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

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll #58:  The Deliverer

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

January 46 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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