The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #49: Destiny

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scrolls #49:  Destiny

September, 47 B.C.

3 months and 21 days since visiting Syra Callisto’s home.  3 months 13 days since Xena died at Mount Nestus.

We spend our lives trying to understand what our own true destinies will be.  Wading through the waters of the unknown we find ourselves often confused and drained within our spirits.  Though we do not consciously know our destinies there is always a part of us that holds the deepest truths within.  This confusion of destiny and of what direction the warrior princess was to travel had haunted her.  One day as she had found herself with Gabrielle near the place where Callisto was born.  She had taken Gabrielle with her to the valley where the village of Syra had once existed.  It was there that she had taken so many lives and tainted the spirit of one young girl.  The bard could read her friend well.  She could see how guilty Xena felt about the wrongs that had born upon Callisto’s most tragic loss of her family.

Gabrielle tried to comfort Xena.  She explained that though Xena had been the cause to Callisto’s own destiny Xena had changed.  Once a warrior of evil and of darkness, but now it was clear that Xena had turned toward light.  Gabrielle was proud of her friend and to see the ongoing growth that had been taking place within her friend’s spirit since their first day of meeting.  The bard was philosophical explaining that once Syra had been the location of great death and of awful destruction.  But on this day it had healed and it now held vibrant beautiful life once again.  Gabrielle knew that Xena’s soul could go through that same transformation for it had already begun on its journey.  Two winters had gone by since Xena and Gabrielle had begun their travels together.  Gabrielle was certain that they would share many more that way.

Then Xena spoke of how she needed to go down into the valley once more to confront the horrors of her past.  She hoped that there she would find the answers she seeked about her own destiny.  Gabrielle stood over the valley watching Xena disappear into the tranquility.  She waited patiently  for the warrior princess to return.  Gabrielle hoped that Xena would find the answers that she so desperately seeked.  The bard’s wait seemed endless.  And then after many moments had passed Gabrielle found herself kidnapped by a group of strange men.  They were almost not human and they did not speak the same language.  These people were of strange custom for they took Gabrielle to a sight not far from the valley into the woods.  There Gabrielle was tied to a relic which hung between two trees.  She was tied  alongside several young children.

The barbaric men prepared for a ceremony.  It seemed to be one of a sacrifice.  To whom they were sacrificing was not clear.  Maybe it was Hades for their relics surrounding the camp were of skeleton remains hanging from all of the trees about the camp.  In the center was a pile of wood, and rock.  There it seemed that they  would  place their fire.  As Gabrielle thought of how her situation would progress the warrior princess came storming into camp upon her trusty steed Argo.  She flipped off of her horse in style and was holding Gabrielle’s staff which had been robbed from her earlier.  Gabrielle watched as the warrior princess gracefully worked with the staff flipping it behind and over her shoulder then back around.  Xena used the staff long and swiped it across the two barbarians which stood between her and the victims.  Then she suddenly reached for her chakram and threw it cutting down every hanging relic and freeing all who were being held captive.  It was amazing the way that the chakram had sailed in a circular path across the site and then returned after one throw to the hand of the warrior princess.

Xena then called out to Gabrielle and instructed the bard to catch her weapon.  The warrior princess threw it across the battle to her sidekick.  Gabrielle used her most familiar and effective move.  She thrust the staff across grasping it firmly with both hands.  It moved forward and knocked down one of the enemies in front of her.  Then she used her favorite cross over move to rob the enemy of his balance.  Quickly the battling bard acted and took the other victims rushing them away from the heart of the battle and onto safety.  Xena stayed behind and continued on.  There were at least ten more barbarians to deal with and to disable.  She decided after fighting a handful of them that it would be better to finish the battle within a second location away from their relics.

She rejoined Gabrielle and the group only to urge the bard to keep moving.  And so the bard ran further down the path and just out of reach of the battle.  There she stopped to watch Xena finish the battle ready to step in just incase Xena needed her help.  Xena fought without her weapons.  She did her favorite running up the enemy’s chest move flipping and then kicking him to the face.  Xena quickly flipped into a tree above and then back down to surprise three more of the barbarians.  The warrior princess then finished off the rest of the group fighting in the center of a battle circle spinning quickly with agility as she punched and kicked through the lines.

As the battle neared its end one of the children from the group had stayed behind to watch Xena fight up close.  The blue-eyed boy could not resist the power of the warrior princess.  He emerged thinking that it was safe to rejoin his new found hero, but there was still a live barbarian ready to attack.  The barbarian took his knife and cut a rope hanging from a tree.  This released something deadly.  It was a large log swinging down out of the trees toward the helpless child.  Xena quickly acted and jumped in front of the young boy pushing him out of harm’s way.  But then it was too late.  The warrior princess was violently hit by the oncoming log which had gained momentum.  It slammed into her body and pushed her across the woods into a tree where she was crushed between the trunk and the log.

The remaining barbarians quickly approached their victim and Gabrielle knew that it was now that Xena needed her help.  Gabrielle entered into the battle slamming one of the barbarians from behind with her staff.  The blow had knocked him unconscious.  A second barbarian swung around behind the bard and jabbed her in the outer right thigh with his knife.  The blow sunk into the muscle quickly bringing sharp pain and cramping.  Gabrielle then took her staff and jabbed back as her leg gave out and she fell upon the injured warrior princess.  The battle had finally ended, but Xena was in terrible shape.  Gabrielle looked to her friend hoping that the damage had not been serious.  Yet it was obvious with blood running out of her ears, nose, and mouth that Xena was on the verge of being taken by death.

Gabrielle touched Xena’s face trying to revive her friend.  She called out to Xena whose eyes struggled to open.  Xena was aware that Gabrielle was there by her side as she struggled to instruct her friend where she must go.  Gabrielle was told that Xena had to be taken to Mount Nestus.  As Gabrielle tried to remember the way she was certain that it was too far to be reached in time.  With her injured leg Gabrielle knew that it would be nearly impossible to get her friend to Mount Nestus.  But Xena insisted barely within consciousness.  Gabrielle realized that she had to find a way to get Xena there.  No matter the pain or the danger Gabrielle had to take her friend to that far away place.  The bard whistled for Argo and then prepared a contraption using the relics and rubble from the barbarian camp.  Gabrielle and Argo then began their journey to save Xena’s life.

Xena had also begun a journey of her own.  It was a journey that would answer the question that she had been asking just before the battle against the barbarians.  It had all begun back in Amphipolis with Cortese’s brutal attack upon Xena’s village.  That day was one of many events that would shape Xena’s true destiny.  After losing her brother and many friends within that battle Xena made conquest her goal.  Yet it was conquest to protect her home rather than to conquer.  Though the young warrior princess had known early that in conquering one would more effectively protect her home.  The warrior princess had stolen and looted many villages along the way.  Syra had been one of them and sadly Xena’s army had burned it to the ground within its passion for conquests.  Certainly there were many riches to be gained, but there were also many enemies out there waiting to rob the young conqueror of her power.

After the events of Amphipolis and of Syra there was another day that connected Xena toward her destiny.  It was the day that her army had sacked the village of Nexous.  There they had obtained many riches yet they had also captured a soldier.  At the time he was of no identity yet he was dressed  well.  His armor was flashy and his defiance was hardly possible to overlook.  Xena’s soldier known as Tallus badgered the new captive for he felt the disrespect of the flashy soldier.  The captive did not submit to the fear which Tallis tried to overpower him with.  Instead the young soldier held onto defiance.  His confidence was amazing and intriguing.  He proclaimed to Tallus  that his capture was merely a barbarian.  This implied that Tallis was of less intelligence.  Tallis found himself offended and rose his sword after a beating did not faze the captive.  Just before he was to strike the captive Xena stepped in and saved the life of this most intriguing man.

He was of a different breed.  She had never seen someone so confident and so sure of who he was.  When asked why he did not even fear death the solider replied that he did not fear death for he knew what his true destiny would be.  Xena was taken by this answer and so she asked him what his certain destiny was.  And then the man revealed in a very forward manner that his destiny was to conquer the world.  The young warrior princess found herself slightly amused by this answer.   Then Xena explained to Tallus that they should not kill this soldier for he was a Roman nobleman and they could gain wealth from his capture.  She was certain that this man would fetch at least 20,000 dinars.  Suddenly the soldier intervened declaring that the Roman nobles would never believe that she had him within captivity if she asked for so little.  This bold ego driven soldier suggested a price of at least five times more than what Xena had suggested.  The warrior princess was again amused and sent Tallus off to be sure that the message sent would demand 100,000 dinars for this soldier’s release.  Though she was still intrigued and asked of a name from the self-proclaimed conqueror.  He then proudly spoke that his name was Caesar.  Julius Caesar he repeated with more conviction this time.  Xena shouted out to her comrades the name of the captive for the message.

Upon the next morning as she and her army set sail upon the seas.  They began to go through the riches which they had obtained the day before upon attacking Nexous.  One of Xena’s men opened a beautiful large chest and something emerged from it.  It was not gold, or diamonds.  This was a living person.  It was a skilled warrior.  The warrior was cloaked in disguise as he moved swiftly to take out his enemies.  He did not carry a single weapon only the power to disable.  His technique was to use pressure points.  No one could stop his wrath as he took down fifteen of Xena’s men.  He moved with speed, accuracy, and grace.  Xena had even fallen victim when she tried to take out this magnificent warrior.  The warrior princess was struck in the leg and unable to continue combat.

She watched as the warrior scaled to the top of the crow’s nest and just as the warrior swung onto the sails of the ship Xena threw two knives slicing through the fabric taking down the skilled warrior.  Her men quickly took control of the warrior as Xena rose from resting her paralyzed leg.  The warrior was then revealed to be a young woman.  She was beautiful and not of Greek heritage.  Caesar himself had been intrigued, but not impressed with her performance.  Just as Xena’s men were about to take the young girl’s life Xena halted her execution.  The girl pleaded for her life within her own language.  Caesar spoke to her presuming that Xena’s heart would spare the life of the lighting speed warrior.

Xena was again impressed by the nobleman.  He was highly intelligent and most definitely a future threat to her and her conquests.  This man was more educated, but had yet to prove that his skills matched those of the warrior princess.  She could see that both of these new captives could match her in a different way.  Each had skills that Xena seeked to obtain for herself.  The young Xena knew that she must learn from each of them their strengths.  And so she asked Caesar to tell the girl that her life would be spared if she would in exchange teach the warrior princess how to use the pressure points in battle.  Smoothly he spoke to the slave girl and then the girl spoke back agreeing to exchange her warrior skills for her life.

The girl was then escorted down into Xena’s cabin below awaiting a visit from the warrior princess.  As the crowd of men dispersed from the deck Xena again spoke with Caesar for she was still very intrigued with his certainty of knowing his destiny.  As they conversed he spoke to Xena with more knowledge.  He gave her more insight explaining how he had figured out the origins of the young warrior girl.  Caesar said that she was from the provinces of western Gaul.  He declared that there were three provinces in Gaul and that she spoke the Gaelic from the western province.  Caesar also revealed that the girl had probably originally been a stowaway from the land of the pharaohs for her light brown complexion gave away her birth place.  Rome was known for capturing people from the northern lands of Egypt to sell into slavery back in his own land.

Xena realized that indeed this Caesar had his entire life laid out before him.  Every detail had been mapped out within his intricate mind.  She was slightly jealous that someone could have that kind of greatness and power despite being a captive.  It was in that moment that Xena decided that she would get involved with Caesar.  Slyly she proclaimed that his next destiny of the moment would be to dine with her in her cabin later in the evening.  It was a lustful invitation as Caesar was freed from his binds.  And then she left him to contemplate her sinful beauty for it was clear that the young Xena enjoyed the sport of playing with a man’s heart.  It was a new challenge and a new conquest different from the ones she had always engaged in before.

Xena then went down to her cabin to learn from the warrior girl.  When she entered into her cabin Xena noticed that the girl was working to free herself and escape the chains of captivity.  It was obvious that she had done this many times before.  The girl had escaped slavery and been running from it her entire life.  Xena walked in so that the girl could see that she was present and watching the girl’s every move.  This slave girl expected punishment for all slaves were punished for attempting to escape.  But Xena was different.  She could see that the young girl was much more valuable as an ally fighting alongside her rather than in slavery.  Xena approached her fearful subject and then asked her softly to show her how to kill using the pressure points.  The girl showed Xena in silence, but spoke within her eyes.  She did not really want to show the warrior princess the power of pressure points.  Xena demanded that she show her upon her own neck for it was that point that could kill the enemy.  The pressure points in the legs and arms could only disable.  Xena wanted to bring fear into her enemies for they would be less likely to challenge someone they feared.  She had learned that from Cortese.

And so the slave girl did as she had been asked.  Reluctantly she quickly put the move of death upon Xena.  Xena was upset for her subject had done the move much too fast and she could not learn it if she could not truly see and feel it.  The young warrior princess asked her subject to take the move off and do it slower so that she could learn.  As Xena suffered her subject watched her suffer and did not move to release her.  It was as if the slave girl was irritated that Xena had wanted to kill rather than to defend.  Xena could see as her pain within grew that this girl contemplated taking her life for her decision.  Yet in the last moment the young girl took off the pressure and released Xena from death’s grip.

The warrior princess breathed heavily clutching her throat with relief.  She was disgusted with her subject for her clever joke.  And so Xena asked the subject to show her again, but this time on herself.  The young girl took Xena’s hand’s and placed her fingers upon the veins that would be shut down.  Quickly she pushed Xena’s fingers into the grooves of the neck and turned the pressure onto herself.  The feeling was a strange one yet Xena immediately felt the rush of power that it gave her.  She backed away from her subject and watched gleefully as the slave girl suffered and her fear rose.  Xena then contemplated allowing this girl to die for she had played such a cruel joke moments before.  Yet at the last moment Xena too decided that she would have mercy upon her subject.  She released the slave girl from death and declared that she too could play jokes.  That moment led to a most wonderful and loyal friendship between two young women though Xena had never known what the slave’s true name had been.  Xena had given her slave freedom, and her slave had given Xena the power to deliver fear.  It was an ironic twist.

Later that night Caesar finally came down into Xena’s cabin to exchange lustful excitement and passions with a young warrior princess.  He was intrigued by her looks for she was beautiful yet barbaric.  Xena was just the kind of person that Caesar felt he could never ally with.  Barbarians were the uncivilized beasts that he had to control and to conquer.  He had to add their lands to his own in order to build the ultimate empire for Rome.  Yet Caesar complemented Xena for the red dress she had stolen from another raid during her many conquests.  He realized that it was the only way that a barbarian would be able to obtain any kind of wealth or power.  It was unfortunate, but Caesar was not sympathetic.     xena_s2_destiny_dArc_653

Then Xena knew for certain that she wanted to ally with Caesar.  She offered him the opportunity to be a part of her army.  Xena dreamed of a conquest with Caesar for if she were united with his intelligence, charisma, and charm she and the people of Amphipolis would always be safe.  Caesar found her reasons for conquest interesting at best.  Her passions came from within her heart and all that she had done was to protect those that she loved with a few laughs along the way.  It was a reckless existence he thought, but then he was asked of his driving force.  Caesar then explained to Xena his desire to be great.  When Xena asked him what made a person great he explained that it was only achieved by a chosen few.  He knew for certain that he was to be great for it was part of his destiny.

Caesar’s confidence was dangerous, but it was what attracted the young warrior princess to him most.  The two shared in a passionate affair together for several months while Xena and her sailing army awaited payment from Rome for Caesar’s return.  And then one day their passions were separated for Rome came to retrieve its prize general.  As Caesar bade his farewells to Xena she asked him to promise that he would return to her.  Caesar promised his lover that he would indeed return to her in time.  As Xena watched her love leave her behind her heart-felt the pangs of separation.  Just as Ceasar left the shores to return to Rome he saluted his loving partner with an honorable Roman salute.  And then the warrior princess was certain that she would indeed see her friend again.     xena_s2_destiny_dArc_727

Many seasons went by as the ebb and flow of life for the warrior princess and her army continued on.  They continued their lustful conquests conquering Syra along the way and many other helpless villages.  And after each conquest she and her army would return to sea sailing within the tranquility of Poseidson’s ocean.  And then the day finally came when Xena’s separation was no more for her love had returned to her as promised.  The young warrior princess’s heart leapt with joy for she would be with Caesar once again.  Her aimless life of conquering others was seemingly over for she would be a part of something that would build an empire.  It was in the night that Caesar returned.  Xena and her young warrior friend stood upon the bow of the ship as Xena watched him returning to her.  Her excitement clouded her mind as her friend warned her of Caesar’s true intentions.  Yet Xena was certain that Caesar would never go against her for they were in love.

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     Finally Caesar’s great ship docked with Xena’s and the two found themselves face to face once again.  The moment was silent and long for neither moved toward the other.  There was almost a slight tension in the air as one of Xena’s men drew his sword.  But Xena insisted that Caesar was indeed their friend.  Then slowly the two approached one another as all watched their reunion.  Xena’s heart felt a powerful love within it.  She had so much to give and so much to do for her lover.  There was total admiration and she was prepared to sacrifice for him.  When they finally approached they looked into each other’s eyes and prepared to share in a passionate kiss.  Caesar gently moved for his lover and then as their lips were about to touch he drew his dagger and took Xena into his custody.  He ordered his men to fire upon Xena’s army and to  kill them all.  This battle of betrayal ended quickly for without Xena’s leadership her army was helpless against the powerful Romans.

As Caesar prepared to take Xena and her army away he had not been able to find the young slave girl.  When he asked Xena of her loyal friend she declared that her friend had betrayed her and she had been killed.  It was a punishment fit for the crime and Xena’s heart was now broken for she had been betrayed by her passionate lover.  Caesar did admit that he indeed had feelings for the warrior princess during their affair before, but his feelings were stronger for Rome.  His love for Rome outweighed his lust for the warrior princess.

As Xena’s dreams revisited her earliest past Gabrielle and Argo had finally reached the Strymon river, but Gabrielle did not know where to go beyond there.  She was uncertain if Mount Nestus was north or south of the Strymon.  The bard desperately tried to bring her friend to consciousness long enough to find out which direction they must travel.  It was clear that Xena was delirious.  Gabrielle was also finding herself tired and weary for her injured leg was slowing them down.  Despite the pain and the exhaustion Gabrielle finally continued on north of the Strymon with Argo leading the way.

Of course Xena’s dream had not ended.  On the morning following Xena’s capture she and her army were taken to the same beaches where she and Caesar had parted before.  Caesar had prepared 135 crosses to kill every last man within Xena’s army.  They were all tied and ready to be escorted to their deaths.  As Caesar admired his work alongside his officer Brutus he explained to him that in order to defeat a woman such as Xena one had to divide her passions from her senses.  He called this technique divide and conquer.  He had taken Xena’s heart and separated it from her mind leaving the young warrior princess helpless against his wrath.

Then he approached Xena as she was strung up to her cross and sent into the air to suffer.  She suffered inside and now he was going to kill her.  So wounded now Xena wanted to die for if love wasn’t real then life wasn’t worth living.  Caesar then gave the order to break her legs for it would be the fate of all who had conquered alongside Xena.  The Roman soldiers sent the mallet crashing into Xena’s legs disabling then forever and robbing her of all that she had ever been given in life.  Her pain was so great that her soul became numb.  And once each man’s legs were broken Caesar and his men left them all to die.

Yet there was a force of goodness left for late into the night Xena’ s loyal friend broke into camp and took out the few Roman guards left behind by Caesar’s army.  She did not kill them for her power was never used in that way.  The young girl then freed Xena from her binds and certain death for a second time and took the weakened warrior princess to the top of Mount Nestus.  There Xena was greeted with kindness by a healer named Niklio.  Nicklio quickly went to work on the injured woman for her legs had been shattered.  The skilled healer reset the broken bone fragments as he spoke the name of the slave girl upon his lips.  For the first time Xena knew who her loving friend was.  Her name was M’Lila and though Xena was torn apart inside her hope was restored for a moment.  Her loyal friend had been the truth of love while Ceasar had been the betraying love.  For several days Xena was cared for by Nicklio and M’Lila as Caesar’s men searched for the escape barbarian.

Nicklio found himself impressed by Xena’s ability to heal for her body was gaining strength faster than he had anticipated.  His healing techniques were in using special needles to bring the feeling back to the damaged limbs and feet.  As Xena’s body was healing so too was her heart for M’Lila was there to love the broken warrior.  M’Lila stayed by Xena’ s side as the warrior princess recuperated and though they did not speak the same language their loyalty and love for one another held their souls together.  Yet even love alone could not defeat the darkness of conquest for it came back to haunt the warrior princess.

Just before she was to return to full strength Caesar’s Roman guard had found her.  They burst into the home of Nicklio and began their wrath of destruction.  Nicklio was knocked unconscious as the Roman’s prepared to take Xena’s life.  One of them held a small cross-bow and aimed for the warrior princess.  But M’Lila’s loyalty was so great for her friend that she sacrificed her own life for that of the warrior princess.  Xena held her friend in her arms as M’Lila passed onto the world beyond leaving Xena behind.  Upon the death of goodness came the birth of hatred.

Xena the warrior princess then fought with vengeance against the intruding Roman soldiers.  She killed them all without mercy and gave the last man a signature death using the moves taught to her by the deceased M’Lila.  As the last Roman solider perished within his last 30 seconds Xena declared the birth of her own darkness with a new purpose in life.  It’s purpose would be the total destruction of the world for it held nothing, but darkness.

Finally, Gabrielle and Argo had reached the top of Mount Nestus.  It was late in the night and cold.  Snow fell upon the ground softly as the bard collapsed with exhaustion and physical pain.  She could barely move when Argo continued on pulling the body of the warrior princess forward toward the healing house.  Gabrielle rose from her anguish and continued forward finally reaching Nicklio’s door.  She desperately knocked hoping that someone would answer her cries for help.

The door finally opened and it was Nicklio.  He recognized the warrior princess and knelt down to observe her state of health.  Gabrielle could only beg and plead with him for it was obvious that Xena was indeed in bad shape.  The bard knew that her friend was close to death despite her own hypothermic illness.  Nicklio quickly brought the body of the warrior princess inside who was barely breathing.  Gabrielle continued to plead with Nicklio to do something for her friend.  But Nicklio refused to do anything for Xena for it was only Gabrielle that he could tend to now.  And as Nicklio aided the bard in repairing her injured leg and restoring her body temperature to normal Gabrielle watched her friend.  Her nerves would not allow her to sit still and her heart could not stop feeling the need to help Xena.

Finally Gabrielle was able to return to Xena’s side.  Nicklio knew that Xena was going to die, but Gabrielle had not yet accepted this fate for her friend.  She could not accept that Xena would leave her behind alone.  Gabrielle for the first time was feeling very lost inside.  A part of her was seemingly separating itself.  As the desperate bard tried to revive her friend she begged for Xena to wake up again, but the lifeless warrior princess was now gone.  She demanded that Nicklio do something, but he looked to the bard regretfully unable to rescue her from her pain.  Gabrielle sobbed uncontrollably unable to regain composure.  She cried on by Xena’s side for hours waiting, but Xena had already gone.

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The Xena Scrolls: Volume #1: Scroll #19: Altered States

The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Podedia
Scroll #19: Altered States

May, 48 B.C.

There was once a young boy whose name was Icus. He was in grave danger for the almighty laid claim to his life. Icus’s father was Ateous a faithful follower to the almighty. And though Ateous loved Icus more than anything in the world his faith in the almighty was so strong that he prepared to give his beloved son. When the day finally came for Ateous to sacrifice his son Icus Icus’s mother had decided to place her own faith against the almighty. She chose to abandon the almighty against her husband’s wishes and packed her son a bag sending him away. Icus’s mother clung to the desperate hope that her son would be spared and that he would be able to escape the unkind wrath of the almighty.
Yet not long after Icus began his journey to escape his certain destiny he was seen by his older brother Mael. Mael was the leader of the zealot group which followed the almighty and he was determined to make sure that his father’s faith did not come without a price. Although Icus’s destiny seemed grim he was fortunate for the almighty had a plan of his own. As Icus fled to escape capture by Mael and the zealot group he found himself meeting up with two strangers that could help him.
Xena and Gabrielle were enjoying a morning bath within a nearby spring. The two friends were cleansing themselves as they prepared for their next surprise. Gabrielle had been begging Xena for many weeks to teach her how to fish. But it wasn’t until this morning that Xena agreed to give the lesson which the bard had long craved. Xena prepared to bard with encouraging words giving her the confidence to capture the prey. The warrior princess instructed the bard to reach beneath the rocks in the riverbed below. As Gabrielle prepared to make her move she took a deep breath. And then the bard plunged beneath the surface as the warrior princess was certain that the bard would succeed. Xena had been correct in her vision of a newfound success. Gabrielle returned to the surface elated for she had captured her very first victim with nothing more than her bare hands.
Yet the celebration was soon interrupted by the sounds of men shouting from beyond the trees. The warrior and the bard glanced out to see a young boy emerging from the trees. He appeared to be running for his life with great fear within his eyes. The young boy thought quickly as he jumped into the spring to safety. Xena and Gabrielle wasted little time going into action for they knew what their next mission was to be. As the two friends prepared to do battle against those who seeked out the boy the enemy emerged from the woods. The men who followed Mael quickly scoured the area in search of their victim and soon the boy Icus was found for he had left behind his bag upon the riverbank.
Yet just as Icus was captured from beneath his hiding place under the spring waters Xena the warrior princess emerged from beneath the water. She rose from within as if she were a goddess being born. Those who witnessed the nude goddess were taken aback as they did not know who or what she was. Xena then gave a little hiss as if she were about to breathe fire from within, but instead she slowly came upon the bank of the river facing her enemy without fear and without cover. She advanced forth finding herself face to face with the man who held the young boy captive. And then she spoke slyly commenting on how impolite the man was for picking on the youngster. Suddenly the warrior princess unleashed her fury as she delivered a blow straight into the face of the enemy. The young boy was freed from the grasp of the enemy as he fled back toward the water where Gabrielle waited. She then escorted the young boy to a safe hiding place beyond the brush as she finished dressing herself to enter into battle.
The warrior princess had quickly retrieved her own cover as she picked up the rack of fish that she had caught moments before. She waived the fish around in the air preparing to use them as her weapon against the advancing zealots. Xena was creative for she made arms out of nothing, but the fish swinging them about slapping each challenger in the face. Her moves were harsh blows to the approaching enemies as she made her famous battle cry. The sound of her battle cry was ay-yi-yi-ya! She kept calling it out upon each one on one victory of the advancing enemies. Soon the bard found herself ready for action as she took up arms with her staff and joined the warrior princess. She delivered powerful force of her own as she battled against the zealots alongside the fish fighting warrior.
As the battling bard entered into the fight the zealots began to flee into the woods from which they had come. They could not bear the wrath of the fish and the staff. Soon the young boy joined the two friends as his older brother Mael the leader of the zealots emerged before them. Mael was angry that the warrior princess had interfered. As he declared his anger and his desire to recapture the boy Xena the warrior princess insisted that the boy would stay with her. When Mael insisted that the matter did not concern her she replied that any youngster being chased by a band of zealots was a matter which involved her. Then she replied that it was her maternal instinct which had led her into this battle against the ragging forces. The fearful young Icus begged and pleaded with the warrior princess not to allow anyone to take him away to be killed. Xena assured the young boy as he clung to her side that he would not be going anywhere. Mael realized that he had lost this battle, but assured the warrior princess that he would be back for it was not over. And with that Mael disappeared with the zealots into the woods.
This new mission left the warrior princess and the bard very confused for they could not understand why anyone would want to kill a young innocent boy. In fact, his own brother seemed passionate about his young brother reaching a destiny of certain death. The young Icus explained that it was the will of his father to sacrifice him to the almighty. Gabrielle found herself confused for a moment as she thought of what the sacrifice meant. She realized that Icus was destined for a violent death by dagger at the hand of his father. Gabrielle was shocked as was Xena for they could not understand why a father would want to sacrifice his son so willingly. Even Icus was confused for he told the two friends that his father was truly a loving man. Icus spoke of how his father had stayed by his bedside in his times of great illness. As the three walked on accompanied by Xena’s horse Argo Gabrielle tried desperately to comfort the young boy amidst his confusion and his fears.
Suddenly from beyond the hill above Gabrielle heard Xena shout out to her. Gabrielle hadn’t even noticed that the warrior princess had left her side. She was shocked for a moment until the warrior princess appeared in view again upon the hill beneath the trees above. Xena had shouted out that she had found a secure hiding place for Icus and Gabrielle to take up camp. It was a cave which she had used when she had brought her army through the valley a few years before. Xena insisted that she would go and seek out Icus’s father hoping to find out why a loving man would want to sacrifice a son that he seemed to love so dearly.
And so the warrior princess left the bard alone with Icus. Gabrielle found herself desperately wanting to comfort his pain. She tried many things. The bard even told the story of her adventures in Troy alongside the warrior princess hoping that the excitement of the Trojan horse would get his mind off of his grief. Unfortunately the young Icus seemed quite uninterested although the bard even altered the truth hoping to capture his attention. She was certain that fire-breathing Trojans, and a massive Greek army would be just what a young boy’s imagination would be hungry for, but none of that seemed to matter to Icus. Suddenly Gabrielle found herself wondering if maybe her story just wasn’t very good, but Icus assured the bard that it wasn’t her story that was wrong. He complemented her on her story, but he reminded her that his pain and confusion was what kept him from paying attention.
Again Gabrielle tried to reassure the young Icus that Xena would be certain to make right what was wrong with his father. Of course all of the difficult work in consoling the fearfully confused began to take its toll on the deprived stomach of the bard. She hoped that Xena would also be bringing good food with good tidings. Yet that was just the thing that put Icus at ease for he found himself delighted that he had something he could share with the bard. Within his brown bag he carried apples, and bread. As he emptied the contents he handed Gabrielle the bread which was carefully wrapped. The bard unraveled it quickly finding that it smelled sweet. She recognized this sweet sensation for it was her favorite kind of bread. The bard rejoiced for she had not had a single bit of nut bread since she had been back in Podedia. There was plenty to eat as she began to delve into the soft fluffy loaf.
As Gabrielle ate the nut bread she asked if Icus would like some, but Icus insisted that he was not hungry. So the bard found herself within the Elysian Fields as she ate every last crumb of the loaf of nut bread from Icus’s bag.
As Gabrielle and Icus camped within the hidden cave Xena and Argo headed toward the home of Ateous Icus’s father. Upon Xena’s arrival she caught a critical conversation between Ateous and Mael. The warrior princess listened through the open doorway hoping to determine the truth of the matter. She heard Mael insist that Ateous continue to pursue the faith that he had for the almighty. Mael regretted with vengeance that he had lost Icus to the barbarian woman. He vowed to the concerned Ateous that he would get Icus back from the warrior princess even if it meant resorting to violence.
Yet Ateous was upset by this suggestion. He declared that there would be no violence necessary in this new conflict. Mael disagreed with his father declaring that desperate times called for desperate measures. He seemed driven by vengeance and that was very clear to the warrior princess. There was more to the story than the uncertain words of the almighty. The warrior princess could hear the sadness and the desperation within Ateous and she suddenly entered through the doorway interrupting the conversation. She felt that she could get through to Ateous for she sensed his confusion that the almighty would ask these terrible things of him. Xena questioned Ateous demanding to know which god had declared Ateous to sacrifice his beloved son. As she had entered Mael pulled his weapon, but Ateous instructed to his son that no more violence would be necessary. Xena was certain that only Ares or Zeus would declare such a sacrifice, but Ateous answered that there was only one almighty god. There was only one god worthy of followers and of worship. It was this god that had demanded of him his young son. And although Ateous was pained deeply knowing that it was the only way to prove to the almighty his undying faith he was certain to follow through despite it all.
It was in that moment that Xena realized that there had to be another way to win against this faith in one god. The warrior princess was spiteful of what the gods of the world often asked of their people. She was against this call to sacrifice no matter which god it was that had asked of it. The warrior princess was certain that no god worth following would demand such a test of faith. And so the warrior princess seeked out the only ally within Icus’s family that felt the same way. Xena rode with Argo onto the nearest temple to the goddess Hestia. Hestia was known as the goddess of family and Xena soon found there before the ruined old temple a grieving desperate mother.
Xena approached Icus’s mother with relief for she was certain to win in a battle against the almighty with the help of a mother’s love. When Xena approached the young mother the woman was startled at first. She had not expected another woman tall, dark, and in leather to interrupt. Yet it was obvious that Hestia had heeded the prayers of the desperate mother for Xena had been sent as her sign. The warrior princess assured the young mother that she had come to help mend the family back together and to prevent the sacrifice of her son Icus. Icus’s mother was relieved that Xena had come. She was glad that her faith in the old gods of her own belief were still there for her despite the faith of her husband in the almighty. Icus’s mother told Xena how she could not understand this almighty god that would want the life of her son. She went onto express her confusion as to why her husband was acting so strangely and why he would no longer confide in her. Icus’s mother was not so trusting of the almighty for it seemed he was ripping her family apart. Not only that, but the almighty had declared to Ateous that Mael was not to be his next heir and leader, but for Icus to be prepared and honored.
None of this made sense to the warrior princess. For a moment she had thought that maybe Mael had been behind all of the confusion, but with this new revelation the warrior princess was still lost within the confusion of Icus’s family. Of course Icus’s mother was confused that the warrior princess had found her, but Xena reminded her of the power of the goddess Hestia and her undying service to the families of the world. Icus’s mother said that she had come to offer some food to Hestia hoping that her offerings would bring her family back together again. The young mother began to describe some of the things that she had brought as gifts and spoke of the nut bread that had been specially made by Mael. She told Xena that she had sent some of it with Icus feeling that Hestia wouldn’t mind sharing some of the food being offered. Suddenly the warrior princess became alarmed for she took the nut bread and began to examine it. Then she smelled it with suspicion. The warrior princess then discovered that within the nut bread was the answer to the mystery. It had been laced with henbane.
Soon the warrior princess found herself returning to the cave hoping that it had not been too late. She wanted to prevent Icus from consuming the bread. But when the warrior princess returned she found only the bard within the cave lying on the floor unconscious. Xena quickly went to the aid of her friend hoping that she was still alive. The warrior princess called Gabrielle’s name and tried to awaken her friend from the grasp of the henbane. Slowly as the warrior princess held the bard in her arms one eye began to open. Xena noticed that the bard was very limp and barely able to control her muscles. The bard declared with alarm that she could not see the warrior princess. Then Xena asked that she open both eyes. Gabrielle heard the instructions despite her difficulty in understanding the warrior princess.
When she opened both eyes she could only make out the fuzzy face of her friend although as the bard began to struggle to focus she saw something extraordinary. She could not believe how beautiful the warrior princess was standing there before her. The bard leaned back hoping to get a better look at the tall dark warrior woman dressed in the most shiny leather, and golden breast-plate. Her shoulders were massive and strong with gold pads and a set of blue eyes that could pierce the strongest heart. The bard was in awe of this warrior woman as Xena tried to help her friend to her feet. Gabrielle could not feel her body as her head felt like it was floating in the air detached. Xena asked the bard to stand up, but Gabrielle was certain that she already was standing. Then Xena pulled the bard to her feet as she swayed with instability.
The warrior princess then asked the bard if she could walk. Gabrielle found this question to be a strange one for she had been walking since she was two years old. The bard began to prove to the warrior princess that walking was easier than standing as she wobbled to balance herself with each triumphant step. Xena then interrupted Gabrielle asking her where Icus was. Gabrielle had completely forgotten about the young boy, but was certain that he was about the cave someplace. The bard began to call out for Icus and whistle for him. She looked beyond the rocks and the boulders, but soon realized that Icus was nowhere to be found. Suddenly the sense of duty returned to the confusion within her mind. A sense of deep emotion and loss crept up within as the bard burst into tears of disappointment. She had failed for she had lost Icus. The warrior princess then returned to the bard’s side to console her intoxicated friend. But Gabrielle was clearly hysterical now.
Xena then asked Gabrielle if Icus had eaten any of the nut bread. Gabrielle’s mind tried desperately to focus on the task at hand, but the thought of the nut bread took her back to paradise. She could still taste the richly sweet soft loaf as it had melted upon her taste buds. The bard smiled for a moment describing her bliss and of how she had tried to share, but the urging of the bread was too much for her to rage against for she had eaten the entire loaf. Xena realized that it would be a while before a loaf of nut bread laced with henbane could wear off. Then the bard was suddenly reminded once again of her failure as she continued to sob uncontrollably.
Xena consoled her friend and then told the bard that it was important that she stay in the cave until she could return. Gabrielle stood from her spot as her focus was shifting into the urge to command the army of musicians which had appeared before her. She began to direct them out toward the exit of the cave as if she were commanding an army. Xena then called out to Gabrielle and the bard commanded her musical troops to halt in their exiting the cave. The warrior princess then tried once more to get through to her helplessly drunken friend. She commanded Gabrielle to stand guard within the cave alongside the others. The warrior princess struggled to make certain that Gabrielle could understand her command. Gabrielle tried once more to focus on her commander, but was still uncertain of what Xena had wanted her to do.
Instead Gabrielle told Xena that it was imperative that she stay behind with the others so that they could all work on their song together. It was then that Xena realized that she could not get through the effects of the henbane which had taken the normally sharp mind of the bard captive. Xena then agreed with Gabrielle that they needed to stay behind and work together. Suddenly Gabrielle went forth to command her musicians. She was angered at their unruly way for they did not seem to listen to her commands. They were all in the wrong places and they kept trying to test her resolve. But Gabrielle would not be defeated by her troops. And so Xena left the bard to deal with the grueling task at hand within the cave.
Xena and Argo soon returned to the village where Icus’s family resided. Upon arriving she found that Mael was commanding his zealot followers. He declared that the warrior princess needed to be found and taken down. Mael was ready to kill the warrior princess and her friend for their interference with the almighty’s plan. It was obvious to the warrior princess that Mael was responsible for all that had been happening. It was clear that he was jealous of his young brother and that was why Ateous was being asked to kill his young son. Mael was drugging his father, and attempting to drug his young brother and his mother as well. The influence of the henbane was what had allowed Mael to drive his father to believe the voices which did not exist. Yet it was clear to the warrior princess that not only did the henbane allow Mael to control the destiny of his young brother Icus, but his cunning charisma allowed him to control the zealots which believed in the same almighty as did Ateous.
Xena followed the group to the home of Icus where they captured Icus in the garden just outside the back door. Soon Icus’s mother came running out of their home to aid her son as she tried to rescue him from the zealots. Mael was nowhere to be found. Xena then waited until the zealots escaped with Icus for she would catch up to them later. Yet one of them stayed behind to be sure that Icus’s mother would not follow them. Xena rose from her hiding place behind the well and took the zealot down from behind. He never knew what had taken him and then Xena assisted the young mother promising her that she would rescue Icus once more. Before Xena left Icus’s mother had explained that Icus had returned home risking his safety because he had been concerned for Gabrielle upon ingesting the henbane.
Xena realized that she had to hurry if she was going to succeed at saving the life of a boy who did not deserve to die. The boy had been brave for risking his own life to help Gabrielle. Xena quickly found herself being discovered by another group of the zealots. This group was led by Mael as they chased her hoping to hunt her down and take her life. Mael was certain of the threat that Xena posed to him as they led the warrior princess into a trap. Xena rode upon Argo seeing the sharp wooden gate which stood between her and escape. The warrior princess was determined as Argo pressed forward at full gallop toward the gated trap. Just as Argo approached the gate Xena commanded her horse to halt her gallop. Argo stopped suddenly before the gate as the warrior princess flipped over it to safety continuing on her journey to save Icus.
Soon after her escape from the first group of zealots Xena caught up to the second group which held Icus in captivity. They were preparing to take him to the altar where his father Ateous awaited his arrival. Xena looked over the valley to see the old man knelt before the stone altar. He appeared desperate to plead with the almighty for another way to his faith, but the sound of crashing thunder on a clear day was his answer. Then the warrior princess looked below deciding that she must take action. She grabbed a few stones throwing them up ahead of the zealots to distract their attention. The zealots responded as they sent two scouts to check out the path ahead.
Then Xena took her whip and used it to swipe Icus from their grasp without their noticing his disappearance. The warrior princess instructed the young boy to keep calm and quiet as the zealots soon discovered their loss. They continued on and Xena then took Icus to his father at the altar. The warrior princess could sense the great emotional tension within Ateous’s spirit and within his mind. She then took the pain from his mind away for she could see that the henbane that he had been given was beginning to wear off. As the three of them journeyed to return to their home Xena was still unable to convince Ateous of the plot against Icus by Mael.
Ateous argued with Xena that despite the horror of having to sacrifice his son it had to be done. For if Ateous did not carry out what was asked of him by the almighty then his faith would be lost. Ateous was determined to overcome his pain for what was his faith worth if he were to only follow it when times were easy. In this moment of his faith it was difficult. He told the warrior princess that saving his son’s life only to teach him faith in times of triumph instead of hardship. Ateous was firm in his position. Yet the warrior princess would not give up in this battle of faith against Ateous’s almighty. She then took them back to Icus’s mother who was glad to see that her son was okay. As Xena began to try to explain to Ateous, Icus, and his mother what she had discovered there was a mysterious knock at the door. Xena urged Icus’s mother to answer it as she prepared to do battle with the enemy. But instead there was the voice of Gabrielle demanding to find the woman known as Xena warrior princess. The warrior princess then went to the door and quickly took her intoxicated friend inside. Xena was frustrated with the bard for she had not stayed within the cave as she had been instructed to. Yet Gabrielle insisted that the rocks within the cave had instructed her to seek out and find Xena. Gabrielle was still not well as she roamed about the home. The bard’s unusual behavior was proof that Mael was behind poisoning his own father. Gabrielle continued to stare at Icus and then fight a battle with her staff against the ragging pillows upon the furniture.
Suddenly Icus ran out the back door as Xena quickly pursued him. She was uncertain of his action for he seemingly wanted to be captured. As Xena tried to understand what was going on within his mind she realized that he too had been altered. Icus began to speak as if he truly believed that his father had been right. It was his duty to the almighty to be sacrificed. Then Xena realized what was happening. She returned inside the house to find that Mael and the zealots had captured Icus’s family and Gabrielle. He insisted that he would kill Gabrielle if Xena did not return Icus to him. Gabrielle was not alarmed by the dagger at her throat. Instead she told Xena that she had known about the presence of the enemy, but for some reason she had failed to remind Xena. The altered state of the bard’s mind had cost them Icus for the young boy returned. He did not want to see his new friends harmed for his well-being.
Mael promised Icus that he would not hurt his friends if they did what he had asked of them. Icus agreed to go with them, but Xena knew that Mael had other plans despite the deal that Icus had agreed to. Then Gabrielle complained for she wanted to be taken with Xena no matter where that destination was to be. The altered bard was not afraid in the face of danger for it did not exist in the paradise which she had been experiencing. Yet the paradise of a single loaf of nut bread landed Gabrielle alongside Xena hanging onto a thin rope within the depths of a dark bottomless well. Mael had thrown the two friends into the well certain of their demise. Yet he underestimated the strength of the warrior princess. Xena held tightly onto the rope and caught Gabrielle by the arm on her way down.
Suddenly the bard became very aware of her surroundings. Things were becoming much more clear to her and danger was real for the first time in several hours. The glorious troop of musicians had ceased to exist as the darkness of the well surrounded the bard and the warrior princess. Gabrielle’s head began to feel as if it had been kicked by the hooves of a mighty centaur. The warrior princess found herself glad that the henbane was finally wearing off of her sidekick for she needed Gabrielle’s help now more than ever. Yet the journey toward the top of the well was a difficult one as Xena climbed with the weight of two. Slowly she moved toward the top as the bard clung to her side. Then the rope weakened as the wooden support above began to give way. The two friends had only made it half way to the top of the well. It was beginning to look grim for them as they desperately tried to reach the top. Carefully the warrior princess continued on as the rope jerked again and the warrior princess knocked the bard in the face with her elbow.
Again the warrior princess began to rise toward the top as she instructed the bard to tie the second rope to her waist. Then there was the horrid sound of the wooden beam snapping apart sending the two friends down again, but the warrior princess caught the side of the well. She carefully scaled the loose stones as the bard began to climb up to the shoulders. Then the hands of the warrior princess emerged from inside the well to the top. The bard climbed out over the warrior princess still unable to control her balance completely as she crashed to the ground below. Xena then lifted herself from the well and joined the bard in safety. Yet there was little time to stand around as the two quickly rushed toward where the altar of sacrifice was.
Icus went with his father willingly knowing in his heart that Ateous truly loved him. He also realized that his father loved the almighty god. Icus knew that his father’s lesson of faith was important and that if it meant that he must die for the almighty then his own faith would have to be strong for his father. Yet Ateous was still questioning his god. The journey toward the altar led Ateous to decide that he was just not strong enough despite his young son’s bravery. But then there was another violent crash of thunder upon the clear day. It struck fear within the heart of the old man who decided that he must obey his god. And so he and Icus prepared for their test of faith. Icus prepared the dagger as Ateous prayed to his god hoping that he could spare his son’s life despite his doubts of sacrificing Icus.
For Xena and Gabrielle only an old rope bridge stood between them and saving Icus. As they approached they caught sight of Mael on the other side giving out command using a yelling device to sound like an almighty voice. Xena suddenly realized where the voices had truly come from and she declared that Mael command his father to stop the sacrifice. But Mael would not. He turned away and shouted for the kill. Then he disposed of the yelling device into the trees above. Xena commanded Gabrielle to retrieve the device while she crossed the bridge to deal with the enemy.
Mael laughed for he was certain that he had won this battle of faith. He cut one of the three ropes to the bridge hoping to throw Xena off. But the warrior princess was determined to reach the other side. She kept moving forward on the two remaining ropes. Mael then cut a second rope as the warrior princess reached the halfway point. He was impressed at the warrior princess’s great skill and sharp mind for discovering his plot. Although Mael was certain that the warrior princess was too late and that he had won. Then as she reached near to the other side of the bridge Mael raised his sword ready to cut the remaining rope. As he prepared to send the warrior princess to her death below in the deep canyon she twisted the rope with her feet flipping to safety upon the other side. Mael lost his own footing and fell only to catch himself with the ropes which hung from the posts upon the edge.
The warrior princess then reached out to her enemy asking that she take his hand, but he refused. Instead he declared that if his father’s faith was to be tested then it should be god’s will. And so Mael released his grasp of the rope and fell to his death at the bottom of the valley laughing all the way. Quickly the warrior princess ran into action across the long green valley toward the altar hoping to reach it before Ateous sacrificed his only surviving son. Gabrielle desperately climbed the high limbs of the tree where the yelling device rested. Her balance was still not at its best as she stumbled to the top of the tree. She leaned out over the canyon and reached for the device. Xena realized that she would not make it to the altar in time despite her great speed. The warrior princess reached for her chackram and threw it across the remaining distance of the valley hoping to disarm Ateous.
Just as Ateous was about to thrust down upon his son the dagger marked with death the sound of the almighty voice echoed through the valley. The voice was deep as it declared that Ateous had proven his faith. He had proven that his love for the almighty was so strong that he would even take the life of the son he loved more than anything in the world. Fortunately the almighty had spoken when he did for Xena’s chackram had mysteriously missed its mark. For the first time in a day Xena found herself relieved that she had the help of her mind altered sidekick.
And so faith had been tested and it had been won. Ateous’s faith in his god had proven that he truly was a worthy follower to his god. Icus’s faith in his father’s love had been restored, and Xena’s faith in the ability of her sidekick despite the influence of henbane. As Xena shouted out a good-bye to Icus and his family Gabrielle’s head began to throb even more for she could barely stand the side effects of the nut bread. As the two friends continued on down the path in search of their next journey they discussed the idea of there being only one true god. Soon they brushed it off as just another strange belief. Then Xena complemented Gabrielle for her excellent impersonation of the almighty god. Suddenly the bard found herself astonished for she was certain that it had been the henbane talking when she had heard those deep words of the almighty. Xena was confused for a moment for she was certain that it had been Gabrielle that had spoken those words through the yelling device. Yet Gabrielle confessed that she had never reached the device. She had tried desperately to succeed, but had failed. And so the mystery was revealed. Yet who the almighty was remained just as mysterious.