The Xena Scrolls: Volume 2: Scroll # 35: Intimate Stranger

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#35:  Intimate Stranger

February 23rd, 47 B.C.

 

     In life there is a fine line between what is a dream and what is a reality.  Though sometimes it is difficult to define.  The warrior princess awoke from several nightmares which dealt with her guilt.  These nightmares were so intense that Xena awoke from them in a cold sweat.  Soon after she could not stand the lonliness which had set in as a result so she softly woke the bard from slumber hoping she could receive some comfort. 

     The cool morning air rushed over Gabrielle’s face suddenly for Xena had pulled back her blanket from her face.  It was still dark out for the sun had not yet risen.  Gabrielle looked over to Xena seeing the warrior’s chest violently rising and falling.  Xena’s eyes were distraught with worry and with guilt as she held her forehead with her right hand leaning her back up against a tree.  Gabrielle sat up on her elbows with concern and inquiry asking the warrior princess if there was anything wrong.  As usual Xena would not answer the truth.  She only said that it was time to continue their pursuit of Theodoras Callisto’s first in command.  Since Callisto’s death Theodoras had taken over her army.  His goal was to take Athens though the bard had heard that all he really wanted was to sooth his heart’s pain.  Theodoras had been in love with Callisto and now his violent army expressed his pain with each village it retained. 

     As the two women prepared to scout Theodoras’s nearby camp the uncomfortable silence between the two friends ceased.  Xena broke in with an inquiry of dreams.  She asked the bard if she had ever experienced a dream.  Gabrielle sensed Xena’s heart was within a confusion.  It was obvious now that it had been a dream that had brought it to this place.  Gabrielle then replied that she had indeed dreamed before.  She said that it was within her dreams that her best stories would come flowing through her soul.  Yet it had been a long time since she had dreamed.  Gabrielle had not had a single inspiration within her nights since the violent murder of her beloved Perdicas. 

      The warrior princess found herself saddened by this loss within the bard.  Gabrielle was still feeling numb with the pain of her loss despite Callisto having been gone.  Then Xena broke into the bard’s numb feelings with her own waves of guilt.  She began to open up her fears to her friend which had been building within her recent nightmares.  It was on this morning that she had awakened from them yet again.  Xena described having had four successive dreams.  The first began like a normal scouting mission.  She said that she was with Gabrielle and they were following two of Theodoras’s men.  Xena said that she remembered jumping down from the trees and then Gabrielle joined her upon command.  Gabrielle had asked Xena if she was certain that these men belonged to Callisto’s army.  Xena had confirmed that they had and were most certainly going to rejoin their new commander.  Then she asked Gabrielle if things were okay.  Gabrielle expressed her discomfort with the thought of Callisto again.  Xena understood her friend’s pain.  Then explained that Gabrielle’s pain was the reason that they had to stop Theodoras and his men so that they could all be brought to justice.  The bard seemingly understood this and then left Xena to rejoin Argo in the brush. 

      As Xena stood to hunt down the enemy she heard a familiar voice calling her name.   She turned with her weapon drawn and discovered that it was her mother.  Cyrene kept asking Xena when she was going to return home to where her friends and family loved her.  The warrior princess had said that she felt confused and afraid that Cyrene was present.  She then told her mother it was not safe for her to be there.  There was danger just beyond the trees where Theodoras was with his men.  Xena could not attack with her mother there for the guilt of her past deeds began to intrude.  Then Xena found herself realizing that it was all a trick.  That it was not really her mother who stood there before her.  And as she approached the imposter Cyrene revealed her true identity.  She was Ares the god of war.  He was still after his favorite warrior princess.  Ares commended Xena for rejoining his darkness for he was certain that she would one day command his next great army. 

      Xena was not at all amused by his presence.  She despised it and reminded him that his ambitions were only a dream.  Then Ares showed the warrior princess her recent fault.  He accused Xena of being a murderer.  When Xena tried to defend herself he only reminded her that she had been the one who killed Callisto.  The warrior princess desparately fought against her guilt.  She had killed Callisto for a justice.  Callisto’s death was justice for the death of Gabrielle’s Perdicas.  But Ares persisted with more.  He claimed that the warrior princess had murdered Callisto because she had allowed her to sink into the quicksand despite Callisto’s innocent pleas for help.  Ares declared that if Callisto’s death had been in the name of justice then it would have been a fair fight by the sword.  Yet instead Xena had just let her enemy die helplessly unable to rescue herself.  Ares insisted that this act had ensured that Xena was a murderer when she did not try to save the once innocent.

     Xena’s guilt began to rise as she tried deparately to hide it from Ares.  But the god of war then showed her a vision.  It was the dark memory of the day that she had watched Callisto die.  Callisto was sinking rapidly as she called out to Xena.  Her eyes no longer of firery rage.  They only spoke of a childlike innocence and fear.  Callisto reached out to Xena as she called for her rescue.  Xena tried desparately to distance herself from all of the guilt within, but could not.  Her hands which held her sword then pulled her toward the vicitm.  The warrior princess tried desparately to fight it, but the sword then plunged into the victim as Ares laughed triumphantly.

      Suddenly Xena awoke from this first nightmare with great fear.  She jumped to her feet from her slumber swinging her sword wildly ready to do battle.  Her warrior senses were confused as she scanned the camp.  There was nothing there, but a frieghtened crow and Gabrielle sleeping soundly alone.  Xena then slowly approached her friend desparate for comfort.  As she turned Gabrielle’s shoulder to awaken her the bard’s face turned into that of the dead Callisto.  Callisto’s brown eyes stared lifelessly.  They stared deeply into Xena’s freightened soul.  The warrior princess jumped back in disbelief as she saw the  endless blood dripping from her hands. 

       This time she awoke to the face of Gabrielle who had been trying to save her from her nightmares.  Gabrielle had shaken the warrior princess startling the guilty soul.  Then the bard’s soothing voice expressed its pity for the soul that could not release itself from deep guilt.  Xena then felt safe again as she asked Gabrielle if she felt what Ares had said  was true.  Had she really executed Callisto by allowing her to die helplessly within the quicksand.  Gabrielle’s voice was reassuring to Xena telling her that she had only done what had to be done.  These were the words that Xena desparately needed to hear from her friend.  Xena continued by expressing how every dream she had had was about Callisto and no one else.  The guilt ridden warrior continued by explaining that it was Ares taunting her and saying that she really had become a murderer when she did not try to save Callisto from her own darkness.  The warrior princess felt guilty for not giving Callisto a chance to change the way that Hercules had given Xena that chance to change. 

     Gabrielle  sharply yet confidently refused that statement for she said that Callisto had chosen her own path and demise.  It was not Xena’s responsibility to try to change Callisto according to the bard.  Gabrielle continued soothing the guilty warrior’s soul with more words yet they began to sound confusing to the warrior princess.  The bard said that just because Xena had not tried to change Callisto or to show Callisto any mercy as others had shown Xena that these things did not make Xena a murderer.  Xena began to move away from the bard slowly though Gabrielle’s hands did not release her shoulders.  Gabrielle continued her strange twisted soothing statements.  She said that if Hercules had chosen to judge Xena the way that Xena had chosen to judge Callisto then Xena would most certainly be dead by now.  Xena then questioned the bard with alarm.  Gabrielle continued as her words became more harsh and that soothing familiar sound suddenly began to change its tone.  She said that Xena deserved death more than did Callisto for it had been Xena who had created Callisto.  Though it was Gabrielle’s face that Xena saw her voice was now that of Callisto and before the words could finish the warrior princess awoke a third time.  That was when she had awakened startled Gabrielle out of slumber.  Finally Xena had reached the safety of  reality.  Yet even then there was seemingly little comfort for the warrior princess’s heart.

      As the two friends continued scouting on after exchanging their woes and dreams Xena’s pace suddenly quickened.  Gabrielle’s concern rose as her own thoughts of pain deminished into the alertness of preparing to do battle.  Xena then knelt down before some footprintes in the mud along the road.  Gabrielle followed inquring the warrior princess uncertain if they were following the trail of Theodoras.  Xena answered her friend with confidence saying that Theodoras and his men had gone over the river through the woods toward a deserted village.  Not only were they following the trail of the enemy, but there was another man following as well.  In fact, Xena was certain that this lone warrior was about to get himself killed.  Gabrielle pieced together the sarcastic comment and realized that it was Joxer that Xena spoke of.  Somehow he had managed to find himself right in the middle of the action once again.

      When Xena and Gabrielle finally arrived on the outskirts of the deserted village they found that Theodoras was about to execute Joxer.  The so called warrior challenged Theodoras proclaiming that soon the Athenian army would storm the camp and seize Theodoras and his army.  Theodoras was slightly amused, but more irritated at the annoying intruder.  He had decided that he was going to have Joxer killed this time for he was growing tired of dealing with his idocy.  Theodoras was angered when Joxer mentioned the name of the woman he had loved.  He then said that he would spill Joxer’s blood carving him from the inside out.  Joxer was defiant yet slightly fearful at the thought of his violent oncoming death.  He tried to talk his way out of it reminding Theodoras that he would need Joxer as a hostage when the Athenians came to take his army.  Theodoras ignored Joxer’s pleas as he and his men began to beat their victim senseless.  Joxer was helplessly hanging upon a rope as Xena’s battle cry raged out from within the woods.

      Suddenly Theodoras and his army dispersed into the woods looking to kill the warrior princess.  Yet she had already arrived into the village as she flipped violently crashing through the walls of a large barn.  Within the barn was Joxer hanging from the ceiling beams.  Gabrielle entered through the gaping hole left by Xena’s wrath as she and Xena scanned the barn for any of Theodoras’s men.  No one was present except for the idiot who proclaimed that he had been the one who had scared the enemy off.  Gabrielle was prepared to go after the enemy into the woods, but Xena declared that it would not be wise in the night.  She decided that they would camp and so Gabrielle went to fetch the blankets.  Xena began to pace within the barn planning her next move.  Joxer could barely stand being ignored any longer demanding that Xena free him from his ropes.  The warrior princess finally decided to free him, but not without punishment for his stupidity in acting alone.  Joxer suddenly found himself eating the dirt with little sympathy to follow.

     As the friends prepared to try to recapture their dreams Gabrielle approached the warrior princess staring off into the distance.  She brought a blanket to cover Xena’s shoulders realizing that though Callisto was gone from the world her presence still lurked within it.  Xena then continued expressing her guilt.  She was now certain after having her terrible nightmares that her guilt was real.  Xena really felt that she had committed an injustice allowing Callisto to die in the sinking pit of quicksand.  Gabrielle was disappointed for she now realized that Callisto had truely won despite her death.  Callisto had taken Xena’s light turning it into an endless guilt while she had handed Gabrielle endless pain and empty rage within her own heart.  Gabrielle expressed her disgust with the situation as she spoke these thoughts aloud.  For Xena was wishing that she had not killed Callisto, Joxer had developed a death wish because he had not succeeded in killing Callisto, and Gabrielle now felt that the world would have been a better place had the blonde nemisis never existed at all.  With that the bard left the warrior princess within her guilt unable to console her friend beyond her own heart’s lingering pain.  And so Xena’s nightmares continued relentlessly and without end.

     Upon the early morning before the next sun Gabrielle found herself suddenly awakened by Xena’s jolting her shoulder.  The bard was startled out of her slumber barely able to focas on Xena’s quick words.  Xena said that she had finally figured out what was really going on all of this time.  She said that Callisto was back somehow with the help of the god of war.  Gabrielle suddenly found herself alarmed by the thought of Callisto’s return.  She was uncertain of how she would deal with another face to face meeting with her worst enemy.  When Gabrielle inquired of the warrior princess what she felt that they would do next.  Xena responded with zest.  She said that they must immediately go onto Amphipolis for Callisto was certain to strike there next.  The bard did not understand how Xena had come to this conclusion so easily.  Xena continued explaining that because of Callisto’s undying revenge for her she was most certainly out to kill Xena’s mother.  There was someting eerie about Xena’s quick knowledge of her enemy’s certain motives.

      Just when Gabrielle was about to awaken Joxer to join them on their new mission Xena grabbed the bard’s arm.  She then told Gabrielle that it was best that they leave the idiot behind.  Xena was certain that he would only get himself killed.  Gabrielle could most certainly understand that.  And so as Gabrielle prepared herself and Argo for their journey to Xena’s home Xena vanished for a short time.  Gabrielle found herself increasingly confused.  She began to wonder if maybe she too had been having a strange dream.  Yet her concern dissolved upon Xena’s return as the sun began to rise.  Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo traveled together.  Yet the entire journey seemed like a strain and a struggle.  Argo was extremely fussy on this morning.  It was unusual for Xena’s horse to be so upset.  Gabrielle tried to figure out what may have spooked Argo, but most of her effort had gone into keeping Argo still.

     Then Xena started revealing her plan.  It was not typical for her to be so open and seemingly vengeful.  She said that Callisto most certainly had gone to fetch her army.  Xena was planning on reaching Theodoras before Callisto could regain control.  Argo continued to express her discomfort.  Gabrielle wondered if maybe it was because of Xena’s guilt.  She wondered if maybe it was the guilt begining to poison the warrior princess’s heart.  Then Gabrielle asked Xena if she would take Argo from her.  The bard was certain that Argo would calm down if Xena were to take the reigns.  Yet Xena refused to comfort her horse.  Instead she declared that Argo was only behaving in this way because she sensed Callisto as she had the last time they had gone up against Callisto.

     Then Xena turned to Gabrielle proclaiming that she had a confession.  She said that it was not right that she had been the one to kill Callisto before.  Xena said that Gabrielle should have been the one to spill the blood for her vengence deserved to be tamed.  The bard suddenly found herself disturbed by Xena’s sudden change.  Before Xena had fought desparately to keep Gabrielle from drawing Callisto’s blood.  And now she was determined to convince Gabrielle that it was her responsibility.  Gabrielle listened to her friend as Xena continued.  She said that her guilt over the issue was about to tear her apart.  The bard’s worst fear was seemingly playing itself out.  Gabrielle did not know what to do or how to visualize the truth.

     The bard then tried to verbally make sense of things.  She asked Xena if what she had said was the truth.  The bard wanted to know if Xena truely felt it was her responsibility to kill Callisto.  Xena’s reply was strange.  She disputed that statement only to say that Callisto was most certainly after her mother.  Gabrielle stated that Callisto had to be stopped short of killing Cyrene.  Xena did agree with this, but her blank stare pierced through Gabrielle like fire as Xena said that stopping Callisto wasn’t the problem.  She continued stating that once Callisto was stopped there had to be a resolution.  Xena seemingly did not know the resolution yet Gabrielle sensed that there was something beyond.  The warrior princess then stated that she was not so certain that she could go through with killing Callisto again.  Then she walked away from Gabrielle and Argo leaving the bard to contemplate Xena’s strange new demeanor.

     As the day wore on Gabrielle found herself even more confused for Xena began to teach her the art of vengence.  She had chosen a small tree to be the devout enemy and commanded the bard to strike it down.  But Gabrielle had already made up her mind.  She had already learned that the vengence would not calm her raging heart.  Gabrielle’s efforts were futile against Xena’s constant beckonings as she scolded the bard for not trying hard enough.  When Gabrielle tried to talk her way out of learning the truths of vengence Xena only pursued further.  She told the bard that it was not about vengence at all for Callisto was already dead.  All that she asked of the bard was to send her back to Tarturus where Callisto belonged.  Xena proclaimed that Gabrielle’s heart could bring the strength of vengance forth for it still existed within the bard.  Gabrielle knew Xena was right.  She had only buried those lustful feelings deep within.  Yet Gabrielle was afraid to release them openly knowing the damage that would most certainly follow.

     As Gabrielle prepared to strike at the tree once again Xena’s rage spilled out with even more power.  The bard suddenly found herself frustrated as she turned to face her friend.  There was definately something wrong within.  As Gabrielle searched Xena’s eyes for some light Xena calmed her tense muscles for a moment.  She shifted the sudden suspicion to a challenge.  The warrior princess then asked Gabrielle to allow Xena to play the part of Callisto.  Gabrielle found this sickening and not at all amusing.  Xena persisted with the charade saying that she only looked like Xena, but that she was really Callisto.  Though the idea seemed impossible the bard’s mind momentarily grasped the idea as truth.  She thought that maybe it was a true explanation to this situation yet her heart worked desparately to deny it.  Then Xena beckoned her to strike and so weakly Gabrielle struck for she did not wish to unleash vengeful feelings upon her best friend. 

     Again Xena persisted trying to belittle the bard with insults, but even that did not allow Gabrielle to strike a powerful blow.  Yet Xena tried once more to grasp the vengence with the bard.  She began to describe the sensation of killing Perdicas and of how she had felt his blood on her hands as he died.  Gabrielle’s rage began to surface as her soul began to boil and the darkness emerged from within her heart.  Then Xena finalized the statement by belittling the bard again telling her that she was incapable of killing the one who had taken her love from her.  And with that Gabrielle lost all of her senses.  Her self control was completely gone.  Her muscles tensed within her arms and her legs thrust forward with the staff as it struck Xena in the chest violently.  The warrior princess suddenly fell to the ground for Gabrielle had knocked the wind out of her friend. 

     As Xena rose slowly from her defeat Gabrielle’s darkness quickly retreated into realization.  The bard suddenly felt great guilt for what she had felt and acted upon.  She turned away from Xena who praised her yet Gabrielle did not feel like a celebration.  Instead her stomach felt ill.  As if she wanted to purge it of the evil lurking within.  Xena then continued to stroke the bard’s dark ego telling her that she was proud of the action against her.  Gabrielle expressed her deep concern for having felt hatred within that moment.  She had truely believed in her mind that Callisto was real within Xena’s eyes and that was what had allowed her to strike.  Gabrielle did not want to face that moment again, but Xena only commented that hatred had to be faced no matter the consequences.  Then Xena handed the bard her weapon, but this time it was not just a simple fighting staff.  Xena had fashioned it into a spear using the breast daggar that Gabrielle had once purchased for herself.  Then Xena said that she was going to take care of the one who was following closely behind.  Upon her abscence Gabrielle found herself barely able to move or to function.  Instead she just stood against the tree and stared at the weapon of death that now faced her.  She sensed that this was a moment of choice.  Gabrielle desparately hoped that she would not make the wrong choice.

     After many moments of spying the weapon Gabrielle finally picked it up.  She began to inspect the point of the weapon as she tested it up against the tree.  The bard questioned her resolve wondering if she would be truely able to make the choices that Xena had to make every day with the sword.  There was still a great deal of uncertainty within her as Argo began to stir upon Xena’s return.  The warrior princess seemed a lot more at ease as she grabbed a drink to quench the thirst of her passionate encounter with war.  When Gabrielle inquired of who had been following them Xena said that it had only been one of Theodoras’s men.  Then she confidently brushed off the situation stating that she had been able to scare him off. 

     Gabrielle prepared to grab Argo to continue on their journey, but Xena’s calm nature began to shift back into that crazy uncertainty for the bard.  She said that Argo would not be going with them onto Amphipolis.  Xena stated that she feared for Argo’s safety.  Again this was unlike Xena for Gabrielle had never known the warrior princess to go anywhere without her horse alongside her.  Gabrielle investigated this with a question for she wasn’t sure that an emotionally distraught horse should be left out in the woods alone.  With Callisto lurking about she might fall victim.  Xena was certain and persistant that she should leave Argo behind.  She was so confident that she asked Gabrielle to move ahead while she hid Argo’s briddle.  Gabrielle looked to Xena once more with grave concern, but she did not argue with the warrior princess.  She was often cryptic about many things. 

     Gabrielle walked on alone for about two hours until she began to hear some very strange sounds lurking behind.  The bard circled back upon her path to investigate what was just behind her.  To her surprise she caught sight of  Joxer walking alongside Callisto, and then suddenly she heard the distant sound of the roaring chackram.  Then the chackram was in plain view, but it was not Xena who tamed it.  Callisto took the mighty weapon as Joxer narrowly escaped its wrath.  He fell backward passing out after Callisto tamed the weapon.  Then she prepared to return it to the warrior princess only to find herself confronted by the warrior woman.  She warned Callisto not to send back her weapon for she would only recapture it.  Then Callisto demanded to know where the bard was, but Xena played her off without revealing a single detail.  Gabrielle strained to hear the dialogue between the two women, but found it muffled by the sounds of the wind blowing through the brush.

     All she could do now was watch and hope Xena would be triumphant.  The sounds of screams and battle cries broke through the rustling plants as the two women flipped across one another clashing their swords into action.  It seemed all of their battles began this way.  And then they would face one another swords ready.  Callisto was seemingly on the defensive in this battle as Xena attacked to perry.  The warrior princess swung missing Callisto as the blonde jumped backward.  Xena then charged forward with even more aggression and force.  There was great power and strength, but it was not coming from Xena.  It was coming from Callisto.  Callisto seemingly fought to avoid drawing blood.  She only fought to defend.  Strangely it seemed to the bard that Callisto was fighting like Xena and Xena like Callisto.  She thought maybe it was because Xena was seeking a justice fairly deserved. 

     Then Gabrielle saw Callisto flip and roll to the ground dodging another advance.  Gabrielle thought that Callisto could have easily taken the advantage against Xena, but for some reason she had chosen not to.  Instead she knelt down in the mud blocking Xena’s downward motion from behind.  Then Callisto spun around from the ground looking to strike at Xena’s feet, but the warrior princess flipped over her to escape the move.  Callisto rose to face Xena who attacked high against the blonde.  There was a massive struggle for control.  Callisto used her sword to hold off Xena’s.  Xena twisted her sword to disarm Callisto who suddenly kicked Xena’s sword from grasp.  Then something extraordinary happened.  Callisto ran up Xena’s chest flipped backwards and kicked Xena in the face.  It was the same move that Gabrielle had seen Xena use many times, but this was the first time Callisto had ever used it.  Then there was a pause in battle as Gabrielle thought of this.

     Yet her suspicions were rested when Xena mirrored the move that Callisto had made.  Then Xena flipped Callisto by the arm only to have the move reversed by Callisto.  Callisto then kicked Xena who fell back and then she slid a daggar from her boot returning to the offensive against Callisto.  The blonde warrior did not have a weapon.  Instead she dodged each strike and then jumped into a reverse flip using her legs to capture Xena into submission.  As the women fell to the ground Xena ended up on the bottom as Callisto took control.  The daggar held steady with neither woman taking the advantage.  Gabrielle suddenly sprung up from the brush realizing that she had to enter into the battle.  Callisto was about to take Xena’s life.  Gabrielle arrived behind Callisto with her spear pulled to attack.  The bard was prepared to take Callisto’s life.  Gabrielle was totally focased and could hear nothing.  Her blood raced through her veins as the vengence began to rise.  Suddenly her concentration was broken by Xena’s voice.  Xena commanded her to kill the blonde warrior, but before Gabrielle could respond her ears were filled with Callisto’s voice asking for soft mercy. 

      Callisto continued explaining to Gabrielle that she was about to tell her an impossible story.  Then it was out.  Callisto proclaimed herself to be Xena.  Her voice was calm unlike usual.  It wasn’t phsycotic or crazed.  Yet Xena responded quickly saying that Callisto’s statement was only a trick.  Callisto quickly replied with the trick being that of Ares.  She said Ares and Callisto worked together to use her own guilt against her.  This had been how Xena had become Callisto while she slept during the night.  Gabrielle found herself suddenly confused.  There was a fine line between vegence, and truth.  Xena then spoke up once again reminding Gabrielle that Callisto had taken Perdicas.  Gabrielle fought the urge to kill knowing that Callisto might be telling the truth.  Callisto’s explanation explained why Xena had been behaving so strangely and why Argo had been upset.  Then the vengence rose and almost overcame the bard’s resolve. 

     Callisto broke in one last time.  She asked Gabrielle to question Xena about her dreams since Perdicas had died.  The bard found herself confused by this strange request coming from the blonde warrior.  She wondered how the blonde even knew what she and Xena had talked about the night before.  Xena accused Callisto of tricking the bard once more.  But Gabrielle felt that the question was a valid one.  it would prove the truth in all of this confusion.  And so Gabrielle asked Xena to answer knowing that it would be simple.  Xena hesitated and then struggled to find the phsycotic words that would pull vengence from within Gabreille’s heart.  The answer Xena gave was wrong.  Xena said that Gabrielle had been dreaming of her vengence, but that was not the truth.  Then Callisto calmly broke in proclaiming that Gabrielle had dreamed of nothing since Xena had killed Perdicas.

     And so it was true.  Callisto was Xena and Xena was Callisto.  Somehow the impossible had happened and they had traded bodies.  Gabrielle was stunned and Xena relieved for she had won this battle of truth with words.  Xena looked to her friend who dropped her weapon as Callisto took the moment to escape running for the horse that Joxer had brought along with Xena.  Gabrielle then looked at Xena totally astonished by the incident.  In disbelief Gabrielle was stunned only interrupted by the sound of a flying daggar approaching her.  When Gabrielle suddenly snapped back into reality she looked up to see death.  Yet Xena was there to save her capturing the daggar within her hand.  Then Callisto rode off only she looked so much like her friend.  This left the bard with Xena who looked exactly like the one she despised.

     Again doubt rose within Gabrielle as she looked to the blonde woman who now stood before her.  The person that was once Xena rode off triumphantly as she recaptured the chackram and screamed through the woods.  This thought was chilling.  Gabrielle could not understand or comprehend.  She then asked the blonde if it was true.  Xena confirmed that she was really the bard’s truest friend.  Gabrielle was very upset.  She did not want to face this new reality.  The bard wished it were a dream, but this was truely reality.  Then Joxer awoke lost for a moment only to discover that he had missed his oppritunity to kill Callisto once again.  When Gabrielle asked Xena how this had all happened Xena revealed a plan and of how it all began.

     On the night before she had been standing staring out into the woods.  As she leaned up against the doorway she had fallen asleep.  Xena had been unable to distinguish her dream from her reality for she had just experienced the three nightmares hours before.  As Gabrielle and Joxer slept Callisto had come.  She beckoned Xena into the fog and into the darkness.  This led her into the depths of Tarturus where Callisto taunted her with her guilt.  Then Xena realized what had been happening to her.  She had been a victim of Ares who had taken the world of dreams and the world of reality making them into one.  This allowed Callisto to become his new warrior that would replace the many rejections of the warrior princess.  There was only one way to allow Callisto and Ares to succeed.  They had to bring Xena to admitting her own guilt.  The two had been successful and so Callisto was released from Tarturus as Xena and Xena found herself trapped forever.

     Xena had only one hope of escaping her guilt and eternal life within Tarturus.  She seeked out Hades who would be the only one that could help her.  Xena argued with Hades over the truth of her identity for he did not believe that she was the real Xena.  He too knew as Gabrielle had known that Callisto was very clever.  Hades continuously refused to believe Xena’s story though she seemed to know every secret of the underworld.  There was only one way that the dead could escape the underworld and it was through the guilt of those who had killed them.  This made sense to Hades, but he still did not believe.  Then Xena spoke of her beloved Marcus and of how together they had saved Hades kingdom from Atyminious.  Again Hades decided that everyone knew of that information too.  Then Xena reminded Hades of what had happened in the end.  She reminded him of how she had stabbed Marcus through the heart before him.  Her love had been unmistakeable.  Hades had been the only man to witness that knowing that Marcus would have kept that moment to himself.  Finally Hades relented although he was still displeased with Xena for allowing her guilt to free Callisto.  He said that he could only give her one day to repair her mistake for his displeasure would yield no more.  

     As soon as Xena had returned to life within Callisto’s body she found something that nearly broke her heart.  Argo had been badly wounded by Callisto though Xena was able to save her horse.  Joxer of course had to jump into the conversation reminding Xena that he had come to Argo’s aid.  The idiot was courageous and brave with his heart, but abscent with his mind thinking he could go up against Callisto alone.  Xena had thanked Joxer for his help in trying to protect her beloved horse.  She then explained that Callisto had meant for Xena to have to kill her own horse certain that it would break Xena’s heart. 

     Soon Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer had reached the cave near Amphipolis where Callisto had told Gabrielle she was going to take the people.  Armed with fire bombs Gabrielle and Joxer awaited Xena’s command for an attack.  Callisto had killed Theodoras and taken over his army as Xena.  She was preparing for Xena’s arrival as Xena had suspected.  Callisto was preparing to burn the people of Xena’s village to death the way that Callisto’s family and friends had suffered at the hands of Xena’s own army.  Then Cyrene called out to the dark nemesis unaware of the evil that lied within her.  Soon Cyrene’s senses were sharpened with truths as she gazed into the eyes of the enemy playing the part of her daughter.  Callisto then left her within fear and requested that the first torch be thrown at the feet of Xena’s mother.  She wanted Cyrene to meet certain death even if the warrior princess were to arrive before death had taken her. 

     Callisto was unaware of the danger that lurked within the cave waiting to strike.  She taunted the idea of the warrior princess’s arrival, but found herself interrupted by the arrival of Ares warning her of her out of control vengence.  Callisto did not heed Ares’s warning of Xena’s skills.  She was blinded by her vengeful goals against the warrior princess.  Callisto proclaimed that Ares was no longer in control of the situation for he had promised her satisfactin and she would have it.  She didn’t care what happened to Xena after that.  Callisto was certain that Xena would be reclaimed by Hades in Tarturus before she could stop Callisto.  Then Ares left his newfound creation with anger.  He too had underestimated his new warrior queen.  She had used him to have her vengence and now he was defeated.  As Ares disappeared Xena gave the command as Joxer and Gabrielle began to hurl the fire bombs into the cave.  Callisto’s army put out their torches immediately as the dispersed from the cave fearful of Callisto’s arrival.

     Yet Callisto had already been there and now Xena flipped into action.  Callisto was ready for battle against Xena.  She was ready to satisfy her vengeful heart.  And so the battle began as Callisto drew her sword and clashed with Xena’s.  This time Xena moved offensively within Callisto’s body.  She tried a new series of moves to catch Callisto off guard as she spun around several times an perrying with her sword after each spin.  Xena delivered a few kicks and then received a return kick from Callisto which disarmed her of her weapon.  Suddenly Xena began to fade into the setting sun as she warned Callisto that her vengence would never be realized now.  Callisto would not give up her victory over Xena for she reminded her that Xena would always know who had killed her loved ones despite being in Tarturus.  Then Callisto turned and ran for the people of Amphipolis locked away helplessly within their cell.  But before Callisto could get to a lit torch Xena made one last move.  She took a poison dart from the cuff of her wrist armor and plunged it into Callisto’s juggular. 

      Gabrielle and Joxer dashed into the cave with their weapons raised ready to do battle against Callisto.  Yet they were too late for Xena had finally disappeared forever returning to the depths of Tarturus.  Then Callisto ripped out the poison dart from her neck.  She appraoched the people of Amphipolis, but fell to the ground passing out into slumber from the poison dart.  Gabrielle realized what Xena had done.  She was making one last attempt to return Callisto to Tarturus.  Gabrielle and Joxer could only hope that Xena would return to them when it was finally over.  And so the battle raged on within Tarturus.  The battle of guilt and vengence persisted.  Xena put a face upon the vicitms that Callisto had ever taken.  She had called upon Callisto’s mother who came to reclaim her innocent child.  Callisto retreated to denial, but soon she put herself on trial.

     And then it was finally over as Xena’s body fell into Callisto’s.  As Callisto slowly rose to her feet those who had weapons held them steady.  Gabrielle then faced her enemy prepared to do battle, but the enemy had not returned.  It was Xena still within Callisto and Gabrielle was still in despair.  She did not want to believe that Xena could not return to her the way she had remembered her friend.  Callisto then proved her innocence to the bard with the words of her truest friend.  Xena spoke of Gabrielle’s own words about her belief in the power of love.  Gabrielle had once said to her friend that the true weapon against the cycle of violence was not vegence, but love.  Suddenly Gabrielle realized the she was seeing a reflection of herself within.  It came through the face of the enemy and the eyes of her truest friend.  Though Xena would never be restored to herself her soul had learned a lesson that Callisto could never understand.

     Early the next morning as Gabrielle awoke she found it difficult to rise from her slumber.  For the first time in weeks she had a dream though she wished it had been reality.  Then the bard found Joxer who stood with the blonde warrior princess.  He was clearly still shaken by the new home which now housed the soul of the warrior princess.  Gabrielle heard Xena thank Joxer once more for his courage in protecting Argo.  When Gabrielle approached Joxer’s nerves were on edge as he jumped back startled by her arrival.  The bard tried to calm him down reminding him that there was nothing left to be fearful of.  Yet Joxer protested that he was completely at ease.  As he left the two friends alone Gabrielle found herself missing Xena again.  Though her friend was right there with her it was still a great reminder of the one who had taken Perdicas from her.  Xena put Gabrielle’s heart at ease reminding her to think of Perdicas and the love she had for him when she looked at the face of Callisto instead of the hatred it commanded.  And so as the two friends moved foward together Gabrielle began to sing the song of Perdicas.  Her love for him was endless as was her love for the warrior princess.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #34: Return of Callisto

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll #34:  Return of Callisto

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

February 13th, 47 B.C. 

     I sing of the wrath of Callisto, the pain of Gabrielle, the courage of Xena, and the inefitable mystery of a friendship as immortal as the Gods.  This tragedy began during the early morning hours before the sun rose over the valley of Greece.  Xena and Gabrielle were settling into their camp by the fire when there was a strange movement coming from the brush just beyond in the woods.  Gabrielle was unaware of the presence as she slept, but Xena was like a panther yet acting without her weapon drawn.

     Xena’s reaction to the intrudor brought out of hiding the betrothed to Gabrielle from her home in Podedia.  It had been Perdicas sneaking upon them, but he had not been successful.  He had come to surprise Gabrielle for the last time they had spoken was back in Troy when Xena had rescued the beautiful Helen.  Gabrielle was very pleased to be reunited with Perdicous though back in Podedia she had rejected his courtship and wishes to be married.  And of course Perdicas had accepted that and left Podedia to become a great soldier not long after Gabrielle had left on her adventures with Xena.  He had been broken hearted and led into a new life as a result of this.  But he had triumphed over the past rejection and the two reunited in Troy rekindling their loving friendship. 

      Being with Perdicas again in this moment brought a smile upon Gabrielle’s face and a twinkle to her eye.  It was like the feeling one gets when they fall in love during those awkward years growing up.  Her heart lept as he hugged her and he too was filled with joy.  Perdicas continued flattering his old friend reminding her of how she had always been his best friend in their childhood.  Xena watched the two, but she was not surprised by their reaction to one another.  She had sensed something was going on between them, back in Troy, but chose not to bring the subject to light.  Perdicas then said that he had been searching all over for Gabrielle for all that he could see was her face.  He had said that he was unable to stop thinking about her since the day that they had parted in Troy.  And then he took her hand into his and asked her to be his wife.  Gabrielle found herself shocked and frozen within that moment. 

     It had been completely unexpected and sudden.  She did not know how to answer, but Perdicas did not show a lack of patience.  Instead he sat down alongside the camp fire with his betrothed as the two began to chat about old times and to catch up on the latest news in each other’s lives.   Gabrielle asked him what he had been doing all of this time and all he could tell her was that he had been fighting within yet another war.  Somehow he had stumbled again into a senseless battle.  It was clear that he was confused for he had not been seeking more blood.  Yet blood had somehow found him once again.  As Perdicas continued on with his own life the conversation turned very grim.  It was obvious to Gabrielle that Perdicas was deeply upset about something within.  She inquired of him with only a look, and he told of a battle that he had recently been involved in.  He spoke of how he had killed three men.  This experience had led him into dreams and visions of all of the men’s lives he had ever taken as a soldier.  The feeling that overtook him drove him to almost take his own life as he held his own daggar over his heart.  And just as Gabrielle was begining to feel great sadness and guilt for leaving him back in Podedia for a life with Xena Perdicas finished his story.  He spoke of the thing that had made him rethink taking his life.  That thing was a vision of the face of his betrothed looking him in the the eye and asking him to give life another chance.

     That experience had led Perdicas to seek out Gabrielle and to drop before her with his now sudden surprise.  Gabrielle found herself uncertain that she would be able to fill his heart.  She thought that maybe Perdicas was placing too much hope within her.  Gabrielle expressed to him her uncertainty.  She did not want him to be disappointed by a second rejection.  The bard did not want him to be disappointed for she too had been in battle alongside Xena many times.  Yet Peridcas reminded her that he knew within his heart though he had never been there that Gabrielle never took a life.  Gabrielle was still uncomfortable with this for there was at least the possiblity for her to take a life.  She had learned that about herself long ago. 

     Perdicas then looked deeply into her eyes and he reminded her of her first rejection.  The bard’s skin crawled with guilt as she was about to try to defend her choice.  Yet Perdicas’s kind and soothing voice told her that though it had hurt him that she had been in the right.  Neither had been ready to wed when he had asked for her hand in marriage the first time.  Then Peridicas took a deep breath and confessed that he was now certain he was ready to marry.  The bard could see the hope he placed upon her as she mulled over this difficult choice before her.  Gabrielle found herself extremely uncomfortable for a marriage proposal was not at all what she had expected from Perdicous on this morning.  Suddenly she found herself at a cross roads with her oldest friend.  Gabrielle did not want to offend him or make the wrong choice.  She had felt responsible for his having chosen to pick up the sword and lose his blood innocence.  The bard realized that whatever the choice she made it could affect the outcome of Perdicas’s life again.  Gabrielle was not as certain of her feelings for Perdicous as he seemed to be for her.  And then she could not take the pressure within this moment.  She excused herself from Perdicas’s side for she needed time to gather her feelings and to think.  Perdicas understood as she went to seek her answer.

     Later in the morning as the sun had risen Xena, and Gabrielle walked along the coast chatting.  Perdicas walked ahead of them patiently as Gabrielle watched him with innocent eyes.  She was still intrigued yet her thoughts and joys were interuppted by Xena’s question.  The warrior princess wanted to know what Gabrielle’s choice was going to be.  Gabrielle wasn’t certain really because she was still thinking on it.  Yet the bard played it off for she knew this choice would affect one friend or another.  She was trying to decide who would need her most.  Gabrielle loved both Perdicas and Xena very deeply.  She did not want to hurt either of them.  Then she answered the warrior princess by telling her that her choice was that she would not marry Perdicous. 

     Xena knew what was going through her friend’s mind although she was waiting for Gabrielle to bring out the truth within her heart.  The warrior princess challenged Gabrielle’s answer by asking her why she had not yet told the poor lovesick young man who walked just twenty paces ahead of them.  Gabrielle found herself feeling guilt once more for she realized that she would not be able to keep up this charrade much longer.  Even if Perdicas didn’t know what was going on it was clear that Xena did.  Then Xena tried to help her friend with her choice.  She told the bard that she felt that Perdicas was a good man.  Gabrielle agreed without hesitation as she thought about him.  She thought of how kind, sensative, and caring he was.  Gabrielle expressed to Xena how she felt more comfortable around Perdicas than anyone else she had ever known in life with the exception of the warrior princess. 

     Xena then paused with Argo and looked directly to Gabrielle.  She told Gabrielle that she need not worry about her for she could manage on her own.  Gabrielle had Xena’s blessing for if settling down and marrying Perdicas was what made the bard happy then Xena would be happy too.  Xena’s words were very encouraging for Gabrielle   And then she thought about what Xena had said.  She began to find more reasons to say yes than she realized.  Xena’s  encouragement had somehow released the pressure of this choice.  Yet as one burden had suddenly been released a new one approached from above just upon the cliffs.  It was the voice of the bumbling idiot Joxer.  He seemed gripped by fear and excitement.  Joxer had been running for a long time for he was out of breath revelaing that the infamous blonde warrior Callisto had escaped from prison. 

     There was little time to think now for Xena was ready to clean up the mess that she had seemingly left behind.  The warrior princess tracked Callisto to a village half a marathon away.  There she found a new dark force burning the village to the ground as the people were ravaged by an army of darkness.  She waited for the right moment and then she caught sight of the blonde nemisis.  Callisto drew her sword and was about to strike a helpless man down when Xena’s chackram cut in.  The sword was robbed from the enemy as Xena’s trusty chackram returned to her hand.  Callisto screamed with frustration, but then she looked up to see the one she seeked.  The warrior princess was ready for Callisto’s next move, but instead of a move it was a sentimental moment.  Callisto told Xena that she had missed the warrior princess.  Xena smirked at the comment and waited. 

      All was silent as Callisto’s eyes scanned the village.  Then a smile spread across her fair face.  Xena followed those firey brown eyes to see that there was a little girl no more than the age of seven.  The warrior princess knew instantly what her fate was to be.  Callisto then looked back toward Xena and suddenly drew her daggar from her side kicking the victim behind her.  She then began to advance slowly walking with great confidence and spite.  Though she was looking at Xena her eyes flickered in the direction of the little girl.  Suddenly Callisto raised her dagger for the throw still looking in the direction of Xena, but Xena saw her release it in the direction of the girl.  The warrior princess rushed to aid the little girl as the path of the daggar approached the innocent.  Then Xena dove for the weapon of death and caught it just before its impact.  The little girl was saved, but Xena was facing her own death for Callisto’s quickness. 

      Callisto had recaptured her sword and held it to Xena’s face.  She was clearly in control and the warrior princess was at the mercy of darkness.  Then Callisto commented on the passion that drove Xena’ s warrior skill.  She said that Xena was too sentimental for she fought with her heart.  Callisto had exploited the heart of the warrior princess in order to gain the advantage.  She had succeeded and reminded Xena of this.  Callisto declared that she herself no longer had a heart.  Then she told the warrior princess that she was not going to kill her now for she wanted to kill her soul and then take her life.   The blonde nemisis then laughed as she shealthed her sword flipping out of the village and screaming out with rage as she left.  Before she made her final exit she laughed once more as she looked to Xena and kissed her from a distance.  Then Callisto turned and ran awaiting the outcome of her new game.

     The chase lasted through the day and into the night as Xena, Gabrielle, and Perdicas tried desparately to stop her army from destroying villages.  Yet Callisto’s armies seemed endless.  They were everywhere and there weren’t enough good warriors to defeat the dark warriors.  Perdicas fought well for he was indeed a good soldier.  He could block the advances of the enemy and he was brave as he moved in battle.  Gabrielle fought alongside him with her staff only to find herself being overtaken by the enemy.  She struggled to regain control of the staff as the raging fires burned all around her.  In the heat of battle Perdicas had found himself having to take another life.  He thrust his sword straight through his enemy’s stomach.  The enemy fell instantly into death as Perdicas froze. 

      Xena saw what had happened as she rushed to aid Gabrielle.  The warrior princess attacked the enemy that fought against Gabrielle and reclaimed the staff for her friend.  Gabrielle was grateful for the assistance as she prepared to continue on in the seemingly endless abyss of the battle.  Yet before she could look to strike another blow upon the dark forces she caught sight of Perdicas knealing before the dead man.  She approached him as he clutched his sword resting the point upon the ground.  His head was bowed in silence and the bard could see that he was distraught and hurting inside.  She then knelt down beside him as he looked to her with anger and cursed the acts of a soldier.  He proclaimed that he could not fight anymore.  Perdicas would no longer carry a sword or allow himself to fight and take another life.  He then stood angerily throwing down his weapon and  finished his statement.  Perdicas told Gabrielle that it no longer matter to him whether or not she said yes.  He was going to return to Potedia where he would hopefully find peace.  Then the kindhearted Perdicas stormed off into the darkness of the night.

      As Gabrielle watched him leave she realized what it was that ate away at him.  Every kill that he had ever made had taken away a part of him.  She was begining to understand what it was that had made Xena speak so strongly against living by the sword.  The bard was suddenly interrupted by Xena who was shocked to see Perdicas leaving yet again.  Then Gabrielle knew what she must choose.  If she continued on with Xena she risked her heart being torn apart the way Perdicas’s heart had been.  The bard looked to her friend and answered the question from the morning.  She was going to marry Perdicas. 

     And so on the next day Perdicas and Gabrielle were wed.  The ceremony was small, quiet, yet beautiful.  Only the old priest, Xena, and Joxer witnessed the union as the final blessings were given.  The priest sprinkled the petels of fresh flowers upon the two young lovers as they looked to each other with joy and happiness.  There was bliss within Perdicas’s eyes for he was truely happy.  Peace could finally come into his battered heart.  Gabrielle then turned to Xena as the warrior princess gave her happy blessing once again.  Joxer’s deep goofy laughter echoed through the temple as he congratulated Perdicas upon his new union.  And then Joxer approached Xena and Gabrielle awaiting to steel an embrace with the bride, but Xena gave him a sidelong glance asking him to step outside.  Joxer took the hint, but he did not go outside.  Instead he joined Perdicas by the door as two friends began to say their good-byes.

      Gabrielle looked to Xena seeing the sadness in her friend’s eyes.  Xena tried to be strong as she grabbed the bard’s shoulders and squeezed them saying that this was not good-bye.  The warrior princess insisted that she would be knocking on Gabrielle’s door often.  So often that Gabrielle would be weary of her visits.  Gabrielle wasn’t so certain that this was true for she knew the life of the warrior princess.  Then Xena tried to reassure the bard that everything would be truely all right.  Xena asked Gabrielle if she was now happy and Gabrielle’s heart replied with a smile.  She felt the joy of being released from the warrior life though she would miss Xena dearly.  Then Xena embraced Gabrielle and then she looked down into her soul.  The warrior princess leaned down to touch the lips of her friend sharing in the joy of her new life.  Through this Gabrielle could feel what Xena’s heart truely needed.  She was reminded of the Chariots of War and of how Xena had once had the chance to settle down before.  The bard decided that she would encourage this for her friend hoping that she would be able to find the same peace and joy within.  Gabrielle then gave her the beautiful bouquet which she held as Xena smirked at the action.  Then Gabrielle parted from the warrior princess and joined her new husband.  She looked back at the warrior princess just one last time as Xena stood alone in the temple waiving with the lonely bouquet.  Gabrielle then felt Perdicas pull her onto their path together as laughter filled her soul.  

     The two lovers then traveled on toward Potedia to return home.  That night they stopped at an inn near the main road.  As the two prepared to share in their physical union Gabrielle was curious and nervous.  Perdicas noticed this and tried to break the silence as he inquired of Xena.  Gabrielle had indeed been still thinking about her friend.  The bard was still concerned for Xena’s new void.  Gabrielle had sensed Xena’s lonlieness when they had parted.  It was difficult for her as well yet she thought of Perdicas knowing that she was not as alone as the warrior princess would be.  Then Perdicas asked her if she had made the right choice.  He wasn’t so sure that she was happy being with him.  Yet Gabrielle eased his worries as she approached him with a bright smile. 

     Then she asked Perdicas if  they were to make a little girl if they could honor Xena.  Perdicas interrupted Gabrielle knowing that she wished to name their first girl Xena.  He was proud to share that name for his first baby girl.  Then Gabrielle asked Perdicas if he was still innocent, but Perdicas was not.  He was caught off guard and uneasy by her inquiry for it brought a sense of shame and guilt.  Perdicas tried to search for a worthy explanation.  He reminded Gabrielle that it was part of the life of a soldier.  This did not comfort the bard much and it made her still more nervous for she was inexperienced.  She was innocent in every way.  As she approached her husband she looked to him and tried to lighten the mood and to ease his guilt and pain.  He was truely tainted yet his soul was still pure.  Perdicas let out a nervous laugh trying to drown any expectations his new wife may have had of him.  Then he took Gabrielle’s hands into his and gazed deeply into her soul.  The two lovers shared in a soft tender kiss which lead them into a passionate night.

      And after sharing a night of love and of passion the two awoke together on the next morning refreshed.  Gabrielle was certain that she had finally discovered the truth of life.  She had been seeking it for so long and especially after all of her experiences alongside the warrior princess.  The bard was fortunate to have been able to have all of the wonderful adventures, and now she was fortunate to have love.  She and Perdicas traveled along the highway toward home stopping to share a passionate kiss together along the way.  As Gabrielle ran her fingers through his hair she was drunk with love.  Perdicas’s name escaped softly from her lips.  Then she was compelled to share her discovery of love telling Perdicas that love was more powerful than any other force upon the earth for it could unite everything.

      The moment of love and of power continued until it was interrupted by a familiar voice.  It was the voice of the blonde nemisis.  She was upon a horse smiling with a clever eye as she intruded upon Gabrielle’s comments of love.  Callisto then agreed with the innocent bard for love was indeed powerful for it did unite.  But she was certain that there was another force that was just as powerful.  Hate divided she said and with that she inquired of which must be the stronger.  Then Callisto dismounted from her horse instantly drawing her sword.  Perdicas turned to face hate with love proclaiming that darkness would be fighting the unarmed.  Callisto ignored Perdicas’s peaceful advance for it was not Perdicas that she was after.  The blonde nemisis then took her sword and slashed it across the arm of Perdicas and threw him to the ground wounded. 

      It was as if he had not even been present for she walked right through him.  Callisto’s firey brown eyes looked to Gabrielle as she approached the bard.  Gabrielle shouted out to her wounded husband with concern and great fear.  He did not answer as Callisto kicked the bard’s chin knocking her violently to the ground.  Gabrielle lied down in the dirt knowing that the end was near.  She and Perdicas would face death together at the hands of the evil Callisto.  Callisto raised her weapon for the kill as Gabrielle could see the phsycotic rage within her.  Then the bard heard the sounds of hooves pounding upon the highway as Callisto proclaimed words of death.  Suddenly Argo’s voice sounded followed by Xena’s battle cry through the darkness and she flipped off of her horse through the air landing to face the evil nemisis.  Callisto screamed with frustration as she was kicked in the chest by Xena as they flipped apart. 

     Gabrielle suddenly rose from the ground and fell back to watch the battle between love and hate unfold.  Callisto declared that she had come to take away Xena’s friend.  She was certain that she would soon see Xena standing over the body of her slain friend.  Xena was defiant of Callisto’s rage declaring that Gabrielle would not be taken from her.  Callisto tilted her head with the sound of inquiry and then the battle began.  Two clashes of the sword followed by one slap across the face from Callisto responded with a return slap.  Then the sounds of rage exchanging with passion.  Xena swung her sword above her head and then down matching Callisto’s moves.  Neither made contact, but then Callisto struck again with an offensive kick missing the target.  Xena reflected the move with great speed and agility making contact to the face of the enemy. 

     Callisto fell back with surprise not expecting the warrior princess to adjust.  She was now with her back to Xena stumbling to regain her balance.  As she rose up Perdicas was coming out of his injury.  He was trying to stumble to his own feet when he looked up to find a direct confrontation.  And then it was all like a nightmare.  His eyes spoke of shock, surprise, and fear.  The warrior princess stood frozen in the moment unable to make a move for this was beyond what she had expected.  Callisto charged forward with her sword as Perdicas was helpless and without defense.  Yet he did not attempt to fight.  He walked toward Gabrielle as he looked into her her eyes.  It was as if he were saying good-bye.  His hand reached out as he stumbled toward his love.  And then Callisto’s sword went straight through his innocent heart. Her screams echoed through the air as Gabrielle’s heart felt the blow of her weapon. 

      The bard screamed out as if barely able to breath and within disbelief.  Then she called out to Perdicas with desparation running forth to save him.  Callisto smiled and sheathed her weapon.  She flipped backward upon her horse and proclaimed that she had succeeded beyond her imagined dream.  Then she rode off screaming all the way.  Gabrielle watched with great anger as her wounded heart bled like never before.  Once the blonde disappeared and her screams could no longer be heard Gabrielle shook her head still shocked by her tragic loss.  Xena was helpless to comfort her friend as she stroked her shoulder within her own disbelief.  Gabrielle held Perdicas’s head tightly into her chest.  His eyes were distant and lost.  There was blood seeping out from the corners of his mouth.  The breath in his chest was no more and his heart was gone forever. 

     Gabrielle held Perdicas within her arms for a long time.  The stunning feeling of this loss could barely escape her.  She rocked with him as knelt down beside the divided lovers.  Divided by hate and by death now Gabrielle had to go on.  Xena spoke of how she had known to come looking for Callisto.  She had run into Theodoras Callisto’s first in command.  He had told her of Callisto’s plan.  Yet this did not comfort a wounded heart.  It only made the blood that it was drenched within run cold and hard.  That night Xena prepared a funeral fire to honor the one they had lost.  She sang her beautiful native song with love and hope.  Yet it was not enough to ease the pain inside.  All Gabrielle could think to do now was to get her vengence.  Suddenly it was all very clear to her what the farmer Melos had been talking about.  It felt as if the only way to quench the pain was to have Callisto’s blood.  Gabrielle was certain that it would release her heart from the pain.  It would wash away the hurt and her heart could be restored.

     The bard told Xena what she was going to do.  She would finish mourning on this night and then set out to fight hate with vengence.  When the warrior princess heard those words escaping from the innocence of her truest friend she found herself alarmed.  Worry filled the warrior princess as she tried to convince her friend that vegence would not cure her bleeding heart.    Yet Gabrielle’s mind was clouded by this certainty of the vengence.  She argued with Xena who seemingly did not understand the hurt she felt inside.  Xena continued to plead with Gabrielle about this, but Gabrielle challenged her.  She told Xena that she would not mourn another moment upon the rising sun.  Instead she would seek out and find Callisto.  She then told Xena that she could either join her in her quest or she could kill Callisto without Xena.

     Gabrielle did not sleep at all on this night for when the first sun rose she was practicing with Perdicas’s sword.  Her frustration was unbearable as she hacked at the large oak with the sharp weapon.  The bard knew that she was not a skilled swordsman, but felt that she had no other choice.  So she continued to pour out her pain and anguish onto the tree as the warrior princess watched helplessly.

 Xena had hoped that Gabrielle would have been able to cool her rage inside during the night, but it was clear that it would take more than a night.  The warrior princess called to her friend softly approaching.  Gabrielle haulted within her rage for a moment and turned to face her friend.  She asked if it was time to begin their quest to seak out and kill Callisto.  Xena answered her reluctantly, but warned her not to approach a battle against Callisto alone.  Gabrielle was not afraid.  She was wreckless at best and Xena could sense it.  Xena understood this feeling for it was how she had felt upon losing her brother Lycious.  Then Gabrielle demonstrated her careless attitude further declaring that it did not matter if she died as long as Callisto went down with her.

     But Xena feared that Gabrielle would never get close enough to strike a blow.  Callisto would take her down and then mangle the helplessly innocent creature.  Xena knew that it was what Callisto wanted.  Vengence would deliver Gabrielle into Callisto’s hands without the slightest effort.  Gabrielle’was unable to think clearly.  She was blinded by her hatred as she scolded the warrior princess for never teaching her how to use a sword properly.  Xena was hurt by this attack for because Gabrielle’s heart had turned cold Xena’s heart suffered.  The warrior princess could not let Callisto succeed at destroying her greatest treasure.  Xena reminded Gabrielle of her ideals and values.  These were the reasons that Xena had never given Gabrielle a sword.  There were truths within the innocence yet innocence suffered.  Xena reminded Gabrielle that if she traded that innocence for vengence that Callisto would win.  Yet Gabrielle was certain that Callisto had already succeeded in her victory for she had proven that hate was more powerful than love upon taking the life of Perdicas.

     Xena’s frustrations boiled over as she realized that teaching the art of the sword to an innocent out of control would certainly bring it to its death.  The warrior princess then turned away from Gabrielle in disgust refusing to give innocence its desired vengence.  Yet the bard persisted as anger spewed from within.  She turned and struck the tree again with the sword.  The sound of innocence clashing with vengence echoed through the peace.  It was enough to bring Xena back to face Gabrielle.  Again she refused demonstrating the strength that Gabrielle’s innocence had given her.  Yet Gabrielle could not see through the darkness.  She began to jab her weapon into the stomach of the warrior princess crying out for a lesson like a child.  The stubborn bard would not lose this war of words.  And so Xena finally released her displeasure and disarmed the bard with a single harsh kick.  Again she said no.  Xena turned away once more denying her heart of the new truth of innocence.

     Gabrielle then shouted out knowing why the warrior princess refused her a lesson.  She could see that her friend was trying desparately to protect her from the world.  Yet this time she could not for the world had come in and taken her love.  And so Gabrielle declared what the warrior princess did not want to hear.  She said that her innocence was dead.  There was nothing left inside to protect.  Then the bard pleaded with Xena calmly expressing her desire to at least have a chance at erradicating the evil that had stolen her innocence.  The warrior princess then surrendered realizing that only Gabrielle could make the decision to protect her own innocence.  And so the lesson began Xena instructed the bard gravely serious and harsh.  She wanted to teach Gabrielle how ugly vegence really is.  As she told her to look for an opening Xena explained that the eyes always revealed the next move.

      As the day wore on Gabrielle was tireless in her yearning to learn the sword.  As Xena stared blankly into her eyes Gabrielle could see that Xena was shielding her soul from the truth.  Xena was still in denial.  Gabrielle began spinning and weaving the images of blood within her mind.  She could visualize Callisto’s final moment at the end of her sword.  Gabrielle could see the open wound and flowing out of it like a raging river Callisto’s blood.  These horrid thoughts drove the vengence even harder.  They took vengence on a frenzy of fantasies about killing the enemy.  Every possible scenario of Callisto’s death at the end of her sword ran through her mind. 

      The morning led into the afternoon, and afternoon into the evening.  Darkness fell upon the camp as the lessons of the sword finally ceased.  Yet the desire to kill would not go still.  Joxer had soon arrived at the camp with news of Callisto.  He told Xena where her hideout was located and then Xena left him to stay with Gabrielle while she scouted.  Gabrielle sat alongside Joxer who said little.  He was unable to relate and did not want to stir a raging heart.  The moments of waiting wore on as if it had been an enternity since Xena had gone scouting.  Gabrielle began to feel that maybe Xena would try to steal her kill.  She rose from her spot upon the cold stone next to Joxer ready to seek out Callisto herself.  Joxer held her back as Xena returned.  Xena had been watching and waiting to see if Gabrielle might come to her senses.  Still blinded Gabrielle was ready to fight, but Xena advised against it for the moment.  Vengence would have to wait another night. 

     Xena had a plan and she went over it with Gabrielle.  She spoke of the party going on in Callisto’s hideout.  Xena suggested that they wait until early morning to strike for all would be passed out from the wine.  They would be defenseless and killing Callisto would be simple for there was a hidden passage to spy.  Again Xena warned Gabrielle of going up against Callisto alone.  She knew what the bard would try to do.  Xena was firm with her blind friend explaining to her that if Callisto was going to suffer it would have to be done by the way of the warrior princess.  Then Xena left Gabrielle within anger and frustration as the bard slammed her sword down upon the rock.  The longer the bard waited to relieve her heart’s pain the more she was driven to want to kill.  She was not certain that she could hold back for much longer.  Gabrielle knew that Xena wanted to steal her kill because she felt responsible for this mess.  Xena blamed herself for creating this phsycotic witch. 

     But then out of the loud frustrations Gabrielle heard the sound of a soothing voice beyond the brush.  She went to investigate it and found Xena knealing down to pray.  Gabrielle had never known Xena to pray to the gods for the warrior princess made it known that she despised them.  And then as Gabrielle listened she heard the prayer.  It was for her.  Xena was praying to save Gabrielle’s soul from its vengence.  She spoke eloquently of the light that Gabrielle was to her and of how Gabrielle’s friendship had inspired her.  It was because of Gabrielle that she had continued on at a time in her life that she had been ready to give up.  She pleaded with the gods to save Gabrielle’s light from going out.  The warrior princess was uncertain of the darkness that would most certainly follow. 

     Then Gabrielle returned to her rock where she debated within trying to sort out vegence, truth, justice, and faith.  It was more than she could understand now.  There was a moment when the mysteries of life had seemed clear to her, but now she stood before uncertainty.  When Xena returned to her Gabrielle told her that she had been right about mourning.  Gabrielle truely did need more time to mourn Perdicous yet she did not share her undying vengeful desires.  Xena was surprised for this was the first moment of calm she had seen within Gabrielle since Perdicous’s death.  The warrior princess encouraged the bard with her loving compassion to continue the unfinished mourning process which tormented her friend.  And then she promised that she would be sure to take care of Callisto.  In Xena’s eyes Callisto was not Gabrielle’s responsibility.  Gabrielle then told Xena that she was going to travel out alone for a while.  Xena did not know how to respond.  Instead she watched as Gabrielle held Perdicous’s sword tightly to her chest and left camp alone to wade through the darkness.

     As the sun rose Gabrielle had escaped Xena’s watchful eyes.  She found the secret passageway that Xena had scouted the night before and entered into her most tying moment.  As the bard walked among the passed out soldiers deep within Callisto’s cavern she approached the sleeping enemy.  There was something strange about seeing the enemy in such a vulnerable state.  This was the only time that Callisto ever appeared remotely innocent to the bard.  Yet the rage and the blood were driving her heart and soul as she raised her weapon for the kill.  And then just before Gabrielle was about to surrender innocence to vengence a memory began to flood into her mind.  It was a reminder of the day that Gabrielle realized what the cycle of violence was.  She recalled telling Xena that she never wanted to see her friend give in to it even if the bard herself would be taken by it one day.

     Then another more recent memory flooded into her mind.  It was the face of her betrothed reminding her of what it was that he loved most about Gabrielle.  She had never before raised a weapon to kill.  He professed his love for her once more through this vision.  Then there was a final vision.  It was of Xena’s prayer from the night before pleading with the gods to protect her inner light.  Gabrielle soon realized what all of these visions meant.  The first was reminding her of what would happen to Xena should Callisto succeed in killing Gabrielle.  Gabrielle knew what would happen.  The second was to remind her of what it was that made people love her.  It was her pure innocent heart despite the pain it must face.  And the final vision brought her to understand what Xena meant when she had spoken of the darkness that would follow.  She was not talking of Gabrielle’s darkness.  Xena was talking of her own.

      Gabrielle realized that if she surrendered innocence to vengence that it would destroy Xena.  She could not allow that to happen to her.  This kill would cause more destruction in the aftermath than it would to surrender it to innocence.  And so her pain began to well up into her eyes as small tears began to fall.  Her body became limp as the sword suddenly dropped crashing onto the floor. 

     The sound startled the sleeping nemisis awakening her.  Callisto’s first in command Theodoras also awoke drawing his weapon to protect Callisto.  Callisto had a daggar and it was drawn before her eyes were open.  Finally when they came into focas the look of pleasant surprise pierced through Gabrielle.  Yet as Gabrielle’s chest rose and fell with fear and anticipation Callisto found confusion.  She expressed that she was uncertain of Gabrielle for she had not been able to kill despite all of the pain Callisto had caused her.  Callisto appeared intrigued by this innocence.  Then Gabrielle explained that with her powerful innocence she could not take a life though her pain was great.  Callisto relished the moment knowing that either way she would have won.  She was just going to kill Gabrielle in the end.  Gabrielle expressed that she was willing and ready to die.  Yet Callisto wanted to make a spectacle of Gabrielle’s death for Xena to witness.  Callisto was cryptic and dramatic.  This was something that Gabrielle despised.

     Soon Callisto had Gabrielle prepared for her death as she and her men quietly awaited Xena’s arrival.  All lied down pretending to be sleeping as Xena tip toed into Callisto’s trap.  As Xena scanned the scene she had no chance for soon the helpless Gabrielle caught her glance.  Gabrielle had been tied to a post and surrounded by logs ready to be burned to death by fire.  Callisto seemed to favor an agonizing death.  It was the scar in her heart from a death she had witnessed long ago.  Callisto and her men soon rose from their positions capturing Xena who could do nothing, but surrender.  Soon the warrior princess was bound to the chair from which she had taken command.  Callisto seemed to enjoy hearing herself talk.  She talked about her escape from that very same chair which had held her in her prison for so long.  Callisto explained her plot and how she had escaped.  The guards would beat her daily, but they were careless for they had left the keys within reach of the infamous killer.  And with that Callisto escaped killing all twenty guards that worked within her prison.  Those who had once been captive with her were released and recruited into her army.

     After telling her story of triumphant escape Callisto commented on the beautiful new weapon she had aquired.  She then held it up to display it and then placed the chackram into her belt for safe keeping.  Xena warned Callisto not to enjoy the company of the chackram too long, but Callisto shot back asking her how she was planning to escape this complicated scenario.  Xena did not have an answer.  Instead Callisto answered herself looking to Gabrielle.  Her firey eyes were almost regretful for a moment as she expressed her jealousy of the bard.  Callisto spoke of how Gabrielle would leave life in tact without having been tainted by the loss of innocence.  Then the moment of regret passed back into the phsycotic rage which engulfed it.  Suddenly Callisto gave the command to burn the bard.  Theodoras and the other men lit the logs which surrounded Gabrielle.  Gabrielle found herself regretful for having brought Xena into this mess of her heart.

      The flames quickly rose as the fire crackled beneath her feet and around her.  Gabrielle looked down helplessly and without hope.  Then she heard Xena struggling to break free from the chair which bound her.  Gabrielle looked up and noticed that Xena’s eyes spoke.  Xena’s hope was still intact for she had not given up despite the odds.  Callisto’s attention was then drawn away from the burning bard back to Xena.  She was amused that Xena was even trying to break free for her victory was certain.  Then Gabrielle suddenly realized what Xena’s plan was.  She was bringing Callisto close enough so that she could steal back her chackram.  There was only one problem.  Callisto’s attention would have to be diverted again once the chackram moved within reach of the warrior princess.  Gabrielle then waited for the right moment and then she began her own dramatic struggle. 

     Just as Xena was going to reach for her chackram there was an unexpected disturbance.  Xena quickly retrieved the chackram with her foot as Callisto moved away to confront Joxer charging into the cavern with his sword raging above his head as he screamed out.  Yet his moment was short lived for he found himself suddenly struck down by Callisto as he tumbled backwards onto the ground.  Callisto became enraged at his interruption as if commanding him.  She demanded to know what he was attempting to accomplish.  Then Joxer rose before Callisto courageously though clumbsy.  He said that he had come to save his friends as he walked passing Callisto toward Xena.  His glory was quickly deminished for he found himself struck in the shoulder by an arrow.  The the bumbling idot fell to the ground in shock yet his wound was not serious.  Xena quickly took advantage of the moment as she used her foot to hurl the chackram into the air releasing her hand for a throw.  Then the chackram roared as she thrust it toward the binds which held the bard within her furious fire.  As the chackram ripped through the ropes Gabrielle flipped over the burning fire to safety as Xena then used the returning chackram to free herself from her own binds.

     Gabrielle found herself having to choose a weapon.  She chose to take up the staff once more as she stole one from the approaching enemies.  As Gabrielle held the men off Xena completed her escape and began battling through the approaching lines.  She kicked and punched her way down toward Callisto as Gabrielle battled on with her staff.  Xena then flipped up to the top of the cavern and used her whip to swing down onto Theodoras rendering him helpless.  For Xena to win this battle against Callisto it would have to be a one on one confrontation.  Xena then flipped into action standing before Callisto with her weapon drawn.  Callisto smiled as if satisfied that she would have to be challenged yet again by the wrath of the warrior princess.  She complemented Xena’s skill although hers matched with equal power. 

     And then the ultimate battle began between the forces of love and of hate.  The two women mirrored one another’s moves as they fliped across one another clashing swords together.  The battle cries of the rivals were heard clearly defining this moment of history.  Opposite one another again Callisto shouted out and charged missing her first strike.  Xena retaliated with a blow on the back as the two rounded to face once more.    Callisto pivoted with her evil smile showing as the two women twirled their weapons for the next round.  This time Xena went on the offensive as she turned her weapon downward and perried with this unique style.  It was a test of Callisto’s skill.  Xena was hoping to catch the advantage, but instead the swords clashed with equal force.  Callisto then resorted to using a spin and then a kick.  Then there was as second kick.  Xena quickly recovered taking the blows and mirroring Callisto’s move.  Callisto went for a slap, but Xena dodged it.  The two returned and exchanged kicks and punches until Callisto went high.  Xena ducked and went low with her sword.  Neither could gain the advantage. 

     Callisto pivoted around to face Xena again.  She was out of breath realizing that she could not win the test of endurance.  Then she suggested a chariot race instantly sheathing her sword and flipping out to her chariot.  Theodoras charged at the warrior princess to protect Callisto again, but Xena took him down with a single punch.  Callisto was unpredictable as always.  Gabrielle then called out to Xena to charge Callisto in the chariot race.  Xena quickly rushed out to the chariot that awaited her.  Callisto had a good start, but Xena quickly coaxed her horses to speed.  Hooves pounded, and horses screamed as the two women raced along the shore of the ocean.  Xena called out to Callisto as she approached upon her chariot.  Callisto let out a scream and then banged her chariot up against Xena’s.  She began slapping Xena accross the face and clearly had the advantage. 

       Callisto’s chariot had sharp edges upon its wheels which ripped through the wheels of Xena’s chariot.  Xena’s wheels soon shredded to pieces as her chariot went crashing violently out of control.  Just before Xena was about to lose the race she reached for her whip and used it to grab onto Callisto’s chariot.  Suddenly the warrior princess was yanked from her ride and dragged along the wet sand behind Callisto.  The nemisis was delighted to be winning and took great pleasure in Xena’s struggle to survive the game.  Xena slowly climbed up the whip toward Callisto.  It was difficult to say what Callisto would do next.  She then decided to speed up the chariot race to throw Xena off into the water down below.  When Callisto noticed that Xena was too close she began to struggle to free the whip from the chariot, but without success.  Xena had already reached her and climbed in to battle. 

     The two women struggled punching one another, and wrestling around for control.  There were the sounds of love and hate crying out desparately for a victory.  Neither could overpower the other.  Yet they found themselves suddenly falling out of the chariot in their struggle rolling down the beach into an unexpected despair.  It was quicksand that they had fallen into and it seemed that the forces of love and of hate would perish in doom together.  Callisto found it amusing, but Xena ignored her cryptic excitement.  Instead she struggled to reach for her most valueable weapon.  Beneath the quicksand as Xena sank further she obtained her chackram and then broke it free.  She then threw it into a boulder just outside the pit and used her whip to climb out. 

     Callisto was impressed that despite the odds again Xena was going to escape death.  It was almost as if she were begining to see the light that had escaped her entire life.  As hate sank loved rose from its demise.  Callisto then pleaded with the warrior princess to save her.  Her pleas came upon deaf ears for love could no longer save one tainted with so much hate.  Finally Callisto’s end had come for her vicious fearful screams could be heard throughout the land.  Then hate disappeared forever within the sand as the warrior princess had defeated the vengence she felt she had created.

     Peace had come upon all once again although no one would ever be the same.  Xena tended to Joxer’s wounded shoulder as she pumped up his warrior pride.  He had been worried his wound was serious, but Xena assured him that it would soon heal.  Then Joxer the Mighty said that he had decided he would travel alone for he would be a much better warrior lone than as a sidekick.  And so Joxer the Mighty was off on his own mischevious adventures while the bard stood by the ocean before the setting sun.  She watched its light slowly disappear over the western horizen and listened to the gentle waves.  The sun was Perdicas going home and the waves were his soul whispering to her heart reaching out.  Gabrielle’s heart reached out to Perdicous’s soul for she wanted to hear him, to feel him, and to love him again.  As she took a deep breath in and closed her eyes she was interruputed by the warrior princess.  Xena asked of her what she had been doing.  She spoke of how she was only loving Perdicous once more.  It was time to begin healing from the pain.  Xena assured Gabrielle that Perdicas was there still.  Gabrielle knew that he could hear her thoughts of love.  She knew that he would be there with her forever in her heart.