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.

xena_s2_destiny_dArc_872

     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.

xena_s2_destiny_dArc_1443

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #48: A Necessary Evil

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#48:  A Necessary Evil

September 18, 47 B.C.

After a long quest and much personal debating a decision was finally made by the amazon princess.  She prepared for a beautiful ceremony in masking the new queen of the amazons.  It was a peaceful and beautiful moment as the amazons passed the mask of queenhood down from the mighty Melosa to the elequent Ephiny.  Princess Gabrielle received the beautifully decorated mask and then turned to face the wise new queen.  Gabrielle had determined that Velaska was not fit to carry on the amazon nation ethically and respectfully as she herself was not prepared for the awesome responsibility that comes with being masked as the queen.  The amazon princess was certain that there was much more she could learn alongside the warrior princess and was confident that Ephiny would be the right choice.

The moment had come to present the new queen to all as Gabrielle stated before the amazon nation that the queenhood rightfully belonged to Ephiny.  Gabrielle was certain in her heart that Melosa would have wanted it that way in the abscence of the former amazon princess Terrais.  Ephiny’s response was gentle and selfless.  She declared before the amazon nation that she would only accept the mask of queenhood in Gabrielle’s abscence.  Ephiny reminded the inexperienced amazon princess of her rite to the amazons.  Amazon law still declared that Gabrielle was the rightful queen despite Gabrielle’s decision to pass the responsibility to Ephiny.  Then Ephiny smiled reminding Gabrielle of what the sisterhood of the amazons was truely about.  It was about selfless sacrifice, trust, and courage.

Gabrielle suddenly found herself embarressed and then managed to find a way to lighten the serious moment.  She turned to Xena and posed a challenge.  The bard wanted to know if an Amazon Queen beat a warrior princess.  Xena’s sarcastic smile said it all as she responded to Gabrielle’s question with another question.  She asked the bard if she wanted to really find out the truth of that.  Gabrielle took the hint realizing that titles meant only as much as could be proven by those who held them.  Gabrielle was certain that she was far from skilled enough to challenge a warrior princess.  Becoming an amazon queen would hardly sharpen her warrior skill by sheer title alone.  And then the bard turned back toward the standing queen and reminded Ephiny that it was not likely that she would ever return to reclaim the queenhood.  Still Ephiny held steady in her leadership and looked to Gabrielle in a serious manner.  It was a reminder that Gabrielle was still a young girl at heart.  Gabrielle knew this despite all that had transpired.

Suddenly the ceremonial drums sounded as Ephiny raised the mask above her head and prepared to wear it with dignity and pride.  The amazons shouted out with joy and celebration for their new leader as she prepared to complete the ceremony.  Yet just as the amazons were at the dawn of a new era an uninvited blood curtling  scream crept into the celebration.  It was the scream of Velasaka.  All were surprised to see that she was still alive.  Gabrielle had been certain that Velaska had died in the rope battle the day before.  Yet by some strange miracle Velaska had survived and she was filled with even more rage and anger than before.

As Velaska limped into the amazon camp it was clear that she was on the brink of death.  Gabrielle looked on in shock as the amazons drew their weapons preparing to defend their queens.  Velaska’s injuries were impressive yet haunting.  Her legs were bleeding from their large gashes and her left arm was completely broken.  Velaska immediately looked to Gabrielle after declaring that the mask belonged to her and no other.  She was still delusional about the truths of Amazon law.  Gabrielle felt almost regretful that Velaska believed her own truths.  Then Velaska spoke in her haunting death filled voice.  She saw right through the eyes of the bard and with the weapon of every single thought that came from behind them.  This haunted the bard for she found guilt knowing that in her heart she had been so afraid of Velaska that she had found some sort of solace in knowing Velaska was dead.  But now Velaska seemingly had Gabrielle’s soul at her mercy despite the hand of Celesta.

Xena stepped forward upon the ceremonial platform realizing the severity of Velaska’s injuries.  The warrior princess wanted to help Velaska realizing just what Gabielle had realized.  Xena offered to help Velaska, but Velaska responded with defiance and strength.  She declared that she needed the help of no one.  Gabrielle could see as Velaska spoke helplessly that she had felt betrayed by her sisters.  Though it was her own selfish aspirations which had brought her to this demise.  Velaska had sadly betrayed herself.

Suddenly the thought of pity for Velaska left the bard’s mind and the minds of all others who witnessed the next unexpected event.  Velaska smiled with darkness in her eyes as she reached into her belt pouch.  Then the worst nightmare possible came to pass.  She held up the ultimate weapon and the ultimate revenge upon her sisters and upon Gabrielle.  It was a small piece of ambrosia that had not been destroyed in the fire.  Somehow Velaska had been able to save just enough to bring her the ultimate gift from the gods.  Immorality with the power of the gods behind it.

Just as Velaska’s breaths were audibly becoming shorter and struggled she smiled and stuffed the ambrosia down into her mouth.  As her hand shook uncontrollably she suddenly fell to the ground in weakness.  Then all was quiet momentarily until the power of the ambrosia took the place of certain death.  Velaska’s mortal body lit up as it blinded all who beared witness.  Suddenly she cried out in pain and anguish and then the transformation came to pass.  For a moment all was quiet again as Velaska slowly rose from the ground and felt the power of the ambrosia running through her veins.  Then she looked up at her stunned audience seemingly uncertain of what she wanted to do next.

Gabrielle knew exactly what Velaska would do next and just as the thought crossed the bard’s mind Velaska fixed in on her.  She looked up and shouted out Gabrielle’s name in a commanding tone.  Then Velaska rose her arm and pointed her finger in the direction of the startled bard.  Gabrielle found herself frozen within her boots.  It was like a nightmare, but it was real.  Xena quickly acted noticing the fearfully frozen bard.  Xena called out to Gabrielle as Velaska took aim and  a powerful static beam eminated from her body.  The beam was perfectly on target taking down the queen’s ceremonial throne as Xena dove upon the bard to save Gabrielle from Velaska’s wrath.

Gabrielle found herself suddenly dragged back into the reality of the situation.  She found herself realizing that she had reacted to Velaska instead of acting as Xena had done.  Yet there was little time to think about this amateur mistake.  Xena and Gabrielle looked upon Velaska awating her next strike as Ephiny made a fatal choice.  She courageously gave the command to the amazons to attack the enemy, but Xena quickly responded openly against this idea.  The warrior princess was certain that Velaska could wipe out the entire tribe in just minutes.  Suddenly Velaska responded with more power and static beams.  She next took down the Queen’s hut demonstrating futher the wrath of her chaotic power.

Amazons rushed to dodge the flames and the beams as Velaska was testing her new strength.  She was exploring her new found power and the warrior princess knew it.  Xena quickly realized that this was the time to escape.  Velaska had quickly become distracted by her own power and was for the moment no longer focased on Gabrielle.  Suddenly Ephiny gave the commaned for the amazons to run.  Everyone fell back toward the woods with Xena and Gabrielle leading the way.  For Gabrielle there was little time to think.  The only thing she could feel was her legs carrying her away from the impending danger.

Then her mind was interrupted by the horrendous voice of vegence once more.  It reminded Gabrielle that it was coming for her and it would stop at nothing to destroy her.  Xena soon caught up to her helpless friend encourging Gabrielle to go on ahead.  The warrior princess would stay back and take care of the amazons.  She would be certain to bring them to safety.  Gabrielle wasted little time in allowing her legs to carry her to the safety of the woods as Xena returned to the battle.  While the bard continued to move toward the cover of the trees she could still clearly hear every moment of the battle.  It was a terrifying thought to imagine what Velaska’s power might do if Xena were to fall victim to it herself.  Yet Gabrielle could not allow herself to fix on that thought for too long.  Suddenly she heard Velaska’s voice chiming in again.  It echoed through the land and into the depths of the forrest.  Gabrielle had just reached the trees as she heard Velaska shout out against Ephiny.

The bard heard Velaska proclaim her vegenance against the new Queen and then there was the sound of a large explosion.  Gabrielle was uncertain if anyone had been injured.  There seemed to be little hope for any amazon or even the warrior princess of escaping the wrath of this newborn goddess.  Then the former amazon princess found herself having to stop for her heart was pounding seemingly outside of her chest.  Her legs were burning with exhaustion from running as her chest rose and vell violently.  Gabrielle leaned up against a nearby tree and suddenly felt a hand upon her shoulder.  The moment was startling as if Velaska were standing right there beside Gabrielle.  Yet as she turned to face the enemy and her fear she found that the hand belonged to the warrior princess.  Xena smiled softly hoping to comfort her terrified friend, but to no avail for Velaska again cried out.

The goddess seemingly held no mercy for the innocent despite it all.  Velaska then reminded Gabrielle again of her power as a god.  She strongly reminded all who could hear her that Gabrielle could run, but would never be able to hide from her wrath and power.  Then Velaska cackled and it echoed on for several moments and through every tree in the forrest.  Xena looked to her friend saddened for her.  She wanted desparately to be able to take away this burden from the bard, but it was obvious that there was no turning back for the rightful amazon queen.  There was a sense of regret within the bard’s heart for having ever thought that she could ever have led the amazon nation alone.

Quickly Xena and Ephiny led the amazons and Gabrielle to a cave.  There they hid from Velaska and regrouped.  Yet there were so many injured amazons who had laid their lives on the line for the glory of their queen.  Gabrielle felt almost undeserving of this.  She began to feel as if this were her fault.  The bard took full responsibility within her heart.  As Gabrielle tended to Eponin’s sprained arm Xena spoke to Ephiny and Gabrielle about the plan of action.  Xena mentioned that at the moment of the large explosion she had thrown herself in front of Ephiny.  The warrior princess expressed that there indeed was a powerful punch to Velaska, but not enough to destroy anyone yet.  Ephiny had also noticed this weakness, but there was another weakness to the goddess.  Xena told Ephiny of how she had noticed Velaska’s fascination with herself.  The warrior princess was certain that it would hold off Velaska for a while, but not for too long.

The main plan was for Ephiny to remove all of the wounded from the cave and to take them to Tyldus at the Centaur camp.  Xena was certain that they would be safe there for the moment since the Centaurs had not yet made it to Velaska’s target list.  As Eponin argued that they should go back and fight Velaska Xena reminded her that a goddess could not be defeated by warrior skill alone.  Xena had an alternate plan.  She instructed Ephiny to take the amazons out and use themselves as a distraction to keep Velaska from reaching Gabrielle.  The warrior princess needed as much time between herself and the goddess as possible.  It was obvious that she had a final part of the plan yet she did not choose to openly express it.  And then Gabrielle realized that it was time to make light of the situation.  It seemed the only way to make it bearable.  She chimed in reminding everyone that no one was in more trouble than she herself at the moment.  Despite her efforts to comfort herself with a sarcastic spin on the situation it came across with a serious emotional  response.  The dreadful feeling of being grippd by fear still found its way through the bard’s heart.  Everyone in the group looked to the helpless ametuer queen realizing her fears as their own.  Ephiny then reminded Gabrielle that she too was on the top of Velaska’s target list.  It was an attempt at comforting the inexperienced amazon.

Gabrielle had finished wrapping Eponin’s arm as Ephiny reminded the warrior princess of her own injury.  Xena had hit the ground pretty hard in challenging Velaska to protect Ephiny.  Yet the warrior princess never seemed to be phased by the pain of her dislocated arm.  Eponin jumped up with enthusiasm ready for battle once again despite her own brush with death against the power of Velaska.  There was something seemingly comforting for Gabrielle as she saw the great courage illuminating from every amazon and even the warrior princess.  It seemed that everyone had a much brighter perspective on this seemingly doomed situation.  Still Xena warned that the amazons were only to hold Velaska off without risking death to a single amazon.

Then Xena walked over to the wall of the cave and relocated her own arm.  Gabrielle found herself stunned knowing that in her own mind she would have been screaming with pain.  Xena joked about her injury and Ephiny responded with concern and duty.  Then Ephiny took Eponin and the other amazons into battle once again.  As they left Gabrielle began to feel ill in the pit of her stomach.  It was unbelieveable that she could ever find herself the prey to an all powerful goddess.  As she looked to Xena the warrior princess was concerned for her friend’s well being.  Gabrielle continued her thoughts aloud to the warrior princess unable to fathom what plan could be the solution to this disaster.  Yet Xena did have a plan as always.  Xena revealed that the only way to defeat Velaska was to enlist another immortal to help them fight her.

Gabrielle seemed hopeful for a moment, but the hope quickly passed when she realized that immortals were not a dinar a dozen.  Where would a person find an immortal was the next question to the warrior princess.  Fortunately Xena did have someone in mind that could do the job yet her response was cryptic and the look in her eye more terrifying.  Gabrielle couldn’t imagine what the down side of this could be.  Until she thought of a story that she had heard in a village tavern recently.  The bard had caught wind of a battle that had occurred between Callisto and Hercules.  Details of the encounter between them were foggy, but Gabrielle did remember that Callisto had been left in a state of immortality despite being killed by the quicksand in her last battle against Xena.  The good part was that Callisto was trapped for eternity in a place of Hercules’s chosing, but that place was not one that Gabrielle cared to visit again.

The bard argued with the warrior princess about this choice.  Xena knew that the bard would disagree, but the warrior princess felt that it was the only choice.  The warrior princess reminded Gabrielle that Callisto’s immortality was the key, and the fact that Callisto could fight well in a heavy combat would prove an asset when it came down to the final part of the plan.  Gabrielle still refused to accept that Callisto was their only choice.  There had to be a better choice, and then it occurred to her.  She spouted off the name of Hercules for he was half god.  He could most certainly go up against an inexperienced goddess like Velaska.

Xena was firm in her choice of immortals for the job.  She reminded Gabrielle that it could take weeks to find Hercules and time was not on their side.  Xena stated that every time Velaska would use her powers they would drain her into a weakened state yet those periods of weakness would grow shorter as her powers matured.  Gabrielle was still firmly against this ludicrus idea.  It was the worst idea she had ever heard come from the mind of the master.  She could not face the demon that had taken Perdicus.  It was enough to have to deal with the fear of being hunted, but to couple it with fresh emotional wounds was too much.  Xena was asking for something Gabrielle refused to offer up.

The warrior princess then rose from her spot on the rock and spoke softly to the bard.  She reminded Gabrielle that she knew how much it hurt inside to be reminded of Callisto.  Yet Gabrielle could not accept Xena’s condulances for the warrior princess could not possibly understand this kind of loss.  As Gabrielle expressed her anger and refusal Xena seemed hurt by it.  Yet Gabrielle did not care.  Nothing mattered because all she could ever see when she closed her eyes was the death of her husband and the sounds of Callisto which had followed.  That irriating phsycotic scream coupled with that ugly evil laughter.  It was too much to bare again.  As Gabrielle continued her anger at Xena she reminded Xena that Callisto would never help her.  There would be no way to convince the blond nemisis to fight on the side of the good.  Gabrielle was certain of this.

Xena responded to Gabrielle’s harsh words with a reflection of the bard’s ugly outburst.  The warrior princess insisted that they would just have to find a way to talk Callisto into siding with them in the matter.  And then that was the end of the conversation.  The plan was set and Xena was going to follow it through.  Gabrielle had no other choice, but to follow the warrior princess to the place she never thought she would have to return to.

And the day was long as it wore into the night.  The two friends traveled with Argo in silence and without a word.  Gabrielle’s fear dictated her direction for she knew deep down that without Xena there would be no chance at survival despite this horrid plan.  Xena was completely focased on the mission and ignored the pouting bard.  By morning Gabrielle realized how much Xena loved her for she could just as easily have walked away after the bard’s defiance of her plan no matter the cost.  Yet the bard was still uncomfortable in having to face her enemy again.  She found herself spending the next morning preparing her heart for the torment that it would most certainly face.

As the day wore on a certain peace found its way into the bard’s heart.  She began to realize how special and how brave Xena truely was.  Gabrielle had almost forgotten through her anger that Xena’s heart had stakes in this too.  Her heart had to deal with the pain of knowing that it was her army that had destroyed Callisto’s family.  And it was in that moment that Gabrielle realized that the score was truely even and that Xena too carried a burden.  Yet she was willing to face that burden.  Gabrielle found herself willing to face that same burden if not for her own life for the lives of her amazon sisters.  Xena soon interrupted the peaceful and clarifying thoughts with more details on the location of the trap that Hercules had set for Callisto.  He had left her deep beneath the collapsed ceiling of an old demolished temple.  It was clear to the bard that they had arrived at the ruins, but finding the small collapsed area underneath the rubble proved to be more difficult.

After several moments of prodding through the sight Gabrielle caught sight of a possible entrance into the world of the blond immortal.  The two friends approached their fears together as Xena prepared a rope to lower herself down into the pit of despair.  As Xena prepared the contraption using an old cross beam Gabrielle took a deep breath and closed her eyes in an attempt to visualize her challenge and face it with courage.  Then she looked to Xena and said a comforting word.  She expressed to Xena her confidence in Xena’s idea and solution to the true issue.  Xena gave Gabrielle cautious instructions.  She wanted to be sure that Gabrielle was aware that Callisto could be freed only in the event of a solid agreement and commitment to go up against Velaska.

Then Gabrielle watched as Xena faced the unknown.  On the way down Gabrielle wished her friend goodwill and listened intently to the moments that followed after.  There was a lot of fear, anticipation, and emotion racing through the heart of the bard.  Yet she kept a tight grip on focas knowing her duty at hand.  Still she was afraid for Xena and of what to expect next.  After many long moments Gabrielle suddenly felt the double tug on the rope.  It was Xena’s signal to bring it up.  There would be only one way for the warrior princess to return.  It would be in the success of selling the deal to Callisto.  There was no turning back from this moment.

Gabrielle then waited for what seemed to be an eternity.  She was begining to feel that maybe she was stuck within an immortal nightmare.  The bard finally rose from listening to the sounds that were not audible down below.  There was not one clue as to how things were transpiring between the dark forces and the light.  As she leaned on her staff for comfort for several moments she drifted off into more scenarios and attempts to prepare for Callisto’s arrival.  Torn by her fear of Velaska, responsiblity to the amazons, and her hatred of Callisto the bard could barely breath inside.  Until her thoughts were interrupted by a cheerful sound.  It was Xena’s command for Argo.  Gabrielle now knew that Xena would certainly return to her, but it was still questionable as to whether or not she had succeeded at rounding up the support of Callisto.

Reluctantly Gabrielle threw down the rope and the waited.  Moments later she could see the rope moving and could soon hear the sounds of heavy breathing.  Her heart lept with the hope that it would be Xena, but as the arms rose from the darkness one of them grabbed Gabrielle and pulled her toward despair’s pit.  The bard struggled to gain her balance and was startled with the horrible face of Callisto.  It was scared by a blade, but those eyes were still a passionate fire of evil.  Gabrielle jumped back and away from the pit and scooped up her staff preparing to do battle against evil.  Evil struggled toward its own freedom gleefully.

Gabrielle was certain Callisto would try to kill her, but just when it seemed that there would be a battle to the death Callisto rose from the pit, took a deep breath, and expressed how beautiful the day was.  Yet she imagined it a beautiful day of blood and battle rather than of peace and harmony.  Gabrielle found herself unable to act or react to this statement.  It was hardly unexpected, but then Xena emerged from the pit of despair.  As the warrior princess struggled to her feet Gabrielle expressed her concern hoping that Xena would answer with strength and stealth.

Xena was in one piece and ready to complete the mission now that she had obtained the prize.  Yet Callisto mocked Gabrielle’s concern for Xena.  Gabrielle sensed a bit of hurt coming from within the seemingly soulless immortal .  It was obvious that Callisto did not appreciate the  rejection from Gabrielle.  For a slight moment Gabrielle found herself intrigued and wanting to understand this glimpse into Callisto’s soul, but the moment passed.  Callisto began to small talk with Gabrielle as if they had been lifetime friends.  It was confusing and eerie for the bard as Callisto seemingly expressed an interest in life outside of death.  Yet this turned into a virtual stabbing within the heart as Callisto defied her own interest with the reminder of the death of Perdicus.

She was cryptic asking if Gabrielle had married again since their last meeting.  This enraged the bard who could only react out of raw emotion as she struck Callisto broadly across the face with her staff.  Callisto’s head took the sharp blow returning to face Gabrielle.  The blond laughed in Gabrielle’s face with a slight sarcastic scream amused by the bard’s reaction to her words.  Callisto then reminded Gabrielle that she was immortal and could not be killed.  Yet the blond continued on as if to understand how Gabrielle felt inside.  Callisto was calm and spoke with an understanding tone describing the pain of the loss which Gabrielle still felt over Perdicus.  She explained how she knew that Gabrielle wanted nothing more than to be able to draw Callisto’s blood even within her immortal state.  The taste of it was still there in Gabrielle’s heart and Callisto could see it.  She could also bring it to the surface faster than any other.  Only Callisto could win Gabrielle’s battle within her heart over peace and blood.

Then Gabrielle stepped back slowly with great intrigue.  There was something strange about all of this connection with the one she hated most.  Though the bard did not dare to verbalize it openly.  She only listened to Callisto’s words and Callisto’s eyes.  There seemed to be someone peaking through all of that darkness.  Yet it was still phsycotic.  Then Callisto proclaimed that she would even volunteer her assistance in helping Gabrielle to ease that nagging thurst and pain.  She unsheathed her sword and prepared to strike.  For some strange reason the bard could suddenly relate and was unafraid of Callisto for the moment.  Her heart knew that Callisto was not going to kill her.  Instead Callisto turned her own sword against herself as she plunged in straight through her bare stomach.

The bard could feel Callisto’s pain within the pit of her own stomach.  It was an empty pain and it was sickening.  Gabrielle could barely keep her eyes focased to watch.  She wanted to close them and to shield them from this horrid desplay of self-hatred and destruction.  Gabrielle suddenly realized that this was the path she would have followed if she had taken her vengance when Callisto was still mortal.  It was then that the bard realized that no blood was worth that kind of pain.  Within that moment there was a sense of sorrow for this tortured individual.  Yet just as the sword went through the fair stomach of the blond the sound of shallow breaths eminated from her being.  Then the sword slid back out of Callisto’s body as she displayed it proudly proclaiming that there was not one single drop of blood upon it.

Callisto flashed a smile and then reminded all that immortals heal quickly, but there was one drawback.  The only way to defeat an immortal was to find a way to put her into pieces and that was not as easy as it sounded.  Few mortals would have that skill and ability.  Yet Callisto seemingly respected the warrior princess enough to know that Xena would probably succeed if pushed to the threat.  With that comment Xena was pushed to stop Callisto’s self-destructive show of her own pain.  Gabrielle suddenly found herself aware of what Callisto was doing.  She was very good at it too.  Callisto was pressing the buttons of both herself and Xena.  It was the only way Callisto knew how to communicate with people.  There was a strange admiration present within Callisto though the bard could not grasp or understand it.  Yet it was still clear that Xena was ready to move on and to finish the job they had come to do.

Xena began to move forward, but Callisto again took control.  There was rage within her voice as she denounced Xena’s command.  Defiant Callisto made it clear that there was one stop that had to be made before she could completely sign the deal.  It was something that Xena could never have expected and it would shock Gabrielle.  Gabrielle found herself trying to take control of the arguement between Xena and Callisto.  As she whispered into Xena’s ear reminding both that the amazons would not be able to hold off Velaska for long.  Xena quickly snapped out of her own disgust for Callisto’s show and again stated what Gabrielle had reminded.  Yet Callisto switched her voice into more of a calm soothing tone.  She promised that their stop would  not take long.  Callisto then reminded the two helpless mortals that without her there would be no winning the battle against Velaska.  And with that the blond sheathed her sword and led the way toward her selected destination.

It was a small prosperous village near where her own village had once stood.  Callisto demanded that Xena announce to all what she had done.  Humiliation was on Callisto’s personal agenda for the day.  She desired that Xena’s crimes against her family be stated openly for judgement.  And so Xena stepped upon the town square platform standing before Callisto’s selected jury.  The people of the village were unknowns yet they played the part of Callisto’s family, friends, and village aquaintances she had once known in Syra.  Gabrielle watched with disgust at this unnecessary sharade as the warrior princess took a deep breath and began.

The warrior princess then spoke to the essence of the people whom she had once wronged yet they had all perished so long ago.  There was only one who had survived yet she her soul had not.  Though Callisto herself did not die when Xena’s army had come to her village her soul had been tarnished forever.  Gabrielle watched both Xena and Callisto as Xena spoke to the lone survivor.  It was as if the audience was no longer there.  It seemed that only Xena and Callisto stood within that village alone as the warrior princess continued her confession.  Gabrielle caught sight of deep remorse and regret within the warrior princess as Xena spoke of the small village that had perished at her hands.  It had been very much like the village that they stood in at this moment.

There were so many parallels and comparisons.  There were so many innocents that were taken upon the arrival of Xena and her army.  Gabrielle looked back to Callisto only to see how pleased the blond was to watch Xena’s personal humiliation of herself and her own actions.  At first Gabrielle had thought that Xena had only been playing Callisto’s silly game, but then Xena spoke of the innocent young girl that stood before her.  The child that was lost and who would never return for she had lost her life and her family because of the warrior princess’s wreckless ways.  Gabrielle found herself shocked to look back and to notice that there was a deep connection between two fiercely bitter enemies.  For a moment it was as if there was a personal reconsiliation going on between them.

The bard could see deep sadness emerging from the depths of Callisto’s eyes.  It was as if Callisto was going to shed her first tears, but the blond fought desparately to hold them back.  For a moment Gabrielle began to understand Callisto’s pain as the warrior princess continued on.  Xena spoke of the lost little girl whose true fate in life would never be known now that Xena had entered it so violently.  Gabrielle found herself astonished yet almost driven to want to console the pain of Callisto.  She wanted to forgive Callisto for killing Perdicas knowing now that Callisto could relate to losing somone she had once loved.  It was amazing to see that somewhere within all of the darkness there was a small little light that still shun through Callisto though still confused.

Then the warrior princess was finished.  She was finished with her regrets and finished with her attempts at healing the wound that she had cast upon the young innocent Callisto so long ago.  Xena stepped down from the town square and approached Callisto who appeared deeply stunned and unexpecting of Xena’s final statements.  It seemed to the bard that there was only one thing left that could be done now to finalize the healing process.  Xena stood before Callisto for a long moment.  All was quiet between the two of them as if they were looking into each other’s souls.  Gabrielle thought for a moment that the warrior princess might reach out to Callisto and embrace all of the pain that the blond carried inside.  The bard thought that Xena might aplogize and that Callisto would accept that apology and move on.

But then Xena turned away from the ruined soul and declared that the time had come to complete the mission against Velasaka.  Gabrielle thought for a short moment that it was cold, but then she looked into Callisto’s eyes once more only to see empty confusion.  Maybe there truely was nothing there, and maybe what she had seen inside moments before was only hope reflecting back into her own heart.  Gabrielle was uncertain now yet she knew that her own heart still ached for Perdicas.

For many long moments as the three traveled things were uncomfortable and quiet until they finally reached the temple of Artemis.  It was the only thing that could have broken the unbearable silence.  Callisto laughed candidly at the sight of the crushed temple.  She commented on how effective the power of ambrosia really was.  Callisto couldn’t wait to get her hands onto some ambrosia herself.  Xena looked to the blond with a slight sneer as Gabrielle noticed at the gate on the other side of the temple court yard a dead man lied alone.  When the three approached him Xena noticed that his death was a fresh one which meant that Velaska was near.  She had been by within the last hour for even the temple itself was still smoking with the energy of Velaska’s now destructive powers.

Xena quickly led Gabrielle and Callisto to a nearby canyon knowing that Velaska would be sensing Gabrielle’s presence soon.  When the three entered into the canyon the sun was high over head.  Callisto looked about as did Gabrielle as the two assessed the situation.  Callisto seemed impressed with the location Xena had chosen to do battle as she complemented Xena with a subtle coment.  She spoke of Velaska’s lightening bolts and of how their power would be useless to Velaska within this tall unstable canyon.  Gabrielle found herself concerned noticing that there was a pile of rock above across the canyon that looked as if it were about to fall.  Xena then expressed how much of an advantage it would be for the new team of three to use those rocks against the power of Velaska’s lightening.  The warrior princess was certain that Velaska never thought things through very thouroughly.  Xena was counting on this as the third element of the plan.

Of course Callisto switched from complementary to irritated knowing that she was the fourth element of the plan.  She was expected to be the bait that would lead Velasaka into a fight.  Callisto questioned  the warrior princess on how the duration of the battle between herself and Velaska was expected to play out.  Xena simply answered that it should last only long enough to lure Velaska into the trap beneath the rock ledge.  Though Xena played coy with Callisto the blond was certain that there was betrayal at hand in the mix.  The prize for her was to obtain the ambrosia from the goddess of chaos, but Callisto couldn’t calculate how she would be able to get to it at the bottom of a pile of rock.  Yet Callisto decided to handle this personal concern casually and with some humor.  She asked Xena how she felt about sharing in the wealth of the ambrosia.  Of course Callisto thought it might be fun for the simple purpose of battling against her rival for enterity.

There was something quite strange and futile about that thought.  It led Gabrielle to feel as if Callisto had a bit of compassion for Xena depsite their differences.  Gabrielle knew that if the situation were reversed she would never invite Callisto to fight against her for an enterity.  Of course Xena’s response was just as casual with a certain avoidance to it.  She just reminded Callisto that Velaska was the priority and that they would deal with the ambrosia later.  And as expected Callisto seemed irritated in knowing that Xena gave away nothing more than was necessary for the current problem.  With that there was only one thing left to do.  Sitting and waiting was the most difficult part of the plan because no one was really certain how long it would be before Velaska would find them behind their haven of the rock pile.  Several hours went by with mostly silence although Callisto couldn’t resist taunting and torturing Gabrielle emotionally.  The sun fell deep into the western canyon before anything was to transpire.  Waiting for certain doom seemed to take a lifetime as Callisto looked to Gabrielle with an evil smile and then a grin followed by subtle yet playful laughter.

Gabrielle found herself just about at the end of her emotional rope until just a moment later Velaska appeared at the opposite end of the canyon.  Callisto was suddenly fixated onto the new challenge that had arrived barely able to contain her lust for a healthy battle.  Xena had to calm the child within Callisto as the three hid behind the large rock pile awaiting the right moment to attack.  All was quiet as Gabrielle watched Velaska intently.  The bard’s heart began to beat harder as Velaska continued to scan the canyon with her eyes and atune herself to the canyon.  Then Velasaka stopped scanning as a smile spread across her face.  She stated quietly under her breath that she could sense that there were three heart beats instead of two.  Velaska seemed pleased at this new surprise for she had fully expected to be taking on only Xena to get to Gabrielle.  The goddess seemed pleased at the challenge yet fully confident in her certain victory.  Gabrielle found this chilling as her heart raced with fear.  Velaska quickly responded to this allowing her prey the knowledge of her impending death.  The goddess was ready to stop the beating of the heart of her rival the amazon princess.

Under her breath Xena stated that it was the time to take action and to put things into motion.  There was not a better moment of opportunity and Callisto agreed that the moment was indeed perfect; however, not for the greater good.  Callisto’s voice was sour as she spoke and then suddenly she grabbed Xena’s chacrkam from its resting place and flipped into the battle arena.  Suddenly Callisto made her next move of defiance as she threw Xena’s chackram into the canyon walls delfecting it right into the rock pile above the canyon securing it from a fall.  And then the chackram was tamed by the blond with little effort.  Gabrielle had known only Xena to be able to tame the beast that was the chackram, but Callisto was dangerous with it.  Gabrielle found herself confused for the moment as she inquired of the new situation with Xena.  The bard was certain that the rocks falling onto Velaska had been the original plan.  Now it was suddenly changing and with no warning.  That was when Xena confirmed Gabrielle’s fear.  Callisto had just switched sides in the battle against Velaska.  Now they were finding that they would be up against not one immortal, but two.  This was not looking good in the bard’s eyes, yet Xena seemed quite calm as if she had expected this to happen.

And then it happened.  Callisto greeted Velaska as if she were offering her a deal.  It was one that could seemingly not be refused.  Callisto wanted to take down Xena and Velaska wanted Gabrielle.  Though the deal couldn’t get any sweeter for the enemyVelaska seemed unaware of the advantage of having Callisto as an ally.  Her response was a simple one.  She seemed disappointed that this strange warrior woman wanted to ally with a goddess.   YetVelasaka was curious to know more about this Callisto person.  Callisto explained in her usual manner of sarcasm that Xena rarely spoke of her.  It was another open stab at Xena’s heart.  Callisto invited Xena into the confrontation indirectly as she openly insulted Velaska’s intelligence.  Velaska then responded raising her arm preparing to zap

Callisto into oblivion.  Yet Callisto calmed Velaska quickly asking that Velaska hear the details of the offer on the table.  Callisto reminded Velaska that she had only one ally in the moment and that was Callisto herself.  Yet Velaska did not seem amused or at all interested in the deal.  Her pride got the better of her as she firmly stated that she did not need any friends and that she didn’t want any friends.

Callisto was quickly realizing that allying with Velaska was one thing, but convincing Velaska of the need for an ally was another challenge all its own.  Of course Callisto masterfully chimed in that Velaska had that feeling in common with her new ally as well.  Yet Velaska’s response was rejection again.  She was uncertain as to why Callisto was so casual about the subject of her own death.  Callisto’s response was again candid and sarcastic yet the situation between them was begining to lighten with Callisto’s demeanor.  It was as if Velaska were about to respect and trust in someone.  Just as the conversation became less tense between Callisto and Velaska Xena decided that it was time to act for if Callisto succeeded in winning over Velaska there would be no victory or life thereafter.  Gabrielle grabbed Xena’s arm unable to figure out what advantage was left, but Xena was confident.  She flipped out from behind the rock into the arena shouting across the canyon at Callisto.  Xena gave the command to take Velaska to Callisto knowing full well that Callisto had already chosen Velaska over Gabrielle.

Callisto was taken by surprise as she whipped around behind to see that Xena was grinning and bearing down waiting for battle.  Velaska wasted no time as she threw out a lightening bolt in the direction of the warrior princess who flipped out of its path toward the rock ledge.  The goddess struck a second time as Callisto watched her plan fall apart in horror.  Callisto shouted at Velaska to stop as she violently pushed the goddess to the ground.  It was in that moment that Gabrielle realized that this had been part of Xena’s plan all along.  The warrior princess ahd known that it would be Callisto who would betray an ally.  Yet Callisto’s attempt to force Velaska to wise up did not work in her favor.  Gabrielle quickly realized that she had her own choice to make.  She could push Velaska over the edge and defeat Callisto’s plan of defiance by jumping out of hiding and taking a chance.  Gabrielle lept up from behind the rock pile and shouted out to Velaska challenging her to strike a third time.  Velaska did not resist and stuck effortlessly and without thought.

Rocks flew in all directions and with great force and destructive power.  Callisto was enraged at Velaska’s unintelligent response.  She bolted for the goddess pushing Velaska to the ground as she screamed in fury.  Then Callisto reiterated to Velaska the seriousness of using her powers within the canyon.  The blond was desparately trying to win Velaska’s emotions and control of the battle, but it was too late.  The fragile trust she had built with Velaska had been destroyed by Xena’s defiance of Callisto’s betrayal.  Suddenly Velaska’s powers were unleashed upon Callisto sending her across the canyon smahing into a pile of rubble.  Callisto was then motionless and silent.  Gabrielle looked across the canyon and saw little movement from underneath the rubble.  The bard found herself a bit worried realizing that Callisto being knocked out of action had definately not been part of Xena’s plan.  Gabrielle then heard Xena calling out her
name as Xena flipped into action to face Velaska alone and without Callisto’s help.

The pace of the battle began to pick up as both Xena and Velaska drew swords.  Strangely Velaska could have easily taken Xena with the simple strike of a lightening bolt, but she had seen the damage that she herself had done to Callisto.  Velaska thought better of using her powers.  Gabrielle found herself watching in horror as Xena went up against Velaska in a battle to her own death.  Though Xena was brave and hopeful Gabrielle was not certain that Callisto would recover in time to join Xena in the battle.  After several strokes of the swords clashing Velaska paused against Xena in a stale mate and pleaded that Xena give up.  She reminded the warrior princess that because she was a goddess and Xena was mortal that the battle would never end, but Xena was confident that it would not be a long fight.  Just three clashes later Velaska decided that she wanted to end the battle herself.  She grabbed the end of Xena’s sword and stopped it instantly.  Xena’s strength was no match for Velaska’s power.  Suddenly Velaska grabbed Xena’s neck and lifted the warrior princess off of her feet and into the air.  The goddess began to choke the life out of the warrior princess who hung helplessly unable to save herself.

Gabrielle found herself frozen and unable to move.  It was a like a nightmare as the bard tried desparately awaken.  As the bard watched Xena’s sword left the warrior princess’s hand in the struggle to survive and dropped helplessly to the ground.  Just as the warrior princess was about to lose her life something miraculous happened.  Callisto sprung up from the pile of rubble and jumped onto Velaksa’s back enraged that the goddess had treated her so disrespectfully.  The blond had been offended by Velaska’s careless nature in dealing with her and expressed her displeasure as she broke Xena free from Velaska’s grasp.

Xena quickly fell to the ground as Callisto flipped over Velaska with her back to her newest enemy.  Then Callisto slyly pulled her sword from its sheath behind her back turning to face Velaska.  Anger poured from within Callisto as she fought Velaska with a forceful power.  Soon Xena jumped back to her feet retrieving her own sword from the sand.  The warrior princess charged into the battle with Callisto at her side.  Gabrielle watched curiously as the two women fought on the same side.  Each had her own style and intension behind each stroke of her sword.  Callisto’s rage was her power as Xena’s love was the power of the warrior princess.  Strangely both fought with the same technical skill, but neither seemed to be more powerful than the other.  Yet together they were the perfect balance against the unbalanced goddess who fought with neither love nor hate.  Velaska’s intension was seemingly more about making a statment and less about emotion.

After several moments of two on one fight Xena dropped out of the confrontation leaving Callisto to handle Velaska on her own.  The warrior princess rolled toward the pile of rubble on the ground retrieving her chackram as she came back to her feet again.  Then the warrior princess called out to Gabrielle who knew that it was time to jump into the battle.  The bard quickly jumped out of hiding using her staff as a javalin and hurling it toward the rock ledge above to free the the secured rocks.  Xena’s chackram gracefully deflected off the sides of the canyon until it raced toward the freed rock pile upon the ledge.  Callisto could hear the sounds of the whispering chackram as she quickly sheathed her sword and withdrew from her battle against Velaska flipping backward and away.  In the next moment the chackram had struck the unstable rock pile and the rocks tumbled down below onto their victim the goddess of chaos.

Velaska screamed horrified and surprised as the rocks came down upon her.  She was powerless and unable to stop her doom.  The three women watched as their enemy disappeared underneath the rubble hoping that their battle was won.  Yet there was no one more relieved than Gabrielle as she asked Xena if the battle had been over.  Sadly Xena spoke with little hope in her tone realizing that Velaska had become too powerful to be held by a pile of rock for eternity.  It was the sidetrip to that village to satisfy Callisto’s ego that had cost them a certain victory over Velaska.  It was obvious to Gabrielle that Xena was quite disgusted with Callisto for that unnecessary trip.  Then Xena walked away as Gabrielle followed leaving Callisto to contemplate her mistake.

Soon after leaving the canyon Callisto rejoined Xena and the bard as the sun went down and the three set up camp.  Again there was the strange silence between them that had been present before the battle against Velaska.  Yet there was something different this time.  Xena had left Gabrielle alone with Callisto for several moments by the campfire.  There was a certain discomfort, but the bard was troubled by something else.  She watched as Callisto played nervously with her sword sharpening it and reshaping it.  The bard noticed that even Callisto seemed a bit peturbed by something which Gabrielle found to be unusual for the blond.  Gabrielle never remembered seeing Callisto appearing nervous.  And so the burning question passed through the bard’s lips.  She broke the silence with Callisto enticing the blond into a practical yet emotional conversation.  Callisto was flattered yet shocked that Gabrielle was even curious about her.  Gabrielle felt confident for a moment in knowing that there was a possibility that Callisto did have a soul underneath all of that rage.  Suddenly she posed the question that burned within.  Gabrielle wanted to know if it was true what she had seen and felt from Callisto back at the village.  She wanted to know if Callisto truely had felt remorse or sadness back there as Xena had confessed before the masses.

Just when it seemed as if the two could have a real conversation without Callisto’s wall of sarcasm and Gabrielle’s unforgiving pain Callisto snapped back into her defense.  At first Callisto did not answer.  Gabrielle pressed harder for the light that she had thought she had seen within Callisto back at the village.  Then Callisto suggested with a soft smile that the two play a game with one another.  She promised to answer Gabrielle only if Gabrielle were to volunteer an answer to her own question.  There was a serious tone within Callisto which did not appear threating yet Gabrielle was uncertain still.  The bard knew that she would never get her answer if she did not agree to the game.  Gabrielle decided that the risk of the game was worth Callisto’s answer to her own question.  And so Callisto began.

She spoke softly and regretfully and it was almost soothing as the blond described the feeling behind it all.  Callisto began with bits and pieces.  They were fragments of feelings and emotions, but nothing that she could grasp hold of.  She said that her heart was not capable of grasping feeling anymore.  Instead she described it in a way that Gabrielle could understand.  Callisto told Gabrielle to think of the love that she had for her own family back in Podedia.  She continued asking Gabrielle to embrace their love for her in her mind and in her heart.  Gabrielle was feeling the warmth and the comfort of Lila and her mother and father as she listened to Callisto speaking.  The bard began to feel the elequence of Callisto’s heart and of Callisto’s soul as the blond continued her epic spiritual struggle within.  Suddenly, the elequence was interrupted with the horror of having to kill Lila, and mother, and father.  There was so much pain and saddness within.  Gabrielle began to feel Callisto’s pain as her own and to embrace it with an understanding she had never been able to accomplish before.  There was a bit of comfort creeping into her heart in knowing that Callisto could relate and that she could relate with Callisto despite having lost Perdicus.

Just as Gabrielle felt that she might want to comfort Callisto for the first time Callisto’s spirit turned cold and black resuming the game it had begun with Gabrielle.  Callisto then posed her question as Gabrielle waited with fearful reluctance knowing that she was now vulnerable before Callisto’s darkness.  Darkness did not waste time in finding the thread to unravel.  Callisto’s voice creaked with evil as she was curious what she had evoked from Gabrielle’s innocent heart in the moment that she had sliced Perdicus open with her blade.  The bard’s heart felt the ache once again as if she were reliving Perdicus’s death.  She watched horror turn into pain, and then into rage.  Vegence soon followed leading into hatred.  It was the hatred and the rage that she had been fighting for months to hold back for she had never wanted to act on it.  Yet it seemed to be Callisto’s ultimate goal.  Callisto wanted to draw that bloodlust from within Gabrielle’s innocence and Gabrielle was highly aware of it yet still vulnerable.  The bard quickly rose from the camp fire and bolted out of the camp as Xena was returning.  Gabrielle was so enraged that she walked right through the warrior princess who was confused by the bard’s action for a moment.  Yet that moment was quickly realized when Callisto revealed that she had proudly caused the bard more pain.  As the bard walked on into the lonliness of the night Callisto’s laughter echoed in the darkness through the campfire and beyond.

For the bard the night could not end.  After several moments of silent meditation in the woods she found herself returning to the camp.  She had calmed her her heart of its rage and was again ready to face Callisto.  As the bard approached she overheard Xena discussing the day’s plan with Callisto.  Callisto had just posed a quesiton to the warrior princess wondering if she would trust Callisto with the plan.  Xena explained confidently that she could trust Callisto now for the battle at the canyon had ensured that both Velaska and Callisto were now enemies to each other.  The warrior princess also boasted that she was highly aware of how much the ambrosia meant to Callisto’s own cause.  Of course Callisto found it clever and amusing at the same time as usual.  Although there was a sense of annoyance within Callisto’s demeanor realizing that Xena knew her too well.

It seemed to the bard that Callisto’s hatred had turned into a sisterhood between herself and Xena.  There was a certain admiration and it was another way to relate to Callisto.  In a way Callisto was yet another of Xena’s students as Gabrielle was.  Yet Callisto had been a student of the darkness that Xena had once carried.  Gabrielle found solace in knowing that she couldn’t blame Callisto for being mislead as a young girl by the attraction of the warrior princess despite the darkness.

The conversation continued between the two women.  Callisto sighed in defeat and then posed another battle question to Xena.  Xena explained how there was a lava pit beyond the moutains in the canyon beyond some ruins.  It was not far from the camp.  This was the place that she had planned to defeat Velaska.  Suddenly it all began to make sense to Gabrielle.  The plan had never been to defeat Velaska in the first battle for the warrior princess had known that Callisto would betray her.  The first battle was set up to ensure that Velaska would be defeated alongside Callisto despite Callisto’s own feelings and desires.  Callisto of course had figured out Xena’s brilliance too.  She thought outloud as she spoke repeating back Xena’s thoughts.  The plan was simple.  Velaska would be led to the ruins where her powers would be contained.  Once those powers were contained Velaska would be easy to take out.  The lava pit would be certain to trap a godess forever and since Velaska was inexperienced she didn’t have much of a chance against an immortal with equal strength.

There was only one problem.  Someone had to draw Velaska into the trap.  There had to be a sacrifice to entice Velaska into the canyon ruins.  For Callisto the answer was simple.  She gleefully spoke of Gabrielle reminding Xena of Velaska’s obscession to kill the bard.  Callisto was certain that it would be enough to occupy Velaska’s ego so that she could push the goddess into the lava pit for enternity.  Xena reluctantly knew that she would have to ask Gabrielle to put her life into the path of Velaska’s destructive power.  And as Gabrielle listened she knew that it was the only way and so she would do her duty.

Early the next sun the three left camp for the canyon beyond the mountains.  They would have to hurry their pace to make it to the ruins before Velaska would catch up to them.  By mid morning they had arrived and as the three entered the ruins Callisto led the way.  At first all was quiet.  The morning was calm and serene with only the sound of three sets of boots sloshing through the dried leaves on the ground.  Yet Callisto couldn’t resist the silence.  It was as if it always made her feel uncomfortable.  It did not last as she commented on how the spot was perfect and she took another stab at Xena stating that it reminded her of home.  Gabrielle realized that Callisto was just irritated that Xena had won the first battle succeeding in pitting her against Velaska.  However, Xena responded by ignoring the comment and proceeding with the problem at hand.  She immediately spoke stating that the three of them needed to find higher ground before the arrival of the goddess.  It would give them an advantage.  Xena followed with a declaration marking certain within her mind that this would be the certain end for Velaska.

Of course Xena’s lack of response to Callisto’s emotional stab only made the blond more determined to get under Xena’s skin.  Callisto continued taking stabs as she inquired of Xena how to present Gabrielle to Velaska.  Callisto’s suggestion was to put Gabrielle upon a stake like a helpless little sacrificial lamb.  The blond insulted the bard further by alluding that the bard might run and hide otherwise.  Gabrielle found herself in need to defend herself against Callisto’s tasteless remarks, but it wasn’t a vengeful sense of defense.  It was more of a factual defense.  Gabrielle was begining to see that what Callisto preyed on within herself was her own innocence.  Callisto viewed it as a weakness.  Gabrielle was determined to prove her innocence was indeed the strength.  The bard could understand why Callisto felt this was for it was within her own innocence that Xena’s darkness had stricken her and her family so many years before.  Gabrielle followed up reiterating what Xena had stated before.  She spoke again of Velaska’s end yet her heart was even sensing that this could also be the end of her own pain.  Gabrielle hoped that maybe her forgiveness of Callisto could lead to Callisto’s forgiveness of Xena and the end of each suffering individual.  The three of them working toegether in a common cause could heal them.  But just as the bard had hoped to turn the light on within Callisto’s heart Callisto only responded with a reminder that once Velaska had met her end their alliance would be over.  It meant that Callisto would battle the warrior princess until the end.  Callisto could not forgive Xena which made Gabrielle her enemy despite Gabrielle’s forgiveness.

Gabrielle watched as Xena looked on knowing what Gabrielle had tried to do.  Callisto continued ranting about how she would have her ambrosia in the end which would make her impossible for Xena to defeat.  But Callisto paused a moment within her glorious victory realizing that Xena had probably already thought of a plan that would rob her of even that pleasure.  Callisto then turned away from the bard and paced in front of and then around the warrior princess going over this new scenario within her mind.  She did indeed know the warrior princess well as Xena had known her very well.  ThenCallisto paused and looked the warrior princess over while Xena again reminded Callisto that the first battle against Velaska would have to be won before she needed to worry about dealing with Xena again.  Xena’s next statement was a reminder to Callisto that staying alive against Velaska was the most important part of their plan.  Yet Callisto only snickered at Xena’s suggestion and retorted reminding the bard and the warrior princess that staying alive was no longer a concern for herself.  She was immortal.  It was all a silly joke to her really.  Callisto looked back to Gabrielle flashing a silly smile with a triumphant glance.  Even Gabrielle found herself realizing defeat, but not by Velaska and not in a life and death battle.  Gabrielle was defeated in knowing that despite her hopes for releasing Callisto from her pain there was no saving Callisto’s soul.  For the bard this was a frustrating yet saddening prospect.  Gabrielle then leaned upon her staff sighing within her own heart yearning to let go of Callisto’s pain and of Callisto’s crimes against Perdicas.

Just as Gabrielle had found herself lost within the emotional web between Xena, Callisto, and herself there was a strange sound.  It sounded as if there was a storm coming, but the sky was completely clear.  Yet the sound began to turn into a whispering wind and then suddenly into a strong gust.  The gust became the sound of Velaska’s evil laughter and then the goddess appeared.  She appeared within a cyclone that was so powerful that the bard could no longer stand.  Suddenly she found herself being dragged across the ground by a force stronger than her own will.  As Gabrielle went hurtling toward the cyclone she clutched her staff and called out to Xena.  Xena called back frantically unable to decide what to do next.  Gabrielle found herself unable to hold onto her staff and lost grip.  The only thing she could do to save herself from the vortex of evil was to grab a loose tree root sticking out from the ground of the ruins.

Next Gabrielle heard Xena call out to her to hold on and that she would come to help.  The bard did not feel that she could hold onto the root long enough to save herself from Velaska.  Yet just as the bard was about to lose her grip she felt Xena slide down upon the ground next to her.  Xena had grabbed hold of an old rod sticking out of the groun of the ruins directly in the path of Velaska’s vortex.  When she arrived by Gabrielle’s side she asked that Gabrielle grab hold of her, but the bard was not so certain that she would be able to transfer her grip successfully from the root to the warrior princess.  Quickly the bard switched to the warrior princess, but in the next second both were hurtiling toward Velaska’s ligthening filled vortex of wind, evil, and fury.  Just before reaching the grasp of the goddess Xena used the old pole to plunge them over top of Velasak’s fierce vortex to safety using an old fallen column as a catapult.  Gabrielle screamed with surprise and fear as the two landed safely away from the vortex on the other side of the ruins.

The two then hid behind a pile of columns to cover themselves from the fury.  Velaska had been unable to find them within her vortex and suddenly she dissappeared.  All that could be seen were a few rustling leaves and then nothing.  There was an eerie calm silence across the ruins.  Even Callisto appeared surprised and a bit confused.  It was as if Velaska had been fooled into thinking they were gone.  Until there was an echoing of a voice calling out Gabrielle’s name.  It was indeed the goddess and she had finally caught up to the amazon princess.  Velaska declared that Gabrielle had done well in avoiding her for the past few days, but that it was now time for the bard to meet her demise.  This statment was followed by that echoing evil laughter as the bard and the warrior princess desparately searched for Velaska’s visual.  Suddenly there was a moment of quiet and then the warrior princess quickly responded pushing Gabrielle foward to run toward the lava pit.  This action was followed by a sudden bold of energy which struck the place where Gabrielle had been standing.

Gabrielle and Xena continued to run across the ruins toward the lava pit as Velaska’s bolts of energy exploded in a path just behind them.  Xena dove behind and rolled foward over and around the columns which stood in their path.  Then the warrior princess grabbed the bard when they had reached higher ground concealing them behind an old stone wall.  Callisto was just in front of them now and behind the column which had sustained the most recent blast.  Callisto turned to the warrior princess candidly as she was about to rise.  Xena knew that they had the advantange when she realized that Velaska thought that she was only up against two instead of three.  She instructed Callisto to stay down and then told Callisto that all she needed to to was get behind the ruins on the other side of the canyon where the lava pit was.  Callisto responded looking forward to her challenge against Velaska.  She couldn’t wait to throw Velaska to her doom into the pit.  Xena continued explaining the plan to Callisto stating that there was a rope bridge just over the pit.  It would be there that they would have to lead Velasaka.

Callisto looked to the bard responding that that part of the plan would be easy since Gabrielle was the prize for Velaska.  Then she stood giving Velasaka every oppritunity to see her and stated that the next time they met she would be a god.  Callisto’s eyes burned of determination and fire.  She knew that to defeat Velaska would mean that she could easily rip apart the warrior princess.  Then Callisto ran for the lava pit.  There were a series of explosions which followed Callisto’s path, but they did little damage to Callisto.  The ground shook beneath the bard and the warrior princess as Gabrielle spoke up.  Her voice was grim as she reminded Xena that Callisto was right.  It was she who had to lead Velaska to the bridge.  Xena objected harshly explaining that it was never in the plan for a moment that the bard should sacrifice herself.  Yet Gabrielle did not care.  Though she was still fearful she knew that Callisto was still in the right.  It was the only way to be certain that Velaska would get onto the bridge.  Then Xena reminded Gabrielle that they also had to get Callisto onto the bridge as well.  The plan was to despose of not just Velaska, but Callisto too.  Xena’s final plan was revealed to the bard quickly and between blasts.  She said that she would certain that during Callisto’s battle against Velaska upon the bridge the ropes could be cut and the two would go plunging into the lava pit for eternity.  They would be so busy fighting each other that neither would notice Xena cutting the ropes.  Gabrielle quickly braced herself for action knowing that it was now the moment of truth.

Xena and Gabrielle then ran toward the rope bridge as they tried to out run Velaska’s blasts.  The warrior princess shouted when she saw the bridge instructing Gabrielle to get to the otherside quickly.  Just before the two reachd the bridge there was another loud crash and boom.  It knocked both off of their feet to the edge of the lava pit.  Gabrielle hit the ground hard losing her senses for a moment until she heard Velaska’s voice as the goddess stood over her.  Velaska was pleased that Gabrielle was seemingly an easy prey as the bard flipped over to face Velaska still upon the ground.  Xena jumped up quickly from the edge of the pit and drew her sword instantly to face Velaska.  Velask was annoyed by the warrior princess’s presence and with just one  raised arm she threw Xena across the lava pit effortlessly with her power.  The warrior princess could be heard struggling through the air as Gabrielle watched Xena slam onto the wall on the other side of the canyon.

Though Xena had not been killed she was incapable of helping the bard now.  Xena had to scale the side of the canyon to save her own life.  The bard was quickly ripped out of her concern for Xena into her own dire situation against Velaska.  Velaska asked if the bard was afraid.  Gabrielle took a deep breath and responded with honesty.  She told Velaska that she was afraid for she did not want to die.  Velaska seemed pleased by the honesty and thought for a moment that maybe she did not want to kill the bard.   Gabrielle urged Velaska to follow that feeling, but Velasaka would not.  Instead she laughed slightly and smiled reminding Gabrielle that her death would please her even more although Velaska had a bit of respect for Gabrielle.  It was the bard whom had given her the gift of godhood when Gabrielle guided her to the realization that she didn’t need to be queen of the amazons.  Instead Velaska could be a goddess and shape the world as she pleased instead of trying to shape an amazon nation that was already expired in her opinion.  In the next moment Velaska pointed her finger out toward the bard about to strike her dead with her powers, but as the bard closed her eyes awaiting her death and her last breath Velaska stopped.  The goddess could not kill her that way.  Instead Gabrielle opened her eyes again as her chest rose and fell violently to find Velaska reaching into her leather arm cuff for her knife.  Velaska had decided that Gabrielle needed to die a long painful death.  It was the only thing that would seemingly satisfy her rage.  Gabrielle’s muscles tensed and her heart raced within her chest as if trying to get out.  She watched the long thick blade approaching her.  Then as Velaska was about to strike she asked that Gabrielle deliver a message to Hades.  She told the bard that she would be dropping by to visit him in Tarturus soon.

Life was fluttering away from the bard until suddenly she saw hate jump upon the back of evil and scream out for the ambrosia.  Callisto quickly grabbed the knife and used it to cut the pouch of ambrosia hanging from Velaska’s belt.  There was a fierce struggle between the two dark beings as Gabrielle watched the ambrosia fall to the ground.  Her first instinct was to grab the ambrosia and go running across the rope bridge.  Just as the bard acted and was about to rise to her feet to run away Velaska kicked the bard hard sending Gabrielle through the air and falling directly into the lava pit.  The bard screamed with surprise, but was able to grab hold of the rope bridge barely saving herself from certain death for the moment.  When she looked down all that could be seen was the raging lava running beneath her.  The heat rose from the depths of it as if beckoning death to take its certain victim.  Gabrielle hung with just one hand gripping the rope.  She realized quickly that there would be a little chance of survival holding on with only one hand.  The bard transferred the ambrosia into her mouth and held tightly to the rope with both hands.  She looked across the canyon to see that Xena had reached the rope and was about to save herself from death.  Soon Xena would be able to rescue Gabrielle as Callisto and Velasaka continued their intense battle.

Suddenly Callisto was at the edge of the bridge about to climb onto it until she realized that it was not wise.  Then she begged Gabrielle to give her the ambrosia.  Gabrielle refused knowing that it would be Xena’s end if Callisto had the ambrosia.  Callisto found herself frustrated and screamed demanding that Gabrielle give her the ambrosia.  Gabrielle looked to the other side of the bridge for a sign from Xena.  The warrior princess shouted out that Callisto should have the ambrosia.  Reluctantly Gabrielle took her hand off of the rope and threw the leather pouch to Callisto who caught it gleefully.  She wasted no time in opening the gift from the gods as she stuffed it into her mouth.  Gabrielle watched as the immortal went into a painful transformation as she screamed and struggled to stand up upon the rope bridge.  There was fire and lightening emminating from her body as the bard held tightly to stay alive.  Callisto then rose to her feet now an immortal god as she took a few steps more onto the bridge and turned to face Velaska once more.

Gleefully Callisto smiled ready to do battle against chaos and Velaska wasted little time in enguaging with Callisto who was another annoyance to her.  Velasak was about to join Callisto on the bridge until she realized that Callisto had already eaten the ambrosia.  This meant that the battle had been evened and that to enter onto the bride would be a higher risk than before.  Velaska stayed close to the edge upon the bridge as Callisto was just feet from Gabrielle.  The two clashed in a battle of godly wills as lightening bolts emminated from their hands.  They screamed in their powerful struggle as the bridge shook violently.  It was becoming increasingly difficult for Gabrielle to hold onto the bridge as the two goddesses battled it out.  Gabrielle looked to Xena and called out to her frantically seeing that the warrior princess had finally reached safety.  Xena called out for Gabrielle to hold on as she prepared a rope.  Gabrielle was quickly losing her grip upon the bridge as the two gods continued to struggle and called out to Xena again.  There was no way that her will could battle against the wills of powerful gods.  Her mortal strength could not outlast theirs.

Gabrielle was quickly realizing that she would have to die in order to save the lives of others.  She asked that Xena hurry and cut the rope in that moment, but Xena refused to let go of Gabrielle’s life.  The warrior princess continued preparing the rope as she tied it to her waste.  Gabrielle knew that this would be Xena’s only chance to defeat the two goddesses.  The bard scolded Xena for not cutting the rope, but Xena refused to do it until she had Gabrielle safe.  Suddenly the bard noticed that the bridge jerked violently for the battle of the gods had ceased between their powers.  Neither could out will the other.  Suddenly the two met each other in the middle battling it out physically as if one could kill the other.  There was so much anger and rage to will against that the bard found herself begining to slip.  Xena kept calling out to the bard trying to get her friend to focas as she asked Gabrielle not to look away from her.  The warrior princess then grabbed her chackram and used it to slice through the first of three ropes which held the bridge in place.  It was enough to plunge both Callisto and Velaska into the depths of the fiery pit.

Gabrielle watched as the two fell and struggled all the way to their demise, but then lost grip on one of her hands upon what was left of the bridge.  Gabrielle called out to Xena once more in a last moment of desparation as she felt her other hand slipping unable to stop it.  Gabrielle watched as Xena dove into the pit to rescue her with a rope tied to her waste.  The bard’s will was finally exhaused as her fingers slipped off of the rope and she felt herself plunging toward the immense heat of the lava.  Gabrielle looked up for Xena and suddenly felt the comfort of Xena’s strong hands.  The bard grabbed hold of them tightly her arms stretched beyond their own strain.   Gabrielle’s chest rose and fell as her heart had almost stopped.  A sigh of relief had spread throughout her body as she looked up at the warrior princess who smiled in triumph.  Gabrielle looked down one more time realizing how close she had come to becoming a victim of hot running lava beneath.

Finally the end of a seemingly long journey had come as both Gabrielle and Xena had reached the safety above the canyon once again.  Gabrielle wondered how long the lava would hold their enemies.  Xena’s hope would be that eternity would be enough time.  She explained that they would have to take the long way out of the canyon now that the bridge had been destroyed.  Then the warrior princess joked about the inconvience expressing that now they had plenty of time to waste.  Time was no longer their issue or their concern.  Yet Gabrielle looked back to the lava pit once more as she expressed to Xena her feeling and concern.  She wondered if Callisto felt sorry for all of the things she had done.  Xena harshly answered that she did not feel that at all.  Gabrielle explained then that despite what Xena thought she felt that Callisto truly did feel sorry for if she didn’t Gabrielle would not be able to forgive Callisto.  Then the bard continued explaining to Xena that if she could not forgive Callisto then she would not be able to move on with her own life.  It seemed that Xena did understand despite her opinion and so Gabrielle took one last look at the lava running beneath and said good-bye to the blond woman who had taken her love.  Forgiveness was the key if not for Callisto for the bard of Potedia.

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.

Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll#33: “Warrior,Princess,Tramp”

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll  #33:  Warrior,Princess,Tramp…

January 28th, 47 B.C. 

     It seemed that word traveled fast in the land of Greece for Xena the warrior princess was needed by everyone.  Her schedule was so busy and so dangerous that she had gone off to Thebes alone and without Gabrielle.  Though the bard had wanted to go only close friends of King Capous had been invited to Thebes.  The bard found herself in waiting for Xena had sent word to her while away at Thebes.  Xena had been asked once before by King Lius of Liberia to be his daughter’s protector for Princess Diana’s life had been threatened many times before.  Yet this time it was different for Princess Diana and her husband Prince Phillimond.  They had a newborn child and King Lius’s health was not so well.  Now it was the Princess herself whom had sent for Xena’s help.  Diana was afraid of the future of the kingdom of Liberia knowing that she and Phillimond would soon be taking the place of her beloved father Lius.   There were many renegade armies in waiting just outside the castle walls and beyond to take over the kingdom at the slightest hint of the king’s impending death.

     Gabrielle got word of this from Xena and was instructed to meet with Xena just outside of Liberia at a local inn.  As the bard sat in waiting at the inn she overheard what she thought was the horrid voice of Joxer the idiot.  The bard was not certain that she had heard his voice until she heard it blurt out the names of Callisto and of Xena.  She began to listen in upon Joxer’s crazy tale.  He told it very well and held the crowd in the palm of his hand.  He was boisterous and full of excitement yet there was one problem.  He was telling the story of Callisto all wrong.  Joxer called himself “Joxer the Magnificient” and declared it had been he whom had been the hero of the story of Callisto.  He was telling a mistruth and the bard could no longer listen to his tale another moment. 

      Gabrielle stood from her chair and casually entered into the scene standing just behind the idiot as he told his tall tale.  Just as he was about to explain his heroics in saving Xena from Callisto at the moment of truth he noticed Gabrielle to his left.  For a moment his concentration was thrown off as the bard greeted him with irritated sarcasm.  Joxer knew that he was in the frying pan and so he cowered from his moment of triumph trying to recover from his folly before the audience.  If his story had not been so false he could have gone to Athens himself and beat out Homer, but Gabrielle could not ever let that happen if Xena’s reputation were to be on the line.  She expressed her displeasure with Joxer’s intentional phibs reminding him that not only was the bard herself tied up, but he was tied up with her on the same post in the ground.  In fact, it was Xena whom had come to save them both from the wrath of Callisto.

      Joxer quickly recovered delivering the unexpected to Gabrielle.  He swore that he had just seen Xena at the inn hours before and that she had asked him to join her at the castle in a few hours.  Not only that, but apparently Xena had suddenly become in lust with Joxer the idiot which seemed to the bard highly unlikely.  Gabrielle decided to ignore Joxer’s lies and to understand his facsination with tall tales.  According to the message that Gabrielle had recieved from Xena just days before Xena was not planning to be back from Thebes until the next sun.  To the bard it was just another of Joxer’s tall tales yet there was something strange about it.  She decided to leave him to his crazy antics and  to investigate his claim.  It was highly unlikely that it was Xena that he had seen and so Gabrielle made the journey to Liberia on her own.

     As the bard arrived at the king’s castle she was greeted cordially by Lius’s guards.  They invited her in immediately for they had remembered the last visit from the warrior princess and the bard.  Gabrielle was escorted into the castle and immediately taken to see the princess who was talking with the warrior princess.  Diana was just as shocked to see Xena as Gabrielle was knowing that it was a day earlier than Xena had expected to arrive.  Xena confirmed with Diana that indeed she had made very good time from Thebes.  Then Xena introduced a former advisor to the king of Thebes to Diana.  Apparently she had brought him along to help with the mission.  Xena then asked Diana about the status of her father’s health.  Diana was saddened when she answered and Xena expressed her shallow condolances yet promised that they would get through these times of hardship together.  Gabrielle entered into the conversation and was instantly welcomed by the grateful Diana.  The bard was pleased to see how well the princess looked and the handsome Phillimond too.  Then Diana introduced the guard to Xena and instructed him that Xena was to be honored as if her orders were those of King Lius himself.  Then the princess and her prince exited leaving Xena, Gabrielle, and Agus with her guard.

     Gabrielle instantly tore into Xena a bit disgusted by the lack of good communication between herself and the warrior princess on this mission.  In fact, Xena’s message never even alluded to the fact that she would be bringing Agus into the mission.  It didn’t even mention that there was anyone named Agus involved or even known the warrior princess.  As far as meeting at the castle the message she had recieved never mentioned that she should meet Xena at the castle.  It was back at the tavern that Gabrielle had expected Xena and not for another day.  Then Gabrielle found herself intrigued as to why Joxer would remotely think that Xena was in love with him.  The bard warned Xena that she needed to be more cautious about what she said to the idiot in the future.  He was a crazy lunatic at best.  Gabrielle continued her elaboration of her experience at the inn with Joxer who had the entire bar thinking that the warrior princess was a tramp by the time she had left him.  There was something very strange to this entire scenario, but before the bard could even put her mind and emotions back in order Xena gave the order to the guard to throw Gabrielle in the dungeon.

    Finding oneself in the lonely dungeon was not what Gabrielle had anticipated when arriving at the castle.  She paced in her cell trying to figure out what Xena had meant when she called her a big mouth idiot just before finding herself the dungeon.  The bard wasn’t sure if it was a new code or a test of her will and prowess.  One thing was certain and that was the burning irritation of being left out of Xena’s plan.  Moments later Gabrielle heard the door to the dungeon echo shut and then the warrior princess appeared.  Gabrielle quickly tore into Xena again demanding to know what was going on.  Xena explained to the bard that her being thrown into the dungeon was all part of her plan to protect Gabrielle and Princess Diana.  Gabrielle’s heart sank when she heard this coming from the warrior princess after all that they had been through together.  It didn’t make sense that Xena would suddenly be treating her like a kid again the way she had when they had first begun their travels together.  Gabrielle felt certain that she was very able to defend herself against anyone who might attack her. 

     Yet Xena persisted in saying that the man they were up against had a strange method of torture in order to extract information from his victims.  She said that he liked to shove burning splinters under the fingernails of his victims.  When the bard was asked by the warrior princess if she had ever had this experience Gabrielle found herself confused, but certain that she could not recall that experience within her realm of memories.  With that the bard was still concerned because Xena still refused to tell her what the plan was.  In fact, the bard was quite certain that if this shady character was to get a hold of her he would still shove the burning splinters under her nails despite Gabrielle’s lack of knowledge.  He would not know if she was telling the truth of not knowing the plan.  Xena then followed up with that being the main reason that Gabrielle should stay locked up inside the dungeon.  Before Gabrielle could think or respond to Xena the warrior princess was gone and out the door of the prison.  Gabrielle was still confused and still irrated by this latest mood of the warrior princess.  The bard had always known Xena to have mood swings, but never like the mood of this day.

    As the day pressed on and the moments dragged by slower and slower the bard’s frustrations rose.  If only those frustrations could have led to her escape from being locked up by her own best friend.  There was seemingly no response from the outside world and so the bard finally decided to stop pacing and sit down to relax.  Maybe relaxation was just what was needed to answer these burning questions about Xena’s mood.  Yet just when things began to calm down within the bard the dungeon door swung upon and Joxer the magnificient idiot was thrown in face first to the ground.  As Joxer tried to gather his composure he made mention of Xena’s unpredictable mood.  Gabrielle couldn’t agree more with the idiot yet it was a rare occasion that the two could agree on anything at all.  This lastest development sparked the bard’s curiousity.  She decided that this was the closest to the outside world that she would be able to connect with so she interrogated Joxer about his most recent experience with Xena. 

     Joxer began again with his lustful story that he had been telling about his first encounter with Xena on the night before.  Gabrielle could have spared those details and could barely believe anything Joxer spewd from the top of his fantasies.  Then he recapped his run in with the bard herself earlier in the morning.  Gabrielle explained what had happened upon her arrival at the castle and then Joxer picked up with his story explaining in triumphant detail how he had muscled the guards into letting him in despite their unwelcome reaction to his presence.  The bard could believe that one, but was having difficulty with Joxer’s muscle.  Yet he did get into the castle, but his story didn’t end there. 

     He spoke of how he had been thinking of his statements to the audience back at the tavern.  After talking to Gabrielle who had reminded him of what he was saying to the masses he had realized that it had truely been inappropriate for him to share his most intimate moments with a crowd of strangers.  Although he was quite exhilerated and confident of himself at the time.  Gabrielle had to interrupt the idiot again and pump more of the story out of him.  Her impatience with Joxer led to him explaining that he looked for Xena upon entering the castle.  He had wanted to apologize to the warrior princess after being advised by Gabrielle.  Yet when he finally found Xena she had seemingly been irrated by Gabrielle’s intervention into their romantic esacpades.  He even said that Xena called Gabrielle a big mouth idiot.  Gabrielle thought about that for a moment and then remembered that Xena had called her that earlier just before being thrown back into the dungeon.

       As Gabrielle began to pace again and to contemplate all of this new information Joxer continued on with the worst part of his story.  He swore to Gabrielle that Xena couldn’t keep her hands off of him.  Joxer must have been hallucinating.  It was the best conclusion to all of his fantasy for the warrior princess would never fall for the idiot.  And as Gabrielle argued this point with Joxer he explained to her that nothing had happened.  Even when Xena had tried to arouse him putting her hands on his thigh he was honorable.  According to Joxer he bravely left the scene despite Xena’s wild hormones for him.  Gabrielle felt good about his intensions, but only until Joxer finished his story.  He explained to the bard that as he was walking through the halls of the castle in manly confusion he ran into Xena yet again only this time she was wearing a beautiful red dress.  Joxer again tried desparately to fight his manly urges and scolded the warrior princess for trying to swoon him with a passionate dress.  But then Joxer’s manhood won out and defeated his resolve.  That was when he apparently reached for Xena’s buttox and grabbed it in pleasure.  That was how Joxer had ended up in the dungeon.

      It was all begining to make sense to the bard now.  All of it except for the part about Xena’s lust for Joxer.  The reason he had been thown into the dungeon was because he had run into Princess Diana.  He was unaware that the princess and Xena were one in the same when it came to their looks.  Joxer began to laugh boistrerously at his mistake yet he was embarressed and suddenly shamed of himself.  His shame didn’t last long though for he was excited to know that Xena was still lusting after him.  Gabrielle again argued against this.  It just wasn’t Xena.  Joxer smiled and showed his love marks apparently given to him by the warrior princess.  The bard didn’t want to see them and was becomming extermely distraught with confusion.  Joxer explained that there was nothing to worry about for he would still be honorable.  He was going to ask Xena to marry him.  Then the last straw for Gabrielle came when Joxer told Gabrielle that she could still be a part of their lives.  She could be just like their daughter.  The bard went off of the edge at that point.  The thought of Joxer’s fantasy possibly coming true was beyond her grasp of imagination or reality.  She ran for the door and grabbed the bars desparately hoping that someone would let her out of this nightmare soon.

     Her wish came true with the arrival of Diana at the dungeon.  She entered explaining that she had just talked to Xena who had told her the plan.  Yet when Gabrielle impatiently inquired of the plan Diana said that it was still not able to be disclosed to the bard.  Then Diana looked to Joxer and explained that Xena had told him of her lust for Joxer and of how Joxer had mistaken the two.  Diana was forgiving of Joxer as Joxer bowed his head down for her forgiveness.  His shame lasted very shortly as Diana explained that Xena needed his help with the plan and that he would take part in it.  As for Gabrielle she had to stay in the dungeon alone yet again.  Joxer was high with pride because for the first time ever he was at the top of the list of Xena’s sidekicks.  He was the important one and he was gloating within every moment.  As Diana dragged Joxer out of the dungeon Gabrielle followed in anger feeling very upset about being shut out by all of her truest friends.  The guards did not allow her to get two steps out of the dungeon before throwing her back in and slamming the door in her face.  The rejection was almost unbearable.

      Suddenly all of the anger within the bard unleashed itself in fury.  Gabrielle began to go insane as she punched and kicked an old sack of wheat lying on the floor of the dungeon.  The bard was envisioning what she would do to Xena once Xena came back for her.  This was too much for Gabrielle to handle.  Not knowng the plan, being called a big mouth, being thrown in a dungeon, and being thrown aside in favor of Joxer were more than Gabrielle could take.  A true friend did not treat someone like this.  All of the rage turned into pain as the bard kicked the bag so hard that her foot hurt.  As she tried to calm down for a moment and gather her composure the door to the dungeon opened again.  It was Xena and Gabrielle could do nothing, but yell and scream out all of her frustrations.  Gabrielle was certain that Xena’s real plan was to drive her insane for the day.  For a moment Gabrielle expected Xena to retailate against this accusation and emotional outburst demonstrated, but instead Xena coldy invited the bard to her freedom outside of the dungeon.  Joxer laughed at the bard still gleefully exstatic about his new status in Xena’s life, but Gabrielle didn’t allow his pride to last too long as she nailed him in the stomach on the way out. 

      Gabrielle had a million questions for the warrior princess as they walked down the hall.  She could barely contain herself or her loud rising voice.  The warrior princess tried to explain all that had been happening through the day starting with her own experience back at the tavern.  She began by stating she found it strange when almost every man at the inn wanted to take her to bed.  The warrior princess found it very irritating and filthy for them to all be trying to get her in the sack.  It seemed that everyone wanted to get their hands on the warrior princess.  Finding herself trying to ignore the scumb in the tavern she asked the bar keep if he had seen Gabrielle.  The bar keep explained that the bard had left for the castle earlier in the morning.  Not long after Xena had received that information she found herself in the middle of a bar fight with some warlords passing through who seemed to be targeting her specifically.  The warrior princess defeated them with one of her favorite techninques.  She used alchohol and a torch setting fire to the place.  This was to accomplish two things.  It only accomplished one for the warrior princess was still being hit on even after she had terrorized several warlords.

     When Xena had entered the castle she seeked to find Diana who seemed to be overly emotional about her father.  The warrior princess was hoping to discuss plans for securing the castle with Diana, but Diana insisted that she be left alone.  Xena had decided that maybe King Lius’s health was more serious than Diana had stated in her message.  Xena then decided to investigate the castle and check out what was going on for herself.  That was when she ran into Joxer who had just been let out by Diana.  At this point in Xena’s story Joxer chimed in with great confidence and manly pride as he told his tale of how Diana’s plans for him had begun with a passionate kiss.  This was very dificult to calculate or to believe.  Yet it explained why Xena was acting so strangely because it wasn’t really her.  It also explained why Xena had arrived at the tavern a day early.  It wasn’t Xena it was Diana.  Gabrielle had remembered Diana to be exhuberant about dressing up and pretending to be the warrior princess before, but Joxer again did not seem to fit her type.  Xena’s story was missing something important. 

       As Gabrielle thought outloud about the entire scenario presented by Xena Joxer again prided himself on being a cunning sex symbol for all women.  Gabrielle punched the idiot in the stomach for he hadn’t heard a single word the warrior princess had said.  Then Joxer defended himself explaining that he did.  Xena interrupted the squabble between Joxer and Gabrielle when she continued with her own version of the story.  She had seen Joxer admiring himself in the mirror and when she confronted him he couldn’t keep his hands off of her.  Naturally she had to put Joxer in his place and remind him that he wasn’t really her type.  She explained to Joxer that it wasn’t she who lusted after him, but someone else.  At the time Joxer was certain that if it hadn’t been Xena then Diana definately was in love with him and very cunning about it. 

      With all of this confusion within the castle the warrior princess was desparately looking for the bard.  She was certain that Gabrielle would be able to help her put together the pieces to this mysterious puzzle of princess’s Diana’s emontional state which had seemingly led her into the arms of Joxer the idiot.  When Xena confessed to Joxer that she couldn’t find Gabrielle Joxer explained impatiently that Gabrielle had been in the dungeon where Xena had left her.  Joxer had obviously found himself agreeing again with Gabrielle’s observation of Xena’ s mood swings.  It seemed that everyone involved was in a state of mass confusion. 

     As soon as Xena was aware that Diana had thrown Gabrielle into the dungeon she took Joxer with her to retrieve the bard.  It was on that journey to the dungeon that they ran into the third Xena.  This was the answer to all of Xena’s questions and those of everyone else involved as well.  Meg was her name and she was well-known, but only within her profession which was discovered to be that of the local tramp.  Xena and Joxer listened behind the tapestry as Meg spoke of how much of a man Joxer was.  Joxer of course was loving this part of the story.  Then Xena continued stating that she was with a warlord named Agus.  Gabrielle began to put the pieces within the puzzle together in her mind.  Agus must have been the advisor from Thebes that Gabrielle had seen upon her own arrival to the castle.  Only this person wasn’t an advisor or a friend.  Agus was the enemy that was trying to take control of Lius’s castle.  He was using Meg to pose as Xena and Diana so that he could make his move upon the castle using some insiders he had planted in the guard force. 

       The bard was finally able to put all of the pieces together.  It had been Meg who had thrown Gabrielle into the dungeon fearing that she would blow open Agus’s plan before it ever got off of the ground.  It had been Meg whom had been calling her a big mouth idiot.  Suddenly Gabrielle didn’t feel so rejected or ignored.  It all made sense now.  Every bit of the story and every part of her day.  Meg was lusting after Joxer and Meg was the one who didn’t respect Gabrielle.  It wasn’t Xena at all.  There was much relief within the bard as the three entered into the castle courtyard outside.  But the relief faded quickly when Gabrielle realized that she might not be with the real Xena.  This entire story could have been a fabrication.  The bard demanded some identification from Xena as did Joxer.  Xena’s reaction was to grab her chackram and toss it across the courtyard.  It deflected off of a guard’s shield and then the castle walls.  The chackram busted opon the side of a bucket, then deflected off the walls again slicing  through four standing spears.  Finally it circled back around deflecting off of another hanging shield which fell off of the wall, then it scraped across an urn setting fire to it, knocked over a piece of orange pottery as it rounded back toward Gabrielle.  Gabrielle’s eyes followed it all the way across the courtyard as it hurled back toward her face with great speed and velocity.  The bard began to fear that she may have just asked for her death until in the last moment Xena tamed the chackram and put it safely back into her belt.

      It was a sudden relief to know that it was really Xena and not Diana or Meg.  Now that everyone was straight on the plan and on what was really going on within the castle walls Xena suggested that the three of them split up to find Diana.  When Joxer asked how he would know which one was the real Diana Xena reminded him that the one who lusted after him was the bad one.  Joxer contemplated this for a moment,but quickly determined that despite Meg’s bad image it would be worth the suffering he would have to endure. 

     The grueling day wore on as this mission became more complicated.  It was tangled with look alikes that all resembled the heroin.  After an hour of walking through the castle Gabrielle ran into Xena again back at the courtyard.  Joxer’s point of confusion was well taken, but Gabrielle knew Xena well.  Especially now that she had met the best and the worst of Xena’s look alikes.  Xena had come up with a new idea for the plan to find Diana.  The warrior princess was certain that Agus’s men would know where Diana was.  Diana had been captured and they weren’t keeping her within the castle.  Xena decided to pose as Meg dressed as Diana.  She took Gabrielle outside the castle walls.  The two tracked down the camp of the enemy and then set up a rendez-vous point just outside of there. 

      The warrior princess called out to one of the men who were guarding the outskirts of the camp hoping to get his attention.  Her attempt worked as she concealed Gabrielle behind a rock where they waited.  When the guard approached Xena played Meg and said that she had found Gabrielle snooping around outside the castle walls.  Now that there was a prisinor Meg begged the guard to take her to the place where they had taken Diana so that Gabrielle could be locked away with the princess.  The guard was smarter than Xena had anticipated and he drew his sword from his belt preparing to strike down Xena.  Yet Xena did not move or even try to block the striking blow.  She held her cool and the man stopped short of loping off Meg’s head.  Once the guard was convinced that Xena was really Meg the plan went smoothly.

      Soon both Xena and Gabrielle were inside the dungeon where they were keeping Diana.  Diana was terrified as Gabrielle had expected.  She sat on the dirty dungeon floor with her arms chained above her head.  Xena played up her part as Meg almost too well as she dragged the helpless bard around making the sale that much better.  Gabrielle was tied to the wall alongside Diana who was complaining of her dire situation.  The bard ‘s heart chuckled as she recalled her last experience with the princess.  Gabrielle reminded Diana that despite her situation it was not the worst thing that could befall the princess.  Then Xena went into full action.  As Meg she suggested that she and the guards toy with their new prisnor.  The guards were delighted at this idea as they rose from their gambling and approached Gabrielle.  Of course Xena wasn’t about to allow the guards their way.  Instead she grabbed hold of one of their swords cutting the bard free as the battle in the dungeon began. 

      The warrior princess fought against the three guards as Gabrielle freed Diana from her binds.  Then Gabrielle picked up a large round weapon and used it in the battle assiting Xena in the defeat of the guards.  The warrior princess finished the battle with one of her favorite moves as she ran up the side of a wall and flipped back down into the pursuit of battle.  Her battle cry could be heard echoing through the dungeon as Diana found herself unable to resist taking a punch and a kick at one of the guards herself.  The battle was a quick one and it seemed to Gabrielle that she and Xena were becoming a more solid team with each passing adventure.  Despite this minor celebration there was a new issue at hand.  Agus’s first in command had gotten away and he was certain to return to the castle to give Agus the new word.

      Though Xena, Gabrielle, and Diana rushed back to the castle they were too late for the baby had been kidknapped by Agus.  Xena had decided that it was no longer safe for Diana and Phillimond now that Agus was certain to know of Xena’s plans.  He would be certain to assasinate both Diana and Phillimond if given the chance.  Xena asked if Diana knew of a safe place within the castle.  Diana spoke of the royal chamber known only to those within the royal family.  The warrior princess felt that it would be perfect to hide the prince and princess there until she and Gabrielle could find Meg and save the baby.  Yet Phillimond was against sitting by and waiting while his child was in danger.  Xena had to remind him that he too was in just as much danger if not more than the child.  She asked Phillimond to trust in her and then she said no more.

     Xena was off to find Agus leaving Gabrielle to search for Meg.  For Gabrielle it would be simple to find Meg for wherever Joxer was Meg would most certainly be there with him.  Gabrielle went to Joxer’s chambers in the castle and sure enough she found Meg although Joxer was not there.  As the bard stood in the doorway she watched Meg primping herself dressed as princess Diana.  Moments later as Meg peered into the mirror at herself she saw Gabrielle’s reflection in the doorway behind her.  Meg turned to face the enemy ready to take her down.  Yet Gabrielle was not afraid of a dirty tramp.  Meg demanded that she get out of her way, but Gabrielle proclaimed that it would be death before she would allow Meg to continued her dirty deeds. 

     Meg held a pair of sissors certain that she would win this battle of witts and braun, but Gabrielle was poised for action.  This tramp had damaged Xena’s reputation with Joxer just by looking like Xena and she had disrespected Gabrielle.  Meg was the reason for Gabrielle’s dismally confusing day.  She had to be stopped no matter the cost.  Gabrielle enguaged in battle with Meg who threated to cut the bard with her golden scissors.  The bard moved quickly using a kick to disarm Meg who then lunged forward grabbing Gabrielle by the back of her hair shoving her face first into the fruit on the table by the bed.  Then she slammed the bard face first into a large vase which led to a painful headache.  As the bard tried to regain her strength and control Meg stepped upon her boots. 

     Suddenly Gabrielle found her second wind.  She lept forward tackling Meg as the two rolled on the ground in a stalemate.  The two pulled hair and poked eyes as they screamed within their struggle of wills.  Meg soon had the advantage as she tried to strangle the bard, but then she grabbed a lock of Gabrielle’s hair ripping it from its roots.  The pain sent shocks of agony through Gabrielle’s body which turned to rage against the enemy.  Meg seemed surprised that she had been able to rip a handful of hair out of someone’s head.  Her hesitation gave Gabrielle a chance to take control of the battle as she tried to strangle Meg.  Instead of killing her Gabrielle raised her fist ready to rearrange Meg’s face.  Meg’s eyes were wide with fear as she panted and begged for mercy.  Then the tramp began to cry, but the bard felt no sympathy for the tramp. 

     Gabrielle wanted to hit Meg, but something inside her could not do it.  Maybe it was because Meg looked so much like Xena.  Gabrielle wasn’t certain.  Then Meg spoke after the moment of silence and it was clear that she was in shame.  The tramp was accustomed to being on the bottom in every way.  Gabrielle rose from the floor and helped the tramp up as they moved to sit down and relax their furies.  Meg expressed her pain as Gabrielle listened.  Strangely the bard began to feel sorry for the tramp despite Meg’s recent actions.  Although Gabrielle couldn’t forgive Meg for everything she wanted to give her a chance to defend her actions.  And so Meg continued explaining to Gabrielle why she went along with Agus’s plan to overthrow the kingdom of Liberia.  She was afraid for her life and Agus had played on the emotional weakness within Meg.  The tramp seemingly despised Gabrielle for being a good girl and doing the right thing when she herself could never make that choice. 

      Gabrielle still didn’t quite understand what Meg had to be angry about.  She didn’t understand why Meg would torment herself with the lifestyle of a tramp.  It was so disrespectful to oneself to life that kind of life.  But then Meg explained with sadness that she had been taking care of herself since the age of ten.  Gabrielle listened to Meg’s story for it was beginging to sound interesting until Meg said that her father had died in childbirth.  This sounded a lot like one of Joxer’s tall tales until Meg  continued by stating her father had been so drunk on the day she was born that he had fallen off of a roof to his death.  Meg looked to Gabrielle with envy knowing that because her father hadn’t been there she had grown up to be a tramp.  She had longed for a father her entire life.  Meg went onto express her envy more assuming that Gabrielle probably had a good father.  Gabrielle couldn’t deny that her father had been good to her as a child, but it still didn’t explain the other half.  Gabrielle inquired of Meg’s mother.

     Meg explained that her mother had not been a very good one.  She had loved her mother dearly, but her mother had kept bringing home bad men.  These bad men would beat her and her mother.  Meg was defenseless against it until one day she decided to run away from it all.  She never turned back until a year later when she had caught word that her mother had died one day.  Meg expressed her regret in not going home to say good-by to her mother.  She regretted not telling her mother that she had loved her despite the abuse she endured with her for all of those years.  Meg began to remenice in her heart the fun times she held closest within.  Suddenly Gabrielle began to feel Meg’s pain and she began to understand.  Meg was a lost child who was afraid and made the wrong choices because she had no where to turn.  Meg needed guidance and seeked it desparately.  Just when the two were begining to connect Meg stood up from the bedside and scolded herself for getting emotional in front of a stranger.  Yet Gabrielle was glad that Meg had shared that intimate story with her.  She was able to forgive Meg for her mistakes and hoped that Meg would be able to learn from them.

      Gabrielle decided that they should find the king now that she had rounded up the tramp.  The two went to his bedchambers to find that he wasn’t there.  They waited for his return or the return of the warrior princess.  The ill king had been walking about the castle looking for his beloved Diana.  He had returned to find her waiting for him with Gabrielle.  Lius then sat down beside his lovely daughter scolding her for not visiting him.   Meg played the part of his daughter knowing that it was another lie yet she longed in her heart for a father like Lius.  Of course Meg did not have the answer to Diana’s abscence.  All she knew was that she was part of the reason Diana had been missing from her father’s life for the past day.  Lius seemed pleased that he was with Diana again. Despite his illness it gave him strength to see her beautiful face.  Gabrielle watched as the king put his fatherly arms around Meg and cuddled with his daughter.  For the first time ever Meg was feeling a real father in her heart.  Gabrielle did not wish to interrupt this moment of bliss, but it was not up to her.

     After several moments of taming the wild heart Agus and his guards entered into the king’s bedchamgers.  Immediately Gabrielle was restrained as Agus took control.  Knives were pulled upon the king and Gabrielle as Agus handed the last knife over to Meg.  He gave the order for her to kill the king seeking to take advantage of her confused innocence as he had done for an entire day.  Meg took the knife in fear yet there was great reluctance within her eyes.  She held the knife to the king’s throat, but her hands shook with uncertainty.  Agus urged her to make the kill as he beat her down with disrespectful comments.  Although Meg was a tramp there was a pure heart within.  It didn’t deserve to be abused any longer.  Meg finally decided to stand up and defend herself against the abuse for the first time.  She turned upon Agus and held the knife upon him.  Determined to protect the king Meg held steady just in time for the warrior princess to arrive with Joxer.  Xena entered with a battle cry and a warning to those who dared to defy her.  Sword in hand dressed as the princess Xena began kicking through Agus’s men.  Gabrielle used the oppritunity to escape from her capture and join in the battle alongside Xena and Joxer.  She grabbed her resting staff and put it into action as Meg took the king to safety away from the battle.  The battle in the king’s chambers ended just as quickly as the battle in the dungeon to save Diana.

      There was just one person left to save from the wrath of Agus and his men.  It was the baby and the young heir who would be there for Phillimond the way Diana was there for Lius.  Gabrielle suggested to Xena that they allow Meg to stay with the king.  The bard was certain that she would protect Lius for his kindness to her.  Meg had demonstrated her strength when she saved him from Agus.  Xena agreed with Gabrielle that Meg could help them.  In fact she was certain Meg would be more helpful than Joxer for it was Joxer that had blown her cover.  When Xena had found Agus she pretended to be Meg again.  She tricked Agus into bringing the baby to her, but then Joxer walked in just before Xena was able to get the baby safe in her arms.  He mistook Xena for Diana as he tried to be brave and save the baby from its captures.  As always it didn’t work out and he bumbled away another golden oppritunity.  Yet who could blame the kindness of a heart so desparate for heroism. 

     It was this spirit of heroism that seemed to strike the hearts of almost everyone involved.  Xena had taken Gabrielle and Joxer to rejoin Diana and Phillimond at the royal chamber.  The two could wait no longer for their child was in great danger.  Xena decided that everyone should split up again and search the entire castle for the baby.  Xena traveled with Diana, and Gabrielle searched the castle with Phillimond while Joxer went on a search of his own.  After scouring the castle Xena and Phillmond ran into the nursemaid down in the dungeon.  She spoke of how the baby was taken from her care just moments before by Agus himself.  And so it all came down to one single battle in the castle.  It began with the arrival of Diana who tried, but failed to play the part of Xena.  She had everyone going until she had forgotten what Xena’s most important weaopon was.  Diana called it a round killing thing. 

      Just as Agus and his men were about to string the baby up in a basket above the burning alter a second Xena came rushing in.  This time it was Meg whose chackram broke as she called it a shamrock.  Her effort was good, but moments later the real warrior princess came leaping into the battle still dressed as Diana.  She smiled and then charged into battle against Agus and his men.  Joxer entered still confused despite all of the explanations.  Everyone including Gabrielle, and Phillimond were fighting to save the life of the baby who hung above the burning alter.  Swords clashed visciously, but it seemed that no one was winning the battle.  Finally in an attempt to end the struggle  the true hero of the story stepped into action.  Diana grabbed the rope and pulled it as hard as she could sending the baby catapulting out of the basket and through the air.  As everyone watched in horror and gasped with surprise the baby fell safely into a tapestry held by the princess herself.  And with that the battle was won as those fighting for the baby’s life had defeated enemy.

     For a moment everyone was relieved until Meg spoke of Lius.  He wasn’t doing so well and she hoped that Diana’s presence would be able to help him.  Meg spoke of the king’s surprise in finding that his daughter had two look alikes.  And just as the tramp was getting to know the king his breaths became a struggled silence.  All rushed back to the king’s bed chambers hoping that he had not yet passed.  Indeed the king was alive only resting within all of the confusion.  It was a lot to handle that there were three women who looked alike.  One was a warrior, another a princess, and the third a tramp.  It was a highly unlikely scenario.  As all was well again in the castle and everyone was safe it was because of the three women working together.  They used their skills in battle in their own unique ways.

     Gabrielle spoke again to Meg who was still concerned for the king.  Lius was going to be fine as Gabrielle tried to reassure Meg.  The tramp had adopted him as her father even though she would never be his daughter.  Meg spoke of writing him from jail, but then realized that she had never learned to write.  Gabrielle assured Meg that she wouldn’t be going to jail for her crimes for she and Xena had already decided that Meg derserved the chance to change.  Just then the king summoned Meg into his bed chambers and offered her a job within the castle.  Though Meg tried to refuse his hospitality for all of the wrongs she had committed the king would not accept those feelings for he trusted in her heart.  She had made the right choice when it counted despite being mixed up within Agus’s plot.  The king understood why Meg had been lost and decided that he would be the one to give her that second chance.  He declared that no one should talk bad about his personal cook.  With great surprise Meg found herself delighted that he was inviting her into his heart and into his home.  She was determined not to disappoint him. 

      And so the story ended with Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer leaving the castle together.  They were about to embark on a new journey together yet not to the delight of the warrior and the bard.  As Meg waived good-bye to her flame he left the castle vowing to return.  Despite Meg’s attempting to reform she still could not resist the sword of Joxer the Mighty.  He was mighty for Meg, but for the world he had a long way to go.  His heart was courageous, but he still had much to learn.  As did the tramp who looked just like a princess, and the warrior princess.

Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #32: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll #32:  Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

January 21st, 47 B.C.

     All was silent in the Baccae forrest for Gabrielle did not hear a single note.  The music of Orpheous did not speak.  It was now six young girls from the neighboring villages who had all disappeared without a single trace.  And so this place was the hunting grounds of Baccus whose wine was the blood of innocent young women.  It was said that only Orpheous’s song could tame the wild beast.  Xena was certain that the beast had risen once more into his furious spree of vicious crimes. 

     Gabrielle knew this famous old story all too well.  It was told to all young girls in her village who did  not behave.  They said that a single bite from a baccae could turn a young innocent woman into a wild soulless creature whose only allegance is to Baccus.  And once bitten she is loured into his lair to drink his blood.  If she does there is no way to save her.  She becomes a baccae forever.  They say that baccae women can take on many forms.  Sometimes they just go roaming the forrest as wolves.  Driven with an unquenchable thirst for blood they track their intended victim relentlessly.  Until they corner them.  Then they tear them apart lim from lim. 

     Carefully Gabrielle constructed the tale for Xena as they ventured through the depths of the Baccae forrest.  Xena had asked what the bard had known although Gabrielle was not so certain that these stories were of truth.  She was convinced that they were told only to scare people and there was nothing really to fear.  Yet the forrest itself seemed dark and treacherous like no other forrest they had traveled through before.  Just as the bard turned the corner around a tree she was instantly flattened by surprise.  There before her an idiot stood screaming and then Gabrielle screamed in terror as her imagination had been in high gear.  Then she fell to the ground instantly after being knocked over by the bumbling idiot known as Joxer. 

     Joxer was screaming and ranting as he went running up into the trees.  He had been running from a pack of wolves who were now attacking the warrior princess.  Two wolves ran right past the bard within a breath as Gabrielle stayed still upon the ground in terror. Xena quickly drew out her whip as she scooped up the bard protecting her from the vicious wolves.  The warrior princess held them back as they growled and sneared at their intended victims.  Then they barked and howled their warnings showing their vicious teeth.  These wolves looked bloody with their mouths foaming ready to strike at any moment. 

     Joxer began to taunt them feeling as if he had defeated them somehow escaping within the trees.  One of the two wolves then rushed up the tree toward him as if it had heard every word with complete understanding.  It growled as it sunk its teeth into Joxer’s boot.  He suddenly found himself challenged yet again as the wolf began to tear the boot off of Joxer’s foot.  As Joxer screamed and struggled the warrior princess suddenly shifted her attention in his direction as a third wolf brushed by from behind the bard.  Gabrielle shrieked and then Xena slashed her whip in the direction of Joxer’s enemy.  After several long moments of Xena’s whip against the wolves they finally retreated from the scene.  Soon all was quiet again as it had been before.

     Joxer began to laugh boisterously as if nothing had really happened.  He climbed down out of the tree and Gabrielle found herself concerned.  She asked him if he had been alright for the wolves had gone straight for his limbs as the stories told.  Joxer declared that he was just fine and that he had been in control of his unfortunate situation.  He said that the secret to defeating a wolf pack was to wear them down.  It was as if he were an expert, but Gabrielle found herself not at all convinced of his self proclaimed skill.  And then Xena asked him what he was doing in the baccae forrest.  He said that he was on a life saving mission.  Then the idiot handed Xena a package.  It was a large bag of some sort.  With pride he had said that it was from the great Morpheous and that it was exclusively for the warrior princess.

     Gabrielle found herself going from utter disgust at his antics to complete intrigue knowing that this bag was from Morpheous.  As the bard leaned in closer to get a better look Xena asked Joxer what was in the bag.  Joxer’s only statement was that the package could speak for itself.  Then Xena reached into the bag and pulled out something truely horrid.  It was the live head of a man who screamed in agony as the warrior princess held him by his hair.  Suddenly Joxer ripped the head from Xena’s grasp and sat down upon a boulder with it.  He began to part the hair down the middle declaring that Orpheous should never be handled that way again.  It was strange for he had seemingly been traveling around with this head for quite a while.  Joxer had a personal relationship with the head of Orpheous.

     As Xena began to analyze the situation she declared to Orpheous that she suspected that his demise had been the work of Baccus himself.  Orpheous did not argue.  He only confirmed that Xena was correct.  Gabrielle found herself horrified yet intrigued for it seemed that Xena knew everyone who she had thought to be only ficticious.  Orpheous went onto explain that Baccus had hunted him down and decapitated him leaving him alive to bear witness to the crimes he could no longer prevent.  Xena asked Orpheous of his lire.  Orpheous said that his friend Melodous was keeping it safe and in hiding.  He was certain that if they could return to Melodous that together he and his friend could stop Baccus as Melodous played the lire and Morpheous sang.

     Gabrielle suddenly realized that the events of the past few hours had all been a part of that seemingly false old legend.  She felt real fear now as she confirmed through Orpheous that the six missing innocent girls had been taken by Baccus himelf.  It was clear what their mission was.  They had to help Orpheous so that he could save the young innocent girls of the world.  And with that the warrior princess commanded Joxer to make Orpheous presentable and then they would be on their way.  Xena seemed almost disgusted with the situation yet she knew that it could not be ignored.  As long as Baccus could run free he would wreak havoc everywhere.  Not only that, but Baccus was certain to be on the hunt for Orpheous’s lire.  There was little time to spare.

     Then Gabrielle was curious to know just how Xena had met Orpheous.  As always her story was cryptic and tragic.  It had involved Xena’s army on a day when she had gone up against Baccus and his army.  During their fierce battle an innocent woman was caught in the cross swords.  Unfortunately there was nothing Xena and her army could do to protect her from Baccus and so the young woman perished.  Xena was certain that it had been Baccus who had killed her although Orpheous had blammed both.  Gabrielle found herself confused for a moment for she did not make the connection between Orpheous and Xena.  And then Xena revealed that last detail with regret.  The young woman who had died had been Orpheous’s bride.

     Soon the four friends arrived at the village of Melodeous where the lire was being kept in safety.  Gabrielle gazed down below at the foot of the hill through the gates and noticed that there was a festival in progress.  Joxer explained to Gabrielle that it was common for every year they held a festival here to ward off the wrath of Baccus.  He said that they even dressed up in fancy costumes and held a contest.  The winner would receive a prize.  As Gabrielle observed the people dancing in the streets and listened to the music from down below Joxer commented that he was certain he knew who this year’s prize would go to.  The bard knew who Joxer was talking about.  He was speaking of Orpheous whom Joxer had cleverly disguised as a scarecrow.  It was kind of amusing to the bard for she had never known a muscian without hands or a body.

      Upon entering into the village Orpheous rode upon Xena’s horse as he led his new allies to the home of his friend Melodeous.  When they went inside all was silent the way the forrest had been.  There was a strange feeling as Orpheous called out to his friend.  Yet there was no answer only more silence.  Then there was another gruesome sight.  It was Melodious hanging from the beams of the ceiling.  Again Xena proclaimed that it had most certainly been the work of Baccus.  Gabrielle heard women screaming outside as Xena then asked Orpheous if he knew where Melodious may have hidden the lyre.  When they looked to find the lyre it was missing for Baccus had taken it. 

     Now the stakes were much higher as Xena was about to rush off to hunt down Baccus, but the bard would not allow her to go alone.  Xena rejected Gabrielle’s protest asking her to stay behind to protect Orpheous.  Without him the lyre was useless and so Xena was off.  Gabrielle found herself very worried about Xena not knowing what Xena was up against.  Only the stories that she had heard could tell her, but they were not very comforting thoughts for the bard.  She tried to listen to Joxer and Orpheous chat about music only to discover that Orpheous was quite a crank.  He had a terrible attitude, but what could one expect from a muscian without his hands.  She continued to listen as Joxer played Orpheous’s instruments.  Joxer belittled the helpless musican for his craft proclaiming that his mother had dreamed of her son becoming a musican.  It was clear that Joxer had little respect for Orpheous.  Yet there was little Orpheous could do to get away from Joxer’s antics.  He yelled at the idiot to put down his instruments, but Joxer continued to annoy him. 

      Gabrielle found herself becoming frustrated with Joxer and Orpheous so she ventured outside onto the balcony.  She hoped that the excitement of the festival below would take her mind off of her irritation and her concerns for Xena.  As she watched the activities below something seemed very strange.  Everyone seemed like they were enjoying themselves yet she kept hearing those sudden screams like before when they had first entered into the village.  The bard decided that she would go investigate to be sure that there were no baccae lurking about.  If she could not help Xena find Baccus she could at least stop the baccae from taking more victims.

     As she entered into the festival something about it seemed very powerful and mezmorizing.  Though Joxer had said that it was a festival to ward off Baccus she soon discovered that these people were not against Baccus at all.  In fact they seemingly worshipped him as they chanted along with the music.  They chanted about blood and about dancing.  Gabrielle quickly decided that she would have to blend in so she began to dance to the sounds of the mystical music and chants.  So many women were dressed in costume that it was difficult to tell who was a baccae and who was not.  Gabrielle tried looking into the eyes of every young girl she danced along side yet she found herself seemingly surrounded by women with fangs.  Thought it was frightful Gabrielle found herself soothed by the muscial chanting.  She kept dancing, and dancing until she could no longer distinguish herself between what was real and what was play.

     Suddenly the moment of pure soothing pleasure was interrupted as Joxer had entered into the festival.  He had been looking to find the bard in the crowd and when he finally approached her he was abrupt.  Joxer grabbed her arm and yanked her out of the mezmorizing trance.  Gabrielle found herself angered by his intrusion.  He declared that she had been dancing with baccae and that he had come to rescue her from them.  Gabrielle was insulted by his comment confident that she would be able to identify a baccae if she had seen one.  As they argued with one another Xena arrived taking Orpheous from the stranger that Joxer had carelessly left him with. 

      Joxer then asked Xena if she had gotten the lyre back, but Xena reported that she had been unsuccessful in her conquest.  Instead she had run into the three baccae who had stolen it.  They had been attacking some innocent men by a campfire just outside the village.  Xena had to battle them fiercely, but she was certain that they would find the lyre in Baccus’s lair.  Joxer broke in once more going over Xena’s plan.  He asked her if it meant that they would be going to retreive the lyre.  Xena confirmed that he had been right as he continued to lay out the plan.  Not only did they have to retrieve the lyre, but they needed Orpheous to sing, someone to play it now that Melodeous was dead, and with that the girls would be freed and Baccus could be slain. 

      Xena was seemingly impressed yet irritated for she had not wanted her plans to be completely revealed before those who clearly worshipped Baccus.  Yet it was too late and now the word was out.  Joxer was proud of himself for having constructed Xena’s plan so successfully.  He smiled with his goofy teeth, and then Xena said that she and Gabrielle would be going on the next part of the mission without Joxer.  Joxer was suddenly crushed for he was certain to be a part of Xena’s plan.  Now he was offended and upset as he reminded the warrior princess that he had been the one that had assembled the group of four.  His initial greeting was not exactly genious, but he did have a point.  If it had been anyone else his persuasion would have succeeded, but this was the warrior princess he spoke to.  She could not afford to have such a careless idiot tagging along.  Xena was certain that his presence would complicate the plan so she rejected him once more.

     Joxer turned away from Xena angry.  Yet he had one last attempt.  Xena had everything she needed accept for someone who could play the lyre.  He then proclaimed that he had not wanted to reveal his secret, but he had indeed known how to play the lyre.  His mother’s pleas with him as a youngster had won out.  Yet Joxer wanted to be certain that his secret wasn’t made known.  He proclaimed that he had a reputation to protect, but Gabrielle could not see anything valueable about the idiot.  Yet Xena did need a lyre player and so that was his way to reenter the mission. 

      Xena and Orpheous then walked ahead as Joxer grabbed Gabrielle once more.  He was clearly upset again, but this time it was about Xena.  Joxer was certain that he had seen a baccae bite upon her neck as she had turned away.  Gabrielle was not so certain of his accusation for if she had been bitten she should have turned into a baccae.  Yet Joxer would not let the issue go for he proclaimed that it took time for a baccae bite to take effect.  Again he played expert to something that he was clearly without knowledge.  Gabrielle was only a bard, but had discovered very quickly that the lyre player was little more than a nusance at best. 

     He continued to persist about the bite he had most certainly seen.  Joxer said that it had been the real reason that Xena did not want him to be present at Baccus’s lair.  Gabrielle was still not at all convinced.  She decided that she would end his feeble charade at pretending to be a warrior once and for all.  Gabrielle was prepared to march right up to the warrior princess and ask her to reveal her baccae self.  Yet Joxer jerked Gabrielle backward fearful of Xena’s baccae tendancies.  He then took the bard’s staff and ripped out his daggar to sharpen it.  Gabrielle found herself busting with irritation as she took back her weapon struggling with the idiot as they argued.  Suddenly Xena turned around to notice that the two were quarreling.  She asked what the issue was over, but neither Joxer nor Gabrielle were inclined to answer.  Instead they stopped their quarrel and continued on down the path toward Baccus’s lair.

     Their travels led them into the darkness of the night.  At dinner Joxer’s imagination became even more dramatic as he stared at Xena with his beady brown eyes.  Suddenly the irritation was so great that the bard’s cooking knife slipped and she sliced her hand open.  Joxer took the knife which had dropped to the ground and implied that there was danger afoot.  Gabrielle knew what he had been referring to yet Xena was still in the dark.  Then Xena rose from her place on the log and walked over toward the resting head of Orpheous.  She tried desparately to comfort him knowing his pain and anger over his loss.  Though she felt responsible she had done the best that she could to try to save Euridicy.  Orpheous would refused to accept Xena’s apology.  It was obvious that he held her responsible despite all that she had tried to do.  Orpheous made it clear that this journey to take down Baccus was the price that would never be enough to bring back Orpheous’s wife.

     Xena was angered by his attitude and lack of appreication for her efforts to help him.  She picked up the knife and suddenly hurled at a tree near the fire where Gabrielle and Joxer sat.  The two looked at one another as Joxer was certain that her action had confirmed that Xena was indeed a baccae.  For the first time Gabrielle was filled with fear for if the warrior princess was truely a baccae then time was running out.  That night as they slept Xena stood guard.  She awakened the bumbling idiot with fright as she stabbed a sand spider with her daggar.  This made Joxer more nervous than before as he played off his fears of the warrior princess.  He proclaimed once more that he was an expert on killing baccae.  Yet Xena knew he was only fooling himself.

      On the next morning they set off for the catacombs where the graveyard of the driads was located.  There they would find the bones of the driad which was the only weapon that could be used against a baccae.  Both Gabrielle and Joxer had never seen a driad.  Joxer inquired about what it was as Gabrielle wondered if they would have to dig up the bodies of the dead.  Xena explained that they would not have to dig anything up as she jarred an old box loose.  Joxer then laughed for he was certain that the draids would not jump out easily.  Yet his laughter suddenly turned to screams as he was being dragged into a grave by something from beyond.  Xena and Gabrielle quickly rushed to his aid as he began to sink into the ground helplessly. 

     The struggle was difficult for even the strength of the warrior princess could not pull him out alone.  He sank deeper and deeper as Gabrielle held tightly to his arm.  Yet he was taken beneath the ground in the struggle.  Gabrielle pulled harder, but found that the arm she held was not Joxer’s.  It was the arm of the dead man in the grave which was a shocking discovery.  Gabrielle screamed, but then she and Xena dug down into the grave in search of Joxer.  Soon they found him and slowly pulled him out together.  He could barely breath, but was very fortunate for soon Xena and Gabrielle had been able to rescue him.  As Joxer rolled out of the pit of death he could only complain about his missing boot which he stated had been worth at least fifty dinars. 

      There was little time to complain for there was yet another startling surprise.  Suddenly fire pits shot out from the ground and from them emerged three winged creatures made only of bone.  They shrieked with a horrid sound that made the ears curl.  Xena and Joxer drew their swords as Joxer ran from the sight.  Gabrielle took refuge behind the warrior princess as Xena began to swing her sword wildly.  These were the driads that Xena had been searching for.  All it took to kill one was to make contact with the sword, but it was easier said than done.  One of the three driads attacked the helpless Orpheous as it tried to capture his head and fly away with it.  The warrior princess caught sight of the fury and drew her chackram to save him from capture.  Quickly is soared in the air and struck down the first driad.  When it returned Joxer was making his own kill striking down the second.

       Again he was quite proud of his accomplishment.  It only helped him with his delusions about being a true warrior.  He then taunted the third and final driad as Xena struck it down before them.  Again all was quiet as everyone began collecting the driad bones.  Orpheous had thanked Xena for saving him, but it had been the first time he had ever shown his appreciation.  Joxer was still gloating about his kill against the winged creatures as he declared that the bones of a driad were as sharp as a nail.  Gabrielle began to feel strange as she collected the bones left near Argo.  It was as if she were begining to lose her concentration.  She tried desparately to listen to what Joxer was saying to Xena, but all she could hear was that she had thought that Xena was a baccae. 

      Suddenly Gabrielle felt herself losing control.  It was like no other feeling in the world.  Her mind lost its wits and her body filled with hot blood as she popped up from the ground and turned to face the enemy.  Yet when she caught sight of her enemy it was her friends.  There before her stood Xena and Joxer.  Gabrielle’s mind confused beyond recognition as her eyes filled with nightmare visions.  For a moment she could focas only to hear Xena pleading with her to fight it.  Yet the short moment of clarity ended once more as Gabrielle had turned into a baccae and soared into the air with her invisible wings.  She whisked by Xena and Joxer flying into the catacombs nearby.  Gabrielle’s soul was being pulled toward a force so strong and full of darkness.

     The goodness in her heart fought desparately to regain control, but instead it was replaced by the insatiable urge to bite.  There below her she caught sight of the enemy once again.  Gabrielle scaled the walls and the ceiling of the dark catacombs following her intended victims.  Her heart continued to fight, but instead she had to bite.  Suddenly she swooped down upon Joxer catching him from behind.  As she knocked her victim to the ground he struggled, but Xena’s skill prevailed.  Again Gabrielle soared through the air her blood angered by the urge.  Xena pleaded with Gabrielle to continue to fight against the raging force.  As Gabrielle tried to fight within she was again whisked away by the darkness.  She found herself within the lair of Baccus the evil one.

      It was familiar like a vision.  The vision she had had two days before.  Her baccae eyes saw there before her more of her kind.  All were enthralled to dance, and to drink the blood within the alter.  Gabrielle’s eyes spotted the one and only Baccus sitting upon his mighty throne.  There were hundreds of baccae women lining up to drink from his wine.  As Gabrielle tried to rage against it she found herself within her own fright.  Slowly she reached the head of the line trying to regain her mind.  Instead she found herself face to face with the evil one.  He had horns wrapping around out of his head.  His face was red like blood and his eyes were yellow piercing through the soul.  As he handed her a cup of blood he encouraged her softly to drink from it. 

     Gabrielle’s mind was enthralled by the great one.  Yet her soul still fought the darkness.  But the harder she fought to regain her sanity the more Baccus’s eyes pierced through her light.  They reached deep down into her soul and lit it with agony and fire.  Gabrielle could no longer resist the temptation as her blood began to boil.  Slowly she raised the cup to her lips and as about to drink from its bliss, but a familiar sound pierced the air.  It was Xena’s chackram that had stolen the cup.  The blood crashed to the floor slowly as Gabrielle watched it splatter into oblivion.  Then she turned to see the light.  It was Xena the warrior princess. 

     Xena had prevented the fatal drink as she began to fight hundreds of baccae.  Joxer had arrived alongside her and quickly went  with Orpheous to seek the lyre.  Gabrielle began to feel her mind coming back although the blood still boiled violently within.  Her heart yearned to help the warrior princess fight, but her mind could do nothing.  Instead she had to use all of her strength to continue to fight the battle within.  Baccus soon raged against the light as he took Gabrielle to the alter once again.  He then drew another cup of blood and handed it over to the helpless bard.  Its power was so great that again she was pierced within her soul.  Gabrielle raised the cup to her lips.  She could almost taste its wonderful richness, but then she heard Xena shout out to her and then to Joxer to play the lyre. 

     Suddenly there was an aweful sound.  It was like the sounds of dying animals.  The sound screetched through Gabrielle’s ears.  It was unbearble as she dropped the cup of blood to the floor.  And then he was gone.  Baccus had left the alter for Joxer.  He flew up to the top of the lair where Joxer and Orpehous made music together.  Upon his arrival the music stopped.  Yet the warrior princess was already scaling the walls.  She struggled to the top to confront Baccus as she drew a daggar and thrust it into his stomach.  Baccus fell to the ground far below.  He was motionless for a short time.  All of the baccae women found themselves within a state of confusion as Gabrielle again fought the darkness within.

     Soon Baccus rose again he laughed with evil intent.  He declared that only a baccae could kill him and Xena was not one of them.  The forces within Gabrielle were like a violent storm.  Only the sight of Xena’s light could bring her out of her rage.  As she looked upon Xena above he heart realized what she must do to win against the rage.  Gabrielle then flew up to join Xena.  She approached the warrior princess who pleaded with her friend to bite her.  Gabrielle’s boiling blood lusted for Xena’s blood as she sunk her newfound fangs into the neck of the warrior princess.

     This victim’s blood was able to sooth the rage within Gabrielle’s body momentarily.  She could begin to feel some sanity returning to her mind.  Quickly Xena too developed fangs and piercing evil eyes, but together they swooped down upon Baccus.  The warrior princess thrust her weapon into his stomach once more and this time her attack was a success.  Baccus suddenly lost all of his power within the darkness and disappeared into a ball of fire.  As the darkness began to dissapate within and about all was restored to its original beauty.  Even Orpheous himself received a gift for his body was miraculously returned.  All the women seemed happy yet unaware of what had just happened to them.  And thanks to Xena the baccae were turned into the beautiful women they were before.

      And so Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer continued on down the path.  Joxer was already prepared for the next mission yet three can often be a crowd.  Neither Xena nor Gabrielle were prepared to deal with the idiot any longer.  Gabrielle decided that she would reveal their next mission.  She told Joxer that they would go up against Medusa the woman with the snakes coming out of her head.  This legend could be scary for a young man for it was said that she could turn even the mightiest of men into stone.  So Joxer quickly decided that he would sit this next one out.  He proclaimed himself to be mighty yet he would not test his strengths against Medusa.  As Joxer left the friends behind Gabrielle thanked Xena for saving her from her baccae self.  Xena told Gabrielle that she was thankful too for Gabrielle had saved the warrior princess from the wrath of  Joxer the Mighty.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #29: The Giant Killer

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll#29:  The Giant Killer

December 25, 48 BC

     I sing of David the warrior poet of Israel.  His courage shown on the battlefield, his gentle nature within his home.  David’s truest passion was in his psalms, and within all that he did.  All that had been done had been done for the love of his family and of his god.  Upon twilight’s eyes Xena and Gabrielle walked through death’s shadows within the open graveyard of the mighty giants.  Xena whispered within the echoes of her life and of its past.  She sung of a great battle in which she had fallen.  Yet in this battle she had been rescued by a brave and noble friend. 

     Xena’s army had gone up against an army of giants and it had been mauled by their strengths and power.  The commander of the army of giants was Gareth and there was not one soul that he would spare.  Not even the souls of the innocent were safe from his wrath and so Xena’s noble friend Goliath paid a price.  He paid it with his own sacrifice.  For Gareth had delivered Goliath’s family into the hands of death.  Distraught by his terrible loss Goliath took command of Xena’s army for the warrior princess was too wounded to continue on.  He charged forth toward Gareth, but Gareth would not stand.  Gareth’s cowardice would not face Goliath’s vengence so he sent his own soldiers into this valley of death.  After Goliath had taken the remainder of Xena’s army they defeated the giants of Gareth.  Then before vengeance could strike the cowardly Gareth fled leaving a graveyard strewn with slain giants forever resting in death.        

     As Xena continued on fourth Gabrielle feared the darkness of what they were about to explore.  The giants graveyard was a littered sight.  It was full of bones, and the agonies of ten years past.  Xena and her friend Goliath had promised that they would return here.  To honor all who had fallen and sacrificed their lives.  Xena felt she owed a great debt to her friend for he had lost his family as he had rescued her from death.  They had been innocent victims caught in the crossing blades.  Goliath’s loving heart and kind bravery had been stolen as had his family.      

       The warrior princess then knelt down to mourn and to pay her respects.  Gabrielle still uneasy, treaded carefully through the sight.  Suddenly the bard’s worst imagined fears came to pass.  She looked out across the path and saw something that made her gasp.  The ground shook beneath her tiny boots as she tried to warn Xena of the approaching danger.  It was the infamous giant from Xena’s past.  Yet Xena did not appear worried or inclined to act.  Instead she waited as the giant approached.  He stood proud and tall before the tiny mortals below.  When the giant stopped he smiled and welcomed the sight of his old friend.  This giant was not Gareth as Gabrielle had suspected, but Goliath the savior of the warrior princess.  Although Xena had introduced her friends to one another with pride Gabrielle found herself unable to oblige.  She decided that she would head off into the woods beyond feeling that her life would be less in danger there.

     And so the two old friends were left to catch up alone while the bard thought aloud to herself.  She was still so uneasy about the cryptic nature of her friend even when it came from within.  Despite Xena having told her entire story she failed to mention that Goliath was just as large as the true enemy.  Yet the bard’s loud thoughts were interrupted by an unexpected confrontation.  She found herself confronted by the commander of the army of Philistine.  He threatened her for her trespass with his sword.  But the bard warned that she was not alone.  Her warning was more for the sake of the enemy than for the defense of her own safety.  Yet the leader did not heed the warning.  Instead he laughed in the face of the innocent accusing the bard of befriending the bush.  Suddenly he raised his weapon for attack as Gabrielle readied her trusty staff.

      Then there he was a handsome man.  Who demonstrated his willingness to take a stand.  He had been one of the captives traveling with the Philistine group for crimes the bard could not understand.  Another of the captives shouted out his name as David plunged forward bravely to protect the bard from harm.  Yet he was struck down violently by the spear of Dagon the leader of the Philistines.  Gabrielle found herself determined to continue to stand against Dagon’s wrath.  She challenged him to a fight, but all he could send to her was his spite.  Suddenly the warrior princess appeared to defeat the new-found enemy.  She began the battle rushing forth attacking the two advancing soldiers.  Xena skillfully disarmed them jumping into the air then driving their spears into the ground.  She finalized her move jumping into the air once more as she doubled her kicks to the faces of the enemy. 

     Gabrielle fearlessly went into combat against the leader.  She despised his act against the young handsome David.  Gabrielle did not care what his crimes may have been for she could see within his eyes that he had no sin.  To the bard’s surprise she held up against Dagon well, but soon lost the momentum against him.  Dagon was stronger and more experienced as he knocked the bard from her feet.  Xena came to Gabrielle’s aid instantly as she cut Dagon down using her superior warrior skill.  He fell  easily for the warrior princess, but was angered for he had been defeated by the warrior woman.  Xena held her sword to his throat as he raged on about wasting money to pay a giant who was not worthy.  And then the great Goliath appeared with a large smirk across his face.  It was revealed that he had been working for Dagon for a large price.  Yet he would not fight against an old friend despite what Dagon had been paying.  Disgusted yet intrigued Dagon stood down with his men upon discovering the identity of the great warrior princess.

     Soon the early morning twilight turned into the promise of a new day yet for David and the Israelites the future seemed darker.  Xena and Gabrielle watched as Dagon persecuted his prisoners for their accused misdeeds.  Gabrielle could not tell who was in the right and who was in the wrong.  It appeared as if the Israelites had been stealing from the Philistines.  Yet there was something in the eyes of the one they called David that led the bard to believe that there was much more to the story than what was being told.  She watched as Dagon punished David for carrying a small leather weapon known as a sling.  It appeared to be a harmless weapon, but Dagon insisted that it was highly dangerous if used by one who knew how to harness its wrath. 

     As David tried to sooth Dagon’s rage against himself and against his people another young man spoke up.  He declared that he was John the eldest son of King Saul of Israel.  Dagon’s anger shifted toward his bold interruption as he continued to demonstrate his power over the Israelites.  Then Dagon commanded that his prisoners be taken into the prison.  The Philistine guard was unkind as they roughly escorted their captures to their cells.  It was clear to Gabrielle that even Xena was suspicious of Dagon’s actions.  She too had seen the truth in the eyes of the innocent and the accused.  Xena pleaded with the Philistine guard to be sure that they bandaged the wounded head of the young David.  Her sympathy for him was obvious.

     And then as the prisoners were whisked away Dagon cunningly approached the warrior princess.  He invited her to dine with him for midday feast.  Dagon was preparing to win her support.  During the feast Xena and Gabrielle sat before him as he gorged himself with countless chicken legs, fruits, and fresh grains.  He drank as he spoke of his turbulent encounters with the Israelites.  Dagon proclaimed that the Israelites had been stealing from him and had been invading the Philistine lands.  He made it known that it was his people who had turned  a dessert into a flourishing land of riches.  When Xena asked him why the Israelites would steal from him he proclaimed it had been because all of their livestock had perished.  Dagon blamed his rivals for their irresponsibility in handling their own riches.  Yet Xena and Gabrielle were not so certain that all that was being said rang true.  They suspected that maybe Dagon had actually poisoned their livestock hoping to force his rival into slavery.  The choices for Isreal’s people were simple.  They could hunt upon Philistine lands and risk capture into slavery or they could starve to death. 

     Gabrielle did not like what she was hearing as she quietly began to steal Dagon’s riches.  She carefully took one apple, then two as she slid them into her leather scroll bag.  Then she went for the bread just resting upon the edge of the table.  Xena did not touch one bite of food as she continued interrogating with caution sensing what the bard was planning to do.  Finally the conversation had ended as Daygon’s gluttony ceased to his greed.  He wanted to profit from the people of Israel and control them if he could.  And so Xena and Gabrielle left his tent as they conferred with one another in secrecy.  Xena agreed with her friend that she and Goliath needed to talk about his misleading employer.  Goliath was too kind-hearted to be working for the petty dinars that Daygon was paying him.  Xena and Gabrielle were hopeful that they could sway him to fight on the side of the Israelites.

     As Xena seeked out Goliath Gabrielle could not resist the intriguing David.  She went to the dungeon that held him and his people hoping to gain his trust.  Gabrielle had noticed before that David and his people had already judged the warrior princess.  Once again her dark past had come back to haunt her.  People still did not believe in Xena’s goodness.  But Gabrielle was certain that she could help turn the tables.  When she entered into the prison she noticed that David and his people were digging a secret escape tunnel.  Yet it wasn’t a very good plan for it was quite noticeable.  Even the bard could see the truth.  David approached the bars to greet his unexpected visitor though he seemed unwilling to accept her help.  She revealed to him the food she had taken from the feast and passed it onto those who were with hunger.  This lightened the moment between the bard and the brave. 

     As Gabrielle tried to ease his distrust of the warrior princess he would not see the light.  Instead David spoke of how he knew all about the deeds of the evil Xena.  He spoke of a Xena Gabrielle had never known.  Then he told the bard that he himself had written of her exploits which struck her deep within.  Gabrielle found herself fluttering with excitement for he was brave, handsome, and a bard.  They seemed to share so much already.  Gabrielle felt compelled to get to know him.  Then he told the bard that she could never understand his problems for he only wrote them as psalms.  Yet Gabrielle was very educated in the many styles and works of great bards.  She knew that psalms were religious poems which made David’s heart even more attractive to her.  He was just the kind of companion she seeked.  David was someone who could understand her in a way that not even Xena could.  Gabrielle then told of her own craft with great confidence and pride.  David then encouraged her to write a story that would heed the escape of he and his people.

     The bard had a wonderful story in mind, but she was certain that David would not approve.  Her story spoke of the heroic exploits of a warrior princess who would save him and his people from his pain and suffering.  Yet as they shared this small moment of connection they were interrupted as the Philistine guard barged in.  They quickly denounced the Israelites for their feeble attempt at escape.  The punishment for this crime was worse than the punishment for survival.  Death to David and the Israelites was the punishment for their attempt at freedom.  Gabrielle now knew what she must do.  And so she prepared to take another stand.

      As Dagon and his men brought the accused forth toward their execution Gabrielle had an idea.  She would try to use her words to fight against these absurd crimes which the Israelites had been accused of.  Gabrielle pleaded with Dagon to let them go taking responsibility for their attempts to escape.  She was instantly forgiven for her own involvement with the prisoners despite her having stolen Dagon’s food to give to the accused.  Gabrielle thought that maybe there was a small chance now since Dagon would not punish her for her own crimes against him.  She then pleaded for Dagon’s heart to let the people of Israel go free.  Without hesitation Dagon proclaimed that he could not ever forgive the attempts of their escape.  Instead he decided that he would humor the young bard.  He told her that he would pardon all, but one.  They would stay prisoners, but that he would only take the life of the small one.  Dagon was speaking of the young David.  His men quickly rounded up their victim and escorted him toward the executioner.  John the eldest of the brothers pleaded to take David’s place, but his pleas fell upon deaf ears.

      David struggled to break free, but could not for the strength of the darkness which held him.  Gabrielle was in disbelief for the situation was beyond her control.  Without Xena she could not fight against the Philistine army, but she desperately searched her mind still for a solution to this problem.  Suddenly as she watched the men shove David’s head upon the block she jumped forth speaking once more.  Gabrielle stepped courageously upon the platform where the execution was to take place and placed herself upon David.  She had used this plan once before.  The last time she had saved an accused it was Xena who was reckoning with her past demons though she had been innocent of murder.  Gabrielle was certain that if she declared the words of murder stacked against the innocently accused that she would be able to buy David enough time for Xena’s return.

      Yet this time was different.  As David pleaded with Gabrielle to leave him she refused.  She was certain that things would be okay.  But instead of the wise judgement of the law presiding victory it was the greedy desires of Dagon that declared that murdering two would be no problem.  He did not care if David was innocent or guilty.  Dagon wanted blood and he wanted power.  The Philistine leader was willing to take the life of the bard as well.  He gave the command to the executioner to proceed as he laughed amused at the fatal mistake made by Gabrielle.  Gabrielle was now beyond control.  There was little she could do as the executioners pulled down the binds sending the two innocent souls toward death. 

      The bard’s heart pounded wildly as her mind desperately tried to think of a last-minute reprieve, but nothing seemingly came to mind.   Then just as the axe was about to come down upon the innocent the crisp sound of the chakram could be heard whisking through the air toward the hands of death.  It suddenly decapitated the head of the axe which nearly befell upon the innocent.  Instead it cut through death into life catching all who witnessed it by complete surprise.  Not one person Philistine or Israelites expected the warrior princess’s arrival.  The chakram did not stop with the separation of the murder weapon.  It continued on its path knocking down the executioner, terrorizing the men of the Philistine army and finally it cut through the ropes freeing Gabrielle and David to fight another day.

     The bard quickly rolled into action as she grabbed another axe to free David from his own binds.  Then she broke off the sharp edge and used the ax as a staff.  David quickly jumped into battle rushing to take out the Philistine guards and to free his people from their binds.  Xena sat upon Argo surveying the situation calmly not jumping in to fight.  She watched as Gabrielle battled against the enemy and the Israelites began to take up arms against those who suppressed them.  Then the warrior princess retrieved her mighty chakram once again and flipped down upon the ground drawing her sword for battle against Dagon and his men.  She sent the first soldier violently crashing into a feasting table. 

      Gabrielle continued to fight with her new staff quicker and more agile than in any battle before this.  Her confidence raced through her as she fought through one, then two, and then a third Philistine soldier.  As the warrior princess and the battling bard held off the Philistine army David and his brother John prepared for escape as the Israelites freed took the horses and the weapons of their enemies.  Just as David was about to command his people to escape he caught sight of John struggling against Dagon.  Dagon was about to take John’s life in the heat of battle when David intervened.  He saved the future leader of his people as Xena gave the command for all to get up onto the horses to escape.  David and his people quickly heeded Xena’s command as Gabrielle rushed to rejoin Xena and Argo. 

     Xena quickly hopped upon Argo and awaited Gabrielle’s arrival.  She then pulled the bard upon her horse as they followed the Israelites to freedom.  Gabrielle’s spirit soared with confidence and with energy for she had helped to write the story that she had spoken of which would save David and his people.  And when then finally reached the kingdom of the Israelites Xena and Gabrielle were introduced to King Solomon.  Solomon was grateful after hearing from David how his sons and his people had successfully escaped.  There was great joy within their land for they were preparing to defeat their enemies once and for all.  And David then complemented Gabrielle for her brilliant story now knowing that the warrior princess was not of the darkness.

      Soon Gabrielle found herself helping the house doctor tend to David’s small wounds.  She had noticed back at the battle that when Dagon had summoned Goliath to come out and fight that Goliath had not come.  The bard was certain that Xena had succeeded in convincing Goliath to switch side, but soon she was to find out from the warrior princess that Goliath was still against them.  When Xena had spoken with her friend she had expressed her displeasure with what he was doing for Dagon and the Philistines.  Goliath had defended his actions reminding Xena of his reasons for working with the Philistines.  He had lost his family ten summers before and he had vowed to hunt down and execute the one responsible.  Goliath was willing to sacrifice anything including his soul to gain his revenge against Gareth.   Soon Goliath would have enough money from the Philistines to complete his mission to seek out and find his enemy.  Xena realized that vengeance had eaten away at her friend so deeply that he would never make the right choice no matter the consequences.  Goliath accused Xena of going against him for not fighting alongside him.  She had reminded him that she owed him only her own life and not the lives of the Israelites.

     And so it was to be that Xena would have to fight an old friend.  She and John were going over their battle plans.  John’s scouts had relayed to him that Goliath and the Philistines had taken out two of their outposts already.  The enemy was heading straight for their kingdom.  It was clear that the Philistines would win the battle with a giant on their side.  Yet Xena had a plan.  She suggested that there be a contest.  The warrior princess declared that it would be a battle of one against another.  She declared that she would volunteer to fight against Goliath in a duel to the death.  Whomever the victor was would be the winner of the lands.  John and David were not so certain that Xena’s plan was a good one.  David reminded Xena that Goliath was her friend.  Gabrielle could see the seriousness of the warrior princess’s tone.  She could see that the warrior princess did not really want to go up against her friend. 

      Then John objected to the idea declaring that anyone going up against a giant in a one on one battle was certain to be going into a suicide mission.  Gabrielle could see without being an expert that John was right, but Xena knew more than the commander of the Israelites.  She knew of only one way to kill a giant.  The warrior princess then gravely picked up an empty skull lying upon a table and demonstrated the blind spot that all giants have.  It was located just above the bridge of the nose upon the giants forehead.  Xena declared that if one could deliver a strong blow to the soft spot that the battle would be one and that the giant would be killed.  And then the conversation ended.  No one could argue with Xena’s decision for it was the only way to ensure the freedom and the future prosperity of the Israelites.

     Gabrielle found herself intrigued by David despite the difficult decision that the warrior princess had been faced with.  She followed him with a bowl of soup hoping to find out more about him.  When Gabrielle finally found him she caught him writing more of his psalms.  It fascinated the bard even more and she wanted to hear from him.  Though he had a large gash upon his forehead from the battle Gabrielle was still mesmerized by his beauty.  His soul was radiant like hers and to be around him felt wonderful for the bard.  He was full of a mysterious strength and commitment.  All that he did was done unselfishly and it was amazing.  As he wrote she set down the bowl of soup asking him to read his story to her.  Yet David refused to read his current psalm to her.  He told her that his stories were not of greatness. 

      Gabrielle found this intriguing that he was so modest.  She urged him once more to read her his new psalms.  The bard pleaded with him with her persuasive words expressing to him that all stories are meant to be told no matter the skill of the bard.  Every bard is unique and has a unique view of life.  She wanted desperately to view life through the eyes of David.  And so David finally surrendered to her.  He told her that his psalms were of the battle that they had just fought and of his brother John’s exploits.  Gabrielle found herself disappointed that David was writing his psalm about John when he had been the one who had saved John’s life.  It was David whom Gabrielle had seen lead his people fearlessly with great skill and courage.  This didn’t seem fair to the bard that John would get all of the credit in this psalm.  David reminded Gabrielle that it was John who would be Isreal’s future king.  He defended John’s weakness in battle declaring that John would have saved his life if the situation had been reversed.  Yet Gabrielle had made up her mind in that moment.  She had decided that if David would not write his psalms with pride then she would write hers of David.  

      In that moment she began to sing to David the opening lines of his story.  The verse came to her with passion and with love in her heart.  Gabrielle’s voice was soft and soothing as she continued hoping to win the heart of the warrior poet.  As she finished her first spontaneous verse she looked deeply into David’s eyes.  The bard could see that he was fascinated by her story so far.  She had him captivated and hoped desperately that she would not have to continue on for what she wanted was a special moment to share.  Gabrielle prepared for David to reach over to kiss her softly certain that he felt the same within his heart as she had been feeling toward him.  Yet just before the moment was about to unfold the tender silence was broken when the lovely and beautiful young Sarah entered.

     She had come to tend to David and Gabrielle felt a certain sense of jealousy coming over her as she stood with David to greet Sarah.  Then David smiled for he seemed happy to see Sarah.  He then introduced Sarah and Gabrielle to one another.  Suddenly the bard realized that she had been a fool for David then revealed the heart breaking detail.  Sarah was his wife to be.  They were planning to wed in the following spring.  The bard felt true embarrassment within knowing that it was no secret to the warrior poet that she was in love with him.  Yet he was a gentlemen and did not make a scene.  He was honest and pure just the way she had felt that he would be.  Gabrielle could not allow herself to come between the two young people.  She realized that she had to let go of that pang within her heart.  It seemed cruel that cupid would play such a trick upon her.  The bard only hoped that the poison of love’s arrow would wear off soon.

      Gabrielle tactfully exited the situation suggesting that Xena must be looking for her.  As she left the room her embarrassment peaked as she beat herself up inside over her terrible mistake.  The bard was so upset that she hoped to share her embarrassing mistake with Xena, but when she found the warrior princess she saw that Xena’s issue was even greater.  It was a pain more than love’s disappointment.  Xena was standing before an open window in the darkness alone.  The bard could see the light wind blowing through grasping Xena’s hair gently.  Yet Xena seemed unaware of this.  Instead she was staring off into an abyss of loneliness.  Gabrielle hoped that she could comfort her friend knowing what Xena was about to do.  There was a night storm raging in the distance.  It was as if it foreshadowed the raging battle that was to take place on the next day with Xena and Goliath.

     The bard broke the silence asking if it was the distant thunder which kept Xena awake.  She knew that it was more than that.  Xena then turned to her friend with great sadness and regret within her eyes.  She reminded the bard of the story of the battle of ten years past.  Xena told Gabrielle of how Goliath had been too stubborn to stay back when Gareth had caught them off guard.  Instead he had stayed beside her leaving her with a debt that she could never repay.  Her debt was simple.  The lives of his wife and children had paid for Xena’s life.  Xena was feeling great guilt and sorrow feeling it was wrong to kill her friend that she owed so much to.  Gabrielle could see it was tearing Xena’s heart apart.  This choice between knowing what was right and what was just.  Xena had already chosen justice over what she felt was right, but there still seemed to be something wrong.

     Gabrielle knew that she could not take away Xena’s pain no matter how much her heart desired to.  Then did the only thing she could think to do.  She took Xena’s hand into hers hoping to give her friend strength though she could not give her the wisdom.  And so the two friends journeyed together into the uncertainty of the next sun.  As the sun reached the high point in the sky the Philistine army arrived over the valley in a large mass.  They chanted the name of Goliath yet Goliath was not with them.  Dagon was at the head as he commanded them into their formation.  Then he smirked at the Israelites at the gates of their city and took out his horn to call for Golliath. 

     Xena was hopeful that he would not come, but her hope was replaced with the sounds of the earth-shaking beneath.  As Xena prepared for Goliath’s arrival David put a comforting hand upon Gabrielle’s shoulder.  It was the hope that she needed to help Xena face this terrible trial of faith.  Xena then looked to David asking that his people be prepared to do battle.  John took Xena’s command and prepared the men.  It was obvious to the bard that even Xena knew who the real leader was though John was the future.  As all watched Goliath approach the gates the worst had been revealed.  Goliath had not come to fight fair as the Philistines were not about to fight fair.  He came armed with a protective helmet so that Xena would not be able to strike the soft spot. 

      Then he laughed as Xena approached him.  Her plan would have to change quickly for there was no way that even the warrior princess could defeat a giant with these odds.  Then Goliath made the first move.  He swept his mighty hands across the stone gates knocking them down effortlessly.  As the rocks fell all about the warrior princess she turned to flee Goliath’s wrath.  Gabrielle could see his poisoned vengeful heart.  She knew very well how vengeance could poison the soul.  Though Goliath had been Xena’s friend and saved her life he was now a blood thirsty killer.  He charged forward shaking the ground with every step.  Though he was big and powerful he was not quick.  The warrior princess flipped and rolled to dodge his advances. 

     Then she rose to her feet to face him as she drew her sword.  Xena tried to entice him into making a mistake by taunting him, but was unsuccessful.  Instead it only enraged a vengeful heart more as the giant created a path of destruction through the Israelite town.  Suddenly it was obvious that it was a trap as Dagon gave the command for his army to charge the gates behind Goliath.  The Philistines stormed the town as David and his people fought to defend themselves.  Gabrielle fought alongside David as she knocked two approaching soldiers with her staff.  They rushed her unsuccessfully as David fought two more approaching enemies.  John approached the front lines only to find himself within the path of the giant.  Goliath did not spare him of his ignorance as he picked up a wagon and smashed it down upon the victim. 

     The warrior princess then threw out her chakram to hold off the lines of the Philistine army knowing that the Israelites had to regroup.  There was no way that they would leave this battle alive unless they retreated in the moment for their future king was badly wounded now.  Xena gave the command to the officers of the Israelite forces as they took up their commander from his resting place underneath the wagon.  David helped to gather the remaining people within the kingdom including his father Solomon.  Gabrielle followed along with them as they escaped to the caves in hiding.  Xena was left behind with Goliath who was determined to end this conflict between himself and his old friend.  He had taken out the Israelites commander and now he was going to be certain to complete his mission to Dagon. 

     Just before Goliath was about to strike Xena hid within the market area.  She waited for Goliath to approach.  He declared that she show herself and when she did he was greeted by a large bag of salt in the eyes.  This allowed Xena to escape and to rejoin the Israelites.  Yet the situation seemed very grim now for who would take John’s place to lead the people of Israel?  The news was broken to king Solomon of his eldest son’s death.  There was nothing that could be done to repair his wounds.  The old king wept silently for his loss as the warrior princess found herself in a deeper despair than before.  Not only had she led the Israelites into their failure, but her friendship with Goliath was forever lost.  Gabrielle followed her friend to the next victim as Xena tried to push away the stresses of the mind and of the heart.  Gabrielle realized that Xena felt as if she should just give up for she did not know what to do.  The bard knew that she had to give Xena more strength.  She then reminded Xena of their dilemma.  Goliath would never be defeated as long as he wore the helmet.

     The warrior princess was seemingly irritated that Gabrielle would not let the battle go.  She suggested that they just make sure that Goliath took his helmet off during their next encounter.  Gabrielle found herself increasingly frustrated at the warrior princess yet she continued.  She asked Xena if it was certain that even with the helmet off that the giant could be killed with a single blow to the forehead.  Xena held steady on that claim, but she made a declaration.  She said that she would not do it.  Gabrielle realized that her friend was upset at being at odds with Goliath, but there was seemingly no other choice.  The bard had seen the vengeful heart of Goliath and it had to be stopped no matter the cost.  Yet Xena explained that it wasn’t her feelings about her friendship with Goliath that had driven her to this new decision.  She reminded Gabrielle of how the Israelites were led by John.  Now that their leader had been taken from them it would not matter if she killed Goliath.  For if she killed Goliath and left them they would still be in ruin.  Xena explained to the bard that the Israelites needed a new leader.  This was the reason that she would not be the one to take Goliath down.

     Suddenly the unexpected happened.  David approached Xena asking to speak with her on a serious matter.  Xena seemed relieved that the young warrior poet had stepped forward.  She had planned on him to take the place of John, but David had already made the decision without Xena.  He declared that his people needed a new leader and that he would be the one to step up.  David also realized what taking the leadership role meant.  It meant that he would have to be the one to kill Goliath and he accepted the responsibility with great courage and strength.  And then both Xena and Gabrielle knew that the warrior poet was ready to take control.

     Later that night Xena tried one last time to meet with Goliath in the sacred graveyard of the giants.  She hoped to save his life, and their friendship.  And she hoped to save the Israelites.  In the darkness Goliath stood still wounded deeply by the pain of his loss of long ago.  He could not let go of the vengeance in his heart though he was able to forgive Xena knowing that her choice had been right.  The two exchanged good-byes knowing that one of them would die.  Goliath was unaware that he would not be meeting Xena on the next day, but someone else.

     Gabrielle was summoned by David to the supply room where she found him preparing for his greatest battle.  There before her she watched him swing his little weapon which he called the sling.  Gabrielle broke the silence with David though she was uncomfortable with his presence.  She was still embarrassed by her actions on the night before upon meeting David’s betrothed.  Gabrielle was uncertain of why David had wanted to see her.  She was afraid of what he had to say.  David was curious as to why Gabrielle had been avoiding him.  When she tried to tread softly upon the new knowledge of his betrothed David put her at ease taking responsibility for not telling her about Sarah.  He declared that he loved Sarah and that she was a good woman.  Gabrielle was glad for them though she had hoped that David would be with her.  David recognized Gabrielle’s innocent feelings for him knowing that they had much in common.  The warrior poet then asked Gabrielle for her friendship though he could give her nothing more.  Gabrielle found herself comfortable with that now knowing that his path was not hers.  He had a people to lead into a future and she had to finish her story of the warrior princess.

     Of course Gabrielle now passed the uncomfortable feelings she became critical.  She was not so certain that the little leather pouch with a stone in it would take down Goliath.  David again prepared to put her at ease for he declared that one only needed faith in God to believe in their future.  Gabrielle stated that she was unfamiliar with the idea of there being only one God.  She had never seen him, or touched him, or known him.  Only Zeus, Hera, and the other gods were familiar to her.  Yet David explained that it was okay that she was not comfortable with his god.  He declared that his god was even more special and more powerful than any of the gods that Gabrielle had ever known.  David spoke of his god as being the ultimate power like a Shepard caring for his sheep.  The bard was intrigued yet confused for her uncertainty prevailed.  She wasn’t sure that she would ever be able to understand the god that David worshiped.  Yet she was certain that He must be special.  For if one god could give one young man the faith and the strength of David then His goodness must be endless.

     Then David revealed his true reason for summoning Gabrielle.  He wanted to share with her his psalms knowing that he was willingly walking into the darkness.   David handed Gabrielle one of his psalms certain that she would share it with many.  He was not afraid to be called into death if his god willed it to be.  David then commended Gabrielle for her observation of the story for she had been right.  Stories must be shared and his psalms were no exception.  Gabrielle found herself flattered to be given this awesome responsibility.  He was giving her his psalms to share with all.  Gabrielle wanted to be certain that she could recite his psalms correctly so she asked him if he would read them to her before she left.  David understood her request and the importance of it so he took his scroll and prepared to recite it.  Yet before he began he had decided instead to recite to her spontaneously the way she had done for him before.  He stated that it had just come to him the moment before Gabrielle had entered.  David then began reciting his psalm numbered twenty and three beautiful as a tender song.

     “The lord is my shepard I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.  He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul.  He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…I shall fear no evil.  For thou art with me.  Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest the table of nourishment for me in the face of my enemies.  Thou hast welcomed me as thy guest.  For your blessings..they overflow.  Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me through life.  And afterwards I shall live with you…forever in your home.”  

     The bard found herself enthralled and enchanted by the beautiful psalm as the warrior poet recited.  She felt as if she were facing his god through the eyes of the poet himself.  And then she knew what it was that she had felt before.  It was the love of David’s god that had emanated through him that had touched her own heart.  Gabrielle knew that this moment with the warrior poet was a special one for she began to feel the courage and the strength of David as he recited the words from his heart.  It was in his heart that his god lived and breathed.  The heart of the warrior poet was where power resided and so the bard understood the god of the Israelites.

     On the next day all were ready.  The army of Israel stood before their homeland preparing to reclaim what had been given to them by their god.  Xena walked down the lines in command overseeing the duties as the leader prepared for his battle against the giant.  David and Xena had come up with a plan to get Goliath to remove his helmet.  There was only one problem.  The weather had to be perfect for their plan to succeed.  On this day it was cloudy and the sun did not shine.  Xena stepped forth and spoke to David asking him to speak about this to the divine.  David nodded his head as he bowed it down.  Gabrielle could see that he was speaking to his god.  Then the silence was broken by the sounds of the roaring horn.  The Philistines summoned the giant to protect what they had stolen.

      Goliath stepped forward prepared wearing his helmet and carrying a giant sword.  He was certain to take down the warrior princess this time yet he was unaware that he would not be fighting her.  Goliath snickered for a moment knowing that he was too powerful to be defeated now.  Then the new leader of Israel stood forth.  He did not wear any armor, and he carried only a leather sling.  He reached into his belt as he approached the giant and took out a stone the size of a fist.  David placed it carefully into his sling and began to swing the weapon.  It seemed to take an eternity to gather the energy needed to be powerful.  Yet David was patient as he concentrated.  But Goliath then let out deep laughter from the pit of his giant stomach.  The giant was not afraid in the face of David.

      Instead Goliath raised his mighty sword and began to attack David who stood barely tall enough to reach his knee.  David dodged each swing of the sword still concentrating on his weapon.  He thrust his first stone straight into the giant’s chest and got little more than another giant laugh from his enemy.  Then Goliath had decided that he was going to end this once and for all.  He began to swing his sword more rapidly slicing through the muddy ground.  David ran through the giant muscular legs of Goliath preparing to shoot a second time at the giant.  Goliath turned about to face David nearly being hit in the face by the flying stone.  David had only one more stone left to try.  If he did not succeed this time he would surely die.

     Again he was patient and brave preparing his third and final stone for its journey.  Just as the giant prepared to strike back something amazing happened.  Suddenly the clouds began to clear and the sun began to shine brilliantly as if everyone would be blinded by its light.  In that moment Xena gave the command to the Israelites to hold up their mighty golden shields.  The people of Israel held up their shields deflecting the sun’s rays into Goliath’s eyes exposing the giant soft spot.  Goliath was confused and unable to move.  He could not see and then he took off his helmet as David hurled his last stone into the air.  It flew gracefully toward the giant and hit its mark perfectly.

      Goliath took the blow and began to scream within his physical pain.  He fell backward dropping to his knees as his sword fell to the ground.  Xena felt his pain and wished to comfort her old friend, but it was too late for him.  He had made his choice before going into this final battle.  The bard knew that Xena had done the right thing.  And so as the giant fell to the ground defeated the Israelites followed their leader David into battle against the Philistines.  They fought passionately with their faith for their victory would be certain now.  And Dagon soon found himself retreating in anger for he had been defeated by the warrior poet.  The people of Israel rejoiced honoring their new leader for his courage and his faith.

      Though there was celebration there was also defeat.  For the loving husband and friend of the warrior princess pain prevailed.  His choice to follow a path of vengeance had led him into his death.  As he lied on the ground he pleaded with his friend for comfort.  He asked what of Gareth and of a place beyond earth.  Xena comforted her friend the only way she knew how.  She told him that his war was over for vengeance no longer matter.  All that was important now was that he could rejoin his family in peace beyond life.  Goliath looked to his friend and accepted her comforting words.  He struggled to smile softly knowing that she was true and that it would be alright.  And then the giant collapsed his head upon the ground.  His last breath had come to pass.  Gabrielle could see that Xena was upset though she had been a good friend even in death. 

     David had spared Xena the responsibility to the greater good.  He had taken the responsibility himself through his undying faith in his god.  His god had indeed delivered him and blessed him with great things.  Gabrielle was certain that the kingdom of Israel would flourish for many years to come.  And the warrior poet would be writing his psalms reciting them and sharing with all.   

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #28: A Solstice Carol

 The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll# 28:  A Solstice Carol

December 23, 48 B.C. 

     I sing of the king whose name was Silvus for he could not find the love in his heart to allow a celebration of winter solstice.  An older poor couple was brought forth to him in the king’s the court for they had not one dinar to pay him though they owed for their taxes.  Silvus had no mercy upon them and he sentenced them to ten winters in prison for their humble crimes against his kingdom.  Yet he was not finished for their crimes were not all read.  It was discovered that they had also been guilty of celebrating the time of the winter solstice.  This enraged the king even more for he gave them two more winters for this crime which they had committed.

      Thus on the very same night a warrior princess and her loyal sidekick Gabrielle entered into Silvace’s kingdom unaware of the laws which forbade the celebration of solstice.  Gabrielle was excited for it was the eve of solstice and it was a time of giving and of sharing love and hope.  Xena of course was not as excited, but the bard insisted that they each shop in the market and buy a gift of solstice for the other.  They were not to spend more than five dinars for their gift, but Xena did not see the point when she could just as easily give Gabrielle the five dinars.  Gabrielle argued with her friend reminding her that it was the surprise of the gift and the thought involved in choosing a gift that made this tradition a special one.

     Upon arguing the solstice tradition the two were interrupted by a thief who had stealthfully passed between them stealing Xena’s prized chakram.  As they watched the thief disappear into the crowd in the market they noticed that he was only a child.  They decided to separate splitting up to trap the thief between them.  The chase was on as Xena bolted closely behind the young thief watching his every move.  She noticed that he only tried to steal one other item from another unsuspecting shop keeper.  Xena decided to give him space and to follow him for he was not the typical thief.

     And then as he passed through the back alley way Gabrielle again caught sight of him.  She was about to confront him when Xena motioned quietly for the bard to follow.  The two women watched as the boy entered into a large old building which looked to be an orphanage.  This was definitely not a typical robbery.  Xena and Gabrielle followed their thief through the doors of the orphanage and looked to see why he had stolen Xena’s chackram.  There before them stood a large beautiful solstice tree with all of the beautiful trimmings and bright golden decorations.  There were candles burning upon each branch illuminating the room and there upon the top of the tree was the most lovely star the bard had ever seen.

     However, Xena was not so impressed by this beautiful star for it was indeed her stolen chakram which sat radiantly upon the top of the solstice tree.  Xena was a bit offended that someone would even think of her chakram as less than a deadly weapon, but Gabrielle was tickled to see the many functions that the graceful chakram held.  The young boy was scolded by the lady who ran the orphanage for indeed he had stolen Xena’s chakram yet the bard found it cute that he would go to any length to find a star in the spirit of solstice.  Xena approached the wonderful tree and took the chackram from its resting place on top.  It had been wrapped in little red, white, and gold bows which brought out so much color.

     Suddenly the doors of the orphanage were busted open for there were the guards of Silvus and the bailiff who sat upon Silvus’s court.  The bailiff held an order upon a scroll which read that the orphanage was to be vacated by midnight for they had been sentenced for celebrating solstice.  Not only that, but if they did not leave they would have to pay a penalty of 10,000 dinars for their crimes.  This was not fair, and seemed a cold-hearted deed.  Xena took matters into her own hands.  She took her chakram bows and all throwing it around about the soldiers wrapping them like solstice gifts together and bound. 

     As the warrior princess took the four guards of Silvus to a prison within the orphanage Gabrielle took the bailiff noticing that his heart was not as cold as the words upon his parchment.  She asked of his name and he said that it was Senticles.  Gabrielle had heard of this name Senticles as she searched within her memory to find out who he really was.  And then it came to her.  Gabrielle remembered that she had once been given a solstice gift that had been crafted by Senticles himself.  It had been a little wooden toy lamb whose mouth would open if it’s tail was pulled.  Gabrielle expressed her joy as she remembered how happy that toy had made her feel as a child.

     Senticles was delighted for a moment to see the joy that his craft of toy making had brought to Gabrielle, but expressed his sadness for toys had been outlawed the day solstice had been banned.  When Xena had returned she had wanted to take Senticles to the cell with the other solstice haters, but Gabrielle convinced her that Senticles was not one of them.  Instead they would use Senticles to help them in releasing the ban upon this most wonderful holiday. 

     Gabrielle then asked of Senticles why solstice had been banned, and Senticles told of Silvus’s wife Analia whom had passed away upon a Solstice eve many winters before.  His heart had been broken on a night that was meant for joy and so the bard could understand his loss, but now it was time for Silvus to stop mourning and to celebrate once again.

     Gabrielle had her own plan though Xena was opposed.  She wanted to fight this battle without weapons for the bard was confident that it could be done.  Xena of course wasn’t certain, but Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior princess reminding her that it indeed was a peaceful time which should be resolved with peaceful measures.  Gabrielle promised Xena that if her plan did not work that they would most certainly smash heads to release these saddened people of Silvace’s kingdom.

     The first thing that had to be done was to gather the necessary supplies.  Gabrielle was given 35 dinars for it was all that Xena had left herself.  There was a very long list, but Gabrielle promised Xena that she would be able to haggle and get everything on the list.  And as they parted Xena caught Senticles trying to escape his duty to the people of Silvus for he was a coward who could not bear to think of what Silvus would do to him if he found out about his deeds with the warrior princess.

      The hour was growing late as Gabrielle entered the market place.  It was now dark and some of the shops were beginning to close up.  Yet as her eyes roamed about seeking a deal she was interrupted by the sounds of a man cursing and a donkey screaming.  Gabrielle turned about to watch as she discovered that this stubborn donkey was not about to move anywhere, and the man shouted back.  She interjected hoping that she could be of some assistance to this man his donkey and their struggle.  The man declared angrily and with frustration that he was about to take this beautiful animal to the tannery.  He was certain to get 50 dinars for the donkey. 

     Gabrielle was suddenly upset for how could someone take a loving animal to the slaughterhouse on the night of solstice eve.  Without another thought she offered the scrawny middle-aged man 20 dinars for his animal.  He refused for he did not want to give up his 50 dinars.  In fact, the man said that he would not take less than 25.  But then Gabrielle reminded him that his donkey was only worth 50 dinars if he could get it to the tannery.  It was quite obvious to the bard that this donkey was not about to budge.  She then offered him 30 realizing that he wouldn’t even get 50 despite what he had claimed.  The man suddenly stopped trying to struggle with the donkey and he declared that he would take 35 dinars.  Gabrielle smiled with delight and then suddenly realized that she had just spent all of their money to save this donkey from the slaughterhouse.

     Yet then she realized that she had done something in the spirit of solstice and it did not matter that she had spent all of their money on this poor stubborn donkey.  So she took the donkey upon exchanging her last 35 dinars and gave him a name.  She called him Tobias.  Upon reaching the orphanage Gabrielle had been told that she could not bring Tobias inside.  As she tried to take him back out into the cold Tobias refused to budge once again.  She was beginning to feel the same frustration that the former owner had experienced with this stubborn animal.  Then suddenly someone whistled and Tobias responded.  Gabrielle was delighted to see that this donkey had been trained just the way Argo had been trained by Xena.  As Gabrielle took her new friend back out into the cold she tried to comfort Tobias and promised him that she would stay outside with him.  She did not want her new friend to be lonely.

     Upon Xena’s return Gabrielle realized that she had to explain why she had been unsuccessful at obtaining the list of things needed to complete their mission.  As Xena came into the orphanage Gabrielle confessed persuasively that she had made a wonderful investment by saving the poor animal from the tannery.  Xena could not argue or be upset with her friend for she knew how big the bard’s heart truly was.  Gabrielle had only done what she thought had been right.  That was what the warrior princess loved most about her misguided young friend.

     Xena then explained what had happened while she was at the castle.  She had found all of the things that they had needed to complete their mission, but King Silvus had not been so responsive upon her visit to his bedside.  He had called upon his guards when he discovered that Xena had come not to rob him, but to convince him to restore the celebration of solstice and to ease up on his tax laws.  It was clear that the next part of their mission was to be completed.  Yet they needed just one more person to get involved so Xena turned yet again to Senticles.  She found him in the court working very late as he always did.  Xena entered quietly behind him watching as this old toy maker changed sentences and numbers allowing some mercy to enter into the lives of the poor and unfortunate.  Xena found herself touched by this and was certain that he would get involved.

      She approached him complementing him on his good deeds, but he was modest and almost nervous that anyone had even discovered his small deed.  Xena then asked of him to join her and Gabrielle to carry out their plan yet he refused.  He would not go further than changing the numbers upon his parchment, but Xena reminded him that she could easily give word to Silvus of Senticles’s deeds against Silvus.  Senticles had no other choice, but to join the warrior princess and the bard in convincing Silvus otherwise.

      And so the first part of Gabrielle’s plan had begun.  Xena was dressed as the beautifully charming fate Clotho.  Clotho had been the fate of Silvus’s past and she was there to remind Silvus.  Silvus was afraid at first, but listened as he shook in his bed.  Clotho insisted that he come with her to visit his past, but Silvus refused.  Then Clotho reminded him of what would happen to his own future if he chose not to come with her.  While Xena performed before Silvus, the toy maker performed behind the curtain making his magic believable.

     Once Silvus was convinced of the power of Clotho he reluctantly put on his robe and joined Clotho and they went down to the basement of the castle.  It was old and musty.  There were cobwebs all about for no one had been there for years.  Yet the warrior princess had been there earlier when she had discovered the picture on the wall.  It had been of Analia and Silvus together and Analia’s eyes were very similar to Gabrielle’s.  As Clotho guided Silvus through his past there before him was a shadow .  It was the living breathing shadow of Annulya.  She spoke lovingly to him yet within a ghostly voice.  Clotho then turned to the king and began to speak to him as the suspended shadow fell suddenly to the ground.  Gabrielle fought violently through the robes which she wore for she could not see what was going on.  And then suddenly the shadow was hoisted back into the air.

      Analia then told Silvus that it was now time for him to let go of the pain of his past.  She encouraged him to leave her in peace though she apologized for leaving him in her death so many years ago.  For a moment Silvus was convinced of this mysterious shadow until he realized and reminded this shadow that she had not died, but she had left him.  Suddenly, Silvus became angry and almost distraught.  Then he fainted and fell to the floor.  Gabrielle was concerned that maybe they had gone too far, but Xena assured her that it had only been a drug that she had put into the king’s wine which would allow him to sleep, but for only a short time.

     Then Xena took Silvus back to his bed chambers and Gabrielle whistled for Tobias to take her back out to the ground outside the castle.  Once Gabrielle touched the ground she began to look for Senticles for he was supposed to have been watching Tobias.  It was obvious to the bard that his cowardice had won out and Senticles had abandon the people of Silvus once again.  Yet she saw Tobias and was delighted at how smart this animal truly was.  It was as if despite the absence of Senticles this beautiful animal knew just what he had to do.  For that he had saved the mission.

      While Gabrielle took Tobias to search for Senticles Xena returned with Silvus to his bedchambers.  There was little time before the drug from his wine would wear off and he’d be certain to figure out what was really going on.  Xena changed costume as well for phase two of the plan required that she become the fate of the present.   Lachesis rudely awakened the sleepy Silvus to take him on a journey of the present.  At first Silvus was angered yet again at his suddenly being ripped out of sleep, but Lachesis convinced him otherwise.  She began by asking him to change into common clothes so that he may walk about his subjects undetected.  Lachesis desired to show the king his ugly ways from the perspective of those who know him best.  Even Silvus seemed unaware of his arrogance being the king.  This showed in his initial defiance of Lachesis’s request of him, but it did not last.  With Xena behind the mask of the present convincing the king to so ask he had been asked was not a problem.

      Meanwhile Gabrielle found herself amongst the local townspeople in search of Senticles’s home.  The people knew just where to find Senticles and so Gabrielle followed his trail straight to his front door.  She knocked and called out to him for she was certain that he would be cowering there.  After a few moments of  persistence and determination Senticles finally answered.  Gabrielle was quite agitated that her new warrior friend was not so enthusiastic about helping in the greater good.  She scolded him for leaving and asked him what had happened.  Senticles was quick to defend his cowardice explaining that there were two guards that had come by while he was watching Tobias.  Tobias had been tied to a rope which acted as the pulley in making Gabrielle rise above the floor as the shadowy spirit of Analia.  When Senticles had run away it had almost blown the cover of Xena and Gabrielle.  Gabrielle questioned Senticles harshly wondering why he ran away from his responsibility to herself and Xena.  Senticles responded with a new defense.  He explained that he had seen Xena fight earlier and that he was confident Xena was more than capable of rescuing herself and Gabrielle.  Senticles’s faith in Xena’s interest in protecting him had been lacking.  Before Gabrielle could continue interrogating Senticles for his irresponsibility and cowardice Senticles responded that even Tobias was safer than he within the wrath of Silvus for a donkey would not be punished for a crime against Silvus.

     Gabrielle was disappointed in the toy maker whom had once brought the power of love and hope to children all over Greece.  She could not grasp what had taken that from him.  He seemed to be selfish as Silvus.  Gabrielle could not convince him otherwise for his heart had seemingly been damaged beyond repair.  With that Senticles had demanded that Gabrielle walk away and leave him alone for he wanted no part in goodness ever again.  As Gabrielle’s heart sank for his loss of hope she turned away preparing to give up and move on with the plan without Silvus.  But just as the bard turned away from Silvus she saw the most beautiful sight.  It was the sight of thousands of toys which Silvus had made for children.  There were dolls, and rocking horses, wagons, and more.  All were shimmering with hope waiting for the heart of a child to be their new home. 

     The bard was taken aback and in awe of the spectacle of all of those toys.  She felt like a child again as her eyes roamed about the beautiful toys.  Suddenly it came to her like Zues’s lightening.  She realized that the way to Silvus’s heart was still through the hearts of children.  The innocence within began to speak as she inquired of Silvus about the toys.  Of course he answered as she had expected, but then quickly scolded himself for leaving the toys about.  Gabrielle realized there would be a little work involved in winning him over, but she was confident that she could do it.  The bard then ran toward the toys and began to frolic about picking up a doll as she noticed that its eyes opened and closed.  Silvus rushed to Gabrielle’s side taking hold of the doll that Gabrielle had taken and began to explain how it worked.  But before he could get a second word out Gabrielle moved onto another toy. 

      She had spotted the very same toy that had been given to her as a little girl.  Gabrielle pulled a little wooden lamb off of the shelf before here and began pulling the tail as it made the little sounds of a lamb.  Her heart fluttered for in this moment she was a child again as Silvus followed watching how his work had touched the heart of someone he knew.  Gabrielle could sense Silvus’s heart opening up with delight and so she decided to take a leap of her own faith.  She planted the seed for Silvus suggesting that all of these wonderful toys could make more children happy again.  They could begin at the local orphanage.  For a moment Silvus was with Gabrielle again as Gabrielle began taking toys off of the shelf to be packed for delivery.  Yet Silvus was again reminded of the law of Silvus which stated that toys were illegal.  He was still hesitant despite the light in his heart.  Gabrielle continued to push despite Senticles’s doubts.  She moved ahead with new plan in mind taking the bag which Silvus held suggesting that it could be used for transport to the orphanage.  The bard continued to stuff toys into the bag as Senticles tried to plant doubt.  Gabrielle spoke against doubt explaining that when Xena was finished with Silvus that the king himself would hand out the toys to all of the children of his kingdom. 

     Then Gabrielle moved onto the issue of disguise.  Senticles would need a disguise to get past the guards so that he could deliver the toys.  Just then Senticles halted hope once again.  He did not like to be pushed into a small corner, but Gabrielle refused to allow his excuses to prevail any longer.  She reminded Senticles of his worst fears.  He feared being locked away in a small space.  Yet he was already locked up and had not even realized it.  His heart was confined to the law of the land which had been created by Silvus’s hand.  Gabrielle expressed that Senticles only had himself to fear for it was his own doubts that had held him back.  It was not Silvace’s law.  Gabrielle pointed out that Senticles was afraid to stand up for his heart’s desire and the heart’s desire of others.  Then she sealed the deal reminding him that he was the one in control.  It was Senticles who made the choice for life and the lives of others.  And so Senticles had seemingly been convinced to stop running and hiding to stand up and fight.  Even if it meant that fighting would entail making toys and delivering joys.  As expected Gabrielle, Senticles, and Tobias ran into the guards on their way to the orphanage, but they dodged them easily with Senticles’s new disguise.  Yet they would have to find a new way into the orphanage rather than using the front door in order to avoid the risk of their own arrest.

     It seemed as if the plan was back on track once again as Lachesis had just arrived at the orphanage with Silvus.  Upon entering the orphanage Silvus expected to have the door slammed in his face already aware of his impending deeds.  Yet the young boy whom had answered did not recognize his king without his crown and royal robes.  Instead the boy invited the stranger in for food and drink despite how little they had.  Lachesis urged the boy to continue sharing their hardships at the orphanage in order to paint a better picture of the king’s terrible wrath.  Silvus was angered as he listened to the boy speak of how terrible the king was.  There was not one thing nice about Silvus to the boy or to any other child at the orphanage.  Yet a stranger was welcome to share in their secret solstice celebration for the orphanage was to be shut down at midnight.  When the stranger inquired he was reminded of the law.  If taxes were not paid then the land went back into the hands of the king.  The orphanage had been taxed beyond its means and could no longer stay open.  All of the kids would be out in the street by the next morning.  Without a home the children were not afraid to break the law of celebrating solstice.

      After being described as the most tyrant king upon the Aegean the stranger listened as the children’s choir sang.  Lachesis was hoping that the king was convinced of his crimes, but instead she was shocked to find otherwise.  At the end of the celebration as the time struck the hour Silvus rose from his place with rage.  He blamed Lachesis for his nasty deeds of the past several years for it was she and the other fates that had separated Analia from him in the first place.  It was an unexpected turn of events that not even Xena could have predicted.  And so the king stormed off toward the doors of the orphanage.  He’d had enough of the fates’s silly games.  As he opened the doors he was greeted by the forces of Silvus.  The soldiers were not pleasant and they demanded his surrender, but Silvus resisted his own arrest.  When Silvus defied his own law the guards laughed in his face certain that he was not their king.  Instead the officer proclaimed himself to be the queen of the amazons and so the battle began.

      Lachesis transformed into Xena as she kicked down the columns which held up the foyer.  This gave her and Silvus the time to escape as she whisked him back through the doors inside of the orphanage.  When they reentered Lionel the young boy whom had been so kind to the stranger warned that they should leave now.  Yet just as he had spoken of the arrest that awaited them Silvus passed out from shock and Lachesis was no more.  As soon as Lynal realized that it was Xena that had brought in the stranger he warned that the guards they had trapped inside the basement earlier had escaped.  Xena was not so worried about those guards any longer.  She was more concerned with a new plan.  As Lynal directed her down into the basement she took Silvus to be watched by the keeper of the orphanage. 

     Lynal took the rest of the children to a safe hiding place as Xena looked about to design a last-minute change of plan.  But just when it seemed that things were beyond repair Senticles and Gabrielle dropped in through the air.  They had entered into the orphanage through a fire shaft which had been not so comfortable for the bard.  Yet Senticles was happy as a boy as he jumped up from the ground with his toys and danced with joy.  He picked up Gabrielle and began to dance with the bard as Xena watched with delight and Senticles chuckled within his disguise.  He wore a red suit with a large white beard that Gabrielle had found back at the basement of Silvus’s castle.  It was all too perfect for the warrior princess who now had a new plan with two new warriors at her side.

     Using Senticles’s toys and the decorations of solstice Xena, Gabrielle, and Senticles defeated the guards of Silvus.  It was beyond imagination that a battle could be won by the joy of toys alone, but it was all that had been needed to have Silvus’s laws defeated.  As the battle raged on an army of children arrived as they picked up arms and loads of toys.  The guards of Silvus were made fools for they were being defeated by women and children.  Just as the battle came to a climactic roar Silvus appeared defying his own laws.  He was the final blow to the demise of local law.  As the battle ended he declared that the orphanage would not close and that no one would be evicted. 

     In the next moment things turned solemn as a dark figure emerged from the basement.  Silvus’s fears rose as he begged the future not to take his life.  The king had hoped that this act to redeem himself would save him from the fates, but instead it healed him.  Just as Gabrielle was about to explain who was behind the dark robe the hood of disguise was lifted.  Silvace’s lips spoke the name of his beloved who stood before him with regret.  Analia had heard his desperate pleas as he had come out of his shock in the basements.  She realized now that she too had made mistakes.  Both of their selfish mistakes had caused the suffering of many innocent people.  And so the two worked out their differences and let love back into their hearts.

      As the morning sun rose Xena and Gabrielle took Argo and Tobias down the road onto their next journey.  Xena praised Gabrielle for her choice in battle plans for this particular battle and the bard was pleased that she had impressed Xena.  The giving did not stop at that for on the day of solstice the four of them ran into some weary travelers.  Gabrielle offered them a solstice gift reluctantly giving away her new found friend Tobias so that the three could make the long journey west.  Upon saying good-bye to Tobias Xena offered protection for the young couple and their newborn child, but it was refused.  And so as Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo continued on down the path Xena surprised Gabrielle with another gift.  It was one of Senticles’s toy lambs.  Gabrielle felt guilt for not having the time to find a gift for Xena, but instead the warrior princess insisted that the bard’s friendship to her was a gift.  The bard could not offer to the warrior princess any other gift worth more than her undying  friendship.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #27: Is There A Doctor In the House?

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll#27:  Is There A Doctor In the House

November, 48 B.C.

 

     Pride holds a cost larger than ourselves.  If only we could choose the  peaceful value of life over blood and death putting our own selfish pride aside.  For there was once this king.  His name was Lubarious.  He was a brave warrior and a great hunter.  Lubarious was so proud of his hunting skills that one day he decided to test them in the sacred forest of the great goddess Artemis.  His pride was so costly that he had angered Artemis taking the lives of many of the beautiful creatures which roamed within her sacred forest.  She was so angry with him that she turned him into a deer like those he had hunted so mercilessly. 

     At first Lubarious thought of the misfortune of being transformed into the creature that he had once skillfully hunted down.  But then he became so fond of the peaceful ways of the deer that he actually grew to love them.  Of course he still missed his friends and family which made him very sad.  So Artemis took pity on him and turned him back into his human form.  For this he became a better king and a much happier man.  He  had learned that the true secret of life is to find peace within oneself and to share it with the world for life can only be what one makes of it.

     Gabrielle was reminded of this wonderful story when she and Xena found themselves traveling through the city of Thessaly for they had found it lying in ruins.  There was not one sign of life.  Not a man, nor woman, nor child were to be found alive within the terrible destruction.  It had only been a few weeks, but the pain of their deaths was still smoldering nearby.  Xena and Gabrielle continued on their way deep into the forest beyond.  It was not long before they found themselves trapped within the grasp of a bloody civil war. 

     This war was between the Mitoans and the Thesselians.  It had been going on for several months for there were the corpses of the dead lying all around the forest.  As the two traveled cautiously through the death and destruction they found themselves so close that one could hear the sounds of a battle raging beyond control.  Swords clashed, and men screamed.  It was one of the most tragic things that Gabrielle had ever seen.  She could not believe how much blood had been spilled over a battle between brothers.  Xena explained that the issue had been over religion for one side disagreed with the other upon their morals and beliefs.

     Gabrielle was fearful of what they might see next and suggested that maybe they should take the southern route around Mitoa in order to avoid becoming innocent victims.  But then suddenly there was the sound of a woman suffering not far away.  Xena and Gabrielle rushed to see who was calling out only to discover an old friend.  It was Ephiny of the Amazons and she had been hiding under a pile of leaves.  She had been there for at least two maybe three days and was quite weak.  Xena noticed that she had a large gash across her forehead and Ephiny mentioned that she had also sustained a broken leg.

      When Gabrielle asked Ephiny what she had been doing out in the middle of this terrible war Ephiny spoke of her pregnancy.  She and her loyal husband Phantes had been traveling toward Athens so that she would be able to give birth to their child.  While traveling they had found themselves caught in the middle of all of this war.  They had been attacked by the Mitoan army as the brave centaur Phantes was killed trying to protect his wife and unborn child.  The Mitoans had laughed upon killing the gallant brave centaur tearing his lifeless body to pieces before the eyes of his beloved.  They left Ephiny for death after she fought them upon losing the father of her unborn child.

     While Gabrielle was preparing Ephiny to travel to a safe place Xena had decided that she was going to save Ephiny and her baby.  Not only that, but she had also decided that she could stop this bloody war between the Mitoans and Thessalians.  Gabrielle was not so certain that this choice was a wise one for she could see no reason for them to get involved, but Xena was certain that she would be able to take on this challenge and  that she would be successful at accomplishing her goal.  Again Gabrielle feared the worst although she had seen that Xena had triumphed in battle many times before.  The bard scolded herself for expressing her sadness of this bloody war feeling that even Xena would not triumph within this battle alone for the devastation seemed larger than the largest of warriors.

     Not far from where Ephiny lay Xena discovered the general of the Mitoan army just beyond some trees rallying his troops.  They were planning on taking a nearby Mitoan healing temple for it was the only thing left standing between Mitoa and Thessaly.  He was certain that victory would be theirs if they could take the temple.  Xena allowed the general to send off his men and then she used her chakram to take him out, but not to kill him.  Then she approached the unconscious general and gave him something that he would never forget.  She took her mighty blade and thrust it into his shoulder. 

     Soon after the injury he awakened from his unconscious state and Xena took him with Gabrielle and Ephiny to the healing temple.  He was against going inside for he was certain that his rank would call death upon him as he entered this Thessalian temple.  Xena was determined to show him what his pride had done as she ripped the symbol of his rank from his clothing.  Marmax was shocked at the warrior princess’s action and her boldness, but realized that he could not argue against it.

     Once inside the temple the young bard found that her heart was breaking for what she saw was great pain and loss.  She could not understand why life was without value when it came to war.  There was  a bit of shock for Gabrielle had not imagined that she would find a healing temple that would house so many broken souls.  The warrior princess quickly glanced about to assess the situation.  She sent Gabrielle to find a place for Ephiny to rest and to prepare for the birth of her child.  And then Xena approached the priests in charge.

      The head priest was an older one.  He introduced himself as Gaylen.  Gaylen also had two other younger priests working alongside him.  Their names were Hippocrates, and Democratis.  Gaylen was enraged that this warrior woman would think to bring into his temple the injured enemy.  Quickly Marmax the general of the Mitoans was taken to the holding area with the rest of his captured and injured comrades. 

     Of course Xena ignored Gaylen for she could see that he and his apprentices were not able to heal with the help of their gods alone.  The warrior princess decided to take immediate action as she began to access the wounded.  First a young man came in suffering.  He was a Mitoan and Gaylen objected immediately to her intervention.  Again the warrior princess ignored him and proceeded to heal with the fine medical knowledge that she possessed.  And as Xena worked above the chaos and in openly defying the powers of the healing god Asclepius yet another pair of wailing wounded were brought into the already full temple.

     One of the men had a deep painful chest wound while the other had been shot through the windpipe with an arrow.  Gabrielle returned to Xena’s side listening to these awful sounds of suffering.  Men who wheezed struggling to take their last breaths of life as their chests violently rose and fell.  The sounds of the dying were almost unbearable to hear, but the bard knew that she must help in any way that she could.  Suddenly, Xena barked out an order for some rags and a hollow reed.  Hippocrates quickly jumped to aid the warrior princess as he found himself suddenly fascinated by this warrior women who seemed to have the power to heal. 

     Upon Hippocrates return Xena demanded to see Marmax at the operating table.  Upon hearing his name Marmax arrived intrigued by this woman’s disrespect for anyone.  He was clearly irritated that he had been brought here and at first refused to help Xena upon her firm request.  Yet Xena persisted in taking command of the general and he once again surrendered himself to her demands.  She gave him the rags and asked him to hold them down onto the chest wound sustained by the victim.  He did so as she inserted the reed into the man’s chest so that he could be given more air. 

     Suddenly, the second victim screamed and Xena responded quickly to his pleas.  He had a neck wound and the blood was flowing out quickly.   The warrior princess then asked for cobwebs as she broke the shaft of the arrow and then pushed the remaining arrow through.  Quickly she took the hollow reed from Hippocrates and inserted it into the hole so that the suffering man could breathe again.  Gabrielle watched as Xena then took the cobwebs from Hippocrates in an attempt to fill the wound and stop the blood.  Xena called to Gabrielle to compress the wound of this suffering soul.   The bard found herself putting her hands into the heart of the war holding the compresses upon the man.

     Soon his chest was calming and his cries were subsiding as these amazing healing women had given him breath once again.  Democratis was so very enthralled with the young bard and her beauty as Hippocrates agreed the taller one was impressive.  Xena and Gabrielle were momentarily annoyed for there was no time for love when the fight for life was not over.  The warrior princess realized that she could use the admiration of these two young priests to help save more lives.  She called to Hippocrates and asked him to separate between those who would live and those who would not be saved.  He was appalled at first for he did not feel that he could make that choice in the presence of his god Asclepius.  It had obviously been taught to him by Gaylen that life and death were not up to the people of the earth. 

     Xena realized that Hippocrates was not yet ready to accept his duty so she gave him a new task as she drew her sword.  She gave it to him instructing him to take it to the pregnant woman to set her broken leg.  Hippocrates could understand this kind of healing and so he took the sword and followed the warrior princess going to work.  The warrior princess had sent her sidekick onto tend to the soul of another wounded victim although his wound was one of the spirit.  Xena knew that the bard could heal that with her powerful words and the light that she carried in her heart. 

     Gabrielle had been reluctant to tend to the soul of a man who could not put his pride aside, but then saw the opportunity in which she had been given by the warrior princess.  The bard could not swing a sword, throw a chakram, or kill in the face of war, but she could  use her powerful words and a beautiful story to convince one of influence to call off this silly feud.  And so Gabrielle tended to the shoulder wound of general Marmax and told the story of Lubarious for she knew that Marmax could relate to a skillful hunter for it was he who hunted the beautiful people of Thessaly. 

     In the beginning of the story Marmax was pleased for he  admired Lubarious’s bravery, but then he scorned Lubarious’s choice of defying Artemis to hunt within her forest.  Gabrielle could clearly see that Marmax was missing the point so she continued on.  She spoke of how Lubarious’s choice to hunt within Artemis’s forest had been the best choice he had ever made for it taught him the valuable lesson of finding peace within himself rather than trying to create it externally.  Yet by the end of this beautiful story with a happy ending Marmax had still not understood what the bard had been trying to tell him.  She left his side upon dressing his wound disappointed that she had been unsuccessful in her quest to sway his mind.

     Upon returning to Xena’s side Gabrielle found herself in the midst of great suffering, pain, and agony.  These were all Thessalian soldiers about to be sent to their deaths for the pride of general Marmax and his army.  Suddenly, Gabrielle heard Xena call out for more supplies.  She needed another hollow reed and the bladder of a pig.  Hippocrates had returned to Xena as well realizing that Xena had been right to choose for some of the wounded could clearly never return to us despite what was done for them.  Xena then inserted a knife into the chest of the new patient as his body flailed about upon the Asclipious’s altar.  His blood spilled upon the alter staining it with the ugliness of war.  She then stitched up his neck wound hoping to stop some of the blood loss.

     Gaylen had returned to find the sacred altar in ruin defaced with the blood of the dying enemy for this man was a Thessalian.  It was the last that he could tolerate of this healing woman’s presence.  Gaylen demanded that the Thessalian guards within his temple kill the warrior princess for she was going against all that was allowed within the temple.  The two guards prepared to do battle as the warrior princess reached instinctively for her sword to find that it was missing.

     As the enemy approached she resorted to her powerful combat kicks which were a threat enough for this woman still tended to the sick and wounded as she fought against them.  Upon defeating their weak advances upon her Gaylen scolded the warrior princess for her disrespect of the gods.  Yet Xena had no remorse for her crimes against them for she declared that the gods would not heal these men.  Her belief had always been that one must take action in order to make something happen.  As the two argued over who was right and who was wrong within this realm of healing Gabrielle found herself unable to keep her patient from his suffering.  She and Hippocrates worked together pumping air into his lungs with the pig’s bladder and hollow reed yet as they pumped harder and faster the man lost more and more blood.  His breaths became shorter and fainter until finally his chest stopped.

     As the distraught bard called out to Xena for help Xena came to find that this man could not be saved.  She called off the efforts of Gabrielle and Hippocrates realizing defeat.  But Gabrielle did not want to be defeated.  She could not understand how the man could die when she and Hippocrates had worked so hard to save his life.  Xena tried to comfort the bard and to help her understand that there were just some things that were beyond what they could do to help in the face of suffering.  Gabrielle promised to Xena that she would work harder next time still feeling guilty that she had failed.

     Then Gaylen interjected into their conversation and spitefully declared that indeed the warrior princess could not heal that man.  Xena regretfully agreed that indeed that injury was one that could not be healed for the man had lost too much blood. 

     Marmax returned to see what a toll this experience had taken on the youth that traveled alongside this warrior woman as he watched the young bard try to comfort another dying man.  He could clearly see that Gabrielle knew the man would die, but she spoke gentle words to him knowing that it was those words that she could offer and nothing more.  The young Democratis sat alongside Gabrielle as he watched her tend to this man.  He too was enlightened by the bard’s great power and strength within.  Then Marmax confronted Xena for bringing the bard into this mess.  Xena could see that he was right for the pain that Gabrielle was feeling within was almost as great as the physical suffering that each of these men were experiencing within their dying hour.

      Yet the pain was still not over for another man came forth to the altar.  He was screaming in pain for his leg was badly diseased.  Xena proclaimed that for this man to live he must give up his leg in return.  The man was upset and could not conceive of cutting off  his leg.  But the truth was revealed bluntly by Xena for she said that his choices were very simple.  He could live without his leg or die with it.  Marmax was outraged yet again by her even emotionless tone.  Yet she looked to the victim and asked him what his choice would be.  The man sighed and asked the healing woman to take his leg in exchange for his life. 

     Xena then went to work once again asking for a sword, a shield, and  a torch.  Then she asked for Marmax to assist her again, but this time he stopped defying Xena’s request for he refused to help the enemy.  Marmax turned to walk away when the warrior princess boldly revealed to him that she would just give him another wound to match the one he had already sustained.  At that moment Marmax realized that it had been Xena who had wounded his shoulder.  He knew that she was serious and chose not to challenge her further.  He participated in this operation taking the shield as Xena heated the sword with the torch.  Then she used her pinch to mask the pain that was to follow.  Slowly she prepared to take the diseased leg and then with one motion his leg was separated.  The man screamed in shock, but the warrior princess knew that in time he would heal physically yet within she was not so sure.

     As the man who lost his leg screamed in terror and shock Gabrielle was stopped suddenly by another distraught injured soldier.  He pleaded with her speaking of a little boy lost out in the woods near the river.  The little boy was his son and his name was Perayous.  Gabrielle found herself becoming confused within all of the chaos and the pain yet realized that someone had to save this little boy.  She could not allow an innocent child to be killed for the pride of a battle gone sour.  As Gabrielle went for the door Deomocratis pleaded with her not to go out into the blood, but Gabrielle ignored him.  If she had to give her life for the life of that little boy then she would do it without question.

     The bard dropped her healing weapons and took up her staff to prepare to defend the innocent in the midst of all of this horror.  It was not far to the river and she knew that she could save the little boy.  She began to call out to him upon approaching the banks of the river finding herself suddenly confronted by a Mitoan soldier.  He moved to strike forward as the bard blocked his advances.  And then she saw the little boy behind her.  He was fearful and alone.  Her heart bled for him as she knocked the Mitoan soldier off of his feet onto the ground.

     Gabrielle quickly turned to run for the boy and carry him to safety, but just behind his innocence she saw another Mitoan soldier raising his sword to take the boy.  The bard threw herself in front of the boy using her staff to block the enemy, but was unable to defend against his fury.  The soldier slashed his sword across the bard’s shoulder and chest.  The pain was sharp, but quick.  She fell upon the little boy who was curled up in a ball in terror.  Then she waited for the enemy to leave and as they left she struggled to her feet.  She took the little boy although the pain was difficult to overcome. 

     Suddenly from behind a Thessalian soldier approached realizing that the young woman and child were in need.  He took them to the healing temple hoping that they would be safe there.  Upon her arrival Gabrielle was barely able to breathe.  She saw Xena approach in shock of what had just happened.  Immediately Xena tended to her badly wounded friend.  Xena hoped that she could save this victim for this victim was real.  It was not just another soldier.  As Xena worked diligently upon her friend’s wounds Gabrielle called out for Ephiny.  Ephiny came and Gabrielle asked her to lean in close for she wanted to give Ephiny her right of caste.  Ephiny would not take it for she would not lose another Amazon sister the way she had lost her husband.  She pleaded with Gabrielle as she took her hand.      

     As Xena worked the temple began to shake for the enemy was now on the doorstep.  There was no shelter left for the weak as the entire structure rocked and began to come down.  The young priests jumped into action telling Xena that they be sure to get the wounded and the innocent to safety outside the temple.  However, Democratis was distraught for he had allowed Gabrielle to go out alone into the battle after the little child.  As he and Hippocrates took the patients outside and down the steps Democratis himself was struck in the chest by an arrow.  He fell slowly as he was stunned by the sudden invasion into his body.

      In the next moment the old priest Gaylen knelt down before the altar crying desperately for the god Asclepius to descend down upon his temple and stop the madness.  As all was falling apart Hippocrates picked up the pieces bravely as Xena instructed him on how to treat his wounded friend.  Then she asked Marmax to step forward and to do his part in healing by encouraging his army to stop the fighting.  Marmax’s spirit had seen more than the light for the expecting mother had sung to him the tragic story of her husband and her loss.  She had convinced him of the  wrongs that he had committed and now he saw two more innocent before him who didn’t deserve to die for his pride and victory.

     Upon his decision the battle suddenly ceased as the first of his soldiers entered into the temple.  He was forceful with them for they didn’t understand at first what it was that they should preserve.  Marmax explained to them that negotiating would be how they would win the remainder of this terrible war.  So many had been lost already.  He would not be responsible for the deaths of anymore.  And so Marmax’s soldier went out into the field to deliver this peaceful message.  It was the first time in a long time that he himself had been humbled the way that Lubarious had been humbled.  Finally Marmax understood what Gabrielle’s story was meant to be.  It was his lesson, but he had learned that lesson only upon her nearing death.

     Xena sat alongside her friend regretfully as she expressed her mistake within her own pride.  The warrior princess had been so determined to prove that she could win this war against pride that her own pride may have cost her the one she valued most.  Marmax stood beyond and could hear all that Xena spoke of realizing that she too had been wounded deeply by this war senseless war.   Xena regretted not taking the southern route as Gabrielle had suggested, and then Marmax interjected with hope.  He delivered words of encouragement to the healing warrior confident that Gabrielle would make it through.

     Though death itself was near so was the promise of birth as Ephiny found herself about to bring her child into the world.  Marmax called to Xena unaware of what to do.  Xena responded yet again to her call to duty and realized that Ephiny’s baby was breech.  The situation was serious, but it was obvious that the exhausted mother was not going to give birth to her child naturally.  Xena would have to cut it out to save both of their lives. 

     Marmax retrieved the supplies needed to perform the miracle of birth.  Xena concentrated as she carefully took the pain from the expecting mother with the pressure points.  Then she placed a candle before Ephiny upon the table and asked her to focus onto it looking deeply within the passionate flame for Phantes.  Ephiny concentrated and felt her husband’s presence as Xena began the procedure.  She ran a knife through the flame of the candle and carefully made her incision.  Across the stomach and then down the middle.  Xena instructed Marmax to pull back the layers of skin upon the top and there just inside the gift was revealed.  It was a beautiful baby boy with four legs.  He was definitely the child of a centaur.  Marmax was delighted to be a part of this miracle as was Xena, but this joyful moment was interrupted by the other side of birth.

     Xena quickly ran to Gabrielle’s side as she saw her friend struggling.  The bard’s body shook and jolted violently.  The warrior princess was unable to act for she could not heal this.  This was beyond her control.  Gabrielle’s spirit then fluttered about seeing all who stood about.  She then saw the white light and the gates opening into a beautiful place.  It had vibrant trees and vast colorful fields.  She found herself greeted by those whom had already left her.  There were her grandparents, and her uncle Meropes.  Her spirit trembled with joy to be reunited with all of these people that she had missed. 

     But then amongst the laughter and the joy Gabrielle was touched by another vibrant young soul.  It was Talus the boy who had gone home with Celesta leaving her behind.  Talus was glad to see her, but told her that she must turn around and go back for there was still so much that she had to do.  Gabrielle was saddened for a moment for she did not want to leave this most peaceful place, but Talus insisted that she must go back.  Then he took her to a special temple and showed her the things that she must do before she could return.  Gabrielle’s soul was excited and agreed to return to Xena for she saw how much the warrior princess still needed her.

      Upon leaving the Elysian Fields behind she waved good-bye to all those that she had to leave behind again including Talus.  He smiled brightly knowing that Gabrielle’s spirit would not return until it had full-filled its promises to Xena.  And then her spirit floated above her body once more looking down upon what she saw.  Marmax’s army was retreating and sending out word of truce to the people of Thessaly.  Gabrielle’s spirit realized that she and Xena had succeeded in stopping this terrible war.  Yet her joy was interrupted by the sensation of emotional anguish.  It wasn’t her own, but the anguish of someone very close to her.  She saw Xena lying over her trying to bring her back to earth. 

     Xena was struggling and fighting a battle that she could only win if Gabrielle were to return.  The warrior princess’s heart began to break for the body did not respond.  Xena pounded on the bard’s chest jolting the lifeless body, but still Gabrielle did not return.  Marmax and many others tried desperately to convince the warrior princess that she must give up and let Gabrielle go.  But Xena would not give up for she could not allow herself to be responsible for the death of another beautiful innocent. She cradled the bard in her arms and rocked her crying with desperation.  The pain which radiated from Xena’s soul was so overwhelming that Gabrielle could not allow Xena to be alone any longer. 

      Gabrielle struggled to return into her lifeless body, but suddenly found herself taking a breath as her eyes flew open.  Xena’s spirit was suddenly relieved for her best friend had returned to her despite all that had been lost.  And so that is how the healing warrior, and Marmax found their own peace.  It was through the cost of their pride that their eyes were opened for the first time so that they could see the happiness of  a life without  blood and war, and the miracle of the birth of innocence.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume 2: Scroll #24: The Greater Good

The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Potedia
Scroll #24: The Greater Good

September, 48 B.C.

Gabrielle a bard in training. Working diligently with her staff attempting to perfect the art of the warrior. Her victim was Xena’s noble horse Argo as she moved forward across, over, and back with the staff in the face of her four-legged enemy. Argo and Gabrielle were constantly at odds seemingly competing for the affections of the warrior princess. It was very well-known to the bard that Argo was number one though Gabrielle fought for the spot with great conviction. Just when Gabrielle finished her move and was certain to be victorious in her training session before the great white enemy she heard Xena call out to her faithful horse. Suddenly Argo called back the way only a horse could. Gabrielle suddenly realized what was coming next, but before she could move to defend Argo disarmed the bard with a swift back kick sending the staff flying a great distance.
Then Xena emerged as Gabrielle complained that she would never learn the art of her staff if she were constantly interrupted by jokes shared only between Xena and Argo. Xena walked over to Argo and began stroking her horse as she held Argo’s reigns. Then the warrior princess whispered that one must have patience with those who annoy them. Gabrielle had retrieved her staff from its resting place and was securing it away into Argo’s saddle bag. Her response to Xena was clearly that it wasn’t that Argo annoyed the bard, but that Argo did not particularly like Gabrielle. Xena then spoke up and declared that she had not been talking to Gabrielle, but Argo when she had spoken of the annoyance. Suddenly the bard found herself annoyed and feeling belittled by the relationship between the warrior princess and her mighty white steed.
Xena had decided that she would leave the two of them alone together hoping that they could make amends and learn to like each other. Then the warrior princess whispered into Argo’s ear asking her horse to give the bard a fair chance while she was not present. Xena then left the bard alone with Argo as she went to seek out a nearby well. When the warrior princess approached the well she found herself relieved for she had needed to quench her thirst. Water had been scarce during the recent season and just as the warrior princess was about to bask in its cool essence someone came out of the woods from behind and called out to her. This startled the warrior princess momentarily as she spun around spilling her cup of paradise. The visitor was a young girl warning of the warlord Talmadeaous who had declared war upon her village. Talmadeous seeked to find Lord Seltzer who was a prominent and well-loved figure within her village. The young girl pleaded with the warrior princess for her help. Xena quickly acted realizing that her next mission was calling.
As Gabrielle tried very hard to get to know Argo better she decided to try easing her way back onto Argo’s saddle. Before Xena had left she had told Gabrielle to be sure that Argo’s saddle was tight which meant that the bard should try warming up to Argo. Gabrielle carefully stroked Argo’s neck and spoke to Xena’s horse softly. Then she stepped one foot into the stirrup, and began to rise to the triumph she seeked. Just as the bard was about to rest easily upon Argo’s saddle for a ride Xena whistled for Argo to come to her. Argo quickly ignored the bard’s efforts to become faithful friends as she quickly reacted to her command and discarded Gabrielle violently back onto the ground. The bard felt a sharp pain in the back of her neck as she landed upon her back and knocked her head down onto the ground. Gabrielle became infuriated at Argo’s lack of courtesy as she rose to curse the four-legged enemy. Yet before the bard could respond Argo had disappeared into the woods in pursuit of her true friend Xena.
As always the warrior princess and Argo had left Gabrielle in the dust charging off into another adventure. Gabrielle was only left with the hooves to followed as she tracked them down into the next village. There the bard witnessed the end result of a battle between the warrior princess and the army of Talmadeous. It was clear by the celebration that Xena had defeated the army as they fled the scene. Gabrielle also caught sight of the salesman known as Salmoneous. He was very excited to see Xena and welcomed her into the village with appreciation and open arms. The last time the bard had seen him they had spent a lot of time in Zercies dungeon yet it had been his fault for arguing with the bard over some tomatoes. This time Salmoneous seemed much happier and vibrant in his step. He was now the leader of this small village as he had suckered them into working for his own interests.
As Xena threw her arm around his shoulder she shouted out his name loudly, but Salmoneous asked that he be known as Lord Seltzer. Xena found herself to be amused that he was the well-loved Lord Seltzer. She was almost irritated that it had been the knifing salesman that she had dashed off to save. When Gabrielle joined into the conversation she asked Salmoneous how he had been able to do it. Salmoneous explained that Lord Seltzer had caused this little village to grow and to prosper in a way that it had never done before. He explained that his product was the thing that gave everyone their kick. Of course as always he was pitching his product, but Gabrielle grabbed one of the sacred bottles of his miracle product only to discover that it was seltzer water. Naturally the skilled salesman continued to defend the legitimacy of his product yet the people of this village seemed happy and as bubbly as the seltzer they consumed.
Xena then asked Salmoneous what Talmadeous had against Lord Seltzer. She asked him what kind of products he had sold to the warlord to make him want to go after the salesman. At first Salmoneous delcared that he had never done a single transaction with the warlord. He continued managing his willing staff all the while. But Xena knew that a warlord like Talmadeous would not go after a single salesman without a just cause despite the reputation. Finally Salmoneous broke his silence explaining that there was just one transaction. It had been a sale of talgamite swords and belt buckles to Talmadeous and his army. Suddenly Xena knew exactly what had happened for talgamite had the appearance of strong metal until it was exposed to the element of water. Salmoneous continued to defend his products and sales as he explained that things would have worked out beautifully had it not rained on the day of the big battle.
Then the great Lord Seltzer was called away by his people. It was clear to the warrior princess that the people of this small village would not be safe as long as they worshipped and protected Lord Seltzer. And if that was to be then Xena had to be certain to disband Talmadeous and his army for they would continue to return and sack the village until they got the return for their losses.
Soon Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo were on their way to track down Talmadeous and his army. They followed the trail of evidence which led them to their enemy. Xena instructed Gabrielle to wait in the brush while she took on the small-scale army. Xena walked alongside Argo quietly. The two were just behind Talmadeous’s unsuspecting army. No one noticed that Xena and Argo were there though they blended into the group quite well. The warrior princess smiled with delight as she listened in on the plans to rid Talmadeous of her presence in the village. Then she decided that it was time to show herself although she had been visible the entire time. She called out to Talmadeous who rode at the head. The warrior princess waved to him candidly and then smiled again.
Talmadeous’s face reacted with anger as he commanded his men to attack his annoying enemy. The men charged forward with their weapons attempting to take out the warrior princess, but instead she flipped forth giving her battle cry which signaled the fight was on. She did not choose her weapon to defeat the twenty men before her. Instead she spun forward with the speed and agility of the gods delivering punches and fury along the lines. Talmadeous’s men were no match for the warrior princess as they fell to the ground like fruit tumbling out of the wagon at the market. This effortless defeat without a single clash of the sword drove Talmadeous into a rage. He turned about to face his enemy jumping off of his horse and readying his sword to battle the warrior princess.
Xena was up for the challenge as she drew her own sword. Then the duel was begun as their mighty swords clashed like thunder. It was as if the power of Zues could be felt by all who witnessed the battle. Surprisingly Talamadeous was stronger and more skilled than any of the other warlords that she had seen Xena go up against. The two struggled within their brawn and muscle as they disarmed each other in a stalemate. Xena went for her sword and rose to take her enemy, but just as she was about to strike back he kicked her through her stomach. The mighty warrior princess fell back as if unable to sustain the power of the blow. This seemed unusual to the bard for a kick to the stomach and rib area was not usually that serious.
Quickly the battle went into the favor of the warlord as he continued to charge forward laughing as he discovered that Xena was suddenly weakened. Gabrielle did not understand and became very concerned that Xena seemed unable to fight back. The warrior princess continued to take blow after blow as if she could not see or even stay focused. Her legs gave out as she received another kick Her sword was lost to her now as she frantically searched with her hand. Talmadeous was certain of his victory as he declared death upon the warrior princess. There was fear within Xena’s eyes that Gabrielle had never seen within them before. The bard knew this was serious and could not allow the warrior princess to be killed by Talmadeous. Gabrielle suddenly entered into the battle against the warlord to save her friend’s life. The bard sprung up from her place in the brush and ran toward Talmadeous. Then she launched her staff through the air disarming Talmadeous with an accurate blow.
She ran to the aid of the fallen warrior princess as Xena struggled to whistle a command for Argo. Argo came out of her own station in the brush and joined Xena and Gabrielle. The bard helped the warrior princess struggle to her feet as Xena grabbed for Argo’s saddle. Gabrielle held onto the other side and then signaled for Argo to take them away from the dangerous enemy. Soon Argo had taken the friends back to the safety of the village. Xena was escorted immediately to Lord Seltzer’s factory where Gabrielle removed the warrior princess’s armor and scolded her friend harshly for keeping her health a secret. The warrior princess halted Gabrielle’s frustrations with her secret. Then Xena explained to Gabrielle that while battling Talmadeous’s army initially to free the village from its terror she was hit by a poison dart that came from an origin unknown. Xena described it as having traveled beyond the trees a short distance from the gates of the village. The dart had not been fired by the men of Talmadeous’s army. Gabrielle then became concerned asking the warrior princess to reveal how serious her situation was. Xena spoke of how her legs were no longer functioning and that she did not actually know the seriousness of the poison. The warrior princess continued with the bad news by explaining that things would get much worse before they would get much better. She expected her arms to go next. Gabrielle’s concern shifted to worry as she looked to Xena for certainty, but Xena could not offer it to her this time.
Salmoneous entered into the conversation with grave concern over the new turn of events. He was cowardly as always and thinking of only himself. Salmoneous questioned Xena and Gabrielle demanding to know who would lead the next battle against Talmadeous and his army when they returned. The warrior princess soon looked to Gabrielle for she had the most amazing idea. She explained that they had to make it look as if the warrior princess was healthy. Although Talmadeous believed otherwise Xena had confidence that her loyal friend Gabrielle could pull off the miracle. Gabrielle found herself the volunteer of a charade like no other before it. The warrior princess asked her friend to put on the powerful armor which protected her in every battle.
Gabrielle was reluctant yet soon taken by the excitement of playing the part of the warrior princess she admired most. As the bard put on the leather suit she basked in the glory and the feeling of the leather arm bands with the gold-plated armor. The heavy leather boots ran away with her imagination. And the gold-plated leather knee pads slid like a glove over the bard’s knees. Every piece of the warrior suit seemed to fit snuggly and perfectly upon the bard until she reached the mighty golden breast-plate. As Gabrielle hooked the bronze latches together she looked up with a grin toward her mentor as Xena smiled with delight. Suddenly one of the bronze latches released itself and the breast-plate fell down a bit. The bard was disappointed that her breasts were unable to carry the golden plate with the same pride as those of the warrior princess, but it could be adjusted. Gabrielle summoned Salmoneous over to make the proper adjustments.
He tied the leather pieces from behind the shiny leather body suit and asked Gabrielle with her hair dyed black whether or not she could do Xena’s battle cry. It was obvious that the seltzer king was not confident of Xena’s plan. Gabrielle gave it a try, but it didn’t quite have the same power and the same zest as did the warrior princess. Then he tightened the strings on the suit even more as Gabrielle tried once again. The suit was suddenly too tight as the bard squeaked out another battle cry. Salmoneous declared that the second cry would be much more convincing than the first one. Then Xena summoned Gabrielle to her side once again. The bard joined Xena as Xena gave her a wooden chackram knowing that only the hand of the warrior princess could tame its wrath.
Then Xena looked into Gabrielle’s eyes with assurance, yet with a message of caution. She spoke softly asking the bard to remember that riding into this next battle against Talmedeous would be different from any other battle that the bard had fought in before. Xena reassured Gabrielle of her confidence in her student, yet she warned Gabrielle that she must understand her own limits despite the skills she had obtained. Gabrielle understood this as she looked to the warrior princess for guidance always. The bard knew better than to go against what the warrior princess said. Xena’s words had always been the right words. Her actions seemed always to understand the duty. Gabrielle could see that her friend’s condition was becoming more difficult. The bard longed to be able to offer some kind of comfort to the warrior princess, but Xena then reminded her that this was no longer about her own well-being. Xena spoke of something she called the greater good. The greater good meant that every battle that Xena every entered into she was reminded of all the villagers and innocents she had victimized in her dark past. She told the bard that she always went into battle knowing that she may die for the greater good. That was what mattered most to the warrior princess and she urged the bard to understand this.
Gabrielle struggled to understand how someone could put a random cause and a random village before one’s own survival. But then she realized that was what made the warrior princess do good. It was what made Xena a great warrior. The greater good was the driving force within the heart of the warrior princess and it was the light which Xena could see and understand within. Then Xena told Gabrielle that she would most likely have to ride into battle to make things more convincing. Gabrielle was against the idea of teaming up with Argo for their relationship had always been rocky. Yet Xena urged Gabrielle to give Argo another chance. The warrior princess had faith in Argo’s own sense of loyalty. She was certain Argo would be there for Gabrielle in battle as she always had been for Xena. Then Xena asked Gabrielle if she had ever had a pet. Gabrielle spoke of the pony she once had whose name was Tymany. Xena tried to ease the bard’s nerves as she allowed the bard to talk about her pony. Then Xena asked Gabrielle if she had left Tympany with Lilla back home. Sadly Gabrielle reported that Tympany had left her behind in death one day when she had become very ill. Xena then urged Gabrielle on toward her duty to the greater good.
Gabrielle went outside to join Argo. There was a bit of excitement in the air for she found it very easy to climb upon the tall steed. Argo was patient with the nervous bard and then Gabrielle gave a whistle hoping to command Argo to ride into battle. But Argo did not ride. Instead Argo sat down as Salmoneous watched in despair of the mistake. Then Salmoneous tried to help by giving his version of the call to battle. Salmoneous was able to get Argo to rise once again and with a second unexpected whistle Argo dashed forth through the gates of the village with Gabrielle to face danger. Talmadeous and his army were camped very close to the village now as Gabrielle and Argo approached riding into battle triumphantly.
The two of them working together had taken Talmadeous and his army by surprise on their way back to camp. Gabrielle waved her staff in the air as she gave the warning of Xena’s battle cry. The blood rushed through her body as the anticipation of her enemy’s next move was present. Argo halted before the unsuspecting army as they could not believe what they had seen standing tall before them. Talmedeous’s men seemed confused for they were certain that Xena was unable to fight. Yet there she was the dark warrior woman. Gabrielle began to heed warnings to the enemy threatening to use her chackram against them. Talmedaeous’s men were not fearful of the resurrection of the fallen warrior princess. Instead they charged forth. Just as Gabrielle tried to give the command to ride Argo again knelt down. The bard found herself falling out of character, but she covered her mistake by declaring that she bowed to her enemy before she would strike him down.
The bard tried once again to give the correct command. She finally found it and Argo shot back up and dashed forth through Talmadeous’s troups. Gabrielle gave the battle cry once more waiving her staff in the air leading the army back toward the village in a chase. There awaiting Talmadeous’s army was a force of new warriors ready to defend and to attack. As Gabrielle rode in she positioned the enemy and declared that they had only one more chance to surrender to the wrath of the warrior princess. Talmadeous’s men were fearless in the face of their tall dark enemy as they charged forward. Gabrielle then pulled her wooden chackram and hurled out toward the enemy.
The warrior princess though weak and barely able to hold herself up peeked out from the door of the factory and threw out the real round weapon that took Talmadeous’s army by surprise. Then the weapon returned to the hand of its commander as Xena then gave another command to the newly built village army. The villagers came out of hiding with their seltzer weapons and fired upon their enemy. Talmadeous’s men were unprepared for this force. It was the force of a will known only by those who embraced the good. Then a second line of seltzer fighters advanced delivering another surprise attack. The first line of fighters charged forward in hand to hand combat which ended quickly as the army of Talmadeous fled from battle.
For the moment it looked as if good had won out over evil yet the evil was not yet eradicated. Gabrielle soon returned to Xena’s side seeing that the warrior princess was even more weak than she had been before Argo had taken Gabrielle into battle. The bard became saddened once more for she was afraid of losing her friend. Xena once again assured the young student that the best thing that she could do was continue on fighting. She expressed the feeling of duty to the greater good once more reminding the bard that it was their only reason for being in the village with Lord Seltzer’s people.
Salmoneous appeared once more to congratulate Xena for the success of their first battle without her mighty skills. Xena advised Salmoneous that he must not only be concerned for his seltzer products, but that he must also be mindful of his people. Salmoneous shrugged off the warrior princess’s request still unable to grasp the concept of the greater good. He then continued to command his workers as if the war had already been won. Then Xena asked Gabrielle to do something for her. She requested that if the end was to come for her then she wanted to be taken home to Amphipolis. Xena’s last wish was to be buried alongside her brother Lycious. Gabrielle understood, but held onto her hope that Xena would pull through this. Then Xena gave Gabrielle some new weapons to use in a second attack against Talmadeous. Again Gabrielle would have to play the part riding into Talmadeous’s camp with Argo. Xena hoped that duty would easy the bard’s worry. Gabrielle’s confidence had been secured after succeeding in the first battle as Xena the warrior princess. The bard then took the weapons provided to her and went off with Argo once more.
She and Argo set up an attack point just outside of Talmadeous’s camp where she prepared to launch the fire bombs that Xena had given her. Once the weapons were ready Gabrielle gave out the battle cry and then began to launch the fire balls into Talmadeous’s camp to disrupt their confidence. The goal was to be sure that Talmadeous would think twice about going up against the warrior princess again. After attacking with all of the available weapons Gabrielle jumped up upon Argo as the rode into Talmedaeous’s camp storming the distraught soldiers. Men scrambled in chaos to stop the fires which had attacked their camp. Gabrielle gave another prideful battle cry swinging her staff in the air in triumph.
Just as the warrior was about to ride through the camp and leave Talmadeous behind she was stopped by a counter attack as Argo was spooked by Talmadeous. Argo threw the warrior off her saddle into a troph of chilling water. Gabrielle desperately tried to recover quickly hoping that she had not lost her momentum and advantage. But it was clear to Talmadeous that this was not the warrior princess who has been wreaking havoc with his men. Talmadeous pulled the bard from the water and laughed. He could not believe that he and his men had allowed the young girl to fool them so easily. Yet Talmadeous was impressed with the spirit of the bard as she tried desperately to talk him out of taking her life.
Talmadeous explained that soon he would send company with her into death so that they could join together in the ride upon the boat of Charon. Just as the dark force was about to take his victim Argo leaped into action. She began delivering kicks of furious rage knocking down a dozen of Talmadeous’s men. Talmadeous was outraged by the bravery of the horse and the bard. He demanded that the horse be killed. Argo had saved Gabrielle’s life the way she had been there for Xena many times before. As Gabrielle rushed to rejoin her new comrade she knew that they could be true friends. Then she gave the command and Argo escaped the wrath of Talmadeous with Gabrielle upon her saddle. The new friends rode out together as Gabrielle gave another triumphant battle cry.
The excitement of being the warrior princess and wearing her armor was intense. Yet Gabrielle knew that their situation was dire for now their cover had been blown. She rushed back to the village with Argo to warn Xena of the danger which was about to engulf the village. Her sense of duty drove her like never before, but when she arrived back at the village she discovered that all was dark and quiet. The entire village was holding a candle light vigil for the fallen warrior princess. There standing before them was their leader Lord Seltzer. As if the situation couldn’t have been worse Gabrielle rushed forth toward the body that lay underneath the cover upon the altar. She did not want to believe that Xena had left her behind. It was more than the young bard could deal with. Her heart hoped that when she would lift the cover that it would be someone else underneath. Yet the look upon the face of Salmoneous told the story that Gabrielle did not want to hear.
Slowly the bard pulled back the cover and there beneath it was the one person she did not wish to see. The motionless limp body of the mighty warrior princess lay still. There were not sounds and no rise and fall of the chest. Gabrielle knelt down quietly in mourning now knowing that her nightmare was real. It was even more real than her day as the warrior princess had been. All seemed lost as the bard touched the eyes which were closed and at rest. She felt the clammy chill of a body which had been recently taken. The bard began to stroke the silky dark hair of the warrior princess hoping to be comforted by it somehow. Then her heart trembled with tears as her eyes began to well up. Gently the bard continued to stroke the hair of her fallen friend, and then her head began to fall onto the chest of the motionless warrior. Salmoneous then knelt down behind the bard and spoke softly. He struggled to bring her back to the duty which was still calling out. He suggested that everyone flee the village to escape certain death.
In that moment the bard snapped out of her painful grief for just one moment realizing that running away had never been what Xena would have chosen to do. The odds of the situation did not matter. Xena had always taught the bard that she must stand up and fight for what she believed in. The bard rose from her grief into command. She was firm as she instructed Salmoneous to prepare everyone for defenses. Gabrielle was certain that if the village built up its defenses that they would be able to hold off the enemy until she could return with help. She had heard that Iolas was in a village less than a day’s walk. With Argo Gabrielle could make the trip much more swiftly. She was certain that she could return with help before daybreak. And so Gabrielle left Salmoneous to lead his people to defend as she desperately tried to seek out support. Yet when Gabrielle arrived where she had expected to find Iolas he had already traveled on. She had been too late and she had failed. Gabrielle then rushed back to the village hoping to at least be able to help them to their escape, but when she returned in the early morning hours there was no one to be found. Not even the body of the warrior princess was present.
The bard felt more lost and afraid than ever before. Without Xena she could not do the good that needed to be done. Gabrielle needed Xena’s strength to guide her to make the right moves and to succeed in battle. As she traveled toward Talmadeous’s camp in defeat and deep despair she could take no more. Gabrielle stopped releasing her anger upon a tree in the darkness of the forest. The depth of her void was so great that Gabrielle could feel herself spinning out of control. She could not stop striking forth as her soul had been ripped apart. When her physical energy finally ceased Gabrielle fell to the ground still in despair. The bard tried desperately to focus as Xena had told her to do. And as Gabrielle had failed Xena so too did Salmoneous. He did not attempt to defend the village. Instead he led his people to Talmadeous’s camp hoping to strike up a deal with the warlord. He promised to Talmadeous the body of the fallen warrior princess, and himself in exchange for the safety and the freedom of his people.
Talmadeous agreed to the deal yet Salmoneous was unaware of the deals that warlords make. As soon as Salmoneous demanded resolution from the warlord Talmadeous betrayed the deal. It was a fitting end for the salesman who sold bad products to the warlord before. Talmadeous felt that it was the refund which he had seeked from the infamous Lord Seltzer. Soon Gabrielle arrived at Talmadeous’s camp alone. She watched as Talmadeous gloated in his victory. He thanked Salmoneous for selling out his people so that he could sell them as slaves. Soon Talmadeous prepared to kill Salmoneous, but he had a heart wrenching display planned for Salmoneous. He then brought forth the body of the fallen warrior and asked Salmoneous who had been the one that had killed her. Salmoneous did not know who had succeeded. Yet Talmadeous declared that title and that victory for himself despite the truth. He wanted the world to know him as he claimed fame to a prize he had not earned.
As Gabrielle continued to watch she saw that Argo had also been captured. Talmadeous was preparing to tear Xena’s body apart by the force of the horses pulling it to pieces. If Gabrielle could succeed at nothing else she had to save Xena’s body for she had promised Xena that she would take it back to her home in Amphipolis. It had been Xena’s last request to be buried next to her brother Lycious. Gabrielle had failed in battle, but she could not bear to fail her friend even in death. And so the bard charged into battle with rage and determination. She took out a circle of twenty men charging forward toward the enemy. As she approached the unsuspecting warlord she disarmed him of his sword with her staff and then caught it. Gabrielle dropped her staff in exchange for the sharp sword. She was prepared to kill the warlord if she had to.
As her anger boiled within her heart Talmadeous teased his new found enemy. He was not at all in fear of the young warrior. Instead he mocked her telling her that she did not know how to hold a sword properly. He continued to erode her confidence as he declared that she could not continue on against him for much longer. Talmadeous knew that he would defeat her in the end despite her passion and love within. Gabrielle began to sense that her judgement was truly clouded by the vengeance she felt rising up inside. Then Talmadeous told her that in one flicker of the eye he would have her. Gabrielle looked down at the sword which she held thinking of Talmadeous’s words. Suddenly he had her disarmed and held at the point of a dagger. The bard felt helpless once again. There before her was the warrior princess about to be taken away forever. The bard’s only comfort now was in knowing that she would soon be reunited upon the boat of Charon to travel into eternity within the underworld.
Then Talmadeous gave the command and the men whipped the horses. Yet neither horse moved despite the pain being delivered. They held steady not allowing Xena’s body to be defiled by evil. It was in that moment that Talmadeous realized that Xena’s horse was responsible for halting his desires. Suddenly Talmadeous declared death upon Argo. One of the men then raised his weapon to take Argo’s life. Just as the sword came down a miracle came to pass. The warrior princess rose from her death and stopped the weapon short of its victim. She had come to Argo’s defense and began to fight against the evil which surrounded her. Gabrielle could not believe what she had just witnessed. Her heart-felt a relief in knowing that the mighty warrior princess would battle on. The bard struggled to break free from her capture as the warrior princess battled in nothing, but her under garments. She fought without weapons skillfully and with great confidence. Her strength could not be matched by Talmedeous’s men. Xena then reached for Gabrielle’s staff upon the ground and knocked down two more enemies.
Quickly she threw the staff to the bard who freed herself from her capture with the weapon she was most familiar. Gabrielle dashed across the battle and began to scold Xena for leaving her. She demanded that the warrior princess never attempt that trial again. But Xena reminded the chatting sidekick that they were in the middle of a fierce battle against evil forces. There was not time to discuss the issue of death. Duty called and then the bard suddenly jumped into warrior form. She fought fiercely and skillfully. The villagers found themselves inspired by the miracle as well. They took up arms and began to fight alongside the warrior princess and the bard against the wrath of evil. The forces of good united were enough to defy the plans of the dark forces.
There was only one score left to settle. Xena and Talmadeous had a rematch of their previous battle in which Xena fell ill. Though the odds seemed again in Talmadeous’s favor Xena’s godlike strength challenged the armed Talmadeous. He was confident that he would be victorious over the mighty warrior princess, but she was determined to defeat him. They struggled as Talmadeous prepared to take her life for the record of truth yet Xena locked him up within her brut force and flipped him into his defeat. Talmadeous landed into the chill of the infamous water troph where the villagers awaited him with their weapons. It was clear that he had been defeated and that there was no recourse for evil on this day.
Gabrielle had found it to be an exciting and wonderful experience to be the warrior princess for a day. Yet she also realized just how difficult the job was and noted that she had much more to learn from her best friend. There was no other warrior in the world greater and more skilled. No better teacher existed, and there was no other friend as loving and courageous as Xena. As the two best friends prepared to move on in their journey alongside one another Xena thanked her Gabrielle for the great courage and determination that she displayed attempting to take her home to Amphipolis. Xena was impressed that Gabrielle had been willing to give her life for her return. Gabrielle expressed that it had been the last wish of her best friend and it was worth giving her life for that cause no matter the cost. The two friends shared a moment of appreciation for one another and Gabrielle felt great emotion within. There was a flood of relief about to shed itself in tears, but Gabrielle held strong. She did not want to think about another nightmare like the one she had just experienced.
Quickly the bard changed the subject inquiring the warrior princess about her injury, and of the poison dart which had struck her. Xena confirmed that it was still a mystery for she did not know who it had been that had struck her. Yet she was determined to find the answer for the one who had sent her to her death and back had known exactly what it was he had been doing. Gabrielle had thought Xena played the part of death, but Xena confirmed that she truly had gone to the other side. The warrior princess had to travel there in order to fight against the poison tomac. Yet as the warrior princess had battled against the poison to return to the bard Gabrielle had to battle for the will of the greater good. She had learned so much more in Xena’s brief death than she had ever learned in the days before it.

Xena Scrolls Volume #1: Scroll # 16: Fistful of Dinars

The Xena Scrolls
By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia
Scroll#16:  Fistful of Dinars

March, 48 B.C.

I sing of a virtue worth more than the largest treasure upon the earth.  It is the virtue of trust and of a journey begun by four divided in half.  This tale began with a man whose name was Likous.  He held an important clue which lead to the lost treasure of the Sumerians.  Likous had spent three years seeking out his old friend Xena.  They had once been friends in a battle of long ago.  At the end of Likous’s journey he did find Xena, but not before being sought out by Klonyx.  Klonyx was a drunken murrauder who had heard of the Sumarian treasure.  He had heard that Likous had the clue that would lead the way.  Many had heard of Likous and of his valuable clue and the poor traveler was weary for he had endured attacks by many.
It was now the end of the road for Likous and he faced death by the sword of Klonyx, but just as Klonyx struck Likous down Xena the warrior princess appeared.  She recognized her old friend and came to his aid.  Despite her arrival it had been too late for Klonyx had gotten what it was that he had come to obtain.  He took from Likous his pouch that had been so carefully guarded for three long years.  As Xena and Gabrielle knelt down to aid Likous the dying man-made one last request of his friend.  He struggled to tell her that she must recover his pouch that had been stolen.  So as Likous prepared to embrace death Xena instructed Gabrielle to stay with him while she went after Klonyx.  Gabrielle took the hand of the dying man knowing only that she could comfort his spirit for there was nothing more that would save him.
Xena quickly ran catching distance upon Klonyx who had been certain that he would escape her wrath.  But just before he disappeared into the thick of the woods Xena the warrior princess flipped into action and stopped him from advancing.  The warrior princess then delivered a furious punch into the face of the enemy.  She had not intended to kill him only to find out his reasons for following Likous, and taking his pouch.  But unfortunately for Klonyx there had been another whom had been following closely behind.  It was the murdering assassin Thersites who appeared from beyond the brush.  He had thrust his knife into the back of the unsuspecting Klonyx.  Klonyx fell to his brutal death by assassination and then dropped the valuable clue to the ground.  Xena quickly swiped the pouch before Thersites could rip his knife out of his latest victim.
Then she looked inside of the pouch to find a Sumerian dinar and a tiny piece of parchment.  She quickly read and digested the parchment before Thersites could get a look.  The warrior princess chewed up the parchment and swallowed it basking in her victory over the assassin.  If the assassin wanted to find the Sumerian treasure then he would not be able to kill the warrior princess for she was now the only living person who knew the path to riches.  Xena knew upon meeting with Likous why it was so important for her to seek out the Sumerian treasure for it held more than treasure, but only she and Likous had known.  She had also known that there were four clues to obtain before being able to cash in on the riches.  Xena now had Likous’s clue, and Thersites had two more.  There was just one more clue and then the journey toward the treasure could begin.  Thersites mentioned that the final clue was held by the warlord Petracles.  Xena then instructed Thersites that she would seek out Petracles’s clue and meet Thersites with his clues by the traveler’s road by the next sun.
After Thersites had gone Xena returned to Gabrielle and to Likous who had already passed.  Gabrielle sadly reported the loss as Xena spoke well of her old friend.  Then he was given honor as Xena and Gabrielle bade him farewell.  Xena then asked Gabrielle what she knew about the legend of the lost treasure of Sumeria.  The young bard’s eyes lit up with excitement for all that she had heard about this treasure.  It was known by bards as the largest treasure in the world hidden away somewhere beyond the ruins of old Sumeria.  This treasure was said to have held wealth beyond mortal imagination.  That of course was all that had been told to the bard of the secrets of the lost treasure.  It insured that Xena and the deceased Likous remained the only two who held the entire truth of Sumeria.
Xena then asked Gabrielle if she had heard of the titan’s key.  Gabrielle had indeed heard of the titan’s key never knowing of its connection to the lost treasure.  As she boasted of her knowledge of the titan’s key she spoke of how it had been meant to unlock the halls which held ambrosia the food of the gods.  Yet as she spoke and began to put together the pieces Gabrielle realized that they were clues within themselves.  Xena confirmed that Gabrielle’s mind had been right in where it had gone.  For the titan’s key was located within the lost treasure of Sumeria.  This meant that their journey was not to hunt for riches, but to capture the ambrosia before Thersites or any other darkness could.  The power of immortality was not something that could be taken lightly or given to one of assassination.
Gabrielle quickly rounded up Argo preparing to travel to the camp of Petracles.  As the two friends traveled Xena warned Gabrielle of the dangerous man that they were about to encounter.  Thersites had been dangerous enough, but Xena warned that Petracles was a charmer.  Petracles was capable of lying, of murdering, and of many other devious ways.  Xena was firm in letting her young friend know that trust was not something to take lightly when Petracles was involved.  Because of the warrior princess’s certain description of this warlord it was obvious to the bard that the two had some kind of a history.  Yet Xena was not yet ready to share it with her friend.
Soon they arrived at the camp of Petracles who had just defeated another helpless flock of villagers.  He was meeting with the village magistrate who desperately tried to cut a deal in exchange for her life.  Being the typical warlord Petracles explained that he could not leave without taking lives, livestock, and supplies for he would lose the respect of his army if he were to show any softness.  It was in that moment that Xena and Gabrielle entered into his tent as he argued with the latest victim.  Petracles seemed a bit shocked and caught off guard that the warrior princess would show up at his door.  He had indeed never forgotten her as looked into her eyes with inquiry.  Gabrielle found herself in awe of this man who seemed less than horrific.  Petracles was dark, handsome, and cute.  He had bulging warrior muscles and deep blue eyes.  Gabrielle looked into those eyes not feeling threatened yet Xena had specifically said that they were not to be trusted.
Then Xena asked Gabrielle to show Petracles the one piece of Sumarian treasure held by Likous’s pouch.  Gabrielle took it from the pouch and handed the large round gold piece to Petracles.  He looked it over shocked, yet suddenly realizing why Xena had come.  It was his dream to find the treasure and Xena’s clue was the key.  Of course the warrior princess took this opportunity to help those who needed it.  Petracles was about to become the richest warlord on the face of the earth so giving a few cattle, and horses back to the villagers would not cost as much as it had just moments before.  Petracles quickly forgot about the riches he had taken from the village for the lost treasure held much more value to him.  The villagers left quickly fleeing with their lives and their livestock.
Soon it was only Petracles, Xena, and Gabrielle traveling through the woods toward the main road where Thersites awaited them.  Xena walked ahead as Gabrielle found herself still fascinated by the handsome cunning warlord.  He had long brown locks and his complexion was olive in color.  Gabrielle for the second time was finding herself attracted to another bad boy.  Her first attraction had been Sphirus, but this bad boy was different.  He definitely had that warlord spirit, but there was something missing from the darkness.
As they walked and chatted Petracles began to try his hand at testing the bard’s resolve of his charms.  He used Gabrielle’s intrigue and interest in Xena’s history as his way to get through.  When Gabrielle asked him of why Xena had thought so cautiously of him he replied that indeed he was all of the nasty things that had been said of him.  Petracles told Gabrielle that Xena had been correct in advising her that she should watch out for a man like himself.  The warlord said it with great pride and confidence.  This intrigued the bard more for she could not understand why someone would like to be hated so much by another.  Then he took the moment and shot out his question.  He asked the bard why Xena was in search of the treasure.
Gabrielle realized what his game was and delivered her answer, but it was not embedded with any information.  She playfully scolded him for trying to pull one over the queen of talking.  Gabrielle knew that she had always been a great talker and was certain that her wit was a match to that of Petracles.  It was his wit that attracted her to him and he quickly began to play upon that.  Petracles said that he could match her wit any day.  Gabrielle then competed explaining that she had talked her parents into buying her a horse at the tender age of five.  Of course Petracles had talked a warlord out of his army at only fifteen.  The bard was not willing to give into this battle of wits so easily.  She then brought up her encounter with a Cyclops and of how she had talked him out of having her for dinner.  Petracles then came back with the ultimate challenge.  He had once talked Xena into marrying him.
Gabrielle found herself satisfied with the defeat of witty stories, but she had not lost the game for she had finally found the information which she had seeked.  It was the answer to the question of what history these two warriors had with one another.  Things were clear to the bard now and suddenly Xena called out to her friend to join her steps ahead.  As Gabrielle surrendered to Petracles he was aware that he had given the bard the game, but it would be to his advantage in the end.  When Gabrielle reached Xena, Xena scolded her for talking to Petracles.  Gabrielle reminded her friend that she was quite capable of handling these adult situations.  Gabrielle found herself insulted that the warrior princess had forgotten that yet again.
By the next sun the three had reached the main road where Thersites awaited their arrival.  If the assassin could have killed them all and run with the clues it was obvious that he would have.  Xena had been sly when she had decided to digest the map.  It insured life for all who traveled with the murderer.  Thersites had hoped that the warrior princess would have killed Petracles for his clue leaving two instead of three, but he was more irritated to discover the bard who traveled with Xena for she had no clues.  The greedy assassin expressed his disappointment of having to divide the riches among four, but Xena quickly reminded him of who was in charge grabbing him by the short hairs upon his chin.
Once Thersites realized his mistake he backed down from his challenge against the warrior princess’s decision to travel with a warrior.  Thersites had hoped to get a larger share of the treasure since it was he who had two clues.  Petracles of course was not in agreement to this for he felt that a warrior was much more valuable to this mission than an assassin.  As the two continued to argue some angry travelers approached from the road.  The head of the group was an old white-haired aristocrat whose name was Marleous.  Marleous had come for Thersites for he had paid five-thousand dinars to receive the head of Cavotas.  He had hired Thersites the assassin to do the job, but Thersites had been sidetracked by the treasure hunt for days.  The angry Marleous threatened Thersites when his requests were ignored by the assassin.  To Marelous it was important that the job of the assassin be completed on this sun, but for Thersites the head of Cavotas was just another job.
Then Marleous declared that if he could not have the head that he had paid for then he would take the heads of four that he did not.  Marleous’s four men then drew their weapons and prepared to do battle against the four treasure hunters.  Yet Marleous’s challenge was nothing for Thersites then made good on his promise for bringing a head to Marleous.  Only the life which was taken was that of Marleous by the swift activation of a hidden wrist knife.  Thersites was definitely a professional at killing his victims which made him that much more dangerous and volatile.  Upon killing Marleous the men who had drawn their weapons quickly retreated back to the main road in fear of their lives.  Then the assassin took five-thousand more dinars from his latest victim for a job completed.
Gabrielle was beginning to find distaste for this assassin.  Though she had been gravely warned of the wrath of Petracles she did not feel that it was Petracles that she should fear.  Petracles then took this opportunity to remind Xena and the others that he would not be treated with disrespect despite his being an assassin.  To most he was a murderer, but he corrected all who doubted the difference between a murderer and an assassin.  Assassins worked for money while murderers did their killing for pleasure.  It seemed to the bard that maybe Thersites was both.
Soon the four found themselves traveling deep into Payason territory.  The Payasons were known to be a dangerous tribe of men who killed any man who set foot upon their lands.  It was obvious to the bard as they continued on that the ways of the Payasons were not to be taken lightly.  There were the stripped corpses of many who had fallen victim to their wrath littering the lands upon spinning wheels of death.  Everyone in the group of four was gripped with fear including the warrior princess.  Yet it was important that the treasure be found for it held power too great for humanity to embrace alone.
There were the sounds of the tribal drums as they began to beat faster and faster.  The drums pounded to intimidate the intruding party as it approached an old rickety bridge.  Just before reaching that bridge the Payasons rained arrows down upon the four travelers.  There were so many arrows flying that one could barely see through the mass of dangerous weapons.  Despite the danger and the close brush with death the warrior princess led her comrades to the bridge that was shown on the map.  Xena then sent Petracles to the other side to check for a path out of the territory.  Petracles went bravely as he stepped cautiously across the bridge.  Halfway across one of the old boards gave way busting as Petracles’s leg fell through.  Yet his strength caught him from the impending fall and he recovered with skill.  Petracles then finished the journey across the old bridge and drew his sword preparing to face the enemy upon the other side.  The vicious arrows followed him, but there were no Payasons awaiting them on the other side.  He then gave the call for clear and Xena began to send Gabrielle across the bridge.
The bard stepped gingerly upon the wobbling mass of wooden planks, and worn ropes.  She had difficulty keeping her balance as she was nervous from what she had seen of Petracles’s journey.  After only five steps Gabrielle suddenly felt the bridge erupt into a violent shake as the assassin jumped upon the weakening bridge.  It could not hold two people for it barely held Petracles alone.  Xena shouted at the defiant assassin who ignored her pleas.  Gabrielle tried desperately to regain her footing and her balance above the running water below.  Down was a long distance and one could barely see the water at the bottom of the steep canyon.  Gabrielle’s heart raced with fear as she could feel the assassin approaching with his massive weight giving weakness to the bridge.
Gabrielle carefully stepped over the center point where Petracles had almost fallen through.  Now she was nearing the other side as she struggled to keep her balance.  Yet Thersites had little patience and no conscience.  He tried to push the bard forward only to cause the worn ropes to tear down the support that held the bridge together.  The bridge tumbled down toward the water at the bottom of the canyon as Gabrielle held tightly to the planks.  It slammed into the side of the canyon and then Thersites began to climb over the bard to reach the top.  There was no consideration for Gabrielle as he reached the top almost knocking the bard to her death.  Gabrielle called out for Xena desperately for she could barely hold on.
As soon as Thersites reached the top of the canyon Xena flipped across and grabbed onto the planks.  She grabbed onto her helpless friend who struggled to hold on.  Xena then helped push Gabrielle to the top as the bard pulled herself up.  Upon reaching the safety of the other side Gabrielle was helped up by Petracles.  His face seemed satisfied that all had ended well.  After she had reached her feet once again Gabrielle boiled over with anger.  She began to charge forward hitting the ungrateful assassin and scolding him for his actions.  Xena and Petracles had to pull the bard from her rage though she was lucky to have been spared by the assassin.
Later that night as they entered into more quiet territory Xena had decided that the four should set up camp.  It was an uncomfortable night for all because few trusted those they traveled with.  The assassin was driven by greed, the warrior princess driven by duty, the bard by adventure, and Petracles by passion.  Gabrielle was nervous to be sleeping alongside an assassin and she expressed her dislike for him to the warrior princess.  Xena agreed that Thersites was a threat, but she was still certain that Petracles held more of a threat for he wasn’t as obvious as was Thersites.  She had said that there was nothing hidden about Thersites yet Petracles had an unknown side.  That was what Xena distrusted most about Petracles.  It was what she did not know of him.
Then Xena left the bard sitting by the fire contemplating her fears of the assassin.  Xena felt that maybe it had been Thersites action on the bridge that had swayed Gabrielle’s opinion of him so she seeked to resolve the bard’s fears.  The warrior princess approached Thersites with a threat.  She reminded him again that if something bad happened to Gabrielle that she would be sure that his life would cease by her hand.  Xena was quite serious about this for she was certain to let the greedy assassin know that she could do without riches.  Yet she could not do without her best friend.  Thersites called the warrior princess on this realizing that there must be something more to this journey if the warrior princess had not been involved for the riches it held.  Xena then left him to ponder that knowing that he could not be allowed to find out the true nature of her intentions.  Yet when she turned to find Gabrielle, Gabrielle had disappeared.
The bard had gone to seek out Petracles for she wanted to find what it was that Xena did not trust about this man.  Gabrielle was still intrigued and as she rounded the corner of the trees beyond there stood Petracles.  He heard Gabrielle approaching and swung around with his sword drawn ready for battle just the way Xena would.  Gabrielle surrendered immediately for her only weapon against the wrath of this handsome warlord was her arm load of sticks for the fire.  When Petracles had inquired of her intentions for seeking him out she only said that she had brought some fire wood.  Petracles seemed confused for the fire was back at the camp and not deep within the forest.  Gabrielle was nervous for an answer and realized how funny she looked.  She looked quite guilty of a crush.  Petracles seemed flattered yet he still warned her of his ways.
Gabrielle put down her sticks and then asked him more about his relationship with Xena.  He told her that the two had been very young when they had married.  And that they had married for the wrong reasons.  In the early days both had been driven by a passion for greed not realizing that loving things would not fill their hearts.  Gabrielle had not completely believed Petracles when he had said that he had talked Xena into marrying him until he again stated that he had tried to talk Xena into being his wife.  Gabrielle was certain that Xena had not accepted, but Petracles said that she had.  He said that when he had finally won over the heart of the warrior princess that he had decided that he no longer wanted it.  Gabrielle was disappointed for the first time after meeting Petracles for she could not imagine what it must have been like for Xena to be rejected by one she loved.  The bard knew how much Xena’s heart could give and understood why Xena was so protective of it now.  Then Petracles continued the story stating that despite winning Xena’s heart for the riches that she had obtained he still felt empty inside.  He felt empty because he had thrown away the real riches.  The riches of the loving heart that the warrior princess possessed.
Petracles finished his story as Gabrielle’s thoughts spoke themselves aloud.  She was unaware that Petracles’s charm was working its way into her own heart.  Petracles then complemented her on her insight and intelligence.  It was then that the bards lips met those of the warlord Petracles.  The passion was immense and the fire burned intense.  Suddenly the bard realized that she had fallen for the one she had been warned against.  Gabrielle could not betray her friend’s trust in that way.  She could not allow her passions to get the best of her.  Gabrielle suddenly found herself running from the danger that lurked within.
Upon arriving back into came she quickly sat down by the fire.  She tried desperately to hide what had transpired only moments before.  The bard was certain that the warrior princess would be disappointed and disappointment was something Gabrielle could not bear to face.  Yet just as Xena was about to inquire of the bard’s strange behavior Petracles returned to camp and quietly settled down the sticks left behind.  The bard realized that she could not hide her feelings from the warrior princess and Xena left Gabrielle only with her thoughts and with echoing words of the warrior princess.
Just before awakening Xena found herself challenging Petracles.  She threatened him much the same way that she had threatened the assassin.  Xena warned Petracles that she had seen what had been going on between he and Gabrielle.  The warrior princess wanted to make certain that Gabrielle’s heart would not be stolen and abused in the way that he had abused and stolen her own heart.  Xena threatened to take his life with her famous pinch, but then Petracles asked of her what had become of her wedding bracelet.  She spoke with disgust at his question replying that she had thrown it away like worthless garbage.  Petracles seemed angry and almost hurt that the warrior princess thought so little of their past together.  He then replied that though Xena had thrown his heart away he had sold her heart to another profiting from an arms dealer.
The lovers quarrel had awakened camp.  Soon all had packed up and prepared for the final leg of the journey.  The four had to reach the temple of Demeter where they would find the jewel of the goddess.  Xena’s plan was simple.  She and Petracles would prepare to throw the spears while Thersites would go with Gabrielle to enter into the temple and retrieve the jewel.  Gabrielle was excited that she would be performing an important task within this mission.  Yet Petracles seemed displeased with Xena’s choice in leaving Gabrielle to work so closely with the assassin.
Once everyone had arrived at their positions Gabrielle and Thersites disguised themselves as worshipers to the goddess Demeter.  Gabrielle spoke of how they had traveled a great distance to come to Demeter’s temple.  The head priest was uncertain of these strange visitors.  He did not trust that they were true to Demeter.  Gabrielle spoke of the land of Nonamia from which they had come.  She said that it was there that the sister temple of Demeter stood. When the priest could not recall the location of the land of Nonamia Gabrielle insisted that it was across many large oceans.  Then she pulled out the last hope of passage into the temple.  It was the Sumerian dinar that paid their way into the temple of Demeter.  After bribing the priest the two were allowed to worship.  Privately they knelt before the statue of Demeter and chanted awaiting the impending spear attack.
Thersides was impatient as always and threatened to start a murdering fest if the two warriors did not attack soon.  Gabrielle desperately tried to hold off his bloody desires  knowing that those desires might jeopardize the mission.  Then she saw just the thing that would occupy his impatience.  Gabrielle caught sight of Demeter’s jewel on top of her crown.  Though the statue of Demeter was made of nothing more than cheap materials from the common farm her crown held the red ruby.  Gabrielle pointed out her discovery to Thersites who then rose from his knelt spot before Demeter and climbed upon the table.  The table held many white candles, luscious fruits, and many other offerings.  He then reached up for the red stone and suddenly lost his balance.  The assassin fell clumsily to the floor as the altar of Demeter collapsed robbing her of her head.
The two warriors then began their attack upon the temple of Demeter thrusting spears toward the guards.  Yet Thersites’s blunder had revealed the two distant travelers as the blasphemous intruders that they were.  The head priest entered into the destroyed temple hall and held Gabrielle and Thersites for their crimes against Demeter.  At the point of spears they were told that soon their limbs and eyes would be torn from their bodies without mercy.  This fate seemed  harsh, but as their sentence was delivered Xena and Petracles stormed the mini temple and  rescued their comrades from punishment.  Quickly the four dashed out of the temple with Demeter’s jewel and their lives as they ran forward toward the foot of Mount Pulus.  It was there that they would find the Sumerian treasures, but the danger was just beginning for Mount Pulus was an active volcano ready to spew fury at any moment.  The rumbling giant spoke loudly to the four approaching travelers reminding them of her fury.
By nightfall they had reached the location of the treasure as revealed by the map.  Xena’s clue was now full filled, and so was one of Thersites clues, but there were still two yet to reveal.  Thersites still held one of them and Petracles the other.  Xena demanded that the two men share their clues with the other, but neither wanted to reveal his secrets.  Thersites had intended to kill everyone after receiving the final clue, but Petracles knew that he could not allow that by revealing his clue first.  Then Xena again asked Thersites to reveal his clue knowing that Petracles was right in being cautious of Thersites certain actions.  Finally Thersites gave up knowing that Xena was not going to ask for Petracles clue until his had been surrendered.  And so the first clue was the teacher’s student.  It did not make sense for the hunters of treasure stood before three large icons.  None of these stone icons represented an institution of learning.  And then Xena asked the second clue knowing that if Thersites had not yet figured out his own clue that both clues held one answer.
Petracles then revealed his clue.  Is not incorrect were the only words that had been upon his parchment.  And so Xena and Gabrielle began to think of the riddle of this double negative.  Gabrielle soon figured out that the first clue was pupil and then Xena knew that the answer to the riddle was the right pupil.  Yet there were three stone icon faces that all had right pupils.  It would take more to know which pupil was correct.  Xena then spoke of the final clue.  It was her clue.  Neither east nor west so the answer to the question was the middle icon.  The right pupil of the middle icon was where the red ruby was to be placed.  Xena then took the ruby from her keeping and placed it into the right pupil of the center icon.  Nothing happened and Thersites’s impatience lead him to complain again.  Gabrielle was finding herself very weary of the antics of the assassin.  But then Xena revealed that they must wait another night for the sun to rise again.  For it was the sun rays that were the final key to revealing the true entrance to the lost treasure of the Sumerians.
After a long night of waiting the four awoke to the rising sun filled with excitement for the riches they would  find.  As the sun rose over the distant mountains and shun over them.  A single ray of light bled across to the right pupil of the center icon where the ruby awaited.  The ray of light then reflected from the ruby over a blocked passageway of rock.  It left a single dot of light above and nothing more was revealed.  Again Thersites whined and complained for the treasure seemed nothing more than a rock.  But Xena insisted that there was more beyond the rock once it was removed.  And so the four treasure seekers then removed the large boulders despite the lax efforts of the lazy assassin.  Xena and Gabrielle then entered into the cave while the warlord and the assassin argued as to who would lead the other.  Neither trusted the other for the clues had all been revealed.
Once inside there was nothing, but darkness.  Again Thersites was full of disappointment and complaint, but Gabrielle thought that there might be something missing.  Maybe there was just one more clue that had yet be to revealed.  Thersites argued with the bard just as irritated with her as she had become with him.  As he continued to complain the bard began to charge for him once again with the same passionate anger she had felt two days before upon the bridge.  Just as she began to attack him with her rage the volcano shook violently.  All were knocked to the ground by the force as dirt and rock fell all around them.  And then a golden door was revealed.  The four hunters quickly ran to investigate as they opened it.  On the other side there was not a treasure, but more questions.  It was certain that riches would be found if one was patient unlike the assassin and the warlord.
Xena instructed everyone not to touch anything.  She then saw Petracles about to pull the ring upon another stone icon across the room.  He had not heard her command as she repeated only half of her statement.  His misinterpretation of her command turned to disaster as he pulled the ring and the floor beneath disappeared into darkness.  The four treasure seekers found themselves thrust down into the darkness below unaware of what they would find.  Then Gabrielle grabbed two stones from the ground rubbing them together to light a torch.  After two attempts she was finally able to reveal to all who had seeked the greatest treasure ever known to the world.  The lost treasure of the Sumerians had indeed been found.  And it was just as it had been described by all bards.  It had been more treasure than could have ever been imagined.
There were golden coins stacked higher than the tallest temple in Athens.  These piles of riches were mountainous.  Gold, coins, jewels, and  more surrounded the four treasures seekers.  The treasure seemed endless and the task of finding one key seemed nearly impossible.  As Petracles and Thersites began to collect their riches Xena and Gabrielle began to search for the titan’s key.  It was difficult not to become distracted by the riches, but after many moments of searching Thersites found himself stopping to read an inscription upon a large golden key.  All inscriptions upon the treasures had been written in Sumerian which was Thersites’s homeland.  He was a Sumerian and as he read aloud the inscription he revealed the titan’s key.  Gabrielle heard the words from his lips and quickly ran to steal away the key from the assassin.  She grabbed the key from around his neck as he suddenly realized the power that he held.
Suddenly the room went dark again as Thersites smothered the torch.  He then took the bard and disappeared.  He was on his way to becoming a god for he had heard of what the titan’s key could give mortals.  Thersites had heard the legends of ambrosia and how it could turn any mortal to consumed it into a god.  This power was worth more to an assassin than any treasure as he took Gabrielle down the path toward the hall of ambrosia.  Gabrielle was certain that death was upon her as he held her arm tightly and threatened her with his dagger.  He held it close to her neck as he laughed all the way down the path.  Thersites was drunk with power as he thought of all of the things he would do as a god.  Gabrielle tried desperately to talk her way out of this situation hoping that the assassin would release her within his euphoric state of mind.
She pleaded with him promising him her riches from the treasure to build his first temple.  Thersites laughed knowing that he could just take her life and her riches.  He did not need the bard to build his temple when he could build it himself.  And then she asked him what he might do once he received his god-hood trying to keep him in good humor.  She suggested that maybe he should be the first god to accomplish peace for all of the world.  The bard even suggested that he feed the poor with his newfound riches and power.  Yet the assassin laughed hysterically for that was not what he had planned for the world.  His power would be more destructive than that of the god of war Ares.
As Thersites and Gabrielle were on their way to the hall of ambrosia Xena and Petracles found themselves within another argument.  Petracles now realized what Xena’s true intentions for seeking the treasure had been.  She had come to destroy the ambrosia, and Petracles found himself disappointed that Xena had not trusted him with that information.  Xena reminded him that she knew him well and that she had trusted that he would have wanted the ambrosia for himself.  Petracles scoffed at the idea proclaiming that he had never wanted to become a god.  Xena did not believe him as he continued on by expressing his concern for Gabrielle’s safety.  She did not believe that he truly cared for Gabrielle the way that she did.  Xena did not trust in the bond that her friend had made with Petracles.
Soon Xena revealed that the quickest way to the hall of ambrosia was through the back door.  Petracles asked why they didn’t just use the back door instead of trying to find the key to the front door.  Xena explained that through the back door they would be led into the hall of silence.  The hall of silence was a death trap for any who made noise while traveling through it.  As Petrecles and Xena traveled cautiously through the hall of silence they found the remains of many who had made the journey before them.  All had failed in their attempt to gain access to the food for the gods.  That was why the Sumerian treasure had stayed lost for so long.  The men who had come to seek it seeked the titan’s key.  The treasure was so immense that finding the key was nearly impossible.  Unfortunately the fates had the last laugh for it was the assassin who now held the power and the life of the bard.
Despite being careful and cautious Petracles stumbled over one of the dead.  His warrior boots crushed the skull of a victim causing havoc to rise within the silence.  Xena and Petracles then ran for their lives narrowly escaping to the other side of the silence.  They were the first known mortals to survive the wrath of silence.  Upon their arrival through the doors to the hall of ambrosia they found Thersites.  He stood before the steaming alter containing the ambrosia.  It was pink and like a jellyfish.  It boiled beneath the heat of the active volcano.  Thersites was drunk with power as he held Gabrielle at the point of death.
He then barked out a command and threatened to take another life if Xena and Petracles did not move away from the ambrosia.  The assassin had figured out Xena’s intentions as well.  He could not allow the warrior princess to destroy his power.  The warrior princess and Petracles then slowly moved away.  One east the other west of the ambrosia.  They crept slowly around the altar and then before the assassin.  Both knew that Thersites was going to kill Gabrielle despite their move.  He was a murdering assassin with no conscience.  The life of the bard was just another number.  This murder would be worth more than any other he had ever committed.  Then Xena asked Petracles who he was really with.  She needed to know if he was going to help to save her friend or go against them.
Petracles then revealed that he too wanted to become a god.  He began to move toward Thersites, but just as he approached the warlord switched sides.  Petracles grabbed the assassin so that Xena could free the bard.  Thersites quickly thrust his dagger into the brave warlord as Xena took Gabrielle into safety.  After the first thrust of the dagger came a second which paralyzed the warlord from action.  Petracles fell to the ground suffering great pain and agony.  Blood spilled from his body as Gabrielle ran to his side hoping to save him from death.  The assassin then went after the warrior princess as they battled with swords.  Xena’s clashes overpowered Thersites as he tried desperately to escape from her through a deadened door.
He then came out of his corner and prepared to kill the warrior princess.  The assassin drew a second sword and fought two swords to one.  Xena found herself dodging his calls for her death jumping upon the altar and then flipping back across her enemy.  She gave out her battle cry as she blocked his advances, but he soon took her feet and she fell upon the altar.  The assassin then went in for the kill wedging the head of the warrior princess between his two blades.  Their struggle was powerful for their passions were clashing.  The passion of the greedy assassin to the passion of a friend’s love for another.  Just when Thersites was certain to bring death upon the warrior princess she reached for his wrist activating the gadget that had taken the life of the angry white-haired traveler.  The dagger went into his chest knocking him to the ground instantly.
Ironically the assassin’s own weapon had been his demise and as he lied on the ground about to greet his death Xena ran to the aid of Petracles.  He was still clinging to life though Gabrielle knew that his injury was too great.  Petracles’s heart bled, but it bled of love for the warrior princess.  He had always regretted what he had done to Xena’s heart before.  Petracles wanted the warrior princess to know that he really did love her and that she had meant more than their riches ever did.  His love had been worth even more than the lost Sumerian treasure as he reached into his chest pulling out a small leather pouch.  He struggled to give it to the warrior princess as he took his final breath and perished.
Xena and Gabrielle both felt sadness for their loss.  Petracles had been a good man and a good friend.  And when Xena opened the small leather pouch she found within it the symbol  of their love.  It was the wedding bracelet she had given him.  He had not sold it to an arms dealer as he had stated before.  Petracles had held onto the bracelet hoping to one day reconcile with the woman he lost.  Then the warrior princess sadly spoke to him regretting that she had not trusted him.  And so Gabrielle and Xena then went to the great lava pit formed by the eruption of Mount Pulus where Xena destroyed the ambrosia.  She said that it could never completely be destroyed only returned to the gods who would know where to place it.  And so the two friends learned about the lesson of trust.  They learned that to trust and to believe in someone is worth more than any virtue and any treasure within the world could ever be.