The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Potedia
Scroll#36: Ten Little Warlords
February 28th, 47 B.C.
Pulling oneself out of the depressing nightmare that is reality can be tough. And though the nightmare of Callisto had seemingly ended Gabrielle awoke just before dawn to the familiar sound of a crackling fire and the boots of Callisto stopping before her. When she opened her eyes all that could be seen was not the comforting face of Xena, but the reminder of her rage that continued to stir within. The voice that spoke Gabrielle’s name was soft and soothing yet it was Callisto’s voice. Though it had Xena’s familiar tone Gabrielle’s body reacted as she jerked into sudden consciousness and realized again Xena’s face was now that of Callisto. The bard worked hard everyday to get over that anger and that constant sadness of her loss which ate away inside her heart. This pain seemingly bled so deeply at times that it found its way into the pit of Gabrielle’s soul. She felt certain that it would be much easier to deal with if only Xena could really be Xena. At least then the constant reminder of Perdicas’s absence would be less of a burden to the heart.
Though it was Callisto’s face which stared softly into the bard’s eyes Gabrielle was still having much difficulty accepting it as the now true face of her best friend. She felt almost saddened knowing that it must not be easy for Xena to understand that her presence was a constant reminder of the one who murdered Perdicas. Not only that, but Xena had to endure the constant darkness which followed Callisto for no one else knew the truth that Gabrielle and Xena knew. Then as the bard rose to her feet slowly with Xena’s assistance and attempt at comforting her Gabrielle expressed her frustration of the situation. Xena did understand. Though there was nothing that could be done about it all now. At least together they had succeeded at ridding the world of the evil soul of Callisto, but her presence in their lives would never be completely gone. Gabrielle attempted to come up with a temporary solution to this issue pleading with the warrior princess to at least try to change her hair color back to its natural darkness rather than the irritating blonde it had become.
Xena’s reaction was seemingly abrupt as the bard found herself being thrown by the mighty hands of Callisto the warrior princess behind the brush. As Gabrielle quickly tried to recoil her suggestion the warrior princess moved her finger to her lips in an attempt to hush the frantic yet momentarily startled bard. Gabrielle’s confusion was almost so overwhelming that she had forgotten that there was indeed one other person in the world who knew of the truth about Callisto the warrior princess. As Xena held steady she knelt down beside Gabrielle as they watched and listened together upon the intruder’s entrance into camp. He wore a small bush over his goofy yet ugly bronze helmet in a lame attempt to conceal himself from view. As always the warrior princess had sensed his presence way before he had even been fifty yards from camp. Despite being in Callisto’s body the bard found herself impressed by Xena’s ability to adjust to her new surroundings. It was obvious that Xena was handling things much better than Gabrielle.
As the idiot entered from beyond the darkness and the brush Xena instructed the raging bard without words. Gabrielle knew that this was a test to see if she could control the enemy’s approach. Although the enemy was an idiot he was a perfect decoy for a young bard in training. Gabrielle watched as the enemy took one, two, and then a third creeping step toward the fire ten yards away from their position. Just as the idiot was about to turn the corner toward the crackling fire Xena squeezed the bard’s arm signaling the take down. Gabrielle rose from her knelt position with her staff and lunged forward shouting out Joxer’s name and sweeping him to the ground with a kick to the knee and a leg sweeping staff move. Joxer suddenly fell upon his back to the ground unaware of the danger which had awaited him
As he lied upon his back blinded by his crooked helmet Gabrielle took the advantage stabbing him in the breast plate with her staff. There was a yearning for attack coursing through the veins of the bard as she looked down to notice that Joxer’s breast plate wasn’t really much of a plate at all. It was more like an old strainer used in every kitchen she had ever seen back home in Potedia. Yet this sidetracked thought soon left and any mercy she may have felt for the idiot quickly left her heart. Joxer’s response to Gabrielle’s cunning move on him was sarcastic and less than complementary. He tried to play off his blunder in battle stating that he had been noisy purposely as if he had conspired with the warrior princess before arriving. As Joxer brought himself back to his feet brushing his brown trousers off Xena soon emerged from the brush. She was actually quite surprised to see the idiot and was highly curious of his arrival. Whatever the reason it seemed important to the warrior princess as Joxer continued to speak. He took off his helmet with pride and confidence and removed the fern sticking out of the top.
After he finished his presentation of warrior prowess he continued his statement explaining that he had received an important message for Callisto. Joxer was certain that the blonde warrior would want to know of this message. Yet he was still quite confused for he couldn’t remember if Callisto was actually Xena or if Xena was Callisto. He looked to Gabrielle who was reminded that there was just one other who knew the true identity of Callisto the warrior princess. The bard could sympathize with his confusion for she too was still feeling it inside. Yet Joxer’s presence was still as annoying as ever. Gabrielle then thought as he continued to converse with Xena that maybe it would have been better if Joxer had been the one stuck in Callisto’s body instead of Xena. At least she could deal with her frustrations by popping him in the nose or beating him with her staff. The bard was very aware of Xena’s warrior skills and did not dare to move upon her frustrations against Xena who was still stuck in Callisto’s body.
Then the bard realized that even Xena was still having some difficulty in dealing with her new identity for she seemed irritated that Joxer would even think to bring her Callisto’s personal messages. Xena turned from his ignorance with irritation in her voice declaring that he should burn the message rather than waste her time with it. Gabrielle found herself in private agreement with the warrior princess’s attitude, but Joxer was not so certain that this message should be burned. His persistence prevailed as he explained that this message was from none other than Ares the god of war. Joxer was an idiot, but he did have at least a tiny brain working within his dumb skull part of the time. His observation proved to be of great interest to the warrior princess. She remembered that there was at least one other that knew that she wasn’t really Callisto. Ares most certainly knew the truth for it was Ares that had helped Callisto escape the underworld by using Xena’s guilt to get into Xena’s body.
As Xena’s interest in Callisto’s message intensified Joxer demonstrated his pride in knowing that he had Xena’s undivided attention. It was rare that Joxer had ever had Xena’s attention at all. He then stated that Ares had sent only ten personal invitations to ten different warlords. Callisto had been one of those ten. As the warrior princess continued to listen and to run the scenarios through her mind Joxer fumbled through his lose gear to retrieve the actual message. The bard’s curiosity of Joxer’s story turned to irritation, and then to a sudden uncontrollable impatience. Her eyes darted about his clothing looking for something randomly hanging out until finally they spotted the misplaced scroll. Gabrielle’s arms jerked her staff forth stabbing Joxer’s side where the message for Callisto hung. Joxer looked up surprised yet annoyed that the bard had interrupted his performance for the warrior princess. He then brought his sarcastic tone into the conversation once more downplaying Gabrielle’s impressive move. He asked her if maybe she was a fierce warrior trapped within the body of the bard. His implication was that she was clumsy and uncoordinated. Yet the bard did not find his sarcastic humor at all amusing. Xena continued to ignore the tension between the two inexperienced warriors still thinking of the message as she read the scroll.
Then she proclaimed that it was not Ares who had sent the letter. He would have no reason to send such a letter to Callisto for he knew that the real Callisto was back in Tartarus where she belonged. Yet Xena was uncertain of whom had sent the letter which brought her to her second question of why. The warrior princess needed to know who really sent it and why they would send such an invitation. Of course Xena’s thoughts were spoken aloud almost as if she had forgotten that Joxer and Gabrielle were there. Joxer took advantage of the moment and tried once again to prove that he was a worthy sidekick. He desperately wanted a mission and a quest and now he had found one. Joxer asked Xena when, but Xena cut him off immediately. She declared that he would not go with she and Gabrielle at first light. Joxer’s face turned to extreme disappointment and Gabrielle felt a sense of relief in knowing that she would not have to spend the day warding off Joxer’s idiocy on top of trying to keep her anger in check. Dealing with Xena as Callisto was difficult enough for the bard. Yet Xena let Joxer down gently. The bard couldn’t understand why the warrior princess didn’t just tell him the truth about himself. Instead Xena gently placed her hand upon his shoulder and asked Joxer to stay behind to protect the local villagers from the nine other warlords that would be passing through. She assured Joxer that his warrior presence could prevent panic from breaking out. Joxer’s disappointment turned to sudden delight for he had never thought of doing that. It was as if he had come to a sudden revelation. His part in Xena’s plan was even more important than what Gabrielle would be doing. Somehow he had gone from a childlike idiot to a confident and well respected hero within seconds.
As Xena ushered the bard away from Joxer leaving him to think of all the good that he would do without them he tried to thank her. Yet he was still confused for he was getting this wonderful warrior advice from Callisto yet it was really Xena inside. Gabrielle turned to face him and to try to sympathize with his confusing pain. Yet even Gabrielle was finding that it was getting a little less confusing to identify what Xena now looked like.
As first light broke into the warm mid morning sun Xena and Gabrielle had approached the outskirts of the next village. There they stayed hidden in the tall brush to watch as the other nine warlords arrived. One by one each warlord made his dastardly appearance. And each one had that suspicious look about them. It was as if they held the key to the greatest secret in the world. They were a select few, but no one knew why. The first three warlords came quietly and did not think to speak to anyone. They just entered into town trying to be inconspicuous, but the bard could see right through their evil presence. Then two more came into town almost at the very same moment. One was short and stout. Xena named him as Tegasaur. Then the bard spotted the fifth noticing that he was rather large almost like a giant cyclops. The hairy giant pushed an innocent villager aside. Xena declared the two approaching warlords as bitter enemies. Gabrielle noticed that they seemingly recognized each other and awaited the bloodbath to begin. It was as if she yearned to see blood on this peaceful morning.
Suddenly Gabrielle realized the importance of finding out the answers to Xena’s burning new questions. The who and the why was burning within the bard’s own heart like no other questions she had ever asked before. She suggested that Xena close in quickly using her infamous pinch to defeat every warlord before he had a chance to strike back. Yet Xena seemed calm and patient. As the bard found herself to be extremely fired up with rage inside she was ready for an offensive move. Xena noticed the bard’s unusual mood and spoke softly to her friend in an attempt to calm the raging heart within. Gabrielle’s raging mood calmed for a moment, but the calm did not last.
As the bard prepared for the battle to ensue the two warlords suddenly stopped before one another. Instead of drawing each others’ blood as the bard had expected the two men pooled their information. The bard found herself in a state of confusion yet disappointment. Just moments before Xena had declared that the two were certain enemies. In fact she had compared their encounter to throwing oil on a raging fire, but it didn’t appear to the bard that they were about to draw any swords or daggers. Gabrielle watched the two disgusting men spit upon the ground as if it were the sign of an ugly greeting. It was clear that the two had not been raised with one manner within either of their bones. They were truly hideous as they each held up a scroll. The scrolls looked exactly like the one that Xena had received as Callisto. Then the two shook hands firmly as if sealing a deal. It was then that Xena and the bard realized that the two had decided to join forces, but their motives were still shady.
Suddenly the bard felt the need to pounce. As her muscles tensed and she grabbed up her staff she began to charge forward. Xena quickly grabbed her friend who was seemingly unable to control the burning rage within. The warrior princess spoke soothingly to her friend. She encouraged patience and then tried to lighten the mood by asking Gabrielle if she had slept on another rock the night before. Though at first Gabrielle did not see the humor in Xena’s joke she finally realized that Xena was right. Xena insisted that she follow the warlords alone while Gabrielle should go on toward the market to grab something for her stomach. The warrior princess was certain that it was the bard’s empty stomach that caused her friend to be so vengeful on this morning. Yet Gabrielle herself was not exactly certain what the issue was within. And although she was confused she listened to the warrior princess as always knowing that Xena understood her even when she herself did not.
As the bard watched Xena go in after the warlords she herself went in the opposite direction into town. Gabrielle desperately tried to hold down the anger and the pain of her recent losses, but it seemed that the harder she tried the more the fire burned inside. The bard thought maybe it really was her stomach that actually burned as she heard the sounds of the approaching market. An old hag called out for a sale on fishcakes which actually began to sound very good for the moment. Gabrielle remembered how much she really loved how the flavor melted in her mouth. Fishcakes suddenly seemed to be the answer to all of the bard’s problems as she approached the old woman’s stand. The bard was swooned by the sale of six for only one dinar. That was unheard of and most definitely a deal worth cashing in on for the most seasoned of bargain hunters. It was just one of the bard’s many skills aside from her storytelling.
As she approached the woman for the sale she found herself suddenly entranced by the man across the way. The sound of his voice was so soothing as it called out fishcakes ten for only one dinar. Gabrielle quickly turned away from the cheap old hag and rushed over to the peasant man who sold ten fishcakes for only one dinar. Her stomach would be full for days for that kind of deal. She wouldn’t have to feel the raging fire within the pit of her stomach for at least ten days. Yet just before the bard could pull out the single dinar that would pave the way to her soothing happiness the old hag chimed in once more. This time she offered twelve fishcakes for a dinar. The bard’s head began to spin with confusion once more as her stomach felt that aching pain and the fire began to drive up into her heart once again. It was more than she could bare to take. Not only that, but she could suddenly feel that her arms were being torn apart by the two marketing fishcakes. The competition was fierce as the battle began to rage between the peasants in the market for the sale of twelve tiny little fishcakes.
Gabrielle had reached her breaking point. She suddenly ripped her arms from their restraint as she shouted out at the top of her lungs. The bard no longer seeked fishcakes. She seeked vengeance and rage. She seeked blood and sweat. Gabrielle needed to release her nervous energy in the heat of a battle. And so the bard turned and took barely a glance at her new peasant enemies and began to smash her way through the market delivering thunderous punches to anyone who dared get in the way of her destructive path. She tossed innocent peasant girls to the ground just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then she focused back upon the two peasants that had been trying to make the sale. They were the true culprits of it all. And as the market had now broken out into total chaos Callisto appeared to investigate what she had missed. Actually it wasn’t really Callisto, but everyone in the market stopped for they were certain that the wrath of the irritating blonde would rain down upon them.
Gabrielle was on the rampage determined to stop the raging peasants in their sale before anyone else fell victim to their entrancing fishcakes. Gabrielle chose the first weapons she caught sight of as one of the fishcake dealers pleaded and begged for Callisto to spare his life, but Gabrielle knew the truth. Callisto was not at all the one they had to worry about. She was in control of her rage yet Gabrielle was not. The bard suddenly picked up a large trout from one of the nearby stands and prepared to belt the fishcake dealer with it over the head, but just before the bard could strike Xena grabbed her friend by the ear and yanked hard dragging the bard out of the market and into the nearby tavern. Xena then scolded the bard for her crazy actions. The warrior princess realized that her friend was delusional which was strange and out of character for the bard.
It was a painful journey for Gabrielle as she could not break free of the grasp of the mighty warrior princess or the rage that boiled within. As soon as Xena had busted through the doors she threw Gabrielle down into an old rickety chair and again demanded that her friend calm down. It seemed that the bard’s mood was a result of more than just an empty stomach. Xena found herself quite confused at this strange turn of events. It seemed that no one’s true behavior could be predictable. Her warrior instincts were not working as they normally would. It was possible that the warrior princess was unable to judge the character of a warlord now that she was stuck within Callisto’s body.
As she thought out loud wondering why innocent peasants were ready to kill one another and why warlords were on their best behavior she was interrupted by the voice of an impatient bard. Gabrielle shouted out to the barkeep demanding service for thirsty customers as she pounded her wooden mug upon the table. Yet just as the bard was unable to control her mood swings her mind was still sharp as her ears caught the conversation between the barkeep and one of his obviously drunken customers. The angry bard was determined to find out who it was that held the barkeep’s attention. As she listened to the conversation she could have sworn that the drunken customer dressed in dark rags and leather pants was bragging himself to be a god. Xena too had caught a bit of the conversation because she seemed to be focused on the drunken fellow. As Xena approached him he turned around and flashed a crooked smile toward the warrior princess. He then shouted out her name, but he didn’t call her Callisto.
Xena suddenly rose from the table and began to walk toward the bar uncertain of who knew her true identity. At first the man with the black hood over his head didn’t look so familiar yet as she approached and listened to the voice she paused in her advance. Suddenly it was all very clear to the warrior princess. Yet to the bard it was still foggy. Then escaping from Xena’s lips was the name of the god of war. Ares grinned back as if delighted that the warrior princess had figured out his true identity yet Gabrielle found herself not so certain that the god of war would be found in a petty little tavern among peasants. Yet the drunk was determined to make his impression. He laughed as if amused that Xena didn’t recognize him. Moments later Xena confirmed that it really was the god of war only he had been turned into a mortal. Of course that was the real mystery because even Ares did not know how he ended up becoming mortal over night. Yet it seemed like justice to Gabrielle who was still angry at him for not giving Xena her body back. If anyone had the power to give Xena her true self it was him. But now he was just a plain old mortal idiot just like Joxer or any other mortal man. In fact, the bard noticed that he spoke with a bit of slur in his speech. He was just as big of a loser as any. Ares was hardly impressive and definitely not what Gabrielle had imagined a god to be like.
Gabrielle found her rage taking over as she rose from the table and approached the mortal god of war. She wanted a piece of action and she was determined to show him what real pain was. Yet he did not take her actions against him lightly as he tossed her aside out of drunken anger and frustration. Xena did not allow his disrespecting ways to go unpunished. The warrior princess suddenly picked up the mortal man and threw him across the tavern over her head. He flipped out of control until he crashed into some bar furniture before coming to a rest. Gabrielle was delighted to see how truly vulnerable he really was. She was ready to finish him off, but Xena would not allow it. Instead Xena threw out a rag to the demoralized god and instructed him on how to heal his new wound. His mouth was bleeding from the corner. He looked like a helpless little child as if about to cry, but he didn’t. Instead he made a notation of what mortal pain felt like for the first time. Gabrielle found herself enthralled with the idea of giving him more pain, but was again scolded for her out of control behavior. Xena demanded that the bard leave her alone with Ares. Gabrielle reminded Xena that if she needed an extra warrior to be there she would be most definitely ready for battle. Yet just as Gabrielle felt this energy surge she realized that her thirst called out to her and was again focused on the lousy barkeep.
The anger redirected itself as she tossed some bar stools aside and sat before the barkeep. There was an unusual power that could be felt within the bard. She had never before experienced this kind of power. It was an uncontrollable driving force that could barely be controlled. She snapped out to the barkeep for a drink and though he tried very hard to service the angry young blonde he was unable to appease her. He must have served her at least three or four different drinks and none of them soothed that unquenchable thirst for blood and violence. And then it dawned upon Gabrielle that she was feeling the wrath of warrior power. She looked to her left and tried unsuccessfully to use Xena’s famous pinch upon an innocent drunk. The drunk fell not because he was about to die of a blockage in his artery, but because Gabrielle had become frustrated with her failure in using the famous move as she threw his stool from beneath him.
And while the bard argued with the barkeep and continued her scene of rage Xena and Ares conversed and exchanged information. Neither really knew the answer to who had been the one who invited Callisto and nine other warlords to the village, but the two had come to an agreement before leaving the tavern. Suddenly the bard was ready for more action as Xena prepared to leave the tavern and Ares behind. Gabrielle was glad to know that he would not be joining them on the next leg of their mission. Yet as the day fell into night Xena explained to Gabrielle the conversation that taken place between herself and Ares. He had told her that he was unaware of how he had ended up mortal. His godhood had been stolen sometime during his preoccupation with Xena and Callisto in Tartarus. By the time he had returned home to Olypmous his sword had come up missing which held the key to his immortality.
This was a big disappointment for the bard knowing that Ares could have helped Xena, but now there was no chance. As the bard began to write him off of her list of known gods Xena explained that there was more at stake than her return to her own body. She explained to the bard as explained by Ares that the world would never know peace again. No matter how much Xena and Gabrielle wished to end war by condemning Ares to mortality the fact was the world was imbalanced without him. Ares had said that without a sitting god of war no mortal would be able to control anger and every peaceful peasant would rage inside starting more wars than could be imagined. When Xena revealed to Gabrielle that even she was falling victim to this imbalance Gabrielle’s uncontrollable anger began to boil even more.
Xena felt that she was losing her friend, but knew of no other way to save her from the imbalance and indifference of war. Gabrielle rose from her log by the fire suddenly exhilerated and alert like Xena. She was certain that what she had been feeling inside must be what Xena felt like inside everyday. Finally the bard had made it to warrior status, but as she rejoiced over this new self discovery Xena interrupted her with reality. The warrior princess explained that Ares had been right when he had said Gabrielle was already infected with uncontrollable hatred. Gabrielle did admit to the warrior princess that she was infected with a boiling anger inside. Her anger was so great that she felt the need to hurt Xena because Xena was in Callisto’s body. It was difficult to deal with as Gabrielle desperately tried to hold onto her sane mind for a solution to her anger problem. If only one of the other gods could put Xena back into her real body. There had to be at least one of them that would be willing to help relieve Gabrielle of her painful anger.
As Xena realized Gabrielle’s confession and desire to hurt her she knew that it was the reminder of Callisto that kept her from regaining control of her emotions. Xena knew that there was only one way to help her friend. She had to go with Ares in the morning and she had to go alone. Gabrielle was disappointed that Xena was going to help Ares the one who had caused all of this pain. The bard was desperate to plead with Xena not to help Ares, but Xena’s mind had already come to its decision. Before Xena left Gabrielle to join forces with Ares she asked the bard to try something in an attempt to calm the raging anger within. Xena reminded Gabrielle of one of her most favorite poems about the Elysian Fields. The warrior princess asked Gabrielle to remember that poem and to recite it when the rage became unbearable. “Elysian Fields calm and green, love birds singing so serene….” Before Gabrielle could finish Xena interrupted her reminding the bard only to recite it when she was feeling the anger inside.
Upon the next morning Gabrielle awoke from her slumber to find that Xena had gone without her. She was confused at first, but suddenly the urge came over the bard to follow Xena’s trail. Gabrielle knew the warrior princess well now that she had acquired that warrior anger and rage. She was certain that she had what it took to take out even the most vicious of warlords along the way. Gabrielle feared nothing as she took her trusty staff into town following every detail which led her to track down where Xena had gone. After trying to use Xena’s pinch unsuccessfully to obtain information from the local villagers Gabrielle stumbled into someone she would rather have never even met. It was Joxer whom had plowed her over with his sword drawn ready for action. Yet Gabrielle was not at all amused by this.
Angry at Joxer for his clumsy blunder Gabrielle snapped at him as she used her staff instinctively to knock him to the ground from his feet. Joxer’s sword flew out of his grasp into the air and then landed near the water in the harbor. The boiling bard attempted to finish her victim off until he popped back up angerly questioning her action against him. Gabrielle responded with impatience stating that she was on a mission to seek out and find Xena and Ares. The bard was certain that Xena was in danger being in the company of the mortal god of war. Joxer’s pride was high as a goofy smile spread across his face for he realized that Xena had trusted in him well this time. She had given him two orders of command which directly related to the mission. Yet Gabrielle had seemingly been ignored by the warrior princess. Joxer bragged of guarding the docks in the harbor until the boat which carried ten little warlords would return.
Gabrielle lowered her staff and suddenly drove it into the ground. Tapping her boot knowing instantly that Xena was only fooling the idiot with his overzealous warrior wanna be attitude. Gabrielle was the real warrior for she knew that only a real warrior could follow one as skilled as Xena. As the bard bragged and attempted to set Joxer straight on this fact he only scoffed at her statement against him and against his intelligence. Joxer then explained that he already knew exactly where the boat was headed. He even bragged of what he had seen transpire just before it had departed. Joxer stated that Xena and Ares had ambushed one of the other warlords in order to gain Ares an invitation and passage onto the boat. Gabrielle found herself laughing with disgust as she imagined the god of mortality trying to pose as a mighty warlord. Joxer agreed with the bard on this point for he had witnessed the hung over god of war. In fact he had run into Ares in the tavern just before the god of war had met with the warrior princess. Joxer had seen the mortal suffering of another idiot hung over.
Suddenly Gabrielle’s anger rose within again for she was jealous that Joxer seemingly knew all of these important details. She was becoming ill of his over sized pride as she searched for a point of attack against his confidence. Gabrielle then asked Joxer what reason did he have for staying behind when he could have been on the boat with Xena and Ares. Joxer thought about it for a moment only to reply that he had already been on the boat. He had followed Xena and Ares and proclaimed himself the mightiest of warriors. Though as he retold his version of the event to the bard his face turned from lit excitement to sudden disappointment for he had been reminded of the response. He realized that no one respected him not even the bard before him.
Gabrielle knew what must have happened next when he did not finish his story. The crowd of warlords must have laughed in his face. Joxer finished his wonderful tale reminding the bard that he played his fine role of fear in the face of the evil Callisto although he knew that there was nothing to be afraid of. He even went as far as to say that if it really had been Callisto he still would not have been afraid. Gabrielle scoffed at the idea in her mind knowing that Callisto would waste the idiot in an instant if given the opportunity.
As Gabrielle and Joxer argued and bickered over what their next role in the mission would be Xena and Ares traveled across the sea with eight nasty warlords. The best of the best had been invited to join the ranks of this honor. There was a prize to be won at the end of the journey although no one had been allowed onto the boat with a single weapon. Most of the warlords would not have complied with the phony Ares’s demand although it was said that one of them would obtain a prize in the end. As they sailed the sea Ares tried desperately to deal with his throbbing headache unaware of what the hangover would deal him next. Xena played the part of Callisto listening to the many warlords who bragged of dastardly deeds. Many had staked claims on triumphs won by others. One had proclaimed that he had personally smashed down the gates of Spartica, but it was actually Ares who had done that deed.
Another warlord proclaimed that he had defeated Xena shamelessly in battle only to be shown up by Callisto’s own claims to the same story. There were a lot of vengeful feelings upon this journey as Ares played low key per the advice of the warrior princess. After almost a day of sailing the boat finally docked upon a small isolated island. On the island was a castle in which Ares was said to be residing. As the true god of war and the warrior princess fell behind the pack the warrior princess wondered what it must be like for a god to have to ask for the help of a mortal. Ares’s response was unexpected for he replied with his own question. He wondered what it was like for Xena to be wanting to help the god who had made her a legendary warlord.
As the mortal god bragged of the talent of some of the other warlords he spoke of Virgileous proudly. Yet he also stepped back from Virgileous realizing that his complements of the giant over-sized mongrel were not making Xena jealous. The god was hoping to win over the warrior princess as always. He finished the conversation adding that though Virgileous did him proud he had known no greater enemy and friend than Xena. What Ares didn’t realize was that Xena was finding him more irresistible as a mortal than as a god. He was human to her for the first time. She even felt pity for the man who knew nothing of mortality until now.
By the setting sun the ten little warlords had reached the castle and entered in through its mighty doors. Callisto led the way as the mighty doors opened magically and without effort. Suddenly as the pack moved inside cautiously torches lit themselves to reveal an empty hallway. In a circle they lit one by one and there were ten when it was finally done. Xena suddenly found herself putting together the truths of this mysterious game. There was only one whom she knew that would create such a show. She recalled the beginning of the journey remembering the mysterious godlike voice that introduced all of the warlords to the contest on the boat. It seemingly came from a spinning silver disk although Ares had not been flattered. Xena remembered he had been right about the fake who tried to imitate his infamous voice.
Callisto then declared before the audience of warlords that it was Sysphus whom had most likely been responsible for sending them all on this wild goose chase. Ares found himself confused for a moment reminding Xena and the other warlords that Sysphus had been condemned by Hades himself to push a rock uphill in Tarturus for an eternity. All of the warlords had heard of this story fearing Hades and fearing death despite their dangerous career choices. They had faith in only Ares whom they worshipped hoping that their beloved god of war would be there to save them in their time of need during battle.
Suddenly there was a bright flash and then a puff of smoke. There before the warlords in the middle of the circle stood Sysphus. He appeared irritated that Callisto had figured out part of his scheme. Yet Sysphus played her down only to say that he was flattered to be in the presence of the mighty Callisto. Sysphus also knew a secret about Callisto as he revealed it to the rest of the warlords. Ares’s cover was now blown as all of those whom had once followed him had now seen him at his worst. It was most likely one of the most emberresing moments the god of war had ever experienced. The warlords suddenly realized that they had all been taken for fools. There was no real prize to be won. As they turned to leave Sysphus with his games he retook their attention disappearing like a god. Then he reappeared before them at the doors explaining that though he was no god of war he held the ultimate prize within his possession.
It had all begun with Hades whom had said to bring together ten of the best and most skilled warriors. One of these warriors would be the winner of a contest to slay a monster known only as the Barracas. Each warlord was to draw number from the bowl. They would go in order by number to see who would get the first chance at slaying the mighty Barracas. Yet no one had ever really seen a Barracas or even heard of one. Their chance to slay the Barracas would begin at sunrise with number one and then as each was defeated by the Barracas the next was to take his place attempting to slaughter the nasty beast. Whomever was able to slay the Barracas successfully would win Ares sword which contained his godhood.
Ares was upset that his sword was being used as a mere prize in a silly game. He felt disrespected and upset at Hades for allowing such an imbecile to steal his sword. Naturally Vergilious stepped forth to claim the sword, but was rejected by Sysphus who was very much in control of these puppets who thirsted for the ultimate power. Sysphus explained that his own reward for redistributing the godhood of war would be immortality for himself. He also declared that each warlord would be provided with a weapon to use against the Barracas in the morning. And with that he disappeared as one of the other warlords announced that no one would leave the island on this night. Their boat was no longer docked on shore for it had mysteriously disappeared. This meant that all were staying within Sysphus’s castle for the night.
Soon Gabrielle and Joxer had landed upon the mystical island as the sun began to set. By now Gabrielle was extremely irritated by the presence of Joxer. No matter how hard the bard tried she could not get it out of her mind to want to kill Joxer yet she fought the rage. Her heart was strong though her wits were tested by his stupidity. Despite Gabrielle having thrown Joxer off of the boat after he argued with her about Xena’s wishes he would be fine she thought. Yet she was still angry at Xena whom had left her behind to deal with Joxer and had gone off with Ares alone. Gabrielle fought back the sails of the small vessel which she had arrived upon as the winds picked up off of the sea. Then she felt a presence from behind. Instinctively she picked up an or and swung around slapping the enemy across the face.
As the enemy fell to the ground she realized it was Joxer. Gabrielle found herself shocked that he had been able to swim from the ocean and reach the shore. She was beginning to get irritated that he kept sneaking up on her like that. There was seemingly nothing that would rid her of his irritating presence. When she asked the idiot warrior what he was doing he answered that he rethought Xena’s earlier orders to him. He thought that just maybe this dock had been the one she had meant when he was told to guard the dock. The bard could see that he was confused and out of his mind at best. As he rose from the ground where he lied on the beach he stated that it was time to find the castle. He began to walk in the opposite direction. Gabrielle corrected him explaining that the castle was in plain sight straight ahead.
Joxer turned to see that the bard was indeed correct. Yet he was determined to prove himself to be the best warrior. Just before the argument was about to ensue once again there was a mysteriously strange sound coming from the wind. The bard paused for a moment to listen. It sounded dangerous and vicious. Joxer was obviously afraid as he too had heard the sound. Yet Gabrielle put the fear aside knowing that a true warrior fears nothing. And so she led the way toward the sound. Maybe it was a vicious monster that could kill Joxer so that she could find peace once again.
After following the sound into the night the two were led into the mouth of a dark cave. This made things much more exhilerating and exciting the bard thought. Her irritation of Joxer began to turn to a competition of warrior skills. She knew that she could kill that monster if that was indeed what they were hearing. Gabrielle tried desperately to focas on finding Xena knowing that there must be a drain pipe somewhere leading into the castle. Of course Joxer the idiot had wanted to actually storm the castle doors. Gabrielle realized quickly that he’d get himself killed that way knowing that even she could not go up against ten warlords alone.
Suddenly the sound of the monster echoed at the pass. There were two choices. One was to go toward the castle and the other was to slay the monster. Joxer of course was cowardly stating that the castle was the obvious choice, but Gabrielle rejected that idea. She was the leader in this search party and they were no longer searching for Xena. It was all about killing the monster now. She had to prove her superior skill to Joxer and she had to get rid of him somehow. This had to be the way. Yet he was still persistent in arguing with the bard who could no longer resist the urge to grab him by his nose and snap it off. Of course she tried, but failed although Joxer let out a whimper of pain as Gabrielle twisted it around till it would twist no more.
Back at the castle the warlords were ready to kill one another as they had drawn their numbers only to discover that Callisto had drawn number one. The number two warlord would not settle for second prize for he began a brawl warlord against warlord hoping to win against Callisto for number one. Every warlord in the castle had known that he could not take Callisto on alone. Yet eight against two was a certain victory. Yet Xena in Callisto’s body was more than they could handle. She fought them all off protecting the weakened god of war from a fate of certain death. It was lucky for him that he had drawn number ten for no one feared Ares now. As the battle ended someone died for there were left now only nine. Number two whom had foolishly begun the battle found his fate. Suddenly the voice of Syshpus chimed in pleased at what he had seen. Yet he advised all to save their strengths till morning for it was the monster that deserved their warnings.
As the warlords went off for their slumber Xena found herself again feeling sorry for the mortal god of war. He had been stripped of it all including his pride. He that battle he had almost died. Ares had sustained an injury to his shoulder as Xena cared for him. She was feeling a strange love, but it wasn’t like any other. The warrior princess knew that he didn’t really care wishing that he would understand. Yet a god can never understand mortals though he has become a mortal himself. Ares expressed how though Xena was within Callisto’s body he could still feel her true self. Even her touch was real to him although he had mentioned that both had been his pleasures past. It was just like a god to brag of all those he had. So many mortals had played his victim for he had pulled their strings of passion and emotion. As a god Ares was a master, but as a man only a helpless disaster. That was what made Xena feel for him. His helpless mortal state.
Yet the night was violent in the castle for each warlord plotted against the other. They built shallow alliances with one another in an attempt to get a step closer to the Barracas. The second to go came in. It was number seven who had claimed number two. He burst in through the door of Xena and Ares about to strike only do die before them. After he fell all that could be seen was a huge ax in his back. Xena and Ares had been given only a small dagger and a mace. It was clear these weapons were meant to kill warriors and not monsters. Yet the why of it all was still as foggy as the location of the sword. Xena was certain that it was within the castle in plain view. It was obvious now what they had to do.
As Xena and Ares searched the castle for a clue they stumbled upon two more bodies of dead warriors. Three and four had now perished. They had perished at the point of each others’ sword. It was an obvious trick played upon them by those warlords remaining alive. The situation was grim as Xena knew that they would soon find themselves in another battle of warrior skill. This time it would be four against two although Ares as a mortal was not much of a warrior at all. As the two true allies searched for the sword Ares tried desperately to convince Xena to take his sword. His mortal heart desired more to be with Xena than it did to reclaim his godhood. He could not imagine being a god again knowing that Xena would never trust him. She had made it clear to him back at the bedchamber that if he ever lived to see immortality once more that he would always forget what he had promised as a mortal.
Ares had tried desperately to convince her otherwise, but Xena was not easily fooled. Even mortal men tell lies to full fill their own desires. Of course Xena rejected his idea knowing that she was not the woman for the job. She did not wish to be a goddess or an immortal. Yet Ares agreed that she should be the goddess of desire rather than of war. He was planting the seed for immortality with the mortal he loved most. Ares would make her a goddess with his sword and then convince her to give him his own immortality so that they could reign together upon Olympus. Xena refused his offer again as number nine approached from behind. The warrior princess had spotted his reflection within a shield upon the wall. He carried a sword as he struck from behind.
Effortlessly Xena pulled out her dagger given to her by Sysphus. She sent the dagger into number nine sealing the deal with Ares. She admitted that he was the right man for the job despite how much she wished to keep him from regaining his reign. Not one of the other remaining warlords would be trust-worthy for as mortals they would turn on one another. Ares had yet to try to kill Xena so she knew that his heart was true. If he had been the evil that she had known him to be Ares as a mortal would have been without remorse. Yet she could see it in his eyes as they placed the body of nine upon the alter of warrior’s sacrificed in the name of his sword. Ares regretted yet another of his lost warriors on the battlefield. Though soulless he wasn’t heartless which made him the one who should reign as god.
They continued on searching through the castle. Their search for his sword led them into the castle dungeon. Xena was cautious as they searched knowing Sysphus would have many tricks and traps set for anyone lurking about. She was certain that it was down in the dungeon that he would hide the sword for it could be in plain sight and he could capture an unsuspecting victim. As they walked Ares found himself stumbling over a dungeon rat which startled him with surprise. The warrior princess laughed at the helpless god of war who mistook this mortal experience for fear rather than surprise. Again Ares tried to convince Xena the become a goddess and take his sword. He was not so certain that he would make it out of Sysphus’s contest alive. The two were about to exit the dungeon as they slowly ventured up a staircase only to be surprised by an appearance by the magical Sysphus.
Sysphus was candid as he laughed in the face of his helpless contestants. He was confident in having the upper hand. Yet Xena interrupted his confidence by revealing that she was onto him. It was a contest of wits between the magician and the warrior princess for it seemed at each of their meetings a new piece of the puzzle was openly revealed. Sysphus shot back at Xena revealing he knew that she was Xena and not Callisto. He tried to figure out how this could have come to pass. And then he looked to Ares laughing at the god for his blunder. Sysphus explained how he had taken advantage of Ares’s passions for Xena when Ares was not so careful to guard his sword. It seemed that Hades was angry at Ares for tampering with the souls that belonged in Tartarus. Switching Xena’s for Callisto’s almost cost Hades all the power in Tartarus.
Xena could see that Sysphus was setting a trap. He proclaimed that he hoped that Xena would win the sword of Ares yet Xena knew that it wasn’t true. Sysphus played on Ares emotions as he declared the former god a loser in front of the mortal he loved most. Ares reacted as Sysphus expected. He ran down the stairs toward Sysphus to attack and save his pride. Yet he also was there to restore Xena’s honor for it had been he who had stolen it from Xena. Xena called out to the blinded Ares, but Ares was helpless at Sysphus’s hand. Suddenly the stairs collapsed beneath the god sending him to the bottom back into the dungeon. As Ares struggled to rise from his fall Sysphus pulled out one of his endless tricks. Ares found himself hanging from a rope unable to free himself.
Sysphus then disappeared within the depth of his laughter as another trick revealed itself upon his exit. Ares was about to meet his doom at the end of a floor full of spikes. Fire shot up from beneath them as Ares screamed with fear and terror. The warrior princess quickly acted saving him from certain death.
As the early morning hours began to wear on into the dawn Gabrielle continued searching with Joxer for the infamous monster. Yet her irritations were rising as Joxer’s presence drove her blood to a boil. Joxer mocked the bard of her irritations. He had been dragging the point of his sword along the walls of the cave for the past ten minutes. Suddenly Gabrielle stated that she was ready to kill at any moment. She wanted to kill Joxer. As he tried to speak she halted his comment not wanting to deal with another of his statements. If only Joxer could stay quiet long enough for her to kill the rage inside or the monster down the corridor. One of the two would most certain help her control her pain within. She was beginning to understand that all of this pain could be controlled if only she could have that moment of peace away from Joxer.
Again Gabrielle began reciting the poem that she love most as Xena had suggested before leaving with Ares. And then suddenly Joxer began to speak of blood lust. He was certain that he knew exactly what Gabrielle was feeling inside, but Gabrielle knew that he was clueless. Joxer tried desperately to out due Gabrielle’s anger as he drew his sword and prepared to slash open an annoying buzzing around his head. It was a little fly that had been following him for sometime. Gabrielle paused to watch him within his dilusional battle against the small winged beast. Then she realized that he had snapped. She began to laugh hysterically for she had now seen it all. There couldn’t be a worse situation than being stuck with Joxer in a cave with the worst anger within. Not only that, but there was an unknown monster somewhere up ahead.
And then it happened. Gabrielle heard the monster as if it were only moments away. She needed something powerful that would be certain to kill it. The bard realized that Joxer was a bonus for he had a sword. She turned to Joxer and asked of his sword, but he would not give it up. He whined declaring that a warrior never gave his sword away just before a battle. This only infuriated the bard more as she lunged forward attempting to strangle the big lug who knew nothing about being a warrior. She was tired of hearing his warrior stories and advice. The bard had enough. Suddenly she realized she had to get rid of the rage before she hurt someone even if it was only Joxer that she had to kill.
Gabrielle reached for Joxer’s sword removing it from the scabbard and then she charged forth toward the wrath of the monster. Joxer tried desperately to follow, but instead decided that he was going to fight the monster with his bare hands. He quickly passed Gabrielle in the race to see who would kill the monster first. When Gabrielle finally arrived trailing behind she found Joxer beating a large machine with a stick. He was intense in his battle against the contraption. There was no real monster. It was only a noisemaking thing. Gabrielle found herself to be disappointed that she had been chasing down a machine with the world’s biggest idiot. Someone was going to have to pay for this crime. There was only one thing left to do. It was time to find Xena at the castle.
Inside the castle darkness was giving way to the light of day. Xena had finally figured out what Sysphus was planning to do. There were now only five left of the ten that had been invited to participate in the contest for Ares’s godhood. As Xena and Ares returned to the scene of the crime they were interrupted in a battle of three against two. One of the three enemies stepped forward declaring that he and the other had decided to ally. Yet just as his pride was high he found himself betrayed by two. Vergilious and the other took his life stabbing him to death with a knife. Now the odds were even two against two. Only true warriors fought one another in this way. Vergilious was definitely worthy in Ares’s eyes, but his new partner was a traitor. Xena warned Vergilious that there could only be one god of war reminding him of his folly. Suddenly Vergilious turned to see his coming demise. He ducked missing the blow that would have surely taken his life.
The battle then ensued. It was every man and woman for themselves. Xena took on the betrayer as Ares found himself having to fight the second best warrior in Greece. It was now a battle for survival as the weapons clashed and punches were thrown. Gabrielle and Joxer could hear the sounds of the ensuing battle as the rushed up the staircases toward the bedchambers. Joxer was determined to get there first and to settle things once and for all. He had killed the monster and was worthy of the prize.
Suddenly Xena was looking death in the eye. Yet now it was time to declare where the real sword lie. She reached across the dead upon the alter of sacrficed warriors. Xena grabbed what everyone had been searching for and rose to take her enemy with Ares’s sword. There was a strange power in killing with the world’s most powerful sword. The warrior princess felt a certain exhilaration and it was entrancing like no other mortal sensation. As her victim fell before her she looked to the other warriors fighting. Ares was losing against Vergilious. Xena could almost feel her sense of duty. Though she did not want to be a goddess she knew what she must promise. If Ares were to die she had to take the sword. Yet in the last moments before his certain death Ares reached for a loose dagger. He acted quickly sending it through the heart of one of his most prized warriors.
Vergilious took the blow surprised at Ares’s sudden advantage. He had been certain of victory against the mortal god, but now it was all over. Xena watched Ares experience blood for the very first time as a mortal. There was a look of shock and regret which she did not expect. As the battle was seemingly over Sysphus appeared before the remaining contestants. He tried desperately to convince Xena to take Ares before he could take her. A momentary thought crossed her mind until she was interrupted by the sound of a familiar idiot.
Joxer entered into the room where the dead lied. He declared himself to be the new god of war for he had been the slayer of the Barracas. Gabrielle was not far behind entering into the room. She revealed to Xena the truth of Sysphus’s contest as she described the machine that made all of the noise, but was nothing more than a ploy. Xena was suddenly aware of what she had almost taken. She had almost taken not Ares’s sword, but Sysphus’s eternal punishment in Hades. He had planned on allowing the warriors to kill themselves leaving only one to push his rock uphill in Tarturus. And the sword of Ares was to fall to him and he would reign upon Olympus as the new god of war.
Ares found himself disgusted that Sysphus had almost succeeded. Had it not been for an idiot and a bard Xena would have taken his life and his sword only to spend eternity in Tartarus. Ares wanted to strike, but couldn’t for he was about to meet his doom. From behind there was a sign of life still coming from the fallen Vergilious. The ax rose for the kill, but Xena acted quickly hurling Ares’s sword into the surviving warlord. Vergilious fell to the power of the sword leaving all with just one thing to do. Ares removed his sword from the eighth fallen warrior. It suddenly glowed with an immense power as he held it in his mighty hands. Like fire it burned with passion as lighting struck about it. And the rage within the bard began to dissipate into the storm.
There was a certain relief in knowing that it would be easier to deal with the pain, but there was one more thing. Ares scoffed at the mortals who stood before him for they had allowed him to become a god again. Yet he seemingly did not appreciate it as the evil Sysphus disappeared from mortality back into his eternity in Tartarus. Gabrielle and Xena waited with high hopes that Ares would hold up his end of the bargain. Yet he did not keep his promise for he had not made it as a god. His promise to put Xena back into her own body was made while Ares was mortal. And so he was not held to it and did not bind it. Ares laughed as he disappeared leaving Xena as Callisto in sadness. Gabrielle was disappointed and full of sorrow for her friend who would never know peace. And now the bard had to make a choice. She had to choose to stay with Xena as Callisto or to go.
Yet the choice was simple for the bard. As the three friends left the castle and seeked out the ocean Gabrielle walked alongside her friend. She expressed her regret that they had helped Ares at all. Yet Xena reminded the bard that without him the world would have been full of uncontrollable rage. Gabrielle understood what Xena had meant yet she still felt like killing Joxer whose presence was annoying beyond compare. The two friends watched as Joxer frolicked about like a child along the beach. At least there was something true about him. He was as innocent as a child and could be trusted despite his lack of warrior skill.
Yet the bard admitted that life would still be hard though she was willing to stick by her best friend despite her forever being reminded of Callisto’s wrath. Xena seemed satisfied at that, but then she tried to lighten the moment. She then asked Gabrielle if she would even stick by her if she one day turned into a snake haired gorgon monster. Gabrielle laughed, but admitted that she would have difficulty looking at her. Yet even then Gabrielle would not leave Xena’s side. And then for a moment there was an uncomfortable silence between the friends. But Xena interrupted it with a complement to Gabrielle. She praised the bard for not giving into the violence and the rage within. The warrior princess expressed the strength that it required for one to go against the rage within.
Gabrielle found herself flattered that Xena had noticed her battle within. She realized that Xena had understood all along and even understood the pain that still lingered. Gabrielle laughed for a moment realizing that although she had survived a world full of rage she had yet to survive the ride back to the mainland alongside Joxer. But just when it seemed impossible to journey on a familiar voice echoed with in the bard’s ears. As she turned around she saw Xena standing there on the beach before her. It was not Callisto there anymore. Ares had taken pity upon Xena and the bard. Gabrielle tested Xena for a moment asking her which body would be the worst to be trapped in. When Xena responded with the snake haired gorgon monster Gabrielle knew it was true. Xena was back to her true self and within her true body.
And so the nightmare had finally ended although the pain would never die. Gabrielle would always be reminded of how Perdicas had to die. It was not because she saw Callisto’s face everyday, but because of his absence. She would never see Perdicas again, but he would always be there forever in her heart.