The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #54: Surprise

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll #54:  Surprise

October, 47 B.C.

     Deep in Tartarus there was once a blonde nemesis.  Her name was Callisto and she had done many evil deeds while in the land of the living.  However, she wasn’t born evil.  She had once been a helpless little farm girl in a village known as Syra.  At the age of 11 Callisto had witnessed the total destruction of her village and her family in the flames of a once evil warrior princess.  It was in that decisive moment of her life that Callisto had vowed within her tender innocent heart turned cold to destroy that which had destroyed her.

Nine years later Callisto had finally caught up to her enemy and challenged the warrior princess.  By then the warrior princess had changed her ways and was no longer on a path of ultimate destruction, but on a path toward serving the greater good.  The evil that the young Callisto had seeked revenge upon was no longer wandering the earth on a path of destruction.  Although Callisto had failed in accomplishing the complete destruction of the warrior princess she had managed to find a way to destroy the life of her friend Gabrielle by destroying her beloved husband Perdicas.  Xena the warrior princess had attempted to reform the young Callisto’s heart back into love, but was unsuccessful.  Upon the murder of Perdicas Xena had been left no other choice, but to allow Callisto to destroy herself.  And Callisto did destroy herself which had led her to her own demise down into the depths of Tartarus.

This is where the bard Gabrielle’s real story of Callisto begins.  The bard could imagine Callisto down in Tartarus screaming in agony and in eternal emotional pain.  Within Callisto’s rage unfulfilled a deep, dark, shadowy voice came from within the depths of her soul.  The voice spoke to Callisto who was surprised to find that anyone in Tartarus would listen to her pain.  But someone was listening.  In fact, it was a very powerful force that had taken a great interest in Callisto’s pain.  Callisto was cautiously intrigued within her emotional turmoil inquiring of who it was that had taken an interest in her.  The voice only had one response.  The voice declared that she was a follower and a fan of Callisto.  Then the voice continued speaking to Callisto.  She expressed her interest in Callisto’s passionate campaign against the warrior princess.  In fact, the dark fan proclaimed that she was regretful that Callisto’s vengeance had gone unsatisfied.

Callisto rose from within the fetal ball of pain that she had become in Tartarus and stood upon her feet to greet the voice which seemed to admire her.  When the blond approached the holographic face which appeared before her Callisto had determined it was the goddess Hera.  Callisto took a jab at the great Hera demanding to know why Hera refused to reveal her true ugliness to Callisto.  The broken blond warrior was not afraid of the gods, but it seemed that perhaps the gods were afraid of her.  This was of great delight to Callisto as she laughed maniacally at Hera.  Hera matched Callisto’s playful laughter with her own explaining how she felt about Callisto.  Hera only view Callisto as a pet really as Callisto inquired within her eternal emotional exhaustion of what Hera wanted from the condemned.

Hera then declared to Callisto that all she really wanted was to see Callisto smile again.  The great voice continued explaining that she desired to offer another chance to get her vengeance against Xena.  Callisto was cautiously interested in what Hera would offer and what kind of a deal she wished to make with her as she listened.  Hera continued  by explaining to Callisto that she would grant her one more day of life on earth and the chance at becoming an immortal.  Callisto was delightfully sold on Hera’s offer.  She only needed to know what Hera needed from her in exchange.  Hera explained that her desire was a simple one.  Callisto’s part of their deal would be in using that day to hunt down and kill her husband Zeus’s bastard son the great Hercules.  Hera reminded Callisto that it was Hercules that had made Xena, the warrior princess, whole and it was Hercules that had allowed Xena to take the path of redemption for herself.  Callisto did not need any persuasion beyond that as she spoke Hercules’s name, and smiled then laughed maniacally as Hera rescued Callisto from Tartarus and brought her back to the land of the living upon the earth.

Hera had picked a very special day in which to unleash a bloodbath upon Hercules.  It was his birthday and his mortal mother Alchmeny had been planning a big surprise party for her much celebrated son the legendary hero.  All of Hercules’s human family members were gathering in Alchmeny’s home as they prepared for Hercules’s arrival.

From one moment in Tartarus and in the next Callisto found herself in an instant within the home of Alchmeny.  The party guests appeared very surprised to see her as she suddenly appeared.  She looked of death, but was very much alive.  Dressed in a black hooded cloak Callisto timidly excused herself for intruding upon their little gathering.  She explained that she had been unable to find a guard to announce her arrival.  Hercules’s brother responded explaining that they had sent the guard home for the day since they were having a celebration and did not feel the need for the extra security.  Hercules’s human brother then inquired of who it was that had intruded upon their surprise party.   Iphacles.

Callisto used this opportunity to invite herself closer to the party guests.  She stated that she had come to pay her respects.  The darkness approached the unsuspecting guests explaining that her family had been attacked and her husband killed upon their travels along the road in Macedonia.  She continued her explanation that she and her child would have both become victims of murder along the road as well if it had not been for Hercules arriving in time to save them from certain death and destruction.   Iolas, Hercules’s best friend, did not recall Hercules mentioning this event.  Iolas found that he was suspicious of this uninvited guest and he asked her when this event had occurred.  The dark stranger continued as if embarrassed.  She ignored Iolas’s question and explained that she had heard it was Hercules’s birthday and she just wanted to leave a small gift for the hero and her proclaimed savior.

Hercules’s kind mother approached the young flower and invited her to come in and join the party.  The young dark flower expressed embarrassment yet was happy to be openly invited into Hercules’s most private inner circle.  With a cunning convincing act Callisto had been able to gain access to the people Hercules valued most.  This would make it easier for her to accomplish her goal and to become immortal.

As Alchmeny offered Callisto a drink Callisto found her opportunity to strike.  The blond darkness stood next to the large bowl of punch which had been prepared for all of the other party guests that would be arriving.  She set her phony gift upon the table next to the bowl of punch and began to concoct her vengeance upon Xena and her destruction upon Hercules.  As Alchmeny and the other party guests began to mingle with one another Callisto pulled from beneath her cloak a tiny vile filled with the wrath of Hera.  Once the deed was done Callisto reached for an empty chalice and filled it with the tainted punch.  Then the young dark flower turned to mingle with the crowd cloaked in innocence as she offered everyone a taste of more punch.

Soon Hercules arrived his mother’s home as he wandered the eerily quiet halls.  At first he thought little of it remembering that earlier in the day when Iolas had met with him he had instructed Hercules to act surprised when he came.  Their friend Falafal had accidentally revealed to Hercules that there was a surprise party being held in his honor for his birthday.  As Hercules opened the door do the banquet hall where he expected to find everyone he found himself shockingly horrified.  All of his family and closest friends, including his mother and Iolas, were all lying unconscious.  All was completely silent.  Hercules was alarmed not certain that anyone was even still alive.  As he scanned the room his eyes caught sight of the dark flower.  She raised her head as she sat alone at the table.  She looked to him and then revealed herself to him.  Callisto pulled her hood down and declared surprise alone in the room of the unconscious.

Hercules was indeed surprised, but this was not what he had intended to find on the other side of the banquet doors.  When he looked across the room he heard Callisto’s evil maniacal laughter.  It was a laughter that he had only heard about through the tales an evil blond warrior named Callisto.  He had heard of Callisto before, but he had never met the blond nemesis in person until now.  She was quite a surprise to him.  Suddenly Hercules snapped out of his shock and ran to the aid of his mother asking her if she could hear him.  All the while Callisto was enjoying herself suggesting that maybe someone had spiked the punch.  She declared playfully that she was glad that she wasn’t a drinker.  Then she threw off her disguise onto the floor dressed in nothing, but her warrior leather carrying a knife.

She approached Hercules and was intrigued pointing out it was obvious to her that he had never witnessed the effects of Xanthaleumthenum before.  Callisto began to explain the Hercules the effects of such a drug.  She stated that the mind was affected most by making victims susceptible to their wildest imaginings.  Callisto went onto explain that by the end of the day her friends would be completely mad, but only in the event that they did not kill one another before the drug fully worked their minds.

Hercules could listen to no more.  He forcefully moved Callisto away from his mother grabbing her by the shoulders.  Callisto was seemingly unaffected by his reaction as she explained that there was a known antedote.  Suddenly Callisto threw herself away from Hercules’s mighty grasp and stated that the antedote Hercules needed to save his family and friends was very rare to find.  With that the blond nemesis walked away from him and Hercules calmly inquired of Callisto what she wanted from him.  Her answer was simple, quick, precise, and to the point.  She wanted safe passage through the labrynths of the gods to the tree of life.  Then she continued explaining that it would only take one bite of the fruit of the tree to cure any illness.  Callisto was cunning, but Hercules could see through her cunning.  The blond nemesis continued reminding Hercules as she slammed an unconscious man’s face onto the table that madness for all of them was the alternative.

Hercules revealed to Callisto that he was aware that eating an apple whole from the tree of life could make one immortal.  Callisto continued chatting as if she had not just heard what Hercules had said as she playfully unwrapped his gifts for him.  She exclaimed that the two of them had much to celebrate between the two of them.  For this day was the day of Hercules’s most spectacular birth and would become the day of Callisto’s inevitable rebirth.  This was the moment in which Callisto finally decided to reveal her true identity to Hercules.  Hercules could not believe it at first.  He had heard the story of how Callisto had died in the quicksand in her epic battle against Xena.  Callisto approached Hercules again explaining how the impossible had become possible.  She revealed to him his true enemy which was not Callisto, but Hera his powerful step mother.  Callisto stated that Hera had given her a one day reprieve from death and Tartarus.  Then she went on in an attempt to convince Hercules that the two of them really did need each other.

Callisto then moved back toward the gifts and explained the reason they needed each other.  Though the blond was alive and well she was not with all of her mortal strengths from before death.  Yet, Hercules would never be able to navigate the labrynth in time to find the tree which contained the much needed antedote for his friends and family.  Callisto’s next thought was playful as she picked up a pair of new pants from within the gift box and declared happily that they were indeed nice.  Hercules could see that Callisto was bouncing between evil clarity and the mind of a playful innocent child.  He declared that she was insane, but she turned to him and calmly explained to him that she was no more than misunderstood.  Then she moved toward the door and turned to Hercules again and asked him if he was ready to go.  He had been recruited to be her new partner, but he certainly wasn’t a willing partner.

As Callisto and her new partner Hercules set off on their journey together she began to talk to him on a human level.  From what Hercules had heard about the blond nemesis she could not be trusted.  Yet he found himself attempting to be civil to someone who was obviously damaged and seemingly attempting to be civil as well.  As they walked the path together she explained how she felt like she had already come to know him as person despite their just having officially met within this circumstance.  Really, Callisto had only been dragged into someone else’s drama by an evil step mother.  Callisto could almost relate to Hercules in a way.  She had seemingly been thrown to the wolves as Hercules’s step mother was attempting to do to him.  Callisto knew she was a simple pawn and really had no ill will toward Hercules.  She had her own set of issues to deal with unfortunately for Hercules they included killing him at some point.  Deep down Hercules knew this, but he also understood that Callisto’s real enemy was an evil warrior princess whom he had rid the world of years ago.

Hercules attempted to keep his emotional distance from Callisto as he declared to her that she really did not know him at all.  Callisto seemed almost star struck in a way declaring that it was the fates that had seemingly brought the two of them together.  The blond nemesis  was seemingly innocent despite what Hercules knew of her.  She admitted to him that he was not the person that she had imagined him to be.  Despite this it was clear that she was clearly still very fascinated by him and by being in his presence.  It was almost as if she were hoping secretly that he would be able to successfully pull her from the depths of loss and despair as he had done for Xena.  Yet it was clear that Hercules was uninterested.  He was sarcastic declaring that Callisto must have been disappointed by him.  Callisto proclaimed with muffled excitement that she was not at all disappointed by him.

Then Callisto attempted to face him directly as they moved down the path together.  She was pleased at the look of emotional anguish that she had been able to invoke out of him back at the castle.  Callisto described Hercules’s reaction as one of fire and one of hate against her.  She then attempted to get deeper under his skin asking him if that was the same reaction he had had toward Hera when he had watched his deceased children die.  Hercules worked to contain his anger and not to reveal to Callisto what was going through his mind, heart, and emotions.  He warned her not to push him toward his inner rage.  She was not at all threatened by him and it was obvious.  Callisto declared that the beauty of this moment for her was in knowing that she could have her way with Hercules as long as she held the key to saving his family and friends from absolute destruction.  Although on one level she seemed to relish this Hercules sensed that she was also less interested in toying with his emotions as he would have imagined.  It seemed that there was something even more pressing for her.  Callisto’s months in Tartarus had led her to become a more patient foe.  Despite Hercules’s attempts to hide his emotions from her she declared that she could still feel them anyway.

The two continued on their journey together as the day wore on.  Hercules noticed that Callisto’s state of mind kept swinging back and forth between evil clarity and the playful misunderstood child.  She was now skipping alongside him singing and laughing, and playing.  It was unnerving even for the legendary hero for all he could think about were his helpless friends and family.  Time was of the essence in his mind.  He scolded Callisto as a father would scold his child and then she held his hand in hers and asked him why they couldn’t be nice to one another despite her having poisoned his friends.  It was as if she did not understand the urgency of the moment and the situation.  Hercules found himself frustrated realizing that his mother Hera had also victimized Callisto, but still she was not of complete innocence.  Hercules continued to be cautious with his new unexpected partner.

Callisto had finally led him to the location of the labrynth as she jumped upon the steps of the temple and declared that Hercules should have no reason to be mad at her.  After all, she was not the one who had painted a giant mark of death on his family.  Everyone knew that it was Hera who was behind it all.  Callisto was just playfully carrying out her orders.  Hercules firmly told Callisto that she should leave his family out of any further discussion.  Callisto continued with her thought out loud inviting Hercules to entertain what she was offering.  She explained that if his family was not related to Hercules then they would still be part of the world of the living.  Hercules turned away disgusted that Callisto felt it necessary to point out the things that he himself felt guilt over.  Callisto then jumped down from the stairs of the temple and declared that to be loved by Hercules was to mean that one would be cursed.

Hercules decided that he would fight back, but play the game in Callisto’s childlike world.  He asked her what the alternative was that she suggested.  He surmised openly to her that it was to be alone trapped within hate.  Hercules then looked to Callisto and shook his head.  He expressed that he would rather take his chances in going up against Hera even if it meant to continue on this quest alongside Callisto.  With that she laughed and then twirled about following Hercules as he continued searching for the entrance to the labrynth.  She wondered out loud if Hercules lied awake and alone at night hearing the screams of his children as they died.  Callisto wondered if he relived those moments and regretted the outcome wondering if there was something more he could have done to save them.  She wondered out loud if Hercules had given more respect to Hera if things might have turned out different for his family.  This touched a nerve with Hercules.  She had finally found his button and he did not like it.  He turned to her suddenly and angrily warned her to drop the subject of his family and dealings with Hera.

Hercules was now facing Callisto down declaring that he had no expectation of her understanding in the matter.  Callisto shot back at him declaring that she did understand his pain despite what he felt inside about her.  She confessed to Hercules that her family was also slaughtered like helpless animals as his family had been.  Hercules was stiff in his response stating that she didn’t learn much from her experience.  Callisto shot back at Hercules declaring that as a result of her experience she had learned how to get exactly what she wanted whenever she wanted it.  Then Callisto moved in on Hercules flatly reminding him within her evil clarity that the only reason that his friends were still alive at this point in her little child-like game was because she had decided to allow them to be alive.  Hercules retorted flatly against Callisto assuming that he was expected to apologize to Callisto.  Callisto’s response was dry and serious.  She said that she didn’t need his apology, but that he owed her everything he had in this moment.

In the moments that followed not a word was shared between them as they searched for the entrance to the labrynth.  Just when it seemed that Callisto was a complete hopeless case for Hercules there before them was an amazing site.  Callisto declared that what she saw before her was beautiful.  Hercules did not find the large stone gargoyle statue protecting the door particularly beautiful, but Callisto had demonstrated that her reactions to her surroundings were not normal as most human beings would view them.  The blond nemesis then declared that an open door was just as good as an open invitation.  It almost appeared to be too easy to enter the great labrynth.  Hercules was ready for the obstacle to reveal itself.  When it came to dealing with Hera he expected it.

As he watched Callisto approaching the steps to the open entrance he looked to the large gargoyle statue.  He saw its head slowly move and then fire shot out from every direction.  Callisto jumped back startled and screaming.  Hercules could see that the site of fire affected her deeply.  She rejoined him appearing confused for a moment as if she did not know how to handle the obstacle.  Hercules could not resist a playful joke at Callisto’s expense as a dark voice emenated from the head of the gargoyle guarding the door.  He breathed fired out of his nose as he spoke and stated that all who seeked safe passage beyond the door were required to solve a riddle.  Anyone who failed to solve the riddle would face death.  Hercules looked to Callisto inquiring with playful caution if she wished to attempt to solve the riddle first.

The gargoyle continued to speak asking its guests to give a name to earthly conceipt for it was unchangeable, but could change people, teach them, or trap them.  All who resided there were immortal, but the mortals standing before the gargoyle could never go to the unnamed place within the riddle.  Callisto chimed in commenting toward Hercules her hopes of his brain being able to match the strength of his brawn.  The gargoyle continued on with its riddle stating that the answer lied before the eyes of those who were standing witness to the riddle.  Hercules looked up to notice that the gargoyle then revealed an hour glass flipping upside down as the gargoyle continued asking that its visitors to choose their words before the words ran their course.

Callisto spoke of the unchangeable and Hercules focused on the fact that all who went to this location were immortal.  Suddenly, Callisto declared out loud that the answer to the riddle was Mount Olympus.  The gargoyle released angry fire down upon his visitors as both Callisto and Hercules jumped backward.  Hercules looked to Callisto and explained that Mount Olympus wasn’t actually a place within reality stating to Callisto that was the trick within the riddle.  Callisto barked back at Hercules frustrated reminding him that he had yet to come up with a good idea as to the solution to the riddle.  Hercules shot back asking that Callisto be quiet so he could think.  Callisto just shot back at him stating that she would not be holding her breath for his brilliant thoughts to come.  Then she turned back toward the gargoyle panicked noticing that the hour glass was running out on them.  Hercules looked to Callisto and suggested that maybe time was the answer to the riddle. Callisto hastily agreed with that thought and shouted out at the gargoyle her new answer.

Again the gargoyle spewed its fire down upon Hercules and Callisto.  She looked to Hercules again still in a panic and quickly noted that his idea was not the answer they seeked either.  Callisto wanted Hercules to offer another quick thought to their dilemma, but Hercules did not answer for he was still considering the riddle.  Callisto was impatient demanding another answer from Hercules as she yelled.  Hercules attempted to stay focused on the task as the gargoyle continued spewing fire down upon them.  Callisto had reverted into a child-like state as the fire reigned down upon them.  Hercules then spoke of the part of the riddle that they had seemingly forgotten.  “The answer lies before your eyes.”  Hercules looked to the hour glass as the sand was just about to run out.   Then he shouted out his final answer to the riddle which was “the past.”

Suddenly, the gargoyle’s fire disappeared and all was quiet again.  It seemed that Hercules had solved the dire riddle opening the entrance to the secret temple.  He then held out his arm and offered for Callisto to enter into the temple ahead of him.  She moved forward slightly cautious as if waiting for the gargoyle and his fire to reign down upon her.  As she hesitated her way up the steps Hercules then moved ahead of her confident and sure of his answer.  He knew the gargoyle had been tamed by his answer in the past.

As Hercules entered into the temple with Callisto he noticed that there was an oil pouch and a lamp already lit for their journey.  It was almost as if it had been a friendly invitation left behind by their fierce gargoyle friend.  Callisto entered inside the temple and then poked at Hercules asking him if the child inside him was afraid of the dark.  Hercules was annoyed by the comment knowing that he had just witnessed Callisto’s greatest fears of the fire outside the temple.  He realized that Callisto had been embarrassed of her open fear of fire and had to allow herself to feel as if she weren’t the only one with hidden fears reaching back into her childhood.  He then looked to Callisto who was now exploring the inside of a dark well and expressed that he didn’t feel she was doing too well.  Callisto found herself to be quite intrigued by the well in which she was climbing upon as if she barely noticed Hercules’s minor concern over her.  She warned him not to find himself within worry over her state of mind.  Callisto was certain that she would be feeling as good as new soon, but needed a drink of water to sustain her mortal self.

She struggled to pull the heavy bucket of water from the well to fill her mortal thirst, but did not have the strength to bring it up on her own.  Hercules found himself unable to stand by and watch the poor soul struggle.  He approached the well and helped Callisto hoist the bucket of water to the top.  Then he offered Callisto the ladle from the bucket.  The poor soul appeared as if she had not drank a drop of water in more than a lifetime.  She appeared thrilled and delighted at the idea of drinking water.  Again Hercules witnessed her within a child-like state.  He began to find himself feeling sympathy for her plight.  The she looked up at him and declared that he was a gentlemen.  Again she was taking a dig at him, but he ignored it knowing that her real ploy was in purposely pushing people away from her.  Callisto again looked up from her water fest and stated that the world didn’t deserve Hercules.  He played along with her little game and reflected the hatred back at her.  Hercules could see it was what she desired.  Callisto didn’t really want to be loved by anyone and it made her feel   comfortable to be hated.  Hercules found it to be the easiest way to keep her within his control.

Then Callisto stated as she drank from the ladle that she and Hercules were not as different as he liked himself to think.  Hercules knew what Callisto was up to.  Callisto was attempting to shape Hercules’s thoughts into believing that he himself deserved the same fate that she did.  He laughed at her idea almost interested in her argument for this idea.  As he listened she went on.  She stated that they both believed in the idea that the wicked should be punished.  Callisto went on to say that she saw something about people that he was unable to see.  Hercules then placed his torch to the side as he opened the bottle of oil to make the flame larger and brighter.  He expressed out loud that he was certain that Callisto would share her reasoning with him on the matter of the wicked.  Hercules raised the bottle of oil to his nose and took a whiff.  Calisto continued explaining that all people were wicked, and deserved everything that was dealt to them.

Hercules put the cap back onto the bottle of oil for the torch and placed it into his clothing for safe keeping.  He disagreed with Callisto’s reasoning stating that he had known of too much good in the world to believe in Callisto’s philosophy.  Callisto looked up from her water bucked confused by his response to her statement.  Then allowed the word “good” to escape from her lips inquiring of Hercules if it was a joke that he thought this way.  Callisto’s inner child revealed itself again stating that if mortals were indeed good then there would be no need for a hero like Hercules to even exist.  Then Callisto’s child became hidden within herself again and the evil part of her came to the surface once more.  Hercules responded explaining that he had indeed seen the darker side of people.  The hero went onto explain that the child within Callisto had earned his compassion for he realized that she had watched her parents die within fire.  However, Hercules pointed out that Callisto still had a choice which she had made.  Her choice was in how she responded to the evil that had been done to her and her family.  Callisto had chosen to follow evil rather than to fight against it which was what made his compassion for her limited.

Then Hercules picked up the torch and began to move further into the deep, dark temple.  Callisto threw her ladle back into the water bucket and began to clap within hysteria.  Hercules turned to look at her and could see that Callisto was stuck between a conflict within herself.  Callisto continued stating that Hercules’s faith in people was touching, but again it was borderline sarcastic evil.  She rose from the well having finished quenching both her mortal thirst and her thirst for toying with Hercules’s mind.  Callisto continued as she challenged Hercules to continue his newfound faith in her as their day and journey together would continue.  Then Callisto invited Hercules to follow her further into the dark temple.  Hercules watched as she moved into the darkness.  He was still very suspicious of her truest motives.  The hero could sense that Callisto’s soul was nearly damaged beyond repair.  His senses about her were heightened.

As the two unlikely companions moved through the darkness within the mysterious temple Callisto began to play with her hair as if off balance by Hercules’s response to her.  She twirled her hair nervously and stated that Hercules was not living up to her expectations of him.  Callisto was seemingly disappointed in Hercules for not having been more open to the idea that he could spend the whole day attempting to convince Callisto that she could change in the way that Xena the warrior princess had been convinced to change.  Hercules easily answered that inquiry explaining confidently to Callisto that Xena had changed because Xena had been wanting to change.  Callisto stopped and turned to Hercules not so certain that Xena had really changed deep down.  She continued her confessions of Xena telling Hercules a seemingly very dark secret about Xena.  Callisto revealed to Hercules that Xena had watched her die in quick sand during their battle over the death of Gabrielle’s beloved Perdicas.

Callisto then turned away from Hercules as she continued leading him down the path of darkness.  She twirled her hair and spoke of how ironic she thought it to be that not long before there had been a time in which Hercules would have gladly teamed up with Callisto to help bring Xena to justice for her past crimes against humanity.  Hercules argued with Callisto on that point stating she was wrong to think that about him for he did not share Callisto’s definition for justice.  She agreed with him on this point.  Callisto’s sanity quickly turned to vengeance against Xena as she declared that she believed justice for Xena would be to die a very slow and painful death just as her parents had at the hands of Xena’s army.  Hercules was frustrated as he turned to Callisto and explained that vengeance wasn’t true justice.  If she could only understand this viewpoint he thought that it might be possible for her tortured soul to find some peace within.

Callisto’s child rose to the surface as she spoke the word peace out loud repeatedly.  It was as if Callisto was considering what that meant to feel peace within.  Then the vengeance rose forth from within her again as she declared that she had once dreamed of peace.  Callisto then closed her eyes and imagined that death would be the only true way to experience peace.  She asked Hercules to allow her to die again so that she might have another chance at reaching that illusive feeling of peace within.  Callisto continued explaining that her trip to Tartarus after having been allowed to die by the warrior princess should have been a welcome for her.  Yet instead she found that she was only welcomed by eternal torture in death and in Tartarus.  She explained with anger that she had been trapped in her hatred of Xena with nothing within her power to do about it.  Hercules was not buying all of what Callisto said.  He knew the real reason they were on this journey together.  She needed her shot at becoming an immortal so she could fill her vengeance against Xena and those whom Xena loved most.  Hercules pushed Callisto’s tortured soul aside and stated that immortality would not solve her problems with vengeance.  Callisto’s frustrations with Hercules rose from within the evil burning within her as she hissed at him like a caged animal.

Despite their battle of wits they still need each other to accomplish their respective goals.  Hercules wanted to save his family and friends while Callisto wanted to destroy Xena to satisfy her vengeance.  As they continued on their journey they reached two passages.  Callisto’s job was supposed to be leading them to the antidote Hercules desparately needed to help his loved ones.  He was frustrated with Callisto.  She was seemingly confused as to which way to lead them next.  Hercules asked Callisto not to toy with him and pretend to be a lost child again.  Yet there was little he could do since it was the lost child who was now in control of Callisto again.  Callisto argued with herself about not having written down the specific details Hera had given her.  She shook her head as the confusion within unfolded before Hercules.  He could almost feel as if he were swimming around within her confused mind.  Suddenly, Callisto’s child won out and she chose the left passage and continued the journey with Hercules.

As Hercules followed behind her something came from within the darkness of the passage and wrapped itself around Callisto’s ankles dragging her into the darkness as she screamed.  Then the child within Callisto panicked and cried out to Hercules.  He thought to himself that it must have been the right passage that they should have taken.  He had two choices.  He could save himself and his family as he watched Callisto disappear into the darkness alone or he could delay saving his family and himself to save a damaged soul.  Hercules then made the only choice that he could.  He dashed down into the darkness following Callisto’s tortured screams.  He shouted out for Callisto hoping she would respond back so he could hear where she had been dragged off to within the darkness.

Her screams led him into a cavern full of black tentacles that appeared to be living breathing vines.  Just as he was about to enter the cavern a blackness covered the entrance.  Hercules could still hear her echoing screams so he shouted out to Callisto to keep talking to him.  She responded frustrated stating that indeed it was what she was attempting to do.  Hercules searched for an alternate route into the cavern which held Callisto.  When he found an alternate entrance it suddenly became blocked by a giant bolder which appeared.  He peered through the small opening left there and could see Callisto was completely wrapped up in the black vines.  She was struggling as she reminded Hercules if he did not save her then his family would die along with her.

Hercules was very aware of that fact as his frustrations rose.  He could feel Callisto’s tortured struggle as the vines began to wrap themselves around her neck cutting off her ability to speak.  It was only a matter of time before they would cut off her breath and her life.  Hercules looked for another entrance into the cavern of vines.  He could hear Callisto’s stuggle to breath and she began to choke for breath and to shout out a few last screams for his assistance.  He dashed down the dark paths until he found another entrance.  Hercules faced the living vines as he attempted to wade through them toward a trapped Callisto.  The vines were strong and he struggled through them to rescue Callisto who was still screaming in fear and panic.  She was now facing her second mortal death.  Just as it seemed he would not arrive through the vines to save her in time he ripped Callisto out of her binds.  He then instructed her to grab onto him as he reached for a live vine and swung them out of the cavern of vines.

As Callisto climbed off of his back she declared him to be her hero.  She was quickly back into her character of sarcastic evil.  It was as if she had planned her demise all along in an attempt to trap Hercules into his own death.  Hercules pushed her off of him and just looked at her disgusted at her reaction to her near death moment.  He walked away continuing on deeper into the darkness of the temple.  Callisto’s vengeful evil did not stop at its attempt on Hercules’s life.  She began to describe what her plans for immortality would be.  He first act of business would be to rip out Xena’s tongue so that the warrior princess would have to whistle her apology to Callisto for killing her family instead of speaking it.  Callisto found this to be beyond amusing as she giggled like a dissatisfied child.  Hercules reminded Callisto that her fantasy would have to be spoiled for the moment because she had not yet escaped the mysterious and dangerous dark temple alive yet.

With that Callisto reminded Hercules that he too had not t escaped the temple and its unknown trappings alive yet.  Hercules’s patience was running thin because he knew deep down that time was running out for his family.  He turned to Callisto and stated that when they made it to the tree of life and he was able to save his family and friends then his next order of business would be to send Callisto back to Tartarus where she belonged.  He would make sure he was the one to send her there.  His anger was heightened because even the child within her was vengeful.  That was too dangerous a thing to leave within the world alone.  Callisto yelled back at Hercules also impatient reminding him that there were no rooms to hold her.  She had managed to find her way even out of Tartarus.  She reminded him that he was the only one that could possibly stop her and for him to do that he would ultimately have to commit the act of murder.  Then she continued that she knew he would be unable to murder her the way that Xena had because his misguided sense of justice would not allow him to commit such an act.

Hercules calmly challenged her confidence of that point.  He stated she was overlooking something.  Callisto found herself slightly intrigued as she smiled and inquired of him what that was.  He then moved in close to her and whispered that she had already been killed.  Hercules continued by reminding her that the only reason that she was still standing was because he needed directions that only Callisto could give to him to save his family.  Again a look of confusion spread across her face as she stated that she had underestimated him.  He responded flatly stating that he was flattered by this, but she continued stating that he had also overlooked something about her.  Hercules laughed at the idea.  Then he stated that he did not believe it to be true as he continued moving forward through the temple.

Callisto did not follow him.  She only continued to state that if she went back to Tartarus she would not arrive there alone.  She then vowed to find the souls of Hercules’s dead children Clonous, Acin, and Aylaya.  Callisto promised Hercules that she would dedicate her entenity in Tartarus alongside them with her.  They would all suffer together.  Hercules knew that Callisto was good on her promise of this and Callisto was aware that she had achieved gathering Hercules’s undivided attention.  She reminded Hercules again that she had been able to escape Tartarus and return to mortality.  Not just anyone was capable of such a feat.  She was certain that she could easily reach Hercules’s children within the Elysian Fields if necessary to arrive at what she wanted for herself.

Hercules moved at Callisto unable to control his sudden rage against her promise against his children.  He shoved her up against the wall of the cave with his strong hand around her neck.  She had found his weakness which was also his strength at the same time.  Callisto had a way of pressing people’s buttons and bringing them to the brink of murder.  She continued stroking his rage against her begging him to continue the act of taking a life.  Callisto begged Hercules to kill her.  He could see that it was what she wanted him to do.  If he killed Callisto he knew he would become out of favor of Zues.  Zues would destroy him and allow Callisto to destroy the souls of his family if he followed through with the act of murder against a mortal.  Hercules had reached his breaking point, but understood the consequences of allowing himself to break.  It wasn’t worth it and so he released his grasp of her life.  His anger was unleashed through his fist upon the cave wall next to Callisto’s head.  He wanted to demonstrate his power over her so that she would not attempt to press his button again.

Callisto sank to the ground and began to laugh.  She asked Hercules which of them was trapped within their hatred.  Hercules looked back at her unable to understand her torture.  He decided that he didn’t really want to understand her anymore.  All Hercules wanted was to find what they had come to find.  He was certain the Callisto would find a way to destroy herself without him.  That was the way this would have to be resolved if he wanted to retain his own sanity.

The two fresh enemies continued down through the temple maze until they approached another entrance.  Callisto stopped, thought carefully, and paused.  Hercules jabbed at her hoping that she wasn’t confused again.  She was confident that she was not confused as she pointed him into another direction.  He had no choice, but to follow her advice despite their run in with the black vines.  As Hercules entered into the next room the walls suddenly closed attempting to trap him inside.  Just when Callisto had thought she had trapped Hercules the hero used his god-like strength to pry open the doors which were locked shut with spikes on the edges of them.  As Hercules struggled to free himself from her trap she did not raise a finger to help.  Instead she just admired the details of the many traps hidden within the mysterious temple.  She was quite pleased with the work of Hephestas’s craftsmanship.  This temple belonged to him as had been revealed by Hera.

Then Callisto moved away from the doors as Hercules continued to struggle his way out.  She shouted out to Hera explaining that Hercules had held up his end of their bargain as did Callisto herself.  It was now time for Hera produce the reward they had both come to receive.  As Hercules continued to struggle a secret door raised from within the walls deep inside the temple.  The unexpected movement grabbed Callisto’s attention as the newly opened passage way revealed the tree of eternal life.  Hercules could see that he only had moments to act.  If Callisto were to arrive at the tree with the golden apples before he could free himself all would be lost.  His friends, family, Iolas, and his mother would all perish.  Hercules shouted out to Callisto angry at what she had done.  He promised her that their battle of wits was not yet over.

Callisto casually turned back to face him.  She smiled then she approached him again and stated that she had enjoyed her little adventure with him, but she was confident that she no longer needed his assistance in handling matters which concerned her.  Then she reached out and grabbed Hercules’s long flowing hair and forced him to kiss her.  She suddenly too her torch and smashed it into his stomach knocking the wind from his lungs.  This forced Hercules to lose his grip upon the trap wall which had been closing in upon him to gore and smash him into oblivion.  Despite the momentary loss of his concentration he was able to recover and slowly push the walls back outward away from his body.

Callisto was enjoying toying with the legendary hero as she inquired if he was enjoying himself.  Callisto continued to toy with Hercules as she reached out and stroked his long hair again and promised him that soon he would be joining his friends and family in death.  Then she took one last jab at him promising him that her next move against him would be in the name of his having saved Xena’s soul.  She then used her torch and smacking his arm hard hoping that it would be the final blow that would deliver him to his death.  Despite the pain and the loss of concentration Hercules moved to block the wall from collapsing upon his body to deliver him to his death.  Callisto continued to stand watching him intrigued by his determination to survive.  Then she moved away as if suddenly uninterested.  He continued to struggle to survive and the blond nemesis appeared to be surprised at his inner strength and will.  It seemed that just for a moment she felt sorry for the hero.  Yet it was only a fleeting moment of concern for him as she shook her head and bade him farewell certain of his impending doom.

Hercules had hoped that he could use his moment of despair to convince her to change her mind and help him to escape the jaws of death, but instead she continued toward the tree of immortality.  He watched helplessly as she reached out for one of the golden apples.  Hercules had lost the battle to prevent Callisto from reaching immortality, but he was still fighting for his life.  As he struggled with the collapsing walls Callisto took the luscious golden apple she had just picked and bit into it with satisfaction.  Within an instant she had transformed into an immortal as all of her strength and more was restored and she could feel the power from within.

Hercules managed to struggle his way out using his powerful shoulders to twist himself back around to a position from which he could push the walls away from himself.  As he pushed against the mighty walls the temple began to shake as it buckled against his power.  Suddenly, he had successfully freed himself from the collapsing walls as they slammed shut behind him while he ran for the tree of eternal life.  As he scanned the temple he saw no one.  It seemed as if Callisto had vanished for a moment.  Suddenly, she screamed her signature battle cry and flipped over him from the shadows with her power.  Before Hercules could get his barrings she landed upon his tired shoulders reaching down with her hands and grabbing his face.    She was still eating the golden apple she had taken from the tree and joyfully declared that it was delicious.  She continued pressing the advantage against his tired shoulders while he attempted to recover from having his eyes nearly gouged out.

Then she kicked him with her legs and flipped off of his shoulders landing in front of him has he fell from the blow.  Callisto continued to masterfully press her immortal advantage over his mortality.  She turned back around to face him as he attempted to rise to his feet to face her.  Then she delivered an angry furious kick across his face.  She was punishing him for having had faith in Xena, but not in herself.  In this moment, Hercules had managed to get to his feet, but before he could make an offensive move against her she swept her foot beneath his and he was robbed of his balance again.  Hercules fell back onto his back again.  In that moment he decided not to struggle against her for it seemed that she was ready for his every counter attack.

Then she paused in her advances against him and smiled.  She looked him in the eye and realized declaring out loud that he was to die on his birthday.  Somehow for Callisto it seemed fitting.  This idea pleased her as she stated that it was a convienance.  Then she lifted her boot and smashed it into Hercules’s face.  Callisto then flipped backward leaping toward her torch which now held a flame within it.  Hercules realized that her plan was to kill him the way her family had been killed by Xena.  She planned on burning him to death as punishment for her suffering at the hands of Xena.  Before Hercules could move to do anything about it Callisto made another unexpected move as she moved with the flame toward the tree which held the key to saving Hercules’s loved ones.  She then lit it on fire destroying any hope that Hercules may have had in being able to save his loved ones even if he could find a way to save himself.  This led Hercules to suddenly rise to his feet into action.  He shouted out against Callisto who suggested playfully that he should blow out the flames and make a wish for his birthday.

Callisto then screamed, ran, and then flipped through the air back into an offensive stance against Hercules.  She was determined to make him suffer.  Then she kicked leaves off of the floor of the temple into Hercules’s face knocking her boot directly into his nose.  As Hercules grabbed his nose staggering backward Callisto pressed her offensive swinging around her torch and knocking it into his stomach with immortal force.  She watched as Herules staggered backward up against the temple walls and sunk down to the floor in agony.  Callisto was now beginning to feel the real power that came with being an immortal.  She dashed across the temple, then flew through the air screaming loudly.  She attempted to deliver another furious blow with the power of her boot against Hercules, but he was ready this time.  He was able to duck her offensive against him forcing her to kick the wall behind him.

Then she swung around again with her torch and attempted to knock his head off.  He was able to duck the move.  Hercules had discovered her offensive strategies as he had allowed himself to take several blows in order to learn how he could counter her.  It was a brilliant , yet painful way to do battle.  Callisto quickly realized this and began working on his weak shoulders again.  She reached out and slapped his shoulder then back kicked him across the jaw.  Hercules had not been expecting that, but it wasn’t enough to knock him down again.  He used the wall to help soften the blows against him as he ducked and dodged her advances.  Then he managed to find an opening against her and rolled beneath her offensive.  She turned to face him, smiled and then flipped across the temple back toward his new position of defense.  As Hercules attempted to get to his feet again Callisto met him and stated that it was a pity the two of them could not have worked out their differences.  She was certain the two of them together would have made an unstoppable team.

In the next moment she attempted to kick him across the face again, but he was ready for her.  He managed to block her kick with his powerfully strong hands. She looked to him shocked that he was able to defy her certain death blow.  Angry that she had been stopped she found herself surprised by Hercules’s strength yet again as he took the advantage against her grabbing her and flipping her over his knee.  Then he looked to her before she could regain her senses and stated that he already had a partner.  Then he used his powerful punch to knock her across the temple against the wall.  She didn’t recover from his power right away.  She slid down the temple wall, but soon regained her senses.  Her immortality was nearly unstoppable even  for the great Hercules.  She declared that Hercules’s partner Iolas would not be a part of Hercules’s world much longer.

Hercules dashed for the burning tree.  As he attempted to find a way to distinguish the flames Callisto rose to her feet, screamed, and dashed across the temple to attack again.  She ran up his body and flipped backward.  Then she kicked the single apple from his hand that he had managed to retrieve from the burning tree.  Callisto then tried a new offensive delivering furious punches at directly at Hercules’s face.  He managed to block them with his strong arms.  He had used the time he was allowing Callisto to pummel him to rest his tired shoulders.  Hercules was now gaining some momentum against Callisto’s advances.  She attempted to knee him in the stomach, but he was ready for it as he grabbed her head and forced in down into her own knee.  Then he swung her around and knocked her from her feet with his legs.  He then kicked her across the temple into the walls.  Callisto’s head smacked hard.

Hercules used her moment of immortal weakness and picked up the apple he had managed to retrieve from the burning tree.  Callisto quickly recovered frustrated with him.  She asked him why he couldn’t just allow himself to perish like a good son.  He declared that he just didn’t know when to quit.  Callisto promised to inspire him into death.  She stated that even if Hercules was able to find his way out of the temple maze without her help he would never be able to do it in time to save his loved ones.  Hercules was confident that Callisto was wrong in her thinking.  Callisto was ready to hear why he was so confident as she gleefully inquired.  He then held up an empty oil pouch and stated that he had known something Callisto was unaware of.  It was the fact that they were out of oil for the torch.

Callisto appeared to be confused for a moment, but Hercules continued explaining his view through his next action.  He pulled a burning branch from the tree and threw it across the temple out into the dark corridor.  The torch lit the oil trail that Hercules had left behind them as they had moved through the temple maze which led the way home.  Hercules firmly stated that the oil flame would lead right back to the entrance.  Then he declared his own surprise.  Callisto quickly realized that she was defeated.  She reached out for the bulls head lever upon the temple wall activating it to close the door and seal Hercules inside the room.  Then she grabbed a knife from her leather armor and charged Hercules attempting to stab him through his heart.  Hercules quickly ducked her charge and ran for the closing door.  Callisto ran into the burning tree and fell in frustration.

Then she began to weep in emotional anguish as Hercules was about to escape the flames of entrapment.  He looked back noticing that she had burned her eyes.  She was struggling to see as she begged him not to leave her alone in the fire.  The fearful child with in her was now talking to him.  Hercules could not allow himself to leave the child despite the evil that lurked within her.  He ran back for her and asked her to give him her hand.  In the next moment she turned on him again and jumped upon his back and screamed defiantly.  She struggled to prevent him from leaving and saving his loved ones as he struggled to throw the evil from his back.  Hercules had the upper hand and he had hope again.  His strength had been restored as he threw evil from his body and ran underneath the sealing door in the knick of time.

The door soon sealed shut and the immortal Callisto was now trapped within her immortal body within the flames of the burning tree.  As Hercules dashed through the temple maze following the was now trapped forever within her worst nightmares.  Yet Callisto was no longer his concern.  He had burning oil trail he had laid for himself he could hear the deafening anguish of Callisto’s emotions as she given her a chance to be saved yet she had taken that opportunity to betray him.  She had been responsible for creating her own nightmare this time.

Despite Callisto’s attempts to carry out Hera’s wishes against Hercules and his loved ones, Hercules had defeated them both.  He went on to save the lives of his loved ones.  Just before the sun was to set he provided each of them with nourishment from the single apple he had managed to save from the flames of Callisto’s darkness and despair.  Upon hearing this news of the now immortal Callisto’s demise, to the bard Gabrielle it was most certainly no surprise.

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 #1: Scroll #20: Mortal Beloved

The Xena Scrolls
By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia
Scroll#20:  Mortal Beloved

May, 48 B.C.

There was once a young girl who wandered through the woods late at night.  She was carrying a basket full of flowers for a special occasion that was to take place in the village of Pylos in just three days.  As she walked down the dark wooded path through the night she found herself hearing low whispering voices.  They sounded soft and soothing.  The girl followed them into the moonlight only to discover something she feared.  There appearing before her was a dark figure.  It was a man whose face was not recognizable.  Suddenly he disappeared as the girl screamed in terror.  When she turned around to flee there he was standing before her once again.  He had a message, but the girl did not stay to listen.  Her fear of this mysterious ghost led her scrambling to the nearest tavern.
There at the tavern was someone who could help.  The warrior princess sat to a late dinner with her loyal friend the bard of Podedia.  As the girl ran into the tavern she was out of breath.  Her face was white like sheets and she told of the ghost she had seen in the woods just beyond the village.  Xena immediately decided to investigate.  She left the young terrified girl with her friend Gabrielle to watch over the frightened.  Quickly Xena ran out into the darkness of the woods where all was silent, but the sounds of the night.  She walked slowly to listen more carefully hoping to hear the voices described to her by the young girl.  Soon there was a whisper which called her name.  It called for Xena with the same soothing harmless tone it had given to the girl it had frightened.
Xena turned quickly toward the voice to discover a strange glow.  The glow came from within a mysterious white mist that formed slowly into a dark figure.  Xena could see that it was indeed a man.  It was more than a man.  It was a ghost standing before her.  And just as she looked into the mist further she could see the face of someone she recognized.  It was the ghost of her beloved Marcus.  He smiled with joy to see her as his eyes gleamed with excitement.  The warrior princess found herself in disbelief for she had not expected to see him again.  She walked closer to his presence hoping to feel his embrace once again as she told him how much she had missed him.  He responded to her with the same appreciation yet he had not come to only visit his beloved.
Marcus had come to seek out her help.  Just as he was about to explain himself to the warrior princess two more figures materialized into the mist grabbing Marcus.  Marcus cried out for Xena’s  help in a desperate struggle against the other entities.  Xena instinctively drew her sword preparing to do battle against them to save her beloved Marcus.  But there was nothing she could do for him because he was in another realm.  She could only watch as he struggled to tell her what he had come for.  Marcus’s instructions were to go to lake Geniya and swim to the bottom so that she could enter into the underworld.  But before Marcus could finish his story the two entities that had come for him whisked him away into the darkness and his presence was no more.
Early the next morning Xena walked down to lake Geniya with Gabrielle to seek out Marcus.  She wanted to know why he had invited her to come to the underworld.  The warrior princess knew in her heart that whatever it was that it must be serious for Marcus had come for her in desperation.  His trust of her was apparent for if he had not trusted her he would not have come for her.  As Xena prepared to seek out the door to the underworld Gabrielle pleaded with her friend to stay.  The bard was not so certain that it was a good idea for the warrior princess to swim to the bottom of the middle of lake Geniya when it was uncertain that she would even make it.  Not only that, but the bard did not trust in the words of a ghost.  Yet Xena refused to listen to the bard’s reason.  Instead the warrior princess decided that she was going to follow her heart no matter the consequences.
Gabrielle was still unhappy with Xena’s decision as Xena tried to lighten the moment by telling the bard that she would make it to the other side one way or another.  Somehow Gabrielle did not find herself comforted by this, but then Xena spoke to the bard’s pure heart.  She told her that this was something that she must do for her own heart no matter the consequences.  Marus needed her help and she would not ignore his pleas.  Gabrielle suddenly realized that there was nothing that she could say that would persuade the warrior princess to stay behind.  The bard took Xena’s armor as the warrior princess prepared for her dangerous journey.  All that Xena took was her sword and her chackram that the bard had been holding hoping that the warrior princess would not go.  But Xena’s mind was made up as she asked for her weapons.  Gabrielle handed them over reluctantly, but promised the warrior princess that she would be there by the lake’s edge awaiting Xena’s return.
Xena smiled knowing that Gabrielle would wait for a lifetime if she had to for the warrior princess to return.  Xena was confident in her heart that she would return.  And so Xena left the bard behind and traveled to the hilltop above the lake as she prepared to dive into the unknown.  Gabrielle watched her friend hoping that she would return from her heart’s journey soon.
Diving into the lake Xena swam to the underworld because her love Marcus called for her.  Evil had taken control and innocent souls were suffering, but Xena fought for good.  When she arrived at the door to the underworld she found herself meeting the well-known keeper of the gate.  Charon did not greet the warrior princess with a warm welcome.  He was rather nasty and quite ugly with his rotted teeth and blackened eyes.  Charon wore tattered clothing as he pulled up on his boat which led across from the mortal realm to the realm of the dead.
Xena found the gatekeeper to be quite argumentative at first upon her request to be taken across to meet with Hades the god of the underworld.  Charon refused to take another of the dead across without his payment of two gold coins.  Xena then gave the ancient gatekeeper an awkward glance and replied that she was not one of the dead, but very much alive and mortal.  Charon looked at the warrior princess and wondered with amazement for he had never known a mortal to enter into the underworld voluntarily.  This led Charon into his sermon of how things had changed so much in the underworld.  He declared that the helmet of invisibility had been stolen from Hades which made the god of the underworld powerless in keeping the order down below.
This was important information for the warrior princess as she was trying to piece together the situation that Marcus had called upon her help for.  Xena then pleaded with Charon declaring that she had come to help Hades find his helmet and to restore the underworld to proper order.  Charon laughed delightfully at the warrior princess’s promise, but decided that any mortal coming to sacrifice themselves in the name of Hades and the underworld deserved at least one complementary ride across the fiery lava rivers beneath.  So Charon asked Xena to climb aboard his old rickety wooden boat as he began to take her on the journey toward Hades’s.  Yet Charon did not promise a ride to return Xena to the gate back to the mortal world.
Once Charon had taken Xena to the other side of the underworld he dropped her off in the worst place known to mortals, and the dead.  Xena stepped off of Charon’s boat onto the shores of Tartarus.  There she found herself witnessing the greatest suffering ever to be known.  People were sick with deadly diseases for eternity.  Some suffered gaping wounds that would never heal, and others suffered in their emotional turmoil.  Yet there was something strange about all of the suffering that Xena witnessed.  The warrior princess soon noticed as she walked through those in Tartarus that none of them were evil souls.  They were all good souls and Xena realized that they weren’t meant to suffer within these horrible eternities.
Her heart broke as she walked among them until she found herself running into someone whom she knew quite well.  It was Marcus and he had a smile brighter than life itself spreading across his handsome face.  Xena was relieved that she had finally found him as they embraced for the first time since his death.  The two exchanged grateful happiness within the depths of the Tartarus which surrounded them.  Yet Xena did not forget why she had come.  She had come to help and it seemed obvious to the warrior princess what it was that she had been asked to restore.  When she asked Marcus why all of these wonderful souls were wandering through Tartarus he explained that a terrible evil had taken over.
When Xena asked him who had stolen Hades’s helmet of invisibility Marcus asked her if she had heard of the one they called Atyminious.
Xena shrugged for a moment with a passing giggle within for that name took her back to her childhood.  She told Marcus of the legend of Atyminious a man who was said to have a fancy for young girls and young brides.  He liked to kill them just before they were to wed and enjoy their life of love.  Xena laughed for a moment when she recalled how she and her girl friends were threatened by their fathers.  Their fathers would tell them that if the girls didn’t behave themselves that they would find Atyminious and be sure that they were punished for their disobedience.  As Xena began to think about what had been said and what she had remembered she realized that the deeds of Atyminious had been real and not just a myth.
Marcus then explained that it had been Atyminious whom had stolen Hades helmet and it was Atyminious who reigned in Tartarus now.  Xena was told that the good had been exiled to Tartarus while the evil souls were allowed to run about in the Elysian Fields forever.  The warrior princess then asked Marcus to take her to the Elysian Fields.  He quickly led her into the white veil of mist which separated the good from the evil.  As they walked through it Xena described it as breathtakingly beautiful.  There were great waterfalls of endless power, perfect fluffy white clouds in a clear blue sky, and yellow poppies that lit up the brilliantly green fields.  As they walked through the veil into the Elysian Fields chaos was revealed.  The deception was beautiful yet the evil which reigned was awful.  As Marcus took Xena through the destruction and the ruin of a once renowned paradise she realized that despite evil being freed into bliss it would never be happy.
She watched as souls fought each other as if there wasn’t enough food, enough water, enough glory, and enough bliss to go around.  Xena realized that evil would never be worthy of residing in pure bliss for it did not appreciate what was truly beautiful.  She realized that what made the Elysian Fields a paradise was the love of the good souls that had once resided within it.  It was the love that resided within goodness that made Xena realized and understand why she had to help Marcus to restore all of the underworld to Hades.  Only Hades was wise enough to be the judge of who was a good soul and who was an evil soul.
As she thought of all of these things she then asked Marcus one question.  It came out of a deep concern which had gripped her soul.  Marcus had told her before they had entered into the Elysian Fields that only evil souls were allowed safe passage into the Elysian Fields.  She realized that if that were the truth then Marcus had been judged with the evil for he could not have been able to enter into the Elysian Fields any other way.  When she brought this to his attention Marcus tried to deny that truth.  He tried to explain it away by telling Xena that everything was in chaos and that there was indeed no order despite what he had said before.  But Xena knew Marcus well.  She knew that he was only trying to put her heart at ease.
Suddenly the warrior princess found herself within her own blame.  If only she had tried harder in convincing him to do the right thing before it had been too late.  His one good deed of self-sacrifice at the end of a live of evil deeds had not been enough to release him from Hades’s judgement of the damned.  Marcus could feel the warrior princess’s guilt and he could feel her heart breaking for him.  He tried to comfort her, but explaining to her that despite his judgement he had learned from Xena the value of doing good.  He knew it was right to go against all of the thugs that were laying ruin to paradise.  When Xena asked him why he was willing to betray those whom he’d be sharing eternity with in Tartarus Marcus explained further.  He explained that he was willing to sacrifice an eternity of suffering by the hands of those evil souls he was about to betray to hold onto the love that his heart possessed inside at the goodness that the warrior princess had shown and taught him.  Marcus explained that it was more important for him to know that he was doing the right thing despite the eternal consequences.  He explained to the warrior princess that her words had saved his heart from turning into darkness for eternity.
Suddenly there was an interruption.  Xena found herself being approached by someone who she knew well, but this was not a friend.  It was the familiar voice of the warlord Toxious whom she had killed to restore Celesta to her flame.  He laughed in the face of his enemy as he was certain that she had been judged into the ranks of evil.  Toxious was amused with revenge for despite all of the good deeds that Xena had done at the end of her own life she had seemingly been cast into eternal evil.  Marcus was shocked to see the gaping wound that Xena had given Toxious.  It only confirmed that he was making the right choice to fight against Atyminious in restoring the underworld.
Toxious then asked Xena who had stolen her life and claimed it as prize.  Xena smirked at the unsuspecting Toxious and replied that no one had been given the satisfaction of killing her.  Instead she had been thrown from her horse and been taken by nothing more than a broken neck.  For a moment the evil Toxious was disappointed, but then realized that he still held victory for this champion of good had not died committing a heroic act.  Just as Toxious was contemplating a battle with his thugs against the warrior princess and her beloved there was a disturbance within paradise.  Suddenly men were being beaten by a mysterious invisible force.  It plunged through the souls of the evil and then there was the echoing laughter of evil joy.
Then he appeared before his disloyal subjects.  It was the infamous Atyminious who stood before Toxios, Marcus, and Xena the warrior princess.  He smiled with a nasty glare.  His face was as white as death itself and his eyes looked as dark as those of Charon.  Then his nostrils flared as he looked about paradise.  He angrily declared that there was a mortal among the dead.  Atyminious knew immediately who the intruder was and he took no time in exposing that Xena was the mortal enemy before them.  Yet the warrior princess was prepared to take the accusation and turn it into an advantage.  She declared to all of the evil souls that served beneath Atyminious that he could not be trusted.  Xena reminded them that Atyminious was just as evil as they themselves, and then she demanded to know why he deserved the power of Hades.  The warrior princess had known that Toxious and the others would see things through their evil eyes.  She knew that they would realize that Atyminious was only playing them for fools.
It did not take an eternity for evil to rise up against its leader.  In fact, evil was quick to note that each and every one of its souls wanted what Atyminious had.  Atyminious tried to defend his accusation knowing that it was indeed the truth, but evil never lives or dies by truth.  Quickly Toxious took the lead and drew his weapon preparing to battle Atyminious for the helmet of invisibility.  If evil wanted real power it would need the helmet to rule over life and death.  Xena and Marcus found themselves joining the battle only to cover up the truth within their hearts.  Xena had hoped that Toxious would at least be able to rob Atyminious of the helmet so that she could retrieve it from him for she was certain that he could be defeated easily.  But Atyminious was just as dangerous as the legends and myths had told him to be.  Not only did he like to kill brides and young girls, but he liked to disembody them for his evil pleasure.  He was also very intelligent and realized quickly what Xena was trying to do so he put the helmet back over his head and disappeared from paradise.
As a reminder of his work he fought Toxious invisible and took his head with one thrust of his blade.  In one moment Toxious had his head and in the next moment the rascious laughter of Atyminious could be heard asking Toxious how he would like to spend eternity without his head.  Then all was quiet and the battle suddenly ceased for evil now feared itself seeing the damage it could deliver even in paradise.  Xena and Marcus realized that time was short and that they must find Hades in the underworld before it was too late for the mortal world.
Gabrielle still waited by the lakeside for her friend to return to her.  Over half of the day had passed and no sign of the warrior princess.  The bard found herself beginning to worry about her friend, but as she milled her staff around within the lake she heard the sounds of voices coming out of the woods.  When she turned to see who was approaching she found that there were three young fisherman.  They saw her sitting on the lake shore and asked her if she was going to the festival in Pylos.  Gabrielle replied with disappointment and a tinge of worry that she was not going.  Then the men asked her why she sat by the lake alone.  She spoke of the friend that she waited for.  The men inquired if her friend had been coming from the other side of the lake.  In a sense Xena was coming back from the other side, but not the other side that the fisherman had thought of.  And then the three were on their way leaving Gabrielle alone once again.
Several more moments passed and then Gabrielle found herself pacing the lake shore awaiting for Xena’s return.  As she paced she suddenly heard a bubbling sound coming from the lake.  Her heart lept with hope that it would be Xena returning to her alive.  But instead there was no one there.  Gabrielle’s heart sank at the thought of it being only a fish, but then there was a voice.  It began as a whisper, but then it became rascious.  This voice was that of a man who Gabrielle did not see.  She could not see a man anywhere as she picked up her staff.  Fear gripped her from within for there was an enemy which she could not see anywhere.  Then there were footsteps forming mysteriously within the sand all around the bard.  They came closer and there was laughter.  Suddenly there before the bard as she turned around appeared a man of darkness and evil.  He was ugly and scary.
It was Atyminious though the bard did not know this evil man.  She was taken by complete surprise.  Her fear became enchantment for what she had just witnessed.  The bard was frozen and entranced as Atyminious’s smile spoke of his delight in finding his first victim.  He could not wait to take a life.  Atyminious basked in the power of fear and surprise.  He proclaimed that he had only appeared before his victim because of the anticipation that death was upon them.  Atyminious quite enjoyed watching each and every victim go through the emotions of the moments before their violent deaths.  Then he paused for a moment and asked Gabrielle if she were about to be married.  Gabrielle was frozen and could not answer, but then Atyminious realized that this truly was not a bride to be before him.
Suddenly Gabrielle found herself snapping out of her reaction to this evil presence as she braced herself for a battle.  She raised her staff for a fight to survive for there was no other choice.  Atyminious found himself amused yet challenged that this young victim was going to put up a fight.  He was certain that she would still an easy victim.  Atyminious quickly rose his dagger above his head to go in for the kill, but Gabrielle instinctively blocked the advances of her enemy.  She disarmed him for a moment and began to beat him with her staff.  The bard put all of the strength she could muster into her battle as she popped her enemy in his nose drawing blood.  This caught Atyminious by surprise as he hunched over for a moment in pain.  He had almost forgotten of the pain that mortality could bring to him.  Gabrielle realized her chance for escape as she ran for her life toward the cover of the trees.
And as the battle had begun between the mortals and the dead so too did the battle for a visit to Hades.  Marcus had shown Xena to Hades’s castle in the underworld.  It was surrounded by lava pits, and fire springs.  Not only that, but there were also harpies which guarded its gates.  Harpies were known to be vicious human like animals.  They were birds with the tales of dragons and the agile wings of a bird.  Harpes had sharp teeth with breath like that of fire.  Xena was certain that they could defeat the harpies despite Marcus’s warning of their power and of their strength.  As the two crossed the stone passage toward the dark castle they were quickly attacked by the vicious beasts.  The screams of the harpies were deafening like those of the nasty crows.  Two of the massive beasts appeared to do battle with the intruders.  Xena fought with her sword as Marcus tried to keep up, but was quickly taken by his enemy.
Xena heard Marcus’s screams of terror as she turned to watch the harpies kidnap him into the air with its tale.  She saw that he had been grabbed up by his sleeveless vest.  Xena quickly acted as she grabbed the alcohol she had taken from the Elysian fields and took a drink from the flask.  Suddenly she grabbed a torch from the walls of the castle gate and spit fire at the enemy.  Marcus was dropped by the harpies  as Xena fought off the second attacker.  Yet he was not out of danger for he found himself clinging to the edge of the castle bridge unable to climb out of danger.  Xena turned to see that he was about to fall and flipped into action to save him.  She reached out to take his hand, but was knocked off-balance by the remaining harpies.  Marcus fell even further with the sudden jolt clinging to the wall with only his fingers.
Xena continued to kick and fight against the raging harpies until she decided to end the senseless battle.  Once again she reached down for her flask of alcohol and this time threw it onto her enemy directly.  Then she grabbed another torch and lit her enemy with the flames as the harpies went crashing down into the lava pits below.  Just as Marcus was about to fall below Xena’s hand rescued him before he could be taken away from her.  Now that all was quiet again and the danger had passed the two found themselves admiring each other’s beauty as if nothing else in the world existed.  But their moment of bliss soon ended as they were reminded of their duty to the underworld.
Once inside of Hades’s castle the god of the underworld found himself surprised that anyone had been able to get by the harpies that guarded his domain.  He was within a terrible depression realizing that the entire underworld was in turmoil.  Hades felt powerless and Xena explained to him that she and Marcus had discovered who was to blame.  Hades was interested in listening, but he wasn’t completely convinced that Xena could do the job despite her having saved the life of his sister Celesta.  Xena convinced Hades that if he would just send Marcus to the world of the living with her that they could defeat Atyminious and retrieve the helmet of invisibility.  Hades refused, but Xena reminded him that he was a god and if anyone had the power to give Marcus life it would be Hades.  Suddenly Hades realized that Atyminious had made a mistake.  His mistake had been that he had gone into the mortal realm with the helmet which meant that he would be mortal again whenever he wore the helmet.
Hades was reluctantly convinced by the warrior princess to give Marcus mortality once again, but he only agreed to giving him two days to live.  The god of the underworld proclaimed that it was all that he could offer to the warrior princess.  And so Xena and Marcus took Hades’s offer and Hades quickly sent them back through the river of Charon and through the gate into mortality.
As Xena and Marcus were about to return to Gabrielle at the lake shore Gabrielle was running from her enemy.  Just before Gabrielle could reach the woods Atyminious regained his composure and ran after his victim.  He kicked Gabrielle in the back of the head knocking the bard out cold.  Then he returned to the lakeshore to retrieve the knife she had taken from him during their battle.  As he returned to her side to finish her off Xena and Marcus approached seeing the murder about to take place.
Quickly Xena and Marcus drew their swords and ran to do battle against Atyminious who had blood on his face.  Xena realized that it was not the blood of the bard, but his own blood.  Just as she was about to thrust her sword into the murdering enemy he put on the helmet and disappeared.  He fought against her beating her and laughing for she could not see him.  The warrior princess soon realized that she would have to fight him with her other warrior senses.  First she listened hearing the footsteps of the enemy.  And then she instructed Marcus as they could see the footprints forming all around them.  The two took their swords together and clashed into their invisible enemy sending Atyminious fleeing into the woods.  Xena quickly ran to the aid of her friend hoping that she had been able to defend herself against Atyminious.  Indeed she had for Gabrielle awakened to see the one person she had waited all day to see.
Gabrielle was relieved to see Xena alive again and relieved that Atyminious was gone.  The bard was proud of herself for having given him a bloody nose despite his power against her.  Xena found herself relieved that the bard had survived becoming his first victim.  Yet Gabrielle had been attacked and Xena knew that he would soon be finding a new victim.  Marcus noticed that he and Xena had injured Atyminious for there was a trail of blood left behind by the enemy.  The three followed it into the woods until it led up into the trees.  Realizing that Atyminious had outsmarted them with a new way of concealing himself Xena decided that they would set up camp for the night.  Gabrielle was not so certain that setting up camp was a good idea after the near death experience against Atyminious earlier.  But Xena was certain that he would not attack them in the night for he would not be able to see them.  That would make their battle equal.  Atyminious enjoyed his advantage of invisibility in the daylight to give it up that hastily.
And so that night as Gabrielle tried to sleep beyond her own fears of Atyminious’s return Xena and Marcus enjoyed their time together.  Marcus reminded Xena of all of the things that mortals take for granted when they are living.  He spoke of the crisp night air and of the sounds of the night.  Then Marcus spoke of how he had missed Xena’s touch and her caress most of all.  Xena was flattered by his complements, but then he became serious.  He spoke of how he had been able to hear her loving thoughts of him when he had been dead.  Xena was surprised yet comforted that Marcus had heard how much she thought of him and of how much she truly loved him.  Though Xena was still feeling the pain of not being able to save him from death and of not being able to save him from an eternity in Tartarus.  He knew how guilty that she felt, but urged her against her guilt.  He reminded her that he had never thought it possible to do a good deed until she had shown him the way.
Marcus also spoke of how he had heard Xena’s thoughts of giving up on love.  He told her that she should never give up on love despite his death.  He explained to her that it was his love for her that had kept him sane and able to bear the despair of eternal life in Tartarus.  Marcus had said that the love in his heart made him feel warm and happy inside.  He said that it was the most powerful force of all and that it should never be taken for granted or thrown away.  Marcus told Xena that love was stronger than anything else in the world.  The value of love for Marcus was worth even more than his life as a mortal.
And so the next morning Xena, Gabrielle, and Marcus followed the trail through the trees.  Soon they found themselves running into the three farmers that Gabrielle had seen the day before.  They had been beaten and when Xena asked them what had happened they seemed disoriented and confused.  It was obvious that Atyminious had struck them without being seen.  Xena then asked where the farmers had been heading.  They replied that they had been traveling toward Pylos for the festival.  Xena then asked what kind of festival they had been traveling to.  The farmers said that it was a wedding festival.   And then Xena was certain that they would find Atyminious in Pylos.
Xena, Gabrielle, and Marcus had traveled quickly hoping to catch Atyminious before he could destroy more lives.  When they reached Pylos they saw that Atyminious was indeed present for all of the villagers that appeared disoriented or filled with fear of the sight of a ghost.  Xena asked where the bride’s father could be found and was directed by one of the disgusted peddlers to his home across the way.  The three friends went inside and spoke with the bride’s father informing him of the danger that his daughter was about to face.  Xena had a plan to stop Atyminious.  She spoke aloud to the bride’s father with all present including Atyminious though he could not be seen.  Xena instructed the father to allow her to go to the bride’s purifying bath to take her place.  The warrior princess was certain that Atyminious would strike there and she would be waiting for him.  He would never know it was Xena in the bath until it would be too late for him to react.
When the father asked of his beloved daughter’s safety during this time Xena instructed him to keep her locked away in her bedchambers until the danger was over.  Everyone was seemingly ready to do their part and to stop Atyminious before he could harm another innocent victim.  And later that night Marcus went with the bride to the bathing pools where he awaited the arrival of Atyminious.  As he prepared to take the life of the invisible man Gabrielle tucked in the young bride still anticipating the wrath of Atyminious.  Suddenly Atyminious entered into the bride’s bedchambers appearing before her just after Gabrielle had left the room.  He lifted his knife above his head preparing to thrust it into his victim.  Then he gently pulled back the sheets to reveal her innocent face only to find that it was Xena the warrior princess.
Xena jumped out of bed preparing to kill the enemy, but he disappeared before she could get a move in.  Then she rolled out of bed to the opposite side as she took the bed sheets with her.  Atyminious’s laughed roared for he was full of evil excitement.  He then prepared to take Xena’s life invisible, but Xena listened for his footsteps dashing forward against the wooden planks in the hollow floor.  Suddenly she threw the sheets upon her enemy revealing his presence.  He struggled for he could see nothing blinded by the sheets over his head.  Xena then drew her sword and thrust it into the chest of the enemy as he was revealed by his mortality.  Evil struggled to take its last breath and then it was delivered into the hands of death.  Xena then instructed Gabrielle to stay with the body of the evil Atyminious so that she could inform all that he had been eliminated.  As Xena left she took the helmet of invisibility to seek out Marcus and finish their business with Hades.  Gabrielle could not stand the sight of the face of evil any longer.  She realized he looked better when she couldn’t see him at all and pulled the sheet back over his face.
As Xena and Marcus traveled back toward the lake where they would find the door to the underworld they tried to enjoy their last moments together.  The day went quickly and as the second day of Marcus’s borrowed life neared its end Marcus realized that he had a choice.  He had the power to give himself permanent mortality with the helmet for if he were to put it on before his death he would be mortal living out the rest of his life with Xena.  Xena heard Marcus’s words and she too wished for that and as she asked Marcus if that was what he wanted he realized that real love wasn’t about what he wanted.  It was about making the right choice even if it meant his life would end and he would be condemned to a life in Tartarus.  Xena’s heart was saddened yet she was glad that he had made the right choice knowing her heart would have gone along with what his wanted.  Her heart had wanted that too.  As they held immortality in their hands, but Xena didn’t give into temptation even though it meant saying good-bye to a man she loved.
And so Xena and Marcus returned to Hades by the rivers of Charon, but Xena wanted to be sure that Marcus would be given a new judgement for she could not allow him to spend eternity in Tartarus with those evil souls he had betrayed.  Xena entered into Hades’s chambers alone demanding that he give Marcus another judgement.  Hades refused her reminding her that all people only get one judgement when they died.  It was something that he could not change.  But then Xena reminded him that Marcus had not yet died.  Hades again argued that he had already had his one judgement.  Xena realized that she had only one last chance to save Marcus from eternal suffering.  She asked Hades if he would just listen to her heart and judge Marcus one more time for not only his past deeds in life before, but in what her heart knew to be true of him.  Hades agreed, but then asked for his helmet before he would listen.
Xena then asked for Marcus to appear.  He took off the helmet of invisibility and appeared before his judge.  Xena handed the helmet over to Hades and then suddenly she pulled out a dagger.  The warrior princess thrust it through the heart of her beloved ending his two days of mortality given by Hades.  As Marcus bled into death a second time Xena told Hades of how Marcus had held his love inside him.  He had held a love so great for the warrior princess that it enabled him to survive the evil which had surrounded him in Tartarus.  It had been this pure love that had allowed Marcus to make the right choice and to bring back the helmet to Hades.  Marcus’s love had saved the underworld and the lives of many innocent in the mortal world.
And so Hades granted Marcus passage into the Elysian Fields with his second judgement realizing what Marcus had sacrificed.  He realized that Marcus’s loving soul would be tortured unjustly if he were to be judged to return to the evil souls in Tartarus.  Hades allowed Xena and Marcus one last stroll together into the peaceful paradise of the Elysian Fields.  When that time had ended he finally told Xena that it was time for her to say good-bye to the man she loved.  Hades then took Xena back to the door into the moral world.  When Xena returned to Gabrielle the sun was behind the horizon.  Night was about to grasp them as the warrior princess sat on the lake shore mourning her loss with the bard alongside her.  As she let out her tears the bard tried to console her friend, but Xena found comfort within her heart for it was within her heart that her mortal beloved would always be.

Xena Scrolls Volume 1: Scroll #14: Unchained Heart

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#14: Unchained Heart

January, 48 B.C.

     I sing of the darkness which has bound the heart of the warrior princess.  It was seemingly impossible to escape the chains which had bound it for so many long years, but there was one man who found himself showing her the way. 

      The warlord Darphus had been slain through the chest at the end of the sword of Xena the warrior princess.  He had seemingly been defeated.  Despite all of efforts of Hercules, and Xena to win over the darkness it still beckoned Xena.  This darkness was led by the god of war himself.  Ares found himself disgruntled at his loss of the warrior princess to the fight for good.  He had a plan that would most certainly bring down upon the earth the greatest darkness ever known as he rose from the dead the warlord Darphus.  Darphus was promised sanctuary and power by Ares if he were to carry out his plans upon the earth.  Ares also left with Darphus a gift of unknown strength and horror.

      For many weeks Xena had traveled with Hercules and Salmoneous enjoying these moments of life without darkness.  The warrior princess found herself quite intrigued by Hercules and his inner desire to do good instead of evil.  One day as she and her two new friends sat down to lunch they found themselves interrupted by an urgent message.  The message had been sent from a warlord through a villager.  His village had been viciously attacked and many had lost their lives.  This lone villager had been the only one spared for he was told to find Hercules to tell of his encounter with the warlord known as Darphus. 

     Hercules and Xena found themselves confused for Xena had been the one who had thrust her sword into his chest delivering Darphus into death’s hands.  The villager then confirmed that Darphus had indeed had that same gaping hole that Xena spoke of.  Xena found herself confused for it was seemingly impossible for a mortal to have survived that injury.  Yet Hercules explained that Darphus had not survived.  Instead he had been saved by his brother Ares for only gods had the power to restore life to mortals.  Hercules soon realized that Ares had elected Darphus to do his bidding.  Xena quickly rose from the table ready to seek out and destroy the evil that was Darphus, but Hercules warned that they must fight this fight together.  The villager then said that Darphus had headed to Allisia where he and his army were camped.  Hercules, Xena, and Salmoneous prepared once again to fight for another day as they began traveling toward evil. 

      Upon stopping to camp later in the evening Salmoneous began to set the mood for two great warriors.  He prepared a blanket and began setting up his silver plates, and goblets.  Salmoneous had plans to turn these two warriors into more than just friends.  As he continued his ritual Hercules interrupted realizing where Salmoneous had intended to take he and the warrior princess.  Hercules did not particularly agree with being matched with the warrior princess despite his underlying attraction to her.  Her charms were powerful, but Hercules had a friend to consider for he had not forgotten the relationship that Xena had once had with Iolas. 

       Hercules suggested that Salmoneous hunt for his own dinner.  The legendary hero underestimated the determination of the salesman.  Salmoneous accepted a challenge to hunt for quail as long as someone else did the cooking.  Xena was not much for cooking and so she quickly passed on the responsibility to the legendary hero who seemed very dissatisfied with his sudden election to the task.  The warrior princess had decided that she would be the one who would do the scouting while Salmoneous and Hercules prepared for dinner.  Then she left the two to do their chores and Salmoneous proclaimed that he had the skills to hunt for quayle.  While on his hunt for quail Salmoneous ran into an old friend to Hercules, but was unaware of Iolas’s relationship with the hero.  Salmoneous was irritated that Iolas did not believe that he was a good friend to Hercules.  Iolas laughed when Salmoneous suggested that he was writing the legends that made Hercules famous. 

      To prove his words to Iolas he took him directly to Hercules who sat alongside the lake peacefully.  Salmoneous warned his new acquaintance that he should not approach Hercules in awe for Hercules preferred to be treated as if he were an ordinary man.  Indeed the hero was modest, but despite the warnings Iolas greeted him with excitement pretending that he did not know the hero.  Salmoneous scolded him for not taking heed to his words, but Iolas and Hercules continued to play the game.  Hercules rose from the water and confirmed that he was indeed Hercules.   He then asked of who this new acquaintance was.  Iolas played coy as he replied his name in return.  And then suddenly the two broke off into hysterical laughter and joy for they had not seen each other in months.  The two best friends had missed one another and it was clear to Salmoneous that he was no longer at the top of Hercules’s list.  He followed behind Iolas, and the warrior princess.  Then Iolas revealed to Hercules that he had heard of the warrior princess’s return.  Hercules’s friend was certain that they must once again go up against the woman who had separated their friendship.  Then Salmoneous found himself feeling that he was no longer a part of this potentially volatile conversation.  Despite that he went back to the hunt and successfully caught dinner for four.

     As two old friends reunited with joy Xena found herself confronted again with the darkness.  There before her she caught sight of a small group of Darphus’s warriors raiding a tiny village.  She charged into battle instinctively for she intended to defeat them all.  The warrior princess had committed so many wrongs in her life and with each battle against darkness she found herself coming back toward the light.  Though her road was certain to be a long one the warrior princess was determined to face the journey with courage and honor.  Xena flipped into action drawing her sword and taking down all, but one of the evil warriors.  Realizing that he would deliver news of their arrival to Darphus she quickly rushed back toward camp to report to Hercules.

      As she arrived by nightfall she heard a familiar voice.  It was the voice of the man whose heart she had once betrayed.  Xena felt sadness and guilt within her own heart for what she had done to Iolas.  There was a bit of shame and lots of regret for she did not know if he would ever forgive her for her misdeeds.  It was obvious that he had not yet been told of her new alliance with Hercules.  Hercules had been afraid to tell Iolas for he knew that Iolas would be upset.  Then as Hercules prepared to tell the story with Salmoneous’s encouragement Xena interrupted revealing herself to face Iolas.  Iolas jumped up from his place on the log by the fire.  His rage toward the warrior princess was clear and Hercules tried to settled his friend’s anger with words of encouragement.  He told Iolas that Xena was no longer their enemy and she was fighting with them against the wrath of Darphus.  Iolas was unforgiving and unwilling to believe in Xena’s words. 

     He left camp angerily as Hercules followed hoping to regain his friend’s trust despite all that had gone on between Xena and Iolas before.  Iolas scolded his friend for believing in the persuasive warrior princess.  He went as far as to accuse him of having a passionate affair.  Yet Hercules had not become involved with Xena beyond the agreement of comradery.  He then told Iolas of how Xena had saved the life of an infant and lost her army to Darphus because of it.  This was his reason for believing in the warrior princess.  Iolas was still not convinced of the innocence of the warrior princess, but Hercules did convince Iolas that he needed his help to defeat Darphus.  Iolas could not back down from helping his friend.  His loyalty was great enough that he overlooked his anger toward the warrior princess though he did not forgive her.

       Early the next morning the four set out toward Allisia to defeat the evil that was Darphus.  As they traveled they had heard word of Darphus’s plans.  He was going to take his army to an old mine and capture the diamond miners there.  Hercules was not certain why Darphus would want to attack the miners, but he wasted no time in trying to stop his plans.  As the four detoured toward the diamond mines it was clear that Darphus was ready for them.  Hercules was aware of this and when they approached  a small passageway through the canyon he instructed everyone to stay together tightly and keep silence about them.  Of course this was difficult for Salmoneous who enjoyed conversation and for Iolas it was difficult to find himself having to work near the warrior princess.

      Hercules tried to assure Xena that Iolas would soon tire of his silly anger, but Xena was not so certain.  She longed for the forgiveness of Hercules’s best friend as they traveled on.  And just as Hercules had expected an ambush had been delivered down upon the four heroes.  Darphus and his men awaited their arrival and then threw down a large avalanche of rocks and stones.  When the warlord was certain that he had succeeded in trapping the victims he took his men on toward the mines to ambush the unsuspecting miners.

      And though it seemed that the four heroes would have met certain death a ray of hope shun out from beneath the depths of the thick pile of rock.  Hercules had caught the largest of the boulders that fell with his strong back as he held it in place supporting the rest of the rocks.  Xena and Iolas then quickly cleared through the rubble toward an escape from their deaths.  As they made their way to the light at the end of the tunnel they called out to Salmoneous who was frozen with fear.  He had never been this close to death before.  Salmoneous refused to move as Hercules tried desperately to urge him to go.  Yet the fearful salesman would not move from his place beneath the debris.  And so Hercules asked that Xena and Iolas go onto safety leaving him behind.  The two did as they had been commanded and exited safely through to the light.  Iolas had sustained an injury to his forehead, and despite Xena’s concern he ignored it with disgust.

     Then as the rocks were about to give way Hercules found a large tree branch on the ground and used it to hold up the boulder so that he could rescue Salmoneous and take them to safety.  Just as they were about to exit the rocks and the boulders gave way and piled down violently into the depths of the canyon.  But Hercules and Salmoneous were triumphant as they escaped through the dust to reunite with Iolas and Xena.  Xena found herself in awe of the bravery and courage of Hercules.  He had been willing to give his own life to save that of his friends.  Hercules then reminded Xena that they had all played their role in saving each other.  Yet their triumphant joy ended when Salmoneous felt as if he had hindered the mission with his cowardice.  When Hercules tried to comfort his heavy burden within Salmoneous refused his pity.  Instead he walked on ahead hanging his head in shame.  Xena’s heart wanted to reach out to that of Salmoneous, but Hercules suggested that he work through his issues alone.  It was just the way Hercules had treated Xena after their one on one combat just after she had saved the infant child.  Xena then tried once more to offer her regret to Iolas hoping that he would allow her to dress his wound, but Iolas flatly refused.  It was clear to Hercules that the warrior princess wanted desperately to release her heart from the chains that bound it, but he knew that only Iolas could help her by being the first of many to offer his forgiveness. 

     Soon the four had reached the mining village where they had found that Darphus had not yet been there.  Hercules tried desperately to convince the head miner that he and his men needed to flee for their lives, but the old miner would not leave.  He didn’t believe that there would be a war to fight for he and his comrades did not fear the name Darphus.  Iolas found himself frustrated as well and hoped that Hercules would allow him to use force to convince the old miner, but Hercules tried another approach.  He hoped that these men would fear the name of his rival brother Ares, but even that did not draw fear.  Instead the old minor proclaimed that he and every other man about him had all showed their loyalty to the god of war by fighting in a war along the path in their lives.

     Suddenly an arrow shot out of the woods as Hercules caught it with only his hand just before it took the life of the old miner.  This was the act that would convince the minors to flee.  And as they gathered up their jewels they took off hoping to avoid their capture by Darphus’s army.  The army attacked swiftly as they rained down into the mining camp.  Hercules, Iolas, and Xena all went into action battle with their own styles of fighting.  Xena fought by the sword which she would have gladly died by.  It was her code.  She still had a passion for blood though she sought the blood of darkness rather than the blood of the innocent.  Iolas fought much like Hercules for neither liked using weapons.  They preferred simple brawn for it could not kill in the ruthless way that a sword could.  Hercules of course believed in second chances whereas Iolas was not as easily convinced.  But suddenly Iolas found himself trapped between to of Darphus’s warriors.  They held him as a third prepared to kill him with a dagger, but Xena came to his aid.  The warrior princess took out her whip and robbed the enemy of the weapon that would kill her new comrade. 

     Iolas was shocked when he found that it was not Hercules, but the warrior princess that had saved his life.  There were so many men to fight that Hercules had found himself on the opposite side of the battle far from Iolas’s aid.  Yet the hero had trusted in the warrior princess and his trust had been placed correctly.  Xena had saved Iolas for her strict warrior code dictated her actions.  Quickly Xena moved onto her next victim and struck him down with a vengeance against the darkness.  Then she caught sight of Darphus as he began to retreat with his men following closely behind.  As the last man she had taken fell she reached for his sword and threw it into the chest of her enemy.  Darphus did not fall or even sense the pain of the strike.  Instead he removed the weapon from his chest and laughed for Xena could not kill the one loyal to Ares.  Then he rode off into the woods.

      Once the battle had ended Iolas had discovered that Salmoneous was now missing.  Hercules was certain that he had been taken by one of Darphus’s men.  He went off into the woods hoping to find Salmoneous leaving Xena and Iolas alone to reconcile.  Xena was still longing for his forgiveness.  She delivered words of regret and sorrow to her old flame, but he would not take them.  Instead he said that he was thankful that she had saved him, and that he no longer held ill will toward her.  And that was when it happened for Xena.  When her heart for the first time felt a release from the evil that held it.  Forgiveness had come from the first of many.  Upon Hercules return he was glad to see that his friends were reconciling despite his failure in finding Salmoneous.  So the three heroes remaining  set off in search of Allisia where Darphus and his men were waiting. 

     Of course both Xena and Iolas were fighting for the praises of their mentor now that Iolas had discovered the lesson that Hercules had wanted him to learn.  Hercules found it amusing yet he would not allow either of them to put him on their pedestals.  The legendary hero was not one to shout out success from the mountain tops.  And so Hercules suggested that someone go on and scout ahead to see what awaited them at Darphus’s camp.  Both volunteered eagerly, but then Iolas outwitted the warrior princess.  He told the two to set up a camp and start a fire.  Iolas was gone before Xena could argue.  Hercules took the opportunity to continue his lesson to Xena as she declared that she would start the fire, but she would not cook.  The hero found himself enjoying her spunky playful attitude.  He liked it much better than the attitude of the first warrior princess he had met.

     As the evening wore on Xena sat by the fire alongside Hercules and asked him if he thought that she was capable of staying on the right path.  Hercules said that he had every certainty that she would.  Xena had not yet believed in herself for she thanked him for his help in putting her onto that path.  Of course he said that she had made the choice.  No one else had made it for her.  His encouragement of her strength led her to ask him how she would be able to sustain her path of light.  She was not certain that she had what it took within to drive her in that direction.  Hercules had been led onto his heroic life when his step mother Hera had killed his wife and children.  Yet Xena could not find that same kind of passionate love within her own heart.  Hercules was certain that she would if she had not already found it.  It would require Xena to search within. 

     With the hope in her heart restored she had decided that she would tell the legendary hero of her true feelings that went beyond friendship.  She had found herself falling in love with Hercules and she chose to express these deep sensations within her heart reaching over to kiss him.  Her kiss was strong and compassionate and Hercules responded to it.  The two had finally been given the opportunity to fill their desires for one another with Iolas’s blessing.  Iolas had known what would happen between them when he left them alone.  Upon his return as night fell he found the two basking in their passions together.  They were looking at each other with eyes of intrigue and of love.  Then Iolas interrupted them declaring that he had found some desperate situations at Darphus’s camp. 

     Iolas had found Salmoneous there enjoying a feast alongside Darphus.  Iolas was certain that Salmoneous was a traitor.  But Hercules knew that there had to be another reason for Salmoneous being in Darphus’s camp.  Then Iolas mentioned that he saw Gregis there.  Xena inquired of who Gregis was only to discover what Gregis was.  Hercules answered her question by explaining that Gregis was the nasty pet that belonged to Ares.  If Gregis was not stopped then Ares would indeed have his way and become the ultimate ruler of the world.  Salmoneous had been feasting alongside Darphus because Darphus had planned to feed the salesman to the beast.  With each victim consumed by the monster it became more powerful and more difficult to defeat.  Xena quickly rose ready to do battle.  She would give her life for the world in order to save it from this beast.

     On the next day the three heroes arrived back at Darphus’s camp.  They began formulating their plan of attack when they were interrupted by one of Darphus’s guard as he approached from behind the warrior princess.  Iolas quickly responded pulling out his dagger and throwing it across into the chest of the approaching enemy.  Now that the two were even Xena once again found herself feeling inferior to Iolas.  The two were still competing for Hercules’s affections.  But then Hercules and Xena prepared to sneak into the camp as Iolas tried desperately to start-up a burning wagon.  Each of the three had his job to do and each had an important role to play.  Iolas was to provide the distraction and the illusion that there was an army coming into attack them.  Hercules was to seek out and find Gregis while Xena’s job was to take on Darphus. 

      Hercules was determined that in order to defeat evil that would not die one had to fight it with evil itself.  As the two heroes entered into the camp they shared a kiss and a good luck wish before they were to begin the battle.  However, the battle did not begin as planned for Iolas was unable to start a burning wagon.  Instead he came charging in on a wagon that did not burn and burst into action.  Darphus’s army began to attack the wagon from all sides as Iolas popped out with his weapons.  Xena fought alongside Iolas until she caught sight of Darphus.  The warrior princess was determined to finish this battle that they had started together. 

     Hercules quickly found where Gregis had been hidden.  And Salmoneous was there chained to the floor awaiting his death in fear.  Gregis was quite large and five times the size of Hercules.  He was vicious as a rabid dog drooling for his next meal.  His eyes were red like rubies full of the fires of evil.  Hercules quickly reached for a spear on the floor and tried desperately to fight off the hungry beast.  Yet the beast was too large to be fought with a spear.  Gregis snapped it in half with his sharp teeth and then howled impatiently.  Hercules decided that he would have to try something else.  The hero rolled beneath the huge legs of the beast and grabbed a bronze shield which hung on the other side.  He used the shield to fight off the powerful beast hoping to keep Gregis busy until Xena arrived with Darphus.

     The struggles were intense between Xena and Darphus and Hercules and Gregis.  But just when Salmoneous had thought that it was all over Xena appeared raising her sword toward his leg.  Salmoneous was certain that she had turned to the darkness once again until Xena’s sword ripped through the chains that bound his ankles.  Hercules then instructed Salmoneous to leave and to help Iolas in the field.  The salesman fled with uncertainty, but realized his duty.  He then faced his enemy and his cowardice as he charged into battle using only a pan.  As he fought alongside Iolas Salmoneous’s confidence soared for he found that he was a warrior after all.  His skills were not those of Hercules and Xena, but his heart was just as courageous and determined.

     The battle between Xena and Darphus had gone from outside to Gregis’s dungeon where Hercules awaited with exhaustion.  He called out to Xena to thrust evil into the mouth of evil and then Xena delivered Darphus into the mouth of the beast kicking him over the back of the legendary hero.  The battle outside had ended just as Darphus entered into the darkness of the mouth of Gregis.  Salmoneous and Iolas returned to join their friends as they all watched the beast explode into intense flames.  It was a strange ending to a vicious battle, but evil had been defeated by itself as Hercules had said that it would be.

      And so their journey together had ended.  Iolas had learned to forgive.  Salmoneous had found his courage and his writings of Hercules the legendary hero.  Salmoneous was excited that Hercules had found his notes and declared that he would take his writings to Athens.  Once a salesman always a salesman Salmoneous left his friends for fame and fortune.  But Xena was leaving for a different reason.  The warrior princess was still confused for she had not understood all that Hercules had told her.  She realized that she would have to find the answers on her own and so she prepared her horse to go.  Hercules was seemingly disappointed that she was chosing to leave.  Just when he thought he’d found love again love was leaving his life. 

      As Hercules pleaded with her to continue on with he and Iolas Xena refused his offer.  Her heart ached for his though it knew of another journey beyond.  Xena asked him to let her go for she would weep for his pain if he did not.  Hercules understood that burden and let her go for he had done all he was meant to do for the warrior princess. He had unchained her heart from its evil and that was all that a warrior princess needed to become a champion for all that is good.

    

    

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

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

April, 48 B.C.

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

Xena Scrolls Volume 1: Scroll #13: The Guantlet

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#13:  The Gauntlet

January, 48 B.C.

 

     Inside all of us there is a yearning to do good and  to be good.  And its the same with the warrior princess.  Her transformation from the ways of darkness into the goodness of the light began with the friendship of Hercules and Iolas.  After being defeated by their love of each other Xena the warrior princess found herself confused.  She could not fight against that kind of power.  Xena had taken armies up against many more than two and wiped out her enemy completely.  Yet this time it only took two men to defeat her plans for conquering the world.  This power was greater than any power she had ever known. 

     The warrior princess continued on fighting with her army and destroying the lives of many.  She was still seeking the conquer all of Greece.  Xena’s army was very successful in the Parthenon province as it conquered one city after another.  One day Xena found herself in the heat of battle being challenged by one of her men.  He tested her to see just how far he could take her code.  Xena’s code was that no women or children were to be killed in battle.  Darphus was determined to break the code and deface the honor of his commander.  He killed an innocent woman with spite making sure that Xena could see what crime he had committed.  The warrior princess was angry at his defiance, but could do nothing as she took her own blade to the throat of an innocent man.

     She used her dangerous round weapon in this battle as the power of her army took down yet another village.  As women and children fled and other survivors followed the burning village sent out a warning to those which surrounded it of the approaching wrath of a warrior princess.  With the battle ending Xena approached Darphus to remind him of her code.  True warriors did not kill the weak.  While the two argued Xena found herself presented with a cowardly woman.  Yet there was something very strange about this cowardly woman.  When she was brought forth to the warrior princess Xena revealed this woman’s true identity.  A cowardly woman turned out to be a cowardly man who had been hiding from Xena’s army during the battle.  Xena’s men prepared to take his life, but Xena stopped them with a simple command.  Then the warrior princess asked him why she should spare his life.  The cowardly salesman Salmoneous tried nervously and desperately to explain.  He tried every excuse he could think of, but it was when he spoke of his mother’s sadness that caught the warrior princess’s attention.

     Somehow the simple reminder of a mother’s loss was all that it took to touch Xena’s cold heart.  Yet she could not allow her men to know that there was still warmth inside of her heart.  She told Salmoneous that he was amusing and that was why he would be allowed to live.  He would travel with her and her army amusing her when she needed amusement.  Salmoneous was relieved that his life had been spared and found himself liking the warrior princess despite her darkness.  And so he traveled with Xena’s army toward the village of Parthis where they were planning to strike next.  Late in the night Xena had decided that they would set up camp.  She sent one of her scouts out ahead of her as she took a few of her men north to lay out her plan of attack.

      After only traveling with Xena’s army for half a day Salmoneous could see that there was conflict within.  He could see that Darphus was a force to be reckoned with despite Xena’s charisma and power.  Salmoneous began to find himself recalling his experience earlier in the day when Xena and her army had first stopped to have their meal.  It was obvious that they were quite rich for they had plenty of plump fresh chickens to feed at least ten armies.  Salmoneous was certain that he would have a feast himself until Darphus reminded him that he could kill him in an instant.  Salmoneous went to the only one that he could see any warmth within.  He went to Xena and began to entertain her once more.  He tried complementing her looks at first.  Indeed the warrior princess was beautiful.  Then Salmoneous began to sing to the warrior princess insisting that she needed someone to promote her image.  Of course her image had already been promoted.  Xena knew this, but realized that her subject was begging.  She gave him the rest of her chicken, but told him to continue his entertainment.

      In that moment it had been obvious to Salmoneous that Xena was truly growing weary of this dark lifestyle she had been living.  She was quite good at it, but Salmoneous knew that there was indeed more than just to swords, and the armor.  Upon finishing his bowl of stew after thinking of his earlier encounter with Xena he found that Darphus had his own plans.  The two had been arguing all day long over whether or not they should hit the western coast before going onto Parthis.  Darphus wanted to take that village because it was an easy target, but Xena objected.  It seemed that her lust for riches and power were not as great as they had been told to be.  Only Darphus seemed out of control. 

      And he was for after Xena had left toward Parthis Darphus took the rest of Xena’s army toward the west coast.  Salmoneous reminded him of Xena’s wishes just before Darphus left, but backed down upon being threatened again.  It was truly amazing that Salmoneous had not been killed by the wrath of Darphus.  Yet those on the coast were not as fortunate on that night.  They truly experienced tragedy greater than can be imagined.  Darphus took Xena’s men instructing them to kill every last man, woman, and child before leaving to return to camp.  With Darphus in command in Xena’s abscence he instructed the army to burn the entire village and take any riches that they desired.  Darphus was clearly greedy and heartless.  If Xena’s heart were cold then Darphus’s was frozen.

     Xena returned back to her camp alone to find Salmoneous and no other soul.  Salmoneous explained what Darphus had done and Xena immediately rode to take command once again.  Yet it was too late for the coast when she arrived for the entire village had been charred to nothing.  She sadly investigated the ruins and saw that everyone had been killed.  Her warriors had done all of this destruction and she was responsible for the deaths of women and children.  The warrior princess was angry at Darphus for his defiance, but there was nothing that she could do.  It was clear to her that she was beginning to lose control of her army to the tyrant.  Yet then something amazing happened within Xena’s  moment of darkness.  The cries of a child were heard coming from the depths of the destruction.  Xena followed the cries and there beneath a white blanket was a baby.  The child should have meant nothing, but it was the beginning for Xena.  For when Darphus commanded that the baby be killed Xena would not allow it.  She protected the child from harm and then left with Salmoneous to find a safe place for him.

     Salmoneous could feel Xena’s uncertainty for the choice that she had made.  It seemed unlikely that a hungry warrior princess would put her honor on the line to protect a child.  The two had found a shepherdess who could take care of the baby hidden in a cave under the valley.  Xena did not seem to know what to do or where to go next.  Then she handed the baby to the shepherdess who was glad to care for the orphaned child.  After taking care of the child Xena took Salmoneous and they returned to camp with the rest of Xena’s army.  Yet when they arrived Xena was not welcomed as she had expected to be.  Instead she was greeted by Darphus requesting that she leave the army the only way that an honorable warrior could leave.  It was clear that her past was a harsh and unwilling resistant to change for she had been changing the way her army conducted itself.  Darphus and others were not in agreement with Xena’s new codes and so her own men put her through a Gauntlet of faith. 

     Xena still had faith that her men were loyal to her.  She prepared to go through the gauntlet without being touched by a single man.  Then Darphus commanded that her armor be removed.  The men removed the armor and Xena prepared to walk the gauntlet.  Salmoneous was told that no one had ever survived the gauntlet.  He watched as the warrior princess took the first steps across the line in the sand.  After three steps nothing happened, but then the first blow came.  That was followed by another and another.  Xena’s own army was beating their fearless commander as she walked through their wrath.  Her faith in her men was torn for they had chosen Darphus’s code over her own.  Now the gauntlet had gone beyond faith.  It was now a test of survival for the warrior princess.  She fought through the violent blows and took every abuse delivered to her body.  Xena was fearless as she challenged her men to take her life continuing onto the other side.  She had started out on the dark side, but was determined to reach the light. 

     The warrior princess fell to the ground badly beaten and bruised.  She was close to the second line in the sand struggling to cross it alive.  Slowly she crawled toward the light through all that plagued her.  And then as she crossed the line.  Her proud warrior head fell and she was motionless.  Salmoneous was certain that it was over for Xena as he she a tear for her.  He was the only man who had compassion for Xena.  Salmoneous had been the only one loyal.  But just when everyone began to walk away and leave Xena behind she rose from the darkness and faced her demons.  Darphus was shocked that she had lived through the gauntlet for no one ever had.  He commanded the men to finish her off, but not one would cross that line.  Xena had played by the rules of the gauntlet and made it through alive.  She had survived and with that gained the respect of Darphus’s men.  Darphus laughed in her face proclaiming that he would eventually finish her off.  As she prepared to leave for exile Xena spit in the face of her new found enemy. 

      The next morning Salmoneous was released from an army once commanded by the warrior princess.  He was fully suited with armor and ran swiftly from the wrath of Darphus.  Yet he did not make it far down the road before landing within a trap which took him upside down from a tree.  Salmoneous hung there for several moments until help arrived.  It was Hercules, his cousin, and a local who had been from the west coast.  He had lost everyone he had ever known and ever loved to the wrath of Darphus’s fury.  The young scout had first run into Hercules and his cousin while the two had buried the dead.  Mistakenly the scout had thought that it was Hercules who had caused the destruction.  He had tried to battle against Hercules to get his revenge, but was defeated by the legendary hero.  Yet not before he had sent an arrow through the chest of Hercules’s young cousin.  It was the cousin whom had alerted Hercules to the death and the destruction spreading through Parthenon.  And the enemy that they seeked to find was the warrior princess.

       Yet upon running into the helpless Salmoneous they freed him from his binds.  When Salmoneous was alerted to the danger that Xena brought he defended the warrior princess.  Salmoneous revealed what he had seen within the dark woman and what he had seen could be repaired.  The salesman declared that it was Darphus that they truly seeked to find.  It was Darphus that needed to be stopped and taken by the light.  The three heroes did not believe Salmoneous for they had not yet seen the truth of the warrior princess.  As for Hercules he could only recall the Xena he had met the last time they had crossed paths.  The Xena Hercules remembered wanted to kill him and tried to steal the friendship he valued most. 

     The legendary hero continued on with his comrades angry at all that he had seen.  He was passionate in stopping the dark force behind all of the madness.  They headed on toward Parthis hoping to make it there before Xena’s army.  Not far from Parthis they ran into the dark woman warrior.  It was as if she had awaited their arrival and knew that Hercules was coming.  She challenged the legendary hero enticing him into a battle against her.  Hercules refused at first.  Xena then pulled out her chackram and beckoned Hercules once more.  Salmoneous tried to plead with Xena knowing that she was confused.  But again he backed down for his cowardly heart could not stand alone.  Hercules then charged forward to defend his comrades from Xena.  The skilled warrior princess flipped into action drawing her sword to do battle.

     Hercules did not use a weapon at first for he did not believe in the death of his enemy.  The skill of the warrior princess became to great for Hercules to fight this battle without the sword so he took refuge.  Now it was  a battle to the death between two great warriors.  One was of the darkness and the other of the light.  Their swords clashed violently like the sounds of Zeus, but in the end the light won out holding his blade to Xena’s neck.  She was helpless upon the ground and badly defeated.  Her warrior pride was more defeated than it had ever been.  Xena had always won against her enemies, but this time it was different.  She had come to defeat Hercules and take his head back to her army.  Xena was certain to regain their respect upon defeating such a worthy opponent.  But her plans had been defeated once again by a worthy foe.

     Xena then gave up for she wanted her life taken.  If she could not defeat Hercules then she did not want to live.  She begged Hercules to take her life, but he refused.  Hercules could see in that moment what Salmoneous had seen all along.  The legendary hero took pity on a confused warrior.  He could see her potential and he could see within her a struggle between two poles.  Hercules released his grip upon her life and let her go.  She fled the scene more confused and in shame of her defeat.  Though the scout wanted to take his vengeance upon Xena for what her army had done to his family and friends Hercules advised against going after one so confused.  Hercules knew deep down that one day Xena would make the right choice.

      And so the four comrades continued on.  They prepared to take Parthis from the marauders whom had stolen so much.  First they arrived ahead of the army following the short cut known by the scout.  Then they safely escorted the people of Parthis to safety as they prepared to do battle.  Darkness soon fell and Darphus rode into the village with the army.  They fought seventy-five men to four.  And amazingly they were even.  But the battle became weary for Hercules and his comrades until someone had decided to join them.  It was Xena the warrior princess who had returned.  She did not return on the side of the darkness, but to fight against it.  Xena battled alongside Hercules against an army that had once been hers.  She had indeed made her choice and it was the next step toward her journey into the light.

     Xena was an experienced warrior and knew that in order to win this battle she must destroy the leader.  She went for Darphus and dueled against him.  His greed driven style did not stand the test for Xena’s passion was more fierce.  She quickly ended their duel to the death thrusting her sword through the chest of her rival.  Upon his death the rest of Darphus’s men fled.  They could not stand alone without their dark leader.  Hercules and Salmoneous found themselves surprised yet satisfied for Xena was on her way to redemption though she did not know it.  As Xena washed the blood from many battles from her hands she was confronted by Hercules.  He was curious to know what had swayed her.  She spoke of how her army had not been true warriors.  Xena’s code demanded that she stop their darkness before it grew beyond control. 

    But her choice had not impressed the scout who was still angry at her for his loss.  He spoke of how his wife and baby could not be saved by her one good deed.  Hercules tried to calm his rage, but Salmoneous reminded all that Xena had saved at least one child from harm.  This restored the hopes of the scout.  He asked Xena if the child had a birth mark on its left leg.  Xena confirmed that indeed it had.  This positively identified the scout’s good fortune.  Despite the loss of his wife his child still lived.  It was because of Xena’ s first choice to do good.  Yet Xena was not willing to give the child to his father without an argument.  It was this child that she had believed to cause her to lose her army.  The father of the child prepared to challenge her no matter the cost.  He would have gladly given his life to have his child safely within his arms. 

       Hercules stepped in to resolve this conflict, but Xena had made another choice.  She resolved it by commending the father on his bravery for his son.  Xena had wanted to be certain that the child she had given so much for would grow up to be a brave man like his father.  And with that she had decided that she wanted to travel alongside Hercules for a while.  Hercules accepted her company and was delighted at her choice.  Xena knew that she could learn much from the legendary hero and with that Xena has turned good.  For her destiny now is to fight for the innocent and that is what she has done.        

    

The Xena Scrolls #1: Sins of the Past : Volume #1

The Xena Scrolls 

Scroll  # 1:  Sins of the Past

July 2, 49 B.C.

 

     It was a warm day in Podedia when the bard awoke as she moved softly through the village.  It was a time for new beginnings.  For old allies to become new enemies and for new friendships to be born.  There was this tall dark woman roaming through the lands of Greece seemingly uncertain of who she really was or what life path she was to take.  This dark one was known as Xena the warrior princess.  It was said that she had a cruel heart and a violent horrific past.  Leading army after army into village after village only to leave them in total ruin and destruction.  She was known for looting small towns, and killing anyone who dared to defy her passion for rage.  That passion was said to be an evil passion among men throughout Greece. 

     Most feared her and if they did not fear the Warrior Princess they served her dark reign in the hopes that they would reap the riches that she took from many.  But this dark woman trusted no one.  Even those who appeared to be her greatest allies she did not see as friends.  They were only numbers to be controlled and power to take to the next level. 

      In the recent past word spread throughout Greece that Xena the warrior princess had had a run in with the great Hercules son of Zeus.  She defied Hercules and their confrontation was said to have ended in mercy.  It would seem that Hercules had seen something other than a cold-hearted war lord within this mighty warrior princess.  And thus this day in Potedia began.

     It was just as any other day in my small village.  Children playing on the farms, wives doing their daily chores of washing, cooking, cleaning, and caring for the brood loving their husbands faithfully while the husbands tended to their farms and shops.  Yet there was something about this day that was to change the face of world as I knew it.

     I had heard the great stories of this evil warrior princess and of the many other warlords that had terrorized the countryside.  Many travelers had often passed through Podedia and so my worldly education was satisfied.  And even though these wonderful travelers had stories of great pain and suffering there were always those that carried the stories of triumph and adventure.  Those were my most favorite stories to learn of.  They gave me a passion and I discovered my calling yet it was seemingly not a permissible lifestyle for a young maid such as myself.

     This was a frustrating thought knowing that all of this passion for storytelling would go no further than this small village of Potedia.  Who knew if I’d even be fortunate enough to tell my stories to travelers who might be able to pass them on,  But then again…what excitement is there to tell about a small village called Potedia?  What could the outside world possibly want to hear about us?

     All of my education meant nothing more to me than did my daily life in the fields helping my father or in the kitchen alongside my mother.  The only time I ever felt alive was when my sister Lila and I would sneak into the taverns late at night hoping to catch those weary yet exciting travelers.  Lila wasn’t as keen on going as I, but she always went. 

     And then late one night as Lila and I were enjoying the stories of one of the great travelers we heard word of a warlord planning to raid our village.  It wasn’t the great warrior princess that this traveler spoke of.  It was yet another dangerous kind.  His name was Draco.  It was said that Draco and his army were planning on sacking our village and taking all of the women to sell as slaves to others within the evil field of the warlord.  At that moment I came to a realization.  No matter what I had to stand up and fight.  I had to fight for my village, my life, my family, my friends, and for anything that I had ever loved.  The thought was scary at first yet I wasn’t going to let Draco and his approaching army take me for his cause of evil.  I had too much to live for to lay down for evil.  And so my mind was made up.

     Lila and I had a plan.  We decided to go through the village and warn every one of the danger which awaited us all.  Yet no one seemed interested in the cause.  They seemed even less willing to fight for what was important to them.  Everyone just brushed off the arrival of Draco and his army as a normal everyday event.  But it wasn’t.  People were afraid to fight.  They were afraid to protect themselves because of what they had heard about the pain and suffering of other villagers just like us.  The people of Potedia only hoped that Draco would spare them.  They were counting on bargaining with Draco.  Villagers had heard of warlords sparing others for a price, donation, or sacrifice if you would want to call it that.  It just didn’t seem fair.  And it didn’t seem right.

     Our village had been fortunate for several years.  We had had excellent luck and had been protected by the will of the Gods from these creatures of evil yet today it was different.  Draco’s army had moved in through the dense fog during the early hours of the morning.  It was just before sunrise.  He was calm and cool.  In fact he didn’t appear to be threatening at first.  Was it true that our village was going to be spared?  And then just a few hours later as the sun rose over the valley Draco’s army began rounding up all of the women of Potedia.  His army escorted us out of our homes and took us into the forest.

     They were going to use us as slaves and sell us to traders.  Draco’s men were rough and unkind.  Shoving the weak around, and beating the strong as they took us further away from home.  During the journey I kept thinking to myself that this couldn’t be.  How could the Gods we trusted have let this happen to us?  We had always done what we were asked in worship.  Potedia had a high respect for the Gods.  Wasn’t that what they wanted?  Or had we not done enough? 

     I thought about this all the while as mothers sobbed and young women wept for their husbands.  And then I knew that this great pain was only beginning for us.  For the moment I was with my sister, my mother, and my father, but once we were sold they would be gone.  We would all be slaves to evil.  Anger and fire began to burn inside me as I kept running the future over in my mind.  Things that seemed unimportant only hours before became very important.  My dreams were shattered and my life worth even less than what I had anticipated.  I couldn’t take the thoughts that were flooding through my soul and I couldn’t bare to feel the pain of my friends, and neighbors as we walked on.

     At that moment I had made a decision.  I had decided that I was going to stand up and fight once more.  What could I lose?  Even if no one else followed it wouldn’t matter because I knew that I would rather die a thousand deaths than to allow evil to take my soul.  And so as our group moved on I stopped.  I stopped moving forward and stood folding my arms as if I were a dissatisfied customer at the market.  And I was.  Others within our group began to follow stopping in defiance against Draco’s men who kept moving forward.  Then my sister Lila stopped beside me and asked me what I was doing.  Of course I knew exactly what I was doing.  Lila then beckoned me to keep moving for she feared that they would beat me for my defiant action.  She was trying to keep her voice quiet as she spoke to me, but I stood firm and I spoke loudly in response.  I wanted Draco’s men to hear me.  I wanted them to hear the people of Potedia.

     Speaking with great conviction and defiance of the warriors I tried to drive the rebel spirit into the others around me.  Then I stepped forward and demanded that the army take me if they were going to take anyone.  I demanded that they spare the others.  The warrior men didn’t agree to my offer and they began to shove me around.  Others in the group began to stand up and they too received the same treatment.  And then just as one of Draco’s men was about to raise his hand to me she appeared.  It was the dark woman.    My heart stopped as I was being restrained by the vagrant warriors.  It looked to be a confrontation between warlords.  Our lives were hanging in the balance at that moment and who knew which fate would be worse?

     And then it happened. The dark one who was unarmed and not in full armor took on the leader of Draco’s men.  She kicked him in the face once, twice, three times knocking him senseless.  And then she began to take on the rest of Draco’s men.  She took their spears from them knocking out two more.  She fought with a vengeance.  This woman was seemingly fighting for us, and so we began to fight back.  As we fought passionately for our freedom and for our lives Draco’s men began rounding up the women again including myself.  One of the evil warriors captured me, but my capture was short-lived for the dark one had soon picked up a broken spear and thrust it at my attacker.  I was now free from my restraints as I knocked him to the ground.  It felt good to be free again. 

     And as I gazed up to get a better look at this dark woman I saw another of Draco’s men knock her down from behind.  Then the leader of evil laughed for his victory was certain.  Now the warrior woman was surrounded by the remaining warriors, and just when it seemed that she had been defeated something extraordinary happened.  From underneath the earth she suddenly pulled two weapons.  One was a sword and the other a round thing known as the chakram.  And then she threw the chakram disarming all of the men surrounding her.  It was amazing the way that little round weapon glided through the air honing in on its targets all in one throw! 

      She leaped forward spinning around to face the leader of Draco’s men.  The warrior woman grinned with delight.  She fought off two more of Draco’s men with her sword and had finally reached the leader of Draco’s clan.  The leader shook in his boots for he now had to face this awesome woman warrior alone.  He thrust forward attacking her, but his attack was short-lived for with a single move she had disarmed him of his weapon into the tree above.  All was quiet for a single moment and then she laughed and declared that he must be from Draco’s army.  And then the warrior woman took her sword and ripped off the stripe of the leader.  He did not resist her for he was gripped with fear of this warrior woman.  Then she gave him a message revealing her identity.  She was Xena, the warrior princess!

     The small battle in the forest ended quickly with the lone warrior woman being the champion.  And what a rush it was!  Maybe she wasn’t so bad after all.  Maybe everything I had heard were stories and nothing more.  They always say that most great stories only hold a kernel of truth within them.  And even if the evil stories about her were truth I could see that there must be more beyond that.  She had given her life for us.  We were thankful.

     Xena had taken us back to the village and reunited us with our brothers, and fathers.  Husbands and wives rejoiced and yet with all of this wonderful energy the warrior woman seemed distant.  It was like having a celebrity such as Hercules in town, yet there was something different and mysterious about her.  Everyone knew Hercules, but no one really seemed to know Xena only her jaded reputation.  And then it dawned on me that this was my chance to have a real story to tell travelers.  I could tell them of the great heroism of Xena the Warrior Princess and how she was a changed soul.  Yet there was still one question.  Who had led the evil warrior princess onto a path fighting for the people rather than against them?  This I was going to have to find out.

     So I invited the great warrior princess to stay with us for a few days to rest before traveling on.  But the town’s people, and my father refused.  And so did Xena.  In fact she didn’t want anything to do with me.  She just kept brushing me off.  I tried to impress her with my education, but she knew what I was up to instantly.  She told me that I didn’t want to make her mad by trying to follow her, but with a little persistence I felt that I would make some sort of break through.  I wasn’t the kind to be put aside so easily.  Okay so I was only a lowly little bard from Potedia, but I was proud. 

     Later that day Lila and I spent a lot of time discussing the many possibilities for Xena’ s change of heart.  Lila thought that maybe the warrior princess was schizophrenic.  But I didn’t feel that way.  There was just something about her that I couldn’t put my quill on, but I had to find out.  And so I kept up with my persistence and I even decided at one point that I would take Xena’s suggestion.  I was going to travel with her.  I mean she was probably lonely and needed a companion.  All I could think of was the adventure and seeing everything that there is to see.  I wanted to meet the Gods, I wanted to meet the greats, philosophers and bards alike.  Heck maybe we could even go to Athens! 

     I couldn’t see straight in front of me.  My head was spinning with thoughts of the warrior princess.  And then at sunset Xena had returned to the our village briefly to prepare for her next destination.  In my father’s barn as she dressed herself with brass armor and sharpened her sword slipping into those leather boots she spoke of a meeting that she had just had with Draco.  She told me that he had spared our village only at the expense of turning south to attack her home village of Amphipolis.  The warrior princess was serious in tone and with a grim expression.  She was focused on her mission at hand.  The dark one had been summoned to her roots because she had saved mine.

     With this little bit of information I began to see just a little glimpse of this dark one.  It didn’t look as dark on the inside as some may have insisted.  My heart jumped with enthusiasm.  Not only could I travel with her I could show her the path of good.  It was my own little cause and with her there what could be lost?  Absolutely nothing and so I continued to persist in my suggestion of being her companion.  And again she turned me down.  As she jumped onto her great white horse she told me that she didn’t need anyone and that I wouldn’t want to go with her to where she was going.  And then she rode off.

     For a while I was stunned as she disappeared on the white horse in the distance of green hills.  I walked back to my home with such great disappointment as my high hopes had just busted into oblivion.  My thoughts were that she really did need me.  She just didn’t realize it yet.  Later that night as I was lying in bed in the darkness I decided that I was going to go after her.  So I quietly packed my sack with everything I expected I would need for my journey.  I knew once I met up with her I would have much to write about so I took some fresh scrolls and quills.

     Just as I was about to escape the dread of my little village Lila had awakened.  I couldn’t lie to her so I told the truth.  I spoke of my future and of my plans.  She needed to understand that my place couldn’t possibly be in the little village of Potedia for the rest of my life.  There was a much larger calling for me that I could feel strongly.  And I had especially been feeling this since the arrival of the warrior princess.  Although Lila was afraid for me and somewhat disapproving she was supportive of my decision.  She gave me a tight long hug as the tears rolled down both of our faces.  I loved my sister and family dearly, but I knew I had to go through with it all.

     The pain of leaving was greater than I wanted to deal with so I cut our good-bye short and exited through the quiet home and out into the darkness of the night.  It was a chilly early morning in late summer and there was a thin fog illuminated by the moonlight.  There was so much excitement within my spirit yet there was a tinge of fear.  I really had no idea where I should start.  Of course my education had included geography, but who knew that I would actually have to use it to travel to another village such as Amphipolis. 

      As the morning twilight began to fade into the sun rise I crossed over the last green hill that separated me from my past.  And then I could no longer see Potedia.  It was just me and the great forest.  I must have walked for many, many miles before I decided that I had better try to hitch a ride.  But on my way to the road to Amphipolis I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere for I found myself meeting up with this one-eyed blind Cyclops.  I didn’t know that they really existed, but as I had crossed over a bridge and reached the other side he captured me within his wooden cage.  At first I was struck with fear for the stories I had heard of Cyclops’s were that they enjoyed eating the flesh of humans.  I wasn’t about the allow myself to be this ugly giant’s breakfast.  So I did the only thing I could think of.  I told him I knew Xena the warrior princess.  Surely that would strike some fear into him.  But that didn’t work for she had been by earlier in the day and she had been the one who had blinded him in the first place.

     Just when it seemed I would be doomed I came up with another idea.  I swore to this giant ugly Cyclops that I was out to destroy the warrior princess.  That got him.  At first it was a little unbelievable to him, but I convinced him that she would never suspect such a youthful girl to be a sworn enemy to her so it would make it that much easier for me to get to her.  The fact that he was blinded helped my case for he couldn’t see how small I truly was compared to the warrior princess.  But he didn’t have to know that.  He demanded that I bring him back a leg of the warrior princess when I had finished my deed.  But who needs one leg when you can have them both?  Then he agreed to release me and upon my release he demanded more of the warrior princess, but I warned him that he was asking for a little too much.

     Luckily for me I knew that there was a main road somewhere near the village of Potedia so I headed in that general direction after my encounter with the dumb Cyclops.  Hours went by before a traveler passed and was kind enough to stop for me.  Of course I had to lie on the ground in the middle of the road to get some attention, but it worked.  The god Hermes had blessed me with this older fellow who was hauling some hay.  At first the old fellow wasn’t amused by my clever skill in getting his attention, but I pleaded with him.  In fact, I promised him a fresh steed for his services from my father Dolan of Amphipolis, and I promised to tell him some great stories.  I was going to tell him the story of Edipus King of Thieves which had been told to me by a great traveling bard once.  With a smile he helped me up onto his wagon although he has expressed to me that there were no horse dealers in Amphipolis.  Who knew he was a seasoned traveler?

     Things were already going very well.  I told so many stories, but most of them were my stories about the Gods or stories that weren’t my own.  And then after a while he asked me why I was going to Amphipolis and so I told him my great story of my encounter with the Warrior Princess. He couldn’t believe that she had agreed to a travel companion, but he didn’t have to know that the details had not been completely worked out.  In my heart I knew they would work themselves out.  Besides I was determined.

     Finally after many hours we came to my stop.  It was just five miles north of Amphipolis for we had to take a detour away from the army of Draco approaching the village.  The excitement was building within and as I said good-bye to the gentleman he wished me good fortune.  And then I was off on the last leg of my trip.  It took a long time to finally reach Amphipolis, but  when I finally arrived I knew just where to find the warrior princess.   Across the way I spotted her trusty white steed.  As I approached her horse there was a commotion just inside the tavern.  Deciding to investigate this little event I walked inside the tavern and all of the towns people were in a fury.

     They were furious with the one who had saved my village.  People cursed her and even her own mother had turned against the warrior princess.  They spoke of a great battle which Xena the warrior princess had led them into which had resulted in many village deaths years before.  At that moment I felt her pain and anguish although I didn’t fully understand it.  It seemed as if she had no one in the world.  Even Xena’s mother was angry at Xena.  All she wanted to do was to protect her people, family, and friends, but no one wanted to stand up and fight.  It was just like my village.  Xena was just like me.  Only I couldn’t figure out what had turned her to the darkness.  I had a few conjectures.  Maybe it was her failure to save all of the people in the last battle?  Or maybe it was something else.

     I kept listening and I stayed low.  After Xena’s mother had left Xena to the wolves Xena asked of her people to go ahead and fight her.  No one moved and not a word was spoken.  Xena then pulled her sword and asked the people of Amphipolis to take their revenge on an unarmed woman knowing that they feared her.  And then the towns people began to throw stones and other various objects at Xena.  She took all of it.  Every bit of anger, and hate that resided within that little village of Amphipolis she took.  There was seemingly so much sadness in her heart, but Xena was careful to stand strong.  It was as if she was taking responsibility for everything.  I couldn’t bare to watch this scene as they descended upon her.  She wasn’t going to save herself so that was when I stepped in.  I told every one of Xena’s real intentions.  I spoke of how she saved my village, and I scolded them for treating her with disrespect for her deeds.

     After convincing the villagers of Amphipolis to spare Xena’s life we were asked to leave.  Xena was bewildered by my actions, but I knew what I was doing.  I picked up her sword off of the table where she had surrendered it for her execution and returned it to her mighty hands.  It was quite a strange experience for it was the first time I had ever handled a sword.  She took it and lead the way out of the tavern.  I followed her with great pride for I was clearly in with her now.  But when we reached the outside of the tavern she jumped upon her white horse and was about to ride off again without me.  Now this couldn’t be right for I had just saved her life.  I suggested that I could jump upon the horse behind her, but she refused me once again.  So I played my final card.  I reminded her of what I had just done for her in the tavern.  I could see that it was not going to be easy to gain her trust.  That part of her legendary story was true.  But then for a moment she thought about my coming to her defense back in the tavern.  When I saw that look in her piercing blue eyes I knew I was in.  She reached down reluctantly and helped me upon her horse. 

     It was my first step in becoming her traveling companion.  I was excited to know where we were going to go next so I inquired of her.  She had said that we were going to go and visit her brother.  I couldn’t wait to meet him because if he was half as exciting and skilled as Xena then I knew we would get along and maybe we would have something in common.  He had to be better than Perdicas my betrothed back in Potedia.

       When we arrived at her brother’s I came to a sudden dark realization.  Her brother Lycious had been killed in the great battle at Amphipolis where it had all begun for Xena.  This explained why Xena’s mother had been so angry at Xena.  She must have blamed her daughter for the death of her son. At this dark lonely place Xena went inside to pay respects to Lycious.  For a moment I stayed outside with her horse, but I couldn’t resist knowing more.  I peaked quietly around the corner in an attempt not to disturb her.  Lycious’s tomb was beautiful and designed with much love from family and village friends.  Xena quietly approached his tomb as small tears began to trickle down the warrior’s cheeks.  What a contrast that was.  One wouldn’t visualize an evil warlord to have the ability to feel compassion.  Yet this warrior woman was feeling something.  There was light within her soul still after all of the horrible things that she had done in the days since the death of Lycious. 

     I was beginning to understand why all of the people of her village were angry at her.  They had blamed her for the deaths of their loved ones.  Even her mother was angry at her.  Again I could feel her pain and I knew that I had to make it known to her that she had someone.  She felt so alone.  She had to know that someone was there.  I approached her.  There was a great urge to console her, but I was afraid of what she might do.  I was afraid that she would reject me and I felt I needed her as much as she needed me.  She was still cold in response to my compassion for her, but there was light seeping through the cracks.

      Later that evening Draco came storming into Amphipolis with his army.  He made Xena an offer.  Xena refused it and she was defiant.  She challenged him to a duel.  It was to be a fight to the death.  This battle of two warlords took place on the heads of the villagers of Amphipolis.  It really was a peculiar location for a battle, but then again all great stories have this element of the impossible.  But believe me it was possible!  The battle was intense as Draco smashed Xena with his weapon.  Xena took a few shots, but delivered them back with the same caliber of force.  I felt the energy as I cheered my new friend on.  And after flipping and tumbling, jumping and leaping, the fight came to a standstill for a split moment.  Suddenly Xena delivered the final blow to her opponent the warlord Draco.  He fell backwards off of the townspeople’s heads and onto the floor in the middle of the crowd.  He was surrounded by the villagers of Amphipolis.  Just as he was knocked to the floor Xena maneuvered through the air gracefully flipping to the ground.  She held her weapon to him and had chosen to do the unthinkable.  She had decided that she would spare his life.

     As Draco rose from his defeat one of his men was about to pull a weapon on the merciful champion when Draco struck him down.  Though Draco was an evil warlord he showed his humanity by saving Xena and accepting his defeat.  It was as if he had a high respect for the one who had struck him down.  She had taken two villages away from him in the span of just two  days.  On a final word of this conflict it was made known to Draco that he was not to interfere in the affairs of the people of Amphipolis ever again.  Xena made it known that she would be there if he should ever try his fate again.  Maybe next time he wouldn’t be so lucky.

     After Draco’s exit Xena’s mother invited me to stay with her.  Xena didn’t seem to be too keen on the idea, but she didn’t have a choice because I had traveled all of this way and I wasn’t about to go back to little Potedia.  In fact, now I had two great tales of the warrior princess.  I wasn’t about to stop there.  I had to know more.  I had to do more.  Xena was the answer to all of my prayers to the Gods for a life of travel and adventure.  I was ready.

     Xena’s mother was kind and she seemed glad to hear that her child had done some good in the world by saving my village.  And of course I had to tell the story once again.  Everyone was going to hear about this kind-hearted warrior woman.  It was hope for all and it had to be spread throughout the countryside.  Yet Xena didn’t seem to carry much hope in her heart.  She just seemed more confused about her situation.  And she was still very secretive.  In the day or more that I spent in the village of Amphipolis Xena kept distant, but was tolerant of my presence.

     And so the next morning Xena was off again.  She was leaving her village with an uncertain destination.  I had to rush to catch up to her because I knew that she would try to leave me in the village hoping that she could get rid of someone who was seemingly a pest to the warrior woman.  But I knew I wasn’t anything of the sort.  I was a friend and probably her only friend at this point.  I followed Xena all day long until nightfall.  I was waiting for her to run into some more trouble so that I could prove to her that she really did need me and that I could be a great warrior too.  I just needed a little practice and education.  And though I had been following her all day she had known I was behind her all along because when I approached her camp I had to admit that I was an amateur at this traveling the high road business.

      She then insisted that I was going to be taken home to Potedia on the very next morning.  I refused her reminding her that I would just keep following her when she tried to leave me again.  I struggled to explain to my new friend of how I didn’t belong back there.  She didn’t understand what it was like to be different.  And just when I had expressed my disappointment in her rejecting my company once again she understood me.  She understood what it was like to be different and out-of-place for she too was different and out-of-place.  She had once been evil and now she had a new purpose in life.  Xena was just a little uncertain of what that new purpose was.

     And then I knew what it was that I must do.  I had to show Xena her light.  I had to show her what she was capable of and to show her what I could see within her.  Of course it was the least I could do for the one who had saved my life beyond the breath in my lungs.

     The very next morning Xena and I packed up camp.  We walked for a few miles and Xena warned me that we would be facing a lot of danger and trouble.  I told her that I expected that.  She then asked me why someone would want to follow her into all of that.  I told her that it was what friends do for each other.  And after  what seemed like a very long pause my anticipation was dissolved.  Xena the Warrior Princess grabbed my arm and helped me up onto her horse.  The strange thing about it was that even though I had traveled a great distance from Potedia stepping upon Xena’s horse felt like home.  I grabbed on tightly feeling great enthusiasm for I knew our journey together was going to be a special one.  And then as before it was a day for new beginnings.  It was  acquaintances beginning new friendships and for sins of the past to be forgiven.  And if not by the sinner by those who felt  great  compassion for her.

 

                                                            Gabrielle

                                                                                   The Bard of Potedia