Disclaimers: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess and all other associated with the television series of the same name are owned by MCA/ Universal Pictures. This is a work of fan fiction and no copyright infringement is intended.
Subtext: I guess with my writing so far we'll just quit calling it subtext and call it maintext. Yes they are in love with each other.
Other: Part Sixtyfive in the series "Raising Melosa". Takes place right after "The Cave."
I plunged the torch at the three-headed beast, it snarled, backing away slightly. "Oh so you dont like fire huh?" Suddenly I wished I had three hands. I knew I needed to make a decision quick or die where I stood. I tossed my sword behind me then I reached for the skin at my waist.
I flicked the stopper away with my thumb then very slowly brought it to my lips taking a big drink, which I held in my mouth. It was nearly impossible. This was the oil Mother uses to fuel fires. I nearly gagged trying to hold it as I brought the torch near my face before blowing as hard as I could sending a stream of flame right for the beast.
It howled in fury and pain as the flames and the light bounced off the cave walls. The beast turned tail and ran further into the tunnel. Knowing when a retreat is in order I turned, still trying to keep from gagging, grabbed my sword and went back the way I came. At least we both remembered or respective ways out, I took mine as quickly as I could.
Once back in the main cavern I was quick to get to my water and try to wash out my mouth. Oil and water do not make a good mix and I was even quicker to throw up. Not that it helped, but I felt a little better. Just as I was about to try and figure out what might help I heard something from the first entrance that Uncle Auto took. I spit again and turned for that entrance.
"Uncle Auto?" I called as I moved forward.
"Mel Mel be careful the floor gives and it quicksand down here. I need a rope."
"Okay hold on."
"Hurry Mel its up to my underarms and Im sinking fast."
I moved to the mouth of the cave retrieving two ropes and knotting them together securely. I knew I needed to tie the off on something to be even slightly effective. Uncle Auto would probably pull me right with him if I tried to hold onto it. I looked around again. Damn I need to remember how much I hate smooth cave walls.
Okay I decided I had to try it. I took a dagger from my boot and praying I had enough strength to make it work I drove it into the ground. It went it up to the hilt, surprising me, then I remembered who had made it for me. I tied one end of the rope off then headed into the tunnel. "Uncle Auto Im coming."
"Good job kiddo." He called back with a light chuckle. Where this man found his sense of humor at times like this made me wonder about him. Ive always thought he might be a dinar or two short of a gold piece. I slid down the floor of the tunnel tossing out the rope as I went. "Hey I got it Mel."
"Can you get yourself out?"
"Gods I hope so. If not Im too damned old to be in this business."
With several grunts, a loud sucking noise followed by a long groan and a soggy thud, I could tell Uncle Auto was loose. "You okay?"
"Well," I felt the tugs on the rope as he hauled himself up the rope," other than the fact that my clothes are soaked and every muscle in my body is bruised, Im not to bad. Bet I make a squishing noise when I walk." He laughed as he fell down next to me. Yup, he was losing it.
"Well, lets see if we can find Mom. We all seem to be having a rough day of it. Wonder if hers is going any better."
Once back into the main entrance we made for the third tunnel. Uncle Auto was right he did squish when he walked. I glanced to him at which point he gave me a Well what do you want me to do about it look. I just shook my head. As I did I noticed something in the floor. I knelt down and wiped my fingers though it.
"What is it?" He held the torch closer for me.
"Blood." I looked at my feet as my eyes followed the trail into the entrance of the fourth tunnel. "This isnt good."
"Maybe its not hers ." His voice trailed off as we headed into the tunnel.
"Oh its mine all right." She called to us from further into the tunnel
I rushed forward to find her leaning against the wall of the cave.
Her sword arm had a bad gash in the shoulder. Her sword dangled from her hand. "Nice of you to make it."
"Well we ran into a couple of little things." I answered as I began digging though my bag for bandages. "Sit down before you fall down."
"Yes maam." She laughed a little through the pain as she slid down the wall. She looked to Uncle Autolycus, covered in the muck from the pit. "New look? Niice."
"Short dock. Long walk." He grinned as he knelt down next to her and dumped a little water on her shoulder to clean it up as I readied a bandage.
"This is gonna hurt." I told her as I put the first bandage in place.
"Yeah, yeah I know." She growled, "Just get it over with."
I wrapped up her arm and shoulder. "Its gonna need stitches."
"When were done here." She looked to Autolycus, handing him a set of keys.
"Lemme guess. Keys to the front gate?"
"No, the keys to the cell that holds Artemis. I persuaded a couple of Heras guards it might be a good idea for me to hold onto them. Youve got to figure out which key goes into which lock, in the proper order."
"Oh great!" Uncle Auto examined the keys. "Aww Tartarus Xena theyre all just about the same."
"I never said it was gonna be easy." She winced as I tightened the bandage around her shoulder. "You have hands like a sailor."
"Hey youre the one bleeding all over the place." I reminded her as I gave the bandage another tug just for good measure.
"A few mint leaves will take that oil out of your mouth too."
"Push me Mom go ahead. Ive had a hard day." I snickered
"And I havent? Im the one bleeding remember?" I felt the tips of her fingers on my forehead in a little slap.
"Well if youd learn to duck this kinds thing wouldnt happen."
"Un-huh." She adjusted then tried to stand only to slide back down. "Nope too much blood loss. Dizzy."
"Then stay put. Mel and Ill deal with this." He gave her a pat on her wounded shoulder, which caused her to groan.
"Oh sorry about that." He winced with her.
"Un-huh." She glared at him. "Be careful or Ill have her kick your ass." She jerked her thumb at me.
He laughed as we stood up from her. "No doubt in my mind." Hey turned to me jingling the keys a bit. "Shall we?"
"You gonna be okay here by yourself?" I didnt want to leave her with that creature roaming around. "Theres this three headed thingy ."
"Baby hydra. Yeah, I heard it scream a while ago. Did you do that?"
"That was a baby hydra. Gods Id hate to see the full grown version, but yeah I guess I did."
"So, what youre telling me, is that Im sitting here wounded and theres a pissed off baby hydra running around in here with me."
"That sums it up in twenty-five word or less, yeah." I shrugged at her.
She braced against the wall, pulling herself up. "Im going with you. They tend to follow the smell of blood."
"Might I remind you Xena," Uncle Auto waved his hand aimlessly in the air. "Where you go so goes the smell."
"Suffer." She grinned as she handed me her sword and pointed to her scabbard with her good hand. I moved behind her and sliding it in. "I dont intend to sit here and be a mid-day meal for an over grown three headed lizard."
"Good point." He grinned as he twirled the ring of keys. "You might make him sick."
"Long walk, short dock."
I waved a little to get their attention. "Umm guys. Goddess. Cage. Remember?"
"Shes right Autolycus lets get going." We headed further into the tunnel. I did my best to try and keep an eye on Mother. She was weak and not moving as quickly as she should. She faltered once catching my shoulder. "Sorry." She whispered as we continued on.
"Right here for ya pal." I patted her hand as she stood back up. "You gonna be okay?"
"Yeah, but I gotta tell you I think my arm has had it."
"Dont jump to conclusions Mom."
"No, Mel I can tell its bad. Its deep."
"Just hold on. Well get you all taken care of."
"I know you will pal." She gave me a smile as we continued forward.
Once again we have to make a choice between three more tunnels. One thing that is for sure were all going together this time.
"So," I turned to Mother. "Whaddya think?"
"Well, Ive got to tell you I didnt have much luck with door number three last time." She chuckled.
"Then shall we try number one?" I moved a little closer to it.
"Pay no attention to the man in the squishy boots." Uncle Auto called from his spot leaning on a cave wall. "Door number one is how my wardrobe got umm ."
"Gamey? Gotta tell you Autolycus, you stink like the River Styx in summer." Mother snickered as she faltered a little. "The hydra wont be able to smell the blood because it wont be able to smell anything but you." He caught her before she hit the wall. "Thanks."
"No problem. Sit down for a little bit." He helped her to the floor of the cave.
"Well door two wasnt any better. Large lizard, larger claws." I offered as I tried to see into the tunnel. "Great big teeth. Three sets of em."
"Then again," Mother said as her head dropped back a bit as she rested against the wall. "There are probably a whole new set of problems down these tunnels." I noticed that her eyes dropped shut.
"Oh that was helpful. Thanks." I grumbled, wishing we had some way of knowing which way to go.
"My pleasure pal." She laughed a little as she opened her eyes. "Well," She struggled to her feet. "One thing is for sure. We arent getting anywhere standing here talking about it. Mel you choose."
"Oh no! That makes it my fault if we find something really bad. You choose. Youre used to things being your fault."
She nodded as she pointed to the second tunnel and we started down it.
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