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 #3: Scroll #50: Judgement Day

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Judgement Day

Scroll #50

September, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll # 36: Ten Little Warlords

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#36:  Ten Little Warlords

February 28th, 47 B.C.

Pulling oneself out of the depressing nightmare that is reality can be tough.  And though the nightmare of Callisto had seemingly ended Gabrielle awoke just before dawn to the familiar sound of a crackling fire and the boots of Callisto stopping before her.  When she opened her eyes all that could be seen was not the comforting face of Xena, but the reminder of her rage that continued to stir within.  The voice that spoke Gabrielle’s name was soft and soothing yet it was Callisto’s voice.  Though it had Xena’s familiar tone Gabrielle’s body reacted as she jerked into sudden consciousness and realized again Xena’s face was now that of Callisto.  The bard worked hard everyday to get over that anger and that constant sadness of her loss which ate away inside her heart.  This pain seemingly bled so deeply at times that it found its way into the pit of Gabrielle’s soul. She felt certain that it would be much easier to deal with if only Xena could really be Xena.  At least then the constant reminder of Perdicas’s absence would be less of a burden to the heart.

Though it was Callisto’s face which stared softly into the bard’s eyes Gabrielle was still having much difficulty accepting it as the now true face of her best friend.  She felt almost saddened knowing that it must not be easy for Xena to understand that her presence was a constant reminder of the one who murdered Perdicas.  Not only that, but Xena had to endure the constant darkness which followed Callisto for no one else knew the truth that Gabrielle and Xena knew.  Then as the bard rose to her feet slowly with Xena’s assistance and attempt at comforting her Gabrielle expressed her frustration of the situation.  Xena did understand.  Though there was nothing that could be done about it all now.  At least together they had succeeded at ridding the world of the evil soul of Callisto, but her presence in their lives would never be completely gone.  Gabrielle attempted to come up with a temporary solution to this issue pleading with the warrior princess to at least try to change her hair color back to its natural darkness rather than the irritating blonde it had become.

Xena’s reaction was seemingly abrupt as the bard found herself being thrown by the mighty hands of Callisto the warrior princess behind the brush.  As Gabrielle quickly tried to recoil her suggestion the warrior princess moved her finger to her lips in an attempt to hush the frantic yet momentarily startled bard.  Gabrielle’s confusion was almost so overwhelming that she had forgotten that there was indeed one other person in the world who knew of the truth about Callisto the warrior princess.  As Xena held steady she knelt down beside Gabrielle as they watched and listened together upon the intruder’s entrance into camp.  He wore a small bush over his goofy yet ugly bronze helmet in a lame attempt to conceal himself from view.  As always the warrior princess had sensed his presence way before he had even been fifty yards from camp.  Despite being in Callisto’s body the bard found herself impressed by Xena’s ability to adjust to her new surroundings.  It was obvious that Xena was handling things much better than Gabrielle.

As the idiot entered from beyond the darkness and the brush Xena instructed the raging bard without words.  Gabrielle knew that this was a test to see if she could control the enemy’s approach.  Although the enemy was an idiot he was a perfect decoy for a young bard in training.  Gabrielle watched as the enemy took one, two, and then a third creeping step toward the fire ten yards away from their position.  Just as the idiot was about to turn the corner toward the crackling fire Xena squeezed the bard’s arm signaling the take down.  Gabrielle rose from her knelt position with her staff and lunged forward shouting out Joxer’s name and sweeping him to the ground with a kick to the knee and a leg sweeping staff move.  Joxer suddenly fell upon his back to the ground unaware of the danger which had awaited him

As he lied upon his back blinded by his crooked helmet Gabrielle took the advantage stabbing him in the breast plate with her staff.  There was a yearning for attack coursing through the veins of the bard as she looked down to notice that Joxer’s breast plate wasn’t really much of a plate at all.  It was more like an old strainer used in every kitchen she had ever seen back home in Potedia.  Yet this sidetracked thought soon left and any mercy she may have felt for the idiot quickly left her heart.   Joxer’s response to Gabrielle’s cunning move on him was sarcastic and less than complementary.  He tried to play off his blunder in battle stating that he had been noisy purposely as if he had conspired with the warrior princess before arriving.  As Joxer brought himself back to his feet brushing his brown trousers off Xena soon emerged from the brush.  She was actually quite surprised to see the idiot and was highly curious of his arrival.  Whatever the reason it seemed important to the warrior princess as Joxer continued to speak.  He took off his helmet with pride and confidence and removed the fern sticking out of the top.

After he finished his presentation of warrior prowess he continued his statement explaining that he had received an important message for Callisto.  Joxer was certain that the blonde warrior would want to know of this message.  Yet he was still quite confused for he couldn’t remember if Callisto was actually Xena or if Xena was Callisto.  He looked to Gabrielle who was reminded that there was just one other who knew the true identity of Callisto the warrior princess.  The bard could sympathize with his confusion for she too was still feeling it inside.  Yet Joxer’s presence was still as annoying as ever.  Gabrielle then thought as he continued to converse with Xena that maybe it would have been better if Joxer had been the one stuck in Callisto’s body instead of Xena.  At least she could deal with her frustrations by popping him in the nose or beating him with her staff.  The bard was very aware of Xena’s warrior skills and did not dare to move upon her frustrations against Xena who was still stuck in Callisto’s body.

Then the bard realized that even Xena was still having some difficulty in dealing with her new identity for she seemed irritated that Joxer would even think to bring her Callisto’s personal messages.  Xena turned from his ignorance with irritation in her voice declaring that he should burn the message rather than waste her time with it.  Gabrielle found herself in private agreement with the warrior princess’s attitude, but Joxer was not so certain that this message should be burned.  His persistence prevailed as he explained that this message was from none other than Ares the god of war.  Joxer was an idiot, but he did have at least a tiny brain working within his dumb skull part of the time.  His observation proved to be of great interest to the warrior princess.  She remembered that there was at least one other that knew that she wasn’t really Callisto.  Ares most certainly knew the truth for it was Ares that had helped Callisto escape the underworld by using Xena’s guilt to get into Xena’s body.

As Xena’s interest in Callisto’s message intensified Joxer demonstrated his pride in knowing that he had Xena’s undivided attention.  It was rare that Joxer had ever had Xena’s attention at all.  He then stated that Ares had sent only ten personal invitations to ten different warlords.  Callisto had been one of those ten.  As the warrior princess continued to listen and to run the scenarios through her mind Joxer fumbled through his lose gear to retrieve the actual message.  The bard’s curiosity of Joxer’s story turned to irritation, and then to a sudden uncontrollable impatience.  Her eyes darted about his clothing looking for something randomly hanging out until finally they spotted the misplaced scroll.  Gabrielle’s arms jerked her staff forth stabbing Joxer’s side where the message for Callisto hung.  Joxer looked up surprised yet annoyed that the bard had interrupted his performance for the warrior princess.  He then brought his sarcastic tone into the conversation once more downplaying Gabrielle’s impressive move.  He asked her if maybe she was a fierce warrior trapped within the body of the bard.  His implication was that she was clumsy and uncoordinated.  Yet the bard did not find his sarcastic humor at all amusing.  Xena continued to ignore the tension between the two inexperienced warriors still thinking of the message as she read the scroll.

Then she proclaimed that it was not Ares who had sent the letter.  He would have no reason to send such a letter to Callisto for he knew that the real Callisto was back in Tartarus where she belonged.  Yet Xena was uncertain of whom had sent the letter which brought her to her second question of why.  The warrior princess needed to know who really sent it and why they would send such an invitation.  Of course Xena’s thoughts were spoken aloud almost as if she had forgotten that Joxer and Gabrielle were there.  Joxer took advantage of the moment and tried once again to prove that he was a worthy sidekick.  He desperately wanted a mission and a quest and now he had found one.  Joxer asked Xena when, but Xena cut him off immediately.  She declared that he would not go with she and Gabrielle at first light.  Joxer’s face turned to extreme disappointment and Gabrielle felt a sense of relief in knowing that she would not have to spend the day warding off Joxer’s idiocy on top of trying to keep her anger in check.  Dealing with Xena as Callisto was difficult enough for the bard.  Yet Xena let Joxer down gently.  The bard couldn’t understand why the warrior princess didn’t just tell him the truth about himself.  Instead Xena gently placed her hand upon his shoulder and asked Joxer to stay behind to protect the local villagers from the nine other warlords that would be passing through.  She assured Joxer that his warrior presence could prevent panic from breaking out.  Joxer’s disappointment turned to sudden delight for he had never thought of doing that.  It was as if he had come to a sudden revelation.  His part in Xena’s plan was even more important than what Gabrielle would be doing.  Somehow he had gone from a childlike idiot to a confident and well respected hero within seconds.

As Xena ushered the bard away from Joxer leaving him to think of all the good that he would do without them he tried to thank her.  Yet he was still confused for he was getting this wonderful warrior advice from Callisto yet it was really Xena inside.  Gabrielle turned to face him and to try to sympathize with his confusing pain.  Yet even Gabrielle was finding that it was getting a little less confusing to identify what Xena now looked like.

As first light broke into the warm mid morning sun Xena and Gabrielle had approached the outskirts of the next village.  There they stayed hidden in the tall brush to watch as the other nine warlords arrived.  One by one each warlord made his dastardly appearance.  And each one had that suspicious look about them.  It was as if they held the key to the greatest secret in the world.  They were a select few, but no one knew why.  The first three warlords came quietly and did not think to speak to anyone.  They just entered into town trying to be inconspicuous, but the bard could see right through their evil presence.  Then two more came into town almost at the very same moment.  One was short and stout.  Xena named him as Tegasaur.  Then the bard spotted the fifth noticing that he was rather large almost like a giant cyclops.  The hairy giant pushed an innocent villager aside.  Xena declared the two approaching warlords as bitter enemies.  Gabrielle noticed that they seemingly recognized each other and  awaited the bloodbath to begin.  It was as if she yearned to see blood on this peaceful morning.

Suddenly Gabrielle realized the importance of finding out the answers to Xena’s burning new questions.  The who and the why was burning within the bard’s own heart like no other questions she had ever asked before.  She suggested that Xena close in quickly using her infamous pinch to defeat every warlord before he had a chance to strike back.  Yet Xena seemed calm and patient.  As the bard found herself to be extremely fired up with rage inside she was ready for an offensive move.  Xena noticed the bard’s unusual mood and spoke softly to her friend in an attempt to calm the raging heart within.    Gabrielle’s raging mood calmed for a moment, but the calm did not last.

As the bard prepared for the battle to ensue the two warlords suddenly stopped before one another.  Instead of drawing each others’ blood as the bard had expected the two men pooled their information.   The bard found herself in a state of confusion yet disappointment.  Just moments before Xena had declared that the two were certain enemies.  In fact she had compared their encounter to throwing oil on a raging fire, but it didn’t appear to the bard that they were about to draw any swords or daggers.  Gabrielle watched the two disgusting men spit upon the ground as if it were the sign of an ugly greeting.  It was clear that the two had not been raised with one manner within either of their bones.  They were truly hideous as they each held up a scroll.  The scrolls looked exactly like the one that Xena had received as Callisto.  Then the two shook hands firmly as if sealing a deal.  It was then that Xena and the bard realized that the two had decided to join forces, but their motives were still shady.

Suddenly the bard felt the need to pounce.  As her muscles tensed and she grabbed up her staff she began to charge forward.  Xena quickly grabbed her friend who was seemingly unable to control the burning rage within.  The warrior princess spoke soothingly to her friend.  She  encouraged patience and then tried to lighten the mood by asking Gabrielle if she had slept on another rock the night before.  Though at first Gabrielle did not see the humor in Xena’s joke she finally realized that Xena was right.  Xena insisted that she follow the warlords alone while Gabrielle should go on toward the market to grab something for her stomach.  The warrior princess was certain that it was the bard’s empty stomach that caused her friend to be so vengeful on this morning.  Yet Gabrielle herself was not exactly certain what the issue was within.  And although she was confused she listened to the warrior princess as always knowing that Xena understood her even when she herself did not.

As the bard watched Xena go in after the warlords she herself went in the opposite direction into town.  Gabrielle desperately tried to hold down the anger and the pain of her recent losses, but it seemed that the harder she tried the more the fire burned inside.  The bard thought maybe it really was her stomach that actually burned as she heard the sounds of the approaching market.  An old hag called out for a sale on fishcakes which actually began to sound very good for the moment.  Gabrielle remembered how much she really loved how the flavor melted in her mouth.  Fishcakes suddenly seemed to be the answer to all of the bard’s problems as she approached the old woman’s stand.  The bard was swooned by the sale of six for only one dinar.  That was unheard of and most definitely a deal worth cashing in on for the most seasoned of bargain hunters.  It was just one of the bard’s many skills aside from her storytelling.

As she approached the woman for the sale she found herself suddenly entranced by the man across the way.  The sound of his voice was so soothing as it called out fishcakes ten for only one dinar.  Gabrielle quickly turned away from the cheap old hag and rushed over to the peasant man who sold ten fishcakes for only one dinar.  Her stomach would be full for days for that kind of deal.  She wouldn’t have to feel the raging fire within the pit of her stomach for at least ten days.  Yet just before the bard could pull out the single dinar that would pave the way to her soothing happiness the old hag chimed in once more.  This time she offered twelve fishcakes for a dinar.  The bard’s head began to spin with confusion once more as her stomach felt that aching pain and the fire began to drive up into her heart once again.  It was more than she could bare to take.  Not only that, but she could suddenly feel that her arms were being torn apart by the two marketing fishcakes.  The competition was fierce as the battle began to rage between the peasants in the market for the sale of twelve tiny little fishcakes.

Gabrielle had reached her breaking point.  She suddenly ripped her arms from their restraint as she shouted out at the top of her lungs.  The bard no longer seeked fishcakes.  She seeked vengeance and rage.  She seeked blood and sweat.  Gabrielle needed to release her nervous energy in the heat of a battle.  And so the bard turned and took barely a glance at her new peasant enemies and began to smash her way through the market delivering thunderous punches to anyone who dared get in the way of her destructive path.  She tossed innocent peasant girls to the ground just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Then she focused back upon the two peasants that had been trying to make the sale.  They were the true culprits of it all.  And as the market had now broken out into total chaos Callisto appeared to investigate what she had missed.  Actually it wasn’t really Callisto, but everyone in the market stopped for they were certain that the wrath of the irritating blonde would rain down upon them.

Gabrielle was on the rampage determined to stop the raging peasants in their sale before anyone else fell victim to their entrancing fishcakes.  Gabrielle chose the first weapons she caught sight of as one of the fishcake dealers pleaded and begged for Callisto to spare his life, but Gabrielle knew the truth.  Callisto was not at all the one they had to worry about.  She was in control of her rage yet Gabrielle was not.  The bard suddenly picked up a large trout from one of the nearby stands and prepared to belt the fishcake dealer with it over the head, but just before the bard could strike Xena grabbed her friend by the ear and yanked hard dragging the bard out of the market and into the nearby tavern.  Xena then scolded the bard for her crazy actions.  The warrior princess realized that her friend was delusional which was strange and out of character for the bard.

It was a painful journey for Gabrielle as she could not break free of the grasp of the mighty warrior princess or the rage that boiled within.  As soon as Xena had busted through the doors she threw Gabrielle down into an old rickety chair and again demanded that her friend calm down.  It seemed that the bard’s mood was a result of more than just an empty stomach.  Xena found herself quite confused at this strange turn of events.  It seemed that no one’s true behavior could be predictable.  Her warrior instincts were not working as they normally would.  It was possible that the warrior princess was unable to judge the character of a warlord now that she was stuck within Callisto’s body.

As she thought out loud wondering why innocent peasants were ready to kill one another and why warlords were on their best behavior she was interrupted by the voice of an impatient bard.  Gabrielle shouted out to the barkeep demanding service for thirsty customers as she pounded her wooden mug upon the table.  Yet just as the bard was unable to control her mood swings her mind was still sharp as her ears caught the conversation between the barkeep and one of his obviously drunken customers.  The angry bard was determined to find out who it was that held the barkeep’s attention.  As she listened to the conversation she could have sworn that the drunken customer dressed in dark rags and leather pants was bragging himself to be a god.  Xena too had caught a bit of the conversation because she seemed to be focused on the drunken fellow.  As Xena approached him he turned around and flashed a crooked smile toward the warrior princess.  He then shouted out her name, but he didn’t call her Callisto.

Xena suddenly rose from the table and began to walk toward the bar uncertain of who knew her true identity.  At first the man with the black hood over his head didn’t look so familiar yet as she approached and listened to the voice she paused in her advance.  Suddenly it was all very clear to the warrior princess.  Yet to the bard it was still foggy.  Then escaping from Xena’s lips was the name of the god of war.  Ares grinned back as if delighted that the warrior princess had figured out his true identity yet Gabrielle found herself not so certain that the god of war would be found in a petty little tavern among peasants.  Yet the drunk was determined to make his impression.  He laughed as if amused that Xena didn’t recognize him.  Moments later Xena confirmed that it really was the god of war only he had been turned into a mortal.  Of course that was the real mystery because even Ares did not know how he ended up becoming mortal over night.  Yet it seemed like justice to Gabrielle who was still angry at him for not giving Xena her body back.  If anyone had the power to give Xena her true self it was him.  But now he was just a plain old mortal idiot just like Joxer or any other mortal man.  In fact, the bard noticed that he spoke with a bit of slur in his speech.  He was just as big of a loser as any.  Ares was hardly impressive and definitely not what Gabrielle had imagined a god to be like.

Gabrielle found her rage taking over as she rose from the table and approached the mortal god of war.  She wanted a piece of action and she was determined to show him what real pain was.  Yet he did not take her actions against him lightly as he tossed her aside out of drunken anger and frustration.  Xena did not allow his disrespecting ways to go unpunished.  The warrior princess suddenly picked up the mortal man and threw him across the tavern over her head.  He flipped  out of control until he crashed into some bar furniture before coming to a rest.  Gabrielle was delighted to see how truly vulnerable he really was.  She was ready to finish him off, but Xena would not allow it.  Instead Xena threw out a rag to the demoralized god and instructed him on how to heal his new wound.  His mouth was bleeding from the corner.  He looked like a helpless little child as if about to cry, but he didn’t.  Instead he made a notation of what mortal pain felt like for the first time.  Gabrielle found herself enthralled with the idea of giving him more pain, but was again scolded for her out of control behavior.  Xena demanded that the bard leave her alone with Ares.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that if she needed an extra warrior to be there she would be most definitely ready for battle.  Yet just as Gabrielle felt this energy surge she realized that her thirst called out to her and was again focused on the lousy barkeep.

The anger redirected itself as she tossed some bar stools aside and sat before the barkeep.  There was an unusual power that could be felt within the bard.  She had never before experienced this kind of power.  It was an uncontrollable driving force that could barely be controlled.  She snapped out to the barkeep for a drink and though he tried very hard to service the angry young blonde he was unable to appease her.  He must have served her at least three or four different drinks and none of them soothed that unquenchable thirst for blood and violence.  And then it dawned upon Gabrielle that she was feeling the wrath of warrior power.  She looked to her left and tried unsuccessfully to use Xena’s famous pinch upon an innocent drunk.  The drunk fell not because he was about to die of a blockage in his artery, but because Gabrielle had become frustrated with her failure in using the famous move as she threw his stool from beneath him.

And while the bard argued with the barkeep and continued her scene of rage Xena and Ares conversed and exchanged information.  Neither really knew the answer to who had been the one who invited Callisto and nine other warlords to the village, but the two had come to an agreement before leaving the tavern.  Suddenly the bard was ready for more action as Xena prepared to leave the tavern and Ares behind.  Gabrielle was glad to know that he would not be joining them on the next leg of their mission.  Yet as the day fell into night Xena explained to Gabrielle the conversation that taken place between herself and Ares.  He had told her that he was unaware of how he had ended up mortal.  His godhood had been stolen sometime during his preoccupation with Xena and Callisto in Tartarus.  By the time he had returned home to Olypmous his sword had come up missing which held the key to his immortality.

This was a big disappointment for the bard knowing that Ares could have helped Xena, but now there was no chance.  As the bard began to write him off of her list of known gods Xena explained that there was more at stake than her return to her own body.  She explained to the bard as explained by Ares that the world would never know peace again.  No matter how much Xena and Gabrielle wished to end war by condemning Ares to mortality the fact was the world was imbalanced without him.  Ares had said that without a sitting god of war no mortal would be able to control anger and every peaceful peasant would rage inside starting more wars than could be imagined.  When Xena revealed to Gabrielle that even she was falling victim to this imbalance Gabrielle’s uncontrollable anger began to boil even more.

Xena felt that she was losing her friend, but knew of no other way to save her from the imbalance and indifference of war.  Gabrielle rose from her log by the fire suddenly exhilerated and alert like Xena.  She was certain that what she had been feeling inside must be what Xena felt like inside everyday.  Finally the bard had made it to warrior status, but as she rejoiced over this new self discovery Xena interrupted her with reality.  The warrior princess explained that Ares had been right when he had said Gabrielle was already infected with uncontrollable hatred.  Gabrielle did admit to the warrior princess that she was infected with a boiling anger inside.  Her anger was so great that she felt the need to hurt Xena because Xena was in Callisto’s body.  It was difficult to deal with as Gabrielle desperately tried to hold onto her sane mind for a solution to her anger problem.  If only one of the other gods could put Xena back into her real body.  There had to be at least one of them that would be willing to help relieve Gabrielle of her painful anger.

As Xena realized Gabrielle’s confession and desire to hurt her she knew that it was the reminder of Callisto that kept her from regaining control of her emotions.  Xena knew that there was only one way to help her friend.  She had to go with Ares in the morning and she had to go alone.  Gabrielle was disappointed that Xena was going to help Ares the one who had caused all of this pain.  The bard was desperate to plead with Xena not to help Ares, but Xena’s mind had already come to its decision.  Before Xena left Gabrielle to join forces with Ares she asked the bard to try something in an attempt to calm the raging anger within.  Xena reminded Gabrielle of one of her most favorite poems about the Elysian Fields.  The warrior princess asked Gabrielle to remember that poem and to recite it when the rage became unbearable.  “Elysian Fields calm and green, love birds singing so serene….”    Before Gabrielle could finish Xena interrupted her reminding the bard only to recite it when she was feeling the anger inside.

Upon the next morning Gabrielle awoke from her slumber to find that Xena had gone without her.  She was confused at first, but suddenly the urge came over the bard to follow Xena’s trail.  Gabrielle knew the warrior princess well now that she had acquired that warrior anger and rage.  She was certain that she had what it took to take out even the most vicious of warlords along the way.  Gabrielle feared nothing as she took her trusty staff into town following every detail which led her to track down where Xena had gone.  After trying to use Xena’s pinch unsuccessfully to obtain information from the local villagers Gabrielle stumbled into someone she would rather have never even met.  It was Joxer whom had plowed her over with his sword drawn ready for action.  Yet Gabrielle was not at all amused by this.

Angry at Joxer for his clumsy blunder Gabrielle snapped at him as she used her staff instinctively to knock him to the ground from his feet.  Joxer’s sword flew out of his grasp into the air and then landed near the water in the harbor.  The boiling bard attempted to finish her victim off until he popped back up angerly questioning her action against him.  Gabrielle responded with impatience stating that she was on a mission to seek out and find Xena and Ares.  The bard was certain that Xena was in danger being in the company of the mortal god of war.  Joxer’s pride was high as a goofy smile spread across his face for he realized that Xena had trusted in him well this time.  She had given him two orders of command which directly related to the mission.  Yet Gabrielle had seemingly been ignored by the warrior princess.  Joxer bragged of guarding the docks in the harbor until the boat which carried ten little warlords would return.

Gabrielle lowered her staff and suddenly drove it into the ground.  Tapping her boot knowing instantly that Xena was only fooling the idiot with his overzealous warrior wanna be attitude.  Gabrielle was the real warrior for she knew that only a real warrior could follow one as skilled as Xena.  As the bard bragged and attempted to set Joxer straight on this fact he only scoffed at her statement against him and against his intelligence.  Joxer then explained that he already knew exactly where the boat was headed.  He even bragged of what he had seen transpire just before it had departed.  Joxer stated that Xena and Ares had ambushed one of the other warlords in order to gain Ares an invitation and passage onto the boat.  Gabrielle found herself laughing with disgust as she imagined the god of mortality trying to pose as a mighty warlord.  Joxer agreed with the bard on this point for he had witnessed the hung over god of war.  In fact he had run into Ares in the tavern just before the god of war had met with the warrior princess.  Joxer had seen the mortal suffering of another idiot hung over.

Suddenly Gabrielle’s anger rose within again for she was jealous that Joxer seemingly knew all of these important details.  She was becoming ill of his over sized pride as she searched for a point of attack against his confidence.  Gabrielle then asked Joxer what reason did he have for staying behind when he could have been on the boat with Xena and Ares.  Joxer thought about it for a moment only to reply that he had already been on the boat.  He had followed Xena and Ares and proclaimed himself the mightiest of warriors.  Though as he retold his version of the event to the bard his face turned from lit excitement to sudden disappointment for he had been reminded of the response.  He realized that no one respected him not even the bard before him.

Gabrielle knew what must have happened next when he did not finish his story.  The crowd of warlords must have laughed in his face.  Joxer finished his wonderful tale reminding the bard that he played his fine role of fear in the face of the evil Callisto although he knew that there was nothing to be afraid of.  He even went as far as to say that if it really had been Callisto he still would not have been afraid.  Gabrielle scoffed at the idea in her mind knowing that Callisto would waste the idiot in an instant if given the opportunity.

As Gabrielle and Joxer argued and bickered over what their next role in the mission would be Xena and Ares traveled across the sea with eight nasty warlords.  The best of the best had been invited to join the ranks of this honor.  There was a prize to be won at the end of the journey although no one had been allowed onto the boat with a single weapon.  Most of the warlords would not have complied with the phony Ares’s demand although it was said that one of them would obtain a prize in the end.  As they sailed the sea Ares tried desperately to deal with his throbbing headache unaware of what the hangover would deal him next.  Xena played the part of Callisto listening to the many warlords who bragged of dastardly deeds.  Many had staked claims on triumphs won by others.  One had proclaimed that he had personally smashed down the gates of Spartica, but it was actually Ares who had done that deed.

Another warlord proclaimed that he had defeated Xena shamelessly in battle only to be shown up by Callisto’s own claims to the same story.  There were a lot of vengeful feelings upon this journey as Ares played low key per the advice of the warrior princess.  After almost a day of sailing the boat finally docked upon a small isolated island.  On the island was a castle in which Ares was said to be residing.  As the true god of war and the warrior princess fell behind the pack the warrior princess wondered what it must be like for a god to have to ask for the help of a mortal.  Ares’s response was unexpected for he replied with his own question.  He wondered what it was like for Xena to be wanting to help the god who had made her a legendary warlord.

As the mortal god bragged of the talent of some of the other warlords he spoke of Virgileous proudly.  Yet he also stepped back from Virgileous realizing that his complements of the giant over-sized mongrel were not making Xena jealous.  The god was hoping to win over the warrior princess as always.  He finished the conversation adding that though Virgileous did him proud he had known no greater enemy and friend than Xena.  What Ares didn’t realize was that Xena was finding him more irresistible as a mortal than as a god.  He was human to her for the first time.  She even felt pity for the man who knew nothing of mortality until now.

By the setting sun the ten little warlords had reached the castle and entered in through its mighty doors.  Callisto led the way as the mighty doors opened magically and without effort.  Suddenly as the pack moved inside cautiously torches lit themselves to reveal an empty hallway.  In a circle they lit one by one and there were ten when it was finally done.  Xena suddenly found herself putting together the truths of this mysterious game.  There was only one whom she knew that would create such a show.  She recalled the beginning of the journey remembering the mysterious godlike voice that introduced all of the warlords to the contest on the boat.  It seemingly came from a spinning silver disk although Ares had not been flattered.  Xena remembered he had been right about the fake who tried to imitate his infamous voice.

Callisto then declared before the audience of warlords that it was Sysphus whom had most likely been responsible for sending them all on this wild goose chase.  Ares found himself confused for a moment reminding Xena and the other warlords that Sysphus had been condemned by Hades himself to push a rock uphill in Tarturus for an eternity.  All of the warlords had heard of this story fearing Hades and fearing death despite their dangerous career choices.  They had faith in only Ares whom they worshipped hoping that their beloved god of war would be there to save them in their time of need during battle.

Suddenly there was a bright flash and then a puff of smoke.  There before the warlords in the middle of the circle stood Sysphus.  He appeared irritated that Callisto had figured out part of his scheme.  Yet Sysphus played her down only to say that he was flattered to be in the presence of the mighty Callisto.  Sysphus also knew a secret about Callisto as he revealed it to the rest of the warlords.  Ares’s cover was now blown as all of those whom had once followed him had now seen him at his worst.  It was most likely one of the most emberresing moments the god of war had ever experienced.  The warlords suddenly realized that they had all been taken for fools.  There was no real prize to be won.  As they turned to leave Sysphus with his games he retook their attention disappearing like a god.  Then he reappeared before them at the doors explaining that though he was no god of war he held the ultimate prize within his possession.

It had all begun with Hades whom had said to bring together ten of the best and most skilled warriors.  One of these warriors would be the winner of a contest to slay a monster known only as the Barracas.  Each warlord was to draw number from the bowl.  They would go in order by number to see who would get the first chance at slaying the mighty Barracas.  Yet no one had ever really seen a Barracas or even heard of one.  Their chance to slay the Barracas would begin at sunrise with number one and then as each was defeated by the Barracas the next was to take his place attempting to slaughter the nasty beast.  Whomever was able to slay the Barracas successfully would win Ares sword which contained his godhood.

Ares was upset that his sword was being used as a mere prize in a silly game.  He felt disrespected and upset at Hades for allowing such an imbecile to steal his sword.  Naturally Vergilious stepped forth to claim the sword, but was rejected by Sysphus who was very much in control of these puppets who thirsted for the ultimate power.  Sysphus explained that his own reward for redistributing the godhood of  war would be immortality for himself.  He also declared that each warlord would be provided with a weapon to use against the Barracas in the morning.  And with that he disappeared as one of the other warlords announced that no one would leave the island on this night.  Their boat was no longer docked on shore for it had mysteriously disappeared.  This meant that all were staying within Sysphus’s castle for the night.

Soon Gabrielle and Joxer had landed upon the mystical island as the sun began to set.  By now Gabrielle was extremely irritated by the presence of Joxer.  No matter how hard the bard tried she could not get it out of her mind to want to kill Joxer yet she fought the rage.  Her heart was strong though her wits were tested by his stupidity.  Despite Gabrielle having thrown Joxer off of the boat after he argued with her about Xena’s wishes he would be fine she thought.  Yet she was still angry at Xena whom had left her behind to deal with Joxer and had gone off with Ares alone.  Gabrielle fought back the sails of the small vessel which she had arrived upon as the winds picked up off of the sea.  Then she felt a presence from behind.  Instinctively she picked up an or and swung around slapping the enemy across the face.

As the enemy fell to the ground she realized it was Joxer.  Gabrielle found herself shocked that he had been able to swim from the ocean and reach the shore.  She was beginning to get irritated that he kept sneaking up on her like that.  There was seemingly nothing that would rid her of his irritating presence.  When she asked the idiot warrior what he was doing he answered that he rethought Xena’s earlier orders to him.  He thought that just maybe this dock had been the one she had meant when he was told to guard the dock.  The bard could see that he was confused and out of his mind at best.  As he rose from the ground where he lied on the beach he stated that it was time to find the castle.  He began to walk in the opposite direction.  Gabrielle corrected him explaining that the castle was in plain sight straight ahead.

Joxer turned to see that the bard was indeed correct.  Yet he was determined to prove himself to be the best warrior.  Just before the argument was about to ensue once again there was a mysteriously strange sound coming from the wind.  The bard paused for a moment to listen.  It sounded dangerous and vicious.  Joxer was obviously afraid as he too had heard the sound.  Yet Gabrielle put the fear aside knowing that a true warrior fears nothing.  And so she led the way toward the sound.  Maybe it was a vicious monster that could kill Joxer so that she could find peace once again.

After following the sound into the night the two were led into the mouth of a dark cave.  This made things much more exhilerating and exciting the bard thought.  Her irritation of Joxer began to turn to a competition of warrior skills.  She knew that she could kill that monster if that was indeed what they were hearing.  Gabrielle tried desperately to focas on finding Xena knowing that there must be a drain pipe somewhere leading into the castle.  Of course Joxer the idiot had wanted to actually storm the castle doors.  Gabrielle realized quickly that he’d get himself killed that way knowing that even she could not go up against ten warlords alone.

Suddenly the sound of the monster echoed at the pass.  There were two choices.  One was to go toward the castle and the other was to slay the monster.  Joxer of course was cowardly stating that the castle was the obvious choice, but Gabrielle rejected that idea.  She was the leader in this search party and they were no longer searching for Xena.  It was all about killing the monster now.  She had to prove her superior skill to Joxer and she had to get rid of him somehow.  This had to be the way.  Yet he was still persistent in arguing with the bard who could no longer resist the urge to grab him by his nose and snap it off.  Of course she tried, but failed although Joxer let out a whimper of pain as Gabrielle twisted it around till it would twist no more.

Back at the castle the warlords were ready to kill one another as they had drawn their numbers only to discover that Callisto had drawn number one.  The number two warlord would not settle for second prize for he began a brawl warlord against warlord hoping to win against Callisto for number one.  Every warlord in the castle had known that he could not take Callisto on alone.  Yet eight against two was a certain victory.  Yet Xena in Callisto’s body was more than they could handle.  She fought them all off protecting the weakened god of war from a fate of certain death.  It was lucky for him that he had drawn number ten for no one feared Ares now.  As the battle ended someone died for there were left now only nine.  Number two whom had foolishly begun the battle found his fate.  Suddenly the voice of Syshpus chimed in pleased at what he had seen.  Yet he advised all to save their strengths till morning for it was the monster that deserved their warnings.

As the warlords went off for their slumber Xena found herself again feeling sorry for the mortal god of war.  He had been stripped of it all including his pride.  He that battle he had almost died.  Ares had sustained an injury to his shoulder as Xena cared for him.  She was feeling a strange love, but it wasn’t like any other.  The warrior princess knew that he didn’t really care wishing that he would understand.  Yet a god can never understand mortals though he has become a mortal himself.  Ares expressed how though Xena was within Callisto’s body he could still feel her true self.  Even her touch was real to him although he had mentioned that both had been his pleasures past.  It was just like a god to brag of all those he had.  So many mortals had played his victim for he had pulled their strings of passion and emotion.  As a god Ares was a master, but as a man only a helpless disaster.  That was what made Xena feel for him.  His helpless mortal state.

Yet the night was violent in the castle for each warlord plotted against the other.  They built shallow alliances with one another in an attempt to get a step closer to the Barracas.  The second to go came in.  It was number seven who had claimed number two.  He burst in through the door of Xena and Ares about to strike only do die before them.  After he fell all that could be seen was a huge ax in his back.  Xena and Ares had been given only a small dagger and a mace.  It was clear these weapons were meant to kill warriors and not monsters.  Yet the why of it all was still as foggy as the location of the sword.  Xena was certain that it was within the castle in plain view.  It was obvious now what they had to do.

As Xena and Ares searched the castle for a clue they stumbled upon two more bodies of dead warriors.  Three and four had now perished.  They had perished at the point of each others’ sword.  It was an obvious trick played upon them by those  warlords remaining alive.  The situation was grim as Xena knew that they would soon find themselves in another battle of warrior skill.  This time it would be four against two although Ares as a mortal was not much of a warrior at all.  As the two true allies searched for the sword Ares tried desperately to convince Xena to take his sword.  His mortal heart desired more to be with Xena than it did to reclaim his godhood.  He could not imagine being a god again knowing that Xena would never trust him.  She had made it clear to him back at the bedchamber that if he ever lived to see immortality once more that he would always forget what he had promised as a mortal.

Ares had tried desperately to convince her otherwise, but Xena was not easily fooled.  Even mortal men tell lies to full fill their own desires.  Of course Xena rejected his idea knowing that she was not the woman for the job.  She did not wish to be a goddess or an immortal.  Yet Ares agreed that she should be the goddess of desire rather than of war.  He was planting the seed for immortality with the mortal he loved most.  Ares would make her a goddess with his sword and then convince her to give him his own immortality so that they could reign together upon Olympus.  Xena refused his offer again as number nine approached from behind.  The warrior princess had spotted his reflection within a shield upon the wall.  He carried a sword as he struck from behind.

Effortlessly Xena pulled out her dagger given to her by Sysphus.  She sent the dagger into number nine sealing the deal with Ares.  She admitted that he was the right man for the job despite how much she wished to keep him from regaining his reign.  Not one of the other remaining warlords would be trust-worthy for as mortals they would turn on one another.  Ares had yet to try to kill Xena so she knew that his heart was true.  If he had been the evil that she had known him to be Ares as a mortal would have been without remorse.  Yet she could see it in his eyes as they placed the body of nine upon the alter of warrior’s sacrificed in the name of his sword.  Ares regretted yet another of his lost warriors on the battlefield.  Though soulless he wasn’t heartless which made him the one who should reign as god.

They continued on searching through the castle.  Their search for his sword led them into the castle dungeon.  Xena was cautious as they searched knowing Sysphus would have many tricks and traps set for anyone lurking about.  She was certain that it was down in the dungeon that he would hide the sword for it could be in plain sight and he could capture an unsuspecting victim.  As they walked Ares found himself stumbling over a dungeon rat which startled him with surprise.  The warrior princess laughed at the helpless god of war who mistook this mortal experience for fear rather than surprise.  Again Ares tried to convince Xena the become a goddess and take his sword.  He was not so certain that he would make it out of Sysphus’s contest alive.  The two were about to exit the dungeon as they slowly ventured up a staircase only to be surprised by an appearance by the magical Sysphus.

Sysphus was candid as he laughed in the face of his helpless contestants.  He was confident in having the upper hand.  Yet Xena interrupted his confidence by revealing that she was onto him.  It was a contest of wits between the magician and the warrior princess for it seemed at each of their meetings a new piece of the puzzle was openly revealed.  Sysphus shot back at Xena revealing he knew that she was Xena and not Callisto.  He tried to figure out how this could have come to pass.  And then he looked to Ares laughing at the god for his blunder.  Sysphus explained how he had taken advantage of Ares’s passions for Xena when Ares was not so careful to guard his sword.  It seemed that Hades was angry at Ares for tampering with the souls that belonged in Tartarus.  Switching Xena’s for Callisto’s almost cost Hades all the power in Tartarus.

Xena could see that Sysphus was setting a trap.  He proclaimed that he hoped that Xena would win the sword of Ares yet Xena knew that it wasn’t true.  Sysphus played on Ares emotions as he declared the former god a loser in front of the mortal he loved most.  Ares reacted as Sysphus expected.  He ran down the stairs toward Sysphus to attack and save his pride.  Yet he also was there to restore Xena’s honor for it had been  he who had stolen it from Xena.  Xena called out to the blinded Ares, but Ares was helpless at Sysphus’s hand.  Suddenly the stairs collapsed beneath the god sending him to the bottom back into the dungeon.  As Ares struggled to rise from his fall Sysphus pulled out one of his endless tricks.  Ares found himself hanging from a rope unable to free himself.

Sysphus then disappeared within the depth of his laughter as another trick revealed itself upon his exit.  Ares was about to meet his doom at the end of a floor full of spikes.  Fire shot up from beneath them as Ares screamed with fear and terror.  The warrior princess quickly acted saving him from certain death.

As the early morning hours began to wear on into the dawn Gabrielle continued searching with Joxer for the infamous monster.  Yet her irritations were rising as Joxer’s presence drove her blood to a boil.  Joxer mocked the bard of her irritations.  He had been dragging the point of his sword along the walls of the cave for the past ten minutes.  Suddenly Gabrielle stated that she was ready to kill at any moment.  She wanted to kill Joxer.  As he tried to speak she halted his comment not wanting to deal with another of his statements.  If only Joxer could stay quiet long enough for her to kill the rage inside or the monster down the corridor.  One of the two would most certain help her control her pain within.  She was beginning to understand that all of this pain could be controlled if only she could have that moment of peace away from Joxer.

Again Gabrielle began reciting the poem that she love most as Xena had suggested before leaving with Ares.  And then suddenly Joxer began to speak of blood lust.  He was certain that he knew exactly what Gabrielle was feeling inside, but Gabrielle knew that he was clueless.  Joxer tried desperately to out due Gabrielle’s anger as he drew his sword and prepared to slash open an annoying buzzing around his head.  It was a little fly that had been following him for sometime.  Gabrielle paused to watch  him within his dilusional battle against the small winged beast.  Then she realized that he had snapped.  She began to laugh hysterically for she had now seen it all.  There couldn’t be a worse situation than being stuck with Joxer in a cave with the worst anger within.  Not only that, but there was an unknown monster somewhere up ahead.

And then it happened.  Gabrielle heard the monster as if it were only moments away.  She needed something powerful that would be certain to kill it.  The bard realized that Joxer was a bonus for he had a sword.  She turned to Joxer and asked of his sword, but he would not give it up.  He whined declaring that a warrior never gave his sword away just before a battle.  This only infuriated the bard more as she lunged forward attempting to strangle the big lug who knew nothing about being a warrior.  She was tired of hearing his warrior stories and advice.  The bard had enough.  Suddenly she realized she had to get rid of the rage before she hurt someone even if it was only Joxer that she had to kill.

Gabrielle reached for Joxer’s sword removing it from the scabbard and then she charged forth toward the wrath of the monster.  Joxer tried desperately to follow, but instead decided that he was going to fight the monster with his bare hands.  He quickly passed Gabrielle in the race to see who would kill the monster first.  When Gabrielle finally arrived trailing behind she found Joxer beating a large machine with a stick.  He was intense in his battle against the contraption.  There was no real monster.  It was only a noisemaking thing.  Gabrielle found herself to be disappointed that she had been chasing down a machine with the world’s biggest idiot.  Someone was going to have to pay for this crime.  There was only one thing left to do.  It was time to find Xena at the castle.

Inside the castle darkness was giving way to the light of day.  Xena had finally figured out what Sysphus was planning to do.  There were now only five left of the ten that had been invited to participate in the contest for Ares’s godhood.  As Xena and Ares returned to the scene of the crime they were interrupted in a battle of three against two.  One of the three enemies stepped forward declaring that he and the other had decided to ally.  Yet just as his pride was high he found himself betrayed by two.  Vergilious and the other took his life stabbing him to death with a knife.  Now the odds were even two against two.  Only true warriors fought one another in this way.  Vergilious was definitely worthy in Ares’s eyes, but his new partner was a traitor.  Xena warned Vergilious that there could only be one god of war reminding him of his folly.  Suddenly Vergilious turned to see his coming demise.  He ducked missing the blow that would have surely taken his life.

The battle then ensued.  It was every man and woman for themselves.  Xena took on the betrayer as Ares found himself having to fight the second best warrior in Greece.  It was now a battle for survival as the weapons clashed and punches were thrown.  Gabrielle and Joxer could hear the sounds of the ensuing battle as the rushed up the staircases toward the bedchambers.  Joxer was determined to get there first and to settle things once and for all.  He had killed the monster and was worthy of the prize.

Suddenly Xena was looking death in the eye.  Yet now it was time to declare where the real sword lie.  She reached across the dead upon the alter of sacrficed warriors.  Xena grabbed what everyone had been searching for and rose to take her enemy with Ares’s sword.  There was a strange power in killing with the world’s most powerful sword.  The warrior princess felt a certain exhilaration and it was entrancing like no other mortal sensation.  As her victim fell before her she looked to the other warriors fighting.  Ares was losing against Vergilious.  Xena could almost feel her sense of duty.  Though she did not want to be a goddess she knew what she must promise.  If Ares were to die she had to take the sword.  Yet in the last moments before his certain death Ares reached for a loose dagger.  He acted quickly sending it through the heart of one of his most prized warriors.

Vergilious took the blow surprised at Ares’s sudden advantage.  He had been certain of victory against the mortal god, but now it was all over.  Xena watched Ares experience blood for the very first time as a mortal.  There was a look of shock and regret which she did not expect.  As the battle was seemingly over Sysphus appeared before the remaining contestants.  He tried desperately to convince Xena to take Ares before he could take her.  A momentary thought crossed her mind until she was interrupted by the sound of a familiar idiot.

Joxer entered into the room where the dead lied.  He declared himself to be the new god of war for he had been the slayer of the Barracas.  Gabrielle was not far behind entering into the room.  She revealed to Xena the truth of Sysphus’s contest as she described the machine that made all of the noise, but was nothing more than a ploy.  Xena was suddenly aware of what she had almost taken.  She had almost taken not Ares’s sword, but Sysphus’s eternal punishment in Hades.  He had planned on allowing the warriors to kill themselves leaving only one to push his rock uphill in Tarturus.  And the sword of Ares was to fall to him and he would reign upon Olympus as the new god of war.

Ares found himself disgusted that Sysphus had almost succeeded.  Had it not been for an idiot and a bard Xena would have taken his life and his sword only to spend eternity in Tartarus.  Ares wanted to strike, but couldn’t for he was about to meet his doom.  From behind there was a sign of life still coming from the fallen Vergilious.  The ax rose for the kill, but Xena acted quickly hurling Ares’s sword into the surviving warlord.  Vergilious fell  to the power of the sword leaving all with just one thing to do.  Ares removed his sword from the eighth fallen warrior.  It suddenly glowed with an immense power as he held it in his mighty hands.  Like fire it burned with passion as lighting struck about it.  And the rage within the bard began to dissipate into the storm.

There was a certain relief in knowing that it would be easier to deal with the pain, but there was one more thing.  Ares scoffed at the mortals who stood before him for they had allowed him to become a god again.  Yet he seemingly did not appreciate it as the evil Sysphus disappeared from mortality back into his eternity in Tartarus.  Gabrielle and Xena waited with high hopes that Ares would hold up his end of the bargain.  Yet he did not keep his promise for he had not made it as a god.  His promise to put Xena back into her own body was made while Ares was mortal.  And so he was not held to it and did not bind it.  Ares laughed as he disappeared leaving Xena as Callisto in sadness.  Gabrielle was disappointed and full of sorrow for her friend who would never know peace.  And now the bard had to make a choice.  She had to choose to stay with Xena as Callisto or to go.

Yet the choice was simple for the bard.  As the three friends left the castle and seeked out the ocean Gabrielle walked alongside her friend.  She expressed her regret that they had helped Ares at all.  Yet Xena reminded the bard that without him the world would have been full of uncontrollable rage.  Gabrielle understood what Xena had meant yet she still felt like killing Joxer whose presence was annoying beyond compare.  The two friends watched as Joxer frolicked about like a child along the beach.  At least there was something true about him.  He was as innocent as a child and could be trusted despite his lack of warrior skill.

Yet the bard admitted that life would still be hard though she was willing to stick by her best friend despite her forever being reminded of Callisto’s wrath.  Xena seemed satisfied at that, but then she tried to lighten the moment.  She then asked Gabrielle if she would even stick by her if she one day turned into a snake haired gorgon monster.  Gabrielle laughed, but admitted that she would have difficulty looking at her.  Yet even then Gabrielle would not leave Xena’s side.  And then for a moment there was an uncomfortable silence between the friends.  But Xena interrupted it with a complement to Gabrielle.  She praised the bard for not giving into the violence and the rage within.  The warrior princess expressed the strength that it required for one to go against the rage within.

Gabrielle found herself flattered that Xena had noticed her battle within.  She realized that Xena had understood all along and even understood the pain that still lingered.  Gabrielle laughed for a moment realizing that although she had survived  a world full of rage she had yet to survive the ride back to the mainland alongside Joxer.  But just when it seemed impossible to journey on a familiar voice echoed with in the bard’s ears.  As she turned around she saw Xena standing there on the beach before her.  It was not Callisto there anymore.  Ares had taken pity upon Xena and the bard.  Gabrielle tested Xena for a moment asking her which body would be the worst to be trapped in.  When Xena responded with the snake haired gorgon monster Gabrielle knew it was true.  Xena was back to her true self and within her true body.

And so the nightmare had finally ended although the pain would never die.  Gabrielle would always be reminded of how Perdicas had to die.  It was not because she saw Callisto’s face everyday, but because of his absence.  She would never see Perdicas again, but he would always be there forever in her heart.

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.