The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Podedia
September, 47 B.C.
The bond of friendship is a strong one. As the bard Gabrielle had discovered it is stronger than the god Poseidon, and even death. True friendship is driven by love, and the love that Gabrielle had for Xena, and Xena for Gabrielle was what brought them back together time and time again. After having left Callisto and Velaska behind Xena opened up to Gabrielle in a way that she had never done before. Xena had been reminded of her past during their time sailing the seas. Though the memory of a past with Caesar of Rome had been painful it explained a lot about the warrior princess that Gabrielle had come to understand about her friend. Xena explained that even more than the warlord Cortese it was her crossing paths with Julius Caesar of Rome whom had instilled into her the worst evil qualities and desires for blood-lust.
Xena had always been a secretive person, even with Gabrielle often times. Since their earliest adventures together Xena, for the most part, kept her darkness from Gabrielle’s knowledge. Yet after Xena had shared her story of betrayal by Julius Caesar of Rome, Xena began to share even more. She explained to Gabrielle of how she had been informed by Hercules months before that he had found himself crossing paths with Callisto. Hercules had sent Xena a message about it while she was visiting with King Lias two seasons before.
Suddenly, the bard realized that if it weren’t for that important message from Hercules Xena would not have been able to find the immortal Callisto to enlist her help against Velaska. Gabrielle found herself torn about the idea that Xena had kept such a secret from her. Although the bard had heard the story of Callisto escaping the underworld, and becoming an immortal before, it seemed as if it was something that bard should have been made privy to sooner. It should have been Xena telling her and not strangers in a village tavern. Xena began to explain why she had decided to withhold this information from the bard.
It was yet another secret that Xena had kept from Gabrielle, but Xena explained that it was only because the warrior princess wanted to spare her friend the pain of being reminded of what Callisto had done to Perdicas. Hera had brought Callisto back from the dead in the hopes of wiping out Hercules and his family in exchange for escape from the underworld. Callisto had wanted another shot at Xena after Xena had succeeded in defeating her yet again as she attempted to steal Xena’s body, family, and reputation of being a warrior who loves the common person. Hearing that Xena had known all of this months before only made it more difficult for the bard to continue on her own path of enlightenment and forgiveness toward Callisto. Listening to the story of the immortal Callisto only made the bard feel raw inside again.
As the two best friends sat together in the tavern for some dinner and relaxation they began to over-hear two drunkards speaking quite loudly and over all of the other voices inside the crowded tavern. Xena and Gabrielle found themselves to be quite annoyed by their rambunctious behavior. It was over the top and unnecessary. The two men were talking about Hercules which was what caught the ears of both the warrior princess and the bard. One of the men stated very loudly that he could not believe that the hero Hercules had gotten married. Not only had he said Hercules was married, but that Hercules had given up his super-human strength to marry a deer.
Suddenly, the warrior princess had enough of their shenanigans. She did not enjoy listening to two scum poke fun at her dear friend and former love. It was a disgrace and they were defacing his name. Hercules didn’t deserve that for all of his good deeds to humanity, and especially to Xena.
Xena had just found her new mission and she was ready to put out the raucous laughter and humiliating jokes. As the warrior princess rose from her seat, and turned to confront the hoodlums she directed to them her curious question. She asked them if in fact what they had said about Hercules having gotten married had been true. One of the men answered her, but he answered her with yet another insult to Hercules. He was so drunk that he couldn’t even distinguish a question from his own bad jokes. He responded as if Xena weren’t even there as he pressed forward with his assault on the reputation of Hercules.
Suddenly, Xena turned back to Gabrielle after the man gleefully stated that Hercules had not only married a deer, but he had also given up his god-like powers to do it. Xena commanded Gabrielle to rise from her place at the dinner table and declared that they were leaving immediately. Though Gabrielle was slightly annoyed by Xena’s sudden need to leave the tavern she started to understand that there was more to it than Xena simply being annoyed at the drunkard’s insults. Xena actually believed that there was truth in their drunken statements about Hercules.
Gabrielle was not laughing at the insults, but she was laughing in her heart having quickly realized that Xena actually still had romantic feelings and perhaps a bit of a passionate flame and attraction toward Hercules. Xena bolted out the door of the tavern as Gabrielle grabbed her staff and exited not far behind. Although it was refreshing for the bard to get out of the company of the obnoxious hoodlums. She was slightly irritated that Xena was suddenly leaping at the excuse to go out and find Hercules after over six seasons since their last encounter.
There was a small part of the bard that understood Xena’s need to fill her passions, but the bard did not agree with any plan or idea that Xena might be having with in her warrior mind to perhaps talk the hero out of his decision to marry what was said to have been a deer. The whole thing seemed ridiculous to the bard. Even if it were true that Hercules had fallen in love with and married a deer the bard’s motive was in expressing to Xena that the warrior princess should clear any idea of meddling in the romantic affairs of the legendary hero. The bard had learned pretty early in her travels with the warrior princess that meddling in the affairs of love could be dangerous.
If the man wanted to marry a deer who was Gabrielle or even Xena to criticize? To the bard love was all about being happy and feeling at home with the one you loved most. Gabrielle was certain that Xena was jealous and upset with Hercules for not having bothered to tell Xena about his wonderful news. Xena scoffed at the bard for even thinking about scolding Xena for her feelings. Xena attempted to play it cool, but Gabrielle knew better. As Gabrielle continued the conversation Xena suddenly bolted ahead as if Gabrielle no longer existed. Gabrielle could barely believe what she was witnessing unfolding. Especially since only minutes before all of this Xena was pouring her heart out to the bard back inside the tavern. It was as if they were making a certain break-through, and it had suddenly been interrupted by madness, and a certain warrior lust.
Then Xena untied Argo from the post, and moved quickly. Gabrielle attempted to catch up to Xena as the warrior traveled with a sense of urgency toward the main road. The bard shouted out to Xena to slow down, but to no avail. Gabrielle asked Xena what the hurry was to reach her old flame. She wasn’t so certain that rushing off to inform Hercules of the rumors floating about was all that important. It felt as if Gabrielle were talking to herself. As Gabrielle dashed down the road to catch up to Xena, the warrior suddenly halted on down the road upon Argo. It was clear to the bard that Xena had made some kind of startling realization. As Gabrielle caught up to Xena and Argo upon the road Xena calmly called upon Ares the God of War.
Ares appeared within an energetic fiery flash. Gabrielle had never seen Ares do that before. She had seen him as a mortal, and she had seen him transform shape from playing the role of Xena’s father morphing into himself, but never as a powerful flash of light. The god of war appeared just down the dirt road before the warrior princess who sat upon Argo and smirked at Ares’s arrival. It was as if the warrior princess had somehow sensed the god’s presence before he had even arrived. The bard found it to be impressive warrior senses. Even after traveling with Xena for this many seasons Gabrielle found her to still be full of surprises.
Ares was delighted and excited that the warrior princess had called upon him as he approached her. With one hand upon his sword, which was sheathed in sleek black leather, Ares taunted the warrior princess about how she had just lost out on the love of her life to a deer. He cackled loudly and boisterously over the topic. Xena was clearly not amused by this. As Ares stood there before her in his tight, sleek black leather warrior presence he expressed to Xena that despite his brother Hercules having rejected her he would be there for her. Ares proclaimed, although he didn’t like to be second choice, he would graciously accept any passes or offers of love that Xena might want to make toward him.
It was clear to the bard, and obviously to Xena herself, that the extremely sexy, god of war was no more than a glorified whore. Ares of course did not pretend to be anything else. He pressed forward with his sales pitch, and laid it all out for the warrior princess. He reminded her that they had once had a very hot, and heavy romance that involved some of the best wars and blood baths he had ever seen in the known world. Ares then moved in closer to the warrior princess as if attempting to create some kind of irresistible sexual tension. If the bard had not known Ares to be such a tricky adversary she might have found herself to be somewhat attracted to him herself. The smell of his cologne permeated the surrounding air as if Zeus himself were standing there.
Ares reminded the warrior princess of how much Xena’s blood lust had once inspired him. He balled up his fist, and flexed his enormous, exposed biceps as he delivered his passionately lustful speech of the warrior princess and her past successful bloody exploits alongside him. Ares brought up a specific battle, the battle at Torrence, in which he had been extremely proud of their work together. He described the battle as having been one of bloody limbs scattered everywhere upon the battlefield as Xena had led her army through her opponent’s infantry like flies. The god of war proclaimed this battle to have been one of the most beautiful battles he had ever witnessed or had ever been a part of. It was clear to the bard that Xena was disgusted and seemingly felt dirty as Ares jumped up on to the horse with her. He started touching the warrior princess who was struggling against the urges toward him she seemingly felt. Gabrielle feared that Ares was tapping in to Xena’s dark side and this Gabrielle wanted to avoid. The bard cleared her throat loudly.
Ares then whispered into Xena’s ear, and pressed further into the warrior princess’s mind and into her emotions. He told Xena that they could easily leave the irritating blond behind, but if the warrior princess absolutely needed her along for the ride he could always make a minor exception. Then the god of war explained, as he whispered to the warrior princess, that this was his offer to her. With that the god of war suddenly disappeared within his blue flame leaving the warrior princess to contemplate his offer. Gabrielle could see that Xena’s mental wheels were spinning as she dissolved back into a thinking mind rather than one of raw emotion. Gabrielle approached Xena and stepped in front of Argo upon the road. The bard wanted to know what it was that had just happened between Xena and Ares. She also wanted to know what was pressing through Xena’s warrior mind.
As Xena continued to travel down the road with the bard alongside her horse she explained to the bard that there had been a time in which she had partnered with Ares on the battlefield. It was after she had partnered with Caesar. Xena explained that she was confused during this time in her life, and that she had been through some very traumatic experiences. Ares had come along, and sold himself as her savior and as the one who would help her pick up the pieces of her failed war campaigns up to that point. He promised her that they would conquer the world together, and that they would defeat her worst enemy Julius Caesar. The young warrior princess had bought into Ares’s persuasions back then, and that mistake had led her into the battle at Torrence.
Strangely, the battle of Torrence had taken place not far from where they were, and Xena decided to take Gabrielle there with her to see the destruction and devastation that Xena had left in her wake along side Ares. As the two quietly walked through the empty battlefield they found it still littered with the bones of many corpses. And as Ares had described, there were the bones of the limbs scattered everywhere severed from the rest of their bodies. Gabrielle could see that her friend was disturbed to be reminded of this. Traveling through Torrence might not have been something that had even occurred to the warrior princess before the conversation overheard in the tavern. Now the mood was completely different. Gabrielle was concerned for Xena, and had a difficult time believing that Xena could have ever been capable of such destruction, but Xena assured the bard that she had been. Xena explained to the bard that this was the reason she had never wanted Gabrielle to experience what it was like to kill someone. Gabrielle’s light had become Xena’s strength, guide, and moral compass. Xena would do anything in her power to protect the bard from this path.
The two best friends and companions continued on through the rotted carnage left behind in near silence. As they reached the opposite edge of the battlefield they could hear the sounds of a mob off in the distance. Xena paused and held up her hand commanding the bard to stop, stay silent, and to listen. As they listened Xena moved forward toward the tree line for a better observational position. In most scenarios this might not have caught her attention, but as the bard followed she peered through the tree-line.
On the other side indeed there was a mob, and at the head of the mob was Iolas Hercules’s best friend. Along with him was the local town magistrate of the village of Torrence. The magistrate urged the mob forward as if they were on a mission. He mentioned an argument that Hercules had with his new wife on the morning before. Iolas responded explaining that his friend was seemingly not himself recently, and in fact, that the gods could be behind something. Another village leader piped up, and stated that responsibility was of no consequence because it was clear that Hercules had become a danger to their community. As the mob continued on by, Iolas stated that he was going in ahead of the mob to get Hercules. Iolas explained that since he was Hercules’s friend that perhaps Hercules would listen to him and would get himself up out of bed.
As the mob passed by Gabrielle looked to Xena alarmed at what she had just heard. Xena looked to Gabrielle, and cautiously instructed the bard to follow her into the opposite direction along the tree line staying off of the village road. The two continued to travel alongside the tree line following the village road into Torrence. As they continued, and were a safe distance away from the mob, Gabrielle broke the silence and asked Xena what she thought that Iolas meant when he said that the gods might be behind whatever was going on with Hercules.
The warrior princess responded by explaining that she suspected Ares was behind whatever it was. Ares only appeared to Xena when he was behind something or was up to something. Xena suspected that it had something to do with Zeus because Ares had been wearing the essence of Zeus when had appeared to them on the road earlier that morning. The warrior princess explained that the fact that Ares had mentioned the battle of Torrence, and the fact that he had mentioned Hercules’s new marriage could only mean that Ares had somehow set up his brother. Xena explained how Ares had always been jealous of Zeus’s love for Hercules the half mortal son. It was one of Ares’s motivations for teaming up with Xena in the beginning. It was Ares who had sent Xena to kill Hercules in the past, but it was to the god of war’s detriment. Thankfully it had led Xena to be defeated by Hercules who was the first person able to re-direct her path away from the darkness.
Gabrielle inquired if Xena was worried about Ares and what he was up to. The warrior princess replied that she wasn’t all that concerned. She explained that though Ares was conniving he almost always failed in the end because of his arrogance and over confidence. Gabrielle chuckled at the thought that Xena was unconcerned about the god of war and his motives. It appeared that Xena was still more interested in finding out more about Hercules and his new bride. The bard then inquired again. She wanted to know if Xena was at all concerned about why a mob was out to get Hercules. Again, the warrior princess was seemingly not all that concerned. Despite that she did not have any ideas as to why a mob would be after Hercules, and Xena was certain that Hercules could handle himself. She still strongly felt that to get answers they would have to visit another tavern and preferably one in the nearby village of Torrence.
As the two friends continued following the path alongside the tree-line they heard the mob racing back up the main road just on the other side again. They appeared to be even more angry than they had been on their way back down the other direction. Xena and Gabrielle stopped and looked through tree-line, and there behind the mob was Iolas calling out to them attempting to explain why Hercules was not at home. By this point it appeared that the mob had lost all faith in Iolas. They nearly trampled over him as they were no longer interested in what Iolas had to say. Iolas was easily pushed him aside as the mob marched on back toward the village. Soon the mob had passed on down the path into the distance. Quickly and with stealth Xena pulled Iolas off of the road and back into the trees alongside her and the bard. Iolas seemed to be taken completely by surprise as Xena covered his mouth so that he would not give away her position with the bard.
Iolas was seemingly in a panic. Gabrielle asked him what was going on, and inquired of why a village mob was searching for Hercules. Xena uncovered his mouth and Iolas stated under his breath that he was glad to see both Xena and Gabrielle, but that they had to hurry and find Hercules. Iolas said that Hercules was in trouble. Gabrielle wanted to know what Iolas meant by that. Iolas stated that Hercules had not been himself for the past several days. Iolas stated that since Hercules had married his new wife Serena, and given up his half-god power to do it, he had become belligerent. Xena didn’t understand why that would make Hercules unstable, and it certainly didn’t explain why the mob was after him.
Iolas continued explaining that when he had gone to visit Hercules earlier that morning he had found the legendary hero in a state of emotional shock. Gabrielle wanted to know why Hercules was in shock. Iolas stated that someone had murdered his new wife Serena. Iolas explained that they had to hurry and catch up to the mob back in the village because Hercules was being accused of murder. Iolas had been able to buy Hercules some time to escape allowing Hercules an opportunity to find his wife’s murderer. Xena agreed with Iolas that it was important that they try to stay ahead of the mob in finding Hercules, but she felt that she and Gabrielle might have a better chance at flushing out the real culprit behind all of this which Xena suspected was Ares.
Ares, as always, Xena said, had shown her too many of his cards. Xena mentioned that setting up Hercules for the murder of a mortal was Ares’s plan. Murdering one of Zeus’s mortal creations was the highest sin Hercules could ever commit against his father Zeus. The warrior princess explained that Zeus had only one rule when it came to Hercules. No other god was permitted to punish his son except Zeus himself. Ares was very aware of this and was smart enough never to cross that line himself. The only condition in which Zeus would allow Hercules to be judged, and punished by another god was if Hercules were to ever kill a mortal in cold blood. Xena certainly did not believe that Hercules was capable of such an act. Which was why she was certain that the god of war was behind it all somehow. Yet she explained it was not Ares’s style to do the dirty work himself.
The warrior princess realized that they needed a quick simple plan to deal with the immediate situation. She wasted no time in deciding what to do next. Xena decided that the three friends would follow the mob back into the village of Torrence. Iolas would go on ahead using Xena’s horse to try to find Hercules ahead of the mob. Xena felt Hercules needed to be found and escorted to a safe place away from the danger it posed to him. Once Xena and Gabrielle arrived at the village behind Iolas they would attempt to stay out of sight of the mob. Xena and Gabrielle would only reveal their presence if necessary. Iolas stated that at this point anyone who was thought to be an ally or a friend of Hercules would be in just as much danger. Xena instructed Iolas not to worry as she urged him to get up on to her horse. Iolas did so thanking Xena. Then he raced off down the village road. Xena and Gabrielle followed behind on foot as they dashed up the road behind him.
By the time Xena and Gabrielle had arrived there was a large fight brewing at the center of the village. Iolas had already arrived, but the mob was holding him back from defending Hercules who appeared to be nursing an arrow wounded shoulder as the village mob beat him mercilessly. Iolas was shouting out desperately to his friend helpless to stop the brutal beating. As Xena and Gabrielle approached, Xena instructed Gabrielle to come into the fight after she found her moment to take on the mob while Gabrielle would flank them. Gabrielle wasn’t so certain that she and Xena could take on an angry mob on their own, but it was going to have to happen because there was no time to waste.
The mob began to beat Iolas down to the ground as Hercules could no longer be seen within the pile of people beating on him. Suddenly, a few local soldiers mixed up with the mob pulled him out of the pile of villagers and began to beat him with their weapons of war. It went from wooden clubs to professional weapons in a hurry. They thrust a large round weapon through his stomach knocking the wind out of him. He was clearly in anguish as they were about to give him the death-blow. Suddenly, that was the moment in which Xena chose to strike. With her signature battle cry she entered into the fight, raised her mighty chakram, and aimed it right through the raised weapons of the mob. Flipping through the village behind her chakram Xena had given Hercules just the opening he needed to rise from his defeat and fight back against his attackers.
Quickly Xena’s chakram sliced through the enemy weapons as Xena reunited with her chakram catching it at the end of her series of acrobatic flips. Someone from the crowded mob shouted out her name as many of them ran from the mighty warrior princess in fear. Gabrielle did not know if it was because of Xena’s many well-demonstrated skills in an instant or if it was her history with the village prior, but Xena brought fear with her as she battled on. This was Gabrielle’s signal to enter the battle. The bard charged in alongside Xena, Hercules, and Iolas to fight off the enemy. A small band of local soldiers had been called in to deal with the situation, and as the mob dispersed they charged into battle against the four friends.
Though both Hercules and Iolas had been badly beaten by the mob already they rose with power in their charge against the small army. Xena easily defended against her attacker as the bard pulled out her staff to defend against the power they faced. Though Hercules had risen he had been overwhelmed by the pain of the shoulder injury as Gabrielle smacked her attacker to the ground with her staff. When the bard gazed across the battle she saw Hercules was being beaten with weapons of war again as two soldiers held him defenseless. Hercules was then kicked to the ground as Xena punched and smacked her way through the line to get to him. Gabrielle flipped her staff around to regroup against the next approaching enemy soldier. She smacked him in the stomach knocking the wind out of him as Iolas found a way to free himself from his over-sized opponent. Iolas flipped his attacker from behind over his shoulder onto the ground.
With Xena enemy bodies were flying everywhere. Her power and strength was amazingly displayed as she fought alongside Hercules who struggled to push himself back off of the ground again. Xena and Gabrielle continued to defend him from as many attackers as they could knowing that he was now truly mortal and unable to handle the volume of attackers coming at him. Iolas went to Hercules’s aid as another attacker came at Hercules. Iolas threw off another soldier as Hercules’s weakness was becoming clear. Hercules struggled to stay upon his feet as his legs collapsed beneath him and he grabbed for his injured shoulder. Iolas attempted to catch Hercules’s fall, but the legendary hero fell hard.
The battle had been won by the four as Iolas’s concern for his friend was rising. Hercules passed out as Iolas tried to talk to him, but both Xena and Gabrielle could see that Hercules was in serious condition. Xena instructed Gabrielle to fetch Argo. Gabrielle quickly moved back across the village toward Argo and quickly Xena instructed Iolas to help her hoist the body of the injured Hercules onto her horse. The friends had to act quick and swift in order to get the legendary hero safely out-of-town. As Xena jumped up on to her horse she instructed the bard to bring Iolas with her using Xena’s trail left behind to find them. Xena knew of a safe place they could take Hercules until they could figure out what to do next. Iolas was grateful for the help his friends offered him and to Hercules in their deepest time of need. As Xena rode out-of-town with Hercules, Gabrielle knew Xena had just given her an unspoken command. It was up to the battling bard and Iolas to find a way to cover their tracks so that they wouldn’t be followed when they rejoined Xena, Argo, and Hercules.
Once the four had reached one of Xena’s secret weapons storage caves from her days as a blood-thirsty warlord Xena removed the arrow shaft still lodged inside Hercules’s shoulder, cleaned out the wound, and then stitched it up. Iolas stood by feeling helpless for his friend explaining that he had never seen Hercules in this bad of shape or ever to have taken such a beating. Xena instructed the bard to hurry and get more water and bandages for Hercules. Gabrielle handed Iolas a bowl with the medicinal contents that Xena had used to clean out the wound. She quickly grabbed the water bucket and ran out of the secret cave hide-out. As Gabrielle left the cave she overheard Xena give Iolas Hercules’s condition. She stated to him that she was certain that his shoulder had been dislocated and he could have possibly fractured his skull.
Soon after the bard left the cave Iolas emerged within distressed silence. As she was leaving the stream with her full bucket of water she saw him standing on the bank alone. The bard called out to him asking if he was okay. Iolas bravely and quietly replied that he was, but Gabrielle could see that he was upset. As she passed him by with her bucket of water she decided to turn back to comfort her friend. Gabrielle put her bucket of water down, approached Iolas and gently laid her hand upon his shoulder. She explained that she knew Hercules would be okay. Gabrielle went on to explain to Iolas of Xena, and how great the warrior princess’s battlefield medical knowledge was. Iolas interrupted Gabrielle’s thought already knowing that about Xena himself. Gabrielle inquired more about Iolas’s obvious and deep concern.
He hesitated, but then revealed to Gabrielle the true nature of the dire situation. He gravely laid it out to the bard stating that Hercules was certain that he had killed his own wife Serena. Iolas stated the evidence to Gabrielle explaining that when he went to visit Hercules earlier that morning, he himself had seen Hercules over the body of his wife with a bloody knife in his hand. Gabrielle could understand Iolas’s shock in seeing his friend like that. It made Gabrielle think of her stroll through the stale battle of Torrence that Xena had revealed to her earlier in the day. It seemed that both she and Iolas had witnessed the darker side of their friends. Gabrielle decided in that moment that Xena needed to be with Iolas to help comfort him. The two of them needed to figure out who could have committed this awful crime. Gabrielle could not believe for a moment that it was Hercules. She recalled the time when Ares had framed Xena for the murder of three innocent villagers. Gabrielle suspected that Xena was onto something when she had mentioned Ares having shown his cards when he appeared to them on the road just after they had left the tavern to visit Hercules.
When Gabrielle returned to the cave she could hear that Hercules had awakened. He and Xena were having a heart-felt conversation. Xena explained to him that she had come as soon as she had heard the news of Hercules’s new marriage. Xena had wanted to come to share in his new-found happiness. Hercules then revealed to Xena that his wife had been murdered. Xena inquired of how it happened and of what Hercules knew about it. Hercules explained that he had been having a strange violent nightmare and that the killer hadn’t even awakened him when he killed Serena.
For Xena this didn’t add up. Hercules agreed that it did not make sense that he would not be awakened by the sounds of his wife being murdered in cold blood right next to him. He explained to Xena that the sleep he was in was like no other he had experienced before. Then Hercules tried to rise from his injury expressing that he was certain Ares must have had a part in all of it since it was Ares who had promised Hercules eternal happiness with Serena in exchange for Hercules giving up his immortal powers. Xena was knew that Hercules was right, and was not surprised that Ares had reneged on his promise to his half-brother. She scoffed at the idea that Ares could ever keep his word in any deal with anyone including his brother Hercules.
It was obvious that Hercules wasn’t even certain that he hadn’t killed Serena himself. Xena instructed Hercules to rest before he attempted to face Ares again. Gabrielle quietly entered the cave with her bucket of water. She expressed to Xena her concern about Iolas and suggested Xena go out to talk with him. Xena appeared to be annoyed at the situation because Xena suspected just what Gabrielle had suspected. Ares was attempting to get his brother killed, and to regain Xena’s affections at the same time. Xena handed something to Gabrielle as she was leaving the cave to speak to Iolas. Gabrielle asked the warrior princess what it was. Xena revealed that it was a goat skin, and that hopefully it would be something that would save Hercules’s life.
Gabrielle sat quietly next to Hercules. It appeared that he was having another one of his nightmares as he tossed and turned. He kept calling Serena’s name and telling her that it was all his fault. Hercules was still fighting a fever and delirious as he went in and out of consciousness. Gabrielle’s heart felt for him as he struggled with the demons he could not understand and could not find. The bard could sense Hercules’s guilt as she sat beside him attempting to keep the legendary hero’s fever under control. It seemed that Xena had been outside with Iolas for a very long time. Iolas was in deep despair for his friend. He didn’t want Hercules to suffer and did not want his friend’s good name to become tarnished. Even if Hercules really did murder his wife in his sleep.
Iolas had made an offer to Xena. He offered to turn himself in on behalf of Hercules for the murder. Xena didn’t feel that was the right course of action. Iolas also offered to kill Hercules himself if indeed it was found for certain that Hercules had killed his wife. Xena didn’t believe for a moment that Iolas could go through with it. Iolas wasn’t so certain Xena could kill Hercules either, but Xena knew that she would if that was what should happen to resolve the situation. Yet Xena wasn’t convinced that was necessary. Xena was pretty certain of Ares’s involvement, but she didn’t think he had done it all alone. The murder plot was too complex for him to have done it all alone. Xena wanted to be able to flush out the accomplice. The warrior princess had devised a plan in which she would allow Hercules to go and turn himself in which was exactly what Iolas didn’t want his friend to do.
And so Xena’s plan was set in motion . Gabrielle had gone to fetch another bucket of water for Hercules. By the time the bard arrived back at the cave Iolas and Xena had already returned. Yet when Gabrielle returned moments behind them Hercules was nowhere to be found. Xena asked Gabrielle if she knew where Hercules was. Gabrielle explained that she had only been gone for a few moments. It was just long enough to fetch a pail of water. Iolas looked to Xena and was certain that his worst fear was becoming a reality. Hercules had gone to turn himself in. Then Gabrielle set down her full bucket of water and noticed that Xena’s sword was missing. The bard deduced that Hercules must have taken it. Xena looked to Iolas inquiring if Hercules might have wanted to take her sword to commit suicide. Iolas was certain that Hercules would never turn a sword on himself. Instead Iolas was convinced that Hercules would commit suicide by charging himself into overwhelming odds. Xena could understand that. Dying a warrior’s death would be a more noble resolution, especially for someone like Hercules.
Xena’s plan was now fully in motion. The three friends knew just where they would find Hercules so they grabbed their weapons, and prepared to return to the village where they expected he would be. When the three arrived back at the village Hercules was in the process of turning himself in to face his demons. Iolas shouted out to Hercules. The town mob began to approach, but Xena warned them to stay back unless they wanted to experience her wrath once more. The mob backed off at her warning. Iolas rushed to stop Hercules from jumping in, and taking on the mob alone, but Hercules was determined and certain that he had killed Serena. He was intent on doing what he felt was the right thing publicly. Suddenly, Iolas tried to convince Hercules that he was wrong in believing that he had killed his wife own wife. Iolas pleaded with Hercules to go back to their hide-out until they solved the murder. Instead Hercules drew his sword and jumped into a sword battle with Iolas. Though the legendary hero was gravely injured his natural strength and power allowed him to easily defeat his opponent knocking Iolas to the ground. Hercules seemingly went off of the deep end. Then Iolas recovered in the duel with a defensive move plunging his sword straight through the stomach of Hercules finishing off the battered hero. As Hercules seemingly took his last breath he uttered his last words proclaiming that his friend had killed him.
As Hercules fell to the ground Iolas was seemingly in shock at what he had unintentionally done. Xena responded in emotional anguish to the death of her once passionate lover. She attacked Iolas intending to punish him for her pain. She demanded, from within her passionate rage, that Iolas to get up and fight her. As their swords clashed violently before the village mob Gabrielle ran to the aid of the fallen hero to comfort him. The duel between the two friends turned sudden enemies did not last long. Xena quickly got the upper hand on Iolas with an elbow to the nose as she charge forward clashing her sword with his and then quickly thrusting it right through his chest. He gasped for his last breathes as Xena jerked her sword from his body and pushed him to the ground with her hand upon his face.
Then she looked wild-eyed to the village mob and asked them if they were ready to see more blood. It appeared that the warrior princess had taken a sudden turn back down the path of her blood-lust. The village mob was shaking with fear for the wrath they expected to come from the warrior princess at them. It was clear that they remembered the battle of Torrence years before. Just as the village army stepped forth to defend their people against the wrath of the warrior princess Ares, the god of war, appeared from within the crowd ecstatic with excitement. He congratulated the warrior princess on her performance against Hercules and his friend Iolas. Xena had defeated the legendary hero to the satisfaction of war.
Ares chucked as he approached Xena who with suspicion asked Ares what he was doing there with her. Ares proclaimed confidently and proudly that he had an interest in the situation that was unfolding. Xena held steady to form as she spoke out-loud the truth that Ares had planned the entire circumstance. Ares’s response to Xena was that he had to keep himself busily amused. Then Ares looked to Xena and explained that there was a way to bring the hero back if that was indeed what Xena wanted. Ares made his offer stating that all she had to do was come back to him, and to once again become his warrior queen alongside him where she belonged.
Xena was torn inside hoping to be able to bring forth the rest of the story in front of the village audience. She asked Ares how he had managed to take such a strong and honorable man to a place in which he could take part in the act of killing his own wife. Ares was sly and was not about to give up the full truth in front of an audience. He proclaimed that he would keep that little secret to himself. The god of war knew that he was in the better position with in this battle of wits against the warrior princess. He had not forgotten about how he had been defeated by Xena when he had tried to frame her for the murder of those innocent villagers. He wasn’t about to let the warrior princess defeat him again.
Just when it seemed that the warrior princess would have to choose between restoring the life and honor of Hercules or becoming a blood-thirsty warlord along side Ares again, someone came forth. It was a young god dressed in leather. He was a god that no one had ever seen before. He addressed Ares as his uncle explaining that he had used a Morpheus induced sleep upon Hercules in order to be able to slip by the hero while he did the deed. Xena looked to the young arrogant god and repeated the statement that he had killed Serena. The young god explained that it was indeed very easy for him to accomplish. Strife was proud of his accomplishment.
The village mob began to whisper within itself as Ares began to realize that he was losing control of the situation. He barked out that it did not matter who killed Serena. The fact was that Hercules was dead there before everyone, and if Xena wanted him returned to the living she would belong to Ares now. Xena looked to Ares as he proclaimed himself victorious over her and over his brother Hercules. Suddenly, a shout came from within the mortally wounded Hercules. Shocking the gathered village crowd, and everyone who was witness, Hercules seemingly rose from certain death to challenge Ares’s comment stating that finding his wife’s murderer mattered to him. As gasps fell through the crowd Hercules’s best friend suddenly rose from the dead as he moved to his feet alongside Hercules. Hercules pulled something from his torn sleeveless yellow shirt and revealed to all that he had been protected by a blood-filled goat skin. Xena smirked with delight knowing that her plan had succeeded in flushing out the true murderer of Hercules’s beloved wife Serena. She had publicly exonerated Hercules.
Suddenly, Hercules charged at the lesser god Strife enraged by Strife’s confession to Serena’s murder. Hercules, as all mortals, wanted vengeance against the one who had taken his wife from him. The legendary hero went for the throat taking down Strife with his heart’s anguish. Both man and god fell to the ground in the scuffle as a nearby wine barrel fell over onto Strife. Hercules was going in for the kill as he shook Strife attempting to strangle the immortal god. Strife struggled to fling Hercules off of him as the legendary hero rolled over some hay bales onto the ground. Strife then rose to his feet ready to take on the grieving enraged hero. Ares stood by watching appearing entertained yet disgusted at Strife’s inability to keep their little secret.
Hercules quickly recovered rising to his feet to charge at Strife again knocking the immortal to the ground once more. Then the hero shouted a command to the immortal demanding that Strife pick himself up to face Hercules for more punishment. Strife quickly rose to face the hero taking a powerful slap across the face from Hercules. Then Hercules sent a powerful punch into Strife’s jaw, and continued to pound Strife’s immortal body with his fury. He kicked Strife to the ground, but Strife rose to his feet from the blow with little effort as Hercules attempted to deliver an even more powerful kick to Strife’s skull. As Strife rose again he took a boot to face flipping over backward back to the ground.
That blow took Strife down hard and Strife attempted to quickly scurry away from Hercules’s rage on his hands and knees as he rolled over onto his back, and dragged himself to the aid of his uncle Ares. Strife whispered to Ares begging for his help in Hercules’s onslaught against him. Ares was not amused and disgusted at his inexperienced nephew. He grumbled under his breath reminding Strife that he too was a powerful god, and that he should use his powers against the now completely mortal Hercules. Hercules moved toward Strife for another attack as he raised his fist and threw another powerful punch at his wife’s killer. Strife had risen back to his feet and easily deflected Hercules’s mortal blow. Strife’s deflection of Hercules’s power was turned against Hercules as it became a punch of equal power sending Hercules flying across the village to the ground.
The hero was not used to being mortally wounded in such a battle and took the fall hard. One could see that he was still feeling the pain of his bleeding chest wound from the arrow and his dislocated shoulder as Hercules struggled to rise to his feet to face Strife once more. Strife yelled out against Hercules in triumph and then charged the hero with his newly recognized advantage. Strife kicked Hercules across his face as the hero was attempting to get up. Gabrielle looked to Xena as the hero fell hard. His new mortality was showing itself in exhaustion as the hero was losing his strength and stamina in the fight.
Strife reached down and grabbed Hercules from the back of his neck and began pounding the hero’s face violently into the ground. One could hear Hercules struggling as he grunted in agony at each blow Strife delivered to his mortal body. Strife then picked up Hercules’s body and thrust it even further across the village to the ground again. Ares looked pleased, but Xena could see that Hercules needed help. The hero needed her help, but she could see that he needed to win this fight on his own. Xena looked to Ares and demanded that he even up the fight god against god by returning Hercules’s powers to his brother. It wasn’t a fair fight and Ares had reneged on his deal with Hercules when he promised his brother eternal happiness with Serena in exchange for Hercules giving up his super-human strengths. Ares flatly refused stating that he was enjoying watching his brother’s suffering.
Gabrielle could see that Xena was deeply concerned for Hercules as Strife continued to abuse the legendary hero to death. Strife grabbed Hercules and slammed him into a barrel of wine. Hercules was now struggling to breathe and stay conscious. Iolas shouted out to Ares reminding the god of war that he had reneged on his deal. Ares defiantly admitted that he lied to his brother, but he didn’t care. If the god of war wasn’t going to get Xena back he would at least destroy the brother that he was so jealous of and retain his father Zeus’s greatest affections for himself. With Hercules out of his way he would become Zeus’s pride and joy. Ares then smiled, laughed, and continued watching his brother suffer. Strife began to jump upon Hercules’s chest attempting to collapse his lungs. Just when it seemed that Strife would finish off Hercules, a brave old man stepped out from the crowd and demanded that Ares play fair in this duel against his brother. The old man’s voice grabbed Strife’s attention and the mini-god stopped his onslaught stepping down from Hercules’s chest to see who was interrupting his show of power. Strife stepped away as if he knew the old man and respected him.
The crowd was quiet as the old man approached Hercules and offered both of his hands to the exhausted hero. Hercules attempted to rise to his feet, but then stretched his arms out to take the old man’s hands for assistance. As the old man took Hercules’s hands into his own there was a large bright ball of surging energy that appeared between the two men. The energy was powerful and electrifying. Hercules was regaining his super-human strength. As he rose to his feet his wounds instantly healed and then suddenly the old man morphed into a god. It was the most amazing sight. A powerfully wise elder man cloaked in a brilliant shiny silver elegance now stood before the village crowd. Zeus had appeared before all in the village to save his most beloved son Hercules from the wrath of his jealous son Ares. It was a miracle. Hercules was touched to see his father come to rescue him from certain death. The tender moment between father and son ended as Zeus stepped back and away from Hercules and Strife.
Hercules then looked to Strife realizing that Zeus was allowing him the opportunity to punish Strife for Serena’s death. Hercules looked to Strife ready to take down the lesser god. The fight was now even. Hercules took a swing and Strife ducked away, but Hercules countered with another punch to Strife’s chest effortlessly sending the mini-god into the air across the village. Strife screamed loudly and then plunged through a thatched roof into a village home. It created a loud thunderous crash. Gabrielle looked to Ares who appeared disgusted once again. Hercules charged across the village and entered the village home forcefully throwing the doors open. The brutal sounds of their battle could be heard coming from inside. Suddenly, Strife plunged back out of the village home through the wall into view of the village crowd. Strife attempted to scurry away once more as he felt for his feet beneath him to stand up again.
Hercules busted through the wall after him as Strife reached for a large ceramic water jug to use as a weapon. Strife reached back, and wound up to slam the jug into Hercules’s body. Hercules effortlessly blocked it with is gauntlet then disarmed Strife’s weapon twisting the mini-god’s arm. Strife’s body slammed toward the ground as Hercules flung the mini-god over his head and slammed Strife continuously upon the ground. Strife screamed loudly as he took the abuse from Hercules. The crowd was in awe as Hercules spun Strife’s body above his head and then threw him back to the ground with his rage. Hercules continued to disfigure Strife’s face with thunderous punches until the god of war had decided he had seen enough. Suddenly, Ares whipped up a ball of godly energy and flung it across the village like a lightning bolt. The bolt of energy sent Hercules falling backward onto the ground.
The villagers began to descend upon Strife as he lied upon the ground. Then Strife slowly rose up unable to stand, looked to the crowd and laughed maniacally. Then he disappeared in within a fiery ball light as his laughter echoed into silence. Hercules was not satisfied for he did not have his full justice against Serena’s killer. The hero rose to his feet and shouted out to his brother that their sibling rivalry would not end without Hercules receiving his retribution for Ares’s unfair deeds against him and wife Serena.
Ares agreed with Hercules angered that he had been exposed by both by the warrior princess and Strife’s inability to stay in the shadows. As the god of war rested his hand upon his sheathed sword he engulfed himself into a flame of power disappearing as triumphant laughter echoed in his wake. The all-powerful Zeus had seen enough as well. He quietly exited the village on foot. It was an invitation for his son Hercules to follow. Hercules looked confused and dissatisfied for he did not get his revenge or his satisfaction. The hero ran out of the village after his father to confront Zeus. Xena and Gabrielle moved to go after Hercules, but Iolas signaled that Hercules needed to face Zeus on his own.
Xena attempted to lighten the moment expressing that Iolas gave a good scream when she had thrust her sword through him. Iolas then looked to Xena and opened up his shirt. He showed Xena the mark she had left on him with her sword during their theatrical performance to expose Ares, and Serena’s true killer. The warrior princess laughed with pride as she joked that it was going to make a nice scar. Then Iolas complained that Xena had cut him a bit too close. He said that it was a little too real for his taste. Gabrielle chimed in defending Xena explaining to Iolas that it was the only way they could have made Iolas appear mortally wounded. Xena realized that she had to reassure even Iolas that she would never have killed him for real despite what she had done to him in their past.
Soon Hercules returned and Iolas quickly inquired about his private conversation with Zeus. Hercules walked ahead frustrated and asked Iolas not to be concerned with his dealings with his father. Iolas jumped ahead to join Hercules in an attempt to comfort his friend and sooth Hercules’s frustrations. When the bard and the warrior princess finally caught back up to Iolas, Hercules had gone to be alone. Iolas said that despite having exposed the real killer Hercules still blamed himself for allowing himself to marry the last of Serena’s kind. If Hercules hadn’t made the deal with Ares Serena would still be alive. That was what Hercules believed.
Gabrielle knew all too well what that felt like. It would be a pain that would never leave, but she was certain that Hercules would one day be able to learn to deal with the violent loss of his wife for Gabrielle had learned to live everyday with the loss of Perdicas. As the bard stood alongside the warrior princess and Iolas at Serena’s funeral by the water she felt Hercules’s pain. She looked on as the hero stood in solace over the stone grave of his beloved. He had lovingly built it and marked the spot upon which she would forever lie.
The bard listened to the warrior princess sing her beautiful song of farewell which was the song of the dead that those from Amphipolis would sing for those lost to us. Gabrielle was reminded of Perdicas’s funeral and how Xena had sung the beautifully moving chant for her beloved husband. Despite wanting to share Hercules’s grief with him Gabrielle knew that for Hercules grief had to be experienced alone. As the song ended into the silence of nature’s sounds Hercules placed Serena’s necklace upon her stone marker, and pounded it into the stone reminding all who would pass who lied beneath. She was the last of her kind, and so the three friends left Hercules behind within his solace so that he might quietly bade his sweet wife farewell. The bard was certain that one day they would be brought together again for death can never sever the power of love.