Bodecia, the Dark, and the Light

Xena Movie 4

EXT. EVENING. HIGUTCHI, JAPAN. XENAVERSE 14 B.C.

V.O. GABRIELLE
Who can define the fine line between what is reality, and what is only a wild story imagined within a nightmare? We don’t really know if we are in life, or if we are within something greater than our own existence. As Xena and I stood upon the walls of the fortress in the village of Higutchi she contemplated what it was that she must do in order to succeed.

FADE UP into a distant eerie misty mountain range.

ALT XENA
Can you hear them?

ALT GABRIELLE
I thought I heard a horse before.

ALT XENA
Listen not to just the sounds, but listen to what is behind the sounds.

ALT GABRIELLE closes her eyes and a MONTAGE of scenes with SOLDIERS marching flows through her mind. ALT GABRIELLE opens her eyes and takes a deep cleansing breath. She turns and looks to ALT XENA standing behind her.

ALT GABRIELLE
How many are there?

ALT XENA
At least three armies are gathering.

ALT GABRIELLE and ALT XENA stand together focused viewing the distant mountains.

ALT GABRIELLE
I’ll warn the others.

ALT GABRIELLE exits. ALT HAROGOTA enters from the stone stairs above approaching ALT XENA.

V.O GABRIELLE
Xena had to convince Harogota of her desire to undo her wrong. This was my greatest fear for I was unaware of what it would cost for Xena to redeem herself this time.

ALT XENA turns to face HAROGOTA.

ALT XENA
Ghostkiller. I know that you think of me as your enemy, but you must believe this. My spirit aches for the torment I’ve caused.

ALT HAROGOTA
(beat)
We both want the same thing, to release those souls.

ALT XENA
You’ve dedicated your life to killing Lord Yodoshi. Why is it that you have never succeeded?

ALT HAROGOTA
I have the power to slay him. But it is impossible for me to get close enough you use my blade.

ALT XENA
Why?

ALT HAROGOTA
Because, I am mortal.

ALT XENA makes a realization.

ALT HAROGOTA
Only another ghost can trap a spirit as mighty as Yodoshi.
ALT XENA makes a second realization and then gazes out toward the distant mountain ranges. FADE OUT.

INT. MORNING. TEMPLE. HIGUTCHI, JAPAN.
CROSS DISOLVE into temple. PAN across empty temple until we reveal a door and then ALT XENA in praying alone. She is preparing for a battle.

ALT XENA
Akemi, I know what I must do. But I’m afraid that with this day, what’s done may not be undone.

ALT GABRIELLE enters through the temple door.

ALT GABRIELLE
Xena, the militia is prepared.

ALT XENA does not respond.

ALT GABRIELLE
Why aren’t you ready?

ALT XENA
Gabrielle, come here.

ALT GABRIELLE hesitates then moves closer to ALT XENA

ALT XENA
Gabrielle, come here. Give me your hands.

ALT GABRIELLE obeys the command and kneels down before ALT XENA.

ALT XENA
Alright.

ALT XENA takes ALT GABRIELLE’S hands and places them on both sides of her neck.

ALT XENA
Here. Feel the surge of blood under the skin.

ALT GABRIELLE follows the instruction.

ALT XENA
Now Gabrielle, just behind that…

ALT GABRIELLE pulls away.

ALT GABRIELLE
Xena! You don’t have to do this. I understand why you would never want to teach me the pinch.

ALT XENA
No! No today more than ever. I want you to know what I know. Please.

ALT XENA nods approval toward ALT GABRIELLE. ALT GABRIELLE surrenders again to ALT XENA’S lesson. ALT XENA uses ALT GABRIELLE’s hands to apply the pinch move upon herself. ALT GABRIELLE flinches at the thought of her friend’s life being at her hands in the balance.

ALT GABRIELLE
Why are you doing this?

ALT XENA struggles to speak as blood flows out of her nose.

ALT XENA
Gabrielle, if I only had thirty seconds to live. This is how I’d want to live them. Looking into your eyes.

ALT GABRIELLE shakes ALT XENA’s shoulders with emotional alarm.

ALT GABRIELLE
Stop this! Stop it!

ALT XENA
Always remember I love you.

ALT XENA guides ALT GABRIELLE to release her from death.

INT. NIGHT. TAVERN IN POTEDIA. XENAVERSE 2 AD.
GABRIELLE sits on a table inside a full tavern telling her tales of her time with the warrior princess.

GABRIELLE
I felt something very strange about this moment. As if the final moment had passed between me and my soul mate together as one in this life.

YOUNG BOY
Where is Xena now?

GABRIELLE
She is in my heart. Where she will always live.

YOUNG GIRL
Can we see her in your heart?

GABRIELLE
When you look inside my soul, she will see you.

YOUNG BOY 2
Gabrielle, how do we see her in your soul?

GABRIELLE
It’s getting late. If you all come back tomorrow night I can finish the story of the great warrior princess.
All the children groan with disappointment, and young people, and older people in the tavern begin to disperse.

LILLA is cleaning and closing up the tavern. GABRIELLE joins her at the bar area and helps her.

LILLA
You still miss her don’t you?

GABRIELLE
Of course I miss her Lilla. But I know she is still with me always.

LILLA
Why didn’t you bring her back?

GABRIELLE
It was not what she wanted. Xena needed redemption more than anything. I chose to honor her as she had asked.

LILLA
If she has been gone for 60 seasons why didn’t you come home sooner?

GABRIELLE
Lilla, Xena left me with a huge responsibility to continue fighting for the greater good.

LILLA
Why aren’t you still fighting? Why did you come home now?

GABRIELLE
I’m not as young as I used to be. I need to find someone I can pass on Xena’s legacy to.

LILLA
You’re one to talk. At least you stayed frozen on top of a mountain for 25 years and still look not a day over 40.

GABRIELLE
No matter what you will always be my silly little sister Lilla. Now quit worrying about me and what I’m going to do and get some sleep. I’ll finish up here.

LILLA
I’m glad your home Gabrielle.

INT. NIGHT. GABRIELLE’S BEDROOM
GABRIELLE is preparing to turn in. GABRIELLE places her staff against the wall. She removes her sais from her boots beneath her healer’s clothing. Reveal GABRIELLE pulling the CHAKRAM from beneath her clothing pausing to look at it and then setting it onto the table with her sais. GABRIELLE looks in the mirror.

GABRIELLE
Xena, give me a sign. Who would you leave your legacy to when I am no longer here to continue it?

GABRIELLE removes her hat and jewelry. Then GABRIELLE moves to the window and looks out at the silent village of Potedia in contemplation. She watches as someone down below rides by on horseback. CU GABRIELLE in contemplation. CROSS DISSOLVE.

EXT. ROME. ALT XENAVERSE. RAINY PATH

CROSS DISSOLVE ALT GABRIELLE rides a horse in the rain.

EXT. ROME. ALT XENAVERSE. TEMPLE OF THE FATES

ALT GABRIELLE rides up to the temple entrance and dismounts focused and determined.

INT. ROME. ALT XENAVERSE. TEMPLE OF THE FATES
ALT GABRIELLE bursts through the temple doors focused and determined. REVEAL the LOOM is in shambles lying on the floor of the temple. ALT GABRIELLE realizes that there is nothing that can be done. Despair and rage begin to take hold.

ALT GABRIELLE
It’s horrible.

The FATES are in shackles unable to tend their LOOM.

FATE 1
When Caesar left us chained…

FATE 2
We could not mind the loom…

FATE 3
Creating a world full of chaos, and confusion.

ALT GABRIELLE
We’re stuck in this world because of you?

ALT GABRIELLE reaches out above the FATES upon the wall for a hanging torch. She uses the torch to examine the faces of the FATES closer. The FATES fear her. ALT GABRIELLE turns away from the FATES with her torch and walks back toward the broken LOOM.

FATE 1
No! Burning the loom will destroy everything!

CU emotional ALT GABRIELLE

ALT GABRIELLE
So be it!

ALT GABRIELLE moves closer to the LOOM with her torch.

ALT GABRIELLE
Your loom destroyed what was meant to be.

ALT GABRIELLE hurls the heavy torch into the loom setting it on fire for total destruction. ALT GABRIELLE and the FATES feel the universal power of the loom as it is burning away into nothing. ALT GABRIELLE collapses before the burning loom.

V.O. XENA
I love you Gabrielle.

INT. MORNING. GABRIELLE’S BEDROOM

V.O. XENA
(softly whispering)
Gabrielle wake up!

GABRIELLE suddenly awakens from her dream. She is puzzled for a moment until she realizes she was just having a dream.

INT. MORNING. TAVERN IN POTEDIA

LILLA is behind the bar serving the morning patrons. The tavern is full with loud rambunctious families enjoying their morning meal and company. GABRIELLE enters from upstairs carrying her scroll bag, and her staff. She appears ready to go somewhere.

LILLA
Gabrielle, where are you going?

GABRIELLE
I need to go see the fates.

LILLA
I thought you had given up the old Greek gods?

GABRIELLE
It’s difficult to explain. I’ll be back.

GABRIELLE rushes out of the busy tavern.

LILLA
What about the end of that story you were going to tell the children?

LILLA looks out at the children sitting in front of her.

LILLA
I guess it will have to wait.

EXT. DAY. TEMPLE OF THE FATES
GABRIELLE rides up. She cautiously dismounts her horse noticing that there is a second horse unattended outside the temple. GABRIELLE pulls her sais and looks around. Then she decides to enter the temple with her weapon drawn.

INT. DAY. TEMPLE OF THE FATES
GABRIELLE slowly enters through the temple doors. All is quiet, dark, and mysterious. Down at the other end of the temple a figure sits in front of the pristine loom. GABRIELLE slowly approaches the figure deciding to put her weapons away. She then chooses to pull out the chakram.

GABRIELLE
You there. Show yourself!

CLOAKED FIGURE slowly rises from seated position in front of the loom. CLOAKED FIGURE slowly turns to face GABRIELLE and takes off her hood revealing EVE.

GABRIELLE
Eve.

GABRIELLE puts away the CHAKRAM and approaches EVE embracing her.

GABRIELLE
What are you doing here? I thought you were still in Rome?

EVE
Gabrielle, I had a vision while in prayer. My vision guided me to come here to meet with you.

GABRIELLE
What else did your vision say?

EVE
Nothing more. I was hoping you would know the answer to that.

GABRIELLE
I came because I had a dream last night. It was a dream I had once before, a very long time ago. In my dream I destroyed the fates’ loom because it had created a world where I never knew your mother.

EVE
Did you come to destroy the loom?

GABRIELLE
I’m not sure. In my dream the loom was unkept. This one is in pristine condition. I don’t think I am meant to destroy it.

EVE
Maybe the oracle in Delphi can help you interpret your dream.

GABRIELLE
I don’t believe in accidents, and it is no accident that we have met here. Let’s pay the oracle a visit.

MONTAGE: GABRIELLE AND EVE HORSEBACK RIDING ACROSS DISTANCES

EXT. TEMPLE OF THE ORACLE
GABRIELLE and EVE dismount their horses.

EVE
Gabrielle, I will wait here. You should see her. Tell her about your dream.

GABRIELLE
I won’t be long.

EVE
Take your time. You may be longer than you think.

INT. DAY. ORACLE DELPHI GREECE. XENAVERSE 2 A.D.
FADE UP as GABRIELLE is seated in front of the ORACLE and she is in a state of mediation. Her eyes are closing as she breathes deeply in and out. POV is above inside the oracle’s temple, but the camera slowly MOVES DOWN, PUSHES IN and around both GABRIELLE and then the ORACLE. The ORACLE is dressed in robes and a veil that covers all of her face except her eyes.

GABRIELLE V.O.
It followed many seasons after the fates had colluded. In a dream, Gabrielle had destroyed the loom of the fates, and a new story was born. The battling bard Gabrielle had not written another tale of Xena the Warrior Princess since. Gabrielle’s last scroll had been written after she had dreamed of another universe in which her beloved friend Xena the Warrior Princess had lived.

FLASHBACK:
Montage of scenes from the original series from the episode “When Fates Collide.” Include ALT XENA’s crucifixion by ALT CAESAR, ALT CAESAR’s murder by ALT ALTI, and ALT GABRIELLE throwing the burning torch into the fates’ loom destroying it.

INT. DAY. ORACLE DELPHI GREECE. 2 A.D.
CU GABRIELLE still seated meditating with the ORACLE shifting within her mind moment to moment. ORACLE is seemingly sharing these moments within mediation.

GABRIELLE V.O.
It was more like a vision that had occurred to the bard during a visit to the oracle. Though the bard Gabrielle first had the dream 60 seasons before, upon Xena’s death in the distant land of Higutchi, Gabrielle now found herself deep in meditation with the oracle at Delphi. During Gabrielle’s trance with the oracle she saw her old dream from long before flash through her soul and sense once more. It was as real is if it had actually happened within another time place and space.

FLASHBACK:

EXT. DAY. MISTY DENSE FOREST
ALT GABRIELLE is disoriented walking alone in the forest unaware of her surroundings as she explores carefully. ALT XENA rides up upon her horse to greet ALT GABRIELLE who turns around upon hearing ALT XENA approaching. ALT XENA extends her hand out to ALT GABRIELLE offering her a ride upon her horse.

ALT XENA
Hey.

ALT GABRIELLE
Hi.

ALT XENA
You brought the world back to us.

ALT GABRIELLE
I’m glad. I like this one better.

ALT XENA
Why is that?

ALT GABRIELLE accepts ALT XENA’s offer for a ride upon her horse.

ALT GABRIELLE
Because you never you never left me to die in battle at Higutchi.

ALT XENA
What about realizing your dream of being a famous playwright?

ALT GABRIELLE
Fame? Who needs it?

ALT GABRIELLE wraps her arms around ALT XENA as they ride. FADE OUT into the ORACLE.

INT. DAY. ORACLE DELPHI GREECE
FADE UP into smoke and incense burning. GABRIELLE’s eyes are still closed. The ORACLE is entranced with GABRIELLE as she has her visions. ORACLE is clothed in white angelic flowing robes. As the camera moves in on ORACLE it reveals the ORACLE has deep piercing blue eyes as they slowly open. Carefully the ORACLE reaches her hands out and gently places them upon GABRIELLE’s face.
XENA
(speaking softly)
Gabrielle, open your eyes.

GABRIELLE slowly opens her eyes. GABRIELLE recognizes XENA. Gabrielle sheds joyful tears. XENA smiles.

GABRIELLE
Xena!

XENA
Gabrielle, I am only a vision with in the body of the oracle.

GABRIELLE
I’ve missed you Xena. It’s been 60 seasons since…
XENA raises her hand and gently places her finger upon GABRIELLE’s lips.

XENA
I’ve missed you too Gabrielle.
XENA’s eyes welling up with joyful tears.

XENA
You haven’t changed.

GABRIELLE
I’ve been lost without you Xena. I’ve tried to continue on the fight for the greater good, but it has become more than I can bare alone.

XENA
It’s all right Gabrielle. We can be together again soon, but I need your help.

GABRIELLE
Anything, Xena.

XENA
Gabrielle, I need you to do something. What I am about to ask of you won’t be easy. But first I need to confess something to you.

GABRIELLE
Even in death you still hold secrets from me?

XENA
Gabrielle it’s important you know that I made a deal with Ares after you fell into the fire pit with Hope.

GABRIELLE
My daughter? What about Hope?

FLASHBACK:

Montage of scenes from “Sacrifice II.” ALT GABRIELLE falls into the fire pit with look-alike daughter HOPE. ALT XENA and ALT JOXER are overcome with grief as they watch ALT GABRIELLE falling to her unexpected death. ARES god of war, disappears within his godly force as ALT JOXER lunges at him attacking clumbsily with his sword. ALT JOXER misses and plunges himself into a wall.

INT. DAY. ORACLE DELPHI GREECE

GABRIELLE
I don’t understand Xena.

XENA
I agreed to a binding contract to marry Ares for eternity after my life with you ended. You remember the vision that Alti gave me? You were alive only to die with me upon Caesar’s cross?

GABRIELLE
You agreed to spend eternity with Ares?

XENA
It was the only way I could bring you back to me. It was the only way that I could find you.

GABRIELLE
Xena. I was willing to die to save you from my evil daughter. I knew the memory of her would torment me for the rest of my life. Knowing I had to take her life again.

XENA
You meant to commit suicide?

GABRIELLE
Xena, you should have just let me go then. I was in so much despair. We could have been together in the next life. In my next life I will never remember that I had an evil daughter. I’ve lived more years without you now than with you in this life.

XENA
I’m so sorry Gabrielle. You’re right. I should have let you go, but I couldn’t. I was never as strong as you. If you had not been there I would never have been able to return to Valhalla to repair the damage I caused there. I would never have been able to release those 40,000 souls in Higutchi. That is why I need your help now. I need to send you to my past.

GABRIELLE
What do you mean send me to your past?

XENA
I need to send you to my past with Ares. I never told you the whole story of how we met, and how I allowed him to stir my passion for blood-lust.

EXT. NIGHT. WOODS. NORSE LANDS 52 BC

ALT XENA is camped alone stirring up a fire. She is dressed as a Valkarie. 52 B.C. flashes up on the screen.

FLASHBACK:
ALT XENA forging the ring from the RHINEGOLD.
FLASHBACK : ALT XENA being attacked by GRENDALL the monster and losing the battle for the ring.

ALT XENA
Don’t think you’ve won anything! These chains will hold you for an eternity and you will never use the power of the ring!

EXT. NIGHT. WOODS
A frustrated ALT XENA still camped stirring up the fire as she is running her recent failure at Valhalla through her mind. Suddenly there is a bright flash of light. ARES the god of war appears standing on the opposite side of the fire before her. ALT XENA instantly jumps up from her seated position in the camp drawing her sword taking a defensive position. ARES pulls his sword awaiting her attack. ALT XENA charges toward ARES flipping into action.

ALT XENA
Sheeee-ya!

ALT XENA and ARES do battle. ARES is clearly enjoying the encounter and the challenge of ALT XENA’s warrior skills against him. ARES toys with ALT XENA in their battle. ALT XENA is all business against him. After ARES tests ALT XENA’s moves against him he disarms her with a quick god-like move. ALT XENA wildly charges at him without her weapon. ARES easily blocks her advance. ARES twists ALT XENA’s arm behind her and holds her tightly and close to his body.

ARES
I’m not here to fight you.

ALT XENA struggles to release herself from his firm grasp. ARES is clearly stronger and stays in control.

ALT XENA
Who are you?

ARES
Xena, I am about to become your most loyal friend and ally. You need allies right now.
ARES releases ALT XENA from his grasp. ALT XENA quickly twists her body around to face him putting some cautious distance between herself and him.

ALT XENA
(Scowling)
How do you know my name?

ARES
Well. Let’s just say I heard it from some local bards in the Norse lands. That is where you just came from. Am I right?
ARES and ALT XENA circle one another around the camp fire burning. Neither one takes his or her close eye off of the other.

ALT XENA
So I made a name for myself.

ARES
Exactly! I’ve been following you for some time now. Let’s just say that I am your biggest fan. Your path of destruction through Greece, Chuppa, and Chin impresses me. I don’t impress easily.

YOUNG XENA lets her guard down ever so slightly, but still keeps a close eye on ARES. She stops circling the fire and pauses in front of her sword upon the ground. ARES mirrors her move.

ALT XENA
You seem to know a lot about me, but I’ve heard nothing about you. Why would I want to ally with a nobody?

ARES
I’m the greatest nobody you’ll ever meet. The one who is going to shape, and mold you into somebody.

ALT XENA
You’re an attractive nobody. I’ll give you that.

ARES has ALT XENA entranced with his natural godly charms. ARES moves slowly toward ALT XENA.

ARES
Well that is a start.

ALT XENA
A start, to what?

ARES
A start to your partnership with the most powerful war god you will ever know.

ALT XENA uses her boot to retrieve her sword from its resting place. Effortlessly ALT XENA captures her sword in her hand and sheathes it back into its place of rest.

ALT XENA
I just left Odin in Valhalla. If you know me so well you’ll know gods don’t impress me. They’re weak.

ARES
Odin. Despite his attempt to be a hard-ass I’d say it’s not in his nature. That is why he is the god of Valhalla and not the god of war.

ALT XENA
There is a god for war in every culture. What makes you such a special god?
ARES uses this opportunity to move even closer into ALT XENA’s personal space.

ARES
None of the other war gods know amazing talent when they see it. That is what makes me different from the rest. They are all content with just conquering their little corner of the world. But me, I am an ambitious war god. Sure, I’ve got control over Greece, and maybe some parts of Rome, but I want to rule the entire world of war.

ALT XENA
So you’re Ares…

ARES
Yes, and I have a certain bone to pick with a certain little man who seems to think he has a special destiny.

ALT XENA
Caesar!

ALT XENA moves away from the seemingly instant sexual tension ARES has easily created between them. Her focus has suddenly shifted into an alternate raw emotion.

ARES moves away from ALT XENA realizing the nerve he has touched.

ARES
Yes, Caesar! If I remember correctly I do believe the two of you have a very important history together. So I’ve heard.

ALT XENA
(extreme focus)

Yes.

ARES
He seems to think he is going to conquer a little island called Britannia.

ARES takes the opportunity to regain the sexual tension moving back into ALT XENA’s personal space.

ARES
I want you to have that island. If you’ll just put your trust in me Xena, I can show you where to find a very powerful weapon. It’s one of a kind. Using this weapon I can show you the way to defeat Caesar.

ALT XENA
And what do you want from me?

ARES
All I want from you Xena is your undying loyalty and your unforsaken love.
ARES smiles, laughs, then vanishes within a powerful ball of light.

FLASHFORWARD:

INT. DAY. ORACLE DELPHI GREECE

GABRIELLE
You want me to stop you from meeting with Ares?

XENA
No. I want you to make sure that I don’t kill Bodecia when I betray her.

GABRIELLE
But you didn’t kill Bodecia Xena.

XENA
Gabrielle, it’s because of you that I didn’t kill Bodecia. You were in my past, but I didn’t know it then. You saved Bodecia’s life. You saved Bodecia because I sent you to save her from me.

GABRIELLE
Xena, that doesn’t make any sense.

XENA
It will Gabrielle. Take my hands.

XENA reaches out her hands toward GABRIELLE. GABRIELLE reaches out and takes XENA’s hands.

XENA
Remember Gabrielle that you must use me to help you stop Ares, but you must also keep your identity secret from me. You cannot tell the younger me who you are. I won’t listen anyway. I was too blinded by blood-lust then.

GABRIELLE
How will I use your younger self to stop Ares when I can’t tell you the truth?

XENA
Gabrielle you will have to betray me.

GABRIELLE
How will I do that?

XENA
You will help me and Ares steal the dark chakram from Kal in the Celtic lands. We will do it using Bodecia and her army.

GABRIELLE
How do I get to the past?

XENA
Do you still have my chakram?

GABRIELLE reaches underneath her clothing and reveals Xena’s CHAKRAM. GABRIELLE then hands XENA her CHAKRAM.

GABRIELLE

I’ve never spent a day without carrying it with me. It’s like having a part of you that is still alive. It has kept me safe.
XENA smiles proudly and takes the CHAKARM from GABRIELLE.

XENA
Gabrielle, it’s time. Are you ready?

GABRIELLE
Yes Xena.

XENA reaches her hands out and softly touches GABRIELLE’S face.

XENA

Close your eyes.

EXT. DAY. BRITANNIA. 52 BC. OPEN BATTLEFIELD.
PERSEUDICAS is placing his hands upon GABRIELLE’S face. He is shaking her. GABRIELLE appears disoriented for a moment and then she falls backward to the ground. GABRIELLE is dressed as a healer with long hair, a hat.

PERSEUDICAS
Who are you? Why are you following us?

GABRIELLE appears confused for a moment then looks to BODECIA.

GABRIELLE
You’re Bodecia!

BODECIA looks to PERSEUDICAS.

GABRIELLE
Where is Xena?

BODECIA
You know the warrior princess?

PERSEUDICAS
Don’t trust her Bodecia. You can’t trust anyone with a reputation like that.

BODECIA
How do you know Xena?

GABRIELLE
I’m in Brittania, right?

BODECIA
Yes. You must have been hit pretty hard.

GABRIELLE notices her minor head injury.

BODECIA
How do you know Xena?

GABRIELLE
I’m her best friend.

PERSEUDICAS
Xena doesn’t have any friends. She is the destroyer of nations.

BODECIA
Perseudicas, we have to reach out and ally with Xena. We have no choice.

PERSEUDICAS
Bodecia, there is always a choice. We could offer a truce with Caesar.

GABRIELLE
I know Caesar, and he will take Britannia. He will not agree to any terms for your people.

BODECIA
How do you know Caesar?

GABRIELLE
Caesar once betrayed Xena. His betrayal hardened her heart.

BODECIA reaches out to help GABRIELLE to her feet. GABRIELLE takes BODECIA’s hand.

BODECIA
(To Gabrielle)
You should choose your friends more wisely.

PERSUEDICAS
You said you could help us back there.

GABRIELLE
I can. If you’re looking for Xena I know her better than anyone. I can track her for you.

PERSEUDICAS
You don’t look like someone who knows too much about battle.

GABRIELLE

I was once a student of Xena’s.

GABRIELLE, still coming to her senses, surveys a fresh battle. The field is littered with injured and dead soldiers both Roman and soldiers of Britannia.

GABRIELLE
I can help you with your wounded.

GABRIELLE moves to a nearby wounded soldier. She scrounges up whatever supplies nearby she can to tend to his wounds. PERSEUDICAS looks to BODECIA.

PERSEUDICAS
Bodecia, how do you know we can trust this woman?

GABRIELLE works with the injured solider still listening to the conversation.

GABRIELLE
Xena sent me. She wants to defeat Caesar just as much as you do.

GABRIELLE looks to BODECIA.

GABRIELLE
You don’t have much time. From what I can tell, Caesar only sent a small garrison to test your defenses. Now that he knows what your strengths and weaknesses are he will come back at you.

PERSEUDICAS
He can’t possibly get reinforcements here from Rome in a day

GABRIELLE
Perseudicas, he has them out at sea waiting for his next command. He thinks of nothing, but conquering. His weakness is his arrogance. Caesar has a destiny.

BODECIA
We’ll need re-enforcements.

PERSEUDICAS
I will get out the word calling all arms.

BODECIA
We’ll rally in the north. That should buy us some more time before Caesar’s next strike.

GABRIELLE
I’ll find Xena. She will help you and your men defend Britannia.

EXT. TEMPLE OF THE ORACLE. 2 A.D.
EVE is tending to the horses as she awaits Gabrielle’s return from inside the temple. EVE reaches into Gabrielle’s scroll bag. She carefully opens it and begins to read it. CU EVE reading the scroll.

V.O. GABRIELLE
And so my struggle between guilt and loyalty had ended as I had forgiven Eve for her wrongs. I had accepted her for her own darkness as I had accepted Xena’s darkness so long ago. And then Xena had granted me her own gift. It was the gift of sharing in motherhood for she understood my pain in losing my own Hope. She wanted to give me a new hope. It was the part of my light that had been sacrificed for a friend so many winters ago. A loyal friend could not ask for much more than that.
CU reveal a hand reaching out from behind and grabbing EVE’s shoulder. EVE appears startled for a moment. Reveal XENA standing behind EVE dressed in the oracle’s clothing. EVE turns to face XENA.

EVE
Mother? You’re alive! How did you…

XENA reaches out to embrace her daughter.

XENA
Eve it’s so good to see you again.

EVE
Mother, where is Gabrielle?

XENA
I sent her to my past. There is something important for her to do there.

EVE
Are you the one who sent me the vision?

XENA
Yes. I needed you to bring Gabrielle here. It was the only way.

EVE
But how are you suddenly alive again?

XENA
I made a deal with the arch angel Michael.

EXT. HEAVEN
JOXER is in heaven as is AUTOLYCUS. JOXER is sporting angel wings. AUTOLYCUS has just arrived after death.

JOXER
So Autolycus, how do you like my new wings?

AUTOLYCUS
Of course, it would have to be you who greeted me at the gates of the Elysian Fields. This is the Elysian Fields, right?

JOXER
Well, sort of. Here they call the Elysian Fields heaven.

AUTOLYCUS
The Elysian Fields, heaven, whatever they call it. So why am I so wet?

MICHAEL
You’ve just passed through the waters of purification.

AUTOLYCUS
Okay. So does that mean I’m pure of all sin?

JOXER
Kind of.

AUTOLYCUS
So what do I need to do the get my wings? It can’t be very hard. If you can earn them Joxer, the standards must not be too high.

MICHAEL
Autolycus, Joxer got his wings after passing through some challenges. For each person the challenges are different in order to earn your wings.

AUTOLYCUS
That’s great. When do we start?

MICHAEL
You’re not ready. Joxer, I think you can handle it from here.

MICHAEL exits to tend to other matters.

AUTOLYCUS
(Shouting to Michael)
What do you mean I’m not ready? If this were really the Elysian Fields Cleopatra would be sitting in this tub with me right now.

EXT. HEAVEN
XENA is watching GABRIELLE from heaven. MICAHAEL enters.

MICHAEL
Xena we have a problem on earth with someone you know very well.

XENA
What are you talking about? Is it Gabrielle

MICHAEL
No. It’s not Gabrielle. In every universe Caesar dies because he has somehow betrayed you, and in every universe he tampers with the fates’ loom attempting to alter his destiny of death.

XENA
I don’t understand. I always thought that the fates were something invented by the Greek gods?

MICHAEL
The fates and their loom are tied to the Greek gods, but it is ultimately not the Greek gods that mind the loom. The fates do because it contains all soul contracts to be performed while in life upon the earth. Caesar has discovered this and he is destroying multiple universes with his actions. If we don’t find a way to put a stop to it soon Caesar will destroy the light and all of us with it.

XENA
Ares tampered with the loom once.

FLASHBACK: FATES LOOM
FATES are spinning their loom.

V.O. ALT GABRIELLE
Where are we? What is this place? Who are they?

FATE 1
We…

FATE 2
Are…

FATE 3
The Fates!

REVEAL ARES and ALT GABRIELLE standing before the FATES and their loom. ARES reaches out to touch a thread in their loom as it spins through his hand.

ARES
Yes. The fates. They spin the thread of life for all you mortals.

ALT GABRIELLE
What am I doing here?

ARES
Oh, I don’t know, for old time sake. To call in a debt! Remember? You still owe me for getting you to Chin ahead of Xena. Now I’m calling that favor in. If Xena kills Hope this thread is cut.

ALT GABRIELLE
If I had to die to keep Dahok’s evil from the world then I will.

ARES reaches out and takes ALT GABRIELLE’S hand and places it upon the spinning thread on the loom. ALT GABRIELLE is suddenly alarmed as she feels the thread spinning through her hand.

ALT GABRIELLE
That’s, that’s Xena! This is Xena’s life thread.

ARES
That’s right. And if she kills Hope….
ARES makes a sound like scissors cutting thread as he demonstrates the consequences. ALT GABRIELLE takes her hand off of the loom slowly.

ARES
The Fates agree. I have the right to ask this.

FATE 1
That is right…

FATE 2
The burden is…

FATE 3
On Gabrielle…

FATE 1
If Xena…

FATE 2
Kills Hope, Xena…

FATE 3
Will die…

FATE 3 standing before ALT GABRIELLE pulls out a large pair of scissors ready to cut the thread.

EXT. HEAVEN

MICHAEL
Ares overstepped his bounds.
XENA
Michael, send me back to help Gabrielle defeat Caesar.

MICHAEL
Xena, you must do more than defeat Caesar. You must also stop Ares. Ares is working with Caesar on this. His goal is to have you for eternity. He wants to reverse the looms so that in every universe you will always belong to him. Ares is using Caesar’s obsession with his own destiny to do it.

XENA

Michael, you know I am up for any challenge. You know I can defeat Ares.

MICHAEL
There is only one way to put a stop to Ares, Xena. You must entomb him so that he can’t do any more damage using Caesar. Once Ares is out of the way, Caesar can no longer return to the loom to alter it.

EXT. COAST OF BRITANNIA. DAY
GABRIELLE, hidden behind the rocks along the coastline is observing a large Roman ship which has landed. She observes CAESAR giving orders. While she watches she notices just beyond her a flash of light.

GABRIELLE
(whispering to self)
Ares! I should have known you would be here, but who are you with?
GABRIELLE attempts to get a closer look. She approaches a little closer. Then she spies ALT XENA.

GABRIELLE
(whispering to self with concern)
Xena.

ALT XENA
Where are we?

ARES
We have just arrived on the island of Britannia. And that right there is….

ALT XENA
I know what that is. A Roman ship.

ARES
Yes. It belongs to Caesar.

GABRIELLE is spying what is about to unfold. ALT XENA appears very interested in what Ares has to say.

ARES
We are going to take CAESAR’s ship from him and then we are going to sail to another island.

ALT XENA
You can’t just take a Roman ship alone. Or maybe you are the god that you say you are and we could take it, just the two of us.

ARES
I really like your style, but you’re right. We do need an army.

ALT XENA
I suppose you know where we can get one.

ARES
Yes. There is an army here on this island led by Bodecia. I want you to take command of Bodecia’s army. I like her, but you are a much more suited leader for them.

GABRIELLE is still focused on their conversation when APHRODITE pops in behind the rocks with her startling GABRIELLE.

APHRODITE
Hey Gabby! Long time no see.

GABRIELLE
Aphrodite what are you doing here?

APHRODITE
Xena told me you needed some help. She told me to come here to find you. So here I am.
APHRODITE laughs playfully loud.

GABRIELLE
Shhhhh…..

APHRODITE
Hey that is no way to greet a friend. I might just go ahead and pop on back to where I came from with that attitude.

GABRIELLE
I didn’t mean it that way. Just stay quiet or they’ll hear us.

APHRODITE
Who? Who are we hiding from? Oh, this is so fun. I love games!

APHRODITE spies ARES.

APHODITE
Oh, that is my brother. Who is he with?

GABRIELLE
It’s Xena, or at least, who Xena was. Aphrodite, you didn’t put a love spell on Ares did you?

APHRODITE
Aw, don’t get your panties in a bunch. She’ll fall in love with you eventually.

GABRIELLE
Funny, aren’t you?

APHRODITE
Fine. I’ll come back later when you’re in a better mood warrior bard.

APHRODITE vanishes within a sparkling mess of energy. GABRIELLE shakes her head and then turns back to spy on ALT XENA and ARES. GABRIELLE notices ARES has vanished. She can’t see XENA anymore either. Suddenly she feels something approaching from behind. She jumps to her feet turning to whip around raising her sais to defend. REVEAL ALT XENA charging toward GABRIELLE as GABRIELLE wards of ALT XENA’s attack. For every offensive move ALT XENA makes GABRIELLE has the perfect defense against it. Suddenly, GABRIELLE flips away from the beach over ALT XENA facing her.

GABRIELLE
Xena, we can continue to fight each other and draw attention to ourselves or I can give you my proposal.

ALT XENA
You’re pretty good.

GABRIELLE
You’re are pretty wreckless!

ALT XENA
Who are you?
(Lowers sword.)

GABRIELLE
My name is Mavis.

ALT XENA
What kind of a name is that?

GABRIELLE
(replacing her sais to their resting place)
Does it really matter?

ALT XENA
What’s your offer?

GABRIELLE
I can help you with that army you need.

ALT XENA
Did Ares send you?

GABRIELLE
No. Bodecia sent me.

ALT XENA
Who is this Bodecia everyone keeps talking about?

GABRIELLE
We don’t have much time before Caesar strikes again.

ALT XENA
So you think you’re in charge now Mavis.

ALT XENA smacks GABRIELLE playfully on the back of the head. Walking ahead.

ALT XENA
Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s go get my army.

V.O. EVE
Xena had successfully disarmed and beaten the god of war in a fair battle. She turned to face Gabrielle, and all who witnessed the battle declaring candid victory as she laughed playfully and danced with delight.

INT. DAY. XENA’S TOMB. AMPHIPOLIS
EVE reading another of GABRIELLE’S scrolls.

EVE
Ares just watched the scene disgusted that he had been defeated by a mortal. His hopes for controlling Xena had been destroyed.

EVE looks up from reading.

EVE
You’ve spent your entire existence trying to get away from him haven’t you?

XENA
Between Ares and Caesar my existence has had no peace. Even in death they haunt me. Eve know that I never wanted you to grow up in Rome learning the ways of war. I regret that I was not there for you.

EVE
Mother I don’t blame you. You would have been there had Ares not gotten to you first. Why didn’t you tell him your plan?

XENA
I didn’t want the other gods to know you were alive. I faked all of our deaths. Ares just made them real when he entombed me and Gabrielle on Mount Edna for 25 years . Octavious was honorable in that he kept you safe all of those years. He did only what he knew.

EVE
So this is the place we are going to face him?

XENA
It’s perfect. It’s poetic in a way. Gabrielle brought my ashes from Higutchi here as she had always promised. She wants to be buried here, with me. I sent Aphrodite to be there with her when Gabrielle is ready to come home. Eve, when this is all over I want you to go to Podedia and ask Lilla for all of Gabrielle’s scrolls. Bring them here and bury them with us.

EVE
So what do we do now?

XENA
We wait. Ares will soon discover that something about his plan is not going the way he anticipated. When he suspects it he will look for me.

EVE
What about Caesar?

XENA
Caesar will bury himself with his own destiny. I’m certain of it. Without Ares he won’t be able to destroy another loom in an attempt to change his destiny.

EVE
Who is going to take Gabrielle’s place and carry on your legacy?

XENA
You are Eve. Come over here and sit with me.
EVE joins XENA seated on the floor of the tomb.

XENA
I am going to teach you what Lao Ma taught me. You can fight with the power of your mind if you can harness its stillness. Now take my hands.
EVE takes XENA’s hands.

XENA
Close your eyes.
EVE closes her eyes.

INT. DAY. LAO MA’S PALACE
XENA
(speaking softly)
Nothing is as soft as water, yet who can withstand the raging flood.
EVE opens her eyes.

EVE
It’s beautiful! How did you do it?

XENA
(speaking softly)
Fill yourself with desire and see only illusion, end yourself of desire and understand the great mystery of things.
EVE
Where are we mother?
XENA
Lao Ma’s palace. She was the first person to try to save my soul after Caesar destroyed it.
EVE
It’s so peaceful here.

XENA
You can visit here anytime. All you have to understand is that the entire world is driven by a will, blind and ruthless. In order to transcend the limitations of that world, you need to stop willing, stop desiring, stop hating.

EVE
I don’t know if I understand.

XENA
I didn’t understand at first, but I know you will. You will understand when it matters most.
XENA reaches out and touches EVE’S face softly. XENA smiles.

XENA
To conquer others is to know power, to conquer yourself is to know The Way. Eve know that you must protect the remaining loom. It is the key for all of us, but you can use it to get Ares’s attention. Beware for you may also face Caesar along the way.

EVE
You are not going to fight Ares?

XENA
No. You are my legacy Eve. It must be you. I understand now. Heaven endures and Earth lasts a long time because they do not live for themselves.

V.O. GABRIELLE
Heaven endures and Earth lasts a long time because they do not live for themselves.

EXT. BRITANNIA. NIGHT. CAMPFIRE
ALT XENA is sitting by the campfire sharpening her sword while GABRIELLE sits opposite writing on a piece of parchment speaking out loud as she writes.

GABRIELLE
Therefore she who would live a long time, should live for others, serve others.

GABRIELLE stops for a moment perplexed.

GABRIELLE
I think I understand now.

ALT XENA looks up from her sword annoyed.

ALT XENA
What?

GABRIELLE
I think I understand why I’m here.

ALT XENA
For someone who fights like a warrior your philosophy is old news.

GABRIELLE
What do you mean?

ALT XENA
It’s from the book of Lao Ma.

GABRIELLE
I know.

ALT XENA
Then why are you writing it down like you just discovered the idea?

GABRIELLE
Because it inspires me.

ALT XENA
How much longer until we reach Bodecia’s camp?

GABRIELLE
We will probably arrive there sometime in the early afternoon if we get an early start. Why are you in such a hurry to betray someone? I think you will discover that Bodecia is a very powerful woman with inegrity.

ALT XENA
Integrity never won a battle. That is why she needs me to help her defeat Caesar.

GABRIELLE
You are known as the Destroyer of Nations.

ALT XENA
Really? Then I’m succeeding.

GABRIELLE
If you were succeeding you wouldn’t be going after the secret weapon. Let’s be honest. That is what you really want, ultimate power, just like Caesar. Didn’t you hear anything Lao Ma said to you in Chin?

ALT XENA
What are you some kind of oracle?

GABRIELLE
In a manner of speaking.

GABRIELLE continues writing as ALT XENA goes back to sharpening her sword.

GABRIELLE
If you are succeeding then why don’t you just stop the violence now? You’ve come this far from your home. In the beginning it was all about protecting it. Now what is it about for you?

ALT XENA
If you don’t stop getting into my head Mavis I may kill you while you sleep. How does that sound? Then maybe I can have some real peace.

GABRIELLE
Kill me if it relieves your pain. I would do anything to relieve your pain. Even if it means my own death Xena.

ALT XENA
What do you know about pain?

GABRIELLE
More than you will ever understand.

FLASHBACK: DAY. COASTAL HARBOR

ALT XENA
Gabrielle I am catching a ship here that will take me close to the kingdom of Chin. If there was ever a time to turn back it’s now.

ALT XENA embraces ALT GABRIELLE

ALT XENA
I understand.

ALT GABRIELLE
You owe someone so much that you would just throw away these last few years.

ALT XENA
Yes.

ALT XENA walks away boarding the ship. ALT GABRIELLE watches disappointed and saddened. Shaking her head ALT GABRIELLE grabs ARGO’S reigns and turns away noticing ARES standing in the shadows of the village. ARES looks to her.

ARES
Well, there she goes without you.

ALT GABRIELLE looks to the ship again.

ARES

Kind of makes you feel second best doesn’t it?

ALT GABRIELLE
Leave me alone Ares. Xena has her own decisions to make.

ALT GABRIELLE attempts to move on with ARGO on down the road ignoring Ares.

ARES
Really?

ARES approaches ALT GABRIELLE from the shadows.

ARES
Sounds more like an obligation to me. Yep. Lao Ma must be very important alright. Xena would never do anything like this for you. Funny, isn’t it? You give up your family, your home, your blood innocence, your daughter, all because of Xena. And yet it’s like nothing compared to the debt she owes this woman. Of course, you could always stop her.

ALT GABRIELLE
I could never get to Chin fast enough. Xena is sure to take the fastest route.

ARES
Hmmm…that is true. You’re only mortal after all.

ALT GABRIELLE
You could do it.

ALT GABRIELLE looks to ARES who appears intrigued at her idea.

ALT GABRIELLE
You could get me there ahead of her.

ARES
Is that what you want? Cause you have to ask me. That is if it doesn’t bother you owing a favor to the god of war.

ALT GABRIELLE
Send me there. I’m asking.

ARES
To prevent a murder. For the sake of friendship.

ALT GABRIELLE
Yeah. For friendship.

EXT. DAY. BRITANNIA CAMPFIRE
GABRIELLE suddenly awakens to ALT XENA on top of her going in with a knife for the kill. GABRIELLE acts quickly using the death pinch on ALT XENA. ALT XENA falls backward onto her knees before GABRIELLE. GABRIELLE is still half sleeping suddenly realizing what she has just done. She stands up looking into ALT XENA’s eyes. ALT XENA is struggling to hold onto life.

GABRIELLE
You know what I just did. Now stop trying to kill me. I’m here to make sure you reach your destiny. I’m here to serve you.

GABRIELLE suddenly releases ALT XENA from the death grip as blood is trickling down ALT XENA’s nose as she struggles to catch her breath again. GABRIELLE begins to pack up her things to leave camp.

GABRIELLE
I was hoping for breakfast, but I think we’ll skip it today. You’re too unpredictable.

ALT XENA is regaining her strength struggling to speak.

ALT XENA
Don’t you realize we’re surrounded?

GABRIELLE stops for a moment to feel and to listen to what ALT XENA is referring to.

GABRIELLE
It’s not Caesar’s army. Bodecia! It’s Mavis! I have Xena!

PERSEUDICAS emerges from the trees along with sevearal of his warriors. He approaches GABRIELLE.

ALT XENA

Who are you?

PERSEUDICAS
Perseudicas. Mavis tells me you can help Bodecia defeat Caesar.

ALT XENA
Of course I can help her defeat Caesar. When do we meet?

PERSEUDICAS
Bodecia is one her way to rally with us. She was gathering reinforcements.

ALT XENA
We’re going to need all we can get.

GABRIELLE
Xena already has a plan.

PERSEUDICAS
What is the plan?

ALT XENA
Caesar has a ship parked along the southern coast. We are going to take your army and take Caesar’s ship.

PERSEUDICAS
Isn’t that move bold and wreckless?

ALT XENA
Yes. It’s exactly my style. It’s how I win battles. You have to be unpredictable. Caesar won’t see this coming. He thinks Bodecia is too conservative to make this kind of a move. He believes she is only about the defensive.

PERSEUDICAS
She won’t like this idea.

ALT XENA
Oh, she will when I’m finished talking to her.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #58: The Deliverer

xena_s3_deliverer_dArc_248

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll #58:  The Deliverer

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

January 46 B.C.

     Xena and I had been traveling toward the northern territories for several weeks.  It was after Xena had been seemingly preparing me for something.  I wasn’t sure what it was, but it seemed important to her.  She had left me alone with Joxer and Autolycus to face Jett, Joxer’s assassin brother.  Then she left me alone to save the virgin priestess without telling me that she had gone off to take care some other business.  Only a week after that she had decided to teach me how to turn murdering warriors into an amazing fighting team to go up against Ares and his chosen minion Milo to show off his newly invented invincible weapons and armor.  All of this preparation was exilerating and exciting, but it made no sense.  I was flattered that Xena had decided I was ready to learn more about the warrior arts, but I would have been much more interested in learning how to do her famous flip.  Technique seemed to be what I was lacking in my mind, but I didn’t really question Xena.  She had never led me astray.  Everything she had ever done had ultimately benefitted me in becoming more like her.  In the begining of our travels together I wanted nothing more.  Yet now, I was somehow different, but I had yet to recognize it fully.

      As Xena and I continued to aimlessly travel north toward Gaul territory I was killing time with philosophy.  Of course the warrior princess is never one for philosophical discussion, but as usually she was humoring me.  Anyway, my theory went something like this.  I asked her what she thought of when she thought of a mountain.  As I spoke I put an image into Xena’s mind explaining that it was nothing more than a bunch of boulders.  Then I continued inquiring of what she thought of when she imagined a rock.  My thought was that it was nothing more than a large grain of sand.  Then I imagined how simple a large grain of sand could become.  My theory that I was attempting to explain to the warrior princess was simply that no challenge was insurmountable no matter how large it appeared to be on the surface.  It was what I had learned as a result of my most recent challenges that I had faced traveling alongside the warrior princess.  When I asked her if she was beginning to understand how I was feeling she just looked to me frustrated with my thoughts and curtly stated that she didn’t understand with one simple harsh “no.”  I looked to her frustrated with her because she didn’t seem all that interested in my philosophical debate about life.  As I walked she could see that she had hurt my feelings, and softly asked me what possible information my thoughts could have that could be useful to us.  I really didn’t have an answer to that, but decided to forgive her anyway because at least she was attempting to be more sensitive to what was important to me.  I decided to brush my hurt aside and attempted to make light of our moment of friction stating that if nothing else it had given us something to talk about in between towns.

      Xena decided to make light of it as well stating that towns, which were made up of houses, which were simply nothing more than large huts made out of wood.  Before Xena could continue to patronize my philosophies I attempted to cut her off frustrated again with her lack of understanding.  But Xena continued stating that wood was made out of trees, but then came the problem with my philosophy that she was pointing out.  She stated that trees were bigger than huts so it debunked my whole theory.  She snapped her fingers as she did this which only irritated me even more.  I looked to her again stepping back and remembering that although Xena could be frustrating I couldn’t fault her for not having an abstract thought process like my own.  As I expressed this thought Xena’s attention was suddenly distracted at something up ahead.  Before I had time to say anything else she raised her hand up and smacked my chest with the back of her hand.  It was a bit jarring and uncalled for.  I carefully removed her hand from where it had connected with my body and straightened my clothing.  As I asked her not to do that I could hear voices of the men approaching us along the trail.  When I looked up I shifted my state of mind from one of emotional hurt to one of concern for what I saw before us.  I looked to Xena and asked her who the men were.

      She was just focused and said nothing at first as I saw five men, three of which had their arms tied to thin wooden logs.  Their arms were stretched out across the logs they carried across their backs.  There were also two other men who appeared to be some type of soldiers.  They were soldiers I did not recognize because I’d never seen men wearing such uniforms before.  The three men who were carrying the logs were being beckoned by their captures to move along.  One of the uniformed men was waiving his sword about threatening his captives.  Xena finally responded to my question stating that from the way the captive men were dressed she surmised that they were from an island located north of Gaul.  Xena then gazed out at them and then commanded both me and her horse Argo to move forward toward them.  The lead man held his hand up and instructed his men to halt.  The first captive fell to his knees exhausted as he let out a grumble.  Xena then looked to the lead soldier and stated that he was a long way from Britannia.  He stated that it was only due to the fact that the criminals he traveled with had run this far south.  He explained himself stating that he and his partner were taking the three exhausted, hungry, thirsty men back to Britannia for trial.  To me, as I looked at them I couldn’t possibly imagine what they had done to be treated in such an inhuman manner.  They didn’t look like criminals to me.  The men looked more like farmers or perhaps fisherman down on their luck somehow.  I knew better than to say anything out loud, but I wanted to.  I was certain that Xena would have something to say about it, but she didn’t.  She looked the soldier, and the men up and down.  Then she stepped to one side of the lead soldier taking her horse to pass him on down the road.  I stood there angry.  I was sure Xena would want to do something for these men, but she seemingly had no sympathy for them.  I found myself even more frustrated.  It had been like this all day with the warrior princess.

      Reluctantly I stepped aside to pass the soldier to continue on, but I couldn’t put it out of my mind.  The idea that I should do something even if Xena would not I could not shake.  The man who had fallen to his knees from exhaustion looked up at me in desperation.  I could see it in his eyes.  He was not a bad man and he needed to be defended for whatever crime he may have been accused of.  As I began to continue on knowing that without Xena I could do nothing for him he suddenly had something to say.  The man risked his life and shouted out to his captures that they could kill him and his friends right there if they wanted to, but that they would never give in to Caesar.  That statement seemed to grab Xena’s attention instantly.  She stopped her forward motion with Argo.  I turned to face him again.  I was considering asking the soldier in charge of what their crimes were.  I deeply wanted to get involved.  Not only that, but I was reminded of Xena’s story of her destiny.  She had once had a destiny with a man named Caesar.  Xena then approached the lead soldier and demanded that he let the men go.  He asked what her reason was.  Then Xena looked to him and affirmed that she had an entire list of reasons as to why he should release his prisoners.  Then she went into action.  She punched the man with the sword in the nose sending him staggering backward.  She stated that her sudden action against him was reason one.  Then she reached back and grabbed the lead soldier’s sword as he began to pull it from its sheath.  She instantly pushed it back into its resting place from which the solider attempted to free it.  She then drove him to the ground along with his sword.

       At that moment the first man had managed to get back to his feet and attacked Xena who turned back toward him and delivered furious punches with both hands across his chest and face.  He was quickly back upon the ground as Xena declared that action against the soldier was reason two.  Then she straightened her leather cuffs on her biceps and reached from behind for her sword.  Then she jumped up as she pulled out her sword swinging it down upon the lead soldier who was still stuck to the ground struggling to free his sword for a counter against her.  He quickly gave up and raised his arms up in the air for surrender.  Xena swiftly sliced  her blade through and between the soldier’s sword, and his belt separating him from is sword.  She stated that final action was reason three.  With that the lead soldier was free from his sword still stuck in the wet ground as he quickly jumped to his feet and ran off into the woods.  Xena turned to face the other soldier who was about to counter attack again, but she looked to him pointing her sword in his direction wild-eyed and stated that she didn’t often get to reason number for, but when she did it was very messy.  This was enough of a threat to send the second soldier running off into the opposite direction into the woods.  The solider screamed in panic and terror as he ran off into the distance.  Xena quickly turned her wild eyes toward the man who was on his knees.  She shifted her emotions from passionate war to concern as she approached the man and freed him with her sword from his binds.  I followed her lead helping free the other two men.  This all seemed very serious.  I suspected it had something to do with the man from Xena’s past who had been mentioned only moments before.

       As the man on his knees rose to his feet Xena asked him what Caesar wanted with him.  He explained that Caesar knew that he was out hiring mercenaries to join Bodecia against Caesar in Britannia.  Xena appeared to be shocked.  She asked the man if she had heard him right when he had stated that Bodecia was fighting Caesar.  I found myself to be on the outside of this conversation which was uncomfortable due to how serious it seemed to Xena.  I asked Xena if she actually knew this Bodecia, but then I answered my own question remembering out loud that Xena was a who is who of warriors from all over.  It seemed that every where we had ever traveled she always knew of every warrior and warlord.  Then Xena continued pumping the man for more information.  She asked about Persudicas.  The man’s response was short stating that Persudicas had died.  He explained that Bodecia barely had any time to mourn the death of her husband when Caesar had come upon them in Britannia to invade their lands.

      As I hurried to finish untying the rest of the prisoners I ran back to join Xena and the self-proclaimed mercenary.  Xena paused for a moment as if to consider something for a moment.  Then she looked to the mercenary and asked him how many others like him he had managed to find.  He responded that 200 men had already set off for Britannia to help in Bodecia’s fight against Caesar.  He then looked to the men behind him and stated that he had paid the three of them to escort him safely to northern Gaul.  To me the idea that they had earned what the mercenary had paid them seemed quite absurd.  I interjected my thought out loud that he might want to consider a refund.  He softly laughed and then smiled looking to me.  This was seemingly the first anyone had noticed of my presence since the moment before he had mentioned Caesar’s name.  With that thought I decided to ask him what his name was.  He answered proudly stating that his name was Kraftstar, and that he was the first priest of the temple of the one god.  Xena responded telling Kraftstar that he could add her name to his list of volunteer mercenaries.  She said that she would be going with him to help Bodecia and most certainly to destroy Caesar.  It was in that moment I saw something I had only seen one other time in Xena.  When we had fought against the hoard.  Her passions for war were bubbling to the surface again.  It was the side of Xena that was seemingly glaring its head more often than it had ever before.  It made be very uncomfortable because I couldn’t control it and she was seemingly having difficulty keeping it in check.

     From that moment on there was no doubt that we were on a mission to continue north even further north than Gaul.  Many suns  passed and at least a moon before we found ourselves having reached our destination which was to reach the island of Britania.  During our journey to Britannia it seemed that only Kraftstar and his men could keep me company.  Xena’s mind and heart were elsewhere.  They were in her deep past where she had first encountered Caesar of Rome.  Finally, the moment when Xena seemed most happy was when she announced that we had reached the harbor where we would finally meet up with Bodecia.  Xena rode ahead with Argo to check it out leaving me with Kraftstar and his men.  He turned to me and stated that between Bodecia and Xena he could not tell who hated the Romans more.  Kraftstar had heard my story of Xena’s destiny of Ceasar.  There had been plenty of time for me to tell it in our travels toward Britannia.  I explained again to Kraftstar that Xena did not hate the Romans, but that it was Caesar that she really hated for his betrayal of her.  It seemed to me that there may have even been a time that Bodecia had also been betrayed.  As the five of us left behind by Xena found a spot to sit down and rest our tired feet Kraftstar expressed that he was glad that Xena was on his side no matter any of the other details that might be lurking about the past.  I propped my staff up against the tree.  The exhaustion had set in even for me.  Xena had pushed all of us hard to reach Britannia quickly.  It was almost ridiculous how her sense of urgency had kicked in once she realized that she had an opportunity to go up against Caesar again.  For the first time it seemed that we were on a mission that had very little to do with the greater good.  Strangely this entire journey had begun with Xena and I trying to find out more about what Ares had been up to with Discord.  Now we were a long way from home.  There was a lot I was uncertain of.

      Kraftstar continued to share his thoughts with me as mine would not settle down.  I tried to focus on what he was saying as he explained that he hoped that there was still time to save his temple.  Kraftstar stated that Caesar was in control of his god’s temple and that he was afraid that it might be destroyed by the Romans.  I decided to use this opportunity to distract my concerns about Xena’s blood-lust with Kraftstar’s god.  I asked him to tell me more about his god.  I was intrigued despite my distractions.  My question was what his god’s name was.  He had never mentioned his god’s name in all the time we had been  traveling together.  Kraftstar affirmed that his god did have a name, but that it was forbidden to speak it.  The idea that a god would not want his name spoken was odd to me.  All the gods I had ever known wanted to be known and to be worshipped by everyone.  Kraftstar shared with me that he would be happy to tell me more about his god.  He seemed so committed to his god.  It was something that I used to be to my gods, but after having developed very personal relationships with them I realized they weren’t as great as they flaunted themselves to be.  In a way it was nice to know that there was still someone out there who believed strongly in the power of his own god even if I didn’t have faith in my own gods.  I decided that perhaps it was best that I didn’t know more about his god than he had already shared with me since my own gods were trouble enough for me.

     Soon the next part of our journey toward Britannia began as we found ourselves having to travel the seas.  It wasn’t very long after we sailed on the water before the 2007 mercenaries found themselves suffering from the classic symptoms of sea sickness.  Even Kraftstar was feeling it.  The waters were definitely rough in the northern seas.  I decided to invite Kraftstar down under the deck to show him the trick that Xena had once shown me to help me get rid of sea sickness on long trips on the water.  As I showed him how to relieve his discomfort he began to tell me more about his people and of his god.  He was seemingly disappointed that people labeled he and his followers as a cult.  Kraftstar was upset about it, but he understood that the idea of one god was difficult for people to accept.  I didn’t want to offend him so I explained my point of view in a broad way.  I stated that it was difficult for people to accept something that was abstract and could not be seen or touched or heard.  My gods never had a problem with showing themselves and being quite loud about it.  I was finding myself to be a bit uncomfortable talking with Krafstar again and missing home because we were now further away than I had ever been before.  Kraftstar reached out to me asking me when the last time was that I had actually felt love or true friendship or had even seen the effect of love.  I was intrigued because it seemed as if Xena and I had not felt closeness to each other in a while.  We had been too busy to even think about it.  Xena was certainly preoccupied with Caesar.  Kraftstar continued explaining that if I just opened myself up to the effects of his god then I would be able to see those effects when his god brought his kingdom forth to the earth.

     At that moment I began to hear Xena’s boots descending the steps into the cabin.  I shook my head as I thought about what Kraftstar was saying, but I was still not completely convinced about his god.  I was glad that Xena was coming to interrupt our conversation.  Xena approached us in that moment and I explained to her as she looked to us that I was just showing him how to avoid sea sickness.  I don’t think she had expected us to be down below together for so long.  There was an awkward pause and a moment.  Then I went onto explain that Krafstar was telling me about his god.  It seemed to better explain how long we had been below inside the cabin.  I fumbled for words to explain myself to Xena stating that Kraftstar’s god was very interesting.  Xena just looked to us with a dead pan stare.  I knew what she was thinking.  She was thinking that I had fallen for Kraftstar in an emotional way.  Part of me knew that she was not wrong, but I attempted to hide my new feelings for him from her.  Then she walked away to another corner of the cabin.  It wasn’t what I had wanted her to do.  I had almost wanted her to be angry at me for having been ignoring her, but I wasn’t sure my actions had delivered the desired effect.

     I decided to leave Kraftstar and join Xena as she pulled out her sword and began wiping the blade.  I sat down next to her and softly asked her if anything was going on.  She continued to wipe her blade, and flatly asked if me if anything had to be going on.  My hope was that she would share with me her deepest feelings about Caesar, and about Bodecia.  I pressed her stating that I felt that she had mixed feelings about the entire mission.  My next comment was to express that although Xena said she wanted to help her friend Bodecia she had not yet said anything nice or friendly about Bodecia.  Xena then stopped wiping her sword.  She realized that whatever it was that she had been keeping from me I was not going to let it go.  I was being genuine and caring and not pressing her too hard.  I had a right to know her feelings about these two people no matter what they were.  Xena then began to explain a little more.  She said that she and Bodecia had once been allies a long time ago.  Xena looked me in the eye as she spoke.  Which she did not do very often.  I pressed her for more as Xena cringed.  There was more to the story.  Xena didn’t want to tell me.  She hesitated stating that in a sense the two of them had been allies.  Xena went onto explain that Bodecia had thought of Xena as a friend, but that Xena had only needed an army.  Xena began wiping her sword again as she spoke explaining that she had allowed Bodecia to believe whatever she wanted to until Xena was able to take full control of Bodecia’s men.

      I watched Xena’s hand move with the the old rag she had found in the cabin as she ran it up and down her sword realizing out loud that Xena had heartlessly used Bodecia.  Xena stopped wiping her sword again, looked up, and then into my eyes stating firmly that she had ordered Bodecia to be killed.  Xena waited for me to say something, but I couldn’t think of anything to say about that kind of betrayal.  Xena then continued her story explaining that Bodecia had escaped her ordered execution and had joined forces with her husband Persudicas.  She stated that the two smaller armies had attacked her larger more powerful army.  Xena had easily defeated them.  When Xena spoke of this moment in her history she appeared less than proud of her behavior.  After she had defeated them the two had retreated north to Britannia.  In that moment Xena admitted to me that she was not the only person with in this equation that was dealing with past betrayals.  I could see that Xena felt a great deal of shame for her act of betrayal.  It was a sad story and it made Xena seem smaller in some way.  She attempted to change the subject before I could say anything more.  Xena could feel my shock in learning this about her.

      She  then changed the subject and stated that she had seen Ares on the day before when she was scouting the coast.  I found that to be intriguing.  I asked her what he was doing this far north.  She explained that she didn’t know, but that she thought he might be attempting to use this opportunity in Xena’s emotional weakness to get her to do something stupid in his name.  It had been Ares who had led her to Bodecia in the past.  He had wanted to shape Xena in his image because she had been ripe for the shaping then.  Now she was just frustrated that he was even there.  He had told Xena that he and Caesar were still on good terms.  Xena expressed to him that she did not care about that, but that she was still irritated at Ares for having driven her mad with the furies.  What Xena said that was most interesting about her encounter with Ares was that he was seemingly very concerned about Kraftstar’s temple.  Ares wanted her to take control of Bodecia’s army again so she could use it to destroy the temple.  Before I could ask Xena anything more one of the crew dashed down the steps into the cabin.  He urged Xena to come back up to the deck.  Xena did not hesitate.  She quickly stood up, changed emotional gears, threw down her rag and sheathed her sword.

      Once upon the deck again it appeared that something dramatic was happening.  There on the steps to the starboard control was what looked to be a very high ranking Roman officer with two Roman conscripts accompanying him.  He wore a silver helmet and silver armor to distinguish him from the other Roman soldiers.  He was looming over everyone.  The mercenary who had informed Xena of his presence instructed the Roman officer to tell Xena what he had told everyone else.  The officer’s statement and demand was simple.  The demand was that Caesar had ordered that no ships were to land on the shores of Britannia.  Then he stated that the ship had until the following morning to sail back to Gaul.  He continued explaining the consequences of us staying docked on the coast of Britannia.  The consequence would be that he and his subordinates would take control of the ship and that all aboard would be disciplined.  The mercenary men grumbled.  Their dissention was clear.  Xena hesitated before making any moves or answering.  She was very careful in her next move.  Then she answered the Roman officer explaining that he could tell Caesar that our group of men was not stupid enough to go up against Caesar’s army.  Then Xena hesitated for a moment and looked to the first mate.  She quietly gave him an order stating that she would check the wind up top and then they would set sail.  Then she looked carefully back toward the Roman officer who was pleased and smiled as he stated that she that had made a wise decision.

      The men in mercenary group were clearly unhappy, but Xena was really left no other choice.  There was no way that a group of only 200 mercenaries could go up against the professional army of a nation state.  Then the Roman officer stated that he would relay Xena’s message to Caesar.  Under her breath she had contempt and I could hear it as the Roman soldiers exited the ship.  Then Xena made the long climb up to the top of the crow’s nest to check the wind as she had stated she would do.  I sensed that there was something more going on.  Xena was very careful.  Almost too careful considering she had not yet demonstrated that she was capable of controlling her emotions when it came to Caesar.  I noticed as I looked up at Xena in the crow’s next that she was looking out across the water toward the land.  Suddenly, I saw a glint of steel from across the water.  It was a secret signal.  I looked back up to the crow’s next at Xena who smiled and pulled her sword.  She sent a signal back toward the coast as she waived her sword and then used the sun to reflect the light back.  Then the ship began to sail back out toward the sea.  We began to sail north.

      When Xena came down from the crow’s nest I asked her what was happening.  She stated that this was all part of the plan.  That we were going to sail out of visual range of the Romans and then we were going to rejoin Bodecia and her army.  Xena had planned this all along.  I was impressed with her as always, but I wasn’t sure what she was going to have me do.  She explained that she wanted me to take control of the ship and to meet at the pre-planned rally point with Bodecia and her army.  Xena was going to take most of the men with her.  She would lead them to swim to the shoreline.  They were going to flank Caesar’s small coastline fortress in two groups of 100 men one each side.  This would keep them distracted until Bodecia could cut up the middle with her own army.  That left me with enough men to get the ship to the rally point.  Xena explained that the ship would be the distraction until the last moment.  Once I was able to land the ship with the handful of men left it would be too late for Caesar the stop the attack.  Soon after this conversation Xena took her men and left me with the ship.  It was only a short time before we landed at the rally point where Bodecia’s army would be.  Xena and the men had off-loaded and swam the rest of the way just south of where I was instructed to land the ship.  Once we landed the ship I led Kraftstar with me and sent the remaining men to scout up ahead as Xena had instructed

      Then I decided to take a moment to watch the battle in the valley below unfolding.  Kraftstar and I were on the higher ground.  As I watched the battle I could see the Romans unaware of what was about to happen to them.  In a way I almost felt sorry for those unsuspecting men.  They had no idea that they were just a part of something very personal between three people, Xena, Caesar, and Bodecia.  As I watched and waited what I really wanted to get a glimpse of was this warrior woman Bodecia.  In watching the men I noticed that they had discovered the canoe that Xena had taken with a lead party with her.  Suddenly, there was shouting from the Roman officer down below.  He was barking out commands to his men.  It was obvious that he realized what was about to happen.  Moments after he had barked out his commands I heard the sound of hooves pounding in the valley down below.  I looked to the sounds and caught my first glimpse of Bodecia riding around the bend through the low creek water on her chariot.  She was bold, powerful, and focused.  She commanded her horses to push themselves to their limits of speed.  Bodecia was like a shadow coming out of the water in the late evening as she approached the entire Roman garrison alone.  The Roman officer shouted to his soldiers to get into formation.  He told them calmly to stand firm and prepare to fight.  The Roman soldiers calmly knelt down with their shields raised ready to defend against Bodecia’s seemingly lone attack against them.  The were the most seasoned soldiers I had ever seen.  It was quite amazing actually.  They appeared to have little to no fear of what was about to happen.  It was as if they had no battle nerves.

      Suddenly the Roman officer shouted out a command for his men to prepare their weapons.  They did so without hesitation and in unison.  The garrison of men only had about eight soldiers and their commander in the group.  I wondered how they would handle 200 mercenaries, Xena, and Bodecia.  As I watched the battle unfold down below alongside Kraftstar it seemed to happen in dramatic slow moments.  Just before Bodecia was about to strike one could finally feel the fear of the Roman officer and his soldiers permeating the air.  It appeared as if Bodecia was going to plow her chariot right through their line and trample the men, but instead she yanked back the reigns of her horses and halted the chariot.  She then jumped off of her chariot with a forward motion flying through the air with a long battle cry against her enemy.  She landed before them and reached to her left side for her sword.  Bodecia wore black war paint on her face just below her eyes along her cheek bones.  Her breast plate was a bronze breast plate, and she had fiery red hair.  It was clear that she was a powerful woman in Britannia and that she commanded a great deal of respect.  As she pulled her sword the Roman officer shouted her name and stated that Caesar would rest laurels on his head for his successful capture of her.  It was clear that she appeared to be on a suicide mission.

      Just when it appeared that Bodecia was a fool charging into battle Xena approached the enemy from behind and commented that he might not still have his head after this battle ended.  Then she flipped over the small Roman garrison and landed in front of the Roman officer.  She gave a battle cry and delivered a hard kick in the direction of the Roman officer.  It knocked the wind out of him catching him off guard.  He had no time to recover from the blow when Xena delivered a back kick with the same leg across his face in the opposite direction.  That put him on the ground instantly.  At that moment the first flank came rushing out of the woods down from the high ground charging into the valley.  At that moment a short conversation of which I could not hear with all of the noise of the battle down below happened between Xena and Bodecia.  I couldn’t tell if the conversation was friendly or if it was a stand-off between them.  Suddenly, both Xena and Bodecia charged forward into battle with the mercenaries.  The battle was one of the most violent and passionate battles I had ever seen Xena fight.  She was focused and with in another time and place.  Bodecia was just as furious as Xena when she fought.  The two powerfully skilled women battled the Roman soldiers with their army of 200 men and drove fear into their enemy.  The enemy was not ready for this onslaught and was completely out numbered.

     Suddenly, I could hear some of the men shouting out a command to retreat.  In that moment I realized that Kraftstar and I were too close to the battle.  We were about to get swallowed up by the Roman retreat.  I barked out a command to Kraftstar to follow me through the woods in an attempt to escape being captured.   We ran hard as I scouted the land for any dangers.  Just as I had thought we had escaped capture the hands of a Roman officer reached out and grabbed me.  I felt the steel of his broad sword across my chest.  He had managed to rob me of my staff when he grabbed me so I was completely defenseless.  Once I was able to gather my senses again I looked to the ground hoping I could find an opening to be able to reach down and retrieve my staff, but the Roman soldier’s grip was too taught.  He had another man with him who had captured Kraftstar.  As another Roman soldier followed his leader’s retreat the officer stated his frustrations out loud hoping that despite the loss of the battle he could potentially redeem himself if he brought Caesar prisoners from the battle.  As the Romans dragged us off toward Caesar’s camp I demanded that we be released, but no one was listening.  I was afraid of what might happen if Kraftstar and I were to meet face to face with Caesar.  What I had heard of him was unpleasant.  I felt fear in a way that I had never experienced it with my thoughts of our immediate fates clouding my mind.

      It was nightfall before Kraftstar and I were finally escorted into Caesar’s camp.  My fears were beginning to get the better of me as they shifted into frustrations.  The Roman officer who had brought us in shoved us into a temple where they were going to hold us.  I was coldly commanded to sit by my captures, but I refused deciding that I would prove that I could be tough up against them.  Kraftstar reached out to me realizing that I was afraid.  He was calm and he reached out and grabbed my arm attempting to calm my desperation.  With his soft touch he managed to calm my nerves as I slowly allowed myself to sink down onto the stool at the table.  Kraftstar went onto say that his god had taught him that direct confrontation was not always the best solution to a problem.  Although I had allowed him to calm me my frustrations were still fuming within.  I spoke under  my breath telling him that Xena had taught me just the opposite about Caesar.  Caesar had taken advantage of my friend and I was certain he would do the same to us if we allowed him to.  Then I thought of Xena and just that one thought soothed my nerves as I spoke my thoughts under my breath to Kraftstar out loud.  I was sure that Xena would notice that we were missing before long and come to find us.  Even if Xena was distracted by Caesar that would be the very reason that she would find us.  His past betrayal of her was a miscalculation on his part.  Xena was sure to come for him for retribution soon.

      In that moment from across the temple a deep commanding man’s voice spoke.  It said that once a man was able to divide a woman’s emotions from her he could conquer her and then he could have her.  Then he rose from his golden chair before the fire and revealed himself to us.  A part of me was curious, but another part of me was just waiting for death to come.  As Caesar looked to me and locked eyes I found myself entranced by his stature, and his power.  He exuded confidence and poise in his movements.  He wore a golden breast plate with the finest Roman cloth for his uniform.  It was deep bloody red.  His scabbard was black and adorned with the finest treasures of the world.  His face was battle hardened.  Caesar was a man of great accomplishment.  As he approached he revealed that he was cutting up an apple and eating a slice of it off of the blade of his knife.  He made it look so suave and easy and effortless.  He then smiled and stated that his strategy was simple and that it was nothing more than to divide and conquer.  Instantly I was afraid again.  It felt like a veiled threat.  I didn’t know what he would do next as Kraftstar reached out to sooth me again.  My first instinct of defense was to go back to square one and to try to talk myself out of whatever fate it was that Caesar had in mind for me.  It seemed that there might not be time for Xena to come find us if I couldn’t at least keep Caesar talking with me.  As I fumbled my words I attempted an apology  for what I had said only moments before he had revealed himself.  Caesar interrupted me and stated flatly that it did not matter what I had just said.  He continued explaining that my own actions had no bearing on my fate for it had been decided the moment that I had entered Caesar’s world.

      His statement was confusing, but I sensed that it had a double meaning.  It was actually cryptic in the way that Xena sometimes made a cryptic statement.  Caesar’s presence grazed me as he walked by and turned back around to face me directly.  He was now standing over me looming and asked me how Xena was.  I wasn’t sure how to answer that question.  The only words that would come out of my mouth were that Xena was fine.  It seemed to me that the less I said the better.  This was never a strategy I had used before, but Caesar’s power with words seemed to be beyond my own.  Caesar then stepped his foot upon the stool that I sat upon and he stated that he had heard that I was a friend of Xena’s.  Quickly I realized that the best answer to this challenge was to simply state that Xena hardly knew me, and most likely did not even know that I was gone.  I decided to make light of the moment cracking a joke saying that Xena hardly ever knew when I was around.  This led me to say that she didn’t even know what my name was.  I attempted to play myself as nothing more than Xena’s jester.

      Caesar did not crack and he was not at all humored.  Instead he was harsh and stated that Xena’s fatal flaw was her strong emotion.  Caesar went onto say that because Xena had feelings and because she cared for others that it made her less of a warrior for these were not good attributes in his mind.  As he said this to me he pulled out his knife slicing off another piece of apple and feeding it to me carefully.  It was another veiled threat.  I accepted the strange gift although it was not really a gift.  He was just continuing to demonstrate his power over me and that he knew more about me than I realized.  I looked to Caesar and waited for him to strike me, but he didn’t.  Instead he took his foot off of my stool turned to his men and commanded them to guard us.  I took Caesar’s gift from my lips and hid it in my hand.  Perhaps he had poisoned it.  I didn’t want to find out. He was too unpredictable in his actions.  As he began to leave the temple it was as if Kraftstar and I no longer existed to him.  It was as if we were already dead.  Caesar gave one last command to his men as he raised his knife in the air and declared that we would be taken to the hill in the morning.  I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but I suspected the worst.  I reached out to Kraftstar and hoped he could comfort me once more.

     I decided that perhaps the best way to pass the time till the morning was in asking Kraftstar about his god again.  If his god was a comfort to him perhaps his god could be a comfort to me in my time of need.  I wanted to know if he had faith in his god.  Kraftstar said that it was difficult for him to explain.  He went into a personal story stating that he had once had a farm in Gaul.  He had been an avid follower of the many gods making all of his temple offerings and doing everything that was required to secure their love and their help.  Kraftstar went onto paint a familiar picture saying that there was a day that a warlord came to his village destroyed his farm, killed his family and nearly killed him.  Then he said as he lied in the brush bleeding to death he had seen that same warlord go over to the temple of Hera and Zeus  to make an offering.  He said that in that moment he could not understand why the gods would bless that warlord for his offerings yet they would shun everyone else for offering less.  The gods whom he had hoped would protect him and his family had failed him.  My heart felt his pain for it could relate to such personal loss. I could relate to the loss forin that moment I could feel Perdicas reaching back into my heart and whispering to me as Kraftstar told his tale.   I expressed my regret for Kraftstar’s loss, but he told me that his pain was all over for him now because everything changed when some travelers from the east had passed by and found him.  They had cared for him and nursed him back to health.  During his time with those eastern travelers they had taught him about their one god.   I asked him if that was when he had started to believe in his god.  He stated that he had actually felt at first that the travelers were like sheep to believe in such an idea.

       Kraftstar continued with his story stating that after he had left those travelers behind he had met the warlord again.  The warlord had been wounded from another battle, and the warlord was in a weakened state lying there before Kraftstar.  Kraftstar’s will was for blood-lust as he picked up the warlord’s sword and prepared to get his vegeance against him.  As Kraftstar held the sword above the warlord’s throat he said that something had happened to him.  It was some kind of light that had filled Kraftstar’s soul and it was in that moment in which Kraftstar had discovered that his one god actually existed.  My next thought, of  which I spoke out loud, was that his one god must have been the force who had given Kraftstar enough strength and courage to kill the warlord.  It was the one thing that I had never been able to do when I had met Callisto.  I had not had the strength to kill Callisto to get my vegeance against her for killing Perdicas.  In this moment I thought that I might find that I could have satisfied vegeance somehow if only I had the strength back then.  But Kraftstar said that it had only been the opposite effect for him.  Despite all of his rage and anger against the warlord he could not kill him for he knew that even the warlord had an important purpose to fill in the in the world.  Then Kraftstar said that this was what he meant when he spoke about having faith.  He said he was aware that it sounded strange, and he was right.  It did sound very strange.  How could it be right for a warlord to be given mercy when Kraftstar’s family was not spared?  How could it be faith when my beloved Perdicas was murdered by Callisto when he had done nothing to her?  Despite these questions I agreed with him on one point.  It was not right to follow his urge for blood-lust.  For me it had been Xena that had reminded me that killing was not a part of who I was when my moment of truth came.  For Kraftstar it was his one god.  Then I realized what it was that Kraftstar was trying to do.  He was trying to help me to restore my faith that things would be okay despite our dire situation.  We were simply two grains of sand wading through the bolders.

     My night in the occupied temple seemingly lasted for an eternity.  Time passed by so slowly.  It was strange yet if time could have stopped and given Xena the opportunity to arrive I would not have argued.  Soon I found myself lying next to Kraftstar within our shared passions as I slipped into a deep slumber.  My nerves and my fears had finally been soothed to allow sleep.  Early the next morning I was rudely awakened by the sounds of Caesar’s boots as he arrived back at the temple with us.  He handed a scrolled message to one of his men.  He commanded his soldier to take the message to Catalineous.  Caesar wanted that legion of men to form up and move to another location on the battlefield.  With that Caesar sent his man away with the message.  Caesar’s officer asked him if there was trouble.  Caesar explained that during the night the barbarian army had given up land that they had fought and died for previously.  He stated out loud as he approached Kraftstar and I that if Xena was going to offer him the land so easily that he would go ahead and take it back.  Caesar’s officer was alarmed stating that he felt that it would spread the Roman forces to thin.  Caesar appeared annoyed that the officer didn’t understand his strategy.  He stated that he wanted Xena to attack him for the lost ground for it would draw Xena into a big battle in which he would easily be able to defeat her.  He then walked over to one of his personal banners and grabbed it from the wall.  He turned back to his officer and instructed him to take the banner with him because he wanted Xena to know who had ordered the deaths of his captives.  With that Caesar walked away and disappeared outside the temple, and all of the comforts of the night before dissipated as I realized that this time I might not survive what was about to come my way.  Perhaps my fate had absolutely been sealed.  I had to began to accept it.

     Krafstar and I were escorted to the hill as Caesar had commanded the night before.  We were tied to a pair of crosses and we were helpless to save ourselves.  I waited for Kraftstar’s god to come into my heart and to fill it with the light of hope and of faith.  Then Caesar’s officer stated that Xena would be witness to all that was about to happen.  He then turned to me and said that Caesar had one last message to me that he was certain would mean something to her.  He stated that my legs were to be broken.  This sent panic into my soul.  The emotion I was about to feel inside was fear of the idea of my legs being broken and what that would feel like before I would finally die.  The suffering was unimaginable for me.  I tried to gather the courage within to accept the pain I would have to endure yet all I could think of was how Xena had become dark after Caesar had betrayed her so long ago.  Even if I did survive I was not sure that Xena’s heart would survive seeing what Caesar had done to me.  That upset me more as I closed my eyes and prepared to take the blow of the hammer.  I closed my eyes as I heard the solider prepare to swing his hammer.  I attempted to hold my breath hoping that somehow that would soften the blow.  Just as I felt the hammer graze my knee I heard the sound of Xena’s battle cry coming from beneath me.  Xena popped out from the ground along with 15 mercenaries and yanked the soldier with the hammer off of his feet as he narrowly missed my legs.  Then more mercenaries popped out of the ground from everywhere.  My arms were stretching and hurting from being pulled down by my own weight and the gravity of my body.  I realized that I might have to endure a long battle hanging from a cross.

      Suddenly, from down below the ridge Bodecia and her army of mercenaries charged into the battle.  Again Xena and Bodecia had taken the Roman’s by surprise managing to set up a battle in which they would have the advantage of numbers.  Xena had succeeded at dividing Caesar’s army too thin as Caesar’s officer had warned him of earlier in the morning.  I could see Caesar standing off in the distance observing the battle on top of the largest hill.  I was afraid that he might have some unknown part of his plan that would reveal itself.  I was afraid for Xena as she fought Caesar’s officer to defend me.  Swords were flying everywhere and I thought I might be cut by a blade during the skirmish.  As I awaited Caesar’s next move it appeared that he did not have one.  The mercenaries were easily defeating him and Xena took down his officer holding her blade to his chin.  The officer’s terror-filled face awaited her to strike him into death, but she didn’t.  Instead she allowed a few of the mercenaries to take him prisoner.  As I watched the mercenaries taking weapons and loot off of the dead Roman soldiers on the battle field I wanted to pass out from all of the blood, but then I heard the soothing sound of Xena’s voice.  Xena called my name and I looked up again.  I was having trouble breathing now as the weight of my body hanging upon the cross was getting to me physically.  I attempted to make a joke, but I was deadly serious.  I warned Xena that we needed to work on the timing of these close to call battles to rescue me.  Xena then threw two knives she had pulled off of the dead soldier below my feet and released the ropes which had bound my wrists to the cross.  My body fell limp down onto Xena and I almost lost my breathe.  I was in a lot of physical pain from the time I had spend bound to that cross.  I could barely move my arms and legs and I felt very weak.  Xena asked me if I was okay.  I nodded in affirmation as I looked across the battle field to notice Caesar’s fiery anger at losing to Xena.

     Caesar grabbed a spear and intended to hurl it at Xena.  She rose to her feet and grabbed her chackram to defend his offensive against her.  I heard Xena’s chackram flying through the air as it effortlessly sliced through Caesar’s spear.  A fragment of his spear shot back in his direction and stuck into his hand.  Xena’s chackram easily returned as it deflected off of a defending Roman shield.  Caesar looked down at his wounded hand and then removed the large piece of wood sticking out of it.  He was almost in shock at his defeat as he glared across the battlefield toward Xena.  Xena then grabbed Caesar’s banner, held it up and ripped it in half demonstrating her superior battle strategy over him.  I don’t think she had ever defeated him before this moment and he was not handling it well.  In that moment some of the other mercenaries helped me to my feet as they celebrated their victory over Caesar alongside Bodecia with Xena.  Xena waived Caesar’s torn banner and all of the mercenaries raised their swords and shouted out in victory.  The victory would be short-lived for both Xena and Bodecia knew that Caesar would not be able to wallow in defeat very long.  He would most certainly be ready to counter-attack by the following morning.

      There was no time to waste.  Xena told Bodecia that it was time to return to camp and regroup.  Bodecia agreed with Xena.  She was all business as she ordered her men back to camp.  I walked alongside Xena and Bodecia listening to them converse about their plans.  It seemed to me that Xena was very disappointed that I had allowed myself to be captured by Caesar.  She had barely taken the time to speak to me about any of what had just happened to me the night before.  Not only that, but I really wanted to get to know Bodecia, yet she was a warrior leader just as focused as Xena if not more.  I found myself feeling very small with in this dynamic of myself, Xena, Bodecia, Caesar and the mercenaries.  It was as if I really found myself not belonging with Xena for the first time.  I had never felt this way before, but I didn’t like it.  There was seemingly no place where I fit into the equation.  It felt as if somehow Xena were punishing me for my careless mistake in getting captured by Caesar.  I decided to fall back into the crowd of mercenaries for comfort.  Perhaps I could talk to Kraftstar and to his followers.  I needed to feel like I was doing something useful with in this twisted craft of warfare.

      Once we reached Bodecia’s camp hidden cleverly within a cave Xena finally decided to approach me about my mistake in getting myself caught.  She grabbed my arm forcefully pulling me away from Kraftstar.  I was ready for what she was going to say to me.  Before I would allow her to belittle me I tried to explain to her that I had never had any intention of getting myself caught.  I apologized to her because it was all I could think of to say hoping that it would somehow restore her lost faith in me.  Before I could finish my attempt at defending my actions during the battle on the night before Xena seemed much more interested in if I had actually spoken with Caesar.  I was puzzled for a moment.  This was not what I had expected.  Perhaps she was not disappointed in me.  Maybe this was my chance at redeeming myself.  As I began to describe to Xena Caesar’s distinctive entrancing aura she stopped me and forcefully interrupted.  Her analogy was that his aura was exactly same power that drew a moth to a flame with the same result.

     This put quite a distinctive image in my mind.  She was comparing me to that moth with in the fact that I almost got myself killed.  She wasn’t wrong, but I didn’t feel what I had just suffered at Caesar’s bidding should have been criticized so harshly.  I needed Xena to take me seriously again and so my next statement was very serious.   It was useful information she wanted from me and not to discuss what I had suffered.  I then spoke of how he had talked about his strategy to divide and conquer.  That seemed as if it were important information she could use in her next battle against him.  I needed to win her faith again.  Before I could finish my thought Xena filled in the blanks stating that dividing a woman’s sensabilities from her emotion was Caesar’s philosophy and she was already well-aware of it.  Just then she seemed very annoyed and I realized that I had allowed myself to become nothing more than Caesar’s messenger to prod at Xena’s emotions.   Then Xena walked away and I realized that despite his having betrayed her she had once had very serious strong feelings toward him.   There were so many old passions stirring within the warrior princess between her past love affair turned betrayal with Caesar and her own betrayal of Bodecia.  It was more than I could handle or deal with.  I couldn’t calm her nerves because I couldn’t calm my own nerves.  I was very much out of my element.  I was having my own crisis of faith.

      I decided that it was time to find out as much as I could about what had happened the night before between Xena and Bodecia at the camp.  As I moved about I searched for wounded men I could be of service to.  When I reached the back of the cave I found an entire stash of food and water and a make-shift hospital.  Bodecia was amazingly organized.  She was an amazing leader and I wondered if maybe it had been Bodecia who had taught Xena those leadership skills during their time together in the past.  Unfortunately, for Bodecia it had been to her detriment.  I realized that Xena was doing the same thing with Bodecia that I was doing with her.  She wanted desperately to regain Bodecia’s faith in her to make up for her past betrayal.  As I sat down next to one of the wounded I grabbed a nearby torn rag and wooden bowl of water to help wipe his wounds.  I started asking him about Bodecia and he said that he knew her quite well.  He was one of her officers and had witnessed what had transpired between the two women the night before.  He said Bodecia had been very suspicious of Xena despite having accepted Xena’s help in going up against Caesar again.  When Xena had first arrived back at the camp with Bodecia after the first battle Bodecia’s officer stated that Bodecia had reminded Xena that Xena was not in charge of this army.  Xena did not take it well according to Bodecia’s officer and had trouble biting her tongue.   Bodecia pointed to the past, but Xena would not allow Bodecia to live in their past relationship.  Xena reprimanded Bodecia for bringing the past into the present.

       When I asked Bodecia’s wounded officer what had happened next he stated that Xena tried to convince Bodecia that she had arrived in Britannia only to help Bodecia.  Bodecia did not believe that for a moment.  In fact, the officer stated that Bodecia revealed to Xena that she was keenly aware of Xena’s need for vengeance against Caesar.  Bodecia was certain that Xena had come only for Caesar.  The Celtic warrior woman went on to state that Caesar was the only reason that she herself had not attempted her own revenge on Xena.  Bodecia had decided that Xena was a lesser evil than Caesar and that she most certainly would be unable to defeat Caesar without Xena’s help.  The Celtic warrior leader then walked away from Xena, and Xena genuinely attempted to apologize to Bodecia for the loss of her husband Persudicas.  Bodecia’s officer stated that the Celtic warrior woman was not interested in Xena’s weak apologies and she left Xena standing alone in the middle of her camp.  In that moment I thanked the Celtic officer for his conversation and for being so open about his leader.  I attempted to ease his mind knowing that Xena really did have good intentions.  Although it was also becoming quite clear to me that she also had selfish motivations.  It was a strange place for the warrior princess to be.  She was the evil self and the good self all in the same moment.

       I moved onto take care of another wounded mercenary.  He was able to fill in the next part of the story of Xena’s night with Bodecia.  This mercenary told me that Xena had approached him and asked him if he had known of where I was in the camp.  Xena assumed that I had made it back with everyone else after the battle.  When the mercenary stated that no girl was brought in Xena pressed the mercenary for more asking him about the leader of the temple whom the girl had been last known to be traveling with.  The mercenary stated a woman approached him and interjected into the conversation asking Xena if it had been Kraftstar that she was inquiring about.  Xena affirmed that it was and the woman continued stating that the last she had heard Kraftstar had gone to Gual to hunt for mercenaries.  She had heard nothing about the girl Xena had been asking about.  It must have been in that moment that Xena realized that I had been captured.

     As I tended to another officer it was revealed to me that Xena had stormed off into Bodecia’s tent uninvited while Bodecia was putting together the battle plans.  Xena had quickly taken down both the officer  and Bodecia instantly drawing her sword upon Bodecia.  The officer said that within the tense moments he had almost choked to death.  Xena had kicked the air from his lungs.  The warrior princess then accused Bodecia of lying to her.  Xena must have suspected that Bodecia was attempting to get her own revenge by not telling Xena of my capture.  Bodecia’s answer to Xena’s challenge against her decision to allow me to be lost to the Romans was that one person was not worth saving when she had to get an entire army out of the valley before Caesar could recover with reinforcements against them.  Bodecia had been certain that Xena would never have allowed Bodecia and the mercenary army to leave the valley before it was too late.  For Bodecia I was not worth the sacrifice of her men.  Bodecia attempted to use the tense moment to get control of Xena’s blade being pressed up against her chest, but Xena was too strong for the move.  Then Bodecia tried words stating to Xena that she had something important to reveal to her.  Xena waited for Bodecia to reveal her secret.  She must have thought perhaps I had been killed rather than captured.  Bodecia refused to say anything more until Xena surrendered and gave the officer his breath back.

      Xena had to make a choice.  As the officer continued his story he explained that he was certain Xena would have killed both himself and Bodecia if she had revealed anything Xena did not want to hear.  Bodecia held out and waited for Xena to make her choice.  Xena could have chosen to kill Bodecia and find out nothing or to free the officer from his suffering allowing Bodecia the chance to get her blade upon Xena for a clash of swords.  Xena chose to save the officer freeing his impeded lungs and restoring the officer’s breath.  Bodecia used that moment to leap to her feet as she grabbed a staff.  Once the moment had calmed and cooler heads had prevailed the officer had asked Bodecia if she wanted him to call a guard to come to the tent to deal with Xena.  Bodecia decided against it and asked the officer to leave the two women alone together.  The officer stated next that he had been the one who had retrieved my staff back at the river where I had allowed myself to become captured.  He revealed to me that the reason that Xena had not come for me sooner was because Bodecia would not allow her to jeaporadize the position of the mercenary army.

      After several hours of stand off between the two women the officer said that Xena had finally found a way to convince Bodecia that she could come up with a battle plan against Caesar that would allow both Bodecia to easily defeat him and Xena to save Gabrielle.  The only problem with what the officer had described to me was that Xena had decided that I could be used as bait.  When I heard this I realized that both Xena and Caesar were only using me as a pawn in a much larger game.  It was the game of war.  Caesar, it was clear had wanted to use me to divide Xena’s emotions so he could easily defeat her in battle.  Xena had used me to bring Caesar into a trap.  It was a brilliant plan, but I did not like the idea that I was considered expendable.  It was low even for Xena to have allowed me to be used in her war strategy in this way.  It explained why it had taken her so long to come for me.  I nearly lost my life because she had wanted to come to Britannia to get back at Caesar.  This had been something Xena had been planning to do for months.  I was now discovering these plans and my heart was beginning to understand what Bodecia’s heart was feeling.  Then I realized that for Bodecia Xena was her Callisto.  I began to respect Bodecia even more and I began to feel regret that I had been the one that these men had sacrificed themselves for.  Had I not been captured they might not be lying in this hospital injured.  The responsibility I was beginning to feel weighed heavy on my heart.

      The day dragged into night.  While Xena and Bodecia spent their time making battle plans to divide and conquer Caesar’s army it seemed that somehow Xena had managed to regain Bodecia’s trust in some small way.  I could see that Xena had been able to help Bodecia take the advantage against Caesar within two smaller battles in two days, but it seemed that there was something much larger looming.  Late in the night Xena returned to the cave with me.  She woke me to inform me that she wanted me to go with Kraftstar and his followers to secure Kraftstar’s temple as soon as Bodecia and the mercenaries took it from Caesar in the morning.  Xena stated that only a small garrison now held the temple because she and Bodecia had successfully been able to force him to spread his army thin.  The plan was for them to force Caesar into one larger battle in which he would sacrifice more than he should.  She was attempting to use Caesar’s own strategy against him.  Somehow it appeared that she was thinking more clearly than she had in a while.  She had given me a purpose for the morning.  I should have been upset about her expecting me to hold a temple alone while she rode off with Bodecia to fight the larger battle, but I wasn’t.  I had found myself so lost within the dynamics of what a real war was that I had no interest in joining Xena for the blood bath Xena had planned for Caesar’s army.  In the moment I found myself more comfortable with spending time with Kraftstar and learning about how I might be able to restore my own faith with getting to know his god better.

     On the next morning taking the temple went according to Xena’s plans.  It was a simple maneuver in which Xena had Bodecia order a few archers to start a stealthful attack against the unsuspecting garrison.  The first barrage of arrows hit its target as the Roman officer in charge ordered his men to form their shields in defense against the second barrage of arrows.  One man had been killed during the first barrage as the men prepared and hunkered down.  Xena then rode in for the charge upon one of Bodecia’s horses.  She flipped into action landing directly onto the shielded Roman defense as she gave her battle cry.  As soon as Xena began to disperse the Roman defense the mercenaries charged out from the woods down to the low ground of the temple for their attack.  Xena pulled her sword out to attack the Roman defenses even further striking a soldier’s shield with great power.  Quickly Bodecia led her army of mercenaries in for the kill against the Roman garrison upon her chariot.  The garrison did not put up much more of a fight instantly realizing that they were completely out numbered and would be slaughtered by the mercenaries in moments.  Bodecia stopped her chariot and observed that the garrison was heading straight for the hills.  Xena advised Bodecia to keep her army charging forward to follow them.  The warrior princess was instructing Bodecia to kill them knowing that the garrison was attempting to out run their attackers.  Xena suspected they were attempting to find a way to reinforce their garrison so they could retake the temple.  With that Bodecia led the charge and continued her pursuit of the Romans and Xena jumped back onto Bodecia’s black horse and charged after them.

      It was in that moment that I followed Kraftstar and his cloaked followers into their sacred temple.  Kraftstar then stopped and looked to his followers and to me and offered his praises to the one god.  I was happy for him because it seemed that there was something very powerful and amazing about his god.  The temple had been spared rather than destroyed by the Romans and now we were about to enter it.  Kraftstar’s aura was entrancing as he led his people to their savior and I could not help, but feel a closeness to him and a tenderness toward him for the journey his life had led him on.  He had been through so much, but his faith was proving to be stronger than even the Roman army.  To me that was worth everything.  I needed to feel that there was power within faith again.  In this moment with Kraftstar I thought I might just be able to salvage my own faith in goodness and in the greater good.  I found myself to be overcome with joy and I reached out and embraced Kraftstar offering my praise to his god.

      Soon after entering the temple Kraftstar and all of his followers dressed themselves in ceremonial robes.  Kraftstar offered me to join them during their sacred ceremony.  I wasn’t certain that it was appropriate for me to join them, but Kraftstar insisted that his god was open to embracing everyone.  He urged me to stay because he wanted me to be a part of it and he wanted me to see it.  I felt honored and flattered.  It seemed that Kraftstar and I had shared so much together in these last several weeks and especially over the past few days.  The two of us had shared great emotional passions with one another and we had also shared physical passions which I had kept from Xena.  It had been a long time since I had felt this way about anyone.  For the first time it felt as if I were finally healing my heart from my loss of Perdicas to Callisto.  I had finally found someone who could truly relate to my pain and suffering inside.  We had faced Caesar and death together.  Now Kraftstar and his followers were inviting me into their inner circle.  As we approached their ceremonial room one of Krafstar’s female followers approached him and asked him if he didn’t mind if she went ahead and did the honor of conducting the ceremony of rejoining.  She was aware that this ceremony belonged to Kraftstar, but she stated that there had been a few changes made to the ceremony by the tribunal during his absence.  He appeared confused for a moment, but not concerned.  Krafstar allowed her to conduct the ceremony as the tribunal had advised.  He smiled and then she stepped upon the stone pedestal at the center of the temple and began the ceremony.

       All of the cloaked followers then knelt down and picked up a rope.  I could only assume that it was meant to represent the idea of rejoining the group after having been absent.  I followed the group as they picked up the rope and held it in unison.  And then as we stood there her chant began.  “From the begining of time the one has been waiting to complete the circle.  The world that is his has reached a time of rejoining.  The days of old are gone, and the new is before us.  Tremble at his arrival.”  In that moment I wasn’t sure I fully understood what was being said.  As I continued to observe and to listen Kraftstar whispered to me under his breath and stated that this ceremony had changed quite a lot since he had last conducted it.  I looked to him not quite certain of what to say next or how to respond to him.  Then the ceremony continued.  “But first the door must be opened.  The path of his arrival must be sanctified in blood, pure blood, innocent blood.”  As the priestess continued her chant and I heard her speak those words of blood I found myself feeling confused and uncertain.  Before I had time to consider the moment Kraftstar’s followers grabbed him and began leading him toward the alter at the center of the temple.  They began chanting loudly as he began to struggle.  Another pair of priests grabbed my arms and restrained me from doing anything to try to help him escape.  Kraftstar looked back to me shouting out with in his struggle to get away from his captors.

      As I struggled to free myself my heart raced in panic.  I asked my captors to release me, but they would not.  In the next moment I looked up to see that Kraftstar had been placed upon the alter and they were tying his wrists and ankles to the alter.  Suddenly, I realized that he was to become the innocent sacrifice needed to open the gates for this one god who seemingly revealed himself as dark.  No god of good would seek blood to enter into the world.  The priestess continued, “This world will end today.  The hand of Dahok will sweep the earth bringing with it the winter of a thousand years, killing everyone who stands in the way of his world.”  As I continued to struggle to release myself from my captors I head Kraftstar crying out to me pleading for my help.  He stated this was not our god of faith at all.  I didn’t know what to do.  I was seemingly unable to free myself as the chanting of the darkness surrounding us became louder.  The blue cloaked followers chanted loudly as they awaited Kraftstar to be sacrificed in blood in order to open the portal for Dahok’s planned arrival.  Everything happened so fast and there was not time to think.  I had to do something and I had to do it alone.  The deep dark chanting continued as a cloaked female follower arrived to the alter with a long golden box which contained a knife.  I saw the priestess open the box and prepare to take the knife from within.

      Then the priestess held up the knife in ritual toward the sky, and then turned back to the alter with the knife raised above her head.  She began to chant again, “With this life we praise Dahok the dark one.”  I felt powerless and I didn’t want to feel powerless to stop this sacrifice.  I refused to allow another close to my heart become a sacrifice to the cycle of violence.  Without another thought I kicked one of my captors distracting him long enough to deliver a furious elbow to his stomach knocking him flat onto the ground.  This motion was seamless as I elbowed my second captor sending him backward off balance.  I delivered a final blow to the nose knocking him to the ground behind me.  Everything happened so fast yet it seemed as if every moment was an eternity.  The dark chanting continued as I dashed upon the alter and charged at the priestess who held the knife ready to strike Kraftstar.  I reached to grab the knife and delivered a punch to her wind pipe.  I couldn’t stand to listen to another word from her.  It all happened in one fluid motion as I watched her fall to the ground off of the alter.

      I then turned to Krafstar to free him with the knife from his binds.  There was a deep anger boiling up from within my heart.  I felt that there was something that Kraftstar had failed to mention to me about his god.  My adrenaline was high and all I could think of was the moment when Callisto had slid her sword through Perdicas’s heart.  It felt as if I had just taken a sword through my own heart.  Just as I had cut the last bind from Krafstar’s wrists his eyes grew wide and he shouted out a word of warning to me.  It echoed through the temple and I acted.  No sooner than I had turned around did my eyes catch a flash of heavy steel wildly swinging through the air in my direction.  The priestess charged at me and I quickly maneuvered away from her charge at me with her sword.  Using the stone alter I turned away and shielded my body from the blow she delivered toward me.  She had intended to kill me.  I was meant to be the sacrifice.  Kraftstar shouted my name again.  With no time to think I acted and turned to face my attacker with a rage like no other.  Her steel blade was raised again as she charged toward me.  She had left herself completely open for my instant counter attack.  Quickly with the only offensive move that I had I charged forward into her attack and thrust my knife directly into the left side of her abdomen.   I felt the softness of the inside of her body.  I heard a whimper come from her body as she looked deeply into my eyes with regret.

      Suddenly, I realized what I had just done.  Her arms began to drop as she struggled for breath.  Then I realized that my knife was still stuck in her side.  I pulled it out to inspect her wound.  Maybe it was treatable.  Then she dropped her sword with a tear in her eye and looked directly at me into my eyes.  A weak smile spread across her face.  I waited for her to say something.  It appeared as if she could still stand and walk, but was struggling to breath.  Then she fell into herself grabbing for her wound.  Then another whimper came from within her body as she fell to the stone alter unconscious.  Her hand was still holding her wound and my hand was still holding the knife while my other hand had attempted to catch her from falling.  I did not think about any of it.  It just happened.  Then I looked at her deep bloody wound and realized that she was gone.  She had died in that moment.  I had delivered her to her death and watched her take her lasts breaths.  My soul was the last soul she had seen before she passed into the abyss.  It was as if it were a nightmare as I rose to access what I had just done.  I still held the steel blade soaked with the blood of the priestess.  Shock took hold of my soul and my being for I could not believe what had just transpired.  There had been no time to think only to act.  Had I really just plunged a knife into an innocent?  I stared at the knife painted in blood in my hand as I followed the blood flowing upon it into to my hand.  I stared at it in disbelief.  Everything that I had ever fought for and everything I had ever believed about myself and my world to be true was no more.

       For an eternity I could feel the suffering and anguish of every soul that had ever been upon the earth.  Every innocent man, woman, and child flashed through my soul and I internalized all of their pain in my heart for I was no better than Callisto.  I was not a murder yet I had just murdered someone.  My bloody hands were now evidence of another chain in every link that ever created the cycle of violence.  I had now become a part of the very thing I had always stood against.  As I turned in circles within my confusion Kraftstar approached me and took the my bloody weapon.  Softly he looked into my eyes and spoke a debt of gratitude as he held the bloody knife.  I began to sob releasing the tension within my heart as I looked down at my blood soaked hands.  The blood was now beginning to dry as Kraftstar explained that I had just succeeded at helping him to bring Dahok into the world.  My body began to shake as I felt violated inside.  I didn’t know what I was going to do to resolve my mistake.  It seemed irreverseable for death is permanent.  Tears began to fall from my heart as Kraftstar continued to speak to me softly and to draw me back into the world.  He stated that Dahok had needed a sacrifice and that I had just willingly given it to him.  Kraftstar’s hand moved to touch my face, but I instinctively moved away from him.  Kraftstar continued explaining that Dahok was not just looking for a sacrifice of flesh and blood, but also the sacrifice of a pure soul, innocent of evil.  I stared at my bloody hands in disbelief.  I could only hope to awaken from my nightmare as he spoke to me.  I didn’t want to hear his voice anymore.

      Kraftstar looked to his followers and declared that the world and all who were upon it would be no more.  He then raised the bloody sacrifice above his head and declared that the new kingdom of Dahok would rule from this moment forth.  Somehow that statement snapped me into some coherence of thought as I realized that I had just been betrayed by Kraftstar.  He had taken my heart and taken advantage of my innocence and my trust in him as a friend and as a lover.  Then he turned to me and stated that I would be the one who would bring forth Dahok’s evil world of blood and of death.  He smiled and it pierced through me.  In that moment I realized that I was completely alone and doomed to continue the cycle of violence.  All of the pain and suffering of the world was upon my bloody hands.  My soul was powerless to do anything, but to cry out loud as I shouted one word, the only word that could escape from my lips in that moment.  Not me, it could not be me.  I could not be the one responsible.  I fell to my knees tears filling my eyes and rolling down my face.  Emotions flooded through me and I could not control them.  I wanted to die in that moment for I did not deserve to live.  It should have been me on that alter.  My ears could no longer bare to hear the truth.  I attempted to cover them and to fall into myself hoping that I would soon wake from my nightmare.

       The next thing that I could recall was that I heard Xena’s footsteps enter into the temple.  I realized I was alone and that I must have passed out from the shock I had just experienced.  I was sobbing still unable to gather myself as I attempted to stumble my way toward the warrior princess.  The priestess lied dead upon the stone alter.  Xena quickly approached me at the alter as I crawled to the front where she arrived.  She softly spoke my name.  Then she sat down upon the steps to the alter as I reached out to embrace her.  I needed her now more than ever.  I needed to feel whole inside.  I could barely utter any words as Xena held me and stroked my hair.  She asked me what had happened.  I asked Xena where the priestess was, but I could barely get her name to escape my lips.  Xena told me that she was gone.  Then Xena pulled me away from her realizing that I was in extreme shock.  She looked me straight in the eye and asked me in a very serious tone who had done this.  It was in that moment that my senses were finally coming back and though I was still extremely emotional and remorseful of my actions I knew that I had to tell Xena the truth of who I had become and who I really was in that moment.  I looked directly into her soul and confessed my crime weakly, but without hesitation.  I was disappointed in myself for my own actions.  In my heart I felt there had to be a better way.  Xena looked to me confused not quite understanding my truth, but I laid it out straight.  I explained that I had simply killed the priestess.  Xena was still confused, but I repeated my statement just to clarify my truth.  Xena did not want to believe it.  She rejected the idea out loud.  I confessed my crime again through my tears explaining how I had just stabbed the priestess.  Then I held up my still bloody hands.  Her eyes expressed shock.  Then she realized that she had to do something to calm my battle nerves.  She shouted out that I had killed the priestess accidentally.

      I refused to accept my deed as any less than what it was.  The cold blooded murder I had just committed through a stab wound could not be explained off as a simple accident.  I stabbed her to kill her.  My rage in the heat of that single moment of my life had gotten the better of me and I had committed murder.  Xena’s eyes searched mine hoping that she could find something else to say, but there was nothing else to say.  It was all true.  Then I leaned in to embrace Xena once more.  I needed to feel comfort and I needed to feel calm.  Xena held me and began to stroke my hair again.  She was preparing to tell me that it was okay to have my first kill, but before she could say anything more the voice of Kraftstar interrupted.  He thanked Xena.  Xena looked up and I looked to see him standing there before us.  I wanted to hurl.  He had raped my soul and I didn’t want to be near him anymore.  I tried to hide my naked heart from the evil presence that he intended to deliver inside me.  Xena jumped up from the alter and screamed out an obscenity at him.  She drew her sword instantly ready to do something about him.  Xena demanded to know what Kraftstar had done to me.  He simply explained that he had full filled my destiny.  Kraftstar then promised that I would be for Dahok.  Xena was confused and demanded to know who Dahok was.  Kraftstar explained that Dahok was the one true god.  Through acts of great wars Dahok w0uld bring the clensing fires of humanity to the earth.  He stated that Dahok’s war was begun of innocence.   Xena was still confused.  She had remembered the god of David and the Israelites, but Kraftstar stated that there was no room for that god or any other god, and that they would all be taken down by his god in time.   Again Kraftstar thanked Xena for bringing me into the great war which would kick off the death of love.

      Xena was still uncertain of what the larger goal was for Kraftstar.  Kraftstar asked Xena to look inside herself and reminded her that she had brought me into her darkness from all of her own past deeds.  He then asked her why she had come to Britannia.  Kraftstar then answered his own question stating that Xena had come only to defeat Caesar.  He went onto state that it was Xena’s hatred of Caesar that had brought her to Britannia, and that Dahok appreciated rage.  In that moment Xena’s rage boiled to the surface as she charged at Kraftstar with her sword screaming.  Her emotions were controlling her as she missed striking him down.  He ducked her attack then turned and hurled a great power into her direction.  She quickly flew across the temple and went down hard.  I slowly started to rise from my own ashes of despair realizing that if Xena were going to die I wanted to die along side her.  I would help her fight evil one last time.  Before I had the chance to get to my feet Dahok’s fire rose from the ashes of my despair and reached for me.  I attempted to jump away from his power and his grasp, but the force of his evil was too much.  The fire grew larger as I looked back it engulfed me and I was dragged back upon the fiery alter.  Xena jumped to her feet and screamed for me attempting to rescue me.  She had completely forgotten about Kraftstar until he flipped into her path blocking her advance against Dahok’s fire.

      Kraftstar fought Xena with her own power and her own moves.  He kicked her back across the temple against the walls.  I cried out for Xena, but she was powerless to rescue me from the wrath of Dahok.  Suddenly, the stone alter exploded before me.  I blocked the rubble as it hurled toward me.  In that moment I was suddenly engulfed completely within the fire of Dahok with in the smoke and the flames.  My body was levitated high up into the temple as I could feel Dahok’s fire burning deep inside me.  I could only feel the struggle below and the struggle within.  Dahok had entered human form within Kraftstar’s body as a demon being.  He declared that Xena’s blood was needed to completely open the gate for Dahok’s entrance.  Xena refused to allow it.  She regathered her senses and began to focus.  She put her rage deep within and used it against the mortal form in which Dahok had taken within Kraftstar.  Xena hurled her chackram and discovered as it hit the temple walls that Dahok’s weakness lied with in its own connection to the temple itself.  She shouted out to me promising to battle her way into the fires which held me physically captive.

     The battle continued as Xena managed to get a blow in against the demon.  She noticed that it weakened the evil energy that had taken hold within the temple itself.  Xena then went for a low offensive move with her sword sweeping the demon’s sword away opening him up for her counter offensive against him.  She pulled her breast dagger and cut him with it.  Every time she took a deep blow at him I could feel the fire inside me weakening, but it was still strongly moving through me.  Being violated by Dahok’s power in this way was uncomfortable and unpleasant.  I was being touched by a force that I had not willingly invited into my being.  It felt as if Dahok’s fire was being fueled by my deepest rage and deepest human flaws.  His power drew every negative emotion and every negative experience it could probe from within my soul.  As Dahok’s force was beginning to weaken even more he fought back against Xena’s strength and cunning.  The warrior princess was taunting him into an enraged mistake as he had done to her early in the fight.  His godly ego was getting the better of Dahok as he began to falter in his choices against Xena within their duel of wills.  Xena begged him to come at her as she flipped over him to press her advantage against his mortal emotions.  She didn’t believe he was truly a god.  Gods could not be injured and he had proven that he could be hurt.  Xena continued to press her advantage by continuing to manipulate his emotions within the mortal demon he had appeared in the form of.

      As Dahok’s fire within me was weakening I could feel the ebb and flow of the emotional battle between Xena and Dahok’s demon.  He had regained some composure as he charged at Xena again who continued to point out Dahok’s flaws and weaknesses.   Xena turned to face him with her back to the fiery alter.  As Dahok’s demon approached charging at her she fell upon her back and grabbed him at full force and momentum.  She flipped him through the air kicking him up over her into the fiery alter.  The demon’s body fell into the fire below me and blocked the gates that were now open.  Suddenly, Dahok’s fire within me lost its hold upon me and disappeared from beneath me.  I fell from the sky toward the hole in the alter.  Xena jumped up and leapt across the hole to grab me as I fell from the sky.  She swooped in and saved me from my despair as she stood before the destroyed alter and held me in her arms.  I held her tight and did not want to let go of her.  I was afraid of what might happen next.  I did not want to get separated from her again.  She urged me to stand upon my own feet and kept repeating that she would not let go of me.

      Suddenly, the earth beneath began to shake, and the temple began to collapse.  Xena barked out an order for me to run.  I ran into an archway and Xena followed barking out another command to get to get down.  She shielded me with her body as the entire temple began to fall all around us.  The temple itself exploded within its own fiery rage as Dahok’s power struggled within its own defeat.  Fiery stones dropped from the sky raining down upon us.  Again I passed out as the earth continued to shake beneath us.  It was several hours before I came around again, but I was numb inside.  Xena was still holding me in her arms as I awoke.  I whispered her name and she assured me that she was still with me.  I tried to explain how I was hurting deeply within.  I had no words really to describe what I had just experienced with in Dahok’s fire.  Xena did not understand what I meant.  I tried to tell her that everything had changed.  Even I had changed inside my soul somehow.  There was no going back from those moments in Dahok’s temple.  I would never be the same.  My heart cried and my eyes could not control the tears that fell.  Xena stroked my hair and rocked me like a child.  I felt like a child that had just been violated and there was nothing that I could have done to stop it.  Despite that Xena promised me that all would be okay.  She would make things better.  Xena then apologized to me saying that she should have listened to Ares when he had come to her asking her to intervene and to destroy the temple sooner.  She said that she had felt that he only had selfish intentions.  Again, it was her rage against even the god of war that allowed Dahok to enter into my soul and my being.  I was never going to be the same now that I had become nothing more than Dahok’s deliverer.

Grass-Roots Indy Film “Unidentified” Seeks Finishing Funds

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<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/78794623″>UNIDENTIFIED – TEASER TRAILER #1 “Tackett”</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/christopherdonnelly”>Chris Donnelly</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

There are a lot of indy films out there that are in one stage of the process or another.  Talented artists and film makers are everywhere, but many do not have access to funding that could bring their work into the light from with in the shadows.

“Unidentified” is one such film that has a crowd funding goal of $2,500 in order to finish its feature-length journey about a young man’s “Blair Witch” style documented journey of abduction.  Several scenes have been shot, but the film needs finishing funds in order to get out there and be seen.  In 1999 “The Blair Witch Project” was probably one of the earliest, if not the first, to use the internet to market itself and quite successfully.  That film cost about $40,000 to make and made much, much more at the box office due to a very successful urban legend campaign.

It was shot in a guerrilla style way, and today, probably would not have been given a second look.  The reason is that practically every grassroots indy film since has attempted to capitalize on the idea of making itself an internet sensation through one form of social media or another.  That business model has become so saturated that only those who win the luck of the draw, and happen to be given the time of day by the right people will succeed.

Indy film has had many different ways of trying to break through the fortified walls of Hollywood over the years.   Another success was Robert Rodriguez back in the early 1990’s with a film titled “El Mariachi.”  It had quite a small budget as well, and it was done guerrilla style, but in my opinion, it was a much better film technically over all, and they went the film festival route which is another business model that grassroots independent filmmakers still attempt to use even today.

Now neither of the two examples used crowd funding because it didn’t exist in the 1990’s, but today almost every filmmaker I know attempts to use this platform as a way to raise funds as opposed to the old-fashioned model of hitting the pavement and seeking investors.  There are actually laws with the SEC that prevent films from raising funds by individuals who invest less than a specific amount of money.

The point is, that funding a film is no easy task because funding a film in any capacity is a high risk investment.  I have personally invested in independent film before.  In fact, I actually received about two-thirds of my investment back through overseas sales of the film that I had invested in.  Which is pretty good considering when investing in a film one might as well be prepared to lose it all.  Most films are not profitable which is why Hollywood films are mostly formulaic.

Every once in a while Hollywood will take a risk on something original, but not without some kind of named star backing or starring on-screen in the film.  The world of independent film is full of landmines and unexpected obstacles as is film making in Hollywood itself.  The only difference is Hollywood is a name brand; whereas, grass-roots indy films are considered not worth the time or money.  But I tell you that is a misconception.  I’ve seen many grass-roots indy films made that are amazing stories and the no name talent are fabulous in them.

As for “Unidentified,” at the current moment this article is being written, the funding is nowhere near its goal of $2,500.  Considering that most Hollywood films cost millions of dollars, and even known indy films have budgets of hundreds of thousands of dollars I would say the investment is quite small to finish this film.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/87640323″>UNIDENTIFIED – Teaser #2 “Shaina”</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/christopherdonnelly”>Chris Donnelly</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Originally, the title of the film was “Chariots of the Gods,” but it caused quite a stir and detracted attention from the project itself.  People were more concerned about arguing over its title than actually helping or offering small investments toward its completion.  It’s funny how the grass-roots community works.  We all market to ourselves, and forget to step outside of our little corner of the world into the worlds of others who may actually be interested in giving to an artistic cause for the sake of art.  Grass-roots independent film artists even harshly criticize one another for going out and marketing.  The question is:  How else are people supposed to find out that you and your work exist?

 

If you are interested in helping to crowd fund “Unidentified,” and want see what all the fuss is about go to the link below, donate, and share.  Just so you know, I challenge all of you to beat out the crowd funding campaign of a $4,000 bowl of crowd funded potato salad.  If it costs $4,000 to raise enough money to cook a bowl of potato salad then surely you can donate enough to reach a goal of only $2,500 to finish the film “Unidentified.”

http://www.gofundme.com/chariotsofthegods

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #54: Surprise

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The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll #54:  Surprise

October, 47 B.C.

     Deep in Tartarus there was once a blonde nemesis.  Her name was Callisto and she had done many evil deeds while in the land of the living.  However, she wasn’t born evil.  She had once been a helpless little farm girl in a village known as Syra.  At the age of 11 Callisto had witnessed the total destruction of her village and her family in the flames of a once evil warrior princess.  It was in that decisive moment of her life that Callisto had vowed within her tender innocent heart turned cold to destroy that which had destroyed her.

Nine years later Callisto had finally caught up to her enemy and challenged the warrior princess.  By then the warrior princess had changed her ways and was no longer on a path of ultimate destruction, but on a path toward serving the greater good.  The evil that the young Callisto had seeked revenge upon was no longer wandering the earth on a path of destruction.  Although Callisto had failed in accomplishing the complete destruction of the warrior princess she had managed to find a way to destroy the life of her friend Gabrielle by destroying her beloved husband Perdicas.  Xena the warrior princess had attempted to reform the young Callisto’s heart back into love, but was unsuccessful.  Upon the murder of Perdicas Xena had been left no other choice, but to allow Callisto to destroy herself.  And Callisto did destroy herself which had led her to her own demise down into the depths of Tartarus.

This is where the bard Gabrielle’s real story of Callisto begins.  The bard could imagine Callisto down in Tartarus screaming in agony and in eternal emotional pain.  Within Callisto’s rage unfulfilled a deep, dark, shadowy voice came from within the depths of her soul.  The voice spoke to Callisto who was surprised to find that anyone in Tartarus would listen to her pain.  But someone was listening.  In fact, it was a very powerful force that had taken a great interest in Callisto’s pain.  Callisto was cautiously intrigued within her emotional turmoil inquiring of who it was that had taken an interest in her.  The voice only had one response.  The voice declared that she was a follower and a fan of Callisto.  Then the voice continued speaking to Callisto.  She expressed her interest in Callisto’s passionate campaign against the warrior princess.  In fact, the dark fan proclaimed that she was regretful that Callisto’s vengeance had gone unsatisfied.

Callisto rose from within the fetal ball of pain that she had become in Tartarus and stood upon her feet to greet the voice which seemed to admire her.  When the blond approached the holographic face which appeared before her Callisto had determined it was the goddess Hera.  Callisto took a jab at the great Hera demanding to know why Hera refused to reveal her true ugliness to Callisto.  The broken blond warrior was not afraid of the gods, but it seemed that perhaps the gods were afraid of her.  This was of great delight to Callisto as she laughed maniacally at Hera.  Hera matched Callisto’s playful laughter with her own explaining how she felt about Callisto.  Hera only view Callisto as a pet really as Callisto inquired within her eternal emotional exhaustion of what Hera wanted from the condemned.

Hera then declared to Callisto that all she really wanted was to see Callisto smile again.  The great voice continued explaining that she desired to offer another chance to get her vengeance against Xena.  Callisto was cautiously interested in what Hera would offer and what kind of a deal she wished to make with her as she listened.  Hera continued  by explaining to Callisto that she would grant her one more day of life on earth and the chance at becoming an immortal.  Callisto was delightfully sold on Hera’s offer.  She only needed to know what Hera needed from her in exchange.  Hera explained that her desire was a simple one.  Callisto’s part of their deal would be in using that day to hunt down and kill her husband Zeus’s bastard son the great Hercules.  Hera reminded Callisto that it was Hercules that had made Xena, the warrior princess, whole and it was Hercules that had allowed Xena to take the path of redemption for herself.  Callisto did not need any persuasion beyond that as she spoke Hercules’s name, and smiled then laughed maniacally as Hera rescued Callisto from Tartarus and brought her back to the land of the living upon the earth.

Hera had picked a very special day in which to unleash a bloodbath upon Hercules.  It was his birthday and his mortal mother Alchmeny had been planning a big surprise party for her much celebrated son the legendary hero.  All of Hercules’s human family members were gathering in Alchmeny’s home as they prepared for Hercules’s arrival.

From one moment in Tartarus and in the next Callisto found herself in an instant within the home of Alchmeny.  The party guests appeared very surprised to see her as she suddenly appeared.  She looked of death, but was very much alive.  Dressed in a black hooded cloak Callisto timidly excused herself for intruding upon their little gathering.  She explained that she had been unable to find a guard to announce her arrival.  Hercules’s brother responded explaining that they had sent the guard home for the day since they were having a celebration and did not feel the need for the extra security.  Hercules’s human brother then inquired of who it was that had intruded upon their surprise party.   Iphacles.

Callisto used this opportunity to invite herself closer to the party guests.  She stated that she had come to pay her respects.  The darkness approached the unsuspecting guests explaining that her family had been attacked and her husband killed upon their travels along the road in Macedonia.  She continued her explanation that she and her child would have both become victims of murder along the road as well if it had not been for Hercules arriving in time to save them from certain death and destruction.   Iolas, Hercules’s best friend, did not recall Hercules mentioning this event.  Iolas found that he was suspicious of this uninvited guest and he asked her when this event had occurred.  The dark stranger continued as if embarrassed.  She ignored Iolas’s question and explained that she had heard it was Hercules’s birthday and she just wanted to leave a small gift for the hero and her proclaimed savior.

Hercules’s kind mother approached the young flower and invited her to come in and join the party.  The young dark flower expressed embarrassment yet was happy to be openly invited into Hercules’s most private inner circle.  With a cunning convincing act Callisto had been able to gain access to the people Hercules valued most.  This would make it easier for her to accomplish her goal and to become immortal.

As Alchmeny offered Callisto a drink Callisto found her opportunity to strike.  The blond darkness stood next to the large bowl of punch which had been prepared for all of the other party guests that would be arriving.  She set her phony gift upon the table next to the bowl of punch and began to concoct her vengeance upon Xena and her destruction upon Hercules.  As Alchmeny and the other party guests began to mingle with one another Callisto pulled from beneath her cloak a tiny vile filled with the wrath of Hera.  Once the deed was done Callisto reached for an empty chalice and filled it with the tainted punch.  Then the young dark flower turned to mingle with the crowd cloaked in innocence as she offered everyone a taste of more punch.

Soon Hercules arrived his mother’s home as he wandered the eerily quiet halls.  At first he thought little of it remembering that earlier in the day when Iolas had met with him he had instructed Hercules to act surprised when he came.  Their friend Falafal had accidentally revealed to Hercules that there was a surprise party being held in his honor for his birthday.  As Hercules opened the door do the banquet hall where he expected to find everyone he found himself shockingly horrified.  All of his family and closest friends, including his mother and Iolas, were all lying unconscious.  All was completely silent.  Hercules was alarmed not certain that anyone was even still alive.  As he scanned the room his eyes caught sight of the dark flower.  She raised her head as she sat alone at the table.  She looked to him and then revealed herself to him.  Callisto pulled her hood down and declared surprise alone in the room of the unconscious.

Hercules was indeed surprised, but this was not what he had intended to find on the other side of the banquet doors.  When he looked across the room he heard Callisto’s evil maniacal laughter.  It was a laughter that he had only heard about through the tales an evil blond warrior named Callisto.  He had heard of Callisto before, but he had never met the blond nemesis in person until now.  She was quite a surprise to him.  Suddenly Hercules snapped out of his shock and ran to the aid of his mother asking her if she could hear him.  All the while Callisto was enjoying herself suggesting that maybe someone had spiked the punch.  She declared playfully that she was glad that she wasn’t a drinker.  Then she threw off her disguise onto the floor dressed in nothing, but her warrior leather carrying a knife.

She approached Hercules and was intrigued pointing out it was obvious to her that he had never witnessed the effects of Xanthaleumthenum before.  Callisto began to explain the Hercules the effects of such a drug.  She stated that the mind was affected most by making victims susceptible to their wildest imaginings.  Callisto went onto explain that by the end of the day her friends would be completely mad, but only in the event that they did not kill one another before the drug fully worked their minds.

Hercules could listen to no more.  He forcefully moved Callisto away from his mother grabbing her by the shoulders.  Callisto was seemingly unaffected by his reaction as she explained that there was a known antedote.  Suddenly Callisto threw herself away from Hercules’s mighty grasp and stated that the antedote Hercules needed to save his family and friends was very rare to find.  With that the blond nemesis walked away from him and Hercules calmly inquired of Callisto what she wanted from him.  Her answer was simple, quick, precise, and to the point.  She wanted safe passage through the labrynths of the gods to the tree of life.  Then she continued explaining that it would only take one bite of the fruit of the tree to cure any illness.  Callisto was cunning, but Hercules could see through her cunning.  The blond nemesis continued reminding Hercules as she slammed an unconscious man’s face onto the table that madness for all of them was the alternative.

Hercules revealed to Callisto that he was aware that eating an apple whole from the tree of life could make one immortal.  Callisto continued chatting as if she had not just heard what Hercules had said as she playfully unwrapped his gifts for him.  She exclaimed that the two of them had much to celebrate between the two of them.  For this day was the day of Hercules’s most spectacular birth and would become the day of Callisto’s inevitable rebirth.  This was the moment in which Callisto finally decided to reveal her true identity to Hercules.  Hercules could not believe it at first.  He had heard the story of how Callisto had died in the quicksand in her epic battle against Xena.  Callisto approached Hercules again explaining how the impossible had become possible.  She revealed to him his true enemy which was not Callisto, but Hera his powerful step mother.  Callisto stated that Hera had given her a one day reprieve from death and Tartarus.  Then she went on in an attempt to convince Hercules that the two of them really did need each other.

Callisto then moved back toward the gifts and explained the reason they needed each other.  Though the blond was alive and well she was not with all of her mortal strengths from before death.  Yet, Hercules would never be able to navigate the labrynth in time to find the tree which contained the much needed antedote for his friends and family.  Callisto’s next thought was playful as she picked up a pair of new pants from within the gift box and declared happily that they were indeed nice.  Hercules could see that Callisto was bouncing between evil clarity and the mind of a playful innocent child.  He declared that she was insane, but she turned to him and calmly explained to him that she was no more than misunderstood.  Then she moved toward the door and turned to Hercules again and asked him if he was ready to go.  He had been recruited to be her new partner, but he certainly wasn’t a willing partner.

As Callisto and her new partner Hercules set off on their journey together she began to talk to him on a human level.  From what Hercules had heard about the blond nemesis she could not be trusted.  Yet he found himself attempting to be civil to someone who was obviously damaged and seemingly attempting to be civil as well.  As they walked the path together she explained how she felt like she had already come to know him as person despite their just having officially met within this circumstance.  Really, Callisto had only been dragged into someone else’s drama by an evil step mother.  Callisto could almost relate to Hercules in a way.  She had seemingly been thrown to the wolves as Hercules’s step mother was attempting to do to him.  Callisto knew she was a simple pawn and really had no ill will toward Hercules.  She had her own set of issues to deal with unfortunately for Hercules they included killing him at some point.  Deep down Hercules knew this, but he also understood that Callisto’s real enemy was an evil warrior princess whom he had rid the world of years ago.

Hercules attempted to keep his emotional distance from Callisto as he declared to her that she really did not know him at all.  Callisto seemed almost star struck in a way declaring that it was the fates that had seemingly brought the two of them together.  The blond nemesis  was seemingly innocent despite what Hercules knew of her.  She admitted to him that he was not the person that she had imagined him to be.  Despite this it was clear that she was clearly still very fascinated by him and by being in his presence.  It was almost as if she were hoping secretly that he would be able to successfully pull her from the depths of loss and despair as he had done for Xena.  Yet it was clear that Hercules was uninterested.  He was sarcastic declaring that Callisto must have been disappointed by him.  Callisto proclaimed with muffled excitement that she was not at all disappointed by him.

Then Callisto attempted to face him directly as they moved down the path together.  She was pleased at the look of emotional anguish that she had been able to invoke out of him back at the castle.  Callisto described Hercules’s reaction as one of fire and one of hate against her.  She then attempted to get deeper under his skin asking him if that was the same reaction he had had toward Hera when he had watched his deceased children die.  Hercules worked to contain his anger and not to reveal to Callisto what was going through his mind, heart, and emotions.  He warned her not to push him toward his inner rage.  She was not at all threatened by him and it was obvious.  Callisto declared that the beauty of this moment for her was in knowing that she could have her way with Hercules as long as she held the key to saving his family and friends from absolute destruction.  Although on one level she seemed to relish this Hercules sensed that she was also less interested in toying with his emotions as he would have imagined.  It seemed that there was something even more pressing for her.  Callisto’s months in Tartarus had led her to become a more patient foe.  Despite Hercules’s attempts to hide his emotions from her she declared that she could still feel them anyway.

The two continued on their journey together as the day wore on.  Hercules noticed that Callisto’s state of mind kept swinging back and forth between evil clarity and the playful misunderstood child.  She was now skipping alongside him singing and laughing, and playing.  It was unnerving even for the legendary hero for all he could think about were his helpless friends and family.  Time was of the essence in his mind.  He scolded Callisto as a father would scold his child and then she held his hand in hers and asked him why they couldn’t be nice to one another despite her having poisoned his friends.  It was as if she did not understand the urgency of the moment and the situation.  Hercules found himself frustrated realizing that his mother Hera had also victimized Callisto, but still she was not of complete innocence.  Hercules continued to be cautious with his new unexpected partner.

Callisto had finally led him to the location of the labrynth as she jumped upon the steps of the temple and declared that Hercules should have no reason to be mad at her.  After all, she was not the one who had painted a giant mark of death on his family.  Everyone knew that it was Hera who was behind it all.  Callisto was just playfully carrying out her orders.  Hercules firmly told Callisto that she should leave his family out of any further discussion.  Callisto continued with her thought out loud inviting Hercules to entertain what she was offering.  She explained that if his family was not related to Hercules then they would still be part of the world of the living.  Hercules turned away disgusted that Callisto felt it necessary to point out the things that he himself felt guilt over.  Callisto then jumped down from the stairs of the temple and declared that to be loved by Hercules was to mean that one would be cursed.

Hercules decided that he would fight back, but play the game in Callisto’s childlike world.  He asked her what the alternative was that she suggested.  He surmised openly to her that it was to be alone trapped within hate.  Hercules then looked to Callisto and shook his head.  He expressed that he would rather take his chances in going up against Hera even if it meant to continue on this quest alongside Callisto.  With that she laughed and then twirled about following Hercules as he continued searching for the entrance to the labrynth.  She wondered out loud if Hercules lied awake and alone at night hearing the screams of his children as they died.  Callisto wondered if he relived those moments and regretted the outcome wondering if there was something more he could have done to save them.  She wondered out loud if Hercules had given more respect to Hera if things might have turned out different for his family.  This touched a nerve with Hercules.  She had finally found his button and he did not like it.  He turned to her suddenly and angrily warned her to drop the subject of his family and dealings with Hera.

Hercules was now facing Callisto down declaring that he had no expectation of her understanding in the matter.  Callisto shot back at him declaring that she did understand his pain despite what he felt inside about her.  She confessed to Hercules that her family was also slaughtered like helpless animals as his family had been.  Hercules was stiff in his response stating that she didn’t learn much from her experience.  Callisto shot back at Hercules declaring that as a result of her experience she had learned how to get exactly what she wanted whenever she wanted it.  Then Callisto moved in on Hercules flatly reminding him within her evil clarity that the only reason that his friends were still alive at this point in her little child-like game was because she had decided to allow them to be alive.  Hercules retorted flatly against Callisto assuming that he was expected to apologize to Callisto.  Callisto’s response was dry and serious.  She said that she didn’t need his apology, but that he owed her everything he had in this moment.

In the moments that followed not a word was shared between them as they searched for the entrance to the labrynth.  Just when it seemed that Callisto was a complete hopeless case for Hercules there before them was an amazing site.  Callisto declared that what she saw before her was beautiful.  Hercules did not find the large stone gargoyle statue protecting the door particularly beautiful, but Callisto had demonstrated that her reactions to her surroundings were not normal as most human beings would view them.  The blond nemesis then declared that an open door was just as good as an open invitation.  It almost appeared to be too easy to enter the great labrynth.  Hercules was ready for the obstacle to reveal itself.  When it came to dealing with Hera he expected it.

As he watched Callisto approaching the steps to the open entrance he looked to the large gargoyle statue.  He saw its head slowly move and then fire shot out from every direction.  Callisto jumped back startled and screaming.  Hercules could see that the site of fire affected her deeply.  She rejoined him appearing confused for a moment as if she did not know how to handle the obstacle.  Hercules could not resist a playful joke at Callisto’s expense as a dark voice emenated from the head of the gargoyle guarding the door.  He breathed fired out of his nose as he spoke and stated that all who seeked safe passage beyond the door were required to solve a riddle.  Anyone who failed to solve the riddle would face death.  Hercules looked to Callisto inquiring with playful caution if she wished to attempt to solve the riddle first.

The gargoyle continued to speak asking its guests to give a name to earthly conceipt for it was unchangeable, but could change people, teach them, or trap them.  All who resided there were immortal, but the mortals standing before the gargoyle could never go to the unnamed place within the riddle.  Callisto chimed in commenting toward Hercules her hopes of his brain being able to match the strength of his brawn.  The gargoyle continued on with its riddle stating that the answer lied before the eyes of those who were standing witness to the riddle.  Hercules looked up to notice that the gargoyle then revealed an hour glass flipping upside down as the gargoyle continued asking that its visitors to choose their words before the words ran their course.

Callisto spoke of the unchangeable and Hercules focused on the fact that all who went to this location were immortal.  Suddenly, Callisto declared out loud that the answer to the riddle was Mount Olympus.  The gargoyle released angry fire down upon his visitors as both Callisto and Hercules jumped backward.  Hercules looked to Callisto and explained that Mount Olympus wasn’t actually a place within reality stating to Callisto that was the trick within the riddle.  Callisto barked back at Hercules frustrated reminding him that he had yet to come up with a good idea as to the solution to the riddle.  Hercules shot back asking that Callisto be quiet so he could think.  Callisto just shot back at him stating that she would not be holding her breath for his brilliant thoughts to come.  Then she turned back toward the gargoyle panicked noticing that the hour glass was running out on them.  Hercules looked to Callisto and suggested that maybe time was the answer to the riddle. Callisto hastily agreed with that thought and shouted out at the gargoyle her new answer.

Again the gargoyle spewed its fire down upon Hercules and Callisto.  She looked to Hercules again still in a panic and quickly noted that his idea was not the answer they seeked either.  Callisto wanted Hercules to offer another quick thought to their dilemma, but Hercules did not answer for he was still considering the riddle.  Callisto was impatient demanding another answer from Hercules as she yelled.  Hercules attempted to stay focused on the task as the gargoyle continued spewing fire down upon them.  Callisto had reverted into a child-like state as the fire reigned down upon them.  Hercules then spoke of the part of the riddle that they had seemingly forgotten.  “The answer lies before your eyes.”  Hercules looked to the hour glass as the sand was just about to run out.   Then he shouted out his final answer to the riddle which was “the past.”

Suddenly, the gargoyle’s fire disappeared and all was quiet again.  It seemed that Hercules had solved the dire riddle opening the entrance to the secret temple.  He then held out his arm and offered for Callisto to enter into the temple ahead of him.  She moved forward slightly cautious as if waiting for the gargoyle and his fire to reign down upon her.  As she hesitated her way up the steps Hercules then moved ahead of her confident and sure of his answer.  He knew the gargoyle had been tamed by his answer in the past.

As Hercules entered into the temple with Callisto he noticed that there was an oil pouch and a lamp already lit for their journey.  It was almost as if it had been a friendly invitation left behind by their fierce gargoyle friend.  Callisto entered inside the temple and then poked at Hercules asking him if the child inside him was afraid of the dark.  Hercules was annoyed by the comment knowing that he had just witnessed Callisto’s greatest fears of the fire outside the temple.  He realized that Callisto had been embarrassed of her open fear of fire and had to allow herself to feel as if she weren’t the only one with hidden fears reaching back into her childhood.  He then looked to Callisto who was now exploring the inside of a dark well and expressed that he didn’t feel she was doing too well.  Callisto found herself to be quite intrigued by the well in which she was climbing upon as if she barely noticed Hercules’s minor concern over her.  She warned him not to find himself within worry over her state of mind.  Callisto was certain that she would be feeling as good as new soon, but needed a drink of water to sustain her mortal self.

She struggled to pull the heavy bucket of water from the well to fill her mortal thirst, but did not have the strength to bring it up on her own.  Hercules found himself unable to stand by and watch the poor soul struggle.  He approached the well and helped Callisto hoist the bucket of water to the top.  Then he offered Callisto the ladle from the bucket.  The poor soul appeared as if she had not drank a drop of water in more than a lifetime.  She appeared thrilled and delighted at the idea of drinking water.  Again Hercules witnessed her within a child-like state.  He began to find himself feeling sympathy for her plight.  The she looked up at him and declared that he was a gentlemen.  Again she was taking a dig at him, but he ignored it knowing that her real ploy was in purposely pushing people away from her.  Callisto again looked up from her water fest and stated that the world didn’t deserve Hercules.  He played along with her little game and reflected the hatred back at her.  Hercules could see it was what she desired.  Callisto didn’t really want to be loved by anyone and it made her feel   comfortable to be hated.  Hercules found it to be the easiest way to keep her within his control.

Then Callisto stated as she drank from the ladle that she and Hercules were not as different as he liked himself to think.  Hercules knew what Callisto was up to.  Callisto was attempting to shape Hercules’s thoughts into believing that he himself deserved the same fate that she did.  He laughed at her idea almost interested in her argument for this idea.  As he listened she went on.  She stated that they both believed in the idea that the wicked should be punished.  Callisto went on to say that she saw something about people that he was unable to see.  Hercules then placed his torch to the side as he opened the bottle of oil to make the flame larger and brighter.  He expressed out loud that he was certain that Callisto would share her reasoning with him on the matter of the wicked.  Hercules raised the bottle of oil to his nose and took a whiff.  Calisto continued explaining that all people were wicked, and deserved everything that was dealt to them.

Hercules put the cap back onto the bottle of oil for the torch and placed it into his clothing for safe keeping.  He disagreed with Callisto’s reasoning stating that he had known of too much good in the world to believe in Callisto’s philosophy.  Callisto looked up from her water bucked confused by his response to her statement.  Then allowed the word “good” to escape from her lips inquiring of Hercules if it was a joke that he thought this way.  Callisto’s inner child revealed itself again stating that if mortals were indeed good then there would be no need for a hero like Hercules to even exist.  Then Callisto’s child became hidden within herself again and the evil part of her came to the surface once more.  Hercules responded explaining that he had indeed seen the darker side of people.  The hero went onto explain that the child within Callisto had earned his compassion for he realized that she had watched her parents die within fire.  However, Hercules pointed out that Callisto still had a choice which she had made.  Her choice was in how she responded to the evil that had been done to her and her family.  Callisto had chosen to follow evil rather than to fight against it which was what made his compassion for her limited.

Then Hercules picked up the torch and began to move further into the deep, dark temple.  Callisto threw her ladle back into the water bucket and began to clap within hysteria.  Hercules turned to look at her and could see that Callisto was stuck between a conflict within herself.  Callisto continued stating that Hercules’s faith in people was touching, but again it was borderline sarcastic evil.  She rose from the well having finished quenching both her mortal thirst and her thirst for toying with Hercules’s mind.  Callisto continued as she challenged Hercules to continue his newfound faith in her as their day and journey together would continue.  Then Callisto invited Hercules to follow her further into the dark temple.  Hercules watched as she moved into the darkness.  He was still very suspicious of her truest motives.  The hero could sense that Callisto’s soul was nearly damaged beyond repair.  His senses about her were heightened.

As the two unlikely companions moved through the darkness within the mysterious temple Callisto began to play with her hair as if off balance by Hercules’s response to her.  She twirled her hair nervously and stated that Hercules was not living up to her expectations of him.  Callisto was seemingly disappointed in Hercules for not having been more open to the idea that he could spend the whole day attempting to convince Callisto that she could change in the way that Xena the warrior princess had been convinced to change.  Hercules easily answered that inquiry explaining confidently to Callisto that Xena had changed because Xena had been wanting to change.  Callisto stopped and turned to Hercules not so certain that Xena had really changed deep down.  She continued her confessions of Xena telling Hercules a seemingly very dark secret about Xena.  Callisto revealed to Hercules that Xena had watched her die in quick sand during their battle over the death of Gabrielle’s beloved Perdicas.

Callisto then turned away from Hercules as she continued leading him down the path of darkness.  She twirled her hair and spoke of how ironic she thought it to be that not long before there had been a time in which Hercules would have gladly teamed up with Callisto to help bring Xena to justice for her past crimes against humanity.  Hercules argued with Callisto on that point stating she was wrong to think that about him for he did not share Callisto’s definition for justice.  She agreed with him on this point.  Callisto’s sanity quickly turned to vengeance against Xena as she declared that she believed justice for Xena would be to die a very slow and painful death just as her parents had at the hands of Xena’s army.  Hercules was frustrated as he turned to Callisto and explained that vengeance wasn’t true justice.  If she could only understand this viewpoint he thought that it might be possible for her tortured soul to find some peace within.

Callisto’s child rose to the surface as she spoke the word peace out loud repeatedly.  It was as if Callisto was considering what that meant to feel peace within.  Then the vengeance rose forth from within her again as she declared that she had once dreamed of peace.  Callisto then closed her eyes and imagined that death would be the only true way to experience peace.  She asked Hercules to allow her to die again so that she might have another chance at reaching that illusive feeling of peace within.  Callisto continued explaining that her trip to Tartarus after having been allowed to die by the warrior princess should have been a welcome for her.  Yet instead she found that she was only welcomed by eternal torture in death and in Tartarus.  She explained with anger that she had been trapped in her hatred of Xena with nothing within her power to do about it.  Hercules was not buying all of what Callisto said.  He knew the real reason they were on this journey together.  She needed her shot at becoming an immortal so she could fill her vengeance against Xena and those whom Xena loved most.  Hercules pushed Callisto’s tortured soul aside and stated that immortality would not solve her problems with vengeance.  Callisto’s frustrations with Hercules rose from within the evil burning within her as she hissed at him like a caged animal.

Despite their battle of wits they still need each other to accomplish their respective goals.  Hercules wanted to save his family and friends while Callisto wanted to destroy Xena to satisfy her vengeance.  As they continued on their journey they reached two passages.  Callisto’s job was supposed to be leading them to the antidote Hercules desparately needed to help his loved ones.  He was frustrated with Callisto.  She was seemingly confused as to which way to lead them next.  Hercules asked Callisto not to toy with him and pretend to be a lost child again.  Yet there was little he could do since it was the lost child who was now in control of Callisto again.  Callisto argued with herself about not having written down the specific details Hera had given her.  She shook her head as the confusion within unfolded before Hercules.  He could almost feel as if he were swimming around within her confused mind.  Suddenly, Callisto’s child won out and she chose the left passage and continued the journey with Hercules.

As Hercules followed behind her something came from within the darkness of the passage and wrapped itself around Callisto’s ankles dragging her into the darkness as she screamed.  Then the child within Callisto panicked and cried out to Hercules.  He thought to himself that it must have been the right passage that they should have taken.  He had two choices.  He could save himself and his family as he watched Callisto disappear into the darkness alone or he could delay saving his family and himself to save a damaged soul.  Hercules then made the only choice that he could.  He dashed down into the darkness following Callisto’s tortured screams.  He shouted out for Callisto hoping she would respond back so he could hear where she had been dragged off to within the darkness.

Her screams led him into a cavern full of black tentacles that appeared to be living breathing vines.  Just as he was about to enter the cavern a blackness covered the entrance.  Hercules could still hear her echoing screams so he shouted out to Callisto to keep talking to him.  She responded frustrated stating that indeed it was what she was attempting to do.  Hercules searched for an alternate route into the cavern which held Callisto.  When he found an alternate entrance it suddenly became blocked by a giant bolder which appeared.  He peered through the small opening left there and could see Callisto was completely wrapped up in the black vines.  She was struggling as she reminded Hercules if he did not save her then his family would die along with her.

Hercules was very aware of that fact as his frustrations rose.  He could feel Callisto’s tortured struggle as the vines began to wrap themselves around her neck cutting off her ability to speak.  It was only a matter of time before they would cut off her breath and her life.  Hercules looked for another entrance into the cavern of vines.  He could hear Callisto’s stuggle to breath and she began to choke for breath and to shout out a few last screams for his assistance.  He dashed down the dark paths until he found another entrance.  Hercules faced the living vines as he attempted to wade through them toward a trapped Callisto.  The vines were strong and he struggled through them to rescue Callisto who was still screaming in fear and panic.  She was now facing her second mortal death.  Just as it seemed he would not arrive through the vines to save her in time he ripped Callisto out of her binds.  He then instructed her to grab onto him as he reached for a live vine and swung them out of the cavern of vines.

As Callisto climbed off of his back she declared him to be her hero.  She was quickly back into her character of sarcastic evil.  It was as if she had planned her demise all along in an attempt to trap Hercules into his own death.  Hercules pushed her off of him and just looked at her disgusted at her reaction to her near death moment.  He walked away continuing on deeper into the darkness of the temple.  Callisto’s vengeful evil did not stop at its attempt on Hercules’s life.  She began to describe what her plans for immortality would be.  He first act of business would be to rip out Xena’s tongue so that the warrior princess would have to whistle her apology to Callisto for killing her family instead of speaking it.  Callisto found this to be beyond amusing as she giggled like a dissatisfied child.  Hercules reminded Callisto that her fantasy would have to be spoiled for the moment because she had not yet escaped the mysterious and dangerous dark temple alive yet.

With that Callisto reminded Hercules that he too had not t escaped the temple and its unknown trappings alive yet.  Hercules’s patience was running thin because he knew deep down that time was running out for his family.  He turned to Callisto and stated that when they made it to the tree of life and he was able to save his family and friends then his next order of business would be to send Callisto back to Tartarus where she belonged.  He would make sure he was the one to send her there.  His anger was heightened because even the child within her was vengeful.  That was too dangerous a thing to leave within the world alone.  Callisto yelled back at Hercules also impatient reminding him that there were no rooms to hold her.  She had managed to find her way even out of Tartarus.  She reminded him that he was the only one that could possibly stop her and for him to do that he would ultimately have to commit the act of murder.  Then she continued that she knew he would be unable to murder her the way that Xena had because his misguided sense of justice would not allow him to commit such an act.

Hercules calmly challenged her confidence of that point.  He stated she was overlooking something.  Callisto found herself slightly intrigued as she smiled and inquired of him what that was.  He then moved in close to her and whispered that she had already been killed.  Hercules continued by reminding her that the only reason that she was still standing was because he needed directions that only Callisto could give to him to save his family.  Again a look of confusion spread across her face as she stated that she had underestimated him.  He responded flatly stating that he was flattered by this, but she continued stating that he had also overlooked something about her.  Hercules laughed at the idea.  Then he stated that he did not believe it to be true as he continued moving forward through the temple.

Callisto did not follow him.  She only continued to state that if she went back to Tartarus she would not arrive there alone.  She then vowed to find the souls of Hercules’s dead children Clonous, Acin, and Aylaya.  Callisto promised Hercules that she would dedicate her entenity in Tartarus alongside them with her.  They would all suffer together.  Hercules knew that Callisto was good on her promise of this and Callisto was aware that she had achieved gathering Hercules’s undivided attention.  She reminded Hercules again that she had been able to escape Tartarus and return to mortality.  Not just anyone was capable of such a feat.  She was certain that she could easily reach Hercules’s children within the Elysian Fields if necessary to arrive at what she wanted for herself.

Hercules moved at Callisto unable to control his sudden rage against her promise against his children.  He shoved her up against the wall of the cave with his strong hand around her neck.  She had found his weakness which was also his strength at the same time.  Callisto had a way of pressing people’s buttons and bringing them to the brink of murder.  She continued stroking his rage against her begging him to continue the act of taking a life.  Callisto begged Hercules to kill her.  He could see that it was what she wanted him to do.  If he killed Callisto he knew he would become out of favor of Zues.  Zues would destroy him and allow Callisto to destroy the souls of his family if he followed through with the act of murder against a mortal.  Hercules had reached his breaking point, but understood the consequences of allowing himself to break.  It wasn’t worth it and so he released his grasp of her life.  His anger was unleashed through his fist upon the cave wall next to Callisto’s head.  He wanted to demonstrate his power over her so that she would not attempt to press his button again.

Callisto sank to the ground and began to laugh.  She asked Hercules which of them was trapped within their hatred.  Hercules looked back at her unable to understand her torture.  He decided that he didn’t really want to understand her anymore.  All Hercules wanted was to find what they had come to find.  He was certain the Callisto would find a way to destroy herself without him.  That was the way this would have to be resolved if he wanted to retain his own sanity.

The two fresh enemies continued down through the temple maze until they approached another entrance.  Callisto stopped, thought carefully, and paused.  Hercules jabbed at her hoping that she wasn’t confused again.  She was confident that she was not confused as she pointed him into another direction.  He had no choice, but to follow her advice despite their run in with the black vines.  As Hercules entered into the next room the walls suddenly closed attempting to trap him inside.  Just when Callisto had thought she had trapped Hercules the hero used his god-like strength to pry open the doors which were locked shut with spikes on the edges of them.  As Hercules struggled to free himself from her trap she did not raise a finger to help.  Instead she just admired the details of the many traps hidden within the mysterious temple.  She was quite pleased with the work of Hephestas’s craftsmanship.  This temple belonged to him as had been revealed by Hera.

Then Callisto moved away from the doors as Hercules continued to struggle his way out.  She shouted out to Hera explaining that Hercules had held up his end of their bargain as did Callisto herself.  It was now time for Hera produce the reward they had both come to receive.  As Hercules continued to struggle a secret door raised from within the walls deep inside the temple.  The unexpected movement grabbed Callisto’s attention as the newly opened passage way revealed the tree of eternal life.  Hercules could see that he only had moments to act.  If Callisto were to arrive at the tree with the golden apples before he could free himself all would be lost.  His friends, family, Iolas, and his mother would all perish.  Hercules shouted out to Callisto angry at what she had done.  He promised her that their battle of wits was not yet over.

Callisto casually turned back to face him.  She smiled then she approached him again and stated that she had enjoyed her little adventure with him, but she was confident that she no longer needed his assistance in handling matters which concerned her.  Then she reached out and grabbed Hercules’s long flowing hair and forced him to kiss her.  She suddenly too her torch and smashed it into his stomach knocking the wind from his lungs.  This forced Hercules to lose his grip upon the trap wall which had been closing in upon him to gore and smash him into oblivion.  Despite the momentary loss of his concentration he was able to recover and slowly push the walls back outward away from his body.

Callisto was enjoying toying with the legendary hero as she inquired if he was enjoying himself.  Callisto continued to toy with Hercules as she reached out and stroked his long hair again and promised him that soon he would be joining his friends and family in death.  Then she took one last jab at him promising him that her next move against him would be in the name of his having saved Xena’s soul.  She then used her torch and smacking his arm hard hoping that it would be the final blow that would deliver him to his death.  Despite the pain and the loss of concentration Hercules moved to block the wall from collapsing upon his body to deliver him to his death.  Callisto continued to stand watching him intrigued by his determination to survive.  Then she moved away as if suddenly uninterested.  He continued to struggle to survive and the blond nemesis appeared to be surprised at his inner strength and will.  It seemed that just for a moment she felt sorry for the hero.  Yet it was only a fleeting moment of concern for him as she shook her head and bade him farewell certain of his impending doom.

Hercules had hoped that he could use his moment of despair to convince her to change her mind and help him to escape the jaws of death, but instead she continued toward the tree of immortality.  He watched helplessly as she reached out for one of the golden apples.  Hercules had lost the battle to prevent Callisto from reaching immortality, but he was still fighting for his life.  As he struggled with the collapsing walls Callisto took the luscious golden apple she had just picked and bit into it with satisfaction.  Within an instant she had transformed into an immortal as all of her strength and more was restored and she could feel the power from within.

Hercules managed to struggle his way out using his powerful shoulders to twist himself back around to a position from which he could push the walls away from himself.  As he pushed against the mighty walls the temple began to shake as it buckled against his power.  Suddenly, he had successfully freed himself from the collapsing walls as they slammed shut behind him while he ran for the tree of eternal life.  As he scanned the temple he saw no one.  It seemed as if Callisto had vanished for a moment.  Suddenly, she screamed her signature battle cry and flipped over him from the shadows with her power.  Before Hercules could get his barrings she landed upon his tired shoulders reaching down with her hands and grabbing his face.    She was still eating the golden apple she had taken from the tree and joyfully declared that it was delicious.  She continued pressing the advantage against his tired shoulders while he attempted to recover from having his eyes nearly gouged out.

Then she kicked him with her legs and flipped off of his shoulders landing in front of him has he fell from the blow.  Callisto continued to masterfully press her immortal advantage over his mortality.  She turned back around to face him as he attempted to rise to his feet to face her.  Then she delivered an angry furious kick across his face.  She was punishing him for having had faith in Xena, but not in herself.  In this moment, Hercules had managed to get to his feet, but before he could make an offensive move against her she swept her foot beneath his and he was robbed of his balance again.  Hercules fell back onto his back again.  In that moment he decided not to struggle against her for it seemed that she was ready for his every counter attack.

Then she paused in her advances against him and smiled.  She looked him in the eye and realized declaring out loud that he was to die on his birthday.  Somehow for Callisto it seemed fitting.  This idea pleased her as she stated that it was a convienance.  Then she lifted her boot and smashed it into Hercules’s face.  Callisto then flipped backward leaping toward her torch which now held a flame within it.  Hercules realized that her plan was to kill him the way her family had been killed by Xena.  She planned on burning him to death as punishment for her suffering at the hands of Xena.  Before Hercules could move to do anything about it Callisto made another unexpected move as she moved with the flame toward the tree which held the key to saving Hercules’s loved ones.  She then lit it on fire destroying any hope that Hercules may have had in being able to save his loved ones even if he could find a way to save himself.  This led Hercules to suddenly rise to his feet into action.  He shouted out against Callisto who suggested playfully that he should blow out the flames and make a wish for his birthday.

Callisto then screamed, ran, and then flipped through the air back into an offensive stance against Hercules.  She was determined to make him suffer.  Then she kicked leaves off of the floor of the temple into Hercules’s face knocking her boot directly into his nose.  As Hercules grabbed his nose staggering backward Callisto pressed her offensive swinging around her torch and knocking it into his stomach with immortal force.  She watched as Herules staggered backward up against the temple walls and sunk down to the floor in agony.  Callisto was now beginning to feel the real power that came with being an immortal.  She dashed across the temple, then flew through the air screaming loudly.  She attempted to deliver another furious blow with the power of her boot against Hercules, but he was ready this time.  He was able to duck her offensive against him forcing her to kick the wall behind him.

Then she swung around again with her torch and attempted to knock his head off.  He was able to duck the move.  Hercules had discovered her offensive strategies as he had allowed himself to take several blows in order to learn how he could counter her.  It was a brilliant , yet painful way to do battle.  Callisto quickly realized this and began working on his weak shoulders again.  She reached out and slapped his shoulder then back kicked him across the jaw.  Hercules had not been expecting that, but it wasn’t enough to knock him down again.  He used the wall to help soften the blows against him as he ducked and dodged her advances.  Then he managed to find an opening against her and rolled beneath her offensive.  She turned to face him, smiled and then flipped across the temple back toward his new position of defense.  As Hercules attempted to get to his feet again Callisto met him and stated that it was a pity the two of them could not have worked out their differences.  She was certain the two of them together would have made an unstoppable team.

In the next moment she attempted to kick him across the face again, but he was ready for her.  He managed to block her kick with his powerfully strong hands. She looked to him shocked that he was able to defy her certain death blow.  Angry that she had been stopped she found herself surprised by Hercules’s strength yet again as he took the advantage against her grabbing her and flipping her over his knee.  Then he looked to her before she could regain her senses and stated that he already had a partner.  Then he used his powerful punch to knock her across the temple against the wall.  She didn’t recover from his power right away.  She slid down the temple wall, but soon regained her senses.  Her immortality was nearly unstoppable even  for the great Hercules.  She declared that Hercules’s partner Iolas would not be a part of Hercules’s world much longer.

Hercules dashed for the burning tree.  As he attempted to find a way to distinguish the flames Callisto rose to her feet, screamed, and dashed across the temple to attack again.  She ran up his body and flipped backward.  Then she kicked the single apple from his hand that he had managed to retrieve from the burning tree.  Callisto then tried a new offensive delivering furious punches at directly at Hercules’s face.  He managed to block them with his strong arms.  He had used the time he was allowing Callisto to pummel him to rest his tired shoulders.  Hercules was now gaining some momentum against Callisto’s advances.  She attempted to knee him in the stomach, but he was ready for it as he grabbed her head and forced in down into her own knee.  Then he swung her around and knocked her from her feet with his legs.  He then kicked her across the temple into the walls.  Callisto’s head smacked hard.

Hercules used her moment of immortal weakness and picked up the apple he had managed to retrieve from the burning tree.  Callisto quickly recovered frustrated with him.  She asked him why he couldn’t just allow himself to perish like a good son.  He declared that he just didn’t know when to quit.  Callisto promised to inspire him into death.  She stated that even if Hercules was able to find his way out of the temple maze without her help he would never be able to do it in time to save his loved ones.  Hercules was confident that Callisto was wrong in her thinking.  Callisto was ready to hear why he was so confident as she gleefully inquired.  He then held up an empty oil pouch and stated that he had known something Callisto was unaware of.  It was the fact that they were out of oil for the torch.

Callisto appeared to be confused for a moment, but Hercules continued explaining his view through his next action.  He pulled a burning branch from the tree and threw it across the temple out into the dark corridor.  The torch lit the oil trail that Hercules had left behind them as they had moved through the temple maze which led the way home.  Hercules firmly stated that the oil flame would lead right back to the entrance.  Then he declared his own surprise.  Callisto quickly realized that she was defeated.  She reached out for the bulls head lever upon the temple wall activating it to close the door and seal Hercules inside the room.  Then she grabbed a knife from her leather armor and charged Hercules attempting to stab him through his heart.  Hercules quickly ducked her charge and ran for the closing door.  Callisto ran into the burning tree and fell in frustration.

Then she began to weep in emotional anguish as Hercules was about to escape the flames of entrapment.  He looked back noticing that she had burned her eyes.  She was struggling to see as she begged him not to leave her alone in the fire.  The fearful child with in her was now talking to him.  Hercules could not allow himself to leave the child despite the evil that lurked within her.  He ran back for her and asked her to give him her hand.  In the next moment she turned on him again and jumped upon his back and screamed defiantly.  She struggled to prevent him from leaving and saving his loved ones as he struggled to throw the evil from his back.  Hercules had the upper hand and he had hope again.  His strength had been restored as he threw evil from his body and ran underneath the sealing door in the knick of time.

The door soon sealed shut and the immortal Callisto was now trapped within her immortal body within the flames of the burning tree.  As Hercules dashed through the temple maze following the was now trapped forever within her worst nightmares.  Yet Callisto was no longer his concern.  He had burning oil trail he had laid for himself he could hear the deafening anguish of Callisto’s emotions as she given her a chance to be saved yet she had taken that opportunity to betray him.  She had been responsible for creating her own nightmare this time.

Despite Callisto’s attempts to carry out Hera’s wishes against Hercules and his loved ones, Hercules had defeated them both.  He went on to save the lives of his loved ones.  Just before the sun was to set he provided each of them with nourishment from the single apple he had managed to save from the flames of Callisto’s darkness and despair.  Upon hearing this news of the now immortal Callisto’s demise, to the bard Gabrielle it was most certainly no surprise.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll# 53: Aphrodite’s Enchanted Scroll

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The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll #53:  Aphrodite’s Enchanted Scroll

October, 47 B.C.

     As Gabrielle’s next adventure began she and Xena found themselves passing by one of Aphrodite’s temples.  The sun was just about to set over the horizon just beyond the trees in the forest.  The bard had only met Aphrodite once and recalled Joxer the Mighty having become the innocent victim of Aphrodite’s rage over the loss of her temples to peace between two kingdoms.  It seemed ridiculous that the goddess of love would appear interested in Joxer, but perhaps it was because that despite his idoicy the goddess may have found him to be kind-hearted.   The bard expressed her thoughts about the goddess that she had always admired despite her spell over Joxer with the ringing bell, and inquired if Xena had ever met the goddess of love.  Xena responded that most of her dealings were always with Ares for Ares was only interested in war which was something Xena had been interested in for a long time before the bard.  In fact, he was still obsessed with the warrior princess even though she had clearly renounced her allegiance to him several times since traveling with Gabrielle and being converted to the path of light by Hercules.

       Gabrielle found that she was getting to know the god of war quite well herself; although, she was still very interested in the goddess of love.  The bard expressed to the warrior princess that she hoped to one day be in the presence of the goddess again.  Xena just scoffed at the idea realizing that the bard was idolizing Aphrodite, but Gabrielle didn’t see it that way.  The warrior princess pressed her opinion of the gods upon the bard stating that in her experience with any god there were always alterior motives.  Those motives were usually not in favor of humanity according to the warrior princess.  Then Xena proceeded to remind the bard that it was Aphrodite’s son Cupid whom had left baby Bliss unattended leading to the disaster with the Hestian virgins, and the warlord Draco in love with Gabrielle.  This was all brought up in order to prove her point about the gods and their intentions.  Gabrielle argued with Xena explaining that it wasn’t all Cupid’s fault, and that he had resolved the situation as soon as he was able to.  The bard also gleefully reminded Xena of her own uncontrollable lust toward Draco at the time.  Xena just rolled her eyes at the bard’s comment.  Gabrielle pressed her argument stating that Baby bliss was the real culprit as she reminded the warrior princess of the unpredictable nature of children at play.  The warrior princess moved away from the bard as if becoming disinterested in the conversation.  At first Gabrielle was a bit offended that her friend was now ignoring their debate and conversation about the gods.  Yet there was something else upon Aphrodite’s temple that had caught Xena’s eye.

       The bard followed the warrior princess up the steps of the temple to see what it was that had caught Xena’s gaze.  Xena appeared to be slightly disgusted at what she saw scrolled upon the temple doors.  Someone had written messages all over the front of Aphrodite’s temple proclaiming their worship of Xena the warrior princess.  There were several phrases and praises scrolled upon the walls and the doors.  Xena entered into Aphrodite’s temple and followed the scrolled messages.  Gabrielle read them as she followed the warrior princess inside the temple.  Many of the phrases were taken directly from the writings of her many scrolls about the warrior princess.  The bard found herself to be pleased that so many people had either read or heard of them.  Xena was not impressed and was uninterested in the fame that the bard had seemingly created around the warrior princess and her deeds.  Xena suspected that Aphrodite would most certainly be offended by the defacing of her temple through the scrolled worship of Xena.  The warrior princess expressed her displeasure certain that Aphrodite, like all of the other gods she had ever encountered, would find a way to get her retribution against Xena.  Gabrielle argued that the goddess of love’s retribution couldn’t possibly be worse than Ares’s use of the furies against the warrior princess for defeating him in his bid to rid the world of Hercules.

      As the sun set Xena decided that the two friends would set up camp in the forest just down the road from the temple.  It was obvious that Xena was still quite mentally exhausted from her battle to win back her mind and her sanity from Ares.  All the warrior princess really wanted to do was relax her mind and not strain it upon any topic beyond that of the bliss of a good night’s rest.  As the two friends sat by the camp fire upon their sprawled out bed rolls, Gabrielle pulled out of her saddle bag the most glorious object.  It was a fresh scroll.  As the bard held it up she took a whiff of the empty new parchment she had just purchased back in Amphipolis before they had left Xena’s mom behind for their next adventure.  The bard proclaimed how much she loved the moment of bliss that she felt just as she was about to begin writing a new scroll.  The warrior princess, as usual, was not paying too much attention to the bard’s creative rant as she continued concentrating on making repairs to her leather accessories.  Despite this Gabrielle went on to describe the feel, of a clean, yet empty scroll.  She looked down at the new parchment as if the idea of it being so perfectly clean and empty was an inspiration with in itself.  It seemed as if the bard felt a burst of creativity coming from within herself as she went through the familiar ritual as she crinkled it.  Gabrielle loved that sound it made the first time she would open a new scroll.  Again the bard held the scroll under her nose and took another deep whiff of the freshness of a new story just bursting from within herself and the scroll.  It was a certain connection that would occur and it would drive her to write from with in the depths of her soul.  Gabrielle loved the untouched scent of her new story just waiting to be told.  The scroll was already almost a living breathing entity even with out words upon it.

     Then she offered her new scroll to Xena.  The warrior princess gazed up momentarily from her chore in repairing her leather accessories.  Xena appeared to be slightly curious about the bard’s ritual and process, but not enough to want to partake in it.  As the bard held out her new scroll to the warrior princess Xena politely declined the experience stating that from her viewpoint the parchment just smelled like a piece of musty old leather.  Gabrielle expected nothing less of the warrior princess.  Though it wasn’t a true insult, Gabrielle decided to take Xena’s opinion and turn it to her advantage explaining that for those who were not creative like herself it certainly would smell of musty old leather.  Then Gabrielle turned to her fresh scroll and began to bring it to life as she spoke the words she was about to imprint upon it out loud.  Xena barked at Gabrielle pleading with her not to write another story about Xena and her adventures with Gabrielle.  The warrior princess wanted to know if Gabrielle ever became weary of writing about every thing that Xena did.  The warrior princess suggested that Gabrielle create new characters and new emotional images as she cut the loose thread with her teeth that had been caught upon her breast plate.

     Gabrielle was slightly surprised at Xena’s suggestion or even that the warrior princess had a suggestion about the bard’s writing at all.  The bard inquired of Xena intrigued and wondered if it was fiction that the warrior princess was suggesting that she try.  Xena looked to Gabrielle and with a slight nod of her head affirmed that indeed it was fiction that she thought the bard should write.  Gabrielle could see that Xena was walking a fine line with the bard’s creative passions in suggesting such an idea.  It was as if the warrior princess was afraid of what the bard might think of the idea that Xena would want to alter how Gabrielle chose to express her writings.  Gabrielle took the moment of open sharing with the warrior princess and decided that it was a new break through.  For the first time Xena appeared to be just slightly interested in something outside of herself.  The warrior princess was genuinely interested in what Gabrielle might be doing with in her creative process.  The bard decided to respond with a positive comeback.  She expressed to the warrior princess that indeed she had thought about trying fiction before, but had to admit to her friend that she wasn’t so confident about her ability to create her own living, breathing, fictional characters.  Gabrielle wondered if Xena really respected her creative talents enough to believe in the bard’s potential.  The warrior princess pressed the bard to go ahead and try the idea of a fictional universe, but she asked that the bard do it quietly instead of out loud.  At that point, Xena had shared about all she was willing to share with in Gabrielle’s creative process.  With that Xena laid her breast plate and leather accessories aside, rolled over and declared to the bard good-night.

     Despite Xena’s request that Gabrielle experience her creative process quietly, Gabrielle could not do it with out telling her most intimate story out loud.  It was how she had begun telling her stories as a child in the taverns back in Podedia.  It was the way she would always write her stories upon the parchment.  She had a need to express her inner voice and passions out-loud.  There was no other way.  As Gabrielle began her next story she spoke Xena’s name out loud.  Xena chimed in suggesting that the bard make someone else the hero in her story this time.  Gabrielle paused as she was about to put her first words onto the new scroll.  She looked over to Xena who was lying down snuggling up within her bed roll.  The bard knew that Xena was only trying to force the bard to take her advice and to stop writing such wonderful and popular stories about the warrior princess.  The bard glanced back down to her scroll deciding that Xena’s idea was not such a bad one.  Gabrielle could still write a truthful, heart-felt story without Xena.  In fact, Gabrielle could write the story about the lone warrior Gabrielle.  And so that is how “The Quill Is Mightier” became inspired, and its power became enchanting.  Gabrielle found herself to be enjoying the idea of writing fiction for the first time.  The words just flowed from her mind, and soul like never before, but after only a few lines the bard found herself to be feeling a deep sleep coming upon her.

       “Suddenly, the lone warrior Gabrielle awoke with a jerk as five barbarians rode out of the woods” toward camp.  The battling bard could feel the ground shaking beneath her as the hooves of their horses pounded violently upon the ground.  Gabrielle shouted out to Xena who was apparently still soundly sleeping.  It was the opposite of what would normally happen in this scenario.  Despite that Gabrielle did not think, but she jumped up into action as the barbarians approached.  Gabrielle jumped up onto a rock to get a better vantage point of the barbarians as they approached.  She awaited the warrior princess to choose a striking position of defense upon the battlefield against the barbarians, but Xena did not flip into action.  Gabrielle looked back toward the camp and shouted out for Xena to wake up again.  The barbarians were getting dangerously closer.  Gabrielle suddenly realized that she was going to have to take on the barbarians alone to defend the seemingly unconscious warrior princess.  Quickly the bard turned to face the barbarians and with out a thought flipped into action.  As the battling bard flipped over the on coming barbarian leader she kicked him off of his horse.  He fell behind her and his horse ran toward the camp.  Some how the bard was also able to knock the other four barbarians off of their horses in what seemed like an instant.  Her move was just like that of Xena.  It was amazing and soon Gabrielle realized that she was Xena and just as good.

      Despite that Gabrielle still needed some help.  This was five barbarians against one battling bard.  Gabrielle shouted out to Xena again for some assistance in the battle.  As the battling bard awaited Xena she flipped into action again.  “Twirling her trusty staff then jumping upon it she delivered kicks of such fury” flipping across the battlefield back toward camp “deflecting the thrust of a barbarian sword with her mighty abs.”  From below, underneath the bed roll emerged an eerie sounding scream.  It was Joxer terrified of the sudden interruption of his slumber.  Gabrielle suddenly rose up from her deflection of the barbarian attack upon Joxer and head-butted him into submission.  Gabrielle felt the agonizing pain echoing through her skull as she grabbed her forehead attempting to sooth the power of her uncontrollable defense against the barbarians.  The barbarian sword thrust high up into the sky and then fell back down upon the earth again knocking down the barbarian leader from behind.  As Gabrielle began to recover from the excruciating pain in her head she heard the barbarians shout out that they were retreating for the power of the battling bard had been too much for them to handle alone.  The bard looked out across the forest and watched them ride away in an attempt to escape her  new-found warrior wrath.

      Gabrielle’s adrenalin was coursing through her veins like never before.  She felt the high of the aftermath of her amazing battle and subsequent lone victory over the barbarians.  Joxer shouted out against the barbarians a threatening word of warning as he found his way to his feet.  Gabrielle turned to him with in her excitement and asked him if he had just seen all that had transpired.  The battling bard was proud of the back flips that she had just effortlessly been able to do.  As she was coming down from the warrior high she realized that there was something unusual about the fact that she had just done something that she had never been physically able to do before.  She had never even attempted to practice a back flip before this moment.  Joxer inquired about Gabrielle’s ab armor, but there was no armor.  It was just the bard’s mighty abs that had saved Joxer from certain death by barbarian sword.  Gabrielle began to find herself deconstructing what had just happened.  It had all happened so fast and with out a thought.  Xena was no where to be found.  Gabrielle had no idea where those barbarians had come from, and what was even more strange to her was the fact that Joxer was standing before her.  There had been no reason for him to be there.  Gabrielle and Xena had not sent for him, and what he had been doing sleeping in Xena’s bed roll made absolutely no sense to the bard.  Joxer was most certainly not sneaky enough to make it into their camp without either one of them knowing of his presence.

     Suddenly, Gabrielle realized that everything that had just occurred seemed eerily familiar in some way.  She dashed over to her bed roll and picked up her new scroll from its resting place and began to read it out loud.  Moving to her feet Gabrielle continued to read until she realized that everything that had just happened had been written upon her new scroll.  Joxer inquired of the bard asking her if what she said was true.  Of course he was laughing the whole time.  He didn’t believe that it was possible as he began to let out boisterous laughter.  Gabrielle realized that her staff was still drilled tightly into the ground from her onslaught against the barbarians.  She struggled to pull it out, but it felt very hot.  The staff burned to the touch as Gabrielle yanked it out of the ground and then threw it at Joxer.  Joxer caught the scalding staff and discovered what the bard had done with her fury and power.  He stated the obvious back to the bard who decided that it was time to write something special for Joxer to do.  “As the last of the barbarians fled the scene Joxer took the staff of Gabrielle unable to control himself.  He hit himself once, twice, and then three times on the head with the staff only to knock himself off of his feet falling onto the ground.”  Joxer was surprised by what he had just done and inquired of the bard why he had done that to himself.  Gabrielle’s suspicion had been proven to be correct as she responded to the idiot that she had written that Joxer would do that to himself.  She actually felt a little sorry about it, but the regret only lasted for a fleeting moment.  The bard proudly declared that she could write anything and it would most certainly come true.  Despite having proven her new theory she was still a little surprised at the power of the scroll that she had just begun to write the night before.  Next came a new thought.  The bard realized that she had the power to change the entire world just by the words that she would be inspired to write upon her scroll.

       With that the bard invited Joxer to walk down the path with her toward the nearest village.  They could go there and have a feast for breakfast.  Joxer appeared confused and in a bit of a trance, but he just blindly followed the bard as she continued to express that she now held the power of the world within her hands.  She was certain that Xena would be very proud when she had returned from her fishing trip that Gabrielle had written into the scroll.  Gabrielle could not have given Xena a greater gift of solace than a fishing trip.  Especially after suffering through the wrath of Ares.  Joxer interrupted Gabrielle’s train of thought wondering why Gabrielle was so certain that Xena had gone fishing.  Gabrielle had to explain to him that she had written it on her scroll so that was obviously where Xena was.  For a moment there was silence and then Joxer grabbed the scroll from Gabrielle and wanted to know what it was that Gabrielle had written that had brought him to her.  Joxer verbalized what he assumed Gabrielle had written by explaining that he had the heart of a lion and the soul of a warrior.  Gabrielle found that she wasn’t even exactly certain how that happened, but was certain that her scroll would reveal all.

     Joxer then began to read the scroll out loud from the beginning.  As he attempted to read it Gabrielle realized that Joxer wasn’t the most literate.  He mispronounced the word “fishing” and Gabrielle had to correct him.  Then he continued on reading slowly until he found himself to the phrase he described as “funny.”  As Joxer licked his lips within his confusion, the bard felt that he wasn’t completely wrong in thinking that the sentence which read “Gabrielle awoke with a jerk,” was strange and didn’t quite make sense.  There was nothing grammatically wrong with the sentence, but when Gabrielle had written the sentence she had intended it to be more of a description about the lone warrior’s state in the moment rather than a description of an unmentioned character.  The sentence had manifested itself to be more literal when it brought Joxer.  Gabrielle was waiting for the moment when Joxer would come to the same realization that she had already arrived at.  She could have written it stating that “the lone warrior Gabrielle awoke with Joxer,” but instead the lone warrior Gabrielle awoke with a “jerk.”

     The idiot didn’t disappoint deciding that he must have come to Gabrielle’s camp on his own.  He quickly lost interest in the said power of the scroll, rolled it up, and handed it back to the bard.  He wanted to know what they were going to do next.  Gabrielle repeated his question back to him with zest.  She then asked him what they wouldn’t do.  The lone warrior Gabrielle grabbed Joxer by the arm and began leading him down the road with her.  She was really beginning to like the idea of embracing a side kick and eager student of her very own.  The warrior bard expressed to her student that stories could be anything they wanted them to be and that happy endings could truly happen.  As she continued on down the mentoring path with her student Gabrielle noticed that two sisters were approaching them.  The appeared to be traveling with somber faces.  She greeted them inquiring if indeed they were the sisters of Guya.  Simultaneously they answered with a gracious affirmation of their identity as the bowed their heads upon approaching.  The bard was now ready to demonstration to her student the power of her mighty quill.  She then she inquired of the sisters of Guya if there was anything that she and her new side kick could do to help them.  The younger, taller sister explained that the two of them were out and about collecting goods for their orphanage.  They were collecting goods they could sell to raise funds at their shop in the nearby town.  As the young sister continued the older shorter sister’s eyes lit up as she looked to Joxer stating that his scabbard would fetch a very high price.

      As the older sister reached out for Joxer the jerk did not disappoint.  He was certain that she was talking about and reaching out for his manhood which he hadn’t realized until this moment was standing high and proud.  He glanced down and began to laugh and smile with a slight bit of embarressment.  The sister appeared slightly confused at his response not realizing what he was thinking was not the same thing she was referring to as he explained that he would not give it up for just anyone.  Despite that he was a man whore and expressed that he would be willing to take any pass at him for the sisters of Guya.  Gabrielle quickly intervened clarifying for the idiot that it was not his manhood, but his scabbard.  Joxer quickly became less excited by the prospect of giving something up for the sisters of Guya.  He explained that he couldn’t give away his scabbard for their cause because it was the only thing that his father had ever given him.  Gabrielle could relate to sentimental value.  For a moment she thought of the large Trojan horse that she had once wished she could have taken with her.  The older sister stated that it was unfortunate because it would have been a hot commodity back in Caucus.  Joxer continued explaining that he just couldn’t give it away as the bard realized that she could resolve the embarressing moment with just a few strokes of her mighty quill.

         “After realizing the power of the scroll, and the will of a mighty quill, Joxer and Gabrielle met the sisters of Guya.  The sisters were seeking a donation from Joxer to their orphanage.  But Joxer would not give up his scabbard because it had been given to him by his father.  And so the bard Gabrielle wrote her magic and suddenly a kind man came from the woods offering his own gift, a kinsman sword.  The sisters of Guya were delighted to receive such a wonderful gift.  And so the good that was to be done by the will of the mighty quill had only just begun.”

       Gabrielle wrote the above verse explaining to the sisters as she wrote that she was certain that they were about to receive a very nice surprise.  The power of the mighty quill went into action almost instantly as both the “kind man” and the “kinsman sword” arrived right on command.  As the younger sister held the magnificent weapon in her hand the older sister could barely contain her excitement at the gift.  She raved about how that one singular gift could fund their orphanage for many years to come.  The man vanished quickly down the road as the sisters found themselves to be utterly delighted to receive such a fine gift.  Gabrielle then showed Joxer the verse that she had just written proving to the idiot once and for all that the bard had the power to change the world.   The younger sister exclaimed that it was a miracle and with that the bard realized that her work with the sister’s of Guya was finished.  The lone warrior bard grabbed the jerk by his chest-plate and proceeded to drag him on down the road with her to the nearest village tavern.

     “The day went on as Gabrielle and Joxer entered a nearby tavern to have breakfast.  Out of the kindness of his heart the tavern owner offered to Gabrielle and all who were in the tavern free food to eat and drinks on the house.  And with that statement all who were at the tavern drank and ate joyfully together in the spirit of peace.”  That was the bard’s plan all along.  As the tavern keeper served the lone warrior and her sidekick breakfast Joxer began to pull out his bag of money.  Gabrielle held up her hand and pulled out her mighty quill explaining to him that there was no longer any need for his money.  Then she looked up to the tavern keeper and inquired of him how much they needed to pay for their meals.  The tavern keeper seemingly fumbled for the words for just a moment, but then declared that it would be free and that the drinks would be “on the house.”  The bard gleefully repeated exactly what she had written and exactly what had been declared by the tavern keeper.  As she finished her statement the tavern ceiling began to drip, but then pour down upon the tavern.  Suddenly, the bard realized that perhaps she needed to be a bit more careful in how she worded things because it seemed that the will of the quill was not always what she had intended.  Despite this minor set back beer seemingly rained down every where and Joxer happily grabbed his mug and began to fill it up and drink up all of the abundance.  The jerk then rolled over upon the table and drank like a fish.

      As Gabrielle finished her glorious plate of abundant food most of the tavern patrons had become inebriated.  Of course, abundant beer was still raining down upon them every where as patrons were passing out left and right.  No matter, the bard was ready for more action with her mighty quill and to do good out in the world.  She beckoned her student to come along with her for there was no time to waste as she rolled up her scroll.  Unfortunately, as the lone warrior and her sidekick began to make their way out of the tavern one of the drunken patrons began an argument with the tavern keeper who attempted to kick him out for drinking more than his share of raining beer.  The patron punched the tavern keeper and the bard commented that it was always that one drunk who would find a way to spoil to good drink for all.

     At that point the tavern began to erupt into a massive bar fight as Joxer commented that there was definitely an army of drunken patrons to contend with.  He then stated that at least things couldn’t get any worse than an all out brawl.  The bard attempted to defend her mighty quill explaining that it was not the intention for her story to unfold that way.  As the two companions turned to leave they were taken by surprise by the bold entrance into the tavern of the five barbarians that the lone warrior Gabrielle had defeated single-handed earlier in the day.  The barbarian leader expressed his displeasure with having been made a fool by the lone warrior’s amazing fighting skills.  He pointed his sword into the direction of the bard declaring that he and his vicious ugly men were barbarians.  Again the bard chose to battle against the barbarians with her mighty quill as she pulled it out and wrote feverishly upon her scroll.

     “Then the five barbarians returned for Gabrielle, but they didn’t stay long for they decided to go west instead.”   Although the barbarian seemed confused for a moment he declared his next order of business to be to lead his men west.  Gabrielle looked to Joxer and was pleased at how seemingly easy it was to change any given moment.  As the barbarians exited the tavern and ran out to jump upon their horses to ride west one of the bar patrons exclaimed that they would be heading directly into the path of the sisters of Guya orphanage.  “But the sister’s of Guya orphanage would be in their path so they turned east.”  Though the barbarians suddenly shifted their destination from west to east, it did not matter because the drunken female bar patron then declared that the barbarians were headed toward the village of Echinecea.  The sisters of Guya and their orphanage were now safe, but the innocent villagers of Echinecea were in grave danger.  “The barbarians disappeared from the land!”  Again the female bar patron exclaimed with alarm that the barbarians were now headed for the nearest port where they would most certainly kill all who sailed the seas.  Gabrielle realized that she had to come up with a better plan.  The bard continued to verbalize her thoughts as she wrote.  “The barbarians went to the caves and fell into a deep sleep.”  Joxer piped up a small word to the wise wondering if all of this sudden chaos surrounding them was all of the good that Gabrielle had planned on doing.  The bard found herself to be frustrated and experience extremely bad writer’s block.  With that she tossed her usual weapon of choice, the mighty quill, and the scroll of power into Joxer’s chest and declared that she refused to write another word upon the scroll.  With that the bard walked out of the tavern of chaos that she had somehow created.

       Joxer quickly followed behind attempting to comfort his friend feeling a little guilty for prodding her about her writer’s block.  Gabrielle accepted his apology knowing that it was really her terrible writing that had caused all of the chaos to begin with.  As they walked through the village she talked through her writer’s block with Joxer explaining that normally her writing is much more vivid and much better.  It just didn’t make sense what had happened to her creative talents.  For the first time it seemed that there was something missing from her writing.  Joxer chimed in that perhaps her writing in this case was a little too vivid.  Perhaps it needed a bit more work.  Joxer suggested that Gabrielle should edit it.  That idea sparked the bard’s mind and she realized that editing was exactly what her new magic scroll needed.  Her faith in her writing had been restored.  There was hope again.  The lone warrior Gabrielle had now discovered the simple power of the scroll.  She threw her arm around her student and declared that with careful editing she could easily end hunger, disease, and even war.  That statement verbalized instantly inspired Gabrielle’s next words.

     “Then the will of mortals won out…and war lost all its power.”  Instantly the sounds of a deep screaming male voice came falling out of the sky down upon the village.  It was Ares, the god of war.  He was in a panic as he struggled to harness his immortal power.  He was confused and upset for it seemed that his powers were now non-existent.  He then looked up and noticed that he had been dropped down next to the bard.  Ares glared at Gabrielle instantly realizing what had just happened to him.  He charged at Gabrielle in anger exclaiming that his new predicament was the bard’s fault.  The bard was confused attempting to defend herself from his accusation.  He was right, but he was wrong because Gabrielle had not intended her use of the word “war” to mean Ares.  Despite that she knew she had the solution and that she could fix the problem.  She had to think fast because the enraged Ares was about to strike.  “The force that enchanted the scroll lost its powers.”  And then the sound of a woman’s voice screaming fell from the sky and dropped into the village landing upon the former god of war.  Gabrielle found this to be very intriguing because the woman who had fallen from the sky was none other than the goddess of love Aphrodite.

      The bard began to suspect that there was more to her magic scroll and her mighty quill than she had previously recognized.  Something was definitely out of place.  Ares was buried underneath the pink flowing gown of the love goddess who was nearly knocked unconscious by her fall.  Ares barked at her inquiring if her solution of punishment against Gabrielle was to give her powers of destiny.  The former god of war had a few choice words of his own to describe Gabrielle which were not at all flattering, but interesting none-the-less.  Aphrodite responded in frustration that she had not given Gabrielle powers of destiny, but only enchanted a scroll.  The former love goddess pressed Ares reminding him that there was no reason for him to be surprised because it was Ares himself whom had instructed her to act against Gabrielle’s uncontrollable writings.  Ares rose up onto his elbows and explained himself to his sister again explaining that what he really wanted was to get Xena out of the way.  Aphrodite defended her actions reminding Ares that enchanting the scroll worked in at least getting the warrior princess out of the way.  However, it was not expected that Ares would lose all of his powers.

      At this point the bard decided that she would interrupted this little conspiracy conversation just to clarify what she had just heard.  She repeated that Aphrodite had enchanted her scroll with the intention of harming Xena as an inquiry.  Love and War glared  as the looked to the bard and then back at each other.  Then Aphrodite explained that Ares had only been using her to get what he wanted for himself.  He was indeed the master manipulator having been successful at turning love against the world.  Aphrodite rose to her feet and continued to explain to Gabrielle the situation.  She stated that he had an army somewhere in the valley that was ready to reign down upon every one and start a new war.  Ares simply wanted Xena out of the way so he had manipulated Aphrodite into becoming mad at the bard.  Gabrielle realized that in a way, Aphrodite was also a victim of her brother’s wrath.  She deduced that Ares was probably even the one who had convinced some young weak-minded children to deface Aphrodite’s temple in order to goad her into becoming mad at the bard.  Gabrielle was touched by both Aprhodite’s heart-felt confession of her crime and Ares’s interest in her scrolls.  He must have read at least a few of them otherwise he would not have known what to tell those vandals to write.

      Ares rose to his feet and badgered his sister patronizing her for figuring out his real intentions.  Aphrodite reminded her brother that though she was light at heart she was not stupid.  Then Aphrodite looked to Gabrielle and suggested a simple solution to the problem.  She politely asked the bard to just write upon the enchanted scroll in order to restore Aphrodite’s powers.  Once that happened Aphrodite could simply zap the scroll and everything would be normal again.  Gabrielle could see that Aphrodite was not malicious like Ares.  Indeed she had her selfish side, but she was playful and more interested in delighting herself with the pleasures of love than in reigning war down upon the land.  Ares also chimed in politely explaining that he needed his powers to written back in first so he could rejoin the waiting army and give them the signal that Xena was no longer in the valley.  Aphrodite reminded her brother that he wasn’t helping his cause by openly declaring that he wanted to rejoin his waiting army.  Ares tried again.  This time he promised that he would not allow the army to attack this time as long as Gabrielle gave him back his powers.  Aphrodite laughed at her brother knowing just how ridiculous a lie he was openly telling.  Ares took a jab at her reminding her that she could no longer fly now that she was as powerless as he was.

      Joxer finally opened his mouth again and addressed Aphrodite.  He was sure that if Aphrodite undid the power of the enchanted scroll then it would bring Xena back and the army would be too afraid to attack the valley.  Gabrielle thought for a moment and then looked to Joxer declaring that indeed what he had just said made sense.  It was a rare occurrence, but sometimes even Joxer had a good idea and that was what was needed in the moment.  “Aphrodite is as she was before.”  Instantly, Aphrodite’s powers were restored as she disappeared from her spot in the village and then suddenly there was the sound of a woman’s voice screaming raining down upon the village from the sky.  Again Aphrodite fell down upon Ares knocking him to the ground.  Joxer declared “she is as she was before.”  Then he stated in a matter of fact tone that it was definitely all in the wording.  At this point Gabrielle was afraid to write anymore.  She just wanted the chaos to end and for every thing to be back to the way it was before she ever began writing “The Quill is Mightier.”  Gabrielle’s next idea was that just maybe if she could fill up the scroll with random characters completely then maybe the curse upon them could end.  Aphrodite looked up at the bard from her place on top of the frustrated Ares and was offended that Gabrielle now viewed her gift of the enchanted scroll as a curse.  Aphrodite and Ares rose from the ground to their feet and Aphrodite continued explaining that once the scroll was filled up that was where it would end.  Whatever was written on it would stay the way it was as Gabrielle had written it.

       Joxer chimed in again and stated that all Gabrielle needed to write was simply that “everything is as it was before.”  Aphrodite sarcastically replied to the idot explaining that Joxer’s chosen phrase would not work.  All that would happen in that instance would be that every person on the earth would go out of existence as they were before they were born into the world and the gods would go back to their infant origins.  Aphrodite then inquired if the bard had written Joxer into her scroll.  She appeared to be annoyed by the idiot.  Gabrielle attempted to cover her mistake in calling him a jerk, but as she handed the scroll to Ares he read it out loud, “Gabrielle awoke with a jerk.”  Aphrodite laughed delighted at the brilliant double meaning of the word.  Ares nodded his head and Gabrielle carefully looked to Joxer hoping that his naive mind would still be unable to decipher what the enchanted scroll had done.  Joxer did not understand the double meaning because he didn’t understand why everyone thought waking up was such a funny phrase.

      Then it dawned on Gabrielle that the only real way to solve this dilema was to deconstruct everything she had written thus far.  He first order of business would be to bring Xena back.  It was the first thing she had written upon the scroll.  As Gabrielle stood flanked by both Ares and Aphrodite attempting to solve the riddle Ares had a brilliant idea.  His inspiration was, “Xena rides in at the head of an army.”  He was absolutely certain of the beauty of that phrase.  Gabrielle reminded Ares that it sounded great out loud, but when she put it on paper Xena might ride in heading up an army of ants or children, or even harpes.  Joxer interrupted reminding everyone that a description of the army and of Xena was they key.  A burst of inspiration flowed through Gabrielle’s soul as she jumped with excitement.  “Suddenly, there was the arrival of the woman.”  This was Gabrielle’s initial inspired creative thought interrupted by Ares’s creativity which included “leather.”  Gabrielle agreed that the leather should be at least mentioned.  She also thought it might be important to mention that Xena had black hair and that she carried a chakram.  Joxer interrupted the creative process as he was hunched over propping up the enchanted scroll upon his back.  He wanted to know if anyone really understood what Xena’s magnificent weapon really was.  He wasn’t even certain that the scroll would know what a chakram was.  Again, Gabrielle realized that Joxer did have a point.  Then she decided that Xena should be carrying her whip in order to clarify it for the scroll.

     Gabrielle suddenly moved to write the next phrase, “Suddenly, there was the arrival of the woman wearing leather carrying the whip of Xena.”  Just as the quill marked the last word on upon the parchment the sound of a whip whirred in through the air.  Gabrielle and her creative comrades ducked to miss being smacked by its fury.  Ares demanded to know who the woman with black hair and leather was that now stood before them with Xena’s whip.  Gabrielle couldn’t believe who she had brought with the enchanted scroll until she explained to Ares that Minya was a friend from the village of Laurel that she had Xena had met when fighting the giant Gareth and Zagrious’s army.  The bard suddenly remembered that the whip was a poor choice for the enchanted scroll because Gabrielle had traded Xena’s whip for a frying pan in that adventure.  Ares was clearly disgusted, disappointed, and frustrated all at the same time.  The enchanted scroll certainly had a sense of humor.  Minya expressed her confusion not knowing why she had suddenly arrived in this random village, but she was ready for action none-the-less for Xena’s whip never left her side.  As Minya approached Gabrielle she wanted to know who all of Gabrielle’s companions were.  Gabrielle introduced Ares, Aphrodite, and Joxer.  It seemed necessary.  Joxer was now standing next to Minya pleased to be acquainted with a new dark female warrior in leather, but Minya was much more interested in Ares.  Minya showered Ares with praise and worship ecstatic to be in his presence.  Ares was pleased to be openly worshipped as was Aprhodite who immediately received praise from Minya also.  Then Minya looked to Joxer and apologized for not really having ever heard of him.

     Gabrielle realized that things were becoming a lot more complicated with each and every word transcribed onto the scroll.  She decided that maybe it was time to go back to the tavern, relax, and grab something for her now empty stomach.  A full stomach might help the bard in being able to focus a bit better.  Minya was pleased by the idea as was Joxer, and when the five comrades arrived the chaos was still ensuing.  Beer still rained down from the ceiling and the food was still free.  At least that was something good that was happening.  And the longer the five of them sat at the table drinking, and eating, the less attractive the former gods became to their new found fan club.  Aphrodite was enjoying the experience of being mortal within her drunken stooper.  But then Minya chimed in that despite her boyfriend Hower being an extreme fan of the beautiful goddess, Minya had decided that she would go back to Laurel and share with him how plain and dirty and mortal Aphrodite had become.   Ares found Minya’s wit to be quite amusing while Aphrodite wasn’t so pleased to be described as dirty as a wagon wheel.  Both Ares and Minya were also drunk, but they were happy drunks.

     The bard had decided that she would stay sober in order to solve this problem with the enchanted scroll.  At least everyone else was entertained enough to stay out of her creative process.  Joxer was attempting to find the best way to capture the been falling from the ceiling.  He had built a contraption which fit upon his head and was trying to determine the best way to make it work for him.  Gabrielle couldn’t believe the absolute disaster her writer’s block had become.  She was supposed to be the great bard with the wonderful stories.  Now it seemed she wasn’t capable of writing a happy ending without creating it poorly.  Joxer snapped out of his obsession with beer and looked to Gabrielle.  He scolded her for thinking that all of her stories were bad.  Joxer expressed himself openly stating that he thought most of her stories were good and not everything always turned to disaster when she wrote them.  Then Joxer reminded Gabrielle that the sister’s of Guya had received a happy ending.  Just as Gabrielle was beginning to think that Joxer was very kind the sisters of Guya arrived in the tavern and told the tale of how they had sold their kinsman sword for a king’s ransom to the warlord Philiodos.  Gabrielle looked across the tavern to see the warlord gorging himself on the free produce he had collected as he ate the fruit right off of his sword.  Joxer was content with that knowing that the sisters of Guya orphanage was funded for many years to come.  Gabrielle was embarressed because she knew that now a warlord was well-armed with an amazing weapon.

     Gabrielle attempted to correct her most recent known literary mistake.  “The woman was not Xena, but her friend Minya of Laurel.  Xena goes to a number one friend.  Xena rejoins the woman who brought her new life.  And now Xena returns from her journey.”  Suddenly, a man dressed in golden armor burst through the doors of the tavern and declared Philiodos to be a dead man.  Gabrielle looked up from her writing and realized that somehow that kinsman sword belonged to the man now standing in the door threatening to kill.  The bard jumped up from her place at the table and demanded that the man in the door wait just one moment before acting upon his desire.   His attention was redirected and the bard asked him what his name was.  He stated that it was Scaberus and then wanted to know the reason for the bard’s interest.  “Scaberus the man whom had offered his kinsman sword to the sisters of Guya arrived at the tavern, and decided that he too would go to the caves with the barbarians to get some deep sleep.”  Then Scaberus made his declaration and exited the tavern for his new destination.  Ares looked across the tavern to Gabrielle and reminded the bard that the caves would eventually become dangerously full.  Gabrielle did not care too much for his comment.  It was stating the obvious, but it was all that she could come up with in order to keep the chaos at a distance until she could figure out a real literary solution.

     As Gabrielle left the tavern her dismal entourage followed.  Her endless creative frustrations were growing within.  The bard was barely able to contain her anger at the situation.  She openly decided that instead of writing in the scroll that Xena should come to them perhaps the solution would be to go out to the nearby lakes and streams in a search to find Xena themselves.  The bard guessed maybe it was a trout stream since Xena’s favorite fish was trout, but then again, it could be any body of water from the Strymon to the Agean.  Who knew exactly where Gabrielle had sent Xena.  It could take years to find her.  Gabrielle threw down her scroll upon the table outside the tavern and walked off.  She couldn’t handle the pressure any more.  It was too much.  As Gabrielle hoped that she might be able to find Xena somewhere fishing nearby the next verse found its way upon the unattended enchanted scroll.

    “A warrior Joxer the Mighty,

     asked a boon from the God Aphrodite,

     and what a surprise he saw,

     but love’s eyes three times…

Gabrielle had only gone back into the tavern to retrieve her staff that she had almost left behind, and when she found her way back out side to rejoin her companions there before her was something horrific.  Three naked Gabrielle’s were dancing in the middle of the town on top of a veranda.  They were intriguing yet quite an embarressment to see a reflection of oneself three times.  Gabrielle then looked to Joxer who was holding the quill in his hand.  Gabrielle suddenly realized that somehow Joxer had written Gabrielle naked into the enchanted scroll.  The bard was furious with Joxer.  She ripped the scroll off of the table and looked to see what it was that Joxer had written.  He attempted to explain that he was only intending to edit the scroll a little.  As Gabrielle read out loud Joxer’s attempt at a limerick.  Joxer explained that he had a little trouble filling in that last line and inquired if Gabrielle had any ideas on how to finish it.  Gabrielle could barely contain her anger as it boiled from the depths of her soul.  It wasn’t the kind of anger one feels when they have a lust for blood.  Instead it was extreme frustration and embarressment.  Gabrielle grabbed Joxer by his chest plate and dragged him up close to her.  She whispered an angry inquiry asking of him what “love’s eyes” had to do with her.  Gabrielle feared the worst as she ran through how to solve the new problem of three naked Gabrielle’s dancing and running around in the streets.

As Joxer fumbled for an answer to his riddle Gabrielle thought that perhaps it was Aphrodite’s eyes that Joxer had been looking at in the moment that he had written those words upon Aphrodite’s enchanted scroll.  Then that didn’t quite make sense.  Unless it was Aphrodite’s eyes that were looking in the direction of Gabrielle in the moment when the thought was inspired for the limerick.  Aprhodite must have fed Joxer those words who only transcribed what Aphrodite had told him to.  Joxer was in worship of the goddess and she enjoyed his admiration.  That made sense to the bard.  Joxer confirmed the bard’s thought laughing nervously as he instructed Gabrielle to send the naked Gabrielle’s away to the end line of the limerick,” three Gabrielle’s to the caves go nighty.”  Of course Joxer the man whore was in no hurry to send the girls away.  Gabrielle wrestled the quill from his grasp as he and everyone else continued to stare at the spectacle both he and Aphrodite had created.

The day had been truly exhausting not only for the bard, but for everyone else within her company that the scroll had brought along.  Gabrielle led everyone back to camp hoping that maybe Xena would return from fishing on her own.  The next morning came and the lone warrior Gabrielle awoke with an necklace upon her chest.  She was still half sleepying as she rose up from her slumber to get a better look at the unexpected surprise.  From behind she heard Joxer’s voice hoping that she would like the gift.  The bard was flattered that Joxer had given her a gift.  She accepted it stating that it was a beautiful gift.  The bard was not certain why Joxer would just go out and buy her a necklace.  Joxer explained that he had bought it to make-up and to apologize for writing the three naked Gabrielle’s.  Gabrielle chuckled at the simplicity of Joxer’s train of thought.  It was admirable, but before the bard could have another thought Joxer explained that he had to trade his father’s scabbard to buy it.    At this moment the tone of Gabrielle’s mind delved back toward frustration.  She was hoping that she had not heard him correctly.  She asked him to repeat what he had just said.  Joxer repeated his statement even louder than before.  Gabrielle rose to her knees and faced Joxer.  She scolded him for having sold his father’s scabbard because he had only on the morning before flatly rebuffed the sisters of Guya.  Joxer did not agree with the bard’s opinion that he should not have sold it for the necklace.  He tried to explain why the necklace was so much more important than the sisters of Guya.  Gabrielle didn’t want to hear it.  A new problem had just been created.  She hadn’t even written on the scroll, but she was sure that someone else would if they hadn’t already.

Gabrielle approached Joxer to reveal that she had hidden the scroll for safe keeping inside his father’s scabbard.  Joxer at first thought that it was a game until Gabrielle reached out, grabbed Joxer’s nose, and attempted to rip it off of his face.  Gabrielle screamed in frustration and Joxer screamed out in pain waking the rest of the sleeping beauties.  Joxer explained that he had traded a peddler for the necklace and that they could easily get the scroll back.  Joxer begged for Gabrielle to release his nose as he was certain that the peddler would not easily figure out the power of the enchanted scroll inside.  “And then it began to rain riches all over the town.  Dinars, dinars, all around the town raining dinars!”  In the next moment the woman from the tavern on the day before came running through the woods shouting out that it was raining riches around town.  She urged everyone to hurry to gather their riches.  All Gabrielle wanted to do next was to strangle Joxer for his idiocy.  It wasn’t enough of a challenge to be dealing with an unruly scroll combined with writer’s block, two mortal gods, Minya and no Xena.

After Gabrielle had taken out all of her lone warrior frustrations upon Joxer she regained her composure and gathered her misfit troops declaring that she knew exactly what she would have to write next.  The only problem now was that they had to get the scroll back.  Ares was obviously not convinced that Gabrielle had the answer.  She hadn’t proven herself worthy of the answer thus far.  She realized that he was just grumpy having been stuck within a mortal body for over 12 hours.  Despite his mortality he was no less manipulative.  She gleefully told Ares that the answer to his question was a creative secret she would keep to herself.  Gabrielle then commanded both Aphrodite and Minya to team up and go into town to find out where the peddler had gone.  Gabrielle then revealed that she would team up with Ares and they would go look for the peddler where it was still raining dinars.  Joxer wanted to know what his role in Gabrielle’s plan was.  Gabrielle walked over to the tree where she had tied him up to keep him out of her way.  She then untied him and instructed him to go to the caves with the rest of the bunch she had sent there.  She was pretty certain he would have no trouble taking that order.

It wasn’t long before Gabrielle and Ares found themselves to be hot on the peddler’s trail.  As they rounded the corner out of the woods through the meadow Gabrielle noticed that there were a pair of deep ruts created by most likely a pair of wagon wheels.  Gabrielle explained to Ares that she thought it might be carrying a load of dinars which meant that they were on the right trail.  Strangely Ares was impressed.  He asked the lone warrior where she had learned to read trails so well.  Naturally Gabrielle responded that it was the warrior princess who had taught her that skill.  Gabrielle explained that if one hung around Xena long enough one could learn anything about the warrior arts.  The lone warrior went on to explain that it was all about focus.  Ares agreed with Gabrielle on that point.  With pride he declared that he had been the one who had been able to harness Xena’s natural gifts and power and to give the warrior princess her ability to focus.  He explained that when Xena had first come to him she had just been another lost power-hungry warlord.  Ares prided himself on having given Xena a purpose.

Gabrielle took the opportunity to remind Ares that Xena had a different purpose in the present alongside the bard.  Ares regretfully agreed with Gabrielle on this point stating that he was aware of just how good Xena was at fighting for the cause of the greater good.    He went onto admire what she had done up against him when he had gotten her put on trial for the murders of those innocent villagers.  Gabrielle turned to Ares as they walked and stopped to face him.  She asked him about his opinion on how Xena was able to wiggle her way out of the bind he had recently put her in up against the furies.  Ares admitted that it was indeed a stroke of brilliance on Xena’s part.   He was like a proud father describing how Xena approaches all of her foes with her steel gaze.  He smiled as he thought of Xena’s gaze as did the bard.  The two foes were finding a moment of true relatability with one another as Gabrielle smiled at the image in her mind of Xena’s steel gaze.  Then there was an awkward moment of silence between them.  Gabrielle looked to the deep wagon tracks and then followed them into the distances toward the caves.  She pointed out her latest observation to Ares.  Ares agreed with her accessment.  Then within another awkward moment of silence between them Ares revealed that he felt that the two of them were just starting to warm up to one another with in their conversation.  Gabrielle did indeed notice the feeling too.  It was slightly off-putting.  Ares expressed that he really didn’t feel that he enjoyed feeling warm toward Gabrielle.  Gabrielle agreed that the feeling was mutual as the agreed to move on toward the caves together.

Upon entering the caves both Gabrielle and Ares prepared their weapons for they weren’t exactly sure what they would find when the ventured inside.  Soon they found themselves startled by Joxer popping his head up from behind the sleeping barbarians.  Gabrielle barked out a command for him to get away from the barbarians.  He pleaded with the bard to allow him to disarm them while they slept.  Gabrielle was certain that no matter what it was that Joxer thought he was doing to help he would most certainly make matters worse for everyone.  Joxer argued with the bard that he would not make things worse as long as he didn’t wake anyone up before he finished the job and found the peddler.  Obviously, even Joxer had learned something in his travels with the warrior princess.  He had been able to deduce that the wagon tracks belonged to the peddler.  From behind inside of another chamber with in the cave a man emerged holding a scroll.  Joxer turned when he noticed the man’ footsteps approaching and shouted out that the man was the peddler he had traded with on the night before.

The peddler appeared to be confused about his situation and suddenly Scaberus ran into the cave from another chamber.  His sword was drawn and he was ready to do battle to recover his kinsman sword.  Scaberus was certain that one of the people occupying the cave had to be carrying his sword.  He wrestled the scroll from the peddler with his sword as Joxer recovered it from the peddler from the cave floor.  Joxer then threw the scroll to Gabrielle as the barbarians a began awakening from their deep sleep.  Gabrielle caught the scroll and then ran toward the barbarians hoping to knock them out the the scroll before they had a chance to react.  Ares followed with his sword drawn.  Joxer attempted to run out of the cave entrance only to smack into Minya and Aphrodite who had just found their way to the peddler’s location.  Both Minya and Joxer laid flat on the ground as Ares shouted out to Aphrodite to follow him with Gabrielle and the scroll.  The dazed and confused barbarians scattered.

Gabrielle desparately searched for a quiet place with in the caves to transcribe her solution to the enchanted scroll upon the scroll itself.  She found herself blindly running into Scaberus again who swiped in from her grasp.  Scaberus then ran into Joxer, who ran into the peddler and the three naked Gabrielles.  Then the barbarians came along and swiped the scroll from Joxer’s grasp.  Everyone was descending upon the power of enchantment as Gabrielle followed the echoing sounds through the cave to everyone’s location.  She found a low position from which to attack the barbarians as they tripped over her outstreatched staff along the floor of the cave.  With that the bard had reached success and retrieved the scroll disappaearing alone through the maze of caverns until she found the perfect quiet spot to open the enchanted scroll and to end this chaotic literary mess once and for all.  “All who were enchanted went into the caves and then out again.  One following the other all in search of Xena the warrior princess the scroll went.”  Just as Gabrielle had finished transcribing her literary solution everyone in the caves descended upon her.  She waived the scroll high up into the air and demanded that everyone stay back.  Then she went for it she threw the scroll through the air at random and then the peddler emerged capturing it and running off through the maze.  Gabrielle instructed everyone that the scroll knew the way out of the caves and that all should follow.

And so the parade of chaos began led by first the peddler, then three naked Gabrielle’s, five barbarians, Scaberus, Minya with the whip of Xena, the mortal Ares, the lone warrior Gabrielle, the mortal Aphrodite, and finally Joxer the jerk.  The four original companions were out of breath as the took a moment to gather themselves.  Joxer wanted to know what Gabrielle had written in the scroll and the bard revealed to him that she had written to send it to the warrior princess.  She had only hoped that she had been able to phrase it right this time.  The four companions moved forward following the trail of the parade of chaos.  Gabrielle remembered that there was still one serious problem that even the scroll couldn’t solve.  She demanded that Ares find his army in the valley and stop them from attacking everyone.  Ares claimed that he could only do that if he had his godly powers.  Until then he was powerless to stop them.  Ares declared that he would later punish Thelonious and his army in some horrible way.  The bard reminded Ares that there would be innocent people who would die at the hands of his army if it wasn’t stopped soon.  Gabrielle was frustrated that Ares didn’t have the courage to just go into the valley where his hidden army was waiting to instruct them not to attack.  She boldly stated that with or with out the god of war she and the rest of her companions would fight the warlord to stop him.  Aphrodite turned to Gabrielle and expressed that she had no interest in being a part of fighting against Thelonious’s army.  She had never agreed to do that for anyone.  As Gabrielle was about to respond Joxer stopped, raised his hand and took a deep whiff of the surrounding air.  Aphrodite scolded Joxer for pointing out her mortal faults.  Joxer attempted to ease Aphrodite’s concern about what he was smelling stating that it only smelled like fish.  Aphrodite was upset knowing that her mortal hygene skills were not up to speed.  She was normally a goddess and had no need to worry about such matters.  Gabrielle watched as the mortal goddess of love began to have an uncontrollable emotional breakdown in front of everyone.  The smell was too strong to be just coming from Aphrodite herself.

Gabrielle took a whiff of the air also.  Then from around the corner emerged Xena the warrior princess dragging a wagon load of fish behind her.  Xena smiled when she caught sight of Gabrielle and her band of misfit companions.  Then she approached the bard and pulled out the enchanted scroll asking Gabrielle if she had been looking for it.  Gabrielle reached for the enchanted scroll, but Xena would not surrender it.  Instead the warrior princess explained that she had taken it from a peddler, chased by barbarians, then chased by three naked Gabrielles.  Xena looked to the bard showing Gabrielle just how amused she was by seeing Gabrielle naked three times.  Gabrielle chuckled to herself for a moment at the thought that must have been going through the warrior princess’s mind when she saw that particular group of gals.  Xena said that she then saw Minya chasing them with her whip and was indeed still chasing everyone.  Xena said that seeing all of that was what had led her to read Gabrielle’s scroll.  Gabrielle admitted that it was most definitely not her best work.  Xena agreed completely, but was curious as to who wrote the limerick.  She considered that it could have been Gabrielle, but then Joxer chimed in and proudly accepted credit for his limerick.  Xena wasn’t impressed nor surprised that it had been Joxer.  Gabrielle explained all of the ways that she had attempted to bring Xena back through the scroll.  “Xena goes to a number one friend.”  Xena stated that the scroll had taken her to a friend that she hadn’t seen since she was five years old.  It was her first friend ever.

Ares then chimed in asking Xena about his contribution to the scroll, “Xena rejoins the woman who brought her to a new life.”  Xena picked up a large fish and held it up saying that her mother wanted to thank Gabrielle for all of the fish that Xena had brought to her courtesy of Gabrielle’s scroll.  The bard was about to ask the warrior princess why she didn’t decide on her own to come back and find out what was going on with these strange urges that she had been feeling.  Xena already knew what the bard was thinking and admitted that after visiting her mom she had planned on rejoining the bard, but was overcome by the irresistable urge to return to fishing.  Xena was certain that was at about the same time that Gabrielle had written upon the scroll, “And now Xena returns from her journey.”  Xena continued as she explained upon feeling that second urge to go fishing that something somewhere was going wrong.  She explained that she had visited almost everyone she had ever known who had meant anything to her with the exception of Gabrielle.  The warrior princess looked to Gabrielle and said that was when she realized where she needed to go next.  She needed to return to Gabrielle.  Gabrielle felt warmth in her heart to know that all of her frustrations with the creative process had only brought out the best most tender-hearted moment in Xena.  Gabrielle was pleased at this break through in their friendship, but the mortal goddess of love interrupted their love fest with her own selfish concerns.  She was becoming extremely frustrated with suffering through mortality and wanted it corrected as soon as possible.  Joxer reminded every one that stopping the warlord Thelonious was also on the list of problems that needed a resolution with the help of the warrior princess.  However, Aphrodite was still very uninterested in the problems of war.
Xena then approached Aphrodite inquiring about the charm that Aphrodite had used upon the scroll when she had enchanted it.  She needed to know the exact words.  Aphrodite thought about it for a moment and then revealed to the warrior princess this phrase, “Lies will make the world go round till truer words are written down.”  Xena thought about it for a moment and then revealed that the solution was simple.  Instead of writing fiction, Gabrielle needed to write the truth.  In a way, it was Xena who had inspired Aphrodite to charm the scroll because it was on the night before the chaos that Xena had suggested Gabrielle write fiction.  It was obvious that Gabrielle should not at all be writing fiction.  There was still the problem of the warlord Thelonious.  Xena wasn’t at all worried about that.  She declared that she could handle that job on her own.  Her main concern was that Gabrielle write down upon the enchanted scroll exactly what she saw as Xena would fight the warlord and his army.  Aphrodite’s faith in the mortal ability to problem solve had been shattered over the past two days.  She wasn’t so certain that her godhood would be restored.  The former goddess wanted to know how she would be certain Xena’s plan would work.  Xena explained that she would know when her powers would restore themselves.  Xena had confidence in Gabrielle’s ability to write truth.  It seemed the warrior princess was a little soft toward Aphrodite realizing that it was all a set up by Ares all along.  Then Xena grabbed her wagon load of fish and began to look for a vantage point for defense with her fish against the army of Thelonious.

Secretly Gabrielle wasn’t as confident in her ability as Xena was.  Xena had not just suffered through the same two days of chaos that the rest of the crew had.  Joxer dragging one of Xena’s fish along with him after smacking himself on the chin approached Gabrielle and asked her what was wrong.  Gabrielle had hoped that she could hide her lack of confidence, but Joxer obviously could read her better than she realized.  Gabrielle had to openly admit that writing action was not exactly her strongest point as a bard.  Ares could not believe what he had just heard.  He stepped around to the opposite side of Aphrodite, pausing only to sniff her mortal stench momentarily, as he verbalized that he couldn’t believe that Gabrielle followed Xena around the known world all day, every day without being able to write in some action.  He wanted to know exactly how the bard was able to accomplish this as Aphrodite stuggled to keep composure over her brother’s momentary slam against her obviously poor hygene.  Ares eagerly awaited the bard’s answer.  Gabrielle began to explain gleefully that her method in doing this was simply in the fact that she used mostly metaphors.  Gabrielle stated that such metaphors included phrases like, “Xena burst on the scene in a blaze of glory.”  Then she realized that Ares was also taking a jab at her.  Gabrielle was frustrated enough.  She didn’t need to stand before the former god of war and take his verbal abuse against her.  The bard began to move away from her group of misfit creative partners, but before she could walk away Joxer grabbed her by the shoulder and reminded her that she couldn’t use metaphors this time.  For if Gabrielle used metaphors they might find themselves picking up the remaining exploded pieces of Xena’s body from the certain instant explosion that would happen immediately after writing that phrase upon the enchanted scroll.  Despite all of Joxer’s idiocy he seemingly continued to offer some interesting feedback in the process and this observation was no exception.  Gabrielle looked to Joxer slightly worried yet surprised at his morbid outlook.  She just hoped that she wouldn’t write anything more that would hurt anyone or kill anyone.  Killing Xena with her quill had never occurred to her, but apparently anything went with Aphrodite’s enchanted scroll.

Upon finding the perfect vantage point to view the battle which was expected to occur between Xena and Thelonious’s army Gabrielle soon heard the sounds of the army approaching from within the trees around the bend.  Suddenly, Thelonious appeared with his rag tag army following closely behind.  He barked out commands to them as they approached.  Xena didn’t waist time as she began her onslaught against them with her wagon load of weapons.  Before the men had time to act they were being pummeled with trout, and perch, and anything one could possibly imagine from the various species of known fish.  The smell was awful as the men collapsed onto the ground in a mass of expected chaos.  There was so much fish now covering the ground the rest of the approaching army slipped and fell to the ground unable to handle the massive attack of fish against them.  The warrior princess cried out as she battled them bravely.  Gabrielle and her creative comrades knelt down behind Xena in the trees just beyond Xena’s position as the bard began to write.

     “Xena fought the army of the warlord Thelonious.  For two days Ares had planned for this battle all day long.”  Gabrielle continued writing as Joxer began calling out the actions.  “Xena leads with a pike, then a trout, bam, bam two quick bass.  Oh, he is taking it on the chin.”  Gabrielle quickly added in to the scroll, “Xena threw a starfish at the warriors.  Then Xena laughed, picked up a giant squid, and wound her arm around for the throw.”  Joxer continued on, “That octopus came out of nowhere.  She must have thrown that just for the howl of it.”  Then Joxer laughed at his own ridiculous joke.  “Ares took over asking Gabrielle to write that Xena hit the warrior with a squid.  Joxer argued with Ares declaring that it was not a squid, but an octopus, but Ares countered confident that Joxer had been wrong and that it indeed was a squid that Xena had just thrown.” 

     “Gabrielle hesitated for a moment as they worked out their creative differences and then continued to write upon the scroll as Xena then threw a sword fish like a javelin at another warrior hitting him in the head.  As the enemy sank to the ground she reached for her chakram, but instead grabbed an eel, pausing to notice, then throwing the eel like it was her chakram knocking out two more warriors.  When the eel returned to the warrior princess it was no longer in the form of a chakram.  Xena threw it aside then she grabbed another big fish and slapped it across the faces of two other warriors.”  Ares interupted Gabrielle’s connection to her mighty quill and interjected that Gabrielle should write that Xena whacked the warrior with her sword.    Gabrielle wasn’t so certain that was even a real word.  Joxer interjected editing Ares’s literary suggestion with an alternate word for “whacked.”  Gabrielle was not convinced that Joxer’s word “hit” as a good literary choice despite that she continued writing,  “Xena hit the warrior with her sword then fought with the warrior leader Thelonious.  As Joxer continued to give Gabrielle the correct words, and descriptions of Xena’s battle against Thelonious he stopped for a moment, and inquired about the earlier phrase ‘Gabrielle awoke with a jerk.’  The bard was delighted at the thought and then Ares demanded that the creative writing team keep to the task at hand.” 

     “Suddenly, Minya arrived along side Gabrielle and her team.  She declared in a whisper that she was “ready for action.”  Gabrielle was surprised to see Minya.  She seemed to appear out of nowhere.  Gabrielle was going to be out of scroll soon as everyone stood up to get a better look at what was happening on the battle field.  Joxer inquired of Minya about what had happened to those barbarians she had been chasing.  Minya declared that the barbarians had suddenly decided to stop fighting and head back to Barbaria.  She defeated him as the barbarians turned around and went back to their homes in Barbaria.  And with that Minya stepped forward ready to join Xena in the battle.  Minya said, “I’m ready for action.  I’m going to crack some heads.’   Then Joxer and Minya looked to one another as Aphrodite became a goddess once again.  Then Aphrodite enchanted Joxer and Minya with a love spell and said, ‘I’m back!  Later.’  Then the restored goddess of love disappeared with in a bright light and went home to Mount Olympus.  As soon as Aphrodite disappeared her enchantment spell wore off.  Joxer’s fish stuck between himself and Minya turned Minya’s raging hormones off.  Joxer apologized for his slimy fish, but Minya instantly pushed him away.  Gabrielle’s eyes darted back into the direction of the battle.  She watched as Xena ducked the advance of Thelonious’s raging sword, and quickly took the offensive advantage against him using her sword to swipe his feat from beneath.  Thelonious fell to the groudn as Xena spun around and sheathed her sword into it’s scabbard upon her back.  Xena was intense in battle.  She jumped up and back flipped onto her fish wagon catapulting the remaining baskets of fish into the air across the battle down onto the warlord and his men.  Fish piled onto Thelonious rendering him helpless to continue the fight.  As Thelonious’s men began to scatter Ares become a god.  Ares wound up his fist into a ball, harnessed his godly force from within his breath, and managed to shake out a mighty bolt of lightening across the battle field.  The lightening bolt of godly force struck one of Thelonious’s men as he tried to escape the wrath against him.  Ares shouted out, ‘Run maggot!’  Then he laughed and Gabrielle was taken by surprise.  One bolt of the god of war’s fury against Thelonious’s man wasn’t enough as the god repeated his previous action.”

      Gabrielle paused in her writing realizing that the story of the mighty quill was coming to an end as things were begining to become normal again.  The god of war now had his powers back and Xena had won the battle the battle against Thelonious and his army.  Gabrielle felt the power from just over her shoulder.  It was an entrancing dark power as she turned toward the attraction she was beginning to feel toward Ares.  She looked into his eyes and he gazed deeply into hers.   His strong sexy appearance was nearly over whelming.  Then he pointed down to the bard’s chest and inquired about it.  Gabrielle looked down to see what he was looking at only to be smacked in the face by the god of war.  He then laughed maniacally at his own joke at her expense, as we walked off into the forest disappearing with in the power of his godly force.  His triumphant laughter echoed as he left.  Gabrielle shook her head.  She realized that she was finding herself to be attracted to him, but the moment had thankfully passed and she had regained her sane mind and senses.  She couldn’t believe the gall of Ares.

Then Minya comment that she had expected much more from the god of war.  She was clearly disappointed in his performance.  Minya continued describing her thoughts out loud of the god of war.  She thought that it was only his powers that made him.  He would be just another regular guy if it weren’t for his entrancing sexy self.  Gabrielle could relate to Minya’s sudden entranced hormones.  The god of war’s essence obviously wasn’t completely gone.  As Joxer stood by listening to this conversation of women and their hormones, Gabrielle inquired to Minya about how hers were feeling.  Gabrielle just wanted to hear her admit that they were uncontrollable.  Ares did indeed have power over the female urges.  Minya explained that she had to leave for it was very important that she return home to Laurel to visit her boyfriend Hower.  And with that Minya left for Laurel as Joxer expressed that he thought Minya was a strange woman.  Gabrielle nodded in agreement as Xena approached the conversation.  The bard looked to Xena and declared that things appeared to be well in the moment.  Xena very pleased at their work and agreed that indeed everything was now back to normal.  Joxer pointing toward Gabrielle’s scroll with his giant fish noticed that there was still a little bit of space left at the bottom.  Gabrielle thought about the idea for a moment and suggested that there was perhaps something else to write to finish the story.  And there was most definitely something else to write.  Xena made her creative suggestion as Gabrielle realized that she knew exactly what was missing in that space upon the scroll.  “Finally, Love’s eyes three times vanished from existence leaving the lone bard alongside her friends in peace once again.  Lies will make the world go round till truer words are written down.  The End! “

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #52: The Quill Is Mightier

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The Xena Scrolls

Scroll  #52 :  The Quill is Mightier

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia & Friends

October, 47 B.C.

     Xena had gone fishing.  The lone warrior Gabrielle awoke with a jerk as five barbarians rode out of the woods.  Twirling her trusty staff she delivered kicks of such fury deflecting the thrust of a sword with her mighty abs.  As the last of the barbarians fled the scene Joxer took the staff of Gabrielle unable to control himself.  He hit himself once, twice, and then three times on the head with the staff only to knock himself off of his feet falling onto the ground.

  After realizing the power of the scroll, and the will of a mighty quill, Joxer and Gabrielle met the sisters of Guya.  The sisters were seeking a donation from Joxer to their orphanage.  But Joxer would not give up his scabbard because it had been given to him by his father.  And so the bard Gabrielle wrote her magic and suddenly a kind man came from the woods offering his own gift, a kinsman sword.  The sisters of Guya were delighted to receive such a wonderful gift.  And so the good that was to be done by the will of the mighty quill had only just begun.

      The day went on as Gabrielle and Joxer entered a nearby tavern to have breakfast.  Out of the kindness of his heart the tavern owner offered to Gabrielle and all who were in the tavern free food to eat and drinks on the house.  And with that statement all who were at the tavern drank and ate joyfully together in the spirit of peace.  Then the five barbarians returned for Gabrielle, but they didn’t stay long for they decided to go west instead.  But the sister’s of Guya orphanage would be in their path so they turned east.   The barbarians disappeared from the land!  The barbarians went to the caves and fell into a deep sleep.

     Then the will of mortals won out…and war lost all its power.  The force that enchanted the scroll lost its powers.  Aphrodite is as she was before.  Suddenly, there was the arrival of the woman wearing leather carrying the whip of Xena.  The woman was not Xena, but her friend Minya of Laurel.  Xena goes to a number one friend.    Xena rejoins the woman who brought her to a new life.  And now Xena returns from her journey.  Scaberus the man whom had offered his kinsman sword to the sisters of Guya arrived at the tavern, and decided that he too would go to the caves with the barbarians to get some deep sleep.

     A warrior Joxer the Mighty,

     asked a boon from the God Aphrodite,

     and what a surprise he saw,

     but love’s eyes three times,

     three Gabrielle’s to the caves go nighty.

      And then it began to rain riches all over the town.  Dinars, dinars, all around the town raining dinars!  All who were enchanted went into the caves and then out again.  One following the other all in search of Xena the warrior princess the scroll went.

     Xena fought the army of the warlord Thelonious.  For two days Ares had planned for this battle all day long.  Xena leads with a pike, then a trout, bam, bam two quick bass.  Oh, he is taking it on the chin.  Xena threw a starfish at the warriors.  Then Xena laughed, picked up a giant squid, and wound her arm around for the throw.  That octopus came out of nowhere.  She must have thrown that just for the howl of it.  Ares took over asking Gabrielle to write that Xena hit the warrior with a squid.  Joxer argued with Ares declaring that it was not a squid, but an octopus, but Ares countered confident that Joxer had been wrong and that it indeed was a squid that Xena had just thrown.  Gabrielle hesitated for a moment as they worked out their creative differences, and then continued to write upon the scroll as Xena then threw a sword fish like a javelin at another warrior hitting him in the head.  As the enemy sank to the ground she reached for her chakram, but instead grabbed an eel, pausing to notice, then throwing the eel like it was her chakram knocking out two more warriors.  When the eel returned to the warrior princess it was no longer in the form of a chakram.  Xena threw it aside then she grabbed another big fish and slapped it across the faces of two other warriors.  “Xena hit the warrior with her sword then fought with the warrior leader Thelonious.” 

     As Joxer continued to give Gabrielle the correct words, and descriptions of Xena’s battle against Thelonious he stopped for a moment, and inquired about the earlier phrase ‘Gabrielle awoke with a jerk.’  The bard was delighted at the thought and then Ares demanded that the creative writing team keep to the task at hand.”  Suddenly, Minya arrived along side Gabrielle and her team.  She declared in a whisper that she was “ready for action.”  Gabrielle was surprised to see Minya.  She seemed to appear out of nowhere.  Gabrielle was going to be out of scroll soon as everyone stood up to get a better look at what was happening on the battle field.  Joxer inquired of Minya about what had happened to those barbarians she had been chasing.  Minya declared that the barbarians had suddenly decided to stop fighting and head back to Barbaria.  She defeated him as the barbarians turned around and went back to their homes in Barbaria.  And with that Minya stepped forward ready to join Xena in the battle.  Minya said, “I’m ready for action.  I’m going to crack some heads.”  Then Joxer and Minya looked to one another as Aphrodite became a goddess once again.  Then Aphrodite enchanted Joxer and Minya with a love spell and said, “I’m back!  Later.”  Then the restored goddess of love disappeared with in a bright light and went home to Mount Olympus.  As soon as Aphrodite disappeared her enchantment spell wore off.  Joxer’s fish stuck between himself and Minya turned Minya’s raging hormones off.  Joxer apologized for his slimy fish, but Minya instantly pushed him away.”

     “Gabrielle’s eyes darted back into the direction of the battle.  She watched as Xena ducked the advance of Thelonious’s raging sword, and quickly took the offensive advantage against him using her sword to swipe his feat from beneath.  Thelonious fell to the ground as Xena spun around and sheathed her sword into it’s scabbard upon her back.  Xena was intense in battle.  She jumped up and back flipped onto her fish wagon catapulting the remaining baskets of fish into the air across the battle down onto the warlord and his men.  Fish piled onto Thelonious rendering him helpless to continue the fight.  As Thelonious’s men began to scatter Ares become a god.  Ares wound up his fist into a ball, harnessed his godly force from within his breath, and managed to shake out a mighty bolt of lightening across the battle field.  The lightening bolt of godly force struck one of Thelonious’s men as he tried to escape the wrath against him.  Ares shouted out, “Run maggot!”  Then he laughed and Gabrielle was taken by surprise.  One bolt of the god of war’s fury against Thelonious’s man wasn’t enough as the god repeated his previous action.  “Finally, Love’s eyes three times vanished from existence leaving the lone bard alongside her friends in peace once again.  Lies will make the world go round till truer words are written down.  The End! ”

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #51: The Furies

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The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#51:  The Furies

October, 47 B.C.

     Pain and tragedy are powerful forces.  They often lead one down the roads of emotional turmoil.  The fates can be as evil in their deeds as the gods they serve beneath.  Xena and Gabrielle had been through a lot together.  They had almost lost each other many times.  Their lives had led them on a challenging journey yet there was a need for the warrior princess to visit family beyond the bard.  Gabrielle understood this for she often found herself missing her sister Lilla, and her mother and father back home in Potedia.  It was fortunate for the friends that they had found themselves winding their travels back through Macedonian territory.  This was where Amphipolis was located.  It was just north of the coast near the border to Thrace west of the Strymon River.  The warrior princess appeared to be delighted, and at ease to finally be near familiar territory again. 

     As Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo traveled north along the main road parallell to the Strymon Gabrielle had decided that gambling would be an excellant way to pass the time.  She was looking to challenge the warrior princess to a foot race.  Xena seemingly refused to take the risk of losing to Gabrielle.  The bard was delighted that her friend was seemingly doubtful of certain victory against her sidekick.  Xena tried to avert the challenge stating that she did not like to gamble all that much.  Gabrielle found this to be an amusing and weak arguement against the race.  She was quick to remind Xena that her life was a gamble everyday.  This was hardly a solid reason not to accept the bard’s challenge to a foot race.  Xena realized that the bard had trapped her within her own words which the warrior princess had always known to be Gabrielle’s strongest asset.  She was a professional with words.  The warrior princess quickly surrendered to Gabrielle sighing weakly as if there were a tinge of boredom to the idea of yet another friendly travel game.  This was something Gabrielle was also famous for.  She then asked Gabrielle what the stakes would be since playing the game of gambling seemed inevitable at this point in the conversation.

     As soon as Gabrielle realized that Xena was in she soon thought of what her prize should be.  She gleefully told the warrior princess that she would be cooking breakfast on the following morning which was a chore normally reserved for the bard.  Gabrielle was feeling playful, confident, and triumphant.  She was certain to win the foot race if Xena had easily caved to the idea of the gamble.  Xena then looked to Gabrielle as if she were nuts.  The warrior princess could not believe that Gabrielle would imagine that she would be able to cook a decent meal.  As the bard pondered this comment she knew that Xena was right.  Cooking was definately not one of Xena’s many skills.  Yet Gabrielle soon had a new idea.  She requested that Xena would collect all of the firewood for their camps every night for a week. 

     Suddenly Xena was very willing to participate for she had an immediate request from the bard if she were to win the foot race.  Xena was practically begging for Gabrielle to agree to making her special dumplings with red sauce.  The bard realized that the stakes were high for it was not easy to gather the ingrediants needed to make the dumplings.  The other problem with this request was that the dumplings took an entire day to perfect.  It had been a long time since the bard had even had the time to sit around and make her dumplings for their latest adventures had kept them at sea much of the time.  Not to mention that Xena had died, and Hercules had almost died during the same period.  Gabrielle thought of this and decided the gamble would be worth it for the chance to cut out firewood detail for a week.  Everyone seemed to be satisfied with the bets placed and now it was time to put the words into action.  Gabrielle picked the tallest cypress along the road to Amphipolis and pointed it out with her staff.  She had determined that the cypress would be the finish line.  She pushed Xena behind her as she began to take her position.  Xena held the bard’s arm firmly asking her friend to remind her of the lead that she had been asked to give to the bard.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that it had been three large strides in front to give Gabrielle a fighting chance at winning.

     Gabrielle began to slowly take three large strides forward into her starting position as Xena prepared for the signal to begin.  The bard began to shout out the three commands to begin; however, after the second she began to move forward.  She had actually decided to give herself a few additional strides.  Xena would not be able to argue for after the second command was given she should have assumed the race would commence.  Gabrielle dashed forward confident that she had finally out smarted and out witted the warrior princess.  As she dashed full speed forward the bard could hear the sounds of the warrior princess closing in.  Gabrielle found it rather odd that Xena would have chosen to race by flipping her way to the finish.  It didn’t matter.  This only made Gabrielle’s win that much easier.  As Gabrielle was only a few strides away from reaching the cypress she jumped up into the air throwing her arms out in triumph as she shouted out to declare her very first victory over Xena. 

     As the words of victory were ringing through the air Gabrielle was suddenly startled by the presence of the warrior princess barely a nose length away directly in front of her.  The warrior princess had flipped over the bard just in time to steal the victory away from Gabrielle.  Xena’s celebration of victory was nothing more than a slight smirk to patronize the bard.  This led to Gabrielle finding frustration with Xena and her tactics.  It seemed that the warrior princess would do anything to win despite promising a three stride lead in the begining.  The bard’s enthusiasm of victory quickly deflated into an accusation of cheating against the warrior princess.  Gabrielle pointed her staff in the direction of the warrior princess shocked by the sudden invasion of personal space.  The warrior princess wasted no time in responding to the bard’s harsh critisicm.  Her face quickly turned into extreme intensity as if the warrior princess were suddenly angry.   Xena swiftly drew her sword ready for a fight as Gabrielle quickly backed off of her earlier accusation of cheating.  Gabrielle knew that she didn’t want to battle Xena.  That had not been part of the gambling arrangement.  The bard soon tried to take back her pettiness as she quickly backed away from Xena who slowly stepped to her left and then looked just beyond the bard’s shoulder.  Suddenly Gabrielle realized that Xena’s intensity was not as a result of her cheating comment, but of something else Xena had spotted down the path beyond her.  The bard suddenly heard the laughter of men behind her.

      Gabrielle moved with Xena slowly as she heard the sounds of footsteps and then laughing men approaching behind her.  She quickly spun around to the left facing the men to rejoin Xena within a defensive stance.  Without taking one eye away from the approaching party of men Xena gently ushered the bard to move just behind her.  Gabrielle’s ability to read Xena’s actions had improved greatly over time.  She took Xena’s non-verbal command without a single word or inquiry.  The bard had put great trust into all decisions made by the warrior princess for Xena had never lead the bard astray.  Xena’s sudden tense silence was soon followed by a relaxed body language and tone.  Gabrielle still felt extremely cautious of the situation yet Xena was seemingly comfortable and at ease.  It was amazing how the warrior could instantly adjust her tone and demeanor.  Xena opened up a casual conversation despite the fact that there were ten warriors standing before her weapons drawn hungry for a battle. 

     The warrior princess inquired the leader of his intensions.  He responded just as casually back to the warrior princess.  His reflection of the warrior princess’s ease was amazing as the bard continued to observe the transaction of words.  She even found herself lowering her staff slightly attempting to relax as Xena had been able to do.  The warlord responded candidly explaining that he was indeed out for a morning hunt and that Xena was the prey.  Xena could not resist the mystery or the details of why he would choose her to hunt down.  The warlord calmly explained that there had been yet another bounty placed upon Xena’s head.  His motive was to take his men and find Xena in order to collect the bounty.  With that statement he twirled his sword flashing it as a threat that the battle would begin, but Xena quickly countered with more words.  She was demonstrating rule number one again hoping to avoid battle the bard presumed. 

     Then Xena spoke with ease as if making a friendly joke explaining to the warlord standing just feet in front of her that she assumed that there were easier ways to make a dinar.  She accompanied this statement with a threat of pain as if it were a last effort to avoid what she felt was an unnecessary fight.  Then the warrior princess rubbed her nose and looked down as if it were some kind of signal or test to see if her enemy would take the advantage.  He barely flenched his body as he made a slight move forward.  Instantly the warrior princess responded casually into a bold blunt move into battle knocking the warlord across the chest with the handle of her sword.  The warlord was taken by complete surprise as he fell to the ground windless.  Within less than a moment the entire scene exploded into a bold forceful battle.  Xena fought with great energy as she countered an attack coming in from the left.  The bard quickly backed into position ready to strike down any of the men Xena had thrown back into her space.  Gabrielle was approached by an attacker whom she broadsided across the chest with her staff reflecting the move she had just witnessed Xena pull on the warlord with her sword handle.

     It worked brilliantly allowing the bard to be prepared for the second attacker just in front of her now.  She undercut his legs with the opposite edge of her staff throwing him violently onto the ground.  As the bard looked behind her she sensed that there were yet two more sets of boots approaching her from behind her.  Gabrielle quickly twisted back to the front of the battle and dug her boots into the ground firmly.  She pushed her staff long down low to undercut two more attackers.  The two warrior women had created a circular fighting stance recycling the enemy right back into the other to keep them from gaining their advantage of numbers.  The warrior princess drilled a thunderous kick into the chin of the enemy as she swung back around to take on those that Gabrielle had flattened down onto the ground.  Xena kicked one from behind and then spun around forward to face another in sword combat.  He fought her with double swords as Xena defended against his advances.  The bard could hear Xena’s short battle cries as the struggle between the two ensued.

     Soon Xena took a shot with the handle of her sword knocking him to the ground.  For a few short moments it appeared as if the battle was going to cease.  Then something strange happened.  The warrior princess carelessly decided to throw her sword to the ground leaving herself disarmed against ten warlords.  Xena fought hand to weapon combat as if it were a game rather than life or death.  It was as if she were playing with the enemy without the thought of the danger involved.  She smashed heads together, and reached out kissing a warlord’s arm.  The warrior princess jabbed her fingers in the eyes of another.  As Gabrielle continued to battle on she began to notice the sounds of the battle on the other end of the circle.  They were abnormally strange.  Xena’s battle cry was not the same as she flipped another warlord over her shoulder behind.  Gabrielle’s eyes flickered away from her battle over to the warrior princess to notice she was behaving ridiculously.  The bard was certain that this was not the best time for a friendly joke.  Gabrielle called out to Xena between breaths, but before she could receive a response two more warlords approached her armed with swords.  As they charged in for the kill Gabrielle quickly disarmed them with her staff knocking them under the chin and then spinning around for the final momentum.  She knocked them off of their feet and then looked back to Xena who was seemingly doing well despite her sudden craziness. 

      Gabrielle caught a glimpse of Xena disarming her attacker, but then as he approached going in for the tackle the warrior princess stopped him pulling up her hands into his face.  Then she instructed him to wait for a moment as she picked up his sword handing it back to him.  She was like a child unable to realize the mistake of handing a weapon back to the enemy.  This was unlike Xena.  Gabrielle was extremely puzzled as she watched the confusion unfold.  Even the warlord was seemingly confused.  Gabrielle thought for a moment that this could be a new unconventional battle tactic although it seemed highly unlikely the warrior princess would ever resort to this.  The bard watched as Xena urged the enemy to attack her.  Xena then kicked his sword out his hand sending it directly up into the sky floating high above.  Then she sent a kick across his face as he wobbled unconsciously eyes rolling into the back of his head.  Suddenly his sword landed upon his skull knocking the warlord out cold. 

     As he fell to the ground Xena snapped up her sword off of the ground with her boot by the handle and caught it effortlessly.  Then she lifted up her sword above her head and sniffed her arm pit exclaiming that she loved the smell of warrior sweat in the morning.  The warrior princess then pulled back her hair casually and walked back down the path where she had left Argo just before the foot race had begun.  Gabrielle shouted out to the remaining conscious men lying on the ground commanding them to move on.  She checked to make sure those who still lied down motionless were alive.  Once Gabrielle had confirmed that there had been no deaths she looked up to notice the warrior princess was eating one of the apples from Argo’s saddle bag and twirling her chackram on the edge of her fingers.  It was as if Xena were in her own little childlike world.  Gabrielle was intrigued yet irritated by Xena’s strange new behavior.  As Gabrielle approached Xena the warrior princess shouted out with excitement over the greatness of her chackram.  The warrior princess continued explaining that she had discovered it to be more than a weapon, but an exciting toy.  Then the warrior princess turned away from Gabrielle as the bard was about to interject a comment.  Gabrielle watched as Xena began to juggle the apple and the chackram ignoring Gabrielle.  The bard wanted to say something, but she was unable to express anything.  She was confused yet becoming greatly concerned for Xena’s mental health. 

     Finally Gabrielle had decided to reveal her concern to the warrior princess who just turned back to the bard and denied that there was anything wrong.  She even called Gabrielle by the wrong name.  Then she jumped into a backward flip onto Argo’s saddle landing upon her horse facing the wrong direction.  Argo was startled as Xena spit out her apple and replaced her chackram into its loop upon her hip.  Then she smiled candidly and exclaimed that she had never realized how wonderful the view was from that angle upon her horse.  She was seemingly excited about the prospect of riding backwards into danger only to see where one had been.  For a slight moment Gabrielle wanted to laugh at Xena’s idiocy, but that moment passed quickly into worry for the bard.  She was watching Xena attempting to understand what was transpiring within the warrior princess’s mind.  She decided to approach Xena with a serious question.  The last thing the bard wanted was to offend Xena in such a way that would curb her mood into violence.  Gabrielle reminded Xena of what the warlord had said about there being a bounty upon Xena’s head.  The bard was concerned that Xena appeared to have no curiosity about the bounty.  The bard demanded to know expressing concern if Xena was at all worried about this information.  The warrior princess responded by jumping off of the back of her horse flipping up into the trees above and then finding some fancy acrobatics down landing just in front of the bard. 

       Xena responded cryptically explaining that she was indeed interested yet she was not certain the warlord would elaborate on what else he knew.  This response to the bard’s question was semi normal despite the fact that the warrior princess appeared only about half serious with a cryptic tone.  The cryptic part was a comfort as the bard reminded Xena of her famous pinch interrogation.  She was certain that it would work.  It always had before.  Gabrielle began to think that the warrior princess might be just playing a game with her for pushing Xena into her gambling game unwillingly.  The bard decided to play along for the moment.  Xena raised her finger as if a gesture of faith in the bard’s idea which intrigued Gabrielle although she found herself to be confused by Xena’s reaction to the statement.  The bard followed the warrior princess over to the leader of the warlord group who was just begining to find his way back into the realm of consciousness. 

     Xena quickly jabbed her fingers into his neck before he could realize where he was as Gabrielle knelt down beside Xena listening to the interrogation.  The warrior princess explained her procedure to the victim reminding him that the flow of blood had just been cut off to his brain.  As usual he had only thirty seconds to respond.  Xena’s first question was outrageous.  She demanded to know how old the warlord was when he had lost his virginity.  Gabrielle attempted to scold Xena.  Xena responded by commanding Gabrielle to shut up although Xena did not refer to her as Gabrielle, but Maivis.  Then the bard looked to Xena realizing that her friend was not in control of her own actions which made Xena lethal.  The man could die if someone did not regain control of the warrior princess even if it was not the warrior princess herself.                                                                             

    Surprisingly an answer to the ridiculous question came from the warlord struggling for a breath.  Xena did not approve of this answer and asked for another response.  The warlord quickly submitted stating that his virginity was lost at a much later age.  Then Xena looked to the bard again referring to her as Maivis explaining that asking nicely was the only way to get good information.  Gabrielle had been counting down the seconds.  Time was running out.  She had to get some real answers if Xena refused.  Gabrielle quickly looked to the dying warlord and asked him desperately for answers to the mysterious bounty on Xena’s head.  His breaths were more difficult now as he explained that it was the priest who had ordered Xena’s head.  Gabrielle demanded of him the identity of the priest.  The warlord barely breathing now struggled to say that it had been the priest at the temple of the furies. 

     Gabrielle sat back for a moment and thought of this knowing that if there was any other information to dig out this was the last chance.  Then it occurred to her that there was no more information that could be mined from the pinch interrogation.  She remembered the legend of the furies as Xena asked the warlord what the capital of Assyria was.  This snapped Gabrielle back into the moment as she demanded forcefully that Xena release her victim from certain death.  Xena’s response was slow and seemingly without concern or awareness.  She was certain that the warlord could answer more questions.  The amount of questions was not the issue.  Gabrielle was certain that they had all that they needed, and that there would be more information in a trip to the temple of the furies.  The bard looked to Xena again demanding with a glare that the warrior princess release the man from his pain. 

     Finally the warrior princess released the warlord within the last moment.  She jumped up from the ground as if annoyed and irritated that Gabrielle had demanded that her game of life and death end before it had begun.  The bard jumped up following Xena demanding to know where the warrior princess was going.  Xena answered shortly stating that she was going for a bite to eat.  Gabrielle then wanted to know what Xena had planned to do about the issue of the furies.  Xena’s answer was sarcastic as she had determined that the furies could feed themselves without her.  This confirmed that Xena was in serious trouble as the bard demanded that the warrior princess focus on her problem of being unable to control herself or her own thoughts.  Xena turned to Gabrielle reminding the bard that missing breakfast always made her cranky. 

     For Gabrielle this was different than a cranky morning with an empty warrior stomach.  Gabrielle grabbed Xena’s arm firmly to hold onto her moment of focus.  She explained her theory of how serious Xena’s trouble was revealing a small portion of the mystery of the furies.  The legends had told the bard that the furies often punished their victims by persecution which had only explained the bounty on Xena’s head.  Only the priest of the temple of the furies would have that kind of authority.  As for Xena’s insanity Gabrielle was uncertain of how to release Xena from it.  Gabrielle tried desperately to reach Xena explaining that the madness was the real problem.  Xena’s response was seemingly on track with Gabrielle and for a slight moment the bard felt a sense of relief.  Yet the warrior princess made a joke of her situation at best.  She exclaimed that she had never felt better a day in her life as she playfully slapped the bard’s checks with her hands and turned to move onto the next uncertain moment.

     Gabrielle struggled to hold onto Xena’s focus firmly grabbing the warrior princess by the arm again forcing Xena to look her in the eye.  The bard felt that if she could not reach Xena’s mind she should try to reach out to Xena’s heart.  Gabrielle demanded that they go to the temple of the furies to investigate things further.  Xena then looked to Gabrielle as if formulating a plan.  Then her look turned to spite as if this were just another game.  It was like a battle of wills and the competitive side of the warrior princess was not about to lose it to Gabrielle.  Gabrielle asked nicely hoping that she could revert Xena back to the moment of the game with the warlord’s interrogation, but Xena swung her head away refusing to give in.  Then Gabrielle spoke softly asking with concern and with her heart.  Gabrielle begged Xena to do it for her friend even if Xena could not do it for herself.  For a moment Xena’s eyes flickered of suspicion and then she smiled gleefully and agreed that they should go to the temple.  The warrior princess then moved into the next moment flipping backward upon Argo and shouting out a childlike command for go.  Then she kicked Argo’s sides and laughed hysterically as they rode down the path.  The bard was becoming frustrated, but she was certain that Argo was aware of Xena’s madness as well.  Xena’s horse would not let her get far without Gabrielle.

     Gabrielle and Argo had spent the entire day trying to keep Xena under control.  The bard had difficulty focusing on coming up with a solution beyond the temple of the furies.  After hours of playing Xena’s child-like games of fury and madness the bard had finally wrangled the warrior princess into camp for the night.  Of course it had been made possible by an agreement that they would pick daisies until sunset.  The warrior princess was no help in gathering the firewood or starting the fire.  She spent several moments seated upon a large log next to the camp fire.  The bard paced as she tried to think of how to solve the delema.  She remembered that the furies had been known to punish people for their crimes with madness or persecution, but she had never heard of a person being punished by both persecution and madness at the same time. 

     As the bard paced about the campfire she spoke her thoughts out loud.  The warrior princess casually interrupted with sarcasm as if asking Gabrielle why she suspected that the warrior princess was crazy.  For a moment the bard thought that maybe there was still someone in there underneath all of the madness as she approached the warrior princess who fussed with a headdress of daisies.  The bard went for the last dinar of hope asking the warrior princess if she felt even a drop of concern for herself at this juncture.  The warrior princess answered seemingly concerned only for her vanity as she stared into the copper plate adoring her leafy flowered head laurel.  It appeared that Xena was only amused as Gabrielle’s irritation rose nearly to a breaking point.  The bard demanded to know if Xena was concerned about the depths of what was going on inside her mind within the past day and within the current moment.  Xena just shrugged off Gabrielle’s concern joking about how her mind was the last place the bard wanted to venture into.  The warrior princess described her condition as terrifying at best as if it were nothing at all.  Then she proceeded to ask about the leafy laurel wondering if she should lose the daisies. 

      The bard’s resolve within the situation had been spent.  She was now totally exhausted from the mind tricks and clever mental gymnastics Xena had been demonstrating all day long.  Gabrielle turned away from her hopeless friend deciding that the only way to come to a solution would be over a good night’s rest.  Not only that, but with any luck the warrior princess’s sudden breakdown might be gone once she had worn herself out with the daisies.   Upon lying down the bard’s eyes closed sending her into an instant deep rest yet it did not last the night for Gabrielle found herself awakening while the stars were still out.  When she awoke she noticed that there was no sign of Xena within her bedroll.  Gabrielle quickly rose from her groggy state into an alarmed concern.  She looked about the camp frantically to find that Xena was not there. 

     Not only that, but there was evidence of a greater more sinister madness for Xena had left her clothing behind including her breast plate and armor.  Even Xena’s weapons were left unattended.  This was unlike the warrior princess.  The bard wondered if the bounty hunters from the previous day had returned to capture the warrior princess within her weakened state of mind.  There was little time to consider this for the bard had to find her friend.  Gabrielle ran for her staff and then began the task of tracking the warrior princess.  She quickly realized that where ever the warrior princess had gone she had gone there alone.  There were no signs of a struggle.  The tracks were the footprints of a person not wearing boots.  In fact the foot prints were of the the warrior princess.  Gabrielle followed them to the Strymon and then to a small village in the early morning darkness.  As she approached the scene she saw the warrior princess standing before a frightened crowd of villagers holding a large burning torch.  The flames were immense, intimidating, and extremely hot.  Xena was completely vulnerable and defenseless yet her darkness echoed as she lashed out at the crowd. 

     Gabrielle heard the warrior princess’s sinister words as she blindly accused the people of the village of being shameful for their heinous crimes.  The bard heard the warrior princess shout out that she had come to take retribution for the actions of the innocent villagers.  Gabrielle rushed to Xena’s side as the warrior princess continued the madness exclaiming at the top of her voice to the people of the village that she was to take her retribution in flames.  Gabrielle suddenly realized that Xena was about to burn down their village.  Gabrielle knew that the warrior princess was in a fragile state of mind.  Even within her vulnerability Xena was dangerous.  The bard sensed that she was more dangerous now and had to be handled gently.  As Gabrielle approached carefully she stood by Xena’s side softly asking the warrior princess what it was that she had been doing.  Xena firmly explained that she was simply delivering the people into their wrath of justice.  It appeared that Xena was convinced that they were all evil and that their evil had to burn.  Gabrielle looked out into the faces of the crowd.  Most of them were the startled faces of women and children.  Innocent young eyes gazed upon their enemy in disbelief and fear.  There were no evil people in sight.  Gabrielle was confused yet alarmed by the suddenly irrational behavior Xena was now displaying. Xena was getting worse. 

     Gabrielle was firm yet still soft as she demanded of Xena what crimes these innocent people had committed.  The warrior princess lashed out with a powerful uncontrollable anger declaring that they had all crucified the women and children.  The bard’s heart broke as she felt powerless to stop Xena and to rescue her friend from the uncontrollable madness.  Gabrielle reached out to her friend desperately as her eyes welled up with tears.  She grabbed hold of her friend’s face and pulled Xena’s eyes forcefully into her own.  Gabrielle hoped to convince Xena of the reality that the warrior princess could no longer see.  The bard lashed out under her breath within a whisper of frustration that there were only women and children standing before Xena’s own wrath.  Gabrielle continued to paint the picture of reality for the mad warrior woman whispering under her breath softly that they were afraid of Xena.  For the innocent could not see Xena’s world or Xena’s reality.  They could not see the warped mind that Xena carried within.  The moment of madness seemingly dissipated into deep regret and sadness for the warrior princess began to cry like a child who was hurting inside.  Gabrielle realized that she had to diffuse Xena’s fears and the fears of the innocent standing before them as she asked Xena calmly to hand over her large burning torch.  The bard gingerly took the weapon of fear and laid it aside into a harmless resting place. 

     For a moment the warrior princess had seemingly snapped out of her madness back into reality as she sadly commented with defeat that she was indeed in trouble.  It was as if it had been difficult for Xena to admit that she had been defeated by her own madness, but that did not matter to Gabrielle.  For the first time in almost a day the warrior princess had finally realized that Gabrielle’s pleas with her friend had not been part of a game.  For the first time Xena’s mind had found its clarity within the situation.  Gabrielle had only wanted to help Xena restore her sanity.  The bard looked to her friend as she searched for a covering for the warrior princess.  She explained that although the warrior princess was defeated for the moment there was still hope.  Gabrielle was intent on helping Xena find those responsible for her madness.  Xena would not lose this battle.  Then the bard covered Xena and softly explained the importance of why she had wanted to visit the temple of the furies the day before.  Xena’s mind was open to this idea long enough for them to return to camp and prepare for the journey to the temple. 

     For the next several hours it was an ongoing struggle for Xena to compete with her madness.  Gabrielle could see her friend’s suffering and her pain.  It was difficult to watch Xena struggle so hard within herself, but it was a fight Xena had to partake in to survive.  The warrior princess was within a battle of her own wits.  Gabrielle spent the morning hoping to help Xena by connecting with her friend’s emotions.  It had seemed the only way to control the madness up to this point, but the effort was constant and draining the bard’s emotional energy.  When the two friends had finally been able to reach the temple of the furies after veering off into several distractions Gabrielle was barely able to contain herself from bursting out against the madness.  Gabrielle finally resorted to restraining Xena’s hand keeping it firmly within her grasp.  As she dragged her friend into the temple Xena flopped about like a child as if it were yet another game.  Gabrielle shouted out to her friend to restrain herself from the madness as they approached the priest in the temple. 

     The priest looked up calmly to notice the commotion within his temple.  He immediately recognized the warrior princess as the friends approached him.  For a moment it appeared that Xena was able to pull herself out of the madness, but the moment did not last. The priest knew that Xena had come to ask about the bounty on her head.  Xena’s response was not serious.  In fact she was candid as she reverted into a child like remark asking the priest to take her head for it was driving her crazy.  As the warrior princess spoke those words she put her finger into her mouth and then reached out to touch the priest’s forehead with it.  Just before Xena could make contact Gabrielle grabbed her friend frantically and pushed Xena behind her desperate for the answers she seeked about Xena’s madness. 

      The bard’s concern for her friend was growing larger as the priest stated the obvious.  Xena had been punished by the furies with both persecution and madness.  He surmised that Xena’s crime must have been quite appalling for this to happen.  The furies punished few with both crimes.  Gabrielle’s concern grew into frantic worry unable to imagine what crimes Xena had committed in her past that the bard was unaware of.  She demanded of the priest Xena’s crimes.  He stated that Xena’s crime was simply a breach of duty.  When Gabrielle heard this she was hopeful that the answer would be simple and the solution possible as the priest explained that Xena was to avenge the murder of a family member.  Gabrielle was suddenly confused for the only member of Xena’s family she had known to have been murdered was her brother Lycious.  That had seemingly been resolved, but then Xena responded lashing out at the priest.  She instantly grabbed him by the throat with passionate anger declaring that she had indeed avenged her brother’s murder.  Anyone whom had stated otherwise was lying. 

     Gabrielle suddenly snapped out of her confusion and surprise as she slowly tried to restrain Xena again.  Yet Xena was beyond restraint.  The warrior princess threw the bard away from her as she prepared to kill the innocent priest.  Gabrielle shouted out to Xena hoping to divert the warrior princess away from her madness for a single moment.  The priest prepared to speak his last words as he struggled to state that it had not been Xena’s brother the furies were angry over.  Gabrielle quickly asked the priest who before his certain death delivered by Xena’s madness.  The priest struggled again to get out the words revealing that it was Xena’s father whom had been murdered.  This seemed to quiet the madness for another moment as Xena loosened her grasp slightly upon the priest’s neck as he struggled to breath.  Gabrielle could see the wheels of reason spinning with in her friend’s fragile mind as it searched for the illusive answers.  As Gabrielle again tried to slowly approach and calm the warrior princess Xena released the priest from death and began to pace about the temple.  Gabrielle approached the priest hoping to help him regain his breath as she asked the priest who had murdered Xena’s father.   The priest barely able to speak now stated that he did not know that answer. 

      This was not what Gabrielle had been looking for.  Xena’s problem was not any closer to being solved than it had been as they had entered the temple.  Gabrielle felt a bit of panic, but she quickly realized that she could not allow herself to panic.  Xena needed her to be strong now more than ever.  Gabrielle approached the pacing warrior princess who seemed to be within her own panicked madness.  Gabrielle asked Xena if she wanted to sit down for a moment hoping to get the warrior princess to calm down, but Xena’s response was a sudden forceful push of rejection.  Xena pushed Gabrielle away as if in great pain and fear as the warrior princess dashed out of the temple leaving Gabrielle behind with the priest.  Gabrielle instantly knew what Xena was trying to do.  She was trying to protect Gabrielle, but Gabrielle could not let Xena go out into the world alone with her madness.  The bard was willing to risk her own life to save Xena no matter what it would take.  Without Gabrielle Xena might hurt many innocent people.  Xena was more dangerous now, yet as vulnerable as a young child.

     Keeping up with Xena was nearly impossible for the bard as the warrior princess sprinted through the forest off of the beaten path.  Gabrielle tracked Xena’s frantic movements following the prints of her warrior boots into the depths of despair.  The boots weaved in and out of the trees leaping over a pile of dead trees.  Xena had dashed in and around spinning in circles.  There were places in which the earth was out of place as if Xena had stopped within a frantic panic.  As Gabrielle followed the desperate trail she could hear the sounds of Xena’s madness echoing through the trees.  First Xena screamed out enraged against Baccus, and then she dashed on through the trees.   Gabrielle could hear the sounds of Xena’s boots hitting the fallen leaves and then she heard the sound of Xena’s sword leaving its sheath.  The bard saw a flock of birds just ahead and there she watched as the warrior princess swung her sword about, enraged and afraid.  It was as if Xena were swatting at dryads as she screamed out within the agony of her madness.  The warrior princess’s movements were out of control as she fought against the thin air above her.  Xena was focused on whatever it was that only she could see within the depths of her own mind.

     Gabrielle could see how sick her friend was and helpless Xena had become.  She was out of control and reality was nowhere to be found.  The bard tried to approach Xena carefully and calmly from behind.  As Gabrielle walked slowly to approach the warrior princess, Xena’s warrior senses kicked in.  The warrior princess swung around violently ready to face her enemy.  She kept shouting out Callisto’s name as she began to charge forward to attack.  Gabrielle shouted out trying to reach the warrior princess within all of the babbling words and fear.  Xena raised her sword for the kill swinging it violently in the direction of the bard.  Gabrielle could see the madness within Xena’s eyes as she ducked the attack.  She tried desperately to regain Xena’s attention away from the visions of madness which now infested the warrior princess.  The bard’s heart was racing with fear, but not for her own safety.  She was afraid that Xena was beyond even her endless love for the warrior princess.  Gabrielle’s heart sank feeling that her friend was gone yet she still fought to regain Xena’s mind.  First she tried to reveal that it was Gabrielle that stood before Xena and not the vision of Callisto.  She asked the warrior princess calmly to put the sword down, but Xena was too disoriented to understand the request.  Her eyes flickered about as if she could not even see the bard standing an arm’s length before her. 

     Gabrielle continued to try to break through the madness as she begged Xena to put down the sword and allow the bard to help her friend.  With frustration building within Gabrielle shouted, hoping to get through the babbling madness.  She was certain that the next step beyond the temple of the furies was to find out who murdered her father.  Gabrielle was desperate to approach the warrior princess to disarm her and get control again.  Xena was more difficult this time than back at the village earlier that morning.  She was refusing the bard’s help this time as she shook her head unable to accept that she was out of control.  Just as Gabrielle was about to make full physical contact with Xena she was overtaken by Xena’s madness.  Before the bard could finish telling Xena about the  misfortunes of another man whom had suffered madness for the death of his mother Xena’s madness had taken over.  Gabrielle was now fearing that her life was about to end at the hands of the warrior princess’s uncontrollable madness. 

      Xena now had Gabrielle restrained and her sword pressed to the bard’s neck.  Gabrielle continued to try to get more words in explaining that Orestes had not avenged his father, but the warrior princess had now slammed the bard up against a tree and begun to tie her friend up.  With the cold blade of Xena’s sword still pressing across Gabrielle’s neck and chest the bard stood quiet, calm, and still.  Her chest rose and fell with fear for the next moment she would have to endure with Xena’s madness.  Xena spoke through the madness in her usual cryptic way babbling something about the gods and how human beings meant nothing to them.  She compared people to beetles and went onto say that people were toys for the gods and would be killed for their sport.

      Gabrielle felt the vines Xena used to tie her to the tree tightening across her arms and wrists.  The bard was uncertain as to what Xena’s madness would do to her.  Gabrielle felt Xena’s hand running through her hair and across her face as the sword tightened across her neck.  The bard closed her eyes for a moment and took a sudden deep breath hoping that Xena was still in there somewhere within the jumbled mess within her mind.  Xena continued to speak to her as she stroked Gabrielle’s head and shoulder softly as if trying to communicate her true intentions despite the madness.  She apologized cryptically to the bard that she would have to leave Gabrielle behind for she was fully aware that she could not be trusted within her madness.  Then the warrior princess smiled as she slid her blade across the bard’s body off into the woods.  The bard heard the sound of the blade scraping the trees echoing through the woods as if it were death whispering into her ears. 

     For a few brief moments the bard was still in shock, but as she heard the sounds of Xena’s warrior boots disappearing into the distance Gabrielle snapped back into reality relieved that Xena had not yet been able to kill her best friend.  It meant that there was still time to save Xena from her madness, but Gabrielle was even more irritated and frustrated than before.  She was keenly aware that if Xena was able to leave her friend behind then it meant that the warrior princess was still rejecting Gabrielle’s help.  Gabrielle was hurt by this thought as anger began to build within.  That choice had not been as a result of Xena’s madness, but her lack of confidence in Gabrielle.  Gabrielle began  to forcefully remove herself from the vines which she found to be not very difficult.  The warrior princess had not tied her very tightly.  Xena was on the move and she had to stop her friend from hurting anyone else for they might not be so lucky as the bard had just been.  Only Gabrielle’s pride had been injured for the moment.  Yet the bard was determined to win her battle against the madness.

     Gabrielle followed Xena’s trail once again following it into and through a nearby warlord’s camp.  The bard found that most of the men within the camp had been pummeled by the warrior princess for they were all passed out upon the ground.  She continued carefully through the camp hoping to attract little attention to herself.  The bard noticed that the trail of the warrior princess led toward Amphipolis.  This did not shock the bard, but it became a bit of a comfort.  Xena had gone to see her mother.  It would be easy to find Xena, but Gabrielle could only hope that the warrior princess was able to control her madness long enough to protect her own mother.

     Soon Gabrielle reached Cyrene’s tavern and ran inside within a panic.  She was extremely concerned for both Xena and her mother.  Instantly the bard spotted Cyrene with Xena lying down upon one of the tavern tables.  There was no one else in sight.  Gabrielle called out to Cyrene as she approached.  Xena’s mother was tending to her very ill daughter wiping Xena’s face gently hoping to calm the madness.  Cyrene spoke up and spoke to Gabrielle about the madness which had consumed her daughter without mercy.  Gabrielle was shocked that Xena had been able to tell her mother what had happened to her, but Cyrene interrupted explaining that her daughter was incoherent.  It was the story of Orestes and of how the furies had punished him for not avenging his father that Cyrene spoke of.  Gabrielle was surprised to know that Cyrene was familiar with this story.  Cyrene continued explaining within her own sadness that she had hoped this day would never arrive.

      This led Gabrielle to realize that Cyrene had the answer to the problem.  She inquired Xena’s mom of what she had known about the fate of Xena’s father.  Cyrene continued as if she were talking to herself out loud that Xena’s father had been murdered.  There was regret in Cyrene’s voice as Gabrielle found herself to be almost relieved yet still concerned about the unknown.  Gabrielle softly asked if Cyrene knew who had murdered Xena’s father.  Cyrene answered with a soft affirmation..  She stopped stroking Xena’s forehead and then slowly turned away as if she were agonized by her own knowledge.  Cyrene walked away from Gabrielle without a word as Gabrielle followed pursuing Xena’s mother for the answer.  The bard begged Cyrene with her heart for the answer to the mystery so that she and Xena could bring the murderer to justice in order to satisfy the furies. 

     Slowly Cyrene turned to face Gabrielle and then gently spoke the bard’s name.  She then posed a question to the bard.  She asked if Gabrielle felt that Xena could go through with the murder of her own mother.  Gabrielle was shocked at this simple question.  It was the answer to the riddle of the furies.  It was the solution to the madness yet there was tragedy in the thought and the idea that Cyrene was guilty of murdering her daughter’s father.  Gabrielle could not wrap her mind around the thought and was unable to grasp what would drive a mother to commit such a tragic crime.  The bard refused to believe it as she spoke her thought out loud.  Cyrene moved forward closer openly confessing to the murder.  Gabrielle stepped back still in disbelief of the facts. 

     Cyrene continued as Gabrielle stood motionless within the tavern.  Xena was now sitting upright still dazed within her madness although for the moment it
was quiet.  Cyrene approached her daughter explaining that it had happened when Xena was only seven years old.  Her father had come home from the temple of Ares with in a drunken rage.  He had told Cyrene that Xena had to die.  Cyrene suspected that Xena’s father had only been confused by the priest.  She thought that maybe the priest had demanded that Xena be sacrificed to the god of war.  Cyrene had known Xena’s father to have been very dedicated to the god of war.  She was now speaking directly to Xena who appeared to be listening within the madness.  Her mother continued explaining that she had gone against Xena’s father’s wishes.  She would not allow her daughter to be sacrificed to the gods.  His response to a mother’s love was to kill Xena’s mother too. 

     Cyrene’s recounting of the memory was a painful one as she continued explaining that Xena’s father then went out to the stables to sharpen a knife for the blood letting.  She described his preparation for the sacrifice as a methodical one.  Gabrielle could only imagine that Xena’s father had taken the seven year old out to the stable with him and prepared her upon his alter.  Cyrene had been forcefully dragged out to the stable where she must have killed him to save Xena from sacrifice.  Cyrene’s weapon of choice had been an ax.  The god of war had gotten his sacrifice either way.  It seemed that the god of war had been obsessed with Xena for her entire life.  Gabrielle found herself sitting at the next table feeling the emotion of a mother’s love and the conflict of Cyrene’s difficult choice.  It was exactly the same situation that had occurred with Orestes.  Cyrene paused for a moment as if waiting for Xena to respond, but all was quiet.  Then Cyrene joined Gabrielle sitting down with her as Gabrielle broke the silence hoping to move the moment of sadness forward. 

     Cyrene responded agreeing that Xena’s circumstance was exactly the same as that of Orestes.  She continued explaining his mother had also killed his father which made his obligation by the code of the furies to kill his mother in order to avenge his father.  Gabrielle then inquired if Orestes had actually avenged his father.  She wanted to know if the act of murdering his mother had released him from madness.  It was an uncomfortable, but necessary question.  Cyrene did not have the answer.  All that she knew beyond that was that Orestes lived in the village of Andreas not far from Amphipolis.  Gabrielle pondered this information for the moment.  She was not certain that killing Cyrene was the answer although it appeared to be the only solution within the moment.  Even Cyrene was aware of this although not completely comfortable with in herself.  Gabrielle sensed this.  She decided that the next step would be for her to make the trip to Andreas to find Orestes and the solution to the problem which faced them. 

     With hope Gabrielle looked to Cyrene and tried to offer comfort and understanding despite the feelings deep within both women.  Gabrielle then spoke with confidence and told Cyrene that she would go off to Andreas.  There she would find the way out of the mess.  Then Gabrielle took Cyrene’s hand into hers and rose from the table.  Cyrene sighed with relief that the bard was not judgmental of a mother’s actions.  Gabrielle reached out and gently stroked Cyrene’s shoulder as she moved toward Xena.  The bard stood before her friend feeling Xena’s hopelessness.  The situation seemed impossible, but Gabrielle could not believe that it was.  She spoke to Xena softly knowing that Xena was still with in somewhere.  Gabrielle continued to offer her hope to Xena determined that together they would get through it all.  Gabrielle could not remember a time or a moment in which the two friends did not triumph over the obstacles they faced.  The bard reached out to stroke her friend’s shoulder knowing that it was the only way to communicate the feeling inside.  Then Gabrielle left the tavern with the determination and the hope to defeat the furies for it was the only way out.

     Her journey to Andreas was only a few hours walk.  When Gabrielle arrived there she found herself guided to the village asylum.  Gabrielle was confused for Orestes should have been released from madness according to the code of the furies.  The village man whom had brought Gabrielle to Orestes explained that the code of the furies was all a lie.  Avenging the death of his father could not possibly release Orestes for how could Orestes avenge the death of his mother when he himself was the killer.  His punishment from the furies for this crime was unimaginable.  Gabrielle knelt down before the man chained to the moldy walls of the basement of the asylum.  It was dark, and dreary, and musty.  This was a most unpleasant place to spend one’s last days upon earth.  Gabrielle looked into the old man’s eyes.  He was lost within his incoherence and alone.  It was a fate worse than death itself.  His soul was empty and defeated.  Gabrielle’s heart sank into the pit of her stomach as she imagined that man chained to the wall as her best friend.  The bard could not allow Xena to kill her mother.  It would free no one.  Panic and alarm began to rise within the bard as she quickly rose from Orestes and began the hurried  journey back to Amphipolis. 

     When Gabrielle had finally returned to Amphipolis she found that both Cyrene and Xena were gone.  Her heart raced with concern as she scoured the village looking for Xena and her mother.  Some of the people of Amphipolis had heard that Xena had taken Cyrene to the temple of the furies to be sacrificed before the god of war and the furies.  Gabrielle wasted no time in finding them.  She hoped that she was not too late.  After running for hours Gabrielle finally reached the temple.  The sun was low in the sky as Gabrielle busted through the temple doors hearing Xena’s voice screaming for the kill.  Gabrielle looked across the temple alter to see Xena there with a dagger raised above her head.  She was about to commit the crime and seal her fate forever.  The bard shouted out to Xena not to kill her mother.  Gabrielle kept talking to explain why it would not work and release Xena.  Just before she could reach the warrior princess to stop her physically, Ares, the god of war restrained the bard and covered her mouth so that she could not speak.  His grip was solid, strong, and tight.  Gabrielle could feel his power running through her skin and did not dare to move another step forward.  She did not struggle.

     Xena then spoke to Ares as if pleased by his action against the bard.  Gabrielle then looked to Xena and tried to speak through Ares’s grasp hoping to reach Xena in some small way.  Then Gabrielle looked to Cyrene who was preparing to face her own death.  Xena raised the dagger above her head once more preparing to kill her mother.  Gabrielle again tried to get out a word through the god of war as she looked to Xena with pleading eyes.  The furies stood before the alter awaiting the deed and then Xena suddenly paused as if she had been hit by a small moment of clarity.  Still holding the dagger above her head Xena’s mind went over the details.  Gabrielle could see the warrior wheels spinning despite the heat of the moment.  Then the god of war became impatient asking the warrior princess about the delay.  Xena spoke asking herself out loud why she was about to kill her mother.  Gabrielle had somehow been able to reach Xena with her presence.  The bard did not know how long Xena’s clarity would last as Ares responded explaining the code of the furies to Xena once more.  He was more than ready for the sacrifice of Xena’s mother.

     Then Xena moved back into madness entranced by Ares’s words and again she prepared to kill her mother raising the dagger above her head.  Gabrielle again tried to get out a word through Ares’s grasp stopping Xena again.  Xena looked up to Ares and went over the details of her situation again as if delaying for something.  Ares responded with an impatient affirmation of Cyrene’s crime.  Then he demanded that the warrior princess show her mother no mercy.  Within the next moment Xena babbled something seemingly incoherent as if she had forgotten what was going on around her.  She asked how her mother could have killed her father if he was very much alive.  This statement was confusing for everyone who witnessed it.  Gods and mortals were astounded by Xena’s strange revelation.  Gabrielle searched Xena’s eyes as Ares released his grip of the bard distracted by Xena’s madness.  He countered to the furies stating the obvious that Xena was indeed crazy.  Xena continued explaining that she was still thinking of killing her mother for fun despite the fact that her father was still alive.  Everyone was captivated by Xena’s madness as Gabrielle found herself trying to sort madness from clarity.  Xena was rapidly shifting between the two states of mind.  It was difficult for the bard to keep up.  Gabrielle sensed Xena was fishing for a sudden solution to the problem. 

      Then Xena stated before the furies, and to all who witnessed the moment that Ares was her father.  The furies were now intrigued by this shifting of events.  Xena continued candidly asking her mother to take another look at the mythic lover whom had given her Xena.  Ares brushed off the idea as nonsense asking why Cyrene had not mentioned this fact before the current moment.  Xena countered Ares’s statement with the unexpected.  Referring to Ares as “daddy” Xena drove the point home to the furies that he was her father.  Then Xena urged Gabrielle to do her bard thing.  Gabrielle was uncertain of what Xena was asking of her in the moment.  She was still sifting through the mood swings, but it suddenly all became clear.  Xena needed Gabrielle to set up the legend and the myth to fit all of the pieces together to implicate Ares as her father. 

     The bard released herself from Ares’s grasp and began to tell the women’s tales of their exploits with the god of war.  It has often been reported that while the husbands are away at battle the god of war will take their forms and visit the beds of each of their wives.  Gabrielle was not certain that this was what Xena had been looking for, but it seemed to fit the situation.  The bard began to question things for herself wondering if Ares was indeed Xena’s father.  It would explain Xena’s amazing natural abilities.  She could be the female version of Hercules.  The god of war glared in the direction of the bard irritated that she had been able to implicate him into Xena’s mad ideas.  He approached the alter where Xena stood before her mother.  Xena then asked Cyrene to tell the furies about the night she was created. 

     At first Cyrene was lost, but she too was able to follow what Xena was trying to put together.  Cyrene began to explain how Xena’s father had unexpectedly come home from a distant battle to be with her in a night of passionate love.  Ares then looked to the furies expressing his displeasure with the entire charade.  Xena’s next question was posed to the furies.  She wanted to know if they eavesdropped on their victims while they tormented them.  The head of the furies responded that they often listened in on the mortals they tormented.  Xena then asked them if they had overheard the conversation that she had had with Ares when she had planned to throw herself over a cliff to save her mother.  Then Xena looked to Ares and teased him about how she had been able to set him up for this moment.  The furies did not respond until Xena again asked if they had heard the conversation with Ares.  They affirmed  that they had heard.  Then Xena joked about their scantily clad red outfits.  There wasn’t much clothing to cover the women who took the forms of the furies as their existence. 

     Xena did not linger on that point too long for she asked them if they wondered why Ares had chosen the word “jealous” to describe the man who was supposed to have been her father.  The head furies looked to Ares and asked him for an answer to the question of the word jealousy.  Ares realized what Xena had put together.  She had created an excellent defense and way out of insanity.  She had turned her trial of defense into a trial in which he was now the defender of his own actions.   He calmly explained to the furies that when he spoke of jealousy he had meant that Xena’s father had been jealous of the attention that his wife had paid to their daughter.  The god of war stated that it was common for mortal men to become jealous of the attention their wives paid to their children. 

     Xena was not beaten with Ares’s argument over jealousy.  Instead she was fueled with an even bigger story.  Xena approached Ares and pushed him on the shoulder playfully.  She told her view to the furies explaining that shortly after Ares had planted his seed into her mother creating Xena, Cyrene’s husband  returned home.  Thinking that he had impregnated his wife Xena was born.  Years went by without him knowing any different until one day he arrived to worship his favorite god at the temple.  On that day someone, maybe a priest or even the god of war himself revealed the truth of Xena’s creation to him.  This led to the jealous rage which forced Cyrene to kill her own husband with an ax to protect her child and then led to the present circumstances.  It all made perfect sense until Ares laughed nervously yet with godlike confidence.  Then he repeated forcefully that he was not Xena’s father.  Everyone looked to the furies who looked to Ares and then to Xena.  They wanted to know why Ares would go to all the trouble to drive Xena insane.  Ares was delighted at the question posed by the furies.  Everyone shifted their focus back to Xena.  For a moment it seemed that he had finally beaten Xena at her own game.  Yet Xena had the perfect retort.  First she delivered a complement to Ares telling him that he had made a bit of sense to her when she had spoken with him during her earlier attempt at suicide.  This was disheartening news to Gabrielle.  Then Xena went onto explain to the furies that a mad Xena would be more sympathetic to Ares’s world view.  Again her madness made perfect sense. 

     Xena smiled with craziness in her eyes and then looked to the furies to check their response.  It was obvious that they were not totally convinced.  Xena continued talking to Ares explaining that he had made sense of life to her when they had been talking earlier.  She went onto explain that the best part of it all was the fact that once she killed her mother she would be doomed to complete dependence on her father for eternity for she would never be free of her madness.  Then Xena drove her argument home stating that she could prove all of this to be true.  Her final solution was to fight against Ares in a one on one combat.  Xena was sacrificing herself in front of everyone.  If she was going to be doomed it would be on her terms.  She would die in battle against the god of war.  There was no other glorious end for her.  She explained that if she was half god she would be able to hold her own in a battle against a god.  It was a challenge to Ares.  He would have to kill her or let her go.  The tables had turned in Xena’s favor.  Ares could not win this battle of wits.  By this point in the spectacle even Gabrielle was beginning to believe that Xena was half god.  Xena’s arguments were too convincing to believe otherwise. 

     The curiosity of the furies was heightened as Ares again stated firmly that this entire story was ridiculous.  Gabrielle could not determine who to believe.  The god of war with his genuinely intense statements or the mad warrior princess.  It was obvious to Gabrielle that Xena’s mind was still extremely sharp.  Xena was somehow still in control despite her madness.  The furies looked to Ares who appeared to be almost disgusted with Xena’s suggestion that she could hold her own against the god of war.  Then the furies asked Ares what he was afraid of.  It was obvious that he did not have the desire to fight Xena.  Xena smiled candidly and declared that Ares was afraid of the warrior princess.  Then she explained why driving her points home.  Xena declared that she was indeed a half god and crazy beyond control.  Suddenly the warrior princess charged forward toward Ares with her sword.  Ares dodged the move.  He had not expected the warrior princess to charge him so quickly.  He had to adjust into battle mode.  It was obvious to all who witnessed Xena’s trial before the furies that her actions were extremely unpredictable.  Ares’s god-like movement gave him the advantage of quickness.  He had disarmed Xena of her sword within seconds and defended himself with solid strength and brawn.  Xena did not let up or allow the furies to see weakness within her for this battle was to regain her wits.  Without pure warrior determination, power, and drive Xena would be doomed if Ares did not kill her first. 

     For several moments the two battling forces exchanged blocks and punches only to find themselves within a stalemate.  Cyrene was below the blows upon the temple alter unable to remove herself from with in the middle of the intense action above her.  Xena had to find an opening for Ares was going to demonstrate that he was superior by immorality for Xena would tire out if he held her out long enough.  Finally, Xena was able to break through finding a small opening within Ares’s defense.  She delivered a powerful blow to his face.  If he had been mortal his nose would have been broken instantly from the force.  Ares fell backward surprised by Xena’s offensive move.  He did not fall though as a mortal would have landed flat on his back.  Instead his powerful aura absorbed Xena’s force and he fell forward onto Cyrene’s chest.  Xena made a sexual joke about his relations with her mother further bruising his god-sized ego.  Ares was being enticed into the fight of his life as he suddenly recovered and prepared to prove that Xena was truly mortal.   Xena grabbed the chandelier above and swung over the alter driving both of her warrior boots firmly into his chest.  Using all of her warrior strength the force of her double kick drove Ares’s body across the temple into the wall. 

      The building shook with the power of an earth movement as Xena had already planned her next move before she would make it.  This was Xena’s battle strategy.  It was as if she were playing a game of chess.  The warrior princess was seemingly always just a few battle moves ahead of Ares so that she could hold her advantage of being unpredictable.  She had to be able to counter Ares’s unbeatable strength.  Gabrielle watched as Xena flipped gracefully through the air and landed below the tapestry rods.  Then she thrust herself up into the air jumping to grab hold of one of the outer golden plated rods.  Xena hung awaiting her foe’s arrival and response to her challenge.  She had taken the battle onto a higher level.  The god of war was angry and his aura delivered a hard feeling through the souls who witnessed the battle.  It was an eerie moment as he flipped backward across the temple to the opposite wall where Xena awaited him.  He then thrust himself up into the air grabbing hold of the opposite tapestry rod.  Gabrielle saw his eyes disappear within his head and then reappear with a passionate fire of anger.  Xena had the god of war tied up within his passions.  It would be the perfect diversion of his attention which would allow Xena an even larger advantage against him. 

     Xena flipped down onto the second level of tapestry rods and enticed Ares into battle.  He responded without thinking.  His passions guided him down onto the opposite side as he met Xena down below.  Xena then yanked her sword from her scabbard upon her back.  Gabrielle found herself extremely impressed for she had remembered that Xena had been disarmed.  The warrior princess’s moves had been so quick and swift that Gabrielle had missed the moment of the battle in which Xena had rearmed herself with the sword.  Xena charged forward above giving a firm battle cry into action as Ares reflected Xena’s moves following right into Xena’s trap for him.  Gabrielle watched as their swords clashed with intensity.  The entire temple shook as they fought.  With each clash of the sword the floor shook beneath ever so slightly.  Ares went high with two swings of the sword and then low offensively as Xena defended high then low.  His aim had been to knock her off balance, but Xena had been ready for his move.  Instead she pushed him back with two kicks one to the face and one low as he began to lose balance.  Xena moved high across Ares charging  for his head.  He recovered easily ducking the move and then returned powerful kicks.  Xena defended his kicks seemingly effortlessly.   Ares then went for the high move across Xena’s face, but missed as she created distance between herself and his sword.  She ducked his offensive in full control until he disarmed her parrying into the middle with his sword. 

     The bard watched helplessly as Xena’s sword flew through the air across the temple violently leaving Xena without a weapon to defend herself against Ares.  Yet the warrior princess was quick as she kicked Ares high into the chin sending him backward as she flipped up off of his chest backward landing at the edge of the tapestry rods miraculously recapturing her sword.  She gave a confident battle cry affirming her power against Ares as she looked to him and smiled delighted that she had been able to carry the battle this far.  Then she moved forward simultaneously with the god of war as both flew through air forward clashing swords in the middle.  Gabrielle saw the sparks of their power as each landed on opposite ends of the tapestry rods.  Ares attempted to intimidate the warrior princess with his own deep battle cry, but it did not have the same thrust that Xena’s did.  They again repeated the previous move clashing swords in the middle creating powerful sparks, but neither could seemingly gain the advantage large enough to defeat the other in battle.  Finally Ares had enough of Xena’s little games.  It was obvious that the god of war was not used to being the victim of manipulation.  He wasted no time in charging forward across the tapestry rods on foot.  His powerful drive forward was seemingly going to drive the warrior princess from her perched position, but instead she had been prepared for his move.  She drove forward just as he was about to strike with kicks of fury.  Xena drove him back across the tapestry rods and then over the edge. 

     Ares recovered although it was clear that he had not been prepared for that move.  He rolled down entangled with in the tapestry, but then reversed the gravity with his god force and thrust himself back upon the tapestry rods.  Gabrielle watched as he then tore the tangled purple and gold tapestry from his body enraged that the warrior princess was proving the impossible.  The bard was uncertain if Xena had thought this far ahead into the battle.  She could see that Xena had planned on that last move to have been the end.  Now the true strength would be told as Ares charged forward, but then Gabrielle noticed that Xena had already repositioned herself.  She had already dashed across the tapestry rods to meet Ares attempting to rob him of some of his momentum.  As the god of war clashed forward Xena defended allowing him to drive her back.  His moves were high, but not well-controlled.  He was too impatient for a win and the advantage.  Xena took this lack of self-control from the god of war and armed him with false confidence.  Just as he had driven her back to the edge of the tapestry rods Xena defended wide pushing Ares’s weapon powerfully away from its offensive.  Unsuspecting, Ares again was taken by surprise.  Xena used his moment of surprise backhanding him across the face then kicking low hoping to rob him of his balance again.  Ares returned the low move unaffected by it.  The high move had been more potent, but not enough.

     The two exchanged simultaneous kicks and then Ares drove downward with his sword.  Gabrielle could see that fatigue would soon take hold of Xena if she did not find a way to end the duel soon.  Xena absorbed Ares’s drive down upon her blocking with her sword and then using the power of her legs to push the momentum back into her favor.  Again Ares was surprised by the move as she regained the advantage and kicked his weaker leg.  This sent both of them backward and off balance, but both recovered.  They were now below grabbing hold of the tapestry rods.  Ares had realized where Xena’s true power was, her legs.  The warrior princess met him in the middle of all of the hanging tapestries as they exchanged powerful kicks against one another.  Xena then did a double kick pushing off of his stomach and then using that momentum to swing back and grab hold of his waist with her legs upon her return.  She locked him into submission and then knocked her forehead into his which sent them both falling.  They fell down to the next level of hanging tapestries. 

      Xena’s sword and Ares’s sword rested there, but the god of war was quicker to his feet.  As he rose to retake the advantage he prepared to take Xena’s life with one powerful thrust.  His pride had been bruised badly and he had to prove himself now more than ever.  The warrior princess reached desperately for her sword behind her not allowing herself to take her eyes off of the enemy.  She had to be ready to defend for his next move.  Xena allowed Ares to feel the certain victory and then as she held her hand up to take the blade she used her leg to rob him of his advantage.  In that same moment the warrior princess had retrieved her sword and then flipped down onto the floor of the temple.  She grabbed the bard and turned her to face the god of war who was now recovering again and fully ready to strike with all of his godly force.  He sailed through the air bearing down upon his enemy as Xena told the bard that she was planning to use her as a shield.  Gabrielle now found herself in the middle of the two most powerful forces she had ever witnessed.  She was about to become the sacrifice.  Xena was truly mad beyond doubt.  As Gabrielle prepared to take Ares’s blade through the chest, Xena threw the bard down out of the path of the god of war and used his sword against him.  She deflected his advance sending him right onto his temple throne.  Xena had successfully disarmed and beaten the god of war in a fair battle. 

     She turned to face Gabrielle, and all who witnessed the battle declaring candid victory as she laughed playfully and danced with delight.  Ares just watched the scene disgusted that he had been defeated by a mortal.  His hopes for controlling Xena had been destroyed.  There was no way for him to win the trial now.  With that Xena and Gabrielle went to the temple alter to release Cyrene from her binds for she was no longer in danger.  Xena did not have to avenge her father since he was clearly there alive and well before the jury of fury.  The warrior princess then approached the furies and their head priest declaring again that she had proven herself.  Xena stuffed some fruit into her mouth only to spit it back out reporting to the lovely furies that the priest had been leaving them rotten fruit.  The furies appeared displeased by this as they looked to the priest who was in shock of what he had just witnessed.  He was unable to respond to the accusation.  Xena affirmed her victory again to the furies awaiting their release of her mind.  With that the head of the furies reached her arm out with her thumb facing down.  She slowly turned it back up as Xena’s mind began to clear from its imprisonment.  Gabrielle was delighted to see that Xena was finally free of her torments.  The warrior princess looked to her mother with love and concern for her actions against Cyrene over the past day.  Then the furies looked to Ares assuring him that they would report his misdeeds of the sacred trust  to the Olympian family.  Gabrielle looked to Ares to see his reaction to this defeat as the furies assured their priest that they would discuss the issue of rotten fruit later.  Ares was casual in his response to the furies as if unconcerned about being the black sheep in the family.  He was confident that they would come begging him to help them with something in the future.  The furies disappeared instantly to report him to Zeus. 

     Ares then looked to Xena and inquired the warrior princess if she truly believed that he was her father.  Xena responded that it did not matter if he was or he was not.  What was important was that the furies believed in the idea.  Ares then rose from his place on the temple throne and applauded Xena for her efforts.  He complemented her for her brilliance despite the madness and stated that if he was indeed her father he would have been very proud of her actions.  Cyrene appeared to be unamused at the god of war’s meddling in her daughter’s life.  Xena’s mother glared at him as if she had known some kind of secret.  With that Xena motioned Cyrene and Gabrielle to leave the temple.  As the three prepared to leave Ares interjected a comment of his own.  He did not understand why Xena cared so much for the bard.  Gabrielle looked to Ares disgusted that he would even make that comment.  It did not matter for both Xena and Gabrielle had defeated him in proving that Xena deserved a pardon from eternal torment. 

     Later that day after the excitement had died down Gabrielle found herself having time to analyze it all and to reflect.  She realized that Xena’s gift of anticipation was a little unsettling.  As Gabrielle brought wood back to the camp to set up the fire for the evening she approached Xena stating that it was obvious that the warrior princess would know what Cyrene would say for Cyrene was her mother.  Yet Gabrielle was uncomfortable with the idea that Xena had also known exactly what the bard would say within an unpredictable moment.  The bard expressed to the warrior princess that she was not sure if the idea of being predictable was a comfort or something to fear.  Xena just responded  joking that she had known that Gabrielle would even approach her with this concern.  Gabrielle was playful as she gently slapped the back of Xena’s shoulder.  It reminded her of being with Lilla again  for a moment. Xena was Gabrielle’s family now and it was a comfort to have Xena back to normal.  Just then Cyrene began to speak with grief to Xena almost whispering of Xena’s father.  Gabrielle decided that she would leave Xena alone with her mother out of respect.  It had been a difficult day for both of them.  Many old wounds and regrets had been reopened.  Despite Xena’s lost hopes of ever meeting her father in life to discover a better understanding of herself, Gabrielle knew that Xena would forgive her mother no matter the truth.  Xena loved her mother very much and could not hold the murder of her father against Cyrene.  Cyrene had done it with a mother’s love for her daughter.  There was nothing to forgive for Xena had been given life despite the dark deed that her mother had been forced to commit.  The lessons of the gods are selfish for their tricks pleasure no one and are ill tragedy for all.