The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll# 53: Aphrodite’s Enchanted Scroll

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll #53:  Aphrodite’s Enchanted Scroll

October, 47 B.C.

     As Gabrielle’s next adventure began she and Xena found themselves passing by one of Aphrodite’s temples.  The sun was just about to set over the horizon just beyond the trees in the forest.  The bard had only met Aphrodite once and recalled Joxer the Mighty having become the innocent victim of Aphrodite’s rage over the loss of her temples to peace between two kingdoms.  It seemed ridiculous that the goddess of love would appear interested in Joxer, but perhaps it was because that despite his idoicy the goddess may have found him to be kind-hearted.   The bard expressed her thoughts about the goddess that she had always admired despite her spell over Joxer with the ringing bell, and inquired if Xena had ever met the goddess of love.  Xena responded that most of her dealings were always with Ares for Ares was only interested in war which was something Xena had been interested in for a long time before the bard.  In fact, he was still obsessed with the warrior princess even though she had clearly renounced her allegiance to him several times since traveling with Gabrielle and being converted to the path of light by Hercules.

       Gabrielle found that she was getting to know the god of war quite well herself; although, she was still very interested in the goddess of love.  The bard expressed to the warrior princess that she hoped to one day be in the presence of the goddess again.  Xena just scoffed at the idea realizing that the bard was idolizing Aphrodite, but Gabrielle didn’t see it that way.  The warrior princess pressed her opinion of the gods upon the bard stating that in her experience with any god there were always alterior motives.  Those motives were usually not in favor of humanity according to the warrior princess.  Then Xena proceeded to remind the bard that it was Aphrodite’s son Cupid whom had left baby Bliss unattended leading to the disaster with the Hestian virgins, and the warlord Draco in love with Gabrielle.  This was all brought up in order to prove her point about the gods and their intentions.  Gabrielle argued with Xena explaining that it wasn’t all Cupid’s fault, and that he had resolved the situation as soon as he was able to.  The bard also gleefully reminded Xena of her own uncontrollable lust toward Draco at the time.  Xena just rolled her eyes at the bard’s comment.  Gabrielle pressed her argument stating that Baby bliss was the real culprit as she reminded the warrior princess of the unpredictable nature of children at play.  The warrior princess moved away from the bard as if becoming disinterested in the conversation.  At first Gabrielle was a bit offended that her friend was now ignoring their debate and conversation about the gods.  Yet there was something else upon Aphrodite’s temple that had caught Xena’s eye.

       The bard followed the warrior princess up the steps of the temple to see what it was that had caught Xena’s gaze.  Xena appeared to be slightly disgusted at what she saw scrolled upon the temple doors.  Someone had written messages all over the front of Aphrodite’s temple proclaiming their worship of Xena the warrior princess.  There were several phrases and praises scrolled upon the walls and the doors.  Xena entered into Aphrodite’s temple and followed the scrolled messages.  Gabrielle read them as she followed the warrior princess inside the temple.  Many of the phrases were taken directly from the writings of her many scrolls about the warrior princess.  The bard found herself to be pleased that so many people had either read or heard of them.  Xena was not impressed and was uninterested in the fame that the bard had seemingly created around the warrior princess and her deeds.  Xena suspected that Aphrodite would most certainly be offended by the defacing of her temple through the scrolled worship of Xena.  The warrior princess expressed her displeasure certain that Aphrodite, like all of the other gods she had ever encountered, would find a way to get her retribution against Xena.  Gabrielle argued that the goddess of love’s retribution couldn’t possibly be worse than Ares’s use of the furies against the warrior princess for defeating him in his bid to rid the world of Hercules.

      As the sun set Xena decided that the two friends would set up camp in the forest just down the road from the temple.  It was obvious that Xena was still quite mentally exhausted from her battle to win back her mind and her sanity from Ares.  All the warrior princess really wanted to do was relax her mind and not strain it upon any topic beyond that of the bliss of a good night’s rest.  As the two friends sat by the camp fire upon their sprawled out bed rolls, Gabrielle pulled out of her saddle bag the most glorious object.  It was a fresh scroll.  As the bard held it up she took a whiff of the empty new parchment she had just purchased back in Amphipolis before they had left Xena’s mom behind for their next adventure.  The bard proclaimed how much she loved the moment of bliss that she felt just as she was about to begin writing a new scroll.  The warrior princess, as usual, was not paying too much attention to the bard’s creative rant as she continued concentrating on making repairs to her leather accessories.  Despite this Gabrielle went on to describe the feel, of a clean, yet empty scroll.  She looked down at the new parchment as if the idea of it being so perfectly clean and empty was an inspiration with in itself.  It seemed as if the bard felt a burst of creativity coming from within herself as she went through the familiar ritual as she crinkled it.  Gabrielle loved that sound it made the first time she would open a new scroll.  Again the bard held the scroll under her nose and took another deep whiff of the freshness of a new story just bursting from within herself and the scroll.  It was a certain connection that would occur and it would drive her to write from with in the depths of her soul.  Gabrielle loved the untouched scent of her new story just waiting to be told.  The scroll was already almost a living breathing entity even with out words upon it.

     Then she offered her new scroll to Xena.  The warrior princess gazed up momentarily from her chore in repairing her leather accessories.  Xena appeared to be slightly curious about the bard’s ritual and process, but not enough to want to partake in it.  As the bard held out her new scroll to the warrior princess Xena politely declined the experience stating that from her viewpoint the parchment just smelled like a piece of musty old leather.  Gabrielle expected nothing less of the warrior princess.  Though it wasn’t a true insult, Gabrielle decided to take Xena’s opinion and turn it to her advantage explaining that for those who were not creative like herself it certainly would smell of musty old leather.  Then Gabrielle turned to her fresh scroll and began to bring it to life as she spoke the words she was about to imprint upon it out loud.  Xena barked at Gabrielle pleading with her not to write another story about Xena and her adventures with Gabrielle.  The warrior princess wanted to know if Gabrielle ever became weary of writing about every thing that Xena did.  The warrior princess suggested that Gabrielle create new characters and new emotional images as she cut the loose thread with her teeth that had been caught upon her breast plate.

     Gabrielle was slightly surprised at Xena’s suggestion or even that the warrior princess had a suggestion about the bard’s writing at all.  The bard inquired of Xena intrigued and wondered if it was fiction that the warrior princess was suggesting that she try.  Xena looked to Gabrielle and with a slight nod of her head affirmed that indeed it was fiction that she thought the bard should write.  Gabrielle could see that Xena was walking a fine line with the bard’s creative passions in suggesting such an idea.  It was as if the warrior princess was afraid of what the bard might think of the idea that Xena would want to alter how Gabrielle chose to express her writings.  Gabrielle took the moment of open sharing with the warrior princess and decided that it was a new break through.  For the first time Xena appeared to be just slightly interested in something outside of herself.  The warrior princess was genuinely interested in what Gabrielle might be doing with in her creative process.  The bard decided to respond with a positive comeback.  She expressed to the warrior princess that indeed she had thought about trying fiction before, but had to admit to her friend that she wasn’t so confident about her ability to create her own living, breathing, fictional characters.  Gabrielle wondered if Xena really respected her creative talents enough to believe in the bard’s potential.  The warrior princess pressed the bard to go ahead and try the idea of a fictional universe, but she asked that the bard do it quietly instead of out loud.  At that point, Xena had shared about all she was willing to share with in Gabrielle’s creative process.  With that Xena laid her breast plate and leather accessories aside, rolled over and declared to the bard good-night.

     Despite Xena’s request that Gabrielle experience her creative process quietly, Gabrielle could not do it with out telling her most intimate story out loud.  It was how she had begun telling her stories as a child in the taverns back in Podedia.  It was the way she would always write her stories upon the parchment.  She had a need to express her inner voice and passions out-loud.  There was no other way.  As Gabrielle began her next story she spoke Xena’s name out loud.  Xena chimed in suggesting that the bard make someone else the hero in her story this time.  Gabrielle paused as she was about to put her first words onto the new scroll.  She looked over to Xena who was lying down snuggling up within her bed roll.  The bard knew that Xena was only trying to force the bard to take her advice and to stop writing such wonderful and popular stories about the warrior princess.  The bard glanced back down to her scroll deciding that Xena’s idea was not such a bad one.  Gabrielle could still write a truthful, heart-felt story without Xena.  In fact, Gabrielle could write the story about the lone warrior Gabrielle.  And so that is how “The Quill Is Mightier” became inspired, and its power became enchanting.  Gabrielle found herself to be enjoying the idea of writing fiction for the first time.  The words just flowed from her mind, and soul like never before, but after only a few lines the bard found herself to be feeling a deep sleep coming upon her.

       “Suddenly, the lone warrior Gabrielle awoke with a jerk as five barbarians rode out of the woods” toward camp.  The battling bard could feel the ground shaking beneath her as the hooves of their horses pounded violently upon the ground.  Gabrielle shouted out to Xena who was apparently still soundly sleeping.  It was the opposite of what would normally happen in this scenario.  Despite that Gabrielle did not think, but she jumped up into action as the barbarians approached.  Gabrielle jumped up onto a rock to get a better vantage point of the barbarians as they approached.  She awaited the warrior princess to choose a striking position of defense upon the battlefield against the barbarians, but Xena did not flip into action.  Gabrielle looked back toward the camp and shouted out for Xena to wake up again.  The barbarians were getting dangerously closer.  Gabrielle suddenly realized that she was going to have to take on the barbarians alone to defend the seemingly unconscious warrior princess.  Quickly the bard turned to face the barbarians and with out a thought flipped into action.  As the battling bard flipped over the on coming barbarian leader she kicked him off of his horse.  He fell behind her and his horse ran toward the camp.  Some how the bard was also able to knock the other four barbarians off of their horses in what seemed like an instant.  Her move was just like that of Xena.  It was amazing and soon Gabrielle realized that she was Xena and just as good.

      Despite that Gabrielle still needed some help.  This was five barbarians against one battling bard.  Gabrielle shouted out to Xena again for some assistance in the battle.  As the battling bard awaited Xena she flipped into action again.  “Twirling her trusty staff then jumping upon it she delivered kicks of such fury” flipping across the battlefield back toward camp “deflecting the thrust of a barbarian sword with her mighty abs.”  From below, underneath the bed roll emerged an eerie sounding scream.  It was Joxer terrified of the sudden interruption of his slumber.  Gabrielle suddenly rose up from her deflection of the barbarian attack upon Joxer and head-butted him into submission.  Gabrielle felt the agonizing pain echoing through her skull as she grabbed her forehead attempting to sooth the power of her uncontrollable defense against the barbarians.  The barbarian sword thrust high up into the sky and then fell back down upon the earth again knocking down the barbarian leader from behind.  As Gabrielle began to recover from the excruciating pain in her head she heard the barbarians shout out that they were retreating for the power of the battling bard had been too much for them to handle alone.  The bard looked out across the forest and watched them ride away in an attempt to escape her  new-found warrior wrath.

      Gabrielle’s adrenalin was coursing through her veins like never before.  She felt the high of the aftermath of her amazing battle and subsequent lone victory over the barbarians.  Joxer shouted out against the barbarians a threatening word of warning as he found his way to his feet.  Gabrielle turned to him with in her excitement and asked him if he had just seen all that had transpired.  The battling bard was proud of the back flips that she had just effortlessly been able to do.  As she was coming down from the warrior high she realized that there was something unusual about the fact that she had just done something that she had never been physically able to do before.  She had never even attempted to practice a back flip before this moment.  Joxer inquired about Gabrielle’s ab armor, but there was no armor.  It was just the bard’s mighty abs that had saved Joxer from certain death by barbarian sword.  Gabrielle began to find herself deconstructing what had just happened.  It had all happened so fast and with out a thought.  Xena was no where to be found.  Gabrielle had no idea where those barbarians had come from, and what was even more strange to her was the fact that Joxer was standing before her.  There had been no reason for him to be there.  Gabrielle and Xena had not sent for him, and what he had been doing sleeping in Xena’s bed roll made absolutely no sense to the bard.  Joxer was most certainly not sneaky enough to make it into their camp without either one of them knowing of his presence.

     Suddenly, Gabrielle realized that everything that had just occurred seemed eerily familiar in some way.  She dashed over to her bed roll and picked up her new scroll from its resting place and began to read it out loud.  Moving to her feet Gabrielle continued to read until she realized that everything that had just happened had been written upon her new scroll.  Joxer inquired of the bard asking her if what she said was true.  Of course he was laughing the whole time.  He didn’t believe that it was possible as he began to let out boisterous laughter.  Gabrielle realized that her staff was still drilled tightly into the ground from her onslaught against the barbarians.  She struggled to pull it out, but it felt very hot.  The staff burned to the touch as Gabrielle yanked it out of the ground and then threw it at Joxer.  Joxer caught the scalding staff and discovered what the bard had done with her fury and power.  He stated the obvious back to the bard who decided that it was time to write something special for Joxer to do.  “As the last of the barbarians fled the scene Joxer took the staff of Gabrielle unable to control himself.  He hit himself once, twice, and then three times on the head with the staff only to knock himself off of his feet falling onto the ground.”  Joxer was surprised by what he had just done and inquired of the bard why he had done that to himself.  Gabrielle’s suspicion had been proven to be correct as she responded to the idiot that she had written that Joxer would do that to himself.  She actually felt a little sorry about it, but the regret only lasted for a fleeting moment.  The bard proudly declared that she could write anything and it would most certainly come true.  Despite having proven her new theory she was still a little surprised at the power of the scroll that she had just begun to write the night before.  Next came a new thought.  The bard realized that she had the power to change the entire world just by the words that she would be inspired to write upon her scroll.

       With that the bard invited Joxer to walk down the path with her toward the nearest village.  They could go there and have a feast for breakfast.  Joxer appeared confused and in a bit of a trance, but he just blindly followed the bard as she continued to express that she now held the power of the world within her hands.  She was certain that Xena would be very proud when she had returned from her fishing trip that Gabrielle had written into the scroll.  Gabrielle could not have given Xena a greater gift of solace than a fishing trip.  Especially after suffering through the wrath of Ares.  Joxer interrupted Gabrielle’s train of thought wondering why Gabrielle was so certain that Xena had gone fishing.  Gabrielle had to explain to him that she had written it on her scroll so that was obviously where Xena was.  For a moment there was silence and then Joxer grabbed the scroll from Gabrielle and wanted to know what it was that Gabrielle had written that had brought him to her.  Joxer verbalized what he assumed Gabrielle had written by explaining that he had the heart of a lion and the soul of a warrior.  Gabrielle found that she wasn’t even exactly certain how that happened, but was certain that her scroll would reveal all.

     Joxer then began to read the scroll out loud from the beginning.  As he attempted to read it Gabrielle realized that Joxer wasn’t the most literate.  He mispronounced the word “fishing” and Gabrielle had to correct him.  Then he continued on reading slowly until he found himself to the phrase he described as “funny.”  As Joxer licked his lips within his confusion, the bard felt that he wasn’t completely wrong in thinking that the sentence which read “Gabrielle awoke with a jerk,” was strange and didn’t quite make sense.  There was nothing grammatically wrong with the sentence, but when Gabrielle had written the sentence she had intended it to be more of a description about the lone warrior’s state in the moment rather than a description of an unmentioned character.  The sentence had manifested itself to be more literal when it brought Joxer.  Gabrielle was waiting for the moment when Joxer would come to the same realization that she had already arrived at.  She could have written it stating that “the lone warrior Gabrielle awoke with Joxer,” but instead the lone warrior Gabrielle awoke with a “jerk.”

     The idiot didn’t disappoint deciding that he must have come to Gabrielle’s camp on his own.  He quickly lost interest in the said power of the scroll, rolled it up, and handed it back to the bard.  He wanted to know what they were going to do next.  Gabrielle repeated his question back to him with zest.  She then asked him what they wouldn’t do.  The lone warrior Gabrielle grabbed Joxer by the arm and began leading him down the road with her.  She was really beginning to like the idea of embracing a side kick and eager student of her very own.  The warrior bard expressed to her student that stories could be anything they wanted them to be and that happy endings could truly happen.  As she continued on down the mentoring path with her student Gabrielle noticed that two sisters were approaching them.  The appeared to be traveling with somber faces.  She greeted them inquiring if indeed they were the sisters of Guya.  Simultaneously they answered with a gracious affirmation of their identity as the bowed their heads upon approaching.  The bard was now ready to demonstration to her student the power of her mighty quill.  She then she inquired of the sisters of Guya if there was anything that she and her new side kick could do to help them.  The younger, taller sister explained that the two of them were out and about collecting goods for their orphanage.  They were collecting goods they could sell to raise funds at their shop in the nearby town.  As the young sister continued the older shorter sister’s eyes lit up as she looked to Joxer stating that his scabbard would fetch a very high price.

      As the older sister reached out for Joxer the jerk did not disappoint.  He was certain that she was talking about and reaching out for his manhood which he hadn’t realized until this moment was standing high and proud.  He glanced down and began to laugh and smile with a slight bit of embarressment.  The sister appeared slightly confused at his response not realizing what he was thinking was not the same thing she was referring to as he explained that he would not give it up for just anyone.  Despite that he was a man whore and expressed that he would be willing to take any pass at him for the sisters of Guya.  Gabrielle quickly intervened clarifying for the idiot that it was not his manhood, but his scabbard.  Joxer quickly became less excited by the prospect of giving something up for the sisters of Guya.  He explained that he couldn’t give away his scabbard for their cause because it was the only thing that his father had ever given him.  Gabrielle could relate to sentimental value.  For a moment she thought of the large Trojan horse that she had once wished she could have taken with her.  The older sister stated that it was unfortunate because it would have been a hot commodity back in Caucus.  Joxer continued explaining that he just couldn’t give it away as the bard realized that she could resolve the embarressing moment with just a few strokes of her mighty quill.

         “After realizing the power of the scroll, and the will of a mighty quill, Joxer and Gabrielle met the sisters of Guya.  The sisters were seeking a donation from Joxer to their orphanage.  But Joxer would not give up his scabbard because it had been given to him by his father.  And so the bard Gabrielle wrote her magic and suddenly a kind man came from the woods offering his own gift, a kinsman sword.  The sisters of Guya were delighted to receive such a wonderful gift.  And so the good that was to be done by the will of the mighty quill had only just begun.”

       Gabrielle wrote the above verse explaining to the sisters as she wrote that she was certain that they were about to receive a very nice surprise.  The power of the mighty quill went into action almost instantly as both the “kind man” and the “kinsman sword” arrived right on command.  As the younger sister held the magnificent weapon in her hand the older sister could barely contain her excitement at the gift.  She raved about how that one singular gift could fund their orphanage for many years to come.  The man vanished quickly down the road as the sisters found themselves to be utterly delighted to receive such a fine gift.  Gabrielle then showed Joxer the verse that she had just written proving to the idiot once and for all that the bard had the power to change the world.   The younger sister exclaimed that it was a miracle and with that the bard realized that her work with the sister’s of Guya was finished.  The lone warrior bard grabbed the jerk by his chest-plate and proceeded to drag him on down the road with her to the nearest village tavern.

     “The day went on as Gabrielle and Joxer entered a nearby tavern to have breakfast.  Out of the kindness of his heart the tavern owner offered to Gabrielle and all who were in the tavern free food to eat and drinks on the house.  And with that statement all who were at the tavern drank and ate joyfully together in the spirit of peace.”  That was the bard’s plan all along.  As the tavern keeper served the lone warrior and her sidekick breakfast Joxer began to pull out his bag of money.  Gabrielle held up her hand and pulled out her mighty quill explaining to him that there was no longer any need for his money.  Then she looked up to the tavern keeper and inquired of him how much they needed to pay for their meals.  The tavern keeper seemingly fumbled for the words for just a moment, but then declared that it would be free and that the drinks would be “on the house.”  The bard gleefully repeated exactly what she had written and exactly what had been declared by the tavern keeper.  As she finished her statement the tavern ceiling began to drip, but then pour down upon the tavern.  Suddenly, the bard realized that perhaps she needed to be a bit more careful in how she worded things because it seemed that the will of the quill was not always what she had intended.  Despite this minor set back beer seemingly rained down every where and Joxer happily grabbed his mug and began to fill it up and drink up all of the abundance.  The jerk then rolled over upon the table and drank like a fish.

      As Gabrielle finished her glorious plate of abundant food most of the tavern patrons had become inebriated.  Of course, abundant beer was still raining down upon them every where as patrons were passing out left and right.  No matter, the bard was ready for more action with her mighty quill and to do good out in the world.  She beckoned her student to come along with her for there was no time to waste as she rolled up her scroll.  Unfortunately, as the lone warrior and her sidekick began to make their way out of the tavern one of the drunken patrons began an argument with the tavern keeper who attempted to kick him out for drinking more than his share of raining beer.  The patron punched the tavern keeper and the bard commented that it was always that one drunk who would find a way to spoil to good drink for all.

     At that point the tavern began to erupt into a massive bar fight as Joxer commented that there was definitely an army of drunken patrons to contend with.  He then stated that at least things couldn’t get any worse than an all out brawl.  The bard attempted to defend her mighty quill explaining that it was not the intention for her story to unfold that way.  As the two companions turned to leave they were taken by surprise by the bold entrance into the tavern of the five barbarians that the lone warrior Gabrielle had defeated single-handed earlier in the day.  The barbarian leader expressed his displeasure with having been made a fool by the lone warrior’s amazing fighting skills.  He pointed his sword into the direction of the bard declaring that he and his vicious ugly men were barbarians.  Again the bard chose to battle against the barbarians with her mighty quill as she pulled it out and wrote feverishly upon her scroll.

     “Then the five barbarians returned for Gabrielle, but they didn’t stay long for they decided to go west instead.”   Although the barbarian seemed confused for a moment he declared his next order of business to be to lead his men west.  Gabrielle looked to Joxer and was pleased at how seemingly easy it was to change any given moment.  As the barbarians exited the tavern and ran out to jump upon their horses to ride west one of the bar patrons exclaimed that they would be heading directly into the path of the sisters of Guya orphanage.  “But the sister’s of Guya orphanage would be in their path so they turned east.”  Though the barbarians suddenly shifted their destination from west to east, it did not matter because the drunken female bar patron then declared that the barbarians were headed toward the village of Echinecea.  The sisters of Guya and their orphanage were now safe, but the innocent villagers of Echinecea were in grave danger.  “The barbarians disappeared from the land!”  Again the female bar patron exclaimed with alarm that the barbarians were now headed for the nearest port where they would most certainly kill all who sailed the seas.  Gabrielle realized that she had to come up with a better plan.  The bard continued to verbalize her thoughts as she wrote.  “The barbarians went to the caves and fell into a deep sleep.”  Joxer piped up a small word to the wise wondering if all of this sudden chaos surrounding them was all of the good that Gabrielle had planned on doing.  The bard found herself to be frustrated and experience extremely bad writer’s block.  With that she tossed her usual weapon of choice, the mighty quill, and the scroll of power into Joxer’s chest and declared that she refused to write another word upon the scroll.  With that the bard walked out of the tavern of chaos that she had somehow created.

       Joxer quickly followed behind attempting to comfort his friend feeling a little guilty for prodding her about her writer’s block.  Gabrielle accepted his apology knowing that it was really her terrible writing that had caused all of the chaos to begin with.  As they walked through the village she talked through her writer’s block with Joxer explaining that normally her writing is much more vivid and much better.  It just didn’t make sense what had happened to her creative talents.  For the first time it seemed that there was something missing from her writing.  Joxer chimed in that perhaps her writing in this case was a little too vivid.  Perhaps it needed a bit more work.  Joxer suggested that Gabrielle should edit it.  That idea sparked the bard’s mind and she realized that editing was exactly what her new magic scroll needed.  Her faith in her writing had been restored.  There was hope again.  The lone warrior Gabrielle had now discovered the simple power of the scroll.  She threw her arm around her student and declared that with careful editing she could easily end hunger, disease, and even war.  That statement verbalized instantly inspired Gabrielle’s next words.

     “Then the will of mortals won out…and war lost all its power.”  Instantly the sounds of a deep screaming male voice came falling out of the sky down upon the village.  It was Ares, the god of war.  He was in a panic as he struggled to harness his immortal power.  He was confused and upset for it seemed that his powers were now non-existent.  He then looked up and noticed that he had been dropped down next to the bard.  Ares glared at Gabrielle instantly realizing what had just happened to him.  He charged at Gabrielle in anger exclaiming that his new predicament was the bard’s fault.  The bard was confused attempting to defend herself from his accusation.  He was right, but he was wrong because Gabrielle had not intended her use of the word “war” to mean Ares.  Despite that she knew she had the solution and that she could fix the problem.  She had to think fast because the enraged Ares was about to strike.  “The force that enchanted the scroll lost its powers.”  And then the sound of a woman’s voice screaming fell from the sky and dropped into the village landing upon the former god of war.  Gabrielle found this to be very intriguing because the woman who had fallen from the sky was none other than the goddess of love Aphrodite.

      The bard began to suspect that there was more to her magic scroll and her mighty quill than she had previously recognized.  Something was definitely out of place.  Ares was buried underneath the pink flowing gown of the love goddess who was nearly knocked unconscious by her fall.  Ares barked at her inquiring if her solution of punishment against Gabrielle was to give her powers of destiny.  The former god of war had a few choice words of his own to describe Gabrielle which were not at all flattering, but interesting none-the-less.  Aphrodite responded in frustration that she had not given Gabrielle powers of destiny, but only enchanted a scroll.  The former love goddess pressed Ares reminding him that there was no reason for him to be surprised because it was Ares himself whom had instructed her to act against Gabrielle’s uncontrollable writings.  Ares rose up onto his elbows and explained himself to his sister again explaining that what he really wanted was to get Xena out of the way.  Aphrodite defended her actions reminding Ares that enchanting the scroll worked in at least getting the warrior princess out of the way.  However, it was not expected that Ares would lose all of his powers.

      At this point the bard decided that she would interrupted this little conspiracy conversation just to clarify what she had just heard.  She repeated that Aphrodite had enchanted her scroll with the intention of harming Xena as an inquiry.  Love and War glared  as the looked to the bard and then back at each other.  Then Aphrodite explained that Ares had only been using her to get what he wanted for himself.  He was indeed the master manipulator having been successful at turning love against the world.  Aphrodite rose to her feet and continued to explain to Gabrielle the situation.  She stated that he had an army somewhere in the valley that was ready to reign down upon every one and start a new war.  Ares simply wanted Xena out of the way so he had manipulated Aphrodite into becoming mad at the bard.  Gabrielle realized that in a way, Aphrodite was also a victim of her brother’s wrath.  She deduced that Ares was probably even the one who had convinced some young weak-minded children to deface Aphrodite’s temple in order to goad her into becoming mad at the bard.  Gabrielle was touched by both Aprhodite’s heart-felt confession of her crime and Ares’s interest in her scrolls.  He must have read at least a few of them otherwise he would not have known what to tell those vandals to write.

      Ares rose to his feet and badgered his sister patronizing her for figuring out his real intentions.  Aphrodite reminded her brother that though she was light at heart she was not stupid.  Then Aphrodite looked to Gabrielle and suggested a simple solution to the problem.  She politely asked the bard to just write upon the enchanted scroll in order to restore Aphrodite’s powers.  Once that happened Aphrodite could simply zap the scroll and everything would be normal again.  Gabrielle could see that Aphrodite was not malicious like Ares.  Indeed she had her selfish side, but she was playful and more interested in delighting herself with the pleasures of love than in reigning war down upon the land.  Ares also chimed in politely explaining that he needed his powers to written back in first so he could rejoin the waiting army and give them the signal that Xena was no longer in the valley.  Aphrodite reminded her brother that he wasn’t helping his cause by openly declaring that he wanted to rejoin his waiting army.  Ares tried again.  This time he promised that he would not allow the army to attack this time as long as Gabrielle gave him back his powers.  Aphrodite laughed at her brother knowing just how ridiculous a lie he was openly telling.  Ares took a jab at her reminding her that she could no longer fly now that she was as powerless as he was.

      Joxer finally opened his mouth again and addressed Aphrodite.  He was sure that if Aphrodite undid the power of the enchanted scroll then it would bring Xena back and the army would be too afraid to attack the valley.  Gabrielle thought for a moment and then looked to Joxer declaring that indeed what he had just said made sense.  It was a rare occurrence, but sometimes even Joxer had a good idea and that was what was needed in the moment.  “Aphrodite is as she was before.”  Instantly, Aphrodite’s powers were restored as she disappeared from her spot in the village and then suddenly there was the sound of a woman’s voice screaming raining down upon the village from the sky.  Again Aphrodite fell down upon Ares knocking him to the ground.  Joxer declared “she is as she was before.”  Then he stated in a matter of fact tone that it was definitely all in the wording.  At this point Gabrielle was afraid to write anymore.  She just wanted the chaos to end and for every thing to be back to the way it was before she ever began writing “The Quill is Mightier.”  Gabrielle’s next idea was that just maybe if she could fill up the scroll with random characters completely then maybe the curse upon them could end.  Aphrodite looked up at the bard from her place on top of the frustrated Ares and was offended that Gabrielle now viewed her gift of the enchanted scroll as a curse.  Aphrodite and Ares rose from the ground to their feet and Aphrodite continued explaining that once the scroll was filled up that was where it would end.  Whatever was written on it would stay the way it was as Gabrielle had written it.

       Joxer chimed in again and stated that all Gabrielle needed to write was simply that “everything is as it was before.”  Aphrodite sarcastically replied to the idot explaining that Joxer’s chosen phrase would not work.  All that would happen in that instance would be that every person on the earth would go out of existence as they were before they were born into the world and the gods would go back to their infant origins.  Aphrodite then inquired if the bard had written Joxer into her scroll.  She appeared to be annoyed by the idiot.  Gabrielle attempted to cover her mistake in calling him a jerk, but as she handed the scroll to Ares he read it out loud, “Gabrielle awoke with a jerk.”  Aphrodite laughed delighted at the brilliant double meaning of the word.  Ares nodded his head and Gabrielle carefully looked to Joxer hoping that his naive mind would still be unable to decipher what the enchanted scroll had done.  Joxer did not understand the double meaning because he didn’t understand why everyone thought waking up was such a funny phrase.

      Then it dawned on Gabrielle that the only real way to solve this dilema was to deconstruct everything she had written thus far.  He first order of business would be to bring Xena back.  It was the first thing she had written upon the scroll.  As Gabrielle stood flanked by both Ares and Aphrodite attempting to solve the riddle Ares had a brilliant idea.  His inspiration was, “Xena rides in at the head of an army.”  He was absolutely certain of the beauty of that phrase.  Gabrielle reminded Ares that it sounded great out loud, but when she put it on paper Xena might ride in heading up an army of ants or children, or even harpes.  Joxer interrupted reminding everyone that a description of the army and of Xena was they key.  A burst of inspiration flowed through Gabrielle’s soul as she jumped with excitement.  “Suddenly, there was the arrival of the woman.”  This was Gabrielle’s initial inspired creative thought interrupted by Ares’s creativity which included “leather.”  Gabrielle agreed that the leather should be at least mentioned.  She also thought it might be important to mention that Xena had black hair and that she carried a chakram.  Joxer interrupted the creative process as he was hunched over propping up the enchanted scroll upon his back.  He wanted to know if anyone really understood what Xena’s magnificent weapon really was.  He wasn’t even certain that the scroll would know what a chakram was.  Again, Gabrielle realized that Joxer did have a point.  Then she decided that Xena should be carrying her whip in order to clarify it for the scroll.

     Gabrielle suddenly moved to write the next phrase, “Suddenly, there was the arrival of the woman wearing leather carrying the whip of Xena.”  Just as the quill marked the last word on upon the parchment the sound of a whip whirred in through the air.  Gabrielle and her creative comrades ducked to miss being smacked by its fury.  Ares demanded to know who the woman with black hair and leather was that now stood before them with Xena’s whip.  Gabrielle couldn’t believe who she had brought with the enchanted scroll until she explained to Ares that Minya was a friend from the village of Laurel that she had Xena had met when fighting the giant Gareth and Zagrious’s army.  The bard suddenly remembered that the whip was a poor choice for the enchanted scroll because Gabrielle had traded Xena’s whip for a frying pan in that adventure.  Ares was clearly disgusted, disappointed, and frustrated all at the same time.  The enchanted scroll certainly had a sense of humor.  Minya expressed her confusion not knowing why she had suddenly arrived in this random village, but she was ready for action none-the-less for Xena’s whip never left her side.  As Minya approached Gabrielle she wanted to know who all of Gabrielle’s companions were.  Gabrielle introduced Ares, Aphrodite, and Joxer.  It seemed necessary.  Joxer was now standing next to Minya pleased to be acquainted with a new dark female warrior in leather, but Minya was much more interested in Ares.  Minya showered Ares with praise and worship ecstatic to be in his presence.  Ares was pleased to be openly worshipped as was Aprhodite who immediately received praise from Minya also.  Then Minya looked to Joxer and apologized for not really having ever heard of him.

     Gabrielle realized that things were becoming a lot more complicated with each and every word transcribed onto the scroll.  She decided that maybe it was time to go back to the tavern, relax, and grab something for her now empty stomach.  A full stomach might help the bard in being able to focus a bit better.  Minya was pleased by the idea as was Joxer, and when the five comrades arrived the chaos was still ensuing.  Beer still rained down from the ceiling and the food was still free.  At least that was something good that was happening.  And the longer the five of them sat at the table drinking, and eating, the less attractive the former gods became to their new found fan club.  Aphrodite was enjoying the experience of being mortal within her drunken stooper.  But then Minya chimed in that despite her boyfriend Hower being an extreme fan of the beautiful goddess, Minya had decided that she would go back to Laurel and share with him how plain and dirty and mortal Aphrodite had become.   Ares found Minya’s wit to be quite amusing while Aphrodite wasn’t so pleased to be described as dirty as a wagon wheel.  Both Ares and Minya were also drunk, but they were happy drunks.

     The bard had decided that she would stay sober in order to solve this problem with the enchanted scroll.  At least everyone else was entertained enough to stay out of her creative process.  Joxer was attempting to find the best way to capture the been falling from the ceiling.  He had built a contraption which fit upon his head and was trying to determine the best way to make it work for him.  Gabrielle couldn’t believe the absolute disaster her writer’s block had become.  She was supposed to be the great bard with the wonderful stories.  Now it seemed she wasn’t capable of writing a happy ending without creating it poorly.  Joxer snapped out of his obsession with beer and looked to Gabrielle.  He scolded her for thinking that all of her stories were bad.  Joxer expressed himself openly stating that he thought most of her stories were good and not everything always turned to disaster when she wrote them.  Then Joxer reminded Gabrielle that the sister’s of Guya had received a happy ending.  Just as Gabrielle was beginning to think that Joxer was very kind the sisters of Guya arrived in the tavern and told the tale of how they had sold their kinsman sword for a king’s ransom to the warlord Philiodos.  Gabrielle looked across the tavern to see the warlord gorging himself on the free produce he had collected as he ate the fruit right off of his sword.  Joxer was content with that knowing that the sisters of Guya orphanage was funded for many years to come.  Gabrielle was embarressed because she knew that now a warlord was well-armed with an amazing weapon.

     Gabrielle attempted to correct her most recent known literary mistake.  “The woman was not Xena, but her friend Minya of Laurel.  Xena goes to a number one friend.  Xena rejoins the woman who brought her new life.  And now Xena returns from her journey.”  Suddenly, a man dressed in golden armor burst through the doors of the tavern and declared Philiodos to be a dead man.  Gabrielle looked up from her writing and realized that somehow that kinsman sword belonged to the man now standing in the door threatening to kill.  The bard jumped up from her place at the table and demanded that the man in the door wait just one moment before acting upon his desire.   His attention was redirected and the bard asked him what his name was.  He stated that it was Scaberus and then wanted to know the reason for the bard’s interest.  “Scaberus the man whom had offered his kinsman sword to the sisters of Guya arrived at the tavern, and decided that he too would go to the caves with the barbarians to get some deep sleep.”  Then Scaberus made his declaration and exited the tavern for his new destination.  Ares looked across the tavern to Gabrielle and reminded the bard that the caves would eventually become dangerously full.  Gabrielle did not care too much for his comment.  It was stating the obvious, but it was all that she could come up with in order to keep the chaos at a distance until she could figure out a real literary solution.

     As Gabrielle left the tavern her dismal entourage followed.  Her endless creative frustrations were growing within.  The bard was barely able to contain her anger at the situation.  She openly decided that instead of writing in the scroll that Xena should come to them perhaps the solution would be to go out to the nearby lakes and streams in a search to find Xena themselves.  The bard guessed maybe it was a trout stream since Xena’s favorite fish was trout, but then again, it could be any body of water from the Strymon to the Agean.  Who knew exactly where Gabrielle had sent Xena.  It could take years to find her.  Gabrielle threw down her scroll upon the table outside the tavern and walked off.  She couldn’t handle the pressure any more.  It was too much.  As Gabrielle hoped that she might be able to find Xena somewhere fishing nearby the next verse found its way upon the unattended enchanted scroll.

    “A warrior Joxer the Mighty,

     asked a boon from the God Aphrodite,

     and what a surprise he saw,

     but love’s eyes three times…

Gabrielle had only gone back into the tavern to retrieve her staff that she had almost left behind, and when she found her way back out side to rejoin her companions there before her was something horrific.  Three naked Gabrielle’s were dancing in the middle of the town on top of a veranda.  They were intriguing yet quite an embarressment to see a reflection of oneself three times.  Gabrielle then looked to Joxer who was holding the quill in his hand.  Gabrielle suddenly realized that somehow Joxer had written Gabrielle naked into the enchanted scroll.  The bard was furious with Joxer.  She ripped the scroll off of the table and looked to see what it was that Joxer had written.  He attempted to explain that he was only intending to edit the scroll a little.  As Gabrielle read out loud Joxer’s attempt at a limerick.  Joxer explained that he had a little trouble filling in that last line and inquired if Gabrielle had any ideas on how to finish it.  Gabrielle could barely contain her anger as it boiled from the depths of her soul.  It wasn’t the kind of anger one feels when they have a lust for blood.  Instead it was extreme frustration and embarressment.  Gabrielle grabbed Joxer by his chest plate and dragged him up close to her.  She whispered an angry inquiry asking of him what “love’s eyes” had to do with her.  Gabrielle feared the worst as she ran through how to solve the new problem of three naked Gabrielle’s dancing and running around in the streets.

As Joxer fumbled for an answer to his riddle Gabrielle thought that perhaps it was Aphrodite’s eyes that Joxer had been looking at in the moment that he had written those words upon Aphrodite’s enchanted scroll.  Then that didn’t quite make sense.  Unless it was Aphrodite’s eyes that were looking in the direction of Gabrielle in the moment when the thought was inspired for the limerick.  Aprhodite must have fed Joxer those words who only transcribed what Aphrodite had told him to.  Joxer was in worship of the goddess and she enjoyed his admiration.  That made sense to the bard.  Joxer confirmed the bard’s thought laughing nervously as he instructed Gabrielle to send the naked Gabrielle’s away to the end line of the limerick,” three Gabrielle’s to the caves go nighty.”  Of course Joxer the man whore was in no hurry to send the girls away.  Gabrielle wrestled the quill from his grasp as he and everyone else continued to stare at the spectacle both he and Aphrodite had created.

The day had been truly exhausting not only for the bard, but for everyone else within her company that the scroll had brought along.  Gabrielle led everyone back to camp hoping that maybe Xena would return from fishing on her own.  The next morning came and the lone warrior Gabrielle awoke with an necklace upon her chest.  She was still half sleepying as she rose up from her slumber to get a better look at the unexpected surprise.  From behind she heard Joxer’s voice hoping that she would like the gift.  The bard was flattered that Joxer had given her a gift.  She accepted it stating that it was a beautiful gift.  The bard was not certain why Joxer would just go out and buy her a necklace.  Joxer explained that he had bought it to make-up and to apologize for writing the three naked Gabrielle’s.  Gabrielle chuckled at the simplicity of Joxer’s train of thought.  It was admirable, but before the bard could have another thought Joxer explained that he had to trade his father’s scabbard to buy it.    At this moment the tone of Gabrielle’s mind delved back toward frustration.  She was hoping that she had not heard him correctly.  She asked him to repeat what he had just said.  Joxer repeated his statement even louder than before.  Gabrielle rose to her knees and faced Joxer.  She scolded him for having sold his father’s scabbard because he had only on the morning before flatly rebuffed the sisters of Guya.  Joxer did not agree with the bard’s opinion that he should not have sold it for the necklace.  He tried to explain why the necklace was so much more important than the sisters of Guya.  Gabrielle didn’t want to hear it.  A new problem had just been created.  She hadn’t even written on the scroll, but she was sure that someone else would if they hadn’t already.

Gabrielle approached Joxer to reveal that she had hidden the scroll for safe keeping inside his father’s scabbard.  Joxer at first thought that it was a game until Gabrielle reached out, grabbed Joxer’s nose, and attempted to rip it off of his face.  Gabrielle screamed in frustration and Joxer screamed out in pain waking the rest of the sleeping beauties.  Joxer explained that he had traded a peddler for the necklace and that they could easily get the scroll back.  Joxer begged for Gabrielle to release his nose as he was certain that the peddler would not easily figure out the power of the enchanted scroll inside.  “And then it began to rain riches all over the town.  Dinars, dinars, all around the town raining dinars!”  In the next moment the woman from the tavern on the day before came running through the woods shouting out that it was raining riches around town.  She urged everyone to hurry to gather their riches.  All Gabrielle wanted to do next was to strangle Joxer for his idiocy.  It wasn’t enough of a challenge to be dealing with an unruly scroll combined with writer’s block, two mortal gods, Minya and no Xena.

After Gabrielle had taken out all of her lone warrior frustrations upon Joxer she regained her composure and gathered her misfit troops declaring that she knew exactly what she would have to write next.  The only problem now was that they had to get the scroll back.  Ares was obviously not convinced that Gabrielle had the answer.  She hadn’t proven herself worthy of the answer thus far.  She realized that he was just grumpy having been stuck within a mortal body for over 12 hours.  Despite his mortality he was no less manipulative.  She gleefully told Ares that the answer to his question was a creative secret she would keep to herself.  Gabrielle then commanded both Aphrodite and Minya to team up and go into town to find out where the peddler had gone.  Gabrielle then revealed that she would team up with Ares and they would go look for the peddler where it was still raining dinars.  Joxer wanted to know what his role in Gabrielle’s plan was.  Gabrielle walked over to the tree where she had tied him up to keep him out of her way.  She then untied him and instructed him to go to the caves with the rest of the bunch she had sent there.  She was pretty certain he would have no trouble taking that order.

It wasn’t long before Gabrielle and Ares found themselves to be hot on the peddler’s trail.  As they rounded the corner out of the woods through the meadow Gabrielle noticed that there were a pair of deep ruts created by most likely a pair of wagon wheels.  Gabrielle explained to Ares that she thought it might be carrying a load of dinars which meant that they were on the right trail.  Strangely Ares was impressed.  He asked the lone warrior where she had learned to read trails so well.  Naturally Gabrielle responded that it was the warrior princess who had taught her that skill.  Gabrielle explained that if one hung around Xena long enough one could learn anything about the warrior arts.  The lone warrior went on to explain that it was all about focus.  Ares agreed with Gabrielle on that point.  With pride he declared that he had been the one who had been able to harness Xena’s natural gifts and power and to give the warrior princess her ability to focus.  He explained that when Xena had first come to him she had just been another lost power-hungry warlord.  Ares prided himself on having given Xena a purpose.

Gabrielle took the opportunity to remind Ares that Xena had a different purpose in the present alongside the bard.  Ares regretfully agreed with Gabrielle on this point stating that he was aware of just how good Xena was at fighting for the cause of the greater good.    He went onto admire what she had done up against him when he had gotten her put on trial for the murders of those innocent villagers.  Gabrielle turned to Ares as they walked and stopped to face him.  She asked him about his opinion on how Xena was able to wiggle her way out of the bind he had recently put her in up against the furies.  Ares admitted that it was indeed a stroke of brilliance on Xena’s part.   He was like a proud father describing how Xena approaches all of her foes with her steel gaze.  He smiled as he thought of Xena’s gaze as did the bard.  The two foes were finding a moment of true relatability with one another as Gabrielle smiled at the image in her mind of Xena’s steel gaze.  Then there was an awkward moment of silence between them.  Gabrielle looked to the deep wagon tracks and then followed them into the distances toward the caves.  She pointed out her latest observation to Ares.  Ares agreed with her accessment.  Then within another awkward moment of silence between them Ares revealed that he felt that the two of them were just starting to warm up to one another with in their conversation.  Gabrielle did indeed notice the feeling too.  It was slightly off-putting.  Ares expressed that he really didn’t feel that he enjoyed feeling warm toward Gabrielle.  Gabrielle agreed that the feeling was mutual as the agreed to move on toward the caves together.

Upon entering the caves both Gabrielle and Ares prepared their weapons for they weren’t exactly sure what they would find when the ventured inside.  Soon they found themselves startled by Joxer popping his head up from behind the sleeping barbarians.  Gabrielle barked out a command for him to get away from the barbarians.  He pleaded with the bard to allow him to disarm them while they slept.  Gabrielle was certain that no matter what it was that Joxer thought he was doing to help he would most certainly make matters worse for everyone.  Joxer argued with the bard that he would not make things worse as long as he didn’t wake anyone up before he finished the job and found the peddler.  Obviously, even Joxer had learned something in his travels with the warrior princess.  He had been able to deduce that the wagon tracks belonged to the peddler.  From behind inside of another chamber with in the cave a man emerged holding a scroll.  Joxer turned when he noticed the man’ footsteps approaching and shouted out that the man was the peddler he had traded with on the night before.

The peddler appeared to be confused about his situation and suddenly Scaberus ran into the cave from another chamber.  His sword was drawn and he was ready to do battle to recover his kinsman sword.  Scaberus was certain that one of the people occupying the cave had to be carrying his sword.  He wrestled the scroll from the peddler with his sword as Joxer recovered it from the peddler from the cave floor.  Joxer then threw the scroll to Gabrielle as the barbarians a began awakening from their deep sleep.  Gabrielle caught the scroll and then ran toward the barbarians hoping to knock them out the the scroll before they had a chance to react.  Ares followed with his sword drawn.  Joxer attempted to run out of the cave entrance only to smack into Minya and Aphrodite who had just found their way to the peddler’s location.  Both Minya and Joxer laid flat on the ground as Ares shouted out to Aphrodite to follow him with Gabrielle and the scroll.  The dazed and confused barbarians scattered.

Gabrielle desparately searched for a quiet place with in the caves to transcribe her solution to the enchanted scroll upon the scroll itself.  She found herself blindly running into Scaberus again who swiped in from her grasp.  Scaberus then ran into Joxer, who ran into the peddler and the three naked Gabrielles.  Then the barbarians came along and swiped the scroll from Joxer’s grasp.  Everyone was descending upon the power of enchantment as Gabrielle followed the echoing sounds through the cave to everyone’s location.  She found a low position from which to attack the barbarians as they tripped over her outstreatched staff along the floor of the cave.  With that the bard had reached success and retrieved the scroll disappaearing alone through the maze of caverns until she found the perfect quiet spot to open the enchanted scroll and to end this chaotic literary mess once and for all.  “All who were enchanted went into the caves and then out again.  One following the other all in search of Xena the warrior princess the scroll went.”  Just as Gabrielle had finished transcribing her literary solution everyone in the caves descended upon her.  She waived the scroll high up into the air and demanded that everyone stay back.  Then she went for it she threw the scroll through the air at random and then the peddler emerged capturing it and running off through the maze.  Gabrielle instructed everyone that the scroll knew the way out of the caves and that all should follow.

And so the parade of chaos began led by first the peddler, then three naked Gabrielle’s, five barbarians, Scaberus, Minya with the whip of Xena, the mortal Ares, the lone warrior Gabrielle, the mortal Aphrodite, and finally Joxer the jerk.  The four original companions were out of breath as the took a moment to gather themselves.  Joxer wanted to know what Gabrielle had written in the scroll and the bard revealed to him that she had written to send it to the warrior princess.  She had only hoped that she had been able to phrase it right this time.  The four companions moved forward following the trail of the parade of chaos.  Gabrielle remembered that there was still one serious problem that even the scroll couldn’t solve.  She demanded that Ares find his army in the valley and stop them from attacking everyone.  Ares claimed that he could only do that if he had his godly powers.  Until then he was powerless to stop them.  Ares declared that he would later punish Thelonious and his army in some horrible way.  The bard reminded Ares that there would be innocent people who would die at the hands of his army if it wasn’t stopped soon.  Gabrielle was frustrated that Ares didn’t have the courage to just go into the valley where his hidden army was waiting to instruct them not to attack.  She boldly stated that with or with out the god of war she and the rest of her companions would fight the warlord to stop him.  Aphrodite turned to Gabrielle and expressed that she had no interest in being a part of fighting against Thelonious’s army.  She had never agreed to do that for anyone.  As Gabrielle was about to respond Joxer stopped, raised his hand and took a deep whiff of the surrounding air.  Aphrodite scolded Joxer for pointing out her mortal faults.  Joxer attempted to ease Aphrodite’s concern about what he was smelling stating that it only smelled like fish.  Aphrodite was upset knowing that her mortal hygene skills were not up to speed.  She was normally a goddess and had no need to worry about such matters.  Gabrielle watched as the mortal goddess of love began to have an uncontrollable emotional breakdown in front of everyone.  The smell was too strong to be just coming from Aphrodite herself.

Gabrielle took a whiff of the air also.  Then from around the corner emerged Xena the warrior princess dragging a wagon load of fish behind her.  Xena smiled when she caught sight of Gabrielle and her band of misfit companions.  Then she approached the bard and pulled out the enchanted scroll asking Gabrielle if she had been looking for it.  Gabrielle reached for the enchanted scroll, but Xena would not surrender it.  Instead the warrior princess explained that she had taken it from a peddler, chased by barbarians, then chased by three naked Gabrielles.  Xena looked to the bard showing Gabrielle just how amused she was by seeing Gabrielle naked three times.  Gabrielle chuckled to herself for a moment at the thought that must have been going through the warrior princess’s mind when she saw that particular group of gals.  Xena said that she then saw Minya chasing them with her whip and was indeed still chasing everyone.  Xena said that seeing all of that was what had led her to read Gabrielle’s scroll.  Gabrielle admitted that it was most definitely not her best work.  Xena agreed completely, but was curious as to who wrote the limerick.  She considered that it could have been Gabrielle, but then Joxer chimed in and proudly accepted credit for his limerick.  Xena wasn’t impressed nor surprised that it had been Joxer.  Gabrielle explained all of the ways that she had attempted to bring Xena back through the scroll.  “Xena goes to a number one friend.”  Xena stated that the scroll had taken her to a friend that she hadn’t seen since she was five years old.  It was her first friend ever.

Ares then chimed in asking Xena about his contribution to the scroll, “Xena rejoins the woman who brought her to a new life.”  Xena picked up a large fish and held it up saying that her mother wanted to thank Gabrielle for all of the fish that Xena had brought to her courtesy of Gabrielle’s scroll.  The bard was about to ask the warrior princess why she didn’t decide on her own to come back and find out what was going on with these strange urges that she had been feeling.  Xena already knew what the bard was thinking and admitted that after visiting her mom she had planned on rejoining the bard, but was overcome by the irresistable urge to return to fishing.  Xena was certain that was at about the same time that Gabrielle had written upon the scroll, “And now Xena returns from her journey.”  Xena continued as she explained upon feeling that second urge to go fishing that something somewhere was going wrong.  She explained that she had visited almost everyone she had ever known who had meant anything to her with the exception of Gabrielle.  The warrior princess looked to Gabrielle and said that was when she realized where she needed to go next.  She needed to return to Gabrielle.  Gabrielle felt warmth in her heart to know that all of her frustrations with the creative process had only brought out the best most tender-hearted moment in Xena.  Gabrielle was pleased at this break through in their friendship, but the mortal goddess of love interrupted their love fest with her own selfish concerns.  She was becoming extremely frustrated with suffering through mortality and wanted it corrected as soon as possible.  Joxer reminded every one that stopping the warlord Thelonious was also on the list of problems that needed a resolution with the help of the warrior princess.  However, Aphrodite was still very uninterested in the problems of war.
Xena then approached Aphrodite inquiring about the charm that Aphrodite had used upon the scroll when she had enchanted it.  She needed to know the exact words.  Aphrodite thought about it for a moment and then revealed to the warrior princess this phrase, “Lies will make the world go round till truer words are written down.”  Xena thought about it for a moment and then revealed that the solution was simple.  Instead of writing fiction, Gabrielle needed to write the truth.  In a way, it was Xena who had inspired Aphrodite to charm the scroll because it was on the night before the chaos that Xena had suggested Gabrielle write fiction.  It was obvious that Gabrielle should not at all be writing fiction.  There was still the problem of the warlord Thelonious.  Xena wasn’t at all worried about that.  She declared that she could handle that job on her own.  Her main concern was that Gabrielle write down upon the enchanted scroll exactly what she saw as Xena would fight the warlord and his army.  Aphrodite’s faith in the mortal ability to problem solve had been shattered over the past two days.  She wasn’t so certain that her godhood would be restored.  The former goddess wanted to know how she would be certain Xena’s plan would work.  Xena explained that she would know when her powers would restore themselves.  Xena had confidence in Gabrielle’s ability to write truth.  It seemed the warrior princess was a little soft toward Aphrodite realizing that it was all a set up by Ares all along.  Then Xena grabbed her wagon load of fish and began to look for a vantage point for defense with her fish against the army of Thelonious.

Secretly Gabrielle wasn’t as confident in her ability as Xena was.  Xena had not just suffered through the same two days of chaos that the rest of the crew had.  Joxer dragging one of Xena’s fish along with him after smacking himself on the chin approached Gabrielle and asked her what was wrong.  Gabrielle had hoped that she could hide her lack of confidence, but Joxer obviously could read her better than she realized.  Gabrielle had to openly admit that writing action was not exactly her strongest point as a bard.  Ares could not believe what he had just heard.  He stepped around to the opposite side of Aphrodite, pausing only to sniff her mortal stench momentarily, as he verbalized that he couldn’t believe that Gabrielle followed Xena around the known world all day, every day without being able to write in some action.  He wanted to know exactly how the bard was able to accomplish this as Aphrodite stuggled to keep composure over her brother’s momentary slam against her obviously poor hygene.  Ares eagerly awaited the bard’s answer.  Gabrielle began to explain gleefully that her method in doing this was simply in the fact that she used mostly metaphors.  Gabrielle stated that such metaphors included phrases like, “Xena burst on the scene in a blaze of glory.”  Then she realized that Ares was also taking a jab at her.  Gabrielle was frustrated enough.  She didn’t need to stand before the former god of war and take his verbal abuse against her.  The bard began to move away from her group of misfit creative partners, but before she could walk away Joxer grabbed her by the shoulder and reminded her that she couldn’t use metaphors this time.  For if Gabrielle used metaphors they might find themselves picking up the remaining exploded pieces of Xena’s body from the certain instant explosion that would happen immediately after writing that phrase upon the enchanted scroll.  Despite all of Joxer’s idiocy he seemingly continued to offer some interesting feedback in the process and this observation was no exception.  Gabrielle looked to Joxer slightly worried yet surprised at his morbid outlook.  She just hoped that she wouldn’t write anything more that would hurt anyone or kill anyone.  Killing Xena with her quill had never occurred to her, but apparently anything went with Aphrodite’s enchanted scroll.

Upon finding the perfect vantage point to view the battle which was expected to occur between Xena and Thelonious’s army Gabrielle soon heard the sounds of the army approaching from within the trees around the bend.  Suddenly, Thelonious appeared with his rag tag army following closely behind.  He barked out commands to them as they approached.  Xena didn’t waist time as she began her onslaught against them with her wagon load of weapons.  Before the men had time to act they were being pummeled with trout, and perch, and anything one could possibly imagine from the various species of known fish.  The smell was awful as the men collapsed onto the ground in a mass of expected chaos.  There was so much fish now covering the ground the rest of the approaching army slipped and fell to the ground unable to handle the massive attack of fish against them.  The warrior princess cried out as she battled them bravely.  Gabrielle and her creative comrades knelt down behind Xena in the trees just beyond Xena’s position as the bard began to write.

     “Xena fought the army of the warlord Thelonious.  For two days Ares had planned for this battle all day long.”  Gabrielle continued writing as Joxer began calling out the actions.  “Xena leads with a pike, then a trout, bam, bam two quick bass.  Oh, he is taking it on the chin.”  Gabrielle quickly added in to the scroll, “Xena threw a starfish at the warriors.  Then Xena laughed, picked up a giant squid, and wound her arm around for the throw.”  Joxer continued on, “That octopus came out of nowhere.  She must have thrown that just for the howl of it.”  Then Joxer laughed at his own ridiculous joke.  “Ares took over asking Gabrielle to write that Xena hit the warrior with a squid.  Joxer argued with Ares declaring that it was not a squid, but an octopus, but Ares countered confident that Joxer had been wrong and that it indeed was a squid that Xena had just thrown.” 

     “Gabrielle hesitated for a moment as they worked out their creative differences and then continued to write upon the scroll as Xena then threw a sword fish like a javelin at another warrior hitting him in the head.  As the enemy sank to the ground she reached for her chakram, but instead grabbed an eel, pausing to notice, then throwing the eel like it was her chakram knocking out two more warriors.  When the eel returned to the warrior princess it was no longer in the form of a chakram.  Xena threw it aside then she grabbed another big fish and slapped it across the faces of two other warriors.”  Ares interupted Gabrielle’s connection to her mighty quill and interjected that Gabrielle should write that Xena whacked the warrior with her sword.    Gabrielle wasn’t so certain that was even a real word.  Joxer interjected editing Ares’s literary suggestion with an alternate word for “whacked.”  Gabrielle was not convinced that Joxer’s word “hit” as a good literary choice despite that she continued writing,  “Xena hit the warrior with her sword then fought with the warrior leader Thelonious.  As Joxer continued to give Gabrielle the correct words, and descriptions of Xena’s battle against Thelonious he stopped for a moment, and inquired about the earlier phrase ‘Gabrielle awoke with a jerk.’  The bard was delighted at the thought and then Ares demanded that the creative writing team keep to the task at hand.” 

     “Suddenly, Minya arrived along side Gabrielle and her team.  She declared in a whisper that she was “ready for action.”  Gabrielle was surprised to see Minya.  She seemed to appear out of nowhere.  Gabrielle was going to be out of scroll soon as everyone stood up to get a better look at what was happening on the battle field.  Joxer inquired of Minya about what had happened to those barbarians she had been chasing.  Minya declared that the barbarians had suddenly decided to stop fighting and head back to Barbaria.  She defeated him as the barbarians turned around and went back to their homes in Barbaria.  And with that Minya stepped forward ready to join Xena in the battle.  Minya said, “I’m ready for action.  I’m going to crack some heads.’   Then Joxer and Minya looked to one another as Aphrodite became a goddess once again.  Then Aphrodite enchanted Joxer and Minya with a love spell and said, ‘I’m back!  Later.’  Then the restored goddess of love disappeared with in a bright light and went home to Mount Olympus.  As soon as Aphrodite disappeared her enchantment spell wore off.  Joxer’s fish stuck between himself and Minya turned Minya’s raging hormones off.  Joxer apologized for his slimy fish, but Minya instantly pushed him away.  Gabrielle’s eyes darted back into the direction of the battle.  She watched as Xena ducked the advance of Thelonious’s raging sword, and quickly took the offensive advantage against him using her sword to swipe his feat from beneath.  Thelonious fell to the groudn as Xena spun around and sheathed her sword into it’s scabbard upon her back.  Xena was intense in battle.  She jumped up and back flipped onto her fish wagon catapulting the remaining baskets of fish into the air across the battle down onto the warlord and his men.  Fish piled onto Thelonious rendering him helpless to continue the fight.  As Thelonious’s men began to scatter Ares become a god.  Ares wound up his fist into a ball, harnessed his godly force from within his breath, and managed to shake out a mighty bolt of lightening across the battle field.  The lightening bolt of godly force struck one of Thelonious’s men as he tried to escape the wrath against him.  Ares shouted out, ‘Run maggot!’  Then he laughed and Gabrielle was taken by surprise.  One bolt of the god of war’s fury against Thelonious’s man wasn’t enough as the god repeated his previous action.”

      Gabrielle paused in her writing realizing that the story of the mighty quill was coming to an end as things were begining to become normal again.  The god of war now had his powers back and Xena had won the battle the battle against Thelonious and his army.  Gabrielle felt the power from just over her shoulder.  It was an entrancing dark power as she turned toward the attraction she was beginning to feel toward Ares.  She looked into his eyes and he gazed deeply into hers.   His strong sexy appearance was nearly over whelming.  Then he pointed down to the bard’s chest and inquired about it.  Gabrielle looked down to see what he was looking at only to be smacked in the face by the god of war.  He then laughed maniacally at his own joke at her expense, as we walked off into the forest disappearing with in the power of his godly force.  His triumphant laughter echoed as he left.  Gabrielle shook her head.  She realized that she was finding herself to be attracted to him, but the moment had thankfully passed and she had regained her sane mind and senses.  She couldn’t believe the gall of Ares.

Then Minya comment that she had expected much more from the god of war.  She was clearly disappointed in his performance.  Minya continued describing her thoughts out loud of the god of war.  She thought that it was only his powers that made him.  He would be just another regular guy if it weren’t for his entrancing sexy self.  Gabrielle could relate to Minya’s sudden entranced hormones.  The god of war’s essence obviously wasn’t completely gone.  As Joxer stood by listening to this conversation of women and their hormones, Gabrielle inquired to Minya about how hers were feeling.  Gabrielle just wanted to hear her admit that they were uncontrollable.  Ares did indeed have power over the female urges.  Minya explained that she had to leave for it was very important that she return home to Laurel to visit her boyfriend Hower.  And with that Minya left for Laurel as Joxer expressed that he thought Minya was a strange woman.  Gabrielle nodded in agreement as Xena approached the conversation.  The bard looked to Xena and declared that things appeared to be well in the moment.  Xena very pleased at their work and agreed that indeed everything was now back to normal.  Joxer pointing toward Gabrielle’s scroll with his giant fish noticed that there was still a little bit of space left at the bottom.  Gabrielle thought about the idea for a moment and suggested that there was perhaps something else to write to finish the story.  And there was most definitely something else to write.  Xena made her creative suggestion as Gabrielle realized that she knew exactly what was missing in that space upon the scroll.  “Finally, Love’s eyes three times vanished from existence leaving the lone bard alongside her friends in peace once again.  Lies will make the world go round till truer words are written down.  The End! “

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #52: The Quill Is Mightier

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll  #52 :  The Quill is Mightier

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia & Friends

October, 47 B.C.

     Xena had gone fishing.  The lone warrior Gabrielle awoke with a jerk as five barbarians rode out of the woods.  Twirling her trusty staff she delivered kicks of such fury deflecting the thrust of a sword with her mighty abs.  As the last of the barbarians fled the scene Joxer took the staff of Gabrielle unable to control himself.  He hit himself once, twice, and then three times on the head with the staff only to knock himself off of his feet falling onto the ground.

  After realizing the power of the scroll, and the will of a mighty quill, Joxer and Gabrielle met the sisters of Guya.  The sisters were seeking a donation from Joxer to their orphanage.  But Joxer would not give up his scabbard because it had been given to him by his father.  And so the bard Gabrielle wrote her magic and suddenly a kind man came from the woods offering his own gift, a kinsman sword.  The sisters of Guya were delighted to receive such a wonderful gift.  And so the good that was to be done by the will of the mighty quill had only just begun.

      The day went on as Gabrielle and Joxer entered a nearby tavern to have breakfast.  Out of the kindness of his heart the tavern owner offered to Gabrielle and all who were in the tavern free food to eat and drinks on the house.  And with that statement all who were at the tavern drank and ate joyfully together in the spirit of peace.  Then the five barbarians returned for Gabrielle, but they didn’t stay long for they decided to go west instead.  But the sister’s of Guya orphanage would be in their path so they turned east.   The barbarians disappeared from the land!  The barbarians went to the caves and fell into a deep sleep.

     Then the will of mortals won out…and war lost all its power.  The force that enchanted the scroll lost its powers.  Aphrodite is as she was before.  Suddenly, there was the arrival of the woman wearing leather carrying the whip of Xena.  The woman was not Xena, but her friend Minya of Laurel.  Xena goes to a number one friend.    Xena rejoins the woman who brought her to a new life.  And now Xena returns from her journey.  Scaberus the man whom had offered his kinsman sword to the sisters of Guya arrived at the tavern, and decided that he too would go to the caves with the barbarians to get some deep sleep.

     A warrior Joxer the Mighty,

     asked a boon from the God Aphrodite,

     and what a surprise he saw,

     but love’s eyes three times,

     three Gabrielle’s to the caves go nighty.

      And then it began to rain riches all over the town.  Dinars, dinars, all around the town raining dinars!  All who were enchanted went into the caves and then out again.  One following the other all in search of Xena the warrior princess the scroll went.

     Xena fought the army of the warlord Thelonious.  For two days Ares had planned for this battle all day long.  Xena leads with a pike, then a trout, bam, bam two quick bass.  Oh, he is taking it on the chin.  Xena threw a starfish at the warriors.  Then Xena laughed, picked up a giant squid, and wound her arm around for the throw.  That octopus came out of nowhere.  She must have thrown that just for the howl of it.  Ares took over asking Gabrielle to write that Xena hit the warrior with a squid.  Joxer argued with Ares declaring that it was not a squid, but an octopus, but Ares countered confident that Joxer had been wrong and that it indeed was a squid that Xena had just thrown.  Gabrielle hesitated for a moment as they worked out their creative differences, and then continued to write upon the scroll as Xena then threw a sword fish like a javelin at another warrior hitting him in the head.  As the enemy sank to the ground she reached for her chakram, but instead grabbed an eel, pausing to notice, then throwing the eel like it was her chakram knocking out two more warriors.  When the eel returned to the warrior princess it was no longer in the form of a chakram.  Xena threw it aside then she grabbed another big fish and slapped it across the faces of two other warriors.  “Xena hit the warrior with her sword then fought with the warrior leader Thelonious.” 

     As Joxer continued to give Gabrielle the correct words, and descriptions of Xena’s battle against Thelonious he stopped for a moment, and inquired about the earlier phrase ‘Gabrielle awoke with a jerk.’  The bard was delighted at the thought and then Ares demanded that the creative writing team keep to the task at hand.”  Suddenly, Minya arrived along side Gabrielle and her team.  She declared in a whisper that she was “ready for action.”  Gabrielle was surprised to see Minya.  She seemed to appear out of nowhere.  Gabrielle was going to be out of scroll soon as everyone stood up to get a better look at what was happening on the battle field.  Joxer inquired of Minya about what had happened to those barbarians she had been chasing.  Minya declared that the barbarians had suddenly decided to stop fighting and head back to Barbaria.  She defeated him as the barbarians turned around and went back to their homes in Barbaria.  And with that Minya stepped forward ready to join Xena in the battle.  Minya said, “I’m ready for action.  I’m going to crack some heads.”  Then Joxer and Minya looked to one another as Aphrodite became a goddess once again.  Then Aphrodite enchanted Joxer and Minya with a love spell and said, “I’m back!  Later.”  Then the restored goddess of love disappeared with in a bright light and went home to Mount Olympus.  As soon as Aphrodite disappeared her enchantment spell wore off.  Joxer’s fish stuck between himself and Minya turned Minya’s raging hormones off.  Joxer apologized for his slimy fish, but Minya instantly pushed him away.”

     “Gabrielle’s eyes darted back into the direction of the battle.  She watched as Xena ducked the advance of Thelonious’s raging sword, and quickly took the offensive advantage against him using her sword to swipe his feat from beneath.  Thelonious fell to the ground as Xena spun around and sheathed her sword into it’s scabbard upon her back.  Xena was intense in battle.  She jumped up and back flipped onto her fish wagon catapulting the remaining baskets of fish into the air across the battle down onto the warlord and his men.  Fish piled onto Thelonious rendering him helpless to continue the fight.  As Thelonious’s men began to scatter Ares become a god.  Ares wound up his fist into a ball, harnessed his godly force from within his breath, and managed to shake out a mighty bolt of lightening across the battle field.  The lightening bolt of godly force struck one of Thelonious’s men as he tried to escape the wrath against him.  Ares shouted out, “Run maggot!”  Then he laughed and Gabrielle was taken by surprise.  One bolt of the god of war’s fury against Thelonious’s man wasn’t enough as the god repeated his previous action.  “Finally, Love’s eyes three times vanished from existence leaving the lone bard alongside her friends in peace once again.  Lies will make the world go round till truer words are written down.  The End! ”

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.  

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.

Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #32: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll #32:  Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

January 21st, 47 B.C.

     All was silent in the Baccae forrest for Gabrielle did not hear a single note.  The music of Orpheous did not speak.  It was now six young girls from the neighboring villages who had all disappeared without a single trace.  And so this place was the hunting grounds of Baccus whose wine was the blood of innocent young women.  It was said that only Orpheous’s song could tame the wild beast.  Xena was certain that the beast had risen once more into his furious spree of vicious crimes. 

     Gabrielle knew this famous old story all too well.  It was told to all young girls in her village who did  not behave.  They said that a single bite from a baccae could turn a young innocent woman into a wild soulless creature whose only allegance is to Baccus.  And once bitten she is loured into his lair to drink his blood.  If she does there is no way to save her.  She becomes a baccae forever.  They say that baccae women can take on many forms.  Sometimes they just go roaming the forrest as wolves.  Driven with an unquenchable thirst for blood they track their intended victim relentlessly.  Until they corner them.  Then they tear them apart lim from lim. 

     Carefully Gabrielle constructed the tale for Xena as they ventured through the depths of the Baccae forrest.  Xena had asked what the bard had known although Gabrielle was not so certain that these stories were of truth.  She was convinced that they were told only to scare people and there was nothing really to fear.  Yet the forrest itself seemed dark and treacherous like no other forrest they had traveled through before.  Just as the bard turned the corner around a tree she was instantly flattened by surprise.  There before her an idiot stood screaming and then Gabrielle screamed in terror as her imagination had been in high gear.  Then she fell to the ground instantly after being knocked over by the bumbling idiot known as Joxer. 

     Joxer was screaming and ranting as he went running up into the trees.  He had been running from a pack of wolves who were now attacking the warrior princess.  Two wolves ran right past the bard within a breath as Gabrielle stayed still upon the ground in terror. Xena quickly drew out her whip as she scooped up the bard protecting her from the vicious wolves.  The warrior princess held them back as they growled and sneared at their intended victims.  Then they barked and howled their warnings showing their vicious teeth.  These wolves looked bloody with their mouths foaming ready to strike at any moment. 

     Joxer began to taunt them feeling as if he had defeated them somehow escaping within the trees.  One of the two wolves then rushed up the tree toward him as if it had heard every word with complete understanding.  It growled as it sunk its teeth into Joxer’s boot.  He suddenly found himself challenged yet again as the wolf began to tear the boot off of Joxer’s foot.  As Joxer screamed and struggled the warrior princess suddenly shifted her attention in his direction as a third wolf brushed by from behind the bard.  Gabrielle shrieked and then Xena slashed her whip in the direction of Joxer’s enemy.  After several long moments of Xena’s whip against the wolves they finally retreated from the scene.  Soon all was quiet again as it had been before.

     Joxer began to laugh boisterously as if nothing had really happened.  He climbed down out of the tree and Gabrielle found herself concerned.  She asked him if he had been alright for the wolves had gone straight for his limbs as the stories told.  Joxer declared that he was just fine and that he had been in control of his unfortunate situation.  He said that the secret to defeating a wolf pack was to wear them down.  It was as if he were an expert, but Gabrielle found herself not at all convinced of his self proclaimed skill.  And then Xena asked him what he was doing in the baccae forrest.  He said that he was on a life saving mission.  Then the idiot handed Xena a package.  It was a large bag of some sort.  With pride he had said that it was from the great Morpheous and that it was exclusively for the warrior princess.

     Gabrielle found herself going from utter disgust at his antics to complete intrigue knowing that this bag was from Morpheous.  As the bard leaned in closer to get a better look Xena asked Joxer what was in the bag.  Joxer’s only statement was that the package could speak for itself.  Then Xena reached into the bag and pulled out something truely horrid.  It was the live head of a man who screamed in agony as the warrior princess held him by his hair.  Suddenly Joxer ripped the head from Xena’s grasp and sat down upon a boulder with it.  He began to part the hair down the middle declaring that Orpheous should never be handled that way again.  It was strange for he had seemingly been traveling around with this head for quite a while.  Joxer had a personal relationship with the head of Orpheous.

     As Xena began to analyze the situation she declared to Orpheous that she suspected that his demise had been the work of Baccus himself.  Orpheous did not argue.  He only confirmed that Xena was correct.  Gabrielle found herself horrified yet intrigued for it seemed that Xena knew everyone who she had thought to be only ficticious.  Orpheous went onto explain that Baccus had hunted him down and decapitated him leaving him alive to bear witness to the crimes he could no longer prevent.  Xena asked Orpheous of his lire.  Orpheous said that his friend Melodous was keeping it safe and in hiding.  He was certain that if they could return to Melodous that together he and his friend could stop Baccus as Melodous played the lire and Morpheous sang.

     Gabrielle suddenly realized that the events of the past few hours had all been a part of that seemingly false old legend.  She felt real fear now as she confirmed through Orpheous that the six missing innocent girls had been taken by Baccus himelf.  It was clear what their mission was.  They had to help Orpheous so that he could save the young innocent girls of the world.  And with that the warrior princess commanded Joxer to make Orpheous presentable and then they would be on their way.  Xena seemed almost disgusted with the situation yet she knew that it could not be ignored.  As long as Baccus could run free he would wreak havoc everywhere.  Not only that, but Baccus was certain to be on the hunt for Orpheous’s lire.  There was little time to spare.

     Then Gabrielle was curious to know just how Xena had met Orpheous.  As always her story was cryptic and tragic.  It had involved Xena’s army on a day when she had gone up against Baccus and his army.  During their fierce battle an innocent woman was caught in the cross swords.  Unfortunately there was nothing Xena and her army could do to protect her from Baccus and so the young woman perished.  Xena was certain that it had been Baccus who had killed her although Orpheous had blammed both.  Gabrielle found herself confused for a moment for she did not make the connection between Orpheous and Xena.  And then Xena revealed that last detail with regret.  The young woman who had died had been Orpheous’s bride.

     Soon the four friends arrived at the village of Melodeous where the lire was being kept in safety.  Gabrielle gazed down below at the foot of the hill through the gates and noticed that there was a festival in progress.  Joxer explained to Gabrielle that it was common for every year they held a festival here to ward off the wrath of Baccus.  He said that they even dressed up in fancy costumes and held a contest.  The winner would receive a prize.  As Gabrielle observed the people dancing in the streets and listened to the music from down below Joxer commented that he was certain he knew who this year’s prize would go to.  The bard knew who Joxer was talking about.  He was speaking of Orpheous whom Joxer had cleverly disguised as a scarecrow.  It was kind of amusing to the bard for she had never known a muscian without hands or a body.

      Upon entering into the village Orpheous rode upon Xena’s horse as he led his new allies to the home of his friend Melodeous.  When they went inside all was silent the way the forrest had been.  There was a strange feeling as Orpheous called out to his friend.  Yet there was no answer only more silence.  Then there was another gruesome sight.  It was Melodious hanging from the beams of the ceiling.  Again Xena proclaimed that it had most certainly been the work of Baccus.  Gabrielle heard women screaming outside as Xena then asked Orpheous if he knew where Melodious may have hidden the lyre.  When they looked to find the lyre it was missing for Baccus had taken it. 

     Now the stakes were much higher as Xena was about to rush off to hunt down Baccus, but the bard would not allow her to go alone.  Xena rejected Gabrielle’s protest asking her to stay behind to protect Orpheous.  Without him the lyre was useless and so Xena was off.  Gabrielle found herself very worried about Xena not knowing what Xena was up against.  Only the stories that she had heard could tell her, but they were not very comforting thoughts for the bard.  She tried to listen to Joxer and Orpheous chat about music only to discover that Orpheous was quite a crank.  He had a terrible attitude, but what could one expect from a muscian without his hands.  She continued to listen as Joxer played Orpheous’s instruments.  Joxer belittled the helpless musican for his craft proclaiming that his mother had dreamed of her son becoming a musican.  It was clear that Joxer had little respect for Orpheous.  Yet there was little Orpheous could do to get away from Joxer’s antics.  He yelled at the idiot to put down his instruments, but Joxer continued to annoy him. 

      Gabrielle found herself becoming frustrated with Joxer and Orpheous so she ventured outside onto the balcony.  She hoped that the excitement of the festival below would take her mind off of her irritation and her concerns for Xena.  As she watched the activities below something seemed very strange.  Everyone seemed like they were enjoying themselves yet she kept hearing those sudden screams like before when they had first entered into the village.  The bard decided that she would go investigate to be sure that there were no baccae lurking about.  If she could not help Xena find Baccus she could at least stop the baccae from taking more victims.

     As she entered into the festival something about it seemed very powerful and mezmorizing.  Though Joxer had said that it was a festival to ward off Baccus she soon discovered that these people were not against Baccus at all.  In fact they seemingly worshipped him as they chanted along with the music.  They chanted about blood and about dancing.  Gabrielle quickly decided that she would have to blend in so she began to dance to the sounds of the mystical music and chants.  So many women were dressed in costume that it was difficult to tell who was a baccae and who was not.  Gabrielle tried looking into the eyes of every young girl she danced along side yet she found herself seemingly surrounded by women with fangs.  Thought it was frightful Gabrielle found herself soothed by the muscial chanting.  She kept dancing, and dancing until she could no longer distinguish herself between what was real and what was play.

     Suddenly the moment of pure soothing pleasure was interrupted as Joxer had entered into the festival.  He had been looking to find the bard in the crowd and when he finally approached her he was abrupt.  Joxer grabbed her arm and yanked her out of the mezmorizing trance.  Gabrielle found herself angered by his intrusion.  He declared that she had been dancing with baccae and that he had come to rescue her from them.  Gabrielle was insulted by his comment confident that she would be able to identify a baccae if she had seen one.  As they argued with one another Xena arrived taking Orpheous from the stranger that Joxer had carelessly left him with. 

      Joxer then asked Xena if she had gotten the lyre back, but Xena reported that she had been unsuccessful in her conquest.  Instead she had run into the three baccae who had stolen it.  They had been attacking some innocent men by a campfire just outside the village.  Xena had to battle them fiercely, but she was certain that they would find the lyre in Baccus’s lair.  Joxer broke in once more going over Xena’s plan.  He asked her if it meant that they would be going to retreive the lyre.  Xena confirmed that he had been right as he continued to lay out the plan.  Not only did they have to retrieve the lyre, but they needed Orpheous to sing, someone to play it now that Melodeous was dead, and with that the girls would be freed and Baccus could be slain. 

      Xena was seemingly impressed yet irritated for she had not wanted her plans to be completely revealed before those who clearly worshipped Baccus.  Yet it was too late and now the word was out.  Joxer was proud of himself for having constructed Xena’s plan so successfully.  He smiled with his goofy teeth, and then Xena said that she and Gabrielle would be going on the next part of the mission without Joxer.  Joxer was suddenly crushed for he was certain to be a part of Xena’s plan.  Now he was offended and upset as he reminded the warrior princess that he had been the one that had assembled the group of four.  His initial greeting was not exactly genious, but he did have a point.  If it had been anyone else his persuasion would have succeeded, but this was the warrior princess he spoke to.  She could not afford to have such a careless idiot tagging along.  Xena was certain that his presence would complicate the plan so she rejected him once more.

     Joxer turned away from Xena angry.  Yet he had one last attempt.  Xena had everything she needed accept for someone who could play the lyre.  He then proclaimed that he had not wanted to reveal his secret, but he had indeed known how to play the lyre.  His mother’s pleas with him as a youngster had won out.  Yet Joxer wanted to be certain that his secret wasn’t made known.  He proclaimed that he had a reputation to protect, but Gabrielle could not see anything valueable about the idiot.  Yet Xena did need a lyre player and so that was his way to reenter the mission. 

      Xena and Orpheous then walked ahead as Joxer grabbed Gabrielle once more.  He was clearly upset again, but this time it was about Xena.  Joxer was certain that he had seen a baccae bite upon her neck as she had turned away.  Gabrielle was not so certain of his accusation for if she had been bitten she should have turned into a baccae.  Yet Joxer would not let the issue go for he proclaimed that it took time for a baccae bite to take effect.  Again he played expert to something that he was clearly without knowledge.  Gabrielle was only a bard, but had discovered very quickly that the lyre player was little more than a nusance at best. 

     He continued to persist about the bite he had most certainly seen.  Joxer said that it had been the real reason that Xena did not want him to be present at Baccus’s lair.  Gabrielle was still not at all convinced.  She decided that she would end his feeble charade at pretending to be a warrior once and for all.  Gabrielle was prepared to march right up to the warrior princess and ask her to reveal her baccae self.  Yet Joxer jerked Gabrielle backward fearful of Xena’s baccae tendancies.  He then took the bard’s staff and ripped out his daggar to sharpen it.  Gabrielle found herself busting with irritation as she took back her weapon struggling with the idiot as they argued.  Suddenly Xena turned around to notice that the two were quarreling.  She asked what the issue was over, but neither Joxer nor Gabrielle were inclined to answer.  Instead they stopped their quarrel and continued on down the path toward Baccus’s lair.

     Their travels led them into the darkness of the night.  At dinner Joxer’s imagination became even more dramatic as he stared at Xena with his beady brown eyes.  Suddenly the irritation was so great that the bard’s cooking knife slipped and she sliced her hand open.  Joxer took the knife which had dropped to the ground and implied that there was danger afoot.  Gabrielle knew what he had been referring to yet Xena was still in the dark.  Then Xena rose from her place on the log and walked over toward the resting head of Orpheous.  She tried desparately to comfort him knowing his pain and anger over his loss.  Though she felt responsible she had done the best that she could to try to save Euridicy.  Orpheous would refused to accept Xena’s apology.  It was obvious that he held her responsible despite all that she had tried to do.  Orpheous made it clear that this journey to take down Baccus was the price that would never be enough to bring back Orpheous’s wife.

     Xena was angered by his attitude and lack of appreication for her efforts to help him.  She picked up the knife and suddenly hurled at a tree near the fire where Gabrielle and Joxer sat.  The two looked at one another as Joxer was certain that her action had confirmed that Xena was indeed a baccae.  For the first time Gabrielle was filled with fear for if the warrior princess was truely a baccae then time was running out.  That night as they slept Xena stood guard.  She awakened the bumbling idiot with fright as she stabbed a sand spider with her daggar.  This made Joxer more nervous than before as he played off his fears of the warrior princess.  He proclaimed once more that he was an expert on killing baccae.  Yet Xena knew he was only fooling himself.

      On the next morning they set off for the catacombs where the graveyard of the driads was located.  There they would find the bones of the driad which was the only weapon that could be used against a baccae.  Both Gabrielle and Joxer had never seen a driad.  Joxer inquired about what it was as Gabrielle wondered if they would have to dig up the bodies of the dead.  Xena explained that they would not have to dig anything up as she jarred an old box loose.  Joxer then laughed for he was certain that the draids would not jump out easily.  Yet his laughter suddenly turned to screams as he was being dragged into a grave by something from beyond.  Xena and Gabrielle quickly rushed to his aid as he began to sink into the ground helplessly. 

     The struggle was difficult for even the strength of the warrior princess could not pull him out alone.  He sank deeper and deeper as Gabrielle held tightly to his arm.  Yet he was taken beneath the ground in the struggle.  Gabrielle pulled harder, but found that the arm she held was not Joxer’s.  It was the arm of the dead man in the grave which was a shocking discovery.  Gabrielle screamed, but then she and Xena dug down into the grave in search of Joxer.  Soon they found him and slowly pulled him out together.  He could barely breath, but was very fortunate for soon Xena and Gabrielle had been able to rescue him.  As Joxer rolled out of the pit of death he could only complain about his missing boot which he stated had been worth at least fifty dinars. 

      There was little time to complain for there was yet another startling surprise.  Suddenly fire pits shot out from the ground and from them emerged three winged creatures made only of bone.  They shrieked with a horrid sound that made the ears curl.  Xena and Joxer drew their swords as Joxer ran from the sight.  Gabrielle took refuge behind the warrior princess as Xena began to swing her sword wildly.  These were the driads that Xena had been searching for.  All it took to kill one was to make contact with the sword, but it was easier said than done.  One of the three driads attacked the helpless Orpheous as it tried to capture his head and fly away with it.  The warrior princess caught sight of the fury and drew her chackram to save him from capture.  Quickly is soared in the air and struck down the first driad.  When it returned Joxer was making his own kill striking down the second.

       Again he was quite proud of his accomplishment.  It only helped him with his delusions about being a true warrior.  He then taunted the third and final driad as Xena struck it down before them.  Again all was quiet as everyone began collecting the driad bones.  Orpheous had thanked Xena for saving him, but it had been the first time he had ever shown his appreciation.  Joxer was still gloating about his kill against the winged creatures as he declared that the bones of a driad were as sharp as a nail.  Gabrielle began to feel strange as she collected the bones left near Argo.  It was as if she were begining to lose her concentration.  She tried desparately to listen to what Joxer was saying to Xena, but all she could hear was that she had thought that Xena was a baccae. 

      Suddenly Gabrielle felt herself losing control.  It was like no other feeling in the world.  Her mind lost its wits and her body filled with hot blood as she popped up from the ground and turned to face the enemy.  Yet when she caught sight of her enemy it was her friends.  There before her stood Xena and Joxer.  Gabrielle’s mind confused beyond recognition as her eyes filled with nightmare visions.  For a moment she could focas only to hear Xena pleading with her to fight it.  Yet the short moment of clarity ended once more as Gabrielle had turned into a baccae and soared into the air with her invisible wings.  She whisked by Xena and Joxer flying into the catacombs nearby.  Gabrielle’s soul was being pulled toward a force so strong and full of darkness.

     The goodness in her heart fought desparately to regain control, but instead it was replaced by the insatiable urge to bite.  There below her she caught sight of the enemy once again.  Gabrielle scaled the walls and the ceiling of the dark catacombs following her intended victims.  Her heart continued to fight, but instead she had to bite.  Suddenly she swooped down upon Joxer catching him from behind.  As she knocked her victim to the ground he struggled, but Xena’s skill prevailed.  Again Gabrielle soared through the air her blood angered by the urge.  Xena pleaded with Gabrielle to continue to fight against the raging force.  As Gabrielle tried to fight within she was again whisked away by the darkness.  She found herself within the lair of Baccus the evil one.

      It was familiar like a vision.  The vision she had had two days before.  Her baccae eyes saw there before her more of her kind.  All were enthralled to dance, and to drink the blood within the alter.  Gabrielle’s eyes spotted the one and only Baccus sitting upon his mighty throne.  There were hundreds of baccae women lining up to drink from his wine.  As Gabrielle tried to rage against it she found herself within her own fright.  Slowly she reached the head of the line trying to regain her mind.  Instead she found herself face to face with the evil one.  He had horns wrapping around out of his head.  His face was red like blood and his eyes were yellow piercing through the soul.  As he handed her a cup of blood he encouraged her softly to drink from it. 

     Gabrielle’s mind was enthralled by the great one.  Yet her soul still fought the darkness.  But the harder she fought to regain her sanity the more Baccus’s eyes pierced through her light.  They reached deep down into her soul and lit it with agony and fire.  Gabrielle could no longer resist the temptation as her blood began to boil.  Slowly she raised the cup to her lips and as about to drink from its bliss, but a familiar sound pierced the air.  It was Xena’s chackram that had stolen the cup.  The blood crashed to the floor slowly as Gabrielle watched it splatter into oblivion.  Then she turned to see the light.  It was Xena the warrior princess. 

     Xena had prevented the fatal drink as she began to fight hundreds of baccae.  Joxer had arrived alongside her and quickly went  with Orpheous to seek the lyre.  Gabrielle began to feel her mind coming back although the blood still boiled violently within.  Her heart yearned to help the warrior princess fight, but her mind could do nothing.  Instead she had to use all of her strength to continue to fight the battle within.  Baccus soon raged against the light as he took Gabrielle to the alter once again.  He then drew another cup of blood and handed it over to the helpless bard.  Its power was so great that again she was pierced within her soul.  Gabrielle raised the cup to her lips.  She could almost taste its wonderful richness, but then she heard Xena shout out to her and then to Joxer to play the lyre. 

     Suddenly there was an aweful sound.  It was like the sounds of dying animals.  The sound screetched through Gabrielle’s ears.  It was unbearble as she dropped the cup of blood to the floor.  And then he was gone.  Baccus had left the alter for Joxer.  He flew up to the top of the lair where Joxer and Orpehous made music together.  Upon his arrival the music stopped.  Yet the warrior princess was already scaling the walls.  She struggled to the top to confront Baccus as she drew a daggar and thrust it into his stomach.  Baccus fell to the ground far below.  He was motionless for a short time.  All of the baccae women found themselves within a state of confusion as Gabrielle again fought the darkness within.

     Soon Baccus rose again he laughed with evil intent.  He declared that only a baccae could kill him and Xena was not one of them.  The forces within Gabrielle were like a violent storm.  Only the sight of Xena’s light could bring her out of her rage.  As she looked upon Xena above he heart realized what she must do to win against the rage.  Gabrielle then flew up to join Xena.  She approached the warrior princess who pleaded with her friend to bite her.  Gabrielle’s boiling blood lusted for Xena’s blood as she sunk her newfound fangs into the neck of the warrior princess.

     This victim’s blood was able to sooth the rage within Gabrielle’s body momentarily.  She could begin to feel some sanity returning to her mind.  Quickly Xena too developed fangs and piercing evil eyes, but together they swooped down upon Baccus.  The warrior princess thrust her weapon into his stomach once more and this time her attack was a success.  Baccus suddenly lost all of his power within the darkness and disappeared into a ball of fire.  As the darkness began to dissapate within and about all was restored to its original beauty.  Even Orpheous himself received a gift for his body was miraculously returned.  All the women seemed happy yet unaware of what had just happened to them.  And thanks to Xena the baccae were turned into the beautiful women they were before.

      And so Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer continued on down the path.  Joxer was already prepared for the next mission yet three can often be a crowd.  Neither Xena nor Gabrielle were prepared to deal with the idiot any longer.  Gabrielle decided that she would reveal their next mission.  She told Joxer that they would go up against Medusa the woman with the snakes coming out of her head.  This legend could be scary for a young man for it was said that she could turn even the mightiest of men into stone.  So Joxer quickly decided that he would sit this next one out.  He proclaimed himself to be mighty yet he would not test his strengths against Medusa.  As Joxer left the friends behind Gabrielle thanked Xena for saving her from her baccae self.  Xena told Gabrielle that she was thankful too for Gabrielle had saved the warrior princess from the wrath of  Joxer the Mighty.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #31: Remember Nothing

The Xena Scrolls
By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia
Scroll # 31:  Remember Nothing

January 16th, 47 B.C.

I sing of a time when Xena the Warrior Princess never existed, and her best friend and loyal sidekick Gabrielle remembered nothing.  It all began on this day eleven years in passing since the death of Xena’s brother Lycious while fighting against the warlord Cortese.  Xena had lead the way in the fight to protect her home village of Amphipolis from the spoils of an evil warlord, but at the cost of the life of her dearly beloved brother.  The warrior princess had carried this guilt upon her shoulders for eleven years now as she had blamed her beliefs in fighting for the cause to protect her village, family, and friends.
Every year on this day Xena would come to the temple of the fates as she lit three large candles.  The first candle was for the maiden, the second for the mother, and the third for the crone.  She asked for the fates blessing and for their mercy upon her brother’s soul so that he may rest in peace.  After making this proclamation Xena’s sidekick Gabrielle entered the temple as she had been listening to Xena’s prayers for her brother.  Gabrielle expressed that she wished she could have known this great brother Lycious for she could feel how important he had been to Xena.  In fact, Lycious was still very much a part of Xena, and very much alive within her heart though she mourned his loss greatly.
Suddenly there were screams which came from outside the temple.  Xena the warrior princess and her faithful sidekick Gabrielle exited the temple to investigate the disturbance.  Once outside the temple they discovered that an army of evil warriors descending upon the monks of the temple attacking them in an attempt to destroy the temple of the fates.  Soon Xena the warrior princess burst into action as she twirled around upon the steps of the temple knocking out ten warriors with a quick move.  Then she flipped from the steps to the front of the temple where she met another skilled warrior in mask.  This skilled warrior appeared to know her quite well and most likely was yet another of the evil men she had encountered during her dark past.  She fought him gracefully as she blocked his kicks, but he slipped one by her as she took it across her face.
This mystical warrior flipped around her looking to set himself up for the next offensive strike, but Xena was not fooled for it was obvious that she knew his fighting style well.  She quickly took him out only to be attacked from behind by another young warrior.  Her sidekick Gabrielle shouted to warn her friend of the danger which lurked behind and with one move she put the final blow to her skilled enemy and whisked her sword from its resting place thrusting it into the attacker from behind.  The sword slid in smoothly.  Then as she turned to face the coward whom had met his death he fell to the ground and his helmet came loose.
It was only a young boy who had been taken by evil and had given his life in the thirst for blood.  He was now a lifeless young boy as Xena looked upon her bloody sword.  Once again she had caused the death of yet another young boy like that of her brother who had died at the tender age of fifteen at the battle against Corteeze.  As Gabrielle approached Xena, Xena stood as if she had drawn blood for the first time.  The guilt had built up within her and now after this event it had overcome her.  She stared at her bloody sword and then found herself drawn back into the temple of the fates leaving Gabrielle stunned with the lifeless young boy.
Once inside the temple Xena saw something extraordinary.  For the first time she had been given the privilege of seeing the faces of the three fates.  They proclaimed to her that it was rare that anyone was permitted to see their faces, but Xena had saved their temple from its attackers and now they were prepared to reward her for her heroic deed.  But Xena did not feel heroic.  She felt sick to her stomach as if this last kill had been her first.  Xena defied the fates offer explaining to them that she did not deserve a reward for taking the life of a young innocent boy.  She had known that he had only been caught up in the wrath of war as many young men and women do.  Xena’s wish was that she could have that young boy’s life back.  That was what she truly wanted and further more she had professed that if she hadn’t drawn blood and become a warrior in the first place life would have been simpler and better.
And so the fates bestowed their power upon Xena releasing her from all that she had done and they had given her a clean slate.  But there was just one condition for restoring all that had been lost as a result of Xena’s warrior path.  That one condition was that she was never to spill one drop of blood for if she would do so that would be the event that would turn the tables back to the current life path she had been on.  Xena explained to them that it wasn’t possible for she was a warrior.  How could a warrior live true to her way without spilling a drop of blood?  The fates proclaimed that it was not possible for a warrior to be a warrior without the spoils of blood.  They made it clear to Xena that in order for her to receive this gift they were bestowing upon her she must give up the warrior way.
Xena left the temple disgusted and almost unbelieving that they would give her such a gift.  When she stepped outside she called for Gabrielle, but Gabrielle did not come.  She looked frantically about, but there was no one around.  All of the dead warriors that had been there before she had entered the temple had disappeared, and there were no others around.  The moment was quiet as the wind whisped across the face of the warrior princess.  And then she was no more.  Xena looked down to see that she no longer wore that famous leather, and she no longer felt the weight of the mighty sword she had always carried upon her back.  As she looked down she noticed that she was dressed in one of her most favorite dresses as it felt soft and light.  There was no weight of blood only the power of pure light could be felt within.  It was a strange release for Xena for she did not understand at first.
And then she heard a familiar voice calling her name.  It was a man’s voice.  And as she turned around to see who it was she found herself to be greeted by the handsome young man named Lycious.  Xena could not believe that this was really happening.  Her brother was a grown man and he was alive.  Lycious was beautiful with his blond curly hair, and his dark piercing blue eyes.  Xena was overjoyed as she ran to throw her arms around the brother she had not seen in over ten years.  The brother she had lost had been given back to her for she had never drawn blood at the battle against Corteeze.  Lyious was surprised to see Xena in all of her excitement.  He didn’t understand that for her he had been taken from her for eleven long years.
And as they walked Xena couldn’t stop looking at him.  She couldn’t stop feeling the immense joy to be in his presence once again.  And as always Lycious still looked up to his big sister.  He still looked to her for guidance and support.  Lycious trusted in Xena as always.  And then Xena noticed that Lycious was wearing his barillas token.  It was a token worn by all of the young boys of her village as a sign of good luck and good fortune.  She couldn’t believe that he still wore it.  Infact, she teased him for it until he reminded her that it had been this token which had spared his life from the arrow that almost took it at the battle of Corteeze.  And then Xena realized how truly important this token was.  It was a symbol of her own good fortune.  Lyious was still confused at his sister’s sudden strange behavior so he suggested that she go home.  As he walked on down the peaceful green pasture in the forest Xena realized that for the first time in many years she was able to be home.
All she had ever wanted was to be able to have that place where she could be accepted and loved for she had shamed her village and family as a warrior, but now all had been restored.  As she skipped into the village the day was beautiful for life now had new meaning and it had joy for Xena.  She had never committed any of the wrongs that had caused her to hurt so many in her alternate life .  And when she arrived home she was still uncertain that all of this was real.  It was more like a beautiful dream than reality.  She looked upon the kitchen table and at the flowers upon the window.  It was as if she had been seeing life for the first time again.  Xena was as youthful and innocent as Gabrielle had always been.  She was the light of hope instead of the darkness of hate.
As Xena looked through her box she sifted through the keepsakes, the sentimental jewelry, and then suddenly from behind there was a presence.  Xena spun around with the reflexes of a warrior pinning her attacker to the wall instantly.  Only this was no attacker, but a suitor.  In fact, this suitor was none other than Mufias the boy next door.  According to Mufias he had been courting Xena since before the battle of Corteeze.  He was confused at Xena’s reaction to his entrance.  Mufias inquired if Xena had, had a bad day at the inn where she and Lycious worked side by side housing the great travelers of Greece.  But it had not been a bad day at all and Xena was hoping that Mufias was the only surprise that awaited her in a life of love.
And though Mufias was a surprise to Xena he was a pleasant one for he was tall, with dark coarse hair, and deep brown eyes.  His nose was a bit peculiar, but he would be just fine for Xena.  At least this Mufias was not some evil warlord like the many she had been courted by as a warrior like Draco, or even her great lover Marcus.  A passing thought of sorrow came to her as she thought of Marcus, but she knew and believed that things must have turned out better for him in this life because she had never gone to his camp to save that girl to stop a war.  Xena’s presence in his life had been a confusion which had led to his demise for he had loved her with all of his heart.
As Xena’s mind wandered Mufias interrupted reminding Xena that if she was getting cold feet about their wedding that he would only wait about fifteen more years on her before he would give up on courting the beautiful princess.  Apparently this Mufias was very much the comedian of the family clan.  But his comedy turned to sudden tragedy when Mufias also reminded Xena that it had been her mother’s last request that Xena and Mufias wed one another.  And so the surprises continued although this surprise was tragic for Xena’s mother had been lost as a result of Xena, Lycious, and the others deciding that retreating to the hills was their only hope against the wrath of Corteeze rather than to stand up and fight.  Mufias also mentioned that she and Lycious had been involved in the reconstruction of their village of Amphipolis and that her mother had died of a broken heart for the loss of everything she had ever known to Corteeze.
Xena immediately went to her mother’s tomb because although she had been gone for ten years it was as if she had just lost her mother.  She was mourning this loss knowing that if she hadn’t killed that boy in the battle at the temple of the fates she would never have been led to this alternate reality.  Xena cried for her mother as the tears streamed down her face from the depths of her innocent heart.  She professed to her mother that she was sorry and that though she would lose her mother and her friendship to Gabrielle at least the world would be a better place.  Without the existence of the warrior princess Gabrielle would never have left her family to join the warrior, and Xena would never have shamed her mother and all of the others she loved dearly from her village of Amphipolis.  And so Xena had reasoned that this choice was her only choice and it was for the best.
After mourning for her mother Xena found herself walking through the village once again.  It was a very vibrant place and she was happy to know that without a drop of blood she and her brother Lycious had been able to help lead the effort to rebuild their lives after war and destruction.  Yet while Xena was at the market she saw something that disturbed her.  An old man in the market was attacked by a warrior for accidentally bumping into him.  The warrior held a knife to the old man threatening his life.  And just when he was about to thrust the knife within the neck of the old man Xena pulled the rug right out from under him knocking the evil man to the ground.  She had clearly taken him by surprise though she played it off like a master proclaiming that she had only been checking the price of the rug and didn’t realize that the warrior had been standing on it.
The evil warrior held back from his anger and forgave the pure soul for her accident because she was a beautiful woman.  As he walked away from her he demanded that the rest of the warrior men bring out the slaves to collect the pickings for a dinner to the warlords in the area.  Xena was unaware of who was there, but all of these warriors she recognized for she had killed many of them in the battle for the greater good in the alternate reality.  But that was over now though there was a part of her that was still uncertain of how she was going to live her new life without blood shed.  It would be nothing short of the greatest challenge she had ever faced.  As she thought deeply the maiden appeared before her telling her not to have a second thought of it.  She was confident that Xena would make the right choice.  The maiden knew that Xena had a burning passion to be the warrior she had been destined to be in her other life.  Yet there was so much at stake for Xena.  No blood was allowed if she were to be a warrior here.
Then as the maiden disappeared into thin air Xena saw a vivid familiar face.  It was the face of her best friend Gabrielle.  Only Gabrielle was not who she had been in the alternate reality.  Gabrielle was a slave.  She was collecting food at the market for the dinner of her evil masters.  As Xena looked into the eyes of this familiar face she saw pain.  She saw grief, and she saw anger.  These were things she had never seen within the bard before.  How could it be possible that Gabrielle’s life would hold a worse fate than leaving her family?  But then as she tried to search Gabrielle with her eyes to be recognized within Gabrielle backed away from her with fear and suspicion.  And then she clumsily backed into the leader of the warrior gang in town.  It was the one that Xena had confronted about the old man.  The warrior leader was angered at the slave’s clumsy move and he raised his club to her to beat her as punishment.
Xena could not allow this to happen to her best friend.  She would not see Gabrielle beaten by these thugs.  Xena stepped in saving Gabrielle from the strike of the club only to anger the evil warrior even more.  Now she had made herself a target.  And then just as the warrior was about to attack Xena Mufias stepped in apologizing for Xena’s actions.  He claimed that it was all just a misunderstanding for they had been looking in the market to purchase a slave for themselves, and Gabrielle was perfect.  She was exactly what they had been looking for.  Mufias urged Xena to go along with his story and she did so with great reluctance for she did not see Gabrielle in the light of a worthless slave as did Mufias.  But that was all he had known.  He never knew Gabrielle the way Xena had known her.
Gabrielle looked to Xena with disgust knowing that she was just another piece of meat to be sold or a possession to be owned, used, and abused.  There was such a burning fire of anger within her emerald eyes.  And just when Xena thought that she would be triumphant in releasing her friend from the wrath of evil by a simple purchase the warrior leader rejected the sale for he said that the warlord Mezentious liked this one too much.  Xena was crushed for she couldn’t save her friend.  She couldn’t come to the rescue as she had always been able to do in the alternate reality of the warrior.  And then she watched helplessly as Gabrielle was dragged away in the binds of slavery as she struggled against Mufias to get to her friend.  Xena called out to her friend frantically, but her pleas were not heard by fate and not by Gabrielle.
But Mufias was not humored at Xena’s actions.  He scolded her for thinking that she could ever make a difference in the world.  In fact, he couldn’t understand why she would be so passionate about saving a worthless little slave girl.  But this wasn’t just any slave girl.  This was Gabrielle that they were discussing and for Xena there was no question about it.  Gabrielle had to be rescued from her binds in this life for if Xena had been a warrior Gabrielle would never have been a slave.  Again Xena was at fault for wanting this new bloodless life.  Xena could not live with herself knowing that Gabrielle’s soul was bound in chains.  As she argued with Mufias he reminded her that in this world she had to learn to go along to get along.  And then he left Xena alone to think about her latest actions.
Suddenly within all of her confusion the crone appeared before her.  She reminded Xena that Mufias had been wrong.  Xena did have the power to make a difference and Xena knew what the remedy was.  The remedy was to draw blood and to go back to the life path of a warrior which was true to her destiny.  But Xena could not believe that the world was a better place with the warrior princess in existence.  She argued with the crone that her life was better this way, but the fate reminded her of the life of Gabrielle and how different it was on this current path.  Yes things were different within this alternate reality, but this was Gabrielle that they were talking about, and Xena did not believe that Gabrielle was beyond saving.  Xena had faith that she would be able to find that light within Gabrielle that she had always loved during her life as a warrior.
Later that night Xena went to the supply market just before close to purchase a chicken.  She needed some information from the man at the market who dealt with the warlord Mezentious.  Xena was determined to save Gabrielle no matter what she had to do to get there as long as there was no blood spilled.  She had a plan and she would start at first light sneaking into Mezentious’s castle to retrieve the life and soul of her best friend.  Her plan was ingenious as it always was with the warrior princess.  She arrived at the castle within the delivery of goods under the wagon.  Xena had anticipated that they would do a check for stowaways so she was prepared.  And when the wagon stopped they did check only to find the red wine of a drunken wagon man.
As the goods were unloaded Xena made her way into the castle hiding around a nearby corner.  She watched her best friend work diligently in the binds of slavery.  And as she watched she noticed many of the other female slaves looked very familiar to her.  In fact, they looked a lot like the amazons she had known as the warrior princess.  Then she recalled her conversation at dinner the night before with Lycious of how he had said the amazons had been captured and demoralized by the warlord Chricous.  She realized that the only reason that these amazons were even here was because Chricous had been the one who had forced a war between the amazons and the centaurs which as the warrior she had been there to stop.  But now there was regret for she realized this too was her fault.  Lycious had wanted to start plans for an attack on these warlords last night, but Xena knew that she was bound to life without a sword and so she knew in her heart that there had to be another way.  The problem was that the answer had been eluding her.
Xena waited for the right moment and then suddenly she snatched Gabrielle startling the young slave girl.  Gabrielle was astonished for this woman from the market was obviously not one to take no for an answer.  The slave girl was almost angered for she could get in trouble if she were found talking to an outsider.  Xena reminded Gabrielle of their meeting in the market the day before.  Gabrielle confirmed that she remembered, but was less than pleased to see Xena.  In fact, this was unlike the Gabrielle that Xena had known before.  As her sidekick and best friend Gabrielle would have been over joyed to be reunited with her friend, but Xena had to remember that Gabrielle did not know her like she had known Gabrielle.
The slave expressed her disgust for the offer to be bought for her services while at the market the day before.  Xena had realized then that Mufias’s offer had offended her friend, but she couldn’t explain herself to this slave girl yet for her story was so outrageous that Gabrielle wouldn’t understand.  The explanations would have to wait.  For now Xena had to get Gabrielle back to freedom, and as she prepared to explain her plan to rescue Gabrielle to her freedom she was interrupted by a cold rejection.  Gabrielle walked away from Xena, and expressed that she was not inclined to do anything more than get back to work before being caught with Xena on a pleasurable break.  Xena could not take no for an answer.  She couldn’t accept that Gabrielle would not want to be free.  So Xena reached out to her friend once more with her heart, and as she did so Gabrielle reminded Xena of what happens to runaway slaves for she had tried her way at freedom once before.
The slave girl pulled down the sleeve of her old blue rags and revealed to Xena the marks of a scar that could never be healed.  She stared coldly at Xena as if she had convinced Xena that freedom was not an option for this slave girl now.  Her life path was that of a slave and nothing more as her fate had been sealed.  She was as worthless as the next slave.  Xena’s heart broke upon this sight for she could feel the pain of Gabrielle.  She could see how much had already been lost as a result of the fate of a slave.  Xena expressed to Gabrielle her sorrow of this great pain for it had been her fault again as Gabrielle’s name suddenly slipped from her lips with great compassion.
This intrigued the slave girl for just as she was about to walk away from Xena she looked upon this strange and stubborn young woman as if she had seen a ghost.  How did she know her name?  And just as the slave inquired of Xena, Xena revealed her own identity hoping to break through once again.  Xena could see how serious this truly was and how much of that beautiful light she loved about the bard had been lost.  And then she tried to convince the slave to try for her freedom once more, but was rejected once again until she mentioned that her brother Lycious would be able to protect her from this evil.
The slave girl was once again intrigued for she had heard of this Lycious person.  In fact, she had heard of him at dinner with Mezentious and Crichous on the night before as they had been disguising their plans to team up with a third powerful warlord.  Xena recognized all of these names from her life as a warrior, and in that life she had defeated them all.  In fact, she had defeated them all with the help of her loyal sidekick Gabrielle.  The slave girl continued by explaining that she had known about Lycious because it was said that he had run to the hills against Corteeze instead of standing up and fighting.  How was a coward going to protect her?  Xena could understand this reasoning and again she felt responsible.  The slave girl continued to express how though she was only a slave she could still see and she could still hear life happening around her yet life for her was over.  It had been over for a very long time.
Xena could see that Gabrielle though drained within was still as sharp as ever and this gave her hope for if Gabrielle could still hear and see life she could still write about it as she always had in the alternate world.  Xena knew that she had to get her back.  She tried getting through to Gabrielle’s heart by touching on that fiery part of her that had always believed in goodness and fighting for it no matter what the price.  But this slave girl once again rejected her.  It was as if she didn’t care.  This was unlike the Gabrielle Xena had known.  Xena reminded the slave girl of all of the people who would suffer as a result of these three sworn enemies banning together.  This certainly would snap her out of this dismal depression, anger, and hatred for Gabrielle had always cared more for others than she had for herself.  Xena thought of the time Gabrielle had taken an arrow to save a child during a bloody war almost ending her life.  But even that part of her had been seemingly lost as she once again tried to reject Xena.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that she didn’t even really know her.  But Xena did not believe that.  Xena recanted by reminding Gabrielle that maybe she didn’t even know herself.
And then it happened.  Xena could see a tiny bit of fire reviving from within this slave girl.  It was that fire that she had always known and loved.  It was that little bit of passion for others that was still within this Gabrielle that Xena had tapped into.  She had finally talked Gabrielle into another escape attempt.  Xena’s plan wasn’t going to fail this time.  And so they carried out the plan as the slave rolled Xena out in a large wooden meat barrel.  She rolled her right into the middle of the action as all of the slaves continued to work and unload the delivery.  Then the slave girl was stopped  under suspicion as one of the guards approached to check the goods.  He took a mug and unplugged the cork at the bottom of the barrel waiting for the liquor to come out.
Gabrielle waited nervously realizing that if this stranger’s plan failed she would be back under the whip to be punished for another escape attempt.  All that she could remember was the wretched pain and agony of the whip across her fair skin.  She cringed for a moment for not a drop of alcohol came out of the barrel.  Just as he looked to the slave girl for an explanation Xena suddenly exploded from within the barrel stringing the culrpit up by some rope.  She fought off a few of the close guards swiftly with a few kicks and punches, but without a weapon.  Xena instructed Gabrielle to put out the burning fire as she prepared a little contraption for successful escape.  This contraption was a simple one for it was only a large board placed upon a barrel on its side.  As Gabrielle put out the flames with a broom Xena called to her for the burning broom, and as always Gabrielle learned quickly and adjusted well just as she had as Xena’s trusty sidekick in the reality of the warrior.
Xena quickly took the broom setting fire to the armor of her attackers.  They screamed with agony, but not a drop of blood had been shed.  She quickly barked out another instruction to Gabrielle telling her to jump upon the contraption that she had set up.  Gabrielle was confused as to what this was supposed to do to help her escape.  For a moment she questioned this strange woman’s actions, but jumped upon the board obediently.  And then Xena cried out with her signature battle cry and flipped upon the opposite end of the board launching Gabrielle into the air out the chimney into the back of the trader’s wagon that Xena had arrived on.  But for the plan to be finalized Xena had to make her own escape so she burned the rope of the man she had strung up as she jumped upon the board ready to fly.
Soon she was back with her friend taking Gabrielle to the free life she deserved.  Xena was certain that Gabrielle would thrive once all was repaired for Xena’s faith in Gabrielle was strong.  She had no doubts that the bard would live once again.  When they arrived back home to Amphipolis Xena had given Gabrielle her mother’s dress.  It would be a first step in restoring that pure soul that she had always known and loved.  And Xena would accomplish this without blood.  She had to succeed.  Gabrielle took the dress with uncertainty for she had not yet figured out why this strange woman seemed to care.  She explained to Xena that the one thing she had learned in life was that she could trust no one.  Xena explained to Gabrielle her reasons for fighting so hard to bring Gabrielle to freedom.  She explained that Gabrielle reminded her of a friend that she had always known.  Xena described to Gabrielle a beautiful pure soul who was full of stories, light, and of love.  Gabrielle then glared back at Xena, and coldly reminded her that she had better take another look because she was not that person.
Then Xena knew that this was serious.  She realized just how much damage had been done to the young girl from Podedia.  But Xena was determined to breath life back into that vibrant soul yet.  She would not give up.  Xena left Gabrielle to change.  When she entered the front Lycious was there to congratulate her for rescuing this slave girl.  He looked up to Xena for it, and because of her action in the name of goodness he was determined and ready to plan an attack on these warlords.  Lycious was ready and willing to give his life for this cause of goodness.  He was full of drive, excitement, and energy as he went onto explain to Xena his plan of attack.  Lycious wanted Xena to lead one of the fronts for he knew how skilled she was from their sparring practices.  But Xena did not want this for there had to be a way to live and do good without shedding blood.  Lycious did not understand this as he continued to explain his battle plan.
As Xena argued with him Gabrielle appeared before them.  She was polite and apologized for interrupting them.  Xena looked upon her friend in her new clothes, and realized that it truly was the same Gabrielle for Gabrielle had always been one to eavesdrop because of her great curiosity in wanting to know what was going on around her.  In fact, it was this habit of eavesdropping which had given Lycious valuable information regarding the seriousness of their current situation.  This was almost comforting because for the first time within this life she saw the light of Gabrielle beginning to shine a bit brighter.  How pure she looked with her hair brushed and all cleaned up.  Xena was pleased and so was her brother Lycious.  It could be described as love at first sight.  Xena saw a chemistry between her brother, and this slave girl that she could never have foreseen, but was not surprised by it.
As Lycious looked into Gabrielle’s eyes she looked back.  He too could see that light, and Xena knew that he could love her the way she had always loved her as a warrior.  Lycious offered Gabrielle a chair graciously.  For the first time in two years this slave girl felt like a real human being.  A small smile spread across her pure face as she accepted this man’s charming offer.  And then suddenly there was a knock at the door.  Gabrielle jumped up from her perch in fear for it was her only reflex.  But Lycious tried to put her fears at rest explaining that it was only Mufias.
When Lycious answered the door Mufias appeared, but so did the army of Mezentious.  Mufias had made a deal with Mezentious.  In exchange for the return of his slave girl the deal was that the triple alliance would not attack Amphipolis, but as always the evil warlord cannot be trusted.  Then Mufias was left behind as Lycious tried to pursuade Xena to fight with a sword in the hopes that they could save themselves and their new friend Gabrielle.  But Xena refused to take up arms once again, and the three of them found themselves in Mezentious’s dungeon locked away in cages.  Lycious was not happy with Xena’s choice not to draw blood.  In fact, he was disappointed in her for this wasn’t the way he had thought that his sister would go down.
Lycious tried desperately to free himself with his barillas token as he was cutting with it in the wrong direction.  Xena tried to help her brother explaining to him that he should cut against the grains, but Lycious was not amused.  He was angry at Xena’s choice, and he couldn’t understand why she had not chosen to stand up and fight.  Xena reminded Lycious that it had been Mufias that had betrayed them, but Lycious was not in agreement for he felt that Mufias’s actions had been for the best intentions although they had failed.  Then Xena realized that somehow she would have to explain herself for she couldn’t bare to lose her brother’s respect.  She tried desperately to explain in some way as she fumbled for the right words, and then out of frustration she found herself about to tell the true story.  But then she realized that he would never believe her so she had said that it had been fear.  But it was never about fear for Xena.  It was about releasing herself from the shame of her past blood lust in the life of the warrior.  She then realized that if she had told Lycious she would not fight because it would result in his death that he would have gladly died to change things for the better.  Xena was beginning to realize that this life was a losing battle.
And then as she thought about this she heard sobs of anguish coming from below.  They were the sobs of a defeated soul.  Gabrielle had never sobbed that way before.  It was a pain within her that Xena did not recognize.  She realized that this pain was her fault too for Gabrielle would never have been a slave if Xena had not made the choice to live a blood free life.  Gabrielle agreed that it was Xena’s fault for she would never have remembered what it had been like to be free if it hadn’t been for Xena.  Gabrielle confessed to Xena through empty eyes that she didn’t know whether to thank Xena or to hate Xena.  And then Gabrielle scoffed at Xena’s earlier reference to a great friendship.  But Xena could not hear that.  She would not allow Gabrielle to sell herself short.  Gabrielle felt worthless again, and Xena couldn’t bare that feeling illuminating from her friend.  Xena then confessed her deep love for Gabrielle passionately reminding Gabrielle that she was her friend.  But this slave girl remembered nothing.
Suddenly two warriors came in to take one of them to Mezentious.  They chose to take Lycious, and just when they were about to cut him down one warrior turned on the other.  There was a great duel and Xena took advantage of the situation.  She grabbed hold of a loose knife hurling it to the rope which restrained her from the ground.  With great accuracy she hit her mark as always and released herself from her binds in warrior style.  As she reached the ground she burst out ready to face the warrior left standing at the end of the sudden duel.  But this was not an enemy.  The warrior removed his shroud of mystery.  He had been Mufias.  Mufias had realized his mistake and was now ready to follow Xena and Lycious in their beliefs.
Gabrielle looked down upon her new friends with disbelief.  Just when things had looked bleak they had come through again.  Xena and Mufias quickly released the two remaining prisoners, and Lycious had forgiven Mufias restoring their kinship of family.  Then Mufias explained their plan of a quiet escape to Xena and Gabrielle only to find that Lycious had plans of his own.  He was going to take on the entire party of warriors because they would be surprised and unsuspecting of his arrival.  Lycious also had faith in Xena that she would stand up and fight for what she believed in.  And so they soon found themselves within an epic battle.  It was the single event which Xena had fought so hard to avoid, but it was obvious that avoiding battle was impossible.
Lycious had entered triumphantly knowing that he would win his sister over in a decision.  Just as he had made his stunning entrance Xena saved him from an oncoming pickax meant to take his life by catching it barehanded.  And then the fight was on.  However, Xena still did not pick up a sword.  She fought skillfully as she disarmed a warrior only to pass the weapon onto Mufias.  Lycious kept urging her to arm herself, but she refused knowing the consequences of holding a sword.  Xena had always said that when you pick up a sword you become a target.  She refused to put herself in that position for she knew that she would most certainly have to draw blood.  Xena battled on without blood until Lycious looked her into her soul between kicks and punches only to say that she should not fight destiny.  And then Xena took a moment to reflect in the heat of a bloodless battle.
It was as if everything was in slow motion for her as she saw the events which were unfolding in this bloodless world she had been living for the past few days.  She compared the good with the bad on both sides of the dinar, and then as she gazed across this great battle to crush the evil triple alliance she saw her worst nightmare unfolding.  It was Gabrielle.  The young innocent bard from Podedia had a new fire within her as if she had made a new discovery.  A sword had fallen to the ground before her.  She made the choice to pick it up, and in less than a split moment she had made herself a target for blood.
Suddenly from across the battle the warlord Mezentious caught sight of his slave girl defying him in battle as he charged forward to take her life.  His last words to her were unkind for she was just another prize from the spoils of war to him and nothing more.  The slave girl knew this and she didn’t care anymore.  She had the power now  for she held the sword.  And then she made her choice thrusting the sword through the chest of the warlord Mezentious.  Xena watched as her friend died before her not in body, but in spirit for she had chosen blood lust, hate, and evil as her savior rather than to embrace love and peace.  At that moment Xena realized that this was not Gabrielle.  It wasn’t the friend that she had always known for the blood, and the hate illuminated violently from those tarnished emerald eyes.  Now Xena knew it was truly too late for the slave girl Gabrielle.
And so Xena had made her choice.  She looked to Lycious who had passed her a sword.  And then she looked to him one last time to say a regretful good-bye knowing that he had to die in order for her friend to live, and for all who had been saved by the warrior princess to be restored once again.  The warrior could feel the presence of an approaching enemy from behind as she thrust her sword into his stomach.  The battle raged into the sound of another familiar voice warning her friend of the danger which lurked from behind as she whisped around with one graceful quick move knocking the attacker to the ground without one drop of blood.  Her attacker had been only a young boy, and as the other evil warriors fled the scene Xena warned this young boy that he had been given a second chance.  She demanded that he change his ways avoiding bloodshed for her sacrifice to him.  He agreed to do so in fear, and then he too fled from the wrath of Xena the warrior princess.
Gabrielle stood beside her friend watching the young boy flee with the others, and then suddenly Xena grabbed the bard embracing her friend tightly.  The bard did not understand what was wrong with her friend.  But Xena laid Gabrielle’s suspicions to rest by thanking her friend for being the light.  Gabrielle then inquired of Xena about going back into the temple to see the fates once more, but Xena refused.  Gabrielle then asked Xena  why she seemingly was not herself, but Xena replied by telling her sidekick that she was more herself now than ever.  And as the two best friends left the temple of the fates Xena asked Gabrielle if she thought that the fates truly had control over our fates in life, and the paths we must walk.  Gabrielle wasn’t so certain that the story of the fates and their power of destiny was truth, but then Xena sung to the bard her story of the warrior princess who never existed and of the slave who remembered nothing.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #28: A Solstice Carol

 The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll# 28:  A Solstice Carol

December 23, 48 B.C. 

     I sing of the king whose name was Silvus for he could not find the love in his heart to allow a celebration of winter solstice.  An older poor couple was brought forth to him in the king’s the court for they had not one dinar to pay him though they owed for their taxes.  Silvus had no mercy upon them and he sentenced them to ten winters in prison for their humble crimes against his kingdom.  Yet he was not finished for their crimes were not all read.  It was discovered that they had also been guilty of celebrating the time of the winter solstice.  This enraged the king even more for he gave them two more winters for this crime which they had committed.

      Thus on the very same night a warrior princess and her loyal sidekick Gabrielle entered into Silvace’s kingdom unaware of the laws which forbade the celebration of solstice.  Gabrielle was excited for it was the eve of solstice and it was a time of giving and of sharing love and hope.  Xena of course was not as excited, but the bard insisted that they each shop in the market and buy a gift of solstice for the other.  They were not to spend more than five dinars for their gift, but Xena did not see the point when she could just as easily give Gabrielle the five dinars.  Gabrielle argued with her friend reminding her that it was the surprise of the gift and the thought involved in choosing a gift that made this tradition a special one.

     Upon arguing the solstice tradition the two were interrupted by a thief who had stealthfully passed between them stealing Xena’s prized chakram.  As they watched the thief disappear into the crowd in the market they noticed that he was only a child.  They decided to separate splitting up to trap the thief between them.  The chase was on as Xena bolted closely behind the young thief watching his every move.  She noticed that he only tried to steal one other item from another unsuspecting shop keeper.  Xena decided to give him space and to follow him for he was not the typical thief.

     And then as he passed through the back alley way Gabrielle again caught sight of him.  She was about to confront him when Xena motioned quietly for the bard to follow.  The two women watched as the boy entered into a large old building which looked to be an orphanage.  This was definitely not a typical robbery.  Xena and Gabrielle followed their thief through the doors of the orphanage and looked to see why he had stolen Xena’s chackram.  There before them stood a large beautiful solstice tree with all of the beautiful trimmings and bright golden decorations.  There were candles burning upon each branch illuminating the room and there upon the top of the tree was the most lovely star the bard had ever seen.

     However, Xena was not so impressed by this beautiful star for it was indeed her stolen chakram which sat radiantly upon the top of the solstice tree.  Xena was a bit offended that someone would even think of her chakram as less than a deadly weapon, but Gabrielle was tickled to see the many functions that the graceful chakram held.  The young boy was scolded by the lady who ran the orphanage for indeed he had stolen Xena’s chakram yet the bard found it cute that he would go to any length to find a star in the spirit of solstice.  Xena approached the wonderful tree and took the chackram from its resting place on top.  It had been wrapped in little red, white, and gold bows which brought out so much color.

     Suddenly the doors of the orphanage were busted open for there were the guards of Silvus and the bailiff who sat upon Silvus’s court.  The bailiff held an order upon a scroll which read that the orphanage was to be vacated by midnight for they had been sentenced for celebrating solstice.  Not only that, but if they did not leave they would have to pay a penalty of 10,000 dinars for their crimes.  This was not fair, and seemed a cold-hearted deed.  Xena took matters into her own hands.  She took her chakram bows and all throwing it around about the soldiers wrapping them like solstice gifts together and bound. 

     As the warrior princess took the four guards of Silvus to a prison within the orphanage Gabrielle took the bailiff noticing that his heart was not as cold as the words upon his parchment.  She asked of his name and he said that it was Senticles.  Gabrielle had heard of this name Senticles as she searched within her memory to find out who he really was.  And then it came to her.  Gabrielle remembered that she had once been given a solstice gift that had been crafted by Senticles himself.  It had been a little wooden toy lamb whose mouth would open if it’s tail was pulled.  Gabrielle expressed her joy as she remembered how happy that toy had made her feel as a child.

     Senticles was delighted for a moment to see the joy that his craft of toy making had brought to Gabrielle, but expressed his sadness for toys had been outlawed the day solstice had been banned.  When Xena had returned she had wanted to take Senticles to the cell with the other solstice haters, but Gabrielle convinced her that Senticles was not one of them.  Instead they would use Senticles to help them in releasing the ban upon this most wonderful holiday. 

     Gabrielle then asked of Senticles why solstice had been banned, and Senticles told of Silvus’s wife Analia whom had passed away upon a Solstice eve many winters before.  His heart had been broken on a night that was meant for joy and so the bard could understand his loss, but now it was time for Silvus to stop mourning and to celebrate once again.

     Gabrielle had her own plan though Xena was opposed.  She wanted to fight this battle without weapons for the bard was confident that it could be done.  Xena of course wasn’t certain, but Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior princess reminding her that it indeed was a peaceful time which should be resolved with peaceful measures.  Gabrielle promised Xena that if her plan did not work that they would most certainly smash heads to release these saddened people of Silvace’s kingdom.

     The first thing that had to be done was to gather the necessary supplies.  Gabrielle was given 35 dinars for it was all that Xena had left herself.  There was a very long list, but Gabrielle promised Xena that she would be able to haggle and get everything on the list.  And as they parted Xena caught Senticles trying to escape his duty to the people of Silvus for he was a coward who could not bear to think of what Silvus would do to him if he found out about his deeds with the warrior princess.

      The hour was growing late as Gabrielle entered the market place.  It was now dark and some of the shops were beginning to close up.  Yet as her eyes roamed about seeking a deal she was interrupted by the sounds of a man cursing and a donkey screaming.  Gabrielle turned about to watch as she discovered that this stubborn donkey was not about to move anywhere, and the man shouted back.  She interjected hoping that she could be of some assistance to this man his donkey and their struggle.  The man declared angrily and with frustration that he was about to take this beautiful animal to the tannery.  He was certain to get 50 dinars for the donkey. 

     Gabrielle was suddenly upset for how could someone take a loving animal to the slaughterhouse on the night of solstice eve.  Without another thought she offered the scrawny middle-aged man 20 dinars for his animal.  He refused for he did not want to give up his 50 dinars.  In fact, the man said that he would not take less than 25.  But then Gabrielle reminded him that his donkey was only worth 50 dinars if he could get it to the tannery.  It was quite obvious to the bard that this donkey was not about to budge.  She then offered him 30 realizing that he wouldn’t even get 50 despite what he had claimed.  The man suddenly stopped trying to struggle with the donkey and he declared that he would take 35 dinars.  Gabrielle smiled with delight and then suddenly realized that she had just spent all of their money to save this donkey from the slaughterhouse.

     Yet then she realized that she had done something in the spirit of solstice and it did not matter that she had spent all of their money on this poor stubborn donkey.  So she took the donkey upon exchanging her last 35 dinars and gave him a name.  She called him Tobias.  Upon reaching the orphanage Gabrielle had been told that she could not bring Tobias inside.  As she tried to take him back out into the cold Tobias refused to budge once again.  She was beginning to feel the same frustration that the former owner had experienced with this stubborn animal.  Then suddenly someone whistled and Tobias responded.  Gabrielle was delighted to see that this donkey had been trained just the way Argo had been trained by Xena.  As Gabrielle took her new friend back out into the cold she tried to comfort Tobias and promised him that she would stay outside with him.  She did not want her new friend to be lonely.

     Upon Xena’s return Gabrielle realized that she had to explain why she had been unsuccessful at obtaining the list of things needed to complete their mission.  As Xena came into the orphanage Gabrielle confessed persuasively that she had made a wonderful investment by saving the poor animal from the tannery.  Xena could not argue or be upset with her friend for she knew how big the bard’s heart truly was.  Gabrielle had only done what she thought had been right.  That was what the warrior princess loved most about her misguided young friend.

     Xena then explained what had happened while she was at the castle.  She had found all of the things that they had needed to complete their mission, but King Silvus had not been so responsive upon her visit to his bedside.  He had called upon his guards when he discovered that Xena had come not to rob him, but to convince him to restore the celebration of solstice and to ease up on his tax laws.  It was clear that the next part of their mission was to be completed.  Yet they needed just one more person to get involved so Xena turned yet again to Senticles.  She found him in the court working very late as he always did.  Xena entered quietly behind him watching as this old toy maker changed sentences and numbers allowing some mercy to enter into the lives of the poor and unfortunate.  Xena found herself touched by this and was certain that he would get involved.

      She approached him complementing him on his good deeds, but he was modest and almost nervous that anyone had even discovered his small deed.  Xena then asked of him to join her and Gabrielle to carry out their plan yet he refused.  He would not go further than changing the numbers upon his parchment, but Xena reminded him that she could easily give word to Silvus of Senticles’s deeds against Silvus.  Senticles had no other choice, but to join the warrior princess and the bard in convincing Silvus otherwise.

      And so the first part of Gabrielle’s plan had begun.  Xena was dressed as the beautifully charming fate Clotho.  Clotho had been the fate of Silvus’s past and she was there to remind Silvus.  Silvus was afraid at first, but listened as he shook in his bed.  Clotho insisted that he come with her to visit his past, but Silvus refused.  Then Clotho reminded him of what would happen to his own future if he chose not to come with her.  While Xena performed before Silvus, the toy maker performed behind the curtain making his magic believable.

     Once Silvus was convinced of the power of Clotho he reluctantly put on his robe and joined Clotho and they went down to the basement of the castle.  It was old and musty.  There were cobwebs all about for no one had been there for years.  Yet the warrior princess had been there earlier when she had discovered the picture on the wall.  It had been of Analia and Silvus together and Analia’s eyes were very similar to Gabrielle’s.  As Clotho guided Silvus through his past there before him was a shadow .  It was the living breathing shadow of Annulya.  She spoke lovingly to him yet within a ghostly voice.  Clotho then turned to the king and began to speak to him as the suspended shadow fell suddenly to the ground.  Gabrielle fought violently through the robes which she wore for she could not see what was going on.  And then suddenly the shadow was hoisted back into the air.

      Analia then told Silvus that it was now time for him to let go of the pain of his past.  She encouraged him to leave her in peace though she apologized for leaving him in her death so many years ago.  For a moment Silvus was convinced of this mysterious shadow until he realized and reminded this shadow that she had not died, but she had left him.  Suddenly, Silvus became angry and almost distraught.  Then he fainted and fell to the floor.  Gabrielle was concerned that maybe they had gone too far, but Xena assured her that it had only been a drug that she had put into the king’s wine which would allow him to sleep, but for only a short time.

     Then Xena took Silvus back to his bed chambers and Gabrielle whistled for Tobias to take her back out to the ground outside the castle.  Once Gabrielle touched the ground she began to look for Senticles for he was supposed to have been watching Tobias.  It was obvious to the bard that his cowardice had won out and Senticles had abandon the people of Silvus once again.  Yet she saw Tobias and was delighted at how smart this animal truly was.  It was as if despite the absence of Senticles this beautiful animal knew just what he had to do.  For that he had saved the mission.

      While Gabrielle took Tobias to search for Senticles Xena returned with Silvus to his bedchambers.  There was little time before the drug from his wine would wear off and he’d be certain to figure out what was really going on.  Xena changed costume as well for phase two of the plan required that she become the fate of the present.   Lachesis rudely awakened the sleepy Silvus to take him on a journey of the present.  At first Silvus was angered yet again at his suddenly being ripped out of sleep, but Lachesis convinced him otherwise.  She began by asking him to change into common clothes so that he may walk about his subjects undetected.  Lachesis desired to show the king his ugly ways from the perspective of those who know him best.  Even Silvus seemed unaware of his arrogance being the king.  This showed in his initial defiance of Lachesis’s request of him, but it did not last.  With Xena behind the mask of the present convincing the king to so ask he had been asked was not a problem.

      Meanwhile Gabrielle found herself amongst the local townspeople in search of Senticles’s home.  The people knew just where to find Senticles and so Gabrielle followed his trail straight to his front door.  She knocked and called out to him for she was certain that he would be cowering there.  After a few moments of  persistence and determination Senticles finally answered.  Gabrielle was quite agitated that her new warrior friend was not so enthusiastic about helping in the greater good.  She scolded him for leaving and asked him what had happened.  Senticles was quick to defend his cowardice explaining that there were two guards that had come by while he was watching Tobias.  Tobias had been tied to a rope which acted as the pulley in making Gabrielle rise above the floor as the shadowy spirit of Analia.  When Senticles had run away it had almost blown the cover of Xena and Gabrielle.  Gabrielle questioned Senticles harshly wondering why he ran away from his responsibility to herself and Xena.  Senticles responded with a new defense.  He explained that he had seen Xena fight earlier and that he was confident Xena was more than capable of rescuing herself and Gabrielle.  Senticles’s faith in Xena’s interest in protecting him had been lacking.  Before Gabrielle could continue interrogating Senticles for his irresponsibility and cowardice Senticles responded that even Tobias was safer than he within the wrath of Silvus for a donkey would not be punished for a crime against Silvus.

     Gabrielle was disappointed in the toy maker whom had once brought the power of love and hope to children all over Greece.  She could not grasp what had taken that from him.  He seemed to be selfish as Silvus.  Gabrielle could not convince him otherwise for his heart had seemingly been damaged beyond repair.  With that Senticles had demanded that Gabrielle walk away and leave him alone for he wanted no part in goodness ever again.  As Gabrielle’s heart sank for his loss of hope she turned away preparing to give up and move on with the plan without Silvus.  But just as the bard turned away from Silvus she saw the most beautiful sight.  It was the sight of thousands of toys which Silvus had made for children.  There were dolls, and rocking horses, wagons, and more.  All were shimmering with hope waiting for the heart of a child to be their new home. 

     The bard was taken aback and in awe of the spectacle of all of those toys.  She felt like a child again as her eyes roamed about the beautiful toys.  Suddenly it came to her like Zues’s lightening.  She realized that the way to Silvus’s heart was still through the hearts of children.  The innocence within began to speak as she inquired of Silvus about the toys.  Of course he answered as she had expected, but then quickly scolded himself for leaving the toys about.  Gabrielle realized there would be a little work involved in winning him over, but she was confident that she could do it.  The bard then ran toward the toys and began to frolic about picking up a doll as she noticed that its eyes opened and closed.  Silvus rushed to Gabrielle’s side taking hold of the doll that Gabrielle had taken and began to explain how it worked.  But before he could get a second word out Gabrielle moved onto another toy. 

      She had spotted the very same toy that had been given to her as a little girl.  Gabrielle pulled a little wooden lamb off of the shelf before here and began pulling the tail as it made the little sounds of a lamb.  Her heart fluttered for in this moment she was a child again as Silvus followed watching how his work had touched the heart of someone he knew.  Gabrielle could sense Silvus’s heart opening up with delight and so she decided to take a leap of her own faith.  She planted the seed for Silvus suggesting that all of these wonderful toys could make more children happy again.  They could begin at the local orphanage.  For a moment Silvus was with Gabrielle again as Gabrielle began taking toys off of the shelf to be packed for delivery.  Yet Silvus was again reminded of the law of Silvus which stated that toys were illegal.  He was still hesitant despite the light in his heart.  Gabrielle continued to push despite Senticles’s doubts.  She moved ahead with new plan in mind taking the bag which Silvus held suggesting that it could be used for transport to the orphanage.  The bard continued to stuff toys into the bag as Senticles tried to plant doubt.  Gabrielle spoke against doubt explaining that when Xena was finished with Silvus that the king himself would hand out the toys to all of the children of his kingdom. 

     Then Gabrielle moved onto the issue of disguise.  Senticles would need a disguise to get past the guards so that he could deliver the toys.  Just then Senticles halted hope once again.  He did not like to be pushed into a small corner, but Gabrielle refused to allow his excuses to prevail any longer.  She reminded Senticles of his worst fears.  He feared being locked away in a small space.  Yet he was already locked up and had not even realized it.  His heart was confined to the law of the land which had been created by Silvus’s hand.  Gabrielle expressed that Senticles only had himself to fear for it was his own doubts that had held him back.  It was not Silvace’s law.  Gabrielle pointed out that Senticles was afraid to stand up for his heart’s desire and the heart’s desire of others.  Then she sealed the deal reminding him that he was the one in control.  It was Senticles who made the choice for life and the lives of others.  And so Senticles had seemingly been convinced to stop running and hiding to stand up and fight.  Even if it meant that fighting would entail making toys and delivering joys.  As expected Gabrielle, Senticles, and Tobias ran into the guards on their way to the orphanage, but they dodged them easily with Senticles’s new disguise.  Yet they would have to find a new way into the orphanage rather than using the front door in order to avoid the risk of their own arrest.

     It seemed as if the plan was back on track once again as Lachesis had just arrived at the orphanage with Silvus.  Upon entering the orphanage Silvus expected to have the door slammed in his face already aware of his impending deeds.  Yet the young boy whom had answered did not recognize his king without his crown and royal robes.  Instead the boy invited the stranger in for food and drink despite how little they had.  Lachesis urged the boy to continue sharing their hardships at the orphanage in order to paint a better picture of the king’s terrible wrath.  Silvus was angered as he listened to the boy speak of how terrible the king was.  There was not one thing nice about Silvus to the boy or to any other child at the orphanage.  Yet a stranger was welcome to share in their secret solstice celebration for the orphanage was to be shut down at midnight.  When the stranger inquired he was reminded of the law.  If taxes were not paid then the land went back into the hands of the king.  The orphanage had been taxed beyond its means and could no longer stay open.  All of the kids would be out in the street by the next morning.  Without a home the children were not afraid to break the law of celebrating solstice.

      After being described as the most tyrant king upon the Aegean the stranger listened as the children’s choir sang.  Lachesis was hoping that the king was convinced of his crimes, but instead she was shocked to find otherwise.  At the end of the celebration as the time struck the hour Silvus rose from his place with rage.  He blamed Lachesis for his nasty deeds of the past several years for it was she and the other fates that had separated Analia from him in the first place.  It was an unexpected turn of events that not even Xena could have predicted.  And so the king stormed off toward the doors of the orphanage.  He’d had enough of the fates’s silly games.  As he opened the doors he was greeted by the forces of Silvus.  The soldiers were not pleasant and they demanded his surrender, but Silvus resisted his own arrest.  When Silvus defied his own law the guards laughed in his face certain that he was not their king.  Instead the officer proclaimed himself to be the queen of the amazons and so the battle began.

      Lachesis transformed into Xena as she kicked down the columns which held up the foyer.  This gave her and Silvus the time to escape as she whisked him back through the doors inside of the orphanage.  When they reentered Lionel the young boy whom had been so kind to the stranger warned that they should leave now.  Yet just as he had spoken of the arrest that awaited them Silvus passed out from shock and Lachesis was no more.  As soon as Lynal realized that it was Xena that had brought in the stranger he warned that the guards they had trapped inside the basement earlier had escaped.  Xena was not so worried about those guards any longer.  She was more concerned with a new plan.  As Lynal directed her down into the basement she took Silvus to be watched by the keeper of the orphanage. 

     Lynal took the rest of the children to a safe hiding place as Xena looked about to design a last-minute change of plan.  But just when it seemed that things were beyond repair Senticles and Gabrielle dropped in through the air.  They had entered into the orphanage through a fire shaft which had been not so comfortable for the bard.  Yet Senticles was happy as a boy as he jumped up from the ground with his toys and danced with joy.  He picked up Gabrielle and began to dance with the bard as Xena watched with delight and Senticles chuckled within his disguise.  He wore a red suit with a large white beard that Gabrielle had found back at the basement of Silvus’s castle.  It was all too perfect for the warrior princess who now had a new plan with two new warriors at her side.

     Using Senticles’s toys and the decorations of solstice Xena, Gabrielle, and Senticles defeated the guards of Silvus.  It was beyond imagination that a battle could be won by the joy of toys alone, but it was all that had been needed to have Silvus’s laws defeated.  As the battle raged on an army of children arrived as they picked up arms and loads of toys.  The guards of Silvus were made fools for they were being defeated by women and children.  Just as the battle came to a climactic roar Silvus appeared defying his own laws.  He was the final blow to the demise of local law.  As the battle ended he declared that the orphanage would not close and that no one would be evicted. 

     In the next moment things turned solemn as a dark figure emerged from the basement.  Silvus’s fears rose as he begged the future not to take his life.  The king had hoped that this act to redeem himself would save him from the fates, but instead it healed him.  Just as Gabrielle was about to explain who was behind the dark robe the hood of disguise was lifted.  Silvace’s lips spoke the name of his beloved who stood before him with regret.  Analia had heard his desperate pleas as he had come out of his shock in the basements.  She realized now that she too had made mistakes.  Both of their selfish mistakes had caused the suffering of many innocent people.  And so the two worked out their differences and let love back into their hearts.

      As the morning sun rose Xena and Gabrielle took Argo and Tobias down the road onto their next journey.  Xena praised Gabrielle for her choice in battle plans for this particular battle and the bard was pleased that she had impressed Xena.  The giving did not stop at that for on the day of solstice the four of them ran into some weary travelers.  Gabrielle offered them a solstice gift reluctantly giving away her new found friend Tobias so that the three could make the long journey west.  Upon saying good-bye to Tobias Xena offered protection for the young couple and their newborn child, but it was refused.  And so as Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo continued on down the path Xena surprised Gabrielle with another gift.  It was one of Senticles’s toy lambs.  Gabrielle felt guilt for not having the time to find a gift for Xena, but instead the warrior princess insisted that the bard’s friendship to her was a gift.  The bard could not offer to the warrior princess any other gift worth more than her undying  friendship.

Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #26: Callisto

The Xena Scrolls

By: Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll #26: Callisto

October, 48 B.C.

I sing of the woes of Callisto. A woman who was struck down by the cycle of violence. Her life began in a village called Syra located somewhere between Corinth and Amphipolis. One day her village was attacked by a well-known warrior princess. On that day many perished in the flames. There was no discrimination for women and their children this time. The flames swept through the village of Syra with a vengeance for blood. It was the vengeance of a warrior princess whose village had also suffered the fate of blood and vengeance years before. It was said that there were only a handful of survivors from that attack and a young fair-haired girl named Callisto had been one of them.

Callisto had lost her entire family to this cycle of hatred. At first she mourned for her sister, father, and mother, but the mourning did not last for it was replaced with a lust for blood. This lust for blood consumed Callisto’s tattered heart and battered soul. Her mind soon raced into a psychotic rage as the years went by she plotted her vengeance. On a day not long after the salvation of the warrior princess Callisto had completed her plan of vengeance. She knew exactly how she would get to Xena and so it began with one village and then another. Callisto and her newly acquired following of warriors descended upon villages destroying them and each time leaving few survivors. But for those who did survive she always had a message for them. “Tell them I am Xena warrior princess.” And with that she would leave them with an evil laughter to remember her by.

Callisto’s wrath lasted for many seasons with little notice until one day a young farmer named Melos was traveling to his home. Melos caught sight of an old woman from his village. She was lying on the road helpless barely clinging to life. When Melos approached her she sung the tale of Xena the warrior princess and of what she had done to her and their village. Melos was alarmed knowing that his wife and child were there in the village. The old woman told him that everything was in ruin and that it was not likely he would find anyone left alive. This messenger of death and destruction took her last breath and died in Melos’s arms.

A few days later the farmer Melos sat in a tavern a marathon from his home drowning his sorrows. Sitting next to him was a warrior woman in leather with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. She looked over to him noticing his despair. It was familiar to her and she offered him her drink out of kindness and sympathy for him. He accepted it with gratitude and then he introduced himself. He held out his hand as the kind stranger introduced herself as Xena. Suddenly Melos stumbled to his feet with rage for this was the woman whom he was told had killed his wife and son. She was the bringer of death and destruction. Xena the warrior princess had taken away his entire life.

As Melos prepared to take his own blood vengeance against Xena he was no match for this strong stealthful woman. He lunged forward toward Xena yet she dropped him to the ground in an instant. Then the warrior princess drew her sword and held it threatening her attacker by the end of her blade. Melos was certain that this Xena was the one that had taken his family from him. Xena couldn’t believe what she was hearing for she had given up the business of blood vengeance a long time before. Not only that, but Xena was certain that these stories were false and impossible for she had never been so dark as to kill women and children. She had to find out more about this. Xena had to know who was disguising themselves as the bringer of death and destruction. It was told that every traveler from the tavern to Corinth had a tale of destruction caused by none other than the warrior princess herself. And as Xena and her companion left the tavern Melos promised that he would come after Xena to receive his vengeance.

On the path to Corinth Xena and her companion ran into a small group of battered villagers. They all had the same look as did Melos. They were torn, battered, and poisoned with hatred. All of them were full of fear. Xena explained to the bard that it was that fear that she had once craved during her days as an evil warlord. That fear commanded a certain respect. But now it was different of the warrior princess. She declared that she and the bard would continue on traveling toward Corinth until they were able to find out who was truly behind all of the needless killing.

Yet as Xena and Gabrielle waded through the group of fearful commoners there was one strangely dressed man with a strainer for a chest plate and a goofy looking helmet. He shouted out an inquiry demanding to know if the woman approaching him was indeed the warrior princess. Xena answered with disgust in her voice feeling very annoyed by his question. After she answered he introduced himself as Joxer the Mighty. He said that he was a warrior and desired to join Xena’s army. He was certain to be able to offer his services to the blood lusting warrior woman. This peculiar man did not act like a warrior. He claimed to have a passion for blood, but it was obvious that he had never killed anyone before. The bard could read him very well and she let him know that she did not take him seriously. This bumbling idiot was offended and declared that he had not even been addressing the bard, but Gabrielle ignored his insulting remarks. As Xena tried to ignore this bumbling idiot he did not give up trying to convince her. The more bloody his words became the more irritating to the warrior princess. He told her that had a nickname of bloody Joxer, and that he had once bathed in a pool of blood. In fact, he was so certain that he loved blood so much that he even went as far as to say that he suffered from depression if he did not draw blood regularly. He was definitely not convincing and sounded more like a lost child than a true warrior. Finally the warrior princess had enough of the antics of the idiot. She delivered a blow to his nose rejecting his pleas to serve her reign of terror. Then she warned him that if he did not stop his lusting for blood that she would show him the reality of blood lust.

As he sat up from his place upon the ground he was disappointed that Xena had rejected his offer to join her legions. For Xena things were getting serious because now strangers were looking for her just to be a part of all of the hatred. Xena and Gabrielle continued on toward Corinth and as they traveled Melos was not far behind. In fact, even Argo could feel his presence as she stirred with a warning to the warrior princess of the enemy within the brush. Once again he tried to get his vengeance on Xena as he leapt from above within a tree down onto the warrior princess, but a farmer could not defeat the warrior princess in battle. She acted to his advance and flipped him over her shoulder down onto the bottom of the hill. Then she took a rope and tied his hands. The warrior princess led the vengeful farmer toward the tree he had scouted her from and tied him to its trunk. Gabrielle could not help, but feel sorrow for a good man such as Melos. In her heart the bard knew that he was truly a good man, but this cycle of violence seemed never-ending. It was infectious like a disease and took the goodness away from the good.

This cycle had begun with Cortese when he and his army had killed Xena’s brother Lyceus. Then Xena’s heart had been infected with this vengeful hatred which had led her to kill, and now another dark force had come forth killing Melos’s wife and six-year-old son. Gabrielle tried to comfort Melos and to dissolve his hatred as she left him a bed roll for later. Then she bade the good farmer farewell hoping that he would soon be able to defeat the darkness and come to his senses. Yet as Xena and Gabrielle left him behind he swore to get his vengeance on the warrior princess. It was clear what had to be done. This cycle of violence had to stop. Xena blamed herself for it, but it began long before Xena’s own village of Amphipolis was ever attacked.

Soon Xena and Gabrielle arrived in a village along the road to Corinth that was suffering the wrath of hatred. At the entrance were many dead villagers tied to crosses on display for all to see. The smell of death was evident yet there were still many running about the streets screaming in agony for their lives to be spared as Callisto the fair-haired warrior woman reigned within her dark vengeance. The warrior princess charged into battle upon Argo as Gabrielle ran onto the scene with staff in hand. Xena caught sight of three warriors beating an innocent smith as he was unable to defend himself. The warrior princess could take no more of this violence. She quickly pulled out her chackram and threw it in the direction of the three attackers. It bounced off the three heads of the evil warriors and rounded the village square. Just as the chackram was about to round the corner back toward its commander it was snatched by the fair-haired warlord. Callisto appeared before Xena as if expecting her arrival. A sly smile spread across her face as she stood across the village looking Xena dead in the eye. She held Xena’s chackram within her hand triumphantly urging the warrior princess onto battle.

And so the face off began. Callisto taunted Xena into a jousting combat to regain possession of her chackram. Callisto drew her sword as did Xena. As they went for their first pass at one another the fair-haired Callisto screamed with a terrible vengeance as she charged forward upon her horse. Xena responded with a warrior grumble upon her horse. Their charge ended in a stalemate to the dismay of Xena’s new rival. Neither woman took the advantage. Upon their second pass Callisto screamed with vengeance again and with even more determination. Gabrielle had never seen a warlord with the kind of passion that the warrior princess had fought with yet Callisto had it within. They clashed swords, but Callisto won the second pass for she had gotten a clean shot on the warrior princess.

As Xena turned Argo about to face Callisto again she noticed the wound sustained within her left shoulder. Then she looked out across the field at her tough enemy realizing this would not be a simple match up. Callisto found herself to be delighted that she had gotten the upper hand within this battle as she declared with confidence that she was just as good as the infamous warrior princess. And it was true. Callisto was skilled for Gabrielle had only seen the warrior princess tame the chackram. And now the fair-haired Callisto had proven her skill. Then Callisto went onto declare that it was inevitable for Xena the warrior princess had indeed created her. The warrior princess became angry unable to believe that she could have created such a monstrous creature. And so they went for a third pass and this time Xena clashed swords with Callisto only to disarm her.

As the warrior princess rounded her horse for a fourth pass she slid her sword back into its place upon her back. Then she inferred that it was Callisto that had shot her with the poison dart that had nearly taken the life of the warrior princess weeks before. Callisto responded gleefully that Xena was indeed correct for what better way would there be for her to remove the real warrior princess only to recreate her darkness. The fair-haired warrior woman had an agenda which included reviving the evil warrior princess’s reputation for killing women and children. This accusation angered Xena for she had never been guilty of intentionally taking the lives of women and children. Even in her days of darkness Xena’s warrior code held integrity. Then Callisto screamed again chagrin forward as each warrior woman took a staff and prepared to make a fourth pass at one another. The two women were truly an equal match as they knocked one another from their horses. And amazingly both landed upon their feet as they flipped backwards off of their horses. It was as if looking into a live mirror. One had dark hair, the other light, one had dark eyes, the other light, and one was of the darkness while the other of goodness. But before the duel was to continue Xena asked what Callisto meant when she had declared that Xena had created her. Callisto responded asked Xena if she remembered Syra. Suddenly the warrior princess’s eyes told of a buried darkness within. It was a look of alarm and of concern at the same time. Yet before the warrior princess could dissolve this out of control nemesis Callisto screamed and charge forward with her staff as Xena blocked the advance. Then the fair-haired warrior woman flipped over the warrior princess using her staff and onto her horse. Callisto rode away from battle screaming violently all the way out of the village leaving the warrior princess stunned and visibly upset.

But before the warrior princess had time to think about her past mistakes in battles against the innocent she heard the battle between Gabrielle and another of Callisto’s men behind her. Gabrielle struggled against this skilled warrior of Callisto’s army. He was much stronger and well-trained. The bard was having great difficulty in battling against him despite her training from the warrior princess. Xena turned to see that her friend had been disarmed and was about to become a victim of this cycle of violence as the warrior lifted his weapon to kill. She charged forth with the staff and disarmed him quickly. Gabrielle acted rolling out-of-the-way as Xena disarmed him and then put her pinch upon his neck. The bard watched as the warrior princess demanded information from the victim. He was reluctant to give any information until Xena spoke of his impending death if he did not speak. He revealed to Xena after several moments Callisto’s name and identity. Xena wanted to know more about her relation to Syra. He told of how Callisto had lost her family to Xena’s army. The warrior princess was heart-broken for she was responsible for the suffering of these people within the village now despite her struggle against the darkness that she had seemingly created.

Then the warrior princess released her emotion once more and focused again asking him what Callisto wanted from her. His answer was simple. Callisto wanted to ruin Xena’s good reputation and then she wanted to kill the warrior princess after all else was destroyed. The warrior princess realized that she must act quickly to stop this dark nemesis for it was clearly out of control. And even if she did succeed at killing the warrior princess her vengeance would never end. Xena realized that she must be the one to seek out and destroy Callisto before Callisto could succeed with her vengeance. The warrior princess demanded to know where Callisto would be striking next. She was told of the sacrifice at Delphi that would occur on the following day. Callisto was after the oracle. Xena then gave the Callisto’s warrior a final message. She declared that she would destroy Callisto before Callisto would succeed at destroying the warrior princess. Suddenly Xena released her victim from the jaws of death and knocked him unconscious.

The bard watched the warrior princess walk away with a look of devastation and of guilt. It had been a long time since the bard had seen the warrior princess suffering with so much guilt and so much shame. And then as the chaos continued to surround them Melos approached Xena apologizing for his misjudgment of her. Yet the warrior princess was in no mood to talk to vengeful farmers. She warned him of her anger within and he tried desperately to ease her pain within. He explained that he had seen all that had transpired between the warrior princess and Callisto. Melos was determined to help Xena bring Callisto down. He was still ready for vengeance, but it was now redirected at the true enemy. Yet the warrior princess was certain that vengeance was not the answer for it had been vengeance that had tainted Callisto to become the ultimate darkness. Instead the warrior princess declared that she could at least keep Melos from getting himself killed for she was certain that Callisto would not be as forgiving of him as she had been.

That night Gabrielle was determined to try to help Xena dissolved Melos’s vengeance. She sat down next to Melos who was in the depths of his hatred. Gabrielle asked him softly when he had last slept and gotten a good night’s rest. His answer was the one that the bard dreaded most. He declared that he had not slept since the day he had heard of his son’s death and seen it with his own eyes. Gabrielle tried desperately to get him to let go of the vengeance for just one moment or two so that maybe he could lie down and drift off to sleep. Yet Melos declared that Gabrielle could not understand his pain. She could not understand his loss or his anger. He was certain that Callisto’s blood would allow him to face and release his hatred and his pain within. Melos was certain that if Gabrielle had lost someone she loved in the same way that she would feel the same drive and resolution through blood. Yet Gabrielle was not so certain that she would feel that way. She was against violence and she wanted nothing more than to be the champion of stopping it alongside the warrior princess.

Finally the bard gave up trying to ease Melos’s rage and to get though all of his hatred. Instead she felt that maybe she could help heal Xena’s heart of its heavy guilt for having been responsible for the loss of Callisto’s family so long ago. The bard sat down by the fire next to the warrior princess whose heart was in mourning for Callisto’s soul. It was clear to the bard that the warrior princess wanted to be able to help Callisto let go of it all the way that she had been able to do. Xena could relate to Callisto in a way that no one else could. Gabrielle invited the warrior princess to talk about her experiences and share her pain of Syra. The warrior princess was very open unlike in the past for this time she needed the inner strength that the bard seemingly had naturally. She began the story trying to reason and explain it all. The warrior princess spoke of the one time that her army had been responsible for the deaths of women and children. It had been in Syra. They had set fire to the houses, but she was uncertain if it all had been an accident or if her men had truly been behind the fires. Despite it being just another village to conquer they were taken by surprise when the winds began to pick up and blow the fires out of control. The flames had swept through Syra without remorse and they had claimed the lives of innocent women and children. Xena had said that there were only a few known survivors and today she had met one of them face to face. Her past had stared her dead in the eye. It had come back to haunt her in a way she could never have imagined it to. It was one of the first times that Gabrielle had seen the warrior princess break down and cry as a tear dropped from her eye.

The bard found herself beginning to understand it all. This terrible cycle of violence and of hatred. She realized that Callisto had truly fallen into its wrath as Melos had. Yet Xena did not blame Callisto for her actions. Gabrielle could not allow the same reprieve for Callisto’s actions for she had known the warrior princess’s past. Xena too had been infected with the violence within her own village and despite it all the warrior princess had made the choice to turn it all around for herself. Yet Xena proclaimed that she was only lucky in having been able to be rescued from the depths of this cycle. Gabrielle was confident in her friend’s ability to do good and to be good. She could not accept the excuses that Xena tried to allow Callisto. Gabrielle was certain that Callisto must be taken by justice for her crimes against humanity. The bard argued that it was because of people like Callisto that made good people like Melos turn into vicious blood thirsty killers.

Gabrielle wanted desperately to erase Xena’s guilt for Callisto’s actions. But the warrior princess was still not certain that Gabrielle was right. She declared that she might find herself one day falling back into the cycle of violence if something were to ever happen to her mother, Hercules or even to Gabrielle. The bard refused to allow Xena that vengeance. Gabrielle pushed for Xena to promise her that she would never take vengeance on behalf of Gabrielle. The bard could not hold onto her own hope for the world if Xena were to fall into violence in her absence. To Gabrielle no death was worth a vengeance like that of Callisto or of Melos. Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior princess to promise never to turn to the cycle of violence again. Xena was still unable to make that promise to the bard. Gabrielle continued to insist that the answer was never through blood, but through love and forgiveness that would allow the violence to end. Then the warrior princess held the bard tightly and hugged her. She pleaded with her loyal friend to never change. Xena’s only strength was the bard. Xena needed her friend now more than ever. It was the light of the innocent bard that allowed Xena to carry on. The warrior princess feared her heart would grow dark without Gabrielle. Yet Gabrielle had a strong faith in her friend’s inner light. She again demanded a promise from the warrior princess that she would never go down the path of vengeance again. The warrior princess sensed the bard’s fears within and promised the bard that she would be strong.

Gabrielle continued to hold Xena for she could not bare the thought of evil claiming Xena’s soul again. She began to stroke Xena’s hair trying to settle down the demons which she could feel wrestling within the warrior princess. Yet Xena tried to close her feelings off tightly and away from the bard once more. She tried to urge the bard to leave her within her despair, but Gabrielle would not leave Xena. And so the night ended with two friends trying to be strong for one another as they prepared for their next battle against Callisto at Delphi.

As soon as the sun rose Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, and Melos were on their way to Delphi. Upon their arrival Xena suggested that they split up to find Callisto more quickly. Gabrielle took Argo, and Xena went into the temple with Melos. Gabrielle scouted the village streets of Delphi alongside Xena’s horse and found herself approached from behind. Someone had grabbed a net attempting to capture the bard, but she escaped quite easily. Suddenly there he was. He called himself Joxer a warrior, but a warrior like no other. So inept, so clumsy, and no more clever than a bumbling idiot. He insisted upon battling against the bard. Yet the bard could see that he was not a true warrior. He had little skill, but plenty of will. His failure at capturing the bard within his net led to him drawing his goofy looking sword. The blade wide and he could barely control it. Gabrielle could not handle a sword, but after seeing this Joxer try to handle his over-sized blade it was clear that he was a small threat.

In fact this Joxer seemed more annoying than threatening. The bard quickly disarmed him of his blade with a thrust of the staff. He was still very determined as he then grabbed a tiny dagger from within the mess of his lame uniform threatening to take the bard down. His anger was easily defeated as the bard disarmed him of his tiny dagger and knocked his toes with her staff. His eyes rolled back into his head in pain as he hopped around on his good foot. The bard prepared for his response. It was a cross-bow which Gabrielle broke with a thrust of the staff across the bow. Suddenly he appeared upset as if he were nothing more than a child who had lost his favorite toy. Then he remembered his challenge and prepared to take the bard down with his bare hands. Of course Gabrielle was ready again for his feeble advance as she knocked him silly with her staff taking his feet from beneath him. The bumbling idiot Joxer fell flat upon his back as his tongue hung out in defeat. He prepared to regain his senses and rise for more punishment, but the bard was becoming quite annoyed by his presence. She had little time for his antics and idiocy as she demanded that he stay down. The bard was busy trying to find Callisto before darkness could kill the oracle. And so Gabrielle left Joxer behind.

As Gabrielle tried to lose the idiot inside of the temple Xena caught sight of a mysteriously cloaked woman. It was Callisto and she had pulled Xena’s chackram hurling it toward the unsuspecting oracle certain to incriminate the warrior princess in cold-blooded murder. There were plenty of witnesses, but Xena would not be defeated. She reached for her dagger and threw it toward the flying disc to deflect its path toward death. The warrior princess was successful as the chackram was tamed by the light and returned to the hand of the warrior princess. Suddenly Callisto realizing defeat fled the temple. The chase led through the back alleys of the village to Callisto’s horse. She jumped upon her horse riding out-of-town as quickly as she could. The fair-haired woman was determined to escape the warrior princess’s justice as Xena jumped upon Argo in pursuit. The chase led to the far reaches of the valley into the desert region ten miles. Callisto was quick and agile, but the warrior princess had the better horse. Argo pushed hard to catch up to the dark nemesis so that Xena could capture Callisto and bring her to justice. Finally Argo did catch up and Xena leapt from Argo onto Callisto’s horse forcing the enemy to the ground. The two warrior women tumbled to the ground down the hill near the water down below.

When they finally stopped rolling Xena regained her balance quickly tying Callisto binding Callisto’s hands. As the warrior princess took control of her accidental creation she put Callisto upon Argo knowing that Argo would not allow Callisto to escape. Callisto tried desperately to kick Argo into action as they made the journey back toward Delphi. Xena began to become angered at Callisto’s abuse of her beloved horse. She warned that she would break Callisto’s ankles if she continued to kick Argo. Callisto resorted to taunting the warrior princess once more knowing that she was defeated for the moment. She mocked Xena for turning toward the light and declared that the warrior princess was only fooling herself if she thought that changing her ways made it simple for those she had wronged to forgive her. The warrior princess was not proud of her past and Callisto’s presence only inflamed the dark memories and the shame.

Gabrielle arrived at Xena’s side to warn her of Melos’s vegeance gone out of control. He had organized a lynch mob for when Callisto returned. It was obvious that she had been convicted before having he fair trial the way Xena had when she had fought the dark hooded Ares. Callisto then asked the warrior princess if she had ever been tried for every crime she had ever committed against humanity. It was obvious to the bard what Callisto was doing. She was playing on the warrior princess’s guilt and placing all of her own guilt upon the shoulders of the warrior princess. Xena was taking it all feeling that she deserved all of it, but Gabrielle argued that Xena could not allow Callisto to place that guilt upon her. Xena was guilty of only what crimes she had committed and not those of the people she had committed them against. Callisto found it amusing that the bard was defending her friend in this way. She began to laugh and then asked Gabrielle if she knew what it was like to wake up every night hearing her mother scream with pain as she was being burned to death. Callisto’s heart and soul were very much scared. For a moment even the bard felt some sympathy as she began to put herself in that place trying desperately to relate and understand.

Gabrielle’s thoughts were interrupted as Xena proposed to Callisto the possibility of allowing her to go free. The bard found herself suddenly aghast that Xena would even fathom the thought of allowing such a killing machine to return to her life of violence. As the two friend began to argue over Callisto’s future Callisto interrupted again and proposed her exact plan. She proclaimed that if Xena were to allow her to go that she would dedicate her entire life to killing everyone and everything Xena loved including her family, friends, reputation, and even her beloved horse Argo. Callisto declared that Xena’s pity would be worse than death for her. She then insisted that Xena carry on with the process of justice for she had indeed created a monster with integrity. Callisto was determined to win Xena’s heart back into darkness no matter what the consequences to herself. It was her passionate hatred that made her heart stale and cold.

Upon arriving back at Delphi Melos was ready with his mob. They were prepared to take Callisto to her justice created by themselves without a trial. But the warrior princess would not allow it. She declared that Callisto would be taken to the village jail and await her fair trial. Callisto seemed to bask in the glory of her success. She had created a darkness so great that hatred was beginning to take control over the goodness which had once existed within the hearts of the villagers at Delphi. Melos led them certain to gain Callisto’s blood no matter what had to be done.

As Xena stood guard Gabrielle found herself confronted by the idiot once again as she watched the mob thirst for blood. He tried to capture her with a rope, but failed as Gabrielle whipped around to face him again. She grabbed his rope and yanked him forth into her fist to the nose. The bard was frustrated with the idiot as she demanded to know what his issue was with trying to capture and defeat her. He declared that Callisto would reward him well for capturing her and trading the bard for Callisto’s release. Yet Gabrielle did not find it to be a very convincing plan she sat him down and slammed a rag down upon his injured nose with frustration. She asked him why he insisted upon following her. He was clearly determined that he was going to be a real warrior and to be well-known by all. Yet he was not at all fierce. He was tame like a lamb, but his heart was definitely that of a lion. Gabrielle laid the truth before him. She explained that he was just not a warrior no matter how much he wanted to be one. He was disappointed for he claimed that his family was a long line of successful warriors. Joxer seemingly didn’t measure up. But that was okay for Gabrielle felt that there were other things that she could urge the kind-hearted idiot to do. She asked him what other interests he had. Joxer replied with zest that he liked to steal. Of course stealing was not at all what the bard had in mind. Instead she suggested fishing. The bard tried to convince Joxer that fishing was just as noble as being a warrior. For a moment it seemed as if maybe she had succeeded for the excitement began to build within his soft brown eyes. Gabrielle began to feel sorry for this mixed up fellow as she held out her hand and introduced herself. He accepted the invitation to friendship only to grab her arm and lock it behind her back at yet another lame capture attempt. The bard’s frustrations boiled over as he took her elbow to his now swollen nose. And then Gabrielle left the idiot to his idiocy feeling that he was a hopeless delusional case.

Yet Xena had problems of her own. As she sat guarding Callisto within the jail Callisto continued to taunt her and to work her conscience. Though Callisto was beyond help she was clever and she knew exactly how to play the warrior princess. She was determined to destroy what goodness lie within Xena’s heart. Xena fought to ignore Callisto’s words, but found it difficult for she still felt guilt within her heart for what had happened. Callisto had not accepted her apology earlier on the journey back toward Delphi. The fair-haired woman would not allow Xena to be forgiven. She continued to torture Xena. Callisto’s vegeance for Xena was strange for despite her hatred and anger she truly admired the darkness of the warrior princess for it had commanded such power. But she condemned the good warrior princess proclaiming that she was too sentimental for her own good. As the warrior princess sat wrestling with her demons and trying to decided if Gabrielle was right or if maybe Callisto could be changed for the better.

And then the mob won out. It hurled a torch of fire into Callisto’s cell hoping to flush her out. Callisto relished in the idea that she could die the same violent death as did her family. She urged Xena to allow her to burn to death for it would be the fitting justice. If that were the fitting justice for Callisto then what would be a fitting justice for a warrior princess. A part of Xena wanted to let it all go within the flames, but she could not. Instead she reached for the keys to the cell releasing Callisto from the wrath of flames. Callisto knew Xena well for she had studied the warrior princess for years. She had escaped her the binds of her metal cuffs and as the warrior princess came to her rescue she fell into Callisto’s trap. Callisto knocked the warrior princess into the fire and then locked her away to burn to death.

Quickly Callisto ran out into the square hissing with vengeance as she screamed and jumped upon her horse once more. As she galloped out-of-town she swiped the unsuspecting bard and rode out-of-town having won this round of the duel. Xena narrowly escaped the flames flipping through the top of the prison ceiling. It was made of only straw which had allowed the burning flames to consume the jail vengefully. As Xena emerged from the jail a distraught Melos began to punish himself for his mistake. He realized that Gabrielle had been right. Forgiveness was the only answer and as Xena jumped upon her horse she reminded Melos that she had made the same mistake which had created Callisto. Then she rode on in the direction that Callisto had disappeared with Gabrielle.

Soon the helpless bard found herself hoisted high above the ground within Callisto’s camp. Callisto was basking within her glory knowing that she was on the verge of Xena’s destruction. Gabrielle was certain to gain the advantage knowing Xena could stand up to the darkness of Callisto. Callisto seemingly did not care if she was defeated in battle against Xena or not. She was certain that either way she would win. If she beat Xena in battle it would mean Xena’s death and if she was killed in a fierce battle by Xena it would allow her to haunt Xena within death for it was certain to unleash the demons within the warrior princess’s heart once more. It seemed that there was no escape for Xena’s heart.

And then the idiot Joxer somehow ended up at Callisto’s camp. He had been found sneaking around within the bushes by Callisto’s men. When he was asked by the blonde woman of his intentions at her camp he was left speechless and unprepared. Then Callisto asked him why he had failed at capturing the girl. He had no excuse only a fumbling of words. Callisto reminded him that it was she who had captured Gabrielle and that he had lost his chance at entry into her army. Joxer tried to declare that he had worked hard at breaking down the bard’s defenses, but Callisto only mocked him by commenting on his swollen nose. Then Callisto declared that there was one more thing he could do to prove his worth to her army. Joxer found himself delighted that Callisto was about to give him another chance to prove himself as a warrior. He was determined to succeed this time.

And so Callisto commanded to have the bard brought down to be killed. She asked Joxer to slice the throat of the irritating blonde from one ear to the other. Joxer reluctantly took the knife. Gabrielle realized that this may be her demise. She prepared for her death as she held her breath facing the determined idiot once more. This time she was unable to defend herself. Joxer realized as he looked into the bard’s eyes that he could not commit such an act. He tried desperately to talk his way out of it. He declared that there should be a better fate for the friend of the warrior princess. Joxer was certain that the warrior princess would be angry to find that the bard had been taken for a possible ransom. Yet Callisto wanted more than money. She wanted blood. Callisto wanted the bard’s blood no matter the consequences that followed. She shouted out for the kill harshly as Joxer shook in his boots.

He slowly took the knife and put his hand upon the bard’s shoulder. Joxer prepared to insert the knife into the helpless victim bound by ropes. She could not defend herself and he could see no real valor in killing the bard in this way. So Joxer refused as he threw down the knife. He could not kill the irritating blonde. This sent Callisto into a rage as she ripped her dagger from it sheath and approached Joxer. She walked about the idiot as he stood awaiting his own death. He chose to die rather than to kill the bard. Gabrielle feared more for his safety than her own. She was prepared to die, but hoped that Xena would arrive soon. Callisto’s vengeance was clearly out of control. The darkness rounded the kind-hearted Joxer as she glided the knife upon his exposed skin. She declared him to be noting more than a coward and an embarrassment to warriors. Then she commanded that he be chained up alongside the bard to await the arrival of the warrior princess. Callisto had a great emotionally charged theatrical prepared for her victims.

Soon the warrior princess did arrived to see the challenge which was presented before her. Callisto declared that it was time to find out who was truly the most skilled and the best warrior. She commanded her men to raise the helpless bard high above the camp into the air once again. And then she asked that a flame be lit to add time into the challenge. So the ropes which held the bard’s life were lit as they began to weaken with each passing moment. The warrior princess gathered great strength and focus from within as she prepared her action within her mind. She was quiet within the short moment of silent peace. And everyone heard the battle cry of the fair-haired Xena. Though her dark nemesis fought bravely she was still no match for our hero.   Desperate to save her friend the great warrior woman leaped into action. Xena began to climb one of the many ladders within Callisto’s camp. Suddenly her fair-haired dark nemesis leaped from her post above and kicked Xena’s ladder into two parts sending Xena crashing violently to the ground. Gabrielle called out to her friend worried for her safety. Yet the warrior princess rested the ladder into a bridge between the two sides of Callisto’s fortress. Callisto stood at the other end awaiting Xena’s next move. The warrior princess charged forth and was kicked down by the irritating blonde. Xena slid violently back toward the other side. And then she regained her strength as she jumped up into hand to hand combat with her dark nemesis.

She took Callisto’s furious kicks and punches until she could block them and then deliver her return assault. Callisto defeated in hand to hand combat flipped backward out of the path of Xena’s fury as Xena broke the ladder bridge in two with a powerful kick downward. Separated from the darkness she jumped across the way giving out her mighty battle cry and landed on a ladder parallel to her dark nemesis. She then began to race Callisto climbing to the top of the ladder in a competition. Callisto’s men tried to slow Xena down, but she defeated them throwing them to the ground as she made her way to the top of the fortress. Then the warrior princess paused showing her confidence to Callisto who was now fighting to keep up with Xena’s clever plan. The warrior princess then traveled across to the other side of the fortress using the ladder to spin across. Her battle cry could be heard again as Gabrielle’s hope rose within. She was determined to cheer the warrior princess onto victory over the darkness.

As Xena looked back Callisto matched her with the same spinning move across to the other side of the camp. But it was a trap for the ego of darkness. While Callisto was busy matching the skill of the warrior princess Xena began to build a rescuing device so that she could reach the bard. She did a half spin across on a second ladder and then shoved it together with another building a very large lever. Callisto paused with interest as she watched the warrior princess work. Yet the ropes still burned and time was running out for Gabrielle. Callisto continued to watch as Xena pulled down the final piece of the lever and spun across and then leapt kicking the ladder onto the base of the lever. Triumphantly the warrior princess flipped upon the lever with a confident loud battle cry.

She slowly scaled down the lever and pulled the other side up toward the helpless bard. Gabrielle could feel the rope weakening quickly as Xena concentrated and assured the bard that she would be there. Joxer shouted out the obvious making the bard more nervous. Then just as Xena was within reach of her rescue attempt Callisto flipped onto the other side of the lever and drew her sword. She declared with a bit of remorse that part of her darkness hoped that Xena would win this battle between her demons and her dark nemesis. Yet her light was not bright enough for she was overcome with her dark vengeance and declared that it was all over. Again the fair-haired Xena was heard screaming her vengeful battle cry as she plunged forward with her weapon toward the warrior princess. Yet Xena did not lose focus. Not even for a moment for she reacted drawing her chackram with one sudden movement. It floated gracefully from her grasp into the air slicing through the weakening rope which held the bard high up in the air.

Gabrielle began to fall as her heart thrust itself into her throat. The bard was certain that she was to meet her demise, but just when it seemed that Callisto had won the battle Xena flipped backwards onto the lever sending Callisto high up into the air as the bard landed softly upon the lever where Callisto once stood. Gabrielle found herself relieved as her heart pounded violently within her chest. The warrior princess slowly let the lever down to release Gabrielle from the danger. Callisto grabbed onto the burning rope above and awaited her demise. She was certain that she had blocked any chance of escaping the demons within the warrior princess. And though her first in command tried to save her she commanded him to allow her to die.

Just as Xena had lowered Gabrielle safely to the ground the rope snapped and Callisto laughed with the depths of evil coming from within. She was about to fall to her death until the warrior princess suddenly grabbed hold of the broken rope, and Xena had saved Callisto from a fate she most desired. Her own death leaving Callisto short of her goal. The irritating blonde groaned with despair for despite all that she had done she had still been defeated by the warrior princess. And so despite all of Callisto’s efforts she was made to face her own justice as Gabrielle found herself glad that Xena had been able to save her for justice’s sake. And so the woes of Callisto were no more as Xena and Gabrielle traveled onto continue the mission of the greater good and the end to the cycle of violence.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #23: Death Mask

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#23:  Death Mask

August, 48 B.C.

 

     I sing of the wrath of vengeance.  Of how it began and of how it could end.  Gabrielle walked alongside Xena and Argo twirling her staff about.  She pondered the skills of the warrior princess with great intrigue for Xena’s warrior talents were extraordinary indeed.  The bard could only find herself dreaming of the possibility to master these skills herself.  As she imagined and tried to work through her mind how it was that the warrior princess could capture an arrow with nothing, but her bare hands.  Xena had never missed.  It was like she always somehow knew when danger was upon her.  Gabrielle found herself desperately trying to understand how the warrior princess could do this.  She came to speak her thoughts aloud.  The warrior princess found herself involved trying to explain to Gabrielle that there was nothing to think about.

      Instead Xena said that the bard must allow her body to listen for the enemy.  To feel its approach was how it was done and not to think about the process.  There was no time for thought in the times of danger.  Only instinct could seemingly save the warrior princess.  Gabrielle still did not understand for she wasn’t so certain that she herself had that warrior instinct.  Yet as the bard tried to listen she heard something not within her ears, but within her body for the first time.  It was from just beyond the trees on the path.  It felt like a crossbow releasing an arrow.  suddenly the bard’s body reacted as she thrust her staff in the air capturing the danger upon its contact with her staff.  Gabrielle found herself shocked that she had heard the danger from within the trees.  Yet there was little time to think for a battle was about to ensue.

     The enemy who had delivered the arrow into the bard’s staff revealed himself to the warrior princess as she flipped into battle.  Xena chose not to fight with her weapon for it was only one man.  She delivered thunderous kicks and blocked the enemy advance.  Then she punched back knocking the enemy to the ground.  As the bard took note of the warrior princess’s weaponless moves she found her body tuning into another intrusion of danger from behind.  Suddenly the bard whipped around behind her to find another approaching enemy.  He had a sword and the enemy was masked in metal just as was the other man Xena had been battling.  The bard blocked his advances with her staff though her enemy carried a sword.  She took the enemy down and then began to run, but the enemy did not stay down.  Instead he rose again to chase the bard down the path.  Gabrielle could feel his presence upon her heels as she prepared another move.  The bard suddenly knelt down and drove her staff into the ground.  Then she jabbed the opposite end up into the stomach of the approaching enemy.  He flipped violently overhead and landed upon his back.

      The bard rose again and prepared to strike again as the enemy struggled to rise once more.  Xena had ended her battle with the other masked man with the sword for he had escalated the fight unable to take her down without a weapon.  Despite his choice the warrior princess still one out for she was a true master swordsman.  Xena had heard the sounds of the battle between the bard and another enemy on down the path and followed those sounds to assist.  Yet when she arrived she found that the bard was doing well on her own.  The warrior princess watched in surprise to see that the bard was beating the tar out of her challenger.  And though Gabrielle was seemingly in control of the situation she reminded Xena that she was still not so certain or full of that warrior confidence.  Once Gabrielle was certain that she had come out of the battle the victor Xena looked down upon the masked victim.

     Her tone quickly changed into a serious one.  It was as if the warrior princess knew this man.  She then declared that he was wearing the mask of Corteese as was the man she had battled against.  When the bard asked Xena who Corteese was the warrior princess replied that he had been the warlord that had sent her down her path of vengeance.  It was Corteese who has sacked the warrior princess’s village so long ago and had taken the life of her beloved brother Lycious.  Gabrielle could see how much the invasion of her village had affected the warrior princess and she could feel the sorrow within the warrior princess’s voice.  The bard began to realize just what it was that had made Xena commit so many wrongs.  Xena was seemingly within a momentary trance as she thought about the distant experience.  Then she boiled over with anger realizing that this was now her chance to avenge the death of her brother who had been killed in the battle against Corteese.

       Suddenly the warrior princess delivered the wrath of her pinch upon the helplessly defeated man.  She demanded information about Corteese and his whereabouts.  The man’s fear overcame him quickly as he declared that Corteese was just down the valley in the next village.  He and his army were attacking there.  After receiving the information Xena quickly removed certain death from her victim.  Then she took off his mask and punched him the nose knocking him unconscious.  It was obvious that the warrior princess did not want to be followed.  Then Xena dashed off upon Argo riding into the village as Gabrielle sprinted behind hoping to keep the pace.

     As they approached the village Xena paused upon Argo surveying the situation below.  It was a cruel reminder of the beginning of a life of darkness and blood.  Yet the warrior princess looked beyond and then rode into the battle.  She drew her sword and began to combat against the men of Corteese’s army.  Most of them were younger than the usual army members.  They were well-trained yet were not accustomed to a challenge.  As the warrior princess jousted with the enemy upon Argo Gabrielle arrived over the valley.  She found herself looking down into the chaos of Corteese’s army.  Women were screaming, and men were being beaten by their wrath.  The bard scanned the scene looking to enter into the battle, but instead she caught sight of a little girl.  She appeared stunned with fear in the middle of the battle.  Her mother screamed for her to return into the shelter of their home, but the girl did not move.  Instead her eyes gazed out across the way to a doll which lied upon the dirt. 

      The little girl then glanced up at the dark enemy approaching upon horseback.  He charged forward toward the doll and Gabrielle knew what would happen next.  Quickly the bard dashed down into the village knowing that she had to save the little girl.  The little girl began to run toward her doll as the bard rushed to rescue her from harm.  Just before the horseman brushed behind the bard she grasped the little girl and rolled away to safety.  The young mother was filled with relief as her daughter had been rescued.  Gabrielle quickly began to engage in combat with her staff as the warrior princess continued to combat upon her horse.  Corteese’s men suddenly began to retreat at the command of their leader.  The bard looked up to see that a patrolling army was riding into the battle.  As she watched the last man from Corteese’s army disappear into battle the captain rode into the village.  Gabrielle shouted a command to the captain of the patrolling army for Corteese’s army was on the verge of their escape into the woods. 

      But the captain did not heed the command for he spoke of being restricted.  He said that his jurisdiction would not allow him to take his men in the woods.  The woods were the boundary and he noted that his army was already being well spent by the province which it was responsible for.  It appeared to the bard that their morale was destroyed and beaten down.  The warrior princess approached the captain as she dismounted from her horse.  He removed his helmet respectfully complementing the warrior princess on her fighting ability.  It was clear that the captain was impressed and could use the kind of help in his battle against the darkness. 

      Xena then asked of the captain more information about his operations and responsibilities to the kingdom.  The captain was obviously very loyal to his king and disappointed that he and his men had been too late once again.  It always seemed that they arrived after a battle against Corteese instead of before.  Corteese always had the upper hand and it was only getting worse.  The warrior princess decided that she and the bard would investigate further.  They followed the trail left by the retreating enemy.  As they walked Gabrielle was still thinking about the moment of impact when she had caught the arrow with her staff.  She was going through the motions of the fresh memory within her mind.  Her body had felt the blood rushing through its veins as if a burst of unsuspecting energy had taken it over.  Gabrielle was still very delighted as she continued to twirl the staff and reenact her proud moment. 

     The warrior princess was not as impressed.  She was barely excited as she tried to remind the bard that to acquire the skills of a brilliant warrior it takes a lot of trial and error.  Gabrielle found herself slightly offended that the warrior princess did not believe in her ability.  Then she held up a hypothetical challenge.  She asked Xena what the odds were if she were to take ten arrows from the warrior princess.  Gabrielle was certain that she would perform well under such a test.  And of course the warrior princess agreed that the bard would perform well; however, there was the reminder that her skills were far from perfect.  In fact, the warrior princess was confident that the bard would at least be able to capture nine out of ten arrows.  Yet if there was one arrow that the bard could not catch then that was one too many for it would be marked for her death.  And so the argument was won by the cunning warrior princess and her point was once again made clear to the bard.

     Soon the warrior princess and the bard spotted a lone masked warrior standing upon the hill near the trees.  He stood motionless as if he were about to strike yet he did not move.  Gabrielle inquired of the warrior princess of his intentions yet Xena was just as uncertain.  Then Xena asked the bard to wait as she approached the man for a confrontation.  The warrior princess pulled her sword ready for a duel, but received a great surprise.  This masked warrior from Corteese’s ranks unmasked himself upon the threat of being slaughtered at the end of Xena’s sword.  He then asked if it was the intention of the warrior princess to kill her brother.  Suddenly the bard found herself confused and intrigued for the warrior princess had told her earlier that her brother had been killed by Corteese. 

      Then the warrior princess answered the bard’s sudden inquiry revealing that she had two brothers.  This was her brother Toris who did not die in the battle against Corteese.  There was something very awkward about the situation between the two siblings.  It appeared as if they were rivals.  Xena seemed irritated that her brother would ride with the enemy while Toris’s emotion was not so simple to understand.  Toris explained to his inquiring sister of his reasons for riding with Corteese’s army.  He explained that he had been with them for a short time after having searched for several years to find Corteese.  His plan a simple one.  Toris wanted to get in close with Corteese’s army and to gain their trust.  His hope was to one day be face to face with Corteese so that he could have his final revenge with the warlord.  It seemed a noble idea to the bard at first until she realized that Toris was overcome with vengeance.  Gabrielle was pleased that Xena was convinced that justice was a better punishment than blood.

     Yet as the three traveled together they set up camp.  Things were very quiet between the two siblings as Gabrielle started a fire and tried to cook the dinner that Xena had hunted.  It was obvious to the bard that neither party was eager to speak to the other for they held within them grudging actions.  Gabrielle could understand Xena’s disappointment within her brother because he was riding with Corteese, but she did not understand what Toris’s grude was about.  The bard tried desperately to get them to speak to one another.  She even tried to relate to their situation by comparing it to some of the monstrous rivalry she had had with her own sister Lilla.  Gabrielle’s point was that no grude was worth turning away a brother or a sister no matter what it entailed.  The warrior princess reluctantly caught onto the bard’s insinuations as she opened the conversation harshly.  She inquired of the assassin that her brother Toris had become.  He was equally enraged however.  He shot back blaming Xena for the loss of their brother Lycious.

     Toris blamed his sister for deciding to go up against Corteese’s army.  He had preferred and chosen to run away into the hills.  Toris could barely tolerate his sister’s decision to create an army out of their village in its time of need.  He blamed her for many of those who had been taken on that fateful day which obviously changed the course of both of their lives.  They had both loved their younger brother Lycious very much and each of them had mourned their loss in different ways.  Xena had chosen to move on and forward despite her constant venture to seek out and find Corteese and bring him to justice.  The bard very much agreed with Xena’s way for it was based upon the good.  Toris’s justice was built upon the darkness of vengeance.  As the two argued Gabrielle offered dinner asking Toris how he liked his meat.  The warrior princess interrupted the break in the tension adding that drumsticks were Toris’s preference.  It was obvious to Gabrielle that she was not able to break through the tension.  Yet she was very upset that she was unable to help her best friend and Toris mend their differences and their pasts.

     Then the warrior princess asked the bard if she would go check on Argo.  For a moment Gabrielle was disappointed that the warrior princess had asked her to leave yet she realized that it was best for the current situation.  Xena and Toris needed some time together to sort through their differences.  The bard headed toward Argo yet could not resist eavesdropping from beyond the trees and the brush.  She heard Xena ask Toris how close he had come to Corteese.  It was in that moment that her prideful brother revealed that he had not really been traveling with Corteese’s army for very long.  Although he was quite confident that he would soon be face to face with Corteese.  It was obvious to Xena that her brother knew little about the dealings of the warlord.  His vengeance would not be enough to defeat their common enemy. 

     The warrior princess was then told by Toris that he wanted her to stay out of it, but Xena would not allow it.  She was not at all afraid to face the warlord yet Toris was seemingly uncertain.  The warrior princess suggested that they go to Corteese’s camp together.  She wanted to investigate the situation further.  Although her brother was against it there was nothing he could do to keep Xena from her warrior way.  So the two went off to visit Corteese together with Xena posing as his prisoner.  When they arrived at Corteese’s camp Xena discovered just how little Toris had accomplished.  He had yet to win the respect of his surrounding peers let alone that of his commander Malik.  Malik was most certainly in control.  He would not allow Toris to deliver the warrior princess to Corteese directly.  Toris desperately tried to argue with Malik, but received little recognition.  He was treading upon dangerous waters and the warrior princess knew it.  She was taken by Malik as he prepared to have her for his own pleasures before he was to take her to Corteese. 

      Then Malik went back outside of his tent to deal with the unruly Toris.  He wanted to make certain that Toris knew who was truly in command.  Malik made it very clear to Toris that he was worth little to Corteese’s army and would not have the respect of anyone within it.  As Toris continued to argue with Malik Xena escaped her weak binds using her breast dagger.  Once she had freed herself she began to investigate the tent.  It was obviously a commanders tent yet there was no sign of Corteese.  Yet the warrior princess found something much more interesting.  She found three stool pigeons and royal notes which had been carried directly from the king’s castle.  Before she could seek more information she heard the argument between Toris and Malik coming to an end.  Toris was being expelled from camp and given an unltimatum not to return.

     When Malik returned inside the tent his passions were ready to for action to the dismay of the warrior princess.  She had concealed her free hands appearing as if she were still bound by the ropes.  As Malik prepared to unleash his lusts upon the warrior princess he asked that they not waste time.  The warrior princess then took advantage of his lustful passions knocking him with a bloody nose unconscious.  Then she returned to Toris who was still defeated and almost embarrassed by his failure.  But Xena would not allow him to pity himself.  Soon the two of them returned to camp where Gabrielle awaited their arrival.  They were arguing again, but it seemed to the bard that Toris was the one who was constantly raging.  He was once again scolding the warrior princess for leading their brother Lycious and many of their friends to their deaths against Corteese.   Yet the warrior princess seemed past that.  Instead she was focused on the formulation of a new plan.  Always focused the warrior princess was putting her emotions aside.  Gabrielle found the need to defend her friend if Xena would not defend herself. 

      She spoke up declaring that she would be practicing her staff moves despite Xena’s choice to have Gabrielle stay behind at the village.  Gabrielle wanted to go along with Xena and Toris to storm the castle, but she knew when to push Xena and when not to.  The bard demonstrated openly to Toris her dissatisfaction with being asked to stay behind for safety reasons for there was never a time while traveling with Xena that was safe.  She reminded the warrior princess of this.  Xena found herself slightly amused at the bard’s show of confidence and bravery.  but Toris was even more upset with his sister.  He feared that Xena had tainted the bard with her passions of the sword.  Toris argued with the bard that it wasn’t the truth of her own passions, but the bard felt differently.  Her confidence had come through all of the wonderful lessons that she had learned from the warrior princess, and there was never a moment in which the bard had felt that the warrior princess had faltered.  In fact, when she had asked Toris how many men Xena had to be up against to return safely to them he declared that there were at least fifteen.  Gabrielle had seen Xena go up against many more than a mere fifteen men.  She had been confident in Xena’s ability.  Gabrielle knew Xena well despite the dangers she always returned to her side, but Toris’s confidence was barely present.  The bard almost could not see the family relation except for the dark hair and the piercing blue eyes.  Soon Xena and Toris were off leaving the bard to return to the village alone.

      While at the village the bard made a new young friend and decided that she would practice capturing arrows with her staff.  Her new-found recruit was happy to shoot some arrows for training without their sharp tips.  And though the bard went through many hours of trial she still found herself unable to prove that the warrior princess had been wrong about the odds.  In fact, the warrior princess had actually given Gabrielle the benefit of the doubt to Gabrielle’s dismay.  Yet the bard was still determined to master the skill of capturing the flying arrows.  As she prepared to face another her body suddenly felt something.  She turned to face the arrows only to find that Xena had returned to with her brother.  Xena informed the bard of what they had found at the castle.  The revelation was shocking for they had discovered that the king was none other than Corteese himself.  She also asked that a gathering of villagers be put together so that she could announce to them all that she had found to be true of their king.

     Corteese was using the cover of his masked army to attack all of the villages within his own kingdom.  No one even suspected that they would be one in the same.  Not only that, but the king was taxing his people to death proclaiming that their taxes were going toward the war effort.  The kingdom’s armed guard was being exploited by the king himself for the sake of a profit.  Corteese was quite delighted with his accomplishments within his new-found power and with the warrior princess which he had so successfully created.  In fact, Corteese had plans for the warrior princess.  He wanted to exploit her as well so that he could build a bit of moral for his defeated army that could seemingly never capture the enemy.  Corteese’s business was excellent, but it was clear that Xena could not allow it to go on. 

     Despite Toris’s determination to prove his courage and worth again he put the two in danger at the castle against Corteese.  Their weapons had been taken and Xena’s chackram stolen by Corteese, but they managed to escape through a window within Corteese’s well managed chambers.  The warlord was so ingenious that he had many secret traps and weapons hidden within the walls of his castle at his disposal.  It was amazing that the warrior princess and her brother had escaped alive.  Of course Toris was still arguing with the warrior princess over the issue of justice or vengeance.  Gabrielle once again stood up for the warrior princess and again demonstrated her willingness to be a part of what Xena wanted to accomplish in the face of danger.  Justice was the answer to this tragedy and not vengeance.  Suddenly Toris found himself overshadowed by a young peasant girl from Potedia and he felt defeated.  Then Toris stormed off leaving Gabrielle to wonder what the real issue was within Xena’s brother’s heart.  The warrior princess followed him closely for she needed his help now more than ever.  He could not give up now.  She aimed to encourage Toris that he had made the choices that were right for him and the choices that he thought were for the best.

      Before Xena could get through Toris’s deep emotional scars she was interrupted by an urgent message from the villagers.  When Xena returned to the village she found Gabrielle desperately trying to defend the warrior princess.  Gabrielle declared that despite their fears of being attacked again it was the warrior princess who had saved them all from devastation before.  Yet these villagers were not comforted by the fact that the bard and her warrior friend were there to defend them.  With the king declaring that the warrior princess be turned over to him it made the villagers uneasy.  Xena stepped into the conversation trying to explain to them that their king and Corteese were one in the same man.  Gabrielle declared that they would just have to stand up and fight, but Xena chose otherwise.  She explained to the bard that one must only stand up and fight when the time was right.  If Corteese wanted to duel against Xena then it would be at the castle and not within the village.

     Suddenly Xena was warned by the village messenger once again only this time it was a warning concerning her brother.  Despite the warrior princess’s efforts to convince him that his choices had been the only choices that he could have made within his past and within his present he was determined to prove himself.  Toris had  decided that he would go off alone and storm the camp and take control of Corteese’s army.  The warrior princess followed her brother’s path and allowed him to fall into his own mistake.  She realized that he would not learn unless he failed attempting his vengeance.  Xena desperately wanted to spare her brother from the mistakes that she had made within her own life.  Toris was tortured and beaten by Malik and the others and then tied to a tree covered with oil.  Xena knew that this was a trap laid out for her.  It was what she had expected of the army of Corteese. 

     When she arrived at Toris’s side he warned her of the trap, but she had already known.  Instead she tried to free him from his binds and comfort him and his heart.  She was no longer upset with him realizing that he was only as lost as she felt almost every day of her life since the loss of their brother Lycious.  As she prepared to free Toris she was confronted by Malik and his archers ready to shoot with their fiery weapons.  Malik returned to the warrior princess a blow that had given him a bruised ego.  Yet the warrior princess did not allow him to end with the satisfaction for she returned another blow just as nasty.  As Malik’s archers rose their weapons to fire he called them down for he was certain that Corteese would deal with them.  And so Xena allowed herself and Toris to be captured.

     Upon their arrival to the castle they were taken into Corteese’s dungeon.  Again Xena tried to comfort her brother.  He was so confused inside and regretting that he ever gotten Xena involved within his quest for vengeance.  It was in this moment that the warrior princess tried to explain to her brother the evils of vengeance and of how they had taken away so much of her own life.  She expressed great regret as she explained how it had all began.  Xena spoke of her dream to create the army that would defend their village forever from the spoils of hungry warlords like Corteese.  Yet somehow through all of that she had lost herself within vengeance and blood lust. 

     Then there was the problem of escaping the dungeon.  It had been very simple to gain passage into the castle.  Xena tried to enter her brother’s mind into a constructive plan of escape, but just when all seemed hopeless their opportunity arrived.  The captain of the king’s army was a very loyal and just man.  He had caught word that the two prisoners were to be executed upon the next day by fire.  The captain did not believe in such a punishment despite the crime.  He had come to let them know that he would be sure to make their deaths quick with information on where he could find Corteese.  The warrior princess knew that he would not believe the truth of his king so as she revealed the powers upon the throne Toris made his move taking down the captain with his free feet. 

     Xena disarmed him with her own kick and used her feet to free her from the chains which bound her wrists above.  With the sword of the captain between her feet she was able to escape and release Toris as well.  Once they had regained control Xena was warned by the captain that they would never leave the castle alive.  Yet the warrior princess was not planning on leaving the castle without what they had come for.  She declared that the captain tell them were they could find the king.  The captain was then reluctant as he told of the archery fields outside the castle walls.  Xena then sent Toris to take care of that matter knowing that the captain was not telling the truth.  Yet it diverted Toris from his chance at vengeance for the warrior princess was certain that Toris still seeked it.

     And so the captain took the warrior princess to the king’s throne where she found him basking in the glory of the chackram.  But there was only one true warrior that could tame its wrath and that was Xena.  With the reluctant help of the captain Xena was able to capture Corteese.  As she went outside she found that the battle she had intended was in full action.  Gabrielle had arrived just in time to battle within the action.  Once the bard had received word that the warrior princess and Toris had been captured she was on her way to the castle.  She battled alongside Toris who had discovered that Xena had distracted him from his vengeance once again.  She had also stirred things up bringing together the two biggest rivals within the kingdom.  Corteese’s army and the king’s army battled it out for the first time.  It was a fair fight and the king’s men were winning.

     Xena took advantage of the situation as she hoisted Corteese upon a post within the castle entrance as she instructed the captain to join the battle the battle with his men.  The warrior princess of course could not resist as she entered alongside her brother.  They began with swordplay mirror each other’s moves.  Clashing with the enemy they moved onto hand to hand combat against the true enemy.  They flipped in unison as Xena gave out her battle cry kicking their enemies and then reversing the move gracefully.  It was as if they had been alongside one another for years despite the absence in each other’s lives.  Soon the captain and his army were outside in the castle courtyard to fight, but did not know who they should be fighting.  All of the action suddenly stopped for neither army expected to see the other.  They had come to fight Xena from the messages by pigeons, but as their leader king Corteese hung helplessly in the castle foyer Xena declared that he ask his dark army to surrender their weapons. 

     Corteese refused Xena’s command.  He called out to his armies to kill Xena.  Xena then took two swords from the ground and hurled them in the direction of king Corteese.  They landed squarely into the castle walls one on each side of Corteese’s head.  The fear within his eyes was evidence that the warrior princess was truly in control.  Then she drew her chackram and made one last threat.  She told Corteese he had only one more chance before his life would be taken by her chackram.  As she pulled it up preparing to strike Corteese finally gave up his charade and revealed that he was the real Corteese.  When he gave the command for the dark army to drop their weapons all obeyed except for his commander Malik.  Malik was outraged and felt betrayed as he rushed forward toward the king.  He was prepared to have his blood and his vengeance, but was stopped short with a thrust by the captain’s sword through his stomach.  Although the captain had been betrayed by his king he still stood loyal protecting the king until his end. 

     Then Toris expressed his anger for the warrior princess had taken his vengeance from him with her justice.  Xena found herself frustrated with Toris’s uncontrollable emotional rage.  She decided to give him what he had been asking for.  The warrior princess then approached the helpless victim and took him down from his capture for execution.  There was fear within the warlord’s eyes.  He was about to receive vengeful justice for the murder of Lycious.  Toris then took a weapon and approached his victim from behind.  He raised the sword above his victim preparing to thrust it through the skull of the evil warlord.  Yet just before he was about to kill the helpless warlord Toris stopped.  He let go of his vengeance dropping his sword to the ground.  Xena then approached her brother and whispered in his ear assuring him that Lycious would have been proud.  And so Xena and Toris left Corteese with the captain for his final justice to be carried out.  It was now out of their hands.

     Toris found himself thanking the warrior princess for being there for him, and for showing him the truth in what was right.  He also expressed to his sister how much he had missed her in all the time that they had been apart.  Toris’s next adventure was to take him back home.  He encouraged the warrior princess to come along with him.  Xena had already decided that it wasn’t time for her to return to the peace of home for she and Gabrielle had so much more to do.  The warrior princess assured her brother that their mother would be happy.  Then she asked that he tell their mother that he had seen Xena.  Though Gabrielle knew how much the warrior princess wished to express how much she loved her mother.  There was still much shame within the warrior princess.  She had much shame for her own vengeance.  Yet she had been able to save her brother Toris from the terrible fate of a vengeance beyond control.  And though one sibling had made the right choice for himself to heal the other was still far from healing despite all the good that she has done.

Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #25: The Ties That Bind

The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Potedia
Scroll # 25: The Ties That Bind

October, 48 B.C.

They say that family is what binds people together stronger than any other force. The love of one’s family and the love they give in return seems greater than no other. Yet sometimes in life there are many surprises. There are people who seem like family and there are people who were never family, but are closer than blood could ever be.
This story began as Xena and Gabrielle caught wind of a new up and coming warlord. His name was Corrillous.  Corrillous’s latest victims had been from the village of Lotia where he had kidnapped twenty young women that he was to groom and sell as slaves. Corrillous was ambitious and eager to please the infamous god of war Ares. Every move Corrillous made he had consulted with the god of war, given sacrifices, and obeyed every command given to him by the god of war. Ares groomed his new commander well as Corrillous spent almost four seasons gathering thieves and murders turning their chaotic crimes into talented warriors.
The two friends had been following the movements of Corrillous and his army in an attempt to locate their camp and to rescue the twenty young women of Lotia. Gabrielle stood up above in the trees with Xena as they observed the situation carefully. The bard was learning from her skilled teacher more and more every day. As the bard looked down upon the camp she noted that there were more men down below than could be handled by the warrior princess and her help alone. Gabrielle was certain that they would be defeated. But Xena was much more confident. Gabrielle had seen her friend fight multiple enemies and she had seen her do it well. Yet Gabrielle felt uncertain with this new fierce army and its widely spoken skill. Then Gabrielle caught sight of an old man dressed in a black warrior suit. He came charging into the outskirts of Corrillous’s camp armed with two swords. The old man began to fight against some of the guards posted as if he were unaware of what he was doing.
When Gabrielle asked Xena what this lone old warrior was doing Xena found herself just as surprised by his actions as was the bard. Xena then decided that he was destined for slaughter up against Corrillous’s fierce warriors alone so the warrior princess jumped down upon her horse Argo and rode charging into battle. As she entered into the fight the old man had been disarmed and injured, but the warrior princess quickly took out the two men he had been up against. Xena’s skills were much smoother and quicker as she struck each of the enemies down gracefully and effortlessly. Then she quickly went to the aid of the old warrior asking him what he had been trying to accomplish. Once she had reached the lookout spot rejoining Gabrielle Xena realized just how delusional he had been.
The old warrior told Xena that he had charged into Corrillous’s camp for he was attempting to save the young women. This man was certain that if Xena had not interfered that the young women would have been free in that very moment. Yet Xena shrugged and denied him of that fantasy for she knew that he would not have sustained an injury to his arm had he been skilled enough to break the guards on the outskirts of the camp. She then began to wrap his arm and tend to his wound as she cleaned it up. Gabrielle jumped down from the lookout in the trees to warn Xena of a new movement within the camp. When she called out to the warrior princess the old man suddenly became ecstatic. He could not believe that this was Xena the warrior princess. Yet as soon as he found out her identity he seemed pleased and then introduced himself as Xena’s father Atrious.
The bard found herself confused as she had thought that maybe she had heard wrong, but then the old man confirmed that he was Atrious Xena’s long lost father. Xena was not convinced and seemed rather disgusted and disturbed by Atrious’s words. Then he pleaded with her asking her why she didn’t seem to recognize him. This only infuriated the warrior princess more for she seemed angry that he had been away from her for so long. Then Xena turned away from the old warrior and joined Gabrielle. When Gabrielle asked Xena again if this was indeed her father Xena mutter under her breath that one could not believe everything that was heard. With that the warrior princess jumped upon Argo and proceeded to ride off with Gabrielle running alongside to catch up.
Though it was clear to the bard that Xena was quite angry the warrior princess quickly put the experience behind her as the two friends began to execute their plan to free the imprisoned young women. It was a simple exercise. Xena began by riding straight into camp near where the girls were being held in a large wooden cage. They were outside in the open so it was very easy to reach them. There were few guards in position near the cage so it took Corrillous’s men some time to respond to the intrusion of the warrior princess upon Argo. Xena then flipped through the air into the middle of a group of Corrillous’s men distracting them with a fierce fight in swordplay as Gabrielle pushed her way through to free the girls. The bard used an old rusty dagger and an ingenious trick she had learned from the king of thieves Autolycus. Gabrielle struggled to pick the large lock, but after several moments of working the rusty dagger she heard the lock click. With relief the bard then removed the heavy lock and opened to doors to the wooden cage.
Quickly the bard instructed the girls to run into the woods for their escape and prepare for Gabrielle and the warrior princess to rejoin them. Yet one of the girls did not follow Gabrielle’s command. Gabrielle quickly went in pursuit of the young girl who ran away in the opposite direction. Quickly the bard caught up to the fearful young girl, but just as she reached the girl they were confronted by one of Corrillous’s men. He pulled his sword ready to take them, but there was a surprising twist. Suddenly from behind the brush Atrious jumped out and battled one to one against the warrior. This allowed Gabrielle to escape with the young girl with the others into safety.
Once they reached the group Xena was there awaiting them. Gabrielle then told Xena what had happened. She told of how Atrious had been there to save her and the young Rhea from harm. Xena though still not happy about Atrious’s claim to be her father she forgave him for saving her friend. When Atrious rejoined he declared that he would get them a second horse for he felt they needed it for their journey toward Lotia. Xena then spoke of her forgiveness for his heroic deed. Then she turned to Gabrielle and said that they would journey to Lotia to return the young women to their home before they would come back to Corrillous’s camp to take out his army. Xena then urged Argo to move forth, but Atrious objected. He was upset that Xena was just going to leave him behind. Xena explained that she owed him nothing more and that she did not need him to come along. Then she and Gabrielle left Atrious behind as they journeyed toward Lotia.
As they walked Gabrielle asked Rhea why she had run away. Rhea seemed uninterested in talking about it at first. Then Gabrielle realized that Rhea must have been violated by Corrillous as many warlords often take a young woman’s chastity. Gabrielle explained to Rhea that she understood and that Rhea need not blame herself for whatever had happened between her and Corrillous. Yet Rhea was still not convinced that she was innocent as Gabrielle had believed. Soon the party of innocent women stopped by a spring to bathe as Xena and Gabrielle relaxed for a moment. Gabrielle could not help feeling as if she could help Rhea feel better inside. The bard hoped to heal Rhea’s emotional wounds from this terrible experience. Gabrielle sat down next to Rhea upon the boulders and she continued to encourage Rhea that everything would be okay. Yet Rhea was quite argumentative about it. She could not let go of her mistake.
Then Rhea explained to Gabrielle that she had gone with Corrillous willingly which shamed her more than her loss of innocence with him. She explained that her family would not want her back for it had been her choice to go in the place of her sister. Gabrielle then realized why Rhea was so afraid to return home. The bard also knew that she would need time to think about how she could comfort Rhea’s soul. Gabrielle knew that a pure-hearted young girl would not do something so terrible if there was not a good reason. As the bard contemplated Rhea’s issue she joined Xena who was humming a beautiful tune. Though the warrior princess was fierce in battle there was this tender side that Gabrielle loved very much about her friend.
The bard sat down alongside her friend as she concluded her peaceful melody. Argo stood faithfully behind the warrior princess for she loved the warrior princess just as much as did Gabrielle. Then Gabrielle inquired Xena about her father. She wanted to know what Xena remembered about the old man. Xena made certain that Gabrielle was aware that there was still a lot of uncertainty of the truth of Atrious’s words. But then Xena reminisced about the one good thing she remembered about the man that went away leaving her, her mother, and brothers behind. Xena spoke of how he used to ride upon his beautiful horse. He would charge the horse toward her and then stop just short of galloping over her. Then her father would reach down with his mighty strong arms and take her upon the horse with him. Then they would ride together through the open fields.
As Gabrielle watched Xena express wonderful memory out loud she envisioned how exciting that experience must have been for a young Xena. Xena did agree that the experience was just as exciting as it had been wonderful. Yet their peaceful moment of sharing was soon interrupted by the call of duty. Across the spring in the distance the voice of Atrious called out Xena’s name frantically. He was riding in upon a brown horse followed by to men upon their horses. They were seemingly chasing him as the young women dispersed quickly from the spring. Xena jumped upon Argo and quickly rode again into battle. Atrious had seemingly gotten himself into another helpless situation.
The two men chasing him prepared their cross bows for revenge upon Atrious, but just before they could pull their triggers Xena the warrior princess fired her chackram across the sky slicing off the point of their arrows. Then she flipped off of her horse into the air as the chackram came back landing into its resting place upon her hip. This happened as she was still flipping and then just before she landed before the enemy she drew her sword for battle. Of course she did this with her famous battle cry. The warrior princess quickly caught an ax the flew at her from the enemy just before her graceful landing. Then the second enemy approached her with his swords. The warrior princess blocked his first advance with the ax and then released it handling the enemy with only her sword.
This unexpected battle ended very quickly and the girls were safe once more. Xena found herself even more irritated at Atrious for it was revealed to her by the two men who had been attacking him that their horse had been stolen. When Xena asked Atrious if he had stolen the horse Atrious denied that it was stolen. Instead he declared that he had been owed a favor and this horse was fair payment. The warrior princess then asked the men if it were true what Atrious had said. They didn’t deny that they had owed a debt. Xena found her suspicions to be incorrect yet again. Atrious was upset with his daughter for she seemingly did not trust him at all no matter how hard he tried to win her over. Then he warmed up to her trying to melt her heart. He then began humming the same tune that she had been humming just before he had ridden in with his new-found horse. Atrious then reminded Xena of those wonderful times they had together. He expressed that all he wanted was to be with is daughter again. Xena found herself desperately trying to fight the possibility of Atrious being real to her.
Yet Xena did not reject him allowing him to travel with them this time. She left him to flank in the front of the group while she, Argo, and Gabrielle flanked the back. Gabrielle then asked Xena if indeed Atrious had stolen the horses. Xena assured the bard that they had not been stolen despite her suspicions. Once Gabrielle was satisfied with Atrious’s innocence she seeked out Rhea once more. Again Gabrielle tried to comfort and encourage Rhea despite all that had happened. Rhea finally found the courage to explain why she had gone away willingly. She told of how she wanted her sister to have the happiness that she had deserved. Rhea’s sister had her entire life ahead of her for she had been preparing to wed. Gabrielle realized that Rhea’s love for her sister had been so strong that she had willingly given up her own innocence so that her sister could be happy. The bard found this to be very commendable and expressed to Rhea how wonderful her deed had been despite the pain. Gabrielle was certain that Rhea’s family would welcome her back with appreciation and open arms.
Soon Gabrielle looked to rejoin Xena who had moved to the front talking with Atrious. Xena found herself warming up to her father for the first time all day. The warrior princess was finally feeling as if she had that wonderful man back in her life. She had missed out on so much without him and Gabrielle could see how delighted the two were with each other. Yet the peace Gabrielle saw within the warrior princess was soon interrupted by the sound of a flying dart. The warrior princess heard it too as she reached up to catch it with her bare hand. She had saved Atrious once again from being killed.
Quickly the warrior princess charged into the trees and found the sharp shooter. She then surprised him shooting his next dart through the tube back into his own throat. The warrior princess had taken him by surprise asking the skilled shooter to send Corrillous a message. She wanted Corrillous to know that it would not be easy to kill the warrior princess. As the enemy struggled to run back to his camp he was stopped by Atrious whose weapon was drawn and ready for the kill. Gabrielle rounded the corner just in time to see the cruelty within the heart of Atrious. She was astonished as Atrious showed no mercy upon the helpless victim. He took advantage of a defenseless man thrusting his sword through the chest of the victim. Gabrielle watched in shock and horror unable to move or speak. She just stood motionless as Atrious pulled out his weapon.
Soon Xena had joined them seeing that Gabrielle was clearly upset. Xena asked Gabrielle what the problem was. Gabrielle tried desperately to explain in detail what she had seen. She told of how Atrious had taken a man’s life unfairly and without remorse. Yet Atrious explained to Xena that he had done it only because he was trying to kill Xena. Then Atrious made certain that Xena knew that the man had a knife. Atrious claimed that he had killed him in self-defense yet Gabrielle was certain that she had seen no dagger. Then Xena’s suspicions were risen once more as she rolled the dead victim over. Beneath the victim was a dagger upon the ground, but Gabrielle was still certain that she had not seen a dagger. Xena then declared that mistakes can sometimes be made. She admitted that even she had made a mistake. It was obvious to the bard that Xena now fully trusted Atrious although Gabrielle could not shake the strange feeling. Something was certainly not right.
Then Xena went back to check on the girls as Atrious approached Gabrielle. He spoke to her in strange way. Atrious told the bard that after they returned the girls to Lotia he would be leaving again. He made certain that Gabrielle was aware that he could see how strong the friendship was between the bard and Xena. He did not want wish to get in the way. Atrious felt strongly that it was wrong for him to be in their way. They were a team and he felt that as long as Gabrielle were a part of Xena’s life that there was no place for him there. Then he left Gabrielle alone to ponder what he had said. The bard found herself even more shocked and confused. Then Rhea suddenly appeared and interrupted Gabrielle’s thought. Rhea asked Gabrielle if everything was okay as Gabrielle shook off the funny feeling. Then Rhea asked Gabrielle if it was wrong to leave her village with Corrillous so that her sister and her husband could be together. Gabrielle realized what Rhea had been asking. It had indeed been the right choice for Rhea and Gabrielle suddenly realized what she herself had to do.
Sadly Gabrielle prepared to leave Xena behind. Though Gabrielle loved Xena more than anyone else in the world she knew that she had to leave her friend with Atrious. Xena needed her long-lost father now and Gabrielle felt strongly that she would be an intrusion. Gabrielle had planned out how she would leave Xena without having to truely say good-bye. When Gabrielle found her friend she asked Xena to stay behind with Atrious so that they could lookout for Corrillous and his army. Gabrielle suggested that she take the girls back to Lotia alone so that Xena and Atrious could stay back and fight. Xena asked Gabrielle if she was certain that she wanted to do this. Gabrielle had made up her mind and quietly within her heart said good-bye to the beautiful warrior princess. Then the bard lead Rhea and the others back to Lotia where they would be safe once again.
Upon reaching Lotia Gabrielle urged Rhea to return to the loving arms of her family. Rhea did and her family accepted her with open arms. Her sister had been joyful to be reunited with Rhea, and her sister’s husband was grateful for the happiness Rhea had given them. Rhea found that her heart was relieved, and that her spirit could begin to heal. Gabrielle was satisfied for she had done another good deed. And as things appeared to come together for the better there was uncertainty in the wind. Xena planned to return to Lotia to rejoin with her friend. As she tried once more to leave Atrious behind he insisted that he must join her to help the people of Lotia. He seemingly knew that Xena still wrestled with past demons. Atrious took claim to some past demons of his own concerning the people of Lotia. Those were the only words needed to convince Xena to allow him to join her in Lotia where they would protect and then defeat.
When they reached Lotia Atrious was not greeted with a warm welcome. As soon as they entered into the tavern the people of Lotia took him captive. The village magistrate declared that he had to pay for his past crimes against Lotia and its people. Xena was upset that they treated him in this way. She had been treated with the very same distrust many times and felt his pain of being rejected. The warrior princess pleaded with the villagers to allow him to go and fight alongside her against Corrillous’s approaching army. Yet the magistrate refused for Atrious had fooled them before declaring that he was their ally only to betray them in the end. With the dagger to his throat Atrious begged Xena not to worry about him. He needed to pay for his sins of the past. Atrious wanted to reckon with his demons no matter the price.
Xena tried one last attempt at rescuing her father from his sentence. She declared that if she defeated Corrillous’s army alone that the village of Lotia allow her father to go free. The magistrate laughed for he was certain that the warrior princess could not defeat an army alone. Yet Xena was vigilant and confident that it could be done. With that declaration the warrior princess headed off to Corrillous’s camp. There she met face to face with Corrillous who had plans for the warrior princess. He had been challenged by Ares who declared that he could never defeat the warrior princess in battle. Corrillous asked Xena into a false truce. He declared that she drop her weapons, but Xena was too clever for that trick. Instead she declared that Corrillous be the first to show that he would spare the village of Lotia.
Corrillous threw down is sword as requested. Then Xena responded accordingly. Yet the ambitious warlord was certain of his victory over the warrior princess in front of his audience and army. He pulled a dagger from his belt and hurled it toward the warrior princess. Xena caught his weapon with her bare handed skill and then discarded it to the ground. She warned Corrillous of his unwise decision. The challenge was on as Corrillous jumped down from his horse to retrieve his sword for a duel. Then Xena flipped from her place upon Argo and ripped her sword from its upright resting place in the ground. Suddenly Corrillous charged forward as they battled violently against one another. Their duel was fierce. Xena was driven by her passionate love for her long-lost father as Corrillous was driven by his ego and ambitions. The two had disarmed one another and their battle shifted from clashing swords to a hand to hand combat. They rolled upon the ground in a struggle of good against evil.
Yet Xena came out the winner defeating evil with the intentions of love. She then took control of Corrillous’s army as they began to chant the name of their new commander. It had been over six seasons since Xena had last commanded an army. Darphus had taken her army from her, but now she had her army back again. It was well-trained and ready for battle. The warrior princess left her challenger to face his humiliation alone as she rode off at the head of her new army. They rode off toward Lotia to free Xena’s father.
Upon arriving in Lotia Xena found her beloved father displayed before her strung up in the village square badly beaten awaiting his death. The sight drove her heart into pain and sorrow, but it soon turned to a nasty vengeance which she had not experienced in many seasons. She gave the command for her new army to take the village and then the battle of goodness against vengeance commenced. The soldiers of Xena’s new army captured the Lotian people from their homes, and businesses. They began invading the tavern as the people began to scream and scatter about in fear. Gabrielle ran out to see what was happening. She spotted Xena riding in the streets upon Argo and declared that she would not hurt anyone.
Suddenly Gabrielle was captured by one of the members of the army. She demanded that he release her for she was a close friend to Xena. Yet the man did not heed her words declaring that he was related to the god Zeus. Suddenly Gabrielle realized that somehow the situation was beyond control. Sometime was definitely wrong, but she was uncertain of what it was. The feeling was like the one she had experienced when she witnessed Atrious’s murder of Corrillous’s helpless warrior. Then Gabrielle caught sight of Xena carrying her father toward the tavern where she stood captive with the rest of the villagers. Xena’s eyes were hazy seemingly clouded by anger. Atrious struggled to speak to Xena as she knelt down with him. He proclaimed that all he had ever wanted was to be with his daughter. Xena’s eyes began to well up with tears as she tried to ease his pain. The warrior princess could see he was about to leave her again. And then Atrious took his last breath leaving her behind once again. Yet this time it was different. This time he had been taken from her.
The warrior princess rose from the ground. She demanded that someone pay for her loss and so she gave another harsh command to her new army. The warrior princess demanded that her new army kill every last villager in Lotia. Gabrielle suddenly realized that she had to stand up and fight. She had to take control for Xena was beyond it. The bard released herself from her capture with an elbow to the stomach. She then grabbed a pitch fork and approached the darkness boldly and without fear. The bard held her weapon steady and with desperate anger. Disappointment had built up within her for the warrior princess was giving in to the darkness which had engulfed so many innocent people. Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior princess to stop, but Xena seemingly did not hear.
Then the bard reminded the dark warrior of a day that she saw goodness. The bard recalled the day that they first met when she learned from the warrior princess how to stand up and fight for good. Gabrielle reminded the warrior princess of the wrath of Draco who almost destroyed her home and her life. The bard reminded Xena that if she did not turn back to the light once more that she would be forced to turn against the one she loved. Gabrielle was ready to sacrifice herself and her dark friend for to good of the people of Lotia. Determined with great will the bard could see that she was beginning to get through, but just when she thought she had won over Xena’s darkness Atrious rose from the dead.
He demanded that his daughter take to lives of those villager whom had savagely beaten him. Atrious demanded that Xena stand by him with the vengeance that he knew she had within her. Gabrielle felt that she was losing Xena once more. She made a quick decision as she struck Xena from behind with her weapon knocking the warrior princess violently to the ground. Slowly the warrior princess rose from the ground. She looked to Gabrielle and then looked back at Atrious who was mumbling vengeance out of control. He was sharp in his persuasion, but then suddenly Xena caught onto the game for she saw that it had been Ares all along. Suddenly Atrious transformed into the visage of the god of war before the eyes of the villagers and all who witnessed his presence.
He then went onto explain to Xena that he had finally succeeded. Ares spoke of how he had used Corrillous to build Xena the perfect army. He had done it all for Xena in order to win her back. Ares wanted Xena to be the commander of his ultimate conquest for violent war. The god of war continued as he explained that it had taken him a while to figure out the last part of his complex plan, but then he thought of Xena’s father. It was when that came to him that he realized just how he could win Xena over. Ares had been delighted at how well his plan had worked, and now he demanded that he deserved the love and appreciation from the daughter whose father he portrayed so very well.
Xena was on the verge, but then declared that she would not follow Ares. She asked him to give up on her and to find a new conquesting warrior. Yet Ares was still holding onto some control over the emotionally confused warrior princess. He began changing back into the vision of Xena’s long lost father. And then he switched back into himself. He kept talking to the warrior princess as if he were her father trying desperately to hold control of her darkness. But the warrior princess fought against the darkness and finally broke free. She threw her sword to the ground before Ares and declared that she would never give in. Ares realized that he had lost control and became enraged. He threatened the warrior princess with death if she did not comply with his wishes. Yet the warrior princess had restored her freedom from his grasp. She challenged him to do just that. The warrior princess challenged the god of war to kill his prize warrior. Gabrielle pleaded with Xena not to do it for she knew very well the power of the gods. Anyone who dared to defy them was certain to meet death.
Ares then displayed his godly powers raising Xena’s sword from the ground without ever touching it. He then thrust it through the air forward toward the brave warrior princess. The crowd of soldiers, and villagers watched with fear as the weapon neared the victim. But just before the point of the sword struck the neck of the warrior princess it stopped short. Ares could not bring himself to kill the warrior princess and so the battle was over. The god of war vanished from sight leaving only with the whispering words of his return. Then Lotia was finally freed and relieved to be safe once more.
As the warrior princess and the bard prepared to leave together Xena found herself confiding in her friend. She apologized for straying from her path and thanked Gabrielle for reminding her of her of the truth. Gabrielle was satisfied and pleased that she had been able to help the warrior princess find herself in her time of need. Then Xena spoke words from the heart to the bard. She told the bard that everyone in the world has a family which they love and are a part of. Yet Xena was certain that Gabrielle was even more than family though they were not related by blood. Gabrielle felt the same way about her friend as they began to head off into the next challenge. And so the warrior princess and the bard have found themselves bound by ties beyond family. An everlasting friendship that will endure great things has come into their lives.