The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #42: A Comedy of Eros

A Comedy of Eros

Scroll #42

By Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

April, 47 B.C.

I sing of the day when love ran deep and bliss was left unattended.  Love ran hard and rampant within everyone whom had crossed the path of bliss.  Even Xena the warrior princess and the battling bard of Potedia found themselves wrapped up within all of it.  Their adventure began with word of the warlord Draco in the valley.  He planned on kidknapping the last of the hestian virgins and to make a profit from their spoils.  As soon as Xena had heard of this she had decided that protecting the sacred rites of the last of the hestians was her personal responsibility.  Actually Xena was bored for there had been little good to be done in the world.  So this was a chance for the warrior princess to make another mark within her own legends.  The bard had known her friend to be unable to sit still within quiet peace for too long.

Now that the restless warrior princess was back in action she and Gabrielle found themselves attending a sacred hestian virgin ceremony.  The two warrior women stood watch over the young hestian virgins as the young women followed their priestess outside the temple and down the temple stairs.  Each of the women wore white flowing clothing and white veils which covered their faces.  They carried their white doves with them as the head priestess led a prayer to their virgin goddess.  Ceremonial bells rang as the young women released their white doves into the sky as a gesture and a promise to the goddess Hestia.  Their promise was to remain committed to Hestia for peace, and charity.  They promised that their minds and bodies would be free from impurity.  Gabrielle looked to Xena with a subtle opinion about this as the ceremony came to a close.  There had been no sign of Draco or his men yet.

Gabrielle watched the virgins head back into their temple quietly and then made her thoughts known to Xena.  She was amazed by the commitment of these young women to their goddess.  Yet Xena was unimpressed, but not about the virgins.  She was certain that Draco might show himself at the ceremony, but he had not.  Xena was speaking her warrior thoughts outloud to the bard explaining that she thought that Draco most likely would be scouting out the village first before bringing in his troops to take the virgins.  Xena was not amazed at all that Draco had not shown up for she commented that he was as smart as warlords come.  Gabrielle had not been thinking of the same thing that the warrior princess had been.  She interjected that her amazement was about the virgins and their commitment.  Xena’s mind was still focused on looking out for Draco despite having answered Gabrielle with a joke.  She added that the requirement beyond the commitment was something to be impressed by.  Xena was still scouring the village intently with her eyes as Gabrielle interjected into Xena’s thoughts more deeply explaining that being chased must be really difficult when the requirement was so difficult to keep.  Xena appeared slightly annoyed that the bard was even talking about chastity.  Her response to Gabrielle’s comment was to play it off explaining that she had been talking about having to listen to those annoying bells for a lifetime of commitment every morning.  Then Xena walked away.  Gabrielle was left to think of her own dirty mind for a moment realizing that she had been caught fantasizing.  The bard was not certain that Xena really knew what she had been thinking of or had been talking about so she just agreed about the bell comment and followed the warrior princess onto the main road through the village.

Gabrielle could not give up the thoughts trying to imagine and wrap her mind around the life of a hestian virgin.  She again tried to entice Xena into thinking about it explaining that it would be hard to give up the chance to fall in love again.  That was even more tragic than the passion that would obviously be missing in a virgin’s life.  Xena didn’t seem to care too much about that part of the commitment.  She was still looking for Draco or any sign of his men scouting the village.  Gabrielle pressed the warrior princess for more conversation despite the distraction of looking for Draco.  She explained that Xena could not give up on love despite the past and the many heartaches.  The warrior princess responded to the bard explaining that she had not given up on love.  It was obvious that love was the last thing on Xena’s mind.  Gabrielle was hoping to teach the warrior princess something about love on this day.  She continued by explaining that yes there were no guaruntees with love, but it was good that Xena had not yet given up on love for when love was right it could be the most potent force in the world.

Xena then responded to the bard attempting to snap Gabrielle out of her blissful love fest explaining that this was exactly the reason why they needed to stay focused on finding Draco and protecting the virgins.  The bard realized that Xena was in no mood for philosophical conversation.  She was totally focused on the mission.  Gabrielle realized that she had to change gears for Xena was in no mood.  Gabrielle began to talk about Draco something Xena appeared to be extremely interested in.  Her first question to Xena was why did he seemingly have the entire field to himself.  Gabrielle was certain that there should be a flock of warlords lining up for the chance to sell all of the hestian virgins for profit.  Every last one of them in the province were with in the village.  There were no others any place else.  Xena explained that only the most courageous  warlords would commit such a crime defiling the temple of a goddess.  She was certain that it would require even more courage for a warlord to go up against Draco himself.  Xena finished by stating that she could not think of any warlord by name crazy enough to defile the temple and go up against Draco.  If there were another warlord capable of this madness she would have remembered him by now.

Just then the answer to that question made his presence known.  He shouted out across the village market calling to Xena.  The voice was all too familiar.  It was annoying to hear its echo.  The ears could hear his bumbling approach from behind with the sounds of his breast plate clapping up against his cheap armor.  Xena realized in that moment that Joxer was truly crazy.  Only he would be stupid enough to show up in a duel against Draco.  Joxer was delighted to find Xena and Gabrielle there.  He explained that as soon as he had heard the rumor about Draco he was certain that he would find Xena there.  For several seasons Xena and Gabrielle had been able to avoid the presence of the bumbling idiot, but now that they had returned from their long journeys at sea in far away places it seemed that they could not avoid Joxer the Mighty.  Xena was clearly annoyed and irritated as Gabrielle muttered under her breath that the mission couldn’t be more difficult without his presence.  This only added to the difficulty.  Everyone would have to watch out for Joxer for he would be certain to find his own doom quickly.

As Xena and Gabrielle quietly continued on walking through the village Joxer wanted to be filled in on Xena’s plan for he had heard Draco was a tough guy.  There was a quick response, but it was not from Xena.  It was Draco himself.  He responded to Joxer affirming the rumors.  Suddenly the three companions turned around to see Draco riding into the village with three of his scouts.  Xena’s sword was instantly drawn to face the enemy.  Joxer had drawn his bulky dull blade, but did not know how to hold it properly.  Gabrielle just put her staff down relaxing herself as Xena approached Draco calmly.  The bard could see that Xena did not feel threatened for she was holding her sword by the side.  Usually the warrior princess would be in a ready for battle stance.  This time was unusual and different.  Xena greeted Draco casually, but with bravado.  Gabrielle sensed that Xena was trying to project a certain image to him.  Draco dismounted his horse calmly and approached Xena with respect and the same bravado.  He spoke her name attempting to read the warrior princess’s intensions.  Joxer had lowered his sword by now as if trying to understand what was going on.  There was a long pause between Xena and Draco.  Uncertainty cut through the air for no one could determine if there would be a move toward sudden battle.

Draco attempted to ease the tension reminding Xena that it had been a while since their last meeting.  Xena spoke nothing.  She walked casually toward Draco and then agreed that with him that it indeed had been a long time.  It had been too long for her as she went in for the passionate kiss.  Both Gabrielle and Joxer found themselves stunned for neither of them had expected that move from Xena.  The passionate kiss lasted several moments until Draco ripped himself away from the warrior princess in shock yet complete satisfaction.  It took him a few moments to regain his composure, but then he commented on the positive welcome and asked the warrior princess what he had done to deserve her passions.  Xena then responded as she walked around him with her back to his men.  She explained that it was what he would not do that earned her affections.  It appeared to be another warrior princess clever ploy, but Gabrielle thought that maybe that kiss was a bit over the top.   Xena continued that a lot more was to come for him.  She was smiling as if she were tickled inside by his presence.  Draco appeared irritated by this request and firmly stated that he would not allow Xena to foul up the largest score of his life no matter what she had to offer him.  Her passions were not enough.

Draco had put his hand upon his sword ready to make a move for he became instantly untrusting of the warrior princess despite the passion.  He turned to face Xena firmly standing his ground.  Xena appeared to feel little threat from him as she reached up to his face and began stroking it.  Her eyes were fixated into his as if she were entranced by the dark warlord.  She smiled gently reminding Draco that he had forced a love affair between them in the past.  It was as if she were hoping that he would still have feeling for her.  As Gabrielle watched the scene unfolding before her she struggled to figure out what was actually going on.  It appeared that Xena was in love with Draco.  Her performance was too genuine to be an act.  If it were the bard thought that it was the best performance she had ever seen from the warrior princess.  Joxer interrupted the moment of thought demanding to know what it was that Xena was actually doing.  He was on the same thought as Gabrielle just one verbal moment ahead.  Gabrielle was concentrating on her own observations.  Then she noticed Draco’s soft emotional response to Xena.  He had indeed remembered the past that Xena reminded him of.  For the moment Gabrielle was relieved voicing out to Joxer with reluctant confidence that this was all part of Xena’s plan.

In the next moment Draco took Xena’s hand and kissed it pausing for a long passionate exchange of emotion.  It was sexual tension screaming out to everyone who was witnessing the event.  It appeared that even Xena was no longer in control of herself.  Gabrielle was sure that something had gone terribly wrong.  She was just not certain what it was.  Then she responded to Joxer expressing her hopeful concern to him.  It appeared that Xena was lost as to where she had been taking things.  The warrior princess suddenly backed off from Draco’s recipricating passions and pushed herself away from him.  This prompted Draco’s men to dismount their horses preparing to do battle.  Draco stopped them shouting out that Xena was his alone.  Xena created more distance between herself and Draco.  Gabrielle realized that all of the sexual tensions and passions were about to explode into a full battle.  The bard began to create some distance between herself and Draco as Joxer followed her movement.

Xena then smirked at Draco and enticed him into battle.  Draco appeared to be angry with his male ego bruised deeply.  He ripped his sword into battle swinging wildly for Xena cutting through the air above and below as the warrior princess ducked and jumped to miss his throws.  Draco screamed out his powerful battle cry in frustration.  It was as if he were experiencing a bit of hurt inside.  He charged forward in for the kill as Xena flipped across his move toward her and landed behind him with a battle cry.  Draco countered her flip to recovered running up the body of his scout flipping backward turning to face Xena again.  His sword was already in motion before he had completely faced the warrior princess who was more than ready for his move.  She met his sword at her face with his defensive yet smooth.  There was power within her grip as she held steady against his brawn.

Xena interjected with excitement that he had picked up some new moves since they had last met.  Draco responded that he had been practicing well.  With that he spun around in the opposite direction and cut his sword from low to high, but Xena countered that move as well defensively down steadily.  She retorted that practice sounded exhausting.  Draco tried to grab the advantage of Xena’s seemingly out of control passions.  He stated that instead it was refreshing.  Draco powerfully threw Xena’s block down and tried to back hand his sword across her head, but she ducked the move and then blocked his reverse move edge to edge.  Xena responded by stating that she could think of other ways to get refreshed.  She was inviting him to her bedroll openly.

Draco quickly disarmed her, but did not raise his sword for the kill.  Instead he responded that he could not deny his passions for her, but if she stood in his way he would kill her despite the irresistable passion.  He was uncertain if the warrior princess understood him.  She responded that she indeed knew him better than he thought.  With that she kicked him across the face.  His ego had been greatly worn down, but Draco did not cave in.  Instead he ordered his men back to camp and shealthed his sword.  He stumbled away extremely hot and bothered as he mounted his horse and gave Xena another warning to stay out of his business.  Then he rode off.  Gabrielle suddenly approached Xena very disapproving of this methodical plan of passion.  It was more than anyone watching could handle without getting extremely excited.  Gabrielle demanded that Xena talk about this issue and get it worked out.  It appeared that Xena herself was unaware of her sexual energy and drive for Draco of all people.  When Gabrielle suggested to Xena that it was time for a deep conversation Xena was still distracted as if she were within her own erotic fantasy.  The warrior princess was caressing her breast plate.  Gabrielle could not believe that there could be a fate worse than madness until now.

Upon returning the camp just outside the village the warrior princess had decided that all she really needed was to work out her intense sexual desires.  She crafted a pig’s bladder into a punching bag and hung it from a tree.  For over and hour Gabrielle and Joxer watched Xena pummel the pig’s bladder hoping that Xena could enlighten them on her condition and poor choice of planning.  The warrior princess refused to admit that her sex drive for Draco had defeated her in some way.  Gabrielle found herself nearly disgusted with the idea that Xena was hot for Draco.  The bard stood watching with her staff trying to piece together what had gone wrong.  This was unlike the warrior princess, but it was definitely not madness this time.  Maybe Xena was enchanted by Aphrodite’s power.  Ares could have arranged for it as a way to get back at the warrior princess for outwitting him against the furies.  Then again he might find himself jealous of Xena’s lust for another mortal.  Gabrielle was at a loss for answers.  She continued to watch Xena pound the bladder and she began to count the number of punches.  Gabrielle was fascinated by Xena’s intense concentration despite the fact that it seemed to do no good.

Finally Gabrielle broke the long intense silence asking the warrior princess what was wrong with her.  Xena just continued punching the bladder responding that her workout would solve the problem.  Gabrielle was certain that if the workout had been the solution it would have been over by this point.  Then Joxer interjected as if amused at this new side of the warrior princess suggesting that she try a cold swim.  He expressed that it always seemed to work for him and then he laughed.  Gabrielle shot Joxer a disgusted glance irritated that he was even encouraging the warrior princess to take her desire seriously.  The bard was still very much in disbelief of the idea of Xena being in lust with Draco.  She did not like that Joxer was no solidifying it.  Joxer received the hint clearly explaining that he had only heard that cold swims cured desire.  He tried to regain serious thoughts, but appeared to be just as lustful about someone.  Who knew what could turn on the idiot.  Yet this was not Gabrielle’s immediate concern.  The thought passed quickly as Gabrielle questioned Xena about being hot for Draco.  If the idea was going to be real Gabrielle had to hear Xena speak it.  Xena replied that it was a ridiculous idea and brushed off Joxer’s personal discovery.  Gabrielle was seemingly more relieved that Joxer could be wrong about his observations of the warrior princess although it certainly did not appear that Xena was telling the truth about her feelings for Draco.  Gabrielle’s open relief was crushed when Xena explained that she was responding to the dark part of herself that had a weakness for bad boys.  There was no comfort in this thought for the bard.  It was just like dealing with the furies all over again.

Gabrielle continued to watch the warrior princess who had stopped punching the bladder.  She was now punching thin air as if she were a captive of her own desires.  Joxer quietly acknowledged that he was correct about Xena.  He was extremely amused by it.  Unfortunately this meant that Gabrielle would have to rely on him since it was obvious she would not be able to rely on the warrior princess in stopping Draco.  Gabrielle was irritated and frustrated that she had to deal with this.  She expressed this openly to Xena stating her thoughts outloud.  Xena was too worked up over the bad boy warlord to be useful to anyone involved.  There was not a chance of her coming out of this mission alive if all she really wanted to do was bang the warlord.  Xena’s response to this was that it would not be a problem for he had attempted to change himself for the better in the past.  Xena was seemingly fixated on this idea as Gabrielle found herself unable to believe that the warlord who had almost succeeded in selling her entire village to slave traders could be changed for the better.  There was not faith in Gabrielle’s heart for Draco.  Xena rebutted the argument reminding the bard that she herself had been able to change for the better after all that she had committed in the past.  She was certain that Draco was no different.  Gabrielle found herself wishing that the furies were still within Xena’s mind.  At least that would explain her irrational thought process and behavior.  The bard could have accepted that.  Xena ended the futile conversation with a powerful spinning kick knocking the bladder from the tree bouncing right off of Joxer’s forehead.  Then she proclaimed that she would be the one to save Draco and dashed off toward Draco’s camp more excited than ever.

Gabrielle decided that the best thing to do was to take Joxer and go back to the village to keep an eye on the hestian virgins.  Eventually either Xena, Draco, or both of them would return there to duel over their fates.  The bard found herself openly confiding in Joxer on the journey back to the village.  She obviously did not realize that he could at least read the warrior princess somewhat for it was Joxer whom had brought the issue of Xena’s sexual desires into the open.  Joxer could even sense Gabrielle’s uneasiness within their situation.  He confidently asked Gabrielle what there was to be worried about.  Xena’s plan was a good one.  Gabrielle explained that it was not Xena’s plan that worried her.  It was the fact that it now included saving Draco from his bad boy self.  This was unlike the warrior princess even in madness.  Joxer brushed off the bard’s concern reminding her that it was bad boy types like himself that got the warrior princess all hot and bothered.  Gabrielle could not classify Joxer as a bad boy, but that was not the point.  If Xena being attracted to bad boys was all it was then why would Xena want to put in the effort to change the bad boy.  Joxer paused in his step for a moment and realized that Gabrielle was right.  That course of action was abnormal for the warrior princess.  Gabrielle continued asking why the warrior princess could not just get a grip over her lustful desires, save the virgins, and move onto the next thing.  Joxer agreed without question to this theory brought forth by Gabrielle.

Gabrielle was running every moment through her mind in analytical detail.  She asked Joxer if he had been watching the way that Xena had fought Draco.  Normally Xena would have pressed her advantages, but she had not pressed any of them.  There were many moments within the battle against Draco in which Xena could have just taken control and the virgins would have been saved already.  Joxer appeared to miss Gabrielle’s point.  He didn’t appear concerned about that.  Gabrielle could only think of the trouble that they were now deeply buried in.  Not only that, but Xena was no where to be found in the village which meant that she was probably with Draco doing who knew what.  For several hours Gabrielle and Joxer stood in front of the temple of Hestia guarding the virgins inside.  Not a thing happened.  All was quiet, but there was still no sign of Xena or Draco.  Joxer voiced this same thought outloud thinking that it was possible that Xena had succeeded in changing Draco for the better.  Gabrielle was not so convinced of this idea for this was Draco the flesh peddling warlord who would sooner kill people than have mercy upon them.  She made her thought known openly as she paced over the steps and twirled her staff out of boredom.  Then she asked herself out loud as if she were alone now hoping for an affirmation of her own thoughts.

Suddenly there was a response from a familiar male voice.  It wasn’t Joxer, but Draco who had now arrived affirming Gabrielle’s certain thoughts.  Gabrielle was ripped into clarity for Draco had brought a few of his scouts along to defile the temple of Hestia.  Joxer was now held by the scouts upon their horses.  They had a large rope constricting his neck as if they were preparing to hang him.  Gabrielle’s staff was instantly raised ready to defend as if it had somehow become instinct.  Her muscles were tensed ready for battle.  She suddenly realized she was alone going up against Draco.  Draco responded to Gabrielle’s physical readiness explaining bluntly that if she resisted him that Joxer would most certainly be killed.  Now Gabrielle had to make a choice.  It was either Joxer’s life or the virgins as she whispered Joxer’s name regretfully across her lips.  As she accessed the situation with her eyes she realized there were at least four warriors against herself.  If Xena were there it would be a no brainer.  The risk would be worth it for Xena could most certainly press the advantages, but Gabrielle was certain that she herself could not handle a battle with odds of four to one.  As Gabrielle was accessing things Draco grew impatient and shouted out the command to hang Joxer to his men.

Gabrielle watched Draco’s men tighten the noose upon Joxer’s neck as the helpless inexperienced warrior struggled for a breath.  The bard responded verbally pushing Draco to raise his hand against the command.  He waited with confidence for Gabrielle’s final response.  The bard lowered her staff sideways and then slowly dropped it to the ground surrendering to Draco.  She was certain that Draco would most likely kill her next, but to save Joxer she would sacrifice herself and the virgins.  Draco gleefully commanded his men to round up the virgins which surprised Gabrielle for a moment.  She expected to die, but instead Draco’s men rushed into the temple and grabbed her taking her captive along with Joxer.  Quickly he commanded his men to tie up the captives and leave them at the center of the village.  Bound and gagged with Joxer was not a pleasant experience.  Gabrielle was angry that she had even been forced to make the choice to save Joxer or the virgins.  He was such an idiot.  If he had only been watching for Draco instead of talking about the warlord the two of them might have had a fighting chance to stop him.  Two against four would have been much better odds despite the fact that Joxer was one of the two.  There was little time to debate this being bound and gagged to a post in the middle of the village.  Gabrielle decided that while Draco and his buddies were occupied insidet he temple that it was a great chance to escape.  She tried to communicate this to Joxer who seemed to miss every command.  In fact it seemed as if he were trying to get physically closer to the bard.  She thought that he was trying to deny touching her, but she wasn’t certain that was what he had said.

Just then the temple doors swung open.  Both Xena and Draco had emerged calmly together.  It appeared that there was no tension between them of any kind.  They were relaxed and seemingly having a good time together.  Gabrielle called out to Xena through her binds relieved that she might be freed from being tied down to Joxer.  Xena exchanged a few words of banter with the warlord as they approached.  She was confident that Draco would not kill her friends for they would make good bargaining chips.  Draco just laughed for he was forever impressed with the warrior princess’s mind.  She was a master of war and could be a great teacher even for the bad boys who followed her career.  Xena approached Gabrielle taking down her gag.  Gabrielle thanked the warrior princess for being relieved of this torture in being with Joxer.  Just as Xena was loosening the ropes from their wrists Gabrielle suddenly felt a strange sensation within her left shoulder.  It felt almost like she had been pierced by a sharp object like an arrow or a poison dart.  When Gabrielle looked down to see what it was her mind suddenly went numb.  She felt a strange emotional response coming on.  It was almost as if her mind were lighter than it had been while under the influence of henbane.  Gabrielle called to Xena and looked behind for her friend, but Xena was not there.  When the bard turned to look the other way she saw something so serene and handsome.  The charm was unmistakeable.  He was so cute the way he wiped the sweat off of his tongue onto his finger, and that sour face was enticing and loveable.

Gabrielle could not resist the urge to reach out and touch his clothing.  As she stroked his chest gently and gazed into his manly eyes Xena said something about going off to play with Draco.  The warrior princess left leaping and bounding, but that seemingly did not matter any more for there before the bard of Potedia stood Joxer the Mighty warrior.  Joxer looked to Gabrielle expressing that things were strange.  For a slight moment there was focas within Gabrielle’s mind as she agreed with Joxer, but it passed quickly into complete and utter bliss.  All was crazy with in the world, but no one cared because everyone was surrounded with eternal bliss.  The bard had forgotten the problem of Xena being in love with Draco.  In all fairness Xena deserved a little rest and relaxation even if it was with Draco.  Gabrielle spent the afternoon with Joxer the Mighty singing his famous song.  She wanted to make sure that she had it recorded perfectly within her scrolls because Joxer deserved nothing less than perfection.  The first rule within the bard’s scrolls is write what you know.  Gabrielle had not had the true blissful experience when writing “For Him The Bell Tolls” because she had not experienced his bliss for princess Illiandra until now.

Joxer again blew his brilliantly constructed whistling instrument and began the tune.  His voice was soothing and sexy as Gabrielle tuned her own voice to his.  Yet he was much more lovely with his enticing smile as he belted out his famous tune.  The bard could not resist touching his arm and stroking it gently as she focased in on his manly bodice.  She was moving in closer as the song finished and Joxer’s smile glowed delightfully.  The bard used the opportunity to move into her love focasing on his lucious ear as she blew into it to entice his love for her.   Joxer missed this moment of passion eminating from the bard’s lust for him.  She decided that she needed to set the mood to losen his nerves as she rose from the bedroll they shared together and reached for her scroll bag.  There she would most certainly be able to recapture the essence of Aphrodite’s bell which tolled for Illandra and brought love’s passionate power out of the super sexy warrior.  Gabrielle longed to feel what princess Illiandra had felt and so she proceeded to remind Joxer and to read from the scroll.  When Gabrielle asked Joxer if he remembered the beautiful love story he agreed with her that indeed that story had been beautiful.

Joxer was seemingly unaware of Gabrielle’s growing passions for him as he sipped his water from his wooden mug.  Joxer the Mighty was seemingly unaffected by the reminder of his love for Illiandra so Gabrielle decided to move in close to him and to caress his chest as she pulled playfully with his clothing.  He was so cute when he was nervous as Gabrielle bit one of the loose strings of his shirt hoping to recapture the overwhelming lust that he had felt for Illiandra. Gabrielle asserted herself and her thoughts outloud explaining the rules of her scrolls to Joxer moving in even closer to him.  She could feel his pulse rising as was her own as she began to kiss his neck and shoulders while he continued to talk.  There would be time to talk later as Gabrielle pursued her love and began to kiss his face and then nimble upon his ear.  Joxer said something about keeping an eye out for Xena, but the bard did not have her eyes upon the warrior princess.  Her eyes were now only for Joxer.  No one else could quench her lust and her feelings of passionate love.  The moment of passion had come as Gabrielle thrust forward onto Joxer delivering furiously passionate kisses upon his sweet tasty lips.  She could still feel his nervousness.  As he grasped her shoulders to take hold of the passionate fire buring within his manly strength.

Just as the exstacy of passion was rapidly rising within their bodies Joxer was overpowered into a choking fit.  He pushed away from the bard trying to recover.  Gabrielle was delighted that he felt so passionate about her.  This was more than should could have ever dreamed or wished for.  Yet her delight turned to concern when Joxer could not stop choking and coughing.  She began to pound upon his back hoping to help him regain his breath once more.  The bard asked if he was okay as he responded through the coughing with an affirmation.  Then he whispered as if his mouth and throat were suffering from extreme dryness as he asked for some water.  He repeated the request a few times before Gabrielle could understand.  She was quick to respond as soon as she knew how she could rescue Joxer from his suffering.  Gabrielle dashed for the water bottle grabbing her staff along the way.  Then she rushed down toward the lake.  The bard’s feet could seemingly not carry her fast enough to get to there.

When Gabrielle finally reached the lake she saw Xena in the middle of it just sitting there submerged within the cold water.  Only the head and shoulders of the warrior princess were visible.  Gabrielle’s passions began to fade slightly as her curiosity of the warrior princess rose within.  As Gabrielle knelt down to retrieve water for Joxer the Mighty she inquired of Xena’s seemingly strange actions.  There was a hint of a reminder of slight jealousy creeping within the hazy passions for Joxer.  Xena soon reminded Gabrielle of her uncontrollable lust when she stated that she was taking Joxer’s advice and taking a cold swim.  Although the warrior princess stated that it was hard to believe that she was even taking Joxer’s advice Gabrielle didn’t find it implausible that Joxer the Mighty would be full of graet advice and ideas.  The bard then thought of his song again as Xena responded as if disgusted that Joxer even had a brain at all.  Gabrielle shrugged off the negetive attitude toward her love coming from Xena as she defended him explaining how wonderful his song was and how he had been teaching it to her all afternoon.

The bard began to embody herself with the passions as she imagined that she was pricness Illiandra and he was singing his beautiful song to her.  Somehow the song embodied him and his essence which allowed Gabrielle to carry it with her everywhere she went as long as she could just sing it.  The bard was enthralled as she sang and caressed her water bottle for she could not wait to get back to him with his request and to save him from dehydration.  Xena rose from the lake disgusted again stating that there was something off balance about Gabrielle suddenly complementing Joxer for in the past she had always detested him.  The bard did admit that there had been a time that she had felt that way about her love, but now it was all so very clear to her for the first time.  Gabrielle proudly declared to the world and to the warrior princess that she loved Joxer the Mighty.  Xena stood up from her seated place upon the log by the lake and she responded in disbelief as if she had not heard Gabrielle’s declaration.  The bard admitted that indeed these feelings and actions coming from her were a shock, but all Gabrielle could think about was the moment in which she had suddenly fallen from him back at the village after being untied.  It was a bliss like no other.  Even Perdicas had not evoked such deep feelings from her heart, her mind, and especially her body.  The bard declared herself to have been blind of her own feelings which led her to preach her philosophical thoughts outloud with conviction.  For maybe love truly was nothing more than blindness.  For a moment the bard’s thoughts turned to the idea that maybe she was ranting, but instead she decided that the idea sounded romantic and that it needed to be recorded upon her parchment when she returned to Joxer.

Xena was arguing the bard’s point reminding her that Joxer was nothing more and only Joxer.  Gabrielle witnessed the disgust eminating from Xena’s face.  The face that the warrior princess made when talking about Joxer was insulting and unattractive.  This only angered the bard for it demonstrated Xena’s lack of respect for the Mighty and sexy warrior.  She decided that there was only one course of action.  Gabrielle would entice Xena into a duel to fight for Joxer’s honor.  It would most certainly prove her love and commitment to him.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that Draco was not the prize that she made him to be on this day.  Then she drove her passion home by comparing Joxer to the bloodthirsty and unattractive warlord Draco.  Gabrielle declared that being in love with Joxer was most certainly more noble and worthy.  Xena was quick to defend her ugly lover trying to argue that he had seen the error of his warlord ways and that he was no longer the way that Gabrielle had described him to be.  She stumbled to defend him and Gabrielle could see that even Xena was not so certain of Draco’s truest intensions, but it did not matter.  Gabrielle knew exactly what Joxer’s intensions were.  They were of pure love and lust.  As the argument of lover’s escalated it was soon interrupted by the sounds of screaming virgins from the village in the distance.

Both Xena and Gabrielle sanpped into action as they dashed toward the village continuing their battle of verbal wits.  As they entered the village Gabrielle shouted out to Xena reminding her that he had not changed.   His present actions only proved it as he could be seen ringing the bell in the center of the village while his men were snatching up virgins all around them left and right.  Xena had been defeated in proving that her lover was the better prize.  She approached Draco with disappointment reminding him that she had thought that they had agreed that he would not steel the virgins.  He laughed defiant of the warrior princess and stated that she had thought wrong.  It was obvious to the bard that Xena was in love with a man that could never have respect for her.  Draco pushed the warrior princess away and onto the ground as he drew his weapon and prepared to rid himself of her.  Gabrielle knelt down to help Xena and then noticed Draco’s threatening presence behind her.  She turned to face him and defend the warrior princess with her staff as she pressed him back and away from Xena.  Despite Gabrielle’s anger for Xena’s disrespect of Joxer she would not allow Draco to treat Xena with the same disrespect.  The bard demanded that Draco leave her friend alone.  It wasn’t enough for him to batter Xena’s emotions.  The drove the bard mad with anger.  Gabrielle declared Xena’s love for him openly for all in the village square to hear.  There was silence for several moments as Gabrielle sensed a strange presence about the village.  Lust was growing stronger as Draco’s fiery bloodthirsty eyes transformed into tenderness as he looked to Gabrielle.  Maybe she had been able to get through to him.  Xena had risen from the ground and affirmed that Gabrielle’s declaration of Xena’s love for Draco was indeed true.

Draco refused Xena’s love immediately explaining that the warrior princess was too late.  Just when it appeared that Draco was about to go back into battle mode he declared that Xena could not keep him from what he truly wanted which was Gabrielle.  The bard’s mind could only process that the moment was one of complete insanity.  Draco the warlord who almost destroyed her home village on their first meeting was declaring his love for Gabrielle.  It was unbelievable.  Something was definitely in the air, but the mystery ran deeper now that Draco was suddenly infatuated with Gabrielle.  His stare into her eyes was eerie and powerful.  Xena expressed outloud what the bard was only thinking.  Something strange was going on.  Then Xena continued explaining that Draco could not possibly want Gabrielle’s affections.  Even if it was an insult to the bard Gabrielle agreed that she did not want Draco’s passions for herself.  Her heart began to pound with fear and uncertainty as love’s bliss was raging out of the realm of reality and control.  Draco ignored Xena’s attempt to degrade her friend’s value as he stated that he knew exactly what he wanted now.  Draco then barked out a command to his first in command Kragen and told him to round up the virgins for the warlord Penellous would be arriving soon to collect them in exchange for payment to Draco.

Then he smiled and reached out grabbing Gabrielle’s arm demanding that she go with him.  Gabrielle knew for a certainty that she could never love and spend her life with a warlord like Draco.  She smacked him away violently with her staff declaring that she would never go with him.  Xena took the advantage that Gabrielle’s rejection of Draco had created to make a mad dash for the virgins on the loose.  She attacked Draco’s army as Gabrielle struggled to get away from the creepy warlord who would not leave her alone.  Each time he would get close enough Gabrielle would strike him with her staff.  She warned him not to touch her as she battled him defending.  Gabrielle was prepared to do whatever it took to keep herself away from him even if she had to feed him to the gorgon monsters herself.  He was only enticed more by these threats as he referred to her as a sptifire.  Gabrielle responded by smacking Draco across his face and nose determined to tear him apart to save herself from the unquenchable lust.  He rose from defeat yet again to reaffirm Gabrielle’s passionate vengence against his lust for her.

Then Gabrielle saw her love.  Joxer the Mighty appraoched Draco from behind tapping him on the shoulder into distraction.  Joxer the Mighty then delivered a thunderous punch straight into Draco’s nose.  The sound echoed through the village like thunder.  Gabrielle cheered for him with delight for he had saved her from Draco’s advances.  Just then Draco drew out a knife and as he prepared to stab Joxer the Mighty one of Draco’s men flew across the village knocking Draco into the ground.  Gabrielle suddenly noticed that her love was hurt.  She quickly came to his aid as he expressed his pain stating with the cutest little whimper that the big bad warlord had injured him.  Suddenly the warrior princess barked out a command to all to head for the temple.  Gabrielle shouted out to all that they must be swift and hurry inside.  The bard led the way opening the doors of the temple alongside Joxer the Mighty as everyone filed into the temple.  The virgins were panicked with excitement and the thrill of being in fear of lust.  Gabrielle then instructed them all to hide in the back of the temple.  She looked outside the temple to see if Xena was close.  The warrior princess was rounding up the last of the virgins.  One of them cried out that she had dropped her prayer scroll.  The warrior princess assured her that they would retrieve it after the danger had passed.  As the battling bard watched the last of the virgins enter the temple with Xena she ran over to shut the door and secure it for their defense.

Just when it seemed that things were calm and safe again Xena asked Gabrielle where Joxer was.  Gabrielle could not believe that she had lost track of him.  His voice could be heard crying outside the safety of the temple doors.  He could be heard begged Draco to let him go and to put him down.  Both Xena and Gabrielle ran to the temple windows to catch a glimpse of Joxer’s fate.  He was tied to the back of Kragen’s horse as he begged and pleaded for Xena’s help.  The battling bard wasted no time in acting.  She was out the temple doors instantly to rescue her pookie.  Draco then declared that if she wanted to see her friend that she knew where he could be found.  It was an invitation to his camp.  He had the advantage and snatched up Gabrielle alongside him as he rode out of the village back to camp.  Gabrielle called out to Xena.  Being the lust of Draco’s life was more dangerous that even Callisto.

Upon returning to Draco’s camp he held Gabrielle hostage in his tent and promised her that his physical jewels would not disappoint.  Gabrielle warned him about touching her again as she rammed her head into his abdomen only to be nearly knocked unconscious.  He laughed gleefully and reminded her that he was indeed solid as rock.  Gabrielle spoke of his stubborn head comparing it to his painfully rock solid abs as she rubbed her own throbbing head.  He asked her what she had mumbled.  She was afraid that offending him would only empower him more.  She tried to twist the words explaining that she had said that she had agreed with him and what he had said.  Although it seemed that she had slipped one past him his reaction suggested otherwise.  He only responded by saying that if she kept agreeing with him then their relationship would be fine.  Draco was uncomfortably close now as he reached out and grabbed the bard’s chip.  She sensed a bit of physically forceful threat within Draco’s body language.  Then she sensed his lust building.  It was the same feeling she had felt eminating from within herself when she was with Joxer earlier.  As he moved into the bard to quench his lustful thirst she quickly pushed him away noticing a bowl of cherries sitting upon the bedtable.  Gabrielle moved in for the cherries and began eating them attempting to avert Draco’s intense lust for her.  The bard declared her love for cherries as she continued to stuff them into her mouth so that he could not kiss her.  He only knelt down to her eye level and agreed that cherries were something that they could love together.  The waves of lust were hitting her violently through Draco’s eyes.  Gabrielle was extremely unsettled now as Draco reached for her shoulder and began to caress it gently with his hand.

She hoped that mentioning that she was not a virgin for she was now a widow would discourage his intensity for her, but he only appeared to be slightly interested in this fact.  Instead Draco just laughed as he jumped upon the bed next to Gabrielle and stated that it was lucky for he would not have to kill the bard’s husband since he was already dead.  The bard’s heart jumped from within her chest as if it had been slightly cut out with a sharp daggar.  She had been disgusted before with Draco, but now he was infinately unattractive to her.  As he laughed with an idiotic evil laughter Gabrielle took rage upon him knocking him back with her elbow in the face.  Then she jumped up to face him preparing her next angry statement.  She decided that the best way to fight disrespect was not with more of it, but with compassion despite it being for a warlord.  She opened by stating that she had not wanted to hurt Draco’s feelings, but the reason she could not love him was because she was in love with someone else.  The bard hoped that this knowledge would deter his lust and he would get the point.  Being in love with someone who doesn’t love you is only setting oneself up for inevitable disappointment.

This statement most certainly retrieved Draco’s serious attention as he inquired the bard of her love.  For the first time Draco appeared to be softly concerned for Gabrielle’s feelings, but as he approached she sensed his evil intensions.  She knew that if she told him that she was in love with Joxer the Mighty that Draco would instantly go after Joxer and kill him.  Unfortunately Gabrielle’s nerves were running so high that she expressed her thought outloud before Draco unwillingly.  Draco’s argument that he would not hurt Joxer had somehow tricked Gabrielle into thinking outloud.  He had defeated her with the battle of wits.  The warlord was indeed a sharp minded man, but not at all someone to be falling head over heels for like Xena had done.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll # 41: For Him The Bell Tolls

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#41:  For Him the Bell Tolls

April, 47 B.C.

As my nightmares cease to end Xena has left me yet again.  She has gone off on a mission to see our friend King Lius without me.  When Xena left me behind she had said that it was only a ceremony, but that it was important that she attend.  At the time I didn’t really see the point of leaving me behind unless there was some sort of danger affoot.  Xena always leaves me behind when there is danger to be reckoned with.  Her excuse to me was that it would take too long to get to Liberia if Argo had to ride hard with both of us.  She said that it would take her at least three days to ride with Argo alone.  All I can think is that maybe she is still angry at me for selling her whip to Minya.  Or maybe it was when I hit her in the face with my staff that has led her to leave me on my own.  She left without me earlier this morning.  I thought that maybe I could at least be of some help if there was some danger.  I even suggested to the warrior princess that I would just follow behind and meet up with her when I got there alone.  My suspsicion is that King Lius has called upon Xena for security of some sort.  Although I pleaded with Xena to ask for my help in this matter she declined.  She was even a bit patronizing about it.  She told me to relax and take a few days to rest.  I can’t think of any reason why I would need to rest.  I’m perfectly fine.  So that brings me to my next challenge.  I have to prove to Xena that I’m worthy.  I have to prove to her that I can take care of missions without her help.  She doesn’t think that I’m capable of independence.  Xena can not fathom the idea that I could be self reliant.

Unfortunately for me not long after Xena had left I walked up the path to hear the sounds of a battle.  Yet it wasn’t the typical battle.  I decided to step off of the path and to scout from the brush to see who it was that was battling up the path.  As the sounds came closer it seemed as if it were really only one man swinging his sword wildly.  Maybe it was a warlord gone insane.  I wasn’t really certain until I heard his familiar voice.  Danger was not affoot.  Instead it was entertaining to watch a wanna bee warrior defeat his non-existant enemies.  He sheathed his sword once again as he came closer down the path.  Then he paused and started his drama from the begining.  Unsheathing his sword now he poised himself for attack.  He shouted to his enemy Megalopolis that he would be the next victim on his list of defeated.  In fact, he even went as far as to threaten to feed his victim to the fish.  It was almost more than I could bare to keep quiet.  My stomach was bursting with laughter ready to come apart at the seams.  Yet I stayed calm and poised in my place in the brush beyond.  My unsuspecting victim would most certainly defeat himself momentarily with idoicy.

His next moves were wild and uncontrolled as he perried with his phantom enemy and then suddenly went into the most horrid interpretation of Xena’s signature battle cry that I could have imagined.  I knew that I wasn’t so great at it, but as Joxer flew through the air attempting to emulate Xena’s famous flip he fell flat on his face as I sprang up from the brush to attack.  Yet I never had my chance to take him down unexpectedly for he had done that on his own.  He landed face first right next to my boots.  That was when I rested my staff gently on the ground beside his head and greeted him with a sarcastic glow.  If Xena thought that I was shameful to hang around with she would never believe it if I told her what I had just witnessed with Joxer the Magnificient or whatever he called himself these days.  He really wasn’t all that magnificient or mighty.

Naturally he was surprised to see me.  So surprised and even embarressed that he tried to play off his blunderous mistake.  He moved his ear to the ground as if listening for something.  As I watched his warrior skill he assured me that he was listening to make sure that he had not been followed by giants.  What he didn’t realize was that we were no where near where the giants lived.  Then he fumbled nervously to rise to his feet trying desparately to appear confident and in control.  He obviously wasn’t.  He then assured me as he shealthed his wide blade that no giants had followed.  All was safe and calm in the land of Joxer.  What a relief it was to know that I had run into the dumbest warrior that had ever lived.  He was hopeless.

His next move appeared confused as he looked about.  Then he asked me the one question I dreaded most.  He wanted to know where Xena was.  Unfortuneatly I had to admit that she didn’t need her sidekick.  She was perfectly capable of being a hero without me.  Within that moment Joxer’s face lit up like lightening.  It was as if he was having the revelation of his life.  He then spoke his thoughts outloud gleefully reminding me that I was a sidekick without a hero, but continued onto remind me of how he was dellusional in thinking that he was a hero who needed a sidekick.  Of course I could take no more of his insanity.  I challenged him asking him what he was a hero of.  He seemed irritated that I would even question his prowess.  Joxer insisted that he was a well-known hero and even went as far as to call himself Joxer the Mighty.  That was what I had thought he would do, but I wasn’t expecting what came next.  It was a dreadful theme song to promote himself as if he were Hercules or someone like that.  I didn’t appreciate it as he began to sing it to me passionately in his deep goofy voice.  I had to stop him before I hurled on the side of the path.  It was more than I could handle.  Danger was definately affoot now.  I was not going to find myself stuck with this man for the next several days.  If this was a vacation from my nightmares it sure didn’t appear that way.  Xena would have to pay for this when she came back.  A week of traveling with Joxer the Mighty would drive me insane.

I began to walk up the path attempting to ignore him, but he would not be ignored.  He was determined to convince me of his heroic talents.  All I could think of was how much shame he brought to the world of the heros for he knew very little about what made a hero.  I expressed my thoughts outloud knowing that Joxer would never understand any of it, but I didn’t care.  I was just trying to figure out how I could get myself out of this situation.  Joxer wanted to prove that he could be just as worthy a hero as Xena.  He then asked me what Xena would do in the current situation.  I was a bit confused by his question until I realized that I now held a golden oppritunity in my hand.  He had just given me my way out of this entire scenario.  It was so easy for the man was so eager to please and to prove his worth that he walked right into my trap.  I suggested to him in a serious tone that he guard the rear for that is what Xena would most certainly do.  We had to be sure that the enemy was not going to approach us from behind.  Joxer seemed pleased and excited about this for he was certain that he could guard the rear.  I even told him that he had to go way back because that was what Xena would do.  So Joxer the Mighty went running down the path with his sword ready for battle.  He wanted so desparately to be something that he could never be.  Yet that was alright with me.  I could once again enjoy some solace and time alone.

Life was good for the moment for I had decided that I should just take Xena’s advice and try to relax.  With Joxer out of the way I had decided that I should count my blessings from the gods and enjoy the tranquil walk in the sun.  How bad could a vacation be when there was the warm sun to enjoy and the sounds of love in the air as spring was just about to turn to summer.  What I didn’t realize was how true love would be for the next couple of days.  I didn’t realize that I would be meeting the goddess of love herself.  It was only a matter of love.

My tranquil walk did not last long for soon I ran into some trouble up the road in a small village.  I heard the screams of young women as I watched them scramble about for their lives.  They were being attacked and kidknapped by a small band of renegade soldiers.  This was the moment of truth for me.  It was the oppritunity I had been waiting for.  I was determined to defeat the enemy without the assistance of the warrior princess.  Though I felt courageous my confidence was not solid yet now there was little time to question that.  I had to jump into battle alone and so I made my choice.  Quickly I ran into the chaos about the small village.   From behind one of the men whom had found himself a captive I charged in.  With full force I swung my staff nailing him from behind.  My confidence was building as he fell to the ground releasing his victim from harm.  Then I went for my second enemy with a swift move across his face with a one handed staff move.  I had never tried it before, but it worked.  Suddenly I felt a force charging in from behind as I spun around to take him down with a jab underneath the chin.

There was a fourth man whom had jumped into the fight, but he was strong.  He grabbed hold of my staff attempting to rob me of my weapon.  I struggled desparately to get control, but after serveral moments I was overpowered by his force as he kicked me to the ground and threw down my staff.  Suddenly I was defeated and uncertain of what to do next.  My confidence had been shattered, but just when things seemed grim something amazing happened.  Flipping into battle was the cheerful voice of Joxer the Mighty.  He seemed extremely athletic and graceful as he entered into the battle.  A large gleeful smile spread across his face from ear to ear as all of the women in the village were seemingly swooned by his presence.  Even I felt the energy and the love eminating from this sexy warrior.  It was Joxer, but then Joxer ripped off his ugly breast plate along with the rest of his mismatched armor revealing his sexy style.  He looked almost like a handsome prince with his brown hair slicked back almost perfecty in place.  Suddenly he adjusted the cuffs on his sleeves and then gracefully drew his sword to fight against the enemy that had taken me down.

It was time to rise to the occasion for I could not bring myself to allow Joxer the Mighty to be the hero.  Yet as I rose to my feet Joxer had already defeated the enemy with just three perrying moves and a kick.  He now had control of my staff and was using it against the enemy.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  It was like having a silly dream.  For a moment I thought that maybe it was a dream that I had just drifted off into mistakenly.  Unfortunately it wasn’t as Joxer continued to battle on.  He suddenly looked to me and threw my weapon back to me.  It was a perfect throw and it was solid.  Normally Joxer was weak, but he seemed so manly.  The impossible was happening as he continued confidiently and valliantly.  He finished off his second attacker by doing some fancy acrobatic move that I hadn’t thought possible.  The enemy was at the mercy of this joker pummeling him in the face while the superhero’s ankles had him in a head lock.

Joxer then flipped backwards sending the enemy over his head rolling violently down the hill.  He continued to show off his grace as he threw his sword down into the ground and fought his next attacker in hand to hand combat.  I didn’t think Joxer could throw a punch straight, but somehow he was landing each jab perfectly.  As the last man went down the girls began to scream while Joxer continued to woo them with his tricks.  In fact, he finished off his side show by proclaiming to the ladies that his sword was there to pleasure them.  With that he threw his sword up into the air spinning above his head.  Then he managed to capture it perfectly into his scabbord without even breaking a sweat.  This was all too much for the women who witnessed his prowess.  They suddenly came rushing over to him swooning over the idiot.  I was begining to feel that I was the only one who knew the truth.  Yet it didn’t matter because the girls were saved as it was so eliquently put.

Suddenly I was feeling quite jealous for Joxer had stolen my chance to prove to Xena that I could be a hero.  It was time that I made things absolutely clear to him before he was to get any other ideas.  As I approached the crowd of women surrounding him I was pushed aside.  It was as if no one had even noticed that I had been involved in the battle.  There was quite a bit of pandamonioum surrounding him as he glowed within all of the female fans he had just aquired.  There was more lust than love within all of this and something was definately abnormal.  Joxer then proclaimed that he had come to deliver a gift to the one they called princess Illiandra.  This naturally upset all of the other women who had surrounded him as the princess stepped forward with enthusiasm.  She was definately under his spell.  I felt a little sorry for her as she approached him.  He then produced a trinket which was a golden bell.  It was held by a pink ribbon which was to be given to the princess.  As Joxer proceeded to put the trinket onto the princess she seemingly could not wait for she insisted that he hurry.  Joxer sang praises to her of her beauty and began using strange yet smooth metaphores to enhance her beauty for all to notice.  There was definately some kind of love in the air, but I couldn’t really figure it out.  None of this made sense.

What happened next was even more strange for when Joxer leaned in to touch lips with the princess he missed cracking heads instead.  Now that move was more like the Joxer I knew.  At this point the pandemoneom had finally died down so I decided that this was my chance to interject a question.  I began by complementing Joxer on his performance, but I was wondering more about his sudden sexy side that had sprung out of nowhere.  Joxer looked to me and appeared just as confused as I had been feeling.  He seemed oblivious and unaware of what had just happened.  Princess Illiandra was still swooned by his presence and begged that he again repeat the elequent poetry that he had just spouted off.  He looked to her and then looked to me confused.  It was as if he were asking me to repeat his poetic words so that he could impress the princess again.  I did not feel sorry for the guy at all.  In fact, I felt like laughing at him because it was just so funny to me.  Shrugging my shoulders was the only answer I could come up with for the guy.  Suddenly he just walked away back toward the trees in confusion.  It was as if he were trying to retrace his steps or even figure out how he had arrived within the current moment.

As I watched him walk away Illiandra interrupted my thoughts assuring me that she was happy that the two of us had arrived in time to save her and her enterrage.  I was flattered yet strangely fascinated by Joxer’s issues.  Maybe there was another side to the idiot that I had not considered.  Illiandra then intoduced herself and said that she was from Mylon.  Though I was more intrested in Joxer I tried to focas on Illiandra.  Politely I introduced myself to her and then asked her where she had been going.  With excitement she expressed that she was headed for Pylos to marry her betrothed Prince Sarpedon.  This led me to a strange thought that didn’t make sense.  Joxer was mysteriously courting a Princess who was about to wed her betrothed yet Illiandra seemed to be lusting after the idiot.  Both appeared unsuspecting of their lust for one another.  Illiandra continued to speak about how impractical it was to just run off and elope.  She continued on about how unexpectedly dangerous it was outside the safety of the castle walls back in Mylon.  Yet I was really not that interested in her plight.  It was familiar to me from my experiences with Princess Diana.  I tried desparately to focas on Illiandra, but Joxer just kept bumping his head and knocked his blade on the side of a tree that he had been standing next to.  Even Illiandra seemed a bit intrigued by the idiot in his clumbsiness.  Out of frustration we watched Joxer kick the tree only to injure himself.

Illiandra began to wonder if this was the same sexy warrior that had flipped into rescue her.  Indeed it was Joxer the one whom had somehow managed to save her.  I wasn’t sure where he had suddenly found his warrior way, but for a short moment in time he was  a real hero.  Now it seemed that he could barely remember who he was.  Suddenly he found himself deciding to rejoin the world as he sheathed his sword, rubbing his head, and stumbling back into a conversation with Princess Illiandra and myself.  Joxer then tried desparately to reconstruct his heroic act stating that there had been at least twenty men involved.  There had only been four.  He looked to me, but I could not reassure him of that being the truth.  He then reached for straws hoping that it had been more than twenty.  I couldn’t confirm that one either.  Joxer tried desparately to recover his story as he spoke of the non-existant cross bows that had been involved.  Only swords and a few fists had been the weapons that Illiandra had seen.  Then Joxer just decided to forget about the details of the battle and continue on with his poetry.  He tried desparately to recreate the moment of bliss between he and Illiandra, but this time it didn’t come off quite as beautiful.  Joxer confidently put his arm around Illiandra and began walking with her.  The next thing he told her was that her skin was like cream when it curtled.  No woman could possibly take that as a complement.  Even Medusa would have to walk away from an idiot like that.  Yet I was still intrigued because it seemed to be a serious problem that Joxer was experiencing.  An entire drama within his life had been wiped away from his memory.  The only thing that was left was his idiocy.

I decided that the only thing left to do was to investigate.  Joxer and I would escort Illiandra to her destination and then we would be on our way.  As we walked I found it pleasant to speak with the princess for she was very gentle and kind hearted.  The only problem was that she had trouble remembering Joxer’s name.  It seemed strange, but as I listened her talk about her betrothed with such love and conviction I had decided that the Joxer moment had been some kind of fluke.  Sadly for Joxer it was castastrophic for he had been given the chance to swoon one of the most beautiful women in the world, but botched it up in the end.  I had to feel sorry for him and when we finally met up with Prince Sarpadon my heart reached out to Joxer within his disappointment.

Joxer was desparate to know what Sarpadon had that he did not.  It was obvious to me that Sarpadon was handsom, sexy, extremely attractive, with muscles and he had Illiandra.  Joxer’s bubble had been burst at that point, but who could blame Illiandra for she was indeed meant to be with Sarpadon as the two shared in a passionate kiss together.  When their long kiss finally ceased Illiandra introduced Joxer and I to her love although to Joxer’s dismay she had forgotten his name for the tenth time.  Then both Illiandra and Sarpadon valliantly thanked us for our trouble and sent us on our way.  As the two of them walked away happily with their entrerrage I  expressed to Joxer how wonderful it was that we had helped them to have a happy ending.  Joxer didn’t seem to be as delighted about the ending as I was.  It was at that point I decided that my mission for the next few days while Xena was away would be to repair Joxer’s dismay.

As we walked down the path together I began the story from the begining when I had first run into him.  I wasn’t sure how far back he had lost his memory.  I went through every detail with him and when I reached the part about the battle that was where he seemed to be extremely lost.  He couldn’t remember a single detail about it until the part where Illiandra had first asked him to repeat the statement about her beautiful creamlike skin.  Joxer couldn’t believe that he had fought all four of the rouge warriors alone and was still standing in the end.  It was as if he had not believed a single word I had said.  As the two of us tried to figure out what went wrong I suggested to him it may have been because he had hit his head that he did not remember the details, but instead he had an explanation all his own.  He suggested that he had been within what he called a warrior haze.  It was an interesting thought.  I felt sorry for the guy, but he was begining to push my patience with that lame idea.  Joxer continued explaining what his warrior haze must have felt like as he spoke of the blood pumping, heart pounding, and muscles flexing.  He was so excited about it that I decided to let it go.  Whatever made him feel better would complete this mission a lot sooner which meant I could get away from him.  I patted him on the back and agreed with him to stroke his ego a little bit and reiterated that now everything was happy again.  Princess Illiandra and Prince Sarpadon were safe and to be happily married all because of this so called warrior haze.

As I thought of all of this I suddenly found myself alone again, but unexpectedly.  Joxer was walking alongside me in one moment and in the next he had vanished.  I found myself worried about him and was desparate to find him.  I tracked his moves down the path which led back to a place near where we had left the Prince and Princess together.  When I walked through the trees I took a glimpse to notice that there they all were.  The Prince, the Princess, their enterrage, a priest, and Joxer.  I was relieved to see that Joxer was safe and with the two lovers, but I had not expected that from him.  The only conclusion I could come to was that he had decided to share in their happiness since it had been his warrior haze which had brought them back together.  Just as I was approching to ask him what he was doing I found myself interrupting a marriage proposal.  It was all so peaceful and romantic as Sarpadon proclaimed his love for Illiandra.  I was feeling all warm inside until she proclaimed her love for Joxer who quickly stepped between them and swept her into the most passionate kiss imaginable.  Sarpadon looked to me broken hearted and with confusion within his eyes.  I didn’t quite understand it myself.  Joxer was seemingly going back into that mysterious warrior haze as he continued to kiss Illiandra.

Sarpadon interrupted with anger and hurt demanding from Illiandra an explanation for her behavior.  Joxer answered for the princess to Sarpadon with arrogance as he drew his weapon for a fight.  Sarpadon found himself challenged by Joxer the Mighty.  He was driven to respond by drawing his weapon.  Two handsome and sexy men fighting for the affections of one beautiful princess.  The passions of a battle for love were dangerous and things were spiraling out of control.  Joxer may have been able to defeat the four rogue warriors, but I wasn’t so certain that he could match the skill of Prince Sarpadon.  I stepped between the two with their passions flying demanding that Joxer wise up and lay down his weapon.  He was behaving wreckless and stupid.  I didn’t like this side of him.  Yet Joxer just brushed me aside proclaiming that he was destined to fight for the affections of Princess Illiandra.   Then Joxer invited passion and love to enter into battle as Sarpadon charged his enemy.  Sarpadon’s attack was gracefully deflected by a block and then spin by Joxer who could have easily taken the life of the helpless Prince.  Instead he threatened the Prince knocking the broad side of his sword upon the back of Sarpadon.  Then Joxer laughed and taunted the prince.  It was unfair.  Sarpadon vowed angerily to Joxer that he would never allow him to take Illiandra away.  Joxer just smirked at the passions of the prince as Sarpadon went on a full attack smacking swords violently with Joxer who was effortlessly deflecting every move that Sarpadon tried against his enemy.

Tempers were flaring as Sarpadon was about to take the advantage.  Joxer paused and interrupted seemingly impressed by Sarpadon’s passion for Illiandra.  Yet he declared that Sarpadon was without the warrior skill needed to win this passionate battle for love.  Joxer then powered through Sarpadon’s momentum pushing him back down the hill toward the lake below the trees.  Sarpadon desparately tried to spin around to confuse his attacker, but was instead taken off guard by a retaliation.  Joxer’s sword was to his throat before Sarpadon could even blink or think to take a breath.  The Prince was cunning in battle for he then looked to Illiandra expressing no fear and reached for the bell which hung from her neck.  It was the mysterious bell that had been given to her by Joxer earlier in the day.  Which brought me to my own inquiry.  I was curious to know where this bell came from.  Yet there was little time to think of this for Joxer’s answer was confident as he downplayed the significance of the gift.  Joxer stated that it was merely a trinket that could never be worthy the beauty of Illiandra.  Illiandra was wooed once more by the sexy Joxer the Mighty.  Her reaction sent Sarpadon into the final and painful last passionate advance upon Joxer as he snapped the bell from Illiandra’s neck throwing it in the face of the enemy.  As the bell flew through the air it rang and fell directly into the hands of Joxer the idiot.

Suddenly Joxer shouted out in fear calling out to me for answers.  He was back to his state of confusion and loss of memory.  It was not the ideal time for his warrior haze to suddenly dissipate, but it did.  Sarpadon took the advantage preparing to finish off the defenseless Joxer who cowered away from the fight confused.  He demanded to know what the problem was, but Sarpadon did not buy the trick.  Instead he shunned Joxer for interfering with the love of his life.  The Prince was offended by Joxer’s tricks, but I knew that this was no trick.  Joxer was sick, but I didn’t know how or why.  Sarpadon continued by reminding Joxer of the gift of love that had stolen the affections of Illiandra.  Joxer was terrified and desparate as he threw the bell back to the prince.  It rang again as it flew through the air and so again the warrior haze began.  Joxer again stood upright ready to do battle as before.  He taunted the prince again disrespecting the love that belonged to Sarpadon.  The attack was fierce which came down upon Sarpadon.  Joxer moved swiftly perrying forward and finally disarming the prince.  Now with two swords in hand it seemed that Sarpadon’s life was about to end.  Yet instead Joxer the Mighty took mercy upon Sarpadon calling him a valliant warrior.  He then handed Sarpadon his weapon holding the blade to his own chest.  Sarpadon took his weapon back by the handle as he was instructed to go home for the battle was now won.  Illiandra now belonged to Joxer leaving Sarpadon’s heart in ruin.  And so Sarpadon gently returned the bell to the hands of Illiandra shealthing his weapon in defeat as he left Illiandra with a bleeding heart.

I thought that the worst was over, but I was wrong.  In the next moment Joxer and Illiandra were lusting all over each other.  It was sickening in many ways, but mostly to my heart.  Because of Joxer’s illness true love was being torn apart.  I could not bare to see true love taken before it could start.  So my new mission was to be in making sure that Illiandra and Sarpadon were reunited for they were the true lovers and Joxer was delusional with illness yet it did not explain Illiandra’s sudden lust for him.  When I promised Illiandra that I would take her back to Sarpadon her true love she only proclaimed that she was already with the one she loved.  I was begining to realize just how difficult this was going to be as I tried to get between the two lusting to be.  Joxer then pushed me away attempting to convince me that I should not interfere with the powerful muscles of the heart.  The day was becoming a nightmare as Illiandra begged Joxer to become one with her.  He was very willing to give Illiandra anything including things that he shouldn’t have.  The moment of truth for me was in hearing myself being referred as Joxer’s sidekick.  That I could not let happen.  Joxer was the one who needed my help and not the other way around.

As evening fell into the night we found ourselves camping out in a nearby cave.  It was difficult to cook dinner and keep two walking hormones separate.  I tried distracting them with stories of who they were as opposed to who they thought they were.  Especially Joxer for I desparately tried to remind Illiandra of the idiot that she had met in the morning.  Joxer leaned in as I was cutting the potatoes to explain that he knew nothing of this idiot Joxer.  He only knew of himself and his love for Illiandra.  Illiandra was just as hopeless for it seemed that Joxer the Mighty was more sexy by the moment.  I tried to talk myself through what was causing the problem with Illiandra and as I thought it through there was only one idea that came to mind.  Maybe it all had something to do with the necklace that Joxer had given to Illiandra for everytime it rang Joxer became strange.  He was either strangely sexy or strangely stupid.

My frustrations were rising as I went across the cave to retrieve my water bottle.  I was hoping that maybe a drink would cool everyone’s passions down.  Turning my back on them for just one moment lead to passions beyond control.  Frustration turned to anger for this situation was absolutely insane.  I tried desparately to cool them off with torrents of water, but instead it seemingly made them more lustful.  Somehow Joxer the Mighty was turning into Joxer the Sexy.  It was madness and disgusting.  This night would last forever, but then it finally dawned on me.

The only way to keep Joxer from thinking of Illiandra was to appeal to his ego.  There was only one solution that I could come up with.  I asked him to teach me his little song.  I knew that it would work because Illiandra would be able to enjoy hearing about how wonderful her new lover was in the form of a song.  It was also certain that Joxer wouldn’t be able to control his urge to stroke is own ego.  Ego was a powerful thing and it was the only weapon I had against the heart muscle that I was fighting against.  When I tried my weapon it did not fail me as Joxer began to sing.  Unforunately in his warrior haze his voice was super sexy, but it soothed the lustful beast that had taken Illiandra.  We spent all night singing together.  Everyone sang until they dropped.  In the early hours of the morning both of them were finally sleeping peacefully and lust free.  As for me I was exhausted and a bit dillusional.  I found myself still singing the silly song as the sun rose over the horizen.

Joxer the Mighty

Roams through the countryside

He never needs a place to hide

With Gabby as his sidekick

Fighting with her little stick

Righting wrongs and singing songs

Being mighty all day long

He’s Joxer, Joxer the Mighty…

Joxer the Mighty

He’s very tidy

Everyone admires him

He’s so handsome its a sin

When things get grim

He’ll take it on the chin

If you’re in jeapordy

Caused by the enemy

Don’t call the calvary

There’s a better remedy

Although he doesn’t work for free

He’s every man’s trustee

He’s every woman’s fantasy

Plus he’s good company

Lookout, golly gee

He’s Joxer, Joxer the Mighty,

Joxer, Joxer the Mighty.

I was begining to feel safe as I was letting my guard down.  The last coals of the campfire were burning out by now.  Just as I was about to close my eyes and drift into wonderful sleep I heard the sounds of a small army coming from deep in the valley outside the cave.  Suddenly I popped out of the trance as I awakened Joxer the Mighty.  I grabbed his shoulder as I stood up to study the scene just outside.  Illiandra was awakened by the commotion as I viewed the field.  My warrior instincts were kicking in for a small army could be a serious thing.  Illiandra spoke up with some intelligence suggesting that it was probably King Linias father of Sarpadon.  This made sense because it appeared as if they were looking for someone.  There was only one person that could have brought a small army upon himself and that was Joxer the Mighty.

Joxer popped up from his slumber and prepared himself for the unthinkable.  One man against an army alone he did not stand a chance.  He was a super warrior, but even Xena would never fight alone with these kind of odds.  Joxer was still brave in his love for the princess assuring her that she did not have to be afraid.  Yet Illiandra’s fear was the least of our problems within the moment.  It was time to choose and the solution was obvious to me.  We had to escape from the wrath of Linias’s army.  There had to be another way out of the cave.  As I grabbed my staff from its resting place against the wall Joxer argued with my decision.  He had already decided that running was not an option.  This was a wreckless idea for I knew what he would say next.  Joxer the Mighty was prepared to fight and to die for no real reason.  Maybe it was warrior pride or male ego.  It could have been both, but neither made standing and fighting a wise decision and I firmly expressed my opinion to Joxer.  Yet he seemingly did not hear a word I said.  It did not matter to him.  He said death would not stand between he and Illiandra.  Joxer proclaimed that nothing could allow their love to die.  His words were lovely and sweet, but they were not well thought out.  Illiandra was entranced again.  All reason had flown out of the cave the way it had come in.

Joxer left the cave in his warrior haze as I warned Illiandra that his fate may not be so nice.  Illiandra was lost within the whirrl wind of it all, but not enough to be blind to what Joxer was about to get himself into.  Illiandra and I dashed out of the cave hoping to catch Joxer before his tragic mistake.  We watched him as we approached as he walked galliantly down the hill toward the army massed against him.  I saw the king as he instructed his men to wait before they were to attack.  He was obviously afraid of Joxer.  One could only imagine the tales told by Illiandra’s enterrage and Prince Sarpadon himself.  Joxer then paused standing tall before the army.  He then proclaimed fearlessly that the fates of those who chose to fight would be at the point of his sword.  Joxer the Mighty had just opened the battle as King Linias was to give the order for an attack upon a lone warrior.

As Illiandra and I approached the hopeless warrior her bell began to toll.  Just as I had suspected I saw an instant change within Joxer’s eyes.  He was becoming the idiot again, but this time was not the time.  I pleaded with him to stop the madness if it was possible for him to control it at all.  Then I watched him as he fainted out of shock and fear.  He dropped to the ground like a falling tree.  Nothing could have been worse for me.  All I could do was try to protect him and prevent King Linias and his army from bringing harm to my helpless friend.  As the small army approached they surrounded us.  I pulled up into a defensive position standing over Joxer’s limp body hoping to block and attackers.  King Linais did not give the order to strike, but instead proclaimed that we be arrested  and then executed for threatening the peace.  Our fate would be execution for our crimes against the two kingdoms that would have united as a result of union between Sarpadon and Illiandra.  Now the future of the two kingdoms was uncertain as was the fate of myself alongside Joxer the not so Mighty.

Illiandra pleaded for our lives proclaiming that we were her friends, but Linais of Amphous would not have mercy.  He accused Illiandra of being a harlot and warned her that another outburst could lead to her own execution.  Yet I knew that she would be safe as long as Sarpadon’s love was strong.  Joxer and I would be helpless and left to fend for ourselves.  There had to be a way to fix this.  If only I had some time to think.  There would soon be plenty of it for we were locked up awaiting our formal sentencing by Linias’s court.  They had decided that Joxer was too dangerous to be allowed to roam freely within our quarters so they chained him to a post.  I was actually relieved hoping that it would keep the sexy warrior from getting us into any more trouble.

As I paced back and forth I was in deep thought.  There was a piece missing within this rather complex puzzle of irrational events.  At one point I found myself listening to the conversation between King Linais and Princess Illiandra as they rode by our quarters through the sqare.  Linais was obviously angry by Illiandra’s choice to deface his son’s love.  Illiandra was desparate to explain, but didn’t quite know how.  She had never meant to cause Sarpadon emotional anguish or embarressment, but somehow she had gotten caught up into Joxer.  It seemed to me that their union had been an important event between the two kingdoms and now everything was in ruin.  Emotions were running high, but it wasn’t clear to me of who would want to sabatoge these two kingdoms.  Of course Joxer found this to be a blissful experience for Illiandra had chosen him over Sarpadon.  He was elated unlike the day before when he was let down by the fickle tastes of a beautiful woman.  Joxer was dillusional as I tried to explain to him that Illiandra had not picked him, but the other Joxer.

By this point I was becoming extremely frustrated realizing that even if I was unable to solve our problem I had to get us out of danger long enough to find Xena.  Unforunately I had to admit even to myself that I had not been able to handle even a mission as simple as love without Xena.  Being a sidekick was going to have to be enough for me.  I would have to accept it and after all of this I was begining to long for the lighter load of being a sidekick.  There was a lot of tension and anger boiling with in me over Joxer’s emotional decisions over the past couple of days.  He began to go off into his warrior haze theory again admiring himself for what he had accomplished while in that state of mind.  I was at the end of my rope at this point and had to stop trying to break through the walls of our quarters.  It was becoming a race against time.  I couldn’t give up.  There had to be someone behind all of this that I could go to and plead with.  Joxer was convinced that he could put himself into his warrior haze, but he couldn’t and I knew it.  I approached him and punched him in the stomach because that was the last thing I needed.  Then I went onto explain to him that he was under a spell of some sort.  It had everything to do with that bell or any bell ringing.  This led me to ask him if he could remember where he had gotten it.

Joxer tried to retrace his steps of the previous day.  Most of it was lost to him due to his haze, but he began to remember some things.  He began by waking up, and then having breakfast.  Joxer continued by meeting up with me, guarding my rear, he met Aphrodite,and continued on about eating a pommogram.  Suddenly there was a possible answer.  I asked him to repeat the part about meeting Aphrodite.  Joxer seemed enthralled with the goddess stating that she was nice to look at among other things.  This made sense to me.  I had heard of men being swooned by the goddess of love just has many women have been swooned by the god of war.  Aphrodite had a reason to break up the two kingdoms, but I didn’t know what it was at this point.  All that mattered was that I now had someone to go to and ask for help other than Xena.  I had to get the rest of the pieces to the puzzle.

Now that I had a motivation escaping from our wooden prison was a lot easier.  I had found a wooden spoon earlier which I used to pry loose the boards which held together the walls.  As I was working Joxer was certain that in my escape I would find him a bell to ring so that he could escape and become his alter ego.  That was not going to happen.  It was the reason that we were even in this mess.  I could take no more sudden changes in mood from him.  As I successfully pried open the side wall I kicked through the boards.  Joxer insisted that I was just jealous of his heroic accomplishments and he was right.  In the begining I was, but now it was about proving a point.  I was a sidekick, but he wasn’t even blessed with enough talent to find his way out of a barrel of meat.  Jumping out into freedom I shouted out to him promising him that a little faith could go a long way for him.  I was just finding my faith in myself again.  My determination to find Aphrodite was as fierce as the passions of Sarpadon for Illiandra.  As I ran back into the woods all I could hear was the voice of Joxer singing his mighty song as it echoed into the distance.  That was certain to get him executed sooner.

It wasn’t difficult to find one of Aphrodite’s temples.   She had at least a half dozen of them along the river on both sides.  The kingdom of Amphous on one side and the kingdom of Myon on the other led me to my next conclusion.  It seemed that Aphrodite had so many temples here that they had become a burden to the people of both kingdoms.  The best part was that because of love’s power some of the temples would have been replaced with a union of the two kingdoms.  This was why Aphrodite didn’t want Prince Sarpadon and Princess Illiandra to marry.  If they did then two of her temples would have to be destroyed in order to build the bridge that would unite the kingdoms.  It seemed selfish that the goddess of love would shun the love of others for her own pleasures.  Yet I decided that I would give her a chance.  Maybe I would be able to convince her it was wrong to break apart two people who were in love.

As I approached one of the temples on the Amphous side it was immense.  The steps were of gold and the doors stood taller than even the giants.  Pushing the doors open all seemed quiet and calm.  There were many gifts and offerings within Aphrodite’s temple which made it beautiful and inviting.  I could feel the power of love coursing through my soul as I called for the goddess of love hoping that she would appear.  There were candles burning, and offerings lying around everywhere.  I decided to leave by weapon against the door feeling that any sign of aggression might ruin my chances of seeing her.  Mezmorized by the beauty and the art of love I accidentally backed into a half marble column which held a large greek vase.  The vase was saved by the presence of the goddess Aphrodite who was seemingly annoyed at my clumsy move.

I was startled by her reaction, but then astonished by her beauty.  It seemed as if she had just appeared from within the fresh flowers which surrounded everything.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her radience.  She wore a pink flowing gown and her hair was seemingly made of golden silk.  It was naturally waivy and perfect in every way.  Her eyes were green like emeralds sparkling with positive energy.  Joxer had been right.  She was truely a sight to look at.  It was almost like being with one’s mother only a bit more egotistical and selfish than a mother might be.  I followed her across the temple as she searched her archieves for my identity.  She caught my aura swiftly recognizing that I was a friend of Joxer’s.  Aphrodite referred to Joxer as her boy which I found to be exciting.  Had I known that Joxer had close ties with the goddess of love I might have had more respect for him.  This was my chance to win her over.  I told her that Joxer was the reason I was here.  My hope was that she would see how damaging her spell was to him and to many others.

I was especially concerned for Princess Illiandra and Prince Sarpadon.  There could be no reason to break apart their love for each other.  Yet Aphrodite seemed disinterested in love which surprised me.  She picked up a golden brush and referred me to cupid who suddenly appeared before me.  He was beautiful and tall with stiff white wings.  They were radiant and they appeared soft to the touch.  Cupid seemed annoyed that his mother was so wreckless in her selfish desires.  She seemingly didn’t have time for love anymore as she vanished off to the ocean.  Apparently she was going to enjoy the surf and her indulging lusts.  I decided that cupid was my only chance.  He listened to my pleas for help with sadness explaining that his mother’s mind was already made up.  She had won the battle over love using lust as her greatest weapon.  All of these lives were being ruined so that she could hold onto two more temples.  Suddenly I realized that ego would be the weapon I could use against her.  If she would not take off the spell then I would bring the destruction to her.  As long as cupid could restore the love between Princess Illiandra and Prince Sarpadon I told him that I would take care of the rest.

Time was running out as I dashed back to the square.  I only hoped that I would have enough time to track down a bell.  Yet it seemed that when I finally reached the square I was too late for Joxer’s head was already on the chopping block as the executioner was about to fill his duty.  King Linais was already shouting the command of death to the burly looking executioner who held a long massive ax over his head.  There was little time to think, but Joxer bought me some time as he made his last proclaimation to the crowd.  He proclaimed himself unable to understand what he was giving his one and only life for.  Whatever it was he was afraid and feeling cowardly.  His heart was still pure thought there was not one ounce of bravery left in him.  Suddenly I had an idea.  I grabbed the largest stone from the ground beneath my feet as I searched the square for a bell.  There were three of them with a slight wind from behind.  I thought that I would go for the closest one as I took aim my hopes were shattered as two men placed a large piece of cargo between me and Joxer’s savior.

Though it was the closest bell there were still two others.  I went for the second closest bell only to be cut off by the head of an innocent child whom had been brought to witness the execution of another innocent.  The third bell was quite a distance and I was not certain that I could make the throw.  I decided to wish for luck with the fates as I spit on my hands and rubbed the rock for their blessing.  Then I threw my arm back into position as I plunged the rock with everything I had into the side of the building above.  The rock bounced off of its roof and ricketed up to the bell tower above, but it missed the target miserably.  Yet the force of the rock bounced from the tower down upon the helmets of one of the royal guards sending him back a few steps.  It then continued on its path as if it were Xena’s chackram rounding the corner to its last mark bouncing off of a copper post finally hitting the second bell.  The sound of a bell tolling could not have been more beautiful as it echoed through the square and within my ears.

As the executioner’s ax came down upon the helpless idiot he sprang into Joxer the Mighty lifting his head from the block replacing it with the ropes binding his hands.  The executioner hit his mark perfectly slicing the ropes and returning freedom to the heroic warrior.  Suddenly he was back as he went onto antagonize the defeated executioner and the men who surrounded the block.  Joxer lept upon the block breaking the executioner’s ax turning it into a broad staff.  He laughed gleefully as he flipped down into the square to take on Linais’s guard. The crowd who had come to watch his demise was suddenly in awe especially the women, but no woman more than Princess Illiandra.  It was the price that had to be paid to save the life of the bumbling idiot turned super sexy war hero.  As Joxer approached the Princess and her enterrage he swiftly took a handkerchief from the breast of another fan and sniffed it passionately.  He then proclaimd that the woman’s scent would be his inspiration to continue into the battle as she could barely contain her own desires for the handsome warrior.

As Joxer fought two of Linias’s men in the middle of the square another one came to take revenge upon the Princess for her lusts for Joxer.  I stepped in to protect her for no one could know the truth of her lust came from the goddess Aphrodite.  After knocking him to the ground with my staff Prince Sarpadon proclaimed that he had forgiven the Princess for her blind lust.  Although he did not understand it his love was strong enough to overcome it as Illiandra pushed Sarpadon aside to watch the ensuing battle of Joxer the Mighty.  Joxer continued to fight with the broken ax which had now been reduced to only a handstaff as he flipped over the backs of men and beat others senseless with his weapon.  As I watched him fight I began to realize that although he wasn’t normally this graceful he fought the same without grace.  Joxer laughed within one moment, proud in the next, and then bravehearted to finish the job.  He paused for a moment with his comedy as he grabbed a ladle full of water in the middle of his wrath which distracted the enemy for a moment.  Suddenly another attacked Joxer as he drank only to be defeated by Joxer’s ridiculous weapon.  Joxer fought him one handed while still drinking with the other.  It was truely amazing and in the next moment he found himself defeating not one man with a sword, but four.  As he gracefully disarmed them he threw their weapons into the air replacing his own with on of their swords.  Joxer seemed delighted with himself.

While Joxer was having the time of his life Sarpadon was again feeling broken hearted as Linias approached watching Illiandra’s lusts grow for the sexy warrior.  Linias seemed more angry than Sarpadon who appeared only confused and defeated by all of this.  He did not have the desire to see his love punished, but Linias wanted someone to pay the price and so the King lept in to do battle with Joxer as he pulled his weapon for the challenge.  Joxer found himself  impressed and driven by adrenaline for he was about to fight the man known as the greatest swordsman in the kingdom.  This was truely an honor to one who had been recently known as the greatest warrior in the kingdom.  And so the two would do battle to prove which man deserved the honor of being the best.  Linais was powerful as he perried into attack the one who had disrupted the peace between two kingdoms.  The king was fierce and seemingly unstoppable as he pushed Joxer back quickly gaining ground.  Joxer appeared nervous as he swallowed hard, but only for a few moments.  The warrior then paused with a strong block complementing the king for his skill.  Howerver, Joxer then revealed the greatest secret of all.  He quickly threw his sword from his left hand to his right proclaiming that he had not been fighting with his best hand.

Suddenly the tides were turning as Joxer became the overpowering swordsman to King Linias who had obviously never been beaten by anyone.  This was shocking to the king and his loyal guards jumped into the fight to assist their king in battle.  Joxer was seemingly not phased by this as he flipped away from the king to defend his rear from the new players.  Now it was three men against one and I was growing weary of Aphrodite’s wrath for at this rate it would never end.  Joxer looked to me with glee as I demanded that he take the fight to the temple.  Suddenly I found myself engulfed within the passionate fires that were Joxer the Mighty as he swept me off of my feet and planted a large kiss onto my lips.  It was bliss like no other as the waves of passion rose uncontrollably within.  Then Joxer spoke within his sexy entrancing voice proclaiming that he would do as I wished and then he lept back into the fight toward the temple.  For a moment I was still engulfed within the lust and the pounding heart muscle until I came back to reality and wiped the essence from my lips.  There was something icky about having been paralized by the lust that was Joxer, but the moment had passed and I was back on the war path.

Suddenly I heard the screams of the goddes herself as she demanded that the fighting stop.  She was obviously upset that there was a battle within one of her beautiful temples.  Only destruction could follow and that was what I had hoped for.  As I entered into the temple.  Joxer was standing upon the golden table which was placed in front of a golden statue of the goddess.  There were many beautiful trinkets and flowers that were being destroyed by the clashing of the swords of men.  Though Aphrodite had picked a great weapon in the power of lust I had out witted her with the power of the male ego.  No man could resist proving who was the bigger man.  No spell of Aphrodite could defeat the power of a man’s ego.  I entered into the temple and demanded that Aphrodite stop it herself by removing the spell from Joxer.  Of course within all of her frustrations she could not admit defeat to the girl she had called innocent just an hour earlier.

So the battle continued as Joxer was having so much fun mastering the fight against Linais and his best swordsman.  He was becoming so comfortable that he decided to toy with them as he laughed, lept, and bounded about the temple.  Joxer then approached the large bell at the center of Aphrodite’s temple climbing the stairs slowly backward as he watched his rear with two men on his tail.  His sword drawn Joxer was ready.  I knew this could last, but only as long as Linais and his men could outlast Joxer if it was even possible.  All Aphrodite could do was watch in horror as Joxer threw one of Linias’s swordsman down into the bell pit and then threw Linias into her favorite vase from Thrace.  As it crashed to the ground I tried desparately to convince Aphrodite that she had lost, but her response was a grumble of frustration instead.  She would not give in.  The goddess of love was more stubborn than I had thought.

As Joxer continued to battle the second of Linias’s swordsman Linias rose from the bell and his other swordsman recovered.  Yet the next vase found its doom as Joxer threw another man into it.  Again Aphrodite was crushed as I tried again to convince her to take off the spell.  I tried aruging that love was soft and kind rather than violent and cruel.  It was obvious to me that Aprhodite knew a lot about alter egos.  That was how she had pulled off her spell on Joxer.  Aphrodite suddenly turned to me determined to convince me that I knew nothing of her or of love.  She was confident that her power over me was endless.  I argued that I knew that love was not war.  War was destructive just like what Joxer and Linias were doing to Aphrodite’s lovely temple.  This was the sore spot for the goddess.  She responded hoping to win my smypathy for her as she gave her reason for holding the spell on Joxer.  In that moment I realized that all the goddess of love was really about was material love and lust.

I promised her that I would be taking Joxer on a tour of all of her temples if that was the only way to win this war of love and lust.  Aphrodite didn’t appear to feel threatened as I held my staff as a symbol of determination.  Yet the sound of another vase crashing to the ground appeared more powerful than words or spells could ever be.

Suddenly Joxer decided to be funny again.  He jumped up and grabbed onto the rope of the large bell behind him and began swinging and shouting with joy.  The bell tolled once as Joxer began to scream in terror coming back toward us confused as ever.  Twice the bell tolled as Joxer shouted with joy and glee once more.  This truely was the most clever joke I had ever seen him play.  It was genious only I don’t think he was ever aware of it within either of his egos.  With each toll of the bell Joxer’s ego bounced from one side to the other and with each toll a vase was shattered into ruin.  It seemed that Linais and his swordsman found the joke to be a little confusing.  No one could control the wrath of Joxer.  Finally Aphrodite found herself feeling sorry for the idiot.  Not even the goddess of love could watch this bell toll forever.  She then proclaimed Joxer the be the idiot that he was and then with an effortless waive of the hand Joxer the Mighty was no more.  Linias’s sword then cut the rope leaving Joxer the idiot confused and unable to realize the danger falling toward him.  Yet even in the heat of battle Joxer the idiot had reflexes.  Suddenly the idiot screamed violently and then rolled out of harm’s way reacting to the danger of the large bell about to crush him.  It landed upon the floor with a thud tolling the defeat of Aphrodite and the triumph of true love.  With that the exhausted warrior fainted as his head hit the ground with a thud.

The rest of the week without Xena was quite dull and uneventful with the exception of the newly wedded Prince Sarpadon and his new Princess Illiandra.  They seemed happy and content together.  I was honored to have been able to play a part in the restoration of their love and peace with the kingdoms of Amphous and Mylon.  As Joxer and I prepared to leave the kingdom after the beautiful ceremony the prince and princess came to thank me once again.  Prince Sarpadon proclaimed me to be a hero.  Although I was pleasantly flatter I didn’t need that title anymore.  I wasn’t a hero at all only a sidekick trying to achieve excellance in her field.  My real strength was in philosophy as I reminded both of them that love was about trust and giving rather than anger and jealousy.  Then the moment was interrupted by the sounds of someone blowing his nose.  It was Joxer who seemed confused about how he had aquired a silky blue handkerchief.  The owner of the piece was not thrilled about it having been used by Joxer, but that was the least of his problems.  Prince Sarpadon and Princess Illiandra bid me farewell and swifty exited back into their court as Joxer and I began to travel down the road.  He asked me if they were afraid of him.  I tried to build his confidence agreeing that they were, but even Joxer knew the truth of it all.  He had finally realized that he was not a hero.  His disappointment was powerful and full of saddness.  Joxer was so depressed that he even proclaimed that I was the hero.  This was serious as I tried to help him feel better about himself, but he could not listen.  All Joxer could feel was what he had been seeking his entire life.  It had all been a lie in his heart.  He had been telling it to himself.  But he was wrong.  He was all of those things in his heart.  Joxer was brave, courageous, sexy, and all of the things his alter ego was.  At least that was what Xena had convinced him of later when we finally met up with her again.  It didn’t really matter.  Joxer was a true friend.  He was loyal and sometimes brave, but never really sexy.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #40: The Execution

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll # 40:  The Execution

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

April, 47 B.C.

     The story of Meleager was coursing through my heart as Xena and I rode into the next kingdom upon Argo.  For all hope had been lost to the people of Potedia until Meleager appeared returning to the village crushing Damon’s troops.  He had single-handedly pulled a war wagon full of spartan javelins over twenty leagues of rocky road to save a people who loved him very dearly.  At least that was how I had remembered the story although Xena seemed board of hearing it for the sixteenth time.  I could not help my excitement for I had not seen Meleager in almost eight seasons.  Yet Xena seemed a little irritated that I was telling such passionate stories about one of my life’s greatest heroes.  Xena didn’t believe in Meleager the way that I did, but it was only because she had not yet met him.  I was certain that she would feel less suspicious once she got to know him.  Suddenly it dawned on me that maybe Xena was jealous of my complements for Meleager so I asked if it bothered her.  Naturally she replied with a no, but I was not so certain that she was confident in that answer.  I decided that maybe she needed a reminder of how passionate my stories of her always are.  Not even Meleager the Mighty can top my adventures with Xena.  I would not want things any other way.

Yet it was still wonderful to receive a message from my old friend although it only contained two words. Meleager’s message was “come quick” and nothing more.  This peaked my curiosity for it sounded a bit troubling to me.  As I wondered about this Xena was just finishing tying off Argo at the saddle post.  We began traveling through town only to notice a barrage of people walking out of one of the buildings in the alley.  There were four men walking swiftly as if there were something serious going on.  I decided to stop one of them and ask if he had seen Meleager, but when I tried to ask him my question he brushed me off with urgency.  His only response to me was that he was sorry and that he had to get to court.  Then Xena and I watched him follow the others across the square toward the town court.  Xena just looked at me when I inquired silently.  She appeared uninterested in what was going on.  It really didn’t matter.  Whatever the trouble was here it had not been the reason for our coming.

Although I was still curious, but Xena was already into the next moment scouting the square trying to decide where to look for Meleager.  Hands on hips demonstrating a slight bit of impatience the warrior princess looked into the direction of the tavern.  She suggested that we start there.  I found that idea to be a bit ridiculous for I was certain that the tavern would be the last place we would be likely to find Meleager.  If for no other reason than the fact that in the past Meleager had his little drinking problem.  It wasn’t something I often liked to mention and I could not remember if I had told Xena that part of the story before.  She looked to me reminding me with a candid glance that she remembered that part of the story clearly.  It was not something I liked to broadcast for even the warrior princess has her flaws.  Those don’t include drinking of course.  Xena seemed skeptical that Meleager was able to quit his drinking binges to sober up to save my village from Damon’s army, but he had.  That was the most admirable part of the story.  If someone could gather the courage to stop drinking to fight an army then there was no doubt in my mind that Meleager would never set foot in a tavern again.  Xena wasn’t so certain.  She seemed to be mocking the idea that a person could succeed at this.  As we continued on toward the tavern to satisfy Xena’s judgements she explained to me of how she had seen many men destroyed by the very same flaw.

It was then that I knew she would never be convinced and so I politely asked that we stop discussing this unpleasant topic.  It was too personal even for Meleager.

Just as my words cheerfully escaped from my lips a rather gruff man with a large sword and entourage approached us.  He inquired if he had heard us right.  The man wanted to know if I had indeed said that Meleager was my friend.  With confidence and pride I confirmed that he had heard this correctly.  I was certain that he must be a friend to Meleager as well.  These men that followed him must have all been trained by the mighty Meleager.  Though our friend could not drink surely there were many toasts made in his name.  Yet the response was not what I had expected.  The gruff young warrior violently drew his weapon and declared that we christen the battle with him and his men.  He moved quickly into an offensive mode swinging his sword across both Xena and I.  We responded quickly ducking to miss his unexpected attack upon us.  I jumped back three steps putting out my staff not ready to defend hoping that this was all just a misunderstanding.  Again I shouted out that we were friends of Meleager, but Xena was already in a warrior sweat.  She was tossing men over her shoulders as they approached her for attack.  Xena called out to me trying to get my attention.  She was certain that these guys were not so friendly for they were our enemies and not friends.  It was all so sudden and confusing, but I found myself dodging the men Xena was throwing over her shoulder trying to get out-of-the-way.  I found myself fighting to help Xena calm everyone down as Xena continued to do battle in hand to weapon combat.  The enemy was fully armed and ready.  Xena was pressing for an opportunity to gain control.  She never did draw her weapon.  Xena fought all six men with the fury of the fist and the thunder of her boots.

I decided that it would be to my own advantage to gain a higher vantage point.  There was a long table in the market square so I jumped upon it and began to defend the advancing attackers from above.  This strategy of defense worked pretty well as I was able to jump and dodge their blows and knocking them over the head since they were at my boots.  Yet one of the men was able to jump onto the table from behind while I was distracted by the sounds of Xena’s boots running up the side of a building and her battle cry.  My enemy was fully armed with a blade.  He parried into my defensive stance breaking it sending me spinning around.  I had almost lost my balance.  Suddenly he was upon me on the table.  I was unprepared to defend so I ducked and swept his feet with my staff.  This move was pure adrenaline, but I was impressed with my ability to recover.  Suddenly as I was defeating my enemy I heard the sounds of a large crash just to my right.  When I glanced over I realized that our battle had just ended.  Xena had thrown the aggressive rogue leader into several barrels  in the market.  He was unable to return to his feet.  Xena and I had left a path of destruction without drawing a single drop of blood.  It was impressive.

When I approached Xena grabbed the enemy shaking him hoping to get some answers to his violent advances.  The man was nearly unconscious yet still full of fire and rage.  He had only the strength to say that if we had come for Meleager we were too late.  Then he passed out.  I looked to Xena realizing that those men we had seen rushing off to court must have been the jury off to give their final verdict.  On what we did not know, but somehow it seemed to be the reason that Meleager had called upon us to come quick.  Just moments later Xena and I were busting down the doors of the court where the most unfriendly of the town were entertaining themselves.   The scene looked dramatic as I scanned the court room for Meleager.  Then the most unimaginable events began to unfold.  It was like a bad dream as Xena asked with a sarcastic tone if maybe the man in chains on the witness stand was indeed Meleager the Mighty.  When I looked up I was devastated.  The ungrateful people in this town had chained his wrists and put him on display in a courtroom drama.

Meleager seemed cheerful despite his situation as he proclaimed how glad he was to see us, but not so satisfied with our timing.  He joked about it explaining that the verdict had just been given.  Meleager was guilty, but of what I did not know.  I did not care for I was certain that whatever he had been accused of it had not been true.  I’d seen this happen once before with Xena.  When Ares the god of war had set her up making it look like she was a murderer when in fact she had been a healer and a defender.  It had to be the same with Meleager.  Only I had to find out.  I wanted to give my defense for him, but I had to approach the judge politely.  He said that his name was Arbus.  The sound of his name was smooth and calculated yet Xena interrupted declaring that she had heard judge Arbus to be a just and fair man.  Arbus thanked the warrior princess for her complements and then asked me what my relationship was to the defendant.  I explained that I was a friend to Meleager.

Although I felt uncomfortable I  suddenly found myself challenging the verdict explaining why Meleager could not have been guilty.   I didn’t care what the crime may have been.  Suddenly I went into defense of Meleager the Mighty as I asked the spectators and the jury to consider the names of the heroes we turn to in our times of darkness.  I mentioned Hercules the obvious one and of course Meleager.  I was certain that there was not a person out there who had not heard of Meleager’s exploits in the tavern.  That was how I had come to know him.  I began to recall them beginning with the 100 warriors of the evil Dulcecan that Meleager had slain, and I went onto remind them of the 317 rogue Lagruians that he had taken down.  I was on a roll and so excited to come to his defense that I found myself caught up in his legend for Meleager corrected me stating that it had only been 300 men.  He reiterated modestly that it had all been in the name of saving the lives of the innocent.  I followed up reminding the crowd that despite the numbers and the legends he was a good man and a hero.  His path was of a righteous warrior and a champion of the greater good.  I swore my own honor by him to demonstrate how true all of this was to me and about Meleager.

Then I looked to the judge after giving my heart-felt plea.  Arbus paused seemingly contemplating all that I had said.  Then Arbus looked up and stood explaining that though my testimony was moving he could not allow the heart to sway his judgement.  Therefore the defendant was found to be guilty of murder.  His sentence would be death carried out in one turn of the sand glass.  Arbus had dropped the axe upon Meleager and pulled the rug out from my heart.  I could not believe what I had just heard.  It was like another nightmare.  How this could be was a mystery to me.  As the sentence and judgement were passed the men of the court took Meleager to the town prison while the people prepared for the execution in the square.  I watched as the sand fell into the glass as it was posted for all to see.  It was madness.  Everyone was so eager for vengeance on anyone regardless of their guilt or innocence.  This was worse than when Xena had been tried.  She knew that she was up against Ares, but it seemed to me that Meleager was up against an unfair Arbus.  I didn’t care what the people said.  There was no way that Arbus could have been fair in Meleager’s trial.

As Xena and I were down in the prison with Meleager we discussed these issues.  Unfortunately for Meleager he had the privilege of watching the people prepare his hanging rope through the bars of his cell.  He felt that the only thing that was to be discussed was how to execute him either by hanging, beheading, or tearing his limbs apart.  Meleager was hoping for beheading or even being torn apart, but hanging had won out.  He spoke with sarcasm and a slight humor although his impending death was not a humorous subject.  Even a strong spirited warrior like Meleager could not laugh about his own execution.  I was furious as I confirmed with Meleager that he was innocent.  It was even ridiculous for me to have to even ask him about it.  Meleager was deeply disappointed that Xena did not believe in him.  He was upset that Xena had seemingly passed judgement on him without knowing the truth of who he was.  Yet Xena quickly defended her suspicions stating that although she didn’t know Meleager she knew me very well.  Then she stated that she also knew that a judge could make a mistake.  She was very interested in hearing Meleager’s story.  Xena asked for more details about the one who had been killed and how it happened.

Meleager was eager to share what he knew with Xena.  He explained that the murder had happened last winter and the victim had been a man named Akalman.  Meleager stated that he had never even met this man before and that he had not even been in town at the time.  When he had passed through town again recently he suddenly found himself under an arrest directed by Arbus.  Now he was in the middle of a controversy becoming the accused on trial about to be executed.  It seemed to me that Arbus just wanted to make an example out of Meleager for he had been unable to track down the real murderer.  Xena was quick to disagree with me explaining that Arbus was not known for jumping upon an accusation.  She went onto explain her knowledge of the trial of Valker the Vicious.  Xena told of how the towns people had wanted to tear Valker apart, but Arbus did not allow it until sufficient evidence was able to be presented to prove his guilt.  The warrior princess was not so certain that Arbus was capable of making a fatal mistake.  Although Xena had a good argument for Arbus I was still not convinced that he couldn’t be wrong.  I reminded Xena of how sometimes these vengeance cases can spiral out of control.  Xena could not deny this for she knew exactly what I was referring to.  I decided to give Arbus and Xena’s arguement for him the benefit of my doubt for a moment asking Xena if he had been acquitted as a result of careful trial.  Xena chose not to answer so I knew the outcome had not been so positive for Valker despite his vicious nature.  Xena seemed just as torn as I felt.  She looked to Meleager with sympathy in her eyes knowing that Arbus was also a tough law man.  She decided to go talk to Arbus herself to find out if there was more to the story.  I decided that I would try to help Meleager get his mind off of the issue at hand by hopefully lightening the conversation, but it led back to murder in the end.

In fact, Meleager told me the whole story from his point of view.  He explained to me that there was indeed one witness that he had known of who could tell the truth.  It was a man who had only one eye.  I was full of excitement when I found out about this witness for it was just what we needed to prove to Arbus that Meleager was not the killer.  Quickly I ran to find Xena for our mission was clear.  We had to search for this witness.  He had to be nearby for Meleager said that the man lived in a  neighboring village.  As I searched through the town and the square I found that there was a pandemonium of sorts.  I ran into a Salmoneous type salesman offering fake reproductions of the murder weapon that had never been found.  This only lended more evidence to his case for innocence.  As I rushed through the square I saw people lining up to get a spot for viewing the execution.  They were arguing with each other as if they were going to miss something if they didn’t get the best spot.  It was sickening, but I kept searching for Xena.  Finally I had found her.  She had just been talking with judge Arbus.  I was certain that she had been able to convince him to retry Meleager.

Xena explained to me that it was not the case for Arbus had heard of her reputation and past.  He did not trust Xena despite her changed ways.  She even went onto say that if Arbus had been able to come up with enough evidence against her he would try her for her past crimes against humanity.  Although I did not like his attitude toward Xena she seemed to be understanding about it going onto explain that the judge was a good man.  She spoke of how Arbus seemed to be a good leader and of how he told of the star witness.  In fact, Arbus had introduced this witness to Xena and she told her story.  She had witnessed the crime on that night.  The woman had stated that she had seen the victim stumbling out of the horse stables in the dark falling to his death.  He had been badly wounded.  When the woman had approached the victim lying on the ground that was when she had seen Meleager walking out of the stables with the bloody sword in his hand.  It was then that Xena asked me to stop.  She told me that I should stop chasing the man with one eye.  When I told her about him she thought that Meleager was talking about a cyclops.  I was insulted that Xena didn’t believe in Meleager.  Yet I was more hurt that Xena didn’t believe in me.  She didn’t trust in my judgement of people and for this Meleager would have to die.  I could not let it happen.  If Xena would not help Meleager with me then I would help him on my own.  As I ran Xena tried to stop me, but I didn’t want to waste time talking when I could be acting.

I did take Xena’s advice in one way.  Quickly I scouted the market for the best food and wine that could be offered.  Every dinar that I had I spent for I wanted Meleager’s last meal to be the best.  After about an hour I had purchased a large cart containing fruit, and wine, and all of the trimmings available.  When I entered the prison the guards were suspicious of what I had covered underneath the cart.  They were certain that I had brought the warrior princess, but instead I had brought them bliss.  Although Meleager found himself utterly disappointed that he would not be able to participate in the consumption of his last meal it did not matter for I had plans.  Once the guards had consumed all of the food and wine there was little left for Meleager.  Soon after their feast the guards fell victim to their own gluttony as they fell into sleep one by one.  As soon as the last man began to snore I went for the keys to Meleager’s door.  If Xena and I weren’t going to find his witness then he would have to find the man.  Meleager seemed pleased that I was able to come up with such an excellent escape.  I urged him to hurry and find his freedom.  As I opened the door to let him out he grabbed a weapon from one of the sleeping guards and urged me to leave town as soon as possible.  He was certain that I would find my own trial and punishment if I did not go right away.  In a moment and a blink he was gone disappearing back out into the world, but I wasn’t so lucky for one of the guards had just awakened and I found myself being dragged out into the town square.  An angry mob surrounded me led by the man who Xena and I had made enemies with when we had entered into town earlier.  He led in the action against me as the crowd began to tear me apart limb by limb.  I cried out for them to stop, but nobody heard me.

Just when I thought that my life was about to end painfully I heard Xena whistling for Argo.  Argo responded to Xena with great loyalty as she broke free from the stable post.  Suddenly I heard Xena’s battle cry as the warrior princess jumped into the middle of the mob to separate them from my limbs.  Xena meant business as she pulled her weapon ready to injure the next person who tried their luck with her.  The mob was still poking and prodding attempting to find a way though the warrior princess.  Xena stood strong as the crowd continued to grow more enraged.  It was all out of control until judge Arbus entered the square and shouted out for order.  Suddenly everyone melted into silence as Arbus approached the center of the crowd.  He declared that I would be held responsible for the release of Meleager the Mighty.  However, I explained my actions to Arbus hoping he would understand that Meleager was only trying to prove his innocence.  The judge ignored my pleas again.  He was ready to lynch me, but only after my trial.  Xena stepped into the battle of Arbus and myself.  She declared to Arbus that she would seek out and find Meleager.  Xena vowed to Arbus to bring Meleager back to serve his sentence.  I felt very alone in that moment despite my life having been saved for the moment.  Xena then ordered Arbus to allow her to take me with her before she would bring Meleager back.

Arbus agreed to Xena’s terms, but promised that if she did not return with Meleager he would send men out to find us all.  Xena agreed to Arbus’s terms and then pushed me to move forward forcing me to participate in Meleager’s capture.  I was angry at Xena.  Furious with hurt for Xena did not understand and seemingly did not care about justice for Meleager.  I did not understand why the warrior princess was so determined to make Meleager face an unneccesary death.  As we rode out-of-town I argued with her and refused to help her track down an innocent man.  She explained to me that the only way to find the truth was to bring Meleager back first and then ask Arbus more questions.  It seemed to me that Arbus had already asked all of the questions he was willing to ask.  Xena was so focased that it was making me uneasy.  She declared that Meleager was going north for if he were to reach Gaul he would be able to roam without being questioned of his crimes.  Gaul was a rough country without much in the way of law and order.  I desperately hoped that he would be able to out run the warrior princess.  Yet she was so good at tracking that I dreaded what would come next.  I tried desperately to plead with Xena to give Meleager a chance, but she had already made up her mind.  There was no changing it.  She was too stubborn to notice the truth in front of her that was always loyal and walked beside her.

We rode on through the open pass for another hour traveling north upon Xena’s anticipation.  I spotted a thick line of trees just up ahead.  My hope was that those trees were the way to Gaul for if Meleager had made it there it would be much more difficult for Xena to capture him.  Suddenly Xena began to call to Argo to pick up the pace.  I tried to see if I could spot something up ahead.  Just off in the distance was Meleager upon a horse.  He was just about into the woods.  Xena was determined and closing in fast as I desparately called out to Meleager to warn him of our approach.  I hoped that he could make his way to safety, but Xena was too quick.  Moments after Meleager had disappeared into the woods Argo stopped as I dismounted hoping to be able to stand between Meleager and his enemy.  Xena dismounted just behind me.  I wanted Xena to just let him go.  Yet I knew that she wouldn’t.  I felt her presence coming up from behind and then I made a choice.  Spinning around to defend I confronted Xena not allowing her to go a step further toward the woods.  If I could slow her just enough maybe Meleager could get enough distance.  I asserted my position upon the warrior princess who seemed surprised at my action.  Her surprise only lasted for a moment before it shifted to frustration.  Xena firmly commanded me not to participate in Meleager’s escape.  I knew that I would never be able to fight her in a combat and I didn’t really want to.  My hope was to make one last attempt.  I pleaded with her to forget and to just let him go.  We could just walk away from it all and forget we ever came to this place where Arbus held the law.  Yet Xena could not hear me.  She was too busy trying to get justice.  It was all about justice for her.  Xena was blind like Arbus.  She was just like him.  My heart could take it no more.  I raised my voice with conviction for Meleager could not be capable of killing an innocent.  If Xena couldn’t see that then I had to stand in her way.  Justice could never be served in killing an innocent man.

For a moment Xena was quiet as if she were contemplating my motive.  I hoped that she could see it if not in my eyes, but feel it in my soul.  Suddenly she smirked shaking her head with disgust as she flipped over me sending out her battle cry which echoed through the woods.  Before I could even think she was gone.  All I could sense were the sounds of her boots closing in on Meleager’s boots.  I had taken a risk with Xena.  Hoping she could back down I found that she defied our friendship and so all I could do now was hope to catch Xena before Xena could catch Meleager.  Quickly I dashed into the woods.  My heart was pounding with exhaustion and my soul with ache.  I tracked Xena hoping that she would not make the same mistake that Arbus had.  The problem was that because there were two warriors in the woods it was difficult to tell who was who.  They moved in a similar fashion although Xena appeared to be a bit more graceful while Meleager’s path was heavier.  I kept calling out to Xena in desperation as I tripped and fell over a fallen tree.  By the time I returned to my feet I could hear the sounds of a battle ensuing and voices exchanging.  First one sword dropped to the ground followed by a second.  I recognized that as Xena’s sword for it was familiar.   I kept on running and calling out to Xena.  My hope was that no one would get hurt for passions were high.

By the time I reached the battle it was ending with Meleager on the ground and Xena standing over him triumphantly.  I heard him tell her that he would not go, but she pleaded with him to return for if he did not I would be hunted by Arbus for life.  It did not matter to me that Arbus would not rest without my conviction.  I would never return to this land.  It was time for me to make my final stand against Xena the warrior princess.  I stood before Xena declaring that I would not let her take him.  Even if I had to walk away from her and be sentenced to my own death.  I did not care.  There was no way that I would let an innocent friend die.  Yet Meleager pleaded with me to stop.  He said words that I’ll never forget for they stung my heart like a raging nest of angry bees.  Meleager had betrayed me too.  He quietly admitted with his soft words that he indeed was guilty of murder.  Meleager went onto explain the true story.  In this story he had been drunk sleeping inside the horse stable.  He was barely able to remember the details because his intoxication was so intense.  Meleager said a man came bursting into the stable upon a horse slumped over.  When the man dismounted he came at Meleager who staggered to defend himself.  Meleager assumed that the man thought he was about to be robbed by Meleager.  After he died Meleager still held the bloody sword in shock as he ran out of the stable away from the witness who had seen him strike the blow.

I could not believe that Maleager could ever lie to me.  He finished his story explaining that his lie was to avoid my disappointment for his returning to the bottle.  It wasn’t his drinking that disappointed me.  I was too angry to feel anything, but stunned and alone.  My loyalty to our friendship was so great that I challenged the limits of my friendship with Xena.  I hurt another friend because of Meleager’s lies.  Yet the worst part was Meleager was willing to sacrifice my honor to protect his own.  It was more than I could bear to hear and so I walked away from it all.  No one could take away the anguish of betrayal.  Even Xena could not comfort me for my naive choices.  I didn’t like being played the fool.  It was embarrassing to realize that  I was the one who did not believe in Xena.  She really was a good judge of character.  I was the blind one.

We spent the night in the woods.  Me, Argo, Xena, and of course Meleager.  I could not stop brushing Xena’s horse for it seemed that only Argo could put up with my flaws.  As I brushed and brushed I found myself unable to come to terms with it all.  Later in the night as the moon rose from the low horizon Xena came to reckon with me.  I hated being wrong again.  Xena tried to tease me about how well I had been treating Argo all night.  I was only keeping busy, but Xena knew the truth in me.  She knew that I could not face someone who had lied willingly to a friend.  Yet Xena tried to persuade me to talk to Meleager.  Maybe he had not really been a friend at all.  That was when I admitted to Xena that she had been right about him and his dishonesty.  It was difficult to admit that for I had to swallow my pride.  Yet that wasn’t enough.  I had to apologize to Xena for I had behaved terribly against her.  It was a disgrace and I wouldn’t blame her for never wanting to travel with me again.  What I did was not forgivable.

Xena continued reminding me that we had plenty of time to work out our differences of the past day, but Meleager’s time was short.  She kept talking.  Xena’s voice was soothing yet serious as she pointed out another of my flaws that I did not want to see.  She was speaking of how I idolize my friends including Meleager.  I didn’t want her to be right, but she continued with a warning.  She said that although we all have heroes and idols they are all people like ourselves.  There will be a time that they will disappoint us.  She finished by reminding me that Meleager was about to pay for a few of his mistakes with his life.  Xena was certain that I would regret not working things out and coming to forgiveness.  She was concerned that I would live with that guilt for a lifetime.  Xena was hoping that I would choose forgiveness.  Then she quietly slipped back into the darkness from which she had come.  She left me to think about these things.  Although I was disappointed in Meleager it was my own mistakes that truly bothered me.  In order to work through my own flaws I had to help Meleager work through his.  I had to accept my own as well.  For the rest of the night I spent it with Meleager.  He apologized to me for his betrayal and asked for my forgiveness.  I did forgive him and I forgave myself.  We shared in more stories.  It was nice, but I wished that it could last forever.  About an hour before the sun rose we finally settled in to sleep.  It was bitter-sweet for in the light justice would have to be carried out and I would lose a friend again.

In the morning we took our time getting back to judge Arbus.  It seemed that Xena was still asking questions despite the truths that had revealed themselves already.  Meleager had told Xena the night before that he allowed himself to be captured not because he was drunk, but because he didn’t want to harm an innocent trying to escape.  The day before he would not allow himself to fight Xena with a sword to escape.  Xena had felt that there was something more to the story.  When she asked Meleager again about the night of the murder she wanted to know if the Callamond had looked okay when he got off of his horse.  Meleager recalled that the victim may have stumbled, but again he wasn’t certain.  Meleager went onto say that if Xena and I were hoping that he could confirm that the man had possibly fallen on his own sword it was too fuzzy to remember.  I then asked him if the lady had actually seen him commit the crime at the moment it happened.  Maleager then said that the proof of his guilt lied in the fact that the female witness had seen him carrying the bloody sword.  As usual Meleager was joking about a serious matter.  There was something humble and courageous about that.

Then Xena had another question.  She wanted to know what happened to the murder weapon that was never found.  Meleager explained that he had held onto the sword and found it lying next to him in a cave the next morning upon waking up.  He began to describe the weapon as monstrous and ugly with a skull for a handle.  Calliman’s description suddenly escaped from Xena’s lips.  She said that he was big, burly, and ugly.  It was strange and as if Xena had seen this man before.  Meleager was just as surprised as I was asking if Xena knew Calliman.  Suddenly I could see Xena’s senses sharpening as her body reacted to the sounds of arrows flying through the air.  The first one she caught just before it could strike Meleager between the eyes and the second near the same mark as she called for me to get down.  I responded as I looked for the shooter who was up in a tree yards a way.  The archer fired a third arrow as Xena dove over Meleager catching it in her teeth.  It was an amazing move and even Meleager was impressed.  Indeed it was true that Xena was young, ambitious, experienced, and the best.

Quickly Xena took the advantage as the archer tried to reload.  She dashed off toward the tree flipping up to the top with her battle cry.  The archer tried to avert capture by Xena jumping down to the branches below, but he could not hold on.  Xena then grabbed the rope he had used to climb the tree and made a noose.  She the threw it down around the archer capturing him and hanging him by the waist from the tree.  His fear of the warrior princess was obvious as he begged her to allow him to bring in Meleager.  He had been ordered by judge Arbus.  It was all beginning to come together.  The man was not really afraid of Xena as much as he was of judge Arbus.  I found myself irritated that justice was so swift in Arbus’s country that one had to come out and execute the sentenced before he could make it to his scheduled execution.  Meleager had a few words of his own for the man who had just tried to execute him.  Yet Arbus’s henchmen swore that he was within his rights.  It didn’t matter for Xena was the one who would bring Meleager back.  This brought Meleager to his next point.  He was curious to know why Xena was saving his life from an execution only to take him to one.  Xena explained that she was not going to take him back just yet for she wanted to go see the cave that Meleager had said he left the weapon in.

It was not far from where we had run into the archer.  In fact, the bloody sword was still there where Meleager had left it in the burned out fire.  It was drenched in old dry blood which didn’t look so good for Meleager.  The blade was curved like a thick sharp spiral and indeed it did have a monstrous skull on the handle.  Xena carefully picked up the weapon and studied it as if in shock.  I pleaded with her to leave it behind for it only proved more against Meleager.  Yet Xena said that was a wrong assumption.  Cryptically she explained that she was certain that Meleager was not guilty.  It seemed it was just one shock after another.  Twists and turns around every corner made it difficult to piece things together.  Xena began her story with last winter at the time I had gone off to the Athens Academy.  She explained that she had run into Callimond on the road just outside of town.  There she witnessed Callimond attacking a man and so she stepped in to protect the victim.  Xena engaged in a fight with Callimond who ended up taking his own sword in the chest.  As Callimond tried to escape the battle with Xena he jumped upon his horse which must have led him back to the stable where Meleager and the witness had been involved.   Xena was certain that the man would have died as a result of the wound through the chest.

This was exciting news, but there was still a problem.  It was how to prove all of this to judge Arbus.  Xena had an idea.  She spoke of the man she had saved.  At the time he had explained to her that he had been chased by assassins wanting to kill him.  When Xena asked what he was wanted for the man would not say, but she advised him of an old hiding place that she used to use for her armies in her days of looting.  Xena hoped that this man would still be there and so she advised us to stay in the cave until she could return with the proof needed to free Meleager from his execution.  Meleager was glad and relieved to know that he had not killed anyone and that he had not lied to me about being a murderer.  Despite all of the confusion there was hope once again.  I was confident that Xena would find the witness.

All of this excitement has led to this moment as I transcribe the events of the past day and a half.  Meleager has let down his guard thinking that he is saved already, but I know that it will not be over until Xena returns with the witness.  I have asked Meleager not to go outside for fear that someone may spot him.  Xena has asked us to stay in the cave.  She only asks these things for good reason.  Meleager has now sat down before me and has asked me to transcribe his will.  Most certainly this is his idea of light humor, but I will play along.  He says that he leaves his humble possessions to me  Gabrielle, his family, the only daughter he has ever known.  I take this as an honor and as a complement, but I have faith that Xena will return.  Meleager’s valuables are of sentiment for the innocent lives of villagers he has saved.  Many  are trinkets he carries of those who have been grateful for his courage.  These trinkets are his only worldly possessions.

Yet endings come in mysterious circumstances as Arbus has turned out to be persistent and ambitious. Meleager and I were indeed captured at the cave by Arbus and his henchmen.  We were taken back to the prison to await Meleager’s execution and my sentencing for his escape.  Xena had been unable to return in time to save Meleager’s life.  It all seemed like such a waste.  As Meleager and I spent our last moments together we tried to comfort one another.  Although Arbus had promised a good show it didn’t matter anymore.  All that mattered to me was that Meleager go in peace.  I wanted the last thing he saw in life to be a friend.  My request for him was that he look at my face as he was leaving this world.  I wanted to be able to help him if not in life in death.  And so we held each other for the last moments as I shed tears with Meleager.  It was like saying good-bye to a father.  He was too brave to cry.  When Arbus’s men came for him they threatened to take his life right there before ever getting to the public square.  Meleager only said that he could never give them that satisfaction.  So they took him away to be hung in the square.  My heart wept for him and all of the days that should have belonged to him.

I held onto the bars tightly as I watched them bring him to the platform.  My heart fought my emotions to keep a smile and a bright face till the end.  Yet it was the hardest thing I have ever done.  It was nearly impossible for me not to shed my tears.  Meleager looked to me as they placed the noose around his neck sending back a smile of confidence as he welcomed the shadow of death.  He seemed satisfied with all that he had done.  The irony of Meleager’s life was that his death was by those whom he had spent a lifetime defending.  It was not fair and it was unjust, but Arbus would never see that.  He seemed only hungry for blood like the warlords, and the assassins he fought for justice against.  Maybe they were more just than Arbus himself, but it seemed no one would ever know.  I heard Arbus call for the gate to be cleared.  The hooded executioner then pulled back the lever and Arbus’s man declared that it was indeed clear.  Now it was only a moment before Meleager would be gone forever.  It was difficult for me to watch as they tightened the noose around his neck.  Meleager was indeed more brave than I.  He was facing death still smiling as if he were about to make a joke, but then Arbus caressed the large amulet around his own neck as if preparing to give the order.  Then it happened.  Arbus declared Meleager’s death.  The dark hooded executioner then pulled the life from beneath Meleager.

As he dropped I could no longer watch.  All I could do was sob with loss.  I was unable to control my emotions, but it didn’t matter anymore.  Now that Meleager was gone I no longer had to be brave.  My only regret was that our last days together could have been lighter.  For several hours I waited as I tried to remember the good things about Meleager and the wonderful adventure we had together back in Potedia.  Though it seemed my heart would not stop aching.  It was like losing Perdicas all over again only it was to justice and not evil.  As I leaned against the cold hard walls of my cell I wondered what Arbus had in store for me.  It seemed there would be no mercy.  My life would be spent running from the justice I had once embraced.  Justice by men can never be flawless.  There will always be tragic errors and mistakes.  The only real clarity is between good and evil.  At least those are black and white.  Night soon fell upon me in the prison followed by the sound of a key unlocking the main door.  I heard Xena call out to me, but sadly she was too late.  Part of me felt discouraged for she had disappointed me for the first time.  This was the first time she had been unable to save a good man.  Yet then there was another voice that spoke.  It was haunting, but I turned to see Meleager.  He unlocked my cell and smiled brightly.  I could not believe it, but he was alive.  He asked what he had missed and all I could do was reach out and hug him.  I did not want to let go.

Then I hugged them both for my two dearest friends were still with me.  It was the best gift I could ask for and my hope had been restored.  At first I was a bit angry that they let me think Meleager was dead all of this time, but Xena apologized as Meleager stated that she had indeed almost been too late.  Meleager then took us to the tavern for dinner, but he did not drink one drop as the two of them divulged to me the story of how Xena saved Meleager’s life.  Xena had indeed found the witness in the place where she had left him.  The witness was just as jumpy as she had remembered him to be.  Yet this time he was willing to divulge his reason for running and hiding.  It had been judge Arbus who had sent assassins after the man.  Xena’s witness knew something about the Vulker case that would have acquitted an innocent man.  Arbus had built his entire reputation on that case, and had to keep quiet his mistake.  When the assassin who tried to kill the witness in the Vulker case failed and was found dead near the stable Arbus had to find justice even if it were a lie to protect his reputation.  Meleager happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  If it had not been for Xena’s intervention judge Arbus would have succeeded in the cover up.

I asked Xena what happened to the witness.  She explained that he was too cowardly to stand up to Arbus.  The attempt on his life eight seasons before had spooked him beyond his wits.  By the time she and the witness had arrived back at the cave Arbus had already taken Meleager and I back to prison.  It was there that Xena had made a mistake when she had mentioned why she had come for the witness.  When her witness realized that he was up against Arbus he decided to run back into hiding.  Xena decided that she had only one more chance to save Meleager.  When she arrived back in town under disguise she seeked out the executioner and explained why he had to stop the execution of an innocent man.  The warrior princess knew that because the executioner was from outside town he would not be biased in favor of Arbus.  She also knew that a professional executioner could not bring himself to execute an innocent if he knew the truth.  Xena hid underneath the gate during the execution and just as it took place she stood beneath the trap door to catch Meleager’s feet.  He had to quickly adjust and play along without knowing the plan.  Once the square had finally cleared and Arbus and his men were out of sight the executioner took Meleager to his coffin where all awaited Arbus’s record.   Arbus was surprised to find a live corpse when he came to declare the cause of death.  It was then that they exposed Arbus and arrested him for his crimes against the innocent and against justice.

Late the next morning Xena and I left town off to find another battle to fight.  As we left town we saw Meleager gleefully taking an ax to the hanging post.  It was the final justice to be served and his final duty before leaving the town himself.  As we said good-bye I was certain that one day we would cross paths again.  I only hoped it would be on a day when no one was accused of murder.  Continuing on I caught sight of the old hag whom I had seen knitting in the square the day before the execution.  She had finished her craft; however, it was morbid at best.  The old hag had knitted a man hanging.  It looked a lot like Meleager.  She was a bitter old woman and I hoped that I would not be knitting such things when I reached her ripe age.  Xena explained that I had nothing to worry about for in our line of work people never lived to see that age.  I hoped that she was wrong for I liked that outlook even less.  Still I thought that knitting socks would be much better than an execution.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #39: Blind Faith

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#39:  Blind Faith

March, 47 B.C.

       I sing of a day of darkness.  A selfless choice which lead to the sacrifice of the eyes of the warrior princess.  It is the story of a blind faith known by no other once sung to the bard by her beloved friend.  In the morning hour of this day the bard Gabrielle walked alongside the warrior princess munching upon a delicious apple.  It had been the last in Argo’s saddle bag.  The warrior princess had given it up to her friend willingly despite her own hunger as they walked through the village market.  Xena’s only focus was in finding the nearest tavern after walking for most of the morning.  Gabrielle was fascinated with the sights and sounds of the market as people scurried by with their goods and haggled all around her.  This brought excitement to her which suddenly sent her into a need to impulsively shop for something.

By this point the warrior princess had spotted the nearest tavern and was about to head off into that direction.  Just before Xena could change course Gabrielle made her thoughts known to the warrior princess.  Xena was caught off guard for she had not remembered that they needed anything except for a bite to eat.  It seemed impractical yet she ran through her mind the possibilities of necessity.  Gabrielle realized her friend did not understand the request.  She elaborated on her thoughts explaining that she wanted to shop for the sake of shopping.  Gabrielle expressed how much she truly enjoyed the entire process of haggling for the deal.  The bard found herself desiring to be a part of all of the bustle surrounding her.  Xena seemed uninterested suddenly realizing that the bard was only being frivolous and nothing more.  The warrior princess did not appear to enjoy the idea of getting involved, waiting in line, or arguing over material things.  It was true there were enough dinars to spend on a few things, but Xena was not interested.  Instead the warrior princess turned to her young friend and explained her thoughts on the idea and the subject of shopping.  She preferred breakfast at the tavern over shopping.  Xena was not against allowing the bard to participate despite her opinions of shopping, but she did not forbid it.  The warrior princess decided that she would go on to the tavern and meet Gabrielle there as soon as the bard tired of her frivilous adventure.

As the warrior princess left the bard alone Gabrielle was slightly disappointed that Xena did not want to share in a simple adventure.  Yet her thought passed into the distraction of all of the wonderful goods being displayed up and down the streets of the village.  The bard noticed that this village was larger and more exciting than most.  Its population was bordering on crowded.  This explained the reason for such a large market.  Then Gabrielle noticed that many of the vendors were from all over the world.  There were ethnic people she had never seen before.  This was fascinating to the bard.  As she scanned the scene with her eyes she caught sight of a fabric vendor.  His fabrics appeared bright and exotic.  This caught the bard’s attention immediately.  She thought that maybe she could go for a change in wardrobe so she ventured over to haggle with him.

Just before reaching the vendor she had decided that she would spend no more than three dinars for she intended to shop at as many places as she could with only ten dinars to squander.  It wasn’t much, but she was certain she could stretch them far.  In approaching the far eastern vendor she began to pick through his fabrics noticing the bright green silks, and the many other assortments of fabrics.  She picked up one that looked most intriguing.  It was dark blue with red and white designs.  Although Gabrielle had fallen in love with this piece of cloth she decided to play it off as if it were dirty and damaged.  Her first question to the vendor was his price.  He smiled speaking smoothly explaining that it was a Roman Egyptian prayer scarf.    Then he gave his price.  It was five dinars.  He flashed as smiled back at his customer who was not at all charmed by his handsome demeanor.  Instead she went with the angle that he was most certainly joking about his request.  He was willing to haggle explaining that he would drop a dinar from the price.  It was more than the bard was willing to give up and so she played the best move of all.  She shunned his offer and turned to walk away sending the young handsome vendor into a panic.

He gently grabbed her arm as she turned away pleading for a sale at three dinars.  Gabrielle was certain she could do better judging by his reaction to her leaving.  It was clear that he was not having a great day in sales.  Although she had nailed down her own offer he did not have to know.  She decided to take the haggling one step further.  Gabrielle played up the effect as she took a deep breath casually picked up the scarf and stated that she could use it to wipe the sweat off of her horse.  She offered one dinar.  The vendor thought for a slight moment and then decided that his final price would stand firmly at two dinars.  The bard realized that her own mistake had been in picking up the scarf before hearing the final offer.  Yet it did not matter for she had already saved at least one dinar.  He played the sympathy card well as she retrieved two dinars from her leather scroll bag and placed them into his rough hands.  Then she sighed smiling gleefully as she wrapped the scarf around her head and shoulders.  With that the bard left with a final dramatic glance at the vendor who flipped one dinar and then kissed his prize  sending another happy customer her on her way.

The bard was feeling high with energy and relaxed realizing that her shopping adventure would last a little longer than she had anticipated.  As she walked through the market she caught sight of something that looked like a large leather water bottle, but when she picked it up she realized that it was something else.  Gabrielle threw it back down onto the table and gave it no more thought as she decided that she would walk to the other end of the market.  With her guard down the unsuspecting victim found herself suddenly startled by someone from behind her who had a rather strong grasp on her arms.  Gabrielle’s reaction to being restrained and pushed back toward the alley was to use her staff in self-defense.  She swung it over her head backwards making contact with her attacker’s head.  As she defended she noticed a second attacker moving in from the front.  She deflected him with the bottom edge of her weapon knocking him to the ground.  The attacker from behind had released his grasp falling to the ground behind her.

Then Gabrielle turned to get a look at him and then dashed back into the alley in an attempt to disappear.  She sensed that there were more attackers just waiting in the market.  Her suspicion was that someone was trying to grab her for slave trading.  She ran down the alley, but just before she could reach the end of it to safety away from the crowds a second attacker came in from the right out of the shadows restraining her.  He was a young blond warlord cleaner than most.  Gabrielle could feel from his firm grasp that she would not be able to free herself from his clutches.  Then he whispered a firm threat into her ear.  The idea of having her neck broken was enough for Gabrielle to submit to his demands as he ushered the bard out of the alley.

Xena had waited for her friend in the tavern for a few hours.  Her patience for Gabrielle’s shopping adventure had grown thin for she was now board with the scenery and the people around her.  As Xena left the tavern she scanned the market for her friend, but could not catch a glimpse of her.  The warrior princess called out to her friend a few times, but the bard did not respond.  Xena found a slight bit of irritation beginning to build for her friend’s lack of consideration.  Yet the warrior princess knew in her heart that Gabrielle would not just leave the village without having returned to the tavern to tell her.  Most likely she would have attempted to drag the warrior princess back out into the market instead of leaving.  As Xena rounded the corner and quickened her pace she caught sight of Gabrielle’s scroll bag, an unfamiliar scarf, and the bard’s trusty staff.  This was not normal.  Xena was certain that by now Gabrielle was too aware of the dangers to leave her staff unattended.  Yet her scrolls were even more dear to the bard and so Xena surmised that there was something terribly wrong.  She had one theory.  The warrior princess suspected that her friend had been abducted, but by who she did not know.

Then the warrior princess reached out to grab Gabrielle’s belongings hoping that the bard had just been absent minded as in the past for there was seemingly no sign of a struggle.  Just then a blond warlord stepped from just beyond the alley and pointed to the staff stating firmly that it belonged to him.  Xena looked to him casually picking up Gabrielle’s scroll bag, and her staff certain that a warlord would not carry an amazon staff.  They were rare and usually carried by amazon women.  She confirmed confidently and with a cool head that they belonged to her friend.  Then the young blond warlord with a scarred face made reference to a young irritating blond.  As Xena looked back up at him with interest and inquiry he stated coldly that the blond girl would not be needing the weapon any longer.  Xena feared the worst, but hoped for the best.  She asked him why her friend would no longer be needing a staff.  The young blond warrior proclaimed confidently that he had killed her.  Then his playful demeanor transformed into seriousness as he reached for his sword and firmly declared that he would kill the warrior princess.

The warrior princess did not break.  She stood firm knowing that there was a possibility that he was telling the truth.  His threats were certainly real, but his motives were not clear.  The warrior princess used the idea of her friend’s death to fight with strong vengeance yet it was controlled for there was still the possibility that Gabrielle was alive.  Xena had not seen a body and had only the word of a warlord she did not know.  She began on the defensive to get an idea of his fighting style.  This gave him false confidence which gave the warrior princess an advantage.  She said that he was strong, skilled, but extremely arrogant and reckless in his fighting style.  The warrior princess flipped over him landing behind him.  He had reflected her move only flipping backwards over her to get into position behind the warrior princess.  Xena was indeed surprised, but she did not want to give this away to her opponent.  She blocked his moved from behind down upon her spinning around to face him.  As she went out of one defensive move with her sword she went on the offensive kicking him back to gather some distance between the two.  She realized that she could not kill him even if she desired it for if Gabrielle was still alive he was the only person who could tell her where the bard was.

Xena decided to go back on the defensive hoping to hold him off long enough to tire him.  She fell back defending his advances then flipping onto a market table.  There she stood above him as the crowd watched to see what would ensue next.  The warrior princess was extremely irritated for she knew that she could not kill him, but he had no reservations about killing her.  As she tried to realize his motives for killing her he paused the battle seeing her mind working to figure out his motive.  He looked up at her with his blue eyes and confidently stated that he was certain that the warrior princess feared him.  It wasn’t that she feared him.  He was seeing her emotions for her friend and how that effected her battle.  Xena realized that she had to bury her heart in order to survive and to save her friend.  Her fears of losing Gabrielle had to disappear from sight.

The blond warrior was not sure that Xena had given him all that she had in the battle.  He was feeling cheated and he expressed it.  Xena listened as the blond warrior gave away more about himself.  He stated that he did not have a soft spot for the warrior princess as did the warlord Draco and that he was not out of control like Callisto.  This gave the warrior princess more insight.  She was curious as to why he knew so much about her.  It was about pride for him and about proving himself as a worthy adversary.  Xena was now confident that he did not really want to kill her.  This made it more possible that he had not killed Gabrielle.  Then the blond warrior drove forward to attack as the warrior princess flipped back ward off of the table putting an obstacle between her and her opponent.  She decided that the only way to win this battle was to bruise his ego.  The warrior princess could not give him the satisfaction of winning.

He was seemingly frustrated for Xena would not verbally give anything away to him.  The blond warrior missed striking her only to crush a large vase to pieces.  It was a clumsy move which lead him to grasp the table and toss it aside in frustration.  Then the warrior princess attacked attempting to wear out her opponent into submission.  She came on strong gaining a lot of ground.  The warrior princess had fought him from one end of the market to the other end.  He had not expected the burst of strength and energy that she had given him to grapple with.  His ego was being split apart with every strike of the sword and every offensive move Xena used without it.  The warrior princess made him appear worthless and amateur although she had found herself to be quite impressed.  He was no Callisto, but Xena found the challenge to be exhilarating.

As his ego began to rage out of control his technique became more sloppy and desperate.  He began to throw goods at the warrior princess who realized that the battle would have to end soon for innocent people were going to be injured.  She could see that he was trying to reflect her style as if learning as he fought.  This was a threat for the warrior princess for if he could reflect her techniques then his strength would give him the advantage.  She could not allow him to have this.  There was a bit of panic as the emotion of losing Gabrielle still whispered in the background with all of the other thoughts the warrior princess was experiencing.  This led to a reckless mistake for Xena did not anticipate that her emotions would force her to strike the opponent with her sword.  As the warrior princess went in for mortal damage the blond warrior was quick enough to dodge a direct strike.   He was more agile that Xena had realized causing her to strike one of the large brown leather bottles from the market.  Her sword struck deep into it piercing the bottle.  Suddenly a liquid came spewing out directly into the warrior princess’s eyes.  The sensation burned as if someone had set Xena’s eyes on fire.  Yet the warrior princess could not allow the pain to cause her to lose her focus.  She knew that the loss of focus could mean her death.

After pausing for a moment to regain her focus after experiencing the burning eyes she felt the presence of her enemy from behind.  She was certain that he could have struck her down right there, but he had chosen not to.  Instead he paused as if having second thoughts about killing her.  She took advantage of this throwing her elbow into his chin turning to drive her fist into his chest.  This sent him onto his back.  He dropped his sword surprised by the move out of Xena’s weak moment.  The warrior princess held her sword steady down upon him threatening to kill him.  She saw his eyes flicker for a moment to grab for the weapon he had lost.  Xena quickly dissolved any chance he would have to recover as she stomped her boot onto his wrist restraining it from movement.

Before he could say another word Xena demanded to know what he had done with Gabrielle.  The blond warrior opened his mouth to answer only to be interrupted by the warrior princess who was certain that he didn’t kill her friend despite what he had said.  Then he asked how she was so certain of this.  She informed him that his moment to take her down had passed when she had gotten the oil in her eyes.   He defied the warrior princess still trying to hold onto his advantage of the unknown.  Gabrielle’s well-being was still in question despite his lack of killing Xena in the moment of truth.  He weakly tried to recover from that obvious mistake explaining that it would have defeated his entire purpose for battling Xena in the first place.  The blond warrior tried to proclaim that he was honorable in not stabbing Xena in the back for it would not be considered a fair fight.  He explained that he wanted to be known as the man who killed the warrior princess in a fair fight.  Xena’s heart was relieved by this statement knowing that despite his attempt to betray the truth he had not killed Gabrielle.  He had only stated it to make her emotional enough to fight him.  She was disgusted that he had played her emotions.  The warrior princess replaced her sword into its sheath tiring of the blond warrior’s game.  Now that he had told her what it was that he had been after she was uninterested.  She would never give him what he wanted.  She just wanted to find Gabrielle.

When she asked him directly to answer her question about her friend he ignored it.  He remembered instantly that he was still in control despite having lost the fight.  The blond warrior defied the warrior princess deciding not to tell her where Gabrielle was.  This only frustrated Xena who had no second thoughts about putting on her pinch move.  He was surprised, but still defiant as the crowd watched his life draining from his nose before them.  Xena announced for the spectacle that he was about to live his last thirty seconds unless he chose to give her the information she seeked.  She waited until the very last moment suddenly realizing that he was willing to die to prove that he was worthy of the warrior princess.  He was willing to become a legend told by commoners for glory he would never live to experience.  Xena was shocked by this yet she had no choice, but to release him from death’s grip for he was her only hope in finding Gabrielle.

Reluctantly Xena gave him his win, but the sacrifice of her old reputation was worth it for the safety of her friend.  She watched as the young blond warrior rolled about in the dirt with triumphant laughter.  He declared to all in the market who had witnessed the event that they tell his story.  Palaemon wanted everyone to know that he had defied the legendary warrior princess.  Then he demanded congratulations from the warrior princess herself as if he deserved her respect.  Xena would not give him this satisfaction.  She scolded him for being stupid enough to egg her into an emotional fight.  She had wanted to kill him.  Only the thought of Gabrielle had saved him from death at the hand of the warrior princess.  He had played her emotions in ways that were dangerous.  It was a brilliant battle strategy, but not if he wanted to stay alive.  Xena did compare him to Callisto.  He was reckless in a different way.  She was certain that he was not ready to be that warlord he pretended to be.  He was certain to get himself killed before realizing it.

Xena did not feel sorry for him.  She grabbed a loose piece of wood from the ground and some rope.  Then the warrior princess turned him over onto his stomach and tied his arms to the long board.  Palaemon was suddenly worried for he had finally lost control over the warrior princess emotionally.  He demanded to know what she had intended for him and she responded that he would be her prisoner until they found Gabrielle.   Then Xena regained her reputation by reminding everyone mostly Palaemon that he would face death if Gabrielle was harmed in any way.  As the warrior princess restrained her new irritating blond prisoner she began to notice that her vision was starting to blur.  She looked up to the man who sold the oil and asked him if the oil had contained sumac.  He confirmed that it had been used as part of a mixture for his dyes.  This only added more difficulty to Xena’s situation.  The warrior princess was in no mood to deal with blindness.  She had only twenty-four hours to find a solution to save her eyes from permanent damage.

With time limited Xena’s patience with Palaemon was thin.  He was still trying to play his game, but he was trying a new angle.  Palaemon had gone from vicious warlord to confident warrior.  His curiosity about Gabrielle did not escape the warrior princess.  She did not care to share the details he seeked.  If he knew the reason Gabrielle was so important to her he would use it against her.  The warrior princess shrugged off his inquires about Gabrielle and he retaliated with frustration threatening the warrior princess with his own friends.  He was bluffing.  Xena knew that they weren’t being followed.  They were completely alone in the woods traveling the road.  Palaemon would not tell Xena what she wanted to know so she decided to try to fool him into giving away information.  To save time she attempted to track Gabrielle following the main road.  The bard had left a few clues behind knowing that Xena would be looking for her.

Xena’s biggest problem was that her sight was going fast and any clues that Gabrielle left later on the trail would be difficult for the warrior princess to see.  When the warrior princess tripped over an exposed root on the path Palaemon continued to press her buttons certain that it was battle fatigue.  The warrior princess was not physically exhausted and mentally she was completely sharp now that she had a better idea of who she was dealing with.  Xena found a moment of relatability to that assumption remembering the comradary of being in an army, but it passed when Palaemon asked her to rate his fighting style.  For a moment she was not listening only thinking of the situation at hand.  When she finally realized what he was asking the irritation had risen to another level.  His ego was larger than the man.  It was his weakness and easy to exploit.  He was blind to this fact.  Unlike the warrior princess who was completely aware of her weakness.  This gave her an advantage.

He continued bragging about himself which was difficult for the warrior princess to stomach.  She decided that she would endure the torturous conversation in the hopes that something would slip out.  If he talked this much about himself it was only a matter of time.  She just had to be patient.  She decided to insult him insisting that young criminals like him were worth less than a dinar.  There were hundreds of them and to her they were all pretty much the same thing.  He retorted with confidence explaining that he could name five warlords he had killed.  If only they had been alive to tell their own stories about Palaemon.  Then he picked a random warlord that was dead.  He named off Krykus the Pilot.  Xena had killed Krykus.  It was not something that she shared with everyone.  She knew he was lying.  He had killed no one.  She was certain that he did not have the killer instinct.  Palaemon was just full of hot air to release.  He was nothing more.

This only frustrated the warrior princess more, but he was playing into her hand as she scolded him for kidnapping young girls.  In fighting for the respect and acknowledgement of the warrior princess Palaemon slipped.  He casually responded that he had to make his living.  It was the first real clue she had gotten out of him.  Then she inquired as if asking him to repeat his statement.  He was glad to explain the details of his financial venture.  Palaemon had gotten Xena’s undivided attention.  He stated that when he had heard of what type of girl his buyers had been looking for the deal was sealed.  It was obvious to the warrior princess that he had been studying her for quite some time.  He had been modeling himself after her long enough to know that she had a young blond friend.  This was unsettling to her as he continued explaining how worthless the bard had been to him before now.  Xena could only think of the many possibilities of who might want to buy someone.  Slavery was certain and the thought of it reminded her of her experience with the fates.  She was passionate about keeping Gabrielle from suffering at the hands of slave traders.

Xena made another move hoping to threaten Palaemon into given her the information she needed.  The warrior princess took the rope she was using to keep tabs on her prisoner to threaten to strangle him.  He had learned enough about her to know that she would never kill him until she knew where Gabrielle was no matter what he did.  Xena hated him more for this.  Gabrielle’s life and well-being her not a game to her.  She had to come up with something to convince him that giving that information to her was worth his while.  He did not want to make his riddle easy and Xena reminded him of what he already knew.  Without Gabrielle she would kill him in a heart beat.

As Xena followed the clues to Gabrielle’s disappearance they led her into an abandoned village.  It appeared to have been ransacked by warlords.  Xena was certain that it not been at Palaemon’s command although he would have liked to claim responsibility to it.  Instead Palaemon casually stated that they were about to walk into some of his friends.  He was certain that they would fight to reclaim him from the warrior princess.  Xena did not believe this.  She had figured out that he had been working for someone else.  His goal was to gain the respect of the other men in his band of warlords to become the supreme commander.  There was no better prize than to lay claim to the assassination of one of the best.  Soon Xena sensed that there were enemies near.  Just when she looked up across the village her vision blurred more.  She could barely make out the shapes standing before her.  The warrior princess calculated that there were six to seven armed men she would be dealing with.  Palaemon had seen them approaching reminding the warrior princess of her raw odds.  He was delighted that he would now have an audience to watch in his demise of the warrior princess.

Xena heard the voice of one of those approaching call out to Palaemon displeased that he was at the end of Xena’s rope.  Palaemon was seemingly the butt of a joke.  The warrior princess pieced together the lack of respect he found with his friends translated into his obsession with the warrior princess.  Xena was amused by this, but it was another piece to the puzzle that was Palaemon.  As the attackers advanced the warrior princess chose not to draw her sword.  Since she could not see she would have to fight them close so she could feel their moves.  Xena knew that her chances would be better if there was no threat of a blade.  Her enemies would fight fair.  She let go of Paleamon’s rope so that he could help her fight, but it was a risk.  The warrior princess defeated her enemies easily with no weapons, but as soon as they had been blasted on the first pass the battle would escalate into weapons.

Xena prepared for this still uncertain of where Palaemon would stand.  She knew she needed his eyes to help her see.  The warrior princess had to admit that his help in the battle would protect her from the enemy.  As he begged her to let him go free several times she finally had to make the choice to release him.  She was dead either way if he did not jump on her side.  As she drew her sword and released him the battle escalated and Xena could hear the blades of the enemy passing her closely.  The warrior princess was mostly on the defensive using a wild fighting style hoping to keep them from coming in too close.  Xena took down most of the men she was fighting against, but was disarmed in the process.  Palaemon was successful  in finishing the battle as the enemy limped off the battlefield.  Xena was alarmed when she could not find her sword for she was certain that Palaemon would strike her down next.  His warlord buddies would be witness to his great triumph.

Then she heard him approach her from behind and declare that it was time for their next battle.  The warrior princess searched for her sword with her foot and found a set of chains.  When she felt his presence she turned to face him with unshaken confidence.  She inquired of his issue with her as if they had an honored agreement of some sort.  He responded to her inquiry realizing that she had not looked in the eye as she had earlier.  Xena felt a slight breeze across her face.  Then Palaemon declared that he had discovered her blindness.  The warrior princess could not deny it, but decided to use this disadvantage and an advantage.  She listened as he walked about her picking up her sword off of the ground just next to her.  He handed it to her expressing his frustration that he would not be able to have a fair fight with her now that she was blind.  Suddenly she was worthless to him, but he was still worth a great deal to her.  Quickly she used her foot to search for the chains she had sensed before and kicked them up off of the ground to restrain him.

As he was about to leave her alone, lost, and blind, but she had regained control over him.  When Palaemon demanded to know what she intended she explained that she was very much in a hurry.  She needed him to guide her, but he was not keen on the idea.  Palaemon tried to break free in defiance, but Xena forcefully dragged him back into her power.  He could not break free of his binds.  Xena reminded him of their task.  They had to find Gabrielle together whether he wanted to or not.  He would be her eyes and he would take the first step into any thing they encountered on that journey.

Palaemon had finally been forced into telling the warrior princess what she wanted to know.  He had nothing to lose for it had already been lost.  His grand battle to the death against Xena was now only an unrealized dream of his.  Palaemon began to guide the warrior princess with no other choice.  He explained to her who had purchased the bard from him and why.  Gabrielle was slated to become the wife of King Solace.  When Palaemon had heard that the type of woman the buyer had been looking for was similar to Gabrielle he decided to make a buck.  Xena’s mind was suspicious of the idea of Gabrielle being purchased to become a queen.  It was unlike a kingdom to declare a peasant girl its new queen.  Although Paleamon was being cooperative he was still trying to get away.  The warrior princess could hear him picking away at the lock on the shackles.  She scolded him for trying to escape more out of necessity than his value as a prisoner.  Her mind continued to work on the problem as she tried to decipher the real plot behind the sale of Gabrielle.

Then the warrior princess reminded Paleamon that he would not be escaping without the key which was hidden tightly within her golden breast-plate.  Paleamon tried to be hard again declaring that Xena was afraid.  The warrior princess responded with her own hardened response reminding Palaemon that he was not a man that she could bring herself to fear.  Palaemon changed his tone to one of more concern.  He spoke of the unknown as something the warrior princess should fear.  It was the first time that he had stepped away from his act and into his real skin.  There was a sense of concern for the blindness that Xena was suddenly experiencing.  The warrior princess allowed herself to speak frankly and truthfully realizing that there was something more to Palaemon.  She took a deep breath explaining to him that despite her eyes being damaged she was aware of their certain fate.  The warrior princess explained that it been sumac that had spilled into her eyes which caused temporary blindness unless it was untreated after a day of exposure.  Paleamon’s curious concern for the warrior princess interjected asking what would happen if Xena did not receive treatment.  Xena responded seriously explaining the blindness would be permanent.  She would have to endure it for a lifetime.

For a moment Palaemon said nothing as if pondering this idea.  Then he wanted to know of the treatment.  Xena answered explaining that her eyes would need to be cleansed with palm oil and Egyptian Senna.  Suddenly the warrior princess was concerned that she had trusted in him too much.  Yet she realized that the closest place to get this kind of treatment was Athens.  It was a great distance from where they were.  When Palaemon heard these thoughts he argued with the warrior princess.  He could not believe that she was not headed in that direction.  She was not phased by this.  Her goal had already been determined.  Xena’s anger and frustration raged against Palaemon’s selfish needs.  The warrior princess was struggling to make clear to him how valuable her friendship was.  She was willing to sacrifice her ability to see the world forever in order to save Gabrielle from whatever fate might be awaiting her.  It was the unknown that Xena feared more than the unknown that was now a blackness with every step she took.  Palaemon gave up for the moment realizing that the warrior princess was more determined than he was.  He was confused by this.

The warrior princess’s senses suddenly kicked into high gear as her nose caught a whiff of manure coming from up ahead carried by the soft breeze blowing through the trees.  She was certain that there were stables nearby.  Palaemon’s interest was piqued by this for he had not sensed this slight ambiance in the air.  He could not believe Xena could smell horses from the distance, but Xena corrected him.  It was not the horses.  He paused for a moment and then realized that he had just learned something new from the warrior princess.  Xena was not amused by his inference of this.  When she rejected the idea that she would teach him new tricks he argued that he had already learned a great deal by studying her battles.  It was as if he were trying command respect from her as he confidently spoke closely to her face.  He demanded respect from his idol.  Xena turned to him trying to convey her confused choices of youth.  She had been wrong in the things she had done and did not like that Palaemon was modeling himself after her dark side.

Palaemon would not accept this wisdom from the warrior princess.  All he could rave about was the power, and the respect that Xena commanded in those days.  Xena interrupted him firmly feeling the painful memories trying to flood themselves to the surface.  She explained that fear was her only prize for the deeds of her young warrior days.  He would not accept this advice.  Palaemon was drunk with anger and the need for the respect he thought that Xena had once had.  He wanted to be known as the new warrior giant that was unstoppable.  Palaemon wanted to kill Xena to prove to everyone that he was worthy of her titles.  Then he lurched forward leaving the warrior princess to wonder how to diffuse his high emotions.

She soon realized that there was only one way to do this.  It was to offer him the respect he desperately seeked.  Even if it was only respect coming from her it would be valuable to him.  The sounds of men were near as both warriors knelt down into the tall grass.  Xena listened to what the men were saying it sounded as if they were planning a counter attack against Xena and Palaemon.  It was obvious that they had caught onto Xena’s new weakness, but Xena and Palaemon still had the advantage.  They were still hidden.  Palameon spotted them with his eyes revealing what Xena already knew.  He explained that there were some woods just behind the patrol of men.  Xena thought of this for a moment and suggested that they make a dash for the trees.  She was certain they would lose the guards in the woods.  Palaemon agreed with her as if he had already determined this for himself.  Then Xena gave the command and they dashed for the woods.  Xena led the dash for the woods now more confident in her blindness as she became more aware of her other senses.  The warrior princess admitted she was enjoying the challenge of being blind.

She could hear the sounds of the patrol passing by her right as she and Palaemon ran.  The warrior princess began to feel the branches on the trees brushing across her face as Palaemon jumped in front of her to warn of an obstacle.  Xena decided to challenge Palaemon, but it was a reckless calculation for just as she was passing ahead of him he shouted out to her, but it was too late.  The warrior princess had dashed blindly off of a steep cliff that had been hidden until the last moment even from Palaemon.  Xena was saved by the shackles which bound her to Palaemon.  Her arm jerked hard causing a sharp pain in the shoulder as she hung above rushing water below.  She could hear the sounds of the water, and the chains rubbing across the rocks as Palaemon struggled to hold on.

The warrior princess could feel he was losing the struggle as the chain sudden slid down further.  Palameon had somehow caught himself after falling.  She could hear a loud cracking sound as if he were desperately holding onto a branch.  Then he shouted down to her that his grip was slipping away.  She asked him how far it was to the bottom and his answer was only certain death for both of them.  The warrior princess decided that their chances would be better if they were separated.  She would slide down the rocks and hope there were more ledges or branches to grasp onto.  Palaemon would be safe as long as she let herself go.  The warrior princess pulled out the key from her breast-plate knowing that she could lose her only chance to save Gabrielle.  She had to trust in Palaemon and so she unlocked the binds and tumbled down the cliff rock further as Palaemon shouted out to her in a panicked shock.

The warrior princess could feel the mist of the rushing water below.  Just before she could feel it upon her boots she was able to grasp a loose vine to save herself from the fall.  Xena was lucky, but still very aware of her task.  After gathering her composure from the unexpected fall she began to climb back toward the top of the cliff.  She did not know how far she would have to climb.  The warrior princess did not know if letting go would be better.  She assumed from Palaemon’s assessment that climbing was her only option.  Then she heard his voice as she began her slow climb.  He assured her that he would help her find Gabrielle on one condition.  She would have to promise him another fair battle to the death once she was able to see again.  Reluctantly Xena agreed despite her distaste for the idea of giving him what he wanted.  He threatened to cut the vine if she did not agree.  Xena realized that she could trust in only one thing when it came to Palaemon.  He would give her what she wanted to get his respect.  To him it meant that Xena would have to die or he would gladly accept his own death.

This was becoming an irritation for the warrior princess.  It was difficult to deal with his blind arrogance of holding power by fear.  He called it respect, but to the warrior princess the two were not one in the same.  As they continued on their journey to find Gabrielle Palaemon found himself obsessed with how they would defeat the castle guard once they arrived.  He kept spewing out battles from Xena’s past.  Palaemon recalled every strategic detail of almost every battle Xena had ever been famous for as an evil warlord.  This made the final leg of their journey emotionally difficult.  Xena’s breaking point came when he mentioned the worst slaughter of all.  Her battle at Corinth.  His desire for these evils were more than Xena could bare.  What was missing from all of his studies was the toll it would all take on his soul once he had committed it to the deeds of darkness.  She burst out in anger grabbing Palaemon and shoving him up against a tree in the forest.  The warrior princess threatened him out of emotional anguish rather than real fear yet she wanted him to understand how fear should not be respected despite human nature.  It was the reason evil lurked about unchecked.  Xena did not want to be the cause of another human disaster modeled after her own mistakes.  The warrior princess desperately hoped that she was striking a chord with Palaemon.  She could not see his face.  Her faith in him and his concerned heart was all that she had to hold onto.  Palaemon’s only response was in the hope that he would someday be half as good as the legendary warrior princess.

While the warrior princess had spent her day fighting Palaemon’s philosphies with her own Gabrielle found herself thrust into the unexpected.  She had been sold to some strange men who had taken her to a castle.  Gabrielle suspected that she had been bought by a royal to become a servant.  Yet she was surprised to find out the contrary.  She had been chosen to be the bride of King Solace.  As this was explained to her by one of the castle guards she could only find herself reviewing her memories trying to think if she had known him or even heard of him in passing.  Gabrielle’s mind was racing, but without answers.  Instead it was filled with images on the castle walls of women who all seemingly looked like her.  There were also many statues as well.  Gabrielle thought that there might be a mistake.  She thought that maybe she looked like someone else that had been lost.  Yet the castle guard raved about how lucky Gabrielle was to be the chosen bride of the King.  Gabrielle was not excited about being thrust into a marriage.  She did not even know the man she was to marry.  It was all happening too fast.

As the guard continued to explain the connection Gabrielle looked about explaining that she was really not blond, but red.  Her only defense was to attempt to talk her way out of whatever was to come next.  The bard began casual as she spoke demonstrating a calm demeanor, but when the response from the guard was of ignorance she switched to a more firm and threatening tone.  Gabrielle defied the guard’s wishes desperate to explain why she could not marry the king.  Yet he was seemingly persuasive when he pointed out an Adonis that represented the handsome man she was slated to marry.  Gabrielle could not ignore that he was indeed handsome as she examined his statue, but that was far from the point.  She knew she could not marry a king she did not know.  No matter how powerful and beautiful he was.  Yet as Gabrielle tried to argue the guard just urged her to go along with things explaining that the king would get his way despite Gabrielle’s own wishes.  Before Gabrielle could say another word about the dilemma she was ushered away quickly by two more guards.

The treatment she was receiving was seemingly less than royal.  Future queens did not usually find themselves locked up within their own chambers against their will.  Gabrielle sensed there was something more to all of this sudden unwelcome fame, but she did not desire to stay and find out the outcome of it all.  She began to gather blankets, and clothing, and anything else she could find hoping to create an escape.  As she finished tying together the last pieces of fabric she checked the stability of her self-made rope.  The bard had been working for a few hours on her escape and just as she had thrown her rope out the window preparing to climb out and into obscurity again the door to her chambers opened unexpectedly.

Two servants and a rather peculiar looking man dressed in elegant robes entered foiling Gabrielle’s escape attempt.  The bard was frustrated and angry for being a prisoner in a castle was not her idea of an exciting adventurous day.  Again she tried to plead for freedom and a dissolution of marriage, but was politely rejected by the short peculiar looking man.  He gently put his reassuring arm around the bard as she threw her rope onto the floor explaining that all brides get wedding jitters.  Then he went over a list of valid jitters that the bard was most certainly feeling.  He ended his persuasive gentle statement explaining that Vidalas would take care of it all.  His attitude was of no worries.  Gabrielle was confused for she had never heard of Vidalas.  When she asked what it was the short peculiar man stated that he was Vidalas.  Then he smiled softly as Gabrielle hoped to explain to him why she was the wrong choice.  She tried a threat throwing out Xena’s name and how her friend would be displeased with a forced marriage.

Yet Vidalis seemed unaffected by this.  He just went on to criticize the bard.  First he disapproved of her threatening nature.  Then he went onto say that she looked like a scrub woman.  Gabrielle was confused for she had never been picked apart in this way.  Vidalis stated that he would turn Gabrielle into a lady as he turned his student about observing her every detail.  The bard was angered by this as she turned around to slap his hands away.  With anger Gabrielle defended herself stating that she already knew how to behave like a lady.  Vidalis continued strong insulting Gabrielle further comparing her hand gestures to that of a wagon driver.  The bard was shocked by the degradation.  She was certain a queen would not be treated with this kind of disrespect even if she was out-of-place.

Vidalis continued to pick her apart.  He pointed out Gabrielle’s dialect.  Vidalis suggested that it might be Thracian or Macedonian.  Either way he was not impressed.  Gabrielle was amazed at how he had been able to pick out her native background by just listening to her speech.  She was indeed from Thrace, but understood that being around Xena gave her a Macedonian edge.  Xena was from Macedonia.  As Gabrielle thought of these things she began to wonder why they would even bother trying to transform her into a queen when it was obvious to Vidalis she was not the right type.  It was as if Vidalis were insulted that he had to even bother with Gabrielle.  He continued explaining that he would cover up her midriff muscle and give her white gloves to conceal her rough hands.  Vidalis was right about one thing.  Gabrielle was from the back woods and she was not in shame of it.  She explained with some relief that she agreed with him when he answered yes to her question of his opinion about her queen potential.

Gabrielle decided to use this mutual ground as a weapon.  She then asked him why he thought a king would want to marry a peasant girl he did not know.  Vidalis did not have an answer.  Gabrielle pressed this advantage firmly threatening Vidalis with defiance explaining that she would not follow through with th marriage.  Yet there was persuasion in the offerings of fruit brought to the future queen by her servants.  As Gabrielle began to melt into the idea for only a moment she snapped back into the suspicious reality pushing Vidalis out of her way as she bolted for the door.  Yet there were two massive armed guards preventing her from leaving.  Gabrielle turned back to Vidalis suddenly realizing that she was not alone in being forced into marriage.  She realized that Vidalis was teaching her royal manners against his better judgement.  If there weren’t something threatening him she was certain he would not be speaking to her.  As she looked to him for an answer he only asked her how her curtsie was.  Gabrielle could only respond by trying one uncertain if it was enough for Vidalis.

Then Vidalis explained that they had less than an hour before Gabrielle’s big introduction ceremony.  He quickly had Gabrielle dressed in the finest gown and jewelry ready for a presentation.  The queen’s wardrobe was not particularly comfortable for the bard and she found that it was difficult to move.  She could barely walk in the queen’s shoes, but the show had to go on.  Gabrielle was not feeling particularly gracious or giving considering Vidalis had just torn her apart with insults.  She learned the name of the guard who had been in charge of the entire fiasco.  His name was Apex.  It seemed that this was the man who Vidalis feared.  He kept reciting the name as if it were a reference to Zeus.  Soon Apex entered demanding that Gabrielle be ready for the crowd was waiting eagerly to view their future queen.  The bard felt extremely defiant realizing that it was Apex not Vidalis that was her problem.

As Gabrielle listened to Apex addressing the crowd just outside the curtains of the doorway she heard him say that the king had selected his bride.  This was not true for she had yet to meet the king.  It seemed that Apex had selected the king’s bride.  Then Apex asked for the approval of the people introducing lady Gabrielle to her subjects.  Gabrielle’s instructions were to follow Vidalis out into the hall where her people awaited her.  Yet she was determined to defy her captures.  The bard hoped that defiance would cause the people to reject her as their queen, but Vidalis begged for her mercy in the wrath of Apex.  Gabrielle reluctantly entered through the curtains realizing that Vidalis might be her only chance to escape.  As she entered she smiled feeling awkward and uncomfortable.  She tripped over her shoes and was caught by Vidalis.  Vidalis was supportive yet afraid for his own safety as Gabrielle approached Apex.  She was instructed to bow only to Apex as she continued on toward the crowd.  Gabrielle curtsied again tripping as she fell into Apex.  He held her up as she addressed him politely struggling to keep her dialect under control.  Then Apex introduced her to the people as they accepted their future queen with celebration and wine.  As they toasted Apex sent Gabrielle back with Vidalis to return to her prison until she was summoned again.

For the next several hours Gabrielle decided that her only hope of escape was to speak to the king directly.  In order to do this she had to build a trusting relationship with Vidalis.  While he tried to teach her how to be a stunning queen she was the patient with his criticism.  Gabrielle began to realize that Vidalis was putting up with a lot in having to teach her how to be a queen by the end of the day.  It was seemingly an impossible task as was her escape.  While practicing how to extend her hand for a kiss Gabrielle was insulted yet again as Vidalis scolded her for reaching for a beer in the tavern.  The bard could not help her inadequate gestures.  Her life was spent in a lot of taverns along the way.  Vidalis showed her again and as she tried to gracefully imitate his movements she accidentally slapped him in the face.  The two shared in a bit of nervous laughter as Vidalis tried to teach her how to walk with perfect posture.  He gave her a large scroll and instructed her to put it onto her head as she walked.  This was even more difficult than extending one’s hand for a kiss.  Although for a moment the bard felt that she just might be able to pull off the walk.  Yet Gabrielle could sense Vidalis’s impatience with her performance in this excercise.  He told her to stop trying to pull the plow.  Movements were meant to be slow and gentle.  The bard could no longer take the criticisms as she yanked the parchment off of her head and threw it violently across the room onto the ground.  Vidalis’s reaction to her outburst was a glance of shock and surprise.

Then she looked to Vidalis and spoke softly and gently asking him if he would take her to the king.  Vidalis rejected the request explaining that he would not risk a royal hanging for such a frivilous request.  Gabrielle could see that cooperation was not the way to Vidalis.  She had to come up with another weapon.  She decided that she would try to open his heart by asking him seriously if he had ever been in love.  Vidalis thought of this for a moment and revealed through his eyes and then his soft words that he had once loved someone deeply.  Gabrielle urged him to imagine being with that person again.  Then she asked him to imagine having to be with someone other than the one he loved.  When Vidalis thought of this Gabrielle could see that she had finally gotten through.  Vidalis realized that it wasn’t about escape anymore for the bard.  It was about someone she loved.  Although it had been five seasons since Gabrielle had lost Perdicas to Callisto’s sword she still loved him.  She could not imagine being with another man even now.  Gabrielle pleaded with Vidalis once more for his permission to see the king.  Vidalis was no longer reluctant to help understanding Gabrielle’s pleas from the heart.  With no hesitation he softly spoke under his breath as if trying to conceal a secret the directions to the location of the King’s chambers.

The guards were no longer a problem as Gabrielle quietly found herself sneaking through the dark cold halls of the castle in search of her husband to be.  By now night had fallen over the castle and it was late.  Few people were circulating the castle as Gabrielle took one last glance behind her entering through the large heavy door to the king’s chambers.  He was most certainly sleeping by now like every one else.  She was concerned about awakening him, but she had to let him down gently.  Gabrielle was certain that she would be able to use love as the ultimate weapon to convince him that marriage to a Thracian girl from the back woods was not what he was looking for.  Quietly she sat down next to his bed and addressed him respectfully.  She spoke softly, but with a bit of a nervous edge.  To her it seemed as if he might be a tyrant considering how much Vidalis and many others about the castle seemingly feared him.

As she spoke to him she could barely see him for he was concealed behind the canopy and fabrics which enclosed his bed.  It was a rather large yet elegant place to sleep.  The privacy was noted within the bard’s mind as she continued explaining her concern about meeting before the ceremony.  She hoped that his response to this idea of meeting would be agreeable and it seemed that the king was willing to offer his hand to the bard.  She was delighted that he offered her a gesture of kindness in this way despite her hopes for a more formal and face to face chat.  Yet the bard could accept his unusually cold hand in hers as a gesture of faith.  Gabrielle quickly decided that it was nerves that kept the king quiet with unusually clammy and cold hands.  She tried to further break the ice of the moment by laughing nervously hoping that maybe this would loosen his lips a little.  Gabrielle was hopeful for a two-way conversation on the matter of marriage.  Yet there was no verbal response of any kind just complete and total silence from within the bed chambers.

Gabrielle took a deep breath as she held the king’s hand caressing it gently hoping to ease the angry reaction she expected from him over her next statement of inevitable rejection.  She was certain that a king was not used to being told no by anyone especially someone as low on the social ladder as herself.  As she spoke of her true feelings she could feel the cold response as she caught a glimpse of his head turning away from her.  She desperately wanted to make this split as simple and painless as possible for everyone involved.  Gabrielle desperately explained to him that it was not that she was rejecting the king as a person or as a man, but more for her fear of falling in love and losing someone all over again the way that she had lost Perdicas.  She was also reminded of falling in love with Tallus before that.  He had been terminally ill.  As Gabrielle continued on with her concerns she found herself becoming more frustrated with his lack of response.  For a moment she was certain that he had fallen into sleep over boredom of her please and depth of her past stories.  Yet just as she tugged upon his hand attempting to wake him up the king rolled off of the bed and fell upon the bard’s lap.  As she looked down she noticed not only were the king’s hands cold, but his head and face was also clammy and cold.  In fact, it was pale and white as if he were dead.

When the bard could not feel his breath upon her fingers which now supported his head upon her lap she was certain that he was dead.  Gabrielle was shocked and cried out to the mother of Zeus.  It was as if every man she touched with compassion and love was destined to die in her arms.  Then Gabrielle heard the voice of Apex as she looked up to find herself  even more surprised and confused.  The entire castle guard stood behind him before her.  It was as if they had been expecting her arrival.  Apex explained that the king had been dead for a few days now.  He had died in the royal baths in a mysterious accident.  As Apex spoke Gabrielle struggled to replace the dead body back into its resting place.  She felt extremely dirty knowing that she had been caressing the hands of a dead man and held him in her arms.  Suddenly Gabrielle rose from the chair she had been seated in next to the bed and completed the puzzle not certain it made sense.  She declared that she had been expected to marry a dead man.  Apex confirmed her declaration with confidence and as if there were nothing wrong with the idea of the living marrying the dead.

Gabrielle noticed Vidalis standing just behind Apex cowering with fear as Apex approached Gabrielle with more details.  He explained that the kingdom was governed by a constitution which stated that if the king died unwed then his throne would be passed on to a cousin which was the ruler of another kingdom.  This would create a collapse which would lead to one ruler over a larger land rather than two separate rulers of two smaller kingdoms.  Gabrielle looked back to the dead man realizing that he had died alone.  For a moment she felt sorry for the dead king only to realize the true intentions of Apex.  Apex explained that if the king had been married at his death his monarchy would be dissolved leaving all power and control to the ministry of defense which was Apex himself.  Vidalis chimed in confirming the idea with a somber yet serious tone while Apex stood before the bride in triumph explaining how fortunate it was for him to have found a bride for the king just in time for the moment of his death.  Only for Gabrielle it had seemingly been a few days late.  This led her to an unusually cryptic question.  She wanted to know what her role would be in the end of this finely woven plot to power.

Apex was ready to answer the question.  He spoke with no compassion and little concern.  It was pure darkness that was in control for he explained that by ancient proclamation of the kingdom all queens were required to follow their husbands into death.  Even if the queen was healthy and young despite the old man she had been expected to marry she would be put to death by the ceremonial laws of the kingdom.  Apex continued as if gleeful of the fate of the vibrant young blond.  He explained that her honeymoon would be an exciting trip to the royal crematorium.  For Gabrielle this was hardly a bonus.  Just as the realization of death began to dawn on her after wading through the disbelief of the dead husband to be Apex ordered the guards to seize her for the ceremony.

As night settled into dawn Xena and Palaemon had arrived at the castle gates.  Xena was determined to teach Palaemon how to storm the enemy without the aid of fear and destruction.  There was a certain finesse and style in accomplishing the goals of a true warrior.  Xena had multiple reasons for wanting to sway Palaemon’s views.  She needed to save Gabrielle and to ensure that she needed to have control over Palaemon’s choices in the next several moments.  Once they would enter into the castle there would be no guaruntee that Palemon would not use wit to his advantage.  The warrior princess felt that it was unlikely that he would decide to switch sides suddenly, but in a warrior’s world anything is possible.  One must anticipate the seemingly impossible and the unexpected.

As the two scaled the wall Xena instructed her newest student to keep as quiet as possible.  Palaemon was apparently captivated by the experience of spending a day with the warrior princess despite her blindness.  She was even more attractive to him and her truest most valuable skills were being revealed by her now heightened senses.  As the warrior princess inquired of Palaemon about their situation upon scaling to the top of the castle walls he explained that their situation appeared grim and impossible.  He was not so confident that they would be able to enter the castle undetected.  Xena was more confident as she listened to the sounds of the guards below as their commander barked out an order.  The warrior princess heard a small group of guards marching by down below.  It sounded as if there were only a handful.  She also noted the one manning the wall alone.  Then the warrior princess asked Palaemon how long the other castle walls were.  He judged them to be around twenty lengths.  Xena evaluated this in her mind and then reached down pulling out her chakram.  Before Palaemon could figure out what Xena’s actions meant she was already hurling her chakram over the walls across the courtyard to the other side.

The chakram clanked loudly as it bounced off of the far end of the castle walls which created a diversion.  Xena listened intently as she heard about ten sets of boots run from the near side across to the far side of the court-yard.  There were others too, but they were already in position.  Every guard had run off to see what the breach was.  Yet the breach was on the near side as Palaemon gleefully congratulated Xena on her brilliant plan.  It was smooth, painless, and practically effortless as well.  Just as Palaemon was pleading with the warrior princess to teach him more about her effortless ideas and skills the warrior princess lost her connection with the chakram.  She shushed her student hoping to quiet him long enough to save him from the weapon which was just about to bury itself into his face if he did not follow her command.  Just then Palaemon was quiet and Xena’s ears caught the swoosh of the chakram once more.  Gracefully she retrieved it before the eyes of Palaemon who was thankful for her talent and even more in awe of the warrior princess.

This made him more cooperative and willing to assist Xena in her search for Gabrielle.  Quickly Palaemon led Xena through the courtyard and into the castle.  Xena could hear the sounds of guards marching about in every direction.  Palaemon slowed down to a stop for a moment explaining to the warrior princess that he could see guards everywhere.  His assessment was that there was at least an entire regiment of men guarding the place if not more.  Xena did not doubt this observation.  As she thought of this factor in their search for Gabrielle Palaemon inquired her about her eyes.  It was as if he were hoping that she had some minute bit of sight even if things were only a blur.  This would allow them to split up and cover more ground quicker.  Xena’s response was only in that her eyes were stinging less than before which meant that the sumac oil was settling in permanently.  This seemingly annoyed Palaemon.  He sighed in frustration realizing that his chance to have a fair fight to the death against the warrior princess would be impossible.  Xena sighed realizing that their time was short and that the only payment she would accept from the fates was in finding Gabrielle.  Palaemon then asked Xena if Gabrielle was truly worth her sight.  Without hesitation Xena explained that the cost was worth her eye sight and more.  The warrior princess explained that she would give her life without hesitation for the bard.

This was the part of the warrior princess that Palaemon could not begin to understand or appreciate.  Her loyalty to Gabrielle and her love of her best friend.  Palaemon spoke with disgust explaining that the weakness of friendship was the reason he chose not to have any friends.  Although Palaemon was attempting to be harsh the warrior princess could sense that it was an act and nothing more.  She had decided that a man without compassion would not have come this far with her.  The warrior princess only scoffed at his comment knowing the truth.  Palaemon did not like her reaction as he continued to act as if he were hard-hearted.  He was certain Xena’s comment was as a result of her dislike of him.  Xena quickly corrected him in explaining forcefully that it was who he pretended to be that she did not like.  She verbalized her thoughts about him to him only to be challenged once more.

Xena continued explaining that he was not a hard-hearted warlord.  Palaemon declared that he would show no mercy to the warrior princess who again scoffed at his act.  She layed out her deductions of character openly to Palaemon despite the risk of losing control of him.  Xena reminded him of his sense of compassion toward her when he saved her from death in the ravine on the day before.  Palaemon desperately tried to hide the truth of his compassionate side declaring that the warrior princess knew exactly what his intentions were.  They were not honorable, but selfish in his quest for the fair fight to the death against his warrior hero.  She continued on reminding him of their initial meeting when he could have easily killed her in combat for he had so eloquently played on her emotions.  Her weakness known to many now was Gabrielle and it could have killed the warrior princess.  Xena knew this and was aware that Palaemon knew it too.  Yet Palaemon continued to argue with the warrior princess when she flatly stated that she felt he did not have the killer instinct in him.  She pushed him further stating that she was certain that he had not yet killed a single soul.  Palaemon struggled to defend his carefully crafted self-image.  Xena knew that she had him for she had torn it all down in a matter of seconds within just a few short statements.  Palaemon grasped for his last straw as he firmly declared that he had killed Krykus the Pilot.

Xena had finally won this battle of wits after a day of haggling with Palaemon.  He had played right into her hands.  She scoffed at him in triumph explaining to him cool and calmly that she was certain he had not killed Krykus the Pilot for she had been the one whom had delivered Krykus to his death.  Palaemon was silent for a long moment.  Xena could feel the fear for he had been certain that he had won the battle of wits up until now.  The warrior princess had been working him for an entire day wearing him away until he had no verbal defenses left.  Although he was fearful the two were sharing in the same fate.  They were right in the middle of a castle full of armed guards unable to find Xena’s friend.  Whatever happened to Xena was now about to happen to Palaemon.  He had no other choice, but to submit to Xena’s demands and follow her into the battle that most certainly lied before them.  As the guards moved closer Xena instructed Palaemon to move.  They continued on through the castle in search of Gabrielle.  The warrior princess decided to capitalize on her advantage over Palaemon as they rounded a corner she heard Palaemon move into a struggle with one of the guards.  Then she took him out with a solid punch impressing her student once again.  She joked that he had been right to say that the place was crawling with guards.  Xena hoped to lighten the mood that had become so tense within the last several minutes.  Palaemon appeared concerned for her safety despite her move on the guard.  It was as if he had been testing her, but she had easily put all doubt aside.  In fact the warrior princess reminded him that his compassion was creeping out into her view once more despite her physical blindness.

Just outside in the court-yard the subjects of the kingdom awaited news of the wedding of their king to his new queen.  No one was permitted inside to witness the ceremony except for the guards and of course Apex himself who conducted the scandalous ceremony.  Gabrielle was helpless to defend herself or even try to escape for she her wrists and ankles were tied.  She was unarmed and up against the entire castle full of guards.  Even Xena would have difficulty in this situation.  Gabrielle hoped that there would be a window of opportunity between the time of the ceremony and the scheduled honeymoon.  She found herself disgusted by the spectacle of fixed ceremony and of the fact that she was forced to stand next to a dead man propped up by a large chair.  Apex consummated the holy bond between man and wife with the wine from and ancient golden goblet.  He poured the wine upon the lips of the dead man and then upon the bride’s chest.  Apex took joy in the idea of sending Gabrielle to her death for it meant his ascension to ultimate power.  Gabrielle growled with disapproval for her mouth was also gagged leaving her unable to cry out for help from her subjects down below.

Apex then shouted out to the gods asking for a sign of disapproval if one existed.  Gabrielle hoped that the gods might object, but to no avail.  All was silent in the banquet hall as Apex gave the last words sending Gabrielle into her latest marriage to a dead man.  Then Apex walked out onto the balcony above his subjects who were unaware of the wrath which soon faced them.  He declared that the gods bless the union of their king and new queen.  Gabrielle desperately tried to free herself from the ropes realizing that this might be her only chance to escape.  She would have to try to take on the guards alone for death awaited her either way.  The bard had decided that she would not die without a struggle.  Just as she was beginning to loosen the ropes binding her wrists she could hear the sounds of the crowd cheering down below.  Her time was running out as she feverishly tried to free herself.  The bard thought if only her husband could truly be with her in her time of desperate need.  It was a sarcastic thought, but it was the only thing she could hold onto to keep her sanity.

Apex soon returned to talk to the dead king congratulating him and his new bride on their union.  Gabrielle was irritated and desperately wanted to attack Apex with words, but he had taken that weapon away from her as well.  Apex had left the bard completely helpless and defenseless.  As Apex continued to bask in his glory he ordered the guards into action as the brought in two large caskets.  One was designed with a golden freeze of the king and the other was decorated with the peaceful looking face of the dead queen.  It was too eerie for the bard to see herself depicted in this way as the guards grasped her firmly following their orders to imprison her into her chamber of death.  Gabrielle had just freed her hands, but it was too late as she struggled with the guards who easily over powered her.  She quickly found herself enclosed within the darkness of a hopeless situation.  It seemed as if there was no turning back.  She cried out in fear and desperation hoping that someone with compassion would hear her please for life despite still being gagged.

As time began to run out for Gabrielle Xena and Palaemon were still moving through the castle searching every dark corner in the hopes of finding Gabrielle.  Xena paused for a moment for her senses took notices of the sudden smell of something burning within the castle.  It was as if a large furnace had been fired up.  This was unusual for it was not the season for cold weather in this part of the country.  Xena was mystified for a moment as she tried to figure out the sudden change in smell and the silence within the castle.  Palaemon paused inquiring of the warrior princess her next move.  Slowly Xena moved against the wall as if about to turn the corner when a voice came from behind whispering a shaky and quiet greeting.  Both Xena and Palaemon turned to face the one who confronted them drawing their weapons.  The soft-spoken  man’s voice stated that if the woman who stood before him was Xena then his prayers to the gods had been answered.  Xena noticed that the man struggled to breathe as if he were hanging off of the ground.  The man continued stating that he was Vidalis a good friend to the lovely bride.  Vidalis continued speaking with a tinge of relief that someone had come along to notice is predicament.  He then gave a critique of Xena’s leather determining that she was not what he had expected Xena to be.  The warrior princess quickly assessed that the bard had described her friend as loving which would not accentuate the boldness of the warrior woman.  Yet that was beyond the point of the moment.  Xena quickly cut Vidalis off asking him where she could find Gabrielle.  The warrior princess was growing more worried now that she could smell the burning of dead flesh flowing through the air within the castle walls.

Vidalis answered Xena without hesitation.  He explained Xena’s worst fears.  The friend of the bride stated that Apex had taken her along with the king down to the crematorium.  Vidalis continued on with the grim news determining for himself that if he could be cut down from his binds upon the wall that he would be able to guide Xena and Palaemon to the location of the bride.  Xena heard Palaemon’s sword swing through the air and then cut the ropes dropping Vidalis what seemed to be about half a man’s distance to the ground.  She could hear Vidalis struggle to regain his breath and control of his arms from the strain of hanging.  He was a short stout little man with extra weight which led the warrior princess to a vague idea of Vidalis’s appearance.  Xena realized quickly that there was little time to waste as she instructed everyone to lead the way to her friend.

Gabrielle found herself terrified.  She could hear the sounds of the crackling fire and of the burning wood of the king’s coffin.  She shouted out for rescue angry that her fate was seemingly sealed and hopeless.  The bard did not want to die and certainly dreaded the idea of being burned alive.  She clawed and scratched at the top of her own tomb desperately hoping she could bust through the top with her fists somehow.  It was her only chance, but then she heard the order from Apex to execute the queen.  She could feel that her tomb was moving and as it moved the bard could feel her body sweating as the heat began to fill in the air pockets around her.

It did not take long for Vidalis to lead Xena and Palaemon to the doors of the crematorium.  Xena could sense that they were moving in the right direction as the smell thickened.  There was smoke coating the air as Vidalis stopped revealing the location.  Just as Xena and Palaemon prepared to enter through the doors three guards ambushed them from around the corner.  Xena was about to go into battle mode when she noticed the smell of burning wood which meant that the cremation had already begun.  She only hoped that Gabrielle was still alive.  The warrior princess decided that she could leave Palaemon and Vidalis on their own to deal with the three guards flipping over the battle allowing access through large heavy wooden doors.  Apex stood before the warrior princess for she heard him greet her with a sarcastic apology.  Suddenly Xena heard the sounds of at least five swords maybe six being drawn into battle stance.

Gabrielle continued to struggle to think of a way out of her demise.  As she tried to think of how Xena would escape she thought she heard the sounds of the warrior princess.  It was as if Xena’s battle cry echoed in her mind yet Gabrielle was not certain if she was beginning to hallucinate due to the heavy smoke beginning to engulf her tomb.  She decided to listen closely hoping that just maybe the warrior princess was just outside there ready to rescue her friend from the flames which now crackled even more loudly than before.  It seemed that all Gabrielle could hear was the sound of the chains and the belts pulling her into Celesta’s arms.

Xena decided that she had to act quickly for she was certain that Gabrielle was about to be burned alive, but she could not see her friend only hear the sounds of the flames, and smell of burnt materials.  The warrior princess hoped that she could avoid a long battle.  She was counting on the threat of her presence to intimidate her enemies.  Xena was certain a battle would take too long.  Xena decided to risk a question hoping that Apex and his men would not realize her blindness.  Apex was quick to access that the warrior princess was blind for her question of the bard’s whereabouts gave her away.  It was obvious to everyone in the room that Gabrielle was being swallowed up by the flames within the moment.

Xena could hear the sounds of boots approaching her setting up for a fight.  Apex was not certain that Xena was blind so he responded with his own question. The warrior princess listened intently to the sounds surrounding her.  She could still hear the battle going on just outside the doors between Palaemon and the three guards outside.  Xena noticed that some bodies had fallen to the ground behind her.  Suddenly Apex shouted out his own answer to the question.  He ordered his men to battle Xena and to her own fiery death upon defeat.  Suddenly she heard the slow-moving boots quicken into a stance surrounding her.  The warrior princess decided that her best chance to win the battle was to fight in hand to hand combat.  Her sword drawn and ready she held it out waiting for the first move.  There was a guard to her right that kicked her hand disarming her of her weapon.  Xena then elbowed him to the ground awaiting a frontal assault using her boots to kick down the advance.  Although she was being approached from all sides defeat was not an option for death would take her friend away if she did not take out the five guards within her final assessment.

As two battles raged on Gabrielle thought she could hear the sounds of men falling to the floor.  Yet again she was not certain if they were true sounds for she was beginning to feel the grip of suffocation by smoke.  She beat the top of her box once again hoping desperately that someone could hear her pleas.  If Xena really was with her Gabrielle needed to be able to make enough noise from within to stand out above all of the other commotion about outside of her death prison.  She shouted out with one last attempt of desperation for she was no longer able to take a breath of air to fill her lungs.  The smoke coated her airways with a thick weight reminding the bard that her death was eminent.  Gabrielle decided that she had two choices in death.  She could fight it and struggling hoping for rescue or she could just give up and die without a fight.  The bard was determined to pound on the top of her box and claw at the wood until death or rescue took her.  She cried out for Xena hoping that the warrior princess was there and could hear her pleas.

It was as if the sounds of the battle were subsiding as Gabrielle listened in between pounding which became weak.  She found herself going in and out of consciousness struggling to hold onto her life.  The bard was soaked with sweat, and her lungs were saturated with smoke.  Her hands were now badly bruised as she felt her own blood seeping through her finger nails.  Soon she could feel the beginnings of the flames invading the wooden box which had held her captive for what had seemed like an eternity.  Gabrielle’s toes were beginning to feel the pain of the searing heat as she weakly cried out for Xena once more.

Xena had defeated her enemies swiftly as she listened and tried to hone in on every sense within her body.  Although she had defeated her enemy there was no one there to guide her to where the fire burned her friend.  The warrior princess then heard the weak voice crying out her name.  It was most certainly Gabrielle.  Xena’s heart pounded with hope and urgency for there were no moments left to spare.  Xena dashed forward tripping over the belts which carried the body of her friend.  The warrior princess called out desperately to Gabrielle with worry deep in her heart.  Gabrielle found herself certain that she had been hallucinating the entire time.  She found comfort in knowing that Xena was there with her in spirit and within her heart.  The bard imagined that she could hear Xena’s voice.  It was the only thing she could focus on as the flames began to surround her becoming unbearable.  Gabrielle began to slip out of consciousness again calling out to Xena one last time hoping the warrior princess was there despite certain hallucination.

Then Gabrielle could remember nothing more.

The warrior princess had found her friend, but she could also sense that there was not a moment to lose.  Xena struggled to pull her friend out of the fire for the entire box was practically inside the fire.  The warrior princess’s arms were scorched by the hot flames, but Xena did not give up.  She pulled against the belts and chains with all of her strength to pull Gabrielle to safety.  Xena then heard the sounds of the gears clicking and jamming which meant that the box was no longer being pulled into the flames.  It had finally come to a rest.  She only hoped that she had not been too late.  Xena called out to her friend once more desperately hoping Gabrielle would call back to her again.  The warrior princess pried open the hot steaming box and called out to Gabrielle once more.  Her friend did not respond.  The warrior princess felt the sudden whiff of smoke into her face realizing that Gabrielle might have already suffocated to death within the box.  Xena reached down into the box with a panic.  Without her eyes she could not see if the body within the box was even that of the bard.  Xena grabbed hold of a shoulder and then an arm.  She knew that it was Gabrielle.  As she tried to pull her friend out of the box she could hear the sounds of coughing.  Xena realized that Gabrielle was indeed still alive, but seemingly unable to breath.  Gabrielle struggled to rise on her own as Xena helped her sit up.

Xena softly spoke to her friend concerned for her health.  All Gabrielle could do was laugh nervously for she had not been hallucinating.  She had made the right choice in having faith and not giving up hope.  The warrior princess had not given up hope of finding Gabrielle.  Gabrielle stated that she was okay despite the struggle as she buried her head into Xena’s chest.  Xena put her arms around Gabrielle’s head and then Gabrielle looked up into Xena’s eyes.  The bard desired to connect with her friend as did Xena with the bard.  As Gabrielle looked into Xena’s eyes she noticed that Xena was struggling.  It was as if she was trying to see into the bard’s eyes and could not.  Gabrielle sensed worry and then inquired Xena of her eyes.  Xena paused for a moment and said nothing.  Then she softly admitted to the bard without regret that she was blind.  Gabrielle found herself to be unsettled and upset by this idea.  She immediately realized that Xena had given up her sight to save her from death.  Gabrielle felt guilty for not being able to save herself from the wrath of Apex.  She felt responsible for the loss of Xena’s sight.  This made the bard realize just how much Xena loved her.  The warrior princess would sacrifice anything for the bard.  Gabrielle hoped that there would be a way to save Xena’s eyes.  Xena explained with a deep acceptance of her loss that the cure was available in Athens, but it would be too late by the time they could arrive there.

Gabrielle’s heart sank for her friend.  Yet just when it seemed that all hope for Xena was lost Vidalis chimed in with great news.  He explained that he happened to grow Egyptian senna in his garden within the courtyard.  Vidalis chucked explaining that he used it to make face cream.  Gabrielle looked behind her relieved that her new-found friend was able to help Xena.  Soon everyone was cleaned up and the plants were made ready to cure Xena’s eyes courtesy of Vidalis himself.  It had been close to a day since their ordeal had begun.  No one was certain that Xena’s eyes would be able to heal despite Vidalis’s help.  Gabrielle tended to Xena hoping that squeezing the senna into Xena’s eyes using Vidalis’s sponges would give her friend her sight back.  It was the least Gabrielle could do to express her appreciation for Xena’s faith in their friendship.  Gabrielle spoke softly to her friend preparing Xena for the burn that might accompany the medicine.

The warrior princess braced herself and then Gabrielle gingerly applied to senna to Xena’s eyes.  She watched it drip down Xena’s face as the warrior princess jerked for a moment at the stinging sensation within her eyes.  Vidalis stood by watching with hope that he had been able to help Xena.  He realized now why Gabrielle had described Xena as someone with deep love in her heart despite the leather exterior.  As Gabrielle finished the application she stepped back and hoped.  She asked Xena if she could see anything yet for she was uncertain how long it would take for the senna to settle into the eyes.  Xena struggled to look in Gabrielle’s direction searching blindly for her friend’s face.  After several moments Xena could see that there were a few fuzzy colors coming into her sight beyond the darkness that she had been seeing for almost a day now.  Then she struggled to focus and could see the shape of a face.  Gabrielle’s strawberry blond hair was obviously in place as Xena began to smile.  She made a joke at the sight of her friend for the first time in a day.  Gabrielle rejoiced with Xena excited that the warrior princess would be able to heal her wounded eyes.  The bard laughed with nervous relief as she approached her friend to offer a loving embrace.

Suddenly a firm voice and a the sound of a drawn sword cut through the joy.  Xena quickly prepared to do battle with Palaemon for she had promised him a battle to the death for his part in Gabrielle’s rescue.  Yet Palaemon was not there to fight.  He explained that he had come to thank Xena for pointing him in the right direction.  The young mercenary had learned that he needed to be someone he could live with being.  As Palaemon’s demeanor went from firm and harsh to calm and soft he put away his weapon and explained that he was going to pretend to be good for a while.  Then he thanked Xena and left to have his own adventures for the greater good.  Gabrielle had decided that this side of Palaemon was much more attractive than the man who had tried to kidnap her on the day before.  Vidalis chimed in agreeing with the bard as he explained that he had decided that his next adventure would be alongside Palaemon.  He had decided that he had done well as a sidekick against the guards in the battle with Palaemon.  Gabrielle found joy in Vidalis’s idea.  She encouraged his choice to be the support behind a hero.  All heroes needed a good strong friend and support system.  The bard felt it was the best most noble work one could find.

Then Vidalis complemented the bard explaining that she was an excellent lady extending his hand out to her.  Gabrielle demonstrated what she had learned from Vidalis before Xena politely accepted his complement with class.  Then Vidalis kissed the bard’s hand preparing to part ways.  Before he left he joked once more about Gabrielle’s rough hands and then went off to join Palaemon before he got too far off down the road alone.  As Vidalis left Gabrielle led the way down the road to the next adventure alongside the warrior princess explaining how difficult learning to be a lady had been for her self-esteem.  The bard could not get over the requirements of the lives of royal women.  The experience had really made her appreciate life in the back woods with Xena.  Xena teased her friend about the lack of royal skills demonstrating that her curtsie was much better than the bard’s royal hand shake.  A playful competition ensued as the two friends continued on down the road together.  Xena appeared pleased and relieved that in her own experience of the past day she had been able to shape another young warrior using the examples she set in the present rather than those in her dark past.  The warrior princess desired to create no more Callistos for that had been a painful price.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #38: A Day In The Life Of

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll  #38 :  A Day In The Life of

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

March, 47 B.C.

It has recently been brought to my attention  that waking up alongside Xena the Warrior princess must be described to all who dare inquire about a day in the life of.  The first step to a day is often treacherous and sometimes deadly.  In waking up on this day there were no exceptions for Xena and I were awakened by an attack of some henchmen sent by the warlord Zagrious.  The battle began with only two as Xena sprung out of sleep into action sending lightning speed punches and thunderous kicks at the two intruders whom had entered our small camp.  They had caught Xena somewhat off guard being that she had been in slumber, but the Warrior Princess is never sleeping as soundly as some might hope for.  Knocking one henchmen down, and then another she grabbed the nearest weapon she could find.  It was our only frying pan.

She smacked a third in the face and went choe-boe to pot with a fourth man. But even he was no match for the agile warrior princess.  Six more henchmen descended upon us from the surrounding woods and Xena decided that it was time for a wake up call.  Flipping through the air she gave her signature battle cry and landed squarely on my leather water bottle.  Water shot out like an arrow from a cross-bow rudely awakening me from my slumber.  Suddenly anger broiled from within for the action of the Warrior Princess, but there was no time to argue about her method of waking up. There was a battle to join.

Surrounded on all sides I reached for my old friend the trusty staff.  Then I delivered one blow and then a second knocking two of the henchmen flat on the ground.  As I rose up to my feet from the knees Xena could see that I was clearly out numbered so she quickly resorted to flinging the frying pan at them like a chackram.  It flew through the air with almost the same grace, but not the same sharpness as the chackram.  The frying pan wobbled through the air bouncing off the heads of one, then two, and knocking out three men with just one thrust.  As it continued on its course it was haulted violently by a tree so it could not make its return home as did its predicessor the chackram.  As the frying pan dropped to the ground Xena spun around behind her to take care of the man who was about to jump upon his feet to continue the battle.  She gave him the pinch with just one unified motion as the words began to fly.

Not only had she disturbed my slumber, but she had destroyed the only means of cooking that was left.  In fact, just the week before she had thrown our only cutting knife at yet another of the many warloards out to destroy her.  To Xena anything was a useable weapon and nothing was sacred.  No object organic or inorganic was safe from her wrath of destruction.  Now that the battle was seemingly over and Xena was in control all I could do was pick up what was left of my bent frying pan.  This was the last quill.  After all of my recent sacrifices to the warrior princess and this was how she respected me.  My next move was to argue and to express my anger over my loss.  This diverted Xena’s attention from the final moments of battle.  Our squabble over cooking utensils led to a  forgotten prisnor on the ground who was losing life fast as the blood flow to his brain was quickly thinning out.  The man struggled to interrupt our squabble reminding Xena that she had intended to interrogate him.  The pinch interrogation is the most quick and efficient way for Xena to find out vital details reguarding the enemy at hand.  It is the standard method and most preferred by the warrior princess.  Although it doesn’t seem all that humane I will admit that it is much less painful than other well-known forms of torture such as having burning splinters shoved under one’s fingers so eloquently described by a tramp I once met.

As was demonstrated on this morning waking up is not always pleasant in the company of the warrior princess; however, finding your way is entirely another challenge.  Based on the information of the interrogation Xena and I knew little of the location that we seeked.  On this particular day the goal was to find the village of Piedmont.  It was the village that the warlord Zagrious was planning to loot.  The only problem was that no one thought to ask for directions during the standard interrogation process so we were at a loss.  Xena had never been to this part of the countryside which was actually quite surprising since the warrior princess seemed to always have the answers to everything on any other day or in any other situation.  Yet who could think to complain for this scenario was quite normal.  As for me I was still irritated about the loss of my only good frying pan.  I decided that it was time to stick it to the warrior princess, and then it happened.

As I challenged the warrior princess on her mistake in gathering information Xena suggested that the next time she pinched someone for information that I should ask the quesitons.  She then stated that I often asked good questions.  Now there was shock for a moment.  Xena was actually complementing me for once.  This emotion quickly led to excitement.  Suddenly I was feeling confident in myself about asking quesitons.  And then it happened. Oppritunity soon came running just over the hill down the path. A heavy-set, blond haired, blue eyed village man was moving into our direction.  He was waiving his arms and calling out in desparation.  This was my chance to try my hand at the pinch interrogation.  He was going to give us the information we seeked.  Yet the warrior princess suggested that maybe this man didn’t need to be pinched prior to an interrogation.  Just as I was feeling my moment of glory she smacked it down yet again.

Upon his arrival the man was stunned by the presence of the warrior princess.  One would have thought that she was like the Goddess Aphrodite, or Athena, or someone of that status, but it was only Xena.  No one special really.  But Hower was dumbstruck.  He informed Xena and I of the giant known as Gareth.  Apparently Gareth was threatening to stomp their village to sticks if they didn’t pay him what he had asked.  There was only one problem.  This scencario created a delemma for Xena and I.

Making a decision isn’t always easy when so much is at stake like in this case.  Saving Piedmont or taking out the giant no one could decide really.  There was only one solution to this problem. There were the two villages Laurel and Piedmont.  Each had its own uniquely dire situation.   One was dealing with a gaint while the other a warlord.  To me it would be quite a contest of decision.  In sizing up the situation I  took out some fresh srcolls and began to make my list of the pros and cons.  There could not be a better method in coming to a fair decision.  And no sooner had I begun my list did the warrior princess whip out a dinar flipping it through the air.  She seemingly ignored my hard work, and had come to her own conclusion with just one simple action.  The fates stated heads we were to take on the giant.

Of course this was not an acceptable means of decision making in my opinion, but it is sometimes difficult to argue successfully against the warrior princess.  Not only that, but once again Xena had demonstrated her lack of confidence in my abilities as a sidekick.  There  was only one thing left to do.  Continue the arguement about the frying pan because after all it wasn’t a suitable choice of weaponry.  Without a good frying pan to cook that fish Xena liked to eat so much there would be only raw fish to sooth the beast with in my stomach now. Maybe the lovesick Hower had a spare pan back in his village.

Now in traveling to Laurel there had to be a way to pass the time.  One of the daily travel games Xena and I like to play is warlords and victims.  It always begins with my interrogation of Xena.   The first rule to the game is process of elimination.  One must find out if the warlord is male or female, and in our case living or dead.  This all stems from our travels together of course.  Xena naunchelanltely answered my first two questions easily.  We had a male dead warlord.  In fact, Xena stated that this particular warlord was “very dead.”    One would think that this game would be simple, but nothing is ever simple with the warrior princess.

Yet I had thought of the perfect question.  I wanted to know if the warlord we were talking about had been killed by a certain warrior princess.  Xena answered gleefully as if she were hiding the ultimate secret and riddle.  Her answer to my quesiton was of course a yes which for a moment led to personal excitement.  I knew of every warlord that Xena had ever killed.  At least within our travels together.  I was betting that Xena would not cheat and go outside the rules of the game.  She would never name someone that she had killed prior to meeting me.  It wouldn’t be a fair game and I would have to complain.  Xena hates it when I complain.  This is why I kept complaining about our current lack of a frying pan.  Yet there was a bright side to the day.  The weather was  completely beautiful.  It couldn’t have been more perfect with the sun shining warmly on our exposed legs and arms.  Usually it gets cold  a lot in traveling with the warrior princess.  Yet this moment of peace and tranquility quickly passed.

For a moment I tried to calm myself with the peace and serenity of mother nature as we traveled through the forrest onto Laurel.  I got lost in the moment, but only briefly for I was reminded of the presence of the lovesick Hower who was constantly turning back around in awe of the warrior princess.  He seemingly couldn’t get enough glances back at her.  Suddenly it occurred to me how I could get back at the warrior princess.  She would never expect my next move.  Suddenly I turned to the warrior princess spinning around with my staff in an attempt to knock her flat on the ground.  Effortlessly she stopped my staff dead in its motion with only one hand.  The look on her face was priceless for she did not even blink one of her blue eyes.  She just held my staff steady with that smirk on her face that turns me ridged.

This only frustrated me more yet I was certain that if I had been just a moment quicker in my motion that the warrior princess would have been on the ground.  I would have been laughing joyfully at my triumph over her.  Yet she insisted that I hadn’t even been close.  She wouldn’t begin to give me the satisfaction of almost knocking her flat onto the ground with my staff.  I was of course defiant of her confidence in her warrior abilities.  Yet Xena was more defiant of my fire against her on this day.  It was a battle of wills now.  I was determined to win it.  The stakes were suddenly raised.  Xena looked into my eyes as if she were going to give away something within our little warlord game, but again I was rudely interrupted as the warrior princess brushed me aside and consulted with Hower for more information about the giant Gareth.

Hower had said that Gareth’s actual size was unknown to his village people.  In fact, their only evidence of his existance was the fact that he had constantly been sending them threats.  The stomping of Laurel was the consequence if they did not comply with his demands.  It was at this moment that it dawned on me to ask another question.  I wanted to know why Hower and the people of Laurel were so certain that this Gareth was a giant.  To me Gareth sounded like another Zagrious with only a slightly better plan of attack.  It was genious like the warrior princess to state that a giant was coming to stomp the village if it didn’t supply the army with goods and services.  Yet Hower went on to explain that he and his village friends had seen the destruction of neighboring villages in the next valley who had not complied with Gareth’s wishes.  In my own mind I visualized what a village might have looked like destroyed by a warlord versus one destroyed by a giant.  It seemed to me that the two villans would leave little behind their wraths.  Of course a giant might flatten a village whereas a warlord might burn it to the ground.

Xena seemed convinced that there was a giant for she then wanted to know if Gareth had ever been to his village.  Hower replied that Gareth had never actually been there which led Xena to a new strategy.  Watching her mind work like that is often fascinating, but I can never let her know about that.  Her head is already way too big.  Suddenly there was a loud grumbling from the pit of the warrior’s stomach.  This was my chance to hound her about her mistake in chosing to use the frying pan as a weapon instead of a cooking utensil.  I wanted to burst with laughter, but Xena held it off when she reminded me that she hadn’t had breakfast.  Of course no one had had the pleasure of a good morning meal.  I held my tongue, but only because I was just as hungry.  The warrior princess might use this against me if I pressured her any further with the frying pan issue at this moment.

Xena then asked Hower if there was water nearby.  She was planning on having fish for lunch.  Now this was a laugh and I couldn’t resist it any longer.  I decided that I didn’t care if I didn’t get to eat.  I wanted blood and vengence for even if Xena did catch enough fish to eat it would all be raw and not cooked.  Again I needled the warrior princess about this issue.  Xena only responded with disgust and frustration.  She couldn’t control the beast with in that pressed me to argue about the old trusty frying pan.  Me without my frying pan is like Xena without Argo.  No one was truely happy.  We were all tired, hungry, and ready for action.  Except for Hower of course.  He was happy as a piece of flying parchment.

Briefly I decided to try to forget about the frying pan as we headed for the creek.  It wasn’t a long journey to get there and I was glad to get off of my feet for a bit.  Xena loved to fish.  Maybe that was her way of dealing with being hungry.  Somehow it seemed to sooth her.  Those slimy creatures slivering through her hands somehow gave her solace.  In fact, a sword in her hand gives her solace.  As for me I started back in my thoughts of our game from earlier.  I was hoping that would get my mind off of the pain in my stomach.  My next question to the warrior princess was if this was a warlord or royalty we were talking about.  Xena answered while tying her hair back for the kill.  She said that it was a warlord which was suddenly quite puzzling.  It was a victim obviously, but most victims are not warlords.  Yet it did make sense for Xena kills warlords sometimes.

I was truely stumped as I tried to piece all of these little bits of information together.  None of it made sense yet it all fit together somehow.  As I was falling within the depths of my memory Hower returned from his short walk.  I wasn’t really certain where he had gone off to, but he interrupted my thoughts asking why Xena didn’t use a fishing pole.  Most people don’t understand the tequnique of the warrior princess. As I sat there and stared at the warrior princess standing in the creek I found it quite barbaric to sit there and watch her leaning over into the water.  She would seemingly listen for the fish underneath the muddy waters.  It was like eavesdropping on nature.  Suddenly I had a new source of pain for her.  I would distract her from hearing the fish so that she wouldn’t be able to capture lunch with out a fishing pole.  In my opinion she was just showing off for Hower.   Yet who knew why.  He wasn’t all that attractive..  Hower had a more humble look about him unlike the warrior princess full of fire and rage.

My next question to Xena as I laughed at Hower’s inquiries was if the warlord was Dagnon.  Xena responded barely divided from her fishing stating that Dagnon was not the answer.  She was barely listening to me and suddenly she ignored me realizing what I was trying to do.  Xena loudly responded to Hower asking him if he wanted trout or perch.  Hower responded back greatly impressed with the skills of the warrior princess.  I decided to prove that she wasn’t capable of wining every battle.  My answer to the warrior princess ignoring me was in asking for salmon.  There was no way that she would be able to produce a salmon from that creek.

Xena called me knowing that salmon were out of season and that this creek was not capable of supporting salmon.  She had beaten my wit again.  Now this was getting really serious.  I decided to go for the kill.  She would never capture an eel out of that creek.    Xena’s response was candid yet irritated.  She read me like a scroll, but I had won this battle as I triumphantly smiled and nodded to Hower who was seemingly enjoying our little squabble.  He probably thought Xena was cute or something.  I don’t view the warrior princess as cute.  Anyone who has ever dared to do that has ended up on the ground or worse.  Yet triumph was interrupted by Xena’s next statement.  She had seemingly observed some wagon tracks just on the other side of the creek leading toward Piedmont.  This meant that Zagrious and his army would soon strike there.  It was a shame that Piedmont was going to have to suffer the wrath of Zagrious and all because of a dinar toss.  I would have personally decided upon saving Piedmont rather than Laural for I was still not convinced that the giant Gareth even existed.

Xena responded to my arguement of her dinar toss explaining that she was not going to allow the destruction of Piedmont.  The warrior princess was often too full of pride to even realize that even she could be wrong sometimes.  I argued with her that there was no possible way that she could be in two places on the same day at the same time.  Xena continued to listen for the fish as she responded saying that she didn’t have to be in two places at once.  It didn’t make sense.  I couldn’t figure out her angle.  In life and in sport Xena is always a tightly woven mystery.  Yet that is what makes the warrior princess so fascinating.  Just as I was thinking about this for a moment Xena suddenly moved into the water with her powerful arms.  She struggled with what seemed to be a dangerous beast below the surface.  It was definately not a trout or a perch.  Suddenly Xena shouted that eel was coming out of the water and lunch was about to be ready.

Water splashed violently as Xena had yanked the long slithery black beast out of the water.  She struggled with it for a few moments trying not to allow it to escape.  Just when it seemed she would lose the battle against the eel it came flying in my direction slapping up across my face slithering down into my lap.  It was slimy and slippery.  The beast sqirmed violently across my exsposed legs as I tried desparately to free myself of its grasp.  It screetched loudly as I struggled to my feet grasping the slime in my hands and finally releasing it into the tall weeds along the bank.  Xena just grinned with that silly triumphant smile.  It was actually more like a goofy childish smirk.  Then she leaned back down to listen to the fish in the water once more.  I was humiliated in front of a guest companion and I didn’t like it too much.  There had to be a way to beat her at her own game.  It was just a matter of figuring it out.

Hower quickly chimed in softly and with his soothing voice.  He tried to settle me down into a change of conversation.  Hower asked me if Xena might be interested in settling down and getting married someday.  I knew I was going to have to try to let Hower down gently for Xena would never settle down.  She was too wild and barbaric for that.  Somehow Hower seemed to find it attractive that she was throwing our lunch in my face.  I tried to keep my pride as I kept talking through the fish smacking up against my face.   With each fish it seemed they were larger than the previous fish.  Each bash was more harsh that the previous slap.  It was as if Xena were kicking me while I was down.  Again I tried to keep my composure and ignore her childish games, but she would not be ignored.  At least not by me.

I decided to surrender for the moment as I asked Hower to go fetch some firewood for our lunch.  He gleefully went off to fetch wood for Xena’s lunch as I loudly reminded everyone that we were going to have to find some way to try to cook these raw slimy fish.  As Hower left to seek fire brush Xena proudly sat down up against the tree next to me all wet, smelly, and sweaty.   She was a big nasty fish and could not have smelled worse.  The warrior princess obviously didn’t have time to take a bath after her catch.  I of course had given up on proving to Hower that the warrior princess was not for him.  He was too dumbstruck.  Even raw fish for lunch couldn’t dampen his lust for the warrior princess.

As Xena smiled I could not be angry for she was just being playful at my expense.  Yet I still didn’t appreciate it.  I began to explain to her that Hower was in love with her.  She wasn’t phased by it for all she could do was wonder why so many men kept falling for her.  I explained that some guys just liked her dark long flowing hair, and her deep oceanic blue eyes.  Even her leather wardrobe could draw a crowd as long as it was the warrior princess who was wearing it.  Of course our battle of wits was subsiding for the moment because our focas was now on Hower who kept staring and guawking at the warrior princess as he picked up firewood from afar.  As our conversation wore on Hower shifted his scavenger hunt from firewood to wildflowers.  I don’t think the warrior princess noticed his boyish smile meant to grab her attention.  Instead Xena was concentrating on how to deter Hower from his lusts for her.  She thought maybe a wardrobe change would do the trick; however, she was only joking.  Xena just didn’t seem to be herself when she wasn’t wearing her leather suit and golden breast plate.  Life wouldn’t be the same without those articles of clothing.  They were like a personal attachment and trademark.

Here was something new to attempt to tease her with.  I suggested a chainmail might help with her wardrobe issues, but she just laughed and stated that it would probably only attract a slightly more rambunctious crowd as if warlords like Draco weren’t bad enough.  This thought led me to glance back at Hower for a moment as he gingerly plucked another dandillion from the ground and admired his work.  He certainly took much more time and care for his courtship than someone like Draco would.  Xena interrupted my thought by explaining that life without bathing and wearing a smelly wolfskin might work.  She had a point and I could certainly imagine how much more difficult life with the warrior princess would be if she ever followed through with that change.  I could still feel the slime all over my own skin just thinking about it knowing how much Xena liked to fish.  She still smelled even now.  This led me to my only response which was to remind Xena that she would most likely be traveling alone if she made that a permanant new lifestyle.  Dodging all of the lovesick Howers in the world was not worth that.

This of course brought laughter to both Xena and I for the first time the entire day.  We were finally settling down with our rivalry as Hower returned with a handful of purple wildflowers.  He offered them to his obsession as Xena tried to accept them graciously, but somehow she appeared more disgusted with the idea.  Xena rose to help Hower get the fire started for lunch yet she appeared very reluctant.  Hower paused for  just a moment until he was certain Xena was not within earshot.  He then giggled with glee and celebration feeling that he had finally gotten the attention of his new found romance.  All I could do was smile and pretend to be excited for his accomplishment knowing that he would only find himself disappointed in the end.  As he walked away my thoughts turned to the challenge of cooking the slimy beasts that had attacked me earlier.

Then it suddenly occurred to me that the perfect tool for cutting the fish would be Xena’s chackram.  It was the sharpest weapon I had ever known and since she had thrown our last good cutting knife at a warlord the previous week it would have to double as a pearing knife.    Soon I was sawing off the heads of Xena’s catch.  Two pearch and one rather large eel.  I began with the eel, but soon had to resort to using a large stone on the ground to hold it in place while I worked.  The job was a bloody one, but I was determined to eat lunch reguardless that it was a an eel.  Before I could finish gutting lunch Xena returned and revolted against me in anger.  She ripped the chackram out from my grasp and shouted out that it would smell like fish for days.  The warrior princess wasted no time in whipping out an old rag to wipe the aquatic blood dripping from the chackram’s blade.

Hower appeared to be stunned and unable to respond or even begin to handle the anger of the warrior princess.  I handled it by snapping back.  Someone had to stand up to her fury.  As I rose to my feet I quickly yanked my rag from Xena’s grasp.  This was when I reminded her of how she had used our knife the previous week.  I wanted Hower to know exactly what he was getting himself into.  This was my oppritunity to gain some ground on the warrior princess.  Then I turned away and ignored her while she stewed in her anger over the chackram.  It was time for her to know how it felt when friends didn’t respect belongings.  She was going to learn manners even if it killed me.  Of course she turned away from me leaving Hower speechless until he came up with the perfect solution.  He offered to clean Xena’s chackram for her.  As I would have expected Xena refused.  No one is allowed to touch her prized chackram.

Instead Xena’s fury was high as she turned to Hower seriously and asked him how much further it was from his village.  Hower replied that it was directly east about a two hour’s walk.  I was waiting for the next blow from the warrior princess as I tried desparately to figure out how we were going to eat lunch.  Without a knife, a frying pan, or even the chackram we would definately be eating raw fish and eel from the bone.  As I tried to come to terms with raw fish in my stomach, and sinking my teeth into the outer layer of skin Xena told Hower that he had an important mission for him.  This snapped me to attention for if she were seriously sending Hower on a mission I needed to know why she wasn’t asking me to perform the job.  Of course Hower was exstatic to be asked to help Xena with a mission.  She explained to Hower that he needed to deliver a message from her to Zagrious.  It was simple yet cryptic.  Both Hower and I listened intently.  The message was this.  Xena would not get in Zagrious’s path if he agreed not to enter into hers.  And that was it.  Hower appeared confused and I found myself even more mystified.  When Hower asked Xena if there was more to the message she was candid and confident stating that there was no more.  She then turned away from her audience and walked to join Argo.  Hower then looked to me as if I had all of the answers to the mystical warrior princess, but I didn’t.  Instead I just explained it to him how it is.  I’ve learned that Xena works in mysterious ways and that one doesn’t question them.  Although I still do question the warrior princess often.  She hates that about me too.

And so Hower set off to find Zagrious while I tried to figure out what Xena was doing.  She obviously had a plan, but I was still trying to figure out how she could be in two places at one time.  There was no way that she could make it back to Piedmont in time to save it from Zagrious.  Not only that, but she had just told Zagrious that she had no intention of impeding on his territory.  I decided after thinking on this over raw fish that it wasn’t important for me to know.  Instead I just decided that I would work on one of my scrolls of a time when the warrior princess seemed a little less myterious.  The thought of Joxer was even a bit of a relief after the day that Xena and I were having.  Of course most days are like this one.

About an hour from Laurel Xena experienced a call from nature.  I was certain that it came about as a result of the raw fish not in agreement with the stomach of the warrior princess.  My stomach was struggling to keep them  down.  I decided that the only way to ignore the raw pain in my side would be to re enact a dramatic interpretation of my experience with Bacchus and his baccae slaves.  I was feeling the rage of a baccae over the rude wake up call, the raw fish for lunch, Xena’s constant insults ,  inconsideration, and the fact that when I reached into Argo’s saddle bag to write another verse a corner of my scroll was now missing.  The baccae in me had taken hold at this point.  This was the last straw.  My prize possession was being used as toilet paper for Xena’s call from nature.  Again she had gotten the better of me wining the battle of wits.  I had only used her chackram for fish, but she used my scrolls for far worse.

As I rounded the corner of the horse toward the bushes the triumphant warrior princess emerged seemingly relieved and in good spirits.  Yet she also seemed quite prepared to deal with my wrath over the scrolls.  As I ranted she made up a lame excuse stating that there weren’t any good leaves in the bush.  Yeah that was a good one.  There are millions of leaves in the bushes.  I’ve used them many times and there are always at least ten possible leaves amongst hundreds.  There was no way I was buying into that excuse.  I could see it in her eyes and all over her face.  Xena was about to laugh in my face boisterously.  Before she could let out a peep the earth beneath us moved.  I was almost knocked off of my feet by the loud stomping sounds approaching through the forrest.  The entire earth shook about us and then Xena just fizzled my anger by reminding me that the giant was our enemy not each other.

The warrior princess had a point, but I was still livid.

Although Xena appeared to travel with me for laughs and my own daily humiliation I do have a lot of skills to offer.  In my struggle to remind her of this she ordered that we take cover into the trees from the open field.  While running for cover I came up with a brilliant plan as to how we would buy time.  I suggested to Xena that we make a sign with Laurel  and post it in the wrong direction so that we could mislead the giant.  That would most certainly delay him since according to Hower he had never been to their village.  Xena ignored the suggestion as she scaled up into the tallest tree she could find.  The warrior princess was looking to see exactly how much time we had before we would be battling the giant.  I don’t think she had a plan of action in place for him just yet.  She had been too focased on Zagrious determined to prove to me that she could be in two places at the same time.  I was still unconvinced.  Although I did finish building my sign.  My hope was that I had been able to spell Laurel correctly.

About this time Xena had jumped down out of the tree and was in a bit of a rush to move on.  She was frustrated with my need to finish the sign telling me that giants didn’t know how to spell so it didn’t matter that I had even made the sign.  Even so I was determined to post it so I did.  I posted it right in front of an offering statue to Aphrodite.  As I struggled to get it to stay in the ground Xena grabbed me by the clevage point and yanked me toward Laurel.  She was still unappreciative of my work.

Soon we were back to our game of warlords and victims.  I had yet to determine if who we were talking about had dark hair or light hair.  Xena responded that it was someone with dark hair.  I was begining to think that this was definately a warlord, but I was still grappling with the victim status.  Then I thought that maybe it was someone with a heavy build.  Xena quickly replied to that with a negative response.  That eliminated a few people from my list.  Maybe it was Draco because he wasn’t fat, and he was dark haired.  He was also buff, but that would be too easy.  I decided that my next best guess would be Toxious.  Xena’s response trailed off with a no.  She had suddenly switched gears again as we were entering the village of Laurel.  The warrior princess was thinking out loud.  Her words were simple.  All she could say was the word interesting.  Of course I couldn’t figure out what was so interesting about this little village.  We had been to millions of other villages just like Laurel.  They all looked the same to me.  In fact, most of them reminded me of my home village of Potedia.  Peace loving villagers tend to live very similar lives all over the countryside.  Laurel was no different.

A thought occurred to me in that moment.  Lining the main road into the village with birch trees to go with those lonely goats and chickens might be nice.  It would be a step out of the normal landscape anyway.  Xena of course was not talking about the asthtetic appearance of Laurel.  She was more interested in the fact that there seemed to be no one there.  There was not once soul roaming the streets.  No one was shopping at the market.  It was ghostly and almost eerie.  Life in this village seemed a bit too quiet.  As Xena and I looked about we were suddenly on high alert until the silence was broken by the sounds of a struggle.  Xena and I turned to look behind our path to see a peasant woman with dark hair struggling with a baby goat.  She was the only voice other than that of the goat which had spoken since Xena and I had arrived in Laurel.

Xena decided to approach the peasant in blue.  It seemed as if the woman had not even noticed our arrival until she turned to see who it was that had called out hello.  This was when things turned into a strange surreal experience.  The peasant woman’s facial expression went from surprise, to awe, to excitement all in a matter of moments.  Then she requested confirmation that Xena was who she appeared to be.  Xena was modest confirming her identity as she looked behind her.  The warrior princess was clueless as to the fame she was experiencing.  She also failed to realize that it was because of my scrolls that she was enjoying this praise.

As the peasant woman struggle to hold onto her goat she could barely contain her exasperation for she was finally getting to meet her idol.  Xena the legendary warrior princess whom she had heard so many stories about.  In fact, the woman spoke of all of Xena’s adventures including how Xena had liberated Prometheous, and unchained Death.  It seemed that the favorite legend had been those that involved Xena defeating Callisto.  All of this was within what seemed to be a single breath.  Though this woman was seemingly impressed with Xena I found myself impressed that my stories had made it this far.  I was flattered that even people who lived in villages as quiet as Laurel have been able to enjoy my scrolls about Xena and our adventures together.  Xena appeared not to be phased by her status, and soon I found myself as unexcited about it when the peasant approached me unable to figure out who I was.  She didn’t even know my name although she did try to give me a name.  It was a miserable fumbling of syllabols.

Yet the peasant woman made up for it when she began to ask me what it was like to travel with Xena.  In fact this was my inspiration for a day in the life of Xena.  I was glad to oblidge the most intimate and embarressing details of Xena’s life for Xena had been indulging in my humilation all day long with Hower.  The first question was if Xena liked to snooze in the buff, but just as I was about to answer Xena interrupted.  She resorted to the mission as the reason my fun had to end.  Sudddenly that threw the peasant woman, whose name we later found to be Minya, into action.  Minya explained that she and her boyfriend Hower were the only people from their village who had been brave enough to stay behind to defend their village against the giant.  Everyone else had apparently run to the hills for safety.  Xena’s battles for the greater good had some how inspired these two villagers to become heros especially Minya.  Minya went onto explain that she was highly qualified to help with this mission.  She described herself as tough and bold, and that she was able to read quite well.  According to Minya literacy was scarce in this part of the valley.  If nothing else sounded promising within this situation one had to hold onto Minya’s determination and exhuberance to impress the warrior princess.  She was just as bad as Hower, but in a slightly different way.

Then Minya suddenly found herself wondering about Hower whom she had forgotten about within the presence of the warrior princess.  Xena then had to explain with a bit of guilt that she had asked him to do her a favor.  She promised Minya that Hower would return.  I found that to be quite funny since Xena had yet to figure out how to tell Minya that her boyfriend had fallen for her while he was away looking for help.  Suddenly even Minya was a bit demanding.  She wanted to know what Xena’s plan was to defeat the giant.  In fact, that was the big mystery that all of us had been waiting for an answer to.  Xena finally came right out and answered it.  She didn’t have a true plan formulated yet.  I knew it!  I had known it all along.  Xena had only been sending phony messages to Zagrious to delay him until she could figure out what to do.  That was exactly what I had done with the giant.  It was a good thing too since Xena needed some more time to think.  Yet as always Xena would prove that she still didn’t value my skills to be as crafty as her own.  Quickly Minya found herself begging the warrior princess for a command.  With one sly glance Xena had come up with the perfect plan.

That was when Minya graciously offered us a nice warm bath which was quite relaxing.  It had been quite a while since Xena and I had had a bath inside.  The water was blissfully warm and relaxing although Minya was a bit overzealous in attempting to please the warrior princess.  She was exactly like Hower only the female version of him.   As Minya kept returning with large buckets of hot water to keep the bath maintained Xena and I turned our thoughts again to the game.  My next guess was Mezentious.  Xena again replied that I was wrong.  Still determined to win the game I prepared to try at another guess.  Just then Minya returned yet again filling the steaming bath with more scalding water.  She must have been boiling endless pans of water over a fire the size of an Amazon funeral fire.  When she asked if the warrior princess was too hot Xena was gracious yet it was obvious that she was begining to feel just as uncomfortable as I was.

This led me back to thoughts of the giant Gareth.  I inquired if Xena had come up with any new ideas on how to deal with him.  Xena’s response was again without an answer.  It appeared to me as if she was struggling to find the answer.  These occasions were rare, but when they come along I always try to include my input.  For a moment I drew back from conversation as I scrubbed Xena’s back hoping to release some of the stress and the tension she was feeling.  Part of it had been of my doing, but I still wanted to make up for it.  So then I had a suggestion.  It was actually the perfect plan.  We had used it before against Golliath when he went up against David and the Isrealites.  It had worked before and the day couldn’t have been more perfect for this plan.  The sun had been out shining brightly all day, and there were no clouds in sight.  I spoke these thoughts out loud to Xena reminding her of the previous success of this plan of action against giants.  Of how we could ask Minya to gather all of the mirror in Laurel so that we could get Gareth to take off his helmet and expose his soft spot.  Using the mirrors to blind him with the sun’s reflection we could easily take out the giant.  Xena seemed uninterested in trying that one again.  I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t want a guarunteed win in battle.  It was almost frustrating and personal again, but I refrained from taking it personal this time.  I was begining to understand that what Xena enjoyed most about the heat of battle was that each battle was unique to her.  Each battle had its own personality and though Gareth was a giant like Golliath this was different for the warrior princess.  Xena sensed my understanding of her and it led her to offer to take away the tension in my back.  She too was begining to feel slightly guilty for all of the bickering that had gone on between us on this day.

Then it happened again.  Minya came running with the scalding hot water which fell directly onto Xena again.  This time Xena almost snapped at Minya demanding that Minya ease up on the fresh bath water.  I was glad that Xena finally put a hault to Minya’s overly gracious offers.  Her presence led me to remind Xena of how much she too was within the grasp of Xena’s warrior princess haze.  Xena reluctantly agreed that it was true that she had not just one, but two secret admirers to deal with.  For some reason this made her uneasy although she did complement Minya on wanting to be so helpful.  It was almost as if Xena felt slightly connected to Minya in some way.  Xena was finally learning to appreciate being idolized instead of despised.  In the days when we first met it seemed that Xena had enemies in every village that wanted her blood.  Now she was being worshipped like Hercules or Aphrodite.

This led me into reminding Xena of our third problem of the day.  The problem of Hower and Minya.  Hower being in love with Xena would definately put a damper in Xena’s new found relationship with Minya.  Xena did agree that this was an issue, but it was obvious that it was the furthest thing from her warrior mind.  I could allow her take on the giant and try to make it back in time to wrestle with Zagrious, but there would be no way that Xena could handle Minya and Hower’s relationship issue.  This was definately my territory because it always takes a more sensative person to help straighten these emotional issues of love out.  It was nice to know that there would be at least one thing that I could do to make the greater good better today.

Yet as I basked in my own pride Xena found herself offended that I didn’t feel she could handle that third issue.  Again she wanted to rise to the occasion and prove to me that she could handle that better than me too.  Xena’s zest for competition was begining to truely annoy me.  I asked her why she was so set on competing with everyone and being the best.  Her response was weak, but forceful in tone.  She accused me of being overly competative.  Xena did have a point.  I was and I had been all day, but mostly with her and she definately had me beat at that.  This I stated as a fact.  She could not deny it and just as she tried desparately to come up with a retort to the naked truth Minya arrived yet again with another bucket of scalding hot water.  It splashed a divide hotter than the lava of Vesuveous.  Minya obviously didn’t hear Xena the last time she requested that Minya cease in her work.  This time Xena shouted and it got Minya’s attention.  It was obvious that Minya was quite fearful of disappointing her idol.  Xena then thanked Minya as her new disciple knelt down with excitement.  Minya inquired of Xena’s plan hoping that there would be an answer.  Yet Xena was truely stumped.

As the warrior princess fumbled with her own confidence I stepped in to save the day.  I told Minya to go ahead and gather all of the mirrors in the village to prepare for the giant’s arrival.  If Xena was unable to come up with a better more ingenuitive plan then at least we would be ready when the giant came.  Minya looked to Xena for confirmation that this was the plan.  Now Xena was stuck for I had forced her into using her old plan, but the only problem was that Xena explained that it was only a contigency plan.  It didn’t matter to Minya though.  She dashed off faster than a bolt of lightening to please the warrior princess.  I found myself irritated that Xena was still not going to go with my latest suggestion.  The competition was on as our battle of wits continued.  Xena didn’t want me to ever get the last word or the last command.  I had found her weak spot and she was trying desparately to defend it.  Xena only responded by first playing it off as if she didn’t know what I was talking about and then she had a retort.  She accused me of being an ametuer reminding me that being a real warrior means being flexible within any battle situation.  This was just as irritating as the sudden lump underneath me which Xena discovered to be the soap.  Suddenly we found ourselves within a wrestling competion within the bath splashing each other until we couldn’t see anymore.  And again the warrior princess beat me.

I had finally decided that I had come to the end of my rope with her for the day.  While she was outside talking with Minya and Hower who had just returned from his lastest mission I went shopping.  Since there was no one around I couldn’t go to the market so I decided to trade, but there was only one problem.  Minya was the only one I could trade with since everyone else had run for the hills.  Yet it would be easy.  All I had to do was pick out a frying pan that I liked and I was certain that Minya would find something enticing that I could offer to her in exhange. When I finally managed to join everyone outside again I overheard Xena talking to Hower planning to send him on another mission.  She was still unable to deal with that problem too.  She just kept sending everyone away from Laurel hoping that her ulitimate plan would ferment in her mind.  It seemed to me that Xena had lost her mind.

Xena told Hower exactly verbatum that Zagrious had refused her offer.  When she repeated back to Hower word for word Zagrious’s response Hower seemed impressed and in awe.  Xena then told Hower to go back out and find Zagrious to warn him not to come near Laurel.  She also wanted Hower to make sure Zagrious knew that Piedmont and any other village was his for the taking.  Hower was exasperated and ready for action saying good-bye to Xena.  He practically blew the warrior princess kisses through his eyes.  Xena’s way of dealing with this was to order him to say good-bye to Minya whom he wouldn’t even take the time to glance at.  Hower did say good-bye to Minya, but it could barely be heard by anyone.  Then he went running, and leaping away to find Zagrious to deliver Xena’s latest message.  It seemed insane to me that Xena would continue to send Hower out to tell Zagrious a lot of nonesense.  Apparently Xena had known Zagrious before and they had been warlord pals in the past.  This led me to think that maybe Zagrious was the answer to the game.  As I approached Xena while Minya was finding herself struggling to deal with her new reality Xena ordered me to do something about their current state of emotions.  Although she didn’t actually say that I should she alluded to it.  Of course I had better plans for Minya.  Soon I was on my way to gaining ground against the warrior princess.  After trading to get Minya’s frying pan I had come up with my answer to Xena’s warlords and victims riddle.  Since I was on a role I decided that I would try my hand at the element of surprise just one more time.

As they say practice makes perfect.  I had seen Xena go into a barn up the path and decided that she would be at her weakest when in deep thought.  I took my staff and listened intently from outside.  There was not a peep.  The only thing that I could hear was Xena breathing deeply within meditation.  She was definately not expecting an attack.  Quietly I inched around the corner through the doorway of the barn.  As I peeked in I could feel that Xena’s eyes were closed.  She was totally focased on her thoughts.  I knew that now was my chance and so I went for it.  As I drove forward into the barn with my staff in the ready Xena suddenly jumped up high into the air kicking down two buckets full of water and giving her battle cry.  She hit each bucket simultaneously with her warrior boots as she spun around in mid air prepared and ready to face me in battle.  Although I knew now that I was whipped I still had to attempt to make the striking blow.  Just as I lifted my staff to thrust it into the chest of the warrior princess she landed spinning around to face me.  She kicked my staff effortlessly to the floor in the final movement of her entire body.  It was amazing I have to admit, but it didn’t help me in winning the battle.  All I could do was throw my arms down in frustration and aggitation.  Just when I had thought I would beat her with the one two punch I had lost my battle advantage.

Yet at least I still had my wits about me.  Quickly I brushed off my loss in the battle to approach the warrior princess with my answer to the riddle of warlords and victims.  Already she had turned her back to me and fallen back into deep mediation.  I approached her from behind and whispered slyly into her ear.  The answer was most certainly the great Centaries.  She responded quickly with a negetive answer.  It was short and it was spiteful.  Frankly, the warrior princess was driving me insane which led me to my earlier suspicion.  I then demanded to know if it was indeed someone she had fought before I had met her.  The answer had to be yes, but it was no.  My emotional breaking point was now for my wits had been smacked down just as hard as my staff had.  So far I had lost two out of my three advantages with little effort from the warrior princess.  Now that I had finally given up on warlords and victims I was dying to know the answer.  Xena slyly spun back around to face me smiling as she spoke the name of Theodoras.

Now that couldn’t be right for Theodoras had been killed by not Xena, but Callisto.  Xena had a clever supporting arguement for that as well.  She proceeded to remind me that Theodoras had been killed by Callisto when Callisto had been in Xena’s body.  Who knew that Xena would go that far in being certain to defeat me in cold blood, but she had.  She wasn’t wrong, but she wasn’t right either.  Yet who could ever get the warrior princess with that.  As Xena stood in the barn within her own glory there was a nasty sound which had come from just outside the barn.  It snapped and suddenly Minya could be heard struggling and crying out in pain.  Xena quickly moved outside to investigate as I picked up my staffed off of the floor.  As we made our way outside all was still very quiet in Laurel, but Minya stood alone rubbling the sting of the whip off of her face.  Xena called out forcefully to Minya.  She wanted to know why a peasant woman would take it upon herself to play with weapons of mass destruction without proper training.

Minya argued with Xena reminding the warrior princess or me rather that she had traded her best frying pan to me in order to gain a piece of Xena memorabilia.  Okay so even though Xena had beaten me in battle and with wits I still crushed her with surprise.  I had forgotten about my trade from earlier and I had no idea that it would bring out the anger that it did.  Xena was furious that I had traded her weapon.  What she didn’t realize was that I had let her off of the hook for it was the chackram that Minya had truely wanted.  Quickly I had to defend my choice for Xena was fast approaching in her fury.  I retorted with the fact that we needed to be able to cook our food reminding Xena of the fact that the fish were still not settling within my stomach.  I had matched her fury with my own emotional fury, but it wasn’t enough to mask my real pain.  Xena called me on my excuse knowing that the real reason I had traded her weapon was to get back at her for using my scrolls as back up toiletry.  This was true, but it didn’t seem to matter.

Xena decided since that trade had already been made that there was only one way to resolve this issue.  She turned immediately back to Minya and demanded that Minya return it to her.  Minya was firm and did not budge.  She was certainly more assertive than her counter part Hower.  It was kind of nice to see that someone else could stand up to the warrior princess.  Minya reminded Xena that a trade had been made and in that transaction the whip had become her property while the frying pan had become ours.  Not only that, but Minya went one step further in reminding Xena that Hower was hers and that I belonged to the warrior princess.  That part of the deal didn’t sound all that attractive, but it certainly was amusing.  What was unfolding was emotionally interesting about the warrior princess.  For the first time that I could ever remember she was being told no.  I had never seen anyone be able to tell the warrior princess no and be successful in keeping their lives.  Minya was quite courageous and bold in standing up to her.  I was quite impressed.  Then Xena realized that she had lost.  Both Minya and I had ganged p on her and there was no way to win.  As Xena looked back at me with disgust I tried to hide me laughter, but I’m not really sure if I masked it all that well.  Then she looked to Minya and instructed her to be certain to get all of the mirrors ready at the north end of town.  Xena quickly brushed Minya out of her way as she went to find out how close the giant was.

Minya would not allow Xena to have the last word.  Instead she forced Xena to pause as she moved toward Argo.  The two dark haired tall women exchanged a glance of toughness as Xena walked away seemingly hurt by this gesture and disrespect.  As Xena saddled up onto her horse I realized that Argo was the only one who truely understood the warrior princess.  Argo was the only one that Xena could go to in her times of emotional need.  I began to feel even more low as I watched Minya drive the final nail into the coffin as she taunted the warrior princess as Xena rode out of Laurel.  I realized that I had deeply bruised Xena’s pride.  Not only that, but I had created a new enemy for Xena.  The poor warrior princess was having a bad day and all I had done was make it worse for her.  I decided that I had to do something to make up for it.  The begining of that would have to be in repairing Minya’s relationship with the warrior princess.

My scrolls were the perfect solution to the problem for it had been my scrolls that had given the warrior princess that certain glow within Minya’s heart.  It wasn’t fair that Minay had met the warrior princess on an off day.  And so I sat down in the barn with Minya and helped her read some of my scrolls.  In fact, we read the story of Baccus and the beautiful girls that Xena had rescued from his wrath.  I had to remind Minya of Xena’s heart and commitment to goodness.  As Minya read the final lines of the scroll I asked her how she liked the story of Xena’s kindness and bravery.  She really did enjoy the story which pleased me, but Minya then responded by asking for the stories in which Xena was the harlot that stole the men of good and decent women.  I looked to her and softly scolded her for having such mean thoughts toward the warrior princess.  Desparately I wanted to project my guilt into Minya’s heart knowing that it had been my fury that had been injected into hers.  I then reassured her that Xena was out to find Hower and to straighten things out for the two of them.  My lack of confidence in the warrior princess had not boded well for the faith and belief of others.

Yet just when I was about to turn Minya’s heart back to Xena Hower arrived in a tizzy.  He seemed nervous and unable to stop shaking with fear.  Yet his fear was more in hurting Minya for he began to confess that he had fallen in love with the warrior princess.  My own heart sank for it was as if Hower had broken up with me for it had sealed the deal of any hopes to restore Minya’s faith in Xena or Hower.  Minya looked to me with disgust and frustration.  Her anger was more from being hurt by her idol and her lover.  Both had gilted her today.  Suddenly Xena entered the barn with business and nothing more.  As she was about to discuss our dire situation I interrupted her hoping to remind her of how important it was that we restore Minya and Hower’s relationship.  Xena ignored this issue with the dire details of the giant.  She had confirmed that it was indeed Gareth by the size of his footprints.  Xena explained that our time was extremely short which meant that our mirror plan was out.  Then as Xena was about to address the situation with Minya and Hower Hower stepped in to explain to Minya who Gareth was.  But Minya already knew.  She quickly filled in the rest of the details cutting Hower off.  Minya detailed that Gareth was the meanest giant to ever walk the earth and she continued onto explain that he had killed Xena’s friend the giant Golliath’s family.  Both Xena and I were impressed for Minya continued on to tell the story of the battle of the Isrealites and the Phillistines and of how it was there that Golliath met his own demise against Xena.  It was as if Minya had been there herself and she explained that she had read it in one of my scrolls.

As exciting and impressive as that statement was there was work to focas on.  I turned back to Xena and asked her if Gareth was wearing a helmet.  Xena explained that indeed he was and that it also had a heay nose guard which would most certainly protect his soft spot.  I still didn’t understand why the mirrors wouldn’t work until Xena explained that heavy rain clouds were quickly moving in from the west.  It was all a timing issue and Gareth was moving slower than the weather.  Our situation seemed grim, but Xena seemed to be in control.  It was as if she had already made another plan.  As I waited with Minya and Hower for the answer to materialize Xena moved deeper into the barn.  Then she paced back and looked to me for an answer.  She wanted to know if it had been true that Zues killed giants with lightening bolts.  Indeed it was true, but my faith was being tested as she spoke.  Using a lightening bolt and actually being able to handle one were two different things.  Especially since neither Xena, nor I, nor Minya or Hower were gods.

We were racing against time through trial and error yet somehow the warrior princess kept trudging forward.  Xena led Howard, Minya, and I back out just beyond the lookout tree into the open field from earilier in the day.  It was about a mile just outside of the village.  Once we arrived she began constructing a strange new weapon.  It was made out of some old worn out blankets that Minya had provided, and one of Hower’s ropes from his stable horse.  There was only one problem.  It seemed that there was a piece missing.  Xena spent a few moments in thought as the three companions looked on hopelessly.  We all thought Xena had lost it by this point, but nobody had the heart or the will to tell the warrior princess.  Suddenly Xena called out to Hower who was excited that she needed him for something.  It was as if she were holding the key to a big mystery and only Hower would be important enough to be told about it.  The warrior princess quickly reached for Hower’s waste only to rip his belt buckle right off of his belt.  Hower’s pants did stay on, but there was a sense of embarressment within him as the warrior princess went back to operating on her new contraption.

It looked nice as she was tying the final touches onto it, but I still didn’t see the vision.  That was when I finally had to ask her what it was.  Xena’s response wasn’t all that promising.  She didn’t even have a name for her diamond shaped cloth with two sticks, and some old rags on a string hanging from a belt buckle.  Yet the warrior princess continued to be confident in her new accomplishment.  She went onto explain to me that all that needed to happen was to be certain to get the weapon up into the air.  I was still lost because I didn’t see exactly how this was helping us conquer the giant.  It was too soft and light to do any real damage.  At least with the mirrors one could attempt to blind the giant.  This was stretching it for me, but at least the warrior princess was creative.  Xena seemed to ignore my lack of faith in her vision explaining that it would be the perfect weapon to nail the giant with if we could just get it into the air to harness the lightening bolts.

Okay so it sounded great, but I was still lacking the vision of how this thing was going to get into the air.  Xena continued to explain her vision as she expressed it with such passion and glory.  She spoke of how the wind would carry it and in a sense there was the small possibility of success.  If only Zues were feeling frisky with the elements he might actually help the warrior princess with her plan.  Yet gods are not known for their respect of humanity.  I was actually shocked to see that Xena was evening turning to this as a valid alternative, but I decided to sit back alongside Hower and Minya and hope for the best.  That was all that one could do at this point.

The warrior princess then held the weapon straight up in the air pointing the top of the slender shaped diamond toward the heavens.  She let out a cry and released it into the air with force as the winds began to pick up slightly.  Suddenly the diamond began to fly as it took the string off of the small roller that Xena had designed to tame it.  It was amazing to watch as the wind began to carry the weapon further and further into the air.  Suddenly it seemed possible that it may be able to reach the heavens toward Zues and his lightening bolts, but just as I was about to feel the excitement and the confidence that Xena seemingly felt the diamond deflated as the winds died down and it plummeted dismally to the ground.  It slammed down with force as Minya let out a snicker and Hower looked extremely disappointed and confused.  Minya was still on her high in defeating Xena back in the village for possession of Xena’s whip.  Of course I had fueled that.  I was really begining to feel sorry for Xena.  This was a rare feeling, but she seemed to be a broken washed up warrior out to prove she was still the best.

I approached the warrior princess and knelt down beside her trying to offer some support.  It was like trying to let Hower down in knowing that Xena would never be his, but only worse.  This was my best friend and she was going off of the deep end to think that she could harness the lightening of Zues.  The desparate warrior princess was frantic in trying to repair the damage to the tip of her diamond weapon.  As she tried to smooth out the rough edges I tried to let her down easy.  She needed to realize that now was the time to move onto another plan or a more solid idea.  Her latest idea was too abstract even for me.  Yet the warrior princess was extremely defensive and could not admit defeat.  She snapped at me demanding to know what my plan was, but the truth of it was that I didn’t have one either.  Xena was extremely stubborn as I tried to hold down my temper.  I only wanted to explain to her that I was there to help, but she didn’t see it that way.  Instead she ignored me as I tried to explain to her that there would be a day that she would be wrong despite all of the times that she had already proven herself to be right.  On this day I was certain that fate would step in for it was about to become a rainy day for the warrior princess.  She was havind difficulty accepting this.

Xena continued to venture on her own out beyond the realm of normal thoughts as she decided that the solution to her problem would simply be solved by running with her new weapon.  Suddenly the warrior princess jumped up from her latest defeat and began running all about the field desparately trying to get a response from the weapon.  This self-humiliation went on for several minutes as I tried desparately to restore my faith in my friend and her skills.  I breathed in deeply and out slowly as I spoke within my mind and desparately called out to my soul for restored faith.  Hower simply became more enthralled with the warrior princess finding that she was rather cute when she was frustrated while Minya gave up on winning him over.  For Hower Xena could do no wrong and so Minya decided to return to the village.

There was a point that Xena had found that her weapon was tangled in a rather large bush, but even that could not stop her in attempting to defeat the wind.  I began to realize that no matter what she would never give in.  This made me feel less threatened by all of the times that she challenged my will.  If the will of nature couldn’t prove itself right then I would never be able to either so I decided to stop trying.  Instead I built up some faith again, but just as I was about to jump back into the game Xena hurled her weapon across the open field and it flew again for a brief time only to come crashing down right on top of my head.  It wasn’t a pleasant feeling to be attacked by a diamond that slightly resembled a giant amazon queen mask, but it did knock some sense into me.

If Xena was going to go down I would go down with her since I was her best friend and friends stick by each other until the end.  Even if it was against the biggest meanest giant to ever walk the earth.  And so we spent the next several moments working together as a team for the first time of the day.  I grabbed the parchment as Xena stood several feet away and began to run as I ran with her still holding the parchment.  Suddenly I felt the power of Zues lifted the parchement from beneath me and I let it go up into the heavens once more.  My excitement and hope were restored as I cheered with the warrior princess on our accomplishment together.  The parchement stayed in the air for several minutes until Xena finally decided that her weapon would work.  She handled it with percision as she controlled it like her chackram only it was more graceful as it floated freely.  Quickly Xena’s mood had changed from frustration to relief.  It seemed that she had now solved at least one of our problems, but there were still two more.  Yet the warrior princess had moved onto the final problem for she had already solved the problem of Zagrious.

I was impressed as she explained that her intentions in sending Hower with cryptic messages to Zagrious was to ambush Zagrious and his army at Laurel using the giant.  She was planning on being certain that both would face each other just before they reached the village limits.  Now that her flying parchment worked she would be able to harness the lightening to defeat Gareth as soon as Gareth has smashed up Zagrious’s army.  Now this was all very wonderful news to me and a bit of a relief, but Xena wasn’t going to stop there.  She decided that she was on a role and handed over her flying parchment for me to tame while she went back to the village to attempt to straighten out the mess she had made with Minya and Hower.

My taming of the parchement did not last long for became so powerful that it stole the weapon from my grasp sending it slaming out of control into a tree in the wood just beyond the village.  After chasing the parchment down I decided to return to the village to check on Xena’s progress with Hower.  When I arrived she was inside the barn again talking to him.  I was a little insulted by her arrogance in thinking that she would be able to resolve the relationship problems of Minya and Hower.  As I listened just outside the door I heard her tell Hower that he didn’t have a chance with her.  She tried to be forceful with him and nasty, but it didn’t seem to dampen his resolve.  Instead he responded to her force with denial.  Yet he insisted that it was Xena who was denying her feelings for Hower.  He was certain that the warrior princess would come around.  Then he continued to brush Xena’s horse as if it were going to impress her.  It didn’t matter anyway.  I had a new attack planned for Xena and she would never suspect it.

As the warrior princess exited the barn I found myself climbing up onto the roof in anticipation.  She called out my name in desparation.  I knew that her next command would be to take care of the situation with Hower, but that wasn’t enough for my ego.  I needed more and so as I waited she came out around the corner of the barn.  She knew I was lurking because I could see her shoulders tensing up in anticipation.  The warrior princess is always aware of her surroundings even when she can’t see them.  I still had the advantage because she would never suspect me from the air.  As she walked around the corner of the barn expecting me to jump out with my staff I lept from the top of the barn in an attempt to knock her down.  Instead I landed flat on my chest knocking the wind out of myself for a moment.  As struggled to rise back to my feet I grabbed for Xena’s breast plate for balance.  She just glanced at me with her warrior smirk knowing that she had beaten me again.  It was now becoming more of a game rather than a direct challenge of wills.  I had tried giving a battle cry on my way down, but realized that it had been what had given my position away.

Xena responded doubtfully to my assumption that my mistake had been the battle cry.  My next question had already been answered, but I still had to ask her how things had gone with Hower.  As I had expected she commanded me to take care of that situation and then I had to explain that her flying parchement was now stuck in the trees.  Our truce had not lasted long and so the day drug on toward the climax of all three of our issues colliding simultaneously.  I dreaded having to bring reality into the love life of Hower, but as I sat there with him in the barn for over an hour he kept proclaiming that he and Xena were destined for each other.  It became a saliloquey that drug on forever and repeated itself in circles.  My attempts at convincing Hower that Minya was the one he was meant for ended dismally as I myself had to admit defeat in the arena of emotional repair.

As I trudged back out into the world away from Hower’s fantasies I caught sight of Xena who had returned with her flying parchement in tact.  She was talking with Minya who appeared to be very responsive to the warrior princess.  Suddenly, Minya was running back into the village as if she were going to deliver a message to Zagrious only Zagrious was already coming.  I approached the warrior princess with curiousity as she explained that she had given Minya some personal advice on dealing with men.  Apparently whatever Xena had said sparked something in Minya although Xena didn’t appear so confident about Minya’s trust in her at this point.   Whatever was said I could only hope that it was going to work because Hower was hopeless as far as I could tell.  I decided that the only solution to his problem would be found in being kicked around by the warrior princess.  Xena jokingly disagreed with me stating that he’d probably enjoy a beating.  She was right of course.  The beast known as man is a creature of lust.

Our conversation suddenly turned to a more serious tone in the next moment when Xena reminded me of how important it was for her succeed in defeating Gareth.  If for no other reason than to repay Goliath for having to die against the Isrealites and for the loss of his family when he once saved Xena from Gareth’s wrath.  It was in this moment that I was reminded of why I traveled with Xena.  She need someone there to remind her that she was doing the right thing.  The warrior princess needed my support and to be reminded that Goliath’s death was for the good of others.  I soothed Xena’s concerns for Goliath reminding her that he could hear her thoughts.  He could feel Xena’s friendship and love for him even in death.  I had to remember this myself every day for Perdicas was forever listening to me.

As I was falling into that thought and that wonderful feeling it was interrupted by the sounds of stomping echoing through the woods and the ground shaking violently beneath me.  Hower quickly came running out of the barn shouting out about the approaching giant with worry.  Yet Xena was not at all worried.  She was extremely pleased for Zagrious had fallen right into her trap.  The warrior princess was reminded in this moment of how Gareth couldn’t resist stomping an army to pieces for he had stomped her army once on the battle field.  She spoke her thoughts outloud as Hower found himself surprised that one of Xena’s hairy brained plans had worked.  He suddenly had faith in the warrior princess and he wondered if all of Xena’s plans worked as she had constructed them in her mind.  Xena wasn’t certain that the rest of her plan would work, but it was all that she had to work with.  With Zagrious out of the way the only contender would be Gareth who was still coming to Laurel reguardless of the outcome.  Everyone had to be ready for battle.

Waiting for Gareth was the most uneventful part of the day.  Xena, Hower, and I spent what seemed to be hours just sitting and waiting in silence.  The only sound that could be heard was Xena’s chackram being hurled out at the campfire pot, to the dry bones hanging from the abandoned butcher shop, to the old wagon wheel at the edge of the village and then back again.  There was the occasional sound of the giant approaching, but he was certainly in no hurry.  He was probably consuming the army that he had just stomped to bits.  I found myself pacing and twirling my staff with bordom as Hower just stared at Xena attempting to figure out a way to get her to admit her love for him I would assume.  He kept shooting her these flirtacious glances that the warrior princess completely ignored, yet Hower didn’t seem to notice.  Finally the boredom became a bit overwhelming for me and I was getting impatient with Gareth.  I sat down next to Xena on the log by the campfire and asked her what could be holding the giant up.  Xena explained that he was probably taking a rest after all of his hard work destroying Zagrious’s army.

Then she finished wiping off the debris from the chackram’s blade and hurled it out again as I watched it hit the same three objects for the hundreth time.  Hower seemed impressed at how effortless and accurate Xena was with her weapon.  She never missed her mark.  This was nothing new for me, but I was very concerned for Minya now because we hadn’t seen her for the entire hour.  Hower was falling deeper into his warrior haze fantasy and the giant was about to arrive.  Xena explained that her hope for Minya was that Minya had finally looked past their differences of the day and taken her advice.  Just as she finished that statement the conversation was interrupted by the sounds of an angry and crazed warlord.

Hower jumped up startled from the chair in which he had been seated backwards in.  There was alarm and worry in his eyes.  I don’t think he believed that Xena was a real warrior because she hadn’t really demonstrated her skills well today.  Yet it seemed that Xena wasn’t the only warrior having an off day.  Zagrious was insane.  His anger and frustration had reached the boiling point.  The man couldn’t control his emotions which Xena has often said can lead to mistakes.  Xena was having a great time and agreed that it was a tough day for those who made their living as warriors.  Yet she wasn’t phased by Zagrious, or Gareth, or Hower, or even me and my antics.  She was completely poised and ready to battle as Zagrious approached expressing how much he despised Xena’s change from looting and steeling, to saving the day.  He spoke of her like a true bard, but without the admiration.  As he approached with his scratched up face, and his half sword he was suddenly approached by the dark haired woman dressed in leather.

It was Minya.  She stood before the battered warlord ready for action.  Hower suddenly appeared upset and worried as he ran around the side of the barn to save Minya from the wrath of Zagrious.  Yet just when it seemed that Minya needed a man to defend her Zagrious attacking finding himself running straight into the heel of Minya’s powerful hand.  She gave him a good beating with just one thrust under the nose sending him flattened onto the ground.  He was knocked out and defeated.  There was nothing left to pick up as Hower found himself enthralled with Minya’s warrior skills.  Of course Minya was dressed in leather which she assumed was the real attraction.  Indeed she had taken Xena’s advice and it was refreshing to see that Hower and Minya were back together with all of their differences worked out.  That was the last we had seen of them for the day.  As Xena and I found ourselves relieved that Hower wouldn’t be another tag along in our travels together.

There was somehow a sense of relief in the resolution of two of the day’s issues and Xena and I both breathed a sigh of relief for the load which had been lifted from both of us.  Yet there was still one problem left to tackle and it was a giant problem.  The sounds of laughter coming from within between Hower, and Minya were suddenly drowned out by the sounds of Gareth’s giant boots approaching the village.  As the earth shook beneath us again I looked to Xena who was no longer relaxed, but poised yet again.  Her first words in response to her poised body stated that Gareth was headed toward the giant’s burial ground before he would return to smash through Laurel.  There was a bit of good news to this for it gave Xena some time to set up her flying parchment, but it was still not certain if this wild plan was going to work.  Yet I had to have faith that the warrior princess would succeed in defeating the giant for she had succeeded in both Zagrious and the relationship of Hower and Minya.

Even Xena as she continued to speak was not certain of her plan, but her heart was where it always is.  She was concerned for the safety of the people that she was attempting to save.  Xena directed me to be certain that if her plan failed that I was to make sure that Hower and Minya’s lives would not end in a lost cause.  My heart was touched as the concern flowed out of the heart of the warrior princess and I decided that it was time for me to lay my irriations to rest.  I didn’t want to part with the warrior princess on bad terms for I had sold her whip for a frying pan just to get back at her.  It was wrong and it wasn’t thoughtful of me and as I expressed my regret and sorrow for my actions to her she only paused me to remind me that she too was sorry.  Xena apologized for disrespecting me when she had thoughtlessly used my scrolls for the call of nature.  It made me feel better about my bad behavior toward the warrior princess to know that she too had been able to stand up and admit when she was wrong.  Our arguements of the day had been silly and petty.  Xena established that by parting in saying that we were even despite all of our battles of will.

Soon the warrior princess was off for the final leg of the mission.  She rounded up her flying parchment and dashed out of the village toward the edge of the woods.  When she was close enough to the path of the giant she seeked out and found a tree that would bring her to his eye level.  Xena bravely scaled the tree with her flying parchment and positioned it at the top.  Then she awaited Gareth along the path toward the burial ground.  Soon all of nature felt to wrath of the giant approaching as all of the birds fled and the deer found themselves almost frozen with fear.  Every animal in the forrest scattered leaving Xena to be the last one standing against the giant.  As Gareth walked up the path Xena called out to him to get his attention.  With just two giant steps he was at the tree where Xena awaited him.  As soon as he recognized his old foe in battle Gareth was angry and tried to swat Xena down out of the tree.  Xena was ready to react for she jumped down from the top of the tree down to the waist of the giant.  She knew that his slow movement would be a distraction in itself as he tried to swat her from the tree.  It was then that she took the oppritunity to fasten the weapon to his metal armor near his belt.

Suddenly the chase was on and it was the most dangerous part of Xena’s plan.  She had to be able to outrun a giant, get him out into the open, and hope that Zues would be throwing down lighting by the time they reached the giant’s burial ground.  The chase was long and vigourous, but the warrior princess stayed steady as the approaching dark clouds gave her the hope that she needed to defeat the giant and win the battle for to pay her debts to her old friend Goliath.  As they approached death within the giant’s burial ground Xena kept tuanting her foe as she dodged the bones of the giants who had once ruled the earth before Gareth.  The grounds were littered with danger as Xena lept forward and rolled over an old jaw bone.  Gareth tried to use the bones to his advantage as he disrespectfully picked off an old arm bone and hurled it at the warrior princess.  She made another move to dodge him attempting to take cover within a giant skull.  Soon Zues came to the rescue as the winds picked up and the lightening bolts began to fly.

Gareth was still attatched to the flying parchment which had stayed strong up into the heaven the entire chase.  As the evening began to fall into the day and the day into the night Xena approached Gareth certain that Zues would soon throw down the final blow that would catch her flying parchment and send Gareth crashing to the ground.  Xena spoke out loud to Goliath whom she was certain was there with her in spirit guiding her to the defeat of Gareth.  Gareth found himself making one last stand against the heavens as he raised his giant powerful shoulder into the air preparing to smash Xena with his fist.  Just before he was about to take the final blow against the warrior princess and all of his enemies Zues threw down his most powerful bolt and hit the flying parchment which faithfully guided the power of Zues into the giant’s back.  Gareth had been stabbed by the power of Zues as he fell with a giant thud to the ground.  Xena was sent several feet into the air as her body absorbed the immense energy of Gareth’s fall.  The power of Zues and the death of a giant was so large that even I could feel the death of Gareth from the little village of Laurel.  Yet as soon as I heard it I knew that it was over and I had faith that Xena would return to Laurel soon.

Darkness had fallen by this point as I prepared the camp fire in the streets of Laurel.  I cooked dinner with Minya for Xena when she would return from her rough day of warrior life.  Minya’s frying pan was excellant and I was thankful that Xena would be able to enjoy the fruits of her loss of the whip.  Upon Xena’s return she was quiet and reflective as she sometimes is at the end of the day when the battles were tough.  I did most of the talking as I often like to do because somehow it helps to sooth the beast within Xena’s heart.  As we finished with dinner I had begun to prepare the bed rolls by the fire.  Both of us were exhausted and going to bed, but glad the day was over.  The storm clouds had passed by now bringing a beautiful scene in the night sky.  Xena began to talk about the stars and of how they seemingly formed giant pictures in the sky.  Maybe she was looking for Goliath up there in the heavens.  She even thought that she had seen a giant dipper that he could have used to eat dinner in the heavens with his family safe and together.  Of course for me it only looked like a giant bear with a giant head, but cute little ears.

The warrior princess was yawning by now and near sleep, but I was certain that she was poised and ready for anything that might come her way.  And so I decided to test my theory knowing that it would most certainly be true.  I grabbed my staff from my side and jumped into action lunging from my back to my stomach in an attempt to make contact against the warrior princess.  Just when I had thought that I would be defeated effortlessly by the strength and agility of the warrior princess I felt the tip of my staff make contact with the bridge of Xena’s nose.  This sent Xena’s body jolting with surprise and sudddenly I felt very small inside.  As I desparately tried to apologize for my mistake the warrior princess just brushed it off.  She was in a bit of shock and even some anger, but realized that the only way to get out of this new arguement was to surrender and call it a night.  She rubbed her sore nose and rolled over hoping to reassure me.  I felt guilt, but it dissolved into wonder for I would not have been so understanding had I been nailed by Xena.  Her forgiveness of me on this day seemed endless, and as I settled back down to that comforting thought I suddenly realized that it wasn’t forgiveness she felt for me, but pity.  Xena had felt sorry for me and decided to let me win just one time.  Now this I could not stand for.  This was why she appeared to have so much faith in me.  She wanted to go to sleep and didn’t have time to argue.  I decided that I would show her the truth of this.  I owed it to her since she had so rudely awakened me by jumping onto my leather water bottle and squirting me in the face with it.

As I attempted to start a new arguement with Xena her only response was a weak yet firm statement.  She just stated that it was time to go to bed.  I couldn’t really argue with that.  And so I lay still next to the warrior princess feeling the closeness of our friendship.  Knowing that we are there for each other through the good and the bad, the smelly, and even the ugly.  This was enough for me.  And so yet another day had ended in the life of Xena the warrior princess and her loyal companion the bard Gabrielle.  Yet I was still thinking about how I knew that she let me hit her though she has sworn otherwise.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll # 37: Here She Comes…Miss Amphipolis

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#37:  Here She Comes..Miss Amphipolis

March, 47 B.C. 

    Peace in life was seemingly very difficult to find in these days alongside the warrior princess.  Yet Gabrielle had hope that there would come a day that their travels together would lead them to a place beyond the violence.   The bard was begining to long for an adventure of the early days with Xena which was full of excitement and of love.  There was hope when she and Xena had recently received a message from Salmoneous one of their dearest friends.  It had been nearly six months since they had last seen him.  All that Gabrielle could remember was his ficticious name Lord Seltzer and his infamous seltzer water.  Though that adventure had been the place that first allowed Callisto to enter into their lives it had ended with a celebration of life.  It was a difficult time, but a fond memory despite Gabrielle almost having lost Xena to a poison dart.

      Salmoneous’s latest message calling for Xena’s help had led them to a beautiful place along the coast of the Agean.  Upon their arrival the weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and the ocean more peaceful.  As Gabrielle took a deep breath of fresh air and thought she realized that this would be the day that she could put the entire saga of the blonde nemisis behind and start fresh and new again.  It was an oppritunity for Gabrielle to renew her passion for ending the cycle of violence.  As she thought of all of this and expressed her enthusiasm Xena agreed that it truely was a nice place to be yet she reminded Gabrielle that even this nice place had suffered in war just a year before. 

      The warrior princess pointed out the evidence left behind of an old ship wreck upon the rocks of the shore.  The bard noted that it looked like an old warship.  Xena confirmed that indeed it had once been the vessel that had carried violence to these shores.  She began to detail how the war had once brought blood which had stained the beaches and the sea itself.  Gabrielle had hoped to let go of the ideas and thoughts of bloodlust, but as always the warrior princess had to be the one to remind her of their reality in the world.  It almost ruined the tranquility that Gabrielle had been feeling during the walk along the beach.  Yet the bard found it within herself to reach out to find the positive of this thought.  She expressed to the warrior princess that a year was most certainly long enough for life to recover and return to normal again. 

      Suddenly Gabrielle’s feet were pulled down into the sand as she tripped and fell upon the beach unexpectedly.  When she investigated the obstruction Xena suggested that from the looks of it there below them was a pair of wagon tracks.  Gabrielle noted that the tracks were deeper than normal wagon tracks which led Xena to her own grim conclusion which she had certainly chosen not to share with the bard.  While Xena thought yet again of violence and war Gabrielle noticed that within the tracks were lots of shells from the tide and several fresh clams.  It was the clams that grabbed the bard’s attention and excited her for she could not wait to begin preparing them for lunch.  Clams were not something that the friends had the luxury of eating everyday for they had spent most of their travels away from the coasts inland.

     Then Gabrielle’s mind again turned back to the deep tracks wondering what kind of thing could make ruts as deep as those that she had tripped upon.  Xena was forced to answer truthfully as she explained that only a war wagon could have made those deep tracks.  Gabrielle looked to the warrior princess with a bit of confusion.  They had just finished talking about the ending of a war over a year before.  The bard couldn’t understand why a war wagon would still be in the area if there was peace present.  Just as Xena was about to try to answer her friend they heard the sounds of several young women screaming  from behind them across the beach.  As Gabrielle observed the situation she couldn’t help, but notice that there were about twenty young women dressed in barely anything.  It was a very unusual sight.  The girls were running through the water being chased by two ugly looking oagars.  Actually they were two men waiving swords around more to harrass and scare the young women.  Gabrielle looked to the warrior princess who grabbed a handful of clams and began to hurl them across the beach down upon the enemy.

      Gabrielle decided to jump into the action as she tossed more weapons up to the warrior princess who fired upon the men with a barrage of clams knocking them across their foreheads.  Every shot seemed to hit its mark perfectly as the girls all ran into the sea to get away.  Many of them fell into the tide getting wet and looking quite exhausted.  The twenty beauty queens quickly became muddy and dirty.  Gabrielle thought about the absurdity of the situation and found a bit of peace in knowing that this tiny show of violence was nothing in comparison to what she had witnessed recently.  It was comforting to know that behind all of this chasing was Salmoneous who came charging down the beach shouting at the men who had terrorized the women.  He was a bit late for Xena had already scared the men away with her excellant skills with clam shells.  As the battle drew to a close the women were rescuing themselves from the devastation as Salmoneous approached them with the concern of a mother hen. 

      Of course the response he received was less than appreciative.  All of the women appeared to be disgusted at the very least with his lack of bravery.  He then revealed that what he had truely been conercerned about was how well those skimpy white costumes would hold up through that kind of wear and tear.  The women left him behind as they walked back up the beach to return to wherever it was they had mysteriously appeared from.  Salmoneous soon caught sight of the warrior princess and gleefully welcomed her arrival.  He was excited that Xena had responded to his urgent message and there was only one thing left to do.  When Xena asked Salmoneous what had been so urgent he explained the entire scenario.  There was just one small problem.  It was all about a beauty contest.  

      The warrior princess was clearly irritated that his life and death message had been about nothing more than scantilly clad women dressed in barely nothing for the praises of a panal of unintelligent male judges.  It was nothing more than a beauty contest.  Salmoneous was quick to defend and flower it with a name like pageant.  Gabrielle found herself feeling just as displeased as the warrior princess to find out that Salmoneous was involved in such a scandalous activity.  In knowing Salmoneous to be a desaparte salesman Gabrielle had never imagined that he would degrate women in such a way as to exploit them for his own personal gain.  The worst part of it all was that the he had called upon the help of women for what he called a form of competative combat.  Salmoneous was working his magic with words as always and he ignored Gabrielle’s statements as if were one of his abused contestants.  The bard did not like the vibe she was feeling from him.

      Salmoneous continued to explain his situation and plans for the future of this once peaceful place.  He strongly felt that such competitive combats involving beautiful women were just what was needed in the area to drive an economic boom.  Yet the only real boom was about Salmoneous’s pockets and how he could quickly line them with an array of dinars.  Just when Salmoneous had lost Xena’s attention he revived it with a little bit of history.  He brought up the treaty that had been signed by the warlords who had fought in the battle from the year before.  Xena’s knowledge was tested for a moment as she recreated history outloud.  She gave the names of the Dosia of Mesinni, Regid of Skiros, Botine of Parnasis without hesitation and suddenly her interest was peaked.  This was something she had not expected from Salmoneous.  As usual he complemented the warrior princess profusely now that he had grasped her attention.  He went onto explain that it was all very relevant to his pageant.

       In fact, Salmoneous stated that all had been going well until those three warlords had decided to enter their girlfriends in the pageant.  Lord Claron as he so eloquently put it had even tried to cancel the pageant to avoid conflict, but the warlords would not allow it.  Since then there had been little peace within the comeptition and scenes like the one just witnessed on the beach were becoming quite common.  Xena quickly stated that those three warlords had entered their girlfriends into the pageant in order to destroy their treaty by proxy so that they could re enter themselves into a war.  There was no money in peace accept for in Salmoneous’s derranged plan.  Yet even Salmoneous could make money in a new war selling the headstones he feared might be handed out instead of prizes to the girls.  Salmoneous was smarter than Gabrielle had previously thought.  He was smart enough to figure out that the death and destruction of his pageant would mean war.  Yet the bard was still not convinced it was urgent enough to warrent services from Xena and the battling bard.  There was little danger of war unless someone were actually killed.  Then Salmoneous explained that the stakes were indeed as high as mortal death for none of the three warlords wanted to be the first to defy the rules of the competition.  Each was so competitve with the other that they were certain that their girl would be the winner.  It was an issue of male pride for them.  Yet it all seemed so unimportant when it was the women and not the men dressing up and performing tricks for the masses.

     However, Salmoneous had the ultimate solution.  He approached Gabrielle as if to size her up for something as he began to explain how she could help him with his pageant.  Salmoneous made the assumption that Gabrielle would be more than willing to jump into the pageant and become the insider with all of the tips on the danger within the pageant.  Instead the bard was highly irritated and very unwilling to be flaunted like some kind of an object.  She flatly refused this mission.  Then Xena suddenly stopped and turned to Salmoneous.   Gabrielle had spoken of the women of the pageant being vicitms of Greek society yet Xena took that idea further.  The warrior princess said that an impending war made every person a victim.  Her eyes were lighting up as the warrior wheels turned within her mind.  Suddenly she prounced herself to be the newest contestant of Salmoneous’s pageant.  She would be known from now on as the lovely Miss Amphipolis.

     Gabrielle found herself shocked as did Salmoneous, but he couldn’t resist the idea for Xena had the looks of a winning contestant.  She obviously didn’t have the manners or the training, but Gabrielle was up for the challenge.  Salmoneous then reminded everyone that time was short.  This was the day of the pageant and it was already just a few hours before the first event was to begin. Salmoneous had already made preparations for the arrival of his friends for he had already picked outfits yet because he had not expected the change in strategy he wasn’t completely prepared.  Quickly he rounded up a few things to cover for the bard for she would now play the part of the sponsor the Marquessa; however, finding an outfit for the rather tall dark and beautiful warrior princess wasn’t as easy.  Salmoneous quickly threw on some torn rags to cover Xena’s trademark leather and golden breast plate. 

      The kingdom of Claron was spectacular with its beautiful mountains and valleys surrounding the coastal cliffs.  It was green everywhere and burried within all of nature’s beauty was the golden city of Claron.  Gabrielle could not believe how much things had recovered since their war had ended.  All of the beauty surrounding the bard motivated her even more.  As the three entered inside the courtyard where the pagent contestants were practicing for their events the bard observed the beautiful young women in their bustling excitement.  Maybe the idea of a pageant was not as horrid as she had viewed it.  There was a bit of excitement as Salmoneous explained that Xena would not be able to miss any of the events.  She would now be known as Miss Amphipolis and if anyone’s identity was compromised it would be all over and war would be certain.  Salmoneous was seemingly over dramatizing the situation, but this passing thought did not last long for the bard.

      Salmoneous quickly returned to the courtyard where Miss Amphipolis awaited with her sponsor the Marquessa for a room and some privacy.  Miss Amphipolis took note of the strange characters that appeared within the courtyard.  She was certain that at least one of them was not a true contestant, but further investigation of this hypothesis was needed.  Salmoneous returned shortly after having registered Miss Amphipolis and her sponsor the Marquessa.  He took them to the room of one of his top contestants to introduce everyone.  Salmoneous was certain that Miss Messini was in danger for she was a competative contender in the trials. 

      During the introduction Marquessa found herself investigating the other side of the story wondering if maybe this contestant was in on the war plan.  While she examined she began to speak, but before she could get out her thought Miss Amphipolis drew her weapon from beneath her concealed rags and haulted the cross-bow which sent its arrow hurling toward Miss Messini.  The agile chackram split death’s wrath in two as it had been attatched to Miss Messini’s beautiful harp as she was about to play.  The moment happened in the blink of an eye as Salmoneous took credit unexpectingly for saving Miss Messini’s life.  He fumbled with the weapon trying desparately to grab control of it.  Miss Messini was ever so greatful for his actions as she embraced him with relief and a kiss on the cheek.  Yet fear still lingered from the heart stopping experience.  As Miss Messini exited her quarters to find her sponsor the Dosia to speak of the news it was suddenly clear to both Miss Amphipolis and her sponsor that things were on the verge of disaster.

     The first event was creeping closer as Salmoneous quickly escorted Miss Amphipolis and her sponsor to their quarters to prepare for the pageant.  As they entered all stopped to express their mounting frustrations.  Salmoneous began to express his relief for how close he had come to losing all of his invested interests in the pageant.  Miss Amphipolis was not amused or pleased at his lack of interest in the well-being of his contestants.  She ripped the chackram from his grasp as she passed as the Marquessa expressed her disgust with Salmoneous outloud in the closed quarters.  The Marquessa continued with a solid plan for how to deal with the volitile situation.  She felt that if the contest could be kept completely fair everyone would be safe and the mystery could be solved without a messy fight.  There was a certain excitement ignited now that the stakes of the competition had been raised dramatically.  Miss Amphipolis began to order everyone into action as she asked Salmoneous to return to searching for her new disguise as Miss Amphipolis while the Marquessa was to find, meet, and get to know the other sponsors.  Miss Amphipolis would try getting the inside track with the contestants and all of this had to be done within the hour before the first event.  Everyone was to meet back just before the event was to begin. 

     Although things appeared serious Gabrielle’s fire and excitment were fueled by the idea of a competition.  It seemed that all of this was more about egos and nothing else.  The best part for the bard was playing the role of the powerhouse sponsor which she took extremely seriously.   After walking through the golden courtyard and exploring the palace she found a secret hallway underneath the kingdom of Claron where she heard the sounds of men’s voices echoing in the corrider.  Folllowing those led her to a secret meeting place for sponsors only.  She listened behind the curtains to the door for a few moments as the men argued with on another about how each of their contestants had been threatened.  Yet it was as if the threats were directly to the male sponsors.  They all took it personal as if they had been the ones about to lose their lives.  It was at this point that the Marquessa realized it was more about the money they would lose and their pride. 

     She decided to enter into the room and put on her show.  If egos were going to fly the Marquessa had an ego larger than the Agean.  One by one she insulted each of the other sponsors for their lack of concern for their femal contestants.  The Marquessa ended her grand speech to them by proclaiming that her contestant would be the winner of the madness.  It was now very personal for the Marquessa to be certain that Miss Amphipolis took the crown if for no other reason than to batter these giant male egos.

      While the Marquessa drilled the sponsors Miss Amphipolis was finding some adventures of her own.  Just before she left for the baths she was intruded upon by the matron of the pageant who seemed less than thrilled to see Miss Amphipolis’s entrance into the pageant.  In fact, she joked with sarcasm that if she had the looks of Miss Amphipolis she would be ruling the world.  She was unaware of just how true that statement could be.  Miss Amphipolis was discombobulated for she had put on her robe backwards, but it was all a part of her show to conceal her true identity from everyone.  When Miss Amphipolis arrived at the baths the she listened as the other girls spoke of their reasons for entering the pageant.  Most of them appeared not so thrilled and some even forced to participate.  It seemed that every girl had her hardships to face and each was counting on victory in the pageant to save her from doom. 

      Miss Amphipolis again spotted her suspicious rival who appeared to be posing as a pageant contestant in disguise.  It seemed that every moment became even more tense than the one before as the tall, blond, rather manly looking woman watched Miss Amphipolis’s every move.  Miss Amphipolis also ran into Miss Skiros again whom she had briefly met in the courtyard earlier.  Miss Skiros seemed very threatened by Miss Amphipolis, but not for blood and war.  It seemed she felt threatened in another way as she exited the baths in anger upon Miss Amphipolis’s arrival.  All of the other girls appeared disturbed by this brief tiff between the two contestants and one by one each found her excuse to leave the baths not wanting to offend either girl.    

     Finally it seemed that Miss Amphipolis found herself alone.  There was something unsettling about this for her.  Realizing that the first event was drawing near Miss Amphipolis decided that she had to return to her quarters.  As she tried to exit she pulled the doors only to find them locked.  She found herself trapped in the baths alone.  Miss Amphipolis scouted the room with her eyes looking about for a threat, but also a way out.  Soon she realized that she was clearly safe and soon after she discovered a door which led to a water shoot large enough for her escape.  With great skill she ripped her towel from her body and used it as a whip in order to free herself from imprisonment.  The shoot was just above the door and to the left.  After opening the door Miss Amphipolis then climbed out in the nude with nothing more than her towel for protection against evil and the elements.

     There was only one problem for Miss Amphipolis left to solve.  She still needed an outfit for the first event for Salmoneous had not returned to her quarters with one.  At the end of the shoot she found herself inside the quarters of Miss Artifice.  Before entering the room she waited for Miss Artifice to exit for the first event.  Miss Amphipolis would be late, but she was not worried for she was not one of the first contestants on the list.  As soon as Miss Artifice exited Miss Amphipolis climbed out of the shoot down into the quarters where she searched for an outfit.  Miss Amphipolis was certain that she would be able to find what she needed since Miss Artifice appeared to be as tall as Miss Amphipolis herself if not taller. 

      Back in Miss Amphipolis’s room the Marquessa had returned waiting for either the return of Miss Amphipolis herself or any word from Salmoneous on her whereabouts.  Time was running short and the frustration was begining to build for missing the first event would sink the operation entirely.  Salmoneous soon entered looking for Miss Amphipolis himself as he was making his rounds to gather all of the women for the first event.  He appeared frustrated and upset reminding the Marquessa of the tradegy she already knew.  They clashed in a minor arguement for each was worried about Miss Amphipolis, but for different reasons.  When Salmoneous asked the Marquessa if she had a beat on which sponsor was the culprit she could only explain that she did not know and that it seemed the only thing that was clear was that each man had an ego that could bust open at any moment.  Salmoneous appeared irritated that the mystery had not yet been solved.  He exited the quarters reminding the Marquessa that it was now her responsibility to make certain that Miss Amphipolis made it to the stage on time for presentation.  Then he left to begin the show.

     Soon after he had left Miss Amphipolis arrived back in her quarters.  The Marquessa drilled her for information and scolded her for being so late.  As soon as Miss Amphipolis explained to her sponsor her story of the baths the Marquessa was forgiving, but time was running out for the first event had already begun.  The Marquessa rushed Miss Amphipolis off to the contestant staging area as Salmoneous announced the last contestant Miss Artifice.  Quickly the Marquessa made an appearance on the floor with the rest of the sponsors giving the signal to Salmoneous that he could introduce Miss Amphipolis.  The applause from the crowd had calmed down to a dull roar until Miss Amphipolis entered.  Suddenly all stood and cheered for her beauty could be matched by no other contestant in the pool.  Certainly every contestant was beautiful, but none had the charm and the charisma of Miss Amphipolis.  She pranced, danced, and smiled as she showed off her priceless beauty.  The Marquessa cheered her contestant on with great excitment for she was certain that her contestant could not be beaten. 

     As the introductions came to a close the audience dispearsed for an intermission as the Marquessa met with Miss Amphipolis and Salmoneous backstage to discuss the situation.  Salmoneous was still irritated that Miss Amphipolis arrived late, but she was defended by the Marquessa who explained the seriousness of the situation in the baths.  Salmoneous wanted to know if that experience had given Miss Amphipolis any leads and her answer was cryptic.  She was certain that she knew who had trapped her in the baths, but she did not know why.  Miss Amphipolis did not believe that her this rival was behind the war cries.  She only had two solid leads.  One of them was Miss Skiros, and the other was Miss Artifice. 

      Upon returning to her quarters with the Marquessa they discovered that the door had been unlocked while they were gone.  Miss Amphipolis was also missing her leather and breast plate from the beautiful purple chest which had housed it earlier.  There was something suspcious going on.  It appeared that at least one person knew Miss Amphipolis’s true identity and that person wanted to expose her.  The pressures were building and the tensions were rising.  Miss Amphipolis decided to go back down to the baths to see if maybe the enemy had left anything behind.  Soon after Miss Amphipolis had left for the baths the pageant matron entered to inform the Marquessa of another sponsor meeting taking place.  The Marquessa rushed off only this time she had been invited.  She felt that she was moving up in the world of pageantry.  This time there was a special dinner prepared for the sponsors which was quite elegant and much better than eating clams.  Only hours before it seemed that clams would be the best meal for days. 

      As the dinner wore on the other sponsors continued to complain and moan about the prospect of war.  Everyone was seemingly on edge even more than during the previous meeting.  Each man was ready to draw his weapon at the slightest hint of a fight or a battle.  Yet it seemed that even if there were no more incidents a loss to the ego would send all of the edge.  The count of Parnasis explained this very well stating that his contestant had better not lose.  As tempers flared the Marquessa played it cool when asked what she did to motivate her contestant.  Her response was candid yet more true than anyone could have known.  She stated simply that nothing was necessary to motivate her contestant when they worked together as a team.  There was a certain pride to that.  This only appeared to irritate the other sponsors all of whom decided to leave except for Miss Messinni’s sponsor.  Of any one in the group the Marquessa could feel that he was the most sensative and understanding to his contestant.  He was genuiunely concerned in making her happy and when he asked the Marquessa her advice she explained that all he needed to do was to listen to her.  She was confident that this would be the secret to strengthening their bond.  Miss Messini’s sponsor appeared delighted with the Marquessa’s advice as dinner finally had ended after several hours.

     By the time the Marquessa had arrived back in the quarters Miss Amphipolis had already returned to tell her the story of her discovery.  Miss Amphipolis had returned to the baths where she found an earring on the floor.  She was certain that the earring had belonged to either Miss Skiros, or Miss Artifice so she had waited for one of them to return to look for it.  Indeed her plan worked for just an hour later Miss Artifice returned to the baths scouring the floor for her missing earring.  That was when Miss Amphipolis came out of hiding to confront her enemy.  The enemy seemed taken off guard unexpecting of Miss Amphipolis’s presence.  Miss Amphipolis quickly reached for Miss Artifice’s hair to reveal her true identity.  Miss Artifice was not a woman.  She was a man.  He would have fit the description of a true enemy if only he had not explained the unexpected.  Miss Artifice began by apologizing for locking Miss Amphipolis in the bath.  When Miss Amphipolis asked why he had done it he explained that it was because he was certain that Miss Amphipolis had known his secret.  He was extremely sensative and emotional about it all.  Miss Artifice continued by explaining that the pageant was his only refuge for being the woman he truely was inside.  There was no other place like it on earth where he could be a woman and be appreciated for it.  Miss Amphipolis began to understand yet found herself confused that a man could be such a beautiful woman inside.  He seemed nervous that she did not understand him, but it did not matter.  Miss Artifice was now clear as a suspect in the bigger picture.  Miss Amphipolis returned Miss Artifice’s earring and declared that the best person should win the pageant for she would not turn Miss Artifice in for being different. 

     Early the next morning the Marquessa had to prepare Miss Amphipolis for the rehersal of the dance competition.  She found herself completely elated to be confident with their team attitude.  The Marquessa was certain that it would be this team attitude that would bring them the crown of Miss Known World.  However, it seemed that Miss Amphipolis was less enthused.  When the Marquessa tried to give her contestant a pep talk about attitude and about wanting the crown Miss Amphipolis appeared distracted.  She even concluded that it wasn’t about winning the crown, but about finding the warlords that lurked within.  The Marquessa had not completely lost her focas on the mission at hand, but did not see why winning the crown wouldn’t be a bonus.  Yet for Miss Amphipolis it winning the crown would be a distraction for herself. 

      Quickly the Marquessa sent Miss Amphipolis on her way.  It seemed that none of the girls on the stage had much talent in dance.  They all kept bumping into one another, tearing each other’s costumes unable to get the moves.  By take five one could see the hopeless frustration on Salmoneous’s face as his girls tried once more to get his coreography down.  It was a seemingly impossible task, but all had to be ready before late afteroon arrived for the second event would be taking place.  The Marquessa was confident that Miss Amphipolis could steel the win in this event as well with her powerful personality. 

     By the time the event started the dance went off with success.  There were only a few minor collisions, but nothing serious.  Salmoneous announced each contestants name again as each girl presented herself in costume and he described her talents, hobbies, and skills.  Everything appeared to be quiet and well with the pageant with the exception of one concern.  Earlier during the rehersals Miss Amphipolis was confronted by the Palentine of Parnasis.  He touched her hands and kissed them throwing Miss Amphipolis into an firery rage which she could barely contain.  She gave him a quiet warning and demanded that he apologize to Miss Parnasis for his treatment and unnecessary beatings of her.  She had seen the marks on her back in the baths.  The Palentine of Parnasis did apologize, but he threatened Miss Amphipolis.  Miss Amphipolis was certain that she had blown her cover with him, but that hunch was still not confirmed.  It had been hours that had passed without incident since.  The Marquessa hoped that maybe he had not caught on to Miss Amphipolis’s disguise.

     As the pageant continued on all appeared to be wonderful and soon Miss Amphipolis herself was introduced.  Before Salmoneous could complete her list of hobbies the Palentine of Parnasis rose from the audience in a fury.  He demanded the arrest of the contestant Miss Amphipolis for he declared that she was not a true contestant.  The Palentine quickly revealed to all that it was Xena the Warrior Princess who stood before him.  A hush fell over the crowd until other sponsors stood before the crowd declaring her to be a mercenary as they drew their swords declaring war.  Just when it seemed that the entire operation had been compromised the truth came out.  There upon the stage approaching to the front from behind Miss Amphipolis was Miss Artifice dressed in the costume of Xena Warrior Princess.  She was tickled to receive all of the sudden attention declaring that she was not a princess at all, but a queen.  With grace Salmoneous chimed in not missing a beat as if the disruption in the audience had never occurred or was just a part of the show.  He then introduced Miss Artifice and spoke of her talents which included, archery, horse breeding, and knowing the complete score to every musical ever written.  It was amazing the way that Miss Artifice fit right into the team.  She was willing to help out a girl who could keep secrets.  That was all that needed to be said. 

       The moment that everyone had been waiting for had finally come as the five contestants who would be finalists were narrowed down.  Miss Messinni, Miss Skiros, Parnasis, Miss Artifice, and Miss Amphipolis.  The Marquessa was delighted that not only had they averted war, but they had made it to the semi-finals.  This was cause for a celebration.  Yet there was a slight problem with this as was revealed by Salmoneous as the Marquessa ran to the stage to congratulate her contestant.  The third and final event was a talent competition.  It was clear to the Marquessa that Miss Amphipolis was highly talented, but not in the traditional sense.  If her true talents were revealed it might tip off the other sponsors into an all out war.  That had to be avoided at all costs.  It appeared that both Miss Amphipolis and the Marquessa had gotten into the Miss Known World competition a bit in over their heads.

      Upon returning to the quarters of Miss Amphipolis the Marquess began to feel a great deal of stress.  Her passions went from winning the contest to protecting the well-being of her contestant.  The Marquessa paced about the room as Miss Amphipolis lounged about filing her rough nails with a boot knife.  She was much too warrior like to stay dressed in proper costume.  To the Marquessa it seemed as if Miss Amphipolis was taking a more hands off approach to the situation.  The issue of talent was just as important as solving the mystery itself.  As the two discussed possible talents the Marquessa was convinced that singing was their best shot at winning both the contest and the trust of the warlords.  Yet Miss Amphipolis was completely against this idea.  It seemed the more the Marquessa lobbied for singing as the talent of choice the less interested in the conversation Miss Amphipolis became.  The Marquessa could not understand why Miss Amphipolis kept rejecting the idea of singing.  She had seen Miss Amphipolis sing at funeral fires before and her heart poured out with songs richer than the sirens.  There was always so much passion in Miss Amphipolis’s voice whenever she had released the emotions from within her heart like the time she had sung for her beloved Marcus. 

     Miss Amphipolis finally chimed in with a valid explanation that the Marquessa could relate to.  She explained that she could only sing like that when she was moved and at this particular moment she did not feel moved by anything.  It was obvious to the Marquessa for the boredome was written all over her contestant’s face.  Yet she could not argue this point for she herself was an artist and could understand that true art had to be moved with a passion from within.  Without the passion there would be no magic.  Which led to the begining of the problem.  The Marquessa’s frustrations could not be eased for if Miss Amphipolis could not sing what could she do. 

     Miss Amphipolis was as dry with ideas as the Marquessa yet seemed unaffected by the pressure.  It was as if she basked in it some how.  Her next comment was seemingly more pressing to her.  She was extremely preoccupied with who was behind all of the sabbotoge, but had no answers when the Marquessa inquired.  The suspension of not knowing who wanted to kill all of the warlord beauties was almost unbearable for the Marquessa for all she could think of was how easy it would be for them to knock off Miss Amphipolis.  As the Marquessa gestrued dramatically hoping to drive her concern home to Miss Amphipolis the beauty’s eyes lit up with the golden answer.  She spoke with a bit more enthusiasm now exciting the Marquessa who thought that maybe she had somehow helped to solve the mystery of who was behind the sabbotoge.  Yet that was not what Miss Amphipolis was talking about.  Instead she had an idea for her talent.  This was not what the Marquessa had expected, but it was good that she had been able to help solve one of their problems. 

     Suddenly the door to Miss Amphipolis’s quarters swung open with the pageant matron entering interrupting the discussion.  She appeared just as surprised and shocked as did the Marquessa and her contestant.  The martron suddenly asked Miss Amphipolis what she was doing inside her room.  It was an odd question since this was Miss Amphipolis’s assigned quarters.  The matron recovered well knowing how odd her question was as she rephrased it slightly.  She wanted to know why Miss Amphipolis wasn’t out practicing her talent as were the other contestants.  To the Marquessa this was obvious, but then the matron looked suspiciously to the Marquessa asking her why she wasn’t at the sponsor meeting.  The Marquessa thought of this for a moment and then realized that the sun was directly over the ocean now.  It was early evening and indeed there was a sponsor meeting to take place for every day now they had met at this time.  There was a bit of embarressment for her blunder, but who could remember to go to meetings when their friends were clearly in danger.  The Marquessa played off the question as if she had been unaware of such a meeting hoping to cover her obvious mistake.

     Quickly the Marquessa found herself rushing off to the meeting.  If nothing else this was yet another chance to put some clues together.  As always the Marquessa approached just outside the meeting and eavesdropped a few moments before entering hoping to hear something valueable.  Yet there was nothing, but the same arguing, accusation, and bickering that had been occurring on the previous nights.  The Marquessa decided to enter dramatically once more.  If nothing else she could try to settle the tensions between the troops so that war could be averted for a third day.  She entered as Lord Claron was trying to gather control.  It seemed to the Marquessa that Lord Claron had been the most passive of all of the sponsors.  He was trying to downplay the joke that had been played on everyone by Miss Artifice.  It was truely unexpected.  He tried to tell the other sponsors that it was nothing to go to war over.  The Marquessa chimed in reminding everyone of their unneccessary paranoia.  Jokes were nothing to go to war over.

     The Palentine of Parnasis stepped up agreeing unwillingly that both Lord Claron and the Marquessa were right.  Yet he was still not convinced that calling the troops was a bad idea for all of the girls had been suffering with fear and anxiety over the possibility that they may lose their lives.  Then he looked to Miss Skiros’s sponsor for she was the only one of the five semi-finalists who had not been affected by the circus of events and of danger.  Miss Parnasis had suffered an attack on the beach, Miss Masini in her quarters, and both Miss Amphipolis and Miss Artifice had been embarressed by the joke of earlier although it had not begun as a joke.  Suddenly Miss Skiros was now at the center of arguement for her sponsor appeared to be the culprit to start a war.  It seemed to the Marquessa that of anyone the Palentine of Parnasis was the most likley of anyone to be prepared to go to war.  Miss Skiros’s sponsor stood his ground with the Palentine expressing the threat that if his contestant were to experience any harm that he would be the first to sound the trumpets of war.  That led Lord Claron to decide that he needed to lobby for tighter security.  Abruptly he left the meeting with unexplained urgency as the rest of the clan of warlords stormed off in anger on the brink of war.  Only Miss Massini’s sponsor was left behind with the Marquessa.  The Marquessa decided the end the tension with more dramatic tension blaming him for threatening Miss Skiros.  Though he was clearly not involved in any of the blood lust the Marquessa wanted to convince him to help her lobby for peace for she suddenly realized that she could no longer keep back the troops alone.

     When the Marquessa was finally able to return to Miss Amphipolis the horror of what she saw was more than she could take.  There standing before the ovular golden mirror was her contestant in a chartruesse colored dress, with large pink chaffon flowers pertruding from her veluptious breasts.  It was the most ugly dress she had ever seen and it was not all that flattering despite Miss Amphipolis’s natural beauty.  Miss Amphipolis was still calm despite all of the tensions being felt through every contestant’s room.  War was looming more now than ever before and as the Marquessa was unable to contain her frustrations Miss Amphipolis came to the rescue.  Suddenly she grabbed her boot knife and began to remove pieces of her dress.  She cut off all three pink chaffon flowers, she cut off her long ugly sleeves, and made a nice accented layer around the front to enhance her look. 

      It was shocking, surprising, and the Marquessa was impressed, but again the matron had barged in on them in the middle of an important moment.  The matron commented on how good Miss Amphipolis was with a knife.  Miss Amphipolis down played her actions explaining that she had many skills as she picked under her finger nails with the tip of her knife.  It was not a lady like moment, but at this point there was little to hide.  The only hope was that by morning Miss Amphipolis would be able to come up with some answers over a good night’s rest.

      Early the next morning Miss Amphipolis had gone down to the beaches to practice her talent.  She had decided that sword twirling would be impressive enough and more suitable for her personality.  The Marquessa watched from the windows of their room still basking in the relaxation of being holed up in their marvelous room.  Miss Amphipolis was very professional as she practiced and there was definately a passion within her moves.  As the Marquessa watched over her friend she could feel the passion of her art and decided that singing would have bombed horribly.  Yet there was also another contestant on the beach.  It was Miss Messini who played her harp alone.  Miss Messinni thought she was alone as she began to cry.  Her tears were of sadness.  Miss Amphipolis heard the pain of Miss Messini’s heart and decided to go down the beach to investigate.  When she approached Miss Messini she thought that maybe it was fear that had caused the tears, or even nerves.  Miss Amphipolis opened the conversation hoping to relate to Miss Messini’s stress, but it had nothing to do with the pageant.  In fact, Miss Messini was only participating in the pageant because her sponsor had asked her to.  She thought that it seemed very important to him so she became a contestant despite her own reservations about such an event. 

       It seemed to Miss Amphipolis that she had finally broken through the silence of the contestants.  They had all seemingly kept to themselves up to this point.  Miss Messinni explained sadly that every contestant seemed to despise the competition except for Miss Amphipolis.  The girls had all felt the entire pageant was a farce.  Miss Amphipolis urged Miss Messini to go on wondering why the girls participated if they all felt this way.  Miss Messinni explained that Miss Parnasis had made a deal with the Palentine her sponsor that if she participated and won that he would make sure that her village received enough food for the winter.  Miss Skiros had been so scarred by the many wars which had plagued the area during her life that she just wanted to use the prize to get away from it all.  Her memories were too painful to stay.  Miss Messini continued on explaining that she herself could have rejected the idea, but she was so concerned about her boyfriend’s feelings that she could not reject his wishes for her. 

     Miss Amphipolis chimed in with deep concern for Miss Messinni asking the contestant why her own feelings didn’t matter enough to say no.  Miss Messini didn’t have an answer for that question.  All that she really knew was that she deeply loved her boyfriend and that she was tired of being treated like an object.  This pageant was the pinacle of that terrible feeling for Miss Messini.  Yet Miss Amphipolis urged Miss Messini to go to her sponsor and to express her true feelings.  Miss Amphipolis felt that if their love was true that he would back down and understand Miss Messini’s heart and her feelings. He would begin to realize the beautiful woman that Miss Messini was on the inside. 

     When Miss Amphipolis had returned to the Marquessa with this story the Marquessa was touched by her friend’s sensative loving heart.  Not many had known that side of Miss Amphipolis until now.  This was why Miss Amphipolis was going to win.  She was going to solve the mystery of the warlords and she was going to be the first Miss Known World winner.  Winning would mean that they would return again next year to this beautiful place of peace.  It would stay peaceful, but first everyone had to get through the next day and a half without a scratch or a drop of blood.  That was easier said than done.  Miss Amphipolis felt that if anything was going to happen it would not be on the off day it would occur at the talent event itself.

      After a day of peace and relative quiet the true test would finally come.  All of the other events had been taking place in the late afternoon, but on this day someone had decided to move up the talent event to the late morning which seemed unusual.  Miss Amphipolis had gone out and about looking for answers while the Marquessa stayed behind in the room again.  The matron came by during the mid moring to announce that all the sponsors were to round up their contestants for the final event.  Soon the Marquessa was rushing about the courtyards and every corner of the beautiful complex, but she was unable to find her contestant.  When she finally returned to the room there she found Miss Amphipolis just outside with Miss Skiros who was trying to get a glimpse of her competition in secret only to be embarressed by the sneaky Miss Amphipolis.  Miss Skiros was not happy to be caught spying on her competition, but Miss Amphipolis was not at all concerned.  Quickly the Marquessa grabbed her contesant and rushed her down to the competition.

     Once backstage they found that they had made it just in time to hear the final notes of the first contestant Miss Messini and her harp.  Salmoneous then urged applause from the audience who congratulated the first contestant.  Then it was Miss Artifice who had a rather interesting performance.  She danced with her long flowing colorful ribbons, but was unable to show much grace for by the end of her performance she had found herself tangled yet still smiling brightly.  Salmoneous joined the Marquessa and her contestant back stage.  When asked if there had been any danger yet he reported that things had gone smoothly up to this point.  The Marquessa was hopeful that they had finally convinced the warlords to ease their tensions; however, Miss Amphipolis felt that it could only mean the situation was more volitile.  She was now afraid that who ever was trying to sabbatoge the pageant would switch to targeting warlords.  Salmoneous quickly rushed back out to encourage support for Miss Artifice’s performance and to introduce the next contestant Miss Skiros.

      Miss Skiros’s act was daring and dangerous.  She brought out a large basket with a horn and began her charming song.  Emerging from the basket was a large black cobra.  Salmoneous returned back stage as the Marquessa could sense Miss Amphipolis’s new concern.  She asked Salmoneous why there was such a rush to finish the event.  Salmoneous explained that he had been ordered to by Lord Claron to whom he pointed in the audience.  Miss Amphipolis scanned the situation with her eyes fixed on Lord Claron who appeared to know something that no one else did.  His eyes darted above the stage and then back down to the contestant below.  Suddenly Miss Amphipolis leaped into action flipping onto the stage.  She was face to face with the evil cobra until she flipped backwards face to face with Miss Skiros.  Quickly Miss Amphipolis pushed Miss Skiros off toward back stage and then kicked the snake out of the basket into the air.  Then Miss Amphipolis flipped again as a small portion of the ceiling above her collapsed onto the floor leaving nothing, but a thick cloud of dust.  All was silent in the audience for a moment until the confusion cleared and there standing before them upon the broken beam was Miss Amphipolis smiling enthusiastically holding the snake delicately around her neck like an ornament.  There was a roar of cheers and applause that engulfed the entire room.  Even Lord Claron seemed impressed, but it was clear to Miss Amphipolis who she was after.  She just had to prove it.   It was clear to the Marquessa that Miss Amphipolis would most likley win the pageant for her passionate performance in saving the stunned yet thankful Miss Skiros.

     Soon after the event ended Miss Amphipolis was on the war path searching the complex for Lord Claron.  Yet it was obvious to the Marquessa that the place to find all of the warlords and sponsors would be at the nightly meeting.  Salmoneous followed the Marquessa concerned that Miss Amphipolis was running around alone in the dangerous political climate, but the Marquessa was certain that there was little to be concerned about for no one knew Miss Amphipolis’s true identity. 

     One by one Miss Amphipolis waited for the warlords to arrive at the meeting.  As each man entered the meeting room she immobilized him and tied him up leaving him underneath the banquet table.  Once everyone had entered she waited for Lord Claron.  She knew that he was prepared to entice the others into a war with the latest threat of death on Miss Skiros.  When the Lord finally arrived he was just as confident of success as ever.  It seemed the perfect situation.  He was alone in a room with Miss Amphipolis.  There would be no witnesses to a murder that would inevitibely start his war.  All that needed to happen now was for Miss Amphipolis to prove that he was the one who would kill her.  She played along realizing that Lord Claron was still unaware of her true identity.  It was her advantage.  She asked him his motives and he explained them to her gleefully unaware of who he was dealing with.

     He stated that when wars raged throughout the country side economic times were good.  Since peace had reigned everyone had seemingly lost in his view.  He felt the only way to restore the good times was to restart the wars and that was why he had commissioned the pageant.  Lord Claron was certain that there would be no better way of starting a war without detection than the illusion of a beauty pageant.  He was not so complementary of his warlord counter parts of whose presence was soon revealed to Lord Claron.  Now that he was revealed there was no turning back.  Lord Claron was surprised at the intelligence of a beauty contestant.  When he asked Miss Amphipolis how she knew about his plans she explained his obvious actions.  His lack of security despite his promises, and his actions during the talent event when he looked to the danger which lurked above Miss Skiros. 

     Lord Claron would not give into Miss Amphipolis.  Although he had been compeletely exposed he was prepared to kill her for there was nothing left to lose.  With all of his competitors helplessly bound and gagged beneath the banquet table he could kill them all starting an even larger war than he could have imagined.  He threatened the lovely Miss Amphipolis with his weapon, but she would not allow it.  She fought him off without a single drop of blood or a weapon to defend.  Miss Amphipolis used hand to hand combat to defeat the infamous Lord Claron and she did it in a dress.  As the quick decisive battle of sexes ended Lord Claron found that even his sword was no match for the strength and skill of Miss Amphipolis.  Soon the Marquessa entered looking for Xena only to realize that the warlords now knew Miss Amphipolis’s true identity.  They were shocked to realize that they had been unable to notice Miss Amphipolis’s true identity until now.  Gabrielle tried to cover her mistake, but it was all over now.  Miss Amphipolis was now Xena again with only one thing left to finish.  Gabrielle explained that the winner was about to be crowned.  Sadly Xena had decided that Miss Amphipolis would be dropping out of the race.

      No sooner were the words spoken was Xena back in her leather, and golden breast plate.  No more was the blond flowing locks from her head.  And as for the chartruese with chaffon well it had to go as well.  Gabrielle understood although it would have been nice to win she understood that even Xena could not play the painful charade any longer.  As the two friends stood backstage to catch the final act Salmoneous was given the scroll which held the name of the winner and the runner up.  He was seemingly distraught for the winner was not present on the stage.  Yet he suddenly caught sight of Xena the Warrior Princess watching from the sidelines as he desparately wanted to know what had happened to the beautifully charming Miss Amphipolis.  Xena’s response was that Miss Amphipolis would be dropping out despite it having now been announced by the normally persuasive Salmoneous that she had been the winner.  She also explained that Miss Amphipolis was happy to have known each and every one of the beautiful contestants on stage for she had learned a lot from them.

     Despite Salmoneous’s desparate persuasions he had to move on from Miss Amphipolis.  The next on the list was Miss Skiros who also stepped forward to say that she did not need the crown for she would be able to find a new life without it.  As for Miss Messini she had indeed spoken to her sponsor about her true feelings for when her name was called she stepped forward to reject the crown.  Salmoneous was obviously frustruated by now for his worry about war sabbotoging his investments in the pageant had ended, but it seemed a warrior princess would succeed in proving that such events were unfair to women.  Miss Messini’s sponsor was firm alongside the decision of his lovely girl friend and he would not stand for Salmoneous’s pressures.  Just before Salmoneous could name Miss Parnasis she too stepped forward to reject the prize and the crown.  The Palentine of Parnasis threatened her openly, but she stood firm and strong determined to help her village grow food without his promise of a winter’s worth. 

     There was only one finalist left standing on the stage.  It was the beautiful and lovely Miss Artifice.  She happily accepted the crown of Miss Known World although it was a surprise to all that a man would have become the winner of a beauty contest.  Miss Artifice accepted graciously as she held her bouquet of flowers and wore her golden crown.  She was crying with happiness as tears rushed down her manly face.  Salmoneous sarunaded the Miss Known World Song with relief that his pageant did not go completely bust.  There was applause from every man and every woman who attended as guests.  Miss Known World basked in her glory sharing it with those who had helped make it possible for her to realize her dream.  Miss Artifice grabbed the warrior princess and gave her a great big hug and kiss.  Then he grabbed her hand and raised his arm alongside hers bowing delightfully for the crowd.  He felt that everyone was a winner, and Miss Artifice wanted to share this special moment in his life with the Warrior Princess whom had made it possible.  Gabrielle found herself just as shocked as the warrior princess at this open display of sudden affection, but who cared as long as the best woman wore the crown.  For beauty was beauty, but peace would always be peace.

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

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#35:  Intimate Stranger

February 23rd, 47 B.C.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll #34:  Return of Callisto

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

February 13th, 47 B.C. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll #32:  Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

January 21st, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #31: Remember Nothing

The Xena Scrolls
By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia
Scroll # 31:  Remember Nothing

January 16th, 47 B.C.

I sing of a time when Xena the Warrior Princess never existed, and her best friend and loyal sidekick Gabrielle remembered nothing.  It all began on this day eleven years in passing since the death of Xena’s brother Lycious while fighting against the warlord Cortese.  Xena had lead the way in the fight to protect her home village of Amphipolis from the spoils of an evil warlord, but at the cost of the life of her dearly beloved brother.  The warrior princess had carried this guilt upon her shoulders for eleven years now as she had blamed her beliefs in fighting for the cause to protect her village, family, and friends.
Every year on this day Xena would come to the temple of the fates as she lit three large candles.  The first candle was for the maiden, the second for the mother, and the third for the crone.  She asked for the fates blessing and for their mercy upon her brother’s soul so that he may rest in peace.  After making this proclamation Xena’s sidekick Gabrielle entered the temple as she had been listening to Xena’s prayers for her brother.  Gabrielle expressed that she wished she could have known this great brother Lycious for she could feel how important he had been to Xena.  In fact, Lycious was still very much a part of Xena, and very much alive within her heart though she mourned his loss greatly.
Suddenly there were screams which came from outside the temple.  Xena the warrior princess and her faithful sidekick Gabrielle exited the temple to investigate the disturbance.  Once outside the temple they discovered that an army of evil warriors descending upon the monks of the temple attacking them in an attempt to destroy the temple of the fates.  Soon Xena the warrior princess burst into action as she twirled around upon the steps of the temple knocking out ten warriors with a quick move.  Then she flipped from the steps to the front of the temple where she met another skilled warrior in mask.  This skilled warrior appeared to know her quite well and most likely was yet another of the evil men she had encountered during her dark past.  She fought him gracefully as she blocked his kicks, but he slipped one by her as she took it across her face.
This mystical warrior flipped around her looking to set himself up for the next offensive strike, but Xena was not fooled for it was obvious that she knew his fighting style well.  She quickly took him out only to be attacked from behind by another young warrior.  Her sidekick Gabrielle shouted to warn her friend of the danger which lurked behind and with one move she put the final blow to her skilled enemy and whisked her sword from its resting place thrusting it into the attacker from behind.  The sword slid in smoothly.  Then as she turned to face the coward whom had met his death he fell to the ground and his helmet came loose.
It was only a young boy who had been taken by evil and had given his life in the thirst for blood.  He was now a lifeless young boy as Xena looked upon her bloody sword.  Once again she had caused the death of yet another young boy like that of her brother who had died at the tender age of fifteen at the battle against Corteeze.  As Gabrielle approached Xena, Xena stood as if she had drawn blood for the first time.  The guilt had built up within her and now after this event it had overcome her.  She stared at her bloody sword and then found herself drawn back into the temple of the fates leaving Gabrielle stunned with the lifeless young boy.
Once inside the temple Xena saw something extraordinary.  For the first time she had been given the privilege of seeing the faces of the three fates.  They proclaimed to her that it was rare that anyone was permitted to see their faces, but Xena had saved their temple from its attackers and now they were prepared to reward her for her heroic deed.  But Xena did not feel heroic.  She felt sick to her stomach as if this last kill had been her first.  Xena defied the fates offer explaining to them that she did not deserve a reward for taking the life of a young innocent boy.  She had known that he had only been caught up in the wrath of war as many young men and women do.  Xena’s wish was that she could have that young boy’s life back.  That was what she truly wanted and further more she had professed that if she hadn’t drawn blood and become a warrior in the first place life would have been simpler and better.
And so the fates bestowed their power upon Xena releasing her from all that she had done and they had given her a clean slate.  But there was just one condition for restoring all that had been lost as a result of Xena’s warrior path.  That one condition was that she was never to spill one drop of blood for if she would do so that would be the event that would turn the tables back to the current life path she had been on.  Xena explained to them that it wasn’t possible for she was a warrior.  How could a warrior live true to her way without spilling a drop of blood?  The fates proclaimed that it was not possible for a warrior to be a warrior without the spoils of blood.  They made it clear to Xena that in order for her to receive this gift they were bestowing upon her she must give up the warrior way.
Xena left the temple disgusted and almost unbelieving that they would give her such a gift.  When she stepped outside she called for Gabrielle, but Gabrielle did not come.  She looked frantically about, but there was no one around.  All of the dead warriors that had been there before she had entered the temple had disappeared, and there were no others around.  The moment was quiet as the wind whisped across the face of the warrior princess.  And then she was no more.  Xena looked down to see that she no longer wore that famous leather, and she no longer felt the weight of the mighty sword she had always carried upon her back.  As she looked down she noticed that she was dressed in one of her most favorite dresses as it felt soft and light.  There was no weight of blood only the power of pure light could be felt within.  It was a strange release for Xena for she did not understand at first.
And then she heard a familiar voice calling her name.  It was a man’s voice.  And as she turned around to see who it was she found herself to be greeted by the handsome young man named Lycious.  Xena could not believe that this was really happening.  Her brother was a grown man and he was alive.  Lycious was beautiful with his blond curly hair, and his dark piercing blue eyes.  Xena was overjoyed as she ran to throw her arms around the brother she had not seen in over ten years.  The brother she had lost had been given back to her for she had never drawn blood at the battle against Corteeze.  Lyious was surprised to see Xena in all of her excitement.  He didn’t understand that for her he had been taken from her for eleven long years.
And as they walked Xena couldn’t stop looking at him.  She couldn’t stop feeling the immense joy to be in his presence once again.  And as always Lycious still looked up to his big sister.  He still looked to her for guidance and support.  Lycious trusted in Xena as always.  And then Xena noticed that Lycious was wearing his barillas token.  It was a token worn by all of the young boys of her village as a sign of good luck and good fortune.  She couldn’t believe that he still wore it.  Infact, she teased him for it until he reminded her that it had been this token which had spared his life from the arrow that almost took it at the battle of Corteeze.  And then Xena realized how truly important this token was.  It was a symbol of her own good fortune.  Lyious was still confused at his sister’s sudden strange behavior so he suggested that she go home.  As he walked on down the peaceful green pasture in the forest Xena realized that for the first time in many years she was able to be home.
All she had ever wanted was to be able to have that place where she could be accepted and loved for she had shamed her village and family as a warrior, but now all had been restored.  As she skipped into the village the day was beautiful for life now had new meaning and it had joy for Xena.  She had never committed any of the wrongs that had caused her to hurt so many in her alternate life .  And when she arrived home she was still uncertain that all of this was real.  It was more like a beautiful dream than reality.  She looked upon the kitchen table and at the flowers upon the window.  It was as if she had been seeing life for the first time again.  Xena was as youthful and innocent as Gabrielle had always been.  She was the light of hope instead of the darkness of hate.
As Xena looked through her box she sifted through the keepsakes, the sentimental jewelry, and then suddenly from behind there was a presence.  Xena spun around with the reflexes of a warrior pinning her attacker to the wall instantly.  Only this was no attacker, but a suitor.  In fact, this suitor was none other than Mufias the boy next door.  According to Mufias he had been courting Xena since before the battle of Corteeze.  He was confused at Xena’s reaction to his entrance.  Mufias inquired if Xena had, had a bad day at the inn where she and Lycious worked side by side housing the great travelers of Greece.  But it had not been a bad day at all and Xena was hoping that Mufias was the only surprise that awaited her in a life of love.
And though Mufias was a surprise to Xena he was a pleasant one for he was tall, with dark coarse hair, and deep brown eyes.  His nose was a bit peculiar, but he would be just fine for Xena.  At least this Mufias was not some evil warlord like the many she had been courted by as a warrior like Draco, or even her great lover Marcus.  A passing thought of sorrow came to her as she thought of Marcus, but she knew and believed that things must have turned out better for him in this life because she had never gone to his camp to save that girl to stop a war.  Xena’s presence in his life had been a confusion which had led to his demise for he had loved her with all of his heart.
As Xena’s mind wandered Mufias interrupted reminding Xena that if she was getting cold feet about their wedding that he would only wait about fifteen more years on her before he would give up on courting the beautiful princess.  Apparently this Mufias was very much the comedian of the family clan.  But his comedy turned to sudden tragedy when Mufias also reminded Xena that it had been her mother’s last request that Xena and Mufias wed one another.  And so the surprises continued although this surprise was tragic for Xena’s mother had been lost as a result of Xena, Lycious, and the others deciding that retreating to the hills was their only hope against the wrath of Corteeze rather than to stand up and fight.  Mufias also mentioned that she and Lycious had been involved in the reconstruction of their village of Amphipolis and that her mother had died of a broken heart for the loss of everything she had ever known to Corteeze.
Xena immediately went to her mother’s tomb because although she had been gone for ten years it was as if she had just lost her mother.  She was mourning this loss knowing that if she hadn’t killed that boy in the battle at the temple of the fates she would never have been led to this alternate reality.  Xena cried for her mother as the tears streamed down her face from the depths of her innocent heart.  She professed to her mother that she was sorry and that though she would lose her mother and her friendship to Gabrielle at least the world would be a better place.  Without the existence of the warrior princess Gabrielle would never have left her family to join the warrior, and Xena would never have shamed her mother and all of the others she loved dearly from her village of Amphipolis.  And so Xena had reasoned that this choice was her only choice and it was for the best.
After mourning for her mother Xena found herself walking through the village once again.  It was a very vibrant place and she was happy to know that without a drop of blood she and her brother Lycious had been able to help lead the effort to rebuild their lives after war and destruction.  Yet while Xena was at the market she saw something that disturbed her.  An old man in the market was attacked by a warrior for accidentally bumping into him.  The warrior held a knife to the old man threatening his life.  And just when he was about to thrust the knife within the neck of the old man Xena pulled the rug right out from under him knocking the evil man to the ground.  She had clearly taken him by surprise though she played it off like a master proclaiming that she had only been checking the price of the rug and didn’t realize that the warrior had been standing on it.
The evil warrior held back from his anger and forgave the pure soul for her accident because she was a beautiful woman.  As he walked away from her he demanded that the rest of the warrior men bring out the slaves to collect the pickings for a dinner to the warlords in the area.  Xena was unaware of who was there, but all of these warriors she recognized for she had killed many of them in the battle for the greater good in the alternate reality.  But that was over now though there was a part of her that was still uncertain of how she was going to live her new life without blood shed.  It would be nothing short of the greatest challenge she had ever faced.  As she thought deeply the maiden appeared before her telling her not to have a second thought of it.  She was confident that Xena would make the right choice.  The maiden knew that Xena had a burning passion to be the warrior she had been destined to be in her other life.  Yet there was so much at stake for Xena.  No blood was allowed if she were to be a warrior here.
Then as the maiden disappeared into thin air Xena saw a vivid familiar face.  It was the face of her best friend Gabrielle.  Only Gabrielle was not who she had been in the alternate reality.  Gabrielle was a slave.  She was collecting food at the market for the dinner of her evil masters.  As Xena looked into the eyes of this familiar face she saw pain.  She saw grief, and she saw anger.  These were things she had never seen within the bard before.  How could it be possible that Gabrielle’s life would hold a worse fate than leaving her family?  But then as she tried to search Gabrielle with her eyes to be recognized within Gabrielle backed away from her with fear and suspicion.  And then she clumsily backed into the leader of the warrior gang in town.  It was the one that Xena had confronted about the old man.  The warrior leader was angered at the slave’s clumsy move and he raised his club to her to beat her as punishment.
Xena could not allow this to happen to her best friend.  She would not see Gabrielle beaten by these thugs.  Xena stepped in saving Gabrielle from the strike of the club only to anger the evil warrior even more.  Now she had made herself a target.  And then just as the warrior was about to attack Xena Mufias stepped in apologizing for Xena’s actions.  He claimed that it was all just a misunderstanding for they had been looking in the market to purchase a slave for themselves, and Gabrielle was perfect.  She was exactly what they had been looking for.  Mufias urged Xena to go along with his story and she did so with great reluctance for she did not see Gabrielle in the light of a worthless slave as did Mufias.  But that was all he had known.  He never knew Gabrielle the way Xena had known her.
Gabrielle looked to Xena with disgust knowing that she was just another piece of meat to be sold or a possession to be owned, used, and abused.  There was such a burning fire of anger within her emerald eyes.  And just when Xena thought that she would be triumphant in releasing her friend from the wrath of evil by a simple purchase the warrior leader rejected the sale for he said that the warlord Mezentious liked this one too much.  Xena was crushed for she couldn’t save her friend.  She couldn’t come to the rescue as she had always been able to do in the alternate reality of the warrior.  And then she watched helplessly as Gabrielle was dragged away in the binds of slavery as she struggled against Mufias to get to her friend.  Xena called out to her friend frantically, but her pleas were not heard by fate and not by Gabrielle.
But Mufias was not humored at Xena’s actions.  He scolded her for thinking that she could ever make a difference in the world.  In fact, he couldn’t understand why she would be so passionate about saving a worthless little slave girl.  But this wasn’t just any slave girl.  This was Gabrielle that they were discussing and for Xena there was no question about it.  Gabrielle had to be rescued from her binds in this life for if Xena had been a warrior Gabrielle would never have been a slave.  Again Xena was at fault for wanting this new bloodless life.  Xena could not live with herself knowing that Gabrielle’s soul was bound in chains.  As she argued with Mufias he reminded her that in this world she had to learn to go along to get along.  And then he left Xena alone to think about her latest actions.
Suddenly within all of her confusion the crone appeared before her.  She reminded Xena that Mufias had been wrong.  Xena did have the power to make a difference and Xena knew what the remedy was.  The remedy was to draw blood and to go back to the life path of a warrior which was true to her destiny.  But Xena could not believe that the world was a better place with the warrior princess in existence.  She argued with the crone that her life was better this way, but the fate reminded her of the life of Gabrielle and how different it was on this current path.  Yes things were different within this alternate reality, but this was Gabrielle that they were talking about, and Xena did not believe that Gabrielle was beyond saving.  Xena had faith that she would be able to find that light within Gabrielle that she had always loved during her life as a warrior.
Later that night Xena went to the supply market just before close to purchase a chicken.  She needed some information from the man at the market who dealt with the warlord Mezentious.  Xena was determined to save Gabrielle no matter what she had to do to get there as long as there was no blood spilled.  She had a plan and she would start at first light sneaking into Mezentious’s castle to retrieve the life and soul of her best friend.  Her plan was ingenious as it always was with the warrior princess.  She arrived at the castle within the delivery of goods under the wagon.  Xena had anticipated that they would do a check for stowaways so she was prepared.  And when the wagon stopped they did check only to find the red wine of a drunken wagon man.
As the goods were unloaded Xena made her way into the castle hiding around a nearby corner.  She watched her best friend work diligently in the binds of slavery.  And as she watched she noticed many of the other female slaves looked very familiar to her.  In fact, they looked a lot like the amazons she had known as the warrior princess.  Then she recalled her conversation at dinner the night before with Lycious of how he had said the amazons had been captured and demoralized by the warlord Chricous.  She realized that the only reason that these amazons were even here was because Chricous had been the one who had forced a war between the amazons and the centaurs which as the warrior she had been there to stop.  But now there was regret for she realized this too was her fault.  Lycious had wanted to start plans for an attack on these warlords last night, but Xena knew that she was bound to life without a sword and so she knew in her heart that there had to be another way.  The problem was that the answer had been eluding her.
Xena waited for the right moment and then suddenly she snatched Gabrielle startling the young slave girl.  Gabrielle was astonished for this woman from the market was obviously not one to take no for an answer.  The slave girl was almost angered for she could get in trouble if she were found talking to an outsider.  Xena reminded Gabrielle of their meeting in the market the day before.  Gabrielle confirmed that she remembered, but was less than pleased to see Xena.  In fact, this was unlike the Gabrielle that Xena had known before.  As her sidekick and best friend Gabrielle would have been over joyed to be reunited with her friend, but Xena had to remember that Gabrielle did not know her like she had known Gabrielle.
The slave expressed her disgust for the offer to be bought for her services while at the market the day before.  Xena had realized then that Mufias’s offer had offended her friend, but she couldn’t explain herself to this slave girl yet for her story was so outrageous that Gabrielle wouldn’t understand.  The explanations would have to wait.  For now Xena had to get Gabrielle back to freedom, and as she prepared to explain her plan to rescue Gabrielle to her freedom she was interrupted by a cold rejection.  Gabrielle walked away from Xena, and expressed that she was not inclined to do anything more than get back to work before being caught with Xena on a pleasurable break.  Xena could not take no for an answer.  She couldn’t accept that Gabrielle would not want to be free.  So Xena reached out to her friend once more with her heart, and as she did so Gabrielle reminded Xena of what happens to runaway slaves for she had tried her way at freedom once before.
The slave girl pulled down the sleeve of her old blue rags and revealed to Xena the marks of a scar that could never be healed.  She stared coldly at Xena as if she had convinced Xena that freedom was not an option for this slave girl now.  Her life path was that of a slave and nothing more as her fate had been sealed.  She was as worthless as the next slave.  Xena’s heart broke upon this sight for she could feel the pain of Gabrielle.  She could see how much had already been lost as a result of the fate of a slave.  Xena expressed to Gabrielle her sorrow of this great pain for it had been her fault again as Gabrielle’s name suddenly slipped from her lips with great compassion.
This intrigued the slave girl for just as she was about to walk away from Xena she looked upon this strange and stubborn young woman as if she had seen a ghost.  How did she know her name?  And just as the slave inquired of Xena, Xena revealed her own identity hoping to break through once again.  Xena could see how serious this truly was and how much of that beautiful light she loved about the bard had been lost.  And then she tried to convince the slave to try for her freedom once more, but was rejected once again until she mentioned that her brother Lycious would be able to protect her from this evil.
The slave girl was once again intrigued for she had heard of this Lycious person.  In fact, she had heard of him at dinner with Mezentious and Crichous on the night before as they had been disguising their plans to team up with a third powerful warlord.  Xena recognized all of these names from her life as a warrior, and in that life she had defeated them all.  In fact, she had defeated them all with the help of her loyal sidekick Gabrielle.  The slave girl continued by explaining that she had known about Lycious because it was said that he had run to the hills against Corteeze instead of standing up and fighting.  How was a coward going to protect her?  Xena could understand this reasoning and again she felt responsible.  The slave girl continued to express how though she was only a slave she could still see and she could still hear life happening around her yet life for her was over.  It had been over for a very long time.
Xena could see that Gabrielle though drained within was still as sharp as ever and this gave her hope for if Gabrielle could still hear and see life she could still write about it as she always had in the alternate world.  Xena knew that she had to get her back.  She tried getting through to Gabrielle’s heart by touching on that fiery part of her that had always believed in goodness and fighting for it no matter what the price.  But this slave girl once again rejected her.  It was as if she didn’t care.  This was unlike the Gabrielle Xena had known.  Xena reminded the slave girl of all of the people who would suffer as a result of these three sworn enemies banning together.  This certainly would snap her out of this dismal depression, anger, and hatred for Gabrielle had always cared more for others than she had for herself.  Xena thought of the time Gabrielle had taken an arrow to save a child during a bloody war almost ending her life.  But even that part of her had been seemingly lost as she once again tried to reject Xena.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that she didn’t even really know her.  But Xena did not believe that.  Xena recanted by reminding Gabrielle that maybe she didn’t even know herself.
And then it happened.  Xena could see a tiny bit of fire reviving from within this slave girl.  It was that fire that she had always known and loved.  It was that little bit of passion for others that was still within this Gabrielle that Xena had tapped into.  She had finally talked Gabrielle into another escape attempt.  Xena’s plan wasn’t going to fail this time.  And so they carried out the plan as the slave rolled Xena out in a large wooden meat barrel.  She rolled her right into the middle of the action as all of the slaves continued to work and unload the delivery.  Then the slave girl was stopped  under suspicion as one of the guards approached to check the goods.  He took a mug and unplugged the cork at the bottom of the barrel waiting for the liquor to come out.
Gabrielle waited nervously realizing that if this stranger’s plan failed she would be back under the whip to be punished for another escape attempt.  All that she could remember was the wretched pain and agony of the whip across her fair skin.  She cringed for a moment for not a drop of alcohol came out of the barrel.  Just as he looked to the slave girl for an explanation Xena suddenly exploded from within the barrel stringing the culrpit up by some rope.  She fought off a few of the close guards swiftly with a few kicks and punches, but without a weapon.  Xena instructed Gabrielle to put out the burning fire as she prepared a little contraption for successful escape.  This contraption was a simple one for it was only a large board placed upon a barrel on its side.  As Gabrielle put out the flames with a broom Xena called to her for the burning broom, and as always Gabrielle learned quickly and adjusted well just as she had as Xena’s trusty sidekick in the reality of the warrior.
Xena quickly took the broom setting fire to the armor of her attackers.  They screamed with agony, but not a drop of blood had been shed.  She quickly barked out another instruction to Gabrielle telling her to jump upon the contraption that she had set up.  Gabrielle was confused as to what this was supposed to do to help her escape.  For a moment she questioned this strange woman’s actions, but jumped upon the board obediently.  And then Xena cried out with her signature battle cry and flipped upon the opposite end of the board launching Gabrielle into the air out the chimney into the back of the trader’s wagon that Xena had arrived on.  But for the plan to be finalized Xena had to make her own escape so she burned the rope of the man she had strung up as she jumped upon the board ready to fly.
Soon she was back with her friend taking Gabrielle to the free life she deserved.  Xena was certain that Gabrielle would thrive once all was repaired for Xena’s faith in Gabrielle was strong.  She had no doubts that the bard would live once again.  When they arrived back home to Amphipolis Xena had given Gabrielle her mother’s dress.  It would be a first step in restoring that pure soul that she had always known and loved.  And Xena would accomplish this without blood.  She had to succeed.  Gabrielle took the dress with uncertainty for she had not yet figured out why this strange woman seemed to care.  She explained to Xena that the one thing she had learned in life was that she could trust no one.  Xena explained to Gabrielle her reasons for fighting so hard to bring Gabrielle to freedom.  She explained that Gabrielle reminded her of a friend that she had always known.  Xena described to Gabrielle a beautiful pure soul who was full of stories, light, and of love.  Gabrielle then glared back at Xena, and coldly reminded her that she had better take another look because she was not that person.
Then Xena knew that this was serious.  She realized just how much damage had been done to the young girl from Podedia.  But Xena was determined to breath life back into that vibrant soul yet.  She would not give up.  Xena left Gabrielle to change.  When she entered the front Lycious was there to congratulate her for rescuing this slave girl.  He looked up to Xena for it, and because of her action in the name of goodness he was determined and ready to plan an attack on these warlords.  Lycious was ready and willing to give his life for this cause of goodness.  He was full of drive, excitement, and energy as he went onto explain to Xena his plan of attack.  Lycious wanted Xena to lead one of the fronts for he knew how skilled she was from their sparring practices.  But Xena did not want this for there had to be a way to live and do good without shedding blood.  Lycious did not understand this as he continued to explain his battle plan.
As Xena argued with him Gabrielle appeared before them.  She was polite and apologized for interrupting them.  Xena looked upon her friend in her new clothes, and realized that it truly was the same Gabrielle for Gabrielle had always been one to eavesdrop because of her great curiosity in wanting to know what was going on around her.  In fact, it was this habit of eavesdropping which had given Lycious valuable information regarding the seriousness of their current situation.  This was almost comforting because for the first time within this life she saw the light of Gabrielle beginning to shine a bit brighter.  How pure she looked with her hair brushed and all cleaned up.  Xena was pleased and so was her brother Lycious.  It could be described as love at first sight.  Xena saw a chemistry between her brother, and this slave girl that she could never have foreseen, but was not surprised by it.
As Lycious looked into Gabrielle’s eyes she looked back.  He too could see that light, and Xena knew that he could love her the way she had always loved her as a warrior.  Lycious offered Gabrielle a chair graciously.  For the first time in two years this slave girl felt like a real human being.  A small smile spread across her pure face as she accepted this man’s charming offer.  And then suddenly there was a knock at the door.  Gabrielle jumped up from her perch in fear for it was her only reflex.  But Lycious tried to put her fears at rest explaining that it was only Mufias.
When Lycious answered the door Mufias appeared, but so did the army of Mezentious.  Mufias had made a deal with Mezentious.  In exchange for the return of his slave girl the deal was that the triple alliance would not attack Amphipolis, but as always the evil warlord cannot be trusted.  Then Mufias was left behind as Lycious tried to pursuade Xena to fight with a sword in the hopes that they could save themselves and their new friend Gabrielle.  But Xena refused to take up arms once again, and the three of them found themselves in Mezentious’s dungeon locked away in cages.  Lycious was not happy with Xena’s choice not to draw blood.  In fact, he was disappointed in her for this wasn’t the way he had thought that his sister would go down.
Lycious tried desperately to free himself with his barillas token as he was cutting with it in the wrong direction.  Xena tried to help her brother explaining to him that he should cut against the grains, but Lycious was not amused.  He was angry at Xena’s choice, and he couldn’t understand why she had not chosen to stand up and fight.  Xena reminded Lycious that it had been Mufias that had betrayed them, but Lycious was not in agreement for he felt that Mufias’s actions had been for the best intentions although they had failed.  Then Xena realized that somehow she would have to explain herself for she couldn’t bare to lose her brother’s respect.  She tried desperately to explain in some way as she fumbled for the right words, and then out of frustration she found herself about to tell the true story.  But then she realized that he would never believe her so she had said that it had been fear.  But it was never about fear for Xena.  It was about releasing herself from the shame of her past blood lust in the life of the warrior.  She then realized that if she had told Lycious she would not fight because it would result in his death that he would have gladly died to change things for the better.  Xena was beginning to realize that this life was a losing battle.
And then as she thought about this she heard sobs of anguish coming from below.  They were the sobs of a defeated soul.  Gabrielle had never sobbed that way before.  It was a pain within her that Xena did not recognize.  She realized that this pain was her fault too for Gabrielle would never have been a slave if Xena had not made the choice to live a blood free life.  Gabrielle agreed that it was Xena’s fault for she would never have remembered what it had been like to be free if it hadn’t been for Xena.  Gabrielle confessed to Xena through empty eyes that she didn’t know whether to thank Xena or to hate Xena.  And then Gabrielle scoffed at Xena’s earlier reference to a great friendship.  But Xena could not hear that.  She would not allow Gabrielle to sell herself short.  Gabrielle felt worthless again, and Xena couldn’t bare that feeling illuminating from her friend.  Xena then confessed her deep love for Gabrielle passionately reminding Gabrielle that she was her friend.  But this slave girl remembered nothing.
Suddenly two warriors came in to take one of them to Mezentious.  They chose to take Lycious, and just when they were about to cut him down one warrior turned on the other.  There was a great duel and Xena took advantage of the situation.  She grabbed hold of a loose knife hurling it to the rope which restrained her from the ground.  With great accuracy she hit her mark as always and released herself from her binds in warrior style.  As she reached the ground she burst out ready to face the warrior left standing at the end of the sudden duel.  But this was not an enemy.  The warrior removed his shroud of mystery.  He had been Mufias.  Mufias had realized his mistake and was now ready to follow Xena and Lycious in their beliefs.
Gabrielle looked down upon her new friends with disbelief.  Just when things had looked bleak they had come through again.  Xena and Mufias quickly released the two remaining prisoners, and Lycious had forgiven Mufias restoring their kinship of family.  Then Mufias explained their plan of a quiet escape to Xena and Gabrielle only to find that Lycious had plans of his own.  He was going to take on the entire party of warriors because they would be surprised and unsuspecting of his arrival.  Lycious also had faith in Xena that she would stand up and fight for what she believed in.  And so they soon found themselves within an epic battle.  It was the single event which Xena had fought so hard to avoid, but it was obvious that avoiding battle was impossible.
Lycious had entered triumphantly knowing that he would win his sister over in a decision.  Just as he had made his stunning entrance Xena saved him from an oncoming pickax meant to take his life by catching it barehanded.  And then the fight was on.  However, Xena still did not pick up a sword.  She fought skillfully as she disarmed a warrior only to pass the weapon onto Mufias.  Lycious kept urging her to arm herself, but she refused knowing the consequences of holding a sword.  Xena had always said that when you pick up a sword you become a target.  She refused to put herself in that position for she knew that she would most certainly have to draw blood.  Xena battled on without blood until Lycious looked her into her soul between kicks and punches only to say that she should not fight destiny.  And then Xena took a moment to reflect in the heat of a bloodless battle.
It was as if everything was in slow motion for her as she saw the events which were unfolding in this bloodless world she had been living for the past few days.  She compared the good with the bad on both sides of the dinar, and then as she gazed across this great battle to crush the evil triple alliance she saw her worst nightmare unfolding.  It was Gabrielle.  The young innocent bard from Podedia had a new fire within her as if she had made a new discovery.  A sword had fallen to the ground before her.  She made the choice to pick it up, and in less than a split moment she had made herself a target for blood.
Suddenly from across the battle the warlord Mezentious caught sight of his slave girl defying him in battle as he charged forward to take her life.  His last words to her were unkind for she was just another prize from the spoils of war to him and nothing more.  The slave girl knew this and she didn’t care anymore.  She had the power now  for she held the sword.  And then she made her choice thrusting the sword through the chest of the warlord Mezentious.  Xena watched as her friend died before her not in body, but in spirit for she had chosen blood lust, hate, and evil as her savior rather than to embrace love and peace.  At that moment Xena realized that this was not Gabrielle.  It wasn’t the friend that she had always known for the blood, and the hate illuminated violently from those tarnished emerald eyes.  Now Xena knew it was truly too late for the slave girl Gabrielle.
And so Xena had made her choice.  She looked to Lycious who had passed her a sword.  And then she looked to him one last time to say a regretful good-bye knowing that he had to die in order for her friend to live, and for all who had been saved by the warrior princess to be restored once again.  The warrior could feel the presence of an approaching enemy from behind as she thrust her sword into his stomach.  The battle raged into the sound of another familiar voice warning her friend of the danger which lurked from behind as she whisped around with one graceful quick move knocking the attacker to the ground without one drop of blood.  Her attacker had been only a young boy, and as the other evil warriors fled the scene Xena warned this young boy that he had been given a second chance.  She demanded that he change his ways avoiding bloodshed for her sacrifice to him.  He agreed to do so in fear, and then he too fled from the wrath of Xena the warrior princess.
Gabrielle stood beside her friend watching the young boy flee with the others, and then suddenly Xena grabbed the bard embracing her friend tightly.  The bard did not understand what was wrong with her friend.  But Xena laid Gabrielle’s suspicions to rest by thanking her friend for being the light.  Gabrielle then inquired of Xena about going back into the temple to see the fates once more, but Xena refused.  Gabrielle then asked Xena  why she seemingly was not herself, but Xena replied by telling her sidekick that she was more herself now than ever.  And as the two best friends left the temple of the fates Xena asked Gabrielle if she thought that the fates truly had control over our fates in life, and the paths we must walk.  Gabrielle wasn’t so certain that the story of the fates and their power of destiny was truth, but then Xena sung to the bard her story of the warrior princess who never existed and of the slave who remembered nothing.