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.

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 #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: Volume #1: Scroll# 12, The Warrior Princess

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll # 12:  The Warrior Princess

January, 48 B.C.

 

     I sing of a friendship that was tested.  A friendship that was threatened by the desires of an evil warrior.  Two vibrant brave heroes who were seemingly inseparable found themselves separated by blood and violence.  Their plight began in peace as they prepared a new dagger.  This dagger which they constructed symbolized the strength of their undying friendship for one another.  Yet they had made only one and so Hercules decided that his best friend Iolas should carry it.  Iolas refused the gesture at first feeling that since both had worked so hard that they should share in their accomplishment.  But Hercules insisted that Iolas take the dagger for there would be another day and a new dagger could be made by the two friends again.

     Iolas finally accepted the gesture of his friend and soon he was out practicing with his new weapon.  Upon testing his skill with the dagger he and Hercules found themselves crossing paths with someone from Iolas’s past.  It was the young and beautiful Serrina whom had once been Iolas’s love.  She seemed happy and content with her life for she had moved on and found a new love for her life.  Serrina shared in her joy with the two friends despite Iolas’s disappointment that  he would not have a second chance to mend the past with her.  As Serrina said goodbye to Iolas yet again Iolas found himself feeling a bit lonely inside.  His heart yearned for the love of a special lady to fill it with joy.  Yet Iolas did not realize that there was someone who stood right beside him everyday.  And although Hercules was only Iolas’s best friend his love for Iolas was loyal and true.

     The two heroes had been fighting together for the good of mortals and were finding themselves weary of their travels.  Hercules decided that the best place for them to go and rest would be at his mother’s home.  When they arrived Hercules could not rest despite his intentions for he felt guilt for not being there for his mother more often.  He decided that he would make up for his absence by constructing a mighty wall of boulders that would protect his mother from all of the world’s evils when he could not be there to protect her himself.  Of course Iolas had promised that he too would help in building this wall, but shortly after arriving Iolas wandered off into his own world of thought.

     He was still bothered by the pangs of emptiness that he felt within his courageous heart.  His depression was so great that he found himself walking down a dark path into the woods.  On the other side of the path at the end he found what he had desired to find.  There standing before him nursing her injured horse was a beautiful woman.  She had piercing blue eyes and dark flowing hair.  He introduced himself and offered his help to the woman.  Yet she was not trusting of the man who had come along to assist her.  She pulled out a large dagger and threatened to use it against Iolas for fear of his intentions.

     Iolas found himself amused by her actions and yet insulted.  He asked her if he looked dangerous, but she was still unwilling to put down her weapon.  Iolas realized that it was not going to be easy for him to gain the trust of this seemingly lost woman, but he tried once more.  His eyes could not resist and his heart was genuine.  Iolas then warned this fearful woman that he would not be the last person to come along the path.  For he could not promise that the next person would be as willing to help her to the nearest village.  With that he delivered a friendly smile to back up his statement and won the trust of this stunning woman.

     They traveled together back to the village near where Hercules’ mother lived.  There the two shared in each other’s company as Iolas’s heart came alive once again.  Then Hercules arrived at the village tavern where the two new acquaintances had chatted for hours.  Iolas had lost track of the day and Hercules reminded him that he had promised to help in building the wall.  Iolas apologized to his friend although he did not regret forgetting for he had made a much more pleasant discovery.  He was delighted to introduce his new-found lady friend to Hercules.  Hercules found himself intrigued at the woman who would so suddenly steal his friend’s heart.  This woman’s name was Xena.  She was seemingly shy, but with a sense of humor.  Xena inquired if all of Iolas’s friends were as famous as Hercules.  Hercules was modest as always, but excited to see his friend’s spirits were up.  It was a woman who Iolas had truly needed.  In celebration of this joy Hercules offered to buy dinner for the three at the tavern.  Iolas accepted the invitation, but Xena had  plans of her own.

     She declared that she was exhausted and planned on finding a bed.  As she rose from the table she made her own invitation.  She asked if Iolas would do her just one more favor and help her to find that bed she seeked.  It was a shrewd and seductive invitation, and Hercules realized that he could not compete with the affections of a lady.  So Iolas went away with his new love and was not seen again by his friend for another week.  Despite the chance for rest and relaxation at his mother’s Hercules was finding himself missing his best friend.  He was disappointed that their journey to find solace together had ended up being a lone journey.  Hercules longed to find the day that he and his friend could be enjoying fishing or hunting together instead of fighting against darkness.  His mother tried to comfort her son explaining that it was the woman that would tame Iolas’s restless heart.  Hercules could not argue with that cure so he found himself accepting that Iolas was fine without him.

     Just when Hercules was about to accept his loss Iolas came riding over the valley alongside his new lady friend.  He was bright and confident ready to do battle once again.  Upon their arrival Iolas and Xena explained that they were about to go up against the warlord Petrachious.  Xena was a warrior woman who had bravely decided to build an army to go up against Petrachious.  Her intentions were to protect her people from his invasion of the Arcadian Highlands.  Yet she needed help and had enlisted Iolas in her seemingly selfless battle.  Hercules was delighted that Iolas was happy and wished only the best for his friend.   He also complemented the warrior woman on her choice in Iolas for Hercules was certain that Iolas was capable of fighting alongside Xena.  Hercules regretfully wished his friend goodbye reminding Iolas that if he ever needed his old friend that Hercules would be there.  Iolas bade his friend farewell and rode off into the valley alongside the warrior woman.

     Not long after leaving Hercules Xena and Iolas rode down the road running into some warriors whom she claimed to be from Petrachious’s army.  It was obvious that she was a fearless warrior and wasted little time in deciding to battle against these men.  She charged into battle like a crazed animal as Iolas watched.  He was taken by surprise by her zest and bravery.  Xena seemingly did not fear death and so he quickly found himself following her into this fierce battle.  Iolas fought with compassion and humanity while Xena fought with passion and vengeance.  She seemed to be driven by an inner anger that Iolas did not understand.  Though confused  by her actions he found himself impressed by her skill and fearless bravery.  Iolas had only seen one other person fight with skill equal to that of Xena and that was Hercules. 

     As the battle came to an end all, but one of the seven men had met their deaths at the end of Xena’s sword.  Iolas had allowed the seventh man mercy for he could clearly see that the battle was over.  He did not see the need to take the man’s life.  But Xena was seemingly disappointed in Iolas’s choice for she had wanted to chase him down into death as well.  Iolas could sense that her passions were difficult for her to control yet he was able to calm her into mercy.  Xena was praised by her new companion for her great bravery and skill.  She took advantage of this praise and asked that she be free to burn the wagon left behind.  Iolas did not argue with the warrior princess’s desires, but he found himself still confused by her need for destruction. 

     The two then continued down the path toward where Xena’s army was camped out ready to do battle against their enemy.  Along the way Iolas still found himself thinking of Hercules despite being with the beautiful warrior princess.  He was finding himself comparing the two for Hercules would not have chosen to destroy the wagon.  Hercules would have had mercy upon the enemy despite what crimes had been committed.  Yet Xena was not at all compassionate.  She seemingly seeked to destroy her enemy before her enemy could desolate her.  Iolas expressed his continuing admiration for his best friend in the presence of the warrior princess.  Of course Xena was not at all impressed by Hercules.  She spoke of Hercules as being selfish rather than selfless.

     When Iolas questioned this view of his best friend Xena explained herself clearly.  She said that Hercules did all of his heroic deeds in order to gain vengeance upon his step mother Hera for her anger at his father Zeus.  Xena had said that Hercules was only out for himself despite what everyone else believed.  Again Iolas found himself confused not realizing that there could be more to Hercules than he had previously thought.  And just when Xena realized that she has sparked some interest in her view she pressed it expressing to Iolas how much she felt that he was a much better man than Hercules could ever be.

     The warrior princess was playing with the ego of a man and the heart of a man in love.  Iolas’s love for the warrior princess was blinding.  It clouded his senses and damaged his sensibilities.  Truth was now becoming something of a challenge for Iolas as he found himself falling deeper and deeper into the trap of this black widow.  Soon the two arrived at Xena’s camp which Iolas found to be quite impressive.  There were at least seventy-five men preparing themselves diligently for battle.  All of these men seemed to be loyal to their warrior leader despite her being a woman.  It was unusual for women to lead such armies, but it made Xena more attractive to her new lover.

     After greeting her army Xena continued her game and played more deeply into Iolas’s emotions.  She was certain that his heart was in the palm of her hand as she continued her seductive rampage.  After basking Iolas in the pleasures of love she left him alone unaware of her true intentions within their relationship.  In the beginning she had pretended to be a helpless lost woman who needed the help of a strong and brave man.  She had refused his help at first playing as if she cared for him.  Xena had told Iolas that she would not allow him to fall in love with her, but it had been too late for that.  Yet the warrior princess knew in the beginning exactly what she was doing.  There was no real love in her heart for the compassionate Iolas.  Instead she had plans larger than those of love.

     Xena wanted Hercules instead of Iolas, but not to love.  She wanted Hercules for her true intentions were of a bloody violent nature.  The warrior princess had been known for years across the lands as one who intended to conquer the world.  Yet with Hercules as a champion to those of innocence she knew that she would never reach her ultimate power.  With Hercules being the only one standing in the way of evil the solution for Xena was simple.  She must take the life of Hercules so that she could move forward with her own selfish destiny.  Xena wanted to rule the world and there was nothing in the world to stop her beyond Hercules.

     And so as the unsuspecting Iolas slept peacefully in her bedchambers Xena summoned another of her warriors.  She chose the young Theodoras to send on a mission.  It was a suicide mission though Theodoras was blinded by his own love for the charming black widow.  Xena sent Theodoras to kill Hercules knowing that he would not succeed.  As she sent her warrior to his death she left him with a keepsake and a message for Hercules.  Xena gave him her emblem necklace to wear as a tiding of protection though she knew it would not defeat Hercules.  And so Theodoras went off to complete his mission with his passionate misguided heart. 

     Upon arriving at the home of Hercules and his mother Theodoras followed the great hero into the barn.  Theodoras hidden from view prepared his dagger for the kill.  The unsuspecting hero entered into the barn preparing to put away his tools.  Hercules was weary from a long day of work and dropped his tools upon the ground.  It was in that fortunate moment that Theodoras had decided to make his move upon the legendary hero.  He threw his knife intending to strike Hercules, but instead missed.  The violent knife plunged into the wooden column above alarming Hercules to the danger that lurked within. 

     Hercules rose from his tools carefully as he summoned his enemy to show himself.  Theodoras realized that his moment of advantage had passed and revealed himself bravely.  He drew his weapon and prepared to do battle against Hercules.  Hercules chose not to fight with a weapon of offense.  Instead he chose a large stick to defend himself rather than to kill.  Theodoras charged forward with passion against Hercules.  Their battle scaled upon the steps into the loft.  Yet it was there that it abruptly ended for the railing had given way throwing Theodoras to his death below.  Theodoras had fallen upon a rake that Hercules had dropped moments before their duel.  The rake had thrust itself through Theodoras’s back into his chest. 

     Hercules was regretful that this enemy had to die such a horrible death.  When he came down from the loft he asked Theodoras why he had engaged in a battle against him.  Theodoras replied that it was out of love that he had come for Hercules.  And when Hercules asked who Xena’s name purged itself through his lips within Theodoras’s last breath.  Hercules found himself confused and then worried as he noticed the necklace that Theodoras wore.  He then took the necklace from the fallen warrior and went to his mother to sort out the mystery surrounding Xena the warrior princess. 

     At first Hercules’s mother did not believe that Iolas’s Xena could be the same Xena that had sent Theodoras to kill her son.  Yet Hercules had the evidence of a message that was meant to reach him indefinitely.  Hercules’ mother was fearful that her son was falling into a trap.  Yet the hero was brave despite having to risk his own life to save his friend.  Hercules’ mind was made up that he would seek out Iolas and return him home safely despite the risk.

      It did not take long for Hercules to follow the trail that Xena had left for him to find her.  He came across the old burned wagon and there he found his friendship was truly threatened.  Iolas had left behind his dagger that the two had constructed together.  Hercules picked it up with concern realizing how serious the trouble really was.  He continued on finding Xena’s army and entering expecting to find his friend.  Upon his arrival Xena was again pleasuring Iolas’s desires and playing with his unsuspecting heart.  When the news that Hercules had arrived came through to the two lovers Xena contended that Hercules had come to steal Iolas’s glory.  Iolas’s pride was bruised and he found himself angry that his best friend would think of him in that way.

     Iolas charged out into the square where he expressed to Hercules how angry he was for his interference.  Hercules ignored his friend’s blind anger suggesting that it was not Iolas that he had come to fight.  It was obvious that Xena was succeeding in driving a wedge between two friends who had once seemed inseparable.  The warrior princess was delighted at her master plan for it was certain to result in the death of a hero.  She stood by impressed that Iolas would defend her character so passionately.  His anger toward Hercules and passion for Xena were so great that he struck Hercules in the face.  It was in that moment that the great Hercules found himself struck down with pain.  It wasn’t the physical pain of Iolas’s punch, but the pain of knowing that Iolas did not believe in his loyalty to his friend.  Hercules threw down his gift of friendship returning their dagger to Iolas.  Then he left Iolas behind with his new love Xena for it was obvious that Iolas had already made his choice.  He had chosen blind love over truth and friendship. 

     Hercules found himself back at the village tavern alone later that night.  He was depressed by his loss as he ate his dinner.  As he sat within his own depression an old man came along and asked him if he had rid them of her.  Hercules found himself confused for a moment for he did not know what this old man had been talking about.  Then the old man asked if Hercules had rid them of Xena.  Hercules had responded that he did not care one way or the other about the destiny of Xena.  The old man was shocked and upset that the great hero would refuse this task.  Hercules had never been known to walk away from impending darkness.  He had always faced it courageously, but now he had walked away.  The old man introduced himself as Petrachious.  Hercules was shocked for a moment for that was the warlord who Xena had been fighting against.

     The old man then asked Hercules to take another look for he was not Petrachious the warlord, but Petrachious the simple old farmer.  Petrachious was concerned for the well-being of the people of his village and for all who resided within Arcadia.  He then told of Xena’s plans of conquering the world through blood, violence, and fear.  Petrachious pleaded with Hercules to stand up to Xena for he was the only one who could stop her murderous rampage upon the land.  Hercules listened to his story, but was not certain that it was the best choice for him to continue to interfere within the love that his friend had found in Xena.  Though Hercules knew that Xena’s love was not real, and that Iolas was a grown man Petrahcious argued that Hercules was still responsible for his friend.  Petrachious took Hercules to the grave of his fallen young son who had been barely twenty when Xena’s army had taken his life.

     Petrachious was regretful, but determined that justice against the warrior princess be done for many more would die within her rage.  Hercules found himself making the tough decision to return to Xena’s camp.  He would return to defeat Xena despite Iolas’s blind love for the warrior princess.  Hercules knew going into this mission that he may lose his friend forever, but it was a price worth paying to save the lives of many.  And so as Hercules journeyed back toward Xena’s camp he found himself under attack again.  This time it was by the warrior known as Estragon.  He was another from Xena’s army who had found himself blinded by the warrior princess’s charm.  Estragon fought Hercules with his weapon of death, but Hercules was able to defeat him with only a large tree limb.  Estragon had been knocked to the ground by a fierce block delivered by Hercules.  There Estragon lie begging for his life.  Hercules took pity on the warrior and threw down his weapon helping Estragon to his feet.

     Just as Estragon stood again Xena appeared from behind another boulder.  She shouted out to Estragon with anger and disappointment as she pulled out a dangerous weapon.  It was round and silver with gold plates decorating the outside.  This round sharp blade was known as the chackram.  A weapon that could rip through even the thickest branches in the forest.  Xena jumped up and threw the chackram toward her victim.  It nearly missed Hercules, but struck her loyal warrior Estragon in the throat killing him instantly.  Amazingly this round weapon returned to its origin where Xena caught it and laughed.  She then jumped upon her horse and rode off waiting for Hercules to follow her back to camp.  There her trap was set and ready for him to fall.

     When she returned Iolas had been worried for she had left him without telling him that she was going.  He wanted desperately to be by her side and was disappointed when he found out that she had gone with another warrior.  Iolas scolded Xena for taking Estragon for he was killed.  The brave passionate heart of Iolas was certain that he could have defeated Hercules in battle.  No one knew Hercules the way that Iolas did.  Iolas found himself enraged when he discovered that Hercules had been the one who had killed Estragon.  He was prepared to kill his friend to protect his warrior princess.

      When Hercules arrived he was prepared to take on the warrior princess.  Yet Iolas would not be ignored this time.  He  quickly confronted Hercules and demanded that Hercules choose a weapon.  Hercules did not want to fight his friend and did not choose a weapon.  He tried desperately to reach his friend’s heart, but was unsuccessful.  Iolas then threw a weapon to Hercules and prepared to do battle against the one who had been his friend.  The first strike of the sword came from Iolas’s passion for Xena.  His senses were dull and his moves were sloppy.  Hercules chose not to take advantage of his friend for he could not kill Iolas.  Xena’s men interrupted the fair fight involving themselves in assisting Iolas’s vengeance against Hercules.  Hercules became frustrated with this game that the warrior princess played with his friend’s heart. 

     He decided to end this fight quickly as he took Iolas down and held the blade to his throat.  Iolas moved to strike below as he pulled their dagger of friendship on his friend.  It was then that Iolas realized that he was not going to win this duel against Hercules.  Iolas asked that Hercules send him to his death, but Hercules refused.  He dropped his weapon and helped Iolas to his feet.  It was in that moment that Iolas realized the truth about Xena and about Hercules.  If Hercules had been all of the things that Xena had proclaimed him to be he would have taken Iolas’s life without question.  Instead he had forgiven his friend and chosen to fight alongside Iolas once again. 

     The two then battled it out against Xena and her army.  They fought with compassion.  The heroes did not fight with weapons, but with their powerful tough brawn.  Xena’s army did not match the skill of Hercules, and the compassion of Iolas.  Hercules found himself nearly facing the wrath of the warrior princess until Iolas found himself in trouble.  Iolas had been slashed by a weapon across the chest and was being beaten by some of Xena’s men.  Hercules made another choice.  He chose to fight against Xena another day and to save his friend from defeat.  Hercules understood the importance of having his friend alongside him in battle.  He knew that he would need Iolas to be there for him when he went up against Xena the next time.  And so Iolas learned a difficult lesson about truth and about love.  He realized that sometimes love is right there beside you.  Do not look too hard for you might just find the black widow.