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

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll #54:  Surprise

October, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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