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.

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

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

May, 48 B.C.

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

Xena Scrolls: Volume 1: Scroll #21: Beware of Greeks Baring Gifts

The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Potedia
Scroll#21: Beware of Greeks Baring Gifts

June, 48 B.C.

There once was a face that was so beautiful that it launched a fleet of one thousand ships. The face was that of the beautiful Helen from the Trojan city of Troy. She was so stunning that every man who ever set eyes upon her wanted her for his own. And that is why a fleet of ships had been launched for it was the fleet belonging to King Mentalaeous of Greece that seeked her beauty. His heart reached out to her so deeply that it began a war between the Greeks and the city of Troy which lasted for ten years. The battle had been a bloody one for King Mentalaeous wanted to steal Helen from the one whom had already stolen her heart. Paris the king of Troy held Helen’s heart within his and built a fortress so strong and so tall that not even the most powerful army could bring down its walls.
This story had been told by the bard Gabrielle many times to her family and friend back in Podedia before she had begun her adventurous travels alongside the warrior princess. Gabrielle found herself once again reminded of this story as she and Xena came down from Mount Poolus and found themselves running low on food and supplies. The bard regretted that she had not decided that they should stop in the last town before leaving the mountain for now she was desperately hungry. Xena and Gabrielle had only a mere half of an apple to tide them over until they could get to the next town. Yet Gabrielle thought of maybe stopping in Troy since they were so close by. She was certain that they would have food and supplies there. But Xena refused to allow that for she knew very well how true the story of the ten-year war really was. The warrior princess felt that it was much too dangerous for her to take the bard into a city of bloody war. Gabrielle didn’t argue for too long, but assured Xena that if she could go without out food then the bard could too. Yet the statement was somehow not so convincing for Gabrielle’s stomach rumbled in disagreement persuading the bard to continue to persuade the warrior princess.
As the two continued on down the path the serenity of the quiet forest was broken by the distant sounds of a battle. Just up ahead about a half a mile Xena and Gabrielle witnessed an attack upon a lone soldier. They heard the lone soldier cry out for a peaceful passing, but instead he received an attack. There was a duel of four against one which seemed quite uneven. Xena quickly decided to ride into battle asking that Gabrielle stay behind for her own safety. The warrior princess leaped into action upon Argo and rode swiftly toward the action of the battle. As Argo took her into the heat of the action Xena flipped from her horse double kicking two of the four dressed in Greek uniform. Xena was fierce as she fought against the four. She drew her sword as it clashed with those of the enemy. The warrior princess quickly resorted to using brut strength and force as she kicked her way through the lines and punched faces like the claps of Zeus’s thunder.
Suddenly the warrior princess ran up the side of a tree and flipped down from a branch onto the enemy down below. Just as the warrior princess was landing upon the shoulders of her victim the battling bard arrived to assist her friend in any way that she could. The bard pulled out her staff and attacked the enemy swiftly as the warrior princess jumped from his shoulders. Gabrielle knocked the enemy to the ground with two quick thrusts of the staff. Yet the two brave women had been too late in being able to save the lone soldier. Just as Xena again pulled out her weapon she delivered a mark to the face of one of the enemies. It was the first blood that had been drawn by the warrior princess though her enemies had thrust their own swords into the stomach of the lone soldier.
Soon after Xena’s mark of warning to those who dared to tempt her wrath the four of them fled for their lives. They were cowardly as they retreated from their own battle. Xena quickly ran to the aid of the victim whose stomach was bleeding with its open wound. The brave soldier struggle to hold onto life as he awaited the warrior princess. He had a message for her sent directly from Helen of Troy. The message directed that the warrior princess go to Troy for the lives of thousands of men depended upon it. Xena was disappointed that she had been too late to help the lone soldier in saving his life. His name was Mityobous. As Xena held his hand within her own he faded from life into the hands of death. Gabrielle watched as his soul left and entered into the freedom of the Elysian Fields. When the bard asked if what she had just witnessed had been his end the warrior princess confirmed it. Yet the bard quickly inquired of the warrior princess about Helen of Troy. She could not believe that Xena would keep such a secret from her. It was the secret of knowing Helen. The bard realized that she could have used that information to her advantage in persuading the warrior princess that they should indeed go to Troy. Yet the warrior princess had already decided. She would take Gabrielle and they would go to Troy to join her friend Helen and to help save the lives of thousands of men.
The journey toward Troy was short for the closer that Xena and Gabrielle were to the legendary city the more blood they saw. Xena took Gabrielle away from the front lines of the Greek army knowing that there would be little chance for survival. The bard could see as they passed the corpses of men who had been taken by the wrath of blood that their deaths had been displayed for years by the Greek army for all to see. It was the testament of Mentalaous that he and his army would one day storm the mighty gates of Troy and steel Helen from their grasp. After a day of grueling travel and difficulty in alluding the Greek army Xena and Gabrielle had arrived at the outskirts of the great city of Troy. As Gabrielle looked upon the fortress she found herself in awe for its walls were much taller and stronger than she could ever have imagined.
The bard looked upon Troy in disbelief for not only did they have to make it to the walls they would have to climb them. And getting to the walls of Troy would be short of a miracle for there was the entire Greek army to reckon with. Xena and Gabrielle would have to fight through those dark forces of the battle. The bard was uncertain that she would be able to fight with the strength and stealth of the warrior princess. Yet Xena was seemingly satisfied that they would make it to the fortress walls with little more than a warrior sweat. As Gabrielle asked Xena if she had a plan of action Xena’s response was candid. She only asked the bard if her boots were laced and as Gabrielle looked down the warrior princess grabbed her arm and whisked her away into the fierce battle toward the walls of Troy.
Troy stood upon a hill and as Xena and Gabrielle fought through the lines they had to struggle up the treacherous hill through the dead of years passed. The smell was unpleasant for Gabrielle had not smelled war in this way before. This was the closest she had ever been to a battle of epic legend. Though she had fought alongside the amazons against Krichous the warlord it was nothing compared to the death and the destruction of a war which had lasted for ten years. Gabrielle gave out a weak battle cry though it was more out of fear and uncertainty rather than the confidence of the warrior princess. Yet there was a comforting feeling fighting alongside the warrior princess. Xena charged ahead as Gabrielle struggled to stay close as instructed. The warrior princess slashed through the men that approached as Gabrielle tried to keep them at bay. It was in this moment that the bard found herself realizing that she needed more training.
As Xena and Gabrielle neared the mighty gates of Troy the Trojan command began to shout out for the opening of the gates. Xena had not expected that it would be so easy, but there was little time to question this. She instructed Gabrielle to go ahead of her into the safety of the walls of Troy as one of the commanders emerged to help Xena fight against the enemy. He was a very heroic soldier. As the Greek army advanced hoping to take advantage of the open gates the soldier instructed that Xena go to safety first, but the warrior princess would not allow that. Soon the Greek archers began to prepare launching their cross-bows. The brave Trojan commander quickly retreated into the gates of Troy warning of the advance as Xena followed quickly. Just as he ordered that the gates be shut the Greek archers released their arrows of fire into the mighty gates as they closed.
Gabrielle found herself awestruck by the feeling of a real battle and by the efforts of the brave commander that had opened the gates for she and the warrior princess. The bard felt compelled to introduce herself, but before she could speak her name the brave commanding soldier turned to her and revealed himself. Gabrielle was shocked for the face that she saw before her was the face of her betrothed. It was Perdicous the man she was to marry before she had decided to leave Podedia for a life alongside the warrior princess. The moment was an awkward one for Perdicous was the last man Gabrielle had expected to see in the city of Troy. Yet Perdicous himself seemed just as surprised. The warrior princess sensed the tension between the two who had once been on the threshold of marriage. Yet she was relieved that Perdicous had been in Troy for it had made her entrance much easier than she had expected.
After Gabrielle had explained to the warrior princess her past relationship with Perdicous Xena was already back to the business at hand. She asked of Perdicous where she could find King Paris and Helen of Troy. Perdicous explained that it was against their regulations that anyone was allowed to see Paris or Helen without the consent of Deifabous. Deifabous was the brother of Paris who was second in command next to Paris. Xena tried to explain that she had been to Troy to see Helen before and it had never been a problem, but Perdicous was firm in his duty. Of course the warrior princess would not take no for an answer. She told Perdicous that she would cover for him if he were questioned by his superiors. Then suddenly the warrior princess was off to find her old friend Helen. This left Perdicous and Gabrielle within a strange situation. The two were uncomfortable at best as they struggled together to find the words to express their feelings.
Perdicous finally broke the uncomforable silence with a direct reminder of Gabrielle’s selfish desires. He reminded her that the last time that he had seen her she had been dashing out-of-town in search of a warrior princess she barely knew. Gabrielle could feel the pain of a man who had loved her deeply. There was a guilt that rose within her which she had not yet confronted. It pained her to feel that her choice to leave her mediocre life in Podedia had broken the heart of her betrothed. Yet just when Gabrielle was about to make recognition of her mistake Perdicous would not allow it. Instead he stood firm and spoke of how his place now was in the city of Troy. It was a place he had come in search of the love he had himself been robbed of. Perdicous had looked to Gabrielle’s great stories of Troy to find the love that he desperately needed to fight for. It was in this moment that Gabrielle realized that Perdicous was still the helpless romantic that she had always remembered him to be.
Then she reminded him of the reasons that he was not a true soldier. She reminded him of the time that he had almost drowned in the river to save the hat she had once lost. Gabrielle reminded him of the time that he had almost gotten himself run over by a carriage when he had tried to impress her in another one of his desperate attempts to show his love. Perdicous would not listen to Gabrielle. It was clear that his pain was still very real over her rejecting the idea of marrying him. He wanted her to suffer and he wanted her to be responsible for his life changing decision to leave the peace in Podedia for the war of Troy. And when Gabrielle tried to remind Perdicous of what he was missing back home he continued to ignore her.
The bard knew Perdicous well. They had shared so much together as children and as young people in love. Yet Perdicous continued to work diligently within his duties. Gabrielle tried desperately to persuade him otherwise, but instead he just continued to ignore her as the call to duty took him back to the walls of the fortress. There he quickly picked up a cross-bow for one of the men of the Trojan army had been shot by the Greek archers. An arrow had struck the young soldier through the chest. Perdicous ran over to the fallen soldier and ripped the burning arrow from his chest. He then ran to the top of the fortress and loaded the bloody arrow upon his own cross-bow. Gabrielle watched as Perdicous then took aim upon the Greek archer and shot him through his own chest. Suddenly the men upon the walls of Troy began to shout and cheer. They were congratulating and honoring Perdicious who had received vengeance for the death of a fellow soldier.
The act seemed remorseless to Gabrielle and she began to fear that her choice to leave him behind in Podedia had been the wrong one. Gabrielle felt extremely responsible for this knowing that it wasn’t the pain of his lost friend that he fought for. It was the pain of his lost love that drove him to take lives. Gabrielle did not like what she saw. it was horrifying to know that the hopeless romantic she had always known could be more than just a simple farmer. It was difficult for the bard to understand how a simple farm boy could become a vicious killer.
As Gabrielle wrestled with the demons of her own misplaced choices and of those of Perdicous Xena found her way to Helen. When she arrived Helen was relieved that Xena had received her message. Helen explained that she had had a terrible vision which had led her to send Mityobous. When Helen asked where Mityobous was Xena regretfully explained that he had died delivering Helen’s message. Yet the warrior princess explained that only a brave loyal soldier could have carried Helen’s urgent message. Helen the discussed with Xena what her intentions were. She explained to Xena that she wanted to leave Troy and to be taken to Mentalaous in the hopes that it would appease the Greek king and stop the long bloody war. Helen was certain that if she were to leave Troy and surrender herself to Mentalaous that the lives of many Trojan soldiers would be saved. It was obvious to Xena that Helen had been carrying a great weight upon her shoulders. Helen blamed herself and her happiness for the loss of so many lives. It was a burden that Helen could no longer bear. She was willing to sacrifice her own well-being in exchange for the lives of many brave soldiers.
However, Xena was not convinced that Helen’s plan was the answer. The warrior princess was certain that the war was no longer about Helen’s happiness. She was certain that it was about emerging into victory. Xena reminded Helen that Paris and the Trojans would seek out Mentalaous and the Greeks if she were to go with them. The trail of blood would follow the face of Helen wherever it went. Xena then told Helen that there had to be another solution to this war. She reminded Helen that Paris loved her and that it would be a mistake to throw away that love in the blind hope that lives would be saved. Helen had only met Mentalous once and she did not know him. Xena was certain that Helen should stay in Troy.
Soon Xena found herself face to face with Deifabous. He had charged into Helen’s bedchambers with his armed guard. They denounced Xena’s presence and he declared before Paris that Xena be taken prisoner. Helen pleaded with Deifabous that Xena be treated as her guest, but it was clear that Deifabous did not trust in Xena for she was a Greek warrior. It was clear that she was the enemy. Just as Paris was about to make his decision Xena noticed that one of Deifabous’s guard had a fresh wound upon his face. She realized that he was one of the men that she had fought outside of Troy as she had tried to save the loyal Trojan Mitybous. Quickly Xena drew her sword and attacked the enemy revealing him to all. As she fought against him she exposed him as a traitor. Yet before the traitor could be asked of his actions he was immediately killed by the sword of Deifabous.
The battle in the bed chambers of Helen was quick. Xena found herself frustrated that the traitor had been killed yet she found herself suspicious of Deifabous as a result of his actions. She remembered that Perdicous had told her that Deifabous was an excellent soldier. If Perdicious’s word had been true then Xena realized that Deifabous would not have killed the traitor. He would have wanted the same information that she seeked. Only another traitor would take the life of his own men to contain his secret. That was the moment in which Xena realized the truth of Deifabous yet she was uncertain of his motives. Deifabous realized that Xena was aware of his actions. He tried desperately to defend himself and his actions to his brother Paris. Paris’s trust in his brother blinded him to the act as he overlooked Deifabous’s tragic mistake. Neither Xena nor Deifabous had won the battle in Helen’s bed chambers. Instead it had created a new internal war within Troy. Deifabous declared to his brother that he would have all of his men throughly investigated in order to find the traitor amongst them though his words were worth less than a sold handshake.
Soon Xena returned to Gabrielle hoping that the two betrothed had worked out their differences. Xena could see that they had not for Gabrielle appeared saddened. Yet Xena was almost certain that the two would work things out. Xena told Gabrielle that she should stay with Perdicous for she had something that she had to do. Gabrielle wanted to join Xena, but was aware of the danger surrounding Troy. The young bard realized that there was less danger in a tangled web of emotion than there was outside the walls of Troy. And so Xena left her once again with the nagging of her past demons. Her mistake to leave Podedia without saying good-bye to Perdicous had caused his life to be a tragic one. Gabrielle thought of the moment in which he had killed that Greek archer and she saw that despite his celebration he was empty inside. Perdicous’s victory in the kill was not a victory at all. It was the unresolved issue of his feelings for Gabrielle that haunted him. The bard had to figure out how to resolve these feelings for she herself felt the flames of passion rising from within.
As Xena continued on in investigating Deifabous and his motives she discovered that Helen was about to try sneaking out into the danger of the bloody war. It was obvious that Helen was not convinced of Xena’s words. Helen was still certain the her leaving Troy was going to save lives. Xena quickly caught up to Helen as she was about to make her mistake. Once again she tried to reassure Helen, but as the two conversed they caught sight of Deifabous. Paris’s brother was sneaking out of the secret walls of Troy into the battle field. Xena instructed Helen to await her return as she followed Deifabous to investigate. What Xena found was Deifabous making a deal with Mentalaous. He was promising to surrender Troy and Helen to Mentalous, but Xena still did not know why. The warrior princess could not understand the gain in selling out Troy to the Greeks.
Quickly Xena returned inside the walls of Troy to warn Helen and Paris of what she had witnessed. She revealed to Paris the betrayal of his brother Deifabous. But just as she was about to convince Paris of the betrayal Deifabous stormed through the doors of the royal bed chambers. He insisted that his meeting the Mentalaous had entailed an agreement of peace for the Greeks had surrendered to Troy. Not only that, but the Greeks had offered the Trojans a gift of peace just outside the walls. Paris found himself overwhelmed with joy for this meant that he had won the long bloody war. Xena soon realized how quickly she was losing this battle within the walls of Troy. Helen was convinced yet Paris was not. Paris was blind to the truth that Helen’s visions had shown her. Deifabous took advantage of this situation and reminded Paris that Xena was a Greek warrior and most certainly the enemy attempting to break down the ranks of the Trojans. Paris quickly ordered that Xena be taken to the dungeons below with the other prisoners. Helen desperately pleaded with Paris, but Paris did not hear her. He ignored Helen’s better judgement to her dismay. Xena herself tried one last attempt to warn of greeks baring gifts.
As the Trojan guard surrounded Xena she prepared to escape yet as she prepared to battle her way through the guard she caught sight of Deifabous. He was about to pull his dagger upon the innocent Helen. Xena could see that he would take her life and the life of his brother if he had to in order to protect his interests. The warrior princess stood down and allowed herself to be taken into custody. As she was taken Deifabous and Paris rejoiced and declared that there would be a festival and a celebration of their victory on that night. Every Trojan soldier attended the celebration and enjoyed food, drink, and many other luxuries. It was a party like no other with riches beyond that of any other city Gabrielle had seen. Athens was the only city that compared to the riches held by the city of Troy.
On the next morning Gabrielle found herself still sorting through her feelings with Perdicous. Perdicous then brought to mind another story of their history. He reminded her of the time that the two of them had stolen corn from the farm of one of their neighbors. Gabrielle thought of this and laughed and then remembered that it had been Perdicous who had taken the blame in order to protect Gabrielle from certain punishment. In that moment Gabrielle realized why Perdicous was fighting in this bloody war. She realized that his love for her was so great that he would do anything for her. He became a soldier hoping to impress her just as he had tried to impress her hundreds of times before. When Gabrielle spoke of her concern for Xena Perdicous reminded Gabrielle that Xena was capable of taking care of herself. It was his tone that spoke to the bard. He was jealous of the warrior princess for taking his love from him. Her warrior way had appealed to the bard. Perdicous seeked to appeal to Gabrielle in the same way. It was in this moment that Gabrielle knew what she had to do to repair Perdicous’s broken heart.
Yet as they walked toward the palace of Helen and Paris to seek out Xena the gates of Troy were opened. The gift of the Greeks was being pulled into Troy. A gift of a Trojan horse made of wood symbolized a certain victory over the Greeks. The horse stood almost as tall as the gates which had protected Troy from demise. And though the horse had stood quiet all through the night early the next day there was a sudden burst from within. Betrayal came from within the symbol of victory and peace as the Greek army began to battle against the helpless Trojans within. Most of the Trojan army was drunk from the festival and unable to battle against the stealth of the Greek army.
While the war had come within the walls of Troy Xena found herself still trying to figure out the motives of Deifabous. Upon his entry he gloated in his victory over the warrior princess and promised her to those Greeks whom he declared that she had betrayed. Deifabous turned the other Greek prisoners loose and allowed them to battle against the warrior princess certain their rage would defeat her. Yet the warrior princess used her prison bench as a weapon and then as an escape tool. She constructed a lever out of three enemies and a bench using the first two attackers as the foundation, and the third as her thrust to escape. As she flew up through the shaft into freedom she saw that the war had spread within. Quickly Xena seeked to find the bard and when she did she instructed Gabrielle and Perdicous to take everyone to the temple of Aphrodite. As Gabrielle and Perdicous fought Gabrielle found that her staff was no prepared for the wrath of the anger sword.
Bravely Perdicous fought through the Greek lines into the temple as Gabrielle led the innocent to refuge. Yet somehow all ended up within the temple of Ares out of the confusion of the Greek raid. Thousands of Trojans fled as Gabrielle and Perdicous escorted them into the safety of the temple. Soon Xena joined them as then tried desperately to seal off the doors from the enemy advance. Helen joined the group with Xena as they seeked out a secret storage supply. Helen never thought that they would ever use this supply, but the violence and blood had finally run her into the corner. Xena quickly accessed the situation and had a plan for escape. She gathered the necessary supplies for a smoke screen would be their only chance to escape.
Gabrielle and Perdicous tried desperately to hold onto hope. Though Perdicous reminded Gabrielle that the entire Greek army was just outside those doors waiting to take them all. Their presence was obvious by the sounds of the thunderous banging against the doors. Gabrielle could see them buckling and knew that it was the last chance for her to mend her mistakes with Perdicous. She took his face into her hands and looked into his eyes. He tried to apologize for his own mistakes, but Gabrielle would not allow it. She knew it had been her own mistake of not saying good-bye that had led Perdicous to this inevitable death in Troy. It was for nothing, but a broken heart. Gabrielle then expressed not with words, but with a passionate kiss her honesty and her feelings for her betrothed.
Just as the doors were about to come crashing apart Xena had arrived with the smoke screen. The warrior princess prepared the escape while leaving Paris with Helen to mend his own mistakes. He had not trusted in Helen’s judgement and he had insulted Xena. Paris was full of regrets for his blind ego had led to the demise of his city and of his people. But mostly his love for Helen had been destroyed. As the two began to mend their wounds they were suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Deifabous. He had come through a secret door and quickly he disappeared with Helen of Troy. Gabrielle had arrived just moments later upon Xena’s request to retrieve Helen and Paris for their escape. When Gabrielle arrived she found Helen missing and Paris lying in death’s arms.
Quickly Gabrielle called out to Xena as Xena lit the smoke screens. She spoke of the tragedy in the supply room. Yet through this tragedy there was hope for now all of Troy could escape through Deifabous’s secret door. They would not have to fight through the smoke screen and the Greek army to freedom. Instead all were led by Xena out through the back of the temple and into a regrouping position. All Trojans were led into the massive wooden horse which stood proudly and tall in the wake of the burning city. They awaited the Greeks return upon discovering that they had all escaped the temple of Ares. Soon all could hear the angry cries of Mentalaous ordering his men to remove the gift. Mentalaous himself had been betrayed for he had been promised Helen yet instead he had been given more rage. His rage was in not receiving Helen the one he had fought ten years to capture.
As the horse was pulled to the outside of the ruined city Xena and the Trojan army exploded from within. Gabrielle and Perdicous fought alongside Xena and the Trojans hoping to drive them into a retreat. Quickly the surprise attack was followed by the surrender of the Greek army for there was no prize to be won. The prize had been stolen as Paris lie dead and Deifabous had taken all. Xena quickly left the battle and trusted Perdicious and Gabrielle to continue on as she rushed to recover her friend from the true enemy. Just outside the walls of Troy Xena awaited Deifabous who was surprised to find her waiting for him. He quickly took weapon forth and fought against the warrior princess. Though Deifabous was a skilled soldier able to rob the warrior princess of her own sword she quickly retaliated kicking his sword to the ground.
The odds were evened into a hand to hand combat yet Deifabous would not fight hand to hand with the warrior princess. Instead he picked up a broken staff out of the rubble and began to attack the warrior princess. He struck her three times before she was able to get into position, but soon she was in control once again. Xena took a grip upon his weapon stopping his advance. Suddenly she ran upon the side of the mighty walls of Troy and flipped kicking her enemy to the ground. Deifabous had been knocked unconscious and been defeated. Helen was relieved to be saved by the warrior princess. Xena left Deifabous with a prize. It was the crown of Helen upon his head for the warrior princess wanted Mentalaous to be greeted by the true enemy.
Xena had foiled the plot of Deifabous and freed Helen of Troy. She had also saved many lives, and allowed Gabrielle to mend her relationship with Perdicous. As the battle in the field ended Gabrielle hoped desparately that Perdicous would join her and Xena. Perdicous was not certain of Gabrielle’s true feelings certain that her passionate kiss had only been out of desparation in a dire situation. He proclaimed that she did not owe him anything and that he would be just fine without her. Perdicous would go on living, but he had finally been able to forgive her for leaving him behind. As Gabrielle watched Perdicous walk away she was full of sadness. Of all that travels that she and Xena had this was the most painful. It reminded Gabrielle of what had been missing and of what she had been seeking. She wanted her love, but realized that she had missed it.
Perdicous himself had decided that he would go onto the next city to find a new conquest to fight for. He needed a new cause for the cause of love had been won. For him he had won against his anger toward his loss, but there was still a lot of uncertainty within him. He decided to travel with Helen for she too seeked a new conquest in life. Hers was freedom for the first time. Helen was finally free of the burden of death that had imprisoned her for ten years. And as Xena returned to the bard on the deserted field of battle she wondered why Perdicous had decided not to join them. Xena had been just as certain as Gabrielle had that he would have joined them in the end, but unfortunately the two friends learned at Troy that some battles no matter how hard they are fought can not be won by the heart alone.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #1: Scroll #20: Mortal Beloved

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

May, 48 B.C.

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

Xena Scrolls Volume 1: Scroll #13: The Guantlet

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#13:  The Gauntlet

January, 48 B.C.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    

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

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll # 12:  The Warrior Princess

January, 48 B.C.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls: Scroll#11: The Black Wolf

The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Potedia
Scroll#11:  The Black Wolf

January, 48 B.C.

There was once this rebel group in a small village between Amphipolis and Corinth.  They challenged their leader Zercies for he taxed them into poverty.  Most in this small village did not have the courage to stand up and fight for what they knew was just and right.  Yet this rebel group had a leader who believed that if they all banded together against the wrath of Zercies they would be able to once again live their lives in peace rather than in suffering.  Of course Zercies was against his rival whose leader was known only as the Black Wolf.  The Black Wolf’’s identity was known only to those loyal to the rebel group which made it nearly impossible for Zercies to face his worst enemy directly.  He did not know who to punish for the rise against his laws.
After many months of rebellion against Zercies the village leader could see that he was losing his battle against this Black Wolf.  So Zercies decided that there would be only one way to defeat his enemy.  He decided that he would arrest all who were involved within the rebel group led by the Black Wolf and throw them into his infamous dungeon.  It was said that if one ever reached Zercies dungeon that they would never return.  Despite this Zercies promised to all who were taken to his dungeon that he would free those who turned against their fearless leader.  As all of the black wolves stood before Zercies not one stepped forward to reveal their leader.  Instead they stepped forward one by one declaring themselves to be the one and only Black Wolf.  Zercies was not amused by this and so all of the black wolves were sentenced to prison with seven days to decide if they wanted to live or if they wanted to die for the Black Wolf.
Fortunately for these courageous rebels a great heroine had recently traveled into town in need of new shoes for her horse.  When Xena arrived she ran into an old friend from her home in Amphipolis.  It was Hermia the mother of her childhood friend Flora.  Hermia was distraught for her daughter had been one of the ones captured by Zercies and taken to his dreadful dungeon.  As Hermia told Xena of the horrors brought upon them by Zercies she explained that no one was known to escape his prison except for through the grave.  Hermia was desperate to have Flora home safe for her daughter was all that was left of her family.  Xena tried to calm Hermia, but Hermia was upset.  Hermia continued her story with regret for allowing her daughter Flora to see the man she felt was responsible for her daughter’s rebellious ways.  Diamedes was also a known member of the black wolf rebels.  Hermia blamed Diamedes for convincing Flora that they could rise up and fight against Zercies in a cause to save the welfare of their village.
Xena was not so certain that her childhood friend had made the wrong choice for the warrior princess would gladly have made the same choice had she been in Flora’s place.  Yet Xena knew that she could rescue Flora from Zercies dungeon and promised Hermia that she would bring Flora home to her.
And so the mighty warrior princess went into action.  She stole her way into Zercies castle defeating his guards in an instant for their skills were not near those of Xena.  The warrior princess walked into Zercies chambers taking he and his magistrate Lord Coolose by surprise.  As Coolose called for the guards Xena explained that they had already met her and been charmed.  Then she was direct with Zercies as she made him an offer.  He wanted the Black Wolf by the end of seven days so that an example could be made of this Wolf at the feast of Zeus.  The warrior princess was very bold as she offered Zercies the identity of the Black Wolf in exchange for 10,000 dinars and a new pair of boots.  Zercies found himself amused at this offer and had decided since Lord Coolose had been unsuccessful in bringing the Black Wolf to him that he would indeed give this bold harlot a chance.
Xena was thrown into the dungeon with the wolf pack to complete her mission despite Lord Coolose’s suspicions of her loyalty to Zercies.  Coolose decided that he would keep a close eye on this warrior woman for if she did succeed his job would be at stake.  Yet Xena was clearly not interested in taking the job of a magistrate.  Once inside the dungeon she searched for her old friend and found her amongst the rest of the wolf pack.  Flora was surprised yet happy to see her old friend.  She declared that Xena had grown legendary in the ten years since she had left Amphipolis behind, but Xena assured Flora that she had changed and begun to create a new legend for herself.  Flora clearly had faith in her friend’s words for she did not fear Xena’s presence.  Instead they reminisced together of their days as children.  And Flora told of Zercies wrath against her village.
Xena explained her reasons for joining Flora inside Zercies dungeon as she prepared to escape with her friend.  This mission seemed so simple yet when Flora refused to jump upon Xena’s back to escape through the air shaft above Xena realized that it would take much more than a simple escape to rescue Flora.  Xena would have to rescue Flora and the rest of the wolf pack in order to succeed this time.  And though it sounded so easy to do it was not for the wolf pack did not have faith in Xena.  They had heard of her terrible reputation like many others across the land and at Daimedes request refused to join Xena.  The warrior princess had to earn their trust and it would not be easy.
It seemed that this small village needed more than a warrior princess to intervene within their affairs against Zercies.  Again they were fortunate for Xena’s loyal friend had returned from her own personal journey to join her best friend the warrior princess.  Upon Gabrielle’s arrival into the village she recognized that familiar white steed Argo.  It was then that she knew that Xena would be nearby.  And then she found herself suddenly confronted by the smith with a bill for food and horseshoes.  After Gabrielle paid 15 dinars for feed and shoes she asked of the smith where Xena was.  It was as if Xena had known already that Gabrielle would soon catch up to her.  And so the smith said only that he would reveal Xena’s whereabouts for an additional five dinars.  Clearly this smith drove a hard bargain, but no information regarding Xena could be taken lightly.
Upon paying the five dinars the smith spoke of how Xena had been taken to Zercies dungeon.  Immediately Gabrielle asked how one could visit a friend there, but was told that it was impossible.  No prisoner of Zercies was allowed a visitor.  And so Gabrielle realized that she had to find a way to get herself thrown into prison despite its reputation of escape being only in death.  The bard soon realized that Xena did not have her whip or her chackram with her and she would indeed need those.  So Gabrielle went into action with a plan of her own on how to enter the dungeon to join the warrior princess.
Her first idea was a simple one.  Gabrielle realized as she walked through the village market that she could deface the authorities in order to gain punishment.  So the bard purchased two tomatoes and set out to find the perfect target and opportunity to deface the law.  It did not take long to find a few of Zercies men lounging in the market and as the bard prepared to take aim at her victims she was suddenly interrupted by a most annoying salesman.  He introduced himself vibrantly as Salmoneous.  He tried to sell her many riches including a leather bag with the sign of the Black Wolf.  Yet Gabrielle was not interested in purchasing a leather bag or any other item for her only goal was to buy a one way passage into Zercies dungeon.
After fighting off the annoying loud salesman Gabrielle took aim and fired two tomatoes into the direction of Zercies guards.  Successfully she had hit them leaving the guards angered and enraged.  Gabrielle was certain to be punished for her crimes against them.  Yet the end result was not what she had planned it to be.  Her innocence was protected by the presence of the naughty salesman for Zercies men were certain that it was he who had snickered at them and thrown the tomatoes.  But it was not and though Salmonoeous tried to argue his innocence there was no justice.  Instead Gabrielle was left to wonder what her next move would be.
Of course Xena had already come up with a plan of escape for herself and the wolf pack.  As Gabrielle fought to get in they were fighting to get out.  Xena had quickly caught sight of the wolf pack’s plan of escape.  They had been digging a tunnel, but it would never work for the guards would most certainly discover it in time.  Xena’ s own discovery of the tunnel left the wolf pack no choice, but to follow the warrior princess.  But there was something more sinister going on inside of the dungeon that had at first gone undetected by the sharp mind of the warrior princess.  Just as she was planning to unite the wolf pack behind her in an escape the warrior princess was taken by Lord Coolose and the guards.  Coolose had planned on making Xena an example for the wolf pack.
He thrust the warrior princess into his death trap before all of the prisoners.  She was thrown into the pit of death where she would be drowned.  Yet Coolose was unaware of the super strength of the warrior princess.  As the water fell upon her and buried her beneath she prepared to escape death.  Coolose’s men tried desperately to keep the warrior princess down into the flooding pit of water, but their mistake was in interfering.  Xena took the end of one of their swords and bashed the guards with it.  Then she took the sword down into the pit and cut herself free from the hands of death.  She was triumphant as she flipped out giving her signature battle cry.  Though she was wet and chilled she had survived and proven that she was worthy of the trust of the wolf pack for her defiance against Zercies and Coolose.
Of course help was on the way for the warrior princess as her old friend Salmoneous had entered into the dungeon.  Xena knew that with his help they could get all of the supplies they needed to arrange an escape against Coolose and his men.  And so the hunt was on for belts.  Any man with a belt was seeked out by the sly salesman Salmoneous whose arguments were impossible to go against.  He searched every dark corner despite his cowardly demeanor while Xena prepared the wolf pack for their plan of escape.  With the help of Salmoneous the escape went off quite successfully.  As the wolf pack hid above the guards came to inspect and found nothing.  Not one soul was present in the dungeon.  In their confusion Xena and the wolf pack charged down onto the guards and defeated them to escape into the night.
And just as they reached freedom outside the castle they found themselves betrayed for Coolose and his men were waiting.  The wolf pack was quickly rounded up and returned to their captivity while Coolose basked in his glory before Zercies for foiling Xena’s plan.  He had seemingly exposed this fraud against Zercies, but upon finishing his statements Xena admitted that all he had said had been true.  She had made friends with the wolf pack and gained their trust.  And of course she had led them in an escape.  For what way would have been better to expose the Black Wolf upon being the trusted leader of an escape plan.  Zercies could see Xena’s argument and was slightly impressed.  He also found himself disappointed for Xena’s plan had failed because of Coolose’s suspicions against her.  Zercies then sent Xena back down into the dungeon with the wolf pack expecting results soon.
Of course the wolf pack was now distrusting of Xena for her escape had led them right back into the hands of their enemy.  Diamedes found himself enraged and prepared to take down this new enemy.  He did not trust the warrior princess before, and his faith was stolen by the failed escape.  Diamedes was so passionate about protecting the Black Wolf that he challenged Xena to a battle.  Though the warrior princess warned against challenging her skills Diamedes pressed on.  He bravely took on the woman he thought had come to destroy the Black Wolf.  Their battle did not last long for a few warrior moves against the advances of a village rebel were all that were needed to prove a point.  Xena ended the battle in a position to kill Diamedes with a large rock, but chose not to take a life.  She wanted to be sure that the Black Wolf had faith though the wolf’s protector did not.
Another day had passed and Gabrielle was still trying to determine her plan of entrance into the dungeon.  As she found herself eating a bowl of stew she realized that her answer was in the palm of her hand.  If it wasn’t a tomato it would be stew.  Stew was the key to entering prison.  After scouting out the front doors of Zercies castle for two days Gabrielle boldly approached the guards and smashed them directly in the face with a bowl of scalding hot stew.  Of course the taste was just right and so was the act of defiance for finally Gabrielle found herself being personally escorted into Zercies dungeon.
Once inside she immediately looked to find Xena.  There were many who had apparently been in the dungeon for years.  Some had been in so long that their best friends were the rocks among them.  It was a sad situation as Gabrielle scoured the dungeon for Xena.  She described to all the dark woman in leather, a gold breast plate, and boots.  The dark tall woman with the piercing blues eyes had obviously been there for there were a few with the marks of her wrath.  Hot on the trail of the warrior princess Gabrielle finally ran into her friend with Salmoneous the salesman who had foiled her original plan.  As Salmoneous argued with Gabrielle about getting him thrown into the dungeon all she could do was remind him of his interference with her tomatoes.  It was a long story that Xena decided wasn’t important to hear.  Instead she was intrigued to see the bard having gone out of her way to enter into the depths of the damp darkness.
Though the warrior princess always insisted that Gabrielle’s help was never needed the bard knew otherwise.  She introduced to Xena her stylish whip doubling as an elegant belt, and her innocent hat concealing a deadly chackram.  Xena was seemingly impressed with Gabrielle’s ingenuity deciding against a scolding lesson.  Instead she decided to use her help to join Salmoneous in finding as many shirts as possible.  Her next plan of escape was to use the shirts as floating devices and escape through the underground waterway beneath the dungeon.
For three more days Gabrielle and Salmoneous scoured the dungeon looking for shirts and argued amongst each other for both were smooth talkers.  They spent most of their time challenging one another to a competition of wits yet in between Salmoneous told of how Xena had come to be in the dungeon and of how he had known the warrior princess before.  He had many intriguing stories yet after three days Gabrielle was truly satisfied to be leaving his presence behind.  And so just as they prepared to escape the sinister traitor was identified.  Xena had discovered that there was someone on the inside working for Coolose.  That man had posed as a prisoner and delivered the message of the first escape plan.  That was how Coolose had stopped them before.  Xena would not allow that to happen again.
Though it seemed that escape would not be possible Xena had a much larger more complex plan to carry out.  When the guards came back after being discovered Coolose demanded to see the Black Wolf or all would perish.  His guards placed a golden staff below the air shaft where the light of day shone through.  It was declared that by the time the sun hit the head of the golden staff it would be time for all to face their deaths.  Yet this threat invited no one to step forward so Coloose had another threat.  He decided that he would sacrifice one who did not belong to the wolf pack hoping to flush out the vigilante.  Coolose’s guard then took Salmoneous to be delivered to the pit of death.  Salmoneous tried desperately to declare that he was the Black Wolf.  But his howls were not heard and barely convincing.  As the guard prepared to take his life Xena quietly urged the true leader of the wolf pack to step up for she had known who it was.  She asked the Black Wolf to have faith and so Flora stepped forward identifying herself.  Yet Diamedes too stepped forward declaring himself to be the Black Wolf for he loved Flora dearly, but the Black Wolf demonstrated her power.  She demanded that her faithful followers stop in their madness and allow the guards to take her.
And so in the next day upon the feast of Zeus the execution of the Black Wolf was to take place.  Xena was offered by Zercies a chance to take Coolose’s position as magistrate and given her money, and boots.  Zercies asked her to join him before the crowd as the execution took place.  Xena took his invitation with delight though she and the bard were about to join forces in carrying out the final plan of escape.  As the executioner brought out the wolf pack to witness the death of their leader and of their hopes he prepared the condemned for her fate.  The Black Wolf was placed upon the wood block restrained from escape by her chains.  All was silent as he lifted his ax above his head.  Slowly he prepared to strike, but just as the ax went down Gabrielle removed her hat and threw it across the square to the warrior princess.
Xena caught her chackram and then thrust it in the direction of death.  It took off the head of the ax instead of the head of the Black Wolf.  And then Gabrielle and the wolf pack lifted their own chains and waited to be freed by the chackram.  It cut through the binds of the law and freed the pack to fight another day against the wrath of Zercies.  Zercies found himself upset with Xena’s betrayal and promised to redeem Coolose, but that moment would never come to pass.  Xena drew her sword to free the Black Wolf from her chains upon the block and passed on the sword to fight against corrupt law.
And so it was faith that had won the battle this time.  It was the faith the wolf pack had for its leader the Black Wolf, and it was the faith that an old friend had for a warrior princess that saved the lives of many.  For all had faith in a cause of goodness battling against the corruption of evil.

The Xena Scrolls Volume 1: Scroll #15: Athens City Academy of the Performing Bards

The Xena Scrolls
Scroll#15:  Athens City Academy
of the Performing Bards
By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

February, 48 B.C.

There were once two orphans who spent their days together searching the world for their true families.  They searched for a lifetime together feeling unsuccessful for it seemed that they would never find the people they had seeked.  Until one day the first man had finally reached the end of his journey.  Yet though he was at the end of his journey he found himself at the beginning.  The family he had sought for all of those years had actually traveled the world with him.  For the only family he had ever known or ever needed was standing right beside him all the while.
One day I found myself in a village tavern telling a tale of Xena the mighty warrior princess.  Rudely I was interrupted by an old peasant man who felt the need to correct me in my tale.  Catering to his needs I told the story of The Reckoning when Xena had battled a fierce hooded warrior.  My story felt alive as I told it to my audience.  Yet telling the story for me was like no other experience in life.  Telling the story was a journey in itself despite the experience which had inspired it.  Upon ending the story I received loud applause and many complements for all had been delightfully entertained.  Some of those seated in the tavern even left me a few dinars for my passionate performance.  It seemed to me that I was truly getting a feel for my craft.
Then something very exciting happened.  A young bard approached me and complemented my story.  He told me that I was really good and asked if I were on my way to the competition.  I had not been aware of a competition, but if I had been know that I would have been the first bard there.  The young man told me more about this competition that was to take place at the Athens City Academy for Performing Bards.  I was excited to be invited by a fellow bard and had decided that maybe I would take him up on his offer.  But I had not decided for certain until his father stepped into our conversation.  He seemed uncomfortable that I was talking to his son.  This father appeared secretive and was certain that the life of a bard was unsuitable for a young lady.  He even went as far as to insult me by saying that my story may have been cute at best.  Finally I was completely shot down when my fellow bard’s father proclaimed that the only stories that I could tell were those of the common housewife.  He finished his statement by saying that those kinds of stories were just not popular for entertainment.
And with that he and my new friend had left me in thought.  I had to take in all that had been said and all that I had just experienced.  The more I thought about it all the more I wanted to go.  I realized that in order to be taken seriously by anyone I needed real training.  And so I had decided that going to Athens was my next journey.  Of course Xena had entered the tavern with great excitement for she had heard of a great new adventure for us.  She said that she had just talked to someone who had said that there was a mad Cyclops on the loose steeling farm animals from the people of Caris.  Xena was pumped and clearly ready for action as she was certain that I too would jump at this new opportunity.  Yet I had already determined where my next adventure would be.  I interrupted Xena still thinking of that man who had insulted me as I asked her how far it was to Athens.  My friend seemed a bit shocked that I did not respond with the same enthusiasm for this mission she had seeked out for us.
So we sat down to a meal and I explained to her why I felt that I needed to go to Athens.  It had always been my dream to go there and study the art of the bard at the academy and to compete.  Xena was happy to see that I was going to follow my dream yet she was seemingly disappointed for it would require me to be away for at least four years.  I tried to comfort her by explaining that she would hardly notice that we would be separated.  But Xena insisted that even if she were surrounded by an army she would still notice my absence from her life.  And then the warrior princess asked if she could at least travel the distance to Athens with me.  I had decided that this journey was one that I would take without her.  She understood and told me that I had a good chance of winning for she said that I did tell great stories.  It was nice to hear that from my best friend.  Yet she let me know that despite my leaving she would miss the friend who was like a sister.  This touched my heart to know that Xena truly did have compassion for me despite all of the times that she had tried to leave me behind, and despite all of my flaws and mistakes.  Then just when I was feeling closer to the warrior princess she left the tavern to defeat the Cyclops of Caris.
So I made my own journey without the warrior princess.  When I arrived in Athens at the academy I felt great excitement as I was welcomed by bards from across the lands.  There were so many good story tellers there.  Some were better, and some needed a little help, but we all had something in common.  Our passion and our dreams of being one of the top four bards to be chosen.  Soon after my arrival I again ran into my friend from the tavern.  He introduced me to some of the other bards.  There was Twichinum the shy bard, Euripides the bard of tangled words, Stolanis the olympic bard, and my friend.  He had not yet told me his name and when I asked what it was he seemed uncomfortable.  My friend told me that he didn’t really like his true name and that he was going to change it.
First he thought of the name Draco for it sounded heroic to him.  But I knew of Draco and the last time I had met him he was not doing anything heroic.  And so I told to my new friend and many others the story of how Draco had come into my life and brought me together with my best friend who chose to turn away from the darkness.  I spoke of how Xena had defeated Draco in a battle upon a scaffold sending him away never to return to Amphipolis again.
As my story ended a thunderous applause snapped me back into the present startling me for a moment.  I was pleased that so many were interested in my stories and accepted their complements graciously.  Then I went back to the problem of finding a heroic name to call my new friend.  I suggested to him that maybe the name Orion would better suit him for Orion was known as a true heroic warrior.  And so my friend called himself Orion.  And though Orion’s problem was solved I still had yet to figure out a way to get myself into the competition.  Of course my new friends were so impressed with my stories that they were happy to help me create the official papers needed to register.
And so we all waited in the long line together sharing the many muses of the bards.  Yet there was still one problem.  My papers were not able to be found by the woman checking all of the bards in.  She was quite rude about being unable to find my paperwork, but I solved that problem.  There was just a bit of a spill as a mysterious force whisked the papers onto the ground.  That was my chance to slip in my registration to be found by the woman in charge.  Of course she did find my papers in the end though she was indeed suspicious after discovering that they had forgotten to list my room and board.  I was then sent to reside in the servant’s quarters in the hall of Zeus.
Once I was in there were many wonderful workshops to explore.  I joined Orion to attend the first of several.  When we entered I found myself feeling strange.  It was as if Xena were with me suspecting the worst.  There was that feeling of anticipation, but then my mind was interrupted when Orion asked me what worried me.  I realized that he was right for what evil could be lurking within a place sacred for the arts.  And so the workshop began as the instructor explained the goal of the bard.  He said it was in creating and event, but as he spoke something quite unexpected occurred.  The suspicious man who had bumped me upon entering jumped up from his place in the back of the auditorium and sprung forward.  He dashed toward the unsuspecting instructor and pulled out a dagger.  Then he thrust it into the chest of the instructor escaping through the window never to be seen again.
Orion and I rushed to aid the victim as did many of the other bards in the crowd.  But the excitement soon ended when the instructor rose from the floor unharmed.  It had all been staged.  The event of terror had not been real.  It was almost an injustice and so as he went onto explain his theory of the goal of a bard I interrupted.  I could not resist arguing that faking death was not a story, but that the event of  death itself held much more promise.  And so I sung the story of Sisyphus and of how he had captured Celesta.  Captivating my audience I ended my story with a moral for death should not be feared yet accepted.  My fellow bards seemed pleased at my lesson and my moral as they congratulated me with more admiration and applause.  This truly was an experience like no other.
My fellow bards joined me in the servants quarters every night to listen to my stories though they had all been registered in room 12.  On this night Xena’s darkness was told by all who had heard.  First Euripides spoke of how he had heard of the seduction that Xena used to manipulate the unsuspecting hearts of innocent warriors.  And then he continued on by reminding all who listened that Xena had been responsible for breaking up a wonderful friendship of Hercules and Iolas.  Then he finished and Stolanous stepped up to tell his story of Xena.  Of course he was completely into action though all that he had told of Xena’s slashing, clashing, and thrusting was indeed true for I had seen it all myself.
Euripides seemed interested in the truths of a story yet he was unaware of all that was true of the warrior princess.  And so despite her dark past that all had heard of few knew of the glimmer of light that had changed her.  They didn’t know about the baby that she had saved from being slaughtered by her army.  The common bard didn’t know of how Xena’s own army of men put her through a gauntlet of pain for sparing the life of an innocent child.  Only someone who knew her personally could know of the truth about Xena.  And so I ended my own story of truth with a nice ending.  As all of my stories are told I prefer to wrap them up nicely to put all who listen at ease in the end.
Of course my story had attracted even more of an audience as I had told it for I was passionate about my friend.  My love for Xena was strong and it bled through into my story.  Many of my fellow bards wanted to hear more about the beautiful warrior princess and of my story of truth, but I was starting to find that I missed my friend dearly.  It had been days since I had last seen her and I worried.  I worried if she was still doing good despite my absence for she had said that she would notice I was gone.  And despite her always telling me that she didn’t need my help I always knew that she did.  We had lived many adventures together and I always had my small role in helping no matter how insignificant it seemed.  Mainly it was Xena’s ailing heart that needed me and my own heart was beginning to feel its own pang of separation.
Upon awakening the next morning I was excited for it was almost time for the first competition to take place.  I decided to practice with Orion before having to do my performance.  He was delighted to be my partner and so he began his story first.  As I tried to feel it and to see it I could not although I knew he was trying very hard.  When Orion ended I tried to help him with his block for I could feel that he was much better.  He was frustrated to know that his story was not successful.  When I asked him why he watched me so closely as he told his story he said that it was his way of judging my reaction.  He wanted to be able to adjust and change the story in order to please his audience.  His father had taught him to tell stories that way.  Orion could not understand why it was so difficult for him to express his passions despite his lifetime of storytelling from the age of five.
It was clear to me that he had forgotten how to tell stories because he was concentrating too much on winning and pleasing his father.  Of course with a father like Philoneous I could understand the pressure Orion was under.  The poor bard was torn between his passion and need to tell a real story, and the hope of pleasing his father with success.  Though Orion had his problems so too did I for my fraud had finally been discovered by those who ran the competition.  I was brought into the council and told that there were no records of my registration.  And then Philoneous appeared telling of how it was Orion who had told me of the competition.  He was threatened by my talent and did not want me to win over his son.  Of course for me winning was not the object.  For me it was the chance to tell my stories before my peers that drove me.  I was crushed of course for I was immediately kicked out of the competition and forbidden to compete for a chance at my education, but I could not argue.  The evidence of my fraud was stacked against me.  I was asked to leave and so I went back to my room in the servants quarters to pack and return to my friend.
News of my expulsion traveled quickly for my fellow bard friends came to my aid.  They were disappointed that I was leaving.  I tried to comfort them for it wasn’t like I didn’t have a place to go for Xena needed me.  But they would not accept my good-bye though I tried to comfort them with my story of Iolas.  It was amazing how often I seemed to say good-bye, but Trichinum and the others asked me to stay through the competition before my departure.  It felt good to have friends who cared and admired me.  So I decided to accept their invitation to stay.
The next day I entered into the hall where all were to perform.  The bard Guestacious was the guest of honor and a judge residing over the competition.  He looked mighty in his robes as he sat awaiting the young talent to perform.  The first to be called up was Twichanum.  As he approached all was silent and then he flatly refused to perform.  At first I was astonished for her was indeed a very talented bard, but then the plot was revealed.  When it was announced that his refusal to perform would warrant his disqualification the rest of the bards in the audience stood declaring their displeasure with my dismissal from the competition.  As the panel argued that I had entered into the competition illegally I tried to save my friends from making a mistake.  They were sacrificing their own dreams on my behalf and I could not allow them to do that.
But then the one who twisted his words so beautifully spoke with eloquence when he declared that no bard would perform against his belief in the freedom of art itself.  Guestacious decided that he would allow me to perform since all of the young talent had insisted upon it.  He wanted to see what all of my peers were sacrificing themselves for.  The head of the competition invited me to perform though he was disgusted that I was even being allowed to do so.  I was not prepared to perform, but it was in this situation that I told my best stories.  The story of baby Gabriel came to mind and of how Xena and I had found him a home and two wonderful parents.  When I finished Guestacious stood before the panel outraged that they were going to allow rules and regulations to take precedence over art itself.  He was displeased and so with that my dream was restored once again.
And so the other bards performed as well and all of them performed beautifully.  Even Orion had done better than he had on the day before.  He had taken some advice and decided to try telling his story the old way rather than the way his father had taught.  When he came down behind the curtain we all congratulated him with support and with love.  But his father was waiting displeased with Orion’s defiance of his wishes.  Philoneous declared that Orion’s performance had been terrible and demanded that he tell his story again.  As Orion began to try once again to please his father it was clear that he had been embarrassed.  His embarrassment made it difficult for him to tell the story and his father scolded him harshly for his mistakes.
It was terrible to watch Orion’s spirit suffer its persecution and the pressure became so great that his father drove Orion away.  I was angry at Philoneous for not seeing the truth of his son’s wonderful gift .  I felt responsible for Orion and so I stood up to his father and expressed my anger at accusing me to be the reason that Orion was failing.  I could not see failure, but I could see suffering.  And later that day as I sat with my peers awaiting Orion’s return the news was delivered.  Orion had finally reached his breaking point.  Philoneous’s words hit me like a slap across the face.  He blamed me for Orion’s decision to quit the competition.  Orion had left for home and given up his passion.  Again I felt responsible.  I could not allow such a talented bard walk away from his dream and so I left Athens to seek him before he made his mistake.
It wasn’t too far outside the city that I found Orion.  He was storming up the path angry at all that had transpired between he and his father.  When I called out to him he did not look back.  Finally I ran to catch up to him and explain why he had to continue on.  He told me that he had taken my advice already.  I had told Orion that if it wasn’t fun to tell the story then it should not be told at all.  Orion said that he no longer felt the joy of the bard and that was what had brought him to his decision to give it all up.  I knew deep down that Orion really did not want to give up his passion, but he was indeed frustrated.  My words of advice continued upon those already said.  I told him that despite his joy being lost it was up to the bard himself to recreate that joy once more.  He had the power to do it if only he could believe.  I told him that there are always challenges in life to be met.  Just as in story telling the challenge and the joy is in the journey of the story itself and not the destination.  Orion’s need to succeed and reach his destination of success was the root of his loss of joy in being the articulate bard.  As I put a comforting hand upon his shoulder his eyes gave a look of understanding and a smile spread across his face once again.  A new torch had been lit within his mind and I could see that he was indeed ready to return.
And so on the last day of the competition me and my fellow bard friends competed against one another.  Yet our competition was about our love for the journey of our stories and about sharing in them with one another.  I myself had come to seek out my own dreams in the beginning, but realized that within my journey to reach for my dream that it had been acceptance that I looked for.  At the academy I had been revered by my peers as a great story-teller.  Their acceptance had given me the courage to realize what wonderful experiences I already had with Xena.  It was my real life experiences and adventures with my best friend that truly inspired me.  In the end Orion, Euripides, and Trichinum had all succeeded in reaching their dreams.  They were three of the four elite selected to study at the academy.  Orion expressed is disappointment that I had not made it in with my peers, but it did not matter to me.  After being away from my best friend for so long I had found myself missing our great adventures together.  My dreams of being a traveling bard were not realized at the academy for it was not meant to be.
Despite my failure I realized that I hadn’t really failed at all for this had just been another great adventure.  I had helped a fellow bard realize his own dream, and helped him repair his relationship with his father.  As I prepared to travel on down the road to seek out Xena once again I asked Orion what his real name was.  He said that the academy had wanted to call him the blind bard because he told his stories with his eyes closed.  Yet his true name was Homer.  I told him that I would need to know it so that when he became well-known I could remember him and his work.  If I ever read his stories I could see him telling them even if he weren’t there in person.  With that I said good-bye yet again.  I left father and son together sharing in their joy and in their success together.
Everyday is a new adventure and a new challenge.  We must all look forward to the journey and pay less attention to the destination for it is within the journey that we learn.  In reaching the destination it only means that our lesson is over and it is time to move forward.  And so my journey with Xena shall continue on.  There are so many adventures to be shared and so many to be told.  My passion will truly be realized despite what the judges say.