The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #47: The Quest

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll# 47:  The Quest

August, 47 B.C.

….Xena I know you can hear me wherever you are.  I know you always told me to be strong, but I can’t be, not now.  You can’t leave me.  I know its not your time.  I can feel it in my heart.  I just feel this emptiness I’ve never known before and it scares me.  Xena above all just remember your destiny.  Remember it and fight.  Fight to come back.  This world needs you.  I need you.   For my destiny is to be alongside you.  I’ve known this since Thesaly and you know it too.  Come back to me my dearest friend for I am lost without you.

Every night I see it happen again and every morning I wake up wishing that it were only a dream.  My unbearable pain began when you took me to Syra the home of my worst enemy.  You wanted so terribly to understand why.  You wanted to understand why you brought your army down into that valley and why so many had to die.  You blamed yourself for so much, but I know in my heart that you were only confused and young.  I tried to comfort you by telling you that though the valley of Syra had once been a place of great death and destruction it had changed and become a place for vibrant life once again.  My heart was certain that you would be able to change too.  It was confident that your heart would heal from its own unbearable torments from your past.

As I watched you ride down into the valley to face your past there was peace in my own heart for you. I knew that your own peace of mind and heart would come through for you one day.  But then I was suddenly taken by those barbarians and prepared for sacrifice alongside those innocent young children.  Yet you came for me as always and you saved me from death once again.  Your battle against them was flawless except for in the last moments when I had made another mistake.  I had been so busy watching your flawless warrior skill that I allowed one of those children to get too close to the battle and the danger.  Before I could act he found himself nearly facing his own death prematurely.  As always you bravely stepped in front of him and did not allow him to die.  You acted with your warrior instincts instead of reacting with too many thoughts.  My own reactions put you into danger as you sacrificed yourself and your own life for that of the innocent blond haired boy.  You had felt that his life was worth more than yours.

The moment was horrifying for me knowing that there was nothing that I could do to stop it from happening now.  And so you took the blow and began your journey toward death.  As I stepped in to protect you from the remaining barbarians I was wounded, but it was only a wound of the leg.  It was only a wound that would one day heal.  Yet this wound in my heart now is so great that I am more lost now than ever before.

As I prepared to take you to Mount Nestus where you said we should go I tried to wipe it all away.  I tried to wipe away the blood that flowed out of your ears, and your mouth, and your nose.  There has never been a time that you had looked more seriously injured than in that moment.  Argo even sensed your death approaching.  She was strong for me for she knew that I needed her to be.  After traveling almost all night long I asked you if we should go north or south of the Streimen River.  You mumbled and I thought you said north so that is which way Argo and I took you.  You were right for we did get there early in the morning snows.

I was so tired and exhausted from traveling all night, but Argo kept me on our quest.  And finally when we reached your old friend Nicklio I was certain that you would be okay.  Yet Nicklio wanted to repair me first though I tried to tell him that it was not me who needed his help.  He refused to help you for he could face a reality that I was unwilling to realize.  Still I can not accept it.  Your death was not supposed to happen that way.  Not without me and not now.

I cried alongside you through the day for I could not leave you.  I know that you could hear me.  You could hear my every thought.  Everything my heart ever said to you and everything my mind ever thought.  Xena I miss you.  But now I know that no matter how many tears fall from my eyes and down my face none of them has the power to return you to your life’s place.  So I am preparing to take you home.  But this journey is even more difficult than the journey to reach Nicklio for the word has spread through the land very quickly that you are now dead.  I promise you that I will get your body back to Amphipolis again no matter what it takes.  I shall die to fill your wishes.  You belong home with your family next to your brother in Amphipolis I know.  But I wish you would come back.

This afternoon as Argo and I have traveled toward Amphipolis.  We were confronted by five henchmen.  They were the usual kind that you always defeated with barely breaking a warrior sweat.  These men angered me for they did not respect you the way they would have if you were still alive.  All they wanted was to profit from my loss and your death.  You would have been proud for I stood bravely to defend you.  I have promised you in the past that I would bury you next to your brother.  And that is where you will go no matter what.  I may only be a small young village girl, but you have taught me well.

As I fought them I did not think.  I only used my feelings for you to guide me.  But you made sure that I did not have to fight them alone for you sent Iolas to help.  I didn’t really need his help to fight our enemies, but I did need him.  I needed Iolas to comfort my wounded heart, and I thank you for that Xena.  Sadly, I must admit that for a brief time I have felt anger for your choice to leave me behind.  My heart was not ready for this life challenge alone.  There were so many things that I have left unsaid to you.  Like how much I truely love you, and how much I appreciate your teaching me all of the lessons I’ve learned from you.  It was after telling Iolas how I was feeling that he released me from my anger.  He reminded me that though I had never said those things to you while you were here with me.  You can still hear me now.  I was comforted and ready to continue on toward Amphipolis reminded that even in death you can hear my thoughts.

I want you to know that Iolas was sad for you too.  Even though you had hurt him in the past and tried to break up his wonderful friendship with Hercules he too still loves you.  He shed tears with me and then told me that he must go.  Iolas wanted to return to Hercules to make sure that the news of your death did not get back to him without first hearing it from Iolas.  Hercules loved you too.  Iolas was certain that he would take our loss hard.  Yet no one loves you more than I do.

After Iolas left Argo and I alone again we continued on and found ourselves deep in the amazon forrest.  It was scary traveling without you for I’m not yet as skilled as you.  There are still things that I cannot sense, or hear, or feel the way that you always do.  I’m still amazed at how you could know that someone was following us from so far behind.  Your skills are truely brilliant like the light I have felt within your heart.  Argo of course began to fuss before I realized that we were being followed.  So I stopped and stepped forward declaring that those following show themselves.  With relief it was only a group of our oldest friends.  The amazons came sailing out of the trees just like they did the first time you took me to meet them.  I  remember how excited I was and how I didn’t understand what being an amazon was all about.

Then I remembered that you had taught me that amazon symbol for peace.  So I declared myself peaceful and they did something very special.  Though you never thought that you deserved the respect and love of the amazons they too love you.  I watched them honor you in silence as they placed their swords upon your sarcoughagous.  Ephiny was with them and I was glad to see her.  It was comforting to be surrounded by friends in your abscence.  Ephiny expressed her sorrow for my loss and invited me to take you to the amazon camp.  There they were prepared to honor you with an amazon funeral fire.  Yet I did not feel that you would have wanted that so I told Ephiny that I was going to continue onto Amphipolis.

She could see that I was suffering inside and Ephiny urged me to at least stay with the amazons for a few days.  I told Ephiny that I would stay for a little while, but only because I needed to talk to Queen Melosa.  Without you I know I need to find a new life and so I thought that maybe Queen Melosa could help guide me in your abscence.  Ephiny then broke the news that Queen Melosa had also been killed.  She had been killed in royal combat like the one you had enguaged in to unite the centaurs with the amazons against Krykus.  My heart could barely take the pain of your loss and to find that Queen Melosa had been taken was a shock for me.  And then I asked Ephiny who the new queen was.  She looked to another of the amazons that I had not met the last time we had come to amazon lands.  Her name was Velaska.  Velaska had been the one that had challenged the Queen to the royal combat.  And as you know Xena it is a fight to the death.

Veleska did not spare Melosa with mercy the way that you did.  She argued that her combat against Melosa had been ruled by the tribunal as a fair defeat.  But Ephiny seemed displeased about this.  Yet she was also pleased that I had returned for by amazon law the Amazon Princess is the next in line to take the mask of the queen when she passes.  Because of my right of caste Ephiny was delighted to announce that I was now the rightful queen of the amazons.  I’ve suddenly found myself more lost and confused than before Xena.  I don’t know what to do.  My heart says that I am not ready to be an Amazon Queen.  Last time we were here I learned the responsibility that a Queen must carry and it was more than I am ready for.

With my wounded heart I have decided to join Ephiny and my other amazon sisters for I need to mourn.  Yet I feel that I am being pushed foward suddenly into a life that was not meant to be for me right now.  Ephiny has explained to me the truth of Velaska’s challenge to Melosa.  Melosa had adopted Velaska as a step daughter when her mother had been killed in a battle against the centaurs before you and I had come.  Velaska had challenged Melosa once before, but was unsuccessful.  Because Melosa had been her new mother she had been spared the penatly of the challenge.  Yet Melosa banished Velaska from the amazon nation for her defiance of her mother as punishment.

After you and I had come to the amazon lands Velaska returned.  She returned to challenge Melosa once again.  Only this time if she lost Melosa would have had to take her life.  I know in my heart that Melosa did not lose because she was less skilled or less of a warrior.  She lost this second battle against Velaska because of her love for this child though Velaska had truely been the child of another amazon.  Velaska has taken advantage of Melosa’s love for her and that is why Ephiny felt that the challenge had not been a fair fight.  Ephiny explained to me the reason that Velaska wanted to be queen.  She revealed that because Velaska’s true mother had been killed by a centaur Velaska did not agree with the new alliance.  If Velaska had her way and continued to reign as queen then Ephiny, and her son Xenan would have to make choices.  It would be impossible for them to live with either nation for she is an amazon and he has been born a centaur.

Ephiny has me thinking about my responsibility now, but I’m still not confident that I would make a better queen than Velaska Xena.  She has been an amazon since birth while I’ve only been an amazon for only ten short seasons by a rite.  I’m so confused Xena that I’ve decided to hear out Velaska’s side just incase Ephiny is just over reacting.

As I walked with Velaska today Xena I could feel her ambition.  It  is driven by something other than what drives Ephiny.  Ephiny’s intensions are driven by a mother’s love for her son while Velaska’s intentions are clearly driven by vegence.  Velaska tried to talk me out of chosing to accept the queen mask.  If she had been a true leader she would have allowed me to make that choice on my own.  A true amazon sister would have trusted in me to make the right choice.

Though the right choice for me would be to allow Velaska to continue to reign as queen for she is indeed much more experienced and better trained than I.  Yet my heart tells me that the right choice for the amazons is for me to embrace this huge responsibility and take the queen mask.  I know I am not ready, but my intensions are more noble than the intensions of Velaska.  If she were to continue to reign as the queen I am certain that the amazons and the centaurs will be at war once again.  All that you and I have done to unite them in peace will be destroyed and I can’t let that happen.  Not now.

Xena I’ll always love you, but I know I have to let you go.  I have always thought of you as my home, and since you have left I  have felt so lost.  Maybe my new home is here.  And so I think I will tell Ephiny that I am going to accept the queen mask.  Not only for your legacy, but for my own purpose.  Know that you will be an amazon sister in death for you will have the proper funeral fire that you deserve.  You will always be honored and remembered by the amazon nation and by the centaur nation.  But after your amazon funeral know that I will keep my promise.  I will take your ashes back to Amphipolis.  And that is where I will finally let you go.  I will say good-bye and then I shall return to the amazons and rule as their queen.  Your memory will always be my guide.

Upon preparing for my ceremony I have been nervous yet there is a sense of excitement for I do indeed have a home.  For the first time in days I am feeling confident of my direction without you Xena.  Proudly I will walk through the ceremony and stand before my sisters and accept their honor to me.  But I promise that I will not abuse this power or their trust in me.  I will use it to benefit the good and to fight against what is wrong.  There are so many people who have power in this world that should not hold it.

I have returned from my masking ceremony.  Xena look.  They have made me their queen.  Me the little girl you found in Podedia.  It’s time that I let you go.  You see I have to find my own life.  Just as you were searching for yours.  You know there are two kinds of tears.  Tears for those who leave you.  And tears for those whom you never let go.  And I won’t say good-bye to you Xena.  For we shall be together again one day.

Before I go let me tell you what happened.  I was taken before my sisters and presented with the mask.  Velaska waited for me to make my choice.  She was certain that I would chose her and forfeit all of my rites.  But I did not do that, and as I began to accept my queenhood before the amazon witnesses she took vegence upon me for my choice.  Her act was a violent one for she had thrown her daggar steeling the mask from my grasp.  It was an act of disrespect.  A true amazon sister would never show selfish vengence against her own queen.   Now I am certain of the choice I have made.  All of my sisters were as shocked and surprised as I, but Velaska did not stop there.  She tried desparately to deface my name and Ephiny’s name.  Velaska called me a fraud and Ephiny a lier declaring that neither of us could be trusted.  It was true that Ephiny had been the only witness to Terreis giving me her rites, but she is honorable.

It was in Velaska’s moment of defiance that  I decided to take control and demonstrate that I am indeed the right choice for my sisters.  I took the queen mask and the knife down from their resting place on the wall behind me.  I held both of them out.  Then I asked Velaska to choose.  This was her last chance to prove to me that she could be the right choice.  If she had chosen to take the mask first then I would know that I should step down, but if she chose the daggar then it would prove the truth of her intensions.  And so as every amazon was silent.  My sisters watched.  Velaska stepped forward and made the choice that I was certain she would make.  She chose the daggar before the mask.  And so I had proven to my sisters that though I am not as well-trained I am the right choice.  Velaska left camp after that for I accepted my duty and my rite.  There was a wonderful welcoming and celebration for my return.

It is much later now Xena.  When I returned to see you just one last time before your funeral I caught Autolycus the king of theives trying to steal your body.  He left me a bit confused.  At first I was angry for I was certain that he had come to profit from your death like the five henchmen that stopped me a few days ago.  But then he told me that you were in his body.  He said that it was you who wanted to steal your own body.  In my fit of anger I did not listen, but now I am left to wonder.  Maybe everything that he said was really true.  I need to know Xena if you are still here with me.  Please show me a sign.

I am so excited.  My hope has been restored Xena.  Today I saw you.  I mean I saw Autolycus.  He has broken out of the amazon jail which was hardly unexpected considering he is a theif.  But when he jumped upon your sarcoughagous as it began to burn in the fire he hurried to save your body from being destroyed.  My sisters began an attack for his intrusion, but then he whistled for Argo like you do and he had your chackram.  I watched him do the amazing flips that only you can do and he threw your chackram catching it like only you.  That was when I knew that it was true.  That was when I realized that it really was you.

I had no other choice so I left behind my sisters to join Autolycus to find you and to save you.  He explained everything to me.  Autolycus told me of how you had been with him for several days.  He told me of how you had given him his inspiration for stealing the daggar of Helios.  It is the daggar that is the key to your safe return home to me.  I want to thank you for showing me that you are still with me.  Your comforting words through Autolycus and the vision of us together has given me new strength inside.  I must admit that it was a bit strange to find myself opening my eyes kissing Autolycus, but it was really you I know.  Now I am going to send your sarcoughagus down the river like you had asked so that the amazons will not find it before we make it to the ambrosia.

Sadly Xena I must tell you that time is running out.  Autolycus and I were followed to the temple where the food for the gods is kept.  Velaska does not yet know that the daggar of Helios is the true key to the ambrosia.  I think Autolycus still has it stashed away in his boot.  You should know that though the amazon nation is now divided over your death and rescue many of them are behind you including Ephiny and Eponin.  Unfortunately Autolycus has now been returned to us in the jail.  Velaska has beaten him and broken his arm, but it is only a minor break and can be repaired.  Autolycus is truely amazing.  On the outside he appears only a thief for hire, but on the inside he has a truely caring heart.  He is committed to helping you Xena.

You made a good choice when you chose Autolycus’s body.  He has become so involved in your rescue that he has used his unusual skill for picking locks and freed us all from the jail.  It was amazing the way he picked the lock by using only a small metal piece that held together Eponin’s clothing.  Of course he was his usual seductive self, but I can overlook that flaw.  And after we escaped we fought our way through those loyal to Velaska so that we could return to the temple of ambrosia.  I exepect to find Velaska there as well.  She’ll want the powers of a god.  I’ve sent Ephiny and the others to fetch your body from the river to save us time.  They will meet us at the temple and I’ will get you the ambrosia.

Xena this experience has been like no other.  When I reached the temple Velaska was there, but your spirit witin Autolycus was growing weak.  Velaska threatened me with the daggar of Helios, but then you stepped into me and helped.  The feeling of being one with you was warm, and caring.  It was passionate to fight a battle with your spirit inside of me.  I never knew that part of you.  I am glad that we have had the chance to connect in this way.  Our battle was a memorable one for me.  We fought Velaska upon the ropes and I found myself moving in ways that I never thought I could.  I can see now why you enjoy the thrill of a battle so much.  Yes there is your guilt, but your passionate love outweighs that.  When the battle finally ended and Velaska fell to the ground upon the trap of spikes below.  I felt your pain.  You didn’t really want her to die, but there was nothing that you could do to save her and to save yourself.  She had no intention of letting you come back to me.  And she wanted to kill me.

As everyone who witnessed our battle together watched the Ambrosia fall from its place to the ground  into the fire.  I could hear their disappointment.  But you and I knew that you had saved just enough to bring you back.  It is amazing how you have every last detail mapped out within your mind as you go into a battle.  You truely are the greatest warrior who ever lived.  I don’t care what the other legends say.  Of course when you left my body I felt the emptiness again though you had left me with the ambrosia that would return you to life.  Ephiny and the others had brought you to me and so I opened your sarcoughagous.  I placed the small bit of ambrosia into your cold lips and hoped that it would be enough to bring you back.

We all waited for a long moment and wondered.  There was hope, but our disappointment grew when you did not awaken.  Of course all that we really needed was patience for the ambrosia finally did work its magic and brought you back to me.  It was wonderful to see you again.  To look into your blue eyes and to hold you in my arms once again.  I missed you Xena.  It was the hardest week of my life without you.  Please promise me that you’ll never leave me again.  Don’t ever die without me.  I know in my heart that your true destiny is with me and mine with you.  Never ask that question again for you now have the answer and the truth.

Xena Scrolls Volume 1: Scroll #17: Royal Couple of Thieves

The Xena Scrolls
By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia
Scroll#17:  Royal Couple of Thieves

April, 48 B.C.

Finding truth in others can be a difficult task, but finding truth in oneself can be an even greater journey.  Xena and Gabrielle had been called upon by some old friends of Xena’s.  They were a group of humble people who lived by their own codes and truths.  One of their most sacred possessions had been stolen by a warlord whose name was Malthus.  This sacred possession was a beautiful golden chest decorated with elaborate jewels.  Yet it wasn’t the lavish gold or valuable jewels that held the most value with this chest.  It was what was inside that Xena’s friends valued most.
The chest had been stolen for its known power for it had killed those who had fear within.  Most did not understand its power and were unprepared to handle it.  Yet Malthus had stolen the chest to gain access to its power in the hopes of using it against his enemies.  Despite his efforts to obtain this magnificent weapon he had in the end decided that he wanted to sell it for a profit.  He had discovered its secrets and was going to cash in on them.  The price for a chest as magnificent as the sacred chest was much more than could be afforded by even the most wealthy of warlords.  Only a chosen few were invited to come and witness the power of the chest and to bid upon it for their own keeping.
Xena and Gabrielle of course did not have that kind of wealth and neither had been invited to such an extravagant affair though in another time Xena would have been the first to bid.  This time Lena needed some help from a very unlikely source.  She and Gabrielle had heard from Hercules that there was a man named Autolycus who was known as the best of the best when it came to the craft of thievery.  Xena could not go against all of the most powerful warlords alone and expect to defeat them and obtain the chest.  She needed to steal the chest with a skilled thief and Autolycus was the man who could do it.  The only problem was that neither had ever met and Autolycus was a difficult man to catch.  Yet Xena had a plan that was certain to capture his attention.
It all began with her friends as they delivered word across the land that there was a valuable stone that would be displayed at a sacred ceremony within a secluded village in the valley.  Xena, Gabrielle, and all of their friends dressed for the special occasion and awaited the arrival of their special guest of honor.  As they marched through the village square with the priceless stone displayed high in the sky the king of thieves made his dramatic entrance.  He was concealed in a black robe to make certain that his identity would go unknown.  The sly thief swooped down upon his target and stealthfully stole the precious stone from its place upon the top of the ceremonial staff.  He then swooped out of sight and disappeared into the daylight.
Yet just when Autolycus thought that he had successfully completed another heist he found himself confronted by the warrior princess.  His ego was priceless as he admired his reflection in a barrel of water.  The joy of the heist was short-lived for Xena suddenly dipped his head into the water to grab his attention.  She did it for her own amusement and to his great surprise.  He instantly recognized her as being the warrior princess and declared that it would not be an easy task for her to capture the king of thieves.  The thief then dashed in the opposite direction of his pursuit confident that he would get away.  Though he may have been the king of theft he was certainly no match for the skill of the warrior princess.  As he ran up some stairs expecting to disappear into a building Xena ripped the carpet right out from under him.  He fell to the bottom where his new friends awaited his arrival.
Autolycus was certain that they had come to take his stone from him that he had rightfully stolen.  Gabrielle then told of the truth of the stone and how it was no more valuable than a lump of sugar.  The king of thieves had been caught within his own game for they came to steal his services and not his stones.  Autolycus was suddenly interested for he had never been asked to join as a partner in heist.  Xena and Gabrielle then took him to the nearby tavern to discuss the terms of conditions of what they were looking for.  Gabrielle watched her friend attentively as Xena interviewed their prospective thief.  He was interested in the deal until it was revealed that he would be stealing from Malthus.  Suddenly all bets were off and Autolycus refused to be a part of this challenge.
Xena and Gabrielle found themselves confused as Autolycus requested from the warrior princess a drink for his thirst.  When Xena turned away to pour the goblet of water Autolycus took his bound hands from underneath the cloth which covered them.  Though his hands had been tied together and bound by a knife through the table he still managed to grab another goblet of water and drink from it before the warrior princess had finished pouring a second.  Gabrielle found herself intrigued by his talent and skill, but thought better of asking how he had done it.  Instead she allowed Xena to continue with the interview as Autolycus explained his reasons for choosing not to steal from Malthus.  He had stolen from the warlord before and had nearly paid with his life.  Fortunately the two had come to an agreement in which Autolycus vowed never to steal from Malthus again.
Then with pride and a spiteful comment Autolycus rose from his binds.  He showed the warrior princess his great skill in escaping and then bade her farewell.  Autolycus turned to leave Xena behind, but instead found himself outdone yet again when he fell onto the floor ankles still bound.  He was nothing more than a show off, but it was kind of cute.  Then Gabrielle and Xena knew just how to play his game.  His ego was his weakness and his certainty of being the best of the best.  The two friends discussed other options of thieves who might be better suited for a heist such as this.  Autolycus then rose from his embarrassing demise and agreed to the deal as long as payment was involved.
And so the three met with Xena’s old friends and discussed payment.  Autolycus was still not completely certain that he wanted to be a part of this dangerous challenge.  When he asked of the terms of payment he was told that he would receive two thousand dinars to start and another two thousand dinars when his job was finished.  It was clear that he was disappointed for most of the money would have to be spent in dressing for the part of the wealthy warlord Centaries.  After receiving the first half of payment Xena, Gabrielle, and Autolycus went to the market auction to shop for the proper attire for a royal couple of thieves.  Xena explained the details to Autolycus of his mission and of who Centaries actually was.  Gabrielle had heard many stories about Lord Centaries.  They were quite unpleasant for Centaries was known to have killed men with weapons as meager as a simple toothpick.  Centaries was also known to be a great philosopher which was something that Autolycus would have to stretch for.
It was clear that Autolycus was beginning to play the part of the rich Lord Centaries as he had decided that Xena too needed a costume to wear.  He chose something a bit seductive and definitely not within Xena’s taste or humor.  Gabrielle found this thief interesting for his heart seemed warm and personality sparkling yet he wore rings he had stolen from royal queens.  What a strange man he was with a most interesting and secretive history only known to the few who knew him best.
Soon Xena and Autolycus were off to steal back the sacred chest.  They arrived upon Malthus’s ship as night fell and Autolycus began to play the part.  Xena made certain that everyone on the ship was aware that they were in the presence of Lord Centaries.  Word spread quickly of his identity and many of the men upon the ship shook with fear hoping not to anger or cross paths with this dangerous known killer.  Xena was in control for only a short time before Lord Centaries had decided that she would play the part of his faithful concubine.  The warrior princess was not pleased with this change in role, but she had no choice for Lord Centaries made certain that all aboard the ship knew of his lovely Cherish.  And of course he sent her below decks to change into something that was more suitable for her to wear.
Though Lord Centaries was proud and mighty his ego was more trouble that it was worth for him.  As he bragged of his great skill in killing men with apricots, muffins, buttons, and toothpicks he found himself confronted with the brother of Neolose.  Paryis inquired the Lord of the method used to kill Neolose.  Lord Centaries bragged unaware of what he was saying.  He told of how he could not remember killing Neolose for he had killed so many, but he was certain that Neolose had died a long and painful death.  Enraged Paryis threatened Centaries informing him of his linage to Neolose.  Centaries then found his way out of that challenge by referring to a second Neolose of no relation.
Soon the lovely Cherish returned to her master lord, but their reunion was short for Paryis had plans of his own.  He had decided that he would be the one to challenge the one who claimed to be Centaries.  Lord Centaries and Cherish were thrown overboard unexpectedly, but Cherish saved them from certain death by capturing the side of the boat with her hidden weapons.  Upon his return to the deck of the ship Centaries expressed his displeasure with the inconvenience bestowed upon him.  He prepared to prove that indeed he was the killer Lord Centaries.  Centaries pulled out his most infamous weapon.  He played the game pretending to walk away without harming his new rival.  Yet violence was present aboard the ship that night for Paryis drew his dagger and prepared to stab Lord Centaries from behind.  Centaries and Cherish masters of their trade orchestrated a most amazing effect.  Cherish had attached her weapon upon the belt of their enemy and prepared for Lord Centaries to do the rest.
He turned swiftly to face his foe and delivered the wrath of the toothpick which struck down his enemy instantly.  For Paryis luck had been friendly for Centaries had only knocked him unconscious rather than deliver a fatal strike.  Then Lord Centaries led the crowd of guests which he had so masterfully been entertaining and suggested that all go down below and enjoy a feast to satisfy their hunger.  Despite his forgetting about Cherish she soon reminded him of her presence upon entering dinner still drenched from her fall into the sea.  It was obvious to Centaries that he had made a grave mistake which could have easily resulted in his death.
Of course Centaries tried to make up for his mistake and to save his face in front of all of his admirers.  Cherish was full of fire and of passion and she made it known that Centaries was the lord, but she was in control.  The struggle for respect and admiration continued between the two through dinner as Cherish made sure that Centaries choked on a few grapes and entertained the rest of the crowd with kindness.  After dinner the guests were  shown to their quarters.  Then they were to wait until Malthus had come for them for the first presentation of his magnificent weapon.  With one bed and two royal guests Centaries was certain that he and Cherish would share, but Cherish was not at all interested in his advances.  She was there strictly for business reasons and to help friends dear to her.
Soon it was time to be shown where the chest was hidden.  Malthus was confident as he presented it to his audience.  He warned that there was no possible way to steel the chest for it was guarded by the most sophisticated security system known to man.  There were invisible threads made of human hair and spider silk, and a counter balance.  If either of the systems were set off four large bells would sound and alert a theft in progress.  Malthus explained that the reason he was selling the chest was because he had discovered its secrets and had no need to fear it any longer.  He was secure in knowing that no one would be able to steel his treasure for he was the only man holding the key to the doors to the chambers that it was kept in.  Then Malthus welcomed everyone and offered his complements of food, drink, and luxuries.
It was now time for Lord Centaries to do his work.  He went into action suggesting a gift to Malthus of the dance of the three veils.  There was a complication for Cherish only had two veils yet she performed despite the pressure.  Her dance was seductive and enticing to all who witnessed it.  Malthus found himself enthralled and impressed by her mystic aura.  Cherish even made her feminine power known by using her famous pinch move to tame one of the wild beasts to his most pleasurable death.  And while Cherish entertained Lord Centaries investigated the elaborate system which protected the chest he was planning to steal.  He then made his way across to where Malthus stood entranced by Cherish’s dance.  Lord Centaries was sly as he took the burned wax from a candle and used it to capture one of the keys from Malthus’s belt.  Malthus never suspected this move as Centaries offered Cherish as part of his bid on the chest.  Malthus was impressed and thought very seriously of this offer as the dance of the three veils came to a close.  Centaries demanded more from his loyal concubine, but she was not in the mood.  She flatly refused his command smashing a piece of pie into his face and smearing it for good measure.  Then Cherish was dismissed from her Lord’s command as she turned away and exited with disgust at Lord Centaries’s abuse.
Later that night as all of the ship guests slept Lord Centaries and Cherish entered into the room which held the chest.  They were prepared to carry out their plans and escape without a sound with the treasure.  But when they arrived into the room they witnessed a terrible tragedy.  There lying where the chest had once been was the body of its owner Malthus.  Someone had murdered him in cold blood using what appeared to be nothing more than a toothpick.  When Cherish examined the body more closely it was obvious that Malthus had been stabbed to death.  The toothpick was a set up for Lord Centaries.  It was unclear as to who would have the motive for most who were guests upon the ship had reason to want to get rid of Lord Centaries.
Despite what had been told to Centaries at dinner he did not heed the warning of invisible threads.  He did not believe that there could be such a man-made device.  His miscalculation of Malthus’s truthful words lead to another of his mistakes.  First he had made the mistake of being too large and noticeable amongst his peers, and second he carelessly put his hand through the invisible threads which set off the four bells above.  Cherish and Centaries then dashed out of the room and down the hall into their bed chambers hoping to escape accusation for they had not yet committed their heist.  Upon entering into their bed chambers they discovered inside upon their bed the missing chest.  Xena investigated the chest and read the words inscribed upon the lid.  They read.  Face the truth do not fear it for fearing it will result in your own death.  It was a set up and though it seemed a blessing there was a sudden knock at the door.  Quickly they hid the chest beneath their bodies playing the part of a passionate love affair as the guard entered into their chambers.
Cherish warned the guard of his interruption for Centaries was not known to appreciate unexpected intrusions.  Lord Centaries jumped up from the bed and threatened the guard commanding Cherish to find him some toothpicks.  The guard then fled for fear of his life and went on to the next unsuspecting guest.  Once things had calmed down and the guard had left Lord Centaries and Cherish returned to the scene of the crime to return the chest to its proper place.  The task would be difficult for they had to be able to accomplish it without disturbing the alarms.  As they prepared the chest to be lowered into place Lord Centaries the king of thieves asked Cherish the warrior princess how she had heard of him and his work.  She spoke of Hercules and how he had said that indeed Autolycus was the best.  Autolycus was flattered by this and expressed how much admiration he had for Hercules despite being at odds when it came to business.  Xena agreed that she too thought very much of the legendary hero.  And then Autolycus asked a personal question.  He wanted to know if Xena had ever been romantically involved with the legendary hero.  She was embarrassed that he would ask her such a personal question.  Xena avoided the answer when she suggested that they press forward with their work.
Then Cherish flipped upon the balcony above where the chest was to be placed.  She wrapped the rope through the rafters and lowered it back down to Autolycus who began to pull the chest up from the ground and to place it back into its shelf.  Halfway through the task there was the sound of voices coming down the hallway.  Cherish quickly flipped into action leaving Lord Centaries to finish the job while she took care of those who were about to enter the room.  It was Arquette that she ran into.  He was Malthus’s first in command.  Arquette was highly suspicious of her presence in the room until Cherish explained how enthralled she was by the thought of a bloody murder scene.  She seduced him with her beauty as they shared in a passionate kiss.  As Lord Centaries hung from just one leg upside down Cherish freed him with her chackram.  Centaries quickly rushed to his feet as Cherish occupied Arquette’s attention allowing him time to escape detection.
Arquette suddenly expressed his concern for having taken the chastity of one who belonged to Centaries.  Cherish assured him that her lord was sleeping soundly and would never know of their encounter.  Arquette then continued to pursue the beautiful Cherish, but just when things began to get too hot Lord Centaries suddenly found himself intervening.  He demanded to know what was going on between Cherish and Arquette.  Cherish played the part of the innocent stating that the two had been merely talking and nothing more.  Lord Centaries continued on with the jealous master and stole back his prize from Malthus’s officer.
In the early morning hours all of the guests were called down for an emergency meeting regarding the chest.  It had been called by Malthus’s officer Arquette who was seeking to find the murderer and the chest.  Upon entering into the meeting it was obvious that all who were there suspected Lord Centaries as the murderer.  Lord Centaries played himself lower key as Cherish played the horrified lady.  Arquette declared that the demonstration of the weapon would still commence in the morning at sunrise, but not before the murderer was caught and confessed.  It was obvious of what the punishment would be.
Upon returning to their bed chambers Autolycus declared that this game of wits was over for him.  He refused to put his life in further risk knowing the consequences and the stakes.  Xena found herself disappointed that he would leave after all that they had accomplished as a team.  She explained that she could not leave when her friends were depending on her success in the return of their chest.  Autolycus was not phased and was still packing for his swift exit.  He advised Xena to find less demanding friends, but then she told a story which touched his heart.  She told of how these friends had once found her wounded and treated her without a second thought or without question.  Xena felt she owed them a favor for their kindness and love.  It was her last chance to reach his heart and she had succeeded for he expressed his own story of sadness and appreciation.
Of course it began with an insult of his father whom Xena had assumed taught him the ways of the thief.  But that was not the true story of the king of thieves.  His story had begun with the loss of his mother at birth and the loss of his father at only the age of eight.  He was left only with his older brother and the two had to survive any way that they could.  His brother had taken care of him and watched over him in their parents absence.  This was how Autolycus could relate to Xena’s story of her friends.  And so he had decided to stay despite the risk and the danger.  The next morning as they awoke the two prepared to play their roles as Lord Centaries, and Cherish just one last time.  As they dressed for the presentation Autolycus expressed his disappointment in Hercules for not stealing Xena’s heart when he had the chance.  The king of thieves expressed how he could only dream of having a woman like Xena in his life.  Xena accepted the complement though Autolycus would never know the real story that transpired between herself and the legendary hero.  It was more than he needed to know.
Upon their arrival at the presentation all were present as Arquette prepared to present the weapon.  He expressed that there would be a demonstration upon the innocent fisherman nearby to show the power of the chest.  Yet he said that there would be another presentation prior for there had been an unfortunate young lady that had crossed paths with the one known as the real Lord Centaries.  Suddenly a helpless Gabrielle was revealed from beneath the blanket which had concealed her identity.  Xena suddenly left her character and became the warrior princess once again.  Autolycus was proven to be a fraud and suddenly realized his grave situation.  As Xena lunged forward to rescue her friend the real Lord Centaries threatened to take the life of Gabrielle.
First he put his two fingers at her temples and delivered the most agonizing pain.  Gabrielle’s head pounded from ear to ear like the feeling of centaur hooves pounding from within.  It was almost unbearable as her fear rose within.  Arquette demanded that the frauds be used as examples at the demonstration of his weapon.  And though all of the attention and accusations were flying toward the king of thieves and the warrior princess Xena revealed that it was someone else who had actually killed Malthus and stolen the chest.  The killer had been Paryus.  He had wanted revenge on Lord Centaries for killing his brother Neolose.  And now that he had been exposed by the warrior princess Lord Centaries approached his new enemy.
Paryus was filled with fear and with rage for he had now seen the power of Lord Centaries demonstrated upon Gabrielle.  Paryus raised his weapon and cried out in vengeance as Lord Centaries paralyzed Paryus’s arm.  Paryus felt the immense unbearable pain as his arm throbbed, and then Lord Centaries went for the knees.  Centaries laughed for his victim would certainly meet his death as Centaries put the final blow through the eyes of his helpless victim.  Paryus was destroyed and death had taken him painfully.  Pleased with his work Lord Centaries then gave the command for Gabrielle to be killed by a dagger.  ‘
Gabrielle prepared for her death as she was picked up off of the ground still suffering the pain within her brain.  And then Xena pulled out her mighty chackram and sent it to rescue her friend from death once again.  The chackram stole the dagger from the enemy swiftly as it returned to Xena’s hand with obedience.  Then Xena fought off some of Arquette’s men as Autolycus prepared the three for escape.  He quickly came to rescue Gabrielle and picked her up off of the ground.  The three ran for their lives off into the woods narrowly escaping their demise.
When they finally stopped Xena released her friend from Centaries wrath taking her pressure to the back of the neck.  Gabrielle was still in terrible pain and agony as her headache did not cease.  Xena spoke of how lucky her friend had been that Centaries had not taken her life sooner.  Gabrielle apologized for putting herself in danger again, but explained that she had heard of Centaries return.  The bard had tried to save Xena’s plan and Xena’s life knowing that Centaries would return before their mission was complete.  Xena did not scold her friend this time for her mistake.  She only told her to be more careful and instructed Gabrielle to follow the enemy and mark a path in the direction that they went for Xena to follow later.
Gabrielle was delighted to be asked to help Xena and she was certain not to fail her this time.  As she left the royal couple alone together again Autolycus could hardly believe that the warrior princess could live in danger everyday of her life.  Xena confirmed that indeed it was the life of the warrior.  Autolycus found himself satisfied with his own career choice.  Yet he was in too deep to quit at this point in the game.  He returned to the dock with Xena to defeat the guards left behind by Centaries, and Arquette.  The two battled against them and Autolycus had decided that he would take them on alone for Xena was losing time in reaching the chest.  Xena had faith that Autolycus could fight with the skill and bravery of a true warrior despite being a thief.  He had shown her the truth within his heart and that was all that she needed to know.
As Gabrielle followed the group toward a cave deep in the woods she found herself facing the wrath of Centaries yet again.  He had discovered that she had been following them and evil smile spread across his face.  Gabrielle once again faced certain death once in the hands of the killer Centaries.  Upon arriving within the cave there were several innocent that had been unfortunate to cross paths with Lord Centaries and Arquette.  The two prepared the chest for its demonstration as Xena the warrior princess caught up to their wrath.  Lord Centaries was seemingly pleased that she had joined them for the two had some unfinished business.
They prepared to duel without weapons.  Their battle was with only pressure points, but just as dangerous as a sword.  Xena smiled as she made the first move upon the cunning Lord Centaries.  She hit him in the shoulder as his face reflected his suffering.  Yet he was able to release himself from the pain as he reentered the duel with confidence.  It was Centaries who got the next shot in reflecting Xena’s own move.  Xena released herself from the grasp of the master himself.  Then Xena went for his neck as Lord Centaries felt the blow.  He struggled to twist his neck back into comfort, but succeeded to strike the next blow.
As Lord Centaries prepared his attack he straightened his hat with pride and then struck the warrior princess in the leg sending her helplessly to the ground.  It was the same move that he had used upon Pyrus that had led to a horrific death.  but it would not be Centaries who would get the last word.  This time it was the warrior princess who made her move upon Lord Centaries as he lunged forward to deliver her to the hands of death.  Xena took Lord Centaries down with just one strike to his chest which stopped the heart of evil in an instant.  Yet the battle was not over for Arquette then commanded his warriors to attack.  Just as Xena was about to do battle alone her partner in crime returned to help her take down the enemy.
Even the bard found herself taking part in this battle for she had been the victim too many times before.  This time she would be part of the solution and not the problem.  Xena fought without weapons delivering powerful punches and thunderous kicks to those who dared to defy her.  Autolycus followed with impressive skills of his own as Gabrielle fought using the only weapon she had learned.  She fought with the wrath of the staff.  The three defeated Arquette’s men and all of the other warlords who had come for the power of the chest.  Yet Arquette had decided that he would use the power of the chest to defeat his rivals.  Xena warned him of opening the chest, but Arquette did not heed her warning.  He slowly opened the wrath of what had been awaiting us all inside.
A bright ball of light emerged from within and floated in mystery as power built within it.  It threatened all who witnessed it and Xena could sense that her friends were gripped with the fear of uncertainty.  She calmly gave the instructions that the chest had given upon the lid telling them not to fear the truth, but to face it.  She told them not to run, but Arquette could not face his own truth.  His fears overtook him for its power was so great.  He tried desperately to run from the ball of light before him.  It was his mortal mistake for the ball of light suddenly turned into a weapon of destruction.  And then Arquette was no more than a memory as smoke rose from the place in which he had once stood fearful.
And so the battle was over as the three friends retrieved the chest yet they were curious as to what was inside.  They wanted to know what had been so valuable to Xena’s friends that had sent them on this dangerous journey.  And inside they found a tablet with ten commandments inscribed.  The second one read that thou shalt not steal.  Autolycus then laughed disappointed that there was not more to see.  But though this tablet had little value to those who had retrieved it the owners were grateful for the sacrifices made for its return.  They paid the king of thieves the two thousand dinars agreed upon and then left with gratitude and a simple thank you.
The king of thieves then expressed once again his appreciation for being a part of a duo with Xena.  He had enjoyed being one of the royal couple of thieves.  Now it was time to go their separate ways once more although Autolycus awaited his payment of a tender kiss from the warrior princess.  Xena did not oblige, but instead gave a simple handshake.  Autolycus them took her hand and gently placed his lips upon it.  Then the king of thieves turned and went on his way.  As Gabrielle watched him travel down the road she spoke of how she had liked him despite his flaw of thievery, but Xena then showed her the truth of their new friend.  Gabrielle gazed beyond his path and saw what Xena had seen all along.  The bard saw the two thousand dinars had been returned to those whom had asked a favor of the king of thieves.
Gabrielle found herself feeling a bit guilty for judging him in that way.  Not only that she had stolen one of the rings that he had taken from a princess.  Xena scolded her friend for what the tablet had said about stealing.  Gabrielle then promised that she would return the ring when she found the its true owner.  And so we must never fear the truth, but face it with courage.