning; what do you know about Pelius?

ARES (sighs):
     Pelius is a medium-sized city in Greece on the Aegean coast, population thirty thousand, main industries include--

Xena gives him the look.


     They destroyed your temple and threw your worshippers out of the city.

Ares turns to Gabrielle.

ARES (shrugs):
     Eh... I never liked that temple much anyway. Between us--it was a bit of an eyesore.

     You have opinions about architecture?

     What can I say. I guess this king of theirs doesn't like me. (gives Gabrielle a sarcastic look) I'm sure you can think of a few reasons why.

XENA (raising an eyebrow):
     Let me get this straight: your followers are being treated like scum, your temple is trashed, the king has a problem with you...not to mention some sort of special powers--and it doesn't bother you?


     Standing by your man? I'm touched. (off Xena's glare) Look, Xena--isn't this how you wanted it? I don't really care anymore. Worshippers come and go.

     Well, looks to me like the ones in this town are going. For good. (her eyes narrow) Maybe this doesn't bother you--but there are people getting hurt and I'm not going to leave this alone.

ARES (sighs):
     So you're going to Pelius. (with obviously faked indifference) Don't you have any bigger fish to fry?

     Oh, I think this fish is pretty big.

     Suit yourself. I'm due back on Olympus, anyway--Discord and Artemis are battling it out. Gotta love those family gatherings... Catch you later.

He disappears. Gabrielle gives Xena a puzzled look.

     He's not telling us something.


XENA (puzzled):
     He's not telling us anything.


Xena and Gabrielle are walking through the streets in Pelius; it's late afternoon. The city looks prosperous, with well-tended gardens in front of stone houses. The smaller wooden houses look neat and well-tended.

Sounds of a scuffle--blows, grunts, shouts--are heard off-camera.

FEMALE VOICE (off-camera):
     Stop it!

Xena and Gabrielle exchange a quick look and race around the corner where the noise is coming from. They see a man, who seems to be in his forties, being beaten by five other men outside a modest wooden house. His face is already bruised and bloodied. A woman tries to stop the attackers; one of them shoves her away and she falls to the ground.

Xena heads toward them, Gabrielle following close behind. One of the thugs punches the man in the stomach; the man cries out.

THUG #1 (laughing):
     Where's your god now, huh?

XENA (off-camera):
     He's taking a break. (The camera pulls around to show Xena drawing her sword.) But I'm here.

GABRIELLE (twirling her sais):
     Let's even the odds.

The thugs let go of the man and turn toward Xena and Gabrielle, drawing clubs.

XENA (yells):

She launches herself forward, legs forward, and kicks the two thugs in front of her to the ground. She lands directly on top of them, one under each foot, as they groan.

The camera pulls back as Gabrielle twirls her sais to deflect the club wielded by one of the thugs as he throws himself forward. Giving him a swift knee to the gut, she throws him aside. Another thug swings his club at her and she swiftly ducks and then spins her foot around to trip him.

The camera pulls in as he starts to rise and Gabrielle raises one of her sais.

GABRIELLE (angrily):
     Lights out.

Gabrielle releases her arm knocking him out with the butt of the sai.

The camera pans back to Xena as she advances on the one thug still standing.

     Your turn.

He raises his club, then looks hesitantly at his comrades--one unconscious, three rising to their feet groaning--and lowers it again.

XENA (grins):
     What's the matter, not having fun anymore?

The man turns and runs; the other three who are conscious scramble away as well.

Xena walks over to the man and woman who were being attacked.

     Thank you.

     Who were they?

     The king's thugs.


Inside the modestly decorated house. The man, Straton, sits at the table; his wife, Melaina, is tending to his cuts. Xena and Gabrielle are sitting at the table as well, goblets in front of them; a boy about ten brings up a basin of water while a girl of about seven looks on.

     So you're a soldier?

MELAINA (cleaning a cut on Straton's face):
      Former soldier.

STRATON (winces):
     And would be still, if it weren't for this blasted leg! I took an arrow in it years ago; since then... (points sadly to his leg) No more battles for me.

Melaina starts to wrap a bandage around his arm.

     And you're a worshipper of Ares.

BOY (excitedly):
     Ares saved Dad's life once--tell 'em, Dad!

Straton hesitates.

     Please. We'd like to hear about it.

STRATON (winces a little as Melaina bandages his arm):
     Well...I was in a battle a few years ago, and a handful of us--my friends and I--were trapped by the enemy. It seemed like we didn't have a chance to make it out alive. (as he speaks, his features become animated) Then, I prayed to Ares to give me strength--and a miracle happened. Suddenly, I felt no fear and no pain--it was as if something greater than myself drove me into battle and gave me the strength of six men. I broke through the encirclement, and my friends and I were saved. It was Ares who did it.

Xena shakes her head.

     Straton, Ares doesn't care about any of his followers. He--

Gabrielle elbows Xena; Xena turns, giving her a "what was that for?" look. Melaina finishes bandaging Straton's arm and turns to Xena and Gabrielle.

     A lot of worshippers of Ares--and the other gods--have left Pelius.

     Yes, we met some of them on our way here. Do you plan to--

MELAINA (interrupts):
     Why should we? This is our home. We were both raised here--our families have lived here from the day it was built. (sadly) But now...it looks like we have no choice. Look what happened today! But the worst of it is that it's happening to the children, too. They've been called names, taunted about their parents...the other day Likos even came home from school with a black eye! (fighting back tears) He was beaten by kids twice his size while the teacher did nothing. Now that--that just isn't right! Children should not have to suffer for the choices their parents make!

Xena turns to the two children, who are upset but trying to look brave.

XENA (reassuring):
     Don't worry--everything will be all right.

GIRL (defiantly):
     I live here. I won't go away!

     With a bit of luck, you won't have to. (Off Xena's wry look; defensively) What? It sounds better than 'a bit of Xena'.

     Point taken.


Aprhodite's temple. It is now empty and stripped of all its riches; there is only debris left. The double doors are wide open, one door hanging off a hinge.

Xena and Gabrielle come in and stop, looking around them in horror and disgust.

GABRIELLE (picks up pieces of a broken vase):
     This is awful. (looks around) I can't believe Aphrodite didn't do anything to stop them. I mean--she's pretty possessive about her temples.

     Maybe she was afraid.

     Of what--of mortals?

     Well--apparently, this king has some sort of powers, remember?

GABRIELLE (dropping the jar pieces):
     So what do we do?

     We pay him a visit and find out what's really going on.


The city square. A crowd is gathered in front of a platform guarded by soldiers, on which Paeonis sits on a throne. On the same platform are statues of gods: Zeus, Ares, Hera, and Aphrodite. The royal palace is behind the platform.

A middle-aged man who looks like a former soldier is led up on the platform by soldiers and prodded toward the statue of Ares. He looks like he doesn't wants to be up there. As the man stands still, shuffling his feet, Paeonis frowns impatiently.


MIDDLE-AGED MAN (not too convincingly):
     Curse the gods!

     How about--with a little more feeling?

MIDDLE-AGED MAN (putting on an act):
     Curse the gods! They have done nothing for us. Hail our king Paeonis!

He hesitates, takes a deep breath, and finally spits on the statue of Ares, then glances fearfully at Paeonis. Paeonis gives a slight wave of the hand, his expression saying "that'll do."

The man comes down from the platform; a woman in her thirties comes up the steps.

WOMAN (yells at the statues):
     Damn the gods! Damn them all!

Some of the people in the crowd cheer. The woman reaches into her pocket, pulls out an egg and throws it at the statue of Hera, hitting it in the face. There is scattered laughter in the crowd as the woman looks ingratiatingly at Paeonis.

PAEONIS (nods his head in approval):
     Good, good. The egg was--creative.

As the woman steps down, one of the priestesses of Aphrodite whom we saw in the teaser, a beautiful blonde haired woman in a pink gown, is led up the podium by two soldiers. They push her toward the statue of Aphrodite. Her eyes are filled with tears.

     Spit on it.

PRIESTESS (sobbing):
     I can't! I can't betray my goddess!

The guard shoves her and she falls to the ground. Paeonis gets up from his throne, walks up to her and squats down next to her.

PAEONIS (in a gentle, almost comforting tone):
     Of course you can.

The young woman looks up at him through tears, her blonde hair hanging down.

PRIESTESS (tearfully):
     No, no--

PAEONIS (thinks a moment):
     Very well. Then get up and kiss her hand.

The young woman gives him an uncomprehending look.

PAEONIS (smiles contemptuously):
     You heard me.

He gets up, pulling the priestess to her feet. She gingerly approaches the statue of Aphrodite while Paeonis stares intensely at the statue. As the priestess bends down toward the statue's hand, the hand suddenly moves. There are gasps in the crowd as the statue grabs the priestess by the throat. A close-up on the priestess's terrified face as she struggles for breath, trying in vain to loosen the marble hand's grip on her throat.

PAEONIS (smiles cruelly):
     This is what you get from your goddess.

The young woman struggles for breath. Paeonis continues to stare at the statue and its grip on the priestess's throat unclenches, letting the woman fall to the floor. She coughs, clutching at her throat. Paeonis squats at her side again and strokes her hair almost seductively.

PAEONIS (smiles):
     Think you can say it now? Unless, of course, you haven't had enough yet.

PRIESTESS (mutters through tears):
     Curse Aphrodite!

PAEONIS (shakes his head as his fingers in her hair tighten):
     Louder. Like you really mean it.

The priestess cries harder, then looks up at the statue.

PRIESTESS (crying):
     Damn Aphrodite! Damn all the gods!

PAEONIS (harshly):
     That's good. But you can do better.

PRIESTESS (screams):
      Damn the gods!

Paeonis smiles approvingly and gets up, letting go of her hair as she sobs.

OLD MAN (off-camera):
     You ought to be ashamed, you--bully!

There are gasps in the crowd. The camera pans to a man in his sixties who looks nervous and angry at the same time.

PAEONIS (eyes him scornfully):
     Do you want to challenge me, old man? Then why don't you step up and do something about it.

The man looks at him, shaking in terror.

PAEONIS (chuckles):
     I didn't think so. (to guards) Take him to the prison.

The man is dragged away and the priestess of Aphrodite, still sobbing, stumbles off the platform. Paeonis looks at the crowd, obviously satisfied.


PAEONIS (smiles):
     Any other challengers?

XENA (off-screen):

The camera pans around to show an angry Warrior Princess approaching the platform, looking up at Paeonis as we: