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

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#51:  The Furies

October, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #50: Judgement Day

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Judgement Day

Scroll #50

September, 47 B.C.

    The bond of friendship is a strong one.  As the bard Gabrielle had discovered it is stronger than the god Poseidon, and even death.  True friendship is driven by love, and the love that Gabrielle had for Xena, and Xena for Gabrielle was what brought them back together time and time again.  After having left Callisto and Velaska behind Xena opened up to Gabrielle in a way that she had never done before.  Xena had been reminded of her past during their time sailing the seas.  Though the memory of a past with Caesar of Rome had been painful it explained a lot about the warrior princess that Gabrielle had come to understand about her friend.   Xena explained that even more than the warlord Cortese it was her crossing paths with Julius Caesar of Rome whom had instilled into her the worst evil qualities and desires for blood-lust.

Xena had always been a secretive person, even with Gabrielle often times.  Since their earliest adventures together Xena, for the most part, kept her darkness from Gabrielle’s knowledge.  Yet after Xena had shared her story of betrayal by Julius Caesar of Rome, Xena began to share even more.  She explained to Gabrielle of how she had been informed by Hercules months before that he had found himself crossing paths with Callisto.  Hercules had sent Xena a message about it while she was visiting with King Lias two seasons before.

Suddenly, the bard realized that if it weren’t for that important message from Hercules Xena would not have been able to find the immortal Callisto to enlist her help against Velaska.  Gabrielle found herself torn about the idea that Xena had kept such a secret from her.  Although the bard had heard the story of Callisto escaping the underworld, and becoming an immortal before, it seemed as if it was something that bard should have been made privy to sooner.  It should have been Xena telling her and not strangers in a village tavern.  Xena began to explain why she had decided to withhold this information from the bard.

It was yet another secret that Xena had kept from Gabrielle, but Xena explained that it was only because the warrior princess wanted to spare her friend the pain of being reminded of what Callisto had done to Perdicas.   Hera had brought Callisto back from the dead in the hopes of wiping out Hercules and his family in exchange for escape from the underworld.  Callisto had wanted another shot at Xena after Xena had succeeded in defeating her yet again as she attempted to steal Xena’s body, family, and reputation of being a warrior who loves the common person.  Hearing that Xena had known all of this months before only made it more difficult for the bard to continue on her own path of enlightenment and forgiveness toward Callisto.  Listening to the story of the immortal Callisto only made the bard feel raw inside again.

As the two best friends sat together in the tavern for some dinner and relaxation they began to over-hear two drunkards speaking quite loudly and over all of the other voices inside the crowded tavern.  Xena and Gabrielle found themselves to be quite annoyed by their rambunctious behavior.  It was over the top and unnecessary.  The two men were talking about Hercules which was what caught the ears of both the warrior princess and the bard.  One of the men stated very loudly that he could not believe that the hero Hercules had gotten married.  Not only had he said Hercules was married, but that Hercules had given up his super-human strength to marry a deer.

Suddenly, the warrior princess had enough of their shenanigans.  She did not enjoy listening to two scum poke fun at her dear friend and former love.  It was a disgrace and they were defacing his name.  Hercules didn’t deserve that for all of his good deeds to humanity, and especially to Xena.

Xena had just found her new mission and she was ready to put out the raucous laughter and humiliating jokes.  As the warrior princess rose from her seat, and turned to confront the hoodlums she directed to them her curious question.  She asked them if in fact what they had said about Hercules having gotten married had been true.  One of the men answered her, but he answered her with yet another insult to Hercules.  He was so drunk that he couldn’t even distinguish a question from his own bad jokes.  He responded as if Xena weren’t even there as he pressed forward with his assault on the reputation of Hercules.

Suddenly, Xena turned back to Gabrielle after the man gleefully stated that Hercules had not only married a deer, but he had also given up his god-like powers to do it.  Xena commanded Gabrielle to rise from her place at the dinner table and declared that they were leaving immediately.  Though Gabrielle was slightly annoyed by Xena’s sudden need to leave the tavern she started to understand that there was more to it than Xena simply being annoyed at the drunkard’s insults.  Xena actually believed that there was truth in their drunken statements about Hercules.

Gabrielle was not laughing at the insults, but she was laughing in her heart having quickly realized that Xena actually still had romantic feelings and perhaps a bit of a passionate flame and attraction toward Hercules.  Xena bolted out the door of the tavern as Gabrielle grabbed her staff and exited not far behind.  Although it was refreshing for the bard to get out of the company of the obnoxious hoodlums.  She was slightly irritated that Xena was suddenly leaping at the excuse to go out and find Hercules after over six seasons since their last encounter.

There was a small part of the bard that understood Xena’s need to fill her passions, but the bard did not agree with any plan or idea that Xena might be having with in her warrior mind to perhaps talk the hero out of his decision to marry what was said to have been a deer.  The whole thing seemed ridiculous to the bard.  Even if it were true that Hercules had fallen in love with and married a deer the bard’s motive was in expressing to Xena that the warrior princess should clear any idea of meddling in the romantic affairs of the legendary hero.  The bard had learned pretty early in her travels with the warrior princess that meddling in the affairs of love could be dangerous.

If the man wanted to marry a deer who was Gabrielle or even Xena to criticize?  To the bard love was all about being happy and feeling at home with the one you loved most.  Gabrielle was certain that Xena was jealous and upset with Hercules for not having bothered to tell Xena about his wonderful news.  Xena scoffed at the bard for even thinking about scolding Xena for her feelings.  Xena attempted to play it cool, but Gabrielle knew better.  As Gabrielle continued the conversation Xena suddenly bolted ahead as if Gabrielle no longer existed.  Gabrielle could barely believe what she was witnessing unfolding.  Especially since only minutes before all of this Xena was pouring her heart out to the bard back inside the tavern.  It was as if they were making a certain break-through, and it had suddenly been interrupted by madness, and a certain warrior lust.

Then Xena untied Argo from the post, and moved quickly.  Gabrielle attempted to catch up to Xena as the warrior traveled with a sense of urgency toward the main road.  The bard shouted out to Xena to slow down, but to no avail.  Gabrielle asked Xena what the hurry was to reach her old flame.  She wasn’t so certain that rushing off to inform Hercules of the rumors floating about was all that important.  It felt as if Gabrielle were talking to herself.  As Gabrielle dashed down the road to catch up to Xena, the warrior suddenly halted on down the road upon Argo.  It was clear to the bard that Xena had made some kind of startling realization.  As Gabrielle caught up to Xena and Argo upon the road Xena calmly called upon Ares the God of War.

Ares appeared within an energetic fiery flash.  Gabrielle had never seen Ares do that before.  She had seen him as a mortal, and she had seen him transform shape from playing the role of Xena’s father morphing into himself, but never as a powerful flash of light.  The god of war appeared just down the dirt road before the warrior princess who sat upon Argo and smirked at Ares’s arrival.  It was as if the warrior princess had somehow sensed the god’s presence before he had even arrived.  The bard found it to be impressive warrior senses.  Even after traveling with Xena for this many seasons Gabrielle found her to still be full of surprises.

Ares was delighted and excited that the warrior princess had called upon him as he approached her.  With one hand upon his sword, which was sheathed in sleek black leather, Ares taunted the warrior princess about how she had just lost out on the love of her life to a deer.  He cackled loudly and boisterously over the topic.  Xena was clearly not amused by this.  As Ares stood there before her in his tight, sleek black leather warrior presence he expressed to Xena that despite his brother Hercules having rejected her he would be there for her.  Ares proclaimed, although he didn’t like to be second choice, he would graciously accept any passes or offers of love that Xena might want to make toward him.

It was clear to the bard, and obviously to Xena herself, that the extremely sexy, god of war was no more than a glorified whore.  Ares of course did not pretend to be anything else.  He pressed forward with his sales pitch, and laid it all out for the warrior princess.  He reminded her that they had once had a very hot, and heavy romance that involved some of the best wars and blood baths he had ever seen in the known world.  Ares then moved in closer to the warrior princess as if attempting to create some kind of irresistible sexual tension.   If the bard had not known Ares to be such a tricky adversary she might have found herself to be somewhat attracted to him herself.  The smell of his cologne permeated the surrounding air as if Zeus himself were standing there.

Ares reminded the warrior princess of how much Xena’s blood lust had once inspired him.  He balled up his fist, and flexed his enormous, exposed biceps as he delivered his passionately lustful speech of the warrior princess and her past successful bloody exploits alongside him.  Ares brought up a specific battle, the battle at Torrence, in which he had been extremely proud of their work together.  He described the battle as having been one of bloody limbs scattered everywhere upon the battlefield as Xena had led her army through her opponent’s infantry like flies.  The god of war proclaimed this battle to have been one of the most beautiful battles he had ever witnessed or had ever been a part of.  It was clear to the bard that Xena was disgusted and seemingly felt dirty as Ares jumped up on to the horse with her.  He started touching the warrior princess who was struggling against the urges toward him she seemingly felt.  Gabrielle feared that Ares was tapping in to Xena’s dark side and this Gabrielle wanted to avoid.  The bard cleared her throat loudly.

Ares then whispered into Xena’s ear, and pressed further into the warrior princess’s mind and into her emotions.  He told Xena that they could easily leave the irritating blond behind, but if the warrior princess absolutely needed her along for the ride he could always make a minor exception.  Then the god of war explained, as he whispered to the warrior princess, that this was his offer to her.  With that the god of war suddenly disappeared within his blue flame leaving the warrior princess to contemplate his offer.  Gabrielle could see that Xena’s mental wheels were spinning as she dissolved back into a thinking mind rather than one of raw emotion.  Gabrielle approached Xena and stepped in front of Argo upon the road.  The bard wanted to know what it was that had just happened between Xena and Ares.  She also wanted to know what was pressing through Xena’s warrior mind.

As Xena continued to travel down the road with the bard alongside her horse she explained to the bard that there had been a time in which she had partnered with Ares on the battlefield.  It was after she had partnered with Caesar.  Xena explained that she was confused during this time in her life, and that she had been through some very traumatic experiences.  Ares had come along, and sold himself as her savior and as the one who would help her pick up the pieces of her failed war campaigns up to that point.  He promised her that they would conquer the world together, and that they would defeat her worst enemy Julius Caesar.  The young warrior princess had bought into Ares’s persuasions back then, and that mistake had led her into the battle at Torrence.

Strangely, the battle of Torrence had taken place not far from where they were, and Xena decided to take Gabrielle there with her to see the destruction and devastation that Xena had left in her wake along side Ares.  As the two quietly walked through the empty battlefield they found it still littered with the bones of many corpses.  And as Ares had described, there were the bones of the limbs scattered everywhere severed from the rest of their bodies.  Gabrielle could see that her friend was disturbed to be reminded of this.  Traveling through Torrence might not have been something that had even occurred to the warrior princess before the conversation overheard in the tavern.  Now the mood was completely different.  Gabrielle was concerned for Xena, and had a difficult time believing that Xena could have ever been capable of such destruction, but Xena assured the bard that she had been.  Xena explained to the bard that this was the reason she had never wanted Gabrielle to experience what it was like to kill someone.  Gabrielle’s light had become Xena’s strength, guide, and moral compass.  Xena would do anything in her power to protect the bard from this path.

The two best friends and companions continued on through the rotted carnage left behind in near silence.  As they reached the opposite edge of the battlefield they could hear the sounds of a mob off in the distance.  Xena paused and held up her hand commanding the bard to stop, stay silent, and to listen.  As they listened Xena moved forward toward the tree line for a better observational position.  In most scenarios this might not have caught her attention, but as the bard followed she peered through the tree-line.

On the other side indeed there was a mob, and at the head of the mob was Iolas Hercules’s best friend.  Along with him was the local town magistrate of the village of Torrence.  The magistrate urged the mob forward as if they were on a mission.  He mentioned an argument that Hercules had with his new wife on the morning before.  Iolas responded explaining that his friend was seemingly not himself recently, and in fact, that the gods could be behind something.  Another village leader piped up, and stated that responsibility was of no consequence because it was clear that Hercules had become a danger to their community.  As the mob continued on by, Iolas stated that he was going in ahead of the mob to get Hercules.  Iolas explained that since he was Hercules’s friend that perhaps Hercules would listen to him and would get himself up out of bed.

As the mob passed by Gabrielle looked to Xena alarmed at what she had just heard.  Xena looked to Gabrielle, and cautiously instructed the bard to follow her into  the opposite direction along the tree line staying off of the village road.  The two continued to travel alongside the tree line following the village road into Torrence.  As they continued, and were a safe distance away from the mob, Gabrielle broke the silence and asked Xena what she thought that Iolas meant when he said that the gods might be behind whatever was going on with Hercules.

The warrior princess responded by explaining that she suspected Ares was behind whatever it was.  Ares only appeared to Xena when he was behind something or was up to something.  Xena suspected that it had something to do with Zeus because Ares had been wearing the essence of Zeus when had appeared to them on the road earlier that morning.  The warrior princess explained that the fact that Ares had mentioned the battle of Torrence, and the fact that he had mentioned Hercules’s new marriage could only mean that Ares had somehow set up his brother.  Xena explained how Ares had always been jealous of Zeus’s love for Hercules the half mortal son.  It was one of Ares’s motivations for teaming up with Xena in the beginning.  It was Ares who had sent Xena to kill Hercules in the past, but it was to the god of war’s detriment.  Thankfully it had led Xena to be defeated by Hercules who was the first person able to re-direct her path away from the darkness.

Gabrielle inquired if Xena was worried about Ares and what he was up to.  The warrior princess replied that she wasn’t all that concerned.  She explained that though Ares was conniving he almost always failed in the end because of his arrogance and over confidence.  Gabrielle chuckled at the thought that Xena was unconcerned about the god of war and his motives.  It appeared that Xena was still more interested in finding out more about Hercules and his new bride.  The bard then inquired again.  She wanted to know if Xena was at all concerned about why a mob was out to get Hercules.  Again, the warrior princess was seemingly not all that concerned.  Despite that she did not have any ideas as to why a mob would be after Hercules, and Xena was certain that Hercules could handle himself.  She still strongly felt that to get answers they would have to visit another tavern and preferably one in the nearby village of Torrence.

As the two friends continued following the path alongside the tree-line they heard the mob racing back up the main road just on the other side again.  They appeared to be even more angry than they had been on their way back down the other direction.  Xena and Gabrielle stopped and looked through tree-line, and there behind the mob was Iolas calling out to them attempting to explain why Hercules was not at home.  By this point it appeared that the mob had lost all faith in Iolas.  They nearly trampled over him as they were no longer interested in what Iolas had to say.  Iolas was easily pushed him aside as the mob marched on back toward the village.  Soon the mob had passed on down the path into the distance.  Quickly and with stealth Xena pulled Iolas off of the road and back into the trees alongside her and the bard.  Iolas seemed to be taken completely by surprise as Xena covered his mouth so that he would not give away her position with the bard.

Iolas was seemingly in a panic.  Gabrielle asked him what was going on, and inquired of why a village mob was searching for Hercules.  Xena uncovered his mouth and Iolas stated under his breath that he was glad to see both Xena and Gabrielle, but that they had to hurry and find Hercules.   Iolas said that Hercules was in trouble.  Gabrielle wanted to know what Iolas meant by that.  Iolas stated that Hercules had not been himself for the past several days.  Iolas stated that since Hercules had married his new wife Serena, and given up his half-god power to do it, he had become belligerent.  Xena didn’t understand why that would make Hercules unstable, and it certainly didn’t explain why the mob was after him.

Iolas continued explaining that when he had gone to visit Hercules earlier that morning he had found the legendary hero in a state of emotional shock.  Gabrielle wanted to know why Hercules was in shock.  Iolas stated that someone had murdered his new wife Serena.  Iolas explained that they had to hurry and catch up to the mob back in the village because Hercules was being accused of murder.  Iolas had been able to buy Hercules some time to escape allowing Hercules an opportunity to find his wife’s murderer.  Xena agreed with Iolas that it was important that they try to stay ahead of the mob in finding Hercules, but she felt that she and Gabrielle might have a better chance at flushing out the real culprit behind all of this which Xena suspected was Ares.

Ares, as always, Xena said, had shown her too many of his cards.  Xena mentioned that setting up Hercules for the murder of a mortal was Ares’s plan.  Murdering one of Zeus’s mortal creations was the highest sin Hercules could ever commit against his father Zeus.  The warrior princess explained that Zeus had only one rule when it came to Hercules.  No other god was permitted to punish his son except Zeus himself. Ares was very aware of this and was smart enough never to cross that line himself.  The only condition in which Zeus would allow Hercules to be judged, and punished by another god was if Hercules were to ever kill a mortal in cold blood.  Xena certainly did not believe that Hercules was capable of such an act.  Which was why she was certain that the god of war was behind it all somehow.  Yet she explained it was not Ares’s style to do the dirty work himself.

The warrior princess realized that they needed a quick simple plan to deal with the immediate situation.  She wasted no time in deciding what to do next.  Xena decided that the three friends would follow the mob back into the village of Torrence.  Iolas would go on ahead using Xena’s horse to try to find Hercules ahead of the mob.  Xena felt Hercules needed to be found and escorted to a safe place away from the danger it posed to him.  Once Xena and Gabrielle arrived at the village behind Iolas they would attempt to stay out of sight of the mob.  Xena and Gabrielle would only reveal their presence if necessary.  Iolas stated that at this point anyone who was thought to be an ally or a friend of Hercules would be in just as much danger.  Xena instructed Iolas not to worry as she urged him to get up on to her horse.  Iolas did so thanking Xena.  Then he raced off down the village road.  Xena and Gabrielle followed behind on foot as they dashed up the road behind him.

By the time Xena and Gabrielle had arrived there was a large fight brewing at the center of the village.  Iolas had already arrived, but the mob was holding him back from defending Hercules who appeared to be nursing an arrow wounded shoulder as the village mob beat him mercilessly.  Iolas was shouting out desperately to his friend helpless to stop the brutal beating.  As Xena and Gabrielle approached, Xena instructed Gabrielle to come into the fight after she found her moment to take on the mob while Gabrielle would flank them.  Gabrielle wasn’t so certain that she and Xena could take on an angry mob on their own, but it was going to have to happen because there was no time to waste.

The mob began to beat Iolas down to the ground as Hercules could no longer be seen within the pile of people beating on him.  Suddenly, a few local soldiers mixed up with the mob pulled him out of the pile of villagers and began to beat him with their weapons of war.  It went from wooden clubs to professional weapons in a hurry.  They thrust a large round weapon through his stomach knocking the wind out of him.  He was clearly in anguish as they were about to give him the death-blow.  Suddenly, that was the moment in which Xena chose to strike.  With her signature battle cry she entered into the fight, raised her mighty chakram, and aimed it right through the raised weapons of the mob.  Flipping through the village behind her chakram Xena had given Hercules just the opening he needed to rise from his defeat and fight back against his attackers.

Quickly Xena’s chakram sliced through the enemy weapons as Xena reunited with her chakram catching it at the end of her series of acrobatic flips.  Someone from the crowded mob shouted out her name as many of them ran from the mighty warrior princess in fear.  Gabrielle did not know if it was because of Xena’s many well-demonstrated skills in an instant or if it was her history with the village prior, but Xena brought fear with her as she battled on.  This was Gabrielle’s signal to enter the battle.  The bard charged in alongside Xena, Hercules, and Iolas to fight off the enemy.  A small band of local soldiers had been called in to deal with the situation, and as the mob dispersed they charged into battle against the four friends.

Though both Hercules and Iolas had been badly beaten by the mob already they rose with power in their charge against the small army.  Xena easily defended against her attacker as the bard pulled out her staff to defend against the power they faced.  Though Hercules had risen he had been overwhelmed by the pain of the shoulder injury as Gabrielle smacked her attacker to the ground with her staff.  When the bard gazed across the battle she saw Hercules was being beaten with weapons of war again as two soldiers held him defenseless.  Hercules was then kicked to the ground as Xena punched and smacked her way through the line to get to him.  Gabrielle flipped her staff around to regroup against the next approaching enemy soldier.  She smacked him in the stomach knocking the wind out of him as Iolas found a way to free himself from his over-sized opponent.  Iolas flipped his attacker from behind over his shoulder onto the ground.

With Xena enemy bodies were flying everywhere.  Her power and strength was amazingly displayed as she fought alongside Hercules who struggled to push himself back off of the ground again.  Xena and Gabrielle continued to defend him from as many attackers as they could knowing that he was now truly mortal and unable to handle the volume of attackers coming at him.  Iolas went to Hercules’s aid as another attacker came at Hercules.  Iolas threw off another soldier as Hercules’s weakness was becoming clear.  Hercules struggled to stay upon his feet as his legs collapsed beneath him and he grabbed for his injured shoulder.  Iolas attempted to catch Hercules’s fall, but the legendary hero fell hard.

The battle had been won by the four as Iolas’s concern for his friend was rising.  Hercules passed out as Iolas tried to talk to him, but both Xena and Gabrielle could see that Hercules was in serious condition.  Xena instructed Gabrielle to fetch Argo.  Gabrielle quickly moved back across the village toward Argo and quickly Xena instructed Iolas to help her hoist the body of the injured Hercules onto her horse.  The friends had to act quick and swift in order to get the legendary hero safely out-of-town.  As Xena jumped up on to her horse she instructed the bard to bring Iolas with her using Xena’s trail left behind to find them.  Xena knew of a safe place they could take Hercules until they could figure out what to do next.  Iolas was grateful for the help his friends offered him and to Hercules in their deepest time of need.  As Xena rode out-of-town with Hercules, Gabrielle knew Xena had just given her an unspoken command.  It was up to the battling bard and Iolas to find a way to cover their tracks so that they wouldn’t be followed when they rejoined Xena, Argo, and Hercules.

Once the four had reached one of Xena’s secret weapons storage caves from her days as a blood-thirsty warlord Xena removed the arrow shaft still lodged inside Hercules’s shoulder, cleaned out the wound, and then stitched it up.  Iolas stood by feeling helpless for his friend explaining that he had never seen Hercules in this bad of shape or ever to have taken such a beating.  Xena instructed the bard to hurry and get more water and bandages for Hercules.  Gabrielle handed Iolas a bowl with the medicinal contents that Xena had used to clean out the wound.  She quickly grabbed the water bucket and ran out of the secret cave hide-out.  As Gabrielle left the cave she overheard Xena give Iolas Hercules’s condition.  She stated to him that she was certain that his shoulder had been dislocated and he could have possibly fractured his skull.

Soon after the bard left the cave Iolas emerged within distressed silence.  As she was leaving the stream with her full bucket of water she saw him standing on the bank alone.  The bard called out to him asking if he was okay.   Iolas bravely and quietly replied that he was, but Gabrielle could see that he was upset.  As she passed him by with her bucket of water she decided to turn back to comfort her friend.  Gabrielle put her bucket of water down, approached Iolas and gently laid her hand upon his shoulder.  She explained that she knew Hercules would be okay.  Gabrielle went on to explain to Iolas of Xena, and how great the warrior princess’s battlefield medical knowledge was.  Iolas interrupted Gabrielle’s thought already knowing that about Xena himself.  Gabrielle inquired more about Iolas’s obvious and deep concern.

He hesitated, but then revealed to Gabrielle the true nature of the dire situation.  He gravely laid it out to the bard stating that Hercules was certain that he had killed his own wife Serena.  Iolas stated the evidence to Gabrielle explaining that when he went to visit Hercules earlier that morning, he himself had seen Hercules over the body of his wife with a bloody knife in his hand.  Gabrielle could understand Iolas’s shock in seeing his friend like that.  It made Gabrielle think of her stroll through the stale battle of Torrence that Xena had revealed to her earlier in the day.  It seemed that both she and Iolas had witnessed the darker side of their friends.  Gabrielle decided in that moment that Xena needed to be with Iolas to help comfort him.  The two of them needed to figure out who could have committed this awful crime.  Gabrielle could not believe for a moment that it was Hercules.  She recalled the time when Ares had framed Xena for the murder of three innocent villagers.  Gabrielle suspected that Xena was onto something when she had mentioned Ares having shown his cards when he appeared to them on the road just after they had left the tavern to visit Hercules.

When Gabrielle returned to the cave she could hear that Hercules had awakened.  He and Xena were having a heart-felt conversation.  Xena explained to him that she had come as soon as she had heard the news of Hercules’s new marriage.  Xena had wanted to come to share in his new-found happiness.  Hercules then revealed to Xena that his wife had been murdered.  Xena inquired of how it happened and of what Hercules knew about it.  Hercules explained that he had been having a strange violent nightmare and that the killer hadn’t even awakened him when he killed Serena.

For Xena this didn’t add up.  Hercules agreed that it did not make sense that he would not be awakened by the sounds of his wife being murdered in cold blood right next to him.  He explained to Xena that the sleep he was in was like no other he had experienced before.   Then Hercules tried to rise from his injury expressing that he was certain Ares must have had a part in all of it since it was Ares who had promised Hercules eternal happiness with Serena in exchange for Hercules giving up his immortal powers.  Xena was knew that Hercules was right, and was not surprised that Ares had reneged on his promise to his half-brother.  She scoffed at the idea that Ares could ever keep his word in any deal with anyone including his brother Hercules.

It was obvious that Hercules wasn’t even certain that he hadn’t killed Serena himself.  Xena instructed Hercules to rest before he attempted to face Ares again.  Gabrielle quietly entered the cave with her bucket of water.  She expressed to Xena her concern about Iolas and suggested Xena go out to talk with him.  Xena appeared to be annoyed at the situation because Xena suspected just what Gabrielle had suspected.  Ares was attempting to get his brother killed, and to regain Xena’s affections at the same time.  Xena handed something to Gabrielle as she was leaving the cave to speak to Iolas.  Gabrielle asked the warrior princess what it was.  Xena revealed that it was a goat skin, and that hopefully it would be something that would save Hercules’s life.

Gabrielle sat quietly next to Hercules.  It appeared that he was having another one of his nightmares as he tossed and turned.  He kept calling Serena’s name and telling her that it was all his fault.  Hercules was still fighting a fever and delirious as he went in and out of consciousness.  Gabrielle’s heart felt for him as he struggled with the demons he could not understand and could not find.  The bard could sense Hercules’s guilt as she sat beside him attempting to keep the legendary hero’s fever under control.  It seemed that Xena had been outside with Iolas for a very long time.  Iolas was in deep despair for his friend.  He didn’t want Hercules to suffer and did not want his friend’s good name to become tarnished.  Even if Hercules really did murder his wife in his sleep.

Iolas had made an offer to Xena.  He offered to turn himself in on behalf of Hercules for the murder.  Xena didn’t feel that was the right course of action.  Iolas also offered to kill Hercules himself if indeed it was found for certain that Hercules had killed his wife.  Xena didn’t believe for a moment that Iolas could go through with it.  Iolas wasn’t so certain Xena could kill Hercules either, but Xena knew that she would if that was what should happen to resolve the situation.  Yet Xena wasn’t convinced that was necessary.  Xena was pretty certain of Ares’s involvement, but she didn’t think he had done it all alone.  The murder plot was too complex for him to have done it all alone.  Xena wanted to be able to flush out the accomplice.  The warrior princess had devised a plan in which she would allow Hercules to go and turn himself in which was exactly what Iolas didn’t want his friend to do.

And so Xena’s plan was set in motion . Gabrielle had gone to fetch another bucket of water for Hercules.  By the time the bard arrived back at the cave Iolas and Xena had already returned.  Yet when Gabrielle returned moments behind them Hercules was nowhere to be found.  Xena asked Gabrielle if she knew where Hercules was.  Gabrielle explained that she had only been gone for a few moments.  It was just long enough to fetch a pail of water.  Iolas looked to Xena and was certain that his worst fear was becoming a reality.  Hercules had gone to turn himself in.  Then Gabrielle set down her full bucket of water and noticed that Xena’s sword was missing.  The bard deduced that Hercules must have taken it.  Xena looked to Iolas inquiring if Hercules might have wanted to take her sword to commit suicide.  Iolas was certain that Hercules would never turn a sword on himself.  Instead Iolas was convinced that Hercules would commit suicide by charging himself into overwhelming odds.  Xena could understand that.  Dying a warrior’s death would be a more noble resolution, especially for someone like Hercules.

Xena’s plan was now fully in motion.  The three friends knew just where they would find Hercules so they grabbed their weapons, and prepared to return to the village where they expected  he would be.  When the three arrived back at the village Hercules was in the process of  turning himself in to face his demons.  Iolas shouted out to Hercules.  The town mob began to approach, but Xena warned them to stay back unless they wanted to experience her wrath once more.  The mob backed off at her warning.  Iolas rushed to stop Hercules from jumping in, and taking on the mob alone, but Hercules was determined and certain that he had killed Serena.  He was intent on doing what he felt was the right thing publicly.  Suddenly, Iolas tried to convince Hercules that he was wrong in believing that he had killed his wife own wife.  Iolas pleaded with Hercules to go back to their hide-out until they solved the murder.  Instead Hercules drew his sword and jumped into a sword battle with Iolas.  Though the legendary hero was gravely injured his natural strength and power allowed him to easily defeat his opponent knocking Iolas to the ground.  Hercules seemingly went off of the deep end.  Then Iolas recovered in the duel with a defensive move plunging his sword straight through the stomach of Hercules finishing off the battered hero.  As Hercules seemingly took his last breath he uttered his last words proclaiming that his friend had killed him.

As Hercules fell to the ground Iolas was seemingly in shock at what he had unintentionally done.   Xena responded in emotional anguish to the death of her once passionate lover.  She attacked Iolas intending to punish him for her pain.  She demanded, from within her passionate rage, that Iolas to get up and fight her.  As their swords clashed violently before the village mob Gabrielle ran to the aid of the fallen hero to comfort him.  The duel between the two friends turned sudden enemies did not last long.  Xena quickly got the upper hand on Iolas with an elbow to the nose as she charge forward clashing her sword with his and then quickly thrusting it right through his chest.  He gasped for his last breathes as Xena jerked her sword from his body and pushed him to the ground with her hand upon his face.

Then she looked wild-eyed to the village mob and asked them if they were ready to see more blood.  It appeared that the warrior princess had taken a sudden turn back down the path of her blood-lust.  The village mob was shaking with fear for the wrath they expected to come from the warrior princess at them.  It was clear that they remembered the battle of Torrence years before.  Just as the village army stepped forth to defend their people against the wrath of the warrior princess Ares, the god of war, appeared from within the crowd ecstatic with excitement.  He congratulated the warrior princess on her performance against Hercules and his friend Iolas.  Xena had defeated the legendary hero to the satisfaction of war.

Ares chucked as he approached Xena who with suspicion asked Ares what he was doing there with her.  Ares proclaimed confidently and proudly that he had an interest in the situation that was unfolding.  Xena held steady to form as she spoke out-loud the truth that Ares had planned the entire circumstance.  Ares’s response to Xena was that he had to keep himself busily amused.  Then Ares looked to Xena and explained that there was a way to bring the hero back if that was indeed what Xena wanted.  Ares made his offer stating that all she had to do was come back to him, and to once again become his warrior queen alongside him where she belonged.

Xena was torn inside hoping to be able to bring forth the rest of the story in front of the village audience.  She asked Ares how he had managed to take such a strong and honorable man to a place in which he could take part in the act of killing his own wife.  Ares was sly and was not about to give up the full truth in front of an audience.  He proclaimed that he would keep that little secret to himself.  The god of war knew that he was in the better position with in this battle of wits against the warrior princess.  He had not forgotten about how he had been defeated by Xena when he had tried to frame her for the murder of those innocent villagers.  He wasn’t about to let the warrior princess defeat him again.

Just when it seemed that the warrior princess would have to choose between restoring the life and honor of Hercules or becoming a blood-thirsty warlord along side Ares again, someone came forth.  It was a young god dressed in leather.  He was a god that no one had ever seen before.  He addressed Ares as his uncle explaining that he had used a Morpheus induced sleep upon Hercules in order to be able to slip by the hero while he did the deed.  Xena looked to the young arrogant god and repeated the statement that he had killed Serena.  The young god explained that it was indeed very easy for him to accomplish.  Strife was proud of his accomplishment.

The village mob began to whisper within itself as Ares began to realize that he was losing control of the situation.  He barked out that it did not matter who killed Serena.  The fact was that Hercules was dead there before everyone, and if Xena wanted him returned to the living she would belong to Ares now.  Xena looked to Ares as he proclaimed himself victorious over her and over his brother Hercules.  Suddenly, a shout came from within the mortally wounded Hercules.  Shocking the gathered village crowd, and everyone who was witness, Hercules seemingly rose from certain death to challenge Ares’s comment stating that finding his wife’s murderer mattered to him.  As gasps fell through the crowd Hercules’s best friend suddenly rose from the dead as he moved to his feet alongside Hercules.  Hercules pulled something from his torn sleeveless yellow shirt and revealed to all that he had been protected by a blood-filled goat skin.  Xena smirked with delight knowing that her plan had succeeded in flushing out the true murderer of Hercules’s beloved wife Serena.  She had publicly exonerated Hercules.

Suddenly, Hercules charged at the lesser god Strife enraged by Strife’s confession to Serena’s murder.  Hercules, as all mortals, wanted vengeance against the one who had taken his wife from him.  The legendary hero went for the throat taking down Strife with his heart’s anguish.  Both man and god fell to the ground in the scuffle as a nearby wine barrel fell over onto Strife.  Hercules was going in for the kill as he shook Strife attempting to strangle the immortal god.  Strife struggled to fling Hercules off of him as the legendary hero rolled over some hay bales onto the ground.  Strife then rose to his feet ready to take on the grieving enraged hero.  Ares stood by watching appearing entertained yet disgusted at Strife’s inability to keep their little secret.

Hercules quickly recovered rising to his feet to charge at Strife again knocking the immortal to the ground once more.  Then the hero shouted a command to the immortal demanding that Strife pick himself up to face Hercules for more punishment.  Strife quickly rose to face the hero taking a powerful slap across the face from Hercules.  Then Hercules sent a powerful punch into Strife’s jaw, and continued to pound Strife’s immortal body with his fury.  He kicked Strife to the ground, but Strife rose to his feet from the blow with little effort as Hercules attempted to deliver an even more powerful kick to Strife’s skull.  As Strife rose again he took a boot to face flipping over backward back to the ground.

That blow took Strife down hard and Strife attempted to quickly scurry away from Hercules’s rage on his hands and knees as he rolled over onto his back, and dragged himself to the aid of his uncle Ares.  Strife whispered to Ares begging for his help in Hercules’s onslaught against him.  Ares was not amused and disgusted at his inexperienced nephew.  He grumbled under his breath reminding Strife that he too was a powerful god, and that he should use his powers against the now completely mortal Hercules.  Hercules moved toward Strife for another attack as he raised his fist and threw another powerful punch at his wife’s killer.  Strife had risen back to his feet and easily deflected Hercules’s mortal blow.  Strife’s deflection of Hercules’s power was turned against Hercules as it became a punch of equal power sending Hercules flying across the village to the ground.

The hero was not used to being mortally wounded in such a battle and took the fall hard.  One could see that he was still feeling the pain of his bleeding chest wound from the arrow and his dislocated shoulder as Hercules struggled to  rise to his feet to face Strife once more.  Strife yelled out against Hercules in triumph and then charged the hero with his newly recognized advantage.  Strife kicked Hercules across his face as the hero was attempting to get up.  Gabrielle looked to Xena as the hero fell hard.  His new mortality was showing itself in exhaustion as the hero was losing his strength and stamina in the fight.

Strife reached down and grabbed Hercules from the back of his neck and began pounding the hero’s face violently into the ground.  One could hear Hercules struggling as he grunted in agony at each blow Strife delivered to his mortal body.  Strife then picked up Hercules’s body and thrust it even further across the village to the ground again.  Ares looked pleased, but Xena could see that Hercules needed help.  The hero needed her help, but she could see that he needed to win this fight on his own.  Xena looked to Ares and demanded that he even up the fight god against god by returning Hercules’s powers to his brother.  It wasn’t a fair fight and Ares had reneged on his deal with Hercules when he promised his brother eternal happiness with Serena in exchange for Hercules giving up his super-human strengths.  Ares flatly refused stating that he was enjoying watching his brother’s suffering.

Gabrielle could see that Xena was deeply concerned for Hercules as Strife continued to abuse the legendary hero to death.  Strife grabbed Hercules and slammed him into a barrel of wine.  Hercules was now struggling to breathe and stay conscious.  Iolas shouted out to Ares reminding the god of war that he had reneged on his deal.  Ares defiantly admitted that he lied to his brother, but he didn’t care.  If the god of war wasn’t going to get Xena back he would at least destroy the brother that he was so jealous of and retain his father Zeus’s greatest affections for himself.  With Hercules out of his way he would become Zeus’s pride and joy.  Ares then smiled, laughed, and continued watching his brother suffer.  Strife began to jump upon Hercules’s chest attempting to collapse his lungs.  Just when it seemed that Strife would finish off Hercules, a brave old man stepped out from the crowd and demanded that Ares play fair in this duel against his brother.  The old man’s voice grabbed Strife’s attention and the mini-god stopped his onslaught stepping down from Hercules’s chest to see who was interrupting his show of power.  Strife stepped away as if he knew the old man and respected him.

The crowd was quiet as the old man approached Hercules and offered both of his hands to the exhausted hero.  Hercules attempted to rise to his feet, but then stretched his arms out to take the old man’s hands for assistance.  As the old man took Hercules’s hands into his own there was a large bright ball of surging energy that appeared between the two men.  The energy was powerful and electrifying.  Hercules was regaining his super-human strength.  As he rose to his feet his wounds instantly healed and then suddenly the old man morphed into a god.  It was the most amazing sight.  A powerfully wise elder man cloaked in a brilliant shiny silver elegance now stood before the village crowd.  Zeus had appeared before all in the village to save his most beloved son Hercules from the wrath of his jealous son Ares.  It was a miracle.  Hercules was touched to see his father come to rescue him from certain death.  The tender moment between father and son ended as Zeus stepped back and away from Hercules and Strife.

Hercules then looked to Strife realizing that Zeus was allowing him the opportunity to punish Strife for Serena’s death.  Hercules looked to Strife ready to take down the lesser god.  The fight was now even.  Hercules took a swing and Strife ducked away, but Hercules countered with another punch to Strife’s chest effortlessly sending the mini-god into the air across the village.  Strife screamed loudly and then plunged through a thatched roof into a village home.  It created a loud thunderous crash.  Gabrielle looked to Ares who appeared disgusted once again.  Hercules charged across the village and entered the village home forcefully throwing the doors open.  The brutal sounds of their battle could be heard coming from inside.  Suddenly, Strife plunged back out of the village home through the wall into view of the village crowd.  Strife attempted to scurry away once more as he felt for his feet beneath him to stand up again.

Hercules busted through the wall after him as Strife reached for a large ceramic water jug to use as a weapon.  Strife reached back, and wound up to slam the jug into Hercules’s body.  Hercules effortlessly blocked it with is gauntlet then disarmed Strife’s weapon twisting the mini-god’s arm.  Strife’s body slammed toward the ground as Hercules flung the mini-god over his head and slammed Strife continuously upon the ground.  Strife screamed loudly as he took the abuse from Hercules.  The crowd was in awe as Hercules spun Strife’s body above his head and then threw him back to the ground with his rage.  Hercules continued to disfigure Strife’s face with thunderous punches until the god of war had decided he had seen enough.  Suddenly, Ares whipped up a ball of godly energy and flung it across the village like a lightning bolt.  The bolt of energy sent Hercules falling backward onto the ground.

The villagers began to descend upon Strife as he lied upon the ground.  Then Strife slowly rose up unable to stand, looked to the crowd and laughed maniacally.  Then he disappeared in within a fiery ball light as his laughter echoed into silence.  Hercules was not satisfied for he did not have his full justice against Serena’s killer.  The hero rose to his feet and shouted out to his brother that their sibling rivalry would not end without Hercules receiving his retribution for Ares’s unfair deeds against him and wife Serena.

Ares agreed with Hercules angered that he had been exposed by both by the warrior princess and Strife’s inability to stay in the shadows.  As the god of war rested his hand upon his sheathed sword he engulfed himself into a flame of power disappearing as triumphant laughter echoed in his wake.  The all-powerful Zeus had seen enough as well.  He quietly exited the village on foot.  It was an invitation for his son Hercules to follow.  Hercules looked confused and dissatisfied for he did not get his revenge or his satisfaction.  The hero ran out of the village after his father to confront Zeus.  Xena and Gabrielle moved to go after Hercules, but Iolas signaled that Hercules needed to face Zeus on his own.

Xena attempted to lighten the moment expressing that Iolas gave a good scream when she had thrust her sword through him.  Iolas then looked to Xena and opened up his shirt.  He showed Xena the mark she had left on him with her sword during their theatrical performance to expose Ares, and Serena’s true killer.  The warrior princess laughed with pride as she joked that it was going to make a nice scar.  Then Iolas complained that Xena had cut him a bit too close.  He said that it was a little too real for his taste.  Gabrielle chimed in defending Xena explaining to Iolas that it was the only way they could have made Iolas appear mortally wounded.  Xena realized that she had to reassure even Iolas that she would never have killed him for real despite what she had done to him in their past.

Soon Hercules returned and Iolas quickly inquired about his private conversation with Zeus.  Hercules walked ahead frustrated and asked Iolas not to be concerned with his dealings with his father.  Iolas jumped ahead to join Hercules in an attempt to comfort his friend and sooth Hercules’s frustrations.  When the bard and the warrior princess finally caught back up to Iolas, Hercules had gone to be alone.  Iolas said that despite having exposed the real killer Hercules still blamed himself for allowing himself to marry the last of Serena’s kind.  If Hercules hadn’t made the deal with Ares Serena would still be alive.  That was what Hercules believed.

Gabrielle knew all too well what that felt like.  It would be a pain that would never leave, but she was certain that Hercules would one day be able to learn to deal with the violent loss of his wife for Gabrielle had learned to live everyday with the loss of Perdicas.  As the bard stood alongside the warrior princess and Iolas at Serena’s funeral by the water she felt Hercules’s pain.  She looked on as the hero stood in solace over the stone grave of his beloved.  He had lovingly built it and marked the spot upon which she would forever lie.

The bard listened to the warrior princess sing her beautiful song of farewell which was the song of the dead that those from Amphipolis would sing for those lost to us.  Gabrielle was reminded of Perdicas’s funeral and how Xena had sung the beautifully moving chant for her beloved husband.  Despite wanting to share Hercules’s grief with him Gabrielle knew that for Hercules grief had to be experienced alone.  As the song ended into the silence of nature’s sounds Hercules placed Serena’s necklace upon her stone marker, and pounded it into the stone reminding all who would pass who lied beneath.  She was the last of her kind, and so the three friends left Hercules behind within his solace so that he might quietly bade his sweet wife farewell.  The bard was certain that one day they would be brought together again for death can never sever the power of love.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #49: Destiny

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scrolls #49:  Destiny

September, 47 B.C.

3 months and 21 days since visiting Syra Callisto’s home.  3 months 13 days since Xena died at Mount Nestus.

We spend our lives trying to understand what our own true destinies will be.  Wading through the waters of the unknown we find ourselves often confused and drained within our spirits.  Though we do not consciously know our destinies there is always a part of us that holds the deepest truths within.  This confusion of destiny and of what direction the warrior princess was to travel had haunted her.  One day as she had found herself with Gabrielle near the place where Callisto was born.  She had taken Gabrielle with her to the valley where the village of Syra had once existed.  It was there that she had taken so many lives and tainted the spirit of one young girl.  The bard could read her friend well.  She could see how guilty Xena felt about the wrongs that had born upon Callisto’s most tragic loss of her family.

Gabrielle tried to comfort Xena.  She explained that though Xena had been the cause to Callisto’s own destiny Xena had changed.  Once a warrior of evil and of darkness, but now it was clear that Xena had turned toward light.  Gabrielle was proud of her friend and to see the ongoing growth that had been taking place within her friend’s spirit since their first day of meeting.  The bard was philosophical explaining that once Syra had been the location of great death and of awful destruction.  But on this day it had healed and it now held vibrant beautiful life once again.  Gabrielle knew that Xena’s soul could go through that same transformation for it had already begun on its journey.  Two winters had gone by since Xena and Gabrielle had begun their travels together.  Gabrielle was certain that they would share many more that way.

Then Xena spoke of how she needed to go down into the valley once more to confront the horrors of her past.  She hoped that there she would find the answers she seeked about her own destiny.  Gabrielle stood over the valley watching Xena disappear into the tranquility.  She waited patiently  for the warrior princess to return.  Gabrielle hoped that Xena would find the answers that she so desperately seeked.  The bard’s wait seemed endless.  And then after many moments had passed Gabrielle found herself kidnapped by a group of strange men.  They were almost not human and they did not speak the same language.  These people were of strange custom for they took Gabrielle to a sight not far from the valley into the woods.  There Gabrielle was tied to a relic which hung between two trees.  She was tied  alongside several young children.

The barbaric men prepared for a ceremony.  It seemed to be one of a sacrifice.  To whom they were sacrificing was not clear.  Maybe it was Hades for their relics surrounding the camp were of skeleton remains hanging from all of the trees about the camp.  In the center was a pile of wood, and rock.  There it seemed that they  would  place their fire.  As Gabrielle thought of how her situation would progress the warrior princess came storming into camp upon her trusty steed Argo.  She flipped off of her horse in style and was holding Gabrielle’s staff which had been robbed from her earlier.  Gabrielle watched as the warrior princess gracefully worked with the staff flipping it behind and over her shoulder then back around.  Xena used the staff long and swiped it across the two barbarians which stood between her and the victims.  Then she suddenly reached for her chakram and threw it cutting down every hanging relic and freeing all who were being held captive.  It was amazing the way that the chakram had sailed in a circular path across the site and then returned after one throw to the hand of the warrior princess.

Xena then called out to Gabrielle and instructed the bard to catch her weapon.  The warrior princess threw it across the battle to her sidekick.  Gabrielle used her most familiar and effective move.  She thrust the staff across grasping it firmly with both hands.  It moved forward and knocked down one of the enemies in front of her.  Then she used her favorite cross over move to rob the enemy of his balance.  Quickly the battling bard acted and took the other victims rushing them away from the heart of the battle and onto safety.  Xena stayed behind and continued on.  There were at least ten more barbarians to deal with and to disable.  She decided after fighting a handful of them that it would be better to finish the battle within a second location away from their relics.

She rejoined Gabrielle and the group only to urge the bard to keep moving.  And so the bard ran further down the path and just out of reach of the battle.  There she stopped to watch Xena finish the battle ready to step in just incase Xena needed her help.  Xena fought without her weapons.  She did her favorite running up the enemy’s chest move flipping and then kicking him to the face.  Xena quickly flipped into a tree above and then back down to surprise three more of the barbarians.  The warrior princess then finished off the rest of the group fighting in the center of a battle circle spinning quickly with agility as she punched and kicked through the lines.

As the battle neared its end one of the children from the group had stayed behind to watch Xena fight up close.  The blue-eyed boy could not resist the power of the warrior princess.  He emerged thinking that it was safe to rejoin his new found hero, but there was still a live barbarian ready to attack.  The barbarian took his knife and cut a rope hanging from a tree.  This released something deadly.  It was a large log swinging down out of the trees toward the helpless child.  Xena quickly acted and jumped in front of the young boy pushing him out of harm’s way.  But then it was too late.  The warrior princess was violently hit by the oncoming log which had gained momentum.  It slammed into her body and pushed her across the woods into a tree where she was crushed between the trunk and the log.

The remaining barbarians quickly approached their victim and Gabrielle knew that it was now that Xena needed her help.  Gabrielle entered into the battle slamming one of the barbarians from behind with her staff.  The blow had knocked him unconscious.  A second barbarian swung around behind the bard and jabbed her in the outer right thigh with his knife.  The blow sunk into the muscle quickly bringing sharp pain and cramping.  Gabrielle then took her staff and jabbed back as her leg gave out and she fell upon the injured warrior princess.  The battle had finally ended, but Xena was in terrible shape.  Gabrielle looked to her friend hoping that the damage had not been serious.  Yet it was obvious with blood running out of her ears, nose, and mouth that Xena was on the verge of being taken by death.

Gabrielle touched Xena’s face trying to revive her friend.  She called out to Xena whose eyes struggled to open.  Xena was aware that Gabrielle was there by her side as she struggled to instruct her friend where she must go.  Gabrielle was told that Xena had to be taken to Mount Nestus.  As Gabrielle tried to remember the way she was certain that it was too far to be reached in time.  With her injured leg Gabrielle knew that it would be nearly impossible to get her friend to Mount Nestus.  But Xena insisted barely within consciousness.  Gabrielle realized that she had to find a way to get Xena there.  No matter the pain or the danger Gabrielle had to take her friend to that far away place.  The bard whistled for Argo and then prepared a contraption using the relics and rubble from the barbarian camp.  Gabrielle and Argo then began their journey to save Xena’s life.

Xena had also begun a journey of her own.  It was a journey that would answer the question that she had been asking just before the battle against the barbarians.  It had all begun back in Amphipolis with Cortese’s brutal attack upon Xena’s village.  That day was one of many events that would shape Xena’s true destiny.  After losing her brother and many friends within that battle Xena made conquest her goal.  Yet it was conquest to protect her home rather than to conquer.  Though the young warrior princess had known early that in conquering one would more effectively protect her home.  The warrior princess had stolen and looted many villages along the way.  Syra had been one of them and sadly Xena’s army had burned it to the ground within its passion for conquests.  Certainly there were many riches to be gained, but there were also many enemies out there waiting to rob the young conqueror of her power.

After the events of Amphipolis and of Syra there was another day that connected Xena toward her destiny.  It was the day that her army had sacked the village of Nexous.  There they had obtained many riches yet they had also captured a soldier.  At the time he was of no identity yet he was dressed  well.  His armor was flashy and his defiance was hardly possible to overlook.  Xena’s soldier known as Tallus badgered the new captive for he felt the disrespect of the flashy soldier.  The captive did not submit to the fear which Tallis tried to overpower him with.  Instead the young soldier held onto defiance.  His confidence was amazing and intriguing.  He proclaimed to Tallus  that his capture was merely a barbarian.  This implied that Tallis was of less intelligence.  Tallis found himself offended and rose his sword after a beating did not faze the captive.  Just before he was to strike the captive Xena stepped in and saved the life of this most intriguing man.

He was of a different breed.  She had never seen someone so confident and so sure of who he was.  When asked why he did not even fear death the solider replied that he did not fear death for he knew what his true destiny would be.  Xena was taken by this answer and so she asked him what his certain destiny was.  And then the man revealed in a very forward manner that his destiny was to conquer the world.  The young warrior princess found herself slightly amused by this answer.   Then Xena explained to Tallus that they should not kill this soldier for he was a Roman nobleman and they could gain wealth from his capture.  She was certain that this man would fetch at least 20,000 dinars.  Suddenly the soldier intervened declaring that the Roman nobles would never believe that she had him within captivity if she asked for so little.  This bold ego driven soldier suggested a price of at least five times more than what Xena had suggested.  The warrior princess was again amused and sent Tallus off to be sure that the message sent would demand 100,000 dinars for this soldier’s release.  Though she was still intrigued and asked of a name from the self-proclaimed conqueror.  He then proudly spoke that his name was Caesar.  Julius Caesar he repeated with more conviction this time.  Xena shouted out to her comrades the name of the captive for the message.

Upon the next morning as she and her army set sail upon the seas.  They began to go through the riches which they had obtained the day before upon attacking Nexous.  One of Xena’s men opened a beautiful large chest and something emerged from it.  It was not gold, or diamonds.  This was a living person.  It was a skilled warrior.  The warrior was cloaked in disguise as he moved swiftly to take out his enemies.  He did not carry a single weapon only the power to disable.  His technique was to use pressure points.  No one could stop his wrath as he took down fifteen of Xena’s men.  He moved with speed, accuracy, and grace.  Xena had even fallen victim when she tried to take out this magnificent warrior.  The warrior princess was struck in the leg and unable to continue combat.

She watched as the warrior scaled to the top of the crow’s nest and just as the warrior swung onto the sails of the ship Xena threw two knives slicing through the fabric taking down the skilled warrior.  Her men quickly took control of the warrior as Xena rose from resting her paralyzed leg.  The warrior was then revealed to be a young woman.  She was beautiful and not of Greek heritage.  Caesar himself had been intrigued, but not impressed with her performance.  Just as Xena’s men were about to take the young girl’s life Xena halted her execution.  The girl pleaded for her life within her own language.  Caesar spoke to her presuming that Xena’s heart would spare the life of the lighting speed warrior.

Xena was again impressed by the nobleman.  He was highly intelligent and most definitely a future threat to her and her conquests.  This man was more educated, but had yet to prove that his skills matched those of the warrior princess.  She could see that both of these new captives could match her in a different way.  Each had skills that Xena seeked to obtain for herself.  The young Xena knew that she must learn from each of them their strengths.  And so she asked Caesar to tell the girl that her life would be spared if she would in exchange teach the warrior princess how to use the pressure points in battle.  Smoothly he spoke to the slave girl and then the girl spoke back agreeing to exchange her warrior skills for her life.

The girl was then escorted down into Xena’s cabin below awaiting a visit from the warrior princess.  As the crowd of men dispersed from the deck Xena again spoke with Caesar for she was still very intrigued with his certainty of knowing his destiny.  As they conversed he spoke to Xena with more knowledge.  He gave her more insight explaining how he had figured out the origins of the young warrior girl.  Caesar said that she was from the provinces of western Gaul.  He declared that there were three provinces in Gaul and that she spoke the Gaelic from the western province.  Caesar also revealed that the girl had probably originally been a stowaway from the land of the pharaohs for her light brown complexion gave away her birth place.  Rome was known for capturing people from the northern lands of Egypt to sell into slavery back in his own land.

Xena realized that indeed this Caesar had his entire life laid out before him.  Every detail had been mapped out within his intricate mind.  She was slightly jealous that someone could have that kind of greatness and power despite being a captive.  It was in that moment that Xena decided that she would get involved with Caesar.  Slyly she proclaimed that his next destiny of the moment would be to dine with her in her cabin later in the evening.  It was a lustful invitation as Caesar was freed from his binds.  And then she left him to contemplate her sinful beauty for it was clear that the young Xena enjoyed the sport of playing with a man’s heart.  It was a new challenge and a new conquest different from the ones she had always engaged in before.

Xena then went down to her cabin to learn from the warrior girl.  When she entered into her cabin Xena noticed that the girl was working to free herself and escape the chains of captivity.  It was obvious that she had done this many times before.  The girl had escaped slavery and been running from it her entire life.  Xena walked in so that the girl could see that she was present and watching the girl’s every move.  This slave girl expected punishment for all slaves were punished for attempting to escape.  But Xena was different.  She could see that the young girl was much more valuable as an ally fighting alongside her rather than in slavery.  Xena approached her fearful subject and then asked her softly to show her how to kill using the pressure points.  The girl showed Xena in silence, but spoke within her eyes.  She did not really want to show the warrior princess the power of pressure points.  Xena demanded that she show her upon her own neck for it was that point that could kill the enemy.  The pressure points in the legs and arms could only disable.  Xena wanted to bring fear into her enemies for they would be less likely to challenge someone they feared.  She had learned that from Cortese.

And so the slave girl did as she had been asked.  Reluctantly she quickly put the move of death upon Xena.  Xena was upset for her subject had done the move much too fast and she could not learn it if she could not truly see and feel it.  The young warrior princess asked her subject to take the move off and do it slower so that she could learn.  As Xena suffered her subject watched her suffer and did not move to release her.  It was as if the slave girl was irritated that Xena had wanted to kill rather than to defend.  Xena could see as her pain within grew that this girl contemplated taking her life for her decision.  Yet in the last moment the young girl took off the pressure and released Xena from death’s grip.

The warrior princess breathed heavily clutching her throat with relief.  She was disgusted with her subject for her clever joke.  And so Xena asked the subject to show her again, but this time on herself.  The young girl took Xena’s hand’s and placed her fingers upon the veins that would be shut down.  Quickly she pushed Xena’s fingers into the grooves of the neck and turned the pressure onto herself.  The feeling was a strange one yet Xena immediately felt the rush of power that it gave her.  She backed away from her subject and watched gleefully as the slave girl suffered and her fear rose.  Xena then contemplated allowing this girl to die for she had played such a cruel joke moments before.  Yet at the last moment Xena too decided that she would have mercy upon her subject.  She released the slave girl from death and declared that she too could play jokes.  That moment led to a most wonderful and loyal friendship between two young women though Xena had never known what the slave’s true name had been.  Xena had given her slave freedom, and her slave had given Xena the power to deliver fear.  It was an ironic twist.

Later that night Caesar finally came down into Xena’s cabin to exchange lustful excitement and passions with a young warrior princess.  He was intrigued by her looks for she was beautiful yet barbaric.  Xena was just the kind of person that Caesar felt he could never ally with.  Barbarians were the uncivilized beasts that he had to control and to conquer.  He had to add their lands to his own in order to build the ultimate empire for Rome.  Yet Caesar complemented Xena for the red dress she had stolen from another raid during her many conquests.  He realized that it was the only way that a barbarian would be able to obtain any kind of wealth or power.  It was unfortunate, but Caesar was not sympathetic.     xena_s2_destiny_dArc_653

Then Xena knew for certain that she wanted to ally with Caesar.  She offered him the opportunity to be a part of her army.  Xena dreamed of a conquest with Caesar for if she were united with his intelligence, charisma, and charm she and the people of Amphipolis would always be safe.  Caesar found her reasons for conquest interesting at best.  Her passions came from within her heart and all that she had done was to protect those that she loved with a few laughs along the way.  It was a reckless existence he thought, but then he was asked of his driving force.  Caesar then explained to Xena his desire to be great.  When Xena asked him what made a person great he explained that it was only achieved by a chosen few.  He knew for certain that he was to be great for it was part of his destiny.

Caesar’s confidence was dangerous, but it was what attracted the young warrior princess to him most.  The two shared in a passionate affair together for several months while Xena and her sailing army awaited payment from Rome for Caesar’s return.  And then one day their passions were separated for Rome came to retrieve its prize general.  As Caesar bade his farewells to Xena she asked him to promise that he would return to her.  Caesar promised his lover that he would indeed return to her in time.  As Xena watched her love leave her behind her heart-felt the pangs of separation.  Just as Ceasar left the shores to return to Rome he saluted his loving partner with an honorable Roman salute.  And then the warrior princess was certain that she would indeed see her friend again.     xena_s2_destiny_dArc_727

Many seasons went by as the ebb and flow of life for the warrior princess and her army continued on.  They continued their lustful conquests conquering Syra along the way and many other helpless villages.  And after each conquest she and her army would return to sea sailing within the tranquility of Poseidson’s ocean.  And then the day finally came when Xena’s separation was no more for her love had returned to her as promised.  The young warrior princess’s heart leapt with joy for she would be with Caesar once again.  Her aimless life of conquering others was seemingly over for she would be a part of something that would build an empire.  It was in the night that Caesar returned.  Xena and her young warrior friend stood upon the bow of the ship as Xena watched him returning to her.  Her excitement clouded her mind as her friend warned her of Caesar’s true intentions.  Yet Xena was certain that Caesar would never go against her for they were in love.

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     Finally Caesar’s great ship docked with Xena’s and the two found themselves face to face once again.  The moment was silent and long for neither moved toward the other.  There was almost a slight tension in the air as one of Xena’s men drew his sword.  But Xena insisted that Caesar was indeed their friend.  Then slowly the two approached one another as all watched their reunion.  Xena’s heart felt a powerful love within it.  She had so much to give and so much to do for her lover.  There was total admiration and she was prepared to sacrifice for him.  When they finally approached they looked into each other’s eyes and prepared to share in a passionate kiss.  Caesar gently moved for his lover and then as their lips were about to touch he drew his dagger and took Xena into his custody.  He ordered his men to fire upon Xena’s army and to  kill them all.  This battle of betrayal ended quickly for without Xena’s leadership her army was helpless against the powerful Romans.

As Caesar prepared to take Xena and her army away he had not been able to find the young slave girl.  When he asked Xena of her loyal friend she declared that her friend had betrayed her and she had been killed.  It was a punishment fit for the crime and Xena’s heart was now broken for she had been betrayed by her passionate lover.  Caesar did admit that he indeed had feelings for the warrior princess during their affair before, but his feelings were stronger for Rome.  His love for Rome outweighed his lust for the warrior princess.

As Xena’s dreams revisited her earliest past Gabrielle and Argo had finally reached the Strymon river, but Gabrielle did not know where to go beyond there.  She was uncertain if Mount Nestus was north or south of the Strymon.  The bard desperately tried to bring her friend to consciousness long enough to find out which direction they must travel.  It was clear that Xena was delirious.  Gabrielle was also finding herself tired and weary for her injured leg was slowing them down.  Despite the pain and the exhaustion Gabrielle finally continued on north of the Strymon with Argo leading the way.

Of course Xena’s dream had not ended.  On the morning following Xena’s capture she and her army were taken to the same beaches where she and Caesar had parted before.  Caesar had prepared 135 crosses to kill every last man within Xena’s army.  They were all tied and ready to be escorted to their deaths.  As Caesar admired his work alongside his officer Brutus he explained to him that in order to defeat a woman such as Xena one had to divide her passions from her senses.  He called this technique divide and conquer.  He had taken Xena’s heart and separated it from her mind leaving the young warrior princess helpless against his wrath.

Then he approached Xena as she was strung up to her cross and sent into the air to suffer.  She suffered inside and now he was going to kill her.  So wounded now Xena wanted to die for if love wasn’t real then life wasn’t worth living.  Caesar then gave the order to break her legs for it would be the fate of all who had conquered alongside Xena.  The Roman soldiers sent the mallet crashing into Xena’s legs disabling then forever and robbing her of all that she had ever been given in life.  Her pain was so great that her soul became numb.  And once each man’s legs were broken Caesar and his men left them all to die.

Yet there was a force of goodness left for late into the night Xena’ s loyal friend broke into camp and took out the few Roman guards left behind by Caesar’s army.  She did not kill them for her power was never used in that way.  The young girl then freed Xena from her binds and certain death for a second time and took the weakened warrior princess to the top of Mount Nestus.  There Xena was greeted with kindness by a healer named Niklio.  Nicklio quickly went to work on the injured woman for her legs had been shattered.  The skilled healer reset the broken bone fragments as he spoke the name of the slave girl upon his lips.  For the first time Xena knew who her loving friend was.  Her name was M’Lila and though Xena was torn apart inside her hope was restored for a moment.  Her loyal friend had been the truth of love while Ceasar had been the betraying love.  For several days Xena was cared for by Nicklio and M’Lila as Caesar’s men searched for the escape barbarian.

Nicklio found himself impressed by Xena’s ability to heal for her body was gaining strength faster than he had anticipated.  His healing techniques were in using special needles to bring the feeling back to the damaged limbs and feet.  As Xena’s body was healing so too was her heart for M’Lila was there to love the broken warrior.  M’Lila stayed by Xena’ s side as the warrior princess recuperated and though they did not speak the same language their loyalty and love for one another held their souls together.  Yet even love alone could not defeat the darkness of conquest for it came back to haunt the warrior princess.

Just before she was to return to full strength Caesar’s Roman guard had found her.  They burst into the home of Nicklio and began their wrath of destruction.  Nicklio was knocked unconscious as the Roman’s prepared to take Xena’s life.  One of them held a small cross-bow and aimed for the warrior princess.  But M’Lila’s loyalty was so great for her friend that she sacrificed her own life for that of the warrior princess.  Xena held her friend in her arms as M’Lila passed onto the world beyond leaving Xena behind.  Upon the death of goodness came the birth of hatred.

Xena the warrior princess then fought with vengeance against the intruding Roman soldiers.  She killed them all without mercy and gave the last man a signature death using the moves taught to her by the deceased M’Lila.  As the last Roman solider perished within his last 30 seconds Xena declared the birth of her own darkness with a new purpose in life.  It’s purpose would be the total destruction of the world for it held nothing, but darkness.

Finally, Gabrielle and Argo had reached the top of Mount Nestus.  It was late in the night and cold.  Snow fell upon the ground softly as the bard collapsed with exhaustion and physical pain.  She could barely move when Argo continued on pulling the body of the warrior princess forward toward the healing house.  Gabrielle rose from her anguish and continued forward finally reaching Nicklio’s door.  She desperately knocked hoping that someone would answer her cries for help.

The door finally opened and it was Nicklio.  He recognized the warrior princess and knelt down to observe her state of health.  Gabrielle could only beg and plead with him for it was obvious that Xena was indeed in bad shape.  The bard knew that her friend was close to death despite her own hypothermic illness.  Nicklio quickly brought the body of the warrior princess inside who was barely breathing.  Gabrielle continued to plead with Nicklio to do something for her friend.  But Nicklio refused to do anything for Xena for it was only Gabrielle that he could tend to now.  And as Nicklio aided the bard in repairing her injured leg and restoring her body temperature to normal Gabrielle watched her friend.  Her nerves would not allow her to sit still and her heart could not stop feeling the need to help Xena.

Finally Gabrielle was able to return to Xena’s side.  Nicklio knew that Xena was going to die, but Gabrielle had not yet accepted this fate for her friend.  She could not accept that Xena would leave her behind alone.  Gabrielle for the first time was feeling very lost inside.  A part of her was seemingly separating itself.  As the desperate bard tried to revive her friend she begged for Xena to wake up again, but the lifeless warrior princess was now gone.  She demanded that Nicklio do something, but he looked to the bard regretfully unable to rescue her from her pain.  Gabrielle sobbed uncontrollably unable to regain composure.  She cried on by Xena’s side for hours waiting, but Xena had already gone.

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The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #43: Been There…Done That

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#43:  Been There…Done That

April, 47 B.C.

        If today was actually yesterday for the warrior princess then for all others today is today because no one else can remember that yesterday was actually today.  Is it the furies?  No.  Has baby bliss escaped cupid’s attention again?  No.  It seems that the warrior princess has been suffering from some type of stress which has caused her to go bonkers it would appear.  Despite all of these thoughts and ideas the bard of Potedia had decided that she will tell the story as told by the warrior princess herself.  However, going against the first rule of the bard’s scrolls Gabrielle can not write what she knows for the following events did not actually occur within her own reality. 

       On the first time today occurred for the warrior princess she awoke within the village horse stables to the sound of a rooster crowing.  Just as she would come out of slumber sitting up slowly the stable door would open allowing the bright sunrise to blind her eyes.  This would cause Xena to try to block the sudden brightness with her hand.  She found this rather annoying, but what always made it worse was that the person who would enter after the door opened was Joxer.  He would shout out at the top of his joyful lungs that it was time for everyone to rise and to shine.  Joxer would repeat this statement twice everytime.  The warrior princess would begin to reach for her wrist plates realizing that it was time to get up anyway.  Just about that moment Gabrielle would be grumpy and defiant of Joxer’s interruption of slumber.  She would comment that she would rise, but she would never shine.  Then Joxer would declare that he had fetched breakfast for everyone.  His choice was not anyone’s favorite and no one ever appeared to get very excited about goose eggs.  The idiot would hold out his great find triumphantly and in the next moment it would happen.  A large horseshoe would seemingly fall out of the sky and knock the idiot squarely on the forehead.  It would bounce off of his forehead and into his hat full of goose eggs.  The chain reaction would cause his goose eggs to spladder all over his face which would amuse both Xena and the bard everytime it happened.

      There would be a long pause as Xena would look up to see where the horseshoe came from and there in the stable loft would be a Menos stableman who would hope that he had not hit anything.  Xena would never comment on this, but Gabrielle would always state that it was nothing important.  Then both Xena and Gabrielle would rise dusting off the hay that they had slept in the night before.  Xena would ask the stabbleman where she could get shoes for her horse.  The stableman would answer that the Likos blacksmith across town could do it, but he wouldn’t be able to shoe Xena’s horse.  Then he continued explaining that he could shoe Xena’s horse, but he would not be able to pick up the shoes for the blacksmith was from a rival house.  Xena would have to pick up the shoes and bring them back to the stable herself.  The warrior princess stated that she thought this to be ridiculous, but it was just another minor annoyance like Joxer. 

     Then Xena would leave the stables with Gabrielle and Joxer to go seek out the blacksmith for the horseshoes.  Gabrielle would attempt to find a way to ditch Joxer.  The warrior princess was aware of how the bard was not so fond of having the extra travel companion.  For Xena he was annoying and in the way, but these were minor issues to her.  Gabrielle would always try to trick Joxer into going to get some more goose eggs to replace the ones that had been ruined by the falling horseshoe.  She would begin by telling Xena she was going to get the eggs.  Joxer would then beg to go with her.  He would always tell Gabrielle that retrieving goose eggs was a task too dangerous to accomplish alone.  Then Gabrielle would agree with Joxer and say that Xena should go get the eggs.  The bard was really hoping to stick Xena with Joxer while she could enjoy a pieceful morning without his company.  It had been a few weeks of putting up with his antics.  Everyone’s nerves were shot.  This could explain Xena’s repeating day. 

     Despite that the conversation would continue with Joxer feeling as if the bard were insulting his warrior talents.  Joxer would whine about how he had been the one who had retrieved the first batch of goose eggs.  Xena could see that Joxer was desparate to prove himself and impress Gabrielle.  If he could be more warriorlike he was certain that he would get his prize.  The warrior princess knew that Gabrielle was definitely not into Joxer that way, but it was an entertaining exchange.  Joxer would turn off of the path and walk up a set of stairs ranting to himself about being the man to send on a goose egg hunt.  Then he would nearly fall off the side of the village walls before realizing that he had not been paying attention.   Xena was certain that he was lovestruck for Gabrielle.  Gabrielle just liked to point out Joxer’s mishaps.  She was not about to be replaced by the idiot as Xena’s sidekick.  Then Joxer would calmly walk back down the steps and suggest to everyone that he would take the safer surface streets to accomplish his important goose egg mission. 

     Gabrielle would be delighted that she had succeeded in sending him away as she and Xena would be at peace without his presence.  Xena would then ask her what she was going to do when Joxer came back with goose eggs beyond her wildest dreams.  Gabrielle did not like goose eggs.  Gabrielle would never think that far ahead with her plan and her response was always a laugh at Xena’s question.  Just before the bard would have time to think about her comeback the conversation would be interrupted by two men in the town square having an argument.  On the first day Xena only heard the beginning of the argument.  Tybolis demanded of the Menos house where they learned to drive their carts.  The Likos man would respond saying regretfully that he had heard about Caska and that it was a terrible accident.  Tybolis then aggressively approached  the young Menos gentleman and he would push for the duel certain that there were no accidents between the two houses.  On the first day Xena drug Gabrielle away from the fight on down the street for she was not going to get involved in this personal issue between two men.  She sensed that it was going to get ugly and though Gabrielle was fascinated Xena would not allow the bard to dwell on it. 

     Xena then turned the corner with Gabrielle hearing the men draw their weapons and one of them apparently did not want to fight.  It was none of Xena’s concern so she moved on alongside Gabrielle as they looked for the blacksmith who could sell Xena some shoes for Argo.  Neither Xena nor Gabrielle exchanged any words.  It appeared to the warrior princess that even Gabrielle had picked up the art of paying attention to one’s surroundings no matter how insignificant.  Xena heard the other man respond in the distance demanding that his rival defend himself.  There was the clashing of swords and then there was the voice of a third man.  It was Joxer who interjected.  Xena heard Joxer state the names of both houses and ask them candidly what was in a name.  Before Xena could think her body acted as she grabbed Gabrielle without thinking and both of them turned to stop Joxer from making a mistake.  The warrior princess was certain of the consequences of getting involved in a family fued.  Joxer the idiot had just put himself in mortal danger and he wasn’t capable of defending himself against it. 

     As Xena dashed around the corner and gazed down the street she saw the two dueling men standing with their swords resting and Joxer standing in the middle of them.  There was not a sound and all was silent as Xena shouted his name across the street.  As she approached the motionless Joxer the two dueling men began to sheath their weapons.  It appeared that Joxer had succeeded at stopping the duel which was odd to the warrior princess.  Then Xena heard Gabrielle call out to Joxer as she approached the scene behind the warrior princess.  In that moment Xena noticed that Joxer had been mortally wounded as Gabrielle suggested with concern in her voice that she thought that Joxer had gone to get the goose eggs.  It appeared that Gabrielle was about to scold Joxer for his stupidity, but Xena realized that there would be no scolding this time.  She was uncertain of how Gabrielle would take Joxer’s death.  Xena was lost for words. 

Xena turned to Gabrielle as the bard approached.  Then Joxer turned around slowly to face Gabrielle as if he wanted to apologize for getting wounded.  Xena watched helplessly as Gabrielle could suddenly see the gaping hole through Joxer’s stomach.  It was bleeding a lot.  Joxer was in shock as he looked to Gabrielle and then looked at his hand as if he could not speak.  Then his eyes rolled back into his head as he began to fall into Gabrielle’s arms.  The bard could not support Joxer’s limp weight as she fell to the ground with his lifeless body.  She called his name again as they fell together and then picked his head up and put it into her lap.  Xena could see that now Gabrielle was in shock over this sudden unexpected loss.  Gabrielle spoke softly to Joxer hoping to bring him back into consciousness, but Xena knew that he was gone.  The bard patted his face gently attempting to wake him from death’s grip, but there was nothing that could be done to save him now.  Gabrielle began to cry as tears rolled down her face.  Xena looked down upon Joxer and then into her friend’s eyes with regret.  The warrior princess knew that she should have gone back to get Joxer as soon as she sensed the trouble between the two houses.  If being more careful would have saved both of her friends the warrior princess would have gladly done it over again.

      Xena hurt inside for Gabrielle’s pain over the loss.  The warrior princess and the bard spent the rest of the day preparing a funeral fire for Joxer.  Argo’s shoes seemed unimportant now.  They would have to wait for a better day.  By the time the sun began to set Xena, Argo, and Gabrielle had left town.  They had built a beautiful funeral fire upon the lake where they laid Joxer to rest.  Xena sang her beautiful funeral song.  It was the song she had sung for Marcus she said.  As Xena had finished singing alongside Gabrielle the bard looked to her friend and spoke of her guilt.  Gabrielle blamed herself for Joxer’s death for she had been the one who had sent him away to search for goose eggs that she hadn’t even wanted.  The warrior princess wanted to ease her friend’s guilt explaining that Joxer had died a hero just the way he had always wanted to die.  There was no one to blame for the warrior princess knew that because of Joxer’s death he had stopped a family fued from errupting into a death nightmare for an entire town. 

      Xena sensed someone was watching them within their grief.  She looked back into the brush in the distance.  It was lit up by the fire.  She noticed that there was a young couple standing there.  They seemed saddened for the loss of Joxer despite having not known him.  Xena noted within her mind that she had seen the young girl earlier back in the street.  Joxer had saved her lover from his own death.  It seemed they were appreciative of Joxer’s sacrifice.  Xena then looked to Gabrielle and embraced her friend suggesting that they get some rest.  Gabrielle was doubtful that she would be able to sleep through her heavy grief.  Xena would not allow Gabrielle to continue to blame herself.  The warrior princess was well aware of her friend’s heavy conscience.  Xena laid down with Gabrielle and continued to embrace her friend.  It was obvious to the warrior princess that her friend was emotionally exhausted as she stroked Gabrielle’s hair softly.  Gabrielle snuggled up next to her friend closer.  The bard touched the warrior princess softly as if trying to hold onto what she had left within the moment.  Xena softly spoke to her friend whispering to her to sleep for in the morning the pain would hurt less.  The warrior princess only hoped that she would be able to help Gabrielle through the guilt.  It would be a rough task.  The friends fell into sleep together to the sound of the crackling funeral fire. 

      Suddenly there was that familiar irritating sound of a rooster crowing in the morning.  Xena’s eyes popped open.  Her first thought directed itself into figuring out why there would be a rooster in the middle of the woods.  Then she looked around and focased in noticing that she was waking up in the stables.  The warrior princess was not certain if she was even awake for she had fallen into slumber in the woods the day before.  Then the warrior princess rose and stuck her hand into the hay attempting to awaken Gabrielle.  She needed to know that she was truly awake.  Xena spoke Gabrielle’s name,  but didn’t get a response.  Her hand could not even find the bard within the pile of hay.  Then the door creeked open again as the sunlight blinded the warrior princess like the day before.  Her body reacted as it had the day before as her hand rose to block the sunlight from her eyes.  Joxer appeared again repeating twice the statement to rise and shine just like yesterday.  Xena was in shock and extremely confused by this.  Nothing made sense yet everything was exactly like yesterday. 

       It didn’t matter as long as Joxer was alive.  The warrior princess jumped up with excitement as she spoke Joxer’s name.  She repeated his name stating the facts.  He should have been dead according to what had transpired on the day before.  Joxer’s response was candid as usual.  He said that he should have died a thousand deaths.  Then he hyped himself up as usual explaining that he had skill and nerves of steel.  Xena did not care as long as he had not died.  She grabbed him joyfully and gave him a friendly head rub as if he were Lycious her little brother.  The warrior princes suddenly felt playful and light as a child.  She pretended to play fight him only to find that Joxer was confused by her behavior so she decided that she had better explain.  The warrior princess began to tell Joxer the tale of her dream as Gabrielle began to rise up slowly out of the hay  from her slumber.  Then the bard said exactly what she had said in the dream about rising and refusing to shine.  Joxer responded to Gabrielle gleefully again telling everyone about his goose eggs.  Xena realized that there was more to her dream than she could understand.  She pushed Joxer and commanded him to step back for she was certain that the horseshoe falling out of the sky would come next. 

     Joxer complained about Xena’s response to the goose eggs and told her she didn’t have to eat the goose eggs.  Then the horseshoe fell only this time it fell onto Joxer’s toes which caused him to drop his hat full of eggs onto the ground as he grabbed his foot in pain and hopped about.  Then the stabbleman appeared as before and hoped that he had not hit anything.  Xena realized that she had not dreamed the events of yesterday because yesterday had really happened.  Gabrielle responded by saying that the stableman had not hit anything important and so the day began again.  Xena decided that she had better tell everyone what had happened, but no one seemed to remember.  Even Gabrielle had seemingly forgotten about yesterday.  Joxer appeared pleased that he was a hero as he continued to hype himself up.

      Xena led the group down the street again for she still needed horseshoes for Argo.  As they walked Joxer continued to talk about his warrior senses as he juggled Argo’s old shoes despite tripping over his own feet.  As usual Gabrielle ignored his attempts at swooning her.  The bard was more interested in Xena’s dream which was no surprise to the warrior princess.  Both Gabrielle and Xena stepped over Joxer who was face down on the ground now.  Gabrielle suggested to Xena that her dream may have been a vision.  Xena was certain that it was more than a vision for the experience for her had been too real to dismiss in that way.  The warrior princess thought that it was more likely for Gabrielle to have a vision than herself.  As the two thought of the riddle before them Joxer interjected that it might be his own dream that they were within.  Xena continued to wrack her mind with the evidence of the riddle as Gabrielle had grow annoyed with Joxer.  She began pinching the idiot carelessly battering his confidence as she often did.  The bard asked Joxer if he could feel her pinching him as he cried out in pain.  He responded with an affirmation and then Gabrielle walked away proving her point to him that he was not dreaming. 

      Then Gabrielle rejoined Xena up ahead confirming with Xena that she had actually forgotten all of the events of the previous day.  Xena turned around frustrated with Gabrielle for she had not just forgotten.  The warrior princess was certain that none of the events of the previous had happened to anyone, but her.  Gabrielle’s response was typical as she stated the facts.  If the day before had never happened then what was there to forget.  Xena realized that Gabrielle had a point, but she wasn’t quite sure how to elaborate further to come to an understanding with her friend.  Xena sensed that Gabrielle thought she might be going crazy, but Xena was certain that she was not crazy.  She reiterated that today did happen.  Gabrielle argued with Xena that today had not happened yet.  Xena’s frustration with her new situation was growing.  She insisted to her friends that today had happened to her despite everyone’s lack of knowledge.  Gabrielle responded by stating that today was yesterday.  Xena explained that it wasn’t yesterday, but the other today.  Xena felt that maybe Gabrielle was beginning to understand despite this breakdown in communication.  The bard was smarter than she had thought. 

      Then Gabrielle put it all together within one statement.  She said that today was actually yesterday for Xena, but for the rest of the world today was today because no one could remember that yesterday was today.  Xena was impressed as she gave the affirmation that Gabrielle’s complex jumble of words explained it all.  Just when Xena was certain that she was getting somewhere within the conversation Gabrielle said that she still didn’t understand what Xena was saying.  Xena could not believe it, but then it got worse.  Joxer interjected a thought.  He suggested that maybe everyone’s reality was just in someone else’s head and that the other someone was making up their day and their lives.  Everyone was quiet for a moment and Joxer was excited for he thought that he had made sense, but he hadn’t.  Xena wrote off Joxer’s idea and resorted to asking Gabrielle again why she couldn’t remember Joxer’s death.  That was the most real part of the day to Xena.  It was too emotionally painful to have been a dream, or a vision, or something other than a real day. 

      She decided that a description of the event might jar a memory from with the bard.  Xena spoke of the sword plunging through Joxer’s heart into his chest which was covered with blood as his eyes stared blankly into the sky.  Gabrielle just appeared more puzzled as Xena continued her description.  Joxer appeared appaulled by all of this as he imagined himself within this scenario.  He gabbed his chest and almost fainted in the exact same way Xena had witnessed it the day before.  Gabrielle had been there too, but she didn’t seem to be able to recall the experience in the slightest.  Joxer had fallen to the ground by this point as Xena continued hoping to remind Gabrielle of the beautiful funeral they had prepared for Joxer.  Gabrielle had cried for Joxer as Joxer stood back up excited at the idea that the bard could have an emotional response to his death.  The bard appeared very frustrated with Xena for the warrior princess was so certain that Gabrielle had experienced things that to Gabrielle had never happened.  Gabrielle was so irritated at Xena and Joxer that she couldn’t remember these things about herself.  She decided to give up on trying to relate to Xena and suggested that she would go get her own goose eggs for the road.  Joxer decided that he would go with Gabrielle, but Xena stopped everyone.  She was not about to screw up the day again.  The warrior princess was determined to keep Joxer from getting killed, and Gabrielle from having to feel guilty about it.  Xena decided that all of them would stick together for the day to avoid the tragedy that was certain to happen if they did not.

      Then the Likos, Menos duel began to fire up right on queue.  Joxer responded remembering this part of the story from earlier as he looked to the two friends.  He could not believe that they would think that he would be stupid enough to step into the middle of a feud.  Gabrielle did not hesitate to answer with an affirmation as Xena agreed with her from personal experience.  Xena decided that she had better stop the duel herself as Joxer had the day before.  His death had prevented an all out family war.  She instructed Gabrielle and Joxer to go wait for her in the alley.  Joxer complained citing that he was Joxer the Mighty and that he did not need to go to an alley to be protected.  Gabrielle followed Xena’s order as she usually did without question.  That was the one thing Xena could count on from the bard if nothing else.  Xena approached the dueling men as they went through their argument word by familiar word. 

      Just as Xena was stopping one fight she heard another beginning in the alley behind her. That was where Joxer and Gabrielle and gone.  Swords were unshealthed as Gabrielle’s voice shouted out reacting to the scene.  Someone accused Joxer of insulting his house.    Xena heard Joxer’s voice again as he mentioned Menos and Likos and stated what was in a name.  Xena turned around to notice that the entire town was gathering at the corner near the alley.  She was irritated now for she had to hurry if she was going to save her friends.  Both were certain to die today.  She cursed herself as she flipped into action.  The crowd was larger than on the day before.  It was blocking her from running into the alley.  She flipped over the crowd for it was her only option as she gave her battle cry and landed right into the middle of the duel.  Yet she was too late for the next things he saw was a sword plunging into one of the strangers in the duel.  It was an unpleasant sight even for a seasoned warrior. 

     Xena quickly snapped out of that moment as she heard another man state that the other family was hiring mercenaries to do its killing.  The other older gentleman responded coldly as he denied that his family would hire mercenaries to do a job that they would gladly do themselves.  The other man responded back declaring that they were now at a full scale war.  His enemy was not disappointed at the declaration as the two older men drew their swords preparing to duel each other.  Xena decided that it must be the family feud that was meant to be stopped.  She drew her weapon and apologized for her action in advance.  The warrior princess kicked the weapons of the dueling parties and then destroyed them as the fell to the ground.  No one was going to duel anymore if she could stop it.  Everyone appeared confused at Xena’s actions, but the warrior princess was certain that stopping the family war and saving Joxer were the things she needed to do to get out of this terrible day. 

      Xena commanded everyone to go home until they could learn to get along.  One of the elders was unhappy about her interference.  He did not know Xena, but did not much care for her.  The man had written her off as a sworn enemy.  He declared that she was now with the other side despite Xena’s having no relation to either house what so ever.  This posed a new problem.  The warrior princess realized that the three of them would have to be extremely cautious for the rest of the day as long as they were still in town.  They had become part of the fued unwillingly.  As Xena watched the people of the family who lost another to the feud she felt sadness knowing that she could have saved him if she had just stuck to her original plan of staying together at all times.  Trying to stop the original feud meant nothing.  Suddenly Gabrielle expressed her amazement at Xena’s predictions.  She could not believe how exact Xena’s description of the events had been.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that her second chance to save Joxer had succeeded.  Joxer interjected with confidence that he had the situation under control, but if he had then no one would have died.  Someone did die.  Xena made her concerns for their safety known reminding everyone that they were now the enemy.  Every step made would have to be made with care.  Joxer seemed to be unaware of the seriousness as he always was. 

    After retrieving the new shoes for Argo from the blacksmith Xena, Joxer, and Gabrielle returned to the stable.  Gabrielle was certain that they would be free from the wrath of the village feud as soon as they had returned, but it turned out to be wrong.  Xena saw the stableboy had been seriously wounded as he lay struggling outside the door.  When Xena asked him what had happened he only said that he would not tell them which horse was hers.  Xena was afraid of what she might hear next as he explained regretfully that the rival house had killed all of the horses in the stable.  Xena quickly entered the stable calling out to her horse.  Her eyes scanned the scene of devastation to find that her worst fears were confirmed.  Argo her beautiful faithful horse was lying on the floor of the stable in a pool of blood.  She had been killed by a sword plunged through her heart just like all of the other horses.  Xena’s emotions ran high.  This time she was the one who had broken down as Gabrielle and Joxer tried to comfort her. 

     The three of them prepared a beautiful funeral fire for Argo in the lake as Xena had described for Joxer.  There was a lot of silence for the rest of the evening as Xena sat before the camp fire trying to figure out what went wrong.  Somehow there had to be a solution in which the day would end and no one would die.  Xena desparately wanted today to end, but she hoped for today again so that she could do it over again to save both Joxer and Argo.  As Gabrielle stood silent watching her friend suffer inside Joxer felt the guilt this time.  He told Xena that if the day did repeat again he would not want Xena to save him instead of Argo.  Joxer was offering his life to Xena if that was what would save her horse.  His gesture was of a true friend.  This was what Xena loved most about Joxer.  She did not blame him for the death of her horse.  If she had not tried to stop three duels no one would have tried to destroy her horse. 

     On the third day Xena awoke again with the rooster crowing.  She rose and looked about the stable and saw Argo’s beautiful eyes staring back at her lovingly.  Xena called to her horse, but just as she did the door swung open again, the beams of sunlight blinded her and Joxer appeared cheerfully with his goose eggs.  Gabrielle slowly rose from the dead of sleep complaining about rising and refusing to shine.  Xena asked Joxer to move.  The idiot was confused and asked why he should move.  Xena just commanded him to move again.  Again Joxer defied her order.  That was his problem.  Xena realized that his defiance of command and constant questioning of her authority was the reason he had died in the first place.  She decided that he could just get another horseshoe on the head.  He would have to learn the hard way.  Again the horseshoe knocked him on the head, but this time Xena noticed something different.  When his head had fallen into the goose eggs in his hat one had actually gone into his mouth which he spit out.  He looked a little goofy. 

     Then the Likos stableman hoped he didn’t hit anyone.  It was the same exact morning as the previous two.  She had not succeeded in moving forward to the next day.  All Xena could do was run through everyone’s predictable words out loud.  She was trying to figure out if there were any obvious clues with in action or words.  Both Gabrielle and Joxer again looked at Xena astonished by her insights.  Xena had to go through the entire story again for the second time to get everyone up to speed.  Again the bard thought Xena was losing it.  As they walked toward the blacksmith shop the conversation continued.  Gabrielle suggested that it might be a poison dart causing Xena to have these delusions.  Xena insisted that it was not her.  The day was just repeating itself.  Gabrielle’s response was sarcastic as she responded by telling the warrior princess that she hated when days repeated themselves.  It was obvious to Xena that Gabrielle did not believe her.  Xena needed Gabrielle’s help if she were going to solve the riddle, but she was beginning to realize that spending precious time to explain everything everyday was getting to be a pain.  She was certain now that she had to stop the village from itself.  Xena was repeating the day because she had to prevent the war. 

      The warrior princess was certain that only something that she could control was causing the day to repeat itself.  Gabrielle just reached out to her friend checking her for illness certain that Xena was going off the deep end over stress.  Then Gabrielle asked her what she thought made her so important.  Xena was extremely irritated with Gabrielle’s disrespect.  The bard was grouchy from having been awakened too soon.  That she could blame on Joxer as Xena swatted Gabrielle’s hands away in frustration.  No one could remember yesterday’s version of today or of two yesterdays.  Gabrielle wanted to calm Xena down, but didn’t know how as Joxer interjected another one of his idiodic ideas.  The good thing was that he agreed that Xena might be onto something with the feud.  Joxer was certain that he had the solution that would end it all.  He said the enemy of his enemy was his friend. 

      Xena was certain that if Gabrielle didn’t agree about the events of repeating days then she would at least agree that Joxer was insane too.  Joxer just smiled and waited for approval from everyone.  Gabrielle’s sarcasm shifted back to Joxer and away from Xena.  She asked him who the enemy might be although everyone knew the answer to that question.  Joxer did not dissapoint with his response.  He said that the three friends were the enemy.  Joxer continued to describe his master plan.  First they would all declare that they were the enemy and get the houses to unite.  Once the two houses were united then they could throw down their weapons and everyone could join one another in peace.  Joxer was disappointed when no one approved of his idea.  He was certain it would work reminding the friends that they often bonded over their mutual hatred of him.  Joxer hugged everyone as Gabrielle agreed with his last point.  Xena agreed with it too, but Joxer’s plan was not the way to stop the fight.  She felt that the only way to stop this nasty feud was to diffuse it at the source before it started.   Xena had to figure out how to break the cycle. 

       Just as the warrior princess was wracking her brain with all of the details she had learned so far she heard a man shout out the name Miron.  The man had been looking for him.  It was the same initial duel that kicked everything into motion everyday.  It always happened just as the three friends were passing by toward the black smith shop.  Xena listened more closely this time for she needed to know the details of the root of this fight.  She heard the insult about the Menos not being able to drive a cart again and then she heard the name Caska as clear as day.  Caska had to be the answer and the solution.  Xena was certain that she had to learn more about Caska so that she could save him, ending the duel for no one would have any reason to fight.  This would end the feud, the fighting, and create a day without a bloodbath.  Xena was relieved for she finally had her answer. 

     On the fourth morning Xena had never gone to sleep.  She had stayed up all night just to see if maybe she could keep the day from happening if she never went to sleep.  Anything was worth a try, but the sun rose, the rooster crowed, and Joxer opened the door to the stable again.  Xena decided her next course of action was to save Caska.  She jumped up from the hay bowled right through Joxer as if he weren’t even there and dashed out the door of the stable.  The warrior princess had been wasting precious time explaining herself to people who could never remember yesterday anyway.  She was determined to use her time wisely today.  As Xena approached the main road she heard the sounds of hooves, and a creaky cart.  She glanced across the street and saw an old man moving slowly with a walking stick.  It was obvious that he could not hear the approaching traffic or the three women who were screaming his name from across the street.  There was not enough time for Xena to save him unless she flipped out into the street and yanked him out of the path of the horse drawn cart.  Xena did it without another thought and saved Caska from the oncoming traffic.  He appeared to be startled, but soon noticed that his hat had fallen into the road and been run over by the Menos cart.  The warrior princess felt as if she had finally succeeded in stopping the outbreak of violence with this simple act.  She asked Caska if he were okay, but Caska could not even hear her from a breath away.  Xena repeated the question a little louder and more slowly.  Caska finally answered that he was okay, but instead of being thankful that he had survived he appeared more disoriented and extremely upset about the wreckless Menos driver who had run over his hat with the horse cart.  Xena was amazed at these seemingly clueless families.  She watched Caska grumpily pick up his hat and shake his fist at the Menos driver. 

       Xena decided that her work was done for the moment, but there was still the problem of getting Argo’s shoes.  She also knew that by the time she returned to the stable both Joxer and Gabrielle would be awake.  When she returned they were bickering probably because Gabrielle hated goose eggs and Joxer had ripped her from her blissful dream state.  Gabrielle’s first question to Xena was where she had gone.  Xena decided they had an entire day to kill so she told her story of the three yesterdays again and of what had transpired so far today.  As they walked through the town Gabrielle seemed confused like on every other morning for she could not grasp or remember that the same day had happened to Xena four times now.  She asked if Xena really did wake up in the stable every morning.  Xena confirmed with little excitement that this was true as Joxer continued to juggle Argo’s horseshoes which was what had started the fight that caused the Likos man to die on the second yesterday.  Joxer interjected his idiotic thoughts again suggesting that he help Xena stay up all night so that the day could not happen again.  Then Joxer began to sing his irritating sleep song to the warrior princess who was extremely tired and grouchy by this point.  She had already tried that and obviously it did not stop the day from repeating itself. 

     Xena could not take it anymore.  She snapped at Joxer although she felt the need to thank him for his attempts at helping her solve the problem for his idea had not been a bad one it just didn’t work.  Then Xena continued to express her frustrations to her friends stating that she had felt as if she had tried everything.  Despite her efforts it was still today.  Gabrielle interjected with her usual confusion trying to make sense of everything that made no sense.  Just before Gabrielle could ask Xena who she thought could be causing her the trouble Xena stated that it was not Ares, the fates, or something that she had eaten for Gabrielle had asked her all of those questions on the previous days.  Xena also knew that Gabrielle would ask her if poison darts were the cause or baccae bites for that would be Joxer’s next question.  Gabrielle would try to ask more questions, but they were always the same and Xena was tired of hearing the same questions everyday that only she knew the answers to.  Gabrielle looked to her friend frustrated that she could not get a word in when Joxer asked the first new question.  He asked if Xena had a hicky on her neck.  The warrior princess was surprised at Joxer’s observations, but ignored them.  She grabbed Gabrielle by the arm and gave her the facts.  Whether Gabrielle was going to believe her today or not Xena was certain that it had all happened before.  Xena then finished her statement explaining that she hoped by saving Caska today would finally end.

     Just then Xena heard Tybolis shout out to Miron the young Menos boy that was becoming quite familiar to the warrior princess.  Tybolis said angerly that he had been looking for Miron.  His next statement was new.  He demanded that Miron keep his eyes off of his cousin for she wanted nothing to do with Miron.  It appeared that the family feud was far worse than Xena had realized for it seemed that these young men would find any little excuse to fight one another.  Xena spoke her thoughts outloud to Gabrielle and Joxer who both were still unconvinced of Xena’s experiences.  The warrior princess turned her attention back to the fight for she wanted to see what else was different now that she had saved Caska.  Miron responded with more anger and force this time than at any other previous fight.  He was emotionally attatched to Tybolis’s cousin.  Miron pushed Tybolis across the square and asked him to allow his cousin to make her own decisions.  At that point the duel was on as the men drew their weapons with the passion for killing each other over a silly love affair. 

     Xena kept thinking outloud explaining that it would take more than saving Caska to end the hatred the Likos and Menos houses had for one another.  In the next moment Joxer interjected another one of his lame ideas.  He started babbling on again about the enemy of his enemy being his friend.  Before he could finish the desparate screams of a young woman came from across the street on the other side of the duel.  Xena observed this realizing that she must be the cousin and the lover.  As the duel continued Xena suddenly realized that she had to stop the fight for Tybolis had the advantage of strength and experience.  He would most certainly kill Miron in a matter of moments which wouldn’t be good for anyone.  Xena comanded Gabrielle to get Joxer to safety and pushed them toward the alley.  Joxer complained about not wanting to go to the alley again and then Xena mad her move into the middle of the fight  She walked straight for the swords and pushed them down.  Then Xena punched Miron sending him to the ground and kicked Tybolis down.  Xena looked up when she heard Joxer declare that he was a warrior as she watched her friends round the corner into the alley.  Suddenly Xena realized that she had made another mistake.  She had allowed herself to get separated from Gabrielle, and Joxer sending them straight into the second duel.

    As Xena began to dash toward the second duel she heard Gabrielle shout out to Joxer attempting to stop him from making the same idiotic mistake he had made on the second day.  Just as Xena rounded the corner she witnessed a new tragedy.  There standing at the end of the alley was Joxer, the two rival houses, and Gabrielle.  The bard was audibly struggling for her last breath as Xena watched the Likos man release his sword from her stomach.  As the sword slid out and Gabrielle’s stomach gaped open with blood flowing red Xena shouted out to her friend panicked.  Xena quickly approached the scene of the battle only this time it was Joxer who had survived to collapse in emotional shock.  He fell to the ground with Gabrielle’s limp body as she fought death’s grip, but could not hold on.  Gabrielle’s eyes rolled back and then stared blankly into the sky as Xena held her friend’s lifeless body helpless to save the bard now.  Xena was hurting and feeling the real emotional pain of her new loss as was Joxer, but the warrior princess promised Joxer that it would be alright.  The day would most certainly repeat itself for Xena was certain that this was not the outcome the fates had written for Gabrielle.  Xena looked about fighting the emotional anguish in her heart.  Her soul was ripping away as was Joxer’s.  The day ended with a funeral fire like on the first and the second yesterdays only it was Gabrielle who had died this time.  Again Joxer expressed his guilt for Gabrielle’s death offering his life to the warrior princess in exchange for Gabrielle.  The two fell asleep to the sounds of the crackling funeral fire and the warmth of its flames.

    Five times the rooster crowed and Xena awoke from her slumber.  The reality if Xena’s fresh loss was still with her as she sat up from within the pile of hay.  It took a moment for Xena to realize that she was back at the stable again.  Then she slowly looked over and reached into the hay hoping that she would find Gabrielle alive and well.  There was a person underneath and it felt like Gabrielle.  It wasn’t until Xena could hear the sound of Gabrielle’s yawning voice that she was certain that it was today again and that Gabrielle had not died.  The warrior princess stood up and reached deep into the pile of hay.  She pulled the limp body of her friend out of its slumber and hugged Gabrielle tightly with delight.  There was so much to be thankful for and Xena was overwhelmed with joy and relief.  Gabrielle was disoriented by this sudden rush of emotion coming from within the warrior princess.  Joxer opened the door again, but before he could finish telling everyone to rise and shine he noticed the joy and wanted to share it with his friends.  His goose eggs went onto the floor along with his hat as he shouted out at the top of his voice his desire to join everyone in happieness.  His face broke a large goofy smile as he swept both Xena and Gabrielle up into his arms.  Her embrace of Gabrielle had turned into a love fest free for all.  Gabrielle was annoyed and expressed it openly to Joxer.  For a moment Xena did not care, but then she realized that she had to pull herself together.  The warrior princess kicked him off like a fly, but he returned as if unphased by the rejection.  Next the horseshoe fell again knocking him upon his head.

    Again Xena went through the entire scenario as the three friends walked through the town on the way to the blacksmith shop.  The warrior princess was so frustrated with her personal hades that she began just going over the details of the day without trying to convince Gabrielle who would never be convinced of the repeating day she could not remember.  Joxer always offered his insights and though they were idiotic Xena was desparate to try anything.  On the fifth morning he suggested that the rooster was Xena’s problem.  Xena had never remembered him saying that before, but that was because she would normally ignore Joxer.  Today would not allow her to ignore anyone or any small detail.  She could not afford that luxury anymore and so on the sixth morning Xena had stayed up all night again so that she could kill the rooster with her chackram at sunrise.  Once that was done Xena decided to sleep the day away since there was nothing more she could do to stop it from happening.

    Despite having a nice long rest from the madness of the repeating day Xena was yet again awakened by the sound of the rooster’s crowing.  It was now day seven of today and Xena went through the entire story all over again with her friends who didn’t believe her or offered only stupid advice that solved nothing.  Xena was determined to keep her friends out of danger.  She ordered them to stay near the stable so that they would be out of the way of the duels.  Joxer argued complaining about Xena’s command.  Gabrielle was frustrated with his questions determining that Xena had a good reason and that it would be explained to them all later.  It was clear that Gabrielle still thought Xena was a babbling lunatic, but Xena did not care.  Her main concern was to convince Joxer to stay.  He thought for a moment that she was using him as a diversion for the enemy until he thought that it would be better if he were positioned on the other side of the court.  Xena decided that the only way to keep the two of them busy was to reveal the greatest secret of all.  She asked Gabrielle who was ignoring the situation in favor of observing  the fight that was about to start in the courtyard if she was aware of Joxer’s love for her. 

     This caught Gabrielle’s attention immediately.  She did not believe this load of nonesense either although Xena had known it to be true for a long time.  Since baby bliss had gone on his wreckless rampage of love the warrior princess had been keeping Joxer’s dirty little secret.  Today it did not matter for it would keep Gabrielle busy long enough while Joxer tried to explain away Xena’s lunacy.  That would buy Xena enough time to go across town to stop all of the fights that were certain to break out.  The day wore one as all of the other todays and one the eighth morning the rooster crowed again.      

     Xena woke furious, but did not waste any time.  She dashed out of the stable to save Caska and then returned to the stable to try to convince Gabrielle that she wasn’t crazy.  Then she would order her friends to stay put until she stopped the fight in the courtyard.  As she stopped the second duel in the alley Gabrielle and Joxer had finally caught up to her for Gabrielle had noticed that there was another fight starting across the square.  As Gabrielle warned Xena in urgency about the third fight breaking out Xena responded frustrated stating the obvious.  It was a lot easier to start these fights than to end them.  Gabrielle would always believe Xena by this point in the day and she actually was quite helpful this time.  She stated that she did not understand for both houses worshipped the same gods and suffered the same hardships.  Gabrielle wished that there were time to remind the sworn enemies of their shared liknesses.  It was a brilliant idea for Xena did have all the time in the world.  She spoke her thought out loud relieved at this new idea. 

    Xena didn’t even bother to try to stop the third fight for it would happen again anyway.  She was more interested in using her time to the advantage.  As she led her friends out of the alley and back into the square Xena noticed something new.  She looked upon the ground to find a broken vile.  When she picked it up she smelled the trace contents of the bottle and determined that it was nitesbane.  It was known to be a toxic substance that could kill someone if ingested.  Xena had two new things to think about on the eighth day.  Just as she continued down the street with her friends to ponder her new clues to the largest riddle of her life Joxer again suggested that the enemy of his enemy was his friend.  The warrior princess was frustrated with this idiotic idea.  She heard it come out of his mouth every single day.  Yet Xena decided that she would not reject it this time.  If it actually worked she would be free of this trip to hades and death would most certainly be better than awakening to the sound of the rooster’s crowing. 

     Joxer could not believe that Xena was going to go along with one of his plans.  He hadn’t even finished verbalizing his thoughts, but then Joxer was excited.  The idiot declared to the warrior princess that he knew that the day would come in which both of their warrior minds would share one will and one thought.  Gabrielle’s sarcastic response was that Joxer had only half a wit which Xena agreed with.  Joxer’s hands touching her arm were not soothing her either.  It was amusing to watch how Joxer responded to being given respect.  Xena finally asked him what there was to lose in trying this.  Joxer took the command of the warrior princess and stepped out in front of the crowd in the square.  His voice belted out boisterously as he insulted the families openly.  It appeared that only Joxer would die today, but then he implicated both Xena, and the bard into the plot to become the enemy to all houses.  He was more confident standing with his friends than without them.  This was no surprise to the warrior princess although a bit unpredictable.  As he cursed their names and laughed at their ancestors he whispered under his breath looking for approval, but no one responded for even Gabrielle could see what was coming next.  Xena braced for the impact as the entire town raised its weapons and released its wrath of arrows down upon the friends.  The last thing Xena remembered was the sound of both Joxer and Gabrielle screaming in fear of their impending deaths.  Then the rooster crowed.

     Xena was irritated that she had even tried Joxer’s plan.  As he opened the door and told everyone to rise and shine she reached for her chackram and plunged it deep into his chest.  That would most certainly shut him up so she could think without his constant interruptions.  There was not fear of death or consequence for neither existed when the day would just start all over again.  The shock in Joxer’s eyes as he was gripped with surprise at his killer was an interesting thing to notate.  Xena realized that he trusted her too much.  He was more vulnerable than she had thought him to be.  It didn’t matter for he would be alive again on the ninth today.  Gabrielle was slow to rise as always as Xena laid back down closing her eyes.  The bard was also way behind in realizing that Joxer had just been murdered.  When Xena didn’t hear the bard respond with her daily remark she knew that Gabrielle was in shock.  The bard rose from slumber snapping into sudden reality.  She could not believe that the warrior princess had heartlessly plunged her chackram into Joxer’s chest.  Xena did not fret for Gabrielle could spend the day dealing with reality while Xena tried to figure out what to do in peace and quiet.

    Xena had slept the eighth day away for she wanted to stay up all night to be up early the next morning.  She needed more time and she needed to keep her friends occupied with a little less cruelty.  As soon as it was the ninth day Xena woke her friends up before sun rise and tied them both up.  Then she prepared to save Caska, and stop all the fights that she was aware of.  Xena had part of it worked out, but there were still some missing pieces.  She would spend the rest of the day seeking out more clues.  Xena had created more time, but she hadn’t explored the problem of the nitesbane.  She visited the village druggist to find out more about the nitesbane.  The druggist  said that he treated both families despite his affiliations with one of them.  Xena noted that he was extremely scatterbrained and forgetful.  The man was quite old and unreliable.  The warrior princess asked him if he had sold any nitesbane recently, but he said he would have remembered the sale of something so leathal.  Xena wasn’t so sure of this.  Then the old man shuffled through the labels he could no longer read until finally he declared that someone had stolen the vile of nitesbane for it was missing from his collection.

     Xena decided that it was a lost cause to pursue the nitesbane so she decided to do what Gabrielle had suggested.  She went to the village midwife to find out more about the family histories.  She was a sweet middle aged woman who made terrible muffins.  Xena suffered through eating them so that she could retreive valueable family history.  The most interesting part of the conversation was to find out that this midwife from the house of Likos helped to deliver babies from the house of Menos.  There was trust there, but it was very small in comparison to the hatred.  Xena thought she might be able to use this information to her advantage at some point.  The time would present itself.  Xena went to bed knowing that she could finally stop the entire family feud with her newfound knowledge.

     Day ten came, the rooster crowed, and Joxer opened the door, but Xena robbed him of his joy in saying those aweful words rise and shine.  She bolted out the door and pushed Joxer out of the way for there was a full day’s work ahead of her.  After saving Caska Xena returned to the stable with new hope as she told the story of every day since it all began.  Gabrielle did not believe that they had repeated the day eleven times, but it was the truth.  Xena could not confirm or deny it.  Then before anyone could ask any more questions or make any more suggestions Xena covered it all within less than thirty seconds.  The warrior princess then left her friends in confusion and headed for the square to stop the first battle.  Trying to prevent their deaths had become a burden and a waste of time.  There was something else that would save them.  Xena watching them constantly never could.  As the warrior princess approached the square the two men were arguing over the young Likos lady.  Xena firmly interrupted them demanding that the time to talk peace was now.  Just as the two fighting men were lowering their weapons appaulled by the stranger’s interruption two more men entered into the square crossing swords defying Xena’s request. 

     The warrior princess had no patience for their behavior.  She approached them kicking their swords away.  After disarming them instantly she grabbed both of their arms and twisted them behind their backs flipping between them with a battle cry.  Then she used Lady Likos’s valuable legends and stories to help her stop the bloodlust.  She reminded the men that their legends said that if a man killed his own brother he would be cursed forever.  The warrior princess looked to Titus and asked him if this was the fate he desired for himself.  Lynarus the very man he was about to fight to the death was also the son of Titus’s father despite having the rival house’s last name.  Lady Likos confirmed this with the astonished crowd.  Both men were shamed before the entire town to be exposed, but it had worked for they decided to retreat from their passions for blood.  Yet Xena was faced with a third set of dueling maniacs.  The Likos man declared that he was certain he did not have any Menos brothers.  He reminded the crowd that his father Caska had almost been killed by a wreckless Menos driver.  The warrior princess had all the ammunition she needed to defy his angry passions.  She scolded the man about his own wreckless behavior revealing to the crowd that Caska was deaf and could not heard the warnings that had been given to him in an attempt to save his life.  Caska’s deafness proved itself to be very truthful when he asked his son what the warrior princess had just said.  Xena was standing just a few paces in front of him. 

     Then the father of the entire house of Likos stepped out into the square to challenge Xena.  He stated firmly that he did not need the lectures of a stranger.  As he faced the warrior princess she was not intimidated by his stature and experience.  She reminded him that he had almost lost both his wife and son in childbirth once.  He was softened by this memory as he had remembered that no one thought that they would make it.  Likos credited the gods for their family’s good fortune.  Xena would not allow the gods to take credit for what Lady Menos had done for the Likos family.  It was her caring and kindness that had saved the Likos family for certain loss.  While father Likos had been away fighting wars Lady Menos had come to his home and saved his family.  Father Likos could not deny that Lady Menos was indeed a good woman.  He looked to Father Menos who accepted the gesture of thanks for his wife’s unselfish actions.  Xena reminded the two men that Lady Menos the elder had hated their family feud her entire life.  She had passed on her generous love and caring to Lady Likos who now filled the shoes of a woman who had been taken from them  within this silly family feud. 

     Father Menos agreed that maybe the strange warrior woman was right.  It was time for peace to reign and for blood and war to end.  Father Likos surrendered his bloodlust and agreed that it was indeed time for peace.  Then Father Menos looked to Xena and asked the stranger how she had known so much about them.  Xena’s answer was candid for only she understood where she had been and what she had suffered to accomplish this great victory of peace.  The warrior princess had been studying the two families for eleven days now and finally Father Likos reached out to Father Menos in a peaceful gesture and handshake.  With that the town errupted with joy as everyone embraced their new state of being.  Xena walked away from the square relieved and completely ready to move forward.  Gabrielle had given her the inspiration for this solution only three yesterdays before.  It was no surprise to her when the bard came rushing up to Xena to congratulate her on her non-violent accomplishment.  Gabrielle was excited about the fact that Xena had saved two lives, stopped three duels, and made peace between two families who had a long history of hatred for one another.  Though Xena still sensed a bit of sarcasm and lack of belief within her friend none of it mattered.  They were free of today forever.  Gabrielle suggested that they have a party to celebrate the accomplishment.  Joxer agreed without hesitation.  For the rest of the day the three friends celebrated, but then came today number eleven.

    The rooster crowed again and this time Xena went mad.  She tore the hay as she popped up out of slumber and as soon as she remembered she jumped up and dashed out the stable door to go save Caska again.  When she returned she spent the morning recounting her entire eleven day experience.  She also thought outloud trying to figure out what went wrong and what it was that she was missing.  The warrior princess knew that it was something very small.  One tiny little detail had been the chink in the armor.  Gabrielle and Joxer were unable to understand Xena’s behavior.  They were insulted that Xena would even think for a moment that she was the only one who was special enough to save everyone from the day that would never end.  No one could seem to remember that they had lived this day before.  It didn’t matter as the warrior princess dashed out of the stables leaving Gabrielle and Joxer to figure it all out for themselves. 

     Xena rushed through the town to seek out the young woman that Tybolis and Miron had been dueling over.  As soon as the warrior princess spotted her in the street she confronted her demanding the girl hand over the vile of nitesbane.  The girl surrendered the vial.  When Xena observed it she noticed that it was now empty.  Xena’s first question was when had she taken the nitesbane.  The girl did not deny it.  She explained that she had taken it just after sunrise.  This drew frustration out of Xena’s soul for the idea of having to stop the young girl just after the rooster crowed was too much.  It was this young wreckless girl who was causing all of Xena’s trouble.  The warrior princess was at her wit’s end.  As the warrior princess wracked her mind with these thoughts the young girl ran away upset by Xena’s accusation.  Just then Miron stepped out of the alley near the stables declaring that it was not the young girl.  All of the repeating days were being caused by him.  He went onto explain that there was nothing that Xena could do to stop the day from repeating.  This idea was insane to the warrior princess as she continued listening to Miron’s explanation.  He explained that because the young girl’s house was at the north end of town and the stables were at the south end there would be no time for Xena to reach her before she took the nitesbane every morning.  Xena expressed her understanding of Miron finishing his sentence as she thought outloud. 

     Xena watched as the young girl disappeared into the distance while she thought about the unappealing idea of defeat.  If the day repeated itself forever then Xena would never die.  She could not take the thought of being imprisioned within the same day forever.  It was a worse fate than Tarturus.  There was one comfort.  At least Miron was living within this hell with her for only people who could remember the day would know the details that Xena knew.  Since the two of them had all of the time in the world to discuss and share their personal Tarturus together they sat down to discuss the problem.  Two heads would most certainly be better than one.  The warrior princess wanted to know why Miron’s lover had decided to take the poison.  Miron responded by explaining the one detail of the family saga that Xena had not known before.  Because she was a Likos her father was forcing her to marry a Likos man for he hated the Menos family.  Miron was a Menos.  Xena was saddened by the extent of the family fued.  It had taken such a toll on the townspeople that the young women were killing themselves to be free of the madness. 

      Miron continued explaining that he had come up with a solution to their problem.  He was going to suggest that the lovers go off to another town or village and elope together so that no one could prevent their love, but when he had told her about his plan that morning she began to sob.  Xena realized that she had already taken the nitesbane.  Miron himself had been too late to stop her from committing her own death.  He stated that when the day was over he had decided that he could not live life without his love.  She would be dead by the next morning.  Miron continued his story saying that he had prayed to Cupid for help.  Cupid had told Miron that Hermia his love must die tomorrow, but since Miron’s love for her was true Cupid had given Miron one wish.  Now all of the pieces of the puzzle came together for the warrior princess.  Her heart was sour with defeat for she realized that his wish had been that tomorrow would never come.  Miron smiled delighted that the warrior princess guessed his wish.  He continued explaining that Cupid had indeed granted his wish and said that the day would repeat until the day a hero would come to fix everything.  The hero would save Hermia, Miron, and end the pointless family feud. 

      Xena immediately responded with irritation that Miron had not asked for her help sooner.  It must have been obvious that she was the hero for she had spent every single today butting into the family feud.  That was no secret to anyone in the town including the rest of the world who never experienced the repeating day.  He responded a little embarresed and apologetic at the same time.  Miron had expected Hercules or Sinbad to arrive.  He had never dreamed that it would be a warrior princess.  Miron finished his statement explaining that the other reason for not asking for Xena’s help was because Cupid had said that Miron could not interfere in any way.  Xena could not believe this.  Her objective was to save Caska, stop the feud, and keep Hermia from taking the nitesbane just after sunrise.  Gabrielle had been wrong.  Xena did not have enough time.  Miron restated that no matter how fast Xena ran she would never make it to the north side of town in time to save Hermia.  That was the impossible task for only a hero could accomplish it.  Xena took this as a challenge.  She would not be defeated by the impossible.  Xena spent the rest of the day trying to devise a plan.  By the end she had returned to the stables to turn in for some rest.  As she took of her armor and laid down to rest she told her friends that today would be a busy day tomorrow.  For Joxer and Gabrielle who had not moved from their positions in the stable all day Xena’s joke meant nothing to them.  They were just certain that she was insane.  If tomorrow did actually come they might just leave Xena behind for fear that she was too crazy for them.

     On today for the twelvth time the rooster crowed again.  Xena jumped up ready for action bowling through Joxer and straight for the south end of town.  Today she would not bother with Caska for if she could save Hermia in time the day might actually end.  Although Xena had run at top speed she still did not make it to Hermia in time.  Xena had arrived at Hermia’s house just in time to see Hermia drink the poison.  Frustrated Xena flipped down into the courtyard startling Hermia who ran from the warrior princes in fear.  Obviously Hermia could not remember any of the previous days either.  There was only one solution left and not saving Caska had made the rest of the day more difficult.  The town errupted into an all out house war as every man an woman fought each other with deep running hatred of one another.  It did not matter to the warrior princess.  At least it kept everyone busy and out of her way while she measured the route that he chackram might take.  Only Gabrielle seemed to be bothered by all of the blood and gore.  She interrupted the warrior princess in a frenzy demanding that Xena stop the fight.  Xena ignored Gabrielle’s request knowing that there would be another chance tomorrow.  Stopping the fight alone would not work.  Xena had tried that and failed.  Gabrielle was persistant as usual.  She was about to interject into Xena’s deep concentration.  Xena responded by telling the bard that she was busy and asked her to go play with Joxer.  It was a minor joke, but it was fun for the warrior princess to push Gabrielle into Joxer’s chest.  It just added to the mystery of Xena’s actions.  That would most certainly keep the bard busy today. 

     As Xena measured she could still hear the sounds of the battle and she decided to follow Gabrielle’s movements.  She noticed that her friend was really blossoming into a talented fighter.  Gabrielle was holding her own quite well down in the pit of despair as Xena continued her work for the mighty chackram.  Xena decided as she watched the bard fight a man with a mase that she really could use Gabrielle’s staff to help her with some measurements that her sword could not accommodate.  Xena jumped down into the battle and grabbed Gabrielle’s staff in the middle of a heated battle.  If she died it did not matter for she would be alive again in the morning.  Then Xena had to removed a couple of men from the town square because they were in the way of her measurement.  She used the bard’s staff to disarm them and knock them out of the way.  As Xena measured the distance between the middle of the square and the highest point of the village she heard Gabrielle beg her to bring back her staff.  Just as she finished her measurement she realized that she had finally found the solution that would most certainly remove her from this neverending day. 

     Xena was so relieved and exasperated she wanted to share this insight with her friend.  Just as Xena shouted out across the square she looked up to notice Gabrielle was about to be clobbered by the guy with the mase.  Gabrielle had done well without the staff, but she gave Xena a certain glance that reminded Xena that she was being a little rude holding things up this way.  She tossed Gabrielle’s staff back to her across the square and apologized for keeping it so long.  Xena watched as her friend instantly caught her staff and turned to defeat the enemy approaching from behind.  She had used a powerful driving move low to rob him of his feet.  He slammed hard onto the ground.  Xena was impressed with how skilled her friend had become with the staff.  It was indeed the perfect weapon for her.  Xena praised her friend delighted and then went back to measuring for the chackram.  Moments later the fierce battle had come to an end for there was no one left standing except for Xena, and Gabrielle who was in shock at the scene of death that lied before her.  Xena had to spend the rest of the day comforting her friend and trying to convince her that no one would be dead in the morning. 

     Finally on the thirteenth day the rooster crowed, but Xena was already prepared.  She was on her feet as soon as she heard the sounds of Joxer’s footsteps approaching outside.  He had been whistling every morning and tossing his eggs up into the air on his way to the stable.  This bought Xena a few extra needed moments to accomplish the impossible.  Xena slammed open the door knocking Joxer onto the ground.  She wished him good morning as she lined up for the throw of her life.  As she released her chackram she hoped that it would be able to follow its path first to remove Caska’s hat so that he would stop to pick it up therefore miss getting hit by the Menos cart.  Then it would travel onto its final destination while Xena ran as fast as she could to the other end of town to catch it.  When Xena reached the north end of town she flipped down into Hermia’s courtyard to capture her chackram.  As soon as it had come to rest within her hand she looked up to notice that Miron was embracing Hermia and that the vile of nitesbane was broken on the floor.  Her chackram had been successful.  Xena had accomplished the impossible.  When Miron finally noticed the presence of his hero he asked her if it was possible for her to stop the family feud.  That was the easy part for the warrior princess and with that request she dashed off to the town square to remind the two families of their similarities. 

     It was the same on the thirteenth day as it had been on the tenth day according to Xena.  She interjected into the middle of the feud and demanded peace between both houses.  Impressed by her knowledge of their histories the families finally came to an agreement that there would be peace as both Father Likos, and Father Menos shook hands.  The townspeople errupted into joy and love as the warrior princess smiled brighter than the bard had ever seen before.  She approached Hermia and Miron who were delighted for Miron could now ask Hermia’s father for her hand in marriage.  They would not have to elope.  The bard did not understand it all, but it didn’t matter for it seemed that there was love and peace everywhere and Gabrielle could live with that idea no matter how insane, crazy, or nutty the warrior princess appeared to be.  The bard agreed with Miron as she gave a gesture of congratulations to the bride to be.  Miron then looked to the warrior princess and thanked her for she had accomplished the impossible.  Everyone would be able to look forward to tomorrow for today would finally be able to end.  Then Miron looked into Hermia’s eyes with a deep and true love as he leaned in to kiss her softly.  It was a beautiful moment to witness.  Although Joxer quickly ruined it with his large bulbous head as he leaned into Gabrielle as if he wanted her to kiss him.  Gabrielle looked to Xena with disgust for it was baby bliss who had allowed Joxer the false hope of love.  Xena responded by rolling her eyes as if she wanted to laugh at the bard’s puppy love. 

     As two weeks had passed the warrior princess awoke to the sound of the rooster’s crow.  Then the stable door opened as the sunlight shun in upon the warrior princess who was annoyed by the bright light.  Joxer appeared stating his familiar phrase to rise and to shine.  Xena was worried for it appeared that things were repeating yet again.  Gabrielle awakened with the same rebuttal as on every other previous day.  Joxer declared that he had found their breakfast.  Turnips were on the menu for tomorrow.  This was the first time something seemed different.  The warrior princess wasn’t sure for it had been several days since she had listened to the entire run through of events within the stable.  She had to get up and check Joxer’s hat to be sure that he had brought turnips.  When she reached into the hat there they were the most beautiful vegetables in the world. 

     Gabrielle watched Xena’s strange behavior as she wrapped her arm around Joxer’s neck holding the turnips and kissed him with joy.  Xena was acting strange for she never kissed anyone.  Gabrielle decided to ask the warrior princess if she were okay, but then she decided that there was something that she was missing about all of this.  The bard demanded to know what was going on.  Xena’s response was a simple one.  She grabbed the bard dragging her into a large joyous embrace exhuberant about life for it was finally happening again.  Gabrielle was surprised for Xena seemed to be burdened by it most of the time.  The warrior princess was like a young woman who was experiencing her life for the first time.  It was odd, but it was a pleasant surprise.  For once Xena was smiling and happy and peaceful.  Xena started ranting in philisophical terms telling the bard that she had to sieze the day for tomorrow might never come.  Gabrielle thought of this for a moment.  It made sense and it was a beautiful philosphy to live by, but it was definitely not vintage Xena.   Just then a large hammer dropped out of the sky and onto Joxer’s head knoking him out cold.  It was the funniest thing Gabrielle had ever seen.  Xena seemed to agree as the two friends laughed outloud together.  The bard’s heart quivered with happiness for Xena was experiencing love and joy at last.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #39: Blind Faith

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#39:  Blind Faith

March, 47 B.C.

       I sing of a day of darkness.  A selfless choice which lead to the sacrifice of the eyes of the warrior princess.  It is the story of a blind faith known by no other once sung to the bard by her beloved friend.  In the morning hour of this day the bard Gabrielle walked alongside the warrior princess munching upon a delicious apple.  It had been the last in Argo’s saddle bag.  The warrior princess had given it up to her friend willingly despite her own hunger as they walked through the village market.  Xena’s only focus was in finding the nearest tavern after walking for most of the morning.  Gabrielle was fascinated with the sights and sounds of the market as people scurried by with their goods and haggled all around her.  This brought excitement to her which suddenly sent her into a need to impulsively shop for something.

By this point the warrior princess had spotted the nearest tavern and was about to head off into that direction.  Just before Xena could change course Gabrielle made her thoughts known to the warrior princess.  Xena was caught off guard for she had not remembered that they needed anything except for a bite to eat.  It seemed impractical yet she ran through her mind the possibilities of necessity.  Gabrielle realized her friend did not understand the request.  She elaborated on her thoughts explaining that she wanted to shop for the sake of shopping.  Gabrielle expressed how much she truly enjoyed the entire process of haggling for the deal.  The bard found herself desiring to be a part of all of the bustle surrounding her.  Xena seemed uninterested suddenly realizing that the bard was only being frivolous and nothing more.  The warrior princess did not appear to enjoy the idea of getting involved, waiting in line, or arguing over material things.  It was true there were enough dinars to spend on a few things, but Xena was not interested.  Instead the warrior princess turned to her young friend and explained her thoughts on the idea and the subject of shopping.  She preferred breakfast at the tavern over shopping.  Xena was not against allowing the bard to participate despite her opinions of shopping, but she did not forbid it.  The warrior princess decided that she would go on to the tavern and meet Gabrielle there as soon as the bard tired of her frivilous adventure.

As the warrior princess left the bard alone Gabrielle was slightly disappointed that Xena did not want to share in a simple adventure.  Yet her thought passed into the distraction of all of the wonderful goods being displayed up and down the streets of the village.  The bard noticed that this village was larger and more exciting than most.  Its population was bordering on crowded.  This explained the reason for such a large market.  Then Gabrielle noticed that many of the vendors were from all over the world.  There were ethnic people she had never seen before.  This was fascinating to the bard.  As she scanned the scene with her eyes she caught sight of a fabric vendor.  His fabrics appeared bright and exotic.  This caught the bard’s attention immediately.  She thought that maybe she could go for a change in wardrobe so she ventured over to haggle with him.

Just before reaching the vendor she had decided that she would spend no more than three dinars for she intended to shop at as many places as she could with only ten dinars to squander.  It wasn’t much, but she was certain she could stretch them far.  In approaching the far eastern vendor she began to pick through his fabrics noticing the bright green silks, and the many other assortments of fabrics.  She picked up one that looked most intriguing.  It was dark blue with red and white designs.  Although Gabrielle had fallen in love with this piece of cloth she decided to play it off as if it were dirty and damaged.  Her first question to the vendor was his price.  He smiled speaking smoothly explaining that it was a Roman Egyptian prayer scarf.    Then he gave his price.  It was five dinars.  He flashed as smiled back at his customer who was not at all charmed by his handsome demeanor.  Instead she went with the angle that he was most certainly joking about his request.  He was willing to haggle explaining that he would drop a dinar from the price.  It was more than the bard was willing to give up and so she played the best move of all.  She shunned his offer and turned to walk away sending the young handsome vendor into a panic.

He gently grabbed her arm as she turned away pleading for a sale at three dinars.  Gabrielle was certain she could do better judging by his reaction to her leaving.  It was clear that he was not having a great day in sales.  Although she had nailed down her own offer he did not have to know.  She decided to take the haggling one step further.  Gabrielle played up the effect as she took a deep breath casually picked up the scarf and stated that she could use it to wipe the sweat off of her horse.  She offered one dinar.  The vendor thought for a slight moment and then decided that his final price would stand firmly at two dinars.  The bard realized that her own mistake had been in picking up the scarf before hearing the final offer.  Yet it did not matter for she had already saved at least one dinar.  He played the sympathy card well as she retrieved two dinars from her leather scroll bag and placed them into his rough hands.  Then she sighed smiling gleefully as she wrapped the scarf around her head and shoulders.  With that the bard left with a final dramatic glance at the vendor who flipped one dinar and then kissed his prize  sending another happy customer her on her way.

The bard was feeling high with energy and relaxed realizing that her shopping adventure would last a little longer than she had anticipated.  As she walked through the market she caught sight of something that looked like a large leather water bottle, but when she picked it up she realized that it was something else.  Gabrielle threw it back down onto the table and gave it no more thought as she decided that she would walk to the other end of the market.  With her guard down the unsuspecting victim found herself suddenly startled by someone from behind her who had a rather strong grasp on her arms.  Gabrielle’s reaction to being restrained and pushed back toward the alley was to use her staff in self-defense.  She swung it over her head backwards making contact with her attacker’s head.  As she defended she noticed a second attacker moving in from the front.  She deflected him with the bottom edge of her weapon knocking him to the ground.  The attacker from behind had released his grasp falling to the ground behind her.

Then Gabrielle turned to get a look at him and then dashed back into the alley in an attempt to disappear.  She sensed that there were more attackers just waiting in the market.  Her suspicion was that someone was trying to grab her for slave trading.  She ran down the alley, but just before she could reach the end of it to safety away from the crowds a second attacker came in from the right out of the shadows restraining her.  He was a young blond warlord cleaner than most.  Gabrielle could feel from his firm grasp that she would not be able to free herself from his clutches.  Then he whispered a firm threat into her ear.  The idea of having her neck broken was enough for Gabrielle to submit to his demands as he ushered the bard out of the alley.

Xena had waited for her friend in the tavern for a few hours.  Her patience for Gabrielle’s shopping adventure had grown thin for she was now board with the scenery and the people around her.  As Xena left the tavern she scanned the market for her friend, but could not catch a glimpse of her.  The warrior princess called out to her friend a few times, but the bard did not respond.  Xena found a slight bit of irritation beginning to build for her friend’s lack of consideration.  Yet the warrior princess knew in her heart that Gabrielle would not just leave the village without having returned to the tavern to tell her.  Most likely she would have attempted to drag the warrior princess back out into the market instead of leaving.  As Xena rounded the corner and quickened her pace she caught sight of Gabrielle’s scroll bag, an unfamiliar scarf, and the bard’s trusty staff.  This was not normal.  Xena was certain that by now Gabrielle was too aware of the dangers to leave her staff unattended.  Yet her scrolls were even more dear to the bard and so Xena surmised that there was something terribly wrong.  She had one theory.  The warrior princess suspected that her friend had been abducted, but by who she did not know.

Then the warrior princess reached out to grab Gabrielle’s belongings hoping that the bard had just been absent minded as in the past for there was seemingly no sign of a struggle.  Just then a blond warlord stepped from just beyond the alley and pointed to the staff stating firmly that it belonged to him.  Xena looked to him casually picking up Gabrielle’s scroll bag, and her staff certain that a warlord would not carry an amazon staff.  They were rare and usually carried by amazon women.  She confirmed confidently and with a cool head that they belonged to her friend.  Then the young blond warlord with a scarred face made reference to a young irritating blond.  As Xena looked back up at him with interest and inquiry he stated coldly that the blond girl would not be needing the weapon any longer.  Xena feared the worst, but hoped for the best.  She asked him why her friend would no longer be needing a staff.  The young blond warrior proclaimed confidently that he had killed her.  Then his playful demeanor transformed into seriousness as he reached for his sword and firmly declared that he would kill the warrior princess.

The warrior princess did not break.  She stood firm knowing that there was a possibility that he was telling the truth.  His threats were certainly real, but his motives were not clear.  The warrior princess used the idea of her friend’s death to fight with strong vengeance yet it was controlled for there was still the possibility that Gabrielle was alive.  Xena had not seen a body and had only the word of a warlord she did not know.  She began on the defensive to get an idea of his fighting style.  This gave him false confidence which gave the warrior princess an advantage.  She said that he was strong, skilled, but extremely arrogant and reckless in his fighting style.  The warrior princess flipped over him landing behind him.  He had reflected her move only flipping backwards over her to get into position behind the warrior princess.  Xena was indeed surprised, but she did not want to give this away to her opponent.  She blocked his moved from behind down upon her spinning around to face him.  As she went out of one defensive move with her sword she went on the offensive kicking him back to gather some distance between the two.  She realized that she could not kill him even if she desired it for if Gabrielle was still alive he was the only person who could tell her where the bard was.

Xena decided to go back on the defensive hoping to hold him off long enough to tire him.  She fell back defending his advances then flipping onto a market table.  There she stood above him as the crowd watched to see what would ensue next.  The warrior princess was extremely irritated for she knew that she could not kill him, but he had no reservations about killing her.  As she tried to realize his motives for killing her he paused the battle seeing her mind working to figure out his motive.  He looked up at her with his blue eyes and confidently stated that he was certain that the warrior princess feared him.  It wasn’t that she feared him.  He was seeing her emotions for her friend and how that effected her battle.  Xena realized that she had to bury her heart in order to survive and to save her friend.  Her fears of losing Gabrielle had to disappear from sight.

The blond warrior was not sure that Xena had given him all that she had in the battle.  He was feeling cheated and he expressed it.  Xena listened as the blond warrior gave away more about himself.  He stated that he did not have a soft spot for the warrior princess as did the warlord Draco and that he was not out of control like Callisto.  This gave the warrior princess more insight.  She was curious as to why he knew so much about her.  It was about pride for him and about proving himself as a worthy adversary.  Xena was now confident that he did not really want to kill her.  This made it more possible that he had not killed Gabrielle.  Then the blond warrior drove forward to attack as the warrior princess flipped back ward off of the table putting an obstacle between her and her opponent.  She decided that the only way to win this battle was to bruise his ego.  The warrior princess could not give him the satisfaction of winning.

He was seemingly frustrated for Xena would not verbally give anything away to him.  The blond warrior missed striking her only to crush a large vase to pieces.  It was a clumsy move which lead him to grasp the table and toss it aside in frustration.  Then the warrior princess attacked attempting to wear out her opponent into submission.  She came on strong gaining a lot of ground.  The warrior princess had fought him from one end of the market to the other end.  He had not expected the burst of strength and energy that she had given him to grapple with.  His ego was being split apart with every strike of the sword and every offensive move Xena used without it.  The warrior princess made him appear worthless and amateur although she had found herself to be quite impressed.  He was no Callisto, but Xena found the challenge to be exhilarating.

As his ego began to rage out of control his technique became more sloppy and desperate.  He began to throw goods at the warrior princess who realized that the battle would have to end soon for innocent people were going to be injured.  She could see that he was trying to reflect her style as if learning as he fought.  This was a threat for the warrior princess for if he could reflect her techniques then his strength would give him the advantage.  She could not allow him to have this.  There was a bit of panic as the emotion of losing Gabrielle still whispered in the background with all of the other thoughts the warrior princess was experiencing.  This led to a reckless mistake for Xena did not anticipate that her emotions would force her to strike the opponent with her sword.  As the warrior princess went in for mortal damage the blond warrior was quick enough to dodge a direct strike.   He was more agile that Xena had realized causing her to strike one of the large brown leather bottles from the market.  Her sword struck deep into it piercing the bottle.  Suddenly a liquid came spewing out directly into the warrior princess’s eyes.  The sensation burned as if someone had set Xena’s eyes on fire.  Yet the warrior princess could not allow the pain to cause her to lose her focus.  She knew that the loss of focus could mean her death.

After pausing for a moment to regain her focus after experiencing the burning eyes she felt the presence of her enemy from behind.  She was certain that he could have struck her down right there, but he had chosen not to.  Instead he paused as if having second thoughts about killing her.  She took advantage of this throwing her elbow into his chin turning to drive her fist into his chest.  This sent him onto his back.  He dropped his sword surprised by the move out of Xena’s weak moment.  The warrior princess held her sword steady down upon him threatening to kill him.  She saw his eyes flicker for a moment to grab for the weapon he had lost.  Xena quickly dissolved any chance he would have to recover as she stomped her boot onto his wrist restraining it from movement.

Before he could say another word Xena demanded to know what he had done with Gabrielle.  The blond warrior opened his mouth to answer only to be interrupted by the warrior princess who was certain that he didn’t kill her friend despite what he had said.  Then he asked how she was so certain of this.  She informed him that his moment to take her down had passed when she had gotten the oil in her eyes.   He defied the warrior princess still trying to hold onto his advantage of the unknown.  Gabrielle’s well-being was still in question despite his lack of killing Xena in the moment of truth.  He weakly tried to recover from that obvious mistake explaining that it would have defeated his entire purpose for battling Xena in the first place.  The blond warrior tried to proclaim that he was honorable in not stabbing Xena in the back for it would not be considered a fair fight.  He explained that he wanted to be known as the man who killed the warrior princess in a fair fight.  Xena’s heart was relieved by this statement knowing that despite his attempt to betray the truth he had not killed Gabrielle.  He had only stated it to make her emotional enough to fight him.  She was disgusted that he had played her emotions.  The warrior princess replaced her sword into its sheath tiring of the blond warrior’s game.  Now that he had told her what it was that he had been after she was uninterested.  She would never give him what he wanted.  She just wanted to find Gabrielle.

When she asked him directly to answer her question about her friend he ignored it.  He remembered instantly that he was still in control despite having lost the fight.  The blond warrior defied the warrior princess deciding not to tell her where Gabrielle was.  This only frustrated Xena who had no second thoughts about putting on her pinch move.  He was surprised, but still defiant as the crowd watched his life draining from his nose before them.  Xena announced for the spectacle that he was about to live his last thirty seconds unless he chose to give her the information she seeked.  She waited until the very last moment suddenly realizing that he was willing to die to prove that he was worthy of the warrior princess.  He was willing to become a legend told by commoners for glory he would never live to experience.  Xena was shocked by this yet she had no choice, but to release him from death’s grip for he was her only hope in finding Gabrielle.

Reluctantly Xena gave him his win, but the sacrifice of her old reputation was worth it for the safety of her friend.  She watched as the young blond warrior rolled about in the dirt with triumphant laughter.  He declared to all in the market who had witnessed the event that they tell his story.  Palaemon wanted everyone to know that he had defied the legendary warrior princess.  Then he demanded congratulations from the warrior princess herself as if he deserved her respect.  Xena would not give him this satisfaction.  She scolded him for being stupid enough to egg her into an emotional fight.  She had wanted to kill him.  Only the thought of Gabrielle had saved him from death at the hand of the warrior princess.  He had played her emotions in ways that were dangerous.  It was a brilliant battle strategy, but not if he wanted to stay alive.  Xena did compare him to Callisto.  He was reckless in a different way.  She was certain that he was not ready to be that warlord he pretended to be.  He was certain to get himself killed before realizing it.

Xena did not feel sorry for him.  She grabbed a loose piece of wood from the ground and some rope.  Then the warrior princess turned him over onto his stomach and tied his arms to the long board.  Palaemon was suddenly worried for he had finally lost control over the warrior princess emotionally.  He demanded to know what she had intended for him and she responded that he would be her prisoner until they found Gabrielle.   Then Xena regained her reputation by reminding everyone mostly Palaemon that he would face death if Gabrielle was harmed in any way.  As the warrior princess restrained her new irritating blond prisoner she began to notice that her vision was starting to blur.  She looked up to the man who sold the oil and asked him if the oil had contained sumac.  He confirmed that it had been used as part of a mixture for his dyes.  This only added more difficulty to Xena’s situation.  The warrior princess was in no mood to deal with blindness.  She had only twenty-four hours to find a solution to save her eyes from permanent damage.

With time limited Xena’s patience with Palaemon was thin.  He was still trying to play his game, but he was trying a new angle.  Palaemon had gone from vicious warlord to confident warrior.  His curiosity about Gabrielle did not escape the warrior princess.  She did not care to share the details he seeked.  If he knew the reason Gabrielle was so important to her he would use it against her.  The warrior princess shrugged off his inquires about Gabrielle and he retaliated with frustration threatening the warrior princess with his own friends.  He was bluffing.  Xena knew that they weren’t being followed.  They were completely alone in the woods traveling the road.  Palaemon would not tell Xena what she wanted to know so she decided to try to fool him into giving away information.  To save time she attempted to track Gabrielle following the main road.  The bard had left a few clues behind knowing that Xena would be looking for her.

Xena’s biggest problem was that her sight was going fast and any clues that Gabrielle left later on the trail would be difficult for the warrior princess to see.  When the warrior princess tripped over an exposed root on the path Palaemon continued to press her buttons certain that it was battle fatigue.  The warrior princess was not physically exhausted and mentally she was completely sharp now that she had a better idea of who she was dealing with.  Xena found a moment of relatability to that assumption remembering the comradary of being in an army, but it passed when Palaemon asked her to rate his fighting style.  For a moment she was not listening only thinking of the situation at hand.  When she finally realized what he was asking the irritation had risen to another level.  His ego was larger than the man.  It was his weakness and easy to exploit.  He was blind to this fact.  Unlike the warrior princess who was completely aware of her weakness.  This gave her an advantage.

He continued bragging about himself which was difficult for the warrior princess to stomach.  She decided that she would endure the torturous conversation in the hopes that something would slip out.  If he talked this much about himself it was only a matter of time.  She just had to be patient.  She decided to insult him insisting that young criminals like him were worth less than a dinar.  There were hundreds of them and to her they were all pretty much the same thing.  He retorted with confidence explaining that he could name five warlords he had killed.  If only they had been alive to tell their own stories about Palaemon.  Then he picked a random warlord that was dead.  He named off Krykus the Pilot.  Xena had killed Krykus.  It was not something that she shared with everyone.  She knew he was lying.  He had killed no one.  She was certain that he did not have the killer instinct.  Palaemon was just full of hot air to release.  He was nothing more.

This only frustrated the warrior princess more, but he was playing into her hand as she scolded him for kidnapping young girls.  In fighting for the respect and acknowledgement of the warrior princess Palaemon slipped.  He casually responded that he had to make his living.  It was the first real clue she had gotten out of him.  Then she inquired as if asking him to repeat his statement.  He was glad to explain the details of his financial venture.  Palaemon had gotten Xena’s undivided attention.  He stated that when he had heard of what type of girl his buyers had been looking for the deal was sealed.  It was obvious to the warrior princess that he had been studying her for quite some time.  He had been modeling himself after her long enough to know that she had a young blond friend.  This was unsettling to her as he continued explaining how worthless the bard had been to him before now.  Xena could only think of the many possibilities of who might want to buy someone.  Slavery was certain and the thought of it reminded her of her experience with the fates.  She was passionate about keeping Gabrielle from suffering at the hands of slave traders.

Xena made another move hoping to threaten Palaemon into given her the information she needed.  The warrior princess took the rope she was using to keep tabs on her prisoner to threaten to strangle him.  He had learned enough about her to know that she would never kill him until she knew where Gabrielle was no matter what he did.  Xena hated him more for this.  Gabrielle’s life and well-being her not a game to her.  She had to come up with something to convince him that giving that information to her was worth his while.  He did not want to make his riddle easy and Xena reminded him of what he already knew.  Without Gabrielle she would kill him in a heart beat.

As Xena followed the clues to Gabrielle’s disappearance they led her into an abandoned village.  It appeared to have been ransacked by warlords.  Xena was certain that it not been at Palaemon’s command although he would have liked to claim responsibility to it.  Instead Palaemon casually stated that they were about to walk into some of his friends.  He was certain that they would fight to reclaim him from the warrior princess.  Xena did not believe this.  She had figured out that he had been working for someone else.  His goal was to gain the respect of the other men in his band of warlords to become the supreme commander.  There was no better prize than to lay claim to the assassination of one of the best.  Soon Xena sensed that there were enemies near.  Just when she looked up across the village her vision blurred more.  She could barely make out the shapes standing before her.  The warrior princess calculated that there were six to seven armed men she would be dealing with.  Palaemon had seen them approaching reminding the warrior princess of her raw odds.  He was delighted that he would now have an audience to watch in his demise of the warrior princess.

Xena heard the voice of one of those approaching call out to Palaemon displeased that he was at the end of Xena’s rope.  Palaemon was seemingly the butt of a joke.  The warrior princess pieced together the lack of respect he found with his friends translated into his obsession with the warrior princess.  Xena was amused by this, but it was another piece to the puzzle that was Palaemon.  As the attackers advanced the warrior princess chose not to draw her sword.  Since she could not see she would have to fight them close so she could feel their moves.  Xena knew that her chances would be better if there was no threat of a blade.  Her enemies would fight fair.  She let go of Paleamon’s rope so that he could help her fight, but it was a risk.  The warrior princess defeated her enemies easily with no weapons, but as soon as they had been blasted on the first pass the battle would escalate into weapons.

Xena prepared for this still uncertain of where Palaemon would stand.  She knew she needed his eyes to help her see.  The warrior princess had to admit that his help in the battle would protect her from the enemy.  As he begged her to let him go free several times she finally had to make the choice to release him.  She was dead either way if he did not jump on her side.  As she drew her sword and released him the battle escalated and Xena could hear the blades of the enemy passing her closely.  The warrior princess was mostly on the defensive using a wild fighting style hoping to keep them from coming in too close.  Xena took down most of the men she was fighting against, but was disarmed in the process.  Palaemon was successful  in finishing the battle as the enemy limped off the battlefield.  Xena was alarmed when she could not find her sword for she was certain that Palaemon would strike her down next.  His warlord buddies would be witness to his great triumph.

Then she heard him approach her from behind and declare that it was time for their next battle.  The warrior princess searched for her sword with her foot and found a set of chains.  When she felt his presence she turned to face him with unshaken confidence.  She inquired of his issue with her as if they had an honored agreement of some sort.  He responded to her inquiry realizing that she had not looked in the eye as she had earlier.  Xena felt a slight breeze across her face.  Then Palaemon declared that he had discovered her blindness.  The warrior princess could not deny it, but decided to use this disadvantage and an advantage.  She listened as he walked about her picking up her sword off of the ground just next to her.  He handed it to her expressing his frustration that he would not be able to have a fair fight with her now that she was blind.  Suddenly she was worthless to him, but he was still worth a great deal to her.  Quickly she used her foot to search for the chains she had sensed before and kicked them up off of the ground to restrain him.

As he was about to leave her alone, lost, and blind, but she had regained control over him.  When Palaemon demanded to know what she intended she explained that she was very much in a hurry.  She needed him to guide her, but he was not keen on the idea.  Palaemon tried to break free in defiance, but Xena forcefully dragged him back into her power.  He could not break free of his binds.  Xena reminded him of their task.  They had to find Gabrielle together whether he wanted to or not.  He would be her eyes and he would take the first step into any thing they encountered on that journey.

Palaemon had finally been forced into telling the warrior princess what she wanted to know.  He had nothing to lose for it had already been lost.  His grand battle to the death against Xena was now only an unrealized dream of his.  Palaemon began to guide the warrior princess with no other choice.  He explained to her who had purchased the bard from him and why.  Gabrielle was slated to become the wife of King Solace.  When Palaemon had heard that the type of woman the buyer had been looking for was similar to Gabrielle he decided to make a buck.  Xena’s mind was suspicious of the idea of Gabrielle being purchased to become a queen.  It was unlike a kingdom to declare a peasant girl its new queen.  Although Paleamon was being cooperative he was still trying to get away.  The warrior princess could hear him picking away at the lock on the shackles.  She scolded him for trying to escape more out of necessity than his value as a prisoner.  Her mind continued to work on the problem as she tried to decipher the real plot behind the sale of Gabrielle.

Then the warrior princess reminded Paleamon that he would not be escaping without the key which was hidden tightly within her golden breast-plate.  Paleamon tried to be hard again declaring that Xena was afraid.  The warrior princess responded with her own hardened response reminding Palaemon that he was not a man that she could bring herself to fear.  Palaemon changed his tone to one of more concern.  He spoke of the unknown as something the warrior princess should fear.  It was the first time that he had stepped away from his act and into his real skin.  There was a sense of concern for the blindness that Xena was suddenly experiencing.  The warrior princess allowed herself to speak frankly and truthfully realizing that there was something more to Palaemon.  She took a deep breath explaining to him that despite her eyes being damaged she was aware of their certain fate.  The warrior princess explained that it been sumac that had spilled into her eyes which caused temporary blindness unless it was untreated after a day of exposure.  Paleamon’s curious concern for the warrior princess interjected asking what would happen if Xena did not receive treatment.  Xena responded seriously explaining the blindness would be permanent.  She would have to endure it for a lifetime.

For a moment Palaemon said nothing as if pondering this idea.  Then he wanted to know of the treatment.  Xena answered explaining that her eyes would need to be cleansed with palm oil and Egyptian Senna.  Suddenly the warrior princess was concerned that she had trusted in him too much.  Yet she realized that the closest place to get this kind of treatment was Athens.  It was a great distance from where they were.  When Palaemon heard these thoughts he argued with the warrior princess.  He could not believe that she was not headed in that direction.  She was not phased by this.  Her goal had already been determined.  Xena’s anger and frustration raged against Palaemon’s selfish needs.  The warrior princess was struggling to make clear to him how valuable her friendship was.  She was willing to sacrifice her ability to see the world forever in order to save Gabrielle from whatever fate might be awaiting her.  It was the unknown that Xena feared more than the unknown that was now a blackness with every step she took.  Palaemon gave up for the moment realizing that the warrior princess was more determined than he was.  He was confused by this.

The warrior princess’s senses suddenly kicked into high gear as her nose caught a whiff of manure coming from up ahead carried by the soft breeze blowing through the trees.  She was certain that there were stables nearby.  Palaemon’s interest was piqued by this for he had not sensed this slight ambiance in the air.  He could not believe Xena could smell horses from the distance, but Xena corrected him.  It was not the horses.  He paused for a moment and then realized that he had just learned something new from the warrior princess.  Xena was not amused by his inference of this.  When she rejected the idea that she would teach him new tricks he argued that he had already learned a great deal by studying her battles.  It was as if he were trying command respect from her as he confidently spoke closely to her face.  He demanded respect from his idol.  Xena turned to him trying to convey her confused choices of youth.  She had been wrong in the things she had done and did not like that Palaemon was modeling himself after her dark side.

Palaemon would not accept this wisdom from the warrior princess.  All he could rave about was the power, and the respect that Xena commanded in those days.  Xena interrupted him firmly feeling the painful memories trying to flood themselves to the surface.  She explained that fear was her only prize for the deeds of her young warrior days.  He would not accept this advice.  Palaemon was drunk with anger and the need for the respect he thought that Xena had once had.  He wanted to be known as the new warrior giant that was unstoppable.  Palaemon wanted to kill Xena to prove to everyone that he was worthy of her titles.  Then he lurched forward leaving the warrior princess to wonder how to diffuse his high emotions.

She soon realized that there was only one way to do this.  It was to offer him the respect he desperately seeked.  Even if it was only respect coming from her it would be valuable to him.  The sounds of men were near as both warriors knelt down into the tall grass.  Xena listened to what the men were saying it sounded as if they were planning a counter attack against Xena and Palaemon.  It was obvious that they had caught onto Xena’s new weakness, but Xena and Palaemon still had the advantage.  They were still hidden.  Palameon spotted them with his eyes revealing what Xena already knew.  He explained that there were some woods just behind the patrol of men.  Xena thought of this for a moment and suggested that they make a dash for the trees.  She was certain they would lose the guards in the woods.  Palaemon agreed with her as if he had already determined this for himself.  Then Xena gave the command and they dashed for the woods.  Xena led the dash for the woods now more confident in her blindness as she became more aware of her other senses.  The warrior princess admitted she was enjoying the challenge of being blind.

She could hear the sounds of the patrol passing by her right as she and Palaemon ran.  The warrior princess began to feel the branches on the trees brushing across her face as Palaemon jumped in front of her to warn of an obstacle.  Xena decided to challenge Palaemon, but it was a reckless calculation for just as she was passing ahead of him he shouted out to her, but it was too late.  The warrior princess had dashed blindly off of a steep cliff that had been hidden until the last moment even from Palaemon.  Xena was saved by the shackles which bound her to Palaemon.  Her arm jerked hard causing a sharp pain in the shoulder as she hung above rushing water below.  She could hear the sounds of the water, and the chains rubbing across the rocks as Palaemon struggled to hold on.

The warrior princess could feel he was losing the struggle as the chain sudden slid down further.  Palameon had somehow caught himself after falling.  She could hear a loud cracking sound as if he were desperately holding onto a branch.  Then he shouted down to her that his grip was slipping away.  She asked him how far it was to the bottom and his answer was only certain death for both of them.  The warrior princess decided that their chances would be better if they were separated.  She would slide down the rocks and hope there were more ledges or branches to grasp onto.  Palaemon would be safe as long as she let herself go.  The warrior princess pulled out the key from her breast-plate knowing that she could lose her only chance to save Gabrielle.  She had to trust in Palaemon and so she unlocked the binds and tumbled down the cliff rock further as Palaemon shouted out to her in a panicked shock.

The warrior princess could feel the mist of the rushing water below.  Just before she could feel it upon her boots she was able to grasp a loose vine to save herself from the fall.  Xena was lucky, but still very aware of her task.  After gathering her composure from the unexpected fall she began to climb back toward the top of the cliff.  She did not know how far she would have to climb.  The warrior princess did not know if letting go would be better.  She assumed from Palaemon’s assessment that climbing was her only option.  Then she heard his voice as she began her slow climb.  He assured her that he would help her find Gabrielle on one condition.  She would have to promise him another fair battle to the death once she was able to see again.  Reluctantly Xena agreed despite her distaste for the idea of giving him what he wanted.  He threatened to cut the vine if she did not agree.  Xena realized that she could trust in only one thing when it came to Palaemon.  He would give her what she wanted to get his respect.  To him it meant that Xena would have to die or he would gladly accept his own death.

This was becoming an irritation for the warrior princess.  It was difficult to deal with his blind arrogance of holding power by fear.  He called it respect, but to the warrior princess the two were not one in the same.  As they continued on their journey to find Gabrielle Palaemon found himself obsessed with how they would defeat the castle guard once they arrived.  He kept spewing out battles from Xena’s past.  Palaemon recalled every strategic detail of almost every battle Xena had ever been famous for as an evil warlord.  This made the final leg of their journey emotionally difficult.  Xena’s breaking point came when he mentioned the worst slaughter of all.  Her battle at Corinth.  His desire for these evils were more than Xena could bare.  What was missing from all of his studies was the toll it would all take on his soul once he had committed it to the deeds of darkness.  She burst out in anger grabbing Palaemon and shoving him up against a tree in the forest.  The warrior princess threatened him out of emotional anguish rather than real fear yet she wanted him to understand how fear should not be respected despite human nature.  It was the reason evil lurked about unchecked.  Xena did not want to be the cause of another human disaster modeled after her own mistakes.  The warrior princess desperately hoped that she was striking a chord with Palaemon.  She could not see his face.  Her faith in him and his concerned heart was all that she had to hold onto.  Palaemon’s only response was in the hope that he would someday be half as good as the legendary warrior princess.

While the warrior princess had spent her day fighting Palaemon’s philosphies with her own Gabrielle found herself thrust into the unexpected.  She had been sold to some strange men who had taken her to a castle.  Gabrielle suspected that she had been bought by a royal to become a servant.  Yet she was surprised to find out the contrary.  She had been chosen to be the bride of King Solace.  As this was explained to her by one of the castle guards she could only find herself reviewing her memories trying to think if she had known him or even heard of him in passing.  Gabrielle’s mind was racing, but without answers.  Instead it was filled with images on the castle walls of women who all seemingly looked like her.  There were also many statues as well.  Gabrielle thought that there might be a mistake.  She thought that maybe she looked like someone else that had been lost.  Yet the castle guard raved about how lucky Gabrielle was to be the chosen bride of the King.  Gabrielle was not excited about being thrust into a marriage.  She did not even know the man she was to marry.  It was all happening too fast.

As the guard continued to explain the connection Gabrielle looked about explaining that she was really not blond, but red.  Her only defense was to attempt to talk her way out of whatever was to come next.  The bard began casual as she spoke demonstrating a calm demeanor, but when the response from the guard was of ignorance she switched to a more firm and threatening tone.  Gabrielle defied the guard’s wishes desperate to explain why she could not marry the king.  Yet he was seemingly persuasive when he pointed out an Adonis that represented the handsome man she was slated to marry.  Gabrielle could not ignore that he was indeed handsome as she examined his statue, but that was far from the point.  She knew she could not marry a king she did not know.  No matter how powerful and beautiful he was.  Yet as Gabrielle tried to argue the guard just urged her to go along with things explaining that the king would get his way despite Gabrielle’s own wishes.  Before Gabrielle could say another word about the dilemma she was ushered away quickly by two more guards.

The treatment she was receiving was seemingly less than royal.  Future queens did not usually find themselves locked up within their own chambers against their will.  Gabrielle sensed there was something more to all of this sudden unwelcome fame, but she did not desire to stay and find out the outcome of it all.  She began to gather blankets, and clothing, and anything else she could find hoping to create an escape.  As she finished tying together the last pieces of fabric she checked the stability of her self-made rope.  The bard had been working for a few hours on her escape and just as she had thrown her rope out the window preparing to climb out and into obscurity again the door to her chambers opened unexpectedly.

Two servants and a rather peculiar looking man dressed in elegant robes entered foiling Gabrielle’s escape attempt.  The bard was frustrated and angry for being a prisoner in a castle was not her idea of an exciting adventurous day.  Again she tried to plead for freedom and a dissolution of marriage, but was politely rejected by the short peculiar looking man.  He gently put his reassuring arm around the bard as she threw her rope onto the floor explaining that all brides get wedding jitters.  Then he went over a list of valid jitters that the bard was most certainly feeling.  He ended his persuasive gentle statement explaining that Vidalas would take care of it all.  His attitude was of no worries.  Gabrielle was confused for she had never heard of Vidalas.  When she asked what it was the short peculiar man stated that he was Vidalas.  Then he smiled softly as Gabrielle hoped to explain to him why she was the wrong choice.  She tried a threat throwing out Xena’s name and how her friend would be displeased with a forced marriage.

Yet Vidalis seemed unaffected by this.  He just went on to criticize the bard.  First he disapproved of her threatening nature.  Then he went onto say that she looked like a scrub woman.  Gabrielle was confused for she had never been picked apart in this way.  Vidalis stated that he would turn Gabrielle into a lady as he turned his student about observing her every detail.  The bard was angered by this as she turned around to slap his hands away.  With anger Gabrielle defended herself stating that she already knew how to behave like a lady.  Vidalis continued strong insulting Gabrielle further comparing her hand gestures to that of a wagon driver.  The bard was shocked by the degradation.  She was certain a queen would not be treated with this kind of disrespect even if she was out-of-place.

Vidalis continued to pick her apart.  He pointed out Gabrielle’s dialect.  Vidalis suggested that it might be Thracian or Macedonian.  Either way he was not impressed.  Gabrielle was amazed at how he had been able to pick out her native background by just listening to her speech.  She was indeed from Thrace, but understood that being around Xena gave her a Macedonian edge.  Xena was from Macedonia.  As Gabrielle thought of these things she began to wonder why they would even bother trying to transform her into a queen when it was obvious to Vidalis she was not the right type.  It was as if Vidalis were insulted that he had to even bother with Gabrielle.  He continued explaining that he would cover up her midriff muscle and give her white gloves to conceal her rough hands.  Vidalis was right about one thing.  Gabrielle was from the back woods and she was not in shame of it.  She explained with some relief that she agreed with him when he answered yes to her question of his opinion about her queen potential.

Gabrielle decided to use this mutual ground as a weapon.  She then asked him why he thought a king would want to marry a peasant girl he did not know.  Vidalis did not have an answer.  Gabrielle pressed this advantage firmly threatening Vidalis with defiance explaining that she would not follow through with th marriage.  Yet there was persuasion in the offerings of fruit brought to the future queen by her servants.  As Gabrielle began to melt into the idea for only a moment she snapped back into the suspicious reality pushing Vidalis out of her way as she bolted for the door.  Yet there were two massive armed guards preventing her from leaving.  Gabrielle turned back to Vidalis suddenly realizing that she was not alone in being forced into marriage.  She realized that Vidalis was teaching her royal manners against his better judgement.  If there weren’t something threatening him she was certain he would not be speaking to her.  As she looked to him for an answer he only asked her how her curtsie was.  Gabrielle could only respond by trying one uncertain if it was enough for Vidalis.

Then Vidalis explained that they had less than an hour before Gabrielle’s big introduction ceremony.  He quickly had Gabrielle dressed in the finest gown and jewelry ready for a presentation.  The queen’s wardrobe was not particularly comfortable for the bard and she found that it was difficult to move.  She could barely walk in the queen’s shoes, but the show had to go on.  Gabrielle was not feeling particularly gracious or giving considering Vidalis had just torn her apart with insults.  She learned the name of the guard who had been in charge of the entire fiasco.  His name was Apex.  It seemed that this was the man who Vidalis feared.  He kept reciting the name as if it were a reference to Zeus.  Soon Apex entered demanding that Gabrielle be ready for the crowd was waiting eagerly to view their future queen.  The bard felt extremely defiant realizing that it was Apex not Vidalis that was her problem.

As Gabrielle listened to Apex addressing the crowd just outside the curtains of the doorway she heard him say that the king had selected his bride.  This was not true for she had yet to meet the king.  It seemed that Apex had selected the king’s bride.  Then Apex asked for the approval of the people introducing lady Gabrielle to her subjects.  Gabrielle’s instructions were to follow Vidalis out into the hall where her people awaited her.  Yet she was determined to defy her captures.  The bard hoped that defiance would cause the people to reject her as their queen, but Vidalis begged for her mercy in the wrath of Apex.  Gabrielle reluctantly entered through the curtains realizing that Vidalis might be her only chance to escape.  As she entered she smiled feeling awkward and uncomfortable.  She tripped over her shoes and was caught by Vidalis.  Vidalis was supportive yet afraid for his own safety as Gabrielle approached Apex.  She was instructed to bow only to Apex as she continued on toward the crowd.  Gabrielle curtsied again tripping as she fell into Apex.  He held her up as she addressed him politely struggling to keep her dialect under control.  Then Apex introduced her to the people as they accepted their future queen with celebration and wine.  As they toasted Apex sent Gabrielle back with Vidalis to return to her prison until she was summoned again.

For the next several hours Gabrielle decided that her only hope of escape was to speak to the king directly.  In order to do this she had to build a trusting relationship with Vidalis.  While he tried to teach her how to be a stunning queen she was the patient with his criticism.  Gabrielle began to realize that Vidalis was putting up with a lot in having to teach her how to be a queen by the end of the day.  It was seemingly an impossible task as was her escape.  While practicing how to extend her hand for a kiss Gabrielle was insulted yet again as Vidalis scolded her for reaching for a beer in the tavern.  The bard could not help her inadequate gestures.  Her life was spent in a lot of taverns along the way.  Vidalis showed her again and as she tried to gracefully imitate his movements she accidentally slapped him in the face.  The two shared in a bit of nervous laughter as Vidalis tried to teach her how to walk with perfect posture.  He gave her a large scroll and instructed her to put it onto her head as she walked.  This was even more difficult than extending one’s hand for a kiss.  Although for a moment the bard felt that she just might be able to pull off the walk.  Yet Gabrielle could sense Vidalis’s impatience with her performance in this excercise.  He told her to stop trying to pull the plow.  Movements were meant to be slow and gentle.  The bard could no longer take the criticisms as she yanked the parchment off of her head and threw it violently across the room onto the ground.  Vidalis’s reaction to her outburst was a glance of shock and surprise.

Then she looked to Vidalis and spoke softly and gently asking him if he would take her to the king.  Vidalis rejected the request explaining that he would not risk a royal hanging for such a frivilous request.  Gabrielle could see that cooperation was not the way to Vidalis.  She had to come up with another weapon.  She decided that she would try to open his heart by asking him seriously if he had ever been in love.  Vidalis thought of this for a moment and revealed through his eyes and then his soft words that he had once loved someone deeply.  Gabrielle urged him to imagine being with that person again.  Then she asked him to imagine having to be with someone other than the one he loved.  When Vidalis thought of this Gabrielle could see that she had finally gotten through.  Vidalis realized that it wasn’t about escape anymore for the bard.  It was about someone she loved.  Although it had been five seasons since Gabrielle had lost Perdicas to Callisto’s sword she still loved him.  She could not imagine being with another man even now.  Gabrielle pleaded with Vidalis once more for his permission to see the king.  Vidalis was no longer reluctant to help understanding Gabrielle’s pleas from the heart.  With no hesitation he softly spoke under his breath as if trying to conceal a secret the directions to the location of the King’s chambers.

The guards were no longer a problem as Gabrielle quietly found herself sneaking through the dark cold halls of the castle in search of her husband to be.  By now night had fallen over the castle and it was late.  Few people were circulating the castle as Gabrielle took one last glance behind her entering through the large heavy door to the king’s chambers.  He was most certainly sleeping by now like every one else.  She was concerned about awakening him, but she had to let him down gently.  Gabrielle was certain that she would be able to use love as the ultimate weapon to convince him that marriage to a Thracian girl from the back woods was not what he was looking for.  Quietly she sat down next to his bed and addressed him respectfully.  She spoke softly, but with a bit of a nervous edge.  To her it seemed as if he might be a tyrant considering how much Vidalis and many others about the castle seemingly feared him.

As she spoke to him she could barely see him for he was concealed behind the canopy and fabrics which enclosed his bed.  It was a rather large yet elegant place to sleep.  The privacy was noted within the bard’s mind as she continued explaining her concern about meeting before the ceremony.  She hoped that his response to this idea of meeting would be agreeable and it seemed that the king was willing to offer his hand to the bard.  She was delighted that he offered her a gesture of kindness in this way despite her hopes for a more formal and face to face chat.  Yet the bard could accept his unusually cold hand in hers as a gesture of faith.  Gabrielle quickly decided that it was nerves that kept the king quiet with unusually clammy and cold hands.  She tried to further break the ice of the moment by laughing nervously hoping that maybe this would loosen his lips a little.  Gabrielle was hopeful for a two-way conversation on the matter of marriage.  Yet there was no verbal response of any kind just complete and total silence from within the bed chambers.

Gabrielle took a deep breath as she held the king’s hand caressing it gently hoping to ease the angry reaction she expected from him over her next statement of inevitable rejection.  She was certain that a king was not used to being told no by anyone especially someone as low on the social ladder as herself.  As she spoke of her true feelings she could feel the cold response as she caught a glimpse of his head turning away from her.  She desperately wanted to make this split as simple and painless as possible for everyone involved.  Gabrielle desperately explained to him that it was not that she was rejecting the king as a person or as a man, but more for her fear of falling in love and losing someone all over again the way that she had lost Perdicas.  She was also reminded of falling in love with Tallus before that.  He had been terminally ill.  As Gabrielle continued on with her concerns she found herself becoming more frustrated with his lack of response.  For a moment she was certain that he had fallen into sleep over boredom of her please and depth of her past stories.  Yet just as she tugged upon his hand attempting to wake him up the king rolled off of the bed and fell upon the bard’s lap.  As she looked down she noticed not only were the king’s hands cold, but his head and face was also clammy and cold.  In fact, it was pale and white as if he were dead.

When the bard could not feel his breath upon her fingers which now supported his head upon her lap she was certain that he was dead.  Gabrielle was shocked and cried out to the mother of Zeus.  It was as if every man she touched with compassion and love was destined to die in her arms.  Then Gabrielle heard the voice of Apex as she looked up to find herself  even more surprised and confused.  The entire castle guard stood behind him before her.  It was as if they had been expecting her arrival.  Apex explained that the king had been dead for a few days now.  He had died in the royal baths in a mysterious accident.  As Apex spoke Gabrielle struggled to replace the dead body back into its resting place.  She felt extremely dirty knowing that she had been caressing the hands of a dead man and held him in her arms.  Suddenly Gabrielle rose from the chair she had been seated in next to the bed and completed the puzzle not certain it made sense.  She declared that she had been expected to marry a dead man.  Apex confirmed her declaration with confidence and as if there were nothing wrong with the idea of the living marrying the dead.

Gabrielle noticed Vidalis standing just behind Apex cowering with fear as Apex approached Gabrielle with more details.  He explained that the kingdom was governed by a constitution which stated that if the king died unwed then his throne would be passed on to a cousin which was the ruler of another kingdom.  This would create a collapse which would lead to one ruler over a larger land rather than two separate rulers of two smaller kingdoms.  Gabrielle looked back to the dead man realizing that he had died alone.  For a moment she felt sorry for the dead king only to realize the true intentions of Apex.  Apex explained that if the king had been married at his death his monarchy would be dissolved leaving all power and control to the ministry of defense which was Apex himself.  Vidalis chimed in confirming the idea with a somber yet serious tone while Apex stood before the bride in triumph explaining how fortunate it was for him to have found a bride for the king just in time for the moment of his death.  Only for Gabrielle it had seemingly been a few days late.  This led her to an unusually cryptic question.  She wanted to know what her role would be in the end of this finely woven plot to power.

Apex was ready to answer the question.  He spoke with no compassion and little concern.  It was pure darkness that was in control for he explained that by ancient proclamation of the kingdom all queens were required to follow their husbands into death.  Even if the queen was healthy and young despite the old man she had been expected to marry she would be put to death by the ceremonial laws of the kingdom.  Apex continued as if gleeful of the fate of the vibrant young blond.  He explained that her honeymoon would be an exciting trip to the royal crematorium.  For Gabrielle this was hardly a bonus.  Just as the realization of death began to dawn on her after wading through the disbelief of the dead husband to be Apex ordered the guards to seize her for the ceremony.

As night settled into dawn Xena and Palaemon had arrived at the castle gates.  Xena was determined to teach Palaemon how to storm the enemy without the aid of fear and destruction.  There was a certain finesse and style in accomplishing the goals of a true warrior.  Xena had multiple reasons for wanting to sway Palaemon’s views.  She needed to save Gabrielle and to ensure that she needed to have control over Palaemon’s choices in the next several moments.  Once they would enter into the castle there would be no guaruntee that Palemon would not use wit to his advantage.  The warrior princess felt that it was unlikely that he would decide to switch sides suddenly, but in a warrior’s world anything is possible.  One must anticipate the seemingly impossible and the unexpected.

As the two scaled the wall Xena instructed her newest student to keep as quiet as possible.  Palaemon was apparently captivated by the experience of spending a day with the warrior princess despite her blindness.  She was even more attractive to him and her truest most valuable skills were being revealed by her now heightened senses.  As the warrior princess inquired of Palaemon about their situation upon scaling to the top of the castle walls he explained that their situation appeared grim and impossible.  He was not so confident that they would be able to enter the castle undetected.  Xena was more confident as she listened to the sounds of the guards below as their commander barked out an order.  The warrior princess heard a small group of guards marching by down below.  It sounded as if there were only a handful.  She also noted the one manning the wall alone.  Then the warrior princess asked Palaemon how long the other castle walls were.  He judged them to be around twenty lengths.  Xena evaluated this in her mind and then reached down pulling out her chakram.  Before Palaemon could figure out what Xena’s actions meant she was already hurling her chakram over the walls across the courtyard to the other side.

The chakram clanked loudly as it bounced off of the far end of the castle walls which created a diversion.  Xena listened intently as she heard about ten sets of boots run from the near side across to the far side of the court-yard.  There were others too, but they were already in position.  Every guard had run off to see what the breach was.  Yet the breach was on the near side as Palaemon gleefully congratulated Xena on her brilliant plan.  It was smooth, painless, and practically effortless as well.  Just as Palaemon was pleading with the warrior princess to teach him more about her effortless ideas and skills the warrior princess lost her connection with the chakram.  She shushed her student hoping to quiet him long enough to save him from the weapon which was just about to bury itself into his face if he did not follow her command.  Just then Palaemon was quiet and Xena’s ears caught the swoosh of the chakram once more.  Gracefully she retrieved it before the eyes of Palaemon who was thankful for her talent and even more in awe of the warrior princess.

This made him more cooperative and willing to assist Xena in her search for Gabrielle.  Quickly Palaemon led Xena through the courtyard and into the castle.  Xena could hear the sounds of guards marching about in every direction.  Palaemon slowed down to a stop for a moment explaining to the warrior princess that he could see guards everywhere.  His assessment was that there was at least an entire regiment of men guarding the place if not more.  Xena did not doubt this observation.  As she thought of this factor in their search for Gabrielle Palaemon inquired her about her eyes.  It was as if he were hoping that she had some minute bit of sight even if things were only a blur.  This would allow them to split up and cover more ground quicker.  Xena’s response was only in that her eyes were stinging less than before which meant that the sumac oil was settling in permanently.  This seemingly annoyed Palaemon.  He sighed in frustration realizing that his chance to have a fair fight to the death against the warrior princess would be impossible.  Xena sighed realizing that their time was short and that the only payment she would accept from the fates was in finding Gabrielle.  Palaemon then asked Xena if Gabrielle was truly worth her sight.  Without hesitation Xena explained that the cost was worth her eye sight and more.  The warrior princess explained that she would give her life without hesitation for the bard.

This was the part of the warrior princess that Palaemon could not begin to understand or appreciate.  Her loyalty to Gabrielle and her love of her best friend.  Palaemon spoke with disgust explaining that the weakness of friendship was the reason he chose not to have any friends.  Although Palaemon was attempting to be harsh the warrior princess could sense that it was an act and nothing more.  She had decided that a man without compassion would not have come this far with her.  The warrior princess only scoffed at his comment knowing the truth.  Palaemon did not like her reaction as he continued to act as if he were hard-hearted.  He was certain Xena’s comment was as a result of her dislike of him.  Xena quickly corrected him in explaining forcefully that it was who he pretended to be that she did not like.  She verbalized her thoughts about him to him only to be challenged once more.

Xena continued explaining that he was not a hard-hearted warlord.  Palaemon declared that he would show no mercy to the warrior princess who again scoffed at his act.  She layed out her deductions of character openly to Palaemon despite the risk of losing control of him.  Xena reminded him of his sense of compassion toward her when he saved her from death in the ravine on the day before.  Palaemon desperately tried to hide the truth of his compassionate side declaring that the warrior princess knew exactly what his intentions were.  They were not honorable, but selfish in his quest for the fair fight to the death against his warrior hero.  She continued on reminding him of their initial meeting when he could have easily killed her in combat for he had so eloquently played on her emotions.  Her weakness known to many now was Gabrielle and it could have killed the warrior princess.  Xena knew this and was aware that Palaemon knew it too.  Yet Palaemon continued to argue with the warrior princess when she flatly stated that she felt he did not have the killer instinct in him.  She pushed him further stating that she was certain that he had not yet killed a single soul.  Palaemon struggled to defend his carefully crafted self-image.  Xena knew that she had him for she had torn it all down in a matter of seconds within just a few short statements.  Palaemon grasped for his last straw as he firmly declared that he had killed Krykus the Pilot.

Xena had finally won this battle of wits after a day of haggling with Palaemon.  He had played right into her hands.  She scoffed at him in triumph explaining to him cool and calmly that she was certain he had not killed Krykus the Pilot for she had been the one whom had delivered Krykus to his death.  Palaemon was silent for a long moment.  Xena could feel the fear for he had been certain that he had won the battle of wits up until now.  The warrior princess had been working him for an entire day wearing him away until he had no verbal defenses left.  Although he was fearful the two were sharing in the same fate.  They were right in the middle of a castle full of armed guards unable to find Xena’s friend.  Whatever happened to Xena was now about to happen to Palaemon.  He had no other choice, but to submit to Xena’s demands and follow her into the battle that most certainly lied before them.  As the guards moved closer Xena instructed Palaemon to move.  They continued on through the castle in search of Gabrielle.  The warrior princess decided to capitalize on her advantage over Palaemon as they rounded a corner she heard Palaemon move into a struggle with one of the guards.  Then she took him out with a solid punch impressing her student once again.  She joked that he had been right to say that the place was crawling with guards.  Xena hoped to lighten the mood that had become so tense within the last several minutes.  Palaemon appeared concerned for her safety despite her move on the guard.  It was as if he had been testing her, but she had easily put all doubt aside.  In fact the warrior princess reminded him that his compassion was creeping out into her view once more despite her physical blindness.

Just outside in the court-yard the subjects of the kingdom awaited news of the wedding of their king to his new queen.  No one was permitted inside to witness the ceremony except for the guards and of course Apex himself who conducted the scandalous ceremony.  Gabrielle was helpless to defend herself or even try to escape for she her wrists and ankles were tied.  She was unarmed and up against the entire castle full of guards.  Even Xena would have difficulty in this situation.  Gabrielle hoped that there would be a window of opportunity between the time of the ceremony and the scheduled honeymoon.  She found herself disgusted by the spectacle of fixed ceremony and of the fact that she was forced to stand next to a dead man propped up by a large chair.  Apex consummated the holy bond between man and wife with the wine from and ancient golden goblet.  He poured the wine upon the lips of the dead man and then upon the bride’s chest.  Apex took joy in the idea of sending Gabrielle to her death for it meant his ascension to ultimate power.  Gabrielle growled with disapproval for her mouth was also gagged leaving her unable to cry out for help from her subjects down below.

Apex then shouted out to the gods asking for a sign of disapproval if one existed.  Gabrielle hoped that the gods might object, but to no avail.  All was silent in the banquet hall as Apex gave the last words sending Gabrielle into her latest marriage to a dead man.  Then Apex walked out onto the balcony above his subjects who were unaware of the wrath which soon faced them.  He declared that the gods bless the union of their king and new queen.  Gabrielle desperately tried to free herself from the ropes realizing that this might be her only chance to escape.  She would have to try to take on the guards alone for death awaited her either way.  The bard had decided that she would not die without a struggle.  Just as she was beginning to loosen the ropes binding her wrists she could hear the sounds of the crowd cheering down below.  Her time was running out as she feverishly tried to free herself.  The bard thought if only her husband could truly be with her in her time of desperate need.  It was a sarcastic thought, but it was the only thing she could hold onto to keep her sanity.

Apex soon returned to talk to the dead king congratulating him and his new bride on their union.  Gabrielle was irritated and desperately wanted to attack Apex with words, but he had taken that weapon away from her as well.  Apex had left the bard completely helpless and defenseless.  As Apex continued to bask in his glory he ordered the guards into action as the brought in two large caskets.  One was designed with a golden freeze of the king and the other was decorated with the peaceful looking face of the dead queen.  It was too eerie for the bard to see herself depicted in this way as the guards grasped her firmly following their orders to imprison her into her chamber of death.  Gabrielle had just freed her hands, but it was too late as she struggled with the guards who easily over powered her.  She quickly found herself enclosed within the darkness of a hopeless situation.  It seemed as if there was no turning back.  She cried out in fear and desperation hoping that someone with compassion would hear her please for life despite still being gagged.

As time began to run out for Gabrielle Xena and Palaemon were still moving through the castle searching every dark corner in the hopes of finding Gabrielle.  Xena paused for a moment for her senses took notices of the sudden smell of something burning within the castle.  It was as if a large furnace had been fired up.  This was unusual for it was not the season for cold weather in this part of the country.  Xena was mystified for a moment as she tried to figure out the sudden change in smell and the silence within the castle.  Palaemon paused inquiring of the warrior princess her next move.  Slowly Xena moved against the wall as if about to turn the corner when a voice came from behind whispering a shaky and quiet greeting.  Both Xena and Palaemon turned to face the one who confronted them drawing their weapons.  The soft-spoken  man’s voice stated that if the woman who stood before him was Xena then his prayers to the gods had been answered.  Xena noticed that the man struggled to breathe as if he were hanging off of the ground.  The man continued stating that he was Vidalis a good friend to the lovely bride.  Vidalis continued speaking with a tinge of relief that someone had come along to notice is predicament.  He then gave a critique of Xena’s leather determining that she was not what he had expected Xena to be.  The warrior princess quickly assessed that the bard had described her friend as loving which would not accentuate the boldness of the warrior woman.  Yet that was beyond the point of the moment.  Xena quickly cut Vidalis off asking him where she could find Gabrielle.  The warrior princess was growing more worried now that she could smell the burning of dead flesh flowing through the air within the castle walls.

Vidalis answered Xena without hesitation.  He explained Xena’s worst fears.  The friend of the bride stated that Apex had taken her along with the king down to the crematorium.  Vidalis continued on with the grim news determining for himself that if he could be cut down from his binds upon the wall that he would be able to guide Xena and Palaemon to the location of the bride.  Xena heard Palaemon’s sword swing through the air and then cut the ropes dropping Vidalis what seemed to be about half a man’s distance to the ground.  She could hear Vidalis struggle to regain his breath and control of his arms from the strain of hanging.  He was a short stout little man with extra weight which led the warrior princess to a vague idea of Vidalis’s appearance.  Xena realized quickly that there was little time to waste as she instructed everyone to lead the way to her friend.

Gabrielle found herself terrified.  She could hear the sounds of the crackling fire and of the burning wood of the king’s coffin.  She shouted out for rescue angry that her fate was seemingly sealed and hopeless.  The bard did not want to die and certainly dreaded the idea of being burned alive.  She clawed and scratched at the top of her own tomb desperately hoping she could bust through the top with her fists somehow.  It was her only chance, but then she heard the order from Apex to execute the queen.  She could feel that her tomb was moving and as it moved the bard could feel her body sweating as the heat began to fill in the air pockets around her.

It did not take long for Vidalis to lead Xena and Palaemon to the doors of the crematorium.  Xena could sense that they were moving in the right direction as the smell thickened.  There was smoke coating the air as Vidalis stopped revealing the location.  Just as Xena and Palaemon prepared to enter through the doors three guards ambushed them from around the corner.  Xena was about to go into battle mode when she noticed the smell of burning wood which meant that the cremation had already begun.  She only hoped that Gabrielle was still alive.  The warrior princess decided that she could leave Palaemon and Vidalis on their own to deal with the three guards flipping over the battle allowing access through large heavy wooden doors.  Apex stood before the warrior princess for she heard him greet her with a sarcastic apology.  Suddenly Xena heard the sounds of at least five swords maybe six being drawn into battle stance.

Gabrielle continued to struggle to think of a way out of her demise.  As she tried to think of how Xena would escape she thought she heard the sounds of the warrior princess.  It was as if Xena’s battle cry echoed in her mind yet Gabrielle was not certain if she was beginning to hallucinate due to the heavy smoke beginning to engulf her tomb.  She decided to listen closely hoping that just maybe the warrior princess was just outside there ready to rescue her friend from the flames which now crackled even more loudly than before.  It seemed that all Gabrielle could hear was the sound of the chains and the belts pulling her into Celesta’s arms.

Xena decided that she had to act quickly for she was certain that Gabrielle was about to be burned alive, but she could not see her friend only hear the sounds of the flames, and smell of burnt materials.  The warrior princess hoped that she could avoid a long battle.  She was counting on the threat of her presence to intimidate her enemies.  Xena was certain a battle would take too long.  Xena decided to risk a question hoping that Apex and his men would not realize her blindness.  Apex was quick to access that the warrior princess was blind for her question of the bard’s whereabouts gave her away.  It was obvious to everyone in the room that Gabrielle was being swallowed up by the flames within the moment.

Xena could hear the sounds of boots approaching her setting up for a fight.  Apex was not certain that Xena was blind so he responded with his own question. The warrior princess listened intently to the sounds surrounding her.  She could still hear the battle going on just outside the doors between Palaemon and the three guards outside.  Xena noticed that some bodies had fallen to the ground behind her.  Suddenly Apex shouted out his own answer to the question.  He ordered his men to battle Xena and to her own fiery death upon defeat.  Suddenly she heard the slow-moving boots quicken into a stance surrounding her.  The warrior princess decided that her best chance to win the battle was to fight in hand to hand combat.  Her sword drawn and ready she held it out waiting for the first move.  There was a guard to her right that kicked her hand disarming her of her weapon.  Xena then elbowed him to the ground awaiting a frontal assault using her boots to kick down the advance.  Although she was being approached from all sides defeat was not an option for death would take her friend away if she did not take out the five guards within her final assessment.

As two battles raged on Gabrielle thought she could hear the sounds of men falling to the floor.  Yet again she was not certain if they were true sounds for she was beginning to feel the grip of suffocation by smoke.  She beat the top of her box once again hoping desperately that someone could hear her pleas.  If Xena really was with her Gabrielle needed to be able to make enough noise from within to stand out above all of the other commotion about outside of her death prison.  She shouted out with one last attempt of desperation for she was no longer able to take a breath of air to fill her lungs.  The smoke coated her airways with a thick weight reminding the bard that her death was eminent.  Gabrielle decided that she had two choices in death.  She could fight it and struggling hoping for rescue or she could just give up and die without a fight.  The bard was determined to pound on the top of her box and claw at the wood until death or rescue took her.  She cried out for Xena hoping that the warrior princess was there and could hear her pleas.

It was as if the sounds of the battle were subsiding as Gabrielle listened in between pounding which became weak.  She found herself going in and out of consciousness struggling to hold onto her life.  The bard was soaked with sweat, and her lungs were saturated with smoke.  Her hands were now badly bruised as she felt her own blood seeping through her finger nails.  Soon she could feel the beginnings of the flames invading the wooden box which had held her captive for what had seemed like an eternity.  Gabrielle’s toes were beginning to feel the pain of the searing heat as she weakly cried out for Xena once more.

Xena had defeated her enemies swiftly as she listened and tried to hone in on every sense within her body.  Although she had defeated her enemy there was no one there to guide her to where the fire burned her friend.  The warrior princess then heard the weak voice crying out her name.  It was most certainly Gabrielle.  Xena’s heart pounded with hope and urgency for there were no moments left to spare.  Xena dashed forward tripping over the belts which carried the body of her friend.  The warrior princess called out desperately to Gabrielle with worry deep in her heart.  Gabrielle found herself certain that she had been hallucinating the entire time.  She found comfort in knowing that Xena was there with her in spirit and within her heart.  The bard imagined that she could hear Xena’s voice.  It was the only thing she could focus on as the flames began to surround her becoming unbearable.  Gabrielle began to slip out of consciousness again calling out to Xena one last time hoping the warrior princess was there despite certain hallucination.

Then Gabrielle could remember nothing more.

The warrior princess had found her friend, but she could also sense that there was not a moment to lose.  Xena struggled to pull her friend out of the fire for the entire box was practically inside the fire.  The warrior princess’s arms were scorched by the hot flames, but Xena did not give up.  She pulled against the belts and chains with all of her strength to pull Gabrielle to safety.  Xena then heard the sounds of the gears clicking and jamming which meant that the box was no longer being pulled into the flames.  It had finally come to a rest.  She only hoped that she had not been too late.  Xena called out to her friend once more desperately hoping Gabrielle would call back to her again.  The warrior princess pried open the hot steaming box and called out to Gabrielle once more.  Her friend did not respond.  The warrior princess felt the sudden whiff of smoke into her face realizing that Gabrielle might have already suffocated to death within the box.  Xena reached down into the box with a panic.  Without her eyes she could not see if the body within the box was even that of the bard.  Xena grabbed hold of a shoulder and then an arm.  She knew that it was Gabrielle.  As she tried to pull her friend out of the box she could hear the sounds of coughing.  Xena realized that Gabrielle was indeed still alive, but seemingly unable to breath.  Gabrielle struggled to rise on her own as Xena helped her sit up.

Xena softly spoke to her friend concerned for her health.  All Gabrielle could do was laugh nervously for she had not been hallucinating.  She had made the right choice in having faith and not giving up hope.  The warrior princess had not given up hope of finding Gabrielle.  Gabrielle stated that she was okay despite the struggle as she buried her head into Xena’s chest.  Xena put her arms around Gabrielle’s head and then Gabrielle looked up into Xena’s eyes.  The bard desired to connect with her friend as did Xena with the bard.  As Gabrielle looked into Xena’s eyes she noticed that Xena was struggling.  It was as if she was trying to see into the bard’s eyes and could not.  Gabrielle sensed worry and then inquired Xena of her eyes.  Xena paused for a moment and said nothing.  Then she softly admitted to the bard without regret that she was blind.  Gabrielle found herself to be unsettled and upset by this idea.  She immediately realized that Xena had given up her sight to save her from death.  Gabrielle felt guilty for not being able to save herself from the wrath of Apex.  She felt responsible for the loss of Xena’s sight.  This made the bard realize just how much Xena loved her.  The warrior princess would sacrifice anything for the bard.  Gabrielle hoped that there would be a way to save Xena’s eyes.  Xena explained with a deep acceptance of her loss that the cure was available in Athens, but it would be too late by the time they could arrive there.

Gabrielle’s heart sank for her friend.  Yet just when it seemed that all hope for Xena was lost Vidalis chimed in with great news.  He explained that he happened to grow Egyptian senna in his garden within the courtyard.  Vidalis chucked explaining that he used it to make face cream.  Gabrielle looked behind her relieved that her new-found friend was able to help Xena.  Soon everyone was cleaned up and the plants were made ready to cure Xena’s eyes courtesy of Vidalis himself.  It had been close to a day since their ordeal had begun.  No one was certain that Xena’s eyes would be able to heal despite Vidalis’s help.  Gabrielle tended to Xena hoping that squeezing the senna into Xena’s eyes using Vidalis’s sponges would give her friend her sight back.  It was the least Gabrielle could do to express her appreciation for Xena’s faith in their friendship.  Gabrielle spoke softly to her friend preparing Xena for the burn that might accompany the medicine.

The warrior princess braced herself and then Gabrielle gingerly applied to senna to Xena’s eyes.  She watched it drip down Xena’s face as the warrior princess jerked for a moment at the stinging sensation within her eyes.  Vidalis stood by watching with hope that he had been able to help Xena.  He realized now why Gabrielle had described Xena as someone with deep love in her heart despite the leather exterior.  As Gabrielle finished the application she stepped back and hoped.  She asked Xena if she could see anything yet for she was uncertain how long it would take for the senna to settle into the eyes.  Xena struggled to look in Gabrielle’s direction searching blindly for her friend’s face.  After several moments Xena could see that there were a few fuzzy colors coming into her sight beyond the darkness that she had been seeing for almost a day now.  Then she struggled to focus and could see the shape of a face.  Gabrielle’s strawberry blond hair was obviously in place as Xena began to smile.  She made a joke at the sight of her friend for the first time in a day.  Gabrielle rejoiced with Xena excited that the warrior princess would be able to heal her wounded eyes.  The bard laughed with nervous relief as she approached her friend to offer a loving embrace.

Suddenly a firm voice and a the sound of a drawn sword cut through the joy.  Xena quickly prepared to do battle with Palaemon for she had promised him a battle to the death for his part in Gabrielle’s rescue.  Yet Palaemon was not there to fight.  He explained that he had come to thank Xena for pointing him in the right direction.  The young mercenary had learned that he needed to be someone he could live with being.  As Palaemon’s demeanor went from firm and harsh to calm and soft he put away his weapon and explained that he was going to pretend to be good for a while.  Then he thanked Xena and left to have his own adventures for the greater good.  Gabrielle had decided that this side of Palaemon was much more attractive than the man who had tried to kidnap her on the day before.  Vidalis chimed in agreeing with the bard as he explained that he had decided that his next adventure would be alongside Palaemon.  He had decided that he had done well as a sidekick against the guards in the battle with Palaemon.  Gabrielle found joy in Vidalis’s idea.  She encouraged his choice to be the support behind a hero.  All heroes needed a good strong friend and support system.  The bard felt it was the best most noble work one could find.

Then Vidalis complemented the bard explaining that she was an excellent lady extending his hand out to her.  Gabrielle demonstrated what she had learned from Vidalis before Xena politely accepted his complement with class.  Then Vidalis kissed the bard’s hand preparing to part ways.  Before he left he joked once more about Gabrielle’s rough hands and then went off to join Palaemon before he got too far off down the road alone.  As Vidalis left Gabrielle led the way down the road to the next adventure alongside the warrior princess explaining how difficult learning to be a lady had been for her self-esteem.  The bard could not get over the requirements of the lives of royal women.  The experience had really made her appreciate life in the back woods with Xena.  Xena teased her friend about the lack of royal skills demonstrating that her curtsie was much better than the bard’s royal hand shake.  A playful competition ensued as the two friends continued on down the road together.  Xena appeared pleased and relieved that in her own experience of the past day she had been able to shape another young warrior using the examples she set in the present rather than those in her dark past.  The warrior princess desired to create no more Callistos for that had been a painful price.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #38: A Day In The Life Of

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll  #38 :  A Day In The Life of

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

March, 47 B.C.

It has recently been brought to my attention  that waking up alongside Xena the Warrior princess must be described to all who dare inquire about a day in the life of.  The first step to a day is often treacherous and sometimes deadly.  In waking up on this day there were no exceptions for Xena and I were awakened by an attack of some henchmen sent by the warlord Zagrious.  The battle began with only two as Xena sprung out of sleep into action sending lightning speed punches and thunderous kicks at the two intruders whom had entered our small camp.  They had caught Xena somewhat off guard being that she had been in slumber, but the Warrior Princess is never sleeping as soundly as some might hope for.  Knocking one henchmen down, and then another she grabbed the nearest weapon she could find.  It was our only frying pan.

She smacked a third in the face and went choe-boe to pot with a fourth man. But even he was no match for the agile warrior princess.  Six more henchmen descended upon us from the surrounding woods and Xena decided that it was time for a wake up call.  Flipping through the air she gave her signature battle cry and landed squarely on my leather water bottle.  Water shot out like an arrow from a cross-bow rudely awakening me from my slumber.  Suddenly anger broiled from within for the action of the Warrior Princess, but there was no time to argue about her method of waking up. There was a battle to join.

Surrounded on all sides I reached for my old friend the trusty staff.  Then I delivered one blow and then a second knocking two of the henchmen flat on the ground.  As I rose up to my feet from the knees Xena could see that I was clearly out numbered so she quickly resorted to flinging the frying pan at them like a chackram.  It flew through the air with almost the same grace, but not the same sharpness as the chackram.  The frying pan wobbled through the air bouncing off the heads of one, then two, and knocking out three men with just one thrust.  As it continued on its course it was haulted violently by a tree so it could not make its return home as did its predicessor the chackram.  As the frying pan dropped to the ground Xena spun around behind her to take care of the man who was about to jump upon his feet to continue the battle.  She gave him the pinch with just one unified motion as the words began to fly.

Not only had she disturbed my slumber, but she had destroyed the only means of cooking that was left.  In fact, just the week before she had thrown our only cutting knife at yet another of the many warloards out to destroy her.  To Xena anything was a useable weapon and nothing was sacred.  No object organic or inorganic was safe from her wrath of destruction.  Now that the battle was seemingly over and Xena was in control all I could do was pick up what was left of my bent frying pan.  This was the last quill.  After all of my recent sacrifices to the warrior princess and this was how she respected me.  My next move was to argue and to express my anger over my loss.  This diverted Xena’s attention from the final moments of battle.  Our squabble over cooking utensils led to a  forgotten prisnor on the ground who was losing life fast as the blood flow to his brain was quickly thinning out.  The man struggled to interrupt our squabble reminding Xena that she had intended to interrogate him.  The pinch interrogation is the most quick and efficient way for Xena to find out vital details reguarding the enemy at hand.  It is the standard method and most preferred by the warrior princess.  Although it doesn’t seem all that humane I will admit that it is much less painful than other well-known forms of torture such as having burning splinters shoved under one’s fingers so eloquently described by a tramp I once met.

As was demonstrated on this morning waking up is not always pleasant in the company of the warrior princess; however, finding your way is entirely another challenge.  Based on the information of the interrogation Xena and I knew little of the location that we seeked.  On this particular day the goal was to find the village of Piedmont.  It was the village that the warlord Zagrious was planning to loot.  The only problem was that no one thought to ask for directions during the standard interrogation process so we were at a loss.  Xena had never been to this part of the countryside which was actually quite surprising since the warrior princess seemed to always have the answers to everything on any other day or in any other situation.  Yet who could think to complain for this scenario was quite normal.  As for me I was still irritated about the loss of my only good frying pan.  I decided that it was time to stick it to the warrior princess, and then it happened.

As I challenged the warrior princess on her mistake in gathering information Xena suggested that the next time she pinched someone for information that I should ask the quesitons.  She then stated that I often asked good questions.  Now there was shock for a moment.  Xena was actually complementing me for once.  This emotion quickly led to excitement.  Suddenly I was feeling confident in myself about asking quesitons.  And then it happened. Oppritunity soon came running just over the hill down the path. A heavy-set, blond haired, blue eyed village man was moving into our direction.  He was waiving his arms and calling out in desparation.  This was my chance to try my hand at the pinch interrogation.  He was going to give us the information we seeked.  Yet the warrior princess suggested that maybe this man didn’t need to be pinched prior to an interrogation.  Just as I was feeling my moment of glory she smacked it down yet again.

Upon his arrival the man was stunned by the presence of the warrior princess.  One would have thought that she was like the Goddess Aphrodite, or Athena, or someone of that status, but it was only Xena.  No one special really.  But Hower was dumbstruck.  He informed Xena and I of the giant known as Gareth.  Apparently Gareth was threatening to stomp their village to sticks if they didn’t pay him what he had asked.  There was only one problem.  This scencario created a delemma for Xena and I.

Making a decision isn’t always easy when so much is at stake like in this case.  Saving Piedmont or taking out the giant no one could decide really.  There was only one solution to this problem. There were the two villages Laurel and Piedmont.  Each had its own uniquely dire situation.   One was dealing with a gaint while the other a warlord.  To me it would be quite a contest of decision.  In sizing up the situation I  took out some fresh srcolls and began to make my list of the pros and cons.  There could not be a better method in coming to a fair decision.  And no sooner had I begun my list did the warrior princess whip out a dinar flipping it through the air.  She seemingly ignored my hard work, and had come to her own conclusion with just one simple action.  The fates stated heads we were to take on the giant.

Of course this was not an acceptable means of decision making in my opinion, but it is sometimes difficult to argue successfully against the warrior princess.  Not only that, but once again Xena had demonstrated her lack of confidence in my abilities as a sidekick.  There  was only one thing left to do.  Continue the arguement about the frying pan because after all it wasn’t a suitable choice of weaponry.  Without a good frying pan to cook that fish Xena liked to eat so much there would be only raw fish to sooth the beast with in my stomach now. Maybe the lovesick Hower had a spare pan back in his village.

Now in traveling to Laurel there had to be a way to pass the time.  One of the daily travel games Xena and I like to play is warlords and victims.  It always begins with my interrogation of Xena.   The first rule to the game is process of elimination.  One must find out if the warlord is male or female, and in our case living or dead.  This all stems from our travels together of course.  Xena naunchelanltely answered my first two questions easily.  We had a male dead warlord.  In fact, Xena stated that this particular warlord was “very dead.”    One would think that this game would be simple, but nothing is ever simple with the warrior princess.

Yet I had thought of the perfect question.  I wanted to know if the warlord we were talking about had been killed by a certain warrior princess.  Xena answered gleefully as if she were hiding the ultimate secret and riddle.  Her answer to my quesiton was of course a yes which for a moment led to personal excitement.  I knew of every warlord that Xena had ever killed.  At least within our travels together.  I was betting that Xena would not cheat and go outside the rules of the game.  She would never name someone that she had killed prior to meeting me.  It wouldn’t be a fair game and I would have to complain.  Xena hates it when I complain.  This is why I kept complaining about our current lack of a frying pan.  Yet there was a bright side to the day.  The weather was  completely beautiful.  It couldn’t have been more perfect with the sun shining warmly on our exposed legs and arms.  Usually it gets cold  a lot in traveling with the warrior princess.  Yet this moment of peace and tranquility quickly passed.

For a moment I tried to calm myself with the peace and serenity of mother nature as we traveled through the forrest onto Laurel.  I got lost in the moment, but only briefly for I was reminded of the presence of the lovesick Hower who was constantly turning back around in awe of the warrior princess.  He seemingly couldn’t get enough glances back at her.  Suddenly it occurred to me how I could get back at the warrior princess.  She would never expect my next move.  Suddenly I turned to the warrior princess spinning around with my staff in an attempt to knock her flat on the ground.  Effortlessly she stopped my staff dead in its motion with only one hand.  The look on her face was priceless for she did not even blink one of her blue eyes.  She just held my staff steady with that smirk on her face that turns me ridged.

This only frustrated me more yet I was certain that if I had been just a moment quicker in my motion that the warrior princess would have been on the ground.  I would have been laughing joyfully at my triumph over her.  Yet she insisted that I hadn’t even been close.  She wouldn’t begin to give me the satisfaction of almost knocking her flat onto the ground with my staff.  I was of course defiant of her confidence in her warrior abilities.  Yet Xena was more defiant of my fire against her on this day.  It was a battle of wills now.  I was determined to win it.  The stakes were suddenly raised.  Xena looked into my eyes as if she were going to give away something within our little warlord game, but again I was rudely interrupted as the warrior princess brushed me aside and consulted with Hower for more information about the giant Gareth.

Hower had said that Gareth’s actual size was unknown to his village people.  In fact, their only evidence of his existance was the fact that he had constantly been sending them threats.  The stomping of Laurel was the consequence if they did not comply with his demands.  It was at this moment that it dawned on me to ask another question.  I wanted to know why Hower and the people of Laurel were so certain that this Gareth was a giant.  To me Gareth sounded like another Zagrious with only a slightly better plan of attack.  It was genious like the warrior princess to state that a giant was coming to stomp the village if it didn’t supply the army with goods and services.  Yet Hower went on to explain that he and his village friends had seen the destruction of neighboring villages in the next valley who had not complied with Gareth’s wishes.  In my own mind I visualized what a village might have looked like destroyed by a warlord versus one destroyed by a giant.  It seemed to me that the two villans would leave little behind their wraths.  Of course a giant might flatten a village whereas a warlord might burn it to the ground.

Xena seemed convinced that there was a giant for she then wanted to know if Gareth had ever been to his village.  Hower replied that Gareth had never actually been there which led Xena to a new strategy.  Watching her mind work like that is often fascinating, but I can never let her know about that.  Her head is already way too big.  Suddenly there was a loud grumbling from the pit of the warrior’s stomach.  This was my chance to hound her about her mistake in chosing to use the frying pan as a weapon instead of a cooking utensil.  I wanted to burst with laughter, but Xena held it off when she reminded me that she hadn’t had breakfast.  Of course no one had had the pleasure of a good morning meal.  I held my tongue, but only because I was just as hungry.  The warrior princess might use this against me if I pressured her any further with the frying pan issue at this moment.

Xena then asked Hower if there was water nearby.  She was planning on having fish for lunch.  Now this was a laugh and I couldn’t resist it any longer.  I decided that I didn’t care if I didn’t get to eat.  I wanted blood and vengence for even if Xena did catch enough fish to eat it would all be raw and not cooked.  Again I needled the warrior princess about this issue.  Xena only responded with disgust and frustration.  She couldn’t control the beast with in that pressed me to argue about the old trusty frying pan.  Me without my frying pan is like Xena without Argo.  No one was truely happy.  We were all tired, hungry, and ready for action.  Except for Hower of course.  He was happy as a piece of flying parchment.

Briefly I decided to try to forget about the frying pan as we headed for the creek.  It wasn’t a long journey to get there and I was glad to get off of my feet for a bit.  Xena loved to fish.  Maybe that was her way of dealing with being hungry.  Somehow it seemed to sooth her.  Those slimy creatures slivering through her hands somehow gave her solace.  In fact, a sword in her hand gives her solace.  As for me I started back in my thoughts of our game from earlier.  I was hoping that would get my mind off of the pain in my stomach.  My next question to the warrior princess was if this was a warlord or royalty we were talking about.  Xena answered while tying her hair back for the kill.  She said that it was a warlord which was suddenly quite puzzling.  It was a victim obviously, but most victims are not warlords.  Yet it did make sense for Xena kills warlords sometimes.

I was truely stumped as I tried to piece all of these little bits of information together.  None of it made sense yet it all fit together somehow.  As I was falling within the depths of my memory Hower returned from his short walk.  I wasn’t really certain where he had gone off to, but he interrupted my thoughts asking why Xena didn’t use a fishing pole.  Most people don’t understand the tequnique of the warrior princess. As I sat there and stared at the warrior princess standing in the creek I found it quite barbaric to sit there and watch her leaning over into the water.  She would seemingly listen for the fish underneath the muddy waters.  It was like eavesdropping on nature.  Suddenly I had a new source of pain for her.  I would distract her from hearing the fish so that she wouldn’t be able to capture lunch with out a fishing pole.  In my opinion she was just showing off for Hower.   Yet who knew why.  He wasn’t all that attractive..  Hower had a more humble look about him unlike the warrior princess full of fire and rage.

My next question to Xena as I laughed at Hower’s inquiries was if the warlord was Dagnon.  Xena responded barely divided from her fishing stating that Dagnon was not the answer.  She was barely listening to me and suddenly she ignored me realizing what I was trying to do.  Xena loudly responded to Hower asking him if he wanted trout or perch.  Hower responded back greatly impressed with the skills of the warrior princess.  I decided to prove that she wasn’t capable of wining every battle.  My answer to the warrior princess ignoring me was in asking for salmon.  There was no way that she would be able to produce a salmon from that creek.

Xena called me knowing that salmon were out of season and that this creek was not capable of supporting salmon.  She had beaten my wit again.  Now this was getting really serious.  I decided to go for the kill.  She would never capture an eel out of that creek.    Xena’s response was candid yet irritated.  She read me like a scroll, but I had won this battle as I triumphantly smiled and nodded to Hower who was seemingly enjoying our little squabble.  He probably thought Xena was cute or something.  I don’t view the warrior princess as cute.  Anyone who has ever dared to do that has ended up on the ground or worse.  Yet triumph was interrupted by Xena’s next statement.  She had seemingly observed some wagon tracks just on the other side of the creek leading toward Piedmont.  This meant that Zagrious and his army would soon strike there.  It was a shame that Piedmont was going to have to suffer the wrath of Zagrious and all because of a dinar toss.  I would have personally decided upon saving Piedmont rather than Laural for I was still not convinced that the giant Gareth even existed.

Xena responded to my arguement of her dinar toss explaining that she was not going to allow the destruction of Piedmont.  The warrior princess was often too full of pride to even realize that even she could be wrong sometimes.  I argued with her that there was no possible way that she could be in two places on the same day at the same time.  Xena continued to listen for the fish as she responded saying that she didn’t have to be in two places at once.  It didn’t make sense.  I couldn’t figure out her angle.  In life and in sport Xena is always a tightly woven mystery.  Yet that is what makes the warrior princess so fascinating.  Just as I was thinking about this for a moment Xena suddenly moved into the water with her powerful arms.  She struggled with what seemed to be a dangerous beast below the surface.  It was definately not a trout or a perch.  Suddenly Xena shouted that eel was coming out of the water and lunch was about to be ready.

Water splashed violently as Xena had yanked the long slithery black beast out of the water.  She struggled with it for a few moments trying not to allow it to escape.  Just when it seemed she would lose the battle against the eel it came flying in my direction slapping up across my face slithering down into my lap.  It was slimy and slippery.  The beast sqirmed violently across my exsposed legs as I tried desparately to free myself of its grasp.  It screetched loudly as I struggled to my feet grasping the slime in my hands and finally releasing it into the tall weeds along the bank.  Xena just grinned with that silly triumphant smile.  It was actually more like a goofy childish smirk.  Then she leaned back down to listen to the fish in the water once more.  I was humiliated in front of a guest companion and I didn’t like it too much.  There had to be a way to beat her at her own game.  It was just a matter of figuring it out.

Hower quickly chimed in softly and with his soothing voice.  He tried to settle me down into a change of conversation.  Hower asked me if Xena might be interested in settling down and getting married someday.  I knew I was going to have to try to let Hower down gently for Xena would never settle down.  She was too wild and barbaric for that.  Somehow Hower seemed to find it attractive that she was throwing our lunch in my face.  I tried to keep my pride as I kept talking through the fish smacking up against my face.   With each fish it seemed they were larger than the previous fish.  Each bash was more harsh that the previous slap.  It was as if Xena were kicking me while I was down.  Again I tried to keep my composure and ignore her childish games, but she would not be ignored.  At least not by me.

I decided to surrender for the moment as I asked Hower to go fetch some firewood for our lunch.  He gleefully went off to fetch wood for Xena’s lunch as I loudly reminded everyone that we were going to have to find some way to try to cook these raw slimy fish.  As Hower left to seek fire brush Xena proudly sat down up against the tree next to me all wet, smelly, and sweaty.   She was a big nasty fish and could not have smelled worse.  The warrior princess obviously didn’t have time to take a bath after her catch.  I of course had given up on proving to Hower that the warrior princess was not for him.  He was too dumbstruck.  Even raw fish for lunch couldn’t dampen his lust for the warrior princess.

As Xena smiled I could not be angry for she was just being playful at my expense.  Yet I still didn’t appreciate it.  I began to explain to her that Hower was in love with her.  She wasn’t phased by it for all she could do was wonder why so many men kept falling for her.  I explained that some guys just liked her dark long flowing hair, and her deep oceanic blue eyes.  Even her leather wardrobe could draw a crowd as long as it was the warrior princess who was wearing it.  Of course our battle of wits was subsiding for the moment because our focas was now on Hower who kept staring and guawking at the warrior princess as he picked up firewood from afar.  As our conversation wore on Hower shifted his scavenger hunt from firewood to wildflowers.  I don’t think the warrior princess noticed his boyish smile meant to grab her attention.  Instead Xena was concentrating on how to deter Hower from his lusts for her.  She thought maybe a wardrobe change would do the trick; however, she was only joking.  Xena just didn’t seem to be herself when she wasn’t wearing her leather suit and golden breast plate.  Life wouldn’t be the same without those articles of clothing.  They were like a personal attachment and trademark.

Here was something new to attempt to tease her with.  I suggested a chainmail might help with her wardrobe issues, but she just laughed and stated that it would probably only attract a slightly more rambunctious crowd as if warlords like Draco weren’t bad enough.  This thought led me to glance back at Hower for a moment as he gingerly plucked another dandillion from the ground and admired his work.  He certainly took much more time and care for his courtship than someone like Draco would.  Xena interrupted my thought by explaining that life without bathing and wearing a smelly wolfskin might work.  She had a point and I could certainly imagine how much more difficult life with the warrior princess would be if she ever followed through with that change.  I could still feel the slime all over my own skin just thinking about it knowing how much Xena liked to fish.  She still smelled even now.  This led me to my only response which was to remind Xena that she would most likely be traveling alone if she made that a permanant new lifestyle.  Dodging all of the lovesick Howers in the world was not worth that.

This of course brought laughter to both Xena and I for the first time the entire day.  We were finally settling down with our rivalry as Hower returned with a handful of purple wildflowers.  He offered them to his obsession as Xena tried to accept them graciously, but somehow she appeared more disgusted with the idea.  Xena rose to help Hower get the fire started for lunch yet she appeared very reluctant.  Hower paused for  just a moment until he was certain Xena was not within earshot.  He then giggled with glee and celebration feeling that he had finally gotten the attention of his new found romance.  All I could do was smile and pretend to be excited for his accomplishment knowing that he would only find himself disappointed in the end.  As he walked away my thoughts turned to the challenge of cooking the slimy beasts that had attacked me earlier.

Then it suddenly occurred to me that the perfect tool for cutting the fish would be Xena’s chackram.  It was the sharpest weapon I had ever known and since she had thrown our last good cutting knife at a warlord the previous week it would have to double as a pearing knife.    Soon I was sawing off the heads of Xena’s catch.  Two pearch and one rather large eel.  I began with the eel, but soon had to resort to using a large stone on the ground to hold it in place while I worked.  The job was a bloody one, but I was determined to eat lunch reguardless that it was a an eel.  Before I could finish gutting lunch Xena returned and revolted against me in anger.  She ripped the chackram out from my grasp and shouted out that it would smell like fish for days.  The warrior princess wasted no time in whipping out an old rag to wipe the aquatic blood dripping from the chackram’s blade.

Hower appeared to be stunned and unable to respond or even begin to handle the anger of the warrior princess.  I handled it by snapping back.  Someone had to stand up to her fury.  As I rose to my feet I quickly yanked my rag from Xena’s grasp.  This was when I reminded her of how she had used our knife the previous week.  I wanted Hower to know exactly what he was getting himself into.  This was my oppritunity to gain some ground on the warrior princess.  Then I turned away and ignored her while she stewed in her anger over the chackram.  It was time for her to know how it felt when friends didn’t respect belongings.  She was going to learn manners even if it killed me.  Of course she turned away from me leaving Hower speechless until he came up with the perfect solution.  He offered to clean Xena’s chackram for her.  As I would have expected Xena refused.  No one is allowed to touch her prized chackram.

Instead Xena’s fury was high as she turned to Hower seriously and asked him how much further it was from his village.  Hower replied that it was directly east about a two hour’s walk.  I was waiting for the next blow from the warrior princess as I tried desparately to figure out how we were going to eat lunch.  Without a knife, a frying pan, or even the chackram we would definately be eating raw fish and eel from the bone.  As I tried to come to terms with raw fish in my stomach, and sinking my teeth into the outer layer of skin Xena told Hower that he had an important mission for him.  This snapped me to attention for if she were seriously sending Hower on a mission I needed to know why she wasn’t asking me to perform the job.  Of course Hower was exstatic to be asked to help Xena with a mission.  She explained to Hower that he needed to deliver a message from her to Zagrious.  It was simple yet cryptic.  Both Hower and I listened intently.  The message was this.  Xena would not get in Zagrious’s path if he agreed not to enter into hers.  And that was it.  Hower appeared confused and I found myself even more mystified.  When Hower asked Xena if there was more to the message she was candid and confident stating that there was no more.  She then turned away from her audience and walked to join Argo.  Hower then looked to me as if I had all of the answers to the mystical warrior princess, but I didn’t.  Instead I just explained it to him how it is.  I’ve learned that Xena works in mysterious ways and that one doesn’t question them.  Although I still do question the warrior princess often.  She hates that about me too.

And so Hower set off to find Zagrious while I tried to figure out what Xena was doing.  She obviously had a plan, but I was still trying to figure out how she could be in two places at one time.  There was no way that she could make it back to Piedmont in time to save it from Zagrious.  Not only that, but she had just told Zagrious that she had no intention of impeding on his territory.  I decided after thinking on this over raw fish that it wasn’t important for me to know.  Instead I just decided that I would work on one of my scrolls of a time when the warrior princess seemed a little less myterious.  The thought of Joxer was even a bit of a relief after the day that Xena and I were having.  Of course most days are like this one.

About an hour from Laurel Xena experienced a call from nature.  I was certain that it came about as a result of the raw fish not in agreement with the stomach of the warrior princess.  My stomach was struggling to keep them  down.  I decided that the only way to ignore the raw pain in my side would be to re enact a dramatic interpretation of my experience with Bacchus and his baccae slaves.  I was feeling the rage of a baccae over the rude wake up call, the raw fish for lunch, Xena’s constant insults ,  inconsideration, and the fact that when I reached into Argo’s saddle bag to write another verse a corner of my scroll was now missing.  The baccae in me had taken hold at this point.  This was the last straw.  My prize possession was being used as toilet paper for Xena’s call from nature.  Again she had gotten the better of me wining the battle of wits.  I had only used her chackram for fish, but she used my scrolls for far worse.

As I rounded the corner of the horse toward the bushes the triumphant warrior princess emerged seemingly relieved and in good spirits.  Yet she also seemed quite prepared to deal with my wrath over the scrolls.  As I ranted she made up a lame excuse stating that there weren’t any good leaves in the bush.  Yeah that was a good one.  There are millions of leaves in the bushes.  I’ve used them many times and there are always at least ten possible leaves amongst hundreds.  There was no way I was buying into that excuse.  I could see it in her eyes and all over her face.  Xena was about to laugh in my face boisterously.  Before she could let out a peep the earth beneath us moved.  I was almost knocked off of my feet by the loud stomping sounds approaching through the forrest.  The entire earth shook about us and then Xena just fizzled my anger by reminding me that the giant was our enemy not each other.

The warrior princess had a point, but I was still livid.

Although Xena appeared to travel with me for laughs and my own daily humiliation I do have a lot of skills to offer.  In my struggle to remind her of this she ordered that we take cover into the trees from the open field.  While running for cover I came up with a brilliant plan as to how we would buy time.  I suggested to Xena that we make a sign with Laurel  and post it in the wrong direction so that we could mislead the giant.  That would most certainly delay him since according to Hower he had never been to their village.  Xena ignored the suggestion as she scaled up into the tallest tree she could find.  The warrior princess was looking to see exactly how much time we had before we would be battling the giant.  I don’t think she had a plan of action in place for him just yet.  She had been too focased on Zagrious determined to prove to me that she could be in two places at the same time.  I was still unconvinced.  Although I did finish building my sign.  My hope was that I had been able to spell Laurel correctly.

About this time Xena had jumped down out of the tree and was in a bit of a rush to move on.  She was frustrated with my need to finish the sign telling me that giants didn’t know how to spell so it didn’t matter that I had even made the sign.  Even so I was determined to post it so I did.  I posted it right in front of an offering statue to Aphrodite.  As I struggled to get it to stay in the ground Xena grabbed me by the clevage point and yanked me toward Laurel.  She was still unappreciative of my work.

Soon we were back to our game of warlords and victims.  I had yet to determine if who we were talking about had dark hair or light hair.  Xena responded that it was someone with dark hair.  I was begining to think that this was definately a warlord, but I was still grappling with the victim status.  Then I thought that maybe it was someone with a heavy build.  Xena quickly replied to that with a negative response.  That eliminated a few people from my list.  Maybe it was Draco because he wasn’t fat, and he was dark haired.  He was also buff, but that would be too easy.  I decided that my next best guess would be Toxious.  Xena’s response trailed off with a no.  She had suddenly switched gears again as we were entering the village of Laurel.  The warrior princess was thinking out loud.  Her words were simple.  All she could say was the word interesting.  Of course I couldn’t figure out what was so interesting about this little village.  We had been to millions of other villages just like Laurel.  They all looked the same to me.  In fact, most of them reminded me of my home village of Potedia.  Peace loving villagers tend to live very similar lives all over the countryside.  Laurel was no different.

A thought occurred to me in that moment.  Lining the main road into the village with birch trees to go with those lonely goats and chickens might be nice.  It would be a step out of the normal landscape anyway.  Xena of course was not talking about the asthtetic appearance of Laurel.  She was more interested in the fact that there seemed to be no one there.  There was not once soul roaming the streets.  No one was shopping at the market.  It was ghostly and almost eerie.  Life in this village seemed a bit too quiet.  As Xena and I looked about we were suddenly on high alert until the silence was broken by the sounds of a struggle.  Xena and I turned to look behind our path to see a peasant woman with dark hair struggling with a baby goat.  She was the only voice other than that of the goat which had spoken since Xena and I had arrived in Laurel.

Xena decided to approach the peasant in blue.  It seemed as if the woman had not even noticed our arrival until she turned to see who it was that had called out hello.  This was when things turned into a strange surreal experience.  The peasant woman’s facial expression went from surprise, to awe, to excitement all in a matter of moments.  Then she requested confirmation that Xena was who she appeared to be.  Xena was modest confirming her identity as she looked behind her.  The warrior princess was clueless as to the fame she was experiencing.  She also failed to realize that it was because of my scrolls that she was enjoying this praise.

As the peasant woman struggle to hold onto her goat she could barely contain her exasperation for she was finally getting to meet her idol.  Xena the legendary warrior princess whom she had heard so many stories about.  In fact, the woman spoke of all of Xena’s adventures including how Xena had liberated Prometheous, and unchained Death.  It seemed that the favorite legend had been those that involved Xena defeating Callisto.  All of this was within what seemed to be a single breath.  Though this woman was seemingly impressed with Xena I found myself impressed that my stories had made it this far.  I was flattered that even people who lived in villages as quiet as Laurel have been able to enjoy my scrolls about Xena and our adventures together.  Xena appeared not to be phased by her status, and soon I found myself as unexcited about it when the peasant approached me unable to figure out who I was.  She didn’t even know my name although she did try to give me a name.  It was a miserable fumbling of syllabols.

Yet the peasant woman made up for it when she began to ask me what it was like to travel with Xena.  In fact this was my inspiration for a day in the life of Xena.  I was glad to oblidge the most intimate and embarressing details of Xena’s life for Xena had been indulging in my humilation all day long with Hower.  The first question was if Xena liked to snooze in the buff, but just as I was about to answer Xena interrupted.  She resorted to the mission as the reason my fun had to end.  Sudddenly that threw the peasant woman, whose name we later found to be Minya, into action.  Minya explained that she and her boyfriend Hower were the only people from their village who had been brave enough to stay behind to defend their village against the giant.  Everyone else had apparently run to the hills for safety.  Xena’s battles for the greater good had some how inspired these two villagers to become heros especially Minya.  Minya went onto explain that she was highly qualified to help with this mission.  She described herself as tough and bold, and that she was able to read quite well.  According to Minya literacy was scarce in this part of the valley.  If nothing else sounded promising within this situation one had to hold onto Minya’s determination and exhuberance to impress the warrior princess.  She was just as bad as Hower, but in a slightly different way.

Then Minya suddenly found herself wondering about Hower whom she had forgotten about within the presence of the warrior princess.  Xena then had to explain with a bit of guilt that she had asked him to do her a favor.  She promised Minya that Hower would return.  I found that to be quite funny since Xena had yet to figure out how to tell Minya that her boyfriend had fallen for her while he was away looking for help.  Suddenly even Minya was a bit demanding.  She wanted to know what Xena’s plan was to defeat the giant.  In fact, that was the big mystery that all of us had been waiting for an answer to.  Xena finally came right out and answered it.  She didn’t have a true plan formulated yet.  I knew it!  I had known it all along.  Xena had only been sending phony messages to Zagrious to delay him until she could figure out what to do.  That was exactly what I had done with the giant.  It was a good thing too since Xena needed some more time to think.  Yet as always Xena would prove that she still didn’t value my skills to be as crafty as her own.  Quickly Minya found herself begging the warrior princess for a command.  With one sly glance Xena had come up with the perfect plan.

That was when Minya graciously offered us a nice warm bath which was quite relaxing.  It had been quite a while since Xena and I had had a bath inside.  The water was blissfully warm and relaxing although Minya was a bit overzealous in attempting to please the warrior princess.  She was exactly like Hower only the female version of him.   As Minya kept returning with large buckets of hot water to keep the bath maintained Xena and I turned our thoughts again to the game.  My next guess was Mezentious.  Xena again replied that I was wrong.  Still determined to win the game I prepared to try at another guess.  Just then Minya returned yet again filling the steaming bath with more scalding water.  She must have been boiling endless pans of water over a fire the size of an Amazon funeral fire.  When she asked if the warrior princess was too hot Xena was gracious yet it was obvious that she was begining to feel just as uncomfortable as I was.

This led me back to thoughts of the giant Gareth.  I inquired if Xena had come up with any new ideas on how to deal with him.  Xena’s response was again without an answer.  It appeared to me as if she was struggling to find the answer.  These occasions were rare, but when they come along I always try to include my input.  For a moment I drew back from conversation as I scrubbed Xena’s back hoping to release some of the stress and the tension she was feeling.  Part of it had been of my doing, but I still wanted to make up for it.  So then I had a suggestion.  It was actually the perfect plan.  We had used it before against Golliath when he went up against David and the Isrealites.  It had worked before and the day couldn’t have been more perfect for this plan.  The sun had been out shining brightly all day, and there were no clouds in sight.  I spoke these thoughts out loud to Xena reminding her of the previous success of this plan of action against giants.  Of how we could ask Minya to gather all of the mirror in Laurel so that we could get Gareth to take off his helmet and expose his soft spot.  Using the mirrors to blind him with the sun’s reflection we could easily take out the giant.  Xena seemed uninterested in trying that one again.  I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t want a guarunteed win in battle.  It was almost frustrating and personal again, but I refrained from taking it personal this time.  I was begining to understand that what Xena enjoyed most about the heat of battle was that each battle was unique to her.  Each battle had its own personality and though Gareth was a giant like Golliath this was different for the warrior princess.  Xena sensed my understanding of her and it led her to offer to take away the tension in my back.  She too was begining to feel slightly guilty for all of the bickering that had gone on between us on this day.

Then it happened again.  Minya came running with the scalding hot water which fell directly onto Xena again.  This time Xena almost snapped at Minya demanding that Minya ease up on the fresh bath water.  I was glad that Xena finally put a hault to Minya’s overly gracious offers.  Her presence led me to remind Xena of how much she too was within the grasp of Xena’s warrior princess haze.  Xena reluctantly agreed that it was true that she had not just one, but two secret admirers to deal with.  For some reason this made her uneasy although she did complement Minya on wanting to be so helpful.  It was almost as if Xena felt slightly connected to Minya in some way.  Xena was finally learning to appreciate being idolized instead of despised.  In the days when we first met it seemed that Xena had enemies in every village that wanted her blood.  Now she was being worshipped like Hercules or Aphrodite.

This led me into reminding Xena of our third problem of the day.  The problem of Hower and Minya.  Hower being in love with Xena would definately put a damper in Xena’s new found relationship with Minya.  Xena did agree that this was an issue, but it was obvious that it was the furthest thing from her warrior mind.  I could allow her take on the giant and try to make it back in time to wrestle with Zagrious, but there would be no way that Xena could handle Minya and Hower’s relationship issue.  This was definately my territory because it always takes a more sensative person to help straighten these emotional issues of love out.  It was nice to know that there would be at least one thing that I could do to make the greater good better today.

Yet as I basked in my own pride Xena found herself offended that I didn’t feel she could handle that third issue.  Again she wanted to rise to the occasion and prove to me that she could handle that better than me too.  Xena’s zest for competition was begining to truely annoy me.  I asked her why she was so set on competing with everyone and being the best.  Her response was weak, but forceful in tone.  She accused me of being overly competative.  Xena did have a point.  I was and I had been all day, but mostly with her and she definately had me beat at that.  This I stated as a fact.  She could not deny it and just as she tried desparately to come up with a retort to the naked truth Minya arrived yet again with another bucket of scalding hot water.  It splashed a divide hotter than the lava of Vesuveous.  Minya obviously didn’t hear Xena the last time she requested that Minya cease in her work.  This time Xena shouted and it got Minya’s attention.  It was obvious that Minya was quite fearful of disappointing her idol.  Xena then thanked Minya as her new disciple knelt down with excitement.  Minya inquired of Xena’s plan hoping that there would be an answer.  Yet Xena was truely stumped.

As the warrior princess fumbled with her own confidence I stepped in to save the day.  I told Minya to go ahead and gather all of the mirrors in the village to prepare for the giant’s arrival.  If Xena was unable to come up with a better more ingenuitive plan then at least we would be ready when the giant came.  Minya looked to Xena for confirmation that this was the plan.  Now Xena was stuck for I had forced her into using her old plan, but the only problem was that Xena explained that it was only a contigency plan.  It didn’t matter to Minya though.  She dashed off faster than a bolt of lightening to please the warrior princess.  I found myself irritated that Xena was still not going to go with my latest suggestion.  The competition was on as our battle of wits continued.  Xena didn’t want me to ever get the last word or the last command.  I had found her weak spot and she was trying desparately to defend it.  Xena only responded by first playing it off as if she didn’t know what I was talking about and then she had a retort.  She accused me of being an ametuer reminding me that being a real warrior means being flexible within any battle situation.  This was just as irritating as the sudden lump underneath me which Xena discovered to be the soap.  Suddenly we found ourselves within a wrestling competion within the bath splashing each other until we couldn’t see anymore.  And again the warrior princess beat me.

I had finally decided that I had come to the end of my rope with her for the day.  While she was outside talking with Minya and Hower who had just returned from his lastest mission I went shopping.  Since there was no one around I couldn’t go to the market so I decided to trade, but there was only one problem.  Minya was the only one I could trade with since everyone else had run for the hills.  Yet it would be easy.  All I had to do was pick out a frying pan that I liked and I was certain that Minya would find something enticing that I could offer to her in exhange. When I finally managed to join everyone outside again I overheard Xena talking to Hower planning to send him on another mission.  She was still unable to deal with that problem too.  She just kept sending everyone away from Laurel hoping that her ulitimate plan would ferment in her mind.  It seemed to me that Xena had lost her mind.

Xena told Hower exactly verbatum that Zagrious had refused her offer.  When she repeated back to Hower word for word Zagrious’s response Hower seemed impressed and in awe.  Xena then told Hower to go back out and find Zagrious to warn him not to come near Laurel.  She also wanted Hower to make sure Zagrious knew that Piedmont and any other village was his for the taking.  Hower was exasperated and ready for action saying good-bye to Xena.  He practically blew the warrior princess kisses through his eyes.  Xena’s way of dealing with this was to order him to say good-bye to Minya whom he wouldn’t even take the time to glance at.  Hower did say good-bye to Minya, but it could barely be heard by anyone.  Then he went running, and leaping away to find Zagrious to deliver Xena’s latest message.  It seemed insane to me that Xena would continue to send Hower out to tell Zagrious a lot of nonesense.  Apparently Xena had known Zagrious before and they had been warlord pals in the past.  This led me to think that maybe Zagrious was the answer to the game.  As I approached Xena while Minya was finding herself struggling to deal with her new reality Xena ordered me to do something about their current state of emotions.  Although she didn’t actually say that I should she alluded to it.  Of course I had better plans for Minya.  Soon I was on my way to gaining ground against the warrior princess.  After trading to get Minya’s frying pan I had come up with my answer to Xena’s warlords and victims riddle.  Since I was on a role I decided that I would try my hand at the element of surprise just one more time.

As they say practice makes perfect.  I had seen Xena go into a barn up the path and decided that she would be at her weakest when in deep thought.  I took my staff and listened intently from outside.  There was not a peep.  The only thing that I could hear was Xena breathing deeply within meditation.  She was definately not expecting an attack.  Quietly I inched around the corner through the doorway of the barn.  As I peeked in I could feel that Xena’s eyes were closed.  She was totally focased on her thoughts.  I knew that now was my chance and so I went for it.  As I drove forward into the barn with my staff in the ready Xena suddenly jumped up high into the air kicking down two buckets full of water and giving her battle cry.  She hit each bucket simultaneously with her warrior boots as she spun around in mid air prepared and ready to face me in battle.  Although I knew now that I was whipped I still had to attempt to make the striking blow.  Just as I lifted my staff to thrust it into the chest of the warrior princess she landed spinning around to face me.  She kicked my staff effortlessly to the floor in the final movement of her entire body.  It was amazing I have to admit, but it didn’t help me in winning the battle.  All I could do was throw my arms down in frustration and aggitation.  Just when I had thought I would beat her with the one two punch I had lost my battle advantage.

Yet at least I still had my wits about me.  Quickly I brushed off my loss in the battle to approach the warrior princess with my answer to the riddle of warlords and victims.  Already she had turned her back to me and fallen back into deep mediation.  I approached her from behind and whispered slyly into her ear.  The answer was most certainly the great Centaries.  She responded quickly with a negetive answer.  It was short and it was spiteful.  Frankly, the warrior princess was driving me insane which led me to my earlier suspicion.  I then demanded to know if it was indeed someone she had fought before I had met her.  The answer had to be yes, but it was no.  My emotional breaking point was now for my wits had been smacked down just as hard as my staff had.  So far I had lost two out of my three advantages with little effort from the warrior princess.  Now that I had finally given up on warlords and victims I was dying to know the answer.  Xena slyly spun back around to face me smiling as she spoke the name of Theodoras.

Now that couldn’t be right for Theodoras had been killed by not Xena, but Callisto.  Xena had a clever supporting arguement for that as well.  She proceeded to remind me that Theodoras had been killed by Callisto when Callisto had been in Xena’s body.  Who knew that Xena would go that far in being certain to defeat me in cold blood, but she had.  She wasn’t wrong, but she wasn’t right either.  Yet who could ever get the warrior princess with that.  As Xena stood in the barn within her own glory there was a nasty sound which had come from just outside the barn.  It snapped and suddenly Minya could be heard struggling and crying out in pain.  Xena quickly moved outside to investigate as I picked up my staffed off of the floor.  As we made our way outside all was still very quiet in Laurel, but Minya stood alone rubbling the sting of the whip off of her face.  Xena called out forcefully to Minya.  She wanted to know why a peasant woman would take it upon herself to play with weapons of mass destruction without proper training.

Minya argued with Xena reminding the warrior princess or me rather that she had traded her best frying pan to me in order to gain a piece of Xena memorabilia.  Okay so even though Xena had beaten me in battle and with wits I still crushed her with surprise.  I had forgotten about my trade from earlier and I had no idea that it would bring out the anger that it did.  Xena was furious that I had traded her weapon.  What she didn’t realize was that I had let her off of the hook for it was the chackram that Minya had truely wanted.  Quickly I had to defend my choice for Xena was fast approaching in her fury.  I retorted with the fact that we needed to be able to cook our food reminding Xena of the fact that the fish were still not settling within my stomach.  I had matched her fury with my own emotional fury, but it wasn’t enough to mask my real pain.  Xena called me on my excuse knowing that the real reason I had traded her weapon was to get back at her for using my scrolls as back up toiletry.  This was true, but it didn’t seem to matter.

Xena decided since that trade had already been made that there was only one way to resolve this issue.  She turned immediately back to Minya and demanded that Minya return it to her.  Minya was firm and did not budge.  She was certainly more assertive than her counter part Hower.  It was kind of nice to see that someone else could stand up to the warrior princess.  Minya reminded Xena that a trade had been made and in that transaction the whip had become her property while the frying pan had become ours.  Not only that, but Minya went one step further in reminding Xena that Hower was hers and that I belonged to the warrior princess.  That part of the deal didn’t sound all that attractive, but it certainly was amusing.  What was unfolding was emotionally interesting about the warrior princess.  For the first time that I could ever remember she was being told no.  I had never seen anyone be able to tell the warrior princess no and be successful in keeping their lives.  Minya was quite courageous and bold in standing up to her.  I was quite impressed.  Then Xena realized that she had lost.  Both Minya and I had ganged p on her and there was no way to win.  As Xena looked back at me with disgust I tried to hide me laughter, but I’m not really sure if I masked it all that well.  Then she looked to Minya and instructed her to be certain to get all of the mirrors ready at the north end of town.  Xena quickly brushed Minya out of her way as she went to find out how close the giant was.

Minya would not allow Xena to have the last word.  Instead she forced Xena to pause as she moved toward Argo.  The two dark haired tall women exchanged a glance of toughness as Xena walked away seemingly hurt by this gesture and disrespect.  As Xena saddled up onto her horse I realized that Argo was the only one who truely understood the warrior princess.  Argo was the only one that Xena could go to in her times of emotional need.  I began to feel even more low as I watched Minya drive the final nail into the coffin as she taunted the warrior princess as Xena rode out of Laurel.  I realized that I had deeply bruised Xena’s pride.  Not only that, but I had created a new enemy for Xena.  The poor warrior princess was having a bad day and all I had done was make it worse for her.  I decided that I had to do something to make up for it.  The begining of that would have to be in repairing Minya’s relationship with the warrior princess.

My scrolls were the perfect solution to the problem for it had been my scrolls that had given the warrior princess that certain glow within Minya’s heart.  It wasn’t fair that Minay had met the warrior princess on an off day.  And so I sat down in the barn with Minya and helped her read some of my scrolls.  In fact, we read the story of Baccus and the beautiful girls that Xena had rescued from his wrath.  I had to remind Minya of Xena’s heart and commitment to goodness.  As Minya read the final lines of the scroll I asked her how she liked the story of Xena’s kindness and bravery.  She really did enjoy the story which pleased me, but Minya then responded by asking for the stories in which Xena was the harlot that stole the men of good and decent women.  I looked to her and softly scolded her for having such mean thoughts toward the warrior princess.  Desparately I wanted to project my guilt into Minya’s heart knowing that it had been my fury that had been injected into hers.  I then reassured her that Xena was out to find Hower and to straighten things out for the two of them.  My lack of confidence in the warrior princess had not boded well for the faith and belief of others.

Yet just when I was about to turn Minya’s heart back to Xena Hower arrived in a tizzy.  He seemed nervous and unable to stop shaking with fear.  Yet his fear was more in hurting Minya for he began to confess that he had fallen in love with the warrior princess.  My own heart sank for it was as if Hower had broken up with me for it had sealed the deal of any hopes to restore Minya’s faith in Xena or Hower.  Minya looked to me with disgust and frustration.  Her anger was more from being hurt by her idol and her lover.  Both had gilted her today.  Suddenly Xena entered the barn with business and nothing more.  As she was about to discuss our dire situation I interrupted her hoping to remind her of how important it was that we restore Minya and Hower’s relationship.  Xena ignored this issue with the dire details of the giant.  She had confirmed that it was indeed Gareth by the size of his footprints.  Xena explained that our time was extremely short which meant that our mirror plan was out.  Then as Xena was about to address the situation with Minya and Hower Hower stepped in to explain to Minya who Gareth was.  But Minya already knew.  She quickly filled in the rest of the details cutting Hower off.  Minya detailed that Gareth was the meanest giant to ever walk the earth and she continued onto explain that he had killed Xena’s friend the giant Golliath’s family.  Both Xena and I were impressed for Minya continued on to tell the story of the battle of the Isrealites and the Phillistines and of how it was there that Golliath met his own demise against Xena.  It was as if Minya had been there herself and she explained that she had read it in one of my scrolls.

As exciting and impressive as that statement was there was work to focas on.  I turned back to Xena and asked her if Gareth was wearing a helmet.  Xena explained that indeed he was and that it also had a heay nose guard which would most certainly protect his soft spot.  I still didn’t understand why the mirrors wouldn’t work until Xena explained that heavy rain clouds were quickly moving in from the west.  It was all a timing issue and Gareth was moving slower than the weather.  Our situation seemed grim, but Xena seemed to be in control.  It was as if she had already made another plan.  As I waited with Minya and Hower for the answer to materialize Xena moved deeper into the barn.  Then she paced back and looked to me for an answer.  She wanted to know if it had been true that Zues killed giants with lightening bolts.  Indeed it was true, but my faith was being tested as she spoke.  Using a lightening bolt and actually being able to handle one were two different things.  Especially since neither Xena, nor I, nor Minya or Hower were gods.

We were racing against time through trial and error yet somehow the warrior princess kept trudging forward.  Xena led Howard, Minya, and I back out just beyond the lookout tree into the open field from earilier in the day.  It was about a mile just outside of the village.  Once we arrived she began constructing a strange new weapon.  It was made out of some old worn out blankets that Minya had provided, and one of Hower’s ropes from his stable horse.  There was only one problem.  It seemed that there was a piece missing.  Xena spent a few moments in thought as the three companions looked on hopelessly.  We all thought Xena had lost it by this point, but nobody had the heart or the will to tell the warrior princess.  Suddenly Xena called out to Hower who was excited that she needed him for something.  It was as if she were holding the key to a big mystery and only Hower would be important enough to be told about it.  The warrior princess quickly reached for Hower’s waste only to rip his belt buckle right off of his belt.  Hower’s pants did stay on, but there was a sense of embarressment within him as the warrior princess went back to operating on her new contraption.

It looked nice as she was tying the final touches onto it, but I still didn’t see the vision.  That was when I finally had to ask her what it was.  Xena’s response wasn’t all that promising.  She didn’t even have a name for her diamond shaped cloth with two sticks, and some old rags on a string hanging from a belt buckle.  Yet the warrior princess continued to be confident in her new accomplishment.  She went onto explain to me that all that needed to happen was to be certain to get the weapon up into the air.  I was still lost because I didn’t see exactly how this was helping us conquer the giant.  It was too soft and light to do any real damage.  At least with the mirrors one could attempt to blind the giant.  This was stretching it for me, but at least the warrior princess was creative.  Xena seemed to ignore my lack of faith in her vision explaining that it would be the perfect weapon to nail the giant with if we could just get it into the air to harness the lightening bolts.

Okay so it sounded great, but I was still lacking the vision of how this thing was going to get into the air.  Xena continued to explain her vision as she expressed it with such passion and glory.  She spoke of how the wind would carry it and in a sense there was the small possibility of success.  If only Zues were feeling frisky with the elements he might actually help the warrior princess with her plan.  Yet gods are not known for their respect of humanity.  I was actually shocked to see that Xena was evening turning to this as a valid alternative, but I decided to sit back alongside Hower and Minya and hope for the best.  That was all that one could do at this point.

The warrior princess then held the weapon straight up in the air pointing the top of the slender shaped diamond toward the heavens.  She let out a cry and released it into the air with force as the winds began to pick up slightly.  Suddenly the diamond began to fly as it took the string off of the small roller that Xena had designed to tame it.  It was amazing to watch as the wind began to carry the weapon further and further into the air.  Suddenly it seemed possible that it may be able to reach the heavens toward Zues and his lightening bolts, but just as I was about to feel the excitement and the confidence that Xena seemingly felt the diamond deflated as the winds died down and it plummeted dismally to the ground.  It slammed down with force as Minya let out a snicker and Hower looked extremely disappointed and confused.  Minya was still on her high in defeating Xena back in the village for possession of Xena’s whip.  Of course I had fueled that.  I was really begining to feel sorry for Xena.  This was a rare feeling, but she seemed to be a broken washed up warrior out to prove she was still the best.

I approached the warrior princess and knelt down beside her trying to offer some support.  It was like trying to let Hower down in knowing that Xena would never be his, but only worse.  This was my best friend and she was going off of the deep end to think that she could harness the lightening of Zues.  The desparate warrior princess was frantic in trying to repair the damage to the tip of her diamond weapon.  As she tried to smooth out the rough edges I tried to let her down easy.  She needed to realize that now was the time to move onto another plan or a more solid idea.  Her latest idea was too abstract even for me.  Yet the warrior princess was extremely defensive and could not admit defeat.  She snapped at me demanding to know what my plan was, but the truth of it was that I didn’t have one either.  Xena was extremely stubborn as I tried to hold down my temper.  I only wanted to explain to her that I was there to help, but she didn’t see it that way.  Instead she ignored me as I tried to explain to her that there would be a day that she would be wrong despite all of the times that she had already proven herself to be right.  On this day I was certain that fate would step in for it was about to become a rainy day for the warrior princess.  She was havind difficulty accepting this.

Xena continued to venture on her own out beyond the realm of normal thoughts as she decided that the solution to her problem would simply be solved by running with her new weapon.  Suddenly the warrior princess jumped up from her latest defeat and began running all about the field desparately trying to get a response from the weapon.  This self-humiliation went on for several minutes as I tried desparately to restore my faith in my friend and her skills.  I breathed in deeply and out slowly as I spoke within my mind and desparately called out to my soul for restored faith.  Hower simply became more enthralled with the warrior princess finding that she was rather cute when she was frustrated while Minya gave up on winning him over.  For Hower Xena could do no wrong and so Minya decided to return to the village.

There was a point that Xena had found that her weapon was tangled in a rather large bush, but even that could not stop her in attempting to defeat the wind.  I began to realize that no matter what she would never give in.  This made me feel less threatened by all of the times that she challenged my will.  If the will of nature couldn’t prove itself right then I would never be able to either so I decided to stop trying.  Instead I built up some faith again, but just as I was about to jump back into the game Xena hurled her weapon across the open field and it flew again for a brief time only to come crashing down right on top of my head.  It wasn’t a pleasant feeling to be attacked by a diamond that slightly resembled a giant amazon queen mask, but it did knock some sense into me.

If Xena was going to go down I would go down with her since I was her best friend and friends stick by each other until the end.  Even if it was against the biggest meanest giant to ever walk the earth.  And so we spent the next several moments working together as a team for the first time of the day.  I grabbed the parchment as Xena stood several feet away and began to run as I ran with her still holding the parchment.  Suddenly I felt the power of Zues lifted the parchement from beneath me and I let it go up into the heavens once more.  My excitement and hope were restored as I cheered with the warrior princess on our accomplishment together.  The parchement stayed in the air for several minutes until Xena finally decided that her weapon would work.  She handled it with percision as she controlled it like her chackram only it was more graceful as it floated freely.  Quickly Xena’s mood had changed from frustration to relief.  It seemed that she had now solved at least one of our problems, but there were still two more.  Yet the warrior princess had moved onto the final problem for she had already solved the problem of Zagrious.

I was impressed as she explained that her intentions in sending Hower with cryptic messages to Zagrious was to ambush Zagrious and his army at Laurel using the giant.  She was planning on being certain that both would face each other just before they reached the village limits.  Now that her flying parchment worked she would be able to harness the lightening to defeat Gareth as soon as Gareth has smashed up Zagrious’s army.  Now this was all very wonderful news to me and a bit of a relief, but Xena wasn’t going to stop there.  She decided that she was on a role and handed over her flying parchment for me to tame while she went back to the village to attempt to straighten out the mess she had made with Minya and Hower.

My taming of the parchement did not last long for became so powerful that it stole the weapon from my grasp sending it slaming out of control into a tree in the wood just beyond the village.  After chasing the parchment down I decided to return to the village to check on Xena’s progress with Hower.  When I arrived she was inside the barn again talking to him.  I was a little insulted by her arrogance in thinking that she would be able to resolve the relationship problems of Minya and Hower.  As I listened just outside the door I heard her tell Hower that he didn’t have a chance with her.  She tried to be forceful with him and nasty, but it didn’t seem to dampen his resolve.  Instead he responded to her force with denial.  Yet he insisted that it was Xena who was denying her feelings for Hower.  He was certain that the warrior princess would come around.  Then he continued to brush Xena’s horse as if it were going to impress her.  It didn’t matter anyway.  I had a new attack planned for Xena and she would never suspect it.

As the warrior princess exited the barn I found myself climbing up onto the roof in anticipation.  She called out my name in desparation.  I knew that her next command would be to take care of the situation with Hower, but that wasn’t enough for my ego.  I needed more and so as I waited she came out around the corner of the barn.  She knew I was lurking because I could see her shoulders tensing up in anticipation.  The warrior princess is always aware of her surroundings even when she can’t see them.  I still had the advantage because she would never suspect me from the air.  As she walked around the corner of the barn expecting me to jump out with my staff I lept from the top of the barn in an attempt to knock her down.  Instead I landed flat on my chest knocking the wind out of myself for a moment.  As struggled to rise back to my feet I grabbed for Xena’s breast plate for balance.  She just glanced at me with her warrior smirk knowing that she had beaten me again.  It was now becoming more of a game rather than a direct challenge of wills.  I had tried giving a battle cry on my way down, but realized that it had been what had given my position away.

Xena responded doubtfully to my assumption that my mistake had been the battle cry.  My next question had already been answered, but I still had to ask her how things had gone with Hower.  As I had expected she commanded me to take care of that situation and then I had to explain that her flying parchement was now stuck in the trees.  Our truce had not lasted long and so the day drug on toward the climax of all three of our issues colliding simultaneously.  I dreaded having to bring reality into the love life of Hower, but as I sat there with him in the barn for over an hour he kept proclaiming that he and Xena were destined for each other.  It became a saliloquey that drug on forever and repeated itself in circles.  My attempts at convincing Hower that Minya was the one he was meant for ended dismally as I myself had to admit defeat in the arena of emotional repair.

As I trudged back out into the world away from Hower’s fantasies I caught sight of Xena who had returned with her flying parchement in tact.  She was talking with Minya who appeared to be very responsive to the warrior princess.  Suddenly, Minya was running back into the village as if she were going to deliver a message to Zagrious only Zagrious was already coming.  I approached the warrior princess with curiousity as she explained that she had given Minya some personal advice on dealing with men.  Apparently whatever Xena had said sparked something in Minya although Xena didn’t appear so confident about Minya’s trust in her at this point.   Whatever was said I could only hope that it was going to work because Hower was hopeless as far as I could tell.  I decided that the only solution to his problem would be found in being kicked around by the warrior princess.  Xena jokingly disagreed with me stating that he’d probably enjoy a beating.  She was right of course.  The beast known as man is a creature of lust.

Our conversation suddenly turned to a more serious tone in the next moment when Xena reminded me of how important it was for her succeed in defeating Gareth.  If for no other reason than to repay Goliath for having to die against the Isrealites and for the loss of his family when he once saved Xena from Gareth’s wrath.  It was in this moment that I was reminded of why I traveled with Xena.  She need someone there to remind her that she was doing the right thing.  The warrior princess needed my support and to be reminded that Goliath’s death was for the good of others.  I soothed Xena’s concerns for Goliath reminding her that he could hear her thoughts.  He could feel Xena’s friendship and love for him even in death.  I had to remember this myself every day for Perdicas was forever listening to me.

As I was falling into that thought and that wonderful feeling it was interrupted by the sounds of stomping echoing through the woods and the ground shaking violently beneath me.  Hower quickly came running out of the barn shouting out about the approaching giant with worry.  Yet Xena was not at all worried.  She was extremely pleased for Zagrious had fallen right into her trap.  The warrior princess was reminded in this moment of how Gareth couldn’t resist stomping an army to pieces for he had stomped her army once on the battle field.  She spoke her thoughts outloud as Hower found himself surprised that one of Xena’s hairy brained plans had worked.  He suddenly had faith in the warrior princess and he wondered if all of Xena’s plans worked as she had constructed them in her mind.  Xena wasn’t certain that the rest of her plan would work, but it was all that she had to work with.  With Zagrious out of the way the only contender would be Gareth who was still coming to Laurel reguardless of the outcome.  Everyone had to be ready for battle.

Waiting for Gareth was the most uneventful part of the day.  Xena, Hower, and I spent what seemed to be hours just sitting and waiting in silence.  The only sound that could be heard was Xena’s chackram being hurled out at the campfire pot, to the dry bones hanging from the abandoned butcher shop, to the old wagon wheel at the edge of the village and then back again.  There was the occasional sound of the giant approaching, but he was certainly in no hurry.  He was probably consuming the army that he had just stomped to bits.  I found myself pacing and twirling my staff with bordom as Hower just stared at Xena attempting to figure out a way to get her to admit her love for him I would assume.  He kept shooting her these flirtacious glances that the warrior princess completely ignored, yet Hower didn’t seem to notice.  Finally the boredom became a bit overwhelming for me and I was getting impatient with Gareth.  I sat down next to Xena on the log by the campfire and asked her what could be holding the giant up.  Xena explained that he was probably taking a rest after all of his hard work destroying Zagrious’s army.

Then she finished wiping off the debris from the chackram’s blade and hurled it out again as I watched it hit the same three objects for the hundreth time.  Hower seemed impressed at how effortless and accurate Xena was with her weapon.  She never missed her mark.  This was nothing new for me, but I was very concerned for Minya now because we hadn’t seen her for the entire hour.  Hower was falling deeper into his warrior haze fantasy and the giant was about to arrive.  Xena explained that her hope for Minya was that Minya had finally looked past their differences of the day and taken her advice.  Just as she finished that statement the conversation was interrupted by the sounds of an angry and crazed warlord.

Hower jumped up startled from the chair in which he had been seated backwards in.  There was alarm and worry in his eyes.  I don’t think he believed that Xena was a real warrior because she hadn’t really demonstrated her skills well today.  Yet it seemed that Xena wasn’t the only warrior having an off day.  Zagrious was insane.  His anger and frustration had reached the boiling point.  The man couldn’t control his emotions which Xena has often said can lead to mistakes.  Xena was having a great time and agreed that it was a tough day for those who made their living as warriors.  Yet she wasn’t phased by Zagrious, or Gareth, or Hower, or even me and my antics.  She was completely poised and ready to battle as Zagrious approached expressing how much he despised Xena’s change from looting and steeling, to saving the day.  He spoke of her like a true bard, but without the admiration.  As he approached with his scratched up face, and his half sword he was suddenly approached by the dark haired woman dressed in leather.

It was Minya.  She stood before the battered warlord ready for action.  Hower suddenly appeared upset and worried as he ran around the side of the barn to save Minya from the wrath of Zagrious.  Yet just when it seemed that Minya needed a man to defend her Zagrious attacking finding himself running straight into the heel of Minya’s powerful hand.  She gave him a good beating with just one thrust under the nose sending him flattened onto the ground.  He was knocked out and defeated.  There was nothing left to pick up as Hower found himself enthralled with Minya’s warrior skills.  Of course Minya was dressed in leather which she assumed was the real attraction.  Indeed she had taken Xena’s advice and it was refreshing to see that Hower and Minya were back together with all of their differences worked out.  That was the last we had seen of them for the day.  As Xena and I found ourselves relieved that Hower wouldn’t be another tag along in our travels together.

There was somehow a sense of relief in the resolution of two of the day’s issues and Xena and I both breathed a sigh of relief for the load which had been lifted from both of us.  Yet there was still one problem left to tackle and it was a giant problem.  The sounds of laughter coming from within between Hower, and Minya were suddenly drowned out by the sounds of Gareth’s giant boots approaching the village.  As the earth shook beneath us again I looked to Xena who was no longer relaxed, but poised yet again.  Her first words in response to her poised body stated that Gareth was headed toward the giant’s burial ground before he would return to smash through Laurel.  There was a bit of good news to this for it gave Xena some time to set up her flying parchment, but it was still not certain if this wild plan was going to work.  Yet I had to have faith that the warrior princess would succeed in defeating the giant for she had succeeded in both Zagrious and the relationship of Hower and Minya.

Even Xena as she continued to speak was not certain of her plan, but her heart was where it always is.  She was concerned for the safety of the people that she was attempting to save.  Xena directed me to be certain that if her plan failed that I was to make sure that Hower and Minya’s lives would not end in a lost cause.  My heart was touched as the concern flowed out of the heart of the warrior princess and I decided that it was time for me to lay my irriations to rest.  I didn’t want to part with the warrior princess on bad terms for I had sold her whip for a frying pan just to get back at her.  It was wrong and it wasn’t thoughtful of me and as I expressed my regret and sorrow for my actions to her she only paused me to remind me that she too was sorry.  Xena apologized for disrespecting me when she had thoughtlessly used my scrolls for the call of nature.  It made me feel better about my bad behavior toward the warrior princess to know that she too had been able to stand up and admit when she was wrong.  Our arguements of the day had been silly and petty.  Xena established that by parting in saying that we were even despite all of our battles of will.

Soon the warrior princess was off for the final leg of the mission.  She rounded up her flying parchment and dashed out of the village toward the edge of the woods.  When she was close enough to the path of the giant she seeked out and found a tree that would bring her to his eye level.  Xena bravely scaled the tree with her flying parchment and positioned it at the top.  Then she awaited Gareth along the path toward the burial ground.  Soon all of nature felt to wrath of the giant approaching as all of the birds fled and the deer found themselves almost frozen with fear.  Every animal in the forrest scattered leaving Xena to be the last one standing against the giant.  As Gareth walked up the path Xena called out to him to get his attention.  With just two giant steps he was at the tree where Xena awaited him.  As soon as he recognized his old foe in battle Gareth was angry and tried to swat Xena down out of the tree.  Xena was ready to react for she jumped down from the top of the tree down to the waist of the giant.  She knew that his slow movement would be a distraction in itself as he tried to swat her from the tree.  It was then that she took the oppritunity to fasten the weapon to his metal armor near his belt.

Suddenly the chase was on and it was the most dangerous part of Xena’s plan.  She had to be able to outrun a giant, get him out into the open, and hope that Zues would be throwing down lighting by the time they reached the giant’s burial ground.  The chase was long and vigourous, but the warrior princess stayed steady as the approaching dark clouds gave her the hope that she needed to defeat the giant and win the battle for to pay her debts to her old friend Goliath.  As they approached death within the giant’s burial ground Xena kept tuanting her foe as she dodged the bones of the giants who had once ruled the earth before Gareth.  The grounds were littered with danger as Xena lept forward and rolled over an old jaw bone.  Gareth tried to use the bones to his advantage as he disrespectfully picked off an old arm bone and hurled it at the warrior princess.  She made another move to dodge him attempting to take cover within a giant skull.  Soon Zues came to the rescue as the winds picked up and the lightening bolts began to fly.

Gareth was still attatched to the flying parchment which had stayed strong up into the heaven the entire chase.  As the evening began to fall into the day and the day into the night Xena approached Gareth certain that Zues would soon throw down the final blow that would catch her flying parchment and send Gareth crashing to the ground.  Xena spoke out loud to Goliath whom she was certain was there with her in spirit guiding her to the defeat of Gareth.  Gareth found himself making one last stand against the heavens as he raised his giant powerful shoulder into the air preparing to smash Xena with his fist.  Just before he was about to take the final blow against the warrior princess and all of his enemies Zues threw down his most powerful bolt and hit the flying parchment which faithfully guided the power of Zues into the giant’s back.  Gareth had been stabbed by the power of Zues as he fell with a giant thud to the ground.  Xena was sent several feet into the air as her body absorbed the immense energy of Gareth’s fall.  The power of Zues and the death of a giant was so large that even I could feel the death of Gareth from the little village of Laurel.  Yet as soon as I heard it I knew that it was over and I had faith that Xena would return to Laurel soon.

Darkness had fallen by this point as I prepared the camp fire in the streets of Laurel.  I cooked dinner with Minya for Xena when she would return from her rough day of warrior life.  Minya’s frying pan was excellant and I was thankful that Xena would be able to enjoy the fruits of her loss of the whip.  Upon Xena’s return she was quiet and reflective as she sometimes is at the end of the day when the battles were tough.  I did most of the talking as I often like to do because somehow it helps to sooth the beast within Xena’s heart.  As we finished with dinner I had begun to prepare the bed rolls by the fire.  Both of us were exhausted and going to bed, but glad the day was over.  The storm clouds had passed by now bringing a beautiful scene in the night sky.  Xena began to talk about the stars and of how they seemingly formed giant pictures in the sky.  Maybe she was looking for Goliath up there in the heavens.  She even thought that she had seen a giant dipper that he could have used to eat dinner in the heavens with his family safe and together.  Of course for me it only looked like a giant bear with a giant head, but cute little ears.

The warrior princess was yawning by now and near sleep, but I was certain that she was poised and ready for anything that might come her way.  And so I decided to test my theory knowing that it would most certainly be true.  I grabbed my staff from my side and jumped into action lunging from my back to my stomach in an attempt to make contact against the warrior princess.  Just when I had thought that I would be defeated effortlessly by the strength and agility of the warrior princess I felt the tip of my staff make contact with the bridge of Xena’s nose.  This sent Xena’s body jolting with surprise and sudddenly I felt very small inside.  As I desparately tried to apologize for my mistake the warrior princess just brushed it off.  She was in a bit of shock and even some anger, but realized that the only way to get out of this new arguement was to surrender and call it a night.  She rubbed her sore nose and rolled over hoping to reassure me.  I felt guilt, but it dissolved into wonder for I would not have been so understanding had I been nailed by Xena.  Her forgiveness of me on this day seemed endless, and as I settled back down to that comforting thought I suddenly realized that it wasn’t forgiveness she felt for me, but pity.  Xena had felt sorry for me and decided to let me win just one time.  Now this I could not stand for.  This was why she appeared to have so much faith in me.  She wanted to go to sleep and didn’t have time to argue.  I decided that I would show her the truth of this.  I owed it to her since she had so rudely awakened me by jumping onto my leather water bottle and squirting me in the face with it.

As I attempted to start a new arguement with Xena her only response was a weak yet firm statement.  She just stated that it was time to go to bed.  I couldn’t really argue with that.  And so I lay still next to the warrior princess feeling the closeness of our friendship.  Knowing that we are there for each other through the good and the bad, the smelly, and even the ugly.  This was enough for me.  And so yet another day had ended in the life of Xena the warrior princess and her loyal companion the bard Gabrielle.  Yet I was still thinking about how I knew that she let me hit her though she has sworn otherwise.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume 2: Scroll # 35: Intimate Stranger

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#35:  Intimate Stranger

February 23rd, 47 B.C.

 

     In life there is a fine line between what is a dream and what is a reality.  Though sometimes it is difficult to define.  The warrior princess awoke from several nightmares which dealt with her guilt.  These nightmares were so intense that Xena awoke from them in a cold sweat.  Soon after she could not stand the lonliness which had set in as a result so she softly woke the bard from slumber hoping she could receive some comfort. 

     The cool morning air rushed over Gabrielle’s face suddenly for Xena had pulled back her blanket from her face.  It was still dark out for the sun had not yet risen.  Gabrielle looked over to Xena seeing the warrior’s chest violently rising and falling.  Xena’s eyes were distraught with worry and with guilt as she held her forehead with her right hand leaning her back up against a tree.  Gabrielle sat up on her elbows with concern and inquiry asking the warrior princess if there was anything wrong.  As usual Xena would not answer the truth.  She only said that it was time to continue their pursuit of Theodoras Callisto’s first in command.  Since Callisto’s death Theodoras had taken over her army.  His goal was to take Athens though the bard had heard that all he really wanted was to sooth his heart’s pain.  Theodoras had been in love with Callisto and now his violent army expressed his pain with each village it retained. 

     As the two women prepared to scout Theodoras’s nearby camp the uncomfortable silence between the two friends ceased.  Xena broke in with an inquiry of dreams.  She asked the bard if she had ever experienced a dream.  Gabrielle sensed Xena’s heart was within a confusion.  It was obvious now that it had been a dream that had brought it to this place.  Gabrielle then replied that she had indeed dreamed before.  She said that it was within her dreams that her best stories would come flowing through her soul.  Yet it had been a long time since she had dreamed.  Gabrielle had not had a single inspiration within her nights since the violent murder of her beloved Perdicas. 

      The warrior princess found herself saddened by this loss within the bard.  Gabrielle was still feeling numb with the pain of her loss despite Callisto having been gone.  Then Xena broke into the bard’s numb feelings with her own waves of guilt.  She began to open up her fears to her friend which had been building within her recent nightmares.  It was on this morning that she had awakened from them yet again.  Xena described having had four successive dreams.  The first began like a normal scouting mission.  She said that she was with Gabrielle and they were following two of Theodoras’s men.  Xena said that she remembered jumping down from the trees and then Gabrielle joined her upon command.  Gabrielle had asked Xena if she was certain that these men belonged to Callisto’s army.  Xena had confirmed that they had and were most certainly going to rejoin their new commander.  Then she asked Gabrielle if things were okay.  Gabrielle expressed her discomfort with the thought of Callisto again.  Xena understood her friend’s pain.  Then explained that Gabrielle’s pain was the reason that they had to stop Theodoras and his men so that they could all be brought to justice.  The bard seemingly understood this and then left Xena to rejoin Argo in the brush. 

      As Xena stood to hunt down the enemy she heard a familiar voice calling her name.   She turned with her weapon drawn and discovered that it was her mother.  Cyrene kept asking Xena when she was going to return home to where her friends and family loved her.  The warrior princess had said that she felt confused and afraid that Cyrene was present.  She then told her mother it was not safe for her to be there.  There was danger just beyond the trees where Theodoras was with his men.  Xena could not attack with her mother there for the guilt of her past deeds began to intrude.  Then Xena found herself realizing that it was all a trick.  That it was not really her mother who stood there before her.  And as she approached the imposter Cyrene revealed her true identity.  She was Ares the god of war.  He was still after his favorite warrior princess.  Ares commended Xena for rejoining his darkness for he was certain that she would one day command his next great army. 

      Xena was not at all amused by his presence.  She despised it and reminded him that his ambitions were only a dream.  Then Ares showed the warrior princess her recent fault.  He accused Xena of being a murderer.  When Xena tried to defend herself he only reminded her that she had been the one who killed Callisto.  The warrior princess desparately fought against her guilt.  She had killed Callisto for a justice.  Callisto’s death was justice for the death of Gabrielle’s Perdicas.  But Ares persisted with more.  He claimed that the warrior princess had murdered Callisto because she had allowed her to sink into the quicksand despite Callisto’s innocent pleas for help.  Ares declared that if Callisto’s death had been in the name of justice then it would have been a fair fight by the sword.  Yet instead Xena had just let her enemy die helplessly unable to rescue herself.  Ares insisted that this act had ensured that Xena was a murderer when she did not try to save the once innocent.

     Xena’s guilt began to rise as she tried deparately to hide it from Ares.  But the god of war then showed her a vision.  It was the dark memory of the day that she had watched Callisto die.  Callisto was sinking rapidly as she called out to Xena.  Her eyes no longer of firery rage.  They only spoke of a childlike innocence and fear.  Callisto reached out to Xena as she called for her rescue.  Xena tried desparately to distance herself from all of the guilt within, but could not.  Her hands which held her sword then pulled her toward the vicitm.  The warrior princess tried desparately to fight it, but the sword then plunged into the victim as Ares laughed triumphantly.

      Suddenly Xena awoke from this first nightmare with great fear.  She jumped to her feet from her slumber swinging her sword wildly ready to do battle.  Her warrior senses were confused as she scanned the camp.  There was nothing there, but a frieghtened crow and Gabrielle sleeping soundly alone.  Xena then slowly approached her friend desparate for comfort.  As she turned Gabrielle’s shoulder to awaken her the bard’s face turned into that of the dead Callisto.  Callisto’s brown eyes stared lifelessly.  They stared deeply into Xena’s freightened soul.  The warrior princess jumped back in disbelief as she saw the  endless blood dripping from her hands. 

       This time she awoke to the face of Gabrielle who had been trying to save her from her nightmares.  Gabrielle had shaken the warrior princess startling the guilty soul.  Then the bard’s soothing voice expressed its pity for the soul that could not release itself from deep guilt.  Xena then felt safe again as she asked Gabrielle if she felt what Ares had said  was true.  Had she really executed Callisto by allowing her to die helplessly within the quicksand.  Gabrielle’s voice was reassuring to Xena telling her that she had only done what had to be done.  These were the words that Xena desparately needed to hear from her friend.  Xena continued by expressing how every dream she had had was about Callisto and no one else.  The guilt ridden warrior continued by explaining that it was Ares taunting her and saying that she really had become a murderer when she did not try to save Callisto from her own darkness.  The warrior princess felt guilty for not giving Callisto a chance to change the way that Hercules had given Xena that chance to change. 

     Gabrielle  sharply yet confidently refused that statement for she said that Callisto had chosen her own path and demise.  It was not Xena’s responsibility to try to change Callisto according to the bard.  Gabrielle continued soothing the guilty warrior’s soul with more words yet they began to sound confusing to the warrior princess.  The bard said that just because Xena had not tried to change Callisto or to show Callisto any mercy as others had shown Xena that these things did not make Xena a murderer.  Xena began to move away from the bard slowly though Gabrielle’s hands did not release her shoulders.  Gabrielle continued her strange twisted soothing statements.  She said that if Hercules had chosen to judge Xena the way that Xena had chosen to judge Callisto then Xena would most certainly be dead by now.  Xena then questioned the bard with alarm.  Gabrielle continued as her words became more harsh and that soothing familiar sound suddenly began to change its tone.  She said that Xena deserved death more than did Callisto for it had been Xena who had created Callisto.  Though it was Gabrielle’s face that Xena saw her voice was now that of Callisto and before the words could finish the warrior princess awoke a third time.  That was when she had awakened startled Gabrielle out of slumber.  Finally Xena had reached the safety of  reality.  Yet even then there was seemingly little comfort for the warrior princess’s heart.

      As the two friends continued scouting on after exchanging their woes and dreams Xena’s pace suddenly quickened.  Gabrielle’s concern rose as her own thoughts of pain deminished into the alertness of preparing to do battle.  Xena then knelt down before some footprintes in the mud along the road.  Gabrielle followed inquring the warrior princess uncertain if they were following the trail of Theodoras.  Xena answered her friend with confidence saying that Theodoras and his men had gone over the river through the woods toward a deserted village.  Not only were they following the trail of the enemy, but there was another man following as well.  In fact, Xena was certain that this lone warrior was about to get himself killed.  Gabrielle pieced together the sarcastic comment and realized that it was Joxer that Xena spoke of.  Somehow he had managed to find himself right in the middle of the action once again.

      When Xena and Gabrielle finally arrived on the outskirts of the deserted village they found that Theodoras was about to execute Joxer.  The so called warrior challenged Theodoras proclaiming that soon the Athenian army would storm the camp and seize Theodoras and his army.  Theodoras was slightly amused, but more irritated at the annoying intruder.  He had decided that he was going to have Joxer killed this time for he was growing tired of dealing with his idocy.  Theodoras was angered when Joxer mentioned the name of the woman he had loved.  He then said that he would spill Joxer’s blood carving him from the inside out.  Joxer was defiant yet slightly fearful at the thought of his violent oncoming death.  He tried to talk his way out of it reminding Theodoras that he would need Joxer as a hostage when the Athenians came to take his army.  Theodoras ignored Joxer’s pleas as he and his men began to beat their victim senseless.  Joxer was helplessly hanging upon a rope as Xena’s battle cry raged out from within the woods.

      Suddenly Theodoras and his army dispersed into the woods looking to kill the warrior princess.  Yet she had already arrived into the village as she flipped violently crashing through the walls of a large barn.  Within the barn was Joxer hanging from the ceiling beams.  Gabrielle entered through the gaping hole left by Xena’s wrath as she and Xena scanned the barn for any of Theodoras’s men.  No one was present except for the idiot who proclaimed that he had been the one who had scared the enemy off.  Gabrielle was prepared to go after the enemy into the woods, but Xena declared that it would not be wise in the night.  She decided that they would camp and so Gabrielle went to fetch the blankets.  Xena began to pace within the barn planning her next move.  Joxer could barely stand being ignored any longer demanding that Xena free him from his ropes.  The warrior princess finally decided to free him, but not without punishment for his stupidity in acting alone.  Joxer suddenly found himself eating the dirt with little sympathy to follow.

     As the friends prepared to try to recapture their dreams Gabrielle approached the warrior princess staring off into the distance.  She brought a blanket to cover Xena’s shoulders realizing that though Callisto was gone from the world her presence still lurked within it.  Xena then continued expressing her guilt.  She was now certain after having her terrible nightmares that her guilt was real.  Xena really felt that she had committed an injustice allowing Callisto to die in the sinking pit of quicksand.  Gabrielle was disappointed for she now realized that Callisto had truely won despite her death.  Callisto had taken Xena’s light turning it into an endless guilt while she had handed Gabrielle endless pain and empty rage within her own heart.  Gabrielle expressed her disgust with the situation as she spoke these thoughts aloud.  For Xena was wishing that she had not killed Callisto, Joxer had developed a death wish because he had not succeeded in killing Callisto, and Gabrielle now felt that the world would have been a better place had the blonde nemisis never existed at all.  With that the bard left the warrior princess within her guilt unable to console her friend beyond her own heart’s lingering pain.  And so Xena’s nightmares continued relentlessly and without end.

     Upon the early morning before the next sun Gabrielle found herself suddenly awakened by Xena’s jolting her shoulder.  The bard was startled out of her slumber barely able to focas on Xena’s quick words.  Xena said that she had finally figured out what was really going on all of this time.  She said that Callisto was back somehow with the help of the god of war.  Gabrielle suddenly found herself alarmed by the thought of Callisto’s return.  She was uncertain of how she would deal with another face to face meeting with her worst enemy.  When Gabrielle inquired of the warrior princess what she felt that they would do next.  Xena responded with zest.  She said that they must immediately go onto Amphipolis for Callisto was certain to strike there next.  The bard did not understand how Xena had come to this conclusion so easily.  Xena continued explaining that because of Callisto’s undying revenge for her she was most certainly out to kill Xena’s mother.  There was someting eerie about Xena’s quick knowledge of her enemy’s certain motives.

      Just when Gabrielle was about to awaken Joxer to join them on their new mission Xena grabbed the bard’s arm.  She then told Gabrielle that it was best that they leave the idiot behind.  Xena was certain that he would only get himself killed.  Gabrielle could most certainly understand that.  And so as Gabrielle prepared herself and Argo for their journey to Xena’s home Xena vanished for a short time.  Gabrielle found herself increasingly confused.  She began to wonder if maybe she too had been having a strange dream.  Yet her concern dissolved upon Xena’s return as the sun began to rise.  Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo traveled together.  Yet the entire journey seemed like a strain and a struggle.  Argo was extremely fussy on this morning.  It was unusual for Xena’s horse to be so upset.  Gabrielle tried to figure out what may have spooked Argo, but most of her effort had gone into keeping Argo still.

     Then Xena started revealing her plan.  It was not typical for her to be so open and seemingly vengeful.  She said that Callisto most certainly had gone to fetch her army.  Xena was planning on reaching Theodoras before Callisto could regain control.  Argo continued to express her discomfort.  Gabrielle wondered if maybe it was because of Xena’s guilt.  She wondered if maybe it was the guilt begining to poison the warrior princess’s heart.  Then Gabrielle asked Xena if she would take Argo from her.  The bard was certain that Argo would calm down if Xena were to take the reigns.  Yet Xena refused to comfort her horse.  Instead she declared that Argo was only behaving in this way because she sensed Callisto as she had the last time they had gone up against Callisto.

     Then Xena turned to Gabrielle proclaiming that she had a confession.  She said that it was not right that she had been the one to kill Callisto before.  Xena said that Gabrielle should have been the one to spill the blood for her vengence deserved to be tamed.  The bard suddenly found herself disturbed by Xena’s sudden change.  Before Xena had fought desparately to keep Gabrielle from drawing Callisto’s blood.  And now she was determined to convince Gabrielle that it was her responsibility.  Gabrielle listened to her friend as Xena continued.  She said that her guilt over the issue was about to tear her apart.  The bard’s worst fear was seemingly playing itself out.  Gabrielle did not know what to do or how to visualize the truth.

     The bard then tried to verbally make sense of things.  She asked Xena if what she had said was the truth.  The bard wanted to know if Xena truely felt it was her responsibility to kill Callisto.  Xena’s reply was strange.  She disputed that statement only to say that Callisto was most certainly after her mother.  Gabrielle stated that Callisto had to be stopped short of killing Cyrene.  Xena did agree with this, but her blank stare pierced through Gabrielle like fire as Xena said that stopping Callisto wasn’t the problem.  She continued stating that once Callisto was stopped there had to be a resolution.  Xena seemingly did not know the resolution yet Gabrielle sensed that there was something beyond.  The warrior princess then stated that she was not so certain that she could go through with killing Callisto again.  Then she walked away from Gabrielle and Argo leaving the bard to contemplate Xena’s strange new demeanor.

     As the day wore on Gabrielle found herself even more confused for Xena began to teach her the art of vengence.  She had chosen a small tree to be the devout enemy and commanded the bard to strike it down.  But Gabrielle had already made up her mind.  She had already learned that the vengence would not calm her raging heart.  Gabrielle’s efforts were futile against Xena’s constant beckonings as she scolded the bard for not trying hard enough.  When Gabrielle tried to talk her way out of learning the truths of vengence Xena only pursued further.  She told the bard that it was not about vengence at all for Callisto was already dead.  All that she asked of the bard was to send her back to Tarturus where Callisto belonged.  Xena proclaimed that Gabrielle’s heart could bring the strength of vengance forth for it still existed within the bard.  Gabrielle knew Xena was right.  She had only buried those lustful feelings deep within.  Yet Gabrielle was afraid to release them openly knowing the damage that would most certainly follow.

     As Gabrielle prepared to strike at the tree once again Xena’s rage spilled out with even more power.  The bard suddenly found herself frustrated as she turned to face her friend.  There was definately something wrong within.  As Gabrielle searched Xena’s eyes for some light Xena calmed her tense muscles for a moment.  She shifted the sudden suspicion to a challenge.  The warrior princess then asked Gabrielle to allow Xena to play the part of Callisto.  Gabrielle found this sickening and not at all amusing.  Xena persisted with the charade saying that she only looked like Xena, but that she was really Callisto.  Though the idea seemed impossible the bard’s mind momentarily grasped the idea as truth.  She thought that maybe it was a true explanation to this situation yet her heart worked desparately to deny it.  Then Xena beckoned her to strike and so weakly Gabrielle struck for she did not wish to unleash vengeful feelings upon her best friend. 

     Again Xena persisted trying to belittle the bard with insults, but even that did not allow Gabrielle to strike a powerful blow.  Yet Xena tried once more to grasp the vengence with the bard.  She began to describe the sensation of killing Perdicas and of how she had felt his blood on her hands as he died.  Gabrielle’s rage began to surface as her soul began to boil and the darkness emerged from within her heart.  Then Xena finalized the statement by belittling the bard again telling her that she was incapable of killing the one who had taken her love from her.  And with that Gabrielle lost all of her senses.  Her self control was completely gone.  Her muscles tensed within her arms and her legs thrust forward with the staff as it struck Xena in the chest violently.  The warrior princess suddenly fell to the ground for Gabrielle had knocked the wind out of her friend. 

     As Xena rose slowly from her defeat Gabrielle’s darkness quickly retreated into realization.  The bard suddenly felt great guilt for what she had felt and acted upon.  She turned away from Xena who praised her yet Gabrielle did not feel like a celebration.  Instead her stomach felt ill.  As if she wanted to purge it of the evil lurking within.  Xena then continued to stroke the bard’s dark ego telling her that she was proud of the action against her.  Gabrielle expressed her deep concern for having felt hatred within that moment.  She had truely believed in her mind that Callisto was real within Xena’s eyes and that was what had allowed her to strike.  Gabrielle did not want to face that moment again, but Xena only commented that hatred had to be faced no matter the consequences.  Then Xena handed the bard her weapon, but this time it was not just a simple fighting staff.  Xena had fashioned it into a spear using the breast daggar that Gabrielle had once purchased for herself.  Then Xena said that she was going to take care of the one who was following closely behind.  Upon her abscence Gabrielle found herself barely able to move or to function.  Instead she just stood against the tree and stared at the weapon of death that now faced her.  She sensed that this was a moment of choice.  Gabrielle desparately hoped that she would not make the wrong choice.

     After many moments of spying the weapon Gabrielle finally picked it up.  She began to inspect the point of the weapon as she tested it up against the tree.  The bard questioned her resolve wondering if she would be truely able to make the choices that Xena had to make every day with the sword.  There was still a great deal of uncertainty within her as Argo began to stir upon Xena’s return.  The warrior princess seemed a lot more at ease as she grabbed a drink to quench the thirst of her passionate encounter with war.  When Gabrielle inquired of who had been following them Xena said that it had only been one of Theodoras’s men.  Then she confidently brushed off the situation stating that she had been able to scare him off. 

     Gabrielle prepared to grab Argo to continue on their journey, but Xena’s calm nature began to shift back into that crazy uncertainty for the bard.  She said that Argo would not be going with them onto Amphipolis.  Xena stated that she feared for Argo’s safety.  Again this was unlike Xena for Gabrielle had never known the warrior princess to go anywhere without her horse alongside her.  Gabrielle investigated this with a question for she wasn’t sure that an emotionally distraught horse should be left out in the woods alone.  With Callisto lurking about she might fall victim.  Xena was certain and persistant that she should leave Argo behind.  She was so confident that she asked Gabrielle to move ahead while she hid Argo’s briddle.  Gabrielle looked to Xena once more with grave concern, but she did not argue with the warrior princess.  She was often cryptic about many things. 

     Gabrielle walked on alone for about two hours until she began to hear some very strange sounds lurking behind.  The bard circled back upon her path to investigate what was just behind her.  To her surprise she caught sight of  Joxer walking alongside Callisto, and then suddenly she heard the distant sound of the roaring chackram.  Then the chackram was in plain view, but it was not Xena who tamed it.  Callisto took the mighty weapon as Joxer narrowly escaped its wrath.  He fell backward passing out after Callisto tamed the weapon.  Then she prepared to return it to the warrior princess only to find herself confronted by the warrior woman.  She warned Callisto not to send back her weapon for she would only recapture it.  Then Callisto demanded to know where the bard was, but Xena played her off without revealing a single detail.  Gabrielle strained to hear the dialogue between the two women, but found it muffled by the sounds of the wind blowing through the brush.

     All she could do now was watch and hope Xena would be triumphant.  The sounds of screams and battle cries broke through the rustling plants as the two women flipped across one another clashing their swords into action.  It seemed all of their battles began this way.  And then they would face one another swords ready.  Callisto was seemingly on the defensive in this battle as Xena attacked to perry.  The warrior princess swung missing Callisto as the blonde jumped backward.  Xena then charged forward with even more aggression and force.  There was great power and strength, but it was not coming from Xena.  It was coming from Callisto.  Callisto seemingly fought to avoid drawing blood.  She only fought to defend.  Strangely it seemed to the bard that Callisto was fighting like Xena and Xena like Callisto.  She thought maybe it was because Xena was seeking a justice fairly deserved. 

     Then Gabrielle saw Callisto flip and roll to the ground dodging another advance.  Gabrielle thought that Callisto could have easily taken the advantage against Xena, but for some reason she had chosen not to.  Instead she knelt down in the mud blocking Xena’s downward motion from behind.  Then Callisto spun around from the ground looking to strike at Xena’s feet, but the warrior princess flipped over her to escape the move.  Callisto rose to face Xena who attacked high against the blonde.  There was a massive struggle for control.  Callisto used her sword to hold off Xena’s.  Xena twisted her sword to disarm Callisto who suddenly kicked Xena’s sword from grasp.  Then something extraordinary happened.  Callisto ran up Xena’s chest flipped backwards and kicked Xena in the face.  It was the same move that Gabrielle had seen Xena use many times, but this was the first time Callisto had ever used it.  Then there was a pause in battle as Gabrielle thought of this.

     Yet her suspicions were rested when Xena mirrored the move that Callisto had made.  Then Xena flipped Callisto by the arm only to have the move reversed by Callisto.  Callisto then kicked Xena who fell back and then she slid a daggar from her boot returning to the offensive against Callisto.  The blonde warrior did not have a weapon.  Instead she dodged each strike and then jumped into a reverse flip using her legs to capture Xena into submission.  As the women fell to the ground Xena ended up on the bottom as Callisto took control.  The daggar held steady with neither woman taking the advantage.  Gabrielle suddenly sprung up from the brush realizing that she had to enter into the battle.  Callisto was about to take Xena’s life.  Gabrielle arrived behind Callisto with her spear pulled to attack.  The bard was prepared to take Callisto’s life.  Gabrielle was totally focased and could hear nothing.  Her blood raced through her veins as the vengence began to rise.  Suddenly her concentration was broken by Xena’s voice.  Xena commanded her to kill the blonde warrior, but before Gabrielle could respond her ears were filled with Callisto’s voice asking for soft mercy. 

      Callisto continued explaining to Gabrielle that she was about to tell her an impossible story.  Then it was out.  Callisto proclaimed herself to be Xena.  Her voice was calm unlike usual.  It wasn’t phsycotic or crazed.  Yet Xena responded quickly saying that Callisto’s statement was only a trick.  Callisto quickly replied with the trick being that of Ares.  She said Ares and Callisto worked together to use her own guilt against her.  This had been how Xena had become Callisto while she slept during the night.  Gabrielle found herself suddenly confused.  There was a fine line between vegence, and truth.  Xena then spoke up once again reminding Gabrielle that Callisto had taken Perdicas.  Gabrielle fought the urge to kill knowing that Callisto might be telling the truth.  Callisto’s explanation explained why Xena had been behaving so strangely and why Argo had been upset.  Then the vengence rose and almost overcame the bard’s resolve. 

     Callisto broke in one last time.  She asked Gabrielle to question Xena about her dreams since Perdicas had died.  The bard found herself confused by this strange request coming from the blonde warrior.  She wondered how the blonde even knew what she and Xena had talked about the night before.  Xena accused Callisto of tricking the bard once more.  But Gabrielle felt that the question was a valid one.  it would prove the truth in all of this confusion.  And so Gabrielle asked Xena to answer knowing that it would be simple.  Xena hesitated and then struggled to find the phsycotic words that would pull vengence from within Gabreille’s heart.  The answer Xena gave was wrong.  Xena said that Gabrielle had been dreaming of her vengence, but that was not the truth.  Then Callisto calmly broke in proclaiming that Gabrielle had dreamed of nothing since Xena had killed Perdicas.

     And so it was true.  Callisto was Xena and Xena was Callisto.  Somehow the impossible had happened and they had traded bodies.  Gabrielle was stunned and Xena relieved for she had won this battle of truth with words.  Xena looked to her friend who dropped her weapon as Callisto took the moment to escape running for the horse that Joxer had brought along with Xena.  Gabrielle then looked at Xena totally astonished by the incident.  In disbelief Gabrielle was stunned only interrupted by the sound of a flying daggar approaching her.  When Gabrielle suddenly snapped back into reality she looked up to see death.  Yet Xena was there to save her capturing the daggar within her hand.  Then Callisto rode off only she looked so much like her friend.  This left the bard with Xena who looked exactly like the one she despised.

     Again doubt rose within Gabrielle as she looked to the blonde woman who now stood before her.  The person that was once Xena rode off triumphantly as she recaptured the chackram and screamed through the woods.  This thought was chilling.  Gabrielle could not understand or comprehend.  She then asked the blonde if it was true.  Xena confirmed that she was really the bard’s truest friend.  Gabrielle was very upset.  She did not want to face this new reality.  The bard wished it were a dream, but this was truely reality.  Then Joxer awoke lost for a moment only to discover that he had missed his oppritunity to kill Callisto once again.  When Gabrielle asked Xena how this had all happened Xena revealed a plan and of how it all began.

     On the night before she had been standing staring out into the woods.  As she leaned up against the doorway she had fallen asleep.  Xena had been unable to distinguish her dream from her reality for she had just experienced the three nightmares hours before.  As Gabrielle and Joxer slept Callisto had come.  She beckoned Xena into the fog and into the darkness.  This led her into the depths of Tarturus where Callisto taunted her with her guilt.  Then Xena realized what had been happening to her.  She had been a victim of Ares who had taken the world of dreams and the world of reality making them into one.  This allowed Callisto to become his new warrior that would replace the many rejections of the warrior princess.  There was only one way to allow Callisto and Ares to succeed.  They had to bring Xena to admitting her own guilt.  The two had been successful and so Callisto was released from Tarturus as Xena and Xena found herself trapped forever.

     Xena had only one hope of escaping her guilt and eternal life within Tarturus.  She seeked out Hades who would be the only one that could help her.  Xena argued with Hades over the truth of her identity for he did not believe that she was the real Xena.  He too knew as Gabrielle had known that Callisto was very clever.  Hades continuously refused to believe Xena’s story though she seemed to know every secret of the underworld.  There was only one way that the dead could escape the underworld and it was through the guilt of those who had killed them.  This made sense to Hades, but he still did not believe.  Then Xena spoke of her beloved Marcus and of how together they had saved Hades kingdom from Atyminious.  Again Hades decided that everyone knew of that information too.  Then Xena reminded Hades of what had happened in the end.  She reminded him of how she had stabbed Marcus through the heart before him.  Her love had been unmistakeable.  Hades had been the only man to witness that knowing that Marcus would have kept that moment to himself.  Finally Hades relented although he was still displeased with Xena for allowing her guilt to free Callisto.  He said that he could only give her one day to repair her mistake for his displeasure would yield no more.  

     As soon as Xena had returned to life within Callisto’s body she found something that nearly broke her heart.  Argo had been badly wounded by Callisto though Xena was able to save her horse.  Joxer of course had to jump into the conversation reminding Xena that he had come to Argo’s aid.  The idiot was courageous and brave with his heart, but abscent with his mind thinking he could go up against Callisto alone.  Xena had thanked Joxer for his help in trying to protect her beloved horse.  She then explained that Callisto had meant for Xena to have to kill her own horse certain that it would break Xena’s heart. 

     Soon Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer had reached the cave near Amphipolis where Callisto had told Gabrielle she was going to take the people.  Armed with fire bombs Gabrielle and Joxer awaited Xena’s command for an attack.  Callisto had killed Theodoras and taken over his army as Xena.  She was preparing for Xena’s arrival as Xena had suspected.  Callisto was preparing to burn the people of Xena’s village to death the way that Callisto’s family and friends had suffered at the hands of Xena’s own army.  Then Cyrene called out to the dark nemesis unaware of the evil that lied within her.  Soon Cyrene’s senses were sharpened with truths as she gazed into the eyes of the enemy playing the part of her daughter.  Callisto then left her within fear and requested that the first torch be thrown at the feet of Xena’s mother.  She wanted Cyrene to meet certain death even if the warrior princess were to arrive before death had taken her. 

     Callisto was unaware of the danger that lurked within the cave waiting to strike.  She taunted the idea of the warrior princess’s arrival, but found herself interrupted by the arrival of Ares warning her of her out of control vengence.  Callisto did not heed Ares’s warning of Xena’s skills.  She was blinded by her vengeful goals against the warrior princess.  Callisto proclaimed that Ares was no longer in control of the situation for he had promised her satisfactin and she would have it.  She didn’t care what happened to Xena after that.  Callisto was certain that Xena would be reclaimed by Hades in Tarturus before she could stop Callisto.  Then Ares left his newfound creation with anger.  He too had underestimated his new warrior queen.  She had used him to have her vengence and now he was defeated.  As Ares disappeared Xena gave the command as Joxer and Gabrielle began to hurl the fire bombs into the cave.  Callisto’s army put out their torches immediately as the dispersed from the cave fearful of Callisto’s arrival.

     Yet Callisto had already been there and now Xena flipped into action.  Callisto was ready for battle against Xena.  She was ready to satisfy her vengeful heart.  And so the battle began as Callisto drew her sword and clashed with Xena’s.  This time Xena moved offensively within Callisto’s body.  She tried a new series of moves to catch Callisto off guard as she spun around several times an perrying with her sword after each spin.  Xena delivered a few kicks and then received a return kick from Callisto which disarmed her of her weapon.  Suddenly Xena began to fade into the setting sun as she warned Callisto that her vengence would never be realized now.  Callisto would not give up her victory over Xena for she reminded her that Xena would always know who had killed her loved ones despite being in Tarturus.  Then Callisto turned and ran for the people of Amphipolis locked away helplessly within their cell.  But before Callisto could get to a lit torch Xena made one last move.  She took a poison dart from the cuff of her wrist armor and plunged it into Callisto’s juggular. 

      Gabrielle and Joxer dashed into the cave with their weapons raised ready to do battle against Callisto.  Yet they were too late for Xena had finally disappeared forever returning to the depths of Tarturus.  Then Callisto ripped out the poison dart from her neck.  She appraoched the people of Amphipolis, but fell to the ground passing out into slumber from the poison dart.  Gabrielle realized what Xena had done.  She was making one last attempt to return Callisto to Tarturus.  Gabrielle and Joxer could only hope that Xena would return to them when it was finally over.  And so the battle raged on within Tarturus.  The battle of guilt and vengence persisted.  Xena put a face upon the vicitms that Callisto had ever taken.  She had called upon Callisto’s mother who came to reclaim her innocent child.  Callisto retreated to denial, but soon she put herself on trial.

     And then it was finally over as Xena’s body fell into Callisto’s.  As Callisto slowly rose to her feet those who had weapons held them steady.  Gabrielle then faced her enemy prepared to do battle, but the enemy had not returned.  It was Xena still within Callisto and Gabrielle was still in despair.  She did not want to believe that Xena could not return to her the way she had remembered her friend.  Callisto then proved her innocence to the bard with the words of her truest friend.  Xena spoke of Gabrielle’s own words about her belief in the power of love.  Gabrielle had once said to her friend that the true weapon against the cycle of violence was not vegence, but love.  Suddenly Gabrielle realized the she was seeing a reflection of herself within.  It came through the face of the enemy and the eyes of her truest friend.  Though Xena would never be restored to herself her soul had learned a lesson that Callisto could never understand.

     Early the next morning as Gabrielle awoke she found it difficult to rise from her slumber.  For the first time in weeks she had a dream though she wished it had been reality.  Then the bard found Joxer who stood with the blonde warrior princess.  He was clearly still shaken by the new home which now housed the soul of the warrior princess.  Gabrielle heard Xena thank Joxer once more for his courage in protecting Argo.  When Gabrielle approached Joxer’s nerves were on edge as he jumped back startled by her arrival.  The bard tried to calm him down reminding him that there was nothing left to be fearful of.  Yet Joxer protested that he was completely at ease.  As he left the two friends alone Gabrielle found herself missing Xena again.  Though her friend was right there with her it was still a great reminder of the one who had taken Perdicas from her.  Xena put Gabrielle’s heart at ease reminding her to think of Perdicas and the love she had for him when she looked at the face of Callisto instead of the hatred it commanded.  And so as the two friends moved foward together Gabrielle began to sing the song of Perdicas.  Her love for him was endless as was her love for the warrior princess.